Out With The Old, In With The …

This may be the last year I get to use that tagline.

Last year (2014 – yes I’m late with my End of the Year post) was intense. Heck, every single year for the last four has been intense. Ending an 8 year job, international move, career reboot, starting and finishing law school, ending relationships and starting new ones, running an award-winning podcast, and those are just the big things off the top of my head. I realized yesterday that these two weeks off have been my first official no plans, no requirements, true Down Time since I’ve met Alasdair.

That’s scary. And completely unacceptable.

Look, I am the first person to admit I’m a full-blown Type A workaholic. Give a task to a busy a person and they get it done could be my motto. I like it. I thrive on it. I’m good at it. Which is part of the problem: it’s not going to slow down (let’s be honest, it’ll never stop) unless I make it.

The September Deadline was a fantastic (and successful) experiment which I’ll be repeating. And this year we’re only going to three conventions (two for me, unless Charles Soule makes it to Thought Bubble). We’ve scheduled several long weekend / short vacations, money willing. Time for this country and part of the world to be a place I get to explore and experience and enjoy instead of being just the place I work.

And tentative feelers are in the water about wedding venues and dates and such, but that’s a whooooole other thing I’m still unpacking.

Looking back 2014 was amazing and hard and busy and emotional. Amazing highs (engaged, training contract started immediately) and tough lows (visa trauma, yet another Annual Move). All I want from 2015 is a more stately pace: more breathing room, more downtime, less cost to the accomplishment. I want to concentrate on spending more time doing and learning and experimenting with the things I enjoy. I know what that involves in an ideal world, we’ll see how reality stacks up.

Four years worth of montage. Time to see how it pays off.

T Minus One

Tomorrow’s the big day – the first day of my training contract (or “period of recognized training”, as it’s now known). I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m not enough of either of those things, and too much all at the same time.

Mostly I feel distracted and worried about all the logistics we’re juggling: the move, the visa, etc. I viewed another house last week and applied over the weekend, but of course the referencing and such will take a few days. Part of me knows I’ll be extremely busy (and therefore distracted followed by exhausted) during the coming week, but still… I can’t help but long for things to be more settled than they are right now.

And that’s leaving aside the entire ball of emotions wrapped up in bed-sitting / living apart from Alasdair again. With luck it’ll be short – two weeks, maybe three. If not, it’ll be weekend visits and more house-hunting until we can nail down the move. Doable. Sustainable. Undesirable.

On top of all THAT, tonight is the Parsec Awards – airing at an East Coast time which should see me fast asleep. They’re not a tremendous contributor to the overall emotional rollercoaster, but they’re still a part. It feels like Cast of Wonders is right on the cusp of starting to gain more mainstream recognition. I’ve done a lot more commentary and community involvement recently, and am starting to look at panel attendance in next year’s convention circuit.

Then there’s FantasyCon this weekend to finish preparing. It’s all in very good shape, just a matter of finalizing and printing and such. This weekend while I’ve packed for London, I packed for York at the same time.

One step at a time. Finish one project at a time. No new personal projects this year. And a quiet Christmas in a new house with, if we’re lucky, enough space for a tree. Just gotta stay on target, and remember to enjoy the ride!

Last Big Push

As I lean in for final charge on the 2014 training contract application deadline, here’s a few projects and interesting cases I’ve been keeping an eye on these last couple of months. A more in-depth personal update once they’re done and before the (awesome) August convention marathon kicks off. Enjoy! (more…)

Flying Update

Two more weeks of classed until Christmas break and the pressure has ramped up significantly. Apologies for the bullet points, but I need to get back to Wills revision.

  • The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary “Day of the Doctor” was fantastic. Going to see it with hundreds of other fans in costume in the theaters was amazing. Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows owned the Internet last night.
  • Thanks again to The Cheesecakes for hosting me while Alasdair was in Leeds for Thought Bubble.
  • One flavor of Jelly Babies is icky. Now that I’ve got the rest of the bag home in lighted conditions, I will investigate further to discover the guilty party.
  • The house is mostly unpacked and I’ve just set up a couple of reusable ceramic dehumidifiers in the two less-well insulated windows. There’s several small projects left, but first I need to learn how to properly install hanging things in these types of walls. This may involve the purchase of power tools. Heaven forfend.
  • Our housewarming / late Thanksgiving / early Christmas / Great Swap party is scheduled and the menu being planned. Alasdair wants to make tamales. YUM.
  • The mediation competition has advanced to the semi-finals this week. It’s fascinating being on the other side of the table this time, and I’m developing whole new sets of skills.
  • I’m hoping I might get to do my first community mediation over the Christmas break, but I haven’t heard back yet.
  • Speaking of the Christmas break, we are officially going to take 10 days off towards the end of the month. I’ll post about it so people can help keep me honest.
  • My latest narration is up at Cast of Wonders – “The View From Stickney Crater” by Rick Kennett, our latest Cy de Gurch story.
  • I think I’ve located an international foods market that carries fresh Ancho peppers. I need to get some and roast them to confirm. Because that would mean green chili and cheese tamales. YUM.

Right. Back to work!

Running To Stand Still

The forty-two days between my last post and this should give you some indication of how busy things are at the moment. So busy that I don’t have time to go see Ender’s Game, let alone write the blog post detailing my approach to seeing it in theaters without (according to my calculations) a red cent of my money making its way to Orson Scott Card’s pocket.

But after a diligent “one on, one off” reading week I still have ten lectures to consolidate, two sessions’ worth of preparations to finalize, 2/3rds of the house to pack, my wife to murder, and Gilder to frame for it. I’m swamped.*

That’s right, we’re moving. Long story short, it was now with control, or next summer in the middle of exams without any control. You’ve met me and my deep and abiding love for order. No brainer, really. This way we’ll at least beat the snows (tonight’s Uber Storm non-withstanding) and will have time to settle in before exams start end of November. That’s in about a month. Already. Wow.

Other than the full time LPC (which is keeping to its promise of being less overall work than the GDL), community mediation training, the upcoming commercial mediation competition, and moving, things are swell. Alasdair’s current Kickstarter project is about to close and has done quite well, and he’ll be Red Jacketing at World Fantasy Con next weekend.

I will be at two all-day back to back training seminars.
And packing.
He’s promised flowers and dinner out. Wise man. πŸ™‚

Cast of Wonders is doing amazing. Between the Parsec win this year and the Camp Myth: Phoenix Watching project I think the show is really starting to hit its stride. We’ll be running Staff Picks in January, the month we traditionally go dark, and I’m starting to look at 2014’s line-up. We have some fantastic stories headed your way.

Until next time!

*This is a quote. You all know it’s a quote. But as application season rears its head, I find it safest to clarify I’m not advocating murder.

One Week And Counting

Back to school already, huh? Well, I can’t say the weather hasn’t telegraphed the change in season. I think it was literally beautiful one day, and gray and miserable the next. Ah well. We’re still having occasionally nice days, and I’m using them to get as much of the last of the yard work done as possible. We’re in decent shape, I’d just like to get the pile in the back finished off before the rain becomes unrelenting.

I wasn’t successful in securing a training contact this summer. Technically I have yet to hear back from one firm, but given how late it is in the recruiting cycle I think I’m unlikely to at all. Which is just plain rude, if you ask me. I know firms are being inundated by applicants, but how hard is it to send a mass “thanks but no thanks” acknowledgement? I do it with all of the Cast of Wonders submissions.

And speaking of which, take a look at this:

2013 Winner Badge
Cast of Wonders won its very first Parsec award! We’re so thrilled, Graeme even introduced our latest episode with the phrase “award winning”. I can’t wait for my statue to get here.

The Isle of Man / York trip was fantastic. We had beautiful weather, smooth crossings, and lots of time to catch up with family and friends. You couldn’t ask for more from a late summer vacation. πŸ™‚

Realizations

-Summer is nearly over, and I go back to school in a mere 22 days.

-As of Thursday, I’ll have lived in the UK a full year.

-I’ve narrated both Hugo and Parsec nominated short stories.

-Forget March coming in like a lion, autumn seems to be taking September out at the knees!

-This academic year I’ll be studying one form of mediation while teaching another.

-I’m about to restart aikido training. I’m nervous, but also excited, especially because I’ll have not only a partner put potentially classmates joining me as well.

-When you’re waiting for decisions that will dictate the direction and schedule of major life decisions for the next four years, six weeks is a very long, anxious period of time.

-Picnics help immensely.

-I can devour over 150,000 words of fiction in 36 hours. Yes, the Hunger Games were THAT good. Completely worth the “book hangover” the next morning.

-Next month I’m going to Batman’s house to watch a movie.

-I still owe the Mutherfudger a guest blog on Mexican food that doesn’t involve chili.

-Vacations always feel amazing because of the amount of work that not only precedes them, but goes into making sure you come back to a clean house. Wash All The Things!

-My life may be uncertain and less padded than I’d like, but I’m happy and in the end, that’s what matters most.

Parsecs!

Just a quick post today, it’s been an unexpectedly busy weekend for the best possible reason. “Now Cydonia” by Rick Kennett (and narrated by me!) is a Parsec finalist! Also on the short story, small cast list is the excellent “Kill Screen” by Chris Lewis Carter, which ran atΒ Pseudopod. Congratulations to all the finalists!

Print

Cast of Wonders also debuted the “Little Wonders” series this week, our new flash fiction and poetry pairings, hosted by yours truly.

Week One of my vacation scheme has been excellent – lots of work, lots of fun. Next week is an assessment day and one-on-one interview, followed by a weekend with friends and driving a tank. Then it’s finalizing the last of the training contract applications before diving back into the recording studio to finish up several ACX projects.

Summer is flying by – I can’t believe it’s already the end of July!

Vignettes

The last two weeks have been busy, sunny, warm and amazing. I’ve spent less time at my computer, and more time reading, narrating, in the garden and with friends. I appreciate all the extra effort the late-blooming summer has made, as do my bumper-crop of freckles.

Here are some thoughts, impressions and experiences, roughly in reverse chronological order, or the last couple weeks. No bullets this time; I don’t like how unresponsive they are to formatting.

-Today in Florida, George Zimmerman was acquitted of the death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter; the all-female jury of six found him not guilty of both charges. The racial significance of the case was discussed. Insightful commentary was offered as to the future battles Zimmerman faces. Oakland rioted. The American legal cornerstone of innocence until proven guilty continues to stand side-by-side with centuries-old bigotry in a country that doesn’t have the courage to follow Australia‘s footsteps.

Pacific Rim is fantastic, a lovingly prepared cross between a WWII drama and a kaiju anime. I loved every shiny, explodey, gigantic moment of it. Why couldn’t the Transformers reboot have been like this?!

-I’ve finished two books in the last week, both of which deserve their own longer reviews. “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” is the novel-length version of the original short story, and “The She-Hulk Diaries” gives a Carrie Bradshaw lens to the Avengers’ lean mean green attorney. Both are highly recommended.

-My first visit to Edge-Lit was a wonderful chance to catch up with my entire authorial Twitter feed face to face. Despite the record temperature’s attempts to bake us, a good time was had by all. There was baby-holding and plenty of cake to share, plus Adele put a dog-nose and ears on Alasdair at her Noir Carnival launch.

-Speaking of Alasdair, things have been very diverse for him lately: some ups, some downs. There’s been lots of deep thinking and long talks brainstorming about the future. I’m incredibly proud of how hard he’s working and the many directions he’s exploring. Great job, love.

-He and his parents spoiled me rotten for my birthday. I have a new blouse, a fantastic magnetic bulletin board with a map of the world and little arrow magnets, a culinary blow torch (s’mores!), chocolates, a new African violet for my office, and the Apple Jack My Little Pony comic. Plus I treated myself to a manicure and a day of random window-shopping. Just wonderful.

-The day before I got my exam results and passed with flying colors. Yahoo! Exactly the pay-off I was hoping for after a hard, hard academic year.

-Our Fourth of July dinner with friends and neighbors was fantastic, plus I have macaroni and cheese squirreled away in the freezer for emergency homesickness alleviation.

-Several new projects are in the works for Cast of Wonders which should start to see fruition as early as next week when we debut a new flash fiction segment. I’m also doing a lot of behind-the-scenes organization, such as finally search tagging the back catalog, setting up a Pinterest board with all our episode art, and preparing a database of our author and narrator contact information. The Parsec finalists haven’t been announced yet, but my fingers remain firmly crossed.

-The one area I’ve been less than stellar has been completing the rest of my training contract applications. I’ve started the final batch, but the summer heat has proved excellent inertia on dotting the I’s, crossing the T’s, and pressing send. Now that I don’t have the excuse of waiting for exam results, this next weekend’s project is to knuckle under and get them finished. I hate leaving things to the last minute, and while I technically have a few work-days after my vacation scheme finishes, I’m sure those recruiting managers would appreciate me finishing earlier rather than later as well.

Next time, either my strategy for how to see “Ender’s Game” without a bigot profiting, the before-and-after photos of my summer office reorganization, or a Mexican food recipe for people who don’t like chili.

Saddle Up

Today is the last day of Easter break. While it’s certainly true I didn’t finish as much school work as I would have liked, I can’t say the time was wasted. I was burned out, and to some extent am still below normal operating speed. The long evenings of just relaxing with a videogame (I finished Tomb Raider and have started Bioshock 2 as a ramp-up to Bioshock Infinite) or episodes of the West Wing have helped a great deal.

We also had two different sets of visitors: Alasdair’s parents for two days for his dad’s birthday, and then his best friend and fiance from Austin for another couple of days. Tack on the spring cleaning to get ready, and the (still ongoing) dregs of household repairs, and it was a busy and enjoyable time.

I’ve also accomplished a great deal of back-end organization on Cast of Wonders, including the guest narration at Drabblecast, “Hullabaloo” and recording my first guest host spot at Podcastle which will air around April 16th. I have an all new respect for Alasdair, Dave, Norm, Graeme, and all the other podcast hosts out there – writing endcaps is tough work! Plus I’ve finished the raw audio on my current ACX project – just need to edit if and pass it off to the sound engineer.

Now it’s time to knuckle back under and put my head down with exam revision. I have three more weeks of group discussions before out trip to the States for a family wedding. (Sunshine! Oh glorious sunshine how I’ve missed you!) After that it’s another two solid weeks of revision before the start of the four week exam period. I have two 3+hour exams a week for four weeks.

Along with the depressing spring weather, the gear-up for the next academic year has begun, and all it’s associated emotion. It’s not just accepting an offer for me, there are visa considerations, and the ever-present funding concerns. I’m applying for several scholarships for next year, but it’s difficult to find ones where a non-EU citizen can even apply.

Plus, it’s frustrating. I was granted a scholarship to attend the summer school program I applied for, but due to my first choice of program being cancelled and the second choice having a scheduling conflict, now I can’t go! I had hoped I might be able to hold over the scholarship to next year, but not only isn’t that the case, but it appears unlikely this type of scholarship will be offered against next year. *sigh* It’s hard to remain positive and motivated when faced with a cascade of little setbacks.

Still, with the clocks moved forward and the longer and brighter (if still not warmer) sunshine, things are improving. There’s no new material to process, just old to consolidate and study. With less classroom time and dry(er) weather there’ll be a chance for more long walks and exercise, and eventually all the paperwork will be done. Just gotta keep moving.