Insecure Writers Support Group #IWSG ‘Blogging Friends’ #bookbloggers #amwriting @SCVincent

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession. By the way, all writers are invited to join in!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

The awesome co-hosts for the February 3 posting of the IWSG are Louise – Fundy Blue , Jennifer Lane, Mary Aalgaard, Patsy Collins at Womagwriter, and Nancy Gideon!

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

February 3 question – Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

When I started blogging in November 2013, I had no idea what I was doing! I had heard of blogs, of course, and I’d probably read some blog posts, but I’d never even thought of starting one.

An online writer friend I met through Goodreads told me every writer should have a blog, so I started looking into what blogs actually were and decided to give it a go, and I’m really glad I did.

Blogging and interacting with other bloggers has helped me improve and develop my writing career by improving my craft through writing blog posts and creative flash fiction, showcasing my writing and sharing opinions and work with other readers and writers. It has given me a window to the world and a direct connection to other readers, writers and bloggers.

I’ve met a lot of bloggers along the way, and there are a few who I consider my ‘blogging friends’. But first I’d like to briefly reflect on the term ‘Blogging friend’. What is a blogging friend?

My blogging friends share many characteristics of the friends I see face to face. They are both supportive and friendly, which means I can ask them for help and advice on the topics that brought us together, in my case, mainly books and writing. We often share other personal opinions and some aspects of our private lives, too. We regularly read and comment on our posts and our projects. I feel as if I know them, so if I ever physically met them, I’m sure we’d chat away about our common passion and everything else we could think of!

The only thing blogging friendships lack is physical interaction and after this epidemic, when 95% of the contact I have with friends and family is online or on my phone, I’d say physical contact is overrated!

Sue Vincent: A Very Special Blogger

Talking about blogging friends, I’d like to introduce you to a very special blogging friend, who she has thousands of followers and blogging friends and is well-loved by many bloggers: Sue Vincent.

I ‘met’ Sue in 2017 when I first took part in her weekly photo prompt challenge on her blog called #Writephoto.

#Writephoto is a great challenge because there is no word or genre limit, just a picture prompt to take you wherever your thoughts go!

Sue is a very supportive host who comments on all entries and reblogs as many as she can every week.

She has three Websites where she shares her poems (And I love her #midnighthaiku) flash fiction, short stories, guest posts, poetry, books, etc.:

Daily Echo

France & Vincent

The Silent Eye

Sue is struggling with a serious illness at present read more about that here, so she could do with love and support from the blogging community to which she has contributed so much over the years.

Charli Mills’ Carrot Ranch Literary Community, another supportive online writing and blogging community, is organising The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic, including a Flash Fiction Event to celebrate and support Sue. Read all about it in H. R. R. Gorman’s post on behalf of the Rodeo Organization Team and take part.

Find out more about Sue here

Finally I’d like to share a poem I wrote this morning. Hoping you all have a wonderful Wednesday.

 

#WritePhoto ‘The Saxon Princess’ #FlashFiction #Netflix

The Saxon Princess, a 112-word flash fiction, was written in response to Sue Vincent’s weekly photo prompt. Join in or read other entries here!

The Saxon Princess

Princess Judith hid behind the huge rock and retrieved her slaughtered father’s dagger. 

The entire village watched her run to the mountains, her wedding dress trailing behind. No one stopped her or helped. They feared Bolverker, the conqueror.

Night fell. She could freeze to death or go back to the humiliation of a forced marriage to a pagan raider. Bolverker waited. He would not show weakness by chasing an arrogant, Christian girl. Judith returned; it would be more honourable than dying in exile. 

Bolverker smiled as she entered. The poisoned blade was hidden under her dress. She was ready to kill or be killed for her God, her people, and her freedom.

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As you may have guessed, I’ve been watching too many episodes of Vikings on Netflix!

I’ve also watched The Last Kingdom, which would be the follow up from a historical point of view, although both series are not connected in any other way, as far as I know.

By the way, The Last Kingdom is based on thirteen novels brilliantly written by Bernard Cornwell and read on Audible by Jonathan Keeble. I love the series, and I’m currently reading and listening to the audiobook! I’ll be reviewing it soon.

There are also plenty of Vikings, Normans and Saxons in The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett, a fabulous novel set in this period, which I recently reviewed here. 

The Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge Book 4) by [Ken Follett]

My favourite time period is still the 19th century and early 20th century, however, the Medieval era is a close second!

In which period are your favourite historical novels, series or films set?

#FridayFictioneers ‘The Swimming Competition’ #FlashFiction #100Words @MondayBlogs

It’s Friday, time for another Friday Fictioneers Flash Fiction story featuring Alice Pendragon and her best friend Billy! This week they’re both taking part in a swimming competition.

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting the challenge and to Terri Smeigh for this week’s photo prompt.

Photo Credit: Terri Smeigh

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The Swimming Competition

The highest school team goal scorer wore a smug smile as he strolled over.
‘Hi Alice, fancy a pizza?’
I was one of the few girls he hadn’t hit on yet. ‘Sorry, I’m swimming.’
‘What about the Saturday market? Help me choose my sister’s birthday present.’
Jack is dense, but persistent. ‘I’m swimming.’
‘Everyone knows Billy will win.’
I nodded, Billy’s the best. ‘We’re training together.’
‘So, when he beats you, we can go on our date. What about a movie on Sunday?’
‘On Sunday I’ll be celebrating with Billy, his victories are mine too,’ I said and strode away.

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My ‘Alice’ flash fiction written for the Friday Fictioneers Challenge can be mostly read as standalones, but if you’re interested in reading previous stories of Alice’s adventures, here they are! 

By the way, I’m a couple of days late this week in posting my story and below are the three reasons! My lovely grandchildren!

#FridayFictioneers ‘A Visit to the Synagogue’ #FlashFiction #100Words

It’s Friday, time for another Friday Fictioneers Flash Fiction story featuring Alice Pendragon and her best friend Billy! Last week, they saved a young man from committing suicide. Today he’ll tell them what was troubling him so much in life to prefer death.

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting the challenge and to Roger Bultot for this week’s photo prompt.

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

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I recently read a beautiful novel called The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom (read my review here) by Beth Miller, about a Jewish girl living in London, in an orthodox family, who married a non-Jewish man, against her parent’s wishes, and the subsequent upheaval in both their lives. It’s an emotional and non-judgemental, yet moving account of what happens when families are in disagreement over their children’s marriages.

It’s a topic that is close to my heart, not because I’m Jewish, I’m not, but I could have been. We do not choose where we are born, or our parents’ religions, nationalities, skin colour, or mother tongue. It’s relevant to me because my parents have held hostile attitudes towards my husband for the last 39 years, since we started going out, which brought, and still brings, many senseless and unfair complications to our family.

This flash, was written bearing in mind the damage such inflexible and unreasonable attitudes can cause in a young man who is in love and yet would go to extreme lengths not to upset his family.  

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A Visit to the Synagogue

The young man whose life they’d saved took them to a brown stone building.
“The woman I love isn’t Jewish,” he said staring at the synagogue.
Alice shrugged. “Neither are we.”
“Then you wouldn’t understand.”
“Try us,” said Billy.
“I must marry a Jewish girl.” Tears filled his eyes.
“Have they met her?” asked Alice.
“They would never allow it! And I’d rather die than live without Helen.”
“We understand.” Billy squeezed Alice’s hand. “If your parents realized how much they meant to you, so much that you’d rather die than upset them, I’m sure they’d want to meet her.”
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Billy is right. If the young man’s parents realised how much their intolerance and demands were making their son suffer, due to his love for them, they would surely reconsider, but unfortunately, parents aren’t always willing to accept that their children grow up and should be allowed to make their own decisions, and even their own mistakes.
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My ‘Alice’ flash fiction written for the Friday Fictioneers Challenge can be mostly read as standalones, but if you’re interested in reading previous stories of Alice’s adventures, here they are! 

#FridayFictioneers ‘Alice to the Rescue’ #FlashFiction #100Words

It’s Friday, time for another Friday Fictioneers Flash Fiction story featuring Alice Pendragon and her best friend Billy! On this occasion, my story was inspired, not only by Rochelle’s picture prompt, but also by her flash fiction for this week.

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting the challenge and to Sandra Crook for this week’s photo prompt.

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Alice to the Rescue

The sandwiches and lemonade were in Alice’s rucksack. Billy’s held a large blanket for their picnic by the lake.
Alice gasped and sprinted towards a man she spotted on the bridge, leaning over the murky waters.
“Where are you going?” asked Billy, at her heels.
“I need your help!” Alice shouted at the man.
Billy stopped in his tracks. What was Alice doing?
The young man rushed towards Alice. “Keep away from her!” he warned Billy.
Alice grabbed the man’s hand. “I’m Alice and this is my best friend, Billy. Now, please tell us why you were going to jump.”
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My ‘Alice’ flash fiction written for the Friday Fictioneers Challenge can be mostly read as standalones, but if you’re interested in reading previous stories of Alice’s adventures, here they are! 

Five Reasons not to #Blog if You’re a Writer #BloggersBash2019 #BookBloggers #MondayBlogs

Writers in the dawn of the third millennium have more options to publish, connect and share than any previous generation ever dreamt of, but is blogging worthwhile, or time-consuming and ineffective?

1. Don’t blog if your aim is Isolation. If you don’t want to connect with anyone else, because they might copy or steal your ideas and waste your precious time, blogging’s not for you.

Blogging is for people who want to connect with other writers, readers, and bloggers. Bloggers want to be part of an online community, sharing, learning, being creative, and helping, encouraging and inspiring others.

2. Don’t blog if secrecy and privacy are vital, because if you blog, others might see what you’re doing or find out about your plans.

Blogging is for people who want to make use of the window display to the world which blogging offers. Bloggers want to show others what we think, feel, and write, receive feedback, encouragement, share ideas, maybe inspire other readers, writers and bloggers, too.

3. Don’t blog if you’re an excellent, driven, knowledgeable,  inspired and self-motivated writer who needs no external incentive.

Blogging is for those who aim to improve their writing, because we know it’s an invaluable aid, encouraging us to think about, schedule and hone in on our writing skills, by reading and writing blog posts about our craft.

4. Don’t blog if you’re self-sufficient and self-absorbed. You’ve never needed anyone’s help or advice, and you’re certainly not going to give any away for free.

Blogging is for those who want to become a bigger person by sharing knowledge, opinions, thoughts and work, freely and generously in the blogosphere.

5. Don’t blog if you don’t need virtual friends to have fun, because you have a ‘real’ life with plenty of ‘real’ friends, and you are not interested in meeting, or trust, ‘virtual’ strangers.

Blogging is for those who love meeting other readers and writers, enjoy reading other writers’ opinions, poems, flash fiction, and generally enjoy connecting, networking and interacting with like-minded people. If that’s your idea of fun, the blogosphere is the place for you!

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This post was written in response to the 2019 Bloggers Bash Blog Post Competition.

#MondayBlogs What Makes a Great Novel? #Amreading #Amwriting #Amreviewing

If a formula existed for a great novel, everyone would benefit. Authors would write perfect novels and readers would never be disappointed.

So, what makes a great novel? My answer is connection and intimacy.

Writers need to connect with their readers and readers are on the lookout for authors whose stories invade their hearts and minds (intimacy) and become meaningful (connection).

A reader’s response to a novel is personal, intellectual, intimate and complex.

Novels speak to the readers’ minds, that hidden, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, darkest, sometimes unpredictable, elusive part of our brains that surprises each one of us, more times than we’d care to admit.

Readers want to be immersed in a story, transported and moved. They want to feel what the characters feel, understand their predicaments as if they were working with the author.

Writers want readers to be active participants in the narrative, reliving their character’s experiences and reinterpreting their stories. As Stephen King has said, “All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies…’

Readers enjoy finding themselves in the story, with the characters. That’s the moment all writers and readers crave; the moment the reader becomes actively, emotionally and intellectually involved in the story.

A colloquial expression might be that the novel gets under their skin, but where it really gets is inside their minds; that’s what makes a great novel.

So, how do writers find their way into the minds of people they don’t even know?

The answer is as simple as it is complex: writing about universal themes, feelings and events which are (and have always been) common to all of us.

That’s one of the reasons why Shakespeare will never be outdated.

Image result for shakespeare universal themes

Great novels don’t have to be about extraordinary people or wondrous events. Great novels are about feelings we have all experienced or witnessed, such as love, anger, jealousy, greed, happiness, optimism, depression, and universal events such as falling in love, parenting, sibling rivalry, sickness, death, earning a living, quarrelling, making friends, travelling, etc.

Great novels make readers feel something beyond themselves and the scope of their ordinary lives.

Great novels reach their minds, taking them on an unknown journey of self-discovery. Readers become part of the story, because they are involved with the characters and events, and when they finish reading, they are not the same person they were when they started reading, because they have changed their minds about something, or thought about something that had never occurred to them before, or felt something they hadn’t felt before or for a long time.

The challenge for both readers and writers is that one particular author will rarely be able to reach every reader’s mind, because of course all minds are different and no two readers will react in the same way to a novel, or even to different episodes and characters in a novel.

The good news is, there are so many types and genres of novels to be read and so many ways of reading, paperback, kindle and other e-books, and audio books, that it’s hard not to find something for everyone.

How to find a book that’s perfect for you?

It’s hard to get it wrong if you follow these three steps:

  • Read the blurb (writer and editor’s information and views).
  • Read a few varied reviews (diverse readers’ opinions).
  • Read the look inside pages (read the first chapters and decide whether to continue reading or not).

If you do so, it’s unlikely you’ll choose a book you won’t enjoy.

And when you finish, don’t forget to post a review, because it will help the author and other readers, too.

Are you looking for a great book? Here are some of the great books I’ve recently read:

Us

Us by David Nicholls. Themes: love, marriage, parenting, and contemporary life, from the perspective of a middle-aged Englishman. Poignant and humorous.

Eleanor Oliphant by Gale Honeyman. Themes: abuse, loneliness, serendipity, from the point of view of a young woman. Poignant, humorous, Feel good.

our house

Our House by Louise Candlish. Themes: marriage, infidelity, crime, parenting, told from two points of view, husband and wife of two young children. Family drama.

The Guest Room: A Novel by [Bohjalian, Chris]

The Guest Room Chris Bohjalion. Themes: marriage, infidelity, corruption, sex trafficking, narrated by an American husband and father and a Russian prostitute who is an illegal immigrant in the USA.

Missing You by [Coben, Harlan]

Don’t Let go by Harlan Coben. Themes: love, corruption, crime. A suspenseful thriller. This is his latest novel, but all of them are fabulous. Missing You is one of my favourites.

The Good Girl by Maria Rubrica. Themes, crime, kidnapping, family, love. A dark family drama, told from the point of view of the kidnapped daughter, before and after the event.

The Sister: A psychological thriller with a brilliant twist you won't see coming by [Jensen, Louise]

The Sister, by Louise Jensen is a suspenseful psychological thriller I enjoyed, but all her novels are great reads.

It Ends with Us: A Novel by [Hoover, Colleen]

It Ends With Us, by Colleen Hoover is a heartbreaking family drama about abusive relationships told in the first person by a young woman living in Boston.

The Remedy for Love by Bill Roorback is a unique and moving novel about survival, loneliness and serendipity, told from the point of view of a lawyer who attempts to help a homeless young woman on a freezing night.

Check out all my reviews on Amazon

But don’t take my word for it, what’s meaningful for me may be boring for you.

Follow the three steps (blurb, reviews, look inside) and find those great books you’re longing to read!

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What do you think makes a great book?

Would you like to tell me about a great book you’ve recently read?

#FridayFictioneers ‘The Escape’ #FlashFiction

It’s Friday, time for another Friday Fictioneers Flash Fiction story featuring Alice Pendragon and her family!

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting the challenge and for this week’s photo prompt.

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

The Escape

Alice looked up at the starry sky, not daring to look down at the street, four storeys below. She held on to the window ledge and moved slowly towards the next balcony, climbed over the railing and slipped inside the apartment.

Silence, although someone must have put the freshly cut leaves in the glass bowl on the kitchen table.
‘Can I help you, dear?’
Alice turned. A grey-haired lady wearing a woollen shawl smiled pleasantly.
‘Your neighbour kidnapped me. Could I use your phone?”
Her kidnapper burst through the door.

He nodded at the elderly lady. ”Sorry boss.

Then he pointed his gun at Alice.

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To be continued…

My ‘Alice’ flash fiction written for the Friday Fictioneers Challenge can be read as standalones, but if you’re interested in reading previous stories of Alice’s adventures, here they are!

A quick recap of the three previous episodes: Alice and her mother, Marsha, caught Kevin on a date with another woman. When Alice confronted her father, she discovered the woman was her father’s half-sister, Clara, who was in serious trouble. Three weeks ago Alice was kidnapped, and last week the kidnappers made their demands. This week Alice tried to escape and failed.

Follow my blog so you won’t miss next week’s episode!

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Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction ‘My Mother’s Cottage’ #99Words #SundayBlogShare

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to write a story about variations in property values. Check out other entries or take part yourself!

My Mother’s Cottage

I wished I hadn’t inherited the beautiful, but run down cottage from my eccentric yet inspirational mother. I’d have preferred to hear her reading extracts from her bestselling novels, but she finally succumbed to a long illness and donated everything else to Cancer Relief.   

It didn’t feel right to sell her home, but I couldn’t afford the maintenance, until I met Jason, who contacted me on Facebook. He was the first to offer to pay for spending a few hours in my mother’s study.  

Now we’re married, the cottage is fully booked for years and the value has tripled.

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Exterior view of the Emily Dickinson Museum with Dickinson’s bedroom visible on the second floor.CreditGreg Miller for The New York Times

We all enjoy visiting an author’s House-Museum with all the other visitors and tourists, but what would it be like to spend a week, a day, or even an hour alone, in the same room where one of your favourite writers penned their novels? Imagine sitting on Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Daphne du Maurier, or Ruth Rendell’s chair, at their desk, in their study. Would it be inspirational, scary, or life changing?

I visited Emily Dickinson’s homestead in Amherst, on several occasions, the last one in 2007. It’s a beautiful house with a delightful garden. I peeked into her bedroom, where she cut herself off from the rest of the world writing her cryptic poems, rarely leaving its confines. Much has been written about her mental frailty, some scholars have suggested the possibility of agoraphobia.

The Dickinson Homestead was certainly atmospheric, and I can imagine that time alone, in her room, would prove inspiring, and it’s now possible to rent her room for private visits, by the hour.

I recently came across an article about Emily Dickinson’s Museum in the NYT by a reporter who had paid for the privilege of spending an hour, alone in her room. The idea of such a possibility inspired this week’s flash fiction.

If you are interested in ghost stories or paranormal events, the reporter narrates a very spooky experience in Miss Dickinson’s bedroom. Follow this link to read more about it.    

Emily Dickinson’s bedroom in the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Mass., with a replica of one of her famous white dresses.CreditGreg Miller for The New York Times

Which author’s house-museum’s have you visited?

Which is your favourite?

Would you enjoy spending time there alone?

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This week I asked my older grandson to colour a picture of a cottage, while I wrote a story about one.