Monthly Archives April 2014

I agree with… Sarah Hilary

Sarah Hilary “I find research can become an obsession – and a distraction – when I’m supposed to be creating a story. That said I would never attempt a novel that touches on issues which affect so many lives without taking account of the facts and the true stories that inspire/inform the fiction.” [in an interview with ‘We Love This Book’ magazine] Debut novelist Sarah Hilary, whose first novel Someone Else’s Skin is the first in the DI Marnie Rome series, has the same problem I do. Research, too much of it. Is it essential, yes. Does it add to the story, yeesss. Can it distract from the story, yes and no. All writers have to find their own way of researching: how to, when to, how much to. Some writers I guess have a problem starting. I’m like Sarah Hilary in that I enjoy researching, I get caught up in the subject, and want to continue. I have got better at recognising the danger point, when to start writing. The biggest problem I have with research is actually as a reader, when the novel I am reading bears its research too heavily on the page. The author’s control was
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: Gone are the Leaves

I had a shaky start with this book by Anne Donovan. It is written in Scottish dialect which I could simply not ‘hear’ in my head. The thought of reading a whole book in this language was intimidating so when I got to the first, short section in the voice of the music master I welcomed it with relief. I kept having to stop and re-read a sentence, to work out what it said. I persevered, and the voice slowly started to settle in my ear. I’m glad I didn’t give up but I’m not convinced about the wisdom of writing 80% of the book in dialect. I fear a lot of readers will be lost along the way. A young French boy meets a young Scottish girl. Deirdre is a seamstress at a laird’s house in Scotland. “My father was neither owermuckle nor poor, and we were all in the service of our Laird and His Lady one way or anither, our lives thirled to theirs.” She is destined to use her skills in the convent embroidering church vestments. Feilamort is an orphan who can sing like an angel. Both must make difficult decisions about their futures. She is
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Categories: Book Love.

Famous writers, writing… Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie: “If you are to be Hercule Poirot, you must think of everything.” In other words, you’d better have thought of everything, every twist and turn, every character trait, every possible and impossible plot angle… or your readers will catch you out in unpredictability, spot your mistakes. And then there are the things that happen out of your control. So beware! Click here to read The Guardian’s article about bloopers in books… … and here to read how the UK edition of Jonathan Franzen’s Corrections had to be withdrawn from print because the wrong version was printed. Click here to read The Bookseller’s report on how Penguin had to pulp copies of Lolita because of a missing foreword.   ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ by Agatha Christie [UK: Harper] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- George Orwell Iris Murdoch John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author Agatha Christie via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-XE
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

New books coming soon

Aislinn Hunter The World Before Us, the second novel by Canadian author Aislinn Hunter, is to be published by Hamish Hamilton in spring 2015. US rights were sold previously to Hogarth in a six-figure pre-emptive deal. Jane Standen is an archivist whose research uncovers connections between the London museum where she works, a Victorian asylum in the north of England, and a country estate. Hunter’s first book, Stay [Anchor Books]) was recently adapted into a film starring Taylor Schilling and Aidan Quinn [below]. To read more about Aislinn Hunter at her website, click here Miranda Sherry A debut novel by South African author Miranda Sherry is to be published in the UK by Head Of Zeus. Black Dog Summer is set one South African summer and follows the story of a mother brutally murdered on a farmstead who then watches from the heavens as her grieving daughter moves in with her aunt’s dysfunctional family. It will be published as hardback and e-book in August 2014. Michel Faber The Book of Strange New Things is the first novel by Michel Faber since The Crimson Petal and the White more than 10 years ago. Canongate will publish the title in November this
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Categories: Book Love.

‘Ignoring Gravity’ and the oak tree

This is the oak tree on Wimbledon Common which inspired the design of Ignoring Gravity’s front cover. The tree stands alone on a quiet part of the common, tall and spreading. It must be hundreds of years old, oak trees can live in excess of 1000 years. Its canopy spreads wide and offers shelter from rain and sun. One day, as I sheltered from the rain, I noticed the pleasing effect of leaves against the sky. Next time you look at an oak tree, remember my front cover design! To read what other readers are saying about Ignoring Gravity, click here.   ‘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: A #tree on the front cover: IGNORING GRAVITY #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-Y9 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity' and On Writing.

Book review: Citadel

I read a lot of books. Amongst those with the strongest sense of place, the ones that linger in my imagination, are the Languedoc trilogy by Kate Mosse. Citadel, the third novel in the series, is set in ad342 and 1942 during World War Two. Unusually with a trilogy, you don’t have to have read the other two books in order to enjoy this one. Certainly it is some years since I read Labyrinth and Sepulchre and the details are hazy, each book stands on its own. I enjoyed this book immensely. The story centres on a small group of women who fight against the Nazi regime and who, by the very fact that they are women, are able to slip unnoticed along the night-time streets of occupied Carcassonne. The Prologue describes ‘the woman known as Sophie’ and the reader is left to wonder, which of the women in the story is ‘Sophie’? I must point out that the story is slow to get going, I had to be patient, but I trusted Mosse [below]. It did make me question whether my attention span is shortening, I hope not. If it is I must read longer novels to re-stretch my
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Categories: Book Love.

Jane Cable reviews ‘Ignoring Gravity’

“What really sets this novel apart is the author’s descriptive skill.” Jane Cable [below], author of ‘The Cheesemaker’s House’ “By tackling the ever popular themes of adoption and infertility, Sandra Danby’s Ignoring Gravity is mining a rich vein in women’s fiction and is bound to appeal. But her take on these painful subjects is somewhat original and her story has an unexpected twist in the tail. “Rose Haldane discovers she is adopted when she and her sister Lily are clearing out their mother’s belongings after her death. Rose, a journalist, sets out to discover her natural parents and Danby keeps you turning the pages as Rose’s past gradually unfolds. Meanwhile Lily is forced to come to terms with the fact that her failure to conceive may be more do with her genes than her diet or her uncooperative husband. “What really sets this novel apart is the author’s descriptive skill. As a reader, you are at Rose’s elbow on the floor of her mother’s bedroom; you can taste her grandmother’s homemade cake and feel her tears. There are moments of lightness too, wry smiles created as Danby brings Rose’s frenetic working environment to life and when Lily discovers her husband’s
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Why I started blogging… with thanks to Pineapple Express

Christmas 2012. I googled myself one day, as you do. It was some time since I’d done this, the last search had yielded results including freelance articles written for magazines ranging from The Bookseller to Furniture News, Allergy magazine to What Mortgage? This time: nothing. Well, not quite nothing. I have a very unusual surname which means there aren’t many people out there called Sandra Danby for me to be mistaken for. Except one entry was repeated. Click here to see it. Sandra Danby is a character in a movie called Pineapple Express. Once I’d got over the shock that my name was deemed glamorous enough to be a character in a film, I started to get worried. Exactly what sort of film was it? Something about the title suggested it might be a little saucy. Actually it isn’t, it’s an action/comedy/crime movie about a process server and his marijuana dealer who go on the run after he witnesses his dealer’s boss murder a competitor. The film stars James Franco and Seth Rogen, so it can’t all be bad. My part is played by actress Jeanetta Arnette [below], it’s a small part, basically she just has some papers served on her and
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Categories: On Writing.

Writing is left-brained

I’ve been writing professionally for 32 years and privately since I was four, and so being asked to stop and think about how I write is a challenge. It’s become left-brained, like tying my shoelaces or reversing the car. So when Andrea Stephenson of Harvesting Hecate invited me to share my writing process at this blog hop, I took the opportunity to look back. First, a bit about Andrea. Click here to find out how she writes. She has written fiction since she was a child, but has written seriously for a number of years, including short stories and The Skin of a Selkie, her first (as yet unpublished) novel.  She feels that she reached a happy turning point in her creative life just over a year ago when, having had little success before, she won prizes in two writing competitions within a month of each other.  She went on to start her blog and has never felt more inspired creatively. Andrea finds inspiration in nature, the coastline and the turn of the seasons.  She believes we all need a little enchantment in our lives, so her stories tend to include a hint of magic.  During the day, Andrea manages a
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Categories: On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 54… ‘The Great Fortune’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Somewhere near Venice, Guy began talking with a heavy, elderly man, a refugee from Germany on his way to Trieste. Guy asked questions. The refugee eagerly replied. Neither seemed aware when the train stopped. In the confusion of a newly created war, the train was stopping every twenty minutes or so. Harriet looked out and saw girders, darker than the twilit darkness, holding an upper rail. Between the girders a couple fumbled and struggled, every now and then thrusting a foot or an elbow out into the light that fell from the carriage windows. Beyond the girders water glinted, reflecting the phosphorescent globes lighting the high rail.” ‘The Great Fortune’ by Olivia Manning, from ‘The Balkan Trilogy’ Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘I’ll Take You There’ by Joyce Carol Oates ‘A Severed Head’ by Iris Murdoch ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A great 1st para: FORTUNES OF WAR by Olivia Manning #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-mx via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

The Parliament Award… no it’s not what you think

No, I am not running as a Member of Parliament. I do not have the patience, I blush and say ‘um’ too much when public speaking, and I am not good at dissembling. So I make things up instead and write about them. This is an award about loyalty but this time it is my loyalty being recognised: as a reader of blogs and supporter of writers! I love reading about writing and reading, of course, but also photography, cookery, travel and my favourite sport, tennis and I regularly read blogs written by writers in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand, Taiwan, India, France, Holland, Germany, Spain and loads of other countries. My thanks go to Karen Oberlaender at My Train of Thoughts for nominating me for this award. Karen is a confessed book addict who reads… and reads… and reads. The Rules for this award are as follows: First, display the Award on your blog; List a few things that make you a loyal member; Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog; Nominate at least five well-deserving bloggers whose loyalty and love you value and consider part of your Parliament and Pack; for
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#WritingPrompt Writers’ BLOCKbusters… grassy

Grass… green, mown, scent, brown, long, short… 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 ‘grassy’ and that you write about a completely different subject. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other writing prompts:- Green Apples Plastic Bag 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
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

The sunny, Sunshine Award

This is a very pretty award logo, it makes me smile and I think the title is very apt. Thank you so much to Cay at Life of Chi for the nomination. Cay is originally from Norway so English is not her mother tongue, she claims her vocabulary is limited and to be a terrible speller, but I would never have guessed she was not English. Her novel, Life of Chi is being published in short instalments on her blog Life of Chi. In accepting the award I have to answer these questions:- What is the weirdest food you have ever eaten? Don’t be daft, I don’t eat weird food: I’m a vegetarian [okay, I do eat fish]. What is your biggest accomplishment? Finishing Ignoring Gravity and planning a series of novels to follow it, all about Rose Haldane, identity detective. It’s been a long time in the planning. What is your biggest regret? Not taking a year out between A’levels and university to travel the world. I started travelling in my mid-20s as a journalist but, on reflection, I think I missed out. I had to wait many years to make it to The Maldives [below] but it was
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Categories: On Writing.

Book review: Wolf

I am new to Mo Hayder and her detective Jack Caffrey so didn’t know what to expect. This was a spine-tingling ride from page 1. I read the book over two days, putting it down for a break but unable to resist picking it up again. I do not like being frightened but I do like tension, and Hayder knows her subject her so well that I could feel the depth of her knowledge behind every word. So from the disturbing beginning with five-year-old Amy who gets lost in the woods, I stuck with it. And I am glad I did. I will now go back to the beginning and read her debut novel Birdman, the first in the Jack Caffrey series. Wolf is the seventh. The story centres on the Anchor-Ferrers family: Oliver who has just had heart surgery, replacing a heart valve with that of a pig; his wife Matilda; and troubled daughter Lucia. Oliver needs to convalesce after his surgery and so the family go to their isolated country house, the location 14 years previously of the murder of two teenagers, one of them Lucia’s boyfriend. The house and the family’s memories of what happened are central
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Categories: Book Love.

Applying the rules of art to writing: learn to speak about your work

“This not only helps those who are looking at your work to understand what you are trying to achieve but also is critical to your own understanding of what you are doing. Avoid trying to interpret your own motivations or what may lie behind your work. This is an invitation to mislead yourself or read into the work something that is not there. The work is the starting point, and ending point, of its content.” Excerpt from ‘101 Things to Learn in Art School’ by Kit White We writers are good at being on our own, developing our ideas in isolation, so it does not come naturally to talk freely about our work. But we must, in order to get it published and to promote it. “What’s it about,” is the first question an interviewer will ask. “What inspired you?” is the next question. If we don’t know the answers, we will feel stupid and look stupid and the overall impression will be that we and our work is stupid. Kit White’s advice to artists holds true too for writers. Thankfully as an editor I had to do a fair bit of public speaking, at conferences, at training groups, radio
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Categories: On Writing.

Choosing music for the book trailer

The one element of making Ignoring Gravity‘s book trailer which I thought would be easy turned out to be the most time-consuming. Music. Simple, I thought, something thoughtful, a modern take on classical. This was just before the Oscars and I read an article in the newspaper about the composer who was nominated for the soundtrack to Gravity, Stephen Price who happens to live a few miles from me. So I looked him up on Linked In which immediately informed me that one of my friends knows Stephen. The wonder of online networking! I’ve nothing to lose, I decided, he might win the Oscar and want to help out a local writer. An e-mail exchange later confirmed my friend doesn’t know Stephen Price after all, but does know Gavin Greenaway, another local conductor/composer who might be able to help. It turned out that Gavin’s non-assigned tracks were too ‘bombastic’ for my needs, but he kindly gave me some sound advice about sourcing music online. He pointed me towards Audio Network where you can license a track from the hundreds available for £95 plus VAT. Another friend recommended Sound Cloud. I spent one weekend listening to tracks on both websites and
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Categories: Book Love, Book publicity and On Writing.

Book review: The Accident

This is the story of an abusive relationship, an accident and a mental breakdown. The action takes place in 1990-1992 and the present day. The tension winds up in both strands so you don’t want to put down the book. I found myself picking up my Kindle every spare five minutes, just to read a few more pages. The Accident by CL Taylor has a sense of expectant horror: ‘surely that’s not going to happen’, ‘surely she’s not going to do this, or that’. Charlotte, the fifteen year old daughter of Sue and Brian Jackson, is in a coma. Apparently she stepped off the pavement in front of a bus. As Sue and Brian sit by their daughter’s hospital bed, they disagree about what happened. Brian thinks it’s an accident, Sue worries Charlotte had some sort of problem she couldn’t discuss with her parents. And so begins the re-telling of Sue’s dark past, about the demons she struggles with, and the determination she has to fight the past interfering with her present life. The unravelling of the truth puts pressure on the Jacksons’ marriage and Sue’s sanity. The two parents deal with the tragedy in their own way and Sue,
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Categories: Book Love.

I’m NOT Freshly Pressed… again!

There’s a bit of a trend going now with bloggers becoming a little outspoken about the WordPress ‘Freshly Pressed’ feed on the Reader Channel. How does it work? The subjects today [ie. the day I wrote this post] included Rwanda, tattoos, fictional heroines, diversity, poetry, war and Mozilla Firefox. I want to be there too! My nomination for this award comes from Karen Oberlaender at My Train of Thoughts. Karen is the top commentator on my writing blog, so thanks Karen for reading and getting involved in dialogue, not just clicking the ‘like’ button! Directions for you to accept the “I’m NOT Featured On Freshly Pressed Award”:- Select the blog(s) you think deserve the “The I’m NOT Featured on Freshly Pressed Award”. Write a blog post and tell us the blog(s) you have chosen – there are no minimum or maximum number of blogs required and ‘present’ the blog(s) with their award. Include in your blog post a paragraph about why you’d like to be on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed OR a paragraph on why you couldn’t care less about Freshly Pressed. Up to you … Let the blog(s) that you have chosen know that you have given them this award
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.