Category Archives: General Thoughts

Errors and editing

mistakesThank you Neil Gaiman!

I have been silent recently; silent both in blogging, and writing, and around the house. I have been preoccupied. And horror-struck. And mortified at something I read.

Mistakes; typos; grammatical inconsistencies – all horrors for an English teacher to witness. How can something go through many, many readings, editings, online grammar-checkers, and still have so many errors? It should not be possible, one would think; or perhaps you are ahead of me and are already nodding your head muttering ‘self-published authors’.

Mea culpa. The shock, horror and mortification does stem from a self-published novel: mine. My first, published in 2013, which I had no notion of anyone other than me seeing. Once I realized that people were reading it, I hurriedly raced through it again and caught what I thought were the only remaining errors, and re-published it with a sigh of relief, my pride intact. Hooray for online publishing! For believe me, I had produced the best novel I could at that time; I had read it myself at least ten times, and had farmed it out to several others for comments and suggestions. I had done what I could afford to do with a novel that no one was going to read.

Imagine my horror, then, when casually flipping pages, admiring my debut work, my eye lit upon ‘positioned himself bedside his wife’. ‘Bedside?’ Continue reading

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Filed under editing, General Thoughts, Learning through literature, Life lessons, Reflections, Writing Progress, writing style

When you rip out the roots

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Gardeners know that when dividing a plant they have to be careful and quick. They must either gently tease out the roots or administer a quick chop with a sharp blade before immediately re-potting the two halves in a nurturing environment to avoid transplant shock.

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante deals with a division that is neither quick nor gentle. It is a quick read, thank goodness, because the subject matter is disturbing, none of the characters is likeable, and the density of the prose often cloying; but it is not a pleasant nor enjoyable read.

The main character, Olga, suffers a breakdown after her husband leaves her for a younger woman – not an unusual premise; however, her suffering escalates until she can no longer manage her life nor her children’s lives. She is a plant in shock, descending into a toxic hell of self-abasement, obscenity, vicious anger, and overwhelming dysfunction in all areas of her life, roots exposed and withering. No plant can possibly survive in such conditions. Continue reading

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Filed under Book review, General Thoughts, Learning through literature, Life as we know it, Life lessons, marriage, Reflections, relationships

Trollope and the creepy POV

 

 

scary_good_books_sales_2I don’t like 2nd person POV – you know the one; the one where the author keeps on breaking through the third wall addressing you where you sit, whether it be in your bedroom or kitchen or on the beach, and actually discusses things with you.

It’s creepy. I especially don’t like a long-dead author talking to me.

Much less do I want to enter into a debate about sundry opinions on life decisions, or why he’s going to leave a certain character where they are for the moment. I’m reading a novel, for Pete’s sake, I don’t want to have to think or suddenly sit upright and be on my best behavior because the author has popped in for a chat. I just want to be told a story in private, thank you very much.

I’ve read many Trollope novels so, logically, it can’t be annoying me as much as I claim – right?

Wrong. Every time he does it I cringe, I feel cornered, and just want him to take himself off behind the curtain and get on with telling the story. I have even flipped pages to get to that point; sad but true. Why do I need this?:

‘What communication there may have been between Sir Henry and his servant John is, oh my reader, a matter too low for you and me.’ ‘We cannot stay long at Suez, nor should I carry my reader there, even for a day, seeing how triste and dull the place is.”Methinks it is almost unnecessary to write this last chapter. The story, as I have had to tell it, is all told.’ Continue reading

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May 7, 2017 · 8:35 am

Mr Darcy – who are you?

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We think we know what he looks like, visions of Colin Firth – poor man; forever embodying this fictional character – immediately leaping into our mind’s eye as soon as Mr Darcy is mentioned. We know he is tall, handsome and rich and aloof.

We know this, absolutely we do, because Austen tells us so. She tells us that Darcy ‘drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report … of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr Bingley.’

Austen gives the barest pencil sketch, blurred around the edges and certainly with no defining features, just so her readers could imagine whomever they wanted in that role.

And so we did.

Darcy could be fair-haired: he could be dark. He could be as tall as we wanted to make him; he could be whatever we thought ‘handsome’ was. In actual fact, Darcy was a concoction of our fantasy and imagination.  Of course, since Mr Firth, that blurred outline written 200 hundred years ago has been filled in rather well, but, still, her lack of detail has meant that different Darcys have existed in millions of imaginations for the past 200 years.

Not any more.

According to Professor John Sutherland,  the Mr Darcy Jane Austen imagined while writing her barest outline was more likely to have had a long nose, pointed chin, powdered white hair, a pale complexion, slender, sloping shoulders and a modestly-sized chest. Defined legs were also considered very attractive.

scczen_100217spldarcy2_620x310Photo / UKTV

Hmmm.

Kind of ruins the fantasy, doesn’t it?

Read the full report that sparked this post by Hannah Furnesshttp://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=11799399

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Filed under Austen, General Thoughts, Regency, writing style

Book Reviews

A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion My rating: 4 of 5 stars I haven’t read a novel by Didion, only her essays, and wasn’t sure what to expect. However, her writing style – disj…

Source: Book Reviews

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Filed under Book review, Literary criticism, relationships, writing style, Writing Style

Hardy Musings

 

 

 

Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native is a novel I read many years ago and being an admirer of his work, thought I would re-read it as its premise had long since slipped into the blur of Hardy novels. As any Hardy reader knows- and I don’t know who actually said this but it is very true – if you want a happy ending in a Hardy novel, then read it backwards. Which all sounds rather macabre and miserable, but it isn’t. This is because Hardy uses death as he uses life in his writing, as something that has to be endured and is unavoidable. Which also sounds rather bleak.

OK, so what he does is show us that regardless of the decisions we make, whether they are spontaneous or long deliberated on, makes no difference to the quality of our life and death. Both will occur, and our decisions will only make those occurrences more or less pleasant. The smallest of decisions, the slightest fall from grace or moral behavior can completely ruin or improve our lives. The only snag is that we don’t know when we are making those decisions what the consequence will be. No one can see into the future nor can they know what other people will do or how they will react. So essentially, the fact that all of Hardy’s novels – well, 95% of them – end tragically should act as a warning, a caution for the reader, a kind of flashing red light to check your own behavior and choices before it’s too late. It’s not bleak, it’s cathartic; a ‘thank goodness I’m not that hero/heroine, oops, maybe I should check I’m actually not acting that way.’

That said, my other observation on Hardy has to do with his wordiness, which generally has not ever worried or bothered me. To pick up a Hardy novel is to accept there will be considerable time spent, pages and pages in fact, on descriptions of characters, settings, motivations. Hardy can take six pages quite easily on the description of the interior of a cottage or the walk of a farmer. And this is not a problem. To read Hardy is to sink into his prose and let the imagination conjure up these images he draws  for you with such painstaking clarity. Unlike some other authors, he is determined there should be no mistake about what his readers see when a character enters a scene.

However, I found myself becoming impatient with the descriptions concerning the heath in this novel; Egdon Heath to be exact. The novel opens with a ten page description of the heath at dusk, the colors, the light, the sounds, and if it sounds excessive, it is. But, believe me, you can definitely see the heath by the end of it. But the heath, unusually, is not then left alone now it has been firmly fixed in your mind. No, it keeps on being described throughout the novel; every time someone walks across it, during the day, the night, winter, summer, it’s all there. The heath must be described. And I found myself losing interest in the story, the characters, and most definitely the heath.

Then I realized there is a reason for this preoccupation with an inanimate expanse of unforgiving nature: Hardy is treating it as the main character of his novel. It is the difficult place where the characters must eke out a poor living if they can from furze cutting and livestock grazing, and it rewards them poorly for their labors like a stingy relative. It is the place where characters meet and love and hate using its paths and hollows and ferns to promote or conceal their activities. It hides and reveals sides of characters that would otherwise go unnoticed in more agreeable and easy terrain. It is changeable and uncaring, focused only on its own existence. And once I figured this out, I appreciated the wordiness, the exact descriptions, and the heath’s effect on the other characters.

So now I like Hardy all over again – for his preoccupation with death and setting both. For portraying them as inanimate characters which have enormous influence on every one of us, whether we realize it or not.

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Fascinated with Time Travel

lit-final-cover-incl-male-and-promo-ch-title-page-001 Continue reading

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Filed under General Thoughts, Life as we know it, novel release, travel, Writing Progress

Wi-fired

OK – a quick heads-up: this is going to amuse some and alienate others. It all rather depends upon which side of fifty you fall.

I own a smart phone – I probably only use ten percent of its features but I do use it.  I use a computer everyday at work and writing novels. I am not a Luddite by any means.

That out of the way: What the hell is so important in the e-world that almost every person walking along the street is head-down, finger clicking, smiling into their phone screen, completely oblivious to approaching cars, buses, or other pedestrians? And even worse are those who also feel the need to mask the entire  real world by plugging themselves in their music whilst walking and clicking.

What are they afraid of out here? Actual human contact? Actual human noise?

Not only are they putting themselves in danger being so cut-off from everything that could potentially kill them, but also those around them who are constantly stepping aside to avoid them, or putting out a restraining hand before they commit unwitting suicide in front of an approaching bus.

I made a point of observing this behavior on a short trip to a city after I had been almost mowed down by several oblivious clickers. The usual rules of polite human interaction no longer apply, apparently, when one has the diversion and excuse of a hand-held device.

No, indeed.

It gives you carte-blanc to bump into people without apologizing, make no eye contact with anyone, ever, and suddenly stop in the middle of the street without warning when something on the screen is so important or startling – probably a new video on youtube – that those behind you have to swerve to avoid a collision. Again – no apology necessary because total immersion in an e-world excuses you for all rudeness in this one.

Even more astonishing is when two such e-worlders bump into each other – the bemused look as sudden re-orientation takes over is almost gratifying. Their location invariably seems to come as a shock and I wonder just how many are actually where they thought they would be at the end of their walk. The sudden realization that there are others around them, that the world on the screen is not the real one, that the last ten minutes have passed without their knowledge, finally seems to register: for a moment, at least.

And then, real-world crisis over, an immediate return to the e-world, and the relief is almost palpable.

As I sat back and observed all of this whilst enjoying a coffee and the sun in my face, I wondered how this would all look to, say, Jane Austen; all this non-interaction, all this rudeness, all this unawareness. She would think us harried indeed, and unfriendly, and possibly on the verge of being robots – if she knew what they might be.Humans being controlled every minute of their lives by a machine no bigger than their hand. She would cringe at the idea that this machine could track your every move should you be so negligent to leave on the GPS; will wake you relentlessly every morning no matter how hard you try to silence it; will keep you connected to everything and everybody, including work, 24/7; will track your buying preferences and store your photos; will find you a new partner, restaurant, power company or game; and will have the ability to make its world so much more relevant and important than the one you actually live in that you can’t put it down even for a walk along the street. God forbid you leave it behind or lose it.

I guess my observations led to this question: Is that video, that email, that photo, that news item so important that it can’t wait ten minutes until you are sitting somewhere and out of harm’s way? Would your life be affected positively or negatively if you took some time away from all the ‘noise’ and enjoyed some ‘real-world’ time occasionally?

For those of us who are tired of being ignored, bumped into, gazed at unseeingly, relegated to being of the least importance, please try coming up for air occasionally; you might enjoy the break.

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Sneak Peek! Felicity in Marriage: Part One

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Click on the link below to read the first few chapters – novel release date September 30th, 2015

Felicity in Marriage ch 1-3

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New Novel Release: Felicity in Marriage

Exciting news!!!
My third novel, Felicity in Marriage, is now available on pre-order for release September 30th 2015. This starts at the beginning of the year after Pride and Prejudice ends. Lizzy’s at Pemberley, Jane’s at Netherfield and Lydia’s in Newcastle. There seems to be happiness all around until Lizzy receives a letter from Lydia which reminds her that her sister is never happy or satisfied for long. To follow your favorite characters’ lives, to listen to their gossip and understand their problems, order your copy of Felicity in Marriage today!

Here’s the back-cover blurb:

Mrs. Bennet has nothing more to wish for. With three daughters married, her business in life is very nearly complete, and her delighted pride when she visits Mrs. Bingley and talks of Mrs. Darcy and Mrs. Wickham with her friends may easily be imagined. Mr. Bennet is merely thankful to finally reclaim the peace and quiet of his book-room.

Their two eldest daughters, Elizabeth Darcy and Jane Bingley have certainly found felicity in marriage as the ladies of Pemberley and Netherfield, enjoying everything such positions in society command. But the marriage of the youngest Bennet daughter, Lydia, to the unscrupulous but charming George Wickham does not leave her parents or sisters entirely sanguine. If only the couple had not gone so far away – to Newcastle of all places – and Lydia in possession of such an unguarded and imprudent manner, certain only to worsen without her family’s steadying influence.

Step back inside the delightful world of Pride and Prejudice and Wickham’s Wife and join your favorite characters as they continue with their lives and loves. Listen to the gossip; celebrate the delights and vexations of early marriage; visit old relationships; experience country living, and the excitement of Regency London. The ending of Austen’s famous novel is just the beginning!

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Filed under marriage, novel release, Regency, relationships, Writing Progress