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

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

16 thoughts on “Things that died beside my bed”

  1. You gave up on Ulysses, huh? Good for you. No sense wasting good reading time. What’s beside my bed? Cough syrup. Seriously, I tend to give up on books rather quickly as my reading time is precious and there are so many good books that I’ll never get to! No guilt at all. 😀

    1. Thanks, that makes me feel better about my decision. 🙂 I really did hope I’d get more out of it, but you can only pile wood on a dead fire for so long.

  2. I’m one of those people who can’t put a book down until it’s finished … which isn’t all that conducive to getting a good nights sleep. No books at all in the bedroom, I’m afraid. 🙁

    1. Haha, I’m quite familiar with that problem. When I turn up bleary-eyed at work I was probably in bed by 9:30pm, I just had a bad bout of “just one more page”. 🙂

  3. My half-finished books these days are all on my Kindle. Most of them are the “actually, that wasn’t romantic, that was abusive” type, and the page where I got sick of it is the page it remains on. My bedside table is surprisingly tidy. Framed picture. Adorable rabbit. Nightly glass of water.

    Not the rest of my room, but the table, yes indeed.

    That book on the Tudors sounds interesting. I don’t write historical or read it anymore, but honestly when I read it the little details were my favorite part. I might pick that up.

    1. If all the half-finished books on my kindle were piled on the floor beside my bed I wouldn’t be able to get in the door. 🙂

      I’m not offended by much in the way of content, but I am offended by amateurish writing. And there’s a lot of that going around.

      I definitely recommend the book on the Tudors if you’re interested in that kind of thing (at least the first few chapters, which is all I’ve read so far).

  4. I have about half a dozen TBR books by my bed, plus one half-finished steampunk that introduced too many characters in the first fifty pages, but it had potential so it’s kind of paused. Also a book on quantum physics that I ploughed through until the epilogue, which the authors eagerly introduced by saying, “and now we’re going to do some REAL maths!”. I didn’t understand the math in the previous chapters, so I think that’s me done, but I was so close to finishing I can’t bear to put it away.

    And you’re absolutely right about A Song of Ice and Fire – the font does get smaller, and the books do get bigger. I can’t remember which book I stalled on, but I was the same as you – loved the first ones, which I originally read 15+ years ago, then on re-read didn’t get an awful lot further.

    1. Oh, what quantum physics book is that? Personally, I wouldn’t count the epilogue as part of the book, so if you read the whole body of the book then you won. 🙂

      I probably first read Game of Thrones at about the same time as you. You’ve made me less keen to re-read, but I’m sure it will happen at some point.

  5. Thanks for this reminder! I’ve been “reading” this one military scifi since October that I put aside and meant to get back to but haven’t. Nothing really wrong with the book, plenty of action and all, it’s just that the plot stopped sucking me in. I should go check if it has improved in my absence.

    Even though I finished A Dance with Dragons, I agree that there was too much meaningless detail and too little happening in that book. I wonder what the next one will be like…

    1. That happens to me with a lot of books. They don’t get terrible, they’re just not enticing enough that I have to keep seeing what happens next.

      Isn’t the next book supposed to focus on the more interesting characters? I’m hoping…

  6. Oh yes, I’ve got one of those piles. I can especially relate on the subject of books one has not actually quit and yet also hasn’t cracked open in seventeen years. I sometimes end up with five of those stacked up at a time. I just keep moving them around the room at random every time I trip over them.

    1. Haha, my bookshelf is covered in books with bookmarks halfway through, showing I haven’t actually given up, I’m just not actively reading them right now and I fell over them too many times when they were on the floor. I mean, if I quit I’d take out the bookmarks, right?

  7. This is AWESOME! I’d have to conduct an archeological dig to see what’s next to my bed but…what the hell. I’m doing it. I might even surprise myself. (I will. I will surprise myself.)

  8. I used to have a big pile of books by my bed of books I also didn’t “quit,” but then we had kids, kids who like to get into everything, flip through books, accidentally rip pages out of books and also eat said pages. So I had to finally admit defeat and shelve all my in-progress books. At least I still OWN them though. I mean, I COULD crack them open again…lol

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