Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Word Smith and Me - Guest Post by Louise Hart

          If my life were a song, Morrissey would sing it.
          When I sat before my chunky television set on Friday 4th November 1983, my life changed forever. For framed within a seemingly impenetrable screen, was a figure who reached into my narrow existential realm and told me that I was okay. When you are fifteen and believe yourself a freak, you long for affirmation. Morrissey arrived just in time to save me from isolation and reassure me of my uniqueness.
          Like many lost souls of the Thatcher generation, I clung to the poet of pop, believing that his voice mirrored my own. When Morrissey sang I heard, not violins, but my own concerns and preoccupations reflected back to me, in the form of his song lyrics. I had fallen in love with words and I was never to recover.
          Morrissey’s lyrics struck my ears like a synthesis of aural honey and acid; he spat out words with proletarian divinity and relieved himself, like a backstreet urchin, on the non-believers, who subverted our gang.  The first words I heard him sing remain etched in my memory, like a strike of lightning or an experience of bereavement.

“Two bicycles on a hillside desolate
Has nature made a man of me yet?”
          Simple but starkly evocative, he immediately, alluded to the grey tones of his sexuality and beckoned my curiosity. Therein, I, as listener became lost in a quest to discover the true “nature” of someone who had never experienced a “natural emotion.” Certainty, however, is dull. It was Morrissey’s ambiguity, which kept him fresh.
          My first foray into serious writing took the form of an attempt to write a play. Thus, at the tender age of nineteen I spilled my consciousness upon paper. I have always believed that all writing is autobiographical, no matter how hard we strive for psychological detachment from a text, we write or read our own story, time and time, again. The attribution of textual meaning is a subtraction of our subjective being. Although the themes and characters in my play bore no direct relationship to me, I had subconsciously invoked the Morrissey effect. His style and tone echoed in my writing, like the jangle of Marr’s guitar strings on vinyl. Unfamiliar, at this time of my life, with the concept of intertextuality, I had become its involuntary advocate.
          Writers are constantly surprised by self-revelation, evident in their work. Like therapy, the more we communicate, the more self-aware we become. Thus, the tools I formerly employed with only subconscious awareness within my writing have hitherto been used by me as self-conscious signifiers of intentional meanings I have wished to create; a literary show off, attempting to impress, I have merely shown myself.
          I hope that Morrissey and his lyrics continue to haunt my world. Many other writers and artists have influenced my writing. Morrissey, however, occupies that space in my mind, where youthfulness once lay. When I hear his voice, I smile to myself, in contented acknowledgement of the books and poems that he has helped me write.
          In 2013, the world is a very different place. I long ago bequeathed my play to the rubbish tip of my past misdemeanours, a signifier of an age when innocence was my experience and The Smiths were the UK’s leading indie band. In 2013, there is a novel on my shelf, bearing my name beneath its title and Morrissey is a middle-aged torch singer with poor health and an expanding waist. Long may he live. Destroying our idols is injurious to us.

          My novel, The General Paralysis of Sanity is available from amazon. I have created the world's first (I think!) bipolar superhero for the artfice comics website, where I am serializing her adventures, as Luna's Way.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Beacon Literary Festival by Hywela Lyn

 This year villages in the area where I live, in the lovely Chiltern countryside, laid on the first 'Beacon Literary Festival on Saturday 22nd January.  It was not the sunniest of days so it was just as well there was a lovely marquee awaiting both the authors and visitors.  There were several very heavy showers, but thankfully not enough to deter the visitors.

There were several local authors present at the book signing table, and it was lovely to chat with them and with the visitors of course. To my surprise  I sold six books which made the day even more worthwhile.

There were also two book panels, chaired by another local author, and member of the Chiltern Writers Group, to which I also belong, and there were some interesting and lively debates in response to some of the visitors' questions.

There was a ghost story contest for local children which I was honoured to be asked to judge. Not an easy task except for the First Prize Winner whose story was so well structured and original it really stood out. I hope the contest will have encouraged the youngsters to carry on writing and using their imagination, and will hopefully have  instilled in them a love of reading as well.

Homemade cakes were available for a very reasonable price considering the size of the portions, as well as tea, coffee and fruit juice etc.

Altogether a very successful and enjoyable event, especially as it was the first time such an event has been held in the villages, and I look forward to attending again next year.

You can find out more about Lyn and her books on her  WEBSITE

She also blogs at her own BLOG, and THE AUTHOR ROAST AND TOAST

Friday, 28 June 2013

On not being able to write, among other things... Enid Richemont

Back in March, before I suddenly took on the totally unwelcome, ugly, and unwished for status of widow, my head was full of ideas, plots, images. My first picture book: '...and Nobody Noticed the Mouse', was due to come out, with TopThat! in September, and a second: 'Quicker than a Princess', had been accepted for publication by the same publisher for some time in 2014. My only other picture book text had been 'DOUBLE DRAGONS', which was really part of an anthology, so I was delighted to have sold two stand-alone stories. Things felt good.

Since David died, I have done no writing except for that single, previous May blog for Authors Electric, which was mostly devoted to him. This will be my second. Writing a monthly blog, I tell myself, is probably a healthy discipline. Whether I can continue doing it remains to be seen.

I said no writing, but that's not entirely true. I have been writing letters to my man. This was David at Christmas, opening one of his presents. Christmas will never be the same again. Upstairs, in a drawer, is his collection of all the letters I ever wrote to him, all on paper of course. They go back decades. These electronic ones will never be a part of that heartbreaking clutter - vanishing, eventually, with a simple click of a mouse. I would love to think of him reading them, though, somehow....

So very little writing, but a great deal of reading. I first read Philip Pullman's 'THE GOOD MAN JESUS AND THE SCOUNDREL CHRIST' - hugely readable, as is all his work, but the title puzzled me because the Christ character was no scoundrel - he was simply conned by an angel. I had given this book to David, but had never read it myself.

I then discovered Jamila Gavin's well-known 'CORAM BOY'. We'd picked it up in a charity shop, but to my shame I'd never read it. It is an amazing novel, both moving and poetic, and so cleverly plotted that I was holding my breath right up to (almost) the very last page. To resort to a cliche, my admiration knew no bounds... I've always found endings difficult.

Alan Bennet's recent short stories -  'SMUT' - grabbed me next. His style makes me think of Jane Austen, with his funny, very detailed observations of people, but he takes you to places to which you, and certainly the illustrious Jane - might not have chosen to visit!

Today I bought Philippa Gregory's Y/A 'Changeling' from a charity shop. I couldn't cope with the awful 'White Queen' on the telly, neither the final production, nor the advertising, but I thought I should try reading her.

I'm still struggling with e-publishing my out of print backlist. It's what David would have wanted, but I'm not the brightest button technologically - in fact, I maybe shouldn't be classified as an Electric Author at all, since he did all the work (but I did the writing, though).

Thursday, 27 June 2013

A "White Glove" Service for Authors - Andrew Crofts

There have been rumblings recently of “mysterious and secret” deals being done between Amazon and some of the biggest and brightest literary agents. They are calling it their “White Glove” service, and from the point of view of authors whose agents love their books but are unable to persuade traditional publishers to take them on, it’s a brilliant innovation.

          Last year I wrote a novel, Secrets of the Italian Gardener, set inside the palace of a dictator about to be overthrown in the Arab Spring. The narrator is a ghostwriter who, while inside the palace writing a book for the dictator, meets a wise, elderly Italian gardener who gradually unravels the story of who really holds the power and wealth in the world. He literally discovers "where the bodies are buried". As the rebels draw closer to breaching the palace walls the ghost is also struggling with his own breaking heart. I have spent much of my ghostwriting career amongst the dictators, politicians, arms dealers and billionaires who hold the reins of power and control the wealth of the world, passing time in their lavish palaces and heavily guarded compounds in the wildest parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East as well as in tax havens like Monaco, Geneva, Bermuda and the Caribbean.
          I sent the manuscript to one of the biggest and best agents in London, who I have known for many years, and he came back brimming with enthusiasm. He wanted no re-writes and he was sure he could get a sale. He told me the book was a "contemporary re-casting of Ecclesiastes” and was about “the vanity associated with the desire for power and possessions and ultimately about the cycle of birth, growth, death and re-birth" - which was a surprise, but by no means an unpleasant one. 
         Six months later he had to admit that he had failed to convince any publishers to come into business with us on this one. In the old days that would have been the end of the story. Simple self-publishing was now one option, of course, but with Amazon’s “White Glove” service we had another, and to my mind far preferable, alternative.
          Highly skilled staff at the agency proceeded to do a totally professional copy-edit and then did all the heavy lifting with getting the book up onto Amazon, ready for print-on-demand as well as electronic publication. It has become a team effort rather than a lone author’s voice in the crowd and should the book start to “gain traction” in the market place the agency is already fully engaged and ready to handle the business side of taking it to the next level.
          So, bravo Amazon for inventing yet another route to market for authors.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Performing one of my poems - just a bit of fun really.... by Rosalie Warren

Coventry Writers' Group, the wonderfully supportive and excellent writing group to which I belong, has just, for the second year running, put on a performance of our work as part of the Coventry Literature Festival. We performed at the Criterion Theatre, Earlsdon, Coventry, who very kindly hosted us and even made some of our costumes. We read and acted out a variety of short stories, short plays, poems, factual articles and timely advice from Coventry City Council on how to deal with a zombie invasion. And that was just the start!

The photo below shows us in action at our dress rehearsal.

Cover Photo
Photo by Derek Medcraft

My offering was a short and (I hope) humorous poem about the trials and tribulations of an aspiring writer who is rather premature in trying to sell her work. She is enthusiastic and slightly mad (so lots of acting needed there!) It has some slight relevance to what we Electric Authors are trying to do... so my apologies and please don't be offended, anyone. I am mainly laughing at myself!

Click here to see my performance on YouTube.

And do feel free to join in with the words below, should you be so moved!

Everything but the Book:
The tale of an aspiring Coventry author

Three publishers are interested: they’ve lined up in a queue;
Nine agents want to see my work: they loved my overview.
I've two pages up on Facebook – one for me, one for the book;
I’m blogging three times daily – oh won't you take a look?
My characters are tweeting like a noisy flock of wrens;
I have T-shirts for publicity, a mug and ninety pens.
They’ve my details printed on them – I'd a special photo done;
It’s costing me a fortune but I’m having so much fun!

I stand outside the Ricoh to accost the football fans;
I thrust pens and mugs and business cards into their sweaty hands.
I’ve given talks in libraries, in prisons and in schools;
I've done interviews in bookshops, by canals, in swimming pools ...
I’m up to date on income tax; I know my copyrights;
My cover blurb is perfect and the Booker’s in my sights.
I’m all signed up for PLR – or is it PLO?
I've a pen-name and a bank account – just let that money flow!
A guy responded to my blog – he said he’d tout my book;
I gave him thirteen hundred pounds – sadly, he was a crook.
But I’m soldiering on undaunted – I subscribe to Writing Mag;
I've read every book on ‘How to’ from Will Empson to Jo Bragg.
My head is full of P.O.V; I've joined the SoA;
I’m a regular at festivals, from Keswick down to Hay.
I’m up to scratch on all the latest market swings and trends;
I've met lots of famous authors – some of them are even ‘friends’!

My Writers’-n-Artists’ Yearbook is stained with coffee grounds,
With chocolate smears on publishers who’ve dared to turn me down.
My characters’ proclivities are typed up in a list
And I even know the toenail length of my protagonist.
My dialogue is flawless; I always stick to ‘said’;
My metaphors are never mixed, my ‘darlings’ killed stone dead.
I’m a master of the cliff-hanger, the turning point and hook ...
Now all I have to do is go and write the bloody book!

(c) Rosalie Warren 2013

Cheers to all

Follow me on Twitter @Ros_Warren   

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Eclectic Electric: A New Review Site

Writers read.
Me, reading at home

          Whenever you meet a writer, you can confidently predict that they read. A lot.

          The reason they wanted to write in the first place is because they loved reading – it’s a sure bet. Take it for granted that they learned to write by reading avidly - reading anything and everything - classics, thrillers, comics, magazines, newspapers, romance, sci-fi, plays, poetry, satire. Sauce bottles, cereal packets, lists of ingredients. Instructions on how to operate machinery.

          As with anyone who practices any craft, they develop a keen appreciation of its tools and techniques. A good cook, for instance, notices the way flavours are combined and quickly learns, from observation, exactly when to stop applying heat to a steak or fish. It’s an education  to attend an art show with an artist - sometimes they'll almost ignore the works, so keenly aware are they of the medium used, the size of the brushes, the way the mounts and frames have been chosen to set off the work.

          So I'm always interested when another writer recommends a book. They know what they're talking about. They’ve been round the back of the verbiage and checked out the machinery.

          And here, on this site, we have a whole bunch of writers. They write - and read - widely in a variety of genres. They understand the craft, and know the amount of work, planning, rewriting, thinking, research and understanding of people required to produce a short story, a play, a novel or a poem.

          As self-publishing writers we're well aware that self-published books rarely feature in newspaper and magazine reviews.

          So we've decided, between us, to set up a new site as a home for reviews we’ve written of e-books, and reviews we’ll doubtless write in the future.

          It's called Eclectic Electric, and it will feature reviews by Authors Electric on any and every book they enjoy and want to wave in the air and shout out to others about.

          They will all be of books available as e-books, and they will all be positive reviews of books we enjoyed and think others will enjoy. Some will be e-books produced by the big publishers, others will be self-published by the author.

          Some of the reviews will be of books by other Authors Electrics, and we're resigned to being accused of doing our friends favours – but please do us a favour and consider that we are just like any other group of people drawn together by a common enterprise. A few of us know each other personally. Most of us have never met. Still, like any other group of people, we're curious about each other. What better way to check out a writer than by reading one or two of their books?

          After all, we read all the time anyway, and we're always looking for a new book.
          And if it turns out that we really enjoy a book by another Author Electric - because this a gathering of good writers - then why not share our good opinion of it?

In another room of my house
         There will also, we promise, be many books reviewed that are not by Electrics, or anyone else we know. They will simply be books we've read, enjoyed and admired - and which we hope others may enjoy too.
          Reviews will not appear to any particular schedule, but as and when - the appearance of a new review will be flagged up to the right.

          In every case, we will follow this simple rule: a review must be of a book that we genuinely enjoyed. Otherwise, we will pass over it in silence.

          Speaking personally, I have to really love a book before I can find the energy or make the time to review it – regardless of who the author is.

          It’s that lack of time and energy which makes us apply another rule: we will not accept books to review. Do not waste your time and energy by sending us books, or asking us to review them. We can’t do it – we haven’t time to organise a way of keeping track of submitted books, matching them to writers and so on.

          But if, by chance, one of your books is reviewed by one of us on EclecticElectric – well that means that we not only loved it, but we probably bought it too! What higher recommendation could there be?

Images: Wiki Commons

          Susan Price's first contract was with Faber, at the age of 16. She has won the Carnegie Medal, and the Guardian Fiction Prize, among other awards. To find out more about her, and her e-books, click here.
          Or visit her website here.