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Showing posts from March, 2015

An Author’s Life of Snakes and Ladders - Guest Post by Mary Cavanagh

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The Good Old Days: Forty years ago my home town of Oxford had a small WHSmith and the truly brilliant Blackwell’s; a large established family bookshop that catered for the academic side of the University, and also offered several floors of fiction and non-fiction. This was a rare luxury, and whilst other towns might have only had a WHS, they would have had one or two excellent independents as well. Authors were managed by the many long-established publishing firms who fully supported them, took responsibility for sales and marketing, and took a great deal of interest in their careers. Yes, of course, there was a sector of high commercialism and pocket romances, but on the whole good quality reading was the order of the day.
Thatcher’s Britain: From the nineteen-eighties onward, in response to the boom times of economic growth, competition in the form of large chain stores arrived. Oxford was blessed with an enormous Waterstones, and even larger Borders. This pattern was reflected natio…

Editing? Help is at Hand. Guest Post by Daniel Burton

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Editing. It can be a minefield, but navigating it is essential for making your novel a success. Having self-published my own novel, Heartbound, in January 2015, I vividly remember the stress of going through 70 000 words making sure each one was spelt correctly and that each sentence sounds right. Needless to say, the editing process took a fair bit of time!
Editing is more than just checking your spelling and punctuation. The plot needs to be tight (no going off at a tangent!) and the overall layout has to be spot on. Even the smallest details, like your character‘s eye and hair colour, need checking for consistency. You’ve heard of going through something with a fine toothcomb, well that is exactly what editing is and then some!
It might seem tortuous, but editing can make the difference between a mediocre review and an outstanding 5* review. Readers will remember the grammar errors and typos a lot more than your imaginative metaphors and settings, and mark you down accordingly. Fortu…

Arvon and the things we forget: N M Browne

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I have just returned from an inspirational Arvon residential course at Tottleigh Barton. At least I found it inspirational, I cannot necessarily make the claim for the sixteen eleven year olds from Newham I was tutoring. These days I generally work with adults, tutoring and supervising MA students and much as I enjoy that, there is nothing like the mind of a child. Years ago, when I first started writing for young people, I was often asked if I wrote for my own young children. My answer was always ‘No.’ I would fix my interlocutor with a beady eye and firmly state that I wrote for the child I had been and to some extent remained. It is true that I have always written the kind of story that would have excited me as a child. I’ve got a little wiser and a great deal greyer but haven’t changed that much in any essential way: I still love strange tales of magic and transformation, other worlds and secret powers. I have added to the repertoire of stories I love, but subtracted nothing. Now …

On Hating Spring, and a Nasty cosmic "IT", by Enid Richemont

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Everyone, at present, seems to be sharing the delights of Spring - that feeling of renewal, the flowering, Spring blossoms. Someone on Facebook invited friends to share, in one word, their response to this season, and out they popped, like seedlings resurrected by the sun - crocuses, daffodils, budding leaves, snowdrops etc etc. There was only one negative word - 'death'. It was mine.


Stravinksy saw Spring synonymous with violence and death. Somebody - was it him? - described the sound of the ice cracking on the Volga as being like the slashing of a blade. And then, we have THE RITES OF SPRING, and, of course, Easter, which isn't really about bunnies and chicks, but about a horrendous form of death followed by the myth (or not, depending on your beliefs) of the resurrection. Spring, for me, has always been about death and violence. Yet I was married in Spring, and our two children were born in Spring.  Then the man I loved died suddenly, two years ago, in Spring - so for me…

A Glorious Weekend in Dublin - Andrew Crofts

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The organisers of book festivals have been getting a bit of flack from authors recently for their lack of generosity and for generally making us feel we should be grateful to be invited in the first place. The Mountains to Sea Festival, held last week in Dun Laoghaire, in the picturesque outskirts of Dublin, is a glowing example of how things should be done. A well organised festival, a beautiful location, delightful, generous people, I can’t recommend them enough. If they come knocking on your door with an invitation bite their hands off and take the opportunity to spend as much time in and around the city as possible.
The visit was filled with happy co-incidences. In April a book that I ghosted, Secret Child by Gordon Lewis, is being published by HarperCollins. It is based in Dublin and is the inspiring story of a boy who was born and brought up in a secretive home for unmarried Catholic mothers in the 1950s. It was sheer chance that I was invited to be interviewed in the same city…

Writing from the Heart, the Head or the Wallet? by Ruby Barnes

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I am nothing if not modest. In fact, modesty is the greatest amongst my many talents. I lay claim to an average level of proficiency in most physical pursuits, with the exception of gymnastics, ice-skating and throwing a ball, all of which I'm pretty crap at. But I can twirl several martial arts weapons with a worrying degree of almost efficiency. When it comes to tastes in music, I like a bit of everything – the latest tunes on the pop transistor radio station, classical pieces by people in suits, bluegrass by folks with no teeth, heavy rock by hairy ones. Stick a label on it and I've probably got examples in my music collection. I myself can play fairly averagely well on several musical instruments – guitar, piano, trumpet, anything that plucks or blows. Regarding TV, films – I'll watch Downton Abbey, Dr Who, Lillehammer, The Middle, almost anything. Reading – contemporary fiction, classics, crime, thrillers, science fiction, misery lit, I lap it all up. Not a big fan of…

Cover Creator - by Susan Price

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A friend, asked  me about covers for ebooks recently. 
She didn't think she would make
back, in sales, the cost of paying for a cover to be designed, and she didn't feel capable of creating one herself. So, what to do?

I pointed her in the direction of CreateSpace and its free 'Cover Creator.'

CreateSpace is the Amazon company which enables you to publish in paperback. You download a template, into which you load your 'interior files' or the text of your book. Then a cover has to be designed, which will wrap around the paperback book - so it has to have a front and back, and a spine. The thickness of the spine depends on the word-number of your book.


With my first POD paperbacks, the Ghost World series, I got my brother to take his Kindle cover designs and turn them into paperback covers, following the formula which Amazon provides. But I felt that I couldn't go on pestering my brother. When I turned my ghost story collections into paperbacks, I decided to use C…

Do writers need roots? by Jo Carroll

As some of you know, I go walkabout from time to time. Some of my wanderings are recorded in my books, and writing them has become – for me – a vicarious way of reliving experiences for a second time. But the writing has also asked me some more serious questions.
My process for teasing the scribbles in my travelling notebooks into story begins with transcribing those scribbles. And one of the things that strikes me, every time, is how – apparently without thinking – I refer to a hotel as ‘home’.
Maybe it’s just a shorthand, a quicker way to refer to returning to wherever I’m laying my head that night than naming it every time. But, as I transcribe, and resist the urge to change or interpret anything, I find myself asking the question: where is home, and does it matter?
The first part is easy – home is Wiltshire. I’ve spent most of my adult life here. I know the cold winds that blow across the Downs in winter. I know the mud of Savernake Forest. The stones of Avebury feel like friends –…

The Post-Poned Demon: Always Lurking, Never Arriving by Lev Butts

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Almost a year ago, I wrote about overcoming writer's block. I had intended to write about procrastination the next month, but I kept putting it off until I didn't have time anymore, so I picked a fight with Ruth Graham that was about as successful as the one I picked with John Green. I tried to tackle procrastination again the next month, but instead I preached to the choir again about the benefits of self-publishing. Each month something else until finally, my procrastination reached epic proportionsby convincing meto embark ona six monthjourney countingten books.

This month, I say, "No more!" This month I am going to tackle that tiger headlong. This is it. This is the month, I discuss the evils of procrastination and give advice on tackling it.





















Procrastination is a sneaky bastard. We all think of it as just putting off important work, but it is so much more than that. Sure, we've all procrastinated by vegging out on the sofa, binge-watching Arrested Development

Amazon Reviews - why stop at 5 stars? by Ali Bacon

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We all know how important Amazon reviews are to writers, indie writers in particular. With most bookshop chains in thrall to marketing managers from the Big Six, how else can we make any impression on the market which seems to be expanding exponentially? And if we publish only in digital formats, the online review really is the only real way to get exposure. With this in mind I try to do my best for fellow writers and post reviews whenever I can. With my own novel, A Kettle of Fish, I am keen to have as many reviews as possible and although less than 4 stars (see below!)is always a disappointment, I’d rather have a less than wonderful review than one that’s insincere, or even no review at all.
And there’s the rub. As a reader (rather than a writer) I’m beginning to wonder how much faith I can put in the Amazon 5-star system. For instance, I’ve just read a novel which, being aware of the author’s reputation, I expected to like a lot. Well for me it was okay, but not a book where the pl…