World According to Fred – Living the High Life?

So, this week has been an interesting one. This is due to the fact that I’ve spent a lot of it on my own,as HJ has been spending her nights out and about, be it going out for sushi, the pub or helping to run a Poker Night in her kitchen whilst all dressed up in a pretty red dress and matching red lipstick, applied ever so carefully with a brush to achieve a rather seductive cupid’s bow effect. She told me there was this third year student who flirted with her until she coyly showed off her engagement ring, I said she shouldn’t really be flirting, or wearing sexy lipstick, but she sighed, and said that she wouldn’t ever cheat on Josh, she just likes to dress up to feel pretty and womanly. That’s a post for another time, but, meh. 

But I’ve spent my week by myself, enjoying some ‘me time’ whilst HJ has been busy…

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I took a bath, which was very relaxing indeed, if I say so myself! That Snow Fairy shower gel HJ likes is actually not all that bad!

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After all that soaking, I then wrapped myself up in some towels I found lying around. It was all very toasty, actually!

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I got into my pajamas and decided that seeming as HJ had left her laptop logged in, that I would watch a film. No Day But Today!

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It was soon time to wind down, so I grabbed one of the many books littered around HJ’s room, and started reading. Sophie’s Choice is the kind of novel I think HJ would like to write herself, when she’s not trying to convince people that perhaps I would suit a YA audience, or being convinced that she will never be as much of a genius as the lecturers she sees in her plenerary lectures (David Almond, who wrote Skellig, came in today, she said it was a wonderful talk, and she was sad that he didn’t have any copies of Skellig with him to buy). It made me cry at the end, which wore me out even more. 

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When HJ got back from her Poker Night antics, she took this photo of me, as she thought I looked rather adorable. She only woke me when she crawled into bed and flicked off the bedside light. 

So, I’m living the high life! I must be really cool! In the meanwhile, I shall apply for a degree course, and I shall hopefully spend my time more productivly in the near future

SOS!

Guys, I have a problem….

I actually haven’t got anything to read! I’ve read all my books in my personal collection, and I don’t want to read any of the novels in my reading lists otherwise it will ruin it for when I get around to studying them. I’ve just polished off Memoirs of a Geshia, for, like, the second time, so am getting desperate!

I always like to have a novel that is unrelated to my studies in my uni bag, it’s just nice to be able to grab it whilst waiting for a lecture, or when sat in a coffee shop before work, and is brilliant on long bus journeys when I go to Bristol, as well as when I go on the train back to Hampshire. In order to be a writer, in my opinion, one must also be a regular reader, always having at least one book on the go.

So, if there is a book you think I should really have in my life, now is the time to tell me! 

Dissolution – CJ Sansom (The Review)

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(I did say I would be reviewing each Shardlake book as I read them, and I finished this one only today, so I guess it counts in the reading war? Anyhoo, here we go! Also, be wary, there be spoilers in these here parts)

So, Dissolution. This is the first novel in the Shardlake series, starring the hunchback property lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, who seems to be constantly being roped into crimes involving grisly murders, intrigue and scandal.

In this book, it’s 1537, which means… Henry VIII is dissolving all the monasteries, and taking all their riches and land for himself! Yay! Cromwell has ordered our hero off to a monastery in Scarnsea, a lovely little town on the coast, with a sordid issue at hand. The last commissioner, Singleton, has been brutally murdered in the kitchen of the monastery, and Cromwell wants Shardlake to go off and find out why he was so brutally bumped off, as well as to continue the job Singleton started (gathering enough evidence to get the monastery closed down for corruption). Shardlake takes his assistant Mark, with him (mainly to get him out of a pickle involving a lady in waiting. Ahem). What follows is another two grisly murders, loads of red herrings, plenty of me shouting:

“No way?!?!?!”

“I thought it was you!”

“Really?!?!?!”

“…..”

So, yeah! I did start reading this on my Kindle, sneaking a chapter in at work, but then got too busy and left all reading to one side. But when the author himself appeared at work, I made a vow that I would finish all five books before my birthday (I always seem to get book vouchers, which I have to spend straight away on my latest bookish obsession), and that I would review each one (I’m going off topic…) so, yeah.

This is the first proper, grown up crime novel I’ve read from start to finish. And I’ve really gotten into it! I loved the characters in the story. Even the characters we either meet briefly are made to be extremely important, no one is there unnecessarily. Not to mention that they were extremely well written, they have their own distinct personalities, their loves, their hates, their beliefs, and their flaws. It meant that I struggled to figure out which characters I liked best. Brother Guy is definitely my favourite secondary character. Seriously, for a character we are not supposed to be supporting because of his beliefs (he is a monk who is basically the doctor) and because he is black, and foreign, but he is the one who is the most morally sound of all the monks. I also felt him to be Shardlake’s voice of reason in the book, almost a sounding board when Mark has buggered off to chat Alice, the assistant of Brother Guy, up.

Shardlake was therefore my favourite character. I loved his dry wit, one he has had to work on due to his disability. I loved the fact that he wasn’t the typical hero in the story, handsome, dashing and faultless. If he had of been, I would of refused to finish the book! He is also similar to me, and the way I think, as he is methodical in the way he thinks and solves the crime. It feels like you’re next to him, trying to help him puzzle out every clue, every suspect.

And that’s when we come to plot. The sub plot of the love triangle between Mark, Alice and Shardlake was nice and subtle, unlike in other novels where this style of subplot is too in your face, this gave you a nice little break from the main mystery, and also helps you to understand Shardlake’s character far better. You kind of almost want to hug the poor bugger when Alice proper rejects him (Alice, you bitch!). I also liked the flashbacks into Shardlake’s childhood, and of his schooldays in a monastery, where he was refused by the abbot to become a monk because of his disability (just as well really). However, I was annoyed at them being only in a small part of the book, to the point of wondering if they really had much purpose in the novel at all. The way subplots with Brother Gabriel, Orphan and Alice, as well as the Boleyn execution, including it’s political significance, not to mention the effect of one of the men being killed alongside her after having a ‘confession’ tortured out of him is weaved effortlessly into the plot makes this a book that keeps the pages turning. There is always action, wherever you turn, and the ending made me gasp in shock that the author had managed to fool me! Two murderers, two very different motives.

The final review point is historical accuracy. What I sometimes hate in historical fiction is that sometimes writers will use:

· Modern language
· Modern mannerisms/behaviour
· Not research places, society, costume or events properly

CJ Sansom, however, makes sure that his era, the world he is creating for us, is as true to the era as possible. He uses words in dialogue that people would of actually used, he uses events that took place in actual history in order to create a plot, rather than creating a plot and adding the events around it. You feel like you are walking through Scarnsea, you can smell the stench of the sea and the beggers, hear dogs bark and children cry. You feel the awe of the monastery as you follow Shardlake and the monks whilst solving the crime.

Therefore, you feel rather, well, dissatisfied once you’ve finally turned that final page. You right away need to go back there, to get stuck in.

That’s when you know you’ve found an author you’re going to stick with for a long time.

So. Dark Fire next, stay tuned!

Rating:

****

Four stars, because of the flashbacks. But a wonderful book! Would recommend to anyone who likes historic fiction, and a bloody good mystery.

What a Day!

I’m a writer. I also love reading, hence the massive collection of books that I have to go through and clear out so I can have a university room that isn’t full off books to the point of being dangerous…

Anyway, got into work, and one of my colleagues brought a box full of books, Heartstone by CJ Sansom. I grabbed the craft knife ready to cut the box open to stack the shelves, when I was stopped by my front of house manager, who informed me, in a matter of fact way that the author himself was coming in that afternoon to sign them, ready to be sold on.

CJ Sansom has written a series of books starring a Tudor lawyer turned detective solving mysteries during the reign of Henry VIII. He wrote Heartstone, his fifth in 2010 and set it in Portsmouth, and he involves that fateful day in 1545 when the Mary Rose sank. So he collaborated with the museum trust to make sure that the book was historically accurate with the events that took place. And he has been involved with the trust ever since.

I did get the first book of the Shardlake series on my Kindle, but I loathe reading off a screen, so have ordered the other four books second hand from Amazon so I can catch up.

That said, when I heard he was coming, I immediately designed to hopefully get a signed copy of the book. Thank heavens we stock it in our beloved gift shop!

So, I bought the book. It was the most random transaction in the universe, as I had to sort out my payment whilst serving a customer at the same time (who said us aspies can’t multitask!).

And, as I put my wallet away, who should arrive with the head of the trust but CJ Sansom himself! Boy was I startstruck! He was about to get a personal VIP tour of the museum, but he spotted me staring at him, mouth open, and saw the book in my hand. Despite having to go off on his tour, he asked me if I wanted him to sign it for me, who he would sign it to, and even asked me to remind him of the date. I had wanted a photograph of us, but he did have to rush off.

Never mind, writers always rush to and from places. It’s what they do. It was just rather wonderful that he took a moment out of his day to do a young volunteer a rather special favour. It’s what I want to be like when I am a writer.

I can’t wait to read the series, and write a review for each novel.

In the mean time, it looks like a lot of pacing around is expected!

Top Ten Confessions of a Writer

I saw and thought that I would do my own version of it, to take a break from actually writing something normal (like the diary I’m doing that is being a pain to copy and paste into this blooming blog for you all to read and enjoy), and give it a good go myself.

So, here goes, ten confessions from Yours Truly.

1. Sometimes I stare at a blank page and actually shake!

Yes, I do this when I am putting pressure on myself to get something down. I have several ideas a day, but can never seem to translate them onto paper unless I am given the time and the resources to do so. I believe today I’ve written more, creative wise, than I have all summer so far. Yay.

2. I NEED a mascot when writing…

I do love giving Fred a good cuddle whlist I am writing, as he helps me to ground myself, he’s in a sense my connection to the real world, and can help me come to when I need to for what ever reason.

3. I write better when I have sugary treats.

That was how I managed Crazar in three months at age 17. I always went to this coffee shop, and had a cake next to me, which I would take a big bite out of every time I finished a chapter. If that isn’t motivation, then I haven’t a clue what is!

4. I get wound up by my characters.

ARGH! Amelia in The Chronicles of Crazar, at least, at the start of the novel, was such a sap! In the business, she is what we would call a Mary Sue. When reading the book back, Amelia makes me cringe! Then she has her moody bit, before she gets a bit better, and is a lot better by the end of the book, although she still is very Mary Sue like. Doctor Samuel wound me up as well, as sometimes he would be so blooming cryptic with me!

5. Never ask me how the writing is getting along…

Seriously, if you value your life, you will not ask me how it’s going. I will bite your head off!

6. I find interviewing my characters useful.

There was a deviantart meme going around about character interviews, and my best friend Karl got me to do one about Baron Pendragon, who is my comic relief character, although he does have his dark moments. Seriously, that interview persuaded me to do a whole extra storyline with him and a secret love child… But I digress, the Baron will always be my favourite character that I have created.

7. If I am in a mood, it’s because I’m suffering from a nasty case of Writer’s Block

I swear it’s an illness, like flu, because it completely stops you from doing what you love, writing! I suffered from it greatly at college, with the screenplay assignments, and I’ve sworn to this day that I will only write the blooming things when blooming forced to (which will happen at university, as I am studying Creative Writing). Not to mention that most of the summer has been spent in suffering, thanks to this condition.

8. I have a character, but haven’t a clue where to put him…

I’ve had this character, Arthur Stone, in my life for the past year, he sits on my shoulder, asking me all the time whether I’ll write him into a story or not. I reply that I haven’t figured him out yet, although I have had sleepless nights where I’ve argued with him, and threatened to pass him onto someone else, which usually makes him be very still and quiet. He is adorably awkward and geeky, and wears a battered old tweed jacket, and looks like a young professor (he is 21). I’m sure an assignment at university might be the place for this fellow, but for the meantime we’ll be staying firm companions.

9. I prefer to have a Mr Editor

My ex boyfriend used to be my editor, but I sacked him (not that I was paying him), as he wasn’t replying quick enough any longer, not to mention that Josh didn’t like the fact that he was playing a role that meant being quite intimate with me and my mind/work, which he felt more inclined to do himself, even though he hates reading. Sigh…

10. I sometimes forgo sleep to get a big scene completed

I rememeber staying up into the small hours writing up the final battle scene in Crazar. It was a beautiful moment when I clicked the save button as Suzanna was defeated by Amelia. Huzzah!

So, these are my 10 confessions!

So, that Failed…

So, Josh lends me his laptop and his wordprocessing programme for me to enjoy whilst he goes off to a rehearsal for a festival he’s performing at on Friday, in order for me to get something of significance written for a Writer’s event I’ll be attending at the local theatre tomorrow, so I thought I’d give the re-write of the novel a good bash…

I wrote three paragraphs, gasped at the drivel I had written, and deleted the lot. Am back to the dreaded Blank Page Syndrome…

Yay.

But I will get something written, even if it kills me in the process. I suppose having Facebook, Twitter and WordPress up behind the word document isn’t really helping much, but, hey, I haven’t had the chance to actually feel keys under my fingers as I write out something online/on an electronic device, so I am blooming well making the most of it before Josh comes home and reclaims his laptop!

I did attempt a Regency style novel, a bodice ripper, I recall, but that didn’t go very well. The story kind of tailed off into the abiss and it never truly got anywhere that it needed to. Besides, it was utter drivel that a five year old could of written better.

So, another attempt is indeed in order. I shall be making it a novel focusing on a plot rather than a romance, a character and her growth in the storyline rather than who she gets married off to at the end of the book.

But, no more time chatting, I need to get on with it, words need to be written in as urgent a pace and manner as I possibly can, as I have limited time on this laptop!

I Have a Plan

Right, I was in my counselling session this afternoon, and the conversation turned to my writing and my achievement of writing a full novel at the age of 17.

Me: Josh wants me to get it published, but there are so many issues I have with it that I feel embarrassed just flicking through the manuscript. Seriously, it could be better.

Councillor: Well, it was the best it could of been when you wrote it aged 17. You are nineteen now, so you probably see things in it now that could of been written differently now.

That got the cogs in my head turning…

Perhaps rewriting a novel I wrote all that time ago might be ok? Who knows? 

But, in the meantime, I have some planning to do…

Been Busy!

Today has been another busy one!

First, I had another quick tidy up, and found two of the books I bought at Kelmarsh, and tidied up my bedside table. Then I grabbed my stuff, I had some shoes to exchange, and that bag of clothes to donate to charity.

I spotted a Sue Ryder van on my way to the councillor’s office, and ditched the bag in the open door, and scampered off like a mother dumping a child outside the founding hospital (back in those goddamn awful days). Had a rather emotional session going over my relationship with my mother, before heading into town to run some errands. Picked up a portable DVD player (a sort out of my DVD collection is in order at some point), two skirts, some hair stripper, and a couple of books.

Then my carer texted me to inform me of an opportunity involving a bookcase costing £14.99 at a local charity shop. I therefore decided to take a look, as I was under the impression of it being waist high and unable to store much in the way of books (fitting my book mountain only), not to mention potentially being battered and in not so good condition. I went in, and saw it right away.

What a beautiful sight beheld my eyes!

It is taller than I am, with about six shelves, that are very deep indeed, and actually has two drawers in the bottom that are also rather deep. I bought it right away, as it is also in excellent condition, practically brand new! It will be delivered to me on 15th August, and a post with photos will be published, almost like the birth of that baby was announced! All very exciting indeed.

The day ended with a trip to the pub, and an email from Radio Haslar about an interview to become one of the volunteer DJs for the radio! It is only hospital radio, but it is something else to do as well as the museum. My interview will be on Friday! Am rather excited!

There will be a World According To Fred tomorrow, he has had a bit of writer’s block this week, but I am sure he will come up with something eventually…

Abandon a Book?

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I was reading through my feed, when I came across The Bookshelf of Emily J’s wonderful post on why one abandons a book, with the help of this rather facinating diagram from Goodreads (I really ought to get into Goodreads more).

I will admit I started to read 50 Shades for a giggle. Seriously, many hours were spent in the college Student Union HQ reading out particularly rude bits, with the rules that one had to keep a straight face and a posh English accent at all times. I sucked at this game! But I gave up simply because the writing was so AWFUL!!! Seriously, a virginial thirteen year old Bieliber would write a better sex scene! That’s what made the game so bloody hilarious!

I also read Wicked, and it is one of my favourite books of all time, as I relate to Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and the way she was persecuted for being different to the other people of Oz. However, when I first read it, aged 15, it took me a good two goes to read it properly, and to enjoy the story. This is due to the fact that it is a hard book to read, due to the rather heavy way the political themes are used in the novel. I also found that the language used in the novel was rather too grown up, and sophisticated for me, so I had to adopt a dictionary to have alongside me as I read this book. I do love the book, but I will freely admit to preferring the West End Musical far more.

I will abandon a book for the following reasons:

1. If the plot becomes too predictable
2. When a character gets really annoying
3. I simply don’t have the time to read the book properly as it might be a heavy read
4. Historically inaccuracies in historical fiction
5. Plots that don’t make any sense whatsoever

And the point where I will unceremoniously send a book flying towards the rejection pile ready for the charity shops varies.

For example, I only read two chapters of ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen, before I got peeved off with the title character, and literally tossed the book across the room. However, I struggled boldly with Catch 22, as a penfriend wanted me to read it to see what I thought, and couldn’t bear it much longer (16 year olds should never be persuaded to read such heavy literature). I got towards the halfway point, before admitting defeat, and used Wikipedia to help me find out the ending so that I could give my friend feedback.

Good writing and a comfortable weight of reading makes a good novel, in my opinion. Witty characters that don’t wind you up with sappyness (Yes, Marianne of Sense and Sensibility, I’m talking about you!) or their irritating and condescending attitudes to other people (Emma, don’t think I’m letting you off the hook!). Not forgetting of course enough description of events, scenery and people/their appearance without being distracting to the plot…