Wednesday 21 September 2016

Writing: Top Tips & When To Ignore Them - Mark Latham


Top Tips (and When to Ignore Them)

Mark A Latham

When you’re an aspiring writer, everyone wants to give you advice. And because you’re aspiring, you soak it up like a sponge (or, at least, you probably should). The problem is that when I say everyone, I mean everyone. No matter what level of writing success a writer has or hasn’t achieved, or whether they’ve even published anything beyond that self-help book gathering dust on a Waterstones shelf, they’re still ready to throw advice at newbies. The old chestnuts are there – Find your voice! Show, don’t tell! Think about POV! Don’t use too many exclamation marks! (Cough).
However, when you actually get down to the nuts and bolts of writing and start to get your work out there for public consumption, you’ll often realise that large swathes of the advice you were offered were simply… irrelevant. I certainly did. Sometimes, by trying to obey the rules, you end up hamstringing yourself, rather than find your own path. Only by failing, do we learn, young padawan. (Cough, again).
So I’m not going to offer you any advice in this blog. Well, I am, but not like that. No, I’m simply going to pass on the best bits of advice I ever received – things that I actually think on regularly, and that have stuck with me.

Never Compromise! 


This is a recent piece of advice I heard from SF author Rob Boffard, which is similar – but not quite the same – as Stephen King’s famous quote ‘first write for yourself, then the audience’. What he’s saying is, if you love writing a certain way (in his case, rip-roaring, fast-paced actioners; in my case, atmospheric and macabre stories), don’t change because people don’t like your style. He’s not saying ‘never listen to criticism’. He’s saying ‘find the audience that loves the style you write in, and write for them’. People telling Rob to write some slow, atmospheric scenes is like people telling me to write a happy ending full of rainbows and ponies. Ain’t gonna happen.

Never Respond to Negative Reviews


I’ve heard this many times, and boy is it true! Learn from them. Shout at them. Get mad. Get upset. Or just ignore them… whatever. Bad reviews are part of life. Some of them will come about because you genuinely messed up, and that mistake was unforgivable to a particular reviewer. Some will be because the reviewer just doesn’t get what you’re about, or missed some nuance in the story that other readers were okay with. It doesn’t matter. If you are in any doubt as to whether or not you should ever respond to criticism on the internet, just Google Stephan J Harper, read the tale of woe that follows, and think again!

Listen to your Editor


Hmm, turns out this gem actually is mine. So I lied, I am going to give you advice. A good editor is everything to a good book. Well, not everything – you have to write the damn thing first. But a good editor will help you make it shine. What do I mean by ‘good’ editor? One who works with you in a two-way process. One who has a clear understanding of your vision, a clear vision themselves of how the book will be positioned in the marketplace, and who the target audience is. Only then can they truly advise and guide you. And the process can be painful – you might decide to ignore some of their advice, or find a different solution than the one they suggest, but do so as part of an open and collaborative process, rather than from a position of defensiveness, and the book will be better for it.

And finally, one from Stephen King himself:

Writing is about getting happy. 


‘Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.’ I’m reminded of this every time I whinge about how hard my day has been, when the words won’t come on the page, or I feel like I’ve done a lousy job. Draw a line under it, and remember you’re doing the thing you love. It should make you happy, even when it seems like the hardest thing in the world. So go to bed, and get back at it the next morning, thinking happy thoughts!

Mark A. Latham is a writer, editor, history nerd, frustrated grunge singer and amateur baker from Staffordshire, UK. A recent immigrant to Nottingham, he lives in a very old house (sadly not haunted), and is still regarded as a foreigner.

Formerly the editor of White Dwarf magazine, Mark dabbled in tabletop games design before becoming a full-time author. A writer of strange, fantastical and macabre tales, his short stories have been published by Titan Books and Black Library Publishing. Revelling in the moniker ‘the Lost Victorian’, Mark’s research into nineteenth-century life has become something of an obsession, which he salves by writing on the subject for far longer than can be considered healthy.

Wednesday 14 September 2016

Waiting On Wednesday #172 - The Lonely Hearts Hotel

Waiting On Wednesday, where we put the spotlight on upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating, is hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

This week's choice is -

The Lonely Hearts Hotel - Heather O'Neill
ISBN - 9780735213739
Publisher - Riverhead Books
Release date - February 7 2017

With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans in love with each other since they can remember whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one's origins. It might also take true love.

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.

Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city's underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they'll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same. 

With her musical language and extravagantly realized world, Heather O Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell.

I stumbled across this in somebody's round-up of forthcoming releases and I cannot remember where so apologies to whoever it was! If this is anywhere near as good as The Night Circus then I shall be glad I found it. A magical historical novel with musical language can't be all bad...

Tuesday 13 September 2016

September New Release Giveaway!

Welcome to the September 2016 New Release Giveaway Hop, hosted by It Starts At Midnight! The hop runs from today through to midnight on September 30 2016. Up for grabs is any new release this month up to the value of $22 from the Book Depository as long as they deliver to your country - find the list of countries here

All you have to do is choose any new release published in September and fill out the rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the linky for lots of other chances to win, thanks for entering and good luck!

Monday 12 September 2016

Bookmarked... #25

The return of the (mostly) weekly post letting you all know what I'm reading and have lined up for the week! It's my own version of Sheila at Book Journey's It's Monday What Are You Reading (now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date) and I have her permission to rename it for my own nefarious reasons...

I thought I'd got a lot of reading done this week but looking back on my reading journal tells another story. I still don't know what I did with my spare time over the last week as I don't seem to have achieved much! I did start watching some horror movies in preparation for my R.I.P. & Spooky Sunday posts but apart from that? Nothing much got done...


I absolutely loved In The Woods! I honestly don't know why it's taken me so long to read it. I own a copy of this but it's been so long since I bought it that it's gone AWOL and I had to borrow a copy from the library.

Mixed feelings about Mr. Splitfoot... I loved some of it and hated some of it. That probably explains why it's taken me so long to read it!

Still reading

I'm struggling with this one. I quite enjoyed the first book but this one isn't holding my attention.

I'm savouring this book. I'm such a huge fan of Shirley Jackson so I like to take my time with everything I read or re-read! Let Me Tell You is more than likely going to end up on my top ten books of the year list.


Both of these are for my R.I.P. challenge! Alison Littlewood is fast becoming a favorite author for me. I love Path Of Needles and A Cold Season, I'm really enjoying Unquiet House so far and I just got Hidden People from Netgalley so that may well be next on the reading pile! I picked Fell up on a whim at the library but so far, so good!

What have you been reading recently? Or not?!

Friday 9 September 2016

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI

Better late than never but it's that time of year again, R.I.P. and featuring the spectacular artwork of Abigail Larson! Time to dig out all your spooky, scary, gothic, mysterious & thrilling reads/movies and make sure all the lights are on... Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings has resumed hosting duties again this year so head on over if you want to join in the peril too. The only thing that seems to be missing this year is a group read of something deliciously creepy...

Read at least four books that come under these categories -

Dark Fantasy

Easy! I think that's the majority of the books on my shelves. I have plenty to choose from, including a few review titles which I've been saving for this challenge.

I've got quite a few short story collections lined up so looking forward to this one!

I think this is the only peril in which I vaguely succeeded last year. I watch horror movies on a regular basis, even more so through September and October so Spooky Sunday will be returning!

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Waiting On Wednesday #171 - The Hidden People

Waiting On Wednesday, where we put the spotlight on upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating, is hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

This week's choice is -

The Hidden People - Alison Littlewood
ISBN - 9781848669901
Publisher - Jo Fletcher Books
Release date - October 6 2016

The bestselling author of Richard & Judy Book Club hit The Cold Season returns with a chilling mystery - where superstition and myth bleed into real life with tragic consequences.
Pretty Lizzie Higgs is gone, burned to death on her own hearth - but was she really a changeling, as her husband insists? Albie Mirralls met his cousin only once, in 1851, within the grand glass arches of the Crystal Palace, but unable to countenance the rumors that surround her murder, he leaves his young wife in London and travels to Halfoak, a village steeped in superstition.

Albie begins to look into Lizzie's death, but in this place where the old tales hold sway and the 'Hidden People' supposedly roam, answers are slippery and further tragedy is just a step away...

I absolutely adored Alison Littlewood's novels, The Cold Season and Path Of Needles, so was thrilled to read about this one. She writes the books I love - fairy tales, folklore and mystery all seamlessly woven together. Here's hoping The Hidden People is just as good!

Tuesday 6 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #117 - Box-Set Binge Television Shows

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the fabulous girls cover at The Broke & The Bookish. This week's topic is -


I tend not to watch much television when it's actually on apart from the Great British Bake Off, I prefer to catch up when it's been released on Netflix or Prime. So this week, here's what I watched recently on either Netflix or Prime, plus the one physical box-set I've bought this year!

What shows have you been putting down the books for?

Monday 5 September 2016

Bookmarked... #24

The return of the (mostly) weekly post letting you all know what I'm reading and have lined up for the week! It's my own version of Sheila at Book Journey's It's Monday What Are You Reading (now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date) and I have her permission to rename it for my own nefarious reasons...

Two weeks worth of reading for me, crammed into one week... Bout of Books 17 was a total bust for me. I started a book on day 1 and that was it, I somehow managed not to read again until the day BoB finished. I've no idea why but I'm pleased that it was a temporary non-reading blip otherwise I don't know what I'd be doing!


Still Reading


Friday 2 September 2016

Poppy Pym And The Double Jinx - Laura Wood

From the Winner of the Scholastic Montegrappa Prize for New Children's Writing 

It's Halloween at Saint Smithen's. When the Brimwell town hall burns down, the amateur production of Macbeth is moved to the school and it's all hands on deck. But when the play is struck by a series of mysterious attacks, it's up to Poppy, her friends and her circus family to save the play and unmask the culprit.

Oh Poppy Pym! If anything I enjoyed this even more than the first one (my review of the Pharoah's Curse is here) and I thought that would be impossible! Now firmly settled into Saint Smithens Poppy and her friends, Ingrid & Kip, are still on the lookout for a mystery to solve so when the town hall burns down when the drama society are rehearsing that Scottish play it's the perfect opportunity for the trio to put their detecting skills to the test once again...

Between invading hordes of guinea pigs, wannabe movie stars starring in a vampire movie and cast members dropping like flies thanks to the curse of that Scottish play Poppy is soon up to her neck in the investigation. This time they're trying to solve two mysteries at once so things are even more hectic than usual. Poppy's circus family are soon called upon to help and the arrival of Fanella, Luigi, Pym et al lives the story up even more.

Poppy is a little bit more grown up in this book and thanks to her archnemesis Annabelle Forthington-Smythe is starting to wonder about who her birth parents really might be. There are some really touching moments between her and Madame Pym about this and I look forward to reading more about her search if she decides to go ahead. Although, I do have to say that bombshell dropped on page 293 left me with my mouth hanging open and cursing the fact that the book was finished! I sincerely hope that Laura Wood is writing book 3 now as I'm not sure how I'm expected to wait too long after that...

As per the first book there some great supporting characters and I have to say Letty, Poppy's other roommate, is my favorite. The girl belongs to so many clubs I'd like to know when she finds time to sleep between them and school. Miss Baxter, Fanella, Luigi, Marvin and the other circus members and teachers are all equally as good - but especially Fanella who I think had some of the funniest lines, and the Brimwell Bugle agrees with me! 

A good solid middle grade adventure about friendship, family and how to be a good detective, this is the sort of book I would have devoured at that age and indeed absolutely adored at my slightly more advanced age now...

About The Author

Laura Wood is the winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children's Writing. She has just completed her PhD at the University of Warwick studying the figure of the reader in nineteenth century literature. POPPY PYM AND THE DOUBLE JINX is her second novel.

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Poppy Pym And The Double Jinx - Laura Wood 
ISBN - 9781407163468
Publisher - Scholastic
Release date - September 1 2016

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Thursday 1 September 2016

Poppy Pym And The Pharoah's Curse - Laura Wood

The extraordinary story of a little girl raised in a circus who is about to embark on a boarding school adventure. Featuring an ancient Egyptian curse, two best friends (one who wants to be taller and one who knows everything), secretive teachers, dangerous accidents, a mystery to be solved and a menagerie of circus characters.

I'd like to introduce you to my new best friend, Poppy Pym. Most children dream of running away to the circus but Poppy was actually brought up in one, Discovered in the magical top hat of Marvin the Magician Poppy narrowly avoid being called Tomato for the rest of her life and is adopted by Madame Pym and the rest of the circus gang. Fast forward ten years and it's decided that it's time for Poppy to give up her (circus) homeschooling and go to a proper school. Step forward Miss Baxter and Saint Smithens boarding school.

Whirled away from everything she knows Poppy is feeling lost and bewildered but soon makes friends in Ingrid and Letty, her roommates, and Kip, a boy of small stature determined to grow! Finding it hard to settle in completely Poppy's spirits are soon lifted by news of an exhibition of Egyptian artifacts coming to the school. Once owned by a former student the display naturally comes with a mystery built in. Fascinated by a children's detective series she used to read, Detective Dougie Valentine, when Poppy and the other children learn of a supposedly cursed ruby as part of the exhibit they all delve into what might be a mystery to solve!

Caos and mayhem ensue as there are disasters, accidents, and warnings of a mystical nature. Enter a proper policeman, Inspector Hartley, who seems to take a shine to Miss Baxter but warns against Poppy and her friends becoming involved anything criminal. Needless to say, they ignore his advice and are soon up to their necks in trouble! Poppy's circus family arrive just in the nick of time to help the intrepid heroine solve the mystery and they all lived happily ever after...

Poppy Pym and the Pharoah's Curse is an excellent start to a new series by Laura Wood. The characters are so well written and I defy you not to become attached to Poppy, Ingrid, Kip, and all the other fascinating charcters. The circus is a wonder, I would pay to see Buttercup the lion or Fanella or even Marvin the (not-quite-so) Magnificent! Saint Smithens also seems like my sort of school and I can't wait to read more of Poppy's grand adventures.

Poppy Pym And The Pharoah's Curse - Laura Wood
ISBN - 9781407158549
Publisher - Scholastic
Release date - September 3 2015
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