From The Notebook Jan 2017

Welcome to my latest collection of notebook jottings, which I hope you may find to be of interest.

BAD language: Over the years, as society has allegedly become rather more enlightened, the use of bad language has sadly risen in popularity – be this on television, in books or in general conversation. As a child of the forties, I was used to hearing my father – a bank clerk and a vegetable hater – referring to “b” carrots – but he never used the word itself. To such an extent, I can remember one of my first school teachers explaining that there was no “b” in carrots, when I first started to write!

However, fast forward, and I have just finished reading a thriller (by an acclaimed author) where the “F” word makes far too many appearances. To my mind, the over-use of this word adds nothing to the story, but clearly it appeals to publishers – well, to one anyway! Of course, the expletive, when used in tense or dramatic scenarios, can carry the correct emotional force needed to highlight the situation. But, when seemingly used as a replacement for punctuation marks, it’s unacceptable – to me anyway.

Hidden Killers: I have just finished reading this excellent novel, written by the ever- skilful and popular Linda la Plante. For readers, unfamiliar with this author, the main character in this novel is her police detective Jane Tennison, who becomes involved with two cleverly interwoven story lines. I must admit, I’ve always found this author easy to “get on with,” as she writes fast-moving stories, supported by well researched detail and without bogging the reader down. At the same time, her characters are completely and utterly believable. A good read that I can thoroughly recommend.

Television Producers: Not my favourite people – not that I know any, I hasten to add. No. My reason for making the point is simply this. I am fed up with being asked to watch programmes filmed in a coal cellar at midnight! Top of my dislike list – as the moment – is the BBC Saturday evening story Taboo. Okay, a little bit of darkness can be used to ramp up the tension, but honestly, this series is just far too dark, and for most of the time. For me, what was shaping up to be a good story line has now become a “toil of a pleasure” to watch. Must I stay a loyal watcher – or change channels? Staying with the television theme, I also dislike loud music being played when people are talking on-screen. Turn up the sound – to hear them better – and the louder the music becomes. Funny old world, isn’t it? When I’m chatting with a neighbour, on my way to the shops, there’s not an orchestra in sight!

Walk the story: As part of my “exercise routine,” I go for a walk most mornings. During this hour or so, I allow my mind to focus on the background for suitable short–stories, and ideas for my next novel. This time, away from the phone and computer screen, is invaluable and very rewarding. One of my walking “routes” takes me down a country lane where, on one side, is a field and home to two lovely big horses. After several months of patiently trying to attract their attention – they now come trotting up to the gate, when they see me on the lane. I’d like to think it’s my charm that does it, but I know very well that it’s the odd carrot or peppermint in my pocket that does the trick. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to abandon my mental ramblings, in favour of being able to share some up-close and magical moments with two such amazing animals.

Short stories: At the time of writing I have completed seven short stories, and plan to write four or five more. These will build into a complete book that, when completed, will be added to this website, and then be available on Amazon. Each story contains between five and ten thousand words and, in most cases, offers the proverbial “twist in the tale” ending. When writing short stories, of necessity one is working within a confined space, as opposed to having the amount of room available when writing a novel. So, with short-stories, the mind must be focussed when it comes to the provision of concise detail but, equally important any attempts to over-supply must be avoided.  As we know, the great beauty of the written word is that it works in harmony with the imagination, whereas watching film and television can, so often, eliminate the need for imagination.

Happy reading.

Peter Warrilow

From The Notebook

JOTTINGS

‘THERE ARE NO GOOD WRITERS:’ At one time or another, I’m sure that most of us have found ourselves near to someone who comes out with what sounds like a really outrageous statement. Wow – you ask yourself in disbelief – did he or she really say that? And then, before falling headlong into heated discussions, listen for what comes next and take time to check out the speaker’s credentials. For example, whilst the ubiquitous ‘man in the pub’ will undoubtedly have outspoken opinions on a whole range of subjects, for a valued opinion be sure to listen to someone who has experience on the subject. Simply put, any opinion is only as good as the experience upon which it is based!

But hold on I hear you ask? What’s this about there being no good writers? Well, be patient and I will explain. Some little while ago I had the good fortune to attend a lecture given by the American crime writer Jeffery Deaver. During his address, he made the comment that there were no good writers. A remark that he followed up by saying that there were only good re-writers. In fact, he attributed the whole statement to the late Earnest Hemingway. So, not so outrageous after all, and Deaver himself admitted to be a prolific rewriter. Doubtless this is something that must apply to just about every other writer out there. I know it made me think, and introduced me to the tasks of self-criticism and rewriting.

IT’S A GIFT: On Father’s Day I was kindly given a copy of James Swallow’s book Nomad, which I have just finished reading. Overall a good, fast moving thriller that crosses many continents and contains the required number of ‘twists.’ Alright, a little far-fetched in places, but isn’t that half the fun of good crime novels? I enjoyed Nomad and found his main character utterly believable, and look forward to his ‘promised’ return in the autumn.

MY FIRST: For many years I harboured a desire to write, but pressure of work had always seemed to stop me. (Well, that’s my excuse!) But now I have the time, and thanks to Amazon and e-books, I have taken my first steps in that direction. The Drysdale Confession is now ‘alive and well’ on Amazon and is receiving some much appreciated reviews. By design this book lent itself to a natural sequel and I’m pleased to say that The Far Reaches is now complete. However, while Amazon has showed me that I’m able to compete, it’s time to ‘raise the bar.’ Therefore, and armed with a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book, I am planning to make some direct approaches to agents and publishing houses in an attempt to create interest. However, I appreciate that I will be entering a busy arena and expect my fair share of ‘knock backs.’

SHORT STORIES: Breaking away from full-length novels, I decided to embark upon writing a selection of short stories – between 5,000 to 8,000 words each. I have now completed seven of these, with four more ‘in the pipeline.’ I thoroughly enjoyed this change, finding that it was a task that could be done ‘back to front.’ In other words, I set out by planning the twist in the tale and then worked forward from there, building up the story. A kind of reverse engineering.

FORMAT: Having probably read several thousand books so far, it is interesting to observes the format different authors employ to maintain reader interest – well mine anyway. For any book to ‘grab me,’ it must include the ‘fast start.’ That riveting first few lines that gets me quickly on board and commands attention. After that different authors take varying routes. These can range from what I call multi section chapters – that is where a series of small star signs are employed to separate informative sections, each covering different scenes. Then there is the short chapter author. In this case, each chapter consists of just a few pages – all fully informative of course. These are the novels that one tends to keep saying, ‘I’ll just read one more chapter before turning off the light.’ I’m sure that each style must take a good degree of mastering and I enjoy them all. However, I am not a fan of lengthy chapters of descriptive detail that, in the end, contain only minimal action. One recent read almost reminded me of a jolly good travel book, infiltrated by an unfortunate murder. But, in the end, I guess book reading is no different to wine drinking. While it’s fun to experiment, we invariably go back to what we like!

Pleasant reading.

Peter Warrilow