wickedace: A small, purple, plush dragon (Default)
This might get a bit long and disjointed, but I want to write down some things that are in my head.

I had a friend over Friday night, who ended up crashing in the spare bed and spending the whole day with us on Saturday, which was a-w-e-s-o-m-e. Of course, this is someone I value, but have not known long enough to be confident in the strength of the friendship, so the moment he walked out the door, my brain started up with the "what if I fucked everything up" worries. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that someone who spends a whole day hanging out with you,  and then says "yes, absolutely" to your "shall we hang out and do x soon? I'll message you about dates", is probably someone who considers you a friend and does not think you are awful. So I'm using that as a kind of antidote to the bad thoughts. Also, when he left, other friends had arrived to watch a Ghibli film, so although that stopped me getting an early night and I am super tired, it was a good distraction. (And now I really want to read the book of Howl's Moving Castle, because apparently the film makes more sense when you know what the hell is going on.)

Speaking of bad thoughts/feels, I also want to write down a thing that happens sometimes. I'm sure someone else somewhere must get this, too. The thing is: I do something mundane, like, say, reaching for the handsoap pump on the sink. As I pump the soap I think - oh, wait, there's something I'm meant to be feeling bad about, related to soap, I've just remembered - but I never remember what the thing to feel bad about was. So I end up with these bad feels (like guilt and worry all tangled up), and I don't even know what they're for. (In the handsoap example, I have a feeling it might have been to do with noticing that the handsoap in the other bathroom was on the wooden side rather than the sink last night, and the wood beneath it was warping with wetness? But I'm not sure. Also that's not really much of a thing to feel bad about. Especially since I moved the soap when I noticed it, and the wood is fine this morning.)

I have not touched my pen and notebook in some weeks, but I have been doing a bit of photography, which I let fall by the wayside a few years ago. I picked up my Blipfoto account again, and started doing a 30 Day Photography Challenge (one photo a day). We're on Day 13 today, so at some point today I need to think of a photo for that. It's nice to feel a little sense of achievement about something creative.

I realised that most of my... I guess creative energy?... at the moment is going into food. I've started a mailing list for dinners, where I pick a date and email out, and then a random cross-section of people I know reply to say they want to come, until I have a full table. Then I cook something nice - a three-course something - and we have a nice dinner. I've done one and scheduled a second so far. I'm really glad I started this, because I think it will be constructive towards two things I want - first, to actually cook more of the interesting things in the many recipe books I own, and second, to do positive social things that leave me feeling more sure about the fact that I have friends.

(More detail on that last bit: since moving to this city out of uni, two and a half years ago, I have had a lot of feels about friends and social circles, whether I want to spend time with the friends I have and how to make friends I don't have yet. I think I am past the worst of it now, and am feeling more settled, but it's a thing that I'm sure could rear its head again if I'm not careful. Things that have helped:
  • consciously taking a step back from social things that were leaving me feeling bad more often than good
  • switching to a more relaxed organisational style - I am one of the "organised ones" in our uni circles, but I have switched over to more "I'll be doing x on y date at z time, come if you want" rather than more detailed plans
  • another friend independently deciding they weren't happy with their current social life and picking up the role of instigating social activities
  • turning up to social stuff organised through my partner's work, and getting to know his colleagues and work-friends
  • getting in touch with an old school friend for a drink and a catch up every so often
So, basically, I've been putting some effort into having the social circles I want, and it has been paying off. I am glad about this, and I hope it will continue to go well.)

But anyway, back to the creative-energy-food thing: on the one hand, I am happy that I get to make delicious food, and feed it to people who appear to enjoy it. But on the other hand, I can't help but feel a little bit...dissatisfied?...about the fact that the area I've been pouring energy into is an art that is by its nature transient, and which is not necessarily appreciated as an art by wider society (unless you're doing elaborate masterpieces like the kind of thing you'll see on GBBO). I'm not sure what to do with these feels, so I'm putting them in a box until I do know, and carrying on with my current plan of attack i.e. put energy into things that feel good, don't bring out the guilt stick when writing or whatever doesn't happen, etc.

Okay, that's a lot of disjointed thoughts, so let's move onto the "stuff I read":

Vet in a Spin, by James Herriot (reread) - James Herriot is one of those things that's really easy to reread - familiar, funny, somewhat episodic. This is the 6th in the series - the comic memoirs of a vet in 1930s rural Yorkshire. I was using this as a calming bedtime read.

Assorted Harry Potter fics - and I found a couple of REALLY GOOD but UNFINISHED ones, gah. Need to remember my AO3 password so I can bookmark them. One was updated last month, so I have hopes of it being finished, but the other is very clearly dead, and I should have known better than to start reading a clearly dead and unfinished thing by an author I know does super good emotional stuff. Oooh well!

The Dark Tower I - III, by Stephen King (reread) - or "My Tower Is Dark, My Books Are Long", as Chuck Tingle apparently called it recently (very good name). A good friend at uni, whom I have sadly fallen out of touch with, pushed the Dark Tower on me in my second year. I read the first five, but then for whatever reason never got to VI and VII. I remembered this the other day, and decided to give them another shot (but I'd forgotten so much that I figured it would be sensible to reread from the start). Also I'm drawing a map of it, because I found one online and disagreed with it, and because I'm a sucker for fictional maps (I want to paint Middle Earth and Pern and The Lands Beyond on my walls ifwhen I own a house). The world/setting is still as fascinating as before, but this time I'm a bit more conscious of how crap King is at writing women. Going to suck it up to get through them and sate my curiosity about this damn Tower, but duuuude please, write about a woman without mentioning sex or genitals or creamy thighs. Just once?
wickedace: A small, purple, plush dragon (Default)
I mentioned a couple of weeks back that I had a writing idea! I am making... slow progress with it, but more than no progress. It's a bit like...
  • Spent a few days enthusiastically writing up the flashy action scene that was the original seed of the idea
  • Started trying to write a beginning for the story, character introductions and that kind of stuff, but didn't really know what I was doing with it
  • Took a break for a while because all the handwriting was making my wrist flare up
  • Came back to things, having given up on the idea of "starting at the beginning" for now. Wrote a couple of bits of dialogue that would go after the flashy action scene instead
  • Tried describing the idea to a friend at the pub, and ended up working out how to flesh out one of those bits of dialogue a bit more. (Haven't written this down yet, but it reassures me that the idea isn't dead yet.)
I haven't been writing this weekend, but I will probably try and tease out a little more of the idea on the train on Monday morning, or some point this week.

Plus, a stuff-I-read roundup! Just the one book this time:

Carry On, Rainbow Rowell. The premise for this book is a bit silly - it's an original piece of fiction based off fictional fan-fiction of a fictional piece of fiction, which was key to the plot of Rainbow Rowell's previous work of fiction, Fangirl. But, it's very good! Fangirl was a story about a girl who is very active in the fandom of a fictional Harry-Potter-alike, Simon Snow; Carry On is a final year Drarry-fic equivalent for the Snow universe. Rowell does a supreme job of making the whole thing feel familiar, even though we've not followed Simon through all the previous years of school like with Harry. (I think part of this is exactly because she's using the Chosen One story and fic tropes that I'm familiar with - but it works very well, and I found it enjoyable.)

wickedace: A small, purple, plush dragon (Default)
I'm having one of those kind of days. You know, the kind of day where it's been a perfectly good sort of day, and then suddenly the melancholy hits and you're just sitting on the train home feeling blank and miserable. I'm probably tired. Some of the melancholy was from thinking about my writing, namely how I haven't been doing any and can't think of any plot threads to get me going. So, I figured I'd pop over here and write up a post about what I've been reading, because that's at least a kind of writing, even if it isn't the fiction I'd like to be doing.

So, here goes.

Sense & Sensibility, Jane Austen (10%). I jumped into this off the back of Pride & Prejudice, but got quickly distracted. I think the fact I'm more familiar with the plot from P&P gives me a bit more staying power for the narrative. Maybe I need to read S&S& Sea Monsters first, to get into the swing of things.

The Immortals Quartet, Tamora Pierce (1 1/4 books). Again, I got distracted halfway through these. They're much better than the Lioness quartet in terms of plot pacing and so on, which was my big complaint with the Lioness books, so it's good to see Pierce growing into her writing. But I just can't bring myself to be as interested in Daine as I was Alanna. I suspect if I read these a decade ago, I'd have been all about it - I wrote my fair share of Girl Talking To Wolves stories back then - but I'm just not feeling it right now. Perhaps the long gap while I waited for the physical books to arrive didn't help, either.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle. I've read a few Holmes short stories before, but never any of the novels, and not all of the short stories, either, so when I saw a complete collection for just 99p on Kindle, I figured, why not. I've since devoured the lot (bar His Last Bow: An Epilogue of Sherlock Holmes, and about half of The Valley of Fear, in both cases because I have a limited capacity for dealing with the stuff with third-person narration about some random people rather than Watson writing first-person about Holmes). Now I'm sad to have run out, and having Opinions about crap adaptations of the character.

Reading the short stories, the Holmes I see is an intelligent, introverted man, with excellent knowledge of his specialist area, who is pleasantly polite in company, occasionally rude to his close friend Watson, of whom he is clearly fond but willing to leave to his own life. He is terse when he's concentrating on work, well-respected and -liked by the police officers he encounters, and excellent at inviting confidences from strangers, particularly women, by means of good conversation. He takes cases out of interest, usually in the problem as an intellectual challenge, but often also interest in the outcome, and he has a clear set of morals which he uses to guide his handling of cases where the 'good' and 'bad' are blurred. Compare this, then, to Robert Downey Jr's generic-Hollywood-genius, of the "too busy doing mad science on every topic to tidy up". Yes, canon Holmes is messy, especially when thinking, but he explicitly rejects knowledge not related to his problem domain (e.g. playing music to flies??). Compare also, to both Robert Downey Jr and Benedict Cumberbatch when it comes to social skills - both are frequently rude and rarely, if ever, display the general pleasant politeness of canon Holmes. In both cases, it feels a lot like we've jammed a lot of a modern "eccentric genius with no social skills" trope onto what was originally "eccentric genius who doesn't always care to follow social norms". And the clinginess! Canon Holmes is like "oh you're going to marry Mary? Fine, I guess. I'll miss you. But you can come out on my detective romps anyway when you want to.".

But, anyway, yeah. Like I said, Opinions. I think we've hit on a "look, you're wrong, you're wrong, give it to me I will adapt it properly for you" topic. (On a different note, holy racism, Batman. The Sign of Four is particularly horrendous, but there are a lot of places where the Victorian racism shines out, and that did sort of lessen the enjoyment factor. I think I'd only read some of the least-racist shorts before now. Eesh.)

I'm not sure what to go read now that I'm done with Holmes. I suppose I could go back to those ones I'm halfway into, but eeeh. Maybe I'll go find something to reread. Or blast through something on Netflix.
wickedace: A small, purple, plush dragon (Default)
 So, the initial honeymoon burst of enthusiasm for writing and writing stuff got knocked out at speed by an unexpected bout of very nasty cold which has had me horizontal for as much as possible of the last few days. But! I am on the mend, and while I've not done much writing, I have done a bit of reading, so I thought it might be nice to post about some of the things I've read lately.

Song of the Lioness quartet, Tamora Pierce. Having been recommended Tamora Pierce books on and off for, like, a decade, just before Christmas I finally downloaded one of them (because people were telling someone else to read it...), and promptly devoured all four Lioness books in under a week. Turns out, this is exactly the sort of thing I'd have enjoyed as a kid. I still enjoyed it as an adult, but as an adult I've got a bit more of a critical eye when it comes to things like narration style and because-of-some-plot hand-waving of events, which took me out of things a little. Not enough to stop me wanting MOAR, though - I'm about to start on the Immortals quartet (which I have only just got hold of, because apparently you can't get them on UK Kindle, so I had to buy physical copies).

The Courtesan Duchess, Joanna Shupe. Shameless, indulgent smut. Which I haven't ever really sought out, outside of fanfic. Plot: suitably ridiculous; characters: appropriately tortured and emotional; sex: weirdly concentrated at the start of the book - I guess I'm used to slow-burn fic, where the emotional agonising comes first.

Best of My Love, Susan Mallery. I was hoping for switch-your-brain-off romance, but AUGH all of the characters speak like textbooks. "I feel this so I am doing that which is making me feel the other." INCLUDING the men in the scene which is meant to be about how men don't talk about how they feel! (Read it all anyway. But, yeah.)

Running on Air, eleventy7 (Draco/Harry fic) (reread). (I have accidentally become a fan of Drarry fic, oh dear.) This, friends, is beautifully written. It feels like an artsy film student project, all lingering shots of overly-golden wheat fields and white lines flicking past on the tarmac. And it was lovely, even on a second reading while I was ill.

Stay: A Novel, Allie Larkin (reread). One part "ugh I'm ill what else is on my Kindle", one part "hey I'm halfway through rereading this", one part "wow, Best of My Love was bad, let's remember what an enjoyable romance looks like". I like this one. I recommend it.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. I'd actually never read this until this week! While ill and flicking through Netflix, I came across the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies film (I have read the P&P&Z book, which I guess is almost like reading P&P...) and decided to fill some time with it. I then got really annoyed at what they'd done to it, and had to go read actual P&P. (They'd tried to action it up and make the zombies the focus of the plot - but in the P&P&Z book I'm pretty sure the zombies are just wallpaper for, well, P&P. Much better.) I'm glad I didn't have to study P&P at school, because I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it then (I was too busy being aggressively anti-femme, which included anti-romance in any and all forms), but I very much enjoyed reading it now. I really want to rewatch the Keira Knightly film, which I sort of saw when it came out, but didn't pay proper attention because I was too sugared-up/determined to dislike it/busy going to the bathroom because of all the Coke I'd drunk. Sadly, Netflix only has the BBC miniseries, and I don't think I can face watching something with Colin Firth as the male romantic lead. (I suspect I am a generation too young to have appreciated Colin Firth as a romantic lead. Or maybe not. Maybe I just don't really like his face. It's probably because I hate Love Actually. Sorry, Colin.)

(This list is weirdly romance-heavy. Apparently it's been that kind of January. All the serious sci-fi books I haven't read are sat on my bookshelf looking very left out.)

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