Jewellery: Gothic watermelon

21 and a half inch / 54.5 centimetre beading wire necklace with acrylic spacer beads in silver, green and gold glass beads, pink/watermelon tourmaline gemstone beads.This cute beaded necklace is just right for Christmas! With an unusual twist on the usual Christmas colours, these beads will pair well with chokers or opera length necklaces, as well as making a fetching addition to any outfit on their own.BUY BUY BUY
Click on image for listing!

21 and a half inch / 54.5 centimetre beading wire necklace with acrylic spacer beads in silver, green and gold glass beads, pink/watermelon tourmaline gemstone beads.

This cute beaded necklace is just right for Christmas! With an unusual twist on the usual Christmas colours, these beads will pair well with chokers or opera length necklaces, as well as making a fetching addition to any outfit on their own.

17 inch / 43 centimetre choker made with vintage metal disc chain, silver plate large curb chain, gunmetal cross chain, silver plate findings, acrylic and glass beads, and a variety of silver plate and black finish metal crosses, two silver plate wing charms.This magnificently gothic masterpiece is a completely unique Golgotha of crucifixes and gothic crosses to suspend from your throat, and will make you the centre of attention. Perfect for the 90s revival.BUY BUY BUY
Click on image for listing!

17 inch / 43 centimetre choker made with vintage metal disc chain, silver plate large curb chain, gunmetal cross chain, silver plate findings, acrylic and glass beads, and a variety of silver plate and black finish metal crosses, two silver plate wing charms.

This magnificently gothic masterpiece is a completely unique Golgotha of crucifixes and gothic crosses to suspend from your throat, and will make you the centre of attention. Perfect for the 90s revival.

NaNoWriMo 2013: The Circle is complete.

I promise I didn’t just call this book The Circle so I could make that horrible joke. It’s only a pleasant side-effect.

Today, a day after I scheduled it (for which we shall have to blame the dentist) but 20,000 words over predicted length (for which we shall have to blame my accursed verbosity), I finished the first draft of The Circle, and am now free to devote myself to other things, like embroidery, drawing, sewing, making jewellery, reading London Falling by Paul Cornell, etc.

Except I got another T E Lawrence biography in the post yesterday so what I am most likely to spend December doing is “cry-wanking over T E Lawrence” again. At this point, it’s almost a tradition.

Speaking of tradition, there’s something else I have to add to this sparse little post:

Gosh, isn’t that ugly?

All done for another year!

Book Release: Vessel 151-B (Short Story)

Previous short stories I’ve put up for eReader purchase have fallen under modern parable/sports fairytale and body horror/historical lgbt horror, because I like to give genre boundaries a run for their money, and one of the stories I’ve put up on this blog probably comes under the heading of literary fiction, which (as mentioned) is not actually a dirty set of words. The latest offering I have is helpfully far more easily-categorised under classic sci-fi. If you want to get technical there are elements of classical parable and body horror in there, but it is more or less a straight-forward sci-fi story.

It’s also somewhat longer than the others, coming in at about 10,000 words, making it ideal for a train journey rather than a Tube journey.

After a terrible accident Calvin Owusu-Baah wakes to a silent ship and a strange, nagging sense that something is not right. As he begins to investigate he finds that things are far, far worse than he could have imagined, and that his efforts to improve the situation are only going to make things wrong.(short story)Available for Amazon Kindle (UK | US), and most other eReaders (here).
Cover taken from a photograph by J. Reilly.

After a terrible accident Calvin Owusu-Baah wakes to a silent ship and a strange, nagging sense that something is not right. As he begins to investigate he finds that things are far, far worse than he could have imagined, and that his efforts to improve the situation are only going to make things wrong.

Available for Amazon Kindle (UK | US), and most other eReaders (here); Vessel 151-B conforms to the most basic tenets of science fiction in asking questions about how humanity relates to technology, and where the limits of both human nature and responsibility lie.

Poetry: here’s your Sunday sermon.

Memento Mori: The Cosmic Edition

Okay, listen. We don’t have much time.
You’re dying.
So am I.
Soon the rot will devour us both.
The sun will explode and swallow
Everything you ever said
That was slightly stupid:
Galaxies will rise and fall
The civilisation that remembers
If you passed that exam
Is already on the wane.

We’re dying.
There is no time to be furious
Or pensive, or alone.
It is important that you listen
Please
Before time turns out
On this flicker of light within,
This tiny shout against universal entropy,
Your momentary stand in the dark.

Please, before we are ashes,
Then a sea of lukewarm atoms
Paralysed a few degrees above the absolute –
While you still can:
Dance.

The end is coming
And it has one hell of a beat.

–Delilah Des Anges (2013)

(I wrote this in bed this morning after catching up on Professor Jim Al-Khalili’s Light & Dark: Light on iPlayer last night, and contemplating this morning the feasibility of a tattoo reading “existential horror you can dance to”; the latter I think should be given further consideration, as I already have an enormous list of tattoos I wish to get and it does nothing but grow).

Jewellery: Entomology

Having been too busy to make anything jewellery-shaped in a while, I did manage to dash off these two simple things:

23 inch / 58.5 centimetre silver-coloured metal chain and round closure with upcycled painted wooden beetle pendant.Show off your love of bugs or cheer up the entomophile in your life with this unusual pendant necklace! Lightweight, easy-wearing, great for day wear.Click on image for listing!
Click on image for listing!

23 inch / 58.5 centimetre silver-coloured metal chain and round closure with upcycled painted wooden beetle pendant.

24 inch / 61 centimetre silver-coloured metal chain with metal closure and upcycled painted wooden fly pendant.Perfect for showing your love of bugs or for enlivening the day of the entomophile in your life, this unusual necklace is lightweight and great for wearing as part of an unconventional outfit, or jazzing up a more habitual one!Click on image for listing!
click on image for listing!
24 inch / 61 centimetre silver-coloured metal chain with metal closure and upcycled painted wooden fly pendant.
Both of these are perfect for showing your love of bugs or for enlivening the day of the entomophile in your life. These unusual necklaces are lightweight and great for wearing as part of an unconventional outfit, or jazzing up a more habitual one!
(More jewellery coming soon).

The unending business of finding your own way.

One of the most misguided compliments people who are unfamiliar with me like to furnish me with, because they are polite and good at telling people what they want to hear, is that I always seem to know what I’m doing and where I’m going. This is, in the plainest possible terms, a remarkable bucket of bullshit; more than anything else I am terrible for internalising completely arbitrary advice and behaving as if it is heaven-sent dictum which cannot be changed, rather than being “a vague tip from someone who doesn’t actually know what they’re talking about” or at best “an opinion”.

This is one of the reasons I begin to prefer the sciences as I’ve grown older: while the certainties of the past are overturned by new evidence, there is at least a certain amount of work involved in the overturning of these certainities, many of the inherent principles underlying the new version of reality remain the same, and no one just pulled an entire new supposedly working model of the universe entirely out of their arse without being rigorously questioned about it. While the sciences are by no means free of arguments from authority (we are all human, after all, and unfortunately that means we are innately hierarchical), they are not quite so bad for “he’s been here for thirty years so despite the fact that he has never contributed anything that made a lick of sense we will assume that he is correct”.

Recently, after a period of soul-searching of the sort that involves lying in bed with the covers over one’s head and is aesthetically indistinguishable from sulking, my enlightened and not at all distracted by the X-Box boyfriend gave me the advice, “Write the way you want to, and let other people catch up.”

This rather contradicts the advice given to me not an excessive length of time ago by my father, speaking of his all-too-familiar battle to make a commercial living from the practice of fine art (pro tip: it’s really hard): “You have to make what people want to buy.”

Now the truth probably lies in the middle, or, if one is canny, in the business of making people want to buy things that are made the way you want to make them, which is known more succinctly as “marketing”. Marketing other people’s products is a fine and noble career in which the practice of bending the truth becomes a fantastic game in its own right, and I can easily see the appeal. Marketing your own works of art, on the other hand, is Satan’s own perpetual hellish labour and requires both a complete acceptance of and resistance to rejection. These tend to be traits absent from quite a lot of people, and anyone who has any doubts about the quality of their work (ie: almost all of us) finds that “convince me” makes every single hairline fracture in the surface become a gaping abyss into which entire solar systems could comfortably fall.

However, in the last year or so I’ve been mired quite heavily in “what people want to buy”. To an extent this helped me, as it pushed me to finish Tame, on the grounds that this was precisely the sort of thing the people I was familiar with would want to buy: a lightweight, upbeat romantic story about a somewhat baffled woman who falls in love with a werewolf girl, featuring a certain amount of personal growth on the part of all the characters who’ve earned it. But to an extent it has led to me feeling incredibly stifled, as the things I enjoy writing and the style I enjoy writing in are not so much “not what people want to buy” as “what a specific group of people who are not as vocal about it as others want to buy”.

I think things can work out for you if what you want to write and what people want to read intersect in loud places: my friend Melanie Clegg has discovered oodles of people who are just as keen as she to read about the woman of the French Revolution, and the oft-neglected victims of Jack the Ripper rather than the mysterious killer himself; L S Baird‘s familiarity with fandom, fannishness, and shared love of many of the same properties as her new readers has helped to grow a powerful and enthusiastic fanbase. Enthusiasm works.

Until quite recently I lamented the chronic inability of the people who read and enjoy my books to talk about it to other people, until it occurred to me in the midst of my soul-searching session that this was not a bug but a feature. What this tells me is that the kind of people who like this work are not the kind of people who form fandoms or necessarily want to discuss the work with anyone other than the author; they are quiet, thoughtful people, whose enjoyment is directed inward.

It’s not helpful in terms of word-of-mouth, but it is helpful in understanding what kind of work I am producing and what kind of “writer” I am.

Another, concurrent accident has helped with this: while I attended an open-day/pitching event at Foyle’s in Charing Cross (organised by Curtis Brown / Conville & Walsh), I was asked by the very encouraging and very pleasant woman to whom I pitched if I could categorise roughly what genre my current novel fell under. This has always been one of the problems keeping me from organising myself to pitch to agents or publishers: the things I write to not fall easily into a genre and when they do they have the style and content of a different genre. If there were a genre for “literary chimeras” I would be set, but the nearest I could think of, with the clock ticking, was that it was “probably literary fiction because it doesn’t seem to go anywhere else” and a sheepish expression.

The sheepish expression comes of being surrounded, for the most part, by zealous defenders of genre fiction.

Make no mistake, genre fiction needs defending. It is derided by literary critics, seen as a reason not to admit applicants to “proper” writing MAs, and is often used as the repository of whichever ill-feeling a journalist or cultural commentator wishes to short-cut to: little mention is made of the comedic branches of fantasy fiction; functional romantic fiction which has existed for long enough or was written by a male author is hedged off away from its genre peers as a “classic” or “modern classic”, not like that grubby genre stuff; science fiction has borne the brunt of a panickily technophobic society’s desire to nerd-bash the forward-looking. And the quality of work, of course, varies wildly. At its zenith, sci-fi asks important philosophical questions about the nature of humanity, the impact of seismic change, and the development of societies in tandem with technology: at its nadir it drivels incomprehensibly about thinly-veiled racist analogies in space while women are used as receptacles for both the author’s social fears and their imaginary semen. Romance fiction reaches the giddy heights of exploration of the most written-of and praised of human emotions: love – or descends to the bilgewater of exploitative wank material with occasional swooning. It’s a mixed bag, that’s what I’m saying.

My peer group, genre fiction defenders to the core, will wax lengthy about the grandeur of the pinnacles of their chosen genre, and it is a profound joy to listen to – as it is always a profound joy to hear any human being expound coherently on the thing they love. Joy, if not interest, is contagious.

Unfortunately the commentators they cite – and occasionally they – justify their defences, which need no justification, with attacks on other genres. Sci fi loves to take pot-shots at romance. All genres combine in a vast Power-Rangers/Transformers beast to bellow that Literary Fiction, by definition, is shit, rather shooting themselves with the same weapon of generalisation and knee-jerk judgement that they complain of. Now I am sure that if an established writer of that genre were to say that the response would be something along the lines of cry me a fucking river, but as I mentioned way back at the beginning of this meandering eyesore of a blog entry, I tend to absorb this stuff.

Quite honestly  I do not know whether the realisation that I do not need to contort myself to court the approval of people whose interests in fiction reading are radically different to mine purely because they are loud and in my sight-line came from a non-judgemental “yes, it sounds like it ought to be” from a beleaguered agent at an open pitching day or whether it came from a moment of frustration in the intervening time when a group of micro-bloggers made another declaration regarding what they wanted from fiction and it aligned perfectly with what I wrote and they still weren’t buying it.

I do know that it’s quite pleasant to remind myself that the hallmarks of “literary fiction” (the long-form exploration of an individual character, emotion, event, or relationship; poetic or unusual prose; a book which is less concerned with plot than with character) are there in Pass the Parcel, and indeed in Protect Me From What I Want. One is wearing the mantle of urban fantasy and the other is making a pretence at a cold-case investigation, but both are literary fiction at their heart. People bought, enjoyed, and even talked about those books. Perhaps they have not done so in their hundreds and thousands: perhaps there have not been fanblogs, or newspaper articles, but those quiet, inward-contemplating people don’t have to be wrong.

Embroidery: Pulp II, Pulp Harder

So I started embroidering Pulp lyrics onto an old lab coat which I possess for reasons relating to poor-decision-making while drunk (there is a funny story attached to this coat, but it is a certain value of “funny” and involves head injuries, being barred from a pub which no longer exists, and A&E at The Whittington in Archway and I’m not sure people would find it so much humorous as disturbing). Embroidery, while resulting in a lot of bloodshed, swearing, and squinting (like almost everything else I do) provides a pleasant break from other forms of existence, like “trying to pitch a book you haven’t finished writing yet to a person who is only sitting there because they’ve been paid to listen to your bullshit and they’re not even a psychiatrist”, “trying to write that book”, and “mindlessly buying more bookshelves because the tide of books through your flat is unceasing and unstoppable”.

Here, then, are the latest two installations in the ongoing “art” project: put all the Pulp lyrics I like onto a coat, which … has the important social message of … something something disposable culture and the link between private and public, etc.

Like a Friend, Pulp
Weeds II (Origin of the Species), Pulp

Like a Friend (video, lyrics)
Weeds II (Origin of the Species) (video, lyrics)

100 Works of Art: (Audio) 1812, Tchaikovsky

The 100 Works of Art series of blog posts is a primarily positive slew of posts blethering in a hopefully intelligent manner about works of art which have some sort of personal resonance for me; 25 posts about visual art begin with Black Virtue by Matta, and the ongoing section on audio art opens with The Cure’s Let’s Go To Bed.

32. 1812, Tchaikovsky

Unlike most of the music included on this list, I have no memory of the first time I was introduced to this. It would be impossible to separate out a moment when I first became aware because Western culture is fairly heavily steeped in this piece of music. It has soundtracked endless films and adverts for Iceland, accompanied a thousand fireworks displays, and probably nauseates real connoisseurs of various periods of classical music with its inappropriate ubiquity. Certainly the relentless inevitability with which it is spooled out to provide a false sense of celebration can leave a sour taste in the mouth.

But it doesn’t have to be a degraded version, or a sad attempt at emotional manipulation through invoking the associated sense of victory and achievement. Listened to outside of the context of Bonfire Night, bad films, and the inexplicably popular frozen food giant’s old ads (what is a prawn ring and more importantly why is a prawn ring?), I think the overture retains its original fire.

There is also something to be said for any piece of music which, rather than relying on an excellent performance by an above-average individual (thank you Mozart for whatever the harpsichord equivalent of fretwanking is), decides to go balls out and hit you with cannons.

Written by Tchaikovsky (not that one, the other one) in 1880 to commemorate the victory of Russia against the invasion by Napoleon’s troops (no mean feat considering how much of the rest of Europe the mad little Corsican had successfully vanquished), the 1812 Overture or Overture of 1812 or whatever you like to call it is rightfully celebratory, victorious, triumphal, and full of fucking cannons. It evokes the spirit of relief and strength, and if there is one thing Russian composers love, it’s evoking strength: those two emotions, connected irrecoverably to the successful defence of the frozen motherland, are easily hijacked into daily victories:

Play it when you’re approaching the final word count of your essay; play it when you’re getting to the top of a hill on a long run; play it when, against all the odds, you have successfully tidied your hell-hole bedroom and found no dead animals under the mounds of mouldering clothing.

It is of course for this transferable quality of victorious joy that the overture has been so repeatedly press-ganged into services which are beneath the composition’s true potential and inadequate at securing an emotional response on their own, by a lot of very very lazy musical directors, or productions with a tiny PRS budget. I believe that music should be a personal experience; that is what this entire series of posts is about, and even when enjoyed communally and enhance through the communal experience, what is important is the connection between the individual mind and the music, and the emotion created in the space between them.

Therefore I think it is only reasonable to expect to be able to reclaim the 1812 Overture, and play it whenever you need the appropriate sense of military salute accompanying your achievement. The people at the bus stop may not appreciate that you’ve just jogged half a mile, but Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky does. Or he would if he wasn’t dead. And since he’s dead he can’t argue.

Brilliant.

Embroidery: I managed to write something which doesn’t contain the world “cunt”

I mean my embroidery doesn’t contain the word “cunt”. And actually, at the moment, neither does my novel. The novel is going relatively well, and despite being 91,000 words long and growing, it does not yet contain the word “cunt”, which is remarkable. I can’t speak for that long without saying it.

While writing is going well, I do need to break up the business of throwing up an entire book, and the parachute dress (I WILL POST ABOUT THIS) is not yet completed; however, embroidery is getting more fun since I watched a BBC4 documentary about opus anglicanum (the embroidery of pre-plague England which was famous throughout Europe for its quality and cost) and learned about some more stitches.

The project which has taken me the longest has to remain under wraps as it’s a present for someone, but I did also threaten to, and then go through with, embroider lyrics from a Pulp song onto a lab coat:

Lyrics from “Death II” by Pulp; photo by J. Reilly

This was done in split-stitch, which provides a continuous, unbroken line, and I think next I’m going to take lyrics from “Like a Friend”. One can never have too much Pulp.

NaNoWriMo 2013: Torture By Word Count

Several years ago I decided to stop being competitive about the word count in this November stupidity and concentrate on hitting the plot points that I had allotted for each day’s writing. That, I thought, would be easier. I could probably hit a reasonable target for a first draft of a novel and as I always end up having to put two chapters in roughly 4/5ths of the way through when editing it because that is where I typically run out of steam, the whole thing would be a nice, reasonable size and there was no need to get wound up about word counts.

Just because everyone else is losing their heads about word counts, I thought, doesn’t mean you need to. Your problem is that you are too verbose, if anything. The only time you “failed” NaNo it was because you got 80,000 words instead of the 100,000 you were aiming for. You just concentrate on writing the plot points you need to pass.

If nothing else this pep talk demonstrates that I’m an idiot, as every year I end up fretting not only about plot points but about word count at the same time.

This year I wrote 4,800 words on day one, and have just written 8,800 words on day two. All the plot points which needed to be hit in these two days of outlined writing have been successfully hit. Magic and doom abound. It is a success.

Now I have shooting pains in my forearms.