Books, Life

two lessons learned in april

I was going to do a sort of april round-up/what I did/how I’ve yet to conquer the world post (WHY IS THIS YET TO HAPPEN? Oh. Wait. I’ve got to do something for it? Pfft. Nah. Forget that) but … the best laid plans and all that sort of thing.

Instead, here are two lessons I have learned recently. The world is ever my classroom (or something like that …)

1 // pirates are not my cup of tea

I suppose it’s because there’s only so much adventure you can have when stuck on a boat in a massive stretch of ocean. (And yes, some may vehemently disagree as to the truth of this statement. But I digress.)

Whilst I loved The Lies of Locke Lamora* (I’m actually pronouncing the title correctly nowadays. Clue: it isn’t The Lies of Loch Lomand) I didn’t enjoy its sequel Red Seas Under Red Skies quite as much.

Why?

  • The heist made me feel as though Lynch was going to give me the most marvelous white chocolate cake in the history of ever … but then he didn’t. Instead, he gave me some horrendous milk chocolate sponge abomination.

(Thanks, Scott Lynch. Thanks a lot.)

  • High seas. Ship speak. Me … nope. Look, my Uncle once quizzed me about which side was port and I thought deeply and carefully about the alcoholic substance known as port and why you’d pass it around the table and whether there was a tradition about passing the glass around- I don’t do ship speak. (Port is on the left, I think. Or the right. One or the other. I can never remember.)
  • Once again, I can’t get the title right. So far, I’ve called it Red Skies Under Red Sails, Red Seas Under Red Sails, and Red Sails Under Red Skies. It’s confusing.

But those are mere quibbles. I am still enamoured with the character of Locke. Enough to risk the next novel. Maybe.

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2 // i enjoyed a ya novel

I’m shocked. SHOCKED! I tell you. However, I bought Shatter Me because I suspected it was terribly melodramatic. (I was feeling in the need of something terribly melodramatic.)

And it is.

Ohhhhh it is.

It is the most delicious, melodramatic piece of purple prose I have ever – EVER – been fortunate enough to read, and I’ve read fanfiction. (And written it but *cough* that’s beside the point.)

It’s well done purple prose. It’s creative purple prose. It’s unique purple prose. It’s beautiful purple prose. But it is the purplest prose to have ever posed as prose.

I let myself be gleeful, and I let myself read it. I didn’t take it very seriously, for I’m an old codger and can be as sympathetic as a very sympathetic brick.

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There are issues. I would like to point out to Juliette that not everything is solved, or resolved with tulips. And by tulips, I mean chew lips. (I’m sorry. That was funnier in my head.)

At one point, I looked at myself in the mirror (as all humans have fled my presence, I am left with the companionship of the mirror. It’s okay. I find it to be a very reflective companion) and said:

This is rubbish. I LOVE IT.

Shockingly enough, the mirror did not respond.

*The Lies of Locke Lamora is an adult fantasy novel about thieves. Ergo, there is quite a bit of crass language (thieves do not, as a rule, speak Queen’s English), plenty of guts and gore, and the occasional unsavoury situation. Ye have been warned.
On Writing

the writing stag

This tag is actually called ‘The Writer’s Tag’ but someone mentioned how much it looks like ‘The Writer Stag’ and this amuses me greatly. Thanks to Mirriam for tagging everybody, and so therefore tagging me.

"As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after thee."    As The Deer: Hymn:
// pinterest

WHAT GENRES, STYLES, AND TOPICS DO YOU WRITE ABOUT?

Genre: Fantasy – because you can borrow from all of history and throw in a dragon and it will be legit. I love history, but fantasy is unrestricted – if I want to mesh a Viking and Mongol culture together … I can. AND NO ONE CAN TELL ME NAY!!!

Styles: I do write some serious content, but humour always creeps through. I love funny things, and sometimes I find myself writing a line with true glee. Or struggling to get a joke that is HILARIOUS!!!! in my head onto paper. That’s less fun.

Topics: Oh – everything. I try to put themes and topics into my stories but my characters always refuse to participate. They see right through my puny attempts and go on tangents about wanting to be a medicine woman or something.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING?

Years. Years and years. I completed my first novel in 2014, but I have piles and piles of unfinished and finished short stories banging about from the time I thought revision was spelled with an ‘h’. (Dude. Think about it. It still makes sense.) I won first prize for gore once. I was bemused. Did no one else write realistically?

WHY DO YOU WRITE?

Because I love stories. Because that love bubbles over until I have to write something down. Sometimes the magic happens – my fingers fly over the keyboard and the characters talk and events unfold seamlessly onto the page. But that doesn’t happen often; I have to work for it – but the stories …

I write because I love them.

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WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO WRITE?

Much to my annoyance, at night. When everything is quite and all is dark (‘… silllllleeeeennnt niiiiiggghhhhttt ….’) and my mine is emptied of stresses and there is nothing but the words and I. You have no idea how much I resent this flaw of mine; I’d much rather write easily in the morning.

PARTS OF WRITING YOU LOVE VS PARTS YOU HATE?

What I love? Finishing. There is nothing quite like the feeling of knowing the story is finished; you’ve told it. It’s done. The end. It’s beautiful. A moment to be savoured.

What I hate? The bringing myself to sit and write. My mind leaps like an antsy frog on coals and has this kind of conversation:

ME: Little grey cells, shall we write?

BRAIN: Cool. Cool, cool, cool. Good idea. BUT WAIT YOU HAVE TO VACUUM BEFORE YOU DO THIS.

ME: … but … what?

BRAIN: CLEAN! DUST! WASH! ORGANISE YOUR BOOKSHELF! WASH YOUR CAR! ONLY THEN CAN YOUR WORDS FLOW. ONNNLLLY THEN!!

Me: Okay. That sounds like a good plan.

(spoiler: it’s never a good plan)

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HOW DO YOU OVERCOME WRITERS BLOCK?

Nowadays? I exhaust my procrastination muscles, and then do a surprise leap into a Word Document. Takes time, but works like a charm. Sometimes. So a faulty charm, basically.

ARE YOU WORKING ON SOMETHING AT THE MOMENT?

Yes. Insalted is on draft 2.5 and The Mediocre Title That I Need To Change is ticking along alright. I’ve really let my creativity run wild on that one – there’s a crime lord dragon and the heroine’s kidnapping a husband.

Everyday activities, really.

WRITING GOALS THIS YEAR?

  • Finish editing Sandwiches
  • Prepare Insalted for querying. But finish it first. (That’s rather important, I hear.)
  • Finish the 1st draft of The Mediocre Title That I need To Change

right. so i’d better get going to that, then

Books, Life

why i like one star reviews

DISCLAIMER BEFORE THE PITCHFORKS ARE FORKED, OR ER, PITCHED (?) IN MY DIRECTION: By ‘reviewer’ I do not mean ‘a malicious troll’. I mean a reviewer who is stating their opinion on the book in a fair, truthful, and often amusing way.

I am not a villain, cackling away behind the anonymity of a computer screen. However, I must admit that I like to read sparsely starred reviews. Yes, those ones. The ones that can often state – in clear, precise words – why the reviewer views the book as a tragic waste of tree, space, time, money, and so forth.

I drink that stuff down like a toddler who’s just discovered Coca-Cola.

Why? How could I? I write, I’ve self-published some novellas, surely I’d want EVERYBODY to have glorious and glowing reviews *throws confetti*

But … I have my reasons. Let me share them with you …

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come with me

i have an inherent distrust of good news

If the book is a fantasy and the reviews are mostly positive – I’ll listen. But if the book is a romance …. then I am wary and proceed with caution. If all the reviews are full to the brim of gushing words about the swooning romance, dreamy heroes, wonderful adventure, fantastic writing etc etc etc … I won’t take it at face value.

I’ve been burned and so I am painfully shy; I read the bad reviews. Because:

a) I am a practical optimistic pessimist (a state of being which I’ve just invented. join me) – if I know the worst, I can decide if it’s worth badgering my bank account for it

b) some folks’ idea of romance isn’t mine

and

b) … the reviews can be extremely entertaining.

eloquence, m’dear. it’s the eloquence

Sometimes, a reviewer can find a book – any book – to which they suffer an allergic reaction. This can provoke a beautiful response – full of sweeping prose, breathtaking analogies, and excellent use of gifs.

In short, it’s terribly interesting to observe this kind of reaction; reviewers are often very eloquent when they decide that this book is not for them and here is why etc.

I grab my popcorn and settle down to read, mesmerized.

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it can lead to beautiful things

I don’t always trust people who love every. little. thing that they read. Because I am a little cynical; how can I believe that this is the BEST BOOK EVAH!!! if you’ve said that every other book you’ve read is the BEST BOOK EVAH!!!?

(Maybe you do find every book you read to be wonderful. That’s fine. But again, my cynicism strikes like a pimple before a wedding. I can’t help it.)

If you are honest in your reviews, I can measure the bad against the good. You hated this book? You’ve stated the reasons why? Well maybe I agree with you – maybe I’ll search for your other reviews; for the books you really liked.

Maybe I’ll like them too.

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It’s a roundabout way to get a good book recommendation. It also works in the opposite way; if you hated this book, and I loved it … then maybe I won’t like the books you love, maybe I’ll like the books you hate – another way to a book recommendation. (Or if you loved this book and I loved it … we will both congratulate each other on our exceptional taste and stalk each other. Politely. In a friendly fashion.)

in summary, bad reviews can …

  • give a more rounded perspective of a book
  • save money
  • cost money
  • be entertaining

All right. You can … you can bring out your pitchforks now.Image result for galavant gif

Books, Recountings

recountings: no love triangle, me happy

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The Rose & The Dagger

by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath & The Dawn wasn’t my favourite book to read; it had too many elements of the kind of YA I didn’t like. But I bought its sequel, because I needed to have the complete duology on my bookshelf. They’d look pretty.

Priorities. I have them.

And … I’ve just read it. And I liked it. Like what, you ask? Let me enlighten you …

writing. words. that kinda thing

The writing is rich and lush. It’s got a certain poetry to it. I have to admit though, if a line reads ‘he smelt of sandalwood’ I’m going to draw a blank. I … have smelled sandalwood (?) in the past. Probably. I can’t recall its scent. I assume ‘sandalwood’ is code for ‘very, very manly. in fact, the manliest thing ever. beyond manly, basically’.

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behold, the powers of ‘sandalwood’

they’ve grown up!

My problem with YA is that I don’t always connect with the characters. They don’t act sensibly. However, whatever frustrations I had with the characters in the first book, had practically disappeared in the second.

They were more mature! The love triangle … was dissolved. Deceased. It had popped its clogs. Kicked the bucket. Was no more. Shahrzad kept to who she loved and thank you. It’s nice to see a character fall in love and be true to that love. Because love triangles? Yeah, no.

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da sistah

For me, one of the most compelling plot lines was that of the younger sister. She transformed from mouse to a strong young woman. I can admire that; I could see it happening.

But I was a little tired of everybody lauding Shahrzad as the cleverest, bravest, strongest person to ever clever, brave, and strong. (Wud’up grammar?) I don’t want to be told this stuff; I want more evidence, man. More. Evidence!

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to wrap up. to conclude. to sum up etc

The book felt more mature. If the first one was about planning to kill a murderer, and falling in love with said murderer (okay. The situation was a little more nuanced than that, but still …) the second book was about the characters having to face the consequences of their actions.

I felt like the plot was a tiny bit jittery – like it contained spread out speed bumps, and wasn’t smooth like a fresh pat of butter (?) It is YA, and YA and I don’t always get along … but sometimes we share a pleasant afternoon, holding amiable conversation about flying carpets, and really fast healing arrow wounds.

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well done, guys.
I think I just rambled, Life, Story Time

[Story Time] repercussions of daydreaming

When I was a youngling, I daydreamed excessively; in my dreams I was extremely clever and I had secrets – world-changing, mind-blowing secrets. I could give the best, most convincing comebacks, break into sudden ninja skillz, and do daring deeds that would leave grown men gaping in my wake.

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I’d do all of this without repercussions. One doesn’t really think of real world consequences when you’re in a delicious daydream, fixing a tragic moment of fallibility in your life.

Par example, when my family was introduced to a new church; instead of retreating into my blue coat when the microphone was shoved in my face and whispering my name …

… it would go a little differently. The pastor would ask my name. I’d stand straight and tall. ‘You want my name?’ my attitude would say. ‘THIS IS MY NAME!!!’ and at the end of the aisle, the church doors would slam open, and in would pour an entire troop of animals enough to make a zookeeper weep.

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like this. but with lions. and giraffes. and maybe an elephant?

It’s important to note that my daydream was conspicuously absent of:

  1. animal droppings
  2. outraged animal rights activists.
  3. the screams of horror from churchgoers who just wanted to hear some preaching (was that too much to ask?!!)

When you’ve spent half your life with your nose in a book and your head in the clouds, your sense of proportion, social settings, and – alas, to my cost – brain-to-mouth filter sometimes malfunctions.

Take my last, most monumental gaffe, for instance. I’ll share it here. You can probably feel the echoes of my disbelief from where you’re sitting.

LAST MONUMENTAL SOCIAL GAFFE:

I can’t remember the mood I was in when I turned up to my driving test, but it must have been quite something.

My examiner reminded me of a TV character and I really quite liked him – he sort of set you at ease. I didn’t do quite the same service to him.

He introduced himself pleasantly with a ‘My name is N—, what can I call you?’

Usually, I would have said my name and included a nice and pleasant: ‘nice to meet you.” Usually, I managed to function as an adult. That day, I did not.

I didn’t say my name. I didn’t plead for a pass. Oh no. My brain saw OPPORTUNITY written across the sky in big, multicoloured letters.

It saw opportunity. It took that opportunity. I opened my mouth:

You may call me Lord and Supreme Dictator of the Universe

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Nowadays, I try to rein myself in a little; try to fix the ol’brain-to-mouth filter. Be a little mature. Realise you can’t just blurt anything out – even if you think it’s the pinnacle of humour. This works sometimes. But now and again, every so often, if a customer asks how my day has gone, I find myself answering:

“Well … the zombie apocalypse hasn’t happened yet, so it’s been pretty good, thank you.”

(They often seem bemused. I, on the other hand, am always enormously impressed that I – a bookworm – can pronounce ‘apocalypse’ correctly.)