Second thoughts from the coffee house

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A third poem I scribbled down while sat in the coffee house yesterday. Said shop has an attractive frontage as you can see from the photo above.

Cigarette lip dangling,
jeans overtight on a body overweight,
bacon sandwich ill-consumed,
chatter-gossip seething loud,
TV channels daily gazed with reality stars withdrawn from reality,
loud voiced nothings fill her space,
words of make ups and break ups,
cheerleader T-shirt slogan embossed,
evenings twirled in girl gossip and tumbling batons,
a life full-lived short and meaningfully empty.

In the afternoon I went book hunting. Nothing in Waterstones made me want to open the wallet but a browse in my favourite second-hand bookstore quickly resulted in the purchase of three quite ‘dark’ volumes. All three are in good condition and I look forward to reading them, possibly in the coffee house, although I do find it hard to concentrate on books in such places, I find them more conducive as locations for making notes on writing or people-watching.

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A long walk along the seafront at 8.15 this morning, two people were swimming in the sea and the usual dogwalkers and cyclists were around. The seafront cafe I visited twice over last weekend was just opening up on my return walk but I resisted the temptation for yet another coffee. Tomorrow is Writers’ Group at a local hotel so a latte or cappuccino or two will be consumed there.

 

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The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Wow.

Oh wow.

Long time since a book made me say that.

I found The Essex Serpent on Waterstones’ Clearance shelf about two weeks ago. I remembered the title from The Times’ bestseller lists earlier in the year and the cover and inside blurb suggested it was worth the £8 investment.

What a buy.

It’s about relationships, and love in particular. Tell me that prior to reading the book and I might not even have started it. But the blurb mentioned the story was set in the 1890s and the cover, a mix of gold, black and blue swirling flowers caught my imagination.

And after just a few pages the writing style absolutely caught me.

Thomas Hardy came to mind with the vivid descriptions of the countryside, in this case the Essex countryside around the Blackwater area. The writing is quite mesmeric, and having played around with different styles myself, I found the language hypnotic. The characters too are memorably drawn and developed, with the story having a third person POV but giving us an insight into everyone’s feelings too. This might break some rules somewhere but, heck, it works.

It’s interesting that when I came to read the book I had forgotten about the blurb mention of 1893 and I couldn’t quite get a finger on what year it was meant to be set in, I felt it was late Victorian but the lack of any further mention of a date left me in a haze – rather like the story itself, the descriptions of the surroundings and changing seasons making me feel I was almost in another world or in some place frozen in time, that’s the dizzying effect the writing style and the story had on me. Wonderfully intoxicating.

It’s one of those books which you want never to put down yet at the same time never to finish. The main story line of Cora and William is just one which you fear isn’t going to end the way you wish. But I think the author handled that aspect very well. No spoilers here.

I was quite surprised how young the author seems from her back flyleaf description and photo, the understanding of relationships and the perception of Nature suggested a more experienced writer. This, I believe, is only Sarah Perry’s second book.

It’s also one of those books which I think will survive a second reading, and why not more. The countryside descriptions in themselves are worth a revisit and study.

There’s a potential movie here surely or a TV short series.

Right, I’m heading back to that Clearance shelf in Waterstones…

 

 

So where are we..?

It’s hard work thinking of something to blog and all too easy to click the browser off. What with moving house and getting used to a new location there hasn’t been much time to think about writing. I was just getting back to editing a version of the ‘Bobby Olsen’ book when this week I decided it was time to find a new car. So that was the end of writing for most if not all of this week. The old car had lasted from 2002 so I can’t complain really. With my mileage being very low and the car paid off many years ago there seemed no reason to update it. But with several years of warnings from garages about ‘heavy corrosion’ on the suspension I bit the bullet on Wednesday and started looking around.

And here I am just two days later with a new car lined up and hopefully ready for collecting next Tuesday. Once I make up my mind on something I hate hanging around, I like to go out and get whatever it is done and dusted. Maybe I’ve been influenced by these rapid delivery companies, you order something in the morning and it’s on your doorstep in the evening. Anyway, after sorting out the insurance yesterday, a little complicated due to my annual insurance renewing three days after I get the new car, I hope by next Tuesday everything will calm down. After I’ve sorted out the switching of cars on the parking permit! Of course, with a new car I will no doubt want to get out and drive it around more so there goes the plans to get back to writing or editing…

On the book front I have decided to publish an e-book version of ‘Bobby Olsen’ which has the original hyphenated words in it, the version I wrote for the Writing Group and which was loved and hated in equal degrees because of the double-barrelled words. I’ll probably call it ‘The Original Bobby Olsen’ and make it clear in the blurb that the story line is the same as the earlier published version. A little complicated but I feel the original style deserves a chance out in the public domain.

I have managed to write several short pieces for my Writing Group over the last month so new writing has not stopped completely. With an August break from meetings I hope to have something new written for early September. I’m also reading part of a fantasy novel written by another of the group members, to give some feedback. It’ll be nice to one day go back to writing most of the day then go for a stroll along the seafront. One day…

 

 

Paperback version

‘Bobby Olsen’, my novella, is now available as a print-on-demand paperback from Kindle. Both the e-book and paperback have a different cover too. There may be a few tweaks to be made to the layout, to try and get all pages nicely filled with text, but the basic story is there on paper. An interesting exercise getting it up as a paperback and probably not helped by all the changes I made along the way, especially starting the tale as a sequence of separate 1500 word exercises. Putting them all together may be the reason my chapter headings are in different positions on the pages in the paperback version!

Finally published

So, after delays caused by the house move, I have finally found time to finish editing my novella ‘Bobby Olsen’ set in late 1950s America. I can’t guarantee there aren’t errors here and there, I just reached the point where I wanted it published and finished, but the tale’s out there.

This is the ‘conventional’ form of the story, with the made-up hyphenated words removed. I will produce the original version later in the year as I know some of my Writers’ Group liked the language.

Now to consider publishing it as a paperback.

Bobby Olsen by Jamie Neve – find it on Amazon as an ebook now.

 

Preparing for Kindle

Finally, after a long drawn out house move, I have managed to finish editing my novella. I mentioned it earlier on this blog, the one where I had used a lot of hyphenated words I had created. In this edit I have removed these unusual words, partly because I was getting a bit tired of them after working with them for nearly a year and partly because I knew some of my Writers’ Group members were not keen on them either. So I now have a more conventional story. Later this year I will edit the hyphenated version as it was this style which gave me the inspiration for writing the story and also some people actually liked the use of these new words.

Last night I set up the chapter headings correctly and the page breaks, and inserted the front pages. Kindle seems to have produced a new beta version of a guide but I found that problematic as some of my chapter headings went in strange positions – my fault no doubt, I’ve played around with the original episodes so much. I used the simple guide Kindle had earlier in the year when I put up my long short story as a practice run for publishing on Amazon. With this novella I will try and publish it as a paperback too, just so I can have the book on my bookshelves.

It’s curious and amusing to read back over episodes of the story. Some of them genuinely bring tears to my eyes – and not because they sound awful! – but because I can’t believe I managed to write a certain phrase or paragraph. Some of the incidents also have great poignancy for the story and, as I was making the plot up as I went, some incidents were to have great significance on the outcome of the whole tale. One character I casually brought in for one episode ended up becoming a key figure right through to the end and into the follow-up novella. Those moments bring a lump into my throat. At that point I realise I don’t care if no-one else likes the story, I like it, and I realise it was a story I must have been waiting to write, simple as it is.

So now I must hold back from publishing straight away and go through looking for any obvious errors which are highlighted in red. I’m not worried about producing a perfect piece, I’m sure my friends will eagerly point out spelling errors and the such like, I just want the story finished and published.

 

Book Review – The Double Game by Dan Fesperman

The Double GameThe Double Game by Dan Fesperman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall I found this to be an engrossing book. It took a while to really grab me but the plot moved along well and the references to other spy thrillers made for a fun idea. Having the main character as a 50-something man made a nice change from the usual younger men who are able to muscle their way out of incidents or are experts with an array of weaponry. On the odd occasion, and I can only think of one right now, that he has to take direct action he is genuinely surprised he managed it. The character’s relationship with an old flame is well handled and is left nicely open at the end. There’s a good ‘subplot’ of the relationships between the main character and his father and his own son.

One criticism might be that the book moves at a relatively slow pace and there are few dramatic moments. The tension comes through the main character’s perception of being followed or watched rather than being physically threatened. I’ve not read a Dan Fesperman novel before so it might be that this is his trademark style. In some ways it is a refreshingly old-fashioned type of thriller. Give it a try and stick with it if your attention falters.

View all my reviews