Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Oath, Boast , Toast 2015



Happy New Year! Time for the annual roundup.

It's been an incredibly busy year. Top highlights:




So, yes, it's been an eventful year and my life now is very different to how it was this time last year, though more like it was five years ago. Did all the travelling, and more, that I had intended to do in 2013.

My oath for last year was to 'ask the question I most want to know the answer to.' Which I did, in a round about sort of way. I was very much smitten by somebody I met some years ago. I wanted to know if there was anything there - there wasn't. 

Wish I'd asked that one four years ago. 

Still, I've met some lovely people since, and re-joined the land of the almost rational. Plus, if I hadn't set myself that oath of finding out, I would never have booked a plane ticket back to Africa, seen Laos, or ended up living in my lovely house with my lovely friends and my - occasionally quite trying - business.

Rejection can be a great catalyst. 

Though I must admit, I miss the friendship.

Still, it's the New Year, time to look to the future and forget the past.

My Oath this year is an easy one. I've been so wholly overwhelmed by my new publisher's enthusiasm and support that it's rejuvenated my love of writing. I'm currently working on a new novel and I intend to finish it before the year is out. 

*drink*

My Boast: There have been so many extraordinary experiences and minor triumphs this year. But, heck, I was interviewed in the UK's largest national writing magazine! Hell, yes. Famous for a day. (A close second to that is that I moved halfway around the world and set up a company which I am now the CEO of... yeah, that was pretty impressive too).

*drink*

And, finally, my Toast for 2015?

Oh, fuck it, let me be maudlin for a moment.

To unrequited love. Though we are left foolish in its wake, for a while at least it sparks our hope and our imagination. It certainly led me to write the best work I have ever written. 

May we all be left to dream a little longer.

*drink*

Monday, 29 December 2014

Badab-e Surt


What a stunningly beautiful picture of Mazandaran, tweeted by @kerem_ertem

Badab-e Surt is a natural site in Mazandaran Province in northern Iran, 95 km south of the city of Sari 

Certainly a setting in which to pass those Rosy Hours.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Musical Interlude: Rains of Castamere

I've been a bit poorly over Christmas, so tucked myself up for a Game of Thrones marathon. I now have Rains of Castamere stuck in my head, and an irresistible desire to overthrow a dynasty. I'm taking suggestions.

Can't decide which of these two versions I like best. One's all drummy and severe, the other's harpy and haunting. 




Friday, 26 December 2014

A Secret Kept



Just finished reading this. Feels like ages since I last read grown-up fiction. 

A while back a friend was visiting from Uganda. She was reading this whilst she was here and I was foxed because I knew that I'd read the back blurb before and recognised the author's picture, but I couldn't for the life of me remember why.

"You should read it," she told me. "It's a good book."

After she left, I realised I had a copy on my bookshelf, borrowed - along with a handful of others - from a friend. So, on her recommendation, I set about reading.

Thing is, she didn't just tell me it was a good book, she told me the spoiler - the big secret being kept. I think I would have figured it out very early on anyway, it's not subtly suggested, but I still wonder if my experience of the story would have been better without that.

We shall never know.

It all began with a simple seaside vacation, a brother and sister recapturing their childhood. Antoine thought he had the perfect surprise for his sister Mélanie's birthday: a weekend by the sea at Noirmoutier Island, where the pair spent many happy childhood summers playing on the beach.


But the island's haunting beauty triggers more than happy memories; it reminds Mélanie of something unexpected and deeply disturbing about their last island summer. When, on the drive home to Paris, she finally summons the courage to reveal what she knows to Antoine, her emotions overcome her and she loses control of the car.

Alone, waiting for news of Mélanie, Antoine reflects on his life: his wife has left him, his teenage children are strangers to him, his job bores him, and his father is an ageing tyrant who still poisons every aspect of his life. How did he end up here? And, more importantly, what was the secret that his sister wanted to tell him? 
A Secret Kept plumbs the depths of complex family relationships and the power of a past secret to change everything in the present.

I really enjoyed it despite the spoiler. Bit of a slow starter, but then everything happens at once and De Rosnay is good at throwing in the unexpected. She's also extremely honest in her writing, especially observations on the complexity of emotions, power manipulation and empathy (or lack of). Very nicely written. 

It always makes me glad to see literary fiction selling so well. That there is still hunger for the exploration of realism, rather than pure escapism. There's room for both on my bookshelf, but it's just nice, is all. 

Tatiana de Rosnay (@tatianaderosnay) is herself a very interesting character. Her family history reads like a novel of its own. 

I've just lent it to another friend who was running low on books. 

Worth a read - especially if you have teenage kids.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas

Munching gingerbread and chocolate fudge for breakfast. Ah, my family know me so well.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!




Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve


Went to bed, opened my book, and look what the very first sentence began with! Spooky.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Tootling



A wee tune I made up a while back for Samhain.

I love tin whistles. I've done a few clips in the past. Some traditional stuff like Inisheer and  Sliabh Geal gCua, Diana's Hunting Call (another of mine), plus a medley on a piece of bamboo and an introduction to playing a drainpipe.

Since I've been back in Rwanda it's been my mission to introduce the tin whistle to this beautiful country, starting with a friend of mine who really wanted to learn.

So, if you've ever been curious, here's an introduction to playing the tin whistle for complete beginners. You don't need to know anything about music, you just need a tin whistle in D.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

30k Yesterday

Art by SlaviART on Etsy

Had such a good day writing yesterday. One month to write 10,000 words, three days to write 5,000 - that's how the mood takes me. 1k on Thursday, 1k on Friday, 3k yesterday. I woke knowing that I had nothing else to do and that I wanted to break the 30k threshold.

It is a wonderful feeling to know that you've not only succeeded in your writing goal for the day, but done the job well.

I still feel as though I'm struggling a bit with this one, though. The words are falling into place one after the other, they make sense, they're even poetic in parts. Yet I still feel like I'm writing a little on autopilot. It's only in the past couple of days that I've woken up really excited by writing again.

Honestly, I think it's just because I'm still enamoured by Rosy Hours. I've been browsing back through it and, at times, it feels as though I didn't even write it. I don't remember anything about the physical act of writing it: where I was, what the weather was like, what I had to delete and re-write. At times I am impressed with the writing as though someone else wrote it. (Which, for copyright purposes, I must point out they didn't - it was me, all me).

I think I'm still letting go of it, my fingers prised apart with each new publicity gig. Being in the throws of the pre-release promotional build-up makes it hard to forget about it and move on. My fingers hit the keys on this new novel almost mechanically, which makes it fairly astounding that, reading back, I'm happy with what I've written. 

It is coming, though. I go to sleep thinking about the next part of the plot, the conversations to be had between characters and unexpected events I can throw into the mix. I'm on top of the research and starting to enjoy delving into a period of history that seemed so intangible at first. I'm at the right place for 30k, building momentum.

I think I just need to give it time. I'm not editing at all as I go, just trying to keep myself going. I'm loving the fact it's Christmas but really doesn't feel like it. I wake to a normal working day but no e-mails to answer or actual work to be doing because everyone's winding down for the holidays. It affords me the space to think and write that I have been missing these past months.

Here's a couple of rough-edged wee snippets from the new one. Young lad discovering himself, my favourite character:

For a moment I did not understand what was happening, or I did not want to.
I struggled backwards, supporting myself on one hand. Before I could think to stop myself, I bunched the other into a fist and punched him square across the lip.
Climbing to my feet, I hobbled away into the night, leaving him there beneath the silent sky. Feeling each stab of pain in my ankle helped to ease the pain in my heart. I found a quiet hut on the outskirts of the fort. It was abandoned, used for grain and flour. I bedded down against one of the soft sacks and allowed myself to weep openly.
I had no place for love in my heart. So set was I against this union of my father’s that I had felt appalled by all affection. Before that night I had known our friendship ran deep. Images of those writhing bodies, of flesh against flesh, both female and male, had returned to my dreams many times since. Sometimes I woke sweat-drenched and short of breath, and in those first few moments I will admit it was Caílte my eyes searched for in the shadows.
Yet my father had changed everything.

An encounter in the woods:

Eventually, out of breath, we broke through the line of trees into the star-clustered night. The moss peeled back to show the ground made of granite. An unusual grey stone that rippled like water. The whole of the head of the mountain looked like the wind blowing gently upon the lake. As though winter had frozen the waves to stone beneath our feet. 

On the crest of the hill stood a shelter. Not the daub and wattle roundhouse of the forts, but something older. Something that belonged to the Aos Sí, those ancient spirits who preceded the ancestors, who formed this world and permeate it like silent sentinels. 

The shelter was formed of three large, flat rocks and a capstone, covered in turf to prevent the elements from rattling through it. As we approached, I could sense the children waking, their attention drawn by this mysterious place.  

I knelt before the opening, drawing from my satchel a clay lamp. I filled it with oil and struck flint against birch bark until it caught, allowing me to light the wick. With the lamp help in the palm of my hand, we entered. 

“It’s beautiful,” A--- breathed. “What is it?” 

“A map,” I explained. 

All across the walls, patterns were etched into the stone. It glittered softly beneath the candlelight, as though grains of snow had been trapped within it. Spirals and circles confused the eye, whilst diamonds and serpentine snakes sprawled out from the centre. Here and there, small pockmarks had been chiselled deep, marking places of importance, anchors in the ever-changing landscape. 

“How do you read it?” he asked. 

“It is the language of the Ovates, those who possess the second sight.” 

“Like the dark juice?” F-- asked, her eyes wide as she traced her fingers across the scarred surface of the rock.  

“Yes, only the Ovates never truly seem to wake. They live their lives as in a half-dream. Sometimes their words are wise and full of insight, other times they mumble like madmen. Somewhere in between the two they are able to see the past and the future. These maps have many meanings. They are the land, the sky, our inner thoughts and time itself.” 

“I do not understand,” A--- said, struggling to see a pattern. 

“You know when you go wandering down to the Black Vale?” I asked him. “How do you get there? Describe to me your journey.” 

He thought for a moment.  

“I leave the gates of Sidhe Fionnachaidh, down past our crannog on the Blue Lake. I keep going until I reach Anamcha’s tree, then I follow the trail down through the Vale of Caoimhe until I reach Bear Rock. From there I cross the shallow ford and it’s the next valley over.” 

“Now, tell me, young lord. If I were a stranger to your lands, would I be able to follow your directions so well? The Blue Lake, is it actually blue?” 

“Only in summertime, when the sun hits the clay beneath. Then more sort of grey-blue,” he conceded. 

“And Anamcha’s tree, how would I know which that was?” 

“It’s the tree where Anamcha thought himself a bird and tried to fly, only Taranis caused the sky to shake and he fell to earth, breaking his neck. They buried him there beneath that tree.” 

“If I did not know that story, I would not know which tree,” I smiled. 

“Aye, but you’d recognise the Bear Stone, you couldn’t miss that.” 

“So I would have only half a map, because I did not know all the stories of the landscape.” A--- nodded. “Well,” I explained, “this is a map of those stories. If you know the right story, or the right song to sing, you can navigate your way through all worlds.”

Onwards and alongwards.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Musical Interlude: Kit & The Widow



I was having a bit of PotO related chat on Facebook the other day and it reminded me of this extremely funny sketch by Kit & The Widow from years ago. Couldn't resist a cheeky share.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Revolution


I finished reading this a couple of weeks back. Since then, he's been causing quite a stir with The Sun paper calling him a hypocrite (which is about the most hypocritical thing such a tabloid could come up with), and some bloke at RBS getting upset over his lunch getting cold.

Now, y'know me, I don't tend to bring politics onto this blog unless Scotland's running for independence. I'm not even sure why I picked this up. I've been feeling as though I should read more non-fiction and it was on the Amazon recommendations list. Plus, I do find Russell Brand an interesting character. He's like a living blog. He's been on telly for years now, and each of his books charts the next step in his life with an endearing amount of honesty and impressive vocabulary.

You might not agree with what he thinks, but at least he does think.

I found the book entertaining in parts, hard going in others. There was a lot of repetition. There are only so many times you can say 'the system is unfair' before you need to suggest solutions. Solutions were suggested, but it was more of a literary review of other people's solutions (so and so said this, go look them up...) rather than a revolutionary new route.

I don't think that's a bad thing. I think books like that are hugely important. Books that voice what many of us instinctually feel, putting into words the nagging sense that something isn't right, and then showing that there are alternatives. Many people don't have time to read political history or transpersonal psychology (he mentioned Terence McKenna, which instantly raised my estimations, but left out Grof) and it's nice to have someone explain the basic ideas in a language you understand, introducing you to other thinkers and writers who perhaps hit home.

A compendium of counter-culture.

I was always waiting for the action point, though. The practical bandwagon upon which I could jump to actualise my revolutionary bent.

A great hero of mine is comedian Mark Thomas. He used to have an incredible after-hours series on telly where he'd get right up the noses of the establishment, parading tanks in the Lord Mayor's Show, calling up gunrunners (my personal favourite) and whispering subversive words whilst flying a hot air balloon over Menwith Hill listening station - the man is a legend.

He came up with one of the best books of this nature: The People's Manifesto. Very small, very short, but absolutely wonderful. He went around the country asking people to suggest political policies they would vote for.



I think that's what was lacking here a little. Revolution was very good at pointing out why change is needed, I was left in no doubt of that, but it missed the opportunity to present follow-up ideas you could really get into.

I very rarely read the news from home anymore. I don't have a telly or a radio, and accessing news sites with my internet connection is time consuming, so mostly I just wait to hear word-of-mouth about the important stuff. It has to be fairly important for people to bother telling you.

However, I have kept half an eye on the unrest back home, especially the #CameronMustGo trend on Twitter, and the political memes that float past. For that reason, I do think this is an important book. It sows the seed of an idea which seems to be growing fast: inequality is outstripping conformity.

When I was poor and complained about inequality they said I was bitter; now that I’m rich and I complain about inequality they say I’m a hypocrite. I’m beginning to think they just don’t want to talk about inequality. - Russell Brand

There is a schism that I struggle with regularly working in development. So often I hear that the world is getting worse, that people are suffering more than ever, and that it's all gone to pot.

I tend to counter with the international statistics that say, actually, the world is getting better, fast. As a woman, it's easy to watch Downton Abbey and say 'Thank Christ I don't live in those times.' I'm nobody's property, I can vote, wear trousers (something my mum wasn't even allowed to do when she started work), I'm mistress of my own (limited) finances. Having written Angorichina, about tuberculosis in the 1930s, I daily marvel at medical progress and the eradication of polio. I'm also a huge fan of the statistician Hans Rosling, who helps to explain that - thanks to family planning - the population growth is under control and all is becoming right with the world (both of those videos well worth a watch). Infant mortality is down, access to clean water and medical facilities are up, developing economic countries have access to internet, education, literacy and tax revenue which builds welfare states... there's a lot to be thankful for. Or, more accurately, proud of. This wasn't gifted, it was fought for and won.

However, the schism comes when you start to see it as illusionary. Keep people busy scrabbling for scraps and they won't notice the feast at the top of the table.

Last year at Cheltenham Literature Festival, I went to listen to a very interesting political debate titled: How can we create a fairer, more open society? Can government policies make a real difference, and if so, how?

This is where things start to grate. On the surface, so much has improved. But take a look at just how fast the increase between the economic haves and have nots continues to grow.

When you have something, you have something to lose, and welfare states provide that buffer zone between Victorian street urchin and modern-day underclass. Our current political system is eroding that buffer zone at an impressive rate of knots. The UK is seeing a huge rise in families resorting to food banks, an increase in homelessness and a shortfall in sheltered accommodation, services for the disabled and the old slashed, the NHS dismantled and a growing awareness (thanks to the likes of Max Keizer and, yes, even Russell Brand) that the economy, a once revered realm of high finance, incomprehensible to the common man, is in fact just an idea, and one which can be entirely re-thought.

As I said about Scottish independence: Nothing is more dangerous - or exciting - than an idea. But ideas take time to seed. Revolution provides nutrients for those looking to grow their ideas, and such nutrients is much needed.

I was having an interesting back-and-forth on Twitter via my development company a while back. Someone was saying how wonderful it is (after watching Hans Rosling's stats) that four billion people in developing countries can now afford to buy a motorcycle, giving them access to food, medicine and a better quality of life. My argument is that access to such basics as food and medicine, when there is more than enough to go round, shouldn't be reliant on whether or not you can afford to buy a motorcycle. Shouldn't that be a human given?

"Every generation has to fight the same battles for peace, justice and democracy, there is no final victory nor final defeat." - Tony Benn

Let's see how long before we start fighting.

Vive la révolution! 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Rosy Hours on Pre-Release



I am most excellently happy to announce that Rosy Hours has gone on pre-release order with Amazon US and UK today. This means people can order it for dispatch in February. It will also be an audiobook and ebook, but they will be added nearer the time.

Also, the lovely Stephanie Piro of The Militant Recommender has offered to send me the original cartoon she did for her book review. Totally stoked by this as I'd already turned it into my Facebook banner. Can't risk it getting damaged en route to Rwanda, but looking forward to seeing it when I get back to the UK. Made my day.



Wednesday, 17 December 2014

25k And Away We Go



To say that I have not been a committed writer lately is a bit of an understatement. It's taken me just over a month to add 10k to my current novel. I've been finding it difficult to get into the mood with all the work and administrative issues of starting a new business. I know the age-old saying: 'professionals just get on with it and write,' but I have always detested routine, and what I write when I'm not in the mood isn't generally worth reading.

I've been having a few personal issues this week. Last night I was feeling fairly angry with someone, so I cracked open a bottle of whisky, a pack of cigarettes, and opened my work in progress. Things started to flow. I write well when I'm peeved. I think because writing is a wonderful way to escape myself, and when you're in a black mood what you write tends to be direct and gritty - it tends to be good writing.

Today I set the goal of crossing 25k, which I've just done. That can loosely be described as a third of a novel. Or, more realistically, a quarter. Depending on how optimistic you're feeling.

This one's multi-character first person, and there's always a difficult point with those where you're not sure which characters to include as narrators, and which remain background entities. Today I am finally able to sit back and start enjoying myself, safe in the knowledge that I have chosen the right cast.

That's a weight off. I'm beginning to relax my grip on technical construction and focus on the pleasure of the story. 

I like that picture above. It's the perfect depiction of my dark protagonist. 

When I'm short on inspiration, I often find Google Image searches help me along.

Things that I feel today that I did not feel last week:


  • Confident that the cast of characters is right
  • Confident there are enough intrigues and subplots to make this interesting (and to make 100,000 words)
  • Confident that the style I have chosen suits the story
  • Confident that the characters are real enough to hold my attention


As I've mentioned before, this is a retelling of an old legend. The problem here is that legends are pre-set. You know the beginning, the middle and the end. It's all mapped out and has been for centuries. I've been struggling with this a little because I adore the story, I have for years, I even wrote a feature script around it just for fun. Yet it is also highly constraining. Although I want to bring the story to new audiences, I deeply want to connect with other people who love this story as much as I do. Therefor, I can't change the essence of it. I can't do the usual writing thing of disappearing into my own imagination and pulling out new plots like rabbits from a hat. 

To some extent, this was true of Rosy Hours. It was based upon a minor subplot in a classical novel. But, really, the story behind that was only ever hinted at. There was huge, unbridled scope for deviation. With this, everything is pre-written in quite some unbendable detail. 

So, the only way to prevent that from becoming boring is to develop the characters to such a point that they have feelings, thoughts and transgressions that make them truly human. This is the one thing ancient legends are usually lacking. Myths and legends are often morality tales, tending to come across as a bit two-dimensional. 

That's why I wanted to take a crack at retelling this one. Yes, the story is beautiful. But how much more beautiful would it be if, rather than being a morality tale, it was simply a human story. If the baddies weren't just bad, but understandable. If the goodies weren't Mother Teresa, but flawed. How much more could you believe in a story like that, and how much more could it hurt?

So, yes, today has been a good day for writing. I returned home just as a remarkable thunderstorm broke overhead. I love to write when it's raining. It feels as though you're completely cut off from the world, and you don't have to worry about anyone calling round and interrupting.

Given the pace I'm working at, I think I'd be lucky to hit 50k before Rosy Hours is released in February. But it is nice to know that I'm making some headway, and that my next book shouldn't be too far behind the last. 

I'm not sure what I'll write after this one. I had a list of novels I always wanted to write. Rosy Hours and this one are two of the big three. I don't think I'm ready for the third yet, but we'll see. I'd like to write something completely dreamed up, like Angorichina or Georg[i]e, yet I'm more and more mindful nowadays of what I think might connect with the collective psyche. Established stories, or stories that build on established themes, tend to find their audience quicker for a new writer than those without a history.

I need to give it all more thought. 

For now, I'm just chuffed I'm progressing.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Rosy Hours Audiobook


I think it's safe to announce this now. You did read me right in the last post - Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran is going to be an audiobook!

I'm very excited. I've never been an audiobook before.

The narrator is the talented Emma Newman, herself an author and Hugo Fancast Award nominee. You can find her online at Em's Place and on Twitter: @EmApocalyptic

I have to say, it is the strangest thing to hear somebody reading your work back to you, listening to the voices of your characters come to life. We're truly privileged to have Emma, she's fantastic, and I can't wait to hear the finished product. 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Review Copy



Well, this is it folks. Review copies of Rosy Hours ready to go out.

A process that I first started blogging about back in May 2013, finally come to fruition.

Hugely mixed feelings. Incredibly happy, but also wishing I could be back in the UK to fondle one of these. Feels a little like I'm missing the birth of my own baby, but I love waking up and logging into social media to check the progress. It's been one hell of a ride. Truly grateful to Ghostwoods Books for all their creativity and support, and to Emma Newman for her awesome narration skills on the upcoming audiobook, which I'll talk more about very shortly.

Too amazing for words, really.

In the meantime, you can enjoy an excerpt online.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Poetry Life & Times


I was approached by a website, Poetry Life & Times (@PoetryLifeTimes), to offer up a poem after they heard my six poems on Twitter.

Gave them Firelight, which is now available on their website.

Honoured to have been asked.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Writing Prompt: Woods



It's been a while, but I've finally joined in with another writing prompt. When you're focused on a novel it's sometimes a bit of a relief to write about something entirely different.

The theme this time was: How did you end up in these woods?




I could only ever hear her in winter, when the mist clung to the branches of the trees like a funerary veil. In summer her voice was drowned by the thousand-mouthed life-force of the birds and the rutting stags. I listened, but she was never among them. 

Perhaps it also made her sad, to see such joy and energy when she herself had lain cold amongst the crushed leaves for so long.

I would sit, my back pressed against bark until the damp seeped through my jeans. Some evenings I would sit until I shook with cold, until I could no longer feel the extremities of myself.

“Come back,” I’d whisper. 

A crow cried overhead, jolting me from those frozen thoughts.

Through the eerie whiteness I saw a shadow move. I knew it could only be a mirage, a trick of my over-tired, grieving mind, yet it looked so much like her. That shape, that slim waist, that dark, knee-length coat that flared out like a frock.

“Emma!” I called. “Emma, wait!”

I cried her name but only echoes answered.

Suddenly the scent of decay and rot was overwhelming.

Let her go, my heart said.

Follow, urged my feet.

“Emma, I’m sorry! I didn’t know. I never knew—”

I tripped on the knotted root of a tree, grazing my hand as I fell. There in that nothing, that void of existence, I held it to my eyes and watched as my garish red life flowed through the grit on my palm.

I had to go home. I had to stop this. No amount of guilt could change history. I had to pull myself together, move on, move away if necessary.

Pushing myself shakily to my feet, I turned to retrace my steps. 

Which way had I come? All of the trees looked alike: tall, slim, hardly stable enough to support themselves, like me. Between the thick ground mist and the chill clouds above, they looked like poles – prison bars – solid and unforgiving on either side. For the briefest of moments I wondered whether I was standing on my head, for I could no longer tell my up from down.

Panic started to rise.

“Emma,” I whispered.

“Yes?” she replied.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Mountain & Cloud

© Dan Ben Matthews

I am so stoked. My talented friend Dan Ben Matthews (who did the logo for Georg[i]e) has agreed to let me put his children's story Mountain and Cloud on my blog. I think it is one of the loveliest stories I've ever read, and beautifully illustrated. If you like it, you can find it on his Facebook Page along with his cheeky story My Friend Dave.

Click the picture below to enlarge it, then flick through so that you can read the story.




















Thursday, 4 December 2014

Cracking Talent


My ridiculously talented cousin Billy (L) and mate James (R) undertaking 'last minute rehearsals' in the vegetable aisle of Morrisons. He's a soloist with Birmingham Royal Ballet and currently appearing in The Nutcracker until 13th December 2014. You can also find him on Twitter: @will_bracewell

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Óengus & Ibormeith



Not sure who did this, but I would like to, it's beautiful.

I made it safely over the 20k mark the other day, whilst bringing these two characters to life. Óengus is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann of Ireland, who saw a beautiful woman in his dreams: Caer Ibormeith. He and his family searched the land for her, and eventually found her chained by a lake along with a hundred other maidens, all doomed to turn into swans for one year every second Samhain. It was said that if he could choose her correctly from amongst all of those swans, she would regain her human form and they would be wed. 

I stumbled across this legend by chance, whilst looking for characters to bring to the Feast of Age. When I read it, I knew that I had to include them. Another story of swans, sharing similarities with the one that I am writing. It seems to be a common Celtic theme. There were others, but this one was the most beautiful I thought.

Óengus, or Aengus, the god of love, a little like Zeus and Leda reversed. Worth checking out The Swan Thieves for more swan-related goodness.

I am struggling at the moment. Work is currently bringing me little money and a great amount of tax-related headaches: PAYE, VAT, Reverse VAT, Withholding Tax, Community Tax - and a tax department that's about as helpful as a kick up the arse. I'm sat here with a puddle of receipts about my feet and fond memories of Bernard Black turning them into a rather smart casual jacket. Unlike Bernard Black, I've been one week off the cigarettes and coffee, and the thirty-minute workout I do in the morning will take about thirty days to recover from.

Still, I do waste an awful lot of writing time online, and now that I have online tax submissions to return I'm suddenly writing a lot more... funny that, eh?

Talking of all things Irish, it is now officially December, and I know this because I have finally played this song. Yeah, you know the one. Any Brit hears that in a pub, they know it's almost Christmas; you scumbag, you maggot. Full of bright-eyed Blighty cheer. 

Speaking of festive realism, I saw this quote tweeted the other day and had to smile:

Everyone lies about writing. They lie about how easy it is or how hard it was. They perpetuate a romantic idea that writing is some beautiful experience that takes place in an architectural room filled with leather novels and chai tea. They talk about their ‘morning ritual’ and how they ‘dress for writing’ and the cabin in Big Sur where they go to ‘be alone’—blah blah blah. No one tells the truth about writing a book. Authors pretend their stories were always shiny and perfect and just waiting to be written. The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not. Even I have lied about writing. I have told people that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of shit. It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver... 
Most authors liken the struggle of writing to something mighty and macho, like wrestling a bear. Writing a book is nothing like that. It is a small, slow crawl to the finish line. - Amy Poehler, Yes Please

Ah, Amy, Amy. Way to kill the romance, but I can't disagree with you. I've had so much encouragement lately, I should be sailing through this next novel, yet I feel as though I've hit that point in the workout (about three minutes in) where you just want to go back to bed with a tub of cookie dough. 

Never mind. I'm sure I'll reclaim my mojo soon enough, and thankfully my freezer pickings are engagingly re-readable when the thaw of dawn sheds fresh light upon them. I am plodding slowly forward. Blessedly not as slowly as Madeline Miller.