York: Roman, Medieval, Viking. And geese.

I lived in York for three years during college. It’s a beautiful city, small and full of history. My degree was a joint effort in history and archaeology and it was a privilege to just be able to wander round and soak up all the different eras.

I kept a narrow focus on medieval Britain in my studies and retrospectively I wish I’d been more open to learning about other parts of the world. There seemed so much to learn about my own country though – and I wanted to know it all.

I have very little interest in Kings-and-Queen type history, or even political history. It’s the day to day minutiae that interests me. What did people eat for breakfast? How did they repair their shoes? How did you keep warm in winter? How long did it take to walk from one place to another? York is chock-full of museums, you can’t chuck a rock without hitting one. And they’re all fascinating. But the things that fascinate me most are the little things. The faces on the gargoyles and grotesques in the Minster – are they carved in anyone’s likeness? How long did each one take to make? Or taking a walk along the walls or down The Shambles and thinking about all the people over the last couple of thousand years who have done the same. What were they thinking? Where were they going?

Pondering these questions in part has led me to where I am writing today. I like writing about people, rather than situations. Yes, my stories have situations in them, because doh, that’s life. But it’s how my characters work things out, how they deal with the day to day minutiae of living that drives me forward.

Despite all its grandeur and all its opportunity for historical and archaeological research, my main memory of York is of the waterfowl on the university campus grounds.

That’s social history for you. Forget the cathedral. It’s too big to carry with me. Let me take away my pictures of the geese.

#WritersLife

I had a bit of a panic attack this morning when I realised I hadn’t updated my blog for ages. And then another bout of anxiety over what to write. What should a Writers Life blog actually cover?

Alex Beecroft pondered that perhaps I could write about managing stress as a writer? But I’m so, so, sooooo bad at doing that, that I think it would be a lesson in how not to do it, rather than at all helpful.

Instead, I think I am going to chatter about my life generally. That’s complicated in itself because my kids are nine and ten now; and I don’t want to expose their lives too much on Teh Interwebs… but on the other hand a lot of my comedy chaos comes from having high-need children and a stressful family. So it’s going to be a bit of a two-steps forward, one step back effort as I feel my way.

I blogged for about a decade about smallholding and family things, years and years ago now at the dawn of time, and I enjoyed it. So perhaps using this space for something similar rather than just rather pushy posts about my writing will be good for me.

At the moment I’m sat in the garden for a rare couple of hours with no-one else about. It’s sunny and I’m watching the rabbits make friends (VERY GOOD FRIENDS) and listening to the hens grumble that it’s nearly feeding time and the dog whinging that he wants to go and murder the pheasant that’s cracking in the field over the hedge. It’s all very bucolic and English Country Garden-ish and really I should have a cup of tea beside me.

Watch this space. It’s a blank page, about to be filled.

it’s always five AM somewhere

I have taken my courage in my hands and committed to something. The #5amWritersClub on twitter is for writers. Who want to get up early and get some words in at the start of the day at five AM.

You can probably guess that from the hashtag.

I have no chance of doing that at my own five in the morning, but it’s ALWAYS five somewhere and I’ve started joining it at about ten my own time for a couple of hours.

I have no deadlines imposed on me from elsewhere; but I do have two works in progress to get to grips with and a few ideas for short stories. It’s just making the time to get the words down on the page.

The last couple of weeks has been awful for the gay romance genre, with various catfishing and publishing troubles. Although I have only been an observer, the sheer horribleness of it all seems to have pulled all the creativity out of me. Despite the impending school holidays, this seems like it might be a good way to manage some time to write.

I have also discovered white noise. How did I not know about this before?

bucolic

Beware, this is a bucolic, pastoral post, instead of me doing any actual writing of fiction.

I usually power-down between Christmas and the New Year and this season has been no different. It’s cold and it’s wet and it’s dark and it’s much nicer to spend my time curled up inside in front of the fire watching mildly rubbish TV with the kids than trying to be creative. Or to try and wrest a living from the land, which is is what I attempt to do when I’m not writing.

The children went back to school last week and Mr AL and I spent the time getting our collective heads on straight; putting the decorations back up in the loft; catching the plague of mice that arrived out of the decorations boxes and started eating the tea-towels; and generally taking a breath.

For me it was also a week of heightened anxiety, because Lost in Time was released. I didn’t realise how much boshing up self-publishing early last year had affected me, up until now. I have had to work really hard not to compulsively check for new reviews and get on with the job of writing new words. Mr AL has been looking at reviews and feeding things back to me and that has worked really well as a cushion between me and the world.

This week, then, I feel better about Acting Like A Real Human ™ and despite it being cold and wet and having spent most of the morning standing in my pyjamas shouting things like “WHERE ARE YOUR TRAINERS! HAVE YOU CLEANED YOUR TEETH! TURN ALEXA OFF!” I can feel words bubbling up inside me almost ready to boil over on to the page.

I need to plant lettuce and get the hens back in to lay and decide whether I’m going to mate the rabbits again this year. But for now all that can wait whilst I retreat to 1920s London for a while.