Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Return of Sim (KIT) and Abel

I feel untethered.

Last Tuesday, I finished the fourth and final(ish) draft of The City and the Trees.

On Thursday, I had school Prizegiving and then the Leavers' Ball, which means I have Properly and For Real finished school.

On Friday, we left the EU.

In a way it seems silly to group those three things together. Two are personal, if momentous, happenings; one is a national event of international importance. But the common denominator is this feeling I have of floating away; of being cut loose, directionless, free-falling. I'm not going to talk too much about this today, because I don't want this post to be longer than necessary -- I'll give full updates (maybe even a prom picture, shock horror) soon. But I am in a very strange place at the moment.

Sometimes I feel the only constants in my life are God, books, family and writing. (Thank goodness for those things, eh?) In that spirit, today I'm posting a short story for Starting Sparks, the monthly prompt link-up hosted by Ashley @ [insert title here] and me @ right here. For rules, regs, and further info, hop up to the Starting Sparks page.
writing prompt:
The June prompt. Link up with us by clicking here; there is still time!

Do you remember The School for Heroes?

Based on comments, pageviews and the general tone of your response, I think it's the most popular story I've ever posted. It featured Sim, misanthropic, tea-addicted chemist from Nottingham, and Abel, all-American blond quarterback hero from Indiana. They are in their first year at the School for Heroes, which, to quote myself, is a top secret international institution training young spies, leaders and scientists. The School ran a five year programme, starting with people like him [Sim] and Abel: monitored in school for their abilities, and plucked from the threshold of their excellent degrees to come here, to Zurich."

I wrote that story for December's Starting Sparks -- the prompt was “Would you stop putting things in my microwave?" -- and originally it was meant to be a fun, one-off, let's-make-fun-of-Americans type affair. But they have resurfaced in my head, again and again, and now they're reappearing!

When I realised this, I realised I'd have to change Sim's name. I try not to be the kind of woman who rabidly plans her future wedding/husband/kids, because hey, I might have none of those things, but I do have three boys' names selected and they are Jude, Silas and Simeon. And obviously you can't have kids and characters with the same names. So if I ever do write this book, Simeon is a no-go.

I changed it to Cam (short for Cameron -- a fun fact about me is that I'm almost incapable of picking non-monosyllabic names for my MMCs), which was great until my friend was like “Cam and Abel? Seriously? Cam and Abel ... Cain and Abel." So then it was Seth, which was marvellous ... until I remembered Nina from LesMisBook. That is, Nina Seth. So now it is Kit (short for Christopher), and thus it shall stay.

Can you tell I take character names very seriously???

If you want to read the first part, click here. It's not really necessary for context, but it sets the general tone. Otherwise, all you need to know is: Kit makes fun of Abel and Abel is nice to Kit.


The School for Heroes: Flicker

The motel room followed in the grand tradition of motel rooms everywhere: clinical, ugly, slightly decrepit. One of the lightbulbs flickered. Kit glared at it. It flickered obstinately back. He felt it was laughing at him. 

“Are you sure you’re OK?” Abel said. 

“Abel, I’m fine! Will you give me a break for five seconds?” Kit’s shout made Abel blink, and he winced. “Sorry. I’m sorry, Abel, I didn’t mean to shout.” He drew long on his cigarette. As he exhaled he wished his mental state could mirror the smoke’s calm dispersal. “I’m fine. You need to trust me.”

Trust. The word was a red-hot needle under his skin. As if he could trust you, if he knew the truth. 

“All right,” Abel said. “I do. It’s just, you know, I don’t like the thought of you going through all this – whatever it is – alone.”

A battering wave of guilt washed over Kit. He couldn’t help meeting Abel’s eyes – blue, open, trusting – and hate himself a little more. Kit was running out of ways to quantify his hatred of himself. It had been simmering for years, but these past few months it had broken out, a vehement, fast-moving rash. Abel trusted him. Abel didn’t want him to bear his troubles alone. Abel would be horrified by the truth. 

“Thanks,” Kit managed to say. “That’s kind of you. Thank you.” He went to the window and stuck his head out, glad for air that wasn’t an unpleasant mix of smoke and eau de motel room. The January wind stung his eyes. He drew back and shut the window.

“So …” Abel said.

Kit couldn’t bear to respond. 

Abel said, “What’s the plan?”

“We’ve been over this so many bloody times!” Kit grimaced. Seconds before he’d remonstrated himself for shouting. Now he was doing it again. He was like a child that couldn’t learn, crying as it burnt its hands before putting them back in the fire. “Sorry.” There was a crack in his throat not merely smoke-related. “Sorry,” he repeated quietly.

The plan was so limp and feeble he could hardly bear think about it. He and Abel were fugitives, here in this motel in south-west Switzerland, and it was entirely his fault. Kit thought of his old life. Streets of London, rainy days in Nottingham, grotty schools and a grottier flat, evenings that smelt of stale cigarettes and burnt cooking. He’d never left England until that autumn. The School for Heroes had changed his life.

But ruining things had always been his speciality.

He remembered a documentary showing two mongooses fighting a snake. They overpowered it, and its last frenzied moment of life the snake reared, twisted, and sank its poison into its own neck. Had it been aiming for a mongoose, a final If I die you die with me, or was its suicide on purpose? As its body twitched and spasmed, Kit couldn’t believe it killed itself as a painless way out. Rather, it was driven mad by terror, until attacking its own flesh seemed like a good idea.

He was like it: a scrawny reptilian creature, shuddering as it writhed from its hole, hissing in a desperate kamikaze. The School could have given him so much, but of course he had to throw it away.

The School for Heroes: top-secret institute, plucking students like Kit from the genesis of their top-class degrees and training them as spies or scientists or the most powerful people in the world. Kit was a chemist. Who knows what sparkling plans the School had for him; how they planned to use his genius? He was the crème de la crème, but he was unsatisfied.

Perhaps it was because, like that snake, Kit had always felt threatened. He glanced at Abel, sitting there like a Greek god. Abel – American old money, sports star and loving son – was the sort of the hero that gave the School its name. Kit had never, could never be that boy: the six-packed blond with the winning smile, high school darling replete with happy parents and wholesome, home-cooked meals. When Kit had met his new roommate in September he’d hated him, his accent, his outlook, everything he represented. Kit had never felt like the hero. He was the villain, surely. It had been October when an unnamed organisation approached Kit with a plan to take the School down from within. It was very simple. He developed poison, and they paid him to use it. In his mind Kit wore a Zorro-esque mask, wreathed in the mystique and glamour of a hired assassin. Last week, when they gave him his first target, it hadn’t felt like that.

It had been working through him all winter, the horrible stealing conviction that he was doing a dreadful wrong, but it all crystallised that freezing day. Sitting on the floor of his room, with his first cigarette in two months, Kit had crumpled the paper in his fist. Abel Ledgister, it said. Since then he’d smoked like the proverbial chimney, and the plan was a slick of dirty water.

“Kit!” Abel said.

Kit jumped and looked to where his friend pointed: the cigarette, burning out between his fingers. The heat shocked his skin for half a second before he dropped the smoking stub.

A sigh that could almost have been a sob shuddered through him. He wanted to collapse onto the bed, but how would he get up again? Through swimming eyes – tears or exhaustion? Both? – he saw Abel looking at him. The concern in his friend’s face ran through Kit like a knife.

“I’m going to get you a cup of tea,” Abel said. “Do you want some food?”

Kit ran a hand across his face. His stomach rumbled. He hadn’t realised how hungry he was. “Some chips would be great.” Chips, salt, vinegar, tea. Simple pleasures. Why did he always make things so hard for himself?

He lay back, eyes following a crack across the ceiling. The light was still flickering. Kit shut his eyes, but he could see it through his lids. He groaned and rolled over. Now what?

Maybe it was his fate to ruin his life and others’. He’d backed himself against a wall, well and truly, and the stone was cold and unforgiving. He was on the run from what was probably an international, nefarious and very powerful organisation, after failing to carry out their task of death. He could not ask the School for help, because then he’d have to reveal he’d been plotting against them. And Abel – Abel, his only friend – could not know the truth. Abel the pure, the Arthurian knight, would be sickened to know what Kit had done. Abel loved the School for Heroes. He was its own. How could Kit tell him he’d sought to bring it crashing down?

He thought, wistfully, of his bank account, where the digits lay heaped up by his unknown employers. That week, after he’d been instructed to kill his best friend, had been a panicked dash of thefts and preparations. False passports, stolen from the School; clothes and food thrown in bags; money withdrawn from both their accounts, as much as they could. There were rules and limits to withdrawals and Kit could not draw attention to himself by taking out a massive sum, so most of his newfound wealth stayed where it was. He knew that was it, now; after leaving Zurich, withdrawals would be arrows pointing to them. They were going to have to survive.

Survival. Kit had done it before. At fourteen he’d spent a year on London’s streets; family was a word he didn’t know. But what would Abel do? How would he cope? This was the agony, this the awful question roiling in the greyness of Kit’s mind. He hated the idea of leaving Abel behind, but he’d do it in a flash if he thought it would keep him safe. But again and again he saw that sweat-dampened paper, Abel Ledgister, and wondered whether, should he leave Abel, they wouldn’t kill him themselves. Why was he the target at all? There was nothing he could have done. Kit thought, instead, that they chose Abel as a test of his loyalties; a test he’d failed. Nonetheless, if he left him behind, he had no doubt they’d kill him anyway. Out of spite.

And so, frantically, Kit had looked up flight times, before cursing himself, because could he imagine they wouldn’t be watching his internet usage? Flights out of Zurich would be monitored, and so they had hitchhiked south, Abel’s charm patching the gaps in their lacklustre German and worse French. Here they were, in this soulless, cold room off the motorway; tomorrow they’d reach Lausanne, and thence fly to London. In the streets of his one-time home they would have to melt away, for now they were rebels. Prey. Kit breathed into his stale pillow. He was so tired and hungry. The tea, the chips, Abel’s care for him, hovered in his mind. Through those panicked nights and clawing, fear-filled days, Abel had been there, helping him, trusting him, blindly, not pushing for answers. Feeding the fire of Kit’s self-loathing.

The door opened and Abel smiled at him. He held a polyester vending machine cup and a bag of crisps. Kit frowned.

“Tea,” Abel said, handing it to him, “and chips. Why are you looking at me like someone’s died?”

Kit took the limp pink bag. Prawn cocktail, the worst kind. “Crisps,” he said, hollowly.

Abel’s brow furrowed. Very slowly, realisation spread across his face, and he groaned. “You meant fries.”

Kit groped for his cigarettes, found the box empty. He turned it upside down and shook it, as if magically one might be hiding, and let out a noise of abject despair.

“Probably for the best,” Abel said, seriously. “Think of your lungs.”

The light flickered as if it agreed, and Kit looked back to the empty box, the pale lukewarm tea with its scummy swirl of milk, the tragic bag of crisps. The awful motel room, the darkness and sleet outside. A sob was rising in his throat. 

“Kit?” Abel said. “I’m really sorry, I thought you meant chips like these, I didn’t think—”

Kit looked at him, the concern on his apologetic face; shook his head, and started to laugh. Abel frowned at him, and Kit’s laughter rose, streaming, slightly hysterical, until Abel had to join in. The light and the crisps looked derisively on, and the sleet pounded outside, and Kit knew that if he thought too hard about what he had done, what they were doing, he’d drown. So they laughed, there in the grimy motel room, laughed until they couldn’t breathe, and the next day they flew to London. In the rainy streets Kit wondered how they’d come to this, how they could continue.


How has your week been? (Has anything happened to make you feel as weird as I do?) If you've linked up with Starting Sparks, a thousand thank yous!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Plain Janes vs Chosen Ones

You don't have to look far in YA to find the Chosen One. 

Harry is of course the obvious choice, but consider the other, more recent fantasy / paranormal lit we know and love. The son of a Greek god, prophesied to change the world. Exiled queens with hidden magical powers. Young mages who may be fated to destroy the cosmos. You know, just normal destinies. Not.

Many of us are getting a little tired of this trope. It harks back to ancient Greek and Roman stories; I'm currently reading Virgil's Aeneid, wherein the MC, Aeneas, is fated to found Rome.
I did not flinch from the Greeks or from anything they could do. If it had been my fate to fall, my right hand fully earned it.
The gods and the Fates have got it all mapped out for Aeneas. He doesn't die in the fall of Troy, nor in any of his trials, struggles, shipwrecks, descents to the Underworld (just part of the day job) thereafter, because he has to fulfill his fate. And he is the leader of the Trojans, AKA someone Very Special Indeed. He has a duty to his country, his people, his family and his gods.

This idea of duty has been continued into YA. Harry believes he is the only one who can defeat Voldemort. Percy knows he could be the child of the prophecy. Neither of them can turn their backs on their destinies; they believe that the fate of the world could be resting with them, so however difficult it is, they have to face their enemies.

But what about those who are not Chosen Ones?

The Lord of the Rings is a very interesting book because it has an ordinary hero. Frodo never wants to leave Hobbiton; he has to take the Ring because Gandalf tells him to. And when he reaches Rivendell and the Council of Elrond, he takes the decision himself to be a part of the Fellowship.
A great dread fell on him [Frodo], as if he was awaiting the pronouncement of some doom that he had long foreseen and vainly hoped might after all never be spoken. An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo's side in Rivendell filled his heart. At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.

“I will take the Ring," he said, “though I do not know the way."
Actually looking at that section is interesting, because it speaks about a “doom ... long foreseen" and “some other will"; you could say that taking the Ring is, in fact, Frodo's fate. I would argue that this section shows, rather, Tolkien's Christianity; those words “some other will was using his small voice" make me think, instantly, God's will. But that isn't really the point. What I'm trying to say is that Frodo is a hobbit and a gardener and generally a quiet individual. He's not a mage or a king. Unlike Aragorn, he is not a Chosen One; he is a regular dude who knows that the Ring needs to be destroyed, and is selfless enough to step up to the task.

But what about my own writing?

A war begins near the end of TCATT (my WIP* high fantasy YA novel), and it will continue through the next two books. Corrie, the MC, gets caught up in a mild bit of questing / kidnapping / beheading (again, all part of the day job), but when Book 2, Stay in the City, starts, the war is going to be more organised -- less “WE ATTACK AND CHOP YOU WITH A SWORD!" and more actual tactics and structured armies. You know, once everyone gets their act together and works out what they're doing.
*Only WIP until tomorrow, though, because I'm planning to finish the fourth draft then!

Where will that leave Corrie?

In contrast to the Chosen One, she is a definite Plain Jane. Freddie is a mage whose sister is going to play a key role in the war. Without giving spoilers, Jem, Mel and Dephrena all have very personal and pertinent reasons for getting all up in the action. But what about her?

On the surface, there are similarities between her and Frodo. They are both ordinary chaps who choose to get involved in the fighting / quest. But there are actually two important differences.

1. Mission Statement

Once Frodo accepts the Ring, it doesn't matter if he was fated to take it or not. He becomes the Chosen One, in a sense. Once he has it, it is his responsibility to get it to Mordor. It is a personal task, and it's the most important task there is.

Corrie, on the other hand, doesn't have a personal mission. Sure, Big Things Are Going Down and she wants to help with the war effort. But she's not a mage and she's not a noble. She's not going to fight on the front line, and she's not a brilliant general/tactician. Whatever she does, she'll be doing to help her friends, not because she's The One who has to do it.

That may sound OK -- doing stuff for your friends is, after all, good -- but this leads us onto Difference 2.

2. We Are Family

I don't know what this is from but I love it
Frodo is not married and he has no children. Bilbo is the only family he'd be sorry to leave behind, and Bilbo wants him to go; after all, Frodo is continuing his own mission. Really, Frodo's family is his friends -- Sam, Merry and Pippin -- and they go with him.

Conversely, Corrie has loving parents and two sisters. In staying away from home and getting involved in war, she is choosing her friends over her family. I'm not saying her love for her friends is less important than her familial love, because in a way they have become her family too and she would do anything for them. But is it fair to her parents to go careering off into danger and possible death?

A lot of YA books dodge this bullet by taking family out of the equation. 

Harry Potter and Celaena Sardothien are both orphans. Harry especially is shut out and mistreated by his real family, so when he enters the magic community, why on earth would he look back? In fighting Voldemort he's fighting a magic war, so of course he's going to choose his magic friends, rather than returning to his Muggle life at Number Four, Privet Drive.

This is not the case for Corrie, whose family desperately wants her to come home.

So does she have any right to turn her back on them and put herself in terrible danger?

You see I've backed myself into a bit of a corner. I don't know the answer to that question. Obviously Corrie is going to stay with her friends/the war, because if she trots off home I won't have any books left to write. But I am not looking forward to writing that conversation between her and her mother. “Why do you have to go away?" her mum will ask. “Don't you know you're breaking my heart?" And what is Corrie going to reply?

At the end of the day her friends need her, and I do think it's patronising to suggest that she can't have those important relationships just because she's young. But equally, she is sixteen, AKA A CHILD, and it is therefore all a bit perplexing.


What is your take on this? You see this was a purely self-indulgent post for me to rant about my unresolved issues. But what advice can you give me about character motivation? If your character isn't a Special Snowflake, how do they make that tough choice? Have I just made terrible choices putting a normal person with normal parents into a high fantasy setting (in which everyone else is a) an orphan and b) prophesied to save the world)? WISDOM PLEASE. Thank you.


Saturday, 11 June 2016

Written Life

Thank you verily much to Ashley from [insert title here] for tagging me for #WritersLife! I've had this tag lying around since, oh, eh, the 13th of October 2015 ... but, look, I've nothing if not a long memory. (The 13th of October is my birthday, incidentally. Fun fact.)

Warning: this post will include hashtags. I used to rail against them with cries of “YOU DON'T NEED HASHTAGS APART FROM ON TWITTER! ONLY FOOLS USE HASHTAGS! HASHTAGS ARE FOR FOOLS!", but in my old age I have mellowed and I think they're an interesting characteristic of our generation.


What do you eat/drink while writing?

Put the kettle on
Put the kettle on
It is the British answer
To Armageddon.
Never mind taxes rise
Never mind trains are late
One thing you can be sure of
And that's the kettle, mate…

~ from Alternative Anthem by John Agard

I don't mean to fulfil national stereotypes, but THERE IT IS AND WE CANNOT FIGHT IT.

I especially enjoy drinking my writing tea from this beautiful mug, which I got last month from Cait's Society6 store. Check check check it out. I don't eat whilst writing, because I like to concentrate on food.
What do you listen to while writing?

Either noise distracts me, or I drown it out. No in between.
What is the worst thing that's ever happened to you while writing?

Honestly, I can't think of much. My laptop, cranky old beast that it is, presents me with the Blue Screen of Death with alarming frequency these days. But I've never lost any files. And having such an untrustworthy beast of burden laptop makes me more careful about BACKING EVERYTHING UP. 

What's the best thing that's ever happened to you while writing, or how do you celebrate small victories?

I celebrate small victories by doing small dances. I then go and make tea. There's a surprise, eh? Sometimes I spam you lot / my irl friends with news of my success. I may eat a biscuit or several. And also make more tea.

Who do you communicate with or not communicate with while writing?

I don't communicate with anyone while writing ... except the characters, perhaps, but that's all getting a bit meta isn't it? When I'm not actually writing, I bore/annoy friends with Tales of TCATT (89% of which is me going “ASGLKGLKF COREM I CAN'T EVEN!" while they nod patiently on). I also communicate with you lovely people, as I am doing right this second.

What is your secret to success?

I've said it once, I've said it twice, I've said it a thousand times. Just write. That is the #1 secret to success. Stick at it. If you wait for the perfect time to write, you'll never write anything. And practice is the way you improve. In English last year we sometimes wrote in class, and everyone would complain and get very little done. And I would put my head down and write lots, and people would express amazement and say “you are so talented! You got so much done, and in such a short time, and it's so good!" THAT IS NOT BECAUSE I AM TALENTED. I am no more talented than many in that class, probably less talented than some. But I have good habits of writing diligently when I have the chance -- not when I'm “feeling inspired". Also, practice has helped me to tone down my (reflexive) Pretentious Overwriting Teen-ness. 

Which isn't a very exciting answer, but it's true. Sorry.

[source] // I love how true this is! Not being able to remember which scenes came easily and which didn't.
Other things: don't write for others. Sometimes I get stressed that my book isn't in a specific “publishable" mould, but here's the thing. If you are passionate about your book and work hard on it, that's going to shine through, and someone somewhere is definitely going to be passionate about it too. So if you write primarily for yourself, you will create something others can love.

Do not be ashamed to be excited about your writing. Other people will be too. Promise.
I happen to think workspace is quite important. I know this kind of goes against my “it doesn't matter! JUST DO IT!*" thing, but on the other hand, writing even when it's hard does not mean you have to make it hard for yourself. So go somewhere quiet. Tidy your room. Take a notebook to a coffee shop. Whatever floats your boat.
*If you read that in Shia Labeouf's voice, you were right.

Write even when the world is chaotic. You don't need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair, or inner peace to write. You just need ten minutes, and a writing implement.~Cory Doctorow:


Are you ready for a nerdy answer? 

During autumn 2015 - spring 2016 I learnt a lot about the interlocking between my feminism, my writing, and my room.

“A woman must have a room of her own if she is to write fiction" ~ Virginia Woolf

In Advanced Higher English we studied The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Offred, the narrator, is a Handmaid -- a state-sanctioned concubine. She has no rights -- women aren't allowed to read or write -- and at first she rejects her room in the Commander (the man she lives with and has to sleep with)'s house because she doesn't want something that is state-assigned. But then she reclaims it as her own, because, she says, “there must be some space, finally, I claim as mine."

In this section, Atwood references Woolf's A Room of One's Own, which states that a woman needs her own room for her liberation / self-determination. The Handmaid's Tale if full of literary allusions of this sort, because Offred supposedly isn't allowed to read and write, and so she fills her narrative with palimpsests to other literature, in order to show the weight of words that is behind her, keeping her sane.

Her room is her space for introspection and reflection, and the book itself reflects this, because it, like the room, is a space for female creativity and herstory.

So when I write in my room -- my own space, full of my things and my thoughts -- I feel that I am exercising my rights as a female writer, in the pattern of Woolf and Atwood and so many others. And that inspires me.

Thank you, I'm done.
What is one thing that writers do (or you do) that's annoying?

Things I've been viciously cutting recently (I'm currently close-editing my book):

~ dialogue tags! These aren't annoying particularly. They're just unnecessary about 80% of the time.

~ “I see / I hear". The book is in the first person, and Corrie's constantly seeing and hearing things. But instead of “I see Jem come into the room", why not just, “Jem comes into the room"?

Hmmm, Corrie?!
~ the pretentious angsty teen-dom. I know I said earlier that I'm learning not to do that, but it does slip in, especially with Corrie at the helm, #1 Drama Llama and Hopeless Romantic Supreme. Most of my notes in the manuscript say “could u chill plz" or “that simile is laaaame". 

Share a snippet from a project past or present.
I have long realised that, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, I always return to trees and magic. 
I write everything, manuscripts overflowing from drawers in my room: abandoned ideas, first chapters, last chapters, long stretches of dialogue, pages of description and half-finished novellas. Finished works, in various stages of polish: millions of words, stacking up in my head. I’ve written about fantasy lands, populated by mages; imagined countries with glass hills and silver seas; royalty, romance, history, crime; school stories, mystery, murder; scenes set in Oblasten or Tellarik though I have never been. I’ve written about lives far more interesting than my own.
~ from The City and the Trees


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Great Haul

Recent haul posts have been entitled Haul of Fame and Haul of Mirrors, and I've given you fair warning that the puns will continue. Rampantly.

Great Haul, get it? Haha, ha, ha. At least Ron thinks I'm clever.
Haul: Dec 2015 - Mar 2016
Look how these books all match each other! I didn't choose this palette on purpose. Books are just endlessly photogenic, apparently.
The one I bought for 1p on Amazon because, though I'd been looking out for it in charity shops for years, I'd never found it, and needed an urgent copy for a Christmas reread.
(And if you think you can see through me and that 97% of the point of this picture is to further my SOMEBODY-PLEASE-READ-ICEMARK campaign ... you are right.)
Part of a late birthday present from my lovely friend Rose. I read Satrapi's graphic novel Persepolis years ago and adored it (though I'm fairly certain I was too young for it), though now I remember not so much about it. Definitely due a reread. I've not read this one yet but it promises to be a treat.
My well-meaning but misguided father got The Casual Vacancy (JK Rowling) for my mother for Christmas, ignorant of the fact that I've had a copy (still unread, miraculously) in my room for years. I was permitted to reap the fruits of this; TCV got taken back, and I got to pick a replacement. I'd never heard of this, but the cover attracted me. I read the first few pages and it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. I'm excited.
Our local Tesco has a miraculous used book bucket and my wonderful mother brought this home for me at a royal price of 30p. It was really good (Duffy = life). My favourite poem was called Shooting Stars and it is breathtaking. Read here.
Bought after much noise from Lauren and Cait. A paranormal YA that sounds just up my street.
This book's blurb (read here) intrigued me so much. I visited it for a while in Waterstone's (other people do that too, right? Find book, want to buy book, keep going back and maybe stroking book for a few months, eventually commit to book) and then was lucky to find it secondhand.
Ashley never shuts up about this book, and in the end I felt it was the least I could do to buy a copy. (After all, I spend most of my time virtually throwing my faves at your heads; I should accept your virtually thrown faves, too.)  I picked this up secondhand when in Durham in March. I read the first few pages and it was very, very funny (I had to force myself to put it down, actually).
Also, there's a character called Buttercup, right? DON'T TELL ME YOU DON'T FIND MY VISUAL PUNS FUNNY. Ha. Hahahaha.
My grandad gave me this a few months ago. It was my great-aunt's and there are dried flowers inside it. It has an adorable sleeve (see the main stack picture); I love a book in a box. Said box is quite battered but the volume is in beautiful condition. My great-aunt has since died and I like the thought of having a tangible link to her. I wrote a story about it recently, actually -- books as objects, imagining their pasts. (It was Edmund Ruskin making those ruminations. There's a surprise, eh?)
I've never really read much Burns but I look forward to it. 
Given to me by a friend clearing out books when she was moving. Honestly I'm unsure about this because EE Cummings', that is ee cummings' big thing was that he didn't use capitals. So this edition feels really wrong. Also, I've since discovered that we have a much nicer copy in the house, resplendent in lower case. I've not read any of the poems, though, so we'll see.
Huzzah! Also bought for 30p from the Tesco book bucket. I spend about 40% of my time rebutting the aggressive Stiefvater fans who threaten to burst my eardrums with shrieks of  “read The Scorpio Races!" I'm gonna, I promise. Soon.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Starting Sparks: June // endings and beginnings

“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table"
~ The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, TS Eliot

It is officially and unequivocally summer! Here in Scotland we have bona fide hot sun. Life is good. May has been a beautiful month.

In Reading

Favourite was probably Anne's House of Dreams, which was a rare and beautiful delight, but I also greatly enjoyed Love's Labour's Lost, and revisiting TS Eliot was wonderful. Read The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock (it's not a very long poem). It will change your life, as two years ago it changed mine.

Disappointing were The Picture of Dorian Gray (I hated all the characters and really couldn't get on board at all, though it was very interesting, hence my three stars) and Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki, which was confusing and odd and didn't leave me satisfied. It had good aspects, though. I want to discuss it with someone. 

The Golem's Eye was a nice surprise; once it warmed up it was better than it's predecessor, The Amulet of Sarmakand, and I really enjoyed it. I'm now pleasantly excited to read the last book.

In Writing

Last night I hit 50k of the TCATT fourth draft!

You guys know that before I started this draft (two and a half weeks ago), I'd been having a six week break, and by the end I was pretty rabid with longing to get back to my child book. I got really frantic and annoying (ask my friends/family). So now I'm like 

I mean, don't get me wrong, close editing is hard. Sometimes I want to throw the laptop at the wall because the stupid sentence won't come right! And I agonise like crazy over little things:

But far outweighing that is my love for these characters/this world. I had forgotten a) how much I love Jem and b) how much I ship him and Corrie.
He glances at me, I at him, beats in an awkward silence.
“Look, Jem,” I say, at the same time he says, “Corrie, listen.”
THEY'RE SUCH AWKWARD INTROVERTED POTATOES! Honestly, I despair of ever getting these two together. The apocalypse will probably have happened before they admit to themselves that they have feelings (ssh) for each other, and by the time they manage to admit it to each other, Sherlock Series 4 will be out.

Close editing is also fun, though, as you slash away at the unnecessary words.

Me as my wordcount dips and dips.
Apparently I actually only need about 3% of my dialogue tags. Who knew?

May's also the month LesMisBook took flight! I posted a story starring Nina, sarcastic misanthrope supreme, battling her hatred of “pink jumper wearer and professional ice queen" Verity Locke, and her not-so-hatred of the infuriatingly attractive Jonathan Bloody Holcroft. The three of them are starring in Les Mis together. What could go wrong ... ?

LesMisBook is my new favourite thing; in list of Books I'm Super Excited About, it sits in proud third after TCATT and A Room Alone. It's a long time since I've loved a short story/its premise/its characters as much I loved The Wretcheds, and I was endlessly amused by how much you guys loved/fancied JBH. I have a good feeling about this story. I think it's going to get more attention.

I've also done a spot of work on A Room Alone. Good golly I hate Charlotte Fiztmaurice.

In Life

I finished school!

So that's weird. I sort of can't believe that I'm not going back. I have a couple of days here and there, prizegiving and what-have-you and then the Leavers' Ball, so you won't get the full I'M ACTUALLY DONE until the end of June. But still, man. Weird.

Finishing also involved exams and my art portfolio. I painted so fast in that last week, you guys, you have no idea. I'll show pictures some time, if you'd like. (Tell me if you would.) 

May also involved the blooming of a probably long-germinating EXTREME and OBSESSIVE desire to travel to New York and live there for a bit. SUCH CRAVINGS.

Ooh, also, I have an interview next week for a possible gap year placement abroad. I'll keep you updated.

Starting Sparks
Starting what now?!" Starting Sparks is a prompt link-up that Ashley and I run. Thanks to you lovely lot who linked up in May, and I know I've not got round everyone's stories yet, but TCATT has been dominating. I will, though, and soon! Promise!
For more SS info, head to my Starting Sparks page.
writing prompt:
The June prompt. I think this is hilarious. Hope to see you linking up!

How was your May? Are you working on a novel? How's it going? And what was the best book you read? When you read this, I will already be gone for an end-of-school holiday with friends, but see you (virtually) soon!