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Showing posts from January, 2018

In Which Debbie Young Remembers Forget-me-nots

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As a novelist, I like to think I make everything up. 
While the standard disclaimer appears on my copyright pages declaring each book a work of fiction, little details creep in from real life.  Snippets and snapshots are dredged up from the ragbag of my memory. Sometimes this is for no apparent reason, such as the recycling bins that appeared in three separate stories in my flash fiction collection, Quick Change. I didn't even notice the repetition until one of my beta readers asked why they kept cropping up. For fear of seeming obsessive, I replaced one bin with a bonfire, which made for a much better story. 
Other times I manage to wrestle the reasons from my subconscious after I've finished writing the story, such as the forget-me-not motif that runs throughout my Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series. 
In the first novel, Best Murder in Show, Hector, the local bookseller, remarks on the colour of Sophie's eyes. She's in fancy dress as Virginia Woolf on a book-themed …

Forgetting: N M Browne

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I like to think I have a good memory - you wouldn’t want me on your quiz team - I don’t remember facts, but I have a good episodic memory. I remember moments, feelings, clothes, interiors, conversation; the light on the field where my husband proposed, the colour of the curtains in the maternity suite - transient things. Then tonight I was looking through the chaos of my old photos - and I saw just how much I have forgotten.
I don’t remember the day that this photograph was taken and it is full of mysteries:I am wearing a blouse of my mother’s which is odd. I am also wearing a long skirt and court shoes when everyone else is in shorts. Why? What am I doing with my legs and was it entirely wise when balancing a four year old on my hip? Who is taking this shot? Why are we all looking in different directions? I look miserable, but I know that this was a happy time, full of nappies, and milk, bedtime stories, incomprehensible childhood play and permanent dazed, exhaustion. My guess is that…

Philip Pullman, Calligraphy, Self-portraits and Censorship by Enid Richemont

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I have just finished reading, on my Kindle, Philip Pullman's latest book, "LA BELLE SAUVAGE", the back story to his award-winning Trilogy, "HIS DARK MATERIALS". It has been an enchanted reading journey to which, whenever real life got in the way, I kept wanting to return, so did. That's the spell that really good writing always casts.

The next book on my current reading list will, I think, be very different - Kate Atkinson's "A GOD IN RUINS" (or perhaps not so very different as Philip Pullman, too, classifies Church and Religion as the enemy, but then I don't know the plot so it may not involve that at all). Moving from a passionate involvement with one book to another always feels slightly promiscuous, but then what is life without a bit of delicious promiscuity?

And mentioning promiscuity, for those of you who are, like me, agented, have you ever approached another agent while still tied to your current one? Does the word get out? I've…

Fire and Fury - Publish and be Damned - Andrew Crofts

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As a writer I am quite jealous of Michael Wolff. Also as a writer, I am extremely heartened to see that books still have the power to shock and disrupt in a world where other forms of writing, from tweets and articles to speeches and television programs, dissolve into the news ether within hours of appearing.
I’m jealous because how often does a writer get a stroke of luck like that? Wolff almost accidentally found himself sitting at the heart of the biggest story on the planet, (well, the biggest story in the self-absorbed, navel-gazing western world at least), with nobody apparently paying him any attention. All he had to do was watch, listen and prompt people with the odd question and the whole terrible, fabulous, incredible story tumbled into his lap.

The reading world, primed by box sets like The Sopranos, The West Wing, House of Cards and McMafia, (two of which also started their lives as books), was ready and waiting for someone to take all the thousands of story strands of th…

When Literature gets too Real: Dipika Mukherjee Examines Never Let Me Go and Breaking News about the Cloning of Primates

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(Spoiler Alert!)
Kazuo Ishiguro is the latest Nobel laureate in Literature, and when he won, I decided to read Never Let Me Go. Like most readers, I buy more books than I have time to read, and Ishiguro’s latest triumph just nudged me a little harder towards this book. I have long admired his understated, gorgeous prose.
Never Let Me Go starts very, very slowly and as I read, I was struck by the thought that if this were a book written by a woman, it would be dismissed as derivative YA fiction in the mould of Enid Blyton’s tales of British boarding schools. The love triangle seemed clich├ęd and all too predictable, and I almost stopped reading.
But I had faith in the Ishiguro magic, the slow unfurling of earlier scenes which take on color as the story gently unspools. And this book does not disappoint.
When I finished the book, I had a vague sense of unease. And then, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the next three days.

The most astonishing books are like that, aren't they, implan…

The UK Is Going Mad For These Covers!!! by Susan Price

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Thank you, Lev Butts. You have been an inspiration.

     My Authors Electric colleagues are always being inspirational and Lev was the latest one at it. Before Christmas 2017, Lev did a blog on ideas for presents to give the writers in your life.
     One of Lev's gift ideas was a book on cover design: Cover Design Secrets Bestselling Authors Use to Sell More Books, by Derek Murphy. (Oooh, those sneaky best-selling authors with their secrets. Murphy is no slouch on 'exactly what it says on the tin' titles either.)
     Lev's blog seems to have been quite a success, since just earlier this month, another AE, Reb MacRath was having a bit of a rave about another of his recommends, Arc customisable notebooks.
     But since I've been spared the notebook obsession that seems to strike so many writers, it was the cover design secrets that grabbed me. It had been nagging in the back of my mind for quite some while that not all of my covers were as, well, grabby as they c…

When writing is difficult - Jo Carroll

When writing is difficult - and I don’t mean those days when we stare at a screen or open our notebooks and there we are, a couple of hours later, with nothing but a few deleted sentences to show for it. We all have days like that - and some of us deal with them better than others. Hey ho, that’s just how it is.
Nor am I talking about days when we are so overwhelmed by Life that we need all our creative and emotional energies just to keep the show on the road. We all have those days too - they come and they go again.
No, I mean when there are huge physical impediments to writing. 
When I arrived in Kathmandu, last week, it was seriously cold - not freezing, but cold enough for poor people without warm clothes or blankets to die. I’ve been here several times, and - though I knew in theory that Kathmandu could get chilly at night in the winter, I’ve not known cold like that here except in the mountains. So I huddled myself in the thermal clothes I’d worn to leave the UK and accepted the in…

Lev Butts' New Year's Resolutions

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So it's a new year. A time to reflect on your failures of the past and to look forward to your new failures ahead. It's a time to think about the poor decisions that led you to whatever sorry state you found yourself in at 11:59 PM December 31, as you knelt on hands and knees releasing all the alcohol you had earlier ingested into a cold and frozen street gutter as you anxiously await the dropping of whatever shamanic object your local civic administrators have deemed symbolic of your community.

It is a time to consider what different actions you may take in the following year to prevent these same mistakes and usher in all new and interesting ones.

It is, in short, time for the litany of new year's resolutions.

I'm not generally one to make new year's resolutions. I know myself well-enough to know that trouble and disappointment will find me regardless of whatever ill-conceived plans I make to avoid it. I also know that any high-minded noble resolution I make wil…

Almost Paradise: Ali Bacon finds something missing on her desert island

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I’m lucky to be just back from a Caribbean holiday where we were greeted more than once with the words ‘welcome to paradise!’ and it was easy to see the comparison: exotic plants, colourful birds, and the kind of warmth I always associate with the big greenhouses we visited as kids in our local park – except this was everywhere and 24/7 - a joy after a cold December. Add fresh pineapple, melon, papaya and spiced rum punch more or less on tap and you can guess we were happy.

But paradise? I began to get picky. As we were deposited from our courtesy bus on to a pretty but rather busy beach, I muttered to my companion that I had imagined paradise to be a lot less populated. Then there was the night-time noise. I expect I would eventually have got used to the chirruping crickets and squeaky tree-frogs but   when these were joined by the crash of rain on our homely tin roof I was reaching for the ear-plugs.
Yes, I really was being picky because the scenery was gorgeous and there was always …

Up and Down Again: an author's tale - Katherine Roberts

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Question: What is this?
Answer:
(a) Sales graph of my latest indie-published ebook? (b) My amazon author ranking (i.e. popularity)? (c) A midlist author's income? (d) Sales graph of a traditionally published title in the month following its publication?
If you've been writing and publishing for a few years, you might well be tempted to answer 'yes' to all these.

But you'd be wrong.

This is what I was actually doing when I created the above graph:


Before you get too envious, this photo was taken on one of the sunny days when it had snowed during the night. We also had days like the one that created the graph below, when skiing was pretty much impossible because the weather was too windy for most of the lifts to run, and then a tree fell on the single chairlift that was running so it was forced to shut too, meaning we had to walk half an hour back to the village in ski boots carrying our skis, in the rain.


Nobody was stopping to take photos that day, except of the tr…

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin by Sandra Horn

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