Showing posts from February, 2015


 Going round the local charity shops with my daughter recently, I picked up a copy of Donna Tartt's "THE GOLDFINCH". I'd read the reviews when it first came out, but never got round to buying it. My daughter, grand-daughter, and their close friend Jon Welch, the playwright, all loved it, so I bought it (couldn't get a higher recommendation that). It is dauntingly long, and physically cumbersome, so I'll probably replace it with the ebook version. I'm also finding it, initially slow, which is my fault as a reader - certainly not hers as a writer. 'Slow' has been the main criticism of the BBC's production of "WOLF HALL", too. I think we're all being conditioned to respond to fast action, and the first episode of "WOLF HALL" was complex, especially for viewers not familiar with the book, and yes, slow. Since then, I've become more and more impressed by it, and will be sad when it reaches its final episode (only tempo

Agents Becoming Publishers and Keeping Books Alive - Andrew Crofts

Fifteen years ago I was ghostwriting books for the most disenfranchised members of the global community; victims of enforced marriages, sex workers, orphans, victims of crimes, bonded labourers and abused children. Out of those experiences I wrote a novel, initially entitled “Maisie’s Amazing Maids”.  The book did okay but then slipped onto the back shelves and from there into the obscurity that envelops all but the lucky few in the book world. In the past that would have been the end of the story, but now, of course, there are a number of options for breathing life back into books that are no longer in the first flush of publication. The book has now been re-launched by Thistle Publishing as a sumptuous paperback and e-book entitled “Pretty Little Packages”. Thistle is an enormously successful imprint set up by London agents Andrew Lownie and David Haviland to keep books alive and available when the more traditional publishing organisations are no longer w

Wait a Minute, Mr Postman by Ruby Barnes

Letters coming through my letterbox here in Kilkenny are a rare thing. Bank statements - electronic these days. Payslips - electronic. I did recently have a cheque for €53.70 arrive from my previous broadband supplier, which was quite exciting. Unfortunately Alfie the Dog has become unused to snail mail and thrusts his fangs through everything that postie shoves in the door, including hands. So the cheque had two teeth marks in it, and my bank wasn't happy with me. Their processing machines don't appreciate bent, spindled, twisted or chewed financial documents. I ordered a paperback book (remember those things?) for Mrs R recently, after her traumatic run-in with a herd of cows and a bull while collecting river water samples for analysis; Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan , naturally. Zombie cows, a very good read. Alfie the Dog appreciated the beefy taste, biting right through the packaging. Two tooth dents in back and front covers. Well, one set of mail that my hound can&

Ghost Song - Susan Price

     Ambrosi...saw the shape of a great and beautiful tree, winter-bare of leaves. It rose out of the empty dark with the pale, pale sheen of steel by moonlight, faintly outlined against the blackness and the stars.      The stars shone through its branches, like brilliant, unseasonable fruit... Other sounds, distant and eerie, crept to his ears. The stars, every one of the thousands of stars, as it spun in darkness, spun its own crystalline, icy, piercing note that... wove and interwove with the note of every other star. Cold, thrilling, calling harmony: poignant discord: the music of the spheres.           This is an extract from my book, Ghost Song. The World Tree         It's said that one of the questions most often asked of writers is, 'Where do you get your ideas from?' Well, I know exactly where this description of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, comes from. When I was eleven, I moved from the little primary school where I'd first met t

Identifying with our characters. And sometimes not. By Jo Carroll

We ask a lot of our characters. Should we ask the same of ourselves? I've just returned from a trip to Malaysia. It's a wonderful, multicultural country with some of the kindest people in the world. But this trip has thrown three significant unexpectednesses at me - just the sort of thing we throw at our characters. Firstly, the weather. Floods kept me from the travelling deep into the rainforest: would I ask my fictional self to get caught in the floods, to wade waste-deep with crocodiles and leeches, in an effort to reach safety? The tail-end of the monsoon continued to ravage the east coast and made reaching an island, with its palm trees and snorkelling, difficult as the ferries were unreliable in the stormy weather. My fictional self would have gone anyway, huddled on the beach with the snakes and monkeys and had sand blown in her eyes. Secondly, the Chinese New Year, a time of glorious celebrations with fireworks and dragons, stretches the public transport system t

Lev's Top Ten Part V

It's taken a while to get here, but here we are: the last stage of my countdown of the top ten books and and series that have stayed with me thoughout my life. For those of you just joining me, this whole thing started a few months ago when a former student tagged me in one of those Facebook status games asking you to rank the top ten somethings that are important to someone somewhere. Admittedly "stayed with you" is open to interpretation. I mean there are some truly horrible pieces of writing that, try as I might, I cannot erase from my memory: The Bridges of Madison County , Twilight ,  Moby Dick . It could also refer to books I just can't get rid of no matter how many times I try to give them away: the Gideon bible, I'm Okay, You're Okay , Moby Dick . In the interest of being interesting, I chose to interpret the phrase as books that have had a significant influence on my life. It has taken me a while, far longer than I expected when I began, but this

He, Cromwell: Mantel on page and screen, by Ali Bacon

Montacute House aka Wolf Hall  The media love to feed off each other. Over the winter the Daily Telegraph ran a news item every Monday (yes news, not features!) relating to Downton Abbey,  and in the last few weeks I've notices something similar with the BBC's Wolf Hall , except for a small snag: viewing figures weren’t as brilliant as expected.  Still, even that became news of the non-news kind ( Wolf Hall fails to grip the nation ) and they hedged their bets by finding a photo of Mark Rylance for the front page. The Beeb of course cashes in with spin-off programmes and Rylance (surprise!) popped up right on cue on Desert Island Discs . Do I mind?  Not in the least, because fickle creature that I am, I’d rather watch or listen to Mark Rylance than the sadly overexposed High Bonneville any day. Oh what a circus. The media have me down to a T. But it’s still worth thinking about Wolf Hall on TV and its impact or lack of. For me the books do require patience and

Our lovely silly words..Pauline Chandler

(1-A. 2-A. 3-B. 4-B. 5-B. 6-A. 7-A. 8-A. 9-A. 10- A. I'll explain later).  Did you catch Stephen Fry on Radio 2 recently, talking about words? He’s something of an expert having worked on a series of programmes about plain English. His main point this time was that, unlike more regimented languages, English is constantly evolving, to embrace how people actually use words. I hadn’t really thought about it, that dictionaries record usage rather than dictating the rules. What a great example of honouring creativity! How sensible! Fry pointed out this aspect of our beautiful language, when he was asked if he really was the creator of the term ‘luvvie’ for an actor sort of person. The OED lists him as the first person to use the word.  Fry quoted another example of his creating a word that has entered common usage, with his friend Hugh Laurie. The word was ‘spoffle’, to described the muffler spongy bit which is placed on the end of a microphone during recording. He was