Hi. My internet is back, finally. I’m just choking it with downloads, Netflix, streaming vids, and syncing all my offsite stuff at once. I have a backlog of blog posts that need to be pushed live, but I’m pausing them because today’s the day I get to celebrate… me. While you’re reading this, I’m probably waking up with morning yoga in a sun-streaked apartment, or I’m knuckled down behind my laptop (pronounced healthy by the good people at the Genius Bar yesterday after intermittent hard drive fuckery that had me worried) and starting the first moments of my thirty third year doused in blood and gore, which is exactly what I intended:
It’s taken thirty three years to figure out what I’m after in life and what gives me great joy, and I swear, if you’re the sucker who wants to get in the way of me getting up to the elbows in imaginary viscera, you’re going to have a problem.
I took the day off work, because this is a yearly ritual:
On my birthday, I wake up to fresh coffee burbling in the pot, do a little yoga, turn up the speakers, dance around my apartment (sometimes naked as the day I came into this world), get a professional massage, a facial or a pedicure, eat some stuff that makes my tummy happy, do some writing, and curl up with my main squeeze to watch a couple of movies.
It’s Mardi Gras today, which is a bit of a bummer because five years ago I’d planned to be in New Orleans for the one day that my birthday falls on Fat Tuesday in a decade, flashing a parade float and trying to get a coveted golden coconut from Zulu. The problem, I realized while trying to sort out the logistics of getting my butt south this year, was that I hadn’t realized I was going to go completely balls-crazy in Europe and totally squander my vacation savings on knitted things. (I really like wool socks, okay? And sweaters. And Guinness, apparently.) I came back in the red, and squashed my New Orleans plans promptly. (Ireland was worth it. I’ve been to New Orleans what, two? Three times already? And Mardi Gras once previously when I was like, twenty one or something. I drank my weight, but I don’t remember the details of that trip. Except for the fried chicken from Coop’s Place. I’ve never tasted anything like it anywhere else in the world. And the seafood gumbo. Lordy.)
Today is all about self-indulgence, so keeping with the theme of this blog, I’d like to share thirty three secrets about books today: reading them, writing them, loving them to death.
One secret for every year I’ve spent on this amazeballs planet.
- The very first book I remember reading and loving involved a haunted house and bats. I’m fairly convinced that it still rests in a box in the crawlspace under the stairs at my parents house, but I can’t remember the title. It was a picture book, and I might’ve been three years old. My dad taught me how to draw by tracing the images I liked, and I remember scribbling a bunch of apple-shaped bats with disproportionate wings. My parents must have bought the book for me around Halloween — I don’t think they realized the sort of impact it would have shaping the rest of my life and interests.
- Even before Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, way before Twilight, there was Bunnicula. The Celery Stalks at Midnight remains one of my favourite children’s books: bunnies and vampires. A bunny vampire. Who drains the juice from carrots with his little bunny fangs. Can’t. Even. Brain overload. I must have been four years old, but this was the marriage of cute and fluffy with the dark side and my innocent imagination ate it up.
- Even as a kid I found Love You Forever by Robert Musch profoundly sad. I think it sewed the first seeds of understanding mortality.
- I hate The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I will never read it to my children. I think the kid was selfish and his relationship with the tree was abusive. Fuck that kid. “Take only what you need from it.”
- When I was in fifth grade, my English teacher read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to our class. I really hated her as a teacher because she liked to shame her students when we misbehaved, but that thirty minute reading session is something I looked forward to every damn day when we spent time with this book. It was the first adventure-type story I remember, and it was orchestrated completely by two child-aged characters. It made me believe I could do anything, even if it was sneaky.
- I had a stint in fifth grade where all I read were books by Christopher Pike. R.L. Stein was too soft for me — but Pike was moulding an early love of getting scared. Monster, Bury Me Deep, The Last Vampire — I was absolutely tickled to see the Thirst series re-released years later after the Twilight craze.
- I remember being very confused when people told me that The Chronicles of Narnia had a heavy religious leaning. I figured it out years later when I re-read the books, but when I read them with my dad the first time, we both really loved them. We went to see the movies together too, even though I was well into my teenage years and being seen in public with your parents was anathema. I remember writing a paper on the White Witch of Narnia in CEGEP that nearly got me kicked out of class.
- Dracula. Dracula. Dracula.
- The first novel I remember reading as a child was Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour. My first “grown up book”; packed with smut and violence. I was eleven years old.
- I read all the books in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower in one summer, borrowing each from the local library. I started backwards, with Wolves of the Calla, but quickly fell into Midworld. Fragments of his imagery linger in the back of my mind when I write things today: Maine and Midworld, in a blur of green and gold. These are words tattooed on my heart: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”
- I became interested in world religions after a classmate brought a book on Voodoo to school. Anna Riva’s Golden Secrets of Mystic Oils. It encouraged me to take my first trip downtown from the suburbs with a friend to explore the little esoteric shop where she bought it.
- Dan Simmons remains the one author to truly, utterly terrify me. Summer of Night, for me, will always be a seminal horror novel that shaped the way I looked at writing horror for years to come. The book’s protagonist was a child, barely older than I was, and it put me right in the story with him. Dale’s death still stands out in vibrant colour for me over a decade later. I will never forget the description of muscle being sheared off bone from that combine.
- My introduction to urban fantasy arrived with Kim Harrison and Laurel K. Hamilton. I was home, I thought, at last. Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs and Kelly Armstrong followed in quick succession. My paperback collection grew to three times its size in a matter of months. I had to add another shelf to my growing library and double-stack them so they’d all fit.
- I left a letter in the original copy of The Witching Hour I’d borrowed from the library. I wrote it by hand, folded it neatly, and left it to the next borrower of the book inside its pages. I confessed to them that it was the novel that got me writing my own stories years later, and it inspired me to take my first two trips to New Orleans.
- I cried at the end of Stephen King’s Insomnia.
- I started reading the Harry Potter books fairly late. I’ve got a few friends who still associate them with their childhood, but in my case, I started Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in CEGEP. I was in my early twenties. The weekend the last book came out, I was in Toronto for my cousin’s wedding, and for some reason my uncle was dead set against letting me get my hands on it. I had to fight to get to a Toys R Us to pick up a copy. It was a lengthy argument that I eventually won. I didn’t sleep the rest of the weekend. I stayed up all night reading, inclusive of the post-reception wine drunk.
- I began reading The Sandman out of curiosity. I’d never read a graphic novel before. The comic book format was something almost totally alien to me — I never thought I “needed” the pictures. My imagination was overactive enough, so why bother, right? Never been more wrong in my life. I devoured all eleven trades in a couple of days, buying one at a time until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I picked up the last of the collection in a fury. I spent seven nights on my couch falling in love with Neil Gaiman’s writing. Magic was real, and the world was painted with it.
- I have a soft spot for regency-era fiction. Yes, Jane Austen and Emily Bronte. Yes, I have the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies book. I still prefer the original. Because Mr. Darcy.
- I read the first three books of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series with a lot of anger. My first experience reading Clare’s work was in Harry Potter fandom, and there were chunks of story that seemed as if they were replicated exactly from the Draco Veritas trilogy. I can never unsee Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley in these books, though I begrudgingly enjoyed them.
- I fell into YA pretty late. I was well into my twenties when I really got into books intended for younger readers, but by that point I didn’t care: Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside laid the groundwork for my love of Holly Black’s writing. I’ve never quite looked at fairies the same way since.
- I felt a little snubbed the first time I met Mike Mignola at ComicCon. I mean, nice guy, you know, but doesn’t take a compliment well. I might’ve gushed a bit too hard over Hellboy, but whatever. Fangirl, right? He mashed a bunch of folklore into his storytelling, and the world he’s built as a result makes me green with envy.
- This is a guilty confession: I did indeed read Twilight. I did cry a bit over those empty pages in New Moon. I’m still not a fan. I’m really adamant that I am not a fan. Even if I also cried when Bree Tanner died. Shut up.
- Maggie Steifvater can literally do no wrong. For a while I preferred Lament over her more recent work, but then I read The Scorpio Races. It physically gives me pain that there won’t be another book in that series.
- The most awesome author/artist I’ve met face to face is Ben Templesmith. You might be familiar with his work on 30 Days of Night with Steve Niles, made into a film, but what really solidified my admiration for this guy was the fact that identified by CBLDF teeshirt when I harassed him to sign my copy of Wormwood at ComicCon. Super friendly dude.
- The first book I read by Joe Hill was 20th Century Ghosts. I’m not a fan of short formats; I like novels, but with him I made an exception, and was it ever worth it. I still recommend Heart-Shaped Box to people who are just beginning to edge their way into horror. It’s a long-time favourite.
- I’m ashamed to say this, but while I loved the Night Watch and Day Watch movies, and I know there are several other books in the series, I’ve never read them. They’ve been on my to-read pile for the last decade and I still haven’t gotten around to them. This is like A Song of Ice and Fire for me, right? I watch the series religiously but I can’t bring myself to pick up the books. I want to, I’m just blocked about it.
- I would be remiss not to mention that over a couple of years I read so many X-Men comic books that I can recite the entire Rogue/Gambit legacy from start to finish without missing a beat. I spent over three hundred thousand words on a fan fiction that remains unfinished, that I still get comments about.
- I own over six hundred books, with more on my iPad, and more still on my Kindle. I’ve run out of room in my apartment.
- I have difficulty parting with any of them, but I’m trying to whittle down the collection. I hope that in sending my duplicate copies of Harry Potter out into the world, I will enrich a child’s life like those books did mine.
- Although I have leanings towards supernatural horror for the most part, two young adult novels I always recommend in the horror genre have no supernatural elements whatsoever to them, and I found them to be profoundly disturbing: Rotters and Scowler by Daniel Kraus. Phenomenal writing.
- I collect books on art and travel. I usually buy at least one book in every city that I’ve visited, often from the smaller local shops. I went overboard on my first trip backpacking in Europe, and had to bring the twenty hard-bound editions back in a separate bag. Do not recommend.
- I usually read a couple of books at the same time. Right now I’m working through Laird Barron’s The Croning and Maggie Stiefvater’s Lily Blue, Blue Lily from the Raven Cycle, as well as a non-fiction about black magic for research purposes.
- I wrote my first novel over the course of the last year. I couldn’t have done it without having read so much inspiring, amazing work over the course of the thirty three years I’ve spent on this planet. It’s only a first draft, but it’s certainly not the last, and definitely not the last novel I’ll produce. I can’t wait to share it with you, and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings by way of inspiration.
Thanks for reading, and happy mardi gras. 🙂