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Put your fancy pants on and prepare to party like a pirate! It’s celebration time on the Good Ship Resilience! Soooo many achievements and anniversaries to mark! Send those corks a-poppin’ and let’s get this party started!
First up it’s this newsletter’s Halfyearversary this week! Whether you’ve been here from the first edition, or just joined the fun, thank you for sailing with us on our buccaneering adventure! Perfect timing to give a hearty slap on the back to our Quartermaster, whose Catgirl from Saturn just hit the #4 spot in Teen and Young Adult Short Reads on the ‘Zon! If you haven’t read it yet, you’re in for a treat!
Check out the other books in the Libertalia Tales: First Love Series while you’re at it – they went stratospheric in the “Stuff Your Kindle” event, and still retail at a very reasonable 99c / 99p each (or a bargain bundle booty price for the lot!) If your heart yearns for something significantly racier, take a peek at the 5-trigger-warnings-and-counting Legacy of the Oracle. It’s the brand new this month debut from Lynne Reese, the latest author to take passage on our ship.
As for me, I’ve been dancing about all week! First the brilliant team at Pretty Neat Productions wrapped up recording their audiodrama version of my first ever horror story, Calyptra Mortiferum. I’ve had a sneaky listen and it’s wonderfully creepy! Stay tuned for details about how you can download the podcast.
If that wasn’t enough to get my heart fluttering like a vampiric moth in a science lab, this is the week I pressed the magic “publish” button on my first ever collection of short stories! Pennies for Charon is an anthology of dark horror tales wrapped up in an even darker love story. It goes live on the first day of SpookyMonth, but you can pre-order now and be first in line to get your chills on! More info later in this letter…
Finally, and most importantly, it’s time to dance a hornpipe jig to celebrate the captain’s birthday! For she’s a jolly good fellow who built the whole ship, and steers it past the rocks the rest of us tend to head anarchically towards. A toast to ‘ee, Cap’n! May we sail with you for many more happy years!
If all that’s not an excuse to raid the Quartermaster’s rum store I don’t know what is. But if you’re in the mood for more refined indulgence, this month’s cocktail recipe is an elegant sip with a little sparkle. Maybe we did raid a chateau somewhere – what of it?
Any Excuse for a Knees-Up
As a horror writer, the only time my characters celebrate anything is just before something terrible happens to them. I won’t pretend it isn’t fun having the birthday cake set fire to the curtains and incinerate everyone at the party, but it does make me feel a bit of a buzzkill sometimes.
But I got to thinking about how most MCs these days have a rough trot as far as festivities are concerned, whatever their genre. It used to be that even tea-time was an excuse to bring out the best grub (I’m open to invitations from The Madhatter or Mr Tumnus anytime) and Bilbo’s 111th birthday bash is as lavish as one could desire, pyrotechnical wizardry and all. (Incidentally, September 22nd was Bilbo’s birthday, so let’s raise a glass to him while we’re at it.)
On the whole though, parties in literature are generally doomed. Even if your school Hallowe’en* knees-up isn’t crashed by a troll, it’ll end in tears eventually – just ask Gatsby, or Gabriel Conroy. I’m guilty myself; in my first YA fantasy there’s a rather lovely party where – well, that’d be a spoiler. Suffice to say, if you ever find yourself inhabiting a book, you should probably RSVP in the negative.
The reason is obvious, I guess. What better way to ramp up the tragic twist than to have it come right on the back of everyone’s good time? Not only that, but a celebration gives you a grand excuse to have everyone in the same place at once, just ripe to be scorched by dragonfire, or picked off one by one by a psychopathic party pooper intent on poisoning the punch. It’s even better if it happens to be a rite of passage type festivity, such as a wedding or christening, as every wicked fairy knows. On top of that, there are endless possibilities for moribund navel-gazing by those fictional souls who are the type of person who, in any given merry-making situation, gravitates to the kitchen or the stairs.
So, on the whole, your average fairytale princess or fictional rookie detective should probably avoid celebrations, but the same is far from true for the rest of us, and never less so than for writers. “Why?” I hear you ask (because you’re a kind soul, and you knew that’s what I needed you to do in order to get to the point.) Well, aside from the vastly reduced risk of zombie attacks in real life, the majority of us poor humans, and pitiful writing types in particular, need a good celebration to remind us of our wins.
Think about it. Most of us spend our lives like wee hamsters on wheels, running and running, with our eyes firmly fixed on some wondrous future dream carrot (or whatever it is hamsters desire). That carrot is usually so far in our futures that all we glimpse most of the time is the briefest flash of orange as the treads on the wheel whir past. This is true whether your veggie treat of choice is the writers’ holy grail of a book deal that pays the rent, or something less literary, like a promotion, or a house big enough to accommodate all those plushies your kids keep demanding. We run and run, and it seems we never get any closer as the wheel goes round and round.
This is where book characters have it easier than us, trolls and dragons be damned. Their efforts are neatly measured in chapters. Should they ever feel they’re getting nowhere, all they need to do is glance back over their shoulders to remember that a few brief page breaks ago they were sleeping in an orphanage, or a cupboard under the stairs. Now here they are preparing to go into battle as the hero foretold, wielding the fabled sword Excalibur / Longclaw / Serpent Breath. Wouldn’t it be nice if life had chapter headings that bookmarked our steps forward like that?
Turns out it does, only they’re not called chapter headings. They’re called “ritual celebrations” or “rites of passage.” Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all socio-anthropological on you (not until I’ve had a few more French 75s at any rate.) It’s just that throughout history, actual human beings, the kind made of cells not words, have known that celebrations are essential for reminding yourself that you’re not a hamster on a wheel. You are, as it happens, the hero of your own quest. And you are closer to winning today than you were six months ago. Or three weeks. Or five years.
Birthdays. Weddings. Divorce parties, if you like. Book launches, anniversary lunches, promotion drinks. A decade-of-not-drinking celebratory non-alcoholic drinks, if that’s a thing that’s important to you. We tend to make light of these events, but they are deeply serious modes of fun. They matter. Because, like chapter headings, they remind us that we are making progress toward our happily ever after. And we do well to remember that even the little wins are wins, and worth making a fuss over.
In our kitchen, there is a wall striped with pencil marks the space of small people’s fingers apart. Next to each is a date, in writing that becomes neater the higher up the wall you look. Each time someone stands against that wall and draws a new line, we are always amazed by how much higher it is than the last one. We hadn’t noticed the growing part at all, because it happens so slowly, and then all of a sudden, it has happened so fast.
That is what life looks like, when you stop and really look at it – a series of marks on a wall, each one there to remind you of an instant you might have passed by without noting, if not for that little line of graphite. And that is what celebrations really are – innocent-seeming little marks on a big old wall that remind us how far we’ve come. Without them, we might forget we were ever that small and longing, and how much we have grown.
* “Ah but Marlowe,” you mutter, “you seem to have forgotten Hallowe’en altogether, although it is leering around the corner at you, a horror writer of all things.” Patience. We’re saving ourselves for actual Spooky Month. Don’t want to peak too soon like the sort of party guest who’s already danced on the table by 10pm, and is asleep and snoring under it before midnight.
ABOUT F.K. MARLOWE
F.K. Marlowe is a Shropshire lass who lived in London and Beijing before settling down with her husband, three daughters and rescue pup in Vancouver. She writes horror stories with a tendency to the paranormal, and Young Adult fiction with fangs and sass.
Marlowe doesn’t worry overly much about the placement of semi-colons and the like, having spent far too long pootling about in academia to take them seriously. (She has an Oxford first in English Lit, plus a Master’s and PhD from Leeds). She has, however, discovered that life is the best education for a writer, and plans to continue her studies there as long as possible.