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.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston




Lucy Boston’s stories abut the house at Green Knowe are based on her own home, The Manor, at Hemingord  Grey in Cambridgeshire. Her daughter-in-law, Diana Boston , still lives at the house and you can visit by making an appointment. It is full of artefacts that refer to the stories.  
This first story may be the most mysterious. Are there really ghosts of the children that used to live there or are they just in Tolly’s imagination, developed by his grandmother’s insistence that the children really exist? However she is quite careful in the way that she talks about them.  The reader may still wonder whether they are really there.
Tolly has a difficult life. His father is dismissive and his relationship with his stepmother is very difficult. He travels alone to Green Knowe and arrives when there are floods.
His grandmother offers some comfort. They establish a good relationship. He also cultivates a good relationship with the manservant Boggis. There are cosy evenings by the fire where his grandmother tells him stories.  
The ghosts are reasonably gentle, but they can tease and the stories his grandmother tells are full of mystery.  He has a frightening encounter with Green Noah, a topiary figure about which there is a lot of superstition.  
The text is 123 pages long and blocked in a close adult font. Peter Boston, Lucy Boston’s son, has illustrated the book.      

Monday, 26 August 2019

Stages of revision – all fifteen of them




I’m writing here about the stages of revision I put my novels through. I take between a month and three months to write the first draft and between six and eighteen to get it to the stage where I’ll let beta readers read it and then I send it out to agents and publishers or I self-publish. 

I’ve shared my young adult material with my friends from SCBWI as I’ve gone along, so they see my work at a very early stage sometimes.  

Anyway, I have the habit of writing a section and then reading it through three times. There is something optimum about three. After three times you’ll probably not notice much more unless you’re doing the very focussed edits I’ll write about in the next few posts.  The first read through at this point is largely about correcting typos. It’s amazing how much the other two read-throughs pick up as well.  

Why go to all this trouble you might ask, if an editor is going to work on it anyway?  Well an important point is that the better the script is in the first place, the better it will become after a professional edit, be it from an in-house editor in an established publishing house or a free-lancer you’ve employed to edit the text you intend to self-publish. 

As I work through my fifteen edits I’ll still adjust anything I see that’s out of kilter. It becomes like peeling layer after layer off.   

It is hard, then, when your beta readers or editors come back with something you haven’t noticed. But there are a few things you can consider here:
You are too close to the text so you may not see what is blindingly obvious to others.
It’s your choice in the end but if more than one person has said the same thing, they may have a point.
You and our editors are on the same side – you’re both trying to produce the best text possible.
You’re not an idiot because you made that mistake – that was then and this is now.  You’ve moved on as a writer.  

Over the next few posts I’ll be going into more detail about my self-editing process.                     

The Stuff of Nightmares by Malorie Blackman



Kyle encounters death when a train is derailed as he is travelling on a school trip. The only way to avoid death is to live in the nightmares of the other passengers.
Malorie Blackman admits that she has based the nightmares on some that she has had and that she has used some of these in other stories she has written. A full list is provided on the copyright page.  She also admits that she has been able to pinpoint the real life events that have led to the nightmares.  This is all discussed in the Author’s Note at the end of the book.  Possibly the book could lead to a discussion on the interpretation of dreams.
There is plenty of tension and pace throughout the novel and Blackman keeps us guessing as to whether Kyle will survive and if others in the train crash will live.
The hardback version is 338 pages long, uses a serif font, size 13/14 and the text is blocked. The chapters are reasonably short.