Tag Archives: reading

Writers’ Week, Adelaide style

writers week 1

Adelaide Writers’ Week (photo by me)

This week is Writers’ Week in my home town of Adelaide, part of the annual Adelaide Festival of Arts. It’s a week I always take off work so I can make the most of the opportunity it offers – surrounding myself with people who love reading and writing, and hearing straight from the authors’ mouths what makes them tick, where their ideas come from and how they turn those ideas into the books on offer in the book tent.

It’s autumn in Australia and this week the weather is fine and ranging from 24-34 degrees Celsius (75-93 Fahrenheit), which can be a little warm on the hotter days but there is plenty of shade to be had. And people are making the most of it – I’ve not been to other writers’ festivals but we do seem to be bursting at the seams here at times. Most of the authors offer book signings after their sessions and if you try to get into the book tent between sittings you’re fighting a hundred other people to find what you’re looking for. And you know what? It’s fantastic. While  I was lining up to meet Elizabeth Gilbert yesterday I found myself in conversation with a bookseller from Queensland who had come down for the week to see what all the fuss was about; the family days on the weekend were packed out with kids dying to hear Mem Fox or Andy Griffiths read their works aloud (and can I say there is very little more satisfying than seeing a hundred eight year olds with piles of well-thumbed books, hoping to meet the author); Hannah Kent was still signing copies of Burial Rites a good 45 minutes after her session ended; and Alexander McCall Smith was seen wandering around enjoying the atmosphere before his first session today. Yes, we have an embarrassment of riches here this week, and the best part is it’s all free. So everyone can come and enjoy a session under the trees, listening to some of the best authors the world has to offer.

(As an aside, this is Australia’s ONLY free literary festival. If you are interested in helping it stay free, then please buy some books from the book tent on site, or if you are not in Adelaide (which I expect is most of you) then please consider making a purchase or two at the online e-book retailer associated with the event, which can be found here. Funds raised from book sales are what enables the Festival to continue to offer this event at no cost.)

The west stage

The west stage

I’ll be able to offer more commentary on it next time because I’ll have seen more of the sessions by then, but in the meantime I urge anyone reading this, who has a writers’ festival anywhere near them during the year, to go check it out. It’s fascinating, it’s eye-opening, and you may just discover a new favourite author or two. :)

 

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On inhaling the work of others

Writers Week Entrance

Writers Week Entrance (Photo credit: mikecogh)

 

This week, I’m taking a break from the writing/editing cycle. Also from the whole work thing, thanks to some annual leave, but generally from my own writing and editing. Why? Because this week I am taking in a writers’ festival.

There aren’t a lot of writers’ festivals in my home town. Every March, though, we play host to a swathe of authors of different genres, all in town to just talk about writing. It’s one of my favourite weeks of the year, and as such I take the time off work and just go into town and imbibe others’ experiences. A number of them I’ve never heard of, but what does that matter? It’s a great way to find out about amazing stories and to discover a new favourite author.

As such, I refuse to feel guilty about ignoring my own works, just for this week – though it wouldn’t surprise me if I find myself writing anyway. Just being surrounded by successful writers and hearing their stories can be more than enough to inspire me to pick up a pen and jot a few sentences (or pages) down. And after all, isn’t that what an event like this is all about?

So, I’m off to take in some of Writers’ Week – and who knows? Maybe I’ll hear the tidbit of information that just sends me off on a writing or editing frenzy. Or maybe I’ll find a real gem in one of the speakers and spend a fortune in the book tent. Or maybe I’ll just have a lovely, lazy week hearing what some of the best writers going around have to say on the subject of their work. Either way, one thing is for sure: it won’t be a wasted week.

 

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Why do you write? And does it matter?

Medieval writing desk

Medieval writing desk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Well, why do you? If you are a writer, that is. :)

It’s an interesting question. Me, I’ve been writing for years, but it’s only the past five or six years that I’ve taken it seriously at all. After reading a lot of books, I started to think that some of the stories in my head could find an outlet in that way too. Let’s face it, with a lot of the stuff I was reading, I was sure I could do better.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, but the feedback I’ve had on some of my completed works (unpublished, that is) is that maybe I can. Do better, that is. If nothing else, it’s been encouraging, which is why I kept at it. I’m not someone who is so full of ideas that I would still be writing even if everyone hated my work. I need to believe that I can get somewhere with it, that I can have people I’ve never met read my words and be moved by them, in order to do it.

I know that this may be considered conceited, admitting that I don’t necessarily write for the love of it. The thing is, though, that I do, albeit in my own way. The way I see it is that I’ve already written the never-to-be-published stories. What I want to do now is take that next step, and write something that could be published, perhaps even by a publishing house. I have nothing against self-publishing and I may go down that path myself, but there’s a part of me that wants the external validation that getting an agent and a book deal provides.

Perhaps you write to be published, too. Perhaps you feel, as I do, that it’s time for you to try to take that next step. Or perhaps you write because you need to, because it’s your raison d’être, because if you didn’t you would go crazy. Perhaps you’re somewhere in the middle and you’re writing something that you think might end up in the wider world, but you’re not sure. Perhaps you’ve got a story you want to tell and you have no idea where it will take you.  Perhaps you’ve seen The Hunger Games and want to get in on that whole YA dystopian thing, or maybe pen the next erotica mega-hit. Perhaps you just like the feel of creating something and you have no intention of ever showing it to anyone.

The thing is, we are all different, and while our reasons for writing may sound the same on some levels, I suspect that once you delve right in, they are in fact all different too. Unique in their own way. We have different motivations, different expectations and different hopes and dreams about where our writing might take us. And I think we should celebrate this.

There are some people who judge others based on the reason they write. They turn up their noses at the idea of jumping on a bandwagon or writing for profit, saying that it should be for the love of the craft. Or they wonder aloud why anyone would waste their time on something that can never earn them a pay cheque. But I think this is self-defeating behaviour. We all have something in common, in that we all write. We all share a passion. And this is something that should be celebrated; that should be used as a reason to meet new people, not alienate them.

Why do you write? It’s probably a reason unique to you. And, really, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do it at all.

 

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Novel excerpt: Morning Star (Ethos), by Desiree Finkbeiner

Ethos: Morning Star, by Desiree Finkbeiner

Today I’m privileged to host an excerpt from Morning Star, first novel in the Ethos series by Desiree Finkbeiner. It was released on March 28 and already has 70 reviews on Amazon, 68 of which are five stars.

Here’s a taste of this very highly rated book:

Life goes on as it normally does… work, school, recreation, taxes… and for the ignorant, life is bliss. But when a mysterious stranger enters Brianna’s mundane routine, her eyes are opened to the dark underbelly of reality. She’s thrust into a race for her life when Kalen, a warrior from Ethos, discovers that she is harboring a secret… a secret that he’d give his life to protect.

There’s just one little problem… they are tempted by a forbidden romance, which threatens to compromise a divinely appointed mission. They are faced with a choice… love eternal, or the end of the world…

Sound intriguing? Well, the news gets better. Up till midnight US time, the book is FREE on Amazon.com. Actually, there are ten books that Hydra Publications are offering free till midnight, so if you get in quick you can load up your kindle with some great titles for absolutely nothing. So what are you waiting for?

The books can be found here:
Morning Star (Ethos) by Desiree Finkbeiner
Andraste by Marisa Mills
Bridgeworld by Travis McBee
Gnosis  by Tom Wallace
Heart of the Hunter  by Linda Anne Wulf
Secret  by Morinda Montgomery
The Heart Denied  by Linda Anne Wulf
The Universal Mirror by Gwen Perkins
Ukishima by Nigel Sellars

About the author:

Desiree Finkbeiner attained a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from Missouri Southern State University (2006) with a heavy background in business, marketing, music and fine art– She was heavily involved in campus affairs and served actively in several committees focusing on campus entertainment and events.

Desiree Finkbeiner

She had a scholarship for acting in college though she was not a theater major. Although she no longer performs or focuses on musical/performing arts, she has chosen to shift her talents to other areas that are more conducive to raising a family.

Continuing education is a constant adventure for Desiree with topics of interest ranging from civil and corporate law, history, political conspiracy, homeopathic medicine and spiritual healing. She prefers to read non-fiction, especially on topics that educate and broaden her perspectives on controversial issues.

With thousands of completed art works in her archives, most of which appear in private collections worldwide, Desiree hopes to focus more on publishing, marketing and licensing her work so she can leave a legacy behind.

—————–

Thanks, Desiree! It looks like an awesome book and I can’t wait to read it. I hope that everyone who sees this post makes the most of the free offer at Amazon while it lasts – get in quickly!

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Book review: The Light Between Oceans, by ML Stedman

The Light Between Oceans, by ML Stedman

This is a review of the book The Light Between Oceans, the haunting debut novel by ML Stedman.

The main thing that struck me about this book was the emphasis on choices, and the ramifications they can have. Every choice made in the book was realistic, believable and understandable, yet in some cases horrific in what they meant for others. The tagline, “a story of right and wrong, and how sometimes they look the same”, absolutely captures the essence of the book.

Without giving too much away, the story centres around Tom and Isabel Sherbourne, who maintain the lighthouse on a remote Western Australian island in 1926. One day a boat washes onshore, carrying a dead man and a crying baby, no older than two or three months. The Sherbournes, still reeling from two miscarriages and the stillbirth of a son just two weeks prior to the event, decide not to report the incident, instead burying the man and raising the child as their own. Things come to a head, though, when they discover that the mother is still alive and searching for her missing husband and daughter.

As a mother myself, I could totally understand the decision to keep the baby, especially when it seemed she had no family of her own. Equally, I can understand the birth mother’s determination to find her family no matter what. Some of the choices the characters make in this story are unbearable and would be unconscionable under any other circumstances, yet,  heart-wrenching as they are, they are also logical for the situation and within character for the people concerned.

Finally, the emotion that so charges the situation was palpable. I could feel each character’s hopes and fears, and what drew them. I was reduced to tears at the end (perhaps not a huge sign, as I cry at everything. To quote The Simpsons, my husband tells me that I cry when I do long division and have a remainder left over) as these people faced to an outcome that was ideal for no one yet had to be acceptable for everyone. This was a compromise that affected people’s lives to the core.

There were some parts of the novel that didn’t quite sit right with me, though. I was puzzled at the occasional use of present tense, as it seemed to serve no purpose and instead just distracted me from the story. In addition, there were large swathes of back story at the start that I felt might have been better incorporated in another way, so the reader didn’t feel fatigued by the weight of information. All in all, though, I thought this was an incredible book, and I am totally unsurprised that it is being released into so many markets, and there is talk of a film option. If any debut novel deserves that treatment, it’s this one.

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The Light Between Oceans, by ML Stedman
Published by Random House Australia & various international publishers
362 pages (paperback)
Available from Amazon.com as ebook or hardcover, or Booktopia (Australia) as paperback

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Assorted writing tips #3 – Read. Keep reading. Then read some more.

Image by Adrian van Leen

 

It seems so obvious that you may well be wondering why I’d bother writing a blog post about it. Really, though, it’s one of the best things you can do to improve your writing. Reading a lot not only broadens your overall experience, but can give you a number of handy hints for your writing career.

This is something I noticed when I started taking my writing seriously. I’ve been a reader all my life, and have rarely been without a book or two on the go.  My mother even used to put old magazines in my cot when I was a baby to occupy me when I woke up, giving her fifteen or twenty precious minutes before I called out to her. Reading is a huge part of who I am.

Anyway, once I started thinking about writing, I started to notice things about the books I was reading. Storytelling techniques (both good and bad), use of dialogue, examples of show rather than tell – all of those basic stock things that you have at the back of your mind when you write, were there when I read.

I’m a lot more critical now, I admit that. I have read books by previously adored authors and pulled them apart as I read, thinking of ways the plot could have unfolded more smoothly. I have looked at published books and been astonished at their predictability and the corners they cut in exposition. I have, in short, been critiquing them in my head.

Of course, the opposite has been true as well. There are books I’ve read where I’ve been in awe of the work that went into them. Accurate and detailed research cannot be faked, and as someone who has done that sort of research for a particular niche I appreciate the effort involved. I have been amazed by plot twists and been left hanging after every cliffhanger, dying to know what happens next. As such, I have begun to appreciate the quality of what I’m reading, especially when it’s by an established and successful author, and I’ve learned a bundle from it.

So, read. Read because you enjoy it – because if you don’t enjoy reading, then what are you doing writing in the first place? Read as a reader … but also read as a writer. Think about not only the content of the narrative, but also how it’s been put together. Think about how the sentences and paragraphs flow, and how you might be able to apply the techniques used to your own writing. Think about what you can learn from them. I know I do.

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99 Reasons Why – the ending (or, well, one of them)

99 Reasons Why cover

99 Reasons Why, by Caroline Smailes

You may or may not be aware of the recently released book 99 Reasons Why, by Caroline Smailes. It came out on Monday and has eleven possible endings, depending on how you want to read it.  Nine of these endings are available in the ebook (available from Amazon and itunes): the Kindle version has a series of questions you answer that determine which ending is best for you, whereas the iPad version has a spinning wheel to work out which one to use. Ending #10 has been handwritten by Caroline, and will be auctioned off for charity, while ending #11 has been made available to the blogosphere where people like me can share it with the world.

I hope you find this possible ending interesting enough to want to read the whole book. I certainly did!

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99: the reason why I was only worth ninety-nine quid

It’s been six days since the little girl in the pink coat went missing and me Uncle Phil’s in me bedroom.

We’ve been watching the little girl in the pink coat’s mam on the news. She was appealing to the public for witnesses.

‘Didn’t realise she had a mam,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Everyone’s got a mam, pet,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘She sold her story to The Sun,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Got a few quid,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘She wanted nowt to do with that bairn before all this,’ me Uncle Phil says, looking at me telly.

‘Do you know where she is?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Belle?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘She’s safe,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘Your mam’s keeping an eye on her.’

‘Can I be her mam?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘No, pet, you’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Can you make Andy Douglas come back, Uncle Phil?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

Me Uncle Phil shakes his head.

‘I love him,’ I tell me Uncle Phil.

‘Andy Douglas is your brother, pet. You didn’t seriously think Princess Di was your mam, did you?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘You’re a cradle snatcher just like your mam,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Your mam miscarried when she found out I’d been banging Betty Douglas. Betty was expecting you,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

‘When you was born, your mam went mad and I ended up buying you from Betty Douglas for ninety-nine quid,’ me Uncle Phil says.

‘Ninety-nine quid?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘I paid a hundred but got a quid change for some chips for your mam and dad’s tea,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You bought me?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

I’m a little bit sick in me mouth.

‘It was the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘I got Betty Douglas pregnant straight away with Andy.’

‘I’m pregnant,’ I says to me Uncle Phil. ‘I’m pregnant with me brother’s baby,’ I says, and then I throws up on me purple carpet.

‘You’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘What am I going to do?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘You’re going to have the baby,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘Have me brother’s baby?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Then I’m giving it to Betty Douglas to bring up,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You what?’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘I can’t—’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s either that or I’ll make you disappear,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

I’m thinking, they’re all a bunch of nutters.

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On reading

Reading. It’s something I’ve been doing for longer than I can remember. Even as a baby, my mother used to put old magazines in my cot and when I woke up, I’d sit there and flick through them. Whenever my parents couldn’t find me as a child, I’d be holed up somewhere with my nose in a book. It’s what I’ve always done to relax and unwind. In other words, reading is my me-time.

Unfortunately, after the birth of my youngest son last March, I fell out of the habit. I used to read at bedtime, but with a new baby I was always too tired and just went straight to sleep. Since I was on maternity leave, I no longer had my daily commute to get my book out for, and the mental concentration required just wasn’t there. In other words, I did the unthinkable. I stopped reading.

Yes, I know. There are no excuses for this, particularly if I want to call myself a writer. It’s one of the most unforgiveable sins out there as far as that goes. And what’s even worse is how long this slump lasted – I didn’t pick up a book until December. That’s EIGHT MONTHS after my son was born. EIGHT MONTHS. It’s the longest I’ve gone without reading since I learned how to pick a book up. I couldn’t have done better if I’d tried.

However, there is a happy ending to this story. Last month, I picked up a book I’d bought while I was still pregnant – Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell. It was only released eight years ago so for me, that’s not bad going. (I’m notoriously bad at getting things when they come out. It’s a failing of mine.) And wow, was it good. I really struggled to put it down, which for a 1000-page novel for someone trying to look after young children all the time is both impressive and a little inconvenient. Yesterday, though, while Cars 2 played in the background, I reached the end.  It was bittersweet: there was no more of that book to read, but my whole bookcase jumped out at me, each book shouting, “Me next! Me next!” I have the smorgasboard of my own library to satiate this re-awakened thirst for reading. I can’t wait.

With this first drought-breaking book out of the way, I can promise one thing. I will never go eight months without reading again.

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