How’d a nice girl like you wind up in the Manson Family? | Book review: The Girls – Emma Cline

You wait forever for a book about the girls of the Manson Family to arrive and then two come along at once. This month sees the publication of both Emma Cline’s The Girls and Alison Umminger’s My Favourite Manson Girl. And, if we’re counting the TV series Aquarius, as well as Manson’s Lost Girls, the recent Lifetime movie (yes, really), Susan Atkins et al have, like, omg never been hotter.

The Girls by Emma ClineLet’s save the “ethics of true crime” discussion for another time (hey, you listened to Serial, too, right?). There’s obviously something that still resonates about this legend of a magnetic man; one who’s capable of building a cadre of (mostly female) misfits willing to murder for him. The fact that attention has mostly shifted from Manson to his “girls” speaks to both the post-Gone-Girl wave of female-driven crime novels and also to society’s persistent astonishment whenever a woman does anything except what she’s supposed to. When we see her mugshot, we all still wonder, “How’d a nice girl like you end up there?”

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The 10 people who’ll critique your writing

Joining a writing group is probably the best thing I’ve ever done, in terms of improving my writing. Getting other people to read and critique my work has forced me to look at my stories afresh. It’s sparked new ideas. And, uh, it’s stopped me from making completely boneheaded leaps of illogic in my fiction. I am unspeakably grateful to everyone who has ever agreed to read my work, because, quite honestly, it was probably a bit of a slog for them.

However, the fact remains that having your story critiqued can bear some resemblance to walking across hot coals. (Should I cut down on my hyperbole? … Are you critiquing me right now?) Some criticism, in particular, is incredibly frustrating to hear. That’s because critique’rs are human and, therefore, deeply flawed.

Let’s take a look at some of the archetypes that make up every writing group:

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I gave up coffee and I didn’t die

(Trust me, I’m surprised too.)

This risks being a really annoying post, but since I read a lot of “how I gave up coffee” posts before I actually gave up coffee, I figured I’d complete the blogging circle-jerk and write one of my own.

Beware the ides of March! One Sunday evening last month, I randomly decided, “I’m gonna do it! I’m just gonna stop drinking coffee!” It had always been on my to-do list, since every health book in print tells you not to drink coffee. And I actually cut way back on my coffee habit a few years ago for precisely this reason. It’s just that I could never quite take the plunge up give up my (extra-strength) morning coffee.

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(Potato) seeds of change | Review: Don’t Trust, Don’t Fear, Don’t Beg – Ben Stewart (non-fiction)

Don’t Trust, Don’t Fear, Don’t Beg is a brick of a book and I’ll admit I put off reading it for a few weeks. More fool me, because it’s actually an exciting, quick read.

Don't Trust Don't Fear Don't Beg by Ben StewartIt’s partly a snapshot of a political movement (Greenpeace); partly a real-life thriller (what happens when Greenpeace activists are arrested during a direct action); and partly a prison soap opera (they’re arrested in Russia… yikes).

This could have been a turgid read, but where Ben Stewart succeeds is by zeroing in on the individual stories, and teasing out not only the fearfulness of the situation but also the ridiculousness.

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My book launch – get your FREE copy (for a limited time only)

Defeat Dyslexia! (FREE for a limited time only)Short version: I’ve written a book! It’s called Defeat Dyslexia!: The Parents’ Guide to Understanding Your Child’s Dyslexia, and it’s available on Amazon. To celebrate its launch, the Kindle e-book is free (for a limited time only).

(Don’t have a Kindle? No problem! Download your free copy of the e-book and read it on your tablet, phone, or computer using the Kindle app.)

What’s the catch? Well, I’m hoping you’ll read it, enjoy it, and (if you do) please, please, please write a review on Amazon or Good Reads (or both). Thank you! I appreciate it!

Long version:

A few years ago, I offered to help dyslexia expert Holly Swinton (who just happens to be my sister) write a book for parents of dyslexic children. Three months later, I’d finished the book and inked a deal with a major publishing house… Oh wait, that didn’t happen, because writing and publishing a book is hard.

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Coming soon: the Defeat Dyslexia! book

It’s been in the pipeline for a while, so I’m thrilled to announce that my collaboration with dyslexia expert Holly Swinton, Defeat Dyslexia!, will be available to buy as a paperback and e-book from Amazon next month.

Defeat Dyslexia!What’s it all about?

Defeat Dyslexia! is the practical guide to dyslexia for busy parents and carers.

You can find out with what dyslexia really means for your child’s reading, spelling, maths, and other areas of learning, including music, languages, and sport.

Then discover straightforward, positive ways to help your dyslexic child to excel, in school and in life.

Why is it different?

There are a lot of great dyslexia books on the market, but too many of them are academic in tone and overloaded with jargon.

I know this isn’t what parents want. So Defeat Dyslexia! was written to be jargon-free and easy to read.

But don’t take my word for it…

People much cleverer than me can vouch for the book, too.

Sarah Bailey, an MBACP Psychotherapist, school counsellor, and mother, has this to say about Defeat Dyslexia!:

“A clear and concise guide, dispelling myths and laying the path for the exciting journey  through life ahead of those with dyslexia and their support network.

“As both a professional and a mother of someone with dyslexia, I find this book a shining star in dyslexia literature.”

Read more advance reviews of the book

5 reasons you need to take self-publishing seriously

It’s easy clickbait to slag off self-publishing – usually on the basis of assumptions that are either only half-true or not true at all.

As someone who’s spent the last few months discovering the world of self-publishing – in preparation for self-pub’ing my own book – it’s frustrating to be constantly hit by a wall of negativity and misconceptions whenever I mention self-publishing.

With that in mind, I firmly believe that every writer (and every reader invested in finding good books to read) should understand the truth about self-publishing, instead of relying on a kneejerk reaction of, “lol, it’s all typos and bad covers and if I self-publish I’ll never win the Booker!*”

(*If winning the Man Booker Prize is really your #1 goal in writing fiction, then I salute your gigantic ego and insane lack of realism. But anyway…)

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5 YA books from the 90s that deserve a revival

Looking at the current crop of Young Adult books, it can be tough to remember that there was ever a time before Twilight and The Hunger Games.

YA is now a juggernaut, spawning million-dollar box office openings, but let’s not forget that 20 years ago, it was a cute little side-line in publishing. And let’s not forget the authors who helped pave the way for the current success of YA. Although some 90s series, like The Vampire Diaries, have seen a renaissance, most languish in semi-obscurity.

So, if your interest in YA started with Suzanne Collins or John Green, why not check out some of my favourite 90s reads?

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That feel when… | Review: The Emotion Thesaurus – Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (non-fiction, writing)

I’ll admit that, when I first heard about The Emotion Thesaurus, I reacted against the whole concept. It’s a reference book full of ‘beats’ of action (he bit his lip! he ripped at his hair!), which you can insert into your fiction to show the reader how a character is feeling, rather than telling them.

The Emotion Thesaurus
The blogger wipes the sweat from her brow to show that it’s been a long day

But… but… (I spluttered, rending my garments to show I was aggravated…) your beats should come organically! You should know your characters so well that their actions come to you automatically! You should strive for originality in your writing, not all this lip-biting/hair-ripping!

Of course, that’s the ideal and therefore not real life. In real life, you’re editing something and you’ve read it so many times that you basically want to die and goddammit you just can’t think of a way to convey to the reader that the character is angry (short of dropping in “he said angrily” — oh sweet sweet adverbs!). In that situation, The Emotion Thesaurus feels like it was sent from heaven. *angels singing*

In the few weeks since I purchased this book, it’s become close to invaluable to me. I do wish some of the suggested beats were less clichéd. You can find yourself in the situation of swapping out a tacky adverb and replacing it with a tacky cliché, which is hardly a step up. Nonetheless, in a pinch, it’s great (she said, biting her lip).


What listening to audiobooks taught me about writing

I’m a recent convert to audiobooks. For years, I never had much patience for them. If you’re a fast reader, one who can knock out a novel in a few hours, spending 10-20 hours on a single book can feel like some kind of sick joke.

What d’you mean… I can’t skip over the boring scenes…?

…I can’t blah-blah-blah through that pointless subplot…?

…I can’t flick to the end and see if whodunnit makes the mystery worth sticking with…?

When you listen to a book in audio form, you’re committing to reading it in its true form. You’re stuck with it, through good plot twists and bad, through fascinating characters and stock villains. If you want to know what happens, you have to be willing to accept any flaws – you can’t just skim-read them away.

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