Book Tag: Good to Meetcha

A pair of burgundy boots rest on a bookshelf of fantasy novels

I was absolutely definitely going to declare today a Space Opera Sunday and review The All-Consuming World, but well, I’m still wrangling my thoughts on that and I’m away with my Mum and our plans today involve castles and hills and cake and not me wrestling with my feelings about a book. SO, new blog plan! Mayri the BookForager recently came up with a shiny new Introductions tag – go grab a cuppa and I’ll give you a glimpse of my scaly underbelly. So to speak.

What’s that in your bag? (Also, what kind of bag do you carry? No bag? What’ve you got in your pockets?

Back when my job was a senior managerial role in an industry that prizes appearances, I had a very sexy very large Osprey handbag that my incredibly generous best friend (who is much more into handbags than me) bought me one birthday. It was big enough to carry my laptop and my book along with the usual handbag gubbins and I loved it to death. Literally. It turned green and bits started falling off.

These days, I’m more likely to be carrying a backpack as I’m a contractor of no fixed work address (let alone a desk) and my shoulders don’t appreciate the weight of lugging around all the chargers and whatnot on top of all the tech. If it’s not a work day, I probably just have my keys and my phone in my pocket as the latter doubles as my book and my wallet and my music (on the rare occasions I want any) in this exciting 21st century. I do kinda miss having a sexy handbag, but I don’t miss actually carrying it – I much prefer my minimalism, although it means I’m ruined if I lose my phone!

Do you keep a notebook, and if yes, can I see it? What do you keep in it?)

I don’t. I used to – if we go back oh gosh maybe as far as 15 years, ouch – always carry one where I was working on story ideas or writing up bits for roleplay campaigns I was running, but as my work became increasingly demanding that all fell by the wayside.

These days, I am 100% not prepared for an apocalypse because this is my notebook, calendar, address book and everything else:

My MacBook, with this blog post in progress

What’s the one book you recommend remorselessly to anyone who’ll listen?

One? ONE?! Insert hysterical laughter here. That’s like asking me what my favourite book is.

Even amongst the books I adore, what I recommend will depend on who I’m talking to (and what I think they’ll enjoy) and what I’ve read recently. But let’s consider some likely candidates…

Just dipping into fantasy? The Swords and Fire trilogy by Melissa Caruso. Read enough fantasy to want something a bit different? I’ll likely mention The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams. Ready to go all-in on political fantasy and maximum emotional damage? The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. Enjoy tales of the supernatural and/or love social/political roleplay games? The Dominion of the Fallen by Aliette de Bodard.

More interested in SF? That’s a bit more single-minded – I’ll almost certainly start by asking if they’ve read Murderbot yet…

Tell me a funny story about yourself (extra marks if it involves books)

I am the clumsiest person. I don’t have the worst hand-eye coordination, but I don’t have a great sense of balance and I’m not very good at knowing where the edges of things are. This regularly results in entertainment for others and bruises for me that I can rarely explain as I have no memory of the incident that caused them.

Unexpectedly, this got me a job. It was very early in my career and I was desperate to get a permanent job (stability! learning opportunities!) after being made redundant and working a series of stopgap freelance roles. I made it to the last two, and the final interview was very casual: a coffee with two senior colleagues. Having got the formalities out the way, we gelled swapping stories about absurd accidents, and that’s how I ended up working in advertising.

More recently, my beloved commented that I hadn’t walked into the bed recently (I walk around – aka try to walk through – the bed to get to my side. “No,” I replied proudly, much to his bewildered amusement. “I’ve got a system now.”

Yes, I need a system to safely navigate my own home. Don’t knock it – I’ve not bruised my thigh in ages.

Do you have any favourite words?

Oh gosh yes, although I’m going to immediately blank on most of them under pressure so I’ll stick with two that are favourites for a very specific reason: abstemious and facetious. Why? They’re the only two words in modern English that have all the vowels – just once – in the right order (unless you’re getting awfully scientific).

Tell me about a favourite book from your childhood

I regularly mention my lifelong love of Alan Garner, The Dark is Rising and The Chronicles of Prydain. But another series I adored was a learning to read primer that spanned basic through to fairly complex reading comprehension across four series of increasingly complex prose and plot and gorgeous illustrations. Tim and the Hidden People by Sheila McCullagh kept me happy after school when I was about 5 or 6, although I’ve never seen them again since. I’m left with memories of a boy whose awareness of the world changes when he finds a key that lets him see – and get sucked into the doings of – the Hidden People, including his new friend Tobias the black cat. Witches, sea captains, magic mirrors, broomsticks, stone circles, doorways into hills – it was a perfect gateway into fantasy. Apparently they’ve been rereleased, so I might have to get a copy for old time’s sake.

Do you like the smell of books?

Oh gosh yes, especially old books.

What’s the weirdest book you’ve ever read? (And would you recommend it?)

Most recently, probably We Are Made Of Diamond Stuff by Isabel Waidner, a novella nominee for last year’s Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards. It’s a contemporary social fantasy with some really interesting themes, but so surreal I didn’t know where to start with it and couldn’t wait to finish it.

Sooo … how do you feel about dragons?

As a self-described reptile, they are close cousins and you mustn’t speak ill of family. Also, I adore them, and putting them in a book is a great way to get me interested in it. I have a whole section of my TBR that is best defined as ‘couldn’t resist the dragons’. Why would you even try?

Subverting dragons is also exciting – I do not accept that the dragons of The Black Coast are dragons (they’re clearly dinosaurs) and the arakeesians of The Tide Child trilogy aren’t exactly sea dragons either and I don’t care, they’re still awesome. Hooray for dragon-adjacent reptilian fantasy creatures.

What are you looking forward to right now?

Fresh air and cake. I’m in the Peak District for the weekend with my Mum, and we’re going out on a blustery day – I want to stretch my legs, work up an appetite and then give it sugar. Or a scone. Something indulgent!

Fancy introducing yourself? Tag yourself in and I’ll pop over with a cuppa!