Life in the Slow Lane – Insecure Writer’s Support Group February

Lost goggles meant this week’s swim was confined to breast stroke in the slow lane. I poodled along behind a lady with a blue rinse and watched the world go by.IWSG Badge

Possibly not as many calories burned but more relaxing than the normal how-many-lengths-before-I-have-to-be-back-at-my-desk flurry.

This is how I’m writing my book.

A great deal of time is wasted on panicking because it is all taking so long, and all the people I connect with are working on their third book and have websites and more Twitter followers than me and oh dear God, how I’ve wasted my life!

Then sometimes I put down an indie book after the first few chapter’s because although I may like parts of it, there are other parts that I feel disappointed with because I feel it could have been so much better if they’d taken their time.

Don’t get angry. I appreciate that you can’t quantify how much time it takes to write a book, and the things that make me disappointed can be subjective.

However, not being able to please everybody aside, I really hope that’s not me, and people won’t stop reading because they feel I’ve let them down.

It was good to take my time swimming in the slow lane, feel my muscles moving and play with the water rather than plough through it. It feels good (when I’m not panicking) to take time writing my book.

As Hamilton teaches though (got tickets Monday! Squee!) you get nothing if you wait for it, and sooner or later I am going to have to find that magic place when I know I’m ready.

It’s s tough battle that’s being fought in my head right now

Has anyone out there felt they published too soon? Or wished they’d done it sooner? How did you know your book was good enough to go?

Massive thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer’s Support Group for letting me share these doubts.  If you want to join in next month follow the link.


Slytherin forward in 2017

In a fit of geekiness my brother and I went on Pottermore to be sorted.  I had my blue and bronze flag ready, and was thoroughly shocked to be sorted in to Slytherin.


image courtesy of Pixaby

Because books are my thing I went to the library (Google) and discovered that I got a Slytherin result because of my love for water (and probably Gothic spaces).

So. New Pottermore account. Re take the test. Sorted.

Or not.

The appeal of the under-snake

I’ve always had a secret sympathy for Slytherins. It can’t have been easy to be in silver and green through either the marauder era, of the years Harry was at Hogwarts.  The way that Dumbledore announces the winners of the house cup at the end of the first book feels unnecessarily cruel, as do McGonagall’s actions precluding them from the final battle.

Snape: a definitive reading by Lorrie Kim expands on the vague discontent I have always felt with the way Slytherin’s are pushed to the periphery in the books and are automatically mistrusted. The series from a Slytherin POV is a very different read and I recommend it as an easy and insightful read in what might be going on in the head of a character that we are never really allowed to get close to.  The section on Prisoner of Azkaban certainly made me less of a Remus fangirl.

So, who am I?

I can be ambitious, determined and slightly crafty, or at least there are days when I really want to be while my subconscious is repeatedly telling me that this is not how good girls behave. Yet, for me that is part of what a witch or wizard should be – edgy and on the periphery, challenging boundaries and perspectives, and taking disrespect from no one.

Slytherin ticks all these boxes.  Ravenclaw would be too comfortable for me, too safe, and I would never learn anything new about myself.  I would never take the time to see the world differently.

And Slytherin House has Severus Snape so any argument against them is invalid.

Too many boxes?

Something that still bother me is Dumbledore’s claim that he felt the school sorted to soon. Is he implying Snape shouldn’t be in Slytherin? That Snape could accomplish any of the things he does if he didn’t have those slightly shady and socially unacceptable Slytherin characteristics that allow him to be self-sufficient, committed and confident enough to lie to Voldermort’s face?

Or is it an acknowledgement that no personality is ever so clear cut?

Perhaps the problem here (apart from me getting way too obsessed with the results of an internet quiz) is that Hogwarts sorts at all. In a society where there are already divisions is it healthy to split up the students and faculty further? Should the focus of magical education be on highlighting differences rather than similarities?


I am now wearing my snake badge with pride, but that doesn’t make me less of a book lover.  Labels can be useful but also restrictive. They are not all that a person is, and as Dumbledore also says at the end of the Goblet of Fire we are strong when we stand together, and weak when we are divided.

In a world that’s changing it’s important to not only celebrate what makes us different, but to remember everything that makes us the same.



Another New Year – Insecure Writer’s Support Group, January

Another new year, and another new year’s resolution. This one is brought to you by Alex J. Cavanaugh over at Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

IWSG Badge

My resolutions always seems to be a variation on me making more time to do things. Lots of thing because my ambition will not accept that time is a finite resource.

Or that it comes down to the fact that I treat time like it’s my bitch, and if I don’t respect it then why should it respect me?

I often indulge in the fantasy that if I could book a week off work I could put my head down and finish this season’s big project (this time round it’s revisions to the novel I wrote as part of a six month course last year).

When I do have a whole week off though (Yay!!) 7 days, 168 hours, I know I have time to sort out the kitchen cupboard, meet my mum for tea and finally finish series 1 of Outlander.

And I know I’m procrastinating, but it’s OK because it’s only been two days and I still have 120 hours left.

Today, I was planning this week off work and wondered what would happen if I didn’t have those 7 days in one go?

I probably wont revise a whole novel, but I do think that I’ll get loads more done because I wont have the temptation to procrastinate so much and I’ll be under more pressure. Especially now I’ve mentioned it here.

8th, 15th, 23rd and 28th or 29th of January

3rd Feb, 10th or 11th of Feb and 17th February.

They are noted in my calendar in black biro. 7 days, with lost of days in between for blog posts, social media and smaller projects.  Only 43 hours though because I am corralling my ambition and only working six hour days.

Can’t wait to get started.

What are your tips for managing time, and how do you balance the big projects with everything else?

Seriously, help me out here.




A Castle of one’s own – The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. Date published: 1764

In essence: The true heir of Otranto must be found before the castle kills them all.

The reason I love Gothic Horror so much is the space it creates.  Crimson Peak came in for some bashing when it was first released but I will watch it over and over again just for the house.* The house beats all with its cobwebbed corners and shadowed staircases, its loft ceilings and lancet windows.

Who would live in a house like this?

Only a family in disintegration. A family with secrets and passions that simply can’t fit into the real world.  Otranto’s patriarch, Manfred, thinks it’s a good idea to divorce his wife and marry his dead son’s fiancée.  The current Mrs Otranto does not object as much as you would expect.  The fiancée does object and flees to a monastery while Miss Otranto finds it all very disturbing, but she’s a good girl who obeys her father and is far more concerned with the random, yet handsome stranger outside her bedroom window.

The castle itself has very strong opinions on the fact that Manfred should not be in charge at all. It is the grand sire of Crimson Peak’s house, and yet it behaves like a teenager throwing fits of giant-sized armour and terrorising its inhabitants with prophetic ghosts.

“I want the true heir of Otranto back!” Door slams and plate metal rattles. “Now!”

The family remain puzzled, but carry on with their own agendas. The servants seem more inclined to pay attention, and like Hamlet’s Gravedigger offer some light relief.


I found in The Monk that the funny moments sort of made the scary stuff less scary.  To find it happening again in The Castle of Otranto was not as odd.

It made more sense that in The Castle of Otranto because the gothic space was more clearly defined.  The Monk roves about over a whole city while in the claustrophobic confines of the Gothic Castle there is enhanced pressure on a group of people who cannot escape each other. In that setting the comedy did enhance the horror.

Here is a good article that explains it better than me.

More than just scenery

Of all the characters, the castle was my favourite. It wasn’t just window dressing, but had an agency of its own that drove the plot almost as much as Manfred’s desire for unconventional marriage arrangements.  Plus the castle was a lot easier to sympathise with.

This is also a good read if you’re a writer who wants to learn how to use setting to enhance atmosphere.  It’s a brisk read too.

So, I still really love a haunted building, but I think now I am more aware to the responsibility of owning one. Especially if it doesn’t want me to.

This post is part of the Reader’s Imbibing Peril blog hop. There is still time to get your socks scared off. Click here to find out more. The amazing artwork is by Abigail LarsonRIP XI

If you’d like to learn more about Gothic Houses and what they mean, I really recommend this podcast.

*Yes, the house. Not Tom Hiddleston removing his trousers.

Frightfully Funny? -The Monk, by Matthew Lewis



 In essence: Ambrosio is very holy monk until he gives into lust, greed and pride. He descends into vice and pretty much screws life up for everyone else. Except Matilda, whose evil plan it may have been all along.

Have you ever finished a book and not known quite what you think of it, or yourself?

I still don’t know what I think of The Monk.

A shopping list of Gothic Horrors.

There was not just rape, but incestuous rape.  Not just one virgin locked in a crypt, but two.  And mere demons weren’t sufficient so Satan himself appeared. Not just once, dear readers, but a multitude of times.

The book was a one stop shop for evil nuns, bloated corpses, skeletons (in crypts and family closets), ineffectual heroes, devils, mob violence, witches and swooning maidens.

Bizarrely, what I really liked were the moments of comedy.  There were, unexpectedly, several.

The old woman convincing herself that the two gallant knights are flirting with her and not her sixteen-year-old charge was expertly done.  Lewis had a great eye for picking out the ridiculousness in people and situations. This is brilliantly demonstrated in his opening scene.

Although enjoyable, those farcical moments also made the excessive horror feel burlesque in some places.  It may have been the eighteenth century language, but it often felt like the characters were deliberately enjoying their own wickedness too much to be taken completely seriously. Or maybe Lewis was.

I kind of enjoyed it too. Mostly.

When ‘n0’ means ‘yes’ and ‘leave me alone’ means ‘drug me and lock me in a crypt.’


I was conflicted about Ambrosio, the monk of the title.  He’s an abandoned orphan who has known love or society except that found in the monastery. This was all promising start for my tender heart, although Ambrosio’s history makes him easy pickings for the devilish Matilda.

‘Oh look, a woman’s breast. Ok, I’ll sleep with you. Once wont hurt, right?’  

It’s not quite that simple, but once Ambrosio fell he fell fast and hard (*coughs*) and kept declining at a steady pace.

There were moments when Lewis captured Ambrosio’s inner moral wrangling beautifully.  There were other moments when, partly due to cultural differences but mostly because he was a toad, I wanted to beat Ambrosio to death with his own crucifix.

He repulsed me, and what made him truly horrific was his willingness to take advantage of his position of power. Kind of like a religious Littlefinger, but with less charisma.

I hated Ambrosio. Yet, as he launched his lecherous pursuit of Antonia, I turned another page.  And another.

*thunder rolls*

Just as I need to see the credits at the end of a particularly disturbing horror movie, I had to see if this character got his come-uppance.  (No spoilers here. Don’t look at the woodcut.)

Ambrosio’s descent from holier-than-thou to criminal sex fiend and murderer made me think about the gulf that sometimes emerges between who we hope everybody thinks we are, and the person we are capable of becoming given the right pressures. Ambrosio’s one true fear was not that God would find out what he’d done, but that society would.

I can almost sympathise with that. I want to be the person who can read this classic text with appreciation for its context and the moral issues it displays.  It’d also be cool if I could make some witty observations and you would all applaud and leave lots of comments.

Alas, I actually gobbled it up like Catherine Morland, squealing with horrified delight every time Ambrosio crept an inch closer to satisfying his demonic desires.

*lightning strikes*

I would highly recommend this book. I think.If you do choose to read it, I advise wrapping it in a brown paper bag between sittings.

This is a Readers Imbibing Peril post, and there’s still time to get in on the spookiness (until October 31st). It covers books, films and games in the horror (and associated) genres.  The very cool and kooky picture is by Abigail Larson.



There’s Something about Mina

This is a foot note to my R.I.P post on Dracula, and my public letter of apology to Mina Harker.

To find out more about R.I.P (Readers Imbibing Peril) and a blog hop that celebrates the spooky, follow the link.  RIP XI

Dear Mrs. Harker,

I can’t remember the exact moment when I first found you offensive.  It began somewhere between The League of Extraordinary Gentleman and ITV’s short lived Demons.  It reached its plateau with Penny Dreadful and erupted in a climatic hissy fit during the last ten minutes of Dracula Untold.

‘Is it impossible to write a pop culture vampire/gothic story without Mina Harker?’  I raged at my patient, long-suffering boyfriend on the way back to the car. ‘Why is she so special? What about Lucy Westenra who actually gets turned into a bloody vampire?’

‘Yes, dear’, the boyfriend replied, ushering me into the car. People were starting to stare.

Like all witches lead to Salem (there were no witches! That’s kind of the point!) all lady vampires lead to you, Mrs. Harker.

I now appreciate it is not your fault. You are not responsible for the actions of Frances Ford Coppla’s Dracula film.

It was my fault, because the first time I read Dracula I was a lanky teen more interested in the wolves and the crumbling castle than any actual human-shaped character.  I was too young to appreciate your strength and forbearance.

I now acknowledge that as female characters from Gothic Horror go, you are very good at not swooning.  You drive a coach across Romania, travel (alone!) to Budapest to bring you fiancée home, shoot a revolver and organizes the resistance to the monster that killed your friend while said monster has infected you with his almost cancerous like disease.

As well as all this you deal with being patronized, side lined and constantly congratulated for her ‘man’s brain.’

It’s enough to make anyone start throwing your typewriter about, but you don’t. Sometimes I’d like you to, but I now have a greater understanding of your context I can see why the desire doesn’t even cross your mind.Typewriter, Vintage, Old, Manual, Manual Typewriter

And I get it.  Why wouldn’t anyone want to take you, an amazing character with so much potential out of you restrictive context and give you the power to have control over her own life (undeath)?

So, Mina Harker, I apologise again for defaming you in a public carpark.  As with all prejudice it came from a lack of my own understanding.

Of course, that does not mean I can promise not to get frustrated the next time your name crops up in a main stream vampire film/series/book.  My new appreciation of your talents will make me short tempered with those who I feel are using your name for credulity without adding a deeper understanding of your character.  However, I will not blame you.

I hope you can forgive me and we will become friends in time.

Yours & etc.

Images from Abigail Larson and Pixaby


Dracula Review (Readers Imbibing Peril)

RIP XI Review SiteIn preparation for Hallowe’en I’m tanking myself with Gothic Horror as part of R.I.P.  Head over to Stainless Steel Droppings to join in and get your spine tingled.

The first part of the novel has always been my favorite.  It’s a study in slow burning terror.  The following scenes in Whitby do not compare to Dracula’s Castle and the sinister behavior of its master.

Re-reading I also found a new respect fro Johnathon Harker.  He was firmly stuck in my head as an impotent Keanu Reeves, losing his vivacious wife to a charismatic blood sucker.  Not so. The man scales a wall (twice!) and  keeps up his hope and spirits throughout the whole book, despite being submitted to the worse kinds of mental torture.

First Date Etiquette.

In fact if you do ship Mina and Dracula (#Mracula? #Dracuina?) reading this book will put you off. His attack  of her is erotic, but the mere fact that it is erotic makes it all the more flesh-crawling. I’ve also been reading The Monk and a similar scene occurs when Ambrosio breaks into the heroine’s room while she is asleep, only without the metaphorical blood sucking  to hide his intentions behind.

That complicated juxtaposition of desire and disgust is irrefutable evidence that sneaking into a woman’s bedroom when she is unconscious is not sexy. Take note, Mr Cullen. It’s been done. It was creepy and wrong then; it is creepy and wrong now.


Dracula himself, is sadly off page for most of the later part of the book.  The way he is described is the same mix of attraction and repulsion used above.  Even off page, his presence looms large over the action. And the way Van Helsing talks about him gave me a new found respect for what the Count is trying to accomplish and how much effort has gone towards him leaving his own superstitious Romania in order to make a better/safer  life for himself in London.

Of course, that isn’t quite how Van Helsing tells it. I’m reading between the lines, but Dracula is a pioneer of vampire-kind, seeking to over come his (super)natural restrictions and improve both himself and his quality of life.

Van Helsing was the only character I found myself frustrated by.  Lucy is turning into a vampire! Just tell them already! My modern sensibilities did not appreciate the good hearted reasons behind the old boy’s coyness.  It made that part of the book drag a tiny bit, but not so much to ever make me want to stop.

The Buffy of the 1890s?

The Scooby Gang of Victorian Gentleman rallying to take on the Count was a great race against time. Especially when they got over their noble sentiments and actually let Mina (who had previously pulled out her typewriter and organised their flaky, love sick arses into some course of action) be involved in the proceedings.

I have plans for my own fanfiction focusing on the Lucy Westenra Memorial Foundation for the Eradication of the Undead.  Young Quincey Harker spends his summer holidays travelling Europe with his parents hunting vampires. Lord Goldaming stumps up the money and Dr Seward provides medical expertise on locating vital organs.

Stoker’s characters were all real and distinct. They made a strong impression on me, as did their friendship forged under fire.

Modern sensibilities firmly locked in a trunk under my bed; I also really wanted Harker and Mina to make their marriage work (#Hina? #Marker?) There is real strength in their love and devotion to each other.  No, please, don’t vomit.  You don’t go to the trouble of memorizing a train time table for a man if you don’t love him.

In conclusion, if you have any interest in vampires at all, you need to read this book. It has so much to offer in terms of both horror writing, character and the origins (sorry Polydori) of a genre. You’d be mad to leave it languishing in it’s crypt a moment longer.