Saturday, 13 May 2017

Let The Vlog Commence

If you'd like to see what I'm up to when I'm not writing novels, we've just started a video diary for the Kigali Keys project. You can also follow along on the blog.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Save Tyseley

A few years ago I interviewed Artistic Director Marianne McNamara when Mikron turned 40. It's Britain's only narrow boat theatre, travelling up and down the country delivering theatre in pub gardens and community halls, often tackling political and historical topics such as the Luddites, women's suffrage, the Newbury bypass, and the origins of beer and chocolate. They are absolutely worth seeing if you're out and about over the summer months. You can find their tour schedule on their website and via Twitter.

Sadly, their narrow boat, Tyseley, is in need of repair. It's a listed historic ship built in 1936. You can find its details on the National Historic Ships archive

The bad news is in, we need a full engine refurb, and rewiring of the electrics in the engine room...

In short, we need to find £10k. It's more serious than we thought. But it's better than the other options available to us:

  •     A brand new Russell Newbery engine would cost approx. £19k
  •     A reconditioned RN would cost approx. £14k
  •     A more modern engine would cost approx. £9k

We would soon incur costs not far from the refurb amount in extra travel and accommodation, and still not have an engine in time to start the tour. We will have a guarantee on the works and a newly refurbished engine and wiring that should last a LONG time. She's our biggest asset and still great value for money.

These guys have been going for 46 years. That's a hell of a run for a small, independent theatre company. They are absolutely unique, and many actors have had their first break there.

There's a sponsored walk this weekend which you can donate to online here. But you can also contact them directly through their website to make a contribution. 

Please help Mirkon keep on boating.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Dragons of Wales

Everybody knows that Wales is the land of dragons. There's even a dragon on their national flag.

Welsh Flag
Here Be Dragons

But a new project aims to document the rare dragons of Wales, photographing them in their national- sorry, natural habitat. They post all new findings on Twitter. Creator Andy Frazer has just successfully completed a crowdfunder to publish his work. You can find a video about it on KickStarter, and you can also become a Patreon.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Five and Thirty

Well, it's been a choppy return to writing, what with the Indiegogo campaign to run at the same time, but I'm making solid progress.

Snow White & Rose Red is now at 5,000 words. Still a baby story, but going well. Continuing to enjoying the fairytale genre. In Ghostwood's latest update they announced:

...coming up by summer, we're planning on publishing a series of connected novellas in eBook form before publishing them together in print in the autumn.

I can't say for sure, but that might have something to do with me. 

Will keep you updated.

Meanwhile, Still Life is now at 30,000. Whereas I'm worried Red & White might not stretch far enough, I'm wondering if I'll be able to whittle Still Life down to a sensible novel size. It takes a bit of concentration to write as it's split between modern day and Victorian times, but it's really bringing up some interesting ideas around technology, photography and time.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Musical Interlude: Rickie Lee Jones

People do choose to do the strangest things sometimes. Not that strange is bad - just strange. I've been writing briefly about Evelyn McHale in Still Life. Just a brief entry on what is sometimes referred to as the most beautiful suicide. Whilst attempting to find out what the model of car was that she landed on, I came across an odd recreation on YouTube (disturbing). It did help answer the question, but the song got stuck in my head. It really does seem to compliment the picture. It's sad. I like it. The thought that struck me was that she wrote in her suicide note: I don't want anyone in or out of my family to see any part of me [after I am dead]. Yet it has become one of the most iconic suicide images in the history of photography. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Just a Toto

At lunch, a coworker said the foam on his glass looked like a demon, so I ended up drawing it.

Apparently, this is my 1,000th blog post. Goodness, I do spend a lot of time online, don't I? 

Well, let's celebrate with some art. This is one of my favourite tweeters, Toto: @totomon

Please give him a follow. He's got so much talent. One of those people who really should be earning a living from his art.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Before We Visit The Goddess

Just finished Before We Visit The Goddess by one of my all-time favourite authors, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I first discovered Divakaruni around 2007. I'd seen The Mistress of Spices movie. The old VSO resource room in Kigali used to have a whole wall of abandoned books, and Mistress of Spices was among them. Picked up in an airport somewhere in the world and delivered to central Africa. I read a lot of books from that shelf, all those evenings without a television or radio.

Divakaruni is one of those rare writers who manages to turn prose into poetry at ever pen stroke. Sister of My Heart is high on my list of favourite books, but you can never be disappointed with anything she writes. There is a fluidity to her stories which pulls you under. Always a nice marriage between truth and daydream.

A beautiful, powerful new novel from the bestselling, award-winning author of Sister of My Heart and The Mistress of Spices about three generations of mothers and daughters who must discover their greatest source of strength in one another—a masterful, brilliant tale of a family both united and torn apart by ambition and love.

The daughter of a poor baker in rural Bengal, India, Sabitri yearns to get an education, but her family’s situation means college is an impossible dream. Then an influential woman from Kolkata takes Sabitri under her wing, but her generosity soon proves dangerous after the girl makes a single, unforgivable misstep. Years later, Sabitri’s own daughter, Bela, haunted by her mother’s choices, flees abroad with her political refugee lover—but the America she finds is vastly different from the country she’d imagined. As the marriage crumbles and Bela is forced to forge her own path, she unwittingly imprints her own child, Tara, with indelible lessons about freedom, heartbreak, and loyalty that will take a lifetime to unravel.

In her latest novel, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni explores the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, and the different kinds of love that bind us across generations. Before We Visit the Goddess captures the gorgeous complexity of these multi-generational and transcontinental bonds, sweeping across the twentieth century from the countryside of Bengal, India, to the streets of Houston, Texas—an extraordinary journey told through a sparkling symphony of voices.

I've always enjoyed generational sagas. I'm a huge fan of The Seduction of Silence by Bem Le Hunte, and this reminded me a little of it, in as much as it follows families, and especially daughters, from India to the West, following their fates and fortunes. Slightly tricky mix of first and third person, which felt as though it needed a little concentration, but which also allowed you to think something about a character and have that thought dispelled in their own voice.

I also love books that teach me new words, and there were many gifts in this one: dhoti, panch phoron, tiffin carrier, kukri, invective, sententious, martinet, andiron and escritoire. As well as some imaginative lines:

Ebb and flow, ebb and flow, our lives. Is that why we're fascinated by the steadfastness of stars?

...Meena, her still, pale body on the hospital gurney, her long hair falling over its edge like sorrow. odour like resignation...

And I also smiled at the reference to Cloud Atlas, which, as you know, I'm a huge fan of.