Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Flu Jag

I had successful heart surgery at the age of nine. I have had good health ever since, my heart is in good working order and my immune system works fine. I'm not prone to flu.

I really resent the annual letter that states "as you have heart disease, you are advised to have a flu vaccine".

I do NOT have heart disease. I will decline the flu vaccine thank you very much.

I am not convinced about the efficacy of the vaccine and there are concerns about some of the ingredients that are included in it. You can read more here.

(If I were genuinely in a priority group I would possibly have a different attitude on this, I'm not saying to everyone 'Don't have the jag' and my annoyance is about being labelled as being something I'm not)

Monday, November 28, 2011

What I've Learned from NaNoWriMo

So I've finished NaNoWriMo early, I had written my 50000 words by midmorning today. It felt like a real achievement! It's been hard work but I've been lucky to have had plenty of time to work on this and was determined from the start to try to finish early. So what have I learnt from the experience?

a) Although to date I have mostly written haiku, short poems and flash fiction, I have proven now that I can at least write enough words for a much bigger piece of work.

b) Just writing with the aim of reaching a given total word count is liberating, as it means you just write without worrying about the quality.

c) at the same time just writing like that means that I didn't get stuck on polishing the first paragraph to perfection only to find myself left with nothing to add to the one perfect paragraph (having said that, the first paragraph is probably the best paragraph in the novel!).

d) but oh, this isn't a novel. Not at all. It's a very rough first draft, which, with a lot of editing and polishing, may one day resemble something like a real novel that people might want to read. (So that's what I'll be doing over the next year or so!)

e) It's useful just to write through the plot dilemmas, in this draft I have characters talking about where they want the plot to go, at one point a character actually says she wishes the author could sort out a particular aspect of the plot (hang on a minute, maybe I should keep that! It could be a nice post-modernist twist to the novel!?)

f) I had always thought that I would find research so tedious it would put me off ever writing a novel but in fact I really enjoyed the research aspect. I think it would be more tedious for me if it was historic research where you need to get all the facts as accurate as possible. Given that my novel is speculative fiction set in the far future then I have a lot more freedom to do what I want with my research. (I've had great fun with extrapolating some elements of the contemporary world into the future!)

So now I'm going to catch up on all the research information I identified but never got the chance to read properly then I'll start looking at the 'novel' in a few weeks time and get it into some kind of decent shape.

And I won't keep talking about it, promise!

How was NaNoWriMo for you?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Zami by Audre Lorde

Zami (subtitled a new spelling of my name) is the memoir of the poet Audre Lorde. It is a moving account of growing up black and lesbian in New York in the 1930s and the lesbian culture in the city in the 1950s.

Lorde's childhood best friend committed suicide, one of her lovers stole all her money when left her and another lover suffered from schizophrenia. Her relationships with her parents weren't exactly easy either. So her life has been punctuated by difficult relationships. She's also had a wide variety of difficult jobs including working in a number of factories.

Zami is full of fascinating details from working conditions in factories to dress codes in lesbian clubs. It also contains some beautifully written, lyrical descriptions of sex. I'm currently also reading The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Er0tica (which I won as part of the LGBT Reading Challenge) and so far there hasn't been any writing in there that even gets close to Lorde's writing about sex.

Zami, a new spelling of my name by Audre Lorde published by Sheba Feminist Publishers

Jackie Kay (whose books I've reviewed here, here and here) has a short piece in the Guardian newspaper about why Audre Lorde is her hero.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hands Up

Hands Up is a beautifully made film about a group of schoolchildren who band together to protect one of their classmates, an undocumented Chechen girl. The young actors are brilliant and the emotionally engaging story is told with a lot of humour. The viewer becomes very aware of how immigrant children become part of the local community and how deportation is inhumane in terms of separating them from that community as much as in terms of any dangers they might face if sent back to their country of origin.

This film was screened as part of the French Film Festival at The Filmhouse and deserves to be released into at least selected cinemas across the UK. So keep an eye out.....

It was a busy day today at the cinema, I also saw You've Been Trumped - which I reviewed here.

As ever, coloured text contains hyperlinks which take you to other websites where you can find out more.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Roma by Steven Saylor

I was delighted to win a copy of Roma in the Italy in Books Reading Challenge. It's a big book (650 pages) and covers 1000 years in the history of Ancient Rome, following the fortunes of the Pinarius family.

I really like the concept of this novel, using one family as an eye on history, showing the reader key points through the lives of that family.

In the first few chapters the concept worked really well - I enjoyed the weaving of myth alongside reconstruction of the very early inhabitants of the very early settlement that became the powerful city of Rome. I was engaged in the stories and interested in the characters. The story moved along at a good pace.

Later chapters though I felt rushed through a lot of very important events. In a sense this probably reflects how the pace of life has become more frenetic but we come to time periods where historical facts are much more well known and I wanted more depth.

Crafty Green Boyfriend reads mostly epic SF/Fantasy series of alternative realities. I usually find even the idea overwhelming but in this instance I found that was what I wanted! I felt that several of the later chapters of this novel would expand to make excellent novels in their own right.

And actually in a sense its not a criticism of a book to say you wanted more, is it? I can definitely recommend this as a very readable overview of the early history of Rome.

Roma by Steven Saylor, published by Corsair.

For Italy in Books

Friday, November 04, 2011

Hopeful Dystopia?

The novel I'm writing for NaNoWriMo is set in a future independent Scotland which has lost a lot of land to rising sea-levels, is recovering from a long war and is just welcoming thousands of climate change refugees into the country.

This is quite a dystopian view of the future Scotland, but I'm aiming to make the book ultimately hopeful. I really think that we need visions of hope for the future. Whether I can weave those visions successfully into a dystopic scenario, remains to be seen!

I've written a total of 12 353 words as I post this. I'm aiming for at least another 500 before the end of the day.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

More NaNoWriMo

So my main character doesn't seem to want to be the main character any more, but that's fine because there's someone else who will make a better main character (and I don't mean the bunny!). The original main character is also refusing to fall for the person I had expected her to end up marrying! She knows her own mind! 3366 words so far today making a total of 9 473. I may leave it there until tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

NaNoWriMo update

I started my novel today! I've spent all morning on it so far and have written 2 551 words (the daily target is 1 667 to get to 50 000 by the end of November). I don't want to become boring about NaNoWriMo, nor do I want to give away too much about the plot of my novel, but I will post occasional updates here and on Facebook. I'm also thinking of sharing links that have been useful in my research over on Twitter.

So far the narrative is flowing reasonably well, some of my characters are developing well and i have a reasonably good feeling about the whole thing!

Any other NaNoWriMo people feel free to share your experiences in the comments below!

As ever, coloured text contains hyperlinks which take you to other websites where you can find out more....