Archives for fiction

My to-read shelf is out of control

I seriously have to stop buying books. My to-read shelf is out of control.For the next month I will not:- a) Browse on Amazon; b) Go into any Oxfam shop; c) Avoid my local bookshop like the plague. I average three books per visit. My last visit was motivated by the need to buy poetry after Seamus Heaney’s death, I left with Death of a Naturalist plus Robert Graves’ Selected Poems. On my Kindle there are 51 items on the menu, but that includes the complete works of Dickens and Austen plus various omnibuses by Jo Nesbo and MC Beaton. Not all of it is fiction, there are a few tennis biographies and guide books left over from our USA tour last year. Unread gems awaiting me include Doppler by Erland Loe, Ferney by James Long, and Gods and Warriors by Michelle Paver. Some are read – The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin, The Hunger Games trilogy, Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. Some books on my Kindle are on my ‘must-read-before-I-die’ list eg War and Peace, and all of Ford Madox Ford. My to-read bookshelf, behind the door in the spare bedroom, is much more eclectic. From Granta to Haruki Murakami’s IQ84 which I was given
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Categories: Book Love.

I agree with… Janice Galloway

Janice Galloway “…a good short story frames not just the credible now, but an implied past – and a stretch after the putative ending into infinite space. I guess that’s what is meant by writing that ‘comes off the page’: 3D is certainly possible on the flat page.” [writing in MsLexia magazine, June/July/Aug 2013] I remember being told by one of my creative writing tutors to ‘write around the story you think you’re writing about’. It was a good piece of advice. Sometimes I start to write about one thing but then explore the plot, the characters, the timeline, and new things suggest themselves so that the finished story can be totally different from the one I started with. I think this 3D effect on the page which Janice Galloway describes also comes from truly knowing your characters and your subject, the result of lots of thought and work which isn’t written on the page but is there unseen. If you agree with Janie Galloway, perhaps you will agree with:- Natasha Carthew – if it feels right, write outdoors Kate Atkinson – on using your own life and family, then fictionalising it Joel Dicker – on killing secondary characters  
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Categories: On Writing.

More new books coming soon…

Deaf but hearing Granta has signed debut novelist Louise Stern. Kinil, to be published in 2015, tells the story of three siblings Ismael, Rosie and Ceistina who live in a Mayan village in Mexico where the deaf and hearing communicate by sign language.This is Stern’s debut novel, after her acclaimed short story collection Chattering. Stern, who is deaf and grew up a in a non-hearing community in California, writes about arresting characters who just happen to be deaf. Fifth writer signed from Curtis Brown course Antonia Honeywell’s debut novel The Ship has been bought by Weidenfeld & Nicolson from Curtis Brown, Honeywell [below] is the fifth student from Curtis Brown Creative’s novel-writing course to sign a publishing deal. The Ship is the story of a dystopian world where a wealthy man buys a huge ship to transport a handpicked group of 500, including his daughter Lalla, to a safe destination. But as the journey progresses, Lalla challenges her tyrannical father. To be published in February 2015.  Other successful CB students to sign deals are SD Sykes’s Plague Land, Jake Woodhouse’s After the Silence, Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist, and Tim Glencross’s social satire Barbarians. Sculptor publishes first novel Our Endless Numbered
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Categories: Book Love.

My favourite writing notebooks

I am quite particular about my writing notebooks. I can’t be without a stack of pristine Muji notebooks. There’s something about the uniformity of the covers, the satisfaction of a pile of used notebooks collected together with a rubber band in the cardboard box I keep for all notes pertaining to my current novel. Everything gets tossed into this box, pages torn from newspapers or magazines, scenes with feedback notes from my writing friends, old photographs, photocopies of pages from books, maps, leaflets from places I’ve visited for research. Inside my Muji I guess the contents are like anyone else’s writing notebook – random ideas, character sketches, research notes from books, first drafts and re-drafts of scenes, diagrams for plot development, even poems if the mood strikes me. My friends and family know I love notebooks too, so my cupboard is full of pretty ones received as birthday or Christmas presents. They all know the most important element – no spiral-bindings, they must be saddle-stitched so the notebook can be opened flat and I can write comfortably from the left edge to the right edge of the page. The notebook comes into its own on days when it seems impossible
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Categories: On Researching and On Writing.

New books coming soon….

Three new novels from fantasy writer Joe Abercrombie. The first, Half a King, will be published by Harper Collins next year and is a coming-of-age tale aimed at young readers. It is the story of Yarvi, youngest son of a warlike king, and is set in an alternative historical world akin to the Dark Ages. Yarvi, born with a crippled hand, cannot live up to his father’s expectations. The three new novels are standalone stories, but are inter-connected and aimed at 12-16 year olds.   The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings will be published in June 2014 by Cutting Edge Press. Her debut novel, Sworn Secret, published by Canvas, has high ratings on Goodreads as a difficult and emotional read leaving some readers in tears. Faber will publish Hanif Kureishi’s new novel in February 2014. The Last Word tells the story of Mamoon, an Indian writer in his seventies, based in England, who faces falling book sales and a wife with expensive tastes. Harry, a young biographer, commissioned to write a book which will revitalise Mamoon’s sales, prompting a struggle to tell the truth. Later this year a film will be released, written by Kureishi, called Le Weekend and starring
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Categories: Book Love.

Book Review: The Man Who Disappeared

Felix Kendall longs for a family, as a boy he lost his own. From the first page where Felix stands in a dark street watching a family illuminated in their dining room, curtains open, you know Felix must be the ‘man who disappeared’ but you don’t know why. The characters are believable and the pages turn quickly as we follow the stories of Felix, his wife Kate, son Rory and daughter Millie as they come to terms with what has happened. I expected this to be a slow indulgent read, lyrical, beautifully written, which it is, but I raced through it in the way I am accustomed to do with thrillers. Clare Morrall is one of my favourite authors, I’ve been a fan since her first book Astonishing Splashes of Colour was shortlisted for the Booker. Read my reviews of other Clare Morrall books:- After the Bombing The Language of Others The Roundabout Man If you like this, try:- ‘The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy’ by Rachel Joyce ‘Housekeeping’ by Marilynne Robinson ‘Ghost Moth’ by Michele Forbes ‘The Man Who Disappeared’ by Clare Morrall [UK: Sceptre] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
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Categories: Book Love.

New books coming out this autumn

William Boyd’s ‘Solo’. James Bond is 45 and in Africa. Stephen King’s ‘Doctor Sleep’. Danny Torrance from ‘The Shining’ is now middle-aged. ‘The Story’ is a compilation of 100 short stories, written by women, and edited by Victoria Hislop. A ‘whydunnit’ from Mark Lawson, ‘The Deaths’ combines social commentary and crime. Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Lowland’ is about two brothers growing up in Calcutta.
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Categories: Book Love.

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.

If books were real, Bilbo Baggins…

Bilbo Baggins would potter around in an old garden shed, feeding tame blackbirds with crumbs from his breakfast toast.   ‘The Hobbit’ by JRR Tolkien [UK: Harper Collins] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Jamie Fraser in ‘Cross Stitch’ Mikael Blomkvist in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo’ Jack Ryan in ‘Patriot Games’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Bilbo Baggins would have a shed: THE HOBBIT by JRR #Tolkein via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-aX
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Book review: The Last Runaway

Tracy Chevalier is so skilled at getting under the skin of the protagonist in a specific period whether it’s a 19th century fossil collector or a 15th century Belgian weaver, you always believe her. Honor Bright is a real person from page 1 of The Last Runaway and you are rooting for her. The book tackles a difficult subject: the rights and wrongs of helping escaping slaves, and the moral issue this poses for Ohio’s Quakers. Honor struggles to understand this sometimes frightening new country with its huge skies and geometrical roads, forthright people and different social rules. Even the air seems strange. “I feel when I am in it as if the air around me has shifted and is not the same air I breathed and moved in back in England, but is some other substance,” she writes to her parents. Chevalier does her research thoroughly, but feels no need to wave the depth of her research in her reader’s face. Instead it informs every simple description. Woven throughout the book is Honor’s sewing of quilts. Even this is different in Ohio where Honor’s calm nature and precise sewing is admired by the local hat-wearing ladies, but her needle
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

‘The River’, a short story*

 * with thanks to Bruce Springsteen Mary stood on tiptoes to see over the mossy stone wall of Barsteeple Bridge, watching the murky brown water speed out of sight beneath her feet, through the middle arch and away to the sea 10 miles away. Oh how she wanted to be swept up in it, swirling in its current, sped away to another world. But her feet were heavy on the ground. She rested a hand on the swell of her stomach and felt a kick inside. She turned away. Of course she couldn’t leave, her feet were rooted here as solidly as the foundations of the bridge. She didn’t know anywhere else, had never left the village. She’d grown up here and got with child here. Tomorrow she would become an adult here. The whole village knew that tomorrow, Sunday, Mary Struthers was to marry Johnnie Dart. Tomorrow they would right the wrong of one night’s fumbling and prodding in a dusty corner of the churchyard. Tonight was the last night of her childhood. The bells rang for evening service, calling her back to reality. She turned from the bridge, from its promise of escape, sub-consciously smoothing the fabric of
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Categories: My Short Stories.