Monday, 29 July 2013

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander - blog tour.

As you can tell from my blog I absolutely love going to the theatre, so I was excited to be asked to be part of the blog tour for Goblin Secrets by William Alexander. My review of the book will follow in the next few weeks but for today I am pleased to host the author here on my blog, with a fascinating post about how the theatre (or theater, as he is from the US!) influenced his writing.

Without further ado, I will hand you over to William:
I used to be an actor, mostly because it terrified me. A surprising number of theater folk are actually closet introverts. I wanted to know how to talk to people, how to talk in front of people, so naturally I threw myself into the most terrifying, sink-or-swim circumstances requiring those skills.

I did the same thing with roller coasters. I hate roller coasters. They are not thrilling to me. They are torturous. As a kid I went on all of them, usually twice, just to prove that I could. It was a kind of quiet, childish machismo—quiet because I never told anyone that I was terrified. I just stood in line and faced the cruel indifference of physics and gravity on rickety, obviously rusting metal frames. This was never, ever fun. Theatre, at least, turned out to be fun. I learned how to ride the exhilarating wave of stage-fright and enjoy it like I will never enjoy roller coasters.

I became an actor because it scared me, and because I wanted to be inside a story. I wanted to keep playing pretend, to do something ridiculous with absolute seriousness the way only children are really allowed to do. I think my lifelong ambition was to guest-star on The Muppet Show. Instead I wrote a novel about a goblin theatre troupe. Close enough.

Bits of theatrical history and folklore gave the book shape. I wanted to know why everyone from Plato to the Puritans have tried to shut down theatre entirely, and why every backstage space is said to be haunted, and why "break a leg" means "good luck." I wanted to know why we first started carving masks, why it mattered to give something not-ourselves a face and a name—and then to wear that face and name.

I didn't find answers, but I did find something else when I strung all those questions together and followed their trail: I found a story that I wanted to be in, one that scared me to tell. I hope that the fear and the fun are both contagious, just as they are onstage—and just as they are not on roller coasters. 

Goblin Secrets is currently available to buy from all booksellers.
Visit the Goblin Secrets website for further information. 

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Theatre Review: Titanic at the Southwark Playhouse

On Saturday 27th July I went to the matinee show of Titanic at the
Southwark Playhouse's temporary venue on Newington Causeway.

The preview price was £10. (I know!!) It totally blew away the well known phrase, "You get what you pay for".

The seating is to the front and sides of the performance area. I would recommend arriving early so the seats aren't numbered, but having said that I was almost at the end of the side seating and could still see everything.

The show isn't the same story as the well-known film and I think that's a good thing. It relates the story of the Titanic from the point of view of crew, plus members of First, Second and Third class passengers.

The music is absolutely fantastic, the band were incredible and the songs are catchy and were well sung, I didn't miss a word. The set is minimal, with cast members doing any necessary changes, which works incredibly well.

The only slight negative was it was SUCH a hot day, despite air con the theatre (and the whole of London) were scorching hot.

As always I had my favourites among the cast, although it was hard to chose with this show as the entire cast were spectacular. Simon Green played Ismay to perfection. I loathed him by the end of it! Leo Miles (Fleet) has the kind of singing voice I could listen to all day. And Judith Street was fantastic in her role as Ida Straus. When she and Dudley Rogers sang their duet in the second half I have to admit I shed a tear. It was perfection.  But then the whole show was, it blew my mind and I was completely engrossed in the story, atmosphere and characters.

If there is one musical you see this summer, pick this one. It's running to 31 August. You can find out more and book tickets here.

Recommendations: Arrive early, sit in the second or third row of the seats facing the set. Take a cold drink. Prepare to be amazed.

Star rating: 5+.  One of the best shows I've ever seen, and the best show I've seen in London's fringe to date.

Follow my Entertainment list on Twitter, which includes some of the cast and crew from this show.

Last but not least, a special thanks to my theatre buddies for booking the tickets. xx

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Lazy Days of Summer Spontaneous Giveaway Hop

I am taking part in the Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Burgandy Ice.
The dates for this hop are July 24th to August 4th.

All you have to do is comment below and tell me which of my books you would like to receive as a prize if you win. You will get a second entry if you like my facebook page (or already do).

The options are a signed paperback copy of:

New Beginnings  (for 9+)
A Knowing Look and Other Stories (A collection of short stories for adults)
When Dreams Come True (for 10-14s).

You can read a bit more about all of the books here.

Any comments made before midnight PST on August 4th will count, and the winners will be picked on 5th

This is an international giveaway.

Good luck and happy hopping!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Theatre Review: One Man, Two Guvnors (Theatre Royal Haymarket)

I decided to see One Man, Two Guvnors without knowing anything about it, when I walked past the theatre just after 7 on Saturday 13th July, and saw the posters. I got a seat in the middle of row E of the stalls which turned out to be a brilliant seat.

This show opens before the stated start time with a 4 piece band called The Craze appearing on stage and playing several  catchy tunes that simply make you want more. Make sure you are in your seat by 7.15 so you don't miss this, as I have to say they are outstanding (they sell their debut album in the foyer and yes, I bought it).

The lead role is played by Rufus Hound, the self-defined harlequin of the piece, who is superb in the role, showing perfect comedy timing and an amazing ability to ad-lib with audience members (and noticeably personally thanking them afterwards). He, along with the rest of the cast, were a delight to watch and very funny, also multi-talented as it seemed all the cast members also got involved with the music at one point or another, and there were some amazing singing and instrumental contributions all round.

In summary, I recommend this show if you like comedy. I wouldn't recommend the end of the row at the front of the stalls if you don't like audience participation. But what stood out for me in all honesty were The Craze, who I would happily pay to watch in a show of their own. They are totally amazing. And not only that but I have since found out (thanks to my good friend Twitter) that one of the band was making their West End debut that day. I would never have guessed that.

Star rating: 4.5 out of 5, but that is probably down to my personal taste. I suspect others would rate it a 5.
Music rating: 5 out of 5. Don't forget to buy the CD on the way out - at £10, a total bargain.

Check out the official website for more information.
Follow my Entertainment list on Twitter, which includes some of the cast and crew from this show. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Guest Blog: Karen Henderson on The Appeal of Short Stories

Today it gives me great pleasure to host Karen Henderson here on my blog. She's writing about a subject close to my heart so please do have a read, and at the end there is also a chance to win an ebook! Without further ado, I will hand over to Karen.

The Appeal of Short Stories

Most people would agree that the definition of “story” is “an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment”. However, the definition of the length of the story varies greatly, but the most accurate (in my opinion) is “the length that is required to tell the story”; be that six words or six thousand words or six hundred thousand words.

There was a time when I would not purchase a book unless it was the size and weight of a door stop. The more pages the better. It would mean I would be lost in another world for longer. I could savour every detail. Besides, the bigger the book the less I felt ripped off with increasing book prices. Think about it, why buy a 100 page book when you could pay the same price for a 300 page book and get three times the reading experience? It made perfect sense, to me. No thought was given to the fact that maybe the shorter story was well written and just as enjoyable.

Then I became a wife and mother. I worked full time during the day and did the motherly things in the evenings and on weekends. I didn’t have time for 300 pages and suddenly those 100 page books were looking more attractive. At least I could get through them in a reasonable amount of time. I could read several books in a year instead of a couple of tombs.

Late one night, when my boys were tucked up in bed sleeping peacefully, I started writing my own story. Over the next three years I wrote three novel length manuscripts, with a total word count of almost one million words. The characters from those three stories will be etched forever in my mind. To me, they are real people with real lives.

None of those manuscripts have been published, but writing them gave me an insight; writing long stories was not necessarily better than writing shorter ones. Yes, those stories are real to me but that doesn’t mean they should be published. Not in their original format anyway. No one wants to know every detail of every person. And do we really need to talk about the weather or the scenery for five pages? It’s boring and it’s the quickest way to get readers to stop reading.

When time is precious, a reader might turn to a short story. They can experience the entire story in one sitting—beginning, middle and end. They can sample many genres, characters and settings in a single day. They can experience life threatening situations, be tempted by romance, travel the universe and live the life of a person they would only dare to imagine, but would never want to become.

Stories can teach us the importance of tolerance, they can show us how people of other walks of life live and they can inspire us to improve our own situation.

Yet is writing a short story easier and faster than writing a novel?

Technically, it is faster to write five thousand words than a hundred thousand. But that doesn’t mean it’s easier. And it doesn’t mean writing a short story is suitable for all writers.

A novel writer can explore many aspects of a world and the characters. The manuscripts can consist of complex plots that intertwine. There is plenty of time to explore, work through and resolve these things.

However, a short story doesn’t have the luxury of time and space for all that. A short story is a slice of life. Remember, there is a word limit—often 5,000 words—and it takes great presence of mind for the writer not to get carried away with all the sub-plots that could be written about. In short stories, too many plots are distracting and confusing. If you think every word counts when writing a novel length story, imagine how difficult it is when exploring a plot in a short story. It takes expertise to accomplish it successfully.

No matter what the length of the story, it must leave the reader feeling something when they reach the end. Only stories that speak to and move the reader will be remembered.

Writing short stories isn’t for everyone, just like reading them isn’t. But a great short story can be just as entertaining and inspiring as a novel. Please tell me the title and author of a short story that left you thoughtful and moved.


This guest post is part of the “Tomorrow” Virtual Book Tour starting on 6 July 2013. To find out more about the stories, the authors and the publication go to the virtual booktour schedule page.


I am offering “Ramblings of a Rusty Writer” readers a chance to win a copy to the “Tomorrow” ebook (in the format of the winner’s choice). Just leave a comment on this post and your name will be in the draw. One name will be randomly drawn and the winner will be announced in the comments section, in a couple of days.

Before I go, I’d just like to say a big thank you to Rebecca for hosting this stop on the book tour. If you haven’t been here before you should take a moment to look around. You’ll find an interesting mix of shorts, reviews and a look at a writer’s life.

About Karen Henderson

Karen Henderson is an editor at Kayelle Press, a small independent publisher of speculative fiction in Australia. Their latest release is “Tomorrow”, a post-apocalyptic anthology exploring the possible outcomes of plagues, biohazards, human error, natural disasters and intergalactic travel. The book is available in paperback and various digital formats from their website and from most online bookstores. Visit the website to find out more.