Archives for creative writing

Great opening paragraph 22… ‘The Collector’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“When she was home from her boarding-school I used to see her almost every day sometimes, because their house was right opposite the Town Hall Annexe. She and her younger sister used to go in and out a lot, often with young men, which of course I didn’t like. When I had a free moment from the files and ledgers I stood by the window and used to look down over the road over the frosting and sometimes I’d see her. In the evening I marked it in my observations diary, at first with X, and then when I knew her name with M. I saw her several times outside too. I stood right behind her once in a queue at the public library down Crossfield Street. She didn’t look once at me, but I watched the back of her head and her hair in a long pigtail. It was very pale, silky, like burnet cocoons. All in one pigtail coming down almost to her waist, sometimes in front, sometimes at the back. Sometimes she wore it up. Only once, before she came to be my guest here, did I have the privilege to see her with it loose, and
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 21 ‘Freedom’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The news about Walter Berglund wasn’t picked up locally – he and Patty had moved away to Washington two years earlier and meant nothing to St Paul now – but the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill were not so loyal to their city as not to read The New York Times. According to a long and very unflattering story in the Times, Walter had made quite a mess of his professional life out there in the nation’s capital. His old neighbours had some difficulty reconciling the quotes about him in the Times [“arrogant,” “high-handed,” “ethically compromised”] with the generous, smiling, red-faced 3M employee they remembered pedalling his commuter bicycle up Summit Avenue in February snow; it seemed strange that Walter, who was greener than Greenpeace and whose own roots were rural, should be in trouble now for conniving with the coal industry and mistreating country people. Then again, there had always been something not quite right about the Berglunds.” ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by Haruki Murakami ‘A Bouquet of Barbed Wire’ by Andrea Newman ‘After You’d Gone’ by Maggie O’Farrell And if you’d like to tweet
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I can’t write without…checking my emails

… checking my emails and updating my blogs first. Then I start writing. I know lots of other writers say they find doing emails distracting, but for me I need to get them out of the way before I feel free to write. I write every day, that’s the discipline of journalism deep in my bones. Each to his own. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: I can’t write without… checking my emails first #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-hg via @SandraDanby
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Categories: On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 18… ‘The Ghost Road’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“In deck-chairs all along the front the bald pink knees of Bradford businessmen nuzzled the sun.” ‘The Ghost Road’ by Pat Barker, #1 Regeneration Trilogy  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier ‘The Murder Room’ by PD James ‘That They May Face the Rising Sun’ by John McGahern And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #FirstPara which makes me want to read more: THE GHOST ROAD by Pat Barker  #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-ev via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 17… ‘The Hobbit’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort.” ‘The Hobbit’ by JRR Tolkien  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘A Bouquet of Barbed Wire’ by Andrea Newman ‘The Guest Cat’ by Takashi Hiraide ‘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 #FirstPara which makes me want to read more: THE HOBBIT by JRR Tolkien #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-gZ via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

If books were real, Jack Ryan…

Jack Ryan… would watch the car advertisements on TV and buy his daughter Sally a brand new VW Polo to go away to university.   ‘Patriot Games’ by Robert Ludlum [UK: Harper Collins] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Hercule Poirot in ‘Death on the Nile Mr Wickham in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Jackson Brodie in ‘Case Histories’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Jack Ryan would buy a #VW Polo: PATRIOT GAMES by Tom Clancy via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-bu
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Great opening paragraph 16… ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Spring 1521. I could hear a roll of muffled drums. But I could see nothing but the lacing on the bodice of the lady standing in front of me, blocking my view of the scaffold. I had been at this court for more than a year and attended hundreds of festivities; but never before one like this.” ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ by Philippa Gregory  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Cement Garden’ by Ian McEwan ‘Midnight’s Children’ by Salman Rushdie ‘Herzog’ by Saul Bellow And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #FirstPara which makes me want to read more: THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL by @PhilippaGBooks #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-eI via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 15… ‘Spies’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The third week of June, and there it is again: the same almost embarrassingly familiar breath of sweetness that comes every year about this time. I catch it on the warm evening air as I walk past the well-ordered gardens in my quiet street, and for a moment I’m a child again and everything’s before me – all the frightening, half-understood promise of life.” ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Brighton Rock’ by Graham Greene ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ by Haruki Murakami And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #FirstPara which makes me want to read more: SPIES by Michael Frayn #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-61 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 14… ‘Rebecca’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.” ‘Rebecca’ Daphne du Maurier  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Sacred Hearts’ by Sarah Dunant ‘The Sea The Sea’ by Iris Murdoch ‘True Grit’ by Charles Portis And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #FirstPara which makes me want to read more: REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-8c via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

A book I love… Any Human Heart

I go back a long way with William Boyd to A Good Man in Africa and An Ice-Cream War. He is a consummate storyteller. But it was Brazzaville Beach that shocked me and made me a fan. I came late to Any Human Heart, I don’t know why. Logan Mountstuart is a fragile everyman who lives through a momentous century who gets involved in history but in off-key ways. I was locked into the story from the beginning with the three boys at school and their challenges to each other: a nifty device of differentiating the three characters. See my review of Sweet Caress. ‘Any Human Heart’ by William Boyd [UK: Penguin] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: ANY HUMAN HEART by William Boyd #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-gf via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 10… ‘Sacred Hearts’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Before the screaming starts, the night silence of the convent is alive with its own particular sounds.” ‘Sacred Hearts’ by Sarah Dunant  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Ernest Hemingway ‘Time Will Darken It’ by William Maxwell ‘Nineteen Minutes’ by Jodi Picoult 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: SACRED HEARTS by Sarah Dunant #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-f0 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

If books were real, Adam Dalgliesh…

Adam Dalgliesh would secretly eat a whole 100g bar of Maya Gold Green & Black chocolate in one sitting. 55% cocoa with a hint of orange and spices. ‘Devices and Desires’ by PD James [Faber] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Hobbit’ Jack Ryan in ‘Patriot Games’ Jackson Brodie in ‘Case Histories’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Adam Dalgliesh would eat chocolate: DEVICES AND DESIRES by PD James via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-e0
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

If books were real, Jo March…

Jo March … would write in an unruled Moleskine notebook with a HB sharpened pencil.   ‘Little Women’ by Louisa M Alcott [UK: Scholastic] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Miss Marple in ‘The Body in the Library’ Bella Swan, human, in ‘Twilight’ Jean Brodie in ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Jo March would write in a notebook by @moleskine LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-a8
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

If books were real, Elizabeth Bennet…

Elizabeth Bennet would read Grazia, subscribe to Granta and secretly fancy Benedict Cumberbatch.     ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen [UK: Penguin] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games’ Mattie Ross in ‘True Grit’ Jo March in ‘Little Women’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Elizabeth Bennet would read Grazia magazine: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-5N
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Great opening paragraph 4… ‘Sophie’s World’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Sophie Amundsen was on her way home from school. She had walked the first part of the way with Joanna. They had been discussing robots. Joanna thought the human brain was like an advanced computer. Sophie was not certain she agreed. Surely a person was more than a piece of hardware?” ‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes ‘That They May Face the Rising Sun’ by John McGahern And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: SOPHIE’S WORLD by Jostein Gaarder http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4S via @SandraDanby #amreading
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I agree with Stephen King…

Stephen King “Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognise them when they show up.” [excerpt from ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King]  He’s right. Ideas come at me all the time, doing the most prosaic things. Doing the washing-up, queuing to park at the supermarket, wandering around an art gallery, sitting in a traffic jam. The fun starts when I realize two [or three] bits belong together. It doesn’t work if I force things to fit, so I’ve had to learn to be patient and let things be for a while. Some of my ideas have been kept for years until they find the right home. When a character finds a setting, a setting finds a story, a name in the newspaper fits a so far unnamed character, the resulting buzz is incredible.   ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King [UK: Hodder] If you
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Categories: On Writing.

My Top 5… Music to Write to

Music with lyrics messes me up when writing, so I stick strictly to classical. My current Top 5 albums of Music to Write To are:- ‘Coppélia’ by Delibes [Decca] I’ve just bought this after hearing it on Classic FM while driving in the car. The first track took me straight back to seeing the ballet as a child: something of a coup in 1960s East Yorkshire! ‘The Armed Man’ by Karl Jenkins [EMI Classics] The journey to war, the rhythm of trudging of feet and marching drums, never fails to be poignant. Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ [Deutsche Grammophon] This is the most-played classical CD on my shelf, replacing the old cassette bought as a first exploration into classical music. ‘Sense and Sensibility’ by Patrick Doyle [Sony Classical] Soundtrack to Ang Lee’s uplifting film. A must for Austen fans like me. ‘Lord of the Rings’ by Howard Shore [Rhino] The standout track for me is the male voice choir when the Fellowship are fleeing through the Mines of Moria. … and not forgetting:- Verdi’s Requiem Holst’s Planets And anything by Jacqueline du Pré, I have The Complete EMI Recordings. Do you agree with my other ‘Top 5’ choices?:- My Top 5… books about
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Categories: My Top 5... and On Writing.

Not all books are good

I can’t remember the specific book which caused the epiphany: not all books are good. I grew up devouring books. All books. Any books. From my father’s James Herriot to my mother’s Mary Stewart [This Rough Magic and The Moon-Spinners being particular favourites] via Agatha Christie loaned from the library, Shakespeare and Kingsley Amis at school, EM Forster and Virginia Woolf at university, I read it all. The epiphany of realizing that not all books were good was disappointing, almost a betrayal. A little like the realization that Mendelssohn was not English and that Fingal’s Cave was not in Scotland. No-one warned me that bad books got published too.   ‘This Rough Magic’ by Mary Stewart [UK: Hodder] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Not all #books are good: an epiphany as a teenager http://wp.me/p5gEM4-3z via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 2… ‘Middlesex’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. Specialized readers may have come across me in Dr Peter Luce’s study, ‘Gender Identity in 5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodites,’ published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology in 1975. Or maybe you’ve seen my photograph in chapter sixteen of the now sadly outdated ‘Genetics and Heredity.’ That’s me on page 578, standing naked beside a height chart with a black box covering my eyes.” ‘Middlesex’ by Jeffrey Eugenides  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘American Psycho’ by Brett Easton Ellis ‘Astonishing Splashes of Colour’ by Clare Morrall ‘Queen Camilla’ by Sue Townsend And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2q via @SandraDanby #amwriting
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Categories: Book Love.

‘Useless’, a short story

The cups on the buffet trolley rattled out their accompaniment as the train’s wheels rumbled over points. Mary stumbled as the train lurched to the right and she caught a cup before it hit the sticky grey carpet. Then the train entered a tunnel and a rush of air transported the passengers into darkness, their ears tightened with pressure. Some people rubbed their earlobes, others pinched their nose with two fingers and snorted. A businessman chewed a toffee as he tapped at the keyboard of his laptop, a teenager nodded his head in time to music piped directly into the coil of his inner ear. It all added up to the combined rhythm section familiar to all train travellers. A buzzer heralded an internal train announcement: “My name is Colleen Murphy and I’m your customer services manager aboard this train today to Waverington. I hope you have an enjoyable journey. Thank you for travelling with Northern Rail.” The words faded away with a hiss. The train felt like Mary’s second home. She travelled the same route north every Friday and south again on Sunday, watching the countryside flash by at 70 mph. That was the average speed of the train,
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Categories: My Short Stories.