Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Shamefully Neglected

I have been utterly neglecting my blog this week, for which I humbly apologise.

I have no excuses other than that I've been busy at work. And have had lots to read. And lots to knit.

So here's a quick round up. I put The Book Thief aside temporarily, while I read The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Not my normal type of book, but Stu at work persuaded several of us to read it in a communal reading experiment. I can't say that I liked it particularly. All the characters were too perfect, almost without exception they were beautiful, or brilliant, or talented and usually all three at once. All the villains too villainous, with no redeeming qualities. I wanted to know more about the actual building of the cathedral but there wasn't enough of that. And it was just way too long - over 1000 pages. Some of the political intrigue in the church was interesting but there was just too much of it. All in all not a great book and I don't think I shall be attempting the sequel, World Without End, which is just published.

After that I read The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. This is a lovely book. The pick of the Richard and Judy titles this year, I think. It's a beautiful story, well written, with a great narrative voice.

Don't worry, I haven't abandoned crime. On Monday, three proofs for review landed on my doorstep so later today I shall be starting The Dead Pool by Sue Walker. I liked her previous book The Reckoning which I reviewed earlier in the year so I'm hoping this one will be just as good.

Tonight I'm off to Nottingham to see Arcade Fire. Pete and I had been looking forward to this for ages but he is away this week so I am going with the Evilpixie. I can't remember the last time I went to see a band live. Anyway it should be good.

Most of the knitting I've been doing this week has been secret squirrel Christmas knitting, but midway through the week I had a need for some quick fix knitting and produced this -

The ultimate in instant scarfs - three skeins of Colinette Point 5 in stocking stitch on 15mm needles - just knit until the wool runs out. It was inspired by the lovely (and many talented) Jane of Yarnstorm fame, although mine is slightly different to hers. Her book, by the way - The Gentle Art of Domesticity - is absolutely beautiful.

Anyway, I've got all sorts of things I need to catch up on today like grocery shopping and laundry and hoovering so I've got to go. Don't forget that NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow when I hope to have the first installment of "The Riddle of the Stars" online. (Apologies to the late Erskine Childers for ripping-off and mangling his title).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Writing a Novel in Thirty Days

So, how am I going to write a novel in thirty days? Well, it takes a little planning, as I need to have a rough (very rough) idea of what I am going to write, but basically I'm just going to wing it. Bear in mind that the idea here is not to produce a polished piece of work, but to try and write a complete novel (or at least a first draft) in thirty days. The point here is quantity not quality. I am giving myself permission to write crap if that's what it takes and to have some fun while getting some words on the page.

I thought about using this NaNoWriMo to finish the half-written teenage novel that is languishing on my computer, or to bash out a first draft of the novel set during WW1 that I am researching at the moment, but neither of these options felt right. I'm not in the right frame of mind for the teenage novel at the moment and the new novel needs more research. I'm terrible for starting something before I'm quite ready and losing momentum when I get to a bit I'm not sure about. Also both these works are intended for publication (eventually, should I be so lucky) so I don't want to splash them all over the web at this stage. This means I'm going with a third option....

What I'm going to do is start with an idea I had several years ago for an opening passage. I have no idea of plot or character - just an opening scenario. I'm intending to take this beginning and to run with it wherever it takes me. It may not be pretty - chances are some (or more) of it will be utter garbage - but I hope it will be fun. I'm going to see if I can find a way to post what I write on the web so you can follow my progress if you want to (what kind of masochists are you?). Comments will be welcome (what kind of masochist am I?) There's a target of 2000 words per day in order to produce a 60K word novel within the month. I'm not sure I can sustain that but I'll give it a go.

It all starts on 1st's a's science fiction, but I'm sure there will a crime element in there too....can't have a book without bodies!!!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Meme About Books

I'm not usually one for memes but here's one I cadged from the wonderful Rabbitch that's right up my street.

Hardback or Paperback? - I'd say a bit of both. I love the feel of a good substantial hardback (with beautiful endpapers) but I always have a paperback in my bag to read if I get a spare moment.

If you owned a bookshop what would you call it? No-one in their right mind would ever own a bookshop, so if I had one it would have to be The Asylum.

Favourite Quote: Tricky one - I'll get back to you about this one...

Author you would most like to have lunch with? I'm sure that most authors have better things to do, and frankly some of them are just not that interesting so how about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (but only if he makes the lunch) and then a few after dinner pints in the Oxford Bar with Ian Rankin

Desert Island Book - well, it would have to be something I hadn't already read, and something long and that I could read over and over again and still enjoy so I guess it must be time for War and Peace.

Most Longed For Book Related Gadget - something to hold the book where I can read it while knitting and which would turn the pages when told (If I were obscenely rich and decadent I could get an exquisite houseboy just for this purpose!!!!)

The smell of an old book reminds me of.... cold auction rooms with boxes of dusty tomes, finding the odd gem amongst the dross, crap coffee and the smell of bacon butties. I miss that life!

Which lead character would you be? Difficult. I'd quite like to be VI Warshawski (the feisty female PI from Sara Paretsky's crime novels), but she has a tendency to get shot. I think I'd be Boudica from the Manda Scott series of the same name - she's fiery, intelligent, mystical and inspiring. (It may be heresy for a Scot to want to be such a very English heroine).

Most overestimated book - anything that has ever won the Booker Prize (which is announced today and looks to be Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach this year. This proves my point.) Well, that shows what I know as they just announced it's gone to The Gathering by Anne Enright.

I hate it when a book....... confirms all my worst preconceptions (or has a pink cover).

I'm going to tag a few people with this but please feel free to ignore the tag if you don't feel like it.......Freestylefibre Jo, Celtic Memory Jo, Ms Knitingale.....have fun with it, or not, the choice is yours.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Snowflake Socks

Here they are in all their glory -

And so you can see the lovely stripy soles -

For the record these are the Snowflake socks from the Autumn (or is that Fall) 2007 issue of Interweave Knits. Knitted with Wendy Guernsey 5ply wool on 2.5mm dpns.

It's incredibly difficult to take photographs of your own feet. I've been looking for one of those old sock display models that you used to get in old fashioned drapers shops, but all I can find are modern plastic ones - I want a beautiful old wooden one. In the meantime you'll have to put up with my feet.

Not much knitting (or reading) has been accomplished this week as I am still feeling cr*p. That elephant is still in residence on my chest and now I have a hacking cough, a rasping throat and a head full of cotton wool to go with it. I have spent an inordinate amount of time lying on the sofa watching re-runs of STNG and Voyager on Sky. It's about as much as my brain can take this week. Also I am between knitting projects which is always a dangerous time for me. The spectre of the Christmas knitting is looming large and makes me want to go and knit myself some armwarmers. (I've always been a great believer in denial - Christmas can't be round the corner - we haven't had summer yet!)

The first issue of a new knitting magazine landed on my doorstep this morning. It's called Let's Knit and it seems to be aiming for the already crowded market currently occupied by Simply Knits, Knit Today etc etc. I'm not sure that the market can take another magazine for this sector. It's very much a beginner's magazine and therefore not to my taste and I can't say I was inspired by any of the patterns. I quite liked the sock pattern but they had knitted them in cashmere at £22.95 for a 55g skein (though they do call them a "total luxury project"). Making the socks (if you were to knit them in the suggested yarn) would cost nearly £50!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Other than that there were some interesting bits about knitting groups and knitting on the web but nothing I didn't already know about. I've signed up for the 3 issues for £1 deal they were offering before launch but I can't see that I would carry on and actually subscribe to this. It costs £4.99 per issue and I can get IK from the US for less than that with the exchange rate as it is - far better value, far better patterns.

I'm hoping the next issue of Yarn Forward will arrive soon - I've read good things about it from people who've picked up their copies at AllyPally. Mine will be coming by post so it could be a while. Poor Kerrie - she gets all the production issues sorted and the mag all ready and the Royal Mail go and sabotage it for her.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that I actually have some days off this week. If fact I only have to go to work on one day. WoooHoooo!

The bad news is that I have been afflicted with a nasty cold all over the weekend - one of those virusy things that feels like there is an elephant sitting on your chest. Lovely. Anyway I have managed to pass it on to the Evilpixie. I am so generous with my infections.

Because I've been feeling crap and have been sitting about on the sofa a lot I have managed to finish the Snowflake socks. They are currently blocking nicely over the bath so piccys will follow tomorrow when they are dry.

I've also been reading quite a bit. The time was right, I thought, for the new Val McDermid - Beneath the Bleeding. I had been saving it so I could sit down and read with no distractions as her books are normally the sort that really grip you. I'm sorry to report that this one was a disappointment. Now every writer has books that are better than others, or just books that I prefer because I like the setting or a particular character or situation more than others in the same series. And I was all geared up to like this one as it was set against a football background, with a Premiership player being murdered and then a bomb going off at his team's ground on a match day. (I'm not giving away anything that's not in the blurb by telling you this). But I just felt let down by the plot which didn't seem to use some great ideas that were lurking in the background and, I thought, could have been used to better effect. Also I could see the end coming a long way off. I kept reading as I thought - that's so obvious, surely there's going to be a twist somewhere - and there wasn't. I have to say that it came over more like a plot for the much watered-down TV series than the kind of novel I would expect from a writer of her calibre. Now I'm generally a big fan of Val's books, and particularly the Jordan & Hill series but this one just wasn't up to her usual high standard. I'm hoping it's a blip and that the next one will be better as she's written some really great stuff - The Mermaids Singing is a wonderful book (even if it has bits you want to read with your eyes shut).

So I'm having a short break from crime to read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I'm only a few pages in so it's too early to tell yet. What I can say is that it's different.

The eagle-eyed among you will notice that this post is not about "Writing a Novel in a Month" as billed in my previous post. That would be because the even more eagle-eyed will have spotted that this month is October and National Novel Writing Month (or whatever it calls itself) is not until November. I apologise to Julius Caesar for apparently thinking that his calendar would be improved by the omission of October. I blame this virus.