Tag Archives: marriage

Thursday Randutiae*

*I so totally can’t take credit for this amazing word. It belongs – as far as I can tell, and insofar as a word ‘belongs’ to anyone – to the author Kristin Cashore whose books, if you haven’t already read, I’d highly recommend. Her blog, and general existence, are pretty cool too. Go on! Check her out. I can wait.

Tum-ti-tum-ti-tum... Oh, don't mind me! Photo Credit: CJS*64 via Compfight cc

Tum-ti-tum-ti-tum… Oh, don’t mind me!
Photo Credit: CJS*64 via Compfight cc

Okay. She’s pretty cool, yes? I told you so.

Anyway. It’s Thursday. My life feels gritty, rather like it’s full of small particles of random minutiae (or, if you prefer, randutiae. See how useful this word is?) As I was pondering this, trying to come up with something slightly more nuanced to blog about, I thought…

…Whatever.

Blog about the contents of your heart and mind. That’s the point of the entire exercise, isn’t it? So, here’s what’s in my heart and mind. Bear with me. It’s been a weird and rather fragmented week.

Firstly, this morning over breakfast my husband and I developed an outline for a new format TV show named ‘Baking with Physics.’ It all began when I told him I’d bake him something later (though I made no promises, mind) and I mentioned the famous quote by Carl Sagan: ‘If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.’

Well, says the Husband, all science-like, not really. You’ve just got to invent a universe. One in which there are apple-like things.

I couldn’t really disagree with this logic.

This moved on to discussing a fun feature called Schrödinger’s Pie, where the presenter of ‘Baking with Physics’ gazes out benignly at the audience and a cat’s meowling is heard somewhere off-screen. ‘So!’ trills the presenter. ‘You can’t see the cat, or whether it’s inside or outside the pie. How does it feel to live in an existence where a cat both is, and is not, baked inside a pie?’ (Cue canned laughter and applause). We also discussed Quantum Baking, where the presenter would begin going through a recipe, demonstrating the steps, and at the end a pie would appear in his or her hands. ‘Oh, look!’ they’d say. ‘And here’s one I’m going to make tomorrow. Won’t it look lovely?’

Yes. Just be glad you don’t live with us. It’s hard enough being us.

We also discussed the strangeness of the fact that the word for ‘oat’, in most of the major European languages, falls into one of two camps (excluding Finland, because Finnish): either it’s ‘havre’ or its crew (Norwegian havre, Danish havre, Swedish havre, German hafer, Dutch haver) or the ‘av’ group (French avoine, Spanish avena, Portuguese aveia). Yet good old English has the sturdy ‘oat’. This sort of linguistic ‘family tree’ stuff really interests me. I wish I knew the reason why English has ‘oat’; it probably has something to do with the roots of the language. It’s not Latin, because in Latin ‘oat’ is ‘avena’, and the German-Dutch roots, which might have been connected to the Anglo-Saxon word, aren’t anything like ‘oat’. Apparently the word comes from Old English ate, plural atan, but – and this is the weird bit – nobody knows where the word ate comes from in Old English.

Isn’t that mad? Oat. The common, humble oat. It’s actually an International Word of Mystery, with shady roots abroad, hiding its secrets in the mists of time.

So what? You can't prove anything. I was never even *here*. Photo Credit: EsCrItUrA cOn LuZ via Compfight cc

So what? You can’t prove anything. I was never even *here*.
Photo Credit: EsCrItUrA cOn LuZ via Compfight cc

Yes. Anyway.

It’s been a pretty stressful week. I guess this is how my brain goes when pressure is applied to it – i.e. all over the place. Also, today is (or, would have been) the birthday of my friend who passed away earlier this year; you may remember him from this post I wrote about his passing. Today, he should have turned thirty-two years old. My thoughts are with him and his family, and they’re with my own beloved uncle who is still very unwell – though, miraculously, alive – and they’re with the precious fragility of all things, including peace of mind.

So, isn’t it great to be able to have a laugh, of a dark morning, about quantum bakery and the origin of the word ‘oat’? Things like that make everything worthwhile.

Have an oaty Thursday, everyone. And remember to do some baking – though not with cats, whether living or dead or both. See you back here tomorrow for some more short storying with Flash Friday – which, by the way, I hope you’ll be joining in with one of these weeks? Yes, I’m looking at you! Get those inspiration engines churning and get stuck in. What do you have to lose?

 

Writerish Wednesday

Today’s words – two girls  ::  thick braid  ::  peel  ::  heavy traffic  ::  allergic reaction – are unashamedly borrowed from CAKE.shortandsweet‘s Wednesday Write-In #3 (originally held in September 2012). CAKE has been offline for the past few weeks, and I’ve missed it terribly. Let’s hope it comes back soon.

two girls :: thick braid :: peel :: heavy traffic :: allergic reaction

Image: lovethispic.com

Image: lovethispic.com

All The World’s a Mountain

She carried the thick braid with her everywhere she went. It lived in her pocket, wrapped up in a fine linen cloth, tightly bound around itself like a never-ending loop.

She didn’t look at it very often, but its weight was always there.

‘What is with this rush hour, huh?’ muttered her neighbour, a tall and heavy-set man with skin so dark it absorbed the day. His voice made her fingers tremble, and she realised she’d been clutching at her coat, squeezing the lump of hair within it like a totem. ‘You ever seen such heavy traffic?’ The bus they were riding in sat, honking, amid a sea of metal and glass. The windows were beginning to run with moisture, and the air was too heavy to breathe.
She did her best to smile at him, but he – already forgetting her – rose sharply to his feet.

‘Hey! Yo! Driver, man! What’s happenin’ up there?’ He squeezed his way past, his elbow slamming into her shoulder. He did not bother to apologise, and she felt something sharp at her heart. Another layer of her patience began to peel away.

She ignored the yelling that kicked off around the driver’s cabin as she smothered the fear, the growing anger, the rising rage.

Her hand found the braid again. Through the fabric of her coat it felt cold, and wet, and heavy. She squeezed it, clenching her eyes against the noise and the heat and the stench

No two girls could be more alike, mama had always said. Born the same day, each with hair like evening and eyes like the dawn. We were friends. Always friends. Our hands fitted together like they’d been carved as one, and we were so rarely at odds that the older folk smiled and said of us that we could read one another’s minds.

But what is sweet and lovely at five is not so at fifteen, and still less at twenty.

My friend’s mama took her away before she turned twenty-one and sold her to a man from the mountains. He became a husband more bear and hair and growl than human being. She called out to me, her words not formed by tongue and teeth; I heard her, but not with my ears. She was so far away. To say I missed her is to make a mockery of the words. An oozing void gaped within me where my heart had been.

And then, one day, her voice stopped.

I packed a bag and left, mid night, on feet grown so used to silence that mama never knew. She slept as I climbed out the window; she slept as I slid into the shadows. She slept as I made my way to the mountains.

I arrived as they pulled her from the lake. Her hair – my hair – dark with dark water, sodden with cold, swollen and dripping and dead, flopped around her neck like a serpent. Her braid was neat and perfect, but her eyes were sealed.

‘She had an allergic reaction,’ blustered her husband. ‘She ate some berry or other and ran into the tarn, out of her senses. Stupid townish woman.’

They commiserated and sympathised and filled him full of their sorrow, but I could see the laughter at the core of him. He’d had what he wanted, and he’d got what he wanted.

Before they buried her, I took her hair.

After they buried her, the mountain man vanished.

My bag has grown threadbare over the years. My clothes are clean but out of date. My name changes every time I am asked for it. I leave no trail.

And I look into the eyes of every man I see, waiting for the spark of recognition. When I find it, I will know what to do.

She sweeps to her feet and grabs her battered travelling case from the overhead rack. The braid drags down her coat on one side, making it swing. She strides up the aisle and asks to be let off the bus in a voice she doesn’t recognise, and before he knows what he’s doing the driver has pulled the lever, the door has hissed aside and she is off, striding between the rows of unmoving cars.

A man – shrunken now, and shaven, eyes hidden by a cap – watches her pass. Before the door can slide closed again he runs for it, squeezing through the narrowing gap and plunging out into the melting light of a city day. His own pocket is heavy, but not with a token of love.

He was born to the life of a tracker. All the world’s a mountain, if you need it to be.

 

Churn ‘Em Out, Stack ‘Em High

A few days ago, a friend and I were discussing – what else? – writing, specifically the thorny issue of money, and how to marry your writing with your desire to earn. My friend is also a writer, thankfully in a genre that is vastly different to mine – I say ‘thankfully’ because she writes extremely well, and with a savvy eye toward the business-related aspects of the craft. She has experience of self-publishing (at which I’m a total newbie, though I’m learning), and has been a source of support and advice to me for years.

Gimme an S! *S!* Gimme a J! *J!* Image: chatwithrellypops.wordpress.com

Gimme an S! *S!* Gimme a J! *J!* Image: chatwithrellypops.wordpress.com

However, the other day I learned something new about my friend. She told me that she has also published (under a pseudonym) a romance novella, which was, apparently, easy to write, didn’t take up a whole lot of time, and – importantly – earned her a small advance, paid by an American publisher who churns out hundreds of similar novellas every month. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to make it interesting.

‘You should try it,’ she urged. ‘What have you got to lose?’

Interestingly, this is something I have considered before. It’s almost a cliché that writers of romance novels earn packets of money, and writing a good one will propel you into a financial stratosphere of heights heretofore unimagined. There is a huge market for romance novels, because they include everything which is good about humanity in their rather broad church – love, acceptance, growth, learning about oneself, happiness, contented marriage, stable families, happy endings, fulfillment, partnership, personal power – and reading one must be akin to taking a warm bath.

I say ‘must be’ because – and I swear this is the truth – I have never, in my long and eventful life, to the best of my knowledge ever, read a romance novel – as in, a novel wherein the romance is the primary plot feature. Not if you don’t count ‘Twilight’, at least, or some of the YA books I’ve read which feature romantic relationships. I’m talking about the Mills & Boon-type books, the Harlequin Romances, the Nicholas Sparks-type books which (and I don’t mean to offend anyone by saying this) usually bring me out in a rash. I am not a fan of romance novels, which is not to say I am not a fan of romance. I love to love. I just don’t like to read about it. I’m not even a big fan of romantic movies. The only films which might broadly be described in these terms which I can remember really enjoying were ‘(500) Days of Summer’ and ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.’ Technically, I guess, you could call these films romantic, but not really.

Shyeah right. As if I'd be in a romcom. Come on! Ramona Flowers, lead character in 'Scott Pilgrim Vs The World', as played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Image: rottentomatoes.com

Shyeah right. As if I’d be in a romcom. Come on!
Ramona Flowers, lead character in ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs The World’, as played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Image: rottentomatoes.com

But the unarguable fact is: romantic books and movies sell, by the bucketload. They are popular. The authors who write them know what they’re doing, the people who read them know what they want, and it’s a perfect symbiotic relationship.

But here’s the rub.

I firmly believe you can’t write well in a genre unless you’re fully immersed in it, and unless you’ve read widely in it, and unless you’re intimately familiar with its rules and conventions (because, much as we might hate to admit it, every genre has them); so, how on earth would a newbie like me write a successful story in a field in which she has no experience? And, more importantly, should a newbie like me even try?

If I were to write a romance novel, or novella, it would take a huge amount of research. It would involve me changing my usual style, employing different techniques, relying more on description and interiority than dialogue, perhaps; it might involve me toning down my usual snark (which works well in kids’ writing, but not so much in romance, I suspect.) In short, it wouldn’t be as simple as sitting down at the keyboard and bashing at it for a couple of weeks until a fully-fledged novella falls out. Now, in theory, none of this is a bad thing – changing up your writing style, experimenting with new forms, stretching yourself as a writer, and finding a different sort of voice are all good things, which can only add to your skillset. However, I still find myself reluctant to try.

My reluctance stems, I think, from my conviction that it is not fair, nor right, to attempt to cash in on a genre merely because it’s widely perceived to be ‘easy.’ I don’t believe it’s fair to assume that readers of a genre won’t spot a cynical attempt to make money from them; I don’t believe it’s right to expect them to accept second-rate work, and I feel that my own attempts to write in this genre would, by definition, be second-rate. When I write, I do so because I love it and I feel I have something to say. It comes from somewhere very personal and secret. It is me. Writing anything else would be dishonest.

Having said that, I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with writing, say, a non-fiction piece which requires research. If someone wanted me to write two thousand words on the history of lavatory seats, or the precise mechanism by which a safety belt operates, or the relative frothiness of one brand of washing-up liquid over another, I feel sure I could deliver. I have no particular expertise in any of these fields, and I am not an expert in non-fiction, either. But I’d find this less challenging than writing a romance novel. So, then, is it more to do with the fact that not only am I inexperienced in the genre, but I don’t want to engage with it? It’s not so much the research, perhaps, as the subject matter I object to.

Why is that?

Hmmm... Image: theguardian.com

Hmmm…
Image: theguardian.com

I don’t consider myself to be a prude, or a literary snob, but perhaps I am. I don’t like to think that any sort of literature is ‘inferior’ to another; if people are reading, and enjoying it, then it’s all to the good. But, having said that, I rarely read outside my own ‘comfort zone.’ The idea of reading romance novels in order to prepare myself to write one just seems crass and artless, and even slightly suspect.

By the way, I’m not including my friend in any of this. She is a broad-scope writer with fingers in many pies, and her portfolio of skills and experience vastly outstrips mine. Writing a romance novella, for her, would involve none of this mental machination, and I’m sure her work is excellent. I hope it sells by the truckload.

Image: depositphotos.com

Image: depositphotos.com

Then again, perhaps I could be induced. What’s a little research, after all?

One thing I do know is: if I ever do write a romance novel, none of you will ever know about it. It’ll be written under a nom-de-plume so exotic that nobody, not even my mother, will recognise it, and the only people who’ll be aware of a connection between it and me will be the tax authorities. It’s not that I’d be embarrassed by anything I’d write, but because doing it incognito would give me more freedom to say what I like – and that’s always a good freedom to have.

Does anybody have any particular expertise in romantic fiction? Any tips or pointers for me? Or, even, any suggestions for an utterly fabulous pen-name?

 

Is it Tuesday already?

Here’s the problem with promising to be back on blogging duty on a particular day: that day comes, and your brain is still a gently steaming pile of scrambled egg.

Unfortunately, such is the reality of my life today.

I had such a Weekend. There’s nothing for it but to come right out and call it the best I’ve ever had. There were vows, tears, laughter, songs sung, food eaten and many hundreds of hugs exchanged, and a celebration of shared love so beautiful that it made me glad to be alive, and human, and me. And that doesn’t happen all that often.

Image: thegospelcoalition.org

Image: thegospelcoalition.org

So, it wasn’t my own wedding day – that’s old news. But it was the wedding day of someone I love so much that I don’t have a word for it, and – in some ways – witnessing their joy was even better than going through it myself.

So, for lots of reasons, I’m not fully functional today. I have Plans to tell you all about query letters and how to make the most of your work when it comes time to try to get the attention of the publishing industry, and how to keep going when it seems like there are no more corners left to turn, but – yeah. You’re going to have to wait until my brain regenerates.

And that, my friends, might take some time.

 

 

 

Takin’ a Hi-Atus

Hello, fellow humans. Happy Friday.

Image: pinterest.com

Image: pinterest.com

I, because I am a lucky sod, am going away this weekend for a wonderful family celebration. This is fantastic, but because it means I won’t be near a computer from – *checks watch* – about fifteen minutes ago, I’m afraid I have to put my blog on hiatus for a few days. I will (I promise) be back next Tuesday, whereupon I shall be expounding about submissions and agents and cover letters and lots of other fantastic stuff. Be there or be one of these:

image: bestclipartblog.com

image: bestclipartblog.com

(Does anyone even know what that means anymore? Did anyone ever know what it meant? Anyway. Y’all know what I’m sayin’.)

Stay well and peachy-happy until we meet again. Do plenty of reading. Do almost as much writing. Do plenty of laughing. And remember to give a few hugs, here and there, because they’re awesome.

Image: advantagepress.com

Image: advantagepress.com

Wednesday Write-In #81

This week’s words for CAKE.shortandsweet’s Wednesday Write-In were:

drawn :: sitting comfortably :: sag :: hiss :: ship-shape

image: sittingwithsorrow.typepad.com

image: sittingwithsorrow.typepad.com

I Am As I Am

I am sitting, comfortably tucked into my favourite chair.

I am watching the world pass, the people outside like clouds on a breezy day.

I am here. i am here i am here i am here

My house is ship-shape; I know where everything is, and nothing takes long to find.

When it comes dark, my curtains will be drawn, and nothing will disturb them until I do.

My bookshelves sag with tomes read and unread, and my walls are clean and bare.

My fire is a bright and jaunty hiss, and I am warm. I have enough.

I am fine, just as I am.

You’re fine, just as you are. Sure, you’ve plenty of nephews and nieces and they’re nearly as good as having your own, aren’t they? And you’ve a gorgeous wee house, you couldn’t keep it like a new pin if you had a clatter of youngsters running about getting their sticky mitts all over everything and knocking things over and widdling on the carpet and throwing up all over the place and coming in from school with a big hug for you and throwing wrapping paper everywhere on Christmas Day and winning prizes and gaining degrees and getting married and going on holidays and writing to you and sending you pictures of their lives and bringing their own children to meet you – ‘here’s Granny!’ – and emptying the fridge, now could you? Wouldn’t you rather have a bit of comfort in your old age and a bit of peace and quiet and as much you-time as you could ask for? I’d kill for a bit of a break from it, all the madness and the rushing and the phone-calls and the dramas and the weddings and the christenings and the birthdays. You don’t know how lucky you are, so you don’t!

lucky lucky lucky am i

And I am fine, just as I am.

I have no other way to be.

 

Nothin’ to See Here…

So, it’s that time of year again. That pink, beribboned, heart-shaped balloon, teddy-bears-’round-every-corner time of year.

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with showing your loved ones how much you appreciate them. Don’t get me wrong. But I shudder to think how many people only say ‘I love you’ to someone else on this one day of the year.

Image: profmuluka.com

Image: profmuluka.com

I love to love people. I think love is the most important thing in the world. I love everyone I meet, just a little bit (well, all right. Some more than others.) I love to tell my friends and family that I love them, and – even though it can sometimes be scary – I have found that taking the risk to tell someone they’re loved is, in most cases, worth it. You don’t always get the love back – and you have to accept that – but you nearly always make someone else’s life a little easier.

It doesn’t have to be about grand gestures, or gifts. It doesn’t have to involve spending money at all, in fact. Love’s in the unasked-for cup of tea that you hand to someone when they look like they need it, or the favour done to the best of your ability, or the chore completed without any fuss because you know your loved one hates to do it. It’s in the quiet time, sitting side by side just enjoying being together. It’s in the long walks and the warm conversation; it’s in the moment when you pay someone a visit; it’s in the phonecall or text message when someone you know is going through a hard time. It’s the hand in yours when the world seems dark. It’s the playing along with a child when they want to bring you into their imagination. It’s the hug, or the gentle touch, or the smile just when it’s needed; it’s the switching off of your own thoughts to listen closely to what another person is saying. It’s the hearing of another, and the validation that their words are important. It’s the gentle attempt to understand, and the respectful acceptance of another person, and the assurance that yes, I am here – no matter what.

I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day, mainly because I believe every day should be Valentine’s Day. We should remember to love above all else every day of the year, and remember that love takes many forms. Most especially, we should remember every day never to take all the love we’re lucky to have in our lives for granted.

So, I’m not wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day. Have a happy, love-filled day. Then, go and have another tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that…

**

This Friday, for the Flash! Friday challenge, our compulsory element was ‘Patience’, and our prompt image was this:

Kolmanskop, in the Namib Desert. Image: lovethesepics.com

Kolmanskop, in the Namib Desert.
Image: lovethesepics.com

So, in honour of it being Valentine’s Day, I wrote a story about death. As you do.

Deathtrap

Every breath boiled. Sweat trickled down my spine. The trail was clear, her deep footsteps beckoning. Their darkness calling to mine.

Soon, it would be over.

A tumbledown house swam into view. Sun-bleached, half-rotted, its front door stood open. Paint peeled off its walls.

I paused, breathing hard.

Then, I ducked inside.

In a dim room, half-filled with sand, she waited. Her body bore my scars. I settled my hand around my gun, and my skin prickled.

‘So. Death comes, even for one like me.’ Sand, gritty and sharp, began to whirl like multitudes of tiny knives as she spoke. I spat and blinked it out. ‘Each grain is a life,’ she hissed. ‘A life you took. A life you touched. A life you destroyed!’

‘Not my problem.’ I fired.

But my bullet became a desert wind, and my gun crumbled to dust.

‘I have waited so long for you,’ she smiled, as I shattered, sparkling, at her feet.

**

I’m off to batten down the hatches – another storm is predicted to roll in off the Atlantic today, and I want to try to be ready for it – and to get through my words. I am rewriting one book while trying to do a final, final draft on another, and planning out my strategy for submissions, and trying to keep everything straight in my head, and it’s not easy.

But I love it.

Of course.

Image: catziac.wordpress.com

Image: catziac.wordpress.com