Posts

Finding Characters (Cecilia Peartree)

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 I've probably posted here before about trains, a topic close to my heart as well as yet another reason to be annoyed with 2020, as this must be the first year I can remember when I haven't travelled by train at least once. To make up for the train shortfall in real life, I've watched more or less every railway documentary I can find on television during the year. My absolute favourite is actually not about real trains at all. It's the Great Model Railway Challenge, which sadly doesn't seem to have taken place recently, probably because it's a team event and more or less impossible to do while you're applying social distancing rules. But who could resist railway layouts that included the Glenfinnan Viaduct, or a multi-level structure in which trains had to drive into various futuristic elevators in order to access the next level? However, as I realised while watching grown men panicking because their model freight train had derailed again, not entirely unexp

A Dickens Christmas x 5

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Being an autodidact, I was not aware until a few weeks ago that Charles Dickens had written five Christmas novellas in the 1840s, not just " A Christmas Carol " - all, he averred, with "a strong moral message."  Most UK schoolchildren probably know the other four as " The Chimes ," " The Cricket on the Hearth, " " The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain " and " The Battle of Life ." Each of them delivers, as Dickens put it, "a strong moral message" and all but the last come with supernatural twist. I came across this jolly factoid cluster while researching an idea for a sequel to my own Christmas novella: " Milagro on 34th Avenue ." That 2015 novella, about which I've written here previously , gives homage to my favourite Christmas movie - Miracle on 34th Street (particularly the 1947 original with Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O'Hara and little Natalie Wood, directed by playwright George Seaton). I

Deadlines -- Peter Leyland

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                    Autotelic Experience: How meeting a deadline can be a creative spur   People often complain about deadlines. They generally don’t like them. They might have a busy schedule, they might have family responsibilities, they might even complain that they need more time for the creative element in their work to flower. I would argue, however, that deadlines can help us with that creativity, particularly in writing. I am thinking of the serial writers like Dickens and Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. An example of Dickens creativity comes in  Martin Chuzzlewit  (1843-4)). Sales of this novel were poor. There were only 20,000 of the monthly numbers being sold compared to 50,000 for  Pickwick Papers  and 60,000 for the weekly  The   Old Curiosity Shop . Under pressure from his publishers Dickens salvaged the situation by introducing the comic character of Mrs Gamp about half-way through. The character of this nurse, who carried an umbrella and who combined midwifery

When is a cliché not a cliché ? Er... never, it seems. -- Griselda Heppel

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Between the ages of 12 and 13 I had an amazing English teacher. She was young, warm, funny, kind, extraordinarily widely-read and determined that we should be too. She only stayed a year before returning to the USA but in that time we studied Lord of the Flies, Silas Marner, Julius Caesar, Arms and the Man , most of The Master Builder (a bridge too far, that was) and some short stories including E M Forster’s The Machine Stops ( which recently had a new lease of life, thanks to Covid ) and a shocking tale called The Lottery. (I know. It was only years later I discovered Shirley Jackson’s short story to be one of the most famous of all.)     Mrs McGrath is in my mind now because, in addition to opening my eyes to such a fabulous world of literature, she taught me a rather more painful lesson: she was the first person to introduce the concept of cliché into our innocently creative minds. I’d been accustomed, till that moment, to have my depictions of Dark, Ghostly Nights and Wild, Tem

A Platform is a Writer's Most Valuable Asset -- Andrew Crofts

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A “platform” is the most important attribute a writer can possess. (Having the ability to write could be argued to be more vital, of course, but then us ghostwriters are always available to sort out any lack in that department). Two books have brought this thought to the front of my mind. One of them comes with quite possibly the greatest author platform in the world, while the other has – like most of the rest of us – had to rely more heavily on serendipity.  Barack Obama is arguably the man with the most interesting autobiographical material available at the moment. Not only did he come from virtually nowhere to be the leader of the free world, he also held onto his integrity to a degree that in the current political climate is almost impossible to envisage. On top of that he is a fabulous writer. I admit I am biased and there is a chance that he has faults which I am too starry-eyed to see, but I think almost half the world’s population thinks roughly along the same lines as m

Money, Politics and Russian Ballerinas -- a review by Susan Price

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  Mr Keynes' Revolution by E. J. Barnes For the last ten years the people who've have manouevred themselves into a postion to make law and policy have been obsessed with 'austerity.'  For other people, of course, not for them. Their only idea of 'economy' was to cut. Cut wages. Cut funding. Cut jobs. We've heard the tired old argument that 'the economy is just like a household. You mustn't spend more than you earn.' Look away from the wagging finger and study some of the richest people in our economy instead. Ask yourself what the word 'earn' means. And also, where the money generated by our economy is being spent. (Millions on the white elephant that is HS2? Millions on Piffle-Paffle's 'Garden Bridge' which hasn't and never will be built?) When most people manage their household economy, the first thing they set aside money for is the rent or mortgage -- but this country, under Tory management, first sold off social hous

Binge-watching the Masters by @EdenBaylee

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At the start of December 2019, I gave myself a gift of learning. I'd seen numerous ads for MasterClass while searching for interesting gifts for the holiday season.  If you're unfamiliar with MasterClass, it's a streaming platform of online courses that started in 2015 with a simple pitch: Famous people teach you about the thing that made them famous. At the time, the courses that interested me most were from writers: Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell, Joyce Carol Oates, just to name a few. MasterClass, however, includes instructors from all walks of life—from Dr. Jane Goodall who teaches Conservation to Helen Mirren who teaches Acting to Annie Leibovitz who teaches Photography.  You can either purchase a specific course along with its instructional videos and workbooks, or buy an annual membership which gives you unlimited access to all the classes, including new ones that are added during the year.  I decided to pick up an annual subscription and a second on