Something a little bit different to my last set of photos today, a little bit darker, a little bit moodier, certainly not so many bluebells. We had a few days of snow earlier this year and on the first day when it was quite heavy, my parents and I went for an evening walk up to the old cemetery near where we live. I don't know why. It was Mum's idea. I've tried not to make the pictures too creepy but, well, we were in a cemetery close to sunset so there was only so much I could do. Please enjoy this very small collection of uncharacteristically gothic pictures. Right up until the last one that I took on the walk back home. That one is slightly less gothic.
Monday, 11 June 2018
It's been a while, hasn't it? Four months since my last post and over a year since my last photography post. I don't even have an excuse. What I have is a year's worth of unedited photos on my laptop and a desire to fix that. So, let's start with some snaps from a bluebell walk party I went to last month.
Every year my friend Kate's family throw this party, inviting people to come and walk among the bluebells, eat, drink, and generally be merry. This is the first year I've been and we had perfect sunny weather for it. We saw the bluebells, ate homemade pizza, toured the orchard, hung out with the dogs, and got a little too much smoke in our faces trying to toast marshmallows on the bonfire. And I hope I got a few okay pictures.
Tuesday, 13 February 2018
A snap of Bodmin Jail that I took four years ago.
A few weeks ago I mentioned that I have a short story coming out in an anthology this year, and that you would hear more about that soon. So here I am to tell you more. Are you excited? I'm excited.
After a couple of false starts and far too much procrastinating, I wrote The Haunting of Bodmin Jail, a ghost story set in a building that isn't haunted. I got the idea from an advert I heard on local radio (and I'm not kidding when I say I never listen to local radio) for nighttime ghost tours of Bodmin Jail with their 'resident medium'. I cracked a joke to my parents about pretending to talk to ghosts for a living, and then basically ended up stretching that joke out to an almost 5,000 word short story.
I sent the story in (on the deadline day, of course) and a month later I got a reply. It was a yes. I've been unnecessarily secretive about it ever since because I am forever worried about jinxing good things, but since I have seen the proofs for the book now and my story is definitely still in there, I think I'm safe to finally tell you about this book I'm part of, Cornish Short Stories: A Collection of Contemporary Cornish Writing.
Cornish Short Stories features a wide array of writing from both emerging writers (like me!) and more established writers, covering a range of different subjects. It even has woodcut illustrations, which I'm very excited about. The one thing every piece has in common is that they are all set in Cornwall, a place that is full of great places to set stories in.
And it has a beautiful front cover.
Cornish Short Stories: A Collection of Contemporary Cornish Writing edited by Emma Timpany and Felicity Notley
This bold and striking new anthology showcases Cornwall’s finest contemporary writers, combining established and new voices.
Ghosts walk in the open and infidelities are conducted in plain sight. Two teenagers walk along a perfect beach in the anticipation of a first kiss. Time stops for nothing – not even for death. Sometimes time cracks, disrupting a fragile equilibrium. The stories are peopled with locals and incomers, sailors and land dwellers; a diver searches the deep for what she has lost, and forbidden lovers meet in secret places. Throughout, the writers’ words reveal a love of the incomparable Cornish landscape.
My story, The Haunting of Bodmin Jail, is a ghost story, but with ghosts who are more annoying than they are scary, and that's all I'm telling you! If you want to know more you'll just have to buy the book, which is due out on the 2nd of April 2018. You can pre-order it already, if you want to, and I've included a few links below to help you find it. I'm incredibly proud of The Haunting of Bodmin Jail and beyond excited that it has been included in this collection. I hope you'll like it as much as I do!
Pre-order Cornish Short Stories:
Wednesday, 7 February 2018
You’ve felt the hum of the earth in your toes from the day you were born. Seawater floods your veins, the crackling of fire is barely contained beneath your skin, and the rush of wind settles in your every breath. There is dirt and magic under your fingernails. The world is yours to command. The very things that make life and death are under your power.
But you are not.The above is an extract from a short story I wrote for deardamsels.com, called 'Witch', which was published on the site this weekend. 'Witch' is a story about magic, secrets, and you.
The magic obeys you, it is the one thing that does, even when that means holding it down where it can not breathe, where it struggles against your ribcage and fights to be free. For the sake of your brother, you kept it where it could not see the sun.
I'm incredibly grateful to Dear Damsels for how kind they've been about this strange, dark little story and I sincerely hope this won't be the last time I write for them.
If you've never heard of Dear Damsels, this, from their website, explains it best: 'Dear Damsels is an online platform championing young female voices – a place where women can come together online, to read and write about the things that matter to them.'
I guess the thing that matters to me is witches?
You can read 'Witch' right here. I hope you like it!
Wednesday, 31 January 2018
I read a total of 63 books in 2017, surpassing my GoodReads Challenge goal by 11 books. I discovered some new favourite books, some new favourite authors, some new favourite worlds. I joined my local library and Netgalley. I read some books that have been on my TBR for years and some that were brand new. I started listening to audiobooks again. I read 7 books in one week for the BookTubeAThon. I reviewed 11 books for Blogger's Bookshelf.
In short, it's tough to single out just 10 of the many great books I read last year but for you, dear readers, I've done my best, which in typical Stasia style means I haven't quite managed it. I got close though and I make the rules around here anyway so who cares?
These are my top 10(ish) books of 2017 in order of when I read them because putting them in order of how much I liked them really would be a step too far.
Wigs on the Green by Nancy Mitford
Wigs on the Green is not for everyone. It's an extremely satirical look at the rise of fascism in the UK in the early 1930s, something Mitford was familiar with as two of her sisters were supporters of Mosley's Blackshirts and indeed Hitler himself. She later came to regret the release of the book and wouldn't allow it to be reprinted in her lifetime because of the rift it caused between herself and her sisters, who took themselves very seriously and did not appreciate their sister making fun of them in this novel. Personally, I think making fun of fascists is a great idea and Nancy Mitford did it splendidly.
Rebel of the Sands and Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
I picked up Rebel of the Sands early last year when I had injured my back so badly that I could barely move. I was in a lot of pain and needed something magical that would take me away to another world for a day or two and Rebel of the Sands proved to be the perfect thing. I devoured the story of Amani the gunslinging girl on the run the way I used to devour books when I was young, as though I couldn't read the story quick enough, needing to know everything at once. I was completely immersed in the magical desert setting and, as you can see, immediately bought the sequel, which I thought was even better. I can't wait to get my hands on the third and final book in the series soon.
Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
I hadn't read any of Leigh Bardugo's other novels before picking up Six of Crows but the story line, about an impossible heist carried out by a gang of plucky convicts and misfits, had me straight away so I bought the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, before I even read the first page of Six of Crows. I'm incredibly glad I did because much as I loved Six of Crows (and I did) I loved Crooked Kingdom even more and Six of Crows ended in such a way that I would have been furious had I not had the next book immediately to hand. The rich world and complex story line are impressive but for me the characters are the real gold in this duology, and they will stay with me for a long time.
Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
Wing Jones knocked me over sideways. I mostly bought it, I'll be honest, because it has super beautiful ombre sprayed edges, but then I started reading it and wow. The inside of this book is every bit as beautiful as the outside. The writing, the story, Wing Jones herself, are all so amazing. Every word is laced with a particular kind of magic, not like the fantasy of Rebel of the Sands or Six of Crows but something ethereal and down to earth all at once, as though it's of our world but just out of reach. It's beautiful, through and through, and immediately joined the ranks of my all time favourite novels.
The Revelation by Saruuh Kelsey
The Revelation is the third in The Lux Guardians series, written by my friend Saruuh Kelsey, and yes I photoshopped that cover onto a picture of the first two books because I don't actually have a paperback copy of this one yet. I'm so proud of everything Saruuh writes but this series in particular is extremely close to my heart. The dystopian world she's created is gripping and horrific and the characters who populate it are full of life and colour. Even if Saruuh wasn't my friend I would love these books and I thoroughly look forward to joining these characters again in the next one.
Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
I don't read a lot of short story collections and I think it's mostly because 99% of the time I will choose a YA book over anything else so I was thrilled to discover Kelly Link's Pretty Monsters last year, a collection of short stories specifically for YA readers. This is a deliciously weird collection of tales in which everything is always just a little bit off. Each story is a glimpse into a fascinating, unique, and, at times, pretty creepy world. This is definitely a collection I'll come to again, probably around Halloween time.
The Graces by Laure Eve
From deliciously weird to deliciously dark, The Graces was another book that knocked me sideways this year. This is an extremely intense read and another one that I couldn't put down. The entire story of River and her obsession with The Graces, a family of beautiful siblings who may or may not be witches, is told with prose that feels charged with potential for things to go wrong and a burning necessity for them not to. Even the most innocent of scenes made my stomach twist and the real twists made my heart stop. This book so thoroughly absorbed me that I'm surprised I managed to read anything else in the weeks afterwards. I need the sequel asap.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
I'm a big fan of John Green but it's been a while since his last book, which might be why I wasn't quite prepared for just how much I would love this one. It's difficult to pin down why exactly Turtles All the Way Down immediately became my favourite of John Green's novels but it probably has a lot to do with Aza, the main character, and her best friend, Daisy, whose friendship felt so honest and close that I think I would have loved this book even if it had just been about the two of them hanging out together at Applebee's. It isn't just that though, it's so much more. I can't even talk about it. I love it.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Another book I can't even talk about is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. This book has been hanging out on my TBR for a long time. I don't know what finally made me pick it up but I am so glad that I did. This is such a beautiful story, so beautifully told, of two boys figuring out how to be themselves, how to be men, whatever that means. It's a story of love, told in a way I can't even describe, a way that feels as though it is being told directly to your soul, or your heart, or whatever part of you it is that aches when you read something so touching. It's a triumph of a book and well deserves all those awards that are so annoyingly covering up the design on the cover.
Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Please ignore The Upside of Unrequited in this picture. I'm sure I'll love that book too but I haven't actually read it yet, I just don't have any pictures of Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda on its own. Sorry. After just one book though, Becky Albertalli is already a new favourite author for me. Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda was perfect. I loved Simon and I loved the way his story was told. When he was flirting with Blue over email, when he was being blackmailed because of those emails, and when things got even worse than that, I felt along with Simon, everything that he felt. I desperately wanted things to just go well for him! It was like I was reading about my own kid brother. This book is funny, and touching, and kind. Perfect.
And those are my top 10(ish) books of 2017! Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Obviously, I highly recommend them all.
Wednesday, 17 January 2018
Pin from Literary Emporium
Things are looking a little bit different around here. Just a little. New domain, new header, new photo of my pasty face. I've even updated my 'about' page, although I'm sure I'm the only person who has ever read it. If I've done everything properly these changes shouldn't have been too disruptive. Old links should still work. If you were following me on Bloglovin' before, you should be still.
I'm a little sad to see stasialikescakes go but it feels like time (and it's sticking around on my Instagram because, well, I just don't want to change it there, brand consistency be damned). I have a short story coming out in an anthology this year (more about this soon!) and it feels like time to make things a little more professional around here. Just a little bit. I'm easily freaked out by formality to be honest, so we'll try to keep that at a minimum.
Last year I said I wanted to be fearless in 2017. I don't know if I quite managed that all the time but I did submit a lot of stories last year, some of them good, some of them less so, and I am going to be published because of that. Every time I thought about giving up, chickening out, closing the Pages document and forgetting a deadline ever existed because the story wasn't perfect, I remembered that I had vowed to be fearless and I sent it anyway. So I'm not going to pick a new word of the year for 2018. I'm going to stick with 'fearless'. It's not just some big change I made in 2017 and don't need to worry about anymore, it's a small change I make every time I agree to something I might have been too frightened to before, every time I send an email that terrifies me. And small changes are sometimes the ones that make the biggest differences.
Saturday, 14 October 2017
So I wrote the first draft of this novel in November 2015. It's now October two years later and finally, finally, I have an outline. I figured it was time. Way past time.
You may recall that I already have one and a half drafts of this story, and I've been thinking about it for over two years, so it's not like I was starting from scratch without a single idea. But I knew there were things that needed changing and I knew I needed a real outline before I started on the next draft. The last thing I want is another meandering draft with terrible pacing and a flat story arc. So, as I often do, I turned to my books.
I marked pages with sticky tabs and wrote notes like I was back at uni working on an essay. These books did get me thinking more about how plot and structure work within a story but I was still struggling to actually write an outline. I just couldn't figure out the actual events that needed to happen in my story and none of these books could help me with that.
If you read my last writing post you'll know that I ended up spending a while working on other things anyway, leaving these books on the side of my desk for months, intending to get back to them soon and finish that outline. Because, of course, I also had pages and pages of attempted starts to outlines, aborted efforts at figuring out what the heck needed to happen to these characters. I tried the snowflake method, and the one-page method, and any other methods I could find online that promised to help me figure out those story events. None of them worked.
Then, just a couple of weeks ago, I remembered an old youtube video that I had started to use for another story years before. I remembered at the time thinking this method made a lot of sense, but it hadn't quite fit the story I was working on. Maybe it would fit this one?
It worked like a dream. This method breaks down the standard three act structure into 9 blocks and 27 chapters. Or, as I used it, 27 plot points. I wrote a skeletal outline using the 27 points in this video (they didn't all fit perfectly but close enough) then I added some muscle. I wrote a more detailed outline, including those points, but also including every single other thing that needs to happen to link those points together. That outline is currently 2,378 words long and I'm sure it will keep growing. Finally, I wrote a chapter outline: just one sentence summing up the main event of each chapter, to keep me on track while I write.
Using the method in this video, and then embellishing on the results in more detail, helped me come up with so many great new ideas for this story. I've worked out plot holes, tightened things up, wound things together. In short, all the things I wanted to do when I first tried to write that second draft.
Maybe if I had done an outline to begin with my first two drafts wouldn't have been such disasters, but I doubt it. I needed those 100,000 useless words to get to know the story and the characters. The plot I had in mind two years ago and the one I'm about to start writing now are so vastly different and this one is so much better! Now I can write the good stuff.