I’m one of those people who always has a pile of books to read. It used to sit on my bedside table, but it was hard to sleep with them all there glaring at me for not reading all night. So I’ve moved it to a shelf in the sunroom. But it’s still there… glaring at me when I go past…
So I’ve decided to acknowledge their presence in the hope they might stop glaring at me.
Here they are: Books I’m planning to read in the next few months and if I don’t they’ll be cranky with me and smother might me in my sleep.
This has to be the oddest book I’ve read for ages. It ended up on my reading pile because Chris and I decided to choose a book for each other to read this year, and this is the one he added to my pile.
Alternative history… mystery adventure… rambling plot full of clever literary references… really not sure what to make of it yet, but I’ll get back to you when I finish.
Next Book on THE PILE OF DOOM
The Amber Isle is a recent fantasy novella by Ashley Capes. I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Fairy Wren last year, and The City of Masks before that, so now I’m working through the rest of his catalogue. Beautiful writing and he releases so much material I am JEALOUS. Definitely worth reading his stuff, though obviously I can’t vouch for this one yet I’m sure it will stand up to the usual standard.
The Third Book on my pile… I mean shelf…
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is something I’m reading because people keep telling me it’s awesome. Usually this is a reason why I don’t read things (no kidding, I’m weird, didn’t read Harry Potter until I was 18 because everyone kept telling me I had to because it was awesome – but that’s a whole other story). So maybe that’s why it’s been out for years and I’m only just getting around to it now. Anyhow, leant to me by my oldest and bestest of friends, so I had better hurry up and get it back to her…
Fourth but not least…
I’m really looking forward to this one. Not that I’m not looking forward to all the others, but Guy Gavriel Kay holds a special place in my heart and upon our shelves. A favourite author of both Chris and I. I started River of Stars and was loving it until I realised I’d skipped ahead, and while you don’t have to read them in order, Under Heaven actually came first. Damn. Anyhow, so here I am, catching up properly – in the right order – like a good girl.
There are plenty more books on my shelf waiting to be read, but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. I have kids. I write. I cook. I taxi to karate and ballet and hip hop…. I can’t wait until my kids can drive. Or at least don’t want me to watch every moment of their itsy bitsy ballet class.
Yes, you read that right – audiobooks! This year The Vengeance Trilogy will be brought to life by the magic of the spoken word.
I have listened to audiobooks for as long as I can remember, beginning with Wind in the Willows and Lego Fabuland before progressing to Terry Pratchett and Georgette Heyer as a teenager when audiobooks became the only way I could get to sleep. I’ve listened to them on long drives, when painting the house, when cleaning, in the shower – you get the picture. I love audiobooks. So to have my books available in the format is one of those dreams that has been kicking around for a long time, but now it is actually happening.
During the week Chris (my awesome partner in crime… and parenthood) and I set up a home sound studio. For the initial test this involved a shotgun mic set up in a pillow fort made out of our couch. Classy, huh? The final set up will be rather more professional, but the quality of the first test was really impressive given how funny it must have looked to passing kangaroos. (No one walks past our house.) From here the test material will go through post production, which looks something like this:
And then some. There’s a lot of technicality I don’t understand, things like audio compression and breath minimisation and blah blah blah my brain shut down, but for those who are interested Chris might well post more about it at some stage. Until then stay tuned for samples and updates about this exciting development.
I mean…. audiobooks! Squeeeeeeee! *Excited*
I’m a fantasy author, so I spend my fair share of time hooked onto the internet – both for work and as the source of the majority of my writerly and fangirly socialising time. It’s a truly amazing and inspiring place, encouraging, amusing and fun, as well as an endless source of knowledge and research about how far blood spurts from a decapitated head. And then stuff like this happens…
GamerGate. It’s not mandatory that fantasy authors are also gamers, but in this case it’s true. I’ve been a gamer since I could stretch my fingers to the keys as a kid – Commander Keen, Monkey Island, many an afternoon networking Duke 3D and Doom 2 with my brother and my dad. Pharaoh, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and Need for Speed as a teenager, on into Final Fantasy, MMOs, Assassin’s Creed, Portal, and anything produced by Bioware. I’m a gamer. I’m a woman. Do I think women face harassment from the gaming community? You bet we do. Do I think female developers have a rough time, especially if they try to speak out in favour of equality and positive representation for women in media? Hell yes. It takes a lot of courage to speak up and stick your neck out as a woman, BUT … and there is always a but … that isn’t really what the #GamerGate fiasco is about anymore, as little as it’s about ethics in journalism.
Humans are naturally tribal, it’s the way we work and the reason why racism exists – as in what we look like is the easiest way to differentiate “them and us”. The same thing applies to sexuality, gender and any other situation that polarises people. It is part of our social conditioning that we pick sides in a divorce, make rude comments about the supporters of certain sports teams that aren’t our own, and stringently defend our choice of political ideology (you know, all the things that shouldn’t be brought up at a dinner party if you want everyone to get along). Because they are team choices, picking sides, them and us – “If you’re not with us, you’re against us”. And often there is no rational discussion, just a response of anger that someone dares to challenge your belief or choice. We don’t like to be wrong, and in fact we are fast fostering a society where the very WORST thing we can ever be, is wrong. Being wrong or making a mistake immediately gets you crucified.
John Grisham is the latest example of this. Here is a well-known and well-respected author and lawyer with a history of campaigning for changes to the US criminal justice system. In the interview that blew up over the internet he was talking about over-criminalisation – the fact that there are a lot of people in jail, in the US especially, who really don’t deserve to be there and that other options should be put in place to deal with petty crime. He also touched on the racial bias of drug charges. All in all he was making very relevant points about important subjects that need to be discussed. He then told a story about a friend who ended up in prison for three years on charges related to viewing child pornography and, especially when taken out of context, all the following quotes became damnable. But he was still making a good point worthy of being heard, he just chose his words poorly and we as a society piled on and hacked him to pieces without mercy, without taking a moment to consider the intention behind the statements. Because:
1) “Famous author supports child pornography” makes better news and generates more clicks than “Famous author campaigns for change to the US justice system”
2) It feeds our “OMG he’s wrong, throw rocks at him” tribalism.
And that brings me back to #GamerGate. I skimmed through a tonne of bile on twitter yesterday with this hashtag, but it wasn’t one sided. Yes the rape and death threats and the misogyny is fairly one sided, but the anti-GG peeps are as stringent and venomous in defence of their team as the pro-GG peeps. And most of the people, individuals and news reporters alike, haven’t bothered to research the primary material and find out what is really going on, they are just picking a side and starting to sling mud pies. Exactly like what happened to John Grisham. Deliberate editing and selective reporting of the issue meant that the hardly anyone has actually read the quote in context let along the whole interview.
I was all ready to get furious about these issues – and I am angry that female gamers and game developers have to put up with ridiculous amounts of hatred from the online community – but more than anything I am just sad that this is fast becoming ‘normal’ behaviour. It is no great surprise when our beliefs are constantly reinforced by our social groups. We tend to befriend those with similar views and end friendships over disagreements. This is especially true of social media where we ‘like’ things we agree with, ‘unfriend’ people who post things we don’t like, and skim the rest. It’s making us selectively tolerant and sapping our empathy, because even the pro-GamerGaters are real people with real feelings and real problems, and responding to their internet-spilled bile with anger isn’t right either. Nor is it likely to work. Anger makes people defensive and closes their minds. There are always going to be those whose minds you cannot change no matter what you do or say, but if you don’t respond with respect and patience, what are your chances of getting respect and patience in return?
Around this time last year I was struggling to write words, a pretty foreign concept when I usually struggle to stem them. This was a blank page mocking me with its over-bright pixels, white, empty. I couldn’t even scroll to lessen the amount of white at the bottom of the page – a habit I fall into whenever I’m feeling threatened by my own work. What I did have was a picture of a painting, a painting done by an amazing local artist to which it was my job to attach words for the purpose of an exhibition.
This long unusual piece of art was challenging me, as the whole idea was challenging me to decide what sort of writer I was. Fantasy author, for sure, but was there more to me than that? Now as I was hunting around for old work for the purpose of a throwback thursday, thinking I might find some interesting way in which my writing has matured, I came across the piece I eventually wrote in a flurry of spewed emotion. So read on for a taste of something a bit different. I’m still not 100% sure I like it, but the artist liked it very much and the exhibition was a success, so that’s a win. For me it’s a win to put myself out of my comfort zone in the first place!
In Air I Drown
He breaks me. Every word another cut. Every snarl another bruise upon the flesh of life. I used to think that life was a journey, a path from one garden to the next, from the daisies of childhood into the prickly thorns and passions of the adolescent rose garden. Adulthood a sunny moor. Old age, a misty vista scented with lavender like the soap in my grandmother’s bathroom.
When did I change? When did that journey become a trial, a struggle to walk another step? Now with every gasping breath I drown in air.
He turns away. He always does. Tears fall from the crinkled corners of his eyes, but they are not tears for me.
I think of the gardens. Daisies, wild and yellow, scattered through the soft grass, dancing and bobbing their little heads so happily. Perhaps it was a dream. Perhaps the grass was scratchy and the sky grey, the echo of a scream on the breeze that wafted cigarette smoke past my nose, acrid and stale. Perceptions.
“That’s a big word,” he would jeer. “Did you learn that at your fancy school?”
Yes, I think now, as I stare at the scratchy beard piercing his pale skin. I did.
That was in the rose garden. A strange place full of odd pitfalls it was, where one day a rose would bloom, its red petals plump and fragrant, only for it to wither at a touch and turn to thorns. That was when the questions changed. I stopped asking why the grass was green and started asking what was wrong with me. I don’t look like the girl on the cover of the magazine. She has blonde hair and long legs, hairless, spotless, smooth, her glossy grin seeming to mock me with her superiority. If that is what a girl is supposed to look like, am I a Martian? Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. It’s a load of bullshit, but sometimes I wonder. Mars was the god of war.
He is yelling through the tears. Spit flies from his lips, that pale skin reddened and blotchy. I don’t hear the words, not the words he is saying. They are always the same ones. Should not. Will not. It is all my fault. His face is so red. Does a demon live beneath that skin?
“Do you think you’re better than me?”
He says those words a lot. My sunny moor is filled with weeds. Blackened bracken rises from the ground like twisting hands, grasping, desperate. It catches at my legs. I fall. I bruise. Every part of me aches, but the pain in limb is nothing to the pain in my heart. He has blocked out the sun. Seething, fists gripped into tight punches, I might never see the misty vista scented with lavender.
My grandmother had smiled.
“Yeah? You think you’re better than me?”
Yes. The thought slips out. Even in my head it’s dangerous and my eyes dart to those crushing fists. Yes.
“Just ‘cos of your rich family and your fancy house?”
No. You taught me to be worthless. But I don’t want to die. I want to see the sun again.
He is clutching his hair as though I am driving him mad. Perhaps he is mad. In the morning he will be different. The words will change. There will be love amid the blame, his fingers capable of a gentle touch as they ghost across darkening bruises and broken skin.
“Don’t leave,” he will beg. But I’ve listened to that voice too many times. I don’t want to drown gasping my daily breath. I want to see the sun again. “Stay.”
No. I will not let you break me.
It’s been a crazy couple of weeks! Having made the move all the way to Canada, I am now in the process of making the move all the way back to Australia again. Long story.
Much more interesting is this week’s Throwback Thursday post! Gods know where I dredged this one up from! (Actually it was the dusty depths of my external hard drive… does knowing that make me a god?) I think I wrote it about six years ago at a guess, the start of a novel that began from a simple idea and got huge. I think I was watching a lot of Death Note at the time and reading Terry Pratchett, possibly there is something of an influence…
Again don’t judge any of my published work on what you do or don’t read in these posts, these are old works posted to allow anyone and everyone to see that every author was shit once. Also yes, that is another terribly adorable picture of me as a kid. I love how old the black and white makes me look.
Aleksandar Lauront choked. Cheap ale burned down his throat, spitting from damp lips with each gasp for air. He slammed the tankard down on the table, open palm pressed against his chest.
“Didn’t your mother ever teach you to swallow, Aleks?” said a youth lounging at ease across from the afflicted young man.
“Shut up,” Aleks managed to gasp, putting more effort into this wishful command than he was into controlling the coughing fit. A few other patrons looked around, wondering who had let the babies in. Aleksandar’s cheeks reddened, more from embarrassment than because ale had just tried to kill him. Rough looking men all around the room took long swigs from their drinks, grinning at one another.
With one last cough Aleksandar Vorsatius Lauront, fifth and youngest son of Lord Aloysius Lauront, regained control of his lungs. Despite this triumph he couldn’t help wishing the floor would open up and swallow him whole. Never had he been so embarrassed, though tripping over in the crowded street had been less than desirable. The bruise was still giving him some trouble.
“Someone take his drink away,” said one of the other four young men at the table, taking an easy gulp from his own. “Shouldn’t let him drink.”
The dirty tankard was snatched away with a grin by the youth on his right, but Aleks made no complaint.
Tavar, the official leader of the little group, went on speaking as though nothing had happened. “Six solid gold rings and a painting,” he said flicking hair out of his eyes with a gloved hand – his left, proudly displayed.
This produced no little surprise. “A painting?” said one. “What’s so valuable about a painting?”
Another gave a contemptuous snort, waving a hand encased in a black leather glove – his right. “You idiot. My father has a painting that’s worth thousands. Art can be worth more than its weight in gold to the right collector.”
“All right then,” said the one designated as an idiot. “What was it a painting of? A huge stack of gems?”
All eyes turned to Tavar, who sank his chin on to a black leather palm. “From what the guards said it was a painting of a naked lady.”
The young men broke into laughter, even the idiot winking at his friends and slapping Aleks on the back. Aleks laughed too, because he didn’t want to be left out, but in all truth he couldn’t actually see anything amusing in the notion of a naked lady posing for a portrait. Bowls of fruit did it all the time, but to say something might jeopardise his chances.
“There must have been lots of guards around, personal soldiers and the like,” continued the idiot when the laugher died away, fading into a contented sort of snigger quickly drowned by ale.
Eyes turned back to Tavar, who was making every effort to show off his left hand. The glove was just black leather, but since Tavar came from money he had been able to do it properly. The accessory fit so tightly it was like a second skin. It was made from the best quality leather, black; stitched with the best stitching, black; and branded with the maker’s mark, black. Aleks glanced at the other three. They were wearing similar accoutrements, but all on their right hands. His own hands sat demurely on the rough table, completely naked and unadorned. He had a glove, of course he did, but he wasn’t allowed to wear it. He hadn’t earned that right yet.
“No,” Tavar said, bringing Aleksandar’s thoughts back to the conversation. Around them sailors and fishermen went on with their drinking. Outside a small brawl had started, while someone being noisily sick in the corner was adding an extra tang to the already foul air. None of the boys seemed to notice, except for Aleks who wrinkled his nose. “No guards at all.”
“None at all, but you see, the door was rigged to swing closed and lock itself, and the drop from the only window in the room was thirty feet onto jagged rocks.”
Three amazed expressions gaped at Tavar, who smiled. Aleks watched him. Tavar loved to be the centre of attention. His father wanted him to be a priest, but it would be such a waste of his talents to send him to preach to people who were already converted. He had an uncanny knack of being able to make people believe the most ridiculous things. Aleks, a stickler for accuracy, examined the situation and said silently to himself: But they’re thieves, right? So if they picked the lock to get into the room, assuming the door opens inward, then all they have to do is release the mechanism and walk out. If it opens out then they still just have to pick the lock and walk out, a much easier option than choosing to leap thirty feet onto jagged rocks.
Out loud he said: “How did they do it?” instilling just the right amount of awe into his tone as he gripped the edge of the table, fingers splayed. “Thirty feet is a long way. What kind of bastard would invent a self-locking door?” One who didn’t want his gold rings stolen, the sensible part of his mind added, but before his evil genius could prompt him to say as much a dagger shuddered into the table and stood there vibrating.
There was a disdainful grunt from above. “Only a fool would believe that rubbish,” said an unknown voice. “There were six guards and the old man had a crossbow.”
Aleks stared at the dagger. He hadn’t moved, didn’t dare to with a blade wedged halfway between two of his fingers. The hand that had put it there was thin, long pale fingers curled around the hilt. It wasn’t wearing a glove, black or otherwise, but the man… He could feel the man standing behind him, and something about the words eventually made him look around.
“Good evening, gentlemen,” the man said as Aleksandar’s eyes fell on him. Then, with nothing but a dry laugh, he walked away. Aleks watched him go, mouth hanging open. The man walked with easy confidence, a blond ponytail snaking over his shoulder, aglow against a black cloak. The dagger was still there, tip splintering the rotten wood.
Silence enveloped the small table, broken after a time by an excited cry. “Was that… was that the Wraith Twins?”
The idiot snorted. “Of course not! He was alone. There are two of them. They’re twins, right?”
No one bothered to answer. The patrons of the tavern had ignored the appearance of a dagger as a matter of course, but looked around as the party of young men jumped to their feet. With excited cries and much pushing and shoving they forced their way outside, one lingering only long enough to wrench the dagger from the wood before following his friends.
Out in the dark street Aleks shivered, clutching his cloak tightly against the sharp breeze. The dagger weighed heavily in his hand, the hilt still warm from its owner’s touch.
“Where did he go?”
“Did anyone see where he went?”
Aleks listened to their loud voices fill the street and closed his eyes. It was stupid, it really was. They loved style and yet had none of their own. What famous thief would ever have shouted in the street? Surely dark nights were for shadows and soft steps through the mist.
When Aleksandar opened his eyes it was to find the members of the unofficial fan club spreading out, jogging along the road looking down every alley they could find. In this part of town it was a good way to get lost, and if you wandered too far from the quayside lights you could easily lose more than just your way.
Ignoring the retreating shouts of his friends Aleks looked down at the dagger. It was neat and simple, serviceable and lacking in any distinguishing marks. Had it been picked up at a crime scene it would have lent no clue as to the perpetrator, but then that made sense, didn’t it? Why advertise when you didn’t have to? And the Wraith Twins certainly didn’t have to. And that was part of the fascination, part of the allure, because the Wraith Twins never looked for trouble. They got in and out with the minimum amount of fuss and the maximum amount of quiet style, unless you believed Tavar’s stories.
Shouts rang through the echoing backalleys as they realised he was missing. “Where’s Aleks? He was here just a moment ago.” That sounded like the idiot, better known as Nacy Carter. Soon they would remember the dagger and be back, but Aleks was determined not to give up such a prize. Without ceremony it was thrust into one of his cloak’s capacious pockets, causing a tear as the tip of the blade made a bid for freedom. It scraped his leg, but fell no further.
“Aleks!” That was Tavar, closer now. Aleks looked around, and seeing only a few drunks hanging around outside the tavern, he gripped the dagger through the thick material of his cloak and started to run.
From the roof someone watched him go, blond hair flying in the wind. The lithe figure in the fitted cloak pulled something out of his own pocket. With a satisfied little smile he brought it into the moonlight, displaying to the world a red silk purse. Although this would have been of great interest to Mr Aleksandar Lauront, what would have interested his so-called friends more was the hand that was holding it. It was the man’s left hand, and it was wearing what could only be described as a black leather glove.
I have a four year old daughter. She’s fast turning into a gamer like her mother and father before her. She is currently playing Journey and has finished Tengami and Monument Valley on the iPad about a hundred times each. She likes to get on Super Smash Bros. Melee and hack and slash at her two year old sister holding the other controller (and getting some surprisingly good moves in for someone performing the essence of button mashing.)
I didn’t question any of this as not being ok until she saw me play half an hour of Assassin’s Creed Black Flag a few weeks back. Then I decided, as I watched Edward gut guards with beautiful ease, that maybe… just maybe… this wasn’t something she should be watching.
Two weeks later she pulls the game out of the drawer and hands it to me. ‘We haven’t watched you play this forever, mum! Do you remember how your man sworded all those bad people?’
One’s heart could tear over such cuteness as she goes on to use the term ‘sworded’ another few times. I’m oddly proud of her, because we are unconventional in pretty much every way it’s possible to be, but at the same time the old society voice kicks in and BAM I’m thinking ‘letting them watch violent video games is going to turn them into violent little killing machines’.
So I start to over analyse (or perhaps it’s the right amount of analysis and other people just don’t like to think beyond the opening statement) and I wonder if I encouraged her to show empathy for those undergoing the violent acts – pain, death, loss, etc – would that make her a more well rounded person? Who does that? Who watches a Disney cartoon and feels bad for the bad guy? Or do all forms of media encourage us to suspend empathy for the undeserving as well as our disbelief.
I’ve long been an advocate for self-censorship. If you don’t like something, don’t watch it. It’s a human instinct. Turning away from the screen during Game of Thrones, putting down a book when you can’t bear to read any further. The same four year old that asks to watch me sword people in Assassin’s Creed, also cries and can’t finish watching Up and even The Lorax, because she’s genuinely emotionally invested in something and is afraid it’s going to end badly. She isn’t emotionally invested in Assassin’s Creed, and definitely not in the bad guys.
This is still a subject on which I’ve got a lot of thinking to do, because I’m one of those people who thinks about EVERYTHING. What amount of violence is acceptable for understanding modern society? Is it really better for them to live in a sheltered bubble? What about having empathy for cruelly farmed animals? We are animals ourselves, and we’ve sheltered ourselves for a long time to things like where our food comes from. Are we going to censor everything and make these rules for the masses? Where does that stop?
I’m not quite ready to pull out Assassin’s Creed and get swording people while my four year old cheers me on, but I’m thinking about it.