Category Archives: Fiction

My Review of The Marlows and The Traitor

The Marlows and the Traitor is the second in the series of Marlow books and the first I’ve read about twins Nicola and Lawrie away from their boarding school. It’s the Easter holidays and the twins are staying in St-Anne’s-Byfleet with their mother, sister Ginty and brother Peter. The traitor in question is one of Peter’s teachers at Dartmouth Naval College, Lewis Foley. Foley snubs Peter when they unexpectedly meet. When the children come across a deserted house called Mariners (which turns out to belong to Foley’s family), this sets off a frightening chain of events involving a lighthouse, secret papers, spies and a German U-boat. Set following World War II, the U-boat is a bit of a surprise, but perhaps indicates that for the Germans at least the war isn’t over.

Overall it is an enjoyable read, although I found some of the scenes with the character Robert Anquetil somewhat confusing. He and Nicola appear to be friends, but the author doesn’t say how this has come about, and the fact that Mrs Marlow decides to go and see her husband, leaving the children to their own devices, is also a bit weird.

I read the Girls Gone By edition, beautifully produced, although quite pricey at around £12.00.

 

Read my review on Amazon.co.uk and Goodreads

My review of The School at the Chalet

The School at the Chalet by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

Years ago (I won’t say how many!) I went on holiday to the Austrian Tirol with my parents and stayed in a resort called Pertisau situated by the largest lake in the region, Achensee. At that time, I was still reading the Chalet School books by Elinor M Brent-Dyer and I loved them. I guessed that her fictional location of Tiern See was based on Achensee, but wasn’t sure; fast-forward to the easy-research-at- your-fingertips world of the internet and I found I’d guessed correctly. In August this year, I went with my husband to the Tirol and we went to Achensee for a day trip. That prompted me to want to revisit the Chalet School because I came over all nostalgic and because I never got to read the entire series.

I managed to find a pdf version of the first of the series, The School at the Chalet, on Scribd, and unfortunately it didn’t hold the same magic for me as an adult as it did as a teen. My adult eyes could see the dated language, the glaring class distinctions, the prejudice against certain diverse groups, the fact that Jo Bettany’s ‘delicate’ health wasn’t much referred to beyond the first chapter and the far-fetched story surrounding Juliet’s predicament. It’s all that which prevents me from giving it the five stars I would have given it when I was 13.

That said, I’m on the lookout for the second book in the series, Jo of the Chalet School, because I want to see improvements. I know Girls Gone By publishers have reprised the series on ebook, but not this title. It is available on paperback, but I understand that the later editions published in my decade (by Armada) were abridged and I would like an unabridged version.

OK, Holiday Over: Back to the Grind!

I did it again: I went away on holiday for two weeks without writing a word of my book! My laptop stayed at home (I needed space in my case for all the tacky souvenirs!), but I did take a writing pad to scribble something of chapter 15; I didn’t, though! Now I’m back and I have to motivate myself into starting where I left off. That’s not easy when you have to go back to your day job, you have the holiday washing to do and the house to clean from top to bottom.

It’s a case of, ‘Oh, I’ll start tomorrow.’ Tomorrow never comes, though, does it?

One way of getting back into my writing is doing a mini edit. Although I haven’t finished Episode, I get to a point where I find it useful to look over what I’ve already written and this often motivates me to carry on and finish the book. I will finish it and get it published in 2017, though, and that will take me to ten years since I finished Goalden Girl!

My review of Scarlett: the sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind

I had wanted to read this sequel to Gone With The Wind for such a long time, that when I spotted a copy in a book sale for £1, I snapped it up! I read the 1991 edition with its original book jacket.

After Melanie Wilkes’ funeral, Scarlett O’Hara intends to fulfil her promise to her friend by looking after her husband Ashley Wilkes, the man Scarlett always thought she was in love with. Rhett Butler, Scarlett’s husband, has gone back to Charleston, but Scarlett is still desperate to try and get him back. She doesn’t stay long in Atlanta, however; she ensures her business affairs are in order before she travels to Charleston to meet Rhett’s mother, and her mother’s sisters and her grandfather, and to Savannah where she meets some of her father’s Irish relatives, and lastly to Ireland, where she meets more of them. In Ireland, the book mirrors the challenges Scarlett had witnessed during the war in America: the Irish are fighting the oppression of the English landowners and soldiers, as the Confederates in the southern states of America had to do with the Yankees.

Overall, I enjoyed this officially commissioned sequel to the original book, but there are a few things I didn’t like: Scarlett’s promise to Melanie is not entirely fulfilled because she feels she is now ostracised in Atlanta, which is why she leaves, there are too many Irish relatives to keep track of, and Scarlett herself is so childish and irritating I feel that I can cheerfully smack her! Although the author portrays her as generous, it is material generosity with money, of which she is obsessed, and she comes across as largely one-dimensional and too difficult to find sympathy with.

I would not recommend reading Scarlett on Kindle as it’s over 800 pages long!

Planning and Writing Your Fiction Book: Some Do’s and Don’ts

DO

  • A rough plan: plot, characters, genre, age of the reader (adult, teen, children, young children)
  • Research press release sites, free if possible, to get the news of your new book out there
  • Carry a notebook and pen with you and write down your ideas when they pop in your head before you forget them
  • Write in a quiet environment if you can; if you can’t, have some music on in the background, preferably instrumental and not too loud
  • Write something every day, even if you don’t feel motivated. A few lines is better than nothing at all. Some days you’ll find you’ll write more than others
  • Take a break when you feel you need one. You don’t want to end up thinking it’s a chore
  • Have an internet presence: website, blog, Twitter, Facebook page, Instagram, whatever. A potential reader will find you there, but stay off the internet while writing! Do whatever promotion, networking, research, blogging you need to do when you take a break, then when you go back to your book close the browser
  • Edit, edit, edit, but shop around for editors and proof readers who can help you polish your book
  • Send your book to a literary agent or publisher supporting your genre if you want to go down the traditional publishing route
  • Approach bookshops to ask about book signings, if you have the balls! You might also be able to get an interview with a local newspaper if your story has a local interest slant

DON’T

  • Tell yourself you’ll do some writing tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes!
  • Write with the telly on! It’s distracting and if your favourite programme is on you’ll miss most of it
  • Do the housework unless you need a break. Yeah, you might need to polish the bookcase, but unless the dust is feet deep leave it for another time
  • Give up or doubt yourself or your book. Shit happens, life gets in the way and your book may not be progressing as quickly as you want it to, but you will finish it eventually. Unless you die first, in which case you won’t be bothered
  • Worry about rejection letters if you send your masterpiece to a publisher. It’s their loss; send it to someone else. Send it out to more than one publisher
  • Dismiss self-publishing or POD. Check out Lulu, Createspace, Blurb, Completely Novel etc. It doesn’t mean your book is of a lower standard because it’s self-published
  • Just think about your book in print, think about it in eBook format, too. Most readers have a Kindle or Nook and Kobo these days; you can also download eBooks from iTunes and Google Books. Bear in mind, though, that if you want to promote your Kindle edition, Amazon get shirty if your eBook is available elsewhere
  • Dismiss online promotion. There are some cracking sites, many free, happy to spread the word, Readers Gazette being an excellent example. Many of these sites offer author interviews, too
  • Pay for reviews or promotion unless you can absolutely avoid it. Independent Author Index, Independent Author Network, Readers Views and Readers Favorite are among some of the popular ones used by indies that are inexpensive
  • Think that when your book is finally finished that’s the end of that, you have to promote it and get as many readers as you can interested in it. That’s where the promo and review sites and possible book signings and interviews come in

Keep Writing: You Never Know If Your Book Could Be That Massive Hit!

The literary world is full of ‘one hit wonders’: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (published 1936) is a favourite of mine, as it gave me information about the American Civil War I never knew before; Memoirs of a Geisha (1997) by Arthur Golden is another, as is Catcher in the Rye (1951) by J.D. Salinger and perhaps most famously, Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Bronte (not a book I’m fond of, if I’m honest. It’s too long and I got bored after Cathy died).

In February this year, the author of another one hit wonder, Harper Lee, the author of one my all-time favourites, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), died. I studied this book in school and loved it. Since then I’ve read it about a hundred times, loving how such a sensitive story of racism, prejudice and injustice is told from the point of view of a young tomboy. Scout recounts the events leading up to how her brother Jem has his arm badly broken at the elbow: in her home town of Maycombe, a black man is wrongly accused of rape by a white woman and Scout’s lawyer father, Atticus Finch, represents him in court. The innocent lives of young Scout, her brother Jem and their friend Dill are shattered, but they have a distraction in Boo Radley, a mysterious reclusive neighbour with whom they are fascinated by rumours that he is some sort of monster. At the end of the book, however, Boo Radley turns out to be a hero when he saves the children’s lives.

Although claimed not to be autobiographical, the characters are believed to be loosely based on people Harper Lee knew and the plot is drawn from her experiences of the civil rights movement in America in the 60s. After it was published, Harper Lee had no way of knowing how her book would be received. No author does, but although it became a massive hit, sadly it didn’t encourage her to write any more. I read in an obituary that she felt she couldn’t follow it. I think that’s a shame. Of course, in 2015, her other work, Go Set a Watchman, was published. I haven’t read it yet and the reviews are mixed: some say it’s excellent, most people say it’s poor. Maybe Harper Lee was right; maybe To Kill a Mockingbird was the only real book she had in her.

Many authors, however, have enjoyed success with multiple books and series: Terry Pratchett, Jackie Collins, Enid Blyton…but the one hit wonder should encourage the unknown author to continue writing because you never know if your book can reach those dizzy heights. As for self-published authors like me, books like The Martian (2011) serves as a major encouragement to keep writing!

My New Footie Season Resolution: Don’t Be Distracted by the Football!

Yes, here we go again (or ‘we go again’ as Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool manager, likes to term it). It’s the start of the new football season and as ever my eyes will be glued to Liverpool FC’s progress this season following our God awful campaign last year. I’m pleased to report that, although we didn’t play that well, last Sunday we overturned our embarrassing 6-1 defeat at the hands of Stoke City with a 1-0 victory against them! The problem with the football being back is this: I’m trying to write my new book Episode and that can only mean one word:

Distraction!*

As if I’m not suffering with enough of that already, what with Keith and his health and my mum being poorly, it’s a wonder I’m not just hiding in the bathroom with a brown bag over my head downing a bottle of whisky, like the night in 2005 Liverpool won the Champions League in Istanbul on penalties having overturned a 3-0 deficit (well, I was in the bathroom with the door closed and the light off, pacing the floor, unable to watch – don’t do penalties – and there was no bag or whisky, but you get my drift). This time I’m determined no football is going to get in the way of my writing. There’s life after football and there’s life in my book. Even if I don’t feel like it, even if I feel down, I’m determined to write at least half an hour a day.

I’ve reached chapter five at last. As mentioned before, Episode is a loose sequel to Epiworld and focuses on Alice, who has epilepsy. She’s on holiday in the Greek island of Rhodes with her family when she has a powerful seizure. When this happens she meets someone called Siren – in Greek mythology the Sirens sit on the rocks by the sea and lure sailors to their doom with her haunting songs – but this time Siren lures Alice back in time by dragging her down through the hotel pool and she wakes up in Ancient Greece as a slave girl called Alethéia to a princess called Helen, who looks very much like her big sister Holly. Believing it to be some kind of weird dream, Alice has no idea that her seizure has caused this, until she meets Travis, our hero from Epiworld, who explains to her what’s happened. Alice doesn’t believe him, and if he’s telling the truth, just why is she there?

Now after the hassle I had when I wrote Epiworld in the first person present tense – to reflect Travis’s adventures as they happened in his timeline – I always vowed I’d never do that again because it was tough keeping it up, but I confess I’m been writing Episode that way. I’m thinking, though, that I might change it, possibly letting Travis tell the story, like Dr Watson narrating for Sherlock Holmes, but I haven’t come to a decision about that yet.

Either way, I have to write at least half an hour every day and I can’t let any possible rubbish LFC form spoil my writing (#negativealert, sorry!). Tomorrow (Monday) we play newly promoted Bournemouth at home in the evening and I have to stay off Twitter for my matchly moan until I’ve written a good chunk of my chapter!

*Update: sorry, I just got distracted! Chelsea were beaten 3-0 by Man City this afternoon! Cheered me up no end, that has! 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

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