Monday, 31 December 2012

Oath, Boast, Toast 2013


Well, I can delay no longer. I'm not a big fan of New Years' resolutions, but I shall charge my drinking horn to a good ol' heathen oath, boast and toast.

Oath

I'm going for something modest this year, in the hopes of achieving it. Preferably within the first six months of this year, I will finish writing my fantasy novel. It's currently at 45,000 words, 165 pages, and it's the most fun I've had writing in a long time. I've kept putting it off because I feel as though I should be writing something more 'contemporary,' 'historical' or 'literary.' But, sod it, I just want to write about elves. So, this year, I'm going to stop using the things I think I should be doing as an excuse for not enjoying the things I actually want to be doing. Fantasy novel, ahoy!

*drink*

Boast

I have officially done a book signing at Watersones this year. Come on guys, that's fairly wicked awesome! 

*drink*

Toast

I'd like to raise a glass to my wonderful friend Martine, who recently jacked in her job to go off around the world - first to her acushla in Ireland, then on to her daughter in Australia, and finally off to Vietnam, a place she's always wanted to visit. Martine is one of the bedrocks of my being, and watching her die a death in a job that bored her stupid was horrid. So, firstly, well done lady for finding the courage. Have the time of your life! And here's to the spirit of adventure - may it rub off on the rest of us.

*drink*

...*hic*

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Beautiful Book Art



Not sure where the above came from. It was doing the rounds on Facebook.

There are a few absolutely stunning artists working with books and paper. Perhaps the best known is Brian Dettmer, who uses surgical equipment to sculpt incredible pieces of art from old encyclopedias, one page at a time

There's also Marc Hagan-Guirey, who was featured on the BBC last Halloween, making entire haunted house scenes out of a single sheet of paper.

iAuthor has dedicated a Pinterest board to fantastical works of bookish art, including this one carved from ice.

As sheer coincidence would have it, shortly after starting this blog, I googled to see whether anybody else was using the same name. Turns out there's a Deckle Edged website, and it's run by a book sculptor! Some gorgeous stuff on there.

Feast your face with eye candy!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Alliterations



I saw a tweet recently: How to Write Good

It's humorous, yes, but point #1: Avoid Alliteration. Always, has oft been repeated in more serious writing tip lists.

Far from meaning 'non-literate', alliteration is where words start with the same sound or letter. There, that was one. And another.

Impossible to stop once you start. I just don't see why people have such a downer on it. Alliteration is bloody beautiful. It takes quite a bit of effort to do it badly. I was reading a Booker Prize nominee last night that came out with the line:

...in the whole wide white world of winter they have only each other.

Now, even I'd admit that's slight overkill. Possibly due to additional adjectives, rather than alliteration.

Sometimes it can be fun to see how far through a sentence you can get using only alliteration:

Thomas took that telescope to track tomcats trying to take treacle tarts to transient tramps talking together, taking turns troughing through the trash to take out turnips.

Or try out the traditional tongue-twisters, like:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

She sells sea-shells by the sea-shore

Used sparingly, alliteration lends a lyrical quality to prose. Besides, where would the Wicked Witch, Mad Max and Postman Pat be without it?

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Bad Sex Award


Just in case you haven't heard, this year's winner of the Literary Review's Bad Sex Award went to Nancy Huston for Infrared. According to Amol Rajan of The Independent: Sex Doesn't Get Worse than This.

Last year, David Guterson won it for 'an over-reliance on coy terms such as "family jewels", "back door" and "front parlour".' The year before, AA Gill found the news that he was odds-on favourite to win 'irritating' and didn't turn up to collect this prestigious prize for "most embarrassing passage of sexual description in a novel."

This year's winner beat off stiff (oo-err) competition from the likes of J.K. Rowling and E.L. James to clinch it with her 'vivid imagery.' Congratulations!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Make a Flake



Stuck for something to do over the break?



Happy holiday goodness!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

End of the World Interview


If Jack Dee were reincarnated...

Just wanted to mention, I do a bit of admin on the Pagan Writers Community Facebook page. It's a fairly active group, over 11,000 members and counting.

This week they've been throwing an End of the World book giveaway. Lots of goodies up for grabs, including a signed copy of Lucid.

As part of the festive frivolities, I managed to muster up an interview. Covered a few things including what's 'Coming Soon,' and a tentative charity publishing project I'm working on.

You can also catch up on previous interviews via my website.

Heading up to Carlisle for Christmas this morning (now that really is the end of the world!), so will schedule a few posts and wish you all a cool Yule.

x

Friday, 21 December 2012

The Crone of Winter




Celebrating Winter Solstice with my poem The Crone of Winter. You can find the text version on my website.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Reading List: booQfest



Last September I did my first turn at a literature festival: booQfest in Northampton.

There's some pictures on my Events Page, and memories earlier in the blog.

Perhaps I'm a late developer, but it was the first time I'd put together a reading list. Usually I just grab whatever's closest on the bookshelf. This time I came away with a set of books, all of which I knew that I'd read.

It took you three months to read three books? I hear you ask.

Well, no. Not quite. Soon after putting that list together, I went for a more ambitious 'Charity Shop List'. I've been alternating, one book from each pile, since then. I've got one book left from the Charity Shop pile, so I've read seven in total. Which makes me feel much better about myself, as I always thought that I was a particularly slow reader, and I only read at bed-time. That's a fairly respectable number, I feel? 

Anyway. Here's what I thought, in the order I read them...






Will was giving a reading on the opening night of booQfest. He's an absolutely lovely guy, and more talented than anybody rightly deserves to be. He doesn't just write about trapeze artists - he is one. Click his name above for pictures.

He won the Betty Trasker Award in 2007 for his debut novel, My Side of the Story. He's since developed the main character from that and turned it into a free online serial called How Not to Survive.

We've done a bit of a book swapsie. As a result, I owe him a copy of Georg[i]e next time I'm in London. Hoping it'll coincide with a performance.

I absolutely loved the book. Left my review on Amazon, under the title Cirque De La Vie. Thoroughly recommend it, and think that I fell in love with Jethro the Clown, perhaps, just a little bit. I'm always drawn to the deeply damaged, rough-diamond, thwarted-in-love and suffering in embittered silence characters, but they're rarely written so well.






Jane won the 2012 Romantic Novel of the Year for Please Don’t Stop the Music.

Popped in to see Jane talk about VSoM at the festival, and enjoyed getting thoroughly sloshed with her and daughter, Vienna, at the opening night after-show party. That was certainly a night to remember... if only I could! 

I must admit, this is not a genre I'd usually browse in a bookstore. Hand on heart - I judged it. I took one look at the cover and thought Twilight

I should have had more faith. It was bloody brilliant. Vampires... in the civil service. York Council, to be precise. Thoroughly, thoroughly British, with enough originality to carry you through. Romance, with a bite.

Still, she sealed it for me at the Veyron. She gave her lead character, Sil, a Bugatti Pur Sang: "I hardly dared touch the immaculate chrome of the door; this was less of a car and more of a machine for taking your fingerprints," going on to describe it as being "strapped inside a bullet." 

Look, the devil's in the detail, and I like cars. Okay?

I'm easily pleased.

I guarantee you, if anyone's going to turn you (into a vampire lover!), it's Jane. Great fun.






A work of non-fiction thrown into the mix.

Its full title is: Gateway to Heaven: Fifty Years of Lesbian and Gay Oral History, named after a famous lesbian bar in London. It spans a 50 year period in LGBT history in the UK from the 1940s-90s. Spanning the period before decriminalisation in 1967, through to the battle for equality that followed.

I saw Clare give her reading from this, and it was excellent. She delivered each of the contributors' voices, from a broad Scottish accent through to German and Geordie. Born performer. Extremely poignant piece of work.

I've recently been following the progress of SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda), after corresponding with GayUganda back in 2008, shortly before the government there proposed a 'Kill the Gays' bill. I have very fond memories of Uganda, and it was a bit of a shock when that happened. There were a couple of sections in this book on the influence of the press and legal persecution of gay people that seemed to parallel certain things going on in Uganda at the time of reading. So, I packed up a couple of copies and sent them off to Kasha Jacqueline, head of Freedom and Roam Uganda and leading rights activist. Looking forward to hearing what they make of it.

It really was astonishing reading, to think how very far we've come in 45 years. People in Uganda often look to the UK with an attitude that we have always been liberal here, and that equality comes naturally on this matter. Yet I learned from reading this that it was only 55 years ago that our own Home Secretary declared homosexuality to be a 'plague,' and the media suggested it would be the downfall of Britain.

Non-fiction, yes, but broken down nicely into topical sections and short, interesting accounts. Very nicely done.

If you have trouble sourcing it through Amazon, you can buy it via her website.


--

So, that was my first reading list. I don't think I've done it before because I'm worried about finding one book that I just can't finish, which would feel a bit like 'failing' the reading list. OCD? Err, yes, just a little.

But it's been a fun exercise, and I've almost finished by second pile. This was certainly a special list to start with, having met each of the authors, however briefly. I was reminded of Ian McEwan at Cheltenham Literature Festival this year:

He said that he never gives books to friends, and went into the different experience readers have when reading a book by someone they know, or are about to meet. How the temptation is there to look for clues to that person's psyche in the book.

Not so much with Clare, because her book was all about other people's stories, but certainly with Jane and Will, I could almost hear them between the pages. I'm not sure whether I would have enjoyed the books any less if I hadn't met their authors, though perhaps I would never have come to read them in the first place.

Very enjoyable, all three.

You can find Jane and Will on Twitter: @janelovering / @WilDavis2012

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Incantation

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.

The above picture and verse were shared by a friend on Facebook the other day. Thought it was rather beautiful. The verse itself is Byron. It goes on:
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

To hazard a guess, I'd say he'd been reading too much Shelley that day. A man Francis Thompson asserted as having "the child's faculty of make-believe raised to the nth power... [Shelley] is still at play, save only that his play is such as manhood stops to watch, and his playthings are those which the gods give their children. The universe is his box of toys. He dabbles his fingers in the dayfall. He is gold-dusty with tumbling amidst the stars." - Wiki

Shelley is the guardian of what we aspire to be. Byron bears testament to what we are. Mad, bad and dangerous to know. Why else would we love him but for his Darkness?

When the moon is on the wave, 
And the glow-worm in the grass, 
And the meteor on the grave, 
And the wisp on the morass;        
When the falling stars are shooting, 
And the answer’d owls are hooting, 
And the silent leaves are still 
In the shadow of the hill, 
Shall my soul be upon thine,        
With a power and with a sign. 
 
Though thy slumber may be deep, 
Yet thy spirit shall not sleep; 
There are shades which will not vanish, 
There are thoughts thou canst not banish;        
By a power to thee unknown, 
Thou canst never be alone; 
Thou art wrapt as with a shroud, 
Thou art gather’d in a cloud; 
And for ever shalt thou dwell        
In the spirit of this spell. 
 
Though thou seest me not pass by, 
Thou shalt feel me with thine eye 
As a thing that, though unseen, 
Must be near thee, and hath been;        
And when in that secret dread 
Thou hast turn’d around thy head, 
Thou shalt marvel I am not 
As thy shadow on the spot, 
And the power which thou dost feel        
Shall be what thou must conceal. 
 
And a magic voice and verse 
Hath baptized thee with a curse; 
And a spirit of the air 
Hath begirt thee with a snare;        
In the wind there is a voice 
Shall forbid thee to rejoice; 
And to thee shall Night deny 
All the quiet of her sky; 
And the day shall have a sun,        
Which shall make thee wish it done. 
 
From thy false tears I did distil 
An essence which hath strength to kill; 
From thy own heart I then did wring 
The black blood in its blackest spring;        
From thy own smile I snatch’d the snake, 
For there it coil’d as in a brake; 
From thy own lip I drew the charm 
Which gave all these their chiefest harm; 
In proving every poison known,        
I found the strongest was thine own.
 
By thy cold breast and serpent smile, 
By thy unfathom’d gulfs of guile, 
By that most seeming virtuous eye, 
By thy shut soul’s hypocrisy;        
By the perfection of thine art 
Which pass’d for human thine own heart; 
By thy delight in others’ pain, 
And by thy brotherhood of Cain, 
I call upon thee! and compel        
Thyself to be thy proper Hell! 
 
And on thy head I pour the vial 
Which doth devote thee to this trial; 
Nor to slumber, nor to die, 
Shall be in thy destiny;        
Though thy death shall still seem near 
To thy wish, but as a fear; 
Lo! the spell now works around thee, 
And the clankless chain hath bound thee; 
O’er thy heart and brain together        
Hath the word been pass’d—now wither! 


                                                           - Incantation, from Manfred

Friday, 14 December 2012

Serious Face



By 'serious face,' I mean 'non-fiction.'

As well as novels, I also enjoy writing the occasional article for magazines and websites. I did a piece on the development of the Rwandan Sign Language Dictionary for British Deaf News, and covered events such as Shaggy's visit to Kigali for Eyecon Magazine.

I even used to make rather good money writing about credit cards and student overdrafts, until it sent me to sleep.

Nowadays, I write a Voluntary Sector blog, and the occasional How To for a non-profit wiki.

Thus far, they've dubbed me 'good egg' of 2011, and last week held up my How To Fundrais Using Facebook as an exemplary addition to the knowledge pool. I've also had fun in the forum contemplating everything from pregnancy discrimination to broaching difficult subjects with volunteers.


Never underestimate the power of biscuits... They don't just taste nice, they also provide you with a useful distraction technique. In unpredictable meetings you sometimes need to take a moment to digest what someone has just said and consider your response. Reaching for a biscuit fills your mouth up just long enough to provide those extra few seconds of think time.

I know it's not for everyone, but most writers, at least some of the time, manage to hold down other jobs. Magazines, blogs, wikis and websites provide a fantastic opportunity to hone your skills whilst touting your expertise. The two main areas this type of writing has helped me with have been:


  1. Discipline: I started writing for Suit101 back when it was first setting out. 'In my day,' said the veteran, you had to churn out ten articles a quarter or risk losing your account. Their style sheet took about a day to read, and I regularly got my ears boxed by their editors. I think it's relaxed a bit since then. The 'click-per-ad' pay wasn't great, it's not a career choice, but it did teach me a lot about writing to deadlines and house rules.
  2. Renown: I can confidently say that I have picked up at least five new consultancy leads in the past six months who found me via my online articles. Along with that comes quite a few requests for more free information, but I'm getting better at drawing the line.

As well as honing my skills as a technical writer, the discipline involved has helped me to build up a stock of resource material. I'm thinking of pulling it all together to write a Voluntary Sector self-help book in the New Year. Can't possible be as difficult to sell as fiction!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

First Snow


12:12:12 on 12/12/12

Waiting for the world to end... again.

I was listening to Gold in the shower and they said 'Any moment now we will experience this moment. And then it will be gone. But it will be good.'

Also, thirty-two days after my first mince pie of the season, I opened my curtains to find the first snow of the season! Not a lot, just a little... yay.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Angorichina




During my Behind the Scenes interview, I revisited the inspiration for my debut novel, Angorichina.

It's set in a tuberculosis sanatorium in South Australia, which is now a backpackers' hostel. The fascination, as I mentioned in the interview:

Can you imagine: 1930, TB killed two-thirds of all people infected. Sent off to hospices in the middle of nowhere, lumped in with people you’d never met before, waiting for the inevitable – or a miracle. Ten years later, the invention of antibiotics meant that nearly everyone got to go home. The cusp of medical history is a haunting prospect.

Writers, like parents, try to avoid favouritism among their offspring. Yet, I bet if you asked most authors, there's one character they can't help feeling particularly proud to have written. One that seems that little bit more real, or that little bit more human. A character that you don't just find yourself writing, but also sympathising with.

Mine appeared in Ango. Thought I'd share an extract from a grouchy old man. 



Three times I’d been back to Angorichina. Twice they’d cured me but third time lucky? I didn’t think so. I was tired of fighting. I was tired of everything.

I’d sit out on the veranda of Hayward some nights with a candle, trying to finish whatever book I happened to be reading. Now and then you’d hear a buzz and see a wisp of smoke go up, look down at the table to see a fly. Usually a small blowy or something. It’d been attracted by the light and flown too close, burned its wings clean off.

I felt a terrible kinship with those flies, right down in the pit of my stomach. I’d watch them sit there for a minute trying to work out what just happened. They’d clean themselves, little heads twisting from side to side. Then they’d try to launch. The one thing a fly is meant to do is fly, that’s why it’s called a fly. So a fly that can’t fly doesn’t even have a name. It’s just a little black blob jumping up and down on the table, trying to cover its embarrassment every now and then by washing, pretending everything is okay.

When there was just one of these flies, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I’d watch it going round and round, wondering if it knew the true horror of its own deformity. Wondering if it realised it would never fly again, knocked out of the sky forever. Then maybe one or two others would do the same thing and join it, and I didn’t feel so bad. Yes, there was twice as much suffering, but it was like Angorichina itself. You suffered together, and somehow that seemed a little bit better than suffering alone.

I could never kill them though. I thought about it a lot, wondering if it were better just to put the poor things out of their misery. But I just couldn’t. Would I want someone to end it for me? Yes, probably, if there were a quiet, peaceful way of doing it. But what you might choose for yourself you can’t inflict on others. It’s not God’s way.

I know people here don’t think much of me. I’m not naturally sociable. I find it hard to make conversation in a group, and, to give the good oil, most of the time I don’t care a fiddler’s for what folks here talk about. I see it’s all a mask, one of those great big smiley ones you see for Comedy over the proscenium arch of a theatre. I know underneath is the other one, Tragedy. I’d prefer we all just be up front and honest about that. I can’t be doing with all the forced laughter but I understand why people do it.

I don’t mean we should all depress ourselves either; I’m not morbid or macabre. I just wish we could get down to talking about something that’s real once in a while, something that’s deeper than the crossword.

Guess that’s why I like Heath. He’s a genuine sort of bloke. If I’d had a son he’d be the kind of son I would have wished for. He’s terribly young to be suffering such an affliction, but then sickness doesn’t care how old we are or what gender. It just sees us and swoops in there.

I like to listen to him play the piano. It’s a blessed relief from that old drongo, the General. The man gets right up my nose with his God Save the King every night of the week. Why the hell does he think we chose a national flag under which he could go blow his horn in Gallipoli? Sure, it hasn’t broken all the ties. We still have the Union Jack in the corner, but glowing in the light of the Southern Cross. In the Southern Hemisphere.

I won’t lie about it. My mother’s side came here looking for gold in the eighteen fifties; my father’s side were criminals. Petty theft is how the story goes, but whatever the reason, they worked hard. They earned their release, and they made a life here, a home. And it is hard here. It’s a big country, a tough one, and a man ought to have the right to own what he works for.

You ask us true blue Aussies, and we can tell you just how many generations of labour went into what we own. We can tell you where we come from and how we got here. Can’t say that for those bloody poms. Most of them are so inbred they can’t tell you two generations back. Too confused about who is their mother or their sister, they have no idea where they came from.

I met an Englishman once. He’s not the only one I ever met, but he sticks in my mind. He laughed at me and said: “You know, we really ought to start calling you Aussies the Poms instead.”

“Why’s that?” I asked.
 
“Well, you are all descended from criminals aren’t you? Prisoners of his Majesty’s Service.”

“Look, fella,” I told him, squaring up at the bar. “I am a free man. You want to see a prisoner of his Majesty’s service, take a look in the mirror, mate.”

He daren’t look at me after that. Rightly so.

But that’s what pisses me off about the General. It’s one thing taking that sort of crap from a pommie, but from one of your own fellow countrymen who stood there with the blood of young Australian men flowing all around him. Who fought under an Australian flag. Well, you’d think he’d have enough spine to say, ‘This is my country, my land.’ The Americans realised a long time ago they weren’t going to bow to an unseen monarch halfway across the sea. Why should we?

But there aren’t many here who want to hear my republican views. Just smile some more and keep on playing the piano. That’s what it’s all about.

So I just sit out with my book and the candles, or take a walk down to the pond out back. Whilst I still have some strength I like to spend it out of doors. Try and put off for as long as possible the time when I’ll be bed ridden and cooped up with all those false smiles. I like nature. It doesn’t pretend to you; it tells it like it is.

When you stare at a tree, it doesn’t stare back with sympathy, sadness or regret. When you watch a kite dive down on a field mouse, it doesn’t come up afterwards and ask you if you’re okay, apologise for what you’ve just seen. Nature just gets on with being nature. If only human nature were as steady.

I guess again that’s why I like Heath. He just gets on with being Heath. When he doesn’t feel like talking, he goes for a walk, or he sits and plays the piano. When he does laugh and joke, he’s young enough for it to be genuine. He watches the sad things around him and acknowledges them quietly. He doesn’t gloss over anything, and despite those things, he still stands tall like a man ought.

Yes, I would have had a son like him if God saw fit to grant me one.

God did grant me a wife though, and a beautiful daughter…but that I cannot think about. Some things in this world can break a man’s heart and what happened to them - well, that broke mine.

I remember the first conversation Heath and I had. He’d been here about two-and-a-half months, laid out flat in Charles Moore. I was in Hayward, and other than on his first day introduction I didn’t see him. I keep to myself.

I spend a lot of time down on the vegetable allotments. There’s a shed for the tools; it’s large enough to lay some sacking down and sit on the potting tables. I used to drive Nurse Clark mad like that; I could always tell when a storm was coming and I liked to sit in there and watch the rain pounding down, washing the land clean, making the plants grow. I’d disappear for hours.

Then one day I saw the lightning in the distance. I got myself down there and into a comfortable position. Moments before the rain started, this young lad appears. He looks white as a sheet with these big black smudges under his eyes. I can see he’s not doing too clever and should be back in his bed. When I try to suggest that, he’s adamant that he’s going to sit out the storm with me.

“I have to get some air,” he says. “I’ve been lying on my back in that room for weeks and weeks and weeks. I’d rather die out here with the wind and the rain than rot away smothered in a blanket and stinking of disinfectant.”

I knew exactly how he felt. I thought from that point on he’d probably start to look a little better. He did. We all need to rest. We all need to eat and sleep and wash, but there is other nourishment that our souls need in order to be strong and fight the infection. These indefinable nutrients are different for each person and depend on the time of day. For some it’s music, for others it’s reading, and for people like us it’s the outdoors.

We started meeting down there regularly. If we’d been allowed cigarettes it would have been our smoking shed. Instead, it was our talking shed, where we escaped to for a bit of a chin-wag or just to sit there quiet and watch the weather. Yesterday, I could tell his mind was elsewhere. I took a slow walk down to the shed late arvo, inspecting the cabbages, keeping an eye out for caterpillars. When I got there, he was already inside. We never arrange to meet, it just sort of happens that we’re there at the same time.

Anyway, he was quiet even by our standards. He kept looking out at the field, chewing his bottom lip thoughtfully.

Eventually I asked. “Something on your mind?”

He smiled and shook his head, then a moment later he spoke. “Do you think it’s wrong?”

“Do I think what’s wrong?”

“People like us, you know, with the infection and all. Do you think it’s wrong of us, irresponsible, to get involved - with a woman?”

“Well, that depends. Are we talking about a woman who’s clean? Because yes, if we’ve still got the infection and she hasn’t then that would be irresponsible. It would be putting her at risk. Or,” I paused for a moment, watching his expression, “are we talking about another woman, one who’s already got consumption?”

He didn’t meet my eyes for a moment, but I could see them flick back and forth, thinking. He was no fool, this boy. He had a good head on his shoulders.

“Are we talking about Laura Wheeler, by any chance?”

Finally he met my eyes and grinned sheepishly. “Might be.”

“She’s certainly a looker, I’ll give you that.”

“So, would it be wrong?”

“Well, it certainly would be if Clark or Lemont ever found out.”

He laughed and ran a hand through the back of his hair.

“Yeah, that could never happen.”

“That answer your question?” I could tell by the way he looked away again that there was something more, something deeper. “Come on, what’s got you asking?”

“I don’t know. I just – I mean, do you ever wonder if there’s a reason we’re like this? Do you think there’s a reason we got sick, something that says we need to take real good care of our souls?”

He looked directly at me then, and for the first time I saw a little boy, just a child, with big worried eyes. All of a sudden I felt the age difference between us. I felt I had a weight of responsibility to answer him in a certain way and to sound as genuine as I possibly could.

“Listen, mate, I don’t ever want to hear you talk like that, y’hear? That’s utter bullshit. There’ll be no laying down of religious guilt here, and I am a man of God. I believe in God, and I believe in the Holy Spirit but vengeance is not theirs in the form of tuberculosis, son. This is a disease. It’s part of the human condition. Everybody gets ill in their life: some get rubella, some get smallpox, some get mumps, others get fever. We’re none of us immortal. But you are no less than any other man, you remember that. I’m sure as hell no less than any other man so you can’t be either. And you have just as much right to happiness as any other person on this earth. We are all made in God’s image, and we are all tested to see what we can bear, yet each and every one of us has the right to seek happiness alongside that. There is nothing wrong in who you are, the only thing that’s wrong is this illness which we’re fighting. Maybe that’s our test; maybe we’re the chosen ones because we can bear it. You can’t second-guess the mind of God, Heath. It’s not even worth trying. God doesn’t hate you, and he sure as hell doesn’t want to deny your happiness.”

He was still staring at me when I got to the end of my spiel. Without even blinking, he opened his mouth to respond. I was expecting some words of thanks, perhaps. I felt I’d made a convincing argument for him.

“Jesus, mate, were you a preacher in your past life?”

I was dumbfounded. I thought I’d said exactly what he needed to hear, given him permission to do what he wanted to do, the permission he was denying himself. A split second later and we both burst out laughing. There was never any tension between us. We were too alike for that. We laughed until our sides hurt and we doubled-up with tears in our eyes. Then we both started coughing, only we couldn’t stop laughing, so we laughed and coughed for a good ten minutes or more.

When we finally stood up straight again, he ran the back of his hand across his mouth and smiled. “I really like her, you know.”

“Good on ya. I reckon she’ll give ya a fair suck of the sav.”

“Yeah, well, I hope so.” He stood in the doorway for a moment, looking up at the clouds. “Right, well, I’ll see you later.”

“Sure, no worries.”

After he left the hut, I stood there for a long while on my own, thinking about what I’d said to him. It hadn’t been him that I’d been trying to convince, the reason being that his question had been my own for so long now. Did I deserve to have this; did I deserve to be dying of this? I always thought that I did. It never bothered me. I felt I’d earned it, but I never considered whether other people deserved it.

Heath’s question had thrown me. I believed pretty strongly that I’d brought this about myself, that I’d wound God up to such an extend he just thought, ‘screw you, you bastard’ and did this to me. But Heath, no way. There wasn’t a thing that boy could have done to deserve this. For one thing, he hadn’t lived long enough to commit any real sins.

I felt so strongly that he wasn’t to blame that it came across in my little speech. I think I shocked him with my vehemence. But in telling him all of those things, that this was nothing to do with God, that this was just life – I had to accept that about myself too. And I couldn’t.

So maybe I was wrong. Maybe God is a vengeful old codger, sitting up there on a cloud somewhere throwing stones at people he doesn’t like. Maybe Heath did something to piss him off. Maybe everyone in this hostel did something to deserve TB.

Or maybe nobody did. Not even me.

I honestly couldn’t tell you which of those two options scared me more.


---

Angorichina is available in Paperback, on Kindle, via Smashwords and Libboo, or signed from my website.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Behind the Scenes

booQfest 2012



At the risk of sounding like a McFly rip-off, this week it's all about me.

Novelspot run a section each month, sort of a 'week in the life of'. Each day until the end of the week they'll post a different segment. The running jokes make more sense if you start at Day One, but certainly don't feel pressured to conform.
Day One: Accentuate
Day Two: Speculate
Day Three: Innovate
Day Four: Cogitate
Day Five: Procreate
Day Six: Intubate
Day Seven: Evaluate

I'll fill in the links as the week progresses. Or you can find the listing at Novelspot.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Invisible Typo


How amazing is this?

Apparently, so long as you keep the first and last letter of a word the same, you can jumble up all of the other letters and your brain can still read it. Helps to explain: Why Typos Are So Hard to Catch.

[Tip: It's worth checking out Natural Reader to help catch those pesky typos whilst proofing.]