Tag Archives: literature

Little Pig’s Book of Why

This is a kind of companion piece to Responsibility that a I wrote a few months ago. It’s still a work-in-progress but I thought I’d share.

Little Pig,
Wanted to know,
Why the sun makes us hot,
And the cold makes it snow.

Little Pig,
Wanted to know,
Why we start off small,
But then grow.

Little Pig,
Was full of questions,
About the world around her.

Little Pig,
Staring in to space,
And that’s how her brother found her.

“Little Pig,”
He oinked at her,
“Why do you spend so much time alone.”

Little Pig,
Barely noticed,
She was wondering why they called this place home.

Her brother,
Was infuriated,
To him it was clear to see,

That things,
Were just the way they were,
And that’s how they’re meant to be.

Her brother,
Knew that the snow came,
When the pig angel blew his nose.

Her brother,
Knew that piglet babies were found,
In knapsacks brought by the crows.

Little Pig,
Couldn’t take any more,
There had to be a way out.

Little Pig,
Wanted to roar,
Instead of squealing from her snout.

Little Pig,
Watched the angry farmer,
And his sweet and cuddly wife.

Little Pig,
Began to question,
How this could help to improve her life.

The more,
She nuzzled up to the wife,
The more she was stroked and held.

The more,
Her brother rolled around in the mud,
The more the wife was repelled.

One day,
A truck came to the farm,
To take the piggies away.

But the farmer’s wife,
Was having none of that,
She wanted Little Pig to stay.

One day,
Is all it takes,
To find your new beginning,

To be as happy,
As a pig in shit,
Or served with apple sauce and all the trimmings.

Advice on writing a 2nd draft?

In about a week’s time, I will print out the full first draft of my novel. My red pen will at the ready.

But then what?

Having not seen the first half of the novel for months, I’d like to read the entire thing straight through (as a reader would do) to get a feel for the full flow and rhythm of the story. But I’m also going to want to note down any clear changes that are required as I go along.

Maybe I can just underline or asterisk every amend that I spot – and then come back to make detailed notes later.

Or perhaps I should make proper notes as I go along as it’s important to capture my thoughts immediately. After all, I’m never going to be able to replicate that first read through.

So, my fellow writers… aspiring or pubished… I’ll take any advice you’ve got to chuck at me. Bring it on…

Mission: First Draft. Complete.

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“Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.”

Nicholas Sparks

Joy, relief, apprehension, excitement, yadda yadda yadda.

It may have taken a little longer than anticipated but Draft One is complete. You can’t see me but I’m lying on my sofa having just done a little celebratory dance (picture this: flailing arms, lanky legs pumping, shoulders jiggling. I always stay classy).

Written by hand, in pen, on paper – and transferred to my computer every 30 or 40 pages. Written in a form of free verse that I believe in 100% but still doubt my ability to pull off. But most importantly, written.

I once wrote a post in which my main words of wisdom were: ‘If you want to be a writer then write.’ That’s advice worth following – but recently I’ve struggled. As I got close to the end of my first draft, I started looking for a new job, then I got a job, and it’s a busy job, and my focus shifted, and I wanted to write but I didn’t write, and I didn’t blog, and then I said to myself ‘If I want to be a writer then I need to write’, so I wrote, and now I’ve finished my first draft, and it feels good.

But there are no laurels to rest on. I’m already looking forward to the second draft – to the re-writing. And trust me, it’s going to need some serious re-writing!

For now I’ve put the manuscript away. It’ll stay locked up for 3 or 4 weeks…. ready to be looked at with fresh eyes. I can’t even remember the last time I saw the first page so at the moment I’m mostly just hoping it isn’t completely shit.

And in the meantime I have two other projects that I want to devote some time to – so they’ll be getting some love and attention.

Just time to reminisce with a pointer back to my first ever blog post, which was an early excerpt from the novel.

Now, for one more arm flailing dance…

Book review: The Looking Glass Club by Gruff Davies

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And so I find myself reviewing another book as soon as I’ve finished it – seems like a good thing to do: turn the final page and give an instant reaction. Here we go again. This time it’s a mind-bending trip…

The year is 2010 and Zeke is a brilliant physics student at a top London university. He’s fallen in with a group who are taking a drug that seems to allow them to experience shared hallucinations. Well, they’re shared hallucinations or a door on to a parallel universe. Probably.

The year is 2035 and Steel is living with his talking dog in a high security New York apartment. He’s opened his door to a pregnant girl with no memory, who carries a note that takes him back to the darkest of dark times. From that moment he’s on the run; his life at risk.

But Zeke and Steel are the same person and, in this story, the boundaries between reality and illusion are sometimes impossible to distinguish.

The Looking Glass Club is an excellent novel. It’s fast-paced, gripping and it paints the most amazing pictures: at times it’s like being on a drug fuelled trip of your own. Both modern day London and a New York of the future are believable and brilliantly crafted worlds. It’s also a smart book – in truth, there are a couple of times when it’s a little too clever – but the story is completely unique, expertly told and, despite the technology and the pace of the narrative, it works because at its heart it’s an absorbing tale about friendship and trust.

This is a self-published book that asks you to make no compromise beyond the challenge of an enjoyably complex plot. It deserves a place amongst the best science fiction.

UK Amazon

US Amazon

How does memory work? (Another excerpt from my 1st draft)

This is a bit of a strange one but I thought I’d share it anyway. To (very) briefly explain –  at the heart of my story are questions about memory, and how our memories of life experiences affect who we are and how we behave. With that in mind…

 

It’s believed that our long-term memory comes in three flavours:
Episodic, Procedural and Semantic.

Your first kiss,
The best meal you’ve ever eaten,
Attending your daughter’s graduation,
Episodic memory covers the massive accumulation,
Of life experiences that are unique to you,
Things that have happened at a specific time,
At a specific venue.

Procedural memory comprises those skills,
That have been learnt,
But that we perform so effortlessly that it appears we weren’t,
Conscious of learning them in the first place,
Like riding a bike or tying a shoe lace.

And semantic memory is all about remembering factual information,
Such as capital cities or multiplication,
Often the sort of stuff you learn at school,
Right down to the most basic cognition:
That a cat is an animal and a hammer is a tool.

Morning after/Night before (another excerpt from my first draft)

Cold, dry air,
On hot, damp skin,
Mingled smells,
Of cigarettes and gin,
Clothes fighting,
Against being removed,
Two bodies,
Writhing and pressed,
And drunk and unrepressed,
Eros unmoved.
The morning after,
No romance,
Stilted conversation,
Awkward glance,
Hurried dressing,
Dried sweat smell,
Sheepish goodbyes,
Just as well.

Authors who look like their writing: #5 Will Self

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This edition of the series was nominated by Mame from http://writemybrainsout.wordpress.com/I’m always up for taking suggestions so please shout if you want to nominate an author to be featured.

“What excites me is to disturb the reader’s fundamental assumptions.”

– Will Self

When I lived in Stockwell (South London) I would often pass Will Self, cycling with his kids, as I made my way to the Tube station on the way to work. Self is one of those ‘famous’ people who I could feel proud about living round the corner from. If he lived there, then it was clearly an area fit for creative types who bucked against the establishment and forged their own unique path. In addition, his writing gave the impression that he might just be a little unhinged. Excellent. Yes, this is someone I was happy to share a neighbourhood with.

He’d be so happy to know that.

But it’s the writing that makes the man – and I do believe he exudes the way in which he writes. He takes the everyday and twists it. He perverts it. He exaggerates the absurd and often ties it up in fantastical and surreal worlds. He’ll satirise pretty much anything and he’s happy to make you squirm. And that’s an author I want to read.

I’m off to the Hay Festival…

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So, yes, this is about as middle-aged and middle-class as my life has now become. In the past, it was all about music festivals; sleeping in a muddy field in a cheap tent; spending 3 days drunk or stoned or both; jumping up and down with 30,000 other people to loud music; getting no sleep.

But now, I’m about to head off to a literature festival. And you know what? It’s brilliant and I’m not ashamed at all… there’s the rest of the summer for teenage fun… for now I’m hanging with the grown-ups. I’ve been to the Hay Festival before and it’s awesome. I think it’s probably the premier literary festival in the world, and set in the quintessential pretty british village too.

My 4 days will include talks and readings by John McCarthy (who was held hostage in Lebanon for 5 years), Carl Bernstein (Mr Watergate), Hans Blix (Mr weapons of mass destruction), and Stella Rimington (the former Head of MI5). And I haven’t even mentioned the fiction writers.

So, I’m off to sip tea and wine. See you on the other side…

Abstract rant (another excerpt from my first draft)

This makes little sense out of context. However, it makes only a little more sense in context…

Words,
Can’t find,
When it’s correct.

Murmur,
Cry,
Windows,
Over me,
Through me,
Can’t see,
Call me,
Claw me,
Forget me,
Judge me,
Don’t.

Indirect,
Perhaps,
Betrayal,
No return,
Perhaps,
Accusation,
Kiss and tell,
Not to me,
About,
Choice,
Top drawer,
Always,
Expectation,
Release.

Listen,
Trust me,
Retain,
Plug it,
File it,
Trust me,
Never.

Book review: Canada by Richard Ford

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I’ve never written a review before but I just finished reading this brilliant, masterful book on the train home and wanted to share some of the love.

The novel is narrated by Dell Parsons, who looks back at the experiences of his 15 year old self in a small town in Montana in 1960. The bare bones of the storyline can be summed up in the opening passage:

“First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later. The robbery is the more important part, since it served to set my and my sister’s lives on the courses they eventually followed. Nothing would make complete sense without that being told first.”

I’m a big fan of Richard Ford but the plot of this novel is probably the strongest he’s written in terms of page-turning. However, if you’re looking for a thriller then you’ve come to the wrong place – as engrossing as the plot is, it’s less important than the writing itself.

This was the book that inspired my series of posts about authors who look like their writing: at the time, I called Ford’s style elegant, languid and wise. Sometimes, writing this beautiful can give the illusion of being wise and full of insight – but there’s no illusion here… every page is full of a rich voice that feels as if it may be teaching you something new about the world and the people who live in it. That’s not to say that you need a dictionary to get through the book. It’s that Ford uses language so simply to do such complex things that is his genius and, for me, his only equal in this regard is Cormac McCarthy.

Canada is a novel about the strange turns that normal people’s lives can take, it believes in looking forwards and seeing what’s in front of you instead of always looking for hidden meaning in what’s already gone, and it understands above all about human fragility. As you can tell, I would absolutely recommend it. I find it impossible to read a book like this and not be inspired… well, partly inspired and partly accepting that I’ll never be able to write quite that well.