Thursday, 29 September 2011

Book Review: Diamonds And Pearls by Elaine Everest

Diamonds and PearlsDiamonds and Pearls by Elaine Everest

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this book, firstly because the proceeds go to charity, and secondly I wanted to research short stories, helping me develop some of my own ideas and make them better. They were all the kind of stories you would find in women's magazines - so perfect research material - written by different authors.

This anthology is a really handy book to have on your Kindle/eReader! Lots of short stories to dip into, ideal for commuting or a short trip. I only decided that I needed to finish it before starting another book, because I wanted it included in my final book total for the year.

The quality of all the stories was generally very good. There was only one I remember having maybe more typo/grammar mistakes, and not quite up to the standard of the others, but nothing major. I enjoyed most of the stories, some were better than others, but that could be more down to my taste.

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So, 32 books down. What shall I read next? 

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Two Weeks Of This!

From having three weeks of mornings at school, including lunch, my son has now changed to two weeks of going to school in the afternoons. For two hours! He used to do three hours at preschool.

I don't even get two hours by the time I've walked home, then left the house again later to go collect them.

So today, I thought I'd get a blog post in and give an update on my writing progress so far. (I've been a bit slack lately). I'm not sure I've got enough time to get stuck into anything else... not without forgetting about the kids! (I usually set the kitchen timer as a reminder).

Where am I with The Wedding Favour then ... Well, I thought it was ready, but now I've got my two betas going through it chapter by chapter, I am seeing some faults in my writing.

I like to stage direct - a lot! And I like to speech tag too much.

I'm a good speech tagger in that I use the word 'said' and not try to avoid it at all costs with fancy alternatives. But there are places where I'm over tagging or putting in pieces of action/movements - beats as Self Editing For Fiction Writers call it - which are slowing down the pace of the story. Beats are good. Too many of them, however, are not. 

Once I thin those things out, generally, it is ready. I will be glad to see the back of it.

I can't do much until Kieran is in school full time with his brother. I'm happy to work my evenings. I'm used to do that; I gave up TV a long time ago. So I'm going to chip away, take my time and polish it before I send it out. (My aim is Christmas.) I really want to do my best with this story, and I always thought, it being my first novel, it would be my 'test' or 'practise run'.

Again, I get impatient. I want to get my writing career rolling, start earning some money from it. I know you shouldn't write to just earn money (read that somewhere). And I don't. I love writing, and if someone told me I'd never make money from it, then it will go back to being my little hobby... which takes over my life.

But writing has opened up so much to me. My life is not boring. I hear mums in the playground desperate to find a little job or something now that their kids are all at school. Not me! I love being a mum, a housewife and having the time to cook decent dinners, bake cakes etc. Okay - sometimes housework gets in the way when all I want to do is write!

It would be nice to make a career out of writing ... so I don't have to go do one of those dreaded day jobs, especially when the kids are older and don't need me at home, because they used to bore me senseless before. Been there, got that T-shirt. 

For the first time in my life I've found what I want to do - as well as be a mum.

And now, before I collect the kids, I'm off to Amazon. I need to spend my gift certificate I won from Talli Roland for participating in her Watching Willow Watts launch party with my blog post If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Be... Obviously, I've already purchased Talli's new book!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Book Review: Lessons in Love by Charlie Cochrane

Lessons in Love (Cambridge Fellows, #1)Lessons in Love by Charlie Cochrane

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an enjoyable read, a romance mixed around a murder mystery. For a m/m (gay) romance, the heat level was more a sweet romance than erotica. Nothing graphic bar some kissing and touching. But it suited this book, and the era it's set in.

The conflict was strong; being 1905 and gay sex being illegal, plus there is a murderer on the loose killing gay men, and Orlando's own internal conflicts.

Although I enjoyed the writing style and language used, keeping it nicely set in its era, I did think it was slow in places. I'm not sure I was 'wowed' enough to give it four stars.

I was fond of the two main characters; Jonty being the more jokey and fun character and Orlando being the more serious and sensible, lacking in love and experience in his life. Both characters played off well against one another.

When I first started reading this book it made me want to start reading Sherlock Holmes, which is sitting in my Kindle ready to be read. And funnily enough Holmes and Watson got a mention. 

This book is definitely worth a read!

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31 books! Only 9 to go! Can I ready 40 by the end of the year?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

My Reading Zone

About time I blogged, don't you think?

I thought I'd blog about my reading zone. I can't read with the TV on - I'm so easily distracted! - and after having a bad back last year, I avoid reading in bed.  So, usually have to check with hubby when he doesn't want to watch something on the TV, so that I can go in the lounge and sit comfortably.

I've been wanting to post this picture for a while now, but other blog posts have got in the way.

In the summer, my dad finished off a corner of our garden behind the pond. For nearly nine years it has been a waste of space! Well, look at it now.

The arbour was bought about 3 years ago, and never erected. This is what happens with having kids, and a husband who works full time, and it doesn't help then that I work weekends so he's left to entertain them.

Anyway, this area quickly became my reading space in the garden. The arbour is actually very comfortable!

The only down side I can see about being a writer is that when it's glorious sunshine, you can be stuck inside bashing away words at your PC. So, in the summer, as soon as this was finished (and it was a nice day), I tried to sit out for an hour a day (or a chapter or a quick coffee) reading.

I'm not sure I'm going to get out there again this year but it's a great zone for reading, letting the sound of trickling water from the pond soothe you, and I can be supervising the boys playing in the garden too.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

I Think I've Worked It Out

I've had messages frequently telling me they couldn't post comments to my blog (which upset me really, as I like seeing comments on my blog!). Well, I think I may have worked something out, although it may not apply to all.

Just tried to post on Talli Roland's blog and I'd gone via the Network blogs link on Facebook. Everytime I ever click on 'post a comment' the screen goes blank. It's done this to me with other blogs I've connected to via Network Blogs, not only Talli's.

I have to click on Talli's website, to close down the network blogs bit (or click on the 'close' which appears in the Network blogs bar above my own blog) and then I can post a comment.

Anyway, give it a try... see if that maybe the problem. You can use this blog post as a test ;-)

If not, not sure what to suggest. It must be blogger being temperamental at times. I think everyone can post, only anonymous can't. I did that to stop the Spam I'm afraid.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Be ...

Sandra Bullock.

Because she's beautiful, funny, and a wonderful actress... and I'd be insisting on making more movies with Bradley Cooper. 

(And Rachel Brimble is Beyonce, who would have been my other choice, because she's a beautiful singer and dancer).

The reason for doing this?  Talli Roland's new book Watching Williow Watts is released today!

About Watching Willow Watts
For Willow Watts, life has settled into a predictably dull routine: days behind the counter at her father's antique shop and nights watching TV, as the pension-aged residents of Britain's Ugliest Village bed down for yet another early night. But everything changes when a YouTube video of Willow's epically embarrassing Marilyn Monroe impersonation gets millions of hits after a viewer spots Marilyn's ghostly image in a frame.

Instantly, Willow's town is overrun with fans flocking to see the 'new Marilyn'. Egged on by the villagers -- whose shops and businesses are cashing in -- Willow embraces her new identity, dying her hair platinum and ramming herself full of cakes to achieve Marilyn's legendary curves.

But when a former flame returns seeking the old Willow, Willow must decide: can she risk her stardom and her village's newfound fortune on love, or is being Marilyn her ticket to happiness?

I read The Hating Game and really enjoyed Talli's fresh voice. I look forward to reading this one too (just have a large pile to read, Talli, but promise to get to it soon).

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Book Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Lovely BonesThe Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to give this four stars because it is a really good read, and there are some great tense moments. At times I could have quite easily not put it down, only real life got in the way. But it didn't end how I had hoped and left me unsatisfied to an extent. That's not to say you won't like it. I think it's me and how I like my endings to be.

Maybe my ending would have been too predictable, but I wanted more revenge. (This is hard to explain without spoilers).

Also, (someone has reminded me by posting on Facebook their comments) there is one small clue that the police could have used and I find it hard to believe they never spotted it (the bloody patch in Mr Harvey's garage). I know it was 1973 and forensics isn't what it is now.... but it felt 'convenient' at times, or maybe the police really were that incompetent. Maybe if he'd put a big chest freezer over the spot, I would have been satisfied.

The narrator is Susie as her ghost self, and it's done so well, because she is all 'knowing' so we get to see other character's POVs to help the story telling.

Although Suzie's death is horrific, this book is not told grimly. It is not graphic and overly described. It really is about after Suzie's death, and her watching her family come to terms with her missing from their lives.

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30 books read!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Fun Of Being A Writer

Last night I looked at Publishers. Today I flicked through the Writers and Artist Year Book 2012 (which I'd highlighted previously) for suitable agents. Tonight I'll check out their websites and see what their submission requirements are too.

In all of this, that feeling of dread, cold and icky in my stomach, came over me.

I know I will have to face rejections, but I keep thinking, 'What if I'm not good enough yet?'

Or ever!

Do I need an agent?

I've heard that the 'big houses' are really hard to get into, so thought I'd aim lower, where the likes of Katie Price, Dawn French and any other celebrity thinking of writing a book will not be in the slush pile. The smaller publishing houses, the 'indies' don't necessary need or want agency submissions. But should I see if I can get an agent first anyway?

The Wedding Favour is a completed manuscript. It's had at least two edits, I'm going through it again with my Beta's though, for a final polish. The first three and the last chapter are practically ready. I have written a synopsis, which again, probably needs going through again. I next need to write a blurb and a bio. (I've sort of done the bio and put it on my website which is a work in progress, so may use that).

How far do I edit? I don't want to remove my 'voice', and someone (who has been published years ago) in my writers group (my physical one that I meet up locally, not a virtual, internet one) said don't edit to death, the editors will want to do that!

So I'm thinking, as long as I'm showing how I want my story to go, and I've presented it professionally, and sharpened my craft to the best of my ability, showing my voice, that (hopefully) should be enough. Right?

But again, my fear comes in... Have I worked on it enough? Should I have someone 'professional' look at it, is the story too simple and unoriginal... and all those other nigglely things that go through your head. 

Then I worry... What if I do (eventually) find a publisher for The Wedding Favour... but will they like the rest of my story ideas, what if I can't write anything better than it again?

Grrr... The worries fun of being a writer. 

The title of my blog should be The Worrying Woman...

Monday, 5 September 2011

First Day Of School

First day of freedom! 

This morning both of my boys were back at school. For Ben, he is starting Year 2. It's his third year at school! (Where did that go?)

Kieran started Reception. He seems so small. He'll only be there until 12.00 today. He's doing half days for three weeks, then two weeks of afternoons (that's going to be a killer), then another week of mornings only. The last week of term he will do full days... then it will be half term  :Sigh:

With Ben he only had four weeks of introductions, so this with Kieran may drag - oh just a little - and won't overly help me with getting into a routine with my writing - especially with the two weeks of afternoons! Pulls hair out.

I have already felt one benefit morning of them both starting at 8.45am though (usually Kieran went into preschool at 9am). I was able to get out and do my run quicker. So hopefully, I should have a little more time after my exercising from now on.

This week I will concentrate on getting the house up to scratch. In the summer holidays I had less time to do the housework, believe it or not. It sounds ridiculous, but when you're meeting one mum here, another friend there, lots of different day trips out, then I work weekends etc. I couldn't find the time to just throw the hoover around! You don't even want to look at my bathrooms.

All loaded and ready to go!
I need to go into town too. I can't stand shopping with kids and there are bits I need (including fruit ready for Christmas cake making). So I'm going to make a list of jobs, and get stuck in.

I need to make time for magazine and newspaper reading if I'm to generate some articles, so this will be with my coffee.

My plan is (once both boys are settled into school full time - so we're looking October/November here) to have housework done, dinner organised, writing done and running three times a week in. Then, when both boys finish at 3.15pm, I want that to be their time. There will be after school clubs that we do (Swimming and Stars), plus meeting friends at Puxton. I think Ben will start getting more homework too. Eventually, I'm hoping that if I get 2-3 hours of writing (or writing related activities i.e. if editing) in a day, at least 1000 words written, I can then have a more leisurely pace of an evening. Watch some TV (not every night - not getting back to that routine) or read more - and not feel guilty about it!

This is the plan. But you never know... because kids throw all sorts of spanners into the works.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Book Review: Stowaway by Becky Black

StowawayStowaway by Becky Black

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book definitely gets four stars for characters.

Kit is my favourite. He's just so cheeky, and the humour bounced off him nicely against the more stricter character of Raine.

I felt a little cheated though over Gracie. I loved her, and would have liked to have known more about who had let her down in the past. There was too much telling about that and not much showing... but then I'm not your usual run-of-the-mill m/m romance reader, so maybe that wont bother other readers so much.

Although the author does well to have a balance of female and male characters, at times I did get confused with some of the female characters and who they were. They may have been over done. 

For plot and setting, it probably should get three stars. Parts of it became predictable (and I'm not talking about the romance) and it did need some more sci-fi elements. I don't wish to put spoilers up really, but words like 'rifle' gave me an image of a rifle, and not a weapon they would use in the future. Also, at one point, Kit holds a can of insect repellent/fly spray and I was like, really? In space would they need that?

I did like the ending though, and a particular scene had a familiar feel and I think I know where the author's inspiration may have came from (although I was slightly confused on how the containers were attached to the ship and would have thought they'd need disconnecting from the outside, not inside).

But the ending is the right one. Four stars for that, too.

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29 books read! 11 more to go... What to read next?