Quick Update

You may have noticed that a new widget has appeared on the blog called “Book” showing how much of my book I’ve written. It stays relentlessly at zero for the moment, although I do have a rough chapter breakdown and I’ve concluded most of my research, so I am ready to go.

But not a word has been written.

Why?

I’ve had a really bad couple of weeks with work, and when I say bad I mean sleepless night, 3am pacing bad – worrying about the discovery of a huge issue with one project close to completion which seemed, at 3am at least, completely unsolvable – while trying to deal with a series of ‘what if…’ questions that are basically unanswerable. So my poor head feels as if a hole has been drilled in my skull and various fingers have poked and prodded what’s left of my brain.

The good news is that there are certain deadlines that can’t be avoided so things should get easier soon. But I’m still not getting enough sleep as I’m worried that it is going to be too quiet in the second half of this year!

The good news is that this all means that I might actually have the time to get a good first draft of the entire novel written. I nearly abandoned the whole project a couple of weeks ago, because I thought I didn’t really have anything to say, but then I read a couple of books that really didn’t seem to be saying anything at all, to me at least, and this has spurred me on and I’m aiming to write around 10,000 words a week which a break for the bit of research that I’ve been avoiding. The 100,000 words on the widget is just an estimate, I may write more, I may write less – as Neil Gaiman says in the Intro to Smoke and Mirrors ‘Sometimes the only way I would know that a story had finished was when there weren’t any more words to be written down’ and I suspect that this is true for me.

Posted in Books, Neil Gaiman, work | 2 Comments

When I am old

I may well wear purple, but I won’t have a red hat – I hate wearing hats. But I shall go to my local supermarket and fling a few items into a basket. When I get to the head of the queue at the checkout I’ll put my hands to my head and exclaim ‘oh my, I’ve forgotten to get ….’. When that arrives I’ll remember something else I’ve forgotten. When that arrives I’ll complain that its the wrong size and wait for them to come back with the ‘right size’ and then mention that I actually wanted two. I’ll drag this game out for as long as I can and then I’ll pay my bill with ten pence pieces, slowly counting each one out. Then I’ll drop the receipt … and then pack my shopping, one item at a time – I am old after all. Eventually I shall turn to the extremely long queue behind me and, with a big grin, apologise for keeping them waiting and skip out of the shop.

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To Write or Not To Write

As some of you may know I completed the NaNoWriMo Challenge in 2007 and since then I’ve been slowly researching things and letting the plot of my novel brew. I’ve also just finished this Birkbeck Novel Writing 1 which I would highly recommend to anyone in the London area considering writing a novel. Everyone was writing a very different kind of novel and we all seemed to be at very different stages in the process and this was part of the joy. The exercises in class enabled me to refine my plot, gave me some brilliant ideas and has, I think, enabled me to find the way into writing this book because write it I must, even if no one else reads the manuscript.

My problem is that I need to do some more research on one particular area for the book – its actually a very significant part of the plot. I have the books all piled up on my bookshelves, most of them are on loan from various friends, but, for various reasons, mainly the subject matter, I’m reluctant to start reading them – and not just because of the looks I am likely to get on the train.

So my question is should I just start writing and fill in the research as I go along or should I wait to start writing until I finish my research? Or should I just do nothing?

Posted in Writing | 1 Comment

Ill

For once the sun may be shining on a bank holiday weekend, but I’m stuck indoors with the mother of all colds. Its not Swine Flu, this cold has been brewing for a couple of weeks, but of course I would start sneezing the moment that having a cold in public is the social equivalent of walking naked down your local high street. Despite my assurances that I don’t know anyone whose been to Mexico, or know anyone who knows anyone whose been to Mexico, I am being eschewed by everyone bar the cat and even she’s asleep in a different room.

Which leads onto the question of the day. If you feed a cat, but the cat doesn’t see you feed it, even though the cat eats the new food, does this mean that the cat has been fed?

I’ve been a recent lucky recipient of Library Thing Early Reviewers largess. Its been a good bunch on the whole and there are a couple of books that I really want to recommend to people.

This is a road-trip book and some reviewers have compared this to Little Miss Sunshine, I wouldn’t go as far as that. This is a deceptively simple but in reality a very complex book. Toews is both compassionate and detached in her exploration of the effects of Min’s, possibly terminal, depression on her children, Thebes and Logan, and her sister, Hattie. Hattie’s relationships with her sister and with her niece and nephew feel rooted in reality. In particular the dialogue between the characters is superb and feels very authentic, and Thebes and, especially Logan, are never sentimentalised, but are compelling oddballs in their determination. On the trip to find the children’s father the family encounter various quirky characters, who bring humour and insight to family’s predicament. This is a book I highly recommend and I will be be looking out for Miriam Toews’s other books.

Petina Gappah’s writing is so masterly that it is hard to believe that this is her debut. Her writing has an elegance which reminded this reader of Katherine Mansfield, which is especially true in the things that Gappah does not say. Gappah writes about the daily lives and struggles of the people of her native Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean leaders only appear in passing in these stories, as Gapph is writing about the ordinary people and how the increasing inflation and AIDS epidemic impacts on their daily lives. The characters in these stories are very real and whilst they seem very rooted to their geography and situation they are also universal, we all know people like ‘My Cousin-Sister Rambanai’ and the people who live ‘In the Heart of the Golden Triangle’ and people’s whose marriages are similar to the one in ‘The Negotiated Settlement’. ‘Midnight at the Hotel California’ made me laugh out loud, but Gappah never lets you forget that behind the laughter there are tears. Superb. Gappah is definitely a writer to watch.

I must read other books by Helen Garner as this is an absolutely amazing book. Garner, seemingly effortlessly, encapsulates in this tiny text, the fear, sadness, anger and frustration of watching someone you love in denial of their own death. I shared Helen’s anger at the doctors Nicola trusted and who charged her for expensive treatments and her frustration and anger with Nicola ‘The one thing I was sure of, as I lay pole-axed on my bed that afternoon … was that if I did not get Nicola out of my house tomorrow I would slide into a lime-pit of rage that would scorch the flesh off me, leaving nothing but a strew of pale bones on a landscape of sand.’ This is a brutally honest, gentle, compassionate, loving and, at times, funny novel which is beautifully written.

Sadly, last does mean least this time. I love a crime novel, and was really looking forward to this one, but having read it I am quite ambivalent this book. It has an interesting premise, a paedophile is brutally murdered in the City of London, and fearing that this will escalate the police question the families of other victims of paedophiles possibly connected with the murder, but somehow it just doesn’t work. The story is bleak and is overly complicated, but that isn’t the issue. The main problem is that Staffe feels too much of a written by numbers dysfunctional DI, almost as if in creating Staffe Adam Creed had taken elements of all the dysfunctional D.I.s ever written (Rebus, Dalziel, Morse, Dagliesh to name a few) and mixed them all up. Other readers may like this book, but it just felt too formulaic for me.

Posted in Adam Creed, Helen Garner, Mirian Toews, Petina Gappah | 2 Comments

An Important Ramble

Once again didn’t mean to be away this I’ve taken on far too much work, but, like so many, I am worried that the work will dry up. So there hasn’t been much to report.

I am still reading though, it takes a lot for me to stop reading for more than a couple of days and the last time I stopped was in the weeks before my father died. Which leads me to one of my ramblings, and am important one, my Dad had Parkinson’s and you may have seen in the news that the Parkinson’s Disease Society is asking for people to donate their brains to help further research into this perfidious disease, and why not, whatever happens to us after death (the body isn’t part of it as stays here and rots) so why not let it help someone else? More information can found here.

Posted in donate your brain, Parkinson's Disease Society | 1 Comment

Alive….

but slowly disappearing under paper.

Not helped by this.

As the box was nearly as deep as it was wide you would think this contained something large and exciting – but no, just these three little things!

Bad bad Canon store.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Not much to say…

as all I’m doing at the moment is working and commuting – I tend to read on the train, unless its been a really bad week and then I stare out the window at the familiar suburban landscape, so I am racing through the books.

But I have recently, thanks to the wonderful Library Thing Early reviewers programme, fallen in love with the poetry of Robert Burns through Andrew O’Hagan’s excellent book A Night Out with Robert Burns. Being English, and southern English at that, Burns has always been, to me, a bit of a sentimental Scottish cliche – there’s a drunken Scotsman who always seems to be staggering through St Martin’s Lane, muttering “A Red Red Rose” when I’m on my way home, which is in itself a testament to Scottish education as the average drunken Englishman can at best manage, “Come on show us your tits” – and don’t get me started on “Auld Lang Syne”.

Burns is much more than this, he was a political poet, just read this, which O’Hagan puts into context with an extract from an MOD release announcing the death of a 19 year old Highland Fusilier in Basra in 2004:

I Murder Hate

I murder hate by field or flood,
Tho’ glory’s name may screen us;
In wars at home I’ll spend my blood,
Life giving wards of Venus;
The deities that I adore
Are social Peace and Plenty;
I’m better pleased to make one more,
Than be the death of twenty.-

I would not die like Socrates,
For all the fuss of Plato;
Nor would I with Leonadas,
Nor yet I would with Cato:
The Zealots of the Church, or State,
Shall ne’er my mortal foes be,
But let me have bold ZIMRI’s fate,
Within the arms of COSBI!-

Posted in Andrew O'Hagan, Robert Burns | Leave a comment