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A Belated Happy New Year!

I know we’re already fairly well into January so these wishes are a little on the late side. I decided to take a long break from working and blogging over Christmas. Now that the children are mostly away from home, and both were back for Christmas, I wanted to spend as much time as possible with them with no distractions. We were also away for New Year as New Year’s Eve was my brother-in-law’s sixtieth birthday. We spent a lovely few days in the New Forest, eating, drinking, walking, and feeling a bit old! We had a fabulous time, but now the children are both back at uni, and it’s back to work!

I’ll start 2023 by looking back at 2022 and resharing some of the wonderful books I read. I must admit that my reading was a bit lax in 2022, what with new dogs and decorating and moving children into new flats, but I am determined to be better in 2023 – less Twitter, more Kindle!

So, here are my best books of 2022.

‘The Hemlock Cure’ by Joanne Burn

It is 1665 and the women of Eyam keep many secrets.

Isabel Frith, the village midwife, walks a dangerous line with her herbs and remedies. There are men in the village who speak of witchcraft, and Isabel has a past to hide. So she tells nobody her fears about Wulfric, the pious, reclusive apothecary.

Mae, Wulfric’s youngest daughter, dreads her father’s rage if he discovers what she keeps from him. Like her feelings for Rafe, Isabel’s ward, or that she studies from Wulfric’s forbidden books at night.

But others have secrets too. Secrets darker than any of them could have imagined.

This is wonderful story-telling, drawing you in, making you believe in the characters and the world in which they live, one of those rare books you can get lost in. 

‘Inge’s War’ by Svenja O’Donnell

What does it mean to be on the wrong side of history?

Svenja O’Donnell’s beautiful, aloof grandmother Inge never spoke about the past. All her family knew was that she had grown up in a city that no longer exists on any map: Königsberg in East Prussia, a footnote in history, a place that almost no one has heard of today. But when Svenja impulsively visits this windswept Baltic city, something unlocks in Inge and, finally, she begins to tell her story.

It begins in the secret jazz bars of Hitler’s Berlin. It is a story of passionate first love, betrayal, terror, flight, starvation and violence. As Svenja teases out the threads of her grandmother’s life, retracing her steps all over Europe, she realises that there is suffering here on a scale that she had never dreamt of. And finally, she uncovers a desperately tragic secret that her grandmother has been keeping for sixty years.

Accessible without dumbing down, thoughtful, respectful, and, unsurprisingly given the author’s relationship to Inge, completely genuine and authentic. This is, without doubt, an important book. 

Whole-heartedly recommended

‘Here Is the Beehive’ by Sarah Crossan

For three years, Ana has been consumed by an affair with Connor, a client at her law firm. Their love has been consigned to hotel rooms and dark corners of pubs, their relationship kept hidden from the world. So the morning that Ana’s company receives a call to say that Connor is dead, her secret grief has nowhere to go. Desperate for an outlet, Ana seeks out the shadowy figure who has always stood just beyond her reach – Connor’s wife Rebecca…

The narrative is packed full of emotion – love, hate, jealousy, guilt, but it never feels overdone, just realistic, considering the characters and the situation.

‘Open Water’ by Caleb Azumah

Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.

At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.

I can’t fully understand the complex issues that this book raises – I have never had the experiences that are written about here, but this novel, as well as being utterly compelling and a joy to read for the beauty of the writing, goes a long way to show these experiences. It is written in second person – which does really take some getting used to – but it is so worth persevering, because the writing is so good. Not many authors could have done this so successfully, and it is a testament to the author’s talent that this is such a beautiful novel.

‘Last One at the Party’ by Bethany Clift

December 2023. The human race has fought a deadly virus and lost. The only things left from the world before are burning cities and rotting corpses.

But in London, one woman is still alive.

Although she may be completely unprepared for her new existence, as someone who has spent her life trying to fit in, being alone is surprisingly liberating.

Determined to discover if she really is the last survivor on earth, she sets off on an extraordinary adventure, with only an abandoned golden retriever named Lucky for company.
Maybe she’ll find a better life or maybe she’ll die along the way. But whatever happens, the end of everything will be her new beginning.

That this is a debut is really impressive.

Compelling, funny, sad, honest and skillfully crafted.

‘Mirrorland’ by Carole Johnstone

One twin ran. The other vanished. Neither escaped…

DON’T TRUST ANYONE
Cat’s twin sister El has disappeared. But there’s one thing Cat is sure of: her sister isn’t dead. She would have felt it. She would have known.

DON’T TRUST YOUR MEMORIES
To find her sister, Cat must return to their dark, crumbling childhood home and confront the horrors that wait there. Because it’s all coming back to Cat now: all the things she has buried, all the secrets she’s been running from.

DON’T TRUST THIS STORY…
The closer Cat comes to the truth, the closer to danger she is. Some things are better left in the past…

The most dangerous stories are the ones we tell ourselves…
No. 36 Westeryk Road: an imposing flat-stone house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A place of curving shadows and crumbling grandeur. But it’s what lies under the house that is extraordinary – Mirrorland. A vivid make-believe world that twin sisters Cat and El created as children. A place of escape, but from what?

Now in her thirties, Cat has turned her back on her past. But when she receives news that one sunny morning, El left harbour in her sailboat and never came back, she is forced to return to Westeryk Road; to re-enter a forgotten world of lies, betrayal and danger.

Because El had a plan. She’s left behind a treasure hunt that will unearth long-buried secrets. And to discover the truth, Cat must first confront the reality of her childhood – a childhood that wasn’t nearly as idyllic as she remembers…

As the past is slowly revealed, the tension really grows, and the reader is pulled along by the narrative, as almost every page seems to reveal another piece of the puzzle. It’s expertly done, absolutely gripping.

A very impressive debut. Very much looking forward to her next book.

‘Ash Tuesday’ by Ariadne Blayde

In New Orleans, the dead talk and the living listen. 

Giving ghost tours on the decaying streets of the French Quarter isn’t exactly a high-profile career, but the guides at Spirits of Yore Haunted Tours are too strange and troubled to do anything else. They call themselves Quarter Rats, a group of outcasts and dreamers and goths who gather in hole-in-the-wall bars to bicker, spin yarns, and search for belonging in the wee hours of the night after the tourists have staggered home. 

Through the ghost stories they tell, their own haunted lives come into focus. Like the city they call home, these tour guides are messy with contradiction: they suffer joyfully, live morbidly, and sin to find salvation. 

Weaving together real New Orleans folklore with the lives of eleven unforgettably vibrant characters, Ash Tuesday is a love letter to America’s last true bohemia and the people, both dead and living, who keep its heart beating. With her debut, Blayde has carved out a deep and uber-readable interpretation of what it means to live, love, and grieve in New Orleans.

“There’s something about New Orleans. Maybe you can trace it to Latin America or the Caribbean or maybe not, maybe you can’t define it at all. The divine? The diabolical? I don’t know what to call it. But there’s magic, here.” 

This is a book that will appeal not just to those who enjoy a good ghost story (although there are plenty of those), or those who are interested in history or in New Orleans. Because this is a novel that is fundamentally about people, their faults and their flaws, their mistakes and their victories, their love (and sometimes their hatred) for each other, and the ways in which we can let the past, and the people in the past, break us, or we can find our own ways forward, with people who love us for who we are.

A wonderful book.

I hope that you’ll be tempted to read a few of these – they really are all highly recommended.

A very happy and healthy 2023 to all my book blogging friends, readers, followers, to all the lovely authors who have been kind enough to share their books with me, and, of course, to all my fabulous clients who really make going back to work in a cold, wet and dark January an absolute pleasure!

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‘Open Water’ by Caleb Azumah Nelson #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.

At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.

This is such an unusual book. On the surface, it is a simple story, of two young people who fall in  love. But it is so much more than that. Through the two protagonists, the author explores so much of life, and love, and society – it’s expectations, it’s cruelty, the freedoms it seems to offer that can be utterly superficial. It’s a story about being young, and hopeful, and about trying to make a life, a good life, in a world where those hopes are dashed.

I can’t fully understand the complex issues that this book raises – I have never had the experiences that are written about here, but this novel, as well as being utterly compelling and a joy to read for the beauty of the writing, goes a long way to show these experiences. It is written in second person – which does really take some getting used to – but it is so worth persevering, because the writing is so good. Not many authors could have done this so successfully, and it is a testament to the author’s talent that this is such a beautiful novel.

Happy Halloween! #samhain #halloween #witches

Double, double toil and trouble; 
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.  
By the pricking of my thumbs, 
Something wicked this way comes. 

Most of us are familiar with these words from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and with the gruesome hags that stir the cauldron. They have become the blueprint for the portrayal of witches; ugly, toothless old women; scheming, mysterious and powerful. But is it fair? And why do we see witches in this way – it can’t all be Shakespeare’s fault, can it?

Before the advent of Christianity there were many diverse religions – Druids, Norse Odinists and the witches that had for centuries acted as healers, midwives and wise women and men. However, when the Inquisition was launched, it wasn’t just direct ‘threats’ to the Roman Catholic Church that came under suspicion. Anyone could potentially be accused of heresy, and many of those healers and wise woman came under attack.

Propaganda was a big part of this religious war. The inquisitors sought to portray witches as evil, ugly, dirty, devil-worshippers:

This left anyone who didn’t conform open to attack – if you lived by yourself, had a wart on your nose or a deformed leg – then watch out! You were probably a witch. The majority of those arrested, tortured, tried, condemned and murdered were not witches; real witches had taken their religion underground.

Of course, real witches are nothing like those pointy-nosed, warty child-cookers of Hansel and Gretel fame and seemingly endless Disney adaptations. But the stereotype lingers, as false today as it was back then. Witches aren’t Satanists, and witchcraft isn’t and never has been Satanism. In fact, witchcraft in ancient times was ‘the craft of the wise’. It is a spiritual system that teaches respect for the earth. Witchcraft is also referred to as Wicca, the term most often used today. It is a religion, based on respect for the earth, and the worship of a creator that is both male and female – Goddess and God. Wiccans believe the creator is in everything – the trees, rain, the sea and all other creatures, and this belief fosters a respect and a caring for the natural world and for all life. Wiccans celebrate the changing of the seasons, and the phases of the moon. They are still healers; using natural remedies, and their spells are for harmony, love, creativity, wisdom and healing. Isn’t it time witches were given the respect that we give others? After all, we speak a lot of tolerance for religion and beliefs and yet don’t allow this most ancient of religions any respect at all.

And as a little antidote to these images, here’s a rather beautiful portrayal of a witch, strangely enough from an ad for Pears soap!

Hilary Mantel – A Tribute

I was so upset to hear of the death of Hilary Mantel a few weeks ago. She was a writer I had admired for a very long time and one of the few authors whose works I could read more than once, each time finding something new to enjoy. I enjoyed her books not only as a reader but as a writer looking to improve my own craft. She was truly inspirational, intelligent, inventive, bringing characters, history, emotion, and the nuance of politics and power to life with a few strokes of her pen.

I was lucky enough to hear her speak a few years ago, at Austin Friars, Thomas Cromwell’s home in London. Afterwards I queued with my copy of ‘A Place of Greater Safety’ clutched in my hands, nervous and so excited to actually meet Mantel in person. She was kind and gracious, and this photo is something that makes me smile every time I look at it (apologies for the terrible quality!).

‘A Place of Greater Safety’ is my favourite of her books and one that I know Mantel kept in a drawer for a few years before it was published. Set during the French Revolution, the book is a page turning tour de force that is an absolutely astounding achievement. I devoured every page, tears streaming down my face at the end. I’ve read it three times, which for me is incredibly unusual – I never read books more than once!

Of course the ‘Wolf Hall’ trilogy consists of three books that are absolute masterpieces. The opening lines of ‘Wolf Hall’ get me every time:

‘So now get up.’

Felled, dazed, silent, he has fallen; knocked full length on the cobbles of the yard. His head turns sideways; his eyes are turned towards the gate, as if someone might arrive to help him out. One blow, properly placed, could kill him now.

What a way to introduce us to Thomas Cromwell.

‘Bring up the Bodies’ manages to be emotional while being a clear-headed account of dreadful politics in which people were pawns and lives mattered only in how much they could add to another person’s power, wealth, or standing. Things haven’t changed that much! The final in the trilogy, ‘The Mirror and the Light’ took a long time to be written and it was a long, long wait to read. Reading it was a strange experience. I couldn’t wait to turn each page but that was bittersweet knowing that each page turned led to the end of the trilogy. There aren’t many authors that can say they have that effect on the reader.

If you’ve never read any Mantel, then I envy you. I heartily recommend that you read these wonderful novels. I’m about to read them for the fourth time. Of course, Mantel wrote other books. ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’ is a fabulous collection of short stories. Then there’s ‘Beyond Black’, ‘Fludd’ and a host of other works that aren’t nearly so well-known but just as beautifully written and just as much pleasure to read.

It’s so sad that we will not get to share more of Mantel’s wonderful imagination or amazing skill as a writer. The way the publishing world is going, with its endless book deals for celebrities and politicians and actors, there is less and less room for new talent, and unknown talent, writers out there that have so much to tell and so much to give. Yes, there’s self-publishing, which is fast becoming the best route for those authors without connections, an illustrious film career, a cooking show, or a former royal husband, but it is practically impossible for authors to be able to make a living wage simply through their writing. So it seems very unlikely that we’ll ever get the chance to share the wonderful stories of another writer like Hilary Mantel.

“Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories.”
― Hilary Mantel ‘Wolf Hall’

Meet Guest Editor and Author, Alison Williams…

So pleased to be on Chris the Story Reading Ape’s blog today. The blog is a wonderful resource for writers – do pop over and take a look. And thank you, Chris.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Thanks so much to Chris for this opportunity to tell you about myself and my editing services.

I have been providing services for authors since 2016 and have worked on more than five hundred projects in a wide variety of genres.

I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and trained as a journalist.

I have worked as a freelance writer and have been published in print and online. I completed a master’s degree in Creative Writing with the University of Glasgow and my journey into editing began when I was asked by fellow students to edit their work.

I found that it was something I greatly enjoyed and that I have a knack for spotting issues that often writers are too close to their work to see. I have been very lucky in working with some wonderful writers, many of whom ask me to edit subsequent books…

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An Update #writing #editing

It’s been ages since I have posted on the blog, so I thought an update was in order!

I have been lucky enough to work on lots of wonderful editing projects, and they have kept me incredibly busy. What has been especially lovely this year is that I have taken on lots of new clients who have got in touch because other clients have recommended me. It’s a huge privilege to help writers bring out the best in their manuscripts – manuscripts that mean so much to them – and I am so lucky to have a business that I love.

I have also dipped my toe into a new venture – ghost writing. I am working on a project with a lovely client right now and am enjoying writing again. I’m planning to take on more clients, so if you would be interested in this service, do get in touch. I am offering a discounted rate at the moment as this is a new venture, in exchange for honest reviews. I’ll be adding more information as I work through this initial project and hope to have a new blog for this aspect of the business in the very near future.

On a personal level, the summer was incredibly busy. Both children were home so there was a lot going on (and a lot of washing!). Both have now gone back to London, so the house is very quiet. Scott has gone back to Kings College to start a PhD in Film and Philosophy, and Jess has begun her fourth year at the Royal Veterinary College.

We found ourselves down to our last rescue chicken out of six – so of course decided to take on another five. Sylvia is the last survivor of our original six (she was the smallest and weakest of the bunch, but outlived them all!) and has been joined by Flora, Indigo, Ned, Keith and Lavender. This is what happens when everyone is allowed to choose a name.

We also spent a lot of time building and insulating an outside house for Gus the tortoise. This included having an outside plug socket installed for a heater and a lamp. You might think a tortoise only needs a tortoise table but if you buy a baby tortoise, then please do a lot of research. They have very specific needs if they are to grow properly and be healthy. When I was a child people bought tortoises and left them in the garden to their own devices. But these tortoises would have been imported as fully grown adults, so their needs were completely different to what is required if you have a baby tortoise. Without the right environment, they can suffer from horrible deformities to their shells. When you buy a tortoise, you often aren’t given the right information – so do make sure you research thoroughly. In my opinion, it’s honestly best not to have one as a pet. But now we do have Gus it’s down to us to make sure he has the best life.

We decided that life was too simple with two and a half dogs (Belle the cocker spaniel spends term time in London with Jess), so we decided to offer to foster for Galgos del Sol. Jasper came to us at the end of June. He’s three and a half and has only been in the UK a few months. His new home didn’t work out for him and so we were supposed to foster him until a place come up in rescue kennels. Of course, the inevitable happened, and we fell in love with the great big goofy boy, and he’s staying with us for good.

So it’s hardly surprising I haven’t had much time for the blog – but I have several book reviews going up in the next few days, and will be back to posting editing and writing tips and advice next week.

In the meantime, here’s Jasper.

I am an experienced editor, and have worked on more than five hundred projects in a variety of genres including dystopian, romance, memoir, erotica, YA, fantasy, short stories, poetry and business. I am happy to edit in either UK or US English. 

I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a master’s degree in creative writing.

Read testimonials from clients

Find out about my editing services

Contact me

‘Mirrorland’ by Carole Johnstone #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

One twin ran. The other vanished. Neither escaped…

DON’T TRUST ANYONE
Cat’s twin sister El has disappeared. But there’s one thing Cat is sure of: her sister isn’t dead. She would have felt it. She would have known.

DON’T TRUST YOUR MEMORIES
To find her sister, Cat must return to their dark, crumbling childhood home and confront the horrors that wait there. Because it’s all coming back to Cat now: all the things she has buried, all the secrets she’s been running from.

DON’T TRUST THIS STORY…
The closer Cat comes to the truth, the closer to danger she is. Some things are better left in the past…

The most dangerous stories are the ones we tell ourselves…
No. 36 Westeryk Road: an imposing flat-stone house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A place of curving shadows and crumbling grandeur. But it’s what lies under the house that is extraordinary – Mirrorland. A vivid make-believe world that twin sisters Cat and El created as children. A place of escape, but from what?

Now in her thirties, Cat has turned her back on her past. But when she receives news that one sunny morning, El left harbour in her sailboat and never came back, she is forced to return to Westeryk Road; to re-enter a forgotten world of lies, betrayal and danger.

Because El had a plan. She’s left behind a treasure hunt that will unearth long-buried secrets. And to discover the truth, Cat must first confront the reality of her childhood – a childhood that wasn’t nearly as idyllic as she remembers…

I’m going to use a cliche because it’s true – I couldn’t put this book down. Every page was a pleasure to read.

The narrative takes you from past to present, as Cat returns to her childhood home to try and make sense of her twin sister’s disappearance. But there are so many reasons she left and coming home brings all those things back to the surface. Switching like this can often be clunky and awkward, but here it works so well and the flashbacks, the details of the twins’ strange childhood, are beautifully done, so evocative and detailed.

As the past is slowly revealed, the tension really grows, and the reader is pulled along by the narrative, as almost every page seems to reveal another piece of the puzzle. It’s expertly done, absolutely gripping.

A very impressive debut. Very much looking forward to her next book.

How to Help Your Editor #AmWriting #WritingaNovel #WritingCommunity

An honest, professional yet friendly relationship between editor and client is crucial in order to make your manuscript the best it can be. Your editor wants to help you, to guide you, to advise and to encourage you in your writing journey. To do this, there are some things that your editor needs from you.

Read the FAQs

This may be the first time you’ve worked with an editor. You should have lots of questions and most editors will be more than happy to answer any concerns that you have. But before you send a lengthy email, have a look at your editor’s blog or website and see if they have a Frequently Asked Questions page. You will probably find a lot of the answers to your questions here.

Send your manuscript on time

If you have agreed a date with your editor, then do please make sure you send your manuscript on time. Even a morning’s delay can have an impact on your editor’s schedule. It is probably best to send the manuscript the day before, at the latest.

Read payment terms carefully and adhere to them

Editing can be an expensive business. But it is your editor’s job, their livelihood. They may be relying on the fee that you have agreed to pay bills, for example. Please pay on time – just because you have a sudden extra expense, it doesn’t mean that your editor should have to wait to be paid. You have entered into a professional agreement – be professional about it. And do accept that your editor is investing their time. Don’t expect them to edit for nothing, or for a pittance. I’ve seen editors and proofreaders offering their services for next to nothing. As with most things in life, if a deal seems to be too good to be true, then it probably is. Check your editor’s credentials and do bear in mind that old saying – ‘you get what you pay for’.

Be open to advice

You are paying your editor for their expertise and their knowledge. If they offer you advice take it in the spirit it is intended. It is there to help you.

Keep in contact

Let your editor know how things are going. I care very much about my clients and their books. I want to know how you’re doing, how the book’s doing, if you’ve had positive reviews (or not!).

Check if they want to be acknowledged

As an editor working mainly with independent writers, I have no control over what is eventually published. I can only correct, improve and advise. I cannot force a client to take that advice, make those improvements or even accept the spelling or grammatical corrections that I make. I have, on more than one occasion, advised clients, have had that advice ignored, have seen that client publish the book and then seen reviews making the points I have raised. It is excruciating to have a client ignore your advice and then to see a reviewer say that the book could do with a thorough edit. On the other hand, your book is your book and you are perfectly within your rights to ignore my advice and recommendations. But if you do so, then please don’t thank me for my editing in the acknowledgements. While I appreciate the thought, it makes me look like a terrible editor!

Give feedback

You know how lovely it is when your editor says good things about your writing? How it makes you feel wonderful? Well, it’s lovely when you tell an editor how pleased you are with their work, how you appreciate their help and advice. And it’s also really helpful, if not so lovely, to know if something wasn’t quite right.

Recommend them!

The majority of my clients now come from recommendations – something that makes me incredibly happy! It is a minefield out there. I am a member of a certain reading/writing website and I do belong to editors’ groups on that site. Almost every day I see people advertising their editing and proofreading services. Sometimes I have a look at their websites (it’s good to keep an eye on the competition after all!) and, while there are some fabulous editors, there are also people who set themselves up as editors with absolutely no relevant experience, qualifications or knowledge whatsoever. So what does a writer do? Apart from looking at an editor’s blog/site extremely carefully, I do think it’s a great idea to ask for recommendations from your fellow writers. And if you do work with an editor that you feel did a great job, then please tell everyone else!

 I am an experienced editor, and have worked on more than five hundred projects in a variety of genres including dystopian, romance, memoir, erotica, YA, fantasy, short stories, poetry and business. I am happy to edit in either UK or US English. 

I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a master’s degree in creative writing.

Read testimonials from clients

Find out about my editing services

Contact me

‘Dark Corners’ by Darren O’Sullivan #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

You thought you’d escaped your past

It’s been twenty years since Neve’s best friend Chloe went missing. Neve has never recovered and promised herself she’d never go back to that place.

But secrets can come back to haunt you

When Neve receives news that her first boyfriend Jamie has gone missing, she’s forced to return. Jamie has vanished without a trace in a disappearance that echoes the events of all those years ago. Somebody is watching and will stop at nothing until the truth about what took place that night is revealed …

Neve left the mining village where she grew up after her best friend Chloe disappeared. Now, after the breakup of her relationship, and struggling to run a business with her friend, she returns to help in the search for another friend, and her first love, Jamie.

The story switches between the present day, and the events of twenty-one years ago. This is done very well, and there is no confusion. The plot is quite complex and there are lots of twists and turns to keep mystery fans happy, and the atmosphere is quite spooky. The writing is very good in places, particularly in the evocative descriptions of the abandoned mine, the headframe watching over everything.

But I did find it hard to really connect to the characters, which made it difficult to really feel the tension. and there were quite a few errors in the text, including a lot of unintentional switches from past to present tense in the earlier chapters.

I also found the ending a bit of a disappointment.

So, not for me, unfortunately, but the book does have a lot of really great reviews, so the author is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the mystery genre.

Verisimilitude – or Keeping it Real #writingcommunity #amwriting #writinganovel

Verisimilitude – what a fabulous word!

It means, according to Oxford Dictionaries, the appearance of being true or real. It’s incredibibly important when writing fiction.

Writing is always a balancing act. You want to transport your reader, to take them on a journey, possibly have them experience things that they wouldn’t normally experience through your characters. So why the need for realism, for truth? After all, this is fiction right?

Well, yes, it is, and in a way, writing fiction is lying. We writers of fiction spend our days lying. But as anyone who has ever successfully lied to their parents about where they were the night before, or to their teacher about where their homework is, or to their boss about how they were really sick the day before and just couldn’t possibly have made it to work knows, the secret of a good lie is that it rings true.

Fiction is just like that. You are methodically, carefully and imaginatively building a world for your characters. A world that doesn’t exist. The appearance of truth is essential to help build that world, that lie. One wrong move, one wrong word, and the illusion collapses.

So how do you ensure that you keep the ‘reality’ of your fictional world intact? Here are the pitfalls to avoid:

  • Something unusual happening in your fictional world that you haven’t prepared your reader for
  • A character that notices something they wouldn’t notice in real life, says something they wouldn’t say, or does something they wouldn’t do
  • In fantasy, a character not using a skill that you have given them when they should do so
  • Unrealistic dialogue that is used to convey information 
  • In historical fiction particularly, an object, custom, behaviour that didn’t exist or wouldn’t have happened in the time in which your novel is set
  • Continuity. This is as important in fiction as it is in films. For example, if your character has his hands handcuffed behind his back, don’t have them in front of him two minutes later (as with Nash’s handcuffs in Reservoir Dogs).

Much of writing is about building believable and compelling worlds, but those worlds must follow a logic that the reader can relate to, understand, and around which you can create interesting and dynamic stories. 

I am an experienced editor, and have worked on more than five hundred projects in a variety of genres including dystopian, romance, memoir, erotica, YA, fantasy, short stories, poetry and business. I am happy to edit in either UK or US English. 

I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a master’s degree in creative writing.

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