Filling the Empty Page – Lynne Shelby shares her top tips

As we brace ourselves for the last leg of NaNoWriMo, I’m utterly thrilled to have romance author Lynne Shelby guesting on my blog. There are many reasons to love Lynne. Here are three for starters: she writes fantastic romances set in the glitzy, heady world of showbiz, she’s a generous supporter of other writers and she shares a surname with Birmingham’s most (in)famous family, The Peaky Blinders. Today, she’s talking about the dreaded blank page and offering up some top tips. Take it away, Lynne.

Filling the Empty Page by Lynne Shelby

There must be few things as daunting for a writer as an empty page (or, more usually these days, a blank laptop screen), but every writer has their own writing process – the tricks and tools of their trade – that they use to fill the empty space with words, especially when they have a looming deadline! In fact, a deadline, whether it’s the date by which you have to send in your entry to a writing competition, or your edits back to your editor, or get your novel written for NaNoWriMo, is particularly effective for spurring a writer on to complete the first draft of their story. I’m a relatively slow writer, but I find that setting myself an arbitrary deadline – aiming to finish a book before going off on holiday or before Christmas – is one of the most effective ways to make me write faster!

My actual writing process hasn’t changed that much since I first started writing novels, but it has evolved as I’ve discovered which ‘tricks of the trade’ work best for me, especially when it comes to hitting a daily word count – as in NaNoWriMo. When I wrote my first novel, I edited it each day as I wrote, and also wrote the story in the order it would appear on the page, but with my second novel, on the advice of more experienced writers, I edited far less – and I found that I completed the first draft in less time, and that editing a whole manuscript resulted in less false starts and therefore less re-writing.

With my latest novel, There She Goes, I wrote the entire first draft without editing. If I came to a scene that wasn’t working, I made bullet points for the main events that needed to happen, and went on to the next chapter. Also, if I suddenly had a new and exciting idea about how an earlier chapter might be improved or thought of a scene that needed to be added, I resisted the temptation to go back and alter what I’d already written, but jotted down my new idea on a post-it note and added it in a later draft. The post-it notes spread from my noticeboard all around the walls of my writing room, but it meant that that I wrote the book more quickly!

Resisting the urge to edit until the whole story – or at least its outline – is written, is one of my most valuable writing tools. Every writer finds the tools and tricks that work best for them – and the way they do that is by writing. Don’t worry about finding the perfect word, sentence or paragraph. Write … and edit later.

Good luck to everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo.

Lynne Shelby

About Lynne

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance. Her debut novel, ‘French Kissing’ won the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition. Her latest novel, There She Goes, is set among the drama, hopes and dreams of aspiring actors in London’s Theatreland. She has worked at a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city – Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Athens – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

Social Media Links

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LynneShelbyWriter

Twitter: @LynneB1

Instagram: lynneshelbywriter

Website: http://www.lynneshelby.com

There She Goes – blurb:

When aspiring actress Julie Farrell meets actor Zac Diaz, she is instantly attracted to him, but he shows no interest in her. Julie, who has yet to land her first professional acting role, can’t help wishing that her life was more like a musical, and that she could meet a handsome man who’d sweep her into his arms and tap-dance her along the street…

After early success on the stage, Zac has spent the last three years in Hollywood, but has failed to forge a film career. Now back in London, he is determined to re-establish himself as a theatre actor. Focused solely on his work, he has no time for distractions, and certainly no intention of getting entangled in a committed relationship…

Auditioning for a new West End show, Julie and Zac act out a love scene, but will they ever share more than a stage kiss?

Purchase link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/There-She-Goes-share-Theatreland-ebook/dp/B07PDZMMT2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1572031291&sr=1-1

 

 

 

 

My Big Books of 2017

As the year draws to a close, it’s traditional for me to consider the books I’ve most enjoyed in the past twelve months. I don’t like using ‘best’, because this is a personal list and my preferred reading tends to reflect my emotional state as much as, if not more than, anything.

2017 has been a tough year, both personally and professionally – it’s been pretty shitty politically and economically, too, in my opinion. On the home front, to name but one challenge, there was a horrendous run-in with Southern Rail and Ginger1, my eldest boy. Professionally, while Skin Deep has been incredibly well-received (reviews were beyond my wildest hopes and dreams – thank you, dear readers) sales are, to coin a publishing cliché, disappointing.

So, perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me – or you – that the majority of the books I’ve enjoyed the most this year are dark in tone and subject matter. The up-lit star might have been rising across the publishing landscape, but not in my house! Here’s my list of the novels (yes, they’re all novels this year) that have impressed me the most:

IMG_3650Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall – this isn’t out till Spring 2018 but I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy. A stunning exploration of obsessive love which delves deep into the twisted heart of a secretive, sexually charged relationship and the aftermath of its breakdown. One of the most compelling and psychologically complex thrillers I’ve read in a very long time – and its commentary on our current world is perceptive and terrifying in equal measure. I have no doubt this will be one of the most talked about psych thrillers of 2018. Breathtaking.

The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins – a celebrated academic and TV presenter – a woman who ‘has it all’ writes a memoir about a long-lost heroine, reluctantly enlisting the aid of a socially inept housekeeper. It’s a novel about ambition, privilege, morality and dung beetles. Fabulous.

The Muse by Jessie Burton – I adored The Miniaturist and I’m fascinated by the Spanish civil war and art so this was near enough a sure thing. That said, I preferred Burton’s debut, but her second offering is wonderful story, set across two time-frames, about hidden treasures, faking it, love and identity.

IMG_3651Ivy and Abe by Elizabeth Enfield – another one not released until 2018 (February) which I read this year. A story of love and quantum physics, it’s beautiful, sad and clever. We meet the eponymous protagonists over the course of 70 years in 11 different realities, or universes. Fans of The Versions of Us (like me) and Life After Life should enjoy it. Gorgeous.

Lie with Me by Sabine Durrant – with a lying, narcissistic literary novelist at its heart and a supporting cast of unlikable metropolitan-elite types, this is a gripping and clever psychological thriller about a missing child and the dangers of little lies. Durrant’s brilliance lies in her ability to evoke sympathy for her male lead, Paul.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel – it’s not a spoiler to reveal that this is a tale of incest (we know within the first 20 pages, if not earlier) set in the American mid-West. It’s a subject matter many will find distasteful, but Engel writes beautifully and sensitively. This incredible work has shades of Rebecca and reminded me in tone and in the portrayal of small town America and its inhabitants of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects – a much stronger book than her more successful Gone Girl, in my humble opinion.

That’s it. My to-read tower remains in danger of toppling and with lots of wonderful books scheduled for 2018 – including one by my good friend, Kate Helm (I can’t wait!) – I only hope I have enough time to write!

Merry Christmas one and all – here’s to the New Year!

IMG_3649

Laura x

 

Readers, I thank you

Recently I was invited to a book club gathering. The group read was Skin Deep and they were keen to meet with me and ask questions. It’s always nerve-wracking meeting readers even though I have had mostly good experiences and I enjoy it. After a wobble, I accepted the kind invitation.

On arrival in a fluster – late, I lost my way – and anxious I was told that the group (of 12) had eight senior medics and was given a quick run-through of the books they’d considered excellent of late. There were a lot of Booker prize listed novels, most were literary. My stomach knotted tighter. Three (I recall) of the medics were high ranking paediatricians. Jeepers, neither I nor my book are clever enough for this lot, I thought.

An excellent dinner was supplied by the host – lovely Sue – which we ate and made polite conversation. They were a lively and engaging bunch. And then, it time to talk about Skin Deep

I introduced the book, my influences and the journey. As one might expect, the first question concerned Cal’s medical condition. I explained it was fictional, deliberately non-specific, and I had known from the outset with absolute certainty that it would not be based on an actual condition; I would pick and mix from a number of sources. And I spoke about why this felt important: I would not want any individual – or relative, or friend of a person with a deformity – to think that they ‘were’ Cal; that they were ‘ugly’. We spoke of parental consent, abuse, exploitation, unconditional love, the visual world we live in and whether or not we can escape the pressures of this.

And then various members of group spoke of the characters, the details they’d enjoyed or admired, plot points and authorial choices, and I was blown away by what close, attentive readers they were. They talked about things I’d forgotten about! As I drove home I felt honoured they’d given so much to my book and I reminded myself that it is an honour when someone chooses to read your work, invests hours in this world in which there are a great many others demands on our time.

So, this is me, saying a huge THANK YOU to readers – those of the Westdene Book Club and others out there in the big wide world. You are why we authors do what we do.

 

It’s What’s Inside That Counts: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Clichés? Certainly. True? Certainly. Except we do judge books by their covers, don’t we? And we judge people too.

My new novel, Skin Deep, is published in June by Accent Press and addresses the sticky issue of outward appearance versus inner reality – amongst other things. But today I’m talking about the cover – because a brand new one is unveiled today and I couldn’t be happier. The team at Accent have done a fabulous job at capturing the tone of the book and as we all know getting covers spot on is hard. Very hard. But this is perfect. I LOVE it, and I hope you do too. Can you tell how excited I am about this new novel?!

So here it is – the Skin Deep jacket. And the blurb and a link should you wish to pre-order.

It’s what’s inside that counts…

Former model and art student Diana has always been admired for her beauty but what use are good looks when you want to shine for your talent? Insecure and desperate for inspiration, Diana needs a muse.

Facially disfigured four-year-old Cal lives a life largely hidden from the world. But he was born to be looked at and he needs love too. A chance encounter changes everything; Cal becomes Diana’s muse. But as Diana’s reputation develops and Cal grows up, their relationship implodes.

Both struggle to be accepted for what lies within.
Is it possible to find acceptance in a society where what’s on the outside counts for so much?

PRE-ORDER LINK

Laura x

The Unbeatable Bard: A Review of Beth Miller’s For The Love of Shakespeare

My copy of Beth's brilliant book with fave bits post-it-ed!

My copy of Beth’s brilliant book with fave bits post-it-ed!

Prior to writing for a living, I was a professional actress so when the opportunity arose to review Beth Miller’s companion guide to the world’s most famous dramatist there was no way I was going to refuse. I adore Shakespeare, though I never did get to play one of his characters. I performed in many of his contemporaries’ works but not the great man’s. Pisht!

Like the book’s author, it wasn’t always thus. I loathed the bard at school. Along with my classmates I stared baffled and bored at a battered copy of the Dream. I fell in love during a performance of the Scottish play at Theatre Clwyd. It was the appearance of the witches that did it – mesmerising performances from the three actresses. If you’re tiring of my waffling, please do bear with. I share because Beth Miller opens her book with her ‘switched on’ moment, also during a performance: a charming, and funny, anecdote from her teenage years and it sets the tone for the book perfectly.

If you’re a fan already you’ll love this book and if you’re not it could persuade you to give old Shakie a bash. It’s wonderful.

For The Love of Shakespeare is not designed to be read cover to cover – though I did, ‘cos I’m geeky – but to be dipped in as and when. Nor is it designed for the super-serious scholar. Right up my alley then.

The first 50-odd pages are rammed with background information – gems on the man himself, the times, his world. Did you know George Bernard Shaw wasn’t a fan and would have liked to dig Will up and throw stones at him? Me neither.

After the introduction Miller divides the guide into three main sections: the Comedies, the Histories and the Tragedies; with shorter chapters on the bard’s poetry, the apocryphal plays (those whose authorship is in dispute) and his legacy.

The plot of each play is explained in conversational English, followed with the plot in a nutshell – a phrase invented by Shakespeare along with a zillion others we use today, many of which Miller shares. These nutshell plots are often hilarious. Of Antony and Cleopatra Miller writes: ‘Antony learns the hard way that mixing business with pleasure is a bad idea.’ And of Macbeth: McGame of Thrones meets The Apprentice, with knives. Plot summaries are followed by other notable characters and a body count. There are ‘Did You Know?’ sections and quotable lines, and peppered throughout are interviews with people closely associated with Shakespeare today (actors, directors, academics and the like) which are also utterly delightful.

Not only is the information that Miller has lovingly and painstakingly researched fascinating, she delivers her material in such a warm and witty style whether you’re a Will fan or not it’s an entertaining read. Perfect for a quick overview for not-too-keen young students – I’ll certainly encourage my son to read Miller’s thoughts on the plays he’s studying (Romeo & Juliet, another of my favourites, A Midsummer Night’s Dream – definitely not one of my favourites, and Macbeth. Love) – and for someone who’s perhaps being dragged to the theatre reluctantly. And for those already smitten there’s plenty of fresh material.

A witty, informed guide infused with love and a healthy dash of irreverence. Fab-u-lous.

My thanks to the publisher, Summersdale and TBC (Facebook Group); I was given a book in return for an honest review.

2016: Brilliant books, according to me

In common with many people, 2016 has been a tricky and often difficult year for me but the pleasure and stimulation (intellectual, emotional and creative) I receive from reading has remained constant. Thank goodness for books. Beautiful books.

Since I began this blog in 2010 it has become customary to share my favourite reads as the year draws to its close. They are not necessarily works first published in the year; they are not necessarily prize winners (though sometimes they are) and they come from a wide range of genres. I’m an eclectic reader and it’s a very personal list. The following impressed me enormously. In no particular order:

Fiction

Bashed up proof copy. BigFella read & also loved. And dropped it in the bath.This Must Be The Place, Maggie O’Farrell

A huge canvas; an intimate and expansive examination of a marriage.  Quite simply genius.

 

Animals, Emma Jane Unsworthimg_2608

A tale of two not-quite-ready-to-be-grown-up 30somethings, this book made me laugh and cry in recognition. Unsworth writes with enormous wit and compassion, and an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of female friendship. Brilliant.

img_2614The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett

With its satisfyingly complex structure this novel explores three possible outcomes of the lives of two Cambridge undergraduates who meet – or not – in the 1950s. Spanning 50 years, it is involving, rich and clever.

 

We Go Around in the Night and Are Consumed by Fire, Jules Grantimg_2609

One of the reasons I love this novel is because it vividly portrays a world I hitherto knew little about: the female criminal gangs of contemporary Manchester. The voices of gang leader, Donna, and her lover’s daughter Ror, are raw and, surprisingly, poetic. Stunning.

img_2615Summertime, Vanessa Lafaye

A historical love story centred around a true event, a hurricane, in 1930s Florida. The veterans’ tale is a shocking and shameful blemish on American history, brought vividly and compassionately to life. Thrilling and sad.

 

Stargazing, Kate Glanvilleimg_2616

A warm and touching family drama exploring serious issues like family breakup, domestic abuse and falling for the right person. Moving.

img_2612Sandlands, Rosy Thorton

A collection of sixteen diverse tales set in and around one coastal village in Suffolk.  Poignant, unsettling and often extremely funny. Magical.

 

 

Wake, Anna Hopeimg_2613

There are many books covering the Great War but few are as powerful and memorable as this one. Pegged to the search for the Unknown Soldier Wake covers three women’s stories.  Unforgettable.

51d7b-eedl-_sx318_bo1204203200_Where Love Lies, Julie Cohen

This has all the fabulous Cohen trademarks: warmth, insight, tenderness, and it really stands out. It was shamefully overlooked on its release in my humble opinion. I suspect this is because the hook is impossible to talk about without spoilers. Suffice to say: read it. It’s wonderful. Poignant and tender.

 

Non-fiction

The Outrun, Amy Liptrotimg_2606

A searing, honest, unsentimental account of one woman’s recovery from alcoholism and the transformative power of nature and home. I want to visit remote Scottish islands (despite the brutal weather) after reading this book. Outstanding.

img_2611Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit

Solnit’s history of activism and social change over the past 50 years (first published in 2005 – revised and updated in 2016) is as important now as it ever was. A case for hope, arguably we need it now more than ever.

 

There we have it. Now it only remains for me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Let’s hope 2017 is a good one.

Laura x

Revenge: A dish best eaten cold? Guest Post by JA Corrigan

Final cover high resPlease welcome debut author JA Corrigan to the blog. JA’s novel, Falling Suns, is published on 14th July by award-winning press, Accent, and it is a cracking read. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Here, she talks about revenge and its links to tragedy tradition. Thank you, JA.

The Revenge Plot is one of the oldest in history and sits easily alongside The Tragedy Plot. In fact, as the most famous of revenge plots shows us – Shakespeare’s Hamlet of course – revenge and tragedy are inextricably linked.

I pondered on this for some time.

Are they linked because essentially revenge is an unethical act and so therefore the result of retribution will always be tragic or, is the desire for revenge a natural human instinct that through religious and spiritual teachings has been demonised? The ultimate act of revenge is murder; a sin within all the major religions of the world, and in all civilised societies, a crime.

The thirst for revenge is one of the oldest human compulsions, and so using it as a theme in a novel, play or poem, stands up there as a premise that will always be interesting, throw up questions and cause angst – for both the writer and the reader. Revenge is often the precursor to a tragedy, just as much as the love story. The outcome of the act of retribution, I decided, could never be a good one.

And yet, the need and desire to ‘put right’ a wrongdoing, a brutal act, is so strong, and so much built into the human psyche that it is a storyline that for me, was hard to resist.

There can be no revenge without its ramification – that of tragedy.

Alongside the theme of revenge sat the idea of the strongest of human emotions – that of maternal love – and this too emerged as part of the premise for my story. Rachel adores her son and yet … in the opening of the novel we sense that this is not enough for her, that she wants and needs to return to her job, and with this realisation the seed is sown that Joe’s disappearance is somehow her fault.

In the early stages of planning my story, and with the theme of uncompromising maternal love imprinted inside my mind, I began to have the thought of how I could turn the trope of maternal love upside down and push it inside out. How an emotion that is considered good and nurturing can become bad and parasitic.

I knew I had to explore both.

When I first began to outline the plot for Falling Suns I did wrestle with myself. Could I possibly have a protagonist, and maintain my readers’ sympathy for her, when she is planning revenge and cold-blooded murder?

In the comfort of our own home, sitting on the sofa, many of us have said: ‘If he/she did that to one of mine I’d kill them.’ Fortunately this scenario is rare; i.e. that the person saying the sentence will actually be placed within the tragic circumstances to carry out such a threat. But what if you are placed in that position? What if your child was brutally murdered by a person that in time you were able to confront … and take revenge by taking the murderer’s life? What if you possessed all the tools, the emotional and mental strength to do what others could only imagine? What if?

This is the premise for Falling Suns: that Rachel Dune, the distraught and grieving mother, plans her revenge on the man who has been placed in a psychiatric unit for the brutal murder of her son. But as the story unfolds and as Rachel begins to unearth from the depths of her consciousness her own past, she begins to question that perhaps revenge is not what will appease her grief. As with many revenge plots there are other variables at play for Rachel, and it is not until she is able to explore these other factors that she slowly recognises the flaws in her plan, and the defects within her own family.

Revenge for Rachel is a need; a need that could destroy her, a need that can only end in tragedy – but not the tragedy that she herself foresees.

It is the tragedy of her past and all that lives there.

Blurb:

faalling suns preA psychological thriller for fans of Belinda Bauer, Mark Edwards, Clare Mackintosh – a dark and brooding tale about the horrors that can lurk within a family.

Ex-DI Rachel Dune’s small son is missing. Then his body is discovered. Her cousin Michael is found guilty of his murder and incarcerated in a secure psychiatric unit.

Four years later, now divorced and back in the police force, Rachel discovers that Michael is being released to a less secure step-down unit, with his freedom a likely eventuality. Unable to cope with this, she decides upon revenge, assuming a new identity to hunt him down. However, as she closes in on her target, her friend Jonathan, a journalist, uncovers unnerving information about her mother and others in her family. Jonathan begins to suspect that Rachel’s perception of the truth might not be as accurate as she thinks.

About JA Corrigan

DSC_1184JA Corrigan is originally from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, but now lives in Berkshire and shares her life with a husband, a teenage daughter and a cute cockapoo.

When not writing she is either walking the dog, reading, or cooking. She also likes to run, and drink white wine infused with hints of vanilla or gooseberries.

Falling Suns is a great, tense read. You can check out my review here.

To buy Falling Suns:

https://www.waterstones.com/book/falling-suns/julie-ann-corrigan/j-a-corrigan/9781786152497

https://bookshop.theguardian.com/catalog/product/view/id/414323/

http://amzn.to/1YbkLHg (PB)

http://amzn.to/1OekOQZ (Kindle)

http://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/falling-suns/9781786152497