Monday, 15 September 2014

Photo Inspiration for September

This is something we'll be seeing a lot of soon in the UK- a street covered in autumn leaves. My children are almost past the age to kick around in leaves but whenever we pass a pile of leaves like this, there's always the temptation.

What could lie beneath this layer of leaves, beyond the obvious earwigs and worms? Something lost? Something hidden? What could you find if you bent to clear away the leaves?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

As we grow as individuals, in years and experience, most of us acquire the knack of self analysis. I don't mean that term in any technical way, simply that we can begin to recognise our underlying drives and emotions. We can say, secretly to ourselves, 'okay, I didn't do that as well as I could have because...' or 'the reason that this makes me so nervous is that it could work, and then I'd be successful, and then what would I do?'. For me, the emotion of fear has always been an underlying drive, specifically fear of success.  Writer, Elizabeth Gilbert discusses this and more in her wonderful TED talk, Your elusive creative genius. It's almost twenty minutes long but well worth listening to all the way through. She talks with honesty and humour and ultimately, she makes a hell of a lot of sense.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Book Review: A is for Angelica by Iain Broome

As part of my new year's reading resolution, I added this novel to my reading list for the year. It isn't the kind of thing I normally read but it sounded interesting and I'm always ready to stretch my literary experience.

Here's the blurb:

'My life is different now. I don't go to work. I don't have an office. I stay at home, hide behind curtains and make notes. I wait for something to happen.'

Gordon Kingdom struggles with the fate of his seriously-ill wife patiently observing and methodically recording the lives of those around him: his neighbours.

He has files on them all, including:
  • Don Donald (best friend and petty thief)
  • Annie Carnaffan (lives next door, throws footballs over the fence)
  • Benny (the boy who paints with his eyes closed).
And then Angelica, the new girl (42) on the street, with her multicoloured toenails and her filthy temper. It's when she arrives that Gordon's world of half-truths really begins to unravel.

You can find more details, including a video trailer, on Iain Broome's website.

Presented in first person, from the point of view of Gordon, we are shown his world by peeping out of the curtains of his perception with him. I've always found first person to be a limiting way of writing but it fits here, adding to the limited experience of Gordon's life now he's given up work to care for his wife. His world has become smaller with less human interaction.

His days have been reduced to a regimented routine. This routine is self imposed to an extent, Gordon's way of taking back some control in his life. This control, routine and his carefully maintained filing system is further suggested by the labelling of each chapter from A to Z (Angelica to Zero Tolerance).

Gordon can seem a begrudging, judgemental, miserable character at first but as the book proceeds, we see glimpses of his kindness and love - the way he ultimately treats his friend, carrying his dog around in a box when it is ill, and his nursing of his wife. He wants human contact but he also shies away from it.

The use of flashbacks to explain Gordon's family, how he met his wife, and their married days was done incredibly well. Each flashback added to the story and our understanding of the characters and their motivations.

This novel made me feel all kind of things. There was a level of ickiness (bed baths and dog diarrhoea) that made me feel uncomfortable on occasions. I often became annoyed at Gordon's pettiness (his rejection of his friend's kindness). The relationship with his wife portrayed the wonderful, warm companionship of a long time marriage, something that seems to rarely be celebrated nowadays. I wanted to know what happened to the characters in the book, especially Gordon and his wife, and this kept me turning the pages.

A is for Angelica is Iain Broome's debut novel. I found it to be well written and insightful. I'm looking forward to his next novel which he is currently working on. I love my fantasy novels but sometimes, a snapshot of down to earth reality can be just as refreshing.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

The more I work on my novel, the more I get to know and like my cast of characters. My main character, Steve (the protagonist) has grown on me especially. He is the person who discovers the world of  the novel along with the reader. One of the ways I've familiarised myself with him is to ask questions so that rather than the plot leading him along, his motivations and reactions create the story.

Bridget McNulty's article 5 Essential Questions to Ask When Writing Your Protagonist on the Fiction University website takes a similiar approach.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Something Useful for 2014 - Exercise No. 7

This month's exercise is one I was set about two decades ago by the wonderful poet and my then writing instructor, Pat Borthwick. Thanks, Pat, for the inspiration.

Choose a colour. Make a list of things that you associate with it it. For example,

Red - lipstick, blood, silk.
Blue - sky, air, calm.
White - cloud, age, daisy.

As you can see, these can be material things, feelings or concepts. List as many things as you can think of.

Now, using your list, all or just some of what you have written, write a short passage. It can be a poem or prose, even dialogue.

Here's my green passage:

Calm. That's how I felt, breathing in the sweet scent of freshly cut grass, my bare feet damp with the newly released sap as I crossed the lawn.