Category Archives: Things I Like

“To the Man on the Bus…” Pages Matam

Piñata by Pages Matam at the National Poetry Slam 2013. Awesome.

A stunning example of the power of the spoken word. Speaking out against sexism and a really brave personal perspective.

To the man on the bus I overheard tell a woman in conversation – presumably a friend: “you are too ugly to be raped…”  Full text here.

 

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Kafka Gives Me Hope…

It has been a long while since I last posted, many apologies to all. Especially to those who had begun to make reading my blog a habit.  I had a cold that dragged on and on, and by the time it was done, I had completely fallen out of the blogging habit. And so followed the usual pattern of good habits being hard to make, and especially hard to remake, so here I go…

But on the front of the procrastination station of non-blog writing on my writing (which by the way has been moving steadily forward, like an iceberg into the Titanic, but more on that later), my beloved BF sent me this inspiring article in Slate on how Kafka was one of the truly great procrastinators, and it has given me a spark of hope. Procrastination may not be all bad… alternatively, I could try getting the BF to tie me to my writing chair akin to Italian author Vittorio Alfieri, pictured above. I have not yet ruled that one out entirely.

The Cough and Cold Fairy is Visiting

With the charming weather we’ve been having in Blighty, illness abounds.

Apologies for the silence, I’ve been at the mercy of the cough and cold fairy for a little over a week now. I think I will eventually win the battle, I will follow up when I’ve vanquished him.

The Daily Routines of Famous Writers

Don DelilloIn furtherance of another article I wrote on Writing Routines, a friend recently sent me an article with several different author’s writing routines. It’s always nice to see that everyone has the same struggles and tribulations with writing.

A couple of the quotes that really struck me were Ernest Hemmingway and Susan Sontag, which surprises me because I (rather sacreligiously) am not really a fan of Hemmingway.

 Hemmingway’s Advocated Routine

“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.”

I think that it’s a mistake I often make: to write until I run out of ideas on where my current scene is going. Although this is a natural break, it does mean that when I sit down again to continue, I have no idea of where to go. It may be time for me to start on some Hemmingway pragmatism.

Susan Sontag’s Planned Routine

(From her diary in 1977)

“Starting tomorrow — if not today:

I will get up every morning no later than eight. (Can break this rule once a week.)

I will have lunch only with Roger [Straus]. (‘No, I don’t go out for lunch.’ Can break this rule once every two weeks.)

I will write in the Notebook every day. (Model: Lichtenberg’s Waste Books.)

I will tell people not to call in the morning, or not answer the phone.

I will try to confine my reading to the evening. (I read too much — as an escape from writing.)

I will answer letters once a week. (Friday? — I have to go to the hospital anyway.)”

This diary entry really struck home, because it looks like it could be an extract from my diary (subject,  of course, to revisions for things like “letters” (What are they again?)). Nonetheless, I saw my own struggles in Susan’s. Writing is a very solitary pursuit, and it’s good to feel that you’re not actually alone in it. The blog helps of course, but so do these lovely little snippets.

Wolfscastle: Art Reflecting Life Reflecting Art

As I was driving on my way home from Wales last weekend, I came across a rather romantic sounding name on the map – Wolf's CastleWolfscastle. A tiny place in Pembrokeshire, Wales that sadly doesn’t quite correspond to this photo. I looked at the map and then  at this stunning view and realised that Wolfscastle is actually the name of a nearby town, not the picturesque pile of rocks that I was looking at.

I really enjoyed the blissfully short while was convinced that this amazing, hauntingly beautiful and wild rocky tor was so aptly named. It’s situated upon an isolated hilltop, surrounded by moss and lichen-covered stones, brambles and heather. Faeries live here, I’m sure of it.

Seeing it, I felt like I had stumbled across a place in Rhye in my book Four and Twenty Blackbirds. My photographic skills sadly does not do the place justice. I’m still not entirely sure what the name of this wonderful faeire spot is. In my mind it will always be Wolfscastle. Colour me inspired. I’m just itching to write.

Reddit’s IAmAFiction’s New Logo

Reddit’s IAmAFiction liked the image I put together for my post Be Your Character – Literally so much that they’ve asked to use incorporate it into their logo.

I even received a credit in their sidebar (thank’s guys!) – check it out.

Reddit

Lovecraftian Longings

LovecraftShameful to say, I have never read a single work by H.P. Lovecraft – a classic  master of horror rated alongside Edgar Allan Poe.

According to Stephen King: “Now that time has given us some perspective on his work, I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the Twentieth Century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” It is high praise indeed. I’ve only ever been mildly into the genre of horror, by why is it that I had never come across the actual works of Lovecraft until I stumbled across him in my research.  Shame on me, perchance. I had heard the name ‘Lovecraft’ bandied about, and like many unknown references, it was one I let lie. In my defence, I have never come across his books while browsing the sci-fi/fantasy/horror shelves in bookstores, or in libraries. Perhaps it was my personal oversight or a defiencies in the venues I frequented. Either way, I feel a little cheated.

His influence is wide ranging, for example the Arkham Asylum in Batman is attributed to Lovecraft. His fans include Neil Gaiman, Jorge Luis Borges and Michel Houellebecq. Not to mention, David Bowie, Metallica and Black Sabbath. An impressive fan base to be sure. So I will presently be embarking on my Lovecraftian horror adventure, I hope it will be as fulfilling as when I first stumbled across John Wyndham. The bonus is that all of Lovecraft’s works are out of copyright, so Project Gutenberg, here I come.

Read Read Read – Read Everything

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.

Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window”

William Faulkner

read%20imageIt seems like any writer worth his salt advocates the golden rule of reading, and reading widely. I do think that one of my greater failings as a writer is that I had such a narrow reading focus for quite a large portion of my life. In fact, to a great extent, until the advent of the BF, I did not really read non-fiction for pleasure at all (newspapers and magazines excluded). It’s remarkably ironic really, as before we started going out, the BF almost exclusively read non-fiction. We’ve both encouraged each other to branch out, and have done. I now have some favoured non-fiction authors, one of which is Jared Diamond, acclaimed author of Guns, Germs and Steel – a title that I recommend to everyone. It is as an amazing analysis of the scientific reasons why Europe colonised the rest of the world and not the other way around. You might not agree with all of his theories, but  it is a truly fascinating read.

The reason I mention this, is (i) to encourage everyone to expand their reading horizons as I have thoroughly enjoyed expanding my own, and (ii) more to the point, I’ve come an article on io9.com entitled 23 Science Books That Are So Exciting They Read Like Genre Fiction, and I’m proud to say that, as a novice non-fiction reader, I’ve actually read two of them (which do read like genre fiction). A few of the others will be going on my rapidly expanding reading list.

io9.com’s list includes: Darwin’s Origin of the Species, aforementioned Jared Diamond’s Collapse, The Poisoner’s Handbook, The Silent Spring, and the one presently going to the top of my reading list, Rachel Maines  The Technology of Orgasm.

Pulp Fictioning the Classics

Tess Pulp Fiction Crusoe Pulp Fiction P&P pulp fiction Gatsby Pulp Fiction

Just thought I’d share:

Indie Publisher Oldcastle Books is reissuing literary classics with awesome Pulp Fiction covers and hilarious taglines. Their first tranch of titles include Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s perenial classic The Great Gatsby, Hardy’s lamentful Tess of The D’Urbervilles, Daniel Defoe‘s Robinson Crusoe, as well as The Hound of the Baskervilles and Wuthering Heights. Perfect for the literary enthusiast with a wry sense of humour.

The illustrations are the handiwork of artist David Mann, and designed by Elsa Mathern.

Oldcastle Books are also challenging fans to try to come up with good taglines themselves. The submitted taglines might even be used in the Oldcastle versions – but be warned, even if they use your tagline, you won’t get a piece of the action, only the glory.

I’ve recently compromised the space dedicated to literary classics in my ever expanding library (read: several overstuffed shelves). I have *shock horror* sold off all my well-thumbed wordsworth editions in favour of compiling all of the out of copyright classics onto ebook format, downloaded from Project Gutenberg. Not as pretty or satisfying to look at, but available at the click of a button and saves so much on space. There  are so many great editions of classics coming out, that, between the Oldcastle versions and also the beautifully cloth bound Penguin English Library editions, I’m rethinking my electronic edition compromise.

I’ve included a lovely little video on the Penguin English Library (non-cloth bound) editions below… a little trippy but way cute… ahhh how I love books…

There’s No Such Thing as an Original Story

It’s often quoted that there are only 7 stories in the world that all basic plotlines can fall into:

  1. Overcoming the Monster: Hero learns of a great evil threatening the land, and sets out to destroy it.
  2. Tragedy: The flip side of the Overcoming the Monster plot. Ourhero protagonist character is the Villain, but we get to watch him slowly spiral down into darkness before he’s finally defeated, freeing the land from his evil influence.
  3. Rebirth: As with the Tragedy plot, but our protagonist manages to realize his error before it’s too late, and does a Heel Face Turn to avoid inevitable defeat.
  4. Rags to Riches: surrounded by dark forces who suppress and ridicule him, the Hero slowly blossoms into a mature figure who ultimately gets riches, a kingdom, and the perfect mate.
  5. The Quest: Hero learns of a great MacGuffin that he desperately wants to find, and sets out to find it, often with companions.
  6. Voyage and Return: Hero heads off into a magic land with crazy rules, ultimately triumphs over the madness and returns home far more mature than when he set out.
  7. Comedy: Hero and Heroine are destined to get together, but a dark force is preventing them from doing so; the story conspires to make the dark force repent, and suddenly the Hero and Heroine are free to get together. This is part of a cascade of effects that shows everyone for who they really are, and allows two or more other relationships to correctly form.

with this rather limited range, it’s unsurprising to find that ideas are often repeated.  This is something that I’m struggling with at the moment. Whenever I think of a cunning new angle to take on fairy tales for my story Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a cursory amount of research informs me that someone has come up with that story arc already (Thanks Wikipedia).

It’s highly frustrating. But I think I’m just going to have to accept that not all of my ideas are “original”, and go with my best ideas even if some of them are already out there. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I can only hope that the angle I take on various folklore will be the best constructed.