Monthly Archives October 2014

Great opening paragraph 61… ‘Dance Dance Dance’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“I often dream about the Dolphin Hotel. In these dreams, I’m there, implicated in some kind of ongoing circumstance. All indications are that I belong to this dream continuity. The Dolphin Hotel is distorted, much too narrow. It seems more like a long, covered bridge. A bridge stretching endlessly through time. And there I am, in the middle of it. Someone else is there too, crying. The hotel envelops me. I can feel its pulse, its heat. In dreams, I am part of the hotel.” ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by Haruki Murakami Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Armadillo’ by William Boyd ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind ‘Couples’ by John Updike 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: DANCE DANCE DANCE by Haruki Murakami #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-m3 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: If I Knew You Were Going to be This Beautiful…

The early ‘70s, Comanche Beach, Long Island. An American rural seaside community where the teens hang about and young men return home from Vietnam. Jobs are scarce, the young are leaving for the city, and teenager Katie loves a veteran who seems disconnected from the world.This novel by Judy Chicurel has the longest title I’ve ever come across. The full title is If I Knew You Were Going to be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go. I’m intrigued whether it was the author’s choice or the publisher’s. I can just hear the conversations about front cover design. Katie has finished school and is hanging around town for the summer, drinking egg cream sodas at Eddy’s during the day, spending lazy nights at the lounge in The Starlight Hotel. As she and her friends worry about ‘doing it’ and hickeys and mascara, their love interest is split into boys and soldiers. The girls continue to have crushes on the best-looking guys with bleached hair and suntanned arms, but they struggle to connect with these flawed men [mentally and physically flawed] who have seen American and Vietnamese blood bloom in rivers so it looks like lilies. “I see this,
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Categories: Book Love.

How to get ahead: Nicky Kinnaird

Nicky Kinnaird “Passion and focus go a long way to making something happen. It’s astounding just how often something you wish for and work determinedly towards comes into fruition. The most important thing I’ve learned on my way up the ladder? No doesn’t necessarily mean no. Develop a compelling argument as to why someone should say yes.” [Nicky Kinnaird, quote from ‘Grazia’ magazine January 18, 2010] Kinnaird, founder of the Space NK chain of beauty shops, doesn’t mention determination here. Call it what you like: determination, stubbornness, focus… it involves hard work and persistence. Whether you are selling beauty products, or writing a novel. Kinnaird, in keeping with her own advice, focused on what she wanted to do next. She left the company she founded in July 2014 to set up a new consultancy. What’s the best advice about writing you’ve ever been given? For the Space NK website, click here. To read a Daily Telegraph report about Kinnaird’s departure from Space NK, click here. To follow what Nicky Kinnaird does next, follow her on Twitter here. Try these tips to get ahead:- Kate Silverton Donna Karan Zandra Rhodes ‘Awaken Your Senses Change Your Life’ by Nicky Kinnaird [UK: Quadrille]
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Categories: On Writing.

Book review: I Refuse

This is the story of the friendship and un-friendship of two Norwegian men, their boyhood and manhood, told retrospectively as they meet by chance in 2006 on a bridge in early morning after many years apart. This subtle book is the first I have read by Per Petterson. Jim and Tommy are school friends, living in a small town outside Oslo. Both have difficult home lives. Jim lives with his single mother, a staunch Christian. Tommy’s mother disappears one night into the snow and as the eldest he copes with a violent father and three younger siblings. The two boys unite, until at 18 they are friends no more… At that moment on the bridge, when the two men recognize each other, I wondered what had happened to separate them for 35 years. We learn the stories of their childhood and the hours before that meeting on the bridge, through their own flashbacks plus the voices of Tommy’s sister Siri, their mother Tya and his guardian Jonsen. Small incidents, unintended actions, everyday words, throwaway insults – the stuff of everyday life – all combine to affect the two boys in ways that last with them through adulthood. Things are said and
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Categories: Book Love.

Devon Trevarrow Flaherty and Kickstarter

American author Devon Trevarrow Flaherty [below] is not sitting around thinking about getting her next books into print. She’s doing something about it by running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to publish her next three books. Authors are increasingly using crowdfunding as a new route to a published book, so this is a new route to market being carefully watched by the publishing industry. The deadline to contribute to Devon’s Kickstarter campaign [below] is November 5. As well as knowing they are supporting an author, each supporter will receive a benefit depending on the amount pledged. For example, a pledge of $25 equals a free e-book. A pledge of $5,000 equals an air hug, plus a character named after you and the three e-books. The minimum pledge is $1. The Night of One Hundred Thieves, the first of the three books, is ready to print as soon as the target is hit. This slim novel is based on the Northwyth legends found in Benevolent, Flaherty’s first novel. How can 35 thieves all steal the same ring? And who will be the last thief standing? Buy nowThe second title, The Journey of Clement Fancywater, is a fantasy novel, a down-the-hole
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Categories: Book Love and Book publicity.

Book review: The Surfacing

The Surfacing by Cormac James is a consuming book about life on the edge of life, life on the edge of death. When you stand at that edge, there is not much difference between the two. In the 1850s, the Impetus sets out into the Arctic. It is part of a rescue party to find the missing Franklin expedition. Delays on shore, including parties and flirtation with the local girls on Greenland, mean the ship is late at the muster and is assigned the most difficult sector to search. Part way into their journey, they discover a stowaway. This woman changes the life of everyone on board, particularly second in charge Lieutenant Morgan. At first she is an intruder in their male world, then she is a nuisance, but finally they accept Miss Rink as one of them. And all the time, winter draws in and the ice clamps around their boat. And Miss Rink is pregnant. They are caught in the ice for the winter. Ice is a character in the novel; it moves, it seems to breath, it thaws and re-freezes. Their lives depend on the ice. The options are endlessly reviewed, always tempered by the thought that
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Categories: Book Love.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Winter Song’

I came first to the war poets when I studied English Literature at university in London. We read them all: Owen, Sassoon, Graves, Brooke. I think it’s fair to say that in my early twenties I didn’t ‘get them’, not really. Wilfred Owen [below] composed his war poems between January 1917 when he was first sent to the Western Front, and November 1918 when he was killed. Only four of his poems were published during his lifetime. He is agreed to be the finest of the English poets writing about the First World War. Instead of his most famous poems, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, I have chosen ‘Winter Song’. Written in October 1917, it immediately conjures up for me a Paul Nash painting [below] called ‘We are Making a New World’, painted in 1918 and on display in London at the Imperial War Museum. ‘Winter Song’ The browns, the olives, and the yellows died, And were swept up to heaven; where they glowed Each dawn and set of sun till Christmastide, And when the land lay pale for them, pale-snowed, Fell back, and down the snow-drifts flamed and flowed. From off your face, into the
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

#Writingprompt Writers’ BLOCKbusters… Mum

Think of flowers, think of your mother. Try this #FirstPara writing prompt from Writers’ BLOCKbusters and start writing now. Study the photograph, then use the sentence below as the beginning of a new short story. “They were her mother’s favourite blooms…” © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other writing prompts:- Green Apples Bookshelf Cutting Down Trees for Firewood  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
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

‘Whiteout’, a short story

It came without warning, the white, as quickly as a sigh. There was a moment of silence as he fell, of disbelief, a moment of loss when he thought, “Oh Jill” and reached for her hand which wasn’t there. Then all went black. * She was cold. A finger of ice wriggled along her spine, through the gap at her waistband where her thermal ski top had worked loose. She tried to straighten her clothes but the effort stole her breath so she rested for a moment, looking around, trying to assess where she’d fallen. She had never known quiet could be so dense. “Bill?” She reassured herself. He wasn’t answering because he hadn’t fallen, was bringing help. Not knowing which way was uphill or down, left or right, she cursed the loss of her spectacles. Above her was a structure, ghostly in the blankness which surrounded her like an unsatisfactory cheap duvet. Something dark loomed, it was the only thing she could see through the damp air which brushed her face like grubby cotton wool puffs smudged with mascara and eye shadow. It was tall enough to be the spire of a church; perhaps St Peter’s where they had married.
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Categories: My Short Stories.

New books coming soon

Jax Miller  Debut author Jax Miller has signed a two-book deal with HarperFiction. The first, Freedom’s Child, will be published in summer 2015. It tells the story of Freedom, a woman who has spent 18 years living under the Witness Protection programme after murdering her husband. When the daughter she gave birth to in prison, and gave up for adoption, goes missing, Freedom is determined to find her child. The deal also includes a second un-named title. Miller was born and grew up in New York but now lives in Ireland. Under her real name, Aine O’ Domhnaill, she was shortlisted for the CWA debut dagger for unpublished writers in 2013. Follow Jax Miller on Twitter at @JaxMillerAuthor Kirsty Logan  The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan will be published by Harvill Secker in Spring 2015. Described as a combination of Angela Carter and Michael Faber, Logan writes in the magical realism tradition. In The Gracekeepers, North and her bear live on a circus boat, floating between the scattered archipelagoes that are all that remains of the land. To survive, the circus must perform for the few fortunate islanders in return for food and supplies. Meanwhile, in the middle of the ocean, Callanish
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Goldfinch

I knew it from the first page, this was the rare sort of book that you want to go on forever and when you finish it you want to start reading all over again for the first time. My only problem? It’s size: difficult balancing the hardback on my chest as I tried to read in bed while gently falling asleep. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is a book I will keep and re-read and re-read. Buy the book, not the e-book. Three main reasons why I loved it. I liked Theo, it is his story and Tartt lets him tell it all the way through. No other viewpoint. It is about art and antiques, or specifically one painting and the effect it has on Theo’s life. The possession of it, the responsibility, the guilt, the value. The meaning of the painting itself, the tiny bird shackled by a chain at its ankle. And the painter, Carel Fabritius, student of Rembrandt, died too young in the Delft gunpowder explosion of 1654 when he was 32. And lastly, it’s one of those wide-ranging American novels – New York to Las Vegas to Amsterdam – that the Americans seem to do so
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Categories: Book Love.

#FlashPIC 4 Between the Train Seats #writingprompt #amwriting

As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbuster series, here is a writing prompt to put the first words on the page today. You can simply use the photo to energise your writing, or use some of the following phrases:- Proximity Isolation Red Angle Perspective Triangle Overheard Spying Thigh to thigh Red velvet © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Coffee shop St James Park polite notice The meaning of purple 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
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

I agree with… Lizzie Enfield

Lizzie Enfield “Just in case I was sounding a bit too sanctimonious and forgiving, I had to include Fay Weldon’s gloriously imagined tale of revenge and retribution, ‘The Life and Loves of a She-Devil’. Not least as it indulges just about every fantasy every wronged, put upon or simply a bit fed up woman has ever had; from forcing your husband to look after the children 24-7 to using someone who used you in a spectacularly inventive way.” [Lizzie Enfield, in an interview with ‘We Love This Book’ about revenge novels] Oh this took me back years, to first reading this book and how daring it was. And secondly remembering the TV series [below] which followed in 1986. Lizzie Enfield says it all, if you haven’t read the book go and order/buy it now! To read the full article at We Love This Book about Lizzie’s top 5 revenge novels, click here. To visit Lizzie Enfield’s website, click here. Click here to watch on You Tube an excerpt from Episode 1 of The Life and Loves of a She-Devil. Other excerpts are also available. If you agree with Lizzie Enfield, perhaps you will agree with:- Judi Dench, on giving your characters
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Stolen Child

This book by Laura Elliot wasn’t as I expected it to be. Given the title, I expected a detective hunt for a missing child, kidnap and perhaps murder. Instead it is a character study of two women encompassing grief, guilt, blame, anger, loss and redemption. Susanna loses her own baby before term and steals one to replace it. Carla, a model who lives her life on the fashion pages, gives birth but days later her baby disappears from the hospital without trace. This is a page-turner but is so much more than that. It is a character study of two women at the extreme of horror and grief, not just in the immediate aftermath of the theft, but years later. Both experience loss, grief, guilt and dashed hopes. Susanne steals baby Isobel and calls her Joy. Devastated mum Carla is dealing with an avid media which cannot believe its luck at the juicy headlines. Both women struggle to live day-to-day. Relationships crack, friendships shake. Susanne is over-protective of Joy. Carla refuses to let go, even after her husband leaves the country to ‘move on’. She changes her name, cuts her hair short and dyes it black. The years pass. But rural
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: A Sudden Light

How to define this story by Garth Stein? It’s a coming of age tale, a ghost story, it’s about forests and trees and about man’s responsibility to nature. I loved it, one of the best books I‘ve read this year and quite different from everything else. Garth Stein [below] is a new author for me. I was attracted to this book by three features: the ethereal cover, the setting in the Pacific North-Western corner of the US, and the family/saga ghost story combination. Trevor’s parents are separated. His mother has flown home to England for the summer while Trevor visits for the first time his ancestral home on the Olympic Peninsula outside Seattle. Trevor’s objective is to repair his parents’ marriage, he is not sure how. But from the first day he and his father, Jones, arrive at Riddell House on The North Estate, everything seems strange. The house is enormous, built by Trevor’s great-great-grandfather Elijah Riddell a century earlier, testament to Elijah’s riches earned from his logging business. It is a mansion, built from timber, set amongst trees, isolated and rotting. The house is at the centre of this story; its physicality, its history, what it meant to Elijah
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

I was blown away by this book by Rachel Joyce and read it in two sittings. First, you do not need to have read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry before you read this. I don’t really think it matters which of the two you read first, they are companion books rather than prequel and sequel. Second, this is the most accurate portrayal of people living in a hospice that I have read, and it is not something often written about. Rachel Joyce confronts head-on the fact of Queenie’s terminal illness, and that of her fellow residents at St Bernadine’s Hospice. But she doesn’t concentrate on their illnesses, she concentrates on their characters and in this way they form a colourful backdrop to Queenie’s story. They are not defined by their illnesses, and neither is Queenie. This is the story of her life, a story we learn because she is writing a long letter to Harold Fry. Queenie is in the North-East of England, Harold is in Devon. They worked together many years ago. Queenie writes to Harold to tell him he is dying. He writes a reply, but instead of posting the letter he decides to deliver it himself
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 60… ‘Lord Jim’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull. His voice was deep, loud, and his manner displayed a kind of dogged self-assertion which had nothing aggressive in it. It seemed a necessity, and it was directed apparently as much at himself as at anybody else. He was spotlessly neat, apparelled in immaculate white from shoes to hat, and in the various Eastern ports where he got his living as ship-chandler’s water-clerk he was very popular.” ‘Lord Jim’ by Joseph Conrad Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Diary of an Ordinary Woman’ by Margaret Forster ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ by SJ Watson 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: LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-f3 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: Nora Webster

This novel by Colm Tóibín is such a slow burn. I came to it after reading a thriller, so perhaps that’s why the pace seemed so slow. And then I took a deep breathe and let myself sink into the deep pool of the story. Reading this book was a little like listening to my mother tell the story of her life, tiny baby steps. The everyday voice of Nora, a kind of everywoman, is so clear. An ordinary woman, she is grieving for her husband Maurice and living in a world of echoes. This is a novel about grief, living with grief, and the slow re-awakening of life. Tiny baby steps. Nora cannot indulge her grief. For one thing, money is short and her two young sons must be cared for. Her two daughters too, though older, need their mother although they don’t think they do. Nora struggles to get through her own day in which every minute is shadowed by her loss, but life gets in the way, decisions must be made. Day to day she does the best she can, trying to get the everyday detail right but not seeing how her sons’ grief is manifesting itself.
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: A Death in Valencia

This is a book about more than a singular death, it is an exploration of the nature of death and what constitutes murder. Max Cámara, the Valencia detective introduced by Jason Webster in Or the Bull Kills You, cannot sleep: his street is being dug up as the new Metro line is being built, the summer heat pulsates, and Valencia is crazy as it prepares for the arrival of the Pope. The city buzzes with pro- and anti-Catholic emotions, with pro-life and pro-choice campaigners lining up their arguments for the Pope. Meanwhile the police force prepares security for the visit, as a developer is ripping up the old fisherman’s quarter El Cabanyal [below] to build new apartment blocks. On the first page, a dead body is washed up on the shore. A well-known paella chef. Max has eaten the chef’s paella but is taken off the case to help hunt for a kidnapped woman, a gynaecologist who performs abortions. The eve of the Pope’s visit is the worst possible time for this to happen. As always seems to happen in crime novels, two seemingly separate incidents are linked. The link, in this case, is carefully plotted so I didn’t spot
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Categories: Book Love.