he just had to go and smirk, didn’t he?

All bookworms have pet peeves. Here are a few of mine:

smirking

“So you love me, do you?” said Tom with a smirk.

When a character smirks, I assume that a) they are probably telling an off colour joke or b) they are a villain. You’ll forgive me for getting a little annoyed at a hero who has the downright gall to smirk his line. It is my firm belief that there is nothing attractive about smirking.

There is, however, a great deal of satisfaction to be had imagining a hearty slap to a smirking face.

love triangles

It was hard on the poor girl. She loved Harry with all of her heart. This was odd, for only last Saturday she had told Jonny the same thing. We were forced to conclude that she was a Time  Lord.*

A human being can love more than one person. This is a simple truth. I understand it. What I don’t understand is: a) how a heroine can be selfish enough to keep dithering between who she really, really loves (keeping both unfortunates hanging there, hoping that they will be picked. Gosh, it’s as if this is some literary form of The Bachelorette) and b) the two love interests actually put up with it.

Love conquers all, it seems – including self-respect.

sweet children who are surely born for plot devices

Toni ran up to the tortured stranger. She flung her arms about his knees and declared in a beautiful, innocent voice: “Wuv heals all dos nasty wounds. Wanna marry my mummy?”

You know what I’m talking about. The children who are unnatural in their sweetness, who are always good-tempered, who react to complete strangers (most always the hero/heroine) as if they’ve known them for yonks.

When this happens, I find myself quite puzzled and doubt my experience with all small children. I mean, this isn’t natural behaviour. Is it?


*For those not enamoured with Doctor Who: a Time Lord has two hearts. Personally, I thought the reference was brilliant. *cough* I am, of course, magnificently humble.

an afternoon writing

Last week-end, I indulged myself by keeping a written log of an afternoon of writing. I aimed to reach the lofty heights of 5,000 words. Did I? you ask.

Ha. Haha. Hahahaha.


3:21pm Today is beautiful; the sun is shining, it’s not too hot nor too cold. I’ve been out on my walk to the shops, have spent some time outside and have now sat myself down with apple juice and water. I’ve selected music but I’m listening to ‘Still Alive’ on YouTube (Portal, anyone? I’ve never played it nor realised it had music like this).

3:43pm I got trapped on YouTube. Have now extracted myself. Peter Hollins … I blame you.

4:16pm (Word count: 723) Short break. K is yelling at S and he’s like ‘wow, what’s this, woman?’ It’s all very dramatic AND I DIDN’T PLAN THIS AT ALL. As a side-note, I’m really enjoying listening to the Legend of Tarzan music.

4:20pm There is a chair over there. When I hit … something on my word count, I’m going over there. Right. Back to the writing. Listening to: Tarzan and RainyMood.

4:36pm (Word count: 1,071) Moving to the chair. One fifth of the way towards my goal. K and S are staring murder at each other. Not sure if the Tarzan music is distracting or helping.

5:27pm (Word count: 2,263) Right, I’m going for a break. My right eye is protesting, RainyMood is confusing me because it’s beautifully sunny outside and yet I hear rain in my ears. My wrists are aching.

5:55pm (Came back from break) I’m outside. My eye is threatening to make my brain ache BUT WE WILL FORGE ONWARDS! Music? Play. Fingers? Type. Brain? Please, please, please work.

6:40pm (Word count: 3,263) I’m moving back indoors; my laptop battery needs charging and I think small beasties might be climbing into my shorts. NOOOOOO! Where’s a knight in battered armour and a fly swatter when you need one?

OWWWW! Tried to get up. Tried to take my earbuds out. Yanked at my earring instead of my earbud. IT HURT! IT REALLLY HURT!

7:00pm (Break is over.)

7:36pm (Word count: 3654) Oh, it’s getting a wee bit harder. I typed something to the effect of ‘green moss covered moss of the stones’. What? Whyyy! Having a small break because my brain no functioning. I think I’m going to stick K in a landslide. Not sure if I’m going to have her followed by Psycho Man BECAUSE I HAVEN’T INTRODUCED EVEN THE THOUGHT OF HIM.

I need tea.

11:25pm Oops. I fell into the massive trap of ‘Soldiers Coming Home’ videos and had to use some facial wipes as tissues because I was blubbering like a baby.

I think, as it’s so late, that I may as well call it a night. Sleep and books are calling.

final word count: 3,654

tenses: a conversation with myself

I sit at my desk, frowning at my laptop screen. (Contrary to my imagination’s offering, my laptop does not glare back at me.)

“Which tense,” I ask the room, “is best for this tale?”

No one replies. I am alone. (‘Forever and ever and ever,’ chants my Muse.) My sorrows are drowned in a gulp of cold tea.

I look at my nails (the paint is chipping yet I have vast hopes that it makes me look professional and efficient. I am delusional. It does neither.) “First-person, present tense is more intimate. You really get into the character’s head. However, it’s very constrictive. At least, it is when I do it.”

(A moment is spent in resenting writers who breeze through life with marvelous ease and appalling grace.)

“What about the third-person, past tense?” Ness lent back in her chair and sent a questioning look at her soft toys. They did not answer. Ness knew crushing disappointment.

She tapped her fingers on her desk. “It’s more freeing but it can seem … dry?”

“And yet, I like using first-person point of view,” I admitted, feeling a strange mixture of guilt and pride. “But it can occasionally seem immature and childish. And yet I’ve got to choose something or this Writing Stalemate will last forever and ever and then flop horribly and die.”

(‘Like your dreams,’ said my Muse in my head.)

“All right,” Ness says, brightening. “What about a compromise? What about third-person, present tense? The best of both worlds!”

She thinks about it for a moment, but soon enough, the glorious vision collapses in on itself and she sees a stark future, trapped in a tense she doesn’t want, with a story that tramps along like a lame dog with halitosis.

“That’s it,” you say with malice and a terrible look at all your books with all their smug, perfectly written tenses. “I’m doing second-person, present tense.”

You make a cup of tea. The tea brings clarity. You frown. You flounder. “Bother!” you exclaim. “But third-person is so … and first-person could be … and … and …”

“I should just write poems,” you say, staring at the gloomy wasteland of your decaying future.

“Please don’t,” your Muse pleads.

You don’t listen. “Or to-do lists. Or telephone books. Or obituaries – it would be impossible to choose the wrong tense with those.”

Your Muse snorts. “Actually, knowing you …”

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
– William Faulkner

// home again

I brought forty-six books home with me. And a pair of glorious heels and five packs of sweets, but … forty-six books … I feel like a proper bookworm.

booksfromusa

a properly penniless bookworm, that is

The check-in luggage weight limit was 23kg. I made it 22.8kg. I high-fived the check-in bloke and did not gush about Travel Panic, The Lift My Friends Gave Me and how so very thankful and relieved I was that the bag and my carry-on case had scraped by their weight limits.

I would never do something that undignified.

So incredibly tired and rambling a mile a minute, I arrived home at the obscene hour of eight in the morning without a wink of sleep from the night before. (I don’t sleep on planes. I do, however, talk to Grandfatherly Russians and accidently slap seatmates in the face with my jacket.)

It was an amazing six weeks across the pond, but don’t worry – I shan’t bore you with stories, though I am rather proud of fist-bumping Mickey Mouse and singing (magnificently off key, of course) ‘Country Roads’ as we went through the Blue Ridge Mountains and West Virginia.

cupcakewars

Also – Cup Cake Wars. ’nuff said

Oh! And I visited my happiest place on earth, and no – that’s not Disneyworld (which was fun but my word did the queues never end, did the heat never cease, and was Tinker Bell always so. astoundingly. perky?). It masquerades as ‘The Book Barn’. It is both a graveyard of trees and a magical world of endless stories. Also, it has free donuts.

moundofbooks

do not trust the donuts.

It’s been an epic second trip across the pond; apart from mammal riding (donkey, camel, horse, whale) I think I’ve used every form of transport there is. Oh, and guess what? My cab driver wasn’t a killer robot. And yes, I caught that first train. But the second one? To go the airport? To come home?

Ah. Yes. That one.

They had to replace the engine.

how have you been?

// adieu and farewell

One of the advantages of having a vivid imagination is that writing can be such fun; you’re never quite sure what will happen next in a story. But the disadvantages?

Ah. Yes. Those.

By the time this post will be live, I will probably be on my way to America. Probably. Remember that ‘vivid imagination’ I was just telling you about? It can be a bit of a pain.

For instance, I have a suitcase. It’s pink. It just fits the airline’s regulations for a carry on case. In my mind, that suitcase is taken away from me. It doesn’t fit. A stern member of the cabin crew is unforgiving and stoic. They charge me my first-born child, a fortune and my soul to put it in the hold.

Or, I get to America. And miss my train. An American train. I have enough trouble with English public transport, but American?! Everything is bigger there, is it not? INCLUDING MY MISHAPS! I’ll miss my train and the next train (yes, I’ve booked two trains just in case) and then I am stranded in America. In a big city. On my own.

I’ll get hopelessly lost and it will be dark and my life will end in one big hodgepodge of embarrassment and regret.

Or, I’ll climb into a cab only to find that *plot twist!* it isn’t a cab.

Do you see the pitfalls of a vivid imagination? Do you? Do you?!! It’s agony and despair and annoyingly, quite hilarious when you really think about it.

All the best adventures are the ones that are surprising. In the meantime, I’ve chosen the book to take with me (Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier) and need a good night’s sleep to prepare for the ridiculous time I have to leave in the morning.

Vivid Imagination, I defy you. Whatever does happen – be the journey bad or good, full of worry or realising that my phone doesn’t call American numbers and I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THE THING YOU ADD TO THE THING IS … I’m going to relish it as an adventure and pray with the desperation of an Englishwoman who has just realised she’s not going to taste True Tea for a while.

So there.

if she hasn’t accidentally caught the wrong flight and found herself stranded in the jungles of Darkest Peru, Ness will be back in six weeks

interview: blue cats and paper crowns

papercrownsfrontcover.png

that cover art tho’

This post is a little late because, like Ginger in Paper Crowns, I’m off on an adventure I hadn’t quite expected. All right. I don’t suppose that America is quite like the world of fae, but … an adventure is an adventure, yes? Though, alas … mine lacks one very hilarious blue cat.

Today (or this evening, whatever the case maybe) I am very happy to present Mirriam Neal, who’s stopped by for a quick chat …

As always, the crucial question must be asked first: do you prefer tea or coffee? [or neither?!] Coffee. Always coffee. Black coffee in a large, irregular mug. I will never turn that down.

What has your writing journey been like? It’s been like most journeys – full of ups and downs and unexpected turns. When I started writing short stories about unicorns as a twelve-year-old, I never imagined I would end up as a published author. It’s been rocky, but always amazing.

How was the experience of writing Paper Crowns different to that of writing your first book, Monster? It was hugely different. Day and night different. Black and white different. Monster was blood, sweat and tears over several years; Paper Crowns was like eating dessert and took all of a month to finish (although all the editing added several months onto that). 18076372Monster hurt to write, but Paper Crowns never did. I guess that’s the difference between writing a novel on bioethics, and a faerie-tale for all ages.

Do you have a favourite scene in Paper Crowns? What is it? [NO SPOILERS! :D] I don’t have a favorite scene, actually. I really enjoyed any scene with Azrael, and any scene with Salazar, and any scene with Ginny and Hal together. They’re my favorites.

What’s a book that you’ve recently enjoyed reading? I recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and it falls right into the ‘life-changing’ category.

Would you rather share a meal with someone from a musical who would sing. about. everything. you. did (‘she’s frowning at the salad / oh yes, look / there’s a slug in the saaaaalad!’) OR a supervillain with one facial expression (a death glare) who may, or may not have slipped arsenic in your beverage? Assuming I have to actually finish this meal, I choose the supervillain. At the very least, a supervillain would be an interesting dinner partner. (And I may or may not have spent years building an immunity to arsenic.)

If you could have any fictional creature as a pet – what would it be? (Personally, I’d have a dragon. If it was tame.) A dragon with the ability to shapeshift into any form it likes. Is that cheating? (I don’t care if it is cheating, actually.)

mirriamneal

future shapeshifting dragon owner

you may find thingy things here:

// Paper Crowns // My Review of Paper Crowns // The Author //

mini recountings from a boat

I am currently aboard a boat. Naturally, I lugged books along with me. Unnaturally, there is wifi. Let the recountings commence!

IMG_3785

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

For a single book this had a lot packed in; there were three distinctive acts which could have easily been turned into a trilogy, but I was rather satisfied that it was a standalone.

There was a moment when I had to close the book because I was certain that it was going to suffer from Sagging In The Middle, but it didn’t. IT DIDN’T, I TELL YOU!

I loved the heroine, who was quite down to earth, there was one scene that I could have done without, and the Dragon WASN’T a dragon (I’ll forgive him) but other than that – yes, a most satisfying read.

IMG_3860

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokski

I was so looking forward to this book, it arrived in time to be dragged along with me and I read it on the first day. But get this – I didn’t like it. My suspension of disbelief didn’t suspend very well. My favourite character was a cannibalistic horse who only appears in the last half. (Seriously though – she has all the best lines.)

YA and I have a very temperamental relationship, and this book – which I was so intrigued by – just wasn’t for me.

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The Partner by John Grisham

Found in the Post Office of a village that had bunting and so. many. ducks. This book actually made me hold my breath AND WHAT A TWIST AT THE END! (Well, there were actually two twists and the very last one left me a little down and put out with the author who hasn’t written a sequel. WHY?!)

IMG_3878

///

Well, I’d better dash as a) a kingfisher has been spotted and b) the wifi might forsake me.

have a grand weekend!

ear piercing adventures [Story Time]

It’s partially the fault of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and my liking of magnetic earrings as a youngling, but recently I decided to have my ears pierced.

I mean – lots of people have had their ears pierced, haven’t they? It’s no big deal, right?

Haha.

You see, though I like dangling earrings, I cannot bear piercings. I cannot compute. What if someone yanks your ear and the hole tears?!!!

Sometimes I was very happy at the idea. Self, I’d say, it would look so good. That bit of jaw would be made to look SO elegant. But then I’d look at pictures of piercings and feel ill. Self, I’d say, maybe another time.

And thus it would go on. Until, of course, one day when I took the plunge. ‘It’s a just a prick’ they said. ‘It will hardly hurt at all’ they said.

They lied.

It felt as if it had started as a prick and ended up as a hole punch. My ear was brutally hole-punched. THERE WERE ALIEN OBJECTS IN MY EARS!

ears.JPG

I reacted very well.

According to those present (sister, niece, and bearer of torture device), I was rather pale. I felt ill. Faint. Everything grew distant. I told the lady who did the brutal deed that though I was sure she was nice, I didn’t like her very much at that moment.

I hung my head like an ashamed dog and tried not to think about ears. Or piercings. Or MY SKIN – MY OWN FLESH, THE FLESH THAT WAS MY OWN AND PURE AND WHOLE – BREACHED BY CALLOUS METAL.

The Beautician – a lovely lady who did a splendid job (though I wasn’t inclined to think so at the time) – brought me cold water, a cold pack for my neck and turned the air conditioning on. I didn’t faint, but by golly, I wasn’t at my finest.

So far there’s been no infection, I don’t feel so ill when I have clean (or worse – turn) the foreign objects in my ear lobes, and I will have the experience of Ear Piercing for any future writing projects.

Was it worth it, you ask?

It will be.

famous books I haven’t read

Every self-respecting bookworm seems to have read these books. I am both self-respecting and a bookworm … and I haven’t. Ah, paradoxes.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’ve watched the black and white Laurence Olivier Pride and Prejudice, the 1995 BBC series, the 2005 film, ‘Lost in Austen’ and ‘Austenland’. I have never read the actual book.

Why? Because everyone seemed to swoon at the very thought of Mr Darcy. Being a contrary lass, I decided that I would never do the same.

I shall pick the book up one day, and share the magic with everyone else. Until then, Georgette Heyer and I are getting along swimmingly.

I think I was quite influenced by the 1995 series though. When my sister, her friend and I visited one of the homes used in the series, little me was quite puzzled and asked where Mr Darcy was. (He wasn’t there. It was a bit of a downer.)

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. ‘Lots of Rs’ Tolkien

I know what the books are about. Of course I do (*cough* fanfiction *cough). But I’ve never actually read them.

Though I find him to be a fascinating gentleman, I am not particularly enamoured with Tolkien right now. I’ve read his translation of Beowulf, however, his commentary of the thing that has boggled me somewhat. The book is at home. I am not at home at present. (And there lies my excuse.)

Oliver Twist [or basically: Anything by Dickens]

I’m trying to read one of Dicken’s works, but I am feeling rather daunted by his reputation; apparently, the fellow uses lots of characters. Tons of characters. Multitudes of characters.

A Tale of Two Cities is on my readolution list, but I’ve been avoiding it (and doing a splendid job of it, if I do say so myself). Oliver Twist isn’t on that list, but I’ve been quite happily ignoring that too.

But … I will attack a Dickens. Soon. This year, in fact. Not today. But soon.

well, probably

lemonade and sandwiches

I’m in a little rut at the moment. Inspiration is sulking in a corner. I’ve argued with Sandwiches about actual sandwiches and written half-formed plot ideas on my hand. Tolkien’s commentary on Beowulf isn’t conquered yet. A sci-fi has been DNF’d. And … I’VE DONATED BOOKS TO A CHARITY SHOP.

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the victims. may your new homes be kind

Why these books? Lemme explain …

The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice

I adored The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets and was really looking forward to its sequel. And so … ta da. I found it. It was big, it was hefty and the beginning had promise. But the thing is, there was a relationship in there that felt so unnecessary. Why? The mind boggles.

If I compared the first book to a glass of sparkling lemonade, the latter portion of this book was also lemonade. But flat. And possibly lukewarm.

Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart

[I’ve always called this ‘Stormy Petrol’ in my head. When you think about it *cough* that doesn’t make any sense. At all. Whatever next – Unruly Diesel?! Self, you disappoint me. Pay attention.]

Listen. I love Nine Coaches Waiting, Airs Above The Ground and This Rough Magic. I didn’t love this. I found it to be simply ‘meh’ and there is nothing worse than a ‘meh’ book. I felt no spark. No sense of enjoyment. So alas, away it goes.

Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer

You gave away a Heyer!!! Yes. I know. I was shocked too. But the thing is … I couldn’t believe in the Happily Ever After. The issues of the couple felt unresolved. If you paper over a crack, it may be out of sight, but the crack is still there. Have issues? Deal with ’em.

The Happily Ever After seemed more like ‘Happily Ever [For The Next Few Years Until We Hurt Each Other Again] After’ and that’s too much of a mouthful to sit on my bookshelf.

And yes, that statement makes sense in my head.

// so farewell dear books. forgive me. and may your new owners enjoy you better than I did //