I Collect Tiny Books

20171206_195508.jpgIt’s really very simple: I love books, and I love miniature things. I can’t resist tiny books. I buy them whenever I find them in charity shops and whenever they have them on the counter at Waterstones (or else, I have to restrain myself from buying them… I would have liked to buy the entire Penguin 80th anniversary range but couldn’t justify it!)

It is, after all, a great way to read things you might not otherwise have read, or even heard of. At the moment I’m reading a tiny collection of poems by Emily Dickinson, and I just finished re-read The Little Prince (second book to the right, in the pale blue and gold jacket).

I fully intend to buy more, and soon!

So for this mid-week post, I thought I’d take a quick look at a couple of my favourites from my collection…

20171206_195719.jpgThe Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Gilman-Perkins

I read The Yellow Wall-Paper for the first time in school – like many people, I’m sure.  It’s a classic for a reason, and I was really pleased to be able to own it – in a tiny book all of it’s own!

Re-reading it from an older perspective, it’s just as good and as chilling as I remember and I’m really glad I came back to it.

Also in this mini-collection, two further short works: The Rocking Chair, another truly chilling story of jealousy and inexplicable horror, and Old Water, a thriller with a delicious final twist.

Of all the mini-books in my collection, this is the one I’d most recommend checking out.

20171206_195730.jpgThe Machine Stops by EM Forster

Talk about ahead of its time – I can’t quite believe this story was written in 1909! And by EM Forster, who you wouldn’t expect to find writing science fiction.

The Machine Stops is set in a distant future where every human lives in a single room, communicating with others entirely via the machine. People live pampered lives, the machine attending to all their needs. No-one lives without the machine. In time, they come to view it as their god. But as the title suggests… it can’t last forever.

It’s a fascinating and startingly prescient story, with an unusual and interesting voice. I’d really recommend looking it up, if you haven’t already.


20171206_195657.jpgThe Signalman by Charles Dickens

Here’s a confession: I picked this one up because of Doctor Who. This scene, specifically! This is a story the Doctor called ‘terrifying’ – must be pretty good, right?

And yes, as it turns out. It’s a brilliant story, the right level of scary for me, and I still think about the ending sometimes. The cover calls it a ghost story, but is it, strictly speaking?

The apparition in the story… isn’t a dead person, exactly. There are no explanations as easy or comfortable as that. I don’t know how much thought was put into the above Doctor Who scene, but it’s very plausible to me that a story as ambiguous and disturbing as this would frighten the Doctor. Spooky stuff.

20171206_195739.jpgThe Wall, the City and the World by Eliot Weinberger

I found this one in the Fruitmarket Gallery bookshop, together with another little volume from the same series. I found the other one fairly forgettable, but this one stuck with me.

There’s three essays within, themed about the title words. All three are good, but what really stuck with me was The Wall: a series of short reports of activity at the Berlin Wall. Not attempts to cross, exactly, but brief true accounts of people holding conversations, throwing things and shouting over the Wall. It’s a strange and curiously enlightening read.

And a beautiful little book, to boot. Definitely one of the prettiest wee books in my collection!

It’s only just now occurred to me that I keep it just behind my piece of the Berlin wall. How’s that for irony?

Anyway, those are my favourites (tonight, anyhow) but as you can see, I have a bunch more 80th anniversary Penguin Classics (all of them by women – largely by design), and an assortment of other curious little books, including some 70th anniversary editions.

I recommend picking some of these up – so short and sweet, you can read them cover to cover on your lunchbreak.





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My Week In Writing (03/12/17)

20171201_171146.jpgOverheard at work this week: ‘this has been the fastest year of my life’. And it really has. I honestly can’t believe it’s December already – which is odd, because I’ve done a lot this year! More on that later, I suppose.

I finished NaNoWriMo on Thursday at (drum roll!) 104,074 words. Hopefully I’m more or less recovered, at this point – doesn’t help that I missed a couple of hours last week and the week before and had to work a bunch of longer days to play catch up.

I was pretty pleased with the result and now I have both parts of this novel in one document, which was very satisfying. Hoping to get back to it soon as it’s still a WIP and I want to at least finish the arc I was on.

Not surprisingly, I haven’t been doing much other writing this week, other than updating this blog. I also didn’t get shortlisted for the Shoreline of Infinity Flash Fiction contest – you can check out the shortlist here and it looks pretty great! I’m slightly relieved not to be there, though – I think if I made the shortlist it would have just stressed me out!

I also applied for a job with the Book Festival and sent a story to Pulp Literature (thoroughly recommended magazine, by the by).

In short, my week has been alternately hellishly busy (with NaNoWriMo) and very very quiet. And now I’m off to get some rest, and watch the new Dirk Gently.



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NaNoWriMo Diary 3: Rules

illusThe big news: I hit 100k today, a day early! I’m as confused and impressed as anyone else.

To celebrate, my final NaNoWriMo blog and something a bit different. I’m still building up experience – I’m always building up experience – but this is my third novel in the last two or so years and I’ve arrived at some noveling rules that I’m trying to stick to this month:

1. Everyone is the hero of their own story

On one level, this means that supporting characters should not revolve around the hero. I want to create the sense that everyone in this novel is at the centre of their own narrative, is living and existing when my narrators aren’t around to witness it.

On another level, more literally, I enjoy having my characters ‘cross over’ with other novels. There’s whole groups of characters having their own – clearly exciting – adventures that my characters encounter only occasionally. It’s a lot of fun.

2. Characters should not withhold information from each other without good reason

Naturally, what constitutes ‘good reason’ varies enormously depending on the character and the context and what the information is, but there needs to be an in universe reason. Characters should not withhold information simply because it makes it easier for me, the writer, or because it would be more dramatic to reveal it later.

Characters withholding information is irritatingly common in fiction and it’s tripped me up a couple of times already – I occasionally have this instinct that characters should keep quiet about important things till later on, but often that just doesn’t make sense – and often revealing things early sends the narrative in a new and interesting direction!

3. If there’s an obvious solution to a problem, take it

This, I think, is closely related to the above. If characters have an obvious solution available to them, they need a very good reason not to take it. They certainly shouldn’t ignore the obvious just because it’s easier for me, the author.

The flip side of this, of course, is that there can’t always been an obvious solution – and sometimes when there is, there need to be reasons why the characters can’t take it, ie, conflict.

So: that, I suppose, is what I learned from this month of intensive novel-writing! Double NaNoWriMo has been a great experience but I think in future I’ll stick to my usual strategy of ‘writing however much I feel like’.

Back next week with your regularly scheduled Doctor Who blogging!

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My Week In Writing (26/11/17)

stats26I’m going to be honest: I haven’t really done anything except work on my NaNoWriMo novel. I somehow managed to break all previous words per day records yesterday, so now I’m a day ahead for 100k. Feels good to have some breathing space but I’m not sure how I managed that! I was in Starbucks, there was red bull involved, otherwise I’m baffled.

I’m planning on hitting 90k tonight, to maintain that lovely one day ahead-ness. Which should make it a lot easier for me to make the Literary Salon on Tuesday!

Otherwise, I went to four write-ins, started my christmas shopping (thus far entirely books) and that’s really about it.

I’m pretty much past the point in my NaNo that I was most dreading (it’s been slow going tonight, to say the least) so it should be smooth sailing from here to the end. I have an end point planned for this NaNo (not the end of the book) and here’s hoping I can hit that, at least.

And today I had a brainwave about Annabel’s arc for book three so I think that’s going to be done over from the ground up and involve travelling to another dimension.

I’m going to wrap this entry up now, because I’m drowning in my own novel and need to hit my target for the night.

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NaNoWriMo Diary 2: World

I’ve been working on this story, one way for another, about as long as I’ve been making up stories. This world has evolved and grown as I’ve grown. It’s gone through a lot of changes and it’s become very complex and very real to me.

So: let’s look at some settings.

20171111_230257.jpgThe Great Temple

The second largest Ellanei Temple in existence. Bigger than it looks from the outside and essentially a town unto itself, with acres of gardens, miles of underground tunnels, and a lot of secrets.

The Ellanei practice magic for spiritual, academic and practical reasons and so as well as its shrines the Great Temple houses a library, extensive teaching facilities, and the only local hospital.

20171111_230218.jpgThe Town: Templestone

Templestone is built on a place where reality is a bit soft and squishy. Thousands of years earlier this is what drew the Ellanei, the witches who built the Great Temple that gave the town its name. In modern times, it made Templestone an ideal location for a World Lock, a facility for creating artificial portals to other dimensions.

A market town with the vitality of the city, Templestone has always been politically left-leaning and highly magical.

20171111_230726.jpgThe Country: The Islands

Although its physical geography is very different, it’s a lot like Britain (circa 1980). It’s home to two sects of magic users: the Ellanei in the North and the Wizards in the South.

The individual islands are partly self governing, partly run by a central government in Daire, the capital city.

Notable islands include: Temple Island, the setting of The Green and the Gathering Tide; Tovenar, the island of the Wizards; Sheep Island, where Leo hails from; and Wittering Island, the capital island and Annabel’s home.

ab32ea64503104c1a1d29f9ea65fde9e---years-apollo-The World: Earth A

Earth A is physically and culturally not far removed from Earth, but from the earliest time it’s been a highly magical place. Earth A has an unusually high concentration of natural portals and there has always been movement between it and neighbouring dimensions, leading to interdimensional cross-pollination of wildlife, people, ideas and magics.

In the days before World Locks Earth A was a crossroad world of sorts due to its many portals and it has retained its status in the new age of easy travel. Its governments are often pivotal in the doings of the Interdimensional Union.

starsThe Multiverse: The Interdimensional Union

The Multiverse of which Earth A is a part might be infinite and is certainly growing. There are thousands of known dimensions with intelligent life, all of which are part of an expanding and volatile community.

Earth A is part of the Interdimensional Union, a relatively young organisation of governments from different dimensions that aims both to unify dimensions and monitor movement between them.

However, the Union only makes up a small portion of the Multiverse. Nobody truly knows how far it goes, or what could be out there. Free interdimensional travel is less than a generation old and people’s understanding of the Multiverse is rapidly changing…

There are a lot of stories to be told here.




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My Week In Writing (19/11/17)

stats19Well: I hit 50k this week! I’m on track to finish at 100k but trying not to get too invested – 3,333 words a day is a big time investment on working days and doesn’t leave much time for anything else so I don’t know if I can keep this up till the end of the month. Staying focused, though.

I’ve updated my NaNo profile with a new (much better) title and an excerpt, so go check that out.

Yesterday I had a look through some previous drafts for this same novel. They were all varying degrees of painful to read. Hopefully this one will age better!

Annique is currently at 45k and I’m adding to it whenever I can find the time. Aiming for ten minutes a day which is enough for me to do 500 words so I probably ought to be able to add to it more often.

This week I got caught up on Steven Universe. Enjoying the most recent arc more than certain previous arcs but still nothing like as interested in this show as I used to be. Still hoping it’ll pick up again, given how good it can be.

I’m almost finished season two of Stranger Things, which as ever I’ve been finding a bit mixed but maybe I should save that for a full review sometime.

Plus I am, naturally, still watching and still loving Dirk Gently, which so far has kept on getting better and better. Should be able to watch the newest episode after work tomorrow and very excited!

I listened to The Ingenious Gentleman Adric of Alzarius, the newest Doctor Who short from Big Finish. My expectations were pretty high, given how good their last Adric Short Trip was, and it did not disappoint. Really creative, really poignant stuff. Where was all this high-quality Adric expanded universe material back when I was into the Peter Davison era, I ask you.

And yesterday I went to see Thor: Ragnarok which is an absolute delight (the jokes! The colours! Loki!) and I’d thoroughly recommend it.

Next week, I’m hoping to meet and exceed my previous NaNoWriMo record (80,000 words) and keep going. Got some big plans (Thor was unexpectedly inspiring). So basically, more of the same!


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My Week In Writing (12/11/17)

stats12This has been a mammoth week, writing wise. My NaNo is up about 20k since last Sunday and I’m planning on hitting 40k tonight – as soon as I’m done with this entry, I’m getting back to it. I’ve hit an exciting part!

It’s going so well that I’ve decided to do something really inadvisable and shoot for a double NaNo. I’ve always wanted to do one but before now I’ve always felt I didn’t have the time. If I hit 40k tonight, I’ll just need to maintain an average of 3333 words a day till the end of the month which looking at my current stats is doable. And might just get me to the end of this book, which would be amazing!

In other news, I’ve been enjoying writing so much this week that I’ve started working on Annique again after putting it on hold for NaNo. So, that’s currently sitting at 44k and climbing.

In non-writing news, I’ve been keeping up with Dirk Gently, re-watching season one of Dirk Gently (sensing a theme?) and listening to a lot of Queen, for both NaNo and non-NaNo reasons.

I went to Inky Fingers at Lighthouse Books on Tuesday and sadly had to leave early for illness reasons. Really sad to leave because the performances were so high-quality! I did however attend all of Event Horizon at Banshee Labyrinth, which also had some really high-quality acts.

And yesterday I gave blood. A lot more bleedy than I anticipated (failed my test the first time) but I got a tunnock’s teacake afterwards so no real complaints.

Next week I intend to write. A lot.

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