Friday, 28 February 2014

Space to think

Ideas for a novel suddenly present themselves at times I least expect to think of anything except the immediate task - sitting in a theatre or church pew, taking a stroll through a park on chilly day or climbing the spiral stone steps of an ancient castle. Sometimes, just sitting having a cuppa on a hazy, sunny afternoon invites inspiration.

Armed with a laptop and iPad, painfully writing out chapters by hand is not an option. I can write anywhere and have been blessed with the ability to completely switch-off from all distraction and focus completely on what I am doing. I take my equipment to outside benches, parks, cafes and pubs and when I do not have anything with me then I rely on a small handheld notebook to hold those sudden bursts of inspiration and my iPhone for visuals.

But, it all goes back to the single idea that forms out of the ether, moves me strongly and then lodges itself firmly within my brain. I can remember where I was and what I was doing when it happened for each of my novels - the local church for 'Temptation,' in front of a PC screen taking a virtual tour of a street I used to frequent for 'Star Keeper' and ascending the slippery cobbled streets of Halifax, Yorkshire for 'Crushed' which will be published later this year.

As that initial idea takes shape and is added to, it is easy to allow it to run away or become stifled by too busy a plot or too many characters. If I reach the point where I need it all to make sense again then I have one favourite place to sit and ponder it.

Where I find perspective
Exposed but yet private, I sit above everyday concerns and can watch cars speed through the streets of the town below, look up and see birds form arrows beneath the clouds and all suburban noises are distant and muffled by the sound of rustling leaves around me. Everything slots into place and so do my thoughts.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Finding a diamond amongst the rough

One of my favourite past times is looking for a book that will capture my attention and I usually find it when enjoying a morning stroll through a market or while perusing the overloaded shelves of some backwater store where the owner is not overly fussy about display or the order of genre.

I found an interesting bookstall in a market just over the Lancashire/Yorkshire border at Todmorden and whenever I visit I find myself drawn to many rare and unusual titles from a wide range of areas, mostly non-fiction.

I paid a visit on Thursday and I found the owner blinking against spitting icy rain and a bitter wind but as usual she still had a friendly smile and was only too happy to discuss her range of books.

As a moderator for Needful Books (an increasingly popular Google Community for readers, reviewers, authors and publishers as well as artists and photographers) I have the privilege of seeing photos of wonderful old book stores posted by members from across the globe. My own small contribution this week is a snapshot of the market stall owned by Wigan Lane Books and I have chosen it simply because I always feel a ripple of warm curiosity whenever I visit it. Sometimes, a rustic location or artistic photo is not necessary to convey the simple pleasure of running ones fingers across book covers and then being able to stop at the one that calls out to be opened. I have found some of my most interesting reads this way and often on subjects I wouldn't normally opt for.

I was pleased to hear from the market stall owner that she has a new online store too and so I would highly recommend it to any readers who have far-ranging tastes and interests.

Wigan Lane Books Online

Wigan Lane Books market stall at Todmorden

Friday, 14 February 2014

My Bloody Valentine

I've always been conflicted about cut flowers, preferring to see them in their natural environment, alive and able to resurface year after year. A bunch is nice now and again but there's something slightly off about seeing beauty slowly fade and shrivel in a vase.

Around 15 years ago I decided to celebrate Valentines Day with a gourmet-style home-cooked meal, complete with wine and candles. We had suffered a few years of indignity at local restaurants who seemed to think that a special valentines meal consisted of a giant strawberry on a grilled steak or a plastic rose handed out as you walked in (and of course, the meals are always slightly more expensive than the norm!). Then, there's the dessert trolley, boasting names that would look apt in any Ann Summers catalogue!

On the first occasion we decided that Valentines is much better at home, I ran out at lunch time to find a semi-romantic film for us to watch after our meal. I didn't want anything too slushy and as I was extremely short of time, I ran into HMV and grabbed 'Red Rose' thinking "what an apt name for a film on Valentines Day."

Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be a ghost/horror by Stephen King but nevertheless it was very good and so began our Valentine tradition.

Tonight we have 'Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter' and now that I think about it I've realised that our valentine tradition has become increasingly bloodier over the years. That may be a reflection of 20 years of marriage!
My Bloody Valentine

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Publishing Pecking Order

Trying to get a book published is like that old 60s sketch "Class" with John Cleese and Co; there's a pecking order but first, you must get yourself a pedestal....

The various parties involved can use a tyre pump to inflate their pedestal at any one time during the proceedings. When first starting out, it goes something like this: -
Publishing Pecking Order
Sometimes the book will act as the type pump and then, who knows how high the pedestals will soar?

A lot of writers have chosen not to have a pedestal and therefore remove themselves from the pecking order. These writers prefer a mobile pedestal and try to do wheelies in and out of the pedestals shadows. Very occasionally they can jump over a pedestal.

Before you sit on a pedestal there is just one very important fact that can easily become overlooked if you decide to enter the pecking order or apply wheels to your pedestal - the book drives or inflates it and it can therefore inflate or deflate other pedestals.