Three quarters.

I’m writing a novel at the moment, a story idea I’ve been mulling over for ages. While it isn’t my best or even favorite idea, it’s very different from my previous completed novel. I think at this point in my writing career (if a career it even is), I need try out a wide variety of styles and story ideas and viewpoints.

I’m sure I’ll talk a lot more about these novels (or novellas depending on your definition) in the future.

To the point of this post: I’m about three quarters of the way through novel number two. While I know exactly where I need to take things, I seem to be having trouble pushing through to the end. I keep finding distractions (like this blog, you see), and when I do write, I can’t seem to find inspiration. My first novel had a non-linear structure, so I didn’t have to fill in the gaps. Now I’m having to ramp up the energy and get myself into the explosive and twist-filled final act, but my characters are pottering about, killing time, discussing stuff instead of actually getting on with it.

Then today I remembered part of a pep talk by Niel Gaiman, and looked it up. Sure enough:

The last novel I wrote … when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm—or even arguing with me—she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, “Oh, you’re at that part of the book, are you?”

I was shocked. “You mean I’ve done this before?”

“You don’t remember?”

“Not really.”

“Oh yes,” she said. “You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients.”

I didn’t even get to feel unique in my despair.

This makes me feel better about the entire project. A bit. It doesn’t change the fact I’ve only written 23 words today.

Table tennis!

The living room as viewed from the juggling studio.

The living room as viewed from the juggling studio.

Pola drove the van back from Aachen on Saturday, which contained everything we had taken to Portugal for 6 weeks, plus Pola’s accumulated art projects from the trip. Today we finally got around to clearing it all away.

At the same time we rearranged furniture. This included creating a large table in the living room for Pola to work on large projects, for larger dinner and breakfast gatherings with friends (a weekly ocurence when we are in Berlin) and… ping pong!

Whenever we work on cruise ships together we play a lot of table tennis, normally 30 minutes every evening. This is what led me to developing my table tennis routine. With the table in this position we’ll probably play ever day at home. We’ve already tried it, and while the table is on the small side, it’s just as much fun.

Four years.

Yesterday Pola and I celebrated our four year anniversary. Four years is, by far, the longest relationship I’ve ever had. In fact, it is one of the longest anythings I’ve stuck with long term…

Juggling – 18 years total, 13 years hardcore, 6 years as a job.
Music/Guitar – 15 years
Primary school – 6 years
Secondary school – 5 years
Pola – 4 years
College – 2 years
University – 2 years
Longest job (non-self employed) – 1 year, 10 months
Longest other relationship – 5 months (intermittent)

Well, I guess that really puts raising a child into perspective. About 18 years, and we’ve not even started yet.

A new routine

Ok, some juggling news. I’ve been injured recently, so my juggling practice has been cut down a lot. However, I felt I needed more pure juggling material in my full length show so worked on a new routine.

The routine needed to tick these boxes:
– I can do it without bending my back or legs too much.
– uses a prop I already take with me, so no extra weight.
– contains skills I can already do.
– looks interesting to non-jugglers.
– lasts about 4 minutes, but can be extended with an introduction if needed.
– involves comedy.
– fits into the story of my show (fake biographical).

I chose rings as the prop, as I always take 7 with me, and only ever do 40 seconds of juggling with them in the show. They are colour changing rings, red and white, so wanted that to be the main focus. I start with three rings, and do about 45 seconds of tricks, but cleverly (a certain level of cleverness, at least) make sure they only ever see them as white. Then I make them turn red, and everyone goes “Aaaaahhh…”

I then do a load more 3 ring tricks. Then 4, then 5. All good. Then I get the technician to press pause as I set up 7 rings. This includes holding a ring in my mouth, launching 6, grabbing the 7th, juggling for between 11 and 15 throws, then gathering them all in my left hand. I explain the trick before juggling it, but for a lot of the explanation I have a ring in my mouth, so nobody can understand what I’m saying.

This, if you don’t know, is called comedy. No, really, people laugh. I’ve done the 7 ring piece in shows before, and it always gets a good reaction.

So I put the entire routine together and performed it on my last cruise ship gig. I only dropped once, and the audience really enjoyed it. Of course, my 3 ball and video routine is the one that everyone always raves about afterward, but when I asked about the rings everyone said it was good. And when I mentioned it was new material, everyone said they couldn’t tell. That could be good: I’m good enough at putting together new material that I can get new routines right on the first attempt. It could be good: the rest of my show also looks like new material. I think I’ll go with the first option.

I have another routine in the works, which uses one to three clubs, video and a specially written soundtrack. The 3 ball piece works so well, I want something like it to close my show if I don’t feel like juggling knives on a rolabola. I’ll post more about it as it develops.

Other podcasts…

I enjoy listening to lots of podcasts and some of them ask for contributions or guests. Here are a few I’ve done in the past, and I have more guest appearances lined up for the near future. Details coming soon, I’m sure.

I was a guest on the Infidel Guy Radio Show where I talked a lot about my life as a Christian (capital C), and my experiences working for GOD.TV, and how I am no longer a Christian. You can download the hour long episode here:

As I was planning my own book review podcast, the Simply Syndicated network launched show called Books You Should Read, the idea being listeners would submit their own audio reviews of books they rate highly. I’d already recorded a few test episodes for the SFBRP, but used Books You Should Read as motivation to get started on more reviews.

I sent in three review overall. My first review was chosen as the launch episode of the podcast, which was pretty cool. Here are some links:

Episode 1 – Enders Game by Orson Scott Card
Episode 7 – Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis
Episode 11 – Genesis, the first book in the Bible

Yup, I reviewed the first book in the Bible. I think ambitious projects are important. I was going to follow it up with a review of The Ancestors Tale by Richard Dawkins, to show another take on distant human history, but I never got round to it. I’ve not sent in any more reviews to Books You Should Read for about a year, mainly because I’m concentrating on my own projects.