To do in April: Make new house into a home

Things I must get done in April before I can relax in my lovely new flat and feel like I really live there:

  • Finish unpacking (How do we even own so much random stuff?! Where did all the useful things I thought I owned disappear to?!)
  • Get new desk for study so I can feel like a busy adult with many important things to do
  • Get new bookcase to enable my problematic book addiction
  • Rejoice

Champion

My definition of a champion has changed over the years. In child and young adulthood, I was full of idealism and engrossed in fantasy worlds such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Lord of the Rings. Though full of epic challenges and deadly battles, the moral framework of such worlds is beautifully, impractically simple. There are bad guys, and you know exactly who they are and why they are wrong, and your own innate goodness is validated by your very opposition to them.

As I grew older, though my love for the fantasy narratives that helped to shape my appreciation of the genre never faded, I began to appreciate stories with more shades of grey, characters with motivations more complex and difficult to pin down. In such stories, it can be difficult to separate the champions from the villains. In life, it is often impossible to do so.

As a child I idolised Buffy, fantasising about slaying demons and monsters, and being strong enough to defeat anything. Later in life, I faced my own very real struggles with anxiety and depression, and I began to fear that there are fights that can’t be won, no matter how hard you try. I was wrong. Trying every day is winning. It makes us all champions. In the little victories as well as the big ones.

And if the night ever does seems a little too dark and full of terrors, and I’m on the verge of losing hope in the world we live in – there’s always a story waiting, full of adversity and triumph and salvation, to remind me that the art we create reflects the possibilities and potential we hold, and that is a beautiful thing.

 

Daily Prompt – Champion

(Pe?)NoWriMo – Or, Stop Procrastinating and Write a Damn Novel

I’ve always wanted to write novels.

And I’ve always believed I would – not just that I could, but that it was inevitable, as much an assured part of my future life as death and taxes. But that’s the kicker – that single word, future.

When I was young, I was sure that my status as a published writer would be bestowed by adulthood, that as soon as I got a little life experience under my belt I’d be belting them out as prolifically as Stephen King.

At university I told myself that as soon as my turbulent student days were behind me, I’d get that first novel done. All I needed was a little stability.

Two postgraduate courses and many temp jobs later, and I found myself in a stable, permanent job in a respectable industry, and I just knew that once I’d been settled in a while and felt secure, I could really focus on writing.

And that’s how one day becomes maybe becomes if only. And your dream can die many long years before you do.

The ideas don’t go away. They’ve been with me for years, characters I can visualise in my head as clearly as my oldest friends, plot points I’ve honed over dozens of bus journeys and idle minutes.

I just need to write the damn thing.

So, there’s nothing else for it. May will be my Personal Novel Writing Month (because waiting until November would just be one more excuse). I will draft this story from beginning to end if it kills me, or all my characters. I’m about to move to a new flat where I will, for the first time in many months, have room for a desk and a dedicated writing space. And I will use it, every day.

There’s really no excuse not to. There never really was.

Review: The Devil You Know by Mike Carey

The Devil You Know isn’t a perfect book by any means, but it was more than good enough to make me want to read the rest of the Felix Castor series.

I liked the protagonist. Felix is a funny and likeable character without feeling forced or stilted, and with just enough of a tinge of flawed humanity to make him interesting and sympathetic.
I really liked the premise. An alternate present in which society at large has been forcibly convinced of the existence of ghosts by the sudden and unexplained exodus of souls back to the mortal plane. It’s intriguing enough and it allows exorcists and demon-hunters to function in this fictional setting without the need for secrecy and the laborious covering up of their supernatural doings which can plague some modern fantasy fiction.
Felix’s backstory and the supporting characters were interesting, and I hope they get fleshed out in future instalments. I thought the main plot of the book was compelling and enjoyable, dynamic enough to keep my interest without getting bogged down by too much complexity and badly-realised ambition. Sure, it was obvious who the killer was going to be all along. And yes, you would expect a smart character like Fix to be able to puzzle some of the more obvious mysteries out a little quicker than he did (ICOE? Really? It took you the entire book, Castor). And I really feel the book could have done without the final chapter, which took Juliet’s depiction from decent-if-a-little-flat to what-the-hell-that-is-ridiculous-a-demon-wouldn’t-even-I-need-a-drink.

Overall, four stars, an enjoyable read and promising series for me to devour.

Chaos, panic and disorder

July is about to end, we’re more than halfway through 2013 and a quick mental evaluation of the year so far leaves me with an oddly mixed feeling of stress and optimism.

I’ve been in a bit of a rut for the past year, creatively, socially, financially, professionally–pretty much every way. The trouble with ruts is that the longer you spend stuck in one, the harder it is to haul yourself out. The solution I came up with, naturally, has been to quit my job and move across the country. It seemed to make sense when I came to the decision…

So right now I’m trying to secure somewhere to live, looking for new employment and contemplating the imminent prospect of becoming a student again (this time just for a one-year Publishing MA course). It’s all incredibly stressful and frightening and very, very exciting. I can’t remember the last time I was this energised and enthusiastic and all it took was the determination to actually do something, take a risk and desperately hope that it pays off, because I’m young and I can and if I wait and see then in five years or ten years or forty years I’ll still be standing in exactly the same place, waiting and seeing.

So that’s the state of my year. I’ve ripped it all apart hoping that it will come back together and, if I work really hard and try my very best, maybe I’ll be better for it.

Daily Prompt: State of Your Year

The Zone: A good book

I find it really hard to switch off. I don’t sleep a lot. I’ve recently started jogging, but so far I’ve been too busy feeling like it’s killing me for it to de-stress me at all. I don’t cook, I like knitting but I lack the patience for anything but short bursts. I love writing, but that takes concentration and a buzzing mind so it doesn’t really lend itself to chilling out.

So when I need to switch off and de-stress, I read. Reading takes me out of my own mind and stops me obsessing and overthinking, even for a brief period of time. It lets me immerse myself in somebody else’s story, and for as long as I can remember that has fascinated me. Getting involved in a story is the most distracting and relaxing thing I can think of. Even if the book is tragic or terrifying or infuriating, it gives me a chance to switch off everything else, everything real and difficult and personal, and put all my investment temporarily in a fictional world. And when I stop reading and resume regular thinking and worrying and living, I’m better for having had that time to lose myself in a good book. That’s how I get ‘in the zone’, and I’d be lost without it.

 

Daily Prompt: The Zone