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Guest post: The Truth About Fiction by sff author Shirley Golden

Today’s guest blog post, on the topic of how believable our writing should be, is brought to you by sci-fi fantasy author Shirley Golden.

The Truth about Fiction

shirley-goldenThe first novel I ever wrote fell into the genre of historical fiction. I have to confess, it was driven by my characters and the excitement that I had embarked upon a book-length story. Later, I calmed down, and began to research, adding details and removing sections in a bid to make it more authentic. I worried it wasn’t “real” enough. But I needn’t have worried because after about fifty rejections from agents and a handful of publishers, it became clear that no one else was going to read it. Interestingly, an evaluation from a paid critique was more concerned that my protagonist was not likeable enough, rather than finding fault with the details of time and place.

As I continued to write, I read lots of advice about sticking to your preferred genre. I studied my book shelves. Yes, I certainly had a fair few historical fiction titles. But I loved the Otherworldly and fantasy in all of its forms, regardless of if it was set in the past, present or future. I experimented with other genres. I joined writers’ groups but became a little frustrated with the current trend of sticking to realism in fiction. Of course, I understand the need to suspend disbelief, and that in certain genres (e.g. mis lit, crime fiction) realism is expected. However, from my perspective, so long as I’m invested in psychologically believable characters, and the story has its own internal consistency, I’m prepared to stretch that disbelief far, far away.

When I embarked upon writing my novel, Skyjacked, a space fantasy, I began to research such things as how long it would take to travel to various planets, time-travel and teleportation. I realised my story fell beyond the parameters of what’s currently deemed theoretically possible.

I reminded myself that one of my favourite novels is set during the Napoleonic wars, the protagonist has webbed feet, can walk on water, and her heart is kept in a jar by an ex-lover. Not once during reading Jeanette Winterson’s, The Passion, did I question the credibility of these things. And why should I? I was reading fiction and loving it. Not that I’m comparing my work to hers, or indeed to any “literary” work. But I can’t help feeling that stories are often more fun when we’re prepared to loosen our hold on reality.

After watching the TV series, Sleepy Hollow, I went back to the original short story by Washington Irving. I remembered that some of the underlying themes related to veracity in storytelling. The narrator is unreliable, not privy to the defining moment of the piece, and some of what he relates cannot be known to him, unless one of the other characters told him or, horror of horrors, he made it up! In the postscript, one man says he doesn’t enjoy the story because he can’t believe it, and perhaps serves as a reminder that the joy of reading fiction can be lost if we become too critical.

I’d love to know what others think – do you prefer fiction that conforms to reality, or stories that leap into the fantastical?

*

Thank you, Shirley. I think that as long as something is believable and doesn’t jar with the reader then anything goes. As Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction” and there are often things that happen in real life that you couldn’t write about because no one would believe it… which is a real shame.

Shirley Golden spent ten years working in factories, where making up stories in her head saved her from terminal boredom. She returned to education in her late twenties, gained a degree in psychology, and worked in research for a few years before deciding to dedicate herself to writing fiction full time.

Many of her stories have found homes in the pages or websites of various magazines and anthologies; some have found their way on to competition long and short lists. She won the Exeter Writers Short Story Competition in 2013. She loves flash-fiction and is one of the editors for the FlashFlood Journal, created by Calum Kerr, to celebrate National Flash-Fiction Day.

She is door person and arbitrator to two wannabe tigers, and can sometimes be found on Twitter when she should be writing. She likes to bake jumbo chocolate and pecan cookies and goes for long bike rides to burn off the calories. You can find out more about Shirley from her website (http://www.shirleygolden.net/index.html) and her sci-fi/fantasy novel, Skyjacked, was published by Urbane Publications in May, 2016.

skyjackedcover1Separated from his son, only a galaxy stands between him and home …

The year is 2154, and Corvus Ranger, space pilot and captain of the Soliton, embarks on a penal run to Jupiter’s prison moon, Europa. It should be another routine drop, but a motley band of escaped convicts have other ideas. When Soliton is hijacked, Corvus is forced to set a new destination, one which is far from Earth and his son.

Unable to fight – or smooth talk – his way to freedom, Corvus finds himself tied to the plans of the escapees, including their leader Isidore and a gifted young boy who seems to possess strange abilities.

Desperate to return to Earth and the son he left behind, Corvus is thrown into the ultimate adventure, a star-strewn odyssey where the greatest enemy in the universe may very well be himself.

You can purchase Shirley’s book from…

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Related articles:

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. Guidelines on guest-blogs. There are other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

BREAKING NEWS!!!

hitman-sam-cover-front-smallI wrote a crime lad lit novella (48,000 words) called Hitman Sam in 2008 and over the years, edited it, left it to marinate, re-edited it, put it back, then finally this year (2016), I edited it again and sent it to my beta readers who were kind enough to give me their feedback which led to more alterations and finally, on November 2nd, it was published!

It is available for 99c / 99p (or the equivalent in your country) via http://mybook.to/HitmanSam (links to Amazon in your country) or directly via Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com etc. but before you rush over to purchase this quirky novella, do read on to find out more about it…

Blurb: Newly-redundant software designer Sam Simpson is looking for a new adventure – a cryptic advert in his local paper gives him that, and more. With two women vying for his affection, going behind their backs isn’t the smartest things he’s ever done.

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This follows on just a month after my crime mystery novella, After Jessica, was published. Yay! Details below…

after-jessica-cover-front-smallThe second book I wrote, back in 2009, was After Jessica, a crime mystery novella published in October 2016. You can download this novella for just 99c / 99p via http://mybook.to/AfterJessica (which links to the Amazon page in your country) or directly from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com etc.

Tagline: Wind up his late sister’s affairs, Simon gets more than he bargains for.

Blurb: Jessica is an ordinary girl who comes across extraordinary circumstances and pays for them with her life. As well as identifying her body, her brother Simon then has to wind up her affairs but gets more than he bargains for. Who is Alexis, and why are Veronica and Daniel searching for her? Why is there a roll of cash in Jessica’s house, and what’s the connection between Simon’s sister and Alexis?

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2016 in articles, ebooks, ideas, novels, tips, writing

 

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Guest post: Putting Words In Their Mouths – How I Write Dialogue by Kristen Bailey

Today’s guest blog post, on the topic of dialogue, is brought to you by novelist and short story author Kristen Bailey.

Putting Words In Their Mouths – How I Write Dialogue

kristenWhen I was little, I was always slightly in awe of the cinema. I was a child of the eighties, when films were always a big event and I spent many hours with my sister and brother watching films over and over again until the video tapes sometimes snapped. It didn’t stop there, we would re-enact them, and commit a vast repertoire of classic lines to memory. I would like to say I’ve matured a lot since then, but still now Sunday lunch will be spent with the three of us quoting entire scenes from films that no-one else has seen, to the despair of my parents who wonder where they went wrong raising us…

It’s why I often think I’m obsessed with dialogue when I write. It’s the part of writing I actually love the most as it gives my characters life and purpose. By rights, this means I should probably be a screenwriter but instead I write contemporary women’s fiction where dialogue always features heavily and which often has to have an acerbic comedy edge to it. Does this mean my work is brimming with one-liners and jokes? Not really, and especially when it comes to dialogue. Few people speak like stand-up comedians and I know immediately if I’ve forced a joke in my dialogue as it will feel unnatural on reading it aloud. A lot of comedy is actually in the delivery and the situation, but it’s also not always explicit. It can be observational or paired with the reaction of someone’s inner thoughts. An editor once gave me the good advice to limit the amount of swearing I used in dialogue too. Saying ‘f***’ a lot can be amusing but can be jarring to read in print. It’s far funnier to be inventive instead: consider the usual ‘f****** hell!’ and how a replacement like ‘mother of arsebiscuits!’ is more memorable yet equally as impactful.

In both my novels, Souper Mum and Second Helpings, I also gave myself the challenge of tackling a variety of dialects; Tommy McCoy is a Mockney TV chef, Jools’ husband, Matt is Scottish, his mother Italian, Cam is American and Remy, Luella’s husband is French. Why not just ensure all my characters are from South London? Well, where would be the fun in that! I think it’s a tribute to my background and line of work. I’ve always loved, listening to the way that people talk; the intonation, the rhythm, the dialect that sets any one speaker apart from another. I trained and worked as a teacher of English as a foreign language so have always been fine tuned into listening to people’s accents but it’s also something I grew up with having a Singaporean mother and Guyanese father. Of course, authenticity is key here, so when writing dialogue in dialect I always read it aloud. My husband knows this better than most as he often wanders into a darkened room confused as to why I’m doing bad impressions of Shrek…

Inspiration to write dialogue can come from different sources too. I am admittedly a bit nosy and a great eavesdropper, nothing gives me greater joy than being sat on a crowded train and being inspired by two drunk people having a conversation about nothing. Because sometimes conversations have no purpose, their credibility is in their normality. In Second Helpings especially, there are scenes between Matt and Jools littered with incomplete sentences and a conversational ‘shorthand’ that is often evident between couples who have lived with each other for so long that they implicitly know what the other is talking about. In these scenes, economy is key: the prose takes over but I annotate the action with periods of comfortable silence too.

However, I’m still a TV/film addict too. I believe some of the best writing today is on television, and hearing dialogue being read out, as it should, can give you such great clues into how people really speak. Orange is The New Black has some of the best one-liners I’ve ever heard, the dialogue is not only slick but the comedy comes with how quick they spew out those lines, one on top of the other. For comedy inspiration, I always go back to shows like New Girl, Sex and the City, Modern Family and anything by Graham Linehan.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2016 in articles, ebooks, novels, short stories, tips, writing

 

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Last chance to get my online courses for £1 / $1-$2!!

Courses April 2016 cropped

Hello everyone. Yes, that’s right. Udemy are stopping the cut-price discount coding and in future, discounts will be a maximum of 50% off. They will also limit the cost of a course from a minimum of $15 to a maximum of $50. This will stop some tutors offering inflated $300 courses which I think has been crazy to charge!

I have six courses available to-date via Udemy.com and Fedora (the rest following in the next few weeks) and on Udemy are just £1 or $1-2 using the codes below…

  • writer’s block workbook – volume 1: five weeks’ worth of beginning prompts to help create over 100 new pieces with tips to help your writing ongoing. This course is currently just £1 / $1 (normally £8 / $9) by entering the code MB-BLOG-DOLLAR (or click here). The link to the same course on Fedora is here but it is currently full price. There are however other price options on Fedora to include one-to-one support from me, the tutor. Click here for the course description.
  • writer’s block workbook – volume 2: five weeks’ worth of keyword prompts to help create over 100 new pieces with tips to help your writing ongoing. This course is currently just £1 / $1 (normally £8 / $9) by entering the code MB-BLOG-DOLLAR (or click here). The link to the same course on Fedora is here but it is currently full price. There are however other price options on Fedora to include one-to-one support from me, the tutor. Click here for the course description.
  • writing tips – part 1: 30 tips and 90+ exercises to spark your creativity. This course is currently just £1 / $1 (normally £12 / $15) by entering the code MB-BLOG-DOLLAR (or click here). The link to the same course on Fedora is here but it is currently full price. There are however other price options on Fedora to include one-to-one support from me, the tutor. Click here for the course description.
  • writing tips – part 2: 30 tips and 90+ exercises to enhance your writing. This course is currently just £1 / $2 (normally £12 / $15) by entering the code MB-BLOG-POUND (click here). The link to the same course on Fedora is here but it is currently full price. There are however other price options on Fedora to include one-to-one support from me, the tutor. Click here for the course description.
  • entering writing competitions: writing competitions from an entrant’s and judge’s viewpoint. This course is currently just £1 / $1 (normally £12 / $15) by entering the code MB-BLOG-DOLLAR (or click here). The link to the same course on Fedora is here but it is currently full price. There are however other price options on Fedora to include one-to-one support from me, the tutor. See here for the course description.
  • make your book pitch-ready: take your novel, non-fiction book or story / poetry collection from draft to submission and beyond. This course is currently just £1 / $2 (normally £19 / $25) by entering the code MB-BLOG-POUND (or click here). The link to the same course on Fedora is here but it is currently full price. There are however other price options on Fedora to include one-to-one support from me, the tutor. Click here for the course description.

The prices listed above are for the course only (to include help with the course itself within the discussion areas on the courses themselves). For anyone looking for feedback on their writing on the Udemy courses, take a look at my Editing and Critique page which is based upon the word count of your manuscript. Alternatively there are other pricing options on the Fedora links that offer extra assistance.

 

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Morgen’s story review no.159 – OxCrimes 15: James Sallis’ Venice is Sinking into the Sea

Today’s book review of a single short story (the fifteenth in the 27-story charity crime anthology OxCrimes collection) is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.

I rarely read ‘proper’ books (paperbacks / hardbacks) and I’d wanted to read this collection for a while so bought it as a paperback so I could sit and read at least one short story a day. (I’m also writing short stories for competitions and submissions too and have sent three off in the last week!).

If you’d like your short story or writing guide reviewed, or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Being a writer and editor, I read and review books with both hats. If you’re a writer reading this review and found it useful, do let me know.

The OxCrimes Collection

OxCrimesFor 2014, Oxfam and Profile Books have turned to crime in order to raise a further £200,000 for Oxfam’s work. OxCrimes is introduced by Ian Rankin and has been curated by Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, where it will be launched in May. The stellar cast of contributors will include Mark Billingham, Alexander McCall Smith, Anthony Horowitz, Val McDermid, Peter James, Adrian McKinty, Denise Mina, Louise Welsh and a host of other compelling suspects. Profile Books have raised more than a quarter of a million pounds for Oxfam by publishing OxTales (2009) and OxTravels (9781846684968) (2011).

This collection is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/OxCrimes-Introduced-Ian-Rankin-Ox-Tales-ebook/dp/B00IJKJTXW and http://www.amazon.com/OxCrimes-Introduced-Ian-Rankin-Ox-Tales-ebook/dp/B00IJKJTXW.

Review of James Sallis’ Venice is Sinking into the Sea

This is a very short short story (6 standard book pages) so a short review…

I am much more a fan of dialogue and description because it shows us ‘plot’ via the character rather than ‘telling’ us what’s happening. So, for me, description has to pop, and it is certainly vivid here, although I found parts of the story quite confusing but didn’t initially read it in one go which I would have been better doing so after the first read as I got to the end and went “eh”? So I went back and read it again in one go.

I’m from England and like learning about other countries, facts such as Boston being ‘old America’.

And now for writers…

– I would always recommend having distinctive character names in short stories, ideally with different first initials. This story is only six pages and while there are Dana and Sean, there are two pairs with the same first initial: Will and Wayne, then Jamie and Jonas… made all the more confusing when Jamie was ‘pushing will and voice above the crowd’ (not the name ‘Will’ put as in willpower). Although these pairs of names look different on the page, and are fairly short, Will and Wayne’s appeared close together so thought they were the same person as I had, unfortunately, stopped reading at Will but then started again to find the next character was Wayne so hadn’t made the distinction without going back and re-reading a bit of it.

Conclusion

It’s a very subtle story, so subtle in places that I didn’t ‘get it’ the first time. On the second reading, I could see it for the clever story it was, although far from being one of my favourites.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I shall be back tomorrow with my review of Maxim Jakubowski’s My Life as a Killer, the sixteenth story in this collection.

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Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a freelance editor, online tutor, prolific blogger, 2015 Head Judge for the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction CompetitionRONE 2015 Judge.

As well as a teacher of creative writing (and writing-related I.T.) for her local county council and online, Morgen will be one of five tutors at the 2017 Crime & Publishment alongside crime authors Lin Anderson and Martina Cole!

Morgen’s first love is writing and she is a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on TwitterFacebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page) and has created five online writing groups. She also runs a free monthly 100-word writing competition where you can win her online creative writing courses!

Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has nine others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.

She also helps other authors with an inexpensive freelance editing and critiquing service (free 1,000-word sample), and welcomes, and actively helps to promote, guest authors on her blog – see opportunities.

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If you would like to send me a book review, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Related articles:

*** Breaking news! My online creative writing courses are currently just £1 or $1-2 each
but only until 3rd April! ***

You can subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app via Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. Alternatively, you can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything (see right-hand vertical menu).

You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my books (including my debut novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping Listvarious short story collections and writer’s block workbooks) and If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating. Thank you.

Morgen Bailey Cover montage 2I now run online courses – details on Courses – and for anyone looking for an editor, do take a look at Editing and Critique.

If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.

 
 

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Morgen’s story review no.156 – OxCrimes 12: Peter James’ You’ll Never Forget my Face

Today’s book review of a single short story (the twelfth in the 27-story charity crime anthology OxCrimes collection) is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.

I rarely read ‘proper’ books (paperbacks / hardbacks) and I’d wanted to read this collection for a while so bought it as a paperback so I could sit and read at least one short story a day. (I’m also writing short stories for competitions and submissions too and have sent three off in the last week!).

If you’d like your short story or writing guide reviewed, or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Being a writer and editor, I read and review books with both hats. If you’re a writer reading this review and found it useful, do let me know.

The OxCrimes Collection

OxCrimesFor 2014, Oxfam and Profile Books have turned to crime in order to raise a further £200,000 for Oxfam’s work. OxCrimes is introduced by Ian Rankin and has been curated by Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, where it will be launched in May. The stellar cast of contributors will include Mark Billingham, Alexander McCall Smith, Anthony Horowitz, Val McDermid, Peter James, Adrian McKinty, Denise Mina, Louise Welsh and a host of other compelling suspects. Profile Books have raised more than a quarter of a million pounds for Oxfam by publishing OxTales (2009) and OxTravels (9781846684968) (2011).

This collection is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/OxCrimes-Introduced-Ian-Rankin-Ox-Tales-ebook/dp/B00IJKJTXW and http://www.amazon.com/OxCrimes-Introduced-Ian-Rankin-Ox-Tales-ebook/dp/B00IJKJTXW.

Review of Peter James‘ You’ll Never Forget my Face

This is a very short short story (7 standard book pages) so a short review…

This is an intriguing story which carries with it a Poe-esque feel, especially as came to its climax. Being so short, it certainly packs a punch (as the cliché) goes.

I thought I had guessed the ending from about halfway but it had me fooled.

And now for writers:

– I would always recommend avoiding unnecessary repetition, and here we have a scene with the lines, ‘Black eyes watched her from the darkness of the car’s interior. She wanted to get out of the car and scream for help…’ I would have chopped ‘of the car’ because we know where she is.

– One thing I’ve noticed about this collection is the lack of section breaks for time passing (and switch of p.o.v.), and there is one needed in this story where time passes. It’s not the end of the world but is something that should have been corrected in the editing process.

Conclusion

A creepy little tale that would definitely make any reader want to read other works by Peter James.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I shall be back tomorrow with my review of Denise Mina‘s The Calm Before, the thirteenth story in this collection.

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Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a freelance editor, online tutor, prolific blogger, 2015 Head Judge for the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction CompetitionRONE 2015 Judge.

As well as a teacher of creative writing (and writing-related I.T.) for her local county council and online, Morgen will be one of five tutors at the 2017 Crime & Publishment alongside crime authors Lin Anderson and Martina Cole!

Morgen’s first love is writing and she is a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on TwitterFacebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page) and has created five online writing groups. She also runs a free monthly 100-word writing competition where you can win her online creative writing courses!

Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has nine others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.

She also helps other authors with an inexpensive freelance editing and critiquing service (free 1,000-word sample), and welcomes, and actively helps to promote, guest authors on her blog – see opportunities.

***

If you would like to send me a book review, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Related articles:

*** Breaking news! My online creative writing courses are currently just £1 or $1-2 each
but only until 3rd April! ***

You can subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app via Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. Alternatively, you can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything (see right-hand vertical menu).

You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my books (including my debut novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping Listvarious short story collections and writer’s block workbooks) and If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating. Thank you.

Morgen Bailey Cover montage 2I now run online courses – details on Courses – and for anyone looking for an editor, do take a look at Editing and Critique.

If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.

 

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Morgen’s story review no.145 – OxCrimes 1: George Pelecanos’ The Dead Their Eyes Implore Us

Today’s book review of a single short story (the first in the 27-story charity crime anthology OxCrimes collection) is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.

I rarely read ‘proper’ books (paperbacks / hardbacks) and I’d wanted to read this collection for a while so bought it as a paperback so I could sit and read at least one short story a day. (I’m also writing short stories for competitions and submissions too and have sent three off in the last week!).

If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Being a writer and editor, I read and review books with both hats. If you’re a writer reading this review and found it useful, do let me know.

The OxCrimes collection

OxCrimesFor 2014, Oxfam and Profile Books have turned to crime in order to raise a further £200,000 for Oxfam’s work. OxCrimes is introduced by Ian Rankin and has been curated by Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, where it will be launched in May. The stellar cast of contributors will include Mark Billingham, Alexander McCall Smith, Anthony Horowitz, Val McDermid, Peter James, Adrian McKinty, Denise Mina, Louise Welsh and a host of other compelling suspects. Profile Books have raised more than a quarter of a million pounds for Oxfam by publishing OxTales (2009) and OxTravels (9781846684968) (2011).

This collection is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/OxCrimes-Introduced-Ian-Rankin-Ox-Tales-ebook/dp/B00IJKJTXW and http://www.amazon.com/OxCrimes-Introduced-Ian-Rankin-Ox-Tales-ebook/dp/B00IJKJTXW.

Review of ‘The Dead Their Eyes Implore Us’ by George Pelecanos

This is a short short story (c. 20 standard book pages) so a short review…

The start of this story has a Silence of the Lambs feel, although I had that in my mind as it had been mentioned a couple of days before in one of the brilliant Crime & Publishment workshop*.

Although I liked the intimacy of first-person point of view, the ‘Let me…’ sentences grated because he kept going back to what I felt were irrelevant times in his life, and it was as if he felt the reader was stopping him (which I would like to have done!).

The main character starts the story by apologising for his bad English yet knows some difficult words.

For me, there was a lot of back story with little action, a shame for the first story, a bit like the first chapter in a twenty-seven chapter novel. There were six pages of set-up which I felt could have been chopped or done in a couple of paragraphs.

Conclusion

It’s an ok story. Fans of description (and of the author) will probably like it – I’m a dialogue fan – but it’s not made me want to read any more of the author’s writing, which is a shame.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I shall be back tomorrow with my review of Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Case of Death and Honey’, the second story in this collection.

*Oh yes, exciting news!!! I shall be one of the tutors (doing an editing workshop) at next year’s Crime & Publishment, alongside four other tutors including Lin Anderson and Martina Cole!

*

Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a freelance editor, online tutor, prolific blogger, 2015 Head Judge for the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction CompetitionRONE 2015 Judge.

As well as a teacher of creative writing (and writing-related I.T.) for her local county council and online, Morgen will be one of five tutors at the 2017 Crime & Publishment alongside crime authors Lin Anderson and Martina Cole!

Morgen’s first love is writing and she is a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on TwitterFacebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page) and has created five online writing groups. She also runs a free monthly 100-word writing competition where you can win her online creative writing courses!

Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has nine others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.

She also helps other authors with an inexpensive freelance editing and critiquing service (free 1,000-word sample), and welcomes, and actively helps to promote, guest authors on her blog – see opportunities.

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If you would like to send me a book review, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Related articles:

*** Breaking news! My online creative writing courses are currently just £1 or $1-2 each! ***

You can subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app via Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. Alternatively, you can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything (see right-hand vertical menu).

You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my books (including my debut novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping Listvarious short story collections and writer’s block workbooks) and If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating. Thank you.

Morgen Bailey Cover montage 2I now run online courses – details on Courses – and for anyone looking for an editor, do take a look at Editing and Critique.

If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.

 

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Book review – for readers and writers – no.143: Morgen Bailey reviews Michael Connelly’s crime novel The Poet

Today’s book review of a crime novel is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed (please note I’m usually booked up several months in advance) and / or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Being a writer and editor, I read and review books with both hats. If you’re a writer reading this review and found it useful, do let me know.

The Poet by Michael Connelly

The Poet coverSynopsis: The apparent suicide of his policeman brother sets Denver crime reporter Jack McEvoy on edge. Surprise at the circumstances of his brother’s death prompts Jack to look into a whole series of police suicides, and puts him on the trail of a cop killer whose victims are selected all too carefully. Not only that, but they all leave suicide notes drawn from the poems of writer Edgar Allan Poe in their wake. More frightening still, the killer appears to know that Jack is getting nearer and nearer. An investigation that looks like the story of a lifetime might also be Jack’s ticket to a lonely end.

This novel is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/Poet-Michael-Connelly-ebook/dp/B0037471VC and http://www.amazon.com/Poet-Michael-Connelly-ebook/dp/B0037471VC.

Review (of the audiobook)

Information is trickled to the reader throughout the novel and we switch from the first-person point of view Jack and the criminal, written via the narrator in third person. He certainly is creepy. We feel sorry for Jack from the beginning because of what happened to his brother so we’re going to want him to be OK, and stories written with deadlines is inevitably going to be pacey. The ending, after some twists, was unexpected and not unbelievable.

There is plenty to like about this novel – especially how it was narrated by Buck Schirner – but needless to say, I have found some to pick!…

  • A lot of (far too many) ‘began to’ / ‘started to’ before verbs. If something is happening then the ‘began to’ etc. can be chopped.
  • Other words that can you be dropped include completely (we have here ‘completely avoided’), totally etc.
  • There are a fair number of dialogue tags, e.g. he said / she said, where they are not needed. For example, when it has been established who the characters are and there are only two having a conversation, we don’t need to know so often who is speaking – especially where one of the characters names is mentioned by the other.
  • Unless you are just starting out, most writers know to avoid adverbs wherever possible, especially after dialogue and some examples in this novel are, “F***k the lawyer,” Sweetzer said angrily, “Give it to me!”, she said angrily, “You weasel,” Thorson said angrily. (Michael likes his angrilys, doesn’t he.) These are examples where you are telling the reader how the character is feeling rather than showing. Another example is ‘cheeks were hot with anger’ yet we know why his cheeks would be hot because of what led up to that. As long as the set up context of what you are writing is clear, you don’t need to include additional detail explaining what has happened before.
  • I have never been keen on the phrase ‘a long moment’ and there were two close together about halfway through the novel and a couple more later but I think it’s more of an Americanism than Britishism.
  • There is a lot of unnecessary repetition, especially noticed again around the halfway mark including ‘I started slowly to look about. I moved slowly through the house…’, ‘into a trailer park. Several inhabitant of the park… (where ‘several inhabitants’ would have done because we already know where they are), ‘walked through. Rachel walked…’, ‘The phone rang. Rachel yanked the phone out of the cradle.’ This could easily have been replaced by handset. Other examples include ‘…a back office. He came back…’ where the second back could have been replaced by ‘returned’, and finally, “It’s obviously sent to you… obviously been waiting for me…” What made this more annoying was that many of these instances are within the same chapter.

Conclusion

A very enjoyable novel, with a gripping the plot, only losing a point because of its need for a more thorough editing.

This novel was written and first published in the mid 1990s so presumably early in Michael’s career so as not as well written – or at least not as well edited – as his later novels so partly forgiveable, but the errors I have mentioned here certainly should have been picked up by a professional editor.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a freelance editor, online tutor, prolific blogger, 2015 Head Judge for the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition, RONE 2015 Judge, and teaches creative writing (and writing-related I.T.) for her local county council and online. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page) and has created five online writing groups. She also runs a free monthly 100-word writing competition where you can win her online creative writing courses!

Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has nine others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.

She also helps other authors with an inexpensive freelance editing and critiquing service (free 1,000-word sample), and welcomes, and actively helps to promote, guest authors on her blog – see opportunities.

***

If you would like to send me a book review, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Related articles:

*** Breaking news! My online creative writing courses are currently just £1 or $1-2 each! ***

You can subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app via Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. Alternatively, you can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything (see right-hand vertical menu).

You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my books (including my debut novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping Listvarious short story collections and writer’s block workbooks) and If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating. Thank you.

Morgen Bailey Cover montage 2I now run online courses – details on Courses – and for anyone looking for an editor, do take a look at Editing and Critique.

If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2016 in critique, novels, review, tips, writing

 

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