It’s hard to believe it, but another year has elapsed and the festive season is upon us. And you know I am not big on a commercial Christmas, in fact I have a twitch in my eye every time I see it spelled Xmas, and yes I know it’s politically correct to refer to it with the less denominationally specific “Holiday” but I am protective of my little nostalgic Christmas bubble. Hey, I don’t begrudge anyone their faith, how could I? After all I expect them to respect mine (a closely guarded secret BTW). I am however HUGELY sentimental at this time of year and look forward to the annual opportunity to pretend something is in my eye at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life.
But I am if I’m honest sappy and sentimental. It’s an age thing. I love the old Christmas specials you used to get on TV when I was a kid; shows recorded in high summer, featuring men in festive jumpers singing by a Christmas tree in a studio, surrounded by adoring dancers wearing skimpy Santa suit bikinis, all of them gradually being buried under a rain of expanded polystyrene bobbles. Ah a traditional TV studio Christmas!
And being off school for a few weeks, getting up in the morning and playing Lego and Action Man (UK version of GI Joe) or both, and watching the stream of Tom & Jerry cartoons and Laurel & Hardy shorts that passed for children’s TV back then. Dressing the plastic tree with last years decorations, untangling the old fashioned incandescent string of bulbs, one of which was always broken and prevented the string lighting up, prompting you to fiddle with a flimsy wire and bulbs plugged directly into a mains electricity socket. Ah health and safety freedom!
And going out to play in giant snow drifts, free from the modern buzzkilling paranoia that it was caused by global warming, and even when it snowed everything kept going, even if the the snow got to be 10 feet high, cars and trains still moved along through the trench dug by the snow plough. Ah the bulldog spirit!
And oh how we loved the end of year top 10s and 12 tips articles. How I miss those… in fact I wish I could do one of my own. (Cue the music)
On The GDW of Christmas
Old Phil South Gave To Me…
12 Be Authentic
Let your stories be authentically YOU. Tell YOUR story, not an autobiography necessarily, but let your story be about what YOU are about.
11 Be In Flow
Let yourself be in a state of relaxed awareness, let the ideas out. Go from idea to idea smoothly and without effort.
10 Catching Ideas
Ideas are like skittish little silver fish. Don’t spook them, say softly “Hi little guy” before quickly snatching them from the water.
9 Have Desire
You won’t catch any fish if you don’t want to enough. You have to fish, you have to dip your lure in the water to catch something. Fish don’t jump out of the stream and flap to your door.
I recommend all writers, dammit, all artists of any kind of art, meditate on a daily basis. It cleans the mind and relaxes you enough to go fishing for ideas.
7 Please don’t force it!
Let your thoughts out onto paper, never try to force them out. It really doesn’t work that way. Practise letting them out and you’ll get good at it.
6 Use your senses
Hone your senses, stimulate them daily, it gives you more sensual details for your writing and activates your creative brain.
5 Things to SAY!
If you have nothing to say don’t say anything, that’s what my father used to say. Don’t start writing till you have something to say. You might want to have more than one thing to say, too.
4 Don’t seek Fortune
You might get it by selling your book but don’t go into the writing process wanting it because it will spoil your aim.
3 Don’t seek Fame
You might get it by selling your book but don’t go into the writing process wanting it because it will spoil your aim. Is there an echo in here?
2 Just Enjoy
Just go out there and play your natural game. Enjoy the process of writing, enjoy describing your fictional world. Have fun while you write it or nobody will have fun reading it.
1 And be sure to finish FIRST DRAFT!!!
If you are distracted into doing anything which is not getting your first draft finished (once you have your story planned out of course), stop it NOW and get back to work. Finishing a first draft quickly and without fear is the primary characteristic of a soon to be successful writer.
Merry Christmas from GDW and a Happy New Year!
Okay how to put this delicately… it’s not that I’m sexist because despite my age I’m really not, ask anyone. But you know, this kind of sprawling, globe trotting, religious themed, action adventure thriller is historically the province of men; retired marines, mercenaries or CIA analysts. Or Dan Brown. It’s what you expect. And Joanna is, self evidently to my well trained eye, a woman. So then my not entirely foolish expectation when perusing her first novel was of something a little more, you know, delicate in character. I’ve watched the videos on her blog and my expectation was preset by my experience of her happy video interviews with authors around the world.
But wow, beneath her pleasant and chirpy demeanour lurks the black heart of a terrorist interrogator, a fearless adventurer. She kills a nun in cold blood in the opening, burns her alive, and that’s just for starters. It’s a surprising and thrilling read and contains more than its predicted ration of shocks. I won’t tell you anything more about the story (I’ve already said too much) I’ll just let you be surprised and consumed by it as I was. I will say if you enjoy Mr Brown and his ilk and are tiring of their formula, Joanna’s entry into the genre is a breath of fresh air. Well, slightly stale air from a cobwebby, underground hiding place of some dark religious secret. But, you know, air. And her female protagonist is strong, clever and resourceful, but not in a cheesy Tomb Raider way. More like Indiana Jones than Lara Croft. And deep joy I hear she’s working on another book in the series!
I found it really enjoyable, and while it’s of course very cheap on Kindle or other ebook readers, having read it on Kindle for iPad I fully intend to buy it as a paperback book in the new year for the moment I inevitably re-read it. Yeah I still read actual books, and re-read things I’ve already read. What of it? Sue me.