Monthly Archives April 2018

#FlashPIC 28 These Feet Were Made for Walking #writingprompt #amwriting

There are no two identical pairs of feet in the world. Picture someone’s feet and work out what they say about that person. Their age, their sex, their position in life, barefoot or shod, high heels or flat, boots or sandals, plain or embellished, plastic or leather, polished toenails or horny protrusions? Here is a FlashPIC writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbuster series to help your daily writing process. These are the feet of commuters in London. They are rushing, impatient, purposeful, late. If you have an existing character, simply think of their feet. If not, consider the circumstances of the photo and put a new character into the jostle and impatience of the morning commute to work. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Stairs to Who Knows Where Deckchairs Orange Railings 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
Read More

Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

Book review: The Heat of the Day

As writers we are used to being told ‘trust the reader’. As a reader, this novel is a definite case for remembering to ‘trust the author’. The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen, published in 1949, is now recognised as a classic novel about the Second World War. It tells the story of Stella Rodney and her relationship with two men, her lover Robert and Harrison, the man who suspects Robert of selling secrets to the enemy and sees this as a way of winning Stella’s love. This is not a spy novel, rather its threads and tentacles of story are woven as intricately as the lives of the three principal characters overlap with the bigger-scale events of war. War is at the centre of it all, brooding over every minute, every decision, every pause. London, emptied of evacuees and people fleeing for safety, becomes a smaller place where strangers wish each other good luck in anticipation of that night’s bombing, where you awake in the morning and realize you are still alive. ‘Out of mists of morning charred by the smoke from ruins each day rose to a height of unmisty glitter; between the last sunset and first
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: Jane Eyre

Is there a more iconic novel than Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte? Beloved by generations of teenage girls who identify with the eponymous Jane, her suffering, her fortitude and generosity, Jane Eyre also plays a key role in the acceptance of female authors. Bronte famously submitted the novel to her publisher under the pseudonym Currer Bell. First editions of Jane Eyre by Currer Bell are available rarely for sale. See [above] the title page of the first issue which did not include a preface by the author, something remedied in the second edition; you can read the preface here, the book is held by the British Library. The most recent sale of a first edition [above] was at Bonhams, London in 2013 for £39,650.  A three-volume edition published by London, Smith Elder & Co [above], available at Peter Harrington, is for sale [at time of going to press] for £4,500. This is a third edition; given the popularity of the novel when it was first published, around October 19, 1847, it was quickly followed by second and third editions on January 22, 1848 and April 15, 1848 respectively. This particular edition attracts a high price as there are a number
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

Family history: using photographic archives

Photographs are not just a record of people but of places, lifestyles, streets, countryside and the changing times. If you really want to understand the life of your relative, searching the photographic archives now available online and at your local record office can make their world seem real for you. The clothes they wore, their holidays and work days, their parties and local community.  A simple way to start is to use Google and search using ‘images’. Other great starting places are Flickr, Pinterest or Instagram. I’m currently researching London during the WW2 Blitz, and a quick search produced literally hundreds of photos. One photo may lead to a new avenue of research. A studio portrait of a family member may lead you to a particular photographer. A uniform can help you to confirm a regiment or employer. History Pin is clever in that it allows you to collect images and pin them to Street View so you build up a wider picture of the area of interest. I found Collage, the London Picture Archive, particularly useful in my focus on the capital. It has more than a quarter of a million photos of London streets and includes the London
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

Connectedness: coming soon

I’m so excited that Connectedness my second novel, book two in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, will be published on May 10, 2018. This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain. So what’s it all about? TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face. Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her
Read More

Categories: Adoption and My Novel: 'Connectedness'.

Book review: Offshore

This is a slim, powerful novel about a small community of people living on houseboats on the River Thames at Battersea Reach in 1960s London. Anchored on the southern shore, next to the warehouses, brewery and rubbish disposal centre, they long to be positioned on the prosperous Chelsea shore opposite. In Offshore, Penelope Fitzgerald draws you into the world of Dreadnought, Grace, Maurice, Lord Jim and Rochester – those are the boats – and their occupants. They live in close, intimate proximity as the boats are tied to each other, only one is fastened to the wharf. Despite this, each person lives in an individual island of loneliness caused by marriage, poverty, sexuality, or just being different. Their lives are governed by tidal movement. ‘On every barge on the Reach a very faint ominous tap, no louder than the door of a cupboard shutting, would be followed by louder ones from every strake, timber and weatherboard, a fusillade of thunderous creaking, and even groans that seemed human. The crazy old vessels, riding high in the water without cargo, awaited their owner’s return.’ The people are inter-dependent but don’t know it until a crisis happens. The catalyst is Nenna, a young
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

‘Revenge’, a short story

They are bought with a purpose. Not cheap, but worth it. June prepares carefully. Works out the best place from which to spy, disguised, far enough away to be unsuspected. The binoculars take a bit of fiddling with until she gets the hang of them. Simple really, she doesn’t need her reading glasses. On the chosen day she dresses in brown, the better to disappear into the natural surroundings. The caramel cable cardigan she knitted herself when Jim was ill, the khaki trousers bought from the bargain bin at the supermarket, her comfortable gardening shoes and a clever sunhat which folds flat and fits in her pocket. She settles into position, her back against a tree, sitting on a picnic rug. See and not be seen, that is the plan. It will be impossible to miss the guilty party from here. Beside her she lays out provisions: cheese and pickle sandwich on granary bread, flask of black coffee, fingers of buttery shortbread. Nothing that will rattle or crunch, no plastic wrapping or greaseproof paper. Only cling film. She misses her daily lunch apple but it too involves crunching, perhaps she will eat it for supper instead. And so she waits. A
Read More

Categories: My Short Stories.

Book review: In the Midst of Winter

In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende is the story of three ordinary-looking people, people you would not glance at if you passed by them in the street, and their extra-ordinary lives. Each has faced loss and trauma, each feels isolated, lonely. Laced throughout this deceptive novel are themes of dislocation, grief, human trafficking and the courage to free oneself of these bonds. Set in modern-day Brooklyn and Guatemala, and 1970s Chile and Brazil, it is the story of people relocated thousands of miles away from family to new countries with strange languages and customs where against the odds they must begin a new life. Richard, Lucia and Evelyn are thrown together in Brooklyn, New York, during a momentous snowstorm. Evelyn, a young illegal immigrant from Guatemala, borrows her employer’s car and in the storm crashes into Richard. Richard is in his sixties, a loner, aesthete and reformed alcoholic, he lives his life according to routine. But when the car crash upsets his rigid ordered life, he is forced to halt his almost OCD existence and do unpredictable, often rash, things. When Evelyn turns up on his doorstep, hours after the crash, he is unable to understand her Spanish
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: RV Biggs

Today I’m delighted to welcome mystery writer RV Biggs. His ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. “I first read the book as a child, which is a very long time ago, so would be in the 1960s. I’d hazard a guess at 1966 when I was nine or ten years old and probably as a book we were given to read at school. I recall having my own hardbound copy a little later, given to me as a present, but one of my uncles borrowed it to read to my cousin. After a while I never saw it again. Many, many years later my sister-in-law brought me a new hardbound copy as a birthday present and this is the copy I still have.  “I’ve read Wind in the Willows many times over the years and mostly when nothing else seems to appeal. It draws me in because of the childhood magic of it… animals having adventures… the Wild Wood… but also because of the setting and style. Kenneth Grahame describes the landscapes with exquisite perfection, setting the scenes of the seasons so that I’m there… inside his world. I believe that the description of
Read More

Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

Book review: The Heart’s Invisible Furies

From the first sentence I was entranced. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne starts with such an opening sentence, full of conflict, hypocrisy, resentment and hope, it made me want to gobble up the pages and not put the book down. I wasn’t disappointed. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is the life story of one man, Cyril Avery, but also of a country and its attitudes to sexuality. The story starts in Goleen, Ireland, in 1945; a country riven by loyalty to, and hatred of, the British, at the same time in thrall to its Catholic priests whose rules were hypocritical, illogical and cruel. Cyril narrates his story, starting with how his 16-year old mother was denounced in church by the family priest for being single and pregnant. She was thrown out of church and village by the priest and disowned by her family. On the train to Dublin she meets a teenager, Sean, also heading for the big city. Wanting to help someone so obviously alone, Sean offers to let Catherine stay at his digs until she finds lodging and a job. These first friends she make are some of the most important in her life, and re-appear at
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 106… ‘A Month in the Country’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“When the train stopped I stumbled out, nudging and kicking the kitbag before me. Back down the platform someone was calling despairingly, ‘Oxgodby… Oxgodby.’ No-one offered a hand, so I climbed back into the compartment, stumbling over ankles and feet to get at the fish-bass (on the rack) and my folding camp-bed (under the seat). If this was a fair sample of northerners, then this was enemy country so I wasn’t too careful where I put my boots. I heard one chap draw in his breath and another grunt: neither spoke.’ ‘A Month in the Country’ by JL Carr Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ by SJ Watson ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn ‘Midnight’s Children’ by Salman Rushdie And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY by JL Carr #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2xo SaveSave
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: Blow Your House Down

The words that immediately come to mind after finishing Blow Your House Down by Pat Barker are negative: unflinching, bleak, dark and depressing. This is a dark story of the women preyed upon by a killer, women living on the edge, surviving by selling their bodies to men at a time when prostitutes are being murdered. But other words also came to mind as I dwelled on the book afterwards: friendship, community, solidarity, defiance, vulnerability, strength. Slim, I read it in one sitting on a rainy afternoon, this is a powerful, compelling read. It pulls you into the women’s stories, makes you feel at one with them. Blow Your House Down is set in a Northern Town in the 1980s. The timing and setting draw inevitable links with the Yorkshire Ripper who preyed on prostitutes and lone women in the north and was arrested and convicted in 1981. Frightened but driven by the need for rent money or to feed their children, the women continue to walk the streets as the face of one of their own, Kath, the killer’s latest victim, looks down at them from a giant poster. The detail of their ordinary lives is described, starting with
Read More

Categories: Book Love.