Working while walking

Phil: I need to get more writing done. And, as mentioned last week, I need more exercise.

Now I think I’ve found a solution to the two problems.

Listening to the radio a few weeks ago, there was an interview with a children’s author who dictates the first draft of all his books to his phone while out for a walk. This sounded like a good idea, so I downloaded a suitable app and gave it a go.

First job – Dictate a 14-page article provided in handwritten form. 25 minutes later, I had a file. An hour after this, I’d been through, edited it for typos and sent it off to my editor to start on the process of subbing it to fit on the pages available. Results were pretty good, certainly no worse than my typing when I’m trying to work quickly and copying someone else’s text.

Next – Killing time waiting for an MOT test to finish, I headed to a local park to try and write a chunk of novel. 2,500 words laid down in an hour or so (I was interrupted by a couple of phone calls) but if I’m honest, when I looked at the file, it was a bit rubbish. OK, so turning it into an acceptable first draft didn’t take quite as long as starting with a blank page, but not far off.

I think the trick is to dictate properly. Reading someone else’s words was fine. Making up my own, the speaking is less regular and worse, I can’t stop myself doing the character voices. Slow down and the results are much better.

Despite this, I have a feeling that with practice, using my phone this way might work. It’s perfect for transcribing articles from others, and since I have half a dozen of those lined up this is A Good Thing. For novels, work in progress.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

Running for my Life

Phil: A book about running? Read and reviewed by Phil? Shome mishtake surely…

OK, so this is a looong way from my normal reading. Candice does the running in this partnership. I tried it once and hated it, much like I’ve hated going to the gym, even though I have forced myself to pay a visit 2 or 3 times a week for years at a time twice in my life.

Lets’ get this straight. I don’t just dislike going in a sort of half-hearted way because it’s boring (it is) but because many times I found myself sat on some sort of machine paralysed with misery. Do you ever find yourself thinking depressing thoughts in the middle of the night? Thoughts that become blacker and blacker the longer you are awake? Thoughts that fly away like so many butterflies when dawn breaks? It’s like that except the flying away bit.

Endorphins are something I had to look up in the dictionary, not something I ever found on a cross-trainer.

It doesn’t help that I am rubbish at going to the gym. Aided by staff who couldn’t be bothered to turn up for booked programme reviews, I went through the motions but without enough intensity to really do any good. If I’d turned into a ripped and buff Adonis, I’d probably still be going. Sadly, a jelly with a little bit of muscle tone was the best I could achieve.

I envy my writing colleague many things, but number 1 is her love of exercise.

Anyway, I saw Running For My Life advertised and thought it looked interesting. Maybe I could be inspired into fitness. A couple of days later, loitering in my local library, there it was on the “New Books” shelf. From there, it was in my bag via the checking out machine faster than Usain Bolt can run 100 metres.

Rachel Ann Cullen is best described as “damaged”. She has issues with depression, body image and pretty much everything else. A classic chubby child, her mother, hostage to her own mental illness, would feed her as much food as she wanted, and she wanted lots.

The book chronicles her university life, disastrous relationships with men and all-encompassing love of running. Starting as a way to lose weight, the book takes us through her life showing how running made things better – right up to the day she ran her first London Marathon. Running helps her define who she is. It provides a release from life, a source of friends and even her own business.

Did it make me want to don my trainers and pound the street?

No.

Because the book isn’t so much about running, it’s about setting and achieving goals. The pleasure you can have from pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and achieving things you didn’t think you could – be it running for ten minutes, beating your PB in a marathon, setting up your own business, exiting a depressing job, dumping a partner who is wrong for you.

I read the book in a sprint – 3 days while doing other things. Like your first jog, the early parts are slightly hard work and I was tempted to give up. Reading the book as an observer, it’s easy to see what the main character needs to do, but then you have to remember this isn’t a story, it’s someones real life. The role of Rach is played by Rachel Ann Cullen and it to do it.

Ultimately though, it’s an interesting read with loads of insight into the world of someone with a metal illness who found a way to beat her demons, ditch the Prozac and chisel out a new and fulfilling life.

You can read Rachels’ blog here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Phil

Finding Secrets by Lauren Westwood

Alex Hart loves her dream job as manager of Mallow Court, a historic Elizabethan house. But the discovery of a precious jewelled locket changes everything, and Alex realises that things are not as they seem.

From an old diary, to a handsome barrister, a mysterious clockmaker, and the darkest hours of the London Blitz, Alex must follow the trail of clues to uncover the truth about the things she holds dearest – whilst someone is determined not to let sleeping dogs lie!

Phil: Finding Secrets, at 403 pages, offers plenty of story for your money at very least. In fact, it offers two stories.

Alex who finds herself in charge of a stately home, a job with which he appears to have loads of aptitude for, but absolutely no qualifications or experience. This makes you wonder how she ended up there in the first place – one of the many mysteries solved by the end of the book. along the way, there are lots of mysteries and plenty of plot strands for the reader to keep on top of.

Fortunately, Alex’s story is pretty well signposted.  For example, when she meets the hunky, cool clock mender and goes weak at the knees, everybody reading is going knows she’s going to end up with him in another 300 pages. (Incidentally, how come chick-lit is full of people who do no exercise whatsoever but still manage to be in physically tip-top shape for the heroine to lust over?)

Alongside the modern tale of Alex, a story of ambulance men working in the blitz rescuing people and some of the dark deeds that went on at the time. Of course, the two stories are relevant to each other and the wartime tale explains how we end up with Alex where she is, and more importantly, who she is.

Readers need to suspend their belief on a hook a long way from wherever they read this book as the conclusions, while reasonably logical within the context of the story, are pretty far-fetched. There are a few moments when you wonder how she can be so dim, but then remember that Alex doesn’t know she is a character in a book…

Does this matter? Not at all. This is escapism. If you want a documentary on the war then there are lots of books to read, or endless documentaries on the higher numbered digital TV channels. This is a modern fairy tale and none the worse for it. It rattles along – if you need regular breaks the text is split up into several sections. I’m wondering if it was originally published in serial form, but can’t find anything on-line.

Another interesting detail for writing nerds. The cover on Amazon is very different from the cover of the book I read. Which one works best for you?

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Phil, Writing

Will it be light again?

Image result for sun rise

 

Candice: I’ve probably mentioned this before but I really don’t like the dark days we have in the UK.  I get slightly obsessed this time of year with when it is going to be light in the morning and evening.  It’s even stranger as it seems to get lighter in the evening before it gets that way in the morning.

Why don’t I like it? Well I struggle to get up as it feels like I’m getting up in the middle of the night.  This doesn’t help when I have someone who bounces in to my room all bright and breezy in the morning.

Days like today help when the sky is blue and the sun is shining, dark, cloudy days just make it feel like the sun has never come up.  I’m currently sat in our dining room soaking in as much sun as I can to get my Vitamin D levels up!

I have a long-term plan to build a sun room on to our house so that I can get as much sun as possible inside, with heating.  And when I retire I plan to take a sunshine holiday in January every year.

So how does this help or hinder the writing?  Well having a project helps me to get motivated in January.  I’m in the middle of stripping the wallpaper off our spare room to redecorate it into a much better office.  Its been the general dumping ground since we moved in.  We have new furniture, with fresh paint and a tidy then it will be a room I’ll feel like going in to, and therefore one I want to write in.  Well, that’s the plan anyway.  I find mess terribly distracting so anything that can stop the distraction.

Is it time to freshen up your writing space and find your new motivation?

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

The Picture House by the Sea for pedants

The picture house by the sea is the Palace at Polwhipple – a lovely art deco cinema, nestled in front of azure Cornish seas. But it is long past its heyday now, and its only saving grace is Ferrelli’s, the family run ice-cream concession in the foyer, which is widely known as the best ice-cream for miles.
 
So when Ferdie, the owner of Ferelli’s, breaks his leg, his granddaughter Gina drops everything to come and help out. But when she arrives she is dismayed by the state of the cinema, which she remembers fondly from summer holidays when she was little, and she is determined to give it the makeover it deserves. Along with local renovation expert Ben, she sets about reviving the Palace to its former glory. 
But the cinema needs more than a lick of paint. Its very future is under threat from a developer with greed in his eyes. Can Gina save the place before it is too late?

Phil: There’s a lot of this book – 449 pages to be precise – and it’s a really good fun read. You can probably guess the outcome from the first page (Spoiler: she ends up with the hunky old friend and all ends well) but this doesn’t really matter. In fact, it might even be that the lack of jeopardy is part of the reason I rattled through it and enjoyed the lot.

My only diversion was to check whether the town of Polwhipple in Cornwall actually exists – it doesn’t – but then the story lives in that special universe where a lot of light chick-lit exists. The sun shines, you can survive financially from a vintage clothes shop or give up your job in London for 4 months and not be bankrupt. I imagine it’s the same world that many TV shows inhabit where a columnist for a local paper services the mortgage on his 4-bed house in the capitals suburbs. We’d like to live there, but as we can’t a little holiday will suffice.

However, I feel that there are few points I need to pick up:

Ben did not show Gina around the signal room and ticket office at the local preserved railway. He gave her a tour of the signal BOX and ticket office. That’s as annoying as suggesting they would go to the train station to do this…

Cinemas don’t have “archive rooms”. Films do arrive on multiple reels as described but before the projectionist shows them, each length of film is stuck to the others and then wound onto a big reel. This is 4ft in diameter (a bit more for Lord of the Rings) and weighs as much as a small child. Trust me, you don’t lose one! Each print of a film costs about a grand so the distributors want them back after you’ve finished showing – the only thing you might find in the cupboards are trailers and that’s only because they don’t chase when no-one bothers sending them back. If you want to save your cinema by showing old films, you’ll need to order them from your distributor, although it can be done – and it is popular with audiences.

One area where the book is spot on is that all volunteers on a preserved railway, indeed railway enthusiasts generally, are hunky surfers with rock hard six-packs. And they always get the girl.

I think La Nolan passed this book on to me as I have been a projectionist, and can be described as a railway enthusiast (If you said “trainspotter”, you are both wrong and due a slap) so would either enjoy the story or niggle at the details.

Just to be awkward, I’m going to do both.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Phil, Writing

Who looks after the writers?

Phil: I’m starting to worry about our burgeoning careers as humourous novelists. I’m worried that we might be invited to work in television and I’m not sure I like the idea very much any more.

Reading Paul Merton’s autobiography “Only when I laugh”, he describes working on a TV show (and I can’t work out which one despite 20 minutes leafing through the book again) where there was a script. Being a writer himself, he trotted off at one point to thank the scriptwriters for their efforts. He finds them shut away in a little room hidden down a corridor. They are surprised as none of the previous hosts has bothered to pay them a visit.

This compounded the best TV I saw over the festive period.

Eric, Ernie and Me, tells the story of how Eddie Braben essentially created the popular duo Morecambe and Wise.

Lured away from working for Ken Dodd, he saved the pair from being nothing more than a footnote in entertainment history by changing their act dramatically. Basically, what you see on TV is Eddie’s work. And if the drama is to be believed, they didn’t always appreciate his work, at least in the early days.

For his efforts, he got two bouts of “nervous exhaustion” thanks to the stress of single-handily writing the most popular TV shows of the period. The audience demanded Morecambe and Wise and Eddie was the only one who could deliver.

That doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun to me. I know I need a deadline to produce work, but I also know how I fall apart when the deadlines are continuous and never-ending. At least I have a friend to share the burden and commiserate when times are tough. And someone who appreciates the effort.

She still nicks bits of my cake though…

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

Welcome to 2018

Image result for writing in 2018

Candice: Well it’s another new year.  They just seem to fly by I must say.  We were watching ‘Back to the Future’ over Christmas and I still can’t believe it was made in 1985.  We also introduced the near four year old to it, and she really liked the skateboard chase so that was a good sign.  None of this Disney rubbish in our house (except ‘Frozen’ from which she likes to re-enact ‘Let it go’ in full, including cape toss and hair loosening).

I have to say I do like Christmas but I find the day a bit flat after the build up.  There is all that planning and shopping and discussing and eating and then the big day comes… and I open my presents and go… “oh”.  It’s not necessarily that the presents are bad its just the build-up is so much I need a lie down after all that.  I prefer the bit afterwards; or would that be known as the sale shopping afterwards? I got some good bargains this year and could keep going but have just had to rein myself in before the credit card bill got too large.

January has become more of a big thing in our house as we now have two birthday’s to celebrate, my daughter’s and my husband’s.  I go in to full planning mode as soon as boxing day comes round getting ready for their big days, especially as this will be the last year we can celebrate with my daughter before she goes to school.

And of course, there is the need to book a holiday to look forward to.  Tick, that one is done.

And so on to book reading and writing.  I haven’t had the chance to watch ‘The Miniaturist’ as it was on over Christmas but I shall be interested to see how it compares to the book. We did watch the first episode of ‘McMafia’ last night, which looks quite good.  But the brain is already ticking over thinking of ideas for Book 3.  I have a few but Phil and I need to book in our Post-It note session to work out the plot before we go in hell for leather, as we found last time, it works better that way.

Happy writing.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Candice, Writing