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Showing posts from April, 2018

Debbie Young Thinks Outside the Box about Bookmarks

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Call me old-fashioned, but I love a good bookmark, and I have a large collection ready for action whenever I need one. 

Some of these have been made for me by those too young to read my books yet...


I have some that I've treasured since I was very young - I've had these two since I lived in California at the age of 8...



I have some handmade ones, such as these two I embroidered when my eyesight was sharper than it is now...


Some are souvenirs of bookish events I've enjoyed or at which I've spoken...


Bookmarks make great low-budget souvenirs of places that I enjoy visiting as a tourist...


So when I decided to produce some swag to promote my growing Sophie Sayers Village Mystery novels (four and counting...), a good bookmark was the obvious choice.

But as to the design, I was stumped. I love the gorgeous book cover designs produced for me by the wonderful Rachel Lawston of Lawston Design, but with three more books to come in the series, and three more spin-offs planned, …

The Talking Stage: N M Browne

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I am at that chatty stage of my new novel. It’s still new enough that I cantalk about it without boring myself rigid. I have instead bored my husband rigid, not to mention a few other family members, who have all expressed just the right degree of enthusiasm. They know me well and they know they won't have to endure it for long: the chatty stage  won’t last. Soon, even a polite inquiry will be met with a grunt and an expletive and not long after that, the novel will be a topic that is simply not discussed. Ever.
Although this is a relative good moment in thenovel writing cycle, it is a slightly dangerous one because the story of the story gets shorter with each retelling. That’s great for elevator pitches, but as I’m more of a stairs girl myself(and the backstairs at that ) I don’t need to make a story shorter and simpler, but longer and wilder if it is going to go the distance. I don’t like to know too much too clearly or I lose interest so fixing a story's form through conver…

The Short Story – a Format for our Times. by Bill Kirton

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Last week, Ali Bacon covered this topic and asked ( and  answered) some penetrating questions about many of its technical aspects as well as its potential. These are just some additional musings on the form.

The best short stories can have the same intensity and levels of reader involvement as a novel or the concentrated power of a poem. Edgar Allen Poe and Maupassant packed more into theirs than other writers manage in entire novels. Bizarrely though, given that we live in times where speed is essential, sound bites are the norm and it seems that ‘we have no time to stand and stare’, lots of publishers/agents still say explicitly, ‘No short stories’. And yet, in theory at least, it ought to offer the perfect fit for commuters with their e-readers and anyone who relishes grabbing a few moments during the galloping days to relax with some fiction.
The beauty of the form is that it can be so many things, some of them just an evocation of a mood, others a complete, self-contained ‘story’ w…

Why Risk Poverty Just to be a Writer? - Andrew Crofts

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Another book recommendation for anyone who likes to read about writing and writers. “Self & I: A Memoir of Literary Ambition” by Matthew De Abaitua.


Almost anyone who came of age realising that the only thing they wanted to do with their lives was write will find something moving, funny or frightening in this memoir of a young writer from an entirely non-literary family wading out into the swamps of intellectual snobbery and potential poverty in search of the elusive uplands of literary success.
The USP for this particular story is that young Matthew was employed by Will Self, a novelist famous for being a terrifying mixture of drug and drink fuelled intellectual rigour, Hunter S. Thompsonesque japery and, some might say, literary pretension. The book is marketed as being a real-life "Withnail and I" – and it certainly fulfils that brief, but it is also a serious look at why on earth so many of us are willing to risk starving to death in order to be free to write what w…

A Malaysian Literary Festival wins at The London Book Fair 2018, by Dipika Mukherjee

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The George Town Literary Festival (GTLF) won the Literary Festival Award at The London Book Fair in 2018, on April 10. But why should we even care about this win by a little-known literary festival? The judges chose the George Town Literary Festival as it “stands out as a vibrant, diverse and brave festival that engages with a wide community of voices, speaking to the world from a complex region”. BRAVE. In a complex region. 

YES. This is first South-East Asian literary festival to win the prestigious award, GTLF director Bernice Chauly and her team continue to do the impossible. Buttressed by booksellers like Gareth Ismail of Gerakbudaya, this festival presents an eclectic range of world voices, with an emphasis on Asia, despite the odds. Malaysia has some of the toughest censorship laws in the world.

Books, as well as movies are censored, and the authorities just passed a fake-news bill on April 2, 2018, which is likely to further stifle free speech with punishments of up to six years …

Gold! Gold, Gold, Gold... by Susan Price

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I started with this >>>>.

I'd decided to get my Elfgift books out as indies. Originally they were published as part of Scholastic's 'Point Fantasy' series, but they'd been out of print for ages. People kept asking me where they could buy them.

Publishing the interior of a book isn't hard, with Createspace's help. The hard part is the cover. Hence this experiment. Since Elfgift is set in a fantasy Anglo-Saxon Dark Age-- yes, it's that kind of a book, a kind you either like or hate-- the lettering had to be suggestive of that. And I quite like the lettering. The font is 'Viking.' Not straight Viking-- I made some letters much larger and moved them about.

Since Elfgift is a sort of 'green man'-- yes, again, it's that kind of book-- I tried the 'peering through the forest leaves' idea. And abandoned it. Too fussy, too cluttered. Too difficult to bring off.

I thought: Less is more. It needs a font that lets you know it'…

You are old, Boris Johnson, the young man said ... Jo Carroll

We live in grim times. Those of us in the UK are faced with a government busy eating itself, unable to manage the competing demands of the negotiations that will sever us from Europe, the consequences of austerity that sees the NHS at breaking point and poverty spiralling out of control, and a blatantly racist discussion about who belongs here and who doesn’t. Our environment is drowning in plastic. Even our weather is non-compliant. (It’s not for me to comment on presidential difficulties in America). 
One solution to this madness - distracting the electorate from things that really matter by bombing a country thousands of miles away. 
People (by people I mean readers) need fiction more than ever. Fiction that not only addresses the deal and meaningful, but also provides some light relief, entertainment, brain-space away from all the guff that fills the newspapers and leaps at us from the internet.
What a responsibility for us writers! How wonderful it is to be able to provide a few min…

The Power of the Short Story: Ali Bacon gets involved

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In a very busy week (book launch, book launch!) I found myself a last-minute stand-in for one of a a series of talks called Desert Island Books in which the theme was The Power of the Short Story. I jumped at the chance to contribute (isn't my novel at least in part a series of short stories?) then wondered if, as a somewhat reluctant short story reader, I was the right person for the job. 

In fact the discussion was a good humoured affair - organised by the Friends of Redland Library in Bristol - with a very well-informed audience who posed some acute questions. I'm now cross with myself for not taking notes, but here are the topics I recall took  up most of our time.





Does the short story form give freedom or impose restrictions on the writer? It was generally agreed that the short form at least brings freedom from the weight (physical and mental!) of a novel-in progress. Otherwise it was left to  Pete Sutton to suggest that just as poetic form (sonnet, villanelle etc)  grants a…

How to get a publishing contract: Then and Now - Katherine Roberts

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Author launch - Then (take one)
I started publishing book-length fiction in 1999, about ten years before Amazon opened their Kindle Direct Publishing platform and made it possible for authors to publish themselves without first winning the lottery. In other words, there was only one route to market, and it relied on an editor saying "yes". My first book Song Quest did the rounds, agented by me out of necessity, and eventually came out with a small UK publisher in the traditional way: hardcover first with a modest print run of about 1,000 copies (which sold out), and then paperback with a slightly larger print run that probably would have done quite well in the shops, since by then my book had won the Branford Boase Award given to a debut author and their editor for an outstanding book for young readers, on the strength of which I had been taken on by a top London agent keen to develop my career. Unfortunately, though, Element Books went into receivership a few weeks after th…