(Today I can at least promise none of my usual bad language!)
I’m late to the party again – I know! To be honest, I had avoided watching this show on Netflix as the accompanying promotional image looked, well, like another one of those slightly ‘kooky’, American woman things. It didn’t pique my interest enough.
Then I watched the first season. Then I watched the first season again with hubby in tow, and we completed the two seasons – watching two or three an evening.
A quick synopsis –
A young woman, Eleanor Shellstrop wakes up in the afterlife. She is informed by Michael, that this is The Good Place. It is a Heaven-like utopia, that he designed, in reward for her having lived a good life. Everyone here as done something amazing when they were alive. However, Eleanor realises that she was sent there by mistake and must find a way to keep her true, morally reprehensible past a secret. Enter Chidi – her carefully selected after-life soul mate, who was a moral philosophy professor when alive. Can Chidi help to improve Eleanor?
The Good Place is well-written entertainment, as well as being quite thought provoking – what better way to get people to consider the ethical and /or moral considerations of our actions, than through the use of humour?
The use of names is interesting –
Michael – means ‘who is God?’. Was also an archangel.
Chidi – means “God exists” in Igbo (West African)
Eleanor – meaning ‘light’, or ‘bright shining one’. (Latin)
Tahani – ‘congratulations’ or ‘best wishes’ in Arabic.
Jason – comes from the Greek for ‘healer’.
And although it is not necessary; I personally find the origins of names interesting, the selection of these names does add to the overall ‘plan’ of the writer and the show.
The humour arises from a number of contrivances:
Firstly, no-one can swear in The Good Place, so Eleanor’s profanities end up as, fork, shirt, dink, ash hole and motherforker.
Chidi is morally bound (by his own morals!) to assist Eleanor – regardless of how much she tries to take the easy route, and this causes him pain, “I’m getting a stomach ache. I’m in a perfect utopia, and I’m… I have a stomach ache. This is awful.“
Eleanor’s neighbour is a once wealthy, British socialite, who seems to be the only person with a dissimilar accent, “I also dabbled in some other professions. I was a model, a museum curator, an “It Girl,” and… oh, I was Baz Luhrmann’s muse for a while. That was quite fun.”
And then there is Janet. I have to say, Janet is my favourite character – she is a human shaped data base, “Not a girl.”. She works with Michael; the Architect, and is all-knowing, “Fun Fact: Columbus is in The Bad Place because of all the raping, slave-trade and genocide.”
But the real humour comes from the moral and ethical arguments put forward by the various characters and situations. We’re all pretty familiar with the ‘trolley/train problem‘, well imagine doing it for real! Who really does belong in ‘the good place’? Are our deeds counted and assessed by an all-knowing being? If you choose to ignore the ‘small voice’ (your conscience), are you going to the bad place? (Motherforker! That’s me done for!)
And then there’s Michael, he’s …
Nah, I’m going to let you watch it and decide for yourself whether you think The Good Place is good, or not?!
“A humble businessman with a buried past seeks justice when his daughter is killed in an act of terrorism. A cat-and-mouse conflict ensues with a government official, whose past may hold clues to the killers’ identities.”
Jackie Chan, star of Martial Arts movies such as Project A (1983), Police Story (1985) and Armour of God I and II, stars as Quan Ngoc Minh; a Chinese single parent, living in England with his only daughter. Pierce Brosnan, former James Bond, is Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Liam Hennessy, a former IRA member who is publicly open about his past but now in his later years, is keen to keep the peace accord in place. In the opening, Quan’s young teenage daughter is killed in a terrorist bomb attack – the quiet man sets out on a vendetta to find his daughter’s killers.
I have been watching Jackie Chan movies since the early 80s, and am very familiar with his fast-paced action style, his well-publicised injuries during filming, his comedic roles and Buster Keatonesque scenarios. So this was a bit of a mental adjustment. Chan is now 63 years old and although he cannot do the ridiculous acrobatics he performed in his earlier films, he can still move with astonishing speed – when he needs to. I was totally impressed with his physical stamina; and this film does have some pretty harsh fight scenes. He is mostly pitted against men who are twenty to thirty years his junior and is tripped, thrown and felled to a degree you wonder how his ageing body can take it.
However, what affected me most was his very moving performance as a deeply distraught father who simply wants the names of his child’s murderers. He drifts like a ghost, stands in his daughters bedroom and stares, he shuffles like an old man. When his offer to pay the police for the names of the bombers is refused, he decides to take matters into his own hands. And here; along with the First Minister, we discover Quan’s history. It is both tragic and fearsome – the Minister and his men are tested repeatedly by this quiet foreigner who wants, not only justice, but revenge.
The film is interesting for its pitting two older men against one another; neither are completely innocent; both have violent pasts. There is a resilience one could call stubbornness in both men. Both have their own moral codes that one could say have become rigid. There are thrilling fight scenes, but not so many – this is mature martial arts – when Chan is knocked flat on his back on a rooftop my ageing bones empathised. This is also the first time I have ever seen Chan cry.
It’s an oddity too. The bad guys are Irish, or more precisely, the IRA. The IRA ceasefire was called about 20 years ago, so to someone who grew up in England during The Troubles, with Irish parents, it seems dated. Plus, there are moments in the film in which some characters refer to Chan’s character as ‘the Chinaman’ – I couldn’t decide if it was racist, a hint that Brits and Irish are racist, a nod to the original novel title, or lazy updating of terms. Some of Hennessy’s henchmen can come across as a little too predictable, too generic and the theme could said to be dated – but – I did enjoy it; if enjoy is the right word to use for such a dark, troubled and sad film.
Published : 2007, Hodder & Stoughton.
YOU CAN TELL A LIAR BY HIS EYES.
Special Agent Kathryn Dance reads people the way other investigators read crime scenes.
But she’s never seen eyes like Daniel Pell’s. Back cover blurb.
I have been a fan of crime fiction; and non-fiction, since my late teens. My habit was to read a book and if I enjoyed it I would then acquire and devour everything published by this author. My only surprise, to myself, is that I have neglected my crime reading in recent years, returning to it this year with Jeffery Deaver’s The Empty Chair. Also, I realised I had never written a review of a crime novel. So here goes.
Even if you have never read one of Deaver’s books, you may be familiar with his work as many have been turned into films:
Dead Silence (1997) starring James Garner. The Bone Collector (1999) starring Denzil Washington and Angelina Jolie.
The Devils Teardrop (2010) starring Tom Everett Scott and Natasha Henstridge.
The Sleeping Doll introduces a new detective; Agent Kathryn Dance, a widow with two young children who works for the Californian Bureau of Investigation, “Like an FBI for the state.” Dance is a specialist in interrogation and reading body language, so we get, not only her analysis of a criminal but of some of those around her in her working and private life. In this way, Deaver uses this as a tool for the reader to have a window onto the minds of other characters without having to head hop and it works really well, as not only do we get this inkling into another characters possible feelings, but we spend over half the book in the mind of Kathryn Dance – and considering the line of work she does, it is not an unpleasant place to be. For the rest of it, we enter the thoughts of Daniel Pell…
The Sleeping Doll of the title refers to a little girl (who is a teenager when the story begins), who survived a murderous assault on her family because she was asleep amongst her toys; hidden. The perpetrator of the crime, Daniel Pell, is currently serving time in a Correctional Facility. Dance has come to interview Pell regarding a newly uncovered crime. Pell has never spoken about his involvement in the ‘sleeping doll’ murders, and neither has the surviving child.
Dance recognises a Svengali type personality in Pell, who’s chilling blue eyes are equally taking the measure of Agent Dance as she does his.
Dance is smart, capable and strong, she is going to need to be on peak form when Pell escapes, leaving a bloody trail in his wake.
Deaver is a great storyteller who engages his readers without any superfluous text. He gets straight down to business; much in the manner of Kathryn Dance, and keeps us hoping and guessing all the way through. He nearly always adds a twist in the end of his tales, and The Sleeping Doll is no exception. I’m a great one for trying to second guess who did what, to whom and many times I’m pretty close.
I like to think I’m fairly familiar with the work of Edgar Wright, I first watched his work in the TV series Spacedwhich he directed in 2001, and just fell for his quirky, cross-cutting style. The opening scene of Spacedis excellent; the two sets of dialogue between Tim and Daisy I think has yet to be beat.
This is essentially a romance story – boy meets girl, boy tries to get out of debt with criminals, boy does one last job…
Does he get the girl? Watch the film!
There is good balance of action, dialogue and drama; often directors today get so excited by new toys/technology, that they fill the screen with eye-watering action top to bottom, left to right, continuously; to the detriment of any plot there may have been. Wright tells us a story, which is how it should be, after all, movies are just another form of storytelling, and he tells it well, through the driving, through the lines;
Buddy: Is she a good girl? You love her?
Baby: Yes, I do.
Buddy: That’s too bad.
Wright has excellent timing, not only with his trademark cuts of visuals and hyper sound effects, but just when you begin to wonder if the whole film will consist of Baby dancing down the street for his coffee, he, Wright, cuts to a new rhythm, and that’s what the film has running through it – rhythm. It is excellently choreographed from start to finish; people walking, dancing, talking, counting money, placing items down on tables, cars whizzing past trucks, every last element is perfect.
Ansel Elgort (The Divergent series) is the titular Baby; he appears at turns vulnerable, cool and collected, and incredibly sweet; especially in his scenes with Debora, played by Lily James (Downton Abbey)
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) plays Doc, the brains and organiser behind each job. Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained) is Bats, and he is; he claims the monopoly on the one with ‘mental problems’. Jon Hamm and Eiza González are deliciously deadly as Buddy and Darling, a couple with ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ tattoos on their necks, they stand side-by-side like Mexican anti-heroes in a Robert Rodriguez movie.
Cranked up to the max; the car chases combined with the playlist that is always playing in Baby’s ear-buds, are as balletic as any performance of Swan Lake. I imagine Wright designed and planned the furiously fast and dizzying manoeuvres as ‘car-dance’ deliberately.
Baby’s playlist –
1. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion—“Bellbottoms”
2. Bob & Earl—“Harlem Shuffle”
3. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers—“Egyptian Reggae”
4. Googie Rene—“Smokey Joe’s La La”
5. The Beach Boys—“Let’s Go Away For Awhile”
6. Carla Thomas—“B-A-B-Y”
7. Kashmere Stage Band—“Kashmere”
8. Dave Brubeck—“Unsquare Dance”
9. The Damned—“Neat Neat Neat”
10. The Commodores—“Easy (Single Version)“
11. T. Rex—“Debora”
13. Incredible Bongo Band—“Bongolia”
14. The Detroit Emeralds—“Baby Let Me Take You (in My Arms)“
15. Alexis Korner—“Early In The Morning”
16. David McCallum—“The Edge”
17. Martha and the Vandellas—“Nowhere To Run”
18. The Button Down Brass—“Tequila”
19. Sam & Dave—“When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”
20. Brenda Holloway—“Every Little Bit Hurts”
22. Focus—“Hocus Pocus (Original Single Version)“
23. Golden Earring—“Radar Love (1973 Single Edit)“
24. Barry White—“Never, Never Gone Give Ya Up”
25. Young MC—“Know How”
26. Queen—“Brighton Rock”
27. Sky Ferreira—“Easy”
28. Simon & Garfunkel—“Baby Driver”
29. Kid Koala—“Was He Slow (Credit Roll Version)”
30. Danger Mouse (featuring Run The Jewels and Big Boi)—“Chase Me”
Baby even halts a job – mid getaway – until he’s found Golden Earring’s Radar Love, before flooring a ’86 purple Chevy Caprice. Baby remains cool at all times; given his age compared to his ‘colleagues’, it’s a pretty impressive performance he puts on for them; whilst his ‘crew’ shout and panic around him to get driving, Baby won’t be pushed till he finds the right tunes.
Is Baby scared? Hell yeah, he’s got his old foster dad, Joseph, back home (CJ Jones), from whom Baby has learnt sign-language and lip reading, and he wants to keep him safe. There is an incredibly touching moment near the end when Baby is taking Joseph to safety, I admit I nearly cried – Baby’s not a bad guy really, he just got in with the wrong crowd. And inevitably, his new love Debora becomes a target in the bid to squeeze more out of Baby, whether a job or simply pain.
I take my hat off to the stunt drivers; way too many to name, but what a fantastic job!!
NB: Don’t sit too close to the screen – like we did – it’ll make your head spin as fast as the cars – my eyes were seriously challenged.
Following ‘Deep Space Accountant’, this is the second book in the Sphere of Influence series.
Bob Slicker and his navigation officer, Florence McConnachie, are blamed for the open-ended jump that dropped their battle fleet into deepest, uncharted space. They attempt to make amends and are pushed together into an unlikely alliance. Can they find a way home to the Sphere of Influence? Nobody ever managed it before, so they couldn’t make things worse.
Or could they?
Back in October 2016, I did a review of Deep Space Accountant, Mjke Woods first in the trilogy – The Sphere of Influence.
I had been eagerly awaiting this second book in the Sphere of Influence trilogy, and Mjke Wood does not disappoint. Following on from Deep Space Accountant – we have left Elton Philpotts behind – literally – and travel with the erstwhile slimy accountant, Bob Slicker into deep space. When I realised that the story had moved on from Elton, I was momentarily piqued, I liked Elton Philpotts, I had become irrationally attached to him – even though he is an accountant. However, Wood has managed to transfer my loyalties as smoothly as an Eddie Stobart entering a SLOG; smoother.
And so to Bob Slicker; Bob is a spineless, sweaty appendage to the hideously megalomaniac Martin Levison, can he REALLY be our new hero?
Can Bob find home? Can Bob find a girl? Can Bob find a spine?! Whilst Bob is spineless, Martin Levison is heartless. Bob wants Eccles cake. Martin wants Cognac. Bob wants to go home. Martin wants the world!
Along for the ride with Bob Slicker, is Florence McConnachie, second navigation officer. Florence is quick-witted, independent, dexterous, and no navigator. Like Bob, she has a boss who ensures that the blame is passed onto and firmly held by their subordinates, unlike Bob, she is about to get married. She dislikes Bob Slicker due to his association with Levison, and refers to him as ‘The Slicker’; he is a sweat machine of great magnitude. And alas for Florence, she is going to have to work with the man.
Some of the characters are beautifully awful; Lieutenant Commander Kurasov is an excellent portrayal of an American style military officer; but with a private life back home that is worthy of its own story! Meera, the navigation officer, is a preening, self-promoting egotist who will undoubtedly get what she wants. And although these are characterisations that we recognise, Wood somehow manages to NOT make them feel clichéd.
A couple of characters are who you would want on your side in an emergency; Winker Watson especially fits the bill (I am presuming the name was taken from the schoolboy who played pranks on his teachers and classmates in the popular British comic, Dandy). Watson is a bow-tie wearing, coffee-making, cake-eating Payroll officer, who enjoys tinkering with spacecraft in his spare time. I suspect that Wood is quite attached to this Watson chap, as he is more fully depicted than any other secondary character.
Although the story takes part in the vastness of space; where many American movies have been set, and some American language features are use, this is a quintessentially British story; the tone of writing contains no ice or vinegar like so many American novels do, by this I mean sarcasm or nasty wit (not that I don’t like a bit of sarcasm and bite), the reactions to emergencies, behaviours, idiosyncrasies and flaws strike as ‘terribly English’, small things matter; as Bob discovers when the kestrels power system is drained!!! (Beer anyone?!) – I love that.
I haven’t seen one of these for a book before – or maybe I just lead a sheltered life – If you get British humour, you understand that the YouTube trailer has it’s lollipop licking tongue firmly in its cheek; all those big movie trailers, influenced by American film industry, that we have become used to are pastiched here in a short space of time – the dramatic music, the panoramic views of space, and the bold text.
Do read Deep Space Accountant first, it gives background to Slicker and Levison – which gives the ‘Lollipop’ story it’s tension.
And what is a lollipop of influence anyway? I hear you ask – well, you’ll just have to read it to find out!
The Lollipop of Influence has
Spaceships! Alien Planets! Bad Guys! Good Guys! Cake!
If you have not yet seen this film, you may want to give this whole article a miss.
“Wonder Woman” is yet another origin story, but so what? I’ve had to sit through decades of testosterone to get to this point.
I enjoyed that the movie took it’s time to introduce the warriors of Themyscira; a lush city-state and island nation (Somewhere hidden in the Aegean according to some sources). Where we learn that Diana is not unique in her abilities; we get a real sense of where she is from, that although she is semi-divine, Diana is very much an Amazonian, and those women ALL kick ass. For me, that was one of the wonderful things about the Wonder Woman movie, they were all wonder women.
I felt that the story contained a good balance of action and drama. There is nothing worse than sitting for an hour or two, being bombarded with scene after scene of fast-paced-look-we-got-multiple-cameras scenario and bellowing sound – this, I think, is the film-makers version of an extended guitar solo played by an unaware man-child. ‘Wanking off’, a muso friend of mine used to say. I think there are loads of directors who have become over excited by the CGI and ‘exciting’ bits.
Maybe it has something to do with the director of this Wonder Woman being female? Maybe she just enjoys a good story? Maybe she is just a little more grown-up in the emotional department? Whatever the reason, it works.
I have to admit, I was also rather apprehensive about going to see this film. I love the comic book/super hero genre (see my earlier post on Female Super Heroes) But I grew up with that garish 1970’s WW, and have seen very few women lead in an action film. (Yes, I know you’re going to name a couple. People always do, but balance it out against ALL the films you’ve ever seen – then go away)
I think directors and producers have become lazy when making this genre, after all they have a ready and willing audience who will go and view it whether its shite or not. Now, thousands of women, like me, of my age, must have been waiting for this film. Where ARE all the female comic/superheroes??? So again, a ready and willing – if cautious and cynical-by-now audience was waiting for this film. Thought’s that passed through my mind in the build-up and trailer overload included – ‘I bet it’ll be overly moralistic’. ‘If she’s showing her cleavage…’. ‘It’ll be something for the boys really’. And finally, ‘I bet it’s shit.’
I went with my 19 year old daughter – so a broad age range to cater to – I’m 52. We both enjoyed it (apart from the sound of crisp/sweetie/nacho crunching dolts that surrounded us) It was not shit. It was not ‘for the boys’ and I almost wept to see women, actual women not youngsters, playing seriously physical roles. The fight scene on the beach is truly astonishing and deeply sad. For no matter how fast you run, or strong you are – bullet beats bow every time.
Let’s just take a look at those women –
Ages and Nationality
Robin Wright, plays Antiope – or should I say General Antiope! She trains and leads what could be termed, the militia of the Amazonian. She is hard as nails, can fight with fists, sword, and bow (in fact, she doesn’t even need a bow!!!) And get this, best of all, Robin Wright is 51 years of age – I am just gonna have to say that again – FIFTY ONE people.
Gal Gadot, plays Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta. Diana wants to be a warrior from very early childhood. She does not know, and we the audience learn as she does, that she is not quite like every other Amazonian (in fact, at the end of the film, Diana still does not know the full extent of her origins and abilities) Diana works hard; she strives for perfection and to impress the General; her Aunt. Gal Gadot is 32 years of age, not a ‘slip of a girl’. And best of all, she is NOT American!! Gadot is Israeli and I thank director, Patty Jenkins for making this decision.
Connie Nielson, plays Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons and Diana’s mother. She is regal, cool with a restrained passion. She is engaging as a loving mother and ruler, and you can feel her anger and pain as her only child makes the decision to leave their island home to head off with a man, to save the world of men. Can you imagine the homecoming?! (I think I’m gonna cry) Two best of all’s; Connie Nielson is also 51 years old! And she also is NOT American, she is Danish.
And some of the others –
Elena Anaya, plays Doctor Poison. She is Spanish and aged 41 years.
Lucy Davis, plays Etta Candy. English and aged 44 years.
Lisa Loven Kongsli, plays Menalippe. Norwegian and is aged 37 years.
For me, a fantastic multi-cultural selection of women who are not girls.
That costume –
Some of you might remember that awful, hideous outfit that poor Linda Carter had to wear in the 1970s TV series of Wonder Woman.
But take a look at what Queen Hippolyta originally gave her daughter to wear in the earliest comics –
Gal Gadot’s costume seems to have had the current trend for ‘dark costumes’ applied to it. The semiotics are not lost on film buffs and media students – still the red, white and blue are evident for all to see.
I have to be honest; I have an issue with American and how it perceives itself as the ‘policeman of the world’. It feels as though it foists its ideals on the rest of us. Most of the superhero costumes bear the colours or imagery, or both, of the ‘good ‘ole US of A’. Except Batman (huh, never realised before, maybe THAT’S why he is my favourite) I balk at the way many costumes imply an association with a country and it’s values/governmental policies. Captain America being most guilty of this – however, he is called Captain America.
And yes, I know other countries use red, white and blue as their flag colours – but we all know, don’t we, that ‘they’ mean America.
Another thing. Superhero females, at least in comic art, are invariably ‘sexy’. They have the tightest fitting clothes in the history of clothes manufacturing. They have more curves than an Italian mountain road. Their breasts could act as twin dirigibles. Women have railed against this for so long, we’re hoarse. In Wonder Woman 2017, Gadot’s costume has had the colours toned down, and although we still see bare legs, arms and shoulder, it is not sexy (I guess some men would argue against that, but it isn’t out-and-out-here-it -is –for- the –male- viewers sexy)But that’s it. No cleavage in sight. Curves are mostly concealed. The Amazon ‘uniform’ is more reminiscent of the Spartans. Look at Hellenic period armour; the bare arms and legs, the leather ‘flaps’, the moulded breastplate. It is practical and believable, whilst remaining true to the original design.
The physicality of this new Wonder Woman made evident in this lasso scene.
There isn’t any. HALLELUJAH!
99.9999% of films have a romance. Dull, dull, dull. Men and women can and do have relationships without becoming sexually or romantically entangled. And yes, there is a suggestion of Diana and Steve being ‘interested’, but this is clearly more him fancying her. Diana is here to do a job, she is focused and love isn’t getting in the way. She may have grown up in a glorious paradise inhabited only by females, but she is not ignorant of how sex works, and even suggests that men have become irrelevant and unnecessary except for procreation. Steve’s mental squirming is soon forgotten when they get to the nub of who is doing what in the war. Thank goodness.
The Men –
I suppose I should say something; I wasn’t going to write anything about the male stars at all. There’s enough information about ‘the great white male’ (as Grayson Perry puts it) without me adding.
So a quick nod to Chris Pine, Danny Huston and David Thewlis – the ‘good guy’, the ‘bad guy’ and the ‘badder guy’ in that order. Pine was great, Huston good, but, as much as I love Thewlis, he simply seemed wrong for the role of Ares.
Was it a great film? No, it was good; possibly in the Top 3 of this genre of films. Again down to lazy directors relying on a ready and willing audience, most of whom have become so desperate that there discerning monitor seems to have broken.
The storyline was simple, but that works as it is almost an ‘intro’ to Wonder Woman and her world. However, I did guess who was who quite easily.
It’s beautifully shot with the holiday brochure scenes of Themyscira; where you can almost smell the aroma of blossoms on the warm breeze, contrasting with the misery of brown and grey of London and the battlefront.
But I do believe this film will be talked about for years to come. When Sigourney Weaver first appeared as Ripley in Alien, a generation of women cheered and said ‘At last!”
Now I believe we are doing it again.
It is 2017 people.
50% of the world population is female.
Wonder Woman is the first female-led superhero film since 2005, when Jennifer Garner played the lead role in Elektra.
First, let me slide this in here swiftly; new anthology, Tick Tock, is out now on Amazon. This is an eclectic mix of poetry and prose, sci-fi, fantasy, fiction and more, from Wirral Writers. I have three pieces included – The Scream of the Butterfly, Blackbird and Farewell. I hope you will enjoy it.
Now, it’s Monday, for some reason it is looked on with misery or a feeling of bleurgh! I fell into this trap during my mid to late twenties – but why?
It’s only another day to write something amazing!!!
What are you working on at the moment?
Are you struggling to get that character with the rather bland personality to be a hero?
Is there a flaw in your timeline?
How many fluffy aliens does it really take to run a spaceship?
All relevant questions; to someone! And you know what? You’re the ones who have the answers – it’s your world, your people, grab them both by the short and curlies and shake the living daylights out of them until they comply. Bend them to your will. Be the boss, go on!
Now go write!
*Postscript – I am letting you know, so I don’t deceive my readers, some of my links now connect to Amazon. If someone buys something via my link, I get some coin, not a lot, I’m not going to be able to buy a new washing machine, but I want you to be aware.
Now that may not mean much to some people – and I do not mean men, there are plenty of females who don’t give a second thought to the plight of women around the world – but it means something to me. No, I’m not going to go all mushy on you, well, maybe just a little…
As a parent of a daughter, I am all too familiar with the patterns of disregard and derision and low expectancy flung our way. And this is a day to do something about it.
I’m not good at ‘joining in’ with strangers to hold hands and carry a banner, so instead, I’m going to suggest some female authors you should read, because you know what? MALE WRITERS STILL DOMINATE THE BOOK WORLD!
This is my little effort at ‘Being Bold For Change‘; convincing you all to read something by a female writer. I’m jotting down some of my favourite female authors. Give them a go, you will, I am sure, find at least one that you enjoy. There are links to Amazon should you wish to purchase a copy.
Read these – No really, I’m not kidding…
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Why? Because Atwood is what I would call a ‘real’ writer, she has worked at her craft for many years and the published results reveal nothing about the authors gender – and I like that – Oryx and Crake is a mesmerising novel set in a post-apocalyptic world. It is so full of imagination and wonder, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Why? Forget all those Hammer films, this is one of the original Gothic novels and so contains the style and tone of that period – might be considered dull by some. It is tragically beautiful.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Why? Any of Christie’s books are an extremely easy read, and because of that if you like crime drama, you’ll become addicted and want more. A murder? On a speeding train? You know it’s got to be someone on board, but who?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Why? Because it is simply brilliant. A story told through the eyes of Scout, a child, whose father is the town’s lawyer; a good man, an honest man, this is the one man in literature that you could truly say – ‘That’s how fathers should behave’.
Briefing For A Descent Into Hell by Doris Lessing. Why? Because this might be the strangest, most life changing book you read. Lessing was classified as a science fiction writer, but she herself called it ‘inner space fiction’. A real master of the writers craft, Lessing tells a tale of how we treat those with mental health issues.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. Why? Between Dracula and Twilight, there was Anne Rice’s series of vampire books. If you read any Anne Rice, you wouldn’t need any other vampire books. Sensuous, dangerous, tragic; Interview with the Vampire takes us from the cotton fields of old Louisiana to the modern day, through the eyes of Louis. But the star of the show, is Lestat!
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter. Why? What a wonderful world of painted artistes and high-wire acts; a modern day fairy tale, is one way of describing the work of Carter. Enter the world of Magical realism, stories of the bizarre, wondrous and sometimes, magic, you cannot fail to be entertained and delighted.
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. Why? How does a child look at the world when the world she inhabits is tilted at a precarious angle? Parents whom we might today call abusive, at the very least, uncaring. When you don’t fit in – when you are not an orange – what do you do? A tale about a young girl coming to terms with her sexuality.
Thank you for reading, please do try at least one of these titles, not because they’re by women, but simply because THEY’RE REALLY GOOD BOOKS!
So, you have completed your novel. You clutch the manuscript (MS) to your bosom like a child, time to release it into the world, set it free..
…but hang on there! Hold your horses! What about that blurb on the back, you know, those 200 or so words that are going to help sell your new baby? Did you know that the book blurb, or back cover text, is what will hook the reader into buying your precious thing? Were you aware that novels can rise or fall on the strength of this blurb?
I self published two small books a long while ago. A children’s story about pirates and later, a collection of stories on the theme of witches and witchcraft – I know, continuity eh? So I completed them, fumbled about to write the back blurb and released them into the wild….result? Nothing, nada, zero, zilch. Oh, one or two copies, but nothing to write home about.
I have trawled through various sites that go into horrendous detail, or give little away about how you actually write this irksome, dread-inducing, frankly pain-in-the-arse text.Then I found, via other blogs, leading to Twitter and more sites, a woman who is prepared to give her experience to those of us who don’t have a clue.
I initially read her blog, then watched her short course on writing a simple book blurb. I then attended her webinar session, Mastering the Art of Writing Catchy Fiction Book Blurb. It was a weird experience, my laptop screen was the PowerPoint part of the lesson, I could hear Glenna talking and was able, via a selection of tabs, to ‘Chat’ or ‘Raise Hand’. The hour long event was revealing in its simplicity and exposing my ignorance; for example, did you know you should begin your blurb when you begin your story?! Really!
*Glenna Mageau writes under the nom de plume of Maggie Thom.
I made a horrible discovery – the book that I self-published a couple of years ago was set at the wrong price. I wanted it to be as affordable as possible as I was more interested in people reading it than making money.
I found that after the initial set-up at £3.65,Sticks & Stones was suddenly showing as £22! After a couple of e-mails to the people at Create Space and Amazon, it has been amended. So, if you’re interested, please pop along to Amazon to purchase this little gem at the correct price.
The lesson to be learnt here (for me) is don’t leave anything to chance – and do check how your ‘baby’ is doing once sent out into the world, don’t just abandon it!
Here’s an extract from one story, ‘There’s Rosemary, That’s For Remembrance‘
‘…I confess my fault, I admit I have no vocation for a convent life, and desire to be banished from the community. This request was not listened to for a moment. The breasts of the pious sisterhood are raised in a perfect fury of indignation, and a determination to inflict immediate punishment upon me. Sister Joan suggests that I should be burnt to death, Sister Sibylla that I should be walled up alive. Others cry out that I be flayed, that the flesh should be torn from my bones with red-hot pincers.’
And a couple of reviews:
“A compact collection of well-crafted short stories on the theme of witches and witchcraft. There are some graphic and quite uncomfortable stories in this collection, but the vivid use of language makes it a very entertaining read. For me the stand out stories include Passing On, a chilling and disturbing first person account of medieval a witch trial; the vivid and poetic Sticks and Stones; and probably my favourite, the heart warming tale, Rescuing Robert.” Mike
“Unusual for this genre. Beautiful, sometimes painful, stories about witches. Not your generic, pointy hatted, hook-nosed, wicked types. All types, from all backgrounds; from a nun accused of witchcraft to a student who has to make a choice.” Elaine
“Compelling short stories, an original and intelligent take on witchcraft.” Anon