On Book Hangovers & Reading Recommendations

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It’s that time of year again, folks, when I look to the nethercorners of the Internet for reading suggestions and general bookish counsel from fellow book worms.

Last year I suffered through a rather lengthy, severe, and most objectionable case of Readers Block, which conveniently coincided with my lengthy, severe and objectionable case of Writer’s Block. Being a book worm for as long as I can remember, it was a surprising and unwelcome shock to my inner literary nerd to find that no book would satisfy and none could hold my attention. In fact, I could probably count on two hands how many books I read last year, which is most unusual for someone used to getting through a book a week. That said, there were a few stand outs that succeeded in breaking through my relentless book drought. Robin Hobb’s Rainwild Chronicles, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, and Joseph Delaney’s Spook’s Apprentice, to name a few.

You’ll be pleased to know I have since overcome that troublesome period in my young life, and have returned to the far more familiar world of books, books, BOOKS!

To commemorate my return, I thought it only appropriate to set myself an assignment to finish a series I had long ago started. A series that somehow always seemed to necessitate lengthy intervals between volumes. C.S. Lewis once said,

It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.

ADWD UKOtherwise known as a book hangover. And such I found was definitely the case with George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, of which I have just finished the latest in the series, A Dance with Dragons. There is some serious world building happening in that man’s head. Seriously. The series is well and truly alive and three dimensional, helped along considerably by the success of the HBO series adaptation, which is widely considered one of the best things on TV screens right now. And while I genuinely stand in awe of all the characters, places and stories Martin has created, I can’t help but feel for the editors who have the mammoth task of making sense of it all. It’s a great read, but I wouldn’t say a smooth sailing one. It sinks deep in details, is often messy, and lacks the feeling of continuity that made the third in the series, A Storm of Swords, an absolute killer read (pun intended). Even so, I can’t help but feel a certain sense of satisfaction at having conquered the biblical volumes whose spines seem to expand with each new publication.

In between the dragons, murder and intrigue that is the world of Westeros, I have indulged in a few olden goldies that never fail to bring me joy, no matter how many times I read them. Pride and Prejudice being one of them. Apart from it bringing intense literary delight and wordy wit, this is one of the only books that gets me actually laughing out loud in the reading of it.

name-of-the-wind-coverOther books I have reread in the last six months include Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind and Tolkien’s The Hobbit, between them covering the classic and modern fantasy with divine prowess. I also had my first proper delve into the world of historical fiction with The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir, which got a bit too Mills & Boony for me from the middle onwards, but carried me through to the end thanks to my massive fangirl crush on anything Tudor related.

So, on to what to read next. The list is ever growing and presents itself as an unattainable challenge of the most delightful nature. Of recommendations old and new, from blog readers and beyond, I have the following at the top of my list:

Player of Games by Iain Banks

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

Harpy’s Flight by Megan Lindholm

Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb

The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (another series requiring serious dedication to return to)

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But the list is incomplete.

Are there any new release rock-your-socks-off reads you’d recommend I add to the list? Or old classics that deserve my attention? As you can see, apart from the exception of the lonely Dickens singing out for my attention, it’s all speculative fiction. Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Classics may be my weakness, but I’m never shy to branch out beyond the speculative genre. Hit me up peeps!

A writer’s mind

icebergstory copyI think a writer of any genre gets accustomed to a certain degree of lunacy taking place in their brain at any particular moment. Whether it be coming up with plausible ways to kill off a character to meticulously establishing the detailed properties of dragon snot; the brain of a writer is a mysterious instrument of imaginative innovation, the clogs always ticking.

Though my aforementioned hiatus in writing has taken a toll on my creative output, what’s been going on in the mystery-that-is-my-head has remained consistently reliable in its “creative vision”, otherwise known as:

les crazy thoughts. 

The other day I was taking one of my favourite walks through a local piece of glorious countryside. I had a river to my right, pastures to my left, the sun on my face. In a rare moment of total tranquility I found myself not thinking about anything other than how great life was in that moment.

And then I saw them.

Just ahead of me were two sheep on the bank of the river. Beside them in the river were two wading ducks. All four of them were looking at me.

It was as if I had caught them in the middle of some secret convention. A conference on the decreasing quality of bulk bill manure, the latest polls in insect activity, the next Miss Quacker 2014.

As is to corroborate my speculation, they looked to each other once more and through the bleats and quacks I could almost hear the words,

“We’ll continue this later.”

In a moment of absolute synchronicity, a reverse Avengers assemble, they dispersed. The ducks turned their tail feathers on me and waded together across the river, the sheep wandered off as a pair into the pastures, heads down. Nothing to see here, folks.

Whatever the blank page in front of me might have to say about it, inside my head stories are happening in unlikely places. I’m talking Titanic iceberg proportions here, guys.

Granted, most people might express some concern at the thought that the local wildlife were having an actual conversation. Me however? I take comfort in knowing that the writing wheels are still turning.

And that’s okay. Because despite recent evidence to the contrary, a writer doesn’t ever stop being a writer. Whether you’re writing stories, telling stories, or simply thinking stories, you’re creating new ideas throughout even the most mundane moments in life. Some will make it to print, others will just carry on building on the foundations of creativity inside your head, nurturing the characters and places that do find their way onto paper.

It’s a mysterious place, the mind of a writer, but for my part, there’s no place I’d rather be.

Scene of animal encounter. Animals refused to comment.

Scene of encounter. Animals in question refused to comment.

 

 

On Finishing

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Hello people of the Internet! Remember me?

Probably not.

You see, I’ve been absent for a while. A good long while. I’ve been slack. You know it. I know it. We all know it. And the worst part? I have no better excuse than life and procrastination.

Truth is, the longer I left it, the harder it became to return to the blogosphere. Often I’d casually click on my dashboard, peruse over past posts, and feel strangely as if I was reading someone else’s words. The words of someone creative, peculiar, and sometimes even a little bit witty. The words of someone who wrote every day. And I felt a little bit sad that that person had gone away, and wasn’t quite sure how to find her again.

“Start a new blog!” I told myself. “There’s no hope left for this one. The dust on the shelves is too deep, the weeds in the garden too many.”

But I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. So I’d go away again and try to forget there was a little piece of the Internet waiting just for me.

This time last year I was living in Edinburgh and a few days away from submitting my final 20,000 word extract of my novel-in-progress. Since then, I have jumped the border and now live in a little town in England, am working at a castle where they filmed Harry Potter, and spend my days either dressed up as a medieval peasant, flying broomsticks*, or taking guided tours around a medieval fortress talking about very old things. Life is good. In fact, it’s bloody good. But there’s one thing missing…

…the writing.

And it occurs to me that since submitting my novel extract this time last year, I have spurned it the same way I have this blog. At first it was a case of a well-needed mental break after several months of intense writing. It felt as though I had sucked every last creative word out of my body and needed to replenish the supply. But then, like the blog, the longer I left it, the harder it was to return to it. The words already written became the words of a stranger and finding that voice again seemed like very hard work.

“Start a new story!” I said. “Shiny new characters, spectacular new places!”

But was I really prepared to let a full 50,000 words already written go to waste? Some of which scored me a place at last year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival?

Not likely.

And then, as if the stars were looking down on me and giving me a little extra nudge, I stumbled across a Neil Gaiman quote:

Most people can start a short story or a novel. If you’re a writer, you can finish them. Finish enough of them, and you may be good enough to be publishable.

It’s taken the better part of a year, but in the last month I’ve started jotting things down again. On scraps of paper, in my lunch break, when I hear something curious or interesting or lifechanging or funny or sad or odd. The creative bank is replenished and the words are beginning to trickle again. Slowly? Yes. The creative brain needs exercise like any other muscle, and mine is long out of shape.

This blog will never be finished. Such is the beauty of a medium with few expectations but those the author applies to it. Here flow my thoughts, my hopes, my ideas and my tribulations. These are constant, regardless of whether I write them down and publish them on the Internet or not. But I hope to do better, to write more, and to connect with the blogosphere like that girl I used to know. Because giving up is not an option.

I am a writer. And writer’s finish what they start.

Neil Gaiman said so.

* Just in case you didn’t believe me about the broomstick thing, I present photographic evidence:

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This is what having the best job in the world looks like.

My Edinburgh International Book Festival Debut

Me reading "Here Be Dragons", an extract from my novel-in-progress, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Me reading “Here Be Dragons”, an extract from my novel-in-progress, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Earlier this year I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland. I wasn’t quite sure what the year would bring but I was full of optimism, ambition and just a wee bit of apprehension at what surprises lay ahead.

If I could go back and talk to my past, newly-arrived-in-Edinburgh self, I would have a few things to say. There would be a lot of, “Yes, Digestive Biscuits are heaven in a £1 packet, but, you don’t really need a pack a day.” As well as some, “Pants mean underwear in the UK. Trousers.  Repeat after me. Trousers.” But mostly I would say, “Girl! Don’t you worry your little head about job hunting. In a few months you’ll be working at a castle. That’s right, a freaking CASTLE! The very one you ogle over every day. And all those writing ambitions? Forget visiting the Edinburgh International Book Festival, you’re going to be part of the line up. You heard me, you’re on the program.”

Of course, my past self would have undoubtedly laughed in the face of future me at all this. Working at a castle? Reading at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Digestive Biscuits at only £1? An unlikely scenario.

And yet, here I am, with at last some time to reflect on the whole whirlwind adventure to date, and feeling just a little bit astonished at how the year has turned out.

The Book Festival is the major contender in all the incredulity. Of all the festivals in August, this was the one I had been looking forward to the most. I had read about it, talked about it, probably even dreamed about it. I couldn’t wait to attend, to browse the books, meet the authors, mingle with the masses, and generally soak up all the literary goodness.  Naturally, in all this I imagined myself as the overenthusiastic attendee; lots of squees and just a little bit of author stalking.

Of course, there were still lots of squees (and between you and me, just a little bit of author stalking), but under entirely different circumstances.

You see, when you’re unemployed and job applications are being sent out in the hundreds to no avail, suddenly opportunities that under normal circumstances would seem far-fetched or ludicrously beyond our capabilities, all of a sudden become rather appealing and quite within our means. I confess I became rather trigger happy when it came to applying for any possible opportunity that might see me emerge from my unemployment pit of hell. Supermarket Manager? I figure if I go to the supermarket therefore I could surely run one. Lion tamer? I had a cat once, that’s the same thing, right? As you can see, completely delusional. So when I saw the City of Literature’s call out for “new and emerging writers to read their work as part of Story Shop at the Edinburgh International Book Festival”, I thought why not? Sure they wanted someone comfortable with public speaking (TERRIFYING), at the biggest book festival in the world (OMG), but I’m a professional (I’ve written stuff), I can do this (can I?!).

Mostly, however, I just assumed that along with all the job applications I’d sent into the netherworld, I’d never hear anything of it again.

Except I did.

When I received that email saying I’d been successful I was completely and utterly shocked. Me? Reading my own work at the book festival? In front of real live people? Getting paid for it? Holy rainbows and unicorns! Whose life is this?

I was terrified of course. I don’t like being the centre of attention, and I’ve never enjoyed public speaking. But part of me knew this was something I had to prove to myself I could do. Writers are no longer allowed to indulge as they once could in a reclusive, quiet life in some dark dingy room. No, these days a writer needs to be able to sell his/her work under the spotlight. Book signings, social media, interviews – it’s all part of the process.

And so begun a new adventure. One that involved photo shoots, a public speaking workshop, rubbing shoulders with famous authors, recording an extract at a recording studio, and the big finale – reading my work to a live audience.

And you know what? It went well. Better than I could have imagined. I’d be the first person to admit it if it hadn’t, because I expected to stumble over every word and freeze up on stage. But I didn’t.  I could see my audience listening. I could feel them hanging on the next word. There were no yawns, no fidgeting, no coughs. No one got up to leave. Dare I say, I even enjoyed it?

And after it was all over I even had a few people ask where they could find my work.

Reading to a live audience was a whole new experience. I can now, more than ever, see the appeal that once was all the rage amongst novelists like Dickens, who would perform live readings of his work around the country. There is a kind of unspoken power that stems from not only being present for the immediate response of your audience, but in the influence you have to sway that response with the tone, pace and pitch of your voice, with your body language, eye contact, and how you interact with that audience.

Of course, it goes without saying that this experience hasn’t suddenly made me some sort of public speaking superstar. I can safely say I would need many many years of practice to feel confident stepping on stage. But I proved to myself I could do it. I received some wonderful feedback. I met some incredibly talented new and emerging writers. As well as some not-so-emerging writers like Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood. I even got to wear a pass that said “Author” on it.

And if the Edinburgh International Book Festival says so, it must be true.

Festival Pass

*Find my story extract, bio, a not so great audio sample (recorded pre having overcome fear!), and more about the Story Shop program on the Edinburgh City of Literature website, here.

Obsolete Words in Need of a Revival

 

Earlier this year I came across a list entitled, 27 Obsolete Words It’s High Time We Revived. The entries looked a little something like this:

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Meaning: Tangled hair, as if matted by elves.
Origin: 1590s
As in: Jeez, dude, look at the state of those elflocks — have you not heard of a comb?

or

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Meaning: To act in a secretive manner.
Origin: 1530s
As in: I’m sick of all these sneaky types, creeping around and hugger-muggering the whole time.

and

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Meaning: A slovenly, slobbering person.
Origin: 1650s
As in: Look at that sluberdegullion, sprawled on the sofa with his tongue lolling out.

Aside from the warm fuzzies I get at seeing those perfectly suited adorable little owls, the list itself appeals to the word nerd in me. I’m a stickler for words that have long gone out of fashion. I croon over the Austens and Dickens long gone, at the polite ways of saying terribly impolite things and the words that once accompanied them.

I discussed the matter in a comparable light not two years ago. I mentioned words like skullduggery, discombobulate and alohamora as words I feel deserve a bit more attention in our contemporary language repertoire. Your responses suggested I wasn’t the only word nerd feeling a little word nostalgic. You mentioned gumption, tarradiddleabsquatulate and footle. Spectacular words! Too spectacular for the Words Gone Out of Fashion shelf.

And so, let me introduce you to your end of week challenge: Check out the owl list. If nothing else, it has cute owls in funny poses. Then pick a word that tickles your fancy and start using it. Make a sentence. Make a paragraph! Go wild.

Let’s stop hugger-muggering around this footle, get off our slubberdegullion butts, comb out those elflocks and get to work.

I’d like to hear what words, either from the list or not, you’d like to see more of and show me how you’d use it.

Go on. Talk to me fellow word nerds!

A Labour of Love

That's me. Feeling on top of the world post Masters submission!

That’s me. Feeling on top of the world post Masters submission!

This week I submitted my final 20,000 word piece of fiction for my Masters course.

It was a long slog, and I’m not going to lie, at times I had to ask myself why on earth I signed myself up for eighteen months of voluntary suffering. Deadlines. Word Counts. Critiques.

The stuff of nightmares.

But like all things writing related, it was, and continues to be, a labour of love. Over the past year and a half I’ve managed to get down 50,000 words of my novel. Sure, plenty of it is a mess and most chapters are still in their pre-pubescent stages with lots of awkward moments and embarrassing incidents I’m sure we’d all rather forget. But some parts are okay. Some parts are more than okay.

This feeling, it is not unlike pride.

One would expect (myself included) that post submission would involve one or all of the following:

  • Cartwheels
  • Excessive partying
  • Shredding of draft manuscripts
  • Smiling stupidly at inanimate objects
  • More cartwheels

Instead I partook in:

  • Sleep
  • Excessive TV series marathons
  • Sleep
  • Sleep

Terribly anti-climatic, I know. Mostly I feel like a superhero who’s used too much of his powers in one go and now has to recharge before the heat-vision, flight, and superhuman strength returns. And when it does I’m looking forward to getting back to it. Because writing is cool. And fun. And creative. And worth the hard yards.

I’ve met some amazing people, some amazing writers and some amazing ideas over the last eighteen months, and for that I am indebted to the course. And while I hated the deadlines, and the word counts and the occasional ripping apart of my not-so brilliant ideas, I couldn’t have done it without any of those things. My story now exists on actual made-from-trees paper! And it’s growing. And that’s kind of exciting.

Perhaps it’s time for a cartwheel or two after all?

Have a nice day…

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St Gile Cathedral on a very nice day

Grey. Gloomy. Cloudy. Cold. Miserable.

This is what I was told to expect from Scotland weather. “Pack your thermals!” they said. “You’ll miss the sunshine!” they trilled. All the while I la-la-la-la’d away such unflattering portrayals of my beloved Scotland. I mean, I had spent two nights here last year in the middle of January. Yes, it had been cold, but the sky had remained a clear crisp blue whilst the sun had pinked my chilled cheeks. And let’s not forget I was a happy little mitten-wearing-Brit until the ripe age of ten. I was raised to laugh in the face of overcast!

Despite the evident preparation that was my English upbringing, I nonetheless braced myself for a sharp, icy wind and stocked up on scarves, gloves, beanies and wooly socks. I was ready to face the frosty fleshless monster!

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Welcomed to Edinburgh with a dusting of snow

And then I arrived. It snowed. It was beautiful. I watched the flakes fall from the warmth of my cosy new flat and thought nothing of gloom and misery and cold. It was the perfect welcome. And once the snow had melted away, it seemed the sun was willing and ready to resurface with a vengeance.

“It’s sunny!” shouted my flatmate one morning with great surprise and joy. She insisted we make the most of it, so we went exploring the city. Down wynds and closes we went, across parks, through royal grounds, over cobbled stone streets and always under the ever watchful eye of the castle.

The following day I awoke again to a shout of “It’s sunny!”. Again we went outside exploring.

On the third day, I heard the same declaration. “It’s sunny!” That was when I knew Edinburgh was treating me to a special kind of hospitality.

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“It’s sunny!” at Edinburgh Castle

So continued the days, always with the surprised yet blissful announcement from my flatmate that the sun was once again gracing us with its presence. I knew I was being spoiled, but I didn’t care. Some days I even stayed inside to read a book by the bay window and soak in the sun through the glass.

And then came last Sunday. We had planned an “out of city” excursion to a castle ruin that called to us from what seemed like the edge of the world.

“It’s sunny!” never came.

Instead we awoke to grey, gloomy, cloudy, cold AND miserable. We were late to get moving, but undeterred nonetheless. On the train we hopped and arrive we did to the beautiful picturesque beachside town of North Berwick. It was just past 1pm, and despite the cold grey weather, the town was abustle with dog walkers, pram walkers, and just your average walker walkers (not the flesh eating kind, to any of you Walking Dead fans out there wondering otherwise).

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A little reminder of home in North Berwick

To get to the castle we needed to catch a bus just a little further out of town. When we arrived at the bus stop we realised we hadn’t accounted for the Sunday timetable, and had missed the last bus going out. I’m not going to lie, I was cold, cranky and disappointed. Though the town itself was an attraction, the castle was the primary reason for our visit. After seeing no taxi in sight and agreeing we were both too poor for such a luxury anyway, we retreated to the closest pub to ask if the castle was in walking distance and how long it would take.

The Ship Inn was warm. It was cosy. It was so very inviting.

Then this happened:

Katy to Bartender: Hello! We’ve missed the bus to Tantallon Castle. Is it in walking distance?

Bartender: Oh aye. It’ll take ye about an hour but it’s a nice day for it.

Katy: *laughs*

Bartender: [silence. strange looks]

Katy: [looks outside at cold, grey pit of doom] I’m sorry, it’s a nice day for…?

Bartender: It’s a nice day for a walk.

Katy: [looks outside again, confused]

Bartender: [gives directions and tells us to enjoy the “nice day”]

Once back out in the cold I asked my flatmate, who has been living in Scotland for several years, whether the bartender had been joking. She kindly explained that when she arrived in Edinburgh she had been equally confused by a tendency to refer to cloudy days as “nice” days, but after a while understood that the Scots seemed to be pretty happy with the weather as long as it wasn’t raining, hailing or snowing. Anything else was considered “good weather”.

And I couldn’t help but be a little humbled. I’ve been spoiled the last 17 years in Australia, where a day without sunshine is like a day without air. We thrive off it. But to those where rainy days outnumber sunny days, of course the average cloudy day where you can leave your brolly at home is going to be a “good day”. These little pleasures are all relative and we have to take the good no matter how it comes.

And so we walked. The walk warmed us up. We enjoyed the scenery in a way we wouldn’t have been able to on the bus and I daresay enjoyed the day a great deal more. Tantallon Castle was as eerily beautiful as the pictures had indicated and to look over the cliffs at the smashing waves under dark clouds was spectacular in itself. I could almost see the sieges and pirates and smugglers and battles before me. Novel ideas were running rampant around my head.

And when it was time to go home we decided to walk.

It was, after all, a nice day.

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Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

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Crossroads at Edinburgh Castle

It’s been a while. So long in fact, I don’t really know where to begin. I half expect to hear an echo once I cast this blog post into the mysterious infinite universe otherwise known as the World Wide Web.

Hello?

Is anybody out there?

For those of you still here, hi! I’m sorry for the extended absence and sporadic posts of 2012. Life got in the way of creating, and blogging spent an unfortunate season on the backbench. I’m hoping (demanding) that will change in 2013.

2013!

Here we are. A new year full of wonderful potential and undiscovered adventure. I’m feeling particularly optimistic about this year. Not only did I survive last year’s Mayan Apocalypse (What, you too? Go us!) but I decided this was going to be a year of change. A year where I follow my instincts, take risks and try something new at every opportunity. A New Year’s Resolution, of sorts.

Some of you may remember my A-Z of Europe posts from this time last year. If you do, you may also remember me swooning over a certain castle, falling in love with a certain city, and being inspired there by the great writers who have come before me.

In light of my new found resolution to take life by the horns and ride it all the way to my own little corner of Utopia, I did something a little bit wild. A little bit spontaneous. Perhaps even a little bit crazy.

Last month I quit my job, packed my bags, said farewell Australia and bought myself a one way ticket to Edinburgh, Scotland. Yes, the place that so captured my heart last year has for the last couple of weeks been “home”.

The opportunity presented itself in a lovely series of coincidences that together shouted “KATY! THIS IS YOUR CHANCE! TAKE IT!” Everywhere I looked Scotland was wooing me. And every step I took to make it happen made it feel more and more like the right thing to do. Even as I waited at Launceston airport, indulging in a moment of self doubt, panicking at the last minute that I’d forgotten something important, my mum started quoting from The Hobbit, “Katy. Remember Bilbo and his handkerchief? You will have to manage without pocket-handkerchiefs, and a good many other things, before you get to the journey’s end.” Apart from this highlighting once again just how awesome my mum is, it also made me realise that an adventure isn’t an adventure without a little risk taking, a lot of daring and a few things left behind. Like Bilbo, I was going on an adventure.

I now live with one of my best friends from Italy who I have known since I was 16, in a flat I stayed in when I visited last year, just a stone’s throw from the castle that so inspired me on my last visit. I’ve swapped Vegemite for Marmite, swimmers for scarves, routine for adventure.

It’s been just over two weeks since I arrived and I’ve already joined a 300 person community choir, been to the castle on more than one occasion, attended a contemporary dance class, learnt some Gaelic, browsed in a kazillion bookshops and spent a week in bed battling the bacteria party that was a Northern Hemisphere cold/flu.

I don’t yet know what the year will bring. Perhaps by the end of it I’ll be penniless and hitch hiking my way back to Australia. Or perhaps I won’t. All I know is I’m here, and I plan to make the most of it while I am.

To adventure! x

My new home

My new home

A Patchwork of Fairytales

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Just over a month ago I received an email from a lovely Edinburgh based writer named Ali George who, amongst other wonderful achievements, is known in certain corners of the world wide web for having written 12 books in 12 months.

As you do.

In her email she asked if I’d be interested in contributing a story for an ebook she was putting together to raise money for a children’s theatre company.  “Homespun Theatre,” she explained, “came together through a shared love of storytelling.  From JRR Tolkein to Dick King Smith, from Jim Henson to Studio Ghibli, we love magic and adventure in all forms.  As a theatre company, our MO is simple – we want to make something new from something old, blow dust off forgotten tales, and find the magic around the edges.”

Finding the magic around the edges is pretty much my MO for all things in life, so of course I said yes.

The cause? In 2012 Homespun debuted their first children’s show, East of the Sun West of the Moon, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  It went so well that they want to take it on tour in 2013.  Money raised from the ebook sales will go towards redevelopment, production costs and developing wonderful children’s theatre for all to enjoy.

Some of you will remember my story, The Dragon and the Moon, from the UNICEF fundraising ebook I submitted it to this time last year. Sadly I couldn’t find the time to write something new, but even if I had, this story just seemed so fitting for the cause. Regardless, if you enjoy fun, quirky fairytales, and even if you’ve read my story before, I beseech you to check out the collection. I’ve just started making my way through the other 34 contributions, and they’re good. Real good. From stories of dragons, giants, selkies and sheep, I feel particularly honoured to be published in the company of such creative talent.

And so, all that is left is to announce the happy news that the ebook is now ready for your reading pleasure. What better inexpensive virtual stocking filler for yourself (or someone special) this Christmas?

Do it for the children!

Homespun Threads (A Patchwork of Fairytales) is available from Smashwords for $9.99 and from Amazon for £6.17 (That’s 18 pence a story! Bargain!).

Dear Santa…

As I was driving through town the other day, something shiny caught my eye. No, it wasn’t the sun, nor was it the reflection of my wintery moon tan in the rear view mirror. On closer inspection, it turned out to be tinsel.

“Tinsel!” I thought to myself. “Can it be that time of year again already? Surely not.”

Then I heard the sweet serenading sound of carols emitting from shop windows and knew it to be true:

Christmas had arrived.

After a few moments contemplating how on earth this had happened – after all, surely it hadn’t been a whole 12 months since last Christmas? – and a few moments more humming along to John Lennon’s Happy Xmas, my thoughts finally wandered to Christmas presents.

This time last year I posted a list of 10 Christmas Presents for Book Lovers, for the simple pleasure of imagining what I would buy for myself and my book-loving partners in crime, had I the means to do so. This year I’m once again trying to save my pennies for more nomadic adventures, but if you’re in need of gift-giving ideas, from library kits to book ends to book-related jewellery, or, like me, simply enjoy imagining what your Christmas list would look like if you owned a money tree, check out the post for some fun suggestions.

Meanwhile, I’ve since come across a mandatory addition to the list. If there’s one thing you buy this Christmas, may I suggest (read: demand) you head over to Spineless Classics and feast your eyes on the awesomeness.

Imagine your favourite book, every word, mounted on your wall as art.

EVERY. WORD.

Take a look:

Pride and Prejudice from Spineless Classics

Is it not the coolest thing ever? They have a wonderful selection of children’s, adventure, historical, religious, romantic and great classics to choose from. Even more exciting, however, is today’s release of their latest design.

Drum roll please…

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone from Spineless Classics

That’s right. You can now admire the entire text of the first Harry Potter book in a single 700 x 1000mm sheet. And if you’re feeling guilty about spending the money, feel better knowing that 100% of the commissions they pay to the publishers is going to J.K. Rowling’s children’s charity.

This year I’ve told Santa to bypass my house and have an early night (the chimney is still under construction, you see). But had I sent him a letter, it would have included a Spineless Classic on the list.

How about you? Any book-related goodies you’d like to see in your stocking this year?

EDIT 05.12.12 

A new edition to the list could not be denied a place in this post. Introducing The Hobbit:

The Hobbit from Spineless Classics

The Hobbit from Spineless Classics

Four chapters do not a novel make

A month ago today I submitted the first four chapters of my novel to the university for assessment. For those of you who aren’t up to date, I’ve just begun my Masters of Creative Writing, and after years of procrastinating my brilliant (to me anyway) idea, I’m finally putting words to paper and actually writing the damn thing.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a tough few months. With deadlines and large wordcounts and a new job, not to mention the fact that writing a novel is HARD, other elements of my life pre-novel-writing have suffered – most notably my blog (as you’ve probably noticed) and any semblance of a social life.

I’m not one to complain. Let’s be honest, for an introverted book nerd such as myself, a life of quiet solitude is what one aspires to. Being able to write daily and having an actual reason to stay at home and get on with it is hardly a burden. I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do.

But sometimes, just sometimes, the project seems far too big for my own little self to manage. I’ve often caught myself thinking what’s the point, when I’ll never be half as talented as the Dickens or Rowlings of the world. Sometimes the words on paper just won’t match the scene in my head, and I’m certain I’m destined for a life of solitary mediocrity.

Sometimes I just want to go out and do something other than sit at home and write a novel.

And then, just when I’m ready to pack it all in and run away with fairies, something happens.

This week, I collected my first four chapters, as marked by Vogel award winning author Rohan Wilson, and I smiled. I smiled, because even though the last few months have been hard, I knew, as I’ve known all along, that it would all be worth it.

Assignment One: 15,000 words

Result: High Distinction

HOORAH!

Whilst I realise I’ve still got a long, long way to go, not least of all being to write the rest of the story, it’s nice to know that I’m on the right track, that I’m doing something right, and that someone else thinks my writing is actually not bad. It’s a good feeling.

That said, while I’m happy with the results, even those chapters still need a lot of reworking and, more importantly, four chapters do not a novel make!  A long road awaits me, but I’m afraid the blog shall once again suffer as Semester Two begins and I focus on the next few chapters. I hope you’ll forgive me for that.

In exchange for your understanding, I’m going to offer you a sneak peek of some extracts of what I’ve written so far, AS LONG AS you promise to keep in mind that these are early days and there is much work still to be done. Deal?

Click on “The Novel” at the top of the page, or here to have read. The Prologue is up and ready for perusal.

As always, your feedback is invaluable, and I look forward to hearing what you think.

Happy weekend all.

Be awesome! Be a Book Nut!

My thoughts exactly! Happy Weekend, Book Nuts!

Love The Bad Guy

For a man who spoke in rhymes and published a series of twisted, fantastical children’s books, I’m sure we can all agree that Dr Seuss was a brilliantly insightful man.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go was read out at my high school graduation, and brought many of us to tears. It was perfect.

I absolutely loved reading through this list of wonderful quotes; I hope you will, too.

– Love The Bad Guy

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Book Depository 24 Hour Offers

24h offer. up to 80% off. Great Discounts at The book Depository

For the booklovers out there these Book Depository sales are always worth keeping an eye out for as you can usually find yourself a bargain.  Every hour from June 20th a new book will be up for grabs with discounts of up to 80% and free delivery worldwide.

As always, let me know if you find any good ones!

Happy reading :)

7 am EDT (GMT -4)

12 noon BST (GMT +1)

9 pm AEST (GMT +10)

http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/

Newsflash!

Hear ye! Hear ye!

STORYTELLING NOMAD HAS RETURNED!

 

So, in the craziness that has been my life of late, it seems that a whole month has passed without a blog post to show for it. My apologies for that, dearest readers.

I update you with the following, in my defence:

4 REALLY GOOD REASONS FOR MY BLOGGING ABSENCE:

1. New job

Sometimes at my new job I get to schmooze with the stars, like Healthy Harold!

Yep, that’s right, I’ve moved on from monopoly money to the real live stuff, folks. What’s equally, if not more, exciting however, is that my new place of employment is the loveliest little local BOOKSHOP. I cannot contain the joy!  And I’m proud to say I battled 350 other applicants for the job. I spend much of my day drooling over new books and getting overexcited when customers come in looking for new fantasy fiction. Other jobs include: reading books, dusting books, carrying books, talking books, ordering books, making book displays, and even, would you believe, selling books. 99.9% of my day is book related, which makes me pretty darn happy.

2. Novel Writing

As submission deadline loomed, the dining table suffered

Okay, so this has been the big time suck.  For my Masters in Creative Writing course I have decided to finally pursue my novel idea, with the hope that deadlines and academic support will encourage (read:force) me to overcome my fear of failure and just WRITE the damn thing. My first deadline was last week, which saw me submit the first 15,000 words of my YA fantasy fiction novel. YAY! Chapters 1 to 4 in all their redrafted glory are now being assessed by the highly competent Australian Vogel Award Winner, Rohan Wilson. I’m looking forward to sharing some extracts with you soon.

3. Reading

If you haven’t watched John Carter yet, do it. Or read the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Yep.

My reading list for the book journal that had to accompany my 15,000 word submission was four and a half pages long. Before bed, before work, during lunch breaks; any free moment I’ve had, has been spent reading, reading, reading. My brain is currently overflowing with millions of words and creative goodness.

Check out my 2012 National Year of Reading page for a list of what I’ve been reading lately, but the highlights have been:

The Barsoom Series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I got into this after watching John Carter at the cinema (based on the books), which, by the way, is AMAZING. It’s such a shame about the poor critical reception of the film, because it really was pretty fabulous. The books are equally amazing, and would you believe, written in the 1900s? Mind blown.

– Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones. Beautiful, classic, fantasy storytelling. I’m new to Diana’s works, but what a lovely collection of books she’s left me to catch up on.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. It’s been a HUGE seller and I couldn’t understand the hype about a story that sounded to me like soft porn. But the people coming in and raving about it were normal, everyday people; not the crazy, sex fiendish types you’d think would be interested in bondage stories. So I finally gave in and read it. I can see the fascination; I got through it in a day, which is testament to its addictiveness. Sure, it’s 90% erotica and basically an amped up Mills and Boon, but there’s something about it that keeps you wanting to know more. My issue (SPOILER ALERT) is not with the rudie nudie scenes, or the writing, or the story, but with the fact that the young, virgin protagonist, is practically coerced into participating as a Submissive/Sex Slave by a man who was sexually abused as a child and now finds pleasure in inflicting pain on others. There’s love there, sure, and an attraction, and they both make compromises, but there’s also an undertone that the whole situation is just, well, a little bit wrong. Maybe the rest of the trilogy will clean it up nicely… Interested to know what others thought about it?

Jon Snow being awesome.

4. Game of Thrones, Season Two

I can’t deny it. When I should have been writing, or sleeping, or reading, I have spent one glorious hour a week, for the last 10 weeks, salivating over the awesomeness that is the HBO adaptation of George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, Game of Thrones. If you haven’t yet given in to the GoT phenomena, I implore you, get addicted!

So, that sums up my month of non-blogging. I hope you’ll forgive me and stick around while I ease into the blogosphere I’ve missed so dearly. And my sincerest thanks to those of you who cared enough to notice my absence and ask if I was okay. What lovely loyal readers you are!

On a final note, my nerd status is now officially complete with the acquisition of glasses. Yep, I now get to be nerdy on the outside, as well as the inside, which is all very exciting and totally news-worthy.

Happy reading, bloggers!

Nerd out.

Reading Habits

   

In light of my 2012 National Year of Reading goal, I thought it would be fun to take part in this questionnaire that I came across at Lazy Happy Bored Happy Sad, on reading habits. I know lots of people who are very particular about where they read, how they read, what coffee cup they use when they’re reading. So, let’s have a look at my reading habits, shall we?

If you could live in a fictional world, where would that be?

There’s a reason the books are so popular; who wouldn’t want to live in a world where there existed a Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, Whomping Willow, Forbidden Forest, Floo powder, flying broomsticks, Dobby, Ron Weasley and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans? The wonderful world of Harry Potter has long since been a world I’d love to live in.

Do you read in noisy or quiet places?

I definitely prefer quiet places. That said, I will read anywhere if necessary. Train, bus, dinner table; if I’m lost in a really good book, it won’t matter what noise is going on around me, I won’t hear any of it.

What was the first book you ever read?

The first book I ever read likely took place at an age when that long term memory part of my brain wasn’t yet activated. It could have been anything.

If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It would probably take a lifetime to soak in all that there is to be learned from that collection. Language, description, history, theme, expression, characters…it would be some time before I got bored of the sheer mastery of that entire story.

Favorite Author?

This would be a toss up between JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling and Robin Hobb. In fairness to them all I’d have to set them a challenge, whereby they each bring to life a dragon from one of their stories, and nominate that fire breather to battle it out. Last dragon standing wins.

Do reviews influence your choices of reads?

They can do, but I try not to let them influence my choice too much. I usually read by recommendation, which sort of bypasses that process of looking up reviews. I’ve come to realise though that books are much like movies. Too often a bunch of critics have slammed a great movie, prompting me not to go see it at the cinema, only to watch it later and find it amazing. Books, like movies, are subjective. It’s always worth giving something a go and seeing for yourself what to make of it.

Fiction or Non-fiction?

While I’m happy to read both, I mostly read fiction.

Meeting Brandon Sanderson at Supanova 2012

Have you ever met your favorite author?

Tolkien and Rowling, no. I once brushed shoulders with Robin Hobb at a convention before I had read any of her works. I kicked myself for it afterwards, but received a lovely email from her to make up for it. You can read it here. I’ve met Isobelle Carmody, who in my younger years won me over with her Obernewtyn Chronicles, Brandon Sanderson, who I’ve yet to experience due to my lack of commitment to the Wheel of Time, and Ian Irvine, whose fantasy books I also loved during High School. Those are my only claims to authorly fame.

Audio books or Paperback?

When I was younger my parents used to put on the War of the Worlds cassette or Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox for me and my little brother during long car trips, and we absolutely loved it. Since then, I hadn’t had much to do with audio books UNTIL Harry Potter was released on audio, narrated by Stephen Fry. I couldn’t resist the temptation, so I bought it, listened, and by golly was it spectacular! Audio books are such a different reading experience and I’ve made myself a promise to listen to more of them in the future; it’s how storytelling begun, after all, with the verbal sharing of tales.

Classic or Modern Novels?

Both.

Book groups or Solitary Reading?

I’m a solitary reader, but I won’t say no to a good discussion about the pros and cons of my latest read. I’ve never joined a book club, but my writers’ group does have a ‘book club’ segment where we show-and-tell what we’ve been reading and talk a little about how we’re finding it. I find that sort of thing always promotes quite valuable discussion.  The only exception to my solitary reading rule is with my best friend Mel. When I visit her in Sydney we will often spend our days just quietly reading together. True friendship!

Jane Austen pondering discussion at our dinner party

If you could invite three dead authors to a dinner for four, whom would you invite?

JRR Tolkien
Jane Austen
Charles Dickens

We four would have much to discuss on the state and decline of modern day literature.

So that’s me, now it’s your turn. What are your reading habits?

Birth of a Book

It’s easy to forget how much time, effort and manpower goes into creating a book, far beyond the author sitting down and actually writing it.

As writer Mark Welker points out on his blog, “many other things may die with the printed word, including the intersection of craft and art, and the beautiful things humans can produce when working together.”

This beautiful short vignette (just under 2mins long) shows a book being created using traditional printing methods, and is a wonderful reminder of the value of the printed book, and the enormous effort that goes into its creation for our benefit.

Enjoy.

Birth of a Book from Glen Milner @glen_milner on Vimeo.

Best Australian Blogs Competition

Storytelling Nomad has been nominated in the Sydney Writers’ Centre’s 2012 Best Australian Blogs competition!

I’ve been overwhelmed with the support, feedback and enthusiasm from all my readers since Storytelling Nomad was conceived early last year, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have you all here with me sharing a love of reading, writing, books and nomadic tendencies. While an award would be of course be amazing, ultimately I don’t need it to tell me that good things have been happening here at Storytelling Nomad.

11 months has seen over 27,000 hits, 937 followers including 326 WordPress subscribers, 2,322 comments, 156 posts and lots of new friendships made. Really, I couldn’t be happier.

That said, if you like what you’ve seen here I’d of course love your support. You don’t have to be an Aussie to vote, you just need to click here, or on the voting icon above, find Storytelling Nomad on the list (you have to click ‘next’ a few of times to get to the S’s) and put a tick in the box. In doing so, you will have increased my chances of winning the People’s Choice Award, which, as I’m sure you’ll agree, is the most prestigious!

As you can only vote once, make sure you tick any other blogs you would like to support for the award before submitting on the final page. There are some fantastic Aussie blogs out there (Dodging Commas & Love the Bad Guy to name but two), so do the right thing and support us all the way down here in the land Down Under!

We don’t bite, promise.

I leave you with a few of the most popular posts as voted by your comments and views over the last 11 months. In no particular order:

How to Choose a Pseudonym

Heroes and Heroines: Females in Fantasy

The Dangers of Ebook World Domination

Great Sentences

10 Christmas Presents for Book Lovers

Me, Harry Potter, and an FUI (Flying Under the Influence)

2012 National Year of Reading

Those of you who have been here a while know that I’m a bit of a book-a-holic. I read books as often as I breathe the free air, which is always, in case you wondered.

While this addiction has not always had the full support of my bank account, or my poor bag, which has spent many an outing weighed down by bricks disguised cleverly as novels cough-Wheel of Time-cough, I have always considered it an obsession worthy of the pursuit.

Reading improves analytical thinking, increases vocabulary, encourages creativity, and my all-time favourite, takes you to other worlds where you not only fight wars, win battles and have wild adventures from the comfort of your favourite armchair, but where you can also relax and be distracted from the real world chaos that you sometimes just need to escape.

Yep, reading is pretty groovy, kids.

That’s why this year I’m supporting the 2012 National Year of Reading. While it may be an Australian run initiative, I don’t see why the rest of the world can’t join in.

So, what’s it all about? I hear you ask…

The National Year of Reading 2012 is about children learning to read and keen readers finding new sources of inspiration. It’s about supporting reading initiatives while respecting the oral tradition of storytelling. It’s about helping people discover and rediscover the magic of books.

There are loads of events taking place throughout the year to promote this noble endeavour, but I’ve decided to set myself a reading challenge, which I hope you’ll participate in with me.

As an already active reader, I thought I’d up the ante and set myself a reading target. I’m a fairly fast reader if I have days to spare and nothing else to do (though that rarely stops me), but as most of you will probably understand, life often gets in the way of finding a bit of quiet time to sit down and get lost in other worlds. Cooking, cleaning, work, studies, friends, sleep: they’re all pretty good excuses, but if we put our minds to it, I think we can do better.

Last year I read just over 30 books, so this year I’ve set myself the goal of 52. One a week for the whole year. Some people will scoff at the number and say “that’s nothing!” Others will say, “don’t be ridiculous, that’s impossible.”  What’s important is you pick a number that suits you, but also challenges you. A number that makes you turn off the television and pick up a book instead. A number that has you listening to Stephen Fry reading you Harry Potter in the car on the way to work. A number that will make you read more, but which is also realistically achievable.

It may be 10, it may be 100.

I’ve set up a page to record my progress, which you’ll see a link to at the top of each page, titled “2012 National Year of Reading“.

Goodreads is also on board. If you go to their 2012 Challenge Goal page, you can enter in how many books you’d like to read by the end of the year. Every time you finish one and enter it into Goodreads, your widget will update and tell you whether you’re on target or how many books behind you are. I’m currently 2 books behind, thanks to George RR Martin’s whopper of a series!

You can also see how many participants there are (currently 201,744) and how many books have been pledged (12,164,418!!).

So get involved, readers! Let’s make 2012 the year we exercise our brains, get smarter, get creative and support reading worldwide. And don’t forget to keep me updated on your progress. I want to hear all about your reading endeavours.

Happy Reading!

P.S. If you’re looking for inspiration, The Book Depository is currently offering 10% off everything, with free delivery worldwide.

The 11 Commandments – for writers

Henry Miller

Fellow Aussie, writer, student and author of The Blue Cathedral, Cameron Hindrum, was kind enough to share this link with our Masters’ class recently. I think Henry Miller’s very wise 11 Commandments are worthy of consideration for any writer, new and old.  I could definitely pay a little more heed to number 4!

What commandment do you have the most difficulty sticking to when writing?

THE 11 COMMANDMENTS
à la Henry Miller
  1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.”
  3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
  4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  5. When you can’t create you can work.
  6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
  9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. ConcentrateNarrow downExclude.
  10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
  11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.