Another quiet week from me. Sorry, I really must get into a regular blogging habit – it’s just hard when there’s so many other things to think about on this writing journey. I intend to do better…we will see how long this lasts. I quite like the idea of using Sundays as an update day, if I have failed to contribute anything during the week…what do you think?
It’s been my husband’s first week of summer annual leave, which I expect has contributed to my rather lazy approach to work! I did manage to almost complete Behind the Cave Wall – the companion ebook to my novel – and have only the final few bits and pieces to do on it, so if you’re a member of readers’ club, look out for it in your inbox next week (hopefully…). See there’s an element of hope in so much of my work atm – I blame the summer.
Speaking of the warm weather, the heatwave from last week thankfully cleared up and we had several quite miserable days (for which the garden rejoiced) followed by more clement and sunny ones. We are making the most of being able to go for walks and enjoying the glorious countryside in Norfolk.
I have so far done very little writing, but I do have my next MC’s name and I am making an about-turn and setting “From the Hammer’s Fall: An Iron Age Story”, at a known Iron Age hillfort in N Norfolk. It will be fun being able to visit and map out the story in situ.
Last night we sat outside until late. The chiminea was blazing away and I found myself staring into the depths of the fire, marvelling at how the discovery of how to control this force of nature, had such an impact on human growth and development right from the beginning. It’s interesting that through charting the societal story I will also be looking at how we have used and adapted technology – taking that fire and learning about its properties of energy to go from simple tool creation right the way through to industrialisation and modern scientific discoveries.
Yes this is the sort of thing that goes through my mind…!
This post has little actual substance but there we go!
How has your week been?
What WIPs are on your mind?
Am I the only one who has these philosophical/historical/societal reflections at odd moments? Maybe I should write them down more often!?
It is always a good sign when I finish a book in one night. I did it with Harry Potters 4/5/6 & 7 ; Garth Nix’s Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen; Philip Pullman’s novels were regularly devoured into the small hours; Terry Pratchett had me laughing while my eyes were held open with matchsticks* and now I can add this hilarious and hugely entertaining novel, Trouble with Parsnips to the list.
Title: Trouble with Parsnips
Author: Laurel Decher
Genre: fantasy/humour/modern fairytale
Page count: 268
TIBC Rating: * * * * *
Oh I do like that the first book I review gets the top rating!
Trouble with Parsnips opens at a christening party in the home of our nameless royal heroine. She has the nickname Fifteenth, as she is the fifteenth child of King Oliver and Queen Sibyl. Unfortunately, they have been so busy ruling the kingdom of Cochem (of which the Golden Parsnip is the symbol of state) and educating the older children, that she has been a decade without a name, hence the christening party.
As the story begins, Fifteenth is trying her hardest to ensure that everything goes as planned and she ends the day with a name and a suitable Fairy Godmother’s gift, as is appropriate for royal princesses on their christening day. This is not as simple a task as you may think. From the threat of Croquet Fever and missing guests to the very fact that without a name you are often forgotten, Fifteenth has a lot to handle. Luckily she is well equipped for the task, handy with a wrench and very quick thinking, she gets around most issues…that is until the arrival of the Blackflies and all the trouble they bring…
…her biggest test will come with the dreaded arrival of Croquet Fever, (not as harmless as you may think) when all her plans come tumbling down and the Golden Parsnip is no longer in Cochem hands…
This was an absolute delight to read. From the first chapter to the last, I was entertained by Fifteenth and the other characters. She is a modern-day heroine of the highest order: intelligent, handy, independent, feisty and kind, she leaps off the page as all the best main characters should. The cast around her too, are real while maintaining the ‘fairytale’ feel for the book. I particularly loved Bridget and her father who were genuinely good people. The villain of the piece (I won’t spoil who it is, though you will probably guess early on) is appropriately villainous and I enjoyed the scene where they trailed Fifteenth around the gathered guests as she did odd-jobs for each of them, ensuring they were shown appropriate hospitality.
The story flows wonderfully and there is a strong sense of connection to the main thread of the book throughout. We have all dealt with the feeling of being invisible and being afraid to speak up and I liked how this was explored and the way that it was resolved without being too ‘preachy’ or patronising. That overall is the feeling I take away from this, at no point did I feel to old to be reading it. The story resonated with me as an adult as much as I’m sure it will with children. The humourous nature of the book too, was not excessive: My enjoyment of it was drawn more from the absurdity of the situations than any ‘jokes’, a clever format in the vein of Terry Pratchett or Lemony Snicket, which I particularly enjoy.
If I were to make any criticism, it would be with the front cover, which, in my opinion, doesn’t particularly suit the book. It makes it look far more like a ‘princess story’ than it actually is, despite being full of royalty, kingdoms and tournaments. It is definitely a book that I feel as a story would appeal to both boys and girls, but some boys may be put off by the ‘girly’ front cover and miss out on a fantastic story.
Overall this is a brilliantly entertaining book which both boys and girls of 8/9+ will love. Fifteenth may feel forgotten by her family but her story is definitely one that I will remember and return to read again and again.
Thank you, Laurel for the opportunity to review this brilliant book!
Last night, I went to my writing group which is made up of teachers from across the region. It is run by a former lecturer/tutor on the course, who is undeniably passionate about writing and in particular, writing for pleasure.
One of the exercises that we did was to reflect on this past academic year (with being a group of teachers, this was our last session). She asked us to consider what we had learned in regards to writing and what we had learned in regards to teaching writing. With my status as ‘former teacher’ I was unsure how to proceed with this latter question and so focused on the ways I have grown as a writer in general, not just within the sessions. After all, my profession may no longer be within the day-to-day education of children, but I feel that the best writers are those whom we can model ourselves after.
And so to my list. It isn’t long or particularly innovative. It is purely a self-reflection on how far I have come since I first sat down at my computer screen and introduced myself to Osha et al.
This year I have learned…
To write without inhibition.
The joy of interesting language.
To respond to what’s around me and be inspired by the mundane.
To view things differently.
To enjoy the writing process not just the results.
The power of good writing.
That less is often more.
To make mistakes, change, write again, change, try a different way, change, before maybe being satisfied???
Punctuation can come last.
To be a writer/author who taught as opposed to a former teacher who writes.
The last one feels particularly of note.
That day, 18 months ago, that I chose to begin my story, and saw in my mind’s eye the little girl staring in awe at a cave painting, I thought of myself as a teacher who had left the profession and was going to write. The difference is subtle but it’s an important one. I am an author and I was a teacher. Both feed off one another and I can draw on skills and ideas which I used in the classroom, but they are two separate spheres. When I go into schools it is as an author not as a teacher; my passion is books, reading, writing, language, plot, character, dialogue and all the rest, as opposed to education and teaching.
Thinking about this year, I can see this big difference in the “pruning” that I gladly did of my book. Ironically, it was the removal of those aspects of writing that we teach children (…thanks Mr Gove!…) that helped the flow and brought the book to life. I let go of the feeling of rigidity of ‘writing to teach’ and instead allowed myself to write a plot which children would respond to. That was the key.
I really hope that a child (or several) will read my book(s) and enjoy them. Yes they can learn historical ‘facts’ and draw lessons from them, but that is not the focus as it once was. Writing Osha, I fell in love with her as a character not as a literary device. She is real to me, as I hope she will be for others and these are lessons that I can take forward as I embark on the next one.
…I just hope it doesn’t take 18 months this time!…
What have you learned this year?
Is there a difference in your writing now than previously?
Comment, like, share. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Over the last week, I have been down the rabbit hole!
I started properly writing last week. I am now at 2 complete chapters. This may not seem much, but my feelings of accomplishment are enhanced by the amount of research and “setting” I have been able to do.
When approaching a story about the Stone Age or any prehistory, you must first work out which epoch you are going to look at? The simplest way to separate these epochs is to split them into 3:
Paleolithic (Early Stone Age)
Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age)
Neolithic (Late Stone Age)
This is a very simplistic way to look at this complicated and detailed subject area, but as a starting point it helps.
Due to the nature of the story I wanted to tell, I knew that I would be setting my story during the Paleolithic times. I knew that I wanted to explore the nomadic side of the people of the stone age – more than anything because it is so vastly different from most 21st Century living arrangements. The concept of migration due to climatic and seasonal changes was something that I felt would be an interesting starting point.
Putting it very very simplistically, by the Mesolithic into Neolithic times, this behaviour was not necessary in the same way: the highly changeable climates of the Ice Age were largely over and the climate was more settled. This meant that people were able to begin to develop the skills to build more permanent settlements, create homes and learn the skills of planting crops for consumption; a situation which is far more recognisable to modern children.
The next problem that I faced was deciding which end of the Paleolithic I was going to focus on: Lower/Middle/Upper (again very simplistic). I settled on the late Paleolithic as this fit with a lot of the ideas that I was mulling over. From millions of years of the development of early man, I had managed to bring my focus into about 40,000 years of history.
I was thrilled with this. I could generally place things in Europe and work around the discoveries and evidence of human activity from about 50,000-10,000 BCE.
What I didn’t expect; in fact never dreamed of, was to be able to pinpoint my story down to 1000-2000 years…
…Down the rabbit hole: Into the Wonderland of writing!
So I had managed to write about 50% of the 1st of three books yesterday – and today have decided to scrap the lot!
Still, this has given me a good concept of what it is I need to do to accomplish my goals. Not least start with the longer book first and then work backwards to simplify it. This has then lead to my researching the historical background and coming across some very interesting articles about the lack of children in archaeology and anthropology.
This was why I wanted to do this…leave behind the day to day baggage of the classroom and instead fall in love with history, research and writing again.
So not a bad day overall and tomorrow I can continue with the research and begin to put together the first part of the book.
I will be blogging about the content soon. I am very passionate about this project and hope you will be too – particularly if you are a teacher…!
I have always loved stories. From a very small age, telling stories has felt very natural and right to me. Whether playing with toys alone or outside with friends, ideas, imagination and inspiration have always been there.
Stories are what make childhood exciting, as well as, from early on, building our picture and understanding of the world. Without stories we cannot hope to dream of new and better things.
I have a story to tell and as I sit here on a Saturday morning, it will not let me sleep before I have begun to tell it.
It is a story which will span centuries, millennia even. Taking us from the time of giant beasts that roamed the plains, while pockets of humans fought to survive (NOT dinosaurs!). To the might of the British Empire, storming across the seas and taking all without looking to the consequences.
History is the greatest story of all and through a series of books, I am going to tell it; not through the eyes of adults but the dreaming, determined eyes of some very strong children.
This is the story of us…
It all starts with a wall.