Monthly Archives: May 2015

Twittering

Something awesome happened to me via Twitter the other day, and I realised I should probably write it down for posterity. Now, I know Twitter can be like a torrent of RTs and shite a lot of the time, but on the whole I think it, and other social media interfaces, can do a lot for networking between writers and readers. I follow a few authors – big house and self-pub – and I enjoy seeing their little soundbites and links and stuff. Sometimes (i.e. the indie and self-pub ones) they follow me back, and there is direct interaction.

Until this marvellous event the other day, the shining crown in my author-twitter collection was Joanne Harris favouriting a pun about baked goods when I replied to her request for such items. It’s almost like she knows I exist!

NB my best ever Twitter famous person thing which will never be topped unless Nathan Fillion is involved, was a brief joke with Stephen Mangan about Matt LeBlanc’s hair. There was a Moment. I cling to it forever, that Stephen Mangan thought I was worthy of a five-second reply. Yes, I screen-shotted it. No, I have no regrets.

Aaaanyway, while I always love talking to authors – and having them talk back, making me less of a weird stalker – my Joanne Harris trumping moment (and this is tough, but it’s deep-seated) was two (TWO) of my tweets to Kim Goodacre about death in children’s books being favourited by the illustrator I mentioned, Chris Riddell. In case you have no clue who that is (for shame!) then he was one half of Stewart & Riddell, who wrote and illustrated The Edge Chronicles. I loved those books as a tween, and they are still on my shelf like a reminder of excellent book choices past. When I reorganised my books recently, I found myself accidentally re-reading the first one – Beyond the Deepwoods – and falling under its spell once again.

Kim Goodacre was asking Twitter whether death is acceptable in children’s books, and if so, were there or should there be rules about it. And Beyond the Deepwoods immediately sprang to mind. The protagonist of the book is called Twig, and he’s on a quest. He’s a bit whiny and useless, but to be fair he’s just found out he’s adopted and in a sort-of Shyamalan The Village thing, has never been allowed out into the woods by himself. But now he is, and he’s lost and nearly died about ten times by this point, and then he meets and befriends a huge creature called a Banderbear. He fixes its toothache and the two become allies, with the bear helping Twig find food, and the Banderbear even manages to say Twig’s name and it’s all so lovely.

..aaaand then there are the wig-wigs. They’re like the piranhas of the woods. Orange fuzzballs of death that hunt in packs and bring you down by weight of numbers. And then eat you alive. Holy crap, and this is a kids’ book! So guess what happens. They get chased, and the Banderbear (and I’m actually tearing up while typing it, no joke) sacrifices himself for Twig and gets eaten by the wig-wigs. He pushes Twig into a tree, because they’re friends, and saving friends is what you do. So it serves a purpose, and is very good for Twig’s character development, and of course the woods are dangerous. The woods are full of other creatures and poisons and death traps that Twig must negotiate. It’s a pretty brutal book actually, considering. So I tweeted that to Kim, in 140 characters.

The point is, Stewart & Riddell are the duo who really stoked my burning desire to tell stories. My friend at school, Sara, she was a very talented artist, and so I thought we could do something similar. We’d write the story together and she would illustrate it. It never really came to anything, of course, we were twelve. But it opened up to me the idea that picture books aren’t just for five year olds. You can have a proper, pages of text book with beautiful illustrations, but the subject matter is solid and not just about losing a sock in the farmyard or something. The only other place I’d seen such a thing was Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. And I’d thought that was a special case. I mean, it’s Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. They’re a category on their own. That’s just how those books go.

The Edge books dealt with a lot of big topics – parental abandonment, death, fear, greed, identity and destiny – and didn’t talk down to the reader. Alright, the vocabulary is simpler so it’s accessible to independent child readers, but it’s not patronising. I was once in a lecture at Uni and my lecturer referenced the floating city of Sanctaphrax from the books, and of the hundred plus students there, I was the only one who got the reference. So they also get bonus points for making me cool in the eyes of academia.

That’s why Chris Riddell taking the time to favourite that conversation means so much. And that’s why it trumps Joanne Harris and her baked goods. Making me, aged twelve, cry hot little tears over the death of a big, friendly bear. Thanks for your part in that, Chris Riddell. You made a child cry. And it was awesome.

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Wittering

What’s to be doing, Friday people? It’s National Biscuit Day, not that I need an excuse for a biscuit. Or two. A packet? Cherries are also in season and they are the best of all summer fruit. So it’s a good time to be alive and eating, in my opinion.

My Friday afternoons have recently become a lot less stressful as a thorny problem has solved itself through the application of Time. This means that I’m feeling pretty positive about the next few days. I want to read! I want to write! I want to create things! I also want a decent night’s sleep. I woke up at 4:14am with a horrible calf cramp. I verily did wail aloud in discomfort.

But that’s done with, and now two days of STUFF lie ahead. I’m almost too excited to decide what I should do first. It seems a bit weird to start reading now, but I’m also not really in the mood for…

…ooh more Buffy on Netflix… excellent… Well, that’s my weekend gone.

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Ongoing series

Hi lads and ladies! Did you know, the downside of a four month long embroidery project, where you spend all your evenings sitting on your backside (except Thursdays – I do line-dancing now) is that when it’s done and you think “yay, I can go for a run!”… really what you can do is go for a wheezy speedwalk and a bit of a shuffle. I have never been the consistent gym-bunny type. So I have never been in top running form, that’s why I’m trying to work on it. There’s no way I can make myself get up and go before work (I’ve tried) so I usually go on Wednesdays and at the weekends. Twice a week probably isn’t doing much, but as I said I’m also line-dancing on Thursdays and my job involves a fair bit of walking about. Hey, this “average woman in her late twenties who has never given birth but who kinda cares about herself just not obsessively, y’know, with vegetables and not eating takeaway every night, but without a gym membership or a fitbit” bod isn’t going to Instagram itself!

In the meantime, I’m drinking my first morning coffee out of a lovely TARDIS mug, which was a surprise present from some of the leavers at work this week. They know me so well… I’m also going in to work soon. Yup. I was planning to stay last night and do some stuff ready for Monday, but it turns out no one had told me my section was being used for important meetings yesterday (to which I was not invited) so I had to go home. So yay for Saturday trips to work! The sun is going to be out all day, so where’s the best place to be on a day off? Walking? Town? Outdoor activity of any kind? No for me! I love that sweet sweet stuffiness of my workspace, with its tiny opening windows and the lack of internal airflow! Gimme some of that!

Not to over-exaggerate. The sun might be out but it’s still only about fifteen degrees and I’m still using the winter-weight quilt and an extra blanket on my bed. Winter never blooming left North of the Wall.

Also on the go, I’ve been taking photos of the projects I’m working on, so that when they can be revealed I can show you the journey. We’ll see if I can keep up with that…

Finally (I saved the best for last) I’m now on the ARC list for Katie Cross! Her third full Network novel is coming this autumn! Super-excited. The series is about witches and politics and old family mysteries. The first (Miss Mabel’s School for Girls) …don’t let the title put you off. This isn’t a girl Harry Potter. There’s a school in the middle of the magical woods and Bianca Monroe is a new arrival. No one ever sees the beautiful headmistress, Miss Mabel, but they’re all in awe of her. The pupils are working towards skill specialisms, called Marks, which appear as tattoos on their wrists when they’re passed. That way, you can see a witch’s skills immediately. There’s this political underbelly though, in that the country is split into five provinces (Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western and Central) and there’s trouble brewing. Border raids, thefts, stockpiling resources… there’s a war (or at least a coup) coming.

It’s a bit like Howl’s Moving Castle in a way, in that the main characters are the focus and there’s stuff happening in the background that you don’t realise til later is actually driving the action. The characters make decisions and do things that are logical and seem normal, but then you realise that they’re because of something they don’t even know about. And as the reader you’re given the information they have, and the information they don’t know they have, because it doesn’t occur to them to think about it properly.

The second, Antebellum Awakening, carries on immediately where the first left off. It moves the action from the school to the centre of the government, and there’s a whole load of new and horrible turmoil to go through. The progression of the characters and the story works really well, you can tell it’s all planned, and not “well it was a school last time, now what do I do?”. There’s a lot of family drama, too, with Bianca and her father, and the problems they’ve always had. But it doesn’t feel contrived and like a moral lesson, it’s part of the plot and also shows the reader a lot about their society.

And there’s a strong, mainly female cast, if you care about that sort of thing.

So that’s all going on. Time to go and pretend to do my hair (can’t wait til it grows out! NEVER shave your head for charity. Get all your fingers broken instead) and think about all the stuff I need to do at work. It’s clear out day! And notice board change day! Wooo!!!!

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Being continued

Hello, folks! I have had a very busy and yet kinds not-busy week. Flurries of activity with still time to chill. The best thing of course is that following a huge four-month embroidery project, I have very much enjoyed Not Sewing. I like sewing, and making pictures with thread, and the daintiness and the colours and making stuff for people, but I also appreciate the lull after its all done, where you discover all your free time.

Herself is away on holiday, so I’m planning to make the most of the empty flat and get some preliminary work done on Rivka’s Christmas present. Yup. That’s the big project for the next six months. I can’t really talk too much about it in case she keeps updated with this thing, but I for one am super-excited by this. It’s a bit different from things I’ve done before, but I hope I can pull it off. I’d better, or she’ll have no Christmas present!

Also need to get working on a birthday present for my friend. He also dips in to the blog so I can’t say much about that either. I know. Useless!! But I really want to tell him what it is!! I am resisting for now, but I have to keep quiet on this until July and it’s really hard!

What can I talk about then? Well, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention books. I went to town yesterday, popped in for lunch to my favourite cafe, Velocity, and then went for some big sheets of paper to get my templates drawn out. And I bought two books. Oops. I bought Longbourn by Jo Baker, and The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson. I have read The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared and very much enjoyed it, so I’m hoping for another good one. I couldn’t stop myself from diving into Longbourn though. Anyone who knows me a little bit will know I love Pride and Prejudice. This book by Jo Baker is a story set within the parameters of P&P but it’s all set from the points of view of the servants. So you get major event signposts from the original story, but the focus is on how it affects the Downstairs world. Yes, there is a lot of complaining about scrubbing stains out of petticoats, but the people Below Stairs have their own lives to be getting on with. It also shows how privileged the Bennets were, and in some cases how unthinking. For there to be ribbons and darning and all their comforts ready exactly when they’re needed takes a lot of work. Last-minute plans create fresh hell for already overworked serving staff. I’m two-thirds through and intrigued.

For now the sun is out, though if the weather is similar to yesterday it’ll no doubt lash it down again within half an hour. Not enough time to walk to Meryton without getting soaked. Curse! How will I meet an eligible officer if the weather remains so unobliging?

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Status and Stasis

Hey, guys. Confession: I’m probably never going to be a writer. And that’s OK. I just started a sentence with “and”, for Christ’s sake; look at the evidence! That’s not to say I have stopped writing or that I never intend to finish any of the many ongoing projects I have. I enjoy writing and I feel like I have stories worth telling. I just can’t stick to writing as a sole creative outlet.

So I’m planning to restructure this place as a more general creative space. I have a number of projects that are textile-based that I’ll be talking about, as well as things about writing. It’s a sad time but also a happy time. I haven’t been active on here or on Twitter for months and months. I can’t claim that this is a space I want to use as a professional tool.

I am really happy about the friends and acquaintances I have made so far: E O Higgins, Ivory Quinn, Rivka Spicer (though I do know the last two IRL), Katie Cross, Julie Hutchings, Rich Ford, and the lovely people at Opening Line Magazine who published some of my poems. Not to mention my writer-in-crime JA Garrett whom I’ve known the longest of all of them, and apart from his wife I’ve probably read more of his stuff.

For a long time, writing prose and poetry was a saving grace for me. I can’t draw to save my life, but I could paint pictures with my words *vom*. However, I’ve always been quite craftsy. I have made wedding and birth records, countless friendship bracelets, clothes, toys, Christmas decorations, bedding… so despite my lack of 2D visualisation, I work quite well in 3D. I re-upholstered my own headboard!

My time and energy these days is more and more devoted to Stuff I Make With My Hands. I’ve got a few birthday and Christmas projects I’m very excited about. Priorities change, I guess? If I ever get to the end of writing something I’m excited about, you’ll be the first to know. But in the meantime prepare for photo blogs of stitching and rants about Hobbycraft.

And probably some more Book a Day things. Because they’re fun. The books are never going to go away.

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