on blogging, and the voices inside my head

Pondering blog posts with my subconscious[1].

SC: So, what’s next for the blog? What fascinating topics are you going to blather on about next?
Me: Are you being sarky?
SC: *innocent face*
Me: Not sure. Sort of lost my blogging mojo.
SC:  Did you just use the word mojo?
Me: Yes. Go away. I was using it ironically.
SC: Hmm. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means
Me: Oh go away.
SC: Why don’t you go and have a look in your drafts folder?

*goes to look*

Me: Crikey. There’s loads in there!
SC: So, pick one and finish it.
Me: Which one?
SC: What about that one?

*points*

Me: The one about teapots?
SC: No, the one next to it.
Me: The language of railways?
SC: No, the *other* one
Me: The underserved reader?
SC: Yes. That sounds good. Though should it be ‘undeserved’ rather than ‘underserved’?
Me: No. Definitely underserved. That nice Chuck Wendig did a post about it. Needs more research though.
SC: *sigh*. How about that one?
Me: World Book Night? But that was *months* ago. Bit late now.
SC: Libraries of the future?
Me: needs research.
SC: … freedom of impossibility?
Me: research.
SC: *cries*
Me:
SC: You can’t think of a punchline for this, can you?
Me: Of course I can.
SC: Go on then
Me: #sulks

[1] Hat tip to Nick Harkaway and his brilliant ‘Muse & Me’ posts. He does it better, curse him.

Three Good Things

I noticed that Liz over at Margot and Barbara is up to week eight with her Three Good Things posts. Crikey, how time flies. About time I did another post as my last one was… eight weeks ago…

Here then, are my three good things for this week.

music
'phones
I missed my train this morning by mere seconds and was left on the platform with fifteen minutes to kill until the next one was due. Luckily I had my large travel mug full of rather nice coffee and my iPod to keep me company.

A few years ago I set up a collection of songs on there which I jokingly called my ubermix – a hundred or so of my favourite tracks from across the breadth and depth of my music collection. Ubermix One has been joined by Ubermix Two and Three, each one running at around a hundred songs.

It’s a pretty eclectic selection, with everything from a bit of Bollywood, rock, jazz, country, anime soundtracks, instrumentals, musicals and even a spot of opera in there. Music to suit any mood, I can just fire up the playlist, stick it on shuffle and could be anywhere from Abba to Zoe Keating.

I need to give it a bit of a trim – over the course of compilation some tracks have cropped up on more than one ubermix and there are some tracks now which I’m less fond of than I was when I first added them. Ubermix Four is currently In Production. Watch this space.

books

I’ve read a lot of books this year so far. Mostly they’ve been pretty good, with Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway (@Harkaway) and The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (@LaurenBeukes) being the stand-out examples. I’ve got a new one for the ‘book of the year’ shortlist – Jonathan Grimwood’s ‘The Last Banquet‘. It’s not often I get so lost in a book – this one has nearly made me miss my stop on the train. Twice. If that’s not praise enough, I don’t know what is. It’s the story of Jean-Marie d’Aumout, orphan, military cadet, aristocrat, gastronome extraordinaire.

movies
My ‘movies that other people said I should watch’ project is ongoing, though it’s struggled a little with availability of some of the more obscure films on the list. That said, I watched a couple of great films recently – End of Watch and Submarine.

I really enjoyed both, for different reasons. They’re both relatively short, feature great characters with undeniable chemistry and are well worth a watch.

So, what are your three good things this week?

Iain Banks – farewell

It was only recently that I wrote about hearing the news that Iain Banks was (very) ill, then yesterday heard the news that he’d passed away.

Damnit.

He was an enormous influence on my reading from the late 80’s and early 90’s. A new book by Banks (M. or not) was always an event, and something to be anticipated, savoured and enjoyed. His books have long been a staple foundation of my bookshelves, often in multiple copies as they fall victim to much re-reading and passing around.

There was an outpouring of grief and condolences on my twitter feed yesterday (though, interestingly, virtually nothing on FB – Twitter, you have exceptional taste).

Lots of people wrote lovely things about Iain – Nick Harkaway’s “So long, IMB, I never knew ye” and Neil Gaiman’s “Iain Banks. With or without the M.” being the first of many which come to mind.

There’s also a truly fantastic collection of quotes on GoodReads from Iain and from his books. If you’ve never read any of his stuff, start there. Find a quote you like, then go buy the  book. Or, if you’re already a fan, buy a book for someone who’s never read any of his work. As Neil himself puts it:

Even the bad ones were good, and the good ones were astonishing.

Me? I can only echo what everyone else has already said, in many other places, and far better than I am able.

Farewell, Iain. Here’s to you and your stories.

To write, or not to write

On "Aspiring" Writers...
On “Aspiring” Writers… by curious_spider on Flickr, aka Chuck Wendig

Sage words (as ever) from Chuck. If you’re even remotely interested in writing, get yourself over to his blog, sign up for his emails and buy his books.

I’ll wait.

Right. I’m done waiting. Onwards.

I’ve got ‘writer’ down in my bio on most places around the internet but I usually feel slightly fraudulent in putting it there.

Then again, I *do* write. I write this, for example. I also do a mean line in email.

I’ve written a couple of short stories which have been published[1] and well over thirty thousand words featuring Monty, arch gentleman thief. Some of which ends up on here. I’ve ‘won’ NaNoWriMo, though the sheer effort of churning out 50 thousand words in 30 days left my writing mojo quivering in a dessicated heap, sobbing quietly to itself.

I learned some lessons in the process, but I’m not sure I’ve entirely recovered from the experience.

It’s just that it never feels like *proper* writing. My friend Rachel over at Courtyard Lullaby summed up it up in a recent blog post:

Whenever I read a great novel like Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman or A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin, the sheer gravitas to these books makes me want to shrink away and hide like the amateur I am.

Which captures exactly how I feel about my writing.

I’ve read a ton of brilliant books this year – Nick Harkaway‘s stunningly brilliant Angelmaker is just one example. I marvelled at the sheer scale and inventiveness of the ideas, and the beauty of the prose. There were sentences and paragraphs in there which I stopped and read and re-read several times just so I could savour them.

Then I looked back at the stuff I’ve written, and it’s just a pale shadow, wilting in comparison.

OK, I know it’s probably an unfair comparison, and I strongly suspect (nay, hope) that Angelmaker didn’t leap fully-formed from Nick’s head onto the page. His first draft probably sucked.

Then I saw Chuck’s post this morning and was struck by the statement.  Yoda summed it up neatly too.

Do, or do not.

I write, therefore I am.

Look out world.

Writer on the loose.

[1] though I suspect that I’m one of the few people with actual physical copies of the publications in question. One was a very trendy artsy heavy-on-the-style magazine, full of beautiful people doing beautiful things, mostly wearing sunglasses indoors. One of *those* types of magazine.

books in 2013: progress report

A short catch-up of the plan to read the Great Unread Book Pile. I’m eight books into 2013, and there have been some cracking reads in there. I’ve still got to write up full reviews for each, but Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway (@Harkaway) and The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (@Beukes) in particular were absolutely brilliant.

I’ve kind of wavered from the TBR pile a little – I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of The Shining Girls from the lovely Hannah and Kate at HarperCollins (@KillerReads) which promptly bustled all other books out of the way and was devoured over the course of a weekend. Glorious stuff, time travelling serial killers and a girl who didn’t die. It’s out soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

Angelmaker has also gone and won The Red Tentacle Award for best novel at The Kitschies. Congratulations to Nick on both the award, and his epic suit.

Similarly ARCs of The Teleportation Accident, London Falling and Fade to Black also appeared. The first was so-so, with some lovely characters (well, brilliantly described and written characters), but doing… well, nothing that I could work out. Meh.

London Falling, on the other hand, was superb. A darker, nastier take on the magical London scene, kind of a grittier Whispers of London. Can’t wait for the sequel.

I finished Fade to Black yesterday. It was pretty good – interesting characters doing interesting things in a world that I’d not come across before. Again, there’s a sequel on the way and I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve had a couple of other recommendations to investigate, but am (at the moment) being good and attacking the TBR pile once more.

Read so far in 2013:
The Right Way to Do Wrong, by Harry Houdini
The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes
The Teleportation Accident, by Ned Beauman
Racing Through the Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar, by David Millar
Railsea, by China Mieville
London Falling, by Paul Cornell
Angelmaker, by Nick Harkaway
Fade to Black (Rojan Dizon Novels), by Francis Knight
Currently reading:
From Russia with Love, by Ian Fleming (part of my eternally late BlogalongaBondathon)

 

So, dear reader. What books have you read and enjoyed lately?