Tuesday 30 November 2010

TUUUNES - an endless source of inspiration - Glasvegas - A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss)

A Snowflake Fell (and it Felt Like a Kiss) Lyrics:
By Glasvegas 
The breeze, from the graveyard keeps murmuring death 
Too much time harbours thoughts in heads
Now I´m compelled to care 
About my future going nowhere 

As I stand here all alone in the cold 
wondering where I´m going to-day 
Then a snowflake fell 
and it felt like a kiss now I´m O-K. 

The ringing from the bells keeps screaming out love 
As snow fell from heavens above 
Direction-less no more 
Emptiness no more 

Now I don´t feel so all alone in the cold 
wondering where I´m going to-day 
For a snowflake fell 

and it felt like a kiss now I´m O-K

Some days - snow days - only the right kind of music will do.
Thinking about fog and ceremonies, I'm watching the flakes falling like they can't be bothered to land. It's all about the ride but these small things amass. They provide the greatest distraction.
I'm meant to be going out for a walk. Theoretical snow is so much more fun.

I am planning - STARRING.
I knew who, where and when - I just had to work out what, why and how.
I'm plotting the arc into the chapters and tightening the motivations and raising the stakes.
(The social structures in the back-story turned out to be fascinating - species, clans and tribes - very little of it will make it into this MG novel.)

It is NaNoWriMo Countdown-to-closure - hope you are finding the last day in November fruitful.

Monday 29 November 2010


This is a tale of two styles of narration and a case of early Potter-style mania


Night is generally my time for walking. In the summer I often leave home early in the morning, and roam about fields and lanes all day, or even escape for days or weeks together; but, saving in the country, I seldom go out until after dark, though, Heaven be thanked, I love its light and feel the cheerfulness it sheds upon the earth, as much as any creature living.

I have fallen insensibly into this habit, both because it favours my infirmity and because it affords me greater opportunity of speculating on the characters and occupations of those who fill the streets. The glare and hurry of broad noon are not adapted to idle pursuits like mine; a glimpse of passing faces caught by the light of a street-lamp or a shop window is often better for my purpose than their full revelation in the daylight; and, if I must add the truth, night is kinder in this respect than day, which too often destroys an air-built castle at the moment of its completion, without the least ceremony or remorse. 

The Old Curiosity Shop is a tale written with two points of view: for three chapters it is written in first person narration, after that it becomes standard third. The novel was originally published in instalments. The story stirred a fever-pitch of excitement - the kind fans of JK Rowling's Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows would understand. Dicken's fans stormed the pier in New York to welcome ships arriving from England crying: "Is Nell alive?"

I cried reading The Old Curiosity Shop.The Irish leader Daniel O'Connell sobbed when he read the ending, he threw the book out of the window of the train. Oscar Wilde suggested the melodrama was too much for him. He must have skipped Jude the Obscure  by Thomas Hardy- I broke a toe when I was reading this: I kicked a piece of furniture a yelled "What else can possibly go wrong?!"  It was Jude I threw out of the window - never did read to the end. However, I queued up until nearly two in the morning to get my hands on my copy of The Deathly Hallows. They wouldn't let us read it in the shop. We were given our copy at the cash desk!

Warrior Scarlet by Rosemary Sutcliffe was the first book made me cry. Sitting crossed legged while my teacher read it - I remember the book in sense-sharp detail.

Which book has provoked the most extreme reaction from you? 

Friday 26 November 2010


The first time I realised people were using the ancient myths and fables as an inspiration for their work was when I read The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling. I was probably about seven. The world of Ancient Greece was a mystery to me.

When John Midas buys the chocolate with his special coin he has no problem, initially, with the surprise results: chocolate toothpaste and bacon and eggs. I remember laughing and loving the idea.

At that time, growing up in a large family, treats and sweets were not freely flowing. My Mum once cut the single sweet my teacher had given me – a reward for good work – into four, so my brothers could share in my good fortune too. (In retrospect, I could just have offered to hog-tie them and get them to do a little more learning.) The idea of endless amounts of chocolate seemed like a great idea.

 I remember the moment it occurred to me it could all go very wrong. When John started to feel thirsty, I knew he was going to have a problem. I tried working on methods of getting water into his mouth, without getting his lips too close to the stream of water. My brother and I experimented at the school fountain, just to check it couldn’t be done. I grew up during that dinner time; realised that not everything is possible or even desirable (I think it every time I hear the call of chocolate in the night when I’m writing ;) )

I loved the book, but never once did I ponder the perfect piece of revenge it would be: turning your mother into chocolate because she enforced the sharing rule with the smirking brats who had been eyeing my sweet all the way home. 

 I got over it. You can tell that? Right?

This is a funny, and moral, book. It made me laugh out loud. It opened up the world of Greek myths and legends for me too.

We are packing to head to the frozen north into the snow: preparations. All is endless preparations ;) That snow might be at least two inches deep and this is England where that is dangerously deep. :)

I've been saving Kate Mosse's The Winter Ghosts since earlier this year. It is cold enough to start reading it now ;)

Thursday 25 November 2010


Borrowed from The Guardian's Book Blog - I'll return it soon :)
The Telegraph offered one possible 100 novels everyone should read selection for their readers to consider. This is the older list compiled by the BBC  I don't know if it was cultural significance or sales that drove the person compiling it - they were looking for the Nation's best loved work of fiction. They later said they believe the average person has read no more than 6. I was fighting off smug until I worked out how many I had read before the age of 21 and which ones came after.
If you would like to play along feel free to copy the list. Bold those books you've read from start to finish, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read excerpts from or the Cliffsnotes type version and underline the ones you haven't read but have seen a version adapted for film or television.  I loved all the books I finished. I very rarely don't finish what I start, these are significant failures on my part. The starred rating is - out of 5 - how much I loved the book, not only when I read it but now. I smiled back the waves of warmth just thinking about how much I loved each book.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen ***

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien *** +insomnia

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte ****

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling ***** + standing around out side book shops in the dark

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee ***

6 The Bible - I read it cover to cover and the less well known gospels too

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte *

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell **

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens **

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott **

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy ** Lying by omission, is it really so bad?

13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare ***** Seriously, I carried the fat tome around

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier **

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien *** page 50 is a late place to get exciting

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger ** `(

19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger - gave in and bought it after I checked this list.

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot **

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell **** Frankly, I did.

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens **

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy *** at 15 - I missed trains home - deliberately - to read on the station platform in peace

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams **

26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh ***

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck **

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll ***

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Graham ***

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy **** On trains

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens ***

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis ****

34 Emma – Jane Austen **** contains my favourite individual passage in Austin's work

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen ***

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis ****

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini **

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere

39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne *****

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell *****  Chilling, when you are an imaginative 13 year-old

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown ** A man who writes so you can read and get some sleep

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins **

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery *** Influential 

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy ***

48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood *** Older influential

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding ***

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan ****

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert ***

53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen ***

55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon *** On my first trip to Barcelona

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens ***

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley *** The start of my year of nothing but sci-fi

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon * Started twice - I threw it out once - glad I persevered 

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck **

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov <*> eerily reluctant reading

63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold **

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas *** The Book Club aged 12 :)

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac *?*

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy *(*

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville **

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens ****

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker ***

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett ****

74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson *****

75 Ulysses – James Joyce               

76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome ***

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray **

80 Possession – AS Byatt **

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens *****

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker ***

84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White ****

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom *

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle *****

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton **)*

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad **

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery ***

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams ***

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute ***

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas ***** The Book Club aged 12 :)

98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare *****

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl *****

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

I liked this list much more than the one in The Telegraph.Neither claim to be the complete check list of everything, great and wonderful, ever written.

Some fear the subtext of these lists is the notion of being "well read" - a you-are-or-you-aren't list to check against - that would be superior, isolationist and wrong. There is a therapy being pioneered in Liverpool - Birkenhead, Merseyside - called Get into Reading, in this programme  reading is used as a tool to build self-esteem and as a vehicle to excise the many negative influences life, or circumstance, has inflicted on people. With their Read Yourself Better books prescribed by Ella Berthoud, 'bibliotherapist' at The School of Life, it is a Reading Circle/Group with an underlying aim. 

The large part of the success, and the joy, of reading and writing is in the sharing of ideas. Literature and Reading circles are about exploring common themes and shared experiences. It is not what you read, or write, but the enriching and rewarding effect the shared experience has on the reader or the writer. I love sharing.