books, craft, reading, Uncategorized

My Favourite Things – Books

Here are some of my favourite books, there are books on the craft of writing, lectures about nihilist philosophy and pop culture as well as fiction and non fiction. For disclosure, if you buy through these links, I have an affiliate account so it throws some pennies in the hat but get these books because I love them and the world needs more sharing the good things in it rather than the bad.

This is what the series of American Horror Story: Freakshow wishes it was. Humane, bizarre and beautifully written. It is one of those books I return to time and  again. Dunne is no longer with us, but this book is. I envy you reading it for the first time.

Percy has produced some fantastic cross genre work and this collection of essays speaks to an appreciation for literature and pop culture without casting either one in a negative light. It has a robust honesty which I find invigorating and useful.

Stephen King, much like Prince, was one of the artists which resonated from me at an early age. I’ve followed his work and example and resisted aping his mannerisms but his working class generosity of spirit and craft makes this book indispensable to me. He offers up a toolkit and reflects on his own experiences, professional and personal to give you an idea of what might be possible if you put the work and energy into the writing you do. There’s a lot on offer here, and if you’re looking for good, solid advice on the craft of writing, then King is your man.

Grammar is an important consideration in writing. A poor choice of phrase rips the reader out of the moment and undoes the hard work you’ve done establishing mood and setting. Don’t be precious, you’re never as good as you think you are, so something like this is worth investing in. Learn the rules in order to break them and Strunk tells you the rules in a pithy, elegiac way which makes it a useful reference work when editing.

 

Holiday has established a niche in mining the wisdom of Stoicism for it’s applications in the modern world and for his fantastic understanding of marketing and media. Here is a united work which talks about finding your own place and developing work which resists trends. He talks about Iron Maiden and The Shawshank Redemption in glowing terms, especially with the factoid that Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise were up for the main roles but Frank Darabont the director went with his own choices instead.

Next I will talk about music, then films with links to them for you to click on and preview/buy.

It’s strange how we will rush to interact with something bad but distrust a recommendation of quality or worth, relative as they are.

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beauty, fairy stories, short fiction, women

Thought and Taste: An Interlude (The Wild Man, Season 2)

Once Upon a Time, The Wild Man sat in his cell, surrounded by cold iron, which burned his skin and caused agony at the slightest contact. His mind touched on the infinite, an evolving structure like a plant or a symphony, capable of experiencing memories as though he were present, experiencing every sensation again and again. Such a scale was not the gift you would imagine, but he had made the best of it. We cannot know the infinite, so let us refuse to fail and watch him awhile. He refused food and water, and despite the threat of torture, his encounters with Paul were polite, chill affairs which ended with Paul leaving the cell in thwarted silence. The air was dry and cool here, and each breath brought knowledge of his surroundings to him.

He tasted the thwarted ambition of Paul, bonded to injuries which roared within him at such a temperature it inspired pity within The Wild Man.

Pity and fear.

It reminded him of a broth, too much salt and not enough meat to give nourishment. Each swallow tasted of bile and he was grateful when Paul passed by.

He caught the warm, fresh scent of the servants and guards above him, heard their footsteps as the patter of rain through spring foliage and sipped from the goblet of human activity to quench his eternal thirst for connection. It did not feed him but The Wild Man knew the truth of a place or a person through his senses.

A banquet of tiredness, exhaustion, love, hate, fear and indifference.

Eilhu was here. His scent allowed The Wild Man to taste his grief and it was bitter, raw on his tongue like the meat of something which fed on poison. The Wild Man wanted to spit the taste from his mouth but he knew there was power in fluid. Blood, saliva and semen. He sought to reach Eilhu but the cold iron seethed at his attempt, sent the single, hopeful thought dashing to the ground like a bird with an arrow through its breast.

The Wild Man knew there were other forces here with him. They prickled with hatred and pain, a million nerves stretched and strained, played like a cacophonous orchestra to an audience they hated. Within the pain and hatred was a power to rend earth and sky, called from places no man reached without paying a terrible price for the journey, let alone the destination. It knew he was there, and it seethed to touch him. It offered the pleasure of power, but the gift was an exchange which would see him trade one cage for another.

He made his cell a home, a place to rest and observe. The Wild Man refused to gnash and wail in his bonds, he offered no plea or excuse for his actions. He was.

Instead, he waited and thought. A single seed taking root in inhospitable soil and thriving without sustenance.

All was as it should be, and judging by the screams from the adjoining cell, another fate altered and set on a different course. The Wild Man could touch the infinite, but never predict it. He read the signs available and where the portents were uncommon and vicious in their turns of fortune. He saw ends and beginnings in everything, apart but defined by the surrounding reality.

2.

Darkness. Something gave a second breath, warm and fetid like an interred grave. Eyes which would never see the light, blinking and within the riot of new anatomies, poisonous organs bloomed and swelled, tasting and raping the air around them as it adjusted to the reconfigured limbs. It was a man once but now, shat from darkness into darkness, it adjusted itself and cried out in a terrible joy. It was appetite taken beyond limits, loyal beyond death and it represented a new front in a terrible, ancient war fought across millennia. The appetites of gods and monsters slaked on the flesh and fortune of men.

It was a weapon in search of a war.

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beauty, erotica, love, lust, women

An Excerpt From Until She Sings

This scene is different in the book, but I enjoyed it enough to keep and wanted to share it with you all.

 

He reached his left arm to support himself as he eased down into the chair. I put my hands to his face, stroking his beard as I kissed his smile. I clamped my thighs over his. I dipped my hips forward, driven with a need to have him closer. He was slow and gentle and it inflamed me. I threw myself against his supple body but it didn’t yield as I took him in my hands. I slipped his bottom lip between my teeth, biting into it. His fingers went to the waist of my jeans and unbuttoned me, his fingers weaving and dancing before he tried, to tug them down my hips. His slow authority made me wild with want and having given into this, everything had the volume turned up to it.

I pulled back to catch my breath, my face burning with heat as I looked at him. His expression made me ache and without taking my gaze off his face, I unbuttoned my blouse. My fingers were shaking, which made each button a challenge. The hunger in his eyes made me work harder. He had reduced and elevated me with the focus of his attention,

The heat grew as we rubbed against one another. It drew up into my stomach and it kept moving outwards. His hands swept around to my breasts. He trailed his kisses from my mouth down to my neck and I brought my left arm around him so I could hold him as he worked his lips there, setting a fire which moved through every vein, flooding my limbs with heat. Throwing myself against the calm, primal strength of him inflamed me, had me aching for more of it with a hunger larger than everything.

I ground myself against his crotch and his smile widened. He brushed my nipples through my bra and I reached my right hand around my back and unclipped it.

I took it off and tossed it aside. I lifted myself onto my knees and put my hands against his chest. I grazed my fingers through the soft hair on his chest, its tight, dark curls tickled my fingertips. My eyes were wide with fascination at the raw, sculptured power of his body.

‘Are you ok?’

I laughed.

‘Just needed to catch my breath. I love your body.’

He glided his hands down to my stomach. He made slow circles over my skin, tracing lines of fire which fed the heat inside me. My hands slipped up onto his shoulders and pushed off him. I stood up and met his gaze.

‘What do you want to do?’

I hooked the waistband of my jeans and tugged them down over my thighs and knees until they fell in a puddle around my feet. I stepped out of them, towards him and he sat up, bringing his hands out to claim me again.  A shiver of anticipation went through me, being nude before him made me new in his eyes, humming with lustful courage as his eyes roamed over me, a playful smile made my arousal stir like ancient force, a storm on the horizon, a fierce animal awaken from hibernation and every sense driven by hunger.

His touch was a whisper against my skin, mouth playing upwards. A right hand smoothed down from the curve of my right buttock, over the back of my leg and I shuddered when it came around to rest against the inside of my thigh. He kissed up and around, nuzzling my ribs underneath the swell of my breast.. The fullness of his attention robbed me of everything and gave me

I brought my left hand against the side of his head and pulled him to my nipple. I gasped as he took me between his lips. The blood raced around my body, overwhelmed by the heat brought into being by his touch.

He withdrew my nipple from his mouth and looked up at me, grinning as he moved his right hand closer to the crotch of my panties. He grazed the meat of his palm against my pussy and I lowered myself to meet it. My lips parted, dragging the cloth of my underwear against the edge of his hand. Between his hand and mouth, every nerve in my body sparked as he held his hand still, letting me take charge of my pleasure.

His mouth worked across my chest. He combined light kisses and the rasp of his tongue against the skin of my collarbone, working with his hand. I gave myself over to his touch. He turned his wrist and his fingertips pressed upwards. I wrapped my hands around the back of his head as he sucked my left nipple at the same time. The sensations overlapped and then his fingers moved.

I tangled my fingers through his hair, gasping as the pleasure became electric in the surrounding air. We did not speak in words, only sighs and the low, smooth sound of our breathing. I moaned as his fingers worked against the wet silk of my underwear. I reached and touched his forearm. He looked at me then plucked the cloth away. The tips of his fingers tickled my pubic hair before he found my clit. I growled with the force of it as it shot up into my head.

The tip of his finger teased me in slow, small circles. My chest rose as I took deep calming breaths, the tension moving upwards through my body until every inch of me tingled with need. I could not control my expressions and when I looked, he was studying my face for cues.

He stroked me and I gasped. He slid his finger down and brushed me between my labia. The gesture drew the moisture up then with the moistened tip of his finger he rolled it around my clit smooth and soft.

I went to say something but then he applied a little pressure with his finger and all the thoughts flew out of my head. He massaged me with the same gentle pressure as he had everywhere he touched me.

The tension roared through my bones until I could take no more. I gave myself over to it. I squeezed my eyes shut and bucked my hips against his hand. His left hand came to anchor me as I leaned forward and kept my hands tangled in his hair, deaf to the noises I made. The force of it lifted me upwards, my limbs tangled around his as we remained on the chair.

There was nothing but the sound of my heartbeat.

I buried my face into the crook of his shoulder. His hands brushed my hair. I looked at him. My eyes grew damp, and I touched his face.

‘You needed that,’ he said.

He smiled and brushed my hair away from my face as I folded myself into him. The muscles in my stomach and legs were heavy with a good ache and I drew my legs up so I was on his lap. I laid my head against his chest and listened to the deep, even rhythm of his breath.

‘I’ve been holding my breath since I met you,’ I said.

The vibrations of his words went straight through me as he spoke them.

‘I know just what you mean.’

I came up and rubbed his nose with my own. He smiled then turned his head to one side and kissed me again.

‘Yes, but so far all you’ve got is a cramp and sticky fingers.’

He gave a quiet laugh.

‘I got as much out of that as you did.’

I smiled and brought myself around so I was straddling him again. I looked down at the unzipped fly of his jeans.

His cock strained against the material of his underwear. I looked into his eyes and swallowed as I slid them down and reached for his cock. I curled my fingers around it, fascinated by the heat of it in my palm.. I looked at it and I stroked him. He lifted me, slipped off his jeans and kicked them away.

His muscular legs made me gasp with lust. The skin of his cock was soft and warm, stiff and yet, when I squeezed him, the life of him throbbed against my fingers. The ease of my hunger surprised me, the uncoiling lust that made me curious to touch him, to commit each texture, each throb, hair and vein to the memory of my hands.

He smiled and rested his right hand on my wrist as I watched his face. He sighed and tilted his head back, an easy grin on his face as he brought his hand up, resting it on the back of mine. I was gentle with him, but his erection wavered, and a burst of anxiety erupted in my chest. He slid his hand over mine and looked up at me.

‘Kiss me.’

I leaned forward and smiled as we kissed again.

‘Show me how you like it.’

From the first stroke, he stiffened. Unguarded bliss flitted across his face as I touched him.

I slid my hand up to take the head of his cock in my palm. He grinned at me.

I smiled back as I reached my left hand and stroked the tight skin of his testicles. He gasped. I let my fingertips dance over the flesh and maintained a steady rhythm with my right hand until he gave another breathy sigh. He bucked against my touch as the strain in his face grew until it cracked into a grin of ecstasy. He shot in three thick spurts, one of which splashed against the backs of my fingers. I gave a small giggle as I looked into his eyes and, on a whim, licked it from my fingers. He tasted thick and sweet.

He had a loose grin on his face. I watched him until he turned his head and looked at me. I tried to avoid his gaze, but he brought his hand to my face and turned me to look at him.

I glowed as he leaned forward to kiss me again.

‘Thank you,’ he said.

I kissed him again, then pulled back to put my hand between his shoulder blades, hungry to stroke the thick play of muscle there. The scar was beneath my fingers and I jumped, gasping in shock.

‘Shit. Sorry.’

He looked at my fingers, then back up at my face. He wore a small sad smile.

‘Tonight’s been the first time I’ve not thought about them in a long time.’

I teared up and he brought his arms around me. I put my head on his shoulder, surrendered to the warm authority of his embrace.

‘Tonight’s been the first night I’ve not thought about a few things.’

He planted a chaste kiss on the top of my ear and nuzzled my hair with his nose. Then he put his lips to my ear, his voice no louder than a whisper.

‘Shower?’

 

I leaned back on my elbows as he placed light feathery kisses against my collarbone. He brought his hands to cup my breasts. He bathed them with long slow licks of his tongue, so slow I arched my back to alleviate the tension it created within me.

My warm, wet flesh there. He kissed me with the same delicacy as he kissed my mouth, brief motions which set me on fire with the pleasure of it.

There was restraint here, he teased me with his tongue and lips. He gave a satisfied grunt before he dipped his head and the soft rough flat of his tongue dragged upwards. He used the wet, wild heat of mouth and his fingers to worship me in silence.

 

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beauty, blogging, books, fiction, women

Writing Update

So I am 83 pages into The Exit Counsellor, which is my second venture into thriller territory after Lawful Evil. I write first drafts in longhand, as much to resist sharing them as to make something mobile and easy to pick up so I grind through good pencils and paper over breakfast then go to my day job.

My first book, The Love We Make did the rounds with publishers and was rejected, which was a good thing as it took away the sting of rejection early on. The second one, Until She Sings is out there somewhere, so send your happy thoughts and prayers for that one. I work to a disciplined practice, which long-term readers of the blog (hey you *waves*) are familiar with.

I still have Stranger Lights, my Mexican witchcraft novel in longhand, which I will start editing into a second draft this summer once I have finished Lawful Evil and also Ogden. Editing isn’t as much fun as first drafts but it is where you learn from your mistakes. Acutely so, if I am honest.

Writing is my purpose. I work towards that. I know the odds and so do you, but fuck it, I play to win and I work at it like a motherfucker.

If you’ve enjoyed any of the poetry or short fiction, please share it. I am humbled by anyone who takes the time to read my work, and I want to reach as many people as possible. You can help me with a click and a kind word. It isn’t natural for me to ask for help, but sometimes you have to. I’m building my own world here and I want you all to come and play with me.

Thank you for reading my work and supporting it, openly or otherwise.

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beauty, books, creative writing, purpose, women

Writing Update 14/04/17.

I hit 50 pages on the first draft in longhand, and have copied and pasted the individual episodes of The Ogden Review into a file for editing and restructuring into a complete book that I aim to pitch to my agent once I have gone through it.

It is strange to read older work. There is a melancholy pleasure, some surprises in what I looked through. There are some clear things that need fixing, but that was the price I paid for going with energy rather than detail. I’ve learned more since then, and aim to graft what I have learned to the dynamics of the original story. It has to follow a structure, and underneath the hood of this motherfucker lies some real plotholes but they’re my mistakes to make.

I am waiting to hear back from my agent about Until She Sings and Nothing Keeps Me Anywhere, Lawful Evil needs another draft, the new book is coming along well and I now have Ogden to refine as well as posting regularly here.

I have been reading The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, which is comprehensive, satisfying and involving. I’ve made copious notes about it, which all go into the journals that I keep and maintain. I work hard at the writing because I love it and view it as my purpose. Whether that lends itself to competence or not is hard to say, but I put the effort in to improve and advance myself artistically.

Thank you for your support. It means a great deal.

I miss you when you’re not around.

Matt XO

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beauty, blogging, books, craft, creative writing, love, women

Writing Update 09/04/17

I hit 40 pages on the first draft today. It’s been a progression apparent to myself, in terms of what I am writing about, but not who I write for. I know what works for me as a practice, which cuts down on the amount of time spent being indecisive, I guess.

Sorry, couldn’t resist it.

I also changed the title, which is common for me to do. I have a predilection for fancy titles that sit on the axis between awkward and cool, and eventually something in me signs and suggests something better which I stick with until my agent tells me they don’t like it and I have to scrabble to find something else instead.

I have been reading Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey which is a great book, useful for me as I have a bit of knowledge about C G Jung and Joseph Campbell, the two major influences on Vogler’s work. It is pragmatic and I’ve made plenty of notes two chapters into it, just to clarify and cement my own understanding.

I study the craft of writing and storytelling, in order to forget it when I write. If something screams ‘CROSSING THE THRESHOLD’ I know I have fucked up somewhere along the line. I don’t resist structure or archetype in the slightest, but I do like to make it invisible and seamless. I read for pleasure as much as craft and writing at this volume means that I become more comfortable with the work I am doing, less prone to the mistakes or making new ones, which still represents growth to me.

It gets done. I don’t wait for inspiration but instead she turns up, smiles, gropes me somewhere inappropriate and then flies off again. I love that woman because she’s flighty and constantly changing, not in spite of it.

Being British means a reluctance to talk about ambition but I do push myself towards my goals, just not in a way that invites open ridicule. Closed ridicule, on the other hand, more than welcome.

If you were kind enough to buy or read the latest issue of Infernal Ink and you liked my story, please leave a review as it helps Hydra’s profile in terms of the magazine and, of course, mine. It was a seamless experience and surreal to look at my own work outside of the blue frame of the blog page editor. I want more of it, and it has renewed my enthusiasm beyond my fierce ambition and dedication.

I really appreciate the likes that my work generates. A writer wants to be read, even if sometimes the anticipation lends itself to anxiety of one kind or another. People come and go, disappoint and injure but the page is the page and I love pretty much everything about it

So, forgive the rambling, but wanted to peek from behind the curtain and say hello to you all. Thank you for your support and appreciation, there are over 900 of you now, which is a good sized crowd for a gig, I feel. If you really like anything I’ve done, please share it with others.

Take care, we have to be our own heroes out there now.

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beauty, love, separation, short fiction, women

Listening To The Waves

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The tapestry of noise and sensation became its own form of silence for Jenny. The roar of the waves filled her ears, and she loved the gritty thickness of the sand between her toes. She had come here alone, dressed in whatever was to hand that would not have woken Hitch, shaking at the thought of him waking up and asking her what she was doing.

Her thoughts had reached an operatic pitch, pursuing her from the house all the way here to the coast. It had been exciting to drive like that, and when she had walked down here, the lull of the waves and the sea breeze had washed over her anxieties like high tide.
No longer underneath his arm which he draped across her as a gesture of comfort and connection. It reminded her of the padded harnesses that dropped and locked onto you before a rollercoaster started.

He was at his most boyish in confusion, but in time his control would assert itself and he would revert to his default method of expression – cold, controlled anger.

The tranquility of the beach could not dislodge the bolt of nausea lodged at the back of her throat. Her eyes were hot and prickling with unshed tears. Jenny sat there and wrapped her arms around herself, seeking sustenance she had lived without for so long.

He had never raised a hand to her. His voice was a terse, dry whisper and he did not impose or force himself in any way. Jenny could never point at an incident or behaviour to justify her feelings before the invisible court of opinion she carried, but it lived inside her, resisting definition by shifting itself when she sought to tell someone about what was happening to her.

All the things that appealed to her about Hitch had become the wounds he inflicted. His discipline and organisation, once a way to abdicate responsibility sucked the air from her lungs, made her considered objections into tolerated tantrums. She received silence by default, a cold bank of indifference in the space between them. Jenny had been two weeks out from closing the boutique when they met, and his order had been thrilling to her, she ran not walked into life with him.

His desire for order became hers, and she enjoyed the reflected glory of being married to a serviceman. It threw a sheet over her failures and foibles, and in that new life, she never had to mention the woman she had been. Only the role she had taken on, and what it involved.

Being Hitch’s wife was a good role for a time. A life of comfortable, taciturn quiet instead of being a participant in a game that had no rules and no clear winners. The lack of highs and lows became a balm for her.

Their mutual inability to conceive had been the first major test of their marriage. Hitch had reacted to it in the same way he did to everything, which was not at all. He deployed and although Jenny had spoken about counselling, fertility treatments and her own fears, he had offered no insight beyond suggestions they adopt. He had only shown passion in his frustration with the military, and even his political opinions had toppled from the centre into nihilism too polite to explode into anarchy or upset.

She kept a lovely home for him. Her additions and suggestions never held in place and rejected with polite rejection or considered, logical arguments. Jenny’s experience that women held onto slights and grudges with the care that some collected stamps or trading cards, but Hitch would refer to a perfect database of slights and defeats, repeating her own words back to her as though she were a broken light bulb or a dying plant.

When she had gone to a spiritual festival in Suffolk and had her aura read, the teller experienced a canned enthusiasm at how serene her aura was, all cool whites and eggshell. She held onto her reaction until she was driving home where she burst into a fit of weeping that made her pull the car over and sob until her body ached from the force of it.

She had been purple fire once. A chaotic, exciting carnival act that endured long periods of rejection and near-poverty in return for bursts of activity, recognition and excitement. Giving it up had not been a thing of ease, of maturity but defeat. Her life would be a letter, written all in lower-case pencil, left in direct sunlight to fade forever.

Jenny tried to talk things out. Hitch gestured to the adoption papers and frowned at the surprise of her outburst. He recovered with more ease than she did.

The kettle had just boiled; he said and went to make tea.

Jenny was being walled in, Hitch had a detached craftsmanship applied to everything he did, including his marriage, but Jenny struggled to breathe around him.

The stomach shrinks then bloats when starved and Jenny knew another part of her experienced that sensation.

Her soul.

She had ordered art materials, but he had intercepted the delivery, and refused to allow her to open them, already on the phone to arrange a return and a refund. She wanted to dash past him, tear open the box just to see what was inside, but she stood there, tearful and apologetic as he exchanged a brief, friendly chat with the customer service team before ending the call and walking away from her in silence. He went upstairs to work on his models in the spare room, or cleaning the rifles in the secure box in the loft now that adoption was off the table for them. Something about him, but he never said what.

Jenny tried to provoke him, alternating between lavishing and denying him sex. The bedroom had been a warm study of polarity but even that grew to be as cold as everywhere else, disappointing and dry.

Jenny would go to sleep, hoping that a valve in her heart or an artery in her brain would malfunction and she would be free. Hitch would be happier, she told herself.

He already behaved like a widower.

Jenny sat there and watched the waves, enjoying and hating playing truant. She chuckled that such a small gesture had become a platonic ideal of rebellion but she still held onto her anxiety and guilt. Hitch was firing off his worst, possible reactions like fireworks in the night sky of her imagination and so she got up and walked back to the car.

Her phone burped and shuffled inside the glove box where she had left it. Her bowels liquefied as she retrieved it.

Calls from him. Voice mails that started as dry admonitions before breaking down into bizarre rhyming couplets, his voice waxing and waning like he had been drinking.

What saddened her was that she could not find it in her to love or accept this from him any longer. If there had children, she knew she would have found a way through to him and listening to him grow more irrational with each message; she imagined a perfect trap falling on her forever.

There were other calls to follow. Her mother had emerged from the self-obsession of old age to ask her in a worried voice to call and make sure she was okay.

Her brother, asking if she had seen the news and please call him.

Please.
Call.
Please.

Her intuition, no longer pale and serene but far from purple prompted her to switch her data on and scan the headlines.

The fast food restaurant just down the road. Hitch had stopped going when the manager had tried to explain why they did not offer the breakfast menu all day but now it was national news. The videos of survivors, their faces stained with tears and babbling at their relative fortune.

Jenny saw her husband’s name and sank back into the driver’s seat.

She tore her eyes away, looked back at the waves and waited for an answer as her phone rang again.

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