A realisation:

I’m currently reading – and very near to finishing – David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. To say that I’m loving it is an epic understatement. I’m finding it strange, and wonderful, and gripping, and beguiling. Hilarious  in places, the literary scene leg pulling; laugh out loud hilarious. And delightful too, from a writerly, rather than readerly, perspective. When David Mitchell plays with language, he really plays; poetic writing that riots across the page, teasing  with rhythm, with balance, with alliteration, with semantic strings of meanings and oppositions. In my opinion – humble or otherwise – he is a writer’s writer: fearlessly, genre bendingly, inventive.

It’s not overstating the case to say, that whilst reading The Bone Clocks, I arrived at an epiphany. A moment of clarity, if you will. A reference is made, in the novel, to a piece of music I had not come across before. I’m not particularly au fait with Sibelius, but for some reason I had to stop reading to google The Swan of Tuonela. A rewarding hiatus in reading, for it gave me a thing of beauty, and an inspiration, a way back into the story I began in my aborted NaNoWrimo effort. And it gave me the realisation that all stories are maps. They show us the way – if we are receptive to seeing – the way into other stories, and the stories of others. They show us ways into ourselves, and the way through our own stories. They show us the path behind us, that brought us to here, to now. And they show us all the ways forward. This may already have been blindingly obvious to you. Intellectually, I knew it. But, listening to the music, I felt it. Epiphanic. And, ecstatic.

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An in-between Summer…

I haven’t blogged for ooh, ages. I know. I’ve been meaning to, but, you know how it is. And I absolutely have to make a conscious decision to be better organised. Although, in my defence, I had three weeks of rather nasty back pain that stopped me in my tracks. It’s frightening how something so simple can utterly derail everything: there is no getting away from back pain, it colours everything in jagged spines that slice right through the core of you. And then it just becomes so fucking boring, too. But never mind, it’s done with now. Hurrah.

So I’m in that in-between phase, in the no-man’s land between having been a bit useless, and gearing up to Do All The Things. And it’s the school holidays too: my daughter has finished primary school, and is doing the developmental groundwork before full rehearsals for the teenage years begin. And of course, getting ready for secondary school. We have begun buying the uniform etc. And I have remembered how to tie a tie, a thing I haven’t had to wear since 1988. So there’s that little tidbit of knowledge to impart. And once the new routine begins in September, and the new stationery has been bought, and the new pencils sharpened, perhaps new words will be transmitted from brain to paper, and screen.

So in the meantime, we play. We go to the cinema, (we’ve seen Ant-Man, and LOVED IT, and Inside Out, which we enjoyed), we go swimming, we’ll be going to London, and there’ll be other things to do too. In the meantime, I have to negotiate access to my desk, while my daughter constructs worlds in MineCraft.

In the meantime, there is the small matter of rehearsing some readings. I have been asked to participate in the Spoken Word event at this year’s Stroud Fringe Festival. I have been described, by someone whose professional opinion I value a great deal, as ‘an up and coming writer’. Oh, GULP. Someone has faith in me, and has publicly declared it. And I find that I am feeling a little daunted. I mustn’t disappoint. I mustn’t let them down. I absolutely HAVE to be better at what I do. Cue, getting organised. Etc.

In the meantime, here is something I’ve been listening to for ages, because I love it. I’m listening to it now, in fact. So plug in your headphones, close your eyes/ turn out the lights, and let it wash through you. It’s beautiful.

NB: As of yet, the Fringe website does not have performance details. But it will, soon.

Things that are Epic

I’ve been away from social media quite a lot lately. And that’s okay. I have decided to treat this year as one of transition, rather in the manner of AD69 (the year of the four emperors), although considerably less bloody. Hopefully, less bloody.

I haven’t written anything new this year, yet. I have been editing, polishing, tweaking. I will be submitting again, too. I have been having some seriously odd dreams. And I am LOVING being the mother of an eleven-and-a-half year old girl when there is so much excellent stuff by Joss Whedon to show her. We’re up to Season 5 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and have been to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, twice. The other night I showed her the first Iron Man flick. And she loves it, and she gets it, and it’s all brilliant, and to use her word, EPIC. I’m smiling as I type this, just thinking about what she has yet to see, and how much she is going to love it.

The other thing I have been doing, is reading. I recently finished The Waterborne Blade, by my very good friend Susan Murray (Angry Robot Books, 9780857664358) Once upon a time, before I had my daughter, and could still burn the candle at both ends without serious repercussions (so about 12 years ago…) I would have devoured this book in one night, and then kicked myself for not drawing it out longer because the next instalment will not be published for another year. As it was, I managed to eke out the reading of it, even deliberately slowing down, in order to prolong the enjoyment of it. For this is fast-paced fantasy of the highest order. The reader is plunged headfirst into court politics, and danger. There is no omniscient narration, so no sense of Destiny hooded and cloaked walking the land signposting all the important things that haven’t happened yet. We see the land – and the situations – as and when the main characters see them, depending on whose head we’re in at the time. Any references to the past are momentary and incomplete, acts of memory triggered by scene, or scenario: a nice touch of realism that prevents heavy info-dumping, and keeps the pace going. Not once does it slow down. Because the chapters are short, the level of tension is consistently maintained – rather like a steady hand turning the rack (can’t think why I thought of that simile!). The plot is anything but predictable, and the characters properly rounded. There is mystery, and magic, and the practicalities of life on the open road (people actually need to pee). I found that I cared a good deal about Alwenna, alternately infuriated and worried by her, and by Ranald Weaver, the Kingsman whose loyalty is tested and divided and tested again. In short, this is epic, intelligent fantasy that doesn’t rely on excessive sex and violence to pad it out. Read it! But don’t rush it – there’s at least a year to wait for the sequel.

Tsundoku, or, So Many Books, So Little Time

The Japanese seem to have a word for all of the abstract, post-modern things. I like that. (And now I have Björk’s The Modern Things playing in my head. I like that, too.) If, like me, you happen to work in Bookselling (and please, do make yourself known. Hopefully we’re not exactly an endangered species, but we are rare, these days), then a state of tsundoku is an occupational hazard.

But what is this tsundoku? I hear you ask. It is, put simply, the buying of books, and not reading them. Letting them accrue, pile up, in heaps, on the floor, on bookcases, on bedside tables. And I am oh so guilty. I seem to have lost the stamina I used to have, for devouring books. The stamina, but not the appetite. It’s just my eyes have become too large for my reading belly. Also, the depression thing is a bitch for making it impossible to focus on reading. Hence I am months* behind. And then there’s the tiredness thing. Last night I decided I’d go to bed early and read. And I fell asleep about a third of a way down a page (just one page!). I woke up with the book on my chest. I’m beginning to think that my chest is better read than I am.

I stopped in the middle of composing this post to go around the house collecting my unread books. And I’m a bit worried now, there are so many of them. So, I refuse to count them.

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But, this is just a small selection of what is waiting to be read. I have recently begun William Gibson’s The Peripherals, and Katherine Heiny’s collection Single, Carefree, Mellow (I tend to read short fiction when it is quiet at work). And each week, when I go to work, I swear that I won’t buy any more books, because God knows I have more than enough. But then, something gets a glowing review, or is released in paperback after I restrained myself from buying the hardback the year before, or someone I know rates a title highly, or my curiosity is piqued… etc. You know how it is. I seem to be an addict. Ah well. It could be worse. All I need is time. Anyone know where I can buy some?

*years, really.

Heart On My Sleeve

Last weekend I was in Portugal, to celebrate my youngest brother’s wedding. It was a joyfully beautiful occasion, in a beautiful location, with beautiful people. I wore purple shoes, and red lipstick, and I danced the night away with the new friends I made. The sunset was amazing.

 

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My brother has always worn his heart on sleeve, despite the risks. His closest, dearest friends admire him for this bravery. And now at last he is truly happy. And I am so happy for him. And I admire my little brother, because wearing my heart on my sleeve is a thing I have been unable to do for a very long time. I doubt I ever will again. I fear to give myself away. And I think, perhaps, that this is partly why I write. I might give myself away in fiction, but fiction gives me some distance from the things I cannot otherwise say. I know that I cannot be the only one who does this, among the writers I know. And who, among those who read what I write – and who knows, even like what I write – can say with any degree of certainty which detail is personal, and which is not. To borrow from Margaret Atwood, only I can say how large – or small – is the blood transfusion given to the Ginger Bread Man, in order that he may live, and run.

Ampersand

Sometimes, or rather, more often than not, it takes something simple to remind me that Life, capital L, Life, could be as limitless as the sky. Could be. Living in the subjunctive mood means being open, to wish fulfillment, to fantasy, to the dream world, to the possibility of magic. There is everything under the sky, and, perhaps more. Perhaps.

The world is everything that is the case, said Wittgenstein, a statement that is both austere and beautiful. But this photograph reminds me that there is more. There is the world we can know through our senses, and there is the world we can know through our dreams. We were not made to fly, except in dreams, and wishes, and fairy tales. And yet, we found the way to reach the sky, to touch, and surpass it.

 

AmpersandMy daughter, my beautiful ten year old daughter took this photo. She sees magic in everything, and that is everything that is the case.

Should do better

Procrastination is a well known condition for most writers. And I’m really very good at it; better, in fact, than I am at writing. Or so it seems, judging by my luck with submissions recently. And if I’m not good enough, why should I bother? Why not play just one more game of patience, make one more cup of coffee,  have half half an hour longer in bed? Procrastination is creeping into everything – in fact, since I started this oh so brief post, I have stopped to do something else more than a dozen times. I am procrastinating to the point of self-sabotage, to paralysis even. And it has got to stop, so I can start again. I want to be a writer again. So I MUST do better.