Sunday, 31 May 2020

Musical Interlude: Erin McKeown


Love this lady.

Though watching the one bellow makes me desperately wish I could step into a live music venue for a quick pint. Going to be a while before we can all do that again.


Saturday, 30 May 2020

Happy PhD




Massive shout out to my fabulous friend Doctor Doctor Harris, who, as well as being an MD is also now a PhD. It was a huge privilege to watch him defend his thesis yesterday at the University of Luxembourg, via video conference.

Totally proud of him. It's been a hell of a few years. A pleasure to hang out with him in Kigali when he was here researching, and sort of a pleasure (mostly terrifying) to do a TEDx talk because of him - yes, that was his fault!

Know how hard he's worked on this and it was an honour to be part of the journey.

There was a huge amount of Mutzig involved along the way. 

Very much looking forward to seeing him and his partner once COVID is under control. Somewhere with good food, wine and ice-cream.



Friday, 29 May 2020

Ranty Post: How Authors in Developing Countries are Disadvantaged



Morning.

Today I'm having a bit of a rant about something that's irritated me for a couple of years now. I'm looking at the way PayPal, Adobe and Amazon KDP work differently for people in developing countries than they do for westerners, and the impact that has on artists.

Love to know your thoughts.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Home Studio

Hi everyone.

Well, I promised I'd talk about something other than book reviews for a change. So, here it is... audibook creation.

Said I had some exciting news about Children of Lir - I have. I'm working with some very talented people to turn that into an audiobook.

In the meantime, I'm also working on a slightly home-produced version of The Tangled Forest. Partly because someone once asked for it:


And partly because it's the only one of my books without any silly accents, so relatively straightforward to read out loud.

However, audiobook production is really hard. It isn't simply a case of sitting in front of a mic and reading your book. There's a world of pronunciation, equipment, software and editing that needs to go into it. Living in a country where equipment is hard to obtain and houses aren't soundproofed, that can get complicated fast, so I've had to do a bit of improvisation...




So, you can hear the sample here, which was recorded in the booth and thrown through Audacity for good measure.

I think it's passable.

When I started out, I did think 'oh, this is something I can do in a couple of weeks, just sit down and read.' I've since revised that to 'possibly three months' as the editing is intense, especially for me - someone who suffers from sibilance and a narrow (and therefore rather clicky) bite. 

I am keeping track of the number of chapters I've recorded, the number I've given a first pass edit and the number I've fully edited - I'll explain all this in another post - and so far I'm about to record chapter seven. There is a high likelihood I will lose patience with this in about five chapters' time, but for now I'm pressing ahead. 

It is tough going. Recording here you have to work around cicadas, which have a very high, repetitive noise that cuts through glass, crows, who never shut the fuck up, and hadadas, a form of ibis so named because they scream HADADA HADADA HADADA on their way home to roost.

All in all, it's a recording nightmare. 

But I'm still feeling fairly determined.

So, let's see where we end up.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Traditional Rwandan Dance Lessons


Shout out to Bijoux who is running traditional Rwandan dance sessions online during the lockdown. £36 for a six-week course, book through Hilde Cannoodt's site. They assure me there's no two-way video required, so you don't even have to get dressed, though you can video in if you want some extra support. Truly missing swimming during the lockdown so I really need this. I've already put on at least one box of Winnaz and a tub of Nutella. The course starts 4th June, so sign on up to support Bijoux and learn something new.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

The Adventures of English


Right, this is the last book review for a little while as I'm going back to read The Binding again and have caught up on all the titles I got through between #IndieApril and now. 

This was just one that looked interesting. As I started to listen, I realised that it is basically this video in long form, with a bit more depth.



I really enjoyed it. Stretching all the way from the end of the Roman Empire through to today's internet English and modern divergence. English certainly has had some fascinating adventures. 

I took a hundred-and-one notes, so won't go through everything, but some of the parts I found particularly interesting included the influence that nannies have had on language throughout history. The nobility are often held up as the  standard to which a language aspires, yet the children of rich families are rarely raised entirely by their mothers. So, the French nobility in England worried that their darling children would pick up English from their English nannies - which they did - and the rich whites in America worried that their darling children would pick up African Krio or slang from their black nannies - which they did. I never thought about that before, and it was interesting.

I recently read Les Misérables, and Victor Hugo was fairly obsessed with slang. For a writer, he seemed halfway horrified by it, and then gave it a grudging nod of acknowledgement as an expressive form. Turns out, this was an issue on everybody's minds back then. Loads of English linguists also went about trying to tame the language and prevent it from slipping into slang, which was considered the language of convicts and ne'er-do-wells. It kind of explains why Hugo devoted so much of Les Mis to that issue. 

It touched on the origins of some words, perhaps the most distasteful of which I never knew was that 'bulldozer' apparently comes from a 'bull dose,' a round of whipping so harsh it could kill a slave. Not going to look at that in the same way again.

It really is a very entertaining book and highly recommended. The history of language is often seen as a rather dry subject, but Melvyn Bragg really brings it to life with astonishing vigour. Very much in the same vein as Bill Bryson on Shakespeare. 

Right, as I said, I'm going to start talking about something other than book reviews now.

Happy reading.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Blood & Sugar



Another book review today, this one Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson, audiobook narrated by Ben Onwukwe.

June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock – horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark. Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham – a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career – is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He’d said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing... To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend’s investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family’s happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him. And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford...
Interesting subject matter, inspired by the Zong Massacre of the same year. I remember studying slavery in secondary school in the UK, I assume it's still on the curriculum. We watched Roots and looked at a deck plan of a slave ship, showing how close the people were packed together. Then, flash forward to Rwanda a couple of years ago and my friend Henri releasing his book, My African Dream, explaining how he first came to learn about slavery and its aftermath when he moved to America to study. How he hadn't realised there was such a problem between blacks and whites in the West, until he lived in the shadow of Stone Mountain.

There are some nice lines in the book:

What a country, I thought. How we weave ourselves into knots, trying to convince ourselves we're not monsters, even as we grow fat upon the profits of our monstrosity.
*
If wishes were wine, I'd never be sober. 

I couldn't help thinking it would have made an excellent computer game along the lines of Lamplight City. Trawling the back alleys of 18th century Deptford, asking questions in the opium dens and along the docks. It's got that sort of atmosphere about it. A mystery set beneath the eerie light of 'a tobacco sky'.

Thought it was a slight shame the historical note at the end wasn't read by the author. I understand keeping continuity, but I always think it's nice to hear about the research from the horse's mouth. 

If you're interested in this area of history, The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill is also worth reading.