Monthly Archives June 2013

Great opening paragraph 28… ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“When the phone ran I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along to an FM broadcast of the overture of Rossini’s ‘The Thieving Magpie,’ which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.” ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ by Haruki Murakami  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘A Change of Climate’ by Hilary Mantel ‘The Pelican Brief’ by John Grisham ‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE by Haruki Murakami #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-lZ via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

If books were real, Bella Swan…

Bella Swan, if she was still human… wouldcontinue to live in Arizona… teach English… … and drink a Starbucks coffee Frappuccino every day.           ‘Twilight’ by Stephanie Meyer [UK: Atom] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Elizabeth Bennet in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Jo March in ‘Little Women’ Bella Swan, vampire, in ‘Breaking Dawn’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Imagine, if Bella Swan were real: TWILIGHT by Stephanie Meyer #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-ne  
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Great opening paragraph 27… ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“All day, the colours had been those of dusk, mist moving like a water creature across the great flanks of mountains possessed of ocean shadows and depths. Briefly visible above the vapour, Kanchenjunga was a far peak whittled out of ice, gathering the last of the light, a plume of snow blown high by the storms at its summit.” ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ by Kiran Desai Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Possession’ by AS Byatt ‘Middlesex’ by Jeffrey Eugenides ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS by Kiran Desai #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-nB via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Lady of the Rivers

Yet again, Philippa Gregory brings history alive. Her story of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, from her first encounter with Joan of Arc, kept me riveted. She is so attuned to the period and the language that her writing is seamless. At no point does the research show itself. And there is a lot of research, Gregory herself admits she does four months of solid research before starting to write. She also says that she often finds the idea for a different novel when she is researching another. It may seem to the outsider that Gregory re-invents the same story – ‘what another Tudor woman?’ But this could not be further from the truth. Witchcraft is an intriguing story thread throughout this book, something introduced in The White Queen about Jacquetta’s daughter Elizabeth Woodville. Women are obliged to hide their knowledge and skills in order to survive, knowledge that today we would think of as alternative medicine and gardening by the phases of the moon. My knowledge of the period, the Wars of the Roses, the various kings and factions, is definitely improving though I was concerned that the reverse-telling of the Cousins’ War series would eliminate some of the tension. After
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Categories: Book Love.

My favourite library… Hunmanby Library

Sadly, my childhood library at Hunmanby, North Yorkshire, closed in 2012. The property was sold in February not, as first feared, to a housing developer, but to a local businessman who plans to move in his existing company. Local councillor Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff was relieved that the property had been bought by someone local who planned to use the existing building, rather than demolishing it to make way for nine new homes. Hunmanby Library was a magical place for me, before its opening I had been used to visits to the village by the library van. Eight local libraries were threatened with closure in 2012 under North Yorkshire County Council’s plan to save £70m. Despite efforts by volunteers in Hunmanby, it was the only library of the eight not to find a workable solution. The village was promised fortnightly visits from the Supermobile library van. This completes the circle for me. I have clear memories as a young child, long before the existing library was built in Stonegate, climbing up the steep steps into the back of the library van to choose a book. But how can a fortnightly visit replace a bricks-and-mortar building? This was the wrong decision. And if
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Categories: Book Love, On Researching and On Writing.

Memoir: Istanbul

“From a very young age, I suspected there was more to my world than I could see: somewhere in the streets of Istanbul, in a house resembling ours, there lived another Orhan so much like me that he could pass for my twin, even my double. I can’t remember where I got this idea or how it came to me. It must have emerged from a web of rumours, misunderstandings, illusions and fears. But in one of my earliest memories, it is already clear how I’ve come to feel about my ghostly other.” So opens Orhan Pamuk’s poetic portrait of his childhood in Istanbul. Istanbul and its people comes alive in Orhan’s imagination. The fronts of cars resemble noses, his classmates look like animals. “The boy with the pointed nose was a fox, and the big one next to him was, as everyone said, a bear, and the one with the thick hair was a hedgehog.” The reason the opening paragraph of his memoir connects so much with me is that I remember having the same feelings as a child. I would lay in bed in my attic bedroom, wondering about the other Sandra out there in some parallel world:
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

New books coming out this autumn

William Boyd’s ‘Solo’. James Bond is 45 and in Africa. Stephen King’s ‘Doctor Sleep’. Danny Torrance from ‘The Shining’ is now middle-aged. ‘The Story’ is a compilation of 100 short stories, written by women, and edited by Victoria Hislop. A ‘whydunnit’ from Mark Lawson, ‘The Deaths’ combines social commentary and crime. Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Lowland’ is about two brothers growing up in Calcutta.
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 26… ‘Midnight’s Children’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“I was born in the city of Bombay… once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947. And the time? The time matters, too. Well then: at night. No, it’s important to be more… On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clock-hands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out: at the precise instant of India’s arrival at independence, I tumbled forth into the world. There were gasps. And outside the window, fireworks and crowds. A few seconds later, my father broke his big toe; but his accident was a mere trifle when set beside what had befallen me in that benighted moment, because thanks to the occult tyrannies of those blandly saluting clocks I had been mysteriously handcuffed to history, my destinies indissolubly chained to those of my country. For the next three decades, there was to be no escape. Soothsayers had prophesied me, newspapers celebrated my arrival, politicos ratified my authenticity. I was left entirely without a say in the matter. I, Saleem Sinai, later variously called Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy,
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

My Top 5… fictional heroes to follow on Facebook

Everyone has their favourite fictional heroes, the ones we want to read about again. We watch them in films, debate the casting, but always remain loyal to the book. Mr Darcy Rejection in the first place does increase mystique. In the films he comes over as one-dimensional whereas in the book there is always the hint of hidden layers, plus Austen’s delicate inferences that Lizzie’s assumptions are a little presumptive. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen [UK: Penguin]   Edward Cullen Rejection [see Mr Darcy], plus golden eyes and that olden cadence of speaking, manners, loyalty, the way his mouth crinkles when he smiles. Something about speed too, his athleticism, his ability to run without crashing into trees. Ilyana Kadushin, the actress who reads the audio CD, has a most unnervingly sexy voice for Edward. ‘Twilight’ by Stephanie Meyer [UK: Atom]   Mr Rochester Rejection again [Mr Darcy, again]. This is the same story curve as The Sound of Music – Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer – the unwilling governess with no other employment alternative, the handsome but flawed older man, the authoritative boss, the emotional connection. ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte [UK: Penguin]   Jamie Fraser Where do I start? Strength
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Categories: Book Love and My Top 5....

If books were real, Jean Brodie…

Jean Brodie… would agree and disagree with Michael Gove [below] when he was the UK’s Secretary of Education. She would deplore his plan to build a free school on playing fields in Brighton, and celebrate his U-turn this week… … but support his focus on spelling, grammar and punctuation. “Deep in most of us is the potential for greatness or the potential to inspire greatness.”     ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ by Muriel Spark [UK: Penguin] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Elizabeth Bennet in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Sarah Burton in ‘South Riding’ Adam Dalgliesh in ‘Devices and Desires’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Jean Brodie would not be a fan of Michael Gove: THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark via @SandraDanby  http://wp.me/p5gEM4-kT
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Categories: If books were real... and On Writing.

My favourite library… The London Library

Every time I go to The London Library, it feels like an enormous treat. Why? Well for one, it’s a private library and there is a membership fee which I feel I must justify by regular use. But mostly it feels like a treat because it feels like a library should. It is hushed, the bookshelves are full, floor to ceiling. It has one million books dating from the 16th century to today. I have my favourite workstation, except it’s just a ledge beside a window looking across the rooftops of St James, where no-one else ever seems to walk by. Sometimes I go to collect a book I have ordered online, sometimes I go to research something specific, sometimes I just go to browse. I always seem to leave with at least one book, whether I planned to or not.   ‘Possession’ by AS Byatt [UK: Vintage] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: My favourite library…@TheLondonLib http://wp.me/p5gEM4-la via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love, On Researching and On Writing.

Writing Exercise – the five senses

When the imagination is sluggish, it sometimes pays dividends to take it by the hand and lead it towards creativity. This writing exercise has worked for me in the past. It can seem a little time-consuming when all you have to show for it at the end is a paragraph of text, but I have found the mini-brainstorms on the senses useful in other places. For example… SIGHT Blue sky – azure blue, the Maldives, a hot summer’s day, an icy winter’s day, white puffy clouds like cotton wool. A car park – red cars, blue cars, large and small, dirty and clean, cars for two people and cars for six, Polish man pushing a trolley ‘wash your car today?’, pennies for the parking ticket machine Waiting in line at the bus stop – schoolgirl with heavy bag of books eating a packet of crisps, an elderly lady with bulging plastic bags at her feet, a teenage boy in jeans sits on the bench playing a game on his mobile phone, a man in a blue uniform with a clipboard writes something down as the bus approaches Looking down a stairwell – floor after floor below, vertigo, more floors above, like being
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Categories: On Writing and Writing exercises.

Great opening paragraph 25… ‘Super-Cannes’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The first person I met at Eden-Olympia was a psychiatrist, and in many ways it seems only too apt that my guide to this ‘intelligent’ city in the hills above Cannes should have been a specialist in mental disorders. I realize now that a kind of waiting madness, like a state of undeclared war, haunted the office buildings of the business park. For most of us, Dr Wilder Penrose was our amiable Prospero, the psychopomp who steered our darkest dreams towards the daylight. I remember his eager smile when we greeted each other, and the evasive eyes that warned me away from his outstretched hand. Only when I learned to admire this flawed and dangerous man was I able to think of killing him.” ‘Super-Cannes’ by JG Ballard Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Illywhacker’ by Peter Carey ‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan ‘Couples’ by John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: SUPER-CANNES by JG Ballard #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-8x via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Choosing the title for ‘Ignoring Gravity’

My first novel Ignoring Gravity had a variety of working titles, but was generally referred to as ‘Rose’. This was both in my own head, and by my family and friends. “How’s Rose?” they would ask, as if she were real. And of course, to me, she was, she still is despite having completed that first novel and embarked on the sequel. Finally, I have to thank Philip Larkin. I still have a Word document entitled ‘alternative titles’. Most were based on the themes of adoption and identity, nature or nuture, central to my story. Some corny, all just plain wrong. The Dark Secret Ancestral Voices Most Secret Rose Finding Rose Losing Rose The Searcher Father Unknown Singularity  And then one day, leafing through Collected Poems by Philip Larkin, I read this poem. I had read through goodness knows how many poetry anthologies, looking for inspiration. As soon as I read ‘Love’, I knew I had the title of my novel, Ignoring Gravity. Thank you Philip Larkin. “The difficult part of love Is being selfish enough, Is having the blind persistence To upset an existence Just for your own sake. What cheek it must take. And then the unselfish side –
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Categories: My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity' and On Writing.

If books were food, ‘The Colour’ would be…

…an honest lunch of vintage cheddar, crusty bread and a pickled onion prepared by Harriet Blackstone from The Colour by Rose Tremain. I like strong heroines and Harriet is certainly is one, living through the New Zealand Gold Rush in the 1860s. Making a life in a strange, inhospitable land, Harriet, with her husband Joseph and her mother-in law, do not start afresh as intended but bring with them from England their old emotional baggage. The discovery of gold, ‘the colour,’ impacts on their basic lifestyle and the dynamics of their relationships in a way that none could forsee. Harriet’s mental and physical strength make her a heroine to read and re-read. She is like a traditional Somerset Cheddar: creamy, tangy, fulfilling, a salty edge to cut the creaminess. ‘The Colour’ by Rose Tremain [UK: Vintage] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Imagine, if books were food: THE COLOUR by Rose Tremain #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-jc via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and If books were food....

Great opening paragraph 24… ‘Family Album’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Gina turned the car off the road and into the driveway of Allersmead. At this point she seemed to see her entire life flash by. As the drowning are said to do. She thought of this, and that the genuinely drowning can never have been recorded on the matter.” ‘Family Album’ by Penelope Lively Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Ghost’ by Robert Harris ‘Armadillo’ by William Boyd ‘Lolita’ by Vladimir Nabokov And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: FAMILY ALBUM by Penelope Lively #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-7P via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.