Confused identity

An emergence from tragedy

This is the first of my reviews of self-published or very small press fiction. In fact, it is not to be published for another few weeks, but I think you will want to put this on your wishlist.

I read Tracey Scott-Townsend’s first book, The Last Time I saw Marion, and was impressed by the quality of writing and unique storyline. When I received Another Rebecca I wondered if the quality would remain, but I wasn’t disappointed.

The title suggests that we are in for a retake at Manderley, but no. This is not a Du Maurier sequel. The other Rebecca is a reformation of her mother, who has the same name. She now calls herself Bex to differentiate from the girl she once was, and sadly, is no more.

The novel opens on a dreamy sequence that is a time slip. Rebecca flits from hospital into a fantastic and erotic adventure, but it doesn’t last long. When we return to the present time, it is clear why Rebecca needs (and deserves) to escape reality.

She lives in a miserable and increasingly crisis-laden home, abandoned by father, caring for an alcoholic mother.

There are three voices: the girl, Rebecca, her mother, Bex and Jack, her seemingly errant father. The language is similar for the two parents, whereas Rebecca has gained more education and maturity despite being a young person.

The alcoholic mother whinges her way to disaster, yet in the chapters in her voice we find the remains of what could have been a nice person. The disgusting state she has got herself into isn’t minimized but the background story, built up slowly, shows her jagged path to destruction.

This author is skilled at setting a conflict from which the story can flow. We soon learn that Jack is caught up in a no-win situation that was caused by his kindness, not his neglect. It is easy to sympathise with his position, torn between competing emotional forces.

Our identification is with the Rebecca whose future is before her. The mystery surrounds and is a part of her, interacting with the art that inspires and possesses her.

As the narrative progresses, it becomes more complex and the fantasy Rebecca began with permeates the theme in a new way. The significance of the title comes into its own. Finally, the tangled threads of these three characters’ story reach their conclusion, making for a thoroughly satisfying read.

This is a thoughtful, well-structured novel with good characterisation. The life-style and thought-processes of the alcoholic are credible, as is the good-heartedness, yet ineffectiveness of the husband. Scott-Townsend has not made the mistake of painting her characters black and white. The positives and weaknesses are carefully revealed.

There are some lyrical descriptions of scenes that add to the pleasure of reading this interesting story. It should please readers of fantasy as well as those who enjoy tales of family conflict.


Towards a super-blog?

Eye-catching and complex. This is the kind of illustration that attracts my attention. I’ll scroll down if I see something like this. Ideally, a blog post needs a visual with immediate appeal.


Let me start by emphasizing that this post is a personal view. I don’t have the blogging qualifications to give the answer to my title, but I am a reader of blogs, so my reactions to blogs won’t be unique.

In this post I am highlighting four blogs I have come across and followed with delight – delight because I cherish mastery. Each of these blogs, despite being so different from each other, displays a mastery of the chosen field: blogging. It’s become apparent to me that blogging is a new art form, and one that can make use of existing art forms as well as new technology.

This is my personal criteria for a blog to be excellent: it has to attract the eye, serve an immediate need for specific information, be clever in its use of the web-site technology, to entertain and be memorable.

I am sure there are thousands of wonderful blogs, but I’ve been too wrapped up in managing my own blog struggles to surf a lot. I was handicapped by not having been a blog visitor before having to create one. It was like being told to trampoline before I’d learned to jump. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop me noting quality as soon as my blogging trawls began.

The following blogs each offer something special, and they’ve each paid due attention to the appearance and ease of use of their blog. Furthermore, each demonstrates commitment to the work of blogging and the responsibility of delivering quality content.

The Inky Fool. My prize for erudition.   Mark Forsyth generously presents information on words, where they might be found or used, their derivation or intricate, fascinating details about them. Example posts:  an examination of the origin, role and place of Sherlock Holmes in literature; the Anglo-Saxon version of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Wordiness can be great fun. It’s a wonderful site, and incidentally makes you want to rush off and buy these unique books. The blog is impressively elegant and is easy to negotiate.Inky Fool

The Bloggess.   My prize for hilarity. Jenny has a huge following and a book that developed by demand as result of her entertaining blog. (Enviable position!) She appeals to all our rebellious and unworthy urges, provides a fun outlet for all the cringeworthy mistakes anyone might have made and states outrageous things with a jokey corollary so that no-one could reasonably complain. (Unreasonable ones do). Example posts are shown, but these can’t do justice to the fun of Jenny’s discourse.

AnneRAllen. My prize for quality writing – as it happens, about writing. There are many writing blogs, often with advice that is very ‘samey’.  This blog convinces with sensible, knowledgeable advice, well written articles and links to useful information. Example article =        12 Signs Your Novel isn’t Ready to Publish    The presentation is clean and spare. The opinions do not appear to be derivative, as is true of many writers’ blogs. I’m a Brit, so in British terms, AnneRAllen is a Liberty’s as opposed to a British Home Stores writers’ blog.

Morgen Bailey. My prize for multi-tasking, and a separate prize for responsiveness. The presentation is of layers upon layers of related sections. The multitude of key words to click and explore fairly represents the true multi-tasker. Look at how comprehensive this is:

I’ve admired, enjoyed and explored these blogs. I know there will be many others of excellence, but these provide good examples of successful blogging. They provide a real service.

Regarding my own two blogs, I’ve been told my other one is (not Rolls Royce, lol, but) unique. It provides no service! It developed out of a mischevious attempt to retain some privacy while still giving exposure to my book. The Me-Time Tales blog has the characters do the writing. I let them take charge and dominate me. Now the blog has taken on a life and narrative of its own and has received to date 5,500 visits in its five months of life. Since it doesn’t have articles, guests and so on, I guess it will stay in its weird form until it dies. Everything has a natural life and I am prepared for this.

And this blog? It will be some time before I have learned all the skills necessary to develop it into the superblog I would like – a resource for character-based writing, and to discuss writing in process.  Meanwhile, I continue to search for blog masters and to learn from them.


Do leave a comment if you have learned something useful about blogging. 

Writers’ and Readers’ Last Minute Xmas Sav(i)ours

Yes it’s that time again. Mary couldn’t get a cloth to match the curtains and Reginald’s special chair ruins the symmetry of the display. Now, Harold’s coming, totally unplanned-for, there’ll have to be a rattan chair from the conservatory squeezed onto a corner between – ? – whoever looks thinnest on arrival. PRESENTS!!! Thank goodness for the last minute saviours discussed hereSONY DSC

There are characters sorry, personable individuals whom you know, and what’s more have to suddenly buy for. (Yes, we’re all busy, can’t remember everyone) OR (ouch, didn’t know he’d be there for lunch so didn’t buy him anything. He’s bound to embarrass me by bringing something lovely)  It all adds up to: “Must get something for Betty or Betram, but what???”

Let me help. Books can come in different sizes, shapes and surprises.

Ignore that set of highly reviewed and popularised paperbacks on the front tables of your local large bookstore.  Other people will have had the same thought – “Ah, the latest X or Y” (I daren’t specify or my life won’t be worth living).  Be original.  You can’t? You have gone blank with Christmasistis? Here are some books that will please more than one of the following people. If so, their pleasure may warm your attitude towards them. Christmas is the time of Goodwill to All Men. I’m sure this was meant to include women. The books do.

Working out which book for which person is a small problem; all the rest is done for you.

Lorraine: She has frequent periods of depression following failed relationships. In her downs she retires to bed and reads avidly. Take those romances away, they only make her cry. She needs mental stimulation and a new way of thinking. If she can’t cope, there’s flash fiction. That means she can be diverted between pages.

Cyril:     Once he represented HM as consul in a distant island. Life was slow, uncultured and extremely comfortable. Now returned, he is at a loose end, swings between part-time and futile consultancies and no longer feels sufficiently important. He needs a book that will give him instant gravitas.

Avril:     Sharper than we would like her to be, she appears to have read EVERYTHING, mostly with a cynical eye. She needs to be charmed, to be softened up, to learn that books exist outside her realm.

Dominic:   He is a dandy, valuing appearance far too much. Apart from a mirror, he needs to think big, and particularly to think. Go carefully, too taxing a book will prevent him from opening the cover. 

StJohn:          Actually he is a late middle-aged reviewer on DareISayIt newspaper. He thinks he has his eye on everything literary. Most people buy him rare brandy or titbits from Fortnum and Mason’s. Surprise him and he will admire you for ever. But it better be good.

Tom:            He gains enormous pleasure from reading books that have faults. It will fill the room with his tenor bleats if you can find a badly edited book with an erudite author. Unfortunately, I dare not nominate one or every word I write in the future will have spit on it. The other alternative is a book that deliberately compiles mistakes but this is a poor substitute.

Adrienne:    She reads romances hidden between the pages of Margaret Atwell novels and now she has run out of this fodder.  I have just the book for her. An unequal relationship, breached ethics. Let her brood on the outcomes of forbidden lust. OR accept the unlocking of certain females.

Siobhan:      She’s everyone’s cousin, newly arrived from time overseas and totally, but totally out of touch, darlings.  Give her a break. Let her eat cake. There’s plenty in one book here.

Mary:            Always the hostess, never the guest. Give her something so gripping she won’t bother ever making a hot toddy for anyone again, let alone a cooked meal, particularly gourmet. 

Derek:          Was he invited???? I can’t bear him. Can you? No, no-one can, the pontificating has-been. Anywhere, here he is bearing orchids reduced price from B and Q masquerading as high class florist’s choice for “lovely ladies”.  Uck.  Give him something that will make him see women differently. OR a huge book that will cause him to retire to the study almost permanently.

It was a ‘no-kids’ invite, thank goodness. Kids books might emerge on another post. But only if amazingly different.

Have fun with the party games, everyone. Here is one of them is ‘fit the book to the beast.’

PREZZIE CHOICE: SEE DESCRIPTIONS IN THE FOLLOWING POST. Author names include: Kerr, Schott, Merceron, Minett, Deng, Hollis, but there are more . . .