September 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
This blog has served me faithfully for nearly a whole year, but it’s time to move onwards and upwards. As of this post, I’m moving to my own domain at (imaginatively) www.charlotteenglish.com. I’ll be blogging over there in much the same way as I have done here. All that’s changing is the web address.
I know that some of you have been kind enough to link to this blog on your own sites. If you’d be so good as to take a couple of seconds to update the old link to the new link, I’d be grateful.
Hoping to see you all on the other side,
PS I have also taken Steph’s advice and made a facebook page. My blog feed will henceforth be pulled onto the wall over there, so that’s an easy way to keep up if you still want to be notified about new posts. Find it here.
September 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
Fellow expat author Lissa Bilyk has been kind enough to interview me today. View it here at Lissa Writes!
June 21, 2011 § 11 Comments
Hello, blog friends.
Today – in fact, all week – I am spending my time alternately filling in paperwork and discarding large quantities of stuff. I’m pausing in the midst of these noble and exhilarating endeavours to have a chat about books.
“Books” is a magic word, usually quite enough to Make Everything Better, but sadly the biggest thing going on in my book world right now is the ruthless reduction of my personal library. It is a painful process. I’ve spent years building it up, but I can’t reasonably drag that many books overseas with me. It would cost a fortune; I don’t think there’s space enough in our new house to store them all; and besides, once I made myself have a proper look at them, I realised I have a lot of books lying about that I not only don’t need but probably don’t want, either.
Probably. I have a covetousness about books that makes it hard to say “I don’t want this one.” I want them all, just because they’re books. But if I’ve had a book for two years and I either haven’t read it or haven’t re-read it, it’s surplus.
So far I have placed somewhere between half and two-thirds of my library on the discard pile. Or er, discard mountain.
I feel proud. And broken. After I stopped crying, though, I decided to console myself by acquiring a handful of new recruits to add back into my reduced book stash. Some special ones that I really want. Through July I expect to be very busy and happy playing in the new house and spending time with the Significant Other. Real Life begins on the first of August, and it’s after that that I may begin to feel slightly homesick. So, this is my special August reading list. As soon as the lower lip starts to wobble, I’m in the reading chair with one of these.
I got three books that I’ve previously borrowed from somewhere and loved enough to want my own copy.
Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees. This little fantasy novel was written in the mid twenties, and it seems like nobody has everheard of it. It’s about the spread of the forbidden and feared “fairy fruit” through the town of Lud and the efforts of the Mayor, Nathaniel Chanticleer, to resolve the “problem”. It’s beautiful, quirky and eccentric. As such I’d place it into a category with Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. I read this a couple of years ago and I’m looking forward to reading it again.
Wish Upon a Star, by Olivia Goldsmith. Yes, this author wrote The First Wives’ Club. I’m a fan of her fiction because it’s some of angriest literature I’ve ever read, and sometimes that works nicely for me. This book is very different. It’s about an American woman in her twenties with a drab office job and no prospects. She’s taken to London for a weekend by a handsome (but essentially villainous) office colleague, and suddenly she decides to stay – even though she doesn’t know anybody and barely has the money to support herself. She builds a completely new life for herself one step at a time, which is a tremendously courageous thing to do. Uplifting stuff.
The Cybergypsies by Indra Sinha. I mentioned in a recent post that I’m a fan of some mildly obscure and thoroughly geeky online games, the type that are played entirely in text. I’ve a feeling writers won’t find this concept as weird as some. Anyway, one of the earliest of these was a game called “Shades”, which my father used to play. So did Indra Sinha. This book is a memoir that covers (among other things) his experiences playing this game back in the 80s, and some of the (eccentric if not outright weird) people he met by it. I loved it when I first read it, so I’m looking forward to the re-read.
The others are books I haven’t read yet. Most of them were recommended by friends, some I heard about from books blogs.
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. When I said to my friend Ellie that I wanted some pleasant reading, this one was top of her list. Italy in April? A mediaeval castle, four intriguing women and a touch of romance? Perfect.
The Morville Hours: The Story of a Garden, by Katherine Swift. I’m not much of a gardener, but I’m not immune to the allure of a beautifully tended garden. Styled after a mediaeval book of hours, this book apparently includes a lot of history and a host of other information.
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. Anything set in the world of Alice in Wonderland is fine by me.
The Bird of the River by Kage Baker. Kage mostly wrote science fiction (which is great, by the way). This book is the third in her fantasy fiction series, the one which begins with “The Anvil of the World”. That’s one of my favourite fantasy books, but to my sorrow it’s proved hard (and therefore expensive) to get the other two in the UK. I’m finally treating myself to this one.
The Native Star by M. K. Hobson. I’ve been getting interested in books that mix fantasy and real-world history in interesting ways. This one I heard about via some book blog (I forget which). This one is set in nineteenth century America. It was compared to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which immediately got my attention.
Have you read any of these, got something to say about them? Or can you recommend me any more save-Charlotte’s-sanity reading material to pack along with my teddy bears and toothbrush? The comment box awaits.
June 13, 2011 § 17 Comments
I usually blog about reading, writing and books in general. That is my Blog Theme. I don’t like to deviate from that too much, but this week it’s inevitable. I am going to write a post that will be entirely about…
But don’t panic. I am not going to talk about my childhood.
My blog’s gone a bit quiet. I don’t know if anyone’s noticed, particularly, but the reason is I’ve been finding it hard to work up a post. This is not because of a lack of things to talk about – I have several interesting topics lined up – but because I currently lack sufficient mental focus to turn those topics into coherent discussions.
The big news is, I am moving overseas in about four weeks.
Let me say that again, just for my own personal entertainment.
FOUR WEEKS. ARRRGH.
Why would a thoroughly English-hearted girl leave her country-of-birth and immerse herself in a foreign culture, one might ask? This is because Miss C. English is also a geek-hearted girl with some mildly unusual internet-gaming hobbies. About seven years ago, this led to a roaringly inconvenient long-distance relationship.
Yeah.. seven years. It was never any sort of plan to get myself mixed up in something so crazy (speaking for my partner I’m sure he’d say the same), but life happens. It was one of those things where you think, give it a try. It might work out. I guess it did because we’ve survived seven years of having to cross an actual sea in order to see one another, and now it’s finally time to move in together.
It’s taken that long because we were all of nineteen when we met, and in the intervening years one of us has been studying interminably to become a doctor (that would be him) and the other has been mucking about in England doing all sorts of stuff I can’t be bothered to detail right now.
Anyway, as of the first week in July I will be resident in Holland, to all appearances permanently. Scary/terrifying/exciting/very cool all at the same time.
This alone is requiring quite a lot of effort to arrange, but you know what they say about life – it never rains but it pours? Usually that’s used to mean everything-bad-happens-at-once, but sometimes everything good happens at once as well. I didn’t plan to be editing my first finished novel at the same time, but somehow that’s been the case. I don’t want to let that drop while I organise my move, or I might find it really hard to get back into it (and besides, I want it finished so I can start writing book 2!). Also I run an online business part-time, which has picked up a bit all of a sudden, and I am also contributing writerly stuff to an upcoming fantasy online novel.
Yep, everything happens at once. I even found it hard to focus on reading last week which is virtually catastrophic in my case. Anyway, it might be nice to be able to deal with all of that AND run a regular blog AND have time to eat, sleep and occasionally get exercise. But I am a lowly human after all and something has to give.
I do pledge that blogville shall not be entirely neglected over the next month. It’s just taking me much longer than usual to write up each blog post and I don’t have as much time to dedicate to it. Sooo, I hope you’ll all forgive this geek for being a little sidetracked for a while! When I have my new writing nook set up in Holland I shall take some glossy pictures – you know the ones that make things look infinitely more luxurious, tidy and loaded with culture than they really are? There’ll be some of those.
Meanwhile, thanks for bearing with my relatively brief exploration of the topic of Noble Self. Next post, we’ll talk about book covers or author photos or genres or something. Promise.
PS It’s hard for me to get through an entire blog post without being facetious. In honour of my chosen title, have a funny song. It’s from Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, the ‘Commentary: the Musical’ extra that you get on the DVD. Remember the part where I said I was a geek? 🙂
May 4, 2011 § 18 Comments
I have no blog posts prepared. Nothing saved, nothing drafted. Nothing.
Reprehensible, I know. But in my defence, this is because I am working flat out on Ye Olde Novel Project now (so termed because it’s been going since last December and nearly six months is feeling like a long, long time). I’m writing at least 3000 words every morning. Around that I’m finishing up the final assignment for the study course I’m on, working on the story for an upcoming fantasy webcomic (more on that soon), designing clothes and making the damn things too, creating a Regency costume, trying to read more and (as of this week) planning my move overseas in July.
My brain feels like a burnt-out car engine.
That being the case, there isn’t a lot of creative juice left for Blogville. Quite a few people have been kind enough to ask how Ye Olde Novel Project is going, however, so I figured I’d half-cheat and answer that question here today.
Update #1: I’ve been telling people I’m two-thirds of the way through for about the last two months.
This is because I have been about two-thirds of the way through for the last two months. I have broken all my solemnly-vowed precepts about not going back and editing/re-writing while the draft is still incomplete. To be fair to my poor guilt-ridden self, this is because I suffered a flash of inspiration about a character (a major character) that had been eluding me for many a long week. This was great, except that I couldn’t continue writing about this character without going back and working her story through from the beginning.
So, I decide to accept this. I wrote some new opening chapters while I was at it, copied everything hand-written onto the computer (and rewrote about 75% of it) and inevitably edited up a bunch of the other stuff too. As of this week I’ve caught up with myself. I’m now finally getting started on writing the last bit, which ought to be around 40k words but hey, who knows at this point.
On the one hand I’m annoyed that this happened, as it feels like it cast about eighty spanners into the works (that’s wrenches, for you American folks). On the other hand, it means quite a bit of the inevitable rewriting and editing I’d have to do later is already done, so I can hope for a slightly shorter editing process to make up for it.
Lesson: Rules exist to be broken, even the ones you Solemnly Swear you will Live By For Eternity.
Update #2: I have no idea what I’m writing anymore.
I mean, I do. It’s a work of fantasy. I could even narrow that down to, say, high fantasy, because there are heroes and villains and something vaguely approaching an Epic Quest (sort of), there’s some magic floating about and world-rearranging events going on.
There’s also a mystery happening, some elements of the thriller, strong elements of the romance and at this point I’m having terrific fun writing the weirdest things I can come up with and I don’t think there’s a box for that at all. Writing a synopsis and trying to stick a label on it is going to be hell. And don’t even get me started on the problem of picking a title.
Lesson: Um, genre is for pansies?
Update #3: I’ve been having fun making up a lot of weird animal species. Today I was sewing and I started musing on what a stuffed toy olifer would look like. Purple and grey striped hide, long nose, fat body. Could be cute. I was tempted to make a pattern for it right then and there. Impulses like these will have to be ruthlessly stamped on if I’m going to reach the end of the draft at all.
Instead, I’m turning it into an Incentive Programme. When I reach the end of the draft, I get to make a whole crew of stuffed toy animals. And I am allowed to post them all here. It will be part of the after-draft party (this is like a one-person wrap party for writers).
Lesson: Try not to have the attention span of a butterfly. No, you can’t make a butterfly plushie either.
Update #4: I have consumed about a ton of chocolate and approximately eighty-five gallons of tea during the writing of this novel. Fun fact.
Lesson: Try to stop eating chocolate or you’ll weigh about 300 pounds by the end of the edit. There’s a good girl.
Update #5: Novel-writing is definitely the most gruelling process I’ve put myself through. It goes on week after endless week and I feel at this moment like I’ll never get to the end.
But somehow, I love it to death.
Lesson: Maybe I can do this after all.
Update #6: OH YES this is an important one. I have a cover artist.
Not just any cover artist but a seriously damn good one. It’s one of those pieces of serendipity that sometimes happen. I won’t say any more about this yet because in due course there’ll be a flurry of blog posts about this and related topics. THERE’LL BE COLOUR. Oh yes.
Lesson: Good things happen sometimes. No, really. They do.
Update #7: When I get a panic on I start listening to ‘City’ by Sara Bareilles. I’ve listened to it about eighteen times a day for the past week, and it’s still the most seriously beautiful song in existence.
Lesson: Music is a blessing.
Update #8: When one’s head feels on the verge of explosion, there’s nothing like air and sunlight and swarming insects to rejuvenate the mental processes. In the midst of the chaos of Chapter Twenty-Two I took a walk. Here is the bluebell knoll I paused to admire.
And here is the horse that tried to eat me for the apples I was carrying:
Lesson: Never carry apples when visiting horses. No, not even if you’re only planning to pass them from a distance of a hundred yards. They can smell apples from the other side of the city.
That’s it for this week. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in my tower, right at the top, behind the locked-and-double-barred door. Inside there’ll be a computer, a treasure chest full of chocolate, a magic self-filling teapot, and me.