Welcome To My Blog

Book reviews ... Author interviews ... and anything else I think might be of interest to writers and readers.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Della Galton Courses

The fabulous Della Galton has some really interesting courses coming up. Highly recommended for anyone keen to improve their writing.

Characters and Settings - 17 April, 2010

How do you make your characters and settings come alive? This is a workshop based course where you will learn different ways of bringing characters and settings to life. Whether your setting is spooky or idyllic and your character hero or anti hero, this course should help with their creation. We will also look at word craft.

Rejections to Sales - 8 May, 2010

This course will look in detail at what editors want and why they reject short stories.

It requires students to bring along a previously rejected short story for criticism and advice. 1800 words max please. You will need to bring a short story to gain full benefit from this course. It is NOT for the faint hearted. But if you really want to know what went wrong, then this is the course for you.

The Sex Factor Three - 19 June, 2010

This course will focus on how to write sex scenes, both for short stories and longer fiction. We will explore the dangers of being too ethereal or being too graphic. We will look at language, logistics and the importance of plot.

Brave students may bring along a previously written sex scene to read out for constructive criticism – no more than 800 words, please. (This is not mandatory)

All courses are held at Kinson Community Centre, run from 10.00 am til 4.00 pm and cost £35.00

For further information, please see Della's lovely new website.


How to Write and Sell Short Stories by Della Galton is published by Accent Press, price £9.99

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Author Interview - Leigh Russell

Leigh Russell has very kindly agreed to answer some questions about her writing, and about her current book 'Cut Short', and the upcoming 'Road Closed'.

What first inspired you to write?

The idea for CUT SHORT occurred to me when I was walking through my local park one rainy morning. There was no one else there until a stranger came into view beside a tangled copse of trees and shrubs. As I approached the shrubs I wondered what I would do if I saw a body in the bushes. I walked on, and of course there was no body, but the idea stuck in my mind. When I arrived home I started to write and the story poured out onto the page, complete with a 'creepy' killer. From the moment I began to write, I've been hooked. What surprises me now is that I didn't discover my passion for writing earlier.

What appeals particularly about writing crime fiction?

Crime fiction is tense, dramatic and full of suspense. It can also be quite cathartic, we live in such fearful times... You’re alone in the house at night, and you hear footsteps on the stairs…. That isn’t a scene I’ve used in a book, but it’s the kind of situation I explore in my writing. It’s a relief to step out of the story and return to reality.

How would you sum up your upcoming novel, ‘Road Closed’?

How do you sum up a book? Blurbs and synopses are so difficult to write. How about: Road Closed is a tense psychological crime thriller, with a few twists, in which Geraldine Steel makes a shocking discovery about herself.

What response to the novel do you hope for from your readers?

I would be very happy if ROAD CLOSED matches the success of CUT SHORT with two reprints in six months, 5 star reviews on amazon, buzz on blogs and websites, features, interviews and good reviews in local and national papers, interviews on BBC Radio, invitations to talk at Literary Festivals, book clubs, readers groups and writers circles, libraries, schools and colleges – enough to keep me busy.

Your first novel ‘Cut Short’ was very well-received. Did this put you under additional pressure when you were writing ‘Road Closed’?

I enjoyed writing ROAD CLOSED as much as I enjoyed writing CUT SHORT, and I’m now enjoying writing DEAD END. I just love writing! But I do feel a certain pressure now that my second book is about to be published because I’m aware that there are people waiting to read it. It’s already reached 10,000 on amazon sales ratings in preorders. As a Top Reviewer on amazon wrote of CUT SHORT: “A well deserved five stars. For a first book this is excellent. Of course the expectation will be much higher with book two.” No pressure there, then!

What do you see yourself writing in the future? Are there more Geraldine Steel novels to come?

I’m currently writing DEAD END, the third in the Geraldine Steel series which will be published in 2011. My publisher has already approached my agent for a fourth, so there are definitely more Geraldine Steel novels in the pipeline.

You work incredibly hard promoting your books online and in bookshops, how well is that paying off?

I assume my efforts have contributed to the successful sales of CUT SHORT, but I have no way of knowing. What is more important to me is that I’ve met so many friendly and supportive readers through book signings, blogs, twitter, literary festivals and author talks. Bloggers from all around the world are beginning to feel like old friends, like the staff in my local Waterstones.

What gives you most pleasure out of all the things you’ve achieved so far in your writing career?


What’s the best advice you could give to someone who is writing a novel and hoping to get it published?

Work hard, be brave and be lucky. Being published is fun, but the real buzz is in the writing.

Thanks Leigh, for some really brilliant insights into writing.

You can read my review of 'Cut Short' here. And you can pre-order 'Road Closed' here.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

My So-Called Afterlife

This week's Bookersatz review is of My So-Called Afterlife by the wonderful and incredibly talented Tamsyn Murray. The review has been written by fab regular reviewer Debs Carr, so to find out how this book entranced two generations of Debs' family, go and have a look now.

In related good news, my interview with Tamsyn about how she uses humour in her writing will be published in an upcoming issue of Writers' Forum magazine.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Alistair Duncan Interview

Alistair Duncan recently published his latest book 'The Norwood Author'. I welcomed him to my blog to talk about his writing.

Tell us about your latest book ‘The Norwood Author’.

It is an examination of the years 1891 – 1894 when Arthur Conan Doyle lived and worked in the Norwood area of present-day south-east London. It attempts to illustrate how local events impacted on his life and how his adventures on the world stage impacted his day-to-day life in Norwood.

The years 1891-1894 have of course been covered in other biographical works but usually only in terms of Conan Doyle’s literary output and some family events. This book aims to fill in the uncovered gaps which is often impossible for other biographical works that are looking at his entire life.

This is your third book about Holmes and Doyle. How did your interest in this subject start?

It began in 1982 when I was eight and saw my first Holmes film with Basil Rathbone. Although Rathbone’s films are hardly faithful, they were enough to engage my attention. I watched them all and then moved onto other screen adaptations and the books themselves. From that age until my mid-twenties my interest did not really progress. This was mostly down to the demands of my education and early career in I.T. which didn’t leave me with much free time. Later my interest expanded into collecting with the acquisition of rare copies of Conan Doyle’s books and other memorabilia.

It was 2006 when I began to seriously think about writing on the subject and the beginning of 2007 when I finally put pen to paper (or, in this case, finger to key).

How long did it take you to research and write each book?

Each of the books took about a year from conception to completion.

How easy was it to find a publisher for this specialised material?

It wasn’t too hard which was surprising. MX Publishing focuses mainly on NLP / self-help titles but they desired to explore other areas. My first book was their first leap into the area of Victorian literature. It has worked well for them and now they publish a range in this field by authors besides myself.

You’ve just started writing a novel. Why did you make the decision to move into fiction?

I am totally fascinated by crime literature and especially that set within the Victorian period. To contribute to that genre would be the fulfilment of a dream. Also, in many respects, it feels like another mountain that I need to climb. I want to do it ‘because it’s there.’

At the risk of sounding conceited I would also like to, in my own small way, emulate Conan Doyle himself who was an author successful in both fiction and non-fiction.

How does writing fiction compare with writing non-fiction?

It is so much harder for me. The beauty of non-fiction is that the characters and the events are already there. All you have to do as an author is collect and correlate the material before presenting it in a readable way. It takes much more imagination to write fiction as you have to create all these things from scratch.

What gives you most pleasure out of all the things you’ve achieved so far in your writing career?

That’s hard to answer. Aside from the process of writing itself, a lot of the pleasure is to be derived from the opinion of others in the same field. The Sherlock Holmes Society of London has been very supportive of my work and has given each of my books much positive praise. In my opinion, they are the world’s leading body on all things Sherlockian so to have their endorsement gives me much pleasure. If I win any awards in the future you may need to ask me the question again.

What are your writing plans for the future?

I fully intend to continue writing non-fiction but I expect it to take the form of articles rather than books. If a really good idea for a non-fiction book presented itself I wouldn’t rule it out but I hope to concentrate on fiction for the foreseeable future.

Thanks very much to Alistair for some great answers.

'The Norwood Author' and other books by Alistair Duncan are available here and you can read Alistair’s blog here.

You can read my review of 'The Norwood Author' here.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Blogsplash – Fiona Robyn’s Thaw

This is such a fabulous idea and I'm so happy to be taking part in it. All the luck in the world to Fiona for today and for the future.

Ruth's diary is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, called Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.

Ruth's first entry is below, and you can continue reading tomorrow here.


These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat; books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about; princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.

I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say; ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for’, before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.

Continue reading tomorrow here...