Fable’s Fortune by Sue Johnson

This novel is a lesson in itself to all would-be writers who struggle with writing descriptive prose and forget to include sensory detail. The language is just beautiful. The detail is incredible and the descriptions bring the scenes to life in full colour. The reader gets to taste, touch, smell, see and hear everything that Fable herself experiences. Little touches such as the fact that Fable, as a child, “tastes” words, so that some taste like ginger biscuits and others liver and onions is quite enthralling. It really is beautifully written.
However, let’s not forget the story. This is a sheer delight. Fable is born under a roof of stars, to Jasmine, a gypsy woman who has broken up with Fable’s father as he has become a religious fanatic after guilt brings on a fervent desire to save fallen women. Fable’s early years are happy as she lives with Jasmine and Gangan, the old gypsy woman who has great wisdom and gift of sight. Unfortunately, they also share their home with Peggy, a bitter, spiteful young woman whose duplicitous actions lead to Fable being snatched back by her father and taken to live in the cold, damp and loveless vicarage, miles away from the people she loves.
As Fable grows her life takes many twists and turns and she suffers a great deal of sadness and loss. However, she hears the voice of Gangan in her darkest hours, urging her on, making her believe that things will get better.
As things reach crisis point for Fable she looks back on her life in order to make sense of where it all went wrong, and as she does so, she changes the course of her future and finds help from the most unlikely source.
I am so glad I read this novel. It’s a lovely story and so well-written. A real feast for the senses. 5/5

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Fable's Fortune

Fable’s Fortune

Small Steps

I’ve been off work this week. I’ve been ill. No, that isn’t an excuse, honestly. I was “proper poorly” and, although I’m still not one hundred per cent I’m going back to work on Monday like the brave little soldier I am.

This unexpected time off work has given me time to think about my WIP and make some real progress on it at last. For ages, it seems, I have been treading water, wondering what to do with it next. Wondering what was missing. This week, I have written a few new scenes and sent quite a few old ones (ones, I might add that have been with me since November 2011) to the trash bin. I have carefully selected scenes that, with a bit of rewriting, will fit with my new version of the story, and I’ve also, reluctantly, had to accept that some scenes are no longer of any use and some characters, fond as I am of them, are surplus to requirements.

I also had two breakthrough moments this week. I had gone to bed quite happy with the scenes I’d written. Then, at some point in the middle of the night, my eyes flew open and I just knew that the last scene I had written was all wrong. It was a distraction. It jerked me out of the story. It was quite a revelation.

The second breakthrough – and this is massive for me – was that I actually read the first couple of chapters out to my daughter. Now, this may not sound like much to you,but for me it was a really big deal. I have only ever showed any of my writing to one person before – my writing tutor. The idea of anyone I actually know reading it has been pretty scary. I don’t even know what made me ask her if she’d like to hear it, but she agreed and she dutifully said she loved it.

Now, I’m not such an idiot that I am relying on the opinion of my daughter. She is lovely and very supportive but she’s hardly unbiased. Nor is she much of a reader. So I’m not saying that I now have every confidence in my writing because of her opinion. What I am saying is that, I actually allowed someone else to read it, and whether she genuinely likes it or is just being a loyal daughter is irrelevant to me. I am slowly and hesitantly pushing the boundaries. It’s small steps, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with just one and all that…

I never thought I’d have the courage to write a blog, let alone publish it, let alone publicize it, but there you go. And I sent my work to my tutor, a published author no less. I have joined the RNA NWS. I am doing things I never thought I’d have the nerve to do because I’m quite shy actually and always end up backing out of anything that might require putting myself “out there”. Things are slowly changing. Maybe it’s because I’m now almost half a century old (dear God!) and am hurtling towards that time when I can wear purple hats and be rude to everyone? (I am soooo looking forward to that!)

My next hurdle is visiting an old friend who I haven’t actually seen face to face for over twenty years. She was my best friend from the age of fourteen and we went through so much together but lost touch in our late twenties. After finding each other again on Facebook we have been tentatively discussing getting together again for a coffee and a catch-up. After twenty odd years it will be one hell of a big coffee…I just hope the sight of me aged nearly fifty doesn’t put her off her caffeine fix. We shall see…

Have a great week everyone x images

No Such Thing As Immortality by Sarah Tranter

Vampires eh? You’ve gotta love ’em. Well, no, actually. I never loved them. In fact, they terrified the c**p out of me. When I was young, many, many moons ago, I remember being paralysed with fear watching the old Bela Lugosi black and white Dracula films. And have you ever been round The Dracula Experience in Whitby? Dear God, my sister-in-law and I were too petrified to move as a chilling voice warned us not to dawdle as something may be behind us, but not to run either, “for to run implies a chase.” See, it’s stayed with me. I never liked Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Not the book – the actual character. He wasn’t the anguished love-lorn passionate creature of the film now, was he? And Twilight left me cold. I watched the first two films but just couldn’t see it as anything other than teenage tosh. I’ve been assured that the films get better after that and that the books are great but I just wasn’t that bothered. Vampires. Nah. I’ll leave them be thank you very much and hope that they return the favour.

Except…well, now I’ve read No Such Thing As Immortality by Sarah Tranter. And you know what? I’m in love with vampires. Well, one vampire to be exact. Nathaniel Gray, or Nate to his friends and family, all of which happen to be vampires, too. For two hundred years Nathaniel and his sister Elizabeth, brother-in-law Frederick,  and friends Madeline and James, have lived on Nate’s ancestral estate, Ridings, in the Derbyshire countryside, feasting on badgers, foxes and black pudding. These are not your average vampires. They don’t want to kill humans. Forced into a way of non-life that leaves him lonely and with his emotions all but vanquished, the only real feeling he has left is self loathing, defining himself as a monster.

Then one night, he is involved in a car accident, something that is unthinkable for a vampire. And suddenly his emotions are entangled with the girl in the car, the pretty and innocent Rowan Locke, and Nate’s awakening begins.

The keyword to this novel is intensity. It zips along from the opening paragraph and the emotions that Nate experiences are of a depth that grabs the reader from the beginning. His struggle to come to terms with his own feelings as well as coping with the onslaught of Rowan’s is beautifully portrayed. Nate is an old-fashioned Georgian gent and is baffled by the twenty-first century girl he loves. His every wish is to protect her, but how can he when he himself may be the most dangerous thing she will ever face?

There is more to this story than the romance, too, powerful though it is. There is a mystery running right through this book about Rowan’s background – her strange Aunt Hetty, her parents’ deaths, and the evil being Simeon Frey who stalks and terrifies her, driving Nate almost to the brink of madness and despair.

Told from the viewpoint of Nate himself, which is unusual in itself, this is a real gem of a novel. The hero is everything a hero should be – well, except alive. Still, you can forgive him for that and after all, nobody’s perfect. Rowan is a lovely hero with enough spirit and defiance in her to be likeable despite her vulnerability. Even Nate’s vampire family are all great characters and impossible to dislike despite their lack of a pulse. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for a passionate, intense love story or a paranormal romance or even a mystery. Or maybe you just want to cure your phobia of vampires? Well, it will work on that, too. The biggest compliment I can pay this book is that I just can’t wait for the sequel. And I may even go back to The Dracula Experience. Just don’t ask me to try black pudding…5/5

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No Such Thing as Immortality

 

Around the Water Cooler

The main topic of conversation in the office all week seems to have been the weather. No change there, really. The British are obsessed with it. Either moaning about the constant rain, wilting under the “too hot” sun, or shivering in the snow. This week it’s been the turn of the white stuff to entrance, enchant, worry and torture us. Personally, I’m not a fan of snow. All right, it looks lovely – when viewed from the window of a nice warm room. Let’s face it, when you have to actually go out and about in it it’s a complete nuisance.  It’s wet, it’s freezing cold and it’s treacherous. It takes me ten minutes to walk along the pavement to the car, stepping ever so gingerly, holding on to the fence and praying that I don’t slip and fall. Knowing that if I did I may just never get up. Visions of me lying on my back like a turtle, legs waving in the air, unable to roll over and stand up, torment me constantly. Still, at least they’re an incentive to stick to  the diet.

Speaking of which, the second topic of conversation in the office this week was – inevitably – diets. Post Christmas everyone is moaning about their weight gain and trying every new diet going. I hold my hands up. I’m dieting, too. But I’m not boring everyone to death talking about it, am I? I mean, I wouldn’t dream of announcing to everyone that I’m currently doing the Alternative Day Fasting diet, or that I’ve joined the 5:2 diet group on Facebook, or that I’ve read the 5:2 Diet Book by Kate Harrison. Nah, I would never do that. I have to admit to a feeling of smugness. Sitting in the office the other day, listening to my colleagues moaning about the cost of certain slimming groups and how complicated it was to follow their diets, I just shrugged and tucked into my tuna salad. The beauty of this diet is that you just count calories. Stick to 500 calories every other day, or two or three days a week (your choice) and the rest of the time just eat normally. There are supposed to be other health benefits, too, apart from losing weight. And it’s free. In fact, it saves you money because you’re fasting some days so eating less food. And if you join http://www.myfitnesspal.com it will calculate your calories and daily calorie needs for free. Win, win. (Please note, this is my personal opinion. I’m sure there are plenty of people who have major success with various diet clubs around the world. I’m just not one of them!)

The third topic of conversation (and my favourite, by far) was the books we’ve all been reading. At the moment a lot of people are reading a thriller by David Mark called The Dark Winter,http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Winter-Aector-Mcavoy-ebook/dp/B0074VPHWO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1358508329&sr=1-1  but that’s probably because it’s set locally in Hull. (Currently on offer at just 20p on Kindle!) It has had good reviews on Amazon, though, so I’ve bought a copy and will read it soon. I’m currently reading Sarah Tranter’s No Such Thing As Immortality http://www.amazon.co.uk/Such-Thing-Immortality-Choc-ebook/dp/B00A7092FC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1358508455&sr=1-1  and will post a review when I’ve finished that.   I must admit, most of my colleagues at work are more into crime books than romances. They’re a hard hearted lot!

Someone once asked me what I’d done one weekend and I couldn’t think of anything to say except the absolute truth which was writing. They looked a bit baffled and asked me what I’d been writing? Letters? I shook my head, blushing to my hair roots, and admitted I was writing a book. Well, that went down well. Talk about paranoia! Who was it about? What was it about? Were they in it? Despite my truthful denials, one colleague in particular is convinced that they all feature in the book, “because what else would you have to write about?” Charming. I have made absolutely certain that I haven’t mentioned writing at all since then and they appear to have forgotten all about it now. And long may it stay that way.

This weekend I am heading to the Yorkshire coast to visit my granddaughter, who is one year old on Sunday. That’s if I can make it through the snow that’s forecast! Ah well, if I get stranded it will give us something to talk about at work on Monday. Hope your weekend is great whatever you’re up to x

Happy (belated) New Year!

2013 moon calendar

2013 moon calendar

Well, hello to you, dear reader, as my favourite, tall comedienne Miranda Hart would say. I hope 2013 has been kind to you so far.

It’s been an eventful start to the new year for me. As some of you may know I recently struck out on my own after thirty four years in a relationship. At the grand old age of forty nine and a half I am currently living in my youngest daughter’s spare bedroom. It’s not where I imagined I would be in the months preceding my half century but hey ho, such is life. It seemed like quite an adventure at the time. There was no huge argument or anything dramatic…it was just a general feeling that things are really not right between us any more, let’s take some time out and see how it goes?

I admit, I was quite excited at the time. I have never lived on my own before and the thought of only having to please myself seemed quite thrilling. Of course, I don’t think I really thought it through. For a start, I miss my DH, even though I thought he was a giant pain in the behind when I lived with him. It’s quite extraordinary how absence makes you grow fonder…and terribly forgetful, despite the constant reminders I keep dredging up about how we have grown apart, how different we are, how little we have in common, blah blah blah.

Secondly, I hadn’t really taken into account how broke I would be. My wages are pitiful. I am severely underpaid and undervalued and bear this with great fortitude usually, but looking through the rental pages of letting agency websites is quite enough to remind me that if I’m going to find anywhere to live I’m going to have to stay put and save up for quite a while.

So here I am, living in a bedroom, surrounded by what amounts to almost fifty years of my life. And really I mean books. Seriously. I have ditched almost everything I ever owned and brought with me just a few clothes, my laptop, desk, chair, bookcases and boxes and boxes of books. Well, priorities and all that.

DH has now moved out of the marital home and found his own house. WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING! How do men do that?? Anyway, I went to see him recently and he’s settled and made himself quite at home. The house is the opposite of our old one. It’s a pocket sized house. Tiny. But I did like it. We are getting on much better at the moment and have actually booked a holiday together in September so who knows what will happen?

So, as you can see, it’s been a bit of a weird start to my year. I decided that, rather than dwelling on what I’d lost and wondering and worrying about what was going to become of me, I’d use this time in limbo to reinvent myself. Yes! This is the year that I will finally pass my driving test, lose weight and … finish that novel!

I have procrastinated and pontificated long enough. I have written and rewritten that dratted first chapter about thirty thousand times. I have changed the setting, the title, the characters’  relationships and just about every other part of the thing over and over again. I have dreamed about the story. I have deleted bits of it, added to it, chopped and changed it, cried over it, laughed at it, screamed at it and practically hurled my laptop through the window when it stubbornly refused to play the game despite my best efforts. Time to focus and get down to business.

To that end, I have become a member of the Romantic Novelists Association New Writer’s Scheme. I dithered over that, too. Right up until the last day before applications opened I was appealing for advice on Facebook where some very kind and generous souls who had been there and done that offered me their opinion, which was, universally, go for it! So I did. Clicking send at exactly two minutes past twelve and crossing my fingers that my application would arrive in time. Knowing that the chances were slim as so many apply and there are so few places.

Well, I got in! So now I’m just waiting for the funds to send the cheque off and be officially enrolled. (I do have the funds, I’m not that irresponsible! Just can’t get my hands on them till the end of the month. Agonizing wait!)

It’s a scary thing, actually. Kind of like when you’re browsing bridal shops and flicking through wedding magazines, dreaming about which dress you’d buy and which cake you’d like if anyone was ever foolish enough to propose; then suddenly you’re posting the banns and you’ve got a date and the invitations are going out and it’s all real and going to happen! Proper, grown up stuff. No more messing around.

I seem to be taking the plunge a lot lately. I am not a “taking the plunge” sort of person generally. Could this be because my fiftieth birthday is looming, do you think? Am I having a mid life crisis? Will DH and I ever get back together? Will I ever be able to move out of my daughter’s home? Will I ever own any furniture that isn’t book or writing related? Will my novel ever get finished?

Stay tuned to find out. It’s going to be an interesting year…

Creative Alchemy/Surfing the Rainbow by Sue Johnson

Creative Alchemy: I was quite surprised when this book arrived as it was much smaller than a standard paperback, more of a pocket book. Then I started reading it. Don’t be deceived. Good things really do come in small packages!
This book, written by author and creative writing tutor Sue Johnson, is packed to the brim with brilliant tips and guidance to help you write. It has some wonderful exercises to do to get the creative juices flowing and not a word is wasted. There is no waffle, no padding. Each page is full of wisdom from someone who obviously knows how to teach. It really is a course in a book. As I was reading it ideas were already forming in my head that will enable me to improve my own work in progress immeasurably.
If you’re new to writing, stuck for ideas, lacking in inspiration or just plain lost in the muddle of a draft that seems to be going nowhere, pick up this book and watch the fog clear. Highly recommended. 5/5

I’m updating this review to comment on Surfing The Rainbow, Sue’s latest book. This has some content that is very similar to the stuff in Creative Alchemy. However, there is the addition of a look at chakras, relating them to creative writing. Sue shows how to balance the chakras and utilise them to unblock your creativity. She gives exercises to do for writing and visualisations  to aid you in your path to writing what you see in your head but can’t get down on paper. There are relaxation techniques, too.  A unique approach.

“‘Surfing the Rainbow’ is for anyone who has tried and failed to create the novel of their dreams. If you have been held back by negative messages from the past, or feel your imagination has gone away, then the exercises in this book will help to guide you back to the path of creativity and exploration. Color code your writing – follow the rainbow until you find the gold.”

 

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Creative Alchemy
Creative Alchemy

 

Once Upon A Winter by Valerie-Anne Baglietto

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but from the first chapter I was hooked. The story is very well-written and the characters are immediately likeable and intriguing. The setting is beautiful and the book was very easy to “get into”. The character of Nell was well observed and I also felt that the author wrote well when writing from the children’s point of view.
Nell arrives back in her old home village after years of living away in London as a single parent of twins, nine year old Joshua and Freya. Abandoned by her husband Silas when the children were just two years old, the shy, timid Nell has become stronger, determined to give her twins the best life she possibly can despite her own feelings of grief and inadequacy.
Her strength is tested when she runs in to Daniel, who was her major crush at school. Many years ago he had been party to a cruel trick played on her by Lauren, the school queen bee who was dating Daniel at the time and is now his ex wife. Despite her reservations, Nell is won over by Daniel who is genuinely sorry for his part in the incident and the two of them begin a tentative relationship, despite the scars inflicted on them by their previous marriages.

Never far away, though, is the shadow of Silas. Who is he? Why do some of the older residents of the village remember him with adoration? What is in the box hidden in Nana Gwen’s bedroom that he has asked her to keep secret? And what is so special about Joshua?
When Silas returns to seek out his son, life is completely shaken up for Nell, Daniel, her children, and for several of the other villagers, but Silas himself makes a discovery that changes everything he had assumed about himself. All of them must face up to the truth of the past to find a way to the future…whatever that future may hold.
This is a beautiful romance with a sprinkling of magic. Read it and be enchanted. 5/5

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Once Upon A Winter
Once Upon A Winter