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Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Watching : the waiting book 2

Book review   The Watching : the waiting book 2

25066339I reviewed the first two books in this series earlier in the year and the first of these can be found here .  This, the third book in the series picks up where the last two left off. If you have read the earlier reviews you will know I compare it to a glitzy American soap opera like Dallas in its hay day. A soap opera I named 'Rivers' after the hospital where most of the characters worked.  So perhaps the best way to think of this novel is season 2, which follows on from the tragic ending of the previous season.

As with the first two books the back drop of Louisiana gives the books a setting which has an exotic flavour at times. While the complex lives and loves of the characters twist, turn and snake back on themselves. The real joy of this series is however the writing. Elizabeth and Marie manage to keep the action moving swiftly along from one character to another. The point of view moves from one section to the next like links in an elaborate chain, with scenes cutting each few pages. It would be easy to have the stories become lost and confused, carrying such a large cast and so many plot lines and yet they manage to weave it so well that you never lose track, and are held in a wrapping of anticipation for the next snippet of story.

The measure of any novel is whether you care about the characters and their lives. No matter how well written a story may be if you don't care about the characters then you will lose interest along the way. it is perhaps therefore an indictment to how much I cared about the characters that I was  moved to tears in a couple of places. I worried about them, cared about them, shared there joys and there defeats. But importantly the characters also grew along the way. Characters who in the first novel were mired in a darkness stepped forward into the light. While they still carry the dark side of them that gave them anti hero status in the first books they are fleshed out with more back story and they change along the way. Events influence the actors in this drama and they develop in ways you don't expect yet seem natural all the same.

In short these novels are a joy, and indulgent joy of, occasionally like swimming through chocolate.


Monday, 21 September 2015

The joys of the second come fourteen draft

I'm redrafting after completing the first draft a week or so back of my second novel 'The passing place.' Which may or may not be the final title.
This is always an odd process. having broken the habit of a life time of incomplete novels when I wrote cider lane, I have half tried to follow the same ethos with this one. that been write till its done and then and only then go back and edit. The reason been I can edit myself into a corner and get no where all too easily.
I say half tried because in this case it isn't entirely true. 'the Passing Place' was started long before Cider lane was a glint in the keyboards eye. About five years ago all told. Thus the first hundred pages or so have been written for a long time. And as I did not follow the ethos of write it right to the end back then they have been edited and re-edited respectably over the last five years.
So for the first 100 pages or so this is more like a final edit than a second draft. Then it will be a second draft for the other 200 pages of the novel.
Which is all a bit odd, and in truth I should probably have started at the middle and drafted form there. But I always redraft the whole novel start to finish. Which is my advice as an approach to anyone. Not least because that's how the magic happens I guess. Here's a secret, all those cunning little twists and turns in the plot , those tiny clues you miss completely until latter on when you realise they were there at the start. Most of the time they weren't. At least not in the first draft.
I can only speak for myself, but I suspect this is true of most writers, when we go back to do the second draft we put the little clever bits in.
So even though what i am working on at the moment is the fourteen draft of the first third of this novel, I am still adding the clever bits as I did not know they needed to be there till I knew how it all finished.
Which leads me to a favourite quote, "A novel is a long piece of prose with something wrong with it." According to +Neil Gaiman.
There is still much wrong with this particular novel. But the first third is more or less done at least. Now the clever bits are in there.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Cider lane , Kindle sale

Cider lane goes on a +Kindle Ebooks Daily  count down deal tomorrow at 66% off the usual price . A mere 99 of your English pence or 99 cents in america. The promotion only lasts 1 week but if your interested now is the time to buy. 

Friday, 11 September 2015

Welcome to Esqwiths

So i finally completed the first draft of 'the passing place' which is a working title I should add.
I started this about five years ago, having hit on the core idea while walking at 3 am with my girlfriend ( now fiancée) through the streets of Middlesbrough on a warm summers night.
Over the last five years I have kept coming back to it, the main hiatus been while I was writing Cider Lane through its various drafts. Though I have jumped about with other projects as well over that time.
It has been a long old road but technically at least my second novel is now written, several redrafts not withstanding.
This is the novel I wanted to write, as opposed to Cider Lane which is the novel I wrote. Which is not to say I am any less proud to have written Cider Lane.
The hardest thing with this novel has been knowing when to stop. The original idea has spiralled around so many times as have the characters that it has grown it different directions.
It is a story about stories and the power of stories.
So as you may expect it has a lot of stories within it.

Now I am faced with redrafts, book cover designs, finding a good proof reader, publicity and all the other things that go with been an indi author.

So as I am in a position to do so I am going to keep a journal of  the process here, on the chance it will help others who are looking to do the same.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Terry Pratchett, Life is too short not to read Discworld

+Terry Pratchett was one of the most popular an beloved authors of my generation, I grew up with his books in many ways. I read the colour of magic way back in 1984 just because the cover appealed to me as I was browsing the sfi section of my local WH smiths. I flicked through a  few pages, found i was laughing in a book shop, and thought what the hell. At the time it was one of only two Terry Pratchett books on the shelves. Fast forward a few years and the book shelves of my house, (of which there are many) are full of Discworld novels. Forty one of them in fact, and it doesn't stop there. I have copies of just about everything he has written and importantly I also have copies of lots of books he inspired me to read. If not for Terry I would not have read Good Omens, reading that lead me to read Neil Gaimen, of which there are many books on my shelves, but equally the Robert Rankin's, the Tom Holt's, and a lot of others. In short Terry began my love affair with reading, I liked to read before Terry Pratchett. I Love to read because of him.
I have also read the discworld based science books, which has lead to me reading more complex science books and expanding my knowledge of the universe and physics, because of Terry Pratchet
Finally I am a writer because of Terry, many other authors have inspired me, or added to my love of reading, Adams, Banks, Gemmell and many more. But it started with Terry, and because of him I write . there is no direct line between Discworld and Cider lane, far from it in fact. But without one there would not be the other.

Terry as probably anyone reading this will know, died this year.
I cried when I hear, genuinely broke down a little, and was in grief for a man I had never met who I knew was dying a lot time before he did and who I had a connection with only because of his writing. I rang my fiancée to tell her the news, and cried again down the phone.
I would like to say my grief was genuinely for him, but I think it was in many ways more for me. Through out my life, no matter how mixed up it might have been, the highs and the lows. There was always if nothing else a new Terry Pratchett novel to look forward to. While I mourned the passing of the man, I mourned the passing of those moments of joy when I got a new Discworld novel in my hands all the more I suspect.  Which may be why it has taken me so long to write about it.

Two events have moved me to write this now. The first is the publication of 'the Shepard's Crown.' the last Discworld novel written by Terry. Its the last new Discworld I will ever read, and I have to admit it made me cry by the end of chapter two. No spoilers, but its written by a man who knew he was going to be leaving soon, and I suspect wanted to say something about dignity in leaving, or the pursuit of it. As well as the value of life. He does, and he does so with a masterful hand.

The second is a guardian article published last week.
The article which you can find here onathanjonesblog/2015/aug/31/terry-pratchett-is-not-a-literary-genius by Jonathon Jones makes the claim that Terry was not a genius. Which is fair enough, its an opinion. Though I suspect it is an opinion expressed to court controversy.
The article irritated me, angered me even, not because I am offended by people having opinions different from my own. But because the writer says that Terry was not a genius and life is too short to read a discworld novel.

These two points are what annoyed me, the first because the writer says he has never  read a Terry Pratchett novel. If he has never read them how can he make a judgement as to there worth. these books have sold millions, brought joy to millions, been read by millions. Yet Mr Jones believes he can judge there worth without ever reading a word. I have read the classics, or my fair share of them. If I say Wuthering Heights is a sublime work of fiction, I do so from the position of having read Emily Bronte. If I say 1984 can and does teach you much about the world and while the nightmarish vision of  Orwell is genius, I do so having read Orwell. Just as if I say 20'000 leagues under the sea is a nautical travel log about fish and best skim read, I do so having read Verne.
If you have not read the books of Terry Pratchett then your opinion has no weight as to there worth. You may not like them, you may not wish to read them, but at the same time you can not claim they are rubbish till you have done so.

The second point, 'life is too short to read a Discworld novel.' I dislike this phase simply because my life would have been so much less if I had not. My life would have been so much worse without them. They have brought me joy, they have brought me tears, they have brought me knowledge and informed my world view. They have made me a more well rounded, better read, wiser individual, Less willing to just accept the world around me. I read politics at university because of Discworld, because Discworld is full of political satire, my social views are much informed by Discworld. In fact much of my world view is informed by it.

Sir Terry Pratchett wrote books. Through his humour and intelligence he explained a flat world travelling through space on the back of a giant turtle. In doing so he explained the world we live upon better and more deeply than may writers will ever achieve.

So go read one, or if 41 discworld novels is a scary number , read Nation or Dodger first and fall in love with a way of looking at the world.

If you don't enjoy them, and you will, then fair enough. But read them, life really is too short not to try .

#pratchett #discworld

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Alice's Adventures in Steamland, the clockwork goddess


I am, among other things, a bit of a steam punk. Which is to say i find the whole idea of stream driven tech and mad gadgets in alternative history wonderfully inventive and alluring.
That said, I am generally firmly rooted in British steam punk, so was not entirely sure what to expect of an american take on the genre. Woven through with liberal amounts of  +Alice in Wonderland. Though in fairness this may draw form Louise Carol's classic in places, it does so on over drive in many respects.
All the characters you would perhaps expect to be here are here. Though with dramatic twists to their original selves.
+The Mad Hatter, for example is a mad scientist inventor who's hat is as much a multi story storage device as a piece of head wear.
The white rabbit, who is of course perpetually late, is not one but many, an army of rabbits in fact forming the backbone of the queen of New York's armies. While the Cheshire cat is in many ways the instant telegram of  the realm, its multiple interchangeable copies moving messages between the palace and other nobles, with a smile.
The red queen is mad, the other queen is madder, And New York fights Texas for the wealth of Kentucky coal.
Then there is Alice herself, not the curious school girl of +Lewis Carroll's classic , but a prostitute turned would-be assassin who's most pervasive talent involves the use of melted chocolate. She gets caught up in a series of bizarre plots to assassinate various major figures, generally for reasons that have more to do with sex than politics.
This is, to put it mildly, an utterly mad novel. It rolls along from one plot point to another and never lets those plots get in the way of the story. It doesn't so much follow a plot as throw one at you as a way to move the story from one ridiculous escapade to another. There is sex all over the place with out it ever been erotica, instead it's more like slap stick and sea side postcards. it is however undeniably ridiculous fun. Mad, ridiculous fun. It will make you laugh, if you want to laugh. And beyond that you will have forgotten the plot it five minutes after you finish reading it. You'll probably remember laughing all the same.