In the past two years, I’ve grown and changed as a writer. Now its time for this blog to reflect that too. All the old posts will still be there, but in future, I will be concentrating on what I write, and what inspired me to write it. From time to time I will post about what I am reading. There will be a research section for those of you, who like me like their facts to be accurate. Along the way, I will be happy to answer your questions.
So from now, the focus will be more on the writing process, ice dancing, Bergen in Norway. Vikings and Viking beliefs.
For some reason, September was a slow reading month for me as I only managed to read five books. There was another non- fiction which I gave up on so let’s not talk about that!
I also dipped into a childhood favourite Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree in preparation for an author talk I am presenting later this month. That threw up many memories as well as reflections on how life had changed in the intervening years-. Then the children were routinely expected to help around the house and garden and were served bread and jam and milk for tea.
The other books were a mixed bag of recommendations and whimsical choices
The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen.
I spotted this at the local library and having read her On Her Majesties Secret Service was inspired to give it a try. Set in WW1 Britain it offers a glimpse into a forgotten time. For whatever reason, it did not have the same bite and light touch of that series. The story focussed on Emily and Australian pilot Robbie lovers met only to be parted. It focussed on how the privileged young woman defied her parents and went on to make a life for herself. I was a little sceptical that delicately reared Emily could fit so easily into the back-breaking work of a land-girl. That her parents would disown her for defying them was more easily believable. Knowing the British class structure her gradual friendship with Lady Charlton was quite credible. In the second part, of the book, Emily is living in what is known as ‘the witch’s cottage ‘ and practising herbalism.
Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham
Deserves every ounce of praise it received. An intriguing story and one that explores the many preconceptions we have about people. I found some of the details a bit grisly but the major characters ( Cyrus and Evie )both fascinating and I wanted to know more about them. Thinking all the time how did they survive the traumas in their lives? A bonus for me was it was set in Nottingham the former home of skaters Torvill and Dean and had a bit about ice skating too.
Everything Publishing by Karen Mc Dermott.
Subtitled the Ultimate publishing guide and it is. All your publishing questions are answered here and explained in simplified form by someone who knows what she is talking about and who has indeed built a successful publishing empire.
Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Reid Jenkins
Allegedly based on Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac, the book reminded me of the movie A Star is Born. Although Daisy Jones started out having it all, looks, money and attitude. Through the multiple perspectives is an interesting way to tell a story. Each tells their own version of ‘the truth’ so the lies, evasion, jealousies are all exposed to scrutiny. And of course, as readers we ask – are they revising as they go? is this the truth as it was then? The songbook at the end of the book adds another layer of authenticity. I kept flicking back to read the songs as they were referred to and imagined them being performed, Camilla Billy’s wife doesn’t appear much in the book, but there is a sense of her presence in the background and perhaps she was the strongest of them all. It reads true. Did the book live up to the hype? In my opinion, yes it did.
A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison
It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. This is a mid-grade children’s novel. I would have loved this book as a child, and I enjoyed it now. The Widdershins sisters are a force to be reckoned with. Don’t you love the choice of name? They are brave, resilient and resourceful. They face challenges that are quite a bit worse than they and perhaps we would have liked. I especially liked the dual timeline story and how the two timelines merged.
The classic definer of a love story is the film Love Story starring Ali Mc Graw and Ryan O’ Neal. It is based on the popular book by Erich Segal. It is a real tearjerker, with the beautiful young couple parted by death. It is a tragedy and almost all of the love stories considered great have sad or tragic endings.
Here are some examples taken from films and books. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, filmed and updated as West Side Story.Othello. More recently Iain Mc Ewan’s Atonement, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.JoJo Moyes Me Before You, M.C Steadman’s The Light Between Oceans. And Cecelia Ahern’s Ps. I Love you, and of course ,my all-time favourite Casablanca.
Romances are different- they promise a reading experience or viewing experience that focuses primarily on the relationship between the couple or as Romance Writers of America says, “Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”
Or in simpler terms you are pretty much promised a happy ending and if not a happy ever after, at least the reader gets the happy for now ending.So if we know the ending why do we read romance?
We read for the journey, for the twists and turns of the relationship. A happy ending may be promised but getting there is half the fun. Who doesn’t love a flawed hero or heroine? Or beautiful couple too blind to see that they are destined for each other? Real-life can be dull and bland, but romances are exciting, sexy and fun. It’s far safer to have a fictional lover than a real one. Romance writers are endlessly inventive and contrive new ways for couples to meet and fall in love.
Examples of romances are Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and of course, it’s spin off’s Bridget Jones’ sDiary by Helen Fielding and the films Pride andPrejudice and Bride and Prejudice as well as the Bridget Jones trilogy of films. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is a great read and has been filmed several times The fairy tales Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty.
Some romance movies are Romancing the Stone, Breakfast at Tiffany’s( but not the book which ends differently) Moonstruck, Brokeback Mountain( a guy to guy romance) Ella Enchanted and a real oldie but a goodie It Happened One Night.Another of my favourite films Love Actually spans both genres as it has both love stories with sad ending and romances with happy ones.
Why do you read romance and who are your favourite authors? Let me know!
Many people are unsure of the difference between a love story and a romance. So often what we think of as romances are actually love stories or stories with love story elements
I began to realise this when I watched that great movie Casablanca, it has stood the test of time, and many people reference it as one of their favourite films. It was one of my parents and now it is one of mine. The film was made in 1942- when the outcome of the war was uncertain.it is often referred to as a romantic drama but in my opinion, it is a love story.
The dialogue is crisp and often witty, ( written mostly by the Epstein brothers) the music haunting ( As Time Goes By) but most of all its the way the story plays out that gets our pulses racing. Rick ( Humphrey Bogart)loves Ilsa,( Ingrid Bergman ) Ilsa loves Rick, they met in Paris the most romantic of cities. Unknown to Rick Ilsa is married to Victor Laszlo( Paul Henreid), a resistance leader, who she believes is dead. Rick waits for Ilsa at the Paris railway station as promised as the Germans enter Paris, but Ilsa never arrives. Rick escapes and ends up running a bar in Morocco. It’s a shady place where expats, smugglers, locals and Germans all socialise. Worldly wise and cynical Rick is shocked when Ilsa who is with Lazlo asks Sam to play ‘As time goes by’ a song Rick never wanted to hear again. He storms up to Sam and sees Ilsa. Laszlo and she are trying to get to Lisbon but need visas and Rick’s is the place to get them.
Will Rick allow the woman he loves to leave again? Has she stopped loving him, was it all a lie? She wants to be with him, but Laszlo loves her too and would be devastated to lose her. After a night when Rick & Ilsa may or may not have got back together,(unclear thanks to US censorship at the time.) it’s up to the audience to decide. Will Rick and Ilsa be together as he has led her to believe? In the final scenes at the airport, Rick has the names Mr & Mrs Victor Laszlo written onto the visa. Will he walk off with Ilsa leaving Laszlo to his likely fate? He gives Laszlo the visas and tells Ilsa ‘We’ll always have Paris’ and that Laszlo and she are fighting for a much greater cause and if she left with Rick, she would always regret it.
With its bittersweet ending, Casablanca is a love story. If it was a romance the relationship of Rick and Ilsa would be centre stage to the exclusion of all else and they would somehow end up ‘happily ever after.’
While the romantics might wish it, it would be a far less compelling piece of cinema and would not appeal to our higher natures in the same way.
While I would have loved to share images from the film I could not breach copyright. You can easily find them online anyway.
Other love stories are Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, Gone with the Wind is historical drama with a love story element as is the film Titanic.
Currently, I am writing romance and romance comes with the promise of a ‘happily ever after’ or at least ‘ happy for now’. This isn’t to say that a romance cannot have problems and complexities, indeed it should, but to say that in a romantic story love must always triumph.
There are numerous writing events run throughout the year and I believe that as a writer you should attend at least some of them. Of course, pick and choose those that appeal to you. A book talk by a favourite author, a convention or a workshop.
What are the benefits of attending such events?
1.Information– you don’t know what you don’t know!
Perhaps you are confused by the term ‘Show Don’t Tell’– you’ve heard explanations but are still unclear- and then you attend a talk and the presenter explains it so well that suddenly it makes sense.
Maybe Goal Motivation and Conflict are difficult to implement and then an explanation clarifies the concept. This was clarified for me at the recent Rockingham Writers’ Convention. Natasha Lester author of The French Photographer/ aka the New York times bestseller The Paris Orphan presented a workshop made the whole concept clear and accessible.
An incident happens because of an action taken by someone, they took that action because of an emotion they felt to try and achieve a goal and they want that goal because it satisfies a need. Obviously, the goal is not easily achievable, and the events and challenges are what adds complication to the plot and keep us reading. We want to live the story – experience the emotion, it’s the reason most of us read fiction. Knowing the concept is one thing now to try and apply it to my own writing.
I also attended a talk called ‘Trouble is Our Business’ presented by Guy Salvidge. This presentation was about crime writing. Now I don’t currently write crime, but I do read it, enjoying Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series. Michel Robotham’s recent hits including his latest Good Girl Bad Girl. as well as Robet Galbraith’s Corman Strike series and Ann Cleeves Shetland series. I may one day decide to write crime although I prefer the cosy end of the spectrum In that spirit, I attended this informative talk.
Writing crime is definitely Guys’ passion and he led us through the tropes which make up the genre. There is a cornucopia of crime from the Golden age (1930s- 40s) to domestic noir to cosies to psychological crime.an offshoot could be considered is legal fiction. Then there are books written from the perspective of a detective, a police officer or even from the criminal themselves. There are even light-hearted crime novels such as Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Guy reminded us that crime fiction has its own rules of genre and that you will need to research carefully if you set your book in an earlier era. Crime is not just about the crime-its about place and person and atmosphere. Readers know their genre and know what they expect.
Apart from the informative talks, it’s the mix and mingling which contributes to your learning. You find out which contests are worth entering or which publisher is accepting submissions, as well as learning of less than stellar experiences with editors and publishers. Sadly, every business has its sharks
Connection. Writing can be a lonely business. Just you alone in front of the screen talking to your imaginary people. To write about life you need to live it. An event is an opportunity to meet people- to talk, to laugh, to share. Even if you are writing futuristic fantasy – there has to be something that resonates with your human readers.
3 Encouragement. Hearing success stories boosts your morale and your intentions to do more and to be more. You realise these people faced daily challenges too, such as carving out time to write, battling self – doubt, taking children to school, or even working full time. They have dared to follow their dream and you can too.
For me the most encouraging and inspiring presentation was that of Josh Langley, talking about ‘Findingyour Creative Mojo.’ He developed this talk from his book fo the same name and geared it specifically for writers. He’s living the life he once dreamt about and shared how as a double high school dropout he achieved his dreams. We laughed, we empathised and we came away engaged and inspired.
Not officially billed ,but as much a part of the presentation was Andy Macleod. Josh’s long-time life partner, business partner and friend. When he spoke about going to university as a mature aged student, I really connected. It’s what I have done, and I found it a life-changing experience. The courses I took opened my mind and gave me the tools to express myself.
Andy’s quote from Joseph Campbell has stayed with me
‘The cave you fear to enter has the treasure that you seek.’
Finding your creative spark is all about ignoring the inner voice, the critic, and entering that cave.
Attending events reinforces your sense of identity as a writer. You have found your tribe. Others recognise you, ask about your work, talk about theirs. You may make a connection that lasts a lifetime or find a critique partner to exchange work with. By being visible you remind others of your presence and your work. This may lead to other opportunities to collaborate with someone, to speak on a panel, or to give an author talk Equally importantly you can share any information you have gained along the way with less experienced writers. Be generous, remember who helped you and thank them.
After the previous computer problems, my monthly reading list has needed to be combined so you and I can catch up.
Charms & Cupcake by Baily Cates
Three and a half stars from me. Again, a likeable and engaging story. Unfortunately, I somehow missed book two, so I was not reading in sequence. However, it was easy to catch up. What I like best about this series is how Katie is learning more about her magical abilities and also the ramifications of using magic. Again, an ample supply of suspects, red herrings and a neat solution.
The Witches’ Tree by M.C Beaton
I have long been a fan of Agatha Raisin since she burst on the scene in Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death. This book does not have the same light tone as the earlier books, it made me wonder if the author had grown tired of the series. It was more satirical about the joys of living in the Cotswolds. Not quite as much fun as I was expecting. Plenty of red herrings and an alarming list of suspects again put Agatha in danger.
Bring Your Fiction to Life by Karen S Wiener
Helpful and informative with a wealth of advice from a hugely prolific author who knows what she is talking about. I think all writers would find something of interest in this book. Useful appendices too
The Bookshop On The Shore by Jenny Colgan
A bit more serious than the light-hearted cover design might suggest. Heartfelt and beautifully told – it certainly did not gloss over some hard situations- self-harm, single parenthood, neglected children etc. But with a hopeful and inspiring message too.
L’Amour Actually by Melanie Jones
Not quite the romantic idyll that city girl Mel was expecting. For me, it was laughing out loud funny and describes rural life a long way from Paris and Parisienne chic. A cottage which although charming has ‘challenging’ plumbing-plus the rural suspicion of foreigners- including those from Paris. Add a debonair and charming French man-of course! Lovely to read far less pleasant to live I would imagine. Told with good humour.
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan.
A book that celebrates both Paris and chocolate. It also highlights cultural differences, identity, coming of age, love and all things chocolate. I was delighted to read about Claire managing to escape her dominating father for one magical summer in Paris. Later on, she sends Anna to Paris to recuperate from an accident and once more Paris works its transformational magic. Additionally, the back pages have many tempting and delicious-sounding chocolate recipes.
And as I am preparing to give an author talk, I did some research
Your Perfect Presentation by Bill Hoogterp.
Takes you through the steps needed to build an interesting and informative presentation. A useful book.
TED talks Chris Anderton
What could I learn from reading about Ted talks? Quite a lot and all relayed in an easy to read and informative style.
Attending the Rockingham Writers Conference this weekend, I thought what a gregarious and chatty crowd we were. So different from the stereotypical introverted, social outcasts we are supposed to be.
Individually these were people who admitted to self-doubt, imposter syndrome, insecurity, fear of failure and fear of success.
That day though, all that was put aside, and we had a ball, laughed and talked mingled, shared expertise and gossip. I left the conference buoyed with confidence and thrilled with my writer tribe.
Then I began to wonder what a group of writers was called. I couldn’t recall an official term, so I did an internet search. I got ‘a worship of writers. ’ To me, that seemed more fitting for priests, so I began to think of collective nouns for writers.
Here are some I liked
A chapter of writers.
A procrastination of writers
A draft of writers
An insecurity of writers
An imagination of writers
A scribble of writers
A cacophony of writers
A gossip of writers
A journal of writers.
Do you have a favourite term for a group of writers?