I rarely post blogs about ‘current’ issues, I’m usually pretty late to most parties.
But recently I have been hearing a lot about AI. It’s pretty much everywhere. It’s popping up on podcasts I listen to, YouTube channels I follow are talking about it and I’ve seen a lot of artists very concerned about it.
I wasn’t overly concerned until a YouTuber pointed out that this is the worst AI will ever be. It’s only going to get better from here on out, it will become more and more indistinguishable from people.
What does that mean for writers?
A recent article in the Guardian talks about Clarksworld and they say ‘We don’t know’ far more eloquently than I
Apologies today’s usual blog has been cancelled because…..
I JUST FOUND OUT O GOT ACCEPTED ONTO MY PHD COURSE!!!!
As you may recall every so often I have been mentioning mental health and disability with regard to the horror genre.
That’s because my PhD proposal is a detailed look into the representation of liability and mental health in the horror genre and how it has affected the common culture and been affected by said culture in turn.
Anyway, I’m super excited 🙂
Just call me Dr Katie … in six years’ time, if I don’t mess it up. Maybe wait a while before doing that.
Lately, when I’ve been logging into the website to do housekeeping, check stats etc, I’ve noticed WordPress has been offering writing prompts.
I’ve been amused by some but mostly indifferent. But this one today seemed to be in line with my theming so I thought why not, I’ll throw my hat in the ring.
This is the entire theme around my current work in progress titled the Grey House. The opening few lines are as follows:
I was 37 years old when I died, and it was far more of an embuggerance than I was expecting it to be.
Not being religious, I always thought of death in simple terms. Death was the end of life, nothing more of less. Regardless of when or how death turns up for each of us, it is always the end. I did not think there would be anything after. To me, the nothingness after life is what made life important. This was all we got, so better make the most of it.
I certainly did not expect death to be the catalyst that would turn my steady and predictable existence into one of abject horror and danger. I take the entire experience very personally.
For my MC in this story death is the trigger which sets off his entire character arc and changes his perspective on himself, the people around him and the community as a whole.
Now, most people probably won’t get the kind of experience my MC does in this story, they might not (I say might because who actually knows) be able to contemplate their own faults after death and see how they went down the path they did.
Most of us experience death in a third-hand kind of way, when someone we know, perhaps someone close to us dies and we have to adjust to life without them. It can certainly change our perspective. I remember when my gran died and my mum lost the sole pillar of support she’d set herself up with. I got to see how her way of looking at the world changed. It was difficult to watch at times.
Some of us have closer brushes with death, perhaps an illness that we have to fight to beat, or an accident we must recover from.
Both of these are bound to make us more aware of our own frailty and that’s terrifying.
But then perhaps this is why some of us read horror, to expose ourselves to death, in a safe and controlled way, almost like CBT. A safe controlled exposure in order to lessen the negative effects over time. It’s the control thing that gets me most of all, we read these books and witness terrible and tragic events but are ourselves completely separate from it in all but an emotional sense.
Have you ever had those moments where you look at something you once thought was a great idea and suddenly hate it?
Nope? Just me? Well, I must be special then.
I am very much aware that I am not alone in this, nor am I special because of it.
My lame joke aside, don’t you just hate it? That feeling of utter betrayal? That feeling that your brain has tricked you? Something that looked so perfect, so fully formed that you couldn’t help getting excited, suddenly looks flat, unengaging and completely convoluted.
I had this happen to me recently.
I’ve been reading this fantastic book called the Science of Storytelling by Will Storr. It is a very interesting book, looking at why we, as humans, tell stories and why certain things prevail in many stories despite the tellers being continents apart. It’s part psychological look at the human condition and part writing instruction manual.
Whilst I was reading this I was also working on my next novel; one that I’m working on alongside Walk in the Woods, which I’m taking a little break from. I was working on the plot and crafting my main few characters. I was reasonably happy with what I was pulling together. My main character seemed believable, had depth and his motivations were clear. The plot was engaging, so I hoped, as well as believable and reasonably well paced.
Then I hit the latter third of The Science of Storytelling and suddenly my main character looked flat, and my plot sounded convoluted, cliché and crappy.
My motivation tanked.
When this feeling hit there were two wolves inside me, and they were fighting tooth and nail. To the victor would go the ability to dictate my actions.
One wolf was saying that this sucked, I should just give up and probably comfort eat as well, why not? This wolf was an asshole.
The other wolf was saying that wasn’t it fantastic that this happened now, at this early stage in the process? Wasn’t it great that I was learning so much from this book that I could see my mistakes? Wasn’t it great that I was making my craft better? With this new information, I could make this next book the best thing I had written to date! Wasn’t that exciting? This wolf was not an asshole but was far too excited by what felt like a failure.
Now it’s obvious, even to me, which of these wolves should win the fight. But I am not going to sit here and pretend that the ‘give up now you loser’ wolf wasn’t the more tempting option, at least for a bit.
The ‘you’re a loser’ wolf required very little effort on my part. I just had to stop and goodness me that was a temptation. When you’re tired and fed up, just stopping is a very alluring prospect. It’s why I’m a very strong advocate for taking regular breaks from projects and work in general, it makes that temptation less tempting when you’re not shattered.
I did eventually manage to tell the ‘you’re a loser’ wolf to go fuck itself and I listened to the wolf that, in my head, sounded like it had eaten far too much sugar. I didn’t scrap what I had already, instead I opened a new document and started planning again, sometimes pulling ideas from my first attempt over into the second attempt.
Anyway, why am I telling you this?
I’m writing to you about this experience to tell you that you’re not alone when you feel that sinking dread in the pit of your stomach when an idea that was once so shiny suddenly looks like it’s been covered in poop. You’re not alone when you want to listen to the ‘give up loser’ wolf and that reading books about writing craft is a truly invaluable experience.
Practice is great, it’s better than great it’s essential. But just because you’re writing regularly doesn’t mean you should stop learning. Never stop learning, there’s always something that can be made better. There’s always more work that can be done.
As I said in an earlier blog, December is the month of reflection and planning.
I’ve already reflected on 2022 and found it to be a major success of the year. The only part I wish I’d done better at is the physical fitness side, for while I started attending the gym and going for walks my consistency at these tasks has been … well inconsistent. But coming away from a year with one partial failure is still pretty damn good.
So what’s on the horizon for 2023?
On the writing and horror side…
I’m going to work hard to sell more short stories this year, I’m hoping to get at least six if not more sold. I’ll achieve this by increasing my output, streamlining my editing process and increasing my submission rate. I want to be submitting at least once a week, but ideally more.
Walk in the Woods will be going out to agents in June/July 2023 if I can stay on track, hopefully, one of them will love it enough to pick it up.
I’m also going to be getting the first draft of The Grey House (Working title, hopefully, a better one will present itself) done by July 2023.
I want to keep increasing traffic to the website and beat last year’s figures. I’m hoping to achieve this by improving the quality of my content. I’d also like to keep doing podcasts and blog tours and become more involved in the Horror and Writing communities. The experience I’ve had so far has been very welcoming and supportive and I’d like to put back what I take out.
On the personal side…
As I said in the reflections blog, one of my goals last year was to get out and do things more, which I did. But I stayed close to home, trying to both get out more but still be responsible given the situation.
This year I want to go further afield. We are planning a trip to Rome in late spring/early summer, and we are planning an autumn trip to Cornwall to celebrate Mr Sherlock and I’s tenth anniversary. Cornwall was the place we took our first holidays a couple and we’ve been back many times since, so we are picking our favourite places and effectively doing a tour of them. Most of my favourite places are pubs.
I want to continue to explore different restaurants and will be making an effort whenever the opportunity presents itself to go out to new places rather than keep returning to old favourites all the time. I also want to keep up the habit of going to the theatre, which is a hobby I’ve had for years and unless something unforeseen happens I doubt it will stop anytime soon.
I have also signed up for alerts from the little independent cinema so we can keep going there and seeing new and interesting films that might not always make it to the local Odeon.
Regarding the day job, I had a glowing end-of-year report so my main goal is to keep up the standard of work. Though I have requested a nine-day fortnight which is when I get to work nine days over two weeks rather than ten. I still do the usual 40hr week but work longer days with the bonus of having an extra day off every other week. It’ll help a lot with all of the other work I’m doing.
Concerning the house, we’ve got a lot of projects lined up for this year. The main ones are to redecorate the office and insulate the conservatory. We also have further plans for the garden which in a nutshell will be us putting down as many wildflower seeds as possible in the flower beds and using the planters for veggies. This way we hope to make the garden nicer for insects, so they can have an easier time of it. Hopefully, this will help balance out the damage the cats do to the local insect population.
Lastly, in the miscellaneous category, I can’t wait to get my half-sleeve tattoo, which will incorporate my existing small tattoos and turn my right arm, at least the the lower half, into a horror tribute worthy of the writers it reflects.
I need to get my fitness habit on a better track, to that effect I’ve been gifted a Fitbit for Christmas as a way of monitoring my already existing efforts and triggering my internal desire to see my numbers improve.
I sincerely hope that I manage to get onto the PhD course I’m applying for and that I can secure funding for it. I want to do this and have done everything I can think of to get on but the nerves, are increasing!
I became carbon neutral by contributing to Wren last year, this year depending on finances I want to become carbon positive, which means I help get rid of more carbon than I put out. I’m hoping to increase my donations and am investigating more carbon-friendly ways of heating the house and lastly, and most painfully I am looking at changing my car into a hybrid, though it will be heart-breaking to see Dante go away, he was my first car and I love him.
So that’s the current plan for 2023, let’s hit it head-on.
I managed to sell four short stories this year, those being Frank, which became a Podcast, Beyond the Sea, Stella and The Chest.
I sent Walk in the Woods to a professional horror editor and have worked my way through the edits. Only one last check through and it should be out to agents approx. mid-2023. A Man in Winter was released by Brigid Gate Press and I self-published Firefly.
The Water: Sirens, Selkies and Sea Monster anthology I contributed to won an awesome award. That makes me a contributor to two award-winning anthologies. I’m so damn privileged to be able to be in these books.
I managed to increase traffic to the website and had my best year yet, which is amazing, thank you all so much! I cannot express in words how happy I am that you choose to visit my small corner of the horror world.
I’m even starting to see a very small improvement on the YouTube and TikTok channels, the algorithm is starting to notice me.
I also managed to do a couple of blog tours and was interviewed on a podcast as well.
On the personal side…
One of my goals this year was to get out and do things more. After having the ability to go out curtailed by global events I wanted to make the most of 2023 and I certainly did, this year I went out a lot. I didn’t travel far, everything I did with friends and family was relatively local, I think the furthest from home I went was London on a couple of occasions.
I went for countryside and coastal walks, explored museums and zoology parks, and went on activities like bowling and axe throwing with friends. We also attended live outdoor experiences like Prime Evil.
I think I was probably out and about far more than I was at home on weekends this year. Goal reached!
I also wanted to explore the culinary world more, basically, try new restaurants I’d been hesitant to try before. I certainly did that, I tried proper sushi for the first time, real Korean comfort food, Greek food, and Turkish food.
While this wasn’t a goal as such, as it is a solid hobby of mine, I managed to go to the theatre with friends and family on 11 occasions this year. We finally managed to go to a comedy club for a night of stand-up. I attended the cinema four times, and one of those attendances was at a small independent cinema which I am determined to visit more, it was such a cute experience and I got to see a film I’d never have seen otherwise.
I started a new day job in January, and joined the diverse abilities staff network, which supports staff members who are neurodiverse, and have long-term health conditions or disabilities. I became one of the co-chairs of the network and attended various events to spread awareness and support, including Windrush day, Pride, Disability History Month, and various disability conferences (in person and remotely). I became a qualified mental health first aider and have started learning sign language.
We bought our first home in 2021 and we spent this year doing some awesome small-scale renovations, we put in a new floor in the conservatory, redecorated the hallway put in a cat flap for Finny & Mia and completely overhauled the garden, its got flower beds and pathways now 😊
Lastly, in the miscellaneous category, I got my third tattoo and have booked and
prepaid for my half sleeve (I’m going to be a walking horror emblem).
I started going to a gym and taking walks every day in my quest to become more
active as I edge closer and closer to 40.
I reached out to a couple of universities regarding reading for a PhD, decided on one completed a proposal and an application form which have been reviewed by uni staff and are ready to be formally submitted in January 2023.
I became carbon neutral by contributing to Wren (really can’t recommend this enough. They ask you some questions to work out your carbon footprint and then you donate to projects to gobble up the carbon, you can make yourself almost neutral, neutral or carbon positive). I think it’s impossible in this society to not produce carbon, my commute to work alone makes it impossible for me, so this is a really good way to undo the harm I cause.
Overall I’d say 2022 was a kick-ass year and I’m excited for 2023.
Today I want to talk to you about something a little different. It’s not horror related, though at a push it is writing-related. Today I’m talking about empathy.
I’ve always thought of myself as empathic; I try to put myself in other people’s shoes in any situation, but like all people, I am a work in progress and sometimes I jump to conclusions before empathy can kick in. I want to share with you a moment of realisation I had a few months ago and how it helped me become a more empathic person.
Today I want to talk to you about something I call the ‘Oh-God-Why-am-I-Doing-This’ strop.
The ‘Oh-God-Why-am-I-Doing-This’ strop is very much a strop. I think it is the little, more annoying brother of Imposter Syndrome. Where instead of feeling that one shouldn’t belong, one feels more like they can’t belong despite everything. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much success, praise etc you receive, it’s not enough to convince you that your effort is paying off. Any progress you make is painfully slow and laborious, far too much work for far too small a return.
Today I want to talk to you briefly about evolution, not of anything living, but rather of a creative project or two.
I find it both interesting and refreshing when I can finish a project and look back on it to trace the path it has come. How it started as one thing, became something else and then again sometimes became yet another thing.
My two most recent projects to see daylight went through several iterations.
A Man in Winter started as a short story that got a tad long, it became a novella. Then when I sent it round for its first round of ‘Please publish my work’ enquiries the bulk of the feedback was that it was good but novellas just aren’t an easy sell. So I kicked my backside into gear and A Man in Winter became a novel.
So it became a novella again, with some additions and I tried again to sell it. I was successful this time, booya.
The series of transformations or evolutions of the A Man in Winter story is interesting, at least to me, but they are hardly dramatic or unique.
Firefly however went through some intense changes.
Firefly started life as a scribbled note in my writing notebook. Hardly a unique idea either, an agency investigating supernatural events looks into a creepy town where kids go missing.
I tried to plan it as a standard novel but it didn’t excite me at all, so I put it aside. Then I got into a conversation with a friend about games, how they are made, and something they said got me thinking. They said they felt that stories, at least in games, should be built around gameplay rather than the other way around.
I don’t think this is the case in all instances, I’ve played lots of games where the story feels entirely separate from the gameplay mechanics but I’ve played some amazing ones where they tied together as well.
Anyway, this comment got me thinking, could we have a mystery game where the player has to go around a location finding clues to unearth what happened? Of course, we could, guess who had an idea that would fit with that kind of gameplay.
So I got to work.
Long story short, the project fell on its butt.
It’s disappointing but it happens sometimes, more often with collaborative work I’ve noticed. This was my second collaborative piece to kind of fizzle out. But that’s life.
However, I had done a lot of work writing and designing the documents for the game. I had all this stuff and I was itching to do something with it.
Ok so this might seem really minor but it made me happy so I’m sharing my joy.
Usually, when you sign up for something and pick a username it’s difficult if not impossible to get the one you want. After all the internet is a crowded place and there are only so many combinations available. So I never get to be Katie, I’m always Katie1 if I’m lucky, or (more realistically) Katie3847261 etc.
I received an email the other week from YouTube talking about YouTube handles, a cute way for people to find you and connect with you, it also shortens your YouTube URL. Its unique as well unlike channel names.
I was invited to choose my handle this morning and I was expecting to end up with something like KatieMarie 8271947453497349843829829389237482374787 or Katiemariewriter20347485489738472378923727237842