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.

How do you follow that?

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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.

 

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

Ever the Critic

“Writing”, 22 November 2008 (Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle)

I find that suddenly I have become really critical of my past writings. I’m not sure if it’s just a phase or because I’m trying to write more at the moment after a long dry spell. I have even started re-reading all my blog posts which is pointless. What I wrote then I felt then so why  do I try to analyse them now?

Looking back at some short stories I’ve written, entered in competitions and had rejected, I can see why. Suddenly, I have a burning desire to re-write them or with some, just delete them forever.

Several years ago, when I lived alone, I went through a period of prolific output but now, looking back, I find that some of the stories are extremely poor. Those stories were written deep into the early hours and, at the time, the ideas and the characters which lived in my head. I thought I’d transferred onto the page. It’s only now, after re-reading them, several years later, I realise that most of them would need a big revision. Maybe that’s because my own writing has improved or perhaps it’s because I’m much more critical of my own work than I was before. It could be the latter, as many of the books I read these days, I find spelling and grammar mistakes (I know, we all make them) but worse than that I sometimes struggle with the ending and find it very contrived. To me, this is a major disappointment even when the book has been well constructed and the story has flowed and maintained my interest. It just feels like the author has given up and decided to end the story now.

Writing is a craft which needs to be learned and practised. To be constantly honed, edited and re-worked. I wonder if any of the literary giants look back at their work and feel the same.

What about you?

Book Rules

I don’t know about you but I have certain rules that I try to follow when starting to read a new book.

As a child I used to peruse the shelves of my local library’s children’s section and I was initially attracted to bright and seemingly interesting book jackets. I’d pull them from the shelf one by one and read the cover notes hoping to get some inspiration from the story idea. After being disappointed with some of my choices I began to recognise authors and tried to find other works by any writer who’s work I had enjoyed. I found though, that these too could disappoint and although I may find an author and enjoy one of his books, it didn’t always follow that I would get the same enjoyment from all their other novels.

As an adult I still apply some of these rules and mostly they work. I’m not really that attracted by book sleeves now although I still can’t resist the sleeve notes. I tend to go for authors I know and have read extensively, knowing they don’t usually disappoint. I also follow recommendations and try new works that way. This is sometimes a mixture of from friends and family, usually the ones I know like similar genre authors to me. Otherwise it’s a question of read it and see.

One major thing I now always do is to read 100 pages. I have, over the years, found books that I just couldn’t get going with and discarded them after a few pages but find they become readable later when I’m in a different mood.  Always provided I am happy with the writing style and format. If I get to page 100 and I’m still not getting it then I give up and try something else.

So do you have any reading rules?

Does Blogging Help or Hinder?

I often wonder to myself whether the time I spend reading blogs and posting on my own blog fuel procrastination. It’s easy to get sidetracked and find that the hour you have dedicated to writing has gone. Many writers extol the virtue of reading as many other writers as you can find the time for, so you can examine all the different styles they use. Reading allows you to hear the ‘voice’ of the characters in the story and I love to read. The problem is, how much time should be spent on this ‘research’. It makes me begin to think that reading and blogging may interfere with the writing process. A bit like emails stop you working, following blogs and reading interesting posts can make the available time disappear in an instant.

I suppose the other voice in my head asks “If I don’t read other people’s blogs no-one will read mine. So what’s the point of writing a blog?” Also how insular would I become if I didn’t read other points of view? I can put my views down and I can ask questions of others but if the inhabitants of cyberworld don’t visit sometimes it’s as pointless as writing a shopping list and leaving it at home. For me, it’s also a break from what I’m writing to be reassured that there are some like-minded people out there. Some of them struggling with the same things I do.

So I think I’ll continue in my endless time juggle and give up something else instead. Like sleeping or eating.

What do you do without to write?