The To-Be-Read List

book pile

Before anyone can be a writer, they first have to be a reader.

I feel very lucky that I was given the opportunity to fall in love with reading as child. My mum happily took us to our local library, and I remember being amazed that there were people out there who let you take books home and trusted you to return them. And it was free! The library of my youth has changed locations, but it still exists, thank goodness. And having just checked, I’m pleased to report it’s open 7 days a week. (Thank you, Ealing Council.)

These days, I tend to buy most of the books I read, which is both a blessing and a curse. It results in straining shelves, surfaces stacked with tottering piles of paperbacks, and  large doses of guilt. Nothing reproaches me more than an unread book.

Every time the book fairy appears clutching a new book I always try to add it to the bottom of the pile so that the books that have been languishing unread the longest don’t keep getting shunted further down the line. It almost never works. I usually end up dipping into it first and if I’m gripped I keep reading. (Try keeping your mitts off Nicola Mostyn’s brilliant debut, The Gods of Love.)

Sometimes, when you finally get round to reading a book you’ve had ages, it turns out to be so amazingly good that you chide yourself for letting it sit so long gathering dust. (The dusting fairy visits far less frequently than her bookish counterpart.) Apologies to Juliet Ashton and her brilliant book The Woman at Number 24.

The TBR List is a fact of life. Yes, the guilt pangs are an occupational hazard, but there’s also something comforting, decadent even, in having an (almost) endless supply of book to get lost in.




Music makes the words come together

I used to think I could never write while listening to music. But last year, I decided to give it a whirl, and now I can’t believe I didn’t try it sooner. Now, I don’t sit down at my desk without first loading up some playlists on Spotify. (I’m writing this listening to a mix of Bon Jovi ballads – no judging till you re-listen to Wanted Dead or Alive, please.)

I didn’t dive into full-on power ballads, Nope, I had to dip my toe in gently so I started with a bit of classical music – piano and orchestra – basically anything relaxing that didn’t have lyrics. I was convinced listening to someone singing would result in me accidentally typing the words I was hearing, but I’m a cowboy; on a steel horse I ride… OK, bad joke, but the point is, that didn’t happen.

In fact, the point about music isn’t really the lyrics, it’s about the mood it inspires. So, when you need energy, try a bit of Justin Timberlake, when you’re feeling angry, I recommend Garbage. (Shirley Manson can perfectly convey every shade of ‘screw you’.)

My work-in-progress is set in the record industry, so maybe it was obvious that listening to music would help get me to the finish line. When my heroine is riding in a car with the Love Interest and is just starting to notice her attraction to him, it made sense to heighten the scene with music. Cue a bit of Marvin Gaye floating from the car stereo. When they go to a karaoke bar, I took ages choosing which naff 80s tunes she has to sing – ones she’s way too embarrassed to admit to secretly liking. (Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me and Aerosmith’s Love In An Elevator, in case you’re wondering.)

Some authors need to create playlists for their characters before they can get properly stuck in, and I can see the appeal now. After all, shouldn’t the type of music your character enjoys be something you should know before you can properly write her?

Being a rock journalist, my main character is (a lot) cooler than me and her musical taste reflects that, but I still had fun picking the songs that made her roll her eyes whenever she heard them, especially when her non-industry friends professed to adore said songs. (I have a love/love relationship with boybands.)

So, as I embark on Book 2, I’m spending some time happily making playlists. And I get to call it work.


Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 14.38.09.png

Weaved or wove? 

Weaved or wove?

Until today I’d assumed that ‘wove’ was the only correct past tense of ‘weave’. I’d been taught this many years back when an editor balked when one of my characters ‘weaved through traffic’. Out came the red pen, and ‘wove’ was magically substituted.

But having coming across ‘weaved’ in a favourite author’s novel, I decided to look it up. And who knew, but if you’re referring to baskets you must always use wove or woven, but if you’re talking about something that moves from one direction to another, ‘weaved’ is correct. Basically, ‘weave’ in the second sense comes from a different source, a word closer to the verb ‘wave’.

It’s all explained far better here.

And if there was room for any doubt, even the good old OED concurs:

weaved, weaved [intransitive, transitive] to move along by running and changing direction continuously to avoid things that are in your way