Tuesday, 5 September 2017

We never finish – we only ever abandon

I'm currently putting together a manual about marketing for some of the authors I've published. I'm making here a list of routines and habits I think helps us to market and publicise our books without it feeling like too onerous a task. 

Interestingly all of the topics I've written about today I've already tackled on my blog A Publisher's Perspective. I find, however, that I want to add in more material and alter the tone as I go along. This is in part because I'm talking to a slightly different audience. It is only a very slightly different audience, though. The greater reason is that in the few weeks I've been away from that text I've developed as a writer. What was acceptable then is no longer.

I'm also letting work I finished some time ago out to beta-readers. Two have responded so far. I totally get what they're saying. Yet, when I abandoned this work several months ago it was perfect.

One of my books goes out of print in December. It's tempting to just slap on a new cover, give it an extra proof read and get it out again. Or has so much happened since it came out that I'd be better forgetting it all together? Maybe divide it into three as there are three stories there anyway? 

At the weekend I did some marking for the university.  A deadline means that the students have to "abandon" their work at a given date. We give them feedback. This gives them the opportunity to adjust their texts before they let them out again. 

Thank goodness for deadlines or we would tinker forever.                

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Newsletter 31 August

News about my writing

I'm back up to full speed and currently have a lot of projects on the go:
Part 4 of the Peace Child series
The House on Schellberg Street as a stage play.
A non-fiction, academic book about the dark side of children's literature.
More materials for my Schellberg Cycle workshops. I'll be talking about this at the NAWE conference in November.
Various short stories.
My flash fiction collection 140 x 140 - almost finished.     
A life-style book.
What was that about retirement?

Canned Stories

As you know, I originally got this idea from the Ministry of Stories where they sold limited editions of stories by well-known writers. I adapted this to use with my creative writing students at the Create Festival at the University of Salford last year. These were limited editions – five copies of each story. It's another interesting way of publishing.
I've decided not to go any further with this myself this year but rather I'll give you a recipe for doing that yourself.   First, you will need some cans. These may not be bad:

You can of course search for a better bargain. This is the best I found in ten minutes today and compares well with the ones we used last year.
Then find your story. Print it out. Fold it up – probably into four and pop it in the can with one or two other goodies that relate to the story itself. I have managed to get ten pages of script into a can this size.
Consider keeping your works to a limited edition – maybe five copies?   
Next, prepare the labels. The title of the story should go on one side of the can. A blurb, that to some extent mimics the list of the ingredients and other nutritional information we have on cans of food should go on the other side.
There you have it – your first stocking–filler – and I haven't even had my summer holiday yet.
I'll bring you another idea next month and yet another in November.


1940s Group

I've started a Facebook group for those of us who write about the 1940s. This group is for all people who write about the 1940s. Fiction and non-fiction, for young and old. Topics might then be: the Holocaust, World War II, Civilian Experience (all sides) and the battle front. We can exchange ideas about research and marketing. We might find our reviewers and beta-readers here. We may promote books and stories, - the last day of every month and on launch / release day. In particular, we might work together to make use of the many 1940s' weekends that take place.
If you feel that is you, do join us: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2026868870924138/    


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.  I'm actually giving away excerpts of 140 x140   



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 intend to use my Dream Team a lot myself but gradually I would add in people that friends and friends of friends have 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.   
Take a look at who is already on board.  http://www.gilljameswriter.eu/p/my-dream-team.html Click on their names to find out more about them.


Bridge House

We have now finished reading the entries for Gliterary Tales. There were a few more submissions this year and some very good writing. And what with my broken arm and Debz moving houses we were a little delayed.
The standard was very high this time and we've had to reject some very publishable stories but I've encouraged those writers to submit to CaféLit  or consider one of our single author collections.
Editing is well under way now and many stories have now been saved to Final. We're talking about book covers.
We’re 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 several 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 70,000 words. 
If you’re interested in this, contact me here.    
Already in progress are collections by Paul Bradley, Phyllis Burton, Jesse Falzoi, Dawn Knox, Jenny Palmer, Dianne Stadhams and Paul Williams.
We have now almost finished working on edits of 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.


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. We are now interested in a few seasonal stories – Guy Fawkes, autumn, Halloween, Christmas and would like to have them now so that we can schedule them effectively. Remember, this gives you some exposure and there's always the chance that your work might be accepted for the annual anthology.    
The Best of CaféLit 6 has been produced and we're just waiting for the proof copy. As usual we welcome reviews. I can let you have a PDF or an e-mobi copy if you're willing to review.
On offer for CaféLit authors is a page on our web site. See examples here.  Click on the names to find out more about the authors and to access their work. If you're a CaféLit author and would like a web page, use the ones there to get ideas. You need to send me between 250 and 350 words about yourself, an attractive image, a list of up to six publications, up to six awards and up to six links. Send to gill at cafelit dot co dot uk.         


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/  I can get the e-mobi or a PDF to you if you're willing to review.   
Christopher Bowles' Spectrum, a challenging but very satisfying read. Again reviews welcome. We've not yet done a Kindle version of this as the layout is challenging and getting e-mobi technology to behave is testing all of our resources. I can send you a PDF. Be warned: there is some adult material in this. There is also a lot of beautiful writing. If you would like to buy the book, see details here.      
Chapeltown has now successfully published its first picture book. Colin Wyatt’s Who will be my friend? – is a delightful story about friendship and accepting others. Yes, Colin is Debz’s dad. He is a Disney licensed illustrator and his previous 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. We're working on an illustrated book by Philippa Rae and we've offered two more contracts for picture books.   
If you're interested in reviewing any of the above, just email me.

Creative Café

I'm now creating merchandise for the Creative Café project. The profit on anything you buy here goes to the Creative Café Project. Check this out here.    
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

I am now working on Richard Bradburn’s Evernrood.
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. University of Salford graduates Lauren Hopes and Christian Leah have also joined our happy band.        

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 or so books (exact number is up for negotiation) 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 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.
It is now 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

The London Bridge House / CafeLit / Chapeltown / Red Telephone celebration will be 2 December at the Princess of Wales again. This year we are again “sold out” – the event is free but ticketed but it is possible to go onto a reserve list. We shall have:  
  • general mingling
  • cash bar
  • an opportunity to buy lunch
  • 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)  

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.    


Current reading recommendations

Flight of a Starling starts off with a teasing prologue. Lo has gone but we don't know whether she has died, runaway or just left. We spend most of the novel trying to find out. We don't really get many clues until page 221 out of 301. When we do, Lisa Heathfield poses a question to which there is no easy answer. We return to the opening scene at the end of the novel.
Lo and Rita are sisters. They and their family are part of a travelling circus. They are just like other young adults, however.  They wonder whether the grass might be greener on the other side. Would it be better to live in one town instead of moving on all the time? They fall in love. At times they are at odds with their parents. The circus setting, however, brings a touch of the exotic. The two girls are clever and brave trapeze artists. Every night the performers gather around the barrel fire and set right their own world and the world at large. The girls avoid the witch who lives on their bunk-bed ladder in caravan Terini.
Chapter by chapter the narrative switches between Lo and Rita. The reader needs to be alert at first. The voices of the two girls are similar though soon their preoccupations begin to differ so they become more recognisable.
Heathfield provides a lot of dialogue and inner monologue which ensure that emotional closeness that is so important in the young adult novel.     

Calling all writers

I'm running an occasional series of interviews on my blog. Take a look at my interview with Allison Symes.  If you would like to be on my blog just answer the questions below and send them with appropriate images to gill dot james at btinternet dot com.
Please feel free to pick and choose which of these to answer. 
  1.   What do you write? Why this in particular? 
  2. What got you started on writing in the first place?
  3.  Do you have a particular routine? 
  4. Do you have a dedicated working space?
  5. When did you decide you could call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact?
  6. How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing?
  7. What are you most proud of in your writing?
  8. How do you get on with editing and research?
  9. Do you have any goals for the future?
  10. hich writers have inspired you?
Please write as much or as little as you like for each section and supply as many pictures as you like. Also let me know your latest publication and supply me with a link if it's not on Amazon.                          


This month I’m giving away an e-mobi file for your Kindle of Otherwhere and Elsewhen.   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. 


Happy reading and writing.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

An Interview with Allison Symes

This is one of an occasional series of interviews with writers. I have known Allison for many years.  We hve attended several of the same conferences and when I still lived in Hampshire, we used to meet up regularly.

More recently s a publisher I've published her on CafeLit, in the Best of  CafeLit, and various Bridge House anthologies.I feel very privileged to have published her Flash Fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again.   


 What do you write? Why this in particular? 

I write flash fiction and focus on 100-word-tales. My first collection called From Light to Dark and Back Again was published by Chapeltown Books earlier in 2017. I have also been published online by Cafelit, Alfie Dog Fiction, Scriggler (US based) and Shortbread Short Stories.

I also blog regularly for Chandler’s Ford Today often on writing matters. I blog monthly for More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog and am the Membership Secretary.

I started writing flash fiction thanks to spotting Cafelit’s 100-word challenge and thought I’d try it. I quickly became addicted. I had written standard short stories (and still do) for competitions but flash soon became a huge favourite.

I was recommended by a friend to send material in for Chandler's Ford Today and quickly developed a love for writing non-fiction articles.

What got you started writing in the first place? 

 My love of reading, thanks to my late mother’s encouragement, led directly to me wanting to see if I could do it. Once I started writing I quickly became addicted! I also soon discovered the joy of writing conferences, such as Swanwick (part of the house and grounds shown below).

Do you have a particular routine? 

Yes. I mainly write in the evenings but I am as consistent as possible. I do write something most days. I am hoping to change things around soon and go as full-time as possible!

Do you have a dedicated writing space?

Yes. I have a desk, decent chair, my radio (tuned into Classic FM mainly but also Radio 4), and all stationery. I have my PC, printers, and lots of lovely pictures on the walls. I have mints and at least one drink to hand! My certificate for a short story from Winchester Writers’ Festival is framed and on the wall, alongside with pointed reminder (also framed) to “Don’t Ever Give Up on your Dreams”.

When did you decide you could call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact? 

When I was published in print and then online regularly. I do refer to myself as a writer and plan to become as full time as possible soon. To date I’ve said I’m only part time. Time for change!

How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing? 

I’m really lucky here in that my family are supportive, as are my close friends. Not sure they understand the urge to write but I don't think it matters. What does matter is they accept it’s important for me.

What are you most proud of in your writing? 

My first acceptance in print, which was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s anthology Alternative Renditions. My late mother, who taught me to read before I started school, saw this and was thrilled. Then getting to blog regularly for Chandler’s Ford Today and receiving good feedback on my posts. Being highly commended for a short story at Winchester Writers’ Festival.

Best of all was Chapeltown Books publishing my first flash fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again. My late father was delighted at this. (There is a nice kind of symmetry in one parent seeing my first published story and the other my first published book). Holding my first signing events, both virtual and physical. Looking forward to more to come!

How do you get on with editing and research?

 I always write first and edit later. I can't edit as I go. Also I see writing and editing as two separate tasks so like to do them separately. I always feel some relief when I’ve got the first draft written as I know I’ve then got something to work into shape. I research via books and the web. I try to have something specific to research as this means I’m less at risk of being distracted by all that lovely, fascinating material out there!

Do you have any advice for new writers? 

Says it all really! 

 Do you have any goals for the future?

 Yes. I'm writing the follow-up to From Light to Dark and Back Again. I hope to produce many flash fiction collections. I have scripts I want to rewrite and I hope to revamp my novel at some point. I hope to continue blogging but would also like to write articles for magazines in the future.

Which writers have inspired you? 

 I’m inspired by Jane Austen (irony), P.G. Wodehouse (sublime prose and wonderful humour) and Terry Pratchett (for proving fantasy can be funny and there is often satire in his work too). Latest Publication: From Light to Dark and Back Again published by Chapeltown Books (available in paperback and on Kindle).

Latest Publication:  From Light to Dark and Back Again published by Chapeltown Books (available in paperback and on Kindle).