Monthly Archives October 2017

Twiggy, Dusty, Paul and John… photos of The Sixties

If you love The Sixties, music and fashions, check out my Pinterest board for Ignoring Gravity. It’s where I collate all the images which inspired me when I wrote the book. From Twiggy to Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Beatles to Dusty Springfield, there are black-and-white and colour images of life from 1960-1969. My favourite comes from 1961, it’s an image of Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 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] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Dusty Springfield, the Beatles & Audrey Hepburn: my #writing board at Pinterest via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2zv
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Categories: Book Love, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity', and On Researching.

Book review: The Garden of Evening Mists

This is another enchanting novel by Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng. The Garden of Evening Mists focuses on the post-Second World War period in Malaya. The Japanese occupiers have gone and local communist fighters are challenging British rule. In the hills of the Cameron Highlands, next to a tea plantation, lies a delicate Japanese garden created by Nakamura Aritomo, a man who was once gardener to the Emperor of Japan. Decades later when Yun Ling Teoh retires as a Supreme Court judge in Kuala Lumpur, she re-visits the garden at Yugiri. This is her story. In the 1950s Emergency, the people who lived in Malaya’s hill villages grew to fear the communists. Homes were raided and destroyed, people killed, women raped. This is the setting in which Yun Ling first visits Yugiri to ask Aritomo to build a traditional Japanese garden in memory of her sister Yun Hong. This is a novel about memory, things remembered and things denied, and about loyalty. Yun Ling’s loyalty to her sister who was killed in a Japanese labour camp and her guilt that she could have done more to save her, and loyalty to Arimoto who she loved and thought she knew. Judge
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Categories: Book Love.

How Irish author Sebastian Barry writes

Sebastian Barry said, “Wonderfully, out of that private box of miracles that is a writer’s life, I just wrote that sentence [that now opens the book]: ‘The method of laying out a corpse in Missouri sure took the proverbial cake.’” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, August 12, 2016] Barry’s latest book, Days Without End, had mixed beginnings. He spent nine months writing a long chapter about the famine in Ireland, and expected the book to be ‘very, very dark.’ But then he cut this chapter down to a page and a half, and then wrote the sentence about the corpse. ‘The whole damn book was just lying in behind that sentence.’ After that it was easier, there were ‘four or five joyous months where, for once in a decade, you are going down to your work room like a 22-year-old instead of a 61-year-old, and being very surprised.’ My first novel Ignoring Gravity had its origins with one sentence which flowed from my pen, so I understand where Barry is coming from. However he used his sentence to start his novel, whereas mine became the keynote of my protagonist’s personality. Barry’s novel is about America’s Indian wars in
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

First Edition: The Secret Garden

First published as a US serial in The American Magazine beginning in 1910, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett [below] was first published as a book in 1911. The American edition by Stokes [below] featured illustrations by Maria Louise Kirk, while illustrations in the British edition published by Heinemann were by Charles Heath Robinson. Burnett was born in Manchester, England in 1849 but after the death of her father, she emigrated with her family to the Knoxville, Tennessee, USA in 1865. Read more about the Stokes first edition at Bauman Rare Books. The story Mary Lennox, born at the turn of the twentieth century to wealthy British parents in India who do not want her, is cared for by servants. After the death of her parents she is sent to England to Yorkshire, to live with her Uncle Archibald at Misselthwaite Manor. There she is bad-tempered and dislikes everything about her new home until Martha, a maid, tells her the story of Mrs Craven who loved her private walled garden of roses. When his wife died, Mr Craven locked the garden and buried the key. As Mary wonders about the secret garden, her humour and behaviour improves and she makes
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Shadow Baby

A slow-build read which, by halfway, had me glued to the page. It is in part a story about unplanned pregnancy – choices, motherhood and how a girl grows to be a mother herself – and part social history. The history is the skeleton on which the flesh of the story hangs and inter-connects. Two young women fall pregnant, Leah in 1887 and Hazel in 1956. Both abandon their babies. Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster is the story of Leah and her daughter Evie, Hazel and her daughter Shona. The circumstances are different – Evie is brought up first in a children’s home and then by reluctant relatives; Shona is adopted by a family desperate for a child with a mother whose care is suffocating – but the stories so similar. Both daughters are obsessed with their birth mothers. From generation to generation, mistakes are uncannily mirrored. Attitudes from the 19th century reappear in the 20th. Shadow Baby is a thoughtful and measured exploration of how the nature of being a mother differs from woman to woman, expectations, fears, well-meaning but hurtful family and social pressure. And how, when the daughter grows into a woman who in turn becomes pregnant,
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Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

#FlashPIC 24 Cable #writingprompt #amwriting #writetip

Plotting is often the nuts and bolts part of writing a novel which a writer may be tempted to ‘allow to sort itself out’. But without plot, the reader will not want to turn the page. There are two key questions which keep the reader reading: Suspense [where the answer lies in the future], and Mystery [looking backwards into the past for the answer]. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC prompt to kickstart your plotting for a novel, short story or flash fiction story. This is the fixing of an industrial cable, a common type used in construction of a biggest buildings. It carries a heavy load. It is designed by engineers, specified by architects and installed by construction workers. As a plot device, the cable can supply the reason for a crucial turning point in the storyline. Imagine a setting which features a construction project or a famous building. Add characters [maximum three]. Assume that the cable in the photograph is faulty. Work out a plot in which the faulty cable causes something to happen. Now write your plot in no more than five bullet points. For example, here’s a rather simple idea: Architect designs
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

It is National Adoption Week & ‘Ignoring Gravity’ is free today

This week in the UK it is National Adoption Week, October 16-22. To mark the occasion, today and tomorrow you can download Ignoring Gravity as a free book. Kindle only, at Amazon. Click the link below.  Read what other readers are saying about Ignoring Gravity. ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Download now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: ‘Ignoring Gravity’ #NationalAdoptionWeek #freebooks http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2Q9 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Adoption, Book Love, and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: House of Names

I have a sketchy knowledge of Greek literature [lost in the misty years since my literature degree] and so approached House of Names by Colm Tóibín with a sense of trepidation combined with anticipation of reading something new. As always with Colm Tóibín’s novels, the writing is exquisite but House of Names did, for me, lack an emotional connection. And I’m not sure why. The novel begins with the story of Agamemnon, warrior king, who sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to the gods in the hope of victory in battle. However this novel is not about the king but what happens next. Tóibín imagines the continuance of the story, of Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra, daughter Electra and son Orestes. As always with classical literature, it is easy to find parallels with modern life, in politics, war and television. Double-crossing, lies, scheming politicians, vengeful soldiers, royal disagreements, distrustful servants, sibling rivalry, kidnapping and violence. We share Clytemnestra’s version of the story first, told in first person and more vivid for that, as her husband murders their daughter rather than celebrating her marriage. Clytemnestra broods and plans her revenge, revenge which she takes with her own hand. But the central question in this story
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Categories: Book Love.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘The Death of the Hat’

Billy Collins is a favourite poet of mine, he is so good at making the ordinary everyday things suddenly become personal and touching. So true. 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. ‘The Death of the Hat’ Once every man wore a hat. In the ashen newsreels, the avenues of cities are broad rivers flowing with hats. The ballparks swelled with thousands of strawhats, brims and bands, rows of men smoking and cheering in shirtsleeves. Hats were the law. They went without saying. You noticed a man without a hat in a crowd. I challenge you to read the very last stanza [not shown here] without a tear in your eye as he transitions from hats to the loss of a loved one. Read two other poems by Billy Collins which I love:- The Dead On Turning Ten   ‘Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes’ by Billy Collins [UK: Picador]  Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Japanese Maple’ by Clive James ‘My Heart Leaps Up’ by William Wordsworth ‘Oxfam’ by Carol Ann Duffy And if you’d
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

‘Running’, a short story

I didn’t run the Reighton Fun Run in 12 minutes 14 seconds, so why does everyone keep congratulating me? I didn’t come first, I didn’t win anything. I never win anything. No-one’s ever patted me on the back before, but it felt good. The Mercury sent a photographer to take my photo and I told him it wasn’t me but he took the picture anyway. Wanted me in my running vest and shorts, the best I could do was my blue trackkie bottoms and the t-shirt I wear for gardening. But he didn’t seem to care. It’ll be in Saturday’s edition. A boy knocked on my door. Are you famous? Don’t like children, I said. You boys run around our street shouting when you mother’s thrown you out of the house for being too noisy. Why can’t she be bothered to look after you instead of letting you litter the street with bikes and footballs and noise? Dunno, he said. But he’d seen a man with a camera walking down my front path. Had I murdered someone, or won the lottery, or done something really clever? No, the man wanted to take my photo because I ran in a race. Ooh,
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Categories: My Short Stories.

Book review: The Crows of Beara

The Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson is a sensitive tale of two lost souls from opposite sides of the world who are in such pain they are unable to recognise a fresh chance for happiness. Annie Crowe, recovering addict and corporate PR specialist, flies from Seattle to Ireland to promote a new copper mine. When she meets Daniel Savage, an artist with a troubled past, both start to hear a mystical Gaelic voice whispering words of poetry. The west coast of Ireland is a bleak, beautiful, empty place. Jobs are thin on the ground so when a new copper mine is announced, the locals are divided: the economy, or nature. Annie arrives, determined to make a success of this last chance to get her career back on track. When she discovers the mine will endanger the nesting site of the Red-Billed Choughs, she must tell lies in the name of PR. She doesn’t expect it to make her acknowledge the lies she has been telling herself; about her failed marriage, her failing career, and her alcoholism. Annie, flawed but vulnerable, is an easy character to like. Weighed down by her addiction and the knowledge she did shameful things
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: Caroline James

Today I’m delighted to welcome romance novelist Caroline James. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett. “First published in 1908 and set in the fictional town of Bursley in the Potteries, it traces the lives of two sisters, shy Constance and romantic Sophia, who are born into a secure world, supported by their parent’s drapery business. “I first discovered this book when I was a young girl working in London. My flat mates were into Jilly Cooper novels and couldn’t understand why I was reading such ‘an old book’. I was born close to the area where the narrative takes place and grew up on the borders of the five towns that comprise Stoke-on-Trent. As I read, I remember feeling that I was in a time warp, fantasising that I had walked the same streets as the sisters. “I have always been in awe of Bennett’s writing. A male author who writes with such knowledge and clarity from a female perspective. The prose is exquisite and he makes every word count. Over the years, when far away from home, I re-read The Old Wives’ Tale. Despite being a period setting, written over a century
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.