I thought I would tell you what I was doing earlier this evening – using terms inspired by a comment of Wrathnar the Unreasonable on another thread.
I conjured up in my mind thoughts about a mythical invisible being, the result of the imaginings of some mediaeval conmen (mediaeval was Wrathnar’s term, though in my mind they were quite a few centuries older than that.) And I asked a group of friends to do the same thing, which they were happy to do.
I’ve had constant muscular pain in my let arm for the last eight weeks. I’m not sure what caused it, gardening possibly; I expected it to wear off after a few days or a week or so. But it didn’t. It’s just been there, day in, day out, always sore.
My friends started to verbalise their thoughts about these conmen’s mythical invisible being, and to invoke its help with regards to the pain in my left arm. There we were, like a bunch of morons, speaking into the empty air requesting medical and physiological intervention from a fairy tale character.
OK, just to be clear, what we were actually doing was praying to the living God who created me and who loves me. We were exercising a gift of healing from God, asking him to take away the pain and fix whatever had caused it – a perfectly logical thing to do. Elysia delighted us the other day with how her Lucy fell into her toy box. She called to her Mummy to help her. Of course she did, it’s only natural; she knew her Mummy loves her and would get her out. What could be more natural than for me to turn to my heavenly Father who loves me, for help.
One man’s imaginings of ancient conmen.
Another’s constant Friend, Lord and loving Father.
My arm? Well for those who are interested, all the pain is gone. I can lift heavy articles without wincing, again. I want publicly to give thanks to God for healing me.
Yesterday I saw ‘My Week with Marylin’. I enjoyed the film and would be interested in discussing the plot. But I will wait until the film is off general release before making a post as I would not want to give the story away.
Over the past month, on odd days, I have been ambling around a valley in Kent and the plot of a film has arisen out of my researches -almost as a by product. I have been looking into a part of Kent that is well documented and, partly, mythologised. This is the Kent of hop-picking. Once upon a time, my hobby had been landscape photography, and the star of the film would be Kent. This particular valley has been painted by a well-known, but forgotten painter. (I am not thinking of Churchill, though he is a major figure in the valley) There are possible visual references - literally picture postcard Kent. I could include this painter's best known painting in the plot - even as the first cause!
The Plot. An Australian couple and their Republican daughter take a holiday in Kent, but the mother has another scenario. She wants to investigate why her great-grandmother emigrated to Australia in the 1860’s, to begin a life farming in the Australian outback. (Her grandmother had emigrated on her own and nothing is known about her until some facts appear on the internet.) One story is set in the nineteenth century and the other in the twenty first century.
Can pop music be used as the sound track? I was thinking of a group like ‘Fairport Convention.’ The folk songs of the nineteenth century could used to illustrate the ‘period’ and then ‘updated’ to folk/rock for the twenty first. Mind you, I don’t know of any hopping songs. Does this use of folk/rock make sense? The two plots should mirror each other. But would the music alienate a possible audience - even though I am thinking of a 1960’s/1970’s ambience.
I can take this one step further and include a pop group in the plot. I had been looking into what contemporary use is made of the buildings and countryside (the past being visible in the present) One use of land is for pop-concerts, but what about pubs and village greens fairs, etc? Folk music would fit here.
( The sub- plot) The republican daughter, a Kylie
figure, falls for an aristocratic, pop-singing rotter, a Hugh
Grant figure, who is the son of a local farming dynasty. As
she travels around Kent, with her parents, the daughter
continually sees him singing at various events and falls in
Her great-great grandmother had left for Australia out of shame for a ‘Breach of Promise trial that had been extensively reported in the ‘Times’ The ‘Hugh Grant’ figure would be a descendant of the defendant who was an absolute rotter and history might repeat itself. ( I think The ‘Times’ has reported enough of the case for it to be dramatised in flashback and this would certainly bring the Victorian era alive. I, and another relation, have been trying to research three generations of the farming community, so my family material should be authentic)
There is one flaw in my enterprise and that is, probably, me. I am stuck with a short story. (the plot) Someone is seated at the pub in Chiddingstone (National Trust.) He has discovered the grave of a great-great, great great grandfather buried in the cemetery opposite the pub (the church is also National Trust’) Three castles are nearby. It is dusk and he opens up his lap-top. Along with the light ‘fact’s emerge about the buried figure. These illuminate the surrounding area. (The ghosts of the machine) We are back to the time of Jane Austen. If you think the daughter of the local miller was of low descent, you might be mistaken. The ghost might be in Westminster Abbey. I am still trying to research this, but the trails always peter out at about this period. I am on strike at the moment and should be out picketing. Not really, i am on leave, which i booked some time ago, and might go to Westminster City Archives, to see if they have anything about ghosts there.
The usual music score for this sort of film would be Percy Grainger or Delius as they used folk music for inspiration. Folk songs are are sung by Kathleen Ferrier but she has no connection with Kent,
After having a really interesting conversation with Islander8 this morning about the nature of writing romance in novels, I've decided to blog about it to open it up a bit.
It may not come as a surprise to those who know me, but I'm a bit of a boy when it comes to my taste in entertainment. Give me a beer, a copy of Tomb Raider and a film with explosions in it, and I'm pretty much happy. But I am also a romantic at heart, which does make me a bit girlie (well, that and my love of shoes and chocolate, of course). Whilst I don't do romance for romance's sake (Mills and Boons style romances make me want to jump in the shower to wash the skeezy feeling away), I do like a romantic subplot in my novels; it gives me something to root for, and it makes my heart feel good that, despite all of the trials, tribulations and dragons / ancient evils / megalomaniac wizards the characters face, they can find a little bit of happiness as well. Awww. What a soppy old sod I am.
Problem is, I am also very, very self conscious about writing romance. 'Cos nothing opens you up to your readers like romance does. I can write violence. I can write conflict. Hell, I can even write explicit sex (way hey!). But I hold back on the mushy stuff because I get really self conscious about it. Probably because, out of everything I write, it's the most 'real'. The other stuff I write is so out there - dragons and swordfights, evil sorceresses, massive willies that never wilt - it's obvious it's all imaginary. But romance... that's real. That comes from the heart. When you write romance, you let people in.
I think it all stems from something I wrote a long time ago. Ages ago (about 8-9 years ago), I wrote a romance mod for the computer game Baldur's Gate. And, as always, rather than holding on to the positive reviews, I took on board the negative ones. And boy, did those negative ones hurt. I was accused of being a sad, fat woman with no life who was living my romantic life vicariously through my character (even though I was a happy, fat married woman in a good relationship!) - yep, that's what one of the reviewers said - and it has made me very, very wary of letting go like that again. Stupid thing is, I love crafting romances. I love throwing two characters together and seeing what happens to them. But I have been bitten so many times by so many cynics, I'm a bit scared to even offer my hand now.
And this seems to be a common thread amongst books where a romance is highlighted. Go to any negative review on Amazon for Twilight, and it will slag off the romantic language and imagery. People seem to like bashing romances – there is no middle ground there. Hell, it was laid on so thick that I couldn't read it (although I do like Meyer for her balls – she wrote a novel that broke most of the writing rules and ended up with a mahooosive bestseller... you have to admire the woman's moxy!), and so I won't be going down that road. But I do have a little romantic subplot, because I like romantic subplots and they make me smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Problem is, I am so self conscious about being perceived at writing cliched naffness that I hold back. What goes on in my head does not get on the page. I edit it before it has even drawn its first breath. And this means that, whilst in my head my two protagonists are the new Romeo and Juliet, on the page they may as well be strangers. So I have to learn to let go. To write something and then not immediately delete it because I am worried that a small bunch of people will sit there, rolling their eyes and sniggering at me. Now, I'm not ever going to be one for a Mills and Boons style romance (either with or without vampires!), but I do want to write a sweet, believable romantic subplot that makes the heart feel good.
But how to do that?
Seriously – how do you get over something that you like in private, but makes you feel a bit vulnerable and self conscious when it goes public? (Gosh, that sounds a bit dodgy, doesn't it?!)
I enjoy designing the dustjacket of a book; I find it very relaxing and often considerably less demanding than actually writing the novel. Above you will see the dustjacket for TOR Assassin Hunter, my latest young adult novel. I think it’s pretty eyecatching. If you agree then below is the general plan of how I put it together. I hope it helps.
Firstly, I use Serif PagePlus 9.0. It will do pretty much 95% of what Photoshop will do and you can buy it on the net for about ten pounds. Photoshop will set you back a few hundred! Check it out. It’s very user-frendly and for such a low price you can’t go far wrong. They also do a very cheap web design software, Serif Webplus 10, which I also used to design www.felicitybrady.co.uk and www.thewsa.co.uk.
So now you have your software and you have spent a few days playing with it and you know what it can do. Now you must find a picture for the cover. Personally, I think a jacket with just one very powerful image on it is the most eyecatching. A crowded jacket just looks, well, crowded! So I decided the type of image I needed; in the case of TOR Assassin Hunter I wanted a picture of my hero, Tor, a 26 year old mercenary from the 1870s. Now, if you happen to be self published you probably have a very limited budget, so I simply went on Google Pics, put in ‘mercenary’ in the Search Box and on page 7 or so, I discovered the pic I wanted. I then contacted the illustrator and asked (begged) if I could put it on my cover. She was happy for me to do so and I, in return, put her name and webpage in the book; plus I will send her a free copy or two in February!
Next, I needed a short but sweet quote for the front of the book, so I sent a PDF of my book to a few lit mags and bloggers and I managed to get this: ‘So many twists, I felt dizzy’ from a lit. blogger down in New Zealand. This, I think, is very important. It needs to be simple and basically tell the ‘would-be’ reader that your book is f****** wonderful. For example, on the cover of my book, Felicity Brady and the Wizard’s Bookshop, there is simply the word ‘Spellbinding!’
The last bit of the puzzle is the blurb and for a bit of advice on this, see my other blog ‘Blogs, A Marketing Tool’.
Now you can start to put the jigsaw together.
Let’s start with fonts: the type, the size, the colour. TOR Assassin Hunter is set in 1870 so I wanted an oldish-looking font and I finally settled on High Tower Text. The size, well, I think ‘GO BIG!’ Simply the author’s name and the title of the book big and bold on the front; totally unmissable. Remember, your book will probably be selling on the internet so it needs to look good thumbnail size too. Finally colour. Well, TOR is a mercenary battling assassins so I went for red, a yummy bloody colour.
When designing your cover try not to forget the spine. It is the bit of the book that most browsers will first see on a shelf. I try not only to put the title and author’s name on it, but also a pic; in the case of TOR, a sword with a flower wrapped around it (my hero is not only a mercenary but he’s a botanist too!)
Now for the small stuff. A price is handy, on the back of a paperback or on the inner front flap of a hardback’s ductjacket. I also put there ‘Children/Young Adult’; it helps parents, particularly dads, who can be a bit crap. And don’t forget the ISBN Number!
But the most important thing of all is ‘feedback’. Let lots of people see the cover prior to your book being published and try to listen to what they have to say. Often difficult, I know, but it is a little embarrassing if the title of your book is spelt incorrectly on the front cover.
Ok, that’s all for now. Next week: editing!
My much loved mother in law passed away last Wednesday afternoon. It was a peacful end, and my wife and brother were with her as she slept away; eighty eight was a decent innings I guess.
We visited the cemetry on Thursday to leave flowers on the grave of my father in law, and Jenny will be laid next to him. I like cemetries and this one is set away from the village surrounded by farmland with a distant view of the sea.
I had a wander amongst the headstones, some old and some not so. Many of the names were very familar; old village stalwarts who have held up the bar in the local pubs whilst regailing tourists with outlandish tales of village folklore. It was good to see them, and re-assuring too. The grave alongside belongs to their neighbours who lived next door to them for over 40 years, and it's nice that they are all together again, wherever they may be.
It's not such a bad place to end up.
First things first; Lost Horizon is a great film that tanked on its release and it is on BBC2 this Tuesday at 11.45am. It was directed by Frank Capra and Capra is a key player in the Riskin story. When we think of Frank Capra we think of little man making good versus the big, we think of communities pulling together, we think of liberal values. But Capra was a lifelong Republican (even after HUAC had a pop at him), the tone of his movies came largely from his most prominent screenwriter; Robert Riskin. Riskin was a staunch liberal and probably had some communist sympathies as well, it is his beliefs that Capra so brilliantly translates to the screen. Which probably accounts for why their relationship was marred by frequent arguments over credit, which eventually ended the association during the making of Meet John Doe. On the face of it, it sounds like Riskin has a point; he was the author of these stories, without him what would they be? And although Capra's most famous film, It's a Wonderful Life, was made long after they had parted ways, it uses many of Riskin's themes and techniques. Bu, with other directors calling the shots Riskin's films were average at best, the simple truth is that Capra was by far the best interpreter of Riskin's work, even when he tried directing his own material it came up short. Capra may not have done as much of the writing as he claimed, but he certainly contributed something.
The sad moral of this story is that neither man was as good without the other and if they could just have accepted that and acknowledged each other's strengths they probably would have been all the happier for it. But Riskin had to watch Capra getting praise (not to mention a lucrative profit share scheme) heaped on him for what the writer felt was his own work. Meanwhile, Capra was so plagued by insecurity that he tried to take credit for every aspect of his films. The last word went to Capra as Riskin died in 1955 aged only 58, following a stroke which left him incapable of writing for the last 5 years of his life. His body of work in the 1930s is as good, and as astutely of its time, as that of any other screenwriter.
There's a huge amount that could be written on the relationship between these two men who so defined each other's work (if you want to know more avoid Capra's revisionist and self-serving autobiography), but the thing that I take from it is that, contrary to the current trend of writer/directors, there is a real value to director and screenwriter being different but equally skilled and strong-willed people; it maybe be a volatile relationship, but the whole is likely to be greater than the sum of it's parts.