Friday, 27 May 2011

Help Wanted: A Superhero Is Needed

I know that someone can help because I have watched great documentaries such as Heros, and X-Men and I have read great non-fiction like All My Friends are Superheroes. So I know super heroes exist.

If you know one then please let me know. I am looking for someone to push the 31st May 2011 back for at least two weeks. It really is important. I want to enter a writing competition but this story is being awkward. First the short story wanted to be a flash fiction piece. Then it wanted to be a nine page story. Now its in limbo. I don't have much time. One minor character is wanting a bigger role and another character wants to wear tin-foil hats. Don't even get me started on the cat who is actually wearing a tin-foil hat. I really need to lasso this story and train him. Even the ironing seems more appealing at the moment.

So let me know if you have contact details for this sort of superhero.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Florence and Giles

Florence and Giles – John Harding

I don’t normally do horror books. I think the reasoning for this is my binge-reading antics over Goosebumps books and then the Point Horror ones when I was younger. I didn’t want that Point Romance rubbish. I needed the hard core stuff and I needed one at least every other day. I read all of the ones in the school library and would haunt the shelves each lunchtime, hoping to find a title that I hadn’t read. I even worked my way through the local library’s collection of spooky teen books.

I heard about Florence and Giles via Twitter – a lot of people were recommending it and there was also an offer on the Kindle version too. However, I don’t own an eReader (I’m still divided over them) so I went to a real-life bookshop (yes, they still exist) and got a copy for full price. If a book gets two thumbs-up then it has got to be worth the full price, right?

Florence and Giles is about Florence, a 12 year orphan, living in her Uncle’s remote New England Mansion in 1891, with her younger brother, Giles. The reader is sucked straight into the captivating narrative; following Florence’s unreliable perspective as she learns to read, secretly, after her absent Uncle bans her from books. In the dusty, neglected library, she devours books by Shakespeare and Poe. Because she is teaching herself to read, Florence’s language expression is great – “I would wasp her picnic". Sometimes it is confusing but this is adds to the atmosphere and is also questioned by the other characters.

I like the way Florence stands up to the stereotype of women from the turn of the century, by defying her uncle, being a strong character, and standing up for her beliefs. I could see Florence becoming a Suffragette in her adulthood. All though I think the adorable nature is to lure in the reader because she can be very scary too. At night she sometimes sleepwalks around the isolated, crumbling mansion (complete with strange figures in the mirrors, portraits watching every move and unexplained noises AND a boarded up tower) and has recurring dreams about a mysterious woman trying to threaten her younger brother. Other times she pretends to sleepwalk so she can find out about her past and her family.

After the sudden violent death of the children's first governess, a second, creepier teacher, Miss Taylor, arrives, and reigns over the mansion. Florence becomes convinced that the new governess is a malevolent spirit who means to do Giles harm. She sets all to do anything to protect her little brother at all costs. The ending is chilling and ambiguous – I’m not going to tell you though. I like a book that leaves the reader asking questions at the end.

I wanted to try and write a review without using the clich├ęs of page-turner, spine chilling and gripping but I really am struggling but Florence and Giles is all of these things.

You can buy the book from Amazon. Florence and Giles .

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Time Management for Time-squeezed Writers

Stephanella Walsh from The Creative Identity sends out a newsletter each month, The Creative Times. I don't normally do newsletter - I like to browse the website. Also I need room in my inbox for emails from my bestie mates - Sainsburys, Tesco and Amazon who email me every day. Sometimes several times a day! See, I told you they were my best friends forever.

But Stephanella's newsletter is great - there are always links to her past articles from the website, links to writing comps and links to great writing/creativity websites. This month there is a link to Word Saucery about time management for writers. Click this sentence to read the article. This article is really interesting and is worth some of your precious internet time to have a read.

Some of my favourite points included:

  • Writing a little every day - build 'writing hunger'
  • Write in your head - 'incubate ideas'
  • 'Be kind to yourself - without letting yourself off the hook.' 
  • Writing down ideas even you don't know what to do with them - they could help later when you're stuck for ideas. 
  • 'Let go of perfect'.

Friday, 6 May 2011

New Writing Desk

We have now parted the junk in the spare room. (A bit like Moses with the Red Sea. But it wasn't the Red Sea - it was spare car parts, boxes, and bags of clothes AND neither of us are called Moses). In the corner, my new desk, a present from my lovely boyfriend for my birthday, has been assembled, following the novel-length instruction book. I now have a home for my laptop (no more warm lap or back ache) and also my printer (the leads are still missing in action).

On the left is a partial short story. Originally it was meant to be a flash fiction piece. At the moment it reches over 1000 words. On the right is my new notebook too. Not much in there - just an idea for a non-fiction piece and also notes for the current short story. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A Catch-Up

“I really should blog” was a phrase I kept saying during the Easter/Royal Wedding break. But what to blog about, well a few things:

Finishing the West Wing complete box set – we started this back in September 2009 (I only remember this because we were on holiday in a cottage in Edinburgh but the TV there was so tiny that we gave up) and the other night we watched the final episode. West Wing looks at the politically life-span of a Democrat president and his senior staff. Definitely a happy ending for all of the characters. I know feel like I know more about American politics than British politics. When ever I see an American politician/White House worker on a news item I always sit there and work out their counter-part on the show.

We also finished Battlestar Galactica. I got the box set for my birthday. BSG is set in a distant galaxy; where a human race live on a series of planets know as the twelve colonies. In the past, the humans had been war with robots (originally created by the humans), known as the Cylons – who have human-looking robots and also the traditional, chrome looking bots. They attack all of the colonies with nuclear bombs. Only a few ships survive and are guided by the only surviving Battleship, Galactica, in search of a fabled planet know as earth. I am a big Stargate fan and also like Star Trek but BSG is by far the best science fiction series I have ever seen. Huge themes are tackled – religion, cults, genocide, death, ambiguous morals, politics and terrorism. Every character has flaws and there are no set goodies and badies – they smoke, they drink (a lot), have sex, argue. There are no aliens, no saving planets, no stand-alone episodes – there are long story lines that go across several episodes, series, and entire series. Humanity is on the endangered list. Even non-science fiction fans would like this.

I read a Charles Yu’s short story collection – Third Class Superhero. (I believe it was published before his novel). I really enjoyed reading the short story called Third Class Superhero – it could actually make it into my top ten short stories. All of the stories have similar themes – no father presence, identity, soul less jobs, mothers, the need to express feelings.

I am currently reading Nicole Krauss’s Great House. (I won it via Twitter). I can’t make out if it’s a novel or a short story collection pretending to be a novel.

Novel progress
Over the holidays I planned to redraft a chapter each day. That would have been a huge chunk of the novel. But in reality, I only managed two. At first, I thought I would make it. First day, chapter seven. I read through it. Seems good. A typo. A few confusing sentences. delete a small paragraph. Add another paragraph. Yeah, awesome chapter eight! You are the best!

I left the notes sitting for a few days before pulling them out again. I read through the chapter again. eeek. The beginning went on for pages. Things weren't explained. A hole here, another hole there. eeek. The opening was crap. I really want to type up those notes and pretend it was okay but that nagging feeling made me stop. So, a major rewrite of the whole chapter took up another four days. But at least I like it now. Not so much fluff at the beginning and more details in the middle and beginning.

Chapter nine was all over the place. The major character kept thinking about the same things and moving into different rooms. Too confusing for a chapter. So the character was cut back to two rooms, some more internal thoughts, more character interaction because my two major characters who meet for the first time and improving the dialogue.

So the lessons learnt - being honest with your own writing is the best policy, editing chapters can't be rushed and don't trust a chapter if it says 'I'm awesome.'

Short Story
I had an idea. It involved robots. A boy and his obsession with the girl across the road. I thought it was going to be a piece of flash fiction. It turns out the idea wants to be a short story - So I am currently making notes, expanding and also deleting a few parts.