Showing posts from October, 2014

THE X-FACTOR CURSE & CRYBABY COLE: it’s catching! by Jan Ruth & John Hudspith

X-Factor Fiction, Halloween, Ho ho ho & hugging Dermot O’ Leary and saving the world.
John: It’s that time of year again, when writers send an avalanche to the ebook shelves hoping for a festive bestseller; when big-boobed slebs offer up their latest ghost-written shenanigans; when agents and publishers hire staff to handle the increased numbers of rejection notes. Had any good rejections lately?
Jan: Rejection is a tough lesson. I grew up with plenty of it. (I’m talking creatively; as in, go away and do this again it’s not good enough). At primary school I was told it’s vital to experience rejection in order to improve. Character-building, even.
John: Did you sob, like an X-Factor reject?
Jan: I don’t remember sobbing or clinging on to Dermot O’Leary when my first manuscript thudded back through the letterbox for the umpteenth time; it had morphed into a hefty wedge of dog-eared paper with mostly derogatory scribble in the margins by then -  but I guess if Leery had been available, I…


What's a catfish? Well, I have two in my aquarium - beautifully weird creatures with odd little faces who have trebled in size since they moved in with me about three years ago.

But catfish appear to have taken over a whole new meaning in the days of the internet. It's all to do with creating fake online identities in order to con people - see the definitions in Urban Dictionary and on Digital Trends.

Which leads me on to this Guardian article that's been doing the rounds recently. Am I being catfished? Author publishes book. Gets talking to book blogger and alleges that book blogger has been publicly trashing her book anywhere and everywhere. Author engages with blogger. World explodes very messily online...

But then it all gets sinister, as author apparently thinks that blogger may not be who she is purporting to be. Author - take a deep breath here - finds out where blogger lives and pays her a visit! Yes, really. And then ... well, read the article. You couldn't m…

Rewriting by Nicky Browne

According to John Green ‘All writing is rewriting.’ Yeah, I know and a first draft is only the
beginning of a process. I explain this to my creative writing students and tell them to get anything down on the page because it can all be fixed in edit. I am utterly sincere and a total hypocrite. I hate rewriting. I grew up in the twentieth century (without a type writer) I want to do as little of it as possible.
I vividly remember the first day I realised that editing was a necessity. I must have been about  twenty-seven and working with a real live journalist on a press release for an international oil company. Reader, he changed my words!

I was horrified. I’d said what I wanted to say. It made sense, what was his problem? He peered at the printed text and chewed on his lip. ‘Now, how can we say this better?’ he asked. Reader, with that polite question he changed my world! What? You can change things and make them better? I was a lesson I needed to learn, but years on I remain a reluctant…

Old stories, Typewriters, Decay and Resurrection, by Enid Richemont.

Many, many moons ago, I used to write fiction for women's magazines - in fact, that was how I was first published (books were going to happen quite a long time in the future).

I still have copies of these stories, written on a typewriter (remember those?) and also the published versions - so unbelievably antique now. I stopped writing them, partly because I became pregnant, but also because one of my stories just wouldn't sell because it broke an important taboo. Explicit sex? No, I wouldn't have dared.

What put editors off was the supernatural - my female protagonist was a second wife who became convinced that the vengeful spirit of the previous one was embodied in the family cat. It was, in fact, a very short psychological thriller, and it did have a happy ending. When I wrote it, I thought it was good. Whether I would think so now, I don't know, because the manuscript has long since vanished, but the experience put me off  writing for quite a long time.

Re-reading thes…

Writers as Human Hoovers - Andrew Crofts

“You’re like a human Hoover,” my wife complained as we drove home from the dinner party. “That poor woman…”
“What poor woman?” I truly didn’t know what she was talking about. I had been basking in the afterglow of what I thought had been a pleasant evening out.
“The one you were cross examining about her love life.”
“I wasn’t cross examining her,” I protested, “I just pressed the button and everything poured out. She was a human Nespresso machine.”
“You do it all the time. You’re like the Spanish Inquisition. Some people like to preserve a little privacy, you know.”
She was right, of course,  I do it all the time, but in my experience most people love talking about themselves, and those who don’t pretty quickly clam up or tell me to mind my own business. It was a secret I learned at the age of seventeen when I was heading for London in search of streets paved with gold with virtually no social skills at all.
How, I wondered as I watched those around me socialising with apparent ease…

Tweet Dreams Are Made of This by Ruby Barnes

Social media fads come and go. Step back in time ... remember MySpace? There are kids now who never heard of MySpace. Google+ was going to be the next big thing and the predicted demise of Facebook had people scrabbling for footholds on Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon and goodness knows where else. Now everything is becoming a bit blurred in a whirl of social networks, blogs, photo collections, discussion forums, online chat and update feeds. Isn't this all too much?
So, why bother with Twitter? What is the point of a 140 character message which might not get read by anyone before it sinks into the 500 million daily tweets? On the face of it, unless you are looking for personal interaction or are a microblogging wizard and manage to get your tweet to go viral through retweeting or on TV shows, Twitter doesn't seem to offer much. Unless you are a blogger.

Content is the key to good blogging. Some folk blog about their daily life, othersabout a book release / product revi…

Consulting Sprint Education by Susan Price

I've been too busy this month to come up with a blog, so here's some notes on what I've been up to.

I've mentioned before how I trained with the Royal Literary Fund to become one of their accredited consultants.

Well, I decided that I'd better do something with the accreditation. Long ago, when I first started earning a living as a writer, I made more money by going into schools and talking about what I did, than I did from actually selling my writing.

I've continued to make part of my income from school visits ever since, but gradually the writing income overtook the school income... but since the recession both have fallen off sharply. As, I think, almost everyone posting here has found too.

I decided to do something about this. I needed income but, obviously, it was no longer sufficient to wait for schools to seek me out. I had to go out and grab them by the lapels, even if only metaphorically.

So I gritted the teeth and paid a hefty sum (£500 plus VAT) to Sprin…

On Not Being Paid - Jo Carroll

My first degree is in history and politics - and I dreamed of becoming a journalist. That would be me, I thought, rubbing shoulders with the great and the greedy in the House of Commons and sitting in a garret writing about them.

Except I failed the interview. This was in the early 1970s, when there was no training for interviews, and no post mortem, so I've no idea why. I was certainly a bit shaken - there was almost full employment for graduates at the time and it was hard to turn my attention elsewhere. But events took over, as they do, and I drifted into social work and child protection - and am proud of everything I achieved so cannot suggest those years were anything other than satisfying.
But now our local online newspaper has asked me to be a columnist!
Oh what fun it is! All that adolescent enthusiasm is still there. I know, it's the council and not the MPs I'm having a pop at. And I've got a real house and not a garret. But the feelers for stories are out. No l…

Lev Butts' Top Ten (Part II)

Last month I started to count down my top ten books or series that have "stayed" with me (whatever that means) throughout my life.

It was a bit of an undertaking, and I only got through the first two.

These books aren't going to read themselves, so let's cut the introductory fluff and get right to it then:

8. The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
As a kid, I loved the Rankin/Bass cartoon version of The Hobbit. I watched it every time it came on television. This was so long before DVD's, mind you, that we didn't even have VHS yet.

This meant that I could only watch it once a year if I were lucky, so for the weeks before it aired, I was the best behaved kid you ever saw. I'd eat all my vegetables and possibly even liver to avoid running the risk of being restricted or sent to bed early on broadcast night.

I'd sing the songs along with the television. I'd climb over the furniture while the dwarves were in the lonely mountain. I didn't…

Everything has its limitations - even e-books? by Ali Bacon

During a recent weekend spent with writers old and young, I was in the company of a well-known novelist (no namedropping) and mentioned I was enjoying reading Gone Girl. (I was about half way through at the time).  She said she had like it too and like me had read the e-book. She also happened to say that it was ‘the kind of book that was good for Kindle’. This perplexed me but I let it ride until later in the weekend by which time I had finished the book and  we talked about it again. I wanted to know which novels she considered good for Kindle. I might have misunderstood, but I gathered that she considered the e-format better for quick reads, genre fiction or page-turning thrillers.
I was surprised that she felt this need to differentiate in this way. She has, by the way, been published in both formats and is working now on something that will go straight to e-book, so we are not talking Luddite or literary snob.

I went off to think about my own Kindle reading and consider if in an…

Pauline Chandler asks "Who Needs Stories?"

It still amazes me that many adults don’t read fiction. I used to take it for granted that everyone did, until a chance comment from a friend, an artist, shocked me to the core.  ‘No, I don’t read stories’, she said, ‘in fact I don't read much at all. I don't have time'. She might as well have said ‘I don’t breathe.’

Sadly, I’ve since discovered that ‘not reading stories’ is quite common, even among teachers. Perhaps it’s all that paperwork. No time to read anything other than the latest advice about improving their performance and meeting the agreed ‘learning outcomes'. Pah.
Fiction didn’t feature much on the curriculum in my own school days, during the 50s and 60s, and there was certainly no discussion about what we read in our spare time. We were allowed to read a book, carefully censored, at playtime, as aimless running about was frowned on. In class we read the Greek Myths, Arthur Grimble’s ‘A Pattern of Islands’ (non-fiction) and CS Forester’s ‘The Ship’, which I c…

Nine years on by Sandra Horn

You know those LinkedIn messages telling you to congratulate someone on their job anniversary? 'Ten years at Blithering and Snodgrass'? I usually ignore them because I never know whether the person targetted wakes up every morning with a song in her/his heart and can't wait to rush off to work, or has to mutter 'mortgage, mortgage, utility bills, shoes,' in order to get out of the house at all. Yesterday, I had one: a 'congrats' message, that is. A delightful ex-student congratulated me on nine years at Clucket Press. Really? Nine years since we launched The Mud Maid into the world with but the single thought: we know what we can afford to lose without ending up on the streets, so here goes? Cor, strike me pink. It worked out rather better than we could have dreamed, so we went on to produce The Giant and The Furzey Oak. We've also brought some OOP books back into publication and ventured into e-books and most lately an audiobook. We didn't anticipa…

Bloody Scotland Could Have Been Bloodier, by Chris Longmuir

It was the day after the Scottish referendum when half of Scotland had been sorely disappointed, while the other half rejoiced, and I was off to Bloody Scotland at Stirling. I’ve been there before, but I wondered if this year it would be bloodier than ever.
Bloody Scotland in case you’ve never heard of it is a crime writing convention for readers and writers of crime fiction. It’s a fabulous event attended by many of the better known, and a smattering of the lesser known, crime writers, and a massive choice of events with over fifty authors giving talks and interviews. The convention is spread over three days, and this year it was from Friday 19th to Sunday 21st September (the voting on the referendum was on the 18th September).
As well as the speakers there was a masterclass on crime writing, a cinema presentation aptly named, Bloody Cinema, in the Old Town Jail, a courtroom drama in Stirling Sheriff Court, Medieval Murder in Stirling Castle, and a gala dinner where the Deanston Cri…