What a fabulous idea! Award winning author C J Cooke has partnered with Paper Nations to create the first ever ‘Stay at Home’ literary festival. Staring tomorrow March 27th, and running through to April 11th you can dip in and out of any of the workshops by simply clicking on the links provided (no need to register in advance). Workshops cover everything bookish, from how to write a best selling thriller to adventure writing for children. The festivals aims to combat loneliness, champion connectivity, & celebrate books! It is completely free and completely online, can’t say it enough – what a fabulous idea! If you need me, you know where I’ll be… Link to the full programme below…
In this crazy world of fake news and dwindling access to reality, books are more important than ever. As a child I stood outside my local library many times waiting for it to open. I was desperate to trace my fingers across the shelves and find books that would stimulate, educate and inform.
I’m saddened to think that children today have far less opportunity than I did to access such a rich seam of knowledge. Libraries encourage freedom to think, they give you courage to be who you are. Almost a fifth of UK libraries have closed since 2010 – it is a shocking statistic.
Organisations which support reading projects get a big thumbs up from me, which is why I want to draw your attention to the charity Give a book. They promote reading for pleasure and give books where they will make a difference. They work within many settings including prisons and schools across the UK.
From December 3rd – December 10th if you donate to the charity through The Big Christmas Give link here your donation will be match funded!
Poor reading is linked to economic disadvantage and reduced life opportunities. If you truly want to give a gift worth giving please donate what you can.
With The Brits oh, I mean The Bryts (I’m so old school…) held last night, I got to thinking about how powerful and inspiring music can be.
Music connects with me in a way not much else can… except…books!
Music reaches into my soul and shines a light into places that are often left in shadow. Maybe it evokes a memory or a feeling. It plays around with parts of me that don’t surface as often as they should.
Recently I set myself a challenge to create a soundtrack for each piece of writing I either completed myself or read. It has been an entertaining and enlightening experience! My musical taste is eclectic to say the least, and I have spent hours pondering whether a character in one of my short stories is more into rock than jazz! If truth be told I would probably want all of my characters to like jazz, but that’s a whole other blog post!
So, what pieces of wisdom did I manage to garner from my quasi experiment? Above and beyond the obvious fact that both mediums tell stories and the sheer good fun of it all?
I’ve learnt that in order to be brave you must be vulnerable. It could I suppose apply to any art form, but my drugs of choice are books and music. They are as interconnected in me as blood and DNA. They exist to compliment each other not to compete. Buried within the words of both is a truth, shared just with me. The wordsmiths have been brave. They have laid out their vulnerability for all to see. The least I can do is try to hear and understand.
2018 spat me into 2019 before I felt ready! The good news is now I’m ready! So, belated New Year greetings!
I have a plan for 2019, well sort of. I slumped my way towards the end of last year after an action packed Spring, Summer and Autumn. I don’t have a crystal ball but this year is not about puppies or kittens or any other sort of fluffy fur-balls as far as I’m aware. This year is about my writing. Thanks to my wonderful diary courtesy of Charlie at Urban Writers Retreats I can hold myself to account. I shall be either patting myself on the back, or slapping myself around the face, depending on how things are going! I’m happy to report so far no faces have been slapped! 🤣 Happy New Year!
Sage advice from the man himself –
To be a good writer, I believe that one has to read a lot of books. Fifty a year would be a good place to start, but twenty five would work... Stephen King.
I shall be putting this good advice into practice over the holiday season.
Merry Christmas everyone x
Today I’ve been ruminating… Yes, I am feeling quite well, thanks for asking!
A while ago I wrote a blog piece on the believability of character flaws. They are such a big part of a writers remit that I wanted to revisit them. Recently I’ve read a few books where the characters were not believable and it irked me. The books were well written, and the stories could have been so amazing. Yet the characters were not believable. Those books sadly were just words on a page, there was no life in them and I got bored!
Characters need to be equally at home eating a plate of pasta, as running for their lives. Buried deep within the pages they need to live, breathe and come to life.
As a reader, I need to understand them. If I don’t understand them, I don’t believe them. If I don’t believe them, I can’t connect with them and I hang up. I don’t have to agree with them or even like them, but I do need to have a level of understanding.
As I move forward to write book 4 my head is filled with people. Tall people, short people, fat people, thin people – all bouncing through my mind waiting for their moment to connect. Some I’ve already ditched, some I am curious about and some keep me awake at night!
They are ordinary people living ordinary lives…. until something extraordinary happens. How many ordinary lives do you know that are perfectly lived? Exactly!
We, as a species love nothing more than neat little boxes. We want labels on absolutely everything from gender to religion, to leftovers in the fridge (maybe that one’s just me…). We gain a level of security knowing where we are within the world and how everyone else fits into our model.
I, am a walking contradiction. I change my mind more often than not, tell white lies, debate, argue and cry. I laugh at things I shouldn’t and get myself into awkward and tricky situations. Am I perfect – er no! Am I believable? I would like to think so. And that’s the point. It is OK for me to change my mind – I am flawed, it’s part of who I am. It is the same for my characters. They can change their minds too but (you knew there was a ‘but’ coming), as writers, we get so focused on making sure our characters fit into the boxes we’ve created they can become ‘too perfect’. Characters with contradictions, some ‘why the hell did they do that?’ moments grab our attention. Crazy events work well if you understand them. You need events to move your story forward. People are peculiar- not perfect!
Usually, events are character driven, unless you’re a shark, a big great white shark with big teeth! Although, thinking about it, even shark based thrillers require the characters to get into the water!
So lovely people put your characters in the water and watch them swim for their lives! They can swim right?…Cue scary music…
So many books, so little time will always ring true for me. My Magpie tenancies are definitely of the bookish variety. I am reading more books now than ever before and it’s wonderful! I undertook the GoodReads reading challenge and am doing a rather smug happy dance as I have completed it. This year, I have read 40, yes that’s 40 books! Pop on over to Good Reads to see my complete list.
I’m reminded of that wonderful poem by Eleanor Farjeon, but rather than sleeping anywhere like the cats in the poem, I’m have done the equivalent with reading! Whether an inflight magazine, a thrilling novel, or just simply a set of instructions for a new mop (don’t ask…). Each has got me thinking in different ways – yes, even the mop instructions!
Reading so much does have a downside… I have fallen victim to the good, the bad, and the downright ugly! Luckily, for me, 2017 has been more about ‘the good’ than anything else. It is these books that I wish to highlight as we turn the last few pages of 2017. So, if you’re looking for a good read look no further. My taste is eclectic and broad, each one of my mentions has something different to offer, hopefully you will find something to spark your interest. My goal for 2018 is to challenge myself further, not only with the amount I read, but also the genres I choose. It will be an exciting year as I peer into those far flung, least visited corners of the library….
I have very thoughtfully listed my top reads for 2017 below …. with buy links…..my gift to you 🙂 You can thank me later:
So, I’ve shown you mine, now it’s your turn. What books have you enjoyed reading this year?
Here’s to 2018 being a year filled with health and happiness, and plenty of good reads.
I have written this post on my phone whilst travelling, so apologies if the formatting is a bit ‘special’.
These days the humble # is found everywhere. Hashtags are a necessary part of marketing as any fun loving marketeer or PR guru will tell you. Started on Twitter their reach now extends across most media platforms.They can be used for fun, wider social or political issues or just because. Love them or loathe them they are here to stay. For authors, they can be a useful way of reaching a wider audience and potentially connecting with new readers. That is of course if you get it right.
Having cast my eye over today’s trending offerings everything from #internationalbeerday to #FlashbackFriday is filling my twitter feed.So how as a rooky can you even come close to ‘trending’ or at the very least expand your audience? Here’s one thing I’ve learned about expanding your audience which I wanted to share with you. You need to know who the top influencers are in your field.Now, this is where it gets a bit sciencey so bear with me. Top influencers are those tweeters who have received the most impressions for a hashtag from their own tweets and the number of retweets they get. So how do you find them? Ah well… The easiest but also most expensive way is to pay someone to do it for you. Just type into Google ‘top influencers twitter’ and you will be presented with a wealth of companies offering you bespoke services. Or you could do what I did and do it the cheap way! Take a look a company called Klout who offer a free service. Klout allows you to share content and link you social media accounts to see how influential and engaging you have been on social media. Using a fancy algorithm it then spits out your score of influence from 1 – 100. I got 49 so obviously I am not as engaging as I like to think and still have some way to go! What I really like about this app is it allows you to identify the top experts (influencers) in your field who you can choose to follow.You can also monitor how you’re doing via your ‘Klout Score’ which changes dependant on the aforesaid fancy algorithm. It’s a great way of expanding your audience and increasing your online presence.Until recently I had no idea such things existed but as all good indies know it takes a lot of hard graft to raise your wee small hand in the maddening crowd. Simples yes? I hope you too have found this small journey into the unknown helpful 🙂
#It’sthesmallthings #EnjoyLife #AmWriting #NeverGiveUp #FridayThoughts
Books come in all shapes and sizes, in all genres and for all purposes. There is nothing quite like a travel guide though to get you in the holiday mood. The internet is my friend when it comes to information gathering but there is something spine-tinglingly good about holding a physical copy of a travel guide. They make me feel equipped for adventure regardless of my destination. Highlighter at the ready I slowly devour each page looking for nuggets of gold to underline and emphasize.
I like ‘local’ books. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing amiss with the big boys. The likes of ‘Lonely Planet’ and ‘Rough Guide’ certainly have a place and their research is solid. I, however, like to support smaller ventures. Books with quirky facts and tips that offer an alternate flavour excite me. Below is my top 5 for 2017 (so far). They are books I’ve travelled with and enjoyed. It is by no means a definitive list – Lord knows I have not read or travelled enough to make it so. My aim is to get you to think the next time you go and search for a travel guide. I want you to dive beyond the first five pages offered up when you type in your travel destination. You’ll be surprised by what’s out there.
I can attest to having read all of the books below and found them informative, funny (in places) and well worth the investment. A test of a good travel guide for me is one that returns from vacation full of pink highlighted sections – there is something deeply satisfying about getting to work with a highlighter! So without further ado……
- Brit Guide to Orlando – This book is updated yearly and was the first book I ever used, I haven’t looked back since. There is almost too much information and for first timers it may seem overwhelming. Arm yourself with a highlighter (pink preferably) and you won’t go far wrong. Reliable and informative this guide is full of top tips and insider info. I have returned to Florida many times over the years and always go armed with this book, there are always new nuggets to be found. If Orlando floats your boat then this is the one! It is quite a weighty book but it does cover pretty much everything!
2. Cruise Control – Top Tips for First Time Cruisers – A nifty little book chock full of top tips to help you enjoy your cruise experience. As a first timer, I found this book really informative and funny. It doesn’t tell you what cruise to go on or where to travel to but it is helpful when it comes to making the most of your cruise. I would argue that even veteran cruisers would be able to gather some useful insights. It is a small book so fits perfectly into your handbag!
3. Secret Beaches South West – As someone who lives in the South West of England this book was a revelation. A great easy to read guide, which showcases some truly beautiful and captivating beaches. I am slowly visiting as many of these beaches as I can and they are exactly as the book suggests – secret! You could build your holiday around visiting this wonderful selection.
4. Sweden:101 Coolest Things to Do in Sweden – This is exactly up my street. Just like the cruise book it is full of interesting bits and bobs. OK so the formatting and spelling leave a bit to be desired but I quite like the ‘less than perfect’ feel of it. It is full of cool things to do and they are not activities I’ve seen featured in other guides.
5. Venice & Verona for the Shameless Hedonist – Venice is one of my favourite cities, which is why a large chunk of my debut novel All Tomorrow’s Parties is set there. This is one of the best guides I have come across. It has the benefit of including 6 walking tours too. This book has the feel of being written by someone who loves Italy as much as I do. It is good for foodies, wine lovers and shoppers alike!
So there you have it fellow travel enthusiasts my down and dirty guide to guides. All of these books are worth you taking a cheeky peak… Hopefully, your feet are well and truly itching…
I’d love to know what guides you’ve found useful? Please comment below.