Paula Writes

Paula Puddephatt – Author

Behind Closed Doors – B. A. Paris: Book Review — May 2, 2021

Behind Closed Doors – B. A. Paris: Book Review

I went through a phase of reading Domestic Thriller/Suspense novels, and one of my absolute favourites was, and is, Behind Closed Doors.

The story is about Jack and Grace Angel, a seemingly perfect couple, and is told in the first person, from Grace’s POV. As is common in the genre, the novel is told through alternating, past and present, timelines, and this technique is definitely used to good effect here. It isn’t a story with historic backstory set in the 1980s or 1990s, as often occurs, but we are shown Jack and Grace before their marriage, and in the early days of the marriage, as well as a year later. The transitions between Past and Present feel natural somehow, and I love how the story unfolds.

Grace is in her thirties, and has a younger sister called Millie, who has Down’s Syndrome. Grace and Millie’s parents, whilst not shown to be unpleasant people, are definitely selfish. They didn’t want Millie, a surprise late baby, who they fear might inconvenience them, and their plans to retire to New Zealand. Millie is away at boarding school, but the eventual plan is for her to live with Grace, who will become her legal guardian. This event is rapidly approaching, now that Millie is almost eighteen. The fact that Grace will eventually be responsible for Millie has deterred every romantic partner Grace has previously had, so it really is a dream come true when Jack comes along. Jack Angel, a handsome and successful lawyer, not only wants to marry Grace, but also makes it clear from the start, that he is more than happy to include Millie, and have her come to live with them both.

Too good to be true? Sadly, yes. But, by the time Grace finds out what Jack’s true intentions are, she is trapped, and Jack is able to use Millie as the ultimate weapon to keep her that way. And yet, if she cannot escape in time, Millie will be in serious danger.

The plot is compelling, and the characters, excellent. My favourite characters are definitely Esther and Millie.

I highly recommend Behind Closed Doors, particularly to fans of Domestic Suspense fiction in general.

Read my thoughts on Danielle Steel’s novels, and my review of The Enchanted April.

Behind Closed Doors on Bookbub

Danielle Steel Novels Revisited — April 26, 2021

Danielle Steel Novels Revisited


When I was sixteen, I discovered Danielle Steel. It was effectively my graduating from Sweet Valley High phase. As well as reading her, as they then were, new releases, which included Daddy (my first), Message From Nam, and No Greater Love, I also explored her, already extensive, backlist. I built up my collection of Danielle Steel paperback novels, over the next few years, until losing interest, and donating the books to the local charity shop.

And yet, the passion has returned. I have been buying and enjoying her books, in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats. I have rediscovered old favourites, and also found many new ones.

I have so many thoughts and feelings about the books I’m revisiting, and those I’m newly discovering. I’m by no means exclusively reading Danielle Steel novels, but they are definitely some of my current favourites.

It’s interesting, when I consider many of the criticisms made about Danielle’s writing style, with which I don’t entirely disagree.

For example, does her writing suffer from a tendency towards tell not show? Often, yes. Personally, I actually find more of a problem with her habit of telling in addition to showing. It can be so frustrating at times, especially when the simple cutting of a sentence or two of superfluous telling, following perfectly competent showing, would make the world of difference. To be honest, I question what her editorial team are being paid for at times.

Danielle uses more reported speech than many authors would aim to include, but at the point when this is becoming almost too much, she will usually then switch to some strong lines of on the page dialogue, and the balance doesn’t feel bad.

At times, she does write descriptively. Some of the detail in her descriptions of clothes, and notably wedding dresses, is beautiful, and a joy to read. She can describe locations well too, when she decides to do so. Is there ever White Room Syndrome in her novels? For sure. But Danielle certainly can create a sense of place and atmosphere.

It could be said that Danielle includes too much character backstory, and that she info dumps, particularly in early chapters. Perhaps. And yet, her style does work. I don’t even mind that she will give more background information than is strictly necessary about minor characters, because she does so in a way that is entertaining.

The pacing of her stories is often – although, by no means always – comparatively slow. However, this suits the type of fiction Danielle tends to write, which is primarily Women’s Fiction.

And yes, Women’s Fiction. I’m precise about that term. Few of Danielle’s novels are Romance, in the strict genre sense, although romance features heavily in her works. The focus is often upon relationships more generally, including family relationships and friendships.

I’ve struggled to write blog posts lately, but am hoping to write reviews of some specific Danielle Steel novels. Watch this space? We’ll see. Meanwhile, I’m definitely appreciating her stories, and there are many to choose from, as she is admirably prolific.

I’ve previously written a review of The Enchanted April, which may be of interest.

Fiction Writer Struggles — January 30, 2021

Fiction Writer Struggles


Am I still a fiction writer? The stories begin in my mind. Scenes. Ideas. Characters. But they come to nothing.

So many daily anxieties. Fears. Getting through, coping with daily life, is already too much for me.

I’m frozen in the headlights, when it comes to functioning, including as a fiction writer. I reached the stage of trying to write straight on to blog posts, instead of into the Word type packages I use, given that Microsoft fail to provide the Word packages I purchase: not even going there, honestly.

I see other authors with huge backlists of published novels, and it nearly killed me to write and self-publish one. I feel like screaming. Why can’t I do it? Still?

I definitely feel that the lack of support from many of the people (notably, family members) around me – their consistent negativity or/and cold indifference – has got to me. But why haven’t I used it as fuel for my passion?

My depression is winning. My mental and physical health are at an all-time low. And yet, I must remain positive online. Which is exactly what this isn’t. This blog post isn’t positive at all.

If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. If you can’t write a novel, write short stories, flash fiction, poetry

I need to write, and yet, I don’t. Am I still a fiction writer?

Brainstorming Stories — January 7, 2021

Brainstorming Stories


This is a simple, yet potentially effective, method for brainstorming fictional stories, and coming up with fresh ideas.

This approach can work for any type or length of story. Depending upon whether you aim to write flash fiction, a longer short story, a novella, or a novel, you will need to consider how much you develop and complicate your initial ideas. Smaller stories, with fewer characters and usually no subplots, work best for short fiction, and this is particuarly true for flash fiction.

Think of an object, and write down, or simply imagine, three to five specific details about the object.

Think of a location. Write down, or imagine, three to five details about the location. The more vivid these can be, the better, although it’s best not to overthink it.

Think of a person. A main character. And three to five details about the character.

Consider any additional characters. Who are they? Begin to imagine them in the fictional location you chose. Think about the object, and its relevance.

What are the characters doing? Saying? Why?

Not every story idea will necessarily be one that you want to use. Generate ideas, without expectation, removing any internal pressure you might feel, to come up with a “perfect” story, an excellent plot, and amazing characters. Some ideas work out and some come to nothing – and that is honestly fine.

I discuss my struggles, as a fiction writer, in another post.

Happy New Year: 2021 Arrives — January 1, 2021

Happy New Year: 2021 Arrives


Happy New Year. Somehow, I’m still here, and so is the Paula Writes blog. As ever, no promises, but I’m definitely hoping to add more content to this blog in 2021.

I am still here. That’s honestly all I can say. Thank you to all who were supportive, and that very much extends to my online community.

And to those who were significantly less than supportive – well, I’m still alive. And I’m still a writer. I will continue to stand up for what I believe in – for what is right and just.

Keep surviving. Keep believing.

“Guard the truth you’ve found, and you’ve got to stand your ground.” – Debbie Gibson (“Stand Your Ground”, a track from the “Anything is Possible” album).

Need tips for brainstorming, in order to generate story ideas? My short post on the subject might help.

Overwhelmed and Chaotic — November 10, 2020

Overwhelmed and Chaotic


Well, I’m definitely not coping with every day, so-called “real life”, right now – to put the case mildly.

In terms of my writing projects, I don’t feel ready to start a fresh long-term project, such as another novel. I did accept that, towards the end of writing Distorted Perceptions. But I expected to feel more of a sense of freedom. Excitement.

Maybe it’s partly on account of the pressure I feel under, with everything in my life. I can’t stand the phrase: “It’s the same for us all,” because I’ve heard it too often, and it’s simply not true or helpful. It’s dismissive. Yet, right now, many of us are going through a lot, in different ways, and I wouldn’t dream of denying that fact.

I can’t seem to fix upon the next major direction, and so I grasp at one idea and then the next. Writing short stories? Flash fiction, perhaps? Another poetry phase? Blogging?

And what direction should this blog be taking? Writing craft posts come when they come. Same with book reviews, of which I would love to do more. See my review of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, keeping in mind that I’m new to reviewing fiction, and never expected it to be an area I would go into.

This blog post is going to be another spontaneous, unplanned one, and not particularly focused, but it does help me to keep going, and also to think everything through as I write. As I’ve mentioned before, NaNoWriMo isn’t for me, but trying to blog more is something I feel I can actually manage, as long as I don’t overthink the whole process.

And yes, another comparatively short post, but never mind. Sometimes it’s more important to achieve what you can, when you can. Regularity is key. I’m not blogging every day, although I would love to. I’m simply blogging more frequently than I have been – on as many days as I can.

Keep believing, and working towards making your own writing dreams become your reality.

Reaching My Limit — November 9, 2020

Reaching My Limit


Firstly, I just Tweeted: “Microsoft have serious influence. The ability to make a writer feel triggered by the word Word. Some accomplishment…!”

Not that Microsoft Word is by any means my most significant problem right now, but the brand name does have a way of coming up at the precise moment…Anyway, that’s that.

But, yes – I am at breaking point, and still being pushed. I don’t like to be too specific because, apart from anything else, I feel that matters are often subsequently made even worse for me, by way of direct punishment. I will say that many people have failed to help, and could easily have done so. I feel deeply disappointed and let down.

I appreciate those who have supported. And those who have done less than they could and should have, will know who they are.

One more specific comment that does need to be made: Housing conditions are appalling for many of the most vulnerable people here in the UK, and this is potentially dangerous for our mental and physical health. In fact, people are dying because of this, which is unacceptable.

Please see my recent posts about unsupportive families and my writing legacy.

And hopefully, there will be more posts about writing and related subjects on this blog soon, but I’m necessarily taking it moment by moment, as well as day by day.

Writing: My Legacy — November 5, 2020

Writing: My Legacy


Writing as a job or career. Writing as – personal trigger word – a “hobby”.

It goes far beyond either, for me – always has. Writing is my passion. It’s my therapy. It’s my life. And yet, more than any of that. I’ve always wanted – longed for – my words to become my legacy. I’ve wanted to be a writer whose work lives on beyond her own death, reaching generations to come.

It’s almost easier to admit to aspiring to movie deals – and many, if not most, of us serious fiction writers, have at least had some thoughts in that general direction, right? Vague or specific, but thoughts of some description.

The truth is, many of us have no control over what happens to our books, blogs, and social media accounts beyond our own deaths. We simply aren’t at the stage where it’s necessarily a consideration. But we do think about it.

Jane Austen has an impressive internet presence, for someone who knew nothing about Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and so on. I don’t know exactly where thoughts like that lead, but do remember returning from a rare afternoon out with my parents to Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, sitting in the back seat of my dad’s car, and contemplating whereabouts one of the local pubs could possibly situate a gift shop.

Whoa, so I had dreams, but they were not merely fantasies. They were ambitions that I held on to and, to the best of my ability, in extremely difficult circumstances, worked towards making into my reality. I haven’t entirely succeeded or failed. I’ve done what I’ve done, and will do what I do.

Words are my legacy. I want my writing to inspire people, now and in the future. It isn’t about money. It’s about the ability to connect. No single blog post can do justice to this subject, but I have to start somewhere, and can’t not say these things. Or maybe won’t not say them is more accurate.

This is the truth of who I am, and what I believe I was born to do. Not only to create my own legacy, but to inspire others to do so as well: the ripple effect. It’s my mission – always has been, and always will be.

My Writing Journey is a somewhat related post. Also, see: Reaching My Limit.

If, like myself, you are estranged from your family, Standalone is a useful resource, which I encourage you to explore.

Blogging Consistently on Paula Writes — November 3, 2020

Blogging Consistently on Paula Writes


I’m definitely intending to at least go through a blogging phase on Paula Writes. No specific goals, and I definitely can’t promise that every post will be substantial or significant. But I do want to blog more, if possible.

November, even without mentioning that this is 2020 (enough said), is a particularly difficult time of year for me, for various reasons. And I know that many writers love NaNoWriMo and similar challenges, but I’m not remotely suited to goals of this nature. I’m a painfully slow writer, and do also have good and bad days, and weeks, due to various health issues, which I’ve mentioned before, both on this blog and my social media.

At the moment, I have multiple technical problems, with everything from my mobile phone and email, to the fact that book publishing sites, and also now WordPress, have updated and “improved” their software. Aspects of these website alterations are making it difficult, and in some cases, currently impossible, for me to carry out functions I was previously able to. As a result, I’m not planning to release any further books for a while.

I am, as I said, hoping to blog, but some layout issues are going to necessitate that my blog post style be simplified (relating to section headings, etc) – and, right now, my blog posts are Uncategorised, until such a time that I’m able to work out how to place them into Categories, as before. In truth, I made a mess of the blog’s Categories anyway, in the early stages. But hey, details can be fixed at a later date. Whether they will be or not, who knows? But I’m going to create blog posts, anyway.

Keep believing, and keep visiting this blog. If you can share this, or any of my other posts, either via your social media, or by email with a friend or family member, that would help me out so much. Any support is deeply appreciated, and makes a difference.

Imposter Syndrome and Unsupportive Families — November 1, 2020

Imposter Syndrome and Unsupportive Families


Imposter Syndrome is frequently discussed, and most creatives, including writers, are likely to be familiar with the term. It describes the feeling of being a fraud, and of not deserving the success you’ve achieved. There is a sense of waiting to be “found out”.

When it comes to our own talents and abilities, self-confidence is a complex issue. It’s perfectly possible to be fully aware that you’re a competent writer, and to be confident of this fact – and yet, paradoxically, also to have a fragile sense of your own worth as a writer. We often fluctuate, and can go to extremes. Sometimes we do also realise and believe that we have talent and potential, but feel that this will never be recognised, and that’s not easy to talk about, without coming across as egotistical or deluded.

Unsupportive families definitely don’t help. I know, from experience. There can be total apathy, such as my mother and younger brother demonstrate. They are completely dismissive. Success, in their minds, would involve “getting on with” what they regard as ordinary, “real” jobs, of which I’ve had many. The very notion of my being a writer is invalidated and discouraged, met with hostility and stonewalling silences. Equally, my in-laws are dismissive and silent, but certainly not when it comes to what they regard as their own “successes”, about which they are prone to boast and exaggerate at every opportunity.

It’s not always easy to remember that, hey, I have written a novel – and other books, too – and that’s huge. It’s real. For years, I allegedly “thought I was writing a book”, in the view of my mother. I can still hear her voice in my mind, reciting such phrases. But, now that I have indeed completed my novel, does she recognise my success, in having done so? Do any of these people I’ve mentioned? No. None of the line-towing I managed to do, over the years, against the odds, was ever truly appreciated. They didn’t, and don’t, care what I do.

But here’s the thing. We, as writers and other creatives, have achieved what we have. Hopefully, we will go on to achieve more. And we ourselves need to recognise the fact, because those who are too busy being self-interested. judgmental, and disapproving to acknowledge our value – they aren’t going to change, unless and until they themselves decide to do so.

Yes, Distorted Perceptions, and my various other publications, exist. I’ve published a novel, and done so in overwhelmingly difficult circumstances. Not many members of my family can say the same. All of this with due respect to those family members who actually have been supportive, to whatever extent. Ironically, the ones who should really be receiving this message won’t read it, and would remain disinterested, even if they were to.

Believe in yourself and your dreams, even if those around you refuse to do so. Your words can become your legacy, your gift for the generations to come. Your stories need to be told. They, and you, matter.

See the Standalone website, if you are an estranged adult, like myself. An interesting and positive resource.

Or/and read more about family estrangement and the associated trauma.

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