Friday, March 27, 2015

Revelations and Observations.

As a writer, observation plays a huge part in everything you do. What you see and hear, and quite often overhear on a daily basis, when travelling, working, reading or listening to music can have a profound effect on whatever you are writing. It can give you the inspiration to write something new, and it can give you real life situations, real life dialogue and some definite revelations.

Here are just a few things I've observed this week:

Tube Revelations

You don't realise how many sides you have, as a human, until they're all covered by other people. Until you're crammed in a tube carriage with backs, shoulders, boobs, elbows, faces, knees, thighs, abs, feet and heads pressed up against you. Believe me, hexagons and dodecahedrons have nothing on the human form. We're like the most complicated polygon with a few more curves than straight lines, but so many nooks and cradles and angles that we can actually be surrounded on approximately twenty two sides - everyone is different - which makes rush hour tube journeys an interesting lesson in anatomy, geometry, patience and the tolerance of being pressed up against strangers. 

Daffodil Revelation

They make me smile. I see a whole field of them, in a row or in circles, or even a single one pushing through to find the spring and they make me smile. Weird. Is it the yellowness? Is it that I associate them with my mum because we were always told to give daffodils to give our mum on Mother's day? Or is it because they are in fact mood altering plants and the closer you get the happier you feel, but that warm fuzzy feeling doesn't last because now you've stepped in dog turd?
Take your pick. 

Play Date Revelations

Kids are so unreasonable. They want their friends to come round and play, but they want everything on their terms. They want all games and activities to be played exactly as they are with parents or by themselves and they allow no suggestions or alterations from the guest. They spend more time fighting, arguing and storming off than actually enjoying each other's company. They bitch and moan and sulk and paddy, and threaten to end the play date. Little control freaks. They shout at and deny everything to their guest and expect them to want to come back for more. But then the guest fights back and asserts himself leading to further conflict. Then at the end of the day the child tells their parents all the bad things the guest has done whilst retaining their sun-shines-out-of, butter-wouldn't-melt type act.

Yesterday I looked after a child and his friend for a play date. Oh my. 

(Whilst playing with the playdoh) Guest: 'A thin poo is coming out.' *Laughter* 'Look it's a thin poo coming out.'

Guest: 'Do you want poo on your ice cream?' *Giggles*

Ahh, the poo stage. When's that going to end?

Guest: 'But I'm the guest and I'm not here very long.' Heard this one a few times.

(Whilst playing with the Lego) Child 1:'If you do that one more time I will never have another play date and I will cancel this one.'

Guest replies: 'You can't really cancel a play date.'

Child 1: 'Yes you can. Mummy told me how.'

(Combining playdoh 'bombs' with their Lego play.) Guest: 'You can't do this. They don't explode.'

Child 1: 'Yes they do.'

Guest: 'No. These bombs don't explode.'

Child 1: 'Yes they do. Anyway, I'm not listening to this. I don't want to play this game anymore.' *storms off* 

(Concerning lunch, which I made for them: Tomato, basil and bacon pasta.) Guest: 'What are we having for lunch?'

Me: 'Tomato and bacon pasta.'

Guest: 'With real tomatoes? Because I don't really like tomatoes.'

Me: 'It's a sauce, I've made the tomatoes into a sauce.'

Guest: 'Oh yeah, I don't really like that.'

Me: 'Well your mummy said you do, so you can try some.'

Guest: 'Oh, well actually, I only like the ones like on the high street. Not the home made kind.'

Needless to say the guest ate no pasta, just sniffed it and said 'Actually I remember I've had it before and I don't like it.' 

(Balloon football playing.) Guest: Don't forget, I've had years of practise playing this game with my dad.'

Wow, kids can be so condescending to each other. 

(Trip to the park) All the way there, guest: 'I was first. I won. I win. I beat you.' Etc. Other child understandably getting annoyed/upset. 

Guest: 'I'm going to marry Alice.'

Me: 'Is Alice in your class?'

Guest: 'Yes. I do love her. She's actually really nice.'

Me: 'What do you like about her?'

Guest: 'Well, I actually like her face. And she's really strict.'

Me: 'And you like that she's strict?'

Guest: 'Yeah. So if there's a weirdo she'll scare them away.'

And there we have it. Love is.......a liking of the face, strictness and the ability to chase off weirdos. 

Final Revelation

Cocktails, Prosecco and lots of good Italian food will cause you to fall asleep intermittently on the Overground. It will cause you to lose track of what page you're reading, cause you to read over pages again and again, and eventually cause you to give up and close the book, resting your head against the glass partition. Zzzzzzzzzzz. Luckily it also seems to keep you ticking enough to wake up at every stop to see if it's yours. Phew. 

Thanks for reading. 

Happy Friday. 

I hope your weekend is full of observations and revelations. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

It's RF RF RF Ranting Friday

Yay! Finally. Some things to rant about. Luckily for you guys this has been a week full of little things that have ticked me off. So you now get to hear about them. Man, you really are lucky.

Okay firstly it has to be those freakin' evil pigeons again. They're back and this time it's definitely personal. They're not cooing, they're saying 'you, you, you.' I mean it. I'm trying to go back to sleep at 6.30am and they're saying 'you, you, you, get up, up, up.' They sit on whatever ledge they can find right outside the bedroom window and they make sure they tick you off before you've even started your day.
Soon everywhere will be covered in silver shiny tape, though there are those birds that are getting cocky, those daredevil birds that have grown a pair of giant pigeon balls and now think they can take on the silver tape. They are no longer scared of its shininess or the way it flaps and rustles in the wind. They're gaining in confidence and ready to take over the balcony, maybe then, the world!

I'm a little book obsessed these first few months in 2015, and I know that's not a bad thing, it's an awesome thing, it's just that when you're putting everybody else's already-published books before your never-going-to-get-published-if-you-don't-edit-it book, then you are shooting yourself in the foot, walking a dangerous line, being a lazy bitch. Pick one, they're all true. But at least I'll be a well-read lazy bitch. That's something, right?

Why do people ask me really stupid questions, when, I might add, I'm in the middle of teaching a class? Do I look like I want to be harassed by your ridiculous musings at a time like this? I have seven preschoolers dancing on the carpet. Can't it wait until I'm done? The answer is no, it can't, they must ask right now for optimal pissedoffishness.

'Are they listening to Samba?' I hear her ask one of the other teachers. (By the way, she doesn't even work in this room, she's just come to skive from the baby room.) I just carry on dancing with the kids.

'Why are they listening to Samba?'

I hear her. I ignore her, because it's a stupid question to which the only answer can be: why not?

Then she makes it more direct. 'Helen, why are they listening to Samba?'

I give her the look that says I'm-teaching-a-class-ask-me-afterwards-or-not-at-all. Yes, I do have a look for that. But she doesn't take the hint.

'Do you understand what they're saying?'

At this point I give up and turn off the music.

'Do you understand what they're saying?' she asks again.

'No. Not really.' (But I don't have to. It's music, it's universal and it's beautiful and it's about sound and feel as much as understanding lyrics. How many English speaking lyrics do you understand from your favourite band or artist? Or scrap that, from your least favourite artist? Why do you think we have lyric sites? Because half the time it's impossible to tell what they're singing. And besides we never fully understand what a song means, it means different things to different people, adding to the beauty of song. People draw their own meanings and only the actual song writer can ever truly know what they intended it to be about, but then once it's released, it's meaning automatically changes into whatever the person listening to it feels. It is always evolving and changing. And if understanding what they're saying is a prerequisite of music then most people wouldn't be able to go to the opera, or listen to anything from any other culture or Country. And the world would be a terrible place.) But of course, I can't say all this, so I hone it into another look and try not to be angry.

'Do you speak the language? Do you understand what they're saying?'

There she goes again ticking me off at the end of four back to back lessons when I'm exhausted and sweaty. What I want to reply with is: 'Are you fuckin' serious?' But instead, I reply with - bearing in mind, the kids are still there and I'm still teaching a lesson - 'No. I don't, but I don't have to. I expose the children to music from all around the world, in order for them to hear different languages, different sounds and different instruments.'

'Oh right. Well P***a probably understands.' She says, as though I'm a moron for not understanding.

P***a's Spanish you idiot. Of course she would understand, though the child has made no such connection because the child was just enjoying listening and dancing to the wonderful music and the child is three.

So from stupid questions to a question I will pose to you. Why do people have to constantly move when they're talking on the phone?

This mini rant is dedicated to the woman who circumnavigated the bus stop at Old Street Station yesterday, about eight times whilst me and the little man I pick up from school waited for our bus. And every time she passed back around us on her short orbit she kept having to dodge around the little man as though he was in the way. At least pace, but not constantly circle us. It felt really weird to be caught in the middle of that. But worse, I had another lady on the telephone at the other side of me that was just walking back and forth. Ahhh, just somebody keep still.

Okay then, I think I'll leave you with that. Enjoy your Friday and the weekend. May it be full of new things to rant about, family and friends, and milk because I want cereal!



Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Reviews: Four YA Gems I Read Recently.

I must apologies for the lack of rants of late. These days most of them occur inside my head and detail an annoyance at myself rather than anything else in particular. But I am in dire need of a blog, so today's offering will feature some incredible books I've read recently and some little blurb style reviews that will hopefully inspire you to grab hold of a copy, or at the very least investigate further.

With the announcement that YALC will  go ahead for the second year running - that is, the Young Adult Literature Conference - the subsequent giddiness has prompted me to scream the praises of some home grown authors as well as those incredible talents from overseas.

Joe Abercrombie: Half a King
Yes! Yes! Yes!
This book has all the feeling of a Games of Thrones novel - with perhaps a dash more hope and slightly fewer character deaths - but it's treatment of sex and violence is whittled down to a more accessible level. This is not a bad thing! And this book is not without violence and torture and pain. But this treatment of the issues and the way it is handled really allows the characters to shine through. And it is the characters and Abercrombie's incredible ability to build a world and capture you in it, that really make this book work.
What's not to like about Yarvi, the deformed Prince? What's not to admire about his downturn, his fight, his inner strength and his determination to take revenge and find justice? He's a protagonist with obvious physical restrictions, but also an inner strength and an in depth knowledge of other cultures and languages that may eventually allow him to find his way home and take back what is rightfully his.
But it's not only Yarvi that keep this book flowing, his wayward band of friends and his dysfunctional, power hungry and down right cruel family keep you guessing throughout.
A fantasy trilogy not to be missed.

Melinda Salisbury: The Sin Eater's Daughter
Who isn't raving about this book? Don't know, but I am.
Wow! Awesome-a-mundo. (Can honestly say I've never used that phrase before.)
Again, the first in a trilogy and I can tell you there will be even more excitement when book two comes out. (Oh and check out the awesome cover art.)
Twylla is the embodiment of the Goddess Daunen. Her mother is a Sin Eater. Twylla is betrothed to the Prince. Oh and one more thing, Twylla can't touch anyone without killing them....
Or can she? Enter new guard, Lief, who throws up some interesting questions. Was it all misunderstanding and misrepresentation? Or is this in fact her destiny, to be the executioner, to kill with a single touch?
This book is filled with sumptuous imagery and a world you could quite happily enter, though you might prefer to be a fly on the wall, heaven forbid you should make it onto the Queen's radar. It's a world of belief and betrayal, of lies and loyalty, of fairytale and fealty. It's a world of evil Queens and weak Kings, of forbidden love and sins. 
Who's going to eat yours?

Marie Rutkiski: The Winner's Crime
Book two of this totally absorbing trilogy. Kestral and Arin are at it again: telling lies, keeping secrets, blaming the wrong people and putting themselves in increasingly dangerous situations. But who are they doing it for? Themselves? Their families? Their people? Or each other? And who stands to benefit?
On either side of a long and hateful war, Kestral and Arin strive to do the best they can for their people whilst surviving the hardships brought on by their separation and subsequent decisions.
Tensions run high in this sequel to The Winner's Curse, and so thick even Kestral's dagger can't slash through them. Feelings are ignored and deflected, disguises are seen through, but who will discover just what they are up to? And what will the consequences be?
Oh my, I really need book three. Now!

Ksenia Anske: Rosehead
I have reviewed this book twice and had it refused by amazon reviews, so screw them, I'll write an even better one here, where I am not censored. (Not that there was anything to censor in the first place.)
For those of you that haven't heard of Ksenia Anske, she is a twitter goddess and a wonder of all things self published in YA. She gives her books away for free, though I urge you to pay for them, and offers you virtual cookies when you're sad. This woman dresses up as her protagonist when doing book tours and is as bonkers as her writing. Check her out!
The beauty of this book and the author is that you never know what to expect. Whether it's the talking dog who only talks to his owner and best friend, Lillith, our protagonist. Or whether it's the fact that the buildings move and the rose garden would like to eat everybody, you are going to be constantly shocked, moved and absorbed.
The friendship between Lillith and Panther - her talking dog - is hilarious, their sarcastic banter something one could only strive for, and the fact that he only talks to her: priceless. The burgeoning friendship between Lillith and mute boy Ed is adorably funny and charming. Then throw in German relatives, rooms that drink blood and you've got yourself a fantastical world made oh so real by Anske's penmanship.
If you like an author that shocks and excites, immersing you in the story head first, then check out Rosehead, but be warned, you may never look at a rose garden in the same way again.......

Alright, that's enough for now. I hope I've inspired some of you to buy a book or at least check out these authors and their incredible stories. Read, read, read everyone. It's brilliant!


Sunday, March 1, 2015

The List

In a week that has filled our news feeds with malfunctioning capes, dresses of indeterminate colours and escaping Llamas, I felt it about time I added to the randomness by revealing my fully updated list of inanimate objects and their names.

I am a self confessed namer of inanimate objects, possibly something to do with the writer in me, but I love a good name, and I have even, on occasion been asked to name other people's inanimate objects.

A List of the Named Inanimates:  2015

The Beast - My very old and very loyal laptop (about 7 years old and still in use). I wrote the first two and half novels on him and undertook about twenty five edits on there. He means a lot to me.

Mini Red – My portable laptop thing. Not many train journeys undertaken without it - until I lost the power cord. Ooops. 

Albus – My new computer, all shiny and bright. We love Albus until Windows 8 does that annoying thing were it decides there's not enough memory and shuts everything down. Then we question Albus and occasionally shout. 

Frank – My Ipod. He’s slow and old, but I love him. He accompanies me every time I leave the house, and despite having a shit camera, captures a few memories along the way too. 

Ike – My very old 2nd Generation Nano from 2005 ish. A leaving present from my job back then. And it still works, and the music on there is even better than on Frank. I must collate the two. 

Geoffrey – The old Shredder. Maurice - The new shredder.

Pearl – The most compact Fridge/Freezer ever, and a life saver for tiny flats. Sadly Pearl sputtered out and we replaced her with another white compact fridge/freezer, which I named No Frills, due to it not even containing a brand name.  

Reginald – The Toaster. On its last legs for over two years. Only toasts one side and then you have to change it over. All due to a raisin flame. Ooops. But he's part of the Flat, so we do our bit and toast one side then the other. 

Neville – The Breville kettle, as close to the old one as we could get. (Neville the Breville. He he.)

Leonard – My Camera. He's a Lumix. Even my friends refer to him as Leonard.

Burt – The new BT hub. Feel guilty I didn’t name the previous one.

Melvin – The metronome I use during my music lessons. The kids love him.

Eddie – The new-ish printer. It was a hard day when I said goodbye to the old one. Took him to the tip and had to drop him into a skip with the other unwanted electricals. Sad times. But Eddie does alright, despite the dodgy wi-fi connection.

Sam – The Eagle keyring on my keys. I like to think of him as the protector of my keys. Plus nice memories from our 2010 trip to US and Canada, when I bought him, and actually saw eagles. 

Terry – My external hard drive and keeper of photographs, music and files.

Sirius – The new sexy oven, complete with lights and display that work. And all these extra modes, like pastry and pizza.

And of course the Flat, which we aptly and rather unoriginally refer to as if it's an entity of its own - Flat 19. 

Giving something a name, somehow fills it with personality. A name is not just a word, or a label, it's more than that. It's a sign that whatever it is belongs somewhere and that someone cares about it, and if that makes me twelve raisins short of a fruit cake, than so be it. I don't find it any different to naming the characters that exist in my head and on paper. They are technically non existent, fictitious, imaginary beings that only I can see and interact with. But that doesn't make them any less real. I love to name. I love to build a personality around that name, and yes I become attached to silly things, like my computer and my Ipod, and the characters in my head, but how is that any less relevant than which escaped Llama you want to be, or which mythical character you could have been in a past life? 

Thank you and Happy Sunday