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Topics - Jo Bannister

The Bar & Grill / A fan!
March 22, 2023, 04:31:53 PM
Went to the pub quiz last night.  Don't ask - no, all right, do: we came second, and for a brief glorious moment we were in the lead.

Afterwards Aidan was, as always, talking the leg off anyone within range, so I hovered in the foyer.  And a voice from behind my back whispered, "So - does Gabriel get his wife back?"

By the time I'd turned round he was already on his way out, an elderly gentleman vanishing into the chucking-out crowd.  I hope he's there again next week.  I want to know how far he's got with the series.
The Bar & Grill / Flying horse!
January 05, 2023, 10:00:54 AM
I'm just sitting at the front of the house and I hear the horse whicker on the other side of the window.  This should not be.  He should be on the hill behind the house.  I saw him there half an hour ago.  What's he doing in the front garden?

Answer, He isn't in the front garden.  It's a magpie.  I know they can mimic various sounds, but it's the first time I've heard one pretend to be a horse.  I have to say, it was a pretty good impression.  Slightly on the metallic side, but good enough to fool me. 

A lot of country people dislike them.  Personally, I respect anything that's intelligent and good at its job, as all the crows are.  What's wrong with cleaning up road-kill?  You'd rather it stayed there?
Word Play / Limericks
December 08, 2022, 05:25:40 PM
Do you remember the limerick strand we had running for ages on The Other Place?  Some of them were very funny.  Shall we have another go?  I'll kick off with

There was an old lady from Worcester

(pronounced, for the benefit of our colonial friends, Wooster - and therefore perfectly capable of scanning)
The Bar & Grill / One for the birds...
August 13, 2022, 07:33:21 AM
Would someone who knows more about birds than I do turn their minds to this?  (There should be someone.  There are mushrooms that know more about birds than I do.)

I get flocks of pied wagtails in my garden, all performing the distinctive dance-move that got them their name, and I can't see why.  All that constant jigging up and down must use a wealth of energy, and I can't see what the pay-off is.  It isn't part of a courting display.  Both sexes and all ages do it at all times of the year.  They do it standing still, walking about, and stealing the water out of my patio fountain.  So what is the evolutionary advantage it confers?

Answers, please.
The Coffee Table / Walking with Man
December 22, 2021, 08:11:55 PM
I found myself telling this story to a friend who'd never heard it before.  It isn't my story - I believe something like it figures in the creation myths of a number of cultures; this one is Native American.  I wrote it down for her, then wondered if some of you might enjoy it too.

ps: I may have done the attachment wrong!
Writer's Talk / The joy of re-reading
October 27, 2021, 09:23:52 AM
I don't understand - and as a writer who typically spent twelve months producing a book, it grieves me somewhat - that even serious readers can consider a book done with when they've read it once.  Even when they've enjoyed it, they're happy to pass it on to someone else and never pick it up again.  Have they no idea what they're missing?

I find it incredibly difficult to part with a book - except temporarily, to a few trusted friends who I know will return it in the same condition.  If I've enjoyed it, I know I'll want to read it again.  And if I haven't, I consider the possibility that the fault was in me and might want to try again later when I'm in a better frame of mind.

You get something different out of reading a book the second time.  First time out, you're so involved with following the plot and remembering the relationships of the different players that much of the fine detail passes you by.  Reading it again, remembering at least broadly where the thing is going, all that detail comes to light.  You can focus on the skill of the writing, the choice of words, the sentence structure, as well as how cleverly - or not - you were led towards the conclusion.

For writers in particular, this phase is priceless.  It's a chance to analyse how a good book is created, from the keyboard up.  Why this word was chosen rather than another.  Why the information was released in this order, at this rate, rather than dumped at your feet in one indigestible mass.  Why it's worth giving real life to even minor characters: not because they have a major role to play later, but because of the depth and quality the writer added to his product.

Though there are as many types of good book as there are readers, I think we're all capable of knowing a good book from a bad one.  Can I encourage you to return to a good book that you've previously enjoyed?  And this time, don't just read it - analyse it.  What makes it a good book?  How do you write text which is interesting, informative, grammatical and free-flowing without - and this is important - alienating your readers with your pretentiousness?

Isaac Newton commented that, if he had seen further than other men, it was because he had stood on the shoulders of giants.  Well, what applies to scientists applies equally to writers.  Every good book carries the DNA of other good books that preceded it.  If you want to write better, all the tools you need are contained in books you've probably already read.  Read them again.

Writer's Talk / All good things...
September 24, 2021, 08:45:45 AM
...must come to an end, and usually quicker than the bad ones!

It's official: I've retired.  And yes, it was my decision; and no, it wasn't because my publisher dumped me!

Since finishing "China Roses" I'd been wondering if I really wanted to start the whole process again.  Even though I had a new book plotted out in my head, I hadn't the enthusiasm for it that I'd always had before.  I don't think it was the book's fault, I think it's just anno domini.  I've been doing this - professionally, not just for pleasure - for forty years. 

When my editor e-mailed earlier this week to ask if there was a new book on the way, I felt I had to make a decision - or rather, communicate a decision I had already all but taken.  So I spoke to my agent and then to the publishers.  Both were very understanding - my editor emphasised that "Roses" is one of their top sellers in the States at the moment, and left the door wide open in case I change my mind - and we parted on the best of terms.  I feel privileged to have been able to make the decision for myself instead of having it forced on me, and am satisfied that "Roses" was a worthy book to finish on.

So here I am, an ex-novelist.  Beats me what I'm supposed to do now!

Writer's Talk / ALCS deadline
August 28, 2021, 11:31:07 AM
Just a reminder to those of you entitled to payments from the Authors' Licensing & Collecting Society: the deadline to register new titles for the autumn payout is early next month (I think it's September 9th, but check for yourself).  It's the smaller of the two distributions each year, but you still don't want to miss out if you're eligible. 
The Bar & Grill / Creaky Rider
August 13, 2021, 11:13:57 AM
There's this guy I see from time to time.  He has a big, souped-up three-wheeler: high chrome handlebars, chrome exhaust, black leather upholstery.  He also has flowing grey hair roughly tamed by a bandanna, and a flowing grey moustache to match. 

I saw him again this morning: I was out doing my shopping, I think he was heading for Route 66.  Once again, Gyppo, he made me think of you.  Have you ever had a black-and-silver three-wheeler?  If not, is it something you should consider?
Success Stories / China Roses
July 22, 2021, 04:52:05 PM
Forgot to tell you - "China Roses" came out at the end of June, with Severn House.  Wish it luck.
The Bar & Grill / Germany has pinched our water!
July 16, 2021, 09:21:39 AM
The hottest day of the year so far, so naturally the mains water is off.

This, of course, is the price I pay for living in the country, towards the end of the main water pipeline.  Any problems further up the line and we all go dry.

Except that I blame Germany.  They've clearly been getting more than their fair share of rain - stands to reason someone else would be going short.

I'm not too bothered for the moment.  I filled the bin in the horse's stable yesterday, as luck would have it, and he's also got what's still in the field trough.  After that I'll have to run off the dirtiest bit of the rainwater barrel and he'll have to make do.  Except the supply should be back before that.

My neighbour has cattle, though, and they get through a lot more water.  He's out with the bowser now, trying to find somewhere to fill it.  North of Greyabbey there might be something.

I called the outage in at 6.30 this morning, then called PJ (with the cattle).  Turned out he'd called it in at 4.30.  Then at 8.30 another neighbour called to see if I'd noticed!  That's one of the benefits of living in the country: people do look out for one another.

Oh well, a quick swipe with a damp flannel is going to have to do me today.  Hopefully I'll get a shower tonight.
Writer's Talk / Heaves sigh of relief...
April 01, 2021, 04:58:17 PM
Well, that's my duty done by "China Roses".  Copy-editing checked, proofs checked, amendments returned - eight of them, one per ten thousand words, so that's pretty clean - and now it's up to the publishers.  The next I see of it should be a box of books in the post - closely followed by the second half of my advance!  Wish it luck.
Writer's Talk / Er - no thanks
March 07, 2021, 09:32:20 AM
Slightly weird experience.  Just went on Amazon to look for a book.  Found and ordered it.  Looked at the list of "You might also like" books.  The first two were by me.
Word Play / There must be a story behind that...
December 22, 2020, 04:29:44 PM
I've been reading Bill Bryson's celebration of the English language, "Mother Tongue".  Among much else to enjoy, admire or frankly boggle over was a reference to a place (in America - where else?) called Dead Bastard Peak.  And I keep trying to come up with a credible back-story.

It occurs to me there might be a bit of fun to be had, offering entirely spurious reasons for how real places got their names.

BLACKPOOL, for instance, home of a light-show which is worth five minutes of anybody's time.  Unfortunately, it takes about an hour and a half to work your way through it. 

You might reasonably assume there was once a peaty pond here.  The name, however, commemorates one of the earliest Miners' Galas, and the necessity for those attending to wash off the coal dust before they put on their best clothes.  As tha knowst, us din ave indoor plooming till 1997.

Writer's Talk / Off line!
November 27, 2020, 10:45:36 AM
Just to let you know I'm not sulking, I'm off-line till my laptop can be (a) repaired, and (b) returned to me despite the lock-down.  I'm borrowing a friend's lap-top for this post.  Anyone desperate for my advice - someone? anyone? - will have to wait another week or so.  In the meantime, enjoy.
Writer's Talk / Out in the big wide world
November 22, 2020, 02:37:49 PM
The time has come to throw my latest darling out into the big wide world to go and seek its fortune.  So I e-mailed the typescript of "China Roses" to my agent this afternoon.    Wish it well.
Word Play / Still making it...
November 04, 2020, 09:35:48 AM
OK, the answer to the missing Make It Up As You Go Along thread is...

dah dah ...

to start another one!  I'll kick off with

Writer's Talk / Reviews
September 26, 2020, 10:59:28 AM
Just had a surprising and gratifying experience.  In the process of creating an author page on Amazon - not my idea, my publishers: managed to get a picture uploaded, can't seem to upload the required biography; any suggestions gratefully accepted - I checked the reviews they were getting.  With one eye: as long as you keep one shut, you can't be too shocked by what you see.

Well, I was shocked, but in a good way.  People were loving the books.  They were loving one and hunting down others.  OK, I'm not going to see much in the way of royalties from second-hand sales; but it's nice to know I'm on the right lines.
The Bar & Grill / Dive-bombers!
July 10, 2020, 07:33:37 PM
Went into the barn to feed the horse this afternoon and got dive-bombed by young swallows who've just discovered what their wings are for.  Yesterday they were sitting in their nest gaping for the next food delivery, today they were practising to join the Red Arrows.  Can't say how many there are, they're moving too fast and weaving in and out of one another.  I found it rather uplifting to see them.  Almost made up for all the bird-shit.
Success Stories / Publication early
July 02, 2020, 09:48:18 AM
Here's a new one.  In order to find a way through the corvid confusion, my publishers decided to bring "Dangerous Pursuits" out a month early!  And forgot to tell me, but I'm forgiving them that one because it seems to have been a good call.  I got the publication advance early, but I thought they were just clearing the decks while they could; and my author copies were supposed to have been sent by the warehouse, but some confusion there meant they weren't, so I didn't know what was going on.  I thought perhaps they'd decided to delay publication.

But no.  It's out now in the UK, and shortly in the US, if anybody wants to follow it up.  Publishers Severn House.