Sunday, 31 October 2010

Nanowrimo 2010

Well, in just under four hours, the annual event of literary mayhem begins.  National Novel Writing Month 2010 looks set to be the largest so far, and it's not too late to start now.  Who needs a plan anyway?  I still haven't decided which of the two ideas I have buzzing around pestering me to write.  In fact, I haven't finished writing the story that I really ought to get finished before November begins yet...

So what, I hear you ask (or at least, I hypothetically pretend that you ask), is National Novel Writing Month?  Well, it's basically a challenge to write 50,000 words on a new novel in the month of November.  That works out at 1667 words per day, which is easily doable, trust me on that one.  I've managed it three years running, and I hope to make this a fourth consecutive 'win' (all finishers who verify their wordcount before midnight, local time, on November 30th, are winners).  The site is currently very slow, but that's because novellers all over the globe are checking in as they set off on the adventure of a lifetime.  Or at least, the adventure of the year which doesn't even require leaving your chair.

If you have ever had any desire to write a novel, now's your chance.  Don't miss out!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Raising Atlantis

Yup.  I've read another book involving the discovery of Atlantis as its central theme.  And while you might think I'd be getting a little tired of that idea by now, I have to say this version is remarkably interesting.  For one thing, the romance is a little more thought out than 'fit girl + fit guy + adventure = everyone chucks their clothes off', which is always encouraging.  In fact, in the whole trilogy (what can I say, it was enjoyable, the library happened to have all three of them hanging about so I've now read them all...) there isn't any major throwing off of clothes.  Which is quite exceptional for a thriller.  Anyway, that minor digression aside, it's got a very interesting plot, and a fascinating main character (or main two characters in fact--Sister Serenghetti is a fantastic character and definitely more three dimensional than a lot of women in thrillers--or characters in general in thrillers).  A different decision of locating Atlantis than any I've seen before, and an interesting location for it at that.

Lots of excitement, the sciency and historically stuff is plausible enough (I confess I'm no expert on ancient history or on science, but it certainly made sense), and... lots of excitement.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and there's an interesting twist on the archaeologist main character.  He's a rather discredited bloke amongst the scientific community, a bit of an iconoclast, and also an astro-archaeologist.  In other words, he looks at how the stars line up with ancient monuments, because although he doesn't believe in it the ancients did and so he uses star systems etc to get inside their heads.  Also, having a nun as a second main character is fascinating, and she's a believable, realistic character to boot.  Actually, she's not really a nun any more, but that's by the by.

I can thoroughly recommend this book as an intriguing and edge-of-the-seat addition to the multitudes (well, four or five at the very least) of other books using the legend of Atlantis as their basis.  Brilliant.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Sanctuary Seeker

I joined the Cambridge library yesterday.  I think I need to go back again today to take some books back.  It's quite a nice library actually, although I have yet to fully figure out their filing system...  Anyway.  I happened to spot this one in with the thrillers, and it looked pretty good so I brought it home and started reading.

The historical background feels realistic.  The characters are mostly interesting.  The plot is pretty good.  In fact, if that was all I was assessing this on, it'd be doing pretty well.  Unfortunately, the actual writing itself isn't great.  I can't quite put my finger on what's wrong, but it just doesn't quite read as smoothly or as interestingly as it might.  I think perhaps it's with the characters where the problem lies: they're great, interesting people, but the author appears to have broken the cardinal rule of 'show, don't tell'.  However, this is the first in a series (or at least, it looked like it was the first, and there were plenty more), so there's every chance that the writing will improve further on in the series.  I hope so. 

As an idea, it's brilliant.  Set in 1194, Sir John de Wolfe, retired soldier of the Crusades, is the first coroner for Devon.  But where does his jurisdiction begin and that of his brother-in-law (whom, incidentally, he can't stand) end?  So basically, a crime series set in a world without fingerprinting, DNA, cars, or any of the mod cons that detective novels today take for granted.  Going out to investigate a murder in a village takes quite some effort on horse back, especially when the village is in the middle of nowhere.  In short, it's a very interesting construct, the historical background certainly seems real enough (I confess I don't know a lot about the period, but what I do know seems to tally), and basically it'd be an excellent book if the quality of the writing were a little bit better.  So I'm hopeful for the rest of the series.

Some Observations

Being a student has led me to make some observations on life.  Most of them are probably pretty obvious for people who have ever moved away from home.

1. If I want milk, I have to buy it.  Preferably before I want it to put on breakfast cereal, because the shops aren't open when I have breakfast.

2. Dry brown bread is really not all that delicious.  I should probably get some margarine.

3. What Heinz alleges is macaroni cheese is disgusting slop which I wouldn't inflict on... well, on anything.  At all.  Ever.

4. On the other hand, Heinz raviolli is actually fairly tasty.

5. I need to get something to put on a sandwich for tomorrow, or I will have to buy a sandwich.  Buying a sandwich is more expensive than buying a whole loaf of bread and a tin of spam.  In fact, I think it's at least twice as expensive.

6. College food is okay, but the curry is spicy.  Thankfully I had a feeling it might be and avoided it.  Oh, and the onion rings are kinda weird.

7. I have to go fetch water from the kitchen.  I currently have none.  Hmm...  Dry bread makes you thirsty.  I should perhaps go get some water.  Which means finding my keys, closing the door, getting the water, coming back, unlocking hte door...

8. At some point, I will end up forgetting my keys.  Probably in the middle of the night.  Which will mean going to visit the plodge in my pyjamas.  I'm not convinced that's a great idea...

9. I am now running out of observations.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Very Surreal Walk...

Well, I think I've settled in.  I say that because I was sat in the Seeley (history faculty library, see, I now know these things, and that you don't search for the history faculty, you search for the Seeley library when you're looking for books!) and I thought 'right, time to go home'.  So I'm guessing that now I think of college as 'home', it's time to say I've settled in :).  Really enjoying life here, it's absolutely awesome.

I have a regular walk to make to get to the History Faculty over at the Sidgewick site, and it's so awesome.  First: through college, out the plodge--and that's impressive enough I would like to add, as Christ's is a pretty awesome college, then down past the market and onto King's Parade.  Through King's College, which is spectacular, then through the King's College fields, complete with cows, squirrels and ducks.  Over the bridge, where you could basically have gone back several hundred years in time, and then out of King's at the other side and across a main road.  It just feels really bizarre to be making such a switch between centuries.

I had a wonderful dinner tonight with my college family, and then we did the most awesome thing ever, although it was slightly terrifying to get up there.  We went up on the roof and we could see out over the college and the city.  What a view!  Well worth the fact that I really don't appreciate ladders.

Had six lectures so far.  Met lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of people.  Lectures have all been enjoyable, although the one earlier today on economics in Early Modern England was a little bit dull and in parts I thought the lecturer rather laboured the point.  Still, I'm loving it.  Part way through my first essay, due in on Tuesday morning (although I'll probably send it Monday night).  Nearly the end of Fresher's week (ha, it's basically Fresher's couple of days, and then lectures start and we're still doing Fresher stuff).  In some ways it's weird to think it's practically a week since I left Preston--sometimes it feels far longer, sometimes much more recent.  I'll be glad when I've settled into a proper schedule though.  I'm starting to get the hang of the whole 'I need to remember to eat, get milk, do stuff' thing, and getting to know the other people around.  Good fun, rather exciting still.

Well, I can't think of anything much else to say and I'm really pretty knackered.  Might do a little bit of writing, a little bit of reading, and go to bed.  Night all :)

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


I am now a Fresher at the University of Cambridge!  And my college is absolutely amazing.  I couldn't get on the internet on my first night, but I wrote a post anyway.  Here you go...

Had an awesome day.  Everyone's very friendly.  Met Tom and Tom who are my new next door neighbours.  Both seem really nice.  Met Kate--a NatSci (like half + of the college appears to be!), got on really well with her.  Room is massive!  Have a firendly tree which popped a branch in to say 'hi!' when I opened the window--had to push the branch out again when I wanted to close it.  Room is all set up, though still seems a little bereft of posters--didn't realise how much space I'd have to stick tehm up.  Bathroom is a fair trek, but at least it's same floor.  Kitchen is diddy and smells a bit.  Bed seems comfy enough--let you know about that tomorrow (NB: Bed is comfy, but didn't sleep on first night because of strange noises like tree tapping...).  Though the way I'm beginning to feel, I could sleep on a broken park bench!  Whole day is a whirl of names and faces.  Good to have time to reflct though--went to Evensong in the Chapel, stunningly beautiful in all respects.  And whilst it was pretty high church, I really felt that God was present with us.  The choir!  They were amazing.

Met my tutor, she was very nice, and (finally!) found some more history students.  All seem friendly, can't wait to get to know them better.  And to get started with proper college.  Place (so far) seems to revolve around drinks and biscuits, orange juice being the alternative to both hot drinks and alcoholic drinks.

Dined in formal hall (though not in formal dress tonight).  What a place!  Half way through blurted out 'I want to live here,' realised abruptly that I do!  The food was really good and all.  Fruit salad, chicken with potatoes and peas, then delicious toffee cheesecake.

Then we were all herded into hte function room.  Wow that place gets hot.  Freshers Mingle, kinda fun but I'm knackered from mingling all day.  I love my room, actually think being away from bathroom will be good in terms of noise.  Night all!