My Writing is Powered by Witchcraft and my Garden Speaks to Me

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During the summer, I spent a lot of time researching witchcraft for my latest novel My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

Without giving too much away, readers will (I hope) be left wondering what is magic realism and what is the unreliable narrator’s thoughts.

During this time, I have learnt a lot about witchcraft. I also found out (slash am convinced) that when I write a novel, I am powered by an unworldly force (such as witchcraft).

I wrote My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister in less than four months (from the end of June to the end of September).

This kind of writing speed earned a gasp in the audience at Todmorden Book Festival when Joanne Harris revealed she wrote Chocolat in four months.

(I don’t have a young child or a full time job though).

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I have spoken before about my weird reversed writer’s block (I’ve just freaked myself out Googling this). I do have lesions on my brain because of MS maybe this is the cause of my mild case of hypergraphia.

Or it could be witchcraft.

Whenever I am coming to the end of writing a novel, I start to think about the next one. Not on purpose… it is REALLY annoying; picture the scene… Yay! I’m about to finish writing this brilliant book… this is going to be the one! Brain says, I’d like to introduce you to some fictional characters. Get to know them now because you’ll be writing about them soon (and you’ve only got four months to do it).

This is what happened with the characters from My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister. One of my best friends, Claire gifted me the name Epiphany (Pippa for short). Soon, I had imagined a world for this new character. Pippa works as an accountant, has a younger boyfriend and she lives in the flat upstairs in her mother’s pub. Then the world changed and my ideas really started to take shape. Pippa soon became a forty year old woman trying to rebuild her life after lockdown. She discovers that her mother (Jacquetta) and sister (Heather) are witches, but only after she is visited by her half-sister’s half-sister (Sadie).

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The above is concise for me; I hate writing blurb… the book came together so quickly after months and months of writing on bits of paper, backs of envelopes, sending myself text messages, writing on the insides of empty medication boxes. Anything I could get my hands on when Pippa, Sadie, Jacquetta or Heather popped into my head. You could say I was compelled to write it; almost as though I had been bewitched (and also like the description of hypergraphia on the internet).

And it wasn’t because I was bored writing the last two in series of Curmudgeon Avenue when this happened; when I came to the end of writing My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister, I accidentally started writing my next book.

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I’m not giving the title away just in case I don’t write it (probably will, though if the above is anything to go off).

The more I researched witchcraft, the more it was in my head. This is not a new fascination, I loved witch themed books and TV when I was younger (maybe because I am named Samantha). I wrote a post about this when I first started imagining that I would write My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister, click HERE to see that post.

I found out some really interesting things when researching paranormal/supernatural/psychological fiction (so many names)

Some of it I was scared to know. We’re all aware of Queen Victoria making black a mourning colour after her husband, Prince Albert died. I read in a dark book that ‘the Victorians’ were not only emulating their queen, black was considered to be the colour to wear to avoid seeing ghosts. I’m not sure about this, because Victorian culture is said to have welcomed clairvoyance, and where better than to see a spirit? (I’ve also read that wearing black at funerals pre-dates Victorian times).

However, my friends have not lied to me during my witchcraft quest. So excited was I about my next novel, I started boring my friends by telling them about it on nights out. My friends Janaki and Neil told me that they had watched an episode of QI, and learnt that plants associated with spells such as eye of newt are actually plants (now called Hemerocallis Calico Jack in the UK). The words eye of newt and toe of frog are from Shakespeare’s Scottish play, (check me out for superstition). Toe of frog is actually buttercups… I kid you not, during the summer my lawn was covered in buttercups (when it isn’t usually).

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Gardening is magic. This year a few plants I haven’t seen for a while reappeared in my garden. I’m not a gardener, but thinking things through logically, these mystery plants appeared because of my compost bin.

Or witchcraft…

This gave me an idea for a short story ‘Bit of Me’ about a couple who live on a pig farm. Unpublished as yet (I’m still hoping to collaborate on a short story collection). The compost bin features heavily in the plot; see what I mean? My garden is speaking to me.

I’m sure that there are other writers whose worlds have become very small since the pandemic, more than ever it feels as though something good can finally happen. Let me know if your garden has inspired you.

I’ll stop here, because recent mini-dramas have both inspired my writing and frightened me (plus I don’t want to go on too much about the time I thought someone had put a spell on me but it turned out I am becoming absent minded).

Last thoughts for today

May be an image of 1 person, standing, tree and outdoors

Either this sunflower is really tall, or I’m really small (I am leaning on a stick).

Or witchcraft…

Happy October everyone, Samantha 🙂

An Evening with Joanne Harris (my visit to Todmorden Book Festival on the 25th of September) @TodBookFest @Joannechocolat

Last Saturday, I had the PLEASURE of meeting one of my favourite authors, Joanne Harris.

Actually, I should re-word that… The Hippodrome Theatre in Todmorden was full to the brim, and I was just one eager reader getting her next favourite book signed at the end.

A Narrow Door by Joanne Harris. Live photo above of my copy, signed by Joanne Harris. It is the very best time ‘Samantha’ (my name) has been written ever.

Enough about me and my Christmas present that wants to be read immediately.

Joanne Harris gave a brilliant, interesting and inspiring author talk. Also, she’s hilarious!

I wouldn’t want to misquote her, but I would like tell you a few bits from what I remember.

Joanne Harris started by telling us a bit about her latest book, A Narrow Door. This is the third book from her ‘St Oswald’ books. Joanne explained they can all be enjoyed as standalone novels, but have the same setting and threads of backstory.

Joanne Harris spoke about her experience of working at The Leeds Grammar School (which at the time was an all boys school). It was really interesting to hear about how male pupils responded differently to male and female teachers. As did the male headmaster – particularly with regards to the uniform policy. Joanne told a hilarious anecdote about a red skirt. I remember the 90s very well, I did my nurse training and worked my first job as a staff nurse during this decade. I remember misogyny in the workplace… what a great setting for a set of novels!

This is from the blurb for A Narrow Door on Amazon:

Now I’m in charge, the gates are my gates. The rules are my rules.

It’s an incendiary moment for St Oswald’s school. For the first time in its history, a headmistress is in power, the gates opening to girls.

Rebecca Buckfast has spilled blood to reach this position. Barely forty, she is just starting to reap the harvest of her ambition. As the new regime takes on the old guard, the ground shifts. And with it, the remains of a body are discovered.

But Rebecca is here to make her mark. She’ll bury the past so deep it will evade even her own memory, just like she has done before. After all…

You can’t keep a good woman down.

Joanne Harris

From Joanne Harris’s Amazon page.

Joanne Harris spoke about her writing and writing during lockdown. Her 1999 novel Chocolat was written in just four months – and she was a full time teacher at the time. Awesome. She was able to achieve this because her mother would babysit her daughter and she had ‘plenty of thinking time during her drive to and from work’. Joanne Harris shared that she was sad to leave teaching.

(My daughter was two years old in 1999 – what was I doing? Not writing a book).

More recently, during lockdown, Joanne Harris had a productive time writing (there was a discussion here about the pandemic and writer’s block). As a novelist, she was already used to working from home. Joanne spoke about writing her non-fiction writing reference book which I must buy immediately; ‘Ten Things About Writing’ (Published last year). And the June 2021 release ‘Honeycomb‘ a fairy tale collaboration. Joanne explained that snippets of ideas she had tweeted inspired this book.

Then it was questions from the audience time

Apologies, the last time I blogged about a famous writer, it was about the exhibition dedicated to comedian Victoria Wood‘s life, I’m just winging this post but trust me, I’m a huge Joanne Harris fan.

I went to Todmorden Book Festival with my husband (who thought the talk was about actual chocolate) my friend Carla (we have been friends since our nursing days) and my friend and voice over colleague Lindsay McKinnon (first person to grab the microphone- and I was most grateful).

Lindsay asked Joanne Harris how she copes with writing about difficult subjects. Joanne’s main advice was to write a bit of another project and then come back to the original piece.

She* also spoke about deadlines and the reason she was able to demand of her publisher that she would write whatever genre she wanted to in her own timescale (this is the mis-quote bit, I can’t remember how this wisdom was actually worded which is why I started this paragraph with *she).

This all came from Joanne Harris’s early days as an author. Her first published book The Evil Seed was about vampires. She then wrote a historical fiction Sleep, Pale Sister which her original publisher had wanted another vampire novel from her. (If you click on the bold writing above, this will take you to Joanne Harris’s website). These events led to Joanne writing Chocolat which she described as another book that publishers didn’t know what to do with. READERS WANTED IT THOUGH.

At this point during the author talk, my mouth was dry and I was a nervous as a quiet child in a school assembly. My husband gave me a look which I read as ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ (he didn’t really think he was at a talk about Mars bars – I was joking, he’s quite brainy really). Lindsay passed me the microphone (after it was Covid-safe wiped by Todmorden Book Festival) and I asked…

First of all, I asked the rest of the audience if it was ‘my turn’ I wanted to know if I’d pushed in. I then told Joanne that I had just finished book three of the Chocolat Series ‘Peaches for Monsieur le Cure‘ (I don’t know why I was rambling). I just wanted to get to the point that Joanne Harris’s characters are very vivid… Eventually I was able to stop tripping over my own tongue and ask if Joanne ‘sees’ (I meant visualise) her characters when she is writing them. AND if so, did the film version of Chocolat meet with her expectations?

Joanne Harris gave a great answer, she told us that whilst writing Chocolat she actually imagined Juliette Binoche when she was writing Vianne!

Joanne explained that writers don’t usually get to know about film adaptations until later but in the case of Chocolat, she was approached.

Joanne told the film folk about her thoughts for Juliette Binoche/Vianne Rocher, but was told ‘they want Whoopi Goldberg’ (apologies, I can’t remember any director or producer names Joanne Harris may or may not have mentioned because I was recovering from a panic attack). However, Whoopi Goldberg was not available (too busy filming Rat Race, I just checked on Wikipedia). Another actor’s name was mentioned but eventually Chocolat ‘s Vianne Rocher was played by Juliette Binoche – just as Joanne Harris had visualised when she was writing Chocolat (that’s during the 4 months she spent writing Chocolat – the whole audience gasped here)… I gasped because I was thinking wow! I bet Joanne Harris didn’t realise how strong her manifestation powers were… (also, what a great answer – Alison Steadman, Joanna Lumley and Courtney Love have been on my mind A LOT recently #writing life).

I wish I had longer to chat with Joanne Harris, because I wanted to explain I wasn’t trying to divert her attention away from her writing with my question about the film because the book is better than the film.

I’ve underlined the above to make sure I have got my point across. The book Chocolat is better than the film. There, I’ve said it again.

I know what you’re thinking… Johnny Depp was in that film. Joanne Harris told us that at the time, Johnny Depp was not on her radar (I can’t remember exactly how she worded it but it was one up from ‘didn’t have a clue who he was’). I am absolutely fine with that, Joanne Harris was busy writing fabulous books for us all to read; she didn’t have time to be knowing who Johnny Depp was!

Isn’t is wonderful that the small town of Todmorden has a book festival! ~click on this bold writing and follow the link to their website – I think you might be able to subscribe so that you don’t miss any future events (apologies for not writing this post earlier, I’ve been weary).

I would encourage attendance at book fairs/author talks because seeing a full theatre of likeminded readers is good for the soul (reading is usually a solitary hobby). PLUS authors are lovely people and it is wonderful to hear how they magically produce their magnificent books.

Happy reading, Samantha 🙂

PS

My latest novel is now available to pre-order from Amazon. My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister will be released on the 30th of November 2021. I plan to blog about how I wrote this novel in my next post.

Book Review Lie of the Tiger by John Martin (it is part of a promotion, and it’s about cats)

Lie of the Tiger by John Martin

More about Lie of the Tiger by John Martin

Paddy – if that is indeed his real name – has taken the reins of the Windy Mountain Tasmanian Tiger Museum, only to discover the previous manager left the building in a coffin.

Then he finds out that the devious owners don’t actually want him to succeed anyway.

The old men’s dogged determination isn’t good news for a third octogenarian who has the only legal dog in town, but stuff him.

Oodles and Wish-Wash have good reason not to like The Mayor anyway and if he won’t help, they are prepared to break the law.

This is a funny, sometimes touching story with a quirky character around almost every corner.

Lie of the Tiger is book 1 of the Windy Mountain series. Each book has its own story.

But if you enjoy this one, Blokes on a Plane (book 2), Whitey and the Six Dwarfs (book 3), Blokes in Donegal (book 4), and Blokes in the House (book 5, inspired by the events of 2020), await with many of the same endearing characters.

Lie of the Tiger is free as part of this PROMOTION until 31 August

I read Lie of the Tiger last week and it really made me smile. And! I had never heard of a Tasmanian tiger.

Here’s my review:

Lie of the Tiger is a quirky satire about a Tasmanian tiger museum. The book is educational (I had never heard of this extinct cat) and funny. Yes, it is because John Martin has a funny way with words. Character names are playfully chosen Wish-Wash and Oodles, and later Sergeant Stretch (especially when someone stretches out their arms to catch him). The plot is engaging. To keep his job, Paddy must succeed in reopening the museum, but this means proving that these stripy wildcats are still alive and well near Windy Mountain. Recommended for cat lovers, big cat conspiracy enthusiasts and readers with a sense of humour.

https://books.bookfunnel.com/freeandfun/3295975751

Apologies, I did promise to write a blog post about an interesting conversation I had with my sister-in-law. This will be about books, reading and why we choose to read certain books. I haven’t written the post yet because I’ve been really suffering with fatigue. I’ve got MS, it’s just something I have to put up with.

At least I can still read. And write! Another reason I am worn out at the moment is I am writing my next book. This is about a woman trying to find her way in life after lockdown. Although I am enjoying writing it, I am drained!

Have some free books on me, have a great weekend, Samantha 🙂

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (I just need to say something)…

I didn’t want this book to end.

I don’t usually review books that have a million reviews only because I think what does my little voice count amongst over six thousand (insert big number) reviews?

But I just have something to say; this book is the most beautifully bittersweet piece of art I have ever read in my 46 years (and I’ve read a lot of books during that time).

Adunni (the protagonist) would have wanted me to because she had a louding voice.

The Girl with the Louding Voice: The Bestselling Word of Mouth Hit That Will Win Over Your Heart by [Abi Daré]

This book gives so much to the reader, and so much to me that I didn’t want it to end. Adunni is a fourteen year old girl who lives with her father and brothers in a village. Her mother died recently and she is obviously still grieving. Adunni knows there is a better life for her somewhere, a life with choices. I loved the thread where a bloke arrives in his car asking for her mum. This is the start of Adunni’s quest, and she is so sweet she dreams of making a better life not just for herself but her family too.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Adunni’s village is in Nigeria, in 2014. Adunni’s father sells her to be the third wife of a much older man. This means that Adunni cannot follow her dreams. (I’m not spoiling here – this is in the blurb).

A heart-breaking tragedy follows and this catapults Adunni into yet another new life. She must run away from her marriage and accept employment as a maid.

Everything she has been through does not break her spirit (or her voice). At this point in the novel, I had enjoyed the rich characters. The characters that come next are even more gripping and real. I felt like I was there, in Adunni’s little bedroom waking up at five in the morning to complete thankless tasks.

I wanted to know what made Big Madam the way she was.

I loved Adunni’s journey, she used her voice and she learned to listen.

I wondered if Kofi was the friend who would listen to Adunni – he was not the only one.

The language made me smile, and made me ‘see’ the characters.

The ending is just awesome, and I cried. I cried tears of happiness, tears of hope, (and I felt a bit sorry for myself because the book ended).

Recommending books is tricky – but I AM recommending you read this one.


Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

Honestly, I can’t do this book justice. It is my new favourite. I’ve told my daughter she MUST read it (she is 24, doesn’t read but definitely wants to read this).

I was left feeling lucky that I went to school, that I’ve had the opportunity to make choices about my life. I will never ignore a book, just because it has been ‘hyped’. And I will always use my voice – Adunni would want me to.

Happy reading, Samantha 🙂

A Curmudgeonly Christmas

Every summer, I notice writers talking about their Christmas books on social media. A bit upside down, I thought. But last December, I brought Curmudgeon Avenue to a close with the final book in the series ‘A Curmudgeonly Christmas’. 

Curmudgeon Avenue has been going on for quite some time, some would say for longer than reasonably necessary… In this Curmudgeonly final, the nincompoops of Curmudgeon Avenue would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Gordon Bennett is obsessed with the pothole growth on the street as we get proper emosh at Wantha and Ricky’s wedding. But! Did Wantha ever get to find out who her daddy is?
Christmas is coming, and Francesca is getting fat meanwhile Zandra may have overdone it with the scented candles. And the ghosts are immune to any and all lockdown restrictions.

Put down the selection box and the sausage rolls, A Curmudgeonly Christmas is a perfect end to the Curmudgeon Avenue series and the year!


Don’t just take my word for it, I noticed a fabulous review has popped up for Curmudgeon Avenue #1 – my cheeks are hurting I’m smiling so much! 

If you are enjoying the most wonderful time of the year, maybe you would like to have a look at this Christmas book promotion : https://books.bookfunnel.com/christmasjuly21/p2re6562xn

Just a quick post from me this week because I’m doing my packing for our Christmas holiday... I mean summer holiday (in the UK).

Happy reading, Samantha.

Twenty Years Ago, I Had a Dream About John Lennon, and He Told Me Off

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Actually, this happened slightly longer than twenty years ago because I remember the job I was in and who I spoke to about this vivid dream I had about John Lennon. He told me off and I was gutted.

I was born in the mid seventies, I missed the Beatles boat age wise. However they were still EVERYWHERE when I was growing up in the north of England (Manchester, not Liverpool). Mum always had Radio 2 tuned in before we set off for school, and I do remember John Lennon’s death in the news. I would have been five and a half years old. Old enough for a significant news event to stick in my head I suppose.

John Lennon 1969 (cropped).jpg

Here’s the dream, all I remember is that John Lennon told me off. He really shouted at me and I remember being gutted because John Lennon’s showbiz persona always seemed so friendly. I knew he had his causes but there was no need to give me a telling off.

YOU SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS (he meant my job), YOU SHOULD BE MAKING PEOPLE LAUGH.

I knew that John Lennon meant my job, because the dream was ‘set’ at my place of work at the time (I won’t lie, it was a stressful place to work in the care sector). I thought I was good at my job, and leaving my nursing career was not my choice. I eventually retired due to ill health (I have MS). At the time I had this dream, I was completely healthy. Yet here was the most famous and talented Liverpudlian ever to grace earth with his presence telling me I was in the wrong job.

The dream was so powerful that my mind was still blown when I turned up for work later that day (I was most probably on a nightshift, knowing my luck).

I told one of my colleagues that John Lennon told me off in a dream and she was very interested. ‘There’s a book about that,‘ she told me. Now, this was well before smartphones, so I couldn’t ‘Google it’ and the work colleague could not remember the name of the book, but she was convinced of its existence. She had read about it somewhere, or someone had told her about it. I know there is the magic of Facebook, but even if I was in touch with this person I wouldn’t ask ‘Do you remember a conversation we had over twenty years ago?’ I already sound potty.

The dream has stayed in my mind and I have been reminded of it every now and then (the Beatles are still everywhere). I haven’t managed to find a book about what it means to dream of John Lennon.

I did find a book on Amazon about John Lennon’s actual dreams – I think this means John Lennon’s ambition. It is an inspirational book for children, rather than what I am talking about.

John Lennon (Little People, BIG DREAMS Book 52) by [Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara, Octavia Bromell]
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08LR2DNHX/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

And if you search for ‘Dreams about John Lennon’ then loads of results come up about Paul McCartney. Apparently he regularly dreams about John Lennon (but does not get told off). That’s understandable, they were best song writing mates (and had actually met, not like me – some random fool).

Paul McCartney smiling

Photo from Wikipedia, Here is a link to one of the articles about Paul McCartney dreaming about John Lennon. https://www.nme.com/news/music/paul-mccartney-john-lennon-dreams-the-late-show-with-stephen-colbert-interview-the-beatles-2550940

This could potentially be a great idea for a book – if someone hasn’t already written it (so many books out there it is really hard to search).

What about John Lennon’s message, ‘I should be making people laugh?’

This could have been a weird psychic, intuitive glimpse into the future. At the time I had the dream, yes I loved reading but I had no idea that I would one day become writer (that’s not strictly true, I do remember telling my parents that I wanted to be an author, and wrote the word on a box then put a doll in the box. Who knows if I had just found the word ‘author’, but I like to think I meant it). I also said that I wanted to be a nurse. How accurate young Samantha was!

Twenty years later I have made a few readers smile with my Curmudgeon Avenue series. And some have actually laughed – they said so in a review!

I’m dying to know if anyone else has had a celebrity dream – especially one with a message. And especially a dream including a message from John Lennon!

Some time after the dream, but before this post I did see this John Lennon quote; I think this is his real message:

Happiness Is The Key To Life | John lennon quotes, Happy quotes, Words

(Actually, I saw this quote originally as ‘the teacher told me I didn’t understand the question’ – they don’t say ‘assignment’ in Liverpool 😉 ) Just be happy, innit?

Have a great weekend, Samantha 🙂

PS two of my books are listed in promotions at the moment. The final of Curmudgeon Avenue can be found in the Christmas Fun in the Summertime promo until the 31st of July 21. And ‘1962 (an uplifting tale of 1960s Lancashire) is part of the Soulful Reads promo, which runs until the 19th of July.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B01M4LPH9U

Daft Things Folk Have Said to me Since I have Been Writing.

We all say silly things from time to time, but saying daft things to a writer is a favourite subject of mine. My husband told me I MUST start my own YouTube channel (I didn’t) but when I had a nosy, I found an author talking about the things that people have said that really irritated her. She seemed really angry (this was some years ago, I don’t know if the film is still there).

The red writing is my response (which, yes, I should have said at the time but meh).

  1. ‘I don’t like dystopian books – I only read science fiction’.

Err…

Star Trek Picard Writer Blames Patrick Stewart For The Dark Tone & Dystopia  : Star_Trek

2 ‘Hmm a five star review for your first book? I bet she gives everything five stars.’

Me: That’s a horrible thing to say to an author.

3. ‘It’s you, isn’t it?’

No, ‘it’s’ not me, it is a fictional character that I invented. Think about it, Stephen King is not a teenage girl is he?

4.’ Are you still writing your ‘book’ ?’

Yes I am, this one will be my eleventh book.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

5. Similarly ‘Oh, you’re an AUTHOR‘ (sing-song voice)

Me; ‘Oh you’re a (insert occupation here)’ ~ actually, the person who said this to me is not a builder/plasterer/decorator, the photo made me smile.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

6. ‘My friend is dying to meet you – he wants to be a writer.’

Meets friend, friend says nowt. (I’m not going to steal your book ideas!)

William Shakespeare - Quotes, Plays & Wife - Biography

7. ‘I’ll definitely write you a review.’

That old chestnut.

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

8. ‘I can’t see what’s being satirised (in a review)’

Me: let’s just check with the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms by Dr Baldick shall we? Satire: A mode of writing that exposes the failings of individuals, institutions, or societies to ridicule and scorn. (Oxford University Press, 2015). That sounds EXACTLY like my six part series, ‘Curmudgeon Avenue’ .

9. ‘What do they call a six-part-series? Me ‘A six-part-series’. There ensued a long conversation ‘Is it a sextuplet? Is it a hexagon?

Me ‘NO IT’S A SIX-PART SERIES. IN LITERATURE IT’S A SIX-PART-SERIES!’ No one listens, but they do all look at me like I’m stupid (despite my 10 published books and creative writing degree).

Photo by Olenka Sergienko on Pexels.com

10. Who published you? Because my mum has written her life story and… (long story here about someone’s mum writing a book).

Me: This was obviously someone trying to find out if I’m self published or not. I am – I’m proud to be an indie author and I wouldn’t have it any other way. (I don’t know why, but I feel I have to add that I have been editorially selected when I had a short story published in a magazine).

11. And here is the most popular one: I would write a book if I had the time

Me: What’s stopping you?

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(When I published my novel ‘1962’) You can’t possibly have been alive in 1962! How can you write a book set in 1962!

Me: correct – I was born in 1975. Hilary Mantel was not alive during Queen Elizabeth I times either.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thank you for reading today’s blog. Please share your experiences of daft things that people have said to you since you have been a writer. I may seem a little curmudgeonly today – no doubt I will think of something else I should have included in this blog/someone is about to say something daft after I have published.

Have a great weekend and here are my curmudgeonly books:

Samantha 🙂 https://www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B01M4LPH9U

Poems From the Vault #2

Hi Everyone,

As promised, I have looked for (and found) poems that I wrote ages ago. Last week was poems from my Creative Writing module, this week one poem that I wrote at the library course I did and one reworking of an old poem that was submitted for my degree.

Eyeliner

The hallway frames the front door of my home.

Guarding me from well-wishers, I need to be alone.

Seasons, styles or Saturdays, there is always eyeliner,

bold black wings from cut price to designer.

I woke the other day, robbed of my right hand

sudden stolen senses, are hard to understand.

War paint frames my face, I’m ready for the world.

Without eyeliner,  I look a different girl.

Blurred vision, a thousand texts becoming unbearable.

In her best posh voice, she tells me I ‘look terrible’

Healing, time and patience all falls into place

I’m faking being well, with eyeliner on my face.

Samantha Henthorn © 2015

photo of venus eyeliner pencil set
Photo by ud835udc15ud835udc1eud835udc27ud835udc2eud835udc2c ud835udc07ud835udc03 ud835udc0cud835udc1aud835udc24ud835udc1e- ud835udc2eud835udc29 & ud835udc0fud835udc1eud835udc2bud835udc1fud835udc2eud835udc26ud835udc1e on Pexels.com

I’m sorry I didn’t come to your funeral.

The long-distance made it impossible.

Your sister’s phone call echoed strangely,

reminding me of you – I almost knew.

I’m sorry I didn’t go to your funeral. 

Happy days and happy memories,

time dissolved the Christmas card list.

Robins, feathers, bereavement tokens,

I wonder if you know the reason;

how sorry I am I didn’t go to your funeral.  

I don’t know why the above has come out in small writing- I copy/pasted it from a word document.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Samantha xx

I wrote these books! https://t.co/aqJFqYlGWl?a

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Poems From the Vault.

Enough time has passed since the end of my creative writing module so that I can publish some of my degree poems – even though I’m not a poet.

No Through Road

British summertime, always fine in the mid-1980s.

We dragged our feet for miles in the sweltering heat-

a family day out for a Guardian reader.

Not much fun for us, at seven, eight and fifteen.

We halted at a shut gate, obscured by a house.

A dead-end, no through road, my Mum was vexed.

Dad’s rambling book past its sell-by date.

 

A girl sits behind glass like a Pink and Pretty Barbie.

A privileged reflection, same blue eyes, same blond hair,

different opportunities – but at least I was outside.

I smiled and waved at her but she just stared at me,

looking down her nose at my catalogue clothes.

That scene has disappeared now, of

British village life, beauty and dead ends.

A glimpse of the ideal; the grass that’s always greener.

Pink and Pretty Barbie, how did your life turn out?

closed green wooden gate
Photo by Athena on Pexels.com

 

Drama in Pyjamas

 

Remember those insomnia filled nights?

Always something on my mind.

You held me close in cotton, naked

thighs would conspire without you.

My night time leg protectors,

now too old to be any use.

 

Your waistband is frayed and too tight anyway.

Holes in the ankles from when the dog was small.

A bleach-splash stain that sort of blended in.

I hear leopard print is in fashion again.

A favourite since the first time round,

with your never changing spots.

 

Sleeping in pyjamas

became housework in pyjamas,

graduated to gardening in pyjamas.

I almost went shopping

(that’s why I need a new pair).

 

We had some good times,

but now I don’t fit you

and you do not fit me;

tricky to choose something new.

Questioning attachments and familiarity.

Intimate to an unwelcome degree.

Drama in pyjamas please let go of me.

woman feet legs girl
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

As you may know, I am studying for a BA in Creative Writing. This is taking ages because I am doing it part-time (got to pace myself!)

Here is a photo of me pacing myself (not).

person laying on sand
Photo by Rebeca Gonu00e7alves on Pexels.com

More poetry next week (if I haven’t deleted them)

Happy Wednesday, Samantha xx

I wrote these books! https://t.co/aqJFqYlGWl?amp=1

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Herding Behaviour (why are we obsessed with reviews?)

Why are we so obsessed with book reviews?

Reviews, reviews, reviews. 

That is all you’ll ever hear an indie author talk about.

Have we got enough reviews for our book?

How many reviews are enough reviews?

Do people actually read reviews when choosing a new book?

THE MIND BOGGLES

This post is not about answering how we get reviews – if I knew that, I wouldn’t be writing this would I?*

*(You could try engaging with Goodreads advice groups or maybe employ a blog tour organiser).

person holding white and brown newspaper
Photo by Ekrulila on Pexels.com

A Good Friend of mine is a top marketing executive. She doesn’t have time to read because of her (very cute) toddler son. We have been friends for years and years, even before I started writing. She lives in the south of England now so when we actually see one another we have loads to talk about. Not usually work.

ANYWAY last year, before all this lockdown business, when we met up, I asked her for some tips on marketing my books.

She didn’t even blink, ‘GET REVIEWS.’ My friend said.

Although she added the caveat that she doesn’t work in book publishing I do value her opinion. I think she is right.

I have been thinking about nothing but reviews since I became an independent author in 2016. Slight exaggeration, I do think about other things but you get the picture.

However…

Reading is a very individual thing.

What I like to read is not the same as what someone else would like to read. We have all read books and raved about them to our friends and been shot down with an ‘Oh I didn’t like it.’

Do not get me started on book clubs…

So why are reviews so important?

Human behaviour has a lot to do with this. Herding behaviour… (now you are all imagining livestock being rounded up aren’t you?)

two cows
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

“Moooo… I heard Samantha Henthorn has a new book coming out later this year. Moo.”

“I heard she’s pants, her last release has only got five ratings. Moooooo.”

HERDING BEHAVIOUR IS A THING – GOOGLE IT

If my friends, the cows start moving in one direction then, as a rule of thumb all the other animals will follow. They will follow without direction. This is the same thing that happens to humans. This is why fashions and fads take hold. Rightly or wrongly, if a few people are doing something then us humans will follow.

Without direction, humans will all read the same book. Because everyone else has read it. And how do they know that? Because the book has got lots of reviews. Good or bad, if lots of people have left a review, then the book must be worth reading. Right?

A few years ago, I decided I didn’t want to be a cow anymore. I felt I was being tricked. I had been tricked, at one time, I only read what everyone else was reading. So I started reading a lot of books by independent authors. But before this…

One of the first books I read when my daughter reached the age I was allowed to properly start reading again was The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audre Niffenegger. A really famous book, I read it in 2004 before the film and everything. I was still working at the time and lent it to one of my work colleagues. This person never returned books that others had lent her, so imagine my surprise (and tetchiness) when she presented me with MY copy of The Time Traveler’s Wife and told me that I HAD to read it. (Even though I was the one who recommended it to her in the first place!)

Front cover of book showing young girl from the waist down in knee socks and Mary Janes and empty brown Oxfords next to her on a picnic blanket.

THAT IS WHAT I MEAN BY HERDING BEHAVIOUR

When I think back, two incidents involving shops convinced me of herding behaviour. When I was a teenager I had a Saturday job in Manchester Arndale. The shop I worked in sold costume jewellery and hair scrunchies (it was the 90s). One day, a big box arrived with ‘sale items’. It was a massive box of hairbands. These hairbands were dropped into another big box complete with price sticker and positioned right at the front of the shop. A couple of hours later, none of the hairbands had sold. The shop manager had a great idea. (!)

She instructed me to put my coat on (cleverly hiding my uniform) and pretend to be a customer, rooting through the box of hairbands. ‘Try a few on’ she had said. I was very embarrassed but it worked! I didn’t even have to try any of the things on my head, customers started coming over to see what I was looking at. Soon a crowd gathered and for half an afternoon in early nineties Manchester, a trend was set on the wearing of headbands.

two pink rose flower accent headbands on white surface
Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

The second shop related herding incident was another embarrassing incident for me. Even before I was diagnosed with MS, I had trouble with blurred vision – triggered by bright neon lights in my case. Not long after I had been diagnosed (and suffered a few relapses of optic neuritis) I went to Sri Lanka for a friend’s wedding. (A different friend to the one mentioned earlier). This was in 2008. One day during the holiday, my friend (who had visited Sri Lanka many times) suggested we all visit a department store. I really wish I could remember the name of this massive store that sold everything, but I can’t. We were tourists and had money to spend.

At some point, I was separated from my friends but some embroidered cushion covers had caught my eye. I thought oh I had better pay for these before I go to the next floor to look for my friends. WELL, a combination of jet-lag tiredness, panic and neon light-induced eyesight problems landed me in front of what I thought was a service point. The shop assistant will probably come back when she sees me standing here at the till. I thought…

It was probably only a few moments but by the time I realised that I was not waiting in a queue to pay… an actual queue had formed around me.

I am so embarrassed and I didn’t even know how to say sorry. I had accidentally lured a crowd of people to look at a pile of pillowcases.

Shame I can’t do that with books…

Even when I thought I was being tricked and decided not to read the ‘BOOKS THAT EVERYONE IS READING’ I still don’t know what influenced me to read the books I have over the past few years. Do any of us really choose anything for ourselves? Do we follow each other? I just know that there are more books out there than the popular ones. Although… it is good to have read a book and be able to have a conversation about it with someone else…

‘Famous’ books I have read recently are The Testaments by Margaret Atwood The Testaments: WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE 2019 (The Handmaid’s Tale)

And My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

My Sister, the Serial Killer: The Sunday Times Bestseller

These books have nearly TEN THOUSAND  reviews between them on Amazon (at the time I wrote this post). If you would like to see books I have read recently, check out my Goodreads widget at the bottom of my blog page or click HERE

 

Thank you for joining me on my post about why I think book reviews work. If you have enjoyed reading a book recently, don’t forget to review it.

Happy reading, and stay safe,

Samantha xx

I wrote these books !

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