Archives for writing

My Porridge & Cream read… @CarmenRadtke1 #books #cozymysteries

Today I’m delighted to welcome Carmen Radtke, writer of cozy historical mysteries. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett. “Picking my “Porridge & Cream” book made me realise how many writers give me endless comfort and entertainment. In the end, Terry Pratchett prevailed (sorry, Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie, Joan Hess and Bill Bryson). At least half a dozen of his witches and night watch novels have seen me through richer and poorer, sickness and health. But the one I reread most often is Carpe Jugulum, although The Fifth Elephant, Feet of Clay and Jingo come a close second. “I discovered it aged twenty on my new boyfriend’s bookshelf. Two hours later he complained that I was still reading. Yeah, right … What makes this (and its companions) so irresistible is the sheer fun and inventiveness of the Discworld, its hilarious characters and madcap situations. But underneath the comedy lurks a darker side which itself contains a world of wisdom, a sense of justice and how life could be. In Carpe Jugulum, the witches of Lancre find themselves up against a new breed of vampires who’ve been invited by Lancre’s idealistic king. But once you have vampires
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

#FlashPIC 49 Painted Sky #writingprompt #amwriting

Today you are an artist and you will paint a picture of this sky. First work out the practicals – where are you, time of day, what is your skill level, what are your expectations. Don’t worry about the technical details of painting, your artist can use paints, pencil, crayon, charcoal, iPad apps, felt tip pens, whatever you want. Amateur or professional, it doesn’t matter, you decide. Choose a name. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. Now put your mind inside your artist. Consider the sky, the shapes, the colours, the contrasts, the images it conjures in your mind, the things it makes you think of – including the odd associations you mind may jump to. Take one of these images or thought associations, and include it in your artist’s day. How does it change the painting – does the artist decide to paint something else, do something else. Perhaps someone arrives and interrupts. The sky changes – a storm approaches, a plane leaves a con trail, a noise nearby interrupts his/her concentration. What happens after this disturbance and how does your artist react? How important is the picture of the painted sky? Why is a picture of
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

#BookReview ‘The Streets’ by Anthony Quinn #historical #sociology

The Streets by Anthony Quinn is part sociology, part history, part mystery, part political discussion. Set in the 1880s, it sets a fictional tale within true history, the sort of thing hated by historians themselves who fear that readers will believe it is all true. They should credit we readers with the ability to recognize fiction from fact. This is a story encompassing poverty, pride, crime, corruption, community and, almost, eugenics. David Wildeblood has a new job. He is an inspector, a fact-collector, charged with touring the North London borough of Somers Town, conducting interviews and collating information to be published in Henry Marchmont’s weekly news sheet The Labouring Classes of London; living conditions, work, income, religion, diet, pastimes, crime, health etc. Marchmont is based on Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor and Charles Booth’s Life and Labour of the People of London. At first Wildeblood is an outsider and woefully naïve, until he stumbles on costermonger Jo. Soon Wildeblood learns the argot, the alleys to avoid, and how to best submit his report to Marchmont’s loyal assistant Mr Rennert. Then he stumbles onto a scheme in which criminal landlords defraud their tenants, refuse to repair their properties
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Charlotte Brontë A Life’ by Claire Harman #books #writerslife

How did Charlotte Brontë create the character of Jane Eyre? Was Villette really based on a doomed love affair in Brussels? How much of the real author is in these novels? If you have read Charlotte Brontë’s books, you will have asked yourself these questions. The biography Charlotte Brontë: A Life by Claire Harman provides some fascinating answers. This is the first biography of Brontë I have read and I wish I had read it sooner. Harman tells the enthralling story of the family whose losses, grief, hardship, isolation and disappointments populate the novels of the three sisters – Charlotte, Emily and Anne. It is impossible to write about Charlotte without writing about the family, and particularly about Emily, Anne and brother Branwell. Everyone knows the headline facts about the Brontës – Haworth parsonage, mother and siblings dying, Branwell’s addiction, and the imaginary kingdoms of Angria and Dondal in which the children lose themselves. But Harman makes the history accessible, telling the life of Charlotte in chronological order starting briefly with her father Patrick. There are clear references to real life appearing in the novels and Harman casts light on the writing process of Charlotte and her sisters. For a novelist, this
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read… Ian Gouge #books #writerslife

Today I’m delighted to welcome poet and novelist Ian Gouge.  His ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is EM Forster’s A Passage to India. “My ‘Porridge & Cream’ novel is perhaps an unfashionable choice: EM Forster’s A Passage to India. I first read the novel in 1976 when, having dropped out of school two years earlier, I enrolled at a sixth-form college to study A Levels before going on to take English at university. A Passage to India was one of the set texts, and – along with Auden and Yeats – responsible for kindling my love of literature. “I don’t re-read it that often, although I have done so this year – and, to be frank, was a little shocked by how dated it now seems. But for me it’s one of those books (like Heart of Darkness, which ran the Forster a close second!) where it is probably enough to know that it’s there should I ever need it. Perhaps my attachment to it is more about memory than anything. The images of the caves, a fantastic passage about wasps and heaven, the way Forster makes the landscape and environment resonate with the characters’ emotions – yes, it’s all of
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

How Deborah Moggach writes #amwriting #writetip

Deborah Moggach“One of my great tips for writing is not to start too quickly. If you get excited about a book, don’t plunge in and write it too quickly, because until you know the characters pretty well, anything could happen to them. They could do anything, and that’s chaotic. The novel could go in 800,000 different directions and you’re lost!” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine on May 3, 2019] Great advice. Deborah Moggach’s novels are well-loved and sell by the bucket load. Two have been turned into films – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Tulip Fever – and she writes screenplays, adapting Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate for the BBC, and being BAFTA nominated for her screenplay of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley. And I know what she means. I think all debut authors have made exactly the mistake that she warns against here. It’s a natural thing to do. You have a brilliant idea and just want to get the words down. But time spent preparing, exploring and just thinking, do pay off. My first novel was written over a long period of time, I had my key character Rose nailed but had neglected to give
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Categories: On Writing.

#FlashPic 47 Union Jack and Trees #writingprompt #amwriting

Central London. A special occasion. Something happens here… you decide what. First choose your year, perhaps a date from history. Now make the story your own by putting you character there. Close your eyes, imagine the time, listen to the noise, the voices, the traffic, the shouts, the whispered conversations. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. This photograph shows The Mall in London during the summer of 2012, the London Olympics. But the scene lends itself well to other landmark days in history. Using a true event as the background to a fictional story works well. Choose your true event according to your narrative and what you want to happen. If you are starting a new story, try one of these ideas as a starting point and see where it leads you:- VE Day, London – May 7, 1945 – Bring together one character mourning a loved one, and another who is celebrating the beginning of freedom from war; The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – June 2, 1953 – watched by a schoolchild standing at the kerb; A man who works on the building of The Mall in 1660 when King Charles II ordered a redesign of
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

#BookReview ‘The Woman of Substance’ by Piers Dudgeon #biography

The Woman of Substance by Piers Dudgeon is in part an authorised biography of A Woman of Substance writer Barbara Taylor Bradford, and part analysis of how Barbara’s own family history features in her books. The story of Emma Harte’s journey from Edwardian kitchen maid to globally successful businesswoman is well known. Less known perhaps are the connections with Barbara’s own family history. Connections she did not know herself. Starting with a meeting at the Bradfords’ New York apartment at which he is surrounded by the great and the famous, eating amidst the glittering décor, Dudgeon realises this is the world of the successful Emma Harte at the height of her powers. And then he tells Barbara’s story from her birth in 1933 in Upper Armley near Leeds, born not into the family of a kitchen maid like Emma Harte, but a tidy working class family who were neat and always made ends meet. Barbara is an only child and spoilt by her mother who takes her at every available opportunity to visit the Studley Royal estate where she learns this history of the house, the estate and the family. ‘My mother exposed me to lots of things,” said Barbara.
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read… Amanda Huggins @troutiemcfish #shortstories

Today I’m delighted to welcome short story writer Amanda Huggins. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “There was strong competition for my Porridge and Cream choice, and I’d just like to mention two of the worthy runners-up, both of which I return to time and time again. The wonderful Jane Eyre needs no introduction or explanation, and has been in my top ten since I was a teenager. Another contender was The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I’ve loved since first reading it in the 1980s. A beautifully written story of a life lost to duty; unsentimental and utterly heartbreaking. But my final choice has to be The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, one of the all-time bestselling – and most translated – books ever published. “I own a signed copy of The Remains of the Day as well as a Folio hardback, and I also have two copies of Jane Eyre – though sadly neither of them are signed! But I have to confess to owning a rather extravagant seven copies of The Little Prince. In my defence, they’re all in different languages – however, as I’m only
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

#Bookreview ‘On Writing’ by AL Kennedy @Writerer #amwriting #writerslife

If you want an insight into the nuts and bolts of a writer’s life, this book is for you. On Writing by AL Kennedy is a compilation of her blog posts written for The Guardian Online and essays on specific aspects of the fiction writing process. When you finish it, you will no longer believe that a writer’s life is full of glamour and applause. Kennedy’s life is hectic, mind-spinning in its variety, and inspiring. Join her on a journey as she writes one book, promotes another, teaches creative writing, gives talks and performs her ‘one woman’ show. Sympathise with her through her various debilitating illnesses – name a writer who hasn’t suffered with a bad back, as she does – and cringe as she travels on delayed trains, stays in poky B&Bs, and flies, terrified, to book signings across the world. Some of her stories made me laugh out loud. I loved the fact that she travels with a survival kit to enable her to survive unedifying overnight accommodation, including teabags and longlife food. She has learnt the hard way how to survive. Kennedy has written six novels, five story collections and two books of non-fiction, and she won
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 124… ‘The Camomile Lawn’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Helena Cuthbertson picked up the crumpled Times by her sleeping husband and went to the flower room to iron it.” ‘The Camomile Lawn’ by Mary Wesley BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Ernest Hemingway  ‘A Month in the Country’ by JL Carr ‘Back When We Were Grown-Ups’ by Anne Tyler  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara THE CAMOMILE LAWN by Mary Wesley #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-48b via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read… Jessie Cahalin @BooksInHandbag #books

Today I’m delighted to welcome romance novelist Jessie Cahalin. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. “Wuthering Heights appeared in my life when I was eleven years old in 1983.  Following my English teacher’s recommendation, I saved pocket money to buy the novel. ‘The air made me shiver through every limb’ as I entered Heathcliff’s kitchen and lost myself in the language. This was my first taste of one of ‘the important authors’ and she was a Yorkshire lass to boot. I still remember the picture of the withering tree on the front cover and the delicious new smell of the fine pages. “The tiny writing meant I had to concentrate and there were delicious new words to savour. Even then, the rhythms of the language and the powerful setting captured me, and I read them aloud. I stood on t’top of t’world with my new book. Bronte inspired me to enjoy the power of words, and I would spend hours painting my own scenes with language. I marked pages in Wuthering Heights and would re-read them constantly. My parents took me to Howarth to visit the parsonage, and I knew Jessie had gone home. Wuthering Heights was my
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Home’ by Marilynne Robinson #classic #literary

Home by Marilynne Robinson is the story of two adult children who return home, coincidentally at the same time, who feel the shame of not living up to the standards set by their minister father, Reverend Robert Boughton. It is a profoundly sad book; the slow winding tale towards the inevitable ending is curiously addictive. It is a three-hander, concentrating on father, son and daughter. Glory and Jack Boughton grew up in a clerical family home in Gilead, Iowa. We learn of their country childhoods, quite different as siblings go, from their conversations and the memories prompted by visits from neighbours Reverend John Ames, his wife Lila and son. The story is told from Glory’s viewpoint. Jack takes lots of ‘dark nights of the soul’, long solitary walks in the dark to which we are not privy, and his true thoughts remain a mystery to the end. Just when you think you have worked him out, he confounds you. Robinson draws a picture of rural America at a time of great change. There are demonstrations in Montgomery, but Gilead seems insulated from the outside apart from occasional telephone calls to their father by Glory and Jack’s siblings, and news reports of
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 123… ‘The Ashes of London’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The noise was the worst. Not the crackling of the flames, not the explosions and the clatter of falling buildings, not the shouting and the endless beating of drums and the groans and cries of the crowd: it was the howling of the fire. It roared its rage. It was the voice of the Great Beast itself.” ‘The Ashes of London’ by Andrew Taylor, #1 Fire of London BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Personal’ by Lee Child ‘Back When We Were Grown Ups’ by Anne Tyler  ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE ASHES OF LONDON by Andrew Taylor #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3Jn via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

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
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Categories: On Writing.

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
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Categories: On Writing.

How AL Kennedy writes @Writerer #amwriting #writetip

AL Kennedy on spending time with a Harris hawk; thanks to the man who decorated her mother’s bathroom who was also a falconer: “I have no idea if or when I will make use of Mr Hawk, but he will have rattled something somewhere which will eventually rattle something else and meanwhile it was a blast to meet him.”  [from ‘On Writing’ by AL Kennedy]  I love this story from On Writing, AL Kennedy’s book about her life as a writer and based on the blog she writes for the Guardian newspaper. I love it because it demonstrates how authors collect ideas like squirrels store nuts and that the process can, perhaps should, be enjoyable. Given an unexpected opportunity [the decorator/falconer] Kennedy grabbed it and stored away the observations, the experience, the emotions, for another time. It may appear in her writing in any number of ways but on the day she saw Mr Hawk she had no plans. She goes on to protest, mildly, that the day spent with Mr Hawk was for purely professional reasons. ‘It’s not fun with Mr Hawk – it’s work’. Researching becomes enjoyable; a treat, even. Surely this is reflected on the page when the
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Categories: On Researching and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 122… ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ #amwriting #FirstPara

‘Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.’ ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by John Boyne BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’ by Tan Twan Eng  ‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan ‘Couples’ by John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE HEART’S INVISIBLE FURIES by @john_boyne #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3Jk via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

How Penny Vincenzi wrote #writerslife #amwriting #bestseller

Penny Vincenzi “I haven’t the faintest idea what is going to happen, ever. I just get the kernel of the idea, which in this case was supposing a company was about to go under, and then the characters wander in. I never have any idea what is going to happen at the end, I truly don’t, which is why they are so long.” [on writing ‘A Question of Trust’, in an interview with ‘The Telegraph’ on June 16, 2014]  Penny Vincenzi didn’t get writer’s block. And she didn’t plot. The first I understand and I think that is due to her journalistic background. But the second; no plotting? At all? It didn’t stopped her selling 7 million big books, her novels came in at around 300,000 words. Her first, Old Sins, was published in 1989. She died in 2018. On writer’s block, she said, “I don’t agonise. I do have terrible days when I realise I have gone down a completely blind alley and I’ve got to come back. The only cure is to press the delete button, I’m afraid. I once deleted 20,000 words, and I felt much better after that.” Read the full article at The Telegraph. BUY
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Categories: On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 121… ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees. The mountainside sloped gently where he lay; but below it was steep and he could see the dark of the oiled road winding through the pass. There was a stream alongside the road and far down the pass he saw a mill beside the stream and the falling water of the dam, white in the summer sunlight.” ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Ernest Hemingway BUY Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Queen Camilla’ by Sue Townsend 90 ‘Sacred Hearts’ by Sarah Dunant 10 ‘Jack Maggs’ by Peter Carey 76 And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS by Ernest Hemingway #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3JG via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.