Sunday, 24 April 2011

Lolloping Dogs and Existential Angst

Belfast is an unlovely city, haphazardly stitched with areas of such outstanding natural beauty that, periodically, I get what Anne Shirley (that’s the one from Green Gables, for those who don’t know. And, really, people who don’t know – you should fix that) once called “the queer ache”.  I’m a reasonable woman and I’m prepared to admit that if I’d read that line for the first time at any stage post-adolescence (chronic emotional immaturity notwithstanding) I probably would have snickered too (don’t lie: you snickered). But regardless of the shifting linguistic semantics, it remains the only time I’ve ever seen that experience recognized and put into words: that pang of anomalous sadness when you see something so lovely you can hardly find the words to describe it. Like, for example, when you crest a hill in Belvoir Forest Park and the first and only thing you register for a couple of seconds is the thick blanket of bluebells that absolutely weren’t there three days ago.
And then having one’s dog lollop through them. That kind of killed the effect.
Yes, I did spend a bit of time today reflecting on the hilarious quirk of fate that accidentally obtained me a lolloping, loopy dog after I’d written a lolloping, loopy dog into one of my novels that basically sets off the entire chain of events in a Very Bad Way (gasp! What happens? How does the dog make Very Bad Things happen? Who does it happen to and why? Visit my website at for the thrilling account in The Edge of Heaven! Coming soon to all good bookshops!). And to be honest, some days (most days) (okay, every day) I wouldn’t be overly surprised if Jasper did bring about the Apocalypse, with a great big doggy grin on his face and his tongue hanging out. Extensive, enthusiastic stupidity: thy name is Jasper.
Well, I had good intentions today and I still do: I’m juuuuuust updating my blog and then I’m getting stuck straight back into Edge. As a reminder to myself, I have retitled the version that I’m working on thusly: The Edge of Heaven Draft 6 24.04.11 – THIS IS THE ONE. I scared myself the last time I sat down to do rewrites because I got the idea from somewhere that the central story didn’t work. That’s kind of a big thing to be wrong with it. Especially when it’s not actually wrong with it. The central story works just fine. But, unsurprisingly, trying to hang the entire freakin’ novel on a different premise proved, well, challenging. Happily, this is the only time in the novel’s extended history that this impulse has visited me and I’ve decided that, if ever a time machine is invented, I’m going to nip back to 2009 and smack that summer’s Rach soundly over the nose with a rolled up newspaper.
No, Summer-2009-Rach. No!
But, unfortunately, the scaredy-cat-runny-away-thing that I did back then means that I need to start again from scratch; there is no point in trying to head back to the point I left off before because (a) I don’t know how much damage has been done and (b) hey, my novel is Deep. Lots of stuff goes on in it. I need to get back up to speed. But I’m snipping and trimming along the way and I’m actually (whisper it) feeling pretty happy about it.
So, more big thanks to my lovely friend for posting a link to YouTube, which I’m going to link again here. I’m going to have another little watch off it before I gird my loins and get stuck into edits.
Do Something. Do Anything. Yes. Yes, I shall, stick animation, for you are wise and full of win.
What I did was, I submitted a short story to a magazine. Haven’t done that for a while. Gonna do another one tonight, or, at a push, tomorrow at the latest. Because, really, what’s the worst that could happen? If they say no, then I move on to another magazine. If they say yes, then angels descend from heaven singing the Hallelujah chorus, peace obtains between the nations of the world, swords are turned into ploughshares, and my dog and two cats run like blue blazes for shelter as I crumble buildings and shatter glass with my squee.
Big shout-out also has to go to my long-suffering mother, who had to deal with a dose of the Troubled Artist late on Friday night (“But, Mummy, really, what if I’m no good? I’m. Just. So. SCAAAAARRRREEEDDDDD!!!!”), and who managed me with her usual aplomb (“Get off your arse and do something. Go and do it now.”). I would not like to have to deal with me when I have a case of the existential angst, but apparently all was forgiven years ago when I won the Orange Northern Woman Short Story Award for Long Anna River, and spoke the immortal words, “I just want to thank my Mum for all her support.” Publishers and agents: a mother-daughter relationship hangs in the balance. Won’t you give me the chance to top up the goodwill again with a bit of, This book is dedicated to my Mum? Go on. I’ll give you cake….

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