Monthly Archives January 2014

IGNORING GRAVITY #43

Ibuprofen, birth certificate, and an apology were Rose’s three priorities when she woke too few hours later. The ibuprofen was easy, but the Direct Gov website was still ‘undergoing a few problems which we hope to resolve soon so please visit us later’ and every attempt to speak to Nick failed. Gatekeeper Amanda was polite when she took Rose’s first message of the morning, her voice growing curter with each successive call. By 11am she was nowhere near catching up the backlog which was why she was working at home in the first place: peace, quiet, no interruptions, complete concentration, etc. That was the theory. But the 500 words she managed to squeeze out about psoriasis were rubbish and would have to be rewritten from scratch which meant she would miss her deadline. She longed for espresso, the really strong espresso that was only available from the Coffee Crema van round the corner from Southfields tube station. As she stood in the queue, her mind wandered away from itchy skin to Nick. Nick, who preferred peppermint tea. Peppermint tea, the same taste as toothpaste, Polo mints, chewing gum, after-dinner mints. Forget Nick. Think about your father instead. She pictured two
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

One from six: the 2014 Costa Short Story Award

The judges of the Costa Short Story Award are you, me, that guy sitting opposite you on the bus, and the woman in the supermarket who drops a box of Extra Large eggs and walks away pretending it wasn’t her. The judges are the public. Two weeks ago I downloaded the six shortlisted stories from the Costa Coffee website, and read them. You can read them too here. At this stage, the authors’ identities were anonymous, their names were disclosed only on January 21. So I had no idea what to expect; it’s not like picking up an edition of stories because you like the theme or have read that author or editor before. I wanted to be fair to each writer, reading each story carefully, being open-minded. The official winner of the Prize, announced on January 28th, is Amanda Readman’s ‘The Keeper of the Jackalopes’. My winner, for what my single vote is worth, is Still Water BC by Erin Soros [above]. It took me instantly into another world, the pathos of the story, the foreshadowing of the title, set it aside for me from the others. The six finalists, chosen from 1400 entries, were:- Still Water, BC by
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

IGNORING GRAVITY #42

Rose left the Pre-Tox Party Kit press reception two hours later with another PR goodie bag. At Waterloo she ran but reached the barrier less than 30 seconds before departure. She watched the rear of the train disappear. She rubbed her aching neck and looked up at the indicator board in Waterloo station: 20 minutes before the next Wimbledon train. Her muscles and emotions were bound as tightly as a new ball of wool. She’d need some serious help to relax tonight. If she was quick she could nip into her favourite shop on Waterloo Bridge Road. She seldom left Cool Beauty without a bottle. So she nipped. As she stepped through the door of the shop, the unravelling experience began. She sniffed and sampled her way along the shelves through ‘Refresh’ and ‘Revive’ to ‘Renew’ and with each step her shoulders eased as a frayed end of wool teased its way loose. But she knew that only when she lay up to her chin in fragranced bathwater tonight would the last strands of tight muscle unwind from her neck and down her spine, releasing each vertebra one at a time. Then she would rub Soothing Rose Lotion into every
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

#WritingPrompt Writers’ BLOCKbusters… harvest

Harvest… summer, mown, bounty, goodness, earth … Try this WORDstorm writing prompt from Writers’ BLOCKbustersto help you put the first word on the page today. Look at the three words below and, without thinking, write the next words that come into your mind. Write until you can think of no more words, you may have 10 words or 50. Allow the words to come into your mind without prompting, they will seem unrelated to each other. Now use these words as inspiration to move you onwards. You should find that your mind has taken you way beyond the subject of ‘harvest’ and that you write about a completely different subject. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other writing prompts:- Cinnamon Grassy Waiting Beneath the Clock 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
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

IGNORING GRAVITY #41

Lily stormed along the street, not knowing if she’d turned left or right. How dare Rose imply that my life’s a mess. Of course I want to get pregnant, doesn’t everyone? Poor Dad, poor poor Dad. And poor Mum too, she wanted a baby so much, she must have been at the end of her tether, so lonely. No wonder she asked her sister for help. Well she was lucky she had Kate to turn to. I wish I had a sister like that. That was a cruel thought, and Lily wasn’t used to being cruel. But it was true. Instantly she felt alone on the crowded pavement. Rose wasn’t her sister any more. Being cousins wasn’t the same at all. Suddenly Lily sensed she was being stared at. She was muttering to herself. She shut her mouth, took her sunglasses out of her bag and put them on. She stopped to re-arrange the pile of diaries better in her arms but the blue one on top slithered to the pavement. A metal lock burst open and loose pages spilled onto the hot pavement. Lily bent to her knees to pick them up and the words flew off the open page
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

I agree with Hanif Kureishi…

Hanif Kureishi says, “Writing is an art, but it is also a business. I’m trying to be an artist but I’ve also got to send my kids to school. The writing schools often teach about just being an artist, but that’s not the half of it; that conversation about being a brand is what is happening, that’s what it has become.” [Interview with The Bookseller magazine, December 6, 2013] So, the writer as a brand. Kureishi is referring to a quote from one of the characters in The Last Word: “Brand, did you say… Would I really have to become like Heinz ketchup or a Mont Blanc pen?” It certainly does feel that authors these days have to do so much more than simply write a novel. You have to be an ace at social media [unless you are Jonathan Franzen], public speaking, self-promotion, review books, write short stories and essays, and teach. The days of ‘the writer alone in his garret’ are over. Now we must all put ourselves out there in the world.   ‘The Last Word’ by Hanif Kureishi [UK: Faber] If you agree with Hanif Kureishi, perhaps you will agree with:- Vanessa Lafayae – on weaving together
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

IGNORING GRAVITY #40

Five hours later, Rose stood on the steps of Way Forward PR in Chiswick where she’d just left a breakfast press briefing about the New You range of slimming products. New You: the all-natural, organic way to detox and not go hungry. In her hand was a carrier bag containing the press kit. Product samples [sachet of powdered milk shake, energy bar and vacuum pack of dried savoury rice], press pack, scented candle to help her feel positive about her body image, notepad and ballpoint pen stamped with the New You logo. Standard press reception fodder: Rose would take the bag back to work and it would go into the goody drawer. When the drawer was full, Sam’s secretary would fill up carrier bags and hand them out to the features team. This would be followed by a frantic trading session as the boys swapped the lipsticks in their bags for the disposable razors in the girls’ bags. It was one of the perks of working on the features desk. Rose hadn’t bought soap, or pens, since she’d worked at the Herald. Now, bag in hand, she stood on a street corner and looked around to get her bearings. Cars
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Famous writers, writing… Peter Carey

Peter Carey on re-writing:  “If you ever read one of my books I hope you’ll think it looks so easy. In fact, I wrote those chapters 20 times over, and over, and over, and that if you want to write at a good level, you’ll have to do that too.” It’s good to know that even double-Booker winners don’t get it right first time. So re-draft, re-draft, re-draft… Read my review of Amnesia and the opening paragraphs of Jack Maggs and Illywhacker.   ‘Illywhacker’ by Peter Carey [UK: Faber] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Agatha Christie Joseph Conrad Benedict Cumberbatch And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author Peter Carey via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-yn
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

IGNORING GRAVITY #39

The first thing Rose looked at when she awoke the early next morning was Kate’s photo. Hello Mum, she thought. Mother. Mummy. She strode lightly from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen, flicked the switch on the kettle then logged on and searched for Kate Ingram. Loads of entries, but different Kate Ingrams. A town councillor in Ayrshire banned for dangerous driving. A footballer who scored the winning goal in Dewsbury Ladies’ 3-2 win over the Doncaster Darlings. A four-year old victim of a hit-and-run driver at a zebra crossing. Kate died almost 30 years before the internet was in general use, she didn’t have a Facebook page or an entry in Equity’s online directory. The waking urge to talk to her, to know more, became a fully conscious need, like the need to eat or pee or sleep. With a wave of shame, Rose realised she didn’t know where Kate was buried. Bizzie would know. “St Agnes’ in Kingston.” Rose could hear the smile in her Gran’s voice. “Where your Mum and Granddad are. Comfortable benches. I go to see them all once a week. So so.” This made Rose, who hadn’t been to the graveyard since standing beside her
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Great Opening paragraph 48… ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Master was a little crazy; he had spent too many years reading books overseas, talked to himself in his office, did not always return greetings, and had too much hair. Ugwu’s aunty said this in a low voice as they walked on the path. ‘But he is a good man,’ she added. ‘And as long as you work well, you will eat well. You will even eat meat every day.’ She stopped to spit; the saliva left her mouth with a sucking sound and landed on the grass.” ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Lucky You’ by Carl Hiassen ‘After You’d Gone’ by Maggie O’Farrell ‘Family Album’ by Penelope Lively 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: HALF OF A YELLOW SUN by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-mJ via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

IGNORING GRAVITY #38

She drove straight to Kingston. Bizzie’s house was alight with electricity, curtains thrown back, from the front gate, Rose could see her grandmother sitting in an armchair doing a crossword in the newspaper. She leant against the gate, the lichen slightly dew-damp under her elbows, knowing she was delaying, fearing what she might see in her gran’s eyes. She took a deep breath and walked up the path she had walked up a thousand times before, except for the first time she was frightened. She sat in the chair opposite Bizzie, looked at her straight, and told her about Mrs Greenaway. It was a five minute monologue, the sixth minute was silent. “Kate?” “Yes.” Bizzie’s eyes were full of sadness, they didn’t lie, she hadn’t known of her daughters’ secret. “You’re sure?” “Positive.” Rose understood the need to disbelieve. “Here.” She handed over the form given to her by Mrs Greenaway, the form from hell. “You never knew?” Bizzie shook her head then took off her reading glasses, polished them with the yellow felt cloth from inside her glasses case, and settled them back into the pink grooves either side of her nose. She read the form slowly once, then
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

#WritingPrompt Writers’ BLOCKbusters… water

Try this writing prompt from Writers’ BLOCKbusters to get you started today. Go to the kitchen or bathroom and run a tap, letting the water run down the drain. Listen. Write down the first thing you think of. This might be a memory, an emotion, a sensation, a need. Turn these notes into a paragraph about a character who has no running water on tap in his/her home. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other writing prompts:- Death Valley At This Mark on the Pavement Wordstorm: Dirt 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 to whatever you are struggling with. I
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

IGNORING GRAVITY #37

Darkness was falling by the time she got to the allotment. She stumbled on the uneven path, cursing herself for not keeping a torch in the car as her mother had told her. She found her father’s patch, empty. For the first time in a long while she felt kinship with her mother who had often pursed her lips at his ability to disappear at moments important to her – parents’ evenings, Christmas drinks with the neighbours, choosing curtains. A light was flickering in the far corner of the field, like a light bulb with dodgy wiring. He had to be where that light was. Everything else turned black and she stumbled over uneven earth, not caring if she scuffed up sacred lettuce or radish seedlings. Lily would be able to tell the difference, she couldn’t, not even in daylight. She could now see the outline of a shed, a neater one than her father’s, painted bright blue. The tang of fresh paint and something yeasty hung in the air. It was Ron Fosdyke’s shed. His name was on the door, burned roughly out of a lump of wood with a hot poker and nailed to the apex. The sign
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Famous writers, writing… Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway, 1939 I’ve always been fond of Hemingway, blame it on Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman. Hemingway the lover of Spain, the journalist-turned-novelist, that is… I dislike the bullfighting and other macho behaviour. His ability to frame a quotation is legendary, my favourite is:- “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” If it were only that simple. Read the first paragraphs of The Old Man and the Sea and To Have and Have Not.   ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemingway [UK: Arrow] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Agatha Christie Jonathan Franzen William Golding And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author Ernest Hemingway via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-y9
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

IGNORING GRAVITY #36

Rose crossed and uncrossed her legs, then crossed them again, snaking her feet around her ankles, the toes of her tan gladiator sandals squeaking slightly as they rubbed together. Then her mother’s firm voice rung in her head, ‘You’ll get varicose veins if you sit with your legs crossed, sit like a lady.’ Rose uncrossed them and pressed her knees tightly together. Her inner thigh muscles began to ache. She’d been sitting up straight in this corridor for ten minutes, a tunnel of wood-panelled walls, darkened with years of polish and dirty fingerprints. She started to cross her legs again but remembered in time and forced her knees back together. This was more efficient at muscle toning than that horrible machine at the gym, the one where you sat with your knees wide apart and tried to push them together against the weights. Her mother would certainly have disapproved about the legs wide apart bit. Footsteps approached from the left. “You must be Rose, can I call you Rose?” Rose nodded. The social worker was a large lady wearing a tailored jacket and pussybow blouse, a brown wool skirt stretched across her ample bottom. Rose hadn’t seen clothes like that
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: Divergent

I wonder what percentage of Young Adult [YA] fiction currently published features a dystopian world. Are our teens so disenchanted with their own real world that they only want to read fantasy? Certainly Suzanne Collins and Stephanie Meyer have a lot of responsibility for this, their two series have dominated the bookshelves and cinema screens for the last six years. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the feistiness of Katniss, though I was not so keen on Bella who was a bit too sulky for me. So to Divergent by Veronica Roth, a book that had passed me by until I read online reviews, reviews which prompted my Kindle purchase of the trilogy. The story is set in a city which was once Chicago where every citizen belongs to one of five factions. Each faction represents a human virtue: Candor [honesty], Amity [kindness], Dauntless [fearlessness], Abnegation [selflessness], Erudite [searching for knowledge]. At 16, teenagers are assessed for their affinity to the factions and can choose the faction they will be for the rest of their life. Anyone whose test results are inconclusive is labelled ‘divergent’. Tris, the protagonist, is divergent. This is her story and is the first of a trilogy. The
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Categories: Book Love.

IGNORING GRAVITY #35

After twenty minutes of pinning down the differences between gluten allergy and wheat intolerance, Rose wrote the first paragraph of today’s feature. “The number of people self-diagnosing themselves as being wheat intolerant is growing and can lead to more harm than good, according to new nutritional research. Wheat aversion, a psychological condition, is also on the increase. Are the two trends connected?” It was true, but she pressed the delete button and watched her words disappear. Sam would never approve it, all the space sold for this feature advertised wheat-free biscuits and free-from bread. She stared at the empty white page. “Anyone wanting to avoid wheat in their diet today is going to have a hard time finding wheat-free and free-from products that don’t taste like sawdust.” Noooo… he wouldn’t approve that either. She pressed the delete button again. She knew the signs, she needed a breather, she needed a fresh start to the feature, she needed coffee. “Crap coffee?” she asked Frank, who nodded without a pause in his typing. He was on a tight deadline too, Sam had already shouted at him twice since lunch. Rose wandered towards the coffee machine, enjoying stretching her legs. “Coffee break already,
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

New books coming soon

Tom Rob Smith Tom Rob Smith, author of Child 44, will publish two new novels with Simon & Schuster. Both will be released after 2015. Child 44, which was published in 2008, has sold over 2 million copies worldwide. It is part of the author’s Russian trilogy, with The Secret Speech and Agent 6. Tom Hardy is to star in the film of Child 44 later this year. Rob Smith’s newest novel, The Farm, will also be published in 2014. Jami Attenberg Saint Mazie is the new book from Jami Attenberg, author of Waterstones Book Club selection The Middlesteins. His new novel is inspired by the true story of Mazie Phillips who ran a cinema and helped the homeless in New York in the early 1900s. Sergey Kuznetsov Butterfly Skin, a psychological thriller by Russian journalist Sergey Kuznetsov, is to be published in the UK by Titan Books in September as paperback and e-book. It will be translated from Russian by Andrew Bromfield. It follows a young journalist on the hunt for a serial killer and has been described as the Russian answer to The Silence of the Lambs. Lucy Hounsom A Waterstones employee, Hounsom’s debut fantasy novel Starborn and
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Categories: Book Love.

IGNORING GRAVITY #34

Twenty-four hours and two frozen pizzas later, Rose put down the last library book. She rubbed her temples. Well, at least Mum and Dad hadn’t made her sleep in a cupboard. Reading Harry Potter made two things clear. First, don’t believe everything people tell you about your parents. Second, never trust your initial assumptions. Why must she always think the worst? It might be a happy story, or at least not an unhappy one. Because they might have died of a crack overdose, said that sharp cynical voice in her head. It’s better to know the truth, whatever it is, than not to know, said Strong Rose’s calmer voice. Even if they’re dead. Of course they’re dead. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Rose thought it made sense too. Harry made a third thing clear, she thought suddenly. Everyone who met Harry told him he had his mother’s eyes. Whose eyes did she have? * When Rose arrived at Café Blanc, Monday lunchtime, there was no sign of Maggie. She bought a bottle of mineral water and bagged a table outside. She loved this place, it smelled so good. Coffee but something sweet, vanilla perhaps, vanilla syrup, and onions
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: Wake

Amongst the profusion of novels about the Great War, Wake stood out for me from the rest because it is about the aftermath rather than the fighting. The spine of the narrative is the journey of the body to be entombed in Westminster Abbey as the ‘Unknown Soldier’. I have visited the tomb but had not considered its selection, the post-war politics and social consequences of choosing one soldier’s remains rather than another. Anna Hope handles a delicate topic – isn’t everything to do with war emotionally-delicate? – with confidence. Wake is a powerful novel by a debut author. There is something unsettling about the first scenes where un-named soldiers drive out into what was no-man’s-land, not knowing where they are going or why. They are directed to dig up the remains of a soldier: unidentified soldiers dig up the remains of an unidentified victim. Four bodies are laid out, not so much bodies as heaps of remains. A Brigadier-General closes his eyes and rests his hand on one of the stretchers, this body is put into a thin wooden coffin. The three not chosen are put into a shell hole at the side of the road, a chaplain says a short
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Categories: Book Love.