Recipe for writing your book on holiday

Ingredients:

  • Laptop (that’ll add to your suitcase kg weight and there may not be much room to squeeze in your bikini, but still…)
  • Memory stick
  • Notepad and pen
  • Your brain, should you possess one
  • Copious amount of Rusty Nail cocktails

Method 1:

Splash on the Factor 50, put your sun hat on, spend all day by the pool on your sun bed with your laptop, memory stick, notepad and pen, and continue telling the story of Ali’s adventures in Episode. If the laptop battery packs up, use the notepad and pen instead and scribble away.

Rest for a dip in the pool and maybe fifteen minutes lying on the sun bed using your brain to think what to write next, or pick up your copy of Demelza and read that for a bit, before sighing and opening your laptop/notepad again, telling yourself, ‘I must finish this flippin’ book!’

Method 2:

Splash on the Factor 50, put your sun hat on, don your walking boots to explore the Maltese landscape and take plenty of photos, at the same time using your brain to wonder where to take Ali next on her adventures. Make sure you drink plenty of water and try not to moan too much about your feet hurting. Get back to the hotel dusty, exhausted and happy, get changed, eat your dinner, go to the bar for a Rusty Nail or two, get back to the hotel room, tell yourself, ‘I’m too knackered to write anything tonight!’ and fall asleep.

Method 3:

Splash on the Factor 50, get in the car you’ve hired to drive around the island, take more photos (all the time using your brain thinking: ‘So how is Episode going to end?’ Get back in time for dinner and after you’ve eaten go to the bar for a Rusty Nail or two. Have a wander around St Julian’s at night. Get back to the hotel room. Open your laptop, but if the Rusty Nails have ruined your eyesight, scribble in your notepad instead.

When you get home at least you can tell yourself you’ve managed to write something!

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My review of Ross Poldark

 

Ross Poldark begins the history of the Poldark family from when Ross returns to his native Cornwall after his service in the British Army during the American War of Independence. He comes back to find his father dead, his estate in disarray and his fiancée, Elizabeth Chynoweth, has gone and married his cousin, Francis Poldark. This leads to Ross having to get on with his own life in a way that rocks the society he was born to, and events occur that bring him into conflict with his uncle and also Verity, the cousin he is fond of. It’s all set for a dramatic historical soap opera of the lives and loves of the Poldark family and their acquaintances and the first book doesn’t disappoint.

The Poldark story starts in 1783 and has a twentieth century feel to the writing. Ross Poldark was published in 1945, and although clear references are made to the way of life in the 1700s, the writing is modern to the time in which it was written with no complicated over-blown, flowery adjectives or descriptions; this is not Jane Austen world, it’s a modern classic. Characterisation adds that touch of spice, almost (in a most un-politically correct) wickedly, comical way. The lower classes speak colloquially: Jud and Prudie, Ross’s servants, come across as endearingly funny characters, and Mrs Choake, Dr Choake’s wife, has a pronounced speech impediment where she can’t pronounce the letter ‘s’, so everything she says either begins or ends with ‘th’. All a touch cruel, and by today’s standards, definitely not something to laugh at, but it adds a light-hearted balance to counteract the descriptions of cock fighting (definitely outlawed and nothing to laugh at nowadays!) and to the darkness of Ross’s mood, as well as the strained relationship he now has with his cousin and ex- fiancée.

I received the twelve book box set of the Poldark history for Christmas and my husband believed it would take me years to read all of them; I finished Ross Poldark within a month! It’s a long but easy, interesting read with characters who delight and entice and I didn’t want to put it down. I can’t wait to read Demelza!

This review is also available on Goodreads and Amazon

 

My review of The Man in the High Castle

 

I’ll start by saying that this book bears little resemblance to the Amazon TV series it inspired, apart from the names of some of the characters: Frank Frink, Juliana Frink, Joe Cinnadella, Mr Childan, Mr Baynes and Mr Tagomi; Mr Childan’s antique shop, Frank’s jewellery business and the scene where Mr Tagomi wakes up in the alternative world. That’s where the similarity ends. The cover of my Penguin edition shows Juliana running, clutching a film canister, which, in the TV show, holds a film that could blow apart the belief that the Nazis and Japanese won the Second World War. The sinister stare of Smith, the American-born Nazi commander, watches her go; but in the book there is no Smith and there is no film. There is instead a book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy that states the Allies won.

I read the book to try to understand the TV series, but it didn’t help.  I know I’m reading an alternative history; I know the Allies won and the Nazis and Japanese were defeated. My father fought in the war, so I know it for a fact. I was weaned on every war film going. I’m not fooled by this book into being made to believe its story, but Grasshopper is making people, especially Juliana, edgy, and she’s desperate to find the man who wrote it, dubbed The Man in the High Castle. An alternative world being fed an alternative world.

That bit I got. As for the rest of it, I didn’t have a scooby-doo what was going on. The whole book is patchy, to the extent that it reads like a draft of ideas thrown together. The ending is limp; in fact, it feels unfinished to me, like there’s more to say and explain that hasn’t been said. There seems to be no plot and nothing ties in. Apart from Juliana and her quest, I don’t see the point of the other characters, nor do I feel much sympathy for them. Mr Childan is keen to impress his Japanese clientele, to the point where his thoughts come across (stereotypically) as thinking how the Japanese people might speak without fully formed English sentences. There are details of the German and Japanese political administration that I passed over without interest, but then I’ve never understood politics anyway so that doesn’t matter. What bothered me was this: a man has written a book stating the world he lives in is a lie (who dares lie to the Nazis and Japanese?) and is only sought after by a woman who wants to know if it’s all true. And that’s it.

Was I disappointed? God, yes. I know this book is science fiction and that sometimes science fiction doesn’t always make a lot of sense, but I was hoping for a bit more of a constructed plot and more action than what I got near the end of the story. What this book did do, however, was to make me appreciate the TV series more!

You can also read this review on Goodreads and Amazon

 

 

Books I love

Yeah, I know, sorry, it’s been a while since I posted. Been busy writing. Got to get Episode finished! But I have a bit of time to tell you about a recent challenge I was given on Facebook to post the cover of a book I love for seven days with no review or explanation. These were the books I chose, but this time I want to explain why I chose them:

 

Day 1

This is a book you can’t put down and I think I’ve read it over twenty times. A traumatic tale told through the eyes of an innocent 10-year-old girl in America’s south, To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic simply and beautifully written, exposing bigotry and racism in a time when such things were unfortunately acceptable. It keeps you riveted from the first page to the last.

Day 2

The first full-length book I ever read age 10 which inspired me to write for children. Not a literary masterpiece, old-fashioned, a world apart from my own, but as enduring and as popular  today as it was back in the 1940s when it was first published. Say what you like about Enid Blyton, but she still sells.

Day 3

This is the official programme of the Champions League Final held in Kiev on 26 May 2018. I don’t own a copy and I wasn’t at the Final, but I was watching on telly and on that day it was my favourite book. Oh, I had such hopes for Liverpool’s first Champions League trophy since 2005, only for them to be dashed by the cheating, diving, fouling Real Madrid, one fluke goal and two terrible gaffes by our goalkeeper!  I’m not bitter, though. (Yes, I am!)  I’ll never get over it! 😦

Day 4

I studied A-level Ancient History and Literature at further education college and The Iliad was our set text. I knew little about the story before I started reading and I loved it: Helen of Sparta running off with Paris of Troy, the Greeks declaring war on Troy in an attempt to get her back, the bickering and in-fighting amongst the Greeks, the gods sticking their oar in…it’s full of great drama, blood, guts and glory. The poem starts in the tenth year of the war and I often wondered why this was, until recently I discovered The Iliad is part of what is known as the Epic Cycle and there were other poems before this, outlining how the war started, now long since lost. It was this that inspired me to write Episode and to read other epic poems such as The Odyssey and The Aeneid.

Day 5

So the Trojan War is over and famed Greek warrior and king Odysseus is on his way home back home to Ithaca, to his wife Penelope and son Telemachus, who was a baby when Odysseus left to fight in the war. On the way he encounters many adventures and challenges and Penelope is having to fend off a queue of blokes, convinced Odysseus is dead, who want to marry her. The Odyssey is an enjoyable tale focusing on Penelope’s anguish, Telemachus’s quest to search for his father and the conflicts Odysseus has to face on his journey home. You can feel and sympathise with the characters in this sequel to The Iliad.

Day 6

This is a book I have always wanted to read. It is an open, honest account of Anne Frank’s young life growing up while hiding from the Nazis in the small flat in Amsterdam and her relationship with her family and the other families hiding with her. She doesn’t come across as a saint: in fact, I was often left thinking, ‘What a little madam!’ She appears selfish in some ways and is quite scathing in her opinion of her mother. The abrupt ending of the diary is explained at the end and because her story is so well-known there is a feeling of poignancy in this.

Day 7

As a comedy of manners, Pride and Prejudice never fails to impress: the comical Mrs Bennet, the downtrodden Mr Bennet and his life full of women, the awful cousin Mr Collins and the snooty Lady Catherine de Burgh. The Bennet daughters are a collection of different characteristics: the beautiful, self-composed Jane, the not-quite-as-beautiful-but-nevertheless-down-to-earth-and-critical Lizzie; the over-studious and plain Mary; the silly, sawdust-between-her-ears and easily-led Kitty; and finally the pretty but selfish Lydia. As a love story, it’s a bit of a mind field! And it never fails to amaze me what a small world Jane Austen’s characters live in: Mr Collins, the Bennet cousin, happens to be curate in Lady Catherine’s parish and Mr Wickham happens to be a childhood friend of Mr Darcy before they fell out. A terrific book.

 

I could have listed so many more such as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was clever and comical; the Red Dwarf books, the first of which made me laugh out loud so much once on a train I had to stop reading it! Books will never stop giving me pleasure.

 

OK, so when will Episode be published?

Episode will  be published in November 2018, in time for Christmas!

At least, that’s my aim.

More family aggro, more bad luck, homelessness, illness, death, abduction by aliens, the world ending all notwithstanding, my sixth novel will be published at the end of this year, two years later than intended. But what can you do when real life gets in the flippin’ way!

Yeah, so November’s nearly eight months away, but there’s still a lot of work to do on the book. I haven’t been idle. I’m struggling with an ending, so while I struggle I edit. No point in just doing nothing. I’ll have more time when the football season’s over in a few weeks, too, a major distraction averted.

Am I ready to reveal yet what the book’s about? No. You’ll have to wait nearer the time. I can say this much: it’s for readers age 9-12, there’s time-travel, Greek gods, and a famous mythological (or possibly real, who knows?) queen who states that actually, it’s not really how Homer told it (and when I say Homer I don’t mean Homer Simpson) because it’s not how her story really was. That’s why she’s desperate to escape and for that she needs Travis and Alisha’s help.

Anyway, that’s all for this month, I have a book to finish, bye.

 

My Facebook author page is no more!

And I’m not pinin’!

It has ceased to be!

It’ll expire in fourteen days and will go to meet its maker!

It’s a stiff!

Bereft of life, it rests in peace!

Its processes are now history!

It’s off the twig!

It’s kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!!

IT IS AN EX-FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE!!

 

Image result for crying emoji text

 

The Facebook author page: is it really worth the aggro?

When you spend most of your time writing and editing and you have no time to promote…

Surely you should be doing both? Well, that’s true, but right now my new book Episode is proving to be a lot of hard work, much more than I anticipated! I’ve almost finished it, but I always have this compelling need to edit before I actually do finish, and that’s what I’ve started doing now. I wore myself out today on chapter four! It’s something that works for me though because most of the time editing and rewriting often works out my ending. I get that Eureka! moment!

What about promotion, though? It’s hard finding the time to promote old stuff when you have new stuff you want to get out there.

I have my Twitter account I use a lot (OK so not just for promoting, but without other interests I wouldn’t get a fan base for my books), promo sites and reviews. I also have a Facebook author page and this is causing me a problem: I’m considering ditching it. Here’s why:

  • Likes: the highest number of Likes I amassed was 522 last year. Since then, this has dropped to 498, probably because I haven’t given the page the attention I should have, but also because, in common with other pages, Facebook likes to purge Likes now and again, especially from deactivated accounts. A lot of people are ditching Facebook because they find it a drag. I do myself. I’ve tried to get more Likes and have had no success
  • Getting posts noticed: the number of times I’ve posted news about my books and not got a single thumbs-up like. You can boost a post to the top of the feed for advertising, but it costs a lot of money and I’m not prepared to pay it
  • Pressure: most authors use Facebook pages instead of a blog. What’s the point in doing that though if people are leaving Facebook in droves? With my blog I can just post when I need to, not when I feel pressured into doing so. Facebook invites pressure: if you don’t post you lose friends or Likes and you can’t return the favour because you don’t know who’s unfriended or unliked
  • Having the time: well-known authors with millions of followers probably wouldn’t maintain the pages themselves, they’d have someone else to do it. That’s nice. I don’t have that luxury. It’s bad enough thinking about what to say on my Facebook profile; it’s proving to be a bit of a drag juggling both. I’d rather spend my time writing and editing than have to worry about posting on my Facebook page and frankly I get a lot more exposure on Twitter
  • Profile not page: a lot of authors just keep profiles instead of pages and have a lot more engagement with readers. They acquire followers who don’t have to be friends.

So I am seriously considering binning off my page. It’ll be scary and I’ll lose all those Likes, but at least I don’t have to worry about it any more.

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