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Under the Reader’s Radar: The Quiet Novel

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I blogged a while ago about what lead me to self-publish Ideal Girl in the first place. Not for me the unhappiness at being rejected more times than a fussy man’s ironing pile, although that’s true enough – No; more the sense of desperation I felt on one particular day that made me fling my little voice out there to be heard.  There was no cover reveal or book launch. There was no champagne and canapés – there were no blog tours – there was nothing other than my words, or as Janet Emsom coined it in her recent blog – It was the launch of a quiet book.

The quiet book, the quiet man…. I’m truly honoured.  I love that movie. John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara at their deliciously Irish best. He the epitome of the alpha male, she the perfect flawed heroine, with more hang-ups than my washing line. For me the movie was about the plot and the characters, just like writing in fact, and like The Quiet Man I too set Ideal Girl in Ireland.

I share the proverbial blog hot seat on Janet’s From First Page to Last blog with fellow Dublin writer, Daniel Seery who’s book  A Model Partner has received rave reviews across Ireland and beyond. In fact I’m a little in awe when I see The Irish Times is mentioned as one of his reviewers – I too have appeared in The Irish Times: a wedding notice – mine.

The Model Partner


Book Blurb

Tom Stacey has a lot to think about these days. The bees for one. He hasn’t seen any but he keeps hearing them, buzzing in the fridge at work, in the overhead lights, in the test equipment in the factory where he has spent the last fifteen years of his working life. They seem to be getting louder and more insistent. Then there is his search for Sarah McCarthy. Sarah was his first love when, as a teenager, he travelled around the country in the back of a horsebox with his grieving grandfather. But perhaps it isn’t the bees or the past which is the problem. Perhaps it is his loneliness. Twenty-two dates with Happy Couples dating agency and nothing to show. Relationships are all about the details and there are just not enough boxes to tick on the agency’s personal profile form. Armed with a wax model and a list of criteria, Tom sets out on a quest to create a personal profile to find his ideal match. On his journey, he meets people just like him, warm but unable to show it, lonely and unable to remedy it, the lost, the misplaced and the damaged.

Thanks Daniel, another book to add to my TBR pile! If you’d like to find out more, you can find Daniel’s book here.

Thanks Janet for including my book, and finally thank you Adele (Kraftireader) for the nomination.
About Jenny O’Brien

Jenny O’Brien was born in Ireland a very long time ago. She always wanted to write a book but decided to hone her life experiences first. One husband, three children and numerous cats later she finally went out and bought a notebook and pen! She now divides her time between Wales, France and Guernsey.She writes for both children and adults with a new book coming out every six months or so. She’s also an avid collector of cats, broken laptops, dust and happy endings – two of which you’ll always find in her scribblings! You’ll find her Amazon Author’s page here.

 

 

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How to find love in a book shop: Veronica Henry

Book Blurb

Nightingale Books, nestled on the high street in the idyllic Cotswold town of Peasebrook, is a dream come true for booklovers. But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open. The temptation to sell up is proving enormous – but what about the promise she made to her father? Not to mention the loyalty she owes to her customers.

Sarah Basildon, owner of stately pile Peasebrook Manor, has used the book shop as an  escape from all her problems in the past few years. But is there more to her visits than meets the eye? Since messing up his marriage, Jackson asks Emilia for advice on books to read to the son he misses so much. But Jackson has a secret, and is not all he seems… And there’s Thomasina, painfully shy, who runs a pop-up restaurant from her tiny cottage. She has a huge crush on a man she met and then lost in the cookery section, somewhere between Auguste Escoffier and Marco Pierre White. Can she find the courage to admit her true feelings?

Review

I seem to affiliate Veronica Henry with trips to France for some reason. Some of you may remember my last review of hers ‘High Tide, which I read while sitting somewhere in Biarritz? Now I’m in the middle of Brittany; the weather isn’t as bright but the writing is strong. In fact the writing is so strong I’m not even sure I’m talking to Ms Henry any more.

When perusing NetGalley for a light holiday read I immediately searched for her as I thought of High Tide. I wanted some froth, something light and frilly that demanded no thought. I embarked on the first pages and immediately got dragged into the life of Julius: Julius with his motherless baby and his search for a new home. I could feel the pressure of the buggy against my hand. I could smell the mustiness of the damp derelict shop, I could sense his hope – and then she tricked me!

It was my own fault of course. I’d seen the date at the start of the chapter so the clue was there. I was dealing in the past, Julius’s past. But I was so wrapped up in this, Julius’s life I decided to ignore the hints – that is until I could ignore no longer. I turned that page and found death – I wasn’t expecting that!

Writers know all about hooks – Those first few words that draws a reader in so the story teller can silently work their magic. Without that hook the pages will be left unread, the book discarded like an unwanted toy. I’m not going to spoil it for you, dear reader but if you want to see how a masterly hook is written you need to read the start of Chapter One. So there I was little old me expecting light only to find dark, but what dark? What skill in writing about what, in truth is a difficult thing to write about. Like sex death is hard to produce on paper with any degree of realism, but again Ms Henry has stepped up to the plate and accepted the challenge with aplomb. She dragged me into that room so I could, with a lowering of my eyelids imagine I too was Emelia sitting on that hard seat sipping diabolical drinks.

Any more and I’ll ruin it for you, but there are many surprises within the folds of this brightly covered book. You’ll find romance, and not just one…

Happy reading

Jen x
About Jenny O’Brien

Jenny O’Brien was born in Ireland a very long time ago. She always wanted to write a book but decided to hone her life experiences first. One husband, three children and numerous cats later she finally went out and bought a notebook and pen! She now divides her time between Wales, France and Guernsey.She writes for both children and adults with a new book coming out every six months or so. She’s also an avid collector of cats, broken laptops, dust and happy endings – two of which you’ll always find in her scribblings! You’ll find her Amazon Author’s page here.

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Poetry time: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

There’s nothing like a well written poem, or indeed sonnet (45)so today here’s one of my favourites  

 
As we all know writers need to read, and for me this includes poetry. There’s something about the rhythm of words only found in poetry that leeches into my writing like ink dropping into a pool. 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a favourite, but I don’t just read the Romantics. There’s nothing like a bit of Emily Dickenson on a dark day, there’s nothing like a quick sonnet on any day… Enjoy x

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Jenny O’Brien: On reading

A writer who doesn’t read is like a skater without skates. For me it’s my first and best hobby – I have thousands of books, everywhere. On days like today when I have a first draft to work on its torture to leave someone else’s baby unloved and alone while I tap away on Gwerty! And do you know what? It’s Sunday: I’m going to let myself loose on those pages and shut the world out for as long as I can – which isn’t long with 3 kids, 2 cats and a husband!

 

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On Editing

imageNow I’m officially in the editing phase of my latest WIP I thought I’d share how I do it.

Firstly no excuses, I’m rubbish at spelling, probably the worst in the world so for me to even spot a typo is a miracle – But spelling is the least of my worries! My main problem is with the actual term To Edit. It brings connotations of revising, compacting, even reducing something – for me I usually end up with an extra ten thousand words after the final edit – go figure! So not only am I left with something often very different to the first draft I end up with something considerably longer – This was a huge shock for the first book, but now on the fourth I’ve actually added into my expected final word count equation – clever, hey?

So I’ve got a first draft (minus 10,000 words).

First edit:

This is on the laptop and is fun. Basically I’m let loose on the full story for the first time. I’m reading my book and adding, subtracting, moving paragraphs, even chapters and I have to tell you – I’m brutal! Words are cut ruthlessly never to be seen again. If they don’t fit, if they don’t feel right they’re gone. Sadly the downside – other words have to take their place, so this can take weeks.

Second edit:

i leave my Manu in a drawer (well, no on the laptop) for a couple of weeks and do something else – I’m too near the book, I need to distance myself so the next time read it feels fresh. This second edit takes place on my Kindle Fire. Why? Because I want to see how it reads as a real book. I want to hold it in my hand and concentrate on the flow. Here I’ll also pick up skipped words and punctuation problems. The second edit can be repeated many times, always on the Kindle Fire, or a Kindle app will do. I utilise the highlight function and use different colours for different sections that need work. E.g., yellow, spelling. Blue, punctuation etc.

Third edit:

I’m back on the laptop looking at formatting. What am I targeting? What, you really expect me to share my secrets. Well as I’m in a good mood (cat on right, coffee on left…)

  1. Removing trailing paragraphs
  2. Removing spaces between paragraphs
  3. First line indents
  4. Spell check, but you can’t rely on it. Check, and check again
  5. Standard font

These are what I target first, but read the manual, guide of whichever company you’re publishing with.

Final read

All the problems should have been sorted, so I’m back on my Kindle. This last read I’m checking names, locations, ages. Did you rename a character half way through? Use the find, replace function on Microsoft Word to help with these final trapdoors that as sure as eggs break some reader will find.

See you in six months….

 

 

 

 

 

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They say you should blog every day…

image.jpegThey say you should blog every day.

They say, as a writer running a blog is the best way to keep in touch with your readers. Mm, probably the same people who say I should eat 5 pieces of fruit a day (I can’t abide fruit, but give me a carrot…). Probably the very same people who also tell me I should sleep 8 hours a night and exercise three times a week.

Do these people actually follow the same calendar as the rest of us, or am I completely missing the point? You know, that Gregorian calendar named after a Sixteenth Century Pope of the same name who dictated a year contains 365 days, and that there are actually only 24 hours in the day! Call me thick, or should that be thick-skinned, but are writers meant to follow some other type of calendar, one that enables you to do everything you must do like:

Feed the kids, cats, fish, husband, school drop offs, pick ups, full day at work and a modicum of housework (only for appearances mind!)

Of course not forgetting the long list of things you should be doing:

Sleeping,  eating well, exercising, relaxing, taking time to enjoy being part of a family unit.

And finally the 2.4 seconds left doing what you actually want to do:

WRITING

No one said writing was easy. As a route to success it’s a bad one. Better off sticking to the day job and stop beating yourself with a pointy biro than struggling to earn a measly crust from writing. But, if you want to write as a pastime, or dare I say hobby it’s a good choice. It’s inexpensive for a start not to mention moveable – By that I mean you can do it anywhere, even the bath. I’ve had some of my best ideas submerged under a cloud of Radox. Also, whilst not necessarily the healthiest of hobbies at least you’re giving those little grey cells a workout.

A word of caution: what starts out as a hobby soon turns into an obsession – now where did I put that manuscript again?

About Jenny O’Brien

Jenny O’Brien was born in Ireland a very long time ago. She always wanted to write a book but decided to hone her life experiences first. One husband, three children and numerous cats later she finally went out and bought a notebook and pen! She now divides her time between Wales, France and Guernsey.
She writes for both children and adults with a new book coming out every six months or so.
She’s also an avid collector of cats, broken laptops, dust and happy endings – two of which you’ll always find in her scribblings! You’ll find her Amazon Author’s page here.

 

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Inspiration and the blank page

imageFor many would be writers the single thing that stops them setting pen to page.

As a writer of three published books, a fourth nearly finished and a fifth half finished inspiration isn’t something I’m short of, but where do the ideas come from?

Luck of course comes into it, luck and an overactive imagination. Probably the most talked about book inspiration was J K Rowland’s dream on a train journey between London and Manchester in 1990 – I wonder if she’d have ended up with a different book altogether if the journey was between Swansea and Cardiff, or Liverpool and Crewe?

For me there’s an autobiographical element –  probably 10% contain scenes that I’ve adapted from my own life. Our own lives are unique to us, our own personal page crammed full of ideas and plots. Of course much is unusable, much is repetitive rubbish that all people seem to be exposed to, but mixed within are the gems – We just need to pull them out, expand, adapt, tweak even and voila – a plot.

For example in Ideal Girl Liddy trips up Mitch in her knitting – yep, that’s happened to me, although it wasn’t a hunk like Mitch I caught – that’s a completely different story!

So I have a plot. I’ve had the plot for my sixth novel lurking around for the last six months. I have the first scene written in my head and, sitting on a beach over the weekend I plotted the second and third scene. I know the start, the start of the middle and the end. Once I have the plot I work on the location and, as I only write about places I’ve been that’s not difficult.

That’s book number six sorted, now book number seven is a completely different animal and is causing me problems. I have the central conflict honed to the nineth degree. All books need a conflict or they roll along on a stream of nothingness. A book where nothing happens is a boring book, just like a book with an unresolved conflict is a bad one. We’ve all watched movies that have fizzled out to an unsatisfactory conclusion. We’ve all shouted at the TV about time wasted on a pile of dross, we’ve all flung books across the room in disgust – don’t let this happen to your book. Choose a conflict and wrap a start, middle and end around it. Pick a location that, either you know or are prepared to research and then pick up your pen and join me on the journey of a lifetime.

 

About Jenny O’Brien

Jenny O’Brien was born in Ireland a very long time ago. She always wanted to write a book but decided to hone her life experiences first. One husband, three children and numerous cats later she finally went out and bought a notebook and pen! She now divides her time between Wales, France and Guernsey.
She writes for both children and adults with a new book coming out every six months or so.
She’s also an avid collector of cats, broken laptops, dust and happy endings – two of which you’ll always find in her scribblings! You’ll find her Amazon Author’s page here

 

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Valerie Keogh: Such Bitter Business

Book Review time.

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Book blurb

Nicola doesn’t want to help the police again.
But this time a child is missing and Sean and Tom know she can help.
Unfortunately, so too does DI Jane O’Neill. It’s her case. The child is the son of an eminent politician and Jane has her eye on the next rung of her career.
Can Nicola help once more? She found a certain level of satisfaction in helping before but she is wary of Jane, knowing that to help her will be to condemn herself to being used over and over.
Nicola, Jane and Sean form an uneasy alliance to search for the child. Tom, meanwhile, is searching for the mastermind behind a local robbery, but the body-count is rising and a local woman is missing.
A child and a woman. Can both be found alive?

My review,

Valerie sent me an ARC, but only because I asked – cheeky I know but I really wanted to follow up on this the most unusual of serial killer catchers. The premise of setting a thief to catch a thief has I think been unexamined quite in this fashion until Nicola Connelly exploded on the scene, and like other unusual profilers (paraplegics, tetraplegics, blind) it works.

This style of writing in this genre probably started with the likes of Lord Peter Wimsey and Hercule Poirot and for me Valerie Keogh comes up to this mark with, also unusual Nicola Connelly. She’s evil, single minded and selfish in equal layers but there’s a sliver of humanity, despite of everything lurking. Yes, she’s a serial killer (oh how my finger wants to type cereal) but not of children, but he didn’t really count – to her that is.

The only fly in the ointment for me is the cost. Yes the book was free (thank you, Miss Keogh) but I find myself searching the Internet for anything cashmere. Nicola Connelly has done more for the cashmere industry than Harrods and Ab Fab combined!