Have you ever written a book? A novel, I mean. I used to write loads of technical stuff, but that isn’t the same as writing fiction. I found I could easily pick up the techie writing from where I left off, and because I was in an office I was disturbed constantly. It didn’t bother me, I had facts at my fingertips and imagination didn’t come into it. Well, not much. Writing novels isn’t the same. Think what it’s like when you get into a good book, how you soon feel part of the story. Now magnify those feelings several times and you get an idea how writers feel. Not only are they absorbed by the book, they have to live the lives of the characters and at the same time plan the characters’ every move. Weird, when you think about it seriously.
I have nothing but admiration for those writers that do it whilst surrounded by kids and small babies, and I can see why some end up in sheds at the bottoms of gardens, rather like hermits or Cornish saints. I can usually write well in coffee shops, even when there is noise, so why is that? Perhaps it’s not just the interruption, it is the fear of it, which is worse than interruption itself. A few years ago, for a period of about two years, I worked from home for my employer. It wasn’t easy. It started in summer, and I sat at my desk staring out at grass that needed to be cut. No danger of that today because I can’t see any grass. Excuse me while I go outside and exhume a small car from beneath twenty inches of snow….
As well as unwrapping things and drinking and eating things over Christmas I have been reading One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson. Like her earlier novel, When Will There Be Good News, it is set in Edinburgh. If you don’t know the City, don’t let that put you off, her descriptions are excellent. When I first saw the books I ignored them, their titles looked too “Mills and Boon”. I was wrong. They are about as “Mills and Boon” as Mein Kampf.
The author introduces a lot of characters in the first few chapters of these novels. I have never been particularly good with names so I had to do a bit of re-reading, but it was well worth it. Don’t stop writing, Kate. Your books are a breath of fresh air.
I have changed my header pic. The viaduct on the route travelled by the Hogwarts Express has been superseded by the town used for the TV series Balamory. At the time of writing (as they say…) there is WordPress snow falling across my blog, which is at odds with the photo, taken on a bright, sunny summer’s day. Hang around for six months and it will look more realistic – unless I decide to change it before then, of course. I have a VERY nice photo of the Forth Bridge that I would like to use.
I visited Blackwell’s yesterday. We have a very good one in Edinburgh, it took over from James Thin a few years ago. I used to spend a lot of time in Blackwell’s in Oxford, usually buying technical books rather than novels. If you have never been there and ever get the chance to visit, it’s well worth it (the sign over the shop in Edinburgh says ‘Blackwell’s’. In Oxford it says ‘Blackwell’. I wonder if they know that?). Blackwell’s is quite different from Waterstone’s. What I noticed in Blackwell’s yesterday was that there seems to be an unusually large number of covers on show on the shelves, rather than just spines. For me, it made browsing more pleasurable. Perhaps I just like pictures. The Edinburgh shop appears to have a roof leak, though – not buckets everywhere, as in some of these B&Q-sized shops, but all in one place. The carpet was paved with washing-up bowls and empty plastic book tubs. I walked out of Blackwell’s an hour or so later – maybe three hours – into the worst blizzard I have seen for years. Better leave the bowls and tubs right where they are, guys.
The north wind doth blow and we shall have snow. We’ve got it, actually. Only one inch of the stuff, but from the traffic chaos this morning you would think we were knee-deep in it. I won’t put adverts on my blog and I don’t particularly like external links, but here is one that really gets to me, I love it. It reminds me of my ‘ducks in a row’ blogpost. Just when you think you’ve got it together… click this!
If you want to follow the bidding, the eBay page isn’t that easy to find. It’s here: pie and pint
My ten year old granddaughter wants me to write another book for children. She knows I wrote three novels for her dad, and that he passed them around his friends when he was at school. She has read Keewatin, the first of the three, and now she is passing it to her friends. After she read it she said it was better than Harry Potter (if only that meant something in the real world!). Keewatin took six months to rewrite and then another two to edit, but it was worth it just to hear her comments.
Except for these blogs I haven’t written much original stuff lately. I am trawling through my older novels, rewriting and editing. It is a full time job and nowhere near as satisfying as writing new material. Every writer goes through it. The stuff you wrote years ago was put aside for reasons best known to yourself: stories that seemed to go nowhere, plots that got lost. There are moments of ‘did I really write that?’ – either because it now seems exceptionally good or appallingly bad.
Ian Rankin (Doctor Ian) is auctioning on eBay a pie and a pint in the Oxford Bar. In his company, of course. The last time I checked the site the bids had reached £460 (not much for a meal, judging by the money I saw being spent in St.James and Mayfair last week). All the money raised will go to Rankin’s favourite charity.
WordPress has an option for snow falling on my blog, so it isn’t a virus and the words are not about to fall to the bottom of your monitor (ever seen that happen?) – or if they do, it’s not me.
I have been away. In the words of the song, up to London to visit The Queen… except that I am no pussycat and it wasn’t The Queen, it was Prince Charles (The Duke of Rothesay to those North of The Border) and it wasn’t me who was invited but my wife – our son and I were mere guests. It was quite a day. London was almost as cold as home, so it’s good to know they keep the palace nice and warm. We were permitted to take photographs in the courtyard and caught a group of Yeoman of the Guard (They are not ‘Beefeaters’. Nor are these particular guys Yeoman Warders – Gilbert and Sullivan got it wrong) boarding their bus. For some perverse reason it reminded me of the man who carried two tons of canaries in a one ton truck. When asked how he did it he said he banged on the sides to keep half of them flying around*.
(© A A Milne. The poem, I mean. Not a lot of people know that…).