Showing posts from April, 2023

Moors and Pity: N M Browne

I grew up in Lancashire but every now and again we would pop into Yorkshire on day trips: Skipton was a favourite for the castle and the shopping, York, especially the museum and, rather less frequently, Howarth. I visited it again recently on a cold wet spring day. I haven't been there for more than thirty years but if felt much the same and the story of the Brontes captured my imagination as it always has. It's a grim location in cold, driving rain, up a steep hill overlooking bleak moorland. The house, though substantial, is a kind of reverse Tardis, smaller than it looks for a large family with servants. You can't help wondering what it was like to live with so little privacy, in that small island of intense creativity where everyone you love dies young. It's a fruitful place for stories. They assault you as you walk around the Parsonage, as you look out at the moor, even as you climb up the main street imagining the trouble of hauling shopping up that incline,

AI meets Dunning-Kruger -- Susan Price

Enginesoptional, Redbubble, 'We Fall Only To Rise.' Long-sleeved t-shirt   Earlier this month, my AE colleague Debbie Bennett posted an amusing (but saddening) blog about the threat posed to writers by the many people, in Debbie's words, 'upload[ing] thousands of low content bits of tat a day' . Much of the tat clumsily ripped off from others. Ripped off from us . As Amazon's bots and human staff check everything uploaded for copyright infringement and other crimes, the rise in low-content tat means that it takes longer for all books published through them to be approved: so the shameless intellectual theft of a few makes indie publishing harder for us all, even when our material is legit. I was reminded of another threat to all us hard-working, and mostly under-paid, writers and artists: the much vaunted AI or Artificial Intelligence. One of my brothers told me about a Polish fantasy artist named Greg Rutkowski who, it seems, is being persecuted and ripped

Two contrasting book reviews -- Mari Howard

  Murder in the Highlands: a Sophie Sayers Cozy Mystery by Debbie Young. p/b Boldwood 9.99 / Kindle 2023   A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale p/b 4th Estate 2012 It’s said that writers should read widely. Over Easter, I’ve been reading in two very different genres, but both stories are set in a village and take advantage of the resulting restricted cast of characters. Cosy mystery, often, if not always, takes place in a lovely quiet village, and is solved by a female protagonist, who is an amateur sleuth. For a writer who has lived in a beautiful Cotswold village for at least half her life, it’s the obvious choice. Author Debbie Young has created a wonderfully wide-eyed young female sleuth, Sophie, a new arrival in her cottage home, and a complete contrast to Miss Marple. And this village boasts something rare – a real bookshop! Quite how Hector, the young man who owns and runs it, made ends meet before Sophie arrived is unclear, but nowadays, she’s not only his shop assistant and

When your tech is smarter than you... by Katherine Roberts

scene from 'I, Robot'  © 2004 Twentieth Century Fox. One of humanity's greatest fears is that intelligent machines will take over the world and enslave us as human beings. Science fiction has already been there, done that and got the robo-t-shirt. In the Terminator films, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a cyborg assassin sent back through time to kill the one human who might be able to stop the machines. Whereas in  I, Robot,  based on a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov, every robot is programmed with three basic laws designed to keep it subservient to humans: 1. A robot may not injure a human being or (through inaction) allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.   We might not (yet) have rampaging Terminator-style machines tearing up our hom

Licenced to Write Poetry? by Sandra Horn

  April is NaPoWriMo, meaning write a poem a day. I can’t do it. There’s something about the conveyor-belt approach that sends me into a blind panic. Ideas don’t come to order, even with a prompt, and drafting and redrafting can take a long time and much thought. Years ago I was commissioned to write poems for BBC Active, for a very, very pernickety editor (sorry, Jayne) and we went, if I remember, to about 12 drafts for one poem. I loved it. I loved the challenge of revisiting something I thought was fine and working to make it finer – to fit the exacting brief. More recently, I bought a copy of 52 Poems, based on the idea of a poem a week, but the live challenge was over by then so I was able to work through the book at my own pace. It was full of excellent contributions from Jo Bell and other poets and not at all prescriptive.     In contrast, the publishing world is full of poetry ‘courses’ with headings such as ‘write about something you lost’, ‘write about something you found’,

Why do we write? -- Carol Clements

I want to talk to you today about why we write. I’ve read that some writers can do nothing but write, the words pouring out of their mind onto the paper. Some only ever publish one book. For me, the reading came first. From an early age, I was allowed, once a week, after we had been grocery shopping, to pick a book. My family had emigrated to America when I was two years old, we returned when I was six. When I started my local primary school, I was already a year behind everyone else as my peers had already begun learning their three ‘Rs’ a year before me. However, my voracious appetite for reading had paid off and I could already write my name and read well above my chronological age when I started.  I think Enid Blyton’s Famous Five were my first loves! The adventures and camaraderie brought my imagination to life. The siblings and their cousin, with of course Timmy the dog, gave me something I didn’t have as an only child. I quickly progressed to the St Clare’s and Malory Towers ser