Come back on Sunday to hear from Susanna
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Come back on Sunday to hear from Susanna
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Thursday, January 19, 2012
It’s a new year and I’m sure we all made some resolutions – some easier to keep than others! I broke my first one within hours (it IS hard to stay away from the chocolate in the fridge when it’s calling out to you!), but my second one I’ve actually put into action – de-cluttering.
I started with the cupboard under the stairs. What is it about cupboards under stairs? It’s just so easy to chuck stuff in there and forget it ever existed. Until it gets full, that is, and you can’t open the door without something falling on you and if you want to find something, well, forget it!
Cupboard finished, I decided to tackle my office. I call it an office, but really it’s just an alcove off the bedroom. And it’s truly amazing how much you can fit into an alcove if you try! I’d been collecting stuff there for six years without a clear-out. It was definitely time to do something about it.
A couple of weeks later and I’m still not quite finished, but almost. I can see the carpet, the files are all tidy, I have a new bookshelf which isn’t even full yet (hooray, good excuse to buy more books!) and I found some things I’d forgotten I had. The dust is gone (temporarily) and it feels really good! So there are still a few piles of papers to sort out and dispose of, but it was really satisfying to carry out five or six bags for recycling – cleansing, both for my office and for my mind somehow. And if you’ve got a pile of magazines (unopened, still in their plastic wrappers) that you subscribed to three years ago and haven’t read by now, then surely you don’t need them? I figured not, and they’re gone.
This kind of spring cleaning mania is supposed to be something that grips mothers-to-be in the weeks before their baby is due. Can’t say that happened to me (being the size of a whale isn’t really conducive to bending or carrying stuff if you ask me), but I know now what they mean because all this clearing out and de-cluttering has made me feel ready to sit down and produce something – some fresh writing. Does that count? Maybe it’s not quite the same, but writing a book feels a bit like giving birth sometimes, so I think I’ll keep the analogy. And I know lots of authors clear out their offices each time they finish a book in order to start afresh as it were – from now on I intend to do the same.
And speaking of new years – apparently it’s the Chinese Year of the Dragon coming up, and not just any Dragon year, but a very special one – Black Water Dragon, which apparently means it’s going to bring unexpected happenings. Let’s hope they’re good ones for all of us!
Did you make any resolutions, and if so, have you kept them? Let me know while I’m still feeling smug about keeping one of mine (even if I did eat a lot of chocolate in the meantime ...)
And please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz!
Sunday, January 15, 2012
So I've picked up a thread from Julie's post - the one about inspirational people, the people who are genial shadows at our shoulder saying, "go on! You can do it!"
It starts with Mum, I think. It was Mum who taught me to read at an early age (so early, in fact, that when I went to infants' school, Mum was told off for having taught me to read, because, "now she will have to un-learn it all so that we can teach her properly."
Mum took me to the library every week or so, where I could have four books, and only one of them could be Asterix.... I think I spent most of my childhood with my nose in a book, and there was never any shortage. We had a houseful of books, and I made the transition from Famous Five to Mary Stewart and Desmond Bagley without ever thinking about what was a "children's book" or what was a "grown-up's book". They were just good stories.
Dad read aloud to us on holidays, giving a different voice to every character, teaching me about emotional punch when he read about Aslan's sacrifice with a catch in his voice. I can remember now the smell of the tent and the sound of his voice telling us "he is not a tame lion" through the canvas walls of our sleeping compartment. He also gave me his old typewriter, handling it with the reverence due to a tool for creating words. I typed my first story, aged seven, on it.
Then there was Mr Bennet. Mr Bennet my English teacher from age 11 to 18. Mr Bennet who stood on the desk in front of me to read my work because I told him I didn't like people reading over my shoulder. Who let two of us study Mansfield Park when the rest of the class were doing The Chocolate War. Who introduced me to obscure books by unheard-of writers, leading me to leap across genres without giving the classification a moment's thought. Who helped me love Chaucer, Shakespeare and (eventually) Milton with the same heart that devoured Terry Pratchett and Roger Zelazny.
These are the people who helped to generate the love of words, of stories, who nurtured it. None of them were remotely surprised when I expressed a desire to write.
They just said, "go on! You can do it!"
Who are or were the personal influences in your writing life?
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Sunday, January 8, 2012
While doing my daily round of the internet last week, I noticed that, over at Dear Author, Jane's #5 wish in her List of Things She'd Like to See in 2012 from the Romance Genre was More Courtship.
"I am not sure whether it is paranormals and the fated mates that have led to the slow devolution of the courtship, but whatever is the reason, we need to put a stop to it," Jane writes. "I love the courtship. Dating is so rife with opportunity and conflict. Where is the slow build of attraction?"
Now, don't get me wrong, I believe in the concept of instant attraction and people who simply belong with each other, but watching while two people start to become more aware of each other is wonderful, too, and Jane's post got me thinking how much I love those films and novels in which the main characters actually go out on dates, get to know one another, prolong the suspense for us. Will they or won't they? The almost-kiss can be as sexy to me (sometimes sexier) than sex itself.
Case in point: Scarecrow and Mrs. King. If you were born in the 80s or later, you most likely won't have a clue what this is, but for a romance-loving teen like me in 1983, it was The Best Thing on TV, my favourite show.
Bruce Boxleitner played a suave CIA spy, teamed with Kate Jackson as a divorced mom of two who got drafted by circumstance into the spy game. Their chemistry steamed up our little TV screen, and watching their feelings develop and grow brought me back every week thinking, "This is it! This is the week that they'll kiss!" Their interrupted almost-kisses were the thing of legend, but their first Real Kiss, right at the end of the Third Season (!) made my heart happy because I had watched all the small little moments that led to it.
Back in the mid-18th century, the Irish writer Laurence Sterne (of Tristam Shandy fame) wrote that "Courtship consists in a number of quiet attentions, not so pointed as to alarm, nor so vague as not to be understood."
Those "quiet attentions" are why I so love books like My Love, My Enemy, by Jan Cox Speas, with its pairing of the young American heroine, Page Bradley, and the dashing English spy Lord Hazard, set against the War of 1812, when a brave but rash action by Page throws them (literally) both in the same boat (well, ship) and Lord Hazard decides that, with Page on her own, he is honour-bound to guard her honour, however attractive he finds her. Which means that they don't even kiss till the end of the 14th long chapter, by which time we've watched while they break down their differences, overcome prejudices, notice each other's small faults and discover the things they admire in each other.
Again, it's those stray little moments: the times that their eyes meet, the times they say small things that mean something more, the few times they touch.
It's those same moments, I think, that mark the progression of real-life relationships, too: that first meeting, or first introduction; the first time you notice what colour his eyes are; the first time you go out together; the first time you hold hands; the first time you sit up until 2 a.m. talking; the times that you wish he would kiss you; the first time he actually does...
It's not all smooth sailing, mind you. Both in real life and in fiction there is angst, and plenty of it, and it's not a state I'd want to spend forever in. It's too exhausting. But whether it takes a full year, as it does with Lord Hazard and Page, or three seasons on TV, or one unforgettable day spent with Gregory Peck (Roman Holiday, pictured above), I'll admit I'm a sucker for stories of courtship.
What about you? What's your favourite example of courtship in fiction, and do you agree with Jane that we need more of it?
(Come back on Thursday, to see whether Julie comes out of her luxury bolthole...)