Book Club 2015

Good evening, morning or afternoon to you all. I know that people from all the different time zones follow my blog so wherever you are I hope you’re having a great day and that the sky has been as blue for you as it has been for us here in Manchester.  We seem to have had an inordinately large number of blue skies here ‘oop north’ among the dark satanic Mills of the North West in a city that is known as the rainy city. But happily that hasn’t been the case recently and I find that the good weather has lightened my mood and made me feel more positive from the inside out. We English are known for being obsessed with the weather but it really does affect your mood and well being.

My only frustration today was that my Writing room DIY project has been held up because of the cold weather. Have I told you guys about that yet? Well the short version of it is that my spare bedroom has been stripped, the carpet taken to the tip, the holes in the wall filled and the frame around the window resealed. All the preparation has been completed, the ceiling has been painted by yours truly, the first coat of paint has been put on the walls and all I need to do is paint the walls with a second coat and pick out some new flooring. I’m dithering at the moment between some thick lush carpet and some sleek, minimalist hardwood flooring. Unfortunately the paint can’t be put on while the heating is on, and without the heating on the room temperature is well below 10 degrees. You can’t use paint at temperatures below that. Very frustrating. However, once it is completed it will be my writing room and will be adorned with a large writing desk, a whiteboard/chalkboard wall to plot and keep track of character development and jot down new story ideas and the other walls neutral base colour be brightened by secondary layering decoration. Once it’s complete I promise to post some pictures.

As well as being a writer, I’m also an avid reader and have a strange and not unpleasant dilemma to resolve. I’m currently reading Peyton Place by Grace Metalious, a stunning little novel that was a best-seller on it’s release. It was both widely embraced and vilified for it’s deconstruction of the the lies, secrets and unpleasantness that underlies the respectability of small town New England. It was seen as been so salacious and scurrilous when it was released it was even banned from being sold in some parts. I’m loving this book as you may have gathered. However, I’m already well over a third of the way through reading it which means I need to have the next book ready to read. My dilemma? I have so many good book in my to be read pile both already bought and on my list that I can’t choose which one to read next.

So I came up with an idea, why not create a Willow short-list (think of the Booker prize short-list but with more interesting novels) and let you guys have your say on which book you would choose to read next and why.  I’ve created a short-list of fourteen books divided randomly into two groups. So your first task is to choose which book group will you pick for the short, short-list?

Group 1: The Fiction/non Fiction selection.

  1. The Lost Throne – Chris Kuzneski
  2. Dreamwalker – J.D Oswald
  3. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  4. She Wolves: The women that ruled England before Elizabeth – Helen Castor
  5. The Son –  Philipp Meyer 
  6. The Lowlands – Jhumpa Lahiri
  7. The little old lady that broke all the Rules –  Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

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Group 2: The Science Fiction and Classics selection.

  1. Dune – Frank Herbert
  2. The Ocean at the end of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
  3. The Bees –  Laline Paull
  4. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  5. The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
  6. Batman RIP – Grant Morrison & Tony Daniel 

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There is a hyper link on the author’s name for each of the books if you’d like to go and find out a little more about each of them before you vote, or if you’re interested in reading an extract from one or all of the books on the list most of them have the ‘look inside’ function. As I’ve read The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, group two only has six rather than seven books in the selection but that’s of no matter. These are all books I’ll be reading at some point it’s just a matter of when, so get voting and commenting and let me know what you choice is.

Happy reading and writing everyone.



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Striving for perfection that doesn’t exist

Perfection doesn’t exist, but you can strive towards a state as near to that as possible. It’s the striving for perfection that keeps us going, keeps us persisting to be a little better, a little smarter and a little braver than we were last time. Tomorrow is a new day so when you face a stumbling block you just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try, try and try again.

110215 failure is only the opportunity to begin again

I came across a video today by Ethan Heathcote, I’ve followed him and his boyfriend’s videos on YouTube for a little while now, enjoying  the fun, positive and life affirming vlogs they post,  because who doesn’t need a little more positivity in their life? But the thing that caught my eye on this video was the title ‘I’m not perfect’. For a sweet six minutes the fluffy exterior is shred as it taps into something that applies to writers as much as it does vloggers, that perfection is not given to us on a plate. In much the same way that Ethan and Mark don’t just switch on the video camera, roll out a vlog in the first take without out-takes, bloopers, reams of unused footage and dare I say it (and I hope they’ll forgive me for saying so) hours of unused and unusable footage that just doesn’t cut the mustard so it is with writing. The great, the mediocre and the still improving author all have one thing in common, that they must spend hours of practise to learn, grow and develop before a nugget of something worthwhile can be produced.

There’s a wealth of great authors that lay out a long path before us who have written some truly amazing and occasionally life changing words. Words that tumble readers into the alternative world enveloping us in a created universe that captures the imagination and the heart. It can be pretty damn intimidating to know so many good writers and novels are out there because when you then look at your own words on the page you can end up feeling somewhat lacking. But, the truth of the matter is that they, like all of us started somewhere. Perhaps they had more natural talent than we do to start off with, but the perfection (or as close to it as we mere mortals can hope for) that they produced is hard-won, long worked for and learnt through practise, persistence and by growing and learning from what works or fails. Well all the above and editing. I can’t stress that last one enough.

I’ll leave you with this thought that Ethan poses on his video:

‘Perfection doesn’t exist, but persistence will get you pretty close’

Don’t be so hard on yourself, pick your self up, laugh and learn from what doesn’t work and try again. It’s the only way that we can be better writers today than we were yesterday. Strive for perfection and be happy when you get pretty close to it. Oh and edit, edit every chapter, paragraph, sentence and word to within an inch of its life.

110215 fall seven times get up eight

Writing is a joy, it’s not a task or a chore. It should be an experience that you gain pleasure from. So write what you love and love what you write, because if you don’t love it how are you going to make anyone else love it?

Happy writing peeps

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Next book on the ‘To Be Read List’ and which book will you choose for me to read.

Good Evening my lovely readers, writers and blog followers I hope you’re having a fabulous Saturday and making today as great as you can make it.

Well sadly like all good thing The Chrysalids by John Wyndham had to come to an end and so I am once more adrift without a current book in progress.  Of course, I know that you know me better than that by now, so you know I have dozens of books just waiting to be read in my house.  The next book on my to be read list was controversial when it was released, so controversial it was banned in places when it was published in the 1950’s. I came across it by chance as I flicked through a book website and found it second hand at a very reasonable price so decided to give it a go.  The book was a best-seller in it’s day although it has become mostly forgotten in the modern lists of literary critics and best-sellers. The author tragically died at the age of 39 from Cirrhosis of the liver leaving behind a husband and two children. Can you guess what he book is yet?

Drum roll please for Peyton Place written by Grace Metalious:

PEYTON PLACE uncovers the passions, lies and cruelties that simmer beneath the surface of a postcard-perfect town. At the centre of the novel are three women, each with a secret to hide: Constance MacKenzie, the original desperate housewife; her daughter Allison, whose dreams are stifled by small-town small-mindedness; and Selena Cross, her gypsy-eyed friend from the wrong side of the tracks.

‘PEYTON PLACE shocked America with its tale of secrets, sex and hypocrisy in a small New Hampshire town . . Saucy, compelling, and surprisingly literary … A crafty, page-turning brew of illicit sex, secret lives, public drunkenness, abortion, incest and murder … A scandalous phenomenon’ VANITY FAIR

I must admit I’m looking forward to reading this, but have no idea what to expect as I received the book through the post and haven’t had a chance to flick through it yet to understand what the writing style is going to be like.  Have any of you guys read Peyton Place? Is it as scandalous as the blurbs and reviews all suggest, even with the 21st century interpretation of what is and isn’t socially acceptable discourse? I’m thinking that I won’t find it shocking, but I’m hoping that the characters and the plot reel me in allowing me to be transported to small town 1950’s America where abortion, incest, murder and sexual scandal were all strictly taboo and therefore shocking when it is exposed.

Grace Metalious was a revolutionary of her time it is said, blowing the thin veneer of small town respectability and exposing the secrets, small minded pettiness and hypocrisy that lay beneath the picture perfect perception of small town New England.

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Wish me happy reading guys and look out for my post coming soon where you get to choose which book from a selection of 15 in my to be read pile I read next.

Happy reading, peace and blessings



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A writer’s brunch

20150118_135408Poached eggs, baked beans, microwave baked tomatoes, Wheat, Spelt and Rye toast, orange juice and of course the writer’s staple Coffee. 

Writing on an empty stomach is never a good idea, so my Sunday morning treat is a brunch fit for a writer to keep me fuelled up in the freezing snowy weather while I write. I have a good feeling that the pot of coffee being kept warm in the machine and this brunch bodes well for a good afternoon of writing. Chapter eight here I come.

Although it has made me wonder what special Sunday habit’s you have as ritual precursors to your writing?

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The future is not written

1j book to write

Lets make every page in 2015 worth reading about and filled with productive writing.

From my house to yours, Happy New Year everyone.

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Work, rest and play

book and tea

Oh, if only my life could be spent curled up on a sofa with a good book and an endless cup of tea.  But I need to get some writing done, need to get my book finished, get my book published and make a concerted effort to carry out a full and consistent publicity campaign.

Of course it won’t be all work and no play, part of the 2015 pledge I’ve made to myself is to make sure that I go to bed three quarters of an hour earlier each day so I can have some reading time. reading time is fun time in the Willow household.

Welcome 2015 – let’s get to work.

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After a really tough day, it’s hard to feel grateful for the blessings in your life. But gratitude is the best attitude.


What are you grateful for today?

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