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Christmas Links

A festive treats for you! Whether you are looking for something to read, want to escape, or you’re thinking of making the most of 2017, we have some suggestions for you. Best 100 Books for Christmas. Doing exactly what it says on the tin, The Telegraph gives you a luxuriously long list of Christmas beauties on paper. The Best Places to Spend Christmas. All worn out by the thought of hanging stockings, lighting fires or stuffing turkeys? Get away from it all with these suggestions. Get a head start on your New Year’s resolution to become an international best-seller. Check out The Guardian on art holidays and creative writing retreats.

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Featured Cake

It’s Christmas, so this week’s featured reader is actually a FEATURED CAKE! We like the blood red colouring, here at Team Abbott – it could disguise a multitude of sins!! Christmas Velvet Cake Ingredients Cake: 0.5 cup butter 1.5 cups sugar 2 eggs 2.5 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup buttermilk 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa 2 tablespoons red food coloring 2 teaspoons baking powder 2 tablespoons cider vinegar Frosting: 1.3 cups semi-skimmed milk 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1.3 cups salted butter, softened 1.3 to 2 cups icing sugar, sifted 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract Instructions To prepare cake, preheat oven to 350F. Grease three 8-inch layer pans or two 9-inch layer pans; line bottoms with greaseproof paper. In a mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour alternately with buttermilk; beat until blended. In a small bowl, whisk cocoa and

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A Writer Reads – December 2016

I love Maeve Binchy, if at any stage I need I reassuringly accomplished read I turn to her. For this Christmas I would recommend A Week in Winter. It is set in one of her familiar small towns on the west coast of Ireland where everyone knows everyone else, perhaps a bit too well. The main character Chicky Starr lives in a decaying mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the windswept Atlantic Ocean and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea, everyone thinks she is eccentric at best. But Chicky, who has just returned from something of a veiled existence in America, sets about rebuilding her life and she is not short of other eccentric individuals to help her – look out for the clairvoyant librarian among many others. This is Maeve Binchy’s last novel and has been described as sketchier than some of

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Dying to Write – December 2016

Those of you who have been reading the newsletter each month will know that we have been running a writing competition. I wrote the first paragraph and then asked readers to write the second and subsequent paragraphs. We have had some terrific entries, and have drawn the competition to a close this month with a paragraph by Carolyn Mahony. I have added a concluding chapter, and the whole story can be read below. If you think you have a good title for this short story, send it to newsletter@rachel-abbott.com to win a signed paperback of Kill Me Again Here’s the story and thanks so much to all of you for your inspiration! Opening paragraph Friday the 13th was the day that my world fell apart. I hadn’t been expecting it. I was happily splashing a lovely stone coloured emulsion onto the rough plastered walls of my tiny cottage, singing along

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Scary Music from Rachel’s Video Producer Trevor Jenkins

Part of the joy of being a self-published author is the variety of people I get to meet. This month let me introduce Trevor Jenkins, the music producer behind my last three video trailers. In conversation, it became clear that he’d had a couple of spooky experiences so I asked him to share them for Halloween. If you do nothing else this Halloween, listen to the audio track at the end of this article and tell us what you make of it. It made my blood run cold! Having made some original music inspired by three of Rachel’s superb novels, we started to talk about the creative DNA of music and drama and it’s emotional impact. It’s a powerful alchemy. Imagine Hitchcock without Herrmann or the opening scenes from Jaws without the strings? The virgin listener to Tubular Bells will hear not a note of menace within the music but

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Dying to Write – paragraph 3

If you read last month’s newsletter, you will know that we are running a writing competition – and it’s a bit like a game of consequences! I wrote the opening paragraph of a story, and asked you lovely readers to put flesh on its bones. This month’s winner is Karen Turner who has taken our character down a very dark path – congratulations Karen – your signed book is on its way. Here’s the story so far: Opening paragraph Friday the 13th was the day that my world fell apart. I hadn’t been expecting it. I was happily splashing a lovely stone coloured emulsion onto the rough plastered walls of my tiny cottage, singing along to an old Take That tune on the radio, thinking how lucky I was to have found this wonderful home in the middle of nowhere, when the old bell hanging in the tiny front porch

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A Writer Reads – October 2016

Take one dead cat and add a few dark secrets involving an ancient Indian burial ground and the result is terrifying. Note that Stephen King is the author and you’ll soon wish you’d stayed in the safety of the basement! I love this book as I love all of Stephen King’s books because he can place a perfect American family in an idyllic setting, in this case the Creeds who move to a house in the woods in Maine, and just let us watch them unravel! This is definitely one to savour over Halloween, a season dedicated to the (hopefully) faithfully departed. Just make sure the cat pretending to purr beside you on the sofa has your best interests at heart as you lurch towards the final chapters.       Do not be fooled by the gentle tone of this book, it lures the reader in like a spider

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A Writer Writes – October 2016

The Highs and Lows of Being a Writer This month has seen the completion of the first draft of my new novel, and it’s an exciting – but nerve-wracking – time. Now I have to wait for feedback from my agent and editor. Do they like the story? Do they like the characters? Is the pace consistent? Do I give away too much too soon? Do we feel that the narrator is intentionally withholding information from the reader? Before I started writing, I had no idea what an editor does. I thought that they read a book and made some corrections, perhaps rewrite paragraphs that are badly written. I was so very wrong. They read it, of course, with great attention to detail. Then they add comments: ‘this bit is too slow’ or ‘this character sounds wooden’ or ‘this exposition it too complicated’. And then the rewrites begin, until the

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Interesting Links – October 2016

Meet the author of the Worst Witch series of children’s books, Jill Murphy. She sensibly advocates the need to read to children rather than just turning them loose with an iPad. Click here to read more. Shirley Jackson – featured as one my spooky reads this month – comes under the spotlight in this review of her biography by Ruth Franklin. This is a writer who deserves much more attention than she got in her lifetime, both from a literary and personal perspective. Click here to learn more. Two powerful and simple antidotes to the vices of our digital media culture: read old books and have good friends. Click here to learn more. Feast of horror! Thirty reads from An American Psycho to Dracula via The Exorcist and on until The Silence of the Lambs – delicious! Click here for more about these scary reads.

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Featured Spooktail

This month, I thought I would give you a featured cocktail instead of a featured reader, although any of you keen to appear next month holding up any one of my books with a few words on why you enjoyed it can write to me at newsletter@rachel-abbott.com – the chosen reader will get a signed copy. Now on to more liquid delights… ‘Tis the season to drink in the ghoulish! Enjoy this grisly cocktail – just the thing for Hallowe’en. There are hundreds of devilish cocktails out there, a Bloody Mary, Death in the Afternoon (yes, it does contain both Absinthe and Champagne!) or even a Zombie? But this one is a winner in the sinner stakes – but please remember to imbibe responsibly! Satan’s Whiskers Ingredients Cracked ice 1 ounce gin 1 ounce dry vermouth 1 ounce sweet vermouth 1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice 4 teaspoons orange curaçao or Grand Marnier