Monthly Archives: February 2012

Hard Writing

What do I find hardest to write? An author I admire, Seanan McGuire (who writes the October Daye series of urban fantasy),gave the following list in her blog:

1. Killing some characters.
2. Not killing some characters.
3. Justifying what moves a character from #1 to #2.
4. Those long stretches of plot between explosions.
5. Leaving out the science.
6. Trusting [her] instincts where the science is concerned.
7. Endings.
8. Writing sex.
9. Ending conversations.
10. Balancing the action with the reaction.

She also said, “The painful parts of a project are like ninjas, and they sneak up on you.” Of course, she  then ‘unpacked’ each difficult thing and suggested ways to bash them over the head/deal with all of them.

It made me think about my own difficulties and how I tackle them. I came up with my own list of ten, (in random order) .

1. Beginnings. Deciding which scene should be the beginning. Sometimes the scene that begins a story in the author’s head isn’t the first one the reader wants to read.

2. Submissions. Submitting anything to an agent, a publisher or a competition. I feel both sick panic and a sense of hopelessness. Anything that involves an element of luck has that effect on me, not just writing!

3. Fight scenes. Not individual fights but mass battles. I find them totally confusing, skim them when I’m reading and look away when they’re on film. The skimming and looking away are an effect of the confusion but also make sure it continues!

4. Dialogue. I hear/write it in my head but sometimes forget to put it on the page. Or I summarise it.

5. Explanations. Remembering to explain things to the reader, who should not be expected to be psychic.

6. Medical matters. Describing medical conditions – anything from wounds to disease – is hard for me and requires a lot of research.

7. Physical cause and effect in world building. Something that looks pretty in an invented world (e.g. two moons) might have physical implications I haven’t thought through.

8. Formatting. Keeping everything in the same format drives me insane. Fonts, sizes, chapter headings, etc. And checking I’ve used the same symbols to divide sections, used italics consistently, and single or double speech marks. Checking for extra or missing spaces between words. Getting things into the right spacing etc. This is the part of writing I really hate as well as finding it difficult.

9. Timelines. Keeping track of a timeline can be hard; sometimes I get carried away by the main story and forget what else is going on.

10. Names. I frequently have to check the names (and other things e.g. how many children they have) of minor characters.

How do I tackle them?

1. Beginnings. I rely on my betas to tell me where the story starts and try not to set the sequence in stone in my head before I have their feedback. Occasionally my initial idea is right. But often I personally like a slow start (in my reading, too) and most people seem to prefer exciting action to draw them in.

2. Submissions. One of my betas is preparing to act as my agent. She has already submitted a couple of things on my behalf. But if I go ahead with the self-publishing, the problem will be solved. (Submitting to agents to try to find one is as bad as submitting to publishers.)

3. Fight scenes. I have to take a deep breath and try to visualise them. Then I have to put the results to my betas and work through what they say until we’re all happy. Or reasonably happy. I have to remember not to use the coward’s ways out (flashbacks, recounting, abstract-style descriptions that are heavy in emotion but don’t enlighten the reader). I’ve been guilty of them all. I even at one point had my hero imprisoned below decks so that I could avoid a naval battle. My betas made me bring him out. It’s often the choreography of close physical interaction that defeats me. I can cope with it in situations with two individuals (whether it’s a duel or sex). But you see then I can use an artist’s ‘doll’ to simulate positions if my imaginatiopn fails me. I should maybe take up war gaming with models. But in fact I simply try to avoid battles in my stories altogether.

4. Dialogue. I’ve learnt to go through and check that there aren’t too many pages of uninterrupted narrative. If there are, I’ve missed out some dialogue… I can write it; I just forget.

5. Explanations. My betas need to tell me if they haven’t understood something. The chances are it’s my fault, not theirs.

6. Medical matters. As well as doing online research and bookmarking websites (like have bought some books in the ‘Howdunit’ series (Scene of the Crime by Annie Wingate and Cause of Death by Keith D. Wilson) that help. And of course there is extrapolation from my own experiences, both as a patient and as a carer/visitor. For simple things I check them out with my daughter – see next point

7. Physical cause and effect. I run through things with my daughter, who is a scientist. She saves me from mistakes arising from things like extra moons or odd weather in sci-fi/fantasy stories. I have too little scientific education in some subjects (physics, chemistry, geology) and whilst I understand her explanations I rarely have sufficient instinctive grasp of these matters to avoid errors in the first place.

8. Formatting. As I said, this is what I hate most, and find hardest. It would probably be enough to drive me to a publisher (and editor/proof reader/etc.) except that I want to make sure my work is the best it can be before submitting it to a publisher… So I rely on my beta/agent/guardian angel, who is fortunately good at these things. Even so, I try to sort things out to some extent before enlisting her help, and that’s hard enough!

9. Timelines. I create a rough timeline at the beginning and refer to it every time I am about to start writing. Then when I finish, I add to it if necessary. It doesn’t have to have details, just basic information to stop me writing anachronisms within a story.

10. Minor names etc. I also create a kind of glossary before I start and add to that as well as to the timeline as I go along. Sometimes details of minor characters arise during the writing process. I don’t refer to it at the start of each writing session but I am aware that is there for me to refer to. It is also there to use at the end, doing a find-and-replace on names, both invented fantasy ones and ordinary ones – it’s so easy to turn Ann into Anne or Steven into Stephen. As for whether Brianna, in one of my novels, has one ‘n’ or two, I have no idea and have to check!

Most of the above are easily dealt with in short stories. They are much, much harder in novels.

What do you find hard? What do you do about it? Any tips?


Posted by on February 28, 2012 in writing



What I am writing

I suppose that in a blog about writing I ought to say just what I’m writing and the stage everything has reached. Then I can refer to it and you’ll know, or you can look back at this post. So here goes!

The order in which I deal with these is alphabetical by title.

(1) Angus (and other stories)

Angus has been published by Forbidden Fruit, an e-zine that is now defunct. I rewrote it for submission to one of the I Do Two anthologies but it didn’t suit the theme. I am thinking of putting it with some of my shorter non-fantasy pieces as an anthology on Smashwords.

(2) Answering Emily

This is a children’s story. It was originally written as letters to a friend’s grandchild who left notes for the fairies at the bottom of the garden. Nobody wants to publish as it is because it relies on coloured fonts, different fonts, etc. and would cost a lot to print. I have had favourable but negative responses from agents. Emily’s family are pushing me and we are currently saying that if the new Kindle colour version takes off, then it might be a self-publishing venture – but then I’ve been warned that Kindles are quite fragile and not child-friendly. Any comments? I suppose Kindle for PC would somewhere children could access it. Meanwhile, I have changed computers and no longer have the fonts I originally used. I have downloaded some new ones but there is quite a lot of reformatting to do. The work is thoroughly beta’ed and finished in other respects. Incidentally, it was the springboard for the Harlequin diaries.

(3) Evacuees

This only exists in planning form. It is a story based on my mother’s WW2 experiences as a teacher taking children to the countryside under evacuation plans. I have a lot of notes and also audio-tapes of her recollections. I have a plot roughed out. It will contain a heterosexual romance based loosely on my parents but will focus mainly on the wartime ‘adventures’.

(4) Executors

This is another in planning form only though I have tried out various chapters within a writing group. The story is based very loosely on my experiences as executor for the UK will of a non-UK citizen. It contains a bitter lesbian relationship between two of the lawyers involved – totally fictional and in no way based on the actual lawyers I dealt with.

(5) Harlequin’s Diaries (working title)

These started when the older brother of the fairy in Answering Emily demanded a book of his own. I ignored the demand but started a Live Journal muse account, interacting with others in extended role play and answering prompts. The whole thing just grew and grew. I was fortunate to find a beta/editor/co-writer/agent who helped to sort it out. So far, we have at least three volumes but there might be more material (especially the stories of Harlequin’s father’s present life) that doesn’t fit in these and will spill over into a fourth. And the ideas keep coming… My co-author (from vol 2 onwards and editor in chief on vol 1) has suggested we give the author’s name as Harlequin, avoiding concerns about human editors, co-authorship, etc.

Volume 1. Growing up Fae

This is ready for submission and is having a final proof read. We decided to submit it to a recommended publisher. If they don’t want it we will consider self publishing. This first volume starts with Harlequin’s childhood and finishes with the birth of his nephew. It covers his sexual adventures (he is bisexual) and his eventual established relationship with another (male) fairy. But it is not primarily a romance. It deals with fae culture, unicorns, travel, monsters, family problems, etc.

Volume 2. Life on the Edge

This is the sequel, following Harlequin and his family and friends through their adventures on and off Alderley Edge in Cheshire. It starts immediately after the first volume and finishes as various nieces and nephews are beginning to grow up. It is all written but is still in a muddle as some of the sections (especially the role play ones) were created out of sequence. Plus, some of them still need to be reorganised into narrative form.

Volume 3. Tales from Tara

This is not a sequel though it could be read as such. It is concurrent with the other books and recounts the adventures of Harlequin, and Yarrow, his lover, in the court at Tara (separately, not together). It also contains the adventures of some of the fae they met there. A great deal of it is written but there is still work in progress.

(6) Lords and Gentlemen

This is an anthology of m/m romance stories loosely based on legends and fairy tales. Most of them have been published to at least a limited readership but I think they go well together and as they are all mine and there is therefore no problem relating to prior publication I intend to use them as my first venture into self-publishing later this year. Apart from checking the font consistency across the five stories, they are ready to upload to Smashwords/Kindle.

i.The Lord of Shalott

What if the curse of the Lady of Shalott was that in fact ‘she’ was a man, a transvestite youth (not a curse in our day but certainly one then)? This has been ‘published’ on Live Journal to a literary community. It has now been removed from the archives and extensively re-edited so is ready to meet the world. Torquere Books didn’t want it because it’s the wrong length…

ii. Silkskin and the Forest people

I wrote this recently for a ‘fanfic’ challenge. It’s the story of Snow White, turned into an m/m romance and relocated in mediaeval Africa. It’s ‘published’ on Archive Of Our Own, but as fanfic in the fairytales fandom. It has been well received and as fairy tales have no copyright to worry about I think I would like it to reach a wider public.

iii. Jingling Geordie

I wrote this some years ago as a gift-fic for one of the organisers of a fanfic convention I sometimes attend. It is based on a local legend set in Tynemouth, Northumberland, the seaside resort where the convention was held that year. The legend deals with caves of treasure, hero explorers, magic and mystery. My version attempts to answer the mystery but in a supernatural way.

iv. Hare’s Children

This is a short story set in early mediaeval England which is in the form of a legend but is not in fact based on anything I have read or heard. It was published in the e-zine Gay Flash Fiction which has now closed and re-opened in a different format. The story has timed out and has been removed from the archives.

v. The Time thief

This is another short piece that was published in Gay Flash Fiction. It is a modern fairytale, in which a new lover is not quite what he seems.

(7) The Skilled Investigators

This is a fantasy detective series. (In fact it’s the series I wish someone else had written for me to read…so I had to write it myself.)It is set in a world where there are both elves and humans, and follows Genef, a young elf, as she tries to become an official investigator or detective. Helping her in her ‘cases’ are her gay brother (who provides some romance interest), a young dragon who imprinted on her accidentally when she was present at his hatching, and an older elf, her mentor in the guild. It is aimed at the upper end of the Young Adult market, and is a coming-of-age series. It is, however, suitable for anyone, from younger teens to adults who like fantasy. I read some advice that to write a sequel before a novel has been accepted for publication is brave but to write a third book is foolhardy. I must have taken this firmly on board as it is only now, as I consider self publishing, that I feel able to set volume three down on the screen! There will be six books in the series, based around the magical skills that Genef is gifted with each time she solves a case. The first book is ready. The second needs a final proof read. The third is in progress. The other three are planned but not written.

i. The Scroll

Genef has to fight to follow her ambitions, and in the process has to solve a murder that occurs at home but takes her on a journey to the capital, the court, and of course the guild of investigators. She gains the help of Fel, one of of her brothers, Scratch, a young dragon, and Rath, a guild mentor. This is ready to self-publish.

ii.The Market

Genef and Fel travel overseas to trace some royal jewels that are missing. There is murder to muddy the trail, Fel is kidnapped, and Genef has find the jewels as well as the murderer and get everyone home safely. I hope to have the final rewrites/proof reading done within the next few weeks.

iii. The Snow Queen

When Genef and Rath travel to the Ice Kingdom to find the last of the jewels, Scratch succumbs to the lure of the ice dragons and as well as her official task, Genef must try to rescue him (if he wants to be rescued) and solve a couple of murders that get in the way. I will almost certainly have this written at least in its first typed version by midsummer.

iv. Undercover

Genef and Rath go undercover to investigate some thefts and a murder. The trail leads across the border into the kingdom of men and the elves have to pass as human to fulfil their mission.

v. Caves

There is murder, mayhem and smuggling in the sea caves where Rath was born. He and Genef have to tread a fine line between officialdom and family matters.

vi. Home Run

Genef, fully qualified, goes back to her parents’ house to celebrate but there are dark mysteries in her home village. This is her first solo case, officially without Rath’s guidance, but he is still available to advise. Fel finally finds love, Scratch matures gracefully and Genef is all set for an illustrious career.

(8) The Virgin and the Unicorn

This is written but needs extensive editing after a lot of beta work. It concerns an arranged marriage between a young nobleman from one country and a prince from another. The story is perhaps more explicitly erotic than most of my writing. It explores themes of culture clash, arranged marriage, attitudes to same gender marriage, and the problems of compromise faced by any young couple. The setting is a fantasy one but there is little magic; however, there are unicorns. I think it could be ready to self publish later this year. I used a group on LiveJournal as betas and more than one person has asked for a sequel – mainly for more unicorns. We shall see.

So, quite a lot of unpublished work and nothing worrying in terms of finishing/plotting/etc. I told you, I think, that I have submission block rather than writer’s block. Self publishing should sort me out! And then I can justify to myself carrying on writing Genef’s third adventure and more of the Tales from Tara.


Posted by on February 18, 2012 in writing



I write like…

I found an amusing site.

If you load a sample of your writing, a few paragraphjs rather than a single sentence, it tells you which famous author you can compare yourself with…

Of course, if you have a variety of styles for different genres, there might be problems. I uploaded some of my non-fiction writing.

It told me I write like Cory Doctorow.

Now, I’d heard of him, but I’d never read a single word. Research showed me he writes sci-fi so I bought a novella for my Kindle. And that he’s a founder member of EFF, fighting to protect the internet against things like SOPA, P~IPA and ACTA. Someone I could be proud to emulate, then. I did more research and ended up subscribing to his blog. All because of an idle moment internet surfing!!


Posted by on February 11, 2012 in writing



Self Publishing

Once upon a time…

Self publishing was once regarded as only one step above vanity publishing, despite the fact that some self publishers went on to become famous and in the past (i.e. before the rise of modern publishing houses) almost all authors were either self published or published by private patrons.

Vanity publishing tends to cost a lot and leave the author with a number of volumes gathering dust in the garage. There is no ‘validation’ either by acceptance (they are only accepting the book because of payment) or by sales. The sad thing is that most authors conned by vanity publishers don’t suffer from vanity – they think they have found a genuine publisher for their work.

The advent of p.o.d. with sites such as lulu made it easier and more profitable for people to self publish, particularly in the non-fiction field, where the small size of the potential readership often stopped big publishing houses from taking on interesting books. Other writers used the internet to provide their work on websites organised on a pay-to-view basis. These changes involved only a tiny number of writers, fiction and non-fiction alike, but were the vanguard of the current trend. Both still have much to recommend them but do require quite a lot of initial financial outlay, even though this is usually recouped. The financial outlay is what tempts people to compare them with vanity publishing. The p.o.d. model is probably best suited to books which will sell to a local audience or a very specific one, e.g. within a sport or interest group. The website route requires marketing skills and enthusiasm. Some bookshops won’t stock books that have been self-published, but then some bookshops are going out of business. Websites can be tricky to bring to the attention of search engines.

Then came the e-reader, Amazon, and Smashwords. This has been a rapid and recent ‘revolution’ and like others, I was initially rather bemused by it. Now, I’ve been reading, and learning, and want to share my findings with you.


By about 2005 it dawned on a number of authors, both newcomers wanting to break into publication, and published writers wanting more control over their work and more reward, that:

*the global recession plus the rise of e-publishing has made it less and less likely that a total newcomer will be chosen in the publication lottery and even established series have been axed to make way for more ‘sure things’ such as TV tie-ins,  ghosted autobiographies of celebrities and other ideas that will make money for the publishers.

*editing, in the old sense, has been curtailed; you only have to look at the number or typos in modern books to know that authors are expected to do their own spell checking

*marketing, in the old sense, has also been reduced; authors complain about having to pay their own expenses to get to interviews etc. and that books are not always available at book-signings

*huge advances are very rare and in any case are just that – an advance against possible future earnings, plus, they are paid all at once and therefore are taxed within that tax year, which can be a financial drawback

*e-publishers give even more parsimonious rewards than the big houses (advances are almost unheard of), though often the royalties are higher; they do even less work in terms of marketing and editing; many (though not all) of their editors are less able compared with those who work for the publishing giants; there are drawbacks in terms of copyright agreements, being tied in to contracts, etc.

*e-publishers, to give them their due, also produce very nice print versions, but at that point turn into regular publishing houses…

*Kindle and Smashwords provide a cheap, professional e-publishing service and a number of authors are taking advantage of this and making money selling their books; why give rights and control to a publisher if it isn’t necessary? (Note that we are not mentioning Apple with their greed for copyright control.)


There have been a lot of blogs and articles about this and I have been following:, (Tasha is a friend of mine), and, plus reading articles recommended by them and by others. I am also watching with interest Josh Lanyon’s decision to take back his books as the various agreements time out, and self publish. For in depth analysis I would recommend starting with Konrath. His rather humorous style conceals a great deal of interesting comment.


Some of the arguments in favour of self publishing are:

* the writer retains more control over the book – editing, format, copyright, cover, price, marketing ploys

*the rewards are potentially higher; Kindle let the author retain 70% of the cover price if the book is priced at $2.99 upwards, and 35% for books priced below that.

*the rewards are paid monthly (good for tax purposes) and authors don’t usually have to ‘chase’ Kindle – something not unknown with big publishers

*readers will often buy cheap e-books on a whim and as a result, sales figures can be higher than with a traditional publishing route; of course they won’t come back for more unless your book is worth reading

*it’s free; there is no charge for putting your book on the site although of course like any writer you have the cost of your time and your materials (such as your computer) and your research – there aren’t even the postage/printing costs associated with submitting to the big print publishers


Of course, some of the arguments against self publishing are very much the same points (with my comments in italics):

*the writer is responsible for the editing, format, cover, etc; but if you write on a computer anyway, you’re half way there and if you have good betas/supportive friends  it gets even more manageable and the sites give a lot of help

*your book can get lost in among the drivel that is coming out in e-books; well, yes, but it can also sink like a stone in a conventional publishing format or with a professional e-publisher; there is a vast amount of drivel out there anyway

* people will regard your book as somehow less worthy if you are only charging $2.99 for it; this is an argument that can only be resolved by your bank manager depending on your sales and it depends, in the final analysis, on whether you’d rather be rich or famous (given that both may not be on offer)

*self publication does not give you the validation that acceptance by a professional publisher does; no, it doesn’t, but see the previous point about sales; also, I wouldn’t try to self publish anything without a lot of beta input  from people I trust, so the validation comes at that point, and publisher acceptance is more like winning the lottery

*it’s a lot of work and you wanted to be a writer, not a publisher; but it is almost as much work to get something ready to submit to a publisher and then there’s all the waiting and worry; also, while marketing is a pain, a publisher expects you to do a lot of your own publicity anyway

*it only works for people who have already built up a fanbase of loyal readers; according to admittedly anecdotal but numerically vast accounts in Writing’, a magazine I subscribe to, this is not true.


Note that I am not suggesting for a moment that weighty academic books or highly illustrated volumes have any place in the self publishing world. I think the professional publishers are going to have to change their whole publishing model to be able to continue to bring us that kind of thing and meanwhile I wish any authors of those sorts of books well and hope they manage to attract publishers’ attention.

By the way, the magazine I mention also has a free (but limited) online presence: It’s worth a look.


My own personal reasons for even considering self publishing are as follows:

*my work tends to stray outside the tight genres beloved by publishers, making it less likely to get published

* I have a kind of submission phobia, based on the assumption that it is statistically improbable that my work will be considered and that therefore it is a lot of work and worry for nothing

*some friends/family want to see some of my work published

*if I was published/self published, I could legitimately call myself a writer and thus justify spending hours on my laptop and in a dreamworld

*it is easy to share or ‘publish’ my fanfiction; I think/hope my original fiction is as good if not better but it is harder to get it to an audience.

I have to admit that I am not particularly interested in fame or fortune except insofar as both or either would allow me justify the hours etc. Of course I would welcome fame, in terms of interested readers. If I didn’t want to share my work I wouldn’t spend so long on it. I might write a first draft (second if you count the draft in my head) and leave it at that. All the rewrites and edits are for other people and for the pleasure of sharing. (Incidentally, I put the same amount of work into fanfiction which brings no monetary reward.) I wouldn’t say no to money, either, but it isn’t why I write, and as I’m retired it isn’t even a pressing necessity. I have my finances worked out to allow me to spend time writing; it’s the family demands I would like to be able to counter with claims that I had to ‘work’.


I know some of you have experiences to share and others have plans. Are there general points I haven’t covered? (I’ll leave the details to Konrath etc.) And what do the rest of you think?


Posted by on February 6, 2012 in publishing



Reading and watching. January 2012

I thought I would post a monthly account of what I have been reading and watching. The date beside each book or film/series refers to the date of finishing a book or watching the last episode of a series. So Culpeper only just squeaked in. P refers to printed versions and E to e-books. I have not included fanfiction, despite reading a lot of it, and I have also left out most of the books I bought for/read with my grandson though Lost Worlds has made it onto the list. Magazines and e-zines have also been omitted. I have included unfinished books – which are rare in this household. I give a very brief comment on everything but if you have read/watched them and would like to discuss them, or if you would like further information, I would be delighted!


Jan1. P Culpeper’s Complete Herbal – Nicholas Culpeper. Fascinating insights into old medical

practices and a good resource for both plant information and names for fantasy writing.

Jan3. P Simply Sushi – Steven Pallett – Instant Masterclass. Interesting but overwhelming. I think

I’ll stick with Tesco’s ready-made variety.

Jan6. P Supertips 2 – Moyra Bremna. This was a re-read, found when I was packing books. It has

some timeless/great tips on all kinds of cleaning, gardening, cooking matters, etc. but also

some dated/hilarious ones. The sections on caring for your record collection/record

player are fascinatingly out of date!

Jan6. E Whiskey Sour – J A Konrath. A competent and gripping, somewhat gruesome thriller, on

the same lines as Karen Rose. I bought it because I’m following his blog about self-

publishing and was curious but will definitely read more by him and have already bought

two. I’ll talk about the blog in another post.

Jan10. P Mystery – Jonathan Kellerman. Yes, that’s the title though it’s also the genre. Mystery is

the latest in the Alex Delaware series and is as competent as usual. A kind of comfort

reading with exciting bits.

Jan12, E Men under the Mistletoe. Four fabulous m/m novellas brought out as a Christmas

anthology and on a Christmas theme. I bought it for the stories by Josh Lanyon and Harper

Fox, whose work I already know. Ava March and K.A. Mitchell were new to me but are

equally admirable writers.

Jan15. P Manchester Poets – an anthology including a friend’s work. I went to the book launch.

and my copy is signed. A mixed bag, as poetry anthologies so often are, but there’s

something there to appeal to everyone.

Jan19. P Personal Connections in the Digital Age – Nancy K Baym. This was a great summary of

the issues surrounding digital communication, both online and via mobile phones. The

had some interesting research results and some sensible arguments to make. As I’d put in a request to

‘Santa’ who kindly brought it, I had to read it a.s.a.p.

Jan20. P Books do furnish a room – Leslie Geddes-Brown. This is a visually fascinating ‘coffee

table’ book with gorgeous photographs and some good ideas about book storage. Some

weird ones, too.

Jan24. P Madness of Angels – Kat Griffin. This is a surrealist fantasy about London and magic, lent

to me by the same friend who let me borrow the Books book. With this one, I gave up at

p35. Overdone descriptions and no ‘hook’ or suggestion of where the plot might be going.

Jan28. P Lost Worlds _ Jon Howe. Howe illustrated much of Tolkien’s work. This is a great simple

reference book with beautiful pictures of ‘forgotten’ civilisations, some mythical and others

real enough but swept away by history or nature. I bought the book to put away for my

grandson but I suspect it will remain in my house so that I can share it with him.

Jan29. E The Best Christmas Ever – Anel Viz. A delightful and thought provoking m/m story about

an ‘unequal’ relationship between an intellectual and his mildly retarded lover. I shall be

reviewing it for Wilde Oats.


I note that this month’s reading is short on fantasy though Harper Fox’s story Midwinter Knights in the anthology contains supernatural elements.


Films: DVDs or TV series (usually watched on DVD or iPlayer). Some of the DVDs are rented.

Jan2. Spiral Season 1. (8 eps) A French cop/law show. We had already seen season 3 and bought

seasons 1 and 2 because we liked them so much. Season 1 is gripping and sets up a lot of

scenarios/relationships for the following seasons. The photography, all in Paris, is great, and

the acting is superb.

Jan3. Legend of the Guardians. A confused fantasy, unsure whether to be a cartoon or a serious CGI

adventure. Australian owls battle against the forces of darkness!!! Fun, but I won’t buy it.

Jan7. La vie en rose. Biopic of Edith Piaf. The story was told in a confusing way with too many

flashbacks, and the dark sets didn’t help. There were no complete songs other than ‘Je ne

regrette rien’ at the end. The story was interesting and sad but the film was disappointing.

Jan17. Public Enemies.(BBC. 3 eps) A well-acted drama with an interesting plot exploring the

problems faced by people wrongly accused/convicted. I was surprised by the happy or at least

hopeful ending.

Jan23. The Libertine (Johnny Depp). Amazing acting. Pity about the plot. The story deals with the

decline and fall of the Earl of Rochester in Restoration England. Depp’s portrayal of the earl,

from beautiful courtier to disease-ridden misery, was a masterpiece, though I have to admit I

would watch Depp in almost anything. The story is very thin and hardly worth a full length


Jan24. Sherlock (BBC) Season 2. (3 eps) The second and third episodes were terrifying to watch, for

me. I find knife-edge scenes in films and on TV unpleasant, even though I will read them

happily in books. These were alarming and although I am familiar with Holmes canon, the

BBC version tweaks the stories for the twenty-first century and the viewer does not know

what to expect. I will no doubt watch season 3 next year and be scared all over again.

Jan29. Birdsong (BBC) (2 eps). Visually stunning, filmed around Budapest rather than in northern

France where the story is set. Mediocre acting and some odd ‘takes’ on WW1. I disliked the

book (by Sebastian Faulks)and disliked this.

Jan31. Bent. A Channel 4 film originally made for TV, based on Martin Sherman’s play about

homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps. Incredibly well acted and directed; powerful and

moving. I cried. Highly recommended but I wouldn’t put myself through it again. However,  I now

want a copy of Mick Jagger singing Streets of Berlin and it isn’t available.


So, 12 books and 8 films/series in January. I shall be interested to see what I manage in February. And as I said, I’d love to hear your comments on any of these.


Posted by on February 1, 2012 in reviews