Shoe Shopping – Part One

A story that has very little to do with shoes.

As soon as the car door slammed shut, her nostrils began to burn from the stench of the acid that had attached itself to her clothes. The acid was effective at removing the mess, but it really did stink. She repressed her immediate desire to leave the car for fresh air. Instead she calmly drove away winding the window down with her immaculate leather glove. There was no time to waste.  She drove with a quiet sense of purpose and continued with her day.

The car was quiet, she did not enjoy music. The sounds of the engine and the road were much more soothing to her than lyrics about, what, love? loss? regret? No, silence suited her much better. As she returned to the limits of her village she remembered the milk. As much as she didn’t feel like walking into a shop, she was supposed to buy the milk. If she didn’t, he would ask why, which would lead into a series of complicated lies about her day. Frankly, the activity of the morning had worn her out and buying the milk, as annoying as it was, would be more efficient.

When she stepped out of the privacy of her car and inhaled the fresh air, she realised that, once again, she’d grown acclimatised to the acidic gases. The acid worked so well for her that this was convenient, yet she was also sure it couldn’t be good for her health. The irony of this was lost on her. She strode into the shop and prepared herself by adopting a ‘friendly’ expression and quickly thinking of lines of idle chat. The shopkeeper lived around the corner and she saw him quite frequently, so she assumed that their mutual friendliness and the length and frequency of their relationship made them friends.

The bells tolled above the door, and the shopkeeper turned round with an expression on his face. Was it fear or surprise? She couldn’t tell. She always got those two confused.

“Rita, how are you my dear?” The shopkeeper said. “You’re the first customer I’ve seen today.” Definitely surprise, she thought.

“Slow day then?” She replied, smiling on queue. What was his name? Marvin? Martin? Michael? She couldn’t remember.

“Unfortunately so,” he said. “I resorted to reading all the newspapers this morning, even the local one!” He chortled and she gave a little laugh, but she couldn’t really get the hang of humour. She certainly wasn’t looking for conversation, it was far too much effort, but the man, (Malcolm?), kept yammering away.

She subtly moved to the back of the little shop to get the milk, and as she reached for it, she remembered. “Do you know a good stain remover?”

He pointed to the left at a tall yellow bottle. “That’s the best one we sell.”

“Great, I spilt red wine on my white shirt and I just don’t want to throw it away.” The lie flowed easily from her tongue.

“In this economy I can’t blame you, everything is an unnecessary expense.” He indicated the financial page of the latest newspaper he was reading. As she reached for her purse, he turned the page of the paper. It was an enlarged photo of a young woman captioned ‘missing’. He caught her gaze and shook his head. “Terrible isn’t it? The poor young thing, she hasn’t been seen for a week.”

“Awful,” she agreed, hoping that her tone was appropriate. They exchanged more small talk until she took her items, left the shop, and returned to her car. Although she’d only just seen the picture of that woman, she couldn’t remember her face. You would think such a detail would permanently remain inside her memory, but it never did. As she drove away she glanced down at the gear stick and caught sight of her shoes, black stiletto Manolo Blahnik’s, she needed no prompt to remember the shoes.

End of Part One.

The prompt for this story was to write about topic X without ever mentioning topic X.  How’d I do? Please tell me what you think!

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don’t Own Yet.

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is top ten books I really want to read but don’t own yet. I cheated a little bit making this list as four of them haven’t been released yet … but I do really want to read them. (Writers and publishers hurry up!)

1) The Girl you Left Behind – JoJo Moyes – Heard amazing reports and its so high up on my TBR list, I just have to buy it!

2)  The One Plus One – JoJo Moyes  – Love her writing. Me Before You had me crying for days, I want to read all her work but this one really calls to me!

3) Shopholic to the Stars – Sophie Kinsella – I have been waiting 4 years for this book! I’m madly in love with the shopaholic series and I think Kinsella is a great writer.

4) The Rosie Effect – Graeme Simsion –  I told everyone I have ever met to read the Rosie Project and I’m really excited about the sequel! Not long to go …

5) The Suicide Shop – Jean Teule – I came across this on a review online on wordpress and it just sounds so quirky I can’t wait to pick it up.

6) The Universe Versus Alex Woods – Gavin Extence – I’ve downloaded a sample on my kindle – halfway there already

7) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie – The queen of detective fiction breaks all the rules in this book. I’m very excited for the twist.

8) Us – David Nicholls – I love David Nicholls, so I was so excited when I heard he’s got a new release coming soon!

9) Something by John Green – Maybe not the Fault in our Stars because the hype’s so high, but I want to see what all the fuss is about with Green.

10) The Winds of Winter – George R. R. Martin – Come the F*** on George! I’ve jumped on your bandwagon, you’ve got me hooked, now just give me a bloody release date!

There’s my slightly cheated list! Let me know your TTT either in a link or in the comments!

Writer’s Blog Tour

I was very excited when the delightful Pema Donyo (@PemaDonyo) asked me to take part in this writer’s tour. She’s a very talented and published author – just have a look at her blog. It’s taken me so long to do this! So I can only apologise to the very talented Dorcas who I have nominated to continue the hop.

What am I working on?

I’ve written and am in the process of editing my first ever novel called The Great Graduate Debacle.

graduation-caps-thrown-in-air The Great Graduate Debacle is about five childhood friends who have just graduated from university. They’re getting to grips with being back at home, living with their parents again and working full time. Oh and they’ve stolen quite a bit of money that was hidden by a local drug dealer. What could possibly go wrong?

The plot’s tongue in cheek, you can’t take it seriously and you’re not supposed to. It’s a fun story with relevant characters and themes. But mainly funny, it’s supposed to be funny.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

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I’ve never actually come across a book that deals with this very specific stage in your life, which is why I decided to write about it.

Graduation is a funny time because you feel no more adult than you did when you started university. And yet, you’re suddenly pushed into the real world with the expectation of putting your degree to use. To top things off, if you live back at home, you’re an adult in the day time and still a teenager in the evenings. It can be stressful but it’s funny too, trying something new can often end in brilliant anecdotes.

My novel could fit into the new adult genre but the way it differs is in the characters. My characters aren’t romanticised heroes or villains, they’re just people, with good and bad in them. The normality of the characters and the absurdity of the situation is where I’ve tried to create humour.

Why do I write what I do?

This felt like such a good project to work on for my first novel because it’s what I know. I thought I could tackle this story from real experience that gives it a sense of authenticity I may have not had with more ambitious projects.

As I progress as a writer I hope to write across many other genres, but this was great for getting my feet wet. (And it was fun to write).

How does my writing process work?

I get ideas everywhere. Watching telly, in the bath, chatting with friends … literally anywhere. This particular idea came from a hungover morning with my friends after the funniest night out I’ve ever been on.

Once the idea’s set, it’s on to the characters. Most of the times their names jump into my head and then I decide on their personalities and actions. I take inspiration from people around me but at the end of the day my characters aren’t real (sadly). unnamed

In previous projects, I’ve tried to plan chapter by chapter with no success. So this time I just decided the main points of my story, my chapter titles and the rest sorted itself out. I was lucky in that it just flowed, hopefully it reads that way too!

I’m still editing at the moment and then it’s on to looking for a publishing agent. But watch this space, much like Kodaline I have high hopes.

Now let me introduce you to a very talented writer named Dorcas Amis, a very talented young writer! Over to you my friend! 

DorcasMy name is Dorcas Amis, but my friends call me “Dee”. I am from Chingola, I am 23 years old and I graduated 2 weeks ago from university…yay me.

I have always enjoyed reading. I also enjoy writing my thoughts down. Before I discovered blogging it used to just be me and my diary, experimenting with poetry and just writing short stories which were just for my family’s eyes only. 🙂

I finally decided to get really serious and put more effort in my writing (it was impossible at times, with school and all) and I came up with the YA Fantasy story that I am working on, it is still a work in progress though.

Random facts – I love dolphins. My favourite fruit is a pineapple and I HATE bananas

Twitter, Blog,  Goodreads

I am what I say … or am I?

If you’re an artist, a writer, designer, painter, director, actor … should you keep your thoughts to yourself for risk of discouraging potential fans? Or should you say what you think? In short, how much are artists representative of their art?

Let’s look at some examples.

1) Oscar Wilde – Author, essayist and playwright. Wilde firmly believed art contained no moral Unknowninstruction. “Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” He thought that whatever meaning the reader interpreted, came from the reader and not the work or the writer. Ironically, Wilde’s own novel was used against him in his trial as proof of his homosexuality. His work might have worked against him at the time but Wilde’s notoriety has helped his work stay canonical. In history, art and artist have been bound, despite that artists protestations.

 

2) Mel Gibson – Actor. A more recent example. In 2006, Gibson reportedly said anti-Semitic mel_gibson320remarks when he was arrested for drunk driving. It was a bad night all round for him on the PR front. No one is contesting that racism is wrong or that drunk driving is dangerous but should the actors actions off screen effect the way you view their films? (Good) Actors are chameleons, slipping their skin to throw themselves into a role, so little of themselves remain in the character. Is there a separation between liking the actor, admitting he’s good at his job, and disliking the man, in this case because he’s a racist? Or are the two too closely linked?

JK3) J.K. Rowling – Author. In more current news, Rowling gave a sizeable contribution to the Scotland ‘Stay Together’ campaign. Arguably, this is much less controversial than the other two examples but raises the same point. Rowling’s support for this political issue has nothing to do with her work. But there are people out there that would turn away from it because they hold the opposite political view, even though this political view would be cited nowhere in her work.

 

These are just three examples but there are tons more, some more controversial than others. Should we view art and artist separately or not? Historically they have been viewed as one and the same and you can see the reasons why. On the one hand, you’re paying these people and you may not want to see them better off for views or actions you disagree with. But there is a case to be made for viewing them separately, you may be paying these people but they’re not politicians (yet). You’re not paying them for their views, you’re paying them for their work, which can have nothing to do with them as a person.

It’s a fact that you can’t please everybody. Whether it’s your religion, politics or lifestyle choices, you are going to offend somebody … but you can avoid deliberately annoying them (or inciting hatred). Artists in the public eye tread a fine line, sometimes the less controversial you are the better you do, i.e Matt Damon, and sometimes controversy can boost you up, i.e. Oscar Wilde or Miley Cyrus. (I never thought I’d use those two in the same sentence).

I try to separate the artist and the art in my mind but sometimes it’s hard. What about you? Do you think they should be viewed separately? Have you heard something about an artist that made you boycott their work?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’m Not Sure I Want To Read

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.This week’s prompt: “Top Ten Books I’m Not Sure I Want To Read (books you may have bought but aren’t sure if you are into it anymore, books you wanted to read but heard mixed things about, hyped books you aren’t sure about — basically any book that has you going, ‘TO READ OR NOT TO READ?’”

On my phone, I keep a to-read list, books I’ve come across online, in shops or through other people’s recommendations. I don’t know if I’ll get round to them and I’m embarrassed to admit that (at the moment) it’s due to sheer tiredness (cough laziness) on my part. I’m a former lit student – I’m still enjoying light relief novels, I’ll go back to the important ones in time …

1)  The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini – I’ve been told over and over again that it’s amazing and I’kiteve written it down to read … but it looks very emotionally taxing.

2) Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson – Two Christmases ago my cousin bought me a beautiful hardback edition of this book, which looks lovely on my shelf … where it’s remained untouched for two years. It just looks quite long …

3) Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks – I’ve only ever heard good things. But I’ve also heard the words heartbreaking, sorrow, war … I might get round to it one day.

4) Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier – The plot sounds great, I’m just worried about when it was written. I’ve never gotten along with early C20 work that well.

5) A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole – This was recommended by a friend as a ‘must read’ … it’s been a year and I still haven’t picked it up.

anna karenina6) Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy – Again it’s the word tragic that’s causing me the problem – but I’ve never read a book about the Russian aristocracy either and that does sound interesting. Decisions, decisions …

7) The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger – I read an excerpt of this a few years ago – thought it was great, added it to my list and never looked at it again. I really do want to read it! It’s just a matter of getting round to it.

8) C – Tom McCarthy – Exactly the same as above – read an extract, thought it was great. The problem here was when I read the blurb of the novel and heard the plot I was less interested. It’s a conundrum.

51JXXb2vpDL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_9) The Fault in Our Stars – John Green- It looks great, it does. But I’m putting it off for two reasons. One I’m not sure I’m emotionally stable enough to read it (‘Me Before You’ left me hysterical – I try to read only one book about dying protagonists per decade), and two it’s been so hyped up I’m worried it’ll be an anticlimax.

10) The Comoran Strike Novels – Robert Galbraith – I love J.K. she’s my hero. But … when author’s write a series, I have a hard time reading their other works as separate entities. (Sophie Kinsella novels particularly). In this case though, hopefully the genres are different enough so that I won’t expect the detective to pull a wand out at any moment…. When you think about it, choosing a pseudonym was the right way to go. Shame her cover was blown.

There’s my lazy little list. Is there anything on their you would 100% recommend? I might get over my laziness enough to pick it up!

Why is a Raven like a Writing Desk?

Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter asked us this question in 1865 and no one is any closer to solving the mystery. (If you say you’ve got it, I simply don’t believe you).

I’m three chapters into editing the third draft of my book and I’m asking myself ‘why?’ quite a lot right now. Why did I put that scene there? Why did she say that? Why is that in his perspective? Why did I choose to do that? Why did I want to be a writer? And why, why, is a raven like a writing desk?

You see, I’ve given my book a bit of break recently. I took the plunge and handed over my manuscript (if I’m going to be bold enough to call it that) to a beta reader, aka my long-suffering friend Phoebe. I’ll hold my hands up admit I could have scarcely been more annoying. Where are you up to? What do you think so far? So will you read more tonight? I’m a bit surprised we’re still friends actually… But we are. She put up with me valiantly and provided some top notch feedback. (See picture below)

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Except going back over it now feels different. It was written just long enough ago that now it’s a bit like someone else’s work. Past Sophie’s. I’m struggling to remember why I made these choices and why I put so many blooming words in a sentence. For the most part, past Sophie did quite well but future Sophie will be wondering why present Sophie is farting around instead of editing.

It’s the dreaded delete key! I understand Phoebe’s comments, I do, and I’m adding scenes and explaining more but I’m so reluctant to press delete. It feels like a piece of my soul has gone into that work and it’s so difficult to cut it out, even if it is for the greater good. Do you ever feel like that?

On the whole, feedback has been both positive and helpful. Having a writing buddy is really useful because they can be honest with you. And my writing buddy is a tough critic. I’m gradually telling my friends and family that I’ve written a book and want to be a writer. It feels a funny thing to admit. I’m half proud (ok a lot proud) and a bit embarrassed. On the whole everyone has been very supportive and I’ve had a lot of reading offers which I’m taking everyone up on! I need as much feedback as I can get – a book is a collaborative venture.

The support here online has been overwhelmingly lovely. I’d say something more emotive but I’m too British, emotion is reserved for fiction.

So why have I done it? Why have I decided to write? Well because I can’t not. And no other why’s seem to matter … except why is a raven like a writing desk, Lewis? One would almost think it was nonsense …

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books I’d Give to Readers Who Want to Learn (a bit) about other Countries.

Each week, The Broke and the Bookish holds Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly booking meme. This week, we’re making book recommendation lists.

I’m from Britain and so my list is made up of books I loved because they gave me a small insight into the history, landscape and/or culture of another country.

Disclaimer – every ‘historical’ or ‘cultural’ event in the books is a good starting point for googling and not perfectly factual.

1001)  The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

A mad, Forest Gump style adventure of the 100 year old man (Allan) from Sweden, who has been instrumental in every major event of the 20th Century.  Such good fun and I learnt more about the Cold War.

102738262) The Medusa Amulet – Robert Masello

A fun quest through the ages to find the lost medusa amulet which holds the key to eternal life. This book may be a fun page turner but it made me really interested in the artist Cellini and the Medici’s in 16th Century Florence. It also made me want to visit Florence even more!

3) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer2728527

Even thinking about this book tugs at my heart. Written entirely in letters this book concerns the Nazi occupation of Guernsey in WWII, something I knew relatively little about. It’s a breath of fresh air, heart warming and uplifting – a story about ordinary heroes.

106924) The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova

A book that interweaves history and myth in the search for Dracula. I will say this for Kostova, she puts up a convincing case for vampires actually existing. In this book I learnt a little more about Vlad the Impaler, Romania and the Eastern Bloc post WWII.

5) Graceland – Chris AbaniUnknown

A story about a boy growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. Part hopeful and part harrowing. I couldn’t put it down. I’d never read anything set in that part of the world before and it was eye-opening.

the-god-of-small-things6) The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy

This book will stay with me forever. A look at Post Colonial India from the eyes of two-egg twins Rahel and Estha. An interesting look at the Caste system, language and the horrible effect of the British Empire.

7) The Shadow of the Wind –  Carlos Ruiz Zafón51pSErJc3oL

Set in post war Barcelona, the book tells the coming of age story of Daniel, as he searches in to the life of an author of a mysterious book. A story about brutality, corruption, love and books. It was an interesting look on the way the war affected the class system in Barcelona. The description of Barcelona itself is also beautiful! Another place to add to the list!

71h2sjik5al-_sl1380_8) The Book Thief – Marcus Zuask

A book about the effect the Nazis had within Germany on the ordinary German people. It was really interesting to read about WWII from a German perspective. Like the Guernsey Literary … this is a story about everyday heroes and the goodness of people.

9) Labyrinth – Kate Mosselabyrinth

A story set in 21st Century and 12th Century Carcassonne in France. It’s a Holy Grail quest that beautifully describes the Languedoc region of France and the bloody crusade of the church against the Cathars. I didn’t know who the Cathars were before reading this book years ago and researching it for this blog has refreshed my memory. I want to go to Carcassonne too!

Evlstr10) Evil Star – Anthony Horowitz

A supernatural young adults book, the second in the Power of Five Series, that takes the young chosen ones to Peru. A choice unlike the others and you learn little in the way of history or culture (although it is a rollicking read – Horowitz is amazing). I read this when I was 14 and ever since I have wanted to go to Peru!  I want to fly over the Nazca Desert and climb the Inca Trail and see Machu Picchu, and this was the first place I really heard about it.

There you have it, a slice of history and geography from the world in ten books. What books have you learnt something about another place or time from? Where have books made you want to visit?