Monthly Archives February 2020

#FlashPIC 44 Green Chairs #writingprompt #amwriting

Some stage sets are minimal, no furniture, no accessories, which has the effect of concentrating the audience’s attention on character. Consider these two green chairs in the same way and stage a scene here. This may be a complete story, or a scene from a larger work. Remember, if something is not shown in this picture you may not use it. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. There are two chairs, which implies two characters. But what happens if you add a third person, someone who cannot sit down? How does the choice of two chairs and the conversations about them show the nature of the relationship of your characters. Are they strangers, being bullying, or polite? Perhaps they are a couple with a former partner. Or three siblings with hidden resentments. Consider how each of them in turn reacts to the shortage of one chair. Now decide on the dynamics between the three people before your story starts. Map out how this changes between them as the scene progresses. And what is the finishing point? Finally sketch out the context for the meeting. Is it accidental or pre-arranged. Are they in a quiet corner or a busy
Read More

Categories: Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

How Jacqueline Wilson writes #amwriting #writetip

Jacqueline Wilson on writers’ block: “I don’t often feel blocked, though I often worry that I’m writing rubbish.” [from ‘The Author’ magazine, Winter 2018]  Dame Jacqueline Wilson has written more than 100 books for children, which have been translated into 34 languages. It is not surprising, given her output, that she doesn’t often feel blocked. She credits this to her background as a journalist, “I worked as a magazine journalist in my late teens and had to write my allotted thousand words within an hour or I’d be in serious trouble! It was very good training. The rare times I haven’t got a clue what to write next I go for a walk or a swim.” Sound advice. What is more interesting though, is her worry that she is writing rubbish. Writers, new and experienced, face this dilemma on an almost daily basis. I don’t know if it’s reassuring that she feels this way, or depressing that it’s not a feeling you shed as you publish more books. BUY THE BOOK See how these other authors write:- AJ Pearce, on immersing herself in the 1940s  Philippa Gregory, on putting the reader into the historical moment Sebastian Barry, on writing the
Read More

Categories: On Writing.

#BookReview ‘Mudlarking’ by Lara Maiklem @LondonMudlark #Thames #archaeology

Lara Maiklem is a mudlark. She can be found at low tide walking the beaches and mud of the River Thames, foraging, searching, collecting bits and pieces. And in the course of her memoir Mudlarking, she tells the history of the river. This is a personal history, not a novel. Starting at the tidal head near Teddington and heading east to the Thames Estuary, Maiklem has written an anecdotal guide to London’s river, the treasures which can be found buried in the mud, and tells the stories of the people [real and imagined] who once lived there. From the discarded Doves Type to broken clay pipes and glass bottle stoppers, she describes the objects she has found, their place in her collection, her methods of cleaning and preserving them. Along the way she consults experts and historians and forages with fellow mudlarks who each have their favourite places, their specialist objects to collect. ‘Modern mudlarks fall into two distinct categories,’ she explains. ‘Hunters and gatherers. I am one of the latter. I find objects using just my eyes to spot what is lying on the surface. Eyes-only foragers like me generally enjoy the searching as much as the finding, and
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read Rosemary J Kind @therealalfiedog #books

Today I’m delighted to welcome historical novelist Rosemary J Kind. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Under Milk Wood  by Dylan Thomas. “I was brought up on books. Both my mother and grandfather were great readers of literature and our house was full of books. I don’t know if I first fell in love with Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, reading it myself or on one of our family holidays, boating on the River Thames, when we’d all curl up in the evening and Mum would read to us all. Many of the passages we knew by heart and would quote them to each other, adding lines where the other finished. To this day my favourite scene is the one in Butcher Beynon’s kitchen. The humour is so dry and so cleverly done that it never fails to make me laugh.” “I must have read it for myself at about the age of ten, and when stuck at home a couple of years later with glandular fever, listened to the Richard Burton recording of the book over and over. It is a book in which poetry and prose intertwine like lovers. Where the musicality of the language coupled with the keen observations
Read More

Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

#BookReview ‘The Confession’ by Jessie Burton #romance #contemporary

The Confession by Jessie Burton is her third novel after The Miniaturist, her successful debut. The Confession is a contemporary romance about relationships; mother/daughter, romantic, between friends. Are daughters destined to repeat the mistakes of their mothers, even if they have never met? This is a dual timeline novel. In 2017, Rose Simmons never knew her mother, who left when she was a baby. Rose’s father has always been tight-lipped until now when he tells Rose that the famous but reclusive novelist Constance Holden may have the answers. Frightened of scaring off Constance with awkward questions, Rose instead gets a job as maid/companion for the reclusive novelist, now in her seventies and crippled by arthritis. Unexpectedly Rose comes to like and admire Connie so the longer she works for her the more impossible it is to admit to her deception [she is known to Connie as Laura Brown]. And all the time she wonders if Connie can see her mother’s face in her own. In 1982, we see the story of her mother and Connie. Part-time waitress and artist’s model Elise Morceau meets the enigmatic Connie on Hampstead Heath. When Connie’s first novel is made into a film, the two women
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The House at Silvermoor’ by @AuthorTracyRees #historical

Expectations and generalisations are an odd thing. When I first read the the blurb for The House at Silvermoor and saw it is set in a South Yorkshire mining community, I hesitated. But I decided to place my trust in the author, Tracy Rees, because I read and loved her Amy Snow. What a good decision it was. Inspired by her grandfather Len, Rees researched coal mining at the turn of the century. This research informs every page but never interferes with her story of Tommy Green from the mining village of Grindley and Josie Westgate of nearby Arden. When they are twelve they meet in a country lane, talking over a dropped bunch of bluebells. Rees is excellent at world creation: the hard grind of the mining families, the lack of options, the durability and sense of inevitability of the families, the autocratic families that rule the mines, the temptation of the unknown. Tommy is destined to work in the pits of the Sedgewick family of Silvermoor where his father and brothers work, where his brother Dan died in an accident. Josie’s father and brothers work in the nearby pits owned by Winthrop Barridge, where standards are lower, the work
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Our Souls at Night’ by Kent Haruf #love #loneliness

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is a simple, straight talking, touching book about loneliness, love and longing late in life. One day Addie Moore suggests to her neighbour Louis Waters that he visit her house each night and sleep in her bed. Both are in their seventies, widowed, lonely and don’t know each other well. Acknowledging Addie’s bravery in asking the question, Louis arrives with his pyjamas and toothbrush in a bag. And so starts this touching novel about relationships, family and morality. Addie and Louis sleep side-by-side, not touching. They ignore the glances of neighbours, fearing censure. But the townsfolk nod and smile at them, while their own children disapprove. And so one generation seeks to control another. When their new dynamic is disrupted by the arrival of Addie’s six-year-old grandson Jamie, Addie and Louis’s relationship enters a new stage. Jamie’s parents have separated and he is distressed. Addie’s son Gene has asked his mother to help. This new three-person family begins to slowly to heal itself, starting slowly by visiting a family of new born mice in Louis’ shed. This is a short read, manageable in one sitting. The language is beautiful. Addie’s suggestion does not contain
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘Miss Austen’ by @GillHornby #JaneAusten #historical

What a delicious first chapter there is to MISS AUSTEN by Gill Hornby. Elderly Cassandra Austen arrives unannounced to visit a family friend in Kintbury, endures a parsimonious supper and a difficult evening without much conversation. Why, I wondered, is Cassandra there. And then at bedtime, comes a hint at her reason. Cassandra visits Isabella, a family friend who is grieving the death of her father. Cassandra’s objective, is to retrieve any incriminating letters between her sister Jane and Isabella’s mother, Eliza, before Isabella leaves the family vicarage. With both letter writers dead, and knowledge of the novelist Jane Austen more widely sought than ever before, Cassandra is anxious to protect Jane’s legacy. What follows is a gentle telling of the sisters’ relationship as Hornby pieces together the real letters of the Austen sisters and the known biography of the family, combined with events and dialogue of her own imagination. This is a meandering read without a real focus, there is the imagined threat to Jane’s reputation as Cassandra searches for the missing letters under threat of exposure by her sister-in-law Mary. But this threat is not wholly formed and the story goes back and forth between Cassandra reading the
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Howards End is on the Landing’ by Susan Hill #amreading

I selected this book off my to-read shelf where it has sat for at least two years and, on reading the first paragraph, knew I must read on. Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill is a gem of a memoir, a year in the life of a crime novelist who decides to read only the books on her bookshelves. But this is more than a review of books – it can be dipped in and out of, the chapters are conveniently short which makes you want to read ‘just another’ – because Hill attaches a personal story to each book, each author. I have always felt an affinity with Susan Hill; she was born eight miles from my own Yorkshire birthplace, and I was intrigued to learn about why she writes. I learned so much more; how her first novel was published when she was only eighteen, how she lives an ordinary life but mixes with some breath-stopping names. She met and/or knew TS Eliot, EM Forster, Cecil Day Lewis, Penelope Fitzgerald, Ian Fleming, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Bowen; it is a mirror image of my reading list at university, except for the Bond. Above everything though, the book
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Celebrating Romance #RomanceReadingMonth #freebooks

2020 is the 60th anniversary of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and, to celebrate, February has been named #RomanceReadingMonth. Since joining the RNA and meeting so many romance novelists, I’ve redefined my idea of ‘the romance novel’. If you still think its simply Mills and Boon romances between nurses and doctors, then think again. Romance crosses every single fiction genre from sci-fi to historical, crime to thrillers, horror and vampires to the genre I write – character-led contemporary women’s fiction. So this week I’ve partnered with a small group of authors to offer FREE EBOOKS to you. These are character-led dramas and not strictly romances though they may have romance sub-plots [as my books do]. Simply click the link above and scroll through the free novels on offer, Mobi and ePub files are available which work on Kindle, smartphones, tablets and ereaders. Offer ends February 10 so don’t delay! Planning activities to celebrate #RomanceReadingMonth has made me think about my favourite romance novels and why I re-read them. I’ve realised that in the books I enjoy romance is a part of the plot, but not the be-all-and-end-all. My favourite classic romance is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, my most recent favourite
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

Famous #writers, writing… Jodi Picoult @jodipicoult #amwriting

You’ve read every word, every line, every page and yet there is still room for improvement. Every writer knows the stage when the book feels as if it should be finished but isn’t, not quite. Jodi Picoult has sold 14 million print books worldwide in 34 languages but the scene shown here is familiar to every writer – Jodi is editing surrounded by Post-It notes, the latest draft from her editor with tracking changes, a sheaf of papers held together by a bulldog clip. Picoult’s most recent book, A Spark of Light, was published in 2018 and was a New York Times and Sunday Times number one bestseller. It is her twenty-fifth book. BUY THE BOOK Read the opening paragraphs of Nineteen Minutes and Vanishing Acts, and here’s my review of Vanishing Acts. See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Gregory Peck JK Rowling John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… @jodipicoult #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-49E via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: On Writing.