A change is as good as a rest

A change is as good as a rest, or so ‘they’ say. And sometimes it’s all you have to work with. So here we are.

Maybe you came here from my previous blog/website, maybe from Twitter, maybe from some strange Googling (god knows what your search terms were). Either way, here you are, here I am, I’ll write some words, you can read them if you like.

So that’s the online presence change. At the same time, I’m shifting cities (bit exciting, bit bittersweet, bit banal – heading home, after all) and starting a new job. The job’s the really wild thing. I’ve worked in bookshops since I was sixteen. Now – or in the last week of January, when I start – I’m a writer. Writing things for businesses and charities and people – writing. I’ve done a lot of writing within my bookshop work, and I’ve freelanced here and there, but now I am going to be doing it full time.

This, of course, is super exciting. But the side step from the book trade is also something strange to deal with. I’ll have to actively seek out what’s new and interesting, rather than stare at a sub sheet or NTI flyer. I’ll have to find books myself, whether through bookstores or libraries or friends – I won’t have reading copies at my beck and call. I’m going to have to put in effort, and I’m actually really excited about that. I’m going to have to think about my reading consumption, for my own benefit.

So I’m planning on writing more about books, in earnest. Since I’ll no longer have the ‘product knowledge’ reason to devour books, I want to be sure that I don’t let my reading slip by the wayside – and the same goes for reviewing. So here we are, first week of the new year, with my literary leanings taking a new shape. I’ve set a Goodreads goal of 100 books, but I really hope (and think) I can beat that. I’ll try to write at least in passing about most of the things that I take on – so stay tuned.

wait, what?

Like, you know what Aeneas? I might get slaves to pumice my feet, uh, I might go to Vulcan’s Unitarian Temple, maybe get hit by a chariot full of hot garbage juice, you know? Cause all those things, would be exponentially cooler than going to prom with you.

– Juno


I believe she had this conversation with him via hamburger phone from Dido’s palace.

(Can you tell I have an essay on The Aeneid due? It’s all about Juno’s character. I sorely wish I could enter the realm of orange striped shirted pregnant bellies and dry indie wit, but alas, it’s all about the Virgil. Damn.)

the graveyard mission

I’m calling myself queen of the double-entendre for this moment, even though the secondary element of this was only an afterthought once I’d typed ‘the graveyard mission’ as my title. The first plan was to write something moderately interesting (theoretically) about my finally having finished reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – and the protracted period of time it took for me to do so. Hence ‘mission’.

But then my mind started a-workin’, as it does every so often, and I recalled my own graveyard mission of yesteryear, or more of an adventure, I suppose, and decided that its tale deserves telling in some way shape or form. I’ll get to that later. Probably.

Back to the Gaiman. I really do enjoy what he writes, but for whatever reason I seem to take forever to read his books. And normally I read pretty damn quickly – refer back to my day of As The Earth Turns Silver reading splendour. ButAmerican Gods, as much as I love it, took me weeks to get through. I still haven’t finished Smoke and Mirrors, and I’m a self-described short story devotee. And The Graveyard Book followed that trend. I’d heard an excerpt read by Mr Gaiman himself at the NZ International Arts Festival back in March, and this further cemented the feeling that I Had To Get Around To Reading This Book. Since it was also winning stuff left, right and centre. I got it out from the library. I read the first two or three chapters. And then I got distracted. And the return today suddenly popped up out of nowhere, and back to the library it went.

I somewhat forgot about it. I felt guilty when I saw it on the shelf at work, knowing that I had yet to actually devour this book. But eventually, I did get it out from the library again. And again, I let it loiter, instead choosing to get the other books on my plate read. Every time I picked it up, something would distract me, and so it seemed to take an obscenely long time to read – it’s a children’s book, after all (I will say here that being partially geared towards children does not an exclusively child-appropriate book make, and it’s more than recommended for kids and adults alike, particularly as the NZ Arts Fest session where Neil read from TGB was all about YA fiction and what it does or doesn’t mean). But I powered through, and finished it, and loved it. The whole coming-of-age, following-Bod-as-he-grows thing was part of the reason I enjoyed it more and more as it went along – it’s only natural to form something of a bond with a character who grows before your reading eyes, I guess.

Anyway. That is the story of The (Literary) Graveyard Mission.

And so, a telling of The (Real Life) Graveyard Mission. In part. Since this blog isn’t ALL about the book review-ish-ness.

There’s a gigantic cemetery in Brooklyn by the name of Green-Wood, and this one time I went exploring there with two friends, let us call them K and M. It was late afternoon, and we were told as we walked through the gates that we only had half an hour before closing, to which we nodded. We went to find the Angel of Grief statue (which K and I had found once before – it’s a beautiful piece of sculpture and also happens to be on the cover of records by both Nightwish and Evanescence) and went on wandering for quite some time, whilst I wrung my hands and worried about getting locked in. The others weren’t concerned. We walked and talked (M and I collaboratively bemoaned Jodi Picoult, and talked about the merits of short story writing and the like – I’d only actually met Ms M earlier that day) and took in the beautiful surrounds and the generations marked in stone. Iced cookies from a Puerto Rican bakery were produced from K’s bag and eaten. Our phones spent the whole time switched off, disconnect being crucial to this experience. It got later, and when we saw cars heading the drive we made sure we were well away from road-sight, since it was definitely after hours by now. And we continued to wander. Just wander. Contemplative, appreciative, you know. But eventually, we were noticed by a security gentleman patrolling, who told us we had to leave, after we pleaded having gotten lost (not entirely a lie – navigating that place sans map is a mission and a half – like I already said, it’s huge, and our wandering had taken us across the whole cemetery) and proceeded to slowly follow us in his car after having told us in brusque terms which way to go.

At the gate, before unlocking it for us, we had a lecture – I guess my pink hair and K’s tattoos didn’t really endear us to him – and after saying that no, we didn’t have any relatives buried there, he told us, in all his khakied security officer glory not to come back. Does that make us kind of BAMFs? Three slightly alternative looking girlies wandering a cemetery because it was peaceful and gorgeous and we all had a lot of stuff on our minds at that point in time, I think… and we got BANNED by Mr Security Guard.

No names or anything were taken, obviously. We were in stunned silence as we walked away, before laughing our way to the subway. And that was only the tip of the iceberg for the weird excellence that was that night, since it went on to involve vegan pizza in Williamsburg, after dark Rock Band playing, and a spontaneous walk from Sunset Park to the Verazanno Bridge (some 50 blocks, shuffling down a grassy slope and running across a multilane highway – with concrete divider) to sit beside the river-turning-sea, dangling feet over the edge (this was M & I, we were more foolhardy than K and decided to climb over the fence so we could sit right over the rocks.)

One day that story will be told in more detail and more carefully chosen words. In the meantime, here’s a poem I wrote back in July last year, if you’d like to read it, inspired in part by that evening. I don’t do poetry often, but this is one that I rather like.

east and hudson

We get on well with bridges,
you and I.
We need them in our lives.
Our constant search for lights dancing between dark below
and dark above and
glowing overwhelming civilisation on either side.

We are the bridge between
two sides pulling apart, the bridge
gets a little longer every day
like a glacier slowly encroaching upon a valley.

We are the bridge across a harbour mouth
the beginning of ocean
We are land meeting sea
and man conquering the boundaries
of both.

I am standing on a bridge
but there is no water to cross, only sky
I am a shadow on the ground and
a silver speck in the sky
the bridge was not strong enough
it broke away, I was dragged by steel wings

I would build a bridge
across the water
so we  can walk when we’re too poor to fly,
too weary to paddle
in boats constructed from flax and old clothes
and I would meet you in the middle
and we would toss pennies into the sea

reading more-ah tamora. no, wait…

So… I’ve been continuing my Tamora Pierce bender, having read First Test, the first Protector of the Small book, over the last couple of days, and am now powering through Page. And because I’m a Generation Whatever who is Constantly Plugged In, I did a bit of Wikipedia-ing and Googling, as you do, and wound up at Pierce’s website. And what do you know, as I flicked through her bio, I read ‘Tamora, pronounced like camera’.

Oh dear. You see, I pride myself on correct pronunciation of names, constantly flinching at mispronunciation of ‘Rowling’.  That’s perhaps my biggest pet hate, since I’m of the age that grew up alongside Harry Potter, always very close in age and stage to the H-Pot trio when a new book was released. And am therefore possibly able to be classed as a ‘fangirl’. I’ve done the release day line-up thing, all that jazz. I live, therefore, by the maxim, ‘JK Rowling – rhymes with bowling, not with howling’. If you didn’t know this, now you do. Hence the creation by some sniggering Harry-fan of a Facebook group along the lines of ‘Harry Potter is sliding down a hill… LOL JK ROWLING!’ to fit in with all those terribly ‘blah-de-blah – LOL JK (‘just kidding’, if you are not a frequent user of the travesty that is netspeak) – blah-de-blah’ groups that everyone was hell-bent on joining a few months ago. This was the only one I decided was worth joining. Puntasticness is sometimes appreciated.

I also cannot abide ‘Jodi Pick-olt‘. (her website suggests pronouncing it ‘pekoe – like the tea’ – I’d always said it as such because there was a somebody ‘Picot’, pronounced the same way as Picoult, at school with me, and I just assumed it was the same pronunciation. French background FTW). Actually, I can’t abide Jodi Picoult, pronounced correctly, or her books, either. Edgy chick lit masquerading as ‘literary’ makes me want to punch people in the book-club-attending teeth.

And like I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bookstore dudette in my part-time working hours, and therefore am familiar with and use published names. Hachette, for one. I don’t use my French awesomeness and inflict a fully fledged ‘aSHETTE’ upon everyone, but pronounce the ‘h’ – though I still maintain the ‘sh’ over ‘ch’ sound because otherwise it just feels heinous. I swear I’m going somewhere with this. Multiple staff members realise that it’s French derived – I mean, the parent company is ‘Hachette Livre’ – but are clueless as to the details of linguistic nuances. Thus, my ears are cursed with references to ‘ha-shay’. Oh my lord. This is particularly irksome at present only because we had our Hachette roadshow recently, so the name’s been tossed around by all and sundry. My inner Francophile weeps.

BACK to the point at hand though.  My pronunciation policing, and Tamora-rhymes-with-camera.

Yeah… I’ve been pronouncing it ‘ta-MORE-ah’ for the last… nearly ten years? Whoops. I will go forth and speak only Camera-Tamora syllables from now on.

Now, to return the exploits of Keladry and friends, I think.


As an afterthought, and the kind of afterthought I should have had on day one, really, I’ve made a wee ‘reading log’ type page. You can get to it from ANY page on this little corner of the blogosphere that I’ve called mine, by edging up to the top of the page and clicking ‘the more you read the more you know’. Or, in fact, by clicking the link that I just made there. It’s up to you.

wild magic

Over the last week or so, I’ve been rereading Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals quartet. They make for great bus-reading, which I do rather a lot of – given that on a day I have university, I spend close to (sometimes more than) 2 hours on buses. Which is partial excuse for the fact that I’ve nearly finished the fourth book already. I loved Pierce’s various fantastical novels in my tween/early-teen years, particularly her Tortall books (for some reason I never really bonded with any of the Circle of Magic books or characters, despite the fact that one of the characters was called Briar. Or perhaps because of that fact, since the Briar in their world was a boy. What gives?). I revisited them a couple of years back, borrowing a bevy of them from a coworker, but I only really got through the Alanna books and made myself properly read the Circle of Magic books (I did enjoy those ones more at upon my 18 year old reading rather than at 13/14, for whatever reason). I own Wild Magic, the first of the Daine books, somewhere. Magical word, somewhere. Probably it’s boxed up in the garage somewhere, bundled up with Animorphs books and a few craptastic Sabrina the Teenage Witch novelisations.

Anyway. I borrowed all four of The Immortals titles from the lovely Lola Mulot (fellow writer, book-slut and tautologist) and have devoured them. It’s been glorious. Not that my reading log of late hasn’t been enjoyable, on the contrary, but the occasional easy read, particularly of a fantastical nature, is wonderful. Not only is it basically like dragon-flavoured crack, it’s also a reminder of a genre that I’ve been tempted to write myself for quite some time. Before I ever started writing ‘legitimately’ (aka. when my creative writing flame was well and truly ignited by the esteemed Mrs Rosalind Ali of high school creative writing fame circa 2006) I was writing pages and pages of scribble, drawing maps and anatomically questionable pictures of characters from all kinds of ridiculous lands. I had drawers brimming with loose leaf paper and exercise books full of the stuff – mostly terrible Tamora Pierce inspired fantasy lands and people, but the occasional more sci-fi world, too, just to mix it up. Nobody really knew about my weird creative visions, which was perhaps for the best, but it did kind of explain why suddenly writing words that went well together seemed to fit like a glove.

Everyone knows that fantasy is always in vogue for children’s and YA fiction – or at least it has been for the last decade or so. Harry Potter, Twilight, Eragon… it’s all about finding the current creature or trait that’s going to strike a chord with voracious young readers. Although I suppose the average consumer of Stephenie Meyer’s words doesn’t necessarily come under the ‘voracious young reader’ label. Nor would they know what ‘voracious’ means. No matter. I used to prefer – as a teen fantasy creator – the thoroughly immersive foreign fantasy worlds that Pierce uses – as does Christopher Paolini in the Inheritance Cycle – though it seems that the fad of the day, at least in fantasy designed for teen consumers, is fantasy threads running through real life – à la finding that vampires live in the rainiest corners of Washington State, or that there’s a school for wizardry up somewhere in Scotland. It’s a shame, in some ways, but maybe I’ll just have to work with the trends. That, or write for a younger audience, who seem to be more willing to put faith in a hand-drawn, mentally-created map. Either way, a foray into fantasy seems only appropriate.

In the meantime, I’ll get back to Daine and Numair and the Divine Realms. And contemplate the fact that my derby-appropriate roller skates have been shipped and hopefully will be here soon. Très exciting stuff.

boxed in

I’m currently stuck inside the box. Said box is keeping me from finishing a rather crucial essay. And by finishing, I mean starting.

This is me being stuck inside the box –

The essay is on The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Which is an excellent book. But it’s worth 50% of my grade, and I suspect this is what is somewhat freaking me out. I’ve not had such a high percentage reliant on one piece of work before. Cue mild terror.

As an aside, The Appraisal went reasonably well. In the workplace I put on my hyper-upbeat face, in contrast to my cynical bitch face (what can I say, I’m a Gemini) – so that tends to help my case when my work ethic etc etc is being assessed. In a quintessentially back-country kiwi fashion, heck yes!

(I myself am a city (well, suburban) girl born and bred and know nothing of such lingo except as inserted into the ironic jargon of the modern day K Rd hipster.)

Peace out. There is trauma to be written about. And I suppose, when it’s over, and I get a possibly abominable grade, I will then have trauma to write creatively, rather than academically, about, for my own point and purpose. AKA using it as impetus for the poetry that my delightfully sixteen-year-old character Ruby will be writing over the course of her novel.

feeling appraised.

Situation: You are a university student. This is your second-to-last semester. You have a part-time job in a bookstore. You started working in this store in your last year of high school, and apart from nine months of being overseas/working elsewhere, you have been there all this time. You’ve been in a position of authority for quite some time. Retail slavery is only sticking around as long as you a) are a student and b) live in the vicinity of the shop in question.

And now, time has rolled around once more for your appraisal.

It tends to feel like one of the more pointless exercises of life. And my my, this situation happens to be presenting itself to me right now. Or in an hour or so, anyway. I’ve been gifted a wad of paper to look through, containing my supervisor job description (obviously so that I will realise there is one little criterion I haven’t been fulfilling, and for which I will spend my appraisal begging forgiveness. Ha.) and a goal-type template. Problem is, at this point, I have no goals within this particular job. I can open the store, and close it, and oversee the running of however many minions are rostered on with me on any one day. I know procedures, I’ve learned some extra processes (like those pertaining to magazines – mission and a half, I tell you.).

There’s really nowhere that I can go from here. Since I have no desire to stick around in the retail sector, or, god forbid, enter the corporate world as it relates to my particular company. A bookstore’s just a good place for a writerly English major to spend her money making Saturdays. Mildly castigatory action may occur due to my lack of preparation, but honestly, I don’t know what more they expect. My ‘longer-term goals’? To get a non-retail job as soon as possible. ‘Skills and past experiences [that I have] acquired to support [my] career goals’? Hmmm. That if I decide to write under a pseudonym, I should make sure it starts with something in the front half of the alphabet for general eye-level accessibility. That’s something relevant to my career plans. And knowledge of what (drastically terrible) genres sell. That’s both depressing and useful to know, I suppose. So maybe there’s a little bit of usefulness that comes from this long-term planning. Thanks, work!

Obviously, the part-time-supervisor final-year-student appraisal is a worthy and necessary fixture. I’m sorry to have ever doubted you, retail world.

if lists won awards…

It’s one of my plots/schemes of the moment to get through as many substantially ‘awarded’ books as possible. This means both books receiving a substantial number of awards, and those that have received awards that themselves are ‘substantial’ in nature. Like the Man Booker, Orange, Pulitzer… NZ Post. Etc. I promise I won’t use the word ‘substantial’ again for a long time.

The latest book on my award-winning list (oh that the list itself won awards – one has to fund one’s way through the trial and tribulations of pre-publication writerhood somehow) is As The Earth Turns Silver by Alison Wong, which won the overall best fiction prize in the NZ Post Book Awards this year. And I could write an in-depth review and talk about the insight into both British Imperial and expat Chinese cultures in turn of the century Wellington, and how much one feels for both Yung and Katherine throughout the book. But really, the book  is under 300 pages, and I read the whole thing in less than a day. So go find yourself a copy and create your own opinion on it. I promise you it’s worth investigation.

(Booker prize winner of 2002, Life of Pi, was last week – like so many books, I’ve taken my time to get around to reading this one, but there’s definitely more Yann Martel in my future, I’m sure of it. A library copy of The Graveyard Book (Hugo/Newbery/Locus/Carnegie medal winning, and therefore definitely appropriate for my reading log of late) by Neil Gaiman is hanging around my bed, so methinks it’s going to be the next on the list. After rereading The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy in preparation for an essay due on Friday. And, oh hey, that one won the 1997 Booker. STILL ON THEME.)

This was conceived as a word-oriented blog (those created by others and by yours truly), but I’m at times a music/literature dual control vehicle of promotion. So, new acquisitions/recent obsessions – Karen Elson’s The Ghost That Walks, Zoe Boekbinder’s Over The Top EP, Tychozorente by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Forest Fiction by Teacups and Gin Wigmore’s 2008 release, Extended Play. All of these, new or old, are all definitely recommended, and all able to be found through the magic that is the internet. If not on iTunes, then BandCamps of the respective artists. Go explore the auditory magic.

And in the meantime, in Briar-Word-Land, I’m having a creation-y, uncover-y romance with a teenage character, peeling away layers to figure her out at the same time as building those layers up myself in word and mechanical pencil sketch form. That’s how I roll. Ruby is her name, and she wants to be a poet. Which is fun, since poetry is the opposite of that which I usually do. She’s going to eventually have her own novel. Exciting times lie ahead. Writers’ block is somewhat present on my other somewhat developed manuscript, the currently titled Singing The Frangipani Blues (favourite title I’ve ever come up with, I think, loitering at the top of sheets of loose leaf paper since I was fifteen), but cracking through will hopefully happen soon. There are too many madcap snow-bound adventures to be had in fictional Quebecois streets.

And that, my friends, is the first installment of the, possibly to be epic, chronicles of the Raw Library. Tune in next time.