Things that are Epic

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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devoured this book in one night, and then kicked myself for not drawing it out longer because the next instalment will not be published for another year.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

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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.

Getting on with it

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These days, if you see me and ask how I am, I’ll say that I’m fine. And I’m lying. I’m lying through my teeth. But what is the alternative? When is it ever a good time to tell the truth about how you’re feeling, when you happen to be lost, in the darkest depths of depression? How do you tell the truth, when you can’t find the words to tell the story of yourself, to yourself? The truth is, depression has made me reclusive. And I’m so very lonely. Solitude I can deal with. Solitude I can enjoy. But not loneliness. That’s the real kicker, the real killer, when you long to hear a friendly voice, but cannot ask, dare not ask, for anything. I’m isolated. Desolate. Broken. Being with other people is physically and psychologically exhausting. But I have to get on with it: I have responsibilities. So when I must, I put on the mask, the polish that makes me look like…me. And I get on with it. Thank god for lipstick.

But there are the days when I am not obliged to put on the mask, or at least, not straight away. These are the days when I pay for the expenditure of positive energy; when I absolutely cannot move from my bed. I cry, and cry, until exhausted enough to doze a while, and then I wake and cry again. And then I get up, and transform into me – with a great deal of effort, rather than the ting! of a fairy godmother’s wand – and go out to collect my daughter from school. Thank god for lipstick.