In the six days since I began my new novel, I have written five chapters, that’s over 10’000 words. I don’t get so much sleep as fragments of the novel come unbidden in the middle of the night. Today I’m taking a day off to read what I have written and see if I’m on course. I’m not sure I will be able to resist continuing the story…
Read my review of William Horwood’s book, Harvest. Here is an extract:
(…) The flow of time of the Hydden, the little people that live unseen at the edge of the human world in William Horwood’s Hyddenworld series, might seem laborious to us, accustomed as we are to rushing from one event to another without taking the time to stop and look and listen. Maybe it is this failure to pause and savour life to the fullest that contributes most to our inability to see and appreciate the Hydden and their way of life (…) Read on.
Read my review of Rachel Hartman’s book Seraphina. It begins:
Reading Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina had me thinking about those ingredients of a story that appeal to me most, probably because her book pleased me so much. I really enjoy stories where people discover they have hidden talents or are finally able to reveal gifts that have long been kept secret, just like Seraphina, Hartman’s main character. And in so doing we share her joys and pleasures as well as her difficulties if not nightmares at having such gifts… (Read on)
Ginger Dawn has published a review of my book The Reaches. I was flattered that she chose to make The Reaches her 50th review. Check it out on her blog: Book Talk with Ginger Dawn. Here’s a short extract from the beginning:
The Reaches – The Storytellers Quest by Alan McCluskey is the first novel in a mesmerizing new fantasy young adult series that draws readers into a world of cataclysmic events in dream realm state. The reader is immediately captivated with Professor Rafter, head of the theosophy department at Avan University, and his top student Sally… (Read on)
For more about The Reaches see here.
M.T. Anderson was so successful at depicting a superficial, mindless society in the beginning of his book Feed that I almost gave up reading, unwilling to plunge into such a world. The impression was reinforced by the off-hand, futuristic lingo of young people and less young people that the author had crafted. In the audiobook version I listened to, the medium was cleverly used to render the fragments of feeds in the story with music and jingles, the whole works. Feeds? Think Internet and radio and TV all combined with tailor-made ads based on people’s thoughts and desires fed directly into their brains… (Read on)
It was not to the silent patter of giant snowflakes in a hushed world that I awoke this morning, but rather to the distant gurgle of rain trickling down the drain. Outside the air had been washed clean and had a delicious tang to it. What a joy to be alive! It’s Christmas. A day for sharing love and goodwill. But also a day when many, for whatever reason, feel bereft and un-befriended. For them, this is the darkest time of the year. A smile, a helping hand or a kind word could bring a little light in their darkness. We might be at the shortest days of the year, at least in the North, but longer days and light and warmth are on their way.
Read my review of Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy.
To say the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth is gripping would be an understatement. It is in the same genre as the Hunger Games, and as with that trilogy, it carries you off like a tornado, never letting your feet touch the ground, until it leaves you nerve-wracked and washed out somewhere beyond the last page. I’m still recovering! (…) Read on.
At a recent GWG poetry workshop, Steve Knight sought to coax us beyond our familiar use of words. As adults and seasoned writers, we tend to anticipate where our choices are leading and, if we are skilled, we end up with the planned surprises of craftsmanship. Unpredictable clashes and unexpected encounters, especially outside poetry, become rare. This rareness is reinforced by our practice of critiquing, where we tend to critique out words that are surprising or unusual.
One of the important lessons of this workshop for me was to get a better grasp of the way a writer leaves room for the reader. This is particularly the case in poetry, but is also so in good fiction. It is more difficult in storytelling because you don’t want to have the reader wander off down an untraced path, straying beyond the limits of the world of the story. When that happens, the reader pulls up short in incomprehension, and he or she is lost to the story.
The following text began during Steve’s workshop and continued afterwards. I enjoyed experimenting writing beyond the habitual contraints of storytelling, leaving avenues open, discovering the power of suggesting meaning. I didn’t set out to write a poem, I am really not a poet, but to explore telling a story differently than I usually do.
I survey the walls that once embraced the town
Atop these we kids as kings and queens did reign
Our shouts now echoes by the breeze borne home
“Please don’t go,” I hear her plead. “Please don’t”
Beyond the causeway, the London express runs late
While whistling impatient, the Swanage train snakes out
Carrying with it sea-salty memories of hands clasped tight
Between windswept crowns the Norman tower peers down
Timeless devotions of a conquest worn smooth on stone
Donning my bag, I wade through grasses to the stream below
Swirls of sadness clutch its curves, straining hard at my resolve
On I trudge till below the road the stream sinks out of sight
Then, with a perfumed flourish, I pull her letter out
And, leaning on the gate, unleash her words once more
I have been working my way steadily through the fourth book of The Storyteller’s Quest, The World o’Tales, revising as I go, and have now reached the middle of chapter 11 where I broke off to write Boy & Girl and then In Search of Lost Girls. The last time I wrote chapter 11 was January 25th 2012. Getting back to finishing off The World o’Tales is a very heady feeling. A bit like peering over a precipice! Nothing for it but to plunge over and trust I can swim…
The last of the lunchtime diners straggle out of Café de Grancy in Lausanne calling out goodbyes over their shoulders to the waitress, as the four of us gather round a table by the window. We exchange handshakes or hugs, hesitate over what drink to order and then bring each other up-to-date on our latest writing exploits. On the table, between the cups and the odd half-eaten cake, lie piles of manuscripts, single chapters from our latest YA novel. Shared over the Internet several days earlier, they are now annotated with our remarks and suggestions, awaiting discussion. Taking it in turns, we listen, jotting down the occasional note, as the others critique our work. This is our second meeting, so the stories are taking shape and characters are becoming more familiar as the plot unfolds. There’s both praise and criticism. Comments range from praise for a well-written scene or a particularly polished style to overarching concerns about characters or plot, with more detailed questions about word choices or sentence structure. One person proposes building suspense by changing the word order. Another questions inconsistencies in a character’s behaviour, while a third puts forward ways of enhancing dialogue by calling on the different senses. Two hours and four chapters later, we fix a date for our next meeting a month later and take our leave, promising to email our comments once we get home. Outside the boulevard with its sluggish traffic and its preoccupied pedestrians seems strangely unworldly as each of us mulls over the changes and improvements we plan to make to our chapter.