Posts filed under Projects

Read 100 Books in 2017 - JANUARY

So I'm attempting to read 100 books in 2017 which is an excellent way of curtailing my social media addiction and working through the pile of to-be-reads that has been pining for attention for so, so long. 

One month down, I'm 10 books up. Here's what I've read so far: 

  • Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes by Cory O'Brien
  • Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi
  • The Raging Sea by Dennis M Powers
  • Saga Volume 6 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth
  • Nod by Adrian Barnes
  • The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
  • To Be or Not to Be by Ryan North

Favourite readAmericanah, oh my life. Oh. My. Life. I loved this book.

Least favourite: Nod. Eh. Good concept but disappointing execution.

Next up: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, which I've been 20% through for about a year and neeeeeeeed to finish.

Join the #Read100Booksin2017 Facebook group here, check out our Writers' HQ video updates here, and stalk me on Goodreads here

Posted on January 31, 2017 and filed under Projects, Reading, Writers' HQ.

Read 100 Books in 2017

That's 8.33-recurring books per month, or 1.92 books per week, or 0.27 books per day. 

It's a challenge, is what it is, put to me by fantastic author and all round brilliant person Vanessa Gebbie. I got a Kindle for Christmas so I over-confidently said I was game. And here we are.

There's a Facebook group to post up your latest read here, and an introduction to the whole ridiculous affair by me and my Writers' HQ other half, Sarah Lewis below.

Join us. Join ussssssssss. 

Posted on January 1, 2017 and filed under Projects, Reading, Writers' HQ.

The 7 Stages of Literary Submission

Stage 1: Nausea. Clamp your lips tight as you click the 'send' button or drop that envelope in the postbox, while your stomach tries to escape through your throat and your guts play Cat's Cradle. It's gone. There's no reclaiming it. You've submitted to at least six weeks of morning sickness while your literary baby floats in the amniotic waters of perusal...

Stage 2: Optimism.

You know what? It wasn't that bad. You worked hard on it and it's a decent piece of writing. They'd be fools not to love it. And you've been doing this for so long now, you won't feel crushed if it's a rejection - it's part of the deal, it's par for the course, it's a rite of passage, it's some other trite cliché that makes you feel better. Come on now, it's going to be fine. This time it's all going to work out.

Stage 3. Panic.

What were you thinking, you total moron?! You sent them that? That piece of crap that's been crapped on by a crapmonster made of crap? You idiot. How do you unsend something? Can you tell them it's a mistake? A joke? The pacing is too slow, the dialogue is flat, the description is dull, the premise is unoriginal... Why did you even try in the first place?

Stage 4. Faith.

It's going to be fine. It's going to be fine. THIS IS YOUR TIME. It's gonna happen. It's a strong piece, it's what they wanted, it's new, it's full of voice and intrigue. Come on, you can feeeeeel it. You're going to get that email or that phone call, you're going to try not to hyperventilate, you're going to squee or something, you're going to pour yourself a big 'ol glass of Jim Beam and order a takeaway. This is it. Any day now. You're going to hear from them...

Stage 5. Despair.

Just kill yourself.

Stage 6. Nausea. Again.

You should have heard by now. Any day now. Any day now. What if they call? What if they say yes? Will you be able to splutter out "thank you" while you're chundering? Try not to puke on the keyboard if it's an email. And if it's a "no", well, there's always the Jim Beam.

Stage 7.  Acceptance/Rejection

Woop woop!/Meh...

Posted on December 12, 2012 and filed under Projects, Random, Send help.

The Truth is Stranger (or at least more interesting) Than Fiction

These are the bookshelves in my living room. Except, that picture was taken when they were newly filled. To imagine a modern-day image, add in double-stacking, books jammed in horizontally wherever they will fit, my son's measly shelf (bottom right) spilling out all over the floor... (Don't feel sorry for him, he has four more shelves in his bedroom, also full to the brim. Like mother like son.)

A friend of ours made these for us and they still make me drool. They're overflowing to a stupid degree, but for some reason my husband doesn't see the benefit in turning every wall in our house into a bookshelf. Odd man. Luckily, there's always space for books, even if they take over windowsills and floors and create hazardous stacks on the stairs. I can safely say I'm not ever going to stop buying them, so our book storage will just have to become a little more creative...

Possibly the most exciting part of the whole bookshelf-building process was shelving my collection, alphabetising the fiction and sorting the non-fiction. I tend to buy second hand books for the most part, not only because it's all I can generally afford, but because I love a pre-loved book so much more than a spanky, shiny new one. And over the years I have a small collection of bookmarks, notes, dedications and even love letters that I have found inside the used books I've bought. One, inside a Vonnegut, was a heartfelt (and brilliantly patronising) letter from a young man to the girl he was evidently trying to woo, describing the intellectual and spiritual benefits of this life-changing book. But although the book was old (there was also a receipt inside from the 1960s), the spine was intact and it looked unread. I can only assume his intended lady never read the book or the letter. I wonder if he ever managed to get into her pants good books.

But fiction treasures aside, this post was meant to be about non-fiction, in all its varied glory. I don't have as much as I'd like, but I still have an eclectic little collection. Most of it's made up of the history section, from Tacitus to WWII, and an assortment of psychology, anthropology and philosophy. My first novel was about schizophrenia and I did years of research into treatments and institution and the history of the illness. PIECEMEAL deals with dementia, so a lot of that initial research crossed over but there is always more, more, more to know about any subject you write about. My next book is going to need a slightly ridiculous range of research material; from cryptic crossword compiling to Noah's ark, to faith healing, to Greek myths, to vegetative states... Don't ask - it's complicated.

I also have a lot of books on smuggling and my local area, for a historical drama I'm writing as a TV screenplay. The nice thing about this is that I can physically visit a lot of the sites mentioned and try to imagine and recreate the landscape as it was just a few centuries ago. Already I've found that much of this kind of history dregs up truths which are much, much stranger than fiction... Incredible stuff, like the entire police force of my town having to be sacked after they were (knowingly or stupidly) bribed off duty with free tickets to a visiting circus show ... while smuggling ships brought in tonnes of contraband onto the empty beaches. The suburb I live in used to be a separate little hamlet to the main city, and lay on the route smugglers would take from the beach all the way to London. There are cellars and tunnels connecting our local pub and a large manor house, and a gravestone from the late 1700s mourning the death of a local smuggler who was shot in the head by excise men as he tried to sneak out of an alleyway. I love walking down the old part of the village and imagining who lived in the poky little 15th century houses and whether they took part in, or turned a blind eye to what went on here.

So, much as I love my fiction, I have a deep urge to help my non-fiction collection grow - I just need to transform a few more walls into shelving...

Posted on August 22, 2011 and filed under Novel, Projects, Reading, Research, WIP, Writing.

The Art House Co-op Fiction Project - call me digitised...

The story I wrote for the Art House Co-op Fiction Project has been digitised and is now liiiiive for your viewing pleasure.

It's called You Are Not the Same and is a sort of exercise in free-writing. I had a general idea of what was going to happen, but mostly I thought I'd let things just flow. With my novels I plan, I research and I obsess. With short stories I kind of let my fingers just type what the hell they want. This was a fifty-something page short story that started as a retrospective by a middle aged woman and ended up as science fiction.

So, make of it what you will, it was fun to be part of, and nice to know my strange little story will be sitting on a bookshelf the other side of the pond.

As for the novel, I'm elbow-deep in query letters, synopses and updating my CV, getting ready to start sending out to agents...

Posted on August 21, 2011 and filed under Projects, Publications, Short Stories, Writing.