Short Story: Hero

With everything that’s going on right now it reminded me of a short story I wrote first of all years ago, then edited it while on my MA. Hope you guys like it! ❤

The Hero

The Government promised they’d be prepared. The voices booming out over loudspeakers scattered through The City. They told us not to worry, that the procedures were in place and that they were ready.

It would be safe, for us to blame them; for us to take all the consequences, the tragedy and the destruction and lay it at the feet of those faceless officials, protected in their pristine offices. It would be nice for us to sit here and point the finger of guilt at them. It would be nice.

For a while we blamed the idiots. Those mindless fools that believed all the slimy condescending rubbish and propaganda spin that the Government dished out in spades. They believed them and so did nothing. They sat in their homes and ate their pre-packaged convenience foods and watched their empty televisions safe in the belief that they would be taken care of; that they would be safe.

It would be nice to blame the idiots, ignorant in their faith. It would be nice to turn around and shout and scream out all our hatred towards them, to spill all the poison that was created and throw it over them all.

We tried to blame the activists; the strong and argumentative. The ones that didn’t believe and the ones that fought back; they understood the ways of the Government media monkeys. They knew the people were being lied to and tried to fight against it.

It would be fairer for them to take the blame, fairer for us to force all their violence and riots back in their faces; to yell all those fucking slogans back at them until their ears bled and their faces contorted in pain. It would be nice to say that they could have done more; that they could have helped more people.

When They finally came, people were surprised and didn’t expect the chaos it caused. No-one understood why They had arrived, and no one knew what was about to happen next.

But not me, I saw it coming but did nothing. I sat and I waited. I watched all the destruction that was caused; watched as the body count mounted, as the screams echoed around the blackened remains of The City.

I waited and watched and did nothing to help.

We had built The City up from nothing and They reduced it to dust. They came into to our cosy little world and turned everything around.

It would be nice, after everything to force the blame onto Them; to turn back and shout our accusations of hatred at those blank staring eyes.

It would be easier to say that everything was perfect before They came; that The City had no problems until faced with this apocalyptic threat. To shake our heads in despair and say that They were the cause of our destruction; of our pain and hatred and death.

It would be nice to turn the blame onto those emotionless little droids with their hidden agenda and their taste for blood. It would be nice to pass the buck and scrub our hands until they were clean.

It would be nice to say I helped; to say that I was a force for good. It would be simple to play the hero. To rewrite history to become a shining beacon of hope. But I saw what was coming and did nothing. I sat and watched and waited ’til this City no longer existed.

It would be safe to blame the Government, sitting on their piles of gold. It would be simple to blame the idiots, in their identical little boxes. It would be easy to blame the activists, with their human rights and anger towards establishment.

It would be nice to blame the Androids, with their long dormant plans.

 

I hope you like it!

See you in the future!

.

Refraction by Naomi Hughes review

Refraction by Naomi Hughes

And this time I knew the genre before I started reading!

20200304_173808

5 stars (or 9 or 10 or 100)

Spoilers!

As you probably know I absolutely adored Afterimage so it didn’t take me long to order Refraction. On a side note, both books are gorgeous! The cover art, designed by Rosie Stewart is stunning and fits each story perfectly. They also look brilliant on a shelf together which warms my little book dragon heart.

20200315_104639

Onto the actual book!

Once again Naomi manages to perfectly balance the emotional rollercoaster that is having siblings and family with a clearly beloved sci-fi story. Also we have another really careful and considerate representation of mental illness in Marty’s OCD. I love that in both books we have two extremely capable protagonists who are dealing with all the crap that the plot can throw at them at the same time as coping with their mental health and illnesses.

I think Naomi does such a wonderful job showing how characters can actually be the protagonists; the hero of the story without the story being simply one about their illness or god forbid providing them with a f*cking magical cure****

While I don’t *think* this is an #ownvoices representation of OCD *** ; it is really carefully handled with such respect. I love Marty so much, especially his frustration at thinking he was “cured” only to find himself struggling with the thoughts he thought he’d overcome. I felt his pain as my own and really isn’t that what great writing is supposed to do?

This is where I surprise nobody by crying

I expected it; I really did. I mean when was the last time I didn’t actually cry at what I was reading? When Marty’s relationship with the missing Ty was introduced, I just knew it would happen eventually. When Marty and Elliot build their relationship in the fog, I expected to cry at this new found family. But when I got to the halfway point and hadn’t teared up yet turns out I had been lulled into a false sense of security.

We get to the last 50/60 pages and I am in floods. I was reading in bed so it was struggle to find a position in which I could still read (and breathe since my nose was blocked with tears) but my tears weren’t soaking the pages. Marty’s journey from being so focused on seeing Ty to understanding how positive being selfless can be was wonderful. His acceptance of his own death and willingness to make sure Mirage isn’t alone during his death was one of the things I was sobbing at.

Elliot’s journey from being so isolated, so down on himself and so desperate for his mum’s love to actually understanding that that familial love can come from some many other places and that he is such a good person and actually deserves so much more is brilliant too. His realisation that his mum’s love isn’t the only kind of love out there is perfect; and his realisation that he can be the hero in spite of what she thinks is a really nice bit of characterisation by Naomi.

Like with Afterimage Naomi manages to explore sibling relationships so well in this book and what it means to actually love someone.

I don’t think anyone can replace Kyle from Afterimage in my heart but I really did love the relationship between Marty and Elliot. Both had lost their brothers by the time the book starts but throughout the book they find siblings in each other. They hate each other or at least dislike each other so much at the start of the book but they both learn to support each other with their various issues. Elliot supports Marty with his OCD without judgement, he just protects him. Marty helps Elliot both by getting Mirage to heal him and protect him in the end but without laughing and judgement in his fears such as the scorpions.

This is just a really longwinded way of saying how much I adore Naomi’s writing. Her characters are so full of life and wonderfully real. Her worldbuilding is so immersive; her love of sci-fi is apparent on every page. Someone mentioned to me recently about trying to build a list of books that she could recommend to teenagers that dealt with invisible disabilities and mental health issues; the first books that came to mind were Naomi’s.

Anyway, enough gushing onto the next book!

See you in the future!

***turns out this is #ownvoices! I have so much respect for Naomi that she is able to talk about her own experiences with OCD so well that she can put it into her writing! I haven’t gotten to that level yet so Bravo!!

****In case it wasn’t clear, I HATE this trope. I’ve said it before and it’s so important. It’s OK to hate your disability/illness. It’s OK to be struggling. You aren’t there to be an inspiration for anyone. You aren’t there make anyone feel better. It’s possible to be the hero of your own story and just happen to have a disability. Your story doesn’t have to be just about your illness.

The Romance of Reading a New Genre

 

Let’s take the guilt out of guilty pleasures

I’ve recently been partaking in some guilty pleasures. Well, it’s not so much a guilty pleasure since I don’t actually feel guilty about it; more a fun surprise direction that my book reading has taken over the last year. These rom-com novels are like the book equivalent of eating ice cream and junk food to cheer myself up.

In the second half of last year and into this year I’ve been having fun bouts of insomnia so instead of dragging myself out of bed to watch mindless T.V. repeats at 2am I looked to my kindle to find something un-demanding that would distract me enough for my brain to switch off and let me sleep.

Enter the cheap and colourful romance books (they rarely cost more than £1.99) that I can devour in a day or less.

The characters are fun and silly but still engaging enough for me to follow and care about through the story. The story too is so often so detached from my real life that every book is the perfect level of escapism for a mind and body racked by exhaustion and insomnia.

Yes, I have on occasion cried while reading them because, well it’s me, and so would you really expect anything else? They are silly, fun, and maybe at times completely un-relatable for me but still satisfying to read.

Fun with Formulae

They are so often formulaic that within the first few pages, as the MCs are introduced I usually know what’s going to happen. But they are also completely unapologetic for this.

Filled with tropes but never problematic (at least the ones I’ve read) I can care about the characters from the first to last pages and I feel comfortable giving them 4 or 5 star ratings on goodreads. Would I compare them to some of my other 5 stars reviews? The books that have taken apart my heart and truly spoken to me? The books that have me sobbing weeks, if not months after I finish? Probably not. But I guess that’s the point in guilty pleasures, in holiday reads with splashy airport friendly covers. I don’t need them to be anything other than what they are.

I’m not looking for multiple levels, for hidden subtext and deeper meaning. If you look at my goodreads challenges you will see that I’ve started reading these ‘trashy’ romances and I enjoy it.

**On a side note, isn’t it cruel to call these books ‘trashy’ novels? Someone has sat and worked at the words in these pages; has crafted plots and characters that mean something to them. Maybe it’s not ultimately what they want to be writing, maybe it just pays their rent or some of their bills and maybe that should be enough. **

So let’s stop with the idea of a “guilty pleasure” and just honestly enjoy the things that bring us pleasure. Does this mean I’m going to stop reading all my YA favourites? Absolutely not. Does reading these books mean I’m going to give away all my favourite Science Fiction and Fantasy novels? Does this mean that China Mieville is no longer one of my favourite authors? I laugh in your general direction. It just means that for now, I am enjoying reading books that are not my usual choices at the same time as the ones that are.

Let’s just all learn to enjoy these things for what they are and what we can gain from them.

(Why do so many of my blog posts devolve into philosophical ramblings? Is that my brand now?)

Until next time,

See you in the future

Writing Epistolary Devices

In which I talk about the fun of attempting to write a full scale epistolary novel – and why I love them so much.

Regular readers of my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook will all be aware of my continued attempt at writing my first full length YA novel. My working title is ‘The Final Confessions of a Little Rebel’ and is written entirely in an epistolary format.

Regular reader will also be aware of the fact that on a personal level I have been dealing with a crap tonne of medical and health things over the past 3 years so it’s been quite a journey and I am just as surprised as anyone else that I’ve made it to this point of editing.

But using this device has meant certain constraints: it’s been a confusing 3 years of messed up tenses, my MC * Rosa, switches between the present, the recent past, the distant and very distant pasts and even slips in a few wishes and hopes for the future. I decided early on not to use formal dialogue (for the uninitiated amongst us that means using “quotation marks” and he said or she said dialogue markers) which has brought with it its own set of problems. One reason for not including the formal dialogue is that when a character is relaying the information in a letter or similar how is it possible that they can remember exactly what was said and how by each person earlier in the story? This is especially true if the MC is discussing events that happened years before.

Also, as the novel is set 40 years in the future I have to find a way to show world building and explain certain situations without just using “as you know, bob”** dialogue or explanations.

Something we learned on my Masters course was the difficulty of writing first person. If we chose to use this POV*** we needed to answer certain ‘conditions of narration’: who is telling the story, why are they telling us specifically and how are they telling us? Thankfully epistolary devices answer all of these easily.

Whether it’s a signed letter or a text message it’s easy to include the narrators’ name. That answers who is telling the story. As to telling us, again it’s pretty simple to see who the letter etc. is addressed to. It’s possible that the reader is not the original intended recipient but that can be discussed in the 3rd condition: how are they telling us? When someone throws a message in a bottle – that’s easy to know how we are reading it. A letter can be found, delivered to the wrong address or simply lost. This answers how we are getting the information, and can often help answer why they are telling us, specifically.

My Love for This Device Knows No Bounds

Keen observers (actualy casual readers too) will know how much I adore this device in literature – I have read countless books using the device, even before I decided to write my novel. Sometimes these novels ignore some of the rules mentioned above and it bugs me but I just love it so much.

I also studied writing for graphic fiction and we often talked about the gutter or the gap between panels in graphic novels in comics. There is so much that goes on in this gap. We’re expected as readers, to understand and to work out what is going on – what’s been left unsaid. Epistolary devices are the exact same. So often it’s what is not said that’s important, rather than the simple facts described by the characters.

So We Have Our Constraints, Let’s Get Writing!

I’ve also always loved first person narrations – even before the MA it was my go-to POV when writing; so my course tutor and I spent some time trying to work out how I could use it for my novel and answer those pesky conditions of narration, until we hit on it: essentially I would tell the story backwards and use a ‘confession’ or letter in order to do it.

So I had my device and I had all my constraints: time to get started.

I have to admit it took me at least a month of trying to write this before my tutor (the amazing Sam Boyce) pointed out something that should be obvious: what was happening to Rosa while she was telling this story? So that’s how the present day tense and plot-line came into being. Of course things would be happening while she tried to write her “confession” of course time is passing, and of course she will mention current events in this letter.

How did I juggle these different timelines I hear you ask? Well, as it turns out I found it a bit confusing by the end. This is where editing will come in to play!

I now have supplies to replot! Using a trick I was taught on the MA. I will be using different coloured post-it notes for different timelines/plot points so I can quickly and easily see where everything is and how it’s working!

Also since Rosa is really the only character with a voice**** it was really important to get the rhythm and the tone of her voice perfect. We also see every other character through her eyes – through her bias. I still spent some time working out the different registers**** for each character then worked out how that would get changed through Rosa’s narration.

Another important preparatory task was building up each character’s motivation and characterisation that can then get fed through the filter of Rosa’s words. Otherwise they will all be one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs just there to push Rosa’s story along. I needed to see each character as if they were the MC of their own story and then incorporate it into Rosa’s story.

I also decided to add another level of difficulty because I do in fact hate myself: Rosa is a second generation Russian immigrant and during her confession she often switches into telling the story or commenting on the events in Russian. This means I actually had to write it in Russian.

I tell you, in writing this novel fun was had by all.

And so, I have now reached the point in my blog post where I can’t quite remember why I wanted to start it in the first place. This happens frequently.

As much as I love reading epistolary novel I am now faced with editing one. I finished my first re-read about a week ago and now I am about to start my first round of edits. Right now it’s the macro stuff: the continuity, the correct characterisation; themes; plot lines (so many tenses) and most importantly that I’m actually telling the story I meant to tell.

After that I get to read the whole thing again, trying to see if I managed to do what I meant to do with my first edit. And round and round it goes until I get down to the micro-level stuff – like spelling and grammar; names etc. and until I finally feel ready to give it to beta readers – so that someone other than me can read my words. Then another couple rounds of edits in response to what my beta readers have said. Then it’s onto the scary idea of writing a synopsis and querying agents.

The Rambling Continues…

I hope that this post has at least been interesting if not always wholly coherent (much like my novel, I guess!) I’ve tried to both explain why I love epistolary novels so much and how difficult it is to actually write one. I’ve also tried to explain some of the terms I’ve so often ranted about in book reviews and other posts.

But I guess until next time…

See you in the future!

*Main character – often in writing or publishing circles people shorten it to MC for ease.

**a very common writing expression to describe dialogue describing something about the world that both characters would already know or understand; for example two brothers discussing their mother may say: “As you know, Bob when our mother died last month, she didn’t leave a will.” Why would the character explain this to the other character? Unless your character is describing something that ‘Bob’ reasonably wouldn’t know.

***Point Of View – often in writing or publishing circles it’s shortened to POV for simplicity.

****basically how the character tells the story; it’s how they see the world, the lens through which we are told things by them.

*****A term I haven’t really seen outside of the MA. It’s similar to a character’s voice as it shows the world through the lens of the character’s knowledge and experience but it’s almost another level up. With register we talk about rhythm and tone: how the character tells the story is just as important as why. The character’s life experience, education etc. will impact how they tell the story, the language they use. A register shift can be a shift in the language used because the character is describing an event that makes them particularly angry or sad, a shift away from their normal language. If we have an unreliable narrator who is lying to the reader, register can also be used to tell the reader this without changing the narrator or out and out telling the reader they are lying.

Words In Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

5 stars

20200215_132907

Spoilers ahead!

Guys! This is a whole book that not only uses the epistolary format; they have a whole aspect of the plot focused on letters and how important they are to people; how they can shape people lives and memories. How could I not love a novel like this?

Also again it’s a book dealing with grief and the relationship between siblings. It’s almost like it was written specifically for me. This is I think maybe the fourth book I’ve read this year where the relationship between siblings is one of the main story threads of the book and I love it.

I’ve probably mentioned one or two times before but I have a brother; he’s two years older than me and he annoys me so much but I love him so much more.

I spent quite a lot of this book thinking about what my reaction would be if I were in Rachel’s shoes. If he died and I was offered some kind of magical space that I could pretend he was still there, would I take it? Or would I try to be as open and public about it as I try to be about other areas of my life? Not for pity but maybe as a way to understand things, a way for me to grasp the enormity of how my life would’ve ended with him, would’ve been changed and reborn.

One of my pet hates is to buy a second-hand book and find it’s been written in and marked up and changed but I also think that’s what could be so beautiful about the Letters Library. That those notes can be cherished as glimpses into someone else’s life; as Rachel would say they can be the transmutation of memories. It’s a library of people.

We all know how much I love epistolary novels and I loved that Crowley managed to tell multiple stories and love affairs in a single book, using this technique. It’s one of the reasons I love this device so much: it’s telling the stories between the lines. What happens in the gaps is the important bit.

So it’s not just a love story of two best friends. It’s not just the despair of two ex-lovers, or a new doomed almost romance between two people whose identities are secret; or the budding friendships and stumbles of love. It’s all of that in just 288 pages and it’s beautiful.

Ok enough gushing about the device and onto the plot!

Henry was wonderful. Yes he was a complete idiot when it came to Amy and was entirely clueless about Rachel. It might just be me but I was really annoyed by Henry’s assumption that Rachel has just forgotten him or doesn’t miss him after moving away because she stops writing back to his emails. But I loved how he thought in books; how poems could become such monumental things; like how he starting quoting poetry and singing lyrics when he was drunk. I loved his love for George – that he would try again and again, regardless how badly things went to see her happy. I love that he saw his life in terms of the bookshop, his relationship to his parents was tied to books – the books like Great Expectations that forms his views on his parents relationship (notes from his mum and dad were left to each other in the Letters Library; his relationship to his whole family is told in books – how they discuss them at Friday night dinners.

George was brilliant too – I was so heartbroken when I realised she had been writing to Cal. That they had fallen in love and she was finally able to let herself be vulnerable only to be met with the pain and grief of losing them. It was heart-breaking waiting for Cal’s final letter; waiting for when Rachel and George would learn the truth of each other and waiting to see how Rachel would finally break the news to George.

I was secretly hoping for a happy ending that somehow the bookshop would be magically saved at the end – maybe Fredrick would buy it out or something but there did seem to be a nice resolution to everything. I have to say though that Michael just deciding he’d bugger off and go travelling for a while not even considering his kids – what if they didn’t want to live with Sophia? – was a bit of a dick move.

This sounds like me just listing all the characters I loved but I thought Rachel was so well done. As I said at the beginning of the post I can’t imagine losing my brother. I think it was handled really well – Rachel was trying to find her way through her grief; find her way through being back home with people who used to know her. Obviously an easy way through for her would be to be angry, to push everyone away, and to lie to everyone.

All in all I really, really liked this book. I absolutely adore epistolary novels and I loved a book full of books. I went in to this book not really knowing much of what to expect other than the device; it had siblings; it had explorations of grief and it had letters – pretty awesome.

See you in the future! ♥

Afterimage – Naomi Hughes Review

Afterimage by Naomi Hughes

5 Stars (and some more…)

20200214_110434

Figuring out the genre AFTER I started reading (yes this was a bad attempt at a bad pun)

As always this review is going to contain spoilers.

I follow Naomi on twitter and had been lusting after this book for a long time. Despite reading the blurb and following Naomi I honestly had no idea what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect a sci-fi adventure. I know I know, the blurb on Goodreads actually says “In a race where the fabric of time and space is at stake, they must figure out who caused the explosion before the culprit comes back to finish Camryn―and her city―off for good.” I should’ve known but whatever. I saw that there was a possible ghost and grief/death so I went for it.

I loved this book. I loved Camryn’s complicated relationship with Kyle. I loved the representation of panic disorders and issues of anxiety. I loved the little loving nods to all the various sci-fi shows and films that Hughes loves (I love a lot of them too, to be honest).

I liked that she was clear how debilitating anxiety can be but it is still possible to function and that even after dealing with huge events the anxiety and dark thoughts can still be there, it’s just finding a different way of dealing with that anxiety.

I used to find making phone calls unbelievably stressful. I know this is a common problem for people so you might not be surprised by this. I often found it so hard that if I couldn’t email or maybe text I would just not engage and lose out on certain opportunities or wouldn’t get support I needed but could only get access to on the phone.  I have found ways around it. I still struggle with it at times but I have techniques and ways of dealing with it now. I can use the phone now; this helps my life immensely. The anxiety is still there, it still causes problems but I can deal with it. That particular part of my anxiety is manageable.

I love Kyle. Many of you will know I’m currently doing a re-read and first edit of my own novel that has a really important sibling relationship itself so it was really great to read this sibling relationship.

I loved that in a way, Cam was dealing with the loss of Kyle before she ever really lost him. For Cam, the fact that Kyle isn’t really there during her hospital stay and recovery; it feels like she’s lost him already. Of course, she doesn’t know the whole story at that point in terms of her Mom being a suspect but it doesn’t stop her feelings of loss and betrayal being real in the moment.

As you all know by now I tend to cry at any book I read – it’s actually rarer that I don’t cry as opposed to when I do. So of course it’s not surprising that I cried. I loved Kyle from the start; I loved how much he loved Camryn regardless of everything. I loved how similar he was regardless of any timeline. I was sobbing the second time he died. When Cam got to hold him and see him slip away. When he showed how much he loved her in that tiny little exchange when they’re both covered in blood. I especially love his last words of the book, not even looking at Cam – and it would seem without caring until:

“If you break her heart, I’ll kill you,” Kyle calls lazily

Kyle is by far my favourite character of this book.

The way Naomi managed to merge issues of anxiety with Cam dealing with the grief of her mum, then Kyle’s death is really wonderful. Where does the trauma of a mental illness end and the trauma of losing a parent or sibling begin?

Yes, as it turns out this is a sci-fi novel, written by someone who is clearly a sci-fi fan herself. But it’s so much more too. It’s falling in love; it’s losing everyone who makes you, you; it’s finding them again; it’s dealing with your own mind and what happens when your own body betrays you.

Put simply, I loved it. Go read this book.

See you in the future! ♥

We Are Enough

Feel Good Movies for a Rough Time Ahead

Just a note, there will be spoilers in this post!

1st February 2020. That’s the date I decided to finally start my reread of Rosa’s story; which marks the start of my editing journey. I have to admit I am absolutely terrified. It’s taken me over 3 years to write and I haven’t read any of it since the end of 2017.

So much has happened in those 3 years; and I guess, I know how much of myself I’ve put into those pages. Yes, of course it’s fiction. I know and totally understand that Rosa’s journey is different from mine but I also know that I put a lot of my life into hers: she has two wonderful parents and an incredible big brother; all of whom love her. Although not literally, we both went through trauma and difficult times – the question is, how much of my trauma did I give her? What am I really going to read, Rosa’s trauma or mine?

That however, is not the point of this post. Today I wanted to look at some of the ways we make ourselves feel better; more specifically the films we watch to cheer ourselves up.

We all have them. The films that we turn to when life feels too hard; when we’ve just had a hard day – basically when we need to warm and fuzzy inside, as I’ve heard my Welsh friends say quite often it’s the film we turn to when all we want in the world is a Cwtch (don’t worry, I’ve linked to a translation for non-welsh users.)

For me, that film is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind directed by Michel Gondry. In fact I love it so much, I decided to analyse it for a Studying Film essay while an undergraduate – I rewatched the same scenes so often for the analysis, I kind of broke my DVD. I know that a lot of you might be confused by this choice. Isn’t it the story of the break-up of a relationship? Isn’t it often described as seeing what happens 6 months after the happily ever after? And maybe it is.

MV5BMTY4NzcwODg3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTEwOTMyMw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_

The film shows many different stages of a relationship: The excited high of flirtation between Stan and Mary; the heartfelt fumbling and awkwardness of Patrick and Clementine. OK so that’s ignoring the fact that Patrick kind of stalks her – maybe it’s better look at the heartfelt fumbling of the start of Joel and Clementine’s relationships. We even see the anger, lack of trust and resentment bubbling under the surface of the marriages of Rob and Carrie or Dr and Mrs Mierzwiak.

But after everything that Joel and Clementine go through in the film they still decide to try because, even after hearing all the hurtful things they say about each other (and felt by the end of their relationship) they still see something in each other. They still see the happiness they once felt together. And for the moment, that’s enough to try.

I’ve always really loved that ending. It always makes me feel better about things; it makes me think that sometimes it’s enough to just try. That sometimes that’s all you need.

So maybe I won’t ever get a cure but waking up each day is enough.

Maybe I’ll never get better enough to go back to just a walking stick, and my crutches will always be part of me but decorating them and making them mine is enough.

Maybe I’ll never feel well enough that I can stop relying on antidepressants to even out my moods; but maybe I’ll find ways to compliment them; maybe the mindfulness and meditation techniques I’m learning will be enough.

Maybe I’ll never get Rosa’s story published; maybe it’ll sit in a folder on my computer gathering dust for years to come but maybe just feeling O.K. to read it again is enough. Maybe finishing her story; finishing my story of the last 3 years is enough.

Maybe I’m enough.

See you in the future ♥

One Possible Future

The Future as imagined by an 11 year old me.

Today, while rummaging through some old papers and artwork, I came across this incredible piece of work. According to the title and date it was written in May 2000. I was almost 12 and just a few months away from starting High School. Apparently I had to come up with my vision of the future, not sure how far in the future it’s supposed to be but regardless, it’s a thing of beauty. I can’t remember writing it but now I feel the need to share it with you all. It’s actually surprisingly similar to world-building worksheets we had to develop on my MA listing the different aspects of society that would be affected or changed depending on what the world was like. And so, we begin:

The Future, written on 15/05/2000 by Rhona Tennant

Transport – In the future, we will have flying cars with a self-recycling exhaust pipe so no fumes come out. (Can we say Hybrid cars or carbon capture technologies, anyone?) We won’t have buses; instead the cars will be able to join so that more people can sit.

Energy – I think that in the future we will use a lot more wind energy. (I type this, living in a house surrounded by wind farms) We will really live up to the phrase “Waste not, want not” by using as much as we can with the stuff we have.

Food – The food will organic or it will be Genetically Modified foods. (Can anyone say plant based “bleeding” meatless burgers?) We will just to put a plate/bowl under a gap, press a button and the food comes out.

Just as an aside, I was watching a lot of sci-fi T.V. back then – I mean, not much has changed but it may have tainted my view of the future somewhat.

Education – We will have virtual reality teachers and schools but we could have brain implants implanted at birth will all the knowledge we would need for the rest of our lives. (This is honestly one of my favourite ideas. That we could possible understand what knowledge we’d need for our entire life at birth!)

Housing – Because crop land is valuable we won’t want to damage the Earth by building; so houses and buildings will be in floating pods.

Communication – The communication will be so advanced that it will be voice activated control, so you could be linked to your computer on a head-set and just say “Hi mum” and it phones your mum. (Yea, we don’t have voice activated devices like Alexa or Siri.)

Entertainment – Instead of having a T.V. we will have things like the holodecks in Star Trek. (I wish….although we do have VR headsets.)

Weather – There will be more extreme weather on Earth due to global warming like even more heavy rain, snow, and sun. (Can anyone say current climate disaster?)

Recycle – Everything that can be recycled will be recycled because of how much stuff had been wasted in the past.

Water – Because water supplies have been polluted in the past, water processing; concentration and creation will play an important part.

Waste – Wasting something that could be recycled will become a criminal offense. (A bit harsh, perhaps.)

Medicines – We will have a cure for cancer but not for the common cold. Instead of injections we will just have to breathe in a gas with medicines in them. (This is happening too; and has been happening for years to treat asthma etc.)

Genetics – Genetically Modified people will wipe out lots of inherited diseases (The wonders of stem cell treatment and research! This might actually happen soon. Also genetically modified people? Can you say designer babies anyone?) If we have a mental handicap (For fuck’s sake, 11 year old Rhona, why the hell are you using those terms instead of, you know, something or maybe anything else???) at birth it will be fixed by computer.

I then go onto the start of a short story, which I’m not going to include but was written in epistolary format; showing that even back then this was one of my favourite literary devices.

But guys, I’m so in love with what I wrote. A young, somewhat naïve 11 year old thinking of what the world could be like. I even managed to come up with versions of technology and scientific theories that are here or coming soon. How cool is that?

So this was my writing, age 11 so I hope it’s safe to say I’ve gotten better over the year but who knows. February, when it finally arrives, is the jumping off point of rereading and editing Rosa’s story. Wish me luck!

See you in the future! ♥

Looking Back Is Harder That You’d Expect

I started to write a sort of year in review blog way back at the start of December. I thought I could do an overview of everything that happened last year; I thought I could write it all down and then pick out the positives.

But after trying to work through it for just over a month I gave up today. Instead I give you this slightly rambling meander about what I’m going to write this year.

Last year ended up being really hard, for a variety of reasons – some of which I’m still dealing with and to be honest I am still struggling. But last year was also exciting, exhilarating, terrifying and exhausting.

I got to go to Dublin with my dearest Mammy; got to bid farewell to sewing professionally by designing and making my wonderful friend’s wedding dress. I went to The Edinburgh International Book Festival; bought far more books than I’ll ever find time to read; got a couple of new tattoos; learned to drive and finally at the end of November I finished the first draft of the novel I’d been working on for 3 years.

I booked a writing day retreat for this weekend with another writing friend and I had thought I could maybe start editing there. But I haven’t even started rereading it so I’m not ready to start changing anything yet.

I’ve talked to The Mammy quite a lot about the idea of trigger warnings for books. (As some of you may know she’s a trained psychotherapist so knows what she’s talking about) I see the purpose and need for them in some instances but not all of them. Over the years I’ve read some really difficult books, I’ve struggled with subject matter that has hit just a bit too close to home and I have had to stop reading a book for a couple of days while I rehydrated and got control over my emotions again. But I chose to read those books; I decided to read them even knowing the subject matter and I kept reading, even after it got hard. So despite all the struggles with some of the subject matter I never felt the need for a trigger warning. In the case of Love From A-Z or The Weight of a Thousand Feathers I’m still kind of in the midst of my trauma with MS and no trigger warning will help with that.

But regardless; I think these topics are important. I think we need difficult books. We need the ones that’ll handle the hard issues: the ones that people can read and finally see themselves, their struggles in another person, in a book they can grow to love.

I was talking to another writer friend about this – about my propensity to cry while reading, and my need to read books that I know will probably destroy my soul in the end. We also talked about the fact that this is the kind of reaction I want from my readers. I don’t want them to suffer just for the sake of it. I don’t want to just punch their guts to make them cry. I want them to see themselves; I want them to fall in love; I want them to finally breath a sigh of relief knowing that finally, finally someone else understands.

Thing is, I know what’s happened over the past 3 years, and I know what emotions have gone into writing this book and I know it deserves the right amount of time and space before I change things. I deserve the right amount of time and space before diving back in. I know how much of myself I’m going to see in those pages; and I know what that might mean. So, for now, we wait.

But that left the question of what to write at this weekend’s writing retreat.
I thought about maybe writing some blog posts or even rehashing some short stories I started writing while on the MA but then I decided to go back even further.
I went back to the novel I’ve been trying to write since I was 17 – a novel I’ve been rewriting and adapting (I even tried to turn into a graphic novel idea and as a possible screenplay) for 15 years. After everything I learned on the MA I thought now the time was right to head back to it. I could use the pre-writing skills I learned and apply it to this project instead. I could make it into the novel I always wanted it to be.

It’s so completely different from Rosa’s story: it’s contemporary fantasy, it is (might be) dual perspective and I might even write it in third person. I haven’t shared my writing much but that’s a big departure from my usual first person narratives. (First person is just my go-to perspective when I start writing anything.) And maybe the most amazing part is that no-one dies (at least in this draft). It definitely feels strange that I’m not killing off my characters – it’s be such a common theme throughout my writing for so long.

I do still want to address mental health; bullying and finding yourself. Your teen years are such a huge, important phase for so many people and these themes are so often so prevalent and pervasive throughout that the idea of writing YA and not including these issues is strange.

This does mean heading back to my own teen years, though; it means looking back on the bullying I faced; it means seeing how much of my 17 year old self I originally put into that story and it means going back to the dark feelings of my own depression I hope I’ve dealt with.

Writing my chapter breakdown and synopsis is the plan for this weekend and maybe I’ll find out that it gets easier the further back you look.

Acknowledging Endings When They Come.

This year I started seeing a therapist. At first it was through the MS society; because (and I freely admit this) I was really needing help coming to terms with my diagnosis and accepting that my life may be different from the way I’d envisioned it but not necessarily bad or wrong. After 6 sessions I decided to continue with her privately.

One thing that has come up repeatedly is how I deal with endings and loss. I am going through a form of grief as I come to terms with my diagnosis – it’s long and never straightforward and really, really hard.

There have been quite a few changes and losses over the last few years – most obvious really is that I have now made the decision to stop sewing; to give up being a professional seamstress.

This means a change to my business model; to my blog; to everything really. But I’m getting there.

I started my MA near the end of 2016. That was 3 whole years ago. A lot has happened in that time. As part of our pre-start homework we had to come up with 20 possible story ideas – one of which could eventually become our major project. Thus Rosa’s story was born. A tiny little paragraph of a story idea; that really doesn’t relate to much of the novel once it was finished. But it was a start.

So Rosa has been with me for 3 years; been with me through everything – through every ending and loss that I’ve had to deal with. She was even there while I was lying drugged up and barely conscious in Hospital.

On the 15th September 2016 I came up with the idea for Rosa’s world and on the 29th November 2019 I finally got to write The End on my first draft.

20191129_110717

This ending has been much harder than I expected. I spent the last week of November close to tears at all times and was maybe a bit unconsciously avoiding getting to that last line by sometimes only writing about 300 or 400 words a day.

word count

A screencap of my word count tracker for my novel

I know that this isn’t the end. I still have a long way to go until I let other people read this; until Rosa’s story is ready for the rest of the world BUT it is AN ending. After discussing it with my therapist I knew this was an important ending to mark and acknowledge. Rosa is a second generation Russian immigrant in Scotland and she often slips in and out of Russian while telling the reader of her adventures. She suffers losses in the novel too so I came up with the perfect way to say goodbye; to let Rosa say goodbye to her family too.

I held a funeral wake. Well, after reading about funeral traditions in Russia I held a make-shift wake. The biggest features of a wake tend to be feasts and remembering and saying goodbye. So I ate special food (blinis, smoked salmon and caviar and home-made black bread with sour cream) and offered a shot of vodka covered with a slice of bread to the spirits of Rosa and her family; in a kind of symmetry to breaking bread with someone when you first meet.

20191203_155547

It felt right to say goodbye to Rosa like this (yes I did taste the vodka, and yes it tasted exactly what I’d expect nail varnish remover to taste like) to say goodbye to the last 3 years of my life; and the version of Rosa that was born from that.

And so here I am, forcing myself to take a break for a few weeks before re-reading the novel and starting the long process of editing. It’s been harder than I expected now that I don’t have writing to do. So I have been trying to get back into baking and trying to find something to occupy my time. I have been instructed by my therapist however, not to fill up every minute of the day. I need time to process she said. I guess maybe I do.

20191204_095628

Why was it so hard to take a non blurry photo? Perhaps we will never know…

Next year will also bring changes and endings. Next year will bring them for Rosa too. But for now I’m relaxing and finding new things to read and even thinking of completely different things to write.

Goodbye Rosa; thank you for staying with me this far ♥