Monthly Archives August 2017

Great Opening Paragraph 100… ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly – Tom’s Aunt Polly , she is – and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.” ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Diary of an Ordinary Woman’ by Margaret Forster ‘A Passage to India’ by EM Forster ‘Astonishing Splashes of Colour’ by Clare Morrall And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2qJ
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read: Carol Cooper

Today I’m delighted to welcome romance novelist Carol Cooper. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Please Don’t Eat the Daisies by Jean Kerr. “My ‘Porridge and Cream’ book is Please Don’t Eat the Daisies by American writer Jean Kerr. First published in 1957, it is now out of print but a few copies are still available. I first read it in the 1960s, when I was perhaps about twelve. While I don’t remember the exact circumstances, it was my mother’s paperback copy, costing a princely 35 cents. I do recall that my mother and I had recently arrived in the United States and were living in a studio apartment in Washington, DC, while she struggled to make ends meet. The book is a series of articles on Jean Kerr’s life as a playwright and parent, and each of the pieces made me roar with laughter at a time when real life wasn’t that funny. When I first read the book, I found it hugely entertaining on such subjects as diets, doctors, family, fashion, moving house, and the rest of everyday suburban life. It was only decades later that I could identify with Kerr’s situation as a writer working from home,
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

Book review: Only the Brave

A dead body, a bag of money, and a group of people all lying to the police and each other. Only the Brave by Mel Sherratt is third in the DS Allie Shenton books set in the Midlands city of Stoke-on-Trent. The sub-plot is a strong storyline here and it weaves in and out of the murder investigation throughout the book: Allie’s beloved sister Karen is expected to die within days. With a head full of grief, guilt, regrets and love for her sister, Allie confronts the underworld of Stoke to find the killer. Is the city’s crime lord Terry Ryder behind it all, even from his prison cell? Mel Sherratt’s books are good value easy-read novels which get you hooked from page one and don’t let you go. As Karen lies in hospital, Allie must work out which petty criminal is lying to who and why, who has the most to gain and whose fingers are covertly dictating the action. And all the while she dreads having to question Terry Ryder in prison, the man she found herself attracted to despite all her instincts and her much-loved husband Mark. And to top it all, Allie senses someone is following
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Categories: Book Love.

#FlashPIC 22 We Are Watching You #writingprompt #amwriting

Today’s writing prompt is less about storyline and more about emotions. This is a useful trick if you are trying to get to grips with a new character. From the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC to turn into a flash fiction story. Perhaps about the surveillance society? Or a stalker? Or an incident at a railway station? As you carry out your daily tasks, consider how it would feel if someone were watching you all the time:- What would you do differently, and why? How does your body react to being watched – sweaty, feverish, twitchy? Let your mind run over the question ‘Who is it?’ Why is it happening? Are you guilty of something? Have you been mistaken for someone else? What emotions are you feeling: indignant, affronted, ashamed, guilty, bashful, frightened, aggressive? How do you want to react? Challenge? Run? Fight? Now in 20 minutes of free writing, write down everything you thought about. Single words, phrases, dialogue, stream-of-consciousness. Then use everything for a new character who is being stalked. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Hotel Corridor Red sign ‘Pedestrians’ Go! Clock What are ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’? I want to
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Categories: Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

Book review: Visions

Crammed with Eighties references from Margaret Thatcher, Echo & the Bunnymen and Jane Fonda aerobics to Laura Ashley décor, Visions quickly immerses you in the world of Eleanor Chapman. Visions is part two of Eleanor’s story which started in the 1970s in Beginnings and will ultimately end far into the future. ‘Same Face Different Place’ by Helen J Christmas is an ambitious thriller series focussing on a single gangland incident which has reverberations across the decades. It is a study of how to react to threats and violence, the nature of victimhood, and the power of fighting back. There are times in Visions when it covers old ground from book one, but nevertheless the story slowly reeled me in. After the events of Beginnings, Eleanor and her son Elijah live in a caravan in a Kent village, safe from the London criminals who threatened them. Their neighbours, James Barton-Wells and his children Avalon and William become close friends. However Westbourne House, the ancestral home of the Barton-Wells family, is crumbling. When the house is declared a ruin and the repairs too expensive for James to pay, a sinister property developer offers to help. All too soon, his nasty son and
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Categories: Book Love.

Family history: how adoption became a legal process

Only in 1926 did adoption of children in the UK become a legal process, it was part of a process to remove illegitimate children from their ‘unfit’ mothers and place them with a respectable married couple. Until the 1926 Adoption of Children Act, adoptions were often arranged privately or via the mother-and-baby home where the birth took place. In the 19th century there were hundreds of mother-and-baby homes where an unmarried pregnant woman would be housed and her pregnancy and birth overseen. She would remain with her baby during the early weeks while an adoption was arranged. Many women attended these homes secretly to avoid the stigma of bearing an illegitimate child. As an alternative to adoption, some single mothers left their child in the care of baby farmers who would care for the child for a fee, supposedly enabling the mother to return to work. However some baby farmers were found guilty of abuse and neglect. Prior to the 1926 Adoption of Children Act, ten bills had been introduced to Parliament by 1922 in an effort to regulate adoption. Finally the act became law on January 1, 1927. It provided assurance for the adoptive parents that the birth parents
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Categories: Adoption and Family history research.

Book review: The Doll Funeral

The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer is a dark, despairing and at times confusing tale of identity and the creeping links of family and genetics across the generations. It is about the difficult adoptive families, about ‘not fitting in’, and how blood families sometimes don’t work either. Ultimately, family is where you can find it and make it. Ruby’s mother Barbara is a cleaning lady who nicks small things she thinks won’t be missed. Father Mick knocks Ruby around, forcing her to miss school until the bruises fade. Then on her thirteenth birthday, they tell her she is adopted. Ruby’s response is to run into the garden and sing for joy. Of course nothing is as simple as it appears. Ruby, determined to find her birth parents, runs away and makes her way to the creepy home of a strange schoolfriend Tom. I found the thread of Tom, Crispin and Elizabeth rather unrealistic and at times gruesome. It does however act as an alternative take on dysfunctional families, wild children and parental neglect. The budding relationship of Tom and Ruby, two outsiders, is touching. Ruby’s tale is alternated with that of her mother Anna who falls pregnant as a teenager,
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Categories: Book Love.

I agree with… Lisa Jewell

When asked about the snooty attitude towards commercial fiction, Lisa Jewell replied: “That if you read something in two days, it’s not as good as something which took you two weeks to read.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, April 21, 2017]  I dislike labels which limit our exploration of the novels we choose to read. Genres are cosy, familiar, we know what we are going to get. But what about reading outside your comfort zone? Jewell talks in this interview with The Bookseller about how she was labelled as a ‘chick lit’ author when she published her first novel, Ralph’s Party. “I will never, ever know if it worked in my favour or not. Unless someone can give me some data and say, ‘If you hadn’t been perceived as chick lit, you’d have sold fewer books,’ then I think, ‘Fine, okay.’” The time for the chick lit label is over, she hopes. Essentially, genre labels like chick lit are a convenient way for the book trade [publishers and retailers] to categorize novels for management purposes. For example, I dislike the way crime fiction is separated from general fiction on the shelves in bookstores. I like to browse. And who
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: These Dividing Walls

A young man arrives in Paris seeking respite from his grief, surrounding himself in the solitude of an attic flat loaned from a friend. Alongside him, his neighbours are happy and unhappy, they are getting by, they are lying to loved ones, lying to themselves. These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper is a multi-layered story of microcosm and macrocosm, of an apartment block in Paris and its inhabitants, of city-wide anti-immigrant protests. A wave of racist violence enters the centre of Paris and the unfolding events are told through the lives of the residents at Number 37. Their lives converge and depart from each other, some are socially-minded, others watch from behind curtains. The young mother stretched so thin in the care of her three young children that she fears she will break. The banker who lost his job but is too ashamed to tell his wife. The homeless man who sleeps in a doorway on the street nearby. The silver-haired seller of art books who mourns her dead son. A young couple, new residents at Number 37, lock their door and turn off the television. The lives of all these people are affected by the xenophobic hatred which enters
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Categories: Book Love.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘We Needed Coffee But…’

There is something mesmeric about the rhythm of this poem by Matthew Welton which draws you onwards, like being tugged forward by the rope in a tug-of-war competition without your own momentum. 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. ‘We Needed Coffee But…’ We needed coffee but we’d got ourselves convinced that the later we left it the better it would taste, and, as the country grew flatter and the roads became quiet and dusk began to colour the sky, you could guess from the way we retuned the radio and unfolded the map or commented on the view that the tang of determination had overtaken our thoughts, and when, fidgety and untalkative but almost home, we drew up outside the all-night restaurant, it felt like we might just stay in the car, listening to the engine and the gentle sound of the wind Matthew Weldon is from Nottingham, UK. In 2003 he received the Jerwood-Aldeburgh First Collection Prize for The Book of Matthew [published by Carcanet], which was named a Guardian Book of the Year. Listen to Matthew Welton read from ‘We Needed
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

Have you seen my research photos at Pinterest

I am a relative newcomer to Pinterest and, after seeing how other authors use it, I wish I had discovered it sooner. I have always collected photographs when I am researching my novels, putting them into moods and themes which are both inspiration and factual reassurance. Now I collate all these visual references on Pinterest. For Ignoring Gravity, this means photos of roses [because my key character is called Rose Haldane], trees [family trees, roots, all the tree imagery associated with genealogy] and 1960s life and fashions. See my Pinterest board for Ignoring Gravity here. The board for Connectedness – featuring more roses and trees, plus Picasso, art, and Malaga in Spain – will go online later this year.   ‘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: Roses, trees, 1960s fashions & designs: my #writing board at Pinterest via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2zp
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: Butterfly on the Storm

This crime thriller is the first of a trilogy billed, as many thrillers are, as the new Millennium Trilogy. Butterfly on the Storm by Walter Lucius does feature horrific examples of abuse, it does feature a campaigning journalist, but for me it fell short of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy. Without that expectation, I would probably have enjoyed this thriller while at the same time being irritated that so much was crammed in. The action starts from page one and doesn’t stop to breathe. A young girl is the subject of a hit-and-run accident in the Amsterdam woods. In hospital, it becomes clear the girl is a young boy, dressed as a girl dancer and sexually abused by Afghan men now living in Holland. I found the portrayal of immigrant life in Holland fascinating and almost wish the author had examined this in more depth but the story spreads out to South Africa and Russia and its tentacles become confusing. Accompanying the child to hospital is Dr Danielle Bernson who, following medical experience in Africa, is traumatized when she sees the child suffer. At the hospital, they meet journalist Farah Hafez, originally from Afghanistan, Farah’s identity was changed when she arrived as
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Categories: Book Love.