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Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Thank you so much to Rebecca Bradley for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. It feels undeserved but I’m really grateful. The truth is, very much like writing, I would still blog even without readers because I really enjoy it. The process helps me to order my thoughts, and I’m the kind of person who thinks through my writing, in other words the ideas come to me as I write. I find inspiration everywhere and I enjoy the interaction with other bloggers and hearing from readers. For me it is a really interactive community. So, thank you to Rebecca. You can find her Crime Writing Blog here.

 

Inspiring

The award comes with the following instructions :

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
  • Optional: display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

So, here are seven facts about me that you might not know:

  1. I love acoustic guitar and live concerts, and am seeing one of my favourite singers in Vienna LIVE tonight! (A FREE eBook of my novel or two of my short stories goes to anyone who can figure out who I’m going to see.)
  2. I live for a steaming hot coffee in the mornings. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee just makes my heart glad; a coffee shop is even better.
  3. I’ve flown in a helicopter. Yes, a chopper, and I really enjoyed it. I would go again in a flash. The fact that you can just lift off and fly at an angle, the openness and the view from them is awesome!
  4. I can windsurf and water ski. It’s hard to know which is more difficult, but I prefer the speed and the adrenalin rush of waterskiing.
  5. I shook hands with the Queen when she visited our home town. I was at primary school and we lined up outside Colchester Town Hall to see her.
  6. I never imagined being a writer or ever writing a book. I wanted to be a vet (until I discovered that you have to actually operate on animals). I then wanted to join the Police! I think there was a part of me that wanted to help people (or animals!)
  7.  I can play the piano, clarinet and guitar, but I spend more of my time singing.

Now to pass on the award to some inspiring bloggers who you might also want to follow:

Elizabeth Craig

Elaine Aldred

Avril Joy

Jen Harvey

Vicky Newham

Belinda Pollard

Ruth Hunt

Shirley Golden

Tania Hershman

Sarah Hilary 

Paul McVeigh

Susi Holliday

Natalie Bowers

Carys Bray

Vanessa Gebbie

 

 


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Space to Read and Relax: Bookshop Cafés and Bars Around the World…

What is there more enticing for any book lover than to find a combination of books and coffee (or cocktails)? I often see images of bookshop cafés,  and I idly begin to dream about finding a corner (and some time) to while away a few hours reading with a mug, or a glass of something, in the beautiful surrounds of a bookshop or an atmospheric bar. Is it just me? I suspect not! Here are some of the places, both sumptuous and simple, to which I would happily transport myself, in the name of reading and space to relax.
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1. B2 Boutique Hotel, Zurich

Once the site of the old Hürlimann Brewery, this is now a hotel, with the industrial character of the buildings carefully preserved to illustrate the history of Zurich’s legendary brewing era. The B2 Boutique Hotel has a sumptuous library lounge, which boasts over 33,000 books, is an inviting place in which to lose yourself in a good book. With its tall arched windows and eleven-metre high ceiling, the library is reminiscent of a cathedral. The books were once housed in an antiquarian bookshop and can also be borrowed by guests during their stay in the hotel. The library is a space where you can work, talk business or relax and unwind. I have had my eye on the hotel since I first cast eyes on a photograph of the library some months ago. I’m now even more keen to go at some point, having just seen the incredible Thermal Spa, which is connected to the hotel. Spread over 3,300 square metres, the spa is housed in the former barrel filling area of the Hürlimann Brewery. But I digress! Back to books….

 

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2. The Bookworm, Beijing, China. 

The Bookworm is a library and a bookshop with a large collection of books. 16,112 titles on their library shelves at the last count! There is a gourmet European café on the premises. Thousands of English-language books fill the shelves and can be borrowed for a fee or read inside. They also sell books and magazines. A range of interesting talks and spontaneous musical evenings make this place a hive of activity. It’s easy to see why The Bookworm is such a hit among Beijingers. The spacious, interconnecting rooms with floor-to-ceiling books on every wall are light and airy in summer, yet cosy and snug in winter. And the roof terrace is perfect for yard-arm cocktails.

Their coffee is always freshly ground, they say; their chocolate cake voluptuous, and staff delightful! Anyone interested in testing this out?

 

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3. Cafebreria El Pendulo, Mexico City, Mexico. 

Books line the walls of Mexico City’s Cafebrería El Péndulo, but visitors can order breakfast, lunch and dinner from the café  and drinks from the bar. There is also a cocktail happy hour! Read a book while enjoying live music, poetry readings and stand up comedy.

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4. Pickwicks Cafe Bookshop, Vienna

This small book café named after a Dickens’ novel, serves Irish beer and has a library and rents out videos. They sell burgers, bagels, salads and fish and chips. There is free wi-fi and a big screen. I have yet to visit!

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5. El Ateneo in Buenos Aires, Argentina
This bookstore opened as a theatre called The Grand Splendid in 1919. It was first location in the world to show silent movies. Now, book lovers can enjoy a coffee in the café on the old stage. It still has the original balconies, painted ceiling, ornate carvings and the crimson stage curtains. The Guardian named El Ateneo second in its 2008 list of the World’s Ten Best Bookshops.

The theatre had a seating capacity of 1,050, and staged a variety of performances, including tango artists. In the late twenties the theatre was converted into a cinema, and in 1929 showed the first sound films presented in Argentina. Chairs are provided throughout the building and the theatre boxes are still intact.

The ornate former theatre was leased by Grupo Ilhsa in February 2000. The building was then renovated and converted into a book and music shop, with the cinema seating removed and book shelves installed. El Ateneo Grand Splendid became the group’s flagship store, and in 2007 sold over 700,000 books; over a million people walk through its doors annually.

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6) Scarthin, Peak District, England.

Some might prefer the altogether more earthy beauty of a shop like Scarthin Books in the Peak District. Scarthin’s has been selling new and second-hand books since the mid-1970s. They boast 40,000+ new books, 50,000+ second-hand books, 5,000+ rare and antiquarian, music, a café AND publishing! It is a bookshop so beloved, that it advertises local guest and farmhouses on its websites where devotees can stay overnight.


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Story is Everything

Here are 25 thoughts on creating stories, in no particular order:

  1. A lot of things have beginnings, middles and ends — but that doesn’t make them stories.
  2. True stories have two parts: first something bad happens, second something bad is fixed (or a fix is at least attempted)
  3. Plot-driven and character-driven stories don’t really exist; all stories are conflict/tension driven.
  4. Suspense, tension, conflict — these things shouldn’t be limited to specific genres.
  5. Asking what happens next is probably the wrong question.
  6. Asking what is my character’s goal (or what does my character want) is probably a better question.
  7. Better yet: what can go wrong now?
  8. Ticking clocks give your story a deadline and a destination. Also, tension. Can’t ask for much more.
  9. Give your characters some story-level goals, i.e., decide what it is they want, have them go after it, and the plot will almost fill itself in.
  10. Storytelling is a timeless human instinct — trust and embrace your natural ability.
  11. Tell your stories like you’re talking to just one person — an audience of one is the right number.
  12. Start with the end, and you’ll stay on track.
  13. Most stories start too early.
  14. Many stories end too late.
  15. Stakes are essential. Usually the higher the better.
  16. In real life, we avoid conflict because it sucks. In your stories, you must embrace, chase it even.
  17. Things can always get worse — we’ll probably enjoy reading that more anyway.
  18. Not all stories have to have happy endings, neat little bows are for packages.
  19. A good story doesn’t preach or moralize — it connects and resonates.
  20. Good stories leave out the unimportant parts.
  21. You have more stories to tell than you realize. Trust. Yourself.
  22. Complex isn’t necessarily better. Some of the most powerful stories and pretty simple.
  23. Trying for theme will kill a story — theme comes last.
  24. Plot is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.
  25. And then? Keep asking until you figure it out.

This is reblogged from Justin Mclachlin’s blog.


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North Norfolk Coast

Just as I had posted the previous publication news, I discovered that another of my short stories has just been published online. North Norfolk Coast has been published at 1000 Words:

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Extract:

Days were spent with her brother, Donald, on the beaches of the North Norfolk coast, with its wild winds and salt air. They built sand castles before the sun set; before the waves swept over the turrets, dragging them back into the sea. She could hear her father’s voice.

‘You’ll catch your death if you don’t put a sweater on, girl. It’s getting cold.’

He spoke as though he was still fighting from the trenches. She wondered how death could be caught, if at all. The swell of the waves grew with each crash, pounding the shore and devouring the castles with their flags. The moats, engulfed with water at high tide, turned her thoughts to the river, which had burst its banks in an early January. The thought frightened her, perhaps more than her father’s unkind words.

You can read the rest at 1000 Words.


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Clipboards and White

One of my short story has just been published in Litro, a London Literary Magazine. You can read it here.

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Extract:

The starched white sheets crinkle beneath my thighs. The walls are white; clinical. The door is pale and open. Beyond it, the muffled voices of people in white travelling along the corridor. I see flashes of clipboards, glasses, and white; maybe jackets. I am not sure why I am here. My head is woolly and my feet numb. Looking through the window, which is higher than usual, there is a meadow of greens and splashes of yellow. Beyond that nothing but sky; grey mainly. I need to wash my hands but they refuse to move, lying heavily, tingling, as though dipped in iced water. I was told to lie prostrate. It’s the drugs, they said, just rest.

My mind never rests. One. Two. Three. The tiles above the sink are unsymmetrical. Four. Five. Six. There is no middle groove where the grouting should lie. Seven. The fourth tile should not be in the middle. The lack of symmetry makes me feel uncomfortable and unsettles a sense of order, or disorder, in my mind. I remember, maybe earlier, a doctor in the house, an ambulance, a cup of coffee, a dog and Sandra, in no particular order. Why do I remember Sandra last? Where is she? Continued on the Litro website.

 


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Q&A with Rebecca Bradley: What’s Your First Draft Like? – F. C. Malby

I have been interviewed in a Q&A on First Drafts over at Rebecca Bradley’s blog:

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

I just begin to write and see where it takes me. It’s that simple. I begin to write before even planning. I’m not a keen planner and I find I need something written down before I can flesh out the rest. I also don’t research until later. I try to get into the feel of the characters and the voice, and create a sense of place in my mind. So in a way it’s like launching myself off a diving board. I don’t scan the water, test the temperature or step in carefully. I just go. It might seem reckless, but I rarely rewrite the beginnings…

 

Read the rest of the interview here: What’s Your First Draft Like? – F. C. Malby.


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Writing Process Blog Tour

I have been invited by author Rebecca Bradley to answer some questions about my current writing as part of a writing process blog tour. You can read her answers on her blog.

So here are my responses to the following questions:

What are you currently working on?

I am working on the ending of my second novel. The first was historical fiction, and set in 1980s/1990s Prague. It was a fictional take on the impact of the fall of communism on the lives of the Czech people, and the ensuing changes. This one is entirely different. It’s a thriller, set in Vienna, and was inspired by a trip to an auction house in the city during the annual Long Night of Museums over a year ago, which you can read about here and here. I stood next to a Canaletto painting, which was said to be expected to fetch ten million euros at auction. So many thoughts surfaced, from who would pay that much for one work of art and where would it end up, to imagine if I just lifted it and walked away with a painting. Crazy, I know, but such is the imagination of a writer! And from there, a whole story began to unravel. Researching art theft has been fascinating and I particularly enjoyed reading insights from the founder of the FBI Art Crime Team, Robert Wittman. His memoir, Priceless, is really worth a read. In it, he discusses how he went undercover to rescue some of the world’s most valuable stolen art treasures, and he highlights the need for greater expertise in the area of the theft of cultural property. Several of my short stories have been published online and won various competitions, so I am also polishing a collection for publication.

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How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I read a lot of literary fiction and I really dislike all the genre segregation and the debates surrounding what makes good writing. In my view good writing is good writing regardless of its genre. Does the genre categorisation make literary fiction genreless? Nobody seems to agree. I don’t believe that any one type of writing is better than another. I’m happy about the rise of the short fiction form and hope that all forms and genres can be equally celebrated. My current novel is written in the first person, present tense, which many would say is tough and risky, but I think it works and it has certainly held my attention for long enough to continue with the story. It helps the reader to get inside the mind (and fears) of the protagonist, which would be difficult from another perspective. It increases the tension. It is also set in Europe, and in a city I know well enough to include the minute details and the feel of the place.

Why do you write what you do?

Well, you’ve seen the variety – historical fiction, thrillers, short stories – and it probably reflects a highly varied taste in reading, but as far as the current work is concerned I find thrillers really intriguing in terms of what makes them work, especially psychological thrillers. I have been hooked by many great writers over the years and in a way they have fed into what I am currently writing. I also read a lot of short stories and am passionate about writing short fiction. You’ll find several on my website if you are interested.

How does your writing process work?

It always starts with an idea, which is followed by several vivid scenes. Once I can link them together I can start to plot and plan the story. I do quiet a lot of research, despite the fact that I write fiction, and I draft and re-draft, often adding in new scenes or scrapping parts which don’t quite work. You have to be unafraid of being ruthless. Readers will want to stop reading at points where you don’t edit properly. With the first book I cut out an entire family (who really had no place in the story) and several chapters. I once read that if you take every other word out of a text, the story still makes sense. Try it. It will show you how many unnecessary words can be used which could have been cut. Maybe I should reread this post! I work at an empty table with a strong coffee and some water. I don’t always feel hungry when I write, especially when I get caught up in the flow of the story. I take breaks to move around but I try to keep set time for writing and to treat it seriously. I guard my writing time and often snatch evenings to write when I can.

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I’ll now pass the baton on to Fiona Melrose, Michelle Flatley, Colette McBeth and Jon Rance.

 

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