Stories or Chapters?

‘I initially wrote these as separate stories for children age 8-13 but found that, even though most of the stories can be read independently, there was a definite plot progression which meant that they were best read in a particular order. So it may be that the stories end up being called chapters or maybe I’ll just have a list of titles. Anyway, here’s the stories/chapters/titles in the correct order.’ JK

Contents

  1. Evil Seagulls
  2. Susan Shocks
  3. Bad Television
  4. Talk Talk
  5. Inside the Machine
  6. Ice Scream
  7. The Happysad
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Routine Questions

daily-routine

How important is routine to you? I’ve got some time off work at the moment and I’m using it to think about maybe changing some routines that I’ve been following slavishly for years now. I saw a thing on TV about the Scottish Labour Leader Jim Murphy and he was saying that he goes running from 12 midnight till 2am every night! He said it was the only time he could fit it in and he found it theraputic, trundling along with Johnny Cash blaring through his earphones. Can you imagine the motivation it must take to get your tracksuit on at midnight?! I struggled to go running for half an hour at 8pm!! But maybe, once a routine is established it actually takes less motivation because you’re not viewing that action as a decision to be made but just accepting it as what inevitably happens.

That’s why I asked about the importance of routine at the start. Maybe establishing strong routines might be a way for me to sidestep my terrible lack of motivation to do… well anything really. With a routine, you don’t say to yourself ‘shall I go for a run?’; you just go for a run without debate.

I’m reading Daily Rituals by Mason Currey and I’ve learned that film maker David Lynch had a strict daily routine of eating at ‘Bob’s Big Boy’ (what?!!) I’ve got to go there!) at 2.30pm and drinking 7 cups of coffee before writing down ideas on napkins. In his thirties, author George Orwell would wake at 7am, open up the book shop in which he worked at 8.45am, write for four hours before returning to the shop and working there until 6.30pm. Artist Jackson Pollock would have breakfast at 1pm, then paint in his barn until 5pm when he would have a beer and walk to the beach with fellow painter Lee Krasner. It seems as though, regardless of what the routine consists of, creativity and productivity are boosted through the establishment of routine.

So routine is good. Great. I have a routine so I’m off the starting block. However, maybe there’s a down side to all this structure. Firstly, if your routine doesn’t leave time to do the things which are important to you then it’s probably going to work against, rather than for, you. I’m finding currently that I’m fulfilling work and family commitments but I’m not building in time to do writing. Also, I’m wasting valuable time watching bad TV or going on the net. I have to change this.

Secondly, if your routine is too rigid, too well-established, too old… then it may actually decrease creativity and productivity because it’s making you bored! Certain parts of my routine are well and truly fixed and can’t be changed such as time spent at my day job. Other parts I wouldn’t want to change such as time spent with my family. But the rest of it (and that’s a surprisingly large chunk) can be tinkered with.

Personally, I find this kind of stuff difficult. I find it very hard to change old routines and even harder to establish new ones. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to establish a routine for my running. I did have a good routine for writing but even that has gone a bit haywire recently. Also, there’s lots of other things I want to do more of such as photography, blogging, videos, painting, drawing and others. I want to do healthy things too like get eight hours sleep a night instead of my typical five. During my time off I’ve got to make a big effort to get a new routine ready to start when I go back to work. Unfortunately, I do have a tendency to slide towards laziness, mindless TV watching, alcohol drinking and basic slobbing around. This can change. This will change. If Jim Murphy can go running at midnight every night then I can change a couple of little habits. Can’t I? Can I?

The Truth About My Library Book

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I’m a supporter of libraries and my local library is brilliant but they made a faux pas with this signed first edition of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair. Look where they stuck their label; right over the signature.

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Doesn’t really matter: Joel Dicker’s bestseller is a good book signed or not. And without the library I would never have read it anyway.

My book is now finally available from Amazon

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Mad-Jon-Kenna/dp/1291673466/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395480856&sr=1-1&keywords=jon+kenna

 

It’s take me three years to write and bucket-loads of sweat and tears but it’s finally gone online at amazon! The first book I did (Ghost Road) was born so easily compared to this one. They do say that your second of anything is the true test. Anyway I’m really proud of it so I hope those of you who decide to give it a try enjoy it. This one is a psychological thriller and is (I hope) pretty suspenseful. It also has an important sub text but who bothers with that sort of stuff? The two main characters are Georgina Barnes who is a consultant psychiatrist in a hospital and Redman who is a detective inspector suffering a psychotic episode. A patient on the same ward dies and Redman’s cop instincts tell him that it was murder but no-one believes him. Order it from amazon and find out who the true Mr. Mad is. You know it makes sense.

IT WAS SUNNY!

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In the face of yet another delay to publication, I thought I’d offer you something to keep your interest going. These are photos of my amendments book. Looking at them now they look like a cross between a four-year-old’s scrawl and a serial killer’s crazed letters to the police. I’ve blanked out one or two bits that give away the plot but the rest is completely unedited. This gives you an idea of my state of mind in the last few weeks. Not good. The part that made me laugh when I read it back was where I’d written ‘Manchester on a typically grey evening’ and then added the amendment ‘IT WAS SUNNY’. The scariest thing about all this is the thought that we might have missed something. There might be twenty mistakes in there that no-one has noticed. There might be thirty… There might be a hundred… Oh God. Anyway, latest publication date March 1. Stay with me! Please!WP_20140211_016[1]

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Can anything ever be perfect?

The proof copy of my book arrived as expected. Excitement turned to anxiety, though, when I started checking through and started finding problems. It was mainly formatting stuff and might not be obvious to the general reader but is glaringly obvious to me. This whole experience has left me with mixed feelings. On one hand I feel like I’m being ridiculously picky and a stupid perfectionist with OCD. Nothing can be perfect, I know that. No matter how much I refine something it will still be flawed. But if you continue refining and refining and refining… you end up with nothing. It’s a bit like cutting and cutting away at a giant diamond in an attempt to make it perfect and ending up with a tiny gem which, even then, is still not perfect. Or like George Lucas adding little CGI inserts to his original Star Wars films every few years as the technology evolves and ending up with movies which are smooth and slick but heartless and soulless. I just picture my family and friends reading my book and thinking ‘oh that’s a mistake’, or ‘that wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.’ That can feel like a direct comment about me; not as good as people thought I would be.

I sorted out the problems as much as I can, anyway. It means another delay, of course, and all the problems that go with it. Overall, this second book has been a very different experience than the first one. In retrospect, the first one had a very easy birth compared to this. It went through with virtually no hitches or at least that how I remember it. This one has been beset with glitches and hitches.

On the positive side, reading through this book, I’m even more proud of the final product than I was of the first one. The first book had been written in my head for many years; all I had to do was spill it out onto the page. With number two I’ve really had to work at it. But it feels more professional, more crafted for that.  At the end of it all, I think it’s more entertaining. It will be February now by the time the finished book appears on Amazon and (on order, probably) in book shops. Oh yes and if you can’t afford to buy, just ask your local library to order it. Failing all of that, give me a ring and I’ll read the whole thing to you down the phone line. Or I’ll set it to music and sing it to you. I’m helpful like that.

What’s the point?

Tomorrow, I’ll receive a parcel in the post. It will contain the proof copy of a book that I’ve written. This is the second book I’ve written but I’m no less excited by the whole process. I think that, even if this was the hundredth book I’d written I’d still be equally excited. This latest one has been a difficult write. I thought I’d have a go at doing a sort of psychological, mystery, whodunnit, thriller thing. I really like the result but it was a hard slog getting there.

The thing is… when you can’t reveal who the killer is until the end, it makes it really hard to build suspense. Alfred Hitchcock used to say something about how suspense is gained by giving the audience privileged information which is unknown to the characters in the film (e.g. there’s a bomb under the seat on a bus but no-one knows it’s there). With a mystery it’s the opposite; the audience (reader) is denied information and left to figure it out herself. This makes it much more difficult to build suspense because the reader can’t be allowed to know that a character is, for example, unknowingly getting into bed with a killer. The reader thinks the character might be getting in bed with a killer but the suspense is half of what it would be if the reader knows beyond doubt that the character is getting in bed with a killer.

I’ve been going through suspense of my own over this book. There’s been re-write after re-write, delay after delay. So when the parcel arrives tomorrow I’ll be like a kid at Christmas. It’s taken me three years to write this book (my last one came out in 2010). The amount of money I made from Ghost Road was pretty small. I have a day job, of course, as most writers do. I work in mental health and that keeps me busy nine to five, five days a week. I’m a qualified social worker but don’t work as one. To do that would mean longer hours, bigger responsibility, less chance to write. John Fowles said that you could be a teacher and a writer but you can’t be a good teacher a writer. Instead of being a social worker, I work on a mental health outreach team; a bit like social work lite, I suppose. It suits me. I also have family commitments and other stuff going on which means that I only really get one night a week which is properly devoted to writing (granted, I make notes and do a lot of ‘head work’ throughout the week). I can’t remember the final word count for the new book  but I know that it’s not far short of 500 pages. Writing one night a week, it’s a hard slog to get a complete novel done. So why bother? A book makes a modest amount of money, it’s hard work, it takes a massive amount of time…. why the hell bother? What’s the point?

Because I love it, that’s the point. It’s really good fun to write. I’ve heard some writers say how every word is agony; I don’t feel that way. I love every minute of the time I’m writing. It feels exactly the same as when I played with Action Man or Star Wars figures as a kid; I’m creating a universe and controlling everything that happens in that universe. It takes me out of a world where it can feel like I have very little control or power into a world in which I am God! Maybe there’s a touch of the megalomaniac in writers.

Tomorrow, though, I won’t be a megalomaniac. Tomorrow, I’m a kid at Christmas.