Very Inspiring Blogger Award: Part 1, or The Autobiography of Sue Blake

Leiliana and Morrigan, disguised as Chantry priests and about to rescue me after I’d been captured…

Leiliana and Morrigan, disguised as Chantry priests and about to rescue me after I’d been captured…

 

The very wonderful Oyinkan Braithwaite (poet, prose writer and, latterly, TV personality) has been kind and deluded enough to nominate me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. The Award Guidelines are as follows:

1.Thank and link to the amazing person who nominated you.

Done!

2.List the rules and display the award.

Which is what’s happening here…

3.Share seven facts about yourself.

Ok…

i. Sue Blake is the name of a fictional character who originally appeared in the dark fantasy novel Feline Alchemy.

ii. Sue Blake is a man’s name.

iii. In Feline Alchemy Sue Blake explains that he was given the name Sue because “My parents were both huge Johnny Cash fans, although they chose to ignore his advice about naming a son, obviously.” But I’ll let Johnny himself explain –

 

iv. While I was proofreading Feline Alchemy I realised it might be wise to adopt a pen-name because a number of scenes in the book take place within the office of a company called LoreLei Media; these scenes are played mainly for satirical purposes but are based on characters and situations from life. Basically, when I wrote Feline Alchemy I, like the central character, was working at LoreLei Media.

v. I like the name Sue Blake for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I tend to think of it as being like a band name in the mould of Alice Cooper, i.e. there never was any person named “Alice”, only a band of that name. It also works as an ironic nod to the time when women writers were usually forced to adopt men’s names in order to publish their books.

vi. Two of the central characters in Feline Alchemy are named Morrigan and Leiliana, in homage to the Xbox game Dragon Age: Origins (see the image at top of this post). The reason for this is that a few years ago, whilst looking to treat myself to a Christmas present, I decided to buy an Xbox. The first game I played was DA: Origins, which I started by quite enjoying and then became hooked on, not due to the gameplay so much as the storyline and characters. Essentially, it became a matter of honour that I and my trusty comrades (Alistair, Morrigan, Leiliana, Win, etc) should defeat the horrors that threatened the kingdom of Ferelden. And so it was that, auspiciously, on New Year’s Day we were finally victorious and killed the detested dragon after numerous shambolic failed attempts. It was a beautiful moment for my comrades and I.

Well, the imagination is a weird and powerful force and, as I raised my heroic arms aloft in celebration (ahem), a moment of epiphany flashed across my mind – I realised that for the Hero of Ferelden (i.e. myself) the prospect of starting another year with nothing better to maintain my interest than a job I heartily despised (see point iv) was never going to be an option if I hoped to get to December with my mental faculties intact. Instead I felt the need to try to make a positive contribution of some sort, according to whatever abilities I might have. Dragon slaying was sadly out. But I realised I could return to writing fiction, which I’d set aside a few years previously. So I did.

vii. Besides the Xbox game, the main influences in creating the characters of Morrigan and Leiliana in the novel were my cats, George and Bootsy. They were named, of course, after George Clinton and Bootsy Collins of Parliament/Funkadelic fame –

 

There’s no particular reason for including the clip except that the day always feels better for having a little funk in it, I think.

Now, since this post is getting rather long, I will be returning at a later date for Part 2 of the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, when I will complete the tasks set out in the guidelines as follows (drumroll….)

4. Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.

5. Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

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Feline Alchemy – greatest hypothetical movie soundtrack ever pt.2

I refer you back to pt.1 of the Feline Alchemy soundtrack for the rationale of this post; also, for unmissable links to more pop music of splendour.  Now, here is the equally gorgeous pt. 2 –

 
Chapter 5 – Pixies, Caribou

“This human form where I was born I now repent.”

Pixies were the most bizarre, non-conformist, thrilling mix of practically every element that US rock music felt the need to overlook/dismiss/neglect/ban from the airwaves. In their prime the singer once described Pixies as “ruined cool.” He was right. US rock music was unsurprisingly wrong. Black Francis’ singing here veers typically between the raucous, petulant and angelic. Of course, nowadays when angels fall they end up flogging the consumerist wet dream for Apple. But let’s remember them this way.

 

Chapter 6 – Siouxsie & the Banshees, Peek-a-boo

“Furtive eyes peep out of holes.”

Rulebook for creating a classic single – Step 1: take an old recording from your studio vaults. Step 2: play aforesaid old recording backwards. Step 3: add accordion and a strident vocal that sounds like an ambulance crashing. Step 4: Rip up the rulebook. Easy. When I have a child I shall name her (or him) Siouxsie Sue. And everyone else should do the same.

 

Chapter 7 – Velvet Underground, Venus in Furs

“Ermine furs adorn the imperious.”

It’s 1967 – ok, let’s mix Leopold von Sacher-Masoch with rock’n’roll. Erm… what?! Enter the Velvet Underground. Lou Reed changes the game indelibly, inventing the indie/alternative outlook from scratch in the process. John Cale sprinkles avant-garde weirdness into the brew whenever it needs an extra kick. On this song Cale scrapes complaints out of an electric viola like sinews being stretched on the rack, appropriately enough.

 

Chapter 8 – The Jam, Ghosts

“Lift up your lonely heart and walk right on through.”

Notable among the debris that UK punk junked and scattered liberally about the music scene was a certain elegance and sophistication in terms of outlook and presentation. Those ideas were suspect and passé. Paul Weller was the exception that made an ass of the rule. Not only did the lyrics have the precision of Ray Davies but the Rickenbacker had to look exactly right. That isn’t vacuousness; it’s attention to detail, the watchword of 60s mods. It meant that The Jam were the key bridge between the brightest English 60s bands, punk, and later The Smiths. Surely, compliments don’t come much higher?

 

Feline Alchemy – soundtrack pt.1

When Hollywood gets its grubby little mitts on Feline Alchemy it will doubtless provide a soundtrack. And this soundtrack will doubtless be irredeemably naff. So, in order to offer some much-needed guidance, I’ve created a faultless soundtrack for the story, as will be unveiled in this and succeeding posts. The fact that Feline Alchemy is essentially an indie/alternative/post-punk kind of story explains the prevalence of these types of songs in the soundtrack.

 
Chapter 1 – Cat Power, Sea of Love

“That’s the day I knew you were my pet.”

Promise of devotion or thinly veiled threat?  It’s always nice to see the tense undercurrents that accidentally lurk in old pop songs.  Over a spectral harp Cat Power breathes out the melody like a drowning angel, pretty much.

 

Chapter 2 – Boo Radleys, Lazarus

“Maybe now I should change?  You see, I’m losing my faith…” 

After a dub reggae intro paces back and forth like a psychedelic panther counting the bars of its cage, you’re greeted with a sunburst of trumpets galloping over the horizon – a crescendo of affirmation. Self-explanatory, really.

 

Chapter 3 – Tricky, Hell is Around the Corner

“Distant drums bring the news of a kill tonight.”

Isaac Hayes gets turned inside out.  Naturally enough, this results in a certain amount of gore and a mumbling high-priest interprets the entrails, making dark promises in a language no-one’s heard before.  Isms and schisms anyone?

 

Chapter 4 – The Smiths, Panic

“I wonder to myself… couldn’t life ever be sane again?”

Johnny Marr channels classic T Rex while Morrissey smuggles a death threat against DJs onto daytime radio.  Precisely how pop music’s supposed to be, surely?

Feline Alchemy – publication

Feline Alchemy is published as an e-book today, revolutionising the dark fantasy genre at a stroke…

Cultural commentators haven’t begun to comment on this milestone, as yet, but when they do they’ll no doubt rehash the kind of flattering descriptions I currently have running around inside my head, e.g.

“Written in a chatty style, like a series of blog posts, Feline Alchemy is a quirky paranormal story set in modern-day England. The book is a warped romance and social satire, as well as an urban fantasy that blends the fairy tale elements of Angela Carter with the classic horror of the film ‘Cat People’ and Joe Orton’s sly humour.”

Yep, that’s probably what they’ll say.