Month: March 2016

Building Characters—one funeral at a time @barbtaub #wwwblogs

A fabulous guest post from writer Barb Taub today – enjoy!

I don’t know. What do you think about during funerals?

I suppose you could think about your own life, and whether this many people would ever gather in one place just to say such nice things about you. But I’m a writer, so for me funerals are ALL about the character. What went into making that person who they ended up becoming? What kind of main character did their story have?

The last two funerals I attended were for the first two people I met after moving into the tiny village in the north of England. They had already been friends for decades (the phrase “partners in crime” came up often) when I met Margaret and Marion my first morning in the Castle. I’d arrived from the States the night before, and only had time to learn one thing about castle life—the meaning of stone cold—before collapsing in a jetlag coma.

durham-brancepeth-castle

Our home-sweet-castle home in the north of England. (We were in the rear tower)

I’ve always thought that our friendship was based on the purest of human emotions: pity. First I met Margaret, who must have taken one look at me, gaping up at thousand-year-old walls, and still wearing what I’d slept in—which was, basically, everything I could pull from my suitcase, as explained here— and felt sorry for me. She introduced herself as my landlady, the owner of the castle, and informed me that it was Wednesday—which, to be honest, I couldn’t have sworn to. With Wednesdayness established between us, she took me to my first Village Coffee.

There Margaret introduced me to a lady with an accent so posh it could probably etch glass and a surprisingly wicked look in her eye. American wannabe-writer Barb, meet doctor/intellectual/PhD/90+ year old character Marion. And my life in the tiny, perfect village in the North of England officially began.

1545114_10152518184399692_350813276_nI couldn’t begin to list all the experiences the two of them introduced me to over the next several years. First, there was the Village itself. With no actual commercial entities—not even a pub!—entertainment was homemade and varied. But no matter the event, there were two things you could count on—there would be raffle tickets to buy (lots), and there would be alcohol to consume (more than lots). There were gala reenactments of the Queen’s Jubilee and the Royal Wedding, Progressive Suppers (which involved the entire village getting progressively sloshed), garden club “walks” (see progressive supper results), dance/casino/quiz/archives/garden show/you-name-it nights, and of course, the Christmas Show.

Castle gatesBut that was only the beginning. As owner of a medieval castle, Margaret belonged to something that probably had an impressive title, but which I called Castle Club. In England, you often drive past tall stone walls and lines of trees with the occasional crest-topped gates. Well, she took me inside some of those gates, up the long drives, and into the castles and stately homes you couldn’t even see from the road.

[Digression: In my family, what’s going into my will is more of a threat. (As in, “Okay, kids: last one to call me on Mother’s Day goes in my will for that Elvis on velvet painting from Great-Aunt Mo.) So it was an amazing window on a new world for an American from the suburbs to hear people debate the best way to install a roof that will last for centuries because you don’t really own the place; you’re only borrowing it from your great-great-grandchildren.]

photo (1)

Ceilidh in her Castle

Then there was their generosity. Both Marion and Margaret raised charity to an art form, and invited me along. In the name of their favorite causes, I got to help with this proper victorian tea party, a ceilidh dinner dance, castle tours, and so much more.

And they showed me the England they loved, which most Americans never see. When I told Margaret that I’d never been to the Cotswolds, she joined me as my guide in a week-long driving tour which culminated (I’m so not making this up!) in joining Prince Charles at his home for tea.

Although Marion’s sight was going and her memory wasn’t what it used to be, she also happily accompanied me on jaunts all over the county. We even took a memorable road trip to the Royal Heritage Society gardens at Harlow Carr, where she took an unholy glee in informing the ticket collectors that she had a life-membership (fact) which entitled her to take guests in at no charge, including afternoon tea (not even close to fact). They meekly ushered us in. And no outing was complete without stopping for lunch where Dr. Marion would ignore all of her health restrictions to inform me that I wanted to have a drink and a sweet, to which she would of course join me.

Admiral Roebuck: With all due respect, M, I think you don't have the balls for this job. M: Perhaps. But the advantage is, I don't have to think with them ...

Admiral Roebuck: With all due respect, M, I think you don’t have the balls for this job. M (Densch): Perhaps. But the advantage is, I don’t have to think with them … [Image Credit: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) ]

Decades of friendship notwithstanding, their disagreements were the stuff of Village legend, as Rock debated Hard Place in the most polite of Oxbridge accents. Of course, their eccentricities were legion, as the Villagers dodging bicycle or electric-scooter mounted octogenarians could attest. They gardened with passionate intensity, took care of those in need both across the street and across the globe, and taught misplaced Americans to speak a version of British that hasn’t really been used for half a century. (They would “spend a penny” when they went to the loo, price things in crowns, and institute a cone of silence while they listened to The Cricket on the radio.) They were the kind of British women who show up in movies and books, indomitable and secure in themselves—characters like Hepburn’s Rosie in The African Queen and Judi Dench’s M in the Bond films.

Captain: "Who are you?" Rosie: "Miss Rose Sayre." Captain: "English?" Rosie: "Of course." [Image Credit: The African Queen, John Huston's 1951 film starring Hepburn and Bogart] https://youtu.be/gc9QYyzw9VA?t=1h38m14s

Captain: “Who are you?”
Rosie: “Miss Rose Sayre.”
Captain: “English?”
Rosie: “Of course.”
[Image Credit: The African Queen, 1951]

 

At each of their funerals, I joined crowds who gathered to remember and share stories about these two remarkable characters. They told of amazing generosity and hilarious eccentricity. Some shared Margaret’s triumph over severe physical limitations that were supposed to end her life as a child, only to have her stubbornly confound every imposed limit. Some talked about her charming, eccentrically-English husband, who I never met because he died just as they bought the castle, leaving his relatively young widow to raise their large family and run their company.

Celebrating Marion's 93rd birthday with a champagne tea and proper cake.

The two old friends celebrating Marion’s 93rd birthday with a champagne tea and proper cake.

I heard about Marion, daughter of a Nobel Prize scientist who had “Sir” before his name. She went to medical school as a young woman, and then served as the only doctor for over 160,000 people in what was then Tanganyika. Along with her delight in forbidden alcohol and sweets, Marion particularly loved her birthday. As we celebrated the day she turned 93, I asked Marion to tell me about her favorite birthday ever. “Considering the alternative,” she told me, “every birthday I make it to is the best one ever.” So of course, I asked for her secret to a long happy ever after. She answered right away. “Have a lot of friends who remember you even when you can’t remember their names.” A few minutes later she added, “Don’t say no to sweets.” And finally, “Don’t look back.”

For me, Margaret and Marion will always be the ones who introduced an American stranger to England—village, castle, estates, country, and even future king. As a writer, I got to view characters and settings I could never have imagined. As a friend, I’ll miss them every day.


Note from Barb:

For a look at characters I’ve built, check out my newest book. Now available for presale on Amazon, ROUND TRIP FARE will be released on 7 April, 2016.

Round_Trip_Fare-Barb_Taub-1563x2500ROUND TRIP FARE by Barb Taub

Is it wrong that shooting people is just so much easier than making decisions? Carey Parker’s to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one.

Round Trip Fare RWA Contest Finalist 2015

Genre:

Urban Fantasy (with romance, humor, a sentient train, and a great dog)

Pre-order here: Amazon 

 

Barb pix 300 dpiBarb Taub:

In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them traveling around the world, plus consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter: @barbtaub

‘Dust’ by Beaux Cooper #RBRT #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

Rosie's Book Review team 1

I reviewed ‘Dust’ for RBRT.

dust

Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com

This is a really tricky review to write, because this novel has real potential to be a beautiful, engaging and enjoyable read, and the writer also has the ability and talent to write well. However, the novel has been completely let down by the editing.

The novel tells the story of Austen, a woman dissatisfied by life, by her husband in particular, who needs to find out what she wants from life. She makes the brave decision to go and work on a ranch in Wyoming. This is a really interesting idea – there is potential for drama, humour, and an investigation into relationships, character and what makes people tick. I’m convinced the author is capable of this, as her characters are warm and could be developed into something really special. She obviously knows the places she is writing about and has a real love for those places and people, and this could all be made into a wonderful book.

However, the novel needs a good editor to take it in hand and help the author realise its full potential. I’m not talking about typos or issues with grammar or spelling here, but fundamental issues with the structure, style and content of the novel. Dialogue, for instance, is extremely unnatural. The characters have long, in depth conversations with each other about their innermost feelings that are unnatural and unrealistic. Characters in novels need to sound like real people. And while we have this insight into the characters feelings, we know nothing really about Austen herself – what she does before she gives it all up to go to the ranch, what her background is etc., all those things that make fully formed characters.

The language too needs a thorough edit. The text is full of complicated words and convoluted, complicated sentences that need to be tightened, strengthened and restructured. There also needs to be a much clearer point of view. These are all issues that a good editor could sort, working with the writer to draw out the fabulous story and the great writing that is in there somewhere.

I’m giving this book three stars because I really feel that this author has the potential to write and write well, and the idea for this novel is sound. However, Ms Cooper has been totally let down by poor editing, which is a real shame.

three stars

‘Round Trip Fare’ by Barb Taub – preorder now available @barbtaub

Round Trip Fare, the newest book in Barb Taub’s Null City series, is now available for preorder from Amazon.

**Although a sequel to Book 1 (One Way Fare), this is the stand alone story of twins Carey and Connor Parker.


 

Round Trip Fare
by Barb Taub

Round_Trip_Fare-Barb_Taub-1563x2500

Available now for pre-order from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Is it wrong that shooting people is just so much easier than making decisions? Carey wonders— and not for the first time. But the Agency claims this will be an easy one. A quick pickup of a missing teen and she won’t even have to shoot anybody. Probably.

Carey knows superpowers suck, her own included. From childhood she’s only had two options. She can take the Metro train to Null City and a normal life. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hellhounds become poodles. Demons settle down, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes. Or she can master the powers of her warrior gift and fight a war she can’t win, in a world where she never learned how to lose.

And then there is… him. For the past two months, a dark stranger has persistently edged his way onto the mental game board behind her eyelids. Well, whatever trouble he’s selling, Carey Parker is not buying. Her to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one.

She just has a few details to work out first. Her parents have been killed, her brother and sister targeted, and the newest leader of the angels trying to destroy Null City might be the one person she loves most in the world. And her sexy new partner’s gift lets him predict deaths. Hers.


 

  • TITLE: Round Trip Fare
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy (okay and there is humor, romance, a sentient train, a great dog, and bunch of other stuff—but Amazon only gives you a couple of words to pick genre, so…)
  • Series: Null City [NOTE: prequel One Way Fare is now available FREE from Barnes & Noble and Kobo, and the kindle version directly from Barb) but this book works as standalone.
  • Release date: 7 April, 2016

Contact & Buy Links

Blog | Facebook | Twitter: @barbtaub | Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon UK


 

Barb pix 300 dpiBarb Taub:

In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them traveling around the world, plus consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.


 

Excerpt: ROUND TRIP FARE

Round Trip Fare RWA Contest Finalist 2015Was it wrong that shooting people was so much easier than finishing up the humanities requirements for her criminal justice degree? Carey Parker sipped her coffee and—not for the first time—wondered about herself. But the Agency said this would be an easy one. A quick pickup and she wouldn’t even have to shoot anybody. Probably.

There were two distinct advantages to her corner table at the rear of the self-consciously artistic coffee shop on the edge of Seattle’s eclectic Fremont district. Nobody could see her screen, and—infinitely more important—she had sole possession of the outlet currently charging both iPad and phone. She checked her iPad’s video screen to make sure the blonde teen she was tracking still had no idea she was being studied. Well, okay—studied along with the research materials for Carey’s overdue Humanities 201 essay. “Discuss the relationship of capitalism and patriarchal post constructivist theory. Provide data and cite literature supporting your thesis.” She squinted at the assignment, minimized to parallel the video window, and cringed.

Enlarging the video, Carey automatically evaluated her target. The teenager was a few inches under Carey’s own five-five. But where Carey’s cargo pants and hoodie hid a leanly muscled frame and a surprising number of weapons, the other girl’s designer Goth outfit made the most of her soft curves. Plus that pink streak in the younger girl’s hair was a little too shiny, her dark eyeliner a bit too creamy, while her wannabe goth leather jacket, fitted black T-shirt, and long dark skirt screamed Nordstrom personal shopper and Daddy’s credit card.

A lifetime of training—three years at the Academy, four more in the field—and they send me after Goth-Barbie. Carey sighed. Is it even worth it? But a flash memory—her guardian Harry’s blood-drenched golden hair, the almost-forgotten faces of her murdered parents, her missing brother and sister—stopped her. If she had a prayer of finding Gaby and Connor, she couldn’t afford to give up the all-important info access the Agency jobs provided. And then there was…him. For the past two months, the dark stranger had persistently edged his way onto the mental game board behind her eyelids where her harmonia gift visualized connections only she could view. Whatever trouble Mr. Six-Feet-Plus of arrogance is selling, I’m sure not buying.

“Excuse me. Do you need both outlets?”

Carey looked up to see the blonde standing in front of her, expectantly holding up her power cord. “Yes.” She returned her focus to the iPad screen, ignoring the muttered “bitch” as the girl went over to try her smile on the men two tables over. Her reversed video window showed the younger girl breathlessly thanking the man who leaped to free up an outlet for her. As she leaned over their table, the men’s eyes lit with appreciation for the way she maximized scoop-neck T-shirt, youth, and the best technology the foundations industry had to offer. Guess there’s all kinds of ways to say thank you.

Shrugging, Carey returned to her own essay assignment. Her business partner, Marley, was pushing her to finish the degree that would let them bill the Agency at a higher rate. But at twenty-four Carey felt a generation older than her fellow students. With her erratic hours, she had to take classes offering online options whenever possible, so she was currently sentenced to Humanities 201: Postmodernist Applications for Economic Themes in Literature.

“What took you so long? I’ve been waiting here for ages.”

At the sex-kitten whine, Carey’s eyes flicked back to the little video window to see the other girl pouting up at a new arrival. But her complaints didn’t stop her from giving the young man—a boy, really, although Marley’s data sheet said he was nineteen—a thorough tonsil cleaning. Pulling away, he threw himself into a dramatic slouch across the next chair, giving Carey her first good look at him. He was thin, but more like an adolescent whose slender arms and legs had yet to develop a man’s solid outlines. His pale fallen-angel face sulked behind long hair too carefully slashed and tossed over one eye to be accidental. He looked, Carey thought, beautiful and brooding and more than a little stupid. Score!

Pretending to check her phone, Carey took a quick picture of the boy and texted it along with the address of the coffee shop. It had only been a few days since he’d left home and stopped showing up at his classes or part-time job. Too little time for the police to be concerned, but long enough for his frantic parents to agree to her search fee. Setting the phone aside, she adjusted her video window to give him a critical once-over. But he didn’t seem any more pale or unhealthy than would be explained by devotion to the laptop he was even now pulling out and opening.

“Get me a coffee?” He didn’t look up from his laptop as he spoke. The girl pouted again but bounced off. Returning with a cup for each of them, she leaned forward to lay a gentle hand on his arm. “Is your poem cycle done yet?” The boy shook his head impatiently, fingers tapping at his laptop’s keyboard. She smiled. “Don’t worry. Now that I’m here, it will go so much better.” He blinked, and shivered. She breathed in and smiled again. His typing increased, his face intent on the screen.

Carey flipped the cover down on her iPad, rewound its power cable as well as the one for her phone, and stored them in their specially padded—okay, armored—case. The Apple people had been incredibly nice about that last bullet incident, but she could just hear Marley explaining, again, how their little company couldn’t afford to keep buying her new iPads. Setting the case into the backpack hanging behind her corner chair, Carey leaned both elbows on the table, peering over the brim of her raised coffee cup. Excellent coffee, she decided. Wonder if they roast it themselves?

Finally the two men, the only other customers in the secluded rear room, stood up and left. She took a final look around at the coffee shop’s rear seating area—one door, no windows or other access—and left to talk to the barista in the front room of the coffee shop. Twenty dollars later, Carey taped a handwritten sign—“Rear room reserved for private meeting”—to the outside of the door. Stepping back inside the room, empty now except for the younger couple, she closed the door behind her and stopped in front of the boy.

“Your mother is worried about you, Will.” His automatic sneer came a fraction too late to cover his stunned expression. Before he could speak, she turned to the girl. “It’s time to go, Leigh Ann.”

“The name is Leannán.”

Carey laughed. “Well, Leannán Sí…” She pronounced each Gaelic syllable with exaggerated care, L’ann-AN Shee. “Since you refuse to honor the Accords Agreement, the Council feels it’s time for you to go to Null City. Let’s go. I have a class this afternoon, and I don’t want to be late again.”

The boy started to stand, trying to look tough, but only managing to achieve the ferocity of a puppy protecting his favorite chew toy. “We don’t have to go anywhere with you. Get your stuff, Leigh Ann. We’re outta here.”

“Actually.” Carey’s voice was quiet. “You’re half right.” Her hand shot out and pressed his stomach. “You don’t need to go with me.” His breath whooshed out, and all three looked down at the tiny needle as she pulled her hand back. A moment later, his legs buckled, and Carey guided his falling body back down to his chair. He slumped there, head hanging awkwardly.

Leigh Ann stared from Will to Carey, eyes round. “Is he…?”

“He’s fine.” Carey turned to the girl and pointed to her corner table. “Sit. And don’t even think about talking.”

Carey checked the boy’s pulse and nodded to herself in relief. As a young witch, her friend Claire’s sleep spells wore off pretty quickly because she had to boil down the spelled water to make it take effect so fast. He’d probably just wake up with a hell of a headache. She arranged his head on his arms as if he was taking a quick nap in front of his laptop. In an afterthought, she picked up his fedora from the floor and pulled it onto his head, hiding his face.

Returning to the scowling girl at her table, she took a small book of forms from her backpack and started filling out the top page.

“You can’t just—” Leigh Ann sputtered.

Without looking up Carey showed her the hand. “What did I tell you not to do?” The girl fidgeted for another minute as Carey frowned at the form in front of her. Finally she looked up. “How old are you again?”

“Nineteen. And I don’t…”

Carey shook a warning finger without looking up. “I hate these Accords forms. You have to make sure you fill in every last blank or those badgers in accounting will hold up your check.” She made a final note, put the notebook away, and pulled out her phone to check the time. “They should be here by now. Must be that damn bridge traffic.”

“Who?”

Carey jerked her head toward the next table. “Sleeping Beauty’s parents. I’ve found it best to collect my fee on the spot. People’s memories tend to…fade…otherwise.”

“Wait.” Leigh Ann sounded indignant. “You were hired to find Will?”

“Nah, he was just a bonus. One of his friends told the Agency that he’d disappeared with a Leannán Sí. I used him to find you because I have an authorized ARC warrant for you.”

“ARC?”

“Accords Recovery and Capture.” When the girl still looked confused, Carey sighed. “Amateurs. I’m an Accords Warden licensed for paranormal recoveries, and I’m serving an ARC warrant in your name. That reminds me.” She rooted through the pocket of her backpack for the laminated card and set her phone camera to video. Centering the camera view screen on Leigh Ann’s face, she pushed record, and began to read the card. “By the authority of Accords Agency warrant number 110309A57, I charge you, Leigh Ann—” Pausing, she looked over to the form she’d filled out before returning to the card. “—Leigh Ann Shay, a practicing Leannán Sí, to accompany me to the Council Headquarters. If you request a hearing, you are entitled to representation. Otherwise, you are sentenced to five years of Null City residency without an amnesty day. This recovery and your rights are specified in Amendment 3, sections 7-18 of the Accords Agreement of 1998. The current time is 15:57 on March 7, 2011. Carey Parker, Accords Adjunct Warden License 07823 class 3, submitting authorized Accords Recovery and Capture statement.” She turned off the camera and played back the recording. Satisfied, she uploaded it to Agency servers, put her phone and the card back into her backpack, and faced the girl.

Leigh Ann looked uncertain. “Null City?”

Carey looked at her curiously. “You don’t know about the City?”

“Yeah, and I know about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny too. Come on. You really believe there’s a city you get to on a magic train, and after a day there you become a normal human?”

“Since my family founded it, yeah. I kinda do believe it.” She leaned back in her chair to consider the teenager in front of her. “You could have killed that boy, Leigh Ann. What could be worth his death?”

The girl widened soft blue eyes at her. “I’m a Leannán Sí. He’s a writer, and I would have given him an intense, brilliantly inspired life of creating masterpieces. So what if it would have been a short one? It’s got to be better to go as a blazing star than stay as a…” Her voice trailed off as a snore filtered from beneath the fedora.

“Did you give him a choice? Did you say to him, ‘Will, I’ll be your muse and give you lots of coffee-shop kissing although the actual sex won’t be that great, and there’s the whole die young thing… But you won’t mind because it will all be for your Art’?”

Leigh Ann frowned. “The sex wouldn’t have been that bad.”

Carey snorted. “And actually, that masterpiece he was producing?” She reached over to snag Will’s computer and pulled it around to face Leigh Ann. “First thing I did was put a keystroke tracker onto his laptop. And believe me, reading that drivel was almost as bad as my humanities essay. He copied most of it from last month’s Poetry!Slam online. Here’s what he was actually writing.” She selected Recent Documents on the laptop and opened the top file listed.

The younger girl’s eyes widened. “Fanfiction?” She peered at the screen and looked like she might be sick. “One Direction fanfiction?”

“Nothing wrong with fanfiction.” Carey raised an eyebrow. “We’ve all done it. But Will’s was…” She shuddered. “Really, really bad.” She looked curiously at the younger girl and waved at the snoring boy. “Why did you do it?”

Leigh Ann looked down at her clasped hands. “My parents were killed just before the war ended. When Haven and Gifts signed the Accords in 1995, I was sent to live with my father’s cousins. They had a little apple orchard up on the Olympic Peninsula, and there wasn’t much money. Everyone had to work pretty hard all the time, just to get food to eat and a few clothes. But I knew there was something different inside me. Something that would inspire beauty and genius and glorious creativity.”

Carey stared at her. “Well, that’s an entire pickup truck full of prime-quality manure.”

“Was it the farm?” Leigh Ann frowned. “The orphan bit?

‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened’ by Jenny Lawson #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

Have you ever embarrassed yourself so badly you thought you’d never get over it?

Have you ever wished your family could be just like everyone else’s?

Have you ever been followed to school by your father’s herd of turkeys, mistaken a marriage proposal for an attempted murder or got your arm stuck inside a cow? OK, maybe that’s just Jenny Lawson . . .

The bestselling memoir from one of America’s most outlandishly hilarious writers.

jenny

Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com

I bought this after reading a review for Lawson’s second book ‘Furiously Happy’. I was intrigued by the review and started to follow Lawson’s blog ‘The Bloggess’ -which is quirky, weird and hilariously funny. Lawson suffers from OCD and generalised anxiety disorder, both mental health issues with which I have personal experience. I also noticed a testimonial on the cover from Caitlin Moran. I adore Caitlin Moran so knew that I had to read this.

The book tells the story of Lawson’s rather unconventional upbringing – I won’t spoil it but it involves all the usual horrors and embarrassments of growing up made a thousand times worse by taxidermy, unfortunate accidents involving dead animals, an incredibly embarrassing father with a penchant for bringing home anything he finds alive or dead by the roadside, anxiety attacks and a memorable occasion involving an arm and a cow’s vagina.

It is, and I hate this term, genuinely laugh out loud funny in parts. But while Lawson is hilarious, she is also self-aware. The book goes on to detail Lawson’s relationship with the long-suffering Victor, their marriage and their attempts at conceiving. Lawson manages to avoid sentimentality and her honesty is refreshing. One minute you’re laughing out loud at the notes she leaves on the fridge threatening to poison Victor because he’s left a towel on the floor, the next you’re crying with her (and it really feels as though you’re with her) as she suffers another setback.

She’s real, she’s human and she’s a fabulous writer.

This book is for everyone who isn’t normal (and isn’t that most of us to some extent?).

Embrace your weirdness – and do read this book.

5 stars

 

 

 

#Interview with Barb Taub @barbtaub & Excerpt from her #newrelease #TuesdayBookBlog

Fabulous and funny interview with blogger and writer Barb Taub (also fabulous and funny!)

BetweenTheLines

I’m very pleased to welcome Barb Taub, a firm favourite in the world of writing and blogging.

Barb pix 300 dpiIn halcyon days BC (before children), Barb wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered towards the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled Aussie Dog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them traveling around the world, plus consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.

That’s some bio, Barb. Anything you can add? And you kind of answered the next part of my question which was going to be, what do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing? But maybe you could elaborate 🙂

I’ve always thought of myself as…

View original post 3,716 more words

Blackwater by Alison Williams @Alison_Williams #Historical Fiction #Witch hunt

Thrilled with this lovely review for my free novella ‘Blackwater’.

BetweenTheLines

‘How will you protect her from lies? From superstition? How will you protect her when your father comes calling, with threats and accusations? When a mob comes to our door?’

In a time when death is common, life is cheap and superstition rife, anyone can find their world torn apart by gossip and accusations. Can one lonely girl find the love and companionship she craves? Or will her heart lead her into more danger than she can imagine?

Blackwater is the prequel to The Black Hours, in which Alice Pendle and her grandmother, Maggie, fall foul of the self-styled Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins. Blackwater chronicles events leading up to Alice’s birth.

Lizzie and her mother, Maggie are living quietly in a little cottage in Eversley after years of moving around, trying to avoid the suspicion which all too often falls on…

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Genre and expectations

A really interesting post on the issue of genre.

Christina Philippou

There was a wonderful discussion on an online forum I’m a member of recently, based on an article on Book Riot, asking if romance should always have a happy ending. This set up an interesting debate on genre and expectations, which got me thinking: what is it that readers are after when they gravitate towards a particular genre?

Those of you that follow this blog know that I’m not the biggest fan of genre pigeonholing. I enjoy reading a wide variety of books and prefer to read based on mood: uplifting, thought-provoking, mystery-solving (be it crime or social (in the vein of Kate Morton’s ‘The Forgotten Garden’)) or emotional turmoil. Unfortunately, there is no retailer (including publisher websites) that class based on type – it’s always genre. If the story involves a crime being solved and some romance between the protagonists, it’s crime (not uplifting or pacy or anything else).

But…

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT BELTANE by @AlysWestYork #UrbanFantasy

My review of Alys West’s ‘Beltane’ for #RBRT

Rosie Amber

Today’s team review is from Alison, she blogs at https://alisonwilliamswriting.wordpress.com/

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Alison has been reading Beltane by Alys West

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This is a very well-written, entertaining and enjoyable read. Alys West certainly knows how to tell a story.

Artist Zoe Rose is struggling to come up with the illustrations she needs to seal a lucrative contract and get her career on track. Her subject matter is King Arthur, so she heads to Glastonbury for inspiration as this is where Arthur is believed to have lived and where legend has it he is buried. Her friend Anna suggests she stays at a healing retreat, Anam Cara, run by Maeve, who Anna raves about, but who makes Zoe feel uncomfortable and unnerved.

In the garden of Anam Cara is a tree bearing a carving of a ‘Green Man’. Zoe is fascinated by the carving, and unwittingly releases a spell that begins a host…

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Dialogue Tags – An Editor’s Worst Nightmare (almost!) #writingtips #writinganovel

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When my children were small, I worked for a while at their school. One of my roles was to take the ‘able and gifted’ children for creative writing lessons. Part of this was to increase their vocabulary and we duly spent a great deal of time thinking about different words, more interesting words, particularly more interesting words than ‘said’ and ‘asked’. Honestly, I’ve spent hours writing down word after word after word that could, technically anyway, be used instead of ‘said’!

Now I spend a great deal of time highlighting more unusual and interesting dialogue tags and begging my clients to please, please, please delete them and, if they must use a dialogue tag at all, then stick to ‘said’ and ‘asked’.

I can hear the intake of breath from here – particularly from those of you who are newer writers  (and possibly from some of those who aren’t and who should know better!). Surely it’s a mark of a good writer to have an extended vocabulary? Surely you’re showing your writing prowess by having the thesaurus open and using ‘snickered’, ‘interjected’, ‘commented’ and ‘sighed’?

No, you aren’t.

What you’re actually doing is taking that carefully crafted fictitious world you’ve spent months, even years in some cases, crafting, and smashing it down.

Because the point of a dialogue tag is to signify who has spoken. That’s it. Nothing else. It shouldn’t indicate how something is said. It shouldn’t indicate the tone or the volume of the words. It should simply show only who is speaking.

Why? Well, lots of reasons. (If you are a client and you have read all this before then I do apologise.) Readers are so used to seeing ‘said’ and ‘asked’ that they skim over them, noting quickly who is ‘saying’ or ‘asking’ and getting on with the important things. The flow of the writing isn’t interrupted, the reader reads on smoothly and happily. If a dialogue tag suddenly crops up, like ‘chuckled’ or ‘screamed’, the reader is forced to pause, to think about the tag. The flow is interrupted, and for no purpose. The reader is also suddenly reminded that they’re reading a book. They’re not actually in an eighteenth century English prison, or on a spaceship circling Mars, or on a beach in Sydney. They’re suddenly pulled out of that world and back into reality. ‘Look at me,’ the dialogue tag says, ‘the author looked me up in a thesaurus because they wanted to sound interesting. Also, they didn’t have enough confidence in their own writing to know that the character’s words, actions, situation and emotions would be sufficient to let you know that the character was shouting, or that you, the reader, were clever enough to work that out yourself. The author thinks you’re stupid.’

And that cleverly crafted world is destroyed.

If you don’t believe me, then look at this dialogue from the wonderful Douglas Adams:

‘Drink up,’ said Ford, ‘you’ve got three pints to get through.’

‘Three pints?” said Arthur. ‘At lunchtime?’ 

The man next to Ford grinned and nodded happily. Ford ignored him. He said, ‘Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.’

‘Very deep,’ said Arthur, ‘you should send that in to the Reader’s Digest. They’ve got a page for people like you.’

(The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

It’s also worth bearing in mind that most dialogue tags don’t really make sense. Take ‘chuckled’ for example. No one really chuckles a word. They might say a word and then chuckle, but you can’t do the two things at once.  Dialogue cannot be laughed, smiled, giggled, nodded or screamed.

Remember, writing should appear effortless (although it is far from it) and a dialogue tag that stands out reveals the author, reveals that the world has been crafted. To paraphrase Stephen King – you have told your story well enough to believe that when you use ‘said’ or ‘asked’ your reader will know how it was said or asked.

So please, avoid that thesaurus, and avoid using distracting, horrible dialogue tags. Even better, try not to use tags at all. You can use actions to signify who is speaking. For example:

‘Where have you been?’ Adam folded his arms, his mouth a thin line.

Jennifer rolled her eyes.

‘It’s none of your business.’

‘It is when you’re late for dinner.’

She looked at the table, set for two, and then glanced at her husband.

‘I’ve told you before not to bother cooking for me.’

In this (admittedly not very good) example, it’s completely clear who is saying what, and we also can tell how it’s being said – the physical actions and reactions give us all the clues we need.

So trust yourself, and trust your reader. You don’t need that thesaurus. At least not for dialogue tags.

 

 

 

Writing a Query Letter #wwwblogs #writinganovel

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While it’s true that the world of publishing is changing, and that many authors are happy to self-publish, some writers still wish to find an agent, and so will need to introduce themselves with a query letter.

What’s important

It’s absolutely vital to remember that this letter is the first example of your writing that an agent will see, so make it count. These are the key things to remember:

  • Address your letter to a specific agent – avoid Dear Sir/Madam.  Using a name shows that you’ve selected that agent – not just stuck a pin in ‘The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’
  • Make it clear you’ve done your homework – state why you’re approaching that particular agent (similar authors? Looking for your genre?)
  • Make your book sound interesting
  • State the genre and word length
  • Include any details of your writing history – competitions, publications, experience
  • Keep it formal, keep it short, be business-like
  • Do include EXACTLY what they’ve asked for

Structuring your letter

When I’m helping my clients to write a query letter, this is the basic structure I suggest:

  • Paragraph 1 – why you’re writing and what you’ve included
  • Paragraph 2 – a VERY brief, two or three sentence summary of the book
  • Paragraph 3 – brief details of any relevant writing experience/successes
  • Paragraph 4 – the fact the manuscript is complete and word count. Also, state if you are working on a series, a new novel etc. Agents like to know that you have longevity
  • Paragraph 5 – contact details including a telephone number and an email address

What not to do

  • Don’t make jokes or try anything wacky – they’ve probably heard and seen it all before
  • Don’t spell the agent’s name incorrectly
  • Don’t forget to include your submission (apparently that does happen!)
  • Don’t come across as arrogant – if the agent takes you on you will have a very close working relationship, so you don’t want to sound as if you’ll be a pain in the backside
  • Equally, don’t beg or sound needy – agents need writers!

Most important of all, be professional. Yes, we’re all artists, and creative types and so on, but publishing is, first and foremost, a business. This is a business letter – treat it as though you’re applying for a job (because you are). Good luck!