robshearman (robshearman) wrote,
robshearman
robshearman

August, in the middle of, some thoughts appertaining to.

I'm feeling cautiously celebratory. The last time I felt this celebratory was a couple of weeks ago, for no especially good reason, and to commemorate that I took Janie off to the South of France for a few days. There's a lovely town there called Carcassonne which boasts a huge medieval walled city on the top of the hills - as you fly in on the plane you pass right over the top of it and it looks like a cardboard cut-out with its cobbled walkways and arrow-slitted ramparts. We love castles, so spent the holiday in the baking heat (and it was *baking*) yomping up the hills three times a day to walk around the place and pretend we were living in the fourteenth century. And afterwards we'd sit in as much of the shade as we could find and drink ice cold lager, and eat cassoulet. (Cassoulet is the traditional dish in Carcassonne - it's a pot full of haricot beans, and every single bit of dead animal that they could find walking the ramparts. Some evenings I'd find sausage in it, other times bits of chicken and duck. I'm sure if I'd stayed in France long enough I'd probably have one day found myself picking out the odd bit of llama or penguin. I don't eat meat much any more, and my cassoulet experiences, as tasty as they were, sort of reminded me why. On returning to London I never would have believed a lettuce leaf would look so friendly and so *safe*.)

So, yes. I'm feeling celebratory, and it seemed that this time I should curb my impulse to get on a plane to another country, only to return with nothing to show but a tanned nose. (Seriously, in that heat - and the only part of my body that caught the sun was my *nose*? It still glows in the dark. In order to sleep, I have to hang curtains off the end of it and keep them drawn when I turn the lights off.) This time I thought it would be cheaper to express my celebratory urges by writing a post on Livejournal. Not as exotic, but just as exciting, I'm sure. If you keep your mind open.

I'm celebrating because I've almost - but not quite - finished two books. I've never worked on two books at exactly the same time before, and it feels peculiar timing that they've both come to an end (almost - but not quite) at precisely the same time. The first of these books is my new collection of short stories, due out early next year, called Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical. There are still a couple of stories I'd rather like to write for it, but I'm beginning to wonder whether the book actually *needs* them - it's getting to be a pretty hefty tome as it is. So I'm cautiously going to say the book is completed, and wait to see whether over the next couple of months the absence of these still unwritten extra tales keeps me up all night worrying at them and chewing at the duvet in frustration. (It probably will. The bite marks all over the duvet are testament to my inability to let things go. But I'm trying to fool my brain. If I announce the book *is* over, and tell my brain it's now switched off, then I can creep up to it sideways and mug it into making a decision.) So - there you are. New collection of short stories. Completed. (Save for the yarn about the woman who marries a camel, and the one about the Von Trapp family member who can't sing.)

I've been writing the fiction during the day time. Of an evening, as a bit of a hobby, I've been writing a critical guide to The X-Files and its related spin-offs. It's been enormous fun, actually, unwinding on the sofa watching Mulder and Scully pursue yet another mutant that eats human body parts, or seeing whether Frank Black might actually crack a smile on Millennium. Then I nip upstairs and write an essay about them. I worked out at the beginning of the writing that there would be 283 separate instalments to sit through then analyse, and for some reason (forgetfulness? mathematical naivety? plain stupidity?) I didn't quite see what a mountain that was to climb. Well, I've almost - but not quite - finished. Inasmuch as I've now written up 279 of them. Three final episodes of The X-Files to go - this is about the time the series is struggling a bit to find a pulse, but once in a while I'm delighted to find a heart beat, there *is* still life in the old show yet - and then off to the cinema later this week to see the new movie. (I've remained entirely spoiler-free on this, and I'm hoping against hope that it'll be very good. If for no other reason than that it'll be a better ending to my book. If the last chapter just says 'It was crap', then I'm concluding on a bit of a downer.) Is it any good, this movie? Tell me it is. Even if it isn't. Like Mulder and Scully, I want to believe. (Do you see what I did there? With jokes like that, you just know this book is a must-read.)

So I'm a little written out. Which is why so many of my friends must be wondering why I never email any more. Sorry. I'm sliding back into that now. I'll be in touch in a few days. I'm almost - but not quite - certain of that.

Other bits of news! I'm absolutely delighted to report that I've been nominated for two World Fantasy awards. One of which is for my last book of shorts, Tiny Deaths, up now for Best Collection. And the other is for one particular tale, 'Damned if You Don't' (if you've read it, it's the one about the man who goes to Hell and falls in love with Hitler's childhood dog), up for Best Short Story. I've no idea if I've even the remotest chance of winning, but I feel duly honoured to be given this attention. So this October I'm taking off to Calgary with my best suit and my fingers firmly crossed. I don't know much about Calgary, and I really think at some point I should check what it's like in a guide book - but for the moment it's rather lovely to just *imagine* what Calgary is like - it might spoil it if I saw photos of the place too soon. I vaguely think that I've heard something about Calgary sweaters in the past, so in my mind's eye Calgary is a big fluffy department store of winterwear. I'm hoping that's the case; and that the award ceremony will take place in the sock department. I like socks.

And I'm on my travels again soon. I've been invited as a guest to February's Doctor Who convention in Los Angeles, and I'm almost certainly going to go. (It's always at a slightly awkward time of the year for me - it's the same week not only as my birthday, but as one of my anniversaries with Janie. Not Actually Getting Married, nor First Meeting, but Getting Her To Finally Accept The Idea Of Going Out With Me And Calling Me Boyfriend. Janie's remarkably unsentimental about anniversaries, but I always wait and see each year whether she finds the numbers significant enough to celebrate. It'll only be my 39th birthday - so that's pretty nothing-ish - and our 12th anniversary - which is *probably* important if you're an astrologer and into zodiac related numerologies, but otherwise not much to write home about.)

And, rather oddly, I'm also starting a new part time job soon, where I act as a lecturer on luxury cruises. I was approached a few months ago to see whether I'd be interested - and the lure of being on a ship, visiting exciting new destinations, and eating nice food, made it very appealing. (And I like writing on ships too, it's very peaceful.) I've been on a few cruises before, mostly as a Doctor Who guest on the 'sci-fi sea cruises'. This would be very different. Those boats had a passenger total of maybe 2500, and the whole experience was rather like being on a floating holiday camp. The lecture cruises are much smaller, more intimate - probably no more than a couple of hundred people on board - and I'll be discussing the history of literature, and the particular cultural touchstones of each city we visit. Not a mention of a Dalek, I'd have thought - instead it'll all be Flaubert and Pushkin and Kadare and other heroes. Years ago, if I hadn't been waylaid by a job in the theatre, I was making moves to stay in academia and be a university lecturer. It'll be rather lovely to get back to that, with the backdrop of the sea behind me.

So, there we go. Celebratory. Cautiously. Life is good. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put some more lotion on my blistered nose.

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  • Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical

    Hello, all! Those nice people at Big Finish have just put up my new collection of short stories on their website, available for pre-order! I am…

  • Oh, you know. Updates and stuff. The usual drill.

    Hello! Oof. I haven't written on here for ages. But let's be honest - I haven't been in the country for ages either. Not really. I went out and…

  • Flem!

    This last month, after my daily spell of writing, I've mostly spent my time cramming my way through Flemish literature. There are reasons for this,…