Book Review: The Writer and The Rake, by Shehanne Moore

The Writer and the Rake (Time Mutants #2)The Writer and the Rake by Shehanne Moore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love a bit of time travel romance, so I was looking forward to falling into this story and discovering how the two main characters would stumble across each other – or, in the heroine’s case, appear in the 18th century in the blink of an eye.

Brittany is your classic heroine; she portrays a strong, don’t-mess-with-me, nothing-can-hurt-me-exterior, but as the story moves on you begin to notice cracks in her resolve.

It took me a while to warm to Mitchell, however, as he came across as conceited and totally void of emotion and empathy. Except this is where Ms Moore has written her colourful, full-bodied characters so well. They are perfectly flawed, because no-one is ever as they seem on the surface.

The overall story arc is beautifully chaotic, comical and a touching read. It left me with that wistful sigh of the happy-ever-after, and tailed-off thoughts of… what happens next?

I’ve not read The Viking and the Courtesan, but it’s definitely being added to my TBR pile.

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How’s Your Handwriting? 

“It looks like a spider dipped its boots in an inkwell and ran all over the page.”

So, I’m curious. As a fellow creative, is your handwriting an illegible mess, or do you take your time perfecting the curls and flicks of your letters and words?

I recently read a post on handwriting from the lovely lady over at Plutonium Sox, and it’s inspired my own post out of interest in other writers and their habits. 

The post discusses the differences in learning how to write, and how handwriting can help with fine motor skills. 

It took me back to my own learning experience in Primary School; I specifically recall learning joined-up writing, and I remember being really worried that my handwriting looked terrible, and not how I imagined it should do. 

I wanted neat, cutesy-handwriting, and writing joined-up just made my writing look ‘ugly’. I asked the headteacher if I could just write without joining up my letters, and to my delight he yes (we’re talking 30 years ago!), when I was scared the answer would be no. 

The result now is a kind of handwriting that my husband declared as ‘looks like a spider dipped its boots in an inkwell and ran all over the page.’ It’s a combination of printed and joined-up letters where my writing has developed a style all of its own. 

But I don’t care that my handwriting looks like an Arachnid Assault On Paper. Handwriting is such a personal thing, and is as individual as a thumbprint. I think it reflects us as a person. Having said that, as a creative, my handwriting can get pretty messy, as my brain works faster than my hand, and I trip over letters as I write. 


If I’m working on something that I want to be visually pleasing, I like to take my time ‘handwriting’ and get very cross when I’m having a ‘bad handwriting day’! 

Mostly I give up and decide to use a computer. I type faster, and can get more creative when it’s not word-related. I can even get more creative when it IS word-related. Such as changing colours/fonts etc. 

But there’s something really satisfying about free-writing with ink and paper. It makes the soul sing. 

What’s your tool of choice when it comes to being creative? 

I am trying…

Trying

 

My mum once told me I was very trying. I’m not really sure what she meant, I try hard at everything I do, but I’m pretty sure there was a note of sarcasm in there somewhere. 

I know I need to pick my subjects for school, but I have no idea what I want to do. I mean, who does? All the while I try to decide, the only thing I can see is his eyes, watching me, waiting, expectant for my kiss. In my dreams. He’d never look at me in real life. Mousy Brienne Smith? No-one notices me, not anywhere.  

As if to prove my point, I am pushed to one side by the actual Josh Brendan, jostling my shoulder as they rush past for breaktime, knocking me into the wall. No calls of ‘oh, sorry, Brienne! Didn’t see you there! How are you?’  

‘Ow!’ I called after him, the scowl in my forehead giving me a headache. ‘You know you should look where you’re going?!’ He turned around and actually looked through me, frowned, shrugged his shoulders and then carried on going. Seconds later, I realise I am standing, gawping at the space he no longer occupied, as the children dissipate around me, disappearing into the toilets or outside to hang around the tennis courts. There are a select few who will disappear down to the bikesheds for a crafty cigarette, as if they don’t know the teachers know they all do it. Occasionally one of them will saunter down there, and the smokers will scatter like ants in a disturbed nest. 

I sit huddled on a bench during breaktime. The egg-heads wonder past in their group of three, whispering and giggling at the boys standing by the tennis courts, the leader showing off with a basketball, as if he was the first and only person to be able to bounce one of those things on the ground. They all fancy him. I can see why, but I only have eyes for one boy. He’s the only one I’ll ever want.  

The bell sounds and everyone trudges back inside, a total opposite to the urgency of getting outside school for those precious few minutes. I make my way back upstairs with the rest of the flock and slide in to my window seat at the back of the class. French. The most pointless lesson ever invented. Although mum says we should all have a second language, and that us English are a lazy nation, as we expect everyone else to speak our language. She might have a point.  

Mr Magoo – not his real name, he is very short-sighted – directs a question at the class, asking us to give him the answer in French. I hate this lesson, but I’m so sick of feeling invisible, so I raise my hand.  

‘Anyone?’ he asks, his eyes scanning the students. So I raise my hand a little higher. ‘Jessica?’ he calls to the girl next to me, who is whispering with Lucy. She immediately flicks her wavy blonde hair over her shoulder and straightens up ever-so-slightly from her slouched position in her seat, and clears her throat. ‘Um…’ she starts, and smirks, knowing that her fans bask in her coolness and although Mr Magoo has picked on her, she’s safe, because she always gets away with it. The rest of the class titter, and the teacher repeats the question.  

‘Je voudrais en stilo sil-vous-plais Monsieur Jones.’  

I feel the irritation bubble up inside, growing, getting hotter in my belly. Why won’t anyone see me? Hear me? I look at the pen on my desk and feel such ferocity that it flies off the edge and lands right next to her feet. Those who saw it happen gasp, and Jessica’s head snaps up, her eyes scanning the room warily, then giggles nervously, before picking up the pen. ‘Now, now, guys, you could have just passed it to me,’ she joked, then swallowed as she placed it neatly on her desk.  

I roll my eyes, and sink lower into my seat, and turn my head to the window, losing myself in the world outside. One day. Maybe one day someone will notice me.  

I am trying. 

Short Fiction © Fiona Chapman

Beautiful Corfe. Have you been?

Corfe Castle is as its name suggests; a castle nestled high on the hill in the village it dominates and lends its title to. As a child, on our way to Studland Bay, I’d gaze wistfully at its majestic beauty, my forehead pressed up against the window as I dreamed of lords and ladies and princesses of yesteryear, always dreaming of visiting one day with my own gallant knight. Corfe Castle had me entranced, and I knew my first experience within the castle grounds had to be with someone special. Not just anyone, but the man I was going to marry. Continue reading

Are YOU in control of YOUR life?

I recently discovered a little gem, delivered in the form of a book, which was recommended by Jeff Goins – an inspirational guy who blogs about writing and marketing, creative business ideas and making a difference.

I’ve not yet finished this book, but it has reawakened in me something that I have long believed (and recently forgotten), and that is the knowledge that we are in charge of our own destinies. In fact, it’s not even that I had forgotten this, more the fact that I have succumbed to what the book’s author comes to describe as Resistance. If this sounds familiar, you might indeed have already read this book – aptly titled The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield.

Because there is a little war going inside all of us. Resistance – as the beginning of this book talks about – is that little voice in our heads that prevents us from being productive, or making those all-important changes in our lives. That health-kick you keep promising yourself. That change of job you really want to go for. It’s the voice of procrastination, the nagging doubt that we won’t be good enough, that we will fail. By listening to these thoughts, we’ve already set ourselves up to fail. If you’ve ever read Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers, you’ll be conscious of that familiar feeling that stops you doing something you know will benefit you in the long run. Instead, you subconsciously (or, even consciously), make all the excuses you can come up with, not to pursue an opportunity. Often, one excuse is all you need to talk yourself right out of it. You then convince yourself that you made the right decision, and feel better for it. Because it’s so much easier to stay locked inside that comfort zone of those familiar slippers, that warm blanket; to stick with what you know, and not attempt to stretch yourself. Take that path of least resistance (excuse the irony here). Because any opportunity that can make you grow as a person, isn’t going to offer that instant gratification we crave as human beings. It’s going to be hard work, you’re going to have to stretch yourself, and what if the end result is failure, after all that effort you’ve put in?

This book has triggered a whirlwind of thoughts and I’m not even a third of the way through it yet. It’s actually got me sitting up in bed at 5am, drafting this blog post with a cup of chamomile because I can’t sleep, and overcoming Resistance. It has got me laughing Resistance in the face, ignoring the voice of ‘But I can’t drink tea and read! I have to go back to sleep so that I’m not tired in the morning,’ followed by, ‘I will still have I don't have enough timeto get the kids up and do the school run and all the other chores that await me!’ This book has enabled me to go one step further, and actually write 500 words in the middle of the night (it might be morning to some of you, but it’s still the middle of the night to me). And that is the first step to me resuming my life’s journey – on my calling to writing, on improving my health, and the next step towards the rest of my life.

As Steven Pressfield says in his opening paragraph of the chapter ‘What I do’; it doesn’t matter if the words I wrote weren’t that great. The only thing that matters, is that I reached my daily goal. I ignored that nagging voice that prevented me from achieving my work or desire. I overcame Resistance. You see, that one word, that has so much control over us, is the only thing stopping you from fulfilling your dreams and aspirations.

Click here for more information: The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield.

I’m curious…

Books and coffee
Are you sitting comfortably?
What’s your favourite type of story? I’m keen to start a new project… But I want to put it out there, and into YOUR hands, as the potential reader. What do you like it read? What kind of conflict do you like in your stories? What are your favourite types of characters? I’m not talking specifically about setting, or genre, but rather the characters you, as the reader, can identify with. What really gets you at your core in a powerful story? Of course, if you want to talk about your favourite genre, that’s fine too. Just think… Your input could be the inspiration for the next big thing. 

Leave me a comment below, or drop me a line at fionachapman1@gmail.com. I can’t wait to learn about what inspires you as a reader. 🙂 

Fiona X

Book Review: The Sicilian’s Unexpected Duty by Michelle Smart

The Sicilian's Unexpected Duty (Irresistible Sicilians, #2)The Sicilian’s Unexpected Duty by Michelle Smart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When innocent Cara Delaney spent a wild weekend with sexy Sicilian Pepe Mastrangelo, she definitely got more than she bargained for. Not only did he leave her high and dry without so much as a goodbye, but she’s found herself tied to him for the rest of her life – with an unexpected pregnancy. Deciding that he should be held accountable for his responsibilities, she approaches him with a deal – he provides for her and the baby financially and she’ll leave him well alone. Except Pepe has his own reasons for refusing to take Cara’s word for it, so forces her into an impossible situation – to reside with him until the baby is born and he can order a paternity test to prove the baby is his.

The chemistry is obvious from the start; the initial animosity between our hero and heroine is indicative of the undeniable attraction still simmering between them. Cara considers Pepe to be a stereotype of all she knows – and Pepe has his own trust issues, which is enough to prevent these two from giving in to their feelings for each other. As the story proceeds, it’s quite clear that their mutual attraction runs deep, but delightfully infuriating when both characters’ emotions and issues keep throwing up barriers to their happy ever after. Then, just as you think everything is going along wonderfully, you can’t shake that feeling that it won’t last forever… and that’s when the twist in the tale strikes you down.

However, this story is not without its requisite happy ending, so I can assure you, you will be clutching the book to your heart when you’ve turned the last page, with a satisfactory sigh.

Ms Smart will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotion with this story, so be prepared.

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The big R: A writer’s worst enemy… and best friend

I received my second (novel) rejection earlier this week, and it felt like I’d been steamrollered.

I have come to realise that a rejection can easily be likened to the five stages of a bereavement or break-up. Because, like it or not, you will go through them. And as this blog is about my writing journey, about my successes as well as my failures, it’s only fitting that I should share this step and the feelings it evoked.

Anger – In my case, it wasn’t so much anger, more shock and confusion. Deep down, I think I guessed it would be rejected. We set ourselves up to expect the worst, so that anything else comes as a beautiful surprise. But even though I expected a rejection, I was still shocked by such unexpected feelings of hurt and disappointment. While playing the waiting game, I think I secretly hoped for a ‘revise and resubmit’, but let’s face it, this is my first full-length, completed novel, and although I have submitted a partial manuscript before which was also rejected, this one is technically (in my book – excuse the pun) my first official submission and rejection, which is nothing in this industry.

Denial – Yep, this one definitely played its part, but this came first. Mainly because when you’re playing the waiting game, you begin to imagine that your submission hasn’t even been received, or that you followed the guidelines incorrectly, or that it’s been lost somewhere, never to be seen again. That YOU have been forgotten about. Little, insignificant you, just a tiny grain of sand lost in an entire beach. So when that email first arrived in my inbox, my heart slammed against my chest and forgot to keep beating. My whole body went cold, my hands started to shake, and I had absolutely no idea whether I should open it, because I didn’t want to know what was inside.

Bargaining – I tried bargaining with myself throughout the waiting period. ‘No news is good news. You’ve worked so hard on this book, it’s intricately woven, it deserves a decent amount of attention. Wait it out.’ Except, that little voice kept chipping away. ‘Forget it. Move on. You’re insignificant, you’ve been forgotten about.’

Depression – It hit. It struck like a giant wave engulfing me and sucking me under. Yes, it’s a cliche, but I don’t care. That’s how I felt. I told my writer friends. I told my husband. I told one of my close friends. I needed to express these vile feelings churning inside me, even if only to tell someone and have them try and make me feel better about it. It worked, a little. But the only thing that truly helped was a good night’s sleep and to get back in my chair and continue working on my current WIP.

Acceptance – Fortunately for me, I bounce easily. Also, fortunately for me, I have a fantastic support group of writing friends, who told me what I needed to hear: Keep going. I have a distinctive voice. One response doesn’t signify the end. It’s only one person’s opinion. Additionally, it’s only my second rejection. Which is nothing in this field. It still hurts, but I also know it means I have a fair way to go in honing the craft of novel writing. The best part about this rejection, is that the editor said it was a ‘fun first novel.’ Imagine that? My first novel, my first full piece of work, which went through five drafts in just over a year, which started off as a typical romance and ended up being set in the 1920s (WHAT happened?!). It was bloody hard work, it was complicated, it made me go cross-eyed, and I fell in love with my characters. So, I’m not going to forget about it and move on, I’m going to put it to one side for now. There are some aspects which need work, but the editor also said I have ‘great potential.’ She took the time to give me that feedback, as well as the parts which need more work, and I’m going to hold on to that and remember it every time I feel doubt. ‘A fun first novel’ is perhaps the most amazing thing an editor from a well-known publisher could say in a rejection, so although the end result wasn’t what I dreamed of, it will come to help me in my journey.

If you’re reading this and have recently received a rejection of your own, I hope you’ll gain some encouragement from this post. Realise that if you want something badly enough – it’s in your power to keep trying. As I have always said, the only way to fail is to stop trying.

Never. Give. Up.

‘A day off?’ she laughed. ‘Don’t be silly dear, I’m a mother.’

I decided to take a day off today.

I never stop. Never. Never get a day off. Never get to just impulsively hop in my car and disappear for the day. Not without intricate planning. That is a luxury pre-parenthood. Because, let’s face it, once you become a parent, your life is no longer your own.

Oh no, wait, I'm a mom
Oh no, wait, I’m a mom

As a writer, I’m always pushing myself to work at every spare opportunity I get to myself, which means ‘me’ time regrettably takes a back seat. Whatever my vocation in life may be, whether I work in retail, in an office, or from home; first and foremost I am a mother, and I guarantee every single mother will identify with this.

Your day starts as soon as you open your eyes, when the first thing you hear is the click of your child’s bedroom door down the hall, followed by a mini-elephant running across the landing and bursting into your bedroom. The first thing you feel, is your child’s knee in your stomach and elbow in your face as they climb up next to you for morning cuddles. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE morning cuddles, but occasionally I get to experience that rare moment of waking up before my child, when I have just a few precious minutes to gather my thoughts before the day starts. And so it begins. A long, challenging day of random conversations, cleaning, washing, fetching drinks, snacks, chiding, coaxing, pleading, prising crayons out of sticky mitts before they connect with the wall, rocking in the corner… right up until that delicious hour before your own bedtime, when you get to do your best impression of a stoned zombie. Except, for me, this is also my time to catch up on other necessities like texts from family and friends, social networking, not to mention the growing list of catch up TV which is clogging up the Sky box. When I do get to bed, I like to indulge in making a dent in my To Be Read pile, which I manage for approximately half an hour before my eyes start to roll back in my head. This is all providing I haven’t had numerous return-calls upstairs to check the wet and windy weather, or say goodnight to the moon, or change a nappy, fetch a drink, or just for a cuddle (I don’t mind this one, of course). If I’m lucky, I’ll get a full seven hours with no interruptions, although this is rare.
Once again, before we know it, we’ve come full circle and are doing it all again.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love my life, I really do. I left the security of a full-time salary in favour of looking after my family while working on my writing career, with only one income coming into our home. I make no secret of the fact that my husband is the bread-winner, although some days I really miss having an income of my own [sobs]. But the fact remains that whether I have an office job, or am a stay-at-home mum while trying desperately to create an income of my own from home, my main role – motherhood – never stops. A mother is on call 24/7, has the patience of a saint (mostly, with off days), is the peacemaker, home-maker, problem-solver, nutritionist, nurse, counsellor, and many more.

Anyone who thinks being a parent is easy – particularly being a stay-at-home mum (and childminders will identify with this) has clearly never done it.

Motherhood – no, scratch that – parenthood (not forgetting the stay-at-home Dads whose wives go out into the ‘real world’ to earn the main income) – is bloody hard work. But, when all is said and done, it’s also the most rewarding job in the world, and I wouldn’t change it for a second.

I have to go now. Someone just pulled the entire toilet roll off the holder.

Important note: As indicated by this blog post, any mention of time-off was theoretical and never actually happened.