Thursday, 1 December 2016

News 1 December 2016

Life post retirement goes on. I still say it’s more of a career change than retirement per se.  Do writers and other creative practitioners ever actually retire? I’m certainly very busy. I’m doing many things that I did before but not the admin. I’m my own boss, which I’m enjoying.  

Nevertheless I’m upping all of my marketing strategies. I’ll shortly be sending out an email via Sprint Mail. It’s an expensive option but I’ve found it very effective in the past.    

We are European continues to get more followers. I do want others to write for this, so do take a look if you love Europe – whether you’re Brexit or Remain.  I want your articles poems, short stories. Do submit! Instructions are on the site.   

Bridge House

Baubles is out! We’re very pleased with the cover. Take a look and like our page

We’ve also published Salford Stories and actually managed to get it out on Shelagh Delaney Day. The stories are the winners of the competition we ran last year. I’m now considering making this an annual event and running a parallel event for school children. We have a page for this book too. See it here.  
We’re also looking at doing some single author collections. These are for authors we’ve already published. You may recycle stories we’ve already included in another anthology, and you may reedit these if you wish. You may also add in new stories. We’re aiming at a total word count of between 30,000 and 80,000 words.  

If you’re interested in this, contact me here.    

If you’re a Bridge House / Red Telephone / CafeLit / Chapletown author and you want to get serious about book tours, consider our author’s kit. We provide twenty books you take to the bookshop and the bookshop can put these through the till. We then invoice the bookshop, with a 35% discount for any sold and top up your supply to twenty. A the end of the tour you can either pay for the remaining books at cost + 10% or keep them until you’ve sold them and then pay the normal price of 75% of RRP. The latter can in any case be set against royalties. You need to allow at least ten days between events. Contact me here if you’re interested in this.      
We’re all very much looking forward to the Bridge House / CafeLit celebration / launch that we’re holding on Saturday 3 December. Alas, this event is now full.   

We haven’t quite decided on the theme for the 2017 anthology but Debz and I will be discussing that on Saturday. 

We’re running an extra one. Citizens of Nowhere. The stories will all be about the global citizen. You probably get the drift.  We’re partly commissioning and partly having open submissions. Watch social media and this newsletter for further details.      


Remember, we’re always open to submissions. Find out how here.  I’ve been encouraging my students to submit. I’m beginning to see some of their work appearing.

The Best of CaféLit 5 is now available. There are some lovely stories in this. I’m very pleased that I have a story in this collection. Order your copy here.     
We’re setting up the Advent Calendar of stories again and there are gaps. I’ll fill them by recycling stories from previous years or using one or two of my own. All of the stories we have so far are rather on the dark side.  A few more cheerful ones would be very welcome. Submit your Christmas story between 100 and 3,000 words here.    



We’re currently looking for collections of Flash Fiction. See our submissions page here. We have two writers signed up already and I’ll be putting out one of my collections as well soon. I’m also currently reading a third. Take a look here. 


Creative Café

We’re always looking for new cafés.  If you visit one of the cafés in the project and would like to write a review of between 250 and 350 words – nice, too, to have a couple of pictures – send it to me here. Do the same if you find a new café. 

I’m now going to send out a welcome letter to each new café that’s added. This will also offer them the opportunity to join the mailing list.   

I’m also now proactively encouraging cafes to stock The Best of CafeLit. Do you know anyone who might like to stock it? We can offer a 35% discount to retailers. Query gill at cafelit dot co dot uk.     


School Visits

I’m proactively 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. I’m offering this half price to first six schools to apply. Contact me here.     
I’m now adding in materials for schools. See them here:       
Query for a school visit here.
I am also happy to do standard author visits which include readings from my books, Q & A sessions and creative writing exercises.
Costs= travel expenses plus £400 for a full day and £200 for a half day. This includes all materials and some freebies. Tow school near to each other might consider splitting the day and halving the travel expenses and fees. This is open to negotiation in any case.        


The Red Telephone

We are currently open for submissions. Hoorah! We’re looking for the next great YA novel. Check out the details here.  We’re particularly open to speculative fiction but we’ll also like anything that is well written and well-targeted.  I’m currently reading a couple of full submissions. I welcome others but send sample chapters and synopsis first. The full details are on the site.  
I’d like to remind you of our new enterprise - something between a mentoring system and an online course. Though publication is not guaranteed, we will at least look at your full book if you’ve attended one of the courses. We’re offering it for free to a few people at first. We’ll refine as we go along based on feedback from our clients. We’ll then continue to offer it at a discount for a while before going to full price when we’re completely happy with it. We’re not sure what the full price will be. Again, we’ll be guided by our current clients. Find out more here.  Four people have now signed up. Room for one more. We’re running out of space so if you’re hesitating, now is the time to make your mind up.  We look forward to hearing from you.       


Books and short stories

I continue to make good progress on Shooting Hitler. 

Clara’s Story is being serialised. The cover makes this theme quite clear. The novel is can now be found on Channillo. You may read it here.    

Clara’s Story is the second in the Schellberg circle. All five stories cover roughly the same period and are very much happening in and associated with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. They can be read in any order. The stories overlap to some extent but where they repeat we see the happening form another point of view. For instance The House on Schellberg Street is mainly about a young girl, Renate, who comes to England on the Kindertranpsort. Clara’s Story is about her grandmother. Girl in a Smart Uniform explains how at least one German girl associated with the story became a Nazi – and then gave it all up. Shooting Hitler is Renate’s mother’s version of events. In The Round Robin we learn about what happens to Renate’s friends.  

Upcoming events

Coming soon: a read through of J K Rowling’s The Cursed Child. Watch this space and social media for details.  


This month I’m giving away a copy of all three books in my Peace Child trilogy. Message me via Twitter = @GillJames. You can have these either as mobi files for Kindle or as hard copies.   

Writing opportunities

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, sing up here.   

Happy reading and writing.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Why I don’t do Black Friday

You’re reading here from the woman who goes clothes shopping and then spends most of her time in a bookshop, often coming home with books instead of shoes. 

It used to be different though. When I was a high school teacher a monthly visit around the shops was a must. Yes, it was definitely “retail therapy”. I just don’t feel the need for that any more. 

I’ve just “retired” from the day job. What a lovely day job that was, where no one would quibble if I sat writing my novel in my office on the university campus. Marking was a bit like editing and as we writers probably all know, editing other people actually helps you with your own writing. I almost felt I was being paid a retainer. Sure there were some things that rankled and were tough: student in distress, heavy amounts of admin, the feeling at times that some people who had power over us didn’t understand the basic job – but that’s what the pay was for. The rest of the job I would do even if I didn’t get paid if I had the time once I’d worked enough at whatever to have basic needs met. 

So, now that I’m “retired” the way I spend my time hasn’t changed a lot though I am now my own boss. I’m spending about four hours a day writing and two to three hours a day promoting my own work or working on other people’s writing and marketing. And getting out of my box at least once a day. I don’t need to spend money on material goods other than on what I need. E.g. I really did have to buy some shoes the other day. The old ones had holes in them. Money is tighter of course but there are some concessions: slightly smaller charges for the over-60s, no need to keep so many work clothes, less money spent on commuting and in the canteen – and a few others. I feel no regret, however, because my basic needs are met and I don’t crave anything else. How I’m allowed to spend my time satisfies me.  

However, I also operate as small company with my various publishing activities and ought really to do something, I suppose. Yet we operate on a tight budget and always in such a way that we remain solvent and we can’t possibly go belly-up. That is a service we provide to our writers, so we can continue to publish those that deserve to be published and haven’t managed to break into the Murdoch-controlled empire.
Okay, then here’s my not-Black-Friday-offer: buy any of my books or anything form the Chapeltown, Bridge House, Renascienta, or Red Telephone imprints and I’ll donate £1.00 for each book to Crisis at Christmas. Just email me to let me know: gill at btinternet dot com.  Any time between NOW and 12.00 midnight Greenwich MT Monday 28 November. Note this is my personal offer and not from the imprints themselves.

And could you do a review as well please?  

Enjoy avoiding the madness!    

Friday, 11 November 2016

The life of our characters, as told to me by Lady Windermere

I’d only just started out on my writing career when this important point about character came to me in flash. It was the dress rehearsal of Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime by Constance Cox and I was playing the part of Lady Windermere. It was a smallish part but nevertheless she is the mother of the female lead. In one scene she leaves the Savile household and goes home to take tea. I then found myself wondering about what she would do for the rest of the weekend and indeed until the time that she appeared again in the play.
It’s kind of obvious really. Every character has a back story and a forward story. We have to consider them to be real.


Knowing our characters really well

We need to know about them physically, intellectually, emotionally.  We need to know what their personalities are like and what their fears, hopes and motivations are in our particular story. I used to give my students questionnaires about their characters.
“Do we really need to answer all of these questions for a character who has a walk-on part in a short story?” they would say.  Yes and no. I rarely do make notes on every aspect of my character but I think about them a lot and I could answer any question you might throw at me about them. That amount of knowledge is important.
Ironically, when this was said to me in response to the 20 questions I’d given to my students about their characters, I was on an advanced editing course and had been asked to write six pages of A4 about each of the characters in my work in progress.

A little spooky

Once when I was thinking a lot about my characters and commuting between Basingstoke and Southampton I had the distinct impression that they were sitting in the back of my car and would be prepared to argue with each other and with me.

Back to Lady Windermere

The actor and the writer have a lot in common. They have to make their characters real and give them a voice. Yes, even those with a walk-on part.    

Monday, 31 October 2016

Am I a feminist after all?

Older people can write ya

I am 64 years old and am still writing young adult literature. I won’t be too apologetic about that. The young adult is a creature I know well. I’ve taught them for 42 years and studied them for a PhD thesis. I’ve mastered the voice.    


However, my latest works, in the Schellberg cycle, seem to have lost their identity a little. I’m writing a cycle to books that focus on the 1940s and World War II and that explore Nazi Germany. Three of them are arguably young adult and yes, they do show that bildungsroman story of growth. The other two have adult protagonists. Yet all five would be readable by anyone who has read one of the other books and they can be read in any order. All five books span a long period of time and the full cycle goes from 1896 to 1947. The books vary in length from 65,000 words to 100,000. One with a young adult protagonist is 100,000 words and the shortest to date has an adult protagonist.

Future projects

I have some plans for when I finish the cycle and one of them is a crime novel for adults. I do have a couple more young adult ideas and I may take up my Peace Child series again. However, where is my branding?

Feisty females

Okay, so Kaleem is a male protagonist in the Peace Child series. However, there are plenty of females whose story I could tell there. The protagonist in my crime story is definitely female. All of the ones in the Schellberg cycle are feisty. Is that my clue?

Significant, too, that Mslexia is my favourite writers’ magazine.  

So, maybe that is my branding. Feisty women. That allows me to write for adults, young adults and even middle grade. That may be an angle for school visits, too.