Monthly Archives February 2014

I agree with… Lucy Prebble

Lucy Prebble “What ideas grab you? Meaty controversial issues based on real events. Topics that frighten and thrill you. Paedophilia, anorexia, corporate brinkmanship … Because you’re a perfectionist, research is a compulsion. You read widely on your current topic and immerse yourself in its world. For Secret Diary… this meant hours with courtesans, dominatrices, punters; for Enron, visits to the stock market bear pit.” [excerpt from an interview in MsLexia magazine, Dec/Jan/Feb 2013/2014 issue]  Lucy Prebble is an award-winning playwright who wrote her first play while at university in Sheffield. Her most-celebrated play Enron is about the collapse of the American energy group of the same name. She also wrote the TV series Secret Diary of a Call-Girl, based on Belle du Jour’s blog, which starred Billie Piper. And she likes research. I like research too, and to understand Rose Haldane in Ignoring Gravity I needed to learn about adoption. I read so many books about adoption, written by birth parents, adoptive parents, adopted children, adult adoptees searching for their birth parents: I read information guides on websites about how to adopt a child; how to search for your birth parents; what to say when… if… you should meet. It’s
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Categories: My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity', On Researching and On Writing.

Book review: All the Rage

What a treat, twelve stories about love by the inimitable AL Kennedy. Love:  looking for it, losing it, exploring what love is. Instead of describing the stories, I want to celebrate her writing. The way she tells us so much in just one or two sentences. ‘Late in Life’ features  an older couple waiting. They are waiting in a queue at the building society, waiting for him to pay off her mortgage, in a coming-together of two lives. She provocatively eats a fig, being sexy for him “to pass the time.” Despite his hatred of public show, he watches her, “he is now-and-then watching.” He gives her “the quiet rise of what would be a smile if he allowed it. She knows this because she knows him and his habits and the way the colour in his eyes can deepen when he’s glad, can be nearly purple with feeling glad when nothing else about him shows a heat of any kind.” In ‘The Practice of Mercy’, Dorothy is lost, alone and approaching old age and contemplating her relationship. “She realised once more, kept realising, as if the information wouldn’t stick, realised again how likely it was that someone you’d given the
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Categories: Book Love.

I agree with… Judi Dench

Judi Dench “It’s essential to have a back story. Essential. I had a whole family life for ‘M’ (in Bond): two grown-up girls at university, not that anybody knew about it, but I knew about it.” [Judi Dench, in an excerpt from The Sunday Times Magazine, February 23, 2014] I do this too. Back in the days when Ignoring Gravity didn’t have a title, I wrote an Excel sheet with details about Rose’s back story: her birth sign [Virgo], what car she drives [a black Mini with a white roof], her most intense dislikes [people who don’t do what they promise to do; unwashed hair]. Her character traits: she avoids confrontations but will speak up if feels wronged; at work, she puts her head down and gets on with the job; a Guardian reader at work, but secretly reads chick-lit at home. To read more about Rose, click here. Judi Dench’s quote made me remember an exercise I wrote as homework for one of the early creative writing classes I attended. It was about characterization: “create a character profile, a list of characteristics, then put that character into a situation and write 250 words about how your character would react.”
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Categories: On Writing.

Book review: The Returned

When Harold opens the door to a strange man and boy, he sees someone he knew he would never see again. “Synapses kicked on in the recesses of his brain. They crackled to life and told him who the boy was standing next to the dark-skinned stranger. But Harold was sure his brain was wrong.” On that day, the lives of Harold and his wife Lucille change as they become involved in the whirlwind which is the return of people from the dead. This is the beginning of The Returned by Jason Mott. There is a sense of brooding throughout this novel, starting small with the uncomfortable disbelief the elderly couple feel as their dead 8-year old son walks in the door. How can it be Jacob who died more than 40 years earlier? Is he/it an imposter? All over the world, the dead are returning. Soon the numbers become threatening, new phrases are coined: The Returned, the True Living. Communities cannot cope with the new arrivals who need feeding and housing, who bring with them old resentments, unfinished business. Not all reunions are happy. For some Returned there are no reunions. There is a dark sense of inevitability that
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 50… ‘These Foolish Things’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Muriel Donnelly, an old girl in her seventies, was left in a hospital cubicle for forty-eight hours. She had taken a tumble in Peckham High Street and was admitted with cuts, bruises and suspected concussion. Two days she lay in A&E, untended, the blood stiffening on her clothes.” ‘These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Ernest Hemingway ‘Back When We Were Grown Ups’ by Anne Tyler ‘Time Will Darken It’ by William Maxwell 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: THESE FOOLISH THINGS by Deborah Moggach #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-mA via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Story

I read The Story, edited by novelist Victoria Hislop, on my Kindle, without really appreciating just how much reading was involved for 100 stories. It’s not like holding a hefty book. But I enjoyed every single one of them. Some of the authors were well-known, others were new to me. Some made me laugh out loud (I’m thinking of Dorothy Parker here), others stopped my breath with sadness. I discovered authors I want to explore further: one of the reasons I have always loved short stories. The short story form is fascinating. As a writer, I find the form freeing, an opportunity to try something different, to focus tightly on a theme or character that has caught my interest, to play with structure, genre, voice. As a reader I am very demanding, like anthology editor Victoria Hislop I want to be instantly grabbed by a story. “Readers are allowed to be impatient with short stories,” she writes. “My own patience limit for a novel which I am not hugely enjoying may be three or four chapters. If it has not engaged me by then, it has lost me and is returned to the library or taken to a charity shop.
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Categories: Book Love.

New books coming soon

JD Oswald Crime writer Oswald, who writes the Inspecter McLean series, has signed a five book fantasy deal with Michael Joseph. The Ballad of Sir Befro is an epic fantasy series following a boy called Errol his dragon Benfro. Together they will shape the future of the Twin Kingdoms. Dreamwalker, the first of the five, will be published this autumn. Antti Tuomainen Dark as My Heart, a second novel by Finnish writer Antti Tuomainen [below] is to be published in the UK next year by Harvill Secker. His first book in English, The Healer, is published by the Random House imprint. Dark as My Heart is related by Aleksi, who applies for a job as caretaker of the isolated seaside estate belonging to his mother’s former employer. Rachael Lucas Pan Macmillan has signed three books and an e-book novella from Rachael Lucas. Sealed with a Kiss, Lucas’s self-published debut novel, is a story of friendship, romance and rescued seals set on a remote Scottish island. It made the Kindle top 10 and has been downloaded more than 70,000 times. It will be published by Pan Macmillan in paperback in May, with a sequel e-book novella to be released for Christmas 2014. A third
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase

Cleo at Cleopatra Loves Books recommended to me this book by Louise Walters, and I am glad she did. This is a gentle mystery of a love affair during war and its consequences for the following generations. We follow the stories of two women: Dorothy Sinclair in 1940, and today Roberta who works at The Old and New Bookshop. Roberta is particularly fond of the secondhand stock, treasuring the notes and letters she finds hidden within their pages, wondering about the stories of the writer and the addressee. Each chapter starts with an excerpt from such a note. The letter which starts Chapter One is dated 1941 and addressed to “My dear Dorothea” from Jan Pietrykowski in which he writes he “cannot forgive” her for “what you do, to this child, to this child’s mother, it is wrong.” The letter makes no sense to Roberta as it was written by her grandfather to her grandmother, and dated 1941 when Jan died in 1940. This is the puzzle which Roberta must unravel. What woman does Jan refer to, and what child? Dorothy’s story starts with a plane crash. She lives on the edge of an airfield deep in the quiet Lincolnshire
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Categories: Book Love.

IGNORING GRAVITY: next Bestseller?

I am delighted to announce my novel Ignoring Gravity has been signed to take part in the launch of ‘Britain’s Next Bestseller’ on March 28, 2014.This is a new publishing imprint where you, the readers, can select which books go into print. If I achieve a minimum pre-order target of 250 sales of Ignoring Gravity, I will be awarded with a publishing contract for book and e-book formats. You will be able to place your pre-order for Ignoring Gravity on a special website to be launched on March 28. Watch out for more details here. Ignoring Gravity is the story of two pairs of sisters separated by a generation of secrets. Start reading the story of Rose Haldane and her sister Lily from episode one, now, by clicking here. Sadly for those who have been reading the instalments here, you will now to wait for the book to be published before you find out how it ends! To learn more about Britain’s Next Bestseller, and how you can place your pre-order, click here.
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Categories: Book Love, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity' and On Writing.

IGNORING GRAVITY #52

She walked the few hundred yards to Mrs Gladstone’s house, trying to forget Tommy, breathing  deeply of the scented plants which spilled out of garden after garden. Jasmine. Buddleia. Lilies. But no roses, Tommy was right.’  The sky was like a Rothko canvas she’d seen in the Tate, the colours layered above one another like Eton Mess topped with mandarin segments and custard. She always found Rothko’s paintings calming, the colours melting and merging together. She took a book from her handbag, the latest Frank Bale detective novel, ideal for the mode of stop-start reading demanded by commuting on public transport. She opened it at the current page and there was her bookmark: a postcard of Rothko’s ‘Light Red Over Black.’ She breathed in the sweetness of the flowers, the glowing sky and the layers of Rothko’s paint, and let them soothe her. Careful not to stand on the whitewashed doorstep that sparkled with daily scrubbing, Rose rung the doorbell of 17 Child Street. It was a tiny terraced house, immaculate, its postage stamp garden packed with candy-coloured bedding plants. Not a single rose. The door was opened by an elderly lady who was wiping her hands on the sort of
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

#WritingPrompt Writers’ BLOCKbusters… bronze

Try this WORDstorm writing prompt from Writers’ BLOCKbusters to 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 ‘bronze’ and that you write about a completely different subject. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other writing prompts:- Water The Meaning of Purple Feet Beneath the Table 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.
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

IGNORING GRAVITY #51

She pulled Nick’s list out of her pocket and checked the addresses. Mr & Mrs Thomas Tyler, 14 Child Street. They lived at the white house? It looked more like the home of a thirty-something childless couple than pensioners. She tapped the cool steel knocker, and a thirty-something peered around the part-opened door, her foot with its red-painted toes in a fierce platform sandal braced against the bottom of the door to prevent unwelcome intruders. She spoke through evenly-capped white teeth. “Mr & Mrs Tyler? They don’t live here any more. Mrs Tyler died two years ago and we bought this when her husband moved to a flat. Sheltered accommodation, the kind with a warden. I’ve got the address somewhere, hold on.” She disappeared, shutting the door behind her. She left behind her the floral scent of something Rose identified as expensive from the perfume advertisements in Vogue, the kind with the scented strip you rubbed against your skin. This was definitely not a plug-in air freshener sort of house. As Rose rubbed at a brown mark on her linen trousers, squashed chocolate biscuit from number 12, the neatly-ironed thirty-something re-appeared with a piece of paper. It wasn’t far. Cornwall
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

I agree with Sofie Gråbøl…

Sofie Gråbøl “As an actor you’re always looking for the weak side of a character, for the dark side. It’s because that’s where… the door … opens for me to get into the character. That’s also I think the door for the audience too.  So the more flaws, the more weaknesses, to me the better. And Sarah Lund, there’s a lot of things she’s not capable of.” [talking about developing the character of Sarah Lund, The Killing] I’d just finished watching The Killing II and clicked onto the ‘making of’ extra on the DVD.  A friend of mine is an actor and writer and I’ve always been fascinated by her approach to building a new character. Sofie Gråbøl re-iterates this. This made me sit back and think about my protagonist, Rose, in Ignoring Gravity. What are her flaws? Well she’s very independent and wants to do everything herself, to the point where she cuts out her sister Lily without realising she is doing it. Rose does not exclude others consciously, she simply gets on with the things that have to be done. She’s single-minded, which on the one hand means she is motivated, focussed and determined to find the answers.
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Categories: My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity' and On Writing.

IGNORING GRAVITY #50

Child Street was in a grid of terraces built as accommodation for workers at the Islington works which supplied bricks for the rebuilding of the City of London after the Great Fire. Rose tried to imagine Kate walking along this road carrying newspapers on a Sunday morning, running to the tube station round the corner, staggering home from the pub after one too many lager and limes with the girls. She tried to see what Kate saw every day. The monotony of red brick was broken in a couple of places by pre-fab concrete cubes, legacy of the post-war rush for housing. Not far away on the other side of the road a house shone out, its bricks and balustrade painted bright white; so bright in fact that Rose expected to smell new paint. The silvery grey of the lime tree outside added to the overall bleached effect. It was a style Rose liked. She hoped this was number 12, it was the sort of house she’d like to live in if she could ever stretch to a bigger mortgage. She would decorate it throughout with mocha walls, clotted cream carpet, caramel leather sofas and dark wood furniture. But the number
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Great Opening paragraph 49… ‘A Bouquet of Barbed Wire’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It began to rain as he entered the park, but not hard enough to make him look round for a taxi. Emerging from the station, he had been tempted by a pale gleam of sunshine, sufficient to convince him of the physical benefits of walking. He needed exercise, he had decided, just as he needed fewer cigarettes and less alcohol: it was pathetic how the habits of sloth and self-indulgence crept up unnoticed, along with middle age, that unbecoming state which you did not even recognize until events brought it sharply and unkindly home to you. And now the fine spring rain, for her first day back. He pictured her with painful tenderness, suntanned and shivering, getting ready for college in the unfamiliar flat. Was he too late? Would she still be there by the time he was able to phone? He had left home an hour ahead, under Cassie’s indulgent eyes, to catch an earlier train, feeling he could only telephone properly from the office, yet not knowing what he could possibly find to say that would be sufficiently casual when he finally heard her voice.” ‘A Bouquet of Barbed Wire’ by Andrea Newman Amazon Try one of these 1st
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

IGNORING GRAVITY #49

Rose was first into the office the next morning. The movement of something pink registered in her peripheral vision: a Post-It note stuck to her phone fluttered in the breeze from the portable air conditioning unit. ‘Maggie rang,’ it read. Maggie had been in Italy on a travel assignment so she didn’t know about Nick, the kiss, about loads of things a girl’s best friend should know. They always shared. The first time Maggie had sex, the first time Rose had sex, and the time Hallam Tye knocked Rose off her bike and in recompense had invited her to the premiere of A Sunny Afternoon in the Snow which turned into an exclusive interview for Chill’s film column. What if Susan and Kate were best friends at school like Rose and Maggie ? She logged onto Friends Reunited and clicked on the drop-down index, selected the school then the year. Kate went to school with a lot of Susans. She sent 13 e-mails to the possibles. Each e-mail said the same:- “I am trying to trace a girl called Susan who was at St Augustine’s Primary and then Lady Grace’s School for Girls, Richmond, Surrey, with my mother Kate Ingram
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: All the Birds, Singing

This story by Evie Wyld is about secrets, now, in the past, in Australia, in England. The opening is shocking, a mutilated sheep, no description spared. Jack Whyte, a man’s name but a female character, feels threatened, fears the attack on the sheep is meant as a message for her. And from here the rollercoaster starts, as we follow Jack’s current grey existence with her sheep, somewhere anonymous in England, and a dog called Dog. This story is told in alternating chapters, switching between England now, and Australia then. The story in the present goes forward, in linear time, normal time. Jack’s back story in Australia, the reasons she is where she is, is told backwards. This seemed strange to start with, but the author handles this structure elegantly and it suits the sinister tone. I didn’t guess Jack’s secret, didn’t know how it would all end. There is a deep sense of foreboding throughout this book. Something happened: Jack is running from something, from someone, but what?  Are local children in England attacking her sheep, or is there a huge animal which roams at night? Why does she shun the locals? Why is she in England, so far from
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Categories: Book Love.

IGNORING GRAVITY #48

By the time she knocked at Maureen’s door at 7pm, Rose felt calmer. There was a knot in her stomach which she wasn’t sure was anticipation at solving Susan’s identity, Maureen had promised to talk about Kate and Susan, or hunger. She’d wanted to ask about Susan as soon as her foot was in the door, but hearing Diana’s voice in her head – “be polite!” – Rose devoured the dish of pasta spirals in tomato and sardine sauce which Maureen set in front of her. “I didn’t realise how hungry I was.” Rose wiped her dish clean with a chunk of crusty bread. “I love tomatoes. Any sort of tomatoes, those little plum ones are great in a salad or the big fat ones you have with mozzarella, and tomato sandwiches in the summer with a sprinkle of salt. Mmm, lovely.” “Your… “ Maureen cleared her throat before continuing, “… your mum loved tomatoes too.” She stood to clear the saucepans from the hob. “No she didn’t, they upset her stomach. Too acid.” “Not Diana. Kate.” “Oh.” To hide her confusion, Rose laid her knife and fork neatly side-by-side on the plate, imagining Kate eating pasta spirals in tomato
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Famous writers, writing… Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad said “Art is long and life is short, and success is very far off.” I write because I can’t not write. Since I could hold a pencil, I have written stories and I will die before I manage to write all the ideas in my head. Conrad knew this too. Read the opening paragraphs of The Secret Agent and Lord Jim.   ‘The Secret Agent’ by Joseph Conrad [UK: Penguin Classics] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Gregory Peck Beryl Bainbridge Jonathan Franzen And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author Joseph Conrad via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-yn
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

IGNORING GRAVITY #47

Nick. Nick. Nick. For the first morning in a week, Rose’s first waking thought was not about Kate.  His name ticked and tocked in her brain. His warm words, his soft lips as they… didn’t kiss her. Nick, who pulled away, rejected her, left without saying when… if… he would call. Rose turned the water in the shower from hot to cold and yelled so loud that Michelle and Lewis downstairs must have heard. Nick. Nick. Nick. “Pull yourself together girl.” Rose told her reflection in the glass of the shower door. ”He doesn’t fancy you.” Rose had never known a man not kiss her back, harder and insistent. What had she done wrong? What had changed? He’d wanted to kiss her, hadn’t he? Could she have misread the signs? He’d certainly led her to think he’d like it, wanted it… perhaps she’d cried too much. She made a mental note to show Nick the Strong Rose in future, the Rose she used to be before the adoption thing. Running late, there was no time for breakfast. She opened her bag and swept into it the pile from the hall table which comprised today’s paper, yesterday’s unopened post and her
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.