Monthly Archives August 2014

#FlashPIC 3 Belisha Beacon #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:- Orange Warning Road Traffic Impact Flashing Black and White Beacon Zebra Bang Crash Skid © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPIC writing prompts:- Death Valley Moon rocks Plastic bag 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
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

Applying the rules of art to writing: making art is an act of discovery

“If you are dealing only with what you know, you may not be doing your job. When you discover something new, or surprise yourself, you are engaging in the process of discovery.” Excerpt from ‘101 Things to Learn in Art School’ by Kit White So this is clear: push the boundaries. I agree with this to a certain degree. Familiar can be safe, predictable and boring on the page.  If you discover something new, something that excites you, and you can transfer this to the page, then you stand a better chance of exciting your readers too. I’ve been learning about art, as research for my character Justine Tree in Connectedness. I know a bit about art but definitely have my comfort zone. So I’ve been making a conscious effort to visit exhibitions of artists I know nothing about, styles I am unfamiliar with. Shows I’ve been to include Damien Hirst, Leonardo da Vinci, Paul Klee, Joan Miró, Constable Gainsborough Turner and Kurt Schwitters [top]. I have my member’s card for the Tate, the Royal Academy and the V&A. I eat cake in their members’ rooms, I know the location of the ladies loos. What have I learned? I’ve certainly
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Categories: My Novel: 'Connectedness' and On Writing.

Book review: Or the Bull Kills You

This is the first of the stories by Jason Webster about Spanish detective Max Cámara. The setting is Valencia during Fallas, the five-day festival of fireworks and bonfires. A bullfighter is murdered, a controversial bullfighter, in a city undergoing local elections and with a strong anti-taurino lobby. Webster has chosen his setting well, Valencia is a noisy, shouting, breathing presence on every page. The bullfighting is strange, a world of customs and special language, its symbolism machismo. Into the middle of all this walks the Fallas-hating, bullfight-disapproving detective who’s having a difficult time with his girlfriend. And he’s being reviewed at work for his behaviour in a previous case. Is there one killer or two, and what about the dead bullfighter’s artist boyfriend and his very-public fiancé? Webster [above] keeps the page turning with ease. To learn more about Jason Webster’s fiction and non-fiction books, visit his website here. To take a video tour of Jason Webster’s Valencia, click here. If you like ‘Or the Bull Kills You’, try the other Max Cámara novels:- ‘A Death in Valencia’ #2 by Jason Webster ‘The Anarchist Detective’ #3 by Jason Webster ‘Blood Med’ #4 by Jason Webster ‘Or the Bull Kills You’, Max Cámara
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 58… ‘Possession’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The book was thick and black and covered with dust. Its boards were bowed and creaking; it had been maltreated in its own time. Its spine was missing, or rather protruded from amongst the leaves like a bulky marker. It was bandaged about and about with dirty white tape, tied in a neat bow. The librarian handed it to Roland Michell, who was sitting waiting for it in the Reading Room of the London Library. It had been exhumed from Locked Safe no.5 where it usually stood between Pranks of Priapus and The Grecian Way of Love. It was ten in the morning, one day in September 1986. Roland had the small single table he liked best, behind a square pillar, with the clock over the fireplace nevertheless in full view. To his right, was a high sunny window, through which you could see the high green leaves of St James’s Square.” ‘Possession’ by AS Byatt Amazon   Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Philosopher’s Pupil’ by Iris Murdoch ‘Astonishing Splashes of Colour’ by Clare Morrall ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Famous people, reading… Jerry Lewis

Jerry Lewis “I’ve had great success being a total idiot.” This must be a still from a movie: Jerry Lewis is reading ‘Income Tax Regulations’. The message here, I think, is  find what you’re good at and stick to it. He won a BAFTA Supporting Actor award for his role as talk show host Jerry Langford in Martin Scorsese’s 1983 movie The King of Comedy, opposite Robert de Niro. Click here for an excellent NY Times review of The King of Comedy on You Tube. See these other famous people, reading & writing:- William Golding Marilyn Monroe Jack Nicholson And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Jerry Lewis #reading ‘Income Tax Regulations’ #films via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-11F
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I’m inspired!

We all need to experience at least one inspiring thing every day. Inspiration makes the world go around. Small things inspire me… the sunshine, a smile, a piece of music by Mozart. So thanks to writer Julie Stock for nominating me for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I am inspired every day by things I read in the newspaper, in novels, online, and am pleased my blog inspires Julie in return. Please click here to read seven facts about Julie and learn more about her novel. The rules for this award are:- Thank and link to the person who nominated you. List the rules and display the award. Share seven facts about yourself. Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated. Optional: follow the blogger who nominated you, if you don’t already do so. Here are seven new facts about me… short, sharp and sweet! Danby is a small village [above] on the North Yorkshire Moors… … near Danby Low Moor [below] Middle name? I don’t have one. My best subject at school was Geography. The subject I loved most at school was English I call a spade, a spade. When
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Cardturner

This is a book about bridge. The card game. And it’s also a book, by Louis Sachar, about relationships. Alton, a seventeen-year-old is tasked by his mother of ‘keeping in’ with his rich blind uncle Lester Trapp by driving him to bridge club in the hope that Trapp will remember their family in his will. What starts as an arduous weekly task becomes a new hobby for Alton as he is caught up by the game of bridge, his uncle and the mysteries of his life. It is a story about friendship between the generations, all brought together by the game of bridge. Alton doesn’t care about his uncle’s will, he just wants to play bridge better. And get to know his cousin Toni better too. Alton is his uncle’s cardturner, he sits beside him at the bridge table and plays the cards his uncle tells him to. I am not a card player and I have to say I skipped some bits, but Louis Sachar [below] allows you to do this: he bookends ‘bridge technique’ sections with a line drawing of a whale so you know you are safe to skip a bit and won’t miss the plot. For
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Categories: Book Love.

#WritingPrompt Writers’ BLOCKbusters… run

Run… competition, striding, marathon, running, dribbling, flee, organise… 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 ‘run’ and that you write about a completely different subject. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other writing prompts:- Oak Bookshelf Deckchairs 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
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

Book review: Love and Eskimo Snow

This is a novel about the nature of love and its different forms. It begins with death. Bea Bridges is killed in a car crash. Sarah Holt tells the story of Bea’s childhood retrospectively, interwoven with the love lives of three other women – Missy, Claire and Elizabeth – from childhood crush to first kiss, friendship, first love and lust. I waited for the women’s’ lives to connect, were they all connected with the car crash? When the strands did combine, it wasn’t what I expected. It is an interesting study of the different types of love. Bea: the unqualified, un-questioning love of a child for her parents. Missy: a nurturing love for her boyfriend Lee who is a trifle chauvinistic about her needs and his needs. Elizabeth: who meets fellow student Joey and loves him as a brother and best friend. Claire: sexual attraction, masquerading as love. It is a cleverly structured debut novel, Holt [below] is a former journalist, with an intriguing title. The Sami Eskimos have around 200 different words for snow: wet snow, slippery snow, icy snow. Holt doesn’t find 200 meanings of love, but she does examine how love varies from relationship to relationship, person
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Categories: Book Love.

A Woman’s Wisdom reviewing ‘Ignoring Gravity’

“I really liked this story.  Sandra Danby deals with the emotions surrounding grief, adoption and infertility with a deep understanding of the emotions involved,” says book reviewer A Woman’s Wisdom. Read the full review by A Woman’s Wisdom. For what other readers are saying about Ignoring Gravity, click here. Read my author interview with A Woman’s Wisdom.   ‘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: Review of IGNORING GRAVITY by @bodiciasapple http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1c6 via @SandraDanby #books
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

A gradual coming together

I think it was Stephen King who said his ideas come in bits and pieces over years, all nonsense, until one day something clicks and he adds together a bit of this and a bit of that, and he has the outline of a novel. It’s a bit like that for me, a gradual coming together. Thanks to Cay at Life of Chi, for nominating me for this blog tour about how we writers, write. She is 150,000 words into the first draft of her novel, and still writing! How do you start your writing projects? My current project Connectedness is the second novel in the series about Rose Haldane, identity detective. Having solved the mystery of her own adoption, she is asked by a famous artist to find the baby she gave away for adoption. I knew before I finished the first book about Rose, Ignoring Gravity, that I would write more about adoption. Connectedness is not a sequel, although there are some continuing characters. So oddly there was no actual ‘start point’, I just started jotting down thoughts in an ‘Ideas’ document. At that point, the book was called ‘Rose2’. Then when I found myself at a natural break in
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Ignorance of Blood

A car accident. Millions of euros. A Russian gangster drinking champagne in the middle of nowhere. The opening scene of this, the fourth in the quartet of books featuring Seville detective Javier Falcón, does not disappoint. The intricate plotting by Robert Wilson is spot-on. I read this book voraciously as Falcón struggles to get to the whole truth, admiring the way the author weaves together the story strands from the preceding three books so that at the end you understand though you did not guess. I did not get the ending right, I expected something different. There are moments when you wonder if Javier can continue, will he step over to the dark side, will his emotional strength desert him? This is the most international of the four books, with Javier travelling to London and Morocco but Seville retains its hot sultry presence. I can smell the dusty heat of the evening where the detectives seem to exist on coffee and cruelty lays just out of sight. I’m sorry this is a short review, I can’t write more without giving away the plot. There were moments when I wanted to shout ‘don’t do it’ and others when I thought with
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Categories: Book Love.

Meet my character: blog tour

What a wonderful idea for a blog tour, focussing on the people that really matter: not the authors, but our characters. I could write about Rose Haldane all day long… aah, I do! So thanks to Judith Frances Field for asking me to take part in this blog tour. First I need to tell you about Judith. Born in Liverpool and living in London, Judith is the daughter of writers. This means she learned how to agonize over fiction submissions at her mother and father’s knees. Click here to read about Mark Anderson, the main character in Perigee, the short story she is currently working on. So here’s the lowdown on Rose, identity detective, and the lynchpin of Ignoring Gravity. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person? Rose is a fictional person, though when I imagined her I looked at the photo above. It’s a cutting from a magazine, years old now, I can’t remember where I got it from, or the name of the real woman. But for me, she is Rose. The photo is stuck to the pin board behind my computer screen so I say ‘good morning’ to her every
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Categories: Book Love, Book publicity and On Writing.

New books coming soon

Stephen Aryan The Battlemage trilogy by Yorkshire author Stephen Aryan [below] will be published by Orbit The first in the series will be released in the UK and USA in 2015. The story of Battlemage takes place in the first global conflict. The story is told from three viewpoints, that of the leaders of the fighting nations, the frontline warriors, and the Battlemages, powerful magical outsiders who are feared and respected. In an interview with Orbit Books, Aryan cites his influences: “The Earthsea novels by Ursula Le Guin was one early influence, which focus on Ged, a wizard who has several painful events that shape him as an adult. The other series that really made me think about wizards and magic were the Belgariad and the Malloreon novels by David Eddings. In both series there are only a handful of really powerful magic users who are also demi-gods and they walk that fine line between using their power to guide and protect humanity versus letting events run their natural course. LEGEND by David Gemmell was a big influence in terms of characterization and my approach to story. Also the work of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, in particular their Dragonlance novels, as
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Ghost Moth

This story by Michèle Forbes opens with a woman, Katherine, who when swimming out of her depth encounters a seal. What begins as an encounter with nature becomes something more chilling, hinting at the depths of the story about to be told. “…it is his eyes – the eyes of this wild animal – that terrify Katherine the most; huge, opaque and overbold, they hold on her like the lustrous black-egged eyes of a ruined man.” Katherine’s fear when encountering the seal is a mystery until much later in the book, when we understand the memories it disturbed. Ghost Moth by Michèle Forbes [below] is the story of Katherine and George, the beginnings of their love in 1949 and its endurance until death in 1969. The setting is Belfast: in 1949, post-War when Katherine sings Carmen in a local opera production and meets Tom, the tailor who sews her costume and flirts with her. Tom, who forces Katherine to examine the nature of her feelings for boyfriend George. Tom, who tempts her so she can never forget him. And Belfast, wrought by The Troubles in 1969 when even Katherine’s small children are challenged on the street for being of the
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Categories: Book Love.

I agree with… Joanna Trollope

Joanna Trollope “The physical book is rearing its head again as a very desirable possession because after all you don’t own an e-book, you only lease it. So if you have a library of e-books you can’t leave them to your grandchildren…” Question: Will physical books cease to exist? “I would regret that, and I don’t think it will happen. And if it did happen, then the book will start again in a sort of green shoots way, some enterprising publisher will produce an exquisite thing and people will say ‘isn’t this an extraordinary simple and effective piece of technology. Why didn’t we think of this before?’ and the book will be reborn.” [Joanna Trollope, in conversation with Mark Lawson] I love this idea of books being re-invented. And I have to admit I hadn’t thought of an e-book as being ‘on lease’ but Trollope is right. I do get irritated with the e-books on my Kindle which can’t be shared with friends, or taken to Oxfam to pass on. For Joanna Trollope’s website, click here.   If you agree with Joanna Trollope, perhaps you will agree with:- Lynn Barber Jane Smiley Joel and Ethan Coen ‘Balancing Act’ by Joanna Trollope
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Mysterious Beach Hut

This is a traditional children’s tale centred on a beach hut on the seafront at Brighton which is the doorway to another world. The Mysterious Beach Hut by Jacky Atkins is a time-travel tale in which sisters Holly and Beth find themselves on Brighton beach as England stands on the brink of the Great War. Brighton today is recognizable, but as soon as the girls step back into 1914 it is a radically different place. The costumes, the games, the speech, the West Pier in all its glory, the things that people are talking about. The sisters struggle to come to terms with what their eyes are seeing but their brains can’t process. “Something had changed. The light was different. Just for a moment, it felt as if they were looking at a heat mirage when the bottom of the picture you see becomes slightly waxy and hazy. It was almost as if, for a split second, time had stood still.” The sisters meet Marjorie who becomes their new best friend and guide to this strange world. But being a time-traveller is difficult. Holly, the older sister, knows something of the history of World War One from school, and finds it
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Seventh Miss Hatfield

Anna Caltabiano opens the action with the auction of a painting in 1887 and then switches to 1954 as a girl sits on a doorstep. Cynthia is 11 and aware of her mother’s demands for good behaviour combined with initiative, knowing she is a disappointment. So when a parcel is wrongly delivered, she shows independence by taking it to the house opposite. There she meets a new neighbour, Rebecca Hatfield. Cynthia doesn’t go home again. This is a tale of immortality and time travel. Where immortality means you can still die, of illness or accident, and time travel comes via a large mysterious clock owned by Miss Hatfield. Cynthia – and it is key that we are told her original name only a few times – drinks a glass of lemonade containing a drop of a mysterious substance and everything changes. “I felt as if I was slipping away into some strange dimension where I recognized nothing – not my surroundings, or my feelings, but most terrifyingly of all, not even myself.” Miss Hatfield has a task for Cynthia to do, a task which involves theft and time travel. The task, of course, does not go to plan. The fine detail
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Categories: Book Love.

I agree with… Hilary Mantel [again]

Hilary Mantel “When you are writing, your characters are flickering constructs, they are always on the move. It’s much more like people you know well in real life. You are not looking at them fixedly every moment to judge their features, what you do have is a general impression of them, of their energy.” [From ‘Wolf at the Stage Door’, an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, December 8, 2013] I didn’t get this when I first started writing fiction. Looking back at some of my early characters in short stories, they were a bit paint-by-numbers. Clunky. It took me a while to let them do what they wanted to do. This was partly my thing about planning, about control. I knew where the plot was going, so the character would do ‘this’. Unfortunately for my plans, my character actually wouldn’t have been caught dead doing ‘this’. She wanted to do ‘that’. I learned to let my characters be themselves. ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel [UK: Fourth Estate] If you agree with Hilary Mantel, perhaps you will agree with:- James McAvoy – good writing has to come first Caitlin Moran – reading is not a passive act Amanda Hocking –
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.