Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Transsexual Summer 

Last night was the last of four programmes on Channel 4 television in a series called My Transsexual Summer . It featured 7 people who are transsexuals, 4 were born as boys and 3 were born as girls. Some were starting their journey of gender reassignment and one had completed the change within the series. My Transsexual Summer made a great television programme as it gave the issues of transsexuals good exposure to a sometimes ignorant public. The 7 transsexuals were treated with respect by the production company and were always referred to by their chosen new gender and names.

As a viewer watching this series, as the weeks went by I did not think of them as a man turned into a woman or a woman becoming a bloke but just accepted them as always being their chosen gender. I warmed very quickly to these people and at the end I did not view them as transsexuals but ordinary individuals in a reality television programme having lovely weekends away in a country house.

This programme was sympathetic to the medical and social problems encountered by transsexuals. Gender identity is a real issue for transsexuals and they take great care in getting their look just right. Being very happy as a man, I do not give much thought to clothes, grooming or the way I walk. I stroll out our door without a thought of strangers wondering if I am a man. I am just Stephen going out for a walk with his dog. I never have to establish or prove my gender. I am very happy with my gender and have never questioned it.

Watching this programme has opened my eyes a little because some people have been born into the wrong gender. I did notice that male to female transsexuals do tend to over do it with fancy clothes and make-up. The girl next door will march out of her house in ordinary clothes with no make up and not think about appearing as a girl. However many transsexuals really glam up like drag queens and this draws attention to them. They do not look like ordinary women shopping in Farmfoods but trannies on a night out. These transsexuals are very different from cross dressing transvestites because they want to live as women rather than dress like them. As the series went on the women appeared to apply less make up and dressed more ordinarily. This change of image made them more believable as women.

The character I most liked was Donna . Her attitude was great, she appeared very happy and was proud to stand up and be counted. Donna was prescribed female hormones two years ago, and they are irreversibly changing her body. Her hair and skin are softer and her breasts have grown. But there have been changes to her personality as well. Donna describes being more emotional, more in touch with her feelings and more able to cry. She has little interest in surgery at this point in her life. Donna was an inspiration and was very happy to be the chick with a dick.

It was a confusing issue for both the viewer and the transsexuals about their future sexuality. Would the transsexual turn gay or straight? That made me smile because so many people have hang ups about sexuality and these transsexuals were no different from the general public. I believe that people should fall in love with another person and their gender, whether born or adopted, should not come into the relationship. I think Donna understood this but that the other transsexuals had difficulty coming to terms with it.

We live in a very diverse society but there is still a lot of ignorance around. This programme highlighted the problems faced by transsexuals and showed the viewer that although they had been born into the wrong body, they were no different to the boy or girl next door. I have had many transsexuals on my coach going up to London for treatment and I treat them just the same as any other passenger. It is their own personal gender issue and if they want gender reassignment then I feel they should go for it and enjoy all that life has to offer rather than be trapped in a gender they do not want.  I wish them all the very best for the years to come in their new genders.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A golden night .

We minded our friends' dogs the other week and as a thank you Steve gave me some beer. Steve and I have similar tastes in real ale and always enjoy different ales from all around the country. If we see a beer that we have not heard of before, then we try it.

Steve and Trisha went down to Cornwall to visit some friends and rather than bring back something touristy, brought back some local beer. The Wooden Hand Brewery is located between St. Austell and Truro in Cornwall. I had the Cornish Buccaneer a golden coloured ale brewed at 4.3% ABV. This beer is gorgeous and quite similar to the Exmoor Gold from Wiveliscombe in Somerset. I am a fan of golden ales and this Cornish Buccaneer is a good one. It is a well crafted pint with a gorgeous taste that I would put into my top league of real ales. It just shows that these small regional brewers can make beer of the same high quality as the big boys like Greene King and Marston's.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes .

Meet Cathy Bailey, is she a mad woman or a victim? Cathy has developed OCD an Obsessive–compulsive disorder and has a vigorous checking regime. Into the Darkest Corner sees the author use the first person narrative very well. Elizabeth speaks the voice of Cathy so well that you can really take her character on board although you will doubt whether she is a victim or simply losing the plot. The suspense in this novel is good and demonstrates how people can so easily doubt other people's claims. This book deals very well with anxiety, Obsessive–compulsive disorder and mental health issues.

Elizabeth sets the scene and moods very well, for example at location 180:

All I could think of that night was dancing until I was numb, smiling and laughing at people with my new best friend, dancing in that red dress until I caught the eye of someone, anyone, and best of all finding some dark corner of the club and being fucked against a wall.

Elizabeth also writes with slight humour, for example at location 658:

For a first time, it wasn’t very special. He smelled of engine oil and tasted of day-old instant coffee; his face was rough with stubble and he was heavy against me, but still I wanted him badly. Although he seemed to have forgotten that it might be an idea to use a condom, I wasn’t about to stop him now; it was fast and awkward, a tangle of legs and arms, and clothes still getting in the way. His breath was coming fast and rasping against my throat, and a few minutes later he pulled out of me and came over my belly.

Elizabeth explains the emotions of how Cathy really feels, for example at location 1047 when her doctor says:

‘You know yourself that there’s no logical reason why you need to check things more than once. You complete these safety behaviours because of the way you feel, not because something has physically changed to make things unsafe.’

There is nothing offensive in this book, the hardest paragraphs being at locations 3458:

With a sigh, he sat back heavily onto the sofa, his jeans now at mid-thigh, his cock hard – as though the sight of me broken and bleeding was turning him on – and told me to suck.

...and location 3963:

‘Fucking shut up,’ he said, ‘it’s good like this, you’re going to love it.’ While he fucked me, he took away the air from my lungs, my fingers at my throat, trying to relieve the pressure, the air burning my lungs, the roaring in my ears signalling that I was going to lose consciousness in just a matter of moments. Then, still fucking me hard, he’d ease the pressure and I’d cough and gasp, dragging air into my lungs. The only way to stop him was to give in. I screamed, as loud and as hard as I could, tears racing down my cheeks. I’d almost seen death. I was utterly terrified and screaming was almost involuntary – so I screamed. He didn’t try to stop me, didn’t put his hand over my mouth again, and just let me scream. It did the trick. A few seconds later he pulled out of me and jerked off over my face.

I did not like the structure of this book, it really spoilt the book for me. Into the Darkest Corner begins with a court transcript, then rolls back to an event in 2001. From then this book alternates between 2003 and 2007, constantly rolling backwards and forwards a gap of 4 years in Cathy's life. Finally there is another court transcript and an ending. This novel is set in Lancaster in 2003 and London in 2007. I found it very frustrating the back and fore between Lancaster and London, 2003 and 2007 as the story of Cathy unfolds. In the Afterword, Elizabeth tries to explain this time-shifting:

How did you decide on the structure of the novel?

The structure was mainly to help prevent boredom and writer’s block. It’s very useful to have two stories on the go – if you’re bored with one, you just move on to the other.

Elizabeth is not good at geography as demonstrated at location 4018:

Lee was all the way back in Lancaster, I thought. He thought I was at work. He was five hundred miles away, and even if he found out I was gone now, I’d be safe on the plane by the time he got here.

...Lancaster is actually 242 miles from London, not 500.

The ending of Into the Darkest Corner is okay though. This novel is available as a Kindle ebook of 992 KB and was published in 2011. It is Elizabeth's first novel and I will not be trying another. I can't understand how this book has become an editors pick for 2011 on Amazon. I think this book is POOR and I suggest people give it a MISS. I think this book FAILS and I shall only vote it 2 stars on GoodReads . There are far better crime thrillers out there for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An hijab and six inches heels walk into the Palace.

Well, that is a sight for any photo
caption competition. Muslim women tend to dress rather modestly and shuffle around in plain flat shoes. Many wear a hijab to cover their hair and these women go unnoticed as they go about their daily business. But Hayrunnisa Gul, wife of Turkey’s president is a little different. Hayrunnisa was wearing her trademark headscarf - an item of clothing which angers secularists in Turkey who see it as an overt Islamic symbol. Nothing unusual there but her six-inch platform shoes were a BIG surprise!

It certainly looks very different to see six-inch platform shoes and an hijab together on the one woman. This is a refreshing image and I am sure that comedians will be getting some fun out of this display later this week. Jokes about spikes and kebabs or the high difference between our Queen and Hayrunnisa.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kindle Daily Deal .

There is a new feature on the Amazon website called the Kindle Daily Deal. There are many ebooks available for the Kindle at a pound. Look around the Kindle part of the Amazon website and you will find them. You can spend many an hour browsing around the Kindle Store and it is very easy to wander off-track.

The Kindle Daily Deal is different. Click the link on the left hand sidebar for the Kindle Daily Deal. Every day just one book is offered, strictly from 00.00 hours to 23.59 hours. You can buy at that special reduced price only for one day, hence the name of Kindle Daily Deal. Amazon are banging out their chosen book for just 99p. That book may very often not be your cup of tea but you could broaden your horizons by checking each day you go online. And for just a pound you could be reading a book that you would not have considered at the regular price.

I am not interested in today's book called The Age of Instability: The Global Financial Crisis and What Comes Next by David Smith. This book was available as a Kindle ebook yesterday for £7.19 but until tonight at 23.59 hours you can download a copy for just 99p. I do not want this book but it is always worth a peek at the Kindle Daily Deal because you never know what gem you could download for just 99p.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Don't call the wee-lassie obese. 

It is well known that increasing numbers of children in Scotland are becoming dangerously overweight. But NHS officials now insist that the word “obese” should not be used when staff speak to parents. Guidance aimed at health, education and social-care professionals also warns that even the term “overweight” should be used with caution. It suggests “unhealthy weight” is the most appropriate language.

Well that is daft guidance if you ask me. I think you should call a spade a spade and speak the truth. If the kid is obese, then the parents should be told their kid is obese. These parents have fed their kid into obesity and it is the job of health professionals, social workers and teachers to treat them professionally rather than lie to them about their porky little kids. Calling the kid having an “unhealthy weight” does not address the problem and makes it trivial. Dressing up the language is no excuse for the buying of bigger clothes for your obese kid. Some people are so guarded about causing offence that they are not doing their job but letting the parents live in fairy cake land.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Double Decker or Bendy Bus ?

Which do you prefer, a double decker or a bendy bus? Anoraks on boys, I prefer single deck rigid low floor buses.

But there are some Double Deckers that I do like and these are not made by Volvo. The double deckers that I really like have two layers of crispy cereals and nougatine wrapped in delicious Cadbury chocolate - and there's a small amount of coffee in there too. I am a fan of the Cadbury Double Decker and have been for many years. It is my treat of choice and beats any other bar in the naughty aisle at the supermarket.

The packaging on my double decker the other day was different though. The printing of the wrapper was similar to other double deckers I have enjoyed but it was longer and had the word "duo" appended. The packaging contained 2 small bars that were shorter than a regular bar. Trouble is they were not joined and the packaging had no base. When you lifted the packet up there was a flexing as the tractor and trailer swung around in your hand. What is this I thought? This is a bendy bus, not a double decker! It was just a good as the double deckers I have had in the past. The only difference was that it was in two small segments.

There is however another double decker that I was very fond of when I was in my twenties. It was the double decker bus I learned to drive on and use on service in Bristol. It was a double decker that was way ahead of it's time with a low floor due to it's offset rear axle. These girls were a real joy to drive and had great character. Bristol, like Rome is built on 7 hills and a bus driver has to do numerous hill starts as part of his working day. Once you learned the knack, a snatch change from first to second on a crash gearbox was like sliding a knife through butter. Learning to drive with a crash gearbox and no power steering taught the driver how to think first and read the road, a skill lost on many of today's customer focused boy racers. A Cadbury Double Decker is a great treat to eat but the Bristol FLF is a classic bus to drive.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Godfathers comes to Cardiff. 

The other day we went out with my brother and sister-in-laws to the Plymouth Arms down the hill at St. Fagans to celebrate David's birthday. We have not been into the Plymouth Arms for a long time and I wondered what beer they would have on offer. What a surprise it was to find both a brewer and a pint I have never heard of before. Due to the location of the Plymouth Arms, you would have expected something very Welsh because the National History Museum is across the road.

What I got was the Itchen Valley Brewery which is at New Alresford in Hampshire. I tried their Godfathers which won the Bronze Award for best ale in Britain in 1998 at the Great British Beer Festival.

Well, what a lovely and very distinctive pint of beer this was to enjoy. No wonder it had won a award because this is an ale of distinction. It was a lovely surprise and added to our family evening. If you come across Godfathers on your travels, I suggest you give it a try as it is a rather good real ale.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Big Brother is coming to Oxford. 

Big Brother is spreading fast around Britain and I am not talking about that dreadful Channel 4 television programme. Big Brother is the growing monitoring of our daily lives by CCTV. These cameras and their digital recorders are sprouting up everywhere. Nowhere is safe from this encroachment into our privacy.

The coach I drive every day is fitted with 8 CCTV cameras that record my every move. My coach has 48 passenger seats, so that is a lot of images caught every day. Then there is the forward, rear and nearside video images that record all the coach movements. I am talking about a lot of images that are automatically grabbed. These images are routinely monitored by our line managers, even though the shorter one has to stand on the seats to remove the hard drive from the recorder!

Now these CCTV recorders are to be installed in taxis in Oxford. Plans to fit all taxis operating in the city of Oxford with audio recording devices have been branded a “staggering invasion of privacy” prompting calls for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to investigate how widespread the use of microphones on public transport has become.

Taxi drivers in the university town have been told that they need to install the £460 devices by 2015 or face having their licenses revoked. The microphones, accompanied by CCTV cameras, will activate once the ignition in the car is turned on and will remain recording for 30 minutes after the engine is turned off.

But privacy campaigners say the plans represent a significant “ramping up” of surveillance culture in Britain and may well be in breach of Government guidelines. “This is a staggering invasion of privacy being done with no evidence, no consultation and a total disregard for civil liberties,” said Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch. “To my knowledge this is the first time a council has brought in audio recording equipment like this in taxis.”

Two Oxford bus companies, however, already use audio recording on some of their routes. The Oxford Bus Company confirmed that some of its newer CCTV cameras have their microphones turned one in the driver’s compartment whilst Stagecoach said it was trialling microphones on its “Oxford Tube” service to London. Philip Kirk, the Managing Director of Oxford Bus Company said: “All our buses are fitted with CCTV and many of them also record sound at the entrance. In general we have found that CCTV works well to protect our passengers and our drivers.”

The exact extent of microphone use on public transport is not known. But one official involved in the sale of CCTV told the Independent: “It’s not unusual. Many of the newer devices have audio record options. Most of the time it is used to record conversations between, say, a bus driver and the passenger at the point of entry. It’s unusual for private conversations to be recorded.”

Monday, November 14, 2011

What is it with London?

My posting on this blog has been quiet of late. I have been finishing work late all this week and have not bothered to go online to publish my blog. Very often you get the one bad day on the London service but the next day things are back to normal. But not this week, it has been a week of continual delays. It makes no difference whether you come out from London along the Chelsea Embankment, through Kensington or Knightsbridge. Either of the 3 obvious routes results in delays. It has been a week of delays every afternoon and I begin to wonder why people bother. I have worked 5 shifts that have departed London Victoria Coach Station at either 15.30 or 16.30

I sit in my coach stuck in London traffic watching the people walk past on the pavement getting on with their lives. Then the thought strikes me, nowhere else around our country have I seen so many people walking around. I think the reason is that London traffic is so bad that people living in London have given up and started walking everywhere. London traffic has become so bad for everyone, that local people choose to live, shop and work within walking distance.

Once I got onto the motorway, the journey back to Cardiff was rather predictable. The delays in all my journeys were due to congestion between Victoria and the Brentford flyover on the M4. Every day I was late into Cardiff Central Station and I wonder when things might improve or if this is how it is going to be for the rest of my working life. I clearly got the impression that this is how it is going to be forever.

The delays into Cardiff were...

Wednesday - 35 minutes
Thursday     - 35 minutes
Friday         - 55 minutes
Saturday     - 15 minutes
Sunday       - 40 minutes

If you decide to come to London, then okay, make that journey. But when you decide to travel back be very careful about your return departure time. Thinking about leaving London Victoria Coach Station at 15.30 or 16.30 - forget it, you may as well stay on until the traffic eases.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Jury is out.

Oh yes, the jury is out and not just in the Jacko trial.

Last night on ITV1 television saw the start of a new five part drama called The Jury . The website states...

Julie Walters stars as Emma Watts in this compelling, character-based series. The Jury focuses on the everyday people who find themselves at the centre of one of the most controversial criminal re-trials of their time.

...Well, I enjoy reading crime/thriller novels and when I read about this new television drama I hoped it would be right up my street. Gail and I looked forward to watching it last night with a view to recording the other 4 episodes.

What a disappointment this television programme was to watch. I thought it was rubbish, very slow and had no bite. The Jury was not thrilling, it had poor dialogue and had nothing to interest the viewer. It was simply dull and if it was a film we would have aborted it within the first 15 minutes. Because The Jury was scheduled to last 5 hours, we felt duty bound to give it a fair trial of 1 hour. Watching that hour was painfully slow and it did not pick up before the end.

At the end we had our vote. It could have gone 3 ways, that we both watched the other 4 episodes, that either one of us watched the rest with partner not bothering, or it was rubbish and we would not watch any more. The vote on The Jury was out and it was unanimous - RUBBISH, we will not watch another episode. The only thing we regret is waiting the full hour rather than switching it off at the first advertisement break.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Play Dead by Harlan Coben .

Laura and David are on honeymoon. Laura returns to their hotel to find this note from David...



...Only David does not come back.

The introduction to this book states...

Okay, if this is the first book of mine you're going to try. stop now. Return it. Grab another. It's okay. I'll wait. If you're still here, please know that I haven't read Play Dead in at least twenty years. I didn't want to rewrite it and pass it off as a new book. I hate when authors do that. So this is, for better or worse, the exact book I wrote when I was in my early twenties, just a naive lad working in the travel industry and wondering if I should follow my father and brother and go to (shudder) law school

...I have read The Woods and Hold Tight - this, his first novel is just as good. I think that Harlan was being rather hard on himself in the introduction as Play Dead is a great novel and it is a surprise that it was his first novel. Reading this book, it is easy to see why Harlan Coben became a successful author.

This book has 518 pages and was written in 1990 but first published in paperback in Great Britain in 2010. Play Dead is a clever conspiracy that forces the reader to guess what is going on. The title of Play Dead gives you both a clue and a hope. The beauty is the depth of this plot and how you can doubt every character. The story makes it easy to think bad of people. All the characters are well developed. Details are steadily fed into the story as the conspiracy unfolds. The plot is excellent and very involved. This novel ticks all the boxes. It is very entertaining and does the job. The ending is fine and brings good closure for all the characters. I can find nothing wrong with this novel and will vote it the maximum of 5 stars of Good Reads .

Friday, November 04, 2011

I think I can choose myself thank you.

I had an email the other day...

Dear Customer, TalkTalk fully supports the Government’s recent recommendations to help protect children online. We believe in safe broadband, affordable for all, which is why we invested in creating HomeSafe™ - our unique, free, online security.

HomeSafe™ is the only UK online security to offer parental controls and virus alerts built into the TalkTalk network, which means it works on all PCs, laptops, smartphones and iPads connected to your TalkTalk broadband.

Activate HomeSafe™, our free online security, and not only can you stop your children accessing sites containing inappropriate adult content, but also help prevent distractions like online gaming and social networking.

Over 150,000 TalkTalk customers have activated HomeSafe™ already - blocking over 1 million undesirable web pages.

Now it’s your turn!

...Well no thank you. At 53 years of age I am sure that I can decide which websites are suitable for me to access. I do not want anyone censoring what I can access on the internet. I want to be free to access all the material on the internet and if I do not like a particular website, then I can close that browser tab and there is no harm done.

What is classed as inappropriate by one person is harmless fun to another. There are many, many distractions on the internet and it is the user who should decide where they wish to draw the line. Adults can set their own rules in their homes and bring up their children with proper parental guidance rather than have blanket restrictions imposed by their broadband service provider.

When we educate our children and find out for ourselves more about our world, where do you draw the line on disclosure? Do you make the information available no matter how culturally sensitive it is? Would the Talk Talk HomeSafe application allow you to view this document ? Aisha was born in Somalia and came to Britain when she was four. The family settled in Cardiff.

So, this is a local story and of public interest. Would the Talk Talk HomeSafe application stop you accessing the following public education websites, Daughters of Eve , Forward and Watch Over Me ? Probably and so continue to leave many people in ignorance of these practices that may involve your neighbours.

HomeSafe, no thank you, I will take that risk myself.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Cross Dressed to Kill by Andrew Lucas .

This novel was released as a 575 KB Amazon Kindle eBook and was written in 2011. This is not your usual crime thriller but a humorous anthropological study of Britain today. This story is written in the first person, from the point of view of a male hairdresser working alone in a fictitious small British town. He is a lovely, likeable character with a sharp wit about anybody and everything. This book covers a lot of ground and confronts lifestyles and people's prejudices. Andrew Lucas has a good writing style which is very similar to Mark Steel .

This hairdresser has a good rant about life and people which is very entertaining. He has his finger on the pulse by capturing the zeitgeist of Britain, with it's trends and frustrations of urban life. For example at location 100...

It wasn’t that it was raining or even cold, the sky was still blue and the air was still fresh, but queuing outside a shop, worse, queuing outside a takeaway first thing in the morning. Forget the time it takes, it’s just so demeaning, so bloody desperate. If Starbucks hadn’t been the only supplier of sharp lemon cake, I would have taken my three pounds an eighty-five pence and marched straight to the Columbian Organic Coffee Kingdom, or whatever it’s called.

at location 2196...

Make-up removal is never as easy as it should be. I’ve always sympathised with women, the agonies they have to suffer and the fuss they have to contend with. Forget pregnancy and childbirth. Hair, make-up, exfoliation, cleansing, toning, moisturising, that’s the real chore. Trannies might think it fun, but ask anyone with a real female chromosome, and she’ll tell you the truth.

at location 2402...

I couldn’t believe it. For ten years I’d been a regular customer at the Starbucks on my High Street, ever since the wretched place opened - ten years! Spotty Julie had barely been working there for ten minutes, how dare she sell my cake!

at location 6857...

‘Hide in plain view’ I recalled hearing an expert advise while being interviewed on some news programme or another, I think the ex military sort was talking about radicals at the time, and how they pass unnoticed in their home communities, but I reckoned the concept sounded fluid.

This novel creates a great empathy for the hairdresser, for example at location 2434...

I marched straight up to her, ready for a fight. Being five minutes early is one thing, positive punctuality if you like, but arriving almost half an hour before the allotted time just smacked of pushy impatience to me. Even on good days, I hated it when clients did that.

This story covers a great many social taboos and explores the characters moods and emotions wonderfully. The most powerful bit was "the nothing". This really captures the darkness of depression and is very moving. At location 5129 you read...

Of course, the thing that I remember most vividly of all from that time is what I think of now as ‘the nothing’. I’d never experienced anything like it before and I hope that I never have to experience anything like it again. Thankfully, most people never have to experience it at all. It is quite simply, in my opinion at least, one of the most disgusting things for a human being to have to endure. ‘The nothing’ is not something that can be easily explained, it is, after all, sort of… nothingy… a waking emotionless sleep perhaps, a bland-middleness, a couldn’t-carelessness, an emptiness, a ‘Greydom’. When ‘the nothing’ first took me in, it consumed every part of my very being. While it is easy enough to understand the idea of misery or fear or even abject loneliness, all dreadful of course, with ‘the nothing’ well… there’s nothing much to get a handle on. I couldn’t tell you that I felt suicidal or even especially wretched, because really I didn’t. Somehow, it was even worse than that. I just felt empty I guess… nothing.

There is some death in this novel but it is not gruesome, more a case of "Whoops!" Cross Dressed to Kill is a joy to read, it is easy to absorb and was The 2011 'Summer Reading' Award Winner. There is good observational commentary about people, for example at location 146...

And several years ago, I worked with a girl who’d spend the first half hour of every single morning sitting cross legged on her kitchen table with a magnifying glass and a pair of medical tweezers plucking her pubic hair.

at location 561...

Again, apart from my niece’s sensibly laconic three-word speech when presented with her best student award - ‘Thanks very much’ - the occasion was a fiasco. Of the seven senior officers seated on the podium, two fell asleep, two couldn’t stop scratching themselves, and the most senior, a chief superintendant who looked like a bulldog and was supposed to be holding the event together, fell of his chair.

and location 6600...

In England, beyond a certain indeterminate age, people do that, they have falls, they do not ‘slip over’ or ‘tumble’ or even ‘trip’, no, beyond a certain age the wobbly English ‘have falls’.

This book ends with a nice pleasant epilogue which makes you feel happy for the hairdresser. Cross Dressed to Kill is a good book and I shall vote it 4 stars on Good Reads .

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

What makes a good novel? 

Over on The Writer's Guide to E-Publishing there is a very interesting post by A. R. Silverberry about what makes a good novel? You can read many, many books and some ring a loud bell and others quietly fall from memory. Why is this? It is because some novels are really good and others are simply dim? But A. R. Silverberry hits the nail on the head, it is all about emotions and how they involve the reader. Without an emotional connection with the reader the book will fail. When you involve the reader to identify with emotions of the characters in the book you are on to a hit. So what more can I write but copy and paste the crux of his argument...

What do readers want?

The simple answer?

A darn good story.

We want to be entertained, to be swept away in a story’s world. But what makes that happen? I suggest that it’s the feelings generated in the reader. Why? Emotions in stories let us transcend our mundane lives. We can feel courage, heroism, love, hate, triumph. These are not only fulfilled dramatically for the character, but for us as readers.

A story sets up an expectation in the reader that certain core human feelings will be fulfilled. The greatest stories do this; at their core is an emotion that in reality IS the story. In “Tale of Two Cities,” Sydney Carton’s wasted life is redeemed through sacrifice. In “The Karate Kid,” a boy gains respect by facing his enemies. In “The Hunt for Red October,” a man battles tyranny to gain freedom. My novel, Wyndano’s Cloak, is a girl’s quest for empowerment over hate and cruelty.

There isn’t a correct order for crafting your work. The following should be thought of not as rigid, sequential steps, but elements that should be developed and worked together harmoniously:

1. Determine the central emotion of each character.

2. Determine what character traits give rise to this emotion.

3. Determine the dominant emotion you want the reader to feel toward each character.

4. Create situations that bring out the character’s traits and corresponding emotions.

5. What is the final emotion you want the reader to feel? Ultimately, it should be satisfaction, which will arise when everything that was laid out in the story inevitably comes to fruition.

If possible, set out what the key emotions are as early as possible. The reader will only be hooked when they sense the emotional content of the story.

So what do readers want?

Yes, a great story, a sizzling plot, memorable characters, a compelling theme. All of these are necessary. But ultimately, none of that will amount to a hill of beans if it doesn’t evoke emotions. Readers want to feel. As Louis L’Amour said, “A writer’s brain is like a magician’s hat. If you’re going to get anything out of it, you have to put something in it first.” And that something better be emotions.

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