Things that died beside my bed

Cat in a suitcase
You left what beside the bed?

I can never stop things accumulating beside my bed. Tubes of lip balm, hair ties, and half-read books have a habit of piling up.

Going through them is a geological exploration. The deeper you get, the longer ago the sediment (or book) was deposited.

It seems like time to clear out the book pile, and I thought I’d document what I found.

Item #1: Ulysses

A while go I wrote about how I was going to try reading Ulysses. Oh, glorious literature and expansion of the mind.

I really did try. For some time, every night in bed I read at least a few pages. I got through more than a hundred pages like that and you know what? I had no idea what was going on and cared less.

Was the writing beautiful or evocative? I have no idea.

I would have kept going anyway, but I didn’t feel like I was getting anything out of the exercise and it was eating up a good slice of my reading time.

I couldn’t quit because I hate to quit, so I stopped, and Ulysses ended up in the pile beside my bed. (Note the difference because it’s very important. If I’d quit, Ulysses would be back on the bookshelf.)

Item #2: Leather journal

A while back I had a fascinating Twitter conversation with a writer who said her writing output dramatically increased after she started to journal each day.

I’m always up for new things–and who doesn’t want to write more?–so I thought I’d give it a go.

I have a beautiful leather journal that I was always too scared to use. It’s such a nice book and my handwriting is ugly. But there comes a point when you’re denying a journal its destiny, and that’s just selfish.

So I cracked it open and started to write in it every night. What I said was inane, but I was told that was the point.

Only it didn’t help with the story ideas. I never quit writing in my journal, but at some point I stopped. Fortunately I found other ways of generating a never-ending flow of ideas.

Item #3: Dance with Dragons

The same one, by GRRM. No, I didn’t finish it.

I read the earlier books in A Song of Ice and Fire and loved them. But the further through the series I got, the slower the books moved and the smaller the font got. I swear I’m not making this up. Probably.

It didn’t help that I started reading Dance with Dragons years after I finished the previous book. With lots of series, that wouldn’t be a problem. Here, it meant I couldn’t remember who most of the characters were, which meant very little made sense.

Though I’m not sure it mattered because none of the characters got around to doing anything anyway.

I will finish it, probably after a run-up right from the start of the series. Just not this month.

Item #4: Memoirs of a Machine: Inside the Mind of a Cagefighter

This is a book by John Machine Lober with Tim Marquitz, and if you know anything about me you’re probably wondering why I was reading it. If you know a bit more about me, you’re probably not.

I’m not big on violence (or on raging ego), but some of the characters in my work in progress have natural (and trained) inclinations in that direction, and I thought it would be helpful to get some insight into the mind of a person who takes to violence like a dog to mud. Who better than some crazy cage-fighting dude?

My bookmark tells me I got halfway through before losing interest.

I decided I don’t want the mindset of my characters to be that realistic. It’s fantasy. It’s supposed to be unrealistic in certain ways, and I think it makes for better reading if this is one of them.

Yes, I really didn’t like the guy’s attitude.

Item #5: How to be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life

An amazing book by Ruth Goodman. (That’s not an affiliate link, I just like the book.) Ruth Goodman has spent twenty-five years studying Tudor life, filling in the gaps in historical records by living the life herself and learning what works.

What results is an awesome collection of weird details (as well as more normal stuff) on medieval life as it was lived by common people.

For example, do you know what different types of straw are like to sleep on? Which is most comfortable, which scratchiest? How to bring a flat straw mattress back to life? Neither did I. But Ruth does.

Of course, the problem is that now I have all these cool details that I want to put in my books that really have no place there. Don’t worry. I’ll resist.

I haven’t abandoned reading this book, I’m just not actively reading it right now. I will definitely come back to it.


So that’s what’s piled up beside my bed. What’s beside yours?


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Abbey windows

Why I write

Greek muse
It doesn’t matter whose muse is the prettiest.

Hang out in writer circles on this interweb thing for long enough and you’ll hear all the classic reasons people write. Because they’re bursting with stories that are screaming to be told, because they have something to say to the world, because writing keeps them sane in insane times.

Reading these reasons, it’s easy to feel inadequate.

If I don’t write for the same reasons does it mean I’m not a real writer? I’m not filled with stories wriggling inside me like intestinal worms. Does that mean I’m just making stuff up?

I like to think it’s the writing that counts, not the reasons behind it. If you write a stunning story that people love it doesn’t matter if it was driven by a stormy-eyed muse in a flowing chiton or by industrial quantities of coffee and a hard chair.

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What does your bookshelf say about you?

L.M. DurandMy first guest post has barged its way out into the world. Did I mention I’m stupidly excited?

If you want to learn how to analyse a person by snooping around their bookshelves, why don’t you stroll over to L.M. Durand’s blog and check it out? Or you could run.

Before you go, why not sign up to one of my email lists so you never miss a post.

The joy of going back to work

Back to work shoes
Not the shoes I wear to work.

Monday was my first day back in the office after two weeks of lying in the sun editing my book and keeping His Royal Fluffiness company.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my work (most days), but going back after time off is like falling through the ice on a pond.

Worse, His Royal Fluffiness gets lonely. And he still hasn’t figured out how to use his new cat flap since the lion cat incident, so when I go to work he’s locked in all day and I feel terrible. Is having to sit by the door for eight hours to let the cat in and out a good excuse for not going to work?

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My subconscious is a somewhat slow toddler

My subconscious is a toddlerI think my subconscious wants to help, it really does, but it’s like a toddler that spends more time falling over than running, and it was headed in the wrong direction anyway.

Then I give up and make myself a comforting cup of tea, only to turn back and find the blocks are arranged in a tower that’s colour-coordinated, structurally sound enough to withstand a siege, and elegant enough for a Disney princess.

Okay, maybe it’s not that good. Disney princesses are really picky.

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