NAVEL-GAZING & TIPPLES, SHIP’S LOG 6
Psst! Don’t let on, but it’s all gone a bit tonto on board the Good Pirate Ship Resilience lately. Between sock-stealing demon infestations, grumpy dwarf pest control and strange shiny balls, the whole bang-shoot’s descending into merry chaos.
But buck up, me hearties! I’ve found the Quartermaster’s spare keys to the rum store, so I’m feeling philosophical about it all – hic! I’ve just been hiding away at the aft, thinking deep thoughts about writing and stuff. Here, take a swig of the grog and pull up a barrel. Let’s get comfy and shoot the breeze…
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Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s De val van Icarus (The Fall of Icarus) c. 1558. Musée des Beaux Arts, Brussels. Credit: Bridgeman Art Library: Object 3675. Copyright: Public Domain
Musée des Beaux Arts
About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood
Nice bit of culture to ease us into things, eh? I’ve been chewing over this poem of Auden’s a lot lately, and what he was saying about how believable art, art that touches us, places the epic, the history-making stuff, slap-bang in the middle of the humdrum. It’s just the latest lesson I’m trying to learn as I branch out from horror into YA fantasy, and have to juggle creating real, breathing characters and legendary, titanic events. I’m not saying I’ll ever be a Bruegel of Indie Books, but I do passionately want to hit the right balance of breathtaking action and characters who still feel believable.
And it isn’t easy. I don’t just mean for me. As a die-hard Game of Thrones junkie, I had great hopes for House of the Dragon (on HBO), but three episodes in it’s still not grabbing me by the gizzard, and I’ve thought long and hard about why. The costumes are as sumptuous as ever, and the stakes as high. Finally, I think I’ve put my finger on it. Everyone swans about as if they know they’re the stuff of legend already. They’re always stalking out of rooms with a thousand-yard stare that says “The Maesters will remember the day you put too many sugars in Lord/Lady Fancyname Valgaryan’s tea!” These aren’t real people, they’re playing-card kings and queens – gorgeously drawn in luxurious colours, but paper thin when you look at them from the wrong angle.
To check my theory, I rewatched the first episode of GoT, and wow! Consider my socks exploded off (take that, Zangrunath!) and my mind blown! The scene where King Robert Baratheon arrives at Winterfell has some major players of the whole shebang lined up like a sneaky premonition, with arch little nods to what’s coming, but they are all so non-legendary, so small-scale, so believable.
The kids of House Stark are arrayed as awkwardly as if they’re meeting a crotchety maiden aunt, and Arya scrambles up late, wearing a purloined helmet, to be stopped with a very northern “Ey, ey, ey!” from Ned that couldn’t be more exasperated-here-we-go-again-Dadish if it were wearing a string vest and comfy slippers. The Royal Family ride in, all pomp and splendour, but the airs and graces of Cersei and Joffrey are already subtly putting peoples’ backs up and laying down grudges that’ll come back to write history later on. When Ned bows before his frowning, formidable king, who admonishes him, “You’re fat!” all it takes is a flick of Ned’s eyes to reveal an entire relationship. That’s writing (and acting)! That’s what I want to do.
The same lesson’s there for me in the other series I’m in love with right now – Slow Horses (on Apple). Jackson Lamb who, we will later discover, is so legendary within MI5 that an agent in deep cover will only need a glimpse of his face to get the hint that everything’s gone pear-shaped, is introduced as a seedy old chain-smoking has-been with holes in his socks and a flatulence problem. While he rules his rundown office like a bad-tempered medieval monarch, he is very much the warts-and-all variety, not the worship-me-for-I-shall-turn-out-to-be-many-fabled kind.
It’s not just the Old Masters and gold-standard screenwriters who’ve tumbled this “make ‘em great, but make ‘em human” trick. Historians have been doing it for – well – most of history. Consider what we remember about that real-life dynastic block-buster moment, the execution of King Charles I. Assuming you learned about this in History at school and still remember it, I’m going to guess that what stuck in your head is how he wore two vests to ascend the scaffold, because it was a cold morning, and he didn’t want people to see his teeth chatter and mistake it for fear. When we hear the tale told this way, we feel the rough wool of those vests on our own skin, rubbing like a reminder of the coarse grain of life in the very midst of this most pivotal moment in his-story.
Editing my first YA fantasy for real, actual teen readers, I was chuffed beyond measure to see that I instinctively got this right, the first time. Whatever plotholes they find, whatever great gaping character flaws, they will also discover voices and situations they’ll recognize as real. But somehow, in the thrill of finishing up that first saga and outlining the rest of the series I, like the House of the Dragon writers, forgot this crucial lesson. I went all playing-card-kings, watch-me-honey-cos-I’m-going-to-be-important.
Book Two, when I checked, was slated to begin like this:
It is midsummer, but the skies lour like November, sullen with clouds. The air, this most vibrant of mornings, is chilly, thin. Nature holds its breath, waiting. A storm is coming.
So far, so po-faced!
So now, I take up my down-to-earth biro and scratch out the start of Book 2, all of it. Hardly ever do we have a sense of history when we are in it, I remind myself.
My great-destined character sits down with a sigh at his Ikea desk, takes out a textbook from the draw that sticks a bit, and starts to cram for a maths exam which seems like the end of the world.
Halfworld I: In The Blood debuts this winter. Check it out and see how it measures up to my aspirations!
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Tiny Terrifying Tale of the Month
Vanya nibbled thoughtfully on a finger, wondering whose it was.
Silly Horror Stories I Want To Write Anyway
As the villagers of Dingleberry-on-the-Wold prepare for the traditional MayDay celebrations they have no idea that Millicent Woodbine’s burning envy of this year’s May Queen will end in murder. Can amateur sleuth Harbourne Crankford untangle the deadly maypole ribbons before the prettiest strangulation in the village’s surprisingly lethal history is complete?
Out This Month!
NEW HORROR SHORT: THE WAREHOUSE
Nobody goes down there if they can help it.
The strip lights flicker and the walls are cold and slicked with damp. Stay too long and you’re certain to have an “accident.” One you might not recover from.
So when Adie and his mates decide to slack off down the back of the warehouse one late evening shift, it’s no surprise that bad things start to happen.
What secrets are hidden in the slimy shadows of the warehouse? And will anyone who discovers them survive to tell the tale?
Time for a Tipple
Since we have unfettered access to the Quartermaster’s rum stash, this month’s cocktail is my all-time fave. When I lived in Beijing I could easily get my hands on as many passionfruit as my greedy little heart desired, but since we’ve been in Vancouver, they’re a rare treasure. So when I stumbled upon some on a jaunt to Commercial Road the other day, I loaded up the hold.
If you can’t get passionfruit, try crushed pineapple (tinned is fine – we are rufty-tufty pirates, after all!)
Fresh mint leaves
Generous squeeze of fresh lime juice (good for holding off the scurvy!)
The inside of a ripe fresh passionfruit
2 fingers of white rum
4 fingers of soda water / lemonade (that’s 7Up or Sprite to non-Brits) depending on whether you’re feeling sweet enough already or not
Ice – cubes or crushed if you’re feeling fancy
Ice in the bottom of the glass, pour over the rum. Add the lime juice, spoon in the passion fruit and pour over the soda water or lemonade. Throw in the mint leaves (tear them up first if you want a more intense mint flavour) and give it all another good stir.
Sip slowly under a starry sky.
Incidentally, if you insist on rimming your mojito glass with salt, fair sailing to you, but I’ll just sup mine as it is, and lick the sea air off my lips…
Photo Inspiration of the Month
I love how the light in this photo is too much, too intense, the sky too blue (I promise it’s unfiltered, this is just Lady Vancouver doing her thing). The beauty is almost eerie, and this could just as easily be the cover for a murder story as a romance. Or… what? What would you do with it? TWEET ME!
Next week’s newsletter comes courtesy of the esteemed Quartermaster, Leto Armitage. Don’t ask him about socks or demons, if you know what’s good for you. And let’s keep those spare keys to the rum store our little secret eh? Cheers me hearties!
A few highlights from our website, www.aswewrite.com:
DON'T MISS OUT! READ
OLD SHIP'S LOGS ON OUR SITE
We deliver the Ship’s Log to our crew, passengers and friends every Thursday. We also send a gentle Sunday reminder to subscribers who haven’t had a chance to read it yet, just in case they had a busy week. If you’re new here and wonder what you may have missed out on, fret not friend, we’ve got you covered. As of this week, all previous Ship’s Logs are available on aswewrite.com, so you can read them in your own good time. Ideally over a traditional Swedish fika… =)
WANNA SAIL WITH US?
COME MEET THE CREW
At the moment, we are not looking to recruit new crew members, but we do accept new passengers at each port. If you come sailing with us, and we seem to be a good fit for each other, you could land yourself a permanent position on the Resilience. We are particularly interested in seeing new faces with skills and knowledge that are new, or not very common, onboard. If you write in a genre we don’t see too much of, you would also pique our curiosity.
VAMPIRES - SEXY AS SIN
OR BORING BULLIES?
I must confess I’ve never really seen the appeal with vampires before. I’ve spent my entire life avoiding books and films with vamps in them. With two exceptions. I watched and read Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and Bram Stoker’s Dracula in my 20’s. Neither of them made me feel like I desperately needed more fangs, or men with kohl eyeliner and lace frills, in my life. But then again, I never felt a desperate need for men full stop, so maybe that had something to do with it
Lately, I’ve seen the phrase Twilight Renaissance crop up on YouTube and Twitter again. As I’m nothing if not knowsy, I swiftly googled “vampires in fiction” and “vampires on tv and films” and fell into a rabbit hole…
FANTASY MEAN TO YOU?
Fantasy is by far my favourite genre in storytelling. It gets a bad rep among literary snobs, but the fantasy genre is so versatile it can, literally, be about anything. If you think about it, quite a few of the stories that are held up as beacons of Good Literature (or heralded as the words of a deity) are, essentially, fantasy.
Now, I read a lot of books, mostly in ebook format these days, but I also enjoy audiobooks as they allow me to “read” even when I can’t. Storytelling can be brilliant on screen and in games too, though, and I’m here for all of it. How about you? How do you feel about fantasy? What do you like/dislike? Head over to our site, aswewrite.com, and let’s talk.
An Afternoon Delight
Can you meet the love of your life in a bar? When gorgeous Sam walks into Jess’s local bar, it seems like fate. Flirty, fun, and teasing, this sapphic tale of true love will have you gasping in surprise like it’s your first time…
Love Never Dies
They say love never dies, that the dead never really leave us When Maya’s first love is tragically taken, she wants to believe it, but all she can feel is the lack of him. Until love finds her in the least expected way.
Love Never Dies is a bittersweet story of first love beyond the grave.
This Saccharine Sensation
Gianna has dreamed the hubby, house and rugrats dream for 20 years, but what would normie life look like for someone like her? How do you find a man when the only one you talk to is “Joe” in tech support? Can you fall in love with someone you haven’t met? And if you do… What next?
SWAG PICK OF THE DAY
Extract From the Ship’s Log
Eek! Captain! Quick!
DATE: 6 May, 2023
FROM: Fanny Ingram-Bull
There’s a MAN in the ladies’ bunkroom, and not the kind I usually sneak in – um – I mean, eek! When I say a man, he’s sort of small and lumpy and knobbly and he’s got a weird glowing ball. Not that kind! Captain help!
The Resilience hosts a series of independent blogs and websites, including aswewrite.com and holihell.com. But more importantly, she offers a steadily growing number of writers a home and a treasure trove of shared resources, knowledge and experience. Your support keeps her afloat and helps us make more shit up. Thank you and welcome aboard!
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It takes a lot of tea and coffee to run a pirate ship. Spot us a cuppa if you can and help us keep the Resilience afloat. We always say thanks…
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We are running low on the smelling salts, so we’ve had to move all nsfw material to As We Write’s naughtier little sister site Holihell. Just click the button below if you want to see more of the spicier stuff some of our Resilience-authors have to offer.
F.K. Marlowe is a Shropshire lass who lived in London and Beijing before settling down with her husband, three daughters and rescue pup in Vancouver. She writes horror stories with a tendency to the paranormal, and Young Adult fiction with fangs and sass.
Marlowe doesn’t worry overly much about the placement of semi-colons and the like, having spent far too long pootling about in academia to take them seriously. (She has an Oxford first in English Lit, plus a Master’s and PhD from Leeds). She has, however, discovered that life is the best education for a writer, and plans to continue her studies there as long as possible.