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Showing posts from April, 2015

Starting from Scratch by Lynne Benton

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I am a complete novice at this game, ie building my own ebooks. However, I have finally succeeded in publishing my very first ebook, Jimmy’s War, on Kindle, thanks to the inspiration, help and advice of several friends in the Scattered Authors, most notably Jen Alexander, Jennie Walters, Susan Price, Katherine Roberts and Lynne Garner.

At first I was completely daunted by the prospect of doing all the technical stuff BY MYSELF! (My husband, bless his heart, relies on me to do any techy stuff in our house, and our children, all very computer literate, live too far away to help out if I get stuck.) So eventually I took a deep breath and started.

The KDP helplines were helpful, at least to start with, until I reached the page where I had to give details about my tax status, when my computer froze completely and refused to carry on. I wasn’t sure whether this was KDP, me, my new computer or the battery in my mouse that was causing the problem, so I turned it off in disgust and left it…

Count me among the Blockheads: N M Browne

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Most years I supervise students doing MA dissertations in Creative Writing. I read their work in progress, meet with them individually to talk over what is working and what isn’t.  I make suggestions  and am always staggered by how much easier it is to have innovative plot ideas when the plot isn’t yours and you don’t have to write it. Ditto for world building.    Inevitably we often talk about how to work as a writer, by which I mean how to organise  writing time: the other part, the how to 'work' and make money is an altogether different question to which I don’t have a very useful answer. In all honesty I can’t tell students how to organise themselves with any confidence. I try not to be a hypocrite and I couldn’t organise my way out of my office as anyone who has visited it will testify. I do however try to encourage them to find out what works for them and to ignore all writing advice that doesn't. The harder job is to help motivate them through the bleak moments when…

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dandelions, Supernatural Beings and Tin

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The other day, I noticed that one of the tiny dandelion weeds that had rooted themselves in a crack in the pavement adjacent to my front step had unexpectedly flowered, and the sight of it filled me with such joy and tenderness that I photographed it. The image has come out at an odd angle - the paler grey is actually the horizontal of the step, but here it looks vertical.

Why is there so much folklore around the dandelion? Like many kids, I used to be told by my mum that if I picked them I would wet the bed, and there is, I believe, some truth in this, as I think dandelions as herbs have been used as a diuretic, in which case, might eating it in a salad, or enjoying a bowl of dandelion soup, have a similar effect? I love its original French name: Dent de Lion - lion's teeth .

At present I've been reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's fascinating, knowledgeable, and very scary book: "HERETIC" If you haven't yet heard of her, she's a Somali woman raised as a strict Mu…

Some Stories Rise Like Cream - Andrew Crofts

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Some stories are so good they just rise to the surface like cream. It all started with a lunchtime conversation with a client from Rio.

“I have a friend who has been trying to write his autobiography for years,” My client said, “can I put him in touch with you?”
Gordon Lewis was an “unfortunate”, born in a home for unmarried mothers in 1950s Dublin. His mother was determined not to go into the Magdalene Laundries and risk losing her child, so she found a home run by Catholic nuns which would let him stay with her and kept him a secret from everyone, including her family. It wasn’t until he was eight years old that Gordon even realised he had any family apart from the other women and children in the home.
Seeing that her spirited son was in danger of getting into serious trouble, running wild on the city streets, his mother took the decision of contacting Bill, the man who had been the love of her life before she fell pregnant by another man, in the hope that he would offer both of t…

The Ghost Clamp of Old Dublin Town by Ruby Barnes

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The last couple of Fridays have been very eventful. Two weeks ago we had a book launch in Stone House Books, Kilkenny, of Marble City Publishing’s latest collection By the Light of the Moon. It was the culmination of a lot of work by fourteen Kilkenny writers who had continued to meet up since completing the NUI Creative Writing for Publication course, and the follow-up Two Roads course, a good few moons ago. There was wine, there were readings, smiley faces and happy memories. Our book was dedicated to one of us who had left this Earth for the great creative writing workshop in the sky – Jane Avril de Montmorency-Wright 1936 – 2014. Jane was a power to behold, loved by all (and coincidentally had been Barack Obama’s oldest living Irish relative although she kept that light under a bushel and simply said, ‘He’s more than welcome to come here for some tea.’) The following Friday, when the dust had settled, I returned to Stone House Books to hoover up the spondoolicks from the launch sal…

Who's Trip-Tripping Across My Bridge? - by Susan Price

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I'm seem to be all about the picture books and fairy tales these days.
          My last post was about using CreateSpace's cover creator, with my younger brother's drawings as an example. He and I are working on re-issuing my 'Runaway Chapati' as a self-published book.
          He and his wife came to my house over Easter, bringing the large scale drawings he's done. They were beautiful. Full of movement. I'm keenly looking forward to seeing the finished book. The text is going to be embedded in the pictures, so that picture and text are saved as one image.
          Then the older brother suddenly upped and volunteered his illustrations for 'The Three Billy Goats Gruff.' He knows it's always been a favourite of mine.
          I was all for it.
          I wrote out a script, but it was quickly abandoned as being too long. I told Andrew to tell the story in his pictures, and I would build a text around it - as, with picture-books, the illustratio…

Should we believe everything we read if it claims to be non-fiction? by Jo Carroll

I come from a travel-writing perspective. Which means that my writing reflects the world as I see it. For instance, I'm sure there are plenty of people who visit Cuba and find wonderful food. In contrast, I had a surfeit of rice and beans - the monotony broken on one occasion by a plate of pasta with ketchup (that was a low point). My food-reality is just as valid as anyone else's (so please tell me where you found fab food in Cuba ...). We are both telling our own truths.

So, having established that my reality is as justified as yours, does that mean all travel writers should be believed? You have to take it on trust that I don't make anything up - although I do place greater emphasis on one event over another, if that makes a book more entertaining. So I've taken pages to describe my encounter with a tiger in Nepal, which was all over in seconds, in contrast to the lazy days wandering around Pokhara, looking at the lake or sipping mango juice. Does this make it look a…

When Not to Self-Publish by Lev Butts

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It's no great secret that it is not easy to get published traditionally nowadays. Not that it ever was a walk in the park, but it seems the writing market is particularly glutted today. In fact, as a writer starting out, if you can't show that your work appeals to pretty much everyone on the planet, the chances of seeing your book on the shelves of Barnes & Noble are pretty slim.

For starters, most commercial publishers require that you have an agent to represent you. Most agents require that you have been published before taking you on. This is why so many writers are alcoholics.
Of course it helps if you know people in the publishing industry and are not too proud to ask for a favor, but last I checked, Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and John Irving are all full-up on friends.
 Last week, I received my first rejection from a "real" publisher, and this wasn't even for a work of fiction. It was for the first critical edition of  H.P. Lovecraft's work. It wo…

What price print? by Ali Bacon

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Like most authors of e-books, I also publish in print. Well to be precise, in the case of A Kettle of Fish, I had a publisher for the e-book but published the paperback copy myself using a POD (Print on Demand) publisher Feedaread. My AE colleagues will know all about the different options for going into print so this is just a rough guide for anyone else who is interested in how we get our books - the solid kind - out to our readers. 

POD costs more per copy (around £5.70 for me) than asking a local printer to do a print run,  but the advantage is the author needn't fork out the money up front. If you can cope with the fairly basic mechanics of uploading a Word file and cover image to the POD website, the only start-up costs are cover design, usually £200- £300 although there are cheaper options. (And if you have e-published, that part might already be in hand with just some tweaking required for print quality images). Feedaread asks the author to buy a proof copy and charges stee…

The Great and the Good (Books) by Pauline Chandler

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In last month’s blog, I said I was spring cleaning my office and, specifically, tidying my book shelves, which meant I had to throw some books away to make room for new ones.  As other bookworms will know, what this really means is to make enough room to stand all my books upright with spines to attention, instead of slotting them in higgledy-piggledly, to lounge languidly about, horizontally, on top of the others.



Ha! I’ve tried this before and I know exactly what happens. I pick up a lounging book and it infects and entrances me, so that a while later I come to and find myself lounging about too, in my armchair, half way through its pages..  You know it’s true.


To be fair, you have to give a book on death row a chance. In order to find those I can safely discard, I’ve decided that a book worth keeping has to have taught me something, ie it’s one of the ‘great’, or it has entertained me, in which case it’s one of the ‘good’. All keepers have to be something I shall read again some d…

The Silkie Saga by Sandra Horn

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Of course, I’m now beginning to wonder if I’ve written all this before…

The Silkie was my first story for children. I thought it was a picture book text – at least, that’s what I tried to write. It was rejected 17 times, once with a rude note from Tom Maschler ‘not interesting enough.’ It almost made it with Andersen, who sent it to Michael Foreman (I thought My Time Had Come!) but he was into illustrating his own stories by then so they didn’t take it, but asked if I had anything else.I sent them Tattybogle, which became my first children’s book.

As to the poor old Silkie, when I look back now I can’t imagine why I kept sending it out.I was utterly new to the world of children’s books and utterly na├»ve. Now, if I send something out and it’s rejected once I crawl into a hole and groan, but then for some unfathomable reason, I just kept on and on and on.Finally, it landed on the desk of lovely Isabel Boissier at Hodder, who wrote to me and said words to the effect of, ‘This isn’t a pi…

Challenge of Changing my Website to Joomla! by Chris Longmuir

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You may not have seen me around much recently. That’s because I’ve been burning the midnight oil, designing and building a new website which has to go online before the 21st of this month. Why the rush?
My son changed his old Dreamweaver website to Joomla round about three months ago, and I’d heard him describing it, otherwise I wouldn’t have known Joomla existed. He made this change because Joomla websites are responsive, eg they adjust to fit any size of screen, even mobile phone screens, whereas his old Dreamweaver site was a static one which did not adjust. I made a mental note to look into this because my site was a Dreamweaver one as well. When I have a spare moment, I thought, I might consider this. So, once again, why the rush into this unknown territory of Joomla?
The reason, or maybe I should say bombshell, arrived at the beginning of April when I spotted in one of my forums that Google intended to change their algorithms on the 21st April. The new algorithms would exclude …