Random Post

So it’s been a settled week. Two months and a bit into my maternity leave and I am getting used to this double parenting thing. I was fine with having a 3-year-old and the house ticked over just fine in a nice even routine.

Son two has shattered this.

Example, was up from 4.30am to 6.30 am this morning because son two refused to go back to sleep after his early feed. Son 1 decided this would be a fine time to get up as Mummy and the baby was up. Thus he needed a nap after lunch today and this has thrown him off his bed time routine.

Still, I am adapting. It was not this hard last time round I am sure

Up side, writing! Got the best part of 7000 words done this week 😉

 

Thinking back to the heady days where my enthusiasm would pull me through entire nights of writing… I am kind of jealous of my younger self for having the time and energy to write 10000 words in 2 days. The creative juices are flowing again however and I’m slowly starting to gain confidence again.

Other things that have caught my attention this week.

  • Baby has started smiling and burbling at me. SO CUTE!!! Makes up for the sleep shattering 4am parties.
  • Father’s day is this Sunday. First time round that son 1 has had a say in what to get Daddy.
  • Rose perfume. I bought a small bottle of Jo Malone perfume. Pure red rose scent. It’s divine! Really takes me back to growing up in Wales. We had a huge rambling rose in our garden that was bright yellow and smelt amazing. My Gran killed it by pruning it too hard. She thought she was a fantastic gardener, the garden disagreed.
  • Lana Del Rey. I have like some of the tracks I have heard of hers over the last year but her contribution to the Great Gatsby soundtrack has ear wormed me. I cannot stop listening to Young and beautiful! I even wrote an entire scene with this track on constant repeat. Her voice blended into my head and it set the perfect tone for what I was writing. She is also stunningly beautiful. If I swung that way she would so be my type 😉 Also it’s not often that the lyrics of a song strike me. Lana’s songs are more like poetry set to music. Makes a nice contrast to the vacuous pop I also indulge in. Dark velvety chocolate for the ears.
  • GOING ON HOLIDAY! For the first time in 2 years. Alright it’s to a forest one and a half hours up the road but it’s still away.
  • Thinking of doing camp nanowrimo next month. Not sure if I can commit to it but it might be just what I need to get my novel finished. Laz’s idea (best pal) she says we could share a cabin 😉 We may kill each other.
  • Guild Wars 2. Have 3 characters on the go now. Am enjoying it but again have limited time to commit so not joined a guild or anything, just dipped in when I can. Laz may be hopelessly addicted and that’s my fault. I dragged her into it!
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Inspiration- Summer of my German soldier- Bette Green

 

I normally do not like stories told in the first person, it disconnects me from the narrative somehow. This is an exception. I read it when I was 19.

Patty is 12, Jewish and has a dysfunctional family. She lives in Arkansas and there is a POW camp not far from her home. She finds an escaped POW, Anton and hides him.

Anton is a reluctant soldier and muddies all Patty has ever been told about the Germans. His mother is English thus he speaks it fluently. He has no opinion on the Nazi’s and neither does he hate Patty for her heritage. As they talk he gives her a feeling of value and self-worth. She falls a little in love with him and he treats her girlish heart with a gentleness she never received from her family.

This is a story that challenges preconceptions and turns the picture the media paints of the war on its head. The book is filled with injustices and hypocrisy but at no point do the characters fix these issues. They are highlighted but there is no “good” character that tries to resolve it all.

It was a brave book to write in the face of the national perception in America, especially as it is aimed at children. Anton helps Patty have the confidence to stand up to her family and decide for herself what is right and wrong. I cried like a baby over the ending and still love Anton a little bit. I wish I had had a big brother figure like him when I was growing up.

Snow Spider Trilogy- Jenny Nimmo- The down side of being Welsh

Magic spiders, magicians, mutilated horses, extra-terrestrial plants, a family in grieving and a batty grandmother. Yes, these are children’s books!

The books are all set on or near a welsh sheep farm where strange things happen. For those of you who don’t know Merlin (Myddthen) was welsh (no seriously, he came from Carmarthen! Why would the legends lie? He was not the most powerful of the legendary welsh witches and wizards either.) The books are a soup of the legends those in rural wales grow up with bleeding into the present with many supernatural goings on relating to the ancient magic folk.

So, the plot opens with Gwyn, he is related to a great magical heritage but only finds this out when he is 10. I want to be Gwyn’s gran when I grow up! She is delightfully insane. Gwyn himself is not the main focus of all the books; the subsequent two follow his friend Nay and her observations of the magical happenings going on around her.

This is far from Harry Potter; this is ancient dark magic that has a spine tingling and ghoulish history. Basically all the worst bits of the Mabinogion (first time these ancient stories were written down were many centuries later as the welsh had an oral tradition. The collection of stories was called eventually, the Mabinogian.)

I really identified with Nay, she was not the clever girl at school and almost ignored by her family due to its size. Her family also give up farming and moved to town. This had eerie echoes of my own upbringing and the culture shock of having to come down the mountain and have to live with other people when my parents moved from our farm. I hated the town and wept into my pillow for weeks. I could not sleep for the street lights and traffic. I had neighbours! I could hear them through the wall! How could people stand to live so close to each other? I adjusted eventually but never really felt a sense of ‘home’ again.

The welsh are said to suffer this terrible affliction called Hiraeth. It has no English translation, the closest English comes is homesickness. It’s the removal from a place that you felt your soul belonged, but not just the place, the time. It’s longing, nostalgia and sorrow all wrapped up in a big ball that hurts your heart. The Portuguese know what I am talking about! They have a word for it too!

I got hiraeth bad and never really got over it. My family moved around frequently after that and I never loved any house or place I have lived in since. Sad but true. Once, when we moved back into the area we used to farm I walked 6 miles in the snow up the mountain to take a peek at my old home. It was not the same anymore and the people living there had let the house fall into disrepair and our fields were very poorly maintained. I cried for almost half the way back. Home was gone and it hurt.

The third book The Chestnut Soldier is truly murky and brooding, just like the welsh weather, but my favourite is Elmyns Moon, the second book. Eerie and strange with a fractured family as the main plot theme and Nay’s friend Elmyn is left convinced his mother has left him and “gone to the moon.” Gwyn is hanging around the fringes with his mystical happenings and poor Elmyn and Nay get dragged in. It’s bitter sweet and always leaves me with a big smile at the end when Nay realises she has worth, even as the young forgotten sister.

I try not to read these books too often, like the Mabanogion reading them makes my chest ache and my eyes mist over. Even all these years later… Hiraeth is a bastard.

Inspiration- a bit of Shakespeare

Henry V

Shakespeare, not may favourite author but he knew how to spin the drama. Henry V holds a place in my heart as the best book about a war I have ever read. As a welsh woman I also found it string as the King himself is always making references to how epic it is to be welsh, to have songs in your heart and poetry in your soul. For those who do not know…  here is a very simplified version of the history.

UK and France do not like each other. Have not until recent history 😉 before the 20th century we were always knocking seven bells out of each other. Henry V is involved in an ill-advised campaign (egged on by the church I may add) to regain a part of northern France that the UK formally owned because there was a link through Henry’s maternal line to some ancestor who owned Northern France. Yes, for all we have disliked each other the nobility in both countries is all twisted up together.

I myself am a product of the 1066 invasion of Britain. Yep am part Norman! Much diluted by now with Anglo-Saxon and Celt and certainly have no claim on French castles anymore. Anyway Henry and his army cut a bloody swath over northern France, besieging and killing but only the soldiers you understand… They are honourable invaders! (Yeah Shakespeare I believe you!)

It’s very nationalistic and this is a quality that has been lost in British culture. We are self-depreciating and seem embarrassed that there is still a ‘great’ in Great Britain. (Prob cos we owned a ¼ of the planet then pissed everyone off by demanding too much tax then generally behaving like pricks.)

The play is a heady cocktail of battle and belief in the cause and it wins me over every time. Henry is a fantastic leader but vulnerable and young. Also he has a complex over the fact his Dad killed the previous King. Not exactly Christian and he feels guilt for his father’s deeds. In ‘real’ history Henry dies in his 30’s and his French princess runs off with a welsh soldier, (we are studs.)

Best Henry in my opinion will always be Kenneth  Branagh. He defined the role for me.

The play culminates in the battle of Agincourt. Basically, the welsh have always been good with bows and they and the English killed a superior French force that day. The weather also did not help. Guess the invaders were better used to the wet climate 😉

I would watch the film with the play open on my lap and follow the dialogue. Parts of it so beautiful it would bring me to tears. That is powerful writing.

 

Prizes for spotting a young Christian Bale!

Inspiration… next bit…

The crystal heart- unknown

I liberated this book from the library of the nursing home I worked the summer in. In my defence the home was closing down and it would have been skipped. I also liberated a silk painting that was actually in the skip. Who could have thrown out something that beautiful? Anyway this book had no author, I suspect it was self-published. Getting into the internet a few years later I have looked for the author, but have never found them.

Anyway this little gem fitted in the palm of my hand and was only 150 pages long. It’s a sweet contemporary love story but it has a theme running through it of the protagonist’s mother suffering from a heart attack suddenly. Slowly the story unpicks the events that led up to the mother being taken into hospital. Daughter 1 is going backpacking with a student doctor and not even informed home of where she is going and how long she will be. Daughter 2 has a crush on a married man and is practically stalking him. Son has been summoned to court for a public order offence… husband is in debt up to the eyeballs. All this is slowly unravelled by daughter 1 Sylvia Swan (student nurse.) It’s also a story about home and the people who make it. Sylvia has to come home, abandoning her doctor backpacking holiday and runs the house while her mother recovers. Into this steps the boy she grew up with. Her Dad used to employ him to do odd jobs when he was a teenager, he was dirt poor back then and Sylvia, being a snooty teen had snubbed his boyish advances. Now he owns a construction company and is far from boyish. There is not a single curse word or reference to anything other more racey than kissing, but it remains one of the best love stories I have read. It’s a master class in how to slowly reveal a backstory one small fact at a time. I cared deeply for all the characters and wanted desperately for the story to have a happy ending… it has one, everyone lives happy ever after and it does not feel contrived or trite at all! Wish I knew who wrote it… it should be properly published.

Inspiration part… whatever… Birth of a nerd!

Star wars- various

Yes, starwars. Not the films, love them as I do. (No, from ep 4 the prequels are a SIN against the starwars vers.)

I am talking about the books for ep 4, 5 and 6. Only one was written by George Lucas (who can’t write, sorry, it’s true. Read some of his other books and found them either boring or incomprehensible.) The others, mercifully written by others. I LOVE the empire strikes back and return of the Jedi… but I took it further. There are dozens of books that come after. This was my first exposure to commercial fanfiction 😉 Truce at Bacura is one of my favourites as is Splinter of the Mind’s Eye ( no longer in print, its AU fanfiction and NO you can’t have my copy!) Loved the x-wing books too. Do you know your x wings from A wings and y wings?

This obsessive reading has steeped me in starwars trivia. Now and again I will drop into conversation what the TIE in TIE fighter stands for (Twin ion Engines btw.) and the various merits of the different ship classes, y wing as opposed to b wing etc. Personally I’d take A wing over X wing. This is the point my husband walks way to make a cup of tea or kisses me to shut me up. Trials of being married to a geek!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Star_Wars_novels

Inspiration part 5… of many.

Pride and Prejudice.

Also read at 16. I was a regular at my local library by this point and thanks to WOT (see previous post) constantly haunting the small fantasy/sci-fi section. I decided one day to branch out and ended up in the classics. I had heard Of P and P before, but dismissed it as one of “those old books clever people read” like War and Peace. So when I saw the book was quite short I decided to give it a whirl.

It took me time to pick through the story, the level of vocab was far above anything I had attempted and I had a dictionary on hand to keep my decorum separate from my deportment. The book did wonders for my vocab and I fell more than a little in love with the speech patterns and methods of address. The fact it is such a simple story and yet still has so much warmth even all these years later is testament to the brilliance of the author.

Having avoided romance like the plague until this juncture I felt that my heart actually was female and yes it was melting into a warm puddle on the floor. Not that I would have admitted it at the time!

It was at this point that I actually started to get snide comments from my family. Why was I reading so much? Was I trying to be clever or something? This simply made me stubborn. I used the book for coursework essays for my English GCSE, which I passed, much to my and everyone else’s surprise. A year earlier I could barely write!

The same English teacher who got me reading pushed me into a debating competition. The subject? The TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I had never been so nervous. I stood on that stage shaking like a leaf…

Then I began to speak… The audience was MINE. I even made them laugh with a risky ad-lib.  I knew when I stepped off that stage that I had won and my family had seen it. I still feel teenaged smugness over it. I was not thick, I was not stupid and now they all knew it. It was that day I also realised I was going to continue my education… push myself as far as I could. If I could win a debating competition then what else could I do that I had been told I was too stupid for? I owe Jane Austen a very big thank you. Without her I would not have had the confidence to continue with school.

 

Inspiration part 5 of many

Wheel of time- Robert Jorden

Again, nicked off my cousin (I wander if he ever noticed?) This was an even weightier tome than Mossflower and much more the level I should have been at as I was now 16. I did struggle with it; I almost gave up after chapter 1. It is a complex book and I had never read high fantasy before, lots of new terms in languages that did not exist. However, I persevered and the first fight scene gladdened my little tomboy heart. Proper blood and gore people!

The world building and intricate history this and subsequent books wove together was to me a thing of beauty and at the same time utterly incomprehensible. I was convinced at one point that Jorden had come from an alternative universe and was now capitalising on this. I was a strange child.

I grew out of the books after a year or two. I believe there are 14 books in the series now. I felt the world had widened too much and there were too many characters and plotlines for me to care about them all. I think I got as far as book 6. That said, Wheel of time will always be a special book to me. I still have my cousins copy XD

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wheel_of_Time was sad when I heard of Robert Jorden’s death… I’ll certainly always remember his work fondly.

Inspiration part 4 of many…

Awesome Wow book one came almost directly after Empty World.

Mossflower- Brian Jacques

This was published in the 1980’s but I did not read it till the early 90’s. I found it on my cousin’s shelf. It seemed all lonesome and unloved, not even a crease in the spine. I liberated it and hid under my desk (favourite reading spot) to consume it. I had never attempted something so long before. It was daunting to say the least!

It did not matter. The book enraptured me, so much so I drew doodles of the characters in my Maths book and got the book confiscated in Physics as I was reading it under the desk when I should have been concentrating on electrons. (I got it back after offering to clean the classroom.) The story had talking animals in it! OMG, talking animals! With swords, bows and slingshots! My poor brain could not take it in… The story itself is simple enough but I wanted to be Martin the Warrior. I have re-read this book 6 times and nearly all the books Brian has written in this series. Classics. Best intro to the fantasy genre.

Inspiration- part 3 of many

Books- this will be obvious, I was a total bookworm in my younger years and since I got my smartphone I am a regular kindle app customer. However, as many of you are aware I am dyslexic and started writing as a way to stick two fingers up to my learning difficulty. I hated reading through my childhood and teens and consequently by the age of 15 I had the reading/spelling age of 9. Of course I lived in a very poor part of the country and my condition was not even recognised by the education authority. I thought and my family thought I was simply thick. I got used to the label. Consistently getting 0/20 in spelling tests will make you believe crap like that.

 

Reading changed all that. I had a fantastic English teacher; a short Nun in her 70’s who was blind in one eye. She and a good friend of mine in class pushed me, kicking and screaming to the library in the school at any opportunity. I remember vividly grabbing a book, under duress one wet Wednesday. I picked it up because it was the thinnest. It was called Empty World. I sullenly leafed through the pages. The story was about a boy surviving a plague.

 

I was enchanted. The language was accessible to me and even though I struggled I really wanted to know what happened. The pages kept turning and I finished the book in a week. After that, I was hooked. There had to be more stories I liked out there and I was going to read them all! In doing so I taught myself to read in a way that was acceptable to my head. I still struggle with words I am not familiar with or have never heard spoken but I am much better than I was back then and it was Empty World that unlocked my poor brain.

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Empty-World-Puffin-Teenage-Fiction/dp/0140373888

 

So I became a voracious reader overnight. I’m going to share over the next few posts some of the “wow” moments I have experienced in reading and perhaps you will understand why I am so passionate about certain genres and why my tastes are rather niche XD