As I write it is already New Year’s Eve … 2014 is almost upon us. Along with just about every blogger I know I can’t help but glance back over the year. As an Author it has been a interesting year – with, at last, finishing The Angel Bug and getting it published! This meant that I had to get out there and do what I find difficult – blowing my own trumpet – and get myself radio interviews and pieces in the local papers.
Then there was the next step of working with Pendown Publishing to get The Angel Bug released as a paperback – this was a whole new learning curve.
In the future we plan to publish each of the other full length novels as paperbacks too – as this has taught me how many people like to own the solid copy – even if they have already bought and read the ebook!!!
So lots to look forward to on the Author front and, as time and the blog will reveal, also on the home front too…..
THANK YOU ALL for sticking with me and the blog all through 2013! It’s good to know that I am not just writing words into the ether! It has been great to read your comments, to get to know some of you a little better, to explore the things that trigger a memory or ring a bell with people from all over the world.
Just contact me via the contact-ann on annmade.co.uk (you just need to make sure you enter your email address really carefully – so that I have it accurately – and in the message say which version you need for your ereader – mobi for kindles, epub for most of the others, or pdf – if you are going to read on a computer) That’s it – just ask for your free new year present before the 14th Jan – and I will email it to you – though, of course, when you’ve read it, I’d love a review posted on amazon!!
Here’s wishing You All a Happy, Prosperous and Peaceful 2014 filled with joy and plenty of time to read.
This week, I have managed to take myself on a short break, just for the week and just across the channel to France, and I am leaving you in the (?)capable hands of my proof-reader, so if you notice any mistakes then please let me know so that I can ask for a refund on her fee! So over to you, Krissi…..
……Thank you Ann, I think…..
Hello everybody! Golly gosh, I really feel as if I have jumped up two grades in school and been put in charge of the pencils and chalk all at once! Ann is taking a well-deserved break, and has asked me if I could fill in (gulp!) blog-wise ….. so here I am.
First of all, I must admit that I am not totally new to blog writing, I have my own at auntykrissi.com
but when compared to Ann, I am somewhat of a novice. Well, let’s be honest here, Ann was the inspiration behind me joining the blogosphere, it is entirely her fault!
As Ann said, I am her proof-reader, which means that I get to read her novels before they are published, and aren’t they good? I know some people who think that their work doesn’t need to be proofed, “The spellchecker said it was fine…” they will say to me. Ouch! I really have to bite my tongue when I hear that! There is just so much more to proof-reading than spelling checks, as any of you who may have read a poorly-proofed book or article might agree.
Not being a proper writer like wot**Ann is, I have no experience of the creative side of writing. Ann has tried to describe her creative thought process to me as something akin to watching a film. The film plays in her head and she has to write what she sees and hears to tell the story. I think that is fascinating! Having very limited imagination, as I do, that sounds to me like magic. I like to think that I have a good memory, so I can write about things I have experienced, but summoning them up from thin air….nope, can’t do that.
I’m not sure how much faith I have in astrology, but I am a Virgo, and one of the things that Virgos are supposed to be, is perfectionists, is that a pain, or what! I do so wish that I didn’t get bothered when signs outside shops advertise “coffee’s and tea’s” or “apple’s and banana’s” but I do! (Just between us, apostrophe’s (sic) and their misplacement, are the pebbles in my life’s shoe) but anyway, the point I was trying to get to, is that, as a (sort of) perfectionist, looking for mistakes is easy peasy for me to do because I don’t need to look for them, they jump out of the page right at me! This is a double-edged sword, mind you, inasmuch as all mistakes jump out at me, even when I’m not supposed to be looking for them, however the bottom line is that proof-reading for me is sort of the same as story writing is for Ann, we both do it because it’s what we do!
You may be familiar with the idea that one cannot proof one’s own writing….even proof readers can’t. Very often, as the author of a piece of writing, you know what you mean to say, and when you read it, that’s how you read it, but a different pair of eyes might easily see a mistake, or a repetition, or quite simply where what you’ve written doesn’t actually say what you were trying to say. (Does that make sense?)
Anyway, I think that like so many other areas in life – with creative writing, we have habits, mistakes which we make again and again. Just as a writer has a writing style, so they also have a mistake-making style, and I’m hoping that Ann won’t mind me sharing with you her trademark mistake, so to speak! Hyphens, hyphens hyphens! If I had a pound/dollar/currency unit of choice for every hyphen I had ‘red-penned’ from the first draft of any of Ann’s novels into oblivion, then a rich woman I would be! When going through “The Angel Bug” I even threatened Ann, saying that I was going to remove the hyphen key from her computer keyboard! Conversely, sometimes (albeit quite infrequently) I have to insert a hyphen – and it does tickle my funnybone when that happens. (Sad, moi??)
So, I hope this has given you a little insight into my little corner of the Ann Foweraker world, enough to tide you over until Ann’s return next week, rested and rejuvenated after her recreational respite!
Let us know what your bête noire is, are you an apostrophe nerd like me? Or a hyphenaholic like Ann?
Do you think that correct spelling and punctuation are still relevant in 2013 and the world of the instant message?
We’d love to hear from you, and why not hop over to auntykrissi.com and take a look at what’s there! Oh, and I’m available for proof-reading commissions, just get in touch!
**whereas I might be a sort of perfectionist, I do like to keep a sense of irony in my writing. Of course I know that “wot” isn’t a word, and that even “what” would be incorrect in this context, but, like the Persian rug weavers who intentionally inserted a ‘mistake’ into their work, my ‘wot’ makes me imperfect, keeps my tongue firmly in my cheek, which in turn keeps my feet firmly on the ground and me firmly in the real world. (I hope)
You see I had a long interview with Marj James (poetry and literature) on Radio St Austell Bay – the radio station that has The Eden Project in it’s zone (you know, that wonderful place in Cornwall where I set my latest novel – The Angel Bug) and I wanted to share it all with you.
To share the interview it meant capturing from the ‘listen-again’ service and turning it into a youtube ‘video’ so I can put it on the blog.
(Makes me sounds all good and technical doesn’t it? But I have to admit that I get one of my sons to do this as, it seems, I do not have the appropriate software to achieve this task 🙂 )
So, lovely son duly does this for me and I happily post it onto YouTube.
!*YouTube alert – this contains COPYRIGHTED material and will be blocked *!
Ooops! I had totally forgotten the pieces of music that I was asked to choose to go with my interview – of course they were copyrighted material!
Cue ‘excuse’ so this then meant a re-jig by (long-suffering) son to remove the offending material – who was offline when I found the problem.. and then was working (I mean what is more important a PhD or re-jigging my interview 😉 ) .
So, all in all – here is my interview – minus these pieces of music. Daydream Believer by The Monkees, Tusk, by Fleetwood Mac (which got messed up anyway and ended up at the end instead of the middle of the programme) and Hi Ho Silver Lining, which was going to end the programme.
And now, for some weird reason of its own the ‘video’ will not ‘appear’ on my blog (as it usually does when I use the ‘share’ code.. oh no, this time I have to give you this link below which will take you to YouTube and the ‘video’ – but don’t forget to click back to this blog when it’s done 🙂 .
So today is the DAY! Yep, the culmination of over four years work. Break out the Champagne!
Ok, so it wasn’t full time ( not by a long-chalk – I created my whole slateware business while this novel was being written, edited etc) but eventually it is ready to be put before the greater public.
Now, as I said to my beta readers (people who have not read the book before but are willing to read it with a critical eye for different aspects of the work and who feed-back in time for the work to be corrected, altered if appropriate and given a final polish) sending out the penultimate draft is like sending your firstborn off to school …..
Sending out the finished book is …. well .. just – scary – though at the same time exhilarating!
**LAUNCH PARTY ** **LAUNCH PARTY ** **LAUNCH PARTY **
What to do for a BLOG LAUNCH PARTY? Well, I’m offering ALL my blog readers a free taster and a special deal for the launch month!
So , right NOW you can CLICK HERE to read the first 6 (yes SIX!) chapters absolutely free (in pdf so you can read it on your computer)
and if you go the AnnMadeBooks.co.uk Launch offer on this link right now, and for the whole of JULY only – you can buy THE ANGEL BUG in all eformats for HALF-PRICE.
(once I launch on Amazon in August the price on my website has to go up to the full price)
Thank you all for being with me on this journey and especially everyone who has helped me on my way. The acknowledgements can get a bit lost at the end of a novel as they are – so I’m putting them here too!
To The Eden project for allowing me ‘behind the scenes’ and to Dr Alistair Griffiths (Horticultural Science Curator) for answering so many of my science and botanical questions about the Eden Project
Thanks also to Sir Tim Smit for reading through the manuscript and agreeing that I could use him as the only true-life character in the novel
Grateful thanks to my proof reader, Christine Haywood, my excellent beta-readers Nicky Hatherell, Steph Dickenson, Kathy Gilmore, Denyse Keslake, Joan Tall and, from the USA, Ann Quinn, and Cover designer Nathan Murphy.
and thank you blog-readerstoo – especially those who have given feedback on cover choice / blurb / the first few extracts and anyone who has ‘shared’ my blog on FB or tweeted a blog post – letting people know my new book is OUT NOW is so important and helpful to me 🙂 – thank you ALL!
Ok, little one, off you go now … enjoy being read 🙂
Do you do something creative?
How does it make you feel when you offer it up to the public?
do share – you know I love to hear your thoughts 🙂
The cover can now be revealed …………… roll on the drums …………..
BUT FIRST … The BLURB!
The Angel Bug (blurb)
‘These memoirs may be the only evidence left of what really happened, where it came from and how it spread.’
When Gabbi Johnston, a quiet, fifty-something botanist at Eden, was shown the unusual red leaves on the Moringa tree, she had no idea what was wrong. What she did know was that the legendary Dr Luke Adamson was arriving soon – and that he would insist on investigating it.
This is the unassuming start to a maelstrom of discovery and change – with Gabbi swept up in it. What starts out as an accident turns into something illicit, clandestine and unethical – but is it, as Adamson claims, really all for the best?
‘The Angel Bug’, Ann Foweraker’s fourth novel, is set at the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK. This is a contemporary novel combining science fact and fiction, told by the people at the heart of the discovery.
Do share ( even if it’s a no – I’d like to know why) … You know I love to hear from you!
NOW… the penultimate excerpt from THE ANGEL BUG – released 1st July on AnnMadeBooks
(from Ch 2 Luke – Oct 18th – 19th) Dr Luke Adamson has woken after a bad night’s sleep following the lecture he gave at Cambridge University ……………….
My departure from the hall had meant fewer book sales than were usual, according to Kayleigh, so it had hit my Rainforest Foundation, and for that I was annoyed with just about everybody who’d had anything to do with the set-up for the lecture. I was lying there blaming them all for how it went wrong, and that included the pretty airhead, Kayleigh, lying beside me.
I slid from bed finding the floor cool beneath my feet, and padded through to the bathroom. On my way back I grabbed a towel and wrapped it round my waist. A quick glance told me that Kayleigh was still asleep as I turned to stand at the un-curtained window, drinking in the ancient city as it came sleepily awake in a misty morning. After a few moments my perceptions shifted, the window replaced by a movie screen as memories came flooding through. God! They had been electrifying times. I felt my blood stir as I thought of those years.
I saw my first immature awareness of the place, soon subsumed into an overpowering urge to beat it and everyone else at their own game. This place was supposed to be the best in the world; then I would be the best in it, no matter how I achieved it. I felt a smile touch my lips as I thought of the non-academic goals I’d set myself. Every one of them achieved, well very nearly, even if I’d had an advantage over the competition in both looks and provenance.
Rowing had been a first love from my early days on the New Hampshire lakes and later at Johns Hopkins, but at Cambridge the competitive edge took me over. There weren’t many other scientists on the crews and I worked really hard to dispel the ‘weak scientist’ prejudice that some of the crew members had. It meant being harder and meaner than they were. Harder meant I’d trained twice as much, meaner meant that at the crucial team-choosing time I’d zeroed in on a guy who’d been hassling me from day one. If he wasn’t calling me a ‘Yank’ then it was the science thing or because my hair was long and blond. So when he’d called out ‘Hey Blondie, did you forget your handbag?’ I’d walked over, punched him out and then turned away. He’d come up fighting mad and launched himself at my back, whereupon I’d grabbed his arm and folded forward tipping him over my back to land flat on the floor at my feet, only I didn’t let go of the arm, feeling something give as his body cracked down. Others had caught up with us by then; I shook my hand free of his and stepped back. He clambered up but the rest of the team held him back, and plenty said he’d asked for it. The fractured wrist put him out of the running, and me firmly into a place on the winning team for that most prestigious of races – the Oxford and Cambridge boat race.
I had worked all hours on the first piece of ‘competitive’ work and still found time to sweet-talk and bed the girlfriend of my main rival. That was the way I found out about the progress he was making, and how I came to the conclusion I’d have to upset the other guy’s experiments somehow, as they were proving too successful. In the end it was nothing to get into the other lab at the end of the day and turn off a switch. It could have been anybody that turned off the wrong switch, easily done, and weeks of preparation and incubation were wrecked in a single night of cold. It was all I needed to get the edge to complete and write up my work successfully by the deadline, whereas my competitor struggled to get to the end of his experiments. I took the girlfriend too, for a time, not for long, just about the length of time it took her to find out about the others.
For intelligent women they weren’t that good at working out my game, and boy were they intelligent! Just chatting to them was an intellectual sparring match in itself, and remembering that sent a shiver through me. That Kayleigh had to go, a PA from the publishing house, supposedly organising my tour, she was attractive in just the way I liked, and fell readily into bed, but talking to her was like conversing with a TV guide. If it wasn’t on the TV, then she didn’t know anything about it. She seemed to live in a reality show and knew all about the goings on in the soaps almost before they did, but intellectual conversation, even about books or publishing, seemed completely beyond her.
‘Hey!’ I shouted close to her ear. ‘Are you going to get that useless head of yours off the pillow or what?’
‘Yeah, right, listen up, I’m not intending to hang around here to be quizzed. I want transport out booked, pronto, I’m out of here by ten at the latest.’
‘Oh right,’ she glanced at her watch. ‘I’ll just grab a shower.’
‘No! I want that transport arranged first – then you can do what you like because I’m going to do this last tour date on my own.’
‘But Luke,’ she started her voice almost a whine. ‘I’m coming too, aren’t I?’
‘Don’t you ever listen? No, I’m going alone. You were great. I was glad to know you, but this is it, goodbye. Got it?’
Kayleigh pulled the sheet up over her breasts, her eyes wide, shaking her head slightly. ‘Just like that? You cold bastard, just like that?’
I shrugged and started to pick out clothes to dress in, then realised she hadn’t moved. ‘Phone! Now!’ Kayleigh jumped and, still clutching the sheet to herself, wriggled across the bed to the phone.
‘Okay, Luke – er Dr Adamson? I’ve booked you a taxi, but where will you want to go, like, your flight to Newquay isn’t until tomorrow, and you were supposed to be a guest of the University until then.’
‘Screw that, can’t you get me down there today?’
‘Well, I don’t know – I’ll see, it might not be easy, being a small airport, and I don’t know how many flights there …’
I cut in ‘Find out then! And if it’s an okay then get the hotel booking moved up a day too.’
‘Sure, fine, right away.’
I was pacing the room, wondering if even going to this last venue was worth it and why on earth had I allowed myself to get worked up over nothing. It was this place. I’d had come out top in everything; academic, sport and personal ambitions were all met, yet I’d never felt accepted, and I realised that still bugged me.
HaHa! No, I’ve not reverted to darning socks this week, I’ve been far too busy with my Americanisms.
My new novel, The Angel Bug, is told by two people in the first person. One of these is a quiet, fifty-something widowed botanist working at the Eden Project in Cornwall, the other is her contemporary. However, that is where the comparison ends. HE is a famous ethnobotanist. He has a block-buster movie to his name. And he is an American.
It is that last bit that has caused me linguistic problems! As George Bernard Shaw said: “England and America are two countries separated by a common language”
So it is my good fortune and with grateful thanks that I found a Beta-reader in the USA. This kind and diligent lady has read through and sorted out my American’s language.
I thought I’d avoided the obvious – careful not to have him talk of trousers, pavements, underground (for the tube) bonnets and boots (as in parts of the car) – but find I had missed out on quite a few. Now windscreen has been replaced with windshield, queues with lines, nitty-gritty with nuts and bolts and crunch with kicker.
This is to say nothing of the changes to the expletives I had my man saying. Apparently it wouldn’t be right for him to think something was ‘bloody’ good, or to use this term in anger either – hence DARN IT! (still looking for a suitable expletive to fit the ‘good’ version – though at the moment I have just removed it)
In The Canterville Ghost (1887), Oscar Wilde wrote: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.”
Then there are the misunderstandings that can come from using words that have slightly different meanings in the US.
I had a nice girl being referred to by my American as a ‘some personnel bimbo’. I meant that he thought she was ‘a girl from personnel and was pretty, blonde and not very bright’ …. It appears that in the US ‘bimbo’ also has unfortunate connotations referring to a woman of loose morals!
Then there’s the untranslatable – such as phrases that we use but don’t seem to have an easily recognisable match in the US – like ‘spanner in the works’
All in all it has been so useful – I could just imagine my US readers wincing and cringing if I hadn’t gotten this done 😉
Have you ever had a odd misunderstanding when talking to an American, or vice versa?
What is your favourite ‘different’ word that they have or that we have for something?
Do share – you know I love to hear from you !
and talking of sharing- the next set of winners will have received their chosen copies of my previous ebooks – and I have to say that there are not even 7 entries left for the next draw – so if you enter you are almost guaranteed to WIN! See details here ! Do share the link with friends and family 🙂
and MORE SHARING ….. here it is – the next instalment of The Angel Bug – and the first time you will meet this American!
Gabbi was driving home from Eden……
Within fifteen minutes I pulled into my own drive. The sight of the house, low-browed over heavy granite with the sea glinting in the distance, as always, gave me first that surge of joy, now followed by a tang of sorrow. Sometimes, like today, I thought about selling, but I truly doubted I’d find another that gave me that delight on seeing it and there would always be the sorrow of James’ absence wherever I lived. The house had been my choice anyway, that sort of thing not being of interest to James, he’d just asked that the place should have a good sized garden. The garden was now a bit of a problem to manage. It was getting on for an acre and James had only just about got his vegetable garden going and an enormous herbaceous border planted when he collapsed with a massive heart attack whilst digging.
While I unlocked the door and went straight through to the kitchen, automatically putting the kettle on and flicking the answerphone off, I allowed myself to think about James. So often I had to stop myself thinking about him when I was alone, as the pain seemed to overwhelm me too easily when I had nothing else to think about. At work I could allow myself to think of him, knowing that I would be shaken out of my reverie by something going on, someone talking to me.
I’d been with James for over thirty years, he’d just started his PhD in Botanical Science and I was a second year student in the same subject when we met. I was working in the labs he used for his studies, and we got talking. He wasn’t the tall, dark and dashing type, more the tall, intellectual and serious type, but above all he was a really good person; kind, helpful, generous with his time, honest and dedicated. As I got to know him I found that I not only admired him but missed his presence when he was not working in the labs.
It took him a couple of months to ask me out. I recalled with a small smile his later confession that he’d been trying to make himself ask me out for all of one of those months at least, terrified that this ‘exotic creature’, as he called me, would laugh at him. Little did he know at the time that I was as shy as they come, and had it not been for the fact that we could talk in a detached, professionally scientific way to each other I probably wouldn’t have spoken to him at all.
People said we made an interesting couple, he at over six foot, alabaster skin, blue eyes, auburn hair, and me, a foot shorter, with a mass of unruly ebony hair, slightly olive skin that tanned easily and dark almond-shaped eyes.
I poured my tea and wandered into the open-plan dining area; as I did so I caught sight of myself in the mirror and stepped closer. That ebony hair was now tempered with what would be a sprinkling of grey if I didn’t disguise it with a chestnut dye, giving my hair instant highlights, and was far more controlled and controllable than it used to be by being well cut and twisted back into a knot held fast by one of my collection of unusual clips. The skin still looked good all things considered, but there was no hiding the lines round the eyes, so called laughter lines. If only.
With a blush I suddenly realised I was looking at myself and wondering what Luke would see.
The Angel Bug 2
Luke October 18th – 19th
The Great Hall was packed, the front rows were loaded with the elite of the university but, as far as I could see, the rest of the audience were the well-heeled environmentally-conscious middle-classes that I’d grown used to over the month of the tour in Europe.
I was prepared, hell, I knew my script off pat so that I spoke without notes. The lecture was carefully tuned to keep the audience awake, smiling, nodding at the wisdom pieces, anxious where they needed to be and enthusing just at the point where the talk finished and the book signings began. I’d worked out what I wanted to say and then, ignoring the publisher’s suggestion to ‘just be yourself’, I’d turned to the guy who’d worked the script for the narration on the film, a guy who could work magic with words. It was well worth it. Every time I spoke the audience was spellbound.
The Dean was at the lectern, giving me the ‘big build up’, Cambridge-style, almost off-handedly, reminding the assembly that ‘our speaker this evening’ was also a product of their own hallowed halls. It made me think for a moment on the difference between countries. Back home at Harvard I’d had a much better introduction, and I’d not even attended that university. The Dean, turned hand outstretched – my cue – and with a smile I stepped out onto the stage. The Dean waited near the lectern, so I had to cross most of the stage to get to him. He shook my hand, faced the audience and, with a turn of his hand towards the lectern, left the stage.
So there I was at the lectern but with no notes to put down on it. I still stood there, just to start off, I told myself. I gripped both sides of the lectern like a drowning man clutching a plank; I couldn’t let go of the damned thing. My fingers felt slippery and I was suddenly aware that my heart was beating faster than normal. This was ridiculous – I’d given this talk so many times and to so many illustrious groups. I mentally shook myself, smiled at the audience and began.
‘Good evening,’ I coughed and then continued, ‘this evening I want to take you on a journey, a journey that will lead you to stand beside me in a fight to save one of the worlds most valuable resources…..’
I found myself rushing my words, and I kept returning to the damned lectern as if it really did hold a set of notes. A part of my mind, not occupied with delivering the speech, realised what was wrong; every other time I’d felt totally relaxed, the audience with me – this lot were not playing the game. In the first few rows there were many with pursed lips and raised eyebrows. For the first time the carefully planned script sounded too much like entertainment and not enough about the real issues and the concrete science behind it.
‘….. so this is where we come to, could it possibly be true, as the indigenous peoples believe, that the mother forest has everything to cure all man’s ills? That it is part of God’s care, if you will, to provide our redemption from all the ailments man is heir to? Our journey has demonstrated how we live only by the grace of plant life. Could it be that we may live even healthier, even longer, without pain or disability, if we can only understand the gifts that are provided? And here’s the bottom line. To understand such things, then we need to be able to find and test them. This takes time, time that is running out as six percent of the rainforest is destroyed every year, meaning that your cure for cancer, your cure for Alzheimer’s, your cure for infertility, your cure for arthritis, may be lost forever. Thank you.’
The applause started and grew; I gave a small bow and turned to leave the stage. There, hurrying onto the stage was the Dean, florid faced with hand outstretched. What the hell?
‘Wonderful, wonderful,’ the Dean pumped my hand and turned out towards the audience, the clapping dying quickly. Only then did he drop my hand. It was all I could do not to wipe the clamminess off onto his suit jacket.
‘I’m sure we were all fascinated by Dr Adamson’s talk, and I’m sure that some of you will have questions,’
I felt a flush of annoyance, it was explicit in the contract that there would be no question time, but I was trapped, and looking round I could see at least half a dozen of the audience indicated questions by a discretely half-raised hand. I smiled grimly and walked back to the lectern, the beaming Dean in tow.
I scraped up a decent answer for the first and second questions, and headed off the third as I could see I was going to screw it up if I tried to answer properly, the figures were just not there at my fingertips. Their questions were pointed and deeply scientific, in every posh-brit syllable I felt an underlying criticism of the popular appeal of the book and the film and it was unnerving. It had been a long time since I’d been dealing with the nuts and bolts of the work that they were asking about. The past four years had been spent either in the jungle, doing bits for the film, editing or writing the book.
The fourth question was not much better and I knew my answer did not carry the required scientific rigour. Ridiculously, I began to feel out of my depth, as if, out there, were my former professors scrutinising me and my work. Indeed, from the number of white and balding heads I could see they probably were sitting out there.
More hands were raised. At that point, feeling sick, I leant over towards the Dean and said just that. The Dean, all hesitant and bluff at the same time, waved both his hands at the same time as if to ward of a host of mosquitoes, and then patting the air, apologised that ‘Dr Adamson will not be able to answer any more questions this evening as he is feeling under-the-weather’. He added that he was ‘sure that Dr Adamson would be glad to discuss matters of interest tomorrow as he was staying for another day’. He turned to me, beaming and nodding, at which I found myself nodding back.
Next morning, I lay awake listening to the breathing of the young woman lying beside me. I’d not had such a disturbed night since I left the jungle. Was it just being back here at Cambridge or was it the debacle last night? Well it was a new day and, as far as I was concerned, I was not going to be available to discuss anything.
It is one of those questions that writers worry at for ages. How to start your novel so that the reader is drawn into the story from the beginning.
This is the question that has been troubling me at the moment. I finished my new novel ‘The Angel Bug’ last year. I then spent considerable time editing it and it has been to my proof reader. I have it back now and I must now put in the time to make the corrections and contemplate any other changes I need to make before it is published.
In this case I am not only worrying over that crucial first line – but also where in the story I should start? At the beginning – is the usual answer, but the end (or should I say the bit just before the end) seems to be calling to me as it helps put the rest in perspective.
But is that a good idea – will it change the whole feel of what follows? I have read and re-read my own book so often enough that I now have no idea.
This is where beta readers come in handy – folk who can manage to pass through and by the spelling and typo errors to tell you if your book has got IT and whether is pulls the reader into the world of your characters. So we come back to that first line!
Lets play a game – can you match these first lines to the correct book and author*? (*options below)
1, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
2, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
3, “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”
4, “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”
5, “It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”
6, “No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were being scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”
7, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
8, “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
Books and Authors:
A, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald / B, Matilda, Roald Dahl / C, Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier / D, The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger / E, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams / F, Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy / G, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen / H, The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells
That was fun – I hope you got most of them! Answers at the end of the blog. How did you do? Why not share this blog with friends ( on FB or Twitter or forward it ) to see how they get on?
Now, here are my two openings vying for that special place. In each case I have given the chapter title too.
Gabbi 18 Oct 2011
Thirty years should change a man, I thought, but looking at the handsome face on the giant poster it didn’t look like it had done much to Luke Adamson’s features except, perhaps, to hone them a little more, making him more rugged, a man to be taken seriously.
I’m seventy-six this year and though I had known about the stuff since 2012, even I hadn’t put two and two together to realise what had happened to change everything so much, that is, not until I read the records my mother left behind.
I would LOVE to hear your feedback – what kind of book do you think it will be? Which first sentence makes you want to read on most? Could I even start with opening 2 and move straight on to opening 1?
1,C / 2, G / 3,A / 4,E / 5.B / 6,H / 7.F / 8.D
If you’d like to read the openings of my other full novels just click on the book icon on the side bar – it will take you to a page where you can download the first 3 chapters for free.
(BTW – for FWT cheerleaders – half a pound down – only 1 to go!!!)
So I’ve been trying to write this blog for the past fortnight and feeling guilty that I haven’t seemed to have time to put down all the thoughts I’ve been having about it. There have been a combination of things getting in my way (as it were) To start with there was the small matter of the smallholding duties of getting 29 chickens in the freezer. Christine (a friend I first met at the Callington market who, incidentally, makes the best lip-balm I have ever come across, http://www.cornishcreams.com from all natural stuff including Cornish beeswax as well as lots of other lovely skincare goodies without the nasty chemicals ) says I must not go into details about the demise of the chickens in my blog
However, I am still going to post this photo as I find it so interesting to see the wide variety in livers when all these birds were raised together, free-ranging with poultry corn ad-lib. Needless to say this is the sort of job that is not done in five minutes and comes on top of the usual slate work and general household chores.
Then there was the fact that I had set myself a deadline for completing the first major edit of my new novel ‘The Angel Bug’ as I had promised to send it to Tim Smit of the Eden Project, Cornwall to read and to get his ok for me to use him as a character (as the only real person in the whole novel) So all the time I could access to sit before the computer was devoted to that.
So, back to writing this blog. You see, we had a talk at WI, entitled ‘Growing Old Disgracefully’ and it was amusing as intended, but as I got to think about it I felt it had rather strayed from the aim, turning more into a ‘grumpy old woman’ diatribe (like the TV programmes of the same name) And talking of growing old and of the WI – you hear people say weird things like ‘Oh I might join the WI when I retire’ or ‘Oh I’m not old enough for the WI’. I actually joined when I was 15 and apart from the time I was at college and then lived in a city for five years (no WIs were allowed in the cities then) have been a member ever since. (there, that’s that grump out of my system)
Anyway I got to thinking what I would call ‘growing old disgracefully’… or perhaps not disgracefully but certainly not growing old as expected. Along with many others I love the list of ‘disgraceful’ things Jenny Joseph says she will do in her poem Warning – ‘When I am old I shall wear Purple, With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.’ If you don’t know this poem it is worth looking up, however, some of the things she warns that she might do seem old-fashioned for today.
A good friend of mine went to her first belly dance lesson at the age of sixty … as I already do that I started wondering what I can take up when I get to that age. One of the most enjoyable afternoons I had recently was when sons 2 and 4 took me rock climbing. This is only the second time I have done this (first time in my forties with the WI!) but I got a real buzz from it.
This train of thought led onto the ‘bucket list’ that has become popular, a wish list of things to do or see before you die (or reach a certain age). So I’ve started compiling mine, not necessarily ‘disgraceful’ things, more adventurous, exciting or unusual things to try, see, experience. What would be on your list?
In the Summer I was nearing the end of the first draft of my most recent book when one of my main characters had to deliver something to a prison facility in Louisiana. I had already researched the sort of place I wanted him to be going to and found one listed that seemed to fit. I could have winged it, making up the scenery he drove through, but if I was even to mention the name of the State I knew I had to get it right. Not yet being a writer who can just hop on a plane to go and visit the place for my research (and put it down as expenses) I flew Google!
I took in the aerial view, dropping lower and lower, noting the town to the north east of the prison, the expanse of empty fields around it. Google landed me on the stretch of road that led up to the prison gateway, I went as far as I could, peered left and right along the boundary fence, then turned around and drove back down Prison Road and on towards the town. I sped through the town until it petered out, then turned back and slowly, glancing left and right, drove back through, noting the types of houses, the few large red-brick buildings, the empty stretch of road before the Prison Road turning. I took in this road, its features to either side and its length. Finally I lifted off again, looking down on the whole scene. I had what I needed. I think the information from my Google street-view and satellite journey that I used will feel authentic enough, they describe the right type of countryside, the right type of town.
“After two hours drive I hit the small community that bore the same name as the jail, drove past the red-brick elementary school and library, through the streets lined with white painted clapboard homes and out the other side to the junction where Prison road joined the highway through town. I turned in, the fields stretched out bare and flat on either side between stumpy hedges that led off left and right in long straight lines, the ploughed soil red, the grass sparse. About a mile along the road was a dark clump of fir trees but after that nothing to give shelter or a hiding place for miles, only the gate to the prison way up ahead of me, blocking the road like a toll-booth, and as I neared, the miles of fencing which could be seen stretching away on either side.”
I already feel someone beginning to object, saying that there’s nothing like ‘being there’ to get the things right. I agree, if you need in-depth understanding and a verifiable atmosphere, but I think that for this background-filling work flying Google is a useful aid for the modern author, with back-up research needed if there are any queries in what you see.
On the other hand, I clearly remember reading a book in the 1980s by an American author who liked to set her stories in Britain, and who, the info claimed ‘spent a lot of time in Britain researching her novels’. She had set one on the edge of Dartmoor, an area I know well, in a key role it involved a Chalk quarry and a muffin shop. The muffins in question were cranberry, chocolate and carrot and orange, not the sort of muffin you would have found in the UK back then, and I can only assume she had seen the white china-clay pits on the edge of Dartmoor and thought they must be chalk but not completed her research. So ‘being there’ isn’t always foolproof either.
What do you think? Anyone else been flying to plot destinations by Google?