Thursday, 26 February 2015

Jack Black and the middle of nowhere

This week I quit my job and moved to the country.

When I was 14 I saw a Jack Black video, which went a little something like this:

I was seized by the idea: If you love something - if you truly love it - quit your job. Just do that thing you love. Quit your job and let yourself rock. And if you can't make it work forever: There it is. So it goes. Now you know, and you tried. And that's better than spending your whole life wondering and talking about could-have-beens.

Perhaps it would be a better story if I'd learned anti-orthodoxy from Black Flag instead of Jack Black. But we can't help what shapes and inspires us in life. Jack Black's ear worm was fully in place, working its way toward my brain.

There's this path we're meant to take in life, and stages at which we're meant to make changes. We live somewhere through school then move away for college, get a job, move in with a monogamous committed partner, have children, progress through higher-paid higher-responsibility jobs, retire. Cultural narrative says those are the broad stages of life.

I followed that narrative and did all the stuff I was meant to. But you know the thing about dominant cultural narratives? They don't fit everyone.

I was miserable. I woke up to go to work, then crawled into bed to sleep as soon as I got home. It wasn't until June of last year that I suddenly realized how deeply unhappy I was. I made some mantras to focus on feeling better:
  • Find what makes me happy and do more of that
  • Find what make me not happy and do less of that
Simple enough but, like lyrics from Jack Black that seems obvious, sometimes we just need a few simple and clear phrases to remind us what's important.

I was on minimum wage but I lived very small and put aside everything I could, saving for the someday when I would have the courage to chuck away the cultural narrative to follow my own happiness - and Jack Black's advice.

I wasn't happy at my job and had tried to quit several times. Then this year, thinking of those fateful words I'd carried around with me all this time, I finally did it. With no partner or kids or pets or commitments, I took the chance that I'll possibly only ever have once in my life. I quit my job to focus on what made me happy: Writing. I found a place that's low-rent because it's in the middle of nowhere, and gave myself a year to just write.

It's beautiful here. I've lived in the city all my life, and now I wonder why. Amidst bush and pasture it is calm and quiet without the jarring noises and constant rush of city life. Being completely alone means being under no pressure but my own. And it's constantly breathtakingly beautiful.

There are downsides. I'm four hours by car from any of my friends, and I don't have a car. It's an hour and a half walk to (unreliable) internet and phone reception, and a three hour bike ride to the supermarket - so a round trip of six hours for food. My house is affordable because it's isolated, and also because it's uninsulated - which means four months of the year will be spent huddled by the fire while outside there's snow and black ice.

But I found what made me happy, and committed myself to doing more of it.

I might have to upload stories from a library three hours from home, but I will have the luxury of time in which to write those stories. And that's the best gift a writer can have: Time to just do the thing you love.

Time in which to rock.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

I love book reviews

I love reading book reviews. I don't believe in the concept of 'objective reading': there is no one 'true' way to read a book because a book isn't an objective reality of its own. A book is different to every reader - changed by their memories and associations and motivations, the mental and emotional state they're in when they read it. Think of a book you've read again and again. Every reading is a completely different experience. The text hasn't changed but, for you, the book has changed.

So I love reading book reviews. They're an insight into a book as it was read by the reviewer. I enjoy reviews for books I haven't read - adding and comparing the different readings to create a collage of what I may expect from reading the book myself. But most of all, I enjoy reading reviews for books I have read. I compare different reading experiences, marvel at the difference of reading, and gain insight into my own experience. I think this is a similar motivation to my love of 'headcanon' and the idea of fanfiction.

Very important to me is is the belief that everyone deserves a voice - I'm greatly in favor of blogging and self-publishing, as well as reviewing. I love that the internet lets us break down the bottleneck of traditional publishing and limited shelf space to allow more voices to be heard. Book reviewing no longer belongs only to select magazine and newspaper writers.

I also love writing book reviews. I love sharing my interpretation of a book. But I also love the act of writing a review, and how it changes my own perception of a book: even thinking about writing a review changes how I read a book while I'm reading it.

I love writing reviews but, like all writing to me, it's also difficult and exhausting and anxiety-ridden. Even blog posts are very difficult for me to write - this is why you see so few posts from me. Even if I manage to struggle an idea to completion, I worry that it's not 'good' enough to share. I'm working to overcome that fear. If you're reading this then - yay! - I've succeeded, and you're a valuable part of the process. I appreciate it!

Writing is fraught with difficulties, but it's always worth the effort and I'm always glad I did it. I'm trying to cultivate a habit of writing book reviews. I hope I'm not alone in enjoying reviews penned by authors, and I hope that others will enjoy my insights and perspective. I also like feeling that I'm 'giving something back' - adding to the conversation around books which is especially crucial to small genres.

My ultimate goal is to write a book review every week. I haven't reached that goal yet, but even my every-few-weeks attempt has taught me a lot and, I hope, has added something to the conversation. Since I decided to attempt more reviews, I've written four with a total of over 2.5k words.

In the future I'd like to write reviews for books which are less popular, to increase the value of my contribution to the community and also to broaden the scope of my reading within the genre.

Here are the four reviews I have written since I decided to attempt more reviews:

Blood Bonds by Kayla Bain-Vrba

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Very Exciting Launch Day!

I have something new for you all to read! It's a novel! A novel with werewolves!! Romantic werewolves! It is a free novel with romantic werewolves!!!
Links, in the hopes that mobile users can avoid having to load all my excited gifs:
Jagged Rock on the MM Romance Group on Goodreads
Jagged Rock on Goodreads
MM Romance Group site (features all stories free for download, and you don't have to be a member)

Hey! I wrote a novel!! It's 97k and it's totally finished, and it's totally available for you to read!
Cover produced by Sue of the MM Romance group. Thanks so much, Sue!!
I am excited. I am going to dance around, and I am going to bring all the exclamation points with me.
All the excitement! All the exclamation points!! All the gifs!!!.
Found through The Hooded Figure in the Dog Park via giphy

Launch day!! Free novel! Free novel for everyone!!! Have phallic fruit emoticons!

Jagged Rock is the novel I wrote during March and April, for the MM Romance Group on Goodreads who have an annual free story event. My prompt was by Carey.
The prompt really caught my imagination and, better yet, it caught my follow-through too! It's been some time (read: years) since I've been able to finish anything more than a short story. And then Jagged Rock was started and finished in a couple of months!
This novel feels like a giant personal success for me. It was also a fantastic experience - stressful and exhausting and terrifying, but all in a good way! And, ultimately, it was rewarding.
I haven't had that much nerve-destroying fun since my first NaNoWriMo!
Here is a gif I found on the internet [on, credited to paint-me-a-butt on tumblr but paint-me-a-butt on tumblr is a page about mortgages??]. This gif is appropriate because it represents both my excitement at having a new story for you, and also the process of writing that story.
So, there it is! My first fully finished story in years. Out of my head, and onto your screen. I really hope you enjoy it :)

Links again, just in case:
Jagged Rock on the MM Romance Group on Goodreads
Jagged Rock on Goodreads

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Free stories are awesome!

In case anyone doesn't know about it yet, there is a MM romance group on Goodreads which hosts an annual free story event. Readers submit picture prompts, writers write amazing stories, and then they're all uploaded free!

Here are the stories on the group page, or if you're not a member of the group you can see them all on Goodreads here, or download them directly from the MM Romance Group site.

I really love this event. I love that it's free: I can feel that every story I read was written simply out of joy at storytelling, and a need to share stories with others. I love that all the stories are treated equally, regardless of the experience of the writer. I love finding new writers to enjoy in the future.

If you're interested in the stories I have personally read, you can see them all here. Nowhere near as many as I would like to have read - I am actually an astoundingly slow reader! But when I do get to finish a story, I enjoy it :) For a beautiful week there, before real life took over again, I was able to read every story as it came out. That was an incredible experience!

From the stories I've read, here are some I'd recommend:

The Case of the Insufferable Slave by Gillian St. Kevern

The Case of the Insufferable Slave is a slavefic, so it's not everyone's cup of tea. But it's also a stunningly well-written hardboiled detective story, with astounding control of language. It was very difficult to put this story down so I could go to work, let me tell you! 

To make an amazing story even more amazing, it's the author's first published work. I can't wait to see what else they have up their sleeve :)


Carte Blanche is a slow-building sweet story of a recluse falling for his friendly neighbor. The characterization in this story is just divine. Everyone is lovable and believable. I could quite easily read more about this pair, and I'm certainly interested in reading more by this writer!

Mr. Jaguar byK.A. Merikan

Mr. Jaguar is an enemies-to-lovers novella about a down-on-his-luck mechanic being dragged into richness by the school nerd he used to bully. The main selling point for me is the angst of the jock character. His shame at the start of the book is hearbreaking and perfectly described.


Also, stay tuned for my own contribution to the event! I wrote a werewolf novel, and I'll update when it's posted :)

Friday, 18 April 2014

Come and Read Me Writing too Much!

I did an interview with Ten Minute Interviews and you can read it here.

TMI is a site for interviews with creative people. Also, Too Much Information.

Included in my interview: writers I love, writing love, loving writing, and teasers for upcoming stories.

To avoid an all-words post, here is a tiny wooden elephant by Urban Star:

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

MM Romance Group prompt: Secret werewolf!

The M/M Romance Group over on Goodreads have a free story event. This year it's called Love's Landscapes. Authors write stories to fit prompts submitted by members of the group.
My prompt is amazing. You can check it out if you're a member of the group.

Two best friends at college who are fated to be together by a werewolf bond. Except only one of them is a werewolf, or even knows werewolves exist. The other just knows he's in love with his best friend and is too shy to tell him.
Both men have a secret and both secrets need to be shared. But both secrets seem too big to be expressed. What's a (totally hot and tattooed) boy to do?

In total there will be 200 stories for the Love's Landscapes event. They will be coming out in June, July and August and they'll all be free for download. There are some fantastic prompts this year, so you should be excited!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Words I didn't know

Among other projects, I'm working on a story called Dictionary, Unillustrated which (as the title suggests) features a dictionary as a central motif. In writing it I've reignited my interest in unusual words so I thought I'd share some with you.
If you're one of those people who likes to 'test their knowledge', go ahead and crow about knowing all these words - I didn't!

Palaver: Prolonged and idle discussion

Avocation: Hobby

Shyster: Slang for someone disreputable or unethical, especially in law or politics

Celerity: Swiftness of action or motion

Peccadillo: Small, relatively unimportant offense or sin

Scuttlebutt: Gossip. Scuttlebutt was the tap on a ship, so it's like the old-school water cooler conversation!

Galling: Causing extreme irritation or chagrin

Parsimony: Preciousness with money

Those are all words I've read recently but couldn't supply with an exact definition. It came as a shock to realize just how often I take meaning from a sentence without actually knowing all the words!