5 Reasons Not to Buy My Book

mtm-cover

Yes. McTavish Manor comes out today and I’m very proud it has made it all the way until publication (since it all started in the form of a nightmare back in the Spring of 2014). The little thing is out in the world and, of course, I’m slightly worried about it. I put my soul and heart on this project. And it turns out that is beautifully edited by Holland House Books and it comes with illustrations from the wonderful Mireia Ibàñez Cid, too!

But I thought that, even if I want you to enjoy my stories (and even having nightmares with them) I also want to save you some pennies…

So this are the 5 reasons why you shouldn’t buy my book!

1. You love and need happy endings where everyone comes back home for Christmas. Or there is a wedding. Or someone recieves the Nobel Prize.

Erm… this is not your book, I am sorry. Life is complicated (we all know that) but I like to make my plots even more complicated. And scary. And horrible. (Yes, I wouldn’t like to live inside my novels, either, but I have fun creating them!)

2. You don’t like to think too much when you’re reading. It’s the writer’s job to make things easier for you and not the opposite! You already bought the book for God’s sake.

Aha. Fair point. You’re paying money and time for a book and you want to get something back. But if you just want to relax I’m not your person. Have you ever opened House of Leaves? Yes, a book in which some pages are printed the other way around so you need a mirror to understand what they say. Even when my book is not that extreme, it has its own twisted/complicated things. To me, this is a way to invite the reader for a game and make her/him participate actively into the story. But if you’re not in the mood for this sort of games… stay away and use your money to buy a good cup of tea and a inspiring book.

3.  You think illustrations are just for children’s books.

Ooops. I love illustrations. Yes, I know, your mind can imagine all that I’m describing in your own unique and very valuable way. But I do love getting my hands into an adult novel and discovering it has illustrations or even photos. That’s why I convinced the talented Mireia Ibàñez Cid to draw my characters for me. In fact, as the novella has (mainly) three narrators, do you know that she’s so awesome that she used a different drawing style for each of them? (Sorry, I know you said you didn’t like books with pictures… but still I have to ask you to check Mireia’s portfolio!)

4. Gothic? What Gothic? Do people still read Gothic?

Well, yes. We still read Gothic nowadays. And we even write it, sometimes. But if you’re one of these people who think Gothic is stupid, or it just sends you to sleep like really fast (far enough!) then I guess my novella is not good for you. Even when I was not trying to write the classic gothic story (but to go against many tropes, to be honest) I got so much inspiration from the classic Gothic genre that I cannot ‘forget it’ at this point. So, again, don’t buy my book. (Unless you suffer from insomnia!)

5. If you can say it in just one single word… better!

Mmm… no, sorry, that’s not just my style (generally and in this novel). Even when I love quick, cinematic and journalistic style in writing, I’m a big sucker for metaphors and images. When I read Bill Martin/Poppy Z Brite novels, or the Gormenhast trilogy my heart dances the hula-hula in my chest. So if you hate this kind of suggestive writing full of (crazy) metaphors I’m sorry… we are not made for each other. Keep looking for your perfect read!

So that’s it. I’m being brutally honest here. If you can relate to one or more of these statements, don’t buy my book. Go to the cinema. Try another new author. Treat yourself to a cream capuccino and a muffin in a fancy coffee shop. I won’t take it personally.

But, if after reading this you are curious, then… I just have one thing left to say…

Welcome!


 

¡Sí! Finalmente mi primera novela escrita en inglés sale a la venta y estoy que no me lo creo. Ver esta idea sobrevivir desde su concepción (en forma de pesadilla, allá por la primavera del 2014) hasta aterrizar en una librería es algo que no le ocurre a una todos los días… (y menos mal, porque escribir/editar/publicar este libro ha sido como montarse en la montaña rusa más alta del mundo treinta veces seguidas). Y el mérito no es solo mío: la preciosa y cuidada edición es de Holland House Books, y las maravillosas ilustraciones salieron de los pinceles de Mireia Ibàñez Cid. Menuda suerte la mía….

Sin embargo, estaba yo pensando que, aunque mi objetivo es siempre compartir mis historias con el mundo y entretener al personal (e incluso dar pesadillas a alguno) también quiero ahorraros unos eurillos…

Así que ahí van: 5 razones por las que no deberíais comprar mi libro. En serio.

1. Te encantan los finales felices en los que la gente vuelve a casa por navidad. O hay boda. O a alguien le toca el premio Nóbel, o la lotería, o algo.

Erm… esta no es tu historia, lo siento. La vida es dura (creo que, a estas alturas, todos nos hemos dado cuenta) pero a mí me gusta hacer mis argumentos aún más duros. Y complicados. Y tenebrosos. Y horribles. (No, no querría vivir dentro de uno de mis libros aunque me lo pase pipa escribiéndolos).

2. No te gusta darle al coco cuando lees. El trabajo del escritor es, precísamemte, ponerte las cosas fáciles y no al contrario. ¡Encima que te esfuerzas y le compras el libro…!

Ajá. La verdad es que no te lo niego, tienes razón. Has pagado dinero y (no solo eso) vas a invertir tu valioso tiempo en leerte el libro, con lo que, naturalmente, esperas algo a cambio. Pero si lo que quieres es relajarte… no soy tu tipo. ¿Alguna vez se te ha ocurrido abrir esta novela que se llama La casa de Hojas? Algunas páginas están escritas al contrario, con lo que tienes que hacerte con un espejo para leerlas. Y yo adoro ese libro. Aunque McTavish Manor no es un caso tan extremo, el libro tiene lo suyo de complicado y retorcido. Para mí, no ponérselo fácil al lector es una manera de invitarla o invitarle a jugar conmigo. Yo quiero que seáis una parte activa en la historia como lo soy yo o mis personajes. Pero si no te apetece… pasa de mi libro elegantemente y usa tu dinero para pagarte un cafecito y un comprarte un libro más tranquilito.

3. Los dibujitos son para libros de niños.

Ups. Me encantan los dibujitos. Sí, ya lo sé, los libros no los necesitan porque la mente del lector puede imaginarse todos los escenarios y personajes de un modo único y perfecto. Quizá aquí la rara soy yo… pero hay pocas cosas que me gusten más que agarrar una novela adulta y descubrir que viene con ilustraciones. (¡Por eso estoy tan emocionada con proyectos como Crónicas del Fin!) Y esa es la razón por la que convencí a la talentosa Mireia Ibàñez Cid para que dibujara a mis personajes. De hecho, como la novela tiene tres narradores principales, Mireia ha usado diferentes estilos para cada uno de ellos. (Lo siento, ya sé que me has dicho que no te gustan los libros con dibujitos… pero porfa, échale un vistazo al portfolio de Mireia… ¡no te arrepentirás!)

4. ¿Literatura gótica? ¿En serio? ¿La gente aún lee eso?

Pues… sí. Y, lo que es más, algunos hasta la escribimos de vez en cuando. Pero si crees que la literatura gótica es estúpida o simplemente te da un sopor terrible oye, estás en tu derecho. Aunque creo que entonces mi novela no es para ti. Siendo honesta, te diré que no estaba intentando escribir una historia clásica del género gótico (la verdad es que más que nada quería cargarme algunos de sus arquetipos). Pero me inspiré mucho en la tradición gótica (no te voy a mentir) así que fingir que mi obra está completamente separada de este género sería tontería. No compres mi libro. (A no ser que tengas insomnio, en cuyo caso puede que resulte ser el elixir que tanto habías estado buscando).

5. Las cosas, en cuanto menos palabras se digan… ¡mejor!

Mmmm… no, la verdad es que ese no es mi estilo. Aunque disfruto novelas escritas en un lenguaje directo, cinemático y casi periodístico, me pirran las metáforas y las imágenes. Cuando leo novelas de Bill Martin/Poppy Z Brite o la trilogía de Gormenhast my corazón hace el hula-hula en mi pecho. Si odias los estilos sugerentes y llenos de metáforas (un poco extravagantes) lo siento mucho… no éstamos hechos la una para la otra (o el otro). ¡Sigue buscando tu perfecta pareja literaria!

Así que eso. Puede que esté siendo brutalmente honesta, pero si coincides con uno o varios de los puntos que he mencionado, no compres mi libro. Ve al cine. Prueba un autor novel diferente. Mímate con un capuccino y un bollo en alguna cafetería chula. De verdad, no me lo voy a tomar personalmente.

Pero si después de leerte todo esto sientes un poco de curiosidad… en ese caso, solo puedo decir una cosa.

¡Bienvenida/o!

 

Doctors & Horrors: Why Doctors Scare Me

The Doctor Portrait
One of the first doodles I did of my main character in McTavish Manor, Dr Bilsland.

(En Español más abajo :D)

Allow me to set out exactly how you should proceed to contain Consumption. First, have one of the glasses in my studio heated—you will notice they have slightly sharpened edges. Then, when you are alone in your chamber—away from indiscreet eyes—hold tightly the scalpel I left for you & make a small incision in your skin. The cut has to be made under your clavicle, just above the breast. Immediately after, grab the glass—which should still be hot, not warm—& press it on the flesh—your hands must not tremble. I am sure you can perform the treatment—otherwise you would not have allowed your doctor to leave! Remember to take some linen towels with you to protect your garments.

McTavish Manor

 

¡Hola! How are you doing? Mondays suck. I’m sorry, but that’s who I am: I LOVE Fridays and get kind of blue every Monday. Dunno why, just happens that way.

So I’ve decided to spice things up a little and thought I’d open a new (temporary) section in my blog about doctors & horrors because these are two things I know a lot about. And what’s better than forgetting Monday’s exhaustion than reading a few spooky things you might not know?

As you may already know, I’m publishing my first novella written in English this Otober, and it’s a horror story. And yes, it is about the darkest parts of my soul and – it couldn’t be other way – it includes doctors. In fact, one of the main characters is a 19th century Doctor with a strange relationship with blood…  (Everything was related with blood at the time, in fact, and you can read in my quote of the novella the curious and real treatment of Consumption at the very beginning of the 19th century!)

Fun fact: thee doctor’s appearance is directly inspired in someone I saw in a dream and inspired McTavish Manor as a whole.

Horror fact: To cure Consumption (also known as Tuberculosis or TB) doctors in the 18th/19th centuery prescribed the loss of blod. So, basically, you were already coughing blood all the time and they also bleed you. Where is the logic in all this? Apparently, at the time, they believed that illness were associated to the poor condition of blood. So ‘purging’ blood was ideal to get rid of diseases…

(I’m convinced that at the time it made sense. Perhaps in 200 years people look back with horror at our surgeries in which people are basically cut out! Hopefully, they’d have discovered a better way of fixing things inside the body by then…)

Now, I want to ask you, are you scared of doctors?

If the answer is yes, we have lots of things in common! And if not… well, let me tell you a few things from my own experience.

Why am I scared of doctors?

Let me confess you a little secret: I have the very Gothic habit of fainting. I faint when I see blood, when I experience a strong pain… but also when I’m over excited (I fainted on my 10th birthday because I was soooo happy it was my birthday) and scared (I’ve fainted watching Crouching Tiger & Hidden Dragon when I was nine, no kidding).

I also faint when I experience strong emotions. Once I was doing muffins with my mum and she asked me to ‘massage’ the dough. It felt so… weird (that cold, wet and at the same time dry substance getting stuck in my skin) that I fainted too.

Are you surprised? Confused?

My parents were too, and that’s why they decided to take me to the doctor to see if someone could guess what was wrong with my brain causing all that non-sense fainting.

Now, after seeing a cardiologist (who put weird thins on my head and chest) and a neurologist (who hit my joints with a mini-hammer which was quite annoying), doctors decided to make some tests.

And this was the first one.

Picture me. I was 12 years old and basically still a child. My dad took me to the hospitals. Doctors had told me I couldn’t have breakfast that day, which is always a BAD omen, if you ask me. They made us wait for a little while then they called my name. My father wanted to come along (my parents always want to be present in any doctor’s interactions even now, and they are the kind of folks that won’t let me even speak about my condition!) But the doctor told him, politely, to wait.

I was alone.

The doctor took me to an enormous room of huge ceilings. There was just a hospital bed in the middle and intense lightubs directly over it. Nothing else. No nurse, no pictures on the walls or skeletons in the corner… nothing.

The doctor asked me to get naked and put on one of those thin green hospital robes (that seem to be made of paper). He disappeared for five minutes so I could do so. Then, he was back and made me sit on the hospital bed. I felt completely naked and vulnerable (to be honest, the robe didn’t make much of a difference). And quite uncomfortable, because he hadn’t told me what was going to happen.

Now, I realised that there was something attached to the hospital bed. Black straps. And that’s when the doctor told me.

The test consisted on the following: he was going to tie me up to the bed and then, he was going to make the bed turn exponentially faster until I was so sick and dizzy that I fainted. And then, they would study my brain.

Picture me in your heads: a twelve-year-old who faints with strong emotions. I felt like fainting just after hearing what it was going to happen to me. I don’t know if you have fainted, but it’s the most disgusting and horrible sensation ever – the complete loss of control (and conscience). So… letting them to make me faint?

Erm… no, thanks.

So I started crying. And screaming. And stating, very loud and clear, that I was NOT going to do that.

The doctor tried to convince me. It was an important procedure for my health… etc.

No, thanks.

Another doctor came to see if he was more persuasive.

Nop.

Finally they ‘threatened’ to call my dad.

I said, fine, bring him here.

My dad came.

‘Please, please don’t let them.’ I cried.

My dad looked at the doctors. Then he looked at the hospital bed with stripes. Then, he looked at me, his poor semi-naked daughter.

‘So, you don’t want to do it?’

‘No.’

And he took me home.

Since then, I don’t trust doctors – well, many other things have happened, but that’s for other chapters. I know I’m very coward and that what happened there was almost nothing compared to the procedures other people had undergone.

Still, it’s quite nightmarish in my mind.

Are you scared of doctors, too? Why?

———————————

Permitidme explicaros con total exactitud aquello que debéis hacer para detener el mortal avance de la Tuberculosis. En primer lugar, mandad que os calienten uno de los vasos que hallaréis en mi estudio–veréis que tienen los bordes ligeramente afilados. Después, cuando os encontréis completamente sola en vuestras habitaciones –a salvo de cualquier mirada indiscreta– sujetad con firmeza el bisturí que os entregué & haced una minúscula incisión en vuestra piel. El corte se habrá de hallar bajo la clavícula, justo por encima del pecho. Imediatamente después, coged el vaso –que debe estar caliente, no templado– y usadlo para hacer presión contra la carne – no consintáis ni un solo temblor a vuestras manos. Confío en que podréis seguir este procedimiento –de otro modo, ¡estoy seguro de que jamás habríais permitido marchar a vuestro médico! Recordad que debéis tener cerca algunas toallas de lino con el fin de proteger vuestras delicadas vestimentas.

McTavish Manor

Hey! ¿Qué tal andais? Los lunes dan asco. Lo siento, pero soy de esas personas a las que les encantan los viernes y los lunes les ponen un poco tristes. No sé por qué, simplemente me pasa.

Así que he decidido animar las cosas un poquillo y empezar una nueva sección en el blog (aunque va a ser solo temporal). Se llama ‘Doctors & Horrors’ y en ella voy a hablar de estas dos cosas de las que resulta que sé bastante. ¿Os apetece empezar la semana leyendo algo horripilante?

Como seguro que ya sabéis, este octubre publico my primera novela corta en inglés (¡cruzo los dedos para que la traducción al español llegue pronto!). En ella podréis tener acceso a las partes más recónditas y oscuras de mi alma y, como no podría ser de otro modo, salen médicos. De hecho, uno de los protagonistas es un médico de principios del siglo XIX con una relación un tanto extraña con la sangre. (Casi todo estaba relacionado con la sangre en aquella época, como podéis ver en el extracto de la novela que he colgado al principio de este post. ¡Es una receta real de cómo curar la tuberculosis en el siglo XIX!)

Hecho curioso: La apariencia de mi médico la he sacado directamente de la persona que vi en aquel sueño que inspiró McTavish Manor

Hecho Tenebroso: Para curar la tuberculosis, algunos médicos de los siglos XVIII y XIX les recetaban a sus pacientes una ‘sana’ pérdida de sangre. Vamos, que los pobres enfermos se pasaban la vida tosiendo y escupiendo sangre y encima los desangraban… Ilógico, lo sé… pero es que resulta que en aquella época casi todos estaban convencidos que las enfermedades estaban relacionadas con tener la sangre en malas condiciones. Osea, que desangrar a un paciente era la manera perfecta de purgar enfermedades.

(Estoy segura de que, en su momento, todo esto era de lo más sensato. Es más, en 200 años seguro que la gente mira atrás para horrorizarse ante las operaciones que se hacen hoy en día en la que los médicos, básicamente, abren al paciente de un par de tajos… Seguro que para entonces se han descubierto procesos menos invasivos…)

¿A vosotros os dan miedo los médicos?

Si la respuesta es sí, entonces tenemos muchas cosa en común. Y si es que no… bueno, dejadme que os cuente una historia.

Voy a confesaros un pequeño secreto: tengo una manía muy gótica, desmayarme. Me desmayo cuando veo sangre, cuando experimento un dolor muy fuerte… pero también cuando estoy muy excitada (por ejemplo, me desmayé el día que cumplí diez años porque estaba ultrafeliz de estar celebrando mi cumpleaños… sí, en serio).

También me desmayo cuando me invaden sensaciones o emociones muy intensas. Una vez, estaba haciendo rosquillas con mi madre cuando ella me pidió que trabajara un poco la masa. La cosa es que, en cuanto me puse a ello, se me hizo muy… raro. Quiero decir, la masa estaba fría, húmeda y seca a un tiempo e increíblemente pegajosa. (Sí. Me desmayé enseguida.)

¿Sorprendidos? ¿Confusos?

Mis padres estaban en las mismas por aquel entonces, así que decidieron llevarme a un médico a ver si se podía resolver el misterio de mi cerebro ordenando desmayos a diestro y siniestro.

Después de ver a un cardiólogo (que me puso cosas en la cabeza y en el pecho) y a un neurólogo (que me golpeó en las articulaciones con un mini-martillo de lo más molesto) los médicos se pusieron de acuerdo para hacerme una prueba.

A ver, imaginad la escena. Yo tenía solo doce años (seguía siendo una cría). Mi padre me llevó al hospital por la mañana. Los médicos me habían dicho que no podía desayunar, lo que, ciertamente, yo ya iba considerando como un mal augurio. Tuvimos que esperar un rato en la sala hasta que el doctor me llamó. Mi padre quería venirse conmigo pero el doctor le dijo, amablemente, que se tenía que quedar en la sala. (Sí, mis padres son de ese tipo de gente que siempre quiere estar presente cada vez que voy al médico, y en la mayoría de los casos esto implica que hablarán ellos todo el rato sin dejarme explicar qué es lo que me pasa…)

Así que fui sola.

El médico me llevó a una habitación enorme con techos altísimos. No había nada (ni enfermera, ni dibujitos en las paredes, ni un esqueleto de plástico en la esquina). Solo una cama y, sobre ella, unos focos super intensos.

El médico me pidió que me desnudara y me pusiera una de esas batas verdes que parecen de papel que te dan en los hospitales. Después, me hizo sentarme en la camilla. En ese momento, yo ya me sentía completamente desnuda y vulnerable (entre llevar aquella bata fulerilla y nada…) Y encima aun no me habían dicho de qué iba la prueba.

Fue entonces cuando me di cuenta de que la cama tenía unas correas negras.

El médico me comentó lo que me iba a pasar: me iban a atar a la cama y luego iban a hacer que esta diera vueltas cada vez más rápido hasta que yo estuviera tan mareada que me desmayara. Y luego… estudiarían mi cerebro.

¿Os he comentado ya que yo era una cría que se desmayaba ante el más ligero estímulo? Vamos, que solo al escuchar al médico describiendo ese proceso me sentí flaquear una vez más. ¿Os habéis desmayado alguna vez? Entonces sabréis que es la cosa más horrible y desagradable (la pérdida absoluta de control y, obviamente, consciencia). ¿Acceder voluntariamente a que me provocaran un desmayo?

Eh.. no, gracias.

Así que me eché a llorar. Y me puse a gritar. Básicamente, les dejé muy claro que no pensaba hacer esa prueba.

El médico intentó convencerme diciendo que era importante para mi salud… etc.

No, gracias.

Otro médico vino para ver si podía persuadirme.

Nop.

Al final, ‘amenazaron’ con llamar a mi padre.

Estupendo, les dije, traedle aquí.

My padre apareció en la sala.

‘Por favor, no dejes que me hagan esto…’ Le rogué.

My padre miró a los doctores. Luego a la cama con las correas. Luego a mí, su pobre hija semi desnuda e indefensa.

‘¿No quieres hacerlo?’ Me preguntó.

‘No.’

Así que me llevó de vuelta a casa.

Desde entonces, no me fio ni un pelo de los médicos (bueno, la verdad es que otras cosas  han sucedido que han intensificado mi creencia, pero eso es para otra historia). Ya sé que soy una cobarde total y lo que me sucedió entonces fue practicamente nada comparado con lo que otra gente tiene que sufrir en los hospitales.

Aun así, yo lo recuerdo como una pesadilla…

¿Os dan miedo los médicos? ¿Por qué?

 

 

 

 

I lost my job but found my writing?

I lost my job

(Si quieres leer esto en español ve más abajo. ¡Gracias! :D)

Life happens. And it turns out that I lost my part-time job because they didn’t want more part-time people any more. And, because of the PhD, I cannot do full-time. Well, I think I’d have shot myself if I had to do that job full-time. But that’s another story.

Now, where next? I neeed a part time job to support myself. But I don’t want to do something that sucks my creativity away. I feel so identified with Amanda Palmer (I listened to the audiobook The Art of Asking and it was a cathartic experience). It’s not that I’m lazy. I’m ready to work hard, oh, of course I am. It’s just that I don’t want an ordinary job, an office job. I’d rather take my guitar and start playing in the streets. (Oops, I don’t really know how to play guitar. I just play the piano, and it’s not like I can bring it with me easily everywhere I go. But I could learn the guitar, no? And, in any case, you get what I mean.)

Am I the only one here feeling like that? I said it in that other post, I don’t want a life in the highrise. I refuse.

A friend believes I should go for Erotic novels and short stories. That’s where the money is, she said. Well, honestly, I may try it. I forgot to include that in my list of possible professions.

But God and Goddesses, how difficult it is to wake up in the mornings. Although my writing has imrpoved exponentially since I lost my job. I have finished the second draft of a Sci-Fi novella that is about a sinking world, Catholic priests, a teenage bully and a crazy nun. And lots of rain.

And it turns out that hey, above all, I’m a writer, so… do you want to listen to a story?

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

Life happens. Resulta que acabo de perder mi trabajo a jornada parcial porque solo quieren a gente trabajando a jornada completa. Y como estoy haciendo el doctorado, eso no puede ser. Lo cierto es que me habría volado los sesos si hubiera tenido que trabajar en esa oficina todos los días de la semana pero, hey, eso es otra historia.

¿Y ahora? ¿Qué va a pasar? La cosa es que necesito un trabajo a jornada parcial para sobrevivir, pero no quiero nada que me chupe la creatividad hasta dejarme vacía. Me siento muy identificada con Amanda Palmer. Hace poco escuché el audiolibro de su libro El Arte de Pedir y fue catártico. No es que yo sea una vaga, ni mucho menos, porque estoy lista para trabajar todo lo duro que haga falta, ya lo creo. Pero no quiero tener un trabajo ‘normal’, de oficina. Antes que eso me largo a la calle y pongo la gorra en el suelo mientras toco la guitarra. (Ups, espera, ¿sé tocar la guitarra? No, la verdad es que no. Solo toco el piano,que es difícil de arrastrar de aquí para allá. Pero siempre se puede aprender, ¿verdad? Además, ya pilláis por donde voy.)

¿Soy la única que se siente así? Ya lo dije en uno de mis posts, no quiero la vida en el Highrise. Me niego.

Una amiga me dijo que debería intentar escribir historias eróticas, que es ahí donde está el dinero. Puede que lo intente un día de estos. Se me olvidó añadir eso a mi lista de posibles futuras profesiones.

Pero por los dioses y diosas, qué difícil es levantarse por las mañanas. Aunque mi escritura ha mejorado exponencialmente desde que perdí el trabajo, algo es algo. Ya he terminado el segundo borrador de una novela corta de Ci-Fi que va de un mundo que se está hundiendo, sacerdotes católicos, un adolescenete acosador y una monja loca. Y lluvia. Mucha lluvia.

Y, bueno, ante todo soy escritora, así que… ¿alguién quiere escuchar una historia?

 

 

Want to Know My Nightmares?

Amazonbook
Ivar (little person in the doodle with glasses) contacted the guys from Amazon so my surname was correctly spelt. Thanks, Ivar!

The other day I was in a lunch break when I was told that my book was in Amazon. I may call myself a writer, but the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘what book?’

Well, this book. Here.

Proofcopies
Can you see the guitar in the background? I think it should be there because guitars remind me to Spain and I’m Spanish. But it’s not mine but from mu friend, Sora, who kindly lets me live in her house during the summer. Thanks, Sora!

First thoughts?

I was about to shit myself. The book is almost out there. It’s real. People can read it and say it’s rubbish. The bad reviews.  Or even worse, no one reads it and the book comes and goes as silent as a ghost.

Yesterday, after having a lot of adventures I could get the proof copies that my editor sent to me. They might have some small mistakes yet to be fixed, but they look amazing. So real. I’m surprised the books are so beautiful, so proffessional. It almost seems completely detached from what I did. Like a completely new entity.

The process is not yet finished but now I’m more close to getting there. It will be real the 3rd of October.

But, why horror?

Well, why not? People who know me believe I’m the most squeamish person on Earth. Seriously. I faint if I cut myself cooking – with my flatmates holding me in their arms and promising I won’t die. I know I won’t die. It’s just that… I’m scared like hell anyways.

Why am I scared? Well, probably because I have the strangest dreams. Like, every night.

For instance, on day I dreamed about a man knealing on a bed, sucking the sheets covered in blood. Sucking them as if they were soaked in the last water drops on the whole world. I knew (weirdly enough) that this man was a doctor. I also knew, in my dream, that a woman had delivered a baby on that same bed, not long ago. However, neither she nor the baby were anywhere to be seen.

And I thought: ‘Oh, no. If someone else sees the doctor sucking the blood from the sheets like this, they’re going to think that he killed the woman and ate the baby. But that’s not truth, that’s not truth at all and I’m the only one that I know.’

Then I woke up. I felt quite distressed. I kept thinking about that doctor. The blood. The pregnant woman and the baby.

That’s how McTavish Manor (previously known as Mrs McLean’s Cabinet of Curiosities) was born.

Do you want to know about my nightmares?

Then I gues… you just have to read it and we all can be scared together!

 

Map Your Plot

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Desk at my PhD office… it doesn’t seem to messy just because you cannot actually see the desk!

No matter what they tell us about time being a esphere instead of a line or not existing (see video below). Time matters when you are writing a story, specially if you want to make sure you are telling something that makes sense at the same time it holds the audience’s attention.

 

As a writer, I like to ‘vomit’ my first draft on the white page and then, when it’s all there, I can have something finished to work with. This reassures me into believeing this will turn into a finished piece of fiction. I see myself as a sculptor, carving out the parts I don’t need from a stone instead of creating something new and almost perfect from scratch.

Of course, having a monstrous first draft has also its challenges. I’m in the editing process of a whole novella now, and I almost dreaded to look at those thirty seven pages full of grammar mistakes and plot inconsistencies. I found that mapping the plot in terms of time (scenes first, and then what happens after what) helped a lot to decide what the hell I want to talk about with this book.

How do I map?

1. Divide Plot Into Scenes

This is easy, because this year I decided to write 500 words every day. The result? My novella is full of 500 words vignettes that are in itself scenes with a beginning and an end. I write novellas, so having almost independant vignettes (even if they all have their specific place in the general plot line) allowed me to cover a great deal in a short space (I’ve a maximum of 20,000 words). The good and bad thing about novellas? You’ve to get to the point quickly.

2. Character Building or Plot Advance?

I found that all the secenes I had could be divided in two main cathegories. Some of them were just character building, that is, they were focused in the inner feelings of a character and illustrated events from the daily life that, even if they might have appeared insignificant or ordinary, showed reasons for her or his behaviour.

On the other hand, some scenes were mostly action and ‘oooh moments’. These implied twists in the plot that affected all the characters in general.

I decided that the logical order would be to alternate these two cathegories with an increase of plot advance towards the end (I wanted it to feel climatic). As in life, not all can be exciting and fast, the reader also needs a time to breath, recover and think. This helps her to feel closer to the characters and their motivations.

3. Put It Where You See It

Nothing blocks me more than knowing I have to edit.. without knowing at what point of the story I am and (most importantly) if I’m advancing in the correct direction. The first draft is all about experimenting and getting lost on purpose (like when you visit a new city and you feel fascinated by it). But editing is more like being in a foreign city to attend a very important appointment. You want a map, you want to know where you’re going, get there and not being late. Having my plot arranged in scenes and in chronological order in front of my desk helps me feel more confident.

4. Don’t Hammer Them.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to be very rigid when you’re creating, because you never know when you’re going to have to next great idea. That is why I always fix my scenes to the wall using bluetack (instead of hammering them, basically). So I can always add new scenes or change their order at any point if I feel this will benefit the story. Knowing I can have this flexibility also makes me confident.

I know that a lot have been said about writers that like to plan until the last detail before the writing itself or others that prefer creating as they write. Personally, I like planning but also the freedom of knowing I can ‘mess up’ with my story whenever I feel like to. In the end, there is nothing more liberating that writing as if you were a child building a sand castle. You enjoy the process without being worried about the outcome. Who knows!

Also, I shall confess that I decided to start organising scenes on the wall after seeing the film Trumbo, where the protagonist is a script writer who creates Frankestein drafts  (that is, cutting here and there to join different parts. There was something in the physicality of the process (being able to rearrange your plot with your hands) that attracted me.

And talking about the film, it has a memorable scene about the difficulties of deciding the title of your own piece (something I feel very related to, because my titles are generally rubish).

 

Do you map your plot? Do you like having your notes in front of your desk when you’re writing?

 

 

 

 

Murdering Your Words AKA Editing

Curious  Cow
A curious cow that wonders why I’m inside my office editing instead of enjoying the Lancastrian sunshine…

There is nothing beautiful or clean about the editing process – at least, not in my case. It’s a messy, frustrating and extenuating duty. But, at the end of the long day (or night) of fighting against your draft you know you’re turning that monster into a pretty piece of decent art, and that is what matters (that, and keeping your sanity in place, of course).

I used to hate editing so much when I wrote in Spanish. It just made me angry. I was very enthusiastic when writing my first draft  but then, coming back to it and realising that some parts were… well, just shit, that was not nice. So I basically went through editing because I had to, but it was a very draining process that I kept postponing as much as I could.

Now, hen I write in English, I cannot allow myself such luxury. I’m editing from day one, because I know my language can be quite obscure so I do need to revise one thousand times each paragraph to make sure it makes sense and it says what I want it to say. Paradoxically, I find editing in English much more entertaining than in Spanish. I see it as if I was carving stone and turning the ugly, shapeless rock in some unique statue.

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I imagine myself carving things such as this…

However, as I said, editing islike murdering your dear words, and there are a few things I always do to make sure the process is completed despite of my artistic vanity.

1. Read Aloud

Come on. Who doesn’t like the sound of her or his own voice? I love reading to myself (when I’m alone, I have to say, if I’m reading in front of an audience I get a bit self-conscious about my accent or my speed). Reading what I just wrote help me to change things because they simply sound better one way than the other. It also allows me to avoid cacophony and take out from the dialogues what is not essential.

2. Let It Breathe

Ideally, I’d let a text breathe for at least 24 hours before coming back to it to do the editing. This allows me to distance myself from the page so I start seeing the obvious mistakes (such as grammar or discordances). Also, the more time you can allow a text breathe, the better. Sometimes I write something I feel very unsatisfied with (I want to burn the pages and flush the ash down the toilet). However, experience tells me that if I come back to that same text six months afterwards, I’ll find many valuable passages that can be rescued. So, I’d say, never delete something. Keep everything (even what seems truly worthless) because in time you can still recycle some metaphor, some line of dialogue…

3. Bring Your Beta Reader In

Sometimes you feel stuck in the editing process. You know there’s loads of work to be done, yet you’ve become blind in front of your text and start thinking you’d rather let twenty Cumbrian spiders do races all over your body than keep editing that part of your work. Well… this is when your fantastic, awesome beta reader can be there for you and have a good read of the troublesome extract. Her or his perspective will help you narrow down your editing and identify what is not working and what actually does work (horray!)

4. Start at the End of the Page

This might be just my strange thing, but when I’m editing the same few pages on and on I get a bit (too) tired of them. Something that helps me spice up the task a bit is to start reading from the last paragraph to the first. By altering the order the text becomes slightly different and I’m more alert.

5. Choose Your Bright Period

I’m more awake  in the morning, so that’s the moment of the day when I’m more prepared (and motivated) to do the heavy editing. It’s important to do the editing with a clear mind so you can localise the mistakes quickly instead of feeling frustrated because the process is dragging on and on and it seems to never end.

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This is me after a productive day of editing…

6. Print It

This is so essential if you (as many of us do, for practical reasons) work on a computer. People may say what they want, but I see things differently when I can read them on paper (and not on the screen). Also, it makes more sense to me to grab a red pen and start crossing out sections, pointing arrows at things, doing mini comments… Also, I read somewhere that some writer said that editing on a physical page is good because the margins have reduced space. It’s not like on the computer, where you can delete and change endlessly. So you have to prioritise the areas where the bigger problems are. And also, helps you to keep focused.

7. This Won’t Be Your Last Work!

Well, hopefully not, right? Unless you’re a genius writer of a single, awesome book (like Harper Lee and her To Kill A Mockingbird, although she did write a sequel in the end) one work in your career is yet another step in a huge, steep stair… I like to think I improve with every story I wrote, so even if the one I’m working on will be better than the last, it won’t be better than the next. I think it’s important to think this not to fail in the perfectionist’s trap. No book or short story I ever wrote felt completely finished. Never. I could always go back and change this adjective, modify that scene, even add new features to a particular character… but instead of that I chose to let that story go to let other new ones come in return. It’s a pact you have to do with yourself. The end of your love story with a particular piece can occur when the professional editing is process is over and the work is published… or when the deadline for that contest or module is done. There is always an external event that marks this, and I think it’s okay to leave our pieces to approach new ones. Yes, sure, they could be improved… but remember you acquire new skills by trying new things!

Or, you can do as the Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez and dedicate half of your life to write and the other half to edit what you’ve written… it’s a very personal choice!

I won’t lie. I don’t love the editing process, but  it is the scary forest I have to cross to bring  to the other end of the writing journey. So I’m sort of accepting that is an important (and sometimes enjoyable) part of being a writer.

And how about you? Do you have any tips to share? If you write in a second language, do you find easier the editing process, as I do?

No coffee, no writing

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I mean, it’s 9.36am here in Lancaster and I’m drinking coffee while I write this. I have the light one because outside is pitch dark and rainny and… well, it feels like night time. Coffee is literally saving me life – and it does so every morning, preparing me to face the challenges of everyday.

I started drinking coffee when I was 18 in a London airport. I had taken a plane at 6am in the morning which meant I was at the airport at 4am and that I had got up at 2am. So when finally my plane arrived – to London – I tried a coffee because I was feeling pretty destroyed and I had heard that coffee lifts you up. A year into drinking it I decided to be a true coffee lover and drink it as it is – no sugar, no milk. It took me a while, but no I can’t stand it sweet, which I guess it’s good for my teeth. I try not to drink more than three or four coffees a day though.

What I noticed  when I started writing for my masters and I had to meet weekly deadlines is that the size of my coffees was increasing – significantly.  By the time I was polishing my novella I was drinking just large coffees, and I bought myself a massive mug that is with me in the office now. Normal mugs just seem too tiny for me now…

Coffee infuses warmth and happiness to my heart, basically, – and If I don’t drink it in the morning I get a  very bad headache. Also, it helps me a lot to associate the pleasure of drinking a super hot coffee with writing my daily 500 words, as I explained in this post.

Do you like coffee? Tea? Do you have any drink or meal that you need to be more creative?