I just learned that A.C. Crispin died of cancer last month.

I feel ashamed to learn this belatedly. Earlier today, I’d been raving about her Han Solo trilogy, how they excited me as a young reader, how they shaped my tastes and aspirations.

The_Paradise_SnareI was a nerdy sci-fi-loving pre-teen when I found The Paradise Snare in – I think – London’s Science Museum, back when a £4.99 paperback presented a considerable investment for your weekly 50p pocket money. A vivid memory: standing on the Circle line, a plastic carrier bag swaying on my wrist, unable to shut this book.

Here were gunfights, aliens, drug-fuelled religious cults and a love story with teeth. It was funny and dangerous and probably not appropriate for a child, but when these things are smuggled in genre fiction they end up in kids’ bedrooms, and why not?

My Star Wars obsession was the kind of love you can only sustain during the 12-16 age gap. When you lived in Suffolk, never more than six feet from a tractor, escapism wasn’t so much a pastime as an essential coping mechanism, and I must have read and re-read those books scores of times. I may even have loved them – whisper it – more than the films.

Unlike Brian Daley’s high-camp Solo novels published in the ’70s (featuring a droid called Bollux – oh dear), Crispin peeled back the swashbuckling to provide a compelling, surprising backstory for this character who started off as a wisecracking space cowboy played by a painter and decorator. “You can write this shit, George, but you sure as Hell can’t say it”.

This was pre-Internet, at least in my house. I didn’t know who A.C. Crispin was, let alone whether this was a man or a woman. I only knew this was someone whose imagination excited me, and perhaps that’s how it ought to be.

The bacta tank - for healthy happiness

The bacta tank – for healthy happiness

It’s hard to imagine now, but in 1997, if you wanted to even begin to experience the kind of shared fandom excitement you take for granted now on Tumblr, you had to get someone’s dad to drive you to a seaside shack in Clacton for the delight of being breathed on by lonely men in all-too-form-fitting Starfleet uniforms. (Actual experience, let’s not dwell on it). Fan fiction was something you stored on a floppy disc and kept to yourself. In the acknowledgements of the final book in the trilogy, Rebel Dawn, Crispin thanked ‘The Star Ladies and all my on-line friends’. Whoa. There were people online like me? Female people? Who get thanked by authors?

I’d been putting together little handwritten books since I was small, but reading Ann Carol Crispin’s Star Wars tie-ins made twelve-year-old me realise the adventures in your head were something you could write down for other people and therefor make real. All these years later, I haven’t forgotten how her books made me feel. And I’ve never stopped writing.

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“A great Italian tormented in the Inferno of London”

Ruskin, there, being a bit over-the-top.

dgrbirthday

As it’s Mr Rossetti’s 185th birthday, I celebrated with poems and pie in the park. It’s what the tormented old rhinoceros would have wanted.

So, news. It’s been a productive spring. After being longlisted for the Pageturner Prize, I sent my novel to The Literary Consultancy, who I can’t recommend highly enough. If you’re lost in your one-hundred-thousand-word forest, unable to find your way home, an honest critique, plus no-nonsense business advice, is invaluable. Having slogged through the rewrites and given it a good trimming, I’m about to pass it on to some friends to read. It’s a vertiginous feeling, but I remain optimistic.

In other writing news, I’m in the next edition of The Pre-Raphaelite Society Review, talking about A Pre-Raphaelite Journey: The Art of Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale. If you’ve ever wondered what a Pre-Raphaelite tackling early 20th century airborne warfare looks like, Eleanor’s your woman.

Happy birthday, DGR. Pie?

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“You will have seen Bernie…”

Read my short story, ‘Bernie’, in the latest edition of The Puffin Review.

Cambridge, The Roman Empire, and Co-Op carrier bags. Have you ever stared from a bus window and wondered what someone’s story was?

http://www.puffinreview.com/content/content/bernie-verity-holloway

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Contraindications – now on Kindle

Contraindications

I’m pleased to say that my chapbook of six poems, Contraindications, is now available for Amazon Kindle. It will still be available here as a PDF, so readers have a choice of formats to suit their devices, and the option to print. We will also be publishing on other platforms, like Kobo, shortly.

Thanks go to Gabriel May for the hours he spent grappling with code, formatting and converting the files by hand. It was a laborious process; one I couldn’t have managed without his patience and technical expertise. If you need your own ebook converted, Gabriel is considering offering his services to more writers – so get in touch.

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It’s been one of those summers.

I took a short writing holiday at the end of last month. There were graphs and coloured pens and a real teapot. Strictly no gin, and no Internet – serious stuff. During those four days, I rediscovered the immense mental health benefits of just knuckling down and doing the one thing in life you truly want to do. Surprisingly, I also came to appreciate how the everyday commitments that keep you from writing can be useful. The frustration steels your determination. There must be a proverb to that effect floating around. Probably by Hafiz.

The result is that the novel is so much closer to completion and I’m so much more buoyant about life in general. And also petrified. I’m human.

On the subject of terror and joy, today is exactly one month away from my visit to the Tate’s Pre-Raphaelite exhibition. How am I going to contain myself in the gift shop? What am I going to wear? How am I going to stop myself from standing in front of a minor sketch with my hand clamped over my mouth, whimpering “isn’t it just the most wonderful thing in the world?” like I did to some poor man at the Fitzwilliam who was just trying to be friendly by pointing out the extra piece of paper Rossetti had glued on to extend Alexa Wilding a few inches.

“[Rossetti] did not sleep, and neither did he compose himself to rest, though the lamps of the carriage were darkened by their shades. During the greater part of the night he sat up in an attitude of waiting, wearing overcoat and hat and gloves, as if our journey were to end at the next stopping place.” – Hall Caine, Recollections of Rossetti.

You and me both, DGR. See you in London!

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Look at this gorgeous package of goodies I snaffled from The Mymble’s Daughter. Feathers! Eyes! My favourites.

Lots of new writing lately. Perhaps this wildly unpredictable summer climate is doing me good.

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