<![CDATA[Russ Thomas - thevoiceofruss - a blog]]>Tue, 10 Jan 2023 23:35:26 +0000Weebly<![CDATA[Top Ten of 2018]]>Tue, 01 Jan 2019 00:00:00 GMThttp://russthomasauthor.com/thevoiceofruss---a-blog/top-ten-of-2018Here's a cheeky round-up of my favourite reads from last year. They are from all sorts of different genres, some were published last year, some a long time before that. The only thing that ties them together is the fact they're all books I read last year. Tenuous, I grant you. Still,  let me know if you've read any of them, and what you thought of them.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

So far I've loved everything I've read by Ann Patchett and this was no exception. An insightful and powerful story of two families torn apart and thrust together again over the course of several decades. A masterful display of talent from an author who deserves more recognition.

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

Warning: this is bleak! But if you like a healthy dose of moving tragedy and how to cope with loss, then this is for you. Beautifully written in tight, spartan prose, the story is incredibly moving. This is one of those reads that will have you thinking about it long after you've put it down. Haunting stuff!

Chocky by John Wyndham

Matthew, at 11, is too old for an imaginary friend... But is Chocky as imaginary as it first appears? A sinister tale of alien influence, a sort of gentler version of Rosemary's Baby. But don't let the horror label put you off as this never strays further than PG-rated material. A cracking little read though.

Lullaby by Leila Slimani

Another chilling read, this time about a psychotic nanny. But this is actually so much more than that, delving as it does, into issues of motherhood, class division and power in modern-day France. Not so much a Whodunnit as a Whydunnit. Just don't expect to get too many answers.

The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh

Welcome to the Blinds, a dusty rural town populated by strangers who don't know if they are the criminals or the witnesses in protective custody. Some of the plot twists here don't quite come off as well I would have liked, but this is still a taught, page-turning but ultimately thoughtful book, with a wonderfully dry atmosphere. A bit different from the everyday crime thriller and well worth a read! 

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

A lovely little noir tale with two damaged, unreliable protagonists who find themselves dangerously attracted to each other. Full of small-town US atmosphere and formidable characterisation, you'll race through this one in no time although you might feel a little but grubby afterwards. Great stuff!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
​ by Gail Honeyman

I imagine this will appear on a lot of books-of-the-year lists as it's certainly the most talked about although there seems to have been a bit of a backlash against it lately. For me it didn't quite live up to the hype (but what could?) but it's still a wonderful book with a compelling main character. Moving one minute, and laugh-out-loud funny the next, Eleanor definitely deserves her place here. 

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

There was a fair bit of 80s nostalgia in 2018 but I think this was my favourite piece. So much of this book reminded me of my time growing up (except for the body count, thankfully!). A lovely, creepy crime story, on the horror border. Comparisons with Stephen King are obvious but that's no mean feat. Deserving of all the praise it's received, I can't wait to see what Tudor writes next.

Snap by Belinda Bauer

Another very different sort of crime novel. On first glance, Snap seems to be a fairly ordinary police procedural whodunnit but in truth it goes much further. With a Dickensian cast of characters, a twisting, psychological-thriller of a plot, and some very funny moments, this delivers so much more than the packaging promises.

Things Fall Apart

I'm a little bit ashamed that it has taken me so long to get round to reading this classic of modern African literature but I'm so glad I have now. The story of Okonkwo, a proud but powerless man who witnesses the ruin of his small African community. This is powerful stuff but it's also incredible writing. If you only read one of my Top Ten, let it be this one!
<![CDATA[Redrafting II]]>Sat, 25 Jun 2016 00:00:00 GMThttp://russthomasauthor.com/thevoiceofruss---a-blog/redrafting-ii
We had a small group this time but we certainly made the most of it, looking at the minutiae of line-editing and then putting it into practice with a little help from a massive barbarian and his rippling right arm. Check out the link to fully explore the weird, fascinating mind of Hal Duncan.

We looked at ways to improve dialogue, and then everyone in the class took 1000 words of their writing and cut 250 of them. Yikes! Scary stuff, huh? But I recommend this exercise as a way to prove to yourselves just how much you overwrite. No, really, you do. We all do. Go on, try it. Just make sure you've saved the original version first as you might want to put a few of them back in. 
​And of course, as always, the real stars of the day were the wonderful images you gave us; from Singapore in 1949, to modern day Sorento, via a fictional Scottish island. We had sticky handles, stretched bladders and the smell of onions; a ghost reliving her first school disco; a mysterious birthday card written in advance of a dinner party; and a finger tracing the outline of a delicate tattoo.
​It was a really enjoyable day, as Susan and I discussed later over a glass of Sauvignon. But don't take our drunken word for it. Here's a lovely little review written by attendee, author and blogger B.M. Keeling who I'm happy to announce will be making a guest appearance at our next event to talk about her experiences of self-publishing. She'll be on hand throughout the day to answer any questions you might have, as will fellow Yorkshire-based author Marion Dillon. Marion has two novels published with digital publisher Carina and will be talking about her journey to getting published and answering your questions.

So if that sounds like a worthwhile way of spending a Saturday - and how could it not? - there's still time to join us by signing up here. Go on; I'll even try to convince Susan to make some of her lovely homemade biscuits for you. They're rich and good and fattening but totally adverb free.
<![CDATA[Redrafting I]]>Thu, 16 Jun 2016 00:00:00 GMThttp://russthomasauthor.com/thevoiceofruss---a-blog/redrafting-i
Another brilliant workshop on Saturday. Thanks to everyone who came along. If you missed it, we spent a lot of time looking at the common pitfalls of first drafts and how to combat them; from unarresting openings to overly-explained endings, via that good old favourite - the saggy middle. But it was equally great listening to everyone list the things they liked about their works-in-progress. It's all too easy to forget why you started this whole thing in the first place after months (sometimes years) of rethinking, rewriting and rearranging. Try to hold on to those beacons of light in the darkness, whether its a particularly loved character, a vivid, dynamic scene, or even just a beautiful image. 
​It was also great, from a personal viewpoint, to have the chance to share some of my own work with you. Not something I'd normally do in a writing workshop; it feels a bit like showing off, and that invariably leads to a fall. But both Susan and I wanted you to see the difference between an early draft and a final one.

This Saturday, 18th June 2016, we are continuing the redrafting work but this time looking more at the nitty-gritty process of line-editing. If you'd like to join us, you don't need a whole draft, just a chapter or two to work on in class. We have a couple of places left and full details are available here.

Finally, here's a lovely poultry themed literary cartoon! Visit savagechickens.com for more great cartoons on sticky notes.
<![CDATA[Making Your Writing Sing]]>Sat, 14 May 2016 00:00:00 GMThttp://russthomasauthor.com/thevoiceofruss---a-blog/making-your-writing-sing
​Goodness, how the time flies! Here I am writing the review of the last Workshop and the next one's just around the corner. Luckily I can change the date on this blog post so none of you will know how terribly inefficient I am. Clever boy!

​We spent the morning looking at grammar and writing style, a dry subject to most, I'm sure, but I find it strangely fascinating. Did you know that when you use a list of adjectives there's a certain order you're supposed to use them in? Well, you do, now. 
Actually you probably did know this, unconsciously. The order is: quantity, value/opinion, size, temperature, age, shape, colour, origin, material. Try it. Four tall wooden crosses or Wooden tall four crosses? But what about It was a beautiful cold day? Could you get away with It was a cold beautiful day. Maybe. And rules are there for breaking, obviously. Just make sure you're breaking them deliberately. Perhaps the reason that sentence doesn't sound right is because it isn't.

We looked at creating image banks and colourbooks to help keep track of the words you use in your novel. I've recently discovered mindmapping for this. This free site is invaluable, for mapping all kinds of things and avoiding doing any actual writing. Check it out: www.wisemapping.com

We then had fun with hot, salty chips on the beach, and everyone tried to improve Susan's Bad Paragraph (deliberately bad, I should stress). I'm always amazed, when we do one of these "rewrite this paragraph" exercises, how many different and varied versions we get. Most people kept the hot, salty chips though, and I really can't blame them.

In the afternoon I put you all in a trance so that you could explore your characters' favourite places, immersing yourself in all 5 of the senses, and coming up with some pretty incredible descriptions of setting. Apologies to anyone who's still clucking like a chicken. I'm assured the effects will wear off soon. Probably.

So if any of this sounds like fun, why not join us for either Redrafting I or Redrafting II on Saturday 11th and 18th June respectively? Or even both? You never know... there might be chips.
<![CDATA[Just Another Writing Blog]]>Sun, 26 Jul 2015 00:00:00 GMThttp://russthomasauthor.com/thevoiceofruss---a-blog/just-another-writing-blog
I turned 40 this year.

I know, right? Yes, it does matter. No, it isn't just a number and I really don't care if your forties were the best years of your life. I can feel death's cold embrace edging closer with every breath. So what if you're older than me and fine with it? Good for you. I know I should be grateful for what I've got and that, yes, things could be a lot worse. But this is my life and, actually, yes, I do have a problem with it.

Cue mid-life crisis. Before you know it I will own a soft-topped sports car and have my ear pierced. Again. I'm as frightened of becoming a cliche as I am of leaving nothing behind.

Because that's what it comes down to, isn't it? I'm not married, I have no long-term partner, and I have no kids. The words that were supposed to provide me with some sense of immortality are either not being produced or I convince myself that there's no point as nobody sees them anyway. Even as I write that, I'm aware of how grandiose it sounds, but why should I apologise for wanting to be heard? Why should any of us? I worry that I might have nothing to say but if I'm honest with myself - and that's the real purpose of this blog - then the truth is that I'm just frightened to say it. Frightened that it's derivative or puerile. Frightened I might upset someone. Frightened that nobody will be listening.

Frightened of failure. There, I've said it. How's that for cliche?

It isn't that I haven't made progress with my writing. I am a much better writer now than I have ever been. I have an MA, I've won a bursary, I've had compliment after compliment about how well I write, even some from people whose opinions I respect. I've finished a novel, suffered rejections, rewritten a novel, suffered more rejections. And I will rewrite it again and no doubt suffer even more rejections. I know this isn't a new story, or in any way an original one, but I want to tell it.

I would like to say this is all for your benefit, beloved reader, and I truly do hope that it helps you too, but the truth is I'm doing this for me. Call it loneliness, call it midlife crisis, call it anxiety, fear of failure, lack of moral fibre; it doesn't really matter. This blog is my first step in changing all that. I will write something every week, without fail. At least then I will have written something. Mostly it will be about writing (or not writing), but I have other things to say as well so forgive me if I wander off topic now and again. No, forget that; apology rescinded. This is my blog, I'll write about whatever I want and if you don't like it/find it interesting all you have to do is stop reading.

This is thevoiceofruss... 
     ...and by my voice I shall be known.

First, I'm off to get my ear pierced.