Liar

LiarI met her when I was ten, in the summer of ’89, a few days after moving into the neighbourhood. We were on bikes, circling each other, assessing each other’s suitability for best friendom. Girls then didn’t have friends; they were either best friends or strangers. Sometimes enemies.

“How old are you?” She asked.

“Ten,” I said. “You?”

“Nine,” she said.

She didn’t look nine. I couldn’t tell yet how tall she was, but she looked older than me. She had on a peasant blouse that bared her shoulders, and biker shorts, which I’d never be caught dead in because I thought they made my butt look big.

“You start your rag yet?”
I didn’t know what that meant, but wasn’t about to admit it. “No,” I said, as this seemed the safest answer.

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Book Review: Desecration by J.F. Penn

A review/critique of J.F. Penn‘s supernatural thriller: Desecration

Cover

DesecrationI must say, I am a little disappointed that the cover was changed. The old cover (lower right) was artistic and awesome, so much so that I wish I had a print version of it. I feel the brightness and colour contrasts made it stand out from other thriller covers. This one (left) looks similar to many other books, and I usually dislike faces on covers–I build up an image in my mind of the characters, and an image feels intrusive (I picture Jamie a little older and less perfect-looking). However, I do like the colours and the images of the statue and graveyard, and the cover certainly does give potential readers a good idea of what’s inside.

Story

Thriller is not a genre I normally read in (although I do sometimes read psycholigical thrillers), but the subject-matter: grave robbing, dissecting bodies,  and body modification are things I find enthralling, and I do like horror as long as it’s not too gory. I have seen reviews of this book state that it was too gruesome, but I was okay with it…highly disturbing, yes, but I like that in a book. This novel did not disappoint–those topics were well-expolored, gripping, and kept me turning the pages.Desecration, old cover

The book is fast-paced and there truly is never a dull moment. I very much enjoyed the relationship between Jamie and her daughter, and I found certain scenes very moving and emotional (big lump in throat). I felt Blake, the psychometrist, was a well-developed character and his backstory was captivating. Jamie, too, is fairly well-developed, but I would have enjoyed more backstory with her, too. (Perhaps there is more in the next two books?) I also would have enjoyed the backstory to be delivered as flashbacks, as this is a great way to change “telling” into “showing”, and brings even more life into the backstory.

I have a rather annoying knack for predicting what’s going to happen next in books, as well as working out secrets the author does not want the reader to uncover until later on. However, I was not able to do that with this book; there were many surprises and twists that I never saw coming.

There were a few points when I felt like Joanna was holding back, censoring herself. The scene at the Tortue Garden…the imagery was amazing, and I found O riveting and wished there had been even more about her, but I felt the prose was a little stiff and hesitant.

I was also a little thrown by one of the interactions between Jamie and Blake, where Jamie’s response to Blake was quite volatile and seemed to come out of nowhere. I felt like more background was needed to understand her anger towards him.

What I loved, however, is that the two of them did not hop into bed together. Many authors do this to spice things up, but I much prefer sexual tension to be built up to breaking point in books. Delayed gratification is far more spicy! (Say what you want about Twilight, this is certainly one thing Stephenie Meyer knows how to do.) There are still at least 2 more novels in the series, so I’m eager to see how the relationship between Jamie and Blake develops.

What Next?

The next book in the series, Delerium, explores the history of madness. As well as suffering from mental health issues myself, I’ve also studied pyschology at university and I find madness and the mind fascinating, and am very excited to read the next book in the series, which looks even more compelling.

Fingered

FingeredI decided that if he did it one more time, I was going to get up and leave. For seven weeks, every Tuesday and Saturday evening as I sat through yet another subtitled film, he held my hand and did it. I cringed every time, thinking of the germs.

His hand, slightly damp against mine, twitched. Then he started doing it.

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The Courtesy Coach

The Courtesy CoachFelicity Anne Taylor was never late. When she arrived at the train station and saw the queue at the ticket kiosk, she was still hopeful she could catch the 11:15 service to Piccadilly. She waited patiently for her turn at the kiosk.

Felicity was a lifestyle consultant specialising in etiquette. She was due in Manchester at noon to give a workshop: Refining Your Manners in an Unrefined World.

She’d grown up in a family that scoffed at good manners. Her mother and father were too busy working and trying to keep the bailiffs from getting hold of the television and the Prince Charles and Princess Diana Royal Wedding souvenir plate to worry about teaching their children good manners.

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the war of art

Have you ever read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield? This is one of the most motivating books I’ve come across. It’s part inspiration and part kick-in-the-pants. I got the Kindle version and found myself highlighting and bookmarking something on nearly every page. I wouldn’t say it’s a practical guide, but it certainly changed the way I viewed my writing.

The book is short, but it gets right to the point. It doesn’t spend several chapters telling you what it’s going to do and then not really doing it. There is a short and interesting introduction, then it’s all business.

In a nutshell, the book is about resistance: what it is, what it does, where it lurks, how it operates, how it can pair up with things like criticism and self-doubt,  and how to overcome it. Resistance is in our minds, so the advice is more about changing our mindset, which in turn affects our habits.  He explains how a professional behaves versus how an amateur goes about his business.

turning-proI read this book prior to getting sick a few years ago. I was going to re-read it to get myself motivated again, but discovered that Mr. Pressfield has another book: Turning Pro.

This book expands on the ideas presented in The War of Art and outlines in more detail what separates the pros from the amateurs. He also includes some great “going pro” stories, some of which are his own. Here are a few of the points that resonated with me:

-1-

Addictions. Checking your email 99 times a day, tweeting, watching YouTube videos of cats learning to use the toilet. (some of them even flush!) You know, distractions.

Addiction becomes a surrogate for our calling. We enact an addiction instead of embracing the calling. Why? Because to follow a calling requires work. It’s hard. It hurts. It demands entering the pain-zone of effort, risk, and exposure.

I have plenty of those. Good distractions– beneficial and healthy distractions, but I go overboard. When I went vegan, I started a blog. I almost started a yoga blog, but really, how much can I say about yoga? (I nearly passed out from being in downward dog for so long today. I’d really like to take a yoga class, but I don’t want anyone seeing my thighs in yoga pants.) Who wants to read that?

What this all really means is that I’ve not been writing. I’ve not been blogging. I’ve not been pursuing the one goal that I have, for the past 20 years, held on to.

I write, I get distracted; repeat.

Ultimately, we find time for the things that are important to us.

-2-

Pressfield uses a metaphor that he picked up during his time as an apple picker: pulling the pin. In other words, doing a runner, bunking off, quitting. (This comes from the steel pin that had to be pulled to remove the cars on trains in days of old.)

Hot damn, I’ve pulled so many pins in the past few years I could start my own railroad company. This makes me an amateur.

-3-

In order to achieve ‘flow,’ magic, ‘the zone,’ we start by being common and ordinary and workmanlike.

In other words, you have to do the daily slog in order to get to the good stuff. Inspiration comes with the perspiration.

-4-

The amateur will be ready tomorrow.

Forget about starting next year, next month, or even tomorrow. Start now. Do one thing that brings you one step closer to your goal. I did this a few days ago. I sat down, made a few changes to a story, and submitted it. I’ve also made a list, not of long-term, far-reaching goals, but of steps to take. For example:

  • Start a new story
  • Edit the stories that need work
  • Get through the backlog of issues of Writing Magazine and Mslexia
  • See which writing competitions are closing soon and submit to those you can
  • Find or take a decent picture of self and put on blog
  • Read next fiction book with aim to review
  • Brainstorm for blog post ideas
  • Rough draft as many blog posts as possible
  • Find out why cats can walk through a minefield of Lego and not step on any, but I can’t walk across a clean floor without stepping on that one lone piece.

-5-

The professional knows when he has fallen short of his own standards. He will murder his darlings without hesitation, if that’s what it takes to stay true to the goddess and to his own expectations of excellence.

Good to know, because I’m a raging perfectionist. Maybe I’m not such an amateur, after all.

-6-

The pro mindset is a discipline that we use to overcome Resistance.

So here I am. Again. But this time, to stay.

Hopefully. Definitely. Most likely.