October 10, 2018

Before and After

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 10:25 am

Most of my recent posts have been about my new active lifestyle, but it’s not all been gym and cooking. I’ve also been working on my new novel.

My tidy filing system tells me I wrote the first draft of chapter one on the 10th of September 2017. It’s now one year and one month later and I’ve sent the completed text to my agent. That’s a submitted draft of 98,000 words.

People often ask how long does it take to write a book. It can take years, it can take months, but this particular novel I feel I wrote at a pretty good pace for the level of complexity and the other stuff I had going on. Looking at my journal, I think I’ve effectively written this part time. Most writers have a day job as well, and for the past year I was on sabbatical which gave me more time to write, but also to pursue some of the other goals I’ve been blogging about.

Another question people ask is “so when will it be published?”. Again, that depends on a number of factors. The next step is for my agent to read it and tell me what she thinks.

And, until that happens I can’t tell you very much about it. It’s a secret!

However, I do want to tell you something about it so here’s one way you can get into my head. While I was writing this I created a playlist of songs that cover some of the themes in the novel. It’s a high impact pop playlist so if you like that sort of music, you’ll like it. It has 27 songs right now and a run time of 1 hr 35 minutes and you can follow it on Spotify by clicking this link.

There is one song that isn’t like the others, but it’s an important inclusion. That’s the Baz Luhrmann song “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)“. (The link is to the original video on YouTube.) This song is a spoken word version of an essay “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young” written as a hypothetical commencement speech by columnist Mary Schmich, originally published in June 1997 in the Chicago Tribune.

In 1997, I was 20 and I could really have used a lot of that advice then. Only the irony of the song is that you can’t actually use the advice, you have to learn it for yourself. My novel is about some of the same ideas and it’s intended for teenagers like me and like everyone else, trying to work out who you want to be when you grow up.

That’s all can say right now. Enjoy the playlist and look forward to some more updates and teasers as I use the time before I start the next book to do some more bloggery about it.

September 24, 2018

Review: The Refrigerator Monologues

Filed under: recommended reading,things Rhiannon likes — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 10:45 am

I wrote a review of The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M Valente. Read it on Writers Review.

August 9, 2018

Sabbatical goals 11-15

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 11:38 am

Bath

Bath


The sabbatical is over. It ended at the end of July and I will explain in another post how that worked out. (TLDR: Mixed emotions but ultimately a good ending.) Meanwhile I have more goals to log.

11. Make clothes
12. Attend book world events
13. See more friends
14. Visit places I haven’t been
15. Reduce household expenses

This was a very mixed bag. I made progress towards all of these but some more than others.

11. Make clothes
The short answer is, I didn’t. I had been getting so much into sewing I thought this was going to be my next big thing but actually scaling up from dolls clothes to people clothes turned out to be more of a challenge than I’d anticipated. I’ve added knitting as a separate list item so I can’t really count socks.

I did sew things. But I stalled with this, maybe because I was having so much fun doing other things and almost certainly because the idea of making carefully crafted clothes while actively losing weight started to feel a bit futile. By the time I’d made an item it would have been rendered obsolete.

So this one is still on the back burner. However, I’m not going to feel guilty about not achieving every single goal on my list, especially the arts and craft ones. I learned a long time ago that it’s not possibly to achieve great results in every craft hobby I have. And so I tell myself I am fortunate that I have a lot of interests that I can pick up and put down again without requiring them all to be currently active.

12. Attend book world events
I did this. It’s difficult for me. For various reasons I haven’t had a book professionally published since 2008 which means that’s ten years I haven’t really been a person who earns an income from writing and that’s a difficult thing for a professional author to admit to. You start to question if you can even call yourself a writer. And book world events are hard because people inevitably ask about what you’re working on or have had published. They sometimes ask “have I heard of you?”. Argh, don’t do this, people, it’s horrendous. And book world events are usually focused around celebrating someone else’s success which is a damn sight easier to do when you are happy with your own position.

The result is that I did it. I went to things and talked to people and celebrated other people’s success and was genuinely happy for them. I am a better person for it. But I am still a work in progress here. I don’t think I’ll really be comfortable hanging out in the literary world unless I have a book of my own to talk about. Since I’ve now written almost two bloody good books here’s hoping my lovely new agent will place them. If not, well, that’s another post.

13. See more friends

In my first post I mentioned making new friends. But I’ve also been spending more time with the ones I already had. I got so busy with work that I didn’t make enough time for this. I have been on walks, to clothes swaps, to literary events, to lunch, to the park and playground, to the pool and the spa. I went to an engagement party, a 50th birthday party, on a writers retreat and to a Welsh castle. I hosted a gathering myself.

All was in the company of some very fine friends. Some I haven’t seen but I’ve spoken to or emailed. Others have been frequent fixtures. I appreciate everyone who has been with me on my journey and the fun times we’ve had. My life now feels full of friends.

14. Visit places I haven’t been

Yes! I did this. I went to Abingdon, Hampshire, Bath, Prasonisi beach in Rhodes, Poole, Abergavenny, and Stoke-on-Trent. I feel as though I may have been to some other places and forgotten them. This is not anything like as impressive as the list of far flung locations where my little sis spends her time but for me it represents expanded horizons and a willingness to leave the house.

15. Reduce household expenses

I have not made great progress on this. There’s a state of inertia that sets in when endeavouring to wrangle the companies that provide utilities. I have reduced my mobile phone bill and reduced groceries cost and wastage. I have also reduced some direct debits. Overall this is not a win. And it’s one I need to get a handle on. If you’ve successfully done this, how did you approach it?

Right, that’s enough reflection for now. Zumba calls me and I must follow the beat. Until another blog, gentle readers.

July 18, 2018

Sabbatical goals 6 to 10

Filed under: bloggery,living in the future — Tags: — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 10:22 am

Continued musing on my sabbatical goals, today numbers 6-10.

steps6. Walk 10,000 steps a day
The sabbatical started in May 2017. I managed an average of 10,000 steps or more in 12/15 months. I missed May, June and December. This is pretty good really. And I made up for the missed months in later ones. Those steps included some lovely walks along the river with my partner and my friends Kathy and Sara.

scones

scones

7. Bake cookies
I did bake cookies and they went a bit wrong. I made rather more scones and cakes. The best were chocolate chip and raspberry scones, now a staple.

8. Keep informed about issues
I think I’ve done fairly well. I read the news every day and I also branches out into other sources of information to avoid being in a complete echo chamber. I’ve decided I like my personal social media feed to be a reasonable safe space and will challenge people sometimes in that space. But I also read and don’t comment on material found outside my bubble. I think I understand some things better now although I boggle at the world I find myself living in. When I said I wanted to live in the future I didn’t mean a dystopian one.

9. Make music
I was doing this before the sabbatical but I’ve done nothing on it at all recently. I don’t know why. I’m not going to feel guilty about that. My mashups are still there for when I return to this.

10. Use nail brushes artistically.
Yeah, I tried. It turns out I don’t have very steady hands. The brushes are not the silver bullet for nail art I was hoping for. I do have photos of my attempts but they are so terrible I can’t bring myself to post them.

Next post, making clothes, seeing friends and visiting new places!

July 16, 2018

Sabbatical goals

Filed under: About Rhiannon Lassiter,adventures in the world of today,life — Tags: — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 4:45 pm

goals listSince May 2017 I have been on sabbatical from my university job. (By day a Faculty Marketing Manager at Oxford Brookes, by evening a writer of fantastical fiction, by night whatever the dream world dictates.) I was originally thinking of blogging about what I did but quickly decided that would take away from actually doing things, although I do have a daily photo journal.

Before the sabbatical started a lot of people asked what I was going to do. “Will you be writing a book?” was the most popular question. The answer to this question is always yes. The unfortunate state of the writer is always ‘writing a book’ although it can also involve ‘promoting a book’. But aside from writing, what else?

I started out by writing a list in a beautiful notebook. I rather regret this because paper lists just don’t work for me as well as app data. However, I’m going to use it as a jumping off point for talking about the goals I’ve achieved (and try to remember some of the others).

1. Write books.
I have done this. I completed “Candid” (working title) shortly after the start of the sabbatical and started all sorts of other projects before finding the book I was meant to write, “Before & After” (also a working title), and embarking on that. It’s currently 70% done. I hope.
2. Attend meetings of the Labour Women’s Group.
I have not done this. But I did leaflet for Labour in Blackbird Leys and we successfully elected a new Labour MP with an increased majority, so I’ll give myself partial credit.
3. Bike rides.
I have done this. I have discovered that although I in theory enjoy this, in practice I don’t often get the bike out. I have done a lot of spinning at my desk bike though, so perhaps will be able to re-enter the world of 9-5 employment as a commuter cyclist.
4. Take over 10 Pokemon gyms.
The purpose of this was to get the maximum amount of daily coins possible in the game. Only they’ve changed the system so by the time I did it, it doesn’t work that way. But I did get to level 39 and made a bunch of new PokeFriends.
5. Go to the gym frequently and regularly.
This is the real world gym, not the Pokemon kind. I have done this. I have done this a lot. I am a gym regular, people know me there, I even have gym friends. Achievement unlocked!

My reflections on the first 5 goals on the list are that although “make more friends” isn’t on the paper list it was definitely on my mental list. So that’s going to be list item 20 and it’s already been ticked off. I have game friends and gym friends, I’m just missing all those potential political friends. Yay for friendship.

Also, this was a good mix of different kinds of goals. Well done, Past!Rhi, for thinking of them.

Look out for the next blog post in which I contemplate baking, important issues and nail art.

June 14, 2018

Raising an eyebrow

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 1:12 pm

Today I encountered this meme y-all-really-not-tired-of-looking-like-this-yet meme image and I raised an eyebrow.

This is my face. Maybe thinner and with more makeup but basically this woman, this look which is now so ubiquitous that people are tired of seeing it, is mine. I have dark hair and pronounced eyebrows, brown eyes, brown skin and big lips. Check out my Insta if you want the proof of it. And when I was a child and a teenager, this idea of beauty just wasn’t out there.

When I was nine my mother wrote a book called “Beware Princess!” about a princess with dark hair because all my books had blonde princesses. The books got better but digital media as taken a long time to be as inclusive of dark-browed ethnically ambiguous women.

When I was eleven I came up with the perfect wish: “I wish that gradually, over time, the human standard of beauty will change to increasingly resemble me.” I thought that was genius and genie-proof, unable to be twisted against me. I didn’t anticipate it would take thirty years for my wish to come true, but I woke up one day and it had.

Instagram picI may not be one of the most beautiful women in the world with thousands of online followers but this idea of beauty, this kind of beauty, this face is one I recognise and can claim a share in.

So, no, I’m not tired of looking like this. This is my face. Deal with it.

May 14, 2018

Fictoplasm podcasts

Filed under: my favourite authors,podcast,things Rhiannon likes — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 5:33 pm

Fictoplasm logo

Fictoplasm

Did you know I occasionally appear on a podcast? Now you do.

My friend Ralph Lovegrove runs Fictoplasm, a (mostly) science fiction podcast about books and roleplaying games. I’ve appeared in two episodes so far.

Episode 401: What We’re Reading
Rhi has been reading What Makes This Book So Great? by Jo Walton and Heriot by Margaret Mahy. Josh has been reading Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, and The Tale Of The Axe by David Miles. He’s currently running Blades In The Dark. Ralph has been reading Gun With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem, and the anthology Ubiquicity collected by Todd Foley. He’s still writing Stormhack.

Episode 402: Excession by Iain M. Banks
Rhi and Paul join Ralph to talk about Iain M. Banks’ Excession and The Culture. Post-scarcity, intelligent starships, body modification and first contact.

There are three previous seasons and listening to them inspired me to join in. It’s excellent talking about books with other people who’ve also read them and hearing new recommendations.

May 8, 2018

Before and after

Filed under: bloggery,Fitness,growing up,life,living in the future — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 1:54 pm

So, this time last year I was at Harry Potter world and didn’t notice my friend taking this photo. I wouldn’t normally have posted it because I don’t like it very much. However it has its uses because one year later it serves as a useful comparison for my fitness journey. Today’s required some curation and the limited patience of my other half. But here we are.

Don’t pay too much attention to the fact I look grumpy in the left hand pic, I was having a lovely day and other photos attest to that. I also didn’t see the photographer or I’d have smiled.

The top is the same, I brought it to Greece deliberately, but the lighting makes it look different. I did not bring jeans because I didn’t want to be broiled.

If you’re planning a major lifestyle change do take before photos, your future self will thank you for them.

April 30, 2018

So very goals

Filed under: bloggery,growing up,things Rhiannon likes — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 2:04 pm

"If you want to fly, give up everything that weighs you down."

“If you want to fly, give up everything that weighs you down.”

On the 8th of May 2017 I set a weight loss goal in my Fitbit app. I actually set one earlier and pressed the wrong button but the 8th of May will do.

I started my sabbatical from my day job at the beginning of May and naturally people asked me what I was going to do with the time. Some people asked if I was going to write a book which is a bit like asking a fish if it intends to go swimming. I have been writing, and cooking, and doing crafts, and trying to reduce my amount of possessions saved in case they become magically unbroken or I need a 56k modem when civilisation collapses.

I didn’t say “I’m going to lose weight” because it seemed risky to set that as an ambition. I didn’t say I’m going to get fit because I didn’t use to care about fitness at all. But I did want to become healthier in mind, body and spirit – to use the time in new ways and do things I hadn’t been able to while working a highly pressured job.

And so I set a goal and began to work towards it. I started with walking, brought on by my love of PokemonGO. Then over the summer I did couch to 5k which taught me that I was capable of things I had never imagined possible. Then when I got bored of running I started doing exercise classes and as you will see from my previous posts discovered a love of fitness I had NO IDEA was inside me. Discovering this new person who actually enjoys going to class and lifting weights and doing squats was a huge surprise. I couldn’t have been more surprised to discover I was actually a lizard person or the Queen of Genovia.

"Fitbit: Weight goal met"

“Fitbit: Weight goal met”

Today I met my goal. According to BodyTrax I am now a fit person and when I look at myself that’s who I see. I have more work to do to be the best me I can be, so I’ve set a new goal. This time I set it from a position of feeling good about myself, proud of my accomplishment and eager to see what’s ahead.

I don’t blame myself for gaining weight. That’s extremely easy to do in the modern world, especially when you live in an affluent country and are reasonably affluent yourself. I’m happy to have lost it, that was hard work. It’s not just changing your body, it’s changing your mind.

But what makes me happiest now is to know that I’ve found a new source of joy in my life and a new way of being me. That’s a goal worth celebrating.

March 18, 2018

Virtuous Cycle

Filed under: bloggery,things Rhiannon likes — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 3:55 pm

Wake Up Work Out photo
In January I wrote about attending my first fitness class at the gym, the classes I’d tried and what I thought of them. I wrote about attending morning classes because it was hard to motivate myself to go in the evening. I hated circuit training and loved zumba.

Things have changed a lot since then.

I never really understood what people meant when they talked about an endorphin rush from working out. I went to the gym once or twice a week and never understood how anyone could enjoy it. Turns out I wasn’t working hard enough.

Exercise is addictive. First there’s the sense of achievement from achieving your goals, then there’s the pleasure of setting new goals and smashing them, then there’s the endorphin rush.

I didn’t get it when I was attending morning classes 5 days a week. I went to the classes because discipline is important. But two weeks ago I added a second set of classes.

My new schedule looks like this:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
8am: spinning
10am: Aerobics
6.15pm: Body Pump
11am: Body Pump
5.30pm: Zumba
8am: spinning
2pm: walking
6pm: spinning
8am: spinning
11am: Zumba
5.15pm: Grit circuit
8am: spinning
10.15am: Aerobics
6.30pm: Grit circuit
10am: spinning
12.30pm: Zumba

Life cycleMy LifeCycle app reckons I spent 10 hours at the gym last week. That doesn’t count the spinning which I do at home and the walking. I aim for 10,000 a day and managed between 15-20,000 most days over the last two weeks.

And I feel as though I’m on a constant high. I bounce off to the gym, I bounce around at the gym and I bounce back home again. I am flushed and my hair is constantly frizzy from all the sweating. I babble about weights and reps to anyone who will listen. I still love zumba but now I love circuit training too. I love body pump. I love everything. I walk out of the worst workout I’ve ever had and book it again for next week. I have become one of those people.

And I was never one of those people. Never ever. In a future blog post I will lay out my plan for making PE less horrendous but for now let it suffice to know I was always at the back, on the edge, wanting to be anywhere else. I once deep-fielded my way into the library.

Now as the clock ticks down on the grit circuit I try to get in one last squat and star jump. I push and then push harder.

I don’t know who I am any more. But it’s exciting to find out who I’m becoming.

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