Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sweet 'n' sour

The bad news ...
I spent yesterday in bed with a perforated ear drum, feeling shite.

The good news ...
We don't celebrate Xmas, so the day is not as significant as it would be for others.

The bad news ...
It's the ear that until yesterday was known as 'the good one'.

The good news ...
I can see the sea from the bedroom window.

(We're cat sitting in Brighton. Which I guess is also good news ...)

Hope the news where you are is unmitigated good stuff.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

People and planet

It would be so easy to feel downhearted by the feeble ending to the Copenhagen summit. But we can't afford to give up. There's too much at stake.

From the Avaaz site:

The Copenhagen climate summit ended up in failure: an unambitious, non-binding accord that leaders themselves admit won't come close to tackling climate change. Their failure is a disappointment -- and their failure is a challenge. We must work harder, demand more and never resile (sic) from our fight for our children and our planet.

That fight continues now. In just
6 weeks time leaders of each country will lock in their nation's emissions reduction targets under this week's agreement.

In Copenhagen, leaders didn't make history—but the world's people did. A year of unprecedented action on climate change reached unimagined heights in the last two weeks: thousands upon thousands of vigils, rallies, and protests; floods of phone calls and messages sent; millions of petition signatures—all calling for the fair, ambitious, and binding climate treaty we still need and still will win.

We're in this for as long as it takes. For now, let's
look at what we've done, and thank one another for joining this journey. Take a moment to ... draw hope from the countless people of all nations who are joining together for a better world.

If you leave a comment here, you can watch your words slip downwards as they are joined every few seconds by other people around the world who share the same hopes and fears.

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Book of the Decade

I have always been a voracious reader.
These days, I'm very fussy.
I don't want to waste my valuable reading time on books that don't come up to my exacting standards - and some of the bestsellers fall a long way short IMO.

But there are some wonderful books out there.
I've reviewed many of them on this blog before.
So you'd be forgiven for imagining it would be difficult to come up with one worthy of the title of

... triumphal horns and drumroll ...

Book of the Decade.

And the winner is ...

The Killing Jar
by Nicola Monaghan.

Dear blogmates, I have to tell you it wasn't a hard decision at all because this book stands out for me as not just a book of the decade but one of the best books I've read - ever.
Every aspect filled me with respect and admiration for the author.

At first glance, it seems a simple book with a first person linear narrative.
No clever frills.
No obvious literary devices.
Just the most compelling voice, spot-on pacing, vivid characterisation and gritty grimy realism.

Nicola shies away from nothing, refusing to romanticise the poverty and violence that define life on the grim Nottingham housing estate where the action takes place.
She shines her unflinching spotlight onto the lives of marginalised people too often dismissed - or simply feared - by 'respectable' folk.

Kerrie-Ann, the narrator of The Killing Jar, lives a drug-fueled life of crime and violence as both victim and perpetrator. The book begins when she is five, the daughter of a junkie single parent who soon disappears, and continues through her struggles through adolescence, including a desperate and lethal kind of love, to a bittersweet, life-affirming ending.

At times the book feels so painful, it is almost hard to carry on reading, yet, at the same time, I was unable to put it down. Kerrie-Ann haunted me and I know she will remain with me always.

But don't get the idea that this is a hard book to read. In these pages you will find humour and energy and a zest for life that you rarely see in the written word.

Nicola has done well with The Killing Jar and its successor, Starfishing (a different demographic but, in its own way, an equal triumph). Sales have been steady and respectable. She has won awards.
Yet her name is not on everybody's lips and she's not at the top of the bestseller charts, where she deserves to be.

I wonder why this is.

I suspect it may be because many people don't want to know about the people she has depicted. It's too hard, too confusing. Easier to maintain preconceptions, batten down the hatches and take refuge behind high fences, peeping out from behind net curtains.

Take up the challenge.
Read the book and then let me know if it failed to enthrall you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Seasonal gifts for you

Happy festivals of light to you all.

Here are some virtual goodies for you to while away the hours between eating doughnuts (so many doughnuts ...) if you celebrate Chanukah, or mince pies if you're just about anyone else.

Treat number one:
Check out the new site from Lucy Pepper ( she of Bookarazzi fame) where a group of unkempt women have got together to celebrate their unkemptitude.

Treat number two:
Thanks to Qwerty Queen (she of mentee fame) I can give you this link to all the competitions you may want to enter. Go on. You know you want to.

Treat number three:
Probably only a treat if you're a parent of one of the children featured, but this is how we celebrate our festival of light.

Later this week, Bookarazzi members will be giving their recommendations for gift books. My next post on this blog will be my own personal 'Read of the Decade'.


PS: Don't forget the biggest gift of all - a future for our planet!
Please sign the petition here to put pressure on world leaders meeting right now in Copenhagen to discuss climate change.
11,088,380 have people already signed up at the point of posting.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Debi does quantum

So Little Guy was explaining to me about the co-existence of multiple universes, which I vaguely recognised (mainly thanks to Philip Pullman) as being a principle of quantum physics. And they say education is dumbing down ...

Anyway, that got me thinking. What if, when we create a fictional reality, that too has an independent life of its own? Would that explain the spooky feeling we sometimes get as writers that our stories exist outside of our will, even though we created them?

When I finished writing my first book, Nirvana Bites, for example, I never intended the characters to reappear in subsequent books. But somehow, they muscled their way in. I justified their inclusion on the grounds that I had given these characters life and now they would be continuing those lives whether I wrote about them or not - so I might as well.

Sounds crazy, but that's exactly how it felt. Plots too can sometimes feel eerily prescient, even as you create them.

And here's another parallel. You come up with a character. You see what they look like and how they react to the situations you put them in. But - for me anyway - you may well not know why they are the way they are. You have to wait for them to trust you enough to tell you.

That's exactly the same in real life when you meet someone new. Say it's a colleague. You see them daily. You know who they live with, if they have children, where they go on holiday, what their favourite food is ... But you might not know why they become defensive on a particular subject, or perhaps you notice they seem to over react to something trivial ...

It's only after you've known them for some time that you find out what it was in their past or background that caused that particular reaction. Maybe they tell you themselves or you might hear it from someone else. Either way, the pieces suddenly fall into place and you think,
'Aha! That explains it ...'

Well, it's true for fiction too. I know that's hard to wrap your head round (like quantum theory isn't?) but I swear it's true.

In my WIP, my main protagonist is not a likable character (though I hope that readers will still care about what happens to her). She's manipulative, a snob, irrational and often a real bitch. In the back of my mind, I always wondered what had made her like that but waited patiently for the story to evolve.

I watched her get pregnant against her long-suffering husband's will. I noted the wedge she'd driven between him and his brother; her profligate spending in denial of their financial straits; her plunge into depression matching their plummet down the social ladder; her total meltdown when things go tragically wrong.

And now, over 50,000 words in, she has finally revealed her secrets to me. The secrets she had hidden from her shrink and even from herself.

And ... it all fits! No re-writes needed, at the most a minor tweak here and there. It makes complete sense and it's utterly pivotal to the plot I've been writing.

So - in scientific terms - how can that be explained if not by some quirk of quantum theory, meaning the fictional worlds we create are as real as this one?

And there we have it: Alper's theory of fictional reality. You saw it first here.

PS: You just gotta love a scientific theory that includes something called a charmed quark - not a new vegan foodstuff, but according to here, 'a type of quark with a mass of c. 1.0 to 1.6 GeV/c, a positive charge that is the charge of an electron, +1 charm, and zero strangeness.' Got that?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Not weird, but wonderful

If last weekend was weird, this one also revolved around writing in one form or another but was full on wonderful!

I spent Saturday selling Hoovering the Roof on a stall on Northcross Road with other EDWGers, then came home and changed and was off out again, this time to a launch party.

The great thing about this event was that it was to celebrate the publication of a book that's created a real buzz by a blogging author who I had come across only briefly via Bookarazzi.

Cally Taylor has struck gold with her novel, Heaven Can Wait, which has already gone to a 3rd reprint just weeks after being launched and has sold translation rights in 8 countries (so far). (Can't wait to read it.)

To make the party even more exciting, Cally is part of a vast extended community of blogging writers, none of whom I'd met before - even in the blogosphere - and all (yes, all!) of whom were friendly, welcoming, sharing and supportive.

As if that wasn't enough for my cup to runneth over, I got to bring the only one I had met before (my fabulous mentee, Her Royal Qwertyness) back home with me and keep her overnight.

Anyway, if any of the new people I met happen in here - greetings and welcome. I forgot to write down all your blog names, so please drop me a comment so we can continue the discussions we started.