Monthly Archives July 2014

I agree with… Val McDermid

Val McDermid “If I published my first three novels now, I wouldn’t have a career because no-one would publish my fourth novel based on the sales of my first three… Back in the day when I started you were still allowed to make mistakes, you got to make your mistakes in public, in a way. I think the world was a more forgiving place when I started my career [in 1987], in the sense that we got time and space to develop as a writer. That is definitely something that wouldn’t happen now. No-one will say, ‘Write half a dozen novels and find yourself’… If you don’t make the best-seller list, if you don’t get shortlisted for any prizes, it’s goodbye.” Val McDermid has sold 10 million books. Her first crime novel, Report for Murder, was published by Women’s Press in 1987 and was to be the first of a series about freelance journalist Lindsay Gordon. She wrote a crime novel, because she enjoyed reading them. McDermid went on to write the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series. She is a highly-decorated and respected author. So for her to say she doesn’t think she would make it today as a
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Hidden Assassins

The pace of this thriller by Robert Wilson does not stop. The setting: Seville, Spain. The beginning: a mutilated corpse is found on a rubbish dump. The first turning point: an explosion at a block of flats turns out to be a terrorism attack on the mosque in the basement. Or is it? Detective Javier Falcón is swept along by the media circus and political panic as fear of a widescale attack on Andalucía grips Spain. This is the third of Wilson’s four-book series about Falcón and the story twists and turns relentlessly. The plotting is excellent, I challenge you to work out the answers. As Javier unravels the knots you don’t know what to believe and neither does he. I am fascinated by the insight into Falcón’s life provided by glimpses of his cooking. His housekeeper leaves his food in the fridge for him to prepare in the evening. He is something of a cook. “Encarnación had left him some fresh pork fillet. He made a salad and sliced up some potatoes and the meat. He smashed up some cloves of garlic, threw them into the frying pan with the pork fillet and chips. He dashed some cheap whisky
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Good Girl

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica starts with a missing girl, woman really, though we first hear the news of the disappearance of Mia Dennett from her mother’s point of view. And to her mother, Mia is still a girl though she is a schoolteacher. Detective Gabe Hoffman is bemused that Mia’s parents don’t seem to visit their daughter’s apartment. And then, the time shifts and it is after Mia’s return and we are with Mia and her parents on the way to psychiatrist. Amnesia. Mia cannot remember what happened. And so the story is pieced together. Mia’s kidnap is told from multiple viewpoints; before, during and after the event over a winter in Chicago. Everyone in this dysfunctional family seems to have their own agenda. But Mia cannot remember what happened in that cabin where she was held captive by a man called Owen for three months. The setting of the Minnesota cabin in winter is so clearly drawn I could be there, a mixture of beautiful, intimidating and claustrophobic. The eerie quiet, the ice fishing, the extreme cold. The feeling of being trapped, in more ways than one. Mary Kubica handles the transition of the kidnap relationship so
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 57… ‘The Philosopher’s Pupil’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“A few minutes before his brainstorm, or whatever it was, took place, George McCaffrey was having a quarrel with his wife. It was eleven o’clock on a rainy March evening. They had been visiting George’s mother. Now George was driving along the quayside, taking the short-cut along the canal past the iron foot-bridge. It was raining hard. The malignant rain rattled on the car like shot. Propelled in oblique flurries, it assaulted the windscreen, obliterating in a second the frenetic strivings of the windscreen wipers. Little demonic faces composed of racing raindrops appeared and vanished. The intermittent yellow light of the street lamps, illuminating the grey atoms of the storm, fractured in sudden stars upon the rain-swarmed glass. Bumping on cobbles the car hummed and drummed.” ‘The Philosopher’s Pupil’ by Iris Murdoch Amazon   Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Couples’ by John Updike ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn ‘The Collector’ by John Fowles And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A great 1st para: THE PHILOSOPHER’S PUPIL by Iris Murdoch #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-mf via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Beekeeper’s Daughter

I haven’t read a book by Santa Montefiore before, and if I’d seen the cover in a shop I doubt I would have picked it up: flowers, soft focus woman in a flowing dress. A bit twee for me. But I didn’t see the cover, I downloaded it from Net Galley. And it just goes to show how a cover can deter as well as attract, because I enjoyed the book. In a ‘I need an unchallenging read for a hot summer day when my brain isn’t fully-functioning’ kind of way. I was 75% of the way through the book before I worked out why I was slightly dissatisfied, and I emphasize the ‘slightly’. Something was missing: context. The bees are drawn beautifully, the description of bees, the beekeeping, their role in Grace’s life. I could not say the same for the World War Two strand, in which war was a distant event: the women take over work at the Hall, and they have plenty of vegetables to eat. Likewise the Seventies, lightly drawn with sweeping pencil strokes. That’s why for me, the book is a lightweight read although it examines heavyweight topics and the characterization is strong. So I
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

The Twitter Report

Aah, Twitter… how shall I count the ways? Five months tweeting… 877 tweets tweeted, more than some [I mean JK] but a lot less than others. 629 tweeters followed, mostly authors, journalists, book world people, Andy Murray and Yorkshire Tea. No free teabags yet… For future reference, in case we meet, I’m a Tiffie [tea in first] not a Miffie [milk in first]. I was brought up as a Miffie but have been served too many cups of weak tea in my life to put up with it any longer. So I did a U-turn and have never looked back. 343 tweeters following me. Thank you if you are one of them [you will know that my tweets are different from my blog]. Stay with me, this is where it gets interesting. My followers include… Friends and family [of course]… Writers [I know, I don’t know, I admire, I long to have written the books they have written]… Book lovers [they make my world go around]… Poets [a beautiful way to give my brain a rest from writing]… Lots of people who want to promote my book, for a small fee [uhm, I didn’t know there were so many out
Read More

Categories: Book publicity.

#WritingPrompt Writers’ BLOCKbusters… compost

Let this #FirstPara writing prompt from Writers’ BLOCKbusters get you started writing today. Study the photograph, then use the sentence below as the beginning of a new short story. “She didn’t stop to wonder how she got this low, she just grabbed the tomato cores and salad onion stalks and crammed them into her mouth.” © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other writing prompts:- Bookshelf Plastic Bag 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. 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 am not looking over your shoulder. Ebooks coming in 2019 at Amazon… Writers’ BLOCKbusters:
Read More

Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

Book review: The Queen of the Tearling

Neither when I chose this book to review, nor when I started reading it, did I know that this was the next best thing. That David Heyman [producer of the Harry Potter films] and Emma Watson [Hermione] are already in pre-production with the film for Warner Brothers. That the author Erika Johansen signed a gazillion dollar deal for the seven-book series. I didn’t know. And I loved it. It’s a ripping adventure story which feels like a medieval tale except for the occasional references to plastic surgery, Harry Potter and mascara. For a debut, it is skilfully handled. This is a dystopian society, post-something [an un-named event] which caused people to feel their homeland [an un-named country] in The Crossing [across an ocean, as a boat was lost] to their new land of the Tearling [on an unspecified continent]. Behind them they left science, books, medicine, education, art, television, you name it they left it behind. They fight with knives and swords. Into this context is thrown a 19-year old girl, raised in secrecy by an elderly couple in rural seclusion. She must become queen of her mother’s nation or it will be lost to the evil ruler of the neighbouring
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Ways of the World

I was a fan as soon as I read Robert Goddard’s first novel, Past Caring, published in 1986. He is a hard-working author, producing regular novels, and I admit I got out of the habit of buying them. Until The Corners of the Globe. I started reading, realised it was part two of a series, and promptly ordered book one on Kindle, the quickest way of getting it. The Ways of the World didn’t let me down, not for nothing is Robert Goddard called ‘the king of the triple-cross’. In buying the book, I inadvertently read the reviews on Amazon, something I always try to avoid if I plan to review a book on my blog. I’d rather make up my own mind. Some of the reviews were mixed but I have to say I didn’t find this slow-going at all, perhaps it can be explained by the fact that this is the first of a series and therefore the plotting is intricate. The first book in a series must always include a fair amount of ‘setting-up’, what Christopher Vogler calls ‘The Ordinary World’. Perhaps the reviewer who thought the book slow-going didn’t get beyond that Ordinary World. Goddard, though,
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

My favourite book blogs – part 2

Part of the pleasure of reading a good book, is identifying the next one. That’s why I love book blogs. A month ago I gave you the names of a few of my favourite book blogs, here’s part 2 of that list. It is a list changing every day as I stumble upon blogs for the first time. If you have a favourite book blog, please let me know. I am always on the lookout for a reason to buy more books! Cleopatra Loves Books was one of the first book bloggers to follow my writing blog in its early days. Cleo Bannister’s blog remains a firm favourite. I ALWAYS discover new books I want to read here. Cleo costs me a lot of money! Since Corri van de Stege retired from a career in education consultancy, all she has done is read and write. The result is her blog 51 Stories, no listing here but a conversational style which draws you in. And she doesn’t ignore the classics or older books, she reviews as a reader reads, choosing the next book she fancies from the pile. No blog tours or cover reveals here, just a gentle meander through the bookshelves. Follow
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

The angel statue, again

There’s a scene in Ignoring Gravity where Rose has an important letter to open. Prevaricating, she sits on a bench beside a memorial to contemplating life. The memorial, a statue of an angel, is based on a real statue near Sadler’s Wells opera house in Islington, London [above], in a small garden called Spa Green. Rose sits and watches the pigeons. I revisited Spa Green recently, and it hasn’t changed. The pigeons are still there, the statue, and the primary school next door, children running around the tarmac. The buildings do look rather different, the road is gentrified and the beaten-up shops I remember are now replaced by a trendy wine bar.  To read what book bloggers are saying about Ignoring Gravity, click here and read a sample chapter.   ‘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: Inspired by real life: the angel statue in IGNORING GRAVITY #writing http://wp.me/p5gEM4-17X via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: Book Love, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity', On Researching and On Writing.

Book review: One False Move

A strapline across the top of the front cover says ‘A Myron Bolitar novel’. It meant nothing to me. I have never heard of Myron Bolitar. I have heard of Harlan Coben though, but know nothing about him except that he writes crime books and is extremely popular. His name sounds Scandinavian, but this is US crime not Scandi-crime. The book’s been sitting on my bookshelf for ages, a charity shop purchase, waiting for the battery of my Kindle to flicker and die. It died, so I picked up One False Move and read it in two days. Mr Coben sure knows how to make you turn the pages. He nails a character description in a few sparse lines: “Norm Zuckerman was approaching seventy and as CEO of Zoom, a megasize sports manufacturing conglomerate, he had more money than Trump. He looked, however, like a beatnik trapped in a bad acid trip… Che Guevara lives and gets a perm.” So we have Norm’s name, job, professional standing, age, physical description, financial worth and personal style – in three sentences. Bolivar is a sports agent. There seemed to be all sorts of back story going on which meant nothing to me
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

I agree with… Chris Cleave

Chris Cleave “I was the last generation of writers given one chance; the generation before had two chances; the generation now doesn’t have a chance… More writers need to celebrate new writers: This is my protege, I want you to read their books. In music, artists feature less well-known artists on their album, to bring people on – they need help. I’ve never seen an author pick up a major prize and say, Now you are listening to me, you should read X, Y and Z.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, July 7, 2014] Cleave spoke to The Bookseller as chairman of the judging panel for the 2014 Desmond Elliott Prize, awarded to Eimear McBride. Publishers’ margins today make it difficult for them to take risks, Cleave said, and that the nine years it took the multi-award winning McBride to get published is a wake-up call for the book publishing industry. He called on established authors to support each other, particularly newcomers, and to turn away from the selfishness he sees in the business now. “Established authors are starting to develop a real career mentality. There’s a lot of selfishness, a lot of people have lost sight of
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Flash Fiction: Stone

Joanna stood like a human pebble amongst the ebb and flow of the tourist tide on the roof of the Reichstag. She’d bought a £39 flight to Berlin and got on the plane the very same afternoon, something she’d never done before. She was giddy with bravery. And now she was here, with Berlin at her feet. So far she had eaten currywurst – a disappointing long sausage with curry sauce on the side, rather than the curry-flavoured sausage she had expected – she’d been on a boat trip down the Spree, walked through Checkpoint Charlie which was a street filled with tacky souvenir shops – not like the films at all – and she’d plucked up the courage to ask a stranger to take her photograph outside the Brandenburg Gate. He was Japanese, she thought, or possibly Chinese, but he smiled a lot and seemed to know more about how her camera worked than she did. She had managed to say danke schön, which afterwards she realised the tourist wouldn’t have understood. And now she was standing on top of Berlin. Her nose felt hot, she hoped it wasn’t red. September in Berlin was hotter than September in Leeds,
Read More

Categories: My Flash Fiction.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Elegy’

Today’s poem to read in your bath is about timeless love that persists beyond death. ‘Elegy’ by Carol Ann Duffy is from her anthology Rapture, published in 2005, before she was appointed Poet Laureate in 2009. Her poetry is at once instantly accessible, and bears deep consideration. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Elegy’ Who’ll know then, when they walk by the grave where your bones will be brittle things – this bone here that swoops away from your throat, and this, which perfectly fits the scoop of my palm, and these which I count with my lips, and your skull, which blooms on the pillow now, and your fingers, beautiful in their little rings – that love, which wanders history, singled you out in your time? The love, the longing, the wistfulness, brings tears to my eyes. Click here to visit Carol Ann Duffy’s website. Listen here to Carol Ann Duffy interviewed by The Guardian after her appointment as Poet Laureate.   ‘Rapture’ by Carol Ann Duffy [UK: Picador]  Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to
Read More

Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

#Writingprompt Writers’ BLOCKbusters… evidence

Feeling a bit braindeadtoday? Try using this #FirstPara writing prompt from Writers’ BLOCKbusters. Study the photograph, then use the sentence below as the beginning of a new crime story.“The police bagged it as evidence.” © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other writing prompts:- Belisha Beacon Compost Moon Rocks  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 am not looking over your shoulder. Ebooks coming in 2019 at Amazon… Writers’ BLOCKbusters: #500 FirstParas Writers’ BLOCKbusters: #500 FlashPics Writers’ BLOCKbusters: #500 WordStorms Can’t wait? Feeling uninspired today? Don’t know what to write about? Try Writers’
Read More

Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

How to Get Ahead: Sarah Sands

Sarah Sands “I keep work and home entirely separate… Keep emotions out of the workplace. You should always be civil and considerate to your colleagues, as it’s not the place for emotional dramas and hurt feelings.” [Sarah Sands, quote from ‘Grazia’ magazine January 18, 2010] Journalist Sarah Sands was editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper. I think her advice works for everyone, including writers who work at home and freelancers who fly from one office to another. We all work with colleagues, whether we communicate with them face-to-face, by e-mail or telephone. It does concern me that communication by text or social media – particularly Twitter – is open to emotional response simply because of the limit on word count. Never type in an e-mail/text/tweet something you would not say to someone’s face. When I first became a magazine editor and had to manage staff for the first time, I pinned this to my corkboard where I could see it: Honey achieves more than Vinegar. I don’t know the derivation of the saying, it may be an old proverb. There is an American version: “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” I’m not sure about the
Read More

Categories: On Writing.

#FlashPIC 2 Arrivals Board #writingprompt #amwriting

As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbuster series, here is a writing prompt to kick start a flash fiction story. You can simply use the photo to energise your writing, or use some of the following phrases:- Arrivals Departures On time Delayed Digital Via Destination Journey Train No way back Return ticket Timetable © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Looking over the parapet Stairs to who knows where Between the train seats 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 am not looking over your shoulder.   Ebooks coming in 2019 at
Read More

Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

I agree with… Chris Pavone

“My intention with the book was always to put ordinary people into extraordinary situations. I think there is a remarkable amount of fiction that is about incredible, superheroic people doing these amazing things that strain credulity to the point where I don’t want to read them. My books are about people who could be your neighbours who suddenly find themselves in these incredible situations.” Chris Pavone talking about ‘The Accident’, in an interview with ‘Kirkus Reviews’ [March 10, 2014] And that, I think, is what makes readers identify with literary characters: that they are ordinary people. That’s why Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey – a book that should be on the shelf of every novelist and writer of screenplays – advocates establishing the protagonist’s ‘ordinary world’ before the main action starts. It is difficult, reading The Accident, to accept that he has read little crime fiction but Pavone has worked in book publishing in the US for 20 years as an editor at Clarkson Potter specialising in cookbooks. So something must have rubbed off. To read my review of The Accident, click here. To read the full article at Kirkus Reviews, click here. To read an excerpt of The Accident,
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Long Lost Family: Laurence’s story

Today’s adoption story from the UK television series Long Lost Family focuses on a birth child who searched for many years for his birth mother but never found her. The sense of rejection never left this 55-year old lorry driver from Chesterfield. Laurence Peat says “I’ve only ever cried three times in my life. When Dad died. When Mum died. When I got divorced.” Crying is not a problem to Laurence by the end of this programme. He was told he was adopted when he was seven. “We’re not your real parents,” his adoptive parents told him and he asked no questions, not wanting to upset them. “I don’t like people being upset,” he explains. For years he searched secretly for his birth parents, now that both his adoptive parents are dead he feels able to be open about his search, open about his need to ask ‘why?’ “Why did she put me up for adoption at that early age… If you’re not wanted, it hurts.” Sadly for Laurence, his birth mother is found to be dead. But he has a half-sister who, from a box of family photographs kept by her mother, produces a black-and-white photo of an unidentified
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Researching.