Top Five Lists of ALL THE THINGS

We needed to do something but didn’t want to move, so here’s this. Feel free to share your thoughts/attempted corrections!

Bored on Saturday things, Biscuits, Birdsong, Pencils, Queen songs, ’80s kids TV shoes, Buffy episodes, Divine Comedy comedy songs, Divine Comedy beautiful songs, Fictional Horses, Fictional Birds, Cabin Pressure episodes, Final Fantasy VII Characters, things we’re supposed to be doing, blond male vampires,

    Top Five Things To Do When Bored on Saturday

1. Chase your partner/dog/someone else’s dog/your shadow around a park.

2. Draw the clouds. If there aren’t any clouds, imagine clouds and draw them.

3. Draw stick men being more interesting than yourself.

4. Come up with a random pitch for a new kind of quiz show and start sending it out to people. Who knows…

5. Make top five lists of everything.

    Top Five Biscuits

1. NICE biscuits.

2. Party Rings.

3. Malted Milk.

4. Bourbon biscuits.

5. Jammy Dodgers.

Highly commended: Custard Creams, for their iconic shape and nom filling.

    Top Five Birdsongs

1. Skylark.

2. Blackbird.

3. Robin.

4. Wren.

5. Blackcap.

    Top Five Pencils

1. Staedtler Noris HB.

2. Palomino Blackwing.

3. Staedtler Tradition 4B.

4. 1989 Pencil from Tower of London Gift Shop.

5. 1904 Teddy Roosevelt Promotional Pencil with Brass Bear Atop It.

Highly Commended: Farley’s Rusk Pencil.

    Top Five Queen Songs

1. Innuendo.

2. Killer Queen.


4. Breakthrough.

5. I Want It All.

    Children’s TV Programmes of the 1980s

1. Mysterious Cities of Gold

2. Knightmare

3. Thundercats

4. She-Ra, Princess of Power

5. Ulysses 31

    Buffy Episodes

1. Once More, With Feeling

2. Band Candy

3. Lover’s Walk

4. Doppelgangland

5. New Moon Rising / The Prom (split decision)

    Divine Comedy Comedy Songs

1. The Frog Princess

2. Something in the Woodshed

3. I’ve Been to a Marvellous Party

4. The Pop Singer’s Fear of the Pollen Count

5. The Happy Goth

    Divine Comedy Beautiful Songs

1. Sunrise

2. Tonight We Fly

3. Neptune’s Daughter

4. Timewatching

5. Everybody Knows

    Fictional Horses

1. Renti

2. Shadowfax

3. Hwin

4. Artex

5. Rapide

    Fictional Birds

1. Master Chalk

2. Archimedes

3. Gwaihir

4. Kokapetl

5. Wol

    Cabin Pressure episodes

1. Ottery St. Mary

2. Limerick

3. Uskerty

4. Rotterdam

5. Xinzhou

    Final Fantasy VII Characters

1. Sephiroth

2. Vincent

3. Yuffie

4. Cait Sith

5. Rufus

    Things We’re Supposed to be Doing

1. Email

2. Listing things that need selling on eBay

3. Preparing photographs for things

4. Writing

5. Tidying

    Blond Male Vampires

1. David (Lost Boys)

2. Lestat

3. Eric (True Blood)

4. Spike

5. Marius


Suarez: An Unnecessary Addition to the Onslaught

When I was five years old, I punched another five year old in the shoulder, because they bit my arm. Apparently that was not a good enough reason to punch someone, and I remember being most irritated that I was the one who got in trouble when I didn’t start it. This is definitely not the same issue, but I do remember, very strongly, how appalled and outraged I was at being bitten. That is sort of the same issue.

There are a billion articles about the entire thing; it’s nearly worrying how many articles newspapers have run on it, except that’s what they do now. The way you could feel Sky, after the initial shock, utterly slavering over the brutality of it, and the infinite conversation they knew they could have over it. Mostly this post involves the points I’ve taken from reading, or scanning, a fair few of those.

– It was genuinely shocking. The guy is lacking certain brain skills. Demonstrable action needs to be taken before he’s put back in a volatile, stressful environment. Anything else is irresponsible.

– In recognition of this, the PFA sending him to anger management is a genuinely sensible response.

– The FA’s swift decision shows us that English football was better equipped to deal with incidents of violence than those of racism. I believe a ten match ban is the latest minimum ban brought in by UEFA for those charged with racism as of this month, though, so if that situation had happened now, then that’s how many Suarez would face, presumably.

– Liverpool’s reaction is genuinely odd. Obviously it’s like deducting goals from the current Liverpool team, but I wouldn’t say this was a surprising decision.

– Apparently, so someone said somewhere, possibly on Football Weekly, biting is more common in rugby. Is this so? Because I thought rugby was all genteel, honourable violence and whatnot…at least, that’s what people keep trying to tell me

– If you’re bugging Mike Tyson for quotes, maybe just don’t write that piece.

– It’s not okay to respond to any kind of sporting frustration by biting someone. It’s just not. The amount of attempts to defend that happening completely bemuse me. It’s just not cricket, and it’s definitely not football. There’s such a level of effort one has to go through to bite someone; it’s disturbing behaviour, and there’s no way around that.

– Suarez is an amazingly talented footballer. That’s not even slightly in question. Or at all relevant. Commenting on his behaviour is not commenting on his skill.

– There is beyond no reason for the Prime Minister to have a say, although being as I want to chip in my thoughts, I can’t say I’m surprised his office decided to chime in.

– It’s always annoying when the most-discussed thing of any game, never mind any season, is someone behaving in a way they oughtn’t to on a football pitch, but then again, that’s how football still manages to be a microcosm for the best and the worst of being human.

– Re. where I started out, I’m rather impressed that Ivanovic, rarely the coolest cube in the ice cube tray, didn’t deck him, although I think, had he not been so shocked, he might’ve. I wonder what conversation we’d be having if he had?


“I’m Sorry You’re Upset” and other ways to patronise a colleague

I’m quite physical with my moods and feelings. I quite literally raise the temperature in a room by two degrees the moment I become irritated with the way a conversation is going. I don’t make unusual levels of effort to contain my facial expressions or moderate my body language, because, well, I’m busy thinking about the thing that’s provoking such a physical reaction, and I figure that it’s all part and parcel of human communication, seeing how someone feels about something, as much as discussing it and fixing it.

However. The problem I have is that, when things around me are difficult or not working, people treat me as if I were the only one experiencing this, as if the actual issue was my emotion, or feeling, or discomfort, rather than the problem itself.

Some of me wonders if this is because I’m a girl who, whilst not quite in manic-pixie-dream-girl land (I’m simply not skinny enough to take the lead in an emo-romantic comedy, for starters), is obviously a bit unusual, quite possibly has silly hair and ‘immature’ clothing on. Perhaps I don’t project ‘stereotypical businesswoman’. I understand that feelings are difficult, that it’s human nature to want to stop someone experiencing negative emotions from doing so, but, especially when we’re in a business situation, rather than a personal one, I’m tired of people asking me if I just need to ‘take a break’ or if I’m ‘a bit tired’.

No. Or perhaps, yes. It doesn’t matter. It isn’t about what I’m actually feeling. It’s about the fact that there is a clear problem, which needs to be fixed. This happens to me a lot, usually when I try to, quietly, professionally, sensibly, fix something. And when I talk about being emotional, I’m not talking about being in floods of tears, being incomprehensible, or being hysterical, simply about being visibly pissed off or even just explaining that you’re uncomfortable with/unable to work amidst a state of affairs.

And this is where it seems to get wider, and how I do or don’t look is maybe not as relevant as I’ve wondered. I’ve talked about this with a number of friends, all of whom are far more professional and experienced than I am, and they’ve all got experiences that match. Times when you’re visibly experiencing an emotion as a result of a problem, and colleagues/bosses choose to focus on your emotional response, rather than the problem itself.

There’s little more irritating than being patted on the head/back/arm and told to go and get a coffee when you genuinely need to address an issue about computer systems or server backup tapes or Jeff in the post room or whatever. That look of concern/understanding/fear that says, “I can see you’re in strife and all I want is to get the hell out of this conversation ASAP” but disregards everything that would actually get them out of that conversation quickly and effectively and, eh, cease the negative emotion! Namely: recognising and resolving the problem.

I’m not sure if this is an exclusively female problem, so don’t let me be reductionist here. I’ve also had this experience of having actual, business problems reduced to my personal emotional problems from both male colleagues, and male and female bosses in the past, so there’s that. I do think, though, that there is a level of perfectly normal emotion in younger women that is treated as needy and out of place, rather than symptomatic of an actual, fixable issue. If I think of male colleagues experiencing frustration with a clear issue, say, infinite misdirected telephone calls, and their equally tangible and emotional responses, it’s laughable to imagine the boss coming up to them and gently placing a hand on their shoulder and asking them if everything’s okay at home.

I’m not saying that there aren’t times at which it’s appropriate to be compassionate or kind in the workplace, and I realise that this sounds rather like I’m complaining about an abundance of that, which is unfortunate, but when you’re trying to do your job properly and the environment lets you down in an obvious, fixable way, the fact that I’ve been driven to a place of emotion does not mean that I am not capable of continuing to be my workplace self and sorting out that problem. Telling me you’re sorry is fine, but I don’t need an apology from someone whose fault it is not; I need an issue fixing. Asking me if I’m okay is a peculiar response to my need to have access to my email.

I’m always wary of talking about anything as common to any group of anyone, but I’m curious as to whether more people understand what I’m talking about.

A Q&A With Myself

Because I’ve just done the thing I always wanted to do, so I figured I’d talk to myself about it. I’m all of a quiver of excitement because, as I keep saying, having a Real Live Book is the only proper solid goal I’ve ever had in my entire life. I want to remember this day as slightly more than formatting fails and fear, so…yeah. Let me be self-indulgent and overshare.

– Doesn’t self-publishing feel like cheating in some way?

It feels a bit like I might not have published the same book as the one that would’ve come out if I’d had an agent and editor rip their way through it. In that sense, this almost feels less like cheating, because I haven’t done anything to this book to make it easier either to sell or to read, apart from the things that I consider common courtesy, like panicking about spelling and trying to keep chapters short and organised.

– What inspired this book?

Living in a castle. Even when they do have windows, the air has a very special texture, and they’re so winding and interesting you sort of don’t need to go outside. As for the rest of it? I can only say it all came together so neatly even I was surprised and confused. I don’t know what it comes from. There are a couple of scenes that I’ve always wanted to write – some of the best writing advice is ‘don’t save your good ideas for a different book’ – and so I very much wrote things I’d always wanted to in here.

– Where did you write it?

The first 60k I wrote in bed, in my bedroom, which was more of a heap of everything I’d ever owned. It was most uncomfortable, but the book carried me right away from it all. The rest of it took a long time. In March 2012 I rented a tiny office and treated working on this, and a few other things, like a proper job, working from 6.30am-3pm every day. By the time I’d finished that, I had a solid first draft…which was 140k. Obviously far too long.

After that, I saw the HarperVoyager contest which was looking for YA dystopia, amongst other things, and thought, eh, I will have a crack at it. I edited like a mad thing, hacked 20k out of the story and sent it off. They weren’t interested, but hey, it got me through the first serious polish.

Then I thought I’d try proper agents. I polished further, rewrote a few things. No dice. Then I found a handful of agents’ blogs begging people not to send them novels that started with a dream, and I thought about changing the beginning and everything again…and then I read some stuff from people who’d been accepted by agents and were thrilled about their novel coming out in Summer 2014…and I thought, no, no, I love this right now and I want it to go off and play, not have to do another round of being sold, which, besides, doesn’t sound like something this can be. And that’s okay.

So I’ve spent the last two months polishing and polishing as best I can. I’ve nowhere near the funds to employ anyone to help me polish, so I hope it’s going to suffice. I’d say I’ve been through this manuscript at least forty times, although the very last time I still found a space where a space ought not to be, so…there comes a time when, for me, it is time to put the thing aside and do the next thing. This is that time.

– Who will like this book?

I’ve no idea. *I* like this book. I love the characters. I worry that’s because I know them better than the reader will, but I’ve had a tiny handful of others read it and they seemed fond enough. It’s dark in places, there are one or two unpleasant scenes, but it’s nothing I didn’t let my mother read, and she claims to love it, but she really is saying that out of terrible bias, because she doesn’t like all kinds of awesome books that are better written than mine. I don’t even really know what to compare this to, although I haven’t been allowed to read Gormenghast; for the whole duration of my work on this because I’m told it’s bothersomely similar in places. Which is fine, and entirely unintentional on my part, because I haven’t gone near it since I was about 17, but damn, when someone tells you you can’t read something, if it doesn’t become the only thing you want to read at all, and a lot, please thanks.

– What did you cut out?

Overall, I’ve cut at least 50k. Almost all of it was adverbs and internal monologue which was repeated elsewhere. It was an exhausting process. I fear, occasionally, I cut too much, that my characters will be a bit hindered by not having all their weird exposition, but then less is almost always more with writing, so, here’s hoping. Also infinite instances of the word ‘that’, and a shedload of ellipses.

– Do you feel like you’ve fulfilled a dream?

Honestly, yes. Way more than I’d thought I would. It’s very exciting. It’s very small and I know it’s something anyone can do, I know a lot of things, but there is a thing with my name on it and it is a complete story. That’s amazing for me. Hurrah for me 🙂

– You say you could keep changing things. What else would you change?

When I wrote the first draft, for reasons best known to myself I decided to write like it was 1749, in a magnificently stupid voice which was precious close to “hast thou thine shiny things” or something, with a lot of “I cannot this” and “I shall not that” and, whilst I’m a huge proponent of keeping shall and shan’t in the English language, too much “but he is” and “she is that” is exhausting when the eye skims “he’s”, “can’t”, “won’t” etc so easily. There’s rather more left than might be sensible. I could make it all snappier. But then again, this is supposed to be on the side of archaic, and I want the speech patterns to grate and be peculiar at times. I’m not saying I made it deliberately rubbish, but I am saying that it felt odd to delete the lot in one (or even three) go(es). I don’t think I’d change any of the plot, or indeed any of the scenes.

One thing that confuses me is that, personally, I really don’t like reading books with alternating chapters. I’ve NO idea how I ended up writing one. I’m sorry about that, I want to say, because, yeah, they don’t agree with me…but there it is, there’s literally no other way I could tell this story!

– Are there any deleted scenes?

The book I started writing was not, well, let’s say it wasn’t a book I’d share with my mother. I realised after the initial NaNoWriMo thing, though, that that wasn’t really the story I wanted to tell, that there was a lot more going on in the world and the background, and that the story was actually about legacy and responsibility and things like that. Plus I thought I might actually like other people to read it, without having to pretend I was someone else. So I kept all the scenes, but drastically changed their content. That’s weird to think of, actually, that I didn’t really add any scenes or take any away – some got longer and more convoluted, but everything was basically there.

– Is there anything that doesn’t make sense?

I’ve a terrible feeling that if you did a timeline it’s very difficult to make everyone’s days and nights add up. I can’t tell you how hard I tried to fix that, but there came a point where I figured that it would probably be a better book if I stopped trying to mash it into a super-organised, carefully-filed place.

– Do you really think it’s good?

This is the question, really. I like it. I’ve said that. Objectively, is it brilliantly written? I don’t think so, but I think I’ve read worse writing, and I’ve read infinitely better. I think I’ve some nice turns of phrase, and there are certainly places where I’m punching above my weight, and others where it could undoubtedly be better. But this is my first book. I want to get better. I’m doing this on my own, and if I’d had a proper editor then I’m sure this would read like a more professional book. That’s not meant to be an excuse, exactly, just that it would read more as books-on-shelves read. I am proud of it, I’m nervous about whether it comes across as something worth being proud of, but it’s definitely time to put it out there and move on.

– Where can I buy it?

Oh right, yeah. UK edition, US edition.

The Pulse: Of Castles and Diamonds, Oh My*

I published my book today. If you’d like to preview/read it, you can do so here: UK edition or here US edition. Also on most international sites via the search thing, ‘The Pulse A E Shaw’ ought to do it XD

Also I have a Goodreads thing, I obsessively catalogue my reading and like to find books in all the places, so having an author account is crazy exciting. Come, add me.

The #1 thing people asked me when I said I’d a book was, ‘What’s it about?’ And even after infinite attempts to answer this question without ruining the general point of reading it, I still struggled. This should’ve been a sign that this wasn’t going to be an easily saleable thing, and it’s certainly something I’ll keep in mind for the next book. This is more of a ‘what’ book than a ‘how’, and I think that’s where the problem lies. Finding out what it’s actually about is, characters aside, the general purpose of reading this, as far as I can see at this point.

It’s also why I’m really looking forward to seeing if anyone does read it. Then they can tell me what they think it’s about. I also worry that it’s like some massive Rorschach thing – everyone will turn around and go, OMG, this is a massive metaphor for lmnop attribute about yourself that you clearly haven’t noticed (quite possibly being an only child, for example). This is perfectly possible, and I’m much more frightened of doing this than I’d thought I’d be.

I wasn’t anticipating a minor, but exceptionally irritating formatting screw-up when I first uploaded my book, so I’ve not been able to do the YAY HERE IT IS thing I wanted to do. I probably should’ve expected such a thing, because I did decide to go with inserting dividers in places, rather than just asterisking everything, but it all looked fine enough on the preview, so I went for it…and then it was annoyingly unfine. But I’m working on it. And I’ve done it now. So here’s this post. Eeeep. Hi. I’m going to try to be a real author.

*not the actual subtitle. possibly should’ve been.

And there it is. All ready to upload. All of it. I genuinely believe this is the best I can do with this book. I am ready to get cracking on at least three other things. Just going to sit with it for a bit, and give it a last run through, and sit and be awed that I can make a Real Live Book in this world. It is the first ambition I ever had. So…this is exciting.

Of Meddle, Of Genuine Joy, Of Crushing Embarrassment

I’m 3/4 of the way through my final edit (although I know myself well enough that there will be at least two more edits before it’s done) and at last, 217 pages into my tale, I can see in my writing that I am having more fun than anyone ought to have with their own story. The point at which I fall massively in love with everything and everyone I’m writing about, for better or worse, is disturbingly clear to me. Perhaps that’s where the book should start, but if I hadn’t set out the everything beforehand I don’t know how much of who everyone is and wtf has happened would make any sense. Anyway, the point is, it’s as much like looking at a photograph of my happy smiling face as anything that isn’t doing that could be. It’s a curious experience for me.

We held the Meddle thing this week. It was one of the most intense, crushing, invigorating, frustrating experiences I’ve ever had, for precisely none of the reasons it was meant to be. But it did put pressure on sore, sore wounds I didn’t know I had, awakened just about every fear of myself, how I come across to others, how I interact with people I like and what I do when I’m in situations that stress me out…it was supposed to be a creative, collaborative time, but I’ve come home with a brain that feels like someone started rewiring it but didn’t get around to finishing. Part of everything I’m doing right now is, I presume, some personal attempt at closure and progression.

It’s a fascinating thing, throwing yourself into a soup consisting of people for whom you have a great deal of respect and interest, especially when you haven’t been in a group of more than even five people for over eight months. Honestly. I’ve barely been in a group of more than three people in the last eight months. I don’t get to collaborate and interact that much that often, and I think it shows, rather, but that’s okay.

I have a terrible habit of cataloguing my own embarrassments. I remember all the things I’ve said that I’d like to have phrased differently, I note every time I find something I’ve written that makes me cringe in horror (I found an instance of having written ‘lesson’ instead of ‘lessen’ yesterday: this will haunt me for years), I make a sound like ARRRR out loud in the middle of nothing because I’ve suddenly remembered a conversation I really meant to seem different than I think it did. And because I don’t see enough people enough, whilst I’m certain that everyone has these experiences, I don’t know that for sure.

This is okay too. Whilst I hold on to all my embarrassments and panics, I don’t appear to let them stop me from crashing right in and capslocking verbally at people, or indeed from trying to express the things I find important. I don’t respond by keeping my words and thoughts to myself: I just want to put everything out there more. I can’t tell if that’s because I want validation, or because I’ve a strong masochistic streak, but, either way, that doesn’t matter.

I can have good things without being perfect. I think that’s what I took out of Meddle. It doesn’t matter how far down any particular road I am: I wound up at something excruciatingly interesting through applying all the things I’ve learnt in my small and curiously intense life, and had an eye-opening return on that. Yep, I could’ve spent the entire time at home and filled it with all the things I have to and want to do, but I wouldn’t have had any of the chances to work through some very real issues I have with the nature of being a self-employed creative, or to chase some sheep up a hill, or to locate the Coconut of Destiny (which now lives happily alongside the Polo Ball of Manifestation) or to sleep an average of 3 hours in 24 for four days, a state I haven’t accomplished since I was at uni.

I’ve come home in a state of absolute feeling, whirling disorientation, and, most of all, a focus and drive to get something done I haven’t known in years, as well as an ability to see that drive as everything I have ever wanted to feel about something I call work. A pretty good outcome, no? I think so.