When I have writer’s block

I have only realised recently that, when I have writer’s block, it’s not because I am not focused on my story, but because I am too focused. If there is pressure to write, I simply can’t do it. The words jam in my mind like a blocked drain, with water building up and straining to bursting point. The best words come to me at the most inconvenient times; usually as I am just dropping off to sleep, out and about with friends, at work, or in the middle of doing a hundred different jobs. They come to me in a furious flurry, driving into my head until I can’t ignore them anymore, and have to write them down. Then they shimmer on the page, and my mind rages as inspiration begins to flow. Writer’s block is like a river dam, broken down only by a sudden gush of uncontrollable revelation.

When I’m away with the fairies – making up random characters in my head, giving them personalities and emotions, relationships and secrets – that’s when the cogs in my mind begin to turn. When I’m in a world of my own, daydreaming, night dreaming, half-listening whilst scribbling doodles absentmindedly, the cogs are turning, cooking up new adventures for my naïve characters. Creating enemies and lovers, trustworthy friends and unruly scallywags. When my mind begins to slip . . . ever so slightly . . . down the rabbit hole . . . that’s when everything becomes shiny and exotic. The slumbering adjectives and verbs begin to rouse, the thisckles and scillywocks awaken, and the mythical creatures and angry tyrants stretch and yawn. Myths and legends solidify to truth, the adventurers line up at the starting mark, and the story begins.

The Wish

Once upon a time there was a girl who wished she lived in a fairytale. All day every day she read books about warriors and heroes, evil queens and princesses and, like most of those princesses, she wished with all her heart for a prince. Every night before sleep she sat by her window and made a wish on a passing star. She chose a different one each night, after all, she reasoned, one of them must work. The wish went like this…

O Star, shining ever so bright

I pray that you listen to me tonight

Grant me the goodness of thy heart

And help me to find one who art

Funny, intelligent, kind and strong

And tell me O Star, if I am wrong

When I ask for true love, and he answers me

Pray give me thy insight to return to thee

Afore declaring any such love

I shall seek thy in the heavens above

And say O Star, is this right for me?

And I hope that you will glitter and shine and dance

And tell me ‘O Child, do not miss your chance!

For true love indeed is hard to find

But please my dear, pay this a mind

Look not to the stars, but to your heart

Listen no to the skies, for you must start

To trust in yourself, find the answers within

And answer once and for all, could it be him?’

Book Review: Alice (The Chronicles of Alice #1), Christina Henry

This is an unusual post for me as I don’t tend to write book reviews, despite having a rather extensive Goodreads account. However, the novel I have just finished deserves more than a simple shout out. It deserves to be hailed from the rooftops! Flown across the skies! Spread by messenger bottle, carrier pigeon, deep-sea submarine, or whatever method of transport will take this story to every nook and cranny on the globe!

However, not being a superhero (to my knowledge) means that a book review on my little corner of the internet may have to suffice for now.

Behold ‘Alice’, the most horrific adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s fantasy adventure that you will ever lay your hands upon. I will keep this review spoiler free, so it will be short and sweet, but if anyone would like to discuss the book further, do send me a note! This novel is a MUST READ. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, which says something considering I’ve just finished four years of studying literature. I have read many Stephen King horror/thriller novels, but other than those, I usually stick to fantasy and adventure stories. That being said, I could never resist a fairy-tale adaptation, so I was extremely curious to discover this new, bad-ass Alice.

The book was creepy, disturbing, horrific… and absolutely enthralling. From the outset the reader is plunged into a gritty, terrifying, and quite frankly disgusting world of the ‘Old City’. Following Alice and Hatcher through the gang-led territories, and stumbling across awful creatures each more gruesome and disturbed than the last, had me hooked until the very end. I was totally invested in the character journeys as Alice and Hatcher found not only their true selves, but rediscovered their past selves through the cruel assistance of the Old City puppeteers. Alongside realising their complicated pasts, Christina Henry intertwines her dystopic world with clever and witty references and links to the original Alice in Wonderland. It is with grim enjoyment that we recognise characters much darker and disturbed than the bizarre but non-threatening personalities in Carroll’s original. ‘Alice’ is by no means a fairy-tale (if anything it was a nightmare) yet it was engrossing to read, and I for one can’t wait to read the sequel book: ‘Red Queen’.

“We’re all mad here”

“So why do you think you’re here, Alice?”

I ponder the question for a while. “Well,” I say, “I think probably because of my cat.”

I don’t miss the eyebrow raise, despite her head being low over the notepad.

“Your cat?”

I nod.

“Why is that?”

“My Mother says we talk too much.”

“You and your Mother?”

“Me and the cat.”

“You and the cat?”

“Yes.”

She scribbles something down on the pad. “And, how much do you ‘talk’?” She says the word tentatively.

“Every day.”

More scribbling. “What do you talk about?”

“Everything.”

“Can you give me an example?”

I sit back and think for a while, “Yesterday we talked about flowers.”

“What did you discuss?”

“Roses.”

“What about them?”

“How nice it would be if the white roses in our garden were colourful. Red roses would be much more vibrant.”

“I see.” She scribbled some more.

“Now, tell me, how long have you been talking to your cat?”

“Since he arrived.”

“You didn’t buy him?”

“No, he came to us.”

“Was he homeless?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Was he micro-chipped?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did he have a name tag?”

“No.”

“So have you named him?”

“No, he told us his name.”

“And what’s that?”

“Chester.”

She flips over the page of her notepad and looks at me closely. “Alice, are there any other creatures you talk to?”

“Only my mouse.”

“You have a mouse too?”

“Oh yes, he and Chester get on very well.”

“That is surprising, to say the least.”

I say nothing, she takes this as a sign to press on. “Tell me Alice, does your mother talk to these animals too?”

I laugh, “Of course not! She doesn’t seem to notice them half the time.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know, sometimes they’re right in front of her and she seems to walk straight through them.”

A heavy frown appears on her face. She writes a few more sentences and underlines some words. I can’t read her writing, it’s too scrawled.

“What did you write?” I ask.

Instead of answering she places both notepad and pen on the desk beside her, and shuffles more comfortably in her seat. She looks at me with a set expression. “Alice.” I know when she begins a sentence with my name it will be something patronising.

“Yes?”

“These creatures you speak to do not exist. Your mother has assured me you have no pets, I believe these are hallucinations.”

“They’re not.”

“Yet no one else can see them?”

“My best friend can.”

This takes her aback. She makes no effort to contain her shock, and frowns deeply again.

“Who is your best friend?”

“I don’t know his real name.”

“Why is that?”

“He won’t tell it to anyone.”

“So what do you call him?”

“Hatter.”

“That’s a peculiar name.”

“He makes hats.”

She shakes her head as if trying to understand a particularly difficult equation. “Hats.”

“Yes, big hats, little hats, top hats-”

“Ok, ok, I understand. Listen Alice, I am trying to help here. You need to take these sessions seriously, enough jabbering now.”

I smile, “Jabberwocky, jabberwocky, that’s a whole other story…” I can see she is becoming frustrated, not very professional at all.

“Make sense Alice, listen to yourself! I won’t sit here twiddling my thumbs while you spew out insignificant gobbledegook.”

“Ah, that’s right. Tweedledum and Tweedledee were there too.”

She takes a deep breath and leans forward, elbows resting on her knees, fingers arched under her chin. “I need to ask you a question Alice, and I need you to be truthful,” she begins, in a voice more suited to reprimanding an infant who has painted all over the walls. “What is this drug you’re taking? Where does it take you that makes it so good?”

I sit back and look through the window, away from her confused stare. Outside in the grounds a rabbit bounds across the grass. It disappears suddenly at the base of a tree. I stand up.

“Alice?” She’s nervous.

I smile encouragingly, “I just want some fresh air.”

“You need to answer my question Alice.”

“Well,” I continue looking through the glass. The rabbit has appeared again. It sits on its hind legs, nose tilted upwards as if trying to find a scent on the breeze. Then its eyes lock straight with mine. Its nose twitches in a satisfied sort of way. I smile again, “I guess, I guess you could say it takes me away, far away, to a sort of – a sort of wonderland.”