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Showing posts from February, 2014

Pregnant princesses, and re-working stories.

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My new picture book, 'QUICKER THAN A PRINCESS', has had its publication date postponed because certain key buyers weren't impressed enough. It was supposed to be coming out next month, which would have been a mixed occasion emotionally for me because it will be the first anniversary of David's death. Now the already illustrated book will be doing the rounds at the book fairs, where we all hope it will fare better.

As so often with these things, friends who've read it, love it, but hey-ho, that's the way publishing is these days (the image of baked bean salesmen comes to mind).

          The theme is of a whole lot of creatures showing off because they can gestate their babies much faster than our very pregnant princess, and I love the illustrations which were done by Inna Chernak, who lives in the Ukraine (and I am currently fearing for her safety, and hoping that she lives somewhere deeply rural and far away from all the disturbances).

          I spent…

The Soporific Brothel - Andrew Crofts

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          "Of all the advantages that ghosting offers, one of the greatest must be the opportunity that you get to meet people of interest."
          The idea came from the girl’s husband, a British engineer who had been working for several years on a project in the Far East. He’d met her through mutual acquaintances. They fell instantly in love and married despite the fact that they didn’t have a language in common.
          Over the following few years, as he taught her English, he learnt the story of his young bride’s life from the simple village where she was born to the brothels of Bangkok and eventually to freedom and security through marriage to him, a kind and gentle foreigner. He was proud of everything she had achieved and he thought that she deserved to have her story recognised, so on a business trip back to England he made contact with me.
          “I would need to spend time with her,” I explained, “would she come to London?”
          “It would be better if y…

Cry of the Heartwood by Ruby Barnes

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February 12th 2014 on the island of Ireland. The January weather had battered the coasts and destroyed stretches of coastline enjoyed by countless previous generations. Unusually high tides, low pressure with rising sea levels and gale force winds resulted in crazed, crashing waves that ripped out miles of sandy beach, turning them to pebbles. Just before Valentine's Day the elements returned to attack the land. Storm Darwin brought hurricane force winds across the counties of Munster and Leinster.

         We had forty shades of green long before fifty shades of grey, and there's a reason why the Emerald Isle is so lush - it's mostly raining. And we're no strangers to high winds with many a tree, shrub and bush habitually leaning away from the prevailing storms. But no one was ready for Darwin. We're not familiar with hurricanes - this is a temperate island off the north west of Europe - but Storm Darwin evolved from a lineage that dashed the Spanish Arm…

My Brother, My Sister and Me - by Susan Price

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Here we are again. Have a look at this. It takes you to another of those interactive e-books.

http://stories4learning.com/susan/siblings/
     This is one I put together for the RLF Consultancy Training Course I've been taking. I had ten minutes to give 'a presentation' or 'mini-workshop' on a subject of my choice. It had to have 'interactive exercises.'
           Ten minutes!
          Since I met so many students whose eyes became glazed with terror at the mere mention of apostrophes, I invented a 'story' that deliberately used the apostrophe several times.
         I borrowed my sister's best dress.
I didn't see the chocolate bar on the bus seat. I sat on it. There was melted chocolate all down the back of my sister's dress. I didn't tell her. I just hung it back in her wardrobe. It wasn't my fault!

     The pictures come from Wikimedia Commons. You copy their location into the Stories4Learning programme and it appears on the page o…

The literate is the political? - Jo Carroll

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As some of you know, I'm just back from Cuba. I've never been so aware of catching just a snippet of a country. I can (and probably will) write about the Cuba I met, but cannot extrapolate to assume it's the Cuba anyone else might meet, or make any assumptions about the lives of the Cubans themselves.

     Which is unusual. And why? One reason (among many) is the complex political situation in Cuba, with a socialist government firmly in control but the teeth of capitalism are gnawing away at the edges of society - and ready to take great bites should America lift the trade embargo. As a result some people are already looking forward to the possibility of being able to buy bread without queueing, while others will continue to live on farms and eat what they grow.

     Just in case you need a picture to make the point, here is a crooked picture of Che Guevara - on the wall in a bus station:



     I cannot write about Cuba without grappling with that. Which set me thinking: …

The Overlooked Job of a Writer by Leverett Butts

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There are several writing concerns that new writers instantly understand. The most obvious concern, of course, is where to get ideas.

Another common concern is whether or not you need an agent (which is itself a question deserving of its own topic blog).

Royalties are another concern new writers seem to have. Everyone wants to know how much money they're going to get for their magnum opus. Probably somewhere between diddly and squat, honestly.
Unfortunately, most of these concerns are usually out of your hands as a writer. You either have an idea or you don't; you can't go shopping for them. An agent will either pick you up or not; you can't force one to. Unless you kidnap Qui Gon Jinn's daughter and force him to use the  Jedi mind trick on the agent.
You will not live off your royalties, nor should you expect much (read: any) of an advance if your name is not Stephen King.
One concern, though, that many new writers overlook is, ironically, one of the few they have …

FEBRUARY'S NEARLY GONE - SPRING IS IN THE AIR! By Pam Howes

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That's not strictly true, as half the country is still under water and likely to be for many months, but - there are loads of colourful little flowers popping up in the garden, birds are showing their faces at the feeder again and the new season lambs are arriving daily. So all in all, something to look forward to. It's been an awful month weather-wise and I hope no one suffered too much, if any, damage to their homes, self, and cars. Apart from some of the fascia under the roof tiles blowing off and a small branch falling onto my car bonnet, we fared well here and consider ourselves very lucky. And looking on the bright side, we haven't had snow - yet…
The month of February started off really well for me. On the 1st, my favourite female crime author Mandasue Heller, did a book signing at the local Waterstone's and I got a copy of her latest novel Respect, signed. This is the second time I've met Mandasue and she's such a nice lady to speak to; very friendly an…

Mentors and Mantras – How I Became a Writer by Pauline Chandler

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There were lots of little steps along the way to my becoming a real writer, from getting my hands on notebooks and pencils at primary school, to joining a writers’ group, to getting my first novel published, but I didn’t do this by myself. Like a ball on a bagatelle board, I’ve often been pushed to the next step by something I’ve read, words that became mantras, or by mentors, wonderful people without whom I doubt I would ever have become a writer.

Like thousands of others, I’m a huge fan of the ‘The Voice’.
For anyone who hasn’t seen this tv show, it’s a competition to find the next superstar singer, judged by four famous singers who don’t set eyes on the contestant until they’ve chosen them to go on, solely on the sound of their singing. I like the banter among the judges, I like will i.am’s mad metaphors and Kylie’s rain dance, even Tom Jones’s name-dropping. He’s sung with Elvis, you know! But what impresses me most is that underneath all the glam and glitz, these people are surv…

Foremothers by Sandra Horn

Someone once described Elizabeth Jane Howard as 'a writer's writer'.
     It got me thinking how many other writers I'd put in the same category: those who, above and beyond being excellent and engaging spinners of tales in precise and delightful prose, create an empathic bond with the reader.
     I'm a huge fan of EJH, Rebecca West and Dodi Smith, among many others now no longer with us except in their books. They were writing about a time that is no more, and yet we can immediately enter into the lives of their characters almost as if they are people we know.
     In The Fountain Overflows and I Captured the Castle, the young female narrators struggle with the eccentricities of their families and are often angry and muddle-headed about how to survive the chaos created by around them by their adults - so far, so not different from now, then - but I fall in love with them every time I read the books (yes, EVERY time; they are in the pile by my bed for reading an…

PLR - What is it? by Chris Longmuir

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The inspiration for my blog post this month came from a comment I posted on Facebook. That comment attracted so much interest I did a little research on how PLR works, and that is what I want to share with you.
     So what was my comment on Facebook? Here it is, written in the heat of the moment, “Spitting nails this morning. Just got my PLR (Library loans) statement and there are no payments for Night Watcher or A Salt Splashed Cradle despite the fact that Angus libraries’ waiting lists for both books are massive.” I knew my third book in the Dundee Crime Series would not earn anything because it wasn’t in the libraries during the qualifying period, but the other two books should have earned something. So that set me off on my research trail.
     To start with, perhaps I should clarify what PLR is. PLR is short for Public Lending Right. Until fairly recently PLR funding was managed by the Registrar of Public Lending Right, but from 1 October 2013 the UK PLR office became part of…

Writing for Video Games - A Virtually Untapped Market, by Catherine Czerkawska

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This post is adapted from a piece I wrote for the Author, the Society of Authors magazine, in 2013. I thought it might be worth a second airing here, since it isn't something that will occur to most writers or aspiring writers. The only reason I know a bit about it is that it is 'in the family.' My son is a game designer and as I’ve followed his progress in video game design, it has become clear to me that this is a growing but virtually unexplored market for writers.

     Charles grew up with the industry, beginning with early hand held games. Later, I remember trying to install PC games for him, but he soon graduated to dedicated consoles. Two things stand out in my memory: his obsession with games of all kinds, board and card games too, and the point at which his ability to play computer games far outstripped my own efforts. He just seemed to get the hang of them in the way that kids invariably do.



     As a young child he was very fond of Richard Scarry’s incident c…

When to go it alone – Elizabeth Kay

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Five of the six books I’ve converted for the Kindle have been books that were conventionally published in the first place, and the rights have reverted to me. The sixth, Beware of Men with Moustaches, was one that had been accepted for publication and then the whole series was cancelled by the publisher. So my latest book is the first I’ve dared to do without the security of a previous history.
            I wrote it eight years ago, and my agent handled it. It got very close to acceptance several times, and then fell at the last hurdle. The main reason seemed to be that accountants don’t like birds – they’re not cuddly enough. It’s aimed at the same audience who read The Divide, so I’m hoping to pick up readers that way. How come a talking griffin is acceptable, but an intelligent parrot isn’t? They’ve both got beaks and wings…             I’ve always been interested in the concept of really clever birds – ever since I was walking down a perfectly normal suburban street some years a…