Wednesday update and welcome to new followers

Hello and welcome! I’ve had some new followers lately – lovely to know you’re here 🙂 This blog is a mix of book reviews, Tales From Tantamount, and poetry. Tales From Tantamount is a sort-of story that I write as I go along, and I aim to get two installments done every month (1st and 15th, or as close as possible). I have a catch up page on my website, or you can search through my archives. Book reviews are a bit haphazard, and happen as and when I have both read a book and had time to write a review. Mainly I review fantasy and sci-fi, but I do wander outside the genre. Poetry is even more random, and I just post that whenever I’ve found something that I am not COMPLETELY TERRIFIED to share with people…

I also have a novella, which you can buy in eBook form for less than a coffee. It’s called The Life and Times of Angel Evans, and it is about trying to find a life after prophecy is fulfilled. Contains magic, jokes, queer protagonist with ghostly girlfriend, and terrible cleaning jobs.

Also, you will notice the Ko-Fi button at the bottom of my posts. Think of it like a tip jar  – if you want to and can afford to, go for it. If you don’t want to or can’t afford to, there is no pressure.

Anyway, onto the update!

Reading: Wild Fire by Anna McKerrow, What is not yours is not yours by Helen Oyeyemi, and Penny Blackfeather by Francesca Dare. Yes, all at the same time.

Writing: I’m still fighting the accounts, so not writing as much as I want. I’m getting Tantamount done and very little else. But I know what I want to start working on as soon as I have time to :D:D:D:D

Pondering: favourite words. I think this is because I re-read The Goblin Emperor by Katherin Addison, and the language in that is just so well used. But really I need to read it with a dictionary next time, because I am only guessing the meaning of a lot of the words. Anyway, current favourite word is canst, which is an archaic form of can used when speaking informally, which would also have used thou – English did used to have dialogue that depended on how well you knew someone, with thee thou etc used when someone was well known, and you used for plurals and more formal relationships. Something I will probably poke at greater length.

Listening to: Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae. I will be buying this CD once the tax returns are done; it is my bribe. In the meantime, watch this film/concept album/music video:

That’s all for now, take care everyone!


Here’s the button I meant 🙂

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Poem: Queen of Beyond by Meredith Debonnaire

This one nearly got accepted into a magazine once! It’s quite old, but I really like it. The style is very different from what I do now. I like how the imagery and the rhythm work here – now if only I could do this on purpose instead of accidentally at 2am….

Walk. Walk until your feet bleed.
Take heed, do not pause – the path will devour you.

Walk. Walk until your toes are flat,
Until your feet are fat and swollen.
Then keep walking.

You will eat dust, swallow soil,
Chew on bone if you must.
Go mad beneath the moon.
Walk until you can walk no more.
Then keep walking – My realm lies beyond.

You will arrive at noon, if you survive,
If you get here alive.
You can fall at my throne.
In my Chaos-Domain I remain among the ruins of Empires,
Among forgotten names.

My crown is forged from forgetfulness,
My sceptre is Achilles’ blade.
This is what I made, this bleached realm.
Walk. Walk to me.
I will whisper to you secrets that nations once died for,
Stroke your hair,
And you will gift me your breath in return for a glimpse of my madness.

Walk. Walk until your feet bleed.
Take heed, the Queen of Beyond
Is not kind, and you should beware of the things you might find.


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Book Review: Crow Moon by Anna McKerrow

Crow moon by anna mckerrow cover shows silhouette of a face with crow in white wuperimposed

And then he said, ‘No-one should distract an ordained knight from his thoughts in a discourteous way, for perhaps he has either suffered a loss or he is thinking about the woman he loves best.’ From the Mabinogion.

The fire in the middle of the circle casts flickering shadows over our faces: we stand obediently in its fierce warmth, following the words of the monthly full-moon ritual.

At this point, it is relevant to mention that I went to a Steiner school because that hugely influenced the way I read this book. Crow Moon is set in a fascinating world sometime in the future, where Cornwall and Devon have cut themselves off and become an eco-pagan haven known as the Greenworld. As far as the people inside know, the rest of the world (the Redworld) is engaged in fuel wars. The Greenworld is completely self-sustained, with loads of gardening and recycling and agriculture, and also magic. Everyone wears knitted and homemade clothes and talks about the weather a lot. Steiner education puts a lot of emphasis on practical and integrated skills, so a lot of my school time was spent doing what was referred to as handwork (knitting, crocheting, weaving, sewing, gardening, woodwork, pottery, basketry, metalwork…), and the attitude to education overall was really different. And there were a lot of homemade jumpers, and theoretically I can build a compost loo (probably not well), and there was singing and music and a lot of effort put into making a community, which was nice, but it was a small community, which can be hard (something that’s explored very well in this book).

I say all this because what that meant was that I spent a lot of time reading this book recognising things, and going “Oh yeah, compost loos are really annoying” and “huh, yep, that journalling thing, I remember doing that” and also chuckling whenever characters particularly reminded me of people I knew (I remember a lot of people who kept crystals attached to their phones to offset the negative energy). Anyway, what all this means is that, much as I loved the world of Crow Moon, to me it felt familiar rather than like a strange potential future. The main character is Danny Prentice, an endearing idiot. I applaud Anna McKerrow’s skill in writing a first person character who was convincingly a 16-year-old boy, with behaviour daft enough to be believable for a boy of his age with no role-models but not so daft that the reader comes to resent him. He did stupid things, and I yelled at him a lot, but I wanted him to come through the book safely.

The story is about Danny Prentice figuring out who he is and where he wants to fit into the Greenworld, and as he is doing this there are far larger things stirring. Things that may threaten the entire Greenworld. His mother, Zia, is a witch. I enjoyed the delicate way that Crow Moon explored what her calling costs her, and how that ties into Danny’s reluctance to accept his own powers. I also loved the magic in Crow Moon. There was a sense of mystery to it, as well as a layer of mundanity. A lot of people were clearly just going through the motions because it was required of them. There were rituals and spells, and you had to have a gift to do it in the first place. But there were also goddesses and gods, who were vast and great and inscrutable. Even when they appeared fully on the page they retained a sense of mystery and might – they might help the characters, and they might not, and no-one human would be able to say why.

I enjoyed all the characters – even viewed through Danny’s eyes, the reader could get a sense that there was more going on for them than what Danny knew. Roach was a fantastic villain; he was genuinely scary, probably because he had a deranged kind of charisma. Saba, Danny’s love interest, did not feel real to me. I think this was because we were seeing her as Danny did, which was not necessarily as a whole person. And Melz, Saba’s sister, was a fascinating spiky enigma. The next book in this series is from her point-of-view, and I am extremely excited about that! And there was always a sense of things happening at the corner of one’s vision: there would be little snippets of information and story that, if properly paid attention to, hinted at contradictions of the accepted dogma of the world, of bigger things happening and a larger world beyond the Greenworld. Of secrets.

Overall, I recommend Crow Moon: it’s subtle and interesting, and the ending was genuinely surprising. A unique piece of fantasy.

Rating: read this. Remember that real post-apocalypse gear will probably all be knitted.


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Tales From Tantamount: February of the Year of the Sad Plastic Bag, part one

Being a further record of the happenings in the town of Tantamount, a slightly odd and usually lost town often located near the Forest of Dean.

Headlines in Tantamount February 1st

The Tantamount Herald
Council up in arms over “Leap Day” scandal amid claims that the extra day is a European conspiracy! p2
Tantribune
Imbolc celebrations may cause town-wide hysteria, according to imaginary experts. More on p5
Tantamount Life
MY HELLISH MISERY! Stay-at-home dad, missing for two years, reveals that toddler accidentally sent him to faerieland. Full story on p11-13

 

Proverb of the day: An apple a day keeps the devil away. Unfortunately, extensive scientific investigation has proven this proverb to be untrue. Other things that are untrue include chem trails, electrosensitivity, and money. Therefore we advise that you deposit all your used conspiracy theories and theoretical currency in the bin below to be disposed of safely.
Tantamount District Council

 

RE: stew recipe
TO: management@pinprick.tan
FROM: laurallovelace@hotmail.tan

Dear Thora Hope,
Please find attached a recipe for a stew – it was given to me by a rather upset dog yesterday. As you know I am not overly interested in stew, however I think this recipe bears some looking at. With a few tweaks it could be a new staple at Pinprick Cafe, and the fishbones should make for good fortunetelling. Please read and let me know what you think.
Also, will we be acknowledging the Leap Day, or moving straight into March?
Best wishes,
Laura Lovelace
Attachments: Dogstew recipe.doc
antiviral blessing.doc

 

LIVE POETRY AT THE PINPRICK CAFE
featuring
INGRID THE INELUCTABLE
BOB THE BASTARD
and introducing
the EXISTENTIAL EPICENTRIC EARTHQUAKE of EDITH with their debut collection
BLAM
7:30pm till late
Drinks, snacks and crisis counselling available at the bar. Admission T6.25, 9th February

 

RE RE: stew recipe
TO: lauralovelace@hotmail.tan
FROM: management@pinprick.tan

Dear Laura,

This is a good recipe – I have made some changes and hope you will introduce it as a new dish. That dog must have really liked you!
We will be running with the Leap Day – I don’t like Julius Caesar myself but the Leap Days are fun. Also find attached the flyer for the poetry gig that we are hosting.
Best wishes,
Thora Hope
Attachments: Blam poetry night.doc
Antiviral blessing.doc

 

Notice

Waterworks to take place here on Dark Lane Way through the second half of February. These essential waterworks are for maintaining the culveted springs below the road, and making ceremonial offerings of propitiation to prevent flooding later in the year. Anyone wishing to take part in the ceremony should contact Severn Trent on xxxxx 728 888 NO PIGEONS

Thanks, Severn Trent

 

Weather Report

The weather today was clear as glass and occasionally interrupted by high-pitched zagreets. Domestic animals were noticeably irritated, and several public bathrooms were wrecked.

Notice

It would appear that Tantamount has moved into the Severn. We urge residents to remain calm, and not to attempt to leave the town except at low tide. We have provided every household that we care about with water-breathing apparatus, and are taking advantage of our new position to go fishing. An oneiromancer and a Town-whisperer are being consulted on when they believe Tantamount will move again.
Tantamount District Council

RIOTS IN THE STREETS
The Tantamount Grapevine (official) can confirm that a riot took place last night, shortly after the Carrion had departed. A group of furious pensioners armed with megaphones, baseball bats and SCUBA gear took over the streets for a good hour. Several shops were set alight, windows were broken, and the public marijuana fountain was trashed (we’re all quite sad about that).
The rabble eventually retreated to the bingo hall, where they used numerology to summon a Being from Beyond (we don’t know where it’s beyond). We heard from trusted sources that, when the rioting reached Pinprick Cafe, Thora Hope defended the premises by wielding an enormous salmon. Jeff’s taxidermy shop was wrecked, although some witnesses claim that was not pensioners but angry goats disguised as pensioners.
More to follow!


Tantamount will return at some point in mid-February. Should you need to catch up, there is a page on my website with links 🙂
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A new thingmabob

AHOY THERE! It’s been a while, and I am, I promise, still here. Just a bit caught up in all the pre Winter Doom Festival busyness and struggling to find space in my mind.

Ages back, I mentioned two things that I was thinking of putting on the blog. One was a sci-fi series full of happy queers, and I’m still slowly writing that. The other was an odd found maybe-story set in a strange town. And that, I’ve made some progress with. Enough to start sharing some of it anyway. I’ve never before written something while sharing it, and even with the amount of cushioning I’ve got in it’s a bit scary. But I figure what is this blog for if not to do new things with my writing (and also book reviews).

So, tomorrow you get the first installment of Tales from Tantamount. There will be at least one post per month, hopefully more. It’s not precisely a story so much as a wander around an odd place that lives in my head sometimes.

Here’s a little bit of introductory blurb about it.

Tales from Tantamount

Being a found record of the town of Tantamount, starting in December of the year of the Abandoned Shopping Trolley and continuing into the Year of the Sad Plastic Bag.

 

TANTAMOUNT, adj: equivalent in seriousness to. Italian ‘tanto montare’= ‘amount to much’

noun: a small, strange town somewhere near the Severn, known to move about.

 

Welcome to Tantamount!

Population: undefined/nebulous.

Visitors to Tantamount are required to attend the orientation classes held at the Tourist Information Centre. Failure to attend these classes will be punished by Carrion. Tantamount takes no responsibility for injury, loss of life, spiritual dislocation or other harm caused to visitors who have not attended orientation.

We hope you enjoy your stay.

Tantamount Tourist Board.

 

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Book Review: White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

White is for witching by Helen Oyeyemi

ore: Miranda Silver is in Dover, in the ground beneath her mother’s house.

This has to be the most unsettling book that I have ever read, with the possible exception of Let the Right One In although that is a completely different kind of unsettling. I have never read anything like it: Helen Oyeyemi’s writing is unique, and the sort of thing that one probably loves or hates without an inbetween. It is a story told by unreliable narrators: several of them, who are not always who they say they are. It is a story that crept up inside my head and squeezed my heart and promised not to let me go. It was not the story that it started out as, either. There are forms in which I have read this story before, and in which I am tired of reading it. I am tired, more than I can say, of the pretty thin fragile girl going mad while holding up all the things that nobody else can see and breaking breaking breaking while always looking beautiful – most girls are not fragile. Most women are not mad, but spitting furious (in my experience) and living with things that are not easily spoken of. I am tired of this narrative which has no space for the fury.

(And Miranda was not the only girl there: Ore was there, holding a whole different set of things, and Tijana and SPOILER I was glad that Ore left, that she did not stay to pick up pieces in a fight that wasn’t hers that would have tried to destroy her. Not glad that, again, the queer romance ended in tragedy and separation, but glad that Ore left and survived END SPOILER.)

White is for Witching was not quite this narrative. It went somewhere else. It was that story, told differently and compulsively and with layers and layers that I will probably be peeling back compulsively over the next week, month… It was about an angry house full of rattling histories and bigotry, and a family haunting and haunted. It was about keeping people out or letting them in and all of the ugly ugly things that get swept out of sight. It was about nationality and legacy and the things that get carried and the the things that are devoured and who belongs. Who really belongs, and what that means, and who gets to decide that and what right they have to do so. It was about all the things that Miranda Silver tries to devour or keep at bay; all the history bearing down on her and bearing down on Ore.

It was complex. I don’t think I can unravel it in just one review but it is worth reading, and worth reading again, and marking notes in the margins with pencils and listening to and thinking about the things that nobody wants to look at and why and the messy patchwork that makes up this country and all the everyday violence therein. And the ghosts, standing behind everyone.

Rating: read this book. Do not eat the damn apples.

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Book Review: The Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

la belle sauvage book of dust one philip pullman

Three miles up the river Thames from the centre of Oxford, some distance from where the great colleges of Jordan, Gabriel, Balliol, and two dozen others contended for mastery in the boat races, out where the city was only a collection of towers and spires in the distance over the misty levels of Port Meadows, there stood the priory of Godstow, where the gentle nuns went about their holy business; and on the opposite bank from the priory there was an inn called the Trout.

I absolutely loved this. It has been a long time since I read His Dark Materials, which consists of some of my favourite books of all time. I briefly considered re-reading them before diving into The Book of Dust: volume one. In the end I was far too excited to wait.

It took a while for me to settle into this book – I was, I think, a bit too excited about it and couldn’t quite enjoy what was happening now because I wanted to know what would happen next. I became absorbed quite quickly, to the point where I cannot actually pinpoint when I stopped jittering about. Malcolm was, at first, a bit difficult for me to relate to. He grew on me as the story went on, and I think it helped that the point of view moved occasionally.

One of the things I’ve always really loved about His Dark Materials is the worldbuilding (especially in the first book, Northern Lights), so I was absolutely delighted to be returning to the same world. I had forgotten how much I enjoy Philip Pullman’s writing, the long lyrical sentences; the specificity of his dialogue and the richness of feeling. The story is set when Lyra is a baby, and it was exciting to get a sense of Brytain ten years before Northern Lights. Marisa Coulter turns up, which made me yell a bit – I’ve always counted her as one of my favourite villains.

There were some things that were tricky for me – I liked that His Dark Materials had a female central character, so I kept having to adjust for Malcolm being in the middle of it all. There were women in the story, quite a lot of them, but it’s just not quite the same. Of course, Malcolm’s Daemon is female, so there is that.

As for the plot – oh I was just swept away. I read this in two sittings over one day, and I could probably read it again next week. It was, in instances, very fairytale-esque. And relevant to current events in a somewhat scary manner.

I’m well aware that I’m not being particularly objective – it’s all very fresh in my mind and I sort of want to think about it all, re-read it, think about it all again and then re-read the original three books. I’d say it’s definitely a brilliant addition to the world, and I’m interested to see what happens with the other Book of Dust volumes.

Rating: read this book. Do your best to keep your head above the rising water.

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