Fourth review for 158th book

From Ruth, great friend, grammar expert and reader of my stuff from the first early drafts. If she winced at my terrible comprehensive school English she did it internally, and kindly steered me in the direction, along with other generous friends, of communicating what was in my head onto screen and paper.

A roller-coaster of a read with never a dull moment. Life mirrors fiction in this fantastical novel; at least it does if you start reading one of the five copies of the novel ‘Five’. Each has a different ending, so, as our hero discovers, best to avoid owning or reading a version with a not-so-good ending. The twists and turns chart his progress from when he first realises that what he reads in ‘Five’ will happen to him. The action is set against an atmospheric backdrop of 1980s’ London – Liberty’s, Muswell Hill, Chelsea, the East End – and Yorkshire too – pubs, beer and dramatic landscapes.

Descriptions of places and settings are keenly observed: colours, smells, décor and scenery flow from the text like a film.

The fantastic elements of the novel can be wonderfully crazy: our hero – broke, but given money by a dear elderly friend to spend on something frivolous – does just that: a Citroen DS (opal green). These are the details I particularly love.   Who buys an Armani suit in a Bond Street store when facing bankruptcy? Our hero does. To block out worries of losing his shop and his home, he reads more of ‘Five’. True to the text, he falls in love, immediately!  The story dips in and out of his relationships with friends, his mother (and her new man) and sister, his ex, and –  of course –  his new love.

It’s an entertaining read – great fun and wonderfully romantic!

P1040492.JPG

Advertisements

Shiiit.

Two rejections in a morning. I’ve just spent an hour wandering about the house, absent-mindedly doing chores, feeling a tad crushed and talking to dogs – “Why? Am I no good? Well obviously not . . . so, what now? What’s it all about?” What would it feel like to just say, ‘I don’t have to do this’. I could stop now, go shopping, worry about what my nails look like, hunt down a normal job . . .” Etc. But my soul would fall out of my person somehow and be left sulking, sitting on a bench in a dismal park with not even pigeons to talk to.

So, how do we deal with rejection? Me, personally, I usually have a few hours mentally kicking cans about and saying Shiiit a lot; then something generally occurs to make me feel me-normal again. In fact while writing this an email has plopped into the inbox saying ‘Hm, can’t find your chapters, please resend’.

Probably now’t but it’ll be enough to bale the water out of my own small, temporarily sinking boat of creativity today.

As other writers have done, no doubt, I just had a quick scan through the internet to see which now-famous authors had been rejected – or rather, how many times had they been rejected. Just about everyone, so it seems. Stephen King apparently received so many R.Letters that he speared them all on a spike in his bedroom.

Onward.

 

images.jpeg

I’m a writer, really I am.

IMG_9158.jpg

A well-established author acquaintance recently told me to say this in the morning when I look in the mirror – well, often half a day passes or more before I look in a mirror, but it was nice of him to say it as he meant it.

I have ‘been published’ – short stories and a children’s book but am seeking that real affirmation that what I do currently is as good as friends and contacts have told me – and that my work could be published and put on shelves in shops.

Hoxton got as far as submission and has been turned down after I had waited in that rather comfy little bubble of hope for a considerable time. Yesterday I moped a little but soon recovered knowing I just need to find the right person at the right point.

Here’s an extract from my other working novel, developed from a short story called The 158th Book, where the main character, Hamish (at this point in hospital after falling though a floor) asks himself the question: when is it OK to say you are a writer.

The ward is quiet this morning, just the sound of the squeaky-wheeled medicine trolley and my adjacent neighbour reading a crossword out loud. He stops, exasperated by a clue.

    “Hamish?”

    I turn, wincing a little at my shoulder’s protest.

    “Leroy?”

    “Dog crossing undefined wilderness sometimes in underwear’. First letter P.”

    I look at his old black face, grey eyebrows furrowed in friendly question and wish I could help. Crosswords always elude me.

    “. . . er. Something to do with the night sky?”

    He peruses the page again: “P . . . mm. Nope. What about, ‘oves snared within foliage’? Three words starting with S.”

    “Sheep-eating plant.”

    “ . . . . S. H. E.E.P. Yes . . . man, how’d d’you know that?”

    I’m stunned myself. “I just remember feeling horrified that there is actually a plant that reaches out and grabs large animals.”

    “Not in London?”

    “No. Peru, I think. Although, apparently brambles can do the same thing.”

    “Blackberry plants can eat sheep?”

    “Not as such. It’s the thorns . . . the sheep gets stuck as it tries to free its wool from the plants, gets more stuck and eventually dies, thus nourishing the bramble bush – for ever pretty much considering the size of the animal.”

    Leroy looks impressed. “What did you say you do?”

    “I’m a writer.”

    He nods, smiles and goes back to his crossword and I sit there thinking about that phrase. ‘I’m a writer’. Do you become a writer when someone with special powers says so – like a chief editor at a major publishing house? Or are you allowed to just say, ‘I’m a writer’ if you write?

Finished? Nah . . .

Well, possibly, or at least certainly moving in the right direction.

 

IMG_9550.jpg

Latest version of the manuscript being sent off with its own aged map of the East End and foreword by Jake the Prophet.

I found what I think was ‘draft six’ this morning while having a shelf clear-out – a slim-ish volume of about two hundred pages. I can just about remember thinking when I unwrapped it, fresh from ‘Aunty Lulu’, ‘Yup, reckon this is the one’ . . . then ten minutes later finding about fifteen faults and knowing the whole process will have to start again. It usually takes about a day to settle in, this realisation; a slight gloom drifting over me until the ‘sorting it out’ urge kicks in and I’m away again, happily typo-hunting and adding/subtracting needed and un-needed chunks of prose.

IMG_9552.jpg

  Not sure where 1,2,3,4,5 are . . . 

It’s an odd (and some would say lonely) thing, writing, not just the actual pen to paper, digit to keyboard but all the other stages: rounding up a rampaging idea, rough drafts, fairly solid-looking spiral bound manuscripts, a trial copy, re-writes, BIG edits, small edits, typo edits, adding chapters, etc. But in the later stages when people really start reading and commenting, adding useful thoughts and sometimes suggesting vast deforestation (a tad disturbing at the time but usually 99% invaluable)  it becomes less of a lonely occupation and more of a team effort. Recently I’ve had some excellent help; suggestions that made me wince a little at the thought of the amount of manuscript archaeology that would be involved, but it’s all good stuff, brain-flexing, writer-muscle building and laying down work practices for the next tome . . .

On the same dust-ridden shelf, I also found my first ever (or at least one that Mum kept) story book. Written in pencil (and coloured pencil!) in a khaki-green school exercise book, this particular tale describes a crocodile eating a small boy – with a correction by Mrs War (I still remember her, with fear) for not using the past tense of eat.

IMG_9554.jpg

 

Words brought to life

Following on from last post.

Two photos by Nick Lockett of Paddy and Debbie Turner performing extracts from Hoxton, featuring Mark Lockett on suitably ropey accordion.

A few props, excellent acting and some well-honed accents brought the Londonia 2070 streets to Wirksworth Town Hall.

Thanks all of you!

Londonia2090_3-lowres.jpg

Londonia2090_4-lowres.jpg