Emotional wrestling match

Back in the day, when the world and I were young, there was only one Elvis my generation cared about and who could gain the unanimous approval of the student union bar. Elvis Costello, singer songwriter nonpareil. And Elvis once said, if memory serves, that the only true emotions he ever really felt were bitterness and jealousy.

I like to think I have a slightly broader emotional palate than that, though I do see where he was coming from – I would say that the emotional range he described was that of a very young person. I remember the days when I used to get jealous when other writers achieved success and bitter if I was rejected by an agent or publisher, or if a story I’d written failed to win a competition.

These days I waver between being pleased or indifferent when other authors taste success and as for bitterness – well, I’ve accumulated that many rejection slips over the years I could paper my house with them and make a start on your lounge – they just don’t sting any more. I’ve learned just to count the successes, and ignore the failures. And thankfully there have been some successes.

These days I’d say a big pair of emotions for me are guilt and laziness. Is laziness an emotion? Well I certainly feel lazy a lot of the time so I’m saying it is.

The way this pair work is like a tag wrestling team. The other day I was planning to go out running for example, but it was bitterly cold out and frankly I couldn’t be bothered. Yet I knew I should and had promised myself I would. So there we had guilt in the blue corner and laziness in the red corner, seconds out, round one.

In the end I went for the run. When I got back I couldn’t feel my face for a whole hour. It was still there though, I checked in the mirror.

The whole business of writing for me is balanced between guilt and laziness. I am not currently writing fiction. I promised myself a break when Song of the Sea God was published. But that was four months ago now and I should really start again. I should, but I am too lazy. Yet not writing is making me feel guilty. The guilt will slowly build – do gym work, take steroids, until it is strong enough to get in the ring for the final showdown with laziness and whup, as the Americans would say, its butt.

At that point I will get back to it – until then idleness reigns.

What’s your motivation for writing?

Don’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God. You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

Reading Rule book

This is something of an ’Is it just me?’ post – and one where I expect that it actually is just me.

But, the thing is,  I have a whole range of self imposed rules regarding what fiction I can and can’t read.

I don’t know how it started or why – but there’s been this list in my head for as long as I can remember regarding what I can read and how and when. It’s a list which sounds odd to me when I see it written down – and until now I haven’t had it written down, it’s only been in my head.

If I were to analyse it I suppose I could come up with sound reasons for some of these rules, even if they sound odd to other people. They impose discipline for example, they make sure I finish what I start, they make sure I read widely and well – and so on.

This is a rulebook which only applies to fiction – I can do what I like with non-fiction.

Here goes – and in no particular order:

I cannot borrow books

– either from the library or from other people, I must buy them, read them and then put them on my book shelves.

I cannot start reading a new book until I have finished the one I am reading

– I must finish each book I start, even if I don’t like it. If it’s boring I will persevere until the end, then hope the next one is more interesting.

I will not read more than one book by any given author

There are always so many fantastic authors I’ve not tried yet, I always feel I have to move on. Sometimes I promise myself I will revisit a favourite when I have time – but there’s always someone new.

I will lend my books out to special people

– but will fret and secretly seethe if they do not give them back to me. For example, my brother, an engineering contractor, once borrowed my copy of Martin Amis’s Money. When I asked for it back he said ‘I’ve left it in the office’. When I said ‘well why don’t you pop to the office and get it?’ He said, ‘the office in Nigeria.’ I was not happy.

Once I’ve read a book I must keep it

– on my bookshelves, in case I ever need to look at it again, which I rarely, if ever, do.  If someone has left my copy in Nigeria I must buy another copy and keep that on my shelf instead.

So there we go. I think I probably have other weird reading rules as well – these are just the ones which are top of mind for me at the moment. Ebooks, I have discovered recently, are exempt from my rules plus, the rules only apply to fiction. I can do what I like with non-fiction books – borrow them from the library or a friend, read them two at a time, chuck them when I’ve finished or leave them on a table in a sub-Saharan African state. The world is my lobster.

What I would say though is that rules are made to be broken – and I have broken all of mine at one time or another. I just don’t like to.

Don’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God. You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

Val Poore – Author Profile

My first author profile on the blog in a little while today, and I’m delighted to welcome writer Val Poore who finds her literary inspiration in the fascinating life she leads living on board a canal barge in the Netherlands!

Tell me a little bit about yourself as a person?

ProfilePicOh Chris, this question reminds me of the job interviews I train my students to do. That’s a good introduction to the subject, now, isn’t it?  On the ‘what I do’ front, I am in fact a teacher/trainer/lecturer in English communication skills and also in academic and business writing. That’s my day job anyway, and it doesn’t look as if I’ll be giving it up any time soon. I work in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where I have a liveaboard barge, currently occupied full-time by my daughter, so I am a ‘sometimes’ guest on my own boat these days. I lived on it full-time myself for ten years, My home now is officially in a village in the south of the country very close to the Belgian border.

I’m as English as you are, though, and was born and grew up in London until my parents moved to Dorset and I moved there with them. I went to school in Lyme Regis and then later went on to study at what is now Bournemouth University. It was an external faculty of London University in those days. I was actually a frustrated Archaeologist then so decided to do a course in conservation and restoration at Lincoln Art College after my degree. I then worked at Dorchester Museum for a while before joining a firm that specialised in restoring antique country furniture.  After that, well to cut a long and rambling story short, I moved to South Africa where I lived from 1981 – 2001. In a word, or three, I loved it!


Tell me about your journey as a writer – how you started and how you have developed?

I’ve been writing most of my life one way and another. As a child, I wrote descriptions of things. I remember that now. I used to write about the wind in the trees, or what it felt like to have the sun on my face. Odd child, I was. Like yo u, I was an avid reader as well –  always had my nose in a book – so it made sense to start writing my own stories. I have always loved the radio, though and in South Africa, I really, really missed Radio 4, so I wrote a few radio plays and short stories, a couple of which were broadcast on a local station there. My only claim to fame in fact!

I didn’t get round to writing a full length book until I came to Holland. I suppose having children and working full time in the marketing and communications world, as I did in Johannesburg, took up all my time and satisfied my writing urges for that period. I did a lot of copywriting and marketing material then.


How would you describe your work – it‘s themes and the important things about it?

In all honesty, I don’t have themes. My books are all different, and the first two are memoirs so I suppose that doesn’t really count anyway. I like trying different approaches though, so my first memoir about my life on an African farm really is just that, a recollection of a period in my life that was very special to me.

When it came to the second memoir, Watery Ways, I wanted to try something different, so I wrote it all in the present tense. I was amazed at how different it felt. My first novel, The Skipper’s Child, is a semi-historical adventure story. I call it a kidult book, mainly because it’s aimed at younger teenagers, but I only know adults who have read it. Typical, isn’t it? It was inspired by my partner who grew up as a skipper’s son, and many of the impress ions, anecdotes and descriptions are based on his stories. I was fascinated by how insular a skipper’s life is and how difficult it is for a child who wants to be normal. So you see, no themes!


Tell me about your current book – what is it about and what makes it a great read?

Watery Ways - LSI FULL COVER 1000Well, the one that’s been most recently published is Watery Ways, my second memoir about my first year of living on a barge in Rotterdam. I think the people who have read it have enjoyed it because it’s a window into such a different lifestyle. Many of the things that happened to me when I was learning the ropes (literally) were very funny, so it’s pretty humorous as well. I guess that’s the appeal really – that and all the  wonderful people I met in the process. It’s a great life and I hope to get back to it full time again once I’ve managed to persuade my daughter she really wants a bigger, more convenient barge of her own!


Where can I buy a copy of your book?

My books are all available on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Valerie+Poore

Chris, many thanks for giving me a chance to ramble on your blog. I think you know I’m a big fan of this page, and I’ve just started your book now, so for me this is quite an honour!