Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Review of Bone Deep by Sandra Ireland #LoveBooksTour @22_Ireland @PolygonBooks

In today's post, I'm delighted to share my review of Bone Deep by Sandra Ireland with you.

My thanks to Polygon for giving me an advance copy of the book. My views are my own and in no way influenced by the gift of the copy.

Bone Deep

What happens when you fall in love with the wrong person? The consequences threaten to be far-reaching and potentially deadly. Bone Deep is a contemporary novel of sibling rivalry, love, betrayal and murder. This is the story of two women: Mac, who is bent on keeping the secrets of the past from her only son, and the enigmatic Lucie, whose past is something of a closed book. Their story is underpinned by the creaking presence of an abandoned water mill, and haunted by the local legend of two long-dead sisters, themselves rivals in love, and ready to point an accusing finger from the pages of history.


I put down my pen and sag against the back of the chair. I’ve been sitting here since 6 a.m., and now that the words are finally flowing I can’t let them go. Things have been a bit stuck of late, ideas bobbing around like fish, and me grown too slow to catch them. But this morning things feel different, as though Lucie’s arrival has brought a gust of fresh air, stirring up the leaves of my imagination.

I’d asked her about her family a couple of times, but her replies have been rather muted. I gather she has a sister, but there’d been no warmth to her description. I’d nodded knowingly at the time. Sibling rivalry. You get that with sisters. Best not to dwell on it. It had reminded me of something though, this sister thing. What was it now?

That evening I’d gone through all the dusty old volumes on my bookshelves, not quite sure what I was looking for. I stretch my arms out in front of me, flex my fingers and rotate my neck. Something cracks, and my insides shrink accordingly. I’m getting paranoid, waiting for the next little blip, holding my health up to the light like a badly stitched seam. I’m getting frayed.

Somewhere in the house, a key grates in a lock. The front door opens, and a ghastly echo carries along the passages. The hall always has that empty-house ring to it, regardless of how many bits and bobs I pad it out with. The sound of footsteps carries towards me. That will be Arthur. My heart sinks and immediately I go into guilty mode. I am a bad mother. A can’t-be-bothered mother. My eyes drop automatically, going to the photograph on the desk. My own mother, wartime drab but happy in a floral tea dress she’d knocked up from remnants. We have bad mother genes, I suspect. There is a coldness in us. I remember Mother feeding a poorly dog tinned salmon while we kids scoffed bread and dripping. The thing is, I fear I’m heading for the ultimate fail. The leaving-your-child fail.


It takes a good book to have me unable to do anything else for the entire day because I just can't stop reading, but that's exactly what happened with me with this book! I started it one Sunday morning, intending to read for an hour or so as it was a sunny day and I could sit out and relax with a book - a rare event for me. From the opening chapter, I was hooked and just wanting to know more about these characters and I finished the book the same afternoon!

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Guest post: book planning using PowerPoint

I'm delighted to share a guest post with you today by Angela Nurse. She said that she was planning her new book on PowerPoint and I was intrigued... Scrivener, index cards, pen and paper, Excel... all these I had heard of being used in planning, and most of them I'd tried, but PowerPoint?

Happily, Angela said she would share her thinking with me, and all of you. Over to you, Angela! (btw... I love the idea of a 'murder board' and can't see why it wouldn't be appropriate in a living room...)
[click on any picture to enlarge]

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Tightrope walking...

I both love it and hate it when A New Book starts prickling away in my brain. I love it because it feels fresh and exciting and I'm curious to know where it will go and how it will turn out. I hate it when it starts chiselling away at my brain at a time when I am already overloaded with other books that need finishing/editing/writing!

I'm always scared that if I don't make any notes or write at least a little bit about The New Book, that it will vanish, escaping my brain like a Will o' the Wisp. But, boy, it can be a fine balance between 'getting some of it captured so I don't lose it' and 'oh look, here I am at the end of a first draft'!

As I said in last week's post, The New Book is serious enough to have got its Own Notebook. I spent a while researching the location and the house in which it will be set, plus getting a few other ideas out of my head, and suddenly, the five or six pages that I scribbled on the train home a fortnight ago have morphed into almost 30 pages of a B5 notebook. I'm treading a very thin line between getting enough down that I don't forget it, and disappearing down the rabbit hole and only re-emerging when I've a first draft in my hand.

I've come to the conclusion that I might just have to write two books at once.

But... that way, madness lies, doesn't it?

I'm hoping not (though enough people suspect I'm a bit mad a lot of the time already). I've tried to make a bargain with myself that I have to have done x amount of work on the book I'm meant to be working on, before I get to play with The New Book. It's a carrot and stick approach! My aim is to parallel process, but not to get beyond chapter outlines in The New Book until I've cleared off The Trilogy! I suspect reality will be that I have both The Trilogy and The New Book on the go at the same time.

There was an author who always had at least two typewriters set up, so that if he reached a tricky bit with one book, he would switch desk and work on the other. I think I may end up doing something similar.

Now I just need to find a new desk...

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Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Too many ideas (again)

My brain at the moment...
I'm disappearing into my own thoughts more and more at the moment. I find that I do this when the world seems worse than usual. I don't want to get into politics here (domestic or world), but at the moment, things feel stressful and entirely beyond my control. Consequently, I'm retreating into my made-up worlds in my head, where I do  have some control (allegedly!) and my head is full of new ideas! Not that I need them... I have two books of the trilogy to edit, the third to write, plus full chapter outlines of another (stand alone) book, a prequel to the trilogy and a crime novel to sort out. And should I tire of all that, I have a thriller, and a women's literature novel that are both at final draft stage and I could get them edited. So really, I need to be thinking about another book, like I need a hole in my head. Actually, if I had a hole in my head, it might let some of these ideas out and give me some peace!

I went to visit a friend the other day and knew that I would probably get some quiet time on the train to work on "book 6" (first book of the fantasy trilogy). Right enough, on the way there I did a load of work on it.

On the way back...

I started to jot "just a few notes" about something else that's been flittering around in my brain for a few weeks, "just to get it down on paper... not to really start writing it."


It's now got its Own Notebook.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

What is "success" in writing?

If you do a Google search for "success quotes" you will find a whole heap of motivational quotes and slogans about how to achieve success. But what if you don't actually know what success will look like if or when it happens?

Is it getting published by a publisher? I don't think so - I've read many a book published by a big publisher (or a small publisher) and wondered how and why it got chosen out of the submissions pile. I've also read a lot of self-published books that have been brilliant. Who knows why the author hasn't been published by a big publisher - maybe they never sent it off to them; maybe they did and got rejected, they re-worked it and self-published; maybe the were rejected because the person who read it didn't like it but another person may have loved it. Of course, I've also read some brilliant books published by big publishers and terrible books that were self-published. Trying to predict whether a book will be good or not from how it got into print/ebook, is pointless.

Is success selling a gazillion books and having multiple best-sellers? Maybe. Maybe not. I can think of some best-sellers I would be beyond proud to have written and have read and re-read because I love them. I can also think of a whole heap of best-sellers that were absolutely diabolical - badly written, badly plotted, badly edited... just terrible.

Is it getting loads of great reviews? Perhaps. But look at any book that you think is incredible and look at the reviews on Amazon. I would guess that every one of them has someone hating the book. This, for example, has been left for Pride and Prejudice:
One of the very few books I can't read. Every time I say "NOW I'VE GOT IT!" and by page 20 I'm asleep or try to kill myself with a wooden spoon. Eventually I ran out of spoons, but still the outcome was the same. People seem to love it, but I really can't understand why. Probably it gets better later. I may even try the zombie version, just in case.
Reviews are very subjective - some will love a book and others will hate it. Getting good reviews isn't always a good indicator that something is good, any more than getting bad reviews indicates that it's bad, though maybe the spread of good to bad can be useful information.

So if it's not how it's been published, and it's not necessarily sales and it's not necessarily reviews, what does indicate success in writing? What would you say indicates that a writer has become a successful writer?

Drop me your ideas in the comments.

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Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Why running helps me to write

I can't remember when I started running long-distance. At school I was a sprinter (and a long-jumper) and not terribly good at either, and seemed to have an aversion to the annual cross-country run the whole school had to do. But somewhere in the last twenty years I turned into a runner and now I couldn't imagine not running.

There are many reports of running being good for mental health (though the jury is a little out on how effective it is in comparison to medication for depression - running seems to be about equivalent to medication for mild depression). Speaking personally, I know that my mental health is always better if I'm able to run. But how does running help me specifically as a writer?

I feel that running improves my life as a writer in a number of ways, not just on the mental health side.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Computer hell...

I got my royalties for Q1 a couple of weeks ago and decided to buy a new laptop. Now, before you think of me as a hugely extravagant person, can I point out that my old laptop was many years old and still on Windows 7!

The "instructions" on how to set up the laptop were (I kid you not):
1. Connect to power
2. Press the power key
3. Configure the operating system by following the on-screen instructions.

That was it.