Check out an Independent Book Shop during the Lockdown

This blog post was inspired by a Twitter chat this morning all about helping out independent bookshops.

3 bookshelves containing a mix of colours and sizes of book

Here is a link to the amazing chat:

https://twitter.com/RobGMacfarlane/status/1253073923916402689

although you will have to have an account with Twitter to see it. I know that Twitter can be toxic, but I also really enjoy hanging out there with other writers. On this thread, lots of independent bookshops tweeted back that they were still open for business.

You could also try a search on Facebook, as lots of bookshops will have pages there too. The aim of this post is to encourage you to use your spending power to support smaller businesses.

In this lockdown time, why not support your local small businesses? You can find a good-sized list at Indie Bookshops.

One of Jane Austen’s characters said,

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

Caroline Bingley may not have been entirely honest when she said this. She was trying to compete with Elizabeth Bennett for Mr Darcy’s attention by reading a book, at a time when Elizabeth was really trying to avoid conversation with people that she felt uncomfortable with, by reading a book.

Reading a book is a great way to get away from our tablet screens.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading ‘The Tennant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Bronte. It was bought it when we visited the Bronte’s old home last year while on holiday in Yorkshire. I had previously read ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’. It is a great read – took a while to get going, but now I am really into it and not far from the end. I am already planning which book to read next.

Five reasons to look at a smaller bookseller:

  • They really appreciate your custom
  • You may find some unusual books that you may not have found anywhere else
  • It is so easy to place an order and pay online – good for socially distancing too! Check with each shop how they would like you order – some take orders by phone.
  • Browsing books is so similar to the actual experience except you are probably wearing the right glasses already
  • You can often find unusual or specialist books at smaller bookshops.

Some Midlands independent bookshops that are open for postal business:

The hive offers a selection of books and supports local booksellers through the purchases made. You can choose an independent to send some money too. The hive offers both books and ebooks and book-related gifts.

AbeBooks offers a network of independent booksellers which offer rare, used and out-of-print books which can be posted to people through internet orders. Books are shipped directly from the seller.

  • Astley Book Farm in Bedworth, Warwickshire offers the ability to buy online. It looks an amazing place to visit and seems to have a vast array of books
  • Warwick Books in Warwick are currently selling books online. You can request books through email from this page, and they are putting together book bundles too.
  • The Chaucer Head Bookshop, Stratford-upon-Avon are selling through AbeBooks or you can call them directly from the number listed on their website, including a number for overseas visitors
  • The Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham is able to sell existing stock. They are also offering mystery boxes. You can email them from their website.

I have only been able to include bookshops with an online presence. Many independent bookshops have bricks and mortar only and so I could not include them. This is a list for Midlands-based booksellers and I will be doing more blog posts about other areas of the country. If you have had good service from an online bookseller, do let me know in the comments below.

The fact is, that we need independent sellers as well as the big giants. If the big giants are able to capture all our sales and shut the independents down, then the lack of choice will make us all captive audiences. Bigger is not always better.

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Stronger Fiction: Should you write what you know or know what you write?

One of the oldest pieces of advice for people who want to write fiction is that they should “write what they know’. This sage piece of wisdom is passed down from teachers to young pupils, from tutors to college students and in many creative writing classes. Yet, what does it actually mean? And is it a piece of advice worth following?

Write what you know

notebook-old-photos-magnifying-glass-camera

Writing what you know suggests that the writer can not step outside their own experience. It suggests that their writing should be autobiographical in nature and always include a piece of themselves. While it could be good advice to write about what you know, if you were a former pirate, sailing the high seas who accidentally kidnapped a prince, more normal people may find it more difficult. Most people’s lives are fairly ordinary and there doesn’t seem to be much room for excitement.

Directing someone to write what they know, ignores the rich imaginations that most writers have. We can imagine what it is like to walk on a strange planet or to dive deep in the oceans. We can imagine how things could turn out when you meet the one person that you have always wanted to meet – even if it has never happened to you. I would not recommend that writers always stick to writing what they know or what they have experienced.

Knowing what you write is a different thing. Here, writers research before they write and use it to help create the story. You may not know everything before you begin to write, but you may have done some research and use it to help the story along. You may need to stop and make notes of further knowledge you need, but you can begin the story and leave gaps. This will enable you to slot in extra research, which will enrich the story. The best research fits seamlessly in the story.

Call on your emotions for your writing

We have all experienced emotion in one form or another, even if we have not experienced a specific event such as losing a parent or having our heart broken. Most people understand what it can be to fall in love, to like somebody who doesn’t know you exist or somebody unattainable like a celebrity. Using the emotions that you have felt during your life is a good use of writing what you know. It can enrich your writing and bring your characters to life.

Another variation on this rule is to write what you read. This is some of the best advice that a writer could be given. If you already read and enjoy a particular type of genre, then you will enjoy writing it too. If you don’t read, then how will you know what you enjoy and which type of book calls to you on a deeper level? Being a reader is the first step to becoming a writer.

Do you write regularly? Do you think that you should write what you know or were rules made to be broken? Comment below.

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Ten of the best Bromances in Fiction

There’s something about a really good bromance that stirs the heart. Bromances have been a fiction winner ever since Jonathan & David way back in the time of Saul!

together by Z S on Flickr CC

These days we ship all kinds of bromances from TV series, books and films, but here are some of my favourite bromances from literature.

  1. Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson. These two are not strictly a book but started life as a syndicated cartoon. I remember the very first one coming out and I was hooked! Calvin is a six year old American boy and Hobbes is his stuffed tiger. Hobbes comes alive whenever the two are playing together, but all Calvin’s parents ever see is Hobbes as a toy. The cartoons are funny, touching and true-to-life. Everyone needs a friend like Hobbes.
  2. Pooh & Piglet. Actually all the characters from Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne are wonderful friends. The stories are lovely and we can all relate to the characters. Winnie the Pooh is wonderfully self-deprecating (“a bear of very little brain”) but he loves nothing better than to play pooh sticks with his friends.
  3. Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham. I seem to be getting away from bromances at the moment, but hear me out. The joy of Toad’s friends trying to save him from his own foolishness never fails to delight me. The friends all have very different personalities, but they also have lots of fun together.
  4. Harry & Ron, Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Harry meets Ron on the train to Hogwarts and it is the start of a beautiful friendship. I love that Ron is one of the youngest of a huge family and that he has everything passed down to him from his brothers. Harry may be able to afford everything new, but he would give it all up to have his parents back. They always watch out for one another and their friendship only grows stronger throughout their years at Hogwarts. Other bromances of note in the Harry Potter series include Fred and George Weasley and Sirius Black and Remus Lupin.
  5. Darcy & Bingley, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. These two friends are opposites – Bingley wears his heart on his sleeve, is handsome and affable, sociable and enjoys being in company. Darcy appears dark and brooding and is not willing to open up to anyone. He is however, very loyal to his friend, and although he made the wrong choice, being willing to upset the girl he loves in favour of his friend is a courageous thing to do.
  6. Sherlock & Watson, Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. I’m not sure that anyone would ship these two from the original books, although their friendship is very clear in the stories. Interest has risen in these two characters through the recent TV adaption involving Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Their characters are modern friends, with Dr Watson being the steadying hand on Holmes’ more manic personality. The original stories are well worth going back to even if it’s just to see which bits they ‘borrowed’ for the TV series.
  7. Percy & Grover, Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. I love Rick Riordan’s series and have thoroughly enjoyed all the books. Percy and Grover have a great supportive friendship which lasts through all the different Greek monsters they meet.
  8. Frodo & Sam, Lord of the Rings by JR Tolkien. Although they are hobbits rather than people, I love the friendship between Frodo and Sam. Sam is just so loyal and Frodo would not have made it through the quest without Sam. Their loyalty and friendship is timeless.
  9. Hiccup & Toothless, How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. If you have not yet introduced your junior age children to Cressida Cowell’s series, then do so immediately! Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is the son of the chief Viking. The books are not the same stories as the films – they are better! The names of the characters are outrageous and hilarious in equal measure and the illustrations are wonderful. The friendship between Hiccup and Toothless is as loyal and true as any bromance should be.
  10. The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas is the ultimate bromance book – sword fighting, dastardly deeds, brave heroes and an anti-heroine – what more could you want? If your knowledge stops with the BBC TV series, then check out the books – yes he wrote more than one and they are a really good read. He also wrote The Man in the Iron Mask. I read them in my teens and now I come to think of it, I am definitely due a re-read. Enjoy!

So there, you have it – my top 10 bromances! There are loads I have missed out, so feel free to post your favourite literature bromances below.

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