Tuesday, January 31

The Great 2 A.M. Wasp Drama

So on Sunday night, I'm casually headed to bed after a not-so-fun day at my job that I don't really love too much, and a night of far too much youtube, when I happen to see that there's a GIANT-ASS WASP on my bedroom wall.

I hate wasps. I really, really, really hate wasps. They're like the sick result of a three-way between a bee and an Orc and Satan. Usually I would just scream and slam the door and avoid the wasp-infested room for as long as humanly possible... but my bed was right there. I was tired. I was already in my pyjamas.

So I decided to be brave and went (okay, ran) to the kitchen to get what is possibly the most ridiculous weapon available for a war against the devil's spawn: a long-handled bright pink feather duster.

I had a vague plan to smoosh the wasp in the feather duster and then shove it out of the open window from whence it came, but as I stood at the door to my room I sorta lost my nerve. The more I stared at the wasp, the bigger and scarier it looked - I'm sure it grew from the size of my thumb to a decent-sized rabid terrier. What if the smooshing went awry? What if it escaped and stung me, or - even worse- GOT STUCK IN MY HAIR?!

This whole situation just crystallizes my plan that when I'm a grownup I'm going to have an industrial strength beekeeper's suit in every room. Actually, make that in every corner of every room.

So I figured the safest thing to do would be to gently shoo the wasp towards the window - but the bastard would not be shood. I'd fluff the feather duster at it and it would fly up and freak me out and settle down a meter away from where it was.

HEY LOOK, I drew you guys a picture of my epic struggle between woman and beast!


So every time I got it flying I would suppress a shriek and bolt out of the room. For something so obviously menacing, it didn't seem to have much forethought going on, because it wouldn't go to me and it wouldn't go out of the window, it just hovered around aimlessly like a big dork. Then it'd just settle down on another obviously-not-window part of the room. We carried on this stressful dance of lameness for a fucking hour.

At one point I got ridiculously hopeful because I saw it dart behind the curtain of an open window, heard it buzz a bit, and then stop. It MUST have flown out! Already feeling victorious, I gave the curtain a little prod to make sure it wasn't just sitting on the other side. Nothing. I started to relax, giving it one last sharp poke just to reassure myself. Out zooms the fucker, circling me (and I'm sure I heard its buzz go a bit higher in its waspy lulz) before sitting quite resolutely on the light in the middle of the ceiling.

The wasp and I had battled it out for the territory of my room, and it had won. I admitted miserable defeat and went to sleep on the couch in the lounge.

Now, you guys know I'm a sensitive soul, right? Here's another fun fact about me: I don't react well to sleeping in strange beds. Most times I'm not in my own bed, I don't sleep at all. And if I do, I have weird icky dreams and wake up feeling hungover.

Lying on the couch covered in blankets that smelled a bit like cat, I was prepared to have an uncomfortable sleep. What I didn't expect was the epic nightmare I had about evil ghosts that were eating my soul. I'm not even exaggerating, this was some trippy existential shit. And it had one of those awful patterns where you wake up and think everything's okay but then it turns out you're still in the nightmare, so you wake up again but you're still there, so you wake up again...

Eventually I woke up for realsies and decided no amount of scary wasps would make me stay on that couch for another second. So I got up, checked that I still had my soul, (just in case), and went to my bedroom.

The wasp was still sitting on the light, its wings closed. It suddenly looked small and unimpressive. It was minding its own business. I let it be.

I left the door open and climbed into bed. I'll admit I had the covers up over my head until I got too hot and tired to care anymore.

In the morning the wasp was gone.

HELL YEAH IT WAS. Apparently I'm most intimidating when I'm unconscious.

Friday, January 27

Tiny Hibernation Post

No review today because I didn't finish a book this week. I think I've forgotten how to read.

But for your merry amusement (and to prove that I'm not dead) have a snoring dormouse:

I love the way his little hands move up and down, like he's knitting a dream-sweater!

(Regularly scheduled tomfoolery and skullduggery will resume on Monday.)

Wednesday, January 25

Keep Your Trenchcoat Closed

A writer's impulse to flash can be a dangerous (and occasionally illegal) thing.

Because once you're past that point of OMG OTHER PEOPLE SEEING MY WRITING IS LIKE FALLING INTO BOILING ACID FULL OF SHAME AND REGRET, well, it's rather pleasant to show your writing off. Especially when (not to name names) certain relatives and fellow amateur writers say nice things to you.

Things like:
I like this.

This is nice.

This is great.

This is excellent.

This is my favourite thing ever.

You should be worshiped as a goddess.

Of course, there are those negative (oh, excuse me, I meant constructive, helpful, and my personal favourite: just being honest) comments that send your ego screeching back into the boiling acid stage. But more often than not, I find if people don't like something they just wander off - someone who takes the time to comment is generally pleased with the thing.

And that praise, however lukewarm, tends to be a little addictive. For a sensitive (read: cripplingly insecure) soul like mine, there's something edifying about someone (often a stranger) telling you that what you're doing is worthwhile, that something you made had an effect on someone else.

And there are so many options for flashing now: between FictionPress and Jottify and Livejournal and Smashwords and blogs and facebook notes and haikus that fit into tweets. It's all about showing off, pimping, and the instant gratification of comments, likes and shares. And all the cool kids are doing it - tweeting lines from their books and even posting 'deleted novel scenes' to their blogs (which I really don't get - isn't that the literary equivalent of serving leftovers to dinner guests?)

While deep in this oversharing phase, I happened upon the first piece of advice in Dorothea Brande's Becoming A Writer: Don't whore out your amateur stuff, you idiot. It's counterproductive.

Okay, maybe I'm paraphrasing. But that's the gist, and it's been bothering me ever since.

I have the manuscript for my first novel, Sarai, complete and sitting on my laptop. I could format it tonight and have it up on Smashwords by tomorrow. And that is so bloody tempting - but I know it's not good enough yet. It's far from good enough. It's embarrassingly inadequate, actually.

But the truth is that I've posted writing - here and on my Jottify account - that I didn't like, that only marginally passed the not-embarrassingly-inadequate mark.

But I posted it anyway, because it was 'good enough for the internet.' I flashed it because I wanted a reaction, even if it was just a passing like by someone who simply hoped I would like their stuff back. But the hard truth is that unless someone is a professional writer or editor, their opinion, however glowing, will not make you into a better writer.

So I've made a resolution to keep my trenchcoat closed, and face those hard edits, ask those hard questions of myself and make my work stand up to my own (punishingly high) standards, rather than taking the easy road and flashing bits that I know aren't at their best yet.

Do you think writers these days - especially n00bs like me - suffer from chronic oversharing?  Share (or overshare) your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, January 23

Amazing Guest Post: Top Ten Torrid Moments In Period Film

In a recent post, Dasia listed my blog Yearning for Wonderland as one with which she’d most like to do a post-swap. 

I have never guest blogged. However, given that Dasia sometimes writes her posts by MASHING HER BOOBS ON THE KEYBOARD, I felt confident in writing this post as I, too, have boobs.

Also, as you can see from the previous paragraph, I have mastered her advanced blogging technique of ALLCAPS. This technique shows how EXTREMELY IMPORTANT THESE WORDS are. See, don’t they leap right off the screen?

These techniques (boob mashing and ALLCAPS) are but two of the reasons why Dasia is my blog/Twitter buddy/Siamese twin separated at birth. She is also brilliantly funny, not to mention the originator of the “Benedict Cumberbatch weequashing in crisp twilight” meme. I kid you not. 

Well, okay, I’m kidding about the separated Siamese twin thing…unless they found a way to separate us by *gasp* nine years. Time traveling Siamese twins! I think I’m onto…no, I’m just digressing.

As I pondered how to transcend my own whimsy for DHAB, I direct messaged Dasia on Twitter.

In typically Dasia fashion, she immediately popped back with:

A splendid solution - I could write a post on period films that would be too saucy for my own blog and yet likely bore Dasia’s jaggedly sophisticated readers to tiny tears of despair.

I started researching this post, if you call eating  a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and numbing yourself with endless video clips of men in tight-buttoned pants (excuse me, BREECHES) as research.

For inspiration, I stared a lot at this photo:

Then I went to the kitchen and made some nachos. I decided I needed further inspiration, so I stared awhile at this photo:

This is how you can tell I am a real writer. I intersperse my writing and research with lots of eating (hard) and daydreaming (harder).  I watched endless clips of period pornography, involving lots of glove squeezing and longing glances. I suffered, gentle reader, so you need not. 

Saturday, January 21


Can we talk about Sherlock now OMG.

Here be spoilers, carry on if you dare! Or if you already know!

Or if you don't care.

By the way, this isn't so much a "review" as a very long, disconnected, slashful, ALLCAPS SQUEEFEST. Cool? Cool.

So I couldn't imagine anything that could upstage the first season, which was the best television I've seen in years (possibly ever). But OMG, the second season completely exceeded my expectations, which is shocking because I’m one picky weequasher. I tried to tell myself it would suck, because that way it's easier to not get disappointed if it DID suck. But in many ways the second season is even better than the first, and I just can't stop thinking about it.


I’ll admit they way they ended the cliffhanger pool scene annoyed me. I was expecting explosions and wet t-shirt contests and I didn’t get any of that. Despite that, I think Scandal In Belgravia was my favourite episode of the series. The 90 minutes flew by and it gave me so many warm and fuzzy feelings.

In fact, I might even use the trite term EX-FUCKING-HILARATING to describe this episode. It was so awesome.

Irene Adler was hot, though I don't find visible ribs sexy I think she had swag and hey, everybody likes lesbians. I also deeply respect her for pulling The Naked Man on Sherlock (pity it only works two out of three times!) 

Sherlock finally got those x-ray contact-lenses to work.

It does irk me that Adler was Sherlock’s intellectual equal except she was worse than him because she was a woman ("Sentiment is a chemical defect found in the losing side" – smooth.) That was lame.

BUT WAIT, she's gay but straight-for-Sherlock, and my big heart-wrenching THING that I had to rip out of the subtext was that Sherlock was straight for her too.

Wednesday, January 18

A Fascinating Glimpse into the Psychology of Dasia Has A Blog!

{Edited To Add: If you're at this post to see Benedict Cumberbatch weequashing, kindly skip to question 19, and from there read until the end, and then stop. If you hit the comments, you've gone too far!}

I know it's Writing Wednesday, but the thing I was going to post today was super lame. And this post is about blogging, which is sort of like writing, EXCEPT WITH MORE ALLCAPS.

I've realised far too late that today is the SOPA and PIPA blackout day. While I totally support the fight against this, I can never be as hilarious and on point as The Oatmeal about it, so check out his page today and learn more about why American censorship would break the whole internet.

Meanwhile, I've had this in my drafts for like a month...

Community Meme from Sunday Stealing! I can never resist a meme! Found through The Geeky Shopaholic.

1. As a blogger, what do you draw inspirations from for your posts?
Generally when a rant in my head / to my sister starts forming itself into bullet points, it'll turn into a post. As a rough guide, anything that excites me or pisses me off will make for a good post!

2. If you could swap blogs with another blogger for a post, who would you switch with and why?
I'd love to post on Yearning For Wonderland once, because Anna's blog a) is really awesome and b) has a vastly different tone from mine. She's all whimsy! fairies! fancy hats! and I'm all CRASSJOKES and SNARKYREVIEWS and MASHBOOBSONKEYBOARD. Come to think of it, it'd be funnier to see what she comes up for my blog rather than what I'd do for hers!

3. If your blog had a theme song, what would it be? Why?
Excuse me for the text-karaoke, I can't resist allcaps when it comes to this song. Not only is it hilariously motivational on its own, please observe this very beautiful man doing a very silly lip-sync to it.

4. What is your writing process for a post?
I usually decide on the topic about a week before it's due. Then I draft it up and feel really productive. Then I forget about it and freak out on the day it's due and spend about two hours re-reading and previewing it until I finally post. Then I hyperventilate until someone comments on it. Healthy, huh?

5. Your blog requires a cute, new, mascot - what would it be?
Well I'd be hard-pressed to find something cuter than a momonga, which was my first mascot!

squeeeeeeeeee. (source)

6. Do you feel you express your "true self" on your blog?
In a way. I'm far more honest and - erm - expressive here than in real life.* But I'm also aware that people on the internet don't care about the stuff that real-life people have to care about. So when I'm a sadface I don't post about it, I JUST SQUEE THROUGH THE TEARS.

7. What is your biggest online pet-peeve?
Oh, so many. The biggest ones are probably when people on twitter beg for followers (OMG I'm nearly at 1000 followers I just need 998 more PLS RT!!!!!!) and when bloggers put cheesy, distraction animations up - snowflakes falling, bats flying around, etc - I saw one recently where a poorly-animated twitter bird actually flew around the screen and sat in front of the text. It irks me, I feel like there's bugs on my screen!

8. If you could live in a fictional universe, where would you live? Why?
I'd live in the Pokémon universe because there isn't any intense fight-for-the-world thing going on, but it's still pretty magical. Also, you don't need an education and nobody ever dies. I'd totally apply for Team Rocket, they were my favourite. Prepare for trouble! And make it double!** 

9. You're having a bad day, you're upset, you're angry, or you're sad - what is your go-to comfort?
Tin-roof ice-cream or emo rock - I know, I know, I'm a walking cliché! 

10. What is your favorite inspirational quote?
Oh, so many. I love quotes, don't make me pick my favourite! But here's one I dig, by Goethe:

Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will.

11. If they were to make a movie based on your life, who would play you, your leading lady/man, your best friend, and your rival?
I would be played by Merrit Wever (the amazing ball of awkwardness who plays Zoey on Nurse Jackie) and the movie would be me in a padded room with a laptop surrounded by gremlins who represent the voices in my head. It'd be deep.

12. Do you think the world is going to end in 2012?
Did you know that 150,000 people die every day?  So a lot of people's worlds are going to end in 2012, when you think about it. And that number's probably gonna go up once the zombies take over. 

13. If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?
My self-worth or my thighs. I can't decide. My thighs think my self-worth would be the more mature answer.

14. What is your favorite season and why?
I love Autumn because the world cools down.

15. You've been bitten by a vampire. Would you fight it with all your undead being or would you embrace it for all it is worth?
I'd embrace it. I'd finally have an excuse to sleep in all day! And kill people all night!

16. Have you personally met any of your blogger friends?
Yes! I know Ali in real life. Though I knew her before Linguisticali Speaking was even a thing so I'm not sure if that counts. I bet it does though.

17. What does your favorite pair of underwear look like?
Your mom.

18. Have you ever drank something right from the container in the refrigerator knowing other people will have to drink out of the same container later?
 Yes, it's the first step in my plan for world domination.

19. What is your favorite word and explain why?
Oh no you didn't just ask a writer to choose a single favourite word. A short sentence is the best I can do:

Benedict Cumberbatch weequashing in crisp twilight.  ***

  • I might have mentioned that I like Benedict Cumberbatch, and his ridiculous name is one of the things I like the most about him.
  • Weequashing is a lost word I came across in The Phronistery, which is an awesome site. It means 'spearing of fish or eels by torchlight from canoes.'
  • Crisp is one of the best words ever.
  • I've always loved the word twilight and its abuse is just one of the many, many reasons I dislike Stephenie Meyer.

20. 2011 is soon coming to a close (told you I took forever to post this), is there anything you'd like to do different on your blog in the year 2012? 
Well I made the biggest change late last year by starting to post regularly and, um, putting more effort and thought into my posts. This year I want to read more about comedy and decide if I want this to be a comedy blog or an everything-blog.

If you guys are bored and you have a blog (what am I saying - everyone has a blog!) you should post this and link it back to me so I can read it!

*Although I'm quite inappropriate in real life as well - but because I don't have a week to edit the things I say in real life I come across as awkward and deranged rather than witty and ironic.
**It makes me sad that I had to google the exact phrasing of that quote. I'M SO OLD. 
***If  somebody would photoshop this scene, I'd love you forever.


The Amazing Stasia has proved her amazingness once more...
Ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you...
The picture that made me laugh until I cried tears of squee...


:D :D :D

View the larger, fancier version of this epic piece of art at my facebook page - and while you're there, click like! 

Awesome reader Lair Sapir also made a version, in which the good canoe itself announces Benedict's mission! Those eels better watch out!


So yeah....

Monday, January 16

The Amazing Dehydration Diet

Are you feeling a bit plump? A touch too fleshy? Do you dream of a flat stomach, flat butt, and flat... everything else?

Are you positively ripe for a change?

You don't have to roll yourself around anymore! Introducing The Amazing Dehydration Diet!

There's no need for special foods, pills or shakes - all you need is willpower and time! A very very very long time!

Look at Mr. Tom Ato's incredible results* with The Amazing Dehydration Diet!

"I feel great!"

*Diet only effective when you forget about yourself in a dark dry cupboard for what archeologists estimate is at least six months.

Friday, January 13

Snarky Review: No Excuses! by Brian Tracy

Oh hey, guess what? I have a facebook page now! So follow the link and click like if you want to want to keep up with me over there, or if you want to contribute to the part of my self-worth that I gain from the internet (which is a pretty big part.)


This double-negative stresses me out. NO No Excuses! This is an excuse-only zone!

Of course, I got this book because I'm a loser. I doubt many winners bought this just to feel good about themselves, right? In my constant half-assed quest to get my shit together, I figured I could get a few tips on how to stop sucking and be awesome instead. 

Here's what Brian Tracy taught me about winning:

  1. You should stop doing those things that make you a loser, and start doing things that winners do (Though I'm paraphrasing, he literally doesn't get more specific than this.)
  2. Your suckiness is at the very core of your identity and personality – so “to achieve greatly, you must become a different person.” Yup.
  3. WINNERS DON'T HAVE FRIENDS. Socializing is an overrated waste of time. Are your “friends” going to give you a yacht? No? THEN WHY ARE YOU HANGING OUT WITH THEM?
  4. WINNERS DON'T HAVE FUN. They're too busy winning. And if winning is fun, you're not doing it right.
  5. WINNERS DON'T EAT ICE CREAM. Ice cream is equal to “personal weakness, underachievement, and failure.” That's on page 13 if you want to look it up. I'm not even kidding.
  6. Winners accept responsibility for everything. EVERYTHING. Even Hurricane Katrina (p.57).

Sure, all the loser / winner talk is alienating because Brian Tracy doesn't understand that the audience of his book are obviously looking to better themselves, and so fall into the 'loser' category most of the time he mentions this great divide. But goshdarnit, Brian Tracy's a winner.

A winner who will fuck you up without getting blood on his lovely sweater.

The worst part of this book wasn't even getting called a loser every few pages, it was the constant barrage of invented terms, arbitrary definitions, and RULES. All the rules. Brian Tracy loves rules*. Rules He Can Capitalize Because That Makes It More Official. And the rule about rules is “we can put them in quotation marks because it sounds like we're quoting the Grand Handbook Of The Universe, even when no external source is noted.”

The amount of rules and invented terms is really astonishing. Because I love my readers (and hate myself, apparently) I made a list of my favourites:

Someday Aisle – the place where losers live without goals (but presumably with ice-cream?)
Excusitis – the disease losers have.
Path Of Least Resistance – the path that losers take.
The Expediency Factor   this is defined at least three times in really ambiguous terms. But I get the gist that it's something about losers not thinking of the long-term consequences of sucking so much.
The Law Of Unintended Consequences – Uh... sometimes when you do stuff, other stuff happens... that you didn't intend? Apparently this only happens to losers.
The Law Of Perverse Consequences – Not as fun as it sounds. Zip up, losers.
The Iron Law OF THE UNIVERSE MOTHERFUCKERS – It's fantastic that Brian Tracy just casually mentions this as if he irrefutably knows how the entire universe works. Also called the Law Of Cause And Effect and the Law Of Sowing And Reaping.
The Law Of Correspondence – if you suck on the inside, your life will suck on the outside. So, look around you... that's how much you suck, apparently.
Choosing Organisms – what everyone is. Because people make choices. And are also organisms. Don't capital letters look like they're having more fun? Let's put them on every word!
The Law Of Concentration – Apparently, this law ensures that whatever you concentrate on becomes a greater presence in your life. So Benedict Cumberbatch should spontaneously materialize beside me any moment now.
Response-Ability – the ability to take responsibility (?!) I'm so glad we have a term for that now.
The Failure Mechanism – an incredibly vague part of your brain that clicks your default life setting to “lame.”
The Success Mechanism – an equally vague part of your brain that is triggered by having goals, and turns your brain into the rudder / compass / ship / mermaid of your life.
Major Definite Purpose – the goal that's most important to you. So important it gets its own military ranking *salutes* Major Definite-Purpose!
Mindstorming – exactly like brainstorming, only without the copyright violation.
Just Over Broke – the hilarious acronym that the word job apparently stands for – when it comes to losers who are just getting by that is.
Personal Services Corporation – an odd extended metaphor that has something to do with growing your own stock and also investing in yourself and also making yourself a company that you work for. Ignorance is strength. We were always at war with Eurasia.

I get the feeling the first draft of this book was 50 pages long, because the amount of padding is incredible. And it's not just tangential anecdotes, it's mind-blowingly condescending explanations of really obvious things. 

Here's a list of things that apparently take at least a paragraph each to explain to the humble reader.

  • Why dinner comes before dessert.
  • When to pay in restaurants, and when to pay in cafeterias.
  • Parenting is an important responsibility (as opposed to the popular misconception 'parenting is a ham sandwich'.)
  • The (American) Constitution and the Bill Of Rights are legal documents.
  • Doing good things makes you feel good.
  • Doing bad things makes you feel bad.
  • Children are dependent on their parents.
  • Frivolous lawsuits are frivilous.
  • Writing things down is a good idea.
  • Watching TV is unproductive.
  • Homing pigeons are neat.

Like any condescending self-help book, this one has exercises. Deeply unhelpful stuff, too – every single one is a variation of Make a 'To-Do List. Do it. Loser.'

It's achingly clear that Tracy really believes that life is a competition with winners and losers, but when he puts it like this it's really a bit scary: “In biology, life forms are categorized from the least to the most complex, from single-celled plankton all the way up the increasingly complex spectrum of life to the human being. Similarly, human beings can be organized along a spectrum as well, from the least to the most developed.” (p.42)  GOSH THAT SOUNDS AN AWFUL LOT LIKE A PREMISE FOR EUGENICS.

No Excuses falls into every trap of bad self-help books (and even invents a few ones) – it's condescending, vague, unsympathetic, badly written, and, well, unhelpful. It also does that thing where arbitrary words are bolded AND italicized to bring the point home – I'm sorry, but unless the message is THIS PAGE IS POISONOUS DO NOT LICK, there's really no need for this ugly double-formatting.

This book is not about how to get your shit together, it's 293 pages of why people who have their shit together are happier than those who don't. SPOILER ALERT: because having your shit together makes you happy. 

So I'm gonna give it a big fat 1/5, or 2/10. Avoid!

*As Monica Gellar would say, “Rules CONTROL the fun.” Frankly, I doubt Brian Tracy would approve of the fun at all.

Wednesday, January 11

Short Story: A Girl And Her Skeleton

 Inspired by The Skeleton Song by Kate Nash. Since this is basically a fanfic, let's have a disclaimer: these characters are not mine and I'm not making money off them. Cool? Cool.

 Everyone thought Kate was strange. She didn't look or act particularly strange, but someone who's friends with a skeleton can't be that normal, can they?

Everywhere they went, people would ask Kate about the skeleton.

"Is that a real?"

"Does he talk?"

"Why's he wearing clothes, then?"

"Where'd you find him?"

"How does he talk? Where's his voice box?"

"Don't you like real people?"

Kate didn't know how to make people understand that the skeleton was always kind to her. When her parents got divorced, the skeleton listened to her cry and patted her back with his bony hand. When the kids at school teased her and threw prestick in her hair, the skeleton would cut out the sticky mess with such care that you could barely see the difference, and soon they'd be laughing about buying a silly hat for every day of the week.

As she got older, Kate became more conscious of herself, and of her skeleton. She used to stick her tongue out when people sniggered at her friend without flesh - now she'd blush and edge away from him.

"What's with the bone-bag?" A boy called as they walked down the street, "if ya want a real boning you know where to look, sweetheart."

The skeleton simply pulled his spine a little straighter and ignored the calls. But Kate crossed her arms and wished the skeleton didn't insist they always walk together. Didn't he have any other friends?

After she left school, Kate realized that skeletons lived a long time. The indulgent smiles some strangers gave her happened less and less – a little girl or moody teenager with a skeleton for a friend might be seen as a phase. But after she'd grown out of pigtails and later out of black nailpolish, her skeleton began to look more and more like an ominous sign of upcoming spinsterhood.

At night, Kate would lie awake and wonder how different her life would be without the skeleton. She could walk down the road with nobody bothering her. She could go to the shops and not have to deal with the awkward explanations that every passer-by and curious shopkeeper forced her into.

One night, Kate was still awake as her room began to glow with pre-dawn light. She rolled over and stuffed her pillow over her head, as if that would drown out the voices in her memory, all those worries she wished she could do something about. She quickly thumped her head on a cold metal object - a hammer. Underneath her pillow? She hadn't the faintest idea how it'd gotten there.

Tuesday, January 10

Here's The Thing About Benedict Cumberbatch...

Disclaimer: I'm just a girl with a crush on an actor. I'm not crazy, my mother had me tested.

But here's the thing about Benedict Cumberbatch. 

He’s flawless in his strangeness.

Above: beautiful alien.

Oh, it's so hard to keep my squee in check when we're talking about him. But I’ll try to explain my love using words rather than just mashing my boobs on the keyboAEFEZANJL.OHNJSDFVGJHYDSFGVA


Right, we're going to use words. Here are some words:


You might have guessed that I'm serious about Benedict Cumberbatch. I don’t mind being called a cumberbitch. I don’t mind being called a leperous prostitute with an enthusiasm for the b’cumz.  Any label that shows my devotion to this man I’ve never met is FINE with me.

The thing I love about cumberbitches (or cumberladies, cumbermuffins, cumberpuffs, what have you) is that it takes a certain sensitivity to understand why Benedict Cumberbatch is so awesome. That sensitivity usually comes with cleverness and an almost manic loyalty which makes Cumberbatch fangirls just the funniest, craziest, most entertaining fanbase I've ever come across. 

See, Ben* is not just a Hollywood hunk with fake teeth and a six-pack. He's one of those serious actors that does plays and movies about war and the past and shit. Despite his mesmerizing performance as Sherlock, he's played Stephen Hawking, Vincent Van Gogh, Victor Frankenstein, and of course, plenty of important old guys from the past. He's not famous because he's hot - 

Doesn't hurt either... *smolder smolder smolder*

He's famous because he's a fucking amazing actor. And that's exactly why I'm totally spectacularly ridiculously obsessed with him. Do you know how short my attention span is? Do you know how superficial I am? I get BORED, you guys. I get over most crushes in the time it takes me to tweet about it. But since I saw the first season of Sherlock six bloody months ago, I can't get Benedict Cumberbatch out of my head.

He defies logic. He has an unfortunate name and he's one of those cursed people who has a double-chin even when they're really skinny. Anyone that posh is usually crippled by his own privilege. He's not supposed to be a star - he's not even supposed to have the self-assurance to be an actor. But he's got this confidence, this charisma, this endless talent-tinged energy that gives you a glimpse of something far deeper than ordinary life when he performs. 

And once you get that glimpse, it's a little addictive. You end up watching really depressing period dramas and poorly written Hugh Laurie shows just to get your fix. If you're really lucky, you'll even discover a hilarious and perfect radio sitcom** that takes Benedict Cumberbatch's voice to new levels of endearing sweetness (did I mention he has great comedic timing? Because HE TOTALLY DOES.)

But it's not all perfect. So he's cheating on me and THAT'S OKAY. Apparently he's still with "designer Anna Jones" (the obnoxious air quotes will never die) whom he began dating a few months ago. I loved how on twitter all the girls were all like "ooh we're so happy for him" and I was all WHO IS THIS BITCH  and taking my earrings off. 

It's one of the perils of him being so extraordinary -  it's easy to forget that he's an actual person who lives in the world, as is his girlfriend. He wants babies, she has lovely childbearing hips. I'm sure they're very happy together (she typed as blood poured from her slit wrists onto the keyboard.) 

That neck will be the death of me.

He's lovely, and I want him to be happy of course. It's just that a big part of me wishes he'd realize that "designer Anna Jones" has a boring name, break up with her, and then one lonely night he'll be drinking red wine and on a whim decide to google his own name. And then he'll come across this blog and see what a lovely convoluted name I have (my middle name is Shamilevna, bitches, I'm fascinating) and then he'll smile and send me an adorable email and we'll chat and get married and stuff.


 *Of course we're on a first-name basis. We're dating, remember?
**Pretty please click on this link, because Cabin Pressure is the source of almost all my sitcom references nobody will get tags!


Friday, January 6

Friday Review: Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande

This book is dope.

A short but content-rich read, Becoming A Writer is a fluff-free gem of sensible advice about how to stop being a tortured artist and start being a happy and productive writer.

Written in 1934, it's a classic of the writing-on-writing genre. It's easy to see why. Even though it's been around for over 70 years, the message was fresh and relevant to me.

I repeat: dope.

There are some cool exercises, all practical things that should turn into habits rather than fill-in-the-blank homework. Some I haven't tried yet, as they tend to build on each other, but the one I love so far is getting up a little earlier than usual each day, and writing FIRST THING.

You shouldn't read (or preferably even speak) a word until your allotted writing time is up. I've done this for a few days and let me tell you: it's a pain in the ass, and it's totally worth it. Writing before consuming any information (and therefore influence) really lets you find your own rhythm and voice. Highly recommended.

Though the tone is generally kind, one moment Brande actually says that if you consistently fail at one of her exercises, you're probably not cut out to be a writer. (To be fair, the exercise was focused on discipline rather than skill.) I really respected her for saying that. Though she condemns instructors who aim to discourage writers, she doesn't offer blind encouragement either.

Did I mention this was written seventy years ago? That tripped me up a bit. Here are some fun archaic moments:

  • The word 'behooves' always makes me chortle. Behooooooves.
  • "The typewriter has made the writer's way more rocky than it was in the old days of quill and pen." Ah, the old days! When you had to climb into the eagle's nest to get a fresh quill. Good times.
  • Brande suggests that you not allow your fancy white friends judge to you for listening to "Negro spirituals" while you write.
  • NEGRO SPIRITUALS. At no point between 1934-2011 did anyone think to backspace that and replace it with something not so ridiculously offensive? 'Gospel' would've worked.
  • "Talking pictures should be very rarely indulged in." Oh, them talkies are the devil's work!
  • She uses the idea of 'duplicity' (every writer has two sides, the one that makes shopping lists and the one that writes poems about the moonlight) and spends at least five pages convincing the reader this duplicity is "not psychopathic". I guess back in the olden days of quill and pen, people spontaneously went on killing sprees after doing a particularly creative scrapbooking project.

Despite these jarringly oldschool moments, some of the advice is nothing less than New Age by today's standards. Brande encourages clear-eyed awareness exercises that would make Eckhart Tolle proud*, and the main technique she prescribes for unleashing your 'genius' is simply a focused meditation.

But you know what's really great about this book? It gets to the root of why most writing advice misses the point completely. Anyone who's suffered from writer's block, stared at a blank screen (or blank vellum sheet, their quill unyielding) or wondered why inspiration hit only once in a blue moon has usually sought advice. But studying plot structure and approaches to dialogue aren't the solution, because the problem isn't the writing, it's the writer themselves. Brande understands the personality pitfalls of being a writer and offers imminently practical solutions.

This is one of those rare books that makes you want to go write! I'd give it a 4.7/5 or 9.4/10 - if you're a writer, this belongs on your bookshelf right next to Stephen King's On Writing.

D. O. P. E.

*Does Eckhart Tolle feel proud about anything? I get the feeling he's perpetually just-okay with the universe, man.

Thursday, January 5

Writing Not-Quite-Wednesday: WIP500

I might have forgotten to mention in my incredibly generic New Year's Resolutions that in 2012 I plan to Write Everything All The Time ALWAYS.

Which is a big change from pre-2012 when I'd Write Some Stuff When I Feel Like It But Maybe I'll Take A Nap First.

So by a lucky coincidence (on Twitter: light of my life, fire of my unemployment) I came across Cara Michaels' WIP500 challenge.

Sorry, what about whips? [source]

Basically the challenge is to write 500+ words a day towards your current Work In Progress (WIP). Sadly, this does not include tweets, blog posts (unless you aim to be a pro blogger), or even long achingly witty facebook replies. Only what you're - gasp! - actually working on.

While 500 seems like a tiny number to those who've ever attempted NaNoWriMo, it really, really adds up. See, the challenge carries on for the whole of 2012, and by the end of it you'll have written 183,000 words! That's one meaty novel (The Grapes Of Wrath), or two short novels (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone), or almost 80,000 tweets. Cool, huh?

It's only been a few days, but I'm feeling pretty productive already. Cara Michaels and everyone in the twitter community is pretty supportive (check out the #WIP500 tag to see what I mean) and it's nice to connect with people who have similar goals.

If you want to join up, go to the WIP500 page and click on the right-hand 'Join' tab or find the linkytools list at the bottom of the intro post. If you're curious how I'm doing, find @awkwardoptimist on the participants page (currently I'm #11 - and I know, I'm already in need of a catch-up!) I'll also be posting about my progress here on my blog, so watch this space!

Oh, and apologies for this post being a day late (although it'd be silly to think that anybody sets their clocks by me!) I had a bit of a self-imposed internet blackout yesterday, and chose margaritas instead.

Monday, January 2

Go Build A Tree

I have almost a dozen trees outside my window, the tallest standing at least ten metres high. It struck me, while I was lying on my bed and putting off opening the first draft of Sarai, that a novel is like a tree to me. 

All those thousands of leaves (words?) anchored to their branches (chapters?), which are anchored to the trunk (of plot?), which is supported by strong yet invisible roots (themes!). Who knows how deep they go – the point is they hold the tree up against the harshest storms (of criticism?)*. These trees are calming yet interesting: serene, they have nothing to prove because they're old and know they belong here. 

The novels I love and admire are like these trees: strong, graceful, whole.

And someone telling me to write a novel is basically saying: Go build a tree.

That 'someone' is of course a part of myself. The ambitious part that wants a Jag in my driveway even though I don't drive. 

Go build a tree? It seems a bizarre and unachievable task. I may have a pile of sticks and some half-rotten leaves, but any Frankenstein's monster* I construct out of those bits would look pretty bleak. I couldn't call that odd thing a novel any more than I could call a scarecrow a person. 

I never believed I could write a novel until the 29th of November last year, when I looked back at my NaNoWriMo attempt and realised I'd written one. Maybe it wasn't just selfish ambition – it'd be nice if Sarai was a bestseller, but even nicer if the people who read it (even if it's just the four poor souls I bribe into beta-reading) would enjoy it. And if they don't? If they give me the stinkeye for wasting their time? It's dangerous for the ego, this whole writing thing. I don't know what's scarier, that the whole thing might fail – or that it might succeed and people would actually expect even more from me next time.

So here I am, with my first-draft monster made of sticks and leaves in front of me, wanting me to bring it to life. I'm rubbing the paddles together and shouting CLEAR, not knowing who I'd like to electrocute more, my novel or myself. 

But maybe if I love it enough to siphon more and more life into it, cutting away the dead bits and supporting the scrawny trunk with one of those little splints you get at the garden centre, it'll start to grow. And maybe once it's finished, a reader I've never even met would download it, fly through it in a day, throw it down and and inexplicably yell, “It's alive!”

*I promise the actual novel doesn't have so many cumbersome mixed, extended flora / zombie metaphors.