2023: Aliens

In a year that was terrible for a lot of people, I’ve seen improvements and actually have some plans for next year. It’s an odd place to be, but I’m making the most of my improved health, because I don’t know how long it’ll last or what else will happen. Food still has random shortages and the government is threatening more right wing laws, so it’s not like it’s going well locally. But right now, I’m relatively safe.

 

Health

At the beginning of the year, things were stable, both the good and bad. I’d improved a lot, but still had some additional executive dysfunction issues. I’d attributed these to needing to relearn to do stuff and having an overwhelming list of things to do, but now I’m not so sure. Basically because I started taking Astragalus membranaceus and the issues pretty quickly resolved. One person can be a coincidence and all that, but it was a rather sharp and well-timed coincidence if that was the case.

I caught nothing at all. Since starting to use regular nasal spray (Viraleze) in addition to a mask, that’s stopped being a thing. This has meant there were no relapses and I could get out more with reasonable safety. I visited the local museum and saw a play.

During this time, I also got a walker (it’s purple!), so I could get out for more walks. The extra support helps me to walk better and it means I can sit down anywhere. Though I prefer the stick if I’m going inside or will need to use steps.

Towards the end of the year, the inflammation/arthritis in my joints faded completely and I was able to stop taking antihistamines (this caused some itching and sneezing, as I’ve been on them for years, but it wasn’t that bad). The knee with issues straightening has something else going on, though that’s also seen some improvements.

At this point, things are likely to be where they stay, other than possible improvements in the one knee. It’s pretty clear that my joints will remain fragile. I get headaches and motion sickness if I overdo things. But it’s all very manageable. I can get outside to fill the bird feeders and go for short walks. I can make plans and work on projects.

 

Writing

I’d initially planned to publish single short stories with notes. This didn’t happen, but for the best reason. The first I was working on was “Rewilding Nova”, which had been accepted for the Rosalind’s Siblings anthology before that fell through. As I was working on the notes, that anthology found a new home with Atthis Arts. So I was paid, the story went into the world, and I included a few highlights from the notes on the release announcement. I still think the single stories idea would be neat, but the money meant I didn’t have to rush it.

Photo of Rosalind's Siblings

Image Caption: A paperbook book on a purple cloth. The book is Rosalind’s Siblings and shows a person with short hair looking into a microscope in shades of purple. A small paintbrush and a bowl with two jammy biscuits are next to the book. These items relate to my story.

I also ended up writing a whole bunch of flash fiction. As long as nothing terrible happens, this will be out next year. It’ll be a novella-length collection of stories on the theme of really alien aliens.

I have no idea what I’ll end up working on after that, but I am writing again more regularly.

 

Art

My tale of multiple art shops starts with Zazzle. Sales were down, but it didn’t appear to be due to any of Zazzle’s recent changes. Product views were fine. People just weren’t buying as much. But they were buying enough to keep my website going, so this carried on being solid. All is not well in the POD world though, so the story doesn’t end there.

Society6 has been my backup art shop for many years. I didn’t sell much and the uploader for products was the worst I’ve ever used, but customers liked the quality of the products. Until this year, when they decided to introduce subscription fees for artists. I reduced my designs down to the ten allowed for the free plan, but this shop will most likely be removed in the future unless sales really pick up.

Threadless was one I’d looked at, but hadn’t tried until now. It has some things in its favour, including being able to donate some profits to charity and a commitment to wanting to promote marginalised creators. Unfortunately, they have a curated marketplace and only really seem to like a certain busy style that I don’t have. I wouldn’t recommend this one to anyone starting out, because if you’re not in the main search and don’t have fans, you’re unlikely to sell stuff. It’s a pity they don’t allow customers to search the extended marketplace if they want.

Inprnt needs an invite from a current artist or submission of three pictures for current artists to vote on. I submitted my rainbow cat, rainbow squid and fungi meadow. I was voted in on my first attempt, so that was great. This is mainly a site for art prints, and the shipping costs mean mainly for people in the US, but the quality looks nice. I’ll aim to add more stuff over the coming year.

Ko-fi is not really a shop. It’s a tip jar. Though it does allow some selling, they don’t handle the VAT, which is too much of a nightmare for a small creator. So this will remain as tips only.

 

Blogging

I reviewed a game, wrote a post about book covers and reopened my review requests. I set up Ko-fi so that people could tip me if they liked the content. My brain is back in the game.

My old posts on subjects tended to get death threats, but more people would read them over a longer period of time compared to reviews. The threats weren’t the only issue though, as the trouble with posting early thoughts on something is that things change, and the posts aged badly. So my focus this time is more on roundups of things that happened with a focus on my experiences.

Another possible is discussions of themes or tropes that could do with a roundup. I’ve often ended up describing these in reviews, but that could be turned into a more general article that I could then reference.

This means reviews won’t be as common as the height of my reviewing. I’m trying to find more of a balance of content. Whether people will read any of it, who knows. Blogging and long reviews went heavily out of fashion. But I hate email newsletters, so I’m still blogging for now.

 

Social Media

The positive side of social media is I found a new microblogging site that works for me. Bluesky is now my main microblogging site, where you can hear how sink spider is doing, how my knee is doing today, and whether I saw a cat when I went out.

Bluesky needs invite codes to join, which are handed out to current members. I got as many out as I could before Twitter stopped being useable. I donated a few to code handout schemes. I used Reddit and Second Life to send out more. There are still holes in the community, but the creative side is getting established over there. What it could do with are more readers and fans, who aren’t necessarily writers and artists.

It’ll be a long time before my social media recovers. I built up followers over many years and I won’t get them back quickly. I’m not famous enough for that. It’s also harder to get people to repost silly little things now, which is basically how I grew my early Twitter audience.

 

Short Version

My health is stable and I’m working on things again. I had a story out in the Rosalind’s Siblings anthology. I have new art shops on Threadless and Inprnt. You can tip me on Ko-fi and follow me on Bluesky. As long as my health holds, I hope to be blogging more and also publishing a flash fiction collection about aliens.

Story in Rosalind’s Siblings

My story “Rewilding Nova” is in Rosalind’s Siblings. This anthology is about people with marginalised genders and sexes in science. My story is about a non-binary Romani ecologist with joint damage doing science in their back garden. It’s a cozy slice-of-life story about science and rewilding an alien planet.

Book Link: https://www.atthisarts.com/product/rosalinds-siblings/

Rosalind's Siblings Cover

Image Caption: A book cover with a maroon monochrome illustration of a person looking into a microscope. They’re wearing a short-sleeved buttonup shirt and have short hair with a floppy fringe. The title reads “Rosalind’s Siblings” with the subtitle “Fiction and Poetry Celebrating Scientists of Marginalized Genders”. The book is edited by Bogi Takács. The cover artist is Mia Carnevale.

There’s a mention in the introduction about groups the authors come from. I’m one of those who wanted to be a scientist (I went to university) and couldn’t (no jobs). It was nice to have space to explore things like different approaches to science and barriers to getting research accepted by other scientists.

My main inspiration was the way rewilding has happened in the UK, where the reintroduction of locally extinct native animals has frequently been delayed and blocked, but they just appeared anyway. Your pet beavers going missing and not reporting it could happen to anybody. Who among us hasn’t lost a few wild boar here and there.

Some aspects of the main character are based on me, though I wrote this before long covid and joint damage. I’ve always had stiff joints, so there’s always been a risk that illness and injury could cause something more serious. It’d been something I’d thought about and knew could potentially happen. I just wasn’t really imagining it’d happen in the time between submitting the story and it being published.

It’s taken a bit for this anthology to get out there, so I’m pleased it happened and I hope people enjoy the story!

2022: Onwards

Another year is done and I appear to be healing. The neurological symptoms are mainly over, though it was a process to get back to working on things. The joints remain damaged and one of my knees doesn’t straighten. I’m always going to be fragile compared to how I was, but I appear to be broadly healthy (outside of the obvious mobility problems).

I took a break in summer to just do whatever came to mind. I read several novels, did some random mesh work for Second Life (I redid my cake shop) and wrote a short story.

The most difficult thing has been that I’ve always had executive dysfunction. I’m now faced with a list of things I should have been doing over the last few years, which makes it difficult to pick things and work on them. As such, I’m making no claim of doing anything in a sensible order or to a certain deadline.

 

Writing

Book sales were down last year. I’m several years behind releasing a new project and that’s been hurting sales. Unfortunately, knowing this creates a lot of pressure, which is not the best way to actually get a big project finished. I closed my Patreon, so I don’t have that as a backup either, but that does lead on to the next thing.

Some people have asked how to throw money at me and the next novel is some time away. So, I had the idea of publishing some single short stories available for $0.99. I’d aim for longer shorts (but shorter than novelette) and include some story notes at the end. That means even though some might be available elsewhere, or will be in the future, the story notes will remain a unique feature of the singles.

It didn’t go that well when I published a novelette in the past, but I recognise that times have changed. The average price of a self-published novel has gone up, making the shorts seem less expensive in comparison. Patreon has also popularised the idea of paying a dollar per thing (which is often a dollar per short story for a writer).

Anyway, if this interests you, let me know.

 

YouTube

I took down a lot of videos, so that I could edit them and reupload. This has been a great learning experience. I even managed to get usable audio on two videos where I had to cut it completely before. This isn’t the path to success or anything like that, but I don’t have the time or strength to really go for the channel. So I’m getting my backlist of videos as strong as possible.

I did make a few new videos. Some were done using a phone to film, which is easier for me to handle. As a result of this, I also started a TikTok account, where I’ve uploaded some of the vertical videos I did for YouTube. I can’t really use TikTok as it’s not accessible, but I can upload stuff there for people who prefer it over YouTube Shorts.

 

Communication

A big issue has been the demise of Twitter. I’m not leaving anytime soon, but it’s harder to be seen and to talk to people. I’ve tried various alternatives, but ended up only really using the two I already had: Tumblr and Reddit. Neither of those is really a replacement for the casual microblogging experience.

In terms of my social life, I’m doing well with Second Life. I have friends there. I have lots of stuff to do. Given that I can’t go out and do all the stuff I used to do, I’ve ended up doing more in Second Life. I’ve taken up a breedable cat game (KittyCats), expanded my shop land a bit, and hope to get into more building things this year.

In terms of chatting to other writers and the business side of things, everyone leaving for social networks I hate is obviously a problem. I’m not sure even sure if anyone will even see this blog post. It also ended my livetweeting of the Alien / Predator films, but at least I ended on a high with Alien vs. Predator, which I really enjoyed.

 

TL;DR

My health has improved a lot, other than continuing joint issues and reduced mobility. I’m hoping to publish a few shorts to get a little more money as I work on the next big writing project. I’m polishing videos and reuploading them on YouTube and TikTok. Twitter is dying, but I’m still there for now.

2021: Recovery

I’m well into my second year of post-COVID arthritis. The good news is that I am slowly recovering. The fatigue went away early in the year. The arthritis improved greatly after I was vaccinated. This doesn’t mean it’s completely gone. Walking is difficult. I still have to spend time managing joint function and pain. I don’t know if there will be permanent damage. But I can do a lot more than I could this time last year, so that’s a good thing.

One of the family has just retired. I knew this was coming, which is why I’ve been especially concerned about wanting to get new projects out in the last few years… and not being able to do so because of health and other disasters.

 

Art

Zazzle was my first project after I started to improve. My aim was to add 1000 products to my store, for a total of about 3000 public products. The new designs were things like basic patterns. The idea was to add generic stuff that tends to sell and worry about more creative things some other time.

I didn’t quite get to the total because Zazzle was also doing some cleaning. They removed products that weren’t selling or had been out of stock for a long time. Overall, I did add a lot of stuff, and sales were reasonable.

 

Publications

I had two stories in anthologies that were supposed to come out this year. “Busy Little Bees” was released in Common Bonds. Rosalind’s Siblings was cancelled. I didn’t sell any new stories this year.

 

Writing

Getting back into writing has been difficult. I did write two stories for Second Life hunts, though they were both ones with more random and strange structures. One was articles and journal entries and the like. The other described various species of spider. When I attempted to write things with more regular story structures, I completely failed. I have a lot of notes for a sequel to Werecockroach, but I struggled to actually write it.

Late in the year, I decided the best thing would be to write whatever worked. Random and strange worked for the short stories, so I picked something in my pending ideas which fitted that. The winner was Void Stew, which I’ve been tweeting about as the vegetable growing story. It’s all about people trapped in an endless void, who grow vegetables to survive.

There will be future issues with marketing this book. There’s some market for quieter slice-of-life stories, which this does come under. Though it’s also got random second person bits, one character with verse chapters, and a lot of stuff that can be harder to sell. I hadn’t intended to write it right now because of the potential difficulties.

But anyway, here I am. I need to finish something and I’ll just have to hope I find an audience. I’m hoping that getting something finished will mean I will be able to write the Werecockroach sequel, which I think does have an audience.

 

Other Things

I managed to post a few YouTube videos, including a brand new ASMR one with keyboard typing. I did a few of the new shorts as well, which was a nice way to ease back into it. I have no plans or schedule for my channel. I’ll just upload things as I get an urge to make a video.

I want to get back into reading now that my brain functions again. I have a few books in mind and was given a few recommendations. I don’t know if I’ll end up reviewing them or not.

 

TL;DR

My health is improving. I added a lot of basic patterns to Zazzle and started writing a book about growing vegetables in an endless void.

Story in Common Bonds

I have a new story out in the Common Bonds anthology called “Busy Little Bees”. This anthology has speculative stories about aromantic characters. Mine is near future science fiction about an aroace woman looking for her clone siblings. Themes include issues surrounding cloning and surrogacy. If that’s all you want to know before reading it, click the link below for sales links. If you’d like some of my thoughts on writing it, continue on below the cover.

Book Link: Common Bonds

 

The cover of Common Bonds

The cover of Common Bonds. Two red people sit back to back. They’re smiling and one holds a book and one holds a mug. They’re surrounded by green vines and white flowers. It is edited by Claudie Arseneault, C.T. Callahan, B.R. Sanders and RoAnna Sylver. The cover is by Laya Rose.

 

Backstory

This was an anthology funded by Kickstarter. I was contacted before that, asking if I’d write a story for consideration for the Kickstarter launch. If accepted, it would have been one of the ones mentioned as “contains stories by!!” and all that. It didn’t happen. I didn’t have a great year in general. I also had two very close story deadlines. So I had to say I couldn’t get it done in time, but I’d submit to the general slush when the public call went out.

Writing to themes can be a challenge, but I had some clues this time. I know what stories the editors had read before asking me to send something. A lot of my short fiction has characters who just happen not to get involved in romances (it often doesn’t occur to me unless it’s relevant to the plot), but the first who states not being into that is Tyler, the unlikely vampire in “Midnight Ice Cream”.

I later went on to write “Werecockroach”, where Rin is asexual and aromantic and uses the words.

Both of those are relatively clear and simple in terms of narrative structure and tone. I do also write things that get rejected for not being stories, but that didn’t seem like the sort of thing the call was after.

For my story idea, I wanted to focus on an aroace character, as that’s what I am. I also wanted to focus on sibling relationships, as I like writing those.

 

Inspirations

The good inspiration was CC (CopyCat), the world’s first cat clone. She ended up with a different colour coat to her mother. They had identical genes, but that isn’t everything.

This didn’t surprise me a whole lot as I knew some identical twins who didn’t end up looking alike, but it doesn’t appear much in science fiction where clones are often assumed to be literally identical. Even more so than identical twins. I wanted to explore the ways people could end up looking and being different from the same starting genes.

The bad happened when YouTube was changing how adverts worked. I ended up with an eight minute unskippable advert selling surrogate services. It was very glossy and tried to make it sound like they’d picked that location as the mothers there were just so great… not because the people were poor and there were few regulations. That shiny corporate branding was chilling and stayed with me.

 

Other Representation

This was an interesting story for me to write, as I really was “writing the other” in some ways. The lead comes from a relatively privileged background, whereas I’ve always been working class. That meant unpacking some of the assumptions she’d make. Not in the sense of a total bigot finding out she’s wrong, but in the sense of someone who generally isn’t a bigot finding she still had some things to work on. I might not have lived that, but I’ve had to field some of those things from the other side.

The trans side also took some thought. I’m non-binary, so including a non-binary and a trans man as characters wasn’t really something I thought about. It just sort of happened. What did take some thinking was the idea of the trans man dressing up as another of the clones, because most of them were women. It made a lot of sense for the plot, but there are potential pitfalls.

The basic issue is this sort of scene is often used as a way to invalidate trans characters. A trans man made to dress up that way will usually be mocked. The outfit will be a pink frilly dress covered in bows that few women would ever consider wearing. There will be comments about how pretty and feminine he looks.

After thinking about it, and considering if there was a way to do it that didn’t disrespect the character, the solution was to be sure the other characters wouldn’t be disrespectful. In a near future where I’d hope people had improved somewhat on those issues, there’d be a conscious effort to not be jerks about it.

This also meant thinking about how other aspects of marginalisation would be treated in the near future world. Class is still present as an issue and I avoided making it seem like there was an easy solution that’d solve everything. It’s about small gains and keeping at it.

The other mentioned is disability. There have clearly been some improvements, but there’s also a family who abandon an adopted child for selective mutism. This sort of near future won’t have solved every problem with every family.

I do have direct experience of selective mutism. There were times as a child when I simply couldn’t speak, though it wasn’t often enough to get much notice, outside of the teacher who tried to ask my parents about it. He did not actually ask the question he meant to ask, which meant this happened…

Teacher: “Why does Polenth sometimes just stare at me?”

Parents: “Polenth’s reading your mind.”

Teacher: “…”

Anyway, that’s just a few of the representation things I thought about as I wrote the story. I don’t tend to think about them in an essay or blog format, but those thoughts are always there somewhere as I write.

 

Bees, Wasps and Swarms

I get on really well with bees and wasps, in the sort of way where I wander about near their hives/nests and they leave me alone or crawl on me. I share sugar with them if I have it. We’re fine. The only time I’ve been stung, I actually stung myself. A dying wasp fell in my hair, I thought the wasp was a leaf, so I stung myself trying to brush the leaf out. The wasp really wasn’t to blame.

I have a video of a wild bee swarm that I took some years ago. It looks very dated compared to video now, but it’s still nice to have the reminder. I’d note that honeybees are native in the UK, so this really is a wild swarm. They were in a nature reserve and were left to do their swarm thing.

So, on that note, I’ll leave you with some real bees.