Books, life the universe

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Books etc

Currently I am on the last one of Veronica Heley's Ellie Quicke series - which I read for the first time a while back. I decided to go back to the beginning and read them all again - whereupon you find things - amusing or interesting - that you'd not noticed before. It's really good the way the characters develop as well over the years. These books are in the cosy sub genre of crime writing, but deal with some very modern crimes - child abuse (Murder of Innocence); attack by dangerous dog (Murder in the Park); financial shenanigans (Murder by Committee); food poisoning (Murder by Bicycle); identity theft (Murder of Identity); suicide (Murder by Suicide); honour killing (Murder in the Garden); drugs (Murder at the Altar); rip off builders and tradesmen (Murder by Accident). Throughout the series there is the issue of how to manage the care of elderly relatives and how to say no to adult children, no to speak of childcare issues where mothers work full time. There are well written believable characters dealing with everyday issues and crime. This author deserves to be better known in my opinion.

I am also reading 'Escape' by Carolyn Jessop. I'm not a fan of the misery memoir category which is so popular at the moment but this is gripping stuff. Carolyn was married for 15 years to Merrill Jessop and a member of the fundamentalist sect of the Latter Day Saints - Mormons. This is the polygamous bit of the church. It's all arranged marriages with men having several wives - chosen for them by the elders of the church. Women have no say in their lives and are treated as property. They have to obey their husbands, there is no contraception so people end up with loads of children. Carolyn at the time I've got to in the book is one of 6 wives and between them they have 34 children. The set up works if the wives get on, but frequently they are rivals and bullying is rife. The women are always married off at between 18 and 20. Sometimes they do get to go to college - Carolyn went - but had to take some of her stepdaughters with her as chaperones. This is happening today in America - supposedly the most civilised country in the world. Women are still being forced into Stepford Wife roles. Words fail me really. Carolyn did escape but even knowing that I am compelled to read on . . . .

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Cosmic ordering success!

It was a success in more ways than one in that it also made me realise how carefully you have to phrase your order! I asked to win some money on the lottery last night - a sum of at least 4 figures. So what did I get? 4 numbers and £46. Money to go towards our new computer. Lots of 4s in that so I really cannot fault the outcome. Obviously the way I phrased it was not quite right. But I am really pleased with it since it worked out for the day I requested. Being on a high I then bought a ticket for tomorrow's Euromillions draw. There is nothing wrong with aiming for the top. I have succeeded in the past with things like requesting a short queue at the post office - I got a short queue once but still had to wait a long time to be served because everyone ahead of me took ages. After that I asked to have to wait no more than 5 minutes to be served, and that was successful at least about 98% of the time.

I have finished 'The Infinite Wisdom of Harriet Rose' mentioned in my last post. Very enjoyable - still not sure whether it's for adults or children, but it doesn't really matter. Harriet's attempt at dealing with fame is excellently portrayed. As is a scene close to the end when the nasty vindictive headmistress attempts to undermine Harriet's credibility but it backfires badly. Harriet's family are delicious - Mother Mia and Nana Olivia practically walk off the page.

Anne - I have replied to your e-mail about 'Thorn in the Flesh' and I'm looking forward to getting my copy. Naturally I shall review it here. Anyone who wants to buy a copy can visit and pay by PayPal.

Off for a shower and then to settle down in bed with a book.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Writing and reading progress

And it really is progress - 40,089 words to be precise. I have just written 2020 words since 5.30pm - it is now 6.50pm, so I'm feeling pleased with myself. There are no chapters even, just writing. I'll do the chapters when I do the editing, and decide whether I'm going to put in little asides about what the criminals are actually doing, which I come across quite a lot these days. It seems to me to be quite a good way of keeping the tension going.

Reading: I am currently reading Diana Janney's 'The Infinite Wisdom of Harriet Rose'. Is it a children's book or is it for adults? The narrator is 14 years old Harriet Rose who has a book of her meditations published by her mother and her grandmother as a birthday present and stumbles unwittingly into overnight success. It's a wry look at life and fame and keeps you turning the pages. I like it.

I've also started Priscilla Masters' 'Wings over the Watcher' - featuring DI Joanna Piercy. It looks like being good - how could it fail with a female stalker involved? I'm indebted to martin Edwards at his blog (Do you write under your own name? - link at the top of the page under favourite blogs) for mentioning this author who I'd not tried before. I have managed to get hold of his 'The Cipher Garden' so I shall be reading and reviewing that before too long.


Just come across this on the Magistrate's blog - link under favourite blogs:

Nicely Judged
It is reported that after the second time that a mobile phone had rung in the public gallery the Judge put down his pen, and glared across at the flustered-looking owner of the phone. "If that happens again" said His Honour, "you may discover why they are known as cell phones".

Yes, who says judges are out of touch and have no sense of humour?

Writing progress - over 38,000 words now. Need to revamp the plan because I'm sort of running out of plot - oh dear. This is the trouble with mainly writing short stories up to now. I'm good at the economical writing thing but not so good at giving all the details that count. Still, if I can get to say 70,000 words I know it will grow when I edit it. Continuity will need some work as well, but I'm still sticking to 'Don't get it right, get it written!'

Think I'm sickening for a cold, but if it develops it will be the first for over a year. Can't think where I picked it up, but it could have been on a bus or even in the street. Of course I'm not back at work till Tuesday so it would be typical if I have got one. Still, I tend to feel better if I go to work and take my mind of the snuffles, rather than stay at home and feel sorry for myself.

Off to read the Sunday papers on line.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Writing progress

I have progressed to just over 35,000 words, and I'm still determined to keep going. I am starting to find the characters talking to me and acquiring characteristics of their own - which is great. The main character has been wandering around for quite a while now in various guises and it was becoming impossible to ignore her. But no more until the first draft is completed. Even if it is never published at least I intend to complete it.

On the non-fiction front I came across this series of non-fiction. These are little books - A5 size - of 160pages in hardback. They are the greatest tips on various subjects - e.g. gardening, cooking, dogs, cats, success etc. What's more they accept unsolicited manuscripts - even better, and they are only 25,000 words long. So I have e-mailed for full author guidelines and have one or two ideas in mind to suggest. I will let you know what happens. It's always supposed to be easier to get a non-fiction book published so I thought I'd give it a go.

The debate stirred up by Rowan Williams still seems to be rumbling on. I suppose it will unless something more controversial comes to take its place, and nothing much seems to be on the horizon. I shall go and see what's in the online newspapers, maybe someone somewhere is being a bit more rational about the whole thing.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Archbishop in hot water

In spite of all the furore Rowan Williams has caused, I can't help thinking it's a good thing he has forced the debate out into the open. It needed addressing. Part of the current problem, in my opinion, is that Islam is far more intertwined with every day life for Moslems than Christianity is these days. As such it provides a well defined framework for people to live their lives within. For many people this structure is comforting and reassuring. Freedom can be stressful, especially where there are a myriad of choices when it comes to making the slightest decision. This I think is why so many young people are turning to Islam. The Church of England as it has always done, encompasses many shades of opinion and to many seems almost wishy washy.

The more people who follow Islam the less this problem is likely to go away. Should elements of sharia be incorporated into Emglish law? In my opinion no they shouldn't, but are Moslem societies more law abiding than laissesz faire Britain? Almost certainly. So why do Moslems choose to live here if they don't like our laws and prefer their own? That I think is a question only they can answer. Presumably it is not because they want to change our laws to theirs. So is there really a move to incorporate sharia into English law? Apparently there are 10 sharia courts in this country - which I was quite surprised to discover. How come this has been allowed to happen? But incorporating some of sharia into our legal system makes me very uncomfortable if only because of the attitude of Islam to women in general - perhaps I should make that its reported attitude, since I'm not sure how much of what is in the media on this subject is true of the majority of Moslems. I was surprised to read recently that in 2005 more than 50% of entrants to Iran's universities were women -which hardly fits with what we usually hear about Iran.

I think we do need to remember that our laws are based on Christian principles as summarised in the ten commandments. Are these substantially different from the other major religions? I'm sure most religions have their equivalents. An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth - which I think is from the Old Testament, would seem to parallel sharia punishments. It's not very long ago that the ceremony of churching was removed from the book of common prayer. This was the ceremony which women who had given birth had to go through to be purified before they were considered clean enough to take Holy Communion.

The woman taken in adultery and stoned was a Jewish punishment I believe. Christ's command - 'Let him that is without sin, cast the first stone,' was perhaps not that well received at the time. After all if you follow that to the letter no one could ever be judge or jury. Surely the Moslem way of divorce is recounted in the Bible and many characters seem to have had more than one wife. Any woman visiting the Pope still has to cover her hair - how does this differ from a burkha in essence since a man does not have to cover his head? Women priests in the CofE can still not become bishops so the church does not treat women as equals, even though the law of the land strives to do so.

Has Christianity the moral high ground? I don't know, and I'm sure no one else does for certain either. What I do know is that the impression I was left with after my OU course on the religions in Britain since 1945 was that there are more similarities than differences between the major religions. Where Christianity, and CofE in particular, differ from Islam is that their priests are no longer the centre of the community or the arbiters of people's day to day behaviour. Unlike the imams. We have become a secular country without realising it. Maybe the debate now raging will make us backtrack on this. But it is difficult to change things over night. How many of us who profess to be Christian would accept the ruling of a priest of the CofE on our behaviour? Not many I suspect. Would we live in a society with less antisocial behviour if we did? Probably.

All that is probably just a muddle - but it is my thinking at the moment, and I'm sure the debate will rage for quite some time yet especially as the General Synod is about to meet.

Off to add some more to my 33,000 words and counting.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Writing progress

I have managed to add some more to Knowledge is Death over the last few days - up to 33,717 words now. We are progressing. Even though I have a plan for the rest of it I keep thinking of things to add, including a new suspect. This means introducing said suspect earlier in the book - good thing I'm just trying to get to the end rather than write perfectly!!

Reading - I have been reading Writers' News and Writing Magazine over the last few days. I am re-reading Veronica Heley's 'Murder by Accident' and seeing things in it I hadn't noticed before. I am still debating whether to write a strongly worded reply to a letter in the magazine saying something along the lines of - writing for publication is a full time job. Well no it isn't or probably two thirds of the books published would not ever be written. So many people combine writing for publication with other jobs because it doesn't always pay well. Doing it as a hobby or part time income does not mean you have an unprofessional attitude to it and a disregard of deadlines. I think all the writer of the letter was meaning was that yu do need to be professional but it wasn't the way it came over.

I have also read 'The Desperate Diary of a Country Housewife' by anon - the book of the Sunday Times Country Mole column. Amusing reading and left me wondering about the fine - invisible? - line between fact and fiction.

Still trying to get hold of Martin Edwards' 'The Cipher Garden' from Amazon. They seem to be having difficulty getting it so I may try Waterstone's instead. Or better still - my local independent bookshop - a job for tomorrow lunch time I think.

Martin -thanks for the tip about the companion to Dorothy Sayers - I shall be hunting for that.

Anne B - I will be buying a copy of 'Thorn in the Flesh' when it's released and I've just e-mailed Goldenford to see when it will be available to buy from their website.