Saturday, 26 July 2014

Harper Lee and the difficulties of writing

Harper Lee has been in the news lately regarding her opposition to Marja Mills' biography of her, recently published by Penguin. As we all know, Harper Lee only wrote one novel, To Kill a Mocking Bird; a modern classic, a book so excellent and popular that if any author is entitled to rest on her laurels and never write another word, that author is Harper Lee.

But there was a terrible downside to the fame, plaudits and riches the novel (and film version with Gregory Peck) brought her. How she must have been plagued by crass well-meaning enquiries as to what she was writing now, and why didn't she write another book, and hey, this is a good idea, why not write a sequel about what Scout did next? No wonder she spent the next fifty years as a recluse, refusing even to mention The Book.

Kill Zone had a recent post quoting J. T. Ellison: "It's the whole getting started thing for me. I forget how to write a book. The first ten thousand words are like digging fossils from rocks." I agree - I don't even want to talk about the WIP until it's at least two thirds finished.

One of my favourite quotes is from Lynne Truss: 

People are only being nice, when they ask. To the enquirer, 'How's the novel?' is like saying 'How's your Mum?' - friendly, concerned, non-judgemental. But unfortunately this simple question, when filtered through the cornered-animal mentality of the weary novelist, is transformed into the sort of sneering insinuation that makes homicide justifiable. 

'It was peculiar,' friends say to one another, when I pop out of the room. 'All I said was "How's the novel?" and look, she bit my hand.'

Thursday, 17 July 2014

I get to shoot guns for real

Guns appear in three of my novels so far, so when I was offered a place on the Goldsmiths' Company team on the 7 Rifles Livery Range Day I leapt at the opportunity to fire pistols and rifles with live ammunition. I knew I wouldn't be much of an asset to the team, never having fired a gun - but then most of the other liverymen had little or no experience either.

The event took place at Sandhurst. It's huge - roads run between various buildings and ranges, set in beautiful woodland with flitting butterflies and pine cones underfoot. All the soldiers were charming and helpful and seriously fit. On the range we wore ear defenders, protective glasses, helmets and body armour, presumably in case one of us turned out to be a really, really bad shot and randomly hit a fellow liveryman.

Glocks are heavier and larger than the die cast toy gun I sprayed black for the cover of Wolf by the Ears, and with a much heftier kick when fired than I'd imagined. The rounds are beautiful, like jewellery, and so are the empty cartridge cases, shiny brass glittering in the grass. No wonder it occurred to my grandfather to make a bell from cartridges during WW1, which I still have.

It is trickier to hit a target than you might think; the hardest part is holding the weapon steady while you line up the sights or cross hairs and squeeze the trigger. Did you know rifle sights are adjusted to suit the individual, so a sniper will be less accurate if not using his own weapon? I did my best shots with a rifle, lying prone, all five holes within a few centimetres of a target the size of a postage stamp (admittedly from close range). I regret not taking a photo before the nice soldier teaching me pasted paper over the holes ready for my next attempt while kneeling. 

My team came second, making us terribly proud of ourselves.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Print edition of Wolf by the Ears

I've got the first copies of Wolf the paperback, and I'm rather proud. For the first time, I've mastered the gutter (woop woop) and so it's the best print version I've done. I've improved so much since doing Remix, I've now redone that book too, with drop caps, chapter headings, page headers and proper italics, not italics done in Word (this has been niggling me. I'm a jeweller, and jewellers are manic over detail). The new version of Remix should be available in a few weeks, and at a cheaper price.

Wolf by the Ears, print version, 274 pages, can be yours for £6.99.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

The trouble with time...

...well, there are several problems with it really.
  • We aren't given enough of it, and as Basil Fawlty pointed out, this is it, you don't get another go.

  • It only works one way, so you can't nip back in time and warn yourself not to buy a pension with Equitable Life* but invest the money in a cheap-at-the-time flat in Hackney instead.

  • And my current grouse - if you are working on one thing, by definition you are not working on something else.
As a single mother running a small business, whatever I was doing, I felt I should be doing something else. And that hasn't changed. There always seems to be a bit too much work, and I never quite get to the bottom of my list. So when I'm at the workshop I'm fretting that I'm not getting on with my current project redecorating my flat. While wielding sander and filler, I think I should be writing. While writing, it suddenly occurs to me I haven't done a blog post for ages...

Maybe I'm lacking in time management skills, though I'd prefer to think I'm attempting too much. What about you?

*This is not written from experience. Luckily I couldn't afford to give Equitable Life more than a trifle - or for that matter buy a spare flat.