Not-Writing Update


My life is bad.

But that’s okay! Because I have received confirmation that I will, indeed, be able to afford to continue seeing the psychologist I saw a couple of weeks ago, and that means that all of my problems will be magically solved soon! That makes me happy. I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to know what life will be like without all of the bad, deeply-ingrained, self-sabotaging habits that constitute my entire identity. That will be nice.

And then I’ll get my Hogwarts letter! Couple of decades and change late, but hey, that’s bureaucracy for you.

So I have agreed to cook dinner tomorrow, and part of that is because I felt like I had to say yes, which is unhealthy, but part of it is also because I’ve spent the last 3 days watching YouTube and wishing that I had a life. Shit needs to change.

Also, as is usually the case, I was actually thinking of offering to do it myself before I was asked to do it, and only after I was asked to do it did I start to feel all anxious and yucky about it and scrambling to find a coping mechanism to cover it. Good thing WINZ got back to me today to confirm that they will, in fact, be helping to cover the cost of my going back to see the psychologist. I clearly need it.

And, also, as I’ve learnt and forgotten and learnt again a few times over the years: doing everything all at once actually works for me, when I actually do it. So tomorrow, while my “free time” is “compromised” for about 3 hours, I will also be planning this fucking High Fantasy novel that I said I would plan …

Because I actually want to plan it, and write it, which you might not think is the case given that I’ve spent my precious “free time” over the past 3 days (also my entire post-pubescent life, but anyway) watching YouTube, playing the stand-alone Gwent game (actually really fun), and wishing that I had a life. This is one of those situations where, addled as it is, my brain is going to have to be the grown-up here and force me to do some stuff that is healthy for me.

As for all that shit about not wanting to have writing be the only thing that I ever do with my life – you know what, right now that’s just an excuse to feel bad about my plan for tomorrow, and I don’t need that shit. It’s important, but it’s also important that I not spend any more time in the way that I’ve been spending it lately, which is not only self-distraction, but also sitting on my intentions when the prospect of acting on them seems like a foregone conclusion, an inevitable failure. Gotta just do that shit.

One the one hand, I do feel like I need to get out of the habit of constantly managing myself. On the other hand, it’s good to be able to manage myself, sometimes, like when my really bad, default habits are out of control, which they have been for … well, let’s not kick that dead horse. Tomorrow (or later today, if you want to get technical) is a new day, and a new opportunity to break this habit, or at least punch a hole in it.

Retroactive Perspective Disclaimer

You know what?

Maybe I’m just making too big of a deal out of this. I mean, writing is hard. It is universally hard. People always have trouble writing. And this whole “detox” thing tomorrow – well, this post certainly won’t date itself – is mostly concerned with what I write, and why.

Am I just overreacting?

I definitely think the co-writing experience has spoiled me. It has been so consistently rewarding, enjoyable and all-around positive that it’s hard to not compare it to my other writing experiences of late. I do think I need a proper day off, not just a day where I do the same shit I do every day only with no writing. I need a day to do things that I want to do; that’s the “detox”, really. And making lists of specific pieces of information related to my personal history. And draw. I really miss drawing.

But, as often happens, only after a lot of complaining and angst am I finally starting to realise that what I’m bothered about in this specific instance – that I’m not finding it as easy to write this thing I’m working in as a different thing I’ve been working on – might just not be a problem that even has a solution to begin with. In fact all evidence I have seen and experienced suggests that it just comes with the territory.

And as good as Weekly Words has been for the co-writing project, for everything else it’s been providing an excuse for me to try and force myself to do things that don’t need to be done. I mean, it has kept me consistently writing every day, save for the days off I have afforded myself, regardless of word-count. And I know the word-count isn’t the be-all and end-all of this enterprise. This smacks of my inner perfectionist as well. Maybe I’m just giving in to it. But I think I’ve forgotten, or just not acknowledged, that a massive part of why the co-writing project works – having somebody else involved to be accountable to/draw motivation from – is completely absent with my own writing. So my judgment about how hard or easy it should be to work on my own stuff, as opposed to the co-writing project, just may not be fair.

But that actually makes me think that I need this day off even more, because anything I can do to get the fuck away from my perfectionism, self-shaming, and general pedantic neurotic bulshit is extremely needed. This “detox day” might just be the first “day on” that actually does what it’s supposed to do. That would be totally awesome, honestly, and I do think I want my “days on” to be a proper break, not just an excuse to not write that day.

Overreacting about writing being hard? Quite possibly. But now that I’ve had my little freakout here and published in online for the entire world to see, I realise that I need this detox day/day on for reasons completely unrelated to writing. Which will, of course, ultimately lead back around to how I write, and why. Which is what I wanted to begin with.

… cool.

Generic Blog Post

For the past month-ish, I have had a number of phone alarms that I’ve set up to try and get myself to do shit I’ve Always Meant To Do. These alarms have titles to go along with them, advertising their ostensible purpose. For instance, on Thursdays and Saturdays I have my 1 p.m. “Be A Responsible Adult” alarm, made specifically to make me look for jobs and consider the state of my CV with a mind to update where necessary. I have my “Walkies” alarm at 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; I have my “Revision, Bitch” alarm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I have “Writing” every day of the week at 4 p.m.

I also have corresponding alarms telling me to stop doing these things, except for “Walkies”, which has its own built-in stopping-point. Occasionally these alarms go off and annoy other people in the house when I’m not there to turn them off. As a result, these are now calendar notifications instead of alarms, and will blip once like a text notification instead of playing the god-awful pre-packaged phone jingle that I can’t seem to change or customise in any way for five minutes straight, and again every five minutes until I finally arrive to turn it off.

They have not been effective.

Okay, they have been partially effective, or perhaps I should say selectively effective. “Walkies” is probably the one that works the best, which, hey, is something to be pleased with. Exercise is hard. “Writing” not so much. “Revision, Bitch” – I’ll leave that up to your imagination, because it’s probably more impressive than the reality has been. “Be A Responsible Adult” is the one where I finally started to think “maybe the reason I’ve only set this alarm up for 2 seemingly unrelated days per week is because I want to make it as easy as possible to dismiss such a repulsive notion and I’m intentionally sabotaging my efforts to make it happen because I don’t want to put effort into making it happen because I’m not a responsible adult”.

What has happened, though, is that I’ve continued coming around to newer ideas for things that I’d want to write, and yesterday while writing some outlines I hit upon an obvious problem, and a solution to the problem at the same time. The problem, as I’ve lamented before, is that whenever I plan out a story, I lose interest in it. Whenever I start devoting entire folds full of Word documents containing my plans and outlines for a story, I find that while I have ideas, I have no passion for making them come to life on the page, no desire for the story that these ideas supposedly constitute to be told. I was about to get very frustrated with myself for not having a better way of doing things, because while I knew that planning things out tended to kill my passion for those very things, I also needed a way to organise enough of my ideas so that I had a clear focus that I could refer back to if I got stuck or lost.

And then, the obvious solution came to me.

Don’t write a plan just to have a plan. Write a plan when you have a plan.

I tend to write outlines based on the idea that, if I want to be responsible about whatever story I’m writing, I need to have it planned out in advance so that I can be precise and exact and deliberate with what I’m writing. I don’t know where I got this idea, only that a lot of guilt and shame is involved in knowing that it’s not the way I operate. But the problem with that, as I now know, is that it’s not making an outline; it’s brainstorming. An outline is for when you’ve already had the brainstorm. And my brainstorms, when I recognised them for what they were, had no passion in them. I had somehow cut out the part in my creative process where the excitement of discovery and new ideas happen and gone straight to the part where I write it all down so that I don’t forget it, or so that if I do forget it I have a way to remember. And that’s the part that I want to get back.

The way to get it back, I think, is to just let myself think. To put ideas together in my head until they get interesting, and then write that down. Writing as safety netting, in a sense, rather than writing as an instruction manual – which makes sense with a new story in particular, because how can you write an instruction manual when you don’t even know what you need the instructions for yet?

So at the moment I’m just trying to let myself think, to be patient, and wait until I have something worth writing about before I get going. I am confident that this will work, but it also means that I have to be a bit more willing to drop everything and write down cool ideas when they come to me – and also to, like, write the fucking story. Which is maybe a little while down the road, because I haven’t had the cool idea that I want yet.

Also because I have a couple of full drafts of books that I do feel a responsibility to explore further, but that’s another consideration.

I’ve also been reading, though I have to confess that it got harder when I found that other people had borrowed the books that I wanted to borrow before I could, and had to put actual effort into thinking of what I’d like to read instead. It’s been good, in the sense that I’ve had to expand my horizons beyond The Dresden Files – not that I don’t enjoy that series quite a lot, but I definitely don’t want to only read that series, however easy it would be to do exactly that – and even got around to finishing up the Rebel Belle YA series that I started back in … 2014? It was right around the end of my YA kick, one of the last ones I read (and one of the main reasons my YA kick ended). I liked the premise, the lead character, and the generally light, energetic tone of the first book in particular, but when I finished the second book (not as interesting, and definitely not as memorable) the third had yet to be published, and I kind of forgot about it. The reason it ended my YA kick, by the way, is because I was so excited at how this book had things like pacing, things actually happening, characters who I was supposed to like that I did actually like – which all sounds good, until I realised that what was so refreshing about the book was that it was basically written competently, and so much of the other YA stuff I’d been reading was not. That killed the passion pretty effectively, and I haven’t gone back to YA since.

Until now. I finally got my hands on Lady Renegades, and while neither of the sequels are quite as engaging or exciting as the first book, I was happy to see what happened to Harper and the resolution of the plot. It’s the kind of ending that I wouldn’t expect to like, generally, but I like Harper quite a lot, and the fact that she ended the series happy was enough for me.

I also got around to reading The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, which I’m trying to write a review of that may or may not ever get finished. I liked it, and it took me a while to get into it. I realised halfway through that it was a pretty perfect anti-Twilight, deconstructing a lot of the problematic tropes (but not all of them) inherent in that series, but mostly what it reminded me of was The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin, which is one of my favourite books. It has a humane balance of sadness and hope that has a strong family resemblance to Tombs, no matter how much like an overt Twilight deconstruction it is on the surface. It’s all about the emotional and thematic core to me, and both Coldtown and Tombs use metaphor in similar ways, and similarly powerful. I recommend it.

Currently I am reading, and probably not finishing, The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher, seeing as at the time I was looking at about a month of waiting before I could continue the Dresden Files series. This is a high fantasy novel about airships, a “steampunk” setting that makes me roll my eyes at the idea that what people will classify as “steampunk” has any sort of coherence to it – it’s just non-electricity-based technology, and even that’s not quite true – and while I do like the setting and find Butcher’s pacing and structure a refreshing change from the usual flavourless drivel that I’ve come to expect from the genre … I have to say, there’s something about how odious high fantasy can be that actually makes sense for the genre. The fact that it does linger on the details, rather than surging from one scene to the next in the way that your typical UA novel will, gives the genre a feeling of weighty consideration. This can often become an oppressive weight, and the purple prose that often accompanies such consideration is tiresome to say the least, but it made me realise that there are actually things about the genre that I at least expect to see in a book belonging to it, even if I don’t actually like them in practice a lot of the time. I want a slightly slower burn; I want something a little less dynamic and more deliberate. The Hero and the Crown probably falls on the opposite side of that balance for me; where Butcher’s book is a little too fast-paced where it should be steadier and more considerate of the steps its taking, McKinley’s book took me several months to read the first half of. As I said in my review, I’m very glad that I did finish it, but I definitely like my books, whatever the genre or pace, to make it a little more appetising of a prospect to me as a reader.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass also suffers from what seems like poor characterisation, with at least one chapter all about one character trying to suss out another that offers us not so much character insight as incomplete character backstory. The POV character for the chapter starts off suspicious, and ends the chapter suspicious for exactly the same reasons. The chapter, in other words, does nothing, and in a book that’s already really fucking long – over 600 pages, and I’m not even halfway through yet while the book is due back tomorrow – while it may seem counterintuitive, you cannot afford to have filler. Filler in a short book is bad enough, because there’s so little of it to begin with. Filler in a long book is bad for a different reason: it’s a real effort to commit to reading a long book to begin with, and being rewarded for your efforts with stuff like this just feels like a slap in the face.

There’s other stuff, too, like most of the characters reading like authorial mouthpieces, and when there are several main characters – so far there are seven – that shit gets obnoxious really quickly. The reason they sound like authorial mouthpieces is not because of what their political stances are and I think that’s what Jim Butcher believes or anything like that. It’s because they’re all so fucking reasonable, and they’re reasonable in the same way. It’s kind of like how all of Joss Whedon’s characters sound the same, except at least with Joss Whedon you generally have different actors playing these characters who can differentiate them, even with similar dialogue, whereas in a book you’ve just got writing, and it’s the same writing for every character. I don’t have a problem with characters being reasonable – in fact a lot of the time I wish characters in books I read were more reasonable – but it does feel in places like this is an effort by Butcher to counter that common critique of fiction in general, and it’s ended up causing a different problem altogether. It’s not even that they’re so reasonable that all the potential issues and conflicts in the story are overcome just by talking; it’s just that they are reasonable in the same kind of way, using the same kind of deductive, procedural dialogue to spell things out, and it’s really freaking annoying. I’m not sure I want to read another 350+ pages of it, is what I’m saying, and it’s a shame, because the setting is really quite awesome. I like airships; I like the idea of humanity living in floating cities (we haven’t been told why yet, and it’s not really important to me to find out). I like the technology, and I like the way that explanations of the technology and its history are pretty much entirely left out in favour of just showing it off. It’s not even like I hate the characters, at least on paper. But it is just a bit too samey for me. If I had the book for a few more days, I think I would definitely finish it just to see what happens, but I’m also not exactly brokenhearted that I have to return it tomorrow.

The one thing I will say for it is that, while this may not seem like particularly high praise, at least it got written. As a writer, that’s probably the highest praise – and most infuriating – that I can give, because writing is fucking hard. I made a decision a while ago to take the “just do it” approach, which was the inspiration for setting my alarms and shit. It hasn’t worked. It has never worked. That’s not to say that it won’t, one day, but it is to say that as of yet it isn’t working, and the long history of it not working makes it all the more difficult for me to keep trying to get it to stick.

I do think, though, that perhaps my approach needs to change. Rather than just writing for writing’s sake, perhaps I would do better devoting myself to the completion of projects, whether that involves writing, reading, talking, thinking, whatever. I do think some sort of regular writing every day or every set number of days per week is a good idea, but I do have these manuscripts that await my attention, and in the meantime, while I’m excited at the prospect of waiting for new ideas to inspire me, I don’t have any right now. I don’t really have anything new to write. So perhaps the best thing I can do is to instead work on the stuff I’ve already started writing, and see what I can do with that.

And keep reading, too. New ideas need somewhere to come from.

Lack of Progress Report 9,002

I don’t know whether it’s the fact that I’ve been gripped with the burning desire to play a ton of World of Warcraft for the past 2 weeks, my general lack of time-management skills or my ongoing battle with intense social anxiety (I lied I do know it’s all of these things), but things have not been going too well on the “getting shit done” front of late. I finally forced myself to watch Mockingjay Part 1 yesterday for my thesis, and I now know that 1) films I find really unappealing when I think about them are not always that bad when I actually watch them, especially if I have a theoretical angle to analyse them from, and 2) unpleasant business should be done as early in the day as possible so that you can end on at least one high note.

So starting tomorrow I am going to be devoting my mornings and early afternoons to Getting Shit Done. I tend to work out in the evenings; that will now be moved to the afternoon or perhaps morning. I will lunge at top speed into brain-seizure-inducing academic research as soon as I wake up. And then probably at 2 or 3 PM I will stop all of that and just chill.

Except I won’t “just chill” because I also have books to write.

And I’m not just going to focus on one, oh no! I’m going to continue with my plan to work through Realm of the Myth and also complete my shitty YA werewolf novel, this time making it as truly shitty as I possibly can instead of trying to make it “work” because it’s a first draft and also “making it work” was not my original plan and I have no idea how that suddenly became my priority but it’s been holding me up and I just need to get it done.

I’m also going to go back and start rereading the first draft of the Christmas-themed novel I was working on before I started writing Tallulah, because it’s a story that means a lot to me and that deserves to be told, and also because I have finally gotten around to accepting that if there are things that I genuinely feel passionate about I should try and make them happen if I can, and let’s be honest I at least have the time to try and make it work. Using mornings and afternoons for doing serious work frees me up, leaves me a few hours of pre-evening time to indulge in, and will hopefully encourage me to take advantage of this abundance of free time where I don’t feel guilty for not having done anything that day.

I don’t know how well Camp Nanowrimo is suited to revising a novel because word-count really isn’t a helpful metric, but given that the Christmas novel is around 180k words it could probably do with some downsizing, and it might end up being a rewrite. I guess I’ll know once I start rereading it. If a rewrite seems the best option, then it will be a rewrite. Otherwise …

Well, in any case, I haven’t been doing anything for a while and that’s why I haven’t updated, though I’m sure if you’ve been following me for a while you’re pretty used to this pattern. I wonder how predictable it is, like maybe if it happens during certain parts of the year or something. But this is the plan going forward, and I know that I can do it, and I want to do it, so I’d better get started.

I want every resolution to work. They tend not to last. And I’m pretty tired of that.



Reading Skills

One of the many things they teach you in arts is how to “read” a text. This is the same “read” you would use if you are suggesting that somebody is “reading into things too much”: you get taught to do this in arts. You pay to get taught to do this, with money you don’t have. And then have to rely on the degree in “reading” you got into debt to achieve by trying to get an academic job, a narrowness of choice that you might not have had if you had studied anything other than arts. Which is part of arts’ grand conspiracy to make sure that they don’t have to suffer alone in their lack of worldly experience and life skills.

Maybe I’m reading into this too much.

What I’m not reading into too much, or at all, is the pile of books I bought myself for Christmas and am still paying off. I picked them to be both stimulating and easily readable, but I think I made a bad decision by allowing myself to buy a High Fantasy book. Specifically, The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that it’s High Fantasy and holy shit do I not have the patience to wait for things to start fucking happening. I’m up to page 20 and everything has been in flashbacks. Not even that; it’s been one long flashback, one that starts in chapter 2 and has continued up to this point, which is somewhere in the early stages of chapter 4. Which begs the question of why this book didn’t just start with the events of chapter 2 and go from there.

Fuck High Fantasy.

But it’s Robin McKinley, and I feel that I am obligated to read something by her. I think that once I get out of the pointless continuity bullshit I’l probably enjoy it, but I don’t know when that will be, especially since I’m probably going to put it down and read something else instead.

What that probably won’t be is Clariel by Garth Nix, the long-awaited fourth installment (fifth if you count the short story) in the Abhorsen saga, and oh my god was I excited to get my hands on it last year, and oh my god could I not bear to read past the opening pages of chapter 1 when I actually did. High Fantasy, man. I can’t take it anymore.

Happily I have some other things to focus on instead. Aside from writing the next chapter of my MA (fucking finally), finishing my shitty YA werewolf novel two months after Nano ended, that sort of things. I still have Kindred by Octavia Butler, Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (not sure how I feel about that title), Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey, and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. I’m probably looking forward to The Bloody Chamber the most (after seeing The Company of Wolves and loving it), dreading (in a kind good way) Kindred, and I might flip a coin for the other two.

And after I flip that coin and decide which order I’m going to read them in I’m instead going to pick up Succubus On Top by Richelle Mead, which I was hmm-ing and haa-ing over whether to buy or not and then found it for fifty cents at the library and decided it was a sign. I like pulp. It’s probably why I liked Storm Front a lot more than Boneshaker when I reviewed them both. I think I was both too hard on and too generous to Storm Front when I reviewed it; I got caught-up in trying to viscerally render my truest emotional self instead of just saying what I thought about it. I’d read more. I’d have trepidations re the casual, predictable and weirdly self-conscious sexism, but the thing is that it’s pulpy and fast-paced (for the most part) and fuck it I enjoy pulpy and fast-paced, “hooky” reads. Books that were written fast to be read fast, which is supposedly what this shitty YA werewolf novel of mine was going to be, but it seems I can’t do anything quickly. Not even read my own books.

And that’s annoying, and it feels like a failed experiment, and goddammit I want my fast book. I want it real bad. I want to write it and finish it and then sling it off into the publishing world in, like, four months tops. I want that.

This post came to an uncomfortable end so I’m just going to leave it here.

Oh god Netflix

Not even real Netflix, just NZ Netflix, which only has one season of The 100 and hasn’t updated from season 4 of Teen Wolf, what do you mean it also has Mad Men and Sense 8 and Orange is the New Black motherfucker you think I want to watch GOOD television who do you think I am begone from this place foul demon

… so I spent all of today watching that one season of The 100, and it is the most wonderfully awful thing ever. The characters, almost without exception, are petty, selfish, short-sighted fuckwits; the conflicts boil down to “I feel hurt so I’m going to do stupid things that will make everything else worse and my reward shall be momentary vindication”; there is SO MUCH YA BULLSHIT, from teenage girls being the scourge of humanity to bad boys being all nice and soft and mushy inside to the really atrociously tone-deaf and “invisible” racial politics – it’s horrendous. It’s fucking gross, actually.

I love it.

And I love that I spent a whole day just watching TV. I spent the last week reading 2 academic texts for my MA – they were actually really interested and quite easy to read, and are making me look forward to doing more research.

I also am starting to feel a little more motivated to write, because after watching The 100 I think the world needs a bit of The 100 fix-fic.

And wouldn’t you know it, next month is Nanowrimo!

No, I don’t think I could quite bring myself to devote Nanowrimo to a fanfic, but I could devote it to an original story that directly rips off all the most irritating parts of The 100 so that I can fix them. Because. Oh my god. Oh my god. They need to be fucking fixed.

And actually I have a fantastic solution: put in Earl from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I’ve only seen the film, but from seeing the film I know that he should have been the main character. Earl would get shit done. Earl for president. I do not condone his casually sexist language and yeah he had absolutely nothing to fucking do in that film but RJ Cyler sold that shit I hope he goes on to do big things.


As for my own stuff – I’m starting to make myself admit that a lot of my ideas just aren’t “marketable”, but they’re the shit that I care passionately about, and I hope I am able to convince myself that that’s actually a pretty fucking decent way to go. Yes, it would be fantastic if I happened to be deeply passionate about ideas that were very commercially viable, but part of the problem is that I read and watch so much YA stuff that it’s destroying my capacity to imagine what is actually “marketable”. I mean fuck, one of the biggest shows around right now is Adventure Time. Who would have predicted that? Fuck predicting shit, man. Just do what you love.

And, like, make money so you can live and shit. They don’t have to be the same thing, however nice it would be.

So what I’m saying is that, while this month I have my first MA chapter due on the 29th, I will be using November to get something creative up and running. Might be Tallulah in its newer, shorter form; might be something else. Might even finish that werewolf thing. Who knows.

What I do know is that I have not updated this blog in about 20 days and I’m just gonna have to eat it. I have so many power-trip fantasies: I wanna be the next American Idol; I wanna win debates against certain problematic fave YouTubers I used to follow and turn them into feminist allies; I want to train with the SIS and learn how to kill people in under 3 seconds and use my powers for good and become a superhero; I want to learn how to draw really well – I want to be a Successful Blogger. But it’s not happening, it hasn’t happened, and whether or not it ever will, I don’t think it’s really what I’m aiming for. I’m not really aiming for anything. I’m trying to change that, but “mild depression” (my semi-official diagnosis) kinda takes the sting out of everything, and not necessarily in a good way. Sometimes you need a bit of a sting to get the blood pumping.

So I’m going to look for a sting, and pick a project for Nanowrimo, and get this chapter written.

And I honestly think it’s going to be pretty fun.

Bool Hauk

Apparently “hauls” are a thing? So obviously, as a zeitgeist-chasing millennial, it is my genetic prerogative to haul my ass onto this moving bandwagon.

So today I went to the library to get out more books I won’t read out of guilt for not working on my masters thesis instead, but I also bought some. I bought 3, to be exact, for $1 at my local library, and even The Book Depository can’t top that.

The culprits are:

English Grammar Essentials for Dummies, by Wendy M Anderson, Geraldine Woods and Lesley J Ward. It may shock you to know this, but I, a physically mature human person with a major in English and who has spent half of his life deluding himself into trying to Be A Writer, do not know jack fuck about grammar. This book has 1 rating on Goodreads – 2 stars – but given that there are no issues of gender representation to complain about or abusive male love-interests to swoon over I’m surprised it has a Goodreads rating at all. And since they didn’t have “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”, this will just have to do.

The Swan Maiden, by Jules Watson. Swan maiden? Check. Irish folklore? Check. Less that 34 cents? Ch-fucking-eck. (Honestly I think grammar may be the least of my worries.) I randomly flipped to a page while I was looking it over and landed on this passage: “The woman’s skin was dove-soft, the man’s faintly tanned. Young and unlined. The hand reverently hefted the pale globe, the thumb brushing its dark centre. A scattering of gooseflesh rose in its wake and the nipple stood up, swollen …” (51) So … pretty much what I was expecting. Though maybe not “reverently hefted the pale globe”; that sounds like a Thesaurus moment. But in any case, seeing as I’m interested in Irish folklore and swan maidens – thematic cousins of the seal maidens; the Irish sure do like their shape-shifting ladies – I can at least try to tolerate some awkward prose.

(Also why is the woman’s soft skin compared to the colour of the man’s? Other than, y’know, racism.)

Grimm Tales for Young and Old, by Philip Pullman. I saw “Grimm Tales” and “Philip Pullman” and thought “while I have some tonal issues with the His Dark Materials trilogy – namely how the third book ruined everything I liked about the story – I respect Philip Pullman a lot as a writer and storyteller, and it is always fascinating to see what good writers have to say about the stories that form the conceptual bedrock that informs our storytelling culture”, and after I caught my breath I bought it. There’s 50 stories in here apparently, and at the end there’s all this information like “tale type”, “source”, “similar stories”, and then a little summary by Pullman of what he thinks of the story and what adjustments he’s made in his retelling of it. Looking forward to breaking into it.

I also meant to write a review of The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle, because that was the last library book that I actually read and really enjoyed. It’s good. I like my High Fantasy either focused on characters over lore and world-building, or written like a fairytale, where the story, rather than realism, justifies everything – The Last Unicorn happens to be both of these, so yeah, I liked it. Surprisingly good on the gender representation front as well, actually, considering this is both High Fantasy written by a dude and written in 1968. You should check it out sometime.

Currently I’m sitting on the library book I was not-reading before I went out and got another three today: Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac, a YA sci-fi dystopian novel featuring an Apache heroine, written by an Abenaki Native American author (though he’s also Slovakian and English, apparently). I read 2 pages and couldn’t be fucked, but that’s guilt-fatigue talking. From tomorrow onwards I am working towards doing All The Things, because I’d like that to become a habit of mine. So it’ll be article-reading to build up my annotated bibliography, plus reading books for pleasure, plus probably going to see a bunch of movies, plus doing whatever my own stuff is … you know the drill. Any and all of The Things will be done in this the fourth age of this world the age of men as in humans not men specifically although considering how LoTR panned out it may as well have been amirite –

Yes, well, I also have:

Who Fears Death and Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor. It’s fantasy, or possibly sci-fi, or possibly both, and its not written by a white guy. I got one chapter in Lagoon either earlier this year or late last year and really regretted not finishing it, so this is my redemption lap; and Who Fears Death just sounds like the kind of Hero’s Journey archetypal awesome that I adore, only with Nigerian mythology to inform it rather than … well, to be fair, the Hero’s Journeys I like often use a lot of Eastern philosophy, but I know absolutely nothing about African mythology or folklore so I’m really looking forward to getting a glimpse at it.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. The closest thing to steampunk I’ve ever read was Perdido St. Station by China Mieville, which took me 6 months to finish, and during those 6 months I also finished 3 other, better books. Though saying a book is better than Perdido St. Station is not saying much. Not for me anyway; it was tedious, long-winded, pretentious, transparently Marxist (I have no problem with Marxism but if you’re going to slip it into your fiction writing then at least get a fucking imagination), and half of the book – I am pretty sure I’m not actually exaggerating – was taken up with exposition about the fucking city that the story took place in. And don’t get me wrong, if you’re somebody who wants worldbuilding and nothing but, give this one a go. But you’d better be very fucking serious about the “nothing but” part; there are some very cool ideas in this book and it was just so sterile and dry that I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of them. I need story; I need characters. Not my cup of tea.

On the other hand, Boneshaker – don’t read Goodreads for a consensus on any given book, but it sounds like it could be enjoyable if not brilliant. And, again, steampunk. Always wanted to see what the fuss was all about, and this one has something that I’ve wanted to see ever since Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t give it to me: the Adventure Mom, the mother character who, instead of dying off-screen or waiting at home for the hero to return, actually takes part in the grand adventure. So I hope that part of it is satisfying. And if it’s not I’ll just rip it off and make it better anyway. Either way, something to look forward to.

My own writing has not gone spectacularly well today, in fact it’s gone absolutely nowhere. But hey, it happens. Might force myself to write those 200 words per day after this post; might count this post as my daily writing, because it’s over 1k words, even though that goes against my rules. But maybe my rules are stupid. In fact, yes, they are stupid. I can write whatever I want, whenever I want.

I just want this fucking novel to be finished oh my god why why can’t it be over and done with maybe I should actually just move on to the next thing this is taking so fucking long and I just maybe I don’t have the experience necessary to make this particular story work so maybe it’d be better to go on to the next thing and apply what I’ve learnt to something that has a better chance of succeeding from the outset however much I would like Tallulah to be my first published book ARGH so infuriating. It is really infuriating to not have a thing done, just sitting there open and unfinished. Kind of like most of the books I get out of the library these days.

Ah well. I’ll work something out. In the meantime, just gotta do all the things. Life is so much easier when you just force yourself to do all the things.

I think I will write those 200 words after all.