Scum of the Earth

Scum of the Earth is written by Pamela Freeman. This is actually the second book in a series of three. However, if you’re a goose like me and tend not to realise these things until after you’ve finished reading the book, it doesn’t matter.

I read Trick of the Light first, which turns out to be the last book in the series. So I’ve started at the back and am working my way forward. Typical. But, as I said, it doesn’t matter because the books are stand alone.

Scum of the Earth isn’t as good as Trick of the Light. It’s slower and it took longer to get to the “juice”. There was a lot of setting up required for the plot. Technical jargon (which was simply, and quickly, explained) slowed the pace, but was necessary to make the book work. And the message behind the story didn’t stand out as much as it did in Trick of the Light. In fact, I can’t tell you what the message behind Scum of the Earth is.

All in all, it was a good story, but not my favourite by this author. I might add, at this stage, that I’ve only read two of her books.

Trick of the Light

I finished reading “Trick of the Light” by Pamela Freeman last night. Shocked? So am I. Taking two sittings, a total of about 2 hours, this must be the fastest book I’ve read in ages. Admittedly, it is a thin book (120 pages), with quite large print, but the story was well thought out and executed. 🙂

I found it easy to read and I enjoyed the story. The author stuck to the facts, foregoing the need for flowery, “by the way” information, which I actually appreciated. The author allowed the reader to fill in the blanks, so the setting was what I wanted to see, not what Pamela Freeman tried to make me see. I like that in a book.

There is a good moral behind the story too – let go of racist thoughts and feelings of the past and move on.

I’ve got “Scum of the Earth” written by Pamela Freeman too, so I’m going to read that next.

A Wizard of Earthsea

I’m embarrassed to say this, because I’ve read many good reviews on this book, but last night I abandoned A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin. I think my expectations were high, but in all honesty, I’ve never read anything by this author before and I found her writing style to be “stuffy”.

The way she phrases her sentences, and her choice of words, were distracting. The book had potential, but I couldn’t be bothered waiting for the excitement to happen. I didn’t care about the main character and when I realised I didn’t care for the plot either, I tossed the book aside.

Life’s too short to waste time reading books that don’t catch hold of you from the first page, or by the end of the first chapter at the very least. I suffered 60 pages and that was enough. I’m through with forcing myself to read books I’m not enjoying.

Right, what will I try next? I have a Pamela Freeman mystery that looks interesting. I can’t remember the name right now (“The Twist in the Light” or something similar). I’ll correct this oversight later when I replace the image in the sidebar.

Edit: The title of the book by Pamela Freeman is “A Trick of the Light”. I couldn’t find an image for the sidebar, and I’m too lazy to rig up the scanner. I’ve started reading the book and it pulled me in from the start. This is the first non-fantasy book I’ve read in a very long time. Perhaps I needed a change. 🙂

Cat’s Eyes: Edit Complete

The edit of Cat’s Eyes is complete.

At 9.45pm last night, I reached the end of the manuscript and saved the file for the final time. I then sat looking at the screen in disbelief. After months of writing, rewriting, suffering a non-writing period, then editing; the manuscript is complete. It feels good, but…

Because I did a quarter of the edit after my son passed away, I don’t trust myself. I have to read the entire manuscript through one more time and make sure that everything is just right.

I hope this read through doesn’t end up another major edit. I hope I don’t find anything amiss. I want to send this manuscript off for a professional edit. I believe this manuscript will be “the one” and a professional edit will “seal the deal”.

I’ve decided to make a public goal (I always do better when I do this). I want the reread, and touchup, to be completed by the end of the day on 8 October 2006. That’s two weeks. I can do this, but wish me luck anyway. 😀

Becoming TOO Absorbed

On Friday night, I had an extra late night and then found that I couldn’t sleep. For various reasons (which you’ll find out about later in this post) I tossed and turned for hours. I considered getting up and making a cup of tea at 4.30am and possibily starting the day, but I didn’t, and that’s when I finally fell asleep.

But I was awake again at 6.30am. I knew there would be no more sleep, so I left my bed. My head felt groggy (almost hungover), my eyes ached and I had the slight beginnings of a headache. So imagine my surprise when I ended up having a very productive day!

That’s right. I got so much done in the next 15 hours that it left me grinning from ear to ear. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been researching my family tree for some years now and on the Friday night I found a family member I never knew I had. We exchanged about 38 emails in a few short hours, we exchanged family tree files (this means that I had about 87 new people to add to my own files), photos and news. It was great! Anyway, I spent several hours updating my family tree programme on the Saturday morning.

Then, in the afternoon, I decided that it was time to give myself a break so I turned to the edit of my Cat’s Eyes manuscript. Hours passed. Before I knew it, it was 9.30pm and I only had three pages (the final, short chapter) left to edit. I took a break. It was at this time that I discovered that my partner was feeling rather neglected and lonely. He has always been supportive of my “activities” and generally enjoys his own time to do his activities, however, yesterday he felt abandoned. Oops!

This is the danger when becoming too absorbed in what we are doing. We write, we escape, but our family doesn’t see it that way. Needless to say, those last three pages didn’t get done. *sigh* I had to do some crawling and spend some quality time with G. Don’t read this the wrong way, G is the most supportive person I have in my life. He encourages me to write. He encourages me … in everthing. But that doesn’t mean that I have the right to forget about him and leave him on his own all day. And even after doing this, he said, “It’s alright, but I’m glad you don’t do that every weekend.”

*Mental note to self* Remember to go and harrass G on a regular basis, in the future, so that he’ll be glad to see the back of me when I escape into the computer. 😉

Being Invisible

Excerpt from The Business of Writing for Children: An Award-Winning Author’s Tips on Writing Children’s Books and Publishing Them, or How to Write, Publish, and Promote a Book for Kids by Aaron Shepard.

All at once, in the middle of the story, I “woke up” with a shock. For just a few seconds, I had completely forgotten I was sitting in a hot tent with a thousand other people – forgotten even that I was listening to Connie Regan-Blake. She had drawn me into the story so completely that I was aware of nothing but that story’s unfolding within my own mind.

That moment taught me that the height of storytelling – oral or written – is when the teller becomes invisible.

Part of becoming invisible is to engage the reader’s imagination with concrete images, as discussed earlier. If the imagination is busy enough, it will wrap the reader up in the story and draw attention away from the writer.

Have you read a book where this has happened to you? I have and I found that I felt that I was part of the story. In fact, I was part of the story. I tend to imagine myself as one of the characters and I ‘live’ the plot.

The difference it makes to the story is enormous. The pages turn automatically, the setting and characters move before your eyes. And before you know it the story has come to an end and you are left with a feeling of wonder…and disappointment because it’s over.

On the other hand, I’ve read plenty of stories where I find myself flicking forward to see when the chapter ends. Or I might continually look down at the page number to see how I’m progressing. Naturally, doing these things means I’m not right into the story. I’m distracted by the words, the author (maybe), everything around me, because something about the flow or plot doesn’t grab my total attention.

As a writer, being invisible must be a talent because I think it must be hard to do. I can’t say that I’ve tried to achieve this when I write, but I certainly would take it as a compliment if someone told me this happened to them whilst reading one of my stories.

Writing is like painting a picture. An artist uses colour to place an image before our eyes, whereas, a writer uses words. To become invisible, we have to pick the right words, a good balance with description and setting, rounded characters and realistic dialogue and action. It’s not easy, but can you make yourself invisible when you write?

Where to Start

As a reader, no matter what I’m reading – a children’s book or a book for adults – I always enjoy the books that start right in the middle of the action. It’s exciting! It makes me keep reading to find out who the characters are and what is happening to them. Yet as a writer, I sometimes feel the need to “set up” the character and setting first.

Excerpt from Writing a Children’s Book: How to Write for Children And Get Published by Pamela Cleaver.

Begin at the moment of change or crisis in the key character’s life. Don’t start with an explanation with his circumstances, or a description of where he lives. If you feel you need scene setting or character establishment to get you going, write it for yourself and go on until you reach an action point. This is where your story should start:

  • Start where the trouble begins.
  • Start on the day that is different.
  • Start where the main character comes up against something he can’t stand.

Don’t discard the previous material but feed it into the narrative as snippets as the story unfolds.

This is simple advice. Yet I feel that it’s the perfect way to find the best starting point for your story. I now know that I have to rethink the beginning of Cat’s Eyes.

I found this advice by using Google Book Search.