Secondary Character And Other Stories

Much as I love novels, I also really enjoy collections of short stories for the variety of styles and themes they offer. It's also easy to read a single story when I'm busy; it doesn't matter if I don't get back to the book for some time, I won't be losing the plot or forgetting the characters. Dip in, savour, move on.

Secondary Character is a collection of 28 stories by writers who identify with Wales (including me - see disclaimer at end; details of the launch event and my reading here). A variety of subjects, voices and genres. The writing is excellent throughout - I was often arrested by an image or way of wording things, which I usually jot down so I can revisit them later. Some of those in my pad as I glance through it now are:



I took time out of editing my short story collection to write a 17 page report about the bad planning decisions of my county council over 20 years (Ceredigion County Council, though I imagine others are just as bad). Primarily it is about all the green field wildlife locations they keep allowing developers to build on; it also touches on issues of democracy and openness.

It's weird writing 17 pages of unbelievable truth rather than 17 pages of believable fiction.

If you're interested, you can see my full rant here.

Disclaimer: If you are only interested in my novels and short stories then don't bother clicking that link! But if you're interested in green issues then feel free.

Edit Edit Edit

I'm editing a horror story the old school way, on paper, today. With help.
Well, she's more of a bemused observer.
I always find making changes to paper copies fascinating. You can see how much is being chopped and replaced, in a way that doesn't seem so apparent when editing on screen, where every change fits in seamlessly.
This story is called Regression, and is being extensively updated for my next work, a horror story collection. Dolly gave it 4 paws out of 5, but said it needs more rabbits in it.
(There was only one reference to rabbits).

Words For Cats

My cat has written a book teaching useful phrases to other cats. You can download it here. I have print copies.


The Road

I recently re-read Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Oh boy, was I depressed. It didn't help that at the time I was campaigning to try and save a greenfield meadow from having a housing estate slapped on top. Green becomes grey. I think of what we lose. This book seemed a perfect fit (I'd read it before). But it was not. It was so depressing to read in that state of mind that I had to leave it for a couple of weeks, read something cheerier - probably something with zombie in - then come back to it.

The Road (the book) is like the road itself. Unrelenting and bleak, but with a beauty too. The novel is a gripping story and an important warning. These place the book in the highest categories. Bear that in mind. I keep this book on my writing shelf as an example of how to achieve certain effects, and how to use language in a poetic way. I love it for that.

However, there's one element I don't love, which breaks my immersion in the story. Punctuation! Cormac McCarthy sometimes used apostrophes and sometimes not, which jarred every time I came across it. Specifically, there were never apostrophes in the words can't or don't - instead he wrote "cant" and "wont", both of which then have different meanings once the apostrophes are removed. At first I thought it was a printing error; then that it was a form of future speak; then I realised it must be his style. The choice to ignore the way we write and instead create his own ambiguous rules was something that kept interrupting the flow of the story for me. Oh, and the ending is a blatant deus ex machina.

Still, I love and admire the book. If I can do that in spite of a writing tic of the author's that irritates me, it is all the more praise for the novel's effect.

Black Swan

Have you seen Black Swan? I have enjoyed most of Darren Aronofsky's films, and thought this was excellent too. The photography, sound design and acting were all impeccable: the scene of Natalie Portman's adoption of the black swan's mannerisms were thoroughly convincing; the few seconds of her expression as she walked from the stage a study in mesmerising sexuality and alien expression.


Look After Hands And Wrists

Stained Glass Love Hands by Prawny (via morgueFile free photos)

Writing: How to Take Care of your Hands and Wrists, including one tip by yours truly. If you use computers then these could be handy (see what I did there? Please stop groaning.)

My 20 Best Blog Posts Of 2015

Yay, retrospective time! I've gone through the stats, and looked through last year's posts for favourites, and come up with my Bestest Best Blog Posts Of 2015! Hopefully there will be many more to come in 2016. I've never done a summary post like this before, is it useful?


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