Monday 17 April 2017

Reading In Colour?

Read an article just now about reviewing. Not the usual 'crit sandwich' explanation about saying something nice before the nasty but about the perception of race/colour/sexual orientation; how review guidelines are changing to include clear, even mandatory reference to these differences in plot or characters.

Did you yawn? It was actually pretty interesting. It made the point that some readers would appreciate reading about characters who are not middle-class-western-white, especially for their children to find characters who, wow, look like them for a change? That some book covers, which I figured were a possible guide, are actually misleading in that respect.

But it also debated the criteria for when to make such references. If a story hangs on these differences, eg a European thrown into an African setting, a gay youth coming out, then it's obviously very relevant to point it out. If the race or sexual leaning of the characters make absolutely no difference to the plot, eg everyone in the story is female, or the best friend is gay and hey, nobody cares, should it be flagged up, or not?

I guess what bothered me was the sense it had also opened a door I wasn't so sure about, cos it sounds sorta like that's what's being hinted at here is also; hey, this book has some weirder stuff in it you might want to avoid?

I'm sure at least some of those backing the idea definitely don't have that in mind, they honestly feel it encourages more diverse writing. And it may well do that. And I too am all in favour of more varied fiction; hell, I probably write it, people often seem to think I've gone off the beaten track. But I've found, for instance, absolutely great SF tucked away under the LGBT label, or whichever acronym it is today, that I'm pretty sure isn't getting read and appreciated as much as it deserves compared to more 'mainstream' SF, simply because readers just don't go there, as if they're only entitled to if they're also part of the club. So it concerns me that the same thing could happen if we start labelling every book according to its colour orientation? I'm sure there are some sad little puppies out there who'd find it a great tool for not reading a book?

Pessimistic? I really hope so, but the blatantly forced mention of these aspects of character makes for uncomfortable reading, which does maybe impact one's inclination to read a book thus reviewed? And I doubt I'm the only reader who's started a book and thought some character or plot thread has been consciously tweaked purely to 'qualify' for some diversity label.

Maybe I should just look forward to a day when a diverse plot and cast list will be the true norm, not just the result of writers or publishers being politically correct, and the only need to reference such things will be because the story is about being more narrow, and because that seems unnatural. The best books have always accepted what's right for their storyline and stuck with it.

Write the story, not the required reading. That the mind thinks broader is more important than whether the book does?

Monday 3 April 2017

Ok so it's April - Sue Me

I know, I know, I said I was going to blog more. I thought about doing it, several times. My problem, I've decided, is that I don't feel like blogging IF I DON'T HAVE SOMETHING WORTH SAYING.

What brought that on?

The number of tweets, Facebook entries, and sundry 'news' items that drop into my own inbox. Most of them - though not all - are from people I know, like, am happy to hear from, but most of them are also, let's face it, idle chatter.

Someone went for a walk, someone's pet did this, someone has a headache... I'm sure you know what I mean, and have received them too. I'm happy for them, really, but it's hardly world changing? Truth to tell, it's not stuff I have time for either; time to read or to spend deleting.

And if the person concerned is a writer, as several are, I tend to think "ooh, news" and look for something writerish, book connected; their new book coming out perhaps, or a few thoughts on publishing etc. Then I hit the link and find out it's a new dress, or a comment on the weather...

Bah, humbug.

So here I am, having a rant. I don't suppose it'll change anything. The people out there who are convinced the world needs to know that they feel tired today will still feel that way. But hey, It's made me feel better.

Ah, is THAT why they do it too? Er, maybe I'll shut up now. And just accept that it wasn't necessarily about an audience at all. And that in order to find gold I'll have to sift through an awful lot of **** that needs deleting.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Thoughts from a Winter Break

For the first time in  years I didn't take my laptop away with me. Never, ever, again. I returned to over a thousand emails! Three hundred or so found their way into junk folders so I checked them first. I usually do it that way round cos then the ones that got misplaced are in the right folders when I get serious but hey, that many?

And then for the other seven hundred. Of course some of those were also rubbish but setting my spam filter higher just seems to syphon off more 'good' messages. A lot of the rest had to be filed in the right places so I could deal with them later, where deal is going to mean an awful lot of reading, critting, submission checking, but I'll get there eventually.

I say eventually cos going away hit one of my addictions; I'm a compulsive reader-for-the-fun-of-it. Make that a binge-reader? Once I start reading for time-out, as it were, I can't stop for quite a while, especially if I get hooked into a series - I have to read the lot. Which makes holidays rather dangerous as regards getting the more serious stuff done. I confess I also don't necessarily read 'worthy' fiction when it's for relaxation, although to be fair to self I stop reading pretty fast if something is actually badly written, usually in a few pages. But yes, I do read stuff  that isn't the best literature, or the most 'significant', 'meaningful', 'instructive' etc.

So what's the lure? Characters, every time. Every book I finish has characters I can't walk away from, whether they're mainstream or genre. Simple as that.

Plots, you say? Yes books need plot. Indeed I suspect publishers put that top of their lists. And I do look for a plot to be credible. But characters come first. I can tolerate a plot that isn't entirely credible before I can tolerate a character that does something 'out of character'.

Plus it's character that pulls me back to reread a book once I already know how it ends. Wanting to know how a story ends will only hook me once. It won't drag me back for a another visit.

To sum up:
bad writing - instant turnoff
consistent plot - credibility is necessary, but it doesn't always have to be perfect.
but the development of vivid, credible characters are, for me, the root of all good story telling.
Are you the same? One easy check is to identify which books you return to again and again?

You are free to argue, but honestly I don't see myself changing that opinion any time soon.

Tuesday 31 January 2017

A promise is a promise...

Ok, so on Saturday I left you a puzzle to solve, and I promised to give you the solution so you could feel smug cos you'd worked it out, yes?

So here it is:

The nasty husband was indeed the murderer, even though he got to the pub much earlier. That's cos he packed the kettle with - you got it - ice. That way the kettle took much longer to come to the boil, and the 'alibi' was in place.

If you were right, award yourself a prize, beer, chocolate, five minutes peace and quiet - whatever does it for you?

Saturday 28 January 2017

I'm back, with a little brain teaser to get the year started for you.

πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‡Christmas was good, got together with the family, the food, a joint effort, was good - and no one fell out.
After Christmas, not so good. I went down with a virus that put me out of action for two weeks and didn't feel very energetic for another, but now I'm back, almost caught up with things first on the list as it were, and my conscience keeps muttering "Blog!"

So I thought why not start the year with a puzzle, in fact a whodunit. The plot thickens...

Character A finds her sister, B, dead, struck down in her kitchen in the very act of making a cup of tea. The kettle still whistling. Unsurprisingly, A feared there was someone still in the house but whoever it was had obviously just gone.
The police were baffled but A suspected B's husband, who she disliked. It has to be said that the husband, C, had a history of bad temper and didn't display much grief at his wife's murder.
But the police ruled C out as a suspect. He had arrived at a local pub a full hour before the body was discovered and been there the entire time, and the kettle could not have boiled even half that long. So his alibi was cast iron.

So... can you solve the murder the police couldn't?

Note: this puzzle is also a review. 'The Hercule Poirot Whodunnit Puzzles' by Tim Dedopulos from Carlton Books, which I received for Christmas and contains a host of similar small 'crimes' to solve. A fun way to wake the brain up, and happily with solutions at the back! So if you liked solving this, there's more where it came from.

Oh, and I'll come back in a few days and give you the answer. As if you'll need it.