Find My Past (one of the big online genealogy sites for the UK) are allowing free access to their main UK collections till 26th June. (No strings attached for this one, not even fake-orders to get it; only registering if you haven't already.)
Some more details & instructions on the site's blog: https://blog.findmypast.com/free-
*skuttles off to collapse somewhere again*
Big Ideas are great for a book (I mean, that’s kind of the whole point of the “Big Idea” pieces). But as Laura Lam explains about her novel Shattered Minds, sometimes the Big Idea is just the jumping off point.
Sometimes you get the big idea for the story. Sometimes that’s not enough, even when you’ve written the damn thing.
My first idea excited me and got that fire of creativity going. I wanted to play with the Dexter notion—the serial killer who feels conflicted about it. A character who loves killing in rather inventive ways, who thrives off violence, but has enough of a glimmer of a conscious to want to change. A serial killer who doesn’t want to kill innocents is sort of like a vampire who doesn’t want to drink human blood—can they suppress that thirst or will they succumb? We as humans love staring into that darkness. It’s why we read about serial killers, about mythological creatures who prey on humans, or it’s why we watch horror. Carina, the protagonist of Shattered Minds, is a serial killer who becomes deliberately addicted to a dream drug called Zeal so she’s only killing people in her imagination.
The first big idea: serial killer lost in dream drugs. I knew this book would be more violent than my other work and have some cool, trippy dream sequences. I also wanted to build on the world I created in False Hearts, which came out last year (the Pacifica novels are a series of standalones set on the West Coast of the formerly United States). This book is set in Los Angeles instead of San Francisco. The series blends psychological thriller and near future tech, with a big nod at 80s and 90s cyberpunk. Shattered Minds has hover cars, floating skyscrapers and mansions, bright moving ads against the sides of buildings. People can change their appearance at will thanks to flesh parlours. Moving tattoos are etched on their skin, and their eyes might glimmer in the dark from extra implants. Pacifica is a shiny ecotopia that’s an ugly dystopia once you scratch the surface.
I wrote Shattered Minds, and the plot worked, for the most part. Carina scared me, but not quite as much as the villain, Roz (if you watch Orphan Black, Rachel is a big inspiration for her). I did a lot of research on serial killers, especially female ones, and neuroscience, hacking, corporate espionage, and more. But something was missing. All the pieces were there, made sense, but it was just . . . lacking. The puzzle pieces had the right images but they weren’t slotting together. And that was terrifying. This was going to be my fifth published book. Shouldn’t I have a better handle on this by now? I’d put in all this work, and I could tell something was wrong. This is where good editors are worth their weight in gold. Together, we found the second big idea to bring the project back to life.
It became a Frankenstein retelling. I struck the thing with lightning, basically (har, har). In the first draft, Carina was a serial killer just because . . . she was. There wasn’t much explanation or reason. No purpose (to use the most overused word said in lectures on the MA in Creative Writing I help teach at Napier in Edinburgh). In the next draft, Roz experimented on Carina when she was a teen, reprogramming her brain to be cool and collected—the perfect unbiased scientist, unbothered by things like empathy or ethics. (Note: this isn’t a spoiler—you find all this out in chapter three after the third murder in a row). However, Roz’s experiment went wrong. Carina started feeling things again, with the side effect of her also wanting to kill everything around her. Now Roz has a much stronger reason to want to take down Carina rather than just greed. Carina is the broken experiment that much be eradicated. The one who got under her skin. The one she couldn’t let go.
The next draft just worked. I loved editing Shattered Minds as much as I had hated writing the first draft. Scenes slotted into place, Carina and Roz finally worked, circling each other like sharks. It was glorious fun to make my dark, bloody book even darker and more twisted.
Sometimes, maybe a book needs more than one big idea. More than just “what if” question. Maybe something is missing in the first draft and you just need to add a little lightning to revitalise the corpse.
2. Rest strained/pulled muscle (possibly hip abductor) whatever it is so it gets better.
3. Venture out for concerts Saturday and Sunday nights.
4. Laundry? If my muscle is better. It is raining a lot this weekend, so I might not want to trek to the laundromat for that.
5. Try not to be too frustrated with my injury.
anyway, i am a 20 something currently working in the "it's not free if it doesn't scan ive heard this joke before 6 million times" industry. i went to university, got depressed, dropped out, went back after 3 years and just finished my first year back. hoping i graduate next year (crossing my fingers i don't bail this time) and earn a better living so i can live by the beach with dogs and pursue my dream of owning a small shop on the side.
i have a couple hobbies: baking, going on really long walks, collecting receipts, and playing bad shows on Netflix in the background. i finally got around to watching gilmore girls and the revival. i am also a fan of brooklyn 99 and superstore. im not... a movie person. the last movie i've loved was whiplash. i'm always open to recs, just never sure when i'll get around to them. my to watch list still includes The Godfather.
i'm not at all a picky eater. i love going on food adventures and trying new things. by new things, i mean by going to a new sushi place. i live in Vancouver; i live in an expensive heaven. my ideal food combo consists of sushi, yam fries and matcha-flavoured sweets.
right now, i am learning to let go of my hoarder like ways byway of Marie Kondo and i am liking where it's going. im learning that if i had to re-start uni i would've majored in sociology or psychology. i love observing people. i like going to coffee shops by busy intersections and people watch... but i digress. i tend to be rambly, hope that's ok...
enough to friend?
Friday evening I was walking to the library with Aiko. I was on the north side of the street, heading east. I saw a couple walking toward me, but there was a break in traffic and I crossed the street before we met. On the south side of the street, Aiko was uneasy. He kept stopping and looking back. I looked back too, and saw the couple that had been on the north side of the street, going west, were now about half a block behind me, on the south side of the street, going east.
Well, people do change their minds and turn around. But Aiko would not settle down, so at the next street I turned south. The couple behind us also turned south, but I was on the east side of the street and they were on the west. I stopped and let Aiko sniff for a while, so I got to the next intersection after them. They crossed to the south side of that street. I did not. I turned east. They also turned east, and continued to walk about half a block behind me, on the other side of the street, for about seven blocks. Then we were in a well-populated area, and I didn't see them again.
I am a short fat old woman, and my hands were encumbered. I had library books in one hand, and a leash and a bag of dog poop in the other. But I was walking a German Shepherd! How did they plan to assault me without getting bit? Also without getting a bag of dog poop in the face? Though it was one of the good bags, and probably wouldn't have burst even if it had hit. Also, I didn't have any money on me, though they didn't know that. I was wearing a fanny pack, which is where my wallet would have been if I was wearing my wallet. I thought about taking my phone out and taking their picture, but they had dropped back far enough by the time I thought of it that it wouldn't have been much of a picture. The fanny pack has the kind of buckle that you squeeze to open. Probably they planned to run up beside me, grab the buckle, and run off with the fanny pack before Aiko could react. They would have got my phone and my housekeys, and could probably figure out where I live from the phone.
Anyway, I do think that there is observable, identifiable behavior that signals that one human being is looking at another human being as prey, and I think Aiko observed and correctly identified it.
I don’t understand quantum physics or string theory, really — I couldn’t possibly explain them to someone, anyway. But I keep trying to, and this book has probably got the closest to making me really interested in the topic. It’s easy enough to follow, and doesn’t throw maths at you without explanation, and it helps that it’s focused on one of the important more interesting factors: quantum theory and string theory could require a multiverse. Gribbin has a look at all the reasons a multiverse seems likely, including the fact that quantum computing works at all, and takes you through anthropic reasoning, etc, etc.
Overall, I still find parts of this difficult to get on with. We can’t know that we live in an average universe — even if there are an infinity of different universes, that doesn’t follow that universes which are suitable for life are more common. We could be living in a rare universe. We can’t see what the probabilities of anything are when we only have experience of one universe — nobody has ever convinced me we have the data to really judge.
This is probably going to date badly when it comes to its explanations of string theory and a theory of everything, but for someone as lacking in knowledge as me, it works.