Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Before Mars



A massive shout out to the fabulous Emma Newman, whose voice you might know not only from the Tea and Jeopardy podcast, but also as the narrator of Those Rosy Hours audiobook. 

Some lovely news via Twitter:

Well, I am absolutely tickled pink to tell you that Before Mars, the third novel set in the Planetfall universe, has been shortlisted for the BSFA Best Novel award!

If you are going to Eastercon and/or are a member of the BSFA you can cast your vote for which novel wins the award.

She's already won a Hugo Award for for her podcast, so here's everything crossed for the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA).

Each of the Planetfall novels can be read as stand-alones, so you can pick up anywhere. Also, check out her Split Worlds pentalogy, which rocks.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Where Are You From?






This is fascinating: The British-Irish Dialect Quiz. I think there's also an American version here.

My mum's from Leicestershire and my dad's from Carlisle, which is very close to Douglas. The weird thing is, I was born in Oxfordshire, but never really lived there! How did it know that? I moved about a bit, and picked up a lot of words from South Wales and London later in life, but the above is weirdly accurate. Not sure how much it says specifically about where you come from, and what it says about where your parents come from, as I think you absorb a lot of language from them. 



Sunday, 17 February 2019

The God of Small Things


I was absolutely blown away by this book.

I saw a hard copy circulating at Kigali book swap, then the audiobook was on offer on Audible, so I thought I'd try it, knowing nothing about it.

Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things won the 1997 Booker Prize, and it's easy to see why. The story is just heartbreaking. Not so much for the violence of the act which takes place as for the unspoken effect that has on two little persons - Ambassadors E. Pelvis and S. Insect. A tour de force of the fragility of being. 

A book with a yellow church which swells like a throat with the sound of singing, tears which tremble along jaws like raindrops on a roof, redly dead eyes, and people who have broken eggs but burned the omelette.

Its pages are filled with beautiful words:

The twins were too young to know that these were only history’s henchmen. Sent to square the books and collect the dues from those who broke its laws. Impelled by feelings that were primal yet paradoxically wholly impersonal. Feelings of contempt born of inchoate, unacknowledged fear—civilization’s fear of nature, men’s fear of women, power’s fear of powerlessness. Man’s subliminal urge to destroy what he could neither subdue nor deify.

*

Biology designed the dance, terror timed it. 


Behind them, the river pulsed through the darkness, shimmering like wild silk. Yellow bamboo wept. Night's elbows rested on the water and watched them.

*

A weak, watery moon filtered through the clouds and revealed a young man sitting on the topmost of thirteen stone steps that led into the water. He was very still, very wet. Very young. 

In a while he stood up, took off the white mundu he was wearing, squeezed the water from it and twisted it around his head like a turban. Naked now, he walked down the thirteen stone steps into the water and further, until the river was chest high. Then he began to swim with easy, powerful strokes, striking out towards where the current was swift and certain, where the Really Deep began. The moonlit river fell from his swimming arms like sleeves of silver. 

A really incredible read, do pick up a copy. The audiobook is beautifully narrated by Aysha Kala, whose voice brings an innocence to the story which perfectly matches the children's experience.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Interrobang


Just been watching a fascinating documentary on the exclamation mark on Netflix, part of a series called Explained

Apparently there was a whole heap of new punctuation marks suggested in the 1960s - see above. Made me chuckle, and grateful they didn't all catch on, I think we struggle enough with the exclamation and ellipsis as is. 

Something that was really fascinating was the way men and women use exclamations differently. One copy editor summed up what I teach my writing students: 'You get one exclamation mark in your career, use it well.' Although, I tend to say per chapter. 

It's definitely noticeable in my own writing and in the writing of new writers that the early stuff contains far more exclamations and ellipses than later work, and that professionally published novels rarely rely much on either.

I can't stand overuse of exclamations, and now I think I know why. Apparently, when a woman uses an exclamation mark in a work e-mail, more people consider it professionally acceptable than when a man does. A man using an exclamation in a work e-mail is considered much less professional. However, women use more exclamations in their work to come across as friendly and non-threatening.


It gained popularity among women as they entered the workplace, in the same way we might put a winky emoji at the end of a text, to indicate that what we've just said shouldn't be taken too seriously. The popularity of the exclamation is dropping off a bit now that we have so many new emoticons and emojis to express ourselves with. And, one would hope, because women in the workplace no longer have to pretend to be airheads so as not to offend male colleagues ;o/

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Still Life - First Draft




There's a disappointing dearth of Victorian-era top hat-tipping gifs. So, this'll do.

Done and dusted. 

Still Life weighs in at a healthy 96,372 words. 

This is my tenth full-length novel. 

Of those, four found publishers, two will never see the light of day, and three have been self-published. 

I never really feel much of a high after finishing a novel. Maybe with the first couple, Lucid and Angorichina, because back then I still wasn't sure I could write that many words. It was exhilarating to discover I could. But, nowadays, I recognise it as the end of the beginning, and the start of the editing process. 

This has also changed with time. 

Back in the beginning, I used to be an obsessive continual editor. I'd read back over the chapters I'd written and fiddle with them before writing a few hundred words more.

Nowadays, I write 1,000 a day and I don't look back. It's even changed since Rosy Hours, where I'd pause to go off and do extensive research in between chapters. Now, I'll do cursory research as I go along, but I'm more likely to pop in a placeholder in bold where I know there's something that is crucial to atmosphere but not to plot, and pick it up in the edit. 

Which means more work in the edit, whereas before I'd arrive at the end with a fairly serviceable manuscript. Now, I know there's more to write. 

I read a quote the other day by Shannon Hale, which really summed it up:


I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build sandcastles.


I feel like I've just hacked a giant lump of rock out of a cliff and now I'm going to set about cutting and polishing.

I know this one needs a lot of work. Strong start, strong ending. In the middle, a bit squishy. A sense of nervous anticipation rather than elation. Can't bear to look at it right now. There's a recovery period before you lift the bandage and peer at the wound.

Still, it's a respectable length and an interesting subject. 

It's a bit early to say, but I was thinking to run submissions with this one. 

I'm already tentatively starting the next one. Taking a stab at futuristic sci-fi. Enjoying the imaginative freedom this allows in contrast with historical fiction, where many of the rules are already written. Might be a bit much to edit the past and write the future at the same time, so will probably take a writing break whilst editing. But, for now, it's a pleasant change of pace.

No, I definitely need at least one top hat in this post.




Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Juliet Marillier Interview

I was just meandering through social media when someone mentioned the extremely talented author, Juliet Marillier. It was my great privilege to interview her back in 2016 for Pagan Writing Community, which I occasionally help out with.

I thought that I would repost the original interview, with permission, to this blog, for those who haven't already read it. She's an incredibly inspiring writer.








Juliet Marillier is a multi-award winning author of historical and folkloric fantasy. She lives in New Zealand and has travelled extensively in pursuit of a good story. Juliet is also a member of The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. You can find her via her website (which includes her blog) and on Facebook.




 

We are so excited to be interviewing Juliet Marillier today.

Thank you to all the PWC members who sent in questions, we've tried to get through them all. We've also got a sneak preview of the cover for Juliet's latest novel, Den of Wolves, out later this year. We've included it at the end of the interview.


Hi Juliet. One of our members cited you as the influence behind her own story, The Enchanted Swans, due out later this year. Christy wanted to ask what first inspired you to novelize fairy tales?

I didn’t make a conscious decision to do so. When I was writing my first novel, mainly as therapy after a particularly challenging period in my life, I was drawn to the fairy tale of The Six Swans – one of my favourites from childhood, and a story with a strong woman at its heart. The theme was particularly relevant for me at that time. I asked myself what would happen if the devastating events of that story – the brothers changed into swans, and their sister set a terrible task to win them back their human form – happened to a real life family. Who would stand strong? Who would fall apart? How would the experience change them? 


I have loved traditional stories all my life, from the time before I could read, when my parents read to me or told me made up stories. Myths and legends, folklore and fairy tales contain deep wisdom. Many of them were first told around the fire at night to make sense of the world’s challenges and to give people heart. The lessons in them are still relevant today – they teach us about love and loyalty, strength and courage, faith and honour. They teach us how to live our lives more wisely. 

Out of my 19 novels, only four are built around particular fairy tales (Daughter of the ForestThe Six Swans; Wildwood DancingThe Twelve Dancing Princesses/The Frog Prince; Heart’s BloodBeauty and the Beast, and more recently Dreamer’s Pool, which owes quite a bit to The Goose Girl.) I do include uncanny elements in all the books, though, even the more historically-based stories, and there are many folkloric or fairy tale motifs and ideas in them. 


I’ve also written two shorter stories based on fairy tales: the award-winning By Bone-Light, a modern take on Vasilissa the Fair, and a novella called Beautiful, an unusual version of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which will be published later this year.

You do it so well, do you have any hints on your creative process?


My background as a musician helps. I studied music to honours level at university and worked for quite a long time as a singing teacher and choral conductor as well as being a composer. Alongside my love of traditional storytelling, that background has helped me develop a particular rhythm and flow in my writing. In terms of process, I plan everything out in advance, initial idea and research first, then an outline, a synopsis, probably a chapter plan before I begin actually writing the book. I keep on editing the previous parts of the manuscript while writing the later parts, so it gets a lot of polishing and refining along the way. I don’t do a series of complete drafts, it’s more like one continuous draft over many months. 


That may sound quite rigid, but of course rules can be broken and plans can be changed in the interests of better storytelling. It usually takes me a year from initial idea to finished polished manuscript. Writing is my full time day job, though I also look after five needy dogs, all rescues, and they gobble up both time and emotional energy. But I love them!


You are a member of The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Can you tell us a bit about your path to joining, and what part your spirituality plays in your writing? 


When I was writing my first novel, Daughter of the Forest, set in early medieval Ireland, I needed to include a druid character. I started researching ancient druidry, rather a challenge since it was strictly an oral tradition and extremely secret, so there are no reliable historical records. It happened that Philip Carr-Gomm, chief of OBOD, was visiting Australia at that time. I attended a talk he gave in which I found out about modern druidry and the wealth of lore and knowledge available on both contemporary and ancient druidic practices. I was delighted to find a spiritual path that chimed with so many of my existing beliefs. I completed two grades of the OBOD correspondence course and I am still learning – it’s a lifelong path. 


My spiritual beliefs influence my writing strongly. I don’t mean writing about druid characters and druid ritual, though I have done that a few times. It’s a more general thing. The underlying values of my spiritual path are likely to permeate everything I write. Three beliefs are particularly important to me: that storytelling has a great power to teach and to heal; that god, goddess or spirit is not set above us, but resides within all living things and links them together; and that we need to live the life we have as wisely and well as we can, rather than dwell on what might come afterwards. I never hammer home moral lessons in my stories, and I’m happy if people read them solely for entertainment. But there are some deep-down values and some wisdom there for readers who choose to look for them. 


There are six series to your name. Do you always know how many books will be in a series? Do you plan it out beforehand, or do you only know how many books there will be once they're written? 


These days I submit a proposal to a publisher, not a finished book or series. That is, I sign a contract before I write the series. So I do have to know in advance how many books there will be, and have at least a rough plan for each one. The exception was the Sevenwaters series, originally intended to be a trilogy. I was asked by a publisher to write three follow-up novels, so it became a six book series. 

Do you find it hard to close a series and let go of the characters?

Yes, it can be very hard to say goodbye to characters I love. For me, the characters live on after the end of the series.


Do you have a favourite childhood fairy tale or folk character?


Lots! These days I would choose Baba Yaga, the fearsome old woman who lives in the forest in a hut on hen’s legs, and who possesses the gift of fire. As a child I might have chosen a strong young woman from a fairy tale, either the girl in The Six Swans or the brave young wife in East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Admirable role models! 


Which authors do you admire? Who helped to shape and inspire you?


Without a doubt, what shaped and inspired me as a writer was traditional stories: fairy tales, folklore, myths and legends. I admire many authors across a wide range of genres and styles. I love accomplished writing that pushes the boundaries but I also love great storytelling, so my favourite writers tend to be those who combine the two. For historical fiction I really admire the late Dorothy Dunnett. I re-read Dorothy L Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novels every year, and also Daphne du Maurier’s Cornish novels. All those writers are great stylists. As a young reader I adored Charlotte BrontĂ«’s Jane Eyre. That novel helped give me my romantic streak.


You have travelled a lot in pursuit of research for your books. Is there anywhere you haven't been that you still want to explore? Is there anywhere you would like to return to? And please could you tell us a bit about Transylvania and Wildwood Dancing?


Yes, I’ve been very fortunate in being able to travel quite widely for research purposes, thanks to the kind readers who buy my books and allow me to earn my living as a writer. There are plenty of places I haven’t visited and would love to see, for instance Brittany, Cornwall, Russia, South America. It’s becoming harder to get away now that I have so many dogs! I would love to return to Orkney, where my Viking novel Wolfskin is set, and indeed I am intending to do so in mid-2017 for a writers’ retreat. I’ve visited Orkney three times before and it remains one of my favourite places for all sorts of reasons. 


My visit to Transylvania was memorable! Most of my novels are set in my own ancestral territory – Scotland and Ireland – and writing a story set in such a different culture was challenging. I was lucky enough to find a Romanian guide who was a history buff and very ready to take me to out-of-the-way places in search of what I needed for the book. With a regular guide, I might have ended up just doing the well-trodden ‘vampire tourism’ route; and on my own I would have struggled with the language, not to speak of the driving. 


The landscape and historic buildings in Transylvania are stunningly beautiful and full of character. We stayed in local B&Bs. People were not very keen to talk about folk traditions – I would have had to stay much longer and win trust to bring that sort of information out. Rural Romania was a place of stark contrasts: we’d be travelling past flower-dotted fields where workers were cutting hay with scythes, and right next to them there would be a huge derelict factory, stark evidence of the mismanagement of the Ceausescu era.
 

I did use a lot of what I learned on that trip in writing Wildwood Dancing. And I’m sure I still built many errors into the book! It’s a fairy tale story rather than a historical novel. I hope I conveyed a general flavour of the Transylvanian setting, at least.  And then, of course, it was off to Turkey for the sequel, Cybele’s Secret.

You have won multiple awards for your writing. Is there one that is especially memorable or dear to you?

I appreciate them all! The Prix Imaginales deserves a special mention. This award is for best fantasy novel in French translation – I won it for Soeur des Cygnes, which was the French title for Daughter of the Forest. The memorable part was the trophy: a large, bright red statuette of Puss in Boots. Puss is too big for the trophy shelf so he lives on top of a bookcase. Most dear to me: a tie between my first major award, an Aurealis for Son of the Shadows, and my only short fiction award, another Aurealis for By Bone-Light, my contemporary version of the fairy tale Vasilissa the Fair.


How different do you find it writing short stories to novels?

 
Each has its own difficulties. With short fiction you need to refine and refine again, pare the writing down to the perfect words, the perfect turn of phrase, the most economical, effective and powerful way of telling your story. I find writing short fiction rewarding but difficult, and I am very slow at it. Novels come more easily to me, even though they still take a while to write! But some writers find it hard to create a workable structure and to maintain focus in a longer work.


We recently interviewed the co-founder of #FolkloreThursday, to ask about the success of their hashtag on global folklore. Over the time that you have been writing fantasy and historical fantasy, do you feel there has been a resurgence in reader interest in folklore and fairy tales? Did it ever go away? 


I don’t think it ever went away completely, but I agree there’s been a recent resurgence in writing based on fairy tales in particular. It shows up in novels and short fiction, as well as in movies and television series such as Once Upon a Time

Have the marketplace and reader interests changed much since your first book was published?
 
The marketplace has certainly changed in the 16 or so years since I wrote Daughter of the Forest. The publishing business was hit badly by the global economic downturn; publishers had to rethink how they functioned with the rise of the e-book; and then there was the proliferation of self-published work that digital publishing made possible. As a result, publishers are far less ready to take risks and writers have to do far more of their own publicity and marketing, with a lot less support than before. There’s a trend currently toward a darker, grittier kind of fantasy, exemplified by writers like Joe Abercrombie. The fantasy genre is very broad, though; there’s room for romantic historical fantasy alongside hip urban fantasy alongside so-called ‘grimdark’.

Is the feeling different getting your twentieth book published to getting your very first book published? 


It is still exciting when a new book comes out, especially if it has a beautiful cover like the ones Arantza Sestayo has done for the Blackthorn & Grim series. But nothing beats seeing your very first book out there on the bookshop shelves. 


How much say do you get on the cover design for your books?

It ranges from zero to quite a lot! With some of the foreign language editions I didn’t even get to see the cover art until the book was published, and there were some highly inappropriate covers as a result. Over the years my US publishers in particular have commissioned some beautiful covers by distinguished illustrators such as Kinuko Y Craft, John Jude Palencar, and more recently Arantza Sestayo, and I count myself very lucky in that.


How do you feel about your earlier works now that you have written so many? Do you ever wish you could go back and change anything?

There are certainly many things I would change if I were writing some of those books now – in particular, I’d fix the errors I made with the history in my earliest books, back in the days when it never occurred to me that readers would expect historical accuracy in a story that was full of magical transformations and Otherworld beings. And I would pare the wordage down in some of the longer books to improve the pacing. Only, of course, I wouldn’t actually do it because I’d much rather write new stories, not revisit the old ones. I hope I keep on learning from my errors.


If a black hole opened up in the middle of the room and you only had time to save three books from your bookshelf, which three would they be and why?
 
What a terrible question! It would have to be the books I couldn’t replace: my mother’s edition of The Golden Staircase (an anthology of classic poetry with colour plates, published in the early 1900s); her edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales; and her hand-written diary.


What are you working on now, and what can we look forward to in the near future?

Den of Wolves, book 3 of the Blackthorn & Grim series, comes out in September here in Australia, and in November in the USA. Look for my novella, Beautiful, later this year in an anthology called Aurum, from Ticonderoga Publications. And I’m currently writing a proposal for a new adult fantasy series, but as my agent hasn’t seen it yet, I can’t give you any further details. 


Anyone interested in finding out more could keep an eye on my blog, where I will post news when I have it.



Friday, 8 February 2019

Sapiens


Just finished this on Audible. Really enjoyed it. 

Like The Silk Roads, I came away feeling as though I had learned a lot. 

Some of the most pertinent facts that sunk in were: Around ten million slaves were taken from Africa to America, which is around the same number of Africans slaughtered in Belgian Congo by Leopold II. Of the 60 trillion dollars of money in the world, only around 6 trillion of that is in hard currency. Around 90% of all money exists only as numbers or data. Almost all of the most famous national dishes in the world don't originate from the countries they're associated with:

In an Italian restaurant we expect to find spaghetti in tomato sauce; in Polish and Irish restaurants lots of potatoes; in an Argentinian restaurant we can choose between dozens of kinds of beefsteaks; in an Indian restaurant hot chillies are incorporated into just about everything; and the highlight at any Swiss café is thick hot chocolate under an alp of whipped cream. But none of these foods is native to those nations.

And the world today appears to be far less violent than it once was. Of 400 ancient skeletons examined in the Danube Valley, eighteen died violent deaths most likely at the hands of other humans. That's 4.5% for the Danube Valley alone. Whereas, today, the global average is only 1.5%. An average of nine murders per 100,000 people annually, and mostly in conflict areas. It drops to 1 per 100,000 in Central European countries.

In 2012 about 56 million people died throughout the world; 620,000 of them died due to human violence... In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide and 1.5 million died of diabetes. Sugar is more dangerous than gunpowder.

I do love these kind of books. Dry facts delivered in an engaging, conversational manner. And, although I really enjoyed reading The Silk Roads, I think I enjoyed having Sapiens read to me just a little bit more. It seems to be a trend that people enjoy reading fiction but use their Audible subscriptions for non-fiction. I do this with Wiki, too. When I have a large bulk of factual information to sift through, I line it up in Word and get text-to-speech to read it to me. 

The beginning of this book really sucked me in. As a writer, I loved Yuval Noah Harari's take on stories and imagination, and why humans need them so very badly. I've been finding the quotes online as I didn't have the text in front of me, so the paragraphs are a little out of order:

It’s relatively easy to agree that only Homo sapiens can speak about things that don’t really exist, and believe six impossible things before breakfast. You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven. But why is it important? After all, fiction can be dangerously misleading or distracting. People who go to the forest looking for fairies and unicorns would seem to have less chance of survival than people who go looking for mushrooms and deer. And if you spend hours praying to non-existing guardian spirits, aren’t you wasting precious time, time better spent foraging, fighting, and fornicating? But fiction has enabled us not merely to imagine things, but to do so collectively. We can weave common myths such as the biblical creation story, the Dreamtime myths of Aboriginal Australians, and the nationalist myths of modern states. Such myths give Sapiens the unprecedented ability to cooperate flexibly in large numbers. Ants and bees can also work together in huge numbers, but they do so in a very rigid manner and only with close relatives. Wolves and chimpanzees cooperate far more flexibly than ants, but they can do so only with small numbers of other individuals that they know intimately. Sapiens can cooperate in extremely flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. That’s why Sapiens rule the world, whereas ants eat our leftovers and chimps are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.


Two Catholics who have never met can nevertheless go together on crusade or pool funds to build a hospital because they both believe that God was incarnated in human flesh and allowed Himself to be crucified to redeem our sins. States are rooted in common national myths. Two Serbs who have never met might risk their lives to save one another because both believe in the existence of the Serbian nation, the Serbian homeland and the Serbian flag. Judicial systems are rooted in common legal myths. Two lawyers who have never met can nevertheless combine efforts to defend a complete stranger because they both believe in the existence of laws, justice, human rights – and the money paid out in fees. Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings.

*

Fiction isn't bad. It is vital. Without commonly accepted stories about things like money, states or corporations, no complex human society can function. We can't play football unless everyone believes in the same made-up rules, and we can't enjoy the benefits of markets and courts without similar make-believe stories. But stories are just tools. They shouldn't become our goals or our yardsticks. When we forget that they are mere fiction, we lose touch with reality. Then we begin entire wars `to make a lot of money for the cooperation' or 'to protect the national interest'. Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination. We invented them to serve us; why do we find ourselves sacrificing our life in their service?


*

Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.

I also love the parts about culture and how cultures develop and change. It's a hot topic in many of the African forums and dialogues I've followed in recent years, also in the work I've done editing courses on changing attitudes to prevent gender-based violence and support LGBT rights. The constant struggle between what is considered immutable culture - something that always has and will be - and a recognition, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, that: "Culture does not make people. People make culture." Harari devoted chapters to the effects of empire and colonialism, but also to the way in which cultures organically change internally, even when left to their own devices.

Every culture has its typical beliefs, norms and values, but these are in constant flux. The culture may transform itself in response to changes in its environment or through interaction with neighbouring cultures. But cultures also undergo transitions due to their own internal dynamics.Even a completely isolated culture existing in an ecologically stable environment cannot avoid change. Unlike the laws of physics, which are free of inconsistencies, every man-made order is packed with internal contradictions. Cultures are constantly trying to reconcile these contradictions, and this process fuels change.

*

Just as medieval culture did not manage to square chivalry with Christianity, so the modern world fails to square liberty with equality. But this is no defect. Such contradictions are an inseparable part of every human culture. In fact, they are culture’s engines, responsible for the creativity and dynamism of our species. Just as when two clashing musical notes played together force a piece of music forward, so discord in our thoughts, ideas and values compel us to think, reevaluate and criticise. Consistency is the playground of dull minds.

*

We would do better to adopt instead the viewpoint of a cosmic spy satellite, which scans millennia rather than centuries. From such a vantage point it becomes crystal clear that history is moving relentlessly towards unity. The sectioning of Christianity and the collapse of the Mongol Empire are just speed bumps on history’s highway.

The mantra to take away from the book is: biology enables, culture forbids. Meaning that our bodies are made to enable all sorts of pleasures, thoughts and pastimes, it is only our imagined beliefs that make unnatural what is purely, biologically, natural. As humans, we appear to be caught in a constant battle between what we are and what we thing we should be.

I really did enjoy this book, though, as with The Silk Roads, I find ancient history far more enticing. So much more known history has been packed into the modern era, but I do find us a little bit dull nowadays. Everything we could become, and yet we bog ourselves down in petty warfare and silly systems. I prefer the world when it held a little more wonder.

I'd only reached chapter two of Sapiens when my friend Harris texted from Luxembourg with a picture of the cover of Harari's new book Homo Deus, asking: Have you read this? It's fucking brilliant!

So, Homo Deus is on my TBR pile and Sapiens is on his. Many an interesting discussion to be had over a pint of Mutzig when he returns to Kigali.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Still Life at 90


An old print by Fox Talbot of the original Hungerford Bridge, c. 1845. Something that featured prominently in my novel.

Which is now at 90,000 words. 

I estimate I have about four more chapters to go. 

Then there will be a huge amount of re-writing and fact checking. 

Nice to have a new, completed novel so early in the year. 

Uncharacteristically, not that much to say at the moment. By this stage it always feels like one of those fold-over games where someone draws the head, folds the paper, someone draws the neck, folds the paper, etc. By the end of a novel, you mostly forget what happened at the beginning and where it went in the middle. Once the last line is written, you can put it down for a few days, do something else, then unfold the paper and look at the completed picture. 

For now, four more chapters...