All Quiet On The Blog Front

Things have been a little… tumbleweed and empty-spacy round here lately.

I had this great ambition to keep up with a regular post schedule during November, but NaNo is predictably taking up all my energy and writing time. I’m more than halfway through now, and on top of the word count thus far (fingers crossed that’s still true for the next few days!) and though it’s been challenging, it’s been really productive and good fun.

Normal service will be resuming in December – I’ve got some plans that have been percolating in between the ideas for NaNo, and I’m excited to be getting back into the blogging soon.

Til then, good luck with your NaNo projects if you’re doing them, and happy reading and blogging if you’re not!

See you in December :)

Weekly Round Up #15

Weekly Round Up #15 (03/11 – 09/11)

This week has been both a disappointment and a brilliant week.

I had a couple of days off work, and a grand plan to go to the cinema, and eat out with the Boyfriend. Then he got man flu.

I jest, but he wasn’t well. Full of cold, tired from not sleeping properly, he wasn’t good company, and just wanted to be in bed. So our date was cancelled, but I’d booked a table, and really wanted to rescue the evening, so I invited Mum out instead. We went to Chiquitos and had some tacos. We then went to Ivy’s pub and had pudding and Mum got a pint of her favourite local beer.

It was a great evening of chatting, getting things off our chests and sharing in our struggles and worries. We’re both going through periods of huge change in our lives – new jobs, potentially moving house – and airing some of the worries was very cathartic. And to help us deal, we’ve decided to set ourselves a new challenge – we’re going to be doing a Triathlon next May.

A little tricky – I haven’t got a bike, and neither of us can swim – but we’re looking forwards to the challenge.

The second frustration of the week was that I’d book one of the days off deliberately to see my Grandparents, who were supposed to be visiting my mum. At the last minute they changed their plans, so the day I’d booked off specially was now defunct. I had a few other things to do, and was planning on going shopping, but the Boyfriend was still not best, so we rain checked that for Saturday.

On Saturday, we finally got our time together. We got the Boyfriend some desperately needed new clothes, then went to pick up the new car the Boyfriend has bought to commute to his new job. He’s been without his own car for a long time now, and I’m pleased that he finally has himself a sensible, but nice car he can use. Things are moving forwards, and the future is looking very exciting from here!

NaNoWriMo Progress

At time of writing, it’s day 13. I haven’t written anything today, but that’s next on the agenda. After a really good run a couple of days ago, I actually got far enough ahead of schedule to not write anything today and get away with it, but I’m keen to keep my buffer – especially as I’m running out of places I can jump forwards to in the plot, and need to start doing the necessary, but much harder tying together of the set pieces.

Going strong, though, and it’s looking good that I might manage to finish!

Weekly Round Up #14

Weekly Round Up #14 (27/10 – 02/11)

 A slightly late weekly round up this week because things have been predictably hectic with NaNo.

In fact, the 27th October already feels so long ago, it was hard to remember what I was up to back then.

It was an incredibly slow week at work – I still work for education, but in a support capacity, and the fact that all schools were out for half term meant I had little to do, which didn’t leave me feeling great, but did give me plenty of time to think about my NaNo project.

The 31st meant Hallowe’en celebrations at my mother’s house. Charlie was back from boarding school with a friend and Taylor and Mr T were home from Uni, so it was a pretty full house. We didn’t stay very late, as the Boyfriend had to be up early the next morning, but it was lovely to get into the spooky spirit and set off some fireworks. And eat cake, of course.

Then on Saturday Mum and I went to a poetry reading. We arrived quite late, but with at least an hour of scheduled time left, so we were a bit surprised when things rounded up pretty quickly after we got there, but I did get to read my poem, which received a very big round of applause. Poetry is really not my forte, so this was lovely for me.

Sunday saw the culmination of our efforts at Pop Up choir – a performance in front of a packed audience at the Methodist church. We sang our hearts out and only mimed the one bar in the Hallelujah Chorus that we couldn’t ever work out how to do. The audience seemed to appreciate our amateur hour vibe and everyone had a really good time. It was lovely to engage with the community in such an unusual way, and I look forwards to ‘popping up’ again as was threatened at our final rehearsal!

NaNoWriMo Progress

At time of writing, not time of round up, it is Day 9 of NaNoWriMo. My target for the end of the day is 15,000 words. I’m a tiny bit behind par at 12,794, when I should have been at 13,333 yesterday, but it’s 600 words. I’m not too worried about catching that up. So far things have been going pretty well, but bitty. I’m jumping around in the narrative a lot – mostly because I have a plan, but I know it’s not going to work, and as yet I’m not sure how to resolve the bit that’s the problem. Everything that happens afterwards is fine, but it’s this one key moment that sets the characters on a certain path. And my current idea for it is a bit naff. So I’m writing the scenes I’m pretty confident will end up in the final cut, and though they are all out of order and will need serious editing to pull into line, they are shaping up nicely.

I just need a good brain storm I think – and may take a lunch break or something to do that in the week. For today, it’s cracking on with the words to get back on (and hopefully over) par.

Themes in Fiction #14 – The Emptiness of Achieving a False Dream

Picture by Joris Louwes

Picture by Joris Louwes

“I felt very still and empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.” ~ Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

About

Everyone has a dream. Be it something simple, like meeting someone to love, having a family, or something complex and incredible, like curing deadly diseases – there’s something within all of us that we strive for.

But sometimes, we’re the last person to know what we actually want. Meeting other people, having life changing experiences can change our dreams, but sometimes we can be a little slower to realise this, sticking stubbornly to our false dream, even though deep down we know it can’t bring happiness.

Examples

Wanting to be ‘Popular’MV5BMTI4NjgxODE3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNjMyMjU5._V1_SX640_SY720_

I’m having trouble thinking of specific examples on this one – largely because there are many hundreds of them, but they’re the ‘beach read’ sorts of books I don’t tend to remember… So let’s talk about the YA trope of seeking popularity. Be it wanting to be in with the In Crowd, or desiring the love and attention of the Hot Guy, many YA Heroines chase after the false dream of living the ‘popular’ life, realising when they get there that the people they hurt to get there are the ones that really matter.

The Princess Diaries is the example that springs to the front of my mind – though I’ll be honest, I remember the film better than the books and can’t remember the names of any of the characters – but awkward, unpopular Mia’s (it was Mia, right?) sudden catapult to fame and fortune puts her on the radar of the boy everyone wants to date, and she thinks it will be her happily ever after if she bags him. Then she discovers he’s a selfish jerk, and the only person who wants her for who she is, not the princess she’s become is her best friend’s brother. (This would be much easier to talk about if I could remember what they are all called!) The dream that every young girl has of being a princess, and all the trappings of fame and fortune that come with it, turns out to be a false dream, and true love is what Mia really wants and needs.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickensa christmas carol

Perhaps the most infamous miser in literature, Ebeneezer Scrooge has pursued wealth all his life, and has become rich and successful, but his life is empty for it. Without friends and family, and the warmth of human connection, Scrooge can’t even feel joy on Christmas.

Fortunately a few ghosts show up to let him know the error of his ways, and after Scrooge is taken on a tour of everything that went wrong in his life, and everything that could go wrong yet, he wakes up relieved that it’s not too late to make amends. He gives away lots of his money to charity and treats his workers with greater kindness, becoming a better, happier person.

I Have A Dream

And because he’s one of my favourite Disney characters ever, have Flynn Rider explaining his false dream:

Cover Lust #37 – The Retribution of Mara Dyer

Cover Lust #37 – The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

retribution of mara dyer

At time of writing, I’m really hoping that I’ll receive this for review in the next couple of weeks. I’ve reviewed the previous two in the series, so there’s a good chance, but you never know. If I don’t get it for review, I will definitely be investing. Because I’ve loved this series.

And part of what I love about this series is the look of it. These covers are SUPER creepy. Which suits the overall tone of the book. It should be romantic, that embrace. But it’s not, because you can’t see their faces, they appear to be clinging on to each other for dear life, and what are they doing underwater?

I think the underwater thing (common across the front covers of this series) is a metaphor for the isolation of the characters, how they are cut off, how they must feel like they are drowning within the mystery that is their lives (and to a certain extent, each other). I really like how the colours are all washed out – the whole image is grungy and dirty and it completely reflects the dark tone of the novels, the confusion that comes with an unreliable narrator.

One of my favourite details is the bubbles above their heads, a small reminder that they are holding their breath. After the cliffhanger of the second book, I think many readers are holding their breath waiting for this too. I can’t wait. I hope by time of posting I’ve got this in my hand!!

What covers are you lusting after this week?

5 Things You Need to Survive NaNoWriMo

It’s day three of NaNo – that’s 5001 words you should have under your belt by midnight tonight. You should be in the first throws of lust for your project still, racing through those words with enthusiasm and love. You haven’t come close to burnout yet – right now, writing 50,000 words is looking easy…

At least, that’s how it usually goes for me. Until about day 10 when I hit a wall and start to question what the hell I was thinking when I had the idea for the story in the first place.

The first few days of NaNo are easy, heady, and exciting. It’s later you start to need some help with the ‘surviving’ part of the equation. So here are five things you’ll need, start planning ahead now!

1. Banked Words

You are bound to have a day when the thought of sitting in front of your computer to type only inspires dread. Or some emergency that eats into your precious writing time. Or a commitment that you can’t get out of. (Not so bad in England, but I understand Americans have Thanksgiving – not going to be doing much writing that weekend.) Whatever it might be, you’re going to need words in the bank, so bank them while you can. Fly high on those first few days and do 2000 words a day if you can. It’s amazing how quickly it builds up, even if you’re only over by 50 words or so a day. If you go over by just over 100 words a day, you’ve earned a day off by mid-November. Probably just in time for when you need it most.

2. Energy

Sleep is best, but in the absence of time for that, energy drinks, coffee, whatever your particular energy source is – you’re going to need it. I’m at a disadvantage because caffeine in large doses makes me feel ill. I have to do the sleeping thing.

3. A Cheerleader

The NaNo community is great – get engaged with them, get involved. And find yourself someone to be your cheerleader. And you be theirs – it’s easier with friends, and accountability. You can’t let them down, right?

4. A Heathy Body…

…A healthy mind. This kind of links in with the energy thing – make sure you eat properly, and try to get some exercise now and then. Especially if you’re tied to your computer and making no progress. Getting out for a walk can clear out the cobwebs and get the cogs turning again. You need to look after yourself if you’re going to finish this marathon.

5. Understanding family/partner

Whoever you are living with, expected to socialise with etc. needs to understand that you’re going to be locked away in your office for the best part of the month. It can be too easy to give up if your friend or partner is nagging you to spend more time with them. Let them know the deal, ask for their support. You’re going to need it when you’re too busy to cook/clean/eat/sleep etc. 50,000 words is a LOT of words, you’re going to need time to write them.

D is for ‘Dodie Smith and the Dalmatians’

cbad

Dodie Smith and the Dalmatians’


There were two things that I loved when I was a kid – reading and following rules. It’s my particular Autistic tendency to follow rules religiously, and though I’m not quite so uptight about it these days, when I was a kid, I felt very uncomfortable if I did things I wasn’t supposed to do, particularly at school.

So when I was first starting at school, I was already a very competent reader. To give you an idea, I fell off the end of the reading age scale by the time I was a ‘Top Infant’, which is to say, a Year 3. So, age 7. To balance things out – I couldn’t spell for toffee.

Anyway, the point of this is, that when I started school in Year One (I remember this clearly, because we moved house just before I started in Year One. I did do Reception year, but I don’t recall it) I had a conundrum. Like all schools, my school had a reading scheme. It was the Biff and Chip Magic Key books, followed by ‘Banana Books’ which was this series of identically sized and coloured books, like chapter books with illustrations and writing. They got increasingly more writing focused as you progressed through them, if I recall. Even aged five, I was well beyond the need for Magic Key books. They were good stories, fortunately, but it was somewhat insulting to my reading skill to have to read repetitive monosyllabic sentences.

the magic key

But the rules were you had to read through them in order. And I couldn’t break the rules. I had to read through them all in order.

So I did what any other rule-driven, precocious reader would have done. I made it my mission to read through them all as quickly as possible.

I was fortunate that my mother was very supportive of reading, making sure we regularly read our reading books at home. And the teachers caught on pretty quickly that I could read a hell of a lot better than I could spell. I raced through the Magic Key books (really enjoying them, so it was good in a way that I had to read them) into the Banana Books. I remember them being in this little basket in the Infant classroom, and there were probably about thirty of them.

I hated them. They lacked the engaging characters and illustrations of the Magic Key books. They were chapter books, without the lengthy satisfaction of proper chapter books. It was like teasing me. So I read through them as fast as I could.

Getting back to the point of this post, I made myself a promise that I’d read something decent when I finished. I stepped right off Banana books into The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. I think I was six.

It was not an easy transition. But I was arrogant and determined, and I did love to read. Going from forty page books that are half illustration to a 180+ page novel was challenging, and the jump in vocabulary, complexity of story and the decrease in size of writing all worked together to make it a more difficult read than I think I had anticipated. I know it’s ostensibly a children’s book, and read by most children from around the age of ten, and therefore not the most challenging book in the world, but compared to those Banana books, it was

With help from my mother, and sheer dogged (pun intended) determination, The Hundred and One Dalmatians became the first proper book that I read. And it will always hold a special place in my heart for that.