Books, I think I just rambled, Life

2019 – it happened. also, still no grey hair

2019 wasn’t the easiest year I’ve ever lived, but it also was one full of richness and joy and growth. (Clearly, I should write greeting cards.)

Let’s do a little recap, shall we?

TEACHING // BREAST LUMPS // ILLNESS

in a different country, but still lovin’ the same authors

Teaching abroad was an adventure. I believed it was the right place for me, but I missed home and my family and my books. And financial stability.

I earned money by freelance work (read: Fiverr – ONE DAY I WILL TELL YOU ABOUT MY SHORT-LIVED CAREER), and with some support from home and half my rent paid by the school, I was able to live and teach English. I met so many lovely people there who really blessed me. I learned far more than I taught.

I returned home and started working in an office job. And then I discovered that I had a lump in my breast. (The two … are not connected.) It was a pretty dark month, that one. I decided to plan my funeral. I got as far as a room with a coffin and some chairs. (Don’t attend, by the way, it’s going to be completely boring.)

I had an ultrasound and it turns out I have fibre-something-something. I can’t spell or remember it, but apparently – and more importantly – it’s called a ‘breast mouse’. So. Brambly Hedge never had that sort of mice, lemme tell you- Okay. Let’s stop there.

According to the doctor, I’m okay, and my funeral plans were premature. But I can’t help but view my mammary glands as ticking time bombs.

And then there’s been other illness in the family and that’s been difficult and has sucked.

i saw this online and had to recreate it. … months later and it’s still HYSTERICAL

A Hawaiian snail went extinct. Other people and creatures have had a far more rubbish 2019 than I have. Truly. When I compare my life – I mean, I know we shouldn’t – but fried parsnips, it could be so much worse. I don’t have breast cancer. And the fact that I can type that feels like some kind of miracle for which I am so. grateful.

Through the dark times and the good, God has been there. Constant. I haven’t talked a lot about my faith on this blog. I’m worried that it will sound holier-than-thou and God knows I can’t live up to that.

But God can, and so I’ll write it here – 2019 wasn’t easy, but God was good, and greater than every hardship. Under everything, joy has dwelt like a hidden stream.

There will probably be harder years – this is life, after all, we aren’t promised an easy one – but we are promised that He is with us always. And that’s true for 2019.

BOOKS

What – you thought I wouldn’t put anything about books in here? PFFFFT. Of course I would. And will. So let me present you with the books that made the biggest impact on me this year …

*drum roll please*

  • Keep Going by Austin Kleon This changed my life. Truly – it kickstarted a better writing routine and helped me finish writing a book and plunge into other projects. The front cover alone (‘Keep Going’ it proclaims in big letters) I’ve put it on my desk and every time I see it, it reminds me to do just that: keep going. Funny, how two words can mean so much.
  • The Bible – New Living Translation I’ve grown up a strictly KJV kind of girl, but let me tell you this – reading it in modern English, stripped of thees and thous has made it a lot easier to read. You don’t have to think past the older English as much. I’ll always adore and go back to the KJV but man alive, the NLT has really made a difference.
  • The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien I know – I’d never read them before. But I have now and what touched me was the overall backdrop of it – of a world, an age that was fading away and how what was new was uncertain. I ended it in tears. Frodo is so much better in the books than on film. Also, the songs and poems? Dope. They’re dope.
  • Till We Have Faces by C. S Lewis I seldom find books in which I connect so strongly to a character – but I did with this one. I am going to have to read it again, I think. But more slowly this time. I rush when I enjoy a book, you see, gobbling it up instead of savoring it.

There are more, I’m sure. I’ve enjoyed many books this year. I haven’t been keeping my goodreads updated because I’ve lowkey got a conspiracy theory running about Amazon and how they’re probably gathering all the books I’ve read and items I’ve purchased and guessing what kind of a person I am and I don’t need that kind of stress okay?

I’ll give the information to Facebook, instead, via Instagram.

IN SUMMARY

Thank you so much for reading my blog. This is a place where I unload my brain and amuse myself (one of my besetting sins is that I find myself funny – even if the reality, and other people’s groans, point to the contrary.) and the fact that you’ve stuck around and read these posts? Thank you. You’re pretty awesome. Tell me how your year has gone? What’s the best book you’ve picked up? What’s the worst?

Next week brings a new year, and with it, new adventures.

See you there!

adventures and awesome fashion sense await!

*re the title of this post: if my hair goes grey it means that i’m one step closer to the wolf pelt hair i’ve been aiming for ever since i decided it would be awesome to have wolf-pelt hair. i haven’t actually pictured it clearly in my head but i think it would be amazing. Yes, I am a mature adult – why are you asking?

Books

the joys of a book buying ban

Since the 1st of December, I’ve been on a book buying ban. I know – what heinous heresy is this?! A bookworm refraining from buying books?

I have my reasons – I felt greedy, gorging myself on newly butchered trees. My bookworm soul was beginning to bear an unflattering resemblance to Jabba the Hutt. And yet I wasn’t reading the books. I had the excuses – I’m a queen at excuses – but the time had come when I couldn’t continue. There were no more excuses left.

My soul was burning with guilt.

It was a time for a change.

I’m on books 7 and 8 out of 45 books which I’ve owned but never read. (And … I own more than 45 unread books. I think. I haven’t counted because quite frankly, I feel ashamed. Why ’45’? Because it’s a start and ’50’ was rather daunting.)

Here’s a bit of a status update: I’ve read some books which I’ve bought recently, and books which I bought years and years ago.

And let me tell you, I am finding gems.

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis left me crying on my bedroom floor – and really confused because I knew that there was analogy somewhere. Pro Tip: Don’t read books late at night, when you’re reading fast because you want to know what happens next and thennnnn you’ve accidentally missed the meaning of the whole book because of a really important paragraph. Or three.

The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley wrapped me up with a warm blanket of nostalgia – Robin Hood was my childhood hero. Honest to goodness … books and movies about him truly shaped who I was and how I viewed the world.

(And it still does.)

And I loved it … and then THEY ALL GET SENT OUT TO A CRUSADE AND BASICALLY I’M GOING TO ASSUME THEY ALL DIED OF PLAGUE.

(I don’t care if it was the Third Crusade, Suzannah. I can just picture them in my mind. And they’re all dead. As doornails. And dodos. And diplodocuseseses. [diplodocusi?])

And other books … I’ve finally cracked open that Christian fantasy that I bought many moons ago. It’s fabulous. FAB-U-LOUS. How did I not know that this existed???!!! HOW DID I NOT PICK IT UP BEFORE???? I’m on page 95 so my opinions could change but I think this is going to be glorious.

GLORIOUS.

Why?

  1. It’s a sort of Helen of Troy retelling
  2. IT HAS A CASSANDRA TYPE CHARACTER
  3. It’s dramatic
  4. SO. DRAMATIC
  5. It is feeding my soul
  6. It’s putting a gleam in my eye

“Nay. Nay, m’lord!” She rushed to his side. “Never will you be anything less than the magnificent man and warrior you’ve always been.”

These kind of quotes just … ugh!!! Reading them gives a spring to my step and a chuckle in my cheek. (Let’s just pretend that’s a thing.) I’m so very glad that it stayed on my shelves all through the years.

Also, I’m reading a Western about a centaur.

This book buying ban has been the best thing for my bookworm-ness and my bank account. And for brilliant alliteration.

Ah-hem.

read the rules and follow my book ban right here.

Books, Recountings

that one georgette heyer short story that boggles me. BOGGLES. ME.

Picture this …

It’s the Regency Era – an Era which, by the way, should Romance Novels be believed, stretches on for a few hundred years and has possibly continued even until this day. It is entirely populated by eligible aristocracy. Dukes and Marquis and Lords and Earls. All handsome, unmarried, and broken in a way that only can be fixed by the love of a good woman.

And there are the maidens. And disgraced daughters of Earls or vicars etc. And fiery spitfires (all with red hair. You can’t have a temper unless you have red hair. Also: they are all beautiful when they are angry). And wallflowers. And bluestockings. And just, lots of nouns that denote ‘this here woman is about to get HITCHEEDDD!!’

Oh. And widows.

You are a widow. You have a beautiful daughter. You want her to marry well. You are being favoured by the attentions of a Marquis hitherto elusive when it comes to showing intentions of marriage. You are CONVINCED that he is showing interest in your daughter. You are CONVINCED that an offer of marriage is to come. Also, you are mildly jealous. (You are thirty-seven, by the way. About to retire into a nursing home.) (He is forty. HE COULDN’T BE POSSIBLY INTERESTED IN YOU. OH NOOO.)

BUT THEN … your daughter WANTS TO MARRY SOMEONE ELSE.

(I KNOW. YOU – THE WIDOW – ARE QUAKING IN YOUR CUSTOM LEATHER BOOTS. YOU CANNOT BELIEVE IT TO BE SO.)

Your Marquis comes in. He declares his intentions. You feel TERRIBLE because you must turn him away. Your daughter is to be married … TO ANOTHER.

And then he says, before he leaves, that he must put in a good word for your daughter; that she is in love and ought to marry the man of her dreams.

*RECORD SCRATCH*

(This device won’t be invented for a good few years – but you are a very forward thinking widow.)

Get this: The Marquis doesn’t want to be your daughter’s HUSBAND. He wants to be her FATHER.

(A line that, really, I never thought I’d have to type.)

I feel as though I could facepalm. My neighbours could facepalm. England – nay, EUROPE – could facepalm. The entire world hears your thoughts and collectively slaps their hands to their foreheads and groans.

Clearly there are two offenders here:

  • The Widow … I’m not sure HOW you managed to miss the fact that the man is falling in love with you, but by George you’ve not got it. I’m sure that this obliviousness is Not Unknown in the world so I shall forgive you for it.
  • The Marquis … mainly the Marquis … because if the WOMAN THAT YOU ARE COURTING BELIEVES THAT YOU ARE COURTING HER DAUGHTER THEN YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING VERY WRONG.

I foresee a VERY interesting and entertaining future for this couple. Full of charming misunderstandings:

“You mean the man who stopped our carriage in the middle of the night with a GUN wanted to ROB us??!!!?”

Or:

“Darling! Of COURSE I think you should buy those gloves – didn’t you realise that when I moved your cup three-quarters of an inch to the left on a full moon on the sixth day of the week last month when the dog barked twice and the footman coughed once? Why! I thought it was as clear as crystal!”

A Husband for Fanny can be found in Snowdrift and Other Stories by Georgette Heyer

Books, Recountings

why i love ‘frederica’ by georgette heyer (and you totally should too)

No one quite does it like Georgette Heyer. When I pick up one of her books and dive in, that’s it – I’ll disappear for a wee while, completely buried. Perhaps I’ll come up for air, but more often than not, it’s to grab another one of her works.

And here’s one of her books that’s a favourite of mine. (Most of them are favourites. Picking an absolute favourite is nigh on impossible. I do have least favourites *quelle horreur!!!* but that’s for another time.)

THE PLOT DOESN’T STOP FOR A MOMENT AND IS SPARKLING AND WITTY AND HYSTERICAL

So we have this rich bloke – a Marquis – in his ivory palace who gets everything he wants and is terribly bored with it. (I’m sure EVERYONE relates to this. *cough*) His relatives want him to introduce their daughters into society with lavish balls – at his expense, of course – but he’s all ‘lemme think about … ha! ha! No’ (but in FAR more distinguished and witty tones).

“Wretch! I shan’t allow you to take a rise out of me! I want to talk to you about Jane!”
“Who the devil is—Oh, yes, I know! One of your girls!”
“My eldest daughter, and, let me remind you, your niece, Alverstoke!”
“Unjust, Louisa, I needed no reminder!”
“I am bringing the dear child out this season,”[…]
“You’ll have to do something about her freckles—if she’s the one I think she is,” he interrupted. “Have you tried citron-water?”
“I didn’t invite you to come here to discuss Jane’s appearance!” she snapped.
“Well, why did you invite me?”
“To ask you to hold a ball in her honour—at Alverstoke House!” she disclosed, rushing her fence.
“To do what?” 

Enter Frederica Merriville who wants just a tiny favour from him. He is Not Bored By This. And offers to help her and her family (she has a Beautiful Sister and Frederica is determined that such Beauty is Not To Be Wasted) enter into society. And then suddenly – in almost a blink of his languid eye – the Merriville family is plunging him into one scrape after the other, and he’s got people banging on his door about a dog disturbing some Picturesque Milking Cows in central London, there’s the Merriville brother who is Convinced that the Marquis is VERY MUCH INTERESTED in the latest technology (he’s not), and a Fateful Hot Air Balloon ride.

And then, indignity upon indignity, his esteemed personage has to look after someone. On a sickbed.

Oh how will he cope?!

HOW WILL HE SURVIVE????

THE HEROINE IS PRETTY DOPE

There are several different types of Heyer Heroines, and Frederica falls amongst the ranks of Pheobe Marlowe (Sylvester) and Venetia (Venetia). She’s sensible, but she’s plucky and she has a sense of humour. She’s not as staid as some heroines, nor as silly as others.

I approve.

THE MARQUIS OF ALVERSTOKE IS ALMOST AS COOL AS THE COOLEST DUDE TO EVER DUDE

My all-time FAVOURITE of Heyer’s characters is one that barely appears in his book. (BUT WHAT AN IMPRESSION HE LEAVES!!) Imagine my joy and surprise when I realised that there was another character almost as wonderful as he!

“Perhaps,” murmured his lordship, “I yielded to a compassionate impulse.”
“A what?” gasped his best friend. 
“Oh, did you think I never did so?” said his lordship, the satirical glint in his eyes extremely pronounced. “You wrong me! I do, sometimes—not frequently, of course, but every now and then!” 

My brain sort of fuzzed over when I Saw The Truth in a reread.

‘HE IS LIKE HIM!!!!!!!’ I thought calmly. “THIS IS AMAZING!!”

FREDERICA’S YOUNGEST BROTHERS ARE THE BEST THING EVER

I have a soft spot for siblings in novels. Particularly when they are so SINCERE and OBLIVIOUS to everything else.

And her youngest brother, Felix – he’s da actual bomb (not in a Lord Legerwood way but in his own irrepressible ‘let me join this Hot Balloon adventure whatdoyoumeanIcan’tgoupwiththem??!’ way.) He *somehow* gets Alverstoke to do things that Alverstoke really doesn’t have the slightest inclination of doing. Like, going around a foundry. Alverstoke has never even thought of it. He’d probably rather recite the dictionary backwards whilst dining with ALL of his beloved relatives than- No. He’d probably hate both of them equally.

In a lazy kind of way.

ALSO, THE DOG

There’s this scene – hySTERICALLY FUNNY OF COURSE – where some of the Merrivilles are attempting to get out of a scrape by the actions of their dog.

All the outraged tradesmen are like: this dog is a coMMEN MUTT AND PROBABLY TERRIBLE AND SHOULD BE DESTROYED becauSE IT ALARMED OUR COWS AND PUT THEM OFF PRODUCING MILK!!

And the Marquis and his DOPE secretary are like: mmmMM THIS DOG? This dog that is a priCLESS BREED?? This dog from a FOREIGN COUNTRY?? o.0 YOU WANT TO DESTROY THIS DOG?

“I didn’t smuggle the dog into the country; I merely caused him to be smuggled out of Baluchistan.” 

ALSO, THE OTHER CHARACTERS. ALL OF THEM

The whole cast. Are. The. Best. Even the two characters that are just MY GOSH UGH THIS IS FUNNY BUT I WOULDN’T WANT TO STAY IN THE SAME ROOM WITH YOU.

Even if it was an internet chatroom. ARE THOSE STILL GOING BY THE WAY???

This novel is a sheer, rippling delight from page one. It’s charming. It’s nigh on perfect. I love it. Read it. You just might love it too.

goodreads // open library

Books, On Writing

writing a first draft

It started because I’m as excellent at remembering birthdays as I am at maths.

(I am terrible at maths.)

Recently, I wrote the words ‘The End’ to Project If. I’ve been basking in the weight of ‘I must get this story told’ finally – FINALLY – rolling off my shoulders.

Sure, there’s so much more to do but for right now, the project is marinating and my mind is resting, relieved from the burden of a story made corporeal.

Here’s how I did it …

THE ‘I HAVE A REASON FOR WRITING THIS’ STAGE

There’s nothing quite like a big birthday coming up to make you panic. My dad was days away from his birthday, and I was in a different country. Now, I’m terrible at remembering birthdays and presents on a good day. I was aware of his birthday approaching, as I was aware of the Pyramids of Gaza – they and it existed, but it never troubled my mind.

Until it did. And then I realised that the only proper and meaningful gift I could give my parent was … a book. I mean, obviously.

True, he never has much time for leisure, and true, there are other things he’d probably rather do in that leisure time but dang it, it would be a meaningful gift (to me) and I couldn’t think of anything else befitting such an auspicious occasion.

It was decided then – I would inflict graciously pen an exciting adventure novel for my stunningly grateful parent.

THE PLANNING STAGE (REALLY THESE ARE ALL VERY IMAGINATIVELY TITLED)

I went to the local print shop – braving the weather conditions and nipping in before my classes started – and loaded up with lots of stationary. There’s nothing as wonderful as a good, honest pack of post-it notes. There’s something delicious about it. Something that promises of infinite possibilities.

First of all, I did a brain storm – I wrote elements I wanted in the story on post-it notes and slapped them onto the wall. And then the monster was born – an entire wall was covered. (Okay, so it wasn’t the entire wall!) Characters had a post-it note cluster, there was a time line divided into three acts, what the city would look like and how the plot was go – OBVIOUSLY there would be no plot holes. There was NO ROOM FOR ERROR AT ALL.

And then I transferred them from the wall and onto A4 sheets of paper which glamorously represented chapters.

And then, using FocusWriter set to ComicSans font (honest to goodness, any pompous notions of I’m writing the next big thing are effectively knocked out by that font. It’s aces. You can just concentrate on the story because it’s not going to be worse than ComicSans. I believe I have Hayden to thank for these tips.) I typed the fateful first words that are probably going to be completely butchered in the next month:

He didn’t think he’d ever betray his country.

PROJECT IF – PAGE ONE, PARAGRAPH ONE, FIRST SENTENCE. OBVIOUSLY.

THE TRUDGING STAGE (ONE MUST)

I wrote the beginnings of Project If whilst I was teaching in Moldova. I’d take up the A4 Chapter that I was working on and write the chapter from there – side note, I’m terrible at planning reasonable length chapters. They’d end up being 3,000 to 4,000 to 5,000 words and that’s a little too long for me, personally. But still.

I was teaching and planning lessons and marking papers and all that sort of thing, but I wrote and that was wonderful.

And then I came home and everything changed. Paradoxically, it seems that it’s when I have the most time for writing, I write the least. I had a few weeks in which I had nothing pressing to do – except for writing. And I wrote barely anything.

My brain is very contrary; when I started working full time AND ESTABLISHED A ROUTINE suddenly, I was writing a lot more and word count soared. It wasn’t record breaking; I wasn’t getting down 10,000 words a day, or a week … but words were happening.

And so, slowly, the word count creeped up. Day by day. Sometimes I did timed sprints. Sometimes I simply thundered as loudly as I walk on the keyboard. Occasionally, the plot would veer off into unthought of grounds, but you have to roll with it and fill the plot holes up later.

Being consistently creative, for me, requires a routine. And so I’ve found a sort of groove. And yes, it can mean that one moment I’m writing a gory scene in my lunch hour and the next, I’m having a pleasant conversation with a colleague. But hey – variety is the spice of life and what they don’t know won’t put them off their lunch.

THE FINISHING STAGE (LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. BOOKS CAN BE FINISHED)

I stalled. I couldn’t help it. Stage fright whisked me into a land of worrisome panic. I delayed it day after day until I realised that I just had to do it. This wasn’t that ’30 day until you get killer abs’ app that I refused to complete on day 29 on the grounds that 1) I had put weight on and 2) no abs had happened.

I had to complete it. So I sat down at my desk, rewrote a section of the final chapter that hadn’t worked out too well, added a few more scenes and typed THE END. It wasn’t quite as speedy as it sounds, but it happened.

Typing ‘The End’ was exhilarating – there’s much further to go on a first draft, at least there is for me, but the story in its crudest, most basic form has been told. It’s all about rewriting and editing it and trying to make it look like I totally meant for that to happen. Yep. Totally.

THE EDITING STAGE (PANIC. JUST … PANIC A LOT AND THEN ROLL YOUR SLEEVES UP AND DO IT)

I’m about to plunge into this – by the time this has been posted, perhaps I will have already done so. It’s going to take a while, I suspect. I’ve planned out my list of edits – and there are five rounds to do in the second draft and just oh this is going to be so time consuming kill me now I mean don’t I’m joking but it’s going to be PAINFUL.

I’ve had a glorious week researching and planning out my next novel – Project Unicorn Poop is undergoing an overhaul. There’s only been one post-it note used. You need a large, empty wall for the Post-It Note plotting method, and I don’t quite have that any more. But another novel is happening because … well, I simply must.

And though it’s going to be a trifle tricky trying to edit one book and write the first draft of a second at the same time but … I’m going to do it. (Probably with total success. *ah-HEM*)

There’s so many stories to tell, you see.