Monday, 31 August 2020

Topics that make me stop reading a book

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews gave me pause. Usually when I stop reading a book it's because it simply isn't working for me, not because of a particular topic. However, I then remembered a few I had given up in the past and thought about what had put me off.

First off - rape. I accept rape can be a plot point and that's fine, but I was recently reading a historical in which the heroine had, in the past, been on the verge of being forced to marry her rapist and had been rescued by her now-husband at the last second. In the space of the first three chapters we had at least four instances of either her rapist approaching her at the royal court or her parents threatening to "expose" her if she didn't do what they said, and after the fourth of these I just thought "You know what, I'm done." I was there for the machinations at the royal court, not for all this.

The other main issue I had, having read a lot of short romance stories, was jealousy fiction which uses sex as so-called "punishment", i.e. one character deliberately makes the other jealous so the other will be all "Right, you're totally going to get it tonight!" Maybe it's because I find those sorts of headgames irritating in real life. In any event, I don't want to read about them - ever.

So what makes you stop reading?

Monday, 24 August 2020

The strangest things I've eaten

 I write this from the depths of self-isolation, as I've started with mild covid symptoms, so please imagine me with a mask over my face.

I have never shied away from trying unusual foods. As a child, my dad and I used to make a game of finding new foods in the supermarket so that we could try them. I'm sure my mother was thrilled to bits to be presented with an acorn squash and told she was supposed to cook it.

So what have I tried? I'm not sure if starfruit and white currants count as strange (although I've never seen white currants since, much to my annoyance as they were lovely) but the weirdest fruit I've tried was the tamarillo. Surprisingly sharp and tasty, if rather messy with all the seeds. I'd love to try durian one day but have yet to go anywhere that sells it.

In terms of meat I've had snails, frogs' legs, kangaroo, alligator and alpaca. The alpaca was at a local restaurant called Rare (sadly no longer there) which did special evenings where they would serve unusual meats. To be honest, it had the flavour and texture of lamb - there was nothing about it that screamed strange - but it was remarkably nice. The frogs' legs were a bit of a disappointment, as they were served with so much sauce that I could barely taste them, although they felt rather like chicken.

So what's the strangest thing you've eaten?

Monday, 17 August 2020

Favourite book or movie quotes and why

 The last time book quotes came up on Long and Short Reviews I posted one from Isaac Asimov about one of his fellow writers achieving an impossible dream. This time I gave some thought to film quotes, although whether they're as inspiring is open to question.

One favourite of mine is a very simple one from "The Conjuring". Ed and Lorraine Warren are discussing whether she should come with him on a paranormal investigation, as Ed wants to protect her, so Lorraine brings up the fact that he once said they had been brought together for a reason. But it's the way she introduces it that I love.

Lorraine: "Do you remember what you said to me on our wedding night?"

Ed: "Can we do it again?"

Lorraine: "After that."

It's a beautiful character moment, because people often forget that films, even horror films, live and die on their characters, and it's important that we buy into Ed and Lorraine's loving relationship for the film to have an effect.

My other favourite quote is technically not from a film, as originally it's from a poem by Arthur O'Shaughnessy. In "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", Willy Wonka whispers "We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams." As a writer I love this quote, as it sums up a lot of what I love about writing - the fantasy and the creation. It's the sort of thing that keeps me working when I have a character who refuses to do what she's told.

So what are your favourite quotes?

Monday, 10 August 2020

What I wanted to do when I grew up versus what I do

Another topic from Long and Short Reviews, and this one is a good one. 

I wanted to do a lot of things as a child. The first thing I wanted to do was be a secretary, primarily because I wanted to use a typewriter. That wore off after my dad actually bought me a typewriter; I used it constantly as a child, but as soon as we got writing programmes on our Amiga and PC, I was using those instead.

I briefly thought about being a journalist, but then decided I wanted to be an actress instead. The theatre and cinema have always fascinated me, and I was at the time a decent actress and good singer, so I stuck with it until I was about seventeen, when I got sick and tired of arguing with my dad over career choices and picked a different subject to study at university. For a long time after that I had no idea what I wanted to be, although I always knew I enjoyed writing - I just didn't believe you could make a paying job out of it.

After spending several years as a university administrator, I now work as a debt advisor and am a writer in my spare time. I don't think writing will ever be my primary job, but I think it's less stressful to be able to write what I want when I want rather than be restricted by what pays the bills. Debt advice is surprisingly similar to my previous field - it's all about helping people and imparting knowledge, it's just that the knowledge base has changed.

So what did you want to do when you grew up?

Monday, 3 August 2020

Tropes of romance

The topic from Long and Short Reviews this week is actually my favourite tropes, but I've decided to subvert this a little bit, because I don't particularly like tropes. Romance, including my own field of erotic romance, is full of them and they drive me up the wall. And my least favourite is one which you'll all be familiar with, that of Tears Before Bedtime.

It was something I learned to grasp with pinpoint accuracy when I was reading romantic fanfiction as a starter to my writing. About two chapters before the end of the story some calamity would happen which is supposed to make the reader think that things might not end happily. If you're reading Nicholas Sparks it may well not do, but for the most part we expect romance to have a happily ever after ending, so very few people are going to be convinced that things really are doomed. But we do it anyway, because...plot.

I got very sick of writing these dramatic moments since, nine times out of ten, it could all be resolved if our romantic leads would just talk to each other. So whenever I can, I try to subvert this and have the catastrophe be something that isn't character-based. In Photograph I had my heroine get shot, for instance. Nice and dramatic and doesn't rely on a ridiculous misunderstanding.

And I subvert it as well in my new short Spiritwalker, which is out on 20th October (pre-order 8th September), but you'll have to see for yourself how I do that. 


Tamar Steele, a successful medium for a paranormal investigative team, should be happy with her life—but life seems to be against her. Her psychic field is being mysteriously blocked, causing her physical pain and, worse, making it more and more difficult for her to come, creating stress in her relationship with long-term boyfriend Jason.

But then, during the filming of a paranormal TV show, Tamar picks up on Leslie, the recently murdered sister of her co-worker Hana—who later tells her the murderer was in the room with them. Knowing the best way to enhance her psychic ability is through sex, Tamar must rekindle her troubled relationship with Jason and rebuild their passion as she fights to solve the murder. Can she find the killer in time?

So what are your favourite or least favourite tropes?