Monthly Archives November 2013

IGNORING GRAVITY #12

“Just my stuff. Some magazines and a jumper, the red one you used to wear, the one you shrunk in the wash, remember? You know, the one that makes your tits look like melons.” Rose crossed her arms across her chest. Rose crossed her arms across her chest. She hated that James could still get to her like this. I do not like him, I do not like him, she chanted to herself. “You can keep the jumper, if you like, as long as I can watch you take it off.” He reached out and brushed his fingers along her arm. The hairs on her arm stood to attention. She took a step back. “Don’t touch me.” “You always liked it…” “Well I don’t now.” She walked straight to the hall cupboard and took out the cardboard box in which she had crammed his stuff. An insidious creep of his possessions had threatened to take over her flat. It was as if he’d decided to move into her place CD by CD, tube of toothpaste by bottle of shampoo, but Rose had quickly wised up to this tactic having tried it herself years previously on a boyfriend she thought she
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #11

Rose bought the first-floor one bed flat in Monument Road, Wimbledon, just along the road from the All-England Tennis Club, when she got her first byline. Ten years later she still lived a happy solo existence. It was a million miles from Lily and William’s four-bedroom house [one bedroom for them and one for each planned child], fifty foot garden [ready for a tree house] and attic [big enough for a train set]. Lily’s neighbours were authors, doctors and lawyers. Rose’s neighbours were Australians in flip-flops and Reggie the Big Issue seller who she suspected lived in the alleyway between the tube station and the fish and chip shop. In the beginning, both mortgage and flat had been unknown quantities, huge and intimidating. Now the square footage of the flat had shrunk out of proportion to her increasing possessions. She longed for a spare bedroom, allocated parking, a back door with a cat-flap for Brad and a garden for him to patrol. The flat downstairs was silent. The previous tenant had been a hard rock fan with a very good quality sound system. She breathed-in the quiet. In her tiny hallway, the red eye of her answerphone blinked. Four messages:
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

New books coming soon

Elizabeth Day Paradise City is the new novel from Observer journalist Elizabeth Day, to be published by Bloomsbury in spring 2015. It tells the story of four Londoners “whose lives intersect in a beautifully constructed story of class and ambition, loneliness and belonging, guilt and restitution”. Bloomsbury, which also signed a second un-named novel by Day, also publishes her two previous novels Scissors, Paper, Stone and Home Fires. Rebecca Levine A four-book epic fantasy series, The Hollow Gods by Rebecca Levine, will be published by Hodder starting with the first book, Smiler’s Fair, in July 2014. The books are set in Ashanesland, where the wandering city of Smiler’s Fair is a meeting place for a multitude of unusual characters. Previously, Levene has written tie-in books for the Doctor Who series. Andrew Marr Fourth Estate is to publish Head of State by television journalist and historian Andrew Marr in the autumn of next year. The novel is set among the world of politicians and journalists. Raymond E Feist The new series from Raymond E Feist, The War of the Five Crowns, is to be published by HarperVoyager. The first novel, King of Ashes, will be released in May 2014. The series, which
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Categories: Book Love.

IGNORING GRAVITY #10

Rose It took her all afternoon to test various eyecare products and write 1000 words on “Eye strain and how to avoid it’. Thankfully Sam accepted it without demur. Another Sixer. She longed to be at home, cheese on toast, Brad, perhaps a glass of wine. “Isn’t anyone here?” The voice sounded weary. Rose peered around her computer screen and looked straight at May Magdalene, the Herald’s managing editor, and definitely someone to be avoided if you wanted to get away before midnight. May was revolving on the spot as she looked around the sea of empty desks. Rose ducked and immediately felt nine years old again, attempting to avoid the attention of Duckie the maths teacher – Mr Duckworth, who did look rather like a duck – when he wanted an answer to 1,783 ÷ 21. “Ah, Rose, I suppose the rest have sneaked off early. Well,” May looked down at Rose, “you’ll do. Read these, will you.” Rose sat up straight, clenching her lips together to trap the “No!” that crunched between her tongue and her teeth. Damn, the new series of The Killing started tonight. She reached with one hand for the pile of page proofs which
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: Crow Blue

This is a story of a teenage girl unravelling the mysteries of her identity. Vanja is 13, newly arrived in Colorado from Brazil, living with a man called Fernando about whom we know nothing. “I was 13. Being 13 is like being in the middle of nowhere. Which was accentuated by the fact that I was in the middle of nowhere.” Vanja’s mother dies and she leaves behind the ‘crow blue’ shells of Copacabana beach for the USA. Her voice grabbed me from the beginning and, although at times I was a little lost with the narrative drive of her story with lots of side roads telling Fernando’s history as a freedom fighter in Brazil, Vanja’s voice kept me reading. I wanted to know the answers to the questions she was chasing on her road trip from Colorado to New Mexico. She is on the cusp of womanhood and this gives her some nice observations of American society, words from the mouth of an innocent who is starting to see the world and people around her in a more adult way. “A woman passing my chair as she returned from the pool said I had a nice tan. When she
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Categories: Book Love.

IGNORING GRAVITY #9

Lily Lily put the jars of marmalade and Marmite back in the fridge, then swallowed her daily folic acid and zinc tablets with the last mouthful of lemon and ginger tea, rinsed the mug and set it to drain. It was her favourite mug, bone china with the Japanese kanji for ‘peace’ picked out in chains of daisies, lupins, bluebells and buttercups. Not as traditional Japanese as peonies or chrysanthemums, but she loved it all the same. William gave it to her soon after they met. The only way she knew what the kanji meant was because it was explained on the price ticket which William had forgotten to remove. Wasn’t fate wonderful? They’d sat next to each other on the first night of ‘An Introduction to Japanese’ at the local adult education college. By the time Lily dropped her mug in the kitchen sink and chipped it, she’d decided Japanese wasn’t for her. The only reason she continued going to class was William. She’d originally enrolled because she’d seen Lost in Translation. William’s motivation for enrolment, he announced during student introductions at the first class, was promotion at work. William, tall and earnest, his neck a little turkey-like in
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

↑↓ Going Up Going Down 16

↑ Dark Matter to be filmed Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter is a creepy ghost/thriller book that I loved. And now it is to be made into a film by DNA Films, which is developing the project with Film4. Screenwriter Dennis Kelly is adapting the screenplay. The novel tells the story of a 1937 British expedition to the high Arctic which takes a hugely sinister turn. Click here to read about how Michelle researched the book:- http://www.michellepaver.com/researching-dark-matter/ ↑ Gaiman on getting kids reading Thumbs up to fantasy author Neil Gaiman who lambasted book snobs in a recent lecture given on behalf of The Reading Agency. People who decide children should read only worthy books are misguided, he suggested, when the motivation should be to get children reading something, anything, first. Then, they can discover reading. That is why our public libraries are so important. “The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them. “I don’t think there is such a thing
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Categories: Book Love.

IGNORING GRAVITY #8

“Rosie love. Fertility. 800 words. I want it straight after you’ve finished that eye strain feature.” Sam dropped a briefing paper on her desk on top of her half-eaten banana. Rose, who believed children should be served lightly grilled with a green salad, did not feel fertility was her natural territory. “Please Sam, can’t someone else write it? Someone who…” “No.” “…likes children.” “No.” “Someone who can empathise…” “No.” ”… with their pain at being childless.” “You’re a journalist Rosa, aren’t you? Your job is to empathise when necessary, and disassociate yourself when necessary. Get your arse in gear, be an instant expert.” He prodded a sticky finger at the briefing paper. “Male fertility. There’s a new report that says infertility is more the bloke’s problem than the woman’s now.” Rose shut her mouth, unable to object to writing a story about male fertility. “… lead is a problem so plumbers and painters need to be careful. Generally the theme is that as the biological clock ticks, sperm motility drops.” Frank, the features writer who sat at the next desk, winked at her over the top of the dividing screen. “…then a list of the obvious, you know, boxers versus
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book Review: The Signature of all Things

I’ve never read Eat Pray Love, never seen the film, and didn’t know what to expect from this novel by Elizabeth Gilbert not having read any reviews. I don’t know why, but I half expected not to like it. Very unfair of me, and completely wrong. First it’s a historical novel, not what I anticipated at all, starting with 18th century luckster, thief and botanist Henry Whittaker and later moving onto his daughter Alma. Born near Kew Gardens in London, son of a poor horticulturalist, Henry lifts himself out of poverty thanks to Jesuit’s bark, the newly-discovered treatment for malaria. He makes one fortune at home in Kew, stealing plants from Kew Gardens and selling them to wealthy protectors, he makes another fortune in the Far East by commercially cultivating Jesuit’s bark, and makes a third fortune in America where he imports medicinal plants from around the world, then raises native American plants and exports them abroad, so the holds of his ships never sail empty. The opening paragraph of the book tells us of the birth of Henry’s daughter Alma, and then she is not mentioned again until part two. Alma is born to Henry and his Dutch wife
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Categories: Book Love.

IGNORING GRAVITY #7

Rose Until she started her training as a journalist, Rose Haldane hadn’t realized that one of the key skills required was the ability to bullshit. If you knew nothing about your subject matter, you could do it, or wing it. Hopeless at bullshitting and equally terrified of writing about something and getting it wrong, Rose had faced each new assignment as if preparing to appear on Dragon’s Den. Consequently she bunjee-jumped off a crane tied to the mayor of Littlethorpe to publicise Public Safety in Kent Week, then wrote about whiplash while wearing a neck collar for a week. For two weeks she lived entirely on maple syrup and water, then illustrated the finished feature with before and after photos demonstrating the reduction in size of her bottom. This feature attracted quite a few letters to the editor, and one blind date which had been disastrous. She learned to take her research seriously. Many years later she joined the London Herald as health reporter. The Herald was a national newspaper, she worked in a skyscraper at Canary Wharf, not a grey warehouse on a shabby industrial estate in the flat, grey world of North Kent. But she felt stuck. Since
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Did you know, Elizabeth Gilbert…

Did you know Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer in order to get an ‘in’ at the publisher she wanted to work at? When Gilbert wanted a job at Spin magazine she approached publisher, Bob Guccione Jr, who she had met once at a party. The receptionist was unsympathetic. Basically Gilbert did not leave until she saw Guccione who had no recollection of having met her, but his assistant was going out of town so he offered her a temporary job for three days as his fill-in. After the three days were up, Guccione gave Gilbert $300 and wished her good luck. Some months later, Gilbert placed her first short story in Esquire magazine. It was published with the subtitle ‘the debut of an American writer’. She sent the story to Guccione with a note that read, ‘I told you I was a writer!’ He called and offered her an assignment on the spot. The Moral of the Story: Never Give Up, Never Surrender [if you don’t know this quote you don’t watch enough movies: watch Galaxy Quest now!] Read the full NY Times article here. Read my review of Gilbert’s The Signature
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Categories: On Writing.

IGNORING GRAVITY #6

Nick He stood with his nose pressed to the window, his breath misting the glass, watching her disappear. “Can you sign these?” Amanda’s words made him jump. She had entered his office silently and was standing close behind him. Too close. Sometimes he suspected her of creeping. He took the folder and signed the documents with the speed of someone who has signed millions of papers. He waited until the door closed, then went to the window again. She’d gone. What was it about her that drew him to her? She was a journalist, a type he avoided on principle, but… there was a vulnerability beneath the efficiency which attracted him. And her eyes, blue almost… aquamarine. A knock at the door and he jumped again, startled from his reverie by a line of people filing into his office. The finance team. Within moments he was absorbed in packaging costs, and forgot all about Rose Haldane. © Sandra Danby …in IGNORING GRAVITY #7: how Rose is still striving to write a feature worth 10/10. This is the 6th instalment of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ about identity detective Rose Haldane. To start reading from the beginning, please click on the category ‘My Novel:
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

New books coming soon

Joakim Zander The Swimmer, the debut novel by Swedish writer Joakim Zander [below], was signed by Head of Zeus after a heated auction. The book, about a father searching for his daughter, will be published in hardback and e-book in July 2014. Jimmy Rice and Laura Tait Journalists Rice and Tait have co-written The Best Thing That Never Happened to Me which tells the stories of friends Alex and Holly. Rice writes as one, Tait as the other. Transworld has bought the rights to two books, with The Best Thing that Never Happened to Me published in e-book in spring 2014. A Corgi paperback will follow in early July. LC Tyler A new historical crime series by LC Tyler [below] will be published by Constable & Robinson, starting with the first in November 2014. A Cruel Necessity is set in the time of Cromwell’s Protectorate. Sarah Bannan Bannan, head of literature at Arts Council Ireland, has signed a publishing deal with Bloomsbury for her first novel. Weightless is narrated in the collective first person by a group of girls at an American high school, delving into the world of teenage friendship, peer pressure, responsibility and guilt. Catherine Chanter The Well, by
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Categories: Book Love.

IGNORING GRAVITY #5

This is the 5th instalment of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ about identity detective Rose Haldane. To start reading from the beginning, please click on the category ‘My Novel: Ignoring Gravity’ in the right hand menu. But the phone rang and he excused himself to answer the call. Rose glanced at her watch. Jim the photographer was due in five minutes. “I’m sorry that was a call I had to take. Shall we continue?” Maddox was playing with a black fountain pen and studying her legs. She tugged her skirt down towards her knees then sat up straight with her knees pressed together, and wished her mother could have seen her polite posture. Maddox didn’t hurry his appraisal of her legs, and when his eyes rose to meet hers they showed no embarrassment at being caught out. Damn him. To her dismay, Rose felt her cheeks flush with blood. She wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed or angry. It’s just a bodily reaction beyond my conscious control. That was how her father had explained it to her when she was five and blushed every five minutes. ‘The blood vessels in your skin get bigger to let the hot blood reach the surface of your skin
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

#WritingPrompt Writers’ BLOCKbusters… bookshelf

Brain on a go-slow? Get it moving with this writing prompt from Sandra Danby’s Writers’ BLOCKbusters. Go to your bookshelf, close your eyes, and choose a book. Turn to page 1 and read the first sentence. Now write your own second sentence, continuing the story. Repeat for a second book, and a third. You will now have 3 completely un-related sentences. Choose one of the three, and use it as the beginning of a new short story. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other writing prompts:- Hotel Corridor How Thirsty Are You Arrivals What are ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’? I want to help you put words on the page. Those words won’t necessarily be the first line of your novel, or indeed anything to do with your novel, but they will be words to fill that intimidating blank space. And it couldn’t be quicker. Writers’ BLOCKbusters is a collection of three ebooks of writing prompts. Why are they different? Precisely because they are short, easy to use, and flexible. Designed for writers of fiction, any genre, novels, short stories, flash fiction, they are suitable for all genre of fiction precisely because each exercise is based on a subject unrelated
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

IGNORING GRAVITY #4

This is the 4th instalment of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ about identity detective Rose Haldane. To start reading from the beginning, please click on the category ‘My Novel: Ignoring Gravity’ in the right hand menu. He turned in his chair. “Look at them,” he pointed at the people sitting at desks in the open plan area on the other side of the grey glass partition. “They made it happen, not me, they…” While he talked, Rose noticed his hands. Lightly golden, with long fingers as if stretched by piano octaves. She found herself wondering how it would feel to be touched by those hands, and was horrified to realise she hadn’t heard a word of what he’d just said. She nodded and stared down at her pad, her face hot. “… believe in this company. They took the opportunities and built the profit to the point where I could pitch it to the banks. The banks are only interested in cash flow and the bottom line, they want their repayments. The bank doesn’t care if I make face creams or screwdrivers.” “So, now you can enjoy running your company.” Her eyes were still fixed on her notes. Wrong again, Rose. Journalism rule
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: A Long Long Way

This is the story of Willie Dunne, an innocent, who goes away to war not understanding fully what is involved but determined to do his bit. Written by Sebastian Barry in 2005 and nominated for the Booker Prize, it is the tender tale of a young Irish man who volunteers for the British army and ends up in Belgium. Set against the background of the Easter Rising, Willie does not fully understand the political implications of what is happening around him. He is born in Dublin, as a baby “he was like the thin upper arm of a beggar with a few meagre bones shot through him, provisional and bare.” Barry’s language throughout is a delight, something I didn’t expect when the book is about the worst of trench warfare. Barry does not spare punches, at times the action and conditions he describes brought me close to tears, but I read on, pulled forwards by Willie’s life force. He travels to new places, “ravished by the simple joy of seeing new places of the earth.” This joy unravels when arrives at the trenches. “The biggest thing there was the roaring of Death and the smallest thing was a man. Bombs not
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Categories: Book Love.

IGNORING GRAVITY #3

This is the 3rd instalment of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ about identity detective Rose Haldane. To start reading from the beginning, please click on the category ‘My Novel: Ignoring Gravity’ in the right hand menu. When he didn’t answer, she looked up. He was staring at her as her university professor had while waiting for her to answer a question about which he knew she didn’t know. “You know, being in control of your own destiny? Making your own history?” Shut up Rose. Journalism rule number one: don’t put words into his mouth. “Destiny?” He leant back in the swivel chair. “That’s an interesting word.” Boy is he confident. Arrogant. She hated arrogant men. “I wouldn’t say I’m in charge, the bank is. I just have a new boss.” His voice was strong, as if he was answering the questions he expected to be asked. Every now and then he glanced down at a paper in the folder he’d laid open on the coffee table. A briefing paper supplied by his PR, she guessed, a list of predictable questions and answers. His smile just about reached the edges of his mouth but fell short of his eyes. Politeness guarantees boring copy. Journalism
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: An Officer and a Spy

Robert Harris is a master storyteller. Whether he turns his attention to a volcano exploding, ghost writing the memoirs of a questionable politician, the deathly politics of Rome’s Senate, or the Nazis winning the Second World War, you know you can rely on him to tell a rollicking tale based on sound handling of the historical facts. An Officer and a Spy has so many echoes of today it is uncanny, the true story on which it is based took place in 1895. Don’t let the historical basis of the story deter you; this is a good old-fashioned spy story complete with forgeries, eavesdropping, surveillance and murder. The spy of the title is Captain Alfred Dreyfus, convicted as a military spy and sent to Devil’s Island. The captain is Georges Picquart, who witnesses the humiliation of Dreyfus in front of a baying mob. Picquart, who after this opening scene is promoted to run the Statistical Section of France’s Ministry of War, discovers evidence that puts Dreyfus’ conviction in doubt. His superiors dismiss his concerns and tell him to forget them. He doesn’t forget, instead undertaking his own investigations which uncover evidence of a new spy. His efforts lead him to
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Categories: Book Love.

IGNORING GRAVITY #2

This is the 2nd instalment of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ about identity detective Rose Haldane. To start reading from the beginning, please click on the category ‘My Novel: Ignoring Gravity’ in the right hand menu. Nick Nick Maddox, managing director of Biocare Beauty, was sitting at his desk thinking about face cream. In particular, the failure of bottling machinery at the Scottish factory which manufactured his best-selling Natura-Refresha Night Flower serum. Should he shift production to Devon? Or cross his fingers that the machine would be fixed in time to fulfil his export order to France next week? At that thought he leant back in his chair and allowed himself a small smile of achievement. Me, exporting face creams to France. It’s like selling an English striker to a Brazilian football club. Having made the decision to trust the Scots, his mind shifted to the press interview with a financial journalist which was due to start… he glanced at his watch… five minutes ago. He sighed. It was the last in a schedule of PR interviews about his management buyout of the company. This was his least favourite part of the job, talking City talk with business journalists wearing expensive suits with
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Categories: My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.