Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Here we go again!

I tried to be clever this time, by uploading the novel to the German site ePubli. They then distribute to other ebook stores, including Kindle... where it will probably slumber undiscovered like my previous works. Why take this detour? Because I live in Germany and had the naive hope that ePubli might be a platform with promotional potential to aid discoverablity. But no... they advise me to use social networking... which explains my clumsy attempt (see yesterday's post) to establish a presence on Goodreads.

Ironic that a couple of days ago I got an email from Amazon announcing the forthcoming payment of amounts due to me as an author. I wonder if this time it will cover the cost of buying a pack of cigarettes?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Trying to be social!

The Summer of Long KnivesThe Summer of Long Knives by Jim Snowden
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

17 October... As a Goodreads newbie, I feel Imust explain the few titles I have intially added to my bookshelf. They are all, in one way or another, related to the year 1936 and in particular to developments in Germany. The reason for this focus is the fact that my current work-in-progress as a writer is a story in that setting. And so it has been instructive to read novels which were written during that time. Actually more than instructive... it was a true joy to discover belatedly the work of Dorothy L. Sayers.

I have also read the work of contemporary writers whose narrative is set in that dramatic era. One I started reading yesterday. "The Summer Of Long Knives" by Jim Snowden.

After three chapters there are some observations I feel moved to make.

1) The crisis of conscience of the protagonist, a Munich police Kommissar, is well established from the outset.

2) There are passages of scene-setting which surprise with quite lyrical eloquence.

3) In an important sequence Snowden risks peopling his storytelling with real-life characters who happen to be the most high-profile leaders of the Nazi regime. He manages to handle this challenge amazingly well, given that such a construct could easily result in disaster.

However my reading enjoyment was spoiled on almost every page by Snowden's use of language which clashes crassly with the era he describes. Turns of phrase which would be unthinkable in dialogue exchanged between people talking in the 1930s have a jarring effect. Okay, in reality they would have been talking in German. But surely the English should not include terms and references which are glaringly anachronistic. The most offensive instance came close to the end of Chapter Three. There was a description of refuse left behind after a Nazi party rally on Königsplatz in Munich... the detritus included 'gum wrappers'! As if chewing gum was widely enjoyed in Germany in the thirties!

I hope the story will keep me sufficiently enthralled to be able to ignore the language problem.

18 October... I have now reached a point one-third through the book, having finished Chapter Eleven. Although I find the storytelling more and more compelling I am still cringing every now and then when American usages intervene and there are assumptions made about life in Germany in 1936 which I find implausible. The Kommissar has a radio in his office (which I find odd) and he switches on "his favourite music station"... Sorry, but the term 'music station' is quite out of keeping for the thirties when no such genre/format broadcasters existed. Snowden's research is in some areas admirable, in others however sadly deficient.

19 October... I have now finished Chapter Sixteen and the progress bar tells me that I have read 61% of the book.

During my third reading session the Kommissar's use of radio in his automobile struck me as a probable anachronism. Even in 1937, wireless communication with police cars in England meant employing Morse code for messages and two-way radio was introduced only in the post-war years.

Apart from that I noted that when Snowden makes excursions into realms scatological, his language is colourfully contemporary, but such passages are few and can be skipped by the fastidious.

Otherwise as the plot thickens the story gallops ahead nicely.

20 October... A final reading session took me to the end of the book. I find myself in agreement with others who were well pleased by the intricate, dynamic and and finally most satisfactory plotting of the story.

And so why have I been so complaining about the Transatlantic tone adopted by the author? For many readers it might be quite acceptable, particularly those whose preferred thrillers are set in America. It is, after all, probably a question of individual taste.

I think that the several historical inaccuracies are another matter, however. My sensitivity in this respect probably owes something to my background in film and television. 'Continuity errors' in movies are an embarrassment and 'bloopers' are the cause of life-long shame. The story of the Roman gladiator in "Spartacus" wearing a Rolex wristwatch may be apocryphal but lists of movie gaffes are long.

Novelists can also err. When in London Dan Brown's protagonist seeks to take a tube train to get to King's College he makes for Temple Station. But in fact that is the station which is closest of all to King's and boarding a train there would only take him away from his destination. All in all, Jim Snowden's 'gum wrappers' and such can probably be forgiven!

My underlying point remains a simple one: the aim of an author is to immerse the reader in a world he describes, a world with its own integrity and authenticity. Any glaring improbability or crass anachronism jolts the reader out of this immersion and... in my view... spoils the fun of a good read.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Building site progress

I continue to monitor the visible signs of refurbishing at Kurf√ľrstenplatz where Brasserie Schwabing is beginning now to take shape. The gaping arches in the walls now have glazed windows. I welcome the fact that they have decided to locate the entrance to the premises on the axis of the gable (the red line above). Before one gained access through the narrower and lower opening two to the right. However the sketch is misleading, since now all of the arches (with the exception of the one on the extreme far right) are now as wide and tall as the dominant middle three.

The window and door frames have a very business-like contemporary look and I wonder if the designers have opted to avoid any 'faux French' flourishes inside. In a way that would be a shame... however much I value honesty and authenticity, I think there is a place for fantasy and escapism as part of the restaurant experience.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


I spent a while researching the significance of 26... which was an attempt to have something to say about Jessica reaching that age today. A mention of bosonic string theory seemed preferable to an outpouring of sentiment from Auld Da who remembers so well the day twenty-six years ago when my life changed for ever!

Aye, happy birthday, lassie!. 

It is reported that the birthday girl had a lovely breakfast with the obligatory candles on a little cake, and that she was able to take advantage of the unseasonably pleasant weather with a pleasant stroll  in Bethnal Green's delightful Victoria Park.  

Okay, Papi 'shooped the photo!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Page-flipping good news

What fun! As a self-publishing novelist with a background in the audio-visual media it is hard for me to be content with storytelling using only text. I would dearly love to illustrate my narratives with imagery. But since I would not have the needed rights to photos downloaded from the web it would then be impossible to monetize the end product.

I allowed myself, however, to use pictures quite lavishly in my memoir Nosce te ipsum. The spread above is from a file generated using the aXmag tool and I find the result absolutely wonderful. This was a free trial, and I shall not be paying USD 99 in order to save it... not worth the investment given that my autobiography is still incomplete, covering as yet only 1940 to 1981. I am not sure how long the page-flipping version (converted from a PDF) will be hosted by aXmag, but the link is here for any intrigued by the idea of peeking into an old man's history... illustrated history!  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Writing matters

"Germany is one of the most important markets for books in English. More than 40 million people living in Germany are fluent English-speakers. They do not only adore British and American television series... they also love books by British and American writers in both original and translated versions!"

In late July, I blogged my intention to try a different approach to self-publishing. As a writer resident in Germany, why not upload a story (in English but set in German-speaking territories) to ePubli, a platform based in this country. In theory this could make TheodoraLand more 'discoverable' than it would be in the mass of  Kindle originals.We shall see. The biggest problem I face is my scepticism with regard to the promotional tools most often seen as mandatory for self-publishers... Facebook, Twitter, Xing, LinkedIn and all the other social networking sites. As an aging misanthrope I cannot imagine an online community in which I would feel at home.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

3D selfies?

I missed this by Lucy Mangan in The Guardian last year...
"Here I go, stepping into the future. You make sure you are standing on your mark – the lenses are essentially focused on a column of space in the middle of the booth, so you can't pose with your arms out to the side or your mini-me will emerge partially limbless – and the cameras click. This must be what Z-list celebrity feels like. I don't want a picture of me taken from any angle. I wonder who will actually take up the opportunity in a department store when they have to pay for the privilege of having their every flaw rendered in plastic for posterity? The aesthetically fortunate? The supremely self-confident? The tragically deluded?"

It was only when a flyer was pushed through the letter-box that I learned that there is a shop in the neigbourhood where what can only be called '3D selfies' can be created. I am invited to take advantage of the special offer... a free 1:30 figurine if I purchase a 1:10 statuette which would, presumably, stare back at me from my desk.

And yet interestingly enough the promotion by MY3:DE is not targeted to narcissistic yuppies (let alone to old codgers like me) but to hipsters!

How strange!