Monthly Archives August 2013

My Top 5… audio books

Audio books used to be unfashionable, still are for some people. So be it. Because I love them. Below I have tried to select my Top 5, but the list became longer…I had never had one until a serious illness left me in hospital, in pain and unable to sleep. My lovely husband appeared with a CD walkman and a variety of audio books bought in a panic. I can remember them now. John Grisham’s The King of Torts, Pride and Prejudice and Michael Palin’s Himalaya. He returned the next day with a CD of sleep music and the first Harry Potter. I was hooked. As soon as I could, I downloaded the cds onto iTunes and then onto my iPod. I was an early Audible-adopter. For some reason, a lot of the books I listen to are mainstream and include a lot of YA and crime. Anything fast-moving seems to work for me. Old favorites are the ones I turn to in times of illness or insomnia. It just doesn’t matter if I fall asleep when Katniss is on the train to The Capital for the first time, or whether she’s in the arena climbing trees. But the classics
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Categories: Book Love.

Reading for research: Lucky Kunst

I admit to a wry chuckle as I see the double-takes from my fellow passengers on the Easyjet flight from Malaga to Gatwick. My reading material for the 2 ½ hour flight is Lucky Kunst: The Rise & Fall of Young British Art by Gregor Muir. I’m still researching for my second novel, Connectedness. I’ve come to Malaga to tread in the footsteps of my character, artist Justine Tree, as she treads in the footsteps of Picasso.‘Freeze’, the 1988 art exhibition held by 16 Goldsmiths art students in a London Docklands warehouse and organised by Damien Hirst, first launched the yBa’s into the fusty art world. It wasn’t until 1992 thought that Charles Saatchi introduced the phrase ‘Young British Art’ with his exhibition. From then on, the 1990s were the time of Cool Britannia when artists and pop singers were invited to 10 Downing Street. This is Justine’s time too.I made Justine older than Hirst, Emin, Whiteread, Lucas etc. She graduates from art college in London in 1984 and is noticed by Charles Saatchi in 1993 when he anonymously buys three collages from her collection ‘Blues I, II & III’. In 1997 he exhibits two pieces from Justine’s next collection, ‘The
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Categories: My Novel: 'Connectedness', On Researching and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 37… ‘I’ll Take You There’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“In those days in the early Sixties we were not women yet but girls. This was, without irony, perceived as our advantage.” ‘I’ll Take You There’ by Joyce Carol Oates  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Ernest Hemingway ‘Tipping the Velvet’ by Sarah Waters ‘The Collector’ by John Fowles 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: I’LL TAKE YOU THERE by Joyce Carol Oates #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-mM via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book Review: The Other Eden

This novel by Sarah Bryant is best described as a Gothic romance/horror story, interleaved with the American South setting in Louisiana and piano music it is an unusual mixture which produces quite a page-turner. I admit to finding the two sisters Eve and Elizabeth confusing at times but that did not interfere with my enjoyment of the story. By the end of the book I was still unsure which sister was which. The description of the two houses, Eden and the house on the hill, are luscious. My one quibble is that I found the characters oddly difficult to place in time. The prologue about the two sisters is dated 1905 which means the following story about Eleanor is set in the 1920s, but it seems more 19th century to me. Maybe that’s down to the old-fashioned Louisiana setting. I don’t think the cover of my edition helped that confusion, the style is oddly similar to Philippa Gregory. But don’t let my doubts put you off reading what is a rollicking Gothic mystery complete with faintings, dreams, symbolism, mysterious foreign men and beautiful piano music. If you like this, try:- ‘Summertime’ by Vanessa Lafaye ‘Barkskins’ by Annie Proulx ‘Housekeeping’ by
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Categories: Book Love.

Flash Fiction: ‘Chairs Chairs Chairs’

It is just before nine. She takes her time clearing the tables, the ones outside in the dark alley between the Royal Festival Hall on one side and the railway arches on the other. The sun won’t reach here until lunchtime. The alley has quietened, the rush to work is drawing to a close and the queue at the coffee counter for ‘to-go’s’ numbers only two. She prefers clearing tables to serving at the counter. Outside, only one table is occupied. The same table, every morning. She watches him, without seeming to. Arranged in front of him are pencil, notebook, ruler, pencil sharpener and eraser. She straightens chairs as he arranges his possessions at precise angles to each other. Into the tableau he adds his silver phone, a used and re-folded napkin, large coffee mug and plate with crumbs of almond croissant. She knows his routine. Every time she is on the morning shift, he is here. It’s as if he gets a copy of the week’s timesheet when the manager pins it on the noticeboard every Sunday evening. He sits now and looks into nothing, studying the blank paper as if it tells him the meaning of life. He
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Aah Snoopy, you are so right… 4

Ah yes. Like Snoopy, all writers have helpful friends.   ‘Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life’ ed by Barnaby Conrad and Monte Schulz  [UK: Writer’s Digest Books]     And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: What is subtlety: advice for #writers from @Snoopy http://wp.me/p5gEM4-qy via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I agree with… Janice Galloway

Janice Galloway “…a good short story frames not just the credible now, but an implied past – and a stretch after the putative ending into infinite space. I guess that’s what is meant by writing that ‘comes off the page’: 3D is certainly possible on the flat page.” [writing in MsLexia magazine, June/July/Aug 2013] I remember being told by one of my creative writing tutors to ‘write around the story you think you’re writing about’. It was a good piece of advice. Sometimes I start to write about one thing but then explore the plot, the characters, the timeline, and new things suggest themselves so that the finished story can be totally different from the one I started with. I think this 3D effect on the page which Janice Galloway describes also comes from truly knowing your characters and your subject, the result of lots of thought and work which isn’t written on the page but is there unseen. If you agree with Janie Galloway, perhaps you will agree with:- Natasha Carthew – if it feels right, write outdoors Kate Atkinson – on using your own life and family, then fictionalising it Joel Dicker – on killing secondary characters  
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Categories: On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 36… ‘The Bell Jar’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. I’m stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that’s all there was to read about in the papers – goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corner and at the fusty, peanut-selling mouth of every subway. It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive all along your nerves.” ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen ‘The Secret Agent’ by Joseph Conrad ‘After You’d Gone’ by Maggie O’Farrell 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 BELL JAR by Sylvia Plath #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-n1 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book Review: The Quarry

I started reading this book with my emotions running high, knowing Iain Banks had completed it so near to death. But I determined to be fair, not to like it just because he died. But I did like it. A lot. The story is full of imagery: the quarry, the actual hole in the ground is the unknown faced by the two key characters: Guy, who is facing death; and his son Kit, who faces life without his father. Both stand on the edge of emptiness. Kit is the key narrator. Described as ‘a bit odd’ and ‘socially disabled’, I liked him straight away. As often with a young narrator, the author puts words of wisdom into the words of an innocent. Perhaps Kit has more self-awareness than his elders. He is certainly an innocent who is learning quickly. The action takes place over one weekend, the limited timespan and setting in the house and edge of quarry give it the feeling of a stage play at times. A group of friends gathers at Guy’s house, to spend time with him as he dies. But there is always a feeling that the adults want something from Kit, that no-one is being
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Categories: Book Love.

If books were real, Agatha Raisin…

Agatha Raisin …would be Julie Walters, with a little padding [as in Mrs Weasley] and a plate of Gin and Tonic cupcakes.   ‘Something Borrowed Something Dead’ by MC Beaton [C&R Crime] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Hobbit’ Jamie Fraser in ‘Cross Stitch’ 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, Agatha Raisin would love cupcakes SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMEONE DEAD by @mc_beaton via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-qQ
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Categories: If books were real....

Great Opening Paragraph 35… ‘Room’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra. Before that I was three, then two, then one, then zero. ‘Was I minus numbers?’” ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue  Amazon Read my review of Frog Music by Emma Donoghue. Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers ‘Family Album’ by Penelope Lively ‘These Foolish Things’ by Deborah Moggach 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: ROOM by @EDonoghueWriter #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-kw via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I agree with… Barbara Taylor Bradford

Barbara Taylor Bradford “For me it all starts with a memorable character. Graham Greene, the legendary English novelist once said in a famous interview that “Character is plot.” This is the best advice I ever got as a novelist. When I sit down to write a book, I try to tell a compelling story about one single character. What this person is inside, and how they view the world is your story. That’s how it began for me with Emma Harte in ‘A Woman of Substance’. You begin with a character that your readers can relate to and build the story around them.” [interview at Authonomy] Well Barbara, A Woman of Substance sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and you’re from Yorkshire too, so I believe you. And I read AWoS when I was a teenager [here’s my original copy], and loved Emma Harte. My novel, Connectedness, is about an East Yorkshire artist called Justine Tree. I started out wondering how a young woman who gives her baby up for adoption would feel 20 years later. Justine, complete with her name, hang-ups and motivations seemed to come into existence fully-formed. I originally made her an artist because I’m interested in art,
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Categories: On Writing.

New books coming soon

Diane Setterfield The Yorkshire author of The Thirteenth Tale has signed a new deal with Orion for her Victorian ghost story Bellman & Black, due out in October. A TV production of The Thirteenth Tale for broadcast at Christmas stars Olivia Coleman and Vanessa Redgrave and was filmed at Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire. Helen Walsh Signed with Tinder Press to publish her new novel The Lemon Grove, due out spring 2014. Walsh, previously published by Canongate, was represented in the deal by Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown. John Harvey The last book in the Charlie Resnick series has been signed by William Heinemann [pub hardback May 2014, paperback autumn 2014 by Arrow]. Darkness, Darkness is set around the 1984 miners’ strike in Nottingham. Dave Eggers [below] The Circle is about Mae Holland who gets a new job at the world’s most powerful internet company, The Circle. Published October 10, 2013 by Hamish Hamilton. Kerry Wilkinson Has sold two more crime novels to Pan Macmillan, taking his tally at the publisher to 14. The first, Something Wicked, features PI Andrew Hunter and is a spin-off from Playing with Fire, book five of the Jessica Daniel series. The second book
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 34… ‘Lolita’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.” ‘Lolita’ by Vladimir Nabokov Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ by Kiran Desai ‘Notes on a Scandal’ by Zoe Heller ‘Bel Canto’ by Ann Patchett And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: An iconic 1st para which makes me want to read more: LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-kO via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Flash fiction: Migraine, again*

Cochineal, crimson, carmine. Scarlet, vermilion, madder, magenta. Justine’s head was so full of red hot pain and every shade of red was there. Blood red, fresh and dried. Cherry Coke. London bus red. Chanel Rouge red. English postbox red. When she woke, she was sitting in the dark beside the studio window. Her headache was gone, her head felt tender and vulnerable as it always did after pain. Outside the London sky was dense black, the February clouds hiding the stars. Upstairs, Tinkerbell rang. © Sandra Danby If you like flash fiction, read these stories:- The Ten Questions Left or Right Redbreast/Before * excerpt from Connectedness, second in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, to be published in 2017. First in the series, ‘Ignoring Gravity’ is available now. ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Justine’s headache includes every shade of red: MIGRAINE, AGAIN #flashfiction via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-qd
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Categories: My Flash Fiction and My Novel: 'Connectedness'.

Book Review: Natural Flights of the Human Mind

I’ve been having something of a Clare Morrall fest, that thing you get when you discover an author and wish they’d written more. The worst thing is when you get that feeling but the author is dead and there’s nothing left to read. Natural Flights of the Human Mind is an original story about two outsiders who are brought together by circumstance and who, unknowingly, help each other to come to terms with their past. They are both scratchy characters, secretive, who do not invite gestures of friendship. Despite this, I liked both of them. Like all Morrall’s books, this is a gentle build, gradually unveiling the hidden goodness of people who on the outside seem unattractive and possibly irredeemable. Pete Straker lives in a lighthouse which threatens to collapse, a symbol of his life since he caused the death of 78 people 24 years earlier. He talks to no-one, the only sign of his caring nature is his nurturing of his two cats. Imogen Doody, a school caretaker whose husband walked out one day and never returned, inherits a wild, uninhabited cottage, covered with dense undergrowth, a symbol of her life. These two outsiders meet and, despite Straker’s silence
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 33… ‘The Sense of an Ending’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“I remember, in no particular order: – a shiny inner wrist; – steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it; – gouts of sperm circling a plughole before being sluiced own the full length of a tall house; – a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams; – another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface; – bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door. This last isn’t something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.” ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes Amazon Read my review of The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes. Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Super-Cannes’ by JG Ballard ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ by Helen Fielding ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote 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 SENSE OF AN ENDING by Julian Barnes #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-nE via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

If books were food, Bridget Jones’s Diary…

…would be a mid-morning snack of carrot cake with a Diet Coke. Because Bridget Jones carefully controls her calorie intake. Carrot cake for the carrots, of course, a very important part of her five-a-day vegetable regime which will make her healthy and slim with glowing skin and bright shiny eyes. Diet Coke because she needs a drink, with the cake, obvs, and the fact that it’s Diet means it’s a negative calorie so making space in her daily calorie count for the cakey bit. Which means the mid-morning snack costs no calories.   ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ by Helen Fielding [UK: Picador] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Imagine, if books were food: BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY by Helen Fielding #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-pN via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and If books were food....

Applying the 10,000 hour rule to writing

I’ve been reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and have just read chapter two about the 10,000 Hour Rule. This is new to me, though it has been around for a while. The theory is that in order to succeed you need to put in your apprenticeship first, working 10,000 hours to perfect your skill. Gladwell mentions:- – The Beatles [above] who broke America in 1964. Lennon and McCartney first started playing together seven years before in 1957. As a struggling school band, they were invited to Hamburg and played hundreds of concerts there between 1960-1964. By all accounts they were pretty awful on stage at the beginning. It was an accident that Liverpool bands were invited to Hamburg, but it gave them the chance to learn their craft on stage. – Mozart, whose first ‘masterpiece’ was at the age of 21 when he’d already been composing for 10 years. – Bobby Fischer, who became a chess grandmaster after nine years of playing. – Bill Joy [below], co-founder of Sun Microsystems, who just happened to live near the University of Michigan’s new Computer Centre at which he was able, as a teenager, to program for hours and hours. Like Bill Gates [bottom],
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Categories: On Writing.