Looking for signs

I am always looking for signs, especially when it comes to my writing. A few years ago I asked the I Ching which story would be the first to really ‘break out’ for me, and after flipping the coins I was directed to a three lined verse which included “Cloud Dragons” –a story I was working on at the time (which has thus far never found a home).

I was wondering if I should release Paragon as an eBook and a van went past at exactly that moment with ‘Omega’ boldly printed on the side –one of the primary characters from Paragon. It was a sign.

So naturally when faced with another big decision I put it out to the universe that I was in need of a sign. Either I’ve been too blind to see it, or the universe thinks I’m getting a bit greedy with my sign requests.

I thought I’d make it easy for the universe, so when watching Escape to the country I gave the universe the sign list; if they say ‘bespoke kitchen’ I should go with option A, if they say ‘oh look, an Aga’ (with excess glee) then it is option B, and if they say ‘bags of character’ (which they say all the time and therefore indicated my true preference) then I was to go with option C.

They didn’t say any of it. Not even close.

Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me it is important that I not rely on signs? Let’s face it, as convincing as the first two were at the time, neither have really sent me in the right direction. Or maybe (it hurts to even type this) the universe isn’t really sending signs and I am just bumping into very peculiar coincidences?

Or maybe, just maybe, there is an option D out there that I haven’t yet considered?

Escape to the country is on again tonight, if they mention a ‘butler sink’, then I know the answer is option D.

Just wish I knew what option D was…

Nearly eight months

That’s how long it just took for one of my stories to be rejected. I had actually assumed it was rejected three months ago when I had  not heard from them within their rough guide of when they would be making their decision, so it was not with disappointment that I received this email, but surprise.

It was a form letter rejection, so I’m not sure if my story got close to being picked or if it was just lost in the back-log for all that time. The thing that did really surprise me was the invitation to submit again next year. Forgive me if I sound bitter, and I do appreciate that in the scheme of things in the writing world I am at the bottom of the food chain (and I’m okay with that), but waiting nearly eight months to reject a piece of flash fiction, in a flash fiction anthology where most of the stories submitted are around 1,000 words is just too long!

The disappointing thing is that I know a lot of the people who put these anthologies together are writers themselves, so surely they know the disappointment you feel when you have had a story locked up for nearly a year while someone makes a decision about it. Even if they sent a generic update email at the four-month mark I’d not be quite so miffed.

It makes it very hard to write a ‘cutting-edge’ piece of science fiction, because if the first person you sub it to doesn’t take it, then it is old hat by the time it gets sent to the second potential publishing opportunity.

I know there is no solution. This is just how it is. It really is no wonder that people are turning more and more to self-publishing as a first option for their work. I’m not there yet, but I do not hold it against those who do choose that path.  

Yes, I guess it turns out I am a bit bitter 🙂 and I must concede that it could be something about that particular story, because the last place held onto it for over a year before they rejected it.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Ugh.


I’m growing some garlic at the moment. What I didn’t realise when I put it in the ground nearly four months ago is that it can take up to nine months to get to maturity. This means the plot sits there for a long time not doing anything. A little bit like most of my manuscripts.

Today I decided to tackle the most recent weed infestation and it got me thinking about how much weeding is like editing. You have the ‘good’ bits, which you know are good, and you know you need to pull out the ‘bad’ bits to give the good bits the best chance they can get, but it is not as easy as it sounds.

For starters the bad bits have big root systems, and they can rip out the good bits if you pull them out without enough consideration and care. Also, especially when you start from seed, sometimes it is not easy to recognise which are the desired ‘plants’ and which are the ‘weeds’ when they first burst through the soil. You might think you are giving love and sunlight to your garlic, but it actually turns out to be onion weed.

Finally, when you have no idea, and you are doing all this for the first time, you don’t know exactly when you should harvest your plants. Too early and they will be tasteless and mediocre, too late and they will be woody and overburdened with pulp.

I guess that is why it is so important to make sure you seek advice from a gardener who has been there before, someone who has made all those same planting mistakes before you. It is always wise to seek some guidance and can save you from a ruined crop.

I really miss my writers group 🙁

Biggles never said

A friend of mine is a big Biggles fan and recently lent me a couple of books to read. The language is wonderful, and I love the way the author paints a picture, but there are some things about the writing style that really date the books.

The first thing that struck me was how long the sentences were. I was forgetting what we were talking about by the time we got to the end of them in some instances. This just shows how lazy I’ve become with my reading, so I was glad to get some practice in.

The next thing that struck me was how politically incorrect the books were, on more levels than I want to get into here. So we’ll just leave that alone.

The third thing to strike me, and strangely enough not until I was some time into the book, was how rarely the word ‘said’ was used. In the first three pages people chipped, returned, added, answered, stated, inquired, whispered, queried, ejaculated, muttered and even averred (I had to look that one up), but no one ‘said’ anything until page 12. Page 12!!!!

One of the early ‘rules’ of writing that I learned was you should try to use ‘said’ as much as possible because all the other options just get in the way of otherwise good prose, and the eye easily slips over the word ‘said’. I diligently went through all my stories and axed my answered’s and quelled my queries, replacing all with a nice soft ‘said’.

So did it irritate me when I was reading Biggles? Yes, a bit, but not as much as when I’m reading a modern story and someone does exactly the same thing. I guess it was just the style of the day to replace ‘said’ whenever possible and I was being more understanding, but when did that style change? More importantly –why?

Why was it determined that said was bad once and good later? Who decides on all of these rule?

It makes me want to break the rules,’ declared Natalie.

Cut backs

I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I didn’t post on Wednesday. I’d like to say it was a planned thing, but the truth was I was so sick that after I had crawled over to the wall to turn the power on to the modem, I lay down, exhausted, and fell asleep on the floor. More accurately, a step. The poor cat thought I was dead.

Anyway, today there is no hint of my malaise of mid-week, but my missed post did get me thinking. My online presence is important to me, and I really do value being a part of the community, but my offline writing is, was and always will be paramount. So I’m axing the Wednesday post in favour of Wednesday writing. The slot is nicely booked out in my calendar for the rest of the year already, so I will just change its use.

That will also allow me to do random koala and pet photo posts any time outside of standard post time, instead of waiting for Wednesday. And an update; I am still working on the cat photos for those who asked, hope to have something soon.

I’m also going to change the nature of my blog a little. I’m going to cut back on the advice –after all, what can I claim to know about writing? Perhaps when I’ve got my third novel out or my Pulitzer, then I might have something worth listening to, but until then I’m just going to share what I can claim to know well; the struggles of a writer trying to get her work out into the world.

So thank you for your support so far, and I look forward to sharing a lot more of my journey with you in the coming months!