Floods in the park, Car Thieves and Stone Flowers

We had mega heavy rain here in Edinburgh yesterday. It was awesome, in the truest sense of the word. Today, it was dry and sunny again so I went to the park down the road and a lake had appeared! It was totally amazing looking so I stopped to take a few photos. The entire place wasn’t under water, but part of the road and the playing fields were. It made me smile to see how much the birds were enjoying themselves.

Being outdoors really helps me feel inspired, so it was lovely to do some thinking and planning for Car Thieves, my July Camp NaNoWriMo project. I’m twitching a little bit about it because although I already know some of the characters really well (they appeared in my January flash fiction project) and have a rough idea of the world the book is set in, I don’t actually have a solid story yet.

The story for Stone Flowers Grow in Cold Places appeared pretty much fully formed one day while I was out for a walk, after spending weeks getting to know the characters and their world, so maybe that’s just how it works for me. Even though I can make myself sit down and write even when I’m not really feeling it, I find it hard to force a decent story. Instead of panicking (much) about only having three weeks until Camp NaNo, I’m going to get on with character profiles, location references and world details, and I’m sure the story will happen.

Speaking of Stone Flowers, it’s been proof read and corrected, and has now had its final revision! I still have to make the cover, which I’m really excited about, and then I’ll figure out how to fit the release of the book in with the launch of my Patreon and writing Car Thieves over the next few months. Actually just having a finished manuscript feels absolutely incredible though, especially as it’s the longest single thing I’ve ever written.

I hope you’re all having a great week so far ❤

She Roils And Rages

I’ve been away on a little holiday visiting my parents in Ireland. My husband, the cat (yep, the cat travels with us) and I have had a bit of boat, lots of countryside and some beach. It’s been sunny the entire time and I’m almost the colour of an actual living human now. I hadn’t been near a computer for a week until tonight and it has been a blissful and much needed break. Regular internet activity will resume once I get home and reconnected.

I took this photo from the deck of the ferry, even though I’m utterly terrified of dropping my phone or my glasses off high-up things. My soul belongs to the sea, in all her anger and majesty. She was truly beautiful that day and, as always, a blessing to behold.

Warmth from Within and Without

warmth from within and without

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a miscellaneous life stuff update here so I figured it was time. As I write this, I’m curled up in an oversized armchair (bought by my 6ft 4in husband, so perfectly excessive for 5ft 3in me), listening to a station on Play Music called Beautiful Piano Ballads (Play Music stations are my new obsession, don’t even get me started), drinking chai and inhaling the glorious aroma of a chocolate scented candle on my altar, blessed by the glow of early spring sunlight streaming through the french doors. And you know what? I feel relaxed. Genuinely, completely chill for the first time in ages.

In my last job and the connected volunteer work I was involved with until late last year, this is when the busiest time of year would have been kicking off. I would have been barely coping with an insane amount of work while under a constant barrage of expectation and pressure over things that sat too uneasily with my personal values. It’s not that I didn’t deeply enjoy parts of it, but it was like when you get back from a camping trip where you were caught in a storm and your tent leaked and you twisted your ankle on the way down the mountain – even though it was exhausting and painful, you still did it again because you survived the ordeal and only remembered the amazing bits. I’m not throwing total shade on ex-volunteering-and-job because it gave me so many incredible experiences and introduced me to some of my best friends. It’s pretty fucking fantastic not to be doing it anymore though, even if leaving it behind gouged a chunk out of my heart in the shape of things that could not be made OK enough for me to continue.

For the first time in ages, the onset of spring feels like the arrival of a close friend bearing coffee and hugs rather than a close friend bearing a hastily packed parachute and the suggestion of sky diving. I’m not really a spring kind of person and I usually get my energy buzz on in the autumn, but this year is different. It’s good. I feel inspired and excited but without all the nervous twitching and insomnia that usually goes along with those things.  I feel free.

Right now, I’m writing a book. I am honest-to-goodness doing the thing I’ve said I was going to do for the last thirty-something years. I’m also learning how to write a book as I write the book so it’s not going to be a masterpiece but it is going to be a learning experience and whatever comes from it will be sent out into the world in some manner. My goal is just to finish it and to have grown from the experience. Then I will write another book and it will be better. I’ve already decided this is how it’s going to go.

Since I started on this project a couple of weeks ago (I rambled about it here), I’ve been allowing myself to write whatever comes into my head and embrace the joy of happy brainspew. I have a kind of beginning and a kind of ending and a vague idea of what might happen in between. My characters have been revealing their voices and their histories. I’ve been asking them questions and letting them answer in their own time. The next bit of the mission is to solidify their identities through mood boards, personality tests and other getting-to-know-you stuff. Once that’s done, I’ll be better positioned to understand how they’ll navigate the world that is the as-yet-unplotted story.

I’m also enjoying social media in a way that I hadn’t really felt able to in a long while. I’m using Facebook less and less because even with the wonder that is the FB Purity Chrome extension it still generally irritates the shit out of me. I still have my artist page where I post stuff relating to my writing and photography, and my FB-based writing group totally owns my soul, but I’m just not feeling the personal-connection vibe on Facebook-in-general anymore.

I’m using Twitter and Tumblr a lot more often than I was (Tumblr is basically internet crack, seriously, I could lose hours on the mobile app way too easily), and I’m posting my writing regularly on Medium. I’ve been falling out of love with Instagram since they took away the chronological feed, but I still post there and have a browse when I have time and can get the app to work without crashing. I am, and will probably forever be, attached in so many ways to DeviantArt, where I’m a photography Community Volunteer. The thing with DA is that there’s a lot of stuff I’m not into on the site, but it’s so easy to customise my experience so that I don’t see any of that stuff. I don’t see it as a professional platform but unlike people who hate the open-to-all-standards aspect of it, I adore the fact that it’s filled with people of all ages and skill levels. It’s had, and continues to have, its ups and downs but it’s a place where I learned and grew so I’m happy to support other people learning and growing there.

My new favourite is Ello. Not to sound too hipstery but I was there at the beginning when it was invite-only and was spoken of as an alternative to Facebook. It has evolved into a creative hub and I love the tightly knit community, especially the awesome writers I’ve met there. It still obviously has a long way to go and things change constantly as it finds its feet, but I feel welcome and at home there. And there’s no advertising, so the user is not the product, which is great. You should all join Ello right now. Seriously. Do it.

This has become a massive ramble so I’ll leave it there and go put my characters through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I hope you’re all having a good week.

❤ Tanya

Anniversary Happiness and Julehygge

dsc_0011-01

Yesterday, D and I celebrated fourteen years of marriage and fifteen years of being-together-ness. We don’t usually get to do much for our anniversary cause this tends to be a really busy month for both of us but this year the planets, stars and schedules aligned, so we were able to spend the day together doing lovely things. We had a whole afternoon wandering around the National Museum of Scotland (the photo above was taken from the seventh floor roof garden), went to a gorgeous little Lebanese restaurant (with the best hummus ever) for dinner, then headed home to play with our newly acquired Nintendo Wii.

I’m honestly so excited about the Wii. We’ve been a zero console household for years because D tends to play PC games and although I love a bit of Tekken, I’m not into gaming enough to justify the cost of consoles and games. A few years ago, friends of ours got a Wii and after some tipsy Mario Kart sessions we were both hooked. We thought “Yeah, we should get one of those some day” but never got around to it. After realising how cheaply they can be bought second hand, we decided to get ourselves one. It’s black. Because of course it is. Grown-up goths forever.

dsc_0010-01

This post is basically All The Happy. I absolutely adore this time of year and I’m so grateful to be spending this Yule in our lovely new home. Ever since I heard the word hygge (kind of a physical and emotional cosiness, but here’s the Wikipedia article for a better explanation), it has played a part in pretty much every choice I’ve made about decor, lighting and furniture. I was looking up how to use hygge correctly in a description (I think it’s hyggelig or hyggeligt but I’m not sure which) and found a perfect word that I didn’t know existed until tonight – julehygge! It’s hygge specifically for this time of year.

I’m sitting in a room lit with candles, a glitter lamp and fairy lights on our baby tree (it lives in a pot and will be spending the rest of the year in the garden, growing up). There’s gold and black tinsel on the yukka and the rubber plant. There’s a cat snoozing on a pile of cushions next to me. I’m wearing pyjamas, wrapped in a fluffy blanket and feeling snuggly (and hyggelig/t). My parents are arriving this time next week for a few days and D has two more days at work until he’s off until the end of the month.

The last decade has been incredibly tough. Living with a chronic illness where I’m in almost constant pain and running on very little power can make things really difficult, especially as it massively affects my ability to do the exercise I need to do to minimise progression of the damage to my back and legs from an old injury. I took care of myself as best I could but I’d been skimming along rock bottom the entire time and as much as I needed to completely change how I lived my life, I couldn’t do it in any meaningful or effective way because it wasn’t financially viable. Right now, it is, just about.  I ended a part-time freelance work contract that had been causing more unhappiness, stress and cognitive dissonance than it (or anything, really) was worth. It was a big, scary step but it is one hundred per cent the right thing to have done. We’re super careful with money because we have to be but I’m finally able to give myself some much-needed space to prioritise my health and manage my time instead of struggling to get through each day.

December is my month off. I made a conscious choice not to plan, not to think about the future and not to make any big decisions. This is a luxury I have literally never had before in my life and I am so unbelievably grateful that I have it right now. Come January, I will focus on what happens next and what I want to do. I intend to give full and honest consideration to what is realistic for me and remember that waking up crying every morning after two hours sleep because everything hurts and my brain is imploding, loading up on frustratingly necessary stimulants and painkillers to get through the day, and accepting dissociative episodes as the refreshing alternative to near-constant anxiety attacks is not feasible. Until then I am allowing myself to nurture a beautiful sense of hygge, spend time with friends and family, go for wintery walks when I’m able to, make our home extra lovely and allow parts of my soul to resurface and grow that had been buried under pain, exhaustion and fear for far too long.

My heart is so full of gratitude and love. In a world filled with so much violence and horror, especially right now, I appreciate every second of goodness and am in no doubt about how immensely lucky I am.

❤ Tanya