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The Shining Girls

Finished it today as the pacing is so intense and I do read very quickly, also after Umberto Eco, it seemed to move faster than its predecessor. Two long bus journeys and a late night last night meant I finished the book this afternoon.

It is brilliant, a high concept but one grounded in character, reaction and tragedy. Lauren Beukes is a great writer, her exposition is smooth and seamless, her antagonist Harper is a more honest reflection of how serial killers actually are rather than they are portrayed in fiction and she brings out the palpable tragedy of women’s lives cut short rather than the sexualized corpse/punchline that seems to sum up so much of that style of book.
The Shining Girls deserves the praise it received and Lauren writes with a jagged, compassionate energy that made me cheer on Kirby and Dan until the clever, careful ending and epilogue.
Next up is The Right Hand of The Sun by Anita Mason which looks interesting.

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Boundaries and enthusiastic consent

I write about sex and sexuality, from a woman’s point of view. That’s what the first book The Love We Make is about, a married woman having an affair with a single man who allows her to express herself sexually and I am exploring a similar theme in the new work, but part of that is also using concepts and ideas that I think are important in sexual relationships, and more importantly, making them invisible and also enticing. 

Enthusiastic consent, for me, is equal parts negotiation and foreplay. It shows respect for everyone concerned, it creates trust and allows people to relax. Technically, I like using it because it creates the pacing that mimics the cycle of female arousal, a slow build, a long peak and a slow decline. Conversation, words are palpably sexy in the right mouth and as a writer, words are all I have to play with. The best seductions are ones where both parties are aware enough to know when they can let go without loss of reputation or integrity, which is something that gets forgotten or ignored for any number of reasons. 

Boundaries are important to establish too. Although there can be a fantastical element to sex writing, part of the appeal is the gratification, I still like to work with boundaries, again it’s negotiation and what you say no to is as powerful as what you say yes to. You can be swept away so long as you know where you are going and where it’s safe to land afterwards. Emotional components, fear of loss, societal and cultural expectations, self image all make sex and sexuality a powerful, taboo set of emotions which is why I find it so interesting to write about. 

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The Shining Girls – serial killers, thoughts and considerations

Although I love Hannibal, it’s more of a high gothic mood piece than an examination of serial murder in any way. I find the canonisation of this trope, the malevolent genius serial murderer to be a bit trite and overdone now. Warren Ellis, in one of the afterwords to Scars, referred to this concern specifically, that in imagining Hannibal Lecter, a cultured attractive monster, you ignore the real possibility that he would probably be ‘squeezing one off in the wound tracks that he leaves’. I’m reading The Shining Girls and I enjoy how Lauren Beukes uses a degree of authorial oversight to make her antagonist Harper a shambling unattractive predator. They are, in real life, as a rule. Even Bundy’s physical attractiveness barely disguises what a broken, horrific man he was.

I picked up a book about Richard Ramirez, mainly because it interviews the women who wrote and fantasised about him whilst he was on trial and being imprisoned for his crimes. That fascinates me, as a writer and a man, not in a morbid or a sense of admiration but because it taps into a lot of different things – personally, psychologically and intuitively. It goes to the statement Ellis made, that we can edit selectively when our libido wants it’s needs met.

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The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

Well, after an initial resistance to it, I persevered and was rewarded with a delirious, engaging stream of consciousness that held me in it’s grasp until it ended. I feel proud for having tackled such a clever, agile read that dealt with age, memory, guilt and culture in such an easy way. I used to be fairly pedestrian in my reading until I started writing, but now I enjoy work like this and learn from it too. 

1.  That really outlandish idea that you had, that you think is probably too outre for a book. It isn’t, not really and even if it is, if it’s good, then you should see if it can be bullied into a book. 

2.  On the page, the limits are only your powers of description and vocabulary. You have an infinite budget to play with, cast the gods and plant the trees that have diamond leaves, show us things that would make Michael Bay crawl into a ball and weep because it’s beyond his imagination. Whoever your hero is, don’t be them, be better than them. Be you because we already have that hero, that inspiration whose work inspired you but what we don’t have is YOU. I’m M B Blissett, you’ve not read my writing before and it’s not what I thought it would be, but it’s still me and I don’t pretend I am a violently original wunderkind, but I have put my heart into this and I want you to enjoy it. 

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Wisdom From Cracked

Wisdom From Cracked

I can relate to this. Having a purpose, aligning my life around that and pursuing it to whatever end has made me feel happier and more determined. There’s no failures so far, only feedback and each day that I write, I learn something. Each book I read, teaches me something – either that I like the words and phrasing that I use more than the writer I am reading or that the technique/phrasing that a particular writer uses is attractive and I want to understand the how and why of it. That’s not plagiarism, it’s studying the work of writers who are much further ahead than I am professionally. I am in no way remarkable, I hold no degree or formal qualification in writing, which I stress a lot because there are a great many who offer writing advice and get paid for it without any notable successes in that field. If Stephen King or Ernest Hemingway or Neil Gaiman or Chuck Palahniuk bend my ear about process or inspiration, then I will listen intently. I will listen to anyone who offers a homily or an anecdote, but I am always free to disregard the stuff that doesn’t fit or advance my work. I don’t know if I am talented, but I know I can work and improve at what I do.

Usually you find that when you start crossing the line between self-belief and arrogance, your writing no longer has that energy to it. Becoming isolated and removed from the hunger, the drive makes you flabby and slow creatively. I want to make a living at this, I work at making that happen but I want to be good at it enough and still enjoy it enough so that it doesn’t feel like work.

Do you ever notice that, when you’re writing and time has slipped by you enough that the world feels different. It’s meditative, intoxicating and the relief that you feel when you have written is like breathing again after a long time holding it. That’s what I get from the work now, the money hopefully comes later.

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Qualified To Give Advice

In short, I’m not. 

I have writing daily for the better part of two years now. In that time, I have found an agent who represents me for literary work (SMART Talent – http://www.smart-talent-kent.co.uk/), written a book through to completion which is being pitched to publishers as we speak, and have a short story to be featured in an anthology, which I will detail more when I have exchanged contracts, I am 269 pages into a new project, which is being worked on daily. That’s a good start for me, and I have spent a lot of time working on my craft, I do that through reading a lot, taking feedback and applying myself to the ephemeral task of getting better at it. Well, more comfortable with it but still, I am far from an expert on it.

I just enjoy talking about it, because it’s a craft, a passion and I decided after years of trying on various identities and paths, that I was going to write. Not especially being a writer, because sometimes the two are distinctly different affairs. It’s my purpose because I would do it for free(no news there) and I do it a lot. A certain amount of ambition comes into play but that’s pride and a sense of achievement that comes from an internal set of references rather than any external influences. So I will talk about the things I do know of, my experiences and also to give me something to look back at, a cycle of feedback to keep me motivated and strong. If I am telling you the process, then if I don’t stick to it, then I create an expectation for myself. 

Thank you for following me, and the likes that you give. It’s just here now, no Twitter and no Facebook, and I feel better for it. I have chosen quality over quantity in terms of engagement.  I have decided that I will re-engage with those when I have stuff to promote, but I have a tendency to seek attention, which isn’t all that healthy at times, so now is about regrouping and consolidating who I am. 

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The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

I’m glad I continued with Umberto Eco, its found a rhythm now and he uses language so beautifully. The translation is excellent, Geoffrey Brock really captures the flow of Eco’s prose well. What I get so far is how awful and wonderful memories are – the things that made us who we are can be taken by neurological insult or simply distance and contemplation.

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Another Two Pages

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Something Old, then Something New

With my reading, I like to alternate between a new book that I’ve not read before and then before starting a new book, reread something that I already have on my bookshelves. It’s interesting going back to a book, you pick up different things when you reread a book because you were not the same person when you last read it. At least I am not. Much of it comes down to writing, the process that goes to the back of my brain and changes how I look at the page. 

It does not spoil reading for me, it makes me appreciate the work it takes. Even writing that I didn’t enjoy before, I still appreciate the graft and effort that went into it. It’s a big thing for me, being positive now, because I don’t believe that anyone intends to produce poor work, and poor work is subjective. You like what you like, you don’t have to defend it, and if you do, then at least it shows passion. 

If I don’t like something then it’s my decision, my tastes and boundaries and I won’t be precious about it. 

Next up after A Dance With Dragons is Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, then The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, which means the sequence goes old, then new, then old. 

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A Song of Ice and Fire/A Dance With Dragons

Just caught up with A Song of Ice and Fire, in particular A Dance With Dragons, which is my favourite so far, in that the scale is bigger and the stakes are much higher, and that we see the continued consequences of good intentions. It is interesting in that the show has made different choices than the books, so I can still watch it without feeling it is being foreshadowed for me entirely.  

There is a scene with Cersei, that ranks as one of the most harrowing in the book, a walk through Kings Landing that subjects her to church-ordained torment in the name of absolution and confession, but it ends on such a strong note(for her) even though it too is a pay off for some disturbing events earlier in the series.

I’ve always been selective with fantasy, Martin impressed me from the start with the series and it is the only fantasy series that sits on my bookshelf, although I will get Patrick Rothfuss’ trilogy at some point. I have John Scalzi’s books on audio, but that’s as much for Wil Wheaton’s performance as anything else.