Category: BSL


Watch for Holly 4….

So! A brief catch up.

Since the last post I have been to Sign Club again (fun!) and a Deaf Awareness day at work (v interesting). I also decided to try something new and exercise-ish in the form of aerial hoop, which is not dissimilar to static trapeze but on a suspended hoop instead. Turns out you need lots of upper body strength for that.

I have no upper body strength at all (which is kind of the point), so probably just as well I’m only doing it every second week, alternating with Sign! Gives me a chance to be able to get past the frankly impressive levels of stiffness involved. The nice thing is that being twenty years older and probably four stone heavier than most of the lithe young things there, I am in no way going to be anything but a lot slower and less good than them (not at this level of fitness anyhow) so I feel precisely zero urge to keep up. We take turns: they do the next move and the one after that, and I keep working on the first one.

I’ll get there eventually of course, and the stiffness tells me it’s working exactly the muscles I wanted to shape up, so I’m happy as a slightly unco-ordinated clam…😏 And glad I didn’t try this at an age where being far and away the bottom of the class would have made me feel crappy. Bonus about getting older: I am far less likely to give a damn unless I accidentally hurt someone’s feelings or something of the sort.

So that lot is one day a week. As for the other six…..

Writing:

It’s all hotting up now! Holly 4 is in the last throes of edits and about to go out to betas. I’ve recut so it should come in somewhere around 40k words. Also, Wes has done another of his fabulous covers, which I can’t wait to show you!

Release date tbc but probably mid-March. And then it’s on to editing Holly 5, which is already written….

So as ever, it’s all go at the gasworks. Watch this space for confirmation of the release date and cover reveal!

More information as I have it….

πŸ™‚

JAC.

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The first rule of Sign Club….

Hey all.

So here’s a thing. It’s been hard work this last few years, for various reasons. Too many serious health issues for people I love, too many funerals, that sort of thing. All you can do is hunker down and endure, so we’ve been doing that for a while.

The thing is, you’ve got to be bit careful about that sort of thing: too much watching your footing and you forget there is a whole sky full of stars above you.

I forgot, certainly. We took the least exhausting way of getting through the day, and even the bright parts were dimmed by stress and tiredness. I felt old and drab, and my life got awfully normal. Like – mundane, commonplace normal. Not used to that, and did not appreciate it. All the sparkle seemed to have died out.

I was mucking about on Pinterest one night. Should have been in bed but I was too tired to get off the sofa and was procrastinating via the medium of looking at Avengers outtakes when I came across a quote. Can’t find it now but it suggested that each of us has our own brand of madness, and it’s important to work to maintain that spark that is uniquely our own. It made me think.

I had put the apparent attack of mundanity in my life down to being middle-aged and tired, but was it really? Or was it just that I had lost the knack of it, lost my mischief and that spark of randomness that had always kept me bobbing along? And, more importantly, did that mean it was recoverable?

Time to find out.

I decided to make time for some cool stuff that will recharge the batteries a bit. But what?

I love my writing but right now it’s in hard work mode, not exhilarating mode. I love music and singing but don’t feel I can really afford to commit more than an evening a week, which means no am dram, musicals or concerts. I’m too far out of the habit of going clubbing and haven’t that sort of energy to spend just yet. In fact, I realised, it will take a while before I stop defaulting to full recluse mode, and I’m not going to push that just yet. Burnout is a real thing for me.

However, one of the things that I’ve always wanted to do, ever since I was a kid, was learn sign language. At the time (before the Internet was widespread, I am that old!!) it wasn’t particularly easy to find information about it. These days you can find textbooks on Amazon and courses all over the place.

So, time to start learning British Sign Language (BSL).

I found a Sign Club in central London that’s open to people at all levels, so I went along. Now, having learnt a couple of other languages–I lived in Italy for a year and before that, was moderately good at German at one point–I know full well that the first thing that happens when faced with native speakers (or in this case signers) is that your brain goes completely blank and you gape like a guppy. It wears off eventually of course, but the first few times can be embarrassing!

In an effort to counteract this, I spent a fair amount of time going through my apps and textbooks. In the cafe beforehand I went through my fingerspelling till it was slick, and all the usual low level questions that you never actually use in real life.

I went into the place and various people came over to say hello. I was managing to spell my own name right four times in five, so was pretty pleased with that. A lovely girl I later realised was called Elise started signing her name to me and as I watched her fingerspelling, tremendously slowly, my brain went completely blank and translated it as “finger, finger, finger, finger, finger”.

Unhelpful, brain.

I clearly looked baffled so she tried again. This time was better: “E, L, finger, finger, finger…..hat?!” (Turned out that was the sign for crown -she was saying “like the queen”!). Fortunately at that point a girl I had spoken to on the way in told her it was my first time there, . (Of course, I could have tried just speaking – Elise would have been perfectly able to lip read me, but brainstall did now allow me to think of that till halfway home!)

Many of the hearing people there were studying the BSL courses at Level 2 or 3, and there were a couple on Level 1. In a flash of inspiration I signed “I only know a tiny bit of sign. Level zero.” They laughed and I was quite pleased about that until it occurred to me that while I probably had said Level Zero, it was equally possible I had just told them I had a flat arsehole. I did look this up when I got home but my dictionary is oddly silent on swear words, so it remains to be seen….

In fact, my friend who was there had just as little knowledge as I. We ended up practicing low level vocab between ourselves for most of it. We did watch the conversations flying for a short while and it was exciting and exhilarating- but it felt a bit like eavesdropping, and we didn’t want to be rude so we signed to each other a bit instead.

In any case, it was less of a car crash than expected given the inevitable stage fright, and having that feeling of absolutely not knowing how to communicate makes the point that that’s why I’m learning. Everyone should be able to be understood, at least to a small extent, in their own country.

So I’m thinking now that I might alternate visits to Sign club with weeks where I just concentrate on learning as much as possible While I’m waiting for the next course to start. In the meantime there may be room on the alternate weeks for a dance class, and I have ideas on that front too. πŸ™‚

So although it’s only been one week, I do genuinely feel a bit reinvigorated, just from doing something a little bit extraordinary. Hurrah!

Still need to get on with editing Holly 4, as the next few stories are written and stacked ready for publication, but you never know. This might just be the year where things get simpler. Who knows?

πŸ™‚

In the meantime, if British Sign Language is something that you’d like to know more about, you can find out about it here:

https://bda.org.uk/help-resources/

Watch some signed tv here:

https://www.bslzone.co.uk/watch/

Any questions, feel free to ask!

Take care, and catch you soon:

JAC.

As regulars will know, periodically I burn out and have to take time out. This one’s a doozy. However although in a pretty unfocused way, I am still chipping away at the outstanding stuff, so here’s the latest sitrep.

On Dark Shores series:

Flight. I thought it was pretty much finished apart from the research on sailing. That is actually a dauntingly huge job but I did a bit of research and discovered a really good resource that looked likely to be available in four or five weeks. Excellent, I thought. In the meantime I’ll reread the first book.

This was either a massive mistake or really lucky. I discovered the timelines need a bit of work and in all honesty, I suspect it might work rather a lot better if I cut all of the books into chronological order; but there there will be far two many characters. So what I need to do is cut them all together, work put what plot strands are going to be superfluous, any characters who can sensibly be merged or cut, and streamline the whole thing. Which is an ENORMOUS task, and that’s before I even start sorting out the 100k words I already wrote of Mother.

Plus side, Scrivener should allow this to make more sense.

Minus side, I’m going to need the world’s biggest Excel sheet to make the timeline even attempt to make any sense.

Plus side, I can re-cover the lot with something closer to market and make pretty files with Vellum, then relaunch the whole lot at once.

Minus side, that launch is a long time and a lot of work away.

Summary: months of work, lots of research and thought needed.

Bugger.

Wolf series:

Finished Book 1, self-edited and did a lot of work on it, sent it to betas and all of them loved the story and were very excited by it…but agreed to a person that the dialogue between the two main characters is flawed in register and needs redoing in its entirety. So close!

They are right of course, and it shouldn’t be difficult to fix, but it does require substantial rewrites and a bit of thought to ensure the story still works if the motivations change. Bugger. Still, there is some consolation to be had in that Book 2 is written and ready to start editing, book three is half done and four and five are plotted out. These are congruent with the new register (ironically, as I was writing it I was wondering how to make it work with old-stylebook one) so it’s just book one that needs a total fix (hopefully!).

The later books involve stuff that is new to me and needs a bit of basic knowledge; they come across a new character who will be pretty important to the plot, and he is profoundly deaf. I was a bit hesitant about this on several scores. On the one hand,the lack of diversity in fantasy has always annoyed me as I think fiction is so much more powerful if it reflects real life? On the other hand, it’s always seemed such a big subject to tackle that… well, frankly, I didn’t know where to start. And yes, this is exactly as stupid a reaction as it seems. But of late because diversity has finally become a Thing, there is much more visibility of resources, which is fabulous, & I got to a point in Wolf where it became clear that for the story to work, the character in question had to be deaf.

Now, the number of questions this raises is not small. In a fantasy world, how likely would it be that they would diagnose him correctly if he was born deaf? How would he manage the day to day exchange of the Court? What advantages and disadvantages would it bring? And most importantly, how can I as a hearing person, write a genuinely authentic and moving character that deaf people (and Deaf people) will enjoy and identify with? The quick answer is that I will almost certainly get some bits wrong, but hopefully if the main, important bits are right, it might either pass muster, or inspire others to write a better deaf character than mine, which would be epic.

I have thought a lot about this and I end up with the viewpoint that is better to attempt to write a diverse cast in good faith and with due diligence put into getting it right than it is to chicken out of it in case someone shouts at me. It is almost certainly true that I will get it wrong in places and no doubt lots of people will be angry at me and rightly so: but if one young deaf person identifies with and is lifted by my attempt at representing a deaf character, in a world where they don’t normally get to think “that person is like me”, then that is worth taking a bit of flak for.

No doubt I will be blogging at a bit more length about this later in the process, but for now I am at the very beginning of learning a bit more about deaf people and the Deaf community in the UK (as well as elsewhere, a little bit). I am learning some very basic sign language as my character will sign (of course the story won’t use British Sign Language but I reckon there is much to be learned from understanding how the language is put together that would make sense transferred across to an invented language). And I have to say, I’m totally loving BSL- it’s absolutely fascinating. In an ideal world, I’d go on to study the proper BSL courses, but that will probably have to wait till I have actually finished some books and sold them, as the course is far from cheap.

So though it’s frustrating that Wolf series has also stalled, that doesn’t annoy me so much. It seems more like an opportunity to get learning the sort of things that will make the story, the world and the character so much richer (and which feed into my general obsessions with communication, languages and acting in any case). I have been lucky enough to find someone knowledgeable who has offered to help when I finally get to that part of the story, but I am conscious that this really does need to be as right as possible. So work continues, if not writing, and this is going to be another slow one.

Summary: months of work, lots of research and thought needed.

Kinda cool and exciting, not to mention fascinating, but still won’t be quick.

Bugger.

Holly series:

So this series is pretty much the only thing of mine that’s shifting at the moment, but given that I’ve stopped all attempts at any kind of publicity or marketing (due to burn out) I’m quite impressed that it is shifting at all!

I looked at my author page and realised it looks as if I have a two second attention span. I really need to finish at least one series, just to make the point that I’m writing characters who will be around for long enough to be worth reading! And Holly being pretty popular, and made up of shorter novellas than the rest, it seemed obvious that these were the ones to try for.

So: Holly 3 is written and halfway through editing. Holly 4 is written and Holly 5 is showing signs of wishing to become a full length effort, which wasn’t the idea at all but would be quite a nice way to end the series. Work continues on this in dribs and drabs in the two minutes it takes the kettle to boil, and in my lunchhour when I have one. I think this is going to be a cracking series, but because of the way the story builds up, I need to write it to the end and then go back and make sure that everything in the earlier storied tallies up with the later ones… so guess what? Quite right, can’t publish H3 till H5 is written. Argh. And they have the most expensive covers as well, so writing them first makes loads of sense…no wait…!

So. Plus side, they are probably nearest to being finished.

Minus side, still a fair bit of work to go.

Plus side, the covers are going to be epic!

Minus side, the covers are going to be expensive.

Summary: a few months of work, and a lot of cash needed.

Bugger.

πŸ™‚

Dragon series:

So this is ridiculous, I thought. There must be one solitary series I can finish. How about the Dragon stories? People like dragons. I like dragons! Let’s do some dragon shorts to go with the Last Dragon….

Did not go well.

Wrote two nice little stories to go with the Last Dragon. Went to get some cheapie covers to go on them from someone new. These covers were so good I can’t use them for little random stories. These covers suggest Emotional Depth, dammit! Quandary!

So after a bit of thought, I got a fourth matching one done as I have a quartet of dragons whose stories need telling, and these covers will be splendid for those. Then I went back to try for some new covers. The short stories will need to be renamed which could be confusing, only no-one has actually bought The Last Dragon so I don’t really think it will be a problem.

So I made up new names and a new series name, and went back to my new person. Dragons are a bit difficult to find decent pics of for obvious reasons, and having used up the idea of tattoo-type icons for the Four Dragons, I had to resort to renders, which looked a bit shonky. I did hesitate but I figured, we need to use the shorts to earn money for the Holly covers but once they’ve done that, I can use them to save up for new covers with better dragons on. We’ll get there in the end.

So I sent my choice of pictures to the new person and bugger me if she didn’t come back with the most stonkingly fabulous covers ever. The shonky renders now look reasonably respectable next to Anne McCaffrey’s covers! (Fangirl moment!) Hurrah!

…and indeed bugger. Because now I can’t use these fabulous covers for little fairytales. Argh! Again!

So. Before I got stuck too deeply into a cycle of buying tremendous dragon covers for stories I haven’t even written yet, I called a halt. The two sets of fabulous covers can go on stories I am planning out which will tie in a bit remotely with the Holly series, which is pretty cool, and will be referenced in ODS, which is also cool- but I’m not starting to write them just yet.

The Holly covers need to match the first two.

ODS can’t be re-covered till I know where the story splits, but in the meantime no-one’s buying it so I don’t need to worry about that.

Wolf is too far from completion to worry about.

Scarred Artisan may get a new cover and relaunch at some point, as will Song after a slight re-edit. But those are simmering along quietly in the background until I have time to do a launch.

The real reason everything has stopped right now is just burn out. Work is unsustainably manic, and I end up working in the evenings and weekends when possible. I don’t actually agree with that sort of thing, but sometimes you just have to pull all the stops out to get the job done. My partner is in a similar position. It’s not good.

Add to that the weather: two weeks of heatwave means the dog hasn’t been able to go out and run with his friends as usual. We’ve been doing a late evening runaround, but not all his friends can make that time and lots of other people have been doing the same, so his running time is severely limited. This makes him crazy, which means that some nights, I’m still taking him through his training at midnight in an attempt to tire him out. With an 0440 alarm call, this does not make for a restful night’s sleep, and I am one who really needs my sleep!

There’s always the usual other stuff going on of course, but right now I’m frazzled, and a bit bewildered by the way my stories have suddenly fractalled!

The answer is always the same: proper time out with the exception of two minutes’ writing here and there to keep me sane. Theoretically the day job should calm down in a couple of months, and I shouldn’t be using all my creative mojo on getting through the day. By then my brain will have worked out what a plan of attack (current thinking is Holly is next up) and with a bit of luck we should be a substantial way towards getting at least one series up and running. I’m looking forward to getting back to it…

But in the meantime, the dog is barking, we’re late for his walk and goodness only knows what we’ll have for tea….

πŸ™‚

Take care, and I’ll catch you on the flip side!

All the best:

JAC