East of Eden – John Steinbeck

I don’t usually review books, well okay maybe just one or two when I’ve found them really readable. This book is so good I can’t understand why I haven’t already read it. Now I have, I think it’s one of the great works and the best of Steinbeck.
I read ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ last year and although I enjoyed it, it was a bit depressing. The setting and the era we’re pretty depressing also. The Grapes is generally known as the authors best work but for me, E of E is far superior. It also has its sad moments and its fun times too but it so well intermingles the lives of three families who come together in the Salinas Valley just after the turn of the 20th century.
Life is hard for them but there is an underlying feeling of optimism throughout the book. It’s not exactly a ‘feel good’ story but is quite uplifting at times. Maybe I was feeling particularly cheerful when I read it but it was a really interesting read. I like the way Steinbeck builds visible characters that stay with you throughout. From the military father who treats his two sons totally differently to the Irish decent father who sees the faults and the promise of each of his children.
For me, it was a very satisfying read.

 

 

 

 

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Clue or Red Herring


Whilst reading a book or watching a film, even a TV drama, I do enjoy picking up on clues. Those little moments when the writer throws in a stepping stone for us to move a little bit closer to solving the old question. Whodunnit?

I like to marvel at just how many of these clues are not really that, but so-called Red Herrings.

Where does the term Red Herring come from?

 According to an entry in Wikipedia

The origin of the expression is unknown. Conventional wisdom has long supposed it to be the use of a kipper (a strong-smelling smoked fish) to train hounds to follow a scent, or to divert them from the correct route when hunting; however, modern linguistic research suggests that the term was probably invented in 1807 by English polemicist William Cobbett, referring to one occasion on which he had supposedly used a kipper to divert hounds from chasing a hare, and was never an actual practice of hunters. The phrase was later borrowed to provide a formal name for the logical fallacy and literary device.>

I’ve always been interested in the origin of expressions we use every day without thinking. Those which have a meaning completely unrelated to its words. There are so many of these we mostly don’t even think about them:

  1. Bite the bulletUsed as a type of anaesthetic, patients would be given a bullet to bite
  2. Break the iceWhen ships were stuck the nearest nation would send their vessels to release it
  3. Mad as a hatterNothing to do with Lewis Carrol’s books but from a disease of hat makers, caused by Mercury used in the process, which brought about strange behaviour
  4. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwaterIn the early 1500s, people only bathed once a year. Not only that, but they also bathed in the same water without changing it! The adult males would bath first, then the females, leaving the children and babies to go last. By the time the babies got in, the water was clouded with filth. The poor mothers had to take extra care that their babies were not thrown out with the bathwater.
  5. Give the cold shoulderIn medieval England, it was customary to give a guest a cold piece of meat from the shoulder of mutton, pork, or beef chop when the host felt it was time for the guest to leave. This was a polite way to communicate, “You may leave, now.”

These are just a few of the many sayings we have in the English language.

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.

Reading Your Novel on a Kindle

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I have recently discovered this trick. For anyone who is writing their first, second, third, tenth great novel and are at the stage where they are reading its first/second/whatever draft then this could be for you. I used to have a Kindle tablet but now just use the Kindle app on my iPad and Android phone and it works great on these too.

You can actually send your unedited masterpiece to your Kindle and then read and annotate it, just as you would if it was an ebook you had purchased.

One of the great advantages of using this method is that:

a. It’s easy to do.

b. It looks like a book.

c. It’s in book reading format

d. It’s free

The last item is a real bonus as there is also no paper cost or printer ink. If you prefer to print and read then that’s fine. You could still use this method after you have done that level. The choice is yours. All you have to do is to email to your (Or someone else’s) Kindle email address. Each Kindle account has a unique email address which you’ll find in the settings of the tablet/app. Then you simply attach your novel to an email and send it that address. Sync the Kindle and there it will be for you to work with.

You can find full and detailed instruction on the Amazon website for your individual country.

Why not give it a try? Can’t hurt.

Amazon Decoded: A Marketing Guide To The Kindle Store is FREE

David Gaughran

Amazon DecodedLet’s Get Digital 3 was announced this week and it is going very well indeed, with 1,000 copies pre-ordered already. The amount of sharing and recommending and tweeting has been spectacular – I’m very grateful to you all.

In fact, I have a gift for you.

Amazon Decoded: A Marketing Guide to the Kindle Store is now available. And it’s FREE. All you need to do is sign up to my mailing list to get a copy. That’s it. And you can unsubscribe right after if you wish, I don’t mind at all! Really.

If you need more convincing, here’s the blurb:

The author of Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible is back to reveal the inner machinations of the biggest bookstore in the world. By reading Amazon Decoded: A Marketing Guide To The Kindle Store, you will:

  • learn what “visibility marketing” is and how factoring Amazon’s…

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The Pomodoro Technique – Making Time

There is never enough time, is there?

Time is a commodity we all crave; whether it’s:

  • Time in bed
  • Leisure time
  • Family time
  • Time of life
  • Time to write

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These are just some of the things that the modern, fast, pace of life robs us of. So how do we find the time to finish, or even start, that novel that everyone has inside them? All the best selling writers have differing ideas. David Hewson (Author of over 20 books) has a clear and defined writing schedule and he stuck rigidly to it. He never writes at the weekend. Stephen King, one of the most prolific of modern writers, has set times for reading and for writing. Both of these writers and many others too began writing novels whilst working full time and juggling their time between, work, family and writing. Even Anthony Trollope, who wrote over 40 novels in Victorian Britain, and held down a demanding job in the Post Office.

So where do these great novelists find the time? They use their available, stolen, time productively. Trollope wrote for three hours every morning before heading off to work. It’s rumoured that he paid a servant to wake him at five each day so that he could write.

Allocating time to write is important but once you have the time; what then? We’ve all stared at a notepad or computer screen hoping that inspiration will come. Been distracted by an email or news item which we must read. When that happens and the inspiration doesn’t come we feel a little cheated knowing that time is lost forever.

In the late 1980’s Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer, shaped like a tomato, to focus his mind on the work in hand. The word Pomodoro comes from the Italian word for tomato.

There are six steps in the original technique:

  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set the Pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
  3. Work on the task.
  4. End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
  6. After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.

The idea is to make the focus on the time available. When the alarm rings (After 25 mins) take a break. Reset the timer to cover a break and when it rings again, your break is over. Reset the timer and off to work again. No other distractions should interfere with your productivity.

Maybe it’s worth a try in our fight against procrastination.

New Year Resolutions

We’re well into January now and all those good intentions should be firmly taking route. Dry January, Gym visits, Smoking patches, and the dreaded Diet , etc means we should all be feeling pretty good about ourselves and our new regimes.

Sadly, for most of us, that will not be the case. My promise to myself (I find it easier not to proclaim my resolutions to anyone but myself.) has already fallen at the first hurdle. My 2018 To-do-list is topped by:

Write a blog post every week.

Second is: Edit a scene from the first draft of my novel every day.

Both of these, sadly, have failed to happen as life, like so often happens, has gotten in the way. So I’ve managed neither of those but I intend to change that and pretend that today is New Years Day and in my new world calendar I’m starting as I mean to go on.

So everything is reset, my new list is on track, I feel inspired and renewed and all is well with the world. Perhaps.