Tuesday, March 31, 2009


The air this morning is crisp. The gritty rain of yesterday has passed (for the moment) and the sun is unhindered by clouds.

Yesterday morning was bliss too despite breezes yellow in colour and refinishing the texture of my face. Friend and writer Janet Gover is in Dubai for her other life - IT guru I think, and she had the morning free. Well I cannot say what joy I experienced from three hours of talking of nothing but writing to someone who KNOWS/UNDERSTANDS. They know you are not really mad because you several lives at once. They know the thrill when boom a new twist appears out of nowhere yet you had actually foreshadowed it without realizing it. They know the despair of rejection and understand that quiet joy that it wasn't a form one. You have walked the same yet different road.

I can look forward to another marathon session on Wednesday - heaven. Now I must get to work. Yes, I clarified some of the 'crapness' of August Rock yesterday and now after a weekend away.........and itching to dive in.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Coldplay and Andrea Bocelli in Abu Dhabi

Wrote the post below yesterday while waiting for the boys to wake.....don't know why it's all underlined and a different colour - other than I wrote it in Word!

The weather remains terrible here - definately not what one expects!

Not sure where to start….my head is still full last night and Coldplay is running blissfully through my head. So I guess I must work backwards through the weekend.
As we left the hotel last night things didn’t look too bad weather-wise. In fact it had cleared up from the earlier clouds. Arrival into the concert was smoother than the night before which as it was much larger crowd didn’t make sense. We quickly made our way to our ‘standing’ area and found the boys friends and camped out in front of the stage. I had my fingers crossed that we could maintain this position as I could see the stage – might get a cricked neck but I could see.

After an hour on the ground things began to look decidedly dodgy. The first bolt of lightening cracked across the sky. They wouldn’t need fireworks to keep things lively. Lightening provided the pre show entertainment until the opening act came one. I didn’t think much of them and I’ll leave it at that. Just after they left the stage with the lightening still illuminating things the rain came and it didn’t come gently. No it chucked it down. We all stood huddled together covering ourselves as best we could (ds2 thought he took a stunning portrait of me!).
Shortly after nine as the rain eased a bit Coldplay arrived and despite the rain and the humorous references to it (sounds melted into things like Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head and Singing in the Rain). The weather was forgotten as we lived two and half hours of music. The crowd jumped, danced, and sand around me. We were wet and hot but having the time of our lives. Coldplay just did not disappoint. Chris Martin managed a few words in Arabic – Marhaba (welcome) and I’ll do this phonetically as I haven’t a clue Key Fack (how are you?).
How did the concert rate? Brilliant. DS1 who isn’t much of a Coldplay fan became one, DS2 who is had a grin as big as I had ever seen. Of course the big question is – did I succeed in embarrassing them? Apparently not. I have failed. Twice a big hand was put on my shoulder when I was jumping up and down like a loone but as DS2 said to me I was so short that no one could see me anyway.
As we left Coldplay were on their last song and I was belting out the words. Did they gag me? No, they were too busy singing themselves to notice me singing and dancing my way out of the venue.
Now the night before – Andrea Bocelli. Right the rain held off but a high wind carrying sand was blowing not ideal but kept the temperature cool. The show was delayed forever for no apparent reason and the first half of the show was quite frankly disappointing – maybe twenty-five minutes. WE sat during the interval having enjoyed four songs from the man himself thinking this was going to be a very brief concert. Thankfully the second half blew the first away. The power and beauty of his voice carried us away although due to the delay and the lack of zing during the first half DD fell asleep for most of the performance. I managed to wake her for her favorite Funiculi Funicula.
So after a hard time trying to find out where to get a taxi for the return journey to the hotel (the logistics for Bocelli where lacking) I was grateful that we were in the cheap seats 350 dirhams – so not that cheap). His voice was bliss and the baratone and soprano were excellent but I think we would have been better at home with a good dvd of the performance and DH’s surround sound. However the experience of hearing one of the world’s most beautiful voices live is an experience that the lids will remember.
So we head back to Dubai in an hour. I look out of the balcony of the hotel at the stunning mosque with the diggers in front. It has been a wonderful weekend away and even though only an hour and half by road Abu Dhabi is a world away from Dubai. The pace here is less frenetic and more human. I go back refreshed but I will save my classical music for the Royal Albert Hall and await the next big concert to hit the Emirates.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Perfect Weekend

I have the most wonderful weekend planned. We are off to Abu Dhabi tomorrow en famille and staying at a lovely hotel tomorrow and in the evening will be listening to Andrea Bocelli (now not all the family is not enthused about mum's idea of a brilliant night out but you see he is performing at the Emirates Palace and we will be there on Saturday night too so it made perfect sense).

You see Coldplay is at Emirates Palace on Saturday night and the boys and I are going. They have no idea what they are in for........I intend to be totally outrageous - translation...singing and dancing and generally enjoying myself. They will die from embarrassment all night long which increase my enjoyment no end. The other thing I warned them of is that I had to buy the expensive seats as that was all that was left which means we have to arrive on time and be right in front of the stage - as it's standing only. I am so short that I need to be in the first row or I will not see. Both boys rolled their eyes at their mini mum and patted me on the head. I have to get my revenge somehow.

As always I'll report back with photos. See ya Monday :-)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Complete - Crap????

So the big rewrite of August Rock is done and well at the mo -I'm feeling that it's crap. There are gaping holes in the story as I added new twists and turns. Having done the rework I foolishly thought it would be a doddle to clean it up and polish - hah. I need to leave it a week or two then begin to clean and build and tighten. Hopefully with distance it will look better.

Now on the reading front......this was hijacked by dd's reading the Twilight series. DD is nine so I had been warned by another friend that I needed to jump ahead in the story (to discuss things)as DD plowed through Twilight with amazing speed - so I did. I enjoyed both books for what they are - good YA fiction. So on the reading front - Eclipse and Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer and I have just finished The Art of Love by Elizabeth Edmondson. I began this book at the end of the summer and only rediscovered it this week wedged in a suitcase. Great read. But I am seriously behind on my goal of a book a week - life and writing intervene too much sometimes!

Now for finishing the AR a real treat - Jan Jones's Fair Deception. Nothing quite like a good Regency for a well earned break!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Conflict Two

Sorry for the gap in posting - Conflict. Ds1 and Ds2 are here which means that my time with the 'puter is slashed to the minimum and I'm not complaining but my writing time is in conflict with their time (no guess who wins). I have to confess I not only have a mother's love for them but I seriously enjoy the company of teens. I love the way they look at life and the fantastic discussions you can have with them (when they are awake and not in the state of walking sleep). The only downside is that with my two in tow I look like I have two looming bodyguards with me at all times. In truth I may need them as I left them behind for the gala dinner following another day volunteering on the water and found myself with Dh dancing until 3am. Had they been there they would have told me in no uncertain terms that elderly mothers do not do that sort of thing - it's too embarrassing!
Nathan Bransford continued his discussion of Conflict here. As always there is a huge amount to take away but this sums it up for me :
"Too often though, writers focus on connecting the dots in a way that gives the reader the information they need to know without trying to tie the threads in a fully-realized scene that's interesting and engaging. Almost always it's best to try and introduce conflict to a scene in order to make it interesting and advance other aspects of the plot.
Ultimately, conflict is the reason we read novels. It forces characters to make decisions, it tests their strengths and weaknesses, it reveals what makes people tick. Conflict, ultimately is revealing."
So as I continue to work my way through this rewrite I need to keep that in mind although at this stage I made just push through the finish and rework each scene more closely when I know exactly where the whole is going.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Soundtracks or Music and Creativity

Back over a month ago I was having a chat with DS1's art teacher. He was suggesting that DS1 listen less to his ipod while working to allow the creativity to flow unhindered just for a bit. That led to an interesting discussion and one that was at the forefront of my thoughts.

I know several writers have clear sound tracks for their novels (click on the names for the link) - Julia Williams and Elizabeth Chadwick and I know Julie Cohen may not have a soundtrack as such but music plays a key part in writing for her.

Now I can't listen to music during the first draft unless it is classical music I am so familiar with that it soothes and in truth goes through me. It does not take an active part of my brain to interact with it. However I have discovered during this rewrite of August Rock that music has really hit me. I will hear a song and think -YES!! Whether it is the lyrics or the tone or the voice its self something has jumped out and said August Rock. So I know have a sound track for it which is growing. I find that listening to it helps me carve more definition in the story.

Now going back to the discussion with the art teacher and DS1, I mentioned this aspect - the carving-fine tuning and the teacher said that he could see that working and possibly being helpful at that stage. DS1 looked a bit sceptical but he was willing to give it a go - although I think it meant surgical removal of the ear buds!

Also playing into this is the comment that I made to DH after seeing the Watchmen the other night. I thought it was a brilliant soundtrack. The music truly enhanced the film for me. I can say the same of the soundtrack to Twilight which thanks to dd's fascination I have seen four or five times (The baseball scene with the Muse's Supermassive Black Hole is stunning). Are there any films that you feel the soundtrack has either killed the film or set it on fire?

For the curious the sound track for August Rock is:

Broken String - James Morrison and Nelly Furtado
Breakeven - The Script
Use Somebody - Kings of Leon
Gotta be Somebody - Nickelback
I'm With You - Avril Lavinge
Greatest Day - Take That

Do you have soundtracks for your work? Do you listen when you write?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Links Again

If you don't read Nathan Bransford on a regular basis then you must drop by and read this post on character motivation. Today it was one of those hit on the head type of things. I am well back into the rewrite of August Rock and thus far pleased with the new shape and feel. By removing Tristan's point of view - he had become more interesting by being less transparent and much easier to see why Judith struggles with him and his motivations. However so far this has led to a major loss of words, but I feel confident went I tackle the editing I will make them up with filling out the new dimensions of Judith's story.

I am also at that point when I wonder if I am totally deluded and I have wandered off into the far land of writing meaningless tripe. I have taken a fairly straight forward romantic story and twisted it. Nothing is quite clear in it any more. I don't know who if any one Judith will choose - this maybe a good thing - maybe the reader won't either. Toby, my ghost, has remained a constant - what he wants is clear, but in the next edit I may have to shake up his 'current' day activities a bit but not yet. Judith has to reach her goals and I have hit the last third of the story - nail biting time. I wonder if what I had for breakfast will effect which path she takes today or will the film I saw last night (Watchman - which I loved but I have to confess seeing it here in Dubai probably left me with a limited view as I understand the 'full' version is 162 minutes and we were in the cinema a whole lot less than that - more like 120/130!) will reflect in today's production?

The Dubai Literary Festival authors that I listened to gave me much food for thought - especially about my writing.
-Kate Mosse's comment about not having to be the same writer as you are a reader really hit home.
-Rachel Billington's comment about the tension your own values bring to your writing and your characters.
- The vastly different takes on how to work with research.

All of this has bashed around in my skull and I know know what I want to write about and A Cornish House is in the right spot so August Rock is now on the road to becoming more me and I am very clear where the WIP is going once I can put my hand back onto it. I can't tell you the sense of relief to finally know what kind of writer I am. Now my problem is to find a writer in a similar vein - and here lies the problem - I am not the same as a reader and a writer. I know I haven't read him or her yet! So I can't say to agent or editor in the style of .....

Do you know what type of writer you are? Is it the same as your reading voice?

PS- just found this-

You Should Be a Film Writer

You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.

You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.

Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.

And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Joy - St. Patrick's Day

May love and laughter light your days,and warm your heart and home.May good and faithful friends be yours,wherever you may roam.May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.May all life's passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!

This day has never failed to bring me joy. I have loved it and all the celebrations -serious and corny- that have been attached to it. From my youngest days it has been imprinted into my soul. It's about family and food and Mass. It's about partying that is beyond compare. It's about singing and dancing and God do I miss that. It's about being a part of me that is often tucked in a quiet corner. It's about the 'Kiss Me I'm Irish' badge I wore with pride and, dare I say, hope. It's about my best friend and a shared understanding that knows no bounds. It's about all those that are no longer with me to sing a little song, dance a bit and celebrate life but have let me a stronger and happier person for knowing them.

So raise a glass and say thanks to those who are no longer with you. Hug those that are. Share the joy.

These things, I warmly wish for you-
Someone to love,
Some work to do,
A bit of o’ sun
A bit o’ cheer
And a guardian angel
Always near.

Friday, March 13, 2009

EAILF Kate Mosse and Victoria Hislop

Victoria Hislop and Kate Mosse

Liz Thomson explained that both women were given a platform on Richard and Judy and both attended Oxford.

Victoria is a reluctant novelist and only became one at 45. It was a total surprise for her as she never wanted to be a novelist. She is too loud and gregarious but suddenly one day inspiration struck. She was on holiday with her family in Crete and trying to please husband and teenagers and in a guide book she found there was a nearby island that had been a leper colony. She was inspired by the place and they way people seemed to misunderstand the island. There was no real feeling of misery. With the two that she was there she had formulated the story. She felt compelled to write.

Life is full of surprises and this required a complete change of lifestyle. She made the comment that when the book was book into the many translations that you lose control – the readers respond not to just the book but also the translation.

Kate Mosse then spoke and mentioned that she too is inspired by place and that she was a writer who had not written as a writer up to 43. Writing was a pragmatic decision then she wrote Labyrinth.

Be proud of what you do- keep trying. Many writers are not comfortable in their skin – you are not necessarily the writer you are as a reader. Your reading voice is different than your writing voice.

She fell in love with Carcassonne then began to read. It was a private love affair.

If you use real history you must get it right so that you can be free with your imagination. She met her character ten years before she began to write.

Victoria had also met her character before writing. She just knew she had to write it – compelled, a responsibility to write about it. Victoria is more interested in modern history – 20th century is what she likes.

She did also no research because it was all in Greek and she didn’t speak it then. The Greeks didn’t seem to mind that she made it up. It is now being made into a 26 part Greek TV series.
Kate was she was pedant and totally immersed in the history.

Victoria said The Island was very hard to sell and it’s first print run was 5000. It was just a good story and nothing more. She clarified that she did research leprosy.

With historical fiction people wanted to be entertained and learn something. A novelist can be biased (telling only one side of the story) a historian has greater pressure. Novelist have freedom.

Victoria was asked about second books – awful. Third is worse. She would only write another one if she had an idea for it. She only wrote the two because she had ideas for them. She doesn’t want to bore people so she may not write another unless she is struck by an idea. She must be compelled to write the story. Victoria said her website

Are websites important? Victoria wasn’t a big website person. It works well for overseas readers but she would much rather meet readers in person. She also said she was too old to get excited about them.

On the other hand Kate said hers was really important to her. It was part of a teaching programme and it was to reach people who would not come to events. It was a good way to engage with others. She spoke about blogs – the writing is the exact opposite of what is required for novels. Blogs are quick, succinct and novels take time.

She felt it was the job of a successful writer to support other writers. Course can be helpful to learn skills. You can’t teach creativity but skills can be taught.
That's the last of my reports on the festival. I can't wait for next year's. It was brilliant and I personally gained so much more than I could have hoped. Through the words of the various authors I have clarified in my mind exactly what type of writer I am and where it fits. This has been a huge struggle for me but with the lightbulb moments from Kate Mosse and Rachel Billington I have a much clearer vision of where my voice fits and the stories I am compelled to write. So now head back down to the real work at hand - writing!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The One That Got Away

We had a strange and new visitor in our garden today. Snowy was not impressed!

EAILF Margaret Atwood

Here are my notes from Margaret Atwood at the Emirates Airlines International Festival of Literature.

The first topic was the ‘banned book’ by Geraldine Bedell. Margaret said it took her five days to track down sources. There was no launch planned she just hadn’t been invited like many other writers. In the end Margaret went with the meaning of the word banned. Something happened but it wasn’t what people thought.

She would much rather be here in the sun. Margaret asked what’s the line between taste and censorship or call it sensibility and censorship.

What motivated her writing? What’s it like to go into a new book? She said it’s dark and then it get lighter.

She spoke about her path to becoming a writer back in the 1950s. She said she had very little real choice. She began writing with pen and paper – she cannot type. She now uses a computer as she she can correct without the little white brush. Her mother comment when told that her daughter was going to be a writer – you had better learn to spell and Margaret’s reply was other’s will do it for me.

Everybody comes from somewhere…write from that…the weather, the economy, the history, the language – all enter into who you are as a writer. Then she comment on the fact that being short she had a distinct point of view as she saw things differently than a tall person.

Who you are is all part of your writing.

Labels publishers use can be helpful but limit. They think its helpful as a marketing tool. Bookseller need to know where do I put this?

Quality transcends genre. Using the title literary limits interest.

Asks if she was starting now – she would despair as it is all marketing led. Publishing is not a business it is an art or a craft with a business element.

All books are unique. She likes to write book by book. For new authors it is tough to sell this way. Today you have to make money. Publishers in the past were willing to invest time and money in developing a writer – they are less willing to do this now. Writers are now much more living hand to mouth. It is brutal now.

She writes in many varieties yet most are pigeonholed. She can do this because she is old and no one has told her any different. She has had a free field – no structures.

Her ideas come from Shakespeare, history, politics….Her new novel’s title is The Year of the Flood. It took 15 titles before they settled on that one which they felt would stand the transatlantic divide however the covers will be different.

The question came from the audience about hope for the future. She said the questions she received in the 70’s were about gender then moved onto free speak. Now the questions were about hope. This reflects today.
-can’t see where we are going
-human population
-the relationship of the last two
-people’s rights
-women’s rights (when jobs start to go then its is usually the women’s jobs that go first)

She said that humans are inventive/creative
-many minds are trying to solve these problems
-we have the ability
-hopes we have the political will
-it has taken us a while to see the problems
People are working hard and they have the will plus the ability which gives us hope. We have to look at water, air, energy and use the above to make sure that there is a sustainable future.

A member of the audience stated, “The west has betrayed it own values…How familiar with you with literary tradition with Arab world.
-more familiar history – it is easy to translate
-not with poetry because the meaning lost in translation
-novels fall in-between with the translation difficulties
-there is tremendous interest now
Tomorrow my last report from the festival.....Kate Mosse and Victoria Hislop.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

EAILF Censorship Debate

First let me apologize for the long delay in continuing my posts on the festival. After weekend rugby break I have found it hard to put my head back into a more intense place. No surprise there really. I have also struggled with writing up the censorship debate. There are many reasons but the key one is that in a way there is no point as those truly interested can watch it all on video here. So rather than giving you my rather detailed notes please watch the the video. It is well worth it but not if you wanted more info on the whole banned or not banned book fiasco. The highlights me were:

- Andrei Kurkov's almost cheeky hit at the thing that no one was speaking about - banning a book these days was a surefire way to receive publicity

-Margaret Atwood's comment that lie was not freedom of expression

- Nelofer Pariza's commented that writers write to engage in dialogue

- the general gist of the western writers was that in the west the biggest censorship was that of self censorship and this was mainly due to political correctness
-Rajaa Al Sanea spoke about portraying humans as humans not being forced to a postive or negative stereotype. She didn't feel she had to portray women one way or other but to portry life as it is - not sugar coated; then it can cross boundaries and this is positive

-Margaret Atwood asked what is our relationship with our audience; you write by yourself then it is published; you are not there then but separated by time and space; sometimes that feel gives you a sense of safety; it was key to remember that in today's world your audience can be anyone; it is like a message in a bottle throw into the sea - sometimes it is a life line and some will be affronted. You can't control how people will react so just make it the best book possible. Your responsibility is to the work - make it the best it can be

-Rachel Billington commented the west was seriously threatened by political correctness, the pressure to be saleable, commercial pressures; writers have to be strong about what they need to write

Finally it was Rachel Billington who gave me greatest gift as a person who at times struggles with my faith and its part in my writing. She was responding to a comment on the Catholic Church and censorship which she felt was justified. She said if you are a novelist you have to feel completely free and able to create characters; that doesn't mean you don't start somewhere with your beliefs and values...in fact that is what gives the tension most writing is looking for - you gather the complications of your own beliefs with the way you are allowing your characters to behave and do dreadful things which provides great tension.
Paul Blezard blogs about the festival here .
Tomorrow - Margaret Atwood

Sunday, March 08, 2009

World Cup Rugby 7s Dubai - Glimpse 2

Well we had another fabulous day even though neither of our teams came out on top but Wales was fabulous and deserved the cup. I think you will be able to tell which photos DSH took (the quality one bar the Dynamos) and which ones caught my eye so to speak. The crowd was classically good natured and fun loving and the rugby was superb.
Tomorrow back to writing and the literary festival.