Categories
Books Editing The writing process

Why Do We Do What We Do?

I got homework to explain why I write books – in a one-minute video. How can I condense all that into one minute? Could you?

Whenever I have limited time or word count to deliver a message, I write down what I want to say and then cut it down to size. I’ve decided to use this blog post to write my thoughts in full. While you read it, think about how you would explain why you do what you do in one minute. I think it’s a great exercise for focusing your reasons, which in turn helps you to move in the right direction.

This is an interesting question. It’s not why did I begin writing. I’ve answered that question many times. I begin my answer with my late friend, Gill, who told me about social anxiety, leading to my becoming passionate about raising awareness of social anxiety and eventually finding an outlet in writing.

But this question is different. It asks why I write now, and it deserves a different answer.

Firstly, I love writing. I love combining words that make sense together, whether fiction or non-fiction. I love creating characters and exploring how they react and interact in familiar settings and in usual or unusual situations. I love the freedom writing gives me to clarify my thoughts, something I’ve never been able to do in conversation.

And I love editing, because editing lets you refine those words to read in the best way that they can. And it lets you find all the typos, point-of-view changes, repeated words and other issues in the text. I know, lots of authors don’t like editing, but I get a thrill out of spotting errors and possibilities for improvement.

I’ve met some wonderful people through writing, people who have helped, provided support, or just popped into in my life.

Just as important are the readers. Without readers, all my hard work would seem pointless. I write so that people can enjoy reading. That’s the main reason. But also, I write so that readers can empathise and sympathise, love and hate. I hope to arouse emotions in them. I also hope they learn something from the experience; we are all constantly learning, as long as we keep our minds open.

Why else do I write? I hope that, through my writing, I will become better known. I hope that more people will read or listen to me, and I’ll be able to promote better understanding of the issues I stand for.

You know what? If I were better at spontaneous verbal communication, I could probably say all of that in a minute. But I’m not, and so I’m going to concentrate on the three topics: writing, readers and raising awareness.

This particular video will appear only in a private Facebook group, but I will be producing public videos in the coming months.

Did you think about how you would transmit the why of what you do in a one-minute video? I’d love to hear about your thoughts.

Categories
Books

Dark Paris Theme Park

The last day of 2021 sees the publication of eleven dark and compelling stories set in the French capital.

Bravely, we looked down from the top of the roller coaster of stories, searching for themes in six of them, and came up with three:

An Unusual Offer

A Sacrifice Fit For a King by Cathie Dunn
The Marquise de Montespan strikes a deal with the Devil to become King Louis XIV’s maîtresse-en-titre, but it comes at a high price.

The Camera Never Lies by Sue Barnard
The narrator’s coffee arrives with a free glass of cognac and a madeleine, which she accepts even though it’s a bit early in the day for spirits…

Train Trouble by Miriam Drori
The narrator, though wary of returning to France, can’t resist the offer of a free luxury holiday in Paris.

Hiding

Lost and Found by Mary Kendall
A little girl in a red sweater hides in the edges of the Catacombs.

The Rose of Montmartre by Christopher Stanfield
A serial killer, believed to be dead, has been living a quiet life in Paris under a fake name.

Ignoring a Warning

The Corpse in The Grave by Val Penny
A soldier comes to the rescue when a girl falls and warns her to be careful, but she doesn’t heed the warning.

Charities

Two charities will benefit from sales of darkstroke’s upcoming Dark Paris anthology:

  • The Restaurants du Cœur (literally Restaurants of the Heart but meaning Restaurants of Love), is commonly known as the Restos du Cœur. Its main activity is to distribute food packages and hot meals to those in need across France. It does not only target homeless, but also all those with a low or very low income, and helps people to find housing and supports other projects.
  • The Fondation Brigitte Bardot fights against all forms of animal abuse in France and abroad. It participates in projects of reintroduction into the wild and the creation of sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres for wildlife.

Over to You

What do those themes mean to you? Do they remind you of something you experienced or heard about? We’d love to hear your stories.

You can write here in the comments, or on social media wherever you saw the link to this post.

And remember to pre-order Dark Paris now or wait for the paperback.

Categories
Books Israel The writing process

November Report

Remember that novel I was going to write in November? Well, I wrote it. I didn’t reach the magic total of 50,000 words, by I did pass 40,000, and now I have the first draft of a sequel to Style and the Solitary that will need a lot more work before I can submit it for publication.

As well as spending time writing every day in November, I wandered around Jerusalem and further afield, gathering information for the novel. Here are a few of the pictures I took:

As every year, there was plenty of support from our local group of writers, and in particular Melina Kantor and Shoshana Raun. I wouldn’t have managed without them.

Now, I’m trying to catch up on all the tasks I postponed in November.

I’m also looking forward to the publication of Dark Paris, an anthology of dark stories set in Paris, all proceeds of which go to two charities: Restaurants du Cœur and Fondation Brigitte Bardot. My contribution to the anthology is called Train Trouble.

More about Dark Paris soon…

Categories
Books Social anxiety

Social Anxiety in Hunter’s Rules

I’m delighted to welcome friend and author, Val Penny to tell us about social anxiety in her Edinburgh Crime Novels and in particular the brand new Hunter’s Rules.

In the real world, many people consciously restrict their contact with others due to the social anxiety they suffer, and I try to illustrate this in my series of Edinburgh Crime Novels through the character of Frankie Hope.

 Frankie is now a young man, but as a child he was bullied by his mother and insulted by his father. This has left him cautious of interaction in the wider world. He fears being thought of negatively so, in Hunter’s Rules, the most recent book in my crime fiction series, he waits in two long lines during a prison visit to his uncle, Ian. Otherwise, he would have had to return empty-handed and get scolded by Ian. That is not an option for Frankie.

Frankie also finds it difficult to initiate conversations with strangers. They cause him a great deal of embarrassment. However, he works in the family business, a car showroom where new customers are always unknown to him, so rather than approach them, he will usually leave his more ebullient cousin, Jamie, to make the first approach.

Social anxiety also usually holds a fear for those who suffer from it that they may humiliate themselves in some way or do or say something out of place. They worry about drawing attention to themselves and getting a negative reaction. Frankie is no different.

During his adolescence, he suffered from severe acne and, although he dated the prettiest and nicest girl at his high school, he did not have the confidence to understand why she might like him. The girl had to make the first move; Frankie certainly would not do so.

The only people Frankie is really relaxed around are those he knows best, his twin daughters, Kylie-Ann and Dannii-Ann, his fiancée Donna and his cousin Jamie. They live together in the house Frankie inherited from his parents and I doubt Frankie will ever move – the anxiety would be too great.

Set in Edinburgh, the beautiful capital city of Scotland, Hunter’s Rules revolves largely around Frankie, Jamie and their loved ones. There is no doubt that they are impatient for DI Hunter Wilson and his team to solve the case that has touched them so deeply.

Thank you for explaining that, Val. Here’s some more information about Hunter’s Rules, which launches on 1st January, 2022.

About Hunter’s Rules

A bloody scene brings Hunter and Meera’s romantic plans to an abrupt end.

A young woman was attacked in a hotel lift. She has life changing injuries, but she is alive. Hunter notes that her wounds are like those inflicted on two women who previously died.  

Can Meera keep the injured woman alive long enough for her to identify her assailant? Is the same person responsible for all three crimes? When Hunter is identified as a suspect in the crime, can he establish his innocence and lead his team to solve the crime and keep Edinburgh safe?

Author BIO

This is the sixth book in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series of novels. Val Penny’s other crime novels, Hunter’s Chase Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force Hunter’s Blood and Hunter’s Secret form the rest of this bestselling series set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by darkstroke.

You can also start at the beginning of The Jane Renwick Thrillers with The First Cut.

 Her first non-fiction book Let’s Get Published is also available now and she has most recently contributed her short story, Cats and Dogs to a charity anthology, Dark Scotland.

Val is an American author living in SW Scotland with her husband and their cat.

Categories
Books The writing process

Remember, remember MyNoWriMo

Remember, remember the 5th of November.

That’s all I remember of the nursery rhyme about the plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 by Guy Fawkes and others. I don’t know if it’s still recited, but Guy Fawkes Night is definitely still celebrated with bonfires and fireworks. Of course, like all festivals, it has unfortunately become more commercialised than it was when I lived in the UK.

But this post isn’t about Guy Fawkes Night. It’s about the month of November and how I’ll be spending it.

As I’ve been doing for several years, I’ll be writing a novel. Unlike in previous years, this won’t be part of NaNoWriMo, or at least part of that organisation. As I explained in a previous post, although not in detail, I left the organisation in July. I considered writing more about my reasons today, but really, that’s not what this blog is about.

So, I’m calling it MyNoWriMo. The ‘National’ part of the name hasn’t been true for a long time, anyway.

I have a spreadsheet ready to record my daily word counts and show them in graphs. I have a name (which I’m not ready to reveal) and a temporary cover.

I also have lots of plans and ideas for this sequel to Style and the Solitary. Today, I read about the lion and the lamb, and the lion of Judah. They might just fit into the novel, somehow.

Our local group of writers has been getting more active lately, and I’m looking forward to all the encouragement and help it provides during November.

If you’re also writing a novel in November, I wish you lots of luck. If not, well I hope you manage to enjoy November nonetheless. 😉

See you in December!

Categories
Books Reviews

Free At Last!

There’s good news in this post.

Release. What an amazing feeling. To be free to walk, on his own, out of the police station. Free to go in any direction, do whatever he liked. No one pushed him or shoved him or shouted commands at him. He took deep breaths and released them into the cold, welcoming air.

Miriam Drori, Style and the Solitary

Finally, it’s the end of his incerceration, or so Asaf believes. In the Liberty Bell Park, his elation is boosted:

The path was almost deserted on this dull, wet day, but the bell welcomed him with its message of liberty.

Sadly, these feelings are short-lived. And so it is with the novel itself.

Yes, Style and the Solitary, published by Darkstroke Books, is free to download for a short period only, so get it while you can, no strings attached.

I do, however, have a little request. If you enjoy reading it, I would very much appreciate a review. It doesn’t have to be long and detailed. “Loved it” is fine – really.

Review

Here’s the latest review on Amazon.com: “I loved this innocent young woman who stood by her social phobic coworker when he was accused of murder. Her compassion and tenacity for finding the actual killer puts her in danger but demonstrates how much Nathalie cares for Asaf. The help she gets from her roommates is funny and caring as they bumble their way toward freeing Asaf. Will they survive this investigation, or will the murderer lead them off the deep end. Great story. Nice setting.”

Thank you, Sandy.

About the Novel

An unexpected murder. A suspect with a reason. The power of unwavering belief.

A murder has been committed in an office in Jerusalem. That’s for sure. The rest is not as clear-cut as it might seem.

Asaf languishes in his cell, unable to tell his story even to himself. How can he tell it to someone who elicits such fear within him?

His colleague, Nathalie, has studied Beauty and the Beast. She understands its moral. Maybe that’s why she’s the only one who believes in Asaf, the suspect. But she’s new in the company – and in the country. Would anyone take her opinion seriously?

She coerces her flatmates, Yarden and Tehila, into helping her investigate. As they uncover new trails, will they be able to reverse popular opinion?

In the end, will Beauty’s belief be strong enough to waken the Beast? Or, in this case, can Style waken the Solitary?

Categories
Books Reviews The writing process

Creativity Matters

This post is part of the blog tour organised by Reading Between the Lines.
It’s a post I’m pleased to have been invited to write, and one that I now tackle with enthusiasm and, well… embarrassment, but only a little.
Read on…

The blog tour is for the book Creativity Matters: Find your Passion for Writing, which is compiled by Wendy H. Jones.

The Blurb

Have you always thought about writing a book but don’t know where to start? Are you an experienced author and want to spread your wings? Are you looking for inspiration for every step in your writing journey? This is a book for everyone who wants to write, whether history or contemporary, science fiction or humour, local fiction or set in a made-up world, fiction, non-fiction, memoir, there’s something here for you. Join thirteen authors as they share their passion for why you should write in their genre and find your own passion as you read.

It’s time for you to spread your wings, follow your dreams and find your passion for writing.

My Review

Here begins the embarrassing part.

You see, when I was asked to take part, I was away, hiking in the Bernese Oberland and other parts of Switzerland. I know, I haven’t blogged about that yet, but I plan to. I digress.

Since returning home, my time hasn’t been my own. I’ve had to attend to family matters and in particular to culinary matters, and the result is that I didn’t spend much time on creative matters and I
Didn’t finish reading the book.

However, I did warn the organiser in advance, and I’ve read enough of the book to have something to say about it, which is this:

I love it and am looking forward to reading the rest. All the participating authors are clearly passionate about writing in their particuar genres, and their enthusiasm is catching. Each one answers the question ‘why write?’ rather than ‘how to write?’ and yet the ‘how to’ question is answered in a ‘show don’t tell’ sort of way – by example.

The chapter on writing drama particularly appealed to me because it was written as a drama. I’ve never even considered writing drama before, but this might even get me started. All I need is time!

If you have time and want to write in any genre or to switch genres, this book will spur you on.

Links

Amazon buy link for Creativity Matters
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Amazon Author Page
Instagram

Categories
Books Reviews

The First Cut

As soon as I saw this title, I thought of this song:

and I couldn’t help singing it as I read the novel.

Beautiful as it is, I’m not here to talk about the song or Rod Stewart, but about the novel, The First Cut by Val Penny, published by Darkstroke Books and officially launched today. Like all Val’s novels, it’s crime fiction and this is the first of a new series. Jane Renwick has appeared in previous novels, but she now has her own series and we discover her roots.

Jane’s unfortunate early years are related so poignantly that the reader can’t help being drawn in and touched by the story. On top of that, there’s a dangerous killer at loose, and the police are working hard to find out who the killer is, but sometimes they’re misled.

There are stages in the process of writing a novel:

  • Formulate ideas.
  • Plot the story.
  • Write the first draft.
  • Write more drafts.
  • Edit.

Each of those stages contains various steps. Clearly, the author put a lot of laborious work into most of them. That’s what made the novel so easy and quick to read. And enjoyable, too. There must have been a lot of thought about how much information to reveal and when to reveal it. The hints at facts unknown to the police make this story a thrilling one to read, as the reader watches the police following the wrong paths.

There’s a lot involved in editing, too, and unfortunately it feels as if, for this novel, that stage was rushed. In particular, I was bothered by one sentence I didn’t understand. I’m not sure whether that was because of a typo, but I didn’t follow why it caused Jane to burst out crying and then decide she had to explain her tears by relating part of her childhood. Very possibly, I’m to blame for that. Also, there were places where I didn’t understand the use of italics, first/third person, tense and repetition.

But I want to stress that most of the novel is excellent, and probably other readers wouldn’t notice these small things. So do read it; it is what it promises: “fast-paced, gripping police procedural…set in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland.”

About the Book

Sometimes it’s hard to escape a brutal past. That’s the case for DS Jane Renwick, who learns via DNA a serial killer could be a family member.

This gripping police procedural is set in Edinburgh and Glasgow. A vicious killer is on the loose and victims include an academic and members of Edinburgh’s high society. But Jane is banished to the side-lines of the case and forced to look on impotently when the hunt for the killer ramps up, because the Murder Investigation Team believes the killer is related to her.

Has someone from Jane’s estranged birth family returned to haunt her? Could one of her relatives be involved? Where will the killer strike next?

This exciting novel is the first in Val Penny’s new series of Scottish thrillers.

About the Author

This is the first in the new series of novels, The Jane Renwick Thrillers. Val Penny’s other crime novels, Hunter’s Chase Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force Hunter’s Blood and Hunter’s Secret form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by darkstroke Her first non-fiction book Let’s Get Published is also available now and she has most recently contributed her short story, Cats and Dogs to a charity anthology, Dark Scotland.

Val is an American author living in SW Scotland with her husband and their cat.

Author Links

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon / Bookbub

Links to Val Penny’s Books

Hunter’s Chase / Hunter’s Revenge / Hunter’s Force / Hunter’s Blood / Hunter’s Secret / Let’s Get Published / Dark Scotland / The First Cut

Categories
Books Israel Social anxiety

Transport

Transport is the word I’ve chosen to describe all three parts of this post.

1. A Tour

My latest novel, Style and the Solitary, is going on tour from tomorrow with Reading Between the Lines – Online Book PR. Watch out for social media posts using the hashtag #styleandthesolitary.

2. An International Event

Smashwords even travels to the other hemisphere (which is more than I’ve done). That’s why their current sale is called The Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale. Even my book, Social Anxiety Revealed, has travelled further than me. Try it. It might transport you to a world you don’t know, or one you know all too well. In either case it will further better understanding.

Fear of other people? Most of us feel this occasionally, when giving a presentation or being grilled in a job interview. This is not social anxiety disorder.

Fear of what other people think of you? We have all felt this, too. It is why we dress as we do and generally try to behave in a way that is expected of us. This is not social anxiety disorder either.

But when those fears become so prevalent that they take over your life? When they cause you to hide away, either literally or by not revealing your real self? When you keep quiet in an attempt to avoid those raised eyebrows and the possible thoughts behind them? That is social anxiety disorder.

And it is much more common than you might think. In the mental health table, it comes third – after alcoholism and depression – and yet most people don’t even know it exists.

If you have social anxiety disorder, this book is for you.

Even if you don’t have social anxiety disorder, you might have a friend, a relative or a work colleague who does. You might see it developing in your son, your daughter, or a child you teach. This book is for you, too.

Social Anxiety Revealed is created by people who yearn to ditch all these problems and live their lives to the full.

Can you help? When you have read and understood, you’ll be in a much better position to do that.

3. A First

My granddaughter is now old enough for her first form of self-driven transport.

And somehow, despite raising three children and definitely having one of these in the house, I’ve only just discovered the name for it in Israel: Bimba. What do you call it?

Categories
Books Israel

The Journey of a Stone

This post is about a new novel. It’s one that covers four thousand years and follows a stone on its travels close to home and then further afield. I was lucky enough to read a draft, about which I made suggestions that have been incorporated by its author, Olga Swan (pen-name). I look forward to reading the final version, which has just been published as The Meleke Stone.

Here’s the author herself to tell you about it.

Thank you so much, Miriam, for allowing me on your blog. I’ve been working towards The Meleke Stone all my life. Included are all the times, and perpetrators, from 1900 BCE to the present when the Jewish people were ousted from their land. It’s a novel with a strong underlying message. Here’s the blurb:

“A meleke stone from the ancient plains of the Dead Sea is passed down by generations of females through four thousand years.  

In 2019 Sami, the son of Egyptian immigrants in Toulouse, is traumatised by the family’s hardships in France and plots revenge.  

Menes, Sami’s father from Cairo, had emigrated to France in search of peace. An unlikely friendship forms with Holocaust-survivor Moshe, each recognising their past struggles.

Suddenly, a terrorist bomb explodes in a Toulouse synagogue. Moshe asks his son, Simon, to produce a film showing the true history of his people from the time of Sodom and Gomorrah.  

What will happen to Moshe’s and Menes’ special relationship when an intrepid French detective’s efforts to find the terrorist reveal the horrifying truth? 

In a soul-searching conclusion in Jerusalem, having no female descendant to whom to give the meleke stone, there’s only one thing that Simon can do to maintain the survival of his people for all eternity. 

…..are you ready for the four thousand year journey of the meleke stone?”

Follow the story as it moves between Toulouse, Warsaw, Cairo and through to Jerusalem. Read the historical truths about Sodom and Gomorrah, the Maccabees and what happened during the Six-Day War in the Sinai.  But above all, recognise the lifelong friendship between a Jewish man and an Egyptian Muslim. Enjoy!

About the Author

Olga Swan has a B.A. Hons. (Open) in English language and literature.  For many years she worked at The University of Birmingham, following which she spent twelve years living in S.W. France before returning to Birmingham in 2017.  She has had 7 books (3 non-fiction) published by indie publisher Crooked Cat Books, which has now closed. Three of Olga’s works are narrative non-fiction, one of which (Pensioners in Paradis) is approaching one million pages read and is already a four-times international best-seller.  A second edition of this and of An Englishwoman in America have now been reprinted. Three novels form a series set in wartime Germany, France and Poland. Dunoon Assassin  moves between NY, Dunoon and Amritsar.

Olga has been writing her blog every Sunday for 13 years with hundreds of regular readers each week from around the world.

She can also be found on her Amazon author page, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linktree.