Monthly Archives March 2013

Great opening paragraph 7… ‘The Big Sleep’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.” ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Jack Maggs’ by Peter Carey ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell ‘The Secret Agent’ by Joseph Conrad And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Does this make you want more? THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler https://wp.me/p5gEM4-8B via @SandraDanby #amwriting
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Ideas at dawn

Like most writers, I keep a notepad and pen beside my bed. Sometimes an idea comes to me in the middle of the night, so I try silently to slide the drawer open, extract the book, and scribble in it in the dark without waking my husband. It’s interesting, the effect complete darkness has on your writing skill. Often when I read my notes, the next morning, my handwriting is double its normal size and slants alarmingly across the page. Ideas often come to me in that phase between dream and wakefulness, when the brain mixes up elements of memory, dreams and imagination and comes up with plot solutions. Some of my big plot decisions originate from notes taken on waking. It can be frustrating trying to stay in the zone, when your body is waking up. Sometimes I will try to extend the moment, screwing up my eyes to exclude light, and going deaf like a teenager ignoring the alarm ringing at 7am for school. In Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande advocates getting up an hour earlier than usual and writing before doing anything else, and particularly before reading anything. Write about whatever is in your head, she says.
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Categories: On Writing.

If books were real, Jo March…

Jo March … would write in an unruled Moleskine notebook with a HB sharpened pencil.   ‘Little Women’ by Louisa M Alcott [UK: Scholastic] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Miss Marple in ‘The Body in the Library’ Bella Swan, human, in ‘Twilight’ Jean Brodie in ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Jo March would write in a notebook by @moleskine LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-a8
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Great opening paragraph 6… ‘Goldfinger’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.” ‘Goldfinger’ by Ian Fleming Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Murder Room’ by PD James ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche ‘Couples’ by John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Does this make you want more? GOLDFINGER by Ian Fleming http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7F via @SandraDanby #amwriting
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

A book I love… Stig of the Dump

To my sadness, I haven’t got my original copy of this book. I read Stig of the Dump by Clive King it when I was about 9 or 10, I guess, and it opened up a new world of possibilities to me. That you could be free to live your own life, free of adults, free of rules, free to imagine, free to believe.  The writer Clive King grew up in a house near a chalk pit, so I’d like to think he did actually meet Stig. I re-read it recently and the story was just as fresh. It was published 40 years ago but it hasn’t aged at all. ‘Stig of the Dump’ by Clive King [UK: Puffin] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: STIG OF THE DUMP by Clive King http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7f #bookreview via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 5… ‘Moon Tiger’ #amwriting #FirstPara

” ‘I’m writing a history of the world,’ she says. And the hands of the nurse are arrested for a moment; she looks down at this old woman, this old ill woman. ‘Well, my goodness,’ the nurse says. ‘That’s quite a thing to be doing, isn’t it?’ And then she becomes busy again, she heaves and tucks and smooths – ‘Upsy a bit, dear, that’s a good girl – then we’ll get you a cup of tea.’ ” ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue ‘After You’d Gone’ by Maggie O’Farrell       Here is my old copy of Moon Tiger, well-read and much-loved. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: MOON TIGER by Penelope Lively via @SandraDanby #amreading http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7w
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

A book I love… The Language of Flowers

This book was picked up from a supermarket bookshelf in Moab, Utah, during a tour of South-Western USA in 2012. I didn’t realise when I bought it that the story is set in San Francisco and the countryside north of the Golden Gate Bridge, somewhere we would visit later in the same holiday. It’s about a damaged young girl Victoria who leaves the foster-care system with minimal social skills but a deep understanding of flowers and their meanings. Hydrangea, to Victoria, means dispassion. She struggles with intimacy until she meets a man who tells her that Jonquil means desire. Thoughtful, gently-paced but with emotional power. ‘The Language of Flowers’ by Vanessa Diffenbaugh [UK: Pan]       Left, is my American copy. I think I prefer this cover. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by @VDiffenbaugh http://bit.ly/2bdZACF #bookreview via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

Reading for research: Man with a Blue Scarf

I am writing this in Spain where our internet connection has been intermittent for the last few days. We live in such a rural place that our telephone and internet are by satellite not land line and both are unpredictable. So, unable to blog, there should be no feasible distractions from the process of writing. The weather here is foul – cold and wet, yes in Andalucía! – so I hunker down in front of the fire with a book that’s been sitting on my bookshelf here for a while. I’m reading about art and artists, as on-going research for my current novel, Connectedness. Having read last summer The Yellow House by Martin Gayford, the story of Van Gogh’s stay at Arles in the South of France when he painted the Sunflowers series, I would read anything he writes. Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud is a diary kept by Gayford as he sat for a portrait in Freud’s studio from 2003-2005. The book made headlines when published in 2010 because Freud was initially dissatisfied with the portrait. He couldn’t get the blue of the scarf right. Gayford finally admitted there were two scarves he
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Categories: Book Love, On Researching and On Writing.

If books were real, Elizabeth Bennet…

Elizabeth Bennet would read Grazia, subscribe to Granta and secretly fancy Benedict Cumberbatch.     ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen [UK: Penguin] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games’ Mattie Ross in ‘True Grit’ Jo March in ‘Little Women’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Elizabeth Bennet would read Grazia magazine: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-5N
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Great opening paragraph 4… ‘Sophie’s World’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Sophie Amundsen was on her way home from school. She had walked the first part of the way with Joanna. They had been discussing robots. Joanna thought the human brain was like an advanced computer. Sophie was not certain she agreed. Surely a person was more than a piece of hardware?” ‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes ‘That They May Face the Rising Sun’ by John McGahern And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: SOPHIE’S WORLD by Jostein Gaarder http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4S via @SandraDanby #amreading
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I agree with Stephen King…

Stephen King “Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognise them when they show up.” [excerpt from ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King]  He’s right. Ideas come at me all the time, doing the most prosaic things. Doing the washing-up, queuing to park at the supermarket, wandering around an art gallery, sitting in a traffic jam. The fun starts when I realize two [or three] bits belong together. It doesn’t work if I force things to fit, so I’ve had to learn to be patient and let things be for a while. Some of my ideas have been kept for years until they find the right home. When a character finds a setting, a setting finds a story, a name in the newspaper fits a so far unnamed character, the resulting buzz is incredible.   ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King [UK: Hodder] If you
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Categories: On Writing.

If books were real, Mikael Blomkvist…

Mikael Blomkvist …would have a white Eames chair and stool in his flat, but rarely sit in it.     ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ by Stieg Larsson [UK: MacLehose] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Hercule Poirot in ‘Death on the Nile’ Mr Wickham in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Torak in ‘Wolf Brother’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Mikael Blomkvist would own an Eames chair: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TAGOO by Stieg Larsson via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-5u
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Great opening paragraph 3… ‘Herzog’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.” ‘Herzog’ by Saul Bellow Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McKewan ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: HERZOG by Saul Bellow http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4G via @SandraDanby #books
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Last Runaway

Tracy Chevalier is so skilled at getting under the skin of the protagonist in a specific period whether it’s a 19th century fossil collector or a 15th century Belgian weaver, you always believe her. Honor Bright is a real person from page 1 of The Last Runaway and you are rooting for her. The book tackles a difficult subject: the rights and wrongs of helping escaping slaves, and the moral issue this poses for Ohio’s Quakers. Honor struggles to understand this sometimes frightening new country with its huge skies and geometrical roads, forthright people and different social rules. Even the air seems strange. “I feel when I am in it as if the air around me has shifted and is not the same air I breathed and moved in back in England, but is some other substance,” she writes to her parents. Chevalier does her research thoroughly, but feels no need to wave the depth of her research in her reader’s face. Instead it informs every simple description. Woven throughout the book is Honor’s sewing of quilts. Even this is different in Ohio where Honor’s calm nature and precise sewing is admired by the local hat-wearing ladies, but her needle
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

‘I Am Not a god’, a short story*

It was difficult pretending to be a god. Dion looked in the mirror and there was a new spot on the end of his nose. Dealing daily with the weight of expectations was rubbish. He opened his front door to find a group of weirdos camped out beside the wheelie bin. He tried to sneak out, but they sank to their knees and chanted: “Dionysus the beautiful.” “I’m not Dionysus, I’m me. And I’m not beautiful.” Then he ran away. At work, he took out his thyrsus. Like everything else at Godsworld, the fennel stick was falling apart. Its pine cone was stuck on with Blu-Tac and the ivy trailed loose. Really, he thought, this place is a joke. He’d taken the job thinking it would be fun, perhaps meet a few girls, he hadn’t expected to work with a cantankerous leopard. “Feeding the lions is about to start,” said a tannoy announcement. He sighed. At the lions’ den, a boy with cherub curls pointed at the spot on Dion’s nose, now the shape and colour of a holly berry, and giggled. “You’re a joke, call yourself a god?” I’m not really a god, Dion thought desperately, I don’t know
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Categories: My Short Stories.

If best-selling albums were books instead

This week’s Bookseller magazine has just arrived and there is a gem in Bent’s Notes on the back page. Graphic designer Christophe Gowans has re-made rock and pop albums as if they were classic book jackets. My favourites are:- Patti Smith’s ‘Horses’ as a DK Eyewitness Guide to Horses Level 42’s ‘World Machine’ as Catch-22 Adam and the Ants’ ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ as a Wild West book for children ‘What’s the Story Morning Glory’ by Oasis as a religious pamphlet Check out Christophe’s blog. © all photos Christophe Gowans And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Imagine, if best-selling albums were #books instead: by Christophe Gowans http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4Z via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

My Top 5… Music to Write to

Music with lyrics messes me up when writing, so I stick strictly to classical. My current Top 5 albums of Music to Write To are:- ‘Coppélia’ by Delibes [Decca] I’ve just bought this after hearing it on Classic FM while driving in the car. The first track took me straight back to seeing the ballet as a child: something of a coup in 1960s East Yorkshire! ‘The Armed Man’ by Karl Jenkins [EMI Classics] The journey to war, the rhythm of trudging of feet and marching drums, never fails to be poignant. Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ [Deutsche Grammophon] This is the most-played classical CD on my shelf, replacing the old cassette bought as a first exploration into classical music. ‘Sense and Sensibility’ by Patrick Doyle [Sony Classical] Soundtrack to Ang Lee’s uplifting film. A must for Austen fans like me. ‘Lord of the Rings’ by Howard Shore [Rhino] The standout track for me is the male voice choir when the Fellowship are fleeing through the Mines of Moria. … and not forgetting:- Verdi’s Requiem Holst’s Planets And anything by Jacqueline du Pré, I have The Complete EMI Recordings. Do you agree with my other ‘Top 5’ choices?:- My Top 5… books about
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Categories: My Top 5... and On Writing.

Not all books are good

I can’t remember the specific book which caused the epiphany: not all books are good. I grew up devouring books. All books. Any books. From my father’s James Herriot to my mother’s Mary Stewart [This Rough Magic and The Moon-Spinners being particular favourites] via Agatha Christie loaned from the library, Shakespeare and Kingsley Amis at school, EM Forster and Virginia Woolf at university, I read it all. The epiphany of realizing that not all books were good was disappointing, almost a betrayal. A little like the realization that Mendelssohn was not English and that Fingal’s Cave was not in Scotland. No-one warned me that bad books got published too.   ‘This Rough Magic’ by Mary Stewart [UK: Hodder] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Not all #books are good: an epiphany as a teenager http://wp.me/p5gEM4-3z via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 2… ‘Middlesex’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. Specialized readers may have come across me in Dr Peter Luce’s study, ‘Gender Identity in 5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodites,’ published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology in 1975. Or maybe you’ve seen my photograph in chapter sixteen of the now sadly outdated ‘Genetics and Heredity.’ That’s me on page 578, standing naked beside a height chart with a black box covering my eyes.” ‘Middlesex’ by Jeffrey Eugenides  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘American Psycho’ by Brett Easton Ellis ‘Astonishing Splashes of Colour’ by Clare Morrall ‘Queen Camilla’ by Sue Townsend And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2q via @SandraDanby #amwriting
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Categories: Book Love.

‘Clap Your Hands if You Believe’, a short story

The sign on the door says ‘Miss T Bell – Consultant’. I pour the third of the four glasses of wine required for courage before I go on stage, then hide the glass at a knock on the door. “Yes?” “Miss Bell, can we come in?” I wave them in and three members of the chorus settle on the couch in my dressing room, tidying the beech leaves of their skirts. “What do you want?” “I’ve read that all fairies were angels in another life,” says the petite blonde. “But Celandine over there has read that fairies are spirits trapped between heaven and earth. Miss Bell, please tell us the real story of Peter Pan, not the pantomime version.” “Ooh, I wish I could meet him,” says the third, wide-eyed fairy, who winds her auburn hair around a finger. Oh dear. I swig half the glass of wine in one gulp. Should I tell the plain truth or embellish it? * Why am I always doing things for him? He never does what I want to do. I turn my back on the wooden walls and with my right toe I prod at the neatly piled fabric underfoot: pink pyjamas
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Categories: My Short Stories.