The Cellist’s Friend

It’s hard to write reviews for books written by friends. On the one hand you want to sing their praise because you know how much work they’ve put in and you want them to do well. On the other hand you want to treat your readers to the same level of honesty as you do with other books.

So here it goes, my attempt at sing Robert Fanshawe’s praise while being honest, but first an introduction. This book starts with an execution during the first world war. An unusual event in many ways yet ordinary in the realities of life at the front. However, most of the story, actually takes place on the home front, as main character Ben tries to deal with his experiences in the trenches while faced with the impossible task of build a new life.

The Cellist’s Friend is not a book I would have read if it had not been written by a friend. Although the war years fascinates me I don’t read a lot of war-time historical fiction. When Fanshawe explained the premise of the book before it was published, it peaked my interest. It is a war story in that it is set during the end of the first world war in mostly military surroundings but focuses more on the thoughts and feelings of Ben. I really enjoyed his story, the questions he was asking himself and that he tried to make sense of his experiences through poetry. It made it different from other stories I have come across. I also felt, not only because I know the author, that he is very knowledgeable about the time, the military traditions and the war itself.

My main criticism is that the Fanshawe includes a lot of different issues – racism, women’s suffragette, apart from the philosophical ideas of the purpose of war, what bravery is, redemption and finding your own sense of self. I’m tempted to suggest that the story should have been simplified. The social issues that’s going on around the character sometimes takes away from the main story – this young man trying to understand the world when he has seen so much suffering. Perhaps then, the cellist himself could have been given a larger roll. I do wish I had been given more of his story.

I truly enjoyed reading The Cellist’s Friend and I would really recommend reading it, especially if you have an interest in this time period with a local flavour for South East London.

 

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Book Release Celebration

No sadly not my own book release but just as much cause for celebration. Last Thursday was the official book launch of my friend Robert J Fanshawe’s book The Cellist’s Friend at Global Fusion Music and Arts’ open mic night in Woolwich.

Robert decided on self-publishing. I had a very small part to play in the process when I acted as adviser and general bouncing board while Robert was going through the different stages of preparing the book for publishing. Author House is supposedly one of the biggest self-publishing companies out there, with the usual offer of preparing different parts for you or you can choose to do it yourself.

After the usual open mic readings and music performances, Robert introduced the book and read two sections from it. It is very different to hear the author himself read the text as he intended it, in comparison to reading a book for yourself, especially since Robert happens to be an excellent reader and actor. It adds a layer to the story that you wouldn’t otherwise get. I won’t say too much about the story now. A review, or my thoughts about the book, will come soon.

What I will say, is that no matter how small a venue, perhaps even just your closest friends, you should celebrate your book release. Whether self-published, via independent or major publishers, or even vanity publishing – there is a massive amount of work behind and a published book is a great achievement.

 

Easter means no writing

Easter break, a time to relax and spend time with family. I foolishly think, every holiday, that I will get so much done while I’m home. Foolishly because it never happens.

Somehow my family’s home has become a comfy bubble I entre every time I visit. Each morning with the promise and ambition of writing an hour or so. This promise accompanied with a list of editing to do and research I need to progress with the writing. Each night realizing I haven’t done any of it.

To be fair, I’m not there to write. I’m there to hang out with my parents and sister, maybe see a few friends. For once writing is not priority, although the free days should be ideal for writing.

Almost one week at home and all I ticked off my list was three submissions and updating Goodreads with old books I read a long time ago.

Back to Normal

I have no big news to tell you this week, instead I’ve had a normal week in my life of full-time lighting designer and part-time writer.

Saturdays are my main day writing. One of my writers groups meet every other weekend for a write-in but most Saturdays I’ll go to the pub or to a coffee place to write, edit and whatever else I need to do that’s writing related. I find it easier to write at the pub/cafe but I dream of having a proper writing corner in my home where I can lose track of time for few hours.

This weekend I submitted a new article for the mental health magazine Equilibrium that I have been writing for before. I also started re-writing a short film script, converting it into a short-story or possibly a novella. I had an idea of telling this story about a couple, not from their point of view, but from the point of view of those they come in contact with. I have continued researching for my next more substantial story which may or may not be a film. It’s leaning towards becoming a novel. It’s been going back and forth since I had the idea for the story.

I seem to have picked my next editing piece as well. I’m going back to a story I started years ago and that is told through a series of poems. I’m really keen to try to find a proper publisher for it and over the weekend I was reading it through from beginning to end to get familiar with the story again.

During the week it’s harder to get any proper writing done. I always read a lot while getting to and from work and to write short pieces and poetry can be squeezed in while waiting for dance classes or writers groups. Until Saturday’s big block of writing comes around again.

Reviews and Sale

I’m very excited to announce that I have had a first review of my short-story Let me tell you a story while you sleep. Follow the link to read the review from my friend and fellow Greenwich Writer at The Fairy Dust Book Blog.

https://thefairydustbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/25/review-let-me-tell-you-a-story-while-you-sleep-by-liv-johannesson/

The other big announcement is that Let me tell you a story is on sale at Smashwords from today and until March 20th. I’m following in the tradition of the Swedish general book sale which kicked off this morning. You will need to use the promo code WC28S to claim 50% off the normal price.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/726968

The book sale in Sweden used to be little Christmas for me when I was still living in Sweden. I’d get the sales catalogs from the major book stores ahead of time so that I could brows what books would be on sale and plan which one’s to buy. It was not unusual that I carried home 15-16 books during the first few days and then had to tell myself that I really couldn’t afford to buy more. The great thing was that there were often just as many non-fiction books as there were general fiction and bestsellers on sale. I’ve picked up the weirdest little books but that’s what’s great about sale, you can try things out that maybe you normally wouldn’t think of buying.

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Trouble in Fairy Wood

Some writing news. My play for children Trouble in Fairy Wood has been accepted and published on Drama Notebook. Check out their website, especially if you’re a teacher and get involved in teaching drama. It’s basically a resource site where members can download plays, monologues and such, to use in drama classes.

Trouble in Fairy Wood is a play about four friends, fairies, who get bored with dancing, playing music and rescuing wild animals so they decide to play a few innocent games with the people of the village nearby. The innocent pranks soon escalate to a war between humans and fairies. Our hero Ruben and his sister Elsa seek out the King of the fairies to get help but their stories of the mischief are not believed. They have to confront the trouble makers on own.

I’m very excited for the opportunity to have my play as part of the downloadable material. It’s important that children get exposed to all kinds of arts and get an opportunity to express themselves and find their self-confidence in doing so. The arts teach us so much about life in a way that science and math cannot. It enriches our lives even if our strengths are not within the artistic subjects.

Additional news is that I will have Let me tell you a story while you sleep on sale. In Sweden, where I’m originally from, there is an annual book sale at the end of February. I have decided to have Let me tell you a story on sale at the same time, from February 27th and three weeks running. It will be half-price. The sale will be on Smashwords only and I will post the promotion code on the blog on the 27th.

For more information about Drama Notebook visit: www.dramanotebook.com

https://www.dramanotebook.com/drama-curriculum/scripts-for-kids/young-children-plays/trouble-in-fairy-wood/

 

Trouble in Fairy Wood

 

Writing for Radio – review

I don’t only read fiction. I pretty much read anything to be fair, although life-stories and non-fiction seems to be the predominant choice.

Writing for Radio by Margaret Wilkinson I picked up because I like exploring different ways to tell stories. Radio is very special since you can’t see the action, you can only rely on your hearing. You can also not go back and re-read something you didn’t catch. I used to love radio theatre when I was a child, sitting curled up on the floor between the kitchen table and the windows facing the garden.

I was expecting a text book that outlines the do:s and the pitfalls specific for the radio media. There is that…but a lot of the book is writing exercises. The exercises seem sensible and the way to become of writer is of course to write but it was not what I expected from the book. Especially as I normally read on my tablet on an over-crowded underground train on my way to work. Doing writing exercises isn’t exactly the top of my priorities.

The book will be a good reference book however, once I can sit down and start writing, preferably a Saturday morning when no one is around.