Weekly Round Up #13

Weekly Round Up #13 (20/10 – 26/10)

I’ve been working hard on getting on top of things ahead of NaNo (which at time of writing is still a week away, but at time of posting is tomorrow. Help!) which has meant lots of writing and reading this week. The Boyfriend has been on the late shifts, which I’ve tried to take advantage of, rather than mope about, by getting blog posts done, writing articles, reading through some of my backlog of books, ready to start November with a clean slate.

Which was the perfect excuse to invite Carole Heidi round to get some work done on our Augurdale (autocorrect, stop autocorrecting that to Augural, thank you very much) project. Which also meant cake and custard. After struggling to eat more than 1200 calories for about a week, it was lovely to go 1000+ calories over on my calorie counter – which equalled about 400 calories over RDA. I know it’s not good for the diet, but it’s nice to know I’m feeling better! I always worry when I lose my appetite, because I so rarely lose my appetite.

On Friday I had Charlie round to do some singing – throat’s a bit raw from the cold, but I croaked my way through a few tunes with her, and then we had a go at doing some composing. I love how Charlie can take my incredibly inadequate descriptions (I know what I want, I just don’t have the vocabulary to express it) and turn it into the beginning of a beautiful piece of music. I hope she finishes it, because I’d love to do some recording and music video making and stuff like that again. It’s been too long!

This weekend, it was time for Cross Country take two. I couldn’t possibly do worse than I did last time, so that was a confidence boosting position to start from! It was a tough course, quite hilly – but not so grassy as the last one, which gave my lungs a better chance. There was one boggy bit which well and truly christened my trail shoes, and I managed to finish in 37:37, which considering the terrain, the fact that it was over actually 3.3 miles, not 3.1, and my general running fails of late, I was really pleased with! My legs were tender the next day, so I knew I’d worked hard. I worked hard cleaning off the mud too…

IMG_1528

NaNo’s Starting!

It’s that time of year again – fill your desk draw with highly sugary snacks, crack out the padlock for the office and tell your friends you might emerge in a month or so, blinking in confusion at that strange orb in the sky that shines and emits light.

Yes, it’s nearly November, which means it’s NaNo time.

I’ve documented my love for NaNo on here before. I’ve ‘won’ twice. Once properly, once with mild cheating. This year, I’m not intending to write 50,000 words (though I will probably allow myself to get sucked in) but to use NaNo and the enthusiasm it generates to help propel me forward in the Augurdale project I’m currently undertaking with Carole Heidi.

Which will definitely involve plenty of putting words on paper, but will also involve making web content, planning stuff, and getting lots of preparation type jobs done, ready to start pushing the project out into the world a little more.

Which means the blog may be a little less busy than usual – certainly the amount of reading I do will decrease significantly, as I’ll be spending my spare moments writing. My half hour lunch break – which I currently use to read – is a perfect slot to get 500 odd words down, for instance.

And I know from experience that banking 500 words when you can is the way to win NaNo. Capitalising on the momentum when you have it is essential, and I’m often tired when I get home, or need to cook or run or do a multitude of other things. During my lunch break, I will literally have nothing better to do!

It’s very exciting, and I’m looking forwards to the project taking on a more padded out shape. It’s looking a little skeletal at the moment – hopefully by the end of November, it will have a much fuller figure.

See you at the finish line!

Cover Lust #36 – Gone Girl

Cover Lust #36 – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gone girl

So I decided it was probably about time I read this. I know, catch up with the rest of the world already…

There’s a lot to love about this ultra simple cover. The whip of hair as someone disappears off scene is great because it suggests flight, femininity, but it also looks sharp, like sparks from industrial machinery, like barbed wire – it took me a moment of studying the image to realise it was hair. And that’s why it works so well, because it’s suggestive of so many different things, and none of them good.

I don’t know a great deal about the novel – I understand it’s one of those ‘you just have to read it’ books, and I’m excited to experience the twists and turns as they happen. But everything about this screams that something isn’t right. The red writing, the plain black background, and the aforementioned hair all marry together to create something that oozes malice. Which makes me even more excited to get stuck in.

What covers are you lusting after this week?

The Problem With Giant Books

I set out this month to finish off a load of books that I’ve been reading for ages.

I haven’t.

I’ve read quite a lot, and finished one or two of the books I intended to, but the two main culprits are still sat on my desk – one stubbornly half way through, the other barely started.

The problem? Both of them are massive. 1000 page epics. Which is not so much a problem in terms of ‘I’ll get bored’ – I like long stories, and I like spending lots of time with characters and plots I enjoy. The problem is twofold. One, they break my hands when I read them, and two, they’re impractical to take anywhere.

I read a lot on my lunch break, and it’s a great way to get through books rapidly. I flew through Otherworld Nights and The 100 because I could stick them in my handbag, pick them up at work, read for half an hour (which at my pace is plenty of pages worth) every day, and because they aren’t overly long, I was done with both in a couple of days.

The giant books don’t fit in my handbag unless I balance them precariously. And if I do that, I’m worried it’s going to damage something inside, or the bag itself. And I feel ridiculous.

I’m going to solve this problem by leaving one of the massive books at work in my desk drawer. If it will fit, which is a bit of an if – my drawers are more like intrays, and not huge. That way, it will be there for me to pick through every day, and hopefully get finished sooner rather than later.

Because I know myself, and I know that as long as there are thinner, easier to manage books around, I’m not going to pick up the two massive ones, because it’s too much hassle to hold them. Ridiculous, I know, but we each have our reading quirks!

5 Things I Love About The Walking Dead

THE WALKING DEAD IS BACK! Okay, it’s been back a couple of weeks now, but I had posts scheduled up already, this was my first free slot.

I love The Walking Dead, it’s my favourite TV Show. It’s not as good as Game of Thrones, but I still love it more. Here’s five reasons why:

1. Zombies

I love zombies. They are one of my favourite supernatural creatures. Hungry for brains, creepy as all hell, but also slow and clumsy and therefore a smart protagonist can survive them without having to be a total superhero. I also love how they are infinitely more dangerous in numbers, and how the bite turns you into one, meaning the danger is never far away, even when you think you’re safe. It’s just great story telling fodder.

2. Challenging Moments

I’ve often stated that one of my favourite TV moments is when Sayid shot baby Ben in LOST. It was such a brave, shocking moment. The Walking Dead does this sort of thing over and over again. I mean, The Grove. That episode. Messed up in the extreme, but also emotional and understandable and horrific because you couldn’t help feeling you’d probably end up doing the same. And though The Grove is a standout moment for me, there are loads of moments like it in previous episodes. Shocking character deaths, horrible emotional moments, and that constant question of ‘would I be any different in the circumstance?’

3. Special Effects

While sometimes they miss the mark – what the hell was that plastic doll that was meant to be a face the zombie was chomping on in the Series 5 opener? – the effects are generally incredible. The Zombie makeup is insanely good, and I love how they’re always pushing the boundaries – waterlogged zombies, swamp zombies, burning zombies, tree zombies. It just never gets boring. I get the sense the art department are having the time of their lives working on this show.

4. Incredible Characters

While some peripheral characters are a little cardboard cutoutish (Hello, cannon fodder), the central cast of characters are great, and they’ve had some brilliant development over the series. I’m remembering particularly Hershel’s quiet bravery as he helped all the sick people in season 4 (though it did give me the feeling his days were numbered), Carol’s transformation from nervous wreck to utter badass, the way everyone used to be terrified of the zombies, and now they barely even flinch, that one episode where Michonne was walking through the woods with her zombie double and you realised how far she’d come.

It’s sadly getting to the point now where the central group are so developed and so integral to my enjoyment, that if any were killed off now, it would be a huge blow. They did the ultimate ‘killing off an important character’ in the middle of series 4 – a blow, yes, but it was one you could reconcile, particularly with the direction the current series appears to be taking. The guys left? I don’t know what I’d do if they killed them off. Good job they keep introducing characters like Tara and Abraham that they can throw in the direction of the hungry zombies!

5. Daryl Dixon

Need I say more?

Daryl Dixon

(you’re very welcome)

Character Development Case Study #3 – Matthew Swift

Character Development Case Study #3 – Matthew Swift (Matthew Swift Series by Kate Griffin)

(There will be Spoilers!)

A Madness of Angels

Character Background

Matthew is a fairly unremarkable sort of guy – for a sorcerer – until he is killed, absorbed into the telephone lines with the Blue Electric Angels and subsequently resurrected, pulled back into his body along with the aforementioned Angels. The strange amalgam of Sorcerer and ancient, powerful magical creatures of the telephone lines renders Matthew a rather strange individual. Both ‘I’, Matthew the sorcerer, and ‘we’, the Angels, at the same time, Matthew is unique amongst the supernatural world, and more than a little odd, even by their standards.

Motivations

Thrust unexpectedly back onto this mortal coil, Matthew’s initial instinct and drive is to avoid shuffling back off it again. He knows someone killed him, and he would both like to prevent it happening again and to exact some sort of revenge.

The thing with Matthew though is, beyond this, he doesn’t really want anything but to be in the city he loves, away from trouble and danger. He’s supremely powerful and supremely useless. He’s not an active, go get ‘em sort of character. He’d rather be at home with a nice cup of tea, thank you very much. Which is a problem, because, as an incredibly powerful and unique supernatural being, he garners a great deal of interest, and people keep trying to give him responsibility…

Ultimately, however, Matthew’s sense of right and wrong, and desire to correct injustice is what drives him to action. Yes, the people trying to kill him help, but despite his apparent apathy towards being important, he doesn’t like the weak and vulnerable suffering, and that pushes him to action where perhaps a part of him would much rather turn a blind eye and let people get on with it.

Development

After the wild thrill ride of Matthew realising the cause of his resurrection and trying to stop his murderer, Griffin throws more trouble his way by giving him responsibility. He’s named Midnight Mayor, something he tries very hard to get out of. But his developmental path is such that he comes to accept the responsibility of the position and use it to do good. He even willingly takes on an apprentice – a move that could be dangerous, as she’s in the process of destroying the city because someone stole her hat when he meets her – proving that he’s changed from the irresponsible person he was to start with into a leader.

Relationships in YA

I recently finished reading Bitterblue, the final instalment in the Graceling Realm trilogy – a series I have unabashedly loved since I first picked up Fire for review a good many years ago now.

I really enjoyed Bitterblue too, though it was a strange book. Compared to the others where there are epic journeys, evil enemies and far reaching wars, Bitterblue was a very insular book, focusing on the after effects of the terrible King Leck’s reign. It was more an interesting psychological study than a fantasy adventure – not quite what I was expecting, but retaining all the enormous charm of the previous two books, along with the rich world building and excellent characters.

I have to confess, though, there was something about it that annoyed me a little. And it’s something that I know is daft to find annoying.

In the story (mild spoilers, though I will try to avoid naming names) Bitterblue meets a young man who she finds confusing and fascinating, and they start up a relationship. Only the man doesn’t know that Bitterblue is actually Queen. When the truth eventually does out, the relationship changes completely, and understandably. There’s lots of interesting discussion about power dynamics and balance in relationships. Which is all very good and modern, and throwing barriers to a relationship that isn’t just the ‘I saw another boy and he was hot too, what ever shall I do?’ that was almost endemic in YA fiction.

My problem was, as the book progressed, there was plenty of suggestion that, despite reconciliation, the relationship wouldn’t last. There was a lot of foreshadowing that Bitterblue was likely to end up with another character.

A part of me applauds this demonstration that one can have a healthy, happy sexual relationship, have it end, and move on to another one. There is far too much in YA literature that suggests that anyone who doesn’t have one and only one lover is a slut. But at the same time I’m a hopeless romantic, and when I’m invested in a relationship, I don’t want to see it fizzle out with a suggestion that someone is going to end up with someone else.

I guess this is partly because I’m still with the same guy I was with aged 16. I am that girl who met one person and fell madly in love with them and stayed with them (thus far!!) forever. I think readers like to see themselves in literature as much as they like to experience completely different characters – it’s certainly true of me anyway, and one thing I really like is to invest in two characters getting together, and staying together.

So while I respect and understand, and even (grudgingly) applaud Kristin Cashore’s decision to present the central relationship in Bitterblue the way she did (it’s her creative choice, after all, and I’m a huge believer in the right of the creator to take their work in whatever direction they wish) a part of me will always mourn the happily ever after that wasn’t.

We all have our eccentricities!