Life

art, march, and goals for april

I can’t draw. Or at least, that’s the excuse I’ve used for years to hide the fact that I was incredibly disappointed with myself because I didn’t emerge from the womb a full-fledged Da Vinci. (No, I NEVER create high standards for myself. Pfft. Why do you ask?)

At the beginning of March, I thought – NO. MORE.

this was my first attempt at watercolour. his name is harnick. he is not a sea lion as i continuously referred to him. he is a seahorse.

I decided that I would take up sketching and sketch as often as I could. I would have an art journey and it was going to be long, arduous, and painful but I wanted to have a before and an after and draw a super duper eye gosh darn it!

I might not have talent, but I could pour in some time and see what happened.

It’s been a month now (what a month) and I find myself picking up the paintbrush rather than a pencil, choosing to use colour in a notebook rather than words on a document.

It’s so relaxing. So very relaxing. I focus on the page and the paint and not on the world which is whirling round and round with so much panic, confusion, hurt, and death and- I promised myself that it wouldn’t be a post about COVID-19. Dang it.

My writing has come to a standstill, but my hope is that in April this will change. My family is currently self-isolating, I am working from home and our country is in lockdown … so that should cut out commute time and free up some extra time.

(THIS IS LIKE BEING IN A DISASTER MOVIE.)

three brothers, me, and a work colleague wearing a mask – also SO MUCH TALENT HAHAHAHAHAHA. This will be a ‘before’ in my art journey i think maybe. i hope. I HOPE.

(Also, the idea of writing of worlds when my own is in such disarray seems preposterous to my subconscious mind.)

I look back on my ‘goals for march’ list and I could laugh at how much didn’t happen. I survived work, and we are currently weathering the virus. That’s what happened. Everything else, didn’t.

But that’s okay. March has been horrendous and surreal and just very much not normal. I’m not entirely sure what normal is going to look like. (My mind flies to one of those YA novels where everyone wears grey and the heroine is sixteen and suddenly THREE BOYS LIKE HER OH WOE IS HER HOW WILL SHE SURVIVE AND THE WORLD IS SO BLEAK AND ALL THE SKYSCRAPERS ARE ABANDONED AND FALLING DOWN LIKE BABEL.)

April goals? I’d like to write more. If it’s possible. I think I’ve managed to wipe off OneDrive from my computer (I AM A GENIUS!) and have tried to reload it and it’s just not working, dang it.

Ironically, the ‘surviving work’ goal for March has now transformed to ‘survive’ for April. Wasn’t quite expecting that. So. Plot twist.

oh yes, i can see this being a possible career move

This is Lilabet, by the way. She is calm, serene, and UNBELIEVABLY humble. Her hair has Medusa snakes and she’s spray-painted them brown. Rumor has it that that hand? It’s not hers. It could be plastic. From a mannequin. It’s far too small to be her natural hand.

(I CAN’T HELP IT – EVERYTHING I DRAW/PAINT HAS A BACKSTORY. Even a butterfly. I was painting its wings red and I just knew that they were angry wings and basically THE BUTTERFLY WOULD BE AT HOME IN THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.)

Keep going, old chum. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Stay at home. Pray. Look out for others – via phone, or email, or shouting over the fence. And try not to get dragged into the depressing cycle of endless Twitter and news websites. It’s no good. Nope. Nuh-uh.

As the newest Cinderella puts it:

have courage and be kind.

Poetry

the rainbow

the rainbow – leslie coulson

I watch the white dawn gleam,
To the thunder of hidden guns.
I hear the hot shells scream
Through skies as sweet as a dream
Where the silver dawnbreak runs.
And stabbing of light
Scorches the virginal white.
But I feel in my being the old, high, sanctified thrill,
And I thank the gods that dawn is beautiful still.
From death that hurtles by
I crouch in the trench day-long
But up to a cloudless sky
From the ground where our dead men lie
A brown lark soars in song.
Through the tortured air,
Rent by the shrapnel’s flare,
Over the troubleless dead he carols his fill,
And I thank the gods that the birds are beautiful still.
Where the parapet is low
And level with the eye
Poppies and cornflowers glow
And the corn sways to and fro
In a pattern against the sky.
The gold stalks hide
Bodies of men who died
Charging at dawn through the dew to be killed or to kill.
I thank the gods that the flowers are beautiful still.
When night falls dark we creep
In silence to our dead.
We dig a few feet deep
And leave them there to sleep –
But blood at night is red,
Yea, even at night,
And a dead man’s face is white.
And I dry my hands, that are also trained to kill,
And I look at the stars – for the stars are beautiful still.

I found this poem in a book of World War I poetry. Leslie Coulson died during the war, in 1916. Among other poems, he wrote Who Made The Law? which is gripping in its gathering horror and repeated demand. I find The Rainbow‘s contrast between the death that was happening and nature that continued on to be striking – hopeful, because though awful things are happening, beauty still persists; horrible, because the two are happening at the same time. One does not stop for the other, though it feels like it should.

And I look at the stars – for the stars are beautiful still.

Books, Life

book hoarding and a buying ban: an update of sorts

As you know – or don’t, that’s okay too – I’ve embarked on a book buying ban. Namely, on my last count, I own a lot of books that I haven’t read. The number shames me. Shames! Me!

So, taking matters – and the books, though not all at once – into my own hands, I decided to read 45 of those books.

When I was telling someone from church about this last year, they asked how long it would take me to read all 45.

“Oh,” I said breezily, probably wafting my hand in the air. “Maybe a month or two.”

THREE MONTHS LATER …

At the time of writing, Book 18 is being devoured: ‘The Ministry of Truth’ by Dorian Lynskey is about George Orwell and the creation of 1984. It’s grabbed my interest and has yet to let go. So far? I highly recommend it.

But though I am in the middle of this experience, I have already been learning some lessons. Let me share them with you.

I FEEL BETTER ABOUT MYSELF

Though the list of books I wish to read at the end of this is growing, I feel much better about myself. I’m not longer buying with eyes too big for my bookreading stomach (just go with that analogy). I’m reading what I have. And – astonishingly enough – what I have is really interesting.

Who’d have thunk it, right?

This year has been marked by me trying to be more mindful of the money I’m spending, the time I waste, the books I read, the clothes I buy etc etc. This book buying ban? It’s been so very useful.

I do not need to chase after the next book, the next interesting title … I just need to enjoy the ones I have.

BLAM! UNEXPECTED DOSE OF CONTENTMENT STRIKES UNEXPECTEDLY.

look at all the books that I *didn’t* buy when I stumbled upon a booksale.

COULD BOOKSTAGRAM BE … UNHEALTHY??

Taking pictures of books and posting them to Instagram is one of life’s little pleasures. However, it has made me question my motives: am I doing it because, personally, it’s something that feels like an expression of creativity OR – more to the point – does it have a whiff of boastfulness about it? A sort of: ‘Behold! I read this book! Bow to me! I am intelligent!’

I hope it doesn’t, but I am growing increasingly wary of Instagram – what are my motives? Why am I even posting this? Is this for my ego? Or is it because sometimes I have to express myself and ramble and to get things off my chest and I use this blog and that Instagram account to do so? (also I relish taking pictures of books and thinking oh wow this has much goodness. First, Instagram – next? NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC!)

We all know that social media can be incredibly unhealthy – showing life how we want to be perceived instead of how we actually are, promoting comparisons and that general feeling of being less and having a life that isn’t quite as good as anybody else’s.

Does my validation come by the number of likes and retweets a post receives? (I mean, if that’s the case, let’s be honest … I am in deep trouble.)

I keep a book reading diary to log what I’m reading and my thoughts regarding it. I don’t update Goodreads anymore because I was so darn proud of the statistics and I just knew that that was the first stage to unabated narcissism and grandiose delusions of grandeur. I don’t post pictures of every single book I’ve read because:

  1. I’m lazy
  2. I have a crisis of what is the point does this help anyone oh gosh nothing I’ve posted about books HELPS anyone why would anyone listen to my book recommendations OH WAIT it’s fine I’ll do it anyway no I won’t I can’t be bothered OH MY WORD WHAT IF THE WORLD FIGURES OUT MY PERSONALITY BASED ON THE BOOKS I’VE READ also what if this makes people think they need to buy ALL the books am I promoting an unhealthy mindset also I think my ego is far larger than I’ve ever suspected also I think I’d be a terrible regency heroine because my ankles aren’t finely turned.
  3. I’m occasionally paranoid in a HELP BRING SMELLING SALTS kind of way.
  4. Something in this world has to be private, dang it!

Though possibly overthinking everything can also be unhealthy, it’s worthwhile to examine my motivations.

ALSO THIS PICTURE MAKES ME LAUGH AND ONE DAY I WILL HATE MYSELF FOR PUTTING IT HERE BUT HAHA BEHOLD:

Though the book was good, I assure you I was not worshiping it. Also, my armpits have never looked finer. I’M SORRY.

THE EBOOK VS PAPERBACK DEBATE HAS BEEN SOLVED FOR ME

It’s hardbacks and paperbacks and smelling the pages in front of your face. I used to read far more ebooks, but since the great ebook cleanse of December ’19 (300 novels! DELETED!) I’ve been reading almost exclusively paperbacks and hardbacks.

It’s just too easy to spend money on ebooks. In my tumultuous past, I’ve inhaled novels by the dozen. Read two or three in one day. It’s almost shocking how much money – and, more importantly, time – I’ve spent on Kindle.

This ban has forced me to take a step back. To enjoy what I have instead of chasing after what I haven’t. It’s not hoarding if it’s books, one of my cups says. But … to be frank … if I’m buying book after book after book and not reading them … it certainly feels like it is.

I’m all for building a personal library, but I want to do it in a mindful manner. Not in a frenzy of buying a stack of books I’ve haven’t read.

Happy reading!

I think I just rambled, Life

very exciting and likely goals for march

Well, it’s a new month. Instead of reviewing what I did in February (… I saw EMMA. three times. That’s it.) I’m going to put my goals/wishlist for March right here. Feel free to let me know what your goals are for March. Or don’t. That’s okay too.

EDIT ANOTHER 40 PAGES OF PROJECT IF

The editing of Project If is going so slowly that it makes a glacier like it’s breaking the sound barrier. However, I will take whatever victories I can and so therefore, I wish to edit another 40 pages and update the word document for the last 40 pages.

Patches of the novel still boggle me – I’m not sure how I got the plot into such a state, but I did. And so, I must mend it.

I don’t see problems … I see solutions.

EDIT/PROOFREAD OUR INTREPID HEROINE THE FIRST

Our Intrepid Heroine was taken down because it needed de-typoing and updating and just a major overhaul. It’s getting a new cover – exciting, I know – I’ve got Monkey and Whale Designs lined up to do it for me and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with. I’m going to have a whole step-by-step front cover design post at the end of it too. (I always find those really fascinating to view. AND IT IS NOT BECAUSE I AM NOSY. I am interested in the creative process. So there.)

I knocked this one up myself – but it is time for someone else to have a go …

SURVIVE WORK

It’s that life to work to sleep balance that I’ve been lacking recently. I slipped out of my writing routine and didn’t get enough sleep and so everything went to pot. I don’t know about you, but if I’m sleep-deprived, I turn into an emotional wreck riddled with paranoia and bouts of Certainty That Everything Is Dreadful.

NO MORE! This is going to change. I – a twenty-five year old adult – am going to have a bedtime.

Yeah, I know.

SUCH A BLOOMIN’ ADULT. MUCH SHOCK!!

WRITE MORE + SPEND LESS

Once I’d finished Project If and Unicorn Poop Part One I fell into a creative hole. Well, much like Ben Solo, I’m going to crawl out of the pit, save someone’s life and then die and OH MY GOSH THE RISE OF SKYWALKER WHY WOULD YOU HURT HIM LIKE THAT????

Ah-hem.

Well, I’ll be hammering out Unicorn Poop Part Two and possibly starting back up on Our Intrepid Heroine The Third.

Also, I’m going to be budgeting – or if not that, at the very least be more aware of how much I spend. I need to save up for a cottage with room enough for a library, you see. PRIORITIES.

WEATHER THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

I don’t usually – or ever, really – talk about world news on this blog, but let’s break with tradition for a wee moment …

No one truly knows what is going to happen though it is very easy to think of worse case scenarios. I keep on thinking of FEED by Mira Grant which is rather inappropriate because that was about zombies and bloggers. (There’s a difference.)

I just hope that we can weather this with the least amount of cases as possible. Perhaps this is too much optimism but there’s always a chance that it won’t be as bad as some people predict.

Oliver Cromwell apparently once told his soldiers to: put your faith in God, but keep your powder dry.

I think we can change this to:

Put your faith in God, but also please wash your hands.

On Writing

hayden wand visits the blog

Today, I have Hayden Wand on my blog. I’m dead chuffed because I read her review blog for years and now I get to examine her brains about everything. I mean, to interview her. Asking questions. Politely. Nowadays, she’s over at Leatherbound, is an author herself, and has excellent taste*.

*And by that I mean – amongst many other wonderful things – she is a fan of Batman and doesn’t mind when I message her out of the blue about him. NO. I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM? Why do you ask?

So, grab a beverage of your choice. Stand, sit, or lie down. Pop your headphones in or retreat to a quiet place. Or don’t do anything. Don’t let me tell you what to do – except for this: enjoy, because we are in for a treat! We’ve got books (of course!), writing (THANK YOU), a controversial opinion on Jane Eyre (* le gasp*) and Batman (!!!). Buckle up! Let’s go …

TRADITIONAL GIF IS NOW TRADITION!

Quick! Three random things about your day to day routine. GO!

1- The first thing I do when I wake up is make my bed. My day goes so much better when my bed is made.  

2-TODAY has a special wrinkle in my daily routine because my family and I are going to a ball tonight! Years ago, some friends of my family started a biannual heritage ball. We all dress up in our best finery (I have curlers in my hair right now) and then dance like it’s 1810 London. 

3- You know those fancy jade rollers you can use on your face for a massage or to apply serum? I have one of those and I love using it before bed. I feel very rich and glamourous when I do so. I immediately turn into a wealthy Hollywood Star circa 1938.

If you could read a book for the first time again – what would it be?

I think I’d have to say Pride and Prejudice, just because reading it for the first time was one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had. When I first read it, I knew nothing about it, and what’s more, I didn’t really know anybody else who’d read it either! So it was basically this book I no preconceived notions about and ended up—to my shock—loving.

I’m a little sad that overexposure to the story has taken away a lot of its charm for me.

What’s a classic you think is underrated?

Hmmmm….would the world kill me if I said Jane Eyre is overrated, and I enjoy Charlotte Brontë’s Villette much more? Even that isn’t my favorite (The Brontës and I don’t get along very well) but I think it’s weird how EVERYONE has heard of Jane Eyre, but like…no one knows about her other books.

If you had to turn a book into a flea, put the flea in a box, put that box into another box, mail it to yourself and SMASH IT WITH A HAMMER!! … what book would it be?

OKAY- so this book shall remain nameless, BUT there was this one novel I read that basically used religion (and Biblical imagery/paraphrased quotes in particular) as an example of Men oppressing Women. I knew the novel would be more feministic than I’d probably agree with, but I’d hoped it would more nuanced. Nope. It got RIDICULOUS by the end to the point of not, “men and woman are equal” but “women are literal goddesses and men have usurped our place & used religion of their own to strip us from our power because they are jealous.” It was such a mess. 

you have no option – turn it into a flea

I followed your old review blog and you read a lot of Christian fiction – what are its strengths and what do you think it needs to do to improve?

Oh goodness. I was the BIGGEST Christian fiction reader back in high school, but now I’ve learned I can enjoy it much better in small doses.

One thing I think Christian Fiction does pretty well is just how they are usually just about Christian characters living their lives in the context of following Christ. I enjoy it when the characters are simply & unapologetically Christian. Even in “clean” books the characters often behave in ways that don’t match up to my own values, even if it’s implied they are “religious.” So finally getting a chance to spend time with heroes and heroines who believe the same things I do are a nice change from secular fiction.

But there are a lot of ways I think the genre needs to improve. Many of them follow the same plots they just reshuffle over and over, especially when it comes to spiritual issues; the writing itself can be a little bland and lack personality, and sometimes they can even be too worried about being “clean” at the risk of not being true or realistic to the story they set out to tell. I am excited that I’m seeing Christian fiction branching out, though—and it seems we’re finally getting more Christian sci-fi and fantasy writers out there, even if they don’t write strictly “Christian fiction.”

Now, you and I have discussed Batman in the past (YOU WERE A LIFE SAVER!!) – you’ve been given the opportunity to write a Batman comic (!!!); what’s the plot?

askjhdzfgdhszkf YES! (I LOVE our Batman discussions!!!) This is the BEST question. OKAY. It’s a detective noir-styled comic with high stakes BUT it’s also focused on the whole Batfam working together. Do they always get along? Of course not. BUT BRUCE ALSO LOVES HIS KIDS AND THEY WORK THINGS OUT AND SAVE GOTHAM.

But that doesn’t mean the story is touchy-feeling emotional stuff. Not. At. All. There’d be a lot of focus on organized crime & I think Penguin and Riddler would be the main villains, simply because they are my favorite. (Catwoman is actually my favorite, but at this point in MY comic run she is more of an anti-heroine and totally a part of the batfam as she was always meant to be). 

I also picture it being a bit “vintage”—not purely historical, but with that classic old-school comic book feel. Kind of like in the style of Batman: The Animated Series.

write this. WRITE THIS NOW. (please).

Fanfiction – what are your thoughts on the subject?

I used to be really uncomfortable with the idea because as a writer myself, people taking other writers’ characters and ideas to do their own thing seemed a little…weird to me. Especially because so much fanfic can be inappropriate and sexualized. Nothing annoys me more than when someone’s taken a relatively clean and wholesome form of media and rewrites it to be…dirty. BUT if it’s clean and it’s written well, I’ve come to really enjoy fanfiction—especially for comics and TV shows/movies. It’s also very therapeutic to peruse when characters you love end up with stupid or tragic endings.

I also do occasionally write fanfiction myself and find it to be incredibly fun! Except once I wrote the first three paragraphs to an Emma sequel, then forgot about it until YEARS later before finding the document and realizing that I had 1) no memory of writing it and 2) no idea where the story was going. Which I’m still annoyed about. It probably would have been a masterpiece. 

By the way, congratulations on the new book! What was your favourite thing about the writing process?

Thank you! January Snow has been a long time coming, so I’m glad to finally get her out there! (Even though the whole publishing process was an absolute mess this time—everything from accidentally uploading files with typos to issues with the cover coming out the wrong color—I. Was. Pulling. Out. My. Hair.)

BUT my favorite parts about writing?

I LOVE the planning! Making maps. Creating character names. Writing down detailed plot ideas and fitting them all together like puzzle pieces. There is nothing better than suddenly getting the answer to a plot issue that you’ve been stewing over for days. Or when you realize that you accidentally foreshadowed something? OH it’s the best.

Also, not going to lie—the point where you’re finished and publish the book and then people buy it and you get money? I’m also pretty fond of that part.

How did the story sprout – did you plan it or did it spring into being?

The setting is my family’s car, eight or nine years ago. Topic of discussion? Disney princesses.

My brother Harrison: “I really just can’t stand Snow White.”

Me: “OH? How can I FORCE my brother to LIKE this story and character??? Hmmmm…ah, yes….I shall add MOBSTERS!!”

Of course, that first idea went through MANY changes. In fact, my main character’s personality was completely different in the first draft. Unfortunately, that character was simply not right for the story, and it made the plot and tension really, really, weak. But once I figured out who January was—when she “clicked”—everything else finally started falling into place!

What does your writing space look like?

So my desk is *actually* a dresser in my room that has a space for a bench underneath. It works pretty well…except for the fact that sitting at a bench for long periods is not great for my back, so if I have a lot of writing to do and the house is quiet, I’ll sit downstairs at the dining room table.

But even so, I do love my dresser-desk. I have a row of classic books behind my computer, and they sit below a bulletin board full of random papers and artwork and fairy lights. I also have a daily “Shakespeare insults” calendar that I got from my parents for Christmas. 

Today’s insult is, “You are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face,” from King Lear.

I take undue interest in staring at other people’s writing desks. This has drawers. And books. So – perfection?

Pandas or llamas?

Llamas! I even have a sweater with a llama on it. And an Emperor’s New Groove mug. And also llama lights around my bulletin board.

What’s a really good story you’ve imbibed recently?

I feel like I’ve just been banging around pots and pans lately yelling “watch Tangled: The Series!! It’s too good to languish in obscurity!!!” to the point where everyone is probably tired of it. It is good, though—and after being Greatly Frustrated by animated shows that started out well and then crashed and burned later on, it’s SO NICE to finally have a show that’s been consistently enjoyable. This one is true to the original characters, actually includes character arcs, has great plot twists, and is genuinely funny. I’m just mad it took me this long to get around to watching it!

Thank you so much for having me, Ness! I very much enjoyed it 😀

Thank you, Hayden!! When Disney + arrives in the U.K, Tangled: The Series is at the top of my list. THE TOP.


You can find Hayden on her blog here, follow her twitter here, and check out the stories she’s spun right here. (I recommend ‘For Elise‘. The writing style – very Gothic but in a modern setting – tickled my funny bone and I thought the storyline was terribly sweet. I also thought it was called ‘Fur Elise’ for ages. Apparently, I cannot read.)