25 September 2013

How Long to Read a Book?

I wrote a blog post some while ago outlining the length of time it took me to write a book. At the weekend I read this post on whether books should tell us how long it will take to read them.

Even before reading the article my first thought was how would we determine how long it would take someone to read a book? We all read at different speeds, and the speed I read at also varies depending on a number of things including: 

  • Whether the book is fiction or non-fiction
  • If non-fiction, am I learning how to do something new
  • Style of writing
  • How interested I am in the story (fiction)
  • Beauty of prose

Being able to speed read depends on how well the book, report or article has been written and laid out.

If it’s well laid out non-fiction I should be able to skim through the table of contents and/or section headings to find the specific parts that I need without actually having to read the entire book. The same should apply to a report or article.

What about the style of writing? Is it very dense academic writing or a pop-science read that is enjoyable as well as informative? This will make a vast difference on the length of time it takes me to read. It will also affect the length of time I’m able to stay awake while reading!

If reading a thriller or mystery novel, I would expect to be taken on a wild ride that doesn’t include a lot of heavy prose, but if I’m reading a more literary type novel I often like to re-read paragraphs just to enjoy the sound and flow of the prose. I may read parts of a short story several times as there are often layers of meaning that take time to see.

Non-fiction reading is often done for a reason and therefore I may have a time limit. I might be reading to understand information that I need to turn into training material. If I’m reading fiction then I’m reading for pleasure, and to me turning that into a timed exercise negates the enjoyment. I don't care how long it takes me to read the book as long as I’ve enjoyed the journey.

What do you think?

20 September 2013

Photos, Scenes and Memories

There’s nothing quite like pulling out a shoebox of photos or flicking through the family albums to bring back all sorts of memories. Reading through my writing is also a springboard for memories. 

None of the characters in my novels are me, but some of the things they see or places they visit obviously comes from my experiences. It isn’t always the major turning point scenes either that elicit memories. Here are a few from Lies of the Dead.

There’s a short lunchtime scene I wrote from exactly the position Andi sat to eat her lunch. 

By the time she’d chosen a sandwich and paid for it the bench was empty and the man had disappeared.

She walked to the open area at the other end of the office blocks. The seats surrounding the small amphitheatre-like circle were all taken as people made the most of the sunshine, but the steps were deep enough to sit on comfortably for a short while.

She looked around as she ate, but no one resembled the man who had followed her. 

Tom and Andi’s cliff walks from the fictional village of Poldrayth all remind me of trips to Cornwall, walking along the cliffs and wandering around the ruins of the pumphouse. The last time I visited, the dark and light purple heather was a stunning contrast to the yellow gorse and I enjoyed amazing views of the jade green sea frothing around the rocks at the foot of steep cliffs. I had to make a few changes when I realised that for the time of year in the book, the gorse would be in flower but not the heather. Reality rears its head!

Anyone who has visited Bristol, or knows the city, will be familiar with the Clifton Suspension Bridge and therefore The Downs (the rock slide is also mentioned in the link). 

She ran around the paths avoiding the families with prams and people ambling along, and as some sort of punishment she made herself run up the hill to the observatory. She stopped and looked at the shiny rocks on the steep side of the hill. They hadn’t been here for years, but she remembered Sophie and Kristen’s happy shouts as they slid down the rocks. 

Lives Interrupted is set in London, and Dru and Kate’s walk along the embankment looking at the Sphinx and other memorials reminds me of my visits to London. I’ve always loved the theatre, and when living in England I sometimes treated myself to a visit to one of the London shows and always combined it with some tourist activities. Kate wasn't a theatre-lover so I had to forgo those visits for the book!

I’ve mentioned some of the inspirations for Driftwood in a previous post.

These memories were prompted while I was looking for a passage to read at an event last week. It also prompted memories of the initial writing and then editing, but that’s another story altogether!

17 September 2013

Spring Bliss

At the moment I’m feeling in harmony with nature. It’s early spring and just about light as I get up, which has allowed me to see a number of beautiful sunrises as I do my run.

Spring is my favourite season, bringing with it a sense of renewal and possibility. On a more down to earth level it’s warmer than winter and not as humid as summer can be. Even after a number of years in New Zealand, it still feels strange that Spring arrives late in the year rather than being something I looked forward to as soon as the Christmas decorations were packed away. But whatever the month of the year, I enjoy this feeling of newness.

We’re on the east coast and so I see more stunning sunrises than sunsets, and that too gives a feeling of limitless possibility at the start of a new day. I gaze spellbound at the vibrant reds and yellows appearing from the sea and feel a sense of awe at being able to experience this.

What I try to realise, especially on the not-so-good days, is that this is external to me. Spring bliss is there for me to experience whenever I want to.

A sunrise, spring flowers, a clear blue sky or whatever makes you feel good - these things only reveal what is already inside us. The secret is to find that place when the external world is not showing us the glorious sunrise, dainty snowdrops or sweet-smelling freesias.

Happy searching.

11 September 2013

Double Celebration

We had a great night at Takapuna Library last night with around 80 people attending the launch of Lies of the Dead and Sunstrike. Thank you to everyone who was there, I hope you enjoyed the evening.

A huge thanks to the library for hosting the launch and to the Friends of the Library for preparing the food and drink (and tidying up afterwards).

Helen Woodhouse graciously introduced Bev Robitai and myself for our fifteen minutes of fame, and I hope we didn't bore the audience too much.

I'm always interested in the background to novels I read, and so I talked about the inspiration for Lies of the Dead, the characters and the Cornish setting.

Bev did a brilliant job of painting a picture of her world after solar flares have knocked out all our electrical equipment, and talking of the things we would need to do to survive.

I've just realised that in addition to celebrating a great launch last night this blog is three years old today. Happy Birthday blog.

It's been an exciting journey - and still continuing!

I started the blog just before Driftwood was published and three years later I've just published my third novel. You could be mistaken for thinking that's three books in three years, but the reality is a little different. Both Lies of the Dead and Lives Interrupted existed in various forms at that time, but I'm proud and pleased that both are now out there

I did say at the launch last night that I'd like to actually write a book from start to finish within a year, so I'm making that my goal for the next one.

Watch this space.....

09 September 2013

Lies of the Dead Launch

After three novels, some short stories and non-fiction I've finally been talked into having a launch celebration for Lies of the Dead.

I say talked into it in the widest sense, as the launch celebration eventuated after a meeting with my friend and fellow-writer Bev Robitai when we were discussing publishing, deadlines and other assorted writing topics.

Bev's new book is Sunstrike. We will be talking about our new publications, writing and the story behind the story.

If you're in the Takapuna area tomorrow evening (Tuesday 10th September at 6pm) come and help us celebrate at Takapuna Library. Feel free to bring a friend, partner or passer-by (who looks as though they're interested in books). We'd love to see you there.

03 September 2013

Dreams and Aspirations

Recently one of the little people wrote a story. The teacher was impressed and the little person was asked to read her story to other classes in the school. She's an avid reader who adores books and so was excited and pleased that other people enjoyed her story. Her dreams are now of being a writer.

Being excited about this lightbulb moment she told some friends she was going to be a writer. One of them commented that no-one would buy a book by a child.

I'm sure we all have friends like that - although whether they stay friends is another blog post altogether. It doesn't matter whether our dream is to write a book, climb Everest or find a cure for cancer, there is often someone who will ridicule the idea and tell us why we're wasting our time. I'm not talking about the person who points out realistic challenges but who still supports us, I mean the ones who don't have the vision and ideas, and only want to keep everyone else in their bland we're all the same and will never do anything special worldview.

We may never make the bestseller list, reach the peak of Everest or find that cure for cancer, but the journey to wherever our dream takes us is what is important.