Saturday, 28 December 2019

TIME FOR THOSE TWO ‘R’s - REFLECTION AND RESOLUTION


Today is Saturday 28 December 2019, and it would have been my mum’s 101 birthday. Sadly she died eleven years ago just a fortnight short of her 90th birthday. Since then December and Christmas have always been tinged with a certain sadness, but life moves on.
As I write this blog post we are just 4 days away from not only welcoming a New Year but a whole new decade. I’ve just realised too, that this will be the third time I’ve welcomed a new decade here in France - the first one being the millennium. 
For me personally the last two decades have flown by bringing all sorts of changes into my life - some good, some not so good and some I could in all honesty have done without. I’m sure that everyone has similar thoughts and feelings about their own lives. 
My son is currently with the organisation Sea Shepherd and is captain of one of their boats in the Upper Gulf of California trying to save the vaquita porpoise and other endangered species from extinction. There are only about 15 of the vaquita porpoises left in this protected area. Needless to say the Mexican fishermen are not happy about Sea Shepherd pulling up their illegal nets and there are frequent skirmishes. As proud as I am of Nick, as his mum I worry a lot!

If you’d like to know more about the Sea Shepherd organisation here’s the link: https://seashepherd.org/milagro


Used to the long Christmas holiday in the UK it took me a few years to get used to the French way of celebrating Christmas and New Year. Shops close at mid-day on Christmas Eve when their main celebration takes place and on Christmas Day itself. Boxing Day is unknown here, it's a normal workday (unless of course it happens to fall on a Sunday). The days running up to New Year are normal workdays and after celebrating New Year’s Eve in a big way, January 1 is a holiday, after that it’s back to a normal routine. Oh, there is the Day of Kings on January 6 when they have a special cake and a paper crown is involved.
So this week I’ve had no excuse not to work and I’ve been doing the copy edits on one of my backlist, Rendez-vous in Cannes that Boldwood are re-issuing in April. But before then A Riviera Retreat is published 23 January. If you want to escape from the January weather you can pre-order it here: https://amzn.to/2Q3cGYg


Oh, I've just realised I called this blog post Reflection and Resolution and I haven't mentioned New Year Resolutions - and that's because I decided not to make any!

On behalf of the seven Novel Points of View authors, I liked to wish you all a very happy 2020 and if you are a writer reading this lots of writing success.


Saturday, 21 December 2019

BOOKISH CHARITY APPEALS TO CONSIDER THIS CHRISTMAS …


Christmas is traditionally a time of giving and, in the spirit of the season, I want to further awareness of four bookish charity appeals raising money to help others. I understand that not everyone will be in a position to donate, but hopefully you’ll find the generous work being done by the bookish community interesting. 



LAST CHRISTMAS

First up is Last Christmas, an anthology curated by Greg Wise and Emma Thompson with stories from the likes of Graham Norton, Stephen Fry and Meryl Streep, as well as contributors who have been homeless, political refugees and volunteers. It is described as a beautiful, funny and soulful collection of personal essays written by a unique plethora of voices from the boulevards of Hollywood to the soup kitchens of Covent Garden.  Published to coincide with the release of the festive rom-com Last Christmas, starring Emma Thompson, Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, 25p from the sale of each book is donated to two charities - Crisis and The Refugee Council. Find a link here … LastChristmas



COMFORT ZONES

The second anthology, ComfortZones, is one I came across whilst browsing the Jigsaw (women’s clothing) store. Written in aid of Women for Women International, who work with at-risk women in countries affected by conflict and war, it is a collection of essays and short stories by writers including Daisy Buchanan, Elizabeth Day and Pandora Sykes, who were invited to pen pieces outside their comfort zones. For example, there’s a meditation on motherhood from a food writer, a short story on quantum physics by a novelist … you get the idea. Books bought via Jigsaw stores or their website ensures the full £9.99 goes towards the work of Women for Women International. Find a link here … ComfortZones



THE TIMES CHRISTMAS APPEAL

The Times newspaper has chosen to support three charities in their annual appeal, one of which is The Reading Agency, an organisation that aims to tackle the challenges of social mobility, mental health and wellbeing, and loneliness through reading. Its Christmas Appeal aims to expand their reading friends programme which uses the power of a shared story to connect people in libraries, prisons, care homes, community centres and recovery cafés here in the UK. Find a link here … The Reading Agency Christmas Appeal



THE SCOTTISH BOOK TRUST

Some of the happiest memories I have of my boys are when they were small, all bathed and cosy, ready for a bedtime story. This year, money raised by the Scottish Book Trust’s Christmas Appeal will directly benefit teen mums and their babies. A £5 donation buys the gift of a first book (Julia Donaldson’s and Axel Scheffler’s The Snail and a Whale) for a young mum and her baby to share. The appeal remains open until the 6th January. Find a link here… Scottish BookTrust Appeal



Most of these charities are based in the United Kingdom and I would love if readers would share book/literature based charity campaigns in other countries too.

And finally, all at the Novel Points of View team wish you and yours a peaceful, joyful festive season.


Rae x

Saturday, 14 December 2019

IT'S BEGINNING TO FEEL LIKE CHRISTMAS ... by Victoria Cornwall


The countdown to Christmas is well and truly on. Streets, shops and homes are festooned in festive twinkling lights, ball balls and garlands, whilst gifts are being wrapped for family and friends.

A Daughter's Christmas Wish
Ebook & Audio

  This time last year my first Christmas novella, A Daughter's Christmas Wish, was published. It told the story of a WW1 soldier, Nicholas, returning to Cornwall with the intention of honouring a promise he made to his friend, a fellow soldier, who would not be coming home. But as Nicholas strives to give his friend's grieving fiancée, Rose, the best Christmas she could wish for, he begins to question whether his efforts are to honour his friend, or whether there is another reason …

  The story, which was published by Choc Lit, was well received by readers so my natural curiosity had me rummaging around Choc Lit's festive releases for this year to see what was on offer. I was not disappointed and there are a nice variety to pick from to get me in the mood for Christmas. I have left their book blurbs to do the talking and have provided a link to Kindle. However do remember they are on all the ebook platforms, such as Kobo, Nook, Google Play and iBooks, and some are also in audio and paperback! Happy reading!

Ebook & Audio
Happy Christmas Eve by Jackie Ladbury
Eve Halligan is back in her hometown for Christmas after a whirlwind few years touring with her band, the Molotovs. A lot has changed since she left, but two things have stayed the same. One: Eve is head-over-heels in love with Lucien Malikov, the Molotovs’ bad boy lead singer. Two: Lucien is completely indifferent to her.
Still, Eve dreams that this could be the Christmas where she convinces Lucien that they’re made for each other. But when childhood friend and local caterer Theo Wright comes back into her life bringing with him festive cupcake and sausage roll conundrums, Eve begins to question whether her Christmas dreams have been wasted on the wrong man …
Click HERE to buy.
***

Ebook & Audio
Daisy's Christmas Gift Shop by Hannah Pearl
Daisy Kirk is a sucker for a love story, which is why she opened up her gift shop – because there’s nothing that makes Daisy happier than when she’s helped a customer achieve their own ‘happily ever after’ by finding the perfect Christmas gift for their loved one. And she absolutely does not just sell ‘soppy presents and frilly pants’ as her brother’s infuriating best friend, Eli, is so fond of suggesting.
The sad fact is that whilst Daisy is helping others with their love lives, hers is non-existent. But when unusual circumstances take Daisy and Eli on a road trip from London to rural Wales, will she finally get the happily ever after to her own Christmas love story?
Click HERE to buy.
***

Ebook & Audio
Christmas on the Isle of Skye by Kirsty Ferry
The Isle of Skye is a magical place, especially at Christmas, and there’s no place Zac Fallon would rather be. But whilst Zac has everything he needs on Skye, there’s still something missing – and that something is a somebody called Ivy McFarlane.
Ivy used to work with Zac but then spread her wings and moved to Glastonbury. He’s missed her ever since. Now it’s almost Christmas and Zac realises that the Ivy shaped hole in his life is too big to bear. So starts his festive mission to the mainland – but will he be back in time to spend Christmas in Skye? And, more importantly, will Ivy be with him?
Click HERE to buy.
***

Ebook
Bluebell's Christmas Magic by Marie Laval
A flick of a feather duster and a sprinkle of Christmas magic …
Cassie Bell is used to mess. Her cleaning business, Bluebell Cleaning, is well known in the Cumbrian village of Red Moss. However, now it’s almost Christmas and Cassie has a slightly messier situation to deal with than she’s used to.
She’s been hired to help Stefan Lambert, an injured army helicopter pilot who’s staying at the local Belthorn Manor whilst he recovers. Stefan resents Cassie’s interference and is definitely not looking for Christmas cheer. But Cassie prides herself on sparkling surfaces – so, can she bring some festive sparkle to Stefan’s life too?
Click HERE to buy.
***

Ebook & Audio
Christmas in Little Penhaven by Angela Britnell
Wannabe author Jane Solomon is expecting an uneventful Christmas in her Cornish village of Little Penhaven.
But then super fit American gym owner Hal Muir comes to town, and suddenly the holiday season looks set to be far more interesting. Hal is keen on embracing every British tradition on offer, from mince pies to Christmas pub quizzes – and perhaps some festive romance too …
Click HERE to buy.
***

Paperback
Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat by Angela Britnell
When Fee Winter books a winter break at the remote Black Cherry Retreat in the small town of Pine Ridge, Tennessee, it's with the idea that the peace and quiet will help her recuperate from her hectic life as a photographer.
But what she didn't bank on was meeting Tom Chambers and his huge, interfering yet lovable family. With them, could Fee finally experience the warmth and support that's been missing from her own life - and maybe even find a place to call home in time for Christmas?
Click HERE to buy.
***

Ebook
Izzy's Christmas Star by Berni Stevens
Student and Zumba instructor Izzy Grant leads a pretty normal life, but in the run-up to Christmas an unusual encounter with a friendly Santa paves the way for the most wonderful and star-studded Christmas she’s ever experienced.
Because at almost exactly the same time, Izzy also meets Seth Roberts – as in the Seth Roberts, bona fide rock star and lead singer of Scarlet Gryphon. As their connection grows, Izzy’s Christmas countdown becomes a glittering whirlwind of after-show parties and classy restaurants – and does she have her mystery Santa to thank?
Cick HERE to buy.
***

Ebook
Hanukka at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery by Sharon Ibbotson
Cohen Ford is a man who could do with a little bit of sweetening up. It’s no surprise that when he walks into The Great Greenwich Ice Creamery on a typically gloomy London day before Christmas, he insists on a black coffee rather than his childhood favourite – strawberry ice cream.
But then he meets River de Luca, the woman behind the flavours. After their first encounter, Cohen begins visiting the ice creamery every Tuesday, gradually learning more about the intriguing River. Could her influence encourage cynical Cohen to become the man who embraces Christmas, Hanukkah and even strawberry ice cream?
Click HERE to buy.
***
  There are lots of festive reads to choose from so why not download a book and put those feet up for a well earned rest! I can't think of a better way to get me in the mood for the festivities ahead. It is certainly a lot less stressful and tiring than running around the shops on a cold winter's day hoping to find something suitable for great aunt Gladys. Enjoy and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!





Sunday, 8 December 2019

ALL PRESENT AND CORRECT .............................. LINDA MITCHELMORE

Well, it's that time of year when most of us are knee deep in wrapping paper and ribbons and glitter and sticky labels, and decorations, and exhausting ourselves blowing up balloons.
And it got me thinking. I've had more than a few short stories published that were inspired by presents. The good ones and the bad ones. And once, not even getting one at all. On a personal front, my husband and I (sounds regal but just a three bed-semi, not Buck House)stopped buying gifts for one another on birthdays and at Christmas a long time ago. Not my decision, I hasten to add but it took the sting out of not getting anything when I knew my husband wasn't going to be getting anything either. And, of course, there was the shivery memory of the microwave that was the gift he thought I'd been gagging for one year - the story I wrote around that sold in four countries .... more than enough to buy myself a deccent leather handbag. And a pair of shoes.
I was once handed a bunch of flowers by a young man outside the railway station as I emerged into the winter gloom, laden down with bags and cases. He just sort of thrust them between the strap of my shoulder bag and my arm as I had no hands free. 'Won't be wanting these now, will I?' he said. It was in the days pre-mobiles so I can only imagine he'd been standing there a long time with his flowers and had been stood up. Stuck for something to write about I dredged up that memory and wrote a story called STOLEN ROSES that will be out in next Christmases My Weekly Annual ... always nice to have a publication to which to look forward, isn't it?
I don't suppose I'm the only writer who has to put on a brave face when they get given yet another pen - as much as I love pens I struggled to put on a brave and enthusiastic just-what-I-wanted face when a bundle of bics turned up!
Now then, it's a bit of a dull time - writing-wise - I always find in the few weeks running up to Christmas. Many of us are full of enthusiasm afterwards with new leaves been turned over and all that but right now we need motivating - well, I do. I've got a few free days and an idea (from a true life situation) that's been rumbling around in the grey matter for some time. The son of a friend of mine - let's call him Henry - had been going out with a girl - let's call her Jessica - for some time and he knew it was time to finish it. But Christmas was coming. There were all sorts of dinners and drinks parties booked in to which they'd been invited as a couple. It would be churlish to finish with her in the run-up to all that, wouldn't it? So, Henry bought a decent but non-commital gift - a leather purse and a bottle of what he knew was her favourite perfume - and wrapped it up. But what did Jessica turn up with on Christmas Eve? Both families all in the know as well. Only a flight ticket to Paris and a booking for three nights in a top hotel. A sort of taster for the honeymoon Jessica was expecting of him. Poor Henry. The present from hell as far as he was concerned. But he went, gent that he is. And .... well, you can probably guess the rest ... Henry and Jessica got the pre-honeymoon baby as well (after Jessica muddled up taking 'the pill' wouldn't you know) in that great city of romance. As I said, it was a while ago, but I've always wanted to write Henry a different outcome to that one. Jessica too, of course ... HAPPY CHRISTMAS

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Not in Our Stars...Some Thoughts on Reviews

Mixed messages for Shakespeare from these reviews...

Today I thought I’d blog about a subject every author worries about far too much, yet which most readers probably never give a second thought to: stars. 

Authors would do well to take some advice from the Bard, who cautioned us that “the fault…lies not in our stars but in ourselves.” That said, I’m not sure I’m going to take advice from him because his works, in their various forms, don’t have nearly as many reviews on Amazon as you would expect and they aren’t always that great or, indeed, that logical. (“Bought for a student as present very pleased with it” 1*.)

Of course Shakespeare’s reviews are largely not about the plays themselves but about the edition — poor formatting gets your book marked down and easy navigability gets it marked up. Equally, reviewers award ratings for the introduction and the commentary rather than for the wonderful work which forms the main part of the book. 

Apart from the odd moment of dismay, I tend to be rather sanguine about bad reviews — and in fact I think authors worry too much about them. We expect them to be focussed entirely on the content, but for the reader they’re about the whole process of buying and reading a product. Shakespeare’s experience, if you call it that, demonstrates this neatly. 

There is often a disconnect between the review and the star rating. Some of my four star reviews have been very much better than some of the five star ones, for example. Again, there’s no point in moaning about them because they reflect the reader’s response. As a reader I don’t review that much but when I do I’m not always that consistent. Sometimes I rave about a book that isn’t, in objective terms (as far as objectivity is possible) very good or don’t enjoy  book that is, by every measure, a classic. 

Why? Because if I enjoy a book the quality is only part of it. It will be the right book for me, at the right time, and as a result I will enjoy it far more than I might have done under different circumstances. Or it might be set in a place I know and love, or one of the characters might chime with me for a particular reason, or what have you. 

I try and be kind when I review but not everyone does and they don’t have to. So my advice to the author reading a bad review is not to take it to heart. Not everybody’s going to like your book baby — and a bad review does’t reflect a poor quality book, but the fact that a reader didn’t enjoy it. Focus instead on the ones who did.



Friday, 22 November 2019

TO BE OR NOT TO BE ..... Linda Mitchelmore

There can be few writers who haven't had a rejection at some point in their careers, and I've had a fair few myself. How, I wondered, do my fellow novelpointsofview contributors deal with a thanks, but no thanks, letter? Here's what Jennie Bohnet has to say:- 'It's not personal, it's business'. I've lost count of the number of times I've muttered that famous quote from The Godfather to myself in an effort to keep yet another rejection in perspective. Except - when you're a writer - it does feel personal and it's extremely hard to accept that something you've slaved over for hours, tweaking, editing and making it the best you can, only to find that some unknown editor has decided it's not good enough for publication. Self-esteem and confidence fly out of the door at hurricane speed the minute the 'thanks but no thanks' email arrives and depression can quickly hurtle through the open door. It's no wonder so many writers drink! These days there are a couple of rules in our house regarding rejections. I'm allowed to shout and scream over the unfairness of a short story rejection for an hour if I really must. Then I can either put the story in the bottom drawer or I can work on it and send it back out again. Afer all a rejection can be an opportunity for another market. Novel rejections are much harder to deal with. A lot of time and energy have been invested in writing eighty thousand words over several months. I give myself a whole day to sulk and scream and despair of ever writing another word that will be publishable. I stay out of my office, go for a walk, drink wine, and try to stop the black dog of depression getting past the door. The next day it's a case of man-up and get over it. Approaching another publisher and selling a rejected novel that becomes a bestseller like my latest 'Villa of Sun and Secrets' has done is, of course, the best boost ever to dealing with and getting over a rejection. So I'll leave you with a positive picture!
And now Rae's take on things:- I may have worked on, or re-drafted, and completed three novels, but I've yet to send one to an agent or publisher. So I can honestly say I've never had a novel rejected, but perhaps far worse is that I've never tried. (That's a whole separate post) However, I have entered short story competitions, only to realise when the announcement date of the winner sails by without the congratulatory email lighting up my inbox, that, this time, first place wasn't for me. So what do I do then? If the winning story or stories are online then I like to read them, trying to learn what I can from their writing. But occasionally, perhaps when family life also throws a few curve balls in my direction, I can become despondent believing I will never be a 'proper' writer. And that's when I re-read a stash of notes I was given by friends. Several years ago I was lucky enough to bag a spot on a course with a band of local writers who have become my go-to support. On the final day of the course we were asked to write something positive we had gained from spending time with each of our fellow scribes. So when my writing mojo goes walk-about, I dig out those crumpled scraps of paper and think of the warm friendships I've made through writing. And that reminds me that what I have gained by being part of this community is more special than winning any prize!
This is how Kath McGurl looks at things:- I began my writing career with short stories for women's magazines. Rejections were frequent and numerous so I had no choice but to 'deal with them'. I kept detailed records of what story I had sent where, and when, so when the rejections arrived there was always a bit of admin to do. And then I'd consider whether the story would be suitable for some other market, maybe if I tweaked it a little ... or was it time to shrug my shoulders and say well, this one's not right, give it a rest. Acceptances were much more fun and generally involved a bottle of wine to celebrate. After maybe ten years of writing short stories I moved onto novels. Of course there were loads of rejections initially - often they weren't explicit rejections but simply a 'if you don't hear back in twelve weeks assume it's a no'. Again, detailed records helped me keep track. Finally I landed myself a two book deal, and ever since then I've managed to get three further book deals from the same publisher. So I'm in that happy place where needing to cope with rejections is in the past (and long may that continue!). When I started writing a very wise person told me that rejections mean one thing and one thing only - they are proof that you got to the point where you were able to submit a piece of work. And that's no mean feat. So really, they should be celebrated as simply a step along the way.
Jennifer Young sees it like this:- When Linda asked us to contribute our thoughts on how to deal with rejection,it took me ten minutes to stop my bitter laughter and think about it. People actually manage to deal with rejections???!!!! This is a blog post I definitely want to read. Rejection is a mian part, possibly the main part, of being a writer. It happens all the time. Sometimes it's the ringing silences, weeks or months long, of a submission never acknowledged. Sometimes it's an email, whether blunt or charming or (usually) in standard format. They didn't love it enough. The list is full. It's not my genre. They loved it but ... And rejection takes other forms too. It's when readers don't like your book. It's when it doesn't sell. I have to be honest I don't deal with rejection well. I'm not one of those fighters who hurl themselves back in the fray shouting 'I'll ******* show you!', or someone who knows every agent or publisher who ever rejected them and memorises every word they used, just so they can drop it into conversation with those poor unfortunates once the Booker prize is in the bag. The only way I can get by with rejection is ignoring it. I read the emails once and then file them in a place I never revisit. I never check Amazon ratings and I'm training myself out of an obsession with reviews. If I tried to carry the weight of rejection it would break me. So I don't. Jennifer didn't provide a picture to go with her comments so I've decided, that as she's had more than a few acceptances along the way that she deserves some celebratory champagne.
Victoria Cornwall's very honest response to my question follows:- It's been a while since I submitted to an agent or publisher, but the memory of their rejections are still fresh in my mind. Anger ... frustration ... despair, and a depressing nausea as my heart sank to the pit of my stomach. It's hard to deal with rejection whatever form it takes, and at first I didn't deal with it very well. The rejections almost crushed my motivation to be a published author as I believed the barriers in my way were insurmountable. Eventually I decided that I shouldn't let a stranger dictate the path my life would take. A stranger, I might add, who has their own agenda, pressures and preferrred genre, none of which have anything to do with my skill as a writer. So I decided to take their rejection, turn it around and use it to benefit me. I used the anger, frustration, and depressing nausea to motivate me to get published by a traditional publisher and prove them all wrong. So I dusted myself off and kept going, picking up tips and, hopefully, improving along the way. A published author is a stubborn writer who didn't give up.
And now me. I can probably knock all the others into a cocked hat with the number of rejections I've received over the years. Fortunately, I was given a very valuable lesson in rejection at an early age. When I was about ten years old there was a fund-raising competition at Sunday School, the prize for which was to be centre stage at the presentation of collected funds. I made cakes and sold them at the gate, I badgered neighbours. I did jobs for anyone who would pay me sixpence for doing them. I sold off unwanted toys. And I raised loads. We children compared tallies. I was well in the lead. But then ... Pamela said she wasn't doing anything because her dad was going to put some money in. He did. £20. A fortune back then. So Pamela got to be the one in the fancy frock, centre stage. I wailed and wailed to my dad - 'It's not fair, it's not fair'. And he said,'No sweetheart, it isn't fair but life's not fair and the sooner you understand and deal with that the better it will be for you'. So I did. And generally I still do. Or as my husband puts it,'It's a bit like ice-skating competitions, and Strictly Come Dancing' ... it's only someone's opinion. All subjective.' When I first joined the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers' Scheme my first submission got a glowing report from the reader and went to a top agent. I was on my way! Well, maybe not just yet, because she didn't take me on. At the first RNA party I attended I was introdcued to a big name writer (who for the purposes of this exercise will remain anonymous) who asked what I was writing. So I told her I'd just had a 'thanks but no thanks' letter. 'Oh, don't let that get to you, darling,' she said. 'I've had loads. And what I do to get over them is go out and buy a pair of teeteringly high-heeled shoes, impossible to walk in, but glorious. I call them my 'fuck-me' shoes.' Sometimes only that word will do in writing so I'm leaving it. I've never bought shoes because I don't think I could cope with the follow-on these days .... but I do have a very nice collection of earrings! Onwards, ladies and gentlemen!

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Guest blog - on living with a writer

This week was my turn to provide a post from a guest blogger. I looked about me for inspiration and my eyes alighted on my husband. 'Dearest,' I said, 'would you...' 

It took a bit of persuasion, but here Ignatius McGurl has written us a post on what it's like to live with a writer...



The start, the idea, the research, the excitement of a new book in gestation, it's all very exciting at this stage, lots of enthusiasm, no mention of sticky middles or character arcs not being right. Requests for character names, what do you think of this idea, what do you think of that idea, would that work or is this better? This sounds easy, I'm sure she'll have this book written in no time. It all settles down with occasional mentions of "I've written a zillion words today."



Then a previously written book comes back with editor feedback. Always opened with a certain amount of trepidation ever since the 'suggestion' to take the ghost out of a ghost story novel. Editor feedback always arrives late on a Friday afternoon. Usually mumbling and grumbling about sorting out character arcs, making some character more likeable, changing the start, the ending, the middle. Or all three. Often seems like a lot of work but usually nothing that some wine, hugs and reassurance can't help overcome.


The current book is put on the back burner and I'm expected to remember some characters and plots from what seems like the dim and distant past in order to have some sympathetic input into the editing process. I don't have the writer's ability to pigeonhole them separately to the lot in the book being currently written. Edits get done and she's back to the current book. Hurray all plain sailing now. Oh I almost forgot - the sticky middle. Sticky middle, all gets bogged down, she's never going to finish this book.... but I know better. We've been here with every other book. No matter how bad the sticky middle is, it always works out in the end. Just have to hope the sticky middle doesn't go on too long.

The end, the book is finished, the title is agreed, the cover is chosen. Just cover reveal, publication date, blog tours, social media promotions and the like to go. Who'd have thought there was so much more to writing a book than writing? Did I mention five-star reviews or heaven forbid, a one or two star one? Rankings, or the excitement of having two books on the same page of some American book chart.



The great thing about living with a novelist is the sharing of the the joy and excitement, the ups and downs of the creation of a novel without having to do any of the hard work. However it's somewhat similar to the male role in childbirth... a tad underestimated!


Good to see things from the opposite point of view at times! And yes, I do very much appreciate all the support. Can't be easy, especially not when I am in the sticky middle!

Saturday, 9 November 2019

A Head full of Stories


How many books do you have 'on the go' at one time? How many stories do you need to keep in your head at one time, because you are part way through them?

For me, the answer is usually 'too many' but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Reading, I have an 'upstairs book' and a 'downstairs book'. Even when we are away in the motorhome (like now), I have a book I read in bed, usually on my kindle, and another I am reading in spare moments in the day time. Typically the 'upstairs book' is a novel, often written by one of my many writing friends, and the 'downstairs book' is non-fiction, possibly researching my next novel.



Writing, I often have two books on the go. Right now there is the one I am revising in line with my editors comments, and the one I am half way through a first draft of. Beyond that, there are vague ideas beginning to float to the surface for the next novel, and I've brought a couple of research books away in the campervan with me to help get that one started. I also have a notebook with some scribbled ideas for the novel after that...

When you add to this the TV series we've been watching, whose storylines I also need to keep in my head, it's no wonder I get stories muddled at times! Thankfully The Dublin Murders ended just before we left home so I can forget about that one (started well, went weird, unsatisfactory ending). I probably won't catch up with The Name of the Rose (loving this adaptation of one of my favourite books) until we are next home, around Christmas. We've brought a DVD box set of Peaky Blinders to watch on this trip, and will probably get started with that soon.

The Name of the Rose


I know many writers who only ever write one book at a time, and don't start a new one until the previous one has been revised and gone to proof-readers. And some writers refuse to read novels while they are first-drafting a book. Maybe that's a good idea to help keep characters and storylines straight in your mind... but I rather like the jumble of ideas, the mixed-up dreams in which a character from my novel finds herself in a medieval Italian monastery, my head always packed to the brim with plots.

A view inside a writer's brain


How about you? How many storylines are you keeping track of at any one time?

Saturday, 2 November 2019

IT’S NOVEMBER. ‘The month of the drowned dog’. Ted Hughes.


As I write this it is November 2nd. Halloween here in France has passed almost unnoticed in my corner of Brittany despite the proliferation of spooky plastic spiders, witches hats and fake cobwebs on sale in Gifi. Does anyone really have to buy fake cobwebs by the way? Maybe I could offer to supply real ones next year as there is always an abundance in my house. (Gifi is France’s answer to the UKs cheapjack shops in case you were wondering.)

Here in France, Halloween is considered an American celebration - ignoring the fact that it actually started in Europe and was Celtic in origin. To the Celts, November (originally the ninth month of the Roman calendar) was the beginning of the New Year marked by the festival of Salhaim which started on October 31st as the old year ended. Bonfires were lit and superstitious rituals were practised against the supernatural activity that was believed to be abroad on that night. Many of those beliefs and customs have come down through the years and are now associated with Halloween.




But while the French tend to ignore October 31st, the following day is a national holiday and holds an important place in French social culture. La Toussaint, November 1st, is the day when ‘all saints’ are remembered and families gather together to visit the graves of family members. People travel miles to pay their respects - family members of my elderly neighbours who live in Paris make the eight hour return journey here every year to take tributes to the local cementry where grandparents, parents and other close relatives are buried. 
Flowershops, supermarkets and garden centres do a roaring trade in the days leading up to La Toussaint selling pots and pots of chrysanthemums and cyclamens as these are regarded as funeral flowers. French cementries tend to be a riot of colour in November more than any other time of the year.


In the title of this blog I quote a line from the Ted Hughes poem ‘November’ and that was because I’m currently feeling rather ‘drowned dog’ like. The builders finally came in October to re-roof our cottage - they had two and a bit days of dry weather when they started three weeks ago and since then the weather has steadily got worse. Gales this weekend have added to the joy! So to cheer us all up I’m going to leave you with a lovely photograph currently doing the rounds on social media. Batten down the hatches and happy writing in November - I'll see you on the other side with a new roof!


                                                                                                             ©Tanja Brandt



Saturday, 26 October 2019

SPOOKY STORIES FOR HALLOWEEN




As a child I loved everything about Halloween – my smoking neep (turnip) lantern, my dodgy bin-liner inspired costume, trailing around the neighbourhood in the dark with friends. Then when my sons were small I got into the swing of things by organising ducking for apples and suspending sugary doughnuts on a string.

Nowadays, with my boys grown, Halloween is a quieter affair but I still like to see piles of pumpkins in the supermarket and the plastic outfits waiting for a good home. But Halloween is also a time for revellers, young and old, to swap spine-tingling stories and so to celebrate I’m sharing some of my favourites …


A CLASSIC

One thing I should make clear is that I’m an absolute wimp when it comes to watching horror or scary movies, which is one of the reasons I prefer to read. If it all becomes too unsettling, I can close the book and make myself a calming cup of tea. However, when reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, I was simultaneously gripped and terrified! The sense of dread is palpable when Dr Montague, a scholar of the occult seeking proof of a haunting, invites three strangers to join him in recording the reported strange goings-on at a place locals speak of in fear, the notorious Hill House.

For brave souls who love everything chilling The Haunting of Hill House has twice been made into a film called The Haunting (in 1963 and 1999). It has also now been given the Netflix treatment. Read or watch if you dare!




A NEW CLASSIC

If The Haunting of Hill House has already been awarded classic status then Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver has new classic written all over it. Paver’s ghost stories (Thin Air and Dark Matter) have been on my to-read pile for a while, so when I decided to write a Halloween post I knew exactly which author I wanted to try. Wakenhyrst isn’t a ghost story but its mix of spooky ingredients makes it perfect for Halloween. Being a Victorian gothic thriller set in a crumbling mansion house amongst the Fens, we encounter demons and witchcraft, madness and grief, ice and darkness, as young Maud feels her way between religion and local superstition, to solve a mystery that threatens to destroy the natural world of the Fen that she so loves. It’s a beautifully written, creepy mystery; the perfect companion for darker evenings.
    

A HAIR-RAISING SHORT STORY


If you’re a bit short of time then a hair-raising short story may be all that’s needed to set your pulse racing on All Hallows’ Eve.

The Monkey’s Paw by W W Jacobs, first published in 1902, is a ‘granted three wishes’ tale, where an older couple don’t receive quite what they hope for. I’m not spoiling the story if I share that at one point the monkey’s paw lands in the fire and I swear I smelled singed fur! A story that held me riveted to the end. To read, click on the link here.

So these are just a few frightening favourites and I'd love to learn which ghoulish tales of sinister happenings you would recommend?


Stay safe and enjoy

Rae x