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Category: A writer writing

Can you hear the words?

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You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a few thoughts on the voices in your head…


Audio books are a conundrum for me.

They are an attractively packaged way to absorb a book. The words are broadly the same as in a printed or downloaded version, often abridged.

Why cut down? They reduce listening time for a not-huge novel to 10-20 hours rather than 30 or 40. A working week for some. Therein lies the nub of the problem, it doesn’t matter if it’s Charles Dance or Benedict Cumberbatch reading the book out and providing a nuanced voice to differentiate between characters’ voices. The problem for me is that it is too slowly delivered. I process a word and race for the next one which I need to carry on the flow. So why not speed it up? Making it 1.5x speed or more just makes it sound like Mickey Mouse is providing the reading voice.

So it’s too slow or too fast.

Either way, it’s relentless.

I sometimes dwell over a paragraph or re-read it in a book. That’s not possible with an audiobook without a great deal of haphazard fiddling with the buttons.

Relentless, like the tapping of the Master’s fingers…

It will keep coming until the charge runs out, and you wake up at 3 am five chapters on. The Voice is still going and you’ve no idea where in the book you lost consciousness.

I don’t know whether it’s a scientific Thing, but the words don’t seem to stick with me as much when I’m listening to them being read. It’s much easier to be distracted because there’s nothing right in front of you drawing you in. I am more absorbed in the pages of a book, paper or otherwise. (Some people can learn how to speak Swahili while listening to a tutorial tape as they sleep, so perhaps it’s the way my brain is wired.)

Why have audiobooks? Why are they so popular?

They give the gift of time.

When driving a car or gardening or doing something else active, an audiobook nearly allows the luxury of multi-tasking which, from my perspective as a male, is an alluring and usually unattainable prospect. But it comes at a cost. Keeping up with the story. Driving a car and listening to an audiobook, especially at a gripping bit, has to be one of the most dangerous ways of getting from A to B, when you want the gripping bit to be the tyres on the road. That Voice requires concentration and focus, not things one typically wants to divert from pointing a couple of tons of metal and plastic along some tarmac.

It’s a compromise, then. But sitting in a hammock on a lazy afternoon in the blazing sunshine and floating away to the past or the future or simply somewhere else without squinting at dappled pages and battling a wasp for a good view of the next paragraph is a wonderful thing, while swaying in the breeze.

It’s like having a radio station follow you around dedicated to telling you stories. A kindly nanny reading you bedtime stories. Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime on tap. It shouldn’t replace a book but, like most things, at the right time and in the right place, it can be perfect.

I am currently listening to The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter (main picture above). It’s War of the Worlds 2 with more tooled-up ETs. Like Independence Day 2 but set in Surrey. Bertie Wooster fighting off Martians. More likely, Jeeves fighting them off, having invented a fiendish secret weapon while spit-and-polishing some brogues. Unlike Wodehouse, there is strictly no humour in MoM, which is a shame, and there’s precious little soul. A little too much stiff upper lip for me. The pace is – like the audiobook – relentless, but at the same time also rather sedate. Only five hours to go, and I’m sticking with it.

What ho!

Alan

Alan Camrose

Martians, pah! Meet Dogzilla…
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How much is that in EUROs?

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You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, the trials of supporting England at international tournaments…


The first Euro tournament was held before I was born: 1960 in France. Only four teams; the Soviet Union won it. No England, so no problem with penalties.

Spain 1964. England participated. Didn’t get very far, even with still only four teams…

I was 2 years old, so I didn’t care.

All the heart-ache was to come, the main (so far) being Italia 90, and Euro 96 in England. So, Euro 96: All to play for. That epic, mesmerising goal by Gascoigne against the Scots, that sensational win 4-1 against the Dutch, that gut-wrenching miss from the squared ball against Germany.

And of course the penalties, by which time England had got into the groove to be world-ranked 1 in losing penalty shoot-outs, having limbered up with that loss against the Germans in the 1990 World Cup. Football so nearly came home in Euro 96. I remember hearing the Germans singing that it had – annoyingly funny…Time for payback, Mr Southgate.

As a means of recovering from that trauma which EVEN NOW HURTS, this should reset your equilibrium if you are suffering too:

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…

The couple of blips to our record on crashing out in spot kick deciders has had a couple of blips but I still head for the back of the sofa with a bottle of Scotch when it slithers around once more

Still, did I mention Gazza’s awaesome moment when the world slowed on it axis to make sure he didn’t stumble?

Phil Foden needs to earn his hair-style tomorrow!

Bringing things up to date, I have just finished watching North Macedonia (I must confess that I wouldn’t be able to point to it on a map) against Ukraine. Loads of fun. How the tournament has expanded and how helpful that it is being played during a hot spell when there’s nothing else but to stay indoors with a cold beer. I’m happy to pitch in…

Scotland tomorrow, then. Let’s not mess it up after beating Croatia. Let’s play direct, fast-paced, one-touch attacking football with the most promising team that we have had since 96.

Thank God we won in 1966. No penalties.

So much better with the crowds partially back.

Their noise can hide the groans and whimpers.

Maybe not the screams.

But I live in hope.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Lily

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You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a trip down memory back roads in a work of art…


Lily is beautiful. She has a special place in my heart.

She has a swooping, V-shaped front, and gleaming green-and-white bodywork. And a pop-up roof. Marvelous.

Lily of the Valleys

We met many years ago when our Family trekked over to Pembrokeshire for an Escape to Nature in our version of the Mystery Machine. Camping. Board games. Rain. British holidays at their most alluring.

We collected Lily and got down to the serious business of grappling with a steering wheel the size of a dustbin lid and brakes which had a stopping distance of around two miles. Cornering required forward planning, The bed in the back looked comfortable., not that I was ever going to see it up close. The Boy and I were turfed out under canvas at the camp site, under the stick on awning that turned Lily into a caravan in the more exotic sense of the word. We forgot the Turkish delight and made do with Welsh cakes.

6:30 the next morning, the thrill of a night out under the stars was tempered by (a) the lack of stars all night because of the cloud cover; and (b) the detached edge of the awning wetly slapping me across the face as if flapped in the wind.

No matter.

We had conquered the challenges of sleeping in and next to a vehicle on a cliff-top. First-hand evidence demonstrated that the handbrake was well-made and functioning. After braving the hose-shower and the peculiarly unstable toilet tent provided by the site, we were done and ready for the next adventure.

In search of snacks

Managed chaos and discomfort, the joy of the outdoors. Freedom.

And we will do it again, these days subject to there being three bars of Wi-Fi and a buffet, but Hell it’s the thought that counts while starting to emerge from our cocoons. For us, Lily was, unknowingly, good practice for Lockdown.

Let’s hope we can all make our way back to the open road soon…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Open house

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Watch this space

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a Spring break, sort of…


I have been working on a new novel (recently completed the manuscript) and a non-fiction book, to add to my list of available titles, hence the slight break in blog posts.

We are getting ready for Jab 2, enjoying the re-invigorating weather and generally keeping busy, busy, busy…

Here’s to a warm and welcoming Summer and my normal blog-posting will be resumed shortly.

I’m thinking of re-vamping my site to spruce it up now that I’ve been at it over a year and posted 44 articles. When I get to 50, I’ll come up with something to celebrate that milestone…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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(I HOPE YOU’VE HAD A) HAPPY EASTER

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, some Easter wishes…


Easter 2021 is nearly over and it’s a good time to celebrate rabbit-kind.

Whether you prefer the thought of the tardy White Rabbit, Mister McGregor’s Rabbit Pie, a re-reading of Watership Down accompanied by a few verses of Bright Eyes, a perusal of The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde (recommended for fans of anthropomorphic lapins), a bit of Chas and Dave, or the footprints left by the Easter Bunny in your dusty hall, or simply no bunnies at all…

Happy Easter to all.

Cheers!

Alan

Alan Camrose

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French culinary delights – no “pain”, no gain

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, some French food to tickle your taste buds…


I find myself looking out through the shutters of my study window at the dark skies and the whipping rain.

I’ve unsurprisingly taken a moment to pine for the delightful markets in Southern France, the friendly people, the blazing sunshine, and several bottles of regional wine with good friends. And the baguettes and the cheese and everything else. God’s larder.

Those times will come again, with a bit of patience and a lot of endurance.

For the moment, I want to share with you some glorious French food, wrenched from the clinging hands of local farmers near Montpellier in France a few summers ago. I came upon these images again today and they have made a wonderful end to my week. I hope they bring some much needed joy to you.

Fab toms

And more, with amis

Transformed into magic

And accompanied by unsung heroes

Fig 1. Beautiful figs.

A glorious note to end on. Thanks, Marie!

Au revoir!

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Pinned to the tropes

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, some genre mish-mashing in an epic battle of thriller vs historical romance


I thought that I’d have a play with a couple of books, in totally different genres: thriller and historical romance clashing head to coiffure (one of the two is not the type that I usually read, but Lee Child shouldn’t feel left out by that).

I thought I’d see where they took me when trying to compare the genres, checking out the tropes in the first few chapters…

GEORGETTE HEYER

“Sylvester”

First published 1957

Novel

Historical romance

Essentially timeless, allowing a reader to sink into it.

Style

  • Third person omniscient narrator, perfect tense – provides distance. Do not necessarily want to get inside the characters’ heads in this genre. Need that distance.
  • Various elements are used to paint a picture of opulence and privilege as the overall setting for the story.
  • Very formal, “old-fashioned” writing style with archaic language used – scythemen, breakfast parlour, things are agreeable, matters are of sufficient moment. Infelicitous. In keeping with the genre.
  • Names – Sylvester, Edmund, Ianthe.

Setting and character

  • Difficult to place in history with precision from the first few pages. The reader would be expected to place it in the Regency period, late 18th, early 19th century without the author spelling it out. You would be forgiven for expecting period historical detail later to place it more fully, but light touch.
  • Difficult to place geographically. Sylvester is the Duke of Salford, but it doesn’t really matter where it is, it’s the characters which are the important feature of the story, unless later the place becomes more relevant. I would not expect that to be the case in this genre other than to reinforce the sense of privilege. I would expect visits to the equivalent of the Pump Room and extravagant balls. We are set up for all of this in the first few pages.
  • First line: Sylvester in his breakfast parlour – sets the scene and prepares the reader for “Chance”, which has an “east front”. This genre demands a lavish house as a starting point to establish wealth and social importance.
  • Tudor-origin winged staircase, gallery guarded by two figures in full armour (not just any old armour). Building the feeling of solidity and the weight of history.
  • There are “scythemen” in the grounds, servants, a nanny, a butler, a footman.
  • The weather has robbed him of two hunting days – hunting would be a suitable pastime for a gentleman. Horse riding too.
  • Sylvester has a “huge inheritance”. Born to a “great position”, with “a long line of distinguished forebears”. Standard to have a well-established family. Therefore he has rank, wealth and elegance. All the pre-requisites of a historical romance leading man.
  • He is handsome, with a singularly charming smile, but with a slight rakish look when he frowns…He has the tiniest glimmer of a fault in his appearance no doubt intended to make him more attractive.
  • There is a liver-and-white spaniel, which is to be expected in this type of setting. No doubt it is graceful and loyal.
  • All tropes present and correct.

LEE CHILD

“Killing Floor”

First published 1998 – the first Jack Reacher book.

Novel

Thriller

Punchy title, punchy delivery.

Style

  • First person narrator, perfect tense – provides immediacy. Breathless. Things happen quickly and IN YOUR FACE.
  • Various elements are used to paint a picture of grit and toughness.
  • Clipped, aggressive writing style with modern language used – in keeping with the genre.
  • Short chapters for faster pacing.
  • Names – Jack Reacher – blunt and no nonsense. Baker and Stevenson (the cops) – everyman names.

Setting and character

  • First line: I was arrested in Eno’s diner. Compelling start. The impending arrest immediately sets the scene for the novel and does not relax.
  • There is a low-key, ordinary, everyday setting as the launch point – a diner, filled with non-descript civilians. Adds an air of earthy reality to the scene.
  • Drama injected early with police cruisers pulling up outside the diner.
  • Violent language and violent moves: screamed, yelled, focus on hardware and police tactics. Exclamation marks! Very short sentences and fragments to allow tension to be cranked up.
  • Rebellious language: reading about a President he hadn’t voted for and wouldn’t.
  • Set in the US, but assumes reader knows that. Good introduction of place – Georgia – when he is arrested and read his rights, including a state-appointed attorney, rather than saying: “I was in Georgia”…Then, arriving at the police station precisely places the action in the town of Margrave.
  • Action is more important than the exact location except for providing colour in this type of fiction to ground the action.
  • Reading Miranda rights – readers are expected to be aware, and reading the rights adds a further air of officialdom and authority to the scene. Typical in a thriller of this kind.
  • Description of the car and the tarmac again ground the action.
  • All tropes present and correct.
Sylvester is the Champion!

I think Historical Romance has marginally kicked ass and left Reacher gasping on the tropes, although the re-match is likely to be brutal (and quite polite).

I found this an interesting exercise in getting to the heart of those genres, peering at what makes them tick…Difficult to mix up, and difficult to position wrongly in a book shop…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Cuban Coffee Break – maybe make it an espresso?

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, reflections on the sea and Cuban cats…


This is a selection of six word stories, following on from my three earlier articles about the form, Hemingway and his extraordinary (and hopefully true, but what the hell) bet…

I have started with a six-worder that I have written as an homage to The Old Man and the Sea.

I have tried to capture the essence of the book – a futile exercise in many respects, but a fitting place to start…It’s not a movie trailer or blurb, but an attempt to encapsulate the book’s essence as an evolving story. Ironically, Hemingway’s book title comprises six words. They elegantly tell you what the book is about; it is not in itself a six word story that stands in for the book as a whole, it simply sets the scene, promises a story. About an old man. And his interaction with the sea. Hemingway had the whole book to dazzle us with that interaction. I have instead endeavoured to tell the story within the self-imposed limit…

Here it is:

Elder catches marlin. Sharks. Start again.

There’s an old man (an “elder” – it seems to me important, for dramatic effect, that the balance of power is shifted even further away from the fisherman in his struggle). He catches a marlin (an impressive catch), but is thwarted by relentless sharks and is forced to start again his almost Sisyphean task of battling the elements and Fate. A survivor, but a battered survivor.

In the stories below, I have sometimes played a little with the font and spacing in the stories for dramatic or comic effect, but always sticking to the rule for the body of each story.

Here we go…


Receding tail lights.

Rain.

FadIng hope.


Shiny licence. Road trip. Twisted metal.


The Four Horsemen arrived.

THE END


Measuringdevicesland coup.

I’m the new ruler.


Lifeboat. Two passengers. The non-vegetarian survives.


I have given the final SWS a title, to see whether it’s: 1. cheating, 2. helpful for context, 3. see what you think…


NCIS: Lothlórien

Galadriel slain!
Elf-defence?
First degree Mordor.


That’s all for now. I hope you have enjoyed these voyages into tragedy / thriller / very silly.

Please do let me have your comments; all welcomed.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Bet out of Hell

Havana Good Time – Part Tres

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, getting to the heart of six-word stories and the Bet Out Of Hell…


Ernest Hemingway, one lunchtime with friends, reputedly took on the seemingly crazy challenge of paring down his already wafer-thin prose to a six word story, no more, no less.

My slightly longer than six words story goes that he made that bet at a lunch, possibly in The Algonquin hotel in New York.

He famously wrote it on a napkin.

For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

He collected his winnings while his companions gladly paid up, knowing that something extraordinary had just happened. I cannot help thinking that, if this is indeed how it happened, there’s a faint whiff of him setting up his literary friends with something pre-prepared, possibly to fund his next dozen or so daiquiris at the Floridita bar in Havana.

Another ,daiquiri, por favor, barman!

Whether the bet took place, where it took place or anything else about it has become a matter of legend. Urban legend in this case. If it were in New York, that is one of the most urban settings imaginable.

In many respects it matters not whether the concept fought its way into the world on that day – whatever day it was – or whether it was a confidence trick on the part of Hemingway or a wily agent to highlight and publicise his Spartan writing method. Whether it was effectively copied or adapted from earlier newspaper stories or word-games does not matter either.
It is one of those stories, fictional or otherwise, that I want to be true, not to be taken away from me. Comfort can be taken from the fact that the six words differ from the earlier apparent sources and the least of it is that Hemingway perfected the form.

It is a clean and brutal format.

The Hemingway baby shoes story sets the scene, homes in and then tears your heart. The baby shoes on offer have never been worn. A clear and dramatic pointer to ultimate tragedy.
Interestingly, if the shoes had been a boy’s shoes and the expectant parents had, by a twist of fate, welcomed a daughter into the world, then the same words would have simply described a correction of an unfortunate mistake; there would have been no drama, simply the acquisition of pink shoes with the proceeds to replace the blue. No tragedy. More importantly, no story to speak of.

We are made complicit in accepting the presence of tragedy to ensure that the dramatic weight of the piece crashes home. In those syllables, some collaboration is required between Hemingway and the reader to arrive where he wanted to be.

With all of this in mind, I decided to have a go at creating some more of these fiendishly awkward one-liners. The rules are quite simple, unchanged over the decades:

Six words. No more. No less.

That’s it.

I have found a sense of poetry, seriousness and playfulness in this form of story which I hope you will share with me in my stories in Part Four.

Hasta La Vista, Baby!

Cheers!

Alan

Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose with beard

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