Review: Making Money

Making Money
Making Money by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written at the start of Pratchett’s decline into formula and repetition, there’s still enough wit and sparkle in this volume to remind the reader that, at his best, there are few turners of phrase in 21st century literature to match him. Funny, insightful, ludicrous and absurd in turn, this is in the upper half of his catalogue without being at the very peak. An enjoyable diversion, and cleanser of the palate before turning to meatier works.

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Review: Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned
Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned by Walter Mosley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not so much a novel as a series of linked short stories. The progression of former prisoner Socrates Fortlow from social outcast to moral compass of his tiny, impoverished community in the heart of LA is told in a series of short morality plays, each one building on what came before to give a compelling insight into the difficulties faced by the marginalised communities on the fringes of urban America and the redemptive power of a man who regrets the badness in his life. Some of Mosley’s best writing in years: simple, yet brutally powerful

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Review: An Advancement Of Learning

An Advancement Of Learning
An Advancement Of Learning by Reginald Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thoroughly entertaining read, full of acerbic humour and tightly plotted mystery, with well-drawn characters who jump from the page and demand the reader take notice of them. Bawdier and more pointed than the TV series that led me to it, this is an utter delight of a crime novel, and one that has me scurrying back to the library tomorrow to fetch a new volume of Hill’s work.

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DROOPY DRAWERS, FORTY FOUR

I turned 44 years old on Tuesday. To be honest, I don’t know what to make of it. Lyn and the kids were beautiful to me, allowing me time to open and build my great big birthday Lego set and serving me a dinner created especially for me. And my bonus sons Aiden and Blake, as well as their respective girlfriends, gave me gifts that showed they really did think about what I like and what sort of person I am when I allow myself the space to simply be my private self.

It’s a big thing, for me, when I receive gifts from my bonus children– I came into their lives when they were pushing towards their teen years, and they would have every right to consider me solely as the man who married their mother, rather than any sort of friend or father figure. I’d understand their reasoning, if they did, because I’ve already lived with that sort of attitude– my parents separated when I was only slightly older than they were when I came into their lives, and my stepfather made it very clear that he was only interested in being a part of my mother’s life, not mine or my brother’s. He even refused to marry her until we were both out of the house. But they don’t. They took me into their lives as much as I tried to make them a part of mine. They not only remember my day, they mark it as something to which they attach importance, and that makes me feel like I’ve done something right by them.

And knowing that the members of my family see me as someone important helps, because right at the moment, my daily life seems to come with a high degree of difficulty: my day job is trying, and I’m struggling with the responsibility of several events I don’t wish to run yet have to acknowledge fall squarely within my portfolio; the events I normally do enjoy running have left me flat and uninspired; after a positive start to writing work this month I’ve pretty much abandoned Nanowrimo and am taking stock of my upcoming work; the novel once known as Magit and Bugrat is to undergo another title change at the publisher’s behest and has been pushed back a second time, so that it will appear far enough into 2016 to pretty much destroy any career momentum it might have helped maintain in the wake of the Corpse-Rat King books; and all in all, I’d rather just be at home with Lyn and the kids, preparing for our move to the new Batthome and enjoying a quiet and self-driven life together.

Perhaps it’s my mid-life crisis calling, but I’m feeling a little sick and tired of living my life at the beck and call of outside parties.

I read over the blog post I made this time last year, and it was full of grand plans for the year between then and now. In the end, almost none of them came to fruition. So, no big plans for me this time. No announcements or prognostications. All I want for this coming year is to move to my new house, find a measure of peace with my family, and try to rediscover some sense of personal satisfaction with what I see in the mirror.

The way I feel right now, that would be enough.

Review: The First Book of Lankhmar

The First Book of Lankhmar
The First Book of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Immensely fun romp through the bedrock of modern fantasy with two engaging and enjoyable characters, until the constant overwriting and simmering misogyny begins to chafe just a little too often and a little too constantly for comfort. Cut the reading experience into thirds, along the dotted lines described by the volumes that make up the book, and refresh your palate in between them, and this remains a thoroughly fun experience. It just requires the reader to be understanding of its real world cultural roots, otherwise you’ll finish the book relieved that it’s all over, which is less than these seminal stories deserve.

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Review: Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction

Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction
Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Desperately dated and old-fashioned how-to that shows its age. While there are still nuggets of relevance o be picked out on the matters of narrative construction and motivation, there’s nothing here that can’t be found in more contemporary guides by current authors, and the out-of-date personal comments and prevailing attitude of the book are best left in the era in which the book was first written.

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BUT I’VE GOT A HELL OF AN EXCUSE

So here we are, then. The 9th of November. By nano stats, that means I should have completed 15 000 of my unholy mess novel as of tonight. That means that, as of tonight, I’m only 7.56 days behind where I’m supposed to be!

But, like Jesus said when his Mum wanted to know who pinched all the tuna sandwiches, I have a hell of an excuse. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Wednesday 29 October: Agree with Luscious Lyn that the Batthaim has become too big, expensive, difficult to maintain and draining. Decide to sell the place.
Thursday: Appoint real estate agent we’ve been sniffing around for a while. Receive list of final renovations necessary to bring house up to saleable standard.
Saturday 1 November: Received square metre of soil. Spend half a day carting the bastarding thing out to the back yard to fill the giant empty garden bed that’s been sat there empty for two years. Plant colourful plants. Trim giant sprawling half-dead passionfruit plant. Patch cracks in upstairs room ceiling and kids bathroom. Do some actual writing, by virtue of mad panic and previously undiscovered wizard powers.
Sunday: More patching, sanding, and carting heavy bloody things all over the place. Pack family up and sod off for an hour while real estate agent brings people through.
Monday: Write the 2 thousandth and change words on the novel. Do shoulder stretches. Use bendy shoulder muscles to help pat myself on back.
Tuesday: Accompany Luscious to hospital. Be supportive husband while she undergoes horrendously invasive surgery.
Wednesday: Continue husband support role while trying to persuade increasingly grumpy wife that resting in bed does not involve any form of cleaning up or housework. More patching. More fucking sanding. More fucking painting.
Wednesday evening: Pack sore and sorry wife into car and spend what’s supposed to be an hour at cafe while real estate agent brings people around the house even though he’s been bloody told specifically not to do this today because Luscious is supposed to be resting and not gallivanting around the bloody neighbourhood.
Slightly later Wednesday evening: Real estate agent sells Batthaim. Becomes best friend for life.
Thursday: Packing. Lots and lots of packing.
Friday: Meet with mortgage broker just to make sure we can afford to actually move and won’t end up living in a shopping trolley and smelling like cat pee.
Yesterday: Fucking patch. Fucking sand. Fucking paint. Get in car and drive round and round and round suburb of choice looking at interminable series of ugly, run down and general piece of shit house I wouldn’t use for a crack house, never mind a place of residence.
Saturday, 3pm: Find the perfect house. Cry tears of relief. Wipe eyes, Put in an offer.
Rest of yesterday: drive from Baldivis to Southern Bloody River because the idiot not-local real estate agent didn’t actually have the forms to sign an offer. Sit around for the better part of two hours while idiot not-local real estate faffs about like an idiot, including actually having to read the forms to himself to make sure he’s got the right damn forms…… out of there by 6pm, nobody dies, it’s a close-run thing.
Late last night: idiot real estate agent rings. Lyn. I think he worked out who best to speak to. Our offer is accepted.
All today, starting at 6.20am and finishing at gone 5pm when I stopped caring about life: MORE FUCKING SANDING AND PAINTING. Empty, box, clean and deconstruct entire shed. Entire. Damn. Shed.

Yeah, so, all of which is an overly dramatic way of saying, hey, what a week: the Luscious one has had surgery, we’ve sold our house and have bought a new one, and for the rest of the year we’ll be packing and organising finances and– all being as per instructions– we’ll be moving house the day before Christmas.

Turns out, Real Life ™ trumps writing. Who knew?