Friday, 4 October 2019

The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas by David Almond



This story is told in three parts: life for protagonist Stan after his uncle is made redundant when the ship-building industry dies, Stan running away with the circus and Stan becoming the one who swims with the piranhas. There are sub-plots:  the story of Nitasha’s mother and Aunt Annie’s and Uncle Ernie’s return to normality.  

This is a humorous novel but it has its darker sides:  Stan having lost his parents before the story begins, the poverty after the ship-building collapse, the hard graft the family have to put into run their fish-canning business, the change in personality that this causes in Uncle Stan, the ridiculousness and eeriness of the DAFT organisation that seeks to shut down the canning business and the poverty of the circus folk. This is however, all mitigated by the love that young Stan finds everywhere he goes. 

David Almond writes as an omniscient author here though often gets very close to his characters.  He often intervenes in the text  e.g. “Of course there’s never really a proper end.  The people who’ve lived through this tale will live through many more.  But we have to come to a halt somewhere and this is it” (p243). 

The book is 246 pages long. It has blocked text that is double-spaced. It uses a serif but very clear font. There are many quirky illustrations.   
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Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Stage of revision 1 Is the overall structure sound?



Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

This really is the first thing to look at – after perhaps getting rid of a few typos which may be distracting. This has to be right.

I find it useful at this point to recheck if I have got all of the elements I need in the story and are they well balanced:
·         hook,
·         inciting incident,
·         increasing complexities (three usually for a short story,  more for a novel)
·         crisis
·         climax
·         resolution 

In fact, I actually use this template to plan my stories but often that clear structure can get lost in all of the writing. We all find, don’t we, that characters can take on minds of their own, that we ourselves can so enjoy writing certain scenes that we hang on to them a bit too long and that we refuse to kill our darlings? We can also get bogged down in sub-plot. 

Sometimes, even when all of the ingredients are firmly there, it seems that something is lacking.  At that point it may be time to look at some other story theory.      

I’ve talked elsewhere about story theory on this blog – see the main post here.  Could one of those be applied to the text? 

Readers almost always expect the template and can be disappointed if it is not there. Is it our job perhaps to skew it a little so that we might take them by surprise?  

Literary fiction still has this there though it may be very subtle. In popular fiction and literary fiction it is more in your face. Often one more nasty thing happens just before the story resolves.
It really is worth getting this right. No matter how well you complete the other edits if the overall structure isn’t sound, the story will fail and probably not get published.  

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

News 1 October 2019



 

Visiting the Republic of Ireland

Martin and I have been back just over a week from a two week stay in the Republic of Ireland.  We chose it for this year’s holiday as we’d expected Brexit to have happened by now and that how one travelled to other countries may still have been uncertain.  The Irish were still going to accept our driving licenses. We have yearlong and worldwide travel and car insurance anyway. 

Of course Brexit hasn’t happened yet. We found the Irish just as cheerful, friendly and helpful as we’ve always found them though couple of them did say “Take your Brexit back with you.” It was a bit of relief watching the Irish news. Naturally they are also concerned about Brexit but they also focussed on other items.  

We were lucky with the weather. It rained for most of one day and there were a couple of showers on other days. The rest of the time, however, it was warm and sunny but not hot. Ideal for boat trips, visiting old castles and interesting walks. 

We also enjoyed a pleasant evening of good food, Guinness and Irish music.
I always do some work on holiday: does one actually need a holiday when you do what you love?  I think you do, so that you can get things into perspective.  Still, I did some writing and editing. And I gained some ideas for stories: one paranormal and two about feisty women.              

News about my writing

Not a lot new here: I’m ploughing on with 240 X 70, Peace Child 4 (The House of Clementine) and Not Just Fluffy Bunnies, my non-fiction text about the darker side of children’s literature, seems more neutral.
On the short story front I’ve written Bus Stop, a story about an incident at a bus stop. I’m currently trying to place it. It has been rejected once to date.  
         

Catalogue of books for children

There are no new additions this month. This is partly because as we were away I was reading from my Kindle and though there are some young adult texts on there they didn’t come to the top of the list. However, at the moment I am reading a children’s book by David Almond and that will be added to the catalogue soon.     

Current reading recommendation

It was difficult to decide again which book was the best one in September. However, I’ve opted for an unusual text: Will Self’s Umbrella. It’s not an easy read. The point of view shifts quite often and the characters flitter between the past and the present. There are no chapters and few paragraph breaks. It deals with mental illness, abuse and relationships gone wrong. This is one I read on holiday. I always read a lot when I’m on holiday and then I read intensely. This book needs that. It also requires a good deal of concentration.  It is worth it! You’ll find it here.  

Giveaway

This month I’m giving away mob-file copies of my flash fiction collection 140 X 140. These are 140 stories, each 140 words long.  The title of each includes the date on which it was written.  Each story is a response to the first picture I saw on Twitter on the day of the story. Note, my 280 X 70 that I’m currently working on does something very similar!    

Get your free mobi-file for your Kindle and lots of other goodies here.
Note, that normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99, with most on Kindle being about £2.99 and the average price for paperback being £7.00. We have to allow our writers to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy.   
Naturally I welcome reviews.

 

The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust.
This month I’ve added a post about Käthe Edler becoming English. She came over to England as a young mother in 1939.
   
You can read the post here.      

 

School visits

I’m still promoting my school visits associated with The House on Schellberg Street project. I’ve now developed a whole workshop for this. It starts off with a board game, includes some role play and creative writing and ends with a discussion.
It is now possible to purchase the kit to work on on your own. Find details here.
Costs for my workshops = travel expenses plus £400 for a full day and £200 for a half day. This includes all materials and some freebies. Two schools near to each other might consider splitting the day and halving the travel expenses and fees. This is open to negotiation in any case.       
I also offer a free half day visit, though you pay my travel expenses, if you allow me to promote my books.      
I’m continuously adding materials for schools to the site that are different from the ones I use for the workshops. I’ve recently added in resources and books to do with the topic. See them here:      
Query for a school visit here.
I’m also happy to tailor a visit for your agreed donation. This can be for either a Schellberg Cycle visit or a creative writing workshop. Any monies raised this way will go specifically to a project I have for a non-fiction book about a journey that will follow the footsteps of Clara Lehrs. I’m hoping to do the whole journey by train, including departing via my nearest Metrolink station. It’s important to feel the rails beneath my feet.       
I offer as well standard author visits which include readings from my books, Q & A sessions and creative writing exercises.
Please remember, with these as well, I’m open to negotiation if you can’t afford the full price.

 

Some notes about my newsletters and blogs

They do overlap a little but here is a summary of what they all do.

Bridge House Authors For all those published by Bridge House, CaféLit, Chapeltown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.

Chapeltown Books News about our books. Sign up here.

The Creative Café Project News about the project and CaféLit – for the consumer rather than for the producer.  Sign up here.   

Gill’s News: News about my writing, The Schellberg Project, School Visits and Events. Find it here.   

Opportunities List Remember I keep a full list of vetted opportunities on my writing blog. See them here. New ones are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I go through it and take out all of the out of date ones. At that point I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  


Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher News about conferences and workshops to do with the young adult novel. (infrequent postings) Sign up here.  

Red Telephone Books News about our books and our authors. Sign up here.

A Publisher’s Perspective Here I blog as a publisher. Access this here.   

The Creative Café Project Listings and reviews of creative cafés. See them here.   

CaféLit Stories Find these here

Gill James Writer All about writing and about my books. View this here.

Gill’s Recommended Reads Find information here about books that have taken me out of my editor’s head.   

Gill’s Sample Fiction Read some of my fiction here.

The House on Schellberg Street All about my Schellberg project. Read it here.

Writing Teacher All about teaching creative writing.  Some creative writing exercises. Access this here.     

Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 

Happy reading and writing.

Monday, 2 September 2019

News 2 September 2019



 

Troubling Times

Extinction Rebellion activists are clogging up a main street in Manchester.  All over the country people are protesting against the suspension of Parliament.  An extremely powerful hurricane is hitting the US.
A few years back on holiday both my husband and I read a book about the weather behaving strangely and indeed before the end of that holiday we had nine foot waves on the Med. Yet that seems very tame compared with what’s happening now.
What can we do?
I’m taking more care with my carbon footprint, querying very journey I make. We have a smart meter now and although we’re sceptical- we’ve always been careful haven’t we? – I do find myself studying it and reacting to it. I’m working on the garden and introducing plants that the wildlife will like. We’ve joined the local wildlife trust. But these are just tiny gestures.
We can all of course write and talk to people. I’ve noticed my stories getting more political and my near future ones now assume climate change gets worse. But more about that in the next section.   
Yet I look out of my study window now and I still see the birds and I hear them singing. The sun is still shining. The flowers are still blooming.  There’s hope?
         

News about my writing

Yes, indeed my writing is getting political, especially 240 X 70.  That is perhaps not so surprising. I look each day for the first picture I see on Twitter and so often it’s one of BoJo. So there you go.
My short story The Reckoning is about the after-life of someone who sat on the fence.
The Last Ocean is about a world dying of thirst.   
Peace Child 4 (The House of Clementine) as a YA (?) science fantasy is almost obliged to reflect our world and I certainly have references to Brexit and Trump in there.
Not Just Fluffy Bunnies, my non-fiction about the darker side of children’s literature, seems more neutral. But then it’s about the darker side ….
Note to self: remember the upbeat ending. End on hope.  
         

Catalogue of books for children

This month I’ve added:
The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston This is a delightful classic suitable for fluent readers.  
The Stuff of Nightmares by Malorie Blackman  Here we have a horror story suitable for teen or young adults. Blackman recycles her own nightmares here. As engaging as ever. And it has an upbeat ending.  Phew!

Night Birds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken  This is suitable for upper primary fluent readers. It starts off as an adventure at sea and then on land continues as a mystery / crime story.

Only the Ocean by Natasha Carthew I also reviewed this for Armadillo Magazine Target readers are young adults and teens.  The writer uses a very unusual style but it works beautifully.

Current reading recommendation

I’m a little bit naughty when I select my library books. I always look at the new ones first and this one definitely caught my eye. Giles Milton’s D Day, the Soldiers’ Story is all about the Normandy landings on D Day.  You can find it here. This is a pleasing example of narrative non-fiction. The title is bit of a misnomer; we have stories of civilians as well. The stories are from both sides and include ones of the French civilians. There has obviously been a lot of research into this book. There are hundreds of anecdotes and vignettes. Milton uses an engaging narrative style. He certainly uses the senses well and we’re transported there. So, it’s not a particularly comfortable read.  But who says we need to be comfortable all the time? Even though I knew the outcome I was gripped by this throughout.  

 

Giveaway

This month I’m giving away Clara’s Story. This is the second story in the Schellberg Cycle. It might be described as a tragedy or it might be described as a story of survival. In the end it is up to the reader or even Clara herself to decide.

It is labelled as fiction and as biography on Amazon. Holocaust biography. Historical fiction. Clara Lehrs really existed, as did many of the characters in the Schellberg Cycle. We have a few, a very few verifiable facts about them. The rest we have had to find out by repeating some of their experiences and by using the careful writer's imagination.

Certainly the Schellberg Cycle examines the stories of several German Jews. Ironically Clara does not consider herself to be Jewish and sees no danger. She possibly needs Holocaust education even more than her readers do. Her dealings with Steiner Education help her to throw a little light on her situation and she becomes engaged in her own form of Holocaust resistance. So, we might even label this Holocaust fiction.
Get your free mobi-file and lots of other goodies here.
Note, that normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99, with most on Kindle being about £2.99 and the average price for paperback being £7.00. We have to allow our writers to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy.   
Naturally I welcome reviews.

The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust.
This month I’ve added a post about Käthe Edler as a refugee. She came over to England as a young mother in 1939. I’ve also written about the third book in the series, Girl in a Smart Uniform. This is to date the most fictional of the Schellberg stories.   
    
You can read the posts here.      

 

School visits

I’m still promoting my school visits associated with The House on Schellberg Street project. I’ve now developed a whole workshop for this. It starts off with a board game, includes some role play and creative writing and ends with a discussion.
It is now possible to purchase the kit to work on on your own. Find details here.
Costs for my workshops = travel expenses plus £400 for a full day and £200 for a half day. This includes all materials and some freebies. Two schools near to each other might consider splitting the day and halving the travel expenses and fees. This is open to negotiation in any case.       
I also offer a free half day visit, though you pay my travel expenses, if you allow me to promote my books.      
I’m continuously adding materials for schools to the site that are different from the ones I use for the workshops. I’ve recently added in resources and books to do with the topic. See them here:      
Query for a school visit here.
I’m also happy to tailor a visit for your agreed donation. This can be for either a Schellberg Cycle visit or a creative writing workshop. Any monies raised this way will go specifically to a project I have for a non-fiction book about a journey that will follow the footsteps of Clara Lehrs. I’m hoping to do the whole journey by train, including departing via my nearest Metrolink station. It’s important to feel the rails beneath my feet.       
I offer as well standard author visits which include readings from my books, Q & A sessions and creative writing exercises.
Please remember, with these as well, I’m open to negotiation if you can’t afford the full price.

 

Some notes about my newsletters and blogs

They do overlap a little but here is a summary of what they all do.

Bridge House Authors For all those published by Bridge House, CaféLit, Chapletown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.

Chapeltown Books News about our books. Sign up here.

The Creative Café Project News about the project and CaféLit – for the consumer rather than for the producer.  Sign up here.   

Gill’s News: News about my writing, The Schellberg Project, School Visits and Events. Find it here.   

Opportunities List Remember I keep a full list of vetted opportunities on my writing blog. See them here. New ones are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I go through it and take out all of the out of date ones. At that point I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  


Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher News about conferences and workshops to do with the young adult novel. (infrequent postings) Sign up here.  

Red Telephone Books News about our books and our authors. Sign up here.

A Publisher’s Perspective Here I blog as a publisher. Access this here.   

The Creative Café Project Listings and reviews of creative cafés. See them here.   

CaféLit Stories Find these here

Gill James Writer All about writing and about my books. View this here.

Gill’s Recommended Reads Find information here about books that have taken me out of my editor’s head.   

Gill’s Sample Fiction Read some of my fiction here.

The House on Schellberg Street All about my Schellberg project. Read it here.

Writing Teacher All about teaching creative writing.  Some creative writing exercises. Access this here.     

Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 

Happy reading and writing.