Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a new and totally unoriginal feature that I’m calling MONTHLY BLOGS. The concept is simple; I will have a ramble once a month about my writing life, my reading life and my personal life. Nobody asked for this but it’s happening. You’re welcome.
What have I been writing?
Aside from the fiction I’ve been posting here and on Medium, I’ve been frantically working on a whole bunch of other stuff in hopes of making up for time lost during my mental health crisis (we’ll get onto that later).
First, I’ve been cracking on with what I hope will be a final round of edits for my novel. I plan to query it to literary agents again because, well, why not? I’ve made some pretty big changes to the opening and to the ending since my last round of submissions, and the story is certainly better for it. But I’m doubtful that it will get picked up, mainly because
I want to keep my expectations low so that I’m not utterly crushed by inevitable rejection it’s kind of half way between the young adult market and the adult market and it’s hard to fit into a definitive genre. Basically, I don’t think it’s something that is ‘trendy’ enough in the traditional book biz right now. So when if I don’t get any bites from agents, I’m going to gear up to self-publish it next summer because I think it’s a good story, damn it. I’ve worked too long and too hard on this book to give up on it.
I’ve been working on a new novel, too. It’s based on a short
story I posted here a long time ago (and have since removed because I’m
paranoid someone might ‘steal’ my
lame incredible idea.) I tried to have
a bash at NaNoWriMo to get the bulk of the first draft done as quickly as
possible, but it’s just not happening. I stalled at 12,000 words a long time
ago, despite having a plan and everything.
It’s bad timing really. I’m doing a lot of work on my mental health which is pretty time consuming, and I’ve also spent hours trying to find homes for some of my short fiction at various literary journals (which is going really badly, haha, hahahaha, no I’m not gutted about it at all). Plus, I’ve been trying to get a marketing strategy in place for my Christmas short story collection, what with December just around the corner. I am yet to ever “win” at NaNoWriMo, so maybe November just isn’t a good month for me. Perhaps in spring I’ll focus my efforts on the new novel a bit more and try to bash out that quick and dirty first draft, but until then I’ll just keep plugging away, one paragraph at a time, whenever I’m in the mood for it.
What have I been reading?
Over the summer I read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy for the first time and loved it. It was nice to finally know what all the fuss is about. Now I’m perpetually sad that I don’t have my own daemon, but I do have a neurotic and gobby little mongrel who is, quite honestly, the perfect embodiment of what I imagine my daemon would be. And now we’re lucky enough to have a BBC adaptation of His Dark Materials which, so far, seems to be doing justice to the books. Dafne Keen is a brilliant Lyra – she is everything I imagined the character to be when reading the books and she has a cracking scowl.
I also recently finished up Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy which I adored. I reviewed the first book, The Bear and The Nightingale, some time ago and I mentioned then that it was pretty slow-going in the first half. I found books two and three (The Girl in The Tower and The Winter of the Witch) far more riveting. There was more magic, more action, more drama, and protagonist Vasya really stole a place in my heart with her sassy Fuck-The-Patriarchy attitude.
During spooky season I binged on classic spooky stories. Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic was the first and to be honest I found it a little disappointing. I guess I wanted less love and more magic, though I can’t doubt that it’s masterfully written. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was next and, again, I was a bit disappointed. So repetitive! But it was really interesting to see how much my imagining of Frankenstein’s monster is influenced by film adaptations rather than the original source material. Thankfully I read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekll and Mr. Hyde next and became a happy reader again. It wasn’t as creepy as I’d expected but it was definitely gripping. And then came Dracula, and Bram Stoker did not disappoint. The horror stories of yesteryear are certainly not as twisted as those of the modern day, but I felt a spine-tingling thrill several times while reading this book and I can only imagine how scary it must have been for readers back in 1897 when their tolerance for spooks had not been deadened by decades of gory horror flicks.
One of my most disappointing recent reads? José Saramago’s Seeing. Years ago I read his Blindness (an entire city goes blind and the full awfulness of human nature is revealed) and it was one of those books that totally grabbed me and stuck with me for a long time afterwards. I tried reading Seeing soon after that and found it such a slow starter that I gave up. A few weeks ago I tried again, knowing that I have a lot more patience for slow-burning books now than I did eight years ago. Nope. Still couldn’t get into it.
Seeing is about a country which holds a general election only to find that, despite a massive turnout of voters, 80% of the electorate left their ballot papers completely blank. The government subsequently goes into meltdown wondering what it means. It’s an interesting premise, but Saramago’s writing style – characters without names, page-long sentences and chapter-long paragraphs, lack of line breaks and quotation marks and commas when it comes to speech – combined with the dry political topic makes it hard to follow what’s going on. I wanted to push through, I really did, but right now I want books that take me out of the humdrum of my life and this one just wasn’t cutting it. There’s enough political nonsense going on the real world – I don’t need more of it in my books.
How’s my brain doing?
I blogged a couple of months back about my mental health and how, basically, everything was totally shit. Well, I’ve done a lot of therapy since then and things are much better. I’m an actual fully-functioning human around 85% of the time. Back in summer it was somewhere around 25%.
I’m learning how to manage my extreme emotional responses to everyday situations, I’m working on accepting myself as a fallible human being instead of assuming I’m a piece of shit, and I’m figuring out how to not hate every fibre of my being. I still have some way to go and I don’t know if I’ll ever feel totally ‘normal’, whatever that is, but I feel like I have a bit of control over my life again. It’s nice.
That’ll do, pig. That’ll do
Okay, I’m going to shut up now. Thanks for reading, not just this post but all of my silly and serious ramblings. Thanks for liking, thanks for commenting, and most of all thanks for making me feel like I’m part of a community at times when I have made myself feel like I am completely alone. You are top notch humans.