....welcome to my blog on writing, reading and living in London ......

Friday, 26 October 2012

Xanthos and Kalkan, Turkey

I have not posted for a while because I have been on holiday. As usual, I have found that being in a new place has inspired me with ideas for a new novella. I visited Kalkan in Turkey which has its own feral cats which are protected by the government as are the dogs which wander over the town as if they own it.
The coastline here is sublime, crystal blue seas, rocky inlets and more history than you can easily take in in one visit. A particularly beautiful drive takes you along the shoreline from Kas to Kalkan, with Greek islands in the distance, and steep hills covered in pines. The Lycian area of Turkey was once a thriving area of trade and the port at Patara carried silks and spices far afield. Sadly, the ancient port has silted up and there is now marshland where the mouth of the river used to be. Patara still has a superb beach, protected as a turtle nesting site it is devoid of developments, with miles and miles of beautiful pristine sand. Going in late October there was a terrific swell in the sea and waves which made it difficult to swim but I understand most of the time it is calm. The most extraordinary place we visited was Xanthos. It reminded me of a visit I made to Pompeii many years ago before that site was fenced off. You can just wander into Xanthos any time, night or day and out of season you get a real sense of history.
The amphitheatre is almost totally intact with amazing acoustics. A relief on one of the pillars depicts winged female creatures carrying babies and it is assumed that these represent souls being carried off into heaven - I found that a lovely idea, the thought that we would at the end of our lives be akin to what we were at the beginning. Sadly the relief is a copy as we Brits pinched the original which is now in the British Museum.
Xanthos itself (the name means yellow and may refer to crocuses which were in flower when we visited and which provide very fine saffron) has had a troubled history. Regularly raided and sacked there are sad accounts of the men of Xanthos fighting but losing to a Persian invasion. In desperation, gathering together their women, and children they put every one to the torch rather than having them captured and then fought till the last man died. So much drama has inspired me and I shall definitely set a novel in the area and have blogged further about my trip over on thepocketeers.blogspot.com.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The effects of a marvellous review.....

I crawled out of bed this cold, wet, Autumn morning NOT a happy bunny. For today I have to do edits on a story I am finding incredibly difficult. I thought it was going fine, my editor thought not - so I have to make a major plot change and rewrite. That and a couple of rejections lately have made me feel it might not be worth carrying on writing. Then, there was a Google alert. It took me to this, completely unsolicited review of my book The Sanctuary, on the review site Paperbacks and Frosting by Juliette Brandt. "This was an absolutely wonderful story. Everything about it made me feel like I could go out and do something to improve my life. I really enjoy stories like this that make you feel inspired. I wanted to go out and start taking care of animals even though that’s really not something I would have ever seen myself doing before! I felt like I was in Kimberley’s shoes and I could feel how the stress of everything else in her life was weighing down on her. This story was short and I read it in one sitting, but it was definitely worth the read. If you’re looking for something that you can read to escape your own life for a while and something that will make you feel better and more inspired to go out and do the things you want to do, then pick this book up.........I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for something sweet and quick to read. I’d love to read more by this author." That, to an author, is like getting a shot of adrenalin straight to the heart. It is so nice to know that someone has read and enjoyed one of my books and taken the time to tell people. I cannot tell you how it has inspired me to get down and tackle those edits. Juliette's review which you can read in full here, came at just the right time to turn things around for me. I can now go off with a lighter heart knowing that with some hard work and hard editing it will all be worth while!!!! Thank you so much Juliette and all you hard working reviewers out there.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Character Studies for writers - The Great British Bakeoff

Okay, so I admit, I am addicted to the Great British Bake Off. For those of you who haven't succumbed yet, this is a TV programme where 12 home bakers are pitted against each other in a variety of tasks from baking an innovative upside down cake (I liked the one with passionfruit myself) to making the best rum baba. This week the bakers had to construct a gingerbread house but were instructed to come up with something sensational. The winner built a Roman colosseum of over 100 separate biscuit pieces glued together with caramel.
One of the things that makes this programme so compelling for a writer is the character studies.
We have Kathryn whose every emotion is etched on her face and who came up with priceless sayings such as 'doughnut doom' for one of her efforts. Sadly she went out this week with a lamentable gingerbread Buckingham Palace that looked as if it was about to implode. Then there is the gorgeous John, constructor of the Colosseum who in a previous show had been going great guns until he cut his finger and ended up dripping with blood. Wonderfully camp, every girl's best friend, he was saved by accident & emergency consultant Danny. Danny, the best person to have around in a crisis, is quietly competitive, with a fierce ability to concentrate. But with a face that lights up in a girlish grin when her bakes please the judges. A lot of people's money will be on Brendan to win - at 63, the oldest candidate. He has an old school style and a self-assured technical knowledge. What Brendan though sadly doesn't have is flair. To my mind most of his bakes look shop bought, such precision and designs can surely only have been done by a machine. Brendan is like someone who has been programmed, but he's never going to wow anyone with his inventiveness. That brings me to my tip for winner - medical student James. Only 21 he is relaxed, kind to his colleagues (often seen hugging and calming down the slightly hysterical Kathryn) and has flashes of genius. This was nowhere more demonstrated than this week when his poorly planned gingerbread barn looked as if it was going to be a total failure. Suddenly he turned disaster around by giving it a spun sugar cobwebby makeover. Hey presto it became a derelict ghostly structure which the judges said tasted superb. It could have graced any Halloween party with its sweet spookiness. Just as in most good fiction this turning of disaster into triumph is a lesson for all writers and another reason the programme is so compelling. My vote to win is for you James - a hero if ever there was one. If you watch it, who do you think is going to win? If you can't get enough of the programme, here is the link to watch clips from all the series