Friday, 19 June 2015

Things and Stuff #17

Secrets, Vespers, Vids, Villains, Pages


Thing 1: A Thing
I saw a thing. I'm absolutely not allowed to talk about it.

Having secrets is kinda fun actually.

My face when I got that one email (c) Cybill/the internet
Thing 2: Beautiful music in beautiful places
The next CEFC concerts are coming up really quite soon, like much sooner than I realised, and I need to knuckle down and practice my ppp top Es and my Old Slavonic Russian Ls (unfortunately, I think I biologically cannot do the Ls the way they're meant to be done, but maybe I can learn to fudge it...)

Gorgeous poster (c) CEFC
We're doing Rachmaninov's Vespers and some other gorgeous a capella pieces in two concerts in July - Friday the 10th in Southwark Cathedral and Saturday the 18th in St John's College Chapel, Cambridge. It's amazing music and it's going to be wonderful - potentially dodgy Russian Ls notwithstanding.

Thing 3: The Return of the Fancy Cannibal
This won't be news to anyone who follows me on any social media, but for anyone who missed it: a long time ago back in the mists of time (Things and Stuff #8 to be exact), I recommended the marvellous Cleolinda's wonderful Hannibal recaps. I stand by that rec, especially for people who don't think the show itself would be for them, but now I have a follow up rec, and it is this:

Watch Hannibal.

Restless Hugh Dancy gif and amazing comment both (c) NBC's Hannibal Tumblr account which is a work of genius all by itself

I was only reading the recaps back then, but then Cleo had to take a break from recapping and I needed to know what happened next, so I started watching.

This show is my jam, you guys. It's just come back for its third season and stuff is happening and people are dead and people are not dead and the fandom is already making plushie versions of people's horrifying visions and the queerbaiting continues to be beautiful, frustrating and hilarious in pretty much equal measure, and it's all so great I swear if you haven't given it a chance yet, you need to. (I also still recommend Cleolinda's recaps, Storify posts and entire twitter feed basically as a way to help you process all of the amazing stuff you are about to witness.)

Like this beautiful nonsense (c) NBC
I have no looming book deadline so I might be spending a chunk of this weekend making Hannibal fanvids because that is how much I mean this squee. A Lot, is how much.

Thing 4: Researching the research
I've come to the point in my current work-in-progress book where the hero needs to encounter the villain for the first time. Unfortunately, even though I have most of a plot in mind, my villain is distinctly vague. I know all sorts of things about him already - it's just his motivation and methods that are still a little fuzzy. Hmm.

So I've spent this week doing a lot of Googling around the setting and themes of the book trying to research some of the directions I could go off in looking for a really good evil motive. It's exciting, because at the moment it could be almost anything, but intimidating for the exact same reason.

Thing 5: Morning Pages
Morning pages is this exercise from The Artist's Way, which is a whole big hippy scheme of how to improve your life and creativity which you have to buy the book or videos to actually access in full - I haven't ever done that, I could, but I'm pretty sure it would be a form of procrastination for me, and I'm not sure how much of the hippy crystals stuff I would be able to stomach anyway.

But I saw morning pages recommended on a blog a couple of weeks ago and I thought I'd try it out. Basically, every morning before you do anything else (at least, before you do any work) you write three longhand pages of whatever rubbish passes through your head. As mundane or silly or angsty as you like.

Basically like this (c) Eddie Izzard
It's supposed to help you sort your thoughts out and get down all the little things that are hanging out in your head so that they're codified and not so scary when you've finished. And it does kind of work, sort of. I haven't had any huge revelations of my inner self or fantastic flights of imagination - but I have also definitely had a few better days because I've written down what I expect to have to deal with that day and how I feel about it.

So yeah, I recommend it as a thing to try. You might not like it. But you might.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Things and Stuff #16

Tabletop, new, Carmen, cafes, Spotify

Thing 1: Dungeons and Dutchmen
I started playing tabletop for the first time ever and I LOVE IT. It's not D+D - it's actually a Swedish system called Mutant which is being translated sort-of-on-the-fly by our brilliant GM. It's a WW2 supernatural horror game set in Colditz castle (not remotely the setting the system was designed for!) and we're all POWs. I'm playing a very short, very strong, rather clumsy young Dutch pilot called Peter Kappel who has a secret Jewish girlfriend back at home and a French ghost lady who seems invested in my well-being, at least enough to do things like help heal me when I critically failed an agility roll and fell off the roof of the castle, breaking half my ribs. It was awesome.

Thing 2: New secret exciting projects
I've been pretty busy writing things recently - and I can't really talk about any of them. Some of them are commissioned, written, edited... but won't be coming out any time soon. Some are out there now in the ether being read by editors who I hope will love them. Some of them are packaged/ghostwritten. Some of them are my very own brand new things.

So because I can't be more specific about any of these, here are a selection of CLUES. Check back again in like six months to a year and we can talk about what some of these mean...




Thing 3: Carmen, a three-dimensional tempty temptress
A friend gave us tickets to see Carmen at the ENO, and it was great. Carmen isn't one of the operas I know very well - going in, my general impression was that Carmen is very sexy, there's a bullfight that everyone's very excited about, and everyone dies. I was pretty much spot on, but I was also really impressed with how the central relationships were handled. 

Carmen was extremely sexy. She was brilliant. A brittle queen living under the constant gaze of men who treat her as a sex object - but still her own person, even if that person is flawed as hell. In the end, Carmen is killed by a soldier she seduced and persuaded to desert for her. And that is incredibly problematic - if the soldier's descent into jealous fury and violence is portrayed, as it normally is, as all Carmen's fault. Normally, the soldier is a naive boy who is tempted and corrupted by Carmen herself, the tempty temptress. 

L-R: two of the other wonderful things about this Carmen, and Carmen (Clare Presland as Mercedes, Rhian Lois as Frasquita, Justina Gringyte as Carmen) (C) John Snelling, Getty Images
But the ENO production I saw was incredibly even-handed and non-judgemental of her - instead of some kind of innocent, the soldier was clearly just as broken as her. The violence was there, right from the beginning. The jealousy was very firmly framed as his problem. Carmen was allowed to be her sexy, tempty, manipulative, practical self, and the production didn't make any of that seem like grounds for murder. I was really impressed.

Thing 4: The habitat of the common or garden writer
As per 2, I've been working quite hard over the last couple of months. I like writing outside my house, as an attempt to trick my brain into think that I'm Going To Work, so I've been bouncing between locations, renting tables for a couple of hours at the cost of a large latte, and I thought I would write up some reviews...  

The British Library cafe
Pros: free wifi, free entry, incredibly beautiful inspiring surroundings. Cons: expensive coffee, squeaky chairs, get there early if you need a plug because a lot of other people had the same idea.

Starbucks, Muswell Hill
Pros: it's a Starbucks. Dim and cool downstairs area for Serious Concentration, celebrity-spotting opportunities (Eastenders actors mostly). Cons: bit cramped, often full of yummy mummies and/or obnoxiously good-looking teenagers. 

Great Northern trains from Cambridge to King's Cross and back again
Pros: total isolation, no wifi, chat between customers frowned upon, nice scenery to stare at. Cons: cripplingly expensive in the long term, fierce competition for seats at rush hour and in the evening, if you don't get to a table you might be sitting on the floor, which is cold and full of bicycles

Costa Coffee, Holborn
Pros: it's a Costa - as Starbucks, no variation, no surprises. Close to the office, nice staff, not too crowded if you get there early. Cons: aggressively air-conditioned, I'm really bored of all the sandwiches, the staff know me by sight now so I have to vary my drink order so as not to feel like a weirdo. 

Tatties, Cambridge
Pros: big space, usually a table except at busy times, nice basic fry-ups and similar cafe fare. Cons: no plugs, not as cheap as it feels like it should be. 

Waterstones cafe, Cambridge
Pros: I mean it's all right I suppose. Cons: I mean there definitely isn't always a table and usually a plug, I don't at all recommend the dais level with the lovely natural light, it isn't remotely inspiring to write books in a lovely bookshop, there isn't at all a nice studious atmosphere because of the Cambridge students doing their homework there, and the food is only mostly excellent. This is definitely not my secret new favourite place in the city. 

My kitchen table
Pros: 10 seconds from my bed, completely free, always get a spot, bra optional. Cons: BYO coffee, 10 seconds from my bed, fast wifi and nothing to stop you playing Dragon Age or watching Netflix instead of working, a bit filthy, management never cleans away the empty mugs. 

Thing 5: I'm a bit obsessed with Spotify.
I promise I haven't been paid to say this, but Spotify is pretty great. There's a playlist someone made with 280 straight hours of musicals. And there's the Lauren Laverne People's Playlist, and there's the new Duke Special album (Look Out Machines, IT'S REALLY GOOD). This is not news to anybody but me, but you guys. Music is good! I like that I have so much access to it! 
Oh god it's so good. Listen to Statues and Son of the Left Hand (C) Duke Special