Tag Archive | Writing

Reading This Week – Silent Fear by Katherine Howell

I love a good crime novel, mystery or thriller. The obsession began with Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven, moved through Agatha Christie and into Patricia Cornwell, PD James, Ruth Rendell. If I’m left to my own devices to choose a book to curl up with on a rainy day I wade straight into the murky world of corpses with secrets,  fascinating forensics and crafty characters with issues.

This week I read Silent Fear by Katherine Howell. It’s the fifth in a series of novels centred around Detective Ella Marconi. Set in Sydney the novel has a strong sense of place, with the descriptions of steaming hot summer days, suburban streets and familiar landmarks combining to create an authentic Australian experience.

Paramedic Holly Garland attends a call-out to a collapsed man in a park, only to discover her estranged brother is on the scene. When the suspected heat stroke/heart-attack victim turns out to be wearing a bullet wound Marconi is called in to investigate.

The opening of the novel is strong with Howell’s own experience as a Paramedic resonating through the descriptions of procedure and treatment. The mystery is set up early. Why is Holly so dismayed to see her brother? What is his relationship with the victim? Are the innocent bystanders really innocent? Who would want to shoot a bloke playing touch footy? What role will Holly’s past have on this case?

Garland goes on to be a fascinating and complex personality and one of Howell’s strengths is drawing characterisations with depth and relatable human flaws. Although, as a newcomer to this series, I felt at times Garland overshadowed the character of Detective Marconi and I was a little confused over just who the star of the book was supposed to be. This two-lead alternating point-of-view between the Detective and the Paramedic does, however, give an interesting alternative to the traditional crime novel formula.

The storyline features a pleasing array of red herrings, which get sorted out nicely. There is also a complex arrangement of sub-plots with associated characters which sometimes seemed a little unnecessary but left me wondering if these would perhaps be developed in future novels. Overall the plot kept me guessing for some time and engaged in enough twists and turns to remain interesting to the very end.

I  enjoyed Silent Fear for the strength of its lead female characters and the highly effective portrayal of time and place. I’m left with a keen interest in reading the earlier books in the series.

I read Silent Fear as part of  the Morning Show Book Club on ABC Mid North Coast Radio.

Blogging My World

Blog Planning - Ideas Now Decorate the Wall

Blogging – it’s a weird concept isn’t it? Carving out a space for yourself where you can vent, share, amuse, entertain, inform. Giving yourself a power you have never had before. Welcoming strangers into your life to comment on the thoughts that tumble from your mind.

The habit of blogging is slowly beginning to ingrain itself into my daily life.  Capturing moments and displaying them for the world to see is becoming slightly less alien an activity.

Like most before me I grapple with the public/private conundrum.  Paparazzi have never camped at my doorstep – I know that will come as a shock to you.  My thoughts and opinions have only ever been shared with friends, family and colleagues. The nuances of a joke could be understood in a lift of the eyebrow, a tinge of tone in a remark. Now I have put myself in a place where strangers read my ramblings with no background knowledge to who I am. Alternatively,  people I KNOW, read my blog. It checks my wording, makes me double think how I portray myself because my virtual world must not harm my real world. It also makes conversation difficult – I meet up with friends and go to tell them something and get “we know, we read it on the blog”.

As my personality seeps to the screen and out into the world I enjoy the comments, likes and page views.  As the words and numbers flicker up on my stats it seems a little less like talking to myself and a little more like engaging with an interesting group of individuals.

The family is along for the ride. The children, being a little older than the offspring of most mummy bloggers,  are able to voice their opinion on what we share and what we don’t. They get veto rights on some pieces. Although I’m lucky they have a pretty decent sense of humour themselves so they do allow unflattering stories to filter in occasionally. Hippie Child thinks there should be a support group for the children of bloggers.

Decisions had to be made early in the piece on whether I would use the children’s photographs, their names. At present I’m happy with using their photos but diluting their identity with pseudonyms most of the time. After all when you go for a job interview and the boss-to-be does a Google search you probably don’t want him to read your mum’s ranting on how she couldn’t get you out of bed of a morning and a list of your infuriating habits. Although, despite my attempts at concealment a friend of Hippie Child greeted her yesterday with “you are on the internet”. Apparently she was doing a project on hippies – googled the term and came up with a picture of our hippie child – the one of her eating cheesecake off the floor – seriously what were the chances???

They make suggestions and the latest disaster is often greeted with “let’s get a photo, this will make the blog”. However, they are quick to advise when restraint is called for as well. During a week when my husband was retrenched, our only working vehicle run out of petrol and then broke down Hippie Child took me aside to suggest “better leave this one for a while Mum, before you blog about it.”

The theme and tone of the blog are still evolving. I don’t fit neatly into any given category, a little too old to be a true “mummy blogger”, not literary enough to be a “writing” blog, my brother tries to steer us into “photography” blog world with his stunning shots but then I go putting in my “snap-happy” pics to bring us down. I seem to be embracing more a “personal” type blog which allows me the leeway to explore a variety of topics and suits my lack-of-commitment personality. I’m constantly surprised by how you often enjoy the “self-indulgent” posts dedicated to the chaos of our life. I continue to experiment with a variety of approaches and hope by the time I get to the 12 month mark I will have sorted myself out with a particular style.

The challenge of finding the time for the blog is ongoing. I’m trying to plan a little more, even get some posts scheduled ahead of time, as opposed to the panic-stricken flailing about at 10.30pm when inspiration deserts me.

All in all, I’m enjoying blogging my world and I’m thrilled that so many of you are repeat visitors accompanying me on this wild ride!

Reading This Week – Watercolours – Adrienne Ferreira

A gifted child, a quirky family, an inexperienced teacher, a mysterious death all jumbled together in a small, country town that’s the essence of Watercolours. This is the debut novel for Adrienne Ferreira and in it she creates an engaging story with a  group of likeable characters.

Watercolours is a gentle book which meanders through the everyday lives of it’s characters highlighting family and love along the way.

The highlight of the book for me is the strong sense of place created throughout the narrative with the river an additional character in the story. “One thing I’ve noticed is that up in the hills where I live, the Lewis is narrow and fast. It’s noisy where it rushes over the rocks, then it creeps along silently in pools like it’s sneaking up on someone. Down in town, where the land is flat, the river turns fat and slow and green. It ripples its long muscles as it winds its way around Morus in a big loop, as if it wants to squeeze the place and swallow it whole.”

The nuances of a rural river town are captured beautifully in this work and anyone who has ever spent time in a small community will recognise  the characters. The go-getting business man who leads the local Rotary Club, the busybody who interferes in the lives of others, the pragmatic neighbour who provides a casserole and friendly advice to the newcomer to town, the hippies up in the hills, for a country girl reading the book is like stepping back into my childhood.

While eleven-year-old Novi wants to fit in at school and in the community, his artistic talent and his eccentric family always leave him a little on the outer. New teacher Dom identifies Novi’s ability and goes about trying to find a way to support the child and his art.

Novi believes his Grandfather was murdered, although the rest of the town see the death as a drowning tragedy during the last big flood. When Novi’s drawings begin to gain a wider audience the mystery unravels.

Ferreira splits the narrative into a number of voices which gives different perspectives on the unfolding events and the past secrets. Love in various forms and chasing dreams are two of the themes which resonant throughout the book and add a poignant undertone to the story.

An enjoyable read.

A New Year Begins

Well the first of my goals for 2012 is down the toilet. I didn’t win the $31 million Lotto draw last night. So instead of shopping for a new, highly expensive car this morning, I’ve got to settle for a cup of coffee (instant I can’t afford one of those fancy schzmancy machines) and a blog.

It’s the day of resolutions, when all the world unites in a determination to convince themselves  this year will be different. This year they will make more money, lose weight, read more books, exercise more, quit smoking and anything else they can think of in a blur of often alcohol induced optimism. Anything is possible on the first day of the year.

Why then do we so quickly discard the aims by the 2nd of January? How does life interfere so quickly with what we want to do? I read somewhere only 3% of people ever achieve their goals. Really? Those 3% must be busy people achieving everything while the rest of us languish in coulda, woulda, shoulda, will one day territory.

As you know I set my goals back in November, my Project 44 is dedicated to ME. It’s all about ME.  There’s the usual goals of losing weight, getting organised and then just for fun I threw in stuff like write a novel, start a blog (and get readers), finish Shambles Manor, travel and my personal favourite, enter five competitions a day.

There are days when I feel really overwhelmed by the goals I’ve set. But I know they are important to me and I really do want to have a red hot go at achieving them all this year.

The first month of Project 44 has really ended up being devoted to the blog, I have written those 9,000 words toward a novel, but essentially the blog has taken up a lot of my time. It’s made me realise that what I was really saying with those two goals (create a blog, write a novel) was that I wanted to write. Funny how as you get into achieving your goals you discover that what you set out to do may not be exactly what you meant.

Spending 30 days trying to write 2000 words a day in the NaNoWriMo challenge made me realise that perhaps I don’t have the level of commitment needed for a novel. Subscribing to a number of authors on Twitter made me realise these people spend YEARS on the one project. That’s right YEARS. Five years on one book, four years on another. Dear Lord I don’t have five years to spend on one project. Seriously you are lucky to hold my attention for one week, let alone years. Let’s not forget this has got to fit in around soccer, touch footy, dance and what else? Oh yes the real world job that actually pays the mortgage.

Blogging, on the other hand, even though it is time consuming, is pretty instant gratification. I write a piece and within minutes sometimes I can see someone has read it (not sure who if they don’t leave a comment – don’t forget to say hi if you are dropping by) but I know it’s been interesting enough for someone to at least click in for a little while. Blogging also suits my scanner brain. The scanner is interested in everything but has trouble finishing anything. In my blogging world I can talk about anything I want to and flit between subjects willy nilly and that’s OK, and 500 words isn’t a big commitment so even I can get it finished.

So what have I learnt so far? I’ve learnt I want to write every day. It may be working on a novel, creating a blog piece or articles for other sources but writing every day.

I’ve also made some baby steps towards my other goals but I’ll share more about them towards the end of January, when hopefully I will have made some substantial progress.

Now moving away from me for a second, my new year’s resolution for my family. I want us to create magnificent memories. I want us to enjoy some special, fun times together that the children will be able to look back on with love and fondness when they leave home, because that future is rapidly approaching.

I hope you are all enjoying your new year. Have you made any resolutions?

The List of Books to Read

Pile of books to be read

Over in Twitter world Booktopia asked followers to take a picture of the books in their To Be Read pile. I gathered mine together, a motley collection of library books (must remember to return them), bargain basket buys (OK everyone else read them ages OK but I paid $5 instead of $32 to get ’em), a few that have been on my shelf for ages but I haven’t actually got around to reading  and some newbies that I want to read and blog about.

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