Monthly Archives: July 2013

Threads

I’m writing this in my attic. Well, our attic, but my bit of it. Here in the new flat, there’s juuuust enough space to stand up unless you’re a midget like Rivka in which case you can stand normally with no problems. The roof slopes on both sides with a little sash window in the front side looking out over the High Street. Oh yes, we live in the centre of things. It is quite busy at the moment because it’s tourist season in the Highlands and our little metropolis is a perfect stopping off point for coach parties on day trips or on their way north. It’s quaint. It has an ancient priory to poke around in. It also has a massive car park perfect for coaches.

Yesterday was sunshine and showers, until it went really dark and lammed it down in the middle of the afternoon. The kind of dark from Independence Day or the Fifth Element, where it’s bright and then something smoothly rolls over the sun and fills you with dread. Thunder! Lightning! Zero visibility! Children were shrieking about in the street and a lot of tourists dressed for summer gt drenched. I watched it all from the window with a cup of tea.

Rivka came home saying town was chaos with flash floods and no way of seeing out the windscreen as the rain was so heavy. We battened down the hatches and watched The Breakfast Club, which she had never seen and then afterwards deemed merely “OK”. Learn from my mistake: never move in with someone who has such different opinions. OK????? OK?????? It’s one of the best films to come out of the eighties and that includes Cocktail, Top Gun, The Lost Boys and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Oh, and of course Labyrinth.

Regardless, we had a cosy night in. Today looks like more rain given the huge black cloud hanging around up there. Friday’s blog will be all about Ivory Quinn, since her book Redemption comes out on Saturday and I signed up to do pre-release promo. She’s getting ready for it to explode when it comes out as she has a lot of fans who are dying to know what happens. From some of the hints Ivory has been dropping, so am I!

Whoops, I just got sucked into the Internet.

I’m listening to The Night Circus on audiobook at the moment and I need my hands free for hemming. The wedding preparations have begun! I couldn’t sleep last night because I was thinking about epic embroidery. Visions of sugarplums danced in my head! Sort of. But it will all be very exciting if I pull my finger out and get it done. That means action stations. Ahahaha. Someone had better remind me to log in on Friday for Ivory’s book promo for I fear I will be up to my eyeballs in thread and tracing paper.

I am very excited by this planning stage, I tell you. Coffee will probably help with that.

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King Rolen’s Kin

Before I start, for posterity I want to say that I think I’ll always remember what I was doing on the day that Prince George was born: we buried my granddad. Sort of fitting that we said goodbye to someone old and then ushered in someone new. There we are.

Right. Book review time. I’m a great one for browsing in bookshops, buying something random that I like the sound of and then squirreling it away on a shelf for years before reading it. I have two shelves in my room now dedicated to the unread books that I own, in the hopes of getting through some of them before I buy new ones (ha, not very likely). Last night I picked one to read while I sat around for two hours waiting for some live music (relying on trains in the Highlands to get you somewhere at a useful time is not advisable). I picked…

The King’s Bastard, by Rowena Cory Daniells.

Now, I bought this somewhen, and I went into it cold. No clue about reviews, sequels (though it does say BOOK ONE on the front so I know there are sequels), the author or anything. I ended up reading it until half one in the morning. If that isn’t recommendation enough, I guess I could tell you a little more about it.

It’s about Byren, the younger twin of Lence (the main issue I have with the book. Just call him Lance, ffs!), their siblings Piro and Fyn, and all the stuff that happens to them due to them being the children of King Rolen of Rolencia. It’s heartwarming to see some tried and tested fantasy tropes in action but they are well done and I am itching to read the next one. A few examples:

1. The heir is arrogant and a bit of a tool, but his younger brother is good with people and loved more than him, leading to major resentment that drives a lot of the plot.

2. A younger sister who is actually pretty intelligent and feisty but is treated like a child/brat because she doesn’t want to be a pretty princess and do all the elegant lady stuff so she gets in trouble all the time. And she’s a girl, so what does she know about ANYTHING? Eh? Women! *shakes head*

3. You’re GAY?!?!?! Unclean! Unclean!

4. “The neighbouring kingdom is pretty much the same as ours but clearly they’re all evil/barbarians/just plotting to take over.”

5. Magic/mystic power can make you crazy and is feared and forbidden.

6. More end of chapter cliffhangers than you can shake a stick at.

No.6 is partly why I was up so late. I could not wait to find out what happened next. There is a lot going on in this book but it doesn’t feel like it’s just setting up later plot arcs, nor does it feel like Daniells chucked in every twist she could think of. The characters are developed, if still a little constrained by their fantasy pigeonholes (“But I don’t want to be King!” wails Byren over and over again in response to  a. people telling him how much better he’d be than his older brother and b. his older brother accusing him of a conspiracy to take the throne) and with a major upset in progress at the end of the book it’ll be interesting to see how they develop further though I think I could put money on a few of them.

What I quite like about this book is that Daniells doesn’t info dump. She leads the reader using context clues and drip feeding information, but without pages of clunky “minor character represents the reader and asks a stupid question to elicit expositional dialogue”. At the very beginning for example, the characters are tracking a magical animal called a lincis, an Affinity beast, and we are told no more at that point about what either of those things are. If you’ve ever read a decent fantasy book in your life you can make a fairly good guess, and if you said “something probably similar to a lynx” and “part of, or the name of, the magic/religious system” you’d be right! Daniells’ characters discuss these things as though they know what they are. Of course they do; they’re in their own world and we’ve just joined them in the middle of something. The action unfolds and we learn some new words: a seep, Warders, Untamed Affinity (probably bad), renegade Power-worker… but no wet-behind-the-ears recruit asks about them, or wonders about them, or anything. We just get carried along and are allowed to work it out for ourselves.

There are spies and traitors, political marriages and religious ceremonies, laws and historical prejudices and a king not totally unlike Robert Baratheon in his bluff, shouty, quick to anger but also quick to call for wine, my-way-or-the-highway, I AM THE KING! moments. Power plays and layers of lies and betrayals. Even towards the end when a lot of the machinations are explained, I’m not sure I believe that they’re telling the truth. I came away with a “well, no one actually saw that body, so they could be alive…” coupled with an “If X had just told Y about such and such, they could have…” which is great. I’m intrigued by the next ones. Trying to stop myself buying them RIGHT NOW because I have a ton of stuff to do. I need to dangle them as a reward for when I’ve done useful things.

I wouldn’t say this book/series really breaks the mould but it’s worth reading for a solid fantasy world with a plot to get your teeth into. It’s more intelligent than a sword-and-sorcery, with a bit of political complexity and characters to cheer and boo along the way.

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She’s So Lucky

Well, it’s Friday again. New blog post day. I’m pleased to announce the preliminary sorting of all my books onto some sort of shelving. I know you were all dying to hear how that panned out. Their positions are not finalised, though I do have a whole two shelves of a “to read” nature which will have to stay as they are or I’ll never find them again.

I was rudely kept awake last night by a man insistent on duct-taping the vent under my window at one in the morning. I had just gone to bed, so I can’t be too huffy about it, but really? One in the morning? It sounded like rats were stripping the internal walls. I was then woken early (I class early as before my alarm on holidays) by my best friend asking if I could possibly pay for a tent today. Not just any tent. A pavilion, no less, in the medieval sense.

I spend my summers knocking around various castles and fields dressed as a twelfth century noble, getting people dressed as twelfth century peasants to carry things for me. It’s a hobby.

I also have to send some money to his fiancée so she can buy me some fabric from Tewkesbury or Kelmarsh (whichever is easier) s I can get on with making my new fancy twelfth century noblewoman’s dress. I’m quite excited about that as it has four gussets and the hugest sleeves I’ve ever attempted. I’m also quite depressed because I’ve got a ton of embroidery (literally a metric ton) to do for it and the wedding is in October. So it’s a good job I’ve got some Euros to change back because that should cover most of the fabric money.

It never rains but it pours, eh? Tomorrow I’m off on holiday to meet the youngest member of our family for the first time and on the way home we’re saying goodbye to one of the oldest, as it’s my grandad’s funeral. Packing dilemmas 101, amirite? I’m flying Easyjet on the way down so I’ve got to get my holiday clothes and now a funeral outfit into one cabin bag. I hope the heatwave continues because thin cottons take up much less space.

This week, then, I’ve been too busy for reading? Oh dear me, no. On Monday I read Going Postal, and Tuesday I read Monstrous Regiment, both by Terry Pratchett. Wednesday I read The Time Traveler’s Wife. It’s not my fault! It was just sitting there on my bed (with the other books waiting to be shelved)! It was looking at me all wanton, and who am I to resist such a face? I swear, you can forget the Milk Tray Man; I’d much prefer someone who mysteriously left books in my room and skied off all dressed in black. It wasn’t the first time I’d read any of those books, but I was surprised how unaffected I was by The Time Traveler’s Wife. The first time I read it I wept like an idiot. This time, maybe because I was prepared for it; nothing. Ah well.

Right then, I’ve got packing to do and then I have to get the train to town to get my business done, son! A morning of vintage Britney Spears videos it is.

Normal service will resume Friday 26th July.

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Cargo: A beautiful short zombie movie

Watch this, please! I don’t reblog often (ever!) but please spare seven minutes to watch this little film. Beautiful.

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The Dewey Awesomeness System

This morning I awoke from a weirdly erotic dream about David Mitchell, and sprang out of bed in my new abode. I took this as a sign, dear reader, that for a blog post I ought to get intellectual, or at least a bit more book-themed.

Rivka and I have been slowly and steadily unpacking boxes for a couple of days, and have noticed that we have a few books in common. More than a few. We think we could probably set up mirror shelves either side of the fireplace and see how long it took anyone to notice. At first the books were all higgledy-piggledy and slung on anywhere as we were trying to get some boxes emptied so we could physically move around in the flat. This morning, while waiting for the nice man from the phone company to fix the phoneline, I started to rearrange them a little more carefully.

I’m still not happy, and of course there’s never enough shelf space, but I have a little dilemma. I like to be careful what books are out on public display. I don’t want all my books bound in leather and all matching, or anything, I just want people to think I have good taste. Essentially, I want to show off. I want a range of genres and authors with a mix of classic and contemporary work, a couple of obscure titles so people have to ask about them (or quietly marvel at my amazingness) and maybe a couple of trashy paperbacks to show I’m still human.

Is that too much to ask?

Here are my current two sorted shelves, subject to alteration and not legally binding:

*quietly marvels*

By all means come and visit, we can have some red wine and idle by the fireplace discussing the juxtaposition of modern fantasy with classic Romanticism. Mind your head, though, the ceilings are a little low in places.

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The End

I never knew my Grandad before his hair went white. I didn’t know him when he smoked and I certainly didn’t know him when he had all his teeth. By the time I was old enough to see and remember him, he was already impossibly old to my small child way of thinking.

He drove an old Ford Escort with child locks. He had a thick rural Norfolk accent made harder to understand because of his missing teeth and tendency to mumble. One year, when he and my Nanny visited in the summer, we had Christmas in the sunshine and he went out to the ice cream van in a paper hat. I can’t have been more than six, because we were living in our old house at the time and we’d moved again not long after.

My Grandad was what poetic folk would probably call irascible. He dared to defy my mother on numerous occasions which gave him hero status, but I was also forever in anticipation of receiving a ding over from him if I misbehaved. A ding over is a punishment of legendary status in my family, and when I was little it seemed a terrible thing to imagine, prompting visions of being turned upside down for hours, when in reality it was a sharp clip on the back of the head. Though I never ever got one, it was always a dark cloud on the horizon; often muttered about but never delivered.

Grandad wasn’t particularly tall, but he had a strong presence and was a very physical person. He worked on a farm before he retired and meal times followed a farmer’s routine: early breakfast, cooked lunch at bang on half past twelve, sandwich tea not long after five. More recently, such regular eating was necessary to help manage my grandparents’ diabetes, but it is the only schedule I have ever known them to have.

Easter, summer, or Christmas, he was there. He played cribbage with my sister, he combed my hair in a way seemingly designed to cause the most possible pain, he made us listen to the Boxing Day football on the radio.

He died today, probably in his sleep, before Nanny and my aunt arrived to visit. Yesterday was his birthday. They brought his cards and read them to him then, unsure if he really knew what was going on. Mine was not amongst them. As usual I’d posted it late, thinking that a day would not make a difference here or there. So my card would have arrived this morning, too late, and my biggest fear is that he died thinking I’d forgotten.

He must have known he was so loved. He must have known, because the more we tried to take care of him the grumpier he got, which is a standard reaction that both my mother and I share. He hated a fuss being made. I spoke to him a few months ago on the phone, for possibly the last time now I come to think about it, discussing my own birthday which falls at the end of June. I said that July was a much better month for a birthday, and he replied with the excited realisation of a child “My birthday is in July!” I know, Grandad, I know…

He didn’t have dementia, but he did have diabetes, two busted knees, minimal kidney function, deafness, a worn out heart and arthritis that meant he lived the last year of his life in Velcro shoes and zip up cardigans, his swollen knuckles leaving him unable to tie laces or fumble with buttons. He drank his daily dose of tea from a plastic mug because he couldn’t get his fingers through the tiny ring of a tea cup, and he was ever more likely to drop it in any case.

The last time I saw him, at Easter this year, I spent an afternoon keeping a tense vigil and pretending I wasn’t, as he slept and dreamt of God knows what, but whatever it was it was making him cry. Hearing my strong, funny, grumpy Grandad crying in his sleep is one of the worst things I have ever experienced. I prayed he wouldn’t die, not then, not right in front of me. He didn’t. He woke up and told me about the piglet that lived with them for a while when he was a boy. It was a runt and they brought it in to get it big and strong. Grandad said it waited for him at the bottom of the stairs every morning and rubbed its face against his legs like a cat.

It was one of many stories that came out on that visit. I think I learned more about him in those four days than I had in the previous twenty-six years. I think we were all pretty desperate to keep him with us. We laughed a lot that week, to counteract the frightened weeping in his nightmares.

We all knew this day was coming. He had been ill and deteriorating for a long time, and he spent most of the time asleep. He wouldn’t go out, not even around the block, because he didn’t want people to see him in a wheelchair or using a walking frame. He was put in a care facility last week, while I was away, because my aunt and uncle didn’t feel capable of looking after him any more and were afraid of hurting him. Part of me wonders that if they’d known he was so close, would they have kept him at home? He and Nanny had barely had a night apart in sixty seven years of marriage. I hate to think of him waking, alone, without her and without a familiar face, without anything to anchor him.

Grandad made me eat ice cream with black fly in it when we were on holiday in Iron Bridge. Grandad took us for walks on the beach. He was loving in a no-nonsense way, and he loved to laugh. He had a twin and another nine siblings besides, and four children of his own. He loved Norwich City FC and he would be appalled to know that last week I was sewing on a Sunday. He probably would also be appalled at us crying about him dying, but he’s just going to have to accept this last outward showing of affection with bad grace.

Goodbye, Grandad. Time to sit you down, bor.

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Redemption: Darkness Falls ~ Cover reveal!

Now, some of you may know my friend Rivka (I talk about her often enough). She’s a writer but she also takes on editing for other people. A while back, she edited a book called Obsession: Darkness Falls, which is about a woman called Noelle who gets into a very intense relationship with the lead singer of mysterious rock group Darkness Falls. It’s a bit of a tough read because this singer – Gabriel – is not a very likeable person: he’s selfish and petulant and at times a bit sociopathic. He’s a great character and it helps make the book very strong, but I wouldn’t want any of my friends going out with him. I read it all in one lump because I couldn’t put it down, if that’s any kind of recommendation, but golly it took it out of me. I like books that make me think and question and get me invested. This one does. And it takes full advantage. I felt like I’d done six rounds with Mike Tyson when I was done.

The sequel to Obsession is out next month, and now I have a blog I thought I’d get in on the pre-release hype. So, without further ado, I give you Redemption: Darkness Falls by Ivory Quinn. (with a MASSIVE spoiler in the synopsis)

REDEMPTION: DARKNESS FALLS

‘Cause you are my invisible strings

You’re the ties that bind me whole

You’re all that keeps me together

You’re the dark matter of my soul

It’s been six long months since Gabriel died and Noelle’s nightmares are swallowing her whole.

In a last ditch attempt to save her sanity, Jax takes her to Cal Henway, the infamous and enigmatic Master of Kink, to see if he can slay her demons. He, in turn, entrusts her care to Master Blue – Dom, loveable rogue and practical joker.

Blue knows the only way to silence her demons is to sate them, but will their journey through the darkest parts of her desires save her, or break her beyond all repair?

Sorry about the major spoiler; I didn’t write it.

This is also meant to be the cover reveal, so I thought I’d save that for last…

Ooh, saucy!

Redemption: Darkness Falls ~ Ivory Quinn

I’m doubly excited for this release because the fan group had a competition to write our first chapter for Redemption, the way we thought it could be, and mine won! So my chapter will be published in the back of Redemption for everyone to read as well. So really this is all about me…

Redemption: Darkness Falls is released on 2nd August 2013 

Book 1 ~ Obsession: Darkness Falls is available now here in the US and here in the UK

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