Published

I mentioned in a 2014 recap post that I had a short story accepted for publication by a literary magazine. Having been asked by everyone around me, “Are you proud? Because you should be.” I thought that I should let myself really be proud and give it a short post to itself. Preemptive apologies for this festival of self-love. Continue reading “Published”

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Favourite Book Covers

This idea came from the wonderfully blog-talented, Wanton Creation / the Other Watson, click the link to check his favourites out.

Shall I open with the perhaps over-used line, you can’t judge a book by its cover? I know this is true for a lot of books (dodgy cover, good plot) and for people, the true subjects of the analogy, (pretty cover, ugly soul) but for whatever reason, I tend to feel more connected to the books whose covers caught my eye first. Picking a preferred cover for a specific books helps the book feel personal. When different books by the same author have covers in a similar style, I like to buy the one that matches what I have. Continue reading “Favourite Book Covers”

When a Goose Meets a Moose

When a goose meets a moose,
At the house of a mouse,
I wonder if all three,
Sit down and drink tea

I wish that I could explain to you what the stories and poems I read turn into in my mind. A collage of emotions and thoughts and pictures, all mixed together. An image isn’t simply an image but has attached to it the emotion of the writing’s tone and circumstance. Imagination is behind all this. The mind’s eye acting out another’s imagination through symbols typed on a page. If you are a person who enjoys reading you know what I am trying to say, don’t you?

Continue reading “When a Goose Meets a Moose”

Glorious Sadness! Books With Sad Endings

For the most part, stories end well. That’s kind of how our story-telling works: character gets into conflict, then the conflict is resolved and he’s okay again. In fact, he’s probably better than before.

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Sometimes, though, stories don’t follow this formula exactly and that ‘it’s now okay’ sentiment above proves false. Sometimes, characters end up in way worse situations than what they started with. These are the books that give you a downlift over an uplift. These are a sampling of the books that have tugged my heart the most, two of them actually made a tear roll down my cheek. But just one tear, one manly, strong tear. Pfft, I don’t sob over fiction. Whatever.

Continue reading “Glorious Sadness! Books With Sad Endings”

Read What Makes You Happy

There is a certain amount of pressure on people who call themselves writers or literary students / lovers, to read and love particular books. Sometimes though, the best thing to do for these masterpieces is to acknowledge their intelligence, appreciate it, but admit that you just personally didn’t like it. Continue reading “Read What Makes You Happy”

The Internal Author-Log

All World Issues recently had a post titled My Addiction to Writing… In My Head, that I think is something a lot of writers think about – and general people, too (yeah, writers are a different kind of human!). I can only assume that everyone has some level of self-narration going on in their minds on a day-to-day basis, I assume because otherwise what do you have going on in there? Flying monkeys? Though, once I was thinking nothing but a sing-song tune along the lines of ‘a-hem a-ha a-hum hum hum he he he’ for around an hour because man, you get tired listening to this voice. I’ve been meaning to write about this, and AllWorldIssues’ post seemed like the perfect sign to hurry up, because my thought novels are something I think about a lot. Continue reading “The Internal Author-Log”

Kickass January Reads, 2013

Adding 2013 sounds ominous, doesn’t it? Already the first month is over. Five books were demolished this month. Smashed through like a ball through a school window. Pulverized like an apple in a blender. Or, more accurately, read with interest while laying down spread eagle in a pair of cotton pajamas. Whichever you’d prefer. Continue reading “Kickass January Reads, 2013”

My A-Z of Literature

I found this idea through Committed to Celluloid, who continued the trend from Mettel Ray Movie Blog. Of course, they did theirs with movies – being their passion – but writing being mine, I thought I would tweak it a little for us book lovers! I’ve used my favourite authors, stories, and parts of the writing world to make my list. Feel free to make your own!

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A
American Gods by Neil Gaiman, my all-time favourite novel Continue reading “My A-Z of Literature”

The Booker Award

If you remember my post Books and I, you’ll know that I always wanted this award as an excuse to list my favourite books. Well, now thanks to patwoodblogging I can! Twice because of that other post. Plus, I get to nominate 5 other bloggers to hear about  their favourite books, too – so be prepared to be nominated.

Continue reading “The Booker Award”

Book Review: Where I’ve Been Hiding Lately

In case you’d noticed that I haven’t been on wordpress much of late, this is the book you can blame for my absence, World Without End. With it’s 7 parts, 92 chapters and over 1200 pages spanning 20 years, it’s taken a week to get through – but it’s been a pleasure. Here’s my ‘review’, of sorts.

This is the sequel to Pillars of the Earth, which I read a couple of years ago. Both are set in English town Kingsbridge, and centre around the building of a great cathedral, and how this impacts the lives of those involved, and subsequently in book 2, what the town and priory is like two centuries later. Both are packed with relationships (of all kinds) family, history, conflicts, drama and passion.

Why should I read these books (Pillars of the Earth and World Without End)? 

  • The characters are complex and very human. Those who are great are so great you love them, and share in their joys, triumphs and falls. Those characters that you hate, you wish painful deaths upon. Follet has the ability to connect the reader entirely to the characters; you’re not simply listening to somebody else’s story – you’re involved in it.
  • The point of view jumps from character to character, and far from being annoying, this gives the stories a rounded, omniscient feel while still written in first person.
  • There is enough sex, power struggles, murder, deceit, war, problems, drama and love affairs to keep you entertained – and none of it is forced or purposefully included to keep you turning, it’s all woven into the story for a reason and again, keeps the plot and characters very human and relatable, in a modern world to past centuries way.
  • The stories are long, but once you’ve started you won’t be able to stop – the size is not off-putting once you begin – it’s reassuring that it’s not going to end soon!
  • The length does not mean it’s a ‘hard’ book – you’ll find yourself remembering every character, no matter how small a role they play, and you’ll remember all the events without much worry.
  • The length also betrays the speed at which the story often moves – the pace is mostly quick.

Any faults?

  • I’m certain that anybody who reads this will groan in acknowledgement of this one; some characters are so hateful, and get everything they want so often, that you’ll be yelling at the book something like, “somebody kill this bastard already!”
  • The length of the sequel “World Without End” is about 300 words too long, though I am unsure which part of the story could be removed to shorten it. You’ll keep reading, though.
  • The length means they’re quite big, bulky books, so if you’re looking for something to read on public transport make sure you buy the kindle version (if you have one) otherwise save it for holidays. I hear you ask, “Why not just leave it at home instead of reading it on the train?” And I laugh knowingly, you won’t be able to put it down that long.
  • If you’re not a fan of the church / Christianity to an extent that it would ruin a story for you, steer clear – most of the main characters in these are tied to the church in some way, in fact the building of a cathedral and then the running of it are at the centre of both novels, and there more monks and nuns than I can remember.

Who would these be suited to?

  • Readers who love breadth, complexities and large time periods
  • Those interested in the 1100’s and 1300’s – centuries the books are set in. Those interested in these medieval-esque dramas: knights, earls, kingdoms, monks, ladies, peasants, etc
  • Anybody with a love for a fast moving story over a slower, undercurrent main goal(s)
  • Readers who don’t want their novels to end too soon
  • Women who like to read strong female characters
  • Readers who like detail in the prose, without it being overwhelming
Book number 1

By the way, if for some reason you can’t begin with Pillars of the Earth, don’t sweat it! World Without End is set two centuries after the first, and the only ties to the first are the setting, and a few descendants of the original characters – both stories can stand alone, though it is nice to read them both in order.

Did anybody else either enjoy or dislike these novels? Let me know why!

You Know You’re a Writer When…

I’m sure there are many lists out there on the interwebs that cover the same subject as this one. However, I made the diplomatic decision to not google “You know you’re a writer when” so that I didn’t stumble across an awesome list that includes things I’d never thought of for mine, or one that presents their points far more beautifully than me. I’m avoiding plagiarism really, I should probably get bonus points. (And if I’m in strong enough denial I might be able to delude myself into thinking this is the only list of it’s kind on the internet. Wow!)

– When you see somebody interesting you begin to think of a life story for them. You come up with their background, their childhood, what their personality is like, where they work, what their secret dreams are, turn them into spies, murderers, amazing chefs, etc. You also understand that ‘interesting’ can include a very long, varied list of humans that might not be interesting to others at all.

– You often find yourself narrating your activities in a voice that isn’t yours, but a character’s. Then you go a step further and start putting their spin / feeling on the activity instead of your own. And if you go one step further you’ll include why they feel that way about an activity when you give them a history.

– You read a lot of books as a child (if you were able to) and they were a great comfort, or love. You also still have your favourite childhood books.

– You wrote stories as a child. I’ve mentioned before my very first masterpiece (indeed my only masterpiece) “The Cat and the Dog” which was a short story about – you guessed it – meeting a cat and a dog I wrote when I was 4. I promised I’d find the book and post the pictures, but all I could find was my second work, ‘The Frog’

Not nearly as sophisticated. You can probably tell I had lots of varied and complex ideas when I was 4.

– When you were upset, depressed or mad, you often wrote about it. Nowadays it’s much easier to write a social networking status about our problems, but I think a true writer has a journal or notebook, or a childhood diary, full of these miserable moments that alternate between explaining the situation in full and beautiful prose describing the feelings over the event. Reaching for that notebook and pen when you were depressed and alone was like reaching for your only friend, and you felt release when the words were down. You won’t find the same feeling of peace after an angry status, trust me.

– There’s always at least one half-written story saved on your computer.

– You feel at peace perusing a book shelf. Sitting for hours pulling down books at random from every genre, having to painfully play elimination until you’ve got just the one or two you can afford. “This one is bigger so I’d get my moneys worth… but this one has a pretty picture on the cover…”

– Your bookshelf is your pride and joy. My boyfriend’s brother was talking about this; he explained it so much better than I ever could but I completely agreed (see? I agreed. Therefore it can be my opinion too, right?) A bookshelf is a very special piece of furniture – setting it up takes a lot of thought. There are some books you don’t want on your bookshelf because they ruin how it feels. Your bookshelf shows who you are, where you’ve been and who you want to become. Mine has sections: all time favourites, classics, books I want to read, and books I think I should read. I owe this revelation of how I stack them to that brother-in-law (ever more talented than I) as previously I did this subconsciously. Seriously the ‘crappy’ books I don’t want to admit I’ve read are in a box, the alright ones are stacked next to the bookshelf and the shelf itself is in a hierarchy from best to not as best. With some colour coordinating.

– You can openly admit that there are crappy books. None of this “no every book is special! You obviously don’t care!” stuff, you understand that in order for a book to be special there are factors: quality, feeling, author (perhaps the book was the reason you became interested them), where it came from, how you came to read it, when in your life you read it – you have a history with all your books, no matter how small.

– You understand that you don’t have to finish reading a book. One of the best moments in my reading life was realising it’s okay to put a novel down if I don’t like it. There are no rules saying you must finish every book you start. You only have to finish the ones that you want to, and if you don’t? Put it back.

– You have that one paragraph or two that is the best thing you’ve ever written… but it doesn’t fit in any story you try to write for it.

– Inspiration can come from any place. It might not lead anywhere in the long run but you’ve been surprised by some of the inspirations you’ve had.

– Characters sometimes refuse to cooperate or stick to the original plan for a story. They’re like the whiny teenagers who won’t submit to the ‘be home by 10’ rule at times.

– If you’re a fan of journals and notebooks you have many, and definitely a favourite. You’ll perhaps even go through phases with ‘special’ pens. Here’s mine, though I mostly type to save my hands from shrivelling up.

– Words often speak to you. By which I mean, every now and then you get the eerie feeling that what you’re reading was meant specifically for you, at that specific point in your life… You weren’t expecting to see yourself or your situation staring up at you from a page until it happens, and it’s always a little bit spooky. If you’re remembering a time that wasn’t a little bit spooky, then it hasn’t happened to you yet.

– It can be hard, painful, emotional, draining to finish a piece of work. But you can’t stop.

– Finally, it’s that indescribable internal push to write. You don’t really know why you have to, you just know that there’s an irresistible need to put pen to paper and create. It’s the ever moving gust of wind, or spirit that swirls inside, rushing you along and spouting from your imagination, lips, fingers. It’s the feeling that keeps you going, that keeps returning you to your literary work time and time again even if the rest of you feels hopeless. It’s the reason you chose to say “I’m a writer.” It’s different for everyone, and always just beyond the perfect describing words – which is ironic, considering our line of work.

This list will be forever incomplete. Impossible, to say the least, to nail every point that defines why we write. Beyond definition, and certainly not encompassing of every person who has picked up a pencil and sat down to create a story, then chosen to do it for life. Your own reasons, quirks or funny moments will vary from other’s; you’re welcome to include your own points for this list! No doubt I’ll be adding new ones. 

The only person you should compare yourself to, is who you were yesterday

I read that title quote somewhere, but apparently it was too much for my brain to remember where I read it or who said it. Sorry about that. Let’s just say in the context of this post I got really smart and wrote it myself. It’s normally one of those lines that I read and think ‘give me a break’ and roll my eyes at, but lately it seems to be a necessary mantra.

Today I was on youtube (as per usual) and I happened to click on a Jenna Marbles video where she talked about how we need to stop comparing ourselves to other people. (Here’s the link) It was one of those times where you really needed to hear something but you weren’t expecting it from the place you did, and you also didn’t know that you needed to hear it until you heard it. That make sense? Lately I’ve been wondering whether or not my writing is good enough to ever be published, and couple that with the great books I’ve been reading and the awesome television shows I’ve been watching I began to think that there was no point in even trying. How could someone like me ever do anything worthwhile? How could this brain ever create something as pure magic as Philip K. Dick’s work, or the tangled beauty of Game of Thrones?

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No beard? No joining our club. Our club for awesome.

In fact, I’m still convinced that I will never succeed in creating anything of their standard but it doesn’t mean that I should just stop what I want to do and resign myself to a life of never trying at anything. In the video, Jenna says that once you accept that you’re never going to be the prettiest, or the smartest, then all the pressure lifts from your shoulders. I’m attempting to let go of pressure and expectation.

I always wanted to release a book of short stories, but everyone always said “you can’t do that, it’s so hard, don’t bother, you won’t be good enough, don’t you know only really famous authors can release that shit?” Well, eff that. I’m going to make a book of short stories, get that thing published and it’ll be awesome.

If I ever want to get a move on I can’t be held back by comparing my story to another person’s and second guessing myself, I’ll never get anything done and life just doesn’t work that way. Though it’s at least for now keeping me from getting pregnant – “aww that person has the cutest baby in the world! I wonder if I’ll have a cute baby? What if I don’t have a cute baby… what if my baby is like Oscar the Grouch or something, oh my God I should wait..” So that’s a bonus.

Comparison is a tricky thing because on the one hand we shouldn’t compare our looks to airbrushed models, or our intelligence to professionals, or our lives to rich celebrities, but you also don’t want to go the other way and use comparison as an excuse to just do everything terribly only to say “Well it’s MY best and I’m not comparing it to Hawking so tough titties!” especially if the thing you did terribly was somebodies wedding cake or a kid’s braces.

A little comparison can be used as inspiration; look at the greats that you admire and tell yourself that you’re going to try as hard as you can to achieve something you can admire just as much one day. Instead of worrying or whining about not being as good, sit down and get to work on getting good. Earn your talent. Practise. Learn. Don’t be held back by your insecurities or fears – sit down and educate yourself on how to get better at something and try to enjoy it while you’re doing it.

And if you find that your absolute best after all that hard work isn’t anything so good as those greats you admired, well at least you know now what your real potential actually is and you can work from there. In the words of Dylan Moran, “Don’t do it! Stay away from your potential. You’ll mess it up, it’s potential, leave it. Anyway, it’s like your bank balance – you always have a lot less than you think.” 

“Wait, that’s not an inspiring, uplifting quote to end on Jess what are you doing?!”

Oh, sorry.
No wait! Never fear I have one last thing to say; I tried to think of something really beautiful and inspirational but it turns out I’m way too cynical to even half believe the bullshite that came out of my brain, so after back-spacing those phony-sounding sentences I just want to say – how do you know your potential is limited unless you try to unlock it all? Work as hard as you can, and if you’re not the greatest? Deal with it. Accept it. Enjoy what talent, hobby, job or interest you have and let go of the idea of having to be number 1 or else nothing at all.

What would you do otherwise? Never try? I’d rather fail knowing I did the best I could and knowing that I enjoyed doing it, than wake up one day and realised I’ve failed at my entire life.