A fisher of men

Rainy day fun.

Rainy day fun.

Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. Matthew 4:19.

Have I finally found God?

Walk along any shoreline in Istanbul and you will often see men fishing. In fact men fish from anywhere here: boats, bridges, beaches, banks, trees. I even once saw a man fishing from his moped. When I walk with the Halfling down by the sea we often exchange a few words about the men fishing.

David: Look. Fishering.

Me: Fishing.

David: Fishering.

Me: FishING

David: Fishering.

Me: FISHING!

David: Fishering.

Me: Whatever.

A couple of weeks ago, because I’m basically a good dad, I blew last month’s royalty cheque from Amazon on a 6ft bamboo cane. (It’s only money.) The type people use for constructing runner bean frames back home. I thought the little chap and I could go ‘fishering’ together down at the seafront. I fixed a length of string to the end and off we went hand in hand. We had fun. Because we didn’t have a hook or bait we didn’t catch anything. But it didn’t matter. It was all about the taking part.

Last Sunday it was raining. We didn’t go out. David wanted to go ‘fishering’. I had a good idea. I set him up on the sofa and spread out some of his toy cars on the floor and then I attached one of those massively over-sized paper clips to the string of his ‘fishering’ rod. I encouraged him to fish for his cars. He cast (He’s not bad. Might make a good fly fisherman one day.) and I crawled around on the floor hooking cars on the paperclip that I’d bent to enable such. Then he would ‘strike’ and reel them in. We had a lot of fun and he was thrilled with the activity. I’m so creative.

After an hour of this I was getting a bit bored and my knees were hurting. I decided to have a bit of fun with the lad. Next time he cast I scrambled around on the floor with my back to him. When I turned to face him I had the paperclip in my mouth. Like he’d caught me. His little face lit up. He let out a squeal of delight and before I could react to the wicked glint that came into his eye, he yanked back hard on his fishing rod like the compleat angler he is becoming.

They said they heard my scream four floors up. And this is a well-insulated solid concrete apartment block.

My howling and thrashing about on the slippery laminate flooring seemed only to encourage the little ‘fisherman’ in my son, much as, I suppose, a real fisherman is encouraged when he has a big fish on his line. David sprang down from the sofa still clutching the rod in his pudgy little fists and started for the door. I had little option, as I didn’t want half my face torn off, but to go after him on my hands and knees as fast I could. The corridor between the lounge and the end bedroom is a good fifteen metres and over fifteen metres the Halfling is pretty quick.

I was shouting at him to stop but to be fair to the boy, with a mouthful of over-sized paperclip and blood I probably wasn’t being too clear about it. I like to think that if he had understood the pain I was in and my terror at not being able to keep up with him as I scrabbled along like his leashed pet chimp he would have stopped. As it was he seemed to double his efforts, and his cruel mocking laughter echoed down the hallway.

In the end bedroom he soon ran out of room, if not steam, and I quickly closed the gap between us thereby taking some of the tension out of the line. Because I no longer needed my hands to propel myself along the floor I was able to grab the line and yank the rod out of the boy’s fists. He immediately began to howl. (Turns out he got a splinter, but that’s a story for another day. Yeah, I know, a splinter from bamboo. They don’t make those canes like they used to.)

I rushed to the bathroom to assess the damage in the mirror. There was a lot of blood by this time. The face that stared back at me with the metalwork sticking out of one cheek reminded me of an aging punk-rocker I’d seen somewhere.

The paper clip came out easily enough. Thank goodness I hadn’t gone as far as fashioning the end of it into a barb. No doubt a hospital visit would have been necessary. And embarrassing.

Start to finish my ordeal lasted only about thirty seconds but the skin-chilling horror of what could have become of my ‘best side’ has plagued my dreams all week. The puncture wound is barely noticeable now. I still have some rather nasty friction burns on my knees, however. (I was wearing shorts.) They needed some explaining.

*

Last week I blogged about having a German translation of Rope Enough/DOVER (The First Romney and Marsh File) listed on Amazon.de. Daniela and I had decided to give it away for the weekend. By Sunday evening it was number one in all Kindle categories for free books. That was a strange feeling. Very encouraging. We’re charging for it now and it’s climbing the paid chart, and it’s got two five star reviews.

*

I’ve really been thinking about the craft of writing this week and it’s because of the current project I’m involved in. (As a writer, shouldn’t I be thinking about the craft of writing more often than that?)

When I started this book I thought I was looking at a labour of love that would span years of my life and hundreds of thousands of words (I honestly think that the concept could survive it, if I pursued the detail) – something I would work on between other books; something I would attack sporadically and then leave to fester before another burst of feverish activity. But I can’t write like that and more to the point I don’t think that I want to.

There’s nothing puts me off reading a book more than seeing it’s several hundred pages long. I just know it’s going to drag. I just know there’s going to be sooooo much to retain and most of it will be stuff the book could have done without (says me). It’s going to take me weeks to read it and I’m going to end up resenting it for that. I like to read a book in a short space of time – a couple of good sessions on the sofa, or a week of bedtime/commute reading, for examples, something that I can get deeply into the narrative and stay there for a devoted, concentrated short burst, as it were.

Some memorable reads that spring to mind that were not long reads: Of Mice and Men, Animal Farm, The Old Man and the Sea, Heart of Darkness. (Why do I always mention these titles when I talk about books? It’s always the same ones.) These are books that stay with one for life. (Maybe that’s why.) Imagine the pleasure to be taken from writing something that stays with a reader for years, and that is doubly impressive because it was short.

And so my thinking progressed to, what if I could tell a really big story in as few words as I possibly could but still retain the enormity of the idea. So much would be left unexplored by me, the author, but the reader would inevitably (bit presumptuous) want to consider the untold aspects of the story. Is that what I would want as a reader? Finishing a book with questions crashing into each other in my mind? (I don’t mean cheating the reader out of information, like having a murder mystery and not revealing whodunit.) Or do I want everything I read to be neatly tied up and explained so that I just forget it and move on? I don’t imagine my thinking is anything original. The point is it’s new for me.

And so it was that I found myself finishing the first draft of this current project, exactly eight weeks to the day after I wrote the first line – the one I shared on this blog that week and that does NOT now have the ‘f’ word in it – ‘the blockbuster’ aka ‘my magnum opus’… with only sixty-two thousand words on the clock. (It’s officially my shortest book by over ten thousand words.) It worried me at first. But then it didn’t. A week later, after time to reflect, I still feel positive about the word count aspect.  Good things come in small packages and all that. And really, when a story is told, it’s told. It’s just the story I’m not sure about. One for the bottom draw, maybe.

The End.

Vorsprung Durch Technik!

Dover (Medium)

Some interesting and exciting personal writing news to enter into my writer’s diary blog this week. Rope Enough (The First Romney and Marsh File) is now available as a German translation on Amazon.de. as well as .co.uk and .com. It is titled simply Dover. That’s the German cover up top.

A few months ago I was contacted by Daniela Brezing. She said she’d read the first couple of R&M Files and wondered whether I’d like to enter into an arrangement with her whereby she translated my books and we split the proceeds. She wasn’t without experience of translating English to German in book form. She said that the R&M Files might go down well in Germany. I thought that sounded like a great idea. Who knows, they just might and if you don’t try you never know. So we drew up a contract. Daniela has done the translation and the rounds of her beta readers and this week she uploaded the book to Amazon.

More than just the excitement of having one of my books (hopefully more to come) available to be read in the German language I’m thrilled to be part of, dare I say at the forefront of, a development in the evolving self-publishing scene. And I didn’t even do anything.

Not so long ago, with all the financial issues and language barrier issues and editorial issues and printing issues and distribution issues, if you weren’t being published by a proper publishing house who would organise and pay for everything to get your physical book translated into a foreign language and into foreign bookshops then forget it.

But today with Amazon’s dedicated markets all over the world people are seeing and seizing opportunities. People like Daniela. Bi-lingual people who have a passion for books, who are ready to embrace technology, who have a good entrepreneurial business idea and who aren’t afraid to ask the big question and then do some work to create and develop a market.

I think that I’m right in saying that Daniela is not a professional translator just like I’m not a professional author. We both have families, other commitments on our time and other responsibilities before we can find time to sit down and devote some of our ‘spare’ time to our sidelines. Part of my point is that today you don’t need to be a professional, as in it’s your main occupation and main source of income, to be able to succeed in the ebook market place. So long as your approach is professional and your commitment is professional then the gap between professional and semi-professional is closed right down.

Technology, self-publishing and platforms such as Amazon have levelled that playing field for those of us who want to make the effort to close the gap.

I have no idea how far advanced is the practice of people like Daniela and me – non-professionals from different cultures, countries and languages, and who are quite unknown to each other – getting together and going on to collaborate on translation projects of self-published books. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there wasn’t a lot of it about at the moment. Equally, I won’t be surprised if such practices don’t become more and more common. And why not? There’s Amazon France, Germany, Italy, Spain for starters. Millions and millions of readers who are going to come to the ebook and ereaders sooner or later – it’s all going to catch on and catch up like all technology – and most of these people will want to read books in their own language and a good lump of them might like to read good old British police procedural novels set in Dover that are being offered for sale at a fraction of the price of the translations being offered by the big publishing houses because our overheads are so much less, while our product is able to compete. (I’ve had enough feedback on the R&M Files now to know that readers generally enjoy them, the cover is professional, the translation’s professional and we’re all using the same technology.)

Anyway, viel glück (that’s good luck in German) to us for our venture and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if a few of my self-publishing chums read this and thought it’s worth getting involved too. I’m sure Daniela would be pleased to hear from you…after she’s finished mine. :-)

Just in case I have any followers who crave a German language copy of Dover aka Rope Enough it’s free to download from the following Amazon outlets over the weekend. Just click on the links.

Do authors dream of electric chairs?

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Over the weekend, whilst recuperating in bed from a rather nasty brush with outdoor exercise (see previous blog-post), I was surfing the Internet, checking out the competition among other things. I like to read about other authors who write in my genre, especially those whose writing I have enjoyed. I learned a couple of things that have had something of an effect on me as a writer, a reader and a human being.

First guy I checked out was John A.A. Logan. I’d just finished his rather excellent book The Survival of Thomas Ford. It was a free download for a few days (why I got it of course) and one of the best I’ve read in a long time. I tracked him down on the web and found this blog-post, which is really worth reading for any aspiring author. It’s interesting and saddening.

http://authorselectric.blogspot.com.tr/2013/12/every-dog-has-its-day-by-john-a-logan.html?spref=tw

Later, I found myself looking at the website of Damien Boyd who has been having a rich roll of the dice in the past year if his Amazon placings and feedback are anything to go by. The following blog entry, naturally, inspired a potent cocktail of emotions in me. For the record good luck to him. (There, that wasn’t so hard was it? My anger-management therapist would be so thrilled with that response…if I hadn’t killed her in a fit of rage when James Oswald got sorted from the chaff and she told me to simply get over it.) I urge you to read Mr Boyd’s blog-post now. (If you’re an aspiring self-publisher it might be best not to have any cats in the vicinity when you do this.)

http://www.damienboyd.com/blog/

Another one who’s made it over the fence. I’d dearly love to know what the Amazon UK deal entailed. Imagine being approached by not one but two literary agents and a tv producer and then Amazon trump them all with a deal. (Deep breath, Oliver.)

John Logan has all that great stuff said about his book by people that count – the gatekeepers – and it is very good in my opinion, but he can’t get a publishing deal and Damien Boyd knocks out a few police procedurals (I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with them. I’ve only read one) and gets courted by the same people who have just ushered Mr Logan out of the back door.

I don’t want to make comparisons on the quality of the writing of these guys. I’ll leave that to others. But it does show you that even if you write a bloody brilliant book, if the people who judge these things don’t see publishing it as economically viable then it won’t get published. Market forces, I think they call it. What a travesty, I call it. But I must admit to understanding it. It should not be forgotten that publishing is just a business to these people, a money-making merry-go-round and if your prose don’t fit, you’re screwed.

I do feel for Mr Logan. It must be particularly frustrating to be told by the people that one needs to impress that you’ve impressed them in spades but it doesn’t matter because the bean counters don’t have a good feeling in their water about it and so they aren’t going to publish you anyway. How many books and authors a year suffer the same fate, I wonder. How many fantastic lumps of writing get rejected simply because of the bottom line, trends or fashion or whatever you want to call it? It must be devastating to hear, ‘Sorry, it’s brilliant but that’s not what matters.’ I mean, where do you go from there as a writer? Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with that kind of rejection. (Yeah, I know what I’m saying there. Very funny.)

If anyone is looking for arguments as to why the ebook revolution and the self-publishing of ebooks are good things or not, you should look no further than the examples of both of these authors. Mr Boyd might not have made it if he hadn’t had such a terrific response to his self-publishing venture, and without the option to self-publish, readers would have been denied the opportunity to read Mr Logan’s excellent writing.

I hope Mr Logan’s writing gets the recognition it deserves from readers and that one day soon he finds himself in the position of having those same publishers who wouldn’t take him on standing on his doorstep with their hats off, looking a bit sheepish. (Cue boiling oil from the battlements.)

Running blind.

stock-footage-evening-car-traffic-at-rush-hour-in-moscow-timelapse

I should be writing this week’s blog post but to be honest, I’m whacked: all in. Had a bit of a mishap after work yesterday and it’s catching up with me. It all went wrong again. Story of my life. I failed to prepare and we all know how that ends. I might turn in early. Tomorrow’s another day and all that. I just need to sleep this one off. Chalk it up to experience. Live and learn.

Had a great idea for getting a bit of exercise. You remember that commute I’ve been banging on about? Course you do. Well, I had this idea I could use it to my advantage. I thought it’d be a bit clever on the trip home after work to get dropped off a couple of miles earlier than normal. And then jog the rest of the way home. With the chronic traffic jams at that time of evening there was a chance I might even get back before the bus would have dropped me off. That would’ve been brilliant. See. It’s a good idea, eh?

So I took my shorts and trainers and a T-shirt to school in the morning in a plastic bag and after work got changed, left my school stuff in my locker and went out to the bus. I was really up for it, even though the others took the piss. There were lots of jokes about my legs. Chicken drumsticks after the cat’s finished with them. That sort of thing. I didn’t mind. I was in good spirits. And I’m English. Laughing at ourselves is a national pastime. I need to get back into running and this is a way I could kill two birds with one stone – run and commute. My run would be part of my commute. Clever, no?

I knew roughly where I wanted the driver to drop me off, although I couldn’t pronounce it very well. On the way in in the morning I double checked the area. My geographical knowledge of the city outside a mile radius of where I live is something that would fit on the back of a postage stamp. Still, all I had to do was follow the main road and if all else failed I could take my bearings from the sun.

It was late afternoon before I remembered the clocks had gone back, or was it forwards? And it was going to be dark at home time. So much for the sun: my compass. No matter. A minor detail. About four o’clock it started raining. By five it was coming down in stair rods. I was in the bus by then. In shorts and T-shirt feeling like a berk. But being British and male I couldn’t really bottle it, could I? I’d never hear the last of it from the co-workers.

In the dark and pissing rain I managed to make the driver understand I wanted him to stop the bus and let me out. In shorts and T-shirt. He looked at me like I’d a screw come loose. He didn’t want to do it. Maybe he thought he’d get in trouble if I got ill or died of pneumonia or something. But I made him. We were nearly shouting at each other in the end. It was a bit embarrassing if I’m honest.

Apparently, he couldn’t just stop where I wanted him to on the main highway and so he had to leave it by a slip road and drop me at the roundabout and then rejoin. Maybe that’s why he was cross with me.

So he let me out by the side of the road. As I stood there doing a couple of stretches, watching the nice, dry, warm minibus get swallowed up in the traffic a lorry went past a bit close, through a puddle and drenched me with filthy, gritty water. Some of it went in my mouth, which wasn’t very nice.

I started running in the dark and the rain. It was a bit cold too without the sun up, and windy. I was in shorts and a T-shirt and quickly wet through.

It was about twenty minutes later that I realised I was lost. I should have been recognising my surroundings, but I saw nothing familiar. The main road had felt dangerous. I was exposed. I’d tried to find my way on the side roads. But they’d meandered a bit and maybe I should have gone left one time when I went right.

I didn’t have my phone on me or money because I was just wearing shorts and a T-shirt and I wasn’t supposed to be long. I hadn’t even thought to bring a bottle of water. After those twenty minutes I was further away from home than when the bus dropped me off. I know this because I checked on Google maps today.

I got home eventually, of course. It took me just under four hours. But I made it. My legs are hurting a lot today even though obviously I didn’t run for four hours. That would have been like doing a marathon or something. I think I probably walked for over three of them. Maybe that’s why it took so long. God I’m knackered. Should have seen me walking today: John Wayne trying out a couple of new hip replacements. Got some stick for it. Said I pulled a muscle. That’s all.

I think I’m safe sharing this here. No one from work knows anything about me. They don’t know I blog and write. I prefer it that way.

Leave it to Wodehouse.

Pretty damn funny.

Pretty damn funny.

One of the troubles with being a voracious reader is finding stuff to read, whether you’re a tight git or not. I love roast dinners. But if I had to eat them every day of the week for months, I can see the pleasure would wane. It’s the same with reading. I like reading a lot (in both senses of the expression) but the same diet of crime, mystery, thrillers needs spicing up a bit from time to time. But with what? Choice can be a little limiting if, like me, one baulks at paying several pounds for a computer file ebook and one has no access to charity shops.

So it was my great good fortune on the commute this week after a couple of average reads  to discover a PDF document of a PG Wodehouse book of Jeeves and Wooster stories on my Kindle. The first of which is called Leave it to Jeeves and had me laughing out loud at 6.30 in the morning, much to the obvious annoyance of my fellow travellers who were trying to sleep.

Just before Wodehouse I read a Stella Rimington novel, The Geneva Trap. It was a free download on Amazon. I like spy novels. I thought it a competent effort. I enjoyed the read and looked forward to picking it up. But not once did I feel any real emotion. It didn’t frighten me. It didn’t make me laugh. I never felt my heart miss a beat. I didn’t gasp. The language and plot were straightforward and easy to follow. I never once encountered a word I didn’t understand. It was uncomplicated – a sort of spy book by numbers writing. I’m not trying to diss the writing. I’m just expressing my opinion.

Straight after Stella I started on another free downlaod with good reviews. A crime thriller. It shaped up well enough but I realised a couple of chapters in that I was no longer in the mood for the genre. I needed a change of reading cuisine. Enter Wodehouse.

What a wordsmith that fellow was. And it got me thinking about what a gift it is, as a writer, to be able to inspire emotion in your reader with nothing more than a clever arrangement of words and punctuation on a blank page. (Of course, there’s a little more to it than that. The reader must bring something to the event too.) Or is it a gift, I quickly argued with myself. Isn’t it the result of someone who has worked hard at his craft and reached a high level of expertise in it? Probably like the old educational nature/nurture argument goes, there’s a good dollop of both in there.

I’ve tried reading Dracula a couple of times but never got too far with it. I’ll try again. When I haven’t been reading on the commute this week I’ve been listening to Dracula as an audiobook. It was another free one. It’s really good. The reading just brings the text to life, something which I haven’t yet managed as a reader. It’s got me thinking about audiobooks again and that I’d like to get some of my books done as audiobooks. I’d really like to have a go at reading them myself. I believe I could make a decent fist of it and it could be fun.

El Gringo

What has this rakish fellow got to do with this week's blog post?

What has this rakish fellow got to do with this week’s blog post?

There’s a book on Amazon.com with 2,149 1* comments. (At the time of writing.) On Amazon.co.uk it has only 437 1* comments. Only! Ha! Can we just take a minute to imagine how the author feels about those stats. I’ve had a few 1*comments and they used to hurt me, like hammer blows to bare feet. But if I had that much scorn poured on one of my writing projects would I wonder about giving up writing? Before we get too carried away in a tidal wave of sympathy for the ‘poor’ author, please, read on to give the stats their proper context.

The title in question is also #1 bestseller on both sides of the pond. On Amazon.com it has over 26,000 comments (5,000+ on AmazonUK). That is a lot of feedback. It also signifies a hell of a lot of downloads, if normal ratios of comments to downloads of my books is anything to go by. I check the charts fairly often when I’m procrastinating and I’ve never seen another book with so many comments. I wonder if anyone else has. I’d be interested to know. This author’s publishers must wake up and pinch themselves every morning with those sorts of figures. Can you guess what the book is? (Clue one: The title of this blog-post is an anagram of the title of the book. Clue two: the photo (a bit cryptic). If you can’t work it out or can’t be bothered to try, the answer is at the bottom of the page.)

In one of my less serious bouts of contemplation I thought about trying to write a book with the sole purpose of garnering as many 1* comments as possible; I wanted to write a book that has a consistent Amazon average rating of 1*. I thought it would be such fun to put something out there masquerading as something serious and inspiring a frenzy of negativity and vitriol. Every 1* comment would make me laugh at my little joke. I thought about the ‘ingredients’ I would need to include to give the book the best chance of disappointing readers. How about this for a speculative list?

  • Price it high.
  • Don’t have it proofread. (In fact go out of my way to make clumsy mistakes that would have even the most benign readers reaching for their keyboards.)
  • List it under the wrong genre. (Contemporary romantic fiction? See next.)
  • Include a great deal of swearing. (See previous.)
  • Make the plot deliberately confusing.
  • End the book halfway through the story (maybe include a hundred blank pages) and invite readers to purchase part two separately. (Price it even higher.)
  • Include lots of bad and unnecessary sex. (Maybe with animals or the dead, for starters.)
  • Shockingly bad formatting.
  • Make the dialogue really clunky and long winded.

(Before any smart arse out there comes back with, ‘But you’ve already written a book that meets these criteria. It’s called insert book title of mine here, I like to think that because I’ve beaten you to it you won’t be so funny.)

Why would I want to do something like this? Well, apart from being my idea of fun, I would also be testing a theory. I believe that prospective downloaders of ebooks are drawn to books that have low ratings. I’m not saying that we buy them, but if I see a book with an overall rating of three stars and it’s had dozens of reviews, I’m usually going to check out some of those comments. I want to know why this book is regarded as so substandardly shite. Done cleverly this could turn into a hook to get readers to part with a bit of cash. (It would need to be done very cleverly, obviously, to get people to pay for something that everyone condemns.) The old adage, there’s no such thing as bad publicity springs to mind.

My latest writing project is going fairly well. I’m 30,000 words in. From its inception I found the story difficult to pigeonhole genre-wise. (What should I list it under when the time comes to self-publish?) And if I was mildly confused then I’m positively bewildered now. It’s part utopian, part dystopian, part love story, part western, part political, part contemporary fiction. And I’m only on chapter five. What it isn’t and doesn’t look like being is part crime, part mystery, part thriller, which is my usual line of writing country. Still, I’m enjoying myself. I might try to fit an alien invasion in there somewhere for a full house. In for a penny and all that. Hey, maybe I’m writing that really substandardly shite book I was thinking of. The subconscious works in mysterious ways, its wonders to perform.

I just learned something. My WordPress stats tell me that someone from Lesotho viewed my blog today. Lewhereo? I’d never heard of it. Now I know it’s a landlocked country in Africa that gained independence from the UK in 1966. (If whoever you are reads this, please get in touch. I’m totally intrigued to know who you are and what you are doing there.)

(Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Did you get the picture clue for an extra point?)

The curse of being a writer.

curse

I couldn’t find an image with pencils.

Last week WordPress told me we’ve been in a relationship for two years now. That’s longer than some of my marriages have lasted. But then WordPress doesn’t insist on me declaring my undying love to it on a daily basis; WordPress doesn’t get jealous when I spend hours with other Internet sites; WordPress doesn’t complain if I don’t talk to it for a few days; WordPress doesn’t get mad if I spell its name wrongly; WordPress is always ready to do what I want; WordPress doesn’t wake me up in the night to ask if it shut down would I take up with another blogging site and WordPress didn’t call me a pervert when I gave it some sexy add ons.

What a curse it is to be a writer. Being a writer ruins everything. Really. There’s this romantic idea, I think, that being a writer must be so…what’s the word? I don’t know so I’m going to say cool. That’s bollocks. Being a writer is a burden. A cross to bear. Sometimes I feel like I’m being punished by a higher authority. Writing is an obsession and like all obsessive habits it’s nigh on impossible to stop. Five years in and I’m only just beginning to realise that.

Being a writer is something of a cruel mistress because it doesn’t matter whatever else you’re doing, whatever wonderful treat life has in store for you, if you’ve got a writing project on the go you would rather be sitting at the computer getting on with it. Sometimes even eating a meal irritates me so that I want to punch something because I feel like I’m wasting my valuable time. (I went through a phase of eating my dinner sitting in front of the laptop until I spilt gruel in the keypad, and then the b,n & m keys didn’t work properly.)

As a writer it’s so hard to be entirely satisfied with what you produce. If you can be easily satisfied with your writing you’re not a ‘real’ writer, you’re just playing at it (or maybe you’re just crap or deluded). Real writers are obsessed with finding the next level of their ability, even if they have to change themselves to do so. The need to improve, to write better stuff is all consuming. And so bloody irritating when you can’t find a way to punch through the paper ceiling. And there’s nothing that brings that home to me more clearly than reading great writing.

To be a writer you must be a reader, but being a writer can ruin you as a reader. Gone are the days of reading only for pleasure because everything you read you’re comparing the quality of your own writing to it. It’s not easy to relax. You read for inspiration as much as entertainment and when you read something great it is like a double-edged sword. You love the writing for its sublime invention, for its originality of phrase, for its clever plotting, the best words in the best order. But you hate the writing (and the writer) because the quality of it seems beyond you as a writer, and what’s worse you feel that it always will be. It’s so frustrating. Being a writer undermines my enjoyment of reading for these reasons.

In the last week I’ve read ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.’ by John Le Carre, which I absolutely loved. But which also made me want to start punching things and Le Carre. It’s really, really good. I hated it.

I’m also listening to an audio book on the commute: ‘Heart of Darkness’, which everyone must surely know. It’s read by Kenneth Brannagh. How I hate that book and his reading of it. Because they are both so bloody fantastic.

Just to cheer myself up after that, when I look back on this diary entry in years to come I might wish to remember a couple of school incidents from this week. In one lesson I was asking the kids what they had for breakfast and one girl answered ‘crap’, which I thought was remarkably honest and knowledgeable for a five year old. (It never occurred to me where she picked up that kind of language.) She didn’t seem too bothered by it though. I abandoned the lesson on possessive pronouns so that we might have a class discussion regarding how important it is to eat the right foods for health, especially with the most important meal of the day. It was only at the end of the lesson that I discovered the girl meant ‘crepe’, which is a type of pancake. It’s something in the vowel pronunciation.

In grade two we had something of an incident that despite my pleading had to go into the the school accident book. There had to be a first, I suppose. We were making headgear for decorating and wearing. We used coloured card, coloured pens, cotton wool and glue and stuff. When it came to securing the finished article around the children’s heads the instructions said use glue sticks. Well that was a waste of time. They kept falling open and then off under the attentions of their fiddling before the glue was dry. So, out of frustration and desperation I decided to staple the ends of the card together to hold them in place. The best way to do this was with the card wrapped around the individual’s head. At least I thought it was until I managed to put a staple right through one little sod’s ear. Looking back on it now, it serves him right for not keeping still. I didn’t realise the skin at the top of the ear held so much blood.

Update on my writing. Acer #3 is still in post-production. B&C #2 has now had a couple of read throughs and some alterations that make me fairly happy with it. I’m ready for my daughter (my greatest critic) to read it.

The new project is where all my energy is going now. I have a title and twenty thousand words. I think this could be my magnum opus. I really think this could be the one that takes me to the next level. I also think I’m going to have to change my habit of making stuff up as I go along and set about some planning. It’s a bit complex for my limited brain capacity.