Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Disasters, Bones and the joy of tax

Here’s today’s meditation, which is a strange little incident where Joshua meets an angel of the armies of God before the great challenge of Jericho. I’d even forgotten it was there:

Meditation 184

A shadow sword
and a ghostly army
echo your every move.

Your only response:
remove your sandals;
kneel; pray; love.

Keeping on literary matters, I’m delighted to say that The Bones of Summer has received a 4.5 star review from Kassa at Rainbow Reviews, and this can also be found below:

“This is a fascinating story about the choices and actions one person takes, both deliberately and unconsciously, and the far-reaching effects those have. This is described as a “quasi-sequel” to Maloney’s Law, although The Bones of Summer can be read alone. I haven’t read the previous book and found this story easily stands on its own. However, there is clearly information and context missing that will most likely create a more complex and fulfilling story having read both books in order. Bones is a captivating and engrossing story filled with passion, angst, turmoil, fear, and the range of human emotions as two men struggle to find clues to the past and the implications on their future. The story is told in third person from Craig’s point of view. Craig and Paul had met a few months ago in a club and exchanged a hot night of sex but until now, Craig hadn’t heard from Paul again. Now just as the two reconnect, Craig is informed that his ultra-religious father has gone missing. Paul’s job as a private investigator comes into play reluctantly as Craig hesitantly delves into the problem of his missing father and the further mystery of Michael’s missing whereabouts. When Craig was a teenager he met and had a brief fling with a vacationing older man, Michael, and the results had Craig fleeing from his home and living in London. Now, not only is Craig trying to discover what’s going on with his father, but he realizes Michael never returned from that ill-fated holiday seven years ago. The dual mysteries have Craig delving more deeply into his past than he is comfortable with while taking a helpful but cautious Paul for the ride. Craig is a compelling but inherently inconsistent narrator. This is because his mind is full of holes, misinformation, memories, thoughts, and confusion. Some of Craig’s actions are inconsistent with his personality but fit with his confused demeanor and his tendency to ignore and hide from the truth. However, when Craig chooses to confront the truth, he oddly takes the most ridiculous assumptions and believes in them wholeheartedly with nothing but the erroneous beliefs and delusions of a confused, hurting teenager. Surprisingly, Craig refuses to actually follow steps dictated by logic, instead finding solace in confusion and mystery as long as he doesn’t have to confront his fears and his past. Craig goes to extreme lengths to avoid dealing with his father and the effects of his past, going so far as to believe wildly untrue things about himself. Craig has taught himself to ignore his past and any clues that might make him re-evaluate what he knows to be true. Therefore, the clues unravel slowly in small pieces at the pace Craig is able to cope with the revealing truth. This makes for a sympathetic yet occasionally frustrating character. At the same time, Craig is a witty, humorous, and above all, an optimistic man. His firm desire to avoid the past but hope for positive outcomes is endearing. He may be emotional and dramatic but he tempers this with a very British sense of humor and commentary. His rules for Gay Men are funny and delightful as are his inner monologues on a variety of subjects. For example: “Gay Rule Number Thirteen ~ unlucky for some: Don’t let them see you’re a complete psycho before they’ve expressed some kind of commitment first.” Aside from the great list of rules, Craig is coping in his way and leads a relatively happy life but has little control over it. Within the space of the book, Craig slowly begins to take control of his life and his choices, ultimately creating a stronger character than when he started. This hallmarks the character driven story where the men and their progression is perhaps more important than the mystery itself, although the two stories parallel each other in multiple ways. Paul is an equally complex character and much more mysterious. As this is the sequel to Paul’s story, much of his background and past is dealt with off page and little referenced in this story. There are tangible holes where information is missing. This isn’t to the detriment of the story at all but it has a palpable empty air. The deliberate pausing before comments and the flashes of pain in Paul’s eyes and demeanor all speak of prior incidents that aren’t divulged yet impact how Paul reacts and handles both Craig and the situation. Paul exhibits a lot of anger towards Craig for his hiding and less than truthful behavior. Craig is so afraid of his past that he often lies without thought or malice, but simply because facing his truth is too painful and frightening for Craig. These lies frustrate Paul, who offers more than his share of half truths and mysterious statements without explanation. Yet, Paul offers a much-needed support system to Craig and their relationship has a wealth of emotion amidst the tension. What is really wonderful about the book is that it depicts both the settings and characters in such a realistic, gripping way. When Paul and Craig fight, it’s painful and harsh with the kind of verbal dirty fighting rarely seen, but incredibly relatable. The characters must deal with their jobs and lives independent of the sudden mystery. The various settings are mundane and common, yet the tension and emotion ripples and hangs uneasy in the air. The reader follows Craig and discovers information as he does, requiring patience and understanding. The strength of the writing is in the connection between the men as Paul and Craig deal with their individual pasts and the secrets they need and want to keep hidden. Moving beyond these lies and fears is essential to their budding relationship but may be too much at the start of a fragile connection and the careful dance is written incredibly well. The actual dual mysteries are interesting with clever clues but the ending resolution is not surprising. However, the lack of surprise is more than compensated by the gripping intensity and painful realism of the situation. The complexity of religion and its possible overwhelming consequences are deftly handled with perhaps a heavy tread, but fitting with the concept of the story. This is not necessarily an easy book to read due to the myriad of themes presented but wholly worthwhile and very well-written. The well-crafted and paced story draws the reader in and doesn’t let go until the very end, which in true style is left with a hint. For readers who crave wonderfully rich character-driven stories with a solid mystery all wrapped up in a captivating story, I can easily recommend this book. You won’t be disappointed.”

Many thanks, Kassa – I’m really glad you enjoyed the read!

I’m also equally pleased to say that Disasters and Miracles is now available for pre-ordering at Amazon, Waterstone’s and W H Smith’s. So take your pick, and enjoy! It’s suitable for children over 10 years old and adults, so an ideal family collection for the summer.

And I’m also happy to say that I had a lovely email from a man called Bob last night saying how much he’d enjoyed A Dangerous Man, Maloney’s Law and The Bones of Summer, and when was I doing another. Gosh, thank you, Bob! I’m thrilled you’ve enjoyed those three books, and I shall do my best to write another very soon – promise!

At last, I have my US tax number so I’m sending the forms out to PD Publishing and Dreamspinner Press, so with a bit of luck and if the wind’s in the right direction, I won’t have to pay double tax on royalties from America. A very special thank you has to go to Alex Beecroft and Sharon Maria Bidwell for talking me through the whole very complex process and holding my virtual hand when I was weeping about the agonies of it all. Thank you both big-time.

Meanwhile (lordy the strangeness of having two jobs indeed …) at work, we’re still preparing for Freshers’ Week and facing the pains of year-end (well, year-end for us). And our Heroes of the Week are Ruth (for being a finance whizz), Clare (for getting things done) and Rupert Everett (see below). Not me sadly – I think I’ve given up being heroic. So my lunchtime walk round campus was especially good – it also woke me up a bit more as I’m still not managing to get to bed at a reasonable hour, sigh. When will I ever learn??? There just seems to be loads to do when it gets to 10pm. I really need to go to a Sleep Lesson class, if such a thing exists.

Tonight, I’m looking forward to Episode Two of Desperate Romantics, and I must say how totally wonderful Rupert Everett’s programme about Byron was last night. He was honest and charming, witty and fascinating about the Great Man, so I was gripped. I can’t wait for next week’s conclusion.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. The Bones review
3. Pre-ordering facilities for Disasters and Miracles
4. Bob’s kind email about the novels
5. Getting my US tax number
6. Heroes of the Week
7. Lunchtime walks
8. TV.

Anne Brooke - finally official in the US
Vulpes Libris – Adventure Week shines a light on Flashman

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