Tag Archives: writing

My favourite books for 2018…

2018 is going to be a corker of a year for great stories. My next novel, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, publishes on 14th June, but for this post I’m wearing my reader hat. I’ve been really lucky to read some amazing books that will be published this year, so here are my Top 5 recommendations for 2018…

I’ve only included books I’ve actually read in this list, and will of course squeak about more as I read them, but these are my absolute favourites of what I’ve read so far:

DARK PINES by WILL DEAN

Dark Pines

I loved every minute of this dark, twisty, Scandi-thriller. You’re right there in the bleak, claustrophobic town surrounded by dark forests, so much so that you can almost see clouds of your own breath in the wintry landscape as you read. Will’s writing is compelling and his lead character Tuva Moodyson is a star in waiting. Get in on this awesome series right at the beginning and prepare to be swept away! Published 4th January by Point Blank/Oneworld

THREE THINGS ABOUT ELSIE by JOANNA CANNON

ThreeThingsAboutElsie

Reading a Joanna Cannon book is like being welcomed into the most magical sweet shop and being invited to sample a treat from every jar. Her writing is delightful and evocative, with characters you can picture immediately. This book is warm, heartbreakingly honest but ultimately uplifting. 84-year-old Florence, whose story the book follows, will make you laugh, cry and want to hug her. There’s a mystery and a secret to uncover, too. Wonderful storytelling – a book to savour! Published 11th January by The Borough Press.

THE BONE KEEPER by LUCA VESTE

The Bonekeeper

As a big fan of Luca’s Murphy and Rossi series, I was chuffed to bits to be able to read his first standalone novel. And my life, what a book! Part horror, part crime-thriller, this story grabs you and won’t let go until the highly-charged, terrifying conclusion. Don’t read just before you go to sleep because this story will give you nightmares! I love Luca’s writing and this is his best book yet. Published 8th March by Simon & Schuster.

THE FEAR by CL TAYLOR

The Fear

This book had me gripped from beginning to end and is simply breathtaking. What I love about Cally’s writing is that she makes you side with characters you suspect you maybe shouldn’t be rooting for. I’ve read plenty of psychological thrillers over the last two years, but nothing as dark and multiple-twist-laden as this. It’s shocking, compelling and packed to the bindings with action. Masterful stuff! Published 22nd March by Avon/HarperCollins.

THE MAN I THINK I KNOW by MIKE GAYLE

The Man I Think I Know

A sign of a really wonderful book for me is when I want to hug it at the end. With this book, I was pretty much hugging it from the start and rationing pages towards the end because I didn’t want it to finish. Mike’s writing is warm, honest, unflinching in its observation but most of all gloriously uplifting. The story of James and Danny’s friendship – and the redemptive power of trust and love – absolutely had me in its spell. It’s real, compelling, funny and completely stole my heart. This one is very special and my favourite book for 2018 so far. Published 19th April by Hodder & Stoughton.

Thanks so much to the wonderful authors and publishers (Point Blank/Oneworld; The Borough Press; Simon & Schuster; Avon/HarperCollins; and Hodder & Stoughton) for sending me advance copies of the above books.

Read my favourite books of 2017 HERE…

Which books are you looking forward to this year? Let me know by leaving a comment below, or tweet me @wurdsmyth. Thanks for reading! xx

My Books of the Year 2017

Reading has become my salvation and sanctuary in a really testing year as an author – thankfully I’ve been spoiled for choice for awesome books in 2017. There are lots of ‘best books’ lists, so here’s mine. Some books I was lucky to read as advance copies, most I bought myself. Not all of the books in my Top Twelve below were published in 2017, but I read them this year, which is why they are included. So, without further ado, I proudly present my 2017 Books of the Year:

2017 Best Books image

Unconventional – Maggie Harcourt
I read this as a proof at the beginning of 2017 and completely fell in love with it. Maggie Harcourt’s writing is sublime – at turns funny, touching and clutch-at-your-heart-and-sigh romantic. Her book-within-a-book is downright genius, too. On a personal note, Unconventional was the one that made me fall in love with reading again after a very dry spell that followed losing my dad. It’s a gorgeous, uplifting, original and thoroughly unputdownable book and is pretty damn perfect.

The Killer on the Wall – Emma Kavanagh
I’m a self-confessed huge fan of Emma Kavanagh and have loved every one of her books. The Killer on the Wall is a twisty, psychologically dark crime thriller that tests your loyalties as a reader to the beautifully drawn characters. I loved how Emma drew me into the story and gradually twisted everything around me. It’s so filmic, too – I could picture every location, every scene and every character. Loved it!

The Last Beginning – Lauren James
I hadn’t read any of Lauren’s books before I was asked to take part in a reader event with her at the beginning of this year, so I read The Last Beginning before I met her and am now a firm fan! Clever, funny, mind-bendingly brilliant, this is an across-the-ages tale of true love and mystery. What I love most is the way Lauren’s characters grab you from the first page – you’re right in there, rooting for them.

Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
This is the first of Leigh Bardugo’s books I’ve read and I completely fell for her storytelling. It’s like a heist movie in a fantasy world – a band of outlaws out to get justice against an evil villain. I hadn’t read much fantasy for a while, so picked up Crooked Kingdom to redress the balance and my life, what a ride! Cool, gorgeously written, pacy and hugely compelling.

Then She Was Gone – Luca Veste
In recent years I’ve become a fan of crime thrillers, first reading Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, then Ann Cleeves’ Vera and Shetland books. I’m a huge fan of the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast (I even have a t-shirt!), which introduced me to the Murphy and Rossi series by Luca Veste. I read Then She Was Gone on holiday in Cornwall in January and it completely hooked me. You know a book is good when you carry it round with you all day, using any opportunity to sneak a read! I adore Murphy and Rossi and love how Luca draws you into their personal lives. Edge-of-your-seat, twisty awesomeness!

The Boy Who Saw – Simon Toyne
I’ve been a fan of Simon Toyne’s books since his debut Sanctus and love his new Solomon Creed series. This is the second book featuring the mysterious protagonist and it’s fantastic. A mystery, a thriller with a touch of the supernatural, The Boy Who Saw is gripping and twisty and so pacy you feel you’re hanging onto the book for dear life. What I love most about Simon’s thrillers is that they are peopled with characters who feel real – not just two-dimensional plot devices. And I really want to hug Solomon, poor lamb. He’s been through a lot

Hold Back the Stars – Katie Khan
Do you remember the scene in Sleepless in Seattle where Sam’s sister cries retelling the story of An Affair to Remember? Well, Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan has that effect on me whenever I talk about it. It’s an achingly gorgeous, utterly original love story set in space and I loved every word. Writing for a living can make it difficult to fully enter into books, so I love it when I’m completely swept away like I was with this story. Absolutely wonderful.

The Summer of Impossible Things – Rowan Coleman
When Rowan Coleman told me she was going to write a time-travel novel, I was so excited. I knew it would be brilliant, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how beguilingly beautiful and affecting The Summer of Impossible Things would be. Luna’s journey to unravel the mystery of her mother’s life – and the huge questions it poses to her own – is utterly compelling, heart-breaking and uplifting. And that ending… Wow!

Together – Julie Cohen
Julie Cohen has long been one of my favourite authors. With every book I think she can’t possibly better it, but every time she does. Together is no exception – in fact, I think it’s her masterpiece. I was very lucky to read an early version and it blew me away. The story of Robbie and Emily is told in reverse, from the day Robbie dies to the first time they meet. What follows is a powerful, brave and heart-breaking story of love against the odds and a terrible secret that both binds them together and threatens to tear them apart.

The Plea – Steve Cavanagh
I don’t often read a book in less than a week, but I devoured The Plea in three days (a personal record for me this year!). It’s a legal thriller with a twist and a lead character who knocks all the others out of the park. Eddie Flynn is brilliantly world-weary, chasing his own demons as much as the bad guys and thrown into so many life-or-death situations I don’t know when he even finds a second to breathe! I loved this book and Steve’s writing is sublime.

The State of Grace – Rachael Lucas
Easily the most original voice of the books I read this year, fifteen-year-old Grace draws you into her world in The State of Grace. Navigating life is challenging enough for a teenager, but when you have Asperger’s and you’re falling in love it can be a rollercoaster. What I loved most about this book is the insight it gives into Grace’s view of the world – and how it makes sense. It’s a celebration of her life and her worldview and is honest, rip-roaringly funny and touching. Loved, loved, loved it!

Calling Major Tom – David M. Barnett
The term ‘UpLit’ was coined this year (yuck!) and while I don’t like it or the way the literary media seem to think they’ve created the genre (they haven’t, some of us have been writing uplifting stories for years!), there are some books published this year that are truly uplifting. Calling Major Tom absolutely fits the bill. I was sent an early proof of this book and it completely stole my heart. Packed with fantastic characters and stuffed to the ginnels with brilliant Northern humour, David’s story of a marooned astronaut and the family who reach out to him is the one I can’t stop thinking about. It’s life-affirming, emotional, laugh-out-loud funny and reduced me to tears with its fantastic conclusion. I’ve loved all the books I’ve read in 2017, but Calling Major Tom is my Book of the Year.

Which books have you enjoyed this year? Which should I add to my reading list for 2018? I’d love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below or tweet me!

Coming soon – the five books I’m recommending for 2018!

SPARKLEMAS 9: Meet David Myers

Meet DAVID MYERS – Cerrie’s ex-boyfriend who is also the Deputy Head at the school where she works. He cheated on her and broke her heart, but could he be trying to win her back?

David is ambitious and driven, with a very high opinion of himself. But I wanted to show readers that Cerrie loved him for five years, so there had to be something she could love about him. He’s good-looking and charming when he wants to be, but he differs from Cerrie in so many ways. As the story progresses, we see him soften a little – which should set alarm bells ringing for Cerrie. But where matters of the heart are involved, could she believe he wants to make amends this time…?

David was great to write because I loved writing a flawed character and the tension between him and Cerrie was really interesting to explore.

Here’s an excerpt from Christmas in St Ives – this is where Cerrie finds David already waiting with new teacher Tom Keller in the hall for the first nativity rehearsal together:

David excerpt 1David excerpt 2David excerpt 3My dream actor to play David in the film version of Christmas in St Ives (because dreams can come true, can’t they?) is NICHOLAS HOULT – known for SkinsWarm Bodies and About a Boy. I think he has the perfect mix of looks, charm and edge to bring over the complexities of David’s character:

Nicholas Hoult as David

NICHOLAS HOULT as DAVID MYERS (Photo: DarkHorizons.com)

Come back tomorrow for another 24 DAYS OF SPARKLEMAS exclusive… Every day between now and Christmas Eve I’ll be sharing all kinds of sparkly goodies. Don’t miss a present from me this December! xx

 

SPARKLEMAS 8: My first festive VLOG!

It’s been flippin’ ages since I last vlogged – apologies! But I’m making up for it with some extra-special Christmassy vlogs for #24DaysofSparklemas…

24 Days of Sparklemas logo

Here is the first one – a very festive vlog with twinkly lights, hot chocolate, tinsel, a little bit of singing and even some REAL SNOW! I have the very rare gift of having this December off: my festive e-novella Christmas in St Ives is already out and sparkling away on virtual bookshelves and all the edits and proofreading on my next novel, Somewhere Beyond the Sea have been done months ahead of its June publication date. So, I’ve been making the most of it by having lots of fun with Bob and Flo – and this vlog shows you what we’ve been up to, including our annual family Christmas light safari where we go hunting for as many twinkly lights as we can find…

Do you have a question you’d like me to answer in the next Sparklemas Vlog? Leave a comment below this post, or tweet me @wurdsmyth, or leave a comment on my Instagram page or Facebook author page (click the links to take you there).

So grab a hot chocolate, sprinkle on an extra handful of marshmallows (go on, you deserve it!) and enjoy this little four-minute slice of Wurdy festiveness! xx

SPARKLEMAS 5: Meet Kieran Macklin

Meet KIERAN MACKLIN – a photographer with a quick wit and a hidden love. He’s the Third Amigo to Seren and Aggie and known for his cheeky sense of humour, but Kieran is hiding a secret…

In Christmas in St Ives we see him realise what’s going on (no spoilers! Read the novella to find out more!), but three months later in Somewhere Beyond the Sea, things are about to become a whole lot more complicated. How long can he run from the truth?

Kieran was a blast to write. He’s cheeky as they come (I reckon he’d even give Ed Steinmann from Fairytale of New York a run for his money in that department!), but deep down he’s battling his heart, his past and his fierce loyalty to his friends.

Here’s an excerpt from Kieran’s story in Christmas in St Ives:

CSI St Ives EXCERPT - KIERANMy dream actor to play Kieran in the films of Christmas in St Ives and Somewhere Beyond the Sea (because of course BBC Films and Richard Curtis are avid readers of this blog and, you know, are probably looking for the NEXT BIG THING…) is JAMES NORTON – as seen in Happy Valley and Grantchester. (Photo: Pinterest)

James Norton

JAMES NORTON as KIERAN MACKLIN (Photo: @jginortononline)

Come back tomorrow for another 24 DAYS OF SPARKLEMAS exclusive… Every day between now and Christmas Eve I’ll be sharing all kinds of sparkly goodies. Don’t miss a present from me this December! xx

Footpath to the beach

AVAILABLE NOW

SBTS final front cover

COMING 14th JUNE 2018  – Preorder NOW –

 

SPARKLEMAS 4: Meet Aggie Keats

Meet AGGIE KEATS – owner of a beachside coffee hut on Porthgwidden Beach, who is harbouring a secret.

She’s Seren’s best friend and the first to offer an opinion about what Seren should be doing with her life. Something has just happened that has thrown everything she thinks she knows about a close friend into question – but will she act on what she feels, or pretend it never took place…?

I love Aggie. She’s ferociously independent, funny and fearless, but also hugely loyal, strong and a great friend. Aggie’s lines are some of the most enjoyable I’ve written in both Christmas in St Ives and Somewhere Beyond the Sea.

Here’s an excerpt of Aggie’s story from Christmas in St Ives:

CSI St Ives EXCERPT - AGGIE

My dream actor to play Aggie in the films of Christmas in St Ives and Somewhere Beyond the Sea (because a girl’s got to dream, right?) is CHANEL CRESSWELL – as seen in This is England, Trollied and My Name is Lenny.

Chanel Cresswell as Aggie

CHANEL CRESSWELL as AGGIE KEATS (Photo: CBGActors)

Come back tomorrow for another 24 DAYS OF SPARKLEMAS exclusive… Every day between now and Christmas Eve I’ll be sharing all kinds of sparkly goodies. Don’t miss a present from me this December! xx

Footpath to the beach

AVAILABLE NOW

SBTS final front cover

COMING 14th JUNE 2018  – Preorder NOW –

 

SPARKLEMAS 3: Meet Cerrie Austin

Meet CERRIE AUSTIN – a teacher with a recently broken heart who adores her job at St Piran’s Primary School, working with a class of seven-year-olds.

She’s Seren’s close friend and the voice of reason on the Save the Parsonage campaign committee. In Somewhere Beyond the Sea next year you’ll see her continuing story. But Cerrie’s story forms the heart of Christmas in St Ives, so no spoilers here, but hopefully you’ll love her as much I do…

Here’s an excerpt of Cerrie’s story from Christmas in St Ives:

CSI St Ives EXCERPT - CERRIEMy dream actor to play Cerrie in the films of Christmas in St Ives and Somewhere Beyond the Sea (which, you know, is completely possible..!) is TUPPENCE MIDDLETON – as seen in Dickensian and War & Peace.

Tuppence Middleton

TUPPENCE MIDDLETON as CERRIE AUSTIN (Photo: itv.com)

Come back tomorrow for another 24 DAYS OF SPARKLEMAS exclusive… Every day between now and Christmas Eve I’ll be sharing all kinds of sparkly goodies. Don’t miss a present from me this December! xx

Footpath to the beach

AVAILABLE NOW

SBTS final front cover

COMING 14th JUNE 2018  – Preorder NOW –

 

HERE IT IS! My BIG, SPARKLY Reveal!

I promised you an exclusive and it’s a big one…

Here, in all its sunny gorgeous glory is the cover for my ninth novel, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, out on 14th June 2018!

SBTS final front cover

I’ve been so excited to share this cover with you because it completely captures the feel of the story. Seren MacArthur and her chocolate Labrador Molly on the front, heading down to the beach to hunt for seaglass. And the beach is actually Gwithian Beach, which plays a vital part in the novel, with Godrevy Lighthouse in the distance. The back cover is going to have a gorgeous surprise on it, too, so I’ll tell you about that very soon…

Somewhere Beyond the Sea features characters from the prequel, Christmas in St Ives and is by far and away the best book I’ve written so far. I loved every stage of writing this book, set in my favourite place in the world. It’s an unashamedly romantic love story, warm and uplifting, with a cast of characters I hope you’ll love as much as I have.

You can preorder Somewhere Beyond the Sea right now – and, for a sneak-peek of the characters and the first chapter of the novel, the prequel novella Christmas in St Ives is available now. Footpath to the beach

I’m absolutely thrilled with the cover – what do you think?

Come back tomorrow for another 24 DAYS OF SPARKLEMAS exclusive… Every day between now and Christmas Eve I’ll be sharing all kinds of sparkly goodies. Don’t miss a present this December!

MirandaWrites 57 – Almost here!

It’s less than a week until my very first Christmas novella, Christmas in St Ives, is published – eek! So in this week’s vlog, I’m going to tell you what you can expect from the story…

I’m so proud of this novella and I had an absolute blast writing it. I like to think you can tell as a reader when the author has enjoyed writing a story, so I hope you get that sense with Christmas in St Ives. It was also lovely to write a prequel to my next full-length novel, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, to be able to extend that world and really bring the characters alive. Both my novella and the novel are available for preorder now – Christmas in St Ives is published on 19th October, Somewhere Beyond the Sea will be published on 14th June 2018 (and we’ve included the first chapter of it in the back of the novella, so you’ll get a sneak-peek eight months early!)

Enjoy this week’s vlog – and ask me a question for next week by leaving a comment below!

M xx

WriteFoxy: A New Spin on Book Terms

I’ve had enough of beating myself up as a writer.

I don’t know about you, but the constant lurching between confidence and doubt is exhausting. I think I’ve conquered it and then, right in the middle of writing a new book – when I’m mired in first draft sludge around about 59k words, or going through a line edit where I’m losing sight of the story, it hits me:

Kaablaamo! Dastardly Doubt muscles in and ruins everything.

It’s worse when you hear people dismissing books with well-worn terms: ‘an easy read‘, ‘a holiday book‘, someone read it ‘in one sitting‘, a ‘guilty pleasure‘.

Shudders. Screaming at reviews. Dreading book discussions on social media. Feeling dismissed, undervalued and possibly in the wrong profession. It’s not pretty. Or even remotely fun.

But I’ve been thinking. What if there were a way to flip these terms to see a more positive version?

Let’s take them one at a time. (Brace yourself…)

ABC blocksAN EASY READ

Ugh. The ultimate dismissive term for the book you have invested a year of your life (or longer) lovingly crafting.

Or is it?

I used to work as a copywriter and there was a phrase we used in the design department: when you’ve done your job properly, nobody notices. I think that’s true of writing books, too. An ‘easy read’ seems like a criticism, but look at it this way: an easy read means the story flowed, the pace was good, dialogue felt natural and the reader easily entered into the world the book created.

When something is written well, you don’t notice the workings of it. You just enter in. And trust me, if the book was badly written, it wouldn’t be easy to read. It would be clunky, annoying, a book to be flung across the room rather than raced through.

To write something that flows and compels readers to keep turning the page is a hugely difficult thing to get right. The best comedy is effortless to watch but hides hours of work to perfect the timing, the rhythm, the punch line. It’s hard to write well. It takes skill and perseverance. But when you’ve done it right, nobody notices the effort. They just see the story.

If readers call your book an easy read, it means your pace, flow, characters, world-building and structure worked. That’s a world away from a dismissive term, don’t you think?

Holiday beach imageA HOLIDAY BOOK

A ‘beach read’. A ‘poolside book’.

Argh!

It conjures up images of cheap, trashy pulp fiction bought at the airport and hastily stashed in hand luggage. Something you wouldn’t dream of reading in your everyday life but, like Sambuca shots and stuffed donkeys, is somehow permissible on your week away in the sun.

Hang on, though.

Holidays are precious. We save hard for them and count down the days to them each year. Our one week away from work, from the concerns of our normal life, is hard-won and much longed for. So the books we choose to take with us have to be good. People agonise over which books to take: the right book can be a memorable part of your time away; the wrong book feels so much more of a let-down.

So, if someone has chosen to take your book on holiday – and invested time in their already precious time away to spend with your characters and your story – isn’t that the greatest compliment? They chose your book. And it was perfect for that moment. Whenever they see your book on their shelf at home, they’ll remember the beach they read it on, the pool your words kept them company by, and exactly where they were when they read your story.

That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Reading pileI READ IT IN ONE SITTING

You spend countless hours – years, even – perfecting your book. The unseen months of heartache, doubt and sheer hard graft are hidden within the pages of your novel. And then, eight hours after it’s published, someone tweets you to say they read it in an afternoon.

What?!

I understand the shudder of loathing that follows a review where the reader says they read your book in one sitting. It feels dismissive. It cheapens your effort. And it makes you wonder if they noticed all the brilliant, hard-fought paragraphs you sweated buckets over.

Or how about this..?

Imagine they became so caught up in the story you created that nothing else mattered. The piles of crockery remained dirty in the sink. The television was dark and silent. They never made it further than their car in the car park outside the book shop because they couldn’t bear to leave your beautiful book world for even a minute. They held their breath. Pages turned at speed as they rooted for your characters, rode the emotional roller-coaster of your story and raced towards the end because they had to know what happens…

You’ve read books like that. I have, too. And just because you were gripped by the story and dashed through it, I’ll bet you’re still thinking about it now. Imagine if someone said that about your book…

Wow.

Go ahead. Race through my book in one sitting, please!

Guilty imageA GUILTY PLEASURE

Okay, I’ll give you this one. It’s a horrible term. Feel free to kick it to the kerb, strap a jet-pack to its sorry back and blast it away from earth into the endless beyond. Nobody should ever feel guilty about reading. Ever.

…Although, if someone does say that about your book, there are two positives to take away from it. Firstly, it says more about their fear of literary snobs than the merit of your book. Secondly, they secretly loved it.

I would far rather someone termed my book a ‘pleasure’ than a chore. And if they are worried so much about what a snobbish lit-splainer might say, they wouldn’t feel guilty about finding a book hard to read. (Because literary snobs believe ‘difficult’ books are the only ones that matter.) The fact is, they loved your book. And they will probably buy your next one to snuggle up in secret with, too…

Being a writer is tough. We pour our hearts into what we do, but that means we wear our hearts on our sleeve, so it’s easy to get hurt. I hope these flipped book terms help you see them differently next time they are used to describe your books.

Keep doing what you do, lovely author. Keep caring. Because it matters.