Author: alisonewilliams

I trained as a journalist and currently work as a freelance editor, writer and researcher, with articles published both online and in a variety of print publications. I have edited books in a variety of genres including dystopian, memoir, erotica, fantasy and business - please see my blog for testimonials and information about services and rates. I work on a freelance basis for several academic writing companies where my work involves writing model essays, proofreading essays and dissertations and editing and improving academic work at all levels from foundation to Ph.D. standard. I copy write and edit for my husband’s communications consultancy. I have worked on a freelance basis for US clients and am happy to edit in either UK or US English. I have taught creative writing with a focus on grammar, punctuation, creativity, voice and expression. I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. I am fascinated by history – but not so much the kings and queens, the emperors, the military heroes or the great leaders. More the ordinary people whose lives were touched by the decisions, the beliefs and the whims of those who had power over them and who now fill our history books. It is their stories that I want to tell. As part of my Master’s degree I wrote my first historical novel ‘The Black Hours’ based on the notorious Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins. I have also written a novella ‘Blackwater’. I am currently working on my next full length novel, ‘Remember, Remember’, set during the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

‘Your Closest Friend’ by Karen Perry #FridayReads #BookReview #thriller

closest friend

Hive    Waterstones

Keep your friends close. And your enemies closer.

Cara shouldn’t have survived the attack. But at the last moment, a stranger snatched her to safety.

In the hours that followed, she told her Good Samaritan secrets she’d never told a soul.

Not even her husband. Especially not her husband.

In the aftermath, Cara is home, healed and safe. Which is when the anonymous threats begin.

Someone knows things about her that they shouldn’t.

Cara’s Good Samaritan offers to help – to save her all over again.

That night, Cara made a friend for life. But what if she isn’t a friend at all?

This has a really gripping beginning, and had me hooked from the first page. Radio producer Cara is on her way home when she finds herself caught up in a terrorist attack and is pulled into the safety of a coffee shop by a stranger, Amy.

Frightened, in shock, and still a little drunk from her evening out, in the hours they are hiding, Cara finds herself confiding her darkest secrets to Amy.

This sets the ball in motion for a twisty thriller, told from both Amy and Cara’s points of view.

The writing is really strong, and each scene adds to the slightly surreal, claustrophobic nature of the story. It’s a clever tale, and really intriguing. I got so frustrated with Cara at times, for not being able to see what was under her nose – proof of a storyteller that knows how to keep her reader engaged!

It’s a good, solid, well written thriller, and I’d definitely read more by this author.

4 stars

 

How to choose an editor #writingcommunity #writing #editing

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A new year means that many of us will be assessing the past year and making plans for the future. If your resolutions and goals include finishing that novel, or self-publishing or submitting to an agent, you should consider using an editor to make sure your manuscript is up to scratch.

The boom in self-publishing, as with any industry, means that a multitude of businesses have sprung up around writing. There are editors aplenty out there, but not all of them are up to the job. I’ve worked with countless writers who have paid hard-earned money to editors who haven’t a clue what they’re doing. As a writer myself, I understand how fellow writers feel about their work, and also how difficult it can be to hand that manuscript over to someone else, often someone you don’t know, and trusting them to do a good job. So what should you expect from an editor? And what should you look for when choosing one?

Testimonials

Look for testimonials from previous clients. If an editor can’t provide testimonials, find out why. When I began my business, I provided free edits in return for honest testimonials. This way I began to build a reputation and a client base (most of those clients that I provided free edits for came back to me with their next projects) and could also provide new clients with evidence that I could actually do the job. I’m happy to say that since then I have had testimonials from many clients and that now most of my work comes from happy clients who come back to me.

Sample edits

An editor should offer to provide you with a free sample edit. This way you can see how they work and see if it is right for you.

A contract

An editor should provide you with a contract setting out exactly what you should expect and what the editor also expects from you. This contract should include dates, fees and a summary of what’s included in your edit.

A price

I have worked with clients who have lost money to unscrupulous editors including one client whose ‘editor’ asked her to pay up front and then didn’t deliver. OK, you might think she was naïve to pay out, but this was new territory for her and she was unsure how things work. Unfortunately, I’ve also worked with clients who have paid the deposit, received their edit and then vanished without paying the balance. It goes with the territory, but please don’t be that person.

Make sure you know the rate, and when you’re expected to pay. And please do stick to this.

A reasonable timescale

Your editor should give you a date when your edit will be done and back to you. If they can’t commit to a date, ask yourself why. I’ve heard of editors who haven’t delivered when promised, have made excuse after excuse or have refused to give a firm date in the first place. Where does this leave a writer with a publication date in mind? And don’t let the process go on for months and months. If I have an editing project then that is what I work on – it takes priority. I plan my schedule so that projects – paid for writing projects or editing projects – take priority over everything else. I give a client a firm date – usually ten working days for an edit of a manuscript of up to 80,000 words. I have seen editors who will take up to six weeks to do the same amount of work. That’s fine if that works for you – but make sure it does work for you and that the deadline is agreed by both of you.

Honesty

Sometimes this is a hard one to take. It’s not very nice having someone tell you about all the faults in your work, all those things that don’t work. But an editor should do this. What’s the point otherwise? I know that I have built a bit of a reputation for my honesty – and that some people don’t see that as a good thing. They usually don’t ask me to edit their full manuscripts if they don’t like my honest appraisal of their sample. Which is probably a good thing. If you’re paying money to someone to edit your work then you must realise that the editor isn’t there to pat you on the back and tell you what a great writer you are. They are there to offer a professional, unbiased, honest critique of your work and to show you how to improve it and get it to a publishable standard. Yes, I do compliment a writer on things they have done well, things that really work. But what’s the point of me glossing over something that isn’t right? Something that doesn’t work? That will mean you’ve wasted your money. As one of my clients says:

‘Alison will pull no punches, but then, why would you want her to? You want your book to be the best it can be, right? You want your readers to get the best possible story you can produce, right? You want five-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, right?’

Exactly

So when you’re looking for an editor, do make sure that you are very careful, make sure you both know what’s involved and what everyone’s expectations are. And do be ready to listen and take advice. That’s what your editor is there for.

Happy writing!

I’m currently offering a 10% on bookings taken before the end of January for February and March. My schedule is filling up fast, so do get in touch soon to discuss your project. You can use the ‘contact’ form or drop me an email at alisonewilliams@sky.com

 

 

‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ by Arundhati Roy #FridayReads #BookReview

Ministry

Hive  Waterstones  Amazon.co.uk

At magic hour; when the sun has gone but the light has not, armies of flying foxes unhinge themselves from the Banyan trees in the old graveyard and drift across the city like smoke…’

So begins The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy’s incredible follow-up to The God of Small Things. We meet Anjum, who used to be Aftab, who runs a guest-house in an Old Delhi graveyard and gathers around her the lost, the broken and the cast out. We meet Tilo, an architect, who although she is loved by three men, lives in a ‘country of her own skin’ . When Tilo claims an abandoned baby as her own, her destiny and that of Anjum become entangled as a tale that sweeps across the years and a teeming continent takes flight…

I absolutely adored ‘The God of Small Things’ – one of the best books I’ve ever read – and this novel, ten years in the making, is just as good.

This is a tricky book to explain; it’s almost impossible to summarise, so I won’t even try. It is so intricately woven and so complicated, but it isn’t difficult to read – in fact it’s an immense pleasure to do so because every single passage is so beautifully crafted. Arundhati Roy is a remarkable writer, a genuine talent and I heartily recommend this book not only to those who love to read, but also to those who write, because we could all learn a thing or two from the writing here.

I didn’t know a great deal about Kashmir before I read this book. The horrors of that ongoing conflict are told through some fascinating and compelling characters – which makes it all so much more disturbing. But the book is also life-affirming and positive, the kindness of strangers, of friends, of family overcoming the bloodshed and the violence.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I hope it doesn’t take the author another ten years to write her next novel.

5 stars

New Year, New Goals and a Special Offer #writing #editing #NewYear

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I’ve taken a break from social media over the holidays because it can be a huge distraction, and I really wanted to enjoy some family time. But the house is now empty, much quieter and very tidy!

A new year, of course, is a time for reflection, and for looking forward. I love making plans, and the feeling of having a fresh start, and I’m looking forward to the year ahead.

This year I am determined to get through my huge TBR list – I really need to read at least one book a week, and post a review a week on the blog. Please do hold me to account if I fail to do so – I sometimes need a kick up the bum!

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This is pretty much what my TBR list looks like

I also desperately need to get back to writing. I’m setting aside a day a week this year to do so.

And now I’m fifty I recognise the need to really stay fit and healthy, so I’m going back to running. Luckily I have a husband who is a keen runner and he’s also great at motivating me, as well as putting up with me swearing at him when he makes me go out even when it’s pouring with rain (which is every day in Wales).

To keep me motivated I’m going to sign up for a 10K – I last did one ten years ago (gulp!) and it felt wonderful when it was done. My daughter also wants to do a ‘Tough Mudder’ and I’m definitely considering that.

And of course I want to continue editing – working with wonderful clients. I love my job and one of the shelves in my bookcase is filled with books I’ve edited. It makes me hugely proud to see them and I hope to add many more this year.

To celebrate the New Year and a new decade, I’m offering a 10% discount on any bookings placed before the end of January for February and March. Drop me an email at alisonewilliams@sky.com and I’ll get straight back to you.

You can find out about my editing services here, and read testimonials from very happy clients here.

Wishing all my clients, old and new, and all my lovely blogging and writing friends a very happy and successful New Year!

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My Ten Best Reads of 2019 #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

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Well, that’s another year completely whizzed past – and a year of huge changes in the Williams’ household. We’ve moved from busy Basingstoke to a rural village in West Wales. I’ve turned 50 (yikes!), my daughter has turned 21 (big yikes), we’ve celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary (big, big, yikes), and both children are at university and living in London. My editing and freelance writing business has gone from strength to strength and I’ve worked with some lovely authors.

It’s been such a busy year that I’ve not read nearly as much as I should have – and getting through my TBR list is definitely a resolution for 2020. But when I have managed to read, I’ve read some absolute crackers. These are my ten best of 2019 – click on the title to read my review.

Winter’ by Ali Smith

ali smith winter

Winter? Bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes. The shortest days, the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering. The summer’s leaves? Dead litter.

The world shrinks; the sap sinks.
But winter makes things visible. And if there’s ice, there’ll be fire.

In Ali Smith’s Winter, lifeforce matches up to the toughest of the seasons. In this second novel in her acclaimed Seasonal cycle, the follow-up to her sensational Autumn, Smith’s shape-shifting quartet of novels casts a merry eye over a bleak post-truth era with a story rooted in history, memory and warmth, its taproot deep in the evergreens: art, love, laughter.

It’s the season that teaches us survival.
Here comes Winter.

‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

‘The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae’ by Stephanie Butland

ailsa rae

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live.

She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that – just in time – saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But . . .

Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point and she wants to find her father.
Have her friends left her behind?
And she’s felt so helpless for so long that she’s let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. She barely knows where to start on her own.

Then there’s Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn’t make it. And now she’s supposed to face all of this without him.

But her new heart is a bold heart. 

She just needs to learn to listen to it . . .

‘The Craftsman’ by Sharon Bolton

craftsman

Devoted father or merciless killer?

His secrets are buried with him.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

Did she get it wrong all those years ago?
Or is there something much darker at play?

‘The Language of Kindness’ by Christie Watson

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Christie Watson was a nurse for twenty years. Taking us from birth to death and from A&E to the mortuary, The Language of Kindness is an astounding account of a profession defined by acts of care, compassion and kindness.

‘An Empty Vessel’ by J J Marsh writing as Vaughan Mason

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Today’s the day Nancy Maidstone is going to hang.

In her time, she’s been a wartime evacuee, land-girl, slaughterhouse worker, supermarket assistant, Master Butcher and defendant accused of first degree murder. Now she’s a prisoner condemned to death. A first time for everything.
The case has made all the front pages. Speculation dominates every conversation from bar to barbershop to bakery. Why did she do it? How did she do it? Did she actually do it at all? Her physical appearance and demeanour in court has sparked the British public’s imagination, so everyone has an opinion on Nancy Maidstone.
The story of a life and a death, of a post-war world which never had it so good, of a society intent on a bright, shiny future, and of a woman with blood on her hands.
This is the story of Nancy Maidstone.

‘The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz’ by Jeremy Dronfield

The boy

‘Everyone thinks, tomorrow it will be my turn. Daily, hourly, death is before our eyes . . .’

Gustav and Fritz Kleinmann are father and son in an ordinary Austrian Jewish family when the Nazis come for them. 

Sent to Buchenwald concentration camp in 1939 they survive three years of murderous brutality. 

Then Gustav is ordered to Auschwitz. 

Fritz, desperate not to lose his beloved father, insists he must go too. And though he is told it means certain death, he won’t back down. 

So it is that father and son together board a train bound for the most hellish place on Earth . . .

This is the astonishing true story of horror, love and impossible survival. 

‘Lowborn’ by Kerry Hudson

Lowborn

A powerful, personal agenda-changing exploration of poverty in today’s Britain.
‘When every day of your life you have been told you have nothing of value to offer, that you are worth nothing to society, can you ever escape that sense of being ‘lowborn’ no matter how far you’ve come?’

‘The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter’ by Hazel Gaynor

lighthouse

1838: when a terrible storm blows up off the Northumberland coast, Grace Darling, the lighthouse-keeper’s daughter, knows there is little chance of survival for the passengers on the small ship battling the waves. But her actions set in motion an incredible feat of bravery that echoes down the century.
1938: when nineteen-year-old Matilda Emmerson sails across the Atlantic to New England, she faces an uncertain future. Staying with her reclusive relative, Harriet Flaherty, a lighthouse keeper on Rhode Island, Matilda discovers a discarded portrait that opens a window on to a secret that will change her life forever.

‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ by Arundhati Roy

Ministry.jpg

I’ve just finished this completely wonderful, beautiful book – review to follow very soon!

Happy holidays, everyone – and happy reading!

 

holidays

Winter Solstice Celebrations #wintersolstice #winter

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Christmas is almost here – and tomorrow will be the shortest day. I love winter and being with family over the holiday season. The shortest day (and longest night) will be an excuse to light the woodburner, switch on the Christmas lights and settle down with a good book and a couple of glasses of wine. I think I might make that my Winter Solstice tradition!

This post from last year details some of the more traditional ways to celebrate the Winter Solstice.

via Winter Solstice Celebrations #wintersolstice #winter

‘A Speyside Odyssey’ – a lovely Christmas gift #ChristmasBooks #Fridayreads

A Speyside Odyssey - High Res Cover Image

I had the pleasure of working with Dr Norman Matheson on his lovely book ‘A Speyside Odyssey’. I don’t usually do book promotions, but this is a very special book and one that will make a truly lovely Christmas present.

The book has been endorsed in a foreword by His Royal Highness, Prince Charles.

Filled with beautiful illustrations, ‘A SPEYSIDE ODYSSEY’ details the fascinating life story of the Atlantic Salmon as it undertakes one of the most remarkable, and most deadly, journeys in nature.

The story begins with conception in a remote highland burn, and follows the hazardous journey the salmon take through small tributaries to the River Spey, and from the estuary on to distant oceanic feeding grounds.

After gorging for one or more years on the prolific food sources of the North Atlantic, the odyssey draws to its conclusion as, with remarkable accuracy, the salmon complete the long journey home to spawn in the burn of their origin.

The salmon’s life-cycle provides a unique background for a natural history of Speyside. As the year unfolds, the changing topography of the landscape and river, the details of bird and animal life, wild flowers and salmon fishing lore are brought to life in words and beautiful watercolour illustrations.

‘A SPEYSIDE ODYSSEY’ is an emotive celebration of natural history in a breath-taking and captivatingly beautiful area of north-east Scotland.

The author’s profits will go to the Atlantic Salmon Trust – a charity dedicated to salmon and sea trout survival.

‘A SPEYSIDE ODYSSEY’ is available from Troubador, Hive, W H Smith and Waterstones, as well as Amazon.

About the Author

Norman Matheson, a retired surgeon, has been captivated by nature since his boyhood in upper Speyside. As a lifelong salmon fisherman, he is known throughout the Spey and Aberdeenshire Dee. He has published extensively. As an artist, he has illustrated children’s picture books and the illustrations in this book are his work. He was awarded an MBE for voluntary work in the visual arts.

 

 

The 2019 Christmas Charity Appeal – Help Me Raise £250 For Battersea Dogs & Cats Home By Leaving Me Links To Your Blogs and Books

A really worthwhile cause – please leave a link on Hugh’s blog 🙂

via The 2019 Christmas Charity Appeal – Help Me Raise £250 For Battersea Dogs & Cats Home By Leaving Me Links To Your Blogs and Books

‘Not My Father’s House’ by Loretta Miles Tollefson #BookReview #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

#RBRT Review Team

I read ‘Not My Father’s House’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Not my father

Amazon.co.uk

Suzanna hates everything about her New Mexico mountain home. The isolation. The short growing season. The critters after her corn. The long snow-bound winters in a dimly-lit cabin.

But she loves Gerald, who loves this valley.

So Suzanna does her unhappy best to adjust, even when the babies come, both of them in the middle of winter. Her postpartum depression, the cold, and the lack of sunlight push her to the edge.

But the Sangre de Cristo mountains contain a menace far more dangerous than Suzanna’s internal struggles. The man Gerald killed in the mountains of the Gila two years ago isn’t as dead as everyone thought.

And his lust for Suzanna may be even stronger than his desire for Gerald’s blood.

This novel is part of a series, but it works very well as a standalone – you very quickly get to know the characters and their backgrounds and what has brought them to the mountains.

Suzanna is that rare thing in an historical novel – a woman who doesn’t fit in with the requirements of the time, who rails against the constraints of her life, but who isn’t allowed to overcome them. She has to conform, as women did, but this leads to frustration and misery.

There is some wonderful description in this novel, description that doesn’t overwhelm the narrative, and it is very easy to picture the beautiful, but often hostile countryside. There are some really horrible and upsetting moments, written without melodrama, that bring home the reality of the fragility and danger of life then, particularly for women.

The writing is polished, professional and technically sound. Characters are authentic and consistent. It’s refreshing to see themes like post-natal depression examined so sensitively here – something not often tackled in historical novels.

My only gripe is that some of the scenes of the mountain man are rather repetitive. He thinks the same things, does the same things, and I did feel that these episodes could have been cut. There is some repetition throughout the novel – while it is undoubtedly well-written, it could do with being cut back a little. I did find myself skipping over some parts.

That said, this was a really interesting read and I’ll definitely read more by this author.

4 stars

A New Addition in Time for Christmas!

It has been ages since my last blog post – life has become very busy and unfortunately the blog has slipped down the list of priorities, as it often does.

As well as editing and freelance writing (the day jobs) we have been settling into our new home, and getting to know everyone in the village, and now the run up to Christmas is gathering pace.

As if that wasn’t enough, we have also just welcomed a new member of the family – two dogs and a cat aren’t enough apparently, so we’ve adopted Charlie.

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We had always planned to get another dog, but possibly not just before Christmas. But my daughter was home from uni the other week and she showed me a heart-breaking video.

I had to find out more. And what I found out was terrible. I have long been involved in animal welfare, campaigning, donating, protesting, particularly pre-children. I even worked for an animal welfare charity. I’ve seen and heard some terrible things. But I have to say that some of the things that happen to these dogs are the worst things I’ve ever heard or seen. Bred for hunting, they’re cheap to buy, so those that aren’t up to scratch are kicked out, or worse. If they fail, they can be tortured – to repay the debt and alleviate the ‘shame’ of the hunter. These beautiful dogs are tortured, burned alive, buried alive, kicked, beaten, run over, even hung.

So caution went out of the window. I got in touch with Galgos del Sol and Charlie arrived from Spain a week ago. He was rescued by the charity when he was about one. He’d been abandoned, living on the streets and was absolutely covered in fleas. It took a very long time before he’d let anyone show him affection. He’s been at the rescue for two years.

He’s nervous, shy, a little bit skittish. But he’ll let me cuddle him and stoke his very long nose, and adores an ear scratch. He was soon settled enough to have a long sleep – he had had a very long trip from Murcia all the way to West Wales!

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Our other dogs have accepted him without question and, fingers crossed, all is going well. He’s had lots of walks and his first trip to the vets, where he’s been given a clean bill of health.

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Not sure if I should risk going in there!

Galgos del Sol takes in so many dogs. It’s unbelievable how many are abandoned and hurt. They’re found running along busy roads, living by motorways, thrown in skips, in bins, in wells. The founder, Tina Solera, and the staff and volunteers work tirelessly. They’re devoted and they must feel sometimes like they’re fighting a losing battle. They’re trying to educate, to change opinions, to get people to question these horrible ‘traditions’.

I know that a lot of my followers and a lot of my online friends are animal lovers. If you’re looking for a charity to support, please consider Galgos del Sol. And if you are ever thinking of adopting a dog, you can’t do much better than a galgo. Charlie, despite everything he’s been through, is fast asleep at my feet as I write this. The trust he already has in me is humbling; he doesn’t know that I’m not going to hurt him, starve him, abandon him. But his incredibly long tail thumps every time he sees me.

I know it won’t be easy, that we’ll have ups and downs, that it will take time. But he’s turning out to be a really lovely early Christmas present!