Friday, 13 October 2017

#Review: Reaper Man

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

I’ve been a little disappointed in the majority of my reads during my trawl through the first third of the Discworld series. Finally however I feel as though I’m getting to see more of the Pratchett I know and love so well.  Of course, it does help that DEATH is central to the plot in this one. Pratchett’s DEATH is one of my favourite characters, ever since I first encountered him when reading Good Omens.

DEATH’s ‘retirement’ is central to the plot and pulled me through the book with the anticipation of finding out how this pans out.  I also loved the introduction of Windle Poons and the very logical reason for the existence of his zombie self. Other great characters such as Miss Flitworth and the shy Bogey Man combine to make a terrific ensemble cast for this novel.

There were also some particularly joyous moments during the read such as the mayhem which ensues at Unseen University any time some sort of crisis occurs. Pratchett is very good at highlighting how benighted establishments often hide behind an air of efficiency when in fact it is total chaos behind the scenes.  I chuckled my way through a description of Wizards carving up an Ankh Morpork intersection to do Wizardly things.

Looking forward to the next book in the series now that I’ve had a good portion of what I consider to be proper Pratchett fare.

Friday, 6 October 2017

BHM: Amma Asante

I’m taking a slightly different tack in celebrating Black History this month by looking at what the present has to offer, which in turn leads to what the future could hold.  In order to understand how we’ve come to our here and now we need innovative people to enlighten and educate us. This might be through literature, art or film. As I’m a writer I bet you’re expecting me to go down the literature route. I’m bucking the trend though as my chosen medium for this post is film. Naturally that means we need to take a look at Amma Asante.

If you don’t know who she is, then keep reading. This post is about her films rather than the director herself.  For that, all you need do is take a look at her website.  The first time Amma came onto my radar was in 2015 when I heard about the film Belle. There were two main draws for me, the subject matter and the fact it was a period drama. I’m a sucker for these.  Centring round the mixed race great-niece of Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, the film focuses on the very likely prospect that Dido influenced her great-uncle’s legal rulings concerning slavery.

I was intrigued by the film and wanted to know what else Amma had directed.  She didn’t start out as a film director but rather as a child actor in Grange Hill.  Sadly I've not seen any of these, not having grown up in the UK but I can say I’m thrilled Amma moved into directing, giving us her debut film, A Way of Life in 2004. Unsurprisingly the film looks at racism. What’s different is that Amma chooses to look at it through the eyes of the perpetrators rather than the victims.  The film won her 17 international newcomer awards and I’m not surprised in the slightest.

In 2016 Amma came to the fore again with A United Kingdom. When I was a girl my mother told me about Seretse Khama and his English wife, perhaps to illustrate that Apartheid could be overcome despite the personal cost. While Belle highlighted Britain’s crucial role in the abolishment of slavery this story is a sharp reminder that Britain has a colonial past which can’t be ignored.

Where Hands Touch is Amma’s upcoming project and has me chewing my nails in anticipation. It looks at the biracial children in Hitler’s Germany. The film has already received harsh criticism and been described as a “Nazi love film” while Amma has been accused of glamorising hatred and murder. The naivety of these claims astound me and is one of the reasons I hate the need social media has to pigeon hole literature, art and film into a specific category. Anyone who has seen Amma’s back-catalogue surely understands she’s always going to make us look at topics which make us uncomfortable. That’s what I love so much about her films. Without the questions there can be no thoughts or discussion.  To learn, to break cycles of destruction, we have to SEE. We have to LISTEN. We have to HEAR.

I can’t wait to see what Amma Asante gives the world of cinema next.

Many thanks to Will Wood, Emily Hargreaves & Christiane Donovan from for their helpful correspondence and consent in using the photograph of Amma featured in this post.

Friday, 29 September 2017

#Review: Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

This book is cleverly done there’s no doubt. Pratchett looks at the world of film making with his particular eye and encapsulates the ludicrous nature of acting and film making, especially Hollywood. As is the way with all things Pratchett, he turns everything you know on its head.  In this book he certainly does that.  However, I felt it was trying to be a bit too clever and that irritated me.

There were moments when I laughed out loud as I haven’t done in a while with some of the other Discworld novels I’ve been reading. There is a deep message at the core of this book and I wanted to fully understand it but was a bit inundated by the endless topsy turvy film references. I felt there could have been less of this and more story. To top it all off, the main characters were seriously beginning to annoy me and I had an urge to slap either one or both at several points during the reading.

I’m used to reading a Pratchett and constantly wanting to get to the next page. This was not the case here. I was relieved when the end finally came and also that the central characters redeemed themselves a little. Even the shenanigans of the Wonder Dog didn’t bring me as much joy as it should have. Onward to the next book in the series, where hopefully more of what I enjoy so much about Pratchett awaits.

Friday, 22 September 2017

#Review: Eric

Eric by Terry Pratchett

Finally another episode involving Rincewind. Like the Librarian, I was wondering where he’d got to after his shenanigans in Sourcery. And of course, wherever Rincewind goes there too must go The Luggage. I was pleased to see it had more or less got over its bout of lovesickness. But understandably, as with anyone spurned in love, it seems a tad more cantankerous. 

Surprisingly our young hero or anti-hero Eric, while his name is proudly sprawled across the front cover of this book, doesn’t actually do very much at all apart from be an annoying teenager.  And worse than that, he’s only mildly annoying. Rincewind plays a major role while constantly doing his best to run away or hide in the shadows as is his wont. 

Nothing really grabbed my attention in this Pratchett offering. The ending felt rather rushed and lacked the meatiness that many of his other writing has. I’m waiting with anticipation for the later books in the series and hoping they provide more bang for their buck.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Karma Chameleon

While August saw me contemplating the benefits of coming to the UK, this month has me thinking about all the mistakes I made along the way. One which popped to mind immediately was the fact I felt it necessary to be chameleon-Rae when I was first assimilating. I can confirm it was exhausting.

What this basically entailed was me being whoever I needed to be at any given moment to fit into whichever social group I was a part of at that point in time. During my A’ Levels I hung out with the sixth formers, dressed like them and tried to learn their slang. I didn’t succeed with the slang at all – my private school vocab kept invading my mouth when I least expected. 

At university I tried to become a slob who stayed in bed till late in the afternoon, do as little work as possible and loiter in pubs till chuck out time so I could be invited to the lock-in.  The trouble with this scenario was I really liked doing the work except for the research part and all I ever wanted in a pub was a cup of tea.  But I thoroughly enjoyed the lock-ins.

My university wardrobe also presented a problem. I did secretarial jobs during my summer holidays so had more suits than jeans or tee-shirts. Due to limited funds I was forced to use clothes I’d brought with me from SA and adapt them to fit with my new lifestyle. I remember with great fondness a tweed jacket of my great uncle’s which still smelt of his tobacco, was warm and the envy of many of my fellow students. I paired it with an old hat and copious amounts of scarves. I was doing student grunge without even realising it.

When I started teaching, suits engulfed my wardrobe. I had real difficulty trying to dress casually.  To me casual entailed summer clothing like shorts and halter necks. British weather didn’t allow for this. I could only indulge my idea of casual if I went on a holiday somewhere hot. It would take me a long time before I’d realise I’m not really a casual sort of person and it was pointless fighting that fact.

I spent years trying to be the person I thought people wanted me to be. All the while I didn’t know who I truly was.  It would take a leap of faith and unemployment to finally cure me of my chameleon ways.

My prolonged unemployment (a longer period than I ever imagined it would be) gave me countless hours of 1-2-1 time with myself.  I spent a great deal of that time writing, reflecting and considering my self-worth.  There were periods of uncertainty and depression.  Reverberating in my head though were the words of my parents – at the end of the day your outward appearance is of little consequence. What matters most is what you think, do and say on a daily basis and most importantly, how you treat people.  So I found ways to do unto others as I’d wish them to do unto me and I wrote, Wrote, WROTE…

Out of this difficult financial and emotional period in my life I found the Rae I wanted to be.  I’m still a work in progress but I like ME now a whole lot more than the ME I was.  Along the way I’ve found treasures I truly value. They can’t be stored in a safe, counted or set out on a spreadsheet but that’s what makes them all the more valuable to me.

Friday, 8 September 2017

#Review: Guards Guards

Guards Guards by Terry Pratchett

Before I started this I was told by several people that it was brilliant. I hesitated and waited to be disappointed. But I wasn’t. I’ve always had a fondness for Vimes ever since I read Snuff so I was delighted that I got to read about his rise in the Ankh-Morpork constabulary.

The wonderful and terrifying thing about this novel is how aptly Pratchett captures the essence of society’s worst aspects. The main reason I read Fantasy is because it leaves me with the hope that right always triumphs over wrong. It’s an optimistic view which I find needs re-enforcing more and more as I grow older.

This book contained so many favourite characters that it’s difficult to pinpoint whose performance I loved best.  I however found the raw recruit Carrot totally and utterly endearing.  Having met him, The Patrician, The Librarian, Lady Sybil, Nobby and Colon in more mature format in other Pratchett novels, it was a great pleasure to see them in their ‘raw state’ as it were.  But the final say has to go to Errol the swamp dragon, who used his digestive juices to superb effect. There are certainly times in life when we all could use the special talents of a swamp dragon like him.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Back To School

Yep, it’s that time again. I’m so not ready. I’ve been lazing around the house, reading, watching iPlayer and doing a bit of writing here and there.  Okay, I haven’t been doing that much writing. The majority of my summer has been about the final edit of my YA SciFi Sequel.  The main reason for this is that this book is due out in December. Just in time for Christmas presents right.

 I finished the final edit of When Rainbows Cry 2 weeks before the end of August so the book is now with the proof reader and my editor for the last bits of tweaking.  As you can see, the cover is also sorted thanks to the magnificent assistance of Jaya Prime in getting me rights for use of the original picture. I can now adapt it to my heart’s content for this and the final book in the series which I’ll start working on next year. More of that later.

There has been the odd bit of new writing but it’s mainly been notes for the future when I can focus on projects sitting in the wings.  I store all these in a folder called The Vault.  My mind is always spinning through various ideas but when I forget an idea I just check to see what treasure I’ve got safely stowed away in the vault.

Works in progress for the rest of this year and the start of next year consist of:

  1. Editing Palindrome - the prequel to Six Dead Men [SDM]. This is a novella which charts the influences and reasons why the main character from SDM becomes a policeman.
  2. Writing the bulk of the 3rd book in the YA SciFi series. This series was just crying out to be a trilogy. I couldn’t resist the call of peripheral characters asking me to tell their story too. I’m a sucker for a voice which needs to be heard.
  3. Getting stuck into the sequel to The Lonely Dragon. This is taking a bit longer than planned as it’s requiring a substantial amount of research.
  4. Playing around with side projects which tie in to The Lonely Dragon and its sequel

I’m also getting myself ready to resume my annual tutoring routine. Bizarrely, I often produce more writing in this period than I do during the 2 months I have off in the summer. I think this is because my time is limited and I know I have to get words on the page or I won’t meet deadlines. They’re all self-imposed but somehow that doesn’t matter much.  There is the immense pleasure of knowing I’ve finished a task to the highest possible standard. That’s what I’m always striving for.

The other thing which I believe spurs my writing on is that I get to mix with a whole bunch of insanely creative students who constantly provide me with new ideas and insights into how children think and behave. This is invaluable when it comes to working on the children’s books I do.

So while I’m mourning the end of the summer holidays I’m also quietly celebrating the fact I’m about to be energised and exhausted in equal measure by my assorted bag of students. 

Plans prepared and printed. Prizes at the ready. It’s back to school we go.