The Quarter-Life Crisis

I am in a reading slump. I don’t get them too often at the moment so I think I just need to switch out the book I’m reading. It’s not that I’m not enjoying it, I am, but I don’t think it’s what I want to be reading right now.

But that’s not what this blog entry is about.

When I hit twenty-five, I didn’t really have a quarter-life crisis, I was happy floating along and nothing really changed with my age. Fast forward a year.

I recently turned twenty-six (you may remember a vaguely uplifting post about it), when that happened I had a grand plan and life was good and I was feeling determined and optimistic about the future. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a plan and am feeling determined but I am also feeling incredibly anxious.

Everywhere I look, my friends from all periods of my life (from primary school through to my master’s degree) seem to have their lives together, they have great jobs, great houses/flats, some of them are buying houses. They’re going to exciting places and having exciting adventures. (Now, that last bit is something I like to observe from afar, I am a homebody and I’m happy to just chill locally – that’s not to say I never want to go on holiday but I’m more focussed on saving at the moment and that’s okay.) I see my friends getting new jobs and moving up in the world, getting higher salaries and more respected in their fields, and then the panic sets in.

Maybe, it’s just because this month is an expensive month for me, filled with various car-related payments (insurance, service, road tax – yay!). I’m not able to put anything in my savings for a while and that freaks me out. But I find myself panicking that my life is going nowhere, and thinking that I should be at the same stage as the other people I know. Now, rationally, I know that all of my friends have probably had this exact feeling despite how put together they look on the outside. I know for a fact that I have been one of the people inspiring the panic for at least one of my friends (she told me so), so I must not be doing as badly as I think but the problem is that once I think it and feel it, it’s a hard feeling to shake.

My self-confidence ebbs and flows. I can take compliments now, I am practised in the art of agreeing when people say nice things about me and not only agreeing but believing it too. But that confidence doesn’t extend to my worth as a person, I find it very difficult to imagine myself as someone who adds to the environment I am in, I know I am good at things but I never think I am good enough at those things (to be worth hiring or paying or sometimes just being around). I know that this is probably being exaggerated by my current lack of money and the worries that come from that.

I will probably be okay in a few weeks but until then, I will be huddled in the corner, like Golem, whispering my precious over all of the five pence pieces I can find.


This has been a blog entry, I think. I honestly don’t know what this was but I needed to write about it, so here you go. My humble Monday-evening-but-posting-Tuesday offering.

#FolkloreThursday: The Cryptozoologist Chronicles – Pontianak

We’re chronicling some more cryptozoology this week, and I am very excited about it. This is another creature that I found while writing a drabble. I like to use folklore in my writing, so it’s no surprise that I find a lot of cool things. Unlike my last creature, this one actually did end up as the focal point of some of my writing and I’ve fallen a little bit in love – as much as you can fall in love with something as dark as this, that is.


Pontianak

The pontianak is a vengeful spirit from Indonesian and Malaysian folklore, also known as kuntilanak or matianak. Taking the form of an often pregnant woman, with long hair, a bloody white dress, and long nails, the pontianak hunts men. It is said that the pontianak can present itself as a beautiful woman to seduce its victims. If caught in this form and pierced in the nape of the neck by a coffin nail, the pontianak will stay a beautiful woman and a good wife. However, once the nail is removed, it will take its original form and kill the man who inflicted goodness upon it. Unlike most spirits, the pontianak has a physical/corporeal form.

The kuntilanak, in particular, is said to be able to transform into a bird and drink the blood of virgins and young women. It is summoned and sent to make women fall gravely ill.

Both variations are the ghosts of women who perhaps either died in childbirth or died violent deaths (presumably at the hands of men). They are ever-searching for their unborn child, including within the bodies of their victims.

Those unlucky enough to be seduced by a pontianak are not in for a pleasant death, the creature will remove and eat the organs, often while the victim is still living. It’s unsurprising that it is the subject of so many Indonesian and Malaysian horror films.

If a pontianak is near, you might smell something sweet and floral which sours into a smell of decay, or you might hear the wailing of a baby. This is perhaps my favourite detail, a nice smell (representing the presenting human form) which then turns horrid, like the monster behind the beautiful face.

There are variations of the pontianak throughout the world, particularly in India and Pakistan. The closest Western relative is probably the vampire.


Happy Thursday!

Words I Love: crooked

crooked – adjective

  1. bent, curved, twisted out of shape.
  2. dishonest, illegal

Origins: From the Middle English ‘crook’ (noun a hooked staff belonging to a shepherd or verb to bend), or possibly from the Old Norse krókóttr, which means something along the lines of ‘cunning’.

I’ve mentioned ‘crooked’ a lot in my Words I Love posts and thought I would go with my past-self and make ‘crooked’ my next word. A lot of my associations with this particular word probably come from the crooked man nursery rhyme.

There was a crooked man,
and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence
upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat,
which caught a crooked mouse,
and they all lived together
in a little crooked house.

I heard and read it so much as a child that it’s gotten itself stuck in my brain and may never leave. It’s been the starting point for horror films and antagonists in games, and books (I am looking at you, The Book of Lost Things, which is a book everyone should read especially if they love fairy tales) for years, and I completely understand why.

It’s such a wonderful (if creepy) image, a crooked man.

Weirdly, my imaginings don’t give me a one-way ticket to Creepyville Towers; when I see the word ‘crooked’, my mind leaps straight to old and rickety, all twisted limbs and slow walking, it takes me somewhere eccentric rather than somewhere dangerous. Still cunning but not necessarily evil.

Crooked is elderly but still full of wit, where the cunning comes from being underestimated and knowing about it. Crooked brings to mind Baba Yaga, Rumpelstiltskin, Moana’s grandmother (in the most wonderful way possible), Madam Mim (who wasn’t really bad, who I adore). When I am old and decrepit, I hope that I can be one of those crooked little crones that you might find in a fairy tale. Not an evil one, obviously, but the kind that looks like they have a secret (and does indeed have one), and the kind that does inexplicable things for what seems like no reason but actually has a plan.

Crooked brings to mind ramshackle buildings and shanty towns, fairy tale locations, leaning towers and dark woods with twisting branches. Crooked is a little bit magic, a little bit dark, and a little bit whimsical.

Is it any wonder that I love and use it so much?

#FolkloreThursday Film Spotlight: Tale of Tales

Hello, lovely readers. I have a confession to make before I launch into this blog entry. I had no idea the film I’m about to talk about was based on a book. I am terrible. I now want to read said book though, so there’s that at least.

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From the bitter quest of the Queen of Longtrellis, to two mysterious sisters who provoke the passion of a king, to the King of Highhills obsessed with a giant Flea, these tales are inspired by the fairytales by Giambattista Basile.

The above is taken from IMDB. Obviously. Otherwise, I would have known it was actually based on something. I went into this film blind, I’d seen maybe part of a trailer beforehand and was intrigued enough to watch it. I am glad I did.

It’s an incredibly strange film, weaving what at first seem to be three completely separate stories together. The first, a queen who will do anything to have a child; the second, two sisters who win the love of a womanising King by use of trickery and magic; the third, a king who finds and nurtures a flea, loving it more than his own child resulting in his daughter being married off to an ogre.

Naturally, I love it. I adore stories, and if a film has more than one it’s going to be a guaranteed hit with me. Combine that with the fairy tale nature and setting and you’ve got an instant love. This film is dark. It’s also whimsical but the dark kind where you’re not sure if what you’re watching could possibly have a happy ending or whether everyone is going to die horribly.

The film is stunning. From the costumes to the sets, to the music and through the colouring, it is gorgeous. It’s exactly the kind of rich beauty you want from a fairy tale film.

From what I gather of the book, these are only three of an incredible number of tales that could have been used, and now a small hopeful part of me is crossing her fingers and wishing on every star that they turn this into a series of films, each with three tales beautifully produced until the whole book has been done. It is only a vague hope. It will probably never happen. A girl can dream.

It harkens back to the 80s fantasy movies that I adore, only darker and with better visual effects. Definitely, check it out if you’re a fan of fantasy and fairy tales. I love it. Love it.

Happy Thursday!

Review: Release by Patrick Ness

31194576Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.

Before we start: A big, big thank you must go to Walker Books for sending me a review copy. You make my bookish dreams come true, my friends.

Release is a day in the life of Adam Thorn, interspersed with a day in the life of a ghost, spirit and faun (stick with me). Where Adam’s sections are poignant and at times heartbreaking, the fantastical sections are a mysterious meandering journey for answers, for, as the title suggests, release. The two storylines meet with their need for release and while Adam’s story didn’t need the magical realism to work, or to be enjoyable, it was an intriguing addition (even if it has left some reviewers torn).

It’s a book of details, we see the kind of detail that can only be built into a novel that takes place over one day. There is no skipping over important details, every feeling is felt, every confrontation confronted and every revelation revealed in front of our waiting eyes. I like this. I like books which deal in detail. During my Creative Writing degree, we studied a module called A Day in the Life and this book would fit right into the reading list, I wish it were around when I was doing that course. It’s so engaging and a lot can be learned about writing from it, as well as it being a great reading experience.

Due to the degree of detail, we get to know the characters rather well, and what lovely characters they are. Adam is surrounded by an excellent supporting cast in the form of Angela and Linus. They are excellent. They are everything I wanted them to be and more.

Release deals with a lot of big things in a short amount of time but I think my favourite thing about it is its portrayal of relationships, romantic, familial and platonic. Every kind of relationship is hard and messy and Release doesn’t shy away from that. Ness is great at making you feel things. I felt my heart clench in moments between Adam and Linus, and I felt it break in a scene with Adam and his father, it swelled every time Adam was with Angela.

It is a sensitive representation of what it is like to be gay in a religious family that doesn’t agree with homosexuality but it packs one hell of a punch when it needs to, and emphasises that family isn’t just what you are born with, it’s what you choose. It’s a deeply personal novel, while it’s not about Ness and the characters are not people who are in his real life, you can tell he drew from his own experience and I think that’s what makes it so powerful.

The magical realism wasn’t as poignant, and that seems to be the problem for readers who didn’t like those parts, but it was interesting and it did a lot to break up the utterly terrible day Adam was having. I love a bit of fantasy, so I enjoyed it. I liked puzzling together what Katherine (a murdered girl, the ghost who has risen from the lake) was looking for, and how that linked her with the Queen (a spirit also inhabiting her ‘body’). Though it deals with murder and blame and addiction and all the mess therein, it stopped the novel from being depressing – if we had just had Adam’s day going from bad to worse to absolutely horrible, I think it would have been hard to get through. The fantasy adds something to puzzle over, something to distract, and it made each scene with Adam easier to digest. The fantasy is a palate cleanser between the meaty courses of the novel.

It does offer some light at the end of the tunnel, it’s not all doom and gloom, there are moments of dazzling brightness, alongside the dark. It’s not a novel where everything is tied up at the end, there are things that we don’t get to see (which happen after) that I am still curious about and I like it when books leave me curious. Sure, I will never get the answers I want but I will be thinking about it for days, and that’s what you want from a book. You want it to stick with you, and Release does.

One phrase we should really stop using

I might be alone in this. I might be the only person who thinks that this phrase is vile but we’re going to discuss it because I have an opinion, and opinions make for good blog posts (make a great post from a neutral standpoint, I challenge you). I don’t know when I started disliking it, but it occurred to me the other day that I definitely do dislike it and it’s actually quite creepy.

The phrase in question goes thus:

“[…] at the tender age of ______”

Everyone has read/heard/said that phrase somewhere. I think the eagle-eyed among you may even be able to find that very phrase somewhere in the recesses of this blog (I would be interested to know if you can, if anyone who isn’t me can be bothered to look – there are a lot of posts…). It looks pretty innocuous. It’s not rude, it’s quite common, what could possibly be wrong with it?

Well, pull up a chair, my curious little friend, for I am going to tell you. (We’re using our English Lit. degree today, pals, buckle up!)

It all has to do with three things: A) who is saying it, B) who they are saying it to, and C) the word ‘tender’, and we are going to discuss these in reverse order (because the rules of chronology are apparently too hard for me).

‘Tender’ isn’t a horrible word, it’s quite a good word. It can mean gentlekind-heartedaffectionate, and I have no doubt that when the phrase first came into fashion it was these definitions that were originally meant but that’s where my first problem arises. There is no gentle age. There is no affectionate age. Either you are affectionate and gentle, or you’re not. It’s not age which determines gentleness but experience, which brings me to my next definition.

‘Tender’ can be taken to mean inexperienced. Sure, you can be waxing about how you, at the tender age of five and three quarters were unaware of the trials and foibles you would be put through in your teens, and that is your right, but what about when someone else says it about you? I’m getting ahead of myself. One point at a time, Elou. I suppose I can accept the phrase when it is used in this way. You talking about your inexperienced self. That’s okay. That’ll get a pass.

But let’s look a bit more at ‘tender’. ‘Tender’ is sensitive to pain, ‘tender’ is vulnerable, ‘tender’ is easy to cut or chew. ‘Tender’ is delicious. How many times have you, when asked how the meat you are eating is have praised it as so tender? I have, many times. Now think of talking about a child at a tender age. Shudder.

On to point B. If you’re using the phrase you’re either talking about a child or someone who was a child at the time you are referring to, or you are probably ironically referring to yourself being at a tender age even though you are 32. Again, if you’re talking about yourself, fine. Go ahead, say what you will, enjoy yourself. But saying it about a child, or adolescent is still a bit creepy.

Think about it, you’re pointing out their inexperience, their vulnerability, you are bringing into focus the fact that they are weak and you, in comparison, are strong. The speaker gives themselves the power, which brings me swiftly to point A: who is saying it.

Imagine a professor or teacher, haughty, a middling age, let’s say 40-50. He has a slight paunch and a habit of talking down to people. Now, imagine him talking about a young girl at the tender age of eight.

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Tell me that isn’t creepy?

Take into account who he could be talking to, a colleague of equal age? A parent? The child herself? None of these options feel good to me.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I just blowing it out of proportion and taking an innocent phrase to a darker place, a place where it has no business being? You decide. Answers on a postcard. Or, you know, in the comments.

#FolkloreThursday: An Endless Story (Japan)

Hullo, hullo. It’s one of those Thursdays where I read a folktale that I’ve never read before and relay it for your enjoyment, mostly marvelling at the ridiculousness of it all. I love folktales. I love how weird and wonderful they can be, how different they can be across different cultures, and how they manage to stick around despite how incredibly old they are.

This week, we’re travelling to Japan for a tale with a very misleading title. It is called An Endless Story and yet it is quite possibly the shortest story in Favourite Folktales from around the World.

So, we jump right into the story and discover that the rats of Nagasaki have all jumped onto a ship to Satsuma because there is no food. All is going well, they’re on the ship, they’re sailing but then… they happen across another ship, equally filled with rats. These rats were from Satsuma (can you see where this is going?) making their way to Nagasaki because there is no food.

We have a dilemma on our hands and what do the rats decide to do?

(I’m not sure you’re ready for this. Are you ready for this?)

(Okay, okay. You’re ready.)

The decide to jump into the sea. And drown. 

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Of course, there was no other place in the whole of Japan that might have had food for them. They were clever enough to sail across the sea but apparently, geography was possibly not their strong suit.

So there you have it, An Endless Story made Endless only by the fact that the rats are jumping into the sea one-by-one and that it ends with an ellipsis.

Save a life, feed a rat.

Happy Thursday!

Top Tips for a Successful Blog!

So, I’ve been around for a while, often inconsistently and with little direction, but around I have been. I have had long periods of not updating, planned absences and unplanned ones. I’ve been blogging intermittently for a long, long time, first on Blogspot, then on a little sub-domain kindly gifted to me by a friend, then on my own domain, and now here, on Word Press (which is by far my favourite).

I thought it would be nice, as a break from the normal routine, to share some things that I have learnt about blogging while still maintaining your sanity (though that part is debatable).

Here we go!

Write posts in advance

Schedule, schedule, schedule! I try to always have at least one week of blog posts ready to go (my last planned blogging break was only a break because I hadn’t done this – more on that in a later entry). If I’m being really productive, I will have two!

This takes a lot of the pressure away from having to get posts up and really allows you to enjoy writing them, to take your time and really write the best post you can write. A rushed post is never going to be as polished as you would like (she says, when her posts are definitely not polished in the slightest…).

I don’t always write my posts in advance, I tend to schedule my Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday posts but I always allow myself the freedom to post outside of the schedule if I want to, or if I have an idea the I absolutely have to share right now.

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 If you have an idea, write it down

I have lost so many great post ideas because I didn’t write them down when I thought of them. Well, I say ‘great’, I don’t remember what they were so they could be complete trash.

Of course, I’m not saying you should write the post the moment you think of it. That would be ridiculous. I think of a lot of my posts in the shower and I certainly don’t take a pen, paper or electrical device in there but as soon as I get out, I scrawl it into a note on my phone and then transfer it into a giant google doc I have for exactly that purpose.

Sometimes, I start a new post and just include the title. Normally I do this when I want to write the post sooner, rather than later. (I have several of them sitting in my drafts right now.) Either way, write them down or else they will float off to the ether, never to be seen again.

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Don’t compare yourself to other bloggers

This is something I have fallen victim to. A lot of the blogs I follow have new posts every day and always have something witty or insightful to say about the subjects they’re blogging about. I pore over people’s monthly round up posts and marvel at everything they have achieved, and all the books that they have read.

I often wonder howHow do they get through that many books in such a small amount of time? That’s a stupid thing to wonder. For several reasons (a lot of them specific to book bloggers).

People read at different speeds, the amount of books you can read in a month doesn’t define your worth as a book blogger. It is your love of books and willingness to blog that makes you a book blogger.

The blogging community is vast and diverse. The person you’re comparing yourself to could be in high school, they could be full-grown adults with full-grown careers and children to boot! They could be like me, twenty-somethings who are still trying to make their own comfy little dent in the world. They could be male, female, non-binary, they could own a cattle farm in Guam (if there are cattle farms in Guam, I have no idea). They will have commitments and constraints on their time, or maybe they won’t, maybe blogging is their full-time work.

Other bloggers will have opinions that differ from yours, neither your nor their opinion is more valid than the other and neither diminishes you as a blogger. You don’t agree, write a blog post about it! Write an insightful article about why you think the way you do.

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Post what you want to post

So you’re a book blogger but you have this really cool idea for a food post, what do you do? Post it! If you’re interested in it, it will be interesting to the people who like reading your work. People are passionate about what other people are passionate about.

I have a few posts waiting in my drafts which have nothing to do with what I normally post, and every so often I post about my life and one day, I want to post about my outfits (when I wear something I am particularly pleased with); I will always post about books and words and folklore, but I will include smatterings of other things that interest me because this is my space to do with what I will.

Don’t be afraid to post outside of your little blogging box, it’s refreshing and there will be someone out there who will enjoy it.

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Engage with the community

For a long time, I didn’t follow other blogs. I existed in a vacuum where I was just writing my own stuff and not looking at anyone else’s. I got a fair few followers but very little engagement. I didn’t receive many comments, and when I did I don’t think I replied. When I started to blog regularly again, I made the decision to really make an effort with other blogs and it’s been great!

You will have seen that I’ve done a few tags recently, which was something I never thought would happen. I have people commenting on my blogs, and really engaging with my content. It’s so lovely to actually know that someone out there is reading your work and taking the time out of their day to let you know what they think of it but that only happens if you’re willing to do the same.

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Don’t be afraid to take a step back

Blogging shouldn’t be stressful. If you feel you need a break, take one. Your followers will still be there when you get back and they will understand. Your well-being is and always will be more important than your blog.

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I hope you find these helpful and would love to hear your top tips too! Have a wonderful Tuesday, pals.

Words I Love: phillumenist

phillumenist – noun

  1. a person who engages in phillumeny; a person who collects match-related items, like matchbox labels, matchboxes, matchbooks, or matchbook covers.

Origins: from the Greek phil- meaning loving and the Latin ‘lumen’ meaning light, the term has only been in existence since 1943 by Marjorie S. Evans, a British collector.

Phillumenist and phillumeny are such lovely sounding words. The fact that they exist is great and makes me want to look up terms for people who collect other things to see if they exist too and what they might be. These sound like terms you would see in a fantasy novel (I forget whether there are clairvoyants in The Bone Season that use matches for their craft, but I can well imagine that they are called phillumenists if there are).

I’ve discovered that I love words which put me in mind of little elderly people with crooked fingers and microscopic interests in things that the younger generation might find dull or silly. As I mentioned in my last Words I Love post, I love words that poke and prod at my imagination (and put me in mind of crooked people, maybe crooked should be my next word, since I’ve used it so much across these posts). Sure, technically all words do this. Words are our main method of communication and communication relies on our minds being able to make more from the sounds we thrust at each other with our mouths…

That took a weird turn. Sorry about that. But you get what I mean, right?

Anywho, it’s a lovely word. A lovely, lovely word.