Archive for October, 2007

The healing power of words.

October 31, 2007

Should one keep our times of unhappy feelings to ourselves? We all go through bad patches and I guess some have more mood swings than others. Upset emotions cause most of the swings, also events from the past forcing themselves up from the subconscious into the present. Then again — health! Sometimes everything conspires to make us feel wretched and weepy. And we may even feel bad for feeling bad! After all, there are a great deal of innocent sufferers in the world — people who have never known security and love, good health or enough food in their bellies.

Sharing emotions can be good. But this has to be done with care. Some friends prefer not to know, they shy away or stop writing for a while. Some have their own problems and it is not fair to burden them further. But there are those that sense another person’s unhappiness, no matter how bright the face that is shown to the world.

Someone showed me a poem today. It was written to someone they admired. It was full of warmth and love, joy and celebration of friendship. I happen to know how the recipient of that poem was feeling, and I was certain that this message of love and appreciation was the best medicine she could receive at this present time.

Such is the healing power of words, especially when written from the heart. Some folk compose poetry — true poets allow the words to flow from within.

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Ruth Rendell

October 28, 2007

Someone has offered me a booklet on Writing Aids. I have asked for more information. After all, pens, pencils, writing paper and computers are all aids to writing, if not essentials. (especially, in my case, this computer.)
If it means writing a novel, I already have my way of doing things, and if I want lessons in how to improve my work then I prefer to study the work of proven quality writers. Not to copy — certainly not! Neither do I read Romance — I want my Romantic novels to be completely without influence no matter how good other writers.
As books are read to me, I notice the flow of dialogue, when narrative exposes the writer rather than the players, sentence structure, problems of too many characters, language that detracts and that which enhances. The way the whole story comes together into a climax and sustaining interest right up to the end.
We have just finished reading Ruth Rendell’s ‘To Fear a Painted Devil’. It was first published in 1965. Nothing is lost in the passage of time. The tension is there from the beginning and interest held until the end. I personally found too many characters to hold in my mind as the tale unfolded — a sign of old age?
A short while ago, we read her ‘The Bridesmaid’. First published 1988. The difference in style is quite marked. But the tension is tangible — right up to the end. The characters both colourful and ordinary, but all unforgettable.
When I read myself, I find that I am noting the punctuation and noticing that which reads best.
It seems to me that proven authors tell us much about good writing, as they do about good plots. Even so, our own voice is surely just as important in becoming an established author.

People Types and Tiger Stripes — Gordon Lawrence

October 20, 2007

This is not a new book. I read it, among others, some years ago when I was studying psychology, pastoral care and counselling.
The book builds on the Myers Briggs theory of ‘personality preference’ types as related to understanding others and especially when applied to teaching. I found it especially helpful in the context of church ministry.

The book is excellent and one which every would-be teacher would be wise to read. But not only teachers, anyone who wants to understand group dynamics in any situation. It is also a strong guide to understanding ourselves and what makes ‘me’ tick.
So to avoid unhappy situations, I have to remind myself of ‘what I am’ occasionally. Of the sixteen groups mine is INFJ Introverted, Intuition, with Feeling — only one in a hundred belong to this group. Put briefly:
“People-orientated, Innovator of ideas, serious, quietly forceful and persevering; concerned with the common good, with helping others develop. Enjoy working alone.”
Understanding this, helped me to understand why I find it hard to get on with some people who expect me to conform to their expectations, and also why I am not a natural ‘party-goer’.

If there are any INFJ readers of this blog who are also writers, I would be interested to hear from you.

Beautiful Lady by Patrick Read

October 17, 2007

As most people know, Patrick Read is one of the pen names of Michael Allen, otherwise known as the Grumpy Old bookman. (What would his many blog viewers do without his witty comments — a smorgesbord of literary delights and criticisms!)

The banner on the book describes the story as “A gripping new thriller set in Wartime England.”

In all honesty I cannot say that I found the book ‘gripping’ BUT when my husband said, on reading the final page, “Very good!”
I had to agree with him. (Please note, it is very rare for my husband to spontaneously bestow such an accolade, not even on best selling authors.) Having said that, we did find the book a true page turner.

Well, Patrick Read seems to have received at least four jolly good reviews by known reviewers, so this can be taken as purely my own non-professional view of what I heard as the book was read to me — minus most of the swear words we NEVER heard when we were young! (I have to add that I will interrupt and make comments, much to my hubby’s displeasure!)

The portraits of the historical figures — especially those connected with royalty, we found fascinating. The manner in which these figures were woven into an exciting story of which the conclusion was only too obvious (after all the central figure is sitting on the throne) has been very cleverly done. These flesh and blood characters are not just ghosts of the past but alive on the pages, speaking and acting in ways we may have suspected but only vaguely imagined possible.

I suppose I never did like Wallis Simpson, (vulgar woman) and I always thought the Duke of Windsor a playboy and disloyal to his country, so I already had a mindset ripe for the story as it unfolded. But ALL of the characters are three-dimentional in every respect. The kidnapping of a young royal personage is a feasible story-line and the realistic settings of war-torn Britain add an element of horror as the intrepid Jane Padget goes about her self-appointed task of doing what ‘all the King’s horses and all the King’s men’ (so to speak) had failed to do — rescue the Princess before…

Maybe I found Jane a little too sexually confident and her new friend Seymour a little too naive (and a bit of an idiot) but the characters worked well in the story. The sexual activities of Wallace were a bit steeped up and steamy but added a little zest to prevent flagging! (In more ways than one!)

The portraits and activities of all the historical personages we found fascinating, and certainly held our interest.

One criticism I would make with this tale, and many others when dealing with wartime Britain, is the prominence given to Spam. Even the suggestion that some folk might only have had a boiled egg for their Sunday lunch is stretching things. If I recall, Spam was an American product and was ‘on coupons’ or maybe it arrived in food parcels from the USA, or given as gifts by the Yanks. Apart from the weekly small ration of meat and bacon, there were a great variety of offal foods — cooked or raw — that could be bought at the butchers (even if they ran out because of folk queuing). Nothing of the animal was wasted. Poultry, rabbits and game were also available according to one’s pocket and supply. Fish too could be queued for. But eggs were rationed — one fresh egg per week unless you kept your own chickens.

But this is a minor thing that most readers would not even notice.

A jolly good read that had us discussing together, not only the book but a few wartime memories. And that can’t be bad!

Back to square one!

October 12, 2007

With no such things as TV, computer games, and the like, board games — snakes and ladders, ludo etc — were popular when I was young. With some games, a throw of the dice would take you back to square one — again and again and again! Know the feeling?

Things did not work out with Cinnamon Teal. They have a few problems to work out and I need to get my book in print after all the hold-ups this novel has been through. So I will go to the printer who did a good job of the last book I published.

Now back to polishing Designed For Love. But right at this moment I feel — why bother with any of it? I guess I hate to give up on anything — be it a problem to solve or a job to finish!

“The Primrose Path and other poems” by Bob Taylor

October 9, 2007

Never heard of him? Not surprising. He is not a pushy guy and as far as his writing is concerned, he takes the attitude of what will be, will be. It took a pushy women — me — to get his poetry into print.
His poems are a mixed bag of tongue-in-cheek humour (one young lady reader was so riled up that she was prepared to punch his nose), love poems (read with care), poignant moments and memories, evangelical zeal (which is the result of devastating experiences) and good old fashioned charm.

Bob ponders on life and his poetry reflects this. He is a retired Yorkshire miner and has lived in a close mining community for all of his life, although following the closures in the last century, most of the pits are no more. People and their memories remain. Life for a young man in the fifties and sixties comes to life in Bob’s poems. His later years of settling down and coming to terms with ‘who he is’ and where he is heading are creatively explored.

Bob is ‘one of the lads’, even though a little frayed at the edges. I find his poems moving, funny and so true to life. You can see a few samples by going to http://magpiesnestpublishing.co.uk. And if you want a taste of his personality in musical form, then hear him sing at the local ‘glass in hand’ meeting place:

http://www.myspace.com/tuesdaynightatthebootandshoe

Click on Bob Taylor.
Yes, that guy dressed to look like Elvis IS Bob but his great voice is all his own! (And that was recorded some years ago, before he got his voice finely tuned.)

Of cocky stories and cock-ups

October 8, 2007

Well we are a nice way through Beautiful Lady (Author — Michael Allen in his ‘thriller’ guise of Patrick Read).
Rather moreish. The sort of story I am happy for my husband to read while I sit back and listen.

Many books do not read well aloud. In fact the sentence and paragraph structure is rather poor in many best sellers. But since they are often just hurried through, few people would notice. When reading aloud poor construction can affect the comprehension of what is taking place. In such cases, my husband misses out bits just as I used to when reading to him (in the days when my eyes could cope).
This has not been necessary with any of Allen’s books. It is not a case of dumbing down vocabulary and so on — definitely NOT. If anything Allen stretches my own vocabulary and I learn from his sentence structure too.

I have to admit that I annoy my husband because I take note of all these things (and interrupt to analyse) in ALL the books we read together. But then I am a writer willing to learn from what works well — he is just interested in the story.

Back to Beautiful Lady. Did those things really happen in the corridors of power and in the royal palaces of Great Britain during the years leading up to the Second World-War? My goodness, whether they did or not, Allen makes it seem not only possible but highly likely. Were many of the historical characters obsessed with sex (as well as with power) as Allen would have us believe? After all the revelations we have been getting in the media concerning certain political and royal figures (especially over the past few years) I should think it more than likely! Sex is, or can be, a motivating force on a par with the ‘food and drink’ necessities of life. Not only that, but it is used like a flavouring to promote and sell goods — including books!

I am not suggesting this is the case with Beautiful Lady, rather that Allen is not shy of relating the cock-ups brought about in history through the ruthless use of sex as a tool. Personally. I find some of it hilarious rather than titillating, rude or crude. (I say this as a writer who also embraces the whole of human experience in the telling of tales, only I am a bit shy of using words not in my own vocabulary. I am happier using euphemisms!)

Still half of the book to go and I am most intrigued as to what will happen on the next page, never mind the ending!

Ah, to be sweet seventeen!

October 7, 2007

I am smiling.
Folk have always been able to read my thoughts like a book, that is when I am not in a deep study. My face expresses my thoughts, maybe more than my body language.
I was watching my consultant as he was showing me how to use the inhalers he was prescribing. He was giving me a lot of information and I was wondering how on earth I would remember it all — the blue one or the brown I must use twice a day; to breathe in deeply or?…..
“You’re smiling,” he suddenly said, almost accusingly.
“I was wondering how I was going to remember it all,” I said honestly.
Actually, I was also regarding him closely. He’s a handsome guy from a Near Eastern country (that shall be nameless). I seem to register people for future reference. I guess all authors must do that. I will not put my thoughts about him here, but who knows when he might just pop up in a future story.
I actually told another consultant this earlier this year about my character studies. I really did smile then — his whole manner changed! He laughed (and so did his assistant nurse) and seemed very pleasant about it. He looked so much younger too! I think he might have been rather pleased that ‘his character’ might turn up in a novel.
Now I am smiling again. I have just looked up the comments of my last posting. I had written one in answer to a comment by Andy O’Hara. But my comment had my photo with it. I deliberately used that one in my profile because that is what I feel like inside — the real ‘me’. A girl of seventeen not the old biddie I look on the outside!

My stats then were 36,26,36. My weight was a few pounds lighter lighter, but it has shifted — gravity and all that.

Ah, to be sweet seventeen!
(What a giggle!)

Back to the stats mentioned yesterday. Since that website appears to be well-visited, I am considering putting the whole of each novel on http://www.magpiesnestpublishing.co.uk
Not just the first chapters.
Mm — the stories need ‘getting into’ to be fully appreciated.

Watch out for flying pigs!

October 4, 2007

Well isn’t that nice? I have just had a reply from another lit agency with reference to my submission — I had forgotten I had sent it! It does not mention the title and was word for word with all other submissions I have sent there. (This one must be for the second part of my trilogy) They said they could not place my work with an agent. Now won’t they be red faced when my book is made into a film. (And I will be taking a trip to the optician to see why I am seeing pigs flying over the house!)

I guess it must be ‘clearing up of the slush pile’ time for literary agents — ready for the Christmas rush?

Of course, with hundreds to disappoint every week, they can’t afford to waste money on giving the slightest clue as to why they have turned down each manuscript. But why ask to have three chapters (hard copy) to start with? It seems to me it would be far more polite and correct if agents and publishers simply asked for an e-mail initially giving brief details and then invited submissions from ones they were genuinely interested in. (It does not seem to matter what you write in an initial enquiry, the reply always seems to be an invitation to send three chapters etc) Presumably only the odd hard copy ever gets beyond ‘reception’ so why not let ‘reception’ sort brief submitted e-mails? Save writers a lot of time and money! (But we writers are not ten a penny, but a couple of thousand a penny, so I guess that is not their concern.)

Sound bitter? not really, just tired.

Back to writing — actually going over a manuscript that has been proofread but needs polishing. I can hardly keep my eyes open.

Must get a cuppa to wake me up!

Confessions of a frustrated writer

October 3, 2007

I guess the rejection by the Christopher Hill Agency hit me more than I thought it had. I have had time to think — a dangerous practice if you want to keep sane! Maybe talking about it will help — even if no one is listening.

Over six years I have come to expect rejection from agents and publishers but that does not mean it does not hurt. In fact, the more my writing is praised by those who actually read my self-published books and stories, the greater seems to be my frustration at not having it recognised by those who rule the publishing business. No use my saying it does not matter because it obviously does! Why else do I occasionally try to interest those who can get my novels noticed? I have to be honest with myself.

Yes, I write for pleasure and not for fame. And certainly not for money. Self-publishing is okay but the doors are closing for such writers as myself. Friendly bookstores like Ottakar’s are no more. Independent bookshops are closing every day. Books can be bought at incredible prices from cut-price stores and on the internet. Unless I want to spend time and money marketing, on the off-chance that I will sell a few books here and there, the only answer is POD and supply interested friends and family only. Not pushing — I want interested readers not folk who feel sorry for the poor old biddie trying to promote her books! Books are for reading. (Pause for big sigh!)

And yet, who knows what possibilities lie ahead? It only takes a spark to set a forest on fire. Someone somewhere see a possibility of one of my stories becoming popular and give it all they’ve got?

I said to my hubby this morning:
“How about I hold up a bank? I could send out ‘tales of the unexpected’ from my prison cell. Maybe get interviewed by the tabloids, OAP’s with with banners yelling, ‘Free the old biddie! Higher pensions! Down with the rates! Better services! Free books for all!” (Ouch! they are almost that already!)

Golly, it’s ten o’clock and here am I a ‘woman in a dressing-gown’. Get yourself dressed girl and get out! Then get back to that unfinished story!