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I haven’t been very active on my blog recently, but that will change again soon (I know you’re desperate to devour my thoughts, words and memories…). In the mean time, it would be criminally remiss of me to not share this latest review of Ravens Gathering. Jo Robertson has timed this brilliantly, as yesterday was my last day in proper employment. From today, I focus solely on writing, and this seems like a good way to start the next phase of my life…

mychestnutreadingtree

About this book…

As she let her gaze drift around her, she saw that there were more birds. Perhaps a dozen or so, perched among the trees that stood on the edge of the clearing. And yet more were arriving, swooping down through the gap overhead and landing on branches that overlooked them. The birds weren’t threatening, yet the sight of them all coming together in this dark and isolated spot was unnerving. Tanya reached a hand out towards Martin, and was relieved to feel him take it. She felt him move in behind her. After the uncertainty she’d experienced with him in a similar position only a few moments ago, she recognised the irony of her reaction. His closeness offered security.
“You know what they are, don’t you?”

A stranger’s arrival in a small village coincides with a tragic accident. For the Gates family in particular it’s more than…

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I was delighted to be invited recently to share some thoughts on Sue Vincent’s blog. Sue herself has plenty to say on a range of subjects, all with a lot of thought attached to them. If you haven’t come across her yet, I’d encourage you to go take a look.
For now, though, here’s the outcome of my own stream of consciousness…

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Photo: Sue Vincent

When I wrote Ravens Gathering, I knew it needed plotting carefully. There were several twists in it, and garden paths needed laying for the reader to be led up – difficult to do if you start with no real sense of direction.

So I decamped to Spain for a week and spent each morning on a balcony with a sea view in front of me and mountains either side. There are worse places to sit with a pen and A4 pad.

Over the course of that week, I wrote the outline. I started by writing out the events in chronological order, giving me a timeline. But, of course, that’s not the order you reveal things in. I also had to bear in mind that, although some of the events took place over decades, the core story needed telling over a few days. So it was like…

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I stumbled (such is my life, that’s the way I usually find out about these things) across this blog post today and it has been a revelation. No doubt there will be plenty out there who already know about this, but for those who don’t… Well worth a read

Story Empire

Hello, SEers! Harmony here 🙂

Recently, I had to update my webpage to reflect a book release due out soon. I realised that I had forgotten completely how to make the book previews that I’d done for my other books, lols. So, good old Google came to the rescue. Then I thought that it might be useful for folks if I outlined the process of Embedding Amazon Book Previews into your website here. If you know all this already, then of course feel free to ignore me! The other benefit of sharing this is that, in writing it all out, it might actually embed in this brain of mine! (Miracles have been known to happen.)

Happily, unlike donating digital gifts (including ebooks), this feature works on both Amazon UK as well as Amazon US. Yay! (Sorry, but being in the UK, that’s one of my gripes, ha ha.)

Anyhooooo …

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Isn’t it great that you can call a bestselling author a friend? A chance meeting at a Conference about a year ago, and now Louise and I get together periodically for lunch and exchange our highs and woes about our writing experiences.
Louise’s story is an inspiration to all writers, me included, and I’d encourage you to learn more about her on her website, FabricatingFiction. So it was a bit of a surprise when I was asked if I could help her out…

fabricating fiction

I am a writer. I am an introverted writer. The thought of public speaking makes my skin prickle and my head swim and yet it is something writers are often expected to do, and to be honest, despite the fear, it is something I am eager to do. The chance to meet readers. To talk about my books. A couple of weeks ago, on World Book Day, I gave my first ever talk to 250 primary school children on reading, writing and following your dreams (you can read about that here.) Beforehand I was lucky enough to get some tips from my good friend and fellow author Graeme Cumming who is so adept at public speaking he belongs to a Speakers Club (for fun!!!). Thankfully I got through my own talk without fainting/vomiting/crying/all three and I’m delighted to welcome Graeme onto my blog today to share his wisdom with you. 

Getting…

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As an author, I know the value of reviews. The more you get, the more chance your book will get some attention. Not all reviews are good – that can be for a range of reasons, including that of personal taste. When I write a story, I don’t have any expectation that it will appeal to everyone. If I did, I’d be kidding myself and setting myself up for a fall. As it happens, by writing a novel that crosses genres, I know I’ve created a barrier already.
Against that background, I’m grateful for a review of any kind. Even the reviewer who complained how bad Ravens Gathering was (and didn’t get it even after the second read!) deserves appreciation for not only bothering to read my book, but to take time out to comment on it. Time is our most valuable commodity, and we shouldn’t underestimate that.
With that in mind, it’s disappointing that a book blogger has reached a point where they have to write this. This community is valuable and should be supported. Start now, by reading what Terry has to say

Rosie Amber

Today I’m hosting a post written by Terry Tyler which I feel strongly about aswell.

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#Bookblogger bashing: in the end, you’re only hurting yourself.

I’ve read a few posts lately about book bloggers being bullied or ‘trolled’ by writers for whom they have received bad reviews, or whose books they have rejected.  For more on this, here’s a heartrending post from The Happy Meerkat, and an associated one on Fictionophile about whether or not reviews should be objective or personal opinion, amongst other things.

Like 99% of the rest of the online writer/reader/blogger/reviewer community, I’m appalled that bloggers who give up their time to read books by total strangers, for no payment, are receiving such harassment.

I write this from the point of view of a writer, and a book reviewer.  Although my own book review blog is mostly for my own reading choices, I’m also a member of

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1979 was a significant year for me in many ways. I turned 16, left school, lost my virginity (if anyone finds it, will you let me know), and went to my first gig. It’s difficult to say for sure which of these was the most significant, but the most relevant here is the last one.

Music had always played a big part of my life. The record player was on constantly – until it was upgraded to a “music centre”, when we could play cassettes as well! With a mother who liked music from the ‘50s and ‘60s, but also kept abreast of music trends, and three sisters with tastes in music varying from ABBA to Bowie, there were plenty of influences around. We also benefited from music introduced from a variety of other sources, as our house seemed to be a regular stopping point for friends.

So it came to pass that my own musical tastes were, as the saying goes, eclectic.

Darts seemed to come from nowhere late in 1977 with the medley Daddy Cool/The Girl Can’t Help It, and I strongly urge you to watch this video of them. If it doesn’t make you smile and feel energised, you may need to see your GP.

So Doo Wop became another part of the musical mix at home. The nutter who breaks into The Girl Can’t Help It is Den Hegarty. As you’ll have seen from the clip, they were a lively bunch, and a friend of my mum’s told me about going to see them when they toured in 1978. Apparently part way through the set, Hegarty decided to climb on to the balcony, something I struggled to imagine, but was nevertheless intrigued by.

So, when the sister and brother in law of my then girlfriend invited us to join them to see Darts on their 1979 tour, I jumped at the chance.

At the time I lived on the border of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire and the best venue local to us was De Montfort Hall in Leicester. I didn’t know this at the time, but years of experience subsequently taught me that it was actually one of the best in the country. To this day, I still think of it as the best venue I’ve been to for a concert.  The acoustics are terrific and the ability to get up close to the stage was second to none – I’ll give examples of this in future posts.

Back then, of course, Arena shows were virtually non-existent, so bands toured venues that were much smaller, and I’ve seen many great artists at De Montfort and other similar (and smaller) places. The shows were more intimate and generated a great atmosphere.

As it happens, when we went to see Darts, it turned out we were booked into balcony seats.  As a result, that atmosphere I later came to thrive on passed me by on this occasion.

What also passed me by was the opportunity to see Den Hegarty at work. Unfortunately, he left the band before this tour, and was replaced by Kenny Andrews  – here he is kicking off Duke of Earl.

While Andrews had the deep voice the band needed, he didn’t have the same apparently manic personality as Hegarty, so I didn’t get to see any lunatic climbing going on during the show.

Interestingly, Hegarty went on to lecture in Psychology – watch his performances again, and you’ll either wonder why or figure he’s a natural.

In spite of Hegarty’s absence, I thoroughly enjoyed the gig. As well as Andrews, Griff Fender, Rita Ray and Bob Fish were brilliant performers and it’s something of a mystery to me that the band don’t still get the airplay a lot of old groups do. Together with the rest of the band – too many to mention – they put on a show that was as lively and entertaining as you could hope for. Apart from the lack of Hegarty, my only disappointment was that sitting in the balcony did restrict your ability to dance to the music.  I’d like to say I never made that mistake again, but I’d be lying. I didn’t make it often though.

And on that note, I’ll leave you with The Boy From New York City.

 

Obviously, there will be more to say on this subject in the future. In the mean time, if you enjoy reading about music, you’ll find a wide range of items on Talk About Pop Music, and there’s a great series for the nostalgic on Hugh’s Views and News.

My mum loved Roger Moore, so my surrogate father as a young child was Simon Templar, albeit via a sturdy black and white television with a temperamental horizontal hold. For those of you who don’t know what a horizontal hold is, ask your parents (or maybe grandparents). The Saint never completely disappeared from our screens, but they stopped producing it in 1969.

In 1973, Moore got his licence to kill, but during the interlude he formed a brief but entertaining double act with Tony Curtis.

I was only eight when The Persuaders! (don’t forget the exclamation mark) was launched and had only a vague idea of who Tony Curtis was.  But the press made a big thing about him, so I guessed he must be something special. And he was, but there was something special about the whole series – the chemistry.

In the pre-title of the opening episode, it’s said that the two characters each have “something”, but jointly, like chemicals, they’re an explosive combination. That wasn’t just true of the characters.

Over the years, much has been said about The Persuaders!. At £100,000 an episode, it had the biggest budget of any action series in its day. It had high profile guest stars, exotic locations (and location filming was rare back then), iconic cars (Brett’s Bahama Yellow Aston Martin is the one everyone raves about, but I always wanted Danny’s Ferrari Dino) and that enduring theme music.

With two millionaire playboys, one a lord who inherited his wealth, the other self-made, both naturally attractive to the opposite sex, skilled at combat and calm under pressure, it clearly bore no relation to the real world and was intended solely to entertain.

Fight scenes in those days were never realistic – a spot of blood at the corner of the mouth was often the only sign of real damage following several punches to the face. So the violence was borderline cartoon, mixed in with the occasional Western-style brawl. This was family viewing and, indeed, the whole family would sit and watch it.

For those of you who’ve never seen it, you may be forgiven for thinking: so far, so what? The elements I’ve described have been seen dozens (possibly hundreds) of times before.

The difference came from the casting. Roger Moore was always set to play Brett Sinclair, but Rock Hudson and Glenn Ford were considered for the part of Danny Wilde before Curtis. Again, I apologise to anyone under the age of 40 here because the chances are you don’t know who these actors were. To me, although Hudson had the sense of humour, it would be hard to imagine him being brought up in the Bronx. As for Ford, it’s worth noting that 7 years later he was playing Superman’s adopted father, a relatively old man.

Curtis, on the other hand, brought energy, charm and wit, but also a rough edge that contrasts with Moore’s suave peer of the realm. He also did a lot of his own stunts and, when you consider he was in his mid-40s at the time, his athletic prowess was outstanding.

He also brought with him some eccentricities. Throughout the series, he wore gloves regularly, even washing his hands while wearing them on one occasion.

My initial ignorance about Curtis rapidly changed. I still wanted to be Brett Sinclair, but I wanted Danny Wilde as my best friend.

And that was what made the series so special.  The relationship between the two men. Their initial mutual dislike, the competition between them and their gradual friendship. The dialogue was always natural.  Roger Moore, who is well known for playing, well, Roger Moore, has previously said his method of acting is to say the words and avoid bumping into the furniture. So it’s very much to his credit that the dialogue works in spite of  Curtis’s inclination to ad lib.

Tony Curtis was a terrific character and a gift as a co-star (in The Persuaders!), but he was what you might call 'very careful' with his money

 

The Persuaders! didn’t do very well in the States, so only one series was made. Nevertheless, it built up a massive following around the world and is considered cult viewing.

In spite of its high production values, it is inevitably of its time and, like many of its contemporaries, the storylines probably wouldn’t bear much scrutiny today. But it was fun and still worth watching if only for the interplay between the central characters. As a writer, I learnt a lot from that. Dialogue is important.

Over the years, there’s been talk of a remake, and speculation persists that it’ll happen one day. But the magic of The Persuaders! wasn’t the concept.  Variations on that can be – and have been – recreated at any time. What made the series work was the chemistry between Curtis and Moore. So, for me, it would be a mistake to try. It would only lead to disappointment.

 

Postscript

I originally intended to write this post about a month ago, so it’s genuinely a coincidence that the series is running again here in the UK from Sunday 5th Feb at 5pm on the True Entertainment channel.  As I was treated to the DVD box set some time ago, I won’t be watching, but if I’ve whetted your appetite – or just made you curious – the option is there for you.

 

 

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