To cleat or not to cleat

30 06 2014

fallen rider in cleats

fallen rider in cleats

cleatsA diversion in my blogging to consider cycle cleats. I am a cyclist. For pleasure, exercise, to get away from the blank page staring at me. I like the freedom of the open road, the danger of the ever-menacing tosser-late-for-a-meeting and the feel of the blood pumping.

Then a hill appears, or a long gradual incline. It’s fine. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t wimp out immediately, switch to granny ring (low low gear) and dawdle along like a toddler learning to walk. I still go for it, push on and up. But I’ve been told there’s a better way.

I don’t have a racing bike. Well, I do, but the shifters are on the frame rather than the handlebars and it is a tad awkward so I use a mountain bike. I have knobbles for the mud and wheels with hybrids for the low rolling resistance on road. I don’t, however, have cleats.

I’ve always used flat pedals. Never bothered looking at other things. Upgraded everything else but pedals are just for sitting your feet on.

I’ve bought cleats. I’ve bought shoes with clicking soles but not for the stage. They’re in the post, winging their merry way to me. I’m eager and nervous. It’s like a first date. Will it be a massive disappointment or the start of something big?

Watch this space and I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.

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I’m so vain, I bet I think that shelf is about me!

26 06 2014

bookshelf
Is it vain? Is it a sin to be proud of your achievements? I go to friends’ houses and see proud displays of the children’s degree certificates, sporting trophies, awful daubs and I wonder if my shelf is viewed as self-promotion, self-obsession or just natural. Should a grown man be proud enough of his achievements to dedicate a shelf or two of a prominent bookcase to his own output?

I don’t think it’s so bad. I am proud and it’s not a sin. Nor is it a ‘vanity bookshelf’ as one journalist once cuttingly called it. I am what I am and what I am is just a writer. I don’t do sport (unless wobbling across Surrey hills trying not to fall over when I can’t loosen the cleats counts), I don’t paint, and education was a long time ago. I write and haven’t done at all badly at it.
I don’t have pictures glad-handing the PM or a B-list celeb on the wall. That puts me one up on some vain sods in my view!

PS Apologies (and credit) to Carly Simon for the title and to Jerry Herman for the steal half way through.





Not so floppy!

22 06 2014

not so floppy!

not so floppy!

I was on one of my clear-outs of the Drawer of Ideas yesterday evening and found some history. Ancient history to anyone under 20. Floppy discs. Not the big 7.5 inch ones but the little hard plastic rectangles with the metal slider protecting the circle of black floppiness. Old news.

Well actually not! Old stories yes but not old news. Old ideas – but when I rooted through them (having found a converter from Lotus Notes to a more usable word processor) I was surprised to see elements of a number of my current books sitting hidden in stories I wrote 10 or even 20 years ago. These were my backups from the birth of the computer age where a book had to be split into sections, chapters even, and saved across multiple discs. And then saved on multiple more, stored in a different room or sent to relatives for storage against the inevitable fire.

However, fire wasn’t the biggest risk. There was a more dangerous enemy to the floppy disc lurking in every house, hidden in plain view and ready to pounce and delete the data of the unwary. I speak of the evil magnet. Created by Gallileo from Satan’s foreskin and scattered across the world with two aims. First, to stop boats interrupting beach picnics by crashing into land unexpectedly. Second, and more importantly, to delete your data.

Carelessly leaving your floppies on a stereo speaker or too near a telephone and you would return to find nothing, nada, zip. Magnets were the bane of existence. But if you wanted to listen to Wham whilst tapping away at your BBCB or Amstrad then magnets were another necessity of life.

I’m not so floppy now. On line cloud storage in both Dropbox and Google Drive. Double bubble, double safe. And free (for now).





Using a photo of your hero/ine

18 06 2014
my hero?

my hero?

How do you picture your hero? Your leading lady? That person you are spending every spare waking hour thinking about and trying to get inside their heads – what do they look like?

Most first time writers find their characters too close to either themselves or to a friend, ex-colleague. Then they have to go through and add a false moustache, dodgy accent or side parting. However, is there an easier way for us to disassociate with your characters whilst also having a focus for the thoughts and feelings you are endowing them with.

I use photos and portraits. Some might argue it’s a bit of a cheat but I argue back. How is it so different to illustrating a character for a cover of a book? It is still from imagination since all I have is a face, hair, sometimes not even a body. But with a picture I have a base to build their dreams upon.

But whose to use? I have a red folder full of faces. Some cut from magazines, some from the internet, some blown up from backdrops in holiday shots. All filed away in order of hair colour initially, then within hair colour are grouped people with the same shape of face, down to nose categories. I built my folder with a hundred men and a hundred women some five years ago so even if any had backstories I had glanced at in the magazine of choice I have no recollection of the facts. They are just fodder now. Nameless faces I build my books upon. Ghosts.

How do I picture my heroines, my leading men, by bit characters and murderers. I look them up in the directory and give them their names. Then they build their biographies as their stories come to life.

Hopefully some of their fictional lives make up for hard times in the real world.





Rubix

13 06 2014

I was given a Rubix cube at a book launch the other night. Each side was coloured complemented by text, each side giving a teaser about a certain aspect of the plot or about one of the character’s back-stories. I loved it and it got me thinking about these 30-year old toys.

They are very like a writer’s mind at the start of a story. So many different aspects of a tale whirling around. A dervish of character and plot and scene. But then you get some clarity. A block of colour appears on one side. Your hero is formed. Some of the side colours adjacent to the block still need moving around to match other sides, but the hero’s heart, his voice has become clear.

Then another side, or perhaps the middle layer. You have a tale. You have it in your mind. Clear. Nearly focused but still some work to go and this is where it gets a bit trickier. All the side stories have to come together. The edges rotated. To give the whole. The plan, the future. Where you are aiming.

I took that cube home from Mayfair and played with it. I got a side quite quickly. The basic idea. Then I stalled.

So I cheated. It’s what I do in so many things.

For this cheat, Mr Google came to my rescue. I used his mind to creatively solve the rest of the puzzle and now it sits on my desk as a reminder. I didn’t finish it you see. Two corners still need to be rotated to give six sided symmetry. I know the pattern of moves to fix these flaws but I like them. They’re a reminder. They remind me that no matter how far along a story you are as a writer there is always something ready to jump out of a character or a scene to make you need to stop and reassess. Stop and think. Your job is never finished.

I have the cube, I see the teasers on each side. Can’t be bothered to read the recently launched book though!

20140613-110210-39730609.jpg





On the corner of Worship St

9 06 2014

I tweeted the other day (@hhcoventry) about the title of a story which came to me whilst walking through Shoreditch in London. It whirled around in my head with various ideas slotting into place. Some I discarded as derivative e.g. where we first met, where she died, where I was born. Some I discarded because they were just a bit shit.

I am a chick-lit writer. It’s in my soul. But there has to be more. My drawer of ideas fills up regularly and so perhaps it is time to consider other genres, other foci and then do a bit more than just consider them. Chick-lit isn’t dying but tastes change and readers are looking for something different.

Chick-lit will continue to be the bread and butter of my life but why not try a different flavour of jam. Suspense, thriller, psychological nightmare horror. All are in the mix but for Worship St I am thinking about a heist.

I do detectives in my chick-lit novels. Chick-lit-dicks as I have called them before. But now it is time to jump to the other side of the fence and stay within the law when solving a mystery. I see a police detective – a woman of course, it’s what I know – with a snitch who hears something about Worship Street in the wind. A half heard conversation. A hard nut vanishes for weeks only to be seen in Shoreditch. Why Worship St? Just a quiet backwater or a cut-through for a security van when the high st is closed for repairs?

I like the idea of fitting a story to a title. That’s why so many competitions do the same in the writing world.

Now I need to decide which one of my creative minds I will task to bring DI Sheila Cooper to life. Make her breathe. Make her strong. Make her love. Make her real!





Return of the chick-lit-dick

3 06 2014

Penny B is returning. Heroine of multiple tales, my favourite female detective is on her way back. Last edits complete, h/b cover nearly finalised, launch party arrangements underway (so I’ve been told anyway – why am I last to know details?).

Nerves?

Possibly. Why lose them? They keep you on your toes. Can’t go getting complacent. The world is a changing place. Genre popularity wanes, fashions move on.

Time for something new perhaps?

Watch this space…