Rush hour…

Here we are, nearly the end of July and here I am thinking of my impending hols. This is nothing to do with writing, but as the day started off so nicely I thought I’d mention it.

On my usual schlep down the hill to the station this morning, a passer-by turned to me, gave me a big smile and the thumbs up sign. He’d spotted that I was wearing one of the two Rush t-shirts that I own and was obviously a fan as well. For the split-second before I realised what he was referring to, I thought perhaps I knew him from somewhere and that he was saying hello (I head my earbuds in, listening to James LaBrie at the time). But no, he was just a kindred spirit who thought he’d let his approval be known to me. I responded in kind and showed him my thumb in reply.

The last time a fellow commuter smiled or even spoke to me was when she dropped a heavy briefcase on my shoulder while trying to remove it from the luggage rack. She apologised profusely and smiled in embarrassment, but hey, a smile is a smile and you take what you can get in commuter land!

Of course it was back to the old push and shove with my fellow lost Monday morning souls a few minutes later as I boarded my train and sought somewhere to sit and read my book. I’ve been dipping in and out of Stephen King’s On Writing for months and have finally decided to push on to the finish. It’s not that it’s a difficult book: it’s extremely readable and full of great advice. It’s just that it’s been competing with a lot of other good novels recently. I’ve just finished Heroes Die by Matthew Stover, a book that proves the rule that you should never judge a book by its cover. The retro-cheesy image on the front completely belies the great writing within. then, the next in my unread pile was Stanisaw Lem’s The Cyberiad and its quirky short-story format has left the gaps which I’m filling in with On Writing.

As I got off the train this morning, the chapter was on reading as much as possible in order to be a better writer. Other than the copy writing that my day-job involves, I’ve done very little creative writing since finishing my first novel. This led me to the quandary that perhaps I need to ration my reading a little and make more time to write.

But then won’t that put me back in the position I was in before I had the gall to call myself a writer? And then there’s that holiday coming up soon and I’m already thinking about which books to take with me.

The pressure never ends!

And the day started off so well…

Another imminent arrival…

The royal baby isn’t the only new arrival that has kept people in excited anticipation recently. I’ve just been told by my publisher that my novel will finally be out in August/early September. It’s been nearly a year in a gestation of its own and we are finally near to making the big announcement.

I’ve also just given my first ever interview, for the publisher’s eZine, which made me feel very big and important. More on that as and when I have dates and details.

Hopefully I’ll be in a position to post the title and publication details in the next few weeks…

Summer of ’55: Laurie-Lee Hitches a Ride

Summer of '55: Laurie-Lee Hitches a RideA very good friend of mine has just published her first book, an erotic novella: Summer of ’55: Laurie-Lee Hitches a Ride.

It’s not my usual genre, but I’ve just downloaded my copy and am looking forward to a read. I’m particularly interested (not so much exploring the pervy side of my friend’s psyche!), but just to see her through her writing. We’ve sat down on so many so many occasions to chat about books and now she’s out there with another of her creative projects (she’s also a great photographer!). I can’t wait to  see what she’s written.

The synopsis is as follows:

“Speedster Eddy and his poet pal, Jim, pick up sexy hitch-hiker, Laurie-Lee, at an all-night diner. The trio make a tasty love triangle as they speed across the country to New York City. When they stop overnight at the Siesta Motel, Laurie-Lee knows her pretty, pink lipstick will be messed up something good.”

It’s available on Lulu.


The psychology of abandonment…

Goodreads have provided an interesting infographic highlighting the books that we find hard to read to their conclusion and the reasons for doing so.

I’ve written before on how much of a personal bind I find myself in when I don’t finish a book, so it’s interesting to see that others find themselves in the same predicament. I even come out ahead slightly, as I’ve read four of the ‘Top five abandoned classics’. Ulysses is the only one I fall down on as I’ve not even attempted to take it on, so fearsome is its reputation.

Click the image to embiggen.

The psychology of abandonment.

A reply to a request for an account of what I do everyday…

I’m a copywriter, but at the moment my role is mostly editing other people’s copy. The most eloquent people can come across as forced and far too formal in print (and onscreen), and it’s my job to make them sound human again and to bring clarity to what often comes over as chaotic rambling.

If this sounds unfair, it’s not meant to be. I’ve worked with all sorts and have found that often the best educated fall down when it comes to expressing themselves. There is an assumption that wordiness equates to authority and that formality is necessary to convey this.

It isn’t.

I read web pages, reports, advertising copy (and even other people’s emails when they ask for advice on tone), and I set about tracking changes or wielding the old HB pencil. I then give back the copy in the hope that I have made what they are trying to say more effective. I also hope that I haven’t put anyone’s nose out of joint in doing so. Ninety-nine per cent of the time this isn’t an issue. Every so often though, someone will throw their toys out of the pram at the perceived hubris that I may have sullied their carefully wrought prose.

Either way, I’m paid for a particular set of skills and not to pander to ego. In my more pretentious moments I invoke Albert Camus’ image of being a happy Sisyphus. In my less considered moments I please myself with the realisation that I haven’t beaten anyone with an office chair in years and that each time refuse to do so, I save a life.

This is fulfilment that puts my copywriting skills right up there next to those of a fireman or a trauma surgeon in terms of good deeds done.


The Shadow of the Wind

I don’t know if this is a conceit common to authors, but I do sometime read a novel and think, ‘My writing is just as good as that!’. Sometimes, I go even further, thinking ‘My writing is better than that!’.

Neither of these was something that I felt while reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind. It was one of my Christmas books that had been getting closer to me as I worked through my never-diminishing pile of books to read next. Finishing it yesterday at my desk at work, I found myself sitting back and nodding in appreciation of his mastery of characterisation. He made me feel like a lazy writer, someone who just provides rough pencil sketches of his protagonists rather than the gorgeously vivid painted frescos that Zafon creates.

I’ve got The Angel’s Game to read as well, but will have to let my feelings of awe and inadequacy abate before attempting to tackle it.