Showing posts from July, 2017

It’s hard to escape your calling - Guest Post by Anna Maria Espsäter

As I was growing up in middle-of-nowhere western Sweden, I was often told the following story by both my grandmother and my mother:
It was 3 o’clock in the morning and my grandparents were fast asleep. The phone rang and my grandmother got up to answer. At the end of the line was a young journalist, who rather bluntly asked if my grandmother was aware that her youngest daughter was trapped on a small cliff ledge in the high mountains of Lapland, presumed to be seriously injured. Would my grandmother care to make a comment for his newspaper? This was the first my grandparents heard about my mother’s accident, while she was away working in the far north of Sweden.
Needless to say, I grew up thinking that all journalists were the most insensitive bastards around (and some would still argue I had a point, although I’ve come to appreciate the danger of tarring everyone with the same brush). My mother, who did survive that scary accident, was pretty much of the same opinion. “Journalism” as a…

Debbie Young Asks "What Would You Do With a Trug?"

Have you ever been surprised at how few people know a word that you've always taken for granted?

That happened to me this week when I was working my way through suggestions and queries raised on my current work-in-progress by my extremely helpful team of beta readers.

Oh, and before we go any further, just in case you've never come across the term "beta reader", that's the book's equivalent to a test pilot - a pre-publication reader who offers feedback on a book prior to publication.

A Harvest of Words

The work in question is the second in my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series of lighthearted classic cosy crime novels, Trick of Murder?This series will run the course of the village year from one summer to the next. Trick or Murder? spans October to November, thus incorporating both Halloween and Guy Fawkes' Night, and the tail end of the harvest season. Here's a snippet from the second chapter:

I spotted Joshua in his back garden, picking the last fe…

Loo Libraries, Robert Escarpit, Lists and Movies.

Hello and welcome to my loo, my little downstairs loo, which has a small library on the lower left, which you can't see in this image, and into which we put odd, unclassifiable books - ancient paperbacks with yellowing pages which really should go to a charity shop, but not yet, odd self-help books to dip into and promptly forget, and then the odd treasure like this French story book (I can't describe these stories as fairy stories because they don't contain any fairies) which I haven't looked at for decades, and which I recently began reading. I love its surreal cover illustration, reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch, and the inside line drawings are similar in feel. The illustrator is Sylvie Francois, the writer Robert Escarpit, and the book was first published in 1975!

What has most struck me about these fantasy stories is how very French they are. Here we have a country afflicted with sadness - absolutely nobody is happy. The king tried to organise a ball to cheer every…

Blog Tours for Authors - Andrew Crofts

“We’ve set up a blog tour for you,” my publishers, RedDoor, announced. “It’ll run for about a fortnight around publication date.”
“What exactly do I have to do?” I enquired, assuming I would have to write something for each blog, or do an interview – as is the pattern with PR tours.
“Nothing. They will all review the book on their designated days.”
It seemed hard to believe that anything could actually be that easy for an author. No one ever makes our lives easy – or at least that is sometimes how it seems.

But the reality was even better than that. Not only did they all review the book enthusiastically, most of them tweeted about it and re-tweeted one another’s tweets and then set up competitions for people who might want to win their copies, which resulted in more re-tweets and so the cycle continued. It was like a word-of-mouth campaign on steroids, sending the book rocketing back up the Amazon charts.
RedDoor then produced a poster of juicy quotes from the blogs, which the delighted b…

Sari-draped Poetry: Dipika Mukherjee discovers the value of handmade books

Writing a novel is like visiting a foreign continent for the first time; there are the annoying visas and passport renewal, inoculations and phrasebooks, but also the long giddy months of serendipity and planning. And Poetry? Poetry feeds my soul. It is the wind fluting through the weeping willow on a cloudless night. 
I had my first poem published when I was about 11 years old. Poetry has been a succor through the years of graduate school and raising two boys and has never abandoned me. It has always been there as a sudden image while I am washing dishes, or the red-hot rage after watching the news. Poetry, as we prose writers discover early, pays so little...and is oftentimes respected much less than prose. Our novels find mention in newsprint and blogposts and even the booksellers’ scribbles on a store display; a book of poetry, by comparison, seems beloved of an arcane sect, rarely embraced unless there is big prize or a major publisher involved. Back in 2007, while on a fellowship at…

Ice Apples, Darkness and Firelight by Susan Price.

The fourth book in the Ghost World Sequence
Artwork: copyright Andrew Price.
All life is sorrowful - but very, very sweet.
[The wolf-witch] said, “You have seen wolves hunt deer. The racing shapes against the snow, darting, turning— for the watcher, so beautiful. And it’s so good to run and feel your own strength! But for wolves, the hunt is hunger. For the deer, it is terror, and death. The hunt ends in pain and blood, with the wolves choking the deer and eating it while it still lives— Oh, did you not think of that? But now you know, and will never forget. Do you think wolves cruel now? But wolves must live, and have cubs to feed— and wolves cannot use arrows, or spears, or traps. To be happy in the den with their cubs, wolves must kill.
“Listen to the wolves sing when the hunting and feeding are done. So beautiful, their song, it will freeze you; and so sad it will pain you. The wolves know what they do. They know all life is sorrowful.
“Men lie to themselves,” said the wolf-witch. “Th…

The Everlasting challenges of Malawi, by Jo Carroll

Well, I've finally managed to publish my Malawian travels on kindle (and other e-platforms). This has been a difficult book to write - wherever I went I met people eager to give me their opinions on the aid industry. And I went with First World assumptions about the importance of overseas aid and its role in changing the lives of those living in poverty - views I ended up questioning but finding no answers.
And so I've left the reader with my unanswered questions. Should I have plucked solutions, rather than leave a reader uncomfortable? Or is it fine to present the challenges and leave the reader to think about them?
This dilemma was part of the reason for choosing my title: Everlasting. 80% of the population of Malawi lives in poverty - and I could see no evidence of a co-ordinated of effort to challenge that. The big organisations don't seem to be trying to work themselves out of a job. At the same time, there are some magnificent, locally-driven projects that are changin…