Let me begin with a confession. I pirate books regularly. (Like the one above.) Now the reason why. I use a Kobo Aura One reader, which is advertised as compatible with EPUB and MOBI files. It isn’t. But Kindle and Google Play that I use for buying books come with DRM (Digital Rights Management). I use software to remove DRM, then convert the books to KEPUB (Kobo format), then read them. This is how I ended up buying Marian Keyes’ “The Break”, and THEN downloading it from a pirate site because my DRM removal tool didn’t work and I couldn’t read the e-book I paid for! I call this “Sales Prevention Team”. And yes, Kobo has its own book store, which has maybe half of the selection of Amazon and Google Play, much higher prices, and also some books bought from Kobo do not work with Kobo reader. And this is how I both pay for books AND commit illegal acts, since it is not actually allowed to remove DRM. From legal point of view stripping the DRM is just as illegal as me downloading the book from a pirate website…except the pirated book is much easier for me to read. Because I don’t need to remove DRM in order to put it on my reader. Does this picture look right to you?

While I love paper books, my back injuries mean that a thick book is never going to be read by me for a simple reason – it hurts. Physically. E-books are my saviour. The reader is the absolute best I have ever seen, but the software – regularly updated – isn’t. Epubs don’t render correctly. Mobis just don’t appear at all (or didn’t last time I checked). While Google Play and Adobe Digital Editions allow me to upload the epub files, they don’t render correctly. But this is not the sort of piracy that is harmful.

Here is a very useful and informative article by Maggie Stiefwater:

It’s the story of a novel called The Raven King, the fourth installment in a planned four book series. All three of its predecessors hit the bestseller list. Book three, however, faltered in strange ways. The print copies sold just as well as before, landing it on the list, but the e-copies dropped precipitously. […]

I expected to see a sales drop in book three, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, but as my readers are historically evenly split across the formats, I expected it to see the cut balanced across both formats. This was absolutely not true. Where were all the e-readers going? Articles online had headlines like PEOPLE NO LONGER ENJOY READING EBOOKS IT SEEMS. […]

I asked my publisher to make sure there were no e-ARCs available of book four, the Raven King, explaining that I felt piracy was a real issue with this series in a way it hadn’t been for any of my others. They replied with the old adage that piracy didn’t really do anything, but yes, they’d make sure there was no e-ARCs if that made me happy.

Then they told me that they were cutting the print run of The Raven King to less than half of the print run for Blue Lily, Lily Blue. No hard feelings, understand, they told me, it’s just that the sales for Blue Lily didn’t justify printing any more copies. The series was in decline, they were so proud of me, it had 19 starred reviews from pro journals and was the most starred YA series ever written, but that just didn’t equal sales. They still loved me.

This, my friends, is a real world consequence. […]

The Ronan trilogy nearly didn’t exist because of piracy. And already I can see in the tags how Tumblr users are talking about how they intend to pirate book one of the new trilogy for any number of reasons, because I am terrible or because they would ‘rather die than pay for a book’. As an author, I can’t stop that. But pirating book one means that publishing cancels book two. This ain’t 2004 anymore. A pirated copy isn’t ‘good advertising’ or ‘great word of mouth’ or ‘not really a lost sale.’

Pirating books is easy and tempting. When you google a title, more often than not first hits are pirated copies. Not even Amazon or author’s website. When I type a song title into Google, I get, again more often than not, “mp3” as autofill. This is not so that Google can redirect me to a legit store.

I originally decided to stop making music when I sold less copies of my album Deviations than there were pirate sites I found offering it for free. There were tens of those sites on the first page of Google results. After diminishing returns I only make music nowadays if I really feel pressing need to do so. Some of this music never even sees Spotify. I’ve recorded a 19-minute triphop cover of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You”. I was aided by a wonderful bass player, and my brother who is a great guitarist. I love that song so much I play it for my own pleasure. So does the bassist, and the guitarist. Other than them the only person to have a full copy is the keyboard player I hope to get to add solo parts to the second song for this two-track album which will in all probability never be released. Because in order to publish a cover version I have to pay for that. Last month I earned $3.65 from my back catalogue of music. Publishing a cover version costs $10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The picture above is the cover art for ‘I Want You’. Oh, hang on, there is no picture. That’s because ‘I Want You’ exists mainly on my hard drive. It might be awful or amazing. I don’t know whether anybody but the four of us who worked on it is ever going to find out.

I’ve never been a pop star, despite having had a proper radio and TV hit 15 years ago (I am ancient and just began to decompose). That radio hit earned me about €2000 within 15 years, largely because it was used in an ad three years in a row, and every year I earned €500. The follow-up didn’t become a hit. The label who was supposed to release the album stalled so long that the record finally came out digitally a few years ago, more or less ten years after we recorded that first song. I spent tons of time promoting it, designing the cover art (it was supposed to be a digipak with a thick booklet). I would estimate my earnings from music, including production and remixing, to be around €5000. Within 15 years. Rappers put up photos on Instagram bragging about how much money they have. My photo would be extremely unimpressive, unless I exchanged the money to kronur first, asking for 100 kronur (less than one euro) notes.

Writers in general do not get rich, with exception of book stuffers (who publish 2000 page “books” with “additional novels added”, then get rewarded by Amazon since Kindle Unlimited pays per page) and those who manage to release a book every month (yes, they exist). I can’t possibly imagine a good book being written in a month. Not one. Much less 12 a year. I’ve read some of them. My eyes still hurt. John Grisham, JK Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Dannielle Steel, Stephen King are the only living authors I can think of that are actually properly rich. Very few writers get to make comfortable living from their work. I’ve now been working on “Storyteller” (the first work in progress) for 19 months and counting.

Sales of #1 novels in 2018 are counted in thousands. Not in tens, or hundreds of thousands. The publisher has to market those books. Editor has to, er, edit them. Cover designer. Person responsible for layout. Agent. All those people work on the book. It’s not just the author who essentially loses money. Just supporting the author directly, as some people suggest, doesn’t help the books to actually get published. What’s the point in having €50 monthly from Patreon if I am going to get dropped by the publisher because of low sales? This is what piracy causes, and this is why quality level of self-published books is either very high…or very low. The music industry caught up with this a few years ago, and now streaming can earn you money. Or not, if you aren’t Drake or Justin Bieber. I am awaiting Spotify for books, and I’d be happy to pay €30 per month for it. (Scribd does not work on my reader in any way at all.) I, too, would like to not have to pay €18 for a Kindle version of a book I really want to read – or €250 for a second-hand copy of a book that’s been printed in 2000 copies in 2014, doesn’t exist in e-book form, and is now impossible to buy legally. This book wasn’t printed in more copies than 2000, because it failed to earn its advance.

Speaking of an advance. I believe the average advance for a first-time author is somewhere in the region of $6000. This is for two or three years of work, research, querying, waiting, waiting, waiting, writing more, hoping someone will want to publish us at all. This advance includes tax we have to pay, is split into two or three parts (€2000 when signed, €2000 on delivery of manuscript, €2000 on publication). Tax here in the Netherlands is between 32 and 41 per cent. Let’s go for the lower 32%. That €6000 turns out to be less than €4200. Split into three parts that are paid within two-three years after the book has been completed. And the first book generally makes or breaks the author. If it doesn’t sell, it’s probably going to be the only one to be published. Once you get through the “gatekeepers” – i.e. agents, editors, etc. (See Maggie’s article above.) The “gatekeepers” goal is not to stop me from ever releasing my book. Their job is to figure out whether there is a chance for the publisher not to make a loss.

Writing books hoping to become rich is really a stupid idea (unless you publish a book a month, again, and add “10 additional novels” to it to get more pages). Amazon is now trying to remove some of those stuffed books. The results are mixed. My second work in progress, tentatively called ‘God of Fire’, is supposed to become a trilogy. Trilogies sometimes sell. Sometimes the first book sells 10 thousand, second – five thousand, and then the third never gets published because the author is dropped because of low sales. This is the actual effect of book piracy. For someone who sells millions it’s not a huge problem. For a new author struggling to earn out the advance (which is the moment publisher finally stops bleeding money on advertising etc., and the moment when the author has a small possibility of getting published again) 1000 lost sales can equal the end of writing career. This is why almost all writers need to have day jobs. This is why you have to wait for the third part of the trilogy for four years, because the author has one hour per day to write between work, chores, and simply dying of exhaustion – and that’s assuming this third part will ever be released at all.

If you are the person who says “I would rather die than pay for a book’” you contribute to those books not actually existing. Sure. You saved €4.99 (average Amazon price). The author, in the meantime, found a really good job as a barista in Starbucks, and stopped writing altogether. Was it worth it? Do you feel proud now?

This post contains spoilers for seasons 1-4 of ‘Vikings’. You’ve been warned.

I’ve been a big fan of the ‘Vikings’ series, and in particular of Travis Fimmel’s character, since the first episode. I spent a while grinding my teeth at inaccuracies until I had to remind myself that Þórr, according to Marvel and Hollywood, is a clean-shaven blondie who wears a costume with six nipple shields. Later on I acquired ‘The World of Vikings’ by Justin Pollard and Michael Hirst (the series’ producer). The book shows very clearly that Hirst is not only well educated in the Viking history, but also has enough wits to understand that sometimes history doesn’t make very exciting TV. After reading the book, which by the way I wholeheartedly recommend, I forgave the inaccuracies. Especially as knowing history spoils the pleasure of watching, and any departures from facts – of “facts” – provides extra excitement.

You’ve probably read one of the “10 Facts About Ragnar Lothbrok That Will Change Your Life Forever” articles on the Internet. My take on this is a bit longer, features less illustrations, and also is more accurate – if you find any mistakes in this post, please point them out for me to fix.

I want to steal his entire wardrobe. If such shocking theft ever happens, I was joking and you can’t prove anything.

Let’s start with the big one. When was Ragnar born? Ha. Gotcha. There is no proof whatsoever that Ragnar existed at all. In 1979, Hilda Ellis Davidson wrote:

Certain scholars in recent years have come to accept at least part of Ragnar’s story as based on historical fact.

Note the careful wording of ‘certain scholars’ and ‘at least part’.

In 2003, Katherine Holman disagreed:

Although his sons are historical figures, there is no evidence that Ragnar himself ever lived, and he seems to be an amalgam of several different historical figures and pure literary invention.

Holman’s view seems to be the most accurate, at least with the knowledge we possess today. It’s also very Ragnar, so to say, to not even exist, yet have many sons whose existence is proven beyond all doubts.

Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) on a bad hair day

Ragnar’s first wife was a shieldmaiden named Lagertha (Old Norse: Hlaðgerðr). She wasn’t a delicate flower. Saxo Grammaticus:

Ladgerda, a skilled Amazon, who, though a maiden, had the courage of a man, and fought in front among the bravest with her hair loose over her shoulders. All-marvelled at her matchless deeds, for her locks flying down her back betrayed that she was a woman.

(Yes. Saxo was sexist. I hope this isn’t surprising. In his defence, he died approximately 800 years ago.)

Lagertha wasn’t particularly into Ragnar, even though he hadn’t begun to wear his hairy breeches (see below) yet. As he courted her, impressed by her courage in battle, Lagertha gracefully invited him over for tea and light refreshments. Her idea of hospitality involved setting a bear and a great hound upon him. Ragnar killed both beasts, which impressed Lagertha so greatly they ended up with three children: son called Fridleif Ragnarsson, and two daughters whose names have not been recorded. None of those three children are mentioned in the TV series. Lagertha did not bear him a son called Björn. While Lagertha existed as a historical figure, most of the stories surrounding her are considered to be Saxo Grammaticus’s inventions. Saxo, of course, did not approve of the idea that a woman does anything else than giving birth, cooking, and crying as her husband goes away to war, therefore Lagertha served him as an example of how horrible heathens must have been. Ragnar divorced her later in order to marry Þóra Borgarhjǫrtr (not pictured on TV).

The story behind the name ‘Lothbrok’ is a variation on Polish and Russian folk stories. (Aside: Vikings spent surprising amounts of time in Poland and Russia.) The origin of the name comes from Ragnar’s desire to marry Þóra. Her doting dad, Herrauðr, presented her with a small lindworm (according to Wikipedia – “wingless serpentine monster”). This struck me as a somewhat odd gift, especially when the lindworm grew uncontrollably, eventually trapping poor Þóra in her dwelling. Herrauðr promised her hand in marriage to the man who would slay the serpent. The sources do not mention what Herrauðr would have done if the beast was slain by a woman, but a man who literally surrounds his daughter with something that serves as giant phallic symbol probably never spent too much time thinking of shieldmaidens and Valkyries. In the story, Ragnar put on trousers made of fur, then covered himself with tar in order to kill a snake. The snake must have been somewhat bewildered by the sight of tar-smeared Travis Fimmel, yet the trousers proved to be great defense against snake venom. Ragnar, in his excitement, decided those pants were suitable for all occasions, and made a habit of wearing them. I suppose, however, that Þóra was happy enough to be able to go for a nice, serpent-free stroll and allowed her husband to continue donning such a handy protective garment. Unfortunately, once Þóra gave Ragnar two songs, Eiríkr and Agnar, she died of illness.

You will note none of the people mentioned in the passage above appear in the TV series either, and if I remember correctly neither do his hairy breeches. As a side note, none of his wives changed their surnames to “Lothbrok” for the simple reason that it wasn’t his surname, but a nickname.

Lagertha didn’t get over Ragnar all that fast, which was very helpful when he fought a civil war in Denmark. At the time she was the queen of Norway, and sent over 120 ships to help her ex. Upon her return home she killed her husband and became the ruler of Norway. This was pictured in ‘Vikings’. I think it’s safe to say Lagertha did not have much luck in love. What Saxo had to say about this was quite predictable: she “usurped the whole of his [her husband’s] name and sovereignty; for this most presumptuous dame thought it pleasanter to rule without her husband than to share the throne with him”. How presumptuous of the dame!

Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) looking awesome and magical – like always.

The third wife of Ragnar was Aslaug, daughter of legendary Sigurd, slayer of a dragon, and shieldmaiden Brynhildr. None of her parents is considered to be a real historical figure, as the slaying of the dragon might have already suggested. There was no exciting rivalry between her and Lagertha, since Lagertha was busy killing her husband and ruling Norway. But there’s more to Aslaug’s story.

Her foster father, Heimer, was concerned about the girl’s safety. He decided to make a harp, inside which he hid the little Aslaug. It is hard for me to understand why he thought a harp would be the best place to hide a child, but I suppose a piano would have been even harder to carry around. Upon their arrival in Norway Heimer stayed over for the night in the house of peasants Áke and Grima. Grima, who was certain the harp must have been filled with valuables – after all, what warrior would feel like carrying a harp around – made her husband kill Heimer. Grima must have been quite disappointed to find a girl instead of gold and jewels, nevertheless they renamed her Kráka (Crow) and raised as their own. Kráka, who was a beautiful lady, didn’t quite fit in the household, therefore Grima decided she needed to be rubbed in tar and dressed in a long hood at all times. Upon meeting Kráka Ragnar immediately 1) fell in love (he had experience with tar, which might have helped), and 2) decided to marry her. However, fickle as he was, he decided to marry Ingeborg, a daughter of a viceroy named Eysteinn Beli. Very unimpressed by his undecisiveness, well-informed Kráka decided to share the information about her noble origins with Ragnar. It is not known how she knew she was a noblewoman, but possibly the harp contained her birth certificate as well. Eysteinn, understandably, was not impressed by this change of mind. He died at the hands of Ragnar’s sons.

Four out of many sons of Ragnar (from left: David Lindström as Sigurd, Alex Høgh Andersen as Ivar The Boneless, Jordan Patrick Smith as Ubbe, Marco Ilsø as Hvitserk)

Speaking of sons, Aslaug and Ragnar had five: Ivar the Boneless; Björn Ironside; Hvitserk; Rognvald; and Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye. Sigurd was born with the image of Ouroboros (or perhaps the Midgard Serpent) in his eye due to Ragnar’s impatience to consummate the marriage despite Aslaug’s insistence to wait a bit longer. Aslaug prophecied the mark in Sigurd’s eye. She also prophecied that Ragnar’s invasion of England wouldn’t go well due to the fact his fleet was in bad shape, and she was right. Ever so careful Aslaug provided her husband with a magical shirt, which would prevent him from snake venom. Somehow, the shirt was removed after Ragnar was cast into the snake pit, and only then did he die. I assume his breeches were too worn out at this point for him to continue wearing them. Big mistake. Huge.

King Aelle looking sepulchral (Ivan Kaye)

As I mentioned, it is not known whether Ragnar actually existed at all, was an amalgam of stories of multiple other warriors, or simply a mythological figure. The confusion is aided further by the multiple stories describing his death. As we’ve seen on TV, King Ælla decided to throw him into a snake pit, but according to sources Ælla did so not knowing he was dealing with Ragnar Lothbrok himself. Ragnar must have felt rather aloof, refusing to inform Ælla about his credentials even as he was already in the snake pit. This clashes with the much less romantic version of the story, according to which Ragnar died of illness in France. He did, however, kill a lot of Franks first.

To sum things up:

– ‘Vikings’ TV series skips one wife. I’ll admit Lagertha and Aslaug are quite a handful without Thóra’s help.
– None of the children he had with Thóra and Lagertha are featured in the TV series.
– Björn Ironside was the son of Aslaug, same as all the other ones featured in the TV series. The departure from sources was necessary to create a very exciting conflict between him and (TV) Aslaug’s sons.
– While it is accepted that Ragnar’s sons existed, there is a theory (see Ben Waggoner’s book) that multiple warriors called themselves “Ragnar’s sons” in order to scare their opponents or make themselves look more important.
– As shown on TV, Ragnar demanded that Aslaug shows up in his camp “neither dressed nor undressed, neither fasting nor eating, and neither alone nor in company”, which strikes me as rather demanding seeing as he wanted to marry her, not the other way round. Honestly, Ragnar? Your way of dealing with the ladies should not be an example to any of the people reading this post. Actually, your habit of killing tons of people wherever you go shouldn’t either.

Travis Fimmel, who has no business looking THAT good

I can also exclusively reveal that Rollo, Ragnar’s brother in the TV series, never actually met Ragnar, not to mention the fact they were not related. More on Rollo soon, because any excuse is good to post photos of pre-awful-haircut-and-handlebar-moustache photos of Clive Standen.

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All photos used are promotional materials for the ‘Vikings’ TV series, property of History Channel.

Further reading:

Ben Waggoner, ‘The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok’ (mostly devoted to Ragnar’s sons due to the fact there really aren’t that many sagas concerning Ragnar himself)

Lagertha The Shieldmaiden (mythologian.net)

Ragnar’s Saga (free PDF)

TV Tropes (much better than the website name would suggest)

Picture above: 2004

I am a proud owner of not one, but TWO mirrors.

When I look in the first, I generally think, “daaaamn bae, not bad at all”. Sometimes I think “daaamn bae, you’re greying” or “daaamn bae that is a VERY impressive zit”. But that mirror tends to bump my self-esteem even if it’s because the zit is truly of galactic proportions. The second mirror, on the other hand, always makes me look grey-skinned and tired. It underlines all the wrinkles, makes my black beard look like it’s greying even in spots where it isn’t actually doing it.

The interesting thing is that two mirrors both hang in the bathroom, approximately three meters apart. The only difference is that the lamp hangs closer to the first one.

As shallow as this sounds, the “choice” of first mirror I will look at on the day can affect my self-esteem for the entire day. The “worse” one, unfortunately, hangs over the sink where I brush my teeth and put on my lenses. The “better” one is the medicine cabinet. I do not organise my day about looking in mirrors in correct order, but perhaps I should.

(also 2004)

I hope you are not surprised to hear that those mirrors are actually a metaphor. Because what I actually want to talk about is how we see our mirror images in others’ eyes. There are people whose gaze is going to make me feel better and happier. There are people who just need to look at me once for a second to make me feel like I am Quasimodo with the most impressive zits ever. If those people are strangers, I generally don’t notice their existence, since I am the type of person who gets so lost in the music in my headphones that I miss the fact I’m standing next to a dear friend who’s trying to attract my attention by performing an interpretative dance in the nude. But sometimes the mirror people feel the need to tap me on the shoulder and ensure I know their negative opinion about them. A bit like Rebecca here (read the thread):

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A good friend of mine wrote:

Only recently I realised that if I decided to talk about [thing], a lot of people would decide I am simply trying to flaunt how disgusting I am and that I should keep my thoughts to myself.

This is the kind of mirror I don’t want in my house. Or life. The mirror that not only gives you a better view of your zit and wrinkles, it actually huffs “if you could PLEASE not reflect in me, because it makes me sick, people with faces like yours belong in dark spaces with paper bags on their heads”. And then you turn around and the mirror is like “I STILL SEE YOU”, and you’re like, well fuck you mirror, and the mirror says “You are SO rude and impolite, I am just being nice and helpful, not only are you ugly but also rude AND a snowflake!”.

(I believe it was John Cleese who correctly pointed out people who call me a “snowflake” are actually saying “you’re not a sociopath, you have those ew, ew, feelings, and that is a bad thing”.)

(2010)

There is no objective way to tell whether I am a good-looking, funny, smart, well informed, interesting person, or perhaps disgusting, evil, gross. There are no objective rules for that. There actually are people who still insist Hitler was a very nice person and a misunderstood artist. (Those same people often insist Holocaust was faked, then move on to saying “but we should stage another one for everyone who isn’t like us”.) Those people are unlikely to become my BFFs. Some things can be perfectly fine inside a church, but NOT at my house – and, of course, vice versa. Even various sub-religions of Christianity can disagree on what is wrong or right. Hell, a friend of mine goes to a church where the vicar finds her perfectly…suitable, but SOME other churchgoers demand her to leave and never return. My friend, you see, is a lady of faith, she takes part in a lot of church activities, but she is also a lesbian. Another one went to her priest and asked if he found contraception to be a horrible sin. The priest was like “of course not, duh”. She mentioned this to a friend, who huffed saying “it’s the WORST of sins”. When she mentioned the priest’s opinion, the “friend” answered “well, then he is wrong”.

I don’t have friends like this. Not anymore.

There is a book called “Eleanor Oliphant Is Perfectly Fine”. The book has been covered in such thick layer of awards that it’s hard to see the cover anymore. Tons of people told me I will love it. I suffered through first 1/3, cringing internally, feeling that it’s a particularly cruel portrait of a person with mental illness. I tried and tried. People told me it gets better later. I didn’t manage to last that long. I also hear that if I force myself long enough I will start liking goat cheese. I respect this WRONG view, then order pizza with pineapple and people block me on social media.

This has no relation to whether the book is good or not. It means that when I am the mirror, this book has a lot of zits and wrinkles. It’s a matter of taste, world view, possibly even mood I am in. No book is ever going to be good enough to warrant perfect 5.0 average on Goodreads from every single reader. Not even mine. (SHOCK!) This blog is going to piss people off. Every blog is going to do it. People complain about too many kittens on the Internet, as if something like that could even be a thing. I used to write a very popular blog back in Poland. It was called “Scenes From the Life of Heterosexuals”. It was a humour blog, and quite often got linked on the front page of the most popular news portal in Poland. Every time I got that link my visits spiked, and so did the amount of nasty comments. This was the day I realised I can’t possibly satisfy anybody. On one of my previous blogs, where I wrote very openly about my life, I sometimes got one negative comment per 99 positive ones, and I suffered through sleepless nights wondering what I’ve done wrong, and why doesn’t this one person love me. Receiving comments that consisted only of expletives cured me from this. So did reminding myself that 13-year-olds can now post comments on blog posts.

This happened in 3D life as well, of course. Person one would look at me as if I was the eighth wonder of the world. Person two, thirty seconds later, would spit at my shoes. Obviously I would focus on wondering why person two doesn’t love me, and try to change myself, only to find that person two continued to hate me, and person one quickly withdrew from that stranger I suddenly became.

(2011)

The worst mirror is the one inside of me. When depressions strike, in particular, I have a tape in my head telling me over and over and over how useless I am. Attention seeker (this is especially weird when I am alone and nobody can see me “seeking attention” by staying in bed for hours). Lazy. Gross. Awful. Worthless. This is a mirror that hurts, and I can’t even break it or turn away from it. This is when I need other people to remind me those things are not true, and this is why I had to let go of people who reinforced those beliefs. Often as I am writing the editor I work with is the mirror that helps me remember what I am doing has value. I would have probably left the book alone at some point, but the editor put so much work into my book that the mirror she is motivates me every single time she sends me an email. This is how I survived writing the book for nine months, thinking it was ready, then – so far – revising and editing for 9.5 months. There is end in sight. But if it were just me, it would most probably have ended by now. Because when your mirror is your low self-esteem and impostor syndrome, it’s not going to help.

It’s okay to look in the mirror that makes me look better. It’s okay not to put myself down in disguise of being modest and well-behaved. It’s okay not to listen to stupidest advice ever – “if I can do it, so can you”. I know a person with anxiety who “got over it” and told me repeatedly “if I can do it, so can you”. He is very well-meaning and sweet, but he’s also wrong. A person without legs can’t run a marathon despite the fact you can. A person with cancer can’t stop having cancer because you don’t have it. A person with anxiety disorder can’t just decide to stop having it, even though it can be semi-controlled with medication and therapy. An introvert can’t suddenly start organising huge parties and enjoy them. (I’ve read a comment once that the person – I wish I could remember her name! – hated books that began with a person being a hermit introvert, then at the end of the book being soul of every party they went to. This comment shaped a lot of my novel-in-progress.)

(2012)

I may look better in one of my bathroom mirrors, but I still don’t look like Travis Fimmel. This, however, makes me wonder what Travis would think about his reflection in my evil mirror. Perhaps he’d quite Cindy Crawford – “even I, when I get up in the morning, don’t look like Cindy Crawford”. Perhaps he doesn’t need a mirror to confirm his exquisiteness. Perhaps he’d sigh “why can’t I look like Idris Elba”. Even mirrors change depending on who’s looking in them.

I used to Photoshop my pictures to hell and back. I stopped. I am who I am. Sometimes I am a person that looks like a go away, and then on the next picture five seconds later I’m delicious. Even if the same person took the photo. Because that’s how life rolls, baby.

PS. I also don’t look like Idris Elba.

(2013)