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The fear of the blank page

Or, things I am trying to do to improve both my writing and blogging.

Start a book blog, I decided, it’d be fun, I decided.

Yep, I’d say about 75% of the time, yes, it is fun, I mean, I love reading and also talking about books and passing on my opinions, I mean, what’s not to like?

Honestly, not much but the biggest issue I’ve found so far along this 6 month journey or so has been that the blank page scares me.

I’m not the most confident of people and I’ve been thinking about the best way to do this, I mean, I don’t want to be negative about any book or about any theme or writing, but I do have to be honest, there are times when I’ve started and (gasp) DNF a book, and then I’m left with the conundrum, do I write something possibly negative or just don’t write anything at all.

I’d rather try and be as positive as possible and if needs be, just avoid writing about the things I specifically didn’t like but I also don’t want to be misleading.

I should also say, I am quite open with the fact I read some real trash – I mean, the National Enquirer for me is a perfect Saturday morning treat so I want to be able to write about books I have chosen but with the caveat of this is trash and I’m well aware of it – I don’t want to give myself airs and graces but I do know some people who would quite happily judge and read the trash but would be shocked and ashamed to admit it…..I’m not really worried if people judge me, I just want to be able to write how I feel and what MY opinion, no matter the subject matter.

I suppose over all I should just write what comes to me, what I think and feel and then be prepared for any feedback, positive and negative.

I am trying to improve my blogging so if anyone has any thoughts or suggestions, am totally up for that!

From reading hundreds of other blogs and hints and tips from anyone who wanted to give them, the only solution to combat writer’s block is hard work. There is no secret magic place where all the inspiration is waiting for someone to bring it to light. But, for a writer struggling with writer’s block, it seldom helps to hear advice like “You overcome writer’s block by writing.”

There are two techniques which together can help you ward off writer’s block and never to fear a blank page again. Enter Ernest Hemingway and Steven Johnson. I saw these examples and actually could see the logic and good points of both schools of thought.

Writing requires mental energy. When you sit down to write your creative energy is most likely not flowing. It’s the same as running or any other physical activity — you have to warm up.

There is some truth to the old saying of always stopping while the going is good. Ernest Hemingway was famous for perfecting this technique to fight writer’s block. And his method is almost laughably simple.

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day… you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it, you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” — Ernest Hemingway

When Hemingway had been writing for a couple of hours and still had energy left, he stopped. Even though he knew what to write next, he stopped. The next time he would sit down to write, he would re-read the sentence and finish it. And then he was already writing. No waiting for inspiration to strike. No nothing. Just complete the work already in front of you and off you go.

The technique Hemingway used to get the creative juices flowing is superb to continue working on something you are writing. But what about the blank page, when you have nothing to write on? Because stopping mid-sentence and using this as a starting point is fine when you have something to continue on.

When you find it hard to write in the morning or when you come home in the evening after a long workday at your day-job, the energy needed to write might not be there at all.

One technique which has helped me a lot is to stack projects. The idea is that writing something — anything — will get your creative mind going, and before you know it you are oscillating between projects and are writing on all of them.

The writing can be everything from a new blog post, an article or chapters in a book or transcribing audio notes. When you have more projects going — with one main one and several simmering on the side — you can always switch between them when you get stuck in one.

You will always have something to write somewhere by doing this and is not bound to keep on hitting your head against a problematic passage in one project but are free to switch around between them.

Science writer Steven Johnson calls this keeping a “Spark File.” This is where you store all your research and small tidbits of writings. Things — which is not necessarily about the project you are working on — or small sentences you like the sound of, but which is not fitting for the piece you are writing

Like so many people who want to write but don’t know where to start, I also used to have a yearning to write that I didn’t understand, let alone know what to do with. So I read a lot instead.

Here are the six techniques that I’ve read about being used over the last decade and am going to implement myself to get myself going every time I fall off the writing bandwagon. Try them — at least one of them is likely to work for you. And when it does, I would love to hear about it.

  1. Continuous writing

This classic tool is classic for a reason — it works like a charm. I have yet to start the timer, put pen to paper and not find anything to write about. Even on days when I solemnly swear there is nothing in me that wants to be written about, there is still something that I didn’t know about that finds its way to the page.

In the writer’s workshops, every single participant was able to write many pages using this tool, and they always rated it as their favourite. If you’ve never tried it, give it a go!

Here’s what you do:

Get your notebook and pen ready (or your blank document if you’re doing this electronically) and decide how long you want to write for. Usually we do this for at least ten to twenty minutes, but you can go for longer if you like. Or, you can decide on the number of pages instead of time — say three to five pages, longhand.

Now you simply start writing. That’s it. No pausing to think about what you want to say or, worse, how you want to say it. Just write. No scratching out or deleting. Even if you have to start with, ‘I don’t know what to write. This is so stupid. I can’t do this…’ that’s fine. Just carry on writing, you’ll go deeper before the first page is even complete.

2. Concrete descriptive writing

This one is fairly comforting, because it doesn’t require much imagination or digging deep, not at first. So it’s sneaky in a way — it uses the reassuring details of what’s plainly visible to you to coax your pen to the page.

Here’s what you do:

It’s really very simple. Decide on an object or situation to describe,and make sure it’s a concrete, visible one. Don’t do this with complex emotions for now. Then start with the most basic sentence to describe that — nothing fancy. For instance, it could be your desk where you’re sitting right now. Or the view out of the window.

‘My desk is messy.’

‘It’s rainy outside.’

Once you’ve got the basic sentence down, start elaborating a bit. How is your desk messy? What do you see? What does the actual desk look like? Where is the desk?

Just keep expanding until you’ve done enough. Sometimes this only produces a decent sized paragraph, which is still one paragraph more than you started with. At other times, this can lead you down a rabbit hole and three pages later you’re still writing about the coffee stain on the wood under your elbow as you’re writing.

3. Write as your speak

This was by far the most common excuse for not writing that I heard at the workshops, and one that I used on myself when I first ventured into blogging in particular.

‘I don’t know how to write what I want to say, but I can talk about it!’

And so we keep talking about writing, instead of actually writing.

Here’s what you do:

Call your own bluff. If you say you can talk about you topic, but every time you sit down to write about it you’re at a loss for words, then speak up. See the process as simply taking dictation.

Sit by your desk, pen in hand, and start talking to your imaginary listener, a friend perhaps. Then write it down as you go. Word for word — no editing, no saying, ‘This is stupid.’ Just write down your conversation. If you want, you can even record yourself speaking, and then transcribe it, but that’s a lot of extra work. It’s equally effective if you put your focus on the talking, and allow your hands to simply come along for the ride.

4. Write like crap

That’s it — get it over and done with. Write it so badly that it couldn’t possibly be done worse. Then — when you decide to write it for real, you can rest assured that it can’t be worse than it was before.

And if it is worse? Well, then use the first draft, which wasn’t the worst one, and start editing.

Here’s what you do:

It’s a bit like plumbing for your creative digestion. Just write whatever it is you feel is blocking your ability to write ‘well’. But resolve to do it badly. In other words, it must be really crap.

You’ll be surprised at the true gift of this tool — it’s actually quite hard to write badly! Once you’ve experienced how truly challenging it is to write like shit, you’ll never have to worry about this particular form of constipation ever again. The words will flow now that you’re freed of the idea that you alwayswrite badly, and you will produce writing on a regular schedule again. Once a day, at least.

5. Writing Practise

This is one I return to often, especially when I’m writing in a new format, or when I feel my writing is going stale. For instance, when I first started blogging, I had no idea how to write a decent blog. I decided to seek out the blogs that I really enjoy reading and copy some of them, word for word. (Obviously, you’re not meant to publish these as your own — it’s just for practice.)

The same way students of fine art have to copy the old Masters of painting, brush stroke for brush stroke, copying exact colour mixes, brush size etc. Every detail counts. Even trainee chefs learn by replicating a Michelin star chef’s signature dish. Writers must do the same. That’s how we learn.

Here’s what you do:

Depending on what you want to write, find your favourite role models in that genre. I’ve done this exercise with novels, blogs and magazine articles, but you can do it with poetry, short stories or even songs.

Decide on how much you want to copy, (two pages, ten poems, three blog articles) and then start copying, word for word. When layout is important, as in poetry or blogs, then make sure you copy the exact layout — indents in the margin, upper case and lower case, the font used etc. It’s the details that you want to learn, so pay attention to them, word for word, character for character.

You’ll know when you’ve done enough to start writing your own pieces, using what you’ve learnt. It’s an organic learning process, so don’t become pedantic about it. Just practice until you’ve had enough, then return to your own writing. It will naturally be different.

6. Take a writing course

There is something about writing that makes us assume that we should be naturally good at it. Painters, drawers, dancers, chefs, quilt makers and potters must all go and learn their art, but writers? No. We should be do it naturally, or not at all. That’s one of the myths around being a writer.

Writing is an art, just like any other art form. And it’s perfectly acceptable to go an learn how to do it from a course provider. Just because we’re taught to write as young children, and continue doing so during most of our school and college years, and perhaps even for our day jobs, doesn’t mean that writing, as an artistic expression, is a natural skill.

I hope, if nothing else, some of these tips might help others in this situation, I can’t be the only one right? RIGHT????

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Write about a book you love, and one you don’t really like……

This is a toughie because all books I’ve read i’ve been able to find something positive, even for those books that my brain tried to stop me reading.

I adore books, in general I’ve always had a better relationship with books than with humans so this is actually going to be tough to think about just one book that I love and just one that I dislike, or at least, like less.

I think for once I’m going to write about books that aren’t Pratchett – more than anything to prove I can haha – so the book I will write about as one I love is Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (ok, sorry, I tried!)

good omens

I found this book brilliant, I was obsessed with Pratchett and this just introduced me to another one of my (now) favourite authors.

The subject of the end of days shouldn’t be funny, but the way this story comes together, there is humour, pathos, satire and it is remarkably easy to read. I’ve met a couple of people who read and didn’t like or enjoy the telling but most people i’ve lent this to tend to spend time giggling or snorting out loud in public (seriously, don’t read this on a bus unless you don’t care what people think) and then buying me a new copy as they keep it or pass on to other people.

I don’t want to spoil the story for those who haven’t read it and for those who are saving themselves for the TV series but for me, this is a book I can finish, and then just start again. I find if very difficult not to like a book about how plans for Armageddon hit a snag when a scatterbrained Satanic nun misplaces the Antichrist and about a clairvoyant witch of the Nutter family.
The characters of Aziraphale and Crowley are a brilliant dynamic and I’d like to think that if there were such things as Angels and Demons, this is how they would be, stuck on a planet together for thousands of years, thrown together and after so many years, of course they find something in common – even if that’s just fine dining and feeding ducks. It’s even a book where Kids don’t irritate me, the Them as they are known should be in some kind of Norman Rockwell world but are still brilliant, fun and makes me yearn for that kind of youth – unfortunately now long gone.

I would recommend this book to anyone, i’ve gone through 4 or 5 copies of this by doing that but am pleased to be passing this info on and hopefully igniting new passions in my friends.

Ok, a book I didn’t like as much, hmmm, I could write about a few different books here, for example, Harry Potter. Ok, before you all shout me down about how “they’re the best books ever” they “introduced reading to a whole new generation” blah blah blah I know that’s what a lot of people think but the first 3 books in the series (which were the only ones I could force myself to finish) were written for children, so when I get adults preaching at me about the quality of writing etc, it tends to rub me the wrong way. Whilst I do appreciate a new generation of readers, I don’t think that the writing was of sufficient quality to rave about as an adult……but then, saying that, a lot of people I know read and seemed to actually enjoy the writing in 50 Shades of Grey (and if you haven’t spent loads of time reading the negative reviews of this on Amazon, you’re missing out!) but anyway, I digress.

A book I like less, would be Stephen King’s IT.

IT COVER.JPG

This is a great book, a brilliant story, but for me, a common problem I have had with Stephen King is that he seems to lose steam halfway through the story. It’s a real shame because I want a thrilling book, which I can absorb, become part of but the last third of this is like he’s run out of ideas and is just scratching the bottom of the barrel to reach the required word count. It’s a real shame as the premise of this speaks to my soul (clowns terrify me) and it’s one of those books that I do enjoy but get tired of.

Some parts were truly creepy at first and initially, as often happens with King, I couldn’t put it down. But then, as also often happens with King, it hits a brick wall and becomes so over-long and has so many unnecessary elements that get in the way of the main story that it becomes a bloated, endless chore to finish. People often say they hate the ending of this book…I did not hate it or love it. I had checked out at that point and simply wanted it to be over no matter who lived or died or whether they defeated It or not.

This book is at least 300 pages too long and that is the least that could have been completely cut out without hurting the story in the slightest. Included in those 300+ pages are some particularly disturbing sequences and elements which were just sickening, unnecessary and, to me, actually took away from the main story.

So, what do you guys say? Have a book you love (or one you hate) that you HAVE to tell people about? What’s the first book you would lend out of your library? Or of course, if you hated Good Omens or love IT, why not try and sway my thoughts? I’m always happy to talk about books with people and have different views to my own.

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Reading as a child

I was obsessed with reading as a kid, I mean, pretty much all of my life as a younger person I was safe when I was surrounded by books. My brother and I were really lucky as kids but once he left home, I felt a lot lonelier and retreated more into the safety of books, this was only compounded by being the weirdo, the loner, the one who just generally was not liked by kids – that’s not 100% true, my friends were always and always have been amazing – but there were a lot of bullies who found me an ideal target to harass.

My mum says that even as a kid, she knew reading was a big thing for me because i’d read the back of packets, the papers, even when we went shopping, she knew I would take myself off to the paper/books area and just perch myself down and read. I got through countless books in this style which i’m sure the supermarket was thrilled about!

I had an excellent little book set as a child of the entirety of Beatrix Potter’s tales, all mini hardback with gorgeous artwork and they were kept in a special box, this was something that until very recently I have always had with me. I’ve never even dreamed of having kids so i’ve never really known what to do with them but you know when you have something childish yet wonderful that you can’t imagine being without? I think I gave them back to my mum and asked her to sell it, or at least find a home for them where hopefully they will bring as much joy to someone else as they did to me

beatrix 2

I was obsessed with Enid Blyton as a child, The Tales of the Faraway Tree made me wish for excitement, and new friends, and talking trees – ok, the last of those may have been less possible that the first two – and made me see magic in the oddest of places. She made me look at things differently and I’m sure that seeing creatures, clouds and trees and beginning to apply anthropomorphic characteristics to them comes from her.  Plus another joy of a group of friends who stuck together through everything, through thick and thin was appealing to me, I know I had a small group of friends at that point of my life and we used to do similar escapades when we could – going on bike rides, building forts, just playing and imagining what our lives were going to be.

malory

I included Jennings and Derbyshire in this list as although they were not specifically favourites of mine, they have a very special place in my heart as mum used to read them to me when I was in the bath as a kid. I used to love them and for a long time kind wanted to live in that jolly hockey sticks, ginger beer kind of world. I think maybe my obsession with Mallory Towers and the Twins at St Clair’s also started around this time and made me consider that that kind of life was an option – which at no point was it but I always remained hopeful!!

jennings

Reading back the previous list this is all sounding a bit 50s housewife dream kind of style of reading, I swear I read other things too! Like Point Horror – which I’ve no idea are still in existence or if you are younger than me and now asking yourself “what the fudge is a point horror?” but before I started reading lets say, more adult horror stories like Stephen King and Shaun Hutson (if you’ve not read his stuff and like some gore and mental horror then he’s a good person to investigate); I was a bit obsessed with a sort of horror light. It was a series of books which tended to be passed around my group of friends and mostly they were mild frights but for some reason I can remember one book (weirdly my brain has scrubbed over most of the details – including the name) which really terrified me! Well worth it to be scared in the middle of the day with all the lights on….I’m too much of a coward nowadays to read books like that anymore!

point 1

We moved to Spain when I was 14 and thankfully I got a lot of books as leaving gifts from people, these became my closest friends when I arrived as I spent so long stressing about not being able to hold even the most basic of conversations without massive pauses and a dictionary so the joy of just being able to open a book and not have to worry was a joy. This is where my love of Pratchett came from. I’d read some beforehand but they really took hold of my imagination at that point. As I said, I really relished having books I could read without having to worry about not being clever enough – which is how I always felt when speaking to people.

I know I’ve banged on about Pratchett in many of my blogs and #PratchettPostal is actually going really well (i’m buying up second hand copies or cheapish bundles from fleabay, advertising them on twitter and then sending them out to fellow fans/new readers. He was such an influence and support to me that I would love to pass that on. If you’ve never read Pratchett you’re missing out but if you are on twitter, come find me at @polmoose83 and maybe come get yourselves a new book – or just come and say hey anyway, I love to have many people around to talk to!

So there we have it, once again, no real specifics but many different options. I would love to be more of a book reviewer in specifics and have read a few good book blogs which have inspired me but currently I’m not sure i’m good enough at specifics and writing my views. We shall see what 2019 has to offer in the way of challenges.

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Epic gifts for the Discworld Nerd in your life…..

This is I think, going to be a list of wonderful things that I feel every disc fan would love, plus, it’s a great way for me to plug friends or companies I know, use and love.

There are so many great things for the fan of the Disc, with suppliers of such things as signed books, artworks, socks and even models (Clarecraft for the Vintage and Paul Kidby for some more recent stuff) and the joy that i’ve found is that there are things you can get for really cheap, and those where you can splurge and get something truly fantastic.

I have a friend called Lee who runs Doodlee Crafts (here’s the facebook link)

Gotta love Vime’s badge and some gorgeous Lilac! Especially around this time of year.

I should also take this time to plug my own mini cottage industry Half Baked Productions http://www.facebook.com/pollyHBP/. I make jewellery and suchlike and every time I do something for charity, if my Disc friends donate, they get a bit of Disc themed stuff. I’ve just moved into making bookmarks too and they all have a special place in my heart as the Disc has always been so special to me.

There are 2 main groups where I do my purchasing normally. The Discworld Emporium (a place I have yet to visit in person and this is probably a good thing otherwise a) I may never leave and b) i’d be bankrupt!.

http://www.discworldemporium.com

This is the official home of the Disc in my opinion, a mini museum and shop all bound into one, with the wonderful Bernard behind the counter to regale you with stories and tales of his and Terry’s time together. It isbased in Wincanton (also a place where I need to visit) and full of wondrous things to purchase. Some of the things I have got from there include…..

Discworld Monthly is a group I’ve been part of for well over 10 years now, Rachel and Jason are lovely people and massive fans, they make wonderful handmade gifts and bits related to the fandom.

I love their stuff as it is made by them and they put their hearts and souls into supporting and keeping the Disc alive in the eyes of new (and old) fans alike.

I got this from them last year…

All in all there’s so many wonderful things you can buy for your friend the Discworld fan…..games, books, models, apparel, jigsaws and the like that I wouldn’t want to say “these are the must haves” and make everything else simply superfluous. I think if you’re friends with someone who is a fan, and you’re looking to buy them something, gauge their likes and dislikes….or at worst, buy them some kind of gift voucher!

I’d just like to add one final paragraph – about the newest items I have been given from the Disc.

Last year a friend of mine passed away, she lived in Spain and was always amazing to me and after she died, a package arrived from the Emporium with the newest Pratchett diary that I had not been in any way part of buying – I mean, I’d drooled over it, lusted over it but no, I hadn’t purchased it. I managed to check and was told that it was purchased by someone in Spain and although no note or whatnot was enclosed, I don’t know who else it could have come from and now I can’t check with her if that was the case but now I am keeping the diary as the last thing I got from her. Look how beautiful it is!!

Last but not least, possibly the most beautiful piece of jewellery I have ever received, my partner got me a Tiffany Aching snowflake necklace. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t know the significance of this as I hadnt been able to bring myself to actually read that last set of books but I now have, this necklace is from Wintersmith, where love is a major theme and I’ve now resolved that i’d like to wear it every day. A gift of love, from my love and a gorgeous piece of the Disc to forever carry with me.

The joy of the Disc is that we’re all together, our aim in life is “Be More Terry” maybe try to talk to your disc loving friend and see what they suggest. Watch one of the DVDs together or play a couple of hands of Ankh Morpork…..one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever gotten from the Disc is the joy of passing it on, to share the love and joy that I feel about the series and I think for me, that is the most important thing. We all get the joy of the books and now we’re all part of a community.

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Fire & Fury: Michael Wolff

I wrote this back in 2018, as one of the first random books that I’d read and wanted to talk about. I had hoped to find people who also had read or even those who had views which were different to mine but sadly, no-one stepped forward so I’m going to assume that this will be the same. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts, if only to expand on my views.

I’ll be honest, the thought of a President Trump both terrifies me and saddens me, the loss of what was one of the most “grown – up” positions on this planet and the lowering of standards to his level for me is a real disappointment.

So, when I heard that this book was coming out, and the furore 45 had over it and it’s publication, I actually rushed out to buy it.

I should say that as UK citizen, I really should have no opinion over who or what is happening elsewhere but a few years ago I fell into the West Wing TV show, and although I know it’s a drama series, I fell in love with both the writing, the cast and the way the Americans do things. I set about trying to educate myself about the way that their Politics works and have often had to call a (republican) friend of mine to have things explained to me. But I do believe that from my reading and the views/morals I have, I would say, if asked, that I was a Democrat.

I’ve never really seen such vitriol as I saw in 2016, I am lucky that on various travels I have met both Dems and Republicans and unfortunately, every time, the Republicans I have met have, not necessarily, offended me, but they have given across viewpoints/arguments which I just do not understand. Things like “Guns should be available for everyone” seem ok, but then when there’s no regulation/background checks or that kind of thing, it baffles me. Or Roe v Wade (which I always thought was decent and fair) is now being chipped away at so that a woman no longer has the choice of what happens to her body. I love my American friends but unfortunately, I don’t understand them.

Anyway, in the run up to 2016’s election, I was most obviously on the side of the Dems. I don’t think Hillary would have been the best choice, but then, I didn’t think Trump had a chance in HELL of getting in, I mean, people wouldn’t vote for an orange, offensive, rude, unkind, uncaring, trigger happy Tv personality, would they? Being woken up by my love with the words “The Future’s Bright, the Future’s Orange” brought my certainty crashing down and to be honest, I’ve been in an ever increasing downwards spiral of disbelief ever since.

With that in mind, when I read about the book coming out, I think I already knew what it would be like, I wouldn’t know the ins and outs but I would get the general feeling from it about the man and his family and his Presidency which I felt I knew.

I’ve tried to write this with no spoilers, so there isn’t going to be quotes, passages or snippets from the book itself, this is just going to be an overview, and from my point of view.

A few things that occured to me whilst reading this book, which I sort of knew before but have had clarified:

He isn’t a man for the people -I mean, look at the attacks made on disabled people, women, gays, Mexicans – we should all be able to see he doesn’t care but despite that, I know some people who are in this group who DID vote for him (another thing that baffles me and still she has not explained what made her do what she did – I should add she has since renounced that vote but still). I suppose what I would like, ideally, is to understand “why?” Was it a rebellion vote, to try and break the cycle of Politician after Politician, was it that people thought despite the way he acted, the staff around him would be able to control him or was it just buying in to what they got told?

**In the above, I GENUINELY do not want to start fights, but if anyone reading this is a Trump voter, I’d love to hear from you, so longs as it’s adult, non offensive and an airing of both points of view. I’ve been contacted enough by Trolls and people who just want to be abusive but that’s not what i’m after, clarification is what I need.. **

I suppose for me, the most disappointing thing was that the hype surrounding the book’s subject matter means that the author doesn’t really need to work hard to create this story. I mean, if he knows everyone hates the subject matter, to make the subject deplorable isn’t that hard. I did want to glean some info about those around him, to see and hopefully build hope that this madness can be contained, and that the people around him understand the seriousness of the role they have been given.

Overall this book was boring for me to read. I’m not kidding, I read like Johnny 5 and this book, well, I got about 3/4 way through and then it took me 8 weeks to pick the book up again and finish it. I think in that 8 weeks I read 6 (or 7) other books and I actively had to make myself pick up Fire and Fury and continue it. Just to get it done.

I suppose that the hype around the book was what drew me to it, I did learn things from the book which surprised me but I think the overall depression I see every day on the news and social media and the fact that this nightmare doesn’t seem to be ending and I didn’t want that in my reading as well as every part of my life.

It will be interesting to see where this goes, there are characters within this who have now been fired/quit and therefore it’d be fascinating to hear their sides of the same story. In much the same way as I want to speak with republicans and Trump voters, I’d love to be able to hear from those who worked for him, who supported him, who though Team Trump was a good idea. Mostly to try and understand but also to see if they still feel the same way as they did before this all started.

So, I’m sorry if my thoughts and views offended anyone, if you are, please, contact me and let us have a chat, i’m always open to others views and would love to speak with people who live there and deal with this every single day.

Hogfather: Sir Terry Pratchett

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“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers?”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET— Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME . . . SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.

I love the above lines, they are possibly some of my favourite everyday and most definitely from my favourite Christmas themed novel. I re read this book every year and love it!

I think it’s a great story, even for those who are not into either Christmas or Kids things (so, pretty much me then!) it’s festive, fun and once again STP has managed to catch the mood and idea and weave it through the story, so you start of reading about 1 thing, which leads you to another, which segues into another and then finally, you understand what’s going on – plus I also spend a lot of time being sent off to the dictionary, or some kind of encyclopedia so I actually learn a lot when reading his stories too.

This book in typical Disc fashion, zooms from one place to another & one time to another at a sometimes breathless speed, calling in on favourite characters and also fleshing out some other minor characters. It both deeply respects but also makes a mockery of the Christmas that everyone knows and loves and as far as i’m concerned, shines a light on some of the flaws we all have.

I know it’s now after the festive period that i’m updating this but if you haven’t read it, I’d suggest popping to your local library and seeing if you can get it. Well worth it.

I also have the DVD but I honestly would recommend reading the book first, as this has a lot more information and nuance which is missed out (probably inevitably) within the film. – plus, all books are better than the film versions * If you disagree, tell me your thoughts in the comments, am always happy to have a new book/film to watch! Anyway, I digress…..

My favourite character in this book is DEATH, a 7 foot tall anthropomorphic skeleton who is fascinated with humanity, fascinated yet confused and trying to make sense of us all. His exploration into the minds of humans always makes me think and if there is such a thing as Death (the Grim reaper or whatever you would rather call him), Sir Terry has taken a lot of my fear of him away.

In Hogfather, Pratchett has finally achieved what I have sometimes found lacking in the other books written around this time: a perfect balance between the storylines. There is just the right amount of wizard comedy, lots of  time dedicated to Death and Susan grappling with what it means to be human and normal respectively, truly stellar worldbuilding, and big questions on the nature of belief and the holiday spirit that will stay with me for a very long time. I have mentioned in my other Discworld reviews that Pratchett is a philosopher and a humanist, and this is where all his views and ideas come together to form a book that is both light and heavy at the same time. Not an easy feat, and making it look effortless is the sign of a truly gifted writer. Whether you’re looking for a fun romp or a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to have faith, Pratchett’s got you covered.

There are so many great moments in this book, I don’t even know where to start. Every time you think to yourself, “wow, this is my favourite part,” Pratchett fires something new at you and raises the bar a little bit higher again (“no, wait, this is the best part”). Pascal’s Wager jokes! Susan making her way through a children’s drawing! The Death of Rats hiding on top of a Hogswatch tree! Hex writing out a letter to the Hogfather! Alfred throwing snowballs at two grumpy angels! Death saves the little match girl!

Hogfather is an incredibly fun ride and I can’t wait to reread and relive it all over again next year. And the year after, and the year after……ad infinitum.

The Journey Begins

Featured

Well Hello & Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

Books have always been an escape for me, a freedom from the world which isn’t always particularly nice and a good way to hide from responsibility! I think i’ve always been obsessed with the written word, the way people can form ideas, descriptions, pictures and simply transport me away from the real world is a real talent – one I don’t have but one I am very willing to learn from. I can remember my mum talking about me as a child being so into reading that I would read everything, ingredient lists, the paper, her books and novels – ok so Stephen King at 8 or 9 may not have been the best, but at least neither of them every told me I couldn’t read something so I’ve never held with “reading ages” or specific genre snobbery. I’m just happy to be able to read and relish.

I decided to start this as I’ve started blogging more (see my other page – halfbakedproductions.blog for more random non book related stuff) and given my obsession with reading, this seemed like a logical leap to take.

I’m starting with a reading challenge (see below) but am also looking for suggestions, inspiration and introductions to new authors so if you see something or have someone in mind that you’re burning to share, please do – EVERY suggestion welcome.

So yes, thank you for joining me and welcome to this new adventure, I’m hoping that 2019 will be fun, cozy and book filled.

READING CHALLENGE 2019

suggestions

As a book blogger, do you ever struggle to come up with ideas for blog posts? Today’s post is for you!

Blog Post Ideas For Book Bloggers

I thought it would be the perfect time to share some blog post ideas for book bloggers. Things that I am going to use moving forward – so if you see one of these topics pop up, it may be because I am stuck in a real hole and therefore need any inspiration.
We all struggle from time to time to come up with a new blog post idea. It’s also easy to get stuck in a blogging rut where you just keep posting the same type of content all the time.
If you need some blog topic inspiration, I’ve got you covered, well, I say I’ve got you covered but actually this list came from the internet (of course) but the author of this list is unknown. To whoever you are reading this, let me know if you have any really good go to ideas for blogs when your creative juices run a bit cloudy.

Here’s a list of 60 blog post ideas for your book blog:

1. Book Reviews

2. Book Hauls

3. Book Tags

4. TBR Lists

5. Currently Reading

6. Recently Read Recap/Wrap Up


7. Books Vs Movies/TV Shows

8. Favourite Books In ______________ genre

9. Best Books You’ve Read This Year


10. Favourite Authors


11. Take us on a tour of your bookshelf


12. Give some bookish advice


14. Interview a fellow book blogger


15. Share your Net Galley shelf


16. If you liked __________ read this


17. Your fictional bucket list


18. Characters you love/hate


19. Series you’re obsessed with


20. Share tips for book bloggers


21. Create a discussion post about books you feel strongly about


22. Rant about your bookish pet peeves


23. Create your own TBR Jar


24. Share about your bookish swag collection


25. Weigh up the pro’s and con’s of something e.g. Print books VS ebooks


26. Bookish gifts you’d like to receive/give


27. Your favourite fandom


28. Blogging tools


29. How to posts e.g. How to use Canva to create blog graphics or Bookstagram images


30. Event Coverage/Recaps


31. Readathon vlogs


32. Bookish merchandise


33. Quotes


34. Tips for working with publishers/authors


35. Lessons Learnt


36. Books with crossover appeal 


37. Bookworm problems


38. useful resources for book bloggers


39. Cover reveal


40. Take us on a visit to your library


41. Host a guest post


42. Best ________ books (insert genre, or by author)


43. Best character e.g. best villain, best father, etc…


44. Books every __________ should read e.g. books every teenage should read


45. How to review a book


46. Do a collaboration post with a fellow book blogger


47. Showcase book covers you love


48. Compare different movie adaptions of books


49. Share your love of an underrated author/book


50. Do a Q&A with your readers and answers their questions


51. Host a giveaway


52. What if ________ (create an alternative ending for a book)


53. Report on current news and events


54. A beginners guide to book blogging


55. Bookish DIY/crafts


56. List posts


57. Book blogger must haves


58. Behind the scenes: A day in the life of a book blogger


59. Your favourite book blogs to read


60. Your favourite booktubers/bookstagrammers etc…

So, 60 ideas for what to do when you just have no real creative impetus. I see that they have included a bookstagram (which, as i’m so uncool I had literally NO idea what that was!!) so I will be adding the link to my instagram too on here – you never know, I may work more photos of books and the like onto that, or it’ll just be a mix of everything in my life as normal!

Pratchett Postal

I know that a lot of my friends will know what this all about but I thought it might make an interesting topic and might prompt other people to get involved with my madcap schemes!

I’ve been on twitter for a fairly long time, but I first joined it with the aim of having somewhere private to vent – I know a lot more people on Facebook as real people whereas my Twitter pals are mostly not actually people I know in the flesh – and also somewhere to argue in peace with strangers, something I found easier than with people I care about.

I have been trying to be more positive and open to good things since my last real bout of depression and I decided last year that I would try and overhaul myself a bit. To try and stay away from being argumentative and trolling and spending more time and focus on finding fun and happy go lucky people. Surround yourself with lovely people and lovely things will happen.

Since Terry Pratchett died I have tried to do mental things each year in his name to raise money for a variety of charities (I’ve put the links below so if you wanted to donate, please do) and after throwing myself out of a plane, doing colour or just 5k runs, walking on hot coals and the like, I thought i’d calm it down a bit. Then a friend of mine on Twitter was talking about sending books to people, and I loved that idea, I mean, who could argue with being offered a free book?

I decided due to my feelings about the Discworld and how amazing I have always found it that instead of buying new books and sending them out, I’d see if I could get duplicates of Pratchett’s work from charity shops (another obsession of mine) or the like and then see if anyone would be interested in receiving a new to them book. That’s where #PratchettPostal came from.

I had no preference as to if I helped people find a new author or to help build up other fans collections, I just wanted to prove to myself that good things do happen and when they do, it makes me feel good, and sometimes, that’s the most important thing.

Over 2018 I sent over 100 books out. I have no idea how I managed it but know I wouldn’t have been able to do it without a great group of people online. I know that being retweeted by Rhianna (Terry’s daughter) certainly helped and the support I’ve gotten from The Emporium and other Disc fans has been amazing. I genuinely feel like I’ve found an absolute gem of a group of people and that to me is priceless, and precisely the reason why I decided to continue this again this year.

It’s simple really, where I live there are so many charity shops and I think a lot of them are now used to me popping in and grabbing any Pratchett’s they have, I photograph them and then advertise on Twitter using the hashtag as above. Once people ask me for a copy of anything specific, I send them out to wherever they are in the world. I love the way that I’m helping people find something new or even asking them to try and read someone a bit different.

I’ve actually got some wonderful things back from some people online, including some chocolates, art, books, socks and a real hand written letter with a real wax stamp, so many lovely things and people means that as far as I’m concerned, I’ll keep doing this for as long as I can.

What about you dear reader? Is there any author who has touched your life in such a way that you need to pass that love on?

Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts and maybe find some new authors.

Charities to donate to if you have the pennies and inclination:

http://www.orangutan.org.uk

http://www.booktrust.org.uk

http://www.alzheimers.org.uk

Obviously there are many great charities out there but these ones are very close to my heart. Feel free to read up on what they do or if you’re on twitter, come and find me @polmoose83 and grab a book!

Judging a book by it’s cover

I’m sure your mother told you, NEVER judge a book by it’s cover but sometimes,  I have to disagree; of course you can judge a book by its cover. That’s precisely what the covers of books are for. Judging the book.

That’s how you know what the book is called and who wrote it, and there’s often even plot synopsis on the back. Whether there’s a picture of a pirate clutching a booby lass with their blouses blowing in the wind, or a knight confronting a fire-breathing dragon in the cover illustration, you’re going to get a fairly accurate impression of the genre and I feel this can be a good start.

Despite trying not to, it can sometimes be tempting to judge a book by its cover. Hooded figure? Science fiction. Black background and grey font? Erotica. Silhouetted man? Thriller featuring a renegade who, damn it, doesn’t play by the rules. Let’s face it, we all do!

I’ve found these are some common themes on book cover art and styling:

Nonfiction advice or self-help books often display a picture of the author-as-expert, surrounded by a blocky title font.

Literary novels often feature a whimsical, decorated, or cursive-stylized title font, with soft shades of colour and possibly a contemplative picture or imagery.

Romance novel covers usually have a man or woman (or both), no doubt locked in a close embrace, passionate gaze, or another “love” position…

Thrillers or action/adventure covers display the author’s name and title in big, bold lettering, superimposed on a graphical representation of a main story element.

Most readers—me included—will pick a book off the shelf because its cover interests us: the title intrigues; the cover illustration attracts; the author’s name is one we trust.

If you don’t know the author of the book, the nature—and implied promise—of the cover becomes even more important.

If the book does not deliver on the promise of the cover, it will fail with many readers despite its value. A broken promise is still a broken promise. I say cover, not necessarily the back jacket blurb, because the front cover is our first and most potent introduction to the quality of the story inside. How many of us have picked up a book, intrigued by its alluring front cover, read the blurb that seemed to resonate with the title and image, then upon reading our cherished purchase been disillusioned with the story and decided we disliked it and its author?

This is because, as readers, from the moment we pick up a book, we engage in an agreement with the story’s author (but in actual fact with the entire publishing company) for a story whose promise we have interpreted from its cover image, title and blurb. It begins with the cover. A book’s cover is its sales pitch: “This is what I’m about!” the cover proclaims in shades of colour and texture. The cover sets the tone and attitude with which a reader will interpret the book’s title and back jacket blurb and it’s interior.

I feel that the take home lesson for readers and shoppers is this: don’t judge a book by its cover; certainly pick up the book if it looks interesting, then read with an open mind and let the story take you to where it needs to, despite what you may have expected from the false advertising. Chances are, the unexpected journey visited upon you may be a welcome surprise. And don’t blame the writer for something he didn’t have control over.

I know that recently in a lot of bookshops I’m seeing a lot of Blind Date with a Book which is an idea I love, I have been trying to expand my “normal” reading routine and things like this really help. You get a synopsis of the book and a brief overview but with no preconceptions, you might be able to find a new gem!

I am seduced by beautiful covers, by intriguing covers, by covers that know what they’re doing and by covers that have a little mystery. Right or wrong, covers are usually what I see first – they are what prompt me to look inside and find out more. They are just a part of the story, but are they the start of the story or the end? I find cover design endlessly fascinating, but ultimately it’s up to me how I use the information covers provide, the clues they drop and the temptations they offer. Right or wrong, I’m going to assume a cover featuring a vampire is going to mean a story about vampires, but what do covers say to you?

2019 Reading Challenge

So, in an effort to a) expand my reading and b) prompt me to write more about the books I read, I decided at the start of the year to sign up and actually use the Good Reads site – ok, i’ve been on there for 7 years apparently but this year is the year i’m really challenging myself to be better.

I’ve set myself a challenge to read 40 books this year. To be honest, that isn’t that many, so longs as I get the time to read and have the impetus. Those who have read previous blogs know that I have many issues with writers block so I wanted to do a total I could hit, as opposed to setting myself up for failure.

I think for this blog, I’ll list the books I’ve read so far and a little bit about each one, I am aiming to properly blog about some books which have specifically stuck with me but for now, simply as it’s been so long since I did any consistent blogging.

I decided that the easiest way to break myself in would be to write about what I’ve read so far and give a basic idea of what I thought:

  • Googlewhack Adventure –  not a new read for me, but still a good one, especially when suffering from insomnia as I need books I know well to be able to drop off – reading a new book whilst not being able to sleep is a definite no no for me, the yearning to find out what happens would mean I’d never sleep! Following on from Too Much Information, this shows the comic genius of Dave Gorman and also makes me feel that my stupid challenges to myself are really not that bad!
  • The Librarian of Auschwitz – This was a really wonderful book. As a book lover, the fight people put in to make sure such wondrous items were available in such a dark place in our history, made me feel quite emotional. I know that there is a certain amount of creative license in this book but the story was engaging, deep, emotional and affirming.
  • The Fifth Elephant – another classic from my collection. Pratchett holds a very special place in my heart and there are so many themes he has hit on and managed to put things into a story which actually reflect well the world around us, but with a bit of Terry’s special magic.
  • The Shepherds Crown – The last Discworld novel, so one I had been putting off for years. A good read and despite the sadness that the book itself carries, it has some wonderful storylines, views and is quintessentially Pratchett.
  • LA candy – a book by Lauren Conrad. Ok, I’ll admit it, this was bought for a quid in the local poundland when I was looking for something to read on a bus journey. Turns out, didn’t even take that long! I quite enjoyed this, despite it basically being her writing about her time on “The Hills” with new character names thrown in.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole – a memoir by Holly Madison. Another guilty not guilty pleasure! I came to the Girls Next Door series relatively late (6 months off work and pretty much unable to walk will do that to a woman!!) so to read a book by one of the main characters really appealed to me. I’ll be honest, I think a lot of cleansing has gone on (that or the author is trying to sell her side as much less sleazy then it was) but for me, I found the book interesting. I know that there are a lot of negative reviews out there about this, but I will do my best to not just rip it to pieces.
  • Jingo – ok, I’m seeing a pattern developing here. I always have a Pratchett on the go, no matter what else I’m reading as sometimes I just want to slip into a comfy read and then just let the familiar comfort wash all over me! Yet another excellent example of Terry taking a common theme here on Earth and applying it to the Disc. Here, racism and war is looked at through the Turtle shaped lens.
  • I am Pilgrim – I first read this book a few years ago and it is a great thriller. I feel it’s one of the “Da Vinci Code”-esque style of books, terrorism, science, religion and a lot of contrasting views each of which has good and bad points. I would recommend this to anyone who is after a book to read on the beach somewhere. There’s enough there to get you through a week and plenty of drama to keep you hooked – I even found upon multiple reads that the story has so many different things to take in, each read gives you something new to think about.
  • Meg – When this film came out last year it automatically ticked a lot of my boxes – massive animals, Jason Statham punching stuff, drama, thrills etc. I still haven’t actually seen the film but when I saw this book in a charity shop, I just had to grab it. It was actually more interesting than I thought it would be, some science which seems to make sense and some interesting facts that make me go “oooooh” whilst reading. I’m not going to say the story is the most believable but it was a good old romp of a book that once I’d finished it did make me want to hunt out the rest of the series!
  • I shall wear Midnight – I decided before Xmas that I would read the final Tiffany series from the Discworld. I’d been putting them off for a long time so these books were a long time coming but I feel glad to have done so, they were kept for their rightful time.
  • Chavs – I’ve been a fan of Owen Jones for a really long time and have wanted to read this book for years, for whatever reason I haven’t been able to find it and when I tried to read non – fiction before, my short term memory wouldn’t allow it – nothing more frustrating than starting a book and having to re read each page about 4 times before it went in! – anyway, I have finally read it and it made some really good points as to the state of the world we are currently living in! I know not everyone would agree but there were a lot of points he had used which makes sense to me and I feel this helps me formulate and cultivate my own ideas and views and gives me more reason to fight for the things I do.
  • Wintersmith – A really special Terry Pratchett book, probably my favourite of the newer books I hadn’t previously read. A very interesting and compelling story and another book where Terry showed what a brilliant story teller he was. In “Wintersmith” Tiffany makes a mistake that draws the attention of the elemental who controls winter. The beauty in this is that it’s not the sort of plot motivating accidents and serendipity guiding series like Harry Potter, where characters are essentially powerless and shuttled through circumstances beyond their control. This entire story comes about because Tiffany screws up and must deal with the consequences. I would heartily recommend this book to a fan of Pratchett, maybe not as a starter story but definitely they’re heading in a new direction.
  • A Hat full of sky – This is more of the same for this subseries – which is a good thing! More adolescent witch adventures, more growing up too fast, more dry humour with teeth underneath.
  • The Shakespeare Secret – A book in the Da Vinci Code style of writing, but set in the Uk (mostly) and chasing up the lost plays of Shakespeare. I’d say this is a book that came about simply due to the popularity of the DVC, it’s a good thriller, with some interesting historical parts and it does bring up points that make me think more about the authors named within the story itself. Another possible beach page turner I think.
  • The Antipope – Robert Rankin is one of those authors I discovered around the same time as Pratchett, but Rankin is odder, more random and dryly funny, more humour is found in his style of writing as opposed to puns and observational humour. I find his writing tickles me in silly ways, and his use of language is amazing.  It is Rankin’s first novel, and the first book in the Brentford Trilogy (which, as of July 2010, consists of 9 novels – see what I mean? Mad a box of frogs!! but brilliant fun too) and a book I am happy to go back to and restart the madness again and agin.

So there you have it, a little bit about what I’ve read thus far in 2019. Not as many as I would normally have read but as |’ve previously said, the reading is the easy part about having a book blog!

Have you got any reading challenges this year? Let me know how you’re doing and how you’re finding it, we can all spur each other on!