I can still remember how I used to blog

And I knew if I had my chance, that I could make those people read

Aaaand maybe they’d be happy, for a while…

 

I am so very sorry to have left it this long between updates, dear internet peeps. In my defense, I went through the nine circles of property hell this summer:

1. Limbo. Will we or won’t we sell our house? Will the buyer offer the right amount? Will we find the right house to buy ourselves? Will our offer be accepted? Will the chain be completed? (Five months go by) Is this damned sale dead or alive?

2. Lust. I WANT THAT HOUSE. That house is too expensive. I WANT THAT HOUSE. Tough, you can’t have it.

3. Gluttony. I am really, really sick of all this paperwork. What if I just eat the mortgage application. That’s a great excuse for not filling out the 101 forms I’ve been asked to fill out. Right?

4. Greed. Actually, forget this circle, our needs are pretty banal. Four walls, a roof… (I know, luxury.)

5. Anger. I am sick of sleeping on other peoples’ couches and beds and waiting for this (@£*&$ purchase to go through. I AM SICK OF IT

6. Heresy. What about if we harass the sellers and stalk them until they give us the house

7. Violence. Kill the agent. Throttle him. Wipe the smug smile off his face with a sledgehammer. Bury his brand new Volkswagen Beetle in manure.

8. Fraud. Why not fake the second job you need to apply for a higher mortgage. That would work, right?

9. Treachery. Bastards gazzumped us. BLOODY BASTARDS GAZZUMPED US

…Etc.

As you can see, it hasn’t been an easy journey, and blog updates were bound to be a bit thin on the ground. But we’re through the worst of the process, now – moved into the new place and reveling in the sensation of having a corner of the world  to call ‘our home’.

I hope to be a more frequent visitor to this blog in the future… but in the meantime, if you want a quick chat, you can always find me on Twatter and Fussbook:

@MAdamsVictoria

https://www.facebook.com/mary.victoria

I think it was Kafka who said a writer without a novel is a monstrous thing. I am, therefore, indisputably monstrous. Novels – both the writing and the reading of them – require giving one’s undivided attention to the written word for a brief span of time, and undivided attention, however brief, is not what I am able to give at the moment.

It has to be worthy of a Darwin prize of some stripe to be moving house for the third summer in a row.

So instead of a novel (to be written or read,) there will be this from me, from time to time: digital blips. Even if they are handwritten to begin with they will eventually be transposed into digital form, as everything is these days. Digital is the new tyranny. My computer requires absolute allegiance from me, my soul offered up in bits and bytes. It wasn’t always thus. I remember a time when the damned thing was supposed to help me write.

Let me tell you about my computer, that insidious purveyor of technological addiction masquerading as progress. There it sits, the sleek silver bastard. I didn’t write this on it. No, no. I wrote this piece of nonsense in a notebook, then typed it up on the computer. Why didn’t I just write on the computer to begin with? Because the computer, my dears, is connected. The demon Internet has taken over possession of the machine I once took for an ally in creation. Instead of allowing me to write, it thrusts me onto Twitter, Skype, email. It threatens me with instant and complete communication. I turn programs off, then find messages flooding in: “Where WERE you? I couldn’t reach you. Why don’t you sign this special important urgent petition to help the endangered peanut-eating sloth of south Peanutland?”

We are instantly and incessantly connected to each other, and so require instant and incessant communication from each other. And to say what? “I had bananas in my cereal this morning. Isn’t the war in Nowhereistan terrible. Look at this picture of a mutilated baby. Look at this picture of my lunch.”

The computer screams my connectivity to the world, and my obligation to be receptive to that connectivity. It broadcasts my location. It chastises me for my lack of intellectual curiosity. For someone, somewhere, inevitably has something vastly important to say on a subject which I ought to be following; a person of great intelligence is just waiting for me out there, and I’m missing the opportunity to hear them speak. Besides this, there are friendly civilized bonds to maintain, professional commitments I cannot shirk. Don’t forget the professional commitments. Even if you have no profession at all, you ought to be looking for one, on the net, and the computer sits there and says, “you should be job-hunting.” It doesn’t say, “you should be writing.” It calls you a coward and a drain on society and dammit, why don’t you sign that petition about the peanut-eating sloth. You lazy parasite.

So no, I didn’t write this on the computer. I copied it onto the computer. In a rare moment of tranquility.

I do believe too much connectivity will kill us: the time we don’t spend signing the peanut sloth petitions we will spend on the complaints of people who object to peanut sloth petitions, and meanwhile our hearts will die and our bodies waste away and the plants in the garden will all shrivel up.

I’ve been lucky enough to be interviewed twice by fellow authors in recent days. This time, Sue Bursztynski, author of ‘Wolfborn’, has kindly asked me to stop by her blog ‘The Great Raven’ to answer a few questions about my writing process. There are some other very interesting authors interviewed, including Sue herself, so check out their answers, too.

Thanks, Sue!

Ashley Capes is a poet and author of fantasy novels who very kindly interviewed me over on his blog the other day. I’d like to return the favour by asking him to post about his new book, ‘The City of Masks.’ You can check it out in electronic format now, or in a short while in print form.

Summary

City of Masks (Book 1 of The Bone Mask Trilogy) is an epic fantasy novel set mostly around an ancient city perched on an unforgiving coast, and follows three characters and their struggles around masks of power.

Blurb

Waking in Anaskar Prison, covered in blood and accused of murder, nobody will listen to Notch’s claims of innocence until he meets the future Protector of the Monarchy, Sofia Falco.

But Sofia has her own burdens. The first female Protector in a hundred years, her House is under threat from enemies within, the prince has made it clear he does not want her services and worst of all, she cannot communicate with her father’s sentient mask of bone, the centuries-old Argeon. Without the bone mask she cannot help anyone — not herself, and certainly not a mercenary with no powerful House to protect him.

Meanwhile, far across the western desert, Ain, a young Pathfinder, is thrust into the role of Seeker. Before winter storms close the way, he must leave his home on a quest to locate the Sea Shrine and take revenge on the people who drove his ancestors from Anaskar, the city ruled by the prince Sofia and Notch are sworn to protect, whether he wants their help or not.

cityofmasksHR

Sounds great, Ashley!

Read more about Ashley Capes on his blog, www.cityofmasks.com

The very kind Ashley Capes of ‘City of Masks’ fame has interviewed me for his site. News about past and present books. Check it out.

Thanks for the chance to chat, Ashley!

http://www.cityofmasks.com/blog/mary-victoria-interview

 

It has been a long while since I slunk by here, tail between my legs. My excuse, as always, is that I have been swamped “in real life” by doing, doing, doing. Indeed, like Ged at the end of ‘the Farthest Shore’, I would love to be done with doing. But I don’t get to say that – not quite yet. 🙂

A quick recap for anyone who wants one. Over the past few months I have been engaged in selling and buying a house (yes, we’re moving again,) in revising a manuscript and submitting it to agents, in applying for and securing a place on a MA program, in sorting out jobs and generally staying afloat. None of these tasks are finished, per se, though it’s safe to say I’m much further along with them now than I was a month ago. This is progress.

In order to help long-suffering friends make sense of my peripatetic existence, I’ve taken the liberty of preparing some answers to FAQ’s:

1) Why are you moving again, M. V.? Didn’t you do that less than a year ago?

Why, yes, thank you for remembering. The Victoria clan settled in St Albans last summer. Now we’re moving to the Watford area. Mad? Maybe, but there’s method in the madness. I won’t go into all the personal details here but if you’re burning with curiosity I will tell you over a cup of tea. Which you will make.

2) What? You applied to do a MA in Publishing? Aren’t you a writer or something?

By the book gods! The two are not mutually exclusive. I have been given the opportunity to join the wonderful MA program at UCL, but must defer the place for a year in order to apply for a grant, etc. So that will be for 2015.

3) You submitted your ms? Was this the famous manuscript-from-hell that has been haunting your dreams and blog posts for nigh on two years now? We’re sick of hearing about it.

Again, I am touched that you retain any notion of what I’ve been doing for the past two years. I had mostly forgotten, myself. But yes, that’s the very manuscript I refer to. It has been whipped into shape. It has passed muster with my agents. It’s ready to languish in a publisher’s slush pile and have that all-important mug of coffee placed firmly on top of it. I’m thrilled.

4) Whatever. You’re nuts. You’ll never settle down. You have delusions of adequacy.

This may be true.

Meanwhile, in other news, I have been venturing into the Twittersphere. Please feel free to join me there: @MAdamsVictoria. Love to all, and seriously – sorry about the long blog silences.

I don’t know if other authors feel as I do, but one of the most marvellous things that have happened to me as a writer is to be privileged to witness artists creating images inspired by my stories. These glimpses of a world that previously only existed in imagination make my heart soar… I become as excited as a little child, squealing with delight over a bright new toy.

So without further ado – here are two more images based on the world of the Tree, created by the wonderful Frank Victoria. Be sure to click on the link under each picture to see them full size, and squeal with me!

Argos City:

argoscity

 LARGE SIZE

Galliano’s workshop:

galliano

LARGE SIZE

I think space-time slopes downwards – time is certainly running away from me. How did the new year arrive so quickly? Anyway, I want to wish a most wonderful and fulfilling 2014 to all my friends out there in the blogosphere. I may not comment on your entries often, but your presence is a comfort to me every day. Never stop speaking, writing, communicating in all the ways that you do. I treasure it.

Personally, I have reached a point of silence, of stillness, after about ten years of continuous activity. During that time there was always a manuscript or a deadline, a young child to care for, jobs to apply for, a house to sell or buy, a major life move to prepare. There were very few “holidays.” Now, suddenly, that manic level of activity has ebbed. I’m sure it will take off again (with a vengeance) but for now, I’m enjoying the lull.

If the weather improves, I shall go outside and poke the river with a stick.

EDIT: the lull is already over. That was quick!

 

And now Nelson Mandela is gone, too.

I don’t mean to use this blog to catalogue the deaths of deeply loved and admired people, though this does seem to be a year for it. It’s just that a sense of time lies heavy on me at the moment. I feel poised on the edge of something, looking back over my own life and also forward to what might be, so naturally thinking about other peoples’ lives and legacies and endings is all par for the course. It’s entirely banal, in fact, at the age of almost-forty-one, to do such a thing. So please forgive me.

Who else out there among my friends reached adolescence and began to “wake up to the world” in the 1980’s? It was an interesting time, wasn’t it? We hear a great deal, see a great deal portrayed in film and other media about kids coming of age in the sixties and seventies, that post-war generation. They did everything, protested, changed the world. (It’s different now, right? Right?…) They had various revolutions, social and political – Vietnam – men on the moon – peace and love – bean sprouts. Bean sprouts saved the world. They had a seismic shift in demographics buoying them along. Everything seemed possible.

Then, there was us.

I’d be interested to hear what my contemporaries say, whether they feel the same way. I swear to God, the 1980’s were claustrophobic for me. Nothing seemed possible, or even probable. My adolescent brain was beginning to fire neurons in all directions. My brain case felt too small for what was going on inside, the world was big and mean and full of incomprehensible adults with far too many nuclear warheads at their disposal and seemingly zero empathy. I couldn’t stand looking at the injustices, couldn’t stand walking past people sleeping in the street while others ate warm dinners and talked about ‘the economy’ (that Beast of the last days.) Every cell in my body screamed it wasn’t right, there had to be another way.

Enter into all of this, Nelson Mandela. Half a world away in South Africa, but he inspired us. Half a world away, us kids admired that man in prison. We chanted “Free Nelson Mandela”. There were those pins people used to wear on school bags. It was sincere – probably useless, but sincere. For me, there was a particular reason to follow the story. I thought of other people in prison, also incarcerated for spurious reasons. I admired Mandela’s refusal to give in. And when he was finally freed, I wept with joy, along with so many others, all over the world. It seemed that if this one man was freed, perhaps there was hope for the rest.

Time passed. People told me I would react less emotionally when I matured, or else work towards a concrete solution to social problems  rather than rebelling in my little corner. At the time I just ground my teeth and put it all down to grown-ups being condescending. I stomped off angrily towards womanhood, wearing my blue Doc Martens and knowing full well I was privileged, not in prison, not sleeping rough. Don’t be angry, said the reasonable little voice in the back of my head. Use your advantages to do something interesting. I grew up, sort of matured. And tried to use the advantages, for what they were worth.

But listen: the anger didn’t go away. The emotions didn’t go away. I am sitting here now, as righteously damned furious as I was a quarter of a century ago, minus the pin. I realise there is no getting rid of this anger, because it is a good anger. It says no. No, I won’t walk past the street sleeper with that sense that he must deserve it. No, I won’t shut up and let the Beast Economy run amok, trampling innocents. I will tell the truth as I see it, in my corner, yes, uselessly if need be. I will be emotional about the whole kit and kaboodle.

Here are some home truths from Mr Mandela to help you on your way.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”

Vale.

In the wake of the anniversary of three famous deaths – President Kennedy’s, C.S. Lewis’ and Aldous Huxley’s – there have been a slew of articles in mainstream press about the three men. I find it amusing (and edifying) that all three are united not only in death, but in the fact that they produced Great Fantasy, either in life or in death. I mean what I say: while Huxley and Lewis both wrote fantasy and science fiction to good effect, Kennedy’s death spawned myths and conspiracy theories to rival any novel. And from what I know of at least Lewis and Kennedy, both men also lived out various interesting fantasies on this earth – double lives, triple lives, versions of themselves. Huxley certainly investigated his own fantasies through the use of hallucinogens and managed I think to predict most accurately our own obsessions, now, half a century later. Hug me till you drug me, honey.

So tonight I raise a silent glass to these three men, interesting in different ways. Problematic in different ways. Complicated, complicated creatures. I particularly enjoyed this article on C.S. Lewis. Except I wonder why it doesn’t mention ‘Till We Have Faces.’ It’s my favourite of his novels. You can keep your Narnia and its thundering allegories… I will take Psyche’s older and much uglier sister, thank you.