Tremor Warnings

Two recent events have shaken my routine. One a post and one a game. Nothing earth shattering, more tremors – warnings of what might or will occur.

This post about ‘diversity’, Social Justice Warriors, and the withdrawal of Amélie Wen Zhao’s Blood Heir set me thinking about my current WIP, Fevered Few and what I was attempting.

I’m a WASP hetero male trying to write a novel with a female queer protagonist in the North Wales Police. Am I heading for the pillory or worse – even if I am trying to use diversity readers?

I had already realised I needed to tread carefully after a somewhat different controversy arose over the sexuality choices in the game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m making my protagonist Welsh with a deaf sister, since I’m English and I’ve never even committed a crime – other than parking illegally or speeding. Okay, I’m disabled, with Quaker abolitionist ancestors and splashes of Latin and Scottish blood. But none of those are qualifications.

Okay, SF writers write about aliens but aren’t from another planet. However, we don’t see the aliens protesting; or is that why there are abductions and experiments?

Is the solution to stop writing my Welsh police procedural series and tackle a topic that I know about? Horses?

Dang, I’ve done that and got criticised for my lack of knowledge.

Falling? My life-story could be fictionalised, but who is inspired by that? Not me.

Insecurity 1. Meltdown imminent.

Later the same day, I went into Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and got thrown into a quest that required me to press/punch/mash keys in quick succession.

Fail. Retry. Fail. Retry.

Fail. Retry. Fail. Retry.

Fail. Retry. Fail. Retry.

The fingers on my left hand locked up, and my hand became a useless claw while my head thumped.

Insecurity 2. Meltdown imminent.

That was not the first time that my hand and my reactions failed.  I had the same problem in Shadow of the Tomb Raider last week. Plus, it occurs when I type so when I’m working on a novel or a post – like now.

Meltdown

The harsh reality is that my multiple sclerosis is threatening to disrupt my life again – if I let it. I need to amend the rules…move the goalposts. Or change rackets.

Well, keyboards.

But not the typing element as half the keys are missing.

  • Step Two – Dictation software. I’ve ordered Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 13 – arriving on Saturday. However, training my Dragon will take time, especially as my speech is slurred – MS side-effect. It will mean that in a few weeks, I might get to write as fast as I talk.

Even after spending this money, I still need to decide if I’m writing the right novel – the one that will cover all these extravagances.

MS is a frustrating MonSter, and I must learn to roll with its punches and fight back. There will be other rounds, but I’ve got this one.

Yes, I need to consider Audible as my eyes are at risk – not just from reading. Double vision was my initial symptom back in 1999, so the warning is there.

More rabbit holes beckon.

The Things You Didn’t See – a review

As I’m a writer that reads, this book review comes first and then the life problems are the footnote to this new style post.

The Things You Didn’t See

by

Ruth Dugdall (Goodreads Author)

Her instincts are telling her something isn’t right…

On a chilly morning in rural Suffolk, Cassandra Hawke is woken by a gunshot. Her mother is clinging on to her life, the weapon still lying nearby. Everyone thinks it’s attempted suicide—but none of it makes any sense to Cass. She’s certain there’s more to it than meets the eye.

With her husband and father telling her she’s paranoid, Cass finds an unlikely ally in student paramedic Holly. Like Cass, she believes something is wrong, and together they try to uncover the truth. But is there more to Holly’s interest than she’s letting on?

With her family and loved ones at risk, Cass must ask herself: is she ready to hear the truth, and can she deal with the consequences?

**

            Review 4.4 stars

If I went by the blurb, this book would be Cassandra Hawke’s tale – but that’s just part of this novel which starts twenty years earlier when eight-year-old Holly Redwood sees a ghost shot at a remote farm on Halloween.  The unresolved experience lurks in her past until as a trainee paramedic she is called out to help with an attempted suicide – at the same farm.

Cass doesn’t believe that her mother committed suicide but her husband and her father behave as if she is paranoid. However, she befriends Holly who believes her as the explanations don’t feel right. And Holly suffers from synaesthesia, a condition where the person can feel the emotions of others as if they are their own – a mixed blessing it seems for Holly.

The setting pulled me in, in part as I know Suffolk and Norfolk. The descriptions were immersive, blending imagined places with the real ones that matched my memories.

The author uses two POVs to differentiate the two protagonists – first person for Cass and third for Holly. First allows the reader to see into Cass’s confused thoughts – the mind some say is paranoid. There are reasons for that, but I’ll just say that those are cleverly unclear at first. Who is telling the truth?

Holly as a protagonist stood out for me – and not just because of the prologue that set the unsettling feelings going.

As a fan of first person and deep POV, I kept wanting to get inside Holly’s head more than was possible. However, two first person POVs is hard for some readers, and the author made the necessary choice choosing Cass – a mind that twists the plot. And the suspicions. Would Holly as first person POV instead been a different book?

Suicide or murder? What starts as an ‘open and shut’ case, works through murder suspects at a steady pace that was in danger of losing me – especially when I identified the culprit or thought I did. But there was enough drama for me to read on and meet all the secondary characters – including the suspects. They all had their own traits and worked. But too many felt irritating, even if there was some justification for their attitudes. Death and murder have repercussions. Or do they for everyone? Who profits?

This is not a rushed mystery but as the plot deepens, the pace picks up. I had my suspicions, but my suspect remained hidden from the police for a long time. There was a point where I felt the story was being drawn-out, but I was also teased and tested. Suicide can be instigated, and I have experienced that. But that may or may not be the resolution?

Am I teasing or tempting you? Read this recommended novel to find out what happens in this cleverly crafted story. The twist works even if…well, you’ll see what I mean.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – four stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – four stars

Editing – five stars

**

Falling Future

I was aiming to write this review for Thursday 3rd January, but I was still working through New Year emails, my IWSG post, and other messages that overwhelmed me into Friday and beyond. And then came the weekend, and writing was not easy as my mind was fractured by my MS. Plus, the emails kept coming.

Anyway, this review was delayed until I could make a realistic space – and create a new banner that lets me post any day of the week.

UPDATE: Added the banner as I forgot yesterday – distracted by this new WordPress layout.

It didn’t help that I fell on the floor – or rather crashed out of my manual wheelchair transferring to a power chair. We’ve been looking at buying a power wheelchair, but they are expensive – especially on two retirement incomes. Second-hand is more manageable so that is the route we are going.

Falling hurts – especially when I smashed my head, broke a tooth, and bruised my right arm; I’m right-handed. Falling could be a theme too – for my memoir. Falling in love, falling from horses (or ponies) and falling ill – which means falling on the ground.

So, do I start working on / distracting myself with my life story? Should it be called ‘The Art of Falling’ or ‘A Life of Falling’ or something else?

Next week’s new arrival

#IWSG – What Life Crisis?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

My headline is not exactly the question prompt for this month’s  Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post, but it’s what I have to keep saying to avoid a meltdown.

October 3 question – How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

The real questions – well, two questions.

I can’t pretend that one critical life event didn’t impact my writing. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in January 2000, my career as an equestrian journalist began to wind in; not immediately, but as I lost the ability to do the job efficiently, retirement loomed. By 2005, I had quit writing reports and by 2010, my involvement with horse shows had ended.

However, writing fiction filled some of the gaps in my life, and my debut novel, Spiral of Hooves was mainly written after I retired. My ongoing health problems do make writing every day hard, but sometimes the writing can distract from having a chronic illness– well two as I also have blood cancer, chronic lymphoblastic leukaemia (CLL).

But MS doesn’t distract from noisy step-great-grand-kids as the disease makes me sensitive to noise (as well as other things like temperature). Maybe I can use the experience for a children’s story.

As I began writing with some seriousness in my teens, there are possibly other life events of relevance. One day, I might remember.

Our current crisis is financial and could lead to a house move/down-sizing. Again, writing is a distraction, although I envisage obstacles like having no computer for some days – but not for so long as the move from Wales to the US.

NaNoWriMo might be a fail though. At least, I can scribble things down, even if MS makes my handwriting illegible – plus, I have plenty of notepads.

My muse will help me through this crisis.

Awww - Roland and Juanita.

Do you juggle major life events and writing? Or do they feed each other?

**

The awesome co-hosts for the October 3 posting of the IWSG are Dolorah @ Book Lover,Christopher D. Votey, Tanya Miranda, and Chemist Ken!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

 

 

What Soup for the Soul?

Chicken of course.

But what about for vegetarians and vegans?

Well, when I grew up it was Minestrone for all that ailed me – or was it a thick farmhouse vegetable soup?

I may have been a vegetarian (or a pescatarian) for much of my adult life, but living in the USA now, I’m realising that the ‘meat’ culture is strong here. Veggies come a lowly last – unless you can count fries/potatoes/crisps as a hearty vegetable.

Okay, they are more of a vegetable than mushrooms.

But I have a craving for broccoli – broccoli and stilton soup to be precise – except that’s not vegan.

Tarn it.

Broccoli soup1

Nor is this a book review. But I’m taking Thursday off.

I need a bowl of soul soup.

Thursday_horizons

Can we change Youth Crime hearts?

Phrases trigger memories – well, they do for me. Recently, I took part in the WEP August Challenge and the theme was ‘Change of Heart’ and that clicked through to this memory-post. Before I revisit that memory, I want to congratulate everyone that took part in the Challenge and created such amazing pieces, especially the winners announced here.

Back to the memory that theme triggered:

In the early 1990s, Gaia Productions Ltd produced a short film and documentary entitled ‘Change of Heart’ that looked at the various means for tackling youth crime within Greater London.

Initiated by film editor, Gordon Greenaway, the focus of this production was the involvement of young ex-offenders and kids at risk from youth crime at all levels, from the cast to the editing.

The plot and script were workshopped with a young offenders’ rehabilitation group that worked with drama as a means of tackling the issues behind youth crime. The plotline that the group developed was to present a young offender that was struggling to choose the right life path but was plagued by his inner self. The final filming script was drawn up by the director, my ex-wife, Joanna Lehmann, and I was involved as the producer.

The group ‘auditioned’ for the parts and a number took roles, including the protagonist who was played by Louis, a black guy with natural talent. We ended up with a mixture of professional and non-professional – and some of the non-professionals had been convicted in the past. The parts played by professionals included the ones representing the dark tempter and the light conscience, portrayed by Dexter Fletcher (Band of Brothers, Dir. Bohemian Rhapsody) and Ian Dury (Raggedy Rawney, singer-songwriter of The Blockheads), and the protagonist’s parents.

‘Change of Heart’ was shot on 16mm film at various locations in London, with scenes varying from a family argument, to a petrol station hold-up and a ram-raid. For the crew, we had film industry head-of-departments – such as director, cameraman, designer and makeup – with youngsters assisting and learning. Some were ex-offenders, like the acting group, while others were from inner city groups tackling youth crime issues in their neighbourhoods. Gordon Greenaway edited the film with a trainee.

This ‘apprenticeship’ was also reflected in the documentary crew that shot their segment on Betacam. They covered behind the scenes of the film, and interviewed groups involved with rehabilitating young offenders such as a soccer club and a motor mechanic project, as well as Feltham Young Offenders Institution.

For many of the ex-offenders ‘Change of Heart’ proved a unique experience. For instance, Louis went on to become a professional actor with the help of Dexter and his agent mother. Another one in the cast, who had been convicted of armed robbery, played the petrol station attendant and found being on the ‘receiving end’ was a valuable lesson – better than any in prison. Some of the crew trainees worked for their ‘mentors’ on other productions.

As for the finished product, that was shown around community centres and also taken by a distributor. But the distributor failed to promote it – even when Ian Dury died a few years later of cancer and there were retrospectives on his creative work. Tragically, the final product was mislaid by the distributor, although most of the edited footage still exists – somewhere in London – and there are VHS copies.

However, for some it was still a change of heart.

#TheIWSG – Pitfalls or pratfalls?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

I will be straight for today’s  Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post as life has become hectic. In fact, I’m writing this before the chaos and stress arrive in the form of three undisciplined step-great-grandkids – okay for short periods, but they are staying for a month with their parents before the parents buy their own place.

This may be the last post that I manage for some time. My writing will also suffer – and probably, my health.

August 1 question – What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Don’t let your debut creation become a trap – money-trap or time-trap. Or even an ego-trap. Or downward spiral.

My debut novel took over thirteen years to get published – in December 2013. Although there were minor hiccups and cul-de-sacs, the result was okay. In many ways, I needed to leave it there and move on – case made.

However, the pitfall was over the next five years, during which I poured money and time into correcting the textual errors in that version, re-publishing and over-promoting the paperback – at the expense of my next project.

I’ve taken ages to drag myself out of the ‘spiral of shame’ pit – in fact, only last week, I changed the front page of this blog, so visitors get to the Blog posts first not the Welcome that promotes my sole novel.

Next step away from massaging my ego is to change this site’s focus completely. Then, focus on the future.

 

**

The awesome co-hosts for the August 1 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG