Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Happiness is: Finishing the first draft of a novel in a festival of books and roses


Last night I finished the first draft of my novel Three lovers - Two Bullets. It took longer than it should have but I would argue that it's actually the 1.5th draft as I edited a lot before finishing the ending.

The book is set partly in my new home town of Clevedon in Somerset and Barcelona in Catalonia, with a hefty chunk on board a cruise ship.

It is always a huge milestone to reach the end of the first draft but the completion was marked by some strange co-incidences:

1) I finished the book on St George’s Day - England’s patron saint. This day barely gets noticed in England but on my Facebook feed from Oh Barcelona and Estrella Damm I was getting photos of women with roses and books.

It turns out that in Catalonia they celebrate Sant Jordi - a day for men to give a rose to the woman they love and for the women to give the man a book. According to Wikipedia this is to symbolise "a rose for love and a book forever." It is also common for couples to exchange books.

Wikipedia also claims that “By the end of the day, some four million roses and 800,000 books will have been purchased. Most women will carry a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.”

It’s certainly a very auspicious day to finish a book that features the civil war in Catalonia in its back story.

Oh Barcelona gives some interesting history to how the tradition started by a bookseller: “In 1923 Vincet Claver Andres felt that people weren’t buying enough books. He also noticed that St George’s Day coincided with the almost simultaneous deaths of William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes on 23 April 1616.”

It seems hard to believe that British/American publishers or the all conquering Amazon have not taken on this concept.

2) With a title like Three Lovers - Two Bullets there are going to be some emotional scenes. When I wrote a poignant scene months ago I was impressed that my iPod decided to play a very moving Spanish acoustic guitar song at the crucial moment. This was a fortunate co-incidence - I have a playlist for this novel with about 150 songs on it.

Yesterday I set my iPod to shuffle my entire music collection - almost 4000 tracks. I was writing the climax scene that takes place in Catalonia and another Spanish acoustic guitar song was played. The hairs on my neck stood up as I finished writing the scene on automatic pilot entranced by the gorgeous music. I’m sure my subconscious wrote that scene ending and I love how it turned out.

In case you are wondering I have one album of Spanish guitar music, about 11 tracks. That’s long odds.  
It’s almost enough to make me want to start playing the National Lottery.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Happiness is: Finding a new direction

A while back I had a few days alone as my wife took Thing 1 and Thing 2 up to Scotland to visit some friends. I was tasked with gloss painting our hallway and I was determined to finish the first draft of my latest novel.

I finished the painting but I was distracted from writing after watching the film No in our local cinema. No follows the events that led to the demise of General Pinochet - a referendum where people could vote yes for the dictator to continue or no to choose a democracy and a general election.

Everything was against the ‘No’ team who had limited resources and were threatened by the security forces. However, instead of the obvious tack of listing the endless atrocities that Pinochet caused they focused on what people really wanted. They wanted to be happy.

The media team focused on showing people they could be happy if they chose democracy. It sounds simplistic and childish and the team faced endless criticism until the country started to get behind them and they were ultimately successful.

I was left pondering what I wanted out of life - I wanted to be happy. I wanted to make the people who read my books happy. I want to make people laugh, try new things, open up to others, challenge the status quo and maybe even feel a bit randy.

The novel I am working on is darker than Working from home; it involves danger, death and lust. However, it will still make people laugh and hopefully do some or all of the challenges above.

To me this equals happiness and I will be trying to practice what I preach with a regular dose of happiness both in this blog and in my home life.

So forget a ‘fingers crossed’ mentality it is time to face life with a smile. Oh yes, and crack on with finishing the next novel!