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Archive for the ‘Personal Musings’ Category

Sick Leave

So I managed a whole 2 and a half days back at work before I got sent home ill again. I’ve been ill all over xmas with tonsilitus and then as soon as I get back to work I pick up a nasty cold straight away! How I love winter … All the romanticism of cuddling up on the sofa in a thick jumper with a hot drink with either a book or my ps3 controller shoots out the window in a flash. I don’t make a very good patient; I just sit there seething wishing I had a healthy immune system like everybody else. Still, it could be a lot worse than a cold so I will stop complaining and use this extra free time to do a bit of reading, or writing.

I finished my first novel about twelve months ago now, maybe even longer, and I just wasn’t happy with it. Reading it back the narrative voice sounded amateur, the characters were flat and the whole thing just seemed, well … unlikely. Is that a common reaction to finishing your first novel? An overwhelming sense of inadequacy swamps me every time I go to open the folder containing that book. The whole job of redrafting seems immense and I just don’t feel like I have the stamina to do it.

But then, do I want to be a writer or not? There are plenty of cliches about the importance of redrafting. So I know, if I want to write, then it must be done. Does anyone have any tips on getting over a Redrafting Block?

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An unintended break from blogging went from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Who knew moving house could prove to be so time consuming!

Moving into your first home seems to be an excuse for everyone else who is well established to rid themselves of the junk that it too good to throw away but they can’t be bothered to ebay. We have had all sorts including: two microwaves, a rag rug, two dining tables, three hoovers and lots more smaller objects we are likely never to use. The upside is, we haven’t had to buy anything. Well, nothing big anyway!

Reading has lasped into a sideward distraction. Now that I have a house to clean, clothes to iron, and a boyfriend to tidy up after spare time seems somewhat diminished. Still there are plenty of working moms who deal with all that and children and still manage to maintain a blog about books so I have no excuse really.

I’ve read only Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry since I moved out but it was a very good read. For those looking for a different thread of the horror genre than vampires and the paranormal, this may provide a tasty thrill. Told with the military brilliance of Robert Ludlum, Maberry presents himself as the next genius of the zombie genre. I have more detailed thoughts about this book to follow.

My aim to read twenty books in a year pretty much failed, I didn’t really read any more than I would normally. Resolutions and promises are fairly empty this time of year. I am not deciding to do anything, and just hope that I manage to achieve something anyway!

Happy new year all, hope this is a good one.

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Following a spate of two book reviews both my reading and writing has suffered considerably the past four weeks.

My excuse is house hunting. But it’s a poor excuse at that. I still have spare time I just spend most of it planning what to put in my potential new home and how my ‘writing space’ will be constructed.

In reality it will be a long time before I feel as fully settled into a new space that I do on my bedroom desk. But it is a little cramped in here, not to mention messy. Lack of storage space being my excuse for that. Nothing is ever my fault, is it?!

The creation of a writing space is important to the process, and a sufficient procrastination tool that does help one to feel that they have actually achieved something towards their goal. A reading space is equally important. Each space is personal to the self. I prefer big open desks with minimal wiring and distraction for writing whereas for reading I like to sit in a big, comfortable chair surrounded by lots of objects. However if the telly is on then my reading cacpacity is reduced to about 2% to what it normally is. Unless the volume is turned way down. I only have a quiet voice and the voice in my head is even quieter!

Will my moving budget stretch to a solid oak 3 foot desk? I doubt it somehow. Up the motorway to IKEA it is …

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Space is set in the southern states of USA. It depicts a couple, deeply in-love, who are torn apart – both in themselves and from each other – by their daughter. The novel opens with a touching scene of family unity, underpinned by Deede’s awareness of her daughter’s absence. The contrast between the unity and the following panic concerning their daughter’s well-being when they learn she has overdosed sets up the tone for the rest of the novel.

Through the spiritual voice of Deede, Emily Sue Harvey candidly exposes what it is like to live with a drug addict. Each tiny victory is blown out by catastrophic failure and Deede’s hopeless optimism begins to wear thin. The reader is dragged along on an emotional roller-coaster; the tracks being Faith’s road through drug addiction and the cart is the tenuous family solidarity that creaks and groans with each new obstacle. Any moment it will derail sending the Stowe/Eagle clan to destruction.

The tight-knit family from the prologue struggles to hold it together. Gradually, one by one, they turn their back on Faith. Her name is ironic. No one has faith in her yet it, and support is what she needs to find her way back to the tracks. Dan Stowe reacts with vigorous discipline and Deede with the more softly, softly approach. Whether either of them has it in them to turn their daughter around is irrelevant. It is the emotional drama which gives this novel its charm.

The characterisation in this novel is the key to its power. Each character is fully realised and has distinct relationships with others. The conflicts that arise out of family solidarity and logic cast the reader into a see-saw as to who to sympathise with. As relationships become strained or sometimes strengthened as the novel progresses the drama and impact escalates.

Recovering from drug addiction is hard, and even harder to write about. Harvey unflinchingly goes into insightful detail on the experience from both mother and daughter perspectives. The plot itself is harrowing at times but incredibly real and true to life. Love still shines through the text despite the desperate situations proving Noni’s comment:

“With all its sham, drugery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

Published by The Story Plant

Kindle Edition 13th Sept 2011

Paperback 20th Oct 2011

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Guardian published this article a couple of days ago regarding the future of books in light of the “digital revolution” which has now extended into the realm of writing. It expands its parameters to the effect of digitalisation on other areas. It got me to thinking about the music industry and how it survived modernisation. Hopefully authors can also find a happy technological ending. You can read the original article here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/22/are-books-dead-ewan-morrison

Most of us can probably remember when Napster first hit the Internet. Music was (illegally) easy to download and share. New bands and songs became readily available. Music artists became concerned about their work being circulated without their receiving any royalties. Metallica famously sued Napster whilst other bands such as Nine Inch Nails released an album completely free to download.

The music industry, over ten years later, is still going strong. Festivals, concerts and legal paid for downloads provide enough income for music artists to continue their work.

Could the same happen for the writing industry? It is a business after all. The archaic process of writer-agent-publisher may become obsolete. It will need to adapt if it is to survive in the dire economic climate. People haven’t got the spare cash anymore to spend out £6-10 on a new book. Given the option they will seek to download a free e-version or perhaps trial free material from an unknown writer.

In Writing magazine, the august edition features a lengthy article from Stephen Leather who convinced his publisher to sell his book Hard Landing at a knock down price in the e-book format. He claims this increased his readership and he saw the benefit in rising sales from his other titles which were priced much higher. Here is a writer who already had a book contract with a publisher and chose to embrace the technology as a sales technique – and it worked.

With established and fully edited novels being sold at an astounding £0.49, how can new writers ever hope to compete and build a career. Though the digital cost may be nominal, the time and effort spent in editing a manuscript to a professional level and marketing it to potential readers is surely worth more than pennies? Tax is included in that price as well seeing as e-books are not exempt from tax like print books are. (Does anyone understand why? – I’d be keen to know.)

For anyone looking for a new author to read I’ve found http://www.authonomy.com to be a great source recently. Two I’d particularly recommend having a look at are:

The Words of Adriel by Joshua Jacobs – a horror novel aimed at Young Adults

and

Savannah Fire by Alan Chaput – a thriller set in the post-colonial southern states of America

Unfortunately neither book is complete but it does spark hope that the free e-book revolution may uncover previously unsung talent.

Still, as long as there are new books to read I’m content.

-ish

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Psychology is responsible for a lot of things: dream interpretation, criminal profiling, disorder naming etc. Many of its discoveries and postulations about the human mind have helped people deal with psychological traumas and afflictions, particularly during the earlier part of its existence. Recently, however, Psychology has become more and more redundant by focusing on depleted areas of interest.

Take for example, the obsession with child psychology. Initially it was informative to learn how children develop and adapt to their surroundings; how teaching can be modified to increase the effectiveness of a child’s education.

Negatively it also taught a parent never to smack a child (smacking and hitting are two very different acts and should not be confused). Instead a parent must explain why a child’s action is wrong. This is an ideal way to deal with bad behaviour however children do not always have the capacity to understand – due to age or educational restrictions. If a young child is about to place their hand on a hot iron it is quicker to smack them, letting them associate iron with pain than trying to explain what ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ mean. The question of why a young child is about to touch a hot iron is irrelevant – I’m just illustrating my point.

Another detriment Child Psychology has had on our society is the naming of psychological disorders in order to explain bad behaviour – the obvious one being ADD. Before this label naughty children were simply that. The naughtiest of which were often beyond a teacher’s capability of taming but they turned out OK in the end. Now, however, if a child is naughty, distracted, difficult etc. we can just slap a label on them and say this is why – responsibility is then deflected on medicine, psychologists and lack of research. It seems a cop-out.

We shouldn’t excuse children for bad behaviour, when they grow up they will have to deal with the adult world in exactly the same way as everybody else. There will not be a team of specialists standing by ready to defend the child every time they do something wrong. Teach them how to behave when they are young, the same way everyone else is taught. Don’t teach children to think up excuses for bad behaviour. Teach them not to do it at all.

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As digitalisation of books becomes increasingly popular so will the new phenomenon of self-publishing.

It has suddenly become easy and cheap to distribute ones own unsolicited manuscript to the wide world; bounding over the slushpiles without so much as a spellcheck!

I managed to download a programme the other week which I intended to use to format my own story so I could read and annotate it on my Kindle. I tried using Amazon’s email facility which automatically converts any text file but the strange formatting it resulted in made the document difficult to read.

The software I downloaded, as far as I could tell, was completely legal and intended for publishing actual books in a .mobi format – readable by most ereaders. Scarily enough there was a button on there that allowed me to distribute my unvetted ebook, surpassing the long drawn out agent/editor/selling process! There I was, a click away from being a published author – a childhood dream. How easy it would have been to distribute my typo-ridden contradictory 1st draft manuscript and skip all the blood, sweat and tears that most writers put into their work.

I don’t agree with the idea of self-publishing, it should be difficult to get a book into print so that the ones that do make it really are worth reading. Reading is very time consuming and should be saved for the cream of the crop. For example see the reviews for Paul Pilkington’s The One You Love. At the time of writing this post this book was no.1 on the Top 100 Free Kindle ebooks on Amazon. Many of the reviews dated between the 7th and 11th of August note that whilst the book was good there were many spelling mistakes, missing paragraphs and discrepancies in the writing itself (which cannot be blamed on software error) that seeped into the final product.

I would like to point out here that I am not calling the writing of Pilkington amateur – just the production of the ebook itself. Writers aren’t made to be publishers – publishers are. It’s not an easy process; self-editing usually leaves behind many mistakes as it is. Self-publishing when you are unfamiliar with the technology is bound to leave behind a multitude more. A book should be as near to perfect as possible and the business of self-publishing in ebook format is far too easy for amateurs to abuse.

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