The drudge bit cometh…


searchI’ve recently found myself increasing annoyed by people starting a sentence with a “So”. It irks the bits of me in which the grammar nazi resides… And like Starling asked Hannibal Lector, “But are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself, Doctor Lector?”

The answer in no. That is why I need beta-readers…

So…

I’ve finished a sixty-thousand word first draft of a contemporary little mystery novel, barely more than a novella, and a radical change in genre from what I’ve been toiling with for the last two years. Set in Yorkshire too, I call it…hesitantly…The Foxy tale, and it’s about a treasure hunt.

So (!) I need beta-readers. Hence this whimsical appeal, which is part of a larger campaign to get my progeny critically read.

All I ask is that you are willing to try to read it, voluntarily if possible, and offer any impressions, ideas, suggestions, confusions, incongruities, or just tell me you didn’t (or did) like it. I am trawling for objective analysis by someone with the chutzpa to help a fella out.

PDF, MS Word, Kindle etc, any format you please (thank you Scrivener)

Wow…appealing does NOT come naturally to me…

So as a tempter, here is an excerpt for your consideration. The intro passage, in fact. If you think you could read something like this (but nearly two-hundred pages), then let me know. I’m not precious about it…!

Paul “Foxy” Foxe sees himself as a man for whom being cynical isn’t so much a point of view as a religion. His best defences against the many injustices of life were his stoic indifference, a belief in Karma, and a tendency to bury his head in the sand at the first sign of confrontation. If you want to witness sparkling discourse or the product of a keen literary mind you are best served  going to the library and persuading a librarian to swear at you in Polish, but if you want a quiet life and predictability, Foxy is your man.

In most of life Foxy is average. He is twenty five years old, just short of six foot with a rash of spiky black hair, scarily piercing blue eyes and the sort of beard that looks like he’s forgotten to shave for a week. He has a girlfriend named Nat. At three months the relationship is still new, but there are musings that she wants to move in. This means that she still has this belief that she can “change” him, as her mother and sisters tell her she is honour-bound to try and do. But she is only a month or two away from the crushing realisation that Foxy is a force of nature. There is nothing on this Earth that can change Foxy, at least short of CIA behavioural modification, and there’s little of that in rural Yorkshire.

Nat is bright, breezy, light, loving and bubbly. She likes rubbish pop music, romantic thrillers and TV soaps. She believes in God, which Foxy has wisely said nothing about. She appreciates artwork and real literature – the Jane Eyre kind too, not the Stephen King kind.  That she is going out with Foxy is one in the eye to logic and common sense, and is a keen affirmation of the truism that opposites attract.

Or, rather, that is only one reality. In the other he is going to ruin her innocence and leave her the husky, dried out shell of bitterness and regret that she will inevitably become, no matter how hard he tries to stop himself. Of this he is depressingly certain. It has happened before.

Nat is has been away, visiting her parents in Ireland for a couple of weeks, and is due to return tomorrow. Foxy would have gone too but for a number of puerile, vapid excuses why he had to remain at home and not spend two weeks with a bunch of strangers for whom the fact he was English was seen as a punishable crime. These last weeks of freedom from obligation were bliss –  a state of mind that had left Foxy as belligerent, unapproachable and grumpy as usual. He would hate to admit it, but he is better when Nat is around.

Let the torrents of help-wielding commenters come….

5000 limericks…


statistics2Presuming there are about thirty words in a standard limerick, I have so far written the equivalent of five-thousand – that’s 5000 – limericks in my latest attempt at writing.
I’m not bragging, it’s just the only thing I can think of to post about, which does not bode well for my blog in the long run, in all honesty.
Still, five-thousand limericks is not to be sniffed at. That’s a lot of rhymes. Makes you think.
So I guess this is a progress report.
With so many words done you’d have thought the story would be well under way. It would be a reasonable man that expected you to be in the meat of the tale by now. You’d be wrong. My lead character (indeed, the POV) has been problematic. It feels very much like I’m trying too hard to demonstrate the character’s growth, and as such am losing the pace. Not that pace was ever an imperative, but it’s never good to drag the story’s arse through the mud. The incidental (ie non-POV) chars are worryingly unremarkable and I have the awful feeling that, if I ever get to the end, I will need to re-write whole bundles of chapters (bundles being the collective noun for chapters, as all know).
But, Zen-like, I forge ahead, still enjoying the progress. A friend of mine said this week that they could never try to write as they’d just not know what to write, which struck me as quite shameful. If you don’t trust your imagination enough to make stuff up, then what the hell is going on? You have probably finally lost your inner child, and you are fully justified in mourning.
Well, post done, I’m off to do other stuff.
J

Women, know your place!*


*This post title is a reference to Harry Enfield sketches that parodied the nineteen-fifties attitude to women, and NOT my personal opinion. I thought I’d better say that first rather than suffer the wrath of female-kind. I also thought it might send a rocket up some bums. That’s not a euphemism. Oh dear…

That said, the reason behind this post lies in a quick looksee at the Amazon top lists of Kindle Fantasy books, and how it showed that there were far more female fantasy authors than male (on the list at least), and that I had just finished reading some Trudi Canavan books.

Every pore of my being is teling me to just let it go and that whatever I say will be put down to misogynistic generalisation, but I am so bereft of inspiration for this blog that I am desperate and willing to court controversy to ease the blockage.

The books in question, by Ms Canavan, were her Traitor spy trilogy. To be honest, I forged through them only because I’d been foolish enough to fork out hard-earned cash for ’em, but I was perpetually annoyed by the tone throughout. I’ll concede it was well-written, but where I would normally get lost in the story – the characters, the scene-setting, world-building – this time I was constantly being reminded that the author was female. Whether it was the perspectives, the emotionally texture, the relentless FEELINGS, or the overt female-centric nature of the protagonists/plot, I just kept feeling that ‘gender’ was hovering over it like a big, lovely lady cloud, and that is not a feeling I get from male authors. That’s probably because I am a man, or maybe the title tricked me into not realising this was a romance…

I am not saying that there shouldn’t be love, romance and frissons aplenty (that’s part of the genre), I just don’t like it being overt and in yer face.

What that says about me as a reader (aside from I probably wouldn’t like 50 shades) I cannot tell. Maybe it infers that I am, on a fantasy novel basis, a misogynist? A fantamisogynist, if you will (dammit, that word is now MINE). It is certainly true that some of my favourite fantasy books have been by women, but I found myself scanning that Amazon list looking for male authors to look into, which surprised me somewhat. It may also say that I am repressed, emotionally, but I cried at Lassie films as a child, a fact which scotches that misconception sure enough.

It may come down to the nature of the beast. It would infer that writing in the fantasy genre is much more popular to women than men, or that female fantasy writers are just more successful, but I think it is certainly the case that fantasy is not a purely masculine vice as it might have seemed to have been in the past. I think that this is a damn good thing, but it is a shame that Trudi Canavan’s work (and it is a very well crafted bunch of books) and a number of other works by women, has made me yearn for male authors. Perhaps that is not a criticism of the books, as much as evidence of my own intransigence.

Saying that, I am very willing to be persuaded otherwise.