On the downside, I’ve had a story and a novel rejected, but then on the upside, we’ve had four new clients for the Marketing/Webdesign business, plus I was sent a good review of ‘Day Terrors’ from Supernatural Tales magazine. So is that two steps backwards, five steps forward, even if some of those steps are slightly diagonal? Go figure…
DAY TERRORS – Edited with an introduction by Dru Pagliasotti www.theharrowpress.com
“Day Terrors has a fair number of stories that rise above genre cliché and cardboard characters. Of these, a decent number are supernatural. And, though Harrow Press is a California outfit, I was pleased to find that some of the best supernatural tales here came from British writers….
Another Brit, E(mma) C. Seaman, rounds off the book with her ghostly ‘Sands of Time’. In the author notes she apologises for the low-key nature of the tale, but it is in fact an interesting example of the kind of ghost story that used to be called science fantasy, which – if well done, as it is here – needs no apology…
Overall, this is a pretty good anthology; I enjoyed it more than I expected, and it’s always pleasing to come across new names who can really write. It should appeal to more broadminded ST readers; those of us who don’t mind dipping our toes into the murky, roiling waters of the modern horror scene to see what comes up for a nibble.’
It’s available in paperback from www.Amazon.co.uk and also in Kindle format.
I’m sitting typing this at midnight, shivering in my fake fur coat. For reasons far too complicated to explain, I’m camped out at my parents’ house using their computer to print off a manuscript. They’re away for the night and I can’t work their central heating. That’s one reason for my shivering. The other is that I can look out of their study window across Bradley Valley, over to Wolborough Church, where my friends’ young son was buried just a couple of weeks ago. The tower of the church is glowing with light, a beacon in the darkness, and I’m thinking about little Sam, lying there under the crest of pine trees, fresh snowdrops already coming up in the grass near his grave. I can see his parents’ house, just a few minutes’ walk from the church. All their lights are off, and I really hope they’re asleep. I don’t think they’ve been getting much sleep, recently.
It is terrifying how quickly we can be brought back down to earth. One minute we’re celebrating Christmas, debating whether to crack open another bottle, nibble another chocolate, queasily irritated with our noisy, boisterous sugar-high children. The next minute we’re reeling from the news of a sudden, unexpected and inexplicable death, and reaching out to give and receive comfort. One consolation for Sam’s family was that he was a much-loved little boy, who surely knew how much he was adored. I’ve always liked to slip into my kids’ room late at night, to straighten their quilts and steal a sleepy kiss, but in the weeks since Sam died, I’ve been unwilling to leave them, to detach myself from their clinging embrace. Some nights I lie there ‘til morning, holding their warm little bodies snug against mine.
Hold your loved-ones close. Phone your family and tell them you really do care. Make up that feud, write a letter, send an email. Don’t ever have cause to regret the love you didn’t express. If you try, then somehow, the right words will come.
At the weekend I read an interview with Amy Williams, Britain’s golden girl in Vancouver, and she said something that really chimed with me.
“Every decision I’ve made was: is this going to help me go to the Olympics or is it not? Do I go out, do I not go out? I’ve probably been a bit of a bore for the past few years…. And it’s all paid off.”
How fabulous, I thought, that single-minded drive to success, identifying what you want and then putting every waking moment into it. That’s what I need to do – ensure that my every action takes me closer to becoming No 1 Bestselling Author (which is, when you get down to it, the Gold I’m chasing). Then this morning as I was hanging out the laundry, making school lunchboxes, sorting picture books, organising cat races (don’t ask), I thought – oh yeah? That single-minded pursuit of success is fine as long as you don’t have small children and a husband, all of whom need (and deserve) their fair share of care and attention. Single-mindedness, in fact, works best if you are single.
“There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall,” wrote Cyril Connelly, a bitter phrase that has always annoyed me, for it gets too-frequently used as a put-down for busy mummy-writers or as self(ish) justification for male authors to pursue their own ends behind locked doors. To achieve my writing dreams, should I have refused marriage and motherhood? I suppose singledom would have given me more time to write, but then what the hell would I have written about? I’m temperamentally unsuited to being alone and besides, though it works for some, without the experiences and fulfilment I’ve had in my ‘real life’, I’d have ended up a sad, strange little person, not writing anything worthy of reading. And having happily plumped for family life, I certainly don’t want to take the ‘bolt the study door and let them fend for themselves’ route – that way lies divorce, and given the tininess of my children, angry visits from social services.
So there’s my dilemma; I’m not prepared to relinquish my dream, but equally, viscerally, feel that I cannot neglect my darlings. And so, like everyone else who can only pursue their dreams part-time, I’ve discovered the joy of compromise. I sit writing until 1am, even though I know the kids will have me up again at 5, I blog while my toddler watches CBeebies, and turn down invitations to go out with my friends so that I can write in my precious evening hours. I’ve even developed an ability to concentrate on my laptop while my husband watches sci-fi on TV; at least that way we can be companionable on the same sofa, though my mind is floating off elsewhere. I don’t think DH minds my lack of interest in Caprica; he chases me back to my computer if he thinks I’m not writing hard enough, and I tell myself that my children are better off with a mummy who enjoys what she does. So what if I have to squeeze every day to find enough hours? At least I can still dream; at least I’m still going for gold…
Went to see The biggest film ever in the world, it’s official in 3d yesterday. Darling Husband (or DH, as Mumsnet would have it) weirdly decided it would be an ideal Valentine’s Day treat – though it didn’t exactly create a romantic mood as we both ended up with cracking headaches (3d always makes me feel as if my eyes are bouncing round a pinball machine and my brain is being squeezed out through my earholes…)
Anyway – Avatar left me feeling decidely unnerved, and not just from my 3d hangover. For pure visual spectacle, it is the most amazing film I’ve seen; the scenery of the world of Pandora is stunning, almost literally, as tree branches and fern fronds seem entirely likely to snap back and hit you round the head as the characters leap through their fabulous forest. The 3d adds to the trippy experience, making the film incredibly immersive – I noticed a young girl a few seats away from me reaching out her hands to try and catch dandelion-like seedpods that seemed to float only inches from our faces. Some audiences have formed support groups to deal with the loss and dejection they feel when the film ends, devastated that they have to ‘leave’ beautiful Pandora behind in the cinema (I’m guessing they were Americans.) I even felt a little trace of that strange artificial nostalgia for a place and a time that doesn’t actually exist, for I am secretly sad that I will never get to walk through the beautiful nighttime phosphorescence of the Pandoran rainforest, with the lush moss lighting up under my bare feet at every step, like some kind of eco-friendly Michael Jackson video.
But still… although it is a feat of astonishing technical wizardry, there is something faintly depressing about the film, quite apart from the rather heavy-handed enviro-message being perpetually undermined by the director’s pornographically lustful eye for a huge explosion. The quality of the story, for example, when looked at with a writer’s sensibility… well, it’s formulaic, verging on parodic. There are certain shots (for example, the hero accidentally pushing away his wheelchair in a moment of crisis) that are entirely predictable, places where the plot creaks with convenient devices, characters that are archetypes rather than people, dialogue that never rises beyond exposition or cliche. And then there’s the uneasy, queasy sensation you get when your brain catches up with your eyes and you realise that nothing you are watching is ‘real’, in an even more dramatic way than with most films, for the majority of the characters have been computer-born, spun from pixels and electricity. (Even more disturbing when you realise you’re starting to find these pixellated creations faintly attractive…)
So is Avatar the future of filmmaking? Now the technology is there, and the bar has been raised, I can only imagine that big-budget films will be getting even bigger (though the role of the actor may be diminishing…. discuss.) Terry Gilliam, for one, has expressed dismay at Avatar‘s success, worrying that the big bang boys are going to squeeze out all the small and quirky films that are driven (at least in part) by art rather than commerce. The temptation to create bigger and more spectacular visions has always been a part of filmmaking, but so has the desire to reflect, explore and illuminate human truths and emotions. So I’m just waiting for the film that manages to combine the beautiful landscape of Pandora with a warm and beating heart.