findingtimetowrite

Thinking, writing, thinking about writing…

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

We know how to relax...

We know how to relax…

Aren’t cats just the best at teaching us how to relax and take life as it comes? May you all have a Christmas that is at least half as restful and enjoyable as Pepina’s, shown here!  (Oh, and have you ever wondered why there seems to be such a prevalence of cat and dog lovers among writers?)

I may be missing in action over the next few weeks, as I am not sure how good my Internet connection will be, but I wish you all a great start to the New Year.   Fingers crossed, I will get the editing on my novel done!

 

Something Old, Something New…

Now that the Chinese government has told us in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that the world is not going to end on the 21st of December, I can safely plan my ‘summary of just 2012′ blog post. Rather than having to summarise the whole history of Earth and human beings.

Out with the old, in with the new is what always comes to mind as the year changes.  So I shall follow the good old wedding traditions and find something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue to list as my highlights for the year 2012.

1) Old

I have rediscovered my pleasure for writing this year, especially for reading and writing poetry, which I haven’t done since high school.  Writing is an old passion of mine, but I have been very clever at avoiding it (at least in its fully creative guise) over the past decade or more.  So, welcome back, old friend, sit down and tarry a while.  It’s such a pleasure to have you here with me!

2)  New

Joining the online community through blogging and book reviewing and connecting with other, much better writers than myself.  There is so much to learn here, so much to enjoy, especially on storytelling sites such as Cowbird,  that I am afraid I am spending far too much time reading other people’s work and not concentrating nearly enough on my own. I have also discovered a genuine community and mutual support system here, which was unexpected and moving.

3) Borrowed

I will borrow my own review of the Top 5 Crime Reads of my year from over at Crime Fiction Lover. But while you’re there, you may want to check some of the other Top 5 picks by my fellow reviewers.  They are all very knowledgeable about crime (fiction, of course). I have certainly added substantially to my already formidable TBR mountain.

4) Blue

No, I am not going to finish on a sad note, about what has made me blue this year.  Instead, since blue is my favourite colour, I will tell you about some of my best discoveries this year. I was going to do it in images, but this antiquated desktop can’t seem to cope with that.

- The beauties of France: its settings, its history, its (contemporary, rather than what I read in school) literature

- Peirene Press – beautiful editions of world literature in translation (with a pronounced Teutonic flavour), as well as an interesting business model based on subscription and community-building

- There is more to skiing than racing madly downhill – I have also learnt cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing this year

- That maybe I do need a cat to complete my happiness after all. We befriended a friend’s cat at the weekend and now I want one just like her!

- Online reading challenges.  I intend to participate in a couple this coming year: Translation Reading Challenge (particularly from cultures that I know next to nothing about) hosted by Curiosity Killed the Bookworm and the Global Reading Challenge, to be hosted by Mysteries in Paradise.

So, what have been your highlights this year? And what do you intend to keep on doing in the New Year, or what do you intend to start afresh?

 

 

 

 

Cautious

pills-bottles-photoYou fear meningitis with each stiffening joint.

You understand colitis at its intricate extreme.

Tachycardia is no stranger to your medicated bliss,

doctors are your allies, your mirrors and your envy.

Advice you dispense freely, with countless cups of tea,

lashings of lemon and honey to soothe throats.

So prudent, so careful

you inch your way across

the very same finishing line

that others flash on by.

Fun at Ski School: 5 Sentence Fiction Challenge

Not fictional enough, but a story that haunts me still…

‘Not more snow!’ moaned the littlest bear.
We moved to this snow-filled country for Daddy’s work: Mummy loves the winter sports, your brother the food. But you, the smallest and most curious of bears, the one who makes friends as easily as others make mistakes, you the smiley human bouncing-ball, you hate the cold and the white stuff.

Drunk and dizzied by the gleam of the sun on the slopes, I strap on your boots and nudge you into ski school. You nurse your frozen paws, slide miserably through puerile hoops, and ask yourself: ‘Why?’

The Next Big Thing: I Wish!

You know how you see an award or a question on someone else’s blog and you think: ‘That is so lovely, so exciting! I wish someone would nominate or tag me for that!’ ? Well, this ‘Next Big Thing’ one seems to have been circulating for a while now among all of the writers’ blogs which I enjoy reading. But, sadly, it hasn’t reached me yet (cue haunting violins and moonlight glistening on my tears).  It’s not all ego, however.  I need an excuse to write about my WIP because it requires quite a bit of clarification in my own head. And I think best when I think out loud!

So I am taking matters into my own hands and jumping at Lisa Ahn’s wonderful suggestion that she is nominating anyone who is up for it.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

Beyond the Woods – because it is almost an exact translation of Transylvania, which is where quite a bit of the action takes place.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea came to me in the summer of 1997, before mobile phones and the Internet were so ubiquitous. I was spending my holidays back home in Romania with my parents, when news of Princess Diana’s death broke. I had a boyfriend in the UK at the time about which my parents knew nothing and it was a real challenge to get in touch with each other, as direct dial international calls were not possible from most telephones in Romania at the time. It occurred to me then how easy it would be to lose touch with someone in just two weeks, even someone you cared deeply about.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Crime fiction.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I wouldn’t go for big names.  I have a very specific picture in my head of what the characters look and sound like. Besides, it would be a great opportunity to do most of the casting (and filming) in Romania. The main male protagonist, Matt, would have to be a slightly geeky-looking, tall English actor. Yes, OK, I admit that Benedict Cumberbatch would probably be my first choice…

The main female protagonist would be one of the very talented and pretty young Romanian actresses, like Ana Ularu, Maria Dinulescu or Meda Andreea Victor.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When Matt’s girlfriend Cristina dies in a car crash while trying to secure a divorce from her estranged husband in Romania, he reluctantly joins forces with Cristina’s best friend Eli to try to find out what really happened.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m so far behind on my edits, but I hope to get some feedback from agents first and then decide.  I’m open to all options!

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Far too long! Perhaps 4 years in total, although most of that time was spent NOT writing the novel.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I love crime fiction set in exotic locations (‘exotic’ for this purpose meaning anywhere outside the US or UK), but written by non-natives of those countries, with a strong sense of atmosphere, like Michael Dibdin or Donna Leon’s Venice and Barbara Nadel’s Istanbul.  The outsider looking in is a wonderful perspective, and I hope to achieve that through the eyes of Englishman Matt.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

This will sound really odd, but my first husband (a Romanian) was the initial inspiration, although he is nothing like Cristina’s husband in the book. I hasten to add that it is not autobiographical in any way, but just a way to ponder: ‘What if he had been a different kind of person? What if I had got involved in other things?’ All those possibilities that never were probabilities.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I set the action in 1995 because of a real-life event that took place that summer (which fits in very well with the story). It’s amazing, however, how much I have forgotten about that period and how careful I have to be not to introduce anachronistic details into the story.

My turn to tag.  You know what’s coming, don’t you?  Because I felt like a child who had not been invited to a birthday party, I will not nominate just a handful of blogger friends.  Instead, I will just invite all of you who haven’t shared your story-in-progress yet to do just that.  If you wish to, of course!  I love finding out what people are up to and I promise to read each and every one of your blog posts.

 

All I Want for Christmas…

… is peace of mind and a bit of rest, if I am honest.

If that is an unlikely proposal, then here are some alternatives that this writer (and maybe other writers you know) would appreciate.

  1. Adopt a book at the British Library and help fund the conservation of rare and precious books.
  2. One year’s membership of the Poetry Society in the UK or its US twin
  3. Mslexia’s fabulous Writers’ Diary for 2013 – or even an annual subscription to Mslexia
  4. For writers who are also Formula One fans, this beautiful Ferrari pen in red – although, to be honest, for writing smoothness, I prefer the simple gel pens you can get 3 to a pack at supermarkets. (I personally have supported McLaren since I was knee-high, but their pens are just not as cool.)
  5. Sample of notebooks

    Notebooks.  One can never have enough of those.  My current favourites are the incredibly smooth, practical, yet luxurious Rhodia orange-and-blacks.

And, since I don’t expect my family to come across this wish-list on my blog, I have to admit that I have gifted myself a couple of the above for Christmas already…

What have you got your writerly eye on this Christmas?  Other than books, obviously, which make the best presents of all!  Oh, and by the way, I have not been paid to advertise any of the above products or websites.

Advice Needed

Hello, everyone!  Thank you for bearing with me and my moody silence while life reverts back to normal.  Strangely enough, ‘normal’ seems to include being burgled, as so many people tell me they too have been burgled over the past couple of years.  Or, if they haven’t, they have lost all of their work when their computers failed spectacularly.  So thank you, everyone, for cheering me up by showing me what a horrible, unfair, cold and stark world it is out there… 

But today for something completely different.  

I am going to submit a poem of mine for a publication, so I read ‘No Reflection’ out loud in a workshop last Saturday to get some feedback on it.  Everyone thought the poem needed a bit more work (I agree!). However, opinions were divided as to whether I should include the last two lines or not.  Some felt the link with Dorian Gray was too obvious and that I had already addressed it in the poem, while others felt that it really helped to frame the poem or explain it.  So, my question is: what do you think?  Leave in or ban forevermore?

Here is the poem once again, as it’s been quite a while since I had it up on my blog (I may be tempted to tinker with it a bit as well):

No Reflection

 

She had a way with mirrors – 

she tamed them with one look.

 

No gape emerged, unplanned, confusing,

no fairytale abasement of princess lost and found.

She knew the path, and scaling

was her day job,

to step on meek cadavers, to pursue, victorious.

 

Each face thought out, with lips

drawn in cupid tones,

dervish underpinned.

The brow? A work of art,

unfurrowed, unhurried.

 

Regrets are someone else’s,

a sleight of mind, eclipse of hands;

back we are, unwrinkled,

to smooth-held opinions, shifting granular sands.

 

Meanwhile, the portrait in the attic

Waxed crueller by the year.

 

Continuation

This is one of the last poems I wrote before my laptop was stolen.  Or rather, a different poem with some of these elements, as I cannot remember what I wrote, but I do know it was very different from the snippets I had in my notebook.  So here is an attempt to recreate the feel of that poem. 

Each day he wakes when dawn

is cracked, egg-like, on a sleepy fog.

Before the mist clears, he pulls on lurid togs

and sets to pound the streets

into submission.

The thud of trainers swells his head,

gives voice to remarks left unsaid at meetings,

those witty exchanges he rehearses right up to the door

of his boss.

Only at dawn can he come up with answers

only dawn gives him good honest sweat

which he sluices off in the shower.

On go tie, shirt, cufflinks, the uniform of corporate man,

socks the only choice in his day.

The next few hours, many hours, his will be silent,

his voice be muffled,

his prayers unanswered.

The killer is not change

but perpetual continuation

to stupid lengths and beyond.

Thank You

Thank you all for your encouragement and warm comments and hugs.  I can’t answer each one individually (this ancient desktop is far too slow for that, every time I refresh something, it starts churning with alarming sound effects), but do know that I really appreciate your support.

The info loss is worse than I expected. While all my professional work has been systematically saved and filed, my creative writing output has suffered a more haphazard fate.  (What does that tell you about my priorities? Sadly.) My novel is mostly there, but all I can say is: thank goodness I have posted most of my poems (or some version of them) here on the blog…

What Burglary Teaches Me About Life

In the wee hours of this morning we were burgled. 

My husband was due to go on early shift this morning and went downstairs at around 6 a.m. to have breakfast and pick up his laptop for work. To his surprise, the laptop was missing. 

So was mine. 

And the window to my study was open.

Two small holes had been enough to perforate the super-duper PVC double glazed wonder. Ten minutes had been enough to grab a number of objects – and discard unwanted items outside in the snow.  The biggest loss was my husband’s car (for practical and material purposes). The biggest loss to me emotionally was my (as always, spectacularly unbacked-up) laptop… and the sense of security and well-being that I had in this house.

I’ve been running around dealing with police, house insurance, car insurance, window repairers all morning.  But as I repeated the story over and over again (in French – nothing like real-life scenarios to practise your crime fiction language skills), I thought about how fortunate we were that the children hadn’t woken up and gone downstairs for a glass of water during the night to come face-to-face with the burglars

And then I moved beyond my immediate, small-minded concerns.  I thought that we are fortunate enough to have an ancient desktop on which we back up the family pictures (and on which I am typing now – it’s very slow but it works), that we do have a second car, that we can live without the cash that was stolen from my husband’s wallet, that no bank cards or passports were stolen etc. etc.  I suppose what I am saying is that we are first world, comfortably well off, reasonably healthy, and we can recover from our losses.  Many people in other parts of the world have no such choices; they are forced out of their homes and dispossessed in 10 minutes flat of all their belongings.

So we are one of the lucky few. And would have been luckier still if I had backed up all of my work as often as I should. Let that be your lesson – the minute  you say ‘I should back up more often’, do it!

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