The Art of Summer Reading….

There is something a bit special about reading a book in the summer time don’t you think? Don’t get me wrong, there is something special about reading a book in winter too, that will be a post later in the year. Summer reading though, requires a lot more thought and organisation of the reading arena. Especially if you are on holiday! This is my tongue firmly in cheek look at some of those non essential items needed(?) for stress free reading.

For me, there absolutely has to be sunshine. If it starts with rain, then I’m off. Sunshine, can however, prove pretty disruptive. There are sunglasses and sun cream, not to mention things that buzz and sting, oh, and sand… plenty of sand or, depending where you are, mud….. plenty of mud. So, before we all head for: the beach, the countryside, the city, the pool, the lake, the cruise, the campsite (delete as appropriate), I have come up with a few nifty items that may/may not, make your reading moments, a five star experience. I want my summer reading, to be like an all inclusive summer resort; everything at my fingertips without too much thinking. Right then so off we go:

  • For every ‘new’ book you take, throw in a ‘re read’ of a favourite. This is something I did recently, and was glad I did. Now we have e readers it makes it lighter on the luggage allowance too. I had taken along a book by a new author, but, within 30 pages, I was loosing the will to live. Not really what you want on holiday. Thankfully I was able to flip back to my comfort zone with one of my all time faves ~ ‘Love in The Time of Cholera‘ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It had the immediate effect of lifting my mood and creating that all important ‘feel good factor.’
  • Always take a resealable bag or a colourful yard of silk… it’s up to you. The yard of silk will make your book/e reader look and feel immense, and that dear friends, is the size of it. It could, in theory, double up as a sarong. It could, also be a rather interesting talking point. Holiday makers may try in vain to figure out, why you felt it necessary to wrap up your book.The resealable bag, on the other hand, has no style, but lots of practicality. The bag needs to be able to comfortably fit your e reader or paperback. Please don’t tell me you take hardbacks with you? Really? Although, I have to fess up. When Donna Tart’s ‘The Goldfinch‘ came out in hardback, I did schlep it everywhere, even when visiting the rellies…but, I hasten to add, that was a ‘Winter read’, which is altogether a different beast! A resealable bag can work wonders. It can protect from the most savage of onslaughts.
  • It can:
    • Protect against sand
    • Guard against spillage
    • Store stuff other than your book
  • A small reading light. You know the ones, they perch onto the top of your paperback and shine an arc of light! Very handy in most holiday situations. Obvs. if you have an e reader you wont need one, unless you have found another use for it….
  • At least 2 bookmarks.I like to make special holiday bookmarks, crocheted in bright colours! Do I? No I don’t… but I do like the idea… emm…
  • A mirror that can attach to the top of said e reader/paperback. Because, let’s face it, there are always times when we want to know what’s going on behind us!
  • Get yourself an Itsa beach bag/towel. Is it a bag, is it a towel? Who knows, but it does have pockets! Check it out here

OK so that’s me done. Tomorrow I will promise to be a little more serious ( but only a little..) and let you in on my top summer reads for 2016. For now I shall leave you with some lovely holiday snaps to get us in the mood….

 

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Back Camera

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Who would you invite to dinner?

An easy enough question right? Until you factor in it can be anyone, living or dead, real or fictitious. Where would you even start?

It took a lot of staring out of windows and going off on tangents. I went off on so many tangents that I even looked up the phrase ‘going off on tangents’. Here’s what it said ‘ In geometry a tangent is a straight line that touches a circle or sphere at exactly one point and then runs infinitely away from that point in both directions’. Yep that’s what I did! I became a tangent runner. It was a great exercise for my imagination and I would heartily recommend asking yourself the same question. You can find out who I eventually invited  over at author Diane Burton’s blog  I discuss who I would love to dine with and why.

I’d be interested to know who you would choose and why?

Perfectly Flawed?

Showing character flaws helps to make a book believable. Too many flaws and you risk making your character unbelievable, too few, and readers won’t be able to connect or identify with them. I’m sure we can all think of someone we have known who comes across as just ‘too perfect’ – did you like them? I know I most certainly did not. There is no such thing as perfect. Characters have to be believable, warts and all! As in life, if your character is not believable (ie. too perfect), then you are already on the back foot with not too many places to go. Enter stage right…. flaws. Flaws within your characters give readers an opportunity to connect, to understand who your character really is. They allow readers to develop a picture of who he/she is. It is those unique flaws and traits that will breathe life into the bones of your story. Finding the balance is the challenge. In this post I want to share what has worked for me when exploring flaws within my characters. These are not ‘you must’ but just my ‘ might be helpful for you’ thoughts and ramblings: Continue reading “Perfectly Flawed?”

The Music of Life…

Picture the scene. I’m sitting drinking coffee (natch) in my favourite coffee house. The sun is shining, the birds are singing – all is good with the world, you get the picture. I am sitting outside, yes that’s right….. outside. For those unfamiliar with the British weather please read ‘ Brave woman, made of steel (and thermals)’.

Sitting ‘al fresco’ is no mean feat in England in May. Maybe it should become an Olympic sport – ‘how long can you sit outside freezing your bits off.. athon’. The ‘athon’ is obligatory, I’m keeping it real! I would lose dreadfully at the ‘athon’ games, no staying power you see, my body is just not designed for it. Something to do with too many fast twitch fibres, anyway, I digress. Back to the sunshine, the birds etc. All is right with the world until…… man in car, sitting in traffic, windows down, bass up and (I have to say) looking a bit too smug for my liking.

I was struck by two things simultaneously (the Hadron Collider is nothing compared to the speed my brain cells bomb towards each other) now, where was I?, ah yes, 2 things struck me. Firstly, I don’t like drum and bass (I know you are completely shocked, how can anyone not like drum and bass I hear you asking yourselves), secondly – OMG  I’m turning into old grumpy guts.  ‘Mrs Angry of Devon’ reared her head not because of this chaps very bad taste in music which, btw was exceptionally dreadful. No, it was the way his world had steamrollered mine. He was an unwelcome gatecrasher at a time when I had been transported to the magical world at my fingertips. I had wanted to own that time and the space. To have my head filled firmly with the narrative of the characters laid out before me.

I had been happily sitting topping up my dangerously low levels of vitamin D. Cup in one hand, book in the other. Then…. bam or rather, boom boom boom. I sat, giving him the evils until the lights changed and off he speed. He had not even acknowledged my death stares. He had, in fact, been caught up in his own magical world. His words however, were louder on the outside than mine. Oh the irony. Both of us had been transported by the power of words but in such completely different ways and almost certainly to completely different places. This encounter unexpectedly reminded me of a truth I had carried with me when writing All Tomorrow’s Parties.  ‘Where words fail, music speaks’. Its a quote taken from an author who was instrumental in shaping my imagination ~ Hans Christian Anderson. Throughout my writing processes I often seek inspiration from music. It helps me sometimes to think in a different way. It helps me to create different structure and pace.

So…To the man who shared his love of loud music in my world that sunny morning, I thank you. You reminded me of how inspiration has many forms, and usually comes when you least expect it. After my initial feelings of loathing subsided, I turned the other cheek and took a proverbial leaf from your book. I found my copy of Thumbelina and I too turned my music up loud…… I, however, chose to wear headphones!

Ponder this thought, another classic from the great Hans Christian Anderson:

‘Life is like a beautiful melody, only the lyrics are muddled up’

 

 

 

Random Acts of Kindness

Sunshine,flowers and someone who loves you unconditionally...What more could you want?
Sunshine,flowers and someone who loves you unconditionally…What more could you want?

Yesterday whilst enjoying a morning walk with the increasingly energetic Spaniel, I came across a beautiful bouquet of flowers. It was labelled a ‘lonely bouquet’, what a fabulous idea.The note advised that I should take the flowers home and enjoy them.The note also suggested sharing the bouquets journey on a facebook page, which I duly did. I was struck by the sheer volume of kind hearted people out there. Photo upon photo of bouquets popping up across the land, for ignorant people such as I, to find. It warmed the cockles of my heart!. It reminded me of a group I belong to where we ‘pass the read’, leaving other authors books in random places,for fellow readers to find and enjoy. It got me to thinking that my ‘random’ book placements could, in fact, do with a bit of a kick up the backside. After all, if you can leave a bouquet on a bench in the countryside, why not a book? Henceforth I have challenged myself to become … let’s say, a bit more creative. With the weather turning clement, the possibilities are endless. So, if you find a jolly good book in a rather random place think of me… I shall be smiling. Feel free to steal with pride and let me know how you get on.

Free Books – Friend or Foe?

Free books have been a hot topic on one of my authors groups this week, with good reason. Which other creative genre do you know where it is becoming ‘expected’ for you to give your work away for free, non gratis? None? That’s right none. Whilst the internet has brought us many great and wonderful things, free books, in my humble opinion are not one of them. Don’t get me wrong, competitions, advanced reader copies not a problem – that’s part of the marketing. What irks me, is the expectation that you should give your books away, for free. Imagine a silversmith working away on a beautiful pendant. Months spent even years, honing and perfecting their work. Would you expect him to give it to you for free? Personally I wouldn’t!

I write because I love it, it is my passion, my obsession. I place a value on what I do and I expect others to do the same. Giving away free books, permanently, says to me – I do not value you or your work. It is the principle that is conveyed when that transaction is made. Now the transaction may mean very little in financial terms, but what it says to me as a person is overwhelming. It says I respect & value what you do. You don’t walk into a store and expect the manager to say oh everything is free from now on, do you? So why do people expect it from authors?

Yes of course we all like free stuff  I’m not talking about buy 1 get 1 free or sale prices, these are marketing tactics for short periods of time. I’m talking about authors giving away their books free, permanently. By having to pay  even if it is only £1.00 you have committed, you have invested. Far too often I am hearing of people who just download free book upon free book, with no intention of actually reading them. I can’t blame them, they were free, so why not? These I am reliably informed are called ‘freebie hunters’. It could be shower gel or cotton wool, they don’t care as long as it’s free.Now where is the value in that? Excuse me  while I readjust my soap box. Ah that’s better…

Silversmith
Silversmith,Celuk, Bali by Joe Diells. Some rights reserved.Flickr

Whilst a few authors may see an initial rise in their sales, I am told by many publishers this is not sustained. So what has been achieved? Has the writer gained future readers – no, have they received more reviews – no, have they given away shed loads of books to people who don’t give a flying fig – doh yes, I think so. For me its not about stroking someones ego because they ‘just have to sell sell sell’. It’s about acknowledging writing is a creative process that is valued.

Some fellow authors and I are coming together to try and pull things back to centre. You may agree or disagree, that is up to you. All I ask is that you think about it seriously. These are of course, just my thoughts. Each one of us must decide for ourselves, what’s right for us.

If you are interested in the Valued Authors Coalition then you can find us here:

VAC