writerly life

Six months of madness

I almost can’t believe that I last wrote here in late September. Every effort I make to post more here turns into something else. Well, no more resolutions there— in any case, I had important things calling me away from blogging for these past six or more months.

Some of the important things have been less than welcome. Throughout September and into probably February, I was locked in battle with one of the worst anxiety peaks I’ve yet known. I might directly process this through writing at some point, but if not, I’m sure the fruits of that struggle will manifest beneath the surface of something else. It was a very rough time. This space lost my attention. Now, of course, since the start of March I have been coping with my own iteration of covid disruptions. I am healthy, relatively safe, and not seeing many people, but the latter is the problem. This is another thing I might directly write about— both my isolation and the troubling relationship between covid and ecocrisis. I’m waiting to see how long certain changes last, though.

Despite all of the above, I’ve been able to make plenty of progress with more writing preparations for Armes Prydein. Thank hell. I’ve still wound up a little behind schedule, but not so much that I feel useless. We’re into the very home stretch on laying out all the story pieces. My new estimated timeline is that I might be properly drafting some chapters come June; then I’d still like the first draft to finish before May 2022. It might be possible, and all-remote work is helping with that. The silver lining. My husband remains vital to this process in more ways than one, too, and sometime I should probably post about what’s going on there.

In the interim, I’m once again reflecting on things I may not actually deliver on, but are worth jotting down here.

  • I am not retiring this blog, but because of how infrequently I’ve posted here, let alone done anything on social media as my professional persona, I’d like to reassess where/how/why I maintain an online writerly presence. Who’s really paying attention, for example? I know it’s not that many people. These considerations are going to go hand in hand with some realignment (eventually) around how much time, energy, and know-how I have for self-promotion and cold pitching, compared with what the contemporary publishing industry expects.
  • Ironically, perhaps: no promises, but maybe watch this space for news in the next few months, or year, or who knows, about some developments that might change up where I’m self-publishing and how much spread it gets. That’s all I can say for now; I have irons in multiple fires on this front.
  • Covid gave me an idea for a short story. What a surprise. And knowing me, it won’t really stay short. But I’m devilishly excited about it— emphasis on devilish.

Stay alive, and take care of your mental health, not just your physical health.

Llywelyn Jones

Armes Prydein update: September 2019

So, how has work been going on this current eternal-seeming Arthurian project, Armes Prydein?

Well, there has been substantially more research & planning than I had originally counted on, if not in volume than certainly in time spent getting through it. The pitfalls, naturally, of having only an average of 8-10 hours a week to freely spend on such things. Travel, other commitments, and stress have also provided interruptions. However, I’m pleased with how things are going, and I think I’m not very far behind schedule.

Things are going well because rarely has a week gone by without some progress made; I can always tick off one tiny box after the next, and the boxes are adding up. The end of that research & planning now feels genuinely, meaningfully near. I think I’ve plotted out a course for wrapping up most research within the first full week of October, and I’ll be aiming to finalize preparatory documentation by the end of November. Even though this will mean that I won’t continue to actually write the novel until December, more than two and a half years after I anticipated finishing the novel in five years… I cannot overemphasize how much time I know my front-loaded prep work is going to save me.

Finishing the rough draft in May 2022 could still very much happen. Of course, I’d love to finish it even sooner, but this is what remains a realistic estimate. If I’ve done my work right, I’ll face a shorter stretch of revisions after that primary deadline, and maybe I could be pitching by the end of that year.

Now I just need to think of another story or two that I could write and publish on the side while all of this is going on, without slowing anything down. That’s a hilarious concept. Even being on track, I need more time. I need so much more time.

Llywelyn Jones

Living, afraid

I have spent a month or more being too afraid.

I’ve always been someone who fears things deeply, but that’s often when I have reason to fear; my fears go to the extreme, the worst case, envisioning how terribly it all will end, but they are not sparked at random. There are clinical terms for the things I don’t experience— social anxiety, well, I’m usually not afraid of interacting with people— generalized anxiety, well, I don’t think of myself as someone who curls up in a ball at just anything. I merely, “merely” struggle to keep calm under pressure. That’s all it’s been, until recently.

Something has changed in a strange way, so strange that it could almost be considered an annoyance. It wasn’t the knowledge that the entire global biosphere has just over a decade to be saved from potentially total collapse. That knowledge is painful, deep, abiding, and made the sadness of autumn and winter all the sharper, fashioning it into a real grief. But if anything, that all made me less afraid for a time. Why should I be afraid of obstacles in my daily life that are so petty next to apocalypse? Nevertheless, at the onset of spring I began to deal with something profoundly new to me: the cat I’ve had for almost eleven years was ill, and although he’s recovering now, there was a stretch when I thought I might lose him.

I prepared for it. I made sure to tell him all the things I wanted him to know, if he could ever understand, and I researched and decided what I would do with his remains if the moment came, and I even had a plan for contacting an at-home euthanasia service if his suffering was too great. While he may be on the mend, I’m coming off the end of many sleepless nights, and my tension from those has spread into other sources of stress. Now I keep winding myself up into a silent, heart-pounding frenzy, not at my cat, but at my normally dormant phobias. I am afraid of fire. I am afraid of illness in general. I am afraid of loud noises. Incidents involving any of these things, or the threat of these things, are making my blood burn. Flooded with cortisol.

It’s bad for me, and I want it to stop. I am exploring what I can do to make it stop, and I have already made certain resolutions. Right now, though, while I’ve had a few minutes to reflect again about all of this, I’ve decided to write here, because I haven’t written so fully on anything in my life for a while. I think that’s something I’ve lacked, something that could have even contributed to my fear. I’m going to try being brave now. I still remember what that felt like, and if it takes writing and writing and writing until I can get that feeling back, then write I must.

Here ends another dispatch from late capitalism.

Llywelyn Jones

Overdue update time

It has certainly been a while since I updated here (again). This is not for lack of productivity. I’d like to let interested parties know that the mega-project Armes Prydein is still very much in progress, even though it remains largely within the worldbuilding stage. At this point, I would say that’s about 2/3 done, and then there will be some intensive character planning but I’m envisioning a serious, hardcore Writing Schedule™ getting underway before the end of 2019. This would mean that 1/2 of my estimated 5 year minimum project time would have been devoted to “not actually writing,” but I am increasingly confident that once the writing does begin apace, spending only 2.5 more years on it could be realistic.

I am mostly anticipating slowdowns if I get wildly distracted by some other creative endeavor… which is not impossible, because some recent events have made me very curious about getting back into music after an extremely long hiatus. But I’m not considering the risk too great at the moment; my music ideas require money that I shouldn’t rightfully spend for a bit, and it’s been enough of a headache lately to consciously manage writing logistics that I don’t know how music production could actually enter the mix.

In any case, while I continue this literary dungeon-crawl, I know I would do myself a favor by developing my writing career on other fronts, so here are some resolutions that I’d like to try upholding once I get back from a vacation in early May:

  • Post more Armes Prydein process updates here, even when they feel minor.
  • Post essays here to develop a portfolio for freelance work!
  • Yes. Freelance work. I’m going to try it.
  • Write at least one singular short story like “O Fortuna” again on the side, and start pitching it. Ideal publishing time frame before 2021.

How many of these things will I pull off? I don’t know. But I’m not getting any younger.

Llywelyn Jones

Upcoming publication: “O Fortuna”

2017 was a quiet year for writerly news, and I seem to recall saying I wasn’t going to put anything here unless I really felt so moved. Even after keeping this particular blog alive for four years, I still haven’t entirely determined what function it ought to serve, or what sort of person is reading it. Nevertheless, if there’s one thing that always belongs here, it’s publication announcements, and I’m thrilled beyond belief to make one now.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you already heard about this a few weeks ago, but let’s make this even more official: my sci fi novella “O Fortuna” will be appearing in Issue 6 of The Fantasist, with a publication date of March 15th! That’s less than a week away, and thus not too long that anyone can forget to check it out, wink wink. I have no idea how much to toot my own horn about this, but my astonishment and happiness stem from several sources. First of all, yes, I was a big award finalist four years ago and all that, but it was for a self-published work, so I have been trembling from the fact that I’ve finally gotten through the infamous query gauntlet— never before have I managed that for any work of fiction. Secondly, while I shy away from labeling myself as an “x genre” writer, the genres that feel like the closest fit are sci fi, fantasy, and horror, so I’m very gratified to break into the field. And lastly, I hadn’t given up hope for “O Fortuna” finding an audience, but I wrote it after coming to some very important conclusions about my own life. I’ve referred to it as my robot baby, and I can tell that baby has found a very good home in The Fantasist.

A little more about “O Fortuna”: inspired by the common but rarely sympathetic trope of the sexbot, this narrative focuses upon an android sex worker, Lux, who was once programmed to pleasure humans without thought for her own rights. Now living free, Lux has found that passing for a human with more legitimized employment also has its downsides; despite years of independence, she is caught in a quandary about what individualism means, and she’s searching for the person who can give her the life she really wants. Questioning the conventional wisdom about everything from sex and gender to future economies and the true role of AI, “O Fortuna” presents a nuanced, rebellious drama that draws a straight line from Frankenstein’s monster to the erotic dolls of some dystopian metropolis. This story’s future civilization does not glitter; it grinds, buzzes, screams, and cries.

That’s my official copy for it. I’ll also add that I’ve requested that the magazine include a content warning for implied sexual violence and discussion of sexual violence. The story isn’t a tragedy, but it’s not a walk in the park.

As for The Fantasist, the site link above should tell you a fair amount of what’s to read there, but one cool thing I’d like to explain about them is their innovative payment model for writers. If you want to read “O Fortuna” right on their site, you can go there as soon as Issue 6 is live on the 15th, and as far as I’m aware you don’t have to pay a penny. But if you would like to both support the magazine and my own future writing, you can also buy an e-book version of “O Fortuna” in their online store. Normally their e-books are $1.99, and from the 15th to the 22nd they’ll be on sale for $1.00 even (I earn the same cut either way). Furthermore, the magazine has a Patreon you can donate to, if that’s your thing; it would help them pay authors even more in the future.

I think that’s it. I’ve never released my own press like this before either, of course, so maybe I’ve done it all wrong. In any case, I’m very excited. Huge thanks to my husband and Sen Hardwick, who served as beta readers a while ago, and I’d like to dedicate this novella to Mary Shelley, Ursula K. Le Guin, and all the brave kinksters, inksters, weirdos, queerdos, revolutionaries, and cyborgs I’ve known.

D. Llywelyn Jones

All lakes lead to Avallach…

I haven’t provided an update about my writing activity since the winter, I realized, so here is some overdue news. Well, not news— I have no scheduled publications at the moment— but at least some information, because developments have occurred. I’m very gratified that my reasons for not posting much on this blog are largely that I’ve been hard at work. If you’ve been wondering about my next big project, today I’m lifting back the veil just a shade.

First, with regard to finished work, unfortunately, the situation with Frankenstein has reached a standstill. I had really hoped to manage a public reading and a full production in 2018, the 200-year anniversary of the original novel’s first edition, but the prospective director had to back out (which I say with no animosity, as she’s a lovely person). By the time that I decided to try pitching the script to local theatre companies on my own, the most obvious choices were no longer taking submissions for their next season. I should have known better, but there’s not much I can do about it now. Therefore, given that I also have other projects, I think Frankenstein must sadly sit on the back burner for at least another six months until I can submit it somewhere again.

Likewise, “O Fortuna” has retained “???” status, but I have my fingers crossed for some good news on that front. And while all of that makes it sound like nothing’s happened, something big (for me) has very much happened.

That is to say: last month I officially broke ground on my next novel, Armes Prydein. I may only keep that as the working title, but it’s rather likely to stick. The language will be English; the words in the title are Welsh, however, and a quick Wikipedia search will tell you what I’m referencing.

I’m going to try and post semi-regular updates about my progress without giving away too much immediately, but so far, here is what I shall say about this future beast of a book. Starting this past autumn, I spent approximately six months eating, drinking, breathing, and dreaming research about the island of Britain from the 5th to 6th century CE. Now I cannot call myself an academic expert on the subject, but I finally had a grounding to create a full cast of characters, rough plotline, and setting details for 1/3 of this novel’s content. I might still require the next 6-8 weeks to finish planning the whole thing as thoroughly as I’d like to before I truly dive in; however, before the end of April I had successfully written the opening paragraphs.

Now, as for why I say 1/3 of this novel’s content and not all of it, Armes Prydein is what can only be called an Arthur tale— it will be “my” Arthuriad— but as has become my way, there will be several stories connected to each other. I am classifying one story as mythic-historical fiction, another as alternate-history sociopolitical drama, and another as dystopian cyberpunk. A few characters will exist between all of them, but mostly the connections are thematic and structural. I toyed with the idea telling each story as its own novel and making a trilogy, but ultimately chose to keep things interlaced the way I know they need to be. Potentially a publisher could split the novel into three parts if that made a gargantuan, multi-genre, literary chimera more palatable, but if so I will create potential split points within each story’s plot.

We will see what happens. Ultimately, I would be shocked if I didn’t spend at least five years on this, and it will exponentially surpass the length of Tiresias. Particularly given that this will be only my second novel, I know it’s very ambitious. I decided to go ahead because a) if it’s going to take me so long to do it, I’d rather start it while I’m young; b) I am going to receive some collaborative assistance from my secret-talent husband, though he has not yet told me whether he would like a co-credit or ghostwriter status; and c) of all the projects on my plate, this is the one I have been hoping to write for the longest time. It’s extraordinarily important to me as a Welsh person, an occult practitioner, a linguist, a leftist, and a mythologist. It is, if you will, the novel that I will not be satisfied until I complete before my death. Everything else I accomplish should prove the frosting on the proverbial cake.

I know it would be a wise plan to produce some shorter writing here and there while I labor on Armes Prydein, and I will attempt it periodically, especially if I need to rest my brain from some segments that I expect to find emotionally challenging. However, I would like the estimated five years to not double to ten, so the novel will remain my priority.

Onward; this is what I’ve been living for.

D. Llywelyn Jones

To be prolific

Some people find it challenging to be prolific as a writer. I don’t, per se, but on a schedule where I have to make ends meet by non-writing employment, let alone a schedule where I have to do that and also give myself some time for my husband, socializing, homemaking, and random interruptions of all kinds— it’s easy to write many throwaway items, and not so easy to write polished work.

This challenge extends to more than just publishable fiction. When I say “throwaway items” I mean things like tweets or (preferably) self-contained, collaboratively written scenes. I try to put thought into literally anything that I write to/with other people, but in terms of nonfiction I’m not going to expend as much effort on a thing it takes 0.05 seconds to read, while in terms of fiction I’m not going to worry about getting things just right when it’s a project I regard mostly as practice. Consequently, it’s not much trouble to spend time on these things most days of the week. But anything else—

Publishable fiction eats up time. Querying it takes time. Full-blown essays take time. General blogging takes time. Even spending effort on writing stuff that promotes myself and tries to convince people to spend money on my work as a whole… that takes time and a certain je ne sais quoi. I didn’t think I could really make the Patreon take off, and so far it hasn’t done anything.

Frankly, I am not complaining about this problem, or at least I would like these reflections not to be interpreted as complaining about anything besides facts like 24 hour days, 8 hour sleep phases, and full-time income generation. I can’t change much about those facts, and I think that with or without any sponsorship, I’ll need to take some steps to push my writing life along.

To that end, here are a few developments/decisions:

  1. I have renewed my lapsed search for a Frankenstein producer. There is no taker yet, but I’m having conversations that need to be had, rather than having conversations about those conversations, if you know what I mean.
  2. My new story “O Fortuna” is still being queried, but I’m starting to think I should try to churn out a shorter piece after that comparable novella, so that I can be querying more than one thing at a time. That’s more effort, but it doesn’t feel too productive to wait for literal months to back from each magazine at a time about a single story. I really hope inspiration strikes soon for a tiny tale.
  3. I am neck-deep in research for my next novel(s), and I don’t expect to be at a point where I can really put that research to work until spring has arrived. But it’s been a very stimulating and rewarding process so far.
  4. Right now, above all I’m envious of writers who can crank out a blog post a day like it isn’t an undertaking. Of course, I don’t find it an undertaking in terms of my ability to produce several paragraphs in less than an hour— I can do that— but I find myself stymied by:
    • Difficulty choosing a dedicated blogging schedule
    • Uncertainty about what method I can use to assure that I really stick to that schedule apart from genuinely not having any time that day
    • Wariness about treating a public blog as a diary; even if I don’t include anything I’d rather keep private, who really cares about the minutiæ of my day-to-day?
    • Wariness about using this blog as a constant flow of commentary on politics, news items, or media; it seems much more natural than a diary, and I have no lack of opinions, but it means taking a deep breath and plunging out into some very treacherous waters.
  5. Consequently, if any of you have any short story premises that you’d be curious to see me handle, or any preference about how I could use this blog more frequently, I would truly welcome your feedback.

I think that’s everything worth saying for today. I am not committing to more regular updates right now, but I would very much like to motivate myself to increase my output in ways that do seem realistic.

D. Llywelyn Jones