Tag Archives: publishing

My Books of the Year 2021

All year, I have shared my favourite books on the Books of the Week segment of my weekly Facebook Live show, Fab Night In Chatty Thing. 2021 has been a brilliant year for awesome books and I’ve discovered so many fantastic authors.

Here are the 16 books I have chosen for MY BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2021…

My Top Three Books of the Year are:

You, Me & The Sea by Elizabeth Haynes – quite simply, one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Hope, redemption, community, finding your place in the world, love and the wild beauty of a Scottish island in this beguiling, affecting, completely uplifting story. It’s a book I will return to often.

Black Drop by Leonora Nattrass – intrigue, thrills and a cracking whodunnit set against the backdrop of 1794 London, when fears of revolution fuelled by events in France and America create an atmosphere of suspicion and fear. I loved the setting, the characters and the thrill-ride of this story, so gorgeously captured by the author’s vivid storytelling.

The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox – a total joy of a thriller with one of the best hooks I’ve seen in crime fiction. DI Joe Lazarus discovers he is dead, meets a superbly cool spirit guide Daisy May, and is tasked with solving his own murder to escape an eternity in purgatory. I adored this complete romp of a thriller, its breathtaking characterisation, devlishly devious twists and utter delight of the author skipping through every line.

I also loved these books…

The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan – an evocative, richly imagined historical delight, following the lives of two very different women and their love of Edinburgh’s Botanical Garden that brings them together. I adored the cinematic breadth of the world Sara Sheridan creates – and the vivid opening chapter is one of the best I’ve ever read.

I Know What You’ve Done by Dorothy Koomson – a breathless, supremely twisty thriller that is as brilliantly conceived as it is devious, weaving the secrets and lies of a neighbourhood into a tense, page-turning thrill-ride of a story. I love Dorothy’s books and this is her best yet.

Asking for a Friend by Andi Osho – I loved this warm, wise and hilarious story of three women who decide to approach dating differently. It’s a celebration of life, love and female friendship, with three irresistible main characters and their fantastically observed worlds.

The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths – a tense, masterfully woven crime thriller that places forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway at the centre of a trail of bodies, Bronze Age burials and local superstition. From its wonderful cast of characters to its supremely spooky backdrop and stunning sense of danger and foreboding, this was a perfect thriller from one of my favourite authors.

The Single Dad’s Handbook by Lynsey James – a tender, heartbreaking, uplifting story of love after loss, as single dad Evan follows the advice of his late wife Claire through a book of letters she left for him to help him move on for his own sake and that of their five-year-old daughter Violet. I loved the gentle humour, wry observation and beautifully drawn relationship between Evan and Violet. A very special book.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint – 2021 was the year of classical tales reimagined and this gorgeously crafted novel was the best I read. Reimagining the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur from the perspective of Ariadne, Princess of Crete, this is a story of love, sacrifice and the unique viewpoint of women from a time where society perceived them to have little power. What I loved most was the book’s lyrical beauty, a gorgeously written, hugely imaginative story quite unlike anything else I read this year.

One Ordinary Day at a Time by Sarah J. Harris – I adore stories about ordinary people daring to wish for extraordinary things and this story of burger restaurant worker Simon and single mum Jodie stole my heart. Moving, hugely uplifting and written with such warmth and humanity, this story is one to savour, treasure and return to when you want to be reminded that life can be wonderful.

Home by Penny Parkes – I read this later in the year after seeing so many readers falling in love with it and from the opening chapters I knew it was going to be a special book. Housesitter Anna’s longing to belong in a world where she gets to experience other people’s lives is a compelling hook for a story packed with wisdom, life and light. I loved this book so much!

The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor – the second novel in Andrew Taylor’s gorgeous James Marwood and Cat Lovett series of historical crime thrillers set in Restoration era London (and the series that made me fall in love with historical fiction). The cast of characters, the evocative depiction of London in 1667 and the twists of political intrigue and devious plots are all wonderful, while the refreshingly contemporary, unlikely friendship of Marwood and Lovett sparkles from every page. I adored it!

I Know What I Saw by Imran Mahmood – I think I forgot to breathe for large sections of this thoroughly gripping thriller! A fantastic set-up with a crime witnessed by a man nobody wants to believe set against the harsh realities of life at the fringes of society and how our preconceptions can blind us to the real story. The writing is breathtaking and the deep questions raised by the story stayed with me. I read both the physical book and the audiobook and found both compelling and completely immersive.

Bad Apples by Will Dean – the fourth book in Will Dean’s fantastic Tuva Moodyson series of scandi-thrillers was the best yet, claustrophobic, supremely scary with fabulously weird settings. The tension in this book is off the chart and I haven’t yet recovered from the final, shattering conclusion! I read this book with a mixture of delight and total awe, rationing pages towards the end because I was so engrossed in the story. LOVED it!

The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves – I fell in love with Ann Cleeves’ new Two Rivers series of crime thrillers starring Detective Matthew Venn with The Long Call, so couldn’t wait to read the second in the series. It is a rare thing – a breakneck-paced thriller that allows you time to be fully immersed in the world in which it is set. I love the character of Matthew Venn, so markedly different to any other crime thriller protagonist with the warmth and security of his home life and innate sense of justice set against the world he finds himself in. In this book, the things he loves the most are on the line as he investigates gruesome murders in a community of artists – it’s a heart-in-mouth, breath stealing gift of a book and I loved every page.

The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville – this is the kind of story I would normally shy away from reading, being as I am a self-confessed utter wuss when it comes to anything scary. But I adore Stuart Neville’s brilliant writing and that was enough to pull me into this haunting, terrifying book. I am so glad I dared to read it! One of the most profoundly affecting, compelling and viscerally emotive books I have read, it follows the story of a house with a terrible secret and the women whose lives become inextricably linked with it. It’s past ghost story, part horror, but also a story of belonging, life and identity – a total triumph of a book.

So there you go, my favourite reads of this year! Which books did you love in 2021? Join me when Fab Night In Chatty Thing resumes in the New Year, starting on Wednesday 5th January at 8pm on my Facebook Author page to find out which books will light up 2022! You can watch all this year’s shows here. Merry Christmas and see you all next year!

FNI Chatty Thing 11th Nov

This week’s Fab Night In Chatty Thing FB Live show was so much fun! Watch it all below for chat, fun, a sneaky extract from my unpublished thriller, my amazing Books of the Week and lots more!

My Books of the Week this week are:

The Diabolical Bones (Brontë Mysteries 2) by Bella Ellis

The Game by Luca Veste

Persuading Annie by Melissa Nathan

WATCH IT ALL BY CLICKING HERE

Reviews start at 18mins 25secs.

Extract of my unpublished thriller The Silent Voices from 37mins 30secs.

I write… for her

I’m often asked who you should write for. Is it for a market, for yourself, for an audience? It’s taken me a long time to find the right answer because of course you should write for yourself and keep readers in mind, too. But I think I’ve finally worked out who I’m writing for: it’s all about this tiny photo I keep on my desk:

KIng Eds MeIt’s a very blurry photo of me, taken around 1990 when I was seventeen. I was at sixth-form college in Stourbridge studying for my English, History and Theatre Studies A-levels – and evenings and weekends at home I was working on my very first book.

I hadn’t told anyone I wrote. My family knew I was doing something because I was writing on a travel typewriter I’d been given for Christmas (remember those?) – the kind that became a rather heavy mini-suitcase when you closed the lid. They didn’t know the story I was writing, only the noise it made.

I loved drama and wanted to be an actress. I had a vision of myself as a confident woman one day, striding off into the world chasing after her dreams. On stage I was confident: in person I apologised, worried, played down my own achievements. I thought I was fat. (I wasn’t fat). I had a strong voice but whispered in choir because I’d been told it stood out too much. (It did stand out, that’s what made it awesome). But when I wrote, I could believe anything was possible – even if the many splodges of Tipp-Ex on the pages told a different story.

And then I decided to tell the guy I had a crush on that I wrote.

(You know a story that begins like this isn’t going to end well…)

He was the leading light in my Theatre Studies class and in the amateur theatre group I performed with on Saturdays. I was a T-Bird to his Danny Zuko, the Ugly Sister to his Prince Charming. He agreed to partner with me for a duologue piece as part of our course – the Inspector from J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls grilling Sheila Birling over her mistreatment of Eva Smith. While we were rehearsing alone one lunchtime in the drama studio, I seized my chance.

‘I’m writing a book, actually.’

What I imagined would happen next proves I’m both a writer to my core and a hopeless romantic: I imagined him taking my hand, my hair blowing around my shoulders, the London Philharmonic Orchestra wheeling into the background to accompany my confession with suitably sweeping strings. He would gaze into my eyes, murmuring, ‘I’ve waited my whole life for a woman who writes…’

What he actually said was a little different.

‘You write stories? Shouldn’t you have given that up at primary school?’

And that was when I quit as a writer.

I went home, binned the many sheets of my book, shelved my typewriter and sobbed into my duvet. I didn’t write another story for ten years.

I write for her.

I write for the teenager who believed one idiot instead of following her heart. I write for the young woman setting out into her life longing for adventure who came home and cowered instead. I write for her – because every chapter I write, every draft I finish, every book I edit and see through to publication, is proof she was right. It was possible. It is possible. It’s happening now.

She’s on my desk (flanked by the Tenth Doctor because she’s awesome and deserves it) and I see her every time I sit down to write. I want her to know that she gets to write books for a living. Books that have gone around the world, translated into fifteen languages, read by over a million people. I want her to believe in herself and stop hiding.

The story I started to write after the ten-year hiatus went on to become Fairytale of New York, after years of secret writing. I’m currently writing my twelfth novel and my eleventh, Our Story, publishes on 3rd September. It’s about two people chasing their dream of writing. And the male protagonist is called Joe – which is the name seventeen-year-old me chose for her very first male lead in the book she was dreaming about.

I think she’d like that.

 

I Write for Her

New vlog! New book, new ideas and news

My latest vlog is here and it’s packed with new things!

There’s news about where I’m at with Book 11 (out later this year), my revamped newsletter and brand new Book Club, plus my online shop and exciting things coming later this year, which I’m very chuffed about…

Ask me a question for the next vlog! What would you like to know about writing, publishing, editing and books? Do you have a burning question about my novels, or a writing problem you’d like some help with? You can leave a comment below this post or contact me on Twitter @wurdsmyth, on Instagram @wurdsmyth, on Facebook at MirandaDickinsonAuthor, or via email: mirandawurdy@gmail.com If I answer your question, I’ll give you a shout out in my vlog.

Happy watching! xx

A Special Short Story for Christmas

Happy Christmas, lovelies! I wanted to give you all a little something to say thank you for your support in 2019, so read on for an EXCLUSIVE SHORT STORY…

the-christmas-window-by-miranda-dickinson

Click the link below to read the story!

It’s been a bit of a year this year and there have been lots of challenges both personally and professionally. I celebrated a decade as a published author and saw the publication of my tenth novel, The Day We MeetAgain. I won an award from wonderful writing collective 26 – the first award of my career – and I wrote what I hope will be a career-defining novel that will publish in 2020. I also battled illness, faced scary money worries and had to re-evaluate how I see myself. I’m going into the next decade understanding where I am and believing for better.

So here’s a gift from me to you, to thank you for all of your wonderful messages, book love and support this year and throughout my writing career. I promise you so many more stories to come – and this is the first.

THE CHRISTMAS WINDOW is a short story with snow, love and just a little bit of Christmas magic and I hope you enjoy it. Click the link below to read it.

Wishing you all the brightest things for 2020 xx

The Christmas Window ©Miranda Dickinson 2019

#Wurdy10k – My Gift to Writers

To celebrate reaching 10,000 followers, I’m doing a seven-day extravaganza of freebies, giveaways and competitions. Keep watching my tweets to see all of them! For DAY THREE, I have a very special prize and a big announcement for writers…

Wurdy10k Day 3First up, I have a prize for one published writer (traditional or self-published) and one not-yet-published writer.

For A PUBLISHED WRITER I am offering a free one-hour Skype chat where we can talk about your writing. Whatever you need – whether it’s encouragement, advice, or help – we can cover it during our chat. I want to support authors at all stages of their careers and help you stay in love with your words. However I can help, I will.

For AN UNPUBLISHED WRITER I am offering a free three-chapter critique of the book you are are writing or have completed. I can offer advice on tightening up the prose, creating an opening chapter that will have readers turning the pages to read more and crafting a novel opening that will grab the attention of agents, publishers and readers alike.

To be in with a chance of winning these prizes, email me: mirandawurdy@gmail.com and tell me about yourself and your work – and why you would like to win. The closing date for entries is 30th November 2019.

And here’s my BIG ANNOUNCEMENT for everyone: On THURSDAY 7th NOVEMBER I am hosting the very first WriteFoxyLIVE!

WriteFoxy LOGOWriteFoxyLIVE will be a one-hour Facebook Live event where you can ask any question about writing, editing and publishing. I’ll have lots of encouragement for you and best of all this is totally free! No registration needed, just join me on my FB author page: facebook.com/MirandaDickinsonAuthor. For five years my WriteFoxy events have been loved and enjoyed by writers at all stages of writing, from brand new writers to established authors. It’s a place where you can be encouraged, fall back in love with your words and hang out with fellow wordsmiths. I’ve wanted to make it available to everyone for a long time, so I’m thrilled to be bringing you WriteFoxyLIVE on THURSDAY 7th NOVEMBER, 7.30pm-8.30pm. It’s going to be so much fun!

Author Spotlight: TOBY FROST

On my blog I love to bring you authors I love who I think you’ll love too. Today I’m thrilled to welcome the brilliant TOBY FROST into the Author Spotlight. Author of the utterly fab Space Captain Smith series, he is now writing a new, darker fantasy series, the first book of which – Up To The Throne has just been published. 

Toby Frost author pic

When did you first decide that you wanted to write?

I first started writing when I was about 12. I can’t remember why, or what it was that pushed me from reading novels to writing them. My first efforts were scribbled in a small blue notebook, along with illustrations. I don’t remember either the text or the story being especially good!

What interests you as a writer?

So many things! Firstly, there’s a sense of exploring and creating. You’re showing the reader people and places, but you’re also creating them, so in a way you’re discovering them as well. I often find myself thinking “What if this happened?” and then following the story from there.

And then there’s characters. People are just fascinating, whether your book is set now, in the past or in the distant future. You’ve got to have strong characters that the reader cares about. That means that, whoever they are, what they’re doing has to make sense. I love seeing what happens when two very different characters clash.

For me, concepts like theme and subtext take second place to the story and characters. Because I write fantastical stories, I’m often writing about something in the real world through a surreal, magical lens. But it’s always got to feel convincing. I find history fascinating, and I often steal bits and pieces to make my writing more believable. Whether you’re talking about a trip to the shops or a journey to Mars, the reader has to think, “Yes, that’s what it would be like.”

Toby Frost SCS Books 1

Are you a plotter or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I never know how to answer this question! I think about what I’m going to write for a long time before I start. I’m often pondering a second book while I’m writing a first one. I think I’m probably more a plotter, but I do sometimes have moments where I stop and think “Hey! Wouldn’t it by better if I just did something completely different?”. So maybe 75% plotter.

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?

I don’t, really. I don’t find it difficult to write, and I’m lucky in that. I don’t have to be in a particular mood or even a place. Having a day job, I tend to work in the lunchtimes and evenings, but I’d be just as happy writing at other times. Preferably on a luxury yacht or my own private spacecraft.

Toby Frost SCS Books 2.jpg

What inspires you as a writer?

Pretty much everything! I’ve come to think that writing is a way of interpreting and processing the things I experience, albeit in a metaphorical and indirect way. Also, I’m influenced by history, by places and by other fiction, written and visual. So I’m always soaking up ideas and influences, although a lot get discarded. I don’t think I can switch that off – not that I’d want to!

What are the best things about being a writer?

One of the best things must be seeing my own work in bookshops. To see your own novel for sale with a great cover is amazing. A few years ago, I did a reading at a steampunk event and a man came up to me afterwards. He said that a friend of his had got very depressed after a death in the family, and my books had helped cheer him up. That was a pretty excellent moment, too.

And the worst?

It’s hard to think of any. Maybe the expectation that some people have that you’re extremely wealthy? If I had to point to one moment, it would be a couple of years ago at a writing convention, where I was on a panel with another author who I was trying to impress with my literary knowledge. I climbed up onto the stage and whacked my head on a low-hanging beam. After I’d finished staggering around clutching my head, I went on to do the panel, but my aura of genius was gone (if it had ever been there!). Goodness only knows what I said after being hit on the head.

Toby Frost book pic

Tell me about your new novel, Up To The Throne.

It’s a fantasy story set in an imaginary city in a magically-enhanced version of the Renaissance. Giulia, the lead character, returns to her home city after several years, to take revenge on the man who tried to kill her. She’s clever, skilled and still burning with anger, but the world has moved on, and her enemy is no longer a criminal but a rising politician with designs on the throne. Killing him could throw the principality into chaos. As she closes in on him, she starts to realise just what taking her revenge will do to the people she cares about, and has to make hard choices.

How have you found writing a darker fantasy series? Has it required a different approach to your Space Captain Smith books?

It is different, because it stresses different things. Usually, I worry if I’ve gone for very long without telling a joke. Here, it’s more that I’ve got to keep the atmosphere up, and keep the story moving. The same basics of character and storytelling are still there, but a more serious story needs a more engrossing plot. However, in terms of actually writing it, it’s been very similar. Things have inspired the writing in much the same way, and the characters and setting of Giulia’s fantastical Renaissance come together in much the same way as the Space Empire does in Space Captain Smith.

If you could have a dream cover quote from any author, living or dead, who would it be?

“It filled me with laughter, joy and hope for the future.” – George Orwell.

What are your top three tips for writers?

Well, first up, a disclaimer: the more I write, the less comfortable I am in telling other people how to do it. I don’t think there’s a set route to good writing, much less to getting published. But, since you asked…

1) Practice. Get used to the experience of turning thoughts into words. The main cause of books never getting into print is that they’re never finished. Practice not only improves your writing, but gets you into the habits of writing and editing. The task of putting words down becomes much less daunting once you’ve got accustomed to it.

2) Learn about writing. In the past, I would have said “Read more books” here, but it’s not just reading: it’s understanding and learning from books, TV shows, films, real life and anything else. You can learn a lot reading good-quality novels outside your usual genre. Personally, I get a lot out of reading how-to books (Stephen King’s On Writing is particularly good), but it varies from person to person. One very good way of learning is to go to events or join a writing group. My own writing improved vastly after joining the St Albans writing group.

3) Persist! It’s easy to be put off by your first few rejections, but you have to get used to it and carry on. If the first book you write isn’t a massive success, don’t give up. Start work on another project (but don’t throw the first one away! You never know, after all). Keep learning, keep going to events, making contacts, finding out new things. You might find that something you couldn’t get traditionally published works well as a self-published book, or vice versa. The important thing is to stay enthusiastic about your writing and always keep trying to improve and succeed.

Do you have a dream project you’d love to write?

I’ve got two! The first is a series of epic fantasy novels set in the same world as Up To The Throne. They’d have a wider setting and be about more powerful characters, but they’d tie into the Giulia stories and tell a grander, longer story. The other project is a set of linked novellas with an ensemble cast, about the futuristic secret service glimpsed in the Space Captain Smith books. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve started work on both…

Thanks so much for braving the Author Spotlight! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Only that Up To The Throne is available on Kindle and in paperback. Just click this link!

How fab was that?! I’m a huge fan of Toby’s writing and can’t wait to read Up To The Throne. You can find out more about Toby at his website, on Facebook at tobyfrostauthor and follow him on Twitter @isambardsmith. Watch out for more Author Spotlights coming soon! 

The Day We Meet Again is coming soon!

I had the idea for The Day We Meet Again two and a half years ago, walking through St Pancras Station in London, when I saw the statue of Sir John Betjeman for the very first time…

Everything appeared in that moment: Phoebe and Sam – the two people who would meet and fall for one another when their trains were delayed; the question of whether you should put your life on hold if love takes you by surprise, even the journeys both of them would take. It doesn’t always happen like that, at least not for me. But the story was instantly one I wanted to write.

As it turned out, Phoebe and Sam would face more delays until I could get them onto the page. But they refused to leave until I did. This year, on 5th September, they will finally star in my tenth novel.

Watch out for a big, sparkly announcement about The Day We Meet Again this Friday (31st May) at 5pm – and keep watching this blog, my TwitterInstagram and Facebook posts for lots more exciting things….

I can’t wait to share Phoebe and Sam’s story with you. It’s been a bit of a long wait, but it’ll be worth it!

TDWMA Proof Spines Stack

 

NEW VLOG – My BIG P-Day Surprise!

When I agreed to meet Cathy Bramley for lunch on P-Day for Somewhere Beyond the Sea, I had no idea what she’d secretly planned…

Instead of a quiet lunch and stock signing at Waterstones Birmingham, Cathy had arranged for my wonderful friends Jo QuinnRachael Lucas and my lovely agent Hannah to travel from all over the country to give me the BIGGEST surprise. I have never had a day like it!

I filmed a vlog on the day – you can see how utterly delighted and shocked I was! Apologies for the squeals! I’d expected publication day to be a quiet, little celebration but it turned into the biggest, sparkliest, most amazing P-Day of my career. And it meant so much. I didn’t feel alone, like I’d feared I might. The love I felt from everyone – my lovely friends and the brilliant booksellers at Waterstones Birmingham who were there, everyone who sent me gorgeous messages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – has been absolutely phenomenal and I am completely overwhelmed by it.

Thank you, too, if you’ve bought Somewhere Beyond the Sea in paperbackebook or the utterly wonderful audiobook narrated by Clare Corbett and Jonathan Bailey. Thank you for believing in the story I wanted to tell. It means more than I’ll ever be able to express.

So, here’s the vlog (including the spookily fab accordion player we met playing Somewhere Beyond the Sea as we left the bookshop!). Enjoy! xx

New vlog series – MEET BILL BROTHERSON

I’ve filmed a series of vlogs about Somewhere Beyond the Sea – talking about the characters, the locations I chose for the book and what it was like to write the book.

I’m also giving you some exclusive snippets about hidden gems in the book, revealing who I’d cast in the movie version (*coughs* *looks around for any film producers in the area*) and telling your what it was like to be involved in the amazing audiobook version of my story.

Here’s the next: Meet BILL BROTHERSON (he’s a baddie. Altogether now, BOOOO!) 

Happy watching – and let me know what you think in the comments below! xx