Month: August 2016

Frustrated Writer – Help Needed! #wwwblogs #IAmWriting #WritingTips

 

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What I imagined…

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The reality…

So another week of solitude in Devon (read why here) and another attempt to get back into the writing.

This time though, I’ve hit a bit of a crisis.

When I began this second full-length novel (absolutely ages ago) I sort of knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted it to go. But, as often happens, when I came to write, it went off on a tangent and I’m not sure, at this point, how to get back on course. I’m not sure, anymore, exactly what this book is.

I do know that I’m not altogether happy with the direction it’s taken, or the way some of the characters have evolved. But 50,000 + words in, I’m a bit loath to start all over again.

So, do I give it all up as a bad job, or do I persevere and potentially waste more (precious) time?

The thought of ditching all that work, particularly as I find it so hard to fit in time for writing as it is, fills me with horror.

So where do I go from here?

Part of my issue is, I think, that I’m a great list-maker. I like to be organised and to have schedules and time tables and deadlines. And when, more often than not, I fail to reach those deadlines or stick to those schedules, it can feel like there’s no place left to go. And when a story, or an idea, or 50,000 words refuses to stick to my original idea, I find it hard to move on.

But 50,000 words is 50,000 words. I can’t and won’t ditch it all. I need instead to go back and read and read again, and evaluate every word, every twist, and every change in what I’ve written and try to get to the whys of it all. And perhaps too, I need to let go of that original idea of what the book was, and of what kind of writer I am.

I’m not starting again though.

So advice please, all you lovely writers out there – what would you do if you were me?

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‘Nights at the Circus’ by Angela Carter #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview #DBowieBooks

I read Angela Carter’s ‘Nights at the circus’ as part of the David Bowie reading challenge that I discovered on the fabulous Scatterbooker blog.

nights-at-the-circus2Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe’s capitals, part swan…or all fake?

Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordinaire and star of Colonel Kearney’s circus. She is also part woman, part swan. Jack Walser, an American journalist, is on a quest to discover the truth behind her identity. Dazzled by his love for her, and desperate for the scoop of a lifetime, Walser has no choice but to join the circus on its magical tour through turn-of-the-nineteenth-century London, St Petersburg and Siberia.

My goodness – what a fabulous lead character Carter has given us in Fevvers. Half woman, half swan, Sophie is the star of Colonel Kearney’s circus, travelling across the globe, followed by the enamoured journalist Walser, who becomes a clown in order to join her on her travels.

It’s hard to summarise this story – so I won’t even try. This book doesn’t follow a traditional structure but that doesn’t mean it’s hard to read. On the contrary, it’s enormously entertaining.

The settings are described vividly, magically, beautifully. The cast of characters are fantastically drawn – I have a particular soft-spot for Lizzie, Fevvers’ ‘mother’, closet activist, her magic handbag able to conjure any remedy for any occasion and as intriguing and delightful as Fevvers herself. Mignon, Samson, the Princess of Abyssinia, Buffo the Great and the wonderful Sybil the pig are all brought to life effortlessly. Their stories are a joy to read and their narratives intertwine with Sophie’s own story flawlessly.

The writing is assured, clever without being pretentious, lyrical in places. It’s a book I’ll remember for a long time – unforgettable, colourful, and chaotic. A masterpiece.

5 stars

“Through the awful grace of God.” #Elections2016

Fabulous post – Robert Kennedy’s words are so relevant today, in the UK too.

Barb Taub

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.

—Aeschylus (525-426 BCE)

This morning I woke up and looked at the news. A US Presidential candidate had just given a speech in which he called for Muslim immigrants and visitors to the US to face, “…extreme, extreme vetting.”

I started thinking about speeches, and the powerful megaphone of those running for the right to lead the United States. For Donald Trump, that might mean a speech promising to “bomb the shit out of them“.

But my sister reminded me of another speech by another presidential candidate at a time when people also wondered if we could survive the hatred, mistrust, and violence. It remains one of the greatest speeches I’ve ever heard.

(63 days after Senator Robert Kennedy stood…

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Readers All Over The World Are Reading for August Reviews – Are You In? #MondayBlogs

Halfway through August – have you reviewed a book on Amazon yet?

Rosie Amber

August is “Write A #BookReview on Amazon Month”

Readers reviewers

Readers from all over the world are being inspired to post reviews for books they’ve read on Amazon.

In a Bold attempt to increase reader awareness of the importance of book reviews to all authors, Terry Tyler is leading the campaign to get more people posting those all important reviews on Amazon.

Authors: #AugustReviews is about readers posting a review of a book to Amazon, we would also like to encourage them to share the Amazon Review Post Url on Twitter. An author can take part as a reader, but please don’t use this to promo your own books.

Book Bloggers: We really appreciate your support and know you are likely to already post reviews on Amazon, please keep the Hashtag for Twitter with a link to your Amazon review url only, not your blog post. We don’t want to put off readers who think they need…

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Women of a Certain Age… #wwwblogs #womensfiction #amwriting

Warning – expletives

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I’m not a huge fan of the term ‘women’s fiction’, but I can see, to a point, that it serves a purpose. There’s no doubt that some fiction is written with women in mind as a target audience, and, as a woman myself, I’m part of that target audience. I’m also forty-six, so I’m not particularly interested in reading about the trials and tribulations of women in their twenties and early thirties. I do like to read about women of my own age however, but there is something that’s been really annoying me about these women lately.

I’ve read a few books over the last few months where the main character has been in her forties or fifties. I should relate then, shouldn’t I? I should empathise and sympathise and see bits of myself, my hang-ups, my worries, my problems, in that character. But on many occasions recently I haven’t. And why? Because these women are all too often too bloody perfect.

To those younger women reading this – everything they say about reaching your forties is true. Yes, you will be more confident, yes, you will be more likely to not give a fuck (and in my case, for some reason a lot more likely to use that word). You will care a lot less about what people think about you. Those are the upsides. The downsides are mainly physical if I’m honest.

I like to keep fit and healthy. I’m lucky enough to be naturally on the slim side. But to maintain this, I go to the gym three times a week (ha – I try to go to the gym three times a week. And fail). I watch what I eat (without being too parsimonious about it). It helps, I think that I don’t eat meat or dairy. I’ve been religiously cleansing, toning, moisturising, exfoliating, face packing etc. for years. I still have wrinkles. My chin is sagging. I have jowls forming (gosh, I sound gorgeous don’t I?). I have cellulite. I have flabby arms. It’s because I’m forty-six. That’s all there is to it. I’m ageing.

So what does this have to do with books?

Well, I’m heartily sick of reading about women my age (or even older) who are perfect. Perfect physically. These women are so bloody gorgeous that younger men can’t resist them. They are flawless, perfect, the best-looking woman in the room. Well, maybe some women of that age are. But not women who, like these characters, drink a bottle of wine every night before falling into bed without moisturising then get up and work a fourteen-hour day in their high-flying accomplished career. Not women, who, like these women, seem to exist on huge restaurant meals, takeaways and (oh horrible clichés) chocolate and tubs of ice cream. Not women who, like these women, never, ever, ever exercise (unless it’s a romantic walk in the woods with a man twenty years younger).

Is it just me who wants a reality check here? Is it just me who can’t bear to read another scene where a young man removes an older woman’s clothes and gasps at her flawless beauty? I’m not saying older women aren’t gorgeous, because we are. But it would be nice if these fictional women were even slightly real. If they stressed over how they look naked, like normal women do.

Now, I’m a feminist. I wish women didn’t stress over their appearance, and I wish all men (as most do TBH) accepted us as we are – cellulite, thread veins, wobbly chin and all. But we do stress over it – even the most feminist among us. It’s human nature I think (and years and years of conditioning that tells us we’re only valuable because of our looks). Am I wrong to want to read about women like me? Women who look like crap in the morning. Women who do often drink a bottle of wine in one evening but then find it hard to answer an email, let alone work through twenty complicated case hearing files, or (for god’s sake) run their bloody cupcake shop or wildly successful internet dating site/detective agency single-handedly.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a bit of escapism. But I want to believe in these women, I want to like them. I certainly don’t want to be irritated by them. Otherwise, I find it very difficult to care about them, or what happens to them. And so very difficult to care about the book.

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Suicide Squad: The Avengers on bath salts Escape from New York #MovieReview

Fab review of ‘Suicide Squad’ #filmreview

Boy in a Well

maxresdefaultSuicide Squad is a hot, hot mess. There’s some good stuff on offer here- the best that DC have been able to cobble together since The Dark Knight– but it’s muzzled by a checklist military hodgepodge plot and a film student editing job that makes the Margot/Smith mega-movie more music video than film. Luckily, because of the bitty puzzle-piece plot, it’s not too much of a challenge to separate the good from the bad. And the very bad. So that’s what I’m going to try to do.

Ayer’s antihero flick is a bipolar blockbuster of binary halves: half a good cast, half a bad one; half a good script, half a bad one; half an original idea, smothered in its bed by a pillow stuffed with cash. And as that metaphor implies, none of this is a surprise. The film is a mess because the production was a mess…

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The Joys of Solitude #wwwblogs #Iamwriting

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I’m not sure exactly where she gets it from, (it certainly isn’t me) but my daughter has a brain that leans towards maths and science. Which is a good thing, because she’s always wanted to be a vet. So a couple of weeks ago, the two of us set off for Devon – Jess to spend the week with the local farm vets in Holsworthy, and me to spend a week on my much neglected WIP.

While Jess really did have the proverbial arm up a cow’s backside (or three – cows, that is, not arms) and was literally counting sheep, I sat in the very sunny kitchen of our beautiful rented cottage and listened to the silence. Well, it was silent except for the mooing of nearby cows and an enormous amount of birdsong.

It was… weird.

At least it was at first. I’m normally a headless chicken (which Jess didn’t encounter last week), rushing from pillar to post, from editing work, to working for my husband’s business, to ironing and shopping and cooking and clearing up after the dogs. You get the picture. My life is exhausting, as is true for lots of people in this day and age. And it’s noisy too. Our house is not all that far from the M3, and I can just about hear the traffic during the day. My office is at the back of the house, and I do get the birdsong (from any birds not completely terrified my Milo, our massive cat)  but I also get  the lawn mowers, builders, DPD vans delivering endless parcels etc. etc. All of which can be rather distracting.

So the peace and quiet of this little corner of Devon took a bit of getting used to. For the first couple of days I felt a bit lost. Once Jess had gone off in the morning, there was just me, and a friendly robin that hopped on to the doorstep once or twice, and quite a few lady sparrows (not a gentleman sparrow in sight). There was a family (of people!) in the cottage next door, but they went out every day. The owners were close by too, but they were the perfect mix of there if you needed them without being obtrusive. So, it was quiet. I stared at my screen, avoiding the temptation of Facebook and Twitter. I’d made a promise to myself that there would be no social media. And my mind went blank.

Then I remembered that old adage about applying the seat of one’s pants or however it goes, and I made myself type.

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It got easier. And by Wednesday I was chilled, and writing well and keeping right away from social media (well, almost).

And by the time we were packing on Friday, I’d written more than I had in a long while, and, even better, I felt enthusiastic about my writing again, ready to continue with it.

So it was a luxury, this week of solitude, and one I was very lucky to have. I admire so much those writers I know that hold down a job, or two, and have young children or care for elderly parents. Those writers who still manage to write, despite all that. And I know I’m extremely lucky to have had that week in Devon, and to have the prospect of a second week in Devon later this month when Jess is working with another vet. And I know I’m lucky to have had that time to work in peace and quiet and reflect on my writing. It really was bliss.

And it made me realise how important it is to try and find a bit of peace and quiet, if we can, in our everyday lives. I can’t swan off to Devon every time I need to get on with my writing, however much I’d love to, so I need to make sure I try and recapture that sense of peace and calm. I know it won’t be easy now I’m firmly back in the midst of the responsibilities of daily life, but I’m determined to try.

And if you’re planning a trip to Devon (and do, it is utterly beautiful) then I recommend Staddon Barns. The Post House, that we stayed in, had everything we could have asked for, was charmingly furnished and spotlessly clean. Details here.

Staddon

 

 

‘Silenced Justice’ by Joe Broadmeadow #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Rosie's Book Review team 1

I reviewed ‘Silenced Justice’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

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Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Lieutenant Josh Williams is back in this latest thriller from Joe Broadmeadow, Silenced Justice.

When his former boss, retired Lieutenant Chris Hamlin, asks him to reopen an old case, Josh uncovers the shocking truth behind an innocent man’s death in prison. In 1972, Darnell Grey, accused of a series of rapes and a homicide, is beaten to death in the prison while awaiting trial.

As a black man accused of crimes against white women, a justice system intent on vengeance uses all its resources to secure his imprisonment. Evidence of his innocence is ignored, witnesses manipulated, and the truth locked away, putting him into a racially volatile prison system. With his death, his memory and the case against him fades into the past.

Determined to bring the matter to light, the deeper Josh looks into the case, the more dangerous it becomes for him and those he loves. Discovering a darker, more sinister conspiracy in play, Josh risks everything to uncover the truth.

A truth that unveils hollowness and corruption at the very core of government and our Justice System.

First of all, I have to say that I do admire the knowledge that the author has bought to this book. It is well-researched and the complicated plot is well-developed. It’s fast-paced, and exciting, and the idea behind the story is sound, with real potential to be a fantastically compelling read. The plot surrounding Darnell Grey, in particular, could really be made into something special; and the flashbacks to a previous time, and the language used here, while unsettling at times, was a somewhat timely reminder of the racism often inherent in the system – a racism that clouds judgement and can result in some pretty horrific things.

That said, there are too many issues with the writing itself. Most of these issues are around dialogue. It seems extremely contrived at times, often used exclusively for dumping information. It’s also often stilted and too formal– simple devices like using contractions when writing the dialogue could have made things sound more natural and made the manuscript more polished. There are also a smattering of complicated dialogue tags that detract from the narrative and, again, seem forced and contrived. The dialogue seems to be trying far too hard to fit into some idea of how the characters should speak to each other – it overplays the banter and becomes something of a parody of itself.

The author also uses quite an odd structure when writing dialogue, as in these examples:

“Can you drop my car off for an oil change?” putting on her suit jacket and picking up her briefcase.

“Glad you know that. I gotta run, call you later,” kissing him on the cheek.

“I am getting better,” arms folded across her chest.

I found this completely irritating, if I’m honest. I don’t know why the author has chosen to write in this way, but it doesn’t work.

Another issue for me was that I hadn’t read the previous novel and I was very unsure for a long time exactly who everyone was and what their relationship was to each other. It is difficult to get this right when you’re writing a series, but it’s important that writers do get it right, not only for new readers but for readers of the first book who might have forgotten what happened previously.

So, unfortunately this book didn’t work for me. I can see that the author, and his stories, have potential. But the writing needs a really good polish.

3-stars-out-of-5

It’s August – It’s Write An Amazon Review Month! #AugustReviews

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August 2016 is Write An Amazon Review Month! 

On Monday 25th July, book blogger Rosie Amber wrote this post encouraging readers and writers alike to post a short review on Amazon for any book they’ve read and enjoyed ~ following this up, writer Terry Tyler is starting this initiative along with other writer-bloggers including Rosie, Cathy from Between The Lines, Barb Taub, Shelley Wilson and me!

Paper cut of heart on old book

 

The idea is that, during August, everyone who reads this uses their Amazon account to post just one review on one book that they’ve read (but feel free to carry on if you get in the swing!). You don’t even have to have read it recently, it can be any book you’ve read, any time.  The book does not have to have been purchased from Amazon, though if it, your review will show the ‘Verified Purchase’ tag; however, if you download all your books via Kindle Unlimited, as many do these days, they don’t show the VP tag, anyway.

Remember, this isn’t the Times Literary Supplement, it’s Amazon, where ordinary people go to choose their next £1.99 Kindle book.  No one expects you to write a thousand word, in-depth critique; I don’t know about you, but I’m more likely to read one short paragraph or a couple of lines saying what an average reader thought of a book, than a long-winded essay about the pros and cons of the various literary techniques used.  Yes, those are welcome too (!), but no more so than a few words saying “I loved this book, I was up reading it until 3am”, or “I loved Jim and Vivien and the dialogue was so realistic”, or whatever!

Why should you write a review?

  • They help book buyers make decisions.  Don’t you read the reviews on Trip Advisor before deciding on a hotel, or any site from which you might buy an item for practical use?  Book reviews are no different.
  • If the book is by a self-published author, or published by an independent press, the writers have to do all their promotion and marketing themselves ~ reviews from the reading public is their one free helping hand.
  • The amount of reviews on Amazon helps a book’s visibility (allegedly).  If you love a writer’s work and want others to do so, too, this is the best possible way of making this happen.
  • It’s your good deed for the day, and will only take five minutes!

 

thank author

 

Off we go, then!  A few more pointers:

  • If you need any help with writing your review, do click on Rosie’s post, above.
  • A review can be as short as one word.
  • You don’t have to put your name to the review, as your Amazon ‘handle’ can be anything you like.
  • No writer expects all their reviews to be 5* and say the book is the best thing ever written; there is a star rating guide on Rosie’s post.
  • Would you like to tell the Twittersphere about your review?  If so, tweet the link to it with the hashtag #AugustReviews ~ and thank you!  Terry will do one blog post a week featuring these links: The #AugustReviews Hall of Fame (thank you, Barb!).

If you have a blog and would like to spread the word about #AugustReviews, please feel free to copy and paste this blog post, provide the link to it, re-blog it, or whatever ~ many thanks, and we hope you will join in to make this idea a success 🙂