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Showing posts from October, 2018

On the Need for Moral Ambiguity in Kids Stories

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“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”- Alekandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago  The other night I was watching a CG-animated Netflix children’s fantasy with my family. It featured many of the tropes one might expect for such a story — the true meaning of friendship, the difficulty in constantly moving homes, living in a broken family, the importance of finding courage in yourself. Oh yeah, and an act of genocide on an unspeakable scale.

This got me thinking about extreme ideological polarization in regards to the socio-political situation the Western world finds itself in as of late and especially the social polarization that arose under the Obama administration. It occurred to me that many of t…

Lending an eye: N M Browne

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I recently watched the premier of Peter Jackson's ‘ They Shall Not Grow Old’ live streamed to our local Odeon. It is an amazing film that makes the record of the war suddenly contemporary. It is wonderful and devastating. I am not qualified to talk about the war, its dehumanising violence or its vivid intensity, but I was very interested in the preamble to the film. Someone whose name now eludes me, talks about Peter Jackson allowing us to borrow the eyes of the protagonists in that war. It is true we see every film’s story through its director’s eyes just as we see every novel’s story through the eyes of its writer. It is not an original or even a particularly profound thought, but it does go to the heart of what I love about the arts. To borrow the perceptions and thoughts of someone else, however briefly,  is the most amazing gift. It shows us both our differences from others and our essential commonality.
When I was a child in a small northern provincial town, novels which show…

A Beacon of Hope for Struggling Writers by Andrew Crofts

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The 2018 Booker Prize winner is an inspiring case study for all writers hoping to earn a living from literary fiction. Anna Burns has published three novels over the last eighteen years, all of which have been taken seriously by critics, put in for literary prizes and so forth. Her latest, Milkman, was published by Faber, one of the most prestigious names in independent publishing, and is the one which has taken home the Booker.
In interviews, Anna has very charmingly explained how grateful she is for the prize money, (£52,500 in total), because it means she can come off welfare benefits and will not have to pay any more visits to the food banks of East Sussex.
It is just the sort of fairy tale that the media like, with the same mythical ring to it as the story of J.K. Rowling having to sit in coffee shops to write Harry Potter. We all love a story of rags to riches and hard work eventually being justly rewarded. Folks such as the Society of Authors and ALCS have also been pointing ou…

KDP Blues Susan Price

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Recently Amazon informed me, and you, and everyone who self-publishes, that they were closing their paperback arm, CreateSpace and shifting everything to Kindle Desktop Publishing (KDP) their original self-publishing operation, which, when it began, published only e-books.

We were given the option of waiting for Amazon to move all our paperback books over to KDP for us or moving them ourselves. I opted to move my books myself. Since they were going to be moved anyway, why wait?

The move was easy enough, unlike most moves, and it's quite convenient to have the paperback and e-book files for each book side by side on the same site but I can't say that I'm entirely happy about this development. I know a lot of others aren't either. Of course, everyone always grumbles about change but is there more to it than that?

I feel that, okay, the whole site is Amazon's toy and they allow us to play with it at very little cost and are -- I've found -- enormously helpful if y…

If only Brexit were fiction! by Jo Carroll

I've followed British politics for decades - often with mixed feelings and complex opinions. The House of Commons shenanigans seem to veer from comically farcical set-pieces (Prime Minister's Questions) to the momentously important ... dare I mention it ... Brexit.

This is not the place to explore the rights and wrongs of any decisions. But I have, as a writer, been intrigued by the process - and what we can learn from it.

We can think of it in terms of a traditional three-act structure:

Act One:

the decision to hold the referendumthe campaign, with lies told and believed (by some)the crisis: the result and resignation of the Prime Ministerresolution: we have a new Prime Minister Act Two: the triggers of Article 50, separation discussions beginthe apparently insurmountable problem of the border with Ireland rears its head. (No one explains why this was not noticed at the campaign stage, even though 'ordinary people' had raised the issue)undeterred, the Prime Minister pr…

Lev Butts Lists the Best of Self-Publishing V

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We have reached the halfway pointof mySelf-PublishingCountdown. It being October 23, we are also about a week away from Halloween, so it seems appropriate this month to look at a self-published Lovecraftian horror novel.

5. Dancer in the Dark by Thomas E. Fuller and Brad Strickland


I love H. P. Lovecraft. I know he can be a problematic writer in many respects. His writing can be unapologetically racist in places (his descriptions of the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn prove particularly offensive). His characters are often one-dimensional, and his diction often proves overly dense for a casual reader.

Despite this, Lovecraft's stories of unimaginably ancient beings whose motives are so inscrutable to mere mortals that we must either go mad or perish in the face of the unassailable knowledge that we are less than nothing in the universal scheme of things are so much more horrifying to me than a simple ghost story of unrequited love or tales of the walking dead shambling across a …

Winners and almost winners. Ali Bacon compares porcelain with clay and other gutsy stuff in this year’s Sir Walter Scott Prize

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As a (new) writer of historical fiction I’ve taken a particular interest in this year’s Sir Walter Scott Prize and set myself the task of reading the shortlist. I haven’t quite got to the end, but knowing the winner is Ben Myers with The Gallows Pole, here are a few thoughts after four (out of six) very different reads. 
I came across Jane Harris’ Sugar Money soon after a trip to the Caribbean so was particularly interested in this 18th century Grenadan adventure story, then progressed to the newly announced winner (a very different 18th Century Yorkshire) before I got to Rachel Malik’s Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves and most recently Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan. As it happens the second two are both 20th Century so it seems reasonable to pair them by period. 

Despite differences of geography and style, there are similarities between the two ‘earlier’ titles (and they get a slightly longer review in this blog post)  Both use a form of vernacular for at least some of the narrative…

Karla Brading interviewed by Katherine Roberts

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One of the best things about writing books for young readers is when a fan of your work starts writing books as well. From her very first letter to me, after she'd enjoyed my fantasy novel Spellfall, I knew Karla Brading was a born writer, possibly even a fellow fantasy author. Many letter exchanges later (and I mean real letters, written by hand on paper and posted into one of those shiny red letterboxes you see dotted around the place), and it became obvious she was highly creative too. Then one day a package dropped through my letterbox containing Karla's first novel. A vampire book, as I remember - it still sits proudly on my shelf among my signed copies.

A few more years passed, and Karla now has a book deal with the highly-respected Welsh press Gomer for her latest novel The Inn of Waking Shadows, which I had the privilege of reading at proof stage on my Kindle. This one is a ghost story for teens set in a haunted pub in Wales, and it'll send shivers down your spine…

Of The Church and churches by Sandra Horn

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When Have You Truly Moved? - Jan Edwards

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We moved house a year ago. It doesn’t feel that long and yet it does. People have stopped asking if we are ‘settled in yet’, and after twelve months I think we can probably say we feel comfortable here now.  Certainly I feel able to write here - which took a while. It is not just the change in house but the uncertainty of having things to hand. That unpacking of your world - Virginia Woolf's  room of one's own where you can feel sure of creative flow with interruption. Okay - there are still spouses and telephones and door bells to deal with, but that scrabbling about for simple things like pens and research materials is no longer an issue. There is an old adage that you have never truly moved house until you have unpacked the last box. Now I suspect on that score we have ‘unpacked’ most things in that we have opened all boxes and inspected the contents. But what about the boxes that were repacked and migrated to the attic? Or the shed? Do they count? I spent half an hour today…