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Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

Review - Observational humour that touched a chord

Going Postal (Discworld, #33) - Terry Pratchett

Thinking of a title for this review is difficult, because I could easily have mistaken Pratchett for having been a civil servant in British government early on in his career. For an explanation of the kind of thing I mean, watch the first 3 minutes and a few seconds of "Whoops Apocalypse" - that will explain the kind of humour in this book.


Here, the book is four stars. Number 33 in the Discworld series, I found Pratchett's later books to not be as rip roaringly funny as previous titles. His earlier novels embarassed me considerably, as I couldn't stifle a guffaw while on public transport.


In this book, he comments on the real life situation of corporate greed screwing over the general public and society at large, including not caring about the people it kills. But then, that is one of the endeering things about a Discworld novel. Pratchett not only entertains but brings observations about our present society, into the book to be held up for examination, discussion and sometimes just plain old flagrant abuse.


The UK's postal service, the Royal Mail, had been threatened with privitisation for some time, as various public services and properties had gone this way over preceeding years. Going Postal was published in 2004, perhaps forseeing the eventual beginning of the privitisation process in 2011. As such, this book holds an extra resonance with some readers.


In this book, the public postal service has been tehnologically overtaken by the Clacks, putting the post out of business. A group of financiers took over the Clacks service by dubious financial means, and proceeded to run it at bare minimum investment, causing failures which the public have no option but to stomach. Then, by dint of fate and perhaps more than a little planning by the extremely cunning Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari, a new postmaster is found.


The task is frought with dangers, including a sorting machine which sorts mail that hasn't been written yet, letters that talk to you and, of course, the owners of the Clacks don't take too kindly to having competition, even if it does cost a dollar to send a letter to Genua. You can imagine the mayhem that ensues.


I'll hire vampires if they're a member of the League of Temperance, trolls if they wipe their feet, and if there're any werewolves out there I'd love to hire postmen who can bite back.

Review - Skilled writing, but no rise and fall

The Myth-ing Omnibus - Robert Lynn Asprin

Asprin is a clever writer. He can turn a phrase and has a knack of comedy. This is three books in one. Total of 600-ish pages, at roughly 200 pages per book.


Asprin builds his characters well and reasonably believably. That alone is what kept me glued to the book, wanting to read more. There were a few places where I was jarred, but it wasn't enough to make me put the book down. A number of situations left me completely puzzled, like why a smaller dragon should talk with a larger draggon which is under control of someone else, in a battlefield situation... and the larger dragon just give up and fly off. That one left me thinking, "Eh?" and as it was a fairly strong turning point in the battle that was being waged at the time, I have to admit that it left me scratching my head. I just didn't get it.


The other thing is that the level of the book continues at more or less the same pace. It didn't leave me hanging on the edge of my seat. I didn't feel like I was riding a rollercoaster of emotion... it was more like a bungling of one situation to the next, with a constant stream of Abbot and Costello.


My conclusion is that it was witty and well written, but it left some trails of breadcrumbs where I got lost in the woods through losing the trails, and it didn't really make me want to belly laugh, if you know what I mean. Worth reading, but don't expect to be blown away.


Review - As an IT person, I enjoyed it

The Blue Nowhere - Jeffery Deaver

This heavily involves IT and hacking and as you can probably guess, as IT is my career, I am sensitive to certain things. (I'm writing this on a Macbook Air which has been altered to run my preferred Linux distribution, and my mobile is neither Apple, Android, Blackberry or Microsoft. Not telling you what it is!) nevertheless this achieved 4 stars.


Even though various segments within the book were technically out of whack (I had to look at the publishing date when I read some company names, as they aren't around any more) it didn't phase me. I could see a few things coming before they hit, but there were many twists and turns that I didn't catch. I ploughed through it quite quickly, and enjoyed the ride.


It moved quickly and mostly believably, only jarring me in a few places. Well written and certainly more believable than many thrillers that pull greatly on IT. An enjoyable short read.

"The Wrap"

I've been on hiatus for a while. I had planned "Green lightning," which had a theme of fighting the organised gangs in Mexico. However, it looks like things have got too serious there, for me to write a fiction book around it. So that idea is parked.


Issues elsewhere in the world are also quite serious, so I've decided to go into the future again. Science Fiction... again. Begins with a murder investigation. The core plot is already down. I know the who, what, when, where and why. As usual, greed is the primary motivator. Also, a commentary on corporate greed and the weakness and gullibility of politicians.


But then... it is a well worn path. The key is the journey... the twists, the tales, the intrigue... that's what it's all about. Right?


The next step is the primary characters. Names, descriptions, motivations and where they sit in the great scheme of things. Also, how they change. Would they have the guts to  pull the trigger in the critical moment?


Once I've got the primary characters down, then I can use their personalities, drives and agendas to weave the sub plots that will surround the skeleton of the main plot itself.


It has taken a while to get to the point where I want to write again. The block of six books that I wrote, took a lot out of me in terms of energy and effort; and nothing sizeable came back to recharge that bank, so I've had to wait for it to fill itself through its own mechanisms. Let's just hope that I take the lessons I've learned so far, and write a better book this time.

Page 4, put down

Zero Point - Neal Asher

I don't know what's wrong. me or the book. Too much detail, too fast, for me to take in, so I've put it down and will return to it another day.

Aww... come on...

— feeling beaten

I know I'm not a successful author, HMRC... but there's no need to rub it in...



Booh yah....

In GENIE I wrote about Spy Fly. In the meantime, in the real world, we now have RoboFly .... https://newatlas.com/robofly-tetherless-flying-insect-robot/54621/

Even the tax office is a critic

I earn so little as an author that the tax office shut down my self assessment portal account. After some conversations, I sent them details of how much I'd earned as an author.... and got a rebate of £34.50 ... I know I don't sell many books, but... man... that hurts!


I thought I could write....

The bathroom needs re-working. The kind of re-working where everything is ripped out and started again. I thought, "OK, I can take a few weeks off work and while they're working on the house, I can make a good start on the next book." ... oh, was I mistaken.


There's dust everywhere, and I have to cross my legs for long periods as our only toilet has to go out of commission during certain work phases. I mean... honestly... if I even attempted to write this into a book, no one would ever believe it.


Post from Facebook

I'm slowly deleting all my posts on Facebook, and one of them I thought I'd post here, to keep it safe :-)...


Dedicating a book to someone you care about is so very, very difficult. How do you wrap up years of friendship, companionship, laughs, tears, hugs, walks, warm evenings together over glasses of wine, cold evenings together over a hot cup of tea ... in just a few words on a page?

Companion and Leader won't be re-written

It took a friend, a sit-down and a few beers. The nub of it is that I'm still not a good enough writer to do them justice. I'd just be making different mistakes. I'm among the first people to admit that I've got a way to go, before I become a decent author.


I'm not happy with the decision... but I think it's the right one.

Amazon Is Burying Sexy Books

Here's the article on Motherboard - https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/bjpjn4/amazon-erotica-best-seller-rankings-removed


In the last few days, word has spread among independent erotica authors on social media that Amazon was quietly changing its policies for erotic novels. Five authors I spoke to, and several more on social media, have reported that their books were stripped of their best seller rankings—essentially hiding them from casual browsing on the site, and separating them from more mainstream, safe-for-work titles.

There seems to be little rhyme or reason to what gets deranked and what doesn’t. Ann Mayburn, an erotica author, told me in Facebook direct messages that her science fiction romance featuring “vibrating alien penises and ejaculation that's purple and tastes like candied violets” still has its ranking, but another novel, a BDSM romance, has been labeled as erotica and “sent to the no-rank dungeon.”


The question now is what are readers... customers... who enjoy these kinds of novels,  going to do about this?

To change, or not to change... that is the question

I'm facing an epic decision over the next few days. Whether to re-write The Companion and The Reluctant Leader.


Later this week, I'll be with a friend as we go over the car for its pre-MOT check. After the work is done, we traditionally sit back with a bottle or two of beer, and chew the cud. The re-write is front and centre of discussion.


She's read shed loads of books in her many decades of life, and reckons that I should just leave them as is. Personally, I know that I made the mistake of writing my legacy work while I was still in "film script" mode, which is where the written word leaves key things in the hands of the actors and director. Cinematography has different ways of approaching things and has its own way of making an impact. So those first two books are wanting.


But they are my legacy work (as far as I'm concerned) and I want them to be the best they can be. However, I'm also aware that a book can never be perfect; you have to let it go at some point and let people make of it, what they will. I already have enough feedback on Companion to know where its shortcomings are.


Bring on the discussion.... and the beer, of course.

Wisdom from Groucho Marx...

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

The devil follows me....

— feeling shocked

A lesson before the book has even arrived...

In a world of next-day delivery, something inside me believes that this is the Dalai Lama teaching me a lesson in patience, even before the book has arrived :-)