Tag Archives: rest

Slaking the Book Drought

Until yesterday, I was (from certain angles, and in the right light) a withered shadow of my former self. I was sloping about my life like a wraith, without direction, without purpose, without meaning, man. There may even have been wailing.

The reason? Why, I hadn’t read anything in ever so long, of course. I was pining for input, just like Johnny Five.

Iiiiinputttt!Image: marketingpilgrim.com

Image: marketingpilgrim.com

I think, in some ways, I’m sort of an addictive personality. For this reason, I’m glad that I don’t indulge in anything terribly harmful (chocolate isn’t classed as ‘terribly harmful’, right?) I have a feeling that I tend to be obsessive about certain things, and that it applies to destructive, as well as constructive, behaviour. Being aware of it is pretty much my only tool in the fight against it, but it’s a good tool to have. This obsessive tendency definitely applies to my need for words, whether reading them or writing them. Sometimes, though, there just isn’t room in my life for an obsession with reading them and writing them at the same time.

You’d think, being a person who devotes their life to words, that I’d read more than I used to, wouldn’t you? In fact, in my previous life, I had a long (long) commute to and from my job, and I had lunch-breaks, and things like that. Lately, though, the old compulsion to write has taken me over completely. I do so much of it that I end up with a stooped spine, gritty eyes, thumping head and spinning brain at the end of every day, and my mind is so stuffed full of my own words that there’s just no room in there for anyone else’s. Overall, I think I probably did more reading in my old life than I do now.

So, that’s why I took a day off yesterday, and trekked off across the sunny, cold countryside, and ended up in Dublin. I saw two friends, I drank pots of tea, I laughed a lot and I found myself in a bookshop. It was like that moment in ‘The Little Prince’ when they’ve been walking through the desert, and they come across the well, and they drink deep. Just like that.

So, I bought three books. I started the first one on the train home, and by the time I went to bed last night I’d finished it. If I’d put the book into a blender with a little olive oil and whizzed it until it was a paste and then drank it, I couldn’t have absorbed it any faster. The book was called ‘Anna Dressed in Blood’, and it’s by Kendare Blake, and it looks like this:

Image: readingunderthestars.blogspot.com

Image: readingunderthestars.blogspot.com

I’d heard about this book on Twitter a few weeks ago, and thought ‘Hmm. That might be worth checking out.’ Turns out, it was. I really enjoyed it. It tells the story of Cas Lowood, a young man who feels he has inherited his father’s ability (and duty) to dispatch unquiet spirits who disturb the living into ‘the next plane’; he’s not actually sure where he’s sending their souls, just that he has to get them away from the world, where they are causing pain. A clear distinction is drawn between ghosts who do no harm, and those powerful enough to become corporeal and who are stuck in their own agony, and who feel compelled to draw the living into their vengeful rage. Anna, who was murdered in 1956, is one of these harmful spirits; she is filled not only with fury but also with some sort of strange and unexplained power which allows her to do incredible damage to anyone foolish enough to cross her.

The story takes us back through Anna’s short life, the reasons for her rage and her amazing power, and – of course – through Cas’ own life and his relationship with his father, who was killed when Cas was a child. Cas’ mother is a great character, sympathetic and warm, protective yet respectful of her son’s need to fulfill his calling, and the friends Cas makes in Thunder Bay are made unique enough not to be ‘stock’ characters. For instance, Carmel – the beautiful, blonde ‘queen of the school’ whom Cas befriends on his first day in order to be close to the source of all knowledge and gossip, and to hopefully learn more about Anna and her ghost – turns out to be the least simpering and girly character you could imagine. Despite her prettiness, and her girliness, and the fact that she is adored by every male she meets, she displays serious muscle and courage in this story, defending those whom she loves and putting herself in danger to try to save others. I really liked her. Thomas, the ‘geeky’ sidekick, is a bit more one-dimensional, but he’s still a lovely creation – a young man who is also a witch and a (sometime) telepath, he does not run from his destiny but embraces it, danger and all. There is quite a bit of gore in the story, but I found it got a bit tamer as the book drew to a close. Perhaps I was just more used to it by then!

There are several different traditions, or schools of magic, woven together here – we have the ‘natural’ magic practised by Cas’ mother (of the herbs, tinctures and oils variety), to the voodoo practiced by Thomas’ grandfather and several other characters, to the unexplained and very disturbing rituals performed by a character central to Anna’s demise. I liked this, actually – I enjoyed reading about the interactions between all these ‘magics’, and how they all feed into one another. And, importantly, though I don’t normally like reading about ghosts, because I’m a fraidy-cat, this story did not keep me awake all night peering myopically into the shady corners of my bedroom, elbowing my husband awake every five minutes to check out a ‘noise’. It’s scary, but the friendships and love between the characters, and the warm familial connections described between Cas and his mother and Thomas and his grandfather, keep it from being too scary. So, overall, I’d recommend this book, with the caveat that there are several instances of ‘language’; I don’t mind reading those sorts of words, but I’m sure there are some people who do. So, this is fair warning! Also, as the book cover itself says, this story is definitely not for younger readers. It’s absolutely a book for older teenagers and adults, despite the fact that it’s about a bunch of high-schoolers.

I’ll read the other books as soon as possible, and I’m sure I’ll waffle on about those when the time comes. For now, though, my brain and eyes and soul feel better for having a day away from the screen yesterday, and I’ve made myself a promise not to stay away from reading for so long ever, ever again.

Knowing me, though, I’ll probably get lost in a story again later today and forget all my promises to myself.

P.S. If you’re still here, maybe check out the latest issue of ‘The Bohemyth’. There’s a story in it by a person you might recognise. Though, if you didn’t like ‘Animal Farm’ (my story, not Orwell’s, o’course), chances are you won’t like this one, either. I do apologise!

Another Draft Done

On Saturday, I had the chance to knuckle down and focus on finishing Draft 1 of ‘Eldritch’. I’m glad to say that I managed to see it through, and I’m largely happy with how it all worked out. The final word count ended up at just over 54,000 words which – after completing the beast that was ‘Tider’ – seems so short and slight as to barely count as a book at all. I feel that ‘Eldritch’ is a delicate story, ready to fly away at the slightest wind, but that doesn’t reflect the effort and planning that’s gone into it.

A little bit like this!

A little bit like this!

I hope this is just a side-effect of having coming straight from a mind-bendingly difficult and much longer project, and not a reflection on the quality or depth of the story. If nothing else, I’m so pleased to have finally brought two stories that have been living in my brain for years to the page (even if one of them hasn’t yet worked out quite how I’d like, but I’ll whip it into shape before too long). As well as that, it’s a huge buzz to know that the ideas I had for them, so long ago, were strong enough to stand as fully-written stories. It’s one thing having an idea, and something entirely different making it work as a story – as anyone who writes will know.

I’m not used to feeling like an ‘underwriter’ – by which I don’t mean, of course, someone who works with insurance, but instead a person who takes too few words to tell a story – because I’m so used to being an overly wordy writer instead. I’m pretty sure I’ll add some words in when I come to working through Draft 2. I think I was focusing on getting the story out of my brain at the expense of describing and creating a world, so there’s a bit of room there to fill in some of the gaps. It’s a nice feeling, though, to think you have room to expand on your idea rather than having to cut some of it away. I quite like it.

I’m taking a couple of days off and going to visit my parents for a little bit of ‘shore leave’, and then I’ll dive right into the second book in the trilogy I’ve planned for our ‘Eldritch’ heroes Jeff and Joe. Its working title is ‘Omphalos’, though – as with everything – that’s subject to change. I’m planning to title the final book ‘Necromancer’, but that’s so far down the road that I’m not completely sure about it yet. It’s hard to find titles (particularly single-word titles) that encompass what the book is about without giving too much away! I’m already trying to imagine book jackets for these volumes, and thinking how I’d like them to look, one day. I hope that doesn’t come across as arrogant or delusional! I just find it easier to focus on a dream if there’s something definite to attach it to in my head. Seeing the finished book, even if it’s only in my mind’s eye, will help me bring it to completion.

I’m planning to work a bit on ‘Omphalos’ before I start to go back and edit ‘Eldritch’ (though, even as I type those words, I realise my brain is screaming at me to fix ‘just this one little thing!’ at the end of ‘Eldritch’ – I may not last that long!) I think I’ll spend the second half of this week doing up a plan for ‘Omphalos’ and working out the story arc. I mean, I know where I want the story to go and I know where I want the characters to end up, but knowing how to structure that over twenty-something chapters is a different thing.

Anyway, I guess this post is just to say ‘farewell’ for a few days, and I hope you’ll all be here waiting for my return. Will someone please make sure to have the kettle on? I’ll be dying for a cup of tea after all my travels. Oh, and make sure to keep the fire stoked up – there’s nothing that helps the stories to spin like a good warm blaze in the hearth.

Image: coucoumelle.blogspot.com

Image: coucoumelle.blogspot.com

Sniffles on a Cold, Cold Day

Hello! *cof*

I’ve been wiped out with illness for the last few days – I’ve been coughing, sneezing, wheezing, feeling sorry for myself and grouching a lot since Friday, and I haven’t had the energy to even think about writing a blog post. To be honest, I don’t really have the energy to think about it now, either, but I just wanted to check in with everyone and say ‘hey – I’m still here! Just about.’

It’s what I deserve for crowing last week about how I was ahead of schedule with the WiP, I guess. Pride comes before a fall, and all that! There are one or two small things I want to change before I get it printed up for its final revision, but I don’t think I’ll be doing those changes today. Well, this is assuming I can keep myself away from the keyboard – something tells me the edits will be like spoiled brats all day, kicking at the back of my brain and whingeing about how they never get what they want, until I give in and just do them. In my medicinal haze this weekend, too, I found myself having some ideas about the sequel I’d like to write to this current WiP, and the first line of an entirely new story scribbled itself across my brain, entirely unbidden, just when I had nothing in reach with which to make a note of it. I wrote down as much of it as I could remember as soon as I managed to struggle towards a pen and paper, but something tells me it’s lacking the same sparkling intrigue as the words my germ-addled brain supplied me with. Hopefully, I’ll get back to it, one of these decades.

This weekend, I finally got to watch some episodes of one of the most iconic TV shows ever made, and one which I’ve wanted to check out for some time. It was an unintended consequence of our attempts to start our Christmas shopping, which we did on Saturday. We weren’t very successful, mainly because I was delirious with fever, and couldn’t think straight due to the stupidly loud thumping music being played everywhere, but we did manage to pick up a box set of ‘The Wire’. I realise we’re about a decade behind the times with this one, but better late than never! It is just as good as everyone told me, but extremely different from what I’d expected. I suppose when you’re used to watching shows like ‘Law and Order’, cop dramas where the entire story arc, from crime to investigation to court appearance to sentencing all happens in one episode, a show like ‘The Wire’ seems almost soporific. I’m looking forward to learning from the show, though, as I’m sure it has lessons to impart about storytelling and maintenance of audience interest in characters and plot. Plus, one of the episodes we watched last night showed two of the officers examining a crime scene using only expletives to communicate with each other. It was, I have to admit, hilarious.

The Wire TV show McNulty looking out of car window

In other news – it’s an utterly freezing, completely miserable day here. My husband just phoned to tell me he’s stuck in the longest traffic tailback he’s ever seen, and the news is full of reports about flooding, impassable roads, and terrible conditions. I suppose life could be worse, then, than having to wrap up warm and keep myself stocked with Lemsip. You’re never completely ‘switched off’ when you’re trying to write or finish a book, really, and I’m sure I’ll spend most of my day with my head in my WiP, trying to tweak it until I just can’t tweak any more. I am grateful, though, for the fact that I can do this without having to face the Arctic outdoors!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful start to the week, and that you’re all in good health. Good luck with whatever it is you find yourself doing today!