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Showing posts from October, 2011

Festival of Romance

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I spent last weekend The Festival of Romance.  This was the first time the Festival has been held, and the first time I've been to an event like this.  I haven't even been to any of the RNA conventions yet, although I hope to do so at some stage.  (I have to limit myself on 'treats' since I have two much loved horses and a dog to support and the cost of feeding and stabling doesn't get  any cheaper)


Although the the Festival was actually on Friday and Saturday, we had a 'pre-Festival Panel' at Watford Library the night before.  I went along, thinking I would have a nice relaxing evening listening to other authors, and found myself on the Panel myelf, with  PamelaStrange,  Kate Allan, Annie Burrows, Lynne Connolly and Juliet Archer.

I knew Kate but hadn't met the others, so it was nice to make their aquaintance and although I hadn't brought any of my books, (my novels are published in print as well as e-Books) I had at least had the foresight to brin…

October blog

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Our trees are silhouetted against a John Martin apocalyptic sky to the west of us - orange, gold, crushed strawberry and purple. It's October and I love it, as I always have, when the days get excitingly short, and each day (when it isn't raining) ends in this visual drama, and Old Man Winter's breathing his exciting cold breath down the back of my neck.

I've spent some of the past few weeks collaborating with an illustrator on an online picture book text: CHIP HEAD, which will be published by uTales - a company which enables its customers to access a large number of picture books online. A proportion of its profits go to a Third World educational charity which I'm happy to support. What's been so interesting about this project, for me, is that it sets up a contact page on Facebook where authors and artists can connect and collaborate on work. I've been working closely with illustrator/animator called Duncan Beedie (duncanbeedie.co.uk) on a totally daft litt…

Bringing Your Electronic Characters Out To Play

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Maybe it’s because I spend most of my life as a ghost that I am always more comfortable hiding behind someone else, be it a ghostwriting client or a character telling a fictional story in the first person. Now I find that the electronic media provides me with a whole new playground for games in which I can continue to hide behind my characters’ masks, stirring together fiction and reality in a variety of combinations.

While in Zurich a couple of weeks ago for a non-fiction writing workshop, I met a lady on a parallel fiction course who had been commissioned to review “The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer”. We managed to navigate this potential social minefield without controversy but she did say that she felt there should be “more sex” in the book – given that Maggie obviously enjoyed a great deal of the stuff during the years that she was chronicling in her memoir.


I know one of the “golden rules” is never to respond to the comments of critics, but once I’d had time to ponder the mat…

The only way is ethics - by Nicola Morgan

As authors who publish our own ebooks, how do we deal with the ethical issue of having to direct our readers to Amazon (etc) rather than physical bookshops? Obviously, we don't have a choice with our ebooks if they don't have physical versions, but I still think there's an issue, because if we end up writing more and more of our own ebook-only books and fewer and fewer books for trade publishers, then we are in effect shifting our business model away from supporting the traditional book-selling industry. Now, I sometimes hear indie-only writers sounding rather gleeful or at least careless about that prospect but I hold no truck with that glee or carelessness.

I do know that some independent bookshops feel worried and even a little bit hostile to us when we choose to self-publish in e-format. I would hope that they understand that authors are struggling financially too and that we need to do what we can to earn a living. But doing what we can to earn a living might hurt so…

Susan Price: THE WIZARD, THE DEVIL, THE CZAR AND THE ANGEL

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'Outside the circle, where the candlelight edged into darkness, two figures stood in talk, a man and a devil.            The man… (says the cat) was Master Richard Jenkins, an Englishman and a wizard.           The devil was a red and furry devil, its fur rippling in the candlelight like red velvet. Its tail had an arrow's point on the end, and was long, and coiled and bounced like a spring as the devil moved. Its head was fearsome, large and round with staring, glittering eyes and ram's horns; and all around its head and shoulders hung a shimmering red mist.           'Are you listening to me?' said Master Jenkins to the devil… 'Take off the head when I talk to you!'          The devil… wrenched off its tight-fitting head. Underneath was another: the head  of a boy… He clutched the devil's head in his velvet-suited arms, and fingered the wire spikes, hung with strings of red sequins, that decorated it. These sequined spikes… trembled in the light and made …

Keeeeeep dancin'! - Simon Cheshire

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I know this is way off-subject, but I hope you're all playing the Strictly Come Dancing Bowl Of Nibbles Game every Saturday night. The rules are very simple. You must eat:
one handful of peanuts each time Alesha uses the word 'story-telling'two handfuls of peanuts every time it looks like Len is about to stand up and walk out mumbling 'sod the lot of you'one twiglet for each Brucie joke which doesn't get a laugh, OR for each time you think Brucie's going to fall and break a hipa bag of ready salted crisps every time Anton clearly wishes he was doing Brucie's jobone cheesy wotsit for each square centimetre of naked skin shown by Ola's new outfit (up to a maximum of seven party bags)a square of chocolate every time Anita Dobson smiles and frightens the childrenthree doritos for each time you shudder either a) because you get an uneasy feeling that there's something sinister about Robbie the footballer, b) at the realisation that Artem and Holly ha…

The trail of a tale - Joan Lennon

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Telling stories round the fire, out in the wilderness, holding back the night ... That's pretty much where it all started, I guess, at the beginning of the human era.

And one of the great joys of childhood is still being told a story. Being read to. The theatre company, White Rabbit, tries to recreate that joy for grownups. In an evening performance called Are You Sitting Comfortably? the actors (Bernadette Russell and Gareth Brierley) read aloud stories written by local writers, on a set theme, in a tea party setting. (This was in the Byre Theatre in St Andrews but they go all over.) I loved what Gareth did with my story! It needed to be read by a male voice, but Gareth does a crooked smile like no one on earth, and he just lit the tale up.



It was an exhilarating, slightly atavistic evening. At the end each writer was given a booklet of their story, tied up with red ribbon - AND an invitation to submit their tale to Ether Books to be made into an app.



So "Dissidents and …

Pauline Fisk: FEAR OF FLYING

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Back in the late sixties, I lived on a hillside on the Worcestershire border in a cottage without electricity or running water. It was what we now call ‘off the grid’. For two months I never saw a car and the only transportation that passed by was a hot air balloon which one morning flew over the roof. I was there to write. I was very young, and hungry to be published. Seated at a packing-case desk overlooking a damson orchard, I worked on a story involving hot air balloons and sky gypsies. Decorated hot air balloons - not like the one which had flown over me, but ones painted like gypsy caravans or narrow boats. I came up with a sky gypsy called Ben the Balloon Man but, before I could bring him to life, winter was suddenly upon me and I ran out of money and was forced to move and get a job. Fifteen long, non-writing years later, not long after the birth of my fifth child, I read a book called ‘The Flight of Condor I’. It told the story of a balloon flight in Nazca, Peru, by ballooni…

Susan Jane Smith: A Blogging Virgin Stops to Think!

This post has been published in Sparks, A Year In E-Publishing - An Authors Electric Anthology 2011-2012. It has therefore been temporarily reverted to draft status to comply with amazon KDP Select's requirements.

I swear I made you up - Apology to Vellanoweth, by Roz Morris

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It’s a funny thing, releasing a novel. You think you’ve made everything up, then someone informs you that it’s not as fictional as you’d hoped. And moreover, you got it wrong.
The other day I had an email to say that the fusty village where I’d set the action in My Memories of a Future Life was not spelled Vellonoweth but Vellanoweth. ‘No it’s not,’ I replied, thinking my correspondent had a cheek. ‘I made it up.’ ‘It’s near Penzance,’ he said. Oh dear. It was. I honestly had no idea the place existed. My Vellonoweth, with an o, was inspired by a stand-out surname I spotted in a magazine. It embodied everything I needed for my setting - a fusty, sleepy hell full of dreary people. If I used a real town I couldn’t take it to the stifling depths I needed. But it turns out there is a real Vellanoweth. So I may have some apologising to do. Here it is. 1 I’m sorry I gave you a terrible amateur dramatics society, which was performing a musical they’d written themselves about a lost hat.…

The Written Word

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According to an article in the Daily Mail, a newly-discovered bendy substance called graphene that weighs next to nothing could be used to make 'mobile phones that you roll up and put behind your ear and bendy electronic newspapers that can be folded into tiny squares'


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2045825/Graphene-strong-sheet-clingfilm-support-elephant.html

So, feasibly, we won’t need either bulky printed books or ereaders as whole collections of the Britannica Encyclopaedia could be printed on sheet of grapheme, folded up and slipped in your pocket. Just imagine, from this:
To this:


As small as a disc but you don't have to insert it into a computer, you can simply unfold it and read it.

Does this add to the current fear that books – and newspapers and magazines – will disappear forever? 

I don't think so. With new technical discoveries happening all the time the electronic world is developing in leaps and bounds but whatever the media, there will always …

Bird of Passage - ideas behind a new novel: Catherine Czerkawska

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When you write with a strong sense of place, as I think I often do, there are some settings which prove to be more inspirational than others. You just can’t leave them alone. They gnaw away at you and you feel compelled to write about them in different ways. For years, I’ve written about the small Scottish island of Gigha, off the Kintyre Peninsula, a place I know well and love dearly.

I’ve set several radio plays and a novel called The Curiosity Cabinet on a fictional Scottish island called Garve, which is like Gigha in size and appearance, although not in location. God’s Islanders is a detailed popular history of the real place and its people from prehistoric times to the present day and now I’ve set my new novel, Bird of Passage, on a vaguely similar (but this time unnamed) Scottish island, although the landscape focuses on a single hilltop farm called Dunshee and a tree-shrouded ‘big house’ called Ealachan, nearby.

The novel shifts between the two locations, with occasional sort…
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According to this article in the Daily Mail, a newly-discovered bendy substance called graphene that weighs next to nothing could be used in the not-too-distant future to make 'mobile phones that you roll up and put behind your ear and bendy electronic newspapers that can be folded into tiny squares'

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2045825/Graphene-strong-sheet-clingfilm-support-elephant.html
So, feasibly, we won’t need either bulky printed books or electronic ereaders as whole collections like the Britannica Encyclopaedia could be printed on sheets of graphene, folded up and slipped in your pocket. Just imagine, from this:

To this: 



As small as a disc but you don't have to insert it into a computer, you can simply unfold it and read it.


Does this add to the current fear that books – and newspapers and magazines – will disappear forever?

I don't think so. With new technical discoveries happening all the time the electronic world is developing in leaps and bo…

When Bookshops Meet Electric Authors (with a nod to Murakami) by Dan Holloway

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So I was talking to some of the lovely people here about bookstores, and saying how I was lucky to have a great relationship with not one but two of my local stores, The Albion Beatnik and *the* Blackwell’s, both in Oxford. And I was saying how both relationships had been forged not despite what I do online with ebooks and all kinds of things digital, but because of it. They said that’d be a really good thing to blog about, the way embracing digital can work for the author and the store.


(l-r me, slam poet Lucy Ayrton, Sophia Satchell-Baeza of Dissocia, and Oxford International Women's Festival and Oxford Pride poetry MC Anna Hobson pose outside The Albion Beatnik for the poster for This is Oxford, wherein we take over Blackwell's for the night on October 18th)
And I thought yeah, fantastic, and I can talk about some great shows I’ve got coming up at those stores at the same time.

Only.

How could I possibly talk anything else when we’re two days away from one of the most talke…

A nose by any other name... By Jan Needle

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I went to a charity folk festival last week (as Teresa May might say, I'm not making this up) but not, for once, to play slow Irish airs on my whistle. I donated my "services" as a children's author to help raise funds to save the Barlow Memorial Institute in the Lancashire village of Edgworth from the cuts. It's Cameron's Pig Society, innit?

Good fun it was, too - worth every penny that I didn't get. The assembled children were suitably shocked and delighted by the adventures of Wagstaffe the Wind-up Boy, and some of their parents were suitably horrified by some of its content, as well as Roy Bentley' s wonderfully gruesome pictures. {Above and below you can see Carl Grose as Waggie in Kneehigh Theatre's lovely version. I'd have done captions, but computer says no, due to my technical incompetence, no doubt.}

Anyway, the Edgworth folk festival started with a specially written poem, and - inevitably - I was featured in it as a woman. Any kids&…