May and June (Retrospect and Reminiscing #5 / #6)

May and June (Retrospect and Reminiscing #5 / #6)

For health reasons I couldn’t blog yesterday, but that’s fine, because not much happened in May, so I’m lumping it together with June and that way it doesn’t matter that I missed a day, right?

It’s also because May’s a weird one to write about – half of what happened was exams or personal, neither of which I tend to discuss on my blog. In these recap posts, I’ve tried not to overshare while still giving a fairly complete overview of the year as it happened. I’ll simply say that the broken heart I had from February was mended by then.


If I look exhausted in this photo from June 30th, it’s because I was. After taking my grade six ballet exam in the morning, I’d then spent an entire day in rehearsals for Hairspray, before going out to a family dinner for my sister’s birthday. That combination of events explains not only my slightly dazed expression, but also the uncharacteristic amount of attention that’d been paid to my hair that day. Ballet exams, how we love thee.

May began with revision for my AS Level exams – in theory. My Facebook posts tell me I started each revision session with a half-hour writing period, and it was during one of those that I worked out how to finish the second draft of The Quiet Ones, which I promptly did. I’d been planning to go on from there to write a humorous zombie novel, because I was enjoying the relative lack of angst, but spent too much time discussing ideas for a ‘prequel’ to my Death and Fairies series and became too enthusiastic about it to put it off any longer, so I started writing that.

That prequel later became ‘book one’, as I explained in this post. It originally seemed a lot fluffier and more cheerful than I’d expected, but don’t worry … I quickly made up for the lack of angst by being horrifically mean to my characters and gave it the most atrociously depressing ending that I think I’ve ever written, with the possible exception of the novel I wrote straight after it. All together in May I wrote 70k, which was a reasonable total given that I had to sit a large number of exams. Of that, I’d written twenty poems. But it was in June that writing really took off.

I wrote a whopping 152,000 words, which has only been surpassed as a monthly total by NaNoWriMo (2010 and 2012), and is even more impressive when you realise I was at school for all but the first week of the month. After finishing the ‘prequel’ on the sixth of June, I went on to write A Single Soul, which was based on a concept I’d come up with a year or so earlier and never fully developed. I also wrote eight poems, though a couple of them were long – one was 1.8k (“in search of fairies in a ford fiesta”) and the other was 2.6k (“Urban Angels”).

Towards the end of the month, I began to get some pain in my hands and, fearing it was RSI but hoping it would be minor, I switched my keyboard layout so that I was typing with the Dvorak keyboard, a handicap that reduced my speed to that of a technologically illiterate ten-year-old. More on that when I cover July.

In both months I wrote five blog posts, the last of which from June was an explanation of why I hadn’t been blogging more. The primary reason was that I was taken up with rehearsals for an upcoming production of Hairspray, and watching a lot of Hannibal.

Ah, Hannibal. As I said on Facebook, “I’ve watched twelve episodes in five days and I’m no longer sure that I’m not Will Graham.” That show was incredible. It was clever and disgusting and moving and exciting and I’m looking forward to season two. Okay, so I sobbed my way through the finale, but that didn’t hannibal reactionmean I didn’t love it. What was more, I watched the whole thing while walking on a cross trainer, so it helped me exercise too.

This screenshot of my “recent files” basically sums up how I felt after watching the finale. And serves to inform you that I filmed an interview about St Mallory’s Forever! … in French. So it’s pretty useful as screenshots go.

The most important thing about Hannibal, though, was how much more interesting it made rehearsals for Hairspray. I was in the band, and … well. Just look.

title page

Lyrics to Good Morning Baltimore State Hospital For The Criminally Insane included the following work of genius from yours truly, who is obviously a Serious Writer:

I can see a deer – my mind is spinning
I can see a deer – murder’s beginning
Everybody says a guy who’s crazy
Can’t solve a crime well just wait and see
Cause I can see a deer…

This went on continuously throughout rehearsals, and resulted in a much-abused and decorated score for the first desk of violins by the time we’d finished with it. The actual performances weren’t until the first week of July but man, did we have a lot of rehearsals. My poor aching wrists began protesting a great deal – they weren’t used to playing that much violin due to my lack of regular practice for the last ten years.

Talking of television, I think my most gleeful status update of the month was one simply saying “Good luck for Game of Thrones tonight, guys…” which prompted a flurry of, “I haven’t seen it yet! What do you mean?”

Oh how I laughed. This is why you should always read the book first, my friends. And now the rains weep o’er his halls…

Other non-writing activities in June included trying to learn to draw, which resulted in a lot of doodles of manikins. My favourite is the one on the right – it’s truly fabulous, and totally ignoring its dying neighbour. Must be one of my characters.

figures 2

This newfound enthusiasm for art, which is always more appealing when it’s not being graded by an arbitrary set of requirements, had partly been triggered by the amount of Les Mis fan fic I’d been reading, since in nearly every modern AU Grantaire is an art student and hey, he paints Enjolras a lot, so…

view of apolloYeah. You can see what’s coming. I created a finger painting as an interpretation of one of the descriptions in a fic (don’t even ask). It’s called View Of Apollo From The Gutter, but could just as easily be called Bright Lit And Visionary, which is a line from one of the many Les Mis-inspired poems I’ve written. I hope I’d already established on this blog that I really like Les Mis because if I hadn’t, you’re all going to be confused. But no. I like Les Mis. That’s a thing.

As well as painting and playing in a pit orchestra and writing way too much, I discovered the soundtrack to the film King Arthur (which is kind of related to Hannibal because both Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen were in it, though I didn’t find this out for another week) and found that it had the worst/best puns in the history of ever: “Woad To Ruin”, “Another Brick In Hadrian’s Wall”…

I’ve already mentioned the Hairspray rehearsals and my ballet exam, which was successful if nerve-wracking, not least because I was the only student taking my grade and therefore had to do the exam alone. Oh, and the floor was slippery, so I stacked it at least twice. Wonderful.

I was so busy writing and destroying my hands that I barely read anything – five books across the two months. What’s more, three of them were re-reads, though coming back to Fellowship was long overdue.

may june books

Despite my obsession with mythology and Celtic history, or perhaps because of it, I found I wasn’t as able to enjoy Stephen Lawhead’s books on this reread. I think because I know a lot about mythology, I found myself analysing his use of it too much, and his free-and-easy approach to mixing Welsh and Irish myths (among others) bothered me. Not to mention he gets a few things blatantly wrong. They’re good stories, but I struggled to love them the way I did a few years ago when I knew less.

Knowledge is a curse.

So, that’s what happened in May and June. Tomorrow, I’m taking a day out of this series to write my post for this month’s TCWT prompt (which I hosted, so I need to remember to contribute). I’ll be back on Wednesday to look over July. And yes, that does mean I’ll be posting on Christmas Day. Hey, I’m not feeling all that Christmassy this year, and there’s only so much time you can spend with family before you need some alone time, right?

Let me know how your June was, and while we’re on the subject, what was your favourite new TV show this year? I found it hard to choose between Hannibal and Vikings but I think the sheer emotional response I had to Hannibal just about snatches the title…

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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