Somewhere Amazing

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I wish I could speed read…

Slow Reader

What do Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, Tad Williams’ Otherland series and Peter F Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy have in common?

…I’ve had a sudden thought that I should really end this post here, go away, wait to see what responses there are, what connections are made before I continue! But that would be cruel ūüôā (smiles cruelly)

You could say they are all from the Science Fiction or Fantasy genre and you’d be right. You could say they are all part of a rather epic series and you’d be right also. In fact the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is theoretically ¬†twelve but actually fourteen books. Tad Williams’ Otherland series has four books and Peter F Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn has three. Williams and Hamilton also have multiple other series in their back catalogue also. Robert Jordan may have but I’m unaware of any.

You could thrown in a ball from left field and say they are all written by men…unless any have an extremely well kept secret and are actually the aliases of women writers! They’re not.

Time to spill the beans. What these three have in common is that I have read the first book in each series but have not progressed any further. Actually that’s not strictly true, I have glanced at the first few pages of the second book in each series and then put each down again promising myself I would read them in due course but knowing there was a strong risk this would never happen.

Why do I stop after the first? Several reasons although lack of interest or desire aren’t among them.

First, I’m a slow reader, sometimes a very slow reader so have to be choosy about what I read. It can take me a month or longer to read a book someone else could polish off in a week or less. I don’t know why I read slowly, its just the way I am.¬†

Second, I’m not one of those people who can plough through a whole series without a break for something else. I need variety or I will likely get book lag, become tired of too much immersion in one world. I need something probably lighter and shorter in between. I say inbetween, clearly I’ve never got to the other side of inbetween, in other words, onto the second in a series.

Third, I think its quite possible I could spend the rest of my life in one series and never be able to read anything else!

Fourth, each volume in an epic series, certainly in the Science Fiction/Fantasy genres, tends to be lengthy. They generally aren’t like, say, crime novels where although a series may be lengthy in itself, the individual titles can be reasonably short, or maybe I should say ‘normal’ length.

But the main reason is my inability to read any faster than slow. Sometimes I try to force my mind into a faster speed but I end up reading what I’ve just read because I haven’t taken anything in. Kind of defeats the purpose if you have to re-read as you go.¬†

This is why I wish I could speed read. If I could zoom through a book fairly fast but still take in the story I’d get through more than the first book in an epic series. I’ve always held the assumption that to speed read would mean missing half the story, whizzing over carefully written sentences and missing the different little bits of details that frequently produce the magic of the story. Do speed readers miss the bits where you’d normally stop and re-read and think wow, that’s was amazing? Those moments where you stop to allow your mind to sink into and enjoy the feeling you get from a certain passage? I may be totally wrong but to me the very existence of the word ‘speed’ in ‘speed reading’ implies missing certain bits in a blur. But I’d still like to give it a go.¬†

I know of people who say they re-read books in a series before the next comes out so they get the sense of continuity. I knew someone who did this with Robert Jordan’s series when I worked in a book store a lifetime ago. I can understand reading quickly through a book you’ve already read as you already know the story so maybe that’s a form of speed reading, perhaps more like skimming.

I remember reading on the back cover of Jordan’s first Wheel of Time book, The Eye of the World, a reviewer saying they had “Read it in three days and will queue for the sequel.” Those words have always baffled me because I could never get through a book that length in three days. I can’t imagine someone being able to immerse themselves properly in an 800+ page book in just three days.¬†

Anyway, I do sometimes wonder if I will ever manage to finish a series. Possibly Robert Jordan’s series is out of my reach but Williams and Hamilton, purely because there are less books in those series, are a better possibility. In the absence of speed reading however, its going to be a long¬†journey.

Thanks for reading.

Somewhere Amazing


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Rain

Rain washing through me.

 

I just love rain.

I don’t know why.

When it rains, even rains hard and others rush to cover, to shelter, I love being in the rain.

Yes I’ll wear a hood, or use an¬†umbrella¬†although if its a lighter rain shower I’ll let the water wash over my face and somehow imagine God is washing all my cares away.

I just love the rain.

There’s something about it.

When I’m standing there and the rain is falling on me and pouring through me, giving me a new sensory experience and taking my mind to places where my cares and woes and worries are, for a moment anyway, washed away, it feels great.

Its my somewhere amazing.

Thanks for reading.

Somewhere Amazing

 


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The Personality of an Author

The Wrath of Angels

Like many people I have my favourite authors and I like to think my favourites can tell a good story without becoming too formulaic, lazy or, frankly, full of themselves. I used to work in a book store and, upon reading the first couple chapters of a very famous and commercially successful author’s latest book, announced to the then manager, sitting in the staff room with me, that this latest book was, well, rubbish! I think “Total tripe, don’t know how it got past the editor” may have been my actual words. ¬†The author in question normally wrote thrillers (naming no names here…just in case I ever get published) but this book was more a very light weight meander through a family history, somewhat autobiographical. I told the manager that when talking to the book buying public, I was tempted to, but didn’t, commit retail suicide…tell them what I really thought of the book! The manager just smiled, a little nervously I thought. He finally said “Doesn’t matter if it’s the worst book ever written, it has their name on the cover, it’ll sell by the bucket load.”

I was a¬†reasonably¬†chatty person and you get a sense for telling whether a customer is happy for a quick “Hi, how are you today? That’s a great choice of book.” or if they just want to buy the book and go. So when I saw people excitedly bring their copy of this particular author’s book to the checkout and hand over their money, I didn’t say “Great choice Sir/Madam!”, rather I just said “Thank you, anything else I can help you with today?” (I tried to say it in a chirpy way but this is Scotland, not America, I can’t do the ultra happy voice, come on!) and made no comment on the book, hoping they wouldn’t ask my opinion. What I wanted to say was something like “I know that author is usually great but this one’s a dud, choose almost anything else on the shelves and its an improvement. In fact I’ll jot down a few sentences on the back of your receipt just now and that’ll be better.” But I wanted to keep my job so didn’t and anyway, reading taste is so subjective that for all I knew the customer would love the book, or at least not hate it.

Neither did I know the author personally and certainly never to talk to. I don’t think they’ve ever visited the delights of down town Glasgow on a damp and rainy afternoon (most afternoons) and given their home in far sunnier climates, I¬†don’t¬†blame them (dropping very vague hints as to the author’s identity here). For all I knew the author could have had a burning desire to tell a personal, more autobiographical story, for a long time and had finally taken the time and effort to write it. Maybe it had been a bit of a risk being so far removed from their usual style, maybe the publisher wasn’t sure but gave the go-ahead because they knew, like my manager, that the book would sell because of the name on the cover. Maybe writing it had been a painful but cathartic experience for the author, maybe, whether it sold well or not, it would prove to be the book they were most proud of. I didn’t know whether any of that was true. Maybe if I did then, even if I didn’t like the story I would have been more sympathetic to it, made more of an effort to persevere. But I didn’t. It did make me think though, what difference it might make to a reader if they knew the author, if not as a personal friend then at least to say hello to at a signing event or watch them interviewed in an arts program or similar.

I was at a signing event recently, for John Connolly’s new Charlie Parker book The Wrath of Angels, and his editorial collaboration with Declan Burke, Books To Die For. John Connolly is one of maybe four or five of my favourite authors, the only authors whose books I will buy in Hardcover if I can afford it, rather than wait for the paperback, the only authors I will try to get to a signing event for. I don’t know him personally but, from even brief chats at events and from general reputation, Connolly is one of the nicest, friendliest, most amiable and ¬†accommodating authors you’re likely to meet. He always seems happy, jovial and approachable (even when like me you’re standing in line waiting to get a book signed and feel almost overcome with self-consciousness and its an anxiety stricken inner fight not to put the book down, or at least buy it without getting the authors signature, and run for the door. I’ve always found it somewhat ironic that Connolly’s jovial, upbeat personality contrasts so much with some of the dark material he writes about. His books are a joy to read though even if he does deal with some extreme characters (both his good and bad guys can be quite terrifying!) and dark subjects.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. Again, naming no names, there’s another very famous and commercially successful author who writes funny fantasy books. Going back to the book store I worked in, this author had a new hard cover book released, so the store got incredible numbers of his back catalogue delivered because they knew they’d sell. I’ve never met the guy although I’ve seen him interviewed on television. I commented to staff that the guy was incredibly prolific and wrote some brilliantly funny stuff. Someone replied that when you’ve met alot of the authors your opinion of them sometimes changed. They said that the author in question had once come to do a signing event and the staff had put in a huge amount of effort into displaying the books, organising the event and generally making it run smoothly and making the author feel welcome. They said, though I wasn’t there so can’t verify it, that when he arrived, he was abrupt, rude, arrogant and gave every impression in the world that the staff were mere minions and barely deserved to be in his presence. It left a sour taste in the mouth and the negative impression had stayed with the staff. It left its mark. Now I’m not saying authors don’t have bad days, maybe running late, maybe got out of the wrong side of bed, maybe just grumpy, maybe stubbed their toe that morning…but when you are meeting the staff who make every effort to sell your books to customers (even if the books would sell themselves anyway), if would be nice to think the author would at least make an effort to be amiable, or at least not rude. I have read a few of the author’s many books but there’s always a little part of my mind that thinks of his poor personality, on that day anyway. Having seen him interviewed on television I could actually imagine him being ‘hard work’.

There was another author, well known if not perhaps so commercially successful this time, who was due to the store to sign his books. Not a public signing, just signing to have signed copies on the shelf. Staff still made an effort though, nice section of the shop floor tidied, comfy chair, cup of coffee waiting, several pens in case one ran out, staff member at his beck and call etc. Then he arrived, looking dragged backwards through a hedge bedraggled, very unshaved, ultra grumpy and with the attitude of “Where are the books, let me sign them and go.” I could forgive the rough appearance in all honesty, maybe it was part of the folklore of a writers appearance. It was the ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude that got to me. I had never read anything by him, hadn’t really been interested yet just because it would be a signed copy to add to my signed copy selection, I had put one of his books aside for myself, waiting for his arrival. I probably wouldn’t read it but as I say, it’d be signed. After meeting him, seeing his attitude and generally ‘can’t be bothered’ demeanor, I retrieved my book, put it on the general pile to be signed and shelved and forgot all about him. I’ve never been remotely interested in him since.

Such is the effect an impression can have. Maybe you’re the type of person that doesn’t really care what the author is like as long as the story is good. Maybe you will buy any book with the author’s name on the cover no matter if its good, bad or indifferent. For me, I hate to say it, but it does matter whether or not I know a little about the personality of an author. That’s probably not a good thing, I should just be interested in the story, but the truth is that if I know the author is known to be a grumpy so and so, then it would make me think twice about buying their book, even if it had brilliant reviews.

That’s just me.

Thanks for reading.

Somewhere Amazing


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Social Media Deprivation

My laptop gave up the ghost some time ago as far as internet connection is concerned. There seems to be something wrong with its internal network adaptor, whatever that means. I started a computing course in my youth but never finished it, too interested in computer games and not so much on the technical side of things. Kind of wish I’d paid more attention and I’d know how to fix my own computer now!

Anyway, I wasn’t too concerned about the laptop/internet non-connection because I have a desktop which is fine, or was fine until a few days ago. Then the network adaptor inside it decided to die on me! I’ve tried a few things to get it going again but to no avail. I’m typing this on my dad’s laptop…although I’m slightly concerned that me using it might be the kiss of death and it will pack in!

For a few days then, without being able to go online on my laptop or desktop, I’ve found myself experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Not until the last few days have I discovered just how automatic it is for my thoughts to turn to Twitter or Facebook and now, WordPress. I found myself getting out of bed the other day, sitting at the computer with the intention of checking all the various social networking sites I use, before remembering that I couldn’t use them as I couldn’t get online. For a terrible few moments I actually sat twiddling my thumbs wondering what on earth I’d do now?

In the end I actually managed to do alot of practical things, be outdoors when I would normally be staring at the computer screen, give the dog attention and a longer walk than usual from which I¬†benefited¬†as well, actually welcomed the interruption of a human voice whereas before, I’m ashamed to say, sometimes I’d have been irritated by an interruption as it distracted me from being online. ¬†I confess that when I sat back and thought of just how much I was online if I had a working connection and just how¬†unsocialable¬†I could become without really knowing it, I was quite taken aback.¬†

Knowing all this, I am determined, once I get back online on my own computers, to make a concerted effort to not let social media rule my life or at least take up so much time. I can updates my status, I can send the odd tweet, I can post the odd blog but I don’t need to waste the seemingly endless amount of time ‘browsing’ online and then discover that hours have gone past and I’ve actually done nothing.

I actually feel better for not being online so much. I will endeavour to keep this going when I get back online properly. Whether I’ll be successful I don’t know but its going to be an aim.

Thanks for reading.

Somewhere Amazing ūüôā


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The stories that help get you through…

The stories that help get you through.

After reading a poem recently, I found myself thinking of what I did, or where I went, in my mind, to help get through the devastation of a relationship break up.

I confess that for a long time I didn’t want to do anything. The pain inside was so bad that, for a time, all of me just shut down. Reading, writing, listening, in fact any kind of ‘doing’ at all was impossible, out of the question. The ‘things’ in my brain (I’m not what you would call even an amateur on the biology of the brain) which would normally give me the impetus to ‘do’ stuff, had taken such a blow from the break up that it had seriously malfunctioned. It would, in due course, re-function, but for now it was like a car in a garage stripped of all those internal things (not big on the mechanics of cars either) which normally enabled it to move, anywhere. Things like wheels and an engine (maybe I do know a little car stuff).

When enough time passed and something, somewhere at the core of my brain, a survival instinct I guess, was triggered by something unknown, I forced myself to read, a desperate attempt at diversion. Although the words I read, the stories they conveyed, never for a moment shut out the thoughts, memories, pain of the relationship, the images which had once thrilled and now assaulted my imagination quite brutally, my brain nonetheless seemed to be grateful for somewhere to escape to for awhile.

I’m a slow reader so I only read in small stages, but amongst the books I read were Phil Rickman’s To Dream of the Dead ¬†and The Secrets of Pain, and about a quarter of Justin Cronin’s The Passage. I intend to keep going with the latter, just takes me time. I have read most in Phil Rickman’s series and maybe the familiarity of much loved characters appealed to me, while Justin Cronin’s book simply seemed different to books I had recently read and a little dark also. Possibly that sense of darkness appealed. I began to love some of the characters also. I also read little pieces of other books, nothing more than a sentence, a paragraph, sometimes entirely at random. I loved the sentence in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, right at the start, “Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more grey each one than what had gone before.” ¬†Sometimes I just love the power of a beautifully constructed sentence, whether describing something good or bad.¬†The¬†title of Linda Gillards’ Emotional Geology. The simple everyday real life language and humour of Diane Moody’s Confessions of a Prayer Slacker.

In all this I was reminded of the title of a C S Lewis book, Of Other Worlds. I love that title. At that time in my life, when the reality of my own life was too much to take, I found refuge in other worlds where for a time, I could lose myself to some extent.

I wouldn’t say the pain has completely passed, perhaps it never will but I am grateful beyond measure for those stories ¬†(there may be others but those are the ones that immediately come to mind) which gave me a little respite from the the worst of that storm. Looking back now, I am amazed at the power contained within a story.

You, reader, will have your own stories you go to to help ‘get you through’. Maybe a book you already knew of, maybe a new one that took you by surprise. Your own somewhere amazing.

Feel free to share.

Thanks for reading.

Somewhere Amazing ūüôā


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How a book begins…

I started to read a sample of a book on Kindle. Once I had finished the sample I found I was enjoying the story and now have to decide whether to buy it on Kindle or actual paperback. That’s beside the point though.

The first ten pages or so of the book I found quite convoluted. Quite a few characters introduced maybe too quickly and some background history that I didn’t entirely follow. I persevered and before the sample ran out found myself enjoying the story although it only seemed to get going after the character/history preamble. I found myself asking why an author begins a book with a ‘convoluted’ section?

Surely, especially at the beginning of a book, the idea should be to hook the reader with an easily flowing piece of writing, maybe a dramatic opening but if not dramatic certainly easy to read, writing that can be read effortlessly, without reaching for the paracetamol?

Maybe for a well known author this doesn’t matter quite so much because they know their loyal fans will buy the book anyway. For anyone else it might be more of a struggle and some may give up and possibly lose out on a great story because of a hard going opening section.

I’ve always been fascinated to read reviews where the conclusion is that the book takes awhile to get going but to persevere because it gets better, is hard going at first but improves. I’ve always wondered why I should¬†have¬†to persevere? If my frame of mind while reading is ‘to persevere’ then hasn’t the book failed in its mission to provide me with enjoyment? ¬†Maybe the author was, in the first ‘difficult’ pages, getting to grips with the story themselves, feeling their way into it. Or may its just my impatient brain that generally needs a story to be easy to get into, have an instant hook to it and if there are parts later that require reading glasses and intense concentration to get through then I can deal with that as I’m into the story. Maybe I expect too much. I’ve also heard people say that you should never judge a book until you’ve read at least fifty pages, allowed yourself to ‘get into’ the story. I’m afraid my patience generally doesn’t extent that far.¬†

But why make it hard right at the start?

Or maybe, not having written a novel yet myself, I don’t quite get why an opening section can ‘get away with’ being like treacle to wade through even if later it dilutes into some freely flowing cream.

Any thoughts welcome ūüôā

Thanks for reading.

Somewhere Amazing