Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Writing the World



Writing the World  

We have faced a few challenging incidents in the past weeks in the UK. Always when these big things happen we want to do something. Perhaps we add flowers to a memorial site, perhaps we attend a vigil or we might give money. What we choose to do may not directly make it better for the victims but it nevertheless expresses something.

I belong to a choir and some members sang at the children’s hospital last Sunday. This was a reaction to the terror attack on the Manchester Arena. 

As writers and artists we often want to do what we do best. We put together anthologies of stories and sell books, donating the profit to the victims. We paint pictures or we make music.

I was delighted to have my short story The Gift Child published in Lines in the Sand, a collection of writings and illustrations by those who had protested about the war in Iraq. This was my first piece of fiction to be published. It very much told the same story as my novel The Prophecy. It also helped me to feel that I was doing something practical about my anger. Up until then I’d had a lot of time for Toni Blair and New Labour. That government also stopped compulsory language learning in school. That also horrified me. My story, included in the Seeds of  Hope section, addresses that also. Lines in the Sand not only gave all profits and royalties to UNICEF but also tackled the topic of war for children.

We published 100 Stories for Haiti. All profits go to the Red Cross.

It’s our experience that the books don’t make a lot of money. Even when Gentle Footprints starred at the Hay festival we barely covered our costs and then the money we did donate to Born Free got tangled up with VAT. It might have been much simpler just to donate from our own pockets. However the sentiments expressed remained really important. Animals should be allowed to live in the wild. Our collection contained stories from animal points of view – very tricky, and Richard Adams made us a fantastic contribution- or from the point of view of humans who help them to stay or become free. Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, my publishing partner on this venture, has continued to work with schools on this.

Perhaps if we can make others re-examine these situations we make a valuable contribution. Isn’t it the artist’s job to make the viewer look back at the reality? 

What’s up next? Well, we’re working on a collection called Citizens of Nowhere. It’s all about the global citizen. It embraces diversity and multiculturalism. It contains characters that have no fixed cultural identity. Now then, Madam May and co.     
         

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Knowing your world


Book 3 of the peace Child trology


When I first started writing The Prophecy, formerly known as Peace Child, I spent a long time inventing its world. The Prophecy is the first part of what I now call the Peace Child trilogy. It formed part of my PhD thesis, Peace Child: towards a global definition of the young adult novel. It is set in 3500. We have colonised many other planets and then withdrawn again at the beginning of the story. Earth is now called Terrestra. We are afraid of contact with others because we are disease-free. However, it is not all good news: climate change has caused a poison cloud which makes outside air unbreathable.
I am now writing a fourth story, as yet untitled. Believe it or not, I’m having to reread the first three. I have to brush up on my world. I have forgotten some details.
I worked on the setting for months before I began writing. I spent time in cafés making notes on aspects of this world.
I had to work out:
·         How they dressed
·         What they ate
·         If they had a democratic society and how that worked
·         How their education system worked
·         What their values were
·         Whether they had any religious beliefs
·         How their transport system worked.
·         How their environment presented challenges.
·         How their healthcare system worked.
·         What they did for entertainment.
I had to make up some more rules for it as I went along.  
Hidden Information and Golden knowledge emerged.  
“That just wouldn’t happen,” said the publishers. No, we just have fake news, secret bunkers and alternative facts. We have spooks who know more than we do.
Always these dystopian / utopian worlds resemble our own though they are objectified. I don’t quite have an orange president but I do have a hung parliament and lots of political surprises. Oh heck! Days before the cyber-attack on the NHS I have the health care system crashing.   
The Peace Child books are young adult / new adult so are essentially Bildungsromane. So says my PhD thesis. Protagonist Kaleem must set his world to rights. I had to start on this fourth book as he seemed to be crying out for attention.
For young adults the science fiction fantasy settings add an important distance. It works the same way as glove puppets and picture books for younger readers.  A properly managed healthcare system free to all might eradicate disease. Climate change might lead to an unbreathable atmosphere. 
Writers are told to write what they know. This may seem difficult in fantasy and science fiction. Yet here I take what we have now and work out what it might become. It’s important too, here to make sure the rules of your world are consistent and can work together.
Happy world-planning.
  

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Newsletter 8 June 2017



What a month it’s been since I last wrote. I was very saddened by the terror attack in Manchester and then another on in London. We do know some people affected. I therefore decided to postpone our celebration event in Manchester. We had just reached the point where we needed to do a lot of last minute publicity and that seemed highly inappropriate. But it will happen. Watch this space.

By sharp contrast, I’ve just enjoyed a week away with my choir in Cyprus. I did absolutely no writing and had no mobile device with me apart from my phone. I wouldn’t risk my computer or my tablet in the hold. I did take a note book but didn’t touch it. I’ve kind of made up for it since I got back.    

It did me some good – and my voice has come back.  

Singing in a choir is such a good activity for a writer. Instead of working in isolation and trying to do something different you’re working co-operatively and trying to blend with others. Plus you make lots of friends. Recommended.  

Fabulous course for children’s writer interested in writing for TV

Children’s TV Anything but child’s play, led by Dan Berlinka and Elly Brewer, with guest appearance by Sue Nott, will take place at the Arvon Centre at Craven Arms. The course is suitable for those who are already working on a script and for beginners. Each tutor will give constructive feedback in 30 minute slots.
Arvon courses are a joy and this one sounds especially tempting. Find out more here.    

Patreon

I’m selling some of my work via Patreon.  You can find details here. As the name suggests, you would in effect become a patron. I think I’m offering real value for money, with something for both readers and writers. And you can take both if you happen to be both.  Check it out if you’re interested.   

Dreamteam

My dream team of reviewers and beta–readers and for my publishing and self-publishing projects, editors, proof-readers, illustrators and designers is beginning to take shape.  
This is a personal recommendation.  Initially I would use my Dream Team a lot myself but gradually I would add in people that friends and friends of friends had recommended.

What happens?

You sign up to a mail list and every time a request comes in we mail it out to you or the enquirer contacts you directly via my web site. The conversation then carries on between you and the person making the request. You may also have a page set up on my blog and you may update that once a year. 
Interested? You may sign up for more than one category. 
Beta readers sign up here.
Reviewers sign up here.
Editors sign up here.
Illustrators sign up here.
Designers sign up here.
Proof-readers sing up here.    
DO REMEMBER THAT AT ANY TIME YOU’RE APPROACHED AND YOU’RE BUSY IT’S PERFECTLY FINE TO SAY NO.   

    

Bridge House

Bridge House’s anthology Baubles continues to sell. You can read a few extracts here. Salford Stories is out there also. Both could do with a few more reviews. If you’ve read them, do write a review for them. Please review on Amazon. You can also leave reviews on Good Reads or your own blog.  You may know of other places. I can also offer review copies for free (PDF or e-mobi). If you’d like a review copy, then reply to this email.

So, the submissions are now in our new anthology for 2107, Gliterary Tales. Debz Hobbs Wyatt  and I are currently reading them.  

We’re also getting plenty of interest in our single-author collections. These are for authors we’ve published before and they may include stories we’ve already published, ones they’ve had published elsewhere and new ones. The description for this is now on the web site. We’ve already had some enquiries and we’re currently working on a couple of anthologies.  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.    

We think we’re there now with our extra anthology, Citizens of Nowhere, with the theme of the global citizen. We’re commissioned just over half of the work from known authors and  there has been room for a few open submissions.
     

CafeLit

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. Very shortly I’ll be putting together the Best of CafeLit 6.   

The Best of CaféLit 5 is still available. There are some lovely stories in this. I’m very pleased that I have a story in this collection. Order your copy here.      

 

Again we need more reviews for this. Have you read them? Could you write us a review? And again, I’m offering free copies as PDFs or e-mobi files.

 

Chapeltown

 

We’re still looking for collections of Flash Fiction. CafeLit writers might particularly consider this as your stories so often fit this brief anyway. See our submissions page here. We have now signed up five writers already and I’ll be putting out one of my collections as well soon. Take a look here.  

Neil Cambell’s Fog Lane is out now. Again, reviewers very welcome. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fog-Lane-Neil-Campbell/dp/1910542083/      

This call for submissions will be closing soon so hurry if you want to submit. 

Chapeltown is also excited to be publishing Colin Wyatt’s Who will be my friend? – a delightful picture book about friendship and accepting others. Yes, Colin is Debz’s dad. He is a Disney licensed illustrator and his latest publication is The Jet Set. We feel very honoured to be publishing him.

The book is out now and available at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Who-Will-Be-My-Friend/dp/1910542121/ Reviews welcome. We can provide the PDF.  

We’re very pleased with this book and now aim to publish more picture books.   

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 sending out welcome letters 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 CaféLit. 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.     

 

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 welcome others but send sample chapters and synopsis first. The full details are on the site.  

I am now working on Richard Bradburn’s Evernrood. We are still open for submissions but this will only be for a limited time now.    

Our mentoring programme is now full. I’m now working quite closely with three very different authors: Charlotte Comley, Dianne Stadhams, and Nina Wadcock. They are all  presenting some fascinating material.     

I’d also like to mention now that I’m mentoring two of my former students to help them get their novels up to publication standard. They won’t start this until they’ve finished their studies but it is something for them to keep them occupied as they wait for their results. I’m looking forward, too, to working with them.        

Book tours

If you’re a Bridge House / Red Telephone / CaféLit / Chapeltown 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. At 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.            

 

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.

Costs= 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’m also 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.

It is now also possible to purchase the kit to work on on your own. Find details here.

Please remember, with these as well, I’m open to negotiation if you can’t afford the full price.

 

Upcoming events

         
Note also for your diary: the London Bridge House / CafeLit / Chapeltown / Red Telephone celebration will be 2 December at the Princess of Wales again. People published 2017 will be invited first and then it will be open to all authors of our imprints. You are in any case invited to bring one friend at the first call. Last year we “sold out” – the event is free but ticketed. We shall have:  
  • general mingling
  • cash bar
  • an opportunity to buy books at an advantageous rate    
  • “speed-dating”  where you get to speak to as many people as possible in the room i.e. promote yourself to readers, swap tips with other writers
  • author readings
  • latest news from me  
  • collection for a local charity
  • big book swap (bring one of your other titles and take something else home – hopefully all will be reviewed. If you bring a non-writing friend they can just bring a book they love)  

Giveaway

This month I’m giving away a PDF of Mosaic. Download here. You will also find in this dropbox:
·         An extract from Clara’s story
·         Some seminars for schools about The House on Schellberg Street
·         Some fiction writing exercises
·         The opening chapters from my manual for writing the young adult novel  

Note, that normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage, sell for anything form £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 we’re offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy. 

 

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, sign up here.    
Happy reading and writing.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Book covers – what I love and what I hate



When I choose a book to read I tend to look for an author I’ve heard of, then read the blurb and maybe the first few pages. If I’m still intrigued, I’ll go ahead and buy the book. However, I am put off by photographic representations of characters. I like to make my own mind up about how they look. Artists’ impressions are a little more palatable as they only make a suggestion and this is just about the same as the one made by the text itself. Oddly, I’m less precious about setting. 
Also, the cover shouldn’t give away too much of the story. It should be a little like the blurb and just hint at something.
I’ve included a few here from my own collection of books – ones I’ve written, ones I’ve published and ones I’ve read.    

Clara’s Story 

 

This is the second in my Schellberg Cycle and picks up the style of The House on Schellberg Street. The wild flowers in a jug and the pearls are really very much part of Clara. They do feature in the story.

The House on Schellberg Street

The publisher asked me to pick a selection of stock pictures. I chose some lovely doorways but these looked too much like what they’d used on another book. However, we then decided to use a sepia tinted background – after all this is an historical novel – and present the doorway as a line drawing. That the door  is open intrigues us. This fits well with the story. It sets the tone for the other books in the cycle.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salford Stories

We used a photo of Salford here. We desperately wanted a photo of The Old Pint Pot as one of the stories is set there. However, we just couldn’t get one that would work. We needed a picture where we had room to fit the blurb and the title. We had to go for a more generic picture of Salford.

 

Baubles

This is one of my favourites. People may have thought of Christmas tree baubles as the book came out just before Christmas. We thought more in terms of bits and pieces that are collected as people go through life. Chris Bowles’ story in the collection gives a particular take on that idea.


Something Hidden

This is the title of the first story in the collection and this was in fact the winner of a short story competition we’d held. I found a stock photo that goes very well with this story by just searching the site using the story title as search words. This often does have amazing results.

 

Beggarman’s Cottage

Here is an example of  an artist’s impression. It’s very watery and ghost-like and just given an impression. It’s still left to us to decide how exactly the old cottage might look.


Words and figures as pictures

Her are a couple of examples how we’ve used a series of words and numbers for the cover. One displays all of the authors. Another creates a bit of a puzzle. What happened on which day?  The third works on a pun and gives you numbers to play with.



Are you tempted by any of them? Are the pictures working?  
Click on them and find out more about the book.