Eclectic?

I think I have always used the word eclectic (deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources, according to the dictionary) about myself.

Certainly, looking back over a lifetime of CV’s and resumes, it seems to have been a word I frequently used to describe myself or my approach to particular tasks.

I don’t even know if it is true or not. Maybe I just used that word because it sounded rather grand and is a bit hard to disprove.

Anyway, the reason I mention it is I’ve looked at the books I’ve read recently and I suppose eclectic would sum it up

Spring Muslin by Georgette Heyer – undoubtedly the queen of the “regency” style novels, this was certainly not the bodice ripper I remember my sisters reading back in the sixties, far more “refayned” – it might have been the Angelique series by Sergeanne Colon that I was thinking of, but what a delightful read. Superbly well written and such a frivolous story – the equivalent of several glasses of champagne.

The Company of Strangers by Robert Wilson – a fairly serious espionage thriller, in the cold style of John Le Carré, spanning more than half a century. Set in wartime Germany, and neutral Portugal, Cold war Germany and back in peaceful Britain, a substantial read with perhaps just a little too much emphasis on the street names and localities of Lisbon and its environs.

First Response by Stephen Leather – an edge of the seat ride but a little too … I don’t know but I remember the first Tom Clancy novel I read and it was just a series of repetions whereby Enemy X deployed half a dozen tanks and the Good Guys countered with a dozen tanks and the bad guys came back with a supersonic aerial attack only to be repulsed by other super dooper planes and so on. I’m not saying that First Response was like that, well maybe I am but it all seemed a bit clinical and auto pilot.

Fin Gall by James Nelson all about Vikings raiding Ireland and coming across the mythical Three Crowns of destiny, Quite well written and especially the details with regard to sailing but somehow lacking in substance.

Medieval Memories by Manuel Werner – an excellent premise, a survivor of the battle of Poitiers in the 100 Years war is discovered alive and brings his singular fighting skills to the modern world of big business. A great idea but, to my mind, badly written and sloppily edited and I would have liked more medieval details about the battle of Poitiers.

Sentence of Marriage by Shayne Parkinson – a depressing portrayal of life in a small New Zealand farming community in the 1870’s or so where a dreary, drippy little goody good-shoes is taken advantage of by a smooth talker.

So, two thrillers, two romances, two historical fictions – maybe not as much variety as I had thought.

First of all, I am a bit surprised at how few books I’ve actually read in the last few months but I suppose that is a by product of having thrown myself into my blog which, to be honest, takes up quite a bit more time that I had initially envisaged.

Anyway, the other reason why I seem to be reading so few novels is that I, in fact, am reading a huge amount of stuff on-line as I research for my next novel.

Initially, it was just going to be a fairly short “novella” – Three Spears – detailing the death of Sétanta, aka Cu Chulainn, sometime after the Táin had completed. But then I started to dig a bit deeper and read more translations from the collection of MS collectively known as the Ulster Cycle and I began to get a bit bogged down, so much so that I had to give myself a deadline of the end of May to finish researching and reading about the incident known as “Bricriu’s Feast” or “Fled Bricrend”.

Anyway, I made my deadline, ending up with more than 10,000 words in notes alone and gave myself another month to collect and read the original sources (in translation) for the next episode and it was only yesterday that I conceived of a way to make isolated incidents revolving around Sétanta’s life story become more real but more of that later.

To go back to books, it is the first of June today, let’s see what kind of reading I come up with this month.

Today is also the first day of winter and it looks absolutely gorgeous.  A high, clear deep blue sky and it’s time to go out for a cycle.

 

 

Genres and Writing

cropped-bookcase.jpgI mentioned somewhere previously that I had started “work’ on my next novel. After all, you can’t really call yourself an author unless you have about half a dozen trilogies to your name so … anyway I began. Scribbling away in my new notepad as well as in MS Word – actually I like a notebook and pen. Oh don’t let me go down that path the endless discussion between writing with paper and pen as opposed to on a keyboard. People come to blows over things like that, I understand. Anyway, I will just say let me get on with my vapid scribblings on my hand-scuffed vellum, bleached ox-hide covered notebook. Anyway the point is that I was going through notes and points of views and characters and settings – and all the various possibilities of beginning a novel or a story (there are apparently something like 10,000,000,00, 000 moving possibilities within the first ten moves in a chess game. Actually, there are one hundred and sixty-nine million, five hundred and eighteen thousand, eight hundred and twenty-nine followed by twenty-one ciphers and no, I haven’t counted them myself. In fact I don’t even know how to play chess – Oh, Gawd, another learning curve?).

Anyway, I am discovering it is the same with a book beginning. I can start anywhere I like and in whatever genre suits my purpose. Reading the translations of the early Irish documents from the 8th century and is preserved in The Book of the Dun Cow (c. 1100) I found myself bursting out laughing at various points at the machinations of the characters and the tongue in cheek descriptions given by some unknown clerics back centuries ago. Maybe I’ll make a new genre, or at least add to the corpus of humour historical. I bow down to the past master – The Flashman creator, what a ripper. I love him, but I am not attempting to make my characters in any way the same as Harry Flashman but …

Anyway, the point is – a new genre – Historical Humour / Humorous Hisorica?

Do I have it in me to be a funny man?

 

A follow -up to “A Rod for my Own Back”

cropped-bookcase.jpgI think I mentioned some time before that I really needed to be goaded, cajoled and pushed into doing things because my natural indolence often pre-empts unilateral action on my part.

Anyway, even though I was slaving away on my book –Raiding Cúailnge – for years, I had neither a title not any real idea of getting it published. And then a friend of mine – we had been friends since we were seven years old when I broke my collar bone sliding in my school socks down his linoleum covered hallway – contacted me from Nantes, where he had been living for the last twenty years or so, to announce, out of the blue, that his book was being published. It was like a bucket of icy water thrown in my face. The cheek of him – to write – and publish a book before I had gotten around to doing one. Anyway, the immediate result was that it galvanised me into action and within a short space of time – well, probably two years, I had chosen a title and finished off my rambling novel based on old Irish manuscripts about Ireland’s legendary hereo, Cú Chulainn.

Anyway, Michael – although for some reason I always refer to him as Mick – asked me to write a review of it on Amazon and I scribbled something like “if your friends are loud and boozy, this is the book to give them if you like a mix of Pink Panther style crime and mystery” or something like that.

So, his book – initially a real paper and cover book but now also available as an E-Book – is called The Full Stop Artist by Michael O’Reilly Kennedy and is available on Amazon.

A different style to mine I’d have to admit – I’m more of the plodding historical kind while if you were a fly on the wall during one of the weird dinner parties with which The Full Stop Artist is punctuated, then you would end up as a drunken – and probably – squashed smear.

A rod for my own back

I know, I know,  I should be beavering away, churning out the pages of my new bestseller – oh, by the way, I think I am up to four sales so far on Raiding Cúailnge, not counting the two I made myself – and the fact that I didn’t do any writing at all on the day after Raiding Cúailgne made its debut, despite having publicly sworn to do so here on this blog, should make me feel guilty.

However, the truth is that I couldn’t sleep  (for the excited anticipation of Hollywood calling?) the night before my novel entered the world of readers and I got up and started to scribble in a notebook and then swapped over to the computer and banged away at about two or three different scenes before going back to bed and sleeping until late that morning.

Anyway, I haven’t done any other writing since and I don’t feel bad because I have the perfect excuse for not doing anything.  I mentioned a while back about a distinction between horizontal and vertical writing.  Well, I’ve decided to go vertical again and if it takes me another dozen years, I don’t mind!

Gestation periods

cropped-bookcase.jpgUntil recently I have felt a little embarrassed – ashamed even – that it has taken me so long to produce Raiding Cúailnge, my first novel – all in all, a gestation period of 12 years, more or less.

I remember the first words I scribbled, a rather awkward description of a fight between two, at the time, nameless and faceless characters. I had just finished The Gates of Rome, based around the childhood life of Julius Caesar, the debut novel by Conn Iggulden, a former schoolteacher, and I was inspired to something similar. With time on my hands – I was staying on an idyllic beach on Koh Samui – a favourite spot I have constantly returned to since 1982 – I went out and bought a cheap child’s exercise book and a pen and, fuelled with, initially, soda and lime, later cold beer in chilled glasses and much later cheap Thai whiskey, I started to write. That was, back in 2004 and it is only today, 20 April 2016, twelve years later that my book comes into the world.

A fairly lengthy gestation period, as a friend recently pointed out which made me stop and consider how I compare to the natural world.

Camels have a gestation period of more than 400 days while walruses carry their young for 15 – 16 months, Even more impressive is the killer whale or Orca with a gestation period of about 17 months while some sperm whales need up to 19 months before producing their young to a wondering world. Unlike most fish, sharks are classified as “K-selected reproducers,” meaning they produce a small number of well-developed young as opposed to a large number of poorly developed young. Basking sharks can carry their offspring for as long as three years before giving birth.

Elephants have the longest gestation period of all mammals, carrying their young for nearly two years before giving birth. Long developmental periods are common among highly intelligent animals and I suppose I should take a renewed pride in the length of time it has taken me to produce my novel.

Interestingly, for me anyway, there has been a recent upsurge of interest in what is referred to as horizontal as opposed to vertical writing*.

Horizontal writing refers to the amassing of words and pages in the putative hope that a body of work will emerge after days spent pounding away at a keyboard or scribbling in a notebook (I do both, actually).

Vertical writing, on the other hand focuses on depth, valuing the building of setting and character rather than on merely conveying the essence of the plot, allowing the salient features to develop and grow over time so that organic growth can occur.

 

* Gestation of ideas: On Vertical Writing and living, an essay by Nick Ripatrazone on the Millions website.Gestation

Self Imposed Deadlines

cropped-bookcase.jpgI was withering on a while ago, either here in Curves or in Book Stuff, about knuckling down to it and beginning to write my second book – I’ve got loads of notes and ideas and scraps and bits of dialogue and that sort of thing – the day after my first book, Raiding Cúailnge, makes its appearance on an unsuspecting reading public on 20 April.

Days away from that now and I am getting cold feet.  After all, the first book took me twelve years plus to write and now I seem to have given myself a rod to beat my own back with by announcing to the world that I am going to start work on “Three Spears” on 21 April 2016.  (By the way, Three Spears is a title that popped into my mind about a year or two ago when I first contemplated the – at the time – absurd notion that I would ever write another book again in my lifetime.  Anyway, that was all very well when I considered just tinkering with a novella of about 60 or 70 thousand words but now the concept of a full length novel  of about 110,000 words has wormed its way into buy head and I lie awake at night, feverishly wracking the brains to find a way to connect all my scattered notes and form them into some type of cohesive and coherent whole.

So, a cautionary word – do not impose deadlines on yourself unless you are a) capable of delivering the goods and b) do not, especially vaunt to the (cyber) world what your plans are.  Not, that is, if you want to leave a loophole so that you can escape from the awful responsibility you have dumped upon your own slender and sloping shoulders!

Free!

cropped-bookcase.jpgI just want to let everyone know that my book Raiding Cúailnge will be published on Wednesday 20 April 2016 as a multi-format ebook. As many of you may know, the book is an historical / fiction novel based on Old Irish manuscripts. I hope you’ll take time to take a look at

Smashwords:

where you can download the book for free with this coupon YR29P which is valid for one month, when you go to the check-out.

Could you also take a moment to spread the word about my book to everyone you know?

Thank you so much for your support!

Cheerio

Stephen

PS Of course besides being available (free) on Smashwords.com, my book is also available on

Amazon:

Apple iBooks:

Barnes & Noble:

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