Monthly Archives: November 2016

Review Wednesday -The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry

img_1873This was one of the books I definitely wanted to listen to as an audiobook as Stephen is the narrator and I do so love his voice.

The book covers the actor’s university years and the beginnings of his career. In his usual self deprecating manner he speaks frankly about his surprise at his success, indeed at his amazement that he is taken seriously by anyone at all.

He is a shameless name-dropper but it was interesting to hear him talk of such other talents as Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie when they too were at the very start of their careers. He talks too of the agony of writing and the absolute certainty that everything he has written will be deemed utter rubbish. A lot of writers will identify with that!

What seems most evident is Stephen’s absolute honesty, that he leaves nothing out and that he speaks the truth at every turn. He relates his struggles in life along with his successes.  His love of words too and his joy in using them makes the book so wonderfully entertaining.

My only criticism would be in the very abrupt ending. The Fry Chronicles is a long book and so, I suppose, he had to stop somewhere but it did leave me feeling that I only had half the story which, indeed, is correct.

A funny man, who is loved by many, but has had a lot of problems loving himself.

The ‘Power Hour’ and me

img_1870I read the other day that allocating a ‘power hour’ to a certain task is a good way to time-manage and I realised, without giving it a name,  that is what I have been doing for a while now.

In my case, I actually like to set a timer, not because I am in some kind of race against myself (though some days do seem that way!) but because it lets me give myself permission to totally concentrate on the job on hand.

Like so many authors, I am a procrastinator and, given half the chance, my two hours writing at the computer will be interrupted, not only by periods of umm and ahh, as I wonder where my story should go next, but also that irritating niggle that I should really make that phone call to the bank or get the washing out while the weather holds. I knew it had to stop. Nothing gets done thoroughly or well while flitting from one job to the next.

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So I set myself a time. Usually it’s an hour. If I have a free morning I may follow it on with another hour after maybe making a cuppa and firing up the bread maker for some lovely, fresh bread, as a reward, later in the day. Sometimes it’s only half an hour. That may be to get one or two other smaller jobs like emails or a few promotional jobs out of the way.

The point is, once I set that hour going (having decided I have time to allocate it!) it seems to free me up mentally to work. I have already accepted that nothing I have to do is so urgent that it needs to be done ( or even thought about) in the next hour. I’m free! And for me it does work. When the timer goes off often I am surprised at how an hour could have gone by so quickly, but having truly concentrated on the one task to the exclusion of all others, I often feel that I have put a lot into that time and achieved more.

At the moment this is a great time for me to develop my writing muscle. I know what I want, but I also know it won’t happen unless I find strategies that work for me.

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The Power Hour is one of my most valued time management assets right now. How about you?

 

 

Aunt Kitty-cat from the Come-alive Cottage Series

img_0270Kellie Culpepper had no idea that Aunt Kitty was a witch until the first time she went to visit her at Come-alive Cottage. When a large cat jumped down from a bookshelf and began to talk, that was when Kellie realised that Aunt Kitty and her house were like no other she had ever visited before.

Aunt Kitty is the kindest, nicest witch in the world but, unfortunately, she is not very good at it. Most of the things inside Come-alive Cottage that come alive, do so because of gone -wrong spells. Aunt Kitty never has the heart to turn them back or even try; she can’t even stop herself being a sometimes-cat and never knowing when you might develop claws and a tail can be quite inconvenient.

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Plates, taps, door knockers, bath mats and lamps are just some of the many things that might say hello if you were to visit Come-alive Cottage and, if you do,  watch out for the Grumpy Watering can, he can’t stand water.

 

5 things you may not know about Aunt Kitty

  1. She once turned her sister into a dragon – by mistake.
  2. When she turns into a cat she likes to sleep on the roof next to the chimney pot.
  3. One of her best friends is a wooden ostrich called Lance.
  4. Her favourite spell is made up of a greenish, orangish, purplish, brownish, reddish, yellowish potion.
  5. Her favourite food is Cauliflower Upside-down cake.

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All four Kelllie titles are available on Amazon and I am planning some promotions and giveaways in the run up to Christmas.

These are, short, fun, chapter books for children. If anyone would like to receive a free ecopy of any of these titles, to sample what they are like, please just let me know and I will forward an Amazon gift voucher.

A review, of course, would be massively appreciated 😊

 

Available in Paperback and for Kindle

Kellie at Come-alive Cottage

http://getBook.at/Kellie

Danger at Come-alive Cottage

http://getBook.at/Dangerat

Catastrophe at Come -alive Cottage

http://getBook.at/Catastrophe

Christmas at Come-alive Cottage

http://getBook.at/Christmasat

On not winning the Edinburgh Marathon this year.

img_1867On 29th May this year I took part in the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. It was the first long distance race I had ever attempted and I enrolled in the half-marathon which is a distance of 13.5 miles.

The training was hard and, as I was in the UK during the winter, the more serious long-distance training often meant running in dark, cold conditions and mostly it was also very wet! I ran several eight mile stretches and finally a nine before sustaining a sciatica-type injury to my right posterior (ouch!) and being advised to rest it until the BIg Day.

It was an early start. Coaches arrived at pre-organised points on the outskirts of the city and we competitors were bussed in to the start point. It was clear to me from the beginning of my training that the only person I would be competeing against would be myself. Although I have kept reasonably fit throughout my life (squash, tennis, badminton, keep fit, yoga) these have always been on a beginner sort of level. I knew that also age was against me. I was old enough to be a grandmother to many of the competitor! But I wanted to do it and there I was, at the start line, worries about the sciatica niggling at me as I watched slender, young things flex their muscles in preparation.

The very beginning is fun as the pack starts to slowly move over the start line where each individual start time is recorded. I had already elected to start towards the back as I expected to come in at a slow time, if indeed I ‘came in’ at all. The runners soon split up and although I got off to a reasonable start I soon began to lag. Let me tell you, if you have never done this kind of thing that a half-Marathon may be only 13.5 miles but that is a loooooong way to run in one go.

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Although I thought I would never get there the final two or three miles were actually the worst and the best. The worst because my leg was killing me and I honestly thought that I could not carry on much longer but the best because the way the course was planned many full marathon runners were passing me going the other way on their much longer run. By that time I was little more than a staggering mess but I cannot tell you how many of those younger, fitter runners reached over the barrier toward me with high fives and encouragement to keep going. ‘Don’t give up!’ ‘you can do it’.  They were so generous and supportive and they did keep me going.

By the way, I did finish. (I may have been last – it’s hard to know!)😊

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The purpose of my telling you this story is two-fold and has been prompted by some excellent, recent, blog posts I have read highlighting the way Indie authors are regarded by some others, both readers and writers. That somehow we are less, regardless of the quality of the work, because we pushed the publish button ourselves.

1) My marathon memories reminded me how incredibly important it was for me to feel part of the group that day. No one was saying, ‘Don’t try, you’ll never be as good as us.’

2) It also reinforced in my mind how much hard work it takes in any sphere of life to achieve the best you can do.

The ‘elite’ runners in the marathon that day in May ran 26 Miles having left the start an hour later than me and the first ones crossed the line just minutes after I did. At any age, that kind of fitness and stamina takes great dedication that should never be underestimated. Of course, I already knew marathon runners are fit people but just taking some small part in their world gave me so much more insight into how much they must work to be ‘elite’. The same is true of any sport or endeavour. I have always been a great tennis fan and I remember well people dismissing Tim Herman as ‘useless’ because he didn’t win Wimbledon and was only number four in the world. How dare they?

NaNoWriMo is underway and several bloggers have pointed out that this month-long rush to write 50,000 words is writing at a ‘professional’ pace. That is an awesome pace, make no mistake. (And well done to all who take part) Those authors who publish year after year work tirelessly to complete new works.  It’s hard. It takes dedication whether you are a full time writer or not, whether you are an indie or not.

We should all expect to work hard if we want to achieve big goals and we should ply our trade with absolute professionalism. But when the work is done it should be judged for its own merits.

Let’s hope we are moving toward the day when the finished article,  the books that are the fruits of those labours, will be judged by their presentation and the words on the page, rather than some antiquated idea that who published them is what matters most.

Improving the reputation of indies #wwwblogs #self-publishing #indieauthors

Alison Williams speaks out for Indies and reminds us to keep striving to be the best we can be!

Alison Williams Writing

enoch press self-publishing about us page

I was rather overwhelmed by the reaction to last week’s post regarding self-publishing and the snobbery that some have towards it. You can read the post here. The many comments made showed that, despite many stories of self-publishing success, some writers are still treated as if what they do isn’t ‘proper’ writing. Self-publishing obviously hasn’t shrugged off its reputation for poor writing and editing. Which is a shame, because there are some fabulous self-published books out there.

However, while I support self-published authors and do encourage readers everywhere not to have pre-conceived ideas, I will concede that there are self-published books out there that aren’t up to standard – as well as poorly written and poorly edited traditional and independently published books. The difference seems to be that if you are published by a publisher, however great or however bad, there is still kudos attached to that, whereas indie writers…

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Review The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

img_1866This book (and its follow-ups) has had such rave reviews already that I knew it was one I wanted to squeeze into this year’s reading.

I could immediately see why the book was a winner. The story gets off to an eerie and frightening start with Andrea alone at night, being watched and pursued. There is no doubt from the first few paragraphs of the book that she is destined to become The Girl in the Ice.

Enter DCI Erika Foster, returning to work after a tragic police operation that cost lives. She is lonely, homeless and her abrasive manner gets her into trouble wherever she goes.

Lots of reviewers have summarised the plot so suffice to say here that Erika’s appointment as Senior Investigating officer on this murder enquiry is not welcomed by everyone on her team. Neither is she very popular with the well-to-do family who have lost a daughter and sister. But if Erika has nothing else she has talent and focus as a police officer and she is determined to solve the case.

Many of the characters that populate this book, both members of the police team and the people they come across during the investigation, are quirky and rather larger than life. They are a weird bunch, in fact. This is where the strength of the story lies. The plot is interesting but fairly straightforward, less memorable characters may have dulled the impact of the book. But with Erika risking her police career ( probably far above anything that would be allowed in the real world)  to get at the truth, opposition from Andrea’s dysfunctional and sometimes obnoxious family and a grandma prostitute , the book is a define page-turner.

Oh, and I loved ‘who did it’.

Bryndza has created characters that I want to meet again. I think the friendship between Foster and DI Moss  will strengthen. Moss will be Foster’s right hand ‘man’, the one she can rely on. But I may be wrong – we shall see!

 

Review Wednesday – Poetic Rituals by Ritu Bhathal

img_1865I enjoy reading funny or clever verse, mostly on the internet, in blog posts etc, when I come across them,  but books of poetry are rarely my thing.

I ‘picked up’ an ecopy of Poetic Rituals when it was discounted because it’s something different and an easier read in between fat novels and autobiographies.

It is really great to open a book and be surprised in every good way by the contents. I read through the poems at one sitting, delighted with each one to the next. They reminded me in some ways of Pam Ayres work; witty, funny, poignant, some slightly tongue-in-cheek. What impressed me most was their unfailing observations of family life, relationships and the frustrations of daily life. One is about not being able to get a printer to link to a computer – I could wholly identify with that one!

Read this book, raise a smile and even a little tear. This is a lovely read!

 

Review Wednesday – I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

img_1864Unless I am very confident about the author I am usually put off by very long books and I Am Pilgrim is, in paperback, a big, thick slab of a book. However having been given the book as a birthday gift I gamely opened it up and gave it a go.

I am glad that I did.

It would be impossible to finely summarise the plot in less than about ten pages but the basics are:-

Man with a very secret past. (This is espionage-type secret, not skeletons in the family cupboard) has retired to anonymity. But, with time on his hands, he writes the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation. An NYPD detective with a very tricky case on his hands decides that the author of that book is the only one who can help him solve the case and decides to track him down.

Of course, this is no straightforward crime. The ongoing investigation leads to the discovery of a plot to release devastation on the world. This is big, gung-ho stuff in places  but actually very enjoyable. The scenes in the Middle East are, at times, grim and a little bit sobering but much of the book is just pure adventure, James Bond style.

A good read.

 

The Benefits of Reading Ebooks – Guest Post…

Toni Pike is a guest on The Story Reading Ape today with something to say about ereaders. Like many book lovers I was sceptical about this new form of reading at first but i am a convert! I travel around a lot and the Kindle is so convenient. I don’t even have to decide which books I want to take beforehand. And, honestly, once a story has me in its grips I don’t see any kind of ‘book’ at all – just the ‘world’ I have been transported to.
Here is what Toni has to say –

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

03 Feature Image Ebook

When it comes to reading ebooks, the world can be divided into two types of people: those that do and those that don’t. Many people declare that they prefer reading printed books and love the look and feel of them. Others have never tried to read ebooks, fearing the strange new concept of reading novels on an electronic device.

I know a number of people who would like to move to smaller homes but feel unable to because of their large book collections. There are significant advantages to be gained by using ebooks and very few disadvantages. I have become a great fan and encourage everyone to give it a try. Here is a list of the main benefits, if you are not already convinced.

The Reading Pleasure Benefits

  1. You no longer need to struggle with holding a heavy book, keeping the pages open and having to find your place…

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