Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Are you a lunatic?

I've enjoyed all the recent coverage of the anniversary of the moon landing, particularly the programme 8 days: To The Moon and Back.

I'm also prepared to concede that some people are affected by the waxing and waning of the moon, not in a full-on werewolf way, but certainly in terms of disrupted sleep patterns, albeit caused more by its light shining through the bedroom curtains than anything mystical.

I have friends, though, who set much more store by the moon's magic than I do. Tonight there will, apparently, be a Black Moon, which is the name given to the second of two new moons occurring in the same calendar month. We are promised energy and miracles and all manner of wonders, and the end of a chaotic July before normality returns in August.

Well, I hope it does indeed bring a boost of something wonderful. The last few days of the month have been a bit dreary, and I don't know why. On my Julia Thorley Author Facebook page, I've posed the question: 'Why do all my best ideas come to me when I'm too busy to take action?' For your eyes only, dear reader, is the subsidiary question: 'Why now, when  I have the time to crack on with the creative stuff, do I just want to sit on the sofa and watch Mad Men?' I don't believe in writer's block: it's just procrastination; but I've definitely got a case of writer's apathy.

It's a new month tomorrow. Let's hope the moon works her magic and I can achieve something fabulous. 

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Community spirit

Since I last posted on this blog, I've spent a lot of time in what might be broadly described as community ventures. Two are particularly worthy of note.

We've had this year's KettFest weekend, the annual promotion of local arts and culture. I facilitated a gathering of local authors in the library, which was great fun. People met to talk about their own writing projects, to network with people who are already published and to find out information about the next steps in their own writing 'journey'. There was much chat and joy.

Then I hightailed it round the corner to take part in a spoken word event: again, much joy. I read a couple of poems, a prose piece and an extract from A Sparge Bag on the Washing Line (coming soon!).

One of the stalls at KettFest was Extinction Rebellion. A group has been set up in Kettering, which Mr T and I have joined, and on Wednesday we all stood outside the borough council offices with flags and banners, because Item 11 on the agenda was the proposal that a climate emergency be declared here. It was a good-natured action - we offered strawberries to all the councillors as they arrived - and no one glued themselves to anything. Then we trouped into the council chamber for the meeting. Sensibly, the motion was passed unanimously. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you how important this is.

Both of these episodes made me realise that there is a lot of good energy in the town, if only you look for it. OK, there's plenty that needs fixing, but it would be nice if we could build on the positive instead of always focusing on the negative: a bit more ' Yay, Kettering!' and a bit less 'Kettering's a dump'.

Excuse me, now, while I go and put my soapbox away.

Monday, 8 July 2019

PD James vs Lee Child

I was partway through 61 Hours by Lee Child when I set off on  holiday, but had finished it within a couple of days. Fortunately there's a brilliant community bookshop in Lynton, so I had a browse and came out with A Taste For Death by PD James. I can't quite believe it, but this is the first of her books I've ever read. I can't even remember watching any of the TV adaptations with Ray Marsden as Adam Dalgliesh. (I've just Googled this and discovered that Martin Shaw played him in later series; how did I miss that?!)

I was struck by huge differences between the two books, not just in content - Lee Child's Jack Reacher books are thrillers, rather than detective mysteries - but also in style. LC's books are pacy and full of short, tense sentences. 61 Hours opens with 'Five minutes to three in the afternoon. Exactly sixty-one hours before it happened.'  ATFD's opening sentence is 46 words long.

I gather from the back cover that PDJ wanted to be 'a serious novelist within the bonds of the genre', and certainly ATFD feels quite literary in tone. I'd go so far as to say I enjoyed the writing more than the story.

It felt curiously old-fashioned, though. When you read an Agatha Christie novel, you know it's going to be set way back when, but ATDF was first published in 1986. I know that's over 30 years ago, but this book doesn't reflect the mid-80s that I remember.

Two examples. The word 'beribboned' appears twice in two pages,  once to describe a basket of flowers and then on the next page to describe some women in a picture - and it caused me to stumble, mentally, because my brain initially interpreted it as 'berry boned'. Then there is a lengthy description of one of the female characters in which PDJ feels it necessary to point out 'She was hatless', as though that was somehow unusual. Really, in 1986?

I know some of you will think this is heretical, but I shan't read another Dalgliesh novel. Give me Jack Reacher any day.