Books, life the universe

Friday, 25 January 2008

Where did the week go?

Time seems to have flown by this week and I have very little to show for it as well which makes it even more annoying. No writing done this week either - much to my shame. I am so good at making resolutions and announcements and then I don't carry them through. But this weekend I intend to do some more - and I can feel it simmering there in my subconscious. I'm nearly up to that 30,000 words mark, and I've printed it off - but I'm not going to read it until the first draft is finished.

This weekend I have to help set up the new computer - which means at least half a day gone. I shall have to crawl under the desk and plug things in - and of course dust and sweep whilst I'm down there. Thank heavens for laminate floors - at least it won't be too difficult because of that. I'm not sure why we have a new computer - I thought the old one was perfectly all right, but I leave these sort of decisions to the other half. He'll have to work out how to pay for it as well - it's interest free credit for a year so he/we have plenty of time to save up.

I was reading in the Telegraph online yesterday;jsessionid=QFKCMLKEG0PIZQFIQMGCFFOAVCBQUIV0?view=BLOGDETAIL&grid=F11&blog=yourview&xml=/news/2008/01/24/view24.xml
a story about a plan to pay fat people to lose weight. I had no problem with the item what i had a problem with was some of the comments posted which were vitriolic in the extreme. I freely admit to being overweight but I don't eat junk food and I'm not always lounging in front of the TV. I do walk and enjoy it and I do eat healthy food - I'm just too fat. This is me! Even my doctor has to admit that I hardly ever see him except for my annual review for asthma and my blood pressure medication. By the way both my blood pressure and the asthma started when I was a lot thinner than I am now, and neither have got worse and in fact both are considerably better than they were about 5 years ago! I can't help feeling excess weight unless you're too fat to lead a normal life may not be the issue many people seem to think it is. People's perceptions always seem to be that the overweight are lazy - not all of us are. I've known plenty of thin people who never move a muscle unless they have to.

I took comfort from one item I read that said at the rate we're progressing everyone will be overweight by 2050 - so what price the thin people then? If you think about it as a survival mechanism - the more weight you carry the better off you are in a famine situation - then maybe thin people will eventually disappear - just a thought. It is as always survival of the fittest - which might just be the fattest!! Yes ok I'm not too sure about the logic of that but it sounds good.

Off to laze on - or probably in - bed and read a book.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Murder in the Park

I have finished reading Veronica Heley's latest Ellie Quicke mystery. If this is the finale to the series which she has indicated before that it could be, then it was a worthy finish. But there are enough loose ends for there to be other stories. Ellie is called to the aid of her friend Felicity who has witnessed a murder by a dangerous dog in the park where she was walking her baby. Ellie decides - encouraged, if not commanded by her formidable Aunt Drusilla - also Felicity's mother-in-law - to find the dog and owner before another killing takes place. But this is easier said than down and another person is injured. This time it is one of the ladies who helps in the charity shop where Ellie herself used to work. Ellie appears on the scene immediately after Mae is attacked apparently by the same dog and this makes her more determined to find the dog and alert the police. On top of this task she has to help look after her Aunt who's health is giving cause for concern, and try to keep her daughter Diana's schemes for increasing her own wealth in check.

For those of you who have followed this series it is interesting to see how much Ellie has come into her own strength of character. She takes charge of difficult situations on several occasions in this book and does it very successfully. Her relationship with Thomas the vicar is growing enjoyably until he announces he will soon be leaving the parish. Ellie realises how much Thomas matters to her, but it looks as though there isn't going to be a happy ending. Can she resolve the situation and catch up with the dog owner before a tragedy strikes? On top of all this there is a fire which badly damages her own house and Ellie is accused of starting it. Will she cope with all this and find a dangerous criminal as well? I am now going back to the beginning of the series to read them through again so that I can watch how all the characters develop.

On another topic - I only realised today that 'Writing Magazine' had published a letter of mine in the latest issue. It wasn't on the letters page which was why I missed it when I first flicked through the magazine. They'd done a letters extra page and it was on there! That's the first thing I've had published for months so I was quite chuffed about it.

My book has not had anything added to it since last weekend. Partly because I seem to have pulled a muscle in my back sitting in an upright chair is painful - that's my excuse anyway. I'm ok if I'm lying down or standing up, or even walking, but sitting down is quite painful - must be a different angle or something. It is easing off now, but I'm trying to spend as much time as possible this weekend horizontal with a book in my hand to give it a chance to return to normal before I go back to work on Monday. Work last week was only possible because I kept getting up every twenty minutes or so and having a walk round. If it's not better by mid week I shall go to the doctors. Easy with ours as there are no appointments - you just turn up.

Off to have a shower.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The Coffin Trail

I finished Martin Edwards' 'The Coffin Trail' last night and very good it was too. If you haven't come across his writing I can certainly recommend it - if this example is anything to go by.

Daniel and Miranda buy a cottage in the Lake District on impulse to start a new life together away from it all. Daniel gives up a successful academic career at Oxford. Miranda continues with her freelance journalism. Miranda doesn't know at the point when they buy the cottage that it used to be the home of a murderer. Daniel has childhood links with the Lake District and his estranged father worked as a Detective in the area, though he died in a car crash before the story opens. Cumbria police amid a fanfare of publicity set up a cold case unit headed by DCI Hannah Scarlett who worked with Daniel's father when he was alive. The first case they decide to reopen is the one involving Barrie Gilpin who lived in the cottage Daniel and Miranda have bought.

The case has been re-opened because the main suspect - Barrie - died in suspicious circumstances before he could even be arrested. The resulting publicity brings a lot of people out of the woodwork and really stirs things up. I thought I'd identified the murderer fairly early on, only to have my theories stood on their heads several times before the startling conclusion. The characters are believable and the clues carefully planted. When I looked back I could see things I hadn't considered important at the time. I thought the relationships between the members of the cold case team were realistic and the growing friendship between Daniel and Hannah looks interesting - but will it have an effect on their respective partners? It remains to be seen in later books. I thoroughly enjoyed it and shall be looking for some more by this author.

Sunday, 6 January 2008


It's Sunday - a day of rest and doing what you want to.

I read about 70 pages of Martin Edwards' 'The Coffin Trail' last night. Really good so far. It features DCI Hannah Scarlett who feels she's been side-lined by being asked to head the cold case review unit. Daniel Kind - an Oxford Historian with links to the Lake District has bought the cottage in which a murderer used to live. He knew the murderer and is haunted by the case as he does not believe Barry committed the crime. Lots of nuances and trails to be followed including my idea of an ideal bookshop/coffee shop, and a pub called the Moon Under Water. There's a pub with that name in Boston - by the river - but that's the only one I've come across before. I will report more fully when I've finished it. Martin Edwards' blog - link in my favourite blogs - is interesting reading for anyone who enjoys crime novels - either reading or writing them.

I received yesterday a copy of Veronica Heley's latest Ellie Quicke mystery - 'Murder in the Park'. She writes excellent cosy mysteries. I'm never sure I like that description but it is becoming more and more common. It just means there is very little 'on screen' violence, and little bad language. This does not stop Veronica Heley covering serious issues - such as attacks by dangerous dogs in this latest installment. Then there is paedophilia in 'Murder of Innocence', food poisoning in 'Murder by Bicycle', shenanigans in the city in 'Murder by Committee', poison pen letters in 'Murder by Suicide'. Throughout all her investigations Ellie has to stand up to her daughter Diana and ensure her elderly aunt is cared for. They are books which are anchored firmly in real life. They deserve to be better known in my opinion.

I had difficulty getting a copy of 'Murder in the Park', even though it was on order from Amazon for months before it was published in December. Amazon wrote and told me delivery would be delayed until February as they were out of stock, so I got it from The Book Depository - much cheaper! It's a shame that Amazon seem not to keep smaller publishers' books in stock. Severn House Veronica Heley's publishers, mainly aim at the library market, both here and in the US. Their books are beautifully produced, with the picture on the dust jacket laminated onto the hard covers. These books are designed to withstand considerable wear and tear as might be expected and are a joy to read from a purely physical point of view, with a clear and easy to read typeface.

As well as these books to read I have my copies of Writers' News and Writing Magazine to read, not to speak of at least two shelves of unread books.

Writing progress - just over 24,000 words - so I've done my quota for this weekend, but I shall probably do some more later today.

Happy Sunday

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Back to work

I had just got out of bed this morning and was definitely not in the best of moods - 6.00am is way too early when I haven't been getting up until at least 9.30am for the last fortnight - when I was asked if I was looking forward to going back to work. Grrrrhhh! No I was NOT looking forward to it, even though I happen to enjoy what I do at present. Once I was in the office things were fine, and it was good to see everyone and find out what we'd all been doing over Christmas. But of course I would rather be at home reading, writing and just generally doing what I want. Winning the lottery would be good.

My current writing project has reached the 20,000 word mark, and I added about 1500 words this evening, so I'm feeling pleased with myself. Once I get further on with it I may say more about it. At the moment I just don't want to jinx the whole thing as my 'novels' usually die at the 30.000 word mark.

I've adopted a rather different strategy with this one in that I am just keeping going even if what I've just written is rubbish. I'm always coming across the advice to just get the first draft written and worry about the quality afterwards. You can edit what you've written, but you can't edit a blank page! Very true. I'm also trying to write about 1000 to 1500 words each day. It doesn't always quite work out like that but we shall see.

I'm currently reading an anthology of crime stories which I will report on at a later date - authors are Ian Rankin, John Mortimer, Lindsey Davis, etc. So there is a nice mixture of police and amateur detectives and historical and contemporary.

Off to wind down for a while otherwise I'll never get to sleep tonight.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

The Times online

I have just read a fascinating article on The Times Online web site:
It's by a woman who pays out £600 each month to spend a night with a man. She books a hotel, where she dresses up and he collects her from there. They go out for a meal and then return to the hotel where they have sex.

My reaction is - good for you. But then I have no issue with either men or women paying for sex. I don't believe people are being exploited in such a transaction. What does exploit men or women selling sex is the people who seek to control them and make money out of them -i.e. the pimps of both sexes. Especially the ones who control the prostitutes by means of drugs - this is exploitation.

If you chose to buy sex - whether you're a man or a woman - then I don't think this is anyone's concern but your own and that of the person you're paying. Not everyone wants to have a relationship where they share everything, and paying for sex can be an ideal solution. You may not have the emotional energy left over from the rest of your life to sustain a relationship - why should you deny yourself a basic human need?

In the article the writer chooses to do this because she is divorced and has children, and she does not want to get involved with anyone else. To me that is sensible, but many of the people who commented on the article thing it is disgusting. There are also comments from men along the lines of - why is she paying for it? I'd have given it to her for free. To me they are missing the point.

If you marry someone who is better off than you because you are fond of them and they're crazy about you - is this an immoral transaction? The world would probably say that's OK unless you then divorce him/her and claim millions. It's acceptable if you remain married - even if you do so because you like the lifestyle and can put up with sex once a week ofrwhatever. If you divorce you're branded a gold digger if you're a woman and a lucky chap if you're a man. As ever there are many double standards operating.

Much food for thought in this article.