Archives for writing

‘Little Boxes’, a short story

Brown boxes, empty boxes, boxes full to bursting. The badge on Michael’s lapel said ‘storage executive’ but the way he saw it he just kept the boxes safe. No space for your belongings? Trust them to Safeplace2store. It said it in the local newspaper every Saturday. It occasionally said it on the TV which, since his mother died two years ago, was always switched on to chase away the silence. Michael took as good a care of Safeplace2store’s warehouse as he did of his flat high in Hungate Towers. At work twice a day he walked along every corridor, cloth and jar of cleaner in hand, and wiped off the black marks from the yellow doors and walls of the boxes. He helped people unload their cars and stack boxes and wondered what they stored in their boxes – forgotten things, too-big things, un-needed things, things with bad memories. First to arrive every morning was Jake in his old white Ford Transit [J8K 556], more brown with rust than white with paint. Jake had a market stall on Wattle Road, Michael’s mother had been one of Jake’s customers and now Michael was too. Washing up brushes, soapy scouring pads, plastic
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Categories: My Short Stories.

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....

I agree with… Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel “I remember the first time I read Jane Eyre: probably every woman writer does, because you recognise, when you have hardly begun it, that you are reading a story about yourself.” [excerpt from Giving up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel] I remember the first time I read Jane Eyre too. I must have been about 12 or 13, and I still retain a clear picture in my mind of Jane and Helen cuddled together in a hard wooden bunk. I’m not sure I thought it was a story about me, though. If you agree with Hilary Mantel, perhaps you will agree with:- Frederick Forsyth – all authors are separate, taking notes, watching Antony Gormley – everybody says what does it mean, but what does life mean? Deborah McKinley – the lean years focussed me on what I really wanted   ‘Giving up the Ghost’ by Hilary Mantel [UK: Fourth Estate] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Do you remember the 1st time you read JANE EYRE? Hilary Mantel does #writing via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-cQ
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 7… ‘The Big Sleep’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.” ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Jack Maggs’ by Peter Carey ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell ‘The Secret Agent’ by Joseph Conrad And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Does this make you want more? THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler https://wp.me/p5gEM4-8B via @SandraDanby #amwriting
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Ideas at dawn

Like most writers, I keep a notepad and pen beside my bed. Sometimes an idea comes to me in the middle of the night, so I try silently to slide the drawer open, extract the book, and scribble in it in the dark without waking my husband. It’s interesting, the effect complete darkness has on your writing skill. Often when I read my notes, the next morning, my handwriting is double its normal size and slants alarmingly across the page. Ideas often come to me in that phase between dream and wakefulness, when the brain mixes up elements of memory, dreams and imagination and comes up with plot solutions. Some of my big plot decisions originate from notes taken on waking. It can be frustrating trying to stay in the zone, when your body is waking up. Sometimes I will try to extend the moment, screwing up my eyes to exclude light, and going deaf like a teenager ignoring the alarm ringing at 7am for school. In Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande advocates getting up an hour earlier than usual and writing before doing anything else, and particularly before reading anything. Write about whatever is in your head, she says.
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Categories: On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 6… ‘Goldfinger’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.” ‘Goldfinger’ by Ian Fleming Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Murder Room’ by PD James ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche ‘Couples’ by John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Does this make you want more? GOLDFINGER by Ian Fleming http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7F via @SandraDanby #amwriting
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

A book I love… Stig of the Dump

To my sadness, I haven’t got my original copy of this book. I read Stig of the Dump by Clive King it when I was about 9 or 10, I guess, and it opened up a new world of possibilities to me. That you could be free to live your own life, free of adults, free of rules, free to imagine, free to believe.  The writer Clive King grew up in a house near a chalk pit, so I’d like to think he did actually meet Stig. I re-read it recently and the story was just as fresh. It was published 40 years ago but it hasn’t aged at all. ‘Stig of the Dump’ by Clive King [UK: Puffin] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: STIG OF THE DUMP by Clive King http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7f #bookreview via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 5… ‘Moon Tiger’ #amwriting #FirstPara

” ‘I’m writing a history of the world,’ she says. And the hands of the nurse are arrested for a moment; she looks down at this old woman, this old ill woman. ‘Well, my goodness,’ the nurse says. ‘That’s quite a thing to be doing, isn’t it?’ And then she becomes busy again, she heaves and tucks and smooths – ‘Upsy a bit, dear, that’s a good girl – then we’ll get you a cup of tea.’ ” ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue ‘After You’d Gone’ by Maggie O’Farrell       Here is my old copy of Moon Tiger, well-read and much-loved. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: MOON TIGER by Penelope Lively via @SandraDanby #amreading http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7w
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

A book I love… The Language of Flowers

This book was picked up from a supermarket bookshelf in Moab, Utah, during a tour of South-Western USA in 2012. I didn’t realise when I bought it that the story is set in San Francisco and the countryside north of the Golden Gate Bridge, somewhere we would visit later in the same holiday. It’s about a damaged young girl Victoria who leaves the foster-care system with minimal social skills but a deep understanding of flowers and their meanings. Hydrangea, to Victoria, means dispassion. She struggles with intimacy until she meets a man who tells her that Jonquil means desire. Thoughtful, gently-paced but with emotional power. ‘The Language of Flowers’ by Vanessa Diffenbaugh [UK: Pan]       Left, is my American copy. I think I prefer this cover. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by @VDiffenbaugh http://bit.ly/2bdZACF #bookreview via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

If books were real, Mikael Blomkvist…

Mikael Blomkvist …would have a white Eames chair and stool in his flat, but rarely sit in it.     ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ by Stieg Larsson [UK: MacLehose] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Hercule Poirot in ‘Death on the Nile’ Mr Wickham in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Torak in ‘Wolf Brother’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Mikael Blomkvist would own an Eames chair: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TAGOO by Stieg Larsson via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-5u
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Great opening paragraph 3… ‘Herzog’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.” ‘Herzog’ by Saul Bellow Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McKewan ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: HERZOG by Saul Bellow http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4G via @SandraDanby #books
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

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.

If best-selling albums were books instead

This week’s Bookseller magazine has just arrived and there is a gem in Bent’s Notes on the back page. Graphic designer Christophe Gowans has re-made rock and pop albums as if they were classic book jackets. My favourites are:- Patti Smith’s ‘Horses’ as a DK Eyewitness Guide to Horses Level 42’s ‘World Machine’ as Catch-22 Adam and the Ants’ ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ as a Wild West book for children ‘What’s the Story Morning Glory’ by Oasis as a religious pamphlet Check out Christophe’s blog. © all photos Christophe Gowans And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Imagine, if best-selling albums were #books instead: by Christophe Gowans http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4Z 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.

‘Clap Your Hands if You Believe’, a short story

The sign on the door says ‘Miss T Bell – Consultant’. I pour the third of the four glasses of wine required for courage before I go on stage, then hide the glass at a knock on the door. “Yes?” “Miss Bell, can we come in?” I wave them in and three members of the chorus settle on the couch in my dressing room, tidying the beech leaves of their skirts. “What do you want?” “I’ve read that all fairies were angels in another life,” says the petite blonde. “But Celandine over there has read that fairies are spirits trapped between heaven and earth. Miss Bell, please tell us the real story of Peter Pan, not the pantomime version.” “Ooh, I wish I could meet him,” says the third, wide-eyed fairy, who winds her auburn hair around a finger. Oh dear. I swig half the glass of wine in one gulp. Should I tell the plain truth or embellish it? * Why am I always doing things for him? He never does what I want to do. I turn my back on the wooden walls and with my right toe I prod at the neatly piled fabric underfoot: pink pyjamas
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Categories: My Short Stories.

Book review: All Points North

For me, as a Yorkshirewoman, there are many laugh-out-loud moments in All Points North by Simon Armitage and other moments which make me feel fond of my home county. But the piece that stayed with me longest was the page on ‘Writing’. Writing, he says, is “a form of disappearance. Burglars watching the house from outside for four or five hours would think it empty. There isn’t another human activity which combines stillness and silence with so much energy.” I know exactly what he means. I will be upstairs in my attic study, writing all day, my husband out, my only movement to make a cup of tea and scrounge a handful of fruit and nuts from the snack jar. When I come down at the end of the day, turning off the lights as an unconscious signal to myself not to go back upstairs and start working again, it is not uncommon to find ‘we tried to deliver but you were out’ postcards on the mat, or parcels piled up outside the front door. It’s not that our doorbell isn’t up to the job, simply that when you’re in the zone that’s where you are. If you like ‘All
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

‘Procreation’, a short story

The packet was 20 years old, the use-by date was before the law changed. Jessie tore the Predictor packet into pieces and flushed them down the toilet. Then she shoved the white plastic paddle to the bottom of her handbag and went back to her desk. The Predictor still worked, at least it looked like it did. She’d followed the instructions and it had done everything it said on the packet. The space in the box had turned blue: she was pregnant. Her hand shook as she reached for the computer mouse. The time monitor on her pc had noticed her five-minute absence and an e-mail in her inbox confirmed the deduction off her week’s wages. With a sigh she clicked on camera three and looked at the grid-locked traffic. A red icon flashed and she bent to her microphone. “Driver of LP3A 22B. You have not purchased authority to drive on the A1 between junctions 2 and 3 today, Wednesday August 3rd, 2031. You must pay £1,000 to City Central. After midnight tonight the fee goes up to £2,000. How would you like to pay? I can accept American Express…..” * She’d taken the Predictor from the store cupboard
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘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.

‘Magic and Mischief’, a short story

‘Magic and Mischief’, a short story The lift doors opened with a clatter but Elinor didn’t get in. For the third time she checked her handbag. Keys. Purse. Cheque book. Paying-in book. Two dividend cheques to pay in, four bills to pay. She ticked the items off her mental checklist. Then she looked again at her keys. Had she locked the door? Oh dear. The lift doors closed empty as she retraced her steps to h’r front door. Twinkle followed. She didn’t need to tug once on the white Scottie’s elegant Smythson pink leather lead, Twinkle went wherever Elinor went. And he knew her routines well. Yes, her front door was locked. As her long fingers, now bent with arthritis, struggled with the heavy bunch of keys, another fear popped unbidden into her head. The fire. Was it off? A tall elegant woman, Elinor looked younger than her age. She was bored by other women of 74 who seemed pre-occupied with the twin domesticities of grandchildren and husband. Elinor, who had neither, had always been comfortable in her own company. She was satisfied with her own internal monologue and comfortably isolated herself from modern society. And she never sought the
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Categories: My Short Stories.