Reading

I read quite a lot. All sorts of books and stories and many of them inspire me to write. I’ve always been a reader although my parents never read to me as a child. It was just my way of escape. Escape from bullies; from having to get up; from having to go to bed; from life in general.

I had a ‘normal’ working-class upbringing by ‘normal’ working-class parents who worked hard to provide me and my siblings with food, heat and a decent roof over our heads. Nothing unusual happened and every day was much like the last one. I think that’s why I read, why I wanted to escape. To slip off into much more exciting worlds than my own. They are all out there, just step into a library and see all those worlds.

I was always being remonstrated for reading under the bed covers via torchlight. My mother insisted that I would go blind as she was an advocate of having as much bright light as possible. I’m no longer a young man and my mother has long since passed away but if she were still here I would have to remind her that I didn’t go blind. Well not so far anyway, but I did so enjoy those adventures with pirates, smugglers and spies. Writers such as John Buchan, Daniel Defoe and Alexander Dumas we’re the stuff of my late night reading. Just another page I would tell myself but that quickly became another chapter until finally I succumbed to sleep until woken at some early hour to get up, wash, dress and grab a piece of toast before off to school to endure education.

I have always been convinced that I learned far more from those wonderful books than I ever did sitting in a classroom, bored by a teacher telling me that my life would be irreparably damaged if I didn’t learn the Periodic Table or sines, cosines and tangents. I have never had to use a slide rule in over fifty one years of full time work or much of what was forced to learn.

So I’ll continue to read fifty plus books a years and write whenever I can. I still love to slip off into those worlds which are far more interesting than mine. I will continue to learn and educate myself by reading. It should be compulsory for everyone.

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

What a gem of a book this is. It’s funny, scary, sad and happy and really well written. I was surprised to find that the author is a woman as the chief protagonist is male. We follow his hap hazard childhood with his gang of friends through to adulthood. With all the stresses and tensions of life thrown into a small Southern English town. Well paced and written and a pretty original storyline which keeps the reader, well this reader, interested and wanting more right up until the last page. It was one of those books I couldn’t put down but feel a bit lost because it’s ended.

To say this is a first book from this author I would suspect there are many more to come. I, for one, will eagerly await the next one.

NaNoWriMo Approaches

It’s that time of year again. The time when I decide whether or not to take up the November writing challenge. I did it last year, won and have spent ever since trying to make my effort into something readable. I’m still working on it and its grown to over 90,000 words as I try to get it to a suitable ending.

In the past, I’ve always struggled to start or got bogged down in the middle somewhere. Lost focus or lost interest or just found that time had overtaken me and then it was difficult to get started again. I’ve been lucky to be able to use Scrivener to break it up into manageable chunks and lately I’ve started using Ulysses, which does the same but in a different way. In fact, I’m writing this in Ulysses as it allows me to post straight into WordPress and onto my blog. Easy.

I need to make up my mind shortly though as that will give me time to research and plan during October. Although I’m pretty sure that things will be busy for me in that month so as you can see. I’m a long way from deciding as we head towards the end of September. Have to wait and see I suppose.

If I abandon my 90,000+ word project for a couple of months whilst I indulge myself on NaNoWriMo will I ever start it again? On the other hand, if I do that and then come back to it will reading it again guide me to a suitable ending? Dilemma – I’ll let you know.

How do you follow that?

mm

 

I have just finished reading this book, Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. It’s a book which took him nearly thirty years to write and finish it and then have it published. There are many books written about war and many of them about the Vietnam war but there are few that can depict such a real insight into the conditions which were endured by a young generation of boys. Sent to a strange country to fight an enemy, young boys, much like themselves. Who they were taught to hate but never met. Spending days and nights in wet, humid jungle. Often without water and proper food and every minute scared of every shadow. It is funny but often gruesome and it is a true story based on Marlantes own experience of the war. Where seventeen-year-olds commanded ten to fifteen men and a twenty-three-year-old officer was responsible for every waking and sleeping hour of the lives of over two hundred. It’s a tale of bravery, sacrifice and of how quickly they grew up when facing death, leeches, near starvation and even tigers every day.

It’s actually the second time I’ve read this book in two years. The first time I devoured every page and felt loss when I finished it. Having finished reading it again, albeit a little slower this time, I once again feel that loss. I’ve tried starting two books since but can’t really get going on either. I seem to find that when I have read a book I particularly like, so what’s the answer?

How do you get started on another book after a really good read? I know I’ll just persevere until a book clicks but I just wondered what the secret is.

 

Grammarly et al

I’ve fallen in love with Grammarly, an app extension of Google Chrome but also available in Windows. It seems to work really well and monitors your use of grammar and spelling, even on those websites which don’t normally spell check for you. (Something I have found to be essential in recent years). On initial set-up, you advise it to use either UK English or the USA English dictionary, alleviating a source of irritation that most spell checkers present to UK writers.

The added bonus is that it checks the grammar too, so the occasional incorrect word use is highlighted immediately. In effect, it’s doing a form of first line proofreading for you.

It’s available to use in its free version but enhanced features are added if you subscribe  to the Premium, where it monitors many more areas of your text including sentence structure and writing style issues.

Have a look at the website https://app.grammarly.com/

I think you may like it too (No I’m not on commission)

Blogging Habit

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll always be an infrequent blogger. I only post a blog post when I have something to say, as opposed to those who feel they have to post every day. I have nothing against those who wish to do this but it’s really up to them. I always think I’ll do more blogging but it never actually happens as other things take precedence. I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to finish my NaNoWriMo novel and am still to complete its first draft. Even though I’m over 100,00 words it shows no signs of concluding. I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing!

Then I’m writing short stories and entering contests regularly, something I promised myself I would do this year. Blogging seems to be falling a poor third in the race for my time. I’m not complaining, its never been my desire to have hundreds or thousands of followers or to earn any sort of reputation or living from my blog, although I do realise that is possible.

I like a story prompt, but they inspire me to write fiction, not about me as I’m pretty uninteresting anyway (say awww), no don’t- please.

So I’ll continue with my sporadic and often disjointed posts, when I feel I have something to contribute and hopefully people on the same wavelength as me will find them a. Amusing  b. Thought provoking  c. Now what is c?

 

Words

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
Rudyard Kipling

I don’t know about you but, all my life, I’ve been plagued by certain words which I have trouble spelling. I have never been able to spell ‘restaurant’ at first go. I don’t know why but it always bugs me and I either have to look it up or use the spell checker. I get the ‘a’ and ‘u’ in the wrong place or miss them all together. Another word is ‘definitely’ which I seem to want to put an ‘a’ in. Or it comes out as defiantly. I have seen others who make this particular mistake.

I know that most of us mistake the ‘there, their and they’re’ sometimes but I usually correct that in the editing stage. (I hope).  Most of us realise the difference in UK and US dictionary words. (realize)

I find it quite annoying, though, when I find errors in a books or magazine stories. Something that has managed to get past the editors and proofreaders which seems to jump off the page at me. Having read some of the self-published e-books I find that mistakes are commonplace and really good stories can, for me, be spoiled by a lack of concentration. I don’t blame the writer as we are all guilty of reading what we think is there, especially when we’ve written it and our brain knows what should be written. Perhaps employing a proof reader would help in these circumstances but it’s easy to judge.

Do you have any words that trip you up constantly?

2016 Reading List

Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
Ray Bradbury

I’ve just signed up to the Goodreads book challenge 2016. It’s where you decide how many books you wish to read during the year. It’s not really a challenge, as such, but I’ve never actually counted how many I read on average. I had already decided that this year I would keep a tally but the challenge means I don’t have to bother. When I start a new book or end one I merely go onto the website and enter the details and they keep track  for me. It is also a good place to discover what other readers think about the next book you are considering. Others can rate and comment on any book they have read and likewise you can do the same once you either complete the book or give it up.

I just wondered how you choose what books you buy and read? Is it by author, genre, number of pages or perhaps even a bright book cover? Sometimes a thousand pages can be a little daunting and maybe even half that number can seem like an uphill struggle. Or perhaps there is the perfect novel hidden behind a plain and boring cover. I  tend to follow an author I’ve already read, although that can sometimes be disappointing, but more recently I’ve gone by recommendations. Sometimes those come from friends or from blog posts or suggestions via email. I have, for many years, subscribed to the Everyday Ebooks website. From here they send out a daily recommendation with a comment from a reader. I have discovered some great books on here, notably ‘Matterhorn’ by Karl Marlantes. Someone I’d never heard of before but it turned out to be one of the best and memorable stories of the Vietnam war I’ve ever read. Based on true events and real people it is not for the faint hearted but exciting and impossible to put down.

So how do you decide what book to read next?

Well That’s Another Year Gone – Almost

And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been. - Rainer Maria Rilke

I realise that there are still some days left in 2015, and Santa has still to pop down chimneys all over the world, but I have already begun thinking about life in 2016. I never make New Year resolutions as they are just there to be broken, but I do try to plan ahead and think about what I may achieve in the months to come. Here is my list so far:

  • Write something every day, even if it’s just a shopping list.
  • Finish the first draft on this years NaNoWriMo novel and then put it away for a couple of months.
  • Enter more writing contests; something I’ve failed to do in 2015, except for a couple in December.
  • Read more books, whenever I possibly can.
  • Read more of other blogs and comment.
  • Blog more regularly, and about different things.
  • Continue eating a low fat diet as it’s really working for me.
  • Step up my exercise regime; I know I’ll need to after Christmas.

Those are things that I think of for the time being, but there will be lots more to add in the coming months. Around this time of year, it seems that the world is looking backwards. We are bombarded with reviews of 2015, of what we did in the past year and what our achievements have been. I try not to do it and many years ago developed this mantra, which is probably a mixture of other peoples quotes, but it works for me.

The past is past, it cannot be re-written or undone. Learn from it and move on.

Steve Cripwell

I hope you all enjoy the festive season and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Reading Habits

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Stephen King

I was reading a book the other day and it suddenly occurred to me that my reading habits were probably not the same as others, but quite why, I don’t know. I tend to read crime thrillers, perhaps a bit of Si-Fi, a touch of horror and the odd biography or autobiography. The time of day I read varies with my mood, as does the amount of time spent reading. I have to read to the end of a scene or chapter before I can put it down,  and I become annoyed with books which go on for page after page with no break. I think that is something the author should think about when writing. I am a voracious reader at times and then at others I may only read a page but I always have a book on the go and usually I have the next one lined up. Although that can change when I finish. I also always read the first 100 pages as I think it takes that long to get used to the writers style. If I haven’t settled into the book by then I know it’s not going to happen for me. I read physical books, books on the Kindle app on my tablet and occasionally the Kindle app on my smartphone. When I used to commute by train into work, each day,  that was the ideal time to read and amazingly so many others do the same.

I tried an audio book once  but I’m still unconvinced, even though I do like to hear stories read out on radio. Maybe it’s the length of the audio book which is the problem. Whilst listening, I find, my mind wanders in a way it doesn’t when I read words on a page.  I’m sure there are millions of audio book fans out there and for visually impaired people they must be a god send.

I can never envisage a life without books although I do know people who haven’t read a book since they were at school. Maybe they get their pleasures elsewhere; maybe TV or radio. I remember the quote from Groucho Marx when he said.

 “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

I do watch TV but given the choice between that and a good book there is no contest