Thursday, 5 May 2016

Newsletter 5 May 2016



The year still whizzes by. I didn’t write a newsletter at the end of March. I simply didn’t find the time.  Last time I wrote, I was facing a heap of marking. The first few scripts of  the second round came in yesterday. I’ll have a couple of masters to mark, a few to second mark and another hundred or so undergrad assignments in ten days’ time.
We’re also getting ready for our Create festival. A few more details to follow under Future Events.
I’ve now self-published a new version of  Spooking and will be launching this from Honest Coffee     Chapel Street. Your invite is below.  
Life goes on. But the writing life’s good, isn’t it?
   
              

Bridge House

We’re currently reading through the submissions for “Baubles”, those short, snappy, sparkly stories that brighten up the darker nights like baubles enhance the Christmas tree. Watch this space. We should have our list out by the end of June.
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.    


CafeLit

Remember, we’re always open to submissions. Find out how here. I’m now making the selection for The Best of CafeLit 5. I’ve been encouraging my students to submit. I’m beginning to see some of their work appearing.  

 

Chapeltown

We’re currently looking for collections of Flash Fiction. See our submissions page 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 – nice, too, to have a couple of pictures – send it to me here. Do the same if you find a new café. Naturally the Honest Coffee café will now be included.
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.  

 

School Visits

I’m proactively promoting my school visits associated with The House on Schellberg Street project. I’m still offering visits on this for a donation towards the project. I’ve devised a whole interactive workshop. It would be a real asset for any school teaching the Holocaust at Key Stage 3. Even if a school can’t afford a donation, I’d be happy to run the project.
Here’s some further news about the Schellberg project. I’ve added in a page referring to “deleted scenes”. You know, just like you get on some DVDs.
There is also now a page of links to some articles about the process of writing the novels.    
Query for a school visit here.

 

The Red Telephone

There will be a new call for submissions next autumn. We’re leaving it quite a while now so that we can give our current authors all of our attention.    
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.       

Books and short stories

I have now started Shooting Hitler. Remember my ten-word pitch.
“A Führer, an anteroom, a pistol. Will she shoot him?”   
I’m keeping everything crossed for Clara’s Story which may be serialised. This an interesting new concept for me. I suppose if it’s good enough for Dickens, it’s probably good enough for me. I’m actually thinking of changing the title of Clara’s Story to Flowers on the Table. Only thinking, mind.  

Past events

April’s highlight has to be my Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher conference. This built on the success of the 2015 conference.  We had again Melvin Burgess as a keynote speaker. He was also joined by Sara Grant, Nikki Heath, Debz Hobbs-Wyatt and Rachel McIntyre. A new feature this year was critiquing session led by Debz, Melvin and Sara. Read full details here. I’m now hoping that this can become an annual event.   
I also really enjoyed the Author’s Compass organised by the Society of Authors. This gave some fascinating insights into the process of self-publishing. Kate Harrison reported on her success that wouldn’t actually have been possible with a traditional publisher. Kate Pool and Sarah Baxter of the Society of Authors told us of some to the pitfalls in contracts.  Richard Sheehan, Katie Roden, Helen Lewis and Kevin McCann took us through the nitty-gritty. Dan Kieran, Kristen Harrison and Michael Schmidt talked us through some interesting funding models.  
Links and further info here.             

Upcoming events

On 21 May 2016 at 2.00 p.m, I’m launching the second edition of my book, Spooking. It will be at the charming Creative Café, Honest Coffee, within Salford, so highly appropriate for me. Cake, tea, coffee, soft drinks. Do bring your teenagers along.

Reserve your place here.

Giveaway

This month I’m giving away a copy of Scream a Bridge House publication. The first person to message me via Twitter that they’d like the book  -  @gilljames – gets it.  

Happy reading and writing.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Revisiting Alice



I’m currently rereading Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. This is partly because I’ve obtained the 2011 Macmillan editions. These are large hardback texts with the original drawings by Sir John Tenniel. Eight of these were coloured by Victorian artist Harry Theaker, and published in 1911, with the remaining pictures coloured by Diz Wallis in 1995. These editions include a foreword by Philip Pullman. The books are beautifully tactile and very heavy. I have the impression that I am reading more slowly because the pages are so long. This actually makes me pay more attention to the text.
I am also rereading them because I’m currently writing a chapter in a book about these two books and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Alice tends to polarise people: some love her stories others hate them. Most adults are spooked by Coraline. Younger readers love her. My book is about the darker side of children’s literature. I find Alice and Coralline very sinister. A baby  that turns into a pig. Uncanny twins. Button eyes. And much more.    
This time, though, I really enjoyed Alice in Wonderland. This is partly because of the rewarding experience caused by the beauty of the edition. I also recognise how well it is written. Alice certainly here has a book full of conversation. The point of view is solid. Alice is a well-established character and there are also some charming caricature layers. We have a real sense of Wonderland. The story moves quickly. Okay, so that’s my critical head consuming the text now and not the child who read it originally. Even so. I’m glad I’ve revisited. I’m just about to start Through the Looking Glass.         

Friday, 11 March 2016

Interviewing myself about Spooking



This went out of print last month. I’ve reedited it and I’m now going to self-publish it, both as a Kindle edition and a hard copy.
Here I interview myself about the novel.

1)      What is Spooking about?
It might be described as a paranormal romance. In fact, it has been described as such. However, there isn’t a vampire to be seen. The supernatural elements are quite gentle. Arguably it also a story about grief and mourning. It does have a reasonably upbeat ending, however.      

2)      Did you start with the story or with the characters?
In some senses one always starts with the characters. Story always comes from the tension between the players. Having said that, I normally have a two-line version of the whole story in my head. I then flesh that out into a full story arc and eventually produce a chapter break down. As I write, however, I find I need additional or different chapters and the characters start to take on a life of their own. Spooking was no different.   
    
3) What led you to write it?
The idea came, as they do, out of the blue. I always have two or three ideas for other novels whilst I’m working on the current one. I dread the day I run out of ideas. So far so good.  

4)      What real-life events or people inspired events or characters in this book?
The novel is set in two real places – the south coast in Hampshire and Bangor in north Wales. We used to live in Hampshire and I studied for my PhD in Bangor. The little blue car that crashes into the river is based on the car that my son and daughter used to drive.  It was a blue Ford Fiesta. It was a super little car. It too was called Binky. I now own another Ford Fiesta – a bright red modern one. Both of them have been very nice to drive and very reliable.
The actual story is completely fictitious.
     
5) What authors or stories inspire you as a writer? (i.e., who are the authors or stories that, if I like their stories, I will probably also like your stories?)
There are so many. Here are a few:
Michael Morpurgo
Philip Pulllman
Maeve Binchy
Neil Gaiman
Aiden Chambers
Charles Dickens
Monika Feth
Kate Atkinson
Gustave Flaubert
Emile Zola
Heinrich Böll
If you asked me again tomorrow I’d probably come up with a slightly different list.    

 

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Newslettter 2 March 2016

I’m very pleased to report that I’m now back into the swing of things and have pretty well re-established my writing routine. The university is still keeping me busy: I currently have eleven hours of teaching and I am doing two school visits this week – World Book Day looms. Next week I drop down to ten, the week after six and for the rest of the semester five. But the marking comes in again next week- 33 scripts followed by another 72 the week after. Ah well.   
The year is just whizzing by.         

Bridge House

We’re still open to submission until the end of March. Remember our theme is “Baubles”. Short, snappy, sparkly stories that brighten up the darker nights like baubles enhance the Christmas tree. We’re not talking about things that give you a good belly laugh nor anything that is overly sentimental. Feel good is fine, yes, but just a light touch. You’ll know it when you think of it. Check out full submission details here.

CafeLit

Remember, we’re always open to submissions. Find out how here. I’m now making the selection for The Best of CafeLit 5. I’ve been encouraging my students to submit. I hope to read some of their work there soon.


Chapeltown

We’re currently looking for collections of Flash Fiction. See our submissions page here.
We’re also looking at creating another imprint. We’re not sure what to call it yet.  Maybe “Revive” though that may be a little too obvious. It’s all about republishing books that have gone out of print. This is sparked really by what I’ve said about Spooking and a few other titles below.         


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 – 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. 


School Visits

I’m proactively promoting my school visits associated with The House on Schellberg Street project. I’m still offering visits on this for a donation towards the project. I’ve devised a whole interactive workshop. It would be a real asset for any school teaching the Holocaust at Key Stage 3. Even if a school can’t afford a donation, I’d be happy to run the project.
Here’s some further news about the Schellberg project. I’ve added in a page referring to “deleted scenes”. You know, just like you get on some DVDs.
There is also now a page of links to some articles about the process of writing the novels.    
Query for a school visit here.


The Red Telephone

There will be a new call for submissions next autumn. We’re leaving it quite a while now so that we can give our current authors all of our attention.  
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.      

Books and short stories

I have now finished the final edit on Girl in a Smart Uniform. I’m adding the glossary.
Spooking is now out of print. I’m still deciding what to do with it and three other books soon to go the same way. The Lombardy Grotto, Kiters and The Scum Bag. Shall I self-publish? How big an edit will I give to each one? Or shall I just take the view that these were just part of my journey as a writer. Now it’s time to move on.
Do I want to go the self-publishing route anyway? It works for some people and is very much more respected now than it used to be. There’s a lot to decide so in some ways it’s rather useful being busy at the moment. I’m confident that I’ll eventually make a good decision.       

Looking Forward

Yes, I know I’m being rather secretive. You’ll know a lot more in the summer.  


Giveaway

This month I’m giving away a copy of  In The Shadow of The Red Queen, a Bridge House publication. The first person to message me via Twitter that they’d like the book  -  @gilljames – gets it. 

Monday, 15 February 2016

Two types of first person



Personal and point of view

I’ve been working with my students a lot on voice recently. I’ve linked this with point of view for my first years. Whose story is it? That is the fundamental question that keeps them on track. Then, which narrative voice is best for telling this story?  
We discuss the merits of the first person, third person – close, distant, omniscient or intrusive and even of the second person.
Then there is the question of tense – present of past.  Or what about future? Many first novels are told in the present tense and it’s getting a bit clichéd.

Problems with the first person

It’s unreliable they tell us. Well, yes, you can only get one point of view at a time but this is also true of the close third person. And at least it reliably shows your character.
For me a greater problem is that the reader cannot enjoy the growth with the protagonist. The latter has already had the growth.  The third person close is much more effective allowing us to enjoy the adventure with the hero.

A special voice for young adult literature

The first person is popular in young adult fiction, however. This is partly because the reader wants a close emotional relationship with the story-teller.  Rarely is the author a young adult but s/he must seem like one as the tale is told.  It becomes like a best mate who has a bit more of an adventure than the reader telling her all about it. That narrator has not rationalised the experience, though, and the writing of this book is partly an attempt to do so. So, when we have a series, such as Twilight, it is probably that the protagonist has the first adventure and tells the story of that before embarking on the second.
I’d like to call this voice the immediate first person.

The distant first person

This is what I’m using in my current work in progress. That probably means that my novel isn’t young adult or even new adult though may be enjoyed by both. It‘s being told from the point of view of an older adult looking back. Think of the voice-over on Fetch the Midwife or even on Hetty Feather.  What’s being described happened a long time ago and the narrator has rationalised it.  However, we can still leave the rationalisation to the reader. Show, don’t tell even here.