Writers’ Homework: Go to the Ant and 2 Reviews

There’s an ants’ nest in the compost bin, and all the worms have disappeared.

Our compost bin

Hopefully, they’ve moved to the apartment below, leaving the ants with the penthouse. But can I be sure? And what gets the ants to find fault with their new home, and move out, taking their vile offspring – their eggs – with them? Which won’t kill the friendly compost-processing worms?

All this before the writer’s had a moment to do the shopping and settle at the desk. Procrastination it is not. We love our compost bin, we want to be eco-townies, it’s our contribution to recycling everything possible, because there is no ‘away’.

And in the cause of neighbourliness, today there is the monthly coffee meet-up for all of us in the road who work at home, or are retired…

So, is it now Go to the ant, thou sluggard …?

Social interaction is always necessary and often productive to the busy contemporary fiction writer. So, no, not first to the ants – or to writing. Though I’m not about to ‘put you in my novel’, you and you and even you keep us writers in touch with what’s new on the street (sometimes literally). All of us writers are curious students of human interactions, and contrary to popular belief, not all of us are introverts. Whether just quietly listening, or energetically joining in, social activity sparks ideas.

Besides making sure we don’t lurk in an ivory tower, writers need to keep reading. Friend and fellow ALLi member Debbie Young (she who organised the HULF LitFest), recently urged and reminded us that writers should exercise their minds by not just reading books  but writing reviews. (http://authordebbieyoung.com/2015/04/12/why-authors-should-review-books-plus-my-latest-book-review-for-vine-leaves-literary-journal/ ). Having a cold recently justified time off and I read 2 1/2 novels, all Indie published and available on Kindle. And all in the rather nebulous genre where my writing also fits.

A fish in water: covers sell books!

First off: A Kettle of Fish by Ali Bacon. After meeting Ali who was introducing our short readings at the HULF, (URL), I bought her book. From its cover, I guessed this would be a fun read. It was obviously neither crime  nor sci-fi fantasy.  Those legs, testing water, indicated it might be

A covers which draws you in …

quite thought-provoking. A slow start where I wondered where we were going to go to, but soon the story began to intrigue: Ailsa and her friends, just leaving school, and heading to Uni really ‘because it’s what you do next’, hang out in typical YA fashion. As Ailsa decides to buy fish for supper,and worries whether she should move to Edinburgh when she starts Uni or travel in daily from her home, we realise that her family life is distinctly dreary. She is a young carer for her Mum. And Dad took off years ago.

The book then swings into action. Ailsa’s compass points for finding meaning in life are distinctly wobbly. The story follows her bumpy ride through grabbing some life for herself, falling into relationships, and discovering her best childhood memories could be nastily tainted.

Indeed it’s a detective story without the bodies and the crime. Or is it? Throughout, Bacon keeps us guessing, while evoking painfully this stage of life: a three-some day out, your perceptions of who people are.

Here we begin to see more clearly how Bacon’s older characters have been weaving a ‘tangled web’ of deceit which now impacts  down the years. And how she leads us towards a satisfactory conclusion…

Finding writers like  me

Setting out, I hoped to introduce you to the next one I read: newly published Chasing Down the Night by Francis Guenette, third in the ‘Crater Lake’ series.  A great page turner, similarly featuring a group of young adults finding their feet … I love these books for the realism and the conquering of some tricky hands which life had dealt the characters. I am encouraged by these writers, to know that there are others who are tackling the tough questions about finding meaning, a place to be and people to be with and respecting their characters in stories told without sentiment, problems sorted while an easy life is not promised. I feel kind of proud to be writing in a genre which though not wildly popular at present, is deep and thoughtful and life enhancing.

Blueberry cake for the class reunion

For today, I’m having to leave Francis Guenette’s book, along with Nancy Freund’s Rapeseed, for another time … I have some icing to put on a cake …  As for the usefulness of the coffee morning …a good chat about rising house prices and changing neighbourhoods … and somebody mentioned cloves. Apparently scattering ground cloves on an ants’ nest will send the ants scuttering off to find an alternative home.

Here’s hoping the des res down the garden is soon vacated.

A Kettle of Fish by Ali Bacon available from the usual on-line stores … or order a copy from your local bookshop and support booksellers!