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H is for Hawk…………

I have to be blunt here. H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald is not my cup of tea in the slightest. To say it won the Costa Book of the Year and to be given widespread praise and five-star reviews by many including being labelled as a ‘soaring triumph’ by the Telegraph, I expected something better, something much much better.

Helen MacDonald, nominee in the 2014 Costa Book Awards and winner of the Costa Biography Award category, poses with her book "H is for hawk" prior to the announcement of the overall winner in London

To say that I didn’t rate it highly is something of an understatement. Yes, there is some pretty prose on the pages, but even some of this seems rather forced. As if she’s trying to sound much more creative with words than she is.

Her analysis of TH White’s experience of his attempt at training his goshawk is really quite odd, and seems out of place, like a dissertation of White randomly intermixed in her memoir.  I can’t criticize her method of dealing with her grief after the death of her father, everyone has their own way of dealing with grief. But even knowing this I still can’t say that I enjoyed the book, not even a little bit. I would have put it down, but I felt like it could have been one of those books which you only realize is good when you get to the very end. It wasn’t.

h is for hawk

It was boring, trying to hard to sound intelligent (which I have no doubt that she is), and honestly I found the book irritating.

Again to say that it was apparently a ‘clear winner’ for the Costa Book of the Year award, I was immensely disappointed.

An easily forgotten read.

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Discover the Delightful Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson

1898 – 1976pau robeson

After watching some ‘old’ films of the 1930s, I have delightfully discovered the wonderfully talented, handsome, soulfully stirring, highly charismatic actor that was Paul Robeson [see a excellent biography of Mr Robeson from The Independent].

His soulful voice is tremendous, and the songs in the films steal the show.

His talents and his immensely popular screen and singing career made him a revered man of his time and a cultural giant only to be forgotten by history due to his political beliefs.

Paul Robeson was a man of many talents, he was a football player, a singer, an actor, a lawyer and a athlete, and a civil rights activist. He often spoke out against racism and for his efforts his found himself blacklisted during the paranoia of McCarthyism in the 1950s, which shattered his acting and singing career. I’ll not delve too deep into a biography here, for countless others have done a wonderful job before me. Today, I’m simply highlighting the talented greatness that was Paul Robeson.

Known for Sanders of the River (1935), Song of Freedom (1936), Show Boat (1936) and King Solomon’s Mines (1937)
Discover Mr Paul Robeson for yourself…..
 
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“Unputdownable”

unputdownable

I don’t know why but I really really dislike the word “Unputdownable”. I realize that it says it all in one word, but I still can’t stand it. It just really irks me whenever I read a review and it contains the word ‘unputdownable'; and I feel like screaming “use another word or phrase – it’s really annoying”. It’s a lazy word. A word combined from others, a buzz word to make book reviews sound punchy; so advertisers can put this one word on a book poster to make us buy the book. The more I see or hear the word the more it irritates me.

Just my opinion.

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How To Stay Positive

positive-quotes-19

I may not have had a bad week, but its been far from great. More to the point I can’t pin-point why. A situation at work hasn’t made going to work exactly pleasant this week. But I’m not going into that now.

My point really is that I’ve not felt positive.

So how do you stay positive at work, at writing, (at life) when you don’t really feel it?

Take one day at a time.

Breathe.

Don’t read too much into things.

Think about what you want to accomplish and,

Congratulate yourself when you do something good.

Treat yourself.

Split your time up so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Exercise. Eat Well. Sleep.

Take things slowly.

Help someone else. Give yourself a mood booster by helping someone.

Tell yourself that it’ll be ok.

Go easy on yourself. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Think about what’s important (and positive) to you in life. Focus on the good.

and if it helps write down everything that’s bothering you, and forget about it for the rest of the day (or week).

magic-monday-quotes-start-your-day-on-a-positive-note-7

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Basic Tips for Writing a Book Series

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Me and my boyfriend are super-hooked on TV series’. With streaming sites such as Netflix and NowTV the world of the TV box set has definitely become our oyster.

Whether it be Stargate SG1, Stargate Atlantis, House MD, The Walking Dead, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Breaking Bad, Grey’s Anatomy……the list goes on and on…..we’ve been hooked from start to finish.

And we’re certainly not the only ones, what is it about what a TV series almost religiously, over films for example?

One thing that springs to mind is that each episode is generally about 40 minutes long, great if you’ve had a busy day, and you bedtime is fast approaching, and you don’t have the time, energy or patience to watch a full length film – perfect stick on an episode. But what makes the series so addictive – it isn’t just the length of each episode that keeps us coming back for more.

Does our addiction of series extend to book series’? I think it may do – if it’s done right. Stand alone books are great too – that’s what I generally do (although it is early days yet for me and my writing).

But what makes a great series – whether it be book or TV?

1. Characters

You have to create characters that people can identify with. You have to create one or two characters that will run throughout the series. And you’ve got to throw enough conflict at them for a series to be sustained. You can also allow your main character to grow and adapt and learn from experiences, but they mustn’t lose that part of them that made the reader identify – or root for them or with them in the first place.

2. Timeline

You have to be aware of the timeline at all times. You may decide for the timeline to cover a few weeks or generations – and so you have to be aware of how time passes within each book and within the series as a whole.

3. Continuity

You should create a list or profile of the characters and the world that they live in and what’s happened to them. You may have originally given your main character blue eyes and by the end of the series they may have turned brown – I know that’s a simple example but it’s one that could happen remarkably easily – and be remarkably easy to avoid.

4. The World in Which They Live

Every great series has a background – some are created from scratch others taken from the real world, past or present. You need to identify in advance what elements of the world you are going to use, and where the action is going to take place. Most TV series’ for example have one main location where events take place and a handful of other locations. Use the same principle within your series. Even if your character moves quite considerably from place to place, like Richard Sharpe in Bernard Cornwell’s brilliant Sharpe series. The series takes him from India and into Europe including Spain, Portugal and France, but while the countries change the immediate back drop doesn’t always: barracks, open fields of marching men, city streets: all with similar characteristics. [This is perhaps a bit basic – but you see my point].

5. The Hook – Keeping Your Readers Hooked

You’ve got a great main character and a band of others to keep the series moving; most series have some over-arching hook to keep the readers coming back for more. It could be a detective like Agatha Christie’s creations, or it could be a book a year in a school, like the Harry Potter series; each book has got to have a conflict of its own to enable to stand up on its own in its own right. But also each book has to tie in with each other. There has to be some fluidity between each book in the series.

Hopefully, I’ve given you a rough idea of a few basic principles for writing a book series but I’ll post some links to get a better idea. Just search the internet for more examples on how to write a series.

http://blog.janicehardy.com/2013/08/7-tips-on-writing-series.html

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2011/11/02/writing-a-series-continuation-issues/

http://theeditorsblog.net/2012/04/27/setting-up-a-series-a-readers-question/

http://thewritingcafe.tumblr.com/post/53866493758/book-series-occur-in-all-genres-especially

http://paperhangover.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/writing-101-how-to-write-series-of.html

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If You Were Trapped on a Desert Island….

desert-island

If for some unknown reason you found yourself not only stranded on a desert island, but also able to plan which books you would take with you what book or books would you take with you?

There’s no minimum choice here, but let’s say the maximum is what you can physically carry so say up to five or six…

Obvious ones immediately jump to mind for me:

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – an obvious perhaps boring choice, but it’s a fantastic read that I don’t think I’d ever tire of reading, but if on the off chance I do, there’s plenty of songs written throughout the book that I could try (probably badly) to compose music for.

The Stand by Stephen King – quite simple one of my favourite books. Like The Lord of the Rings it is a lengthy read giving me plenty to get me teeth into.

plus…….

Outdoor Survival Handbook: A Guide to the Resources and Materials Available in the Wild and How to Use Them…. by Ray Mears – a very practical choice (or similar titled survival book) to help me survive of course!

plus….

One of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series

plus…..

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 

plus….

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

plus…

oh no wait, that’s my six….hmmmmm…..It’s a lot harder than it looks…..

What about you, what books would you take, or to ask in a different way which ones wouldn’t you leave behind?

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Gordon of Khartoum

Charles Gordon, British Army Officer and administrator, born 28 January 1833 – died 26 January 18851625942

Charles Gordon, a British general became a national hero after distinguishing himself in the Crimea War, his exploits in China in suppressing the Taiping uprising, after which he was dubbed ‘Chinese Gordon’, and his ill-fated defense of Khartoum against Sudanese rebels led by Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi.
After Khartoum had been under siege for a month, the Mahdi’s forces broke through into the city, killing Gordon on 26 January 1885.
The British relief force arrived two days later. His strong Christian faith led to a outcry at news of his death, in which Gordon was martyred as a warrior-saint, and the government, particularly William Gladstone were blamed.
Later, historians have criticized Gordon’s role in the loss of Khartoum and ultimately his own death, by suggesting that he defied orders and refused to evacuate even when it was still possible late into the siege.

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George W Joy’s popular and romanticized portrayal of Gordon’s death – General Gordon’s Last Stand, 1885

220px-General_Gordon_statue,_Embankment,_LondonStatue of Gordon by Hamo Thornycroft on the Victoria Embankment, in London.

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