Archive | January 2010

Martin Chuzzlewit

I feel so virtuous. Like my mind has been on a marathon session at the brain gym!

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. I’m a bit ambiguous about Dickens. I had to read Great Expectations at school and I hated it. On the other hand, A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favourite books. But I have a sort of list of ‘books I should read’ which is traditional classics, fantasy & sf masterworks, key feminist and minority texts, and anything else that I come across that seems important.

It took about sixty pages to get into the rhythm of Martin Chuzzlewit and that was hard going. It’s been a while since I read anything where the average sentence has more than three clauses. Anyway, once I got into the swing of it, I loved it. It was funny and I found myself laughing and smiling a lot. I loved the snarky portrayal of the characters and the swipes at broader societal hypocrisy. It’s a huge read – even by comparison with today’s epic fantasy novels – and covers the doings of a family of nefarious characters, anyone of which could have had a book all to themselves. It’s not an easy read, but well worth it.

Overused words and extending your vocabulary

Starting in the year I was born, Lake Superior State University has been compiling a list of words that should be banished from use. I feel there must be some sort of connection.

The 35th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness was published this year. There are a couple I hadn’t heard and a couple I’m not that bothered about and a couple I wholeheartedly support. The use of the word ‘czar’ for political appointees has irritated me for a while.

I’ve also been conscious of extreme overuse (by me as much as anyone) of the phrase ‘in these economic times’ since I’ve been back in employment. Every comment about planning, forecasting or analysing results has to be qualified by a reference to the fact that we’re in/have been in a recession. You know, in case we’d forgotten. It’s almost as if it can’t be taken for granted or we’re apologising for presenting abnormal figures. We need to constantly refer to it. Which makes me think that the recession doth protest too much. The alphabetic complete list is here.

Like BeckySharper over at the Pursuit of Harpyness in her blog about the list I have a tendency to overuse the word really. Or sometimes very.

What words do you overuse? I plan to make an ‘overused words’ list as I work on Sacrifice to help strengthen my writing. What would be on your list?

A Gun for Sale

I joined a book club at work. This month we’re reading Graham Greene’s Travels with my Aunt and A Gun for Sale. I read Travels with my Aunt ages ago and loved it. Graham Greene is one of my favourite authors.

A Gun for Sale was new to me and the first thing that struck me was how contemporary the writing felt. It is full of short, sharp sentences with a gritty, terse feel to it. The interior monologue occasionally sounds like telling, but otherwise it was amazing. There is a point in the middle when one of the main characters is killed and I found it incredibly shocking. It turns out later that she wasn’t actually killed and that is also a stunning reveal. I loved it.

I’ve also been reading Your Next Move by Micheal Watkins and Heart of Darfur by Lisa Blaker. The latter was very moving but I was disappointed that there was no attempt to explain what was going on.

I may be a while in posting my next ‘what I’ve been reading’ update as I’ve embarked on Martin Chuzzlewit and it’s 700 pages of tiny type. I may be some time.

Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero

Ah, comic fantasy. There’s plenty of it out there, even if some people insist that Terry Pratchett is the only author in the genre. Humour is a very personal thing and my sense of humour is quite idiosyncratic, so I generally don’t read too much of it.

I picked up Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero by Dan Abnett in a post-christmas impulse shop in Waterstones. On this occasion I was swayed by an hot boy on the cover and an admirable commitment to voice in the blurb. I wasn’t expecting much, just a bit of fun.

And it was indeed fun. I laughed out loud quite a lot, which was occasionally embarrassing on the train. Abnett is a good writer and his elizabethan twenty-first century is an engaging world, although it did strain my suspension of disbelief somewhat that fashion and architecture wouldn’t have changed in all that time. However, the book is so entertaining that it really doesn’t matter.

There’s quite a bit of head hopping which I normally don’t like but as the narrator is kept well away from the action for the majority of the time, it works on this occasion. I think it is an indication of Abnett’s skill that he is able to do this.

The character’s are well-drawn, the dialogue is good, the world-building is good and all the loose ends get wrapped up tidily. Highly recommended – for those with a well-developed sense of the ridiculous.

What was your favourite book as a teenager?

Inspired by Nathan Bransford, who asked the question on his blog. He gets hundreds of comments though and I didn’t feel like getting lost in the cloud.

My favourites were:
Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte
The Dragonlance Chronicles by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis
Jerusalem Fire by R M Meluch

I wonder if it’s time for a re-read to see if they’re as good as I remember, or if that would spoil the memories. I did read Wuthering Heights again not so long ago; it was as good as I remembered and I appreciated it more, so maybe it’s the way to go.

What about you? What were you favourite books as a teenager? And have you read them again as a grown up?

Writing goals for 2010

Finish Sacrifice! Yep, that’s basically it for this year. I want to get Sacrifice into a suitable state for sending to agents and I want to do that by the end of August.

I’m going to aim for 2000 words a week and that should get me to 75000 words by the end of March, which I think is about right for this novel. That then gives me about four months to finish the editing. Given that the 40000 words I already have been edited a bit, I think four months is a challenging but achievable goal.

I’ve got a calendar of inspirational quotes for the year and I’ll share the ones that I like the most. Today’s was from Dara Torres, a US olympic swimmer:

“You don’t have to put an age limit on your dreams.”