An insightful review of Black Panther

Warning:  spoiler alert.  This is an in-depth review that discusses events you may not want to know about if you’re looking for surprises at the cinema.

(This is a reblog)


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A farewell to Ursula K. Le Guin

I was sorry to hear, this morning, that Ursula Le Guin had died, but relieved that she had lived to a ripe age and had successfully produced a huge body of work.  I’ve read several of her books – not always understanding them – and they have all left me something to think about, sometimes for years.  If you haven’t read her, start with The Earthsea Quartet.  (As coincidence would have it, my daughter is reading it at the moment.)  I told a work colleague, who has never read her and likes his fiction literary, to read The Dispossessed.  It’s amazing how her work feels even more relevant today than ever before.

If you want to read more about her, try the Wiki page:  (it has a note on it to say that it has an extremely high volume of traffic so expect it to crash soon.)

None of her books have been successfully filmed, which is a pity, and the radio adaption of The Earthsea Quartet (which I’ve listened to several times on Radio 4 Extra) left something to be desired as well.  I think this is bound to happen when plots of too complex to condense and so much is lost.  Also, her writing created great flights of fancy (for me, anyway) and one person’s vision of a book isn’t ever the same as another’s.  I didn’t know much about her when I first started reading her and wasn’t entirely surprised to find how well-educated she was, something I envy hugely as it gave her writing such a broad scope.  Her work isn’t always easy to read but always worth it.

Amongst her many awards, I see she got one from the US Library of Congress who made her a Living Legend.  Wow:  you can’t hope for anything better than that as a writer!

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Stop Procrastinating and Get that Story Finished

Good advice!


The first week of 2018 started off with a bang (literally and figuratively speaking). I finally finished my latest project, which is now in publication stage. Launching a new book is always exciting, and when you finally see it in print, nothing compares to holding a physical copy of your book in your hands. That feeling never subsides, no matter how many books you write.

But before you can celebrate the release of a new book, you have to finish writing it.


I read posts in writing forums all the time from writers who have difficulty finishing the book they’re writing. They have so many ideas and start a ton of projects, but have a hard time finishing any of them. It takes discipline and pushing your internal editor aside to get it done.

An informational meeting I attended recently focused on that exact topic. During this meeting, I jotted…

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A disastrous trip to the bookshop

Having collected my ten stamps from Waterstone’s – £10 off my next purchse -I went off to buy a book today as a special treat, a trip postponed from the pre-Christmas nightmare that was my life.

My local bookshop is the Waterstone’s on Gower Street, a gorgeous building, all turrets and nooks and crannies.  But it has undergone unfortunate refurbishment in recent years.  First they closed down the best Costa in London, where you could sit in one of those nooks or crannies in the basement, surrounded by books, in an atmosphere of wonderfulness.  In it’s place is a horrible coffee shop called Dillons (the original name of the store) and the Costa space downstairs is now a seriously pretentious art gallery.  Fiction is no longer on the ground floor where you would expect it but shoved in the smaller space that is the first floor, with tremendously dull history (and, I think, travel) taking up the ground floor.  The upper floors remain textbooks, which is fine, but the divine mythology-type section has vanished entirely, reduced to a single shelf in some crap section called “mind, body, spirit.”  All the most interesting books have been squashed into the horrible basement with its low ceilings, lack of fresh air and view and space to turn around.  It was only ever interesting when the travel section was next to the Costa, but with that gone ….

I took myself off to the huge Waterstone’s on Piccadilly.  Caught a bus which I don’t do often but it was just too damn cold to walk (and spitting ice nuggets.)  Hurling myself onto the back of a bus before the doors closed, I tramped upstairs, forgetting entirely to tap my Oyster card.  This is the FIRST time in my entire life that I’ve forgotten to pay on a bus.  Never mind, I thought, when I finally remembered, I’ll tap my card on the way out.  At least then no one could accuse me of stealing bus fare.  When was the last time you saw a ticket inspector on a bus, anyway.  And what were the chances I would be caught.

Well, fuck, I got caught.  In horror, I saw a scary transport police type bearing down on me where I was sitting at the back so thought I’d better nip downstairs to tap my card – only to have another one coming up the back stairs. I was surrounded.  I was trapped.  I was almost in tears, apologising over and over, trying to convince them that I was a boring middle-aged woman who had a tendency to forget things in moments of stress (had a bad morning at work) and not a dangerous criminal cadging a free ride on a bus.  They hounded me for ten minutes until finally I said, okay, how much of a fine do you want me to pay?  £50?  £100? And then I saw my stop and they let me off with a warning.  I did tap my card when I got off the bus but being a silly sensitive bunny, I felt rather shaken for the rest of the morning, all the excitement gone out the morning.

Thought I would relax when at last I was finally in the huge big bookshop and could browse to my heart’s content.  Except that the mythology section was about as pathetic as the smaller branch, having being swallowed up by thousands and thousands of shelves on food writing, recipe books, diet books, the kind of garbage writing I can’t stand with stupid celebrity faces beaming off every cover.  In fact, every table in Waterstone’s seemed to have books with celebrity faces beaming maniacally at the world in garish technicolour.  Where was the bookshop atmosphere?  Why did my feet hurt so much as I desperately opened yet another book, trying to find at least one chapter on the apparently esoteric subject I’m interested in?  Half the time I could hardly read a line because some arsehole was talking at the top of his voice on his phone (notifications set to full blast) to someone who was also speaking on a loudhailer.

I was really NOT having a good time.  Never mind, I thought desperately.  I’ll buy a fiction book instead but the only copy they had of the book I wanted was imported – £15 for a paperback?!  NUTS.

I left without buying anything and walked home in the ice nuggets, resolved to only buy books from Amazon in future, where browsing is done sitting down while drinking a decent cup of coffee/tea and listening to nice music instead of some foghorn on a phone.  And actually finding the book I want.

I can’t believe that bookshops are no longer the heavenly sanctuary they used to be, where the books on sale are much the same as the crap you find in the supermarket, where the nice coffee bar has turned into a wine bar (or just gone) ….. but far worse, where no niche-type books are available.  Only seven million fucking recipe books.

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Happy New Adverb

As a writer, one must, one presumes, set some sort of writing goal for 2018.  “Write more” is always a good one.  “Read more,” in my case – I’m definitely reading less than I used to.  Time is a factor.

But my most ambitious goal for this year is to be successfully traditionally published.  Realising that I had just shoved two awkward adverbs together, I made my second goal:  to adverbly go where no-one has gone before.

Why are adverbs frowned upon?  A beta reader told me recently that there shouldn’t be more than one adverb per page of any novel.  Is this some kind of Writing Rule?  I’m not talking about common adverbs but the more imaginative ones (although first thing on New Year’s Day, I’m hard-pressed to find an example.)

. . . . .

Convinced I’d find some terrific adverbs in my latest novel, I’ve just gone and had a look at it, searching for all words ending with “ly” (it seemed the quickest way.)  I confess I got a bit of a shock:  there are TEN adverbs on the first page alone and one of them I’ve used twice.  NONE of them are what I would call imaginative.  The best one, on page two, is “stereotypically.”  The rest are really, really (ahem) common.  I use “only” and “really” about a million times a minute.  I am shocked.  Horrified, in fact.  I am horrifyingly shocked.  I am shockingly horrified.  I am an adverb freak!

I was going to use this space to advocate using adverbs more;  to treat with respect the much-maligned part-of-speech.  Instead, I just feel ashamed…….

……but should I??!?  We use trillions of adverbs in our daily speech – why shouldn’t we use them in our writing??  Particularly when you’re deliberately NOT writing a literary work but something considerably more effortless.  I think the word I’m looking for here is commercial – does it follow that commercial fiction has more adverbs than literary works?  I’ve noticed YA fiction has more adverbs than most, which must be why I like it:  the prose is often more imaginative and so much more ALIVE than some very dry fiction I’ve come across.

If I had to take out nine adverbs from the first page of my novel, leaving just the prerequisite one, the writing would turn grey.  So instead of feeling ashamed, I’m going to take a stand:  I’m going to go for COLOUR.  Adverbs are about colour.  They are about adding poetry and rhythm and a sense of space to your writing.  Writing well shouldn’t be about only using one adverb a page:  it should be about expressing an idea beautifully.

. . . . .

And just to prove that it’s not just me, I’ve found other terrific blogs about adverbs:

Best of all, this blog points out the hypocrisy of adverb-haters:


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Working out my novel’s genre

This should be easy.  When you cross several genres,  it starts getting tricky.  It’s not really fantasy.  It could be cosy fantasy but that’s such a lame-sounding description.  The series is going to have bits of sci-fi too, just to make it even more awkward.  “Fiction with a bit of magic” – is that a genre yet?!

This article seems helpful:

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How to Write a Good Book Synopsis (part 2)

I couldn’t reblog this one but it’s worth reading as it’s much more straightforward and do-able.  Also, it gives the LENGTH of the synopsis which I’ve never actually known.  It’s also quite reassuring – agents KNOW writing a synopsis is sheer utter hell and don’t expect a work of art.  Phew.


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