Jan 28, 2013

Chapter 6 - The trouble with Franz

This chapter introduces Franz properly and explains to the reader why there is a problem in his relationship with Madeleine. The issue - the oversexualisation of our society - is I think an important and very depressing one. 
I largely blame Madonna for this (there's an incredibly sweeping statement for you). She took over the suspenders and fish-net stockings from the punk movement, removed all the anarchy from it and marketed the resulting sex kitten image as feminist empowerment. Well, it worked financially for her and a number of pop clones, but for the bulk of people in the western world I think it was a disaster.
Don't be alarmed, this book will be an entertaining thriller not a polemic about a topic I don't really know enough about (despite sweeping statements). This chapter is just a little side swipe at the issue.
This chapter also introduces Tante Ilse, a very important character. She might turn out to be very useful later on. 
Please send feedback, as always. The last chapter benefited from lots of small changes.
Chapter 6 can now be found on the right under 'Good Stuff'.

Jan 27, 2013

Bah! I'm not well...

I've just sneezed on this screen, so I hope you don't catch anything. A debilitating cold has left me only half-functioning. Despite that, you'll all be pleased to know that my daughter and I managed to sort out her room. The horror!
However the next chapter is only half finished and I am now going to bed to feel sorry for myself. I will try to finish the rest of it very soon. While researching for some of the content I ran across a fascinating American philosopher called Edward Abbey who died in the 1980s. He was kind of a modern day Henry Thoreau I suppose, and there were some great quotes I found of his. The best I'm saving for the chapter, so you'll have to be patient. But this is one I like a lot too:  

"Society is like a stew. If you don't stir it up once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top."

Isn't that great?

Jan 25, 2013

A big challenge

One of this weekends tasks...
 I have a very difficult task ahead of me on Saturday and Sunday. Well, two actually, if you include helping my smallest daughter tidy her room, but the one which is probably more interesting to you as a blog reader is how to portray Franz, Madeleine's husband.
Madeleine is coming along nicely. I'm very proud of her behaviour in Chapter 20 - Death on the Rialto. She dealt admirably with the horrible rapist/murderer Boran and I find myself liking her more and more.
However, I need to make sure that her husband, Franz, doesn't disappear completely. From what you've read in chapters 1, 3 and 20 you could be forgiven for thinking that Franz is a real wuss. He isn't - I promise - otherwise Madeleine would never have married him. But I haven't given him a chance to explain a) why he gave up his job at the university to go and work for the Deutsche Bahn and b) why he won't sleep with Madeleine at the moment.
Without wanting to get too philosophical (and I'm sure somebody else has already said this) a novelist creates a fictional world for the reader where things are out of order, and then he or she tries to restore harmony to it. Madeleine's world has gone wrong at various levels, including her relationship with her husband, and the novel tracks what happens as the characters resolve these problems. But to do that plausibly, you need all the key characters to be convincing and that's what I need to at the weekend with Franz. I hope I'll have something to show by late on Sunday evening.

Jan 20, 2013

Chapter 20 - Death on the Rialto

 As you may have noticed if you've seen any of my other writings (e.g. 'Peril in Venice') and the photographs I've added to the blog, Venice is a place I know reasonably well and I like a lot. 
Why did I decide to do jump ahead to chapter 20 now? Well, I felt like pepping up my weekend a bit with a good murder and I have to admit I had a lot of fun writing it. If you have a map of Venice anywhere, you could get it out and check the places I send Madeleine as you read. 

Before you read - the story so far: Madeleine has been investigating the death of her brother in Croatia during the civil war, 16 years before. Her investigations take her to Zagreb where she meets the charming Tomislav, a journalist, who helps her to obtain some information relating to her brother. Madeleine's marriage to her husband is going through a rocky patch and she has a fling with Tomi, which she finds exciting but not necessarily what she wants. She catches a night train back to Munich, but on the way decides to get out at Villach in order to meet her husband Franz (who works as a train conductor on the night trains) and travel on with him to Venice. In Venice he has to go to bed for a few hours as he has been working all night and they arrange to meet up around midday to do some sightseeing. The story opens as she leaves him at his hotel and goes to find herself some breakfast...

25/01/13: I have now included people's feedback and added Chapter 20 to 'Good Stuff' on the right hand side of the blog.  

Jan 19, 2013

Taroo, Tarot, Tarra...

 ONE of the novel’s secondary characters is Tante Ilse, a 91 year old neighbour of the Thomas family, who has known Madeleine since she first came to Munich. She likes to do Tarot spreads and one of these will feature in the novel. But what are Tarot cards and what are they for?

Tarot is a very ancient method for trying to read the future. The user lays cards from a pack of 78 cards with a variety of pictures on them and seeks to decipher answers for his / her question from the cards. This sounds very esoteric, but to find Tarot cards interesting and helpful, it is not necessary to believe that there is a mysterious power guiding the user in the card selection. The strength of the cards is that their meaning is open to interpretation and this can help people to reflect on their situation and view problems from a different angle. This change of perspective can often help the user make better decisions.

About four weeks ago while researching the topic, I decided to do a very simple spread about this project from a Tarot writer called Hajo Banzhof and I asked the question “What do I need to know about writing this novel and blog?”
I fixed the question in my mind and shuffled the cards. I then laid four cards face down on the table following the points of the compass:

1 West = represents the starting point for everything and the current situation.
2 East = represents things which are currently unimportant and can be ignored.
3 North = represents things which are currently important, the direction in which I should go, or what I should do.
4 South = represents the results in the near future if I follow the direction outlined in step 3.

I then turned over the cards, one after another, and this was my spread:

How do I interpret them?

1 West: The Page of Coins – this shows a man playing with what to me looks like a soap bubble. Banzhof’s interpretation is that I am considering the possibility of following an opportunity. I would add that the idea for this novel has been at the back of my mind for a long time as something vague and insubstantial. Now I want to take hold of it and turn it into something posiive.
2 East: The Five of Coins – this shows two beggars trudging thorough the snow and represents crisis or insecurity with problems that are not easy to solve. Normally quite alarming but in this case it means that this is something that I don’t have to worry about.
3 North: The World – a very positive card representing joy, happiness and thankfulness for what has been achieved. In this position it suggests I need to keep my eye on the goal and carry my project through. Sensible advice, you have to admit.
4 South: The Six of Coins – another positive card which suggests that if I persevere I shall be rewarded.


It’s too soon to judge the accuracy or not of this reading, but there has been nothing so far to contradict its suggestions. You could argue that it’s all very generic good advice that could apply to any project. But I could have drawn a lot of other more negative cards, so I’m giving the Tarot the benefit of the doubt at the moment and feeling that, yes, this project is going to be a success, and the Tarot predicted it.

We shall have to come back to review this later. Don’t let me forget.

Jan 18, 2013

Stop press!

Venice, Grand Canal 
I'm jumping quite a long way ahead with the next chapter. This weekend I feel like curling up on the sofa and writing a nice death into the story which will be set (as tribute to Thomas Mann)  in Venice. So come back here on Sunday evening if you like the idea of a gruesome killing. 

It would also amuse me to show you the Tarot spread that I did for this novel. One of the characters will be a regular Tarot card user, so I've been investigating the subject (as a good novelist should), and I have to say the results were fairly impressive when applied to this project. Come back here Saturday and see what the future holds for our oeuvre!

Jan 13, 2013

Chapter 4 – Munich, June 2011

Chapter 4 has now been moved to 'Good Stuff' together with various improvements that people suggested. One change is that 'Ferdinand' has been changed into 'Maximilian'. A small change, but as somebody said to me, he's going to get beaten up at school if he's called Ferdinand, which I wouldn't wish on him.
On the other hand, my favourite Ferdinand didn't get beaten up at all. But that's fiction, sigh. Nevertheless, if you have children I thoroughly recommend this book for them.

Jan 1, 2013

Chapter 1

(Please note, a slightly revised Chapter 1 August 1995 is now stored under 'Good Stuff'. Come back here later today (January 13) for the next completed chapter.)
First of all – Happy New Year! I hope 2013 is everything you want it to be.
And what better way to kick off an excellent year than to read the long-awaited and much-delayed first chapter of my thriller?
If you’ve been following the development of the novel so far then there are one or two surprises which I’d better warn you about:

1) ‘Gottlob’ is no longer ‘Gottlob’. He’s ‘Franz’. Sorry about that. I wrote the whole first chapter with him as ‘Gottlob’ but increasingly had the feeling that it just looked wrong on the page. Then I read it aloud and got tired of saying it. ‘Franz’ is really 'Franz-Josef' in honour of the KuK emperor of Austria and King of Hungary of course, not the Bavarian premier. Above is a picture of his namesake.
2) As the first chapter is set in 1995, Madeleine is twenty-five, slightly younger than I originally planned. The bulk of the story will take place in 2011 which we should reach by chapter three.

3) 'Nick' has turned into 'Ned'. 'Ned' seemed slightly more suitable for a person who is going to get in as much trouble as 'Ned' is going to. I think a 'Nick' would have been much more careful.
I hope you enjoy the chapter and please send me feedback. In the middle of January I’ll transfer the chapter into Good Stuff and I hope by then I’ll have the next chapter ready for you to read.