Archive for the ‘Story’ Category

I have finished reading my eighth novel for 2022, When Did You See Her Last? The second book in the All the Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket. The premise of this series has the author writing himself as a kid detective, up against the baddie, Hangfire, both seeking a strange statue, the Bombinating Beast. Throw in a missing father and a missing girl, and you have the basic storyline of When Did you See Her Last?

A girl has gone missing, the Ink Inc. heiress and genius chemist Chloe Knight. Apprentice detective Lemony Snicket, and his incompetent chaperone S. Theodora Markson take on the case. The tale is set in a town that flourished because of ink, aptly named Stain’d-by-the-Sea. The town is becoming deserted because it has run out of squid. It is rumoured Chloe Knight has created a new type of ink that would reverse the fortunes of the dying town. Snicket has to find out more about a strange group called The Inhumane Society. He must piece together the clues surrounding Chloe’s disappearance and hopefully rescue the girl with a lot of hijinks along the way.
Snicket stories tend to cruise along the edge of the ridiculous, bringing to mind other such stars of the genre, like David Walliams and Anthony Horowitz. As always, in When Did you See Her Last? Snicket likes to have fun with words. “A laugh is harder to swallow whole than a honeydew melon. Her mouth twisted every which way, and her eyes flitted madly as she looked everywhere but at me…We waited until it was safe to open up the laugh, and then we shared it.”

It takes guts to do that.
I liked it when the author wove into the story references to classic books the Lemony Snicket character had read without giving us the actual title. However, this device relied on the reader having read all those children’s books. As an adult, I thought it was clever, but it occurred to me that all these finger-on-the-nose references would go over the head of the modern child reader.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the author speaking directly to the reader, yet, it’s a device Snicket uses a lot. The ‘breaking down of the fourth wall’ is a technique some people love. I read an interview with Neil Gaiman last week, in which Neil said the books he had read as a child wherein the author spoke directly to the reader made him feel all warm and cozy inside. So when he started writing his books, he used the same technique.

I find the author’s voice an intrusion. It breaks the spell holding me, which I find jarring. It does not add any warmth but provides a reminder of the puppeteer pulling the ropes.
“No matter how many slow and complicated mysteries I encounter in my life, I still hope that one day a slow and complicated mystery will be solved quickly and simply. An associate of mine calls this feeling “the triumph of hope over experience”, which simply means that it’s never going to happen, and that is what happened then.” ~ When Did you See Her Last?
I guess author intrusion comes down to a matter of personal taste. Snicket is a popular author so it obviously works for him.
Lemony Snicket is the pen name of American novelist Daniel Handler (February 28, 1970). The author of several children’s books, including A Series of Unfortunate Events. This series has sold over 60 million copies and was made into a film and TV series. Lemony Snicket serves as both the fictional narrator and a character in A Series of Unfortunate Events, as well as the main character in its prequel, the four-part book series titled All the Wrong Questions.

Ever wondered how Daniel chose that pen name? It originally came from research for Handler’s first book The Basic Eight. Handler told NPR that “the character of Lemony Snicket, this man who speaks directly to the reader and is tangentially involved in the stories that he’s telling is more of a character. We just thought it would be fun to publish the books under the name of this character.”
Essentially it works. Book sales speak volumes. I think the concept is cool, and the pen name is different. The panache is there. The idea of the pessimistic protagonist is an excellent twist. Snicket knows how to spin a web and layer in the questions, whether wrong or not, to keep the reader guessing the answers until the end.

Purely from the point of view of personal taste, When Did you See Her Last? is not my favourite kids’ book. But then it’s not my least. Farcical noir is not a genre I would seek to read for pleasure.

My rating: Two stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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“Being curious is the most important part of being a journalist. It might be the most important part of being anything.” ― Lemony Snicket, When Did You See Her Last?


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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

May 4 question – It’s the best of times; it’s the worst of times. What are your writer highs (the good times)? And what are your writer lows (the crappy times)?
Writer highs for me are writing the rough draft. Man, it’s fun. Starting a new middle-grade series has been a total joyride. It has refreshed my awareness of where the true nectar is in this business for me. Prior to that, I had spent ten years editing when I was working on The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. And I had lost touch with the heights of giddy joy attainable when you’re writing a new copy. Truth be told, after ten sallow years of editing I was so sick of the process, I even considered giving up this writing gig altogether. Who would do this s..t? Seriously.

But six months later, once I had recovered from publishing my trilogy and regained the will to live, I sat down with a pen and paper to see if I could still summon something from the ether.
I did a lot of looking at that %$#@ piece of paper. The words did not spring from my pen straight away. I remember thinking at the time maybe my ability to write was like a giant rusted machine with all the parts seized up, in need of an oil and maybe a jumpstart. The only way through it was to do it. I made myself sit and write for ten minutes every morning.

Slowly, the cogs started moving, the wheels turning again. I was off.

To write freely again I felt like a child riding a bike down a hill, with the wind rushing through my hair. The muse was back and we were away and flying over hills and valleys far below, the horizon endless and beckoning with adventure. Riding with the muse in full effect with a book underway is intoxicating and it feels like summer all year round. The problem is the actual writing of the story is only the first and shortest part of the process, swiftly followed by the grueling marathon that is editing.

Suddenly, as you start to read your inspired thoughts and creative witterings, you come face to face with the fact that this really is the “rough” draft. Your brilliance is in need of some elbow grease. An utterly daunting, Everest-sized, a towering mountain of work.

You buckle up your pants and wade into the uncountable writer’s low of editing. The sort of fine focus an author must now bring to bear on the words is akin to the intensity of a laser beam. Each word needs to be examined and proven worthy. Sounds easy. Believe me, it is not. This focus needs to be maintained all day every day. It takes energy and strength of character.

Me, I’m asleep by the third paragraph. The only way to keep myself editing is to put matchsticks under my eyes and prod myself with a stick. Talk about sheer agony. Jumping up to walk outside in the garden, taking refreshment breaks, all sorts of tricks must be employed to edit hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
Just thinking about the editing process to come makes my nerves go taut.
I bargain with myself. I kid myself. Maybe I won’t polish this new series. I’ll just finish it, leave it in a mess on the floor and carry on writing the next thing. Yeah, right.

Such is a writer’s life. Yet, I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

What about you. What are your writer highs? And what are your writer lows? Let’s compare notes.

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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The first step in writing a novel is to accept that you have to get it wrong before you get it right. ~ Jarred McGinnis


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I have finished reading my seventh novel for 2022, The Secret Forest, by Enid Blyton. I have reviewed books by Enid Blyton before. She was a favourite author of mine from childhood. My jam used to be The Famous Five or The Secret Seven. As the great author wrote 800 books in her lifetime, there are always books of hers I have yet to discover. Recently, I bought a couple of novels in The Secret Stories series at a secondhand bookstore.

Though I was unfamiliar with the series, reading The Secret Forest, I immediately warmed to the Arnold children, Peggy, Mike, Nora, and Jack. Enid Blyton is such a straightforward, old-fashioned storyteller. Within the first pages, we have the setup when Prince Paul invites the Arnold children to the (made up) kingdom of Baronia for the holidays. It’s not just any old holiday. Prince Paul wants them to stay in his castle. Once the children are on holiday, we hear there are robbers abounding in the countryside, and we are alert that there is a mystery afoot. The Secret Forest is at the heart of the story, a completely inaccessible woodland in the depths of the Killimooin mountains. We meet Prince Paul’s family. Enid Blyton depicts the royal residences and lifestyle with simple vigour. She had a particular grip on understanding what children want to read. Beverly Cleary was the same and once described it as having the capacity to vividly recall being a child and write to the child she once was.

In The Secret Forest, the story’s climax builds with a steady tension as the children and their minders tangle with the robbers. When Prince Paul’s handlers are taken prisoner by the robbers, the boys go on a dangerous rescue mission. They enter the mountain through a hidden passage leading to the Secret Forest. The boys rescue the men, but on the way back, a ferocious storm nearly catches them in the rising floodwaters.
I felt the book had a darker feel than The Secret Seven or Famous Five adventures of my youth. The obstacles seemed almost insurmountable, and the threat of mother nature was the scariest of all. I’m sure if I’d stumbled on this series as a child, I would have devoured the other three – The Secret of Spiggy Holes, The Secret of Moon Castle, and The Secret Island in the twinkling of an eye. It’s exciting stuff.

Enid Mary Blyton (1897 – 1968) was born in London. She published a volume of poetry called Child Whispers in 1922. In 1925, she released her first full-length novel, The Enid Blyton Book of Bunnies. Her vast catalogue of titles is still being republished for the digital generation of young readers. Although modern readers reject her descriptions of gender, race, and class (her Noddy books featured golliwogs until they updated the later editions), there is a general curiosity and a fascination with these old books. Stories like The Secret Forest belong to another era when such things as racism and casual sexism went unquestioned. It gives us insight into the morals and beliefs of those times, which is fascinating in itself, like a slice of our collective past, although we may not agree with it.

These days you would stir major controversy if you wrote a boy character saying, ‘you girls can’t go on the adventure you’d just get into trouble.’ A modern audience reads stories such as these by Enid Blyton with curiosity to see what outrageous thing the characters say or do next.
That being said, reading The Secret Forest was like stepping back to childhood when things were so much simpler. I enjoyed the ride. Enid Blyton clearly knew how to tell a story. According to the Index Translationum, ‘Blyton was the fifth most popular author in the world in 2007, coming after Lenin but ahead of Shakespeare.’ In the UK, Enid Blyton still sells over one book a minute. It’s the sort of success any writer hopes to achieve. The Secret Forest is another volume from her legacy.
My rating: Three stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” ~ Albert Einstein


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In March, I finished writing the draft for book seven in my new series for Middle-Grade readers. I couldn’t believe it. I had started the series in January 2021. In other words, it took me about two and a half months to write the first drafts of each volume. These books are a lot shorter than my Chronicles of Aden Weaver trilogy, which averaged 250-300 pages each. The new series will likely end up being around 100 pages each. They’re compact stories aimed at the slightly younger Middle-Grade audience.
After finishing book seven, my initial reaction to completing the series was grief. I missed the daily pages terribly. It was so strange. For 14 months, my stories had been my anchor through lockdowns and all the disruptions brought on by the pandemic. Without the discipline of writing fresh copy every day, I was cut off and drifting.

Two weeks of procrastination passed, and still, I had not started editing. I realized there was real resistance to getting underway. It felt like admitting to myself that the writing stage was over. Finally, in the third week, I decided I would simply read the whole series without any heavy editing. I opened the file for book one and began reading. Over the hump, I took a walk through the content, reading the story in three days. The expectation was that I would be jumping for joy at what I read. Nope. I was not jumping for joy. The best description for my reaction would be an utter disappointment.
By the time I wrote book seven, I was familiar with the characters, the terrain, and the world-building rules. It all came naturally. To go back to book one and read it was a shock. The characters are there but not fully themselves. The setting is there but not fully fleshed out. The plot is there, the world is awesome, but the story idea is somehow cold. I was expecting more because it’s a great story. Yet, I kept feeling deflated reading it because I hadn’t captured the essence enough to satisfy my inner child reader. The story has so much promise. The problem is it needs more details, and more blood in the bones. It brought to mind the Jane Yolen quote that writers need to write every day. ‘Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.’ Yeah, they do, Jane. You’re right on the money.

I had spent so many years editing that my fiction writing muscles had seized up. Thank goodness I decided to write this whole new series first and then start editing from book one because, by the time you reach the end of writing the final tome, you get a feel for what needs to be addressed and introduced from the beginning. The bonus of the long-form perspective is familiarity with the storied terrain and the characters enough to see the gaps at a glance.
What was the solution?
Book one needed rewriting. That much was clear. Was I upset? No. Try skipping about in delight. It was a relief to avoid the hard graft of editing a while longer. The first chance I had, I began the day with my pad and pen in hand and wrote half a page. Ah! Bliss. My days are bookended once more with writing in the a.m and typing notes in the p.m. This time around, I know the plot of the story, the characters, and the setting. All I have to do is rewrite book one from memory and embellish it in all the places I felt needed work.

Whoopee! Far from seeing this detour as a burden, I feel uplifted by it, inspired, even. In the past, I have stuck to the genesis material as being untouchable and have edited the copy endlessly. This time around, I am experimenting with the idea of rewriting the story altogether. Revamping from the ground up. It’s freeing to let go of how I thought the storywriting would be and allow for another interpretation.
Thank you to the writer who left a comment on my blog recently, suggesting I try a second, even third, time writing new content. Already the opening chapters are more nuanced. It works.
Have you ever had a creative project take an unexpected detour? What did you do?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“A childhood without books—that would be no childhood. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy.” —ASTRID LINDGREN

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I have finished reading my sixth novel for 2022, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Best of Friends. I came about ownership of a few Alfred Hitchcock books recently. In our neighbourhood, people put unwanted household items out on the grass verge in front of their houses for the folk passing to take away. On my walk one morning, I spied a box of books on the sidewalk. All the books were obscure but recognizing Alfred Hitchcock, I grabbed the three novels bearing his name. I wondered if he was an author as well as a filmmaker and figured it might be worth a look.

The first thing I discovered was that this was not a book written by Alfred Hitchcock. It was a collection of horror stories he had compiled. A delightfully devilish digest of death, by a student of the sinister. After my initial disappointment that Hitchcock had not written the content, nevertheless, I read the stories curious to see what he’d chosen.
The slim volume starts with an introduction written by Hitchcock, a mini horror story in itself. Then I read the novel with trepidation, hoping the stories would not scare me too much. There was no need to worry. The stories were not too spooky. They were cautionary tales about how things can go wrong in the high-octane, high-risk, daredevil world of crime.

The tagline for the book reads It’s always evil weather when Alfie and his pals get together! That pretty much says it all right there. The tone is old-fashioned and as quaint as two sticks rubbed together to make a fire. Its tagline shows its age by being light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek about the horror. Authors of that era (the late 1960s, early 1970s) did not need to shock us into infinity or hit us with gore and other questionable content. They produced storylines of high calibre, focused on dialogue and interaction. These authors rendered scenes in remarkable detail while adding slight turns of fortune, then the falling from grace, that has readers wincing for the characters and feeling doubly glad we are at home safe in our beds and not walking in their shoes.

The short stories are professional and convincing. The authors often hold out the “a-ha” moment until the last minute. However, given that modern readers expect thrills and spills on every page these days, this might be one of those books that belongs to our collective past and is only for those readers who can appreciate the difference.

Alfred Joseph Hitchcock KBE, the iconic and influential film director and producer, was born in London in 1899. Following a successful career in Britain in silent films and talking pictures, he moved to Hollywood. He became an American citizen with dual nationality in 1956 and directed more than fifty feature films in a career that spanned six decades. For a complete list of his films, see Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography.
I found his compilation, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Best of Friends, entertaining and a charming window into a bygone age. It gets extra merit points for being low-key horror and not scarring me for life. I recommend it for nostalgia value alone.
My rating: Two stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. ~ Neil Gaiman


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In 2020, I released my fantasy trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. Burned out, I took a writing hiatus that summer to recover. In January of 2021, I started writing another fantasy adventure series for middle-grade readers. For me, the rough draft has to be pen and paper. I sit and write fresh copy in the morning. And, it is a rule that I must type up each day’s copy in the evening. It was a lesson I learned the hard way. When I wrote the original manuscript for all three books in The Chronicles, I elected to leave the typing until the end and gave myself the job of typing out 300,000 words of my tiny handwriting. It was as bad as it sounds, and I made it a rule from then on to type new notes for my stories the same day I write them.

Since the beginning of last year, I have added to the copy for the stories every day and transcribed the notes each evening, including Christmas Day. It has been soothing to my creative soul to write genesis draft material again. I thought the exhaustive editing of The Chronicles for the last few years might have drained my joy in the process. But it hasn’t, thank goodness. Throughout the rollercoaster of the past year, I have cruised through each day, escaping via my writing portal. I have taken daily flights of the imagination and returned from each trip refreshed. These new stories have given me upliftment, comfort, and joy.
Creative outlets are good for us. My firm belief is that every adult needs one.

My father used to tinker away every afternoon building things in the garage. My mother used to knit or crochet her blankets. Throughout every trial and tribulation of our childhood, Ma’s needles would click and whirr most reassuringly. A sort of soft background track to our lives.
My outlet is my writing and new stories are the best. They are my happy place. Coming up with the material is the easy part, and I have loved every minute, enjoying the wild ride of “inspired thoughts,” as my grandmother used to call them. What could be more fun than writing each day to discover where your story is going next? But I write now, in the same way the dog days of summer turn into fall, with a tinge of sadness, knowing the changes to come. The picnic of penning the rough draft is nearly over. That means the unrelenting focus of the editing is about to kick in. Summer ends. Autumn begins. And so will the editing. Soon.

I can’t think about that yet. Right now, the hard graft of editing does not exist. It is just me, the pen and the empty pad of paper, out gamboling through the rosy fields of imagination, reveling in every moment.
*Good news* Drum roll. I am happy to report that my nephew and I are already conjuring up the cover art for the first book. Si was the artistic genius behind the covers for my trilogy. As a busy young working father of two, he needs a year’s grace to work on his art pieces. I told him, take as long as you need. I believe in his artistic ability and will always champion his work. Cover art from Si Kingi is worth the wait.

As a hobby illustrator myself, I have several pieces of artwork for most of the books. Some of them feature on the side panel of this blog. I have enough to put one original illustration into each book but still need to draw a second illustration for each volume. The one character I have not drawn yet is the young 8-year-old protagonist, Emily. I told Si, I look forward to seeing her!
The wait to see Si’s work is full of anticipation.
Vincent Willem van Gogh once said, “…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” Exactly. We must have all these things in times such as these to give us the strength to carry on and get through. Nature, art, and poetry are important because they bring us joy. They uplift our spirits. For me, penning new stories is bliss and to be part of the arts coming out now is exciting!
What about you. What are your creative outlets? Or are you yet to discover the right creative outlet for you?

(A pencil test piece Si created with his four-year-old daughter, my grand-niece)
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Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. – Ellen Bass


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I have finished reading my fifth novel for 2022, Amsterdam, by Ian McEwan. This book was chosen as a last-minute rush-buy on my way out of a bookstore, and it was one of those times when you make a snap decision on one factor alone. In this case, I bought it because I recognized the author as the man who wrote Atonement.
Amsterdam is a contemporary adult novel, a short read at only about 200 pages long. When I started reading it, I was put off at first by the whiff of literary fiction. The pretension of literary fiction makes my toes curl. I thought, is this…? But then McEwan began to relax a bit, and I no longer had to re-read every sentence three times to understand it, so I began to enjoy the ride more.

The story begins with two friends meeting at a London crematorium where a service is underway for Molly Lane. Clive Linley and Vernon Halliday were both Molly’s lovers at different times in the past. Also at the funeral is Julian Garmony, the Foreign Secretary, a right-winger in line to be the next prime minister.
We hear the story from Clive and Vernon’s point of view as dual narrators. It is written in a linear style, apart from a few deviations. Clive is a highly successful composer, and Vernon is the editor for a local newspaper, The Judge. We meet both men when they are at the height of their careers and powers. However, they say pride comes before the fall. Amsterdam is a disturbing instructive tale to make anyone think twice. Alain de Botton, reviewer for The Independent on Sunday, called Amsterdam ‘a pitiless study of the darker aspects of male psychology.’ While I couldn’t comprehend the terrible choices the two characters made as the tragedy unfolded, I couldn’t look away.

Vernon sees compromising photos of Julian Garmony and makes the fateful decision to run an expose about the scandal in his newspaper. He aims to topple the Foreign Secretary from his pedestal while at the same time plumping up readership numbers for The Judge. Every moment of self-applause from Vernon anticipating the fall of his rival made me squirm.
Concurrently with Vernon setting up an editorial trap for Garmony, Clive is under pressure to deliver an orchestral score for an important social event. He is already late delivering the music and struggling to find the peaceful frame of mind necessary to create art. He is drinking too much. Then he takes himself away to the country to write. Unfortunately, the stress follows him, and Clive makes a terrible moral choice while there, of such epic poor judgment, that I blanched. I blanched and knew he was doomed. No spoilers though, sorry.

The dominoes start to fall. The political maestro, Garmony, turns the tables on Vernon. Clive and Vernon bicker and things spiral even further downhill from there until the book ends in catastrophe. It is a moral tale only for those with the stomach for it. Touted as a comedy, albeit a dark one, I failed to find anything comedic about Amsterdam. Perhaps the funny aspect was so high-brow it went over my head? I also failed to connect with the lead characters. Clive and Vernon were rendered too shallow for my liking. And yet, Amsterdam won the Booker Prize in 1998, so what do I know.

Some say this win paved the way for the rapturous response granted to Ian McEwan’s novel, Atonement. Either way, his works have earned the author considerable acclaim. Born in the United Kingdom in 1948, McEwan studied at the University of Sussex. He received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970 and later received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia. The recipient of numerous awards, McEwan was awarded a CBE in 2000. He is the well-regarded author of seventeen books.
My rating: Two and a half stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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“It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.”
— Robert Benchley


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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

March 2 question – Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story? How did you decide to write it or not?
Yes, the example that stands out in my mind concerns the first book in my Chronicles of Aden Weaver series. In the first book, The Or’in of Tane, Aden Weaver lives with his grandparents, Nana Jeen and Papa Joe. One night, two assassins attack Aden in the vegetable garden of his grandparents’ house. A big fight ensues between Aden and the two assassins. Nana Jeen and Papa Joe arrive, and the fighting is ferocious. In the first draft of my story, both grandparents are killed in the fight.
My then critique partner, the wonderful author and YouTube queen, Maria Cisneros-Toth, took exception to this version of the book. She cited good reasons: it was too much for child readers to lose both beloved characters so early in the story, it was unnecessary, gratuitous to kill both of them, etc. But what it boiled down to, Maria admitted, was that she did not like the idea of losing both the grandparent characters. Maria pleaded with me to keep them alive and change the storyline.

In the world of writers, there are plotters and there are pantsers. Plotters map out a story in detail first. Think of JK Rowling’s grid pattern story plans which detailed every significant development and turn in the seven-book series. Whereas Pantsers write stories as they come, flying by the seat of their pants. Then they edit for years afterward. I’m a Pantser, and I write all my copy as stream-of-consciousness material coming straight from the muse onto the page. I had set down the content for The Or’in of Tane as faithfully as it came to me. In other words, I felt wedded to the content. That’s one of the things I find most valuable about joining critique groups when I’m working on new material. They offer the dispassionate third-person perspective. They can reflect things the author can’t see. When it comes to editing I can delete an adverb and correct punctuation. But, I find it difficult to question the big things. And this was one of those times. Maria was able to reflect that it was too much to kill the grandparents so early in the series. And, I could hear the truth.

When I thought about it, I felt excited at the thought of them surviving the fight. I couldn’t wait to get started on the changes. And that told me I was going in the right direction. I went back to rewrite. In the new version, Nana Jeen and Papa Joe get badly injured in the fight. It changed many things about the way the rest of the story played out. It was the right thing to do. Furthermore, having the grandparents there in the final scenes of the trilogy, to witness their grandson on his triumphant return, gave an emotional resonance to those end scenes. I never once regretted saving the grandparents and rewriting that scene. I was just glad there was a seasoned eye on hand to guide me on the story development at the right time. Thank you Maria for the advice.

I had written the grandparent characters into the narrative for a reason. As the daughter of immigrants to New Zealand, our little nuclear family grew up without the benefit of extended family. My only experience of grandparents was through letters and those grandparents I saw in the movies or read about in books. My grandmother moved out to New Zealand when she was 79. We had some sweet years getting to know each other before she passed away ten years later.

My siblings and I grew up without grandparents, and for that reason, I revere the elderly and always have to add a grandparent or two into my fiction. I didn’t want to kill off Nana Jeen and Papa Joe. But, I struggle with questioning the muse. Maria more or less gave me permission to throw out something I didn’t feel worked and to replace it with something lighter. The story immediately improved.
Some edits are too scary to make on your own.

Sometimes you need a friend to hold your hand and say, it is okay. You can do this.

Sometimes you need friends.
What about you. Have you joined a critique group? Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt


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I have finished reading my fourth novel for 2022, Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke, and what a doozy. I have been looking forward to reviewing this book. It’s one of those books that gets inside you, haunts your thoughts, and creeps inside your dreams. You become so caught in the spell that you anticipate every opportunity to sit down and read more. When you have finished the novel, as I unfortunately have, you continue to think about it for a long time afterward. I love books like that. It is truly remarkable and potent fiction.

Piranesi was a Christmas present. The enigmatic cover image features a statue of Pan atop a carved pedestal and the author’s name, plus a few embellishments embossed with gold. The medallion on the cover of my copy tells me Piranesi won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021. The blue cover displays soundbites from various movers and shakers, like The Sunday Times: ‘Full of wonders’ Erin Morgenstern: “Spellbinding” and The Guardian: “Utterly otherworldly.” All this before we even open the book. When we open the cover, we are treated to seven pages of gushing review snippets from everyone who has a voice in the media, from the New York Times, to Esquire and Observer, from BBC.com to Literary Review. It is almost overkill.
But does the content live up to the hype? In a word, yes.

Okay. At first, I was all at sea. The novel is so divergent from anything I had ever read that I was thoroughly off-put. Instead of chapter numbers and so on, Clarke divides the story into seven parts. Then she heads the chapters with surreal titles. For example, the opening chapter starts with the heading:
When the Moon Rose in the Third Northern Hall, I went to the Ninth Vestibule
ENTRY FOR THE FIRST DAY OF THE FIFTH MONTH IN THE YEAR THE ALBATROSS CAME TO THE SOUTH-WESTERN HALLS

There is no dithering at the door or slow easing into this fantasy. We become transported via the confounding title into another place, another world. We then read the entries and, in that intimate way, dive into the life of a naive, wandering, fascinating man as he recounts his life living in the House. He is alone apart from visits twice a week from an impeccably-dressed man he calls ‘the Other’ – called such because he is the only other person alive in the world.

Piranesi and the Other are scientists. The latter needs help with his research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. Piranesi tells us about the ’15 people who have ever lived.’ The 15 include himself, the Other, and the 13 bodies whose skeletal remains he visits to take gifts. Through these diary entries written in our protagonist’s journals, we discover that our narrator is a man in his thirties. The Other calls him Piranesi, although our protagonist is sure that this is not his real name. But he has no recollection of any other name so he adopts it.
The House is a riveting, unique fantasy landscape I had never encountered before, a world where ocean and architecture mix. There are thousands of classic halls, endless epic architecture, and statues half-filled by the sea and afflicted by king tides and floods.

The sense of being somewhere ‘completely other,’ of being slightly off-kilter persists without let-up from the first chapter, where our protagonist climbs a statue fifteen metres above the pavement to avoid the ‘joining of three Tides’ below. As we read, a few things start to make sense, but Susanna Clarke never lets up presenting more questions as the story goes on, and the mystery of where the House is and what is happening becomes deeper and more complex.
Clarke does not stop with intricate plot lines and compelling character development. She also plays hardball, boldly using the simple visual device of adding capitals liberally everywhere. For example, This Tide thundered up the Westernmost Staircase and hit the Eastern Wall with a great Clap, making all the Statues tremble.
We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Clarke teases and tests us every step of the way. Once I had adjusted to this crazy ride, I couldn’t wait to get back to reading it each time I had to stop. The austere august magnificence of the House entranced me and captured my imagination. It was depicted in marvellous detail until I was walking in that world.
As it went on I knew Susanna Clarke’s talent was next level because of how much I cared for Piranesi. I worried about him as I realized he was in danger. It was affecting. During the climactic scenes, I was stealing minutes to race back and read. I needed to know how it would turn out. It was with regret I finished this book. Since then, I have looked back with nostalgia upon my time moving through the hallowed halls of the House with its beloved child, Piranesi. It was so new and cool. It was everything.

Susanna Clarke was born in Nottingham, England, in 1959. Educated in towns across Northern England and Scotland, she worked in various areas of non-fiction publishing, including Gordon Fraser and Quarto. After a stint teaching English in Bilbao, Clarke returned to England in 1992. Living in County Durham, she began working on her first novel, the bestselling Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. In 2020, Clarke released Piranesi. She has also published seven short stories and novellas in US anthologies. One story, “Mr. Simonelli or The Fairy Widower,” was shortlisted for a World Fantasy Award in 2001. Clarke lives in Cambridge with her partner, the novelist and reviewer Colin Greenland.
I take my hat off to the author and her stellar work, Piranesi. This fresh story transcends genre, and we must call it what it is – Art.


Susanna Clarke has earned herself a rarely seen top rating from me.
My rating: Five stars and a Huzzah!

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” — Aldous Huxley

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I have finished reading my third novel for 2022, Frankie B – Faerie Lights, by Andie Low. For sure, I am an impulsive shopper. I buy books in several ways: I read the cover blurb, I read the first page, and sometimes, I buy a book on pure impulse after reading the title. Faerie Lights was the latter. This book is a self-published Witch Cozy Mystery from the Marina Witches Mysteries series.

A couple of years ago, I met the author at an event for Indie authors. Andrene inspired me because she’s making a living as an author, creating her empire, writing a library of material with her women’s fiction: That Seventies Series, her paranormal cozies: Marina Witches Mysteries, The Blood Bond Agency, or her romance fiction under the pen name, Hope Malone: The Coogan’s Break Series. Andrene is a marketing ace and works assiduously to build her brand and promote her work.
I bought her book, Frankie B – Faerie Lights. The story follows Frankie B, the young redheaded witch with a spunky attitude. She gets invited to spend the winter solstice with the family of her good friend, Magda Zilonka. No matter that the Zilonkas are vampires or that they have a long-running feud with the Nautilus clan, the family of Frankie’s boyfriend, Zane, a merman. Frankie disguises Zane so he and Frankie can be together for the holidays. The risky part is that his discovery would be fatal. ‘Add to this a stolen relic, newly discovered powers, and a drop-dead gorgeous vampire, and for Frankie, this will be a Winter Solstice to remember. Or forget’ goes the blurb.

Until reading this book, I was unfamiliar with “cozy mysteries” and was unsure what to expect. I did a bit of research and discovered cozy mysteries, also referred to as “cozies,” ‘are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence occur off stage, the detective is an amateur sleuth, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. The term “cozy” was first coined in the late 20th century when various writers produced work in an attempt to re-create the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.’
The whole tone of Faerie Lights I would describe as light-hearted. It is fiction that never takes itself seriously, which is fitting considering the author, Andrene Low, used to work as a stand-up comic. The Winter Solstice is fast approaching, and Frankie Bonny is desperate to spend it with family. Unfortunately, she’s light on relatives, knowing only three and two of them are jerks. Sometimes humour in fiction is forced and doesn’t work, but humour from a comic is a cut above.

Andrene’s bio is a bit of faff that tells us sweet nothing, apart from the fact that Andie lives in the beautiful Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand with a tabby cat called Mia. However, it displays more of the trademark tongue-in-cheek. Andrene, or Andie as her cozy mystery readers know her, has a love of writing instilled in her by her mother. Although, if her mum were still alive, she’d be smacking Andrene across the back of the head given the direction some of her writing has taken.
Faerie Lights is not a genre I would usually read, yet at the same time, this sort of lightweight romantic fiction has a definite place. The same way television fills a need, chick-lit fiction is entertaining and relaxing because it does not overtax the brain. Any escapist entertainment is vital these days, and I don’t hate it.
My rating: Two and a half stars.

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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“In a time of destruction, create something. A poem. A parade. A community. A school. A vow. A moral principle. One peaceful moment.” ~ –MAXINE HONG KINGSTON


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