Books I Read in January 2020.

Surprised myself with how many books I read in January. As usual, a mixed bag of those I had heard about ,and those that simply appealed to me for some reason. I  looked for books about bookshops, so the list is slightly skewed in that direction and there are many more on that topic i have still to read.

The Bookshop Detective by Jan Ellis.

 

Bookshop Detevtive

Easy and enjoyable reading. It’s a detective story in the loosest sense, as there isn’t a professional detective, instead bookshop owner Eleanor Mace starts to investigate the mysterious ghost ship which is rumoured to appear. Eleanor is an engaging character with a lively sense of curiosity and her investigations have some surprising  consequences. Once again, the book is part of  a series, The Bookshop by the Sea, but it     is  easy to read  it as a ‘stand-alone.’

 

The House on Bellevue Gardens by Rachael Hore.

 

Bellvue gardens

The title and concept appealed to me and I was drawn into the story of this slightly bohemian household of mismatched tenants. Louisa is sharing her house with people she feels need help or a chance. Each story emerges gradually and at times frustratingly slowly.  The part I enjoyed the most was reading about Louisa’s past. Rosa and her quest to find her brother seemed heartrendingly real. I felt that the ending didn’t quite satisfy me but perhaps that is reflective of real-life too?

 

 Messy by Tim Harford

Messy

The most enjoyable part of the book for me was the deconstruction of the idea that partner compatibility could be transformed by the ‘science’ of computer dating. In fact, there was very little science involved in the compatibility scores. Most were dictated by proximity. The example one of the founders of a site, who had access to many more profiles than an ordinary subscriber and had over fifty first dates, he still didn’t find a partner. He met his partner the old-fashioned way and they were not as ‘compatible’ as the women he’d previously met. It also argued that being told a couple had a rating of 90% compatibility was likely to encourage them to try harder and to dissect why that was that was the case. There is also the argument that we don’t necessarily know what we want at all.

 

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Myerson.

Book shhop of yesterdays

A more literary take on the theme of bookshops, this book is filled with literary references and a puzzle that Miranda ( named after The Tempest) must solve. Her uncle Billy who she hasn’t seen since she was twelve has left her his bookshop, the quaintly named Prospero Books. There are family secrets to uncover, literary clues to decipher leading her on a quest to explain what happened in her family. At the same time, she is trying to conduct a long-distance relationship, sort out the bookshop with its failing profits and deal with a somewhat wary staff, especially Malcolm the manager. Although I finished the book, I personally felt it could have been shorten with no ill effects

 

Coming Home by Fern Britton.


Coming HOme

 

When Sennen ran away from her Cornish life she had always intended to return but twenty years have passed, and it may be too late. Too late to reconnect with the children she left behind, too late to seek her parent’s forgiveness. Too late to have a new beginning and is she is risking the other life she had made for herself too.? Having once lived in Cornwall I enjoy reading about it. The characters are believable, real and flawed and the story had enough tension to make it an enjoyable read.

 

Miss Mary’s Book of Dreams by Sophie Nicholls.

Miss MAry's

An unpredictable book,  and one that defied my expectations. I came upon it by chance in my search for books about book shops. The bookshop was incidental to the story which concentrated more on three generations of the same family. As there are references to The Dress and events that happened in its story line, I felt that I was slightly disadvantaged,

The ‘ Miss Mary’ of the title was a healer or ‘cunning woman’ who fell foul of a disgruntled and incompetent doctor who accused her of witchcraft. Now, a copy of her precious book is in the bookshops and draws to it those who need its magic.

 

 Agatha Raisin-Beating Around the Bush by M.C Beaton

Agatha Beating about thr bush

 

The thirtieth in the very popular Agatha Raisin series and I am happy to say the M.C. Beaton has returned to form. After feeling disappointed with the cynical tone and style of Agatha Raisin and The Witches Tree reading this book was a bit of a gamble. Agatha is back to her best. Charles is being maddeningly elusive and has got engaged, without daring to tell Agatha. After being hired to investigate industrial espionage Agatha gets involved in investigating a murder than no-one wants to admit is a murder. Will it be the death of her?

 

The Café by the Bridge by Lily Malone   

Cafe by the Bridge

You do not need to have read the previous book in the Chalk Hill series Water Under the Bridge to enjoy this story. The Café by the Bridge easily works as a stand-alone.

Characters from the previous book do appear but the main story line concerns the ‘missing’ Honeychurch brother, Abel and an attractive and determined visitor to the town, Taylor Woods. She is on a mission the help her brother Will and she needs to win Abel’s trust and support but having been scammed and lied to by his ex-girlfriend he is in no mood for a feisty and talkative redhead invading his thoughts. He wants to forget the past .his failed bar, the gambling, the debts and especially the woman who made him wary of all women. This is a fun read as Taylor little by little weakens Abe’s defences, but it has enough bite and insight to make it more than just an enjoyable read.

 

Chatting with Authors- Meet Teena Raffa- Mulligan.

It’s always a  pleasure for me to be chatting with authors.  Today my guest is talented author Teena Raff Mulligan. Teena changes easily between writing for children( picture books,  and mid-grade books) as well as writing for adults. I had fun learning about her writing and her non- writing life and I hope you will enjoy this interview.

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Teena Raffa-Mulligan.

Finding out a little bit about Teena I asked her

What do you like to do when you are not writing? Watch TV. Walk the dog along the beach path. Dabble in art and photography.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A ballerina novelist.

Wow!What an awesome idea!

Blerina skitter photos
Skitter photo on  Pixababy

What was your dream job when you were younger? I had fantasies of dancing my way around the world and writing novels in the dressing room between performances.  Film star was my back up option. 

That sounds like a great plan!

What’s for dinner tonight? What would you rather be eating? I’m on a low-calorie meal plan at the moment so dinner today is a child-size serve of chargrilled chicken, potato bake and steamed veggies with gravy. I’m happy with that, though I wouldn’t mind baked ricotta cheesecake for dessert or a fruit and custard flan.

What’s your favourite food? That’s easy. Fish and chips. Preferably liberally sprinkled with salt and vinegar and eaten from the paper while parked in the car at the beach watching the sun go down over the ocean.

Daria Shevisoav
Photo by Daria Shevisoav

Your hero? My cousin Gypsy is an inspiration. She is wise, insightful, creative, intelligent, resilient, and has a wonderful sense of humour. Muscular dystrophy has increasingly limited Gypsy’s physical mobility over the years but her focus is always on what she can do rather than on what she can’t.

If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and other inspirational books for creatives; Eckhart Tolle, who wrote Stillness Speaks and The Power of Now; and Paul McCartney, who needs no introduction to people of my generation. I’m sure we’d have an intellectually stimulating discussion about living a spiritual life in our time, fulfilling our creative potential and finding a way to be authentically ourselves.

What’s your writing space like?

david Cassolato

The main writing space is inside my head and I shudder to think what that looks like! I carry my stories around with me mentally so a lot of the sentences first take shape while I’m away from my desk. I have an office with my desktop computer, printer, filing cabinet, bookshelf etc and that’s where the manuscripts get knocked into shape for submission. I also do a lot of scribbling in notepads at the kitchen bench, in a recliner chair at the lounge room window, propped up in bed, on the back patio or the sun deck.

What time of the day do you usually write? Anytime!

Is there a typical writing day? I don’t have a typical writing day. Sometimes weeks pass without me producing the next chapter of my WIP, though I do work on writing-related activities every day. This might be freelance proofing or copy editing, formatting my next indie publication, looking for covers, doing admin/promotions/ marketing or organising submissions, talks or workshops. I also do the monthly newsletter for the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators WA (SCBWI West), and I’m volunteer coordinator of Rockingham Writers Centre. Most days I head into my office after breakfast, work till lunchtime, take an hour or two break, then maybe do another couple of hours before dinner – or maybe not!

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A beautiful story for children who are missing a parent.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Completing novels. The level of focus required to sustain a long-term project doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m a bit of a butterfly and there are so many bright shiny new ideas and creative interests to attract my attention.

 

gray and black butterfly sniffing white flower
Photo by JÉSHOOTS on Pexels.com

What is your work schedule like when you are writing? I don’t have one. Of course, I apply myself and work steadily on a manuscript if there is an anthology or competition deadline or a publisher is waiting on rewrites. Basically, I work on priorities and do the job that needs to be done that day.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? I have a stand-up desk and to introduce some exercise into my day I do a few dance steps, aerobic moves or on-the-spot marching as I work at the computer. I also try out various actions to see how they work and have conversations with myself to make sure the dialogue in my scenes sounds natural and in character. Fortunately, I don’t have an audience.christa's choice jpeg

Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say? I don’t often hear from readers. Those who comment usually tell me my stories are charming and warm-hearted, with characters that come alive on the page. The nicest thing anyone ever said was that I must have “bottles of delight and whimsy in your office and sprinkle them on your stories because your stories are always delightful and whimsical.” That made me feel warm and fuzzy.

shallow focus photo of mail envelope on newspaper
These days we get fan mail by email or text.

When you’re writing an emotionally draining (or sexy, or sad, etc) scene, how do you get in the mood? A lot of my stories are light-hearted so I need to feel at peace with my world. I can’t write those stories if I am upset or worried about something. Having said that, I had a publisher deadline on a major rewrite of my quirky MG novel Mad Dad for Sale at the time my dad was dying of cancer and somehow I managed to do that. The fantasy was a wonderful distraction from the reality of being about to lose my father.

photo of a person leaning on wooden window
Photo by Dương Nhân. We need time to process our emotions

 

How do you deal with the emotional impact of a book (on yourself) as you are writing the story? I’m more likely to be smiling or giggling at the computer because so much of what I write is light and quirky. However, I still get weepy when I read the final lines of my picture book Who Dresses God? and I was surprised the other day to find myself shedding a few tears as I proofread a scene in my forthcoming YA novel, Monelli & Me. Two of my unpublished picture books did stir up a lot of emotion because they are inspired by experiences which had a big impact on my life – the loss of a baby and losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s – so I let the tears flow as I wrote them. When they are published I might not be able to read them in schools!

 

adult alone anxious black and white
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special. I love Joshua Jones in The Seven Day Dragon. He has a lively curiosity and a unique perspective on the world.

You’ve written adult genre and children’s picture books and mid-grade fiction genre. Do you have a preference?

Picture books. I love the challenge of sifting and shifting words to tell a story as succinctly as possible, yet in a way that allows the illustrator plenty of scope to be creative. I also like playing around with rhyme and rhythm. I’m obviously still learning because I have quite a few unpublished picture book manuscripts. I’m much more successful with short stories and poems.

How different do you find the writing? I don’t really think about it. I focus on the story I’m telling at the time and the voice for that age group or genre seems to come naturally without conscious effort.

Who is your favourite author and why? That’s like asking me if I have a favourite child!

What are you reading now? I just finished reading I’m Your Venus: A Sylvia Stryker Space Mystery by Dianne Vallere.

What book is currently on your bedside table? Only one? My next read will be In Good Hands, a Georgie B Goode Vintage Trailer Mystery by Marg McAlister.

I’m reading light at the moment because it was quite intense doing the copy edits and proofreading of my women’s fiction and YA novels, which are both coming out in March.

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing? Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way, The Sound of Paper, The Right to Write); Natalie Goldberg (Long Quiet Highway); and Dani Shapiro (Still Writing).

Who is the author you most admire in your genre? Meg McKinlay. She has a wonderful way of writing for children and young adults.

Favourite quote (doesn’t matter the source)

ancient architecture asia bench
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Before enlightenment

Chopping wood

Carrying water.

After enlightenment

Chopping wood

Carrying water.

-Zen proverb

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult. It’s impossible for me to choose one.

Favourite books when you were a kid. Nesbitt’s Five Children and It and The Railway Children and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. What Katy Did also struck a chord, as did books by Elizabeth Goudge.

What famous author do you wish would be your mentor? I wish I’d been mentored by the amazing Jen Storer when I first started writing for children. Jen runs the Scribbles Academy and started The Duck Pond FB group. She has a wealth of industry knowledge and is an inspiration.

Website

http://www.teenaraffamulligan.com

Blog

https://intheirownwrite.wordpress.com

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/TeenaRaffaMulligan

After Goodbye, Christa’s Choice and When the Moon is a Smile are available from https://www.daisylanepublishing.com/bookshop

Friends, The Seven Day Dragon and Risking Mr Wrong are available from https://www.serenitypress.org/

Most of my titles are available from Amazon.com and other online retailers.

Thank you so much, Teena, for a fascinating interview and good luck with your new releases.

 

Chatting with Authors- Meet Diana Smith

Hi Diana,

Thanks for joining us- can you tell us a little about yourself please? What do you like to do when you are not writing?

When I am not writing I like to run my gratitude workshops where I read my book and we do some activities on the benefits of Gratitude and resilience.

Diana-230x300
Diana Smith.

Diana, what did you want to be when you grew up? As I grew up, I wanted to be a flight assistant and travel the world, or a train driver and I always loved my writing.  I wrote my grateful book when I was around 15 but only illustrated it and published it a couple of years ago. An editor friend of mine introduced me to Sarah and she had the same picture ideas as what I did, and it just grew from there and became a reality it was so amazing to watch.

What was your dream job when you were younger? My dream job when I was younger was to write books.

What’s for dinner tonight? What would you rather be eating? Dinner tonight is chicken wings.  I wouldn’t rather be eating anything they are my Favourite!  The hotter the better!

Do you have a hero? My hero here in Australia is Maggie Dent

Imagine that you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? Maggie Dent  Michelle Obama and Oprah.

photo of people doing cheers
A toast to strong women.

Why? Because they are amazingly strong women who have made amazing changes to many lives young and old and I would love to listen to how they got where they are today.

              QUESTIONS ABOUT WRITING

 What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

Just start to write don’t be scared there are editors and other people who can help you make it great just start!  Don’t be like me and put it off for years because you don’t think you’re good enough.

Which comes first, the plot or characters?  The plot.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?  Panster,  ( I had to Google what that meant)

How do you come up with the titles to your books? The titles are usually the theme of the book.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? Um most probably the rhyming

Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?  I do hear from my readers.  The teachers say they love reading my books to the classroom.

On a typical day, how much time do you spend writing?  I try to write for a couple of hours at least a day,  I am writing a book about my daughters’ journey at the moment so a completely different Genre.

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?

I am on social media;  my Facebook page is Bookstoinspire. My Instagram is bookstoinspirebydiana and my website is dianasmithbookstoinspire.com.

How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

I think my favourite is the first one My grateful book.  I have written four that are being published and writing the other one about my daughter and one about my puppy.

Grateful-Book-Web-Product

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your books?   The most surprising thing I learnt was these are lesson’s I needed to learn later in life that I want children to learn earlier on.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? The favourite character would be the one I am writing about my red cloud puppy Bruiser he’s just so cute.

 

animal dog puppy pug
Photo by Torsten Dettlaff on Pexels.com

What is the key theme and/or message in the book?   My key messages are all about gratitude, kindness it’s ok to be anxious it will soon pass

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers?#

I am working on the puppy book at the moment and a book about my daughter and me and I have also just finished one about a clamshell being washed up on the beach.

How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?

I feel there may be a few more in the gratitude series.

Do you have any new series planned? I think the puppy book may have a few books in there we had adopted a parrot so he can be in some as well

We’ve just started a new year and I’ve seen lots of posts about new years’ resolutions. Do you have anything special that you’ll be focusing on this year?    I haven’t made any resolutions this year, but I will be focusing more on my writing and my gratitude workshops

Grateful-Book-Web-Product

QUESTIONS ABOUT OTHER WRITERs AND BOOKS.

What are you reading now?   I am reading happier than God by Neil  Donald Walsh

What book is currently on your bedside table? There is a pile of about 4 books on my bedside table

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing? Authors who have influenced me  Dr Seuss,  Roald Dahl,  Winnie the Pooh

Who is the author you most admire in your genre?  Roald Dahl

Favourite quote (doesn’t matter the source) You are good enough

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult?  Me before you by Jojo Moy

Favourite book when you were a kid? Winnie the Pooh

Diana-Conscious-Living
Diana presents workshops

Which famous author do you wish would be your mentor? :  Dr Seuss or Roald Dahl

 

person holding whiteboard
Photo by KML on Pexels.com

Can you tell us any fun facts about yourself? I was in New Zealand and I did the gap year in the army.  I was 16.  While I was in there, I buckled a wheel track on an APC which is a small army tank.

I love camping around Australia with my husband and our dogs in our camping trailer.

Do you have any unusual hobbies?   Writing lol

Favourite Movies:  Labyrinth and Me Before You.

Last Great book I read:  Blue Moon by Lee Child

Favourite Book as a teenager:  Nancy Drew!  Now that is showing my age !!

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed, Diana. s

December Distraction-What I Was Reading in December 2019

December has been a horrendous month in Australia . Day after day ,fire ravaged our beautiful country. There are incredible stories of survival and heroism, but also tragically deaths.Three young fireman, all volunteers and fathers ,or fathers to be ,lost their lives  while bravely fighting the fires. And still it continues, it has been relentless and worse than anyone can ever remember. So many of our precious native animals are dead.Koalas pushed to brink of extinction ,other native animals and birds, lost. Farm land lost, sheep and cattle lost,vineyards destroyed. Over 1,000 homes lost and so far 23  have people died trying to protect homes.

“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.”

Albert Schweitzer

Personally , I have always found solace in reading, so December has been a full on reading month.  I was surprised to see I read fourteen books this month.

I have also donated to WIRES animal rescue. By paypal Online with WIRES 24/7 or you can call (02) 8977 3396 between 9am and 5pm Mon-Fri. All gifts to WIRES $2 and over are tax-deductible.

RSPCA in each state New South Wales, Victoria ,Queensland and South Australia.

 

My country is on fire!
Australia is on fire.and my heart is heavy.

 

Hotel Valhalla by Rick Riordan.

Hotel valhalla

The companion book to the Magnus Chase series. Hotel Valhalla is comprehensive and easy to read. It lists the various Norse gods and goddesses of Norse mythology as well as the other inhabitants of the nine realms. Entertaining. Of course, it would have made more sense to have read this after reading Magnus Chase and The Sword of Summer.

The Transatlantic Book club by Felicity Haynes McCoy

Transatlantc bookclub

What a joy this book was! So much Irish charm, I felt I was walking along with Cassie as she explored her Irish heritage. Reminiscent of Maeve Binchy yet subtly different. Loved the idea of a book group on both sides of the Atlantic via Skype and of course, with so many Irish settlers in the US it makes perfect sense. Evocative descriptions, characters that feel real and enough intrigue and gossip to keep things lively. Dreadful child Gobnitand her hapless and hopeless mother Daria made for some amusing moments. I choked with laughter as a man asked Hanna the librarian for books by male authors, alleging there was a conspiracy against male writers. When he requested Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith and she said she would get it via Interlibrary Loan. He again accused her of bias. She reminded him that  Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for J.K Rowling. He is happy to acknowledge that but when Hanna says J.K is a woman he leaves the library in disgust.

Marvel Studios Character Encyclopaedia by Adam Bray.

Matvel Studios

A comprehensive illustrated guide to all of the most popular Marvel studio characters. All your favourites are here. For me of course,it was Thor.

The Book of English Magic by Philip Carr-Gomm & Richard Heygate.

The Book of Engish Magic

Not to be read in one sitting- more a comprehensive encyclopaedia of all types of magic and beliefs. Some will appeal to you and some might appal you. Talks to various practitioners today too. For me, it was research for something I am working on, and also as a handy reference to future work.

The Little Bookshop of Herring Cove  by Kellie Hailes

Bookshop at Herring cove

Easy to read and of course about a bookshop, which is one of my favourite topics. Here the bookshop is under threat due to potential development. A conflict between the bookshop owner and the charming, handsome and persuasive representative for the developers sets up an engaging story and conflict.

Magnus Chase and The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Magnus Chase

It’s a big book – (495 pages) so it took me a little while to read. I am not the intended audience for this YA book, I chose to read it because it dealt with Norse mythology. I can’t comment on its similarity to the Percy Jackson series which I have not read,although other reviewers have mentioned this. Its a relatively fast-paced read, with plenty of action and interference from the gods. On a personal note it would have helped me to have read it and Hotel Valhalla concurrently. I found it had an engaging mix of characters, although I felt the story might easily have been compressed. There is  a useful glossary at the end of the book.

Murder by the Minster by Helen Cox

Murder by the Mintyer

Not what I expected and not in the cosy mystery formula. So, not written in the first person, not chatty and informal. A bonus for me was the setting, which was York in the Uk. I struggled to relate to the main character Kitt Hartley. Although one of her exchanges with a man who was mistakenly in the women’s studies section of the library had me laughing out loud. Her trilby wearing had me see her as an androgynous character and I was surprised by her reaction to D I. Halloran. Enough mystery to be mysterious but all staged in a rather classic Agatha Christie way. Not sure if I will continue with this presumed series

The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill.

Magic Appletree

When a talented author describes a year of rural living- it’s a magical journey. Tramping across the snow singing carols to harvesting their own garden produce. It’s a seasonal delight and a nostalgia trip for a British Expat like me. Lyrical and so well described. One I will keep forever.

Jamie’s Great Britain  by Jamie Oliver

Jamies.jpg

A surprise addition to the list. Can you ‘read’ a cookbook? I often do, for recreation, imagining meals I may never cook. It’s a big book and pretty heavy too. Lots of photographs for Inspiration. Less inspired was how the text was so visually broken up and placed on different coloured backgrounds. Many people have vision problems and personally, I found this irritating.

Hovel in The Hills by Elizabeth West.

Hovel in the hills

This book is the antithesis of the genre of ‘we moved to Provence or Tuscany ‘or somewhere exotic with the vague idea of writing and some free time and the cash to support ourselves. Here the impoverished couple moved to Wales and set about trying to eke out a living. I enjoyed the book because of its realism and the fact that problems were not glossed over. I had read it many years ago and re-read it this time as a piece of nostalgia.

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

The Printed Letter Bookshop

A book that really resonated with me- I almost always enjoy a book that features books and bookshops so I  was anticipating that I would enjoy this. I found it a total delight, from start to finish. I wanted to hold onto the characters and keep them with me. Claire, Janet and  Maddie are engaging personalities and I found the dynamic between them believable. Maddie new to bookselling is educated, smart, younger and the bemused new owner of the beloved bookshop. A city lawyer it makes sense for her to sell the bookshop.

Twenty years have passed since she enjoyed working there as a teenager, with her beloved Aunt Madeline. Until suddenly the family dynamic changed and there were no more visits. The last thing she expected was that Aunt Maddie would leave her the bookshop.  Rationally it would make more sense to sell if she can demonstrate the bookshop is profitable and that will take work.

Claire and Janet the two assistants have almost single-handedly run the shop and cared for Aunt Maddie whose cancer diagnosis was known to only a few people. Divorcee Janet even moved in with her to care for her day to day. Claire  meanwhile picked up the accounts and planning and organising. Each finds a kind of sanctuary in the beloved bookshop.

Through Aunt Madeline’s illness,  the shop has run down as author events and signings are scaled back and Maddie’s personal touch is lacking. But the shop is still a community hub and Maddie begins to realise its importance to the town of Winsome and to herself.’

When she finds out that her preconceptions about the family dynamic are wrong and that she actually enjoys being a bookseller then the fight is on to save the bookshop.

Mistletoe & Murder by Polly Holmes ( Book 4 in the Cupcake Capers series)

Misteltoe and Murder

An easy read for the holiday time. Slightly disadvantaged as I had not read the three previous Cupcake Capers books, but I was soon caught up in the story. By mid way through I had suspicions about one character , which were later confirmed .I found the ending was satisfying.

A Woman’s War by Simon Block.

a Womans war

A book which continues the story of the sadly discontinued and much missed  Home Fires TV Series  This is book two. Worth the wait although my faith in that did teeter a bit in the middle of the book. I won’t say what that was, as  I don’t want to post any spoilers! The ending was a partial ending but not of the series. In my opinion, the series should continue through each year of the war. However, I sense that depends on the sales of the books and Simon’s desire to continue with them.
I enjoyed hearing more about the characters we have come to care for, and I congratulate Simon on his ability to write believable women. Steph’s story, Theresa’s story, Sarah’s story, Pat’s story among others all need to continue.

The Cats Came Back By Sofie Kelly

THe Cats Came Back

I picked this up because the title and the cover appealed to me. I hadn’t realised this was book ten in the series , but I need not have worried  it was easy to catch up and keep track of the characters. Librarian Kathleen Paulson narrates the tale and works on solving the mystery with the help of her cats. It was a fun and easy read and I totally fell in love with the magical cats Hercules and Owen. There was enough complexity to keep me guessing right to the end of the story. Out of curiosity I checked how many books featuring cats my local library had, 158 fiction and 163 non fiction.

ash background beautiful blaze
Stay safe , wherever you are-heed warnings and survive.

The Books I Read in November 2019

I had November all planned out- I was going to do National Novel In Month(NaNoWriMo) and get a head start on my next book after Fire & Ice. The as yet unnamed sequel. I started well, but then I got an unexpected call to go for eye surgery. I wasn’t going to miss my chance at that. So on November 14th, I  had the surgery. The results are brilliant. But I had a few days when I didn’t write and I completely lost the focus of my story.  So ,I didn’t win this year, but I have a solid 26,000 words written . I devoted the rest of the month to catch up on my reading, As usual, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

I cannot imagine a month without reading
I can’t imagine a month without reading.

 

Whispers at Wongan Creek by Juanita Kees.

Whispers

Travis Bailey is a stalwart of Wongan Creek and an all-round good guy. He’s caring for his elderly and sometimes disorientated neighbour Harry, as well as his orphaned niece. There are many burdens on his broad shoulders, as he’s been left in charge of the family farm. His day brightens when they are visited by the replacement social worker Heather Penny. She’s there to check on Casey, his niece’s well being. Heather has her own secrets and burdens, trying to recover from her mother’s death from motor neurone disease and her own health fears. Zac Bannister the town bully also intrudes into both their lives
None of this stop either of them feeling the strong pull of attraction to each other. While Travis’s adored niece Casey wants nothing more than a happily ever after for Travis and Heather,

 

Matters of The Heart by Fiona Palmer.

Matters of the heart

A very individual retake on Pride and Prejudice, giving it a distinctly Australian flavour. It was curious experience to see those familiar names attached to Australian characters. Spirited Lizzie Bennet is running the family farm almost single handedly. Her four sisters are disinterested while she is passionate about it.  Mrs Bennet is predictably agog when the reputed to be wealthy, Charles Bingley buys the neighbouring, but rundown property of Netherfield. His friend  Will Darcy, businessman, and farmer is also visiting and casts a cold eye on the burgeoning romance between Lizzie’s sister Jane and Bingley.  The plot unfolds following the Pride and Prejudice story line but interspersed by the demands of rural life, farming and agriculture. I chuckled when Luke Wickham appeared as a jack of all trades and rodeo cowboy. As in the original ,he’s a chancer and charmer. Of course, the expected happy ending but a fun journey getting there.

 

The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew by Milly Johnson

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I found this quite relatable, as Sophie’s need to be a perfect politician’s wife superseded anything else. Meanwhile, her husband John, a professional charmer ,has lost his charm for her. He belittles her, treats her like a child and has the support and acceptance of her horrendous family.

In her gilded life, there is no one she can trust, no one to be friends with. Sophie knows any breach of protocol, or spark of humanity will be seized on by John’s political rivals, or their ambitious wives. Hers is indeed a gilded cage.

She has always been exemplary, done the right thing. Her one rebellion was at school years back.When she confronted a bully. Now ,it’s  John’s political survival they are fighting for, after his dalliance with another woman. Sophie is expected to support him, forgive him, and go on as before. She stands on the doorstep, the charming and compliant political wife and the weasel words won’t leave her mouth. Instead, she calls him out for his behaviour.

Returning to Yorkshire where she was at school ,all those years ago is where Sophie eventually finds herself. Living simply ,she discovers what she cares about and what matters to her. It isn’t being on the cover of Hello.

Sophie was always going to have to fight to regain her identity, to find her long-suppressed individuality and eventual happiness. Anyone who has been humiliated and patronised by a man will be cheering her on, to the predictable and hoped-for happy ending, I enjoyed it.

 

Viking Warrior by Angus Konstan.

 

Viking Warrior book cover

I dipped into this book for research purposes, taking notes of many facts and useful illustrations. I do make sure that what I write about the Vikings is factually accurate, although of course I use my imagination to build a credible and engaging story.

The Boot Camp by Kate Harrison.

Boot camp

Fun to read- although it sounds quite unbearable for a non-athlete like me. What makes the boot camp and the novel work are the friendships and rivalries among the campers. Two ex-squaddies, as trainers are perhaps not what one expects at a supposedly luxurious retreat. But then luxury also seems to be in short supply.

 A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry.

 

A Family recipe

I had mixed feelings about Family Recipe. I usually enjoy books by  Veronica Henry and on a superficial level, I enjoyed this. The two timelines made for interesting and contrasting reading. In 1942 in wartime Britain Laura’s grandmother, Jilly makes a fateful decision which changes the course of her life. While in the present-day Laura’s happy and comfortable life also comes crashing down after an unexpected discovery. Both have to work to make life bearable again for themselves and for others. Jilly used her mother’s recipes to feed the household and in the present Laura also uses the adapted recipes once again  While they face challenging circumstances, a little part of me was thinking but how much easier it is to face those when you have property and money behind you.

Dying to Know by Josh Langley

Dying to KNow

Curious about the afterlife but faint-hearted? Not to worry, Josh Langley has been asking questions, to satisfy his own curiosity and ours. The exploration starts with undertakers and crematoriums and goes on from there. Mediums, psychics, out of body experiences, a spiritualist church and a potentially haunted house. Josh lead us on an interesting and at times confronting journey. I felt quite terrified as he explored the ‘haunted’ building and marvelled that he kept his nerve.Of course, the experiences and inferences are his own, but they make interesting reading. Did they all happen in his head?

As Dumbledore says in Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows” of course it’s happening in your head that doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

Spookily, this is the only section that appears in frame or box and I didn’t create it this way. So what is happening here?

The Cinema at Starlight Creek By Ali Sinclair.

Starlight Creek

A dual timeline story, 1950s Hollywood and 1990s Queensland. The interconnected story line tells of two women, decades apart but both determined to live their dream and not give in to prejudice or bullying.

Lena a 1950s  a Hollywood star fighting for fairness and equality in an industry dominated by men. While the fear of the Hays morality code, as well as Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt spreads through Hollywood.

In 1990s Queensland, Claire is scouting locations for tv and films and comes across the art deco cinema at Starlight creek. It’s perfect for the project she is currently working on . The reclusive owner doesn’t want to allow the cinema to be used. After convincing the owner of her commitment to quality and care, Claire has to live up to her promises. But no dream is fulfilled without cost.

 

 

Chatting with Authors- Teniele Arnold.

IMG_1970 (5).JPGToday I am pleased to welcome author Teniele Arnold. She is one very busy lady and I appreciate that she took the time to talk out to us.

 

From Tenniele’s  Good Reads profile

Teniele Arnold free spirit, blazing her path in life, never afraid to fail to reach her dreams and goals, creating her reality, always going with the flow on life’s journey. Photographer, Author, Bookkeeper are just some of her professions in life, you will find her enjoying a yoga flow or reading a good book or being a loving parent of two strong-willed children Elliana & Kaden, she raises together with her soulmate Ashley. “Life is always going to have bumps but when we become present to the moment we can truly connect with ourselves and get clear on our truth, the bump no longer becomes a bump”. Writing a children’s book has been a lifelong dream, she truly hopes that this book connects to you and your family, that you can go forth and together with presence, mindfulness and find the inner voice “Your Happy Voice”.

 

Tell us a bit about your background

 I started my entrepreneur journey quite young from 7 years old my brother and I potted up my parent’s succulents and made a roadside stall to sell them, from there followed on through the years coming up with ideas to make money. At 10 years old my best friend and I would create felt cards for birthdays, get wells etc and sell them to the neighbours.

Around 12 years old we would create our own comic books and magazines, the magazines were the most fun, writing articles, having fun photoshoots with our film cameras back then and then placing it all together. Just shy of 13 I had my first job in a video store, I loved being able to pick and choose any movie I wanted to watch, I just loved the amazing stories and we always got advance copies of the new movies coming out which was always fantastic at that age. Around 14 I began writing all the time, short stories, instead of doing maths, I was secretly writing my erotic fictions, but once I was out of high school and in the real world I stopped writing for quite a while and it wasn’t until three years ago that I began writing again and the first story I wrote was my first published children’s book, quite a ways from erotic fiction! and all my little entrepreneur jobs along the way have given me the skills to develop my own businesses including my book brand and business.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I would say my first thoughts of how wonderful it would be to be a writer was when I was 8 years old reading Enid Blyton – The faraway tree.

I thought I could be a writer around high school years, whilst scribbling in my erotic fiction notebook.

But I did not seriously think I could be a writer until Finding Your Happy Voice idea came to me, as I was not good at English and my grammar was terrible, but I thought that’s what an editor is for!

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Tell us about your book or books.

Finding your happy voice is a children’s story that follows a little boys journey to finding his happy voice, the story speaks of emotions and how to utilise the breath to listen to our inner voice, here is where we can find our happy voice.

 

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 Is there a typical writing day?

Not now coming into school holidays, just when I am feeling the creative urge, prior to that I was allocating a Tuesday to write, but only if it felt right on the day.

The dreaded question- where do you get your ideas?

The Idea for finding your happy voice came from real-life experience and meditation, and inner knowing that this was a book and I had to share it.

What is the best thing about being a writer? And the worst?

The best is I find it exciting; I love talking with parents and listening to their pain points, offering the odd hug for those not coping that day. The worst is your pretty much a business owner and you need to know a lot of things to sell your book, luckily, I have learnt many areas over the years but the one that I have not and learning now is marketing!

What are you working on now?

My next children’s book is written and edited and currently, in illustration, I can not wait for this one to come out in 2020

Do you work on more than one thing at once?

Not writing, I have been doing one at a time, but I do have several projects on the go at once.

What is the best writing advice you received and the worst?

Start from the heart and the worst you can’t be an author if you’re not good at grammar.

Any advice for other writers?

If you are called to write something and that calling won’t go away, then just write it. If you are called to share that work, then just take one step at a time and go for it!

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What do you wish you’d known when you were beginning?

I should have taken a marketing degree ha-ha, no I have done well myself with this, but it’s definitely an advantage to learn as much as possible about marketing.

Do you have any unusual hobbies?

Unusual hobby hmmm not really, I enjoy going to sound healings, I guess that’s unusual for some, but the rest are pretty normal yoga, reading, sewing and photography.

What do you like to read?

My favourite Genre is Psychological thrillers, along with anything based on a true story and I guess action some of my favourite authors are Patricia Cornwell, Jane Harper, Vince Flynn, Simon Becket, Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child to name a few. My other favourite genre is spirituality & self-development so many great books here authors like Eckhart Tolle, Louise Hay, Paulo Coelho, Caroline Myss PH. D, Michael Singer, Deepak Chopra and Brandon Bays

I do have a variety of genres on my shelf including romance and comedy and a very long reading list for this holidays 😊

What is the oddest thing you have researched OR What would people be surprised to know about you?

Hmm, people may be surprised to know that I run a couple of business and work part-time.

I have a photography business that has been running for over 5 years now

Partnership with my husband in a plumbing company

I work two days a week in the family Company for painting/graffiti removal looking after the accounts and anything else administration wise.

And now my books to add into the mix, oh and I used to drive haul packs aka dump trucks for some time in 2008 with my husband in Newman.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us at this very busy time of year and best wishes for the future success of all your enterprises but especially your books!

Here are all the links for Teniele and her books

AUTHOR PUBLISHER SELF PUBLISHED

Teniele Arnold

Phone Number: 0404 143 023

Email: peacockpressaustralia@gmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/findingyourhappyvoice

Instagram: www.instagram.com/findingyourhappyvoice.com

Website: www.findingyourhappyvoice.com

Publisher:

Peacock Press Australia

Email: Peacockpressaustralia@gmail.com

Finding Your Happy Voice is available to purchase from

Hardbacks: www.findingyourhappyvoice.com

Softcover:  Worldwide most popular online stores like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookmate, Booktopia, Kobo, Redshelf, etc

E-Book: www.amazon.com

 

 

Chatting with Authors: Meet Lisa Wolstenholme.

Its always exciting to be able to meet a fellow author and I was sad to miss the launch of Lisa Wolstenholme’s book The Sunrise Girl which was held on December 7th at Katharine  Sussanah Pritchard Writers Centre. By all accounts, it was a lively fun event  Luckily Lisa has kindly answered some questions from me about the book and her writing process.

Lisa Wolstenholme
Lisa Wolstenholme launching her book The Sunrise girl.

The Book is on my To Be Read List. When you read the description you can see why!

The Sunrise Girl By Lisa Wolstenholme

The Sunrise Girl

Paperback, 328 pages
Published December 7th 2019 by MMH Press
ISBN
0648728005 (ISBN13: 9780648728009)
Edition Language
English
QUESTIONS.

Lisa, can you tell us a bit about your background?

I’m from the UK and grew up travelling a fair bit due to my dad being in the Royal Air Force. I gained a degree in computing and spent a good ten years in the industry, but always felt drawn to healing modalities so studied counselling. I ended up working in a crisis service in Leeds, which I loved, but when I came to Perth, I found I couldn’t use my qualifications to work here as a counsellor. I twiddled my thumbs for several years as my daughter went through primary school, and finally joined KSP Writers’ Centre back in 2014.

Have you always wanted to write?

Absolutely. I’ve always loved reading and have a very active imagination, so writing was the outlet I needed to tie those things together.

You have just released a book, tell us a bit about that.

It’s my debut novel, The Sunrise Girl, about Lucy Fraser, a thirty-something woman who, along with her best friend Em, has spent her twenties partying hard. When she eventually gets married to Joe Morris, she soon realises that settling down is not what she wants. Joe dies, and it’s Lucy’s fault, and the desire to escape her woes is so strong that when Em suggests they go on holiday to the party island of Ibiza, Lucy can’t resist. But Ibiza fuels her hedonistic desires further, so Lucy must figure out what makes her tick and what she truly wants. The key themes in the story are conquering guilt, escapism, addiction, authenticity, and doing what we ‘want rather than what we ‘should’ do.

What inspired it?

I’ve supported many people who struggled with a variety of issues such as addiction and escapist tendencies, so I wanted a character who was heavily flawed and struggling with things that people could relate to. I’ve also witnessed several of my friends go through rocky relationships and marriage breakdowns, so I wondered what made the relationships fail, and how much each person gives up being part of a couple. I wanted to write something relatable in terms of everyday issue and vices, such as drinking heavily and smoking, and what purposes those addictions fulfilled, to make the characters more authentic.

How long did it take to write?

The ideas and ‘scenes’ have been floating around in my head since around 2011, but I didn’t start writing it until 2014. By that time, it was like a movie playing in my mind, so writing it was pretty quick. The rewriting, on the other hand, well-thank God I joined a writing group and learnt how to write properly! And here we are, eight years later!

How do you capture your ideas?

I’m a visual person, so I’ll see something that then sets off a chain of events in my head and images start popping left, right and centre. It can take a while to get them organised, but once an idea comes, it takes hold until I’ve got it out of my system.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished going through the second round of edits on my Paw Prints of Love anthology story for Gumnut Press, and after a short writing break over the summer, I plan to get back into writing The Sunset Girl to tell Em’s story.

Do you work on more than one thing at once?

For sure. I’m easily distracted! What is the best and worst advice you received as a writer?

The best advice is to just write regardless of your level of expertise. Chloe Higgins held a workshop at KSP entitled, ‘How to Vomit a Novella’. It was basically telling us to get over ourselves and our hang-ups and just get stuff written. It doesn’t matter how badly written it is-rewrites and edits can help with that-it’s vital to get those creative ideas down on paper.

The worst advice I’ve been given is to ‘show don’t tell’ all the time. I agree with showing not telling in general, but too much of it can stifle the pace of a story and make it way too descriptive, leaving little room for the reader’s imagination to come into play.

Comment by Sonia- that kind of advice re-show don’t tell can leave a beginner quite baffled!

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Write as often as you can, and it doesn’t matter if you think it’s shit. Join a writing group to meet like-minded souls. Read. Read. Read.

Favourite authors?

Paulo Coehlo, Gillian Flynn and Elizabeth Gilbert are a few.

Thank you and congratulations  on  your book

Thank you for interviewing me. 😊

I hope that I  asked Lisa the questions that you would have asked .

You can find her on Facebook  Lisa Wolstenholme Author.

 

 

Which Books Did I Read in October 2019?

Inexplicably October wasn’t a good month for reading for me, as I only managed to read four books

Reading for pleasure is a pure joy!

It rare for me  to read biography or autobiography , but I made and excpetion for Michelle Obama’s Becoming

 

Becoming
An Iconic First Lady in her own words.

 

As Becoming was getting rave review and I was curious about the Obama presidency  I chose to read Becoming. It was surprising to me how candid Michelle Obama was and how she spoke of the difficulties and challenges of acclimatising to the loss of privacy.

I had always seen her as someone who was quite reserved and even  a  bit stand-offish so her  frankness was surprisng.-  She talks of her upbringing  in a decent and  loving  but poor working class family.  She acknowledges the strength of kinship and extended family. Her own good fortune was in  being intelligent and in having  encouraging and supportive parents.They gave her confidence in her abilities and higher aspirations. Her rise as  a lawyer, working hard .She was always aware  that she was a flag bearer for others. How she and Barrack first met, his easy going attitude that charmed ,but at times irritated her. She speaks of their courtship and eventual marriage. She doesn’t paint him as a paragon, revealing that he’s messy, overcommits and at that time was smoking. I loved the honesty of the book.  Michelle reveals that she was reluctant for Barrack to try for the presidency, fearing the  loss of privacy,  as well as the effect it would have on their childen.Later there was the weight of expectation at being the first black First Lady of The United States of America. Although they served with grace and dignity  it is obvious that she would relish the return to their  previous less public life. The autobigraphy is humanised her frankness in discussing their struggles to start a family as well as their hopes and losses as well as sucesses. Destined to become an important  historical document.

Sanctuary by Judy Nunn.

Sanctuary

As I was soon to attend a talk by this immensely popular author, I wanted to read at least one of her books. Sanctuary was inspired by a real-life event when a fishing boat filled with asylum seekers pulled up at Geraldton in West Australia’s north.  This is not their story, but a story of a similar group of people who land on an uninhabited island. The issue of asylum seekers is a contentious one in Australia and has been politicised. Here we learn of the reasons these desperate people have taken the life-threatening risk to try and make it to Australia. In my opinion Judy Nunn establishes sympathy for them while allowing voices of prejudice to also speak. She set up a situation where I feared for the happiness of them all and left us with them facing an uncertain future.

 

Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

In Another LIfe

I  applaud the clever premise of this book, but for me, it didn’t quite come off. Initially, it was okay, and I enjoyed the contrast, but the further into the book I got, then the more confused I became. Maybe in part, this was because I was not able to read for long stretches at a time. The book has been compared to the film Sliding Doors, and I wonder if perhaps it might be easier to convey the dual timeline visually.

The Shelley Bay Ladies Swimming Club by Sophie Green

 

Shelley Bay

Explores the growing friendship between four diverse women who may never have connected at all but for swimming. Elaine, an unhappily relocated British ex-pat has come with her surgeon husband who is an Australian. She misses her adult sons and her English life Leanne, shy, self-contained except around children her past hides a painful secret, one she is unwilling to share. Marie, the doyenne of the group, a lifetime swimmer now widowed. Her two loves are ocean swimming and Charlie Brown, her dog. Theresa, overworked mother of two with a neglectful husband who steals time for herself with a precious early morning swim. The four women forge bonds of friendship that in time go far beyond the superficial. Topics include loneliness, isolation, starting life again, illness and infidelity. Believable it had some tense and tender moments- perfect for a book club discussion.

 

 

Let’s Talk About Writer Envy.

You  like  to think that you are a good person.You dont hate people or resent them, until  an acquaintance has a stroke of writing luck.

woman carrying im here you not plank on front of waterfalls
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

 

Until, someone  you know wins a contest, has a piece published, writes a book or simply seems to be everywhere . They  are on websites, giving interviews in magazines and book shops ,they are the next big thing and you tell yourself you are happy for them and you are. BUT…..

Not Quite So Happy?

You are shocked at how you feel.

But there is  voice in your head that isn’t quite so happy at all. An inner voice that  says  ‘but what about me?’ Eventually, you realise that you are suffering from writer envy. You want what he or she has got. You whine inwardly because it seems to have been so easy for them.

And because we are all good people, you don’t talk about it or mention it to anyone. Gradually,  you realise you are envious because what they have matters to you. If they were climbing mountains or being a successful investor, that wouldn’t cause you to envy them. But writing, that’s your thing, your passion.

Talking Writing with Writers

group of people sitting on sofa while discussing
Talking with trusted friends can provide support and answers

I recently brought this up in an online writer’s forum and most people were happy to acknowledge that yes, they felt it too. There was compassion and wise advice posted in the comments. Many adniited feeling the same. One piece of advice  was  ‘ be yourself- everyone  else is taken.’ Their is wisdom in that, we each have our own lived experience and perceptions. So we have a unique perspetive .

Taking it further Here is the dictionary definition of envy from dictionary,.com

Envy a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

Similar: jealousy enviousness covetousness desire resentment resentfulness bitterness discontent spite the green-eyed monster.

woman staring through window
Envy can leave us feeling stuck.

So, knowing we do feel envy ,what do we do about it? How do we use it creatively? How do we avoid bitter envy,  and don’t say or even think those things?

Envy+ Action.

Take action instead and use the feeling to spur you on. What did they do that you didn’t?

If they won a contest that you didn’t enter that might encourage you to enter next time. They submitted their work to a publisher while yours is still in a drawer. They got a lucky break, yes, but they were out there in the writing community .Being there,they met people, heard of opportunities.

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Go for walk , clear your head and brainstorm ideas,

Let envy encourage you to take action.  You may never sweep into a book talk with an entourage of publicist, bookseller and adoring fans as some succesful authors do. But rememeber that even the most successful writer began somewhere- with blank sheet of paper and in an idea.

 

How Much Does It Cost To Be A Writer?

If only this simple question had a equally simple answer. The answer is, it depends on what  sort of writer you want to be.

 

art materials blank business coffee
At its simplest pencils and notebook

At its simplest- you write, therefore you are a writer.

You can get away with a pen or pencil and a notebook or paper.

The costs are fairly minimal.

Perhaps you are more ambitious, you’d like to see your name in print, to be published somehow, so at a minimum you need the following.

Microsoft Word or it’s equivalent.

close up photo of black typewriter
These days you need more than a typewriter.

A computer or at least computer access. Internet connection or access to one

Depending on how you choose to submit you may need

Computer paper. Access to a printer, or your own printer.

Ink cartridges.

A  concentration of writers’?

More ambitious still? Ready to submit for publication.?

Membership of the relevant professional association for your genre of writing.

Subscription to a writing magazine.  Courses to improve your skills.

Convention attendance. Business cards,

Competition entries Blog start-up and hosting costs.

Writing group membership ( if applicable) Books on writing.

The list can  go on.What has been your biggest writing expense?

 

How much does it cost? A lot or a little ? That depends on how far you choose to take it.