we are a little different this year:
some contributions are exclusive stories, others are excerpts
from the authors' novels,
but all have our traditional format of...
Read the Story - Guess the Song
Here's a clue to the song title
something very special today
in memory of Richard Tearle, our senior reviewer
who passed away in April 2021
an excerpt from
The North Finchley Writers’ Group
By Richard Tearle
with Helen Hollick
Regular readers and followers of our annual Story Song entertainment here on Discovering Diamonds will be familiar with Richard's wonderful story contributions, and authors will also appreciate the thoughtful reviews he gave to many, many writers (over seven hundred books read, including those from when he was on my original review team for the HNS.)
It was, therefore, with great enthusiasm that I encouraged Richard to write his first novel. His enjoyment of creating a good story, I felt, should be shared to readers and writers everywhere. Unfortunately, at the editing stage Richard became ill, involving hospitalisation. Rather than abandon the project or put it on hold, we decided that the best course of action was for me to take over as a co-author and continue with getting his book published. The characters, plot – the story – were all Richard’s immense talent, I merely tidied up and added the final polish, coming in as ‘painter and decorator’ to Richard’s main role as architect, designer, and builder.
Sadly, Richard passed away in the April, but he did see his book, held it in his hands and was, I believe, immensely proud of his achievement.
Within his own acknowledgements he stated:
"First, to Helen Hollick. Helen is entirely responsible for the production of this book. My gratitude is everlasting. To Annie Whitehead who believed in the concept from the start and offered many suggestions to improve plot and construction. To Alison Morton whose friendship and advice has been invaluable. Bless you, Alison for giving up your valuable time. To Caz Greenham and Nicky Galliers for their wonderful editing skills, and to Elizabeth St John an author I admire immensely, who was generous enough with her time to read through a final version. Error correcting must be the hardest job in the whole process, because, of course, we authors cannot possibly make mistakes in spelling, construction or continuity...! I confess, however, (even with any errors that remain) that I am proud to be able to say we authors!
I am indebted to Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics whose advice – required for the character Sally – on all matters covers and graphics I sought, and then she came up with the actual cover itself. Cathy has encapsulated the 'feel' of the book in a simple yet effective graphic: it is very English and conveys the slightly whimsical and light-hearted style, which I hope shows through in the narrative.
And a most especial thank you to the unknown (by me) benefactor who generously donated the cost of producing this cover. All I know is that he or she is an author of historical fiction. Some writer I am! I cannot find the words to express my gratitude enough, so thank you, thank you, Sir or Madam for such an act of kindness.
Finally, to all the friends I have made in the industry. Writers are such a wonderful community – supportive, helpful and ever willing to give their time and expertise to one humble chap such as I. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
Richard – December 2020
I shed a few tears while reading through NFWG (as it is affectionally called) as I miss Richard a lot - he was a stalwart supporter of #DDRevs and was always there to give support, advice and to share a laugh. It is so sad that he isn't here to select his own excerpt and to enjoy the pleasure of his little book. However, I think he would approve of my choice, for this excerpt is about reviews - so very, very relevant for Discovering Diamonds!
|a BRAG Medallion Winner
When a group of north London writers meet each month for a chat, coffee, and cake – what else is on their agenda? Constructive criticism? New Ideas? An exciting project? And maybe, more than one prospective romance...?
Eavesdrop on the monthly meetings of the North Finchley Writers' Group, follow some ordinary people with a love of story writing, and an eagerness for success. Discover, along with them, the mysteries of creating characters and plot, of what inspires ideas, and how real life can, occasionally, divert the dream...
To the writing community, whether they be traditionally published,
indie or aspiring.
You make the rocking world go round.
My house – North Finchley, February 2019
'Are we all here?' I asked, peering around the crowded room. 'Hands up if you aren't.'
My little joke, which did elicit one small giggle from Sally, bless her.
'I've had apologies from Alicia, Denise and Christine. Again. Poor woman; how she suffers with her children when they're ill. She said she has nearly finished her next novel, another contemporary mystery romance, but set in Paris this time. She has such a talent for bringing her characters alive.'
'What's up with Alicia?' It was nice to see Sally entering the conversation; she'd always been a bit hesitant. Today's tee was an old Status Quo classic album cover – Ol' Rag Blues, and today's hair was pink and brown. Stripy. Today's socks were black, yellow and purple. Also stripy. A bee with an eye to royalty. Queen bee? Except Sally wasn’t the type to push herself forward as being important.
'I ran into her the other day in the High Road,' Jean said. 'She had a bit of a sniffle, so I expect that's what it is. She's been having trouble with her publisher,' she added.
'In what way?' Charlotte asked. Curious or nosy?
Jean replied with a shrug, 'She had a bad review that mentioned a lot of errors in her latest novel. Apparently, her publisher had sent the uncorrected galleys to the printer. She was fuming.'
'That's right,' I confirmed, 'she called me this afternoon to say she’d not be here tonight.' I paused for a moment. 'Which brings me to the topic I had selected before I heard from her. Reviews: how do we deal with bad ones? And what do good ones do for us?'
I gave them a minute to collect their thoughts. 'I saw one yesterday which said something like, I haven't read this book because I didn't like the first in the series. Which makes you wonder why the reader bought this next one in the first place.'
'I jotted a few remarks down,' I said, glancing at my notes, 'some are plain hurtful, others, well, ridiculous really. A friend recommended this book. She's no longer my friend. Or how about, I gave it one star because there is no provision for zero stars. Then there’s, The best thing about this book was the cover – and that was awful. Very complimentary! Anyone had anything similar?'
Jean piped up with, 'I did have one which said something along the lines of, I didn't read more than fifty pages because the violence was sickening. I mean, the opening of the book was the Battle of Towton, the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. What did they expect? Conkers at ten paces?'
We all laughed.
'Maybe King Harold and William the Conkerer should have had that idea?' OK, my joke wasn’t funny enough to elicit anything except a general groan. Same as most of my awful jokes, although Angela laughed at them. Sometimes. My wife didn’t even bother groaning. I’d given up making jokes, even good ones, when she was around.
'I've never had a bad review,' Charlotte remarked haughtily. She lied. I had deliberately checked Amazon when I had thought up the topic. One of hers had read: This woman should be disbarred from owning a typewriter. The story was predictable, hackneyed and full of Georgian stereotypes. And the history, such as it was, poorly researched. Admittedly, it was one of her early works, and it was at the bottom of a whole load of reasonably good comments, for she had improved a lot since then. But I wasn't about to mention it to the group, that would have been unkind.
'If reviews are as fatuous as those you’ve just highlighted, then sensible people will see through them and ignore them.' Zak offered.
'I've had a couple,' Angela confessed. 'Three stars, but nowhere near as bad or ridiculous. But we can take from this. My books won't suit everybody, after all. And besides, if you have a whole ton of five stars and veritable eulogies on how wonderful your writing is, then people might think that they are not genuine, all from family and friends.'
Good old Ange – ever the voice of reason.
'Angela is right,' Zak said thoughtfully. 'I mean, let's be honest – we all call on friends, family and fellow writers to put something complimentary on Amazon and Goodreads. It's the people we don't know who are the important ones. They have no axe to grind, are usually genuine and honest.'
'Exactly!' Hilary beamed. 'I've had some disappointing ones too. One or two trolls, of course, which I totally ignore. But there have been a few which made a good point and I have learned from them.'
Monty, who had been quiet for a change, said, 'Of course, this topic doesn't apply to me as I've not had a book published.'
I broke in before he could expand into a full complaint. 'Believe me, Monty, I didn't choose the subject to deliberately exclude you,' which was perfectly true, 'but to find out how we all might deal with something rude or hurtful if it came along. After all, apart from my magazine contributions, I've only had one compilation published and a small number of reviews for it, which range from three to five stars. And I do know who the fives are from. So, I am in much the same sort of boat as you. I want to know the best way to handle the bad ones. We are all going to get them at some stage, whether we like it or not.'
To his credit, he did incline his head, which was a sort of acknowledgement of what I had just said.
'What was your three?' Angela asked in a mischievous way.
'Something like, I liked some of the stories but not all of them. I found them too diverse, but that was rather the point of the book – a collection of very different stories.’
'But did you think that a fair comment?' Hilary leaned forward, an expression of genuine interest on her face.
I thought about that for a moment. 'At the time, no,' I replied, honestly. 'I thought that he – or she – could have been more charitable and made it a four!’
'We're not in it for charity,' Charlotte said, a little primly, shifting on her chair as if her considerable bottom was itching.
'Of course not,' I agreed quickly, 'but I think we can expect fairness. The title of the book is self-explanatory, after all.'
'Which, of course, cuts both ways,' Jean said.
'Fair point again,' said Zak. 'If we are happy to expect top ratings from the people we know, then we should also accept lower ratings from the people we don't.'
We reflected on that. It was true.
'But a review should always be fair. Some of those you read are most definitely unfair. I came across one that gave a one star because the packaging was damaged. That’s hardly the author’s fault is it?’ That was Sally, surprisingly, who broke the short silence.
I looked at her, smiled. Encouraged her to speak.
'I – I did some reviewing a while ago. For an online book club. It meant reading a lot of books that weren't really my thing. But that is no reason to mark a book down. It's about how it is written; does it go at a steady pace or is it too pedantic? Were there any holes in the plot? You know what I mean?'
'Spot on, Sally,' Angela beamed. 'You said you used to review; why did you stop?'
Sally blushed. 'I, er, had an argument with the man who ran the blog. I reviewed a book nobody had heard of because the writer was self-published. He claimed it was vanity publishing and didn't warrant a review.' She flushed, embarrassed, but pressed on. ' I told him that it was a damn good book and far better than his own writing.'
'You done good, girl,' applauded Hilary. 'We indies should stick together.'
'And have you had anything published?' Charlotte asked cattily.
Sally lowered her head. 'I keep trying.'
Hilary tapped her on the knee. 'Talk with me afterwards. I may be able to give you some pointers.'
'Oh, thank you!' Sally replied with a big smile. That was Hilary all over. She'd helped Jean several years ago, and now the two were the best of friends.
'And would you, unfairly, give a five star to a bad book?' Monty asked, bringing the conversation back to the topic.
'Define a bad book?' Sally shot back. It was a rhetorical question. 'A bad book isn't one that you don't like. A bad book is one that is not well written. Or badly presented. One with poorly defined characters, a bumbling plot, poor continuity. All tell and not show.'
I saw Jean nodding.
I glanced at my watch then lightly clapped my hands together. 'Right, folks. I think that's enough on the subject. Let's take a break and afterwards, I'd like to get you up to date on our anthology idea.' I held up my hand as a few voices rose in volume. 'No,' I added firmly, 'refreshments now, talk later.'
I stood up and picked my way through outstretched legs into the kitchen.
My wife, Liz – it had tickled her, when we married, that she had become Elizabeth Taylor – had made enough sandwiches and other things like mini sausages, Doritos and, my favourite, even if somewhat dated, little squares of Cheddar cheese topped with pineapple chunks held together by a cocktail stick. For her it was a small price to pay for a night out with the girls. She'd be late back as they'd gone up West. And probably she'd come home in a taxi, pissed out of her head. That was nothing unusual of late.
'Can I help?' Angela had followed me into the kitchen.
I had my hands full with three plates, and my mouth full with cheese and pineapple. 'If you can switch the kettle on, that would be nice,' I spluttered.
I delivered the plates and invited everybody to tuck in, and then followed Zak out into my back garden. Liz didn’t allow me to smoke indoors. Not even in my personal bolt-hole of a study.
Zak's lighter flared and two cigarettes glowed in the darkness. The wind had picked up, shepherding away to the east the clouds that had threatened rain. I shivered. Was snow in the air?
'Looks like Man City's got the title,' Zak remarked.
'Yeah,' I agreed. 'Probably. Long way to go in the season yet, though.'
'Just can't see anybody stopping them.'
'Oh! You men and your football! Whatever do you see in it?' Angela. Unlit cigarette in her mouth appeared. Zak obliged.
I held up my hand in surrender. 'No more football, I promise.'
After five minutes of reflective silence, we went back inside. I made a quick coffee for Zak and I asked if anyone wanted a refill. Charlotte asked for another cup of tea – she’d brought her own posh-brand, organic, Earl Grey teabags.
Nobody else wanted anything more. All the cheese and pineapple sticks had gone.
Never mind: I had another plate in the fridge.
song ... 'You're no good'
but as a special treat - and in memory of him...
the song is sung by Richard himself!
by kind permission of Richard's family.
Bless you Richard, thank you for your friendship and kindness
you are so very much missed
But just to emphasise, Richard,
the song is not at all accurate regarding you or your book!
|Chill With A Book - Book of the Month Award
IDEAL STOCKING FILLER
for the writer or reader in your family!
Buy in paperback or e-book from Amazon
Author page: https://viewauthor.at/RichardTearle
READERS’ PRAISE for RICHARD’S WRITING
“A thoroughly lovely, fun, read. Believable characters who I got to know quite well. Really enjoyed it. True to life I’d say!”
“So entertaining! I laughed a lot – and recognised many a writer’s dilemma!”
"Thoroughly enjoyed this. Richard Tearle and Helen Hollick have given us a gently thought provoking tale of the aspirations and relationships between and across the North Finchley Writers' Group. It's engaging and relevant and, for anyone that has been involved in any groups sharing creative ideas (and not just writing), is so relatable. The authors have had the confidence (& rightly so) to focus on the people and show us their dilemmas and lives without resorting to over-wrought melodrama - it's real and it works very, very well."
"I've been in a couple of writers' groups myself so was instantly at home in the company of Richard Tearle's too believable characters. I loved the way he sketched them, like listening to a radio play, allowing my imagination free rein to shape them a bit. And a genuine page-turner, sometimes very funny, sometimes sad. I couldn't fault it, to be honest. But then, almost immediately after I'd finished, I spotted the tragic news that Richard Tearle had passed away. A great loss."
"I enjoyed this opportunity to eavesdrop on a group of writers, it was good fun. There was also food for thought as I am a writer myself. "
images via: Pixabay unless otherwise stated
Note: it is illegal to copy lyrics but there is no © for ideas
our stories or excerpts to enjoy
1st Deborah Swift - an excerpt from Pleasing Mr Pepys
2nd Graham Brack - The Clock Struck One
3rd Cindy Vallar - Rumble the Dragon
4th Barbara Gaskell Denvil - The Great Forest
5th Nicky Galliers - Two Stories
6th Annie Whitehead - excerpt from To Be A Queen
7th Judith Arnopp - an excerpt from The Winchester Goose
8th Paul Marriner - First Love
9th Loretta Livingstone - Labour of Love
10th Marian L. Thorpe - excerpt from Empire’s Heir
11th J G Harlond - excerpt from A Turning Wind
12th Amy Maroney - excerpt from Island of Gold
13th Richard Tearle - excerpt from the North Finchley Writer's Group
14th Inge H Borg - Excerpt from After the Cataclysm
15th Juhi Ray - the movie Jodha Akbar
16th Clare Flynn - Excerpt from The Green Ribbons
17th Anna Belfrage - A Light So Bright
18th Elizabeth St John - excerpt from Written in Their Stars
19th Nicky Galliers - Duty
20th Erica Lainé - La Belle Russe
21st Anna Belfrage - Excerpt from A Rip In The Veil
22nd Kathryn Gauci - Excerpt from The Poseidon Network
23rd Cryssa Bazos - Excerpt from Rebel's Knot
24th Debbie Young - The Secret Ministry Of Frost
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