daily life, fairy tales, fantasy, fiction, short stories, Uncategorized, writing

Life update, March 2023

It snowed off and on all day today, which felt like a bit of a joke with all the flowers blooming. The Easter Market is set up in our square, and all the trees are covered in blossoms. I had a fairly busy day, but the kids weren’t too rambunctious, and Fran and Donut and I had a nice walk in the evening.

I’ve had the very pleasant problem of a thousand different projects to work on. I’ve been hard at work hammering out two different stories, both of which are due for submission on Thursday. These are open calls, so it’s a wait-and-see game once they’re turned in, but I’m pretty happy with both of them. The one I’m still drafting is a nautical fairy tale based on a sea shanty, and the other deals with ominous snowflakes.

Meanwhile, I’m still plotting the next scene of VOID, which has been startlingly complicated to manage: it’s essentially a long complication between two characters, but it’s unfolded some questions about the magical system that I never took the time to answer before, and I’ve spend weeks already just mulling them over in my head. I think I’ve got the answers more or less settled now, but chapter is still in the planning stage, and every turn of the planned conversation is surprising me. I’ve been working with these characters for more than three years (or thirteen, depending on how you count), and it’s lovely to settle into the world again after spending lots of time on other projects.

Fran and I have been watching Parks and Rec, and I’m trying to channel April and Andy just a bit more in my approach to life. It’s great to be a Leslie if you’re passionate about something, but devoting 100% of your energy to everything you do (and losing sleep in the process) is a quick way to make yourself sick. Taking more time for fun, couple time, and sleep is making me feel a lot better, and after I spent a few days trying to complete a “must-do checklist” of writing projects, I realized that if I tried to maintain a full-time writing schedule on top of all the other work I do I would never have time for anything else. And when you’re well rested, it’s much easier to work quickly and with full energy, so it’s a win-win situation in the end.

For a sample of what I’ve been working on, here’s a short clip from the sea-ballad story I’m writing:

“Have you ever thought of going to sea?” I said. “I’m first mate on the Golden Vanity—that lovely galleon there—and we’re leaving for Constantinople in the morning. We need a cabin boy, and you look like a likely fellow. What do you think of signing on with us?”

He tipped his head again, and for a moment there was no sound but the grind and squeak of his auger and the patter of shavings to the ground. I could see him measuring the Vanity with his gleaming gray eyes, judging and weighing it somehow, and in a way he looked much older than a child. Then, finally, he nodded.

It took me aback how easily he’d accepted, and I wasn’t sure he’d understood. “Better think carefully,” I said, “for it’ll be a long time before you see your home again. It’s possible you won’t come back at all. But there’s good pay, and plenty of room for advancement  if you do your work well.”

He nodded again, almost impatiently, and beckoned, as if I were the servant and he the master. Well, I thought, I’ll teach him more deference than that if he signs articles. But I was curious, and I had a bit of time before I needed to see about the cargo, so I followed.

Hope you’re all well! Let me know what you’ve been up to in the comments. ❤

books, daily life, horror, professional life, reading, updates, writing

Updates January 2023

I’m working on a short story for an anthology my friend Sonya is putting together. It involves murder, ghosts and other spirits, romance, wind chimes, and a dark forest. I hope you’ll enjoy it when it comes out.

Anthologies are difficult in general. Some other friends and I were trying to put one together, but more than a year on it’s still in limbo because it was so difficult to allocate responsibility. I’m really proud of two stories of mine that were published in recent anthologies, but I’m not sure how they were received because neither book has gotten very many reviews. It can be a little discouraging. But then I realize that I myself haven’t read that many anthologies recently–I haven’t even finished reading the ones I was published in. So maybe everyone’s just busy.

Anyway, anthologies are an incredible way to discover new authors, and I haven’t been doing enough reading lately. Are there any collections you’d recommend?

On a completely different subject, I realized last night that the publication of “In the Nevergo” qualified me for an “Affiliate Writer” membership in the Horror Writers’ Association. I applied and was accepted today. I have a few more dark fantasy pieces in the works, so I’m hopeful that I might be able to upgrade to an “Active Writer” (i.e. full) membership before too long. I’ll see if there’s a badge or something I can put on my website. There aren’t a lot of concrete benefits to joining writers’ associations at this point in my career, but it’s a nice boost in a field where it’s hard to feel like a working professional.

(***I just checked and saw that under the updated membership requirements I also qualify for an Associate Membership in SFWA. I’m not quite ready to pay two sets of dues, though, so I’ll keep working towards a full membership there for now.)

daily life, prague

Easter weekend

Enjoying the long weekend here (Thursday through Monday for me, though I’m still teaching private lessons). F and I took Donut to the dog park yesterday, where he met several dogs and got somebody to chase him in a circle; then F and I had dinner at a restaurant that brings you your food on trains. Our neighborhood is VERY crowded, and lots of people are coughing, but we’re crossing our fingers and trying to keep our distance. This evening F made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and then she helped me dye my roots, so I’m well fed and have thoroughly purple hair.

Tomorrow is a writers’ group day, and Sunday we’re going to a small birthday party, so we’re keeping pretty busy. The main fly in the ointment is a big leak that’s sprung in the bathroom and toilet-room ceiling, which no one will fix until after the holiday. Please pray for the integrity of our ceiling.

daily life, prague, updates

Hello again

Flowers blooming and an icy wind in Prague. They’ve set up an Easter market in Wenceslas Square. I’m not sure Easter markets are traditional here, but I think the city is trying to recoup some losses after closing most of the Christmas markets. Tourists are back. Our new street, in the heart of the tourist district, is busy. We’ve settled into our first place together and are now managing diplomatic conflicts between the cats and the dog.

How are you?

books, daily life, Uncategorized, updates, writing

Friday Update/School Prep

It’s back-to-school-time! I teach part-time at a local elementary school, and today I went in to set up my desk and attend a safety seminar online (all in Czech, so perhaps I didn’t absorb as much as others…). Next week I’ll go around to locate the classrooms of the classes that I haven’t taught before, as well as meeting with Czech colleagues to discuss how the year’s lessons will run. We’re using a new structure this year, with lots of co-teaching, so I’m guessing lots of coordination will be required. Everyone seems very gung-ho, though, so I hope things will go off well.

The one unfortunate problem with returning to school is returning to an early-morning schedule. I asked not to be given any classes that started before nine, but unfortunately that request wasn’t granted, so I’ll be waking up around six for the next year. (I used to wake up later than that, but I’m trying to reduce excess stress in my life, and cramming myself into my clothes five minutes before the tram comes doesn’t make for a healthy or productive workday.) As I’m also trying once again to fight back against my lifelong foe, Chronic Sleep Deprivation, I’m trying to make myself turn all screens off at nine so as to be in bed by ten. We’ll see how that plays out in reality.

Looking forward to seeing Fran tonight. It’s a chilly, rainy Friday, and I’m guessing we’ll have a quiet weekend. We want to go to an ice cream festival this Sunday, and I think we’ve got about a fifty percent chance of beautiful weather; the other fifty percent will be comically inappropriate. But I’m guessing the ice cream will be worth the visit.

Dal (my smaller cat) is running around the house like a handful of bouncy balls. He knocked over a flowerpot that used to contain a basil plant but (post feline depredations) now contains dirt. Contained, rather; he decided to flip it over and gleefully play with the dirt, leaving a big sweeping spiral on the floor. My fault for not throwing out the remnants of my poor plant before the dirt dried out. Sadly, he isn’t very good at sweeping. Yggi (my big cat) has sensibly decided to hang out under my chair and doze.

Reading: Still The Haunting of Hill House, Edith Wharton’s ghost stories, and A Suitable Boy. Writing: VOID is at 160k, I think. Have not finished any shorts yet, but have a long list to work on.

Have a good weekend–

adhd, books, daily life, movies, updates, writing

Friday Update

It’s Friday, my dudes.

I’ve been very into containers this week. It seems to help a bit with executive dysfunction as regards cleaning up, as a lot of my brain paralysis re: putting things away seems to derive from having nowhere to put them. So I’ve been collecting little baskets, bowls, and boxes for all my little things (hairpins, perfume, erasers, etc.) and joyfully putting them away. I still have a long way to go before I’d call myself “tidy,” but it’s nice to have things displayed where I can enjoy looking at them. What’s annoying me is that the only top drawer in my kitchen is too narrow for a silverware divider, but too shallow for a basket, so I’m still looking for a way to organize the silverware. A serious and concerning problem, obviously.

Rainy and cool in the Czech Republic. Still enjoying the last bit of quiet, since messages are starting to come in from my public-school job and I’m guessing we’ll be in meetings next week. I’ve been working on a lot of different anthology submissions, hoping I can get at least most of them done before they’re due. Still reading A Suitable Boy and rereading The Haunting of Hill House, but have also started reading a collection of Edith Wharton’s ghost stories. Yesterday I rewatched about half of Father of the Bride (skipping over the cringe parts), which I watched again and again when I was a kid because we didn’t have many VHS tapes. I was surprised by how well parts of it held up, as it’s kind of a dumb movie; the emotional scenes are really well. Was also kind of horrified by the protagonist’s behavior, though. It’s hard to imagine someone being so ugly about their daughter’s wedding. I’m not sure how much of that is from the original (made in 1950) and how much was just considered funny in the 90s.

Not much to report on, really. Looking forward to seeing Fran this weekend and going to writers’ group tomorrow. Hope all of you are doing well.


books, daily life, fantasy, fiction, Uncategorized, updates

Friday Update

Hi, kids! Having another quiet night. Tomorrow I’m taking the day off from writers’ group to spend time with Fran and her mom, so I’m hoping to get some work done today. Very quiet with just me and the cats; I’m used to sharing Friday nights with someone else now.

Recently I’ve gotten a decent amount of work done. I finished a short dark piece on a fictional species of invasive fish, and have begun several other new projects.(Yeah, I know…). Actually, I’ve just noticed that there are many more open markets for horror than for fantasy, so I’m trying my hand at a few more short horror stories. Lots of anthologies coming out that I’m excited to submit to.

I’m feeling a bit better about the craft in general now. I got a couple of really nice rejection emails last week–you wouldn’t think a rejection would make you happier, but these were really complimentary. Sometimes all you need is for a professional to tell you you’re not a hack. So I’ve started confidently attempting projects that are rather out of my usual wheelhouse. I also have a couple of stories I wrote before developing the new prose style (technique?) that I use now. I’ll probably put them up here, rather than rework them, because I’ve already got plenty on my to-do list, and reworking an old story is just as hard as writing a new one. You’ll see them soon.

Still working slowly through A Suitable Boy, but I’ll probably take another break and read something different. Also still flipping through The Haunting of Hill House, which I reread every couple of years. It still holds up for me. Sometimes you look back at a story that helped to shape your adolescence (and your creative aesthetic) and realize it has fundamental structural flaws that might actually be influencing the way you put your own work together. I guess in a way that’s nice: if XYZ Book has major flaws, but still won several prizes and lingers in the fond memories of many, there’s probably hope for me. I think I’ll try The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton next; it seems like a good choice for the season.

We’re getting into the early-autumn weeks where witchy, spooky things linger at the fringes of daylight and I am very susceptible to Spook. I want real-life ghost stories and dark harvest aesthetic. I bought ribbon to redecorate my front door wreath, and might get to that tonight. Ooh, I could also bring down the glass Jack-o-lantern I bought last year. I’m getting more and more into this kind of light-vintage, 70s-80s domestic aesthetic of deathless wooden furniture, lace and florals, etc. etc. I want a La-Z-Boy chair and an indomitable couch, a wooden chest for blankets, a basket of scarves in the closet. I want lighting with the warm tinge of the old incandescent bulbs, and the kind of quiet you’d hear on a summer night at my grandparents’ old farm. (But I don’t want to leave the city–haha, oh no–and moving apartments with old-fashioned furniture is a bit of an endeavor.)

I think this kind of feeling is pretty common now, at least judging by the popularity of the whole “cottagecore” trend. I guess we’re still trying to imagine there are still insects buzzing outside, that the natural world is still proceeding in ordered seasons the way it’s supposed to. I think everyone wants to rewind the clock on nature (see rewilding efforts, which I’m a big fan of). I’m not sure how successful it can really be, but there’s something comforting in the idea. Maybe aesthetics like cottagecore are also a harmless way to connect to cultural traditions marred by outdated social mores (not to speak of horrific historical atrocities). I think also that, being 37 and likely to remain childless, I might be thinking nostalgically about the continuity of family. I’ve gotten into perfumes lately, and two scents I’m really fond of are one my mother used to wear and one that reminds me of my grandmother. I do think it’s easier to feel that old-timey vibe here in Central Europe, where the landscape seems to change much more slowly than in the places I’ve lived before. And of course, given everything, I haven’t seen my actual family in more than two years.

Anyway. Take care, everyone, and have a good weekend. Let’s move on one day at a time.

Much love,

books, daily life, fiction, movies, short stories, updates

Friday Update

Another quiet week. More people are coming back from vacation, but I only had to teach a few lessons this week, and really enjoyed the free time. I finished my submission for writers’ group early, which was a nice treat; usually I’m up late Friday night to get it done.

Re: computer: We looked at parts to build one, and it made my brain ache, so for peace of mind I went with a laptop. Hello, new Acer. May you prosper.

Fran’s mom is visiting. Met her for the first time yesterday and it was lovely. We don’t really have a common language (even if I spoke more Italian, I wouldn’t understand Sicilian), but I’m picking up bits as fast as I can and making Fran translate the rest. Got to taste proper Italian sausage yesterday (of course her mom brought a lot of food in her luggage ^_^). Did you know they sometimes put vegetables into the sausage casing? I did not, but I support it.

Went to a giant craft store the other day. Bought way too many craft supplies and had a great time.

Cold Comfort Farm was funny but had a lot of flaws: the parody was clunky, and I don’t think the author quite managed what she was going for. But I started watching the movie just now, and it seems to do the job much better. Quite funny; will see if it holds up.

Besides the new section of VOID, I started two new projects: a short story for submission, and another one for Halloween. “But Katherine,” you say, sounding rather exasperated, “every week you tell us about a new project you’ve started. Very rarely do you mention a project that’s finished.” Well, I’ll tell you that that’s an entirely valid point. Wish me luck.

Love all. Miss most of you.


adhd, daily life, Uncategorized, updates

Friday Update and Armchair Psychiatry

Writing from a Chromebook now. My laptop decided after working for a day that it wasn’t actually fine after its little shower, and now it won’t turn on. Since it was a ten-year-old MacBook Air, and I don’t have a lot of MacBook money, I’m probably going to follow Fran’s advice and build a desktop (make her help me build a desktop) to replace it. I also bought a wireless keyboard to go with my tablet in case I need a portable workstation. At least it’s lighter than a laptop.

This situation has made the week a bit stressful, so I haven’t done much heavy reading despite not having much work to do (clients are still on vacation). I did start rereading The Blue Sword (Robin McKinley), a comfort book from childhood, and am plugging through Cold Comfort Farm. I’ve also gotten a good bit done on VOID, and a little on a short story that might even turn out to be short. I swear I will learn to write short stories someday.

It’s almost August, which I personally consider the beginning of fall. The days are hot, but the light is changing. The nights are getting cool. If I open the windows (and lock the cats up so they won’t climb out on the roof), it feels like great weather for a night walk. Unfortunately, my neighborhood, though fine in daylight, isn’t really an “evening stroll” kind of locale. Instead, we started watching Jungle Cruise, which is reasonably entertaining.

On a different note: I have what I’m pretty sure is ADHD. I’ve never been screened for it, but I have most symptoms on every list I’ve ever seen. I saw this in a Facebook group the other day, and it really knocked me over.

Content credit Reddit user soozdreamz

So I’ve been a compulsive eater all my life, particularly of sweets. I could never stay away from them. If there were no sweets, I’d binge-eat whatever I could get. Most of my most shameful childhood memories revolve around stealing food. At parties, I always haunted the refreshment table. The food was always in the back of my mind: what looked like it tasted best, how soon I could eat it, how much I could take without looking greedy. I could never understand how other people could not eat when good things were on the table. It didn’t matter how full I was, or how ashamed of my appetite and belly; if something good was there to be eaten, I would eat it until I couldn’t eat anymore.

I never understood why I couldn’t control myself the way other people could. It was much worse when I was tired or stressed. On a bad day, I’d go to the shop and systematically collect everything that looked tasty, and then I’d sit down and eat through the entire pile. It was like a job I had to do. It didn’t even taste very good after the first minute, but I kept doing it.

So… this post really explained a lot for me. I’ve had people tell me I was eating because I was bored, eating because I was nervous, eating because I was tired. But I’ve never heard anyone tell me, “You’re eating because you’re low on dopamine. Every time you eat something tasty, that little burst of pleasure gives you a little chemical boost that builds up your initiative until you’re able to handle tasks again.” Again, I’ve never been screened for this, but I’ve been observing my eating habits over the past two days, and it really does seem to work that way. Maybe even my procrastination–the long stretches when I sit watching YouTube or reading fanfic or playing mobile games instead of starting on my projects–is a way of banking dopamine, gearing up for the quick bursts of hyperfocused work time when I’m actually able to get things done.

I don’t know. I’m not a psychiatrist. But it seems like a decent theory. I’ll play with it and let you know.

daily life, updates

Friday (Saturday) Update

Not a lot of news this week. Still enjoying a light work schedule because of clients’ vacations, so have had a lot of time to write. Was finally able to complete a new chapter for a piece of fanfic last updated ten months ago, and have been enjoying the influx of happy reader comments ever since. It’s really a nice psychological boost to get that much immediate feedback on a piece of writing, especially when my main project won’t see the light of day for years.

Inconveniently, the new “short story” I started last week is on track to become another monster. For some reason all my “short” pieces keep ending up snugly in the 10-12k range. I’ve got a whole list of them (“Wake Your Ghost,” “We Go Hiking,” “Coven”) waiting to be edited, and two more (“Summerweek,” “Spirits in the Dark“) that were published by JMS Books. But it’s a hard length to market. I don’t think it’s that readers don’t want them, but that most magazines can barely afford to pay for short stories that are actually short. I’ve thought of putting mine up for sale myself, but I’m not sure how to cut through the massive crowd of self-pubbed ebooks long enough to get anyone to look at them. If you’d like to read them, let me know.

Still reading A Suitable Boy. Also reading Cold Comfort Farm (because A Suitable Boy is too large for me to leave the house with). No one told me Cold Comfort Farm was a parody of a gothic novel! It’s kind of funny, though a little clunky at times. I always used to confuse the title with Cold Sassy Tree, which I suspect is a very different kind of book.

Here’s something that happened today: during my online Czech lesson I spilled water all over my laptop. It shut right down, and I’m not sure yet how it’s doing. My girlfriend Fran, though she had her second COVID jab yesterday and was feeling crummy, went out with me and bought a tool kit to open the case for more efficient drying, so fingers crossed. (Fran also let me borrow her laptop, and thus am I now writing to you. Fran’s the best. ♡)

Progress this week: About 3,000 more words on VOID. The new story, “Dreams Errant,” is also at about 3k, but who knows how long it will be.

Happy weekend!