Monday, 16 December 2013

Love Reading?

I LOVE reading – and as a writer, it is one of the essential tools in developing my own work - which is lucky! I frequently analyse other writers' work to find out how they manage jeopardy, pace, setting, backstory and so on (more on how to do this in a later post).
Image: Microsoft

I’m always shocked, however, at the sheer number of books other people – especially other authors - seem to get through! I’ve come across a number of writers who seem able to demolish  8, 10, 12 books in a month and I find this astonishing (and frankly, enviable). I’d love to disappear inside that number of different worlds, take that number of virtual journeys every month! 

I’m embarrassed to say that in 2013, I read 2-3 books a month... But I chose those books carefully. I find it hard to read a novel that isn’t ‘aspirational’ – by this I mean I want to give myself up to a book where the writing quality makes me think; ‘Wow, this is special/clever/different - I wish I could write like this.’ If a book doesn’t hit that spot, I can’t read it. It’s like drinking tea made with powdered milk; it isn’t the real deal and I feel like it isn’t going to do me any good. I tend to believe a bit of every book rubs off on the reader and I don’t want to be left covered in mud! 

I tend to read books in the genre I write in – psychological thrillers – they are generally the type of stories I’m most intrigued by, with the occasional police procedural thrown in. Nothing too ‘cosy’ and I don’t venture into horror, supernatural, erotica or crime that is macho-gritty or overly offensive. I like books that have something fresh in the writing style with imagery and atmosphere (Tideline is a great example of this, see below).

So, how do writers find the time to read?

Image: Fotolia
I spend my whole day focused on writing; whether this is planning, editing, revising or marketing and whilst I try to fit reading in as part of this process, I rarely read more than 100 pages a day. 

Some days, I'm so engrossed in my own story that the day's gone before I've picked up that novel. How do other authors find time to read so much? 

Is it that they:
  • Make more hours in the day (get to sleep very late, or get up extra early)?
  • Read faster?
  • Have sharper brains?
  • Skim read?
  • Spend longer than usual in the toilet..?
  • Produce less writing in their day?
  • See reading as more of a priority?
  • Spend less time in the evenings watching TV (this could be my downfall - I love relaxing at the end of the day with an episode of Borgen, Peaky Blinders, Dirk Gently or New Tricks)? But it’s all crime in the end and grist to the mill...
  • Take a novel everywhere with them – on the Tube, to the doctor’s surgery, lay it across the supermarket trolley?

(Let me know how YOU manage to pack reading into your busy schedule...)
To finish off the subject of Reading - here are my Top 10 Delicious and Divine books from 2013 (in no particular order):

Into the Darkest Corner – Elizabeth Haynes
Broken – Daniel Clay
The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult
Tideline – Penny Hancock
Just What Kind of Mother Are You? – Paula Daly
Rush of Blood – Mark Billingham
The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker
Until Your Mine – Samantha Hayes
Under Your Skin – Sabine Durrant
The Suspect – Michael Robotham

I'm delighted that books such as these are in the world! I’d love to hear your views about reading and find out your own favourite novels in 2013. If you enjoyed this post, please SHARE it using the buttons below. Thank you!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Using the Translate Button - Hilarious Results!

Lost in Translation

Just HAD to share this! A German friend of mine was sent this by his friend who lives in Beijing. It's an excerpt from a Beijing Hotel Brochure, translated directly, word for word from Mandarin to English! Here's what happens when you press that translate button ...
Getting There:

Our representative will make you wait at the airport. The bus to the hotel runs along the lake shore. Soon you will feel pleasure in passing water. You will know that you are getting near the hotel, because you will go round the bend. The manager will await you in the entrance hall. He always tries to have intercourse with all new guests.

Beijing (Image: Telegraph)
 The Hotel:-

This is a family hotel, so children are very welcome. We of course are always pleased to accept adultery. Highly skilled nurses are available in the evenings to put down your children. Guests are invited to conjugate in the bar and expose themselves to others. But please note that ladies are not allowed to have babies in the bar. We organize social games, so no guest is ever left alone to play with them self.

 The Restaurant:-

Our menus have been carefully chosen to be ordinary and unexciting. At dinner, our quartet will circulate from table to table, and fiddle with you.

 Your Room:-

Every room has excellent facilities for your private parts. In winter, every room is on heat. Each room has a balcony offering views of outstanding obscenity!.. You will not be disturbed by traffic noise, since the road between the hotel and the lake is used only by pederasts.


Your bed has been made in accordance with local tradition. If you have any other ideas please ring for the chambermaid. Please take advantage of her. She will be very pleased to squash your shirts, blouses and underwear. If asked, she will also squeeze your trousers.

 Above All:-

When you leave us at the end of your holiday, you will have no hope. You will struggle to forget it.


I'm sure Beijing itself is an amazing place to visit - If you enjoyed this post, please share using the buttons below!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Madness in our Thinking

Most of us regard ourselves as sensible human beings who think rationally and act accordingly. Psychology takes a different view on matters! It shows us how our thinking often gets tangled up, frequently in ways that become habitual and therefore feel ‘normal’.

Image: Fotolia
Here are three common types of 'Distorted Thinking':

Overgeneralization: You arrive at a conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. If something happens once in a certain way, you expect it to happen over and over again. 'Always' and 'never' are cues that this style of thinking is in force. This distortion can lead to a errors, as you make future decisions based on a single incident or event.

Our cat, Tigsey, displays this kind of thinking and actually it comes from a place of common sense; the notion that if something can happen once, it can happen again. We have to give him tablets regularly for an on-going illness and as any cat-owner knows, getting a cat to swallow a tablet is no mean feat. Tigsey now associates my husband and I taking a simultaneous interest in him with the ‘tablet scenario’, so he hides under the table. Very sensible. Although, of course, there are times when he misses out on affection, because he’s got it wrong. We don’t have the tablet to hand – we only want to cuddle him!

The same principle follows in infant education – if a child touches a hot kettle, he’s unlikely to do it again – whether the kettle has just been boiled or not. In this case, it is extremely useful. It’s only when we fail to recognise and act on the exceptions that the thinking fails us.

Global Labelling: You generalise one or two qualities (in yourself or others) into a global assessment; either negative or positive. ‘All rich people are happy.’ ‘All dogs will bite you.’ Global labelling ignores all contrary evidence, creating a view of the world that fits into set categories and stereotypes. Labelling yourself can have a negative impact on your self-esteem; while labelling others can lead to snap-judgements, assumptions and prejudice.

I’m certainly guilty of this one. For example; 'shaved heads' – I used to have an immediate prejudice that an individual with a shaved head was not going to be a pleasant person. I saw the error of my ways when I considered all those individuals enduring chemotherapy. While their heads may not be shaved, they can look remarkably similar. Now, I’m aware of my tendency to make a snap-judgement in this regard and look for other characteristics in an individual beyond their lack of hair, in order to come to conclusions about them. Being aware of it means I’m in a better position to address it. I had a similar problem with motorbikes – until I saw the Hairy Bikers getting excited in the kitchen over a plateful of vegetables. They are a couple of the sweetest, cutest people on TV!

The Hairy Bikers
Heaven's Reward Fallacy: You expect all your hard-work, sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if there were someone keeping score. You feel bitter when the reward doesn't come as expected. The problem is that while you are always doing the 'right thing,' if your heart really isn't in it, you are physically and emotionally depleting yourself.

I’m not particularly guilty of this one, but I do fall into a version of it - which is to exhibit a form of ‘magical thinking’. It works like this – at times I catch myself thinking that ‘if X happens, then Y will follow,’ even though the two situations are completely unrelated. For example, ‘If the toast I’ve dropped lands butter up, I’ll get the job.’

Rafael Nadal - image: The Guardian
It’s a bit like Rafael Nadal, the tennis player, who doesn’t step on the court lines during a match. In extremis, magical thinking can develop into a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) where certain ritual actions must be carried out the same number of times, in the correct order for an individual to feel safe.

I don’t do it very often, I hasten to add, but it’s there in my psyche – just like superstitions like Friday, 13th and black cats are embedded into our collective consciousness.

The essential factor with Distorted Thinking is to become aware of doing it. Which types do you find yourself slipping into? There's 'Catastrophizing', 'Mind-reading' and 'Polarised Thinking' and many more. Once you have identified what you do, you can challenge your habitual thinking - and change it.

            References: Thoughts & Feelings by McKay, Davis, & Fanning. New Harbinger, 1981 
            and The Self-Esteem Journal by Alison Waines. 

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