Monday, July 30, 2012

Reading and writing

I started to write regularly, three years ago. Wow, how time flies. I remember this, because it was my first summer back in the USA. I had just moved into our new home after spending  two years back in Wales, where I'm from originally. One of the reasons we decided to buy this particular house was because it had an amazing outdoor pool and knowing the summers here can be hot and having previously always been very jealous of our great friends who had pools, we succumbed. It was therefore the first time with my children that I actually summered at the pool, in our very own garden. The kids were ecstatic and I was in my element. For the first time in such a long time I was able to relax and enjoy reading, whilst they swam. I also developed a desperate need to write and when I started I simply couldn't stop. 

At the time I was reading, Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, ever heard of it? Haha. Well, believe you me it wasn't an automatic choice. I had heard about the book through a friend,  whose daughter was really into the twilight saga. I scoffed and shook my head denying at interest. Until, I was at a yard sale, please don't frown, and I saw a copy for 50c!!! Well, I couldn't resist. I thought it must be fate and realized it was my chance to discover what all the fuss was about. Honestly, I never anticipated that I wouldn't be able to put the bloody book down. That weekend I ignored my husband, the housework, the cooking, and the kids. My fingers were glued to the pages. I fell in love with Edward, I'm not at all embarrassed to admit. I've always loved the supernatural, anything that makes your spine tingle, your insides quiver, and your tiny hairs stand on edge. It's wasn't about age, it's was about the romance and the qualities of Edwards character. His old world charm, his soul, his morals, and his undying love. For me romance is about the courting, the lead and build up to the hero/heroine, falling in love. The roller coaster ride of will they, wont they, the obstacles that are in their way that make it seem impossible. The eyes that meet across a crowded room, that first touch where their hands meet, the first kiss which lasts forever.
"Isabella." He pronounced my full name carefully,then playfully ruffled my hair with his free hand. A shock ran through my body at his casual touch."Bella, I couldn't live with myself if I ever hurt you.You don't know how it's tortured me." He looked down, ashamed again. "The thought of you, still,white, never see that flash of intuition in your eyes when you see through my pretenses would be unendurable." He lifted his agonised eyes to mine."You are the most important thing to me now. The most important thing to me ever."

I read the first book cover to cover within 48hrs. I was so besotted with it I had to go out and buy the next installment immediately. I simply  couldn't wait to find out what happened next. And although I found New Moon my least favourite of all the books, I raced through them and was very reluctant to read the last ,Breaking Dawn, knowing it was coming to the end. The point I'm trying to make is that when I read these books, I was simply a reader. I had only just started to write and I wasn't critically appraising the book or the writing, simply soaking up the story. Nothing more. Now three years later, I cannot pick up a book without examining its for POV, tense, the voice, the characters, plot, studying the narrative, the dialogue, and the grammar.

Does it take some of the pleasure out of reading? Hm, I guess it's like wine tasting and I'm not a connoisseur, but I love red wine and finally I know what I like and what I don't. To become a better writer you have to read, explore many different styles of writing and to find your own unique voice and style. I'm still learning and there's lots to learn, but whilst I'm almost paralysed with fear that I'm rubbish, that I'll never get anywhere, there are those that are simply doing it. I do agonize over every word, sentence, my characters, my plot, and so on. It almost makes you too scared to write out of fear of what the comments will be.  But one lesson I'm  realizing is that most readers, just read and they decide what they like. Sometimes, whether it's written well or not is a moot point. If, the story or the characters pull you in, you've captured your audience. Knowing, what will capture your audiences imagination is something no-one can ever truly predict or know for sure.
I'm currently reading, Fifty shades of grey by ELJames. Again, this isn't a book I would ever usually choose to read, erotic, BDSM, ( sexual acts involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism). I'm reading it for several reasons, it's my book clubs choice for the summer read, really, out of curiosity and because even though it's really not my thing, this book has become a phenomenon. The author first published it as an ebook and quickly the demand superseded all expectations. Who'd of thought that one woman's fantasies could be desired by so many.Wickipedia states that the books have sold more than 31 million copies around the world, it's the fastest selling paper-back, out selling Harry Potter. That's staggering!!! One has to simply wonder, why? Firstly, I'm so in awe of anyone that is able to write a book, have it published and make a truck load of dosh, amazing. Bottom line, millions have bought and read this book. I haven't bought the book I'm borrowing it and really will not buy the sequels, that's not to say I won't read them, I probably will, but I'm in no rush. I wasn't looking forward to reading the book maybe because there has been so much said about it already that it has put me off. It's written in the first person point of view and in the present tense which isn't the norm for main stream fiction, but that wasn't what jarred me.

Anyway, I'm three-quarters of the way through, and I still don't get it. Christian Grey is so many disturbing multipersonalities , he's a complete control freak who wants total submission from Ana a twenty-one year old student . This isn't love, it isn't a relationship. It's totally about his enjoyment, not hers. His concern for her is that she remain safe and healthy so that he can, Fuck her whenever he pleases.The writing is cliched, very repetitive, and as a British writer who is writing about an American student the language is a mix of English/ American which is confusing and immediately pulls you out of the story. I found myself cringing over every, "Oh my, my inner goddess, don't bite your lip, the way his trousers hang from his hips" Phrases that are used over and over. I found myself screaming how could you let him hurt you, humiliate you with the spanking. How can anyone like a character than literally gets turned on by inflicting pain. Already, I'm thinking the battered woman syndrome, where woman make excuses for their partner/ husband. I can see that already Ana is doing that, feeling sorry for him because of his abuse as a child. I understand that Ana who was a virgin when they first met and was subsequently deflowered by him, is under his spell, his sexual magnetism. But to not be able to touch him, or  to call him by his first name, to submit to all that he desires!!!! Argh!!!!! I could go on but I'm not, only to say that I will never have a character such as Christian Grey in any of my stories. The world is full of sadistic people who abuse the weak and it's just not something I want to write about. I may never be successful but that wasn't really why I started to write.

 "And then this evening, he actually hit me. I've never been hit in my life. What have I gotten myself into? Very slowly, my tears, halted by Kate's arrival, begin to slide down the side of my face and into my ears. I have fallen for someone who's so emotionally shut down, I will only get hurt -deep down I know this-someone who by his own admission is completely fucked up."
Have a good one. Any comments, would love to hear them Jen x

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Stretching myself...

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I hate working out. I just wish there was a quick fix to getting fit and losing weight, but sadly I don't believe there is. Like anything in life it takes hard work. Therefore with it being the summer  my youngest is at day camp and the  teens are in bed until mid morning, I thought I would shake up my routine. As soon as I drop off at summer fun I go to the YMCA. We have a family membership, that shock, horror, we rarely use. With that at the back of my mind I aim to make full use of it. I have been going 4 times a week so far. I'm stretching myself and my routine, which is usually the bikes and the tread mill.

This week I went to Pilate's ( which I loved and will go back...absolutely). Zumba...I so loved the music and wished I was more rhythmic and co-ordinated than I am, but I just couldn't get to grips with the speed and the movements and the shake that body... And then I tried muscle training and cardio which I totally can do and really enjoyed, even if every part of my body is aching. The instructor is very seductive in the way she speaks through the class, almost whispering that at every push and squat thrust our bodies are changing. I'm so willing and eager to believe, that I do find myself pushing that extra bit harder.  It made me realize I have to step out of my comfort zone to become stronger and  more toned. No pain no gain. I'm still aching, but I know it's good and I'm dreaming of that new body.

You maybe thinking well that's all well and good, but I thought this blog was about writing and you'd be right. I believe anything that makes an impression upon you is something worth examining and discussing and I believe that every day events help shape you as a person and as a writer. Healthy mind and body, healthy writer???? Right, please say you agree!! It occurs to me as I work out many possibilities for stories so I believe it's a good way to brain storm ideas and also as I'm trying different classes with the aim of getting stronger so too should I consider different ways to strengthen my writing.

One way this summer was to read as many books as I could. I'm reading a combination of adult and YA novels. I have chosen two that  I have really enjoyed, both are YA novels. This is the genre I was most eager to read, as my first novel is aimed at this audience. And everyone tells you to research the genre you are writing in, to try to ensure you're not writing a story that has already been written a million times. Although, that being said each writer brings something different to the table with their characters or slant on the story. But I do believe it needs to be fresh. This is what I'm aiming for and it's a word I hope to hear more and more as I expose my story to readers, agents, and publishers.

The first book is Need by Carrie Jones, I  believe this was her debut novel. Her female protagonist Zara White has recently lost her step-father and she's having a hard time coming to terms with his death. Her mother decides to end her to stay with her step-grandmother's house in sleepy bitterly cold Maine. I did think this was a bit odd to start. Zara appears to have a weird man stalking her, who follows her to grandmother's house and leaves a trail of gold dust. There's romance, suspense, and fantasy. I really enjoyed Zara's voyage of self-discovery and acceptance of who she is and will be searching for her other books.

 My second book I loved. Deception by Lee Nichols. Now this I thought was fresh. Emma Vaile (Love the name) the main character is strong, quirky, and immediately visible. When her eccentric parents disappear and Emma is left alone in San Fransisco she plans what most kids her age would, a party. However, that doesn't go as planned and she soon becomes the ward of Bennett a family friend. Bennett is of course wildly handsome, but his manner is very cool and distant. You can feel her attraction for him immediately...but strange that someone so young would get custody...Anyway...Emma ends up staying at Bennett's parents mansion/museum in Boston and starts attending Thatcher academy. The story is full of ghosts, flash backs, past lives, and monsters. It is creepy, spooky, and it does keep you on the end of your seat. Her next book is called, Betrayal and I'm already guessing who is going to be responsible. Really enjoyed it..
"I couldn't see, couldn't breathe. Strapped to a chair underwater, I was shivering and my lungs burned. A moment before I blacked out, the chair rose through the icy darkness and broke the water's surface.
I gasped and coughed, but the instant I caught my breath, he plunged me under again, brought to the verge of drowning over and over." 

That's it for this week, keep reading and taking note of everything you see and do. You never know when that experience will come in handy...Cheers Jen