Monday, 19 March 2012

New review for Swallow

Big thank you to Craig Hansen for his generous review of Swallow at Us fledgling authors appreciate feedback, good or bad, as it helps to know how our books are being received by you, the readers!

A bad review is useful for showing us where we went wrong, what we could have done better, etc, so we can apply the newly-learned information in our next project. A good review cheers and motivates us, especially when – like me now – we’re at that midway point in writing a large piece that feels like the finish line keeps running further away.

I shall remain steadfast! Headliner will be available for publication in autumn.

Anyway, here it is. Thanks, Craig! Oh, I do like your actor suggestions :)

Ilyria x


“It took me a long time to finish SWALLOW by Ilyria Moon, but I read a lot of things at once, and with a longish book like this, that was to be expected.

The most important thing to point out here is that Moon’s confidence and skill as a writer permeate the book from the opening chapter to the closing one. Although her book is longish, rare are the passages that feel stretched out or lacking in that “moving the story forward” synergy that all good reads possess.

Her tale of a rehabbing British rocker and the unexpected romance he finds on his way to sobriety is entertaining on both the romantic and comedic levels it is striving for. Wolf and Luna appeal and transfix, even in their odder moments.

Clocking in at around 140,000 words or so, Swallow might seem a bit longish for a rom-com; but that’s before you begin to read it and get swept up in the journey of the characters, and the lean skill of Moon’s prose. Despite the time it took me, the book never feels like it’s dragging things out that much, and instead casts its scope around a slightly broader cast than the average rom-com.

By the time SWALLOW concludes, the read ends up feeling satisfying and complete, rather than a thin slice of life. While some readers may prefer a slimmer tome for light reading, SWALLOW delivers a generous tale, told well. While not without the odd niggling flaw, SWALLOW ended up being a better read than I ever anticipated. And I challenge anyone who’s seen GET HIM TO THE GREEK and the remake of ARTHUR not to envision Russell Brand fitting into this role quite nicely, should it ever become a movie. Not sure who to peg for Luna… Karen Gillan, perhaps? Or maybe even Evanna Lynch, already well familiar to roles involving characters named Luna.

In any event, count SWALLOW as an unexpectedly good read. Then swallow your aversion to longer books and get to reading. Well done.”

- Craig Hansen

Charity, latte, and a flip-flop

I’m still trying to figure out this Windows 7 speech recognition software. It seems when I am wide-awake and sitting up alert, the program works just fine. Oddly, if I employ a slightly condescending tone, it works competently, too. However, when it gets late at night and my voice begins to crack or my accent becomes more pronounced through tiredness, the program types gibberish. Given that this is the time I’d be most likely to use it because I have no desire to sit up, it’s a shame it has such a hard time deciphering what I tell it. And everyone used to say I had a lovely speaking voice when I was little. Overall, it’s a useful piece of software and I’ll probably use it now and again, but with a typing speed of 70wpm, it’s counter-productive, really.

Anyhoo, today was a big bag of stress punctuated with small pleasures. Moment #1: ordering the largest caramel latte on the menu and editing in internet-free bliss at the coffee shop; and Moment #2: getting my flip flop fixed. While this may seem a small pleasure, I loved those flip flops! With feet as big as mine, when you find shoes that fit and look pretty, you want to hold onto them. I bought them last September for a week in Mallorca and they were soooooooo comfy. I wore them again a month later in Barcelona and slapped my way down to a rock bar to meet Australian friends who were playing a European tour to publicise their new album. One of the guys with the band, who I already knew, was whirling me round everywhere and stood on my flip flop and the leather thong came out. I was devastated – at least, I would have been, had I been sober. Fortunately, I had a change of clothes with me; I wasn’t even meant to stay in the flip-flops and sun dress and had sexy rock chick gear in my bag.

I digress. The cobbler fixed it with a few stitches and my pretty, beaded flip-flop is good as new. I just hope I actually put it in my bag when I left the cobblers…Before I went back for my shoe, I treated myself to a large latte at Costa and set about editing Headliner (my second novel). It was rather pleasurable to sit in a window seat and watch the world go by while I worked, rather than being side-tracked by Facebook or emails. If I had more self-discipline, I’d simply unplug my wi-fi router and make my own coffee, but I freely admit it, I’m weak-willed.

Oh yeah, the stressful parts of the day. The main one was taking all those dearly loved books to the charity shop. I am the biggest hoarder. I don’t hoard junk, per se, but I find it hard to part with possessions I see value in and books are high priority for me. Books are my friends, open doors for me, allow me to travel and have adventures. However, with this real European adventure looming on the horizon, I have to be ruthless. I HAVE TO BE. I replaced the classic literature with Kindle versions, so I’m not completely bereft, and as for the text books and contemporary novels – well, I just had to grit my teeth and not think about it.

One of the women at Barnado’s swiped my Ikea bag and shoved a nearly identical one into my hand, but it was NOT my bag and the handles were frayed. I’m still pissed about that. It was hard enough parting with the books, but I’d steeled myself for that. I’d even bagged them into plastic bags inside the strong Ikea bag, so the staff could just take them out, but no, they stole my bag. When I walked back after collecting my shoe, I had to pass the charity shop again. It took all my will not to run inside and ask for my stuff back.

Anyway, I had one of my violin students come over for a lesson after that, which was fine. I like teaching this one; he’s disciplined, works hard, seems to enjoy his lessons with me and makes good progress, so I’ll be sad to lose him as a student. I did some more editing after he left and then whipped up some scrambled eggs, vowing to record vocals after dinner.

Sod’s Law, Neighbour From Hell showed up seconds after I pressed the On switch on my computer. I swear he either has this place bugged or a demon that guides him to torment me. I haven’t written about NFH and his girlfriend in any of my blogs before, because I get too worked up, but those of you in my FB friends list will know my regular rants about their fights, parties, him stealing my organic food deliveries, the wet dog smell (that I don’t actually think originates with the dog), did I mention the fights? Any woman who goes back to a guy who fractures her jaw needs her head feeling. And I’ve put up with them for a year; can’t do it for much longer, so I’m overjoyed to have an escape plan. But the main thing that drives me round the bend is EVERY TIME I set up to record, he waltzes home. It doesn’t matter whether it’s morning, afternoon, early evening, or late at night. He comes home either as I’m setting up or just after I’ve warmed up my voice up and am ready to give a good belt and get some takes worth keeping. Every bloody time, I end up with no recordings. He makes me sick. Thieving, girlfriend-beating bastard.

So yes, his return meant I couldn’t record vocals and this is stressing me out. Singing is how I make my living. If I don’t get decent vocals over to the studio asap, I lose the gig, and the track will get signed as an instrumental. If I supply them something they like, I get to raise my profile, earn royalties, get performing work out of it, some nice little trips to hot places, etc. I am not going to have some scrote ruin my career; it’s not him who looks unreliable for being late with submitting material that people are waiting for. The producer flies to Miami to finalise everything the week I fly to Rhodes and so if I don’t do it NOW, both I and the producer will be OUT OF TIME.

This was as big a stressor as parting with my books, actually; I feel like I’m having palpitations thinking about it. I’m going to stop typing about it, ’cause the combination of thinking about that horrible ‘man’ downstairs and the fact I can hear him snoring like a truck under my bed is making me feel murderous. I just hope I get the recording done tomorrow and the studio like it. They liked the verses I wrote and I recorded them already, but we just need a belter hook. I’ve written four, but they don’t like any of them, pfff. Let’s leave that rant for another post.

Urgh. Which leads me back to packing. And the hoarding gene. I can’t make decisions. Do I keep it, do I throw it, do I ebay it, blah blah blah, and al the while, it just piles up on my bed and on the floor and then I forget if I wore it, so I throw it in the laundry and then it ends up back on the bed. I need to pack what I’m taking, but ’cause I’m taking my favourite clothes, I keep pulling them out of the bag to wear them. I’m fully aware of how few non-black/summer items I actually own, so I tend to wear the same stuff year round.

I’m carrying on like Greece is another planet, but if I forget anything, I can always send for it or buy a replacement (and there goes the hoarder trigger). Makes me laugh, though. Only I could have no work lined up in my birth country and get offered work in a country that’s collapsing. I’m talking to the voices in my head and they’ve started answering back.

I’ve got to laugh, albeit hysterically.

Van Gogh: Patron saint of the unpublished, neglected, and insane.

Rummaging through old blog posts in various places, I came across this wonderful piece. One of my favourites from a site called the Idler (link at bottom). If you feel it, you’re one of us. :)

Van Gogh is the patron saint of the unpublished, neglected, and insane. Which is why Mark Manning loves him so.

‘Hes always there for us. As we sit in our hovels, banging away. Flat broke, thin, hungry and drunk in our unshaven underwear.

Loving it.

A small picture postcard of the death of Chatterton lurking somewhere in our tortured art school souls. Us men of our unfortunate breed, anyway. I think you women carry a small image of Frida Khalo: Frida as a bleeding fawn, the wicked arrows of this oh, so terrible life hanging from her back. A bit like Bambi, sort of. Only more serious.

But we all revere the man. That rugged amelioration of failure, that glorious patron of neglected genius: Sweet Dutch Vincent. Those intense, burning eyes, staring out beneath that flat Arles sun, straight into our souls.

You can almost taste the mistral, its wild hot breath bending the cypress trees and curling the sky into the writhing shapes of dread that permeate and threaten to engulf our martyrs later paintings.

That visceral, desperate anxiety that has transformed his entire perception of the world around him into a swirling turbulence of juddering insanity.

Take his night cafe painting and compare Gauguin’s painting of the very same scene. The two artists sat side by side and painted the same smoky room. For Gauguin (first pic), it appears to be a pleasant place, somewhere to spend a few convivial hours of an evening. A smiling waitress looks over her shoulder and flirts saucily with the French artist.

Gauguin’s version

But for poor old Vincey baby (second pic), it’s a blood red, skew-angled shithole, stinking of murder, madness and death. A smudge-faced waiter lurks beneath the sickly gas lights, a gun, or maybe a cut throat razor, hidden in his pockets. Theres a huddle of absinthe bums, drunk or asleep at the small tables. Its quite obvious from this painting that the poor Dutch bastard would eventually top either himself or some poor innocent French whore that got in the strapped, razor-toting maniac’s way.

Van Gogh’s version

Shivering, sweating, headaches, dry mouth, bad wanking, absinthe, fear. Raging and loathing. Tell me about it Vince, echo his heirs amongst their obscurity and naked light bulbs.

That trembling visionary church at Auvers, yellow against the Prussian blue infinity of the star mad sky. And of course that terrible, terrible Starry Night itself, truly awesome in its wild intensity, those alien suns burning like catherine wheels spinning out of control, an animistic universe teetering way to close to the edge for the over emotional increasingly confused ex-church minister.

Weve all been in that blood red murder room, played pool on that sickly beige, experienced that scary waiter, last seen hanging around with an equally sinister friend in the background of Edvard Munch’s 19th Century masterpiece, ‘The Scream’. Similar to Munch in the fact that both artists painted from something deep inside themselves that lurks just beneath the surface of everything. Even that tragic fucking chair. Especially that tragic fucking chair with Vince’s only luxury, his pipe and tobacco. And possibly even sadder is his only friend Gauguin’s chair with its candles and books. Gauguin who had just fucked off to Tahiti because he couldnt stand his friend’s increasingly demented behaviour, chopping his nob off and everything.

Those overbright sunflowers, painted to brighten up their small rooms. Those coruscating, writhing, insect-like flowers. Their desperate cheerfulness, like a mad woman laughing and scaring children in the street.

And how pathetic is that lonely night, where our dear friend sits alone in his night cafe feeding his insomnia with absinthe.

And that other scary area in Vincent’s solitary existence, a deeply weird painting of a skeleton smoking a cigar. An odd memento mori, reminiscent of Holbein’s ‘Dance of Death’ woodcuts, where Death frolics jestingly with all his eventual victims. A strange painting, it is not often reproduced and is obviously found to be overly unsettling by many critics. I personally find it rather amusing, as if our hero is mocking his own mortality, laughing at death, whistling in the dark maybe, but with a jaunty swagger none the less.

Of course it was not until the end that his muse swung completely sinister, but even in the mid-period paintings the happiness expressed with his cherry blossoms and smiling hoteliers and postmen, theres a desperation about the jollity. Like when you frighten yourself by laughing for too long about what it is you cant remember.

“And now I understand…”, sings Don McLean, not understanding at all. This world was never meant for someone as shit scared, manic and completely fucking insane as our ameliorating Saint of hope and inspiration.

Our Vincent.

We artists, poets, writers, whingers, musicians and masturbators. We madmen, sodomites and landscape gardeners. All of us undiscovered geniuses in our misunderstood fields. Suffering, deeply suffering in our blasted chaotic worlds. Feeling sorry for ourselves – yes, but with what style we whinge. How we perform it only for ourselves, desperately demanding attention and telling it to fuck off whenever it appears, making ourselves even more interesting in the private theatres of our twisted and battered egos. One eye permanently on the mirror, the other on ourselves.

It is we that understand Mr Don McClean, you bad Bob Dylan with your chevy and your levy, whatever the fuck that is. “I knew you were in love with him when I saw you wanking in the gym?” sings the perverted folk singer in Bye Bye Miss American Pie. And equally insanely in Starry Starry Night, This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you. Mr McClean, Im afraid youre quite mad sir. Vincent was many things, but beautiful? What, like a volcano with its rivers of molten rock is beautiful? Im sorry, Mr Tambourine Man, but Vincent belongs entirely to us! We unpublished, unpublishable, forgotten, ignored martyrs upon the various altars of our art!

We understand! We alone understand our mad prophet!

Our Vincent Van Gogh!

Like our patron Saint, for us immortality is all!

All or nothing! Death AND Glory!

This life, this shitty insignificant spunk up a venereal whores suppurating cunt of a life is not wasted! A flea’s fart in the unknowable massiveness of everything maybe, but some flea farts resonate with the universe and are remembered forever. Bottled and stored in museums and libraries, thousands and millions of resonating flea farts. It is written! bawls the mad Jew, head- butting his wailing wall. This angry life, this very ungentle life indeed, stumbling blindly through these dark nights, can not, must not, be squandered. My brother madmen and geniuses, we who vow never to submit, to bend the knee to the unholy Cosmosodomistic trinity of materialism, commerce and commodity.

We refuse to drown beneath the electronic black magic of deeply stupid rulers of men, storing up their treasures on earth and dying of colonic cancer of the arse. With their blatantly invisible conspiracies whose only goal is to keep all of us in bondage. Duped into desiring things that we dont need and paying for them with money that we dont have. Credit? What the fuck is that, if not indentured slavery by stealth? Master Card and Visa slave. Oh yes master! We cannot live without that turbo, four-wheel drive Adidas, Nike, widescreen surround sound, eight wheel drive, blow job washing machine, with wings! Killing ninety nine percent of all known germs. It is beneath this brain crushing submarine pressure to conform that Vincent gives us comfort.

One fucking painting.

One fucking painting the poor bastard sold.

And even that was to his long suffering brother, Theo. Poor. exasperated, kind hearted Theo who kept all his mad brothers letters. Vincent probably wiped his arse on Theo’s letters; none of his brothers correspondence, not one single letter survived, so self-absorbed was our man.

Its in these letters that we learn about the imperfections of our raggy arsed Saint.

In reality, which is why art should never, ever – this is important – be judged by the man who produces it, Vincent was as deluded, vain, selfish, and as much of a complete fucking, wanker arsehole as the rest of us.

This is what truly helps us through our naked lightbulb, Tennants Super, loveless nights. This is when our imperfect Saint gives us much needed succour.

Even arseholes like us, ignored and desperate, can eventually be recognised as great artists. Join the Pantheon of shimmering, flea fart immortals.

Theres even hope for a cunt like me.

And how incandescent is Vincent’s glowing immortality. Bathed in the light of billionaire imbeciles, flayed on the black altars of the cold cash civil religion in their towering bank cathedrals of Arms deals and Blood Money.

You can see these fools chasing their tails in palaces of ignorance. Making mad hand signals and wearing stupid blazers. And eventually when they are crippled by avarice, shame and the inevitable colonic arse cancers, their ignoble white bones will be tossed on to the piles of all the other forgotten irrelevant millionaires who make their fortunes flogging underwear, Porter, cigarettes, Coca Cola, baked beans, corn flakes, pornography and newspapers full of lies. Silk hat, Bradford millionaires, the lot of them. Small souled tax dodging twin turds living on private islands shivering beneath the black demons of fear and paranoia, unloved and unlovable.

Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven, Milton says in Paradise Lost, with his sexy Satan as damned hero. You tell em, Milt baby.

The mind is its own place and can make of Heaven a Hell or a heaven from Hell. To achieve a state of grace like Vincent achieved is priceless, and quite free. It is not easy and requires a determination and a will that needs must stray dangerously close to the very antipodes of sanity. But it is possible and there are as many paths towards that palace of wisdom as there are pilgrims willing to risk all for some assurance of the future life.

How else do you think us lowlife, alcoholic, autodidactic, council hovel dwellers are able to ignore the conceits and temptations beamed down upon us from the cosmosodimistic satellites of the rich and powerful?’

Written by Mark Manning, posted at The Idler

(from one of my favourite websites The Idler. Go read it, it’ll keep you busy for hours)

Lansbury Publishing - Inception!

I’m now officially a publishing house with a business banking account, yay! I will be considering third party manuscripts once my second book, Headliner, is available for retail this summer, but I initially thought about setting up the company to enable me to manage my different compositions from the same place. I’m figuring things out as I go and will only begin working with other authors when I can be sure to give them and their manuscripts the attention they deserve.

Headliner and its predecessor, Swallow, are contemporary fiction, perfect for reading on the beach or lounging by a pool. I’m writing two method textbooks for beginner violin and piano (and keeping them under separate author names for branding purposes). The second novel has some of the same characters and some new ones, different story.

Back to the bank – I didn’t even have a business plan or financial forecasts or anything! Just my trade paperback, royalty check and internet tabs showing my Amazon account and websites (so they could tell it was me under the nom de plume). I’m over the moon and motivated to write faster!