#Lockdown ‘Every cloud has a Silver Lining’ #MondayMotivation #MondayBlogs

I live in Spain and we’ve been on Lockdown for ten days now due to the Covid-19 virus and I haven’t written a single post, until today.

I’m not going to talk about facts and figures, prevention, medicine or science, because I’m not an expert on any of those major aspects and there’s plenty of reliable information online.

I’m going to write about my personal reflections, feelings and how my life is being affected by the lockdown. This means owning both the positive as well as the negative experiences derived from imposed isolation, because every cloud has a silver lining.

First I’m going to tell you about the clouds, or what I miss:

 

1) Hugging my children and grandchildren. 

I have four wonderful grandchildren (ages 3,5,6, and 9, and a fifth on the way!) I love playing board games, ping pong, telling stories, going to parks and fun fairs, or just chatting with them. 

My husband and my daughter walking in the countryside, near where I live.

2) My daily walks.

My husband and I have retired recently and we enjoy long (2-3 hour) daily walks. We choose different parts of the town and countryside, have a coffee or a beer on the way there or back, depending on the time. We chat, take photos, pop in to museums or exhibitions, wherever takes our fancy. No walks allowed now.

I took this picture of some of my oldest friends last year at a local flower festival ‘Flora’

3) Going out with friends.

I enjoy going out with friends. We go to the movies, to a coffee shop, window shopping, real shopping, or out for drinks and tapas. No going out with friends.

 

Last year we popped over to Bari, on a bargain Ryanair flight, just for the fun of it!

4) Impromptu outings

We love getting in the car and popping over to Malaga (an hour and a half drive) to walk along the seafront, or to meet up with friends and family, or to any other city for a day trip, weekend at home or abroad.

60th Birthday Party at home with some of my best friends!

5) Receiving guests

I love cooking and having guests, especially when the weather’s nice and we can eat in the garden. On other occasions, friends come over for tea or coffee, some home-cooked cake and a chat. 

Secondly, this is my silver lining, or what I can appreciate about this situation.

1) More time to write. 

I’ve just finished and sent the umpteenth draft of my latest novel to my editor, Alison Williams. I managed, to block out the lockout and get on with it with no one to distract me. I plan to continue with other unfinished novels and literary projects, too.

2) More time to read

My TBR pile is slightly smaller! At the moment I’m reading and enjoying When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal, on my kindle and listening to L J Ross’s Alexander Gregory Thriller, Impostor, its Book 1 in the series (I read Book 1 first by mistake!). She’s a wonderful author as I learned when I read her DCI Ryan Mysteries.

The Alexander Gregory Thrillers

3) Watching series I never have time for.

I’m not much of a TV viewer, but I was able to binge watch over a couple of days, eight episodes of The Stranger, by Harlan Coben staring Richard Armitage.

4) Phoning + texting friends and family 

I’ve spent the last few days contacting friends and family all over the world, by phone, text and email, making sure they’re all OK. I haven’t finished yet, there are still a few more to contact.

With my three best friends from London University, celebrating our 60th birthday, last July, back on our College site, now luxury residential homes.

5) A time for introversion and reflection.

I’ve never been faced with so much time for myself or so much worry about family, friends and myself. Facing one’s own vulnerability in such an unpredictable world is daunting. Facing our finite and limited time on earth and the possibility of illness, or even death in complete isolation was not how I expected to spend 2020.

Momento Mori is not welcome, but it’s a necessary reminder that my life is brief and finite and every moment is precious.

Stay safe, virtual hugs and love to you all.

Thirty-four reasons to listen to #Audiobooks #ThemeReveal #AtoZchallenge @Audible @Scribd

I almost always review the books I read wherever I’ve downloaded them, usually that’s Audible, Amazon or Scribd, but I don’t always post all my reviews on my blog, and as I have a backlog of audiobooks to review, I’ve decided to post an audiobook review every day during this years’ April AtoZBloggingChallenge.

According to Audible, I’m an expert listener because I’ve read and reviewed 120 audiobooks, and spent one month, twelve days and ten hours listening to audiobooks over the last three years. That’s a lot of books and a long time listening, so now I’m going to tell you why I love reading audiobooks and give you 34 reasons why should try them, too!

1. The first reason is that it makes housework appealing. Not many people enjoy doing housework, but sooner or later, one way or another, it needs to be done. Imagine looking forward to ironing, clearing cupboards and wardrobes, washing up, cooking, doing the laundry!

Listening to audiobooks while I’m doing daily chores, actually makes me look forward to the alone time they provide. Imagine reading a heartbreaking romance with a happy ending while you iron, or an action-packed crime thriller while loading the dishwasher and clearing up your kitchen! Priceless moments….

2. The second reason is that audiobooks help me lose weight and keep fit. I love my exercise bike, because I listen to my favourite novels, and it helps me shed those extra pounds, or allows me that occasional extra glass of wine, or piece of cake, because I know I’ll work it off tomorrow.

3. My third reason is that audiobooks make those long journeys more interesting. I can listen in the car, bus, train or plane when I travel or on my daily commute to work. You could read at least a book a week on your commute to work! Wouldn’t that make a book lover happy?

4. You can listen when you’re too tired to read your paperback or screen. Sometimes your eyesight is tired, and although you’d love to read, you don’t feel up to another screen, or you’re just too tired to sit up straight, hold your book and read, so you can lie down and listen to your audiobook. Isn’t that a treat? You can read alternate reading and listening the same book, you’ll always be on the right page!

5. Number five is that the characters and the story come to life, as if you’re watching a film. Audiobook readers are professional. They know how to give the characters the perfect voices so that you can almost see them. It’s another completely new dimension to reading. Although audiobook readers are experts who can do several different voices, I especially love books with different narrators for each character.

6. You can listen on any electronic device, anywhere, anytime. You can download the books you’ve bought onto your device, so that you can read offline. It’s much lighter than carrying several books, and you don’t need a Tablet, you can listen on your mobile.

You can listen when you’re sunbathing, relaxing in the garden, going for a walk, or sitting comfortably anywhere in the world!

7. You can control every aspect of the listening experience. You can control speed, volume, go backwards, forwards, listen to and read the same book alternately, relisten…

8. You can listen to an enormous selection of books, classic novels, contemporary, new releases, all languages. The next book you want to read is probably available as an audiobook, check it out!

Do you need any more reasons to read audiobooks?

Just in case you do, during the month of April, I’m going to give you 26 more reasons, one for each great audiobook I’ve listened to! So there you have my 34 reasons to read audiobooks!

But don’t take my word for it, visit audible and/or Scribd listen to samples, it’s a whole new experience for readers.

What’s your experience as an audiobook reader?

Are you joining in the AtoZ Challenge this year?

If so, what’s your theme?

#IWSG POV: Protagonist or Antagonist? @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

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.

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

The co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

  • March 6 question Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

insecure-writers-support-group-badge

I definitely prefer first person point of view of the protagonist, as a reader and as a writer. My favourite novels, when I started reading adult fiction, in my teens, such as, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, David Copperfield, and Rebecca, to name a few, were written in this fashion.

The first person narrator, whether he or she is protagonist or antagonist, has the powerful advantage of speaking directly to the reader, but on the other hand, he or she also has the enormous disadvantage of limited knowledge and bias.

The first person narrator cannot be everywhere or be aware of everything the reader would like to know. Moreover, he or she is necessarily biased due to gullibility, innocence, ignorance, physical, or psychological problems, or he or she can be downright evil and purposefully lead everyone along the wrong path, which is usually the case of the antagonist as first person narrator.

The question posed, implies that only one narrator is possible, and that he or she is either protagonist or antagonist, but there are many more options available to the writer. There could be more than one point of view, and more than one protagonist and or antagonist, or the protagonist and antagonist could even be the same person at the same or different stages of his/her life.

The first time I read a novel with various first person narrators was Laura, by Vera Caspary, also in my teenage years. I remember being pleasantly surprised, as a reader, by two aspects, the multiple first person narrators and the presence of unreliable narrators, including the antagonist.

In one of my ‘A’ level texts, The Fall, Camus’ manipulative first person narrator, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, whose long series of monologues is a confession and reflection of his life, to a stranger he calls, ‘cher ami’, thus, mostly using the second person ‘you’. He is also both protagonist and antagonist, as he finally turns the mirror on his patient and unsuspecting listener/reader.

The options are endless. In my case, I’ve published three books and written five (two will hopefully be published this year), and all of them have multiple, first person narrators, including protagonist and antagonist.

Although I don’t mind reading novels written in third person, I can’t see myself doing so. I would especially avoid third person omniscient narrators, mainly because I think it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of manipulating characters, events and readers. I prefer to allow my characters and readers more space to grow and reconstruct their own novel.

I overcome the hurdles inherent to first person narration, at least partly, by having more than one first person narrator, which I believe gives the novel wider scope and perspective.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy has several, rotating first person narrators, and although some readers have complained, most readers have positive opinions. The use of various first person voices is innovative and enriching, but it’s by no means easy to juggle so many characters at once, and it’s not something I’m planning on doing again, at the moment.

My two latest, unpublished novels, both have only two points of view. In one case it is the protagonist and the antagonist, and in the second case a mother and daughter, who are both protagonists. So far, beta readers have responded favourably, and I’m satisfied with the end product, although, one still has to go through the final draft and editing stage.

I think two narrators give enough scope for multiple perspectives to allow readers more space to interact with the narrative.

I will probably experiment with other viewpoints in the future. As I said, I enjoy many  different points of view as a reader, but for the moment, I plan to continue writing novels with, at least, two first person points of view.

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to like and/or leave a comment 🙂

What about you, how many and whose point(s) of view do you prefer as a reader and as a writer?

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#WorldBookDay ‘Stories make your heart grow’ #amreading #Audible

Readers enjoy all sorts of stories, but what makes a book outstanding, instead of enjoyable? 

Imagen relacionada

A book becomes outstanding instead of enjoyable if it’s ‘Written from the heart’ with the aim of ‘Reaching other hearts’.

I recently wrote a short post about ‘Writing from the heart’ and my conclusion is that the key is to: Write with passion about a meaningful issue.

I am convinced the world needs, has always needed and will always need, uplifting stories about wonderful, yet ordinary people, who struggle and survive.

The world’s a harsh place and we are all aware of the limited time we’ll be spending here, especially compared to the thousands of years we’ve heard about, but haven’t experienced, so we appreciate stories that remind us of our history and fill our hearts with hope for the future.

At the moment I’m in the middle of reading, or rather listening to, an outstanding book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

We were all told about WWII in our history classes at school, but it’s the novels and films of the period that reach our hearts and help us understand what happened and must be avoided at all cost.

And yet The Tattooist of Auschwitz is not only about events which took place in WWII. It’s about hope, the struggle for survival, the strength that lies in love and gratitude, and the value of the combined effort of many, as well as the power of positive leadership.

Lale could not have survived, or accomplished anything on his own. He needed the help and support of many others, and they needed a leader, an intelligent and compassionate organiser to manage and synchronise their combined efforts.

I’ll be writing a proper review when I finish listening, but at the moment I can say, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a beautifully written story which connected directly to my heart.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an outstanding novel, for adults. Another outstanding novel, I read some time ago and is more suitable for younger readers, is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. 

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by [Boyne, John]

Happy World Book Day!

Tell us, which is the most outstanding novel you’ve recently read?

 

#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?

#SOCS ‘Spellbound by Paddington Bear’ #WorldBookDay

This post was written in response to Linda G, Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt.

This week’s Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “spell.” Use the word “spell” any way you’d like. Bonus points if you use it in the first sentence. Enjoy! Link back to Linda’s prompt post here. Anyone can join in!

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Spellbound by Paddington Bear

Spellbound, that’s me.

It happened over fifty years ago.

I think it was Paddington Bear who did it to me in the first place.

It’s the first book title I can vividly remember reading at school.

The second culprit was the public library.

I read plenty of children’s books at school and at the public library, an unforgettable place.

Then at secondary school, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were the first grown up books I can remember reading.

Sister Catherine read us the Moonstone and told us all about the mischievous Victorians.

David Copperfield and Oliver Twist enchanted me next, and Dickens is still my second favourite writer.

I hadn’t met my favourite writer yet, that happened when I was 13 and I went on a school trip to see Twelfth Night, that was when I met my favourite writer of them all, and yet in spite of being in awe of Othello, Macbeth, Hamlet, and Richard III, Twelfth Night is still my favourite of Shakespeare’s works.

My first romantic novel was Rebecca. I was about 14 by then.

After that momentous event, I remember devouring Daphne du Maurier’s novels. That reminds me that The King’s General, was a favourite I haven’t reread in a long time.

Shortly after I read Jane Eyre, and I’ve been rereading it ever since, as you all know.

I can’t remember exactly when I read Persuasion, but it was about the same time.

Thomas Hardy, followed closely after Wilkie Collins and Dickens, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd, unforgettable.

Then as a result of the television series I adored, I read the novels of The Forsythe Saga, Poldark, and the Clayhangers devouring all the novels in the sagas.

So, it probably doesn’t surprise you that I love writing Victorian Fiction, but it might surprise you to know that I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and due to a petition from my best friend, Anna M. I’m writing a contemporary thriller at the moment.

Someone said, ‘Eppur si muove’, so I suppose that’s what I’m doing.

Reading definitely cast a spell on me at an early age, and I’m so glad I’m still spellbound, because I’m never alone and always inspired.

I feel as if I’m conversing with people all over the world synchronically, that is with those who are alive at the moment, and diachronically, with those who are no longer breathing, but they’re still well and truly living.

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Does reading have you spellbound?

Which writers have you spellbound?

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Happy World Book Day for tomorrow!

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21 Ingredients for a Great Novel #MondayBlogs

I’m a writer, but, as I’ve so often said, I’m more of a reader than a writer, because I admit that I prefer reading to writing.

I’m a great reader, which means I read a lot, much more than most people.

I’ve always read a lot, but in the last three-four years, I’ve been reading between eight and fifteen books a month, depending on weather I’m writing or not. Most of the books I read are kindle ebooks, but I also read some paperbacks and a few audio books a month, too.

I read contemporary fiction, especially independent authors, debut authors and some bestsellers.

I especially enjoy reading psychological thrillers, romantic suspense, crime fiction, paranormal (but not vampires etc.), women’s fiction, Chick lit, historical romance, and contemporary romance.

I finish and review almost every book I start, unless I don’t enjoy it. Reading is a pleasure, and life’s too short to read books that aren’t for me.

As a result of all this reading and reviewing, I’ve decided to write a very personal, and therefore totally subjective, list of ingredients that make a great novel.

Here are my ingredients, in no particular order.

  1. Good editing is basic. I don’t mean random typos, which I may not even notice, I’m talking about grammar, syntax, register, clichés, repeated words, too many dialogue tags, and punctuation.
  2. Not too wordy. I don’t enjoy reading too much information, which adds nothing to the plot or characterisation. I don’t mind an occasional ‘red herring’, but I’m not keen on plots that go all over the place and confuse me.
  3. Good writing, which means it’s pleasant to read. This ties up with the previous points. I really appreciate, clear and precise prose, which gives me the information I need to feel I’m part of the setting and get to know the characters, like Girl in the Ice. 

ice

  1. Short chapters and short paragraphs are easier to read. I’m very busy and sometimes tired, as most readers. I read for a few minutes here and there, often while commuting or travelling, on a lunch break, between chores, at the end of the day, etc. I don’t enjoy rereading long paragraphs to try to understand what the main point is.
  2. Not too long (although it can be part of a series). In general I prefer books between 70 and 80 thousand words, which can be read in a few afternoons or evenings. I don’t mind occasional cliff hangers, as long as part of the story is complete, otherwise I feel frustrated. I don’t mind reading part of a series either, I fact I quite enjoy it, as I’ve become invested in the characters and want to know more about their story, such as The Detective Jack Stratton books. (There are exceptions, by exceptional authors such as Ken Follet. I don’t mind how long his novels are!)

detective-jack-stratton

         6. Not too short (unless it’s a book of short stories). Most short novels I’ve read feel incomplete. I prefer a longer story.

          7. Engaging characters. Characters don’t have to be likeable, in fact I’m attracted to flawed characters, but I need to be interested in what’s happening to them and what they’re doing. Ideally, they need to be having a hard time, and I need to care about how they cope with their issues, such as ‘I Let You Go‘ in which a woman is coping with the results of a tragic accident she was involved in. i-let-you-go

           8. More than one viewpoint. Life isn’t monochrome, and although I have nothing against stories told from one point of view, I prefer at least two distinct voices. It makes the story more complex and I feel as if I have all sides of the argument. One person’s vision or viewpoint is necessarily limited. I love two first person narrators as ‘Gone Girl’.

gone-girl

          9. An overall meaning or message. It’s especially rewarding to read a novel when the events or feelings are part of something bigger than the story itself, for example a universal event, in which we could all experience, such as the overcoming the pain of the loss of a child, or a divorce such as ‘The Ladies Room.’

ladies-room

          10. Surprises or plot twists every 6-10 minutes. Sometimes novels drag because nothing much happens for pages on end. I need things to happen constantly to keep me turning pages. This needn’t big huge plot twists, it can be a change of scene, character, some news, anything that moves the action forward and stops the slow or dragging sensation, like Matt Cairns, Cold Blooded, which wastes none of the reader’s time in this gripping thriller.

Cold Blooded 2 (1)

          11. Unexpected big twist right before the end. I love this. When you think everything’s sorted out and there’s another unexpected turn, which makes you sit up. The last 10% is as important as the first 10%, because it’s what will stay in my mind and convince me to buy another book by the writer, such as ‘The Sister’.

sister

          12. Not too many main characters. Two main characters are often enough, although I prefer a few more, but too many can be confusing, unless it’s a complex family or historical drama.

        13. Defined secondary characters. I dislike lifeless secondary characters. All characters in the novel should all come to life, even if their role is secondary. Imagine watching a film where only the protagonists are good actors, but the rest are amateurs. The film wouldn’t be much good, would it? The secondary characters need to support the main characters, and they’re often entertaining and vital for moving the plot forward, like The Photographer’s Wife.

photographers-wife

         14. Concentrating the present-time action (narrator time) in a short period, for example a few days, helps me to focus on the plot, even though back story will also usually be included in flashbacks or conversations, such as The Ventian, which takes place over a weekend in Venice.

venetian

         15. Gradually including back story. The back story is usually necessary for the plot to develop and to get to know the characters, but the way in which it is gradually told will build suspense and add unexpected plot twists.

         16. Surprising angle to an old story. Most plots are familiar. So many stories have been told in so many ways that it’s hard to be original, but when it happens, it’s riveting! For example murder from the dead child’s point of view as in ‘The Lovely Bones’, or telling the story of a millionaire falling in love with a poor girl, set in the early 20th century between a fake medium and a railway baron, as in Baron.

baron

            17. Romance. Love is an important part of everyone’s life, falling in love, staying in love, overcoming relationship crisis, moving on, second chances, are all situations I love to read about, such as The Hollow Heart.

a-hollow-heart

         18. Humour. I enjoy reading comedies, occasionally, but a touch of humour is often enough. A humorous situation or character, lightens the drama, and it makes the story realistic; we all come across witty people, who liven up our daily lives. I love romantic comedies told from the point of view of men, which are often very amusing, such as Emma Chase novels, especially, Sustained.

Sustained cover

        19. Drama. I love reading about events which make me feel strong emotional reactions such as anger, fear, sadness even. I cried at the end of Who We Were Before, but I loved that the writer was able to provoke that emotion.

who-we-were

          20. Extraordinary things happening to ordinary people. I love it when what happens to the characters could happen, or could have happened, to me or people I know. It’s credible so I feel drawn into the story. For example a computer programmer who is targeted by the Russian mafia, as in Kissing my Killer.

Kissing My Killer 600x900

        21. The setting. I love it when the setting or a specific place in the novel becomes as important and unique as the plot or characters, not just the background. This can happen if it’s a city, village, or an idyllic landscape, or country house, such as in ‘Eclipse Lake.

eclipse-lake

Do you agree with (all) of these ingredients?

Can you suggest any other ingredients to include?   

 Let me know, I’d love to hear what you think!

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#IWSG Writers as Readers @TheIWSG #amreading #amwriting

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.

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

insecure-writers-support-group-badge

Every month there’s an optional question to discuss.

February 1 Question: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

I prefer reading to writing. I’ve said this before. I spend more hours reading than writing most of the time, except when I’m in the final stages of drafting, rereading and editing my latest novel, and I become almost exclusively obsessed with finishing it and doing nothing else.

I was/am a reader first.

I loved being just a reader, but that didn’t last very long. I soon started writing poems, short stories, anything to let my imagination fly and invent people, places and plots.

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However, at first, I didn’t take my writer’s life very seriously. It was just an enjoyable, almost secret, hobby, until I owned up to it and decided I was going to pursue my life long dream.

That was four years ago, in June 2013, when I decided I was going to write the sequel to Jane Eyre, by July, I realised I needed to write more than one novel, because the characters had so much to say and do, and the plot kept growing in several directions, so The Eyre Hall Trilogy was born and written over the next four years.

I didn’t feel like a ‘real’ writer immediately, but four years and three novels later, I shamelessly admit I’m an author. Not everybody likes what I write, and that’s fine, I don’t like everything I read either, but I’m an author. I can write, I enjoy writing, and many readers are reading my books, so I feel part of this wonderful profession. I also have many insecurities, which is why I’m part of this blog hop!

Going back to the original question, I still read a lot. I read and reviewed 19 novels in January, but I definitely do not read in the same way I read before.

I read more critically for two reasons, firstly to improve as a writer, and secondly to help other readers find books they might like.

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I never used to review books on social media before I started writing. I had the idea that reviews were written by experts only. Since I started writing, I review almost all of the books I read, because I’ve realised that anyone who reads a book can and should give an opinion to help other readers decide if it’s a book for them, and of course as an act of solidarity and support to other authors like myself.

I don’t review books I dislike. I don’t like to think I’m discouraging writers or pointing out negative aspects of their work publicly, which may be partial and subjective in any case. I carry this philosophy to the rest of my life. I’m a parent, a grandparent and a teacher, and I make an effort to point out people’s strong points, while I also encourage them to improve. I’ve never seen the point in being negative, and it generally builds an even more negative response.

Every single book I read teaches me something about writing, and it’s not always a positive lesson. It often shows me what I shouldn’t be doing and it helps me understand why.

For example, I’ve learned how important secondary characters are for the reader. I feel dissatisfied as a reader with books where the main characters are engaging and the rest of the characters are wooden. It’s like watching a film with only two good actors, the rest are extras reading their lines.

I’ve also learned that less is more. Trusting readers and enticing them to reach their own conclusions is more effective than spelling it all out constantly.

When I read a book I wish I’d written, that’s the greatest moment of all. I have a role model, someone to aspire to follow, and I don’t mean copy. Great books are an inspiration for readers and writers.

The books I wish I’d written are well-crafted, with tight and twisting plots, believable, engaging and varied characters, a moving story, and a pleasure to read, because the language flows easily, and it all comes together perfectly.

This is what happens in Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy, which I started reading last year, I’m in the middle of the final book in the trilogy, The Edge of Eternity right now, and loving every minute.

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I’m learning so much by reading these books and reading Ken Follett’s Masterclass on his webpage.

These are some other great books I read last year. Some extraordinary books I read in 2016 are reviewed here. 

So, do I read in the same way now as I did before I started writing professionally?

The answer is no, I don’t read in the same way since I’ve become a writer. I read more critically, and I enjoy it much more, because I try to squeeze out, every ounce of knowledge and craft the author I’m reading has learned.

What about you?

 

My #Gapp_Week 25th July @Gapp_Week

  • What are you GRATEFUL for? Beautiful yet simple things which make life wonderful.

I’m grateful for living in this wonderful planet with such spectacular wildlife. I’ve spent a week in the north of Spain, in a beautiful part of the country. There are beautiful beaches, wildlife parks, reservoirs, mountains…

The sound of the waves breaking at the sea-shore, water rippling in the reservoir, the colours of the plants, flowers, trees and grass, and the amazing animals I was able to see were such a beautiful sight. I feel privileged to live on this planet.

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I’m grateful for meeting up with my cousins and aunt whom I hadn’t seen for a few years. I’m grateful for their friendship and affection, even if we only spent an afternoon having a long overdue chat and a coffee.

Fascinating how close we feel to people we share genes with, even though our lives are very diverse, and we only see each other very rarely, in my case because we’ve always lived in different parts of the world.

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I’m also grateful for the wonderful writers who write fabulous novels which entertain me, move me, and inspire me. Thank you for making my life more enjoyable.

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Claire Mackintosh for ‘I Let You Go‘ a fabulous novel I’ve just finished.

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Jennifer Theriot for Out of the Box Regifted, which I’m currently reading and loving.

 

  • What have you ACHIEVED? Things that you’ve done for yourself .

I’m not sure yet, time will tell, but I think an idea for a new novel has been sown. I’ll have to wait and see if anything comes of it, so I can’t say much now, except that it’s a contemporary suspense with some romance. Inspiration is quite an Achievement! (I hope it lasts)

  • What are you PROUD of? Things you’ve done for others.

I’m Proud of helping my mother who wasn’t feeling too well. It wasn’t much in relation to what she deserves, but it was all I could do, given the circumstances, which are too complex and personal to share.

  • What are your PLANS for next week? Doable and simple, realistic steps towards your goals.

I’d like to write down some scenes and character sketches for the new novel I’ve been ‘seeing’. Those who know my writing process know I ‘see’ my novel in scenes before I start writing and jotting down ideas and the novel starts taking shape.

I’d also like to keep in touch with my cousins, even if it’s only the occasional text message.

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I hope you all have a fabulous week!

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge 22nd April: Stories including vices

99-Word Flash Fiction Challenge

April 22, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a vice. It can be part of a character or a part of the story. The vice can be the focus or it can be subtle. Think of ways to use a vice (or multiples, if you are so daring) to create a compelling flash fiction.

Respond by April 28, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. All writers are welcome! Check out the other stories here.

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Not Quite an Affair

‘Where’s lunch?’

‘In the fridge.’

‘Again, dad?’

Afraid so.’

‘Don’t you care?’

‘Of course I care, but what can I do?’

‘Talk to mum.’

‘I’ve tried.’

‘We’re not a family any more, just three people who live in the same house.’

‘It’s hard to reach her.’

‘Doesn’t she love us anymore?’

‘Not like she used to.’

‘Why doesn’t she want to talk to us?’

‘She’s busy.’

‘It’s worse than an affair.’

‘God, no! That would be much worse.’

‘Not for me! I swear I’m going to throw her kindle out the window.’

‘She’ll kill you if you do that.’

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You all know how much I love reading, even more than writing, even more than speaking, or walking, or talking…

Is it a vice? It might be…

Is this autobiographical? It might be…

Why live with only the people around you when you can live with so many more…

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