Thursday, 29 October 2015

A Thing of Beauty by Bianca Schwarz (Review)

A Thing of Beauty by Bianca M. Schwarz (cover)

Goodreads Review 29th Oct 2015
Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.
Further disclaimer: as an editor myself, I can be pernickety.

This historical novel, the first of a series (and rightfully too) is set after the Battle of Waterloo in the early eighteen hundreds. Eliza Broad, who escapes from her brutal and sadistic stepfather, is rescued by aristocrat, Sir Henry March (who reminds me a little of the Scarlet Pimpernel in the way he hides his true persona in society). Fortuitously, this very rescue provides leads for Henry in his undercover search for evil spy, De Sade.

Eliza turns out to be a plucky heroine, the equal to Henry, and they make a great partnership, along with Henry’s friends and employees (many who have been in the war against Napoleon with him) in their efforts to discover and foil De Sade’s sinister and sadistic plan.

I won’t say more about the story, although I should point out the erotic sex-scenes, though well written, would be x-rated if it were a film, as would the torture scene, but on the grounds of violence. I accept both as part of the story, but I think some might be very affected by them, particularly the latter.

When I first started reading A Thing of Beauty, the action filled prologue and Ch1 had me looking forward to a good read. Apart from a niggle that the local dialect of some of the side characters was not quite right, I started to empathise with the main character (MC), Eliza Broad.

I stalled briefly in Chs. 2 and 3. The sudden slowing of pace, the increase of ‘tell’ and (admittedly beautifully researched) passive description took me out of the story a bit, and had me questioning the role of Henry in Eliza’s life. They seemed to fall into a friendship too quickly, with no conflict between themselves or with the views of the society they came from. Certain things I’d think they’d question, they didn’t. The friendship didn’t feel properly explored, only referred to.

Saying that, though, when the action started, I stopped dissecting the writing and was drawn right back into the exciting scenes and mystery right until the end of the book. The action was tight, the wonderfully authentic, detailed description was interwoven with a fast paced narrative and I looked forward to picking up the book again whenever I had to put it down. I cared for Eliza and Henry and empathised with them.

At the end, there were some untied ends that I believe are deliberate, with the view to continuing the story in the next book, one that I’d happily read.

There was one detail I did feel was not answered and should’ve been: Where did Wilkins go?

[The reason I didn’t give the book another star is not because of the story itself, which I enjoyed, but because it could really have done with another edit. The problems of the above mentioned two chapters, the spelling errors dotted throughout and the point of view jumps occasionally took me out of the story. I did feel, at times, the point of view should’ve stayed with a single character for the whole scene, or chapter (the jumping around unsettled me), but it was not enough to detract from the overall story.]

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Confessions of a Writer Tag by Kevin Ansbro

 Once tagged, and understanding I wasn't going to let him escape the challenge, the indomitably witty, imaginative and superb author ,  Kevin Ansbro,  quickly realised that telling his website designers not to create an attached blog might have been a little premature. Not imagining he would ever use one, he had dismissed having it as an option as unnecessary...

But, now, where the heck to put his responses to the challenge?

I'm honoured to host Kevin's revealing and funny post (and am also glad Kevin's now checking out the setting up of his own blog. I want more of what he has to offer!)

(Remember, if you're tagged, to let originator of the tag, Nicolette at A Little Bit Bookish, A Little Bit Writerly, know, so she can check out your cool post!)

Over to Kevin...


‘Confessions of a writer’ tag.

I was chased and tagged by congenial Annelisa Christensen, to continue a creative succession of blogs whereby writers can guiltlessly talk about themselves without appearing to be too self-obsessed.
Self-aggrandisation is not normally my thang, but bugger it, let’s do this and be damned!





When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always wanted to be?
Hell, no. Like any sensible schoolboy, I wanted to be a footballer, or James Bond. Curiously, neither of these things happened; instead, I began adulthood realising that achieving good qualifications in art and English literature didn’t immediately propel me into a life of glamour and affluence.
Nevertheless, every time I read an underwhelming best-seller, I would vaingloriously snort, “I could write better than this!”
To which my wife would reply, “Well, what’s stopping you, big head?” (Julie didn’t actually say the ‘big head’ bit, but I knew damn well she was thinking it).

My first book, The Angel in my Well, was a short story written as a diversion from the stress caused by my mum’s slow death (and her descent into dementia), whilst in a care home.
Mum subsequently died, and I was left with a raw, rushed, heartfelt manuscript which I didn’t have the inclination to edit. I certainly never intended it to be read by the general public!
To cut a long story short, a wonderful publisher (2QT) took it in its raw state and did everything for me, including uploading it to Amazon. They suggested I wrote a novel; that novel, Kinnara (polished and edited) is available in paperback and Kindle.
The Angel in my Well, meanwhile, has been/is being read by an unanticipated amount of readers, which continues to amaze (and humble) me. I dearly wish I’d edited it now!
So, were it not for my mum’s terrible situation, I might never have written a book in the first place: the only silver lining to an extremely dark cloud.


What genre do you write?
I would class my writing as magical realism: Salman Rushdie and Gabriela Garcia Marquez are just two of my literary heroes.


Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress?
Best that I talk about Kinnara, as it’s only recently-published. My current work only consists of a shambolic scattering of coffee-stained notes and indecipherable scribbles!
Kinnara is a * nasty * funny * heartbreaking * uplifting * novel that shows us how awful consequences can arise from thoughtless actions.
The book is set in England (boy/girl relationship), Germany (vicious serial killer) and Thailand (optimistic beach vendor).
The book’s USP is that that the destiny of these chief protagonists lies in the hands of a mythical creature who resides beneath the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea.
Now, who wouldn’t want to read that?
Intrigued? You bet yo’ ass you’re intrigued!
Go to Amazon and ‘Look inside’ – oooh, you know you want to, you saucy thing!


What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?
I won a regional poetry competition when I was aged twelve, and an extremely camp poet arrived at my grammar school to present the prize. The guy sported a foppish hat, ruffle shirt cuffs and a cravat. When I walked up (red-faced) to collect my award, all the boys wolf-whistled, stomped their feet and shouted out things like, “Give him a kiss!”
I can remember one of my poems being about a bear, showcasing an unbridled overuse of alliteration, his baggy body bouncing buoyantly, or some similar pubescent nonsense.



What’s the best part about writing?
Seeing my riotous collection of scribbled notes beginning to form cohesive
paragraphs on a computer screen. It’s exhilarating!
I’m fervidly passionate about the whole writing process, from that initial blank screen to final sign off.



What’s the worst part about writing?
My healthy social life had to be adjourned.
I was also forced to abandon exciting passages of writing whenever lovely friends decided to pop round. How dare they? Nnnng! Grrrrrr! I could’ve cheerfully strangled them! Huh, friends being friendly – who needs that sort of foolish behaviour when there’s a chapter to finish!





What’s the name of your favourite character, and why?
Sinéad, Mother of Hannah, the lead girl in the story: she’s Irish, beautiful, confident, feisty – and wickedly funny (Inspired by my mother).

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
When I was in *full-on* writing mode, I wrote from 4 a.m. right through ‘til 6 p.m. barely pausing for food/drink or bathroom pit stops. Personal hygiene, male grooming and interaction with human beings all but disappeared during this process. You do have to commit – writing is not for wimps!

Did you go to college for writing?
I studied English literature at college and went to a good grammar school (which helps), but my writing comes from within. Oh, get me, with my high-falutin talk an’ all!

What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?
Spelling errors are the lesser of the three evils as far as I’m concerned (after all, some authors are dyslexic).
You don’t need to be a grammar Nazi to write a great story, but you do need to understand the basic tenets of grammar and punctuation.
Aside from an absorbing story line, readability and flow are the most important things. At least a publishing editor can correct the bad grammar.
That being said, there are rules, a manuscript laced with the poison of bad grammar won’t hold an editor’s attention for more than a couple of paragraphs. Sadly, a lot of so-called ‘writers’ wouldn’t know their syntax from a Tampax!






What is the best advice that anyone has given you?
My wife, Julie, is a voracious reader of books; she’s the perfect person to proof read my work before anyone else gets to see my mistakes. I value her honesty (and trust me, she’s bloody honest!). She advised me to use restraint: I have a tendency to ramp up the descriptive imagery à la Salman Rushdie. This guidance was echoed by my publishing editor, who suggested I cull some of my extraneous paragraphs.
This was fantastic advice. I begrudgingly deleted about 20,000 words from my novel, then realised that the story was all the better for it.
My publishing editor did gift me a wonderful review, however, for which I’m eternally grateful:

‘Murder, myth and Mr Ordinary meet up in this extraordinary novel. However bad the weather is here, Ansbro’s vivid writing will transport you to a sun-drenched tropical island – with darkness at its heart. I loved it!’  -Karen Holmes, editor 2QT


What advice would you give to another writer?
·        Don’t be a pompous, head-up-your-own-arse diva. Accept informed advice.
·        Don’t believe your own hype.
·        When you think your book is finished, it isn’t.
·        If - after you’ve read/reread/rewritten and edited your book – and you still think it’s finished, it isn’t.
·        A novel is a marathon, not a sprint.
·        Find inspiration all around you. Life, movies, books, nature. It’s all there if you know how to look.
·        Very few books can carry the weight of excess verbiage.


What are your favourite writer sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips and encouragement?
Um, I’m afraid that I haven’t yet visited any of the above. Maybe I should?
I started on Twitter about 5 months ago, at the behest of my publisher, and have found this to be a wonderful platform for meeting other writers and raising my author profile. I’d always stubbornly resisted social media but, thanks to Twitter, I’ve since ‘met’ an army of wonderfully creative people from all over the world, many of whom I would happily spend a boozy evening with, if they lived nearby.
But, GOD, aren’t there also some insufferably arrogant authors who can’t stop banging on about their dreary novels? Jesus! Many of them have zero social skills, so Heaven knows what their wanky books are like?
And … reeeeelax…


Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
Hobbies?
H-O-B-B-I-E-S? Hobbies, you say?

Oh, I so miss my hobbies!

They’re a thing of the past and have since passed into folklore. I’ve spent the last few months concentrating on promo, including book signings, magazine interviews, radio interviews, Twitter, Goodreads. You name it, I’ve tried it!
I’m a real foodie, and something of a bon viveur now, whereas I used to be a kickboxer, pubber, clubber and renowned hellraiser. I’m WAY more boring now, but unsurprisingly, Mrs A prefers me this way.


What’s the best movie you’ve seen this year?
It’s been a poor year for films; some of the best ones have been foreign language ones, including Force Majeure, a Scandinavian movie.
I am, however, going to see Spectre next week.
I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it!
I love Bond movies! (I should’ve been James Bond, don’t forget).

What is your favourite book or series of all time?
Les Misérables:  Victor Hugo
(Ooohh, I’d like to sneak about twenty other titles in).

Who is your favourite author?
Salman Rushdie. The man is a literary genius.


What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
·        Try to prise myself away from social media.
·        Find a write/life balance.
·        Presently my groovy friends can visit me anytime, without me wanting to strangle them. I’d very much like this entente cordiale to continue.


Where else can we find you online?
I’m funny, scandalously naughty, and I’m extremely sociable.
Pay me a visit sometime, or send me an email via my site – I love to chat!

My website is the best point of call:

I’m on Twitter:

and 



And I post some blogs/funny stuff on my Google+ page:


Thank you, Annelisa, for tagging me. It’s been fun!
To whom, though, shall I extend my finger?
                           



Next tag yet to be decided…

















Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Confessions of a Writer Tag by Rebecca Sky



Today, I have visiting my first ever guest author, the delightful Rebecca Sky, one of the authors I tagged in my recent Confessions of a Writer Tag, the tag orinated by Nicolette Elzie at  A Little Bookish, A Little Writerly to get to know a bit more about other authors.

Over to Rebecca:

Rebecca Sky

When did you first start writing?
I first started writing five years ago on an online platform called Wattpad. It’s kinda a long and funny story how it started, but it all comes down to my little brother, (who is 200 pounds bigger than me), forcing me to write something. I was so nervous what people would think that I wrote under a male author pen name at first. A few months and thousands of reads later I got the confidence to say, “Surprise, I’m Rebecca!” Thankfully my readers stuck with me. 

Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?
I’ve always been a storyteller, I spent the majority of my school day daydreaming wild adventures—I still do! But, funny enough, I never aspired to be a writer. I think it’s because, despite how much I loved stories, I wasn’t very good at writing. I struggled with English, nearly failing it in high school. My teacher told me I was her most creative student—she was referring to my spelling and grammar. I spent so much time with my head in the clouds that I never took the time to learn the mechanics of writing. The first novel I ever wrote was on Wattpad, and it hooked me. I felt like I finally made sense, my love for daydreaming and my wild imagination could make something significant. So I dove head first into writing, and read and absorbed everything I could on the art and craft of it. Now it’s the only thing I can imagine doing with my life.

What genre do you write?
I write mostly YA Fantasy, but I have dabbled in a few other genres. I think Fantasy plays well with my imagination. Sometimes I joke that my mind is like a Darren Aronofsky film. 

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress?
I’m working on a few at the moment. My main project is a Fantasy about a young girl with antlers who does extraordinary things to save the people who have brought her an incredible amount of suffering. Here’s my USP line: Arya Stark from G.O.T. meets Russell Crow's GLADIATOR in a Tolkienesque Rome.

 When did you start working on this project?
This story came to me in an unusual form three years ago. I literally dreamed the entire thing front to back like a movie one night. I spent the next month writing it. I’ve never written a first draft in a month before, it was one of those lucky moments of endless inspiration. I’d do anything to be able to go back to that headspace. Now three years later I’m returning to that draft and re-writing it.

What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?
I still remember the very first sentence of the first novel I ever wrote. “Half awake and half asleep, in the in-between twinkling of imagination, it was there that she found reason to hope.” The story was about a young girl who was kept prisoner in a cave for 18 years, who dreamed of seeing the sky, and later finds out she’s a Descendant of the Lost City of Atlantis. Now looking back, I giggle, realizing it was my subconscious mind telling my own story of how I felt trapped until I embraced writing and realized my passions.

What’s the best part about writing?
The imagining! Coming up with ideas and plot points, and interesting worlds, and people. 

What’s the worst part about writing?
The actual writing. I wish I could plug my brain into a computer and it would record what I see in my head. My husband tells me the hours of tapping away at a keyboard is the price I owe for having the “story muse” inspire me.
That said I LOVE editing. I could spend hours tinkering with sentences until they sound effortless.

What’s the name of your favorite character and why?
My favorite character is Anne from Anne of Green Gables. I think I relate to her romantic dreamer side. Plus we both have red hair.
My favorite character I’ve ever written would have to be Tikee (The Time Keeper) from my soon to be serialized novel A LIFETIME ACCORDING TO KARMA ROSE. Tikee speaks in Suess-esq riddles, is incredibly creepy, but he’s also adorable. It was fun writing that type of contrast in a character.


How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
I’m lucky enough to write full time now. And as I have so much on the go I have a strict schedule. I love sleep but I’m so motivated to stay a full time writer that I force myself out of bed at 7:00am. (My natural schedule would be sleep to 10). In the mornings I write whatever project is scheduled for that day. It could be my serializations, or contracted writing, or my own novel. Then I take an hour break: eat lunch, make a new pot of coffee, walk my dogs, do a bit of reading, get some space between me and my work. In the afternoon I work on edits. The evenings are my time with my husband, but as we are both artists we often create together--he plays guitar and I write. This is unscheduled writing time so I let myself work on whatever I‘m inspired to write. Some of my best writing comes out of those times!

Did you go to college for writing?
No, well technically no. I did go to college and I did sign up for a creative writing course. I was so excited about it, I showed up to class an hour early. That week I worked endlessly on the class writing assignment and I was eager to hand it in. But when I got to the next class, the professor asked us to go around the circle and read our pieces. I was so scared of other people assessing my writing that I excused myself to the bathroom and never went back. If you would have told me then that five years later something I wrote would be read over ten million times I would have laughed.

What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?
Content errors bother me the most. Plot holes, or flat characters. It makes me twitchy. I think I have more grace for spelling/grammar errors because those things never came naturally to me.

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
That every novel should have an A-story and a B-story. The A story is what the character wants and the B-story is what the character needs. If you do this both your character and your novel have palpable dimension.

What advice would you give to another writer?
“We learn by doing there is no other way.”-John Holt

What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
I recently discovered Writeonsisters.com. There is a bunch of great advice on there. I tend to go to books for advice. I’d recommend Plot Perfect by Paula Munier and Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
Well, as my husband is in a popular band I tend to go to his shows, when they’re in or near town. Actually I love going to live shows whenever I can. There is something really cool to me about musicians and how they form and craft a song. It fascinates and impresses me how they can tell a story in four paragraphs that takes me 500 pages to write. I also love shopping. Is that a hobby? I could buy books and shoes all day!

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
Uprooted by Naomi Novik. It’s enchanting!

What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?
Hector and the Pursuit of Happiness. I highly recommend this movie.  It’s also Canadian made, with an all Canadian soundtrack, so I’m having patriot pride for that movie.

What is your favorite book or series of all time?
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Anything by James Thurber and Laini Taylor.

Who is your favorite author?
Currently it would be Laini Taylor. I would literally fangirl over meeting her.

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
Between conference appearances and contracted writing, I’m hoping to finish my novel Bone Crown (about the girl with antlers) and have the first draft of my contemporary novel completed.

Where else can we find you online?
If you read this entire interview, I do so hope you come say hi! J



Sunday, 18 October 2015

Confessions of a Writer Tag

It's been a while since I've been tagged, but someone caught me - the delightful Madeleine, and fair's fair, if someone catches you, you get to be the next chaser. While I'm chasing some other writers - did I catch you? - I have some questions to answer on being a writer. This, I'm going to enjoy. It's been a while since I thought about myself and the writing process :-) So, thank you, Madeleine, for giving me an excuse for a little self-indulgence, and time to consider what I do and why I do it.
[originator of tag by Nicolette Elzie at  A Little Bookish, A Little Writerly - please link back to her post, and let me know if and when you do it :-) ]
Here are my answers (apologies for the length; my strength is not brevity)

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?

The first story I can remember writing was one rainy Sunday afternoon, I must've been about ten, and was a story about Clarabelle the Goat. I can so clearly remember writing it and proudly reading it to my poor family. It was all about a goat that kept butting people from behind, until its horns became caught in a sheet hanging from a washing line, while butting the woman behind it. The story was dreadful. But I was proud of it. It was then I decided I wanted to be a writer.

Since then? Thirty years of starting and not finishing stories, books, in between all the other palaver of life. It never occurred to me to study writing at Uni, I being pushed into the sciences by my teachers and parents, since they believed these to be a more worthy subjects.

Well, afterwards, I shucked my degree anyhow, when I started a fashion design business, called Machu Picchu, with my bestie from school. We were successful, which brought with it no time for anything except developing our business. Then I started a family, and was hard-pushed even to run the business, let alone write. Raising four kids, two of whom have/had OCD, and another with anxiety problems, took every waking (and sleeping hour...I didn't get a full night's sleep for ten years!).

It was only in the last few years I took a look at my own dreams, and realised I'd shelved them. It was time to find them and return to them again. But I still couldn't finish the stories I started. I persevered though. Then, I started a blog Words that flow, and met some awesome bloggers, one of which was Tim. We both wanted to do the NaNoWriMo that year, but neither of us had time in November. So we arranged to do it a few months later, and be writing-buddies for each other. That was the first book I ever finished (it's awaiting me to finish editing).

At that point, I realised I could do it. I could write a book. I could fulfil my dream.
Since then, I've written several other of the series of that first book, using NaNoWriMo to get the story down in a month (also awaiting editing).


What genre do you write?

The above-mentioned series is magical realism...an everyday life kinda story, but with something weird/magical that is accepted as part of that reality. Can't wait to finish these books.
And I've also started another book (not mentioned elsewhere) which is more my first literary novel.

However, the book I've just finished writing and editing, and am totally excited about, is another world entirely - seventeenth century London, during a time of anti-Catholic hysteria and The Popish Plot ('Popish' was a word often interchangeable, usually in a derogatory way, with 'Catholic' at the time) - a historical biography.


Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?

I started to write The Popish Midwife in 2012, the 'why' is here. Giving you the storyline won't, I believe, detract from reading the book, as her story is available online, but with three years of research, the novel reveals so much more...

[WARNING: SPOILER ALERT - jump to next question if you don't want to know the storyline]

The Popish Midwife is a true story about Elizabeth Cellier, a Royal, Catholic midwife, who got herself entangled with a conniving scoundrel in Newgate gaol, where she administered alms and relief to the wrongly imprisoned Catholics. Because of her involvement with Thomas Dangerfield, she then knew as Captain Thomas Willoughby, she gets tried for treason.

Getting off was not an option.

But, even though, like all those convicted of treason at the time, she had to defend herself without counsel, she did manage to exonerate herself - yay! And then she wrote a book about her experiences, throwing in details of torture she'd had recorded by Dangerfield while he was in prison.

Bad move.

Not only was it illegal at the time to write a book without a licence, but the things she wrote upset people, people in high places. They charged her with libel and, though she had counsel, she failed to prove her innocence. She was pilloried and jailed, which was fortuitous for those same people in high places, because it stopped her being a witness in trials against other Catholics accused of being involved in the Popish Plot.

You would think that was enough, but no. When she was finally released, Elizabeth (despite now being a figure of derogatory satire as 'The Popish Midwife', in scandal sheets and broadsheets, in taverns and coffee houses across London, and despite being abhorred and reviled, her effigy burned three times in front of tens of thousands at the great annual procession through London) she bounced back to become advisory midwife to the Queen  (Mary of Modena, second wife of King James II). She also wrote a proposal to the King of how he could build and run a Midwife College, that doubled up as an orphanage, on the fees of the midwives attending the college... (Read the book to find out Elizabeth's fate)



What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?

 [please see 'When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?' above]


What’s the best part about writing?

Oh my goodness, where do I start? It's simply where I want to be. You might as well ask any other artist, what is the best thing about creation? It's bringing to life imagination, setting it in a way others might appreciate and enjoy. In the art of writing, it's the telling of a story, to enthral, excite and interest another person. Any other person. Usually, in my mind, an anonymous person. If you make it worthwhile for even one person to have read your story and enjoy it, then you've done the job. Obviously, as a writer, I would like as many as possible to read my stories (particularly The Popish Midwife, since hers is an exciting story, about a woman 'ahead of her time', that I want everyone to know)

I love the writing, the creating. But even more than that, I love the editing, where you take the rough stone and hew it into shape, cutting it and working on it, then polishing it, until it's almost unrecognisable as that initial rock. You can change anything. Nothing needs to remain from the original, except what you want to be there. You can write and re-write, jump back and forwards in the book, like travelling forward and backward in time. It gives you a feeling of power, satisfaction and accomplishment.

It is, as they say, your 'baby'. You give birth to it in the first draft, and lovingly give it whatever time and work it needs to nurture it to the point it can 'fly the nest'. Letting go leaves you bereft, just as in the 'empty nest' syndrome.

The good thing, though, is you can write another book, and another (sometimes several at once). There is no limit, except in the time you can give them. And, as for growing children, if you neglect them, they are never mature enough to survive on their own...and they will flop.



What’s the worst part about writing?

  • Not having enough time/energy in the day to write.
  • Sometimes having to decide between family or writing...one or other, you can't have both.
  • That moment when, staring at a paragraph, you know that, if you change it to how you want it, you're going to have to go through the whole book yet another time, and knowing you're going to have to do it you do it anyway.
  • Waiting for the first readers to tell you what they think of  your 'baby'...


What’s the name of your favourite character and why?

Not sure I understand this question. In my book? It would have to be Elizabeth Cellier, The Popish Midwife, for being a sassy, brave, interfering woman, who didn't just ignore the wrongs happening at the time. Despite being punished for speaking up about them, she continued to stand her ground. I love this woman.


How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?

Like for many, writing currently has to fit around my day-job. Or, another way of looking at it, my day job had to fit in with my writing.

I took a job as a (physics) Lab Technician at a local school when my children were growing up. The hours suited me, as I could start and finish at the same time as my kids, and I got to have the long holidays with them (huge bonus!).

The hours also suited me for writing. Because the school is only five minutes away, I write/edit for a half-hour or hour before work, and (when I don't fall asleep on the sofa) I can write for another hour or two in the evening. Sometimes, I really don't feel like writing during the week, but I make myself at least open the laptop and do something, anything, just to keep my hand in.

I also read and edit MS for other writers, which can be all-consuming and leaves me with less time for my own work. Currently, I'm on a hiatus from this so I can finish my own books.

My favourite time to write/edit is the weekend mornings, when I sit in bed (I'm a sloppy writer), with a huge cuppa beside me and Little House on the Prairie in the background (Lol did it say 'confessions'?). I try to keep afternoons free to spend time with my (now grown up) kids or the dreaded housework (while I'm deep in the writing flow, my house becomes a dump! :-) )

Holidays, of course, are a great time to get bigger chunks of writing done, but I do find my writing habit's quite ingrained, so I tend not to do that much more than on other writing days.


Did you go to college for writing?

No. I've read a myriad of books on the process, and tried a distance-learning course, and read lots of articles on the Net, but I would've loved to have done a full-time course where writing was the subject. How amazing that would be.

I went to Stirling University with my heart set on being an immunologist or a marine biologist, but turned out I couldn't face the dissections on the biology course (I didn't know you could refuse them), so I switched my major to Psychology, which I really enjoyed. For some reason, it never occurred to me I could do a writing course at that time! Wish I had.


What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?

In supposedly finished work, especially my own, any errors bother me. They should've been edited out. But in conversational chats, or where you wouldn't expect to edit, it doesn't bother me at all.

When I'm editing other writers' MSs, obviously, that's what I do, I pick up on all those annoying little mistakes and errors that bug other people and stop a smooth reading flow. I'm so pernickerty. One expects a basic level of knowledge about the use of punctuation and grammar, and hope the writer has picked up on more obvious errors they are bound to make while the creativity is in its element., but even the best writers leave spelling mistakes (eg 'their/there', 'here/hear' etc). That's why editors exist, because it's really hard to pick them all up.

In finished work, though, I cringe every time I see an error. I want to correct it, but can't. It makes me pause in reading. It takes me out of the story/article so I see the writing. That's something you don't want as a writer.

Actually, for me, worse than that is a different sort of error...that of 'telling' in a story, instead of 'showing'. Drives me nuts when I see whole chapters describing a scene and what a character does, instead of getting inside the character. Even in third person, it's very easy to 'see/hear/feel' from their point of view without actually saying 'looked/heard/felt'. If I open a book where the author has distanced him/herself from the character like that, I tend to put it down pretty quickly.


What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?

Ooo...that's difficult. So much different advice from different people.

No, I know. It's to expect your first draft to be absolutely s#*t!

I used to edit every sentence/paragraph as I went along. My whole life, I wanted the writing to come out as I imagined it, word-perfect and ready for another reader to admire. Nobody ever saw it. And I never finished any of the books I started. I soon gave up on each of them, because I had to keep going back and making good what I'd already written instead of finishing the story.

Then, before I started my first NaNoWriMo, I read Chris Baty's No Plot No Problem and my life was changed. I didn't have to write perfectly. I just had to tell the story. Editing would turn the bin-able first draft into that story I imagined. Not only shouldn't I expect to write to the quality of a finished book, but the opposite, I should expect it to be a disgrace to the writing world and only bearable because it was the first step of the process. It would get better.

Since then, I've written two whole books, and 3/4 written two or three more, plus have a couple more on the go (all the part-written novels are part of the same series as the first book completed in NaNoWriMo, and one of the reasons they aren't finished, apart from I haven't got around to them yet, is that I want to weave certain story elements throughout all of them, and that takes time :-) )


What advice would you give to another writer?

Try to write every day, even if it's only a few lines. Even on bad days, where you just can't face getting immersed in it, try to write or edit at least one sentence. At the worst, if you only open up the story, read a bit of it but don't do anything, that'll keep it alive in you.

The greatest way of learning to write is to write. Even better is to edit - either your own or other peoples' work - because you become very aware of so many of the niggly little things that bug a reader (you) or stop the story flow...you need to read bad writing as well as good to improve. Actually, editing other folks' writing is better, because you're separated from it, when you often don't notice guffs in your own writing, even when you read through several times (every writer has own-writing blindness and needs another reader to pick up the repetitions/regular errors etc). Being jerked out of a story by other folk's errors/story style can make you aware of what not to repeat in your own work.


What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?

I find the writing community itself is the best encouragement. Writers tend to have certain shared experiences, so when you have an group of writers, and you say something like, 'I'm doing everything but writing', they know what that's all about, and can steer you back to where you want to be (or simply support you in your decision to take a break).

Apart from at Uni, I've never had much luck finding a local writing group.

Just over ten years ago, when I met my first 'writing buddy', Tim, mentioned above, that support was invaluable, and we remain friends today.

I haven't kept up with other NaNoWriMo buddies, and find Facebook is not very satisfying, as I don't find followers so very responsive.

However, the Twitter writing world has been amazing. In a short time I felt welcomed in to so many circles of writing friends (especially through #1linewed . Giving and receiving support is as breathing. Writers around the world are ready to encourage, congratulate, commiserate or whatever's needed at the time...and here I've found writing folk that are 'there' for each other. Twitter wasn't an easy platform for me to start with (luckily, I had the help of my lovely children), but once on, I found making friends and chatting to each other easy...better than I could've imagined!

Another great community is the monthly writing challenge group (on Twitter as #JulyWritingChallenge or #OctoberWritingChallenge ...you get the idea)



Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?

Lots of hobbies, though I don't find time for many.

I love photography (as you might've guessed), and I love walking and astronomy. There's nothing I enjoy more than a pottery painting session with my grown-up kids...the chatting, jokes and ribbing that goes with it! Often I'm torn between either reaching some self-imposed writing deadline or spending more time with the kids, playing games or taking outings together. Either way, whichever I choose, I'm filled with guilt for not doing the other...

I'd also like to have more time to do the gardening, and to keep up my astronomy blogs (listed in the sidebar). And, I'd really, really like to read more published books, that don't need to be worked on. Oh, and I love doing courses, learning how to do new things (currently looking for an inexpensive bookbinding/ repair course).


What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Oh dear. This is embarrassing. This year, my reading's gone down the drain. Apart from slush-pile manuscripts, or novels I've edited, I've read numerous books and extracts, online pages and seventeenth century court extracts, all for the sake of research for my book, but published novels? Not a chance. And I'm desperate to read a good novel, one that I can lose myself in. If ever I have any free time, I dive straight into writing. That's all I've had time for. So frustrating. And every time I see that common expression, that writers should read, and read a lot, a wave of guilt washes through me, and yearning. But that doesn't give me more time.


What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?

Hector and the search for happiness with Simon Pegg - so unexpectedly moving, in so many ways.

What is your favourite book or series of all time?

I have lots of books and series I've loved, but there is a way I know the series I'm about to name is my favourite. When I was a teenager, I realised just how many books there were in the world, and was amazed when any person said they'd read a book several times. I wondered, how can a person spend time re-reading the same book, when there are just so many? Really. There's simply not time enough in one lifetime to read all the great books already written, let alone to duplicate reading a single one.

And then I read David Edding's two linked series - The Bellgariad and The Mallorean - five books in each, plus a couple of 'extra' books.

I read them all. I was hooked, absorbed. I adored the characterisation and fell for the story - better than Lord of the Rings, I thought - and was both bereft and impressed when I finished.

Then, a few years later, I hadn't forgotten that total absorption into the story. I've read lots of books and series that I've got into before, but this immersion was different, compelling in a way I'd never experienced. I couldn't quite believe it was as good as I remembered it, as I was telling people it was. So, I picked up the first book again, and was sucked right back in...I read the whole two series a second time.

A few years ago, I lent the first set to one of my kids' friend, and they never gave it back. Last Christmas, another of the kids' friends bought me that same set, knowing how I missed it. I will read it again, if for no other reason than to see how great characterisation is written.


Who is your favourite author?

I think this is a trick question. Is this a trick question? When there are so many amazing authors, how do you define 'favourite'? Hmmmm....

Ok, I've just looked at my bulging, overflowing bookshelves, and spotted a heck of a lot of Terry Pratchett books, so I'm going to go with him. He's funny and gives me a break from this world. I was so sad when he died. We have lost a great writer, and an amazing person. We were lucky to have him.


What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?

Well, there's not so much of the year left. As well as my efforts to get The Popish Midwife 'out there', I want to finish editing the first book of my magical realism series, Sole Possession.

But I have writing aspirations too. Whilst I was researching Elizabeth Cellier, I came across other seventeenth century midwives and writers I want to tell the story of, so intend to continue researching the first of these. I might even have a stint of NaNoWriMo, because I'm missing actually writing and creating something new.

Editing is my favourite, but there's nothing like telling a new story, and that need has to be filled too...


Where else can we find you online?

From the Script Alchemy sidebar: 'My stuff scattered around web'


Consider yourselves tagged (first round):

Tim Savage [Tim's confessions]
Jette Harris [Jette's confessions]
Kevin Ansbro [Kevin's confessions]
Rebecca Sky [Rebecca's confessions]
Kathryn Jane AKA RWAKissOfDeath  (founder of #1linewed )

I further tag (don't think, because I haven't named you yet, I'm not going to tag you! :-D ) :
Paul Scales [Paul's confessions]
Nessa Bell
L. M. Bryski  [Lisa's confessions]
Fran Hennessey
Tarquin Carlin [Tarquin's confessions]
Andrea Zuvich [Andrea's confessions]
Erin Wiggins [Erin's confessions]
Stephanie [Stephanie's confessions]
Melissa Crochet [Melissa's confessions
Lexi Miles [Lexi's confessions]

(Far from finished...more to come...) 

Tagees: To make finding the questions easier, here they are:

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?
What genre do you write?
Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?
What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?
What’s the best part about writing?
What’s the worst part about writing?
What’s the name of your favourite character and why?
How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
Did you go to college for writing?
What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?
What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
What advice would you give to another writer?
What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?
What is your favourite book or series of all time?
Who is your favourite author?
What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
Where else can we find you online?