Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

It's been a very long time since I last read anything other than category romance, but I finally pulled this one from my TBR pile and I'm so glad I did.

This book was written by Swedish journalist, Stieg Larsson, the first in a trilogy that has taken the world by storm. Sadly, Stieg Larsson died young and never lived to see the phenomenon his books have become.

The story starts slowly. The various characters are introduced, the premises are set up and the reader settles into the pace as the book unwinds. The novel was very different from what I'm used to: emotion and passion are noticeably absent, and the writing style has a factual, journalistic quality to it. Nevertheless, the story is gripping, especially in the final third when the plot starts to take unexpected twists.

Mikael Blomkvist is a disgraced journalist hired by an elderly corporate legend to solve a mystery. Aided by a fascinating anti-heroine, the girl with the dragon tattoo, Blomkvist investigates the disappearance 40 years previously of teenager Harriet Vanger from an island sealed off from the rest of the world.

I'm happy to say that I solved the mystery early on, which is somewhat unusual for me. But that did not detract at all from the tension and thrill of the novel and its absorbing characters. There were twists I did not foresee, and a dark Val McDermid-style thread running through the story. These layers make this book an awesome read. I can't wait to get my hands on the next in the trilogy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ups and Downs

Thanks to a cold, I've been feeling down all week-end. Not the best frame of mind to pick up the May issue of Essentials magazine to discover that I didn't win their writing contest. In fact, I didn't even make runner-up.

Part of me is saying "Cheer up; at least you made the top 20 shortlist." That same part reasons that it's only a short story of 1,500 words and maybe short stories just aren't my thing.
A rather louder voice in my head is saying that maybe my writing is just crap and there are many others who write better than I do. I've consumed rather a lot of Haagen-Dasz Belgian chocolate ice cream in an attempt to silence that voice. Lucky for me, the ice cream is working.

On the plus side, my company has bought me a brand new laptop to work on. It's very nice but I can't get too comfortable yet as one of the bosses is now toying with taking this new one and letting me have hers. In the meantime, I've taken Jackie's advice and started re-reading my manuscript. And she was so right - I'm rediscovering my passion for it. Though the new story is burning to be told, I've written a rough synopsis for it and gone back to the WIP. So far I have 6 chapters I'm pretty happy with, three of which I've circulated to my crit group. I plan to keep on editing in the hopes that as I go along I'll see clearly how to tie up the ending.

Now more than ever, with this fresh rejection pushing me, I want to finish this manuscript and send it off to the RNA. I need a fresh and objective opinion to tell me if the voice in my head is right or wrong.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Falling in love again

I really should be concentrating on the current novel. The one that is so close and yet so far. And yet I can't stop thinking about a new heroine I really want to write. I'm falling in love with the idea of a 'rock chick' heroine - a tough, kick-ass modern woman who needs nothing or no-one - or so she thinks.

She doesn't quite fit any of the stories I've been toying with writing next, which means I might need to come up with a completely new story just for her. Is this just another excuse to procrastinate rather than write?
Probably, but it sure is fun!

Meanwhile, the WIP is suffering from the Seven Year Itch. Does anyone have any bright ideas on how to recapture the romance for a story that's nearing its end?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Marigold

Flicking through 101 TV channels with nothing on, I stumbled across this delightful Bollywood movie. If you can find it, I highly recommend it - especially if (like me) you love a bit of song and dance and some heart-warming romance.

Marigold is an obnoxious Hollywood actress who arrives in India to make a movie, only to discover that the film has been cancelled and she is stranded. She gets a job starring in a Bollywood movie and so begins a journey of discovery. The Indian hero has all the conflict and intensity of the true romantic hero, and I can really understand why Harlequin is doing a drive for stories set in India if this is the type of feel-good romance they produce.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A blessed Pesach and Easter

My brother & sister-in-law will be arriving in Johannesburg tomorrow and spending four lovely days with us. It's been a little more than a year since we last saw them (they live in Cambridge, in the UK) and heaven only knows when we'll see them again, as they're moving to Hong Kong in a few months (at the time of the RNA conference) so I plan to make the most of this week-end ... and for once that doesn't mean writing.

To everyone out there: have a wonderful long week-end break and a festive Pesach / Easter - and lots of chocolate!

Monday, April 6, 2009

A fresh start

Cranio-sacral therapy is amazing.

I have absolutely no idea how it works, except that it has something to do with the energy fields of the body - but it works! I met the therapist through my daughter's Moms & Tots group and started seeing her a couple of months ago because I was continually falling asleep with the kids at about 8pm and still waking tired the next morning. My energy problems have been sorted. (At least I no longer wake feeling like a zombie.) For a few weeks before the laptop crashed I was even waking earlier than usual to get some writing in before work.

Some sessions are just really relaxing. Others (like the one I had on Friday) are really intense. You learn things about yourself that you know, but never wanted to face. Your eyes are opened to things that are really obvious, but which you hadn't you noticed before. My Friday session ended with the therapist asking me "What are you afraid of?"

Then she went on to tell me that the reason I haven't been writing recently has nothing to do with technology failures and everything to do with me holding back out of fear. So what is it I'm afraid of? It's taken me a day or two to identify that I have a fear of not being good enough. Acknowledging that has set off all sorts of lightbulbs in my head. I don't intend to give in to it.

Today is a fresh start. From now on I plan to repeat this mantra every day: "I am good enough. I will be published. I can do it." Or in other words, "I think I can. I think I can."

On a completey separate note, Laptop 4 crashed and died on me last week. I am currently back on Laptop 3 which is only temporarily on loan to me. The good news is that my Executive Producer insisted the company buys a new laptop for my use. Hopefully within the week I can install all my back-ups, start a new email history and get my life back in order.