Monday, 23 November 2015

I was going to write a review but...

Then, my computer crashed, I didn’t have time, the cat was sick.  Now it’s too late.

These are just a few of the reasons we find not to sit down and write a review for a book we’ve read.  That is, if we even think about it in the first place.  I know I’m guilty of thinking that, as an author, I have a duty to write something sparkling and incisive, which obviously takes more than five minutes, so it’s easy to say to myself that I’ll do it the next day/week.  Then I forget.  That’s really the crux of my particular problem. I don’t remember to pay bills, I don’t remember to watch a tennis match I’ve been waiting to see, I even forgot to pick up my daughter from a babysitter years ago.  So it’s got nothing to do with getting older!

When I eventually remember that I’ve missed reviewing a book, I think it’s too late.  I can’t quite remember the protagonist’s name, or even the title and/or author!  So I don’t write a review.

Some time ago, a reader was honest enough to leave a review of My Grandfather’s Eyes that said:

‘I read awhile ago so I don't remember exactly why I like it, but I know I liked it a lot.’

This made me smile.  I didn’t care about the typo.  I didn’t care about the vagueness of the comment.  What made me feel good about my writing was that it had somehow left its mark and that this person had taken the time to rate my book and comment months after reading it.

A review doesn’t have to be detailed.  I know a lot of people must worry that they have to summarise the plot and analyse the characters - it will take too long.  But a few words can say a lot.  These are some of the very brief reviews that readers have kindly left for My Grandfather’s Eyes:

‘Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Well written and suspenseful, Kept me gripped till the very end, then I wanted more!’

I liked Alex, I felt she was a well rounded character, with flaws, but they only made her more real.’

‘This was very well written. It kept me interested and engrossed. I would definitely add this author to my must read list.’

Just one or two (or three) sentences.

So, I’ve decided to go back to my kindle management page and write five quick reviews for books I’ve read and not reviewed.  It will make me feel good and I know it will make the authors feel even better.  I like positivity more than anything!

I do read a lot, so I’m not going to promise myself that I’ll seek out every book I’ve missed.  But from now on, I shall at least try to give a quick comment.  One advantage will be that I’ll have a written record for when my friends ask me to recommend a good book to them!  You know the feeling when you want to tell them about one you’ve enjoyed and the words just won’t come out in the right order…

Life is not as complicated as I try to make it.  Not all the time, anyway.

Still can't decide whether I like my chimney pot.  It's only been seven years.


Happy Days!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

My French Life

The Important Bits

I’ve made an end of year resolution to write every morning for three hours.

I have no idea how it will work out, but today is the fourth day and I’ve written 10,345 words of book one in my new science fiction trilogy.

I have the story arc for each book and the whole series worked out.  I have detailed chapter summaries and character profiles for book one. I’ve done everything the right way round this time.

I have peace and quiet, a large table overlooking my garden and a laptop that has stood me in good stead for the last four years.  I have a cushion for my chair and a hot water bottle on my lap.  I have aspirations.  I have motivation.  I am anchored in my work.

Today, just as on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I was amazed when I came to the end of chapter five and checked the time.  I had only thirty minutes remaining to change scene and begin chapter six.  I didn’t want to stop.  I liked it where I was. But my eyes began to protest.

So.  Now what? I thought.

I’ve had reheated spaghetti for lunch (not recommended), fed my over-worked husband a larger portion, with salad, taken out the organic waste and turned the compost.  I’ve emptied the dishwasher, folded the towels and flossed my teeth.  The washing needs sorting, the world has gone to rack and ruin, there are bombs and politicians on the midday news.  The bakery is closed, but will re-open in time for me to buy a Suisse for my son’s homecoming snack. I'll make sure the milk is chilled.  

I would go out on my bike if it were not raining.  I would bake a cake if I had the ingredients, or a suitable oven.  I would change the world.  Only the bad bits.  If I could.

It’s almost three o’clock in France.  Nearly time for cheap rate electricity and washing machine noise.  Nearly time to find the sweet wrappers in jeans and crumpled receipts for chain saw links and glue that doesn’t work from Brico Depot.  Nearly time to drag out my exercise bike to pedal fast while I watch something that won’t fill my mind with horror.  Like Tipping Point.  Like Bradley on The Chase.

I’m not complaining.  Far from it.  Just saying.


Monday, 2 November 2015

Brouage - A Great Day Out

Brouage is  my husband’s favourite venue for a brocante extravaganza.  

Brouage is home to a few hundred people, who live inside fortifications built by Cardinal Richelieu in the 1630s.  At the time, the village was important as a port, giving access to the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean.  Since the harbour silted up in the latter part of the 17th century it lost its importance and fell into ruin.

Now, it hosts the largest and most visited annual brocante in the region, cunningly arranged to coincide with my husband’s birthday. 

So, yesterday, Al’s dearest wish was to strike out in our silver Peugeot and rummage for copper piping and obsolete tools.  The former to construct a new and very lovely radiator of a type never seen before, and the latter just for fun.

In the past we’ve had sun, rain, cold and heat.  Yesterday was perfect.  Temperatures too hot for tights, a cooling breeze to ease the odd menopausal flush, and a sky so blue it had to be texted to relatives living in Manchester, the Midlands and Devon.  Al took a coat and left it in the car.  Almost unheard of.

We had an economical journey, following a driver who had mislaid fourth and fifth gears, but who kept things interesting with unexpected sudden braking.  We were tolerant and jovial on our Sunday afternoon outing.  

Upon arrival, we encountered friendly, waving car park attendants in specially created orange waistcoats who directed us around a field.  Several times.  

Soon, we joined  hundreds of fellow brocante enthusiasts in a leisurely meander amongst stalls displaying anything from beautiful gilt-framed mirrors to a particularly well-used second hand bra and pants set.  There was something for everyone.

We nearly bought a painting by a lady called Rosa Marco, who was probably aiming for Picasso, when she missed in a most interesting way.  But, having set a euro limit in our heads, the stall holder blew it out of the water and made us feel guilty to boot, lavishing us with pertinent details of the artist (an eighty-five-year-old lady living on the Ile d’Oleron), her numerous exhibitions, not to mention the implicit tragedy of a talent left undiscovered.  Luckily, like the odd fraudulent crook-dressed-as-a-policeman, who demands payment of instant fines in cash, having leapt from the hedgerow brandishing a fake speed gun, our benevolent art collector wouldn’t accept Visa.

I was later quite taken with various sets of non-dishwasher-safe decorative glasses, and also the idea of beginning a collection of brooches in the style of Bling.  Al listened, then walked on, and my resolve to follow my instincts crumbled. 

In short, I came to my senses.  I was there for his birthday treat, the odd bit of human contact, and the prospect of chips.  I just hadn’t immediately realised that life was so simple.