Writer of historical fiction, blogger, mum, pet lover :)

2017 – the other Best Books I read this year!

Such a good list !

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

I have already posted a list of some of the authors whose books I read this year and found to be outstanding. You will find that link here.

But I read so many books in 2017, and many were great reads indeed, so I’ve divided the list into two: that first list covered authors I have promoted on my blog,
Reading Recommendations; this second list is everything else.

Because I tend to be an eclectic reader, you will find on this list: old books and newly released books, fiction and non-fiction, children’s picture books, graphic novels, memoir – even a couple of political biographies, and many books about books and reading (because I’ve been researching a series on Reading for my blog). What I have not listed are the classics and cookbooks (yes, I even read cookbooks!) that I read this year. And I read all of these…

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Writers Corner : Geraldine Brooks


“A book is more than the sum of its materials. It is an artefact of the human mind and hand ” – Geraldine Brooks


Geraldine Brooks 1955-

One of my favorite writers is Australian-American journalist and novelist Geraldine Brooks. I have read most of her fiction books, namely The Secret Chord, Year of Wonders and The People of the Book, and have a notable TBR list for all her works. She writes succinctly and beautifully, capturing the essence of the story she is telling, whether it is set in ancient times (The Secret Chord), in Medieval England during the Black Plague (Year of Wonders) or as a nod to her own favorite novel, Little Women (March).

Born in Sydney in 1955, she studied at the University of Sydney then worked as a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald. Gaining a scholarship to study at Columbia University in New York, she then worked for The New York Times as a war correspondent, covering such crises as the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East. It was whilst working in the Middle East that she wrote her Non- fiction book based on her experiences there, and the lives of the Muslim women living in the Mideast.

She has won many literary awards in her illustrious career, notable the ‘top prize’ in literature, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006, for her retelling of the classic American novel Little Women, from the absent father’s point of view, that became March. Other novels include Caleb’s Crossing, one of my personal favorites, which explores the story around the first Native American to attend Harvard College, back in the 17th century.

Did you know?

  • Her book, Year of Wonders is in talks to become a major movie, starring English actor Andrew Lincoln (of The Walking Dead fame)
  • She is married to the well respected American journalist and novelist Tony Horowitz, who also won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 1995
  • She is a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University
  • She lives by an old mill pond on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, which is inspired by her novel Caleb’s Crossing

Have a great writing week ! 🙂

#writing #writerslife #geraldinebrooks #historicalfiction #writerscorner


Writers Corner : JK Rowling

“Happiness can be found,

even in the darkest of times,

if only one remembers,

to turn on the light.” – JK Rowling

JK Rowling 1965-

JK Rowling 1965 –

For this weeks Writers Corner, I have chosen a female writer. JK Rowling’s books need no introduction (if they do, where have you been?), and her Harry Potter series about a young wizard, written for children and enjoyed by adults and children alike, are regarded as one of the most successful series of books, ever.

Since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released in 1995, children have been captivated by wizard prodigy Harry Potter and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, as they bravely fight Potter’s enemy, Voldemort. The stories are mainly set in and  around Hogwarts School of Wizardry, run by the formidable headmaster Dumbledore and a series of now iconic characters – who could forget Rubeus Hagrid or Professor Snape?

Since the success of the Potter books, Rowling has started a new series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, all of which will be movies (one already out, starring the wonderful Eddie Redmayne), and are the ‘adult versions’ (I think!) of the Harry Potter books. The Beasts series moves across to New York and is set around the early part of the 20th century.

Did you know?

  • Born in Gloucestershire, England, Rowling worked for Amnesty International before first conceiving the Harry Potter books.
  • Her ideas for the plot lines and stories came whilst travelling on a Manchester to London train journey (the train was delayed for 4 hours, plenty of time then, to write those books!).
  • She was in relative poverty during the pre-Potter success, and says that apart from being actually homeless, was “as poor as one could be in Britain at that time”
  • There are seven books in the series but the last book, Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows, has been turned into two movies, making for eight movies altogether.
  • She also writes adult books, under the pen name Robert Galbraith. Successful in themselves, notable titles are The Cuckoos’s Calling (2013) and The Silkworm (2014).
  • The platform at King’s Cross, which was Platform 9 3/4 in the books, was inspirational to her, as it was where her parents first met.
  • She wrote many of the books from a couple of cafes dotted around Edinburgh, and on an old typewriter. One of the cafes, The Elephant House, is a popular tourist destination.
  • The last book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows, is the fastest selling book of all time – 11 million across UK and US in one day.
  • She is the second richest female entertainer in the world.

Have a lovely week, fellow bloggers! 🙂

#writing #writerscorner #writerlife #books #jkrowling #harrypotter #childrensliterature

Plot Devices: Deus ex machina

“When they don’t know what to say

and have completely given up on the play

just like a finger they lift the machine

and the spectators are satisfied.”  – Antiphanes



Deus ex machina

At the moment, I am busily writing my new thriller, The Secret, which I’m aiming to release in the middle of 2018. I’m also avidly reading in between writing and thinking about my plot lines. On top of my list of reading materials, has to be Stephen King’s On Writing. If you haven’t come across this book, I highly recommend it! As well as tips on writing, he includes stories about his own life, his own insecurities on writing, and why he is so passionate about his craft. He also adds tips on the works of other writers and their own story-lines. So, I came across one tip that he talks about, that is, deus ex machina or the ‘God of the machine’ in storytelling.

Simply put, the deus ex machina is a plot device (I have discovered!), that has been in existence since Greek writers such as Antiphanes, first wrote his stories, way back in 387 BC. It is a technique of writing which allows the writer to conclude his story.  It has been used time and time again in novels that are good, not so good, and ones that are  bestsellers. Think John Grisham novels, the Lord of the Rings trilogies, and you have the basic idea. So, whatever complications have arisen in the plot, whatever event has befallen your characters, the deus ex machina  is an effective way of neatening all the plot lines to a happy conclusion, however implausible that may seem.

Therein lies the nub of the problem. A deus ex machina that resolves a seemingly impossible situation for the characters, and within the last few pages of the book, has to come in for some criticism.  This style of writing has been known to leave the reader feeling unsatisfied, wanting more, especially if they have immersed themselves so heartily into a seemingly impossible plot that could never ordinarily be concluded. It also can imply a simple lack of creativity on the writer’s part, who, having created seemingly impossible events and situations, are now keen to finish their story quickly and swiftly. So, a deux ex machina plot-line may lead to a lack of belief in the story, and a reader who think the tale too fantastical to end so abruptly!

Notable examples of deux ex machina lie in novels that are highly successful bestsellers. Think, The War of the Worlds by HG Wells, in which a seemingly impossible situation (aliens landing on earth, that cannot be attacked by mere humans), which resolves itself by a simple bacteria in the end. I remember reading this story and thinking the same thing, back in my school days! My own example of this, is a book I read just recently. The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks is a wonderfully descriptive historical novel, that is meticulously researched and a pleasure to read, BUT the story of a young servant girl living in England during the Black Plague, has a weird ending! Having engrossed myself in the main character Anna, I was sharply disappointed in the last few pages of this book.

But whatever shape or form your plot takes you, as writers we are always aiming to end our stories in the best possible way. The craft of writing is already filled with doubts and insecurities on one’s writing styles and techniques. The hardest part of a book can be the ending, as we try and weave the narrative to its best conclusion.

As Stephen King himself has said; “Wouldn’t we all like to have a deus ex machina in our own lives?”

Anything that will make us better writers is fine my me!

Happy writing, fellow bloggers 🙂

#writing #writingadvice #writingtips #stephenking #geraldinebrooks #historicalfiction #horror #writingstyles #deusexmachina #antiphanes #HGWells


What are your Top 5 children’s books?



Hi everyone

Thank you kidsstoryworld for the nomination!

What are your top 5…

Image:Top 25 books that will change your life

My Top 5 children’s Books are (in no particular order)

1 The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis

2 The Famous Five by Enid Blyton (any one in the series really)

3 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

4 Charlotte’s Web by EB White

5. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery



There are many more these books are a standout for me. I then progressed to Stephen King…and am still reading him!

I nominate

1 Watching the Daisies

2 Retired? No one told me!

3 lilyionamackenzie 

4 James F. O’Neil

5 Jean’s Writing

Happy blogging, have a great weekend! 🙂

Writer’s Corner : Stephen King

stephen king
Stephen King 1947 –

This week’s Writer’s Corner artist probably needs no formal introduction. Stephen King is one of the most prolific of contemporary writers, whose books have sold well over 350 million copies world wide. His specific genre (which we mostly know him as) is Horror, but if you thought to dismiss his books, thinking that’s all he writes, you’d be wrong. The themes that run through his stories are suspense, supernatural, science fiction, fantasy and horror. His craft, though I believe, are his well formed characters that run alongside the plot lines, that make him such a well loved modern writer.

He is relentless in his craft, having written under his own name, as well as collaborations with other writers and pseudonyms. He has written under the name Richard Bachman (‘The Running Man’, ‘Thinner’) and his new book, ‘Sleeping Beauties’ is written in collaboration with his son, Owen King.

Many of his books are set in King’s own home state of Maine, and he often refers to characters in other books in his stories. So many of his books have been adapted to the big screen, including : ‘The Green Mile’, ‘The Stand’, ‘Under the Dome’ and ‘Misery’.

He includes many writers as main characters in his novels (who could forget Jack Torrance in ‘The Shining’?). It is worth noting that his short story ‘Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption’ became the movie ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ starring Morgan Freeman, is regarded as one of the greatest films of all time.

Lastly, I have to add ‘It’ in the mix, as my family and I went to see the film version recently and loved it! (My daughter is currently reading the book version).

Finally (I’m going I promise!)…King has written many tips and advice to aspiring writers over the years, and his book ‘On writing’ has become somewhat of a Bible if you are an aspiring writer! (Me included).

Top 5 Writing Tips, Stephen King

  1. Write for yourself. Then worry about your audience.
  2. Don’t use Passive voice! Instead of ” The meeting will be held at 7 o’clock,” say, “The meeting’s at seven.”
  3. Stick to your own writing style. Read voraciously, but always form your own writing style, through the inspiration  of other writers.
  4. Avoid adverbs in your writing. They are unnecessary and do not help your story.
  5. Turn off the TV, mobile phone, video games…..all distractions…and just write.

Finally, a cheeky one – the magic is in YOU! Don’t succumb to fear, just write your heart out, and the magic will flow.

Have a good week, fellow bloggers! 🙂

#writing #writers #writerslife #stephenking #writerscorner

Writer’s Corner : Roald Dahl

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,

Go throw your TV set away.

And in its place, you can install,

A lovely bookcase on the wall.” – Roald Dahl


Roald Dahl’s imaginary world

Roald Dahl 1916 -1990

For this week’s writer’s corner, I have chosen the children’s literature author Roald Dahl. Dahl was, in his lifetime, a children’s writer, a screenwriter, a short story novelist, a fighter pilot during WW2 and an Intelligence Officer and Diplomat. His fame though, lies in his work, namely his children stories. Think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and the BFG, and an image forms in your mind of a quick-witted, humorous story teller that is loved by each generation of children around the world.

Roald Dahl was born on the outskirts of Cardiff, Wales, UK, to Norwegian parents. His father died when he was just three years old, and he was sent to boarding school at a young age. It was at boarding school, which he hated, that he drew inspiration from many of his his children’s books (Matilda, springs to mind and the horrible headmistress, Agatha Trunchball).

His children’s books are known for their macabre themes, such as The Witches, but have a darkly comic underlying tone, mixed with humor and a quirky warmheartedness. They always champion the underdog, with a warm sentimentality that has thrilled and delighted people for decades.

My favorite book of his, the BFG, was made into a movie featuring Academy Award winning actor Mark Rylance in the lead role. Other movies (how can we forget?) star Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, and Danny de Vito in Matilda.

Did you know?

  • the inspiration for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came from Dahl’s time at Repton School, Derbyshire. The chocolate manufacturer, Cadburys, used to send new samples of chocolate bars for the boys to taste, and test.
  • The Times placed him 16th in a poll of 2008, as ‘”The 50 greatest British writers since 1945″
  • Sophie, the little girl in the BFG, is named after his granddaughter Sophie Dahl, whose also and author and a cookbook writer.
  • His adult works include the Tales of the Unexpected stories, which always had a twist at the end. These short story narratives became a TV show many years ago, and were introduced by Dahl himself (I know, because I used to watch the show!).

Writing Tips from Roald Dahl

  1. Have a lively imagination.
  2. Let your scenes come to life, so that the reader is in the story with you.
  3. Have a lot of stamina – stick to your writing, day after day, hour after hour – persevere!
  4. Be a perfectionist. Never be satisfied with what you have written, always aim for better next time.
  5. Have a lot of self-discipline! You are working alone. There is no boss behind you, sacking you for shirking.
  6. Have a keen sense of humor. For children’s writing, this is vital.
  7. Lastly, gain some humility. The writer who thinks that his work is marvelous, is heading for trouble.

Have a great week, fellow bloggers!

#writerscorner #writing #roalddahl #chidrenswriter


Writer’s Corner : Henry Miller

With Christmas and its festivities just a few weeks away and my University studies finished until the New Year (I graduated with a Post Graduate Certificate in Creative and Professional Writing!), I’ve decided to start an inspirational writer’s spot every Wednesday until Christmas week.

So, my posts will run for the next 6 weeks, starting today. My first pick of writers that I have inspired us, made us become writers ourselves, or simply who have enthralled us with they way they choose to live their lives creatively, is Henry Miller.

Henry Miller was an American writer who was also admired and discussed on my writing course, namely for his inspirational works, his literary forms, and his social observations.

“A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition” – Henry Miller

Henry Miller, Paris
Henry Miller 1891-1980

Henry Miller 1891-1980

  • American writer, born in New York in 1891
  • Known for breaking with the contemporary literary forms of his contemporaries, and for developing a semi-autobiographical style of novel, in Tropic of Capricorn
  • His works superbly capture character study, new literary forms, social observations, philosophical ideologies and reflections on the world he inhabited
  • Used sexual connotations throughout his works
  • Literary forms and genres included surrealism, explicit and erotic language and mysticism

Many of Miller’s works were written whilst he lived in Paris.

His books include (but are not limited to) – Tropic of Cancer, The Colossus of Maroussi, The Time of the Assassins, and The Big Sur.

His novel The Tropic of Cancer, led to an obscenity trial in the US in 1961, that tested American laws on pornography. The novel was passed and ruled as a work of Literature.

In order to draw inspiration and motivation for his day, Miller wrote a list of his writing tips to abide by. Take note, budding writers out there!

  1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  2. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is at hand.
  3. Work according to Program, and not according to Mood! Stop at the appointed time.
  4. When you can’t create, you can work.
  5. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  6. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  7. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
  8. Discard the Program when you feel like it – but go back to it next day. Narrow down. Exclude.
  9. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
  10. Write first, and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come after.

Happy writing everyone! #writing #writerslife #inspiration #henrymiller #quote


Where can you submit your writing for free?

Lots of good tips for your creativity!

Jean's Writing

How about 30 plus places to submit your writing?

And they pay you!

Some of my scariest and most rewarding experiences as a writer happened when I stepped out of the shadows and submitted a story. Nothing beats reading, “We would like to feature your submission.”

Scary, yes, because I felt as though I were sending a piece of my soul out into the big bad world to be judged. Rewarding because acceptance is what I dream of as a writer.

Thanks to Erica Verrillo for providing us with this great list of publications looking for good writers. This month you can submit your favorite piece and get paid.

November is just getting started, so pull out that story from your slush pile, polish it till it gleams like a newly minted penny and hit send.

There is still time!

34 Calls for Submissions in November 2017 — Paying markets


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