art · book review · lost art · mystery · original plot

Book Review – Lost Children

by Willa Bergman

A celebrated painting, the Portrait of the Lost Child, has been missing for over a decade. Eloise Witcham is commissioned to find it, but if she does she will have to confront a past she thought long behind her and face up to the dark fears that still haunt her dreams.

A stylish, intelligent, contemporary thriller set in the secretive world of high end art.

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My Review

Art, history and a very clever mystery – Could this book be any more “up my street”? I seriously doubt it.

Despite what might be for some a slow start, I loved the time the author spent to lay the foundations for this story. With a particularly addictive writing style, she had me hooked.

The background specifics of the main character’s childhood in France – and what she and her mother and brother subsequently had to do – set the scene beautifully (or should I say set the scene perfectly for misdirection LOL) , and it was no surprise that Eloise (Elle) went on to work in the industry of finding lost art and antiquities, after all she had been surrounded by beautiful pieces for years.

At times, it was as though I were in the midst of an art history lesson, with sumptuous details about the painting at the centre of the story, and its fascinating history.

And then, wham! Elle is commissioned to find the Portrait of the Lost Child for an unidentified buyer. Why choose her? She’s not the most senior within her department, but she does have a good track record. However, it soon becomes apparent that she has a particular association with the painting, and finding it before others do becomes vital if she is to keep her family’s secret from getting out.

They say you always have a choice. But what is my choice here? The choice between hurting the ones I love, or helping the ones I hate

Eloise (Lost Children)

From here on, the pace picks up dramatically and it becomes addictive reading, being both informative on the art front and insightful on the personal, family front. Can she find the painting before competitors within her field? And then what? Hand it over and risk exposure to something that could have dire consequences for her family, herself included.

Without disclosing any spoilers, let me just say this is an original and inventive mystery with an extraordinary ending that is both dramatic and satisfying.

My thanks go to the author and Rosie’s Book Review Team for my e-copy of this, which I have reviewed voluntarily and honestly (and loved every minute of it!)

As always,

mystery · NaNo · original plot · outlining · pantser · writing

Outlining – can it work for me?

Having been a pantser all these years of writing (all 5 of them!) and an unproductive one at that, I decided enough was enough.
I have more unfinished stories than I’ll ever be able to complete. All of them seemed like ‘a great idea’ at the start, and I threw myself into writing them with abandon. Who needed outlines? Not me. My characters would show me the way … wouldn’t they?
Oh, yeah! Right into that big black hole of no escape (for the story, I mean, not me).
I rewritten, restructured and revised. Yet, while that germ of an idea still excites me, I’ve lost control.
It’s a mess!

Soooooo, I’m having a last bash at outlining a short series of novellas.
Despite not sticking to any given method (surprise, surprise), I have what could loosely be called ‘an outline’ – for all four books in the series.

Yay! Go me.

This is not the story I began with – it’s way better.

It has a start, middle … and, get this, an ENDING!

It features a mystery wrapped up in a winding river of European travel (naturally), grand architecture, heavenly skies, and classical music.

I’m excited to write this, but I’m not rushing into it just yet.

The plan (yes, I have a PLAN) is to fully outline everything – plot, characters, setting etc – in time for NaNoWriMo, at which point this story will set sail, its destination will be the port of “First Draft Completed”, a little-known place (to me anyway), just on the outskirts of “Revise, Edit & Publish”.

Writing an outline has transformed my original idea into something stronger, it has depth and substance, and – I can’t say this enough – an ENDING!

If this works out as well as I hope it will, then maybe there’s a future for those dusty manuscripts in the bottom drawer of the cabinet – the one that sticks whenever I try to open it because it knows I’m not ready – YET!

Thanks for reading, and wish me luck ­čśë

books · original plot · Spain · The Nasrid Charm · writing

Going full circle

Sometimes, all it takes is time. While hammering away at my keyboard for NaNoWriMo, a momentary lapse in concentration had me hunting through old files for my very first Nano effort.

Granted, it doesn’t take much to distract me, but this story – The Nasrid Charm – just won’t lie in the shadows.

I think it comes to mind at least once a month, and especially during Nano prep or writing.

There┬á has to be a reason for this, don’t you think?

I’ve never been one for muses, and am rather envious of those who suffer at the hands of an attention-grabbing muse. So, why will this story not just sit back and let me get on with my writing? Maybe, this is its time to shine.

I’ve restructured┬á this story a gazillion times, taking it from a single novel to a series of novellas, but nothing has ever felt right. When I wrote this back in 2011/12, it drew me into the world of fiction as a writer, rather than the avid reader I was and still am.

Problem was, I was rubbish at it. I had no idea about POVs, or voice, or exposition – I was a victim of my reading material and spewed out some particularly purple prose. in my mind it was a case of putting words onto the screen and telling a story.

Okay, so shoot me. I made the ultimate error, assuming anyone could write a book. (Although, that is true, anyone can write, but whether they should is a different matter. I shouldn’t have … then)

Hopefully, I’ve learnt a thing or two since then. So with that in mind, I am bringing The Nasrid Charm back out of the darkness, blowing away the cobwebs and re-writing it as it was originally meant to be – but with a tad more knowledge and – fingers crossed – a little more skill than I had back then.

I know I’ve said this before – in fact, only a few months ago (or was it only weeks?) I posted that I was rekindling the story in series format.

But, hey, a girl (ahem – artistic licence, ok?) can change her mind, can’t she?

I recall being so excited about this story back in the day, I even got a local artist to design this cover.

I loved his style – still do – and admired his interpretation of those white-washed Spanish villages. (I’ve learnt a bit about what makes a good cover too!! – heck, we all make mistakes, don’t we?)

Can you tell the genre from this? Ha ha! I have to laugh myself – it’s pretty dire, isn’t it? Oh well, things can only get better, right?

Bubbling with enthusiasm, I posted excerpts for critique and … hmm, you can guess the rest. Suffice to say, I discovered there’s more to writing a good story than just putting words on paper.

This time, I’ll do the story justice – while maintaining the essence of the original story though – and it’ll likely involve a complete re-write – but I reckon I can do it now.

In the meantime, I’ll get back to my Nano draft which, I’m pleased to report, is looking quite healthy.

Like I said, sometimes it just takes time … and work, lots of work.

Look out for more news on my progress with The Nasrid Charm in 2018.

Thanks for reading ­čÖé


no job for a woman · original plot · review

Book Review – Blue Caldera

Blue Caldera – by V.S Velde


Original plot, beautifully written and with a definite ‘je ne sais quoi’!
Ettie deciphers codes on a daily basis, but never knows the significance of her work. She yearns for more, particularly to follow through on some of these mysterious messages, just as the male detectives do. Unfortunately, Ettie is a woman ahead of her time, in the 1850’s being a detective is not considered a suitable profession for a woman and Ettie grows increasingly frustrated. On a whim, she takes home one of the message reels, intending to better understand what it means. When she recognises that a meeting is planned, she cannot curb her curiosity and sets out to ‘just take a look’ at what might be happening. This is the beginning of her foray into crime solving and takes her to some less than salubrious locations. Whilst on the surface, she is fearless, she is also mindful of the preconceptions of others in her dabbling as a detective. Amateur sleuth by day, by night Ettie is drawn into a group of voyeurists, where her own insecurities and needs are brought to light.
This is a story with many subplots, all linked together remarkably well and the identity of the culprit is masterfully withheld from the reader. Ettie is a formidable young woman, seemingly fearless yet also vulnerable. Her relationships with the other characters are intricately drawn, however the reader will undoubtedly want more. Fortunately, Ettie may yet live on in further episodes that the author is planning.
We can only hope!