Tag Archives: Ursula Le Guin

My 100th Post: The Best Of Blog Tour

This is my 100th post, and so I have decided to try and get 100 views to my blog today!  I have been failing to have much traffic lately, barely a handful of viewers per post, which means that even my dear friends and family may not be reading anymore.  It’s ok, I still love you – but I want you back!

The goal of 100 views is perhaps a too high, since so far the only post of mine which has gotten close to that was my Eurovision post on Conchita Wurst, and that got 90 views that day.  And that was only because of random people who had searched for the busty Polish girls and instead got my post.  Sorry, fellas.

So I’m going to have to try really hard to get people interested in the nonsense I spew forth from my keyboard.  Let’s just consider this post a Best Of Blog tour, in the hopes that at least some of what I write is appealing to the general public.

Every post you read gets me one step closer to 100!  So click away!!  Read, enjoy, or roll your eyes and look at pictures of hilarious animals instead.  Just do it after you click.

So perhaps you’re reading this because you like writing, and that is what this blog is supposed to be about.  Maybe you want to read topical posts like Worldbuilding with my discussion of Ursula Le Guin’s awesomeness or The Mirror of Fantastic Vanity in which I call out Neil Gaiman.

Or maybe you, like myself, struggle with finger-stalling brain-demons and would appreciate Mental Bran Flakes.

Perhaps, instead, you’re only here because I have Facebook press-ganged you into it, or a friend of a friend has posted this link.  In that case, maybe you’d rather read something random and potentially humourous like The Spider and the Flute: a sleep-deprivation-inspired tale of arachnid tragedy about which critics, by which I mean the only person who commented (looking at you, md456), have proclaimed: “I have not felt this sympathetic for a spider since Charlotte’s Web.” Or maybe Hobbies, or “the tale of the boob coaster” where I had an R-rated yarn-craft disaster.

Are you one of my falconry friends?  Or have a passing interest in things raptorial?  How about A Falconry Rant where I bitch about the ignorant masses at my old job as a display falconer, The Austringer’s Lament where I wax lyrically about the hunt, or There’s No Such Thing as a Stupid Question – No Wait, There is where I give up on people in general as having common sense at all.

Maybe you’ve read all these before because you’re my mother and read everything I ever post (I love you!), or maybe you’ve never read any of them and have a new-found appreciation or concern for my mental state.  Whatever the case, thank you for taking the time to read what I write.

This will also be a test of how far this platform reaches.  I have decided that the avenue of self-publishing is the only way for a new writer to break into the industry currently, as much as I long to one day hold one of my books in solid printed paper.  So without the weight of a traditional publisher behind me I will be needing to do all my own marketing and advertising, and that’s the real reason I created this blog.  An author needs to be in charge of her own online presence and so this kind of self-advertisement, however uncomfortable it makes me, is part of the game.

So read, my pretties, read!

Hipster Collie Approves

Leaving the House and Inspiration in Spoken Word

I’ve been working slowly through the ideas in my head, and I feel like this novel will either be pure madness or absolute brilliance.  I’m doing something I’ve never done before, and maybe has never been done before.  It’s definitely forcing me to think outside the box, at least.

And I found myself struggling, as always, and so I made a point of leaving the house as much as I could last weekend.  I think I spend Friday through Sunday mostly elsewhere, with the Munchkin in tow.

I know that when I’m having a tough time, whether creatively, mentally, emotionally, I hermit.  And while hermiting is all well and good at times, it doesn’t ultimately help things.  I also realised that over the last few months I had barely left my house apart from grocery shopping and dog walking.  Even as blind as I can get to my own problems, I knew that wasn’t a good thing.

So I squared my shoulders, put on my brave face, told myself I was a big girl and could face the world outside my front door and did things.  I was social, I talked to people (real, grown-up people!), I wore outfits that were not chosen based solely on comfort or how quickly they’d stain.

It was kind of a big deal.

And in the car on the way home from Somewhere, one of those days, I felt inspired.  Inspired in a way that I have not felt for all my hermitage.

I have this weird thing where I sometimes feel self-conscious even if I’m alone in my own house, as if some nebulous consciousness is aware of what I do and say, and I’m aware of the possibility of that nebulous consciousness.  So I never feel like I can read out loud, or sing to myself, unless I direct it as a silly ditty to the dog or baby, because that’s safe and okay to do.

But I had been given a fantastic book, Steering the Craft, an Ursula Le Guin writing workshop in book form.  The first exercise was to enjoy spoken language, to play with word-sounds, as language was always intended to be heard.  I hadn’t been able to get up the nerve to start speaking, or reading, out loud to myself at home.

But I was out, in my car, with Munchkin sleeping in the back seat and the dog in the boot.  I was on a road that was winding me between hills and then suddenly opened into flat fields on either side.  I had an amazing view of the quintessential fine Scottish summer day – that is to say, it was threatening rain and brilliantly sunny at the same time.  In the distance there were swathes of purple-grey clouds with discernible downpours falling in straight rivulets, but clear bright blue behind me.  It was really breathtaking, and if I’d been able to stop and take some photos I would have loved to.  I’d never seen a sky like it.

It inspired a poem.  I love poetry, it’s something I do for myself when I want to write but don’t have a full story.  It’s a snapshot of a moment.  And this moment was spectacular.

I started composing, out loud, in the car.  I repeated phrases and tweaked them.  Past tense, present tense, adverb, adjective.  If anyone had heard me they would have thought I was suffering some kind of mental breakdown.  I worked it aloud in spoken verse, and when it was done, I told it to myself again, and again, and again, for the rest of the journey home.  I didn’t want to forget it.  And I haven’t, since.

That moment of inspiration would have never happened if I hadn’t left my house, no matter how hard I sometimes find it to do that.


Today I have mostly been making a world.

In writing fantasy, as I do (kind of, my current novel is more post-fantasy than fantasy), that’s the most important part.  If you can’t write a believable world, then all the rest of your work, however imaginative and inspiring, will be dancing around in front of one of those green-screen sets that used to be prevalent in old movies, and as easy to see through.

As my hero Ursula Le Guin (who I shall continue to quote for a while yet) says of fantasy which utilises unbelievable fakery in its worldbuilding and a noncommittal writing style, in her essay From Elfland to Poughkeepsie:

“It is a fake plainness.  It is not really simple, but flat.  It is not really clear, but inexact.  Its directness is specious.  Its sensory clues – extremely important in imaginative writing – are vague and generalised; the rocks, the wind, the trees are not there, are not felt; the scenery is cardboard, or plastic.”

Real directness, and simplicity, however, I think is vital to a believable world of one’s own making.  As in my previous post, this is a world that you know full well isn’t real.  But that doesn’t mean it can’t be believable.  It also doesn’t mean that it can’t be a true story.

In Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?, Ursula Le Guin writes:

“For fantasy is true, of course.  It isn’t factual, but it is true.  Children know that.  Adults know it too, and that is precisely why many of them are afraid of fantasy.  They know that its truth challenges, even threatens, all that is false, all that is phony, unnecessary, and trivial in the life they have let themselves be forced into living.  They are afraid of dragons because they are afraid of freedom.”

So I’ve been spending all my spare time today working on this world, because this world needs to be true, and believable, an engaging backdrop to a story which I’ve been working on for half a decade and fighting with for just as long.  I’m hoping this will be the final editing phase required of it so I can make it at least somewhat close to the shining thing I made up in my head.  It’s incredibly hard to express these things and tell the truth of what I’ve seen and felt, because it never comes out quite the same as it is when you’re thinking it.

Again, because she can express this far better than I’ve been able to, from yet another essay, Talking About Writing:

“The writer’s job, as I see it, is to tell the truth.  The writers truth – nobody else’s.  It is not an easy job.  One of the biggest implied lies going around at present is the one that hides in phrases like ‘self-expression’ or ‘telling it like it is’ – as if it were that easy, anybody could do it if they just let the words pour out and didn’t get fancy.  The ‘I am a camera’ business again.  Well it just doesn’t work that way.  You know how are it is to say to somebody, just somebody you know, how you really feel, what you really think – with complete honesty?  You have to trust them, and you have to know yourself, before you can say anything anywhere near the truth.  And it’s hard.  It takes a lot out of you.

You multiply that by thousands; you replace the listener, the live flesh-and-blood friend you trust, with a faceless unknown audience of people who may possibly not even exist; and you try to write the truth to them, you try to draw them a map of your innermost mind and feelings, hiding nothing and trying to keep all the distances straight and the altitudes right and the emotions honest. . . And you never succeed.  The map is never complete, or even accurate.  You read it over and it may be beautiful but you realize that you have fudged here, and smeared there, and left this out, and put in  some stuff that isn’t really there at all, and so on – and there is nothing to do then but say OK; that’s done; now I come back and start a new map, and try to do it better, more truthfully.  And all of this, every time, you do alone – absolutely alone.  The only questions that matter are the ones you ask yourself.”

She paints a rather dismal picture of the writing process, but an honest one.

Writing is hard.

But in how many other careers/callings can you say: “I spent today mostly making a world, completely out of nothing but my mind and a feeling I had once”?


“In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is a nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it.  Finally, when we’re done with it, we may find – if it’s a good novel – that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little.”

Ursula Le Guin, from her essay “Introduction to the Left Hand of Darkness”

As I’ve been spending today between arguing with an infant on the topic of sleep, and actually writing for real in the few spare minutes I’ve had, I leave you with the above quote to consider.  Now that I’ve finally got the wee beastie to bed, Mama has a date with a glass of wine and the Eurovision semi-finals!!  True erudite thinking can wait until the morning!

The Power of Names: A Rambling Post

I told myself I was going to write today.  Actually, I told myself I was going to write on Wednesday since I had the day off.  In typical fashion, this has not happened.  Today I went as far as open a blank document, and have it sit next to me, accusing me with its blankness since about 9ish this morning.

This is going well, obviously.

However, even if I’m not writing I’m at least reading.  I just finished rereading the Earthsea Quartet by my hero Ursula Le Guin.  And then I moved on to C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew which took all of an hour-ish to read.
The combination of the two has done funny things to my head, but the most obvious side-effect was  that I went rushing to the Husband’s Bible and found this quote which I knew I remembered from a decade or more ago, back when I was a good little Jewish girl in Hebrew school:

So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. [Genesis 2.19]

From Earthsea I came away with the intense belief in the power of names, and from The Magician’s Nephew I was awash in Genesis allegory.  Little wonder I had to connect the two.

Naming has always been associated with power, with domination, and fantasy often likes to use that as the pretext for magic.  Man named the creatures; they did not name themselves. We name children, pets, each other.  But names are external, coming from sources outwith the name-bearer; the namer has that power, not the named.

It’s not hard to see why we’ve been obsessed with the power of names for centuries.

I often feel as though fantasy reaches back towards established mythology as authors seek to bring in familiar ideas into unfamiliar terrain.  To justify the fantastic as something solid, realistic if not real.  So there we find the biblical allegory, the use of creation myths and heroic sagas.  And the same way that scholars can keep writing new treatises on these centuries-old traditions, so can authors bring new life and new perspective.

But I’m still seeking that nonexistent Unique Idea, though I should know better.