Wherein I Repeatedly Kick the Rules in their Jelly-Parts

Soooooooo….. March vanished. Seriously, look at your calendar, and in the space March once occupied you will see a swirling vortex of nothingness. March is an empty wind rolling across a featureless plane. March is a barren wasteland, in which nothing moves, nothing grows, and, most importantly, nobody blogs. Yeah… sorry about that. Actually, you know what, I’m gonna pull a ‘sorry, not sorry’ on this one, cause I have been fucking busy. That’s right, I haven’t just been sat on my pretty little ass watching Supernatural (Season 10, BITCHES!!!!… *ahem*). As mentioned in my last post, I have a Bachelor of Arts starting this year, and on March second University exploded in my face like a shotgun with Bugs Bunny’s finger wedged in the end.

But this problem, my friends, is two fold. You see, I have this rebellious streak roughly the size of Russia. I’m very, very not good at doing as people say, even when that thing is something I enjoy doing, like writing this blog. And when, late in February, I promised you guys a particular post (on why villains are more interesting than heroes, as those of you with powerful memories or the ability to scroll downwards know), I did the equivalent of setting myself homework and with university Elmer Fudding all over my face (Ewwwwwwww, I sincerely apologise for that image), I had enough homework already, thank you very much. Also, aside from my own personal morals and, y’know, sanity (even if mine is a pretty unique sort of sanity), pretty much the only thing that will get me to do as I’m told is the notion that BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN IF YOU DON’T DO THIS THING!!! and even then I will procrastinate until the last possible second before doing everything in a panicked whirlwind. I’m so used to this cycle by now that it doesn’t even stress me out any more, it’s just homework, my style. But because the main thing that actually gets me off my stupid (if pretty) butt is the avoiding of consequences, and not blogging when and what I said I’d blog has less bad consequences than getting an assignment in late, or not getting enough sleep, or not bathing and allowing my armpits to disintegrate into the fetid cesspool of excretion that lies at the centre of every human soul. Writing an apology post (or a sorry not sorry post, in my case) just isn’t as bad as all that stuff.

But here’s the thing, of all the twenty odd people who follow this blog, I’m probably the one who feels the worst when it sits here for four weeks straight and nothing happening. So why make a big deal of it? Well, thing is, I feel I weird kind of loyalty to you strange and wonderful people who follow the blog. You guys feel the need to clog up your probably already congested wordpress feed, just to have a glance at what I’ve got to say every month. And that is freaking touching. So honestly, thanks, to all the people who follow here, it really does mean a lot. I also have an obligation to give you guys what you signed up for, and deliver to your eye holes monthly doses of…. And there I’m stuck.

What is this blog about? Books? I guess, I mean book reviews are a thing that you can find here. Writing? Sure, but it has become far from the focus of this place. The unholy blackness that sits in the empty hollow where my heart should be? Meh. I think about all the things that people say make a successful blog. Like images, a regular posting schedule, a topic, and I find that this blog has none of those things. Maybe that’s why I’ve been doing this thing for almost a year and only twenty people have signed up for the ride. This is what I’m sure many people would call a ‘growing platform’ or even possibly a ‘failed blog’ but it doesn’t feel failed. And while it does seem to be growing (like half of you only joined up with the previous blog post), I’ve kind of stopped looking at this place like a ‘platform’. This isn’t some stage where I flog some stuff most of you probably aren’t going to buy, this is a goddamn street performance. I’m standing here, on the side of the information superhighway doing linguistic backflips, hoping that some of you will stop, toss a coin or two my way and continue with your day hopefully improved by the experience. But, even that is not all this blog is. This place is like my padded cell. This blog is the place where I can yell at the walls, talk to a crowd that mostly exists only in my hopes and dreams, where I can swing from a chandelier, where I can tear my hair out, let loose and for once in my repressed life show the world my odd, gooey insides. This place is all of those things. So this, dear reader, is my promise to you. I will tell you if I do stuff I would like you to throw money at (if you can afford it), I will dance for your amusement, I discuss the books and T.V shows and movies that I am currently obsessed with, I will call genitals ‘jelly-parts’, and brains ‘pink-squish’ and eyes ‘eye-holes’ because I can, because fuck success. Success is arbitrary, and ultimately more than a little meaningless. This will never be a ‘successful’ blog, with hundreds of thousands of followers, and sponsorships and all that other jazz. People have done that, and they can keep doing it. I have twenty people hanging onto my tail as we swing from the chandelier in the middle of this padded room. As long as this place is fun, then it is successful, as long as this place is safe, then it is successful, as long as I keep posting more than a couple of times a year, this place is successful.

So, dear reader, hang on tight or get off. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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The Need to Do (a ramble about motivation)

So motivation has been a big struggle for me recently. Not just motivation to write, but motivation to do do anything, motivation to wash my clothes, motivation to wash myself, motivation to get up in the morning, motivation to eat. Motivation to do much of anything besides lie in bed and watch Supernatural all day (nearing the end of season 5, it’s bated breath and cold sweat good, for the most part). Of course I don’t sit around all day and watch Supernatural (most days. I am a weak willed sack of monkey meat and sometimes the siren call is too much), instead I aimlessly surf the internet looking for enough dopamine to make the hours of pointlessness worth it… but it never is.
Instead both Friday and Saturday last week I wrote a thousand words of my novel. Not only that, but I fleshed out my outline a bit and learned more about my world. I need not tell the writers out there how good that feels. It’s a flood of happy hormones injected right into your pink-squishy grey matter, by your pink-squishy grey matter. It is a call to arms against the apathy that has plagued me pretty much since the end of school last year. I have been lethargic and despondent, and I put it down to not having a set in stone plan for the coming year (a situation that had since changed, Bachelor of Arts FTW!!!) but even since I have been accepted into my Bachelor of Arts, which sorts out my next three years for me, actually doing anything still seems to not being on the agenda. Until last week.
Last week I put together two pieces of flatpack furniture, because I really needed a new desk and the poor little cane ‘bookshelf’ (that was originally intended to be a shoe rack, but it was nineteen dollars and flat enough to hold books) was all but falling apart at the workload I was putting on it. So I retired the little guy and replaced it with one of those handy dandy cube storage units cunningly turned ninety degrees sideways so it would fit under my window. That and the fact that I’ve recently been reorganising my bedroom/office had led me to a conclusion…
It feels way better to do something, ANYTHING, than it is to do nothing, BUT it’s way easier to just do nothing and watch the world go by than it is to actually take on/complete a project, and all too often being the easier option is all it takes.
Another example, I could watch Supernatural as I eat dinner tonight, or I could read the wonderfully poetic book that I picked up at a closing down sale of a local bookshop the other day (a phenomenon of book stores closing down is one that gives me mixed emotions, because on the one hand you have a book store closing down, always a tragedy, but on the other you have really, really cheap book. ARRRRGH!! THE CONFLICT THAT RAGES IN MY SOUL!!!… ahem. Moving on). This book, The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi is spectacular, but the language, while gorgeous, requires mental activity to equate the beautiful, beautiful words to the action. With Supernatural (or any other kind of TV… if you’re into that kind of thing) there is no such process. The action is right there in front of me with everything explained neatly and simply for a mass-consuming audience, and yet, reading Age of Orphans not only makes me realise that you can be poetic without straying into overdone purple prose, but presents a captivating tale of a young boy dealing with one of the most turbulent times the middle east has ever known. I can feel my understanding growing as I read it, and I know it will impact my writing in the best possible way and yet… I want to watch Supernatural.
So often we don’t do things because they’re hard. For years now, I have a avoided coming out as bisexual to one vast majority of my family who I really, really don’t think will have good reaction. It’s hard and I don’t want to do it. But one day, I will have to, just because that level of deception is just not a sustainable or healthy way to conduct any relationship. And it is the same, albiet with less potential for shouting matches around the dinner table, with writing.
It’s hard, but we all need to suck it up and just do it, because it’s important. Important to our mental and physical health (not saying writing will give you an awesome six pack or anything, but doing something that you are proud of, even just a little bit, every day must have a good impact on something physical, right? Like the old psychology adage, ‘everything mental is physical’). And if this week has taught me anything, it’s that the best motivation is momentum. I started out by rearranging my room, which let me to buy and put together new furniture, which led to finally getting a desk space I am happy with, which led to me writing more, which led me to reading more and that whole thing has led me to write this blog post. A thing that I am proud of, and that must be having a good effect on my brain because I feel way more active writing this now than I did watching that episode of Supernatural earlier today (like I said, weak-willed sack of monkey meat).
As people we must do to keep on doing, once something is set into motion it will stay in motion until something stops it, and once it is stopped it will stay stopped until something moves it (Newton’s Laws of Motion: helping to create motivational speeches and blog posts since 1642). And here’s a thought, that thing that always moves or stops this metaphorical object that is your motivation, is you. Not to get all ‘self-help: the power within’ cliché here, but the outside world can only give you the idea to push yourself away from Sam and Dean Winchester, it’s you that sets that ball rolling. Always. And that, is pretty damn amazing. But once the ball is rolling it’s just as easy (a lot of times way easier) to stop it again, but then, dying can sometimes seem easier than living, and everyday people choose the harder option. Why? Because life is important, your life is important, because no matter how lethargic you are now, you will do things in your important life, and doing things is important, and there are some important things that only you can do (like write YOUR book, for example). So go out there, and DO a THING. Because it’s important, and also because the dopamine rush is really, really good.

Tune in next time when we may or may not discuss villians vs heros and why Batman is cooler than Superman, but why Hannibal Lecter is cooler than both of them.

Till then, thing doers, I bid you good luck in all the things you end up doing (…*snicker* GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER)

Ashlee

Einstein’s Tongue, Self-Esteem, Comparing Yourself to Others and Pink, Squishy Brain-Pulp

Sooooooo… Another month has flown by and once again there was no post here. Trying hard to feel guilty but… you know what… fuck it. From now on this blog is monthly. Somewhere between the forth and the sixth of each month there should be something new here. I may also post random stuff I come up with in the interim, but in general, if you are one of the vast minority that actually cares when these go up, then check back on those three days each month and see what’s up. Good, there, now my own niggling guilt of barely giving this blog a thought during the passed thirty days has been justified, lets get onto this post proper.

This is a blog about comparing yourself to others. Not really an original idea, I know, but it is a universal experience, thus no matter how much we talk about it someone is going to relate to it and help validate our views. And really, isn’t that what social interaction is all about? Finding people who validate how we think enough that we call them friends, finding people who REALLY validate us and who may or may not be unbelievably sexy to call ‘significant other’ or ‘girlfriend’ or ‘boyfriend’ or ‘partner’ or, if you’re feeling romantic, ‘my better half’ (naaaaawww), the point is opinions matter a crapton to us humans. We base pretty much our entire existence on the stuff spouted by our squishy brain-pulp and the stuff spouted from the squishy brain-pulp of those we love and admire. But the trouble comes from when we decide to put those spoutings in a place where others who do not share our particular brain-pulp spoutings can see them (no, I am not going to drop that particular turn of phrase. Get your squishy brain-pulp into gear and focus on the spoutings and not the way they are spouted. Grossed out? Excellent. We can continue).

It is a time such as that, when our brain spoutings are about to be splashed all over everywhere like the gore in some torture-porn horror film, that we need validation the most. However, in the search for such validation we often look to people we admire (the ones who may or may not have helped shape out opinions via their own brave brain-spouting), and think ‘is what I’m about to say in line with what this person has already said?’ or, ‘is what I’m about to say as good as what this person has already said?’ OR ‘should I even say anything because this person has already said it all so well and I just agree with them and by saying this thing it would just be me agreeing to everything they say and what is the point of any of this?’…. Soooo, yeah. You’ve done it, I’ve done it, EVERYONE on the goddamn planet has done it, and if they say they haven’t, then they’re liars (lying liars who lie. Don’t lie lying lairs!).

So what’s to do about it? How can we eradicate this intolerable scourge of the human psyche? *Strikes dramatic pose* OH GOD, PROTECT MY INNOCENT, PINK AND SQUISHY BRAIN-PULP FROM SUCH UNNECESSARY DAMAGING SELF-FLAGELLATION!! (Quick Google break to ensure ‘self-flagellation’ means what I think it means. It does. Also, insert Princess Bride joke here). Still with us? Good. So, what’s to be done, I hear you probably not ask because I just asked it for you? Well, metaphorical person on the other side of this screen, I personally have no idea what’s to be done. None. Zip. Nada. N/ fucking A (which stands for “not fucking available” for those of you playing at home). To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure that anything does need to be done. Ok, ok, clearly that is not going to be a catch all statement. I mean this is people’s self-esteem we’re talking about and no-one’s brain-pulp spoutings are any better than anyone else’s brain-pulp spoutings, no matter how pink and squishy and potentially delicious they may be (guys, we should totally start the zombie apocalypse. We don’t even need real zombies, just convince everyone that brains are delicious! No? Really? Well, that just ruins everything doesn’t it. Ok, ok, fine. Brains are not all that delicious. Happy? Good. Now enough of this tangent). But that statement before the really long bracket break isn’t necessarily true. Namely, no-one’s thoughts are not superior to anyone else’s thoughts. But see here’s the thing, Einstein developed the majority of his groundbreaking theories while he was working in a patent office during his twenties, that dude on the corner of the big city street wearing a cardboard sandwich board and shouting that gravity is a lie and you’re all mindless drones for being taken in to the ’round earth conspiracy’ may also be in his twenties, he may work in a patent office when no shouting at people, but the fullness of time will only prove one of them right. And only one of them is on some university student’s wall, forty odd years after he revolutionized physics, sticking his tongue out and just generally reminding everyone that genius’ can be fun too. It’s not the guy with the sandwich board.
Via Funny Pictures.net

 Einstein: Being awesome and ruining the paparazzi’s day since 1871

So perhaps it’s safe to say that Einstein’s brain-spoutings were at least a little bit more valuable to the history of the human race that that guy yelling about how the earth is flat. So, no, I don’t believe all brain-pulp is created equal. Nor do I believe that everyone is either a genius or someone who cannot see the evidence right in front of them (*cough, cough* global warming *cough, cough* Oh, what? Me? No, I didn’t say anything. Nope. Nah. NOTHING AT ALL. *pokes you fifteen times in succession, then scampers off to hide behind a melting iceberg*). The point is that some people have thoughts that will be more important and more influential to not just the human race and/or those individuals around them than others. Maybe that flat-earth guy will resonate with someone, but the majority of us will probably just sort of avoid eye-contact and shuffle uneasily out of his way. I am not saying that just because someone is important does that mean we should listen to what they have to say ( see: Tony Abbott, George W. Bush, most really huge celebrities, some priests), I am saying that some thoughts hold more value than others and that some people have those valuable thoughts more often than others. But we’ve strayed too far from the path. What does any of this have to do with comparing your brain-pulp spoutings to other people’s brain-pulp spoutings?

Well, the fact is, that even the most valuable mind is going to have invaluable thoughts, is going to believe wrong things, or things that hurt and marginalise others. All of us like to believe that we have a valuable mind, it’s certainly valuable to us, and for the most part, people’s thoughts are generally worth considering even if they don’t exactly align with yours, but those invaluable thoughts can sneak up on you. You don’t know if it’s coming, when it’s coming, where, why or how. But once it’s out there, it’s out and you can’t pull it back. This is why we compare ourselves to others. “Does this thought match what I believe?”, “Do I want to keep believing these things or must I reevaluate myself?”, “Does what I have to say hold any value to those who might read it?” These are the questions we are actually asking ourselves. And the way we answer them, to our own satisfaction at least, is by comparing our thoughts to others. It gives us a compass of sorts, a way gauge our worth in the world. But, and here we come to why this can be a problem, if you come to the conclusion that your brain-pulp has no worth, that it’s a little too much squish and not enough pink, then your spoutings will never be shared and any thoughts you have of value will be wasted. Any genuine, valuable thoughts you have will remain split-second flashes of electricity between synapses and will fade, buried in the dried-out neurons of your brain long after you are dead.

So I argue, compare yourself to others, question yourself, even doubt yourself a little (or a lot if you’re like most of us), realise that nothing you say is golden gospel, but very likely nothing you say will ever be utter horseshit either (exceptions probably apply to the less tolerant among us, I guess. Because seriously, fuck racism, sexism, homophobia and the rest of them right up the ass in the bad way. I’ve heard that it can be quite fun if you do it right, but let’s not make this weird). There will probably be some value in most things you say. That dude on the street corner, shouting outdated-since-the-ancient-greeks  nonsense, may spark some physicist with a mind for such things to re-evaluate our outlook on gravity and come up with something absurd but plausible like string theory and solve all our problems.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that all minds have value, perhaps not in the same amounts and certainly not in the same way, and I have yet to see a mind devoid of value, no matter who it belongs to, no matter how much filth they are spouting from their brain-pulp. So don’t let your brain-pump go to waste, compare yourself, doubt yourself, question everything about yourself and others, but don’t let anyone or anything invalidate or devalue you to you. Perhaps you need help in doing this, like someone whose job it is to analyse brain-pulp and try to fix it, or medications to smooth out the squish and add some pink, either way, both or neither may or may not work for you. Try anyway, because otherwise you’ll never know and that precious brain spouting may go unheard and that would kind of suck, for pretty much everyone. So you go out there and spout your pinkest brain-pulp, you little maybe-Einstein, you, and to be honest just the hope of that keeps me going.

Till next month, good luck with whatever it is you are trying to do. Hopefully you’ll have a pretty good new year and such. Happy soon-to-be Holidays to the people who like to be told such things and a good old “Aren’t Christmas carols just freaking annoying?” to those who don’t. Might post something new up here before 2015, but maybe I won’t. We’ll have to see.

Anyway, till then, look after yourself, and keep those precious thoughts coming. It looks like we’re going to need them.

Ashlee.

That One Girl on the Bus

So, the other day I was on the bus. It was one of the few times when I had ventured out into the great wide world without the precious protection of my musical earbuds. Thus it was that I could hear everything on the bus, which wasn’t so bad as this particular bus was empty. That is, it was empty until The Girl got on (dun Dun DUN). I never learned her name, but if I had to guess she’d be about fourteen or fifteen. She was wearing the uniform of the local private school. She was fairly pretty in an unremarkable way, long straight blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail by a pink, fluffy scrunchie. She was tall, and not stick thin but far from overweight. Over the course of the entire bus trip we didn’t say two words to each other. All in all there was nothing remotely special about this girl at all… Apart from the fact that when she got on the bus she was holding two large milkshakes.

It is now time to discuss the bus driver. I don’t remember what he looked like, except that he was pretty young, about early to mid thirties, and very talkative. I know he was talkative because he had previously tried to engage me in conversation that same bus trip, a feat not attempted by most bus drivers (and a near impossible one to accomlish when I’m tired, stressed and just want to get home). In any case, he put up a braver front than most, mainly because he had that casual, joking way of talking that tends to put people at ease. Unless that is, you’re insecure about something.

So, the bus pulls up to the stop and the girl steps on, holding her two large milkshakes awkwardly. The first words out of her mouth are:

“These aren’t both for me!”

But the bus driver, in his jovial wisdom, either doesn’t hear her or ignores the statement and replies with:

“How are you going to get through both of those, then?” You must understand, this was said as a joke, a light tease.

At which point the girl, now obviously deeply embarrassed, says: “One of them’s for a girl at school. I’m not fat, I promise.” She then walks up the aisle between the seats, red as a tomato and sits down with her two large milkshakes. Within minutes the feeling is passed and she is intent upon her phone. But my mind lingers on that brief exchange.

“I’m not fat, I promise.” 

Personally, I find that statement appalling. Not because the girl said it, but because she felt the need to say it.

I’m not fat, I promise.

As if ‘fat’ was a personality trait, and a bad one at that. As if she must justify her perfectly reasonable actions by assuring a stranger that she does not fall into the abominable category of Fat. The way she said it put me in mind of someone defending a distasteful joke. “I’m not racist, I promise.” Except, instead of offending entire proud cultures, this young woman was simply doing a favour for a friend.

Now I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I find it disgusting and deeply, deeply sad that this girl feels the need to say something like that. What is wrong with us, that teenage girls feel the need to seek approval from strangers for every action that seems vaguely out of the ordinary. I mean, I am positive that teenage boys suffer this as well, but let’s be honest, what young man out there has ever felt so embarrassed about taking an extra bit of food or drink onto the bus that he felt the need to defend his actions to the bus driver? What bus driver would tease that young man in the same way he teased the girl? Whatever the percentage is, I’m guessing that it’s far lower than the amount of young women who encounter the same thing.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning light hazing. I think it’s a vital part of human interaction, and a very common one at that (case in point; whenever I am walking my dog by myself, and I am passed by a gentleman out for an evening stroll I almost always hear some variation of “who’s walking who?” which, aside from getting monotonous after a while, hurts neither me nor my dog. Although it could be seen as derogatory, I like to credit myself with more sense of humour than that.) So, teasing and hazing are awesome (kinda), but what is not awesome is the instant judgement that is made when anyone, particularly women, are seen with an unexpected amount of food or drink. I’m not fat, I promise. 

How dare we tell this girl that she can’t have two large milkshakes? How dare we make it so that she must justify her completely innocent actions by explaining her reasoning to a total stranger? If she had fifteen milkshakes, twelve hamburgers and a trash bag full of McDonald’s fries, it is neither mine nor anybody else’s business what she intends to do with that food.

Now, of course, she’s a teenager and all teenagers are insecure about how they look to other people, right? Well, yes and no. Of course teenagers are insecure about pretty much everything to some degree, but once again, what teenage boy is going to assure his bus driver, of all people, that he’s not fat?

I don’t care if your fifteen or fifty, actions that don’t impact upon others are not the business of others and hold no shame, no matter what. Now, if you’re torturing a cat, or breaking other people’s property, then the police and a few other people (myself included) might have something to say. But eating? Drinking? Are we really so obsessed with our own fucked up notion of beauty that we deny people, anyone, the right to eat as much as he or she likes? Because, Lord forbid, they might stray into the dreaded realm of ‘Fat’. What a calamity that would be.

Not much humour in this one guys, sorry about that. I’ve been wanting to talk about something like this for a while and this particular instance stood out to me. Words have power, the words we use can define us. We all know this and yet we fling them around like they mean nothing. Anyway, if your looking for a really awesome exploration of the ideas discussed in this month’s blog post, I heartily recommend you read Robin Hobb’s Soldier’s Son Trilogy. Politics aside it’s also got solid characters, and a compelling storyline. I may write a review of it in the future, but only if you’re good.

And with that, Ladies and Gentlemen, I bid you adieu.

Ashlee.

An Incoherent, Slightly Biased Review (AKA: I LOVE THIS BOOK SO FUCKING MUCH!!!)

So… hi. Look at that, exactly a month since anything new appeared in this little internet space… I feel like I should apologize… but I honestly don’t think there’s anyone hanging out to read these. *Sigh*. One day. Anyway, in case you can’t tell I’ve been feeling a little depressed these past few weeks about my future as a writer, (something to do with Fear Number 1 raising it’s ugly head again) and you know what I like to read when I’m feeling depressed about the inevitable decay of it all? Apocalypse books, because it’s really REALLY cathartic. What’s my favourite apocalypse book you ask (how kind of you to take such an interest)? Well, to be honest, it’s my only apocalypse book, but that is irrelevant because, as you saw in the title…
I LOVE THIS BOOK SO FUCKING MUCH!!!… Ok, ok, ok, I’m calm, let’s showcase this bit of wonder-fiction to the seven or so of you who will actually read this (that’s right, I see you. I see you ALL! Muahahahahahahahahahah! *Ahem*).
Ladies and gentlemen, behold…

Image Via Goodreads.com.

Yup. That’s Nod, inscribed from the mouth of Cthulhu himself, set to ancient parchment in Grimm wolf-blood (“It’s like red chamomile tea!”) by Adrian Barnes. From what I gather of my past experiences, half of you have never in your lives heard of it (treasure your innocence), a quarter of you are joining me in a good bout of evil laughter as the darkness birthed inside you by this book squirms and grins, and the other quarter of you are gnashing your teeth and shooting steam from your ears at my obvious lack of any real judgement in literature. Whelp, sit tight, because, love it or loathe it “Nod” is one mind-fuck of a ride.

Our Hero: His name is Paul. He likes words. And Tanya. People besides Tanya tend to piss him off, particularly Charles. Mainly because Charles is a prick (an opinion I share with Paul. Fuck Charles).

Our Heroine: Tanya. Beautiful, normal, intelligent. She likes Paul enough to have stayed with him for five years at the opening of the book. Looks like hell the first time we see her, but is actually heaven. Paul has it backwards.

Our Villain: The Admiral in Blue? The Awakened? That one guy with the ship and the nukes? The messed up, disheveled, beaten and bleeding world at large? Humanity? Whatever the fuck was happening on that beach (if that scene doesn’t send some sort of shiver up your spine then you might not be human)? Honestly all of these are the antagonist and all of them are not. It’s one of the things I really like about the book. There’s a bad-guy here for everyone, pick your hate!

The Question (because every book needs a question): A huge, resounding, what the fuck?! What the fuck is up with all the fatal insomnia? What the fuck are those children so calm about? And, seriously, what the fuck is that magical golden dream all about? Yes, I am aware that is more than one question… It’s a complex book.

The Plot: No-one sleeps. Well, one in a thousand people maybe do. But most people don’t sleep. Things go to pot in a major, major way. Think of an atrocity and it’s probably committed within these pages, along with a few you probably haven’t thought of yet. Look at that cover, this is not a sane book. And yet there’s an almost indistinguishable grain of hope in there, among all the madness and attempted (sometimes successful) infanticide, there’s one tiny, desperate, dim, flickering point of hope. You have to look really hard to find it, and it offers no real comfort, but it’s there and in some ways it almost makes all the bat-shit insanity worth it.  Almost.

My Honest Opinion: This is not a book for the weak of heart or mind or stomach. This is not a book for a casual summer read, relaxing on a beach. You will find no relaxation here. But you figured that out already. The truth is, I read all one hundred and ninety nine pages of this book in three hours and I was a different person because of those three hours I spent inside Adrian Barnes’ head. My outlook, my speech, my thoughts and, most obviously, my writing have all been heavily influenced by those pages. I have read it once since, over the course of two days (roughly), and it’s punch, while not increased in the re-read, was far from diminished. In my mind, this is not a book, it is a series of images, events, emotions and experiences. “Nod” occupies the same space in my head as my actual memories of real life. It’s a wonder I don’t have PTSD from this shit. I did not turn the pages of this book I watched it happen and it implanted itself deep within me, digging its claws into my hippocampus and refusing to leave. I say I love this book, only because that is the only way to describe this strange cacophony of emotions and be taken seriously. I love Nod the way the abused loves the abuser, I know that it will tear me down, make me feel hopeless and depressed, that it will slap me in the face and punch me in the throat and leave me crying into my pillow, but at the end of the day it is what it is and as long as the bruises are metaphorical, then I will endure that agony. (Side note on abuse: Anyone who is being abused by anything more substantial than a book, say, by a person, PLEASE SEEK HELP! You are not alone, and there are a thousand ways out and a hundred thousand people who are willing to help. I do not condone non-metaphorical abuse in any way, shape or form.)

With that, ladies and gentlemen… Sleep Tight.

Creativity, Hero Worship, Shakespeare’s Homosexuality and the First Rule of Writing Fiction

Hello everyone and welcome to the first ever non-fiction post on this blog! If I actually knew what I was doing there would be confetti or something. In any case, let’s get down to business, shall we?

I recently took a fair few risks in my recently published story “Age” (which can be bought here, if you are so inclined). The first of these was to include quite a lot of cursing in the story. I swear like a sailor in real life, but have only just realized that it can actually be okay to include unsavory language in my fiction, as long as it serves the story (Rule #1 of Fiction Writing: Everything must serve the story). The second risk was to set it in the modern era. I usually prefer medieval/high fantasy settings so this was a pretty big step outside the comfort zone, but it definitely paid off, as such steps often do. The third was submitting it to a magazine at all. Every writer knows the terror of giving their work over to be scrutinized by faceless, nameless editors in a publishing house far far away. But, at least for me, the biggest risk was to include William Shakespeare as not only a presence, but a character in the story.

Granted, he appears only briefly in a single scene, but he still appears, drunk no less. Hardly the most respectful way to portray the Bard. A man whose name is not only synonymous with literary genius, but a man to whom many credit with flat-out inventing most of the modern English we use today. Love him, hate him, or fall asleep during the third act of Romeo and Juliet in English class, if you speak English then chances are you’ve quoted him directly without even knowing it. This is the man who invented the word ‘eyeball’, for crying out loud. So, when I decided to not only portray him as drunk, but put him in a romantic relationship with my main male lead, I was intimidated to say the least.

But then, I stopped. Looked at myself sweating bullets over including a character in my story and realized that I was being ridiculous. Shakespeare was a writer. Arguably the greatest writer of all time. He was a creator and innovator and a genius, but most of all, he was a man. He was a man that lived and loved and wrote such words that he is a household name centuries after his death. But he was a man. With fears and hurts and mistakes. He had no idea that the plays he was writing would exist to bore high school students almost half a millennium after his death. He was just a guy in Elizabethan England just trying to support himself and his family back home doing something he loved. He was no different to any other writer out there. And not only that, but he’s dead. He get’s no say in the matter. Also, it isn’t actually the man himself, but a fictional character that just happens to share a name with a historical person of importance (oh and for all that ‘homosexuality’ stuff mentioned in the title, look herehere and here. They’re the first three Google results. If you’re interested, give them a glance and draw your own conclusions. I’m not here to tell you what to think).

This is what hero worship does to us. We put so much stock in one person’s abilities that we loose the person and only see their abilities. And we do this all the goddamned time. Look at Einstein, or Aristotle, or Leonardo Da Vinci. Or, for that matter, Leonardo Dicaprio. We glorify people and build them up until they become both more and less than human. It’s easier to do this with dead people, with the great minds of eras past. After all, dead people don’t make mistakes. But the outrage every time a celebrity screws up proves just how easy (and fun!) it it to build people up and tear them down in the same breath.

Now, of course, there are many complicated emotional, psychological and probably biological reasons why we do this, but that isn’t the point of this post. The point of this post is that if you do this, as a writer, not only do you shut these people off from being portrayed accurately in your writing, but you limit your perceptions when it comes to others and their experiences. As a writer, it is your job to experience the lives of others without living them yourself. You must have a mind that can step into another person’s head at will, imagine what they are thinking and have those thoughts be different from your own. 

But of course, everyone hero worships. Role models are a key part of the way humans learn and develop and through out our lives we always have role models, whether we admit it or not. And it is relatively harmless when applied to dead people. However, hero worshiping people who are alive can severely limit your creativity. A hero is something other, a person who is above all other people, and as such is totally unrelatable. If one person is unrelatable then what’s to stop that whole group of people from becoming unrelatable? From there it can be a pretty slippery slope (this could also be a pretty good description of how prejudice can build. Two sides, one coin).

If you view a person, any person as ‘other’ as ‘them’, whether positively or negatively then you are limiting the range of human experience you can access to aid your writing. Everything must serve the story, remember? If your prejudices, whether you are biased towards or against this person or group of people, interfere with your ability to write a realistic and fulfilling story then you need to re-examine your views on the world around you. On the people you look up to and look down on and understand them. No matter how different you think they are, we’re all just walking, talking monkeys who have somehow managed to take this whole ‘thinking’ business to another level. Remember that. Use it. Serve your story. All the world’s a stage.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of how I stopped hero worshiping Shakespeare. If you want to check out the story that sparked this whole train of thought then click the link way up there at the beginning. If that’s just too much scrolling then here it is again. And once again just because I feel like being annoying.

Hope you enjoyed this post. If it was a useless pile of rambling waffle, then feel free to shout at me in the comments.

Happy reading, writing and whatever else!

Ashlee