Saturday, 24 August 2013

Why - yes - my children ARE still at home for the holidays.

And I'm gradually losing control of my house...

Makeshift beds are appearing in whichever bedroom the boys feel like camping in.
 (My seven-year-old's soft toys are elsewhere - he's currently choosing to sleep with a notebook and a gun.
What does that even mean?)
Aha! I came across some of the missing toys riding into the fireplace on a horse. (Of course.)


 
 My bedside reading pile has been submerged by Enid Blyton books (about children on their hols.)  
 
 
 
Looks as if the famous boy wizard has been using my coffee table - before apparating.
 
 
 
Meanwhile, someone has been using the kitchen table as a workbench - upon which they've been fixing their father's laptop with this plastic hammer. Oh God! 
 
 
 
 Every shelf is full of sweets which have been brought here by grandparents, then confiscated when tummy-aches ensue. (Can't believe people still eat Wham bars - bleugh!)
 
 
 
The carpet is covered with deadly marble patches...

 
As are the beds...

 
 Although - oddly - there are none in the marble-run. So what have they been putting down this then?
Frozen peas? Porridge? Forget it - I don't want to know.


Even outside, there's no escape from it all. Is it September yet? Please?

 
 Only three books left on my summer reading list now. American Wife, Star of Kazan and The Book Thief - and I'm not sure I'll manage them all in the next week and a half. I suspect The Book Thief will remain my unread BOOK-OF-SHAME - the one that everyone but me has read and raved about.



Although I did interrupt the list to read Anna and the French Kiss for all the pretty Parisian scenery and I re-read the Scarlet Pimpernel for - oh, everything really.
I'm not at the end of my list yet, but I'm pretty sure my favourite will turn out to be the Neil Gaiman. I loved it.

My favourite ALWAYS turns out to be the Neil Gaiman.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Hobbit House


 


Today, someone posted this link to a local Hobbit House on my Facebook page.
 
 
Isn't it cool?
 
 
It was built by a local artist as a sheep shed...which gradually got out of hand!
 
 
 
It took him ten years to build, using stone from the nearby fields...
but when the council eventually found out about it, they told him off!
 
 
 
Which made him give it all up and move to Scotland...
leaving his Hobbit House to crumble into the ivy and nettles. 


 
I wish I'd been lucky enough to stumble across it while out for a walk...
then I could've made up my own story.
 
 
I'd like to go and see if I can find it anyway - I love looking around old buildings.
 
 
And derelict buildings...
 

 Or weird and spooky buildings.
Anything with a sense of history really.
 
 
 
The Hobbit House has tiled floors...

 

 
And elaborate plasterwork...


 
And - of course - hand-painted stained glass widows.
 



 
Anyway, the Hobbit House pictures made me think about how easy it is to find inspiring and atmospheric photos on the internet - and how handy they are for us aspiring writers. Ha! We barely need to use our imaginations at all any more.
For my first novel, I wanted to set a scene in a derelict church, so I simply Googled 'derelict church' and then described the photo. It included all sorts of things I probably wouldn't have come up with on my own such as...the weather...the time of year...the lightness of the sky...the flatness of the surrounding countryside...and the way the shadows fell upon the stone. When a friend from my writing group read the scene, she described it as "very visual" and - suddenly - I was reluctant to admit how I'd done it. Because it felt like cheating.      
 
 
Trouble is - whether it's honest or not - it works!
Choosing the right pictures is fun and the descriptions are a piece of cake. A couple of scenes in the book I'm writing at the moment are set in wintry woods. How could I not have a quick look? And - having seen what Google came up with - how could I not print out all the beautiful frosty photos and stick them around my laptop as I wrote the scenes.
 


 
I'm such a cheater!
 



 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Aaand...summer reading plans derailed already!

I was doing pretty well...


I finished Winter in Madrid - which made me think a bit (mostly about Madrileños and the war). I finished Revolution! - which was strange and mostly just made me want to re-read Baroness Orczy. I finished Miss Pettigrew - which I loved wholeheartedly. And I got halfway through Jam - which was quirkily engaging with lots of witty dialogue...

Then husband upset all my plans by bringing a borrowed Game of Thrones box-set home from work...


Five discs of costume drama - horrifying violence - sex and gore - sword fights - dire wolves - treachery and incest - dragons and white-walkers. It's been ace!

But I'm not sure it constitutes research (everything's research in a way - says the whiney voice in my head, who wants to see how horribly all the remaining cast members die.)

So now I have to decide whether to resume my reading list while there's still a chance of working my way through it...or try to get hold of a GoT season two box-set.

Since Drogo has died, I think I'll probably be dutiful and pick up the books again. After all, watching bloody Jon Snow mooning about on the wall is never going to be as gripping as seeing the Great Khal ripping out someone's internal organs through a totally unexpected part of their body, is it?

(I love you!)

Khal Drogo aside, I also loved all the fantasy elements, the strong female characters and the general life-or-death grippingness of Game of Thrones.
So those are the things I'd most like to add to my own writing, if I can.

Although - right now - I've reached a tricky bit and my second book seems to have stalled as much as my reading list has.
I started writing contemporary chapters (about fifteen, I think) then I reached this particular bit...slowed down...struggled on...slowed more...and finally juddered to a halt. That was when I decided I wasn't approaching it from the right angle, and began writing my historical chapters (only four or five so far) then of course, I ended up at the same stubborn part of my plot and stopped again. It's a chapter in which the contemporary and historical stories collide and...um...that's as far as I've got because every time I tackle it, I feel as if I've bitten off more than I can chew.
How can I spend a week watching the Starks, the Lannisters and the Dothraki maim and murder each other...and still be such a writing-fraidy-cat?

No, the cat can't spell. Still mildly amusing, though.

At least there's tons of writing comfort to be found all over the internet.

A few hours ago on Twitter, Julie Cohen tweeted, "Argh - this book sucks! My writing SUCKS! My characters SUCK! I'm going to get a job in Dunkin Donuts instead."
Kate Johnson replied, "Every book, Julie."
And Liz Fielding added, "Welcome to my world."

A fortnight ago, Erin Morgenstern tweeted this, "I might be at the point in my new novel where I need to cry for a while and then re-read Stephen King's On Writing. Again."
Because even the writer of The Night Circus feels this way sometimes -  worth underlining and italicising!

And somewhere - although I now can't find where - I read that Neil Gaiman had reached a part of the latest book he was writing which was too hard and sucky for him to go on any further from. Whereupon, he phoned his agent and told her he was giving up. "Ah," she said unconcernedly, "you're at that stage, are you?"  She then broke it to him that he had reached that stage in every single one of his (prize-winning) books. So he carried on with it (and probably won another prize or a medal or something.)

(Yesterday I picked up a bright, shiny copy of  Anansi Boys in the second hand bookshop - so I'd better go and crack on with my reading list before it gets bigger rather than smaller...)