Saturday 31 October 2015

Samhain Reading List

Blessings, one and all. It's that fabulous time of year again where the veil between the worlds grows thin. Fancy a little fright? Here's my suggested Samhain - or Halloween - reading list.

A novella about a young girl who loses her face in a horrific accident.

Confined to the house, she is forced to put up with her mother's increasingly vindictive behaviour.

This is an oldy from me. It's the story of an uncle who doses his niece with LSD before killing her. When a young girl wakes from a coma thirty years later, things are not what they seem.

If you like your fiction spooky rather than gory, this is a good starting place. Paranormal investigator David Ash heads to an isolated house following stories of unexplained phenomena. 

Truth proves far darker than the tales.

This is perhaps the only book I ever had to put down because it creeped me out too much. A fabulous tale of violent womb-monsters that tear their way into the world and cause havoc. 

Don't eat before reading.

A modern classic. The story of a man who tries to collect the essence of people - their smell. Gathering the scent of the most beautiful women he finds. A process they cannot survive.

If you need something extra, check out my Point Horror YA reading list and my Aleister Crowley list.

Friday 30 October 2015

The Mountain Can Wait

Just finished The Mountain Can Wait by the lovely Sarah Leipciger (@SarahLeipciger). 

A young man is driving home from a party through the Canadian woods when suddenly a girl appears in his headlights. In an instant, he hits her, and in another instant decides to keep driving, leaving more than one life shattered. 
Tom Berry is a hunter, a man who would be most content living out his days in the wilderness with just enough ammunition and kerosene to last the winter. A single father, he has raised his children, Curtis and Erin, with the same absolute dedication he brings to his forestry business, but now he's discovering that might not have been enough. 
When the police contact Tom to tell him that Curtis has gone missing, Tom knows at once that only he can find his son. Tom must come down from the mountain to embark on a journey through a stunning yet scarred landscape that ends on the rocky shores of a remote island, where old hurts will finally come to light. 
A haunting story of a family in crisis, The Mountain Can Wait introduces Sarah Leipciger as a talent to watch.

I've spoken before of a steady Atlantic drift you see in books such as Plainsong and Legend of a Suicide. This is definitely a book of that pacing - a short read, but not a fast burner. The prose are beautifully written, and the characters so clearly observed you could touch them.

It is a transporting book, from tree planting camps deep in the Canadian forest to an offshore hippie commune. The landscape is as much a part of this book as its people, and the level of detail is utterly convincing.

There were a few lines I particularly enjoyed: a simile about the dawn filling up the sky like pouring milk into a glass bowl; the idea of giving up on a light and fitful sleep, rather than waking from it; the idea that the land neither hates nor welcomes those who work it:

How many times had he listened to his planters theorize about clear-cut land, about the spirit of the land?... 
Tom agreed that the land had spirit. But what got him was the injury they felt, the incredulity. Sure, the spirit was there where rock met sky, or in the fall of a needle to the ground, or the smell of sap on your knuckles. And it was there in a dried-up creek bed, a mudslide, a rotting carcass. But it was indifferent. It was indiscriminate.

Something I've long suspected.

There was also a lovely bit about rolling cigarettes, where the grandmother takes up smoking and, although she's terrible at it, insists on rolling them herself in order to earn the right to smoke each one.

In all, a very satisfying read. Also available as an audiobook

Moral Panic

Can't beat a bit of moral panic. I was fascinated by this article on History Today, tweeted by @GearBooks. It talks about The Sorrows of Young Werther, which, in the mid-1700s, caused sensationalist panic across the modern world for encouraging young people to read...

When cultural commentators lament the decline of the habit of reading books, it is difficult to imagine that back in the 18th century many prominent voices were concerned about the threat posed by people reading too much. A dangerous disease appeared to afflict the young, which some diagnosed as reading addiction and others as reading rage, reading fever, reading mania or reading lust. Throughout Europe reports circulated about the outbreak of what was described as an epidemic of reading.

Erm... and commit suicide.

In November 1784, five years after the publication of the English translation of Werther, the Gentleman’s Magazine published the following notice under its obituary: 
Suddenly at the Chaceside, Southgate, Miss Glover, daughter of the late Mr.G., formerly an eminent dancing master. The Sorrows of Werther were found under her pillow...

Needless to say, I've downloaded a copy to Kindle. 

Just for kicks, I thought I might read it whilst playing Call of Duty and listening to Marilyn Manson's latest album.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Back to the Future 2015

Today is one week (21st October 2015) since Marty McFly (Back to the Future) arrived in the future - which is now the past. Thanks to Joe Lidster ‏@joelidster, I've seen live footage of the moment Marty landed.

Tuesday 27 October 2015


I have finally got with the program and claimed myself on Goodreads.

Head there to see all my titles neatly clumped together, keep up to date on events, new books, and even ask me questions. It's quite a neat site, and allows you to leave reviews and star ratings of my books (see the widget below).

I'm still finding my way around, so if there's something I've forgotten to do, please let me know.

In the words of Chuck Wendig:


Marion Grace Woolley's books on Goodreads

Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran
reviews: 23
ratings: 33 (avg rating 4.12)

Angorichina Angorichina
reviews: 2
ratings: 5 (avg rating 5.00)

Splintered Door Splintered Door
reviews: 3
ratings: 4 (avg rating 5.00)

Lucid Lucid
reviews: 1
ratings: 5 (avg rating 4.40)

Georgie Georgie
reviews: 4
ratings: 3 (avg rating 4.67)

Monday 26 October 2015

Saturday 24 October 2015

Drawing a Blank


Sorry, that should have been screamed into the void, but it escaped.

I am suffering at the moment. Secret Order is twisting the sanity out of me.

This is my latest novel, and my first attempt at a trilogy. Something fast-paced and peculiar. It started off really well, born of two earlier short stories I bashed together. But the steam has blown out of it. Rolling to a halt like a joy ride after the stinger is deployed. 

Just past 26,000 words but I'm clawing each one of them from the air.

Partly it's because I've been travelling back and forth between counties since returning to the UK two months ago. I have family and friends scattered about the UK, so spreading myself between them.

Partly it's not being at home - my own home - where I can wander about my house, sit on my porch, contemplate, procrastinate and write without worrying about the rhythm of other people. I love my family and friends, I do. But I also - like most writers - love my solitude. No accidental interruptions or social decisions to be made. Of course I came back to the UK to be sociable, and to spend time with people I wouldn't ordinarily see, so writing can wait. 

Partly it's a genuine problem with the plot. I set off at a hundred miles an hour, got too clever for myself, and now can't see where I'm going. It's also a monumental shift from literary fiction to something a little more jaunty. Complete switch from my usual style of writing. With previous books I've had a good couple of pages to work out what's happening next. This is a real dervish of a story.

Partly, it's having no one to talk to about it. I have some fabulous beta readers. People who are really good at telling me whether something hangs together, whether the tone is right, whether the continuity is there. But it takes a specific type of mind to work through a plot over a couple of pints. Someone who gets what you're trying to achieve and can speak the language of 'what ifs' without 'what if'ing it into a parallel dimension. 

Partly I'm in the post-submission flump. I've signed off Children of Lir to Ghostwoods. A solid, poetic pile of prose which I'm very much looking forward to seeing in print. But all the time I was finishing that up, I was thinking Yay - now I can start work on Secret Order. Now Children of Lir is finished I don't have an excuse anymore not to be working on Secret Order, except the excuse of - Oh, maybe I should keep my desk clear for when CoL comes to edit, so my head is still in the right space. Like writing something else might ruin my mind.

Essentially, I'm just useless. The only way to get through this is to write my way through it. 

I've just been listening to Victoria Schwab on Tea & Jeopardy, and she suggested a fabulous way to attain "a reduced sense of self-loathing." Which is to get a calender and set up a sticky-star award system for yourself. A star for 500 words written, 1,000 words written, X number of pages read etc. Perhaps I could also award myself for the number of cups of coffee quaffed? 

I think it may come to this.

More and more lately, I've been thinking about how much I'd like to co-write something with someone. I haven't got any further or more specific than that. I just think it might be fun - and more productive - to collaborate on something for a while. Suggestions welcome.

Thursday 22 October 2015

Purple Prose Crowdfunder

Please spread the word about this excellent Indiegogo campaign by fellow Ghostwoods author Kate Harrad. For those reaching deep, you'll see a few copies of Rosy Hours on the rewards list. But whatever you can spare is appreciated. All part of the push to diversify publishing.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

The Dreaded Backlist

I was doing a signing recently to promote Rosy Hours. It was a really lovely night. Met lots of nice book enthusiasts, sold several copies of the book I was promoting, and helped spread enthusiasm for 1850s Northern Iran. 

Alongside Rosy Hours, I laid out a couple of copies of my backlist. 

The first novel I ever wrote was Lucid. I started writing it around 2008, just to prove I could reach that number of words. It was shortlisted for the Luke Bitmead Bursary for New Writers in 2009, about a week before I returned to the UK from Africa. I was living in Rwanda, and the lack of TV, radio and other distractions was one of the reasons I started writing a novel. Rwanda has always been an extremely productive place for me writing-wise.

The Luke Bitmead Award is based on an unpublished work. So, spurred on by this achievement, I decided to have a go at writing a book that would get published. I'd always been fascinated by a place called Angorichina (Ango-reach-na) in South Australia. I'd been there in 2004, passing through on a tour of the Red Centre. It's a back packers' hostel now, but was once a TB sanatorium, and it haunted my thoughts ever since.

I'd been struggling with Ango. It's a story I'd wanted to tell for a long time, but just couldn't get it to come out right. Then, one night I switched to first person and suddenly it fell into place. Four characters: Charlotte, Heath, Joe and Sean just appeared, fully formed, and the story fell out of me.

Ango was indeed the first to get published. Picked up by Green Sunset Books. They didn't want Lucid, as they said it was a bit dark for their tastes, but that got accepted by Netherworld Books, and in the same month Green Sunset published Georg[i]e, a transgender romance that I'd written because the character appealed to me. 

I'd completed Georg[i]e and made Lucid print-ready whilst on a writing retreat in Germany. Getting my first publishing contract had been a real buzz, but the buzz does wear off when you're left without a marketing budget. Netherworld didn't have an editor. They were going to publish the manuscript as is, until I vetoed that and went and found my own proofreader. Now they just send me a list of 'How to promote yourself' ideas via e-mail with the quarterly statements. 

Green Sunset put a lot more effort into things. They really worked on my manuscripts to polish them up, but similarly there was no budget for marketing and no real networking connections to help get the books out there.

At the time, I was a bit disappointed. I had that new-author dewy-eyed glow we all get. I'd hoped the books would do better.

Now - I'm sort of grateful.

For three years after Georg[i]e, I wrote very little. A few short pieces for competitions, some of which did well, others not, and a collection of short stories called Splintered Door which I've since made available free as a website.

Writing a novel takes a long time, and I was deflated. The thought of working that hard for something nobody was ever likely to read really irked me. But writers can't give up writing forever. Eventually the next idea comes along and, out of sheer compulsion, we set to. 

I knew something was different the moment I started on Rosy Hours. As I mentioned on Chuck Wendig's blog, you know when you come of age. Like anything, writing takes a long time to get good at. Those first three novels, and the short stories, were my getting good phase. Rosy Hours was my optimum exemplum.

I have a great deal of admiration - and gratitude - for Ghostwoods Books. They edited and proofed that manuscript with great attention to detail. The cover is gorgeous, the layout is equally as gorgeous, from the font to the section dividers. It is a book that I am very proud to hold up and say 'I wrote this'. Not only did I write it, but for the first time people are reading it. It's out there in paperback, ebook and audiobook. It's getting reviews. It's getting coverage.

As an author, I'm extremely satisfied. It's the best thing I've ever written. It may, who knows, be the best thing I will ever write. And it has been beautifully brought to the market. 

Perhaps because of this, I wince a little at my backlist.

I put it out on display alongside Rosy Hours, but I no longer go out of my way to push those books, and when my mother (bless 'er soul) starts to speak of them to friends, I do try to guide them towards Rosy Hours.

I usually start by saying 'It's not that I'm ashamed of my earlier works' - but, truthfully, perhaps I am a little bit. It's not the stories. I stand by the strength of each story - they are good stories, solidly told. But I wince a little at the presentation. The littering of semi-colons that should not be there. The surplus ellipses. The glaring homonymic slips that no editor picked up, and which I'm too embarrassed even to give an example of. My solace is that it would have been ten times worse for Lucid if I hadn't insisted on getting it checked. 

We're perfectionists, authors, on the whole. Always looking to tell the perfect story. 

Of course I'd love to re-edit those works, given the chance. Have the covers redesigned. Make them beautiful. But even with the best editor and the most skilled cover designer, I know they still wouldn't be of the same calibre as Rosy Hours. In the same way that your A-level art folder would never gain you a Master's in Fine Art. Time and experience hone your skills. You always learn new tricks, you always grow, but I can't see myself ever looking back on Rosy Hours with the same inner-wince that I get when I look back on earlier work. Future work will be a lot more like Rosy Hours than Rosy Hours is like past work. I've reached a level where I know what each of the tools in my toolbox does, and I'm confident of using them.

So, it was a bit of a shocker when someone at the talk decided to purchase my entire backlist. As he handed over the money, I think I may have uttered Are you sure? 

I went home and had a flick through them myself, as a reminder. They're certainly not bad first attempts. I'm glad those stories live. I can't say otherwise, it would be like infanticide to kill off the spirit of a book in that way. It is good that they exist. 

But I would urge new writers to think carefully. Self-publishing has never been easier: paperback, ebook, blogs. You can get your work out there at the click of a button. But once it's out there, it's out there. Are you sure it's ready? 

It worries me a little that people might read those early works and, skipping over the verso as wont we are to do, assume that is where I am now as a writer. 

There is nothing else for it but to continue writing.

To write more. To write better.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Silent Night

I got roped (ho ho) into bell ringing practise the other night whilst visiting family in Northamptonshire. Bit of a workout having not done it for a while. Also stood in for a missing member of the hand bell team. This is our rendition of Silent Night on Soundcloud.

Sunday 18 October 2015

Dodo Ink

I'd just like to give a shout out to Dodo Ink (Twitter), a new indie publisher in the UK. I recently backed their Kickstarter campaign. They've got pluck, and I love their inclusive toilet signage. Keep watch on them.

Saturday 17 October 2015

Northampton Writing Group

Had an absolutely fabulous time at the Quaker Meeting House in Northampton last Thursday. Invited to talk by Northampton Writing Group, headed my Monica Withrington. Firstly a pleasure to meet other writers, and secondly a pleasure to be local, as I hail from a village just outside Northampton. 

Monica & Me
Had a bit of fun getting to the venue. I'd never been there before, and I'm not au fait with Northampton's back streets. My GPS managed to land me in a car park in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully I had the phone number of my mate (and author) Morgen Bailey, who is also local. I gave her a bell and she directed me.

Thanks for saving my bacon, Morgen!

I was there to promote Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran, giving a talk about the world of 1850s Iran, the politics and bloodshed that formed the backdrop for my story. It was a really fabulous night. I plan to put the presentation online at a later date, along with the reading. 

We had a really good discussion afterwards. There's a write-up by Morgen on her blog.

Met a really enthusiastic reader. A lovely guy called Mike, who was so supportive. He spoke of staying up until the early hours to finish reading Rosy Hours, which is something Salomé at Ghostwoods Books can sympathise with. I will admit to being ever so slightly terrified when he purchased my entire backlist. Angorichina, Georg[i]e and Lucid came out some years back, and they are nowhere near as nicely edited or presented as Rosy Hours. The stories are strong, but I was young and reckless. 

Had great fun signing books. I was completely unprepared, and once again Morgen saved me by going to the supermarket to get change, and donating her pen, which I shall take to Kendal with me. I've promised to pay her back in wine next week. 

Friday 16 October 2015

10 Top Tips For Preparing a Book Talk

I'm quite a confident public speaker. I run a lot of training sessions for organisations, but I still find book talks a little intimidating. I think the difference is that when you're running a workshop about something like human rights or social media, it's not about you. You're all there to focus on something else. As a trainer you're often afforded a certain amount of respect on the subject - you can set the tone of a talk the moment you walk into a room. 

In contrast, I tend to feel as though book talks are less about the subject and more a personality test. People turn up to decide what they think of you as a person. It can make or break book sales. 

I know book talks and self-promotion is something that makes a lot of authors uncomfortable, so I thought I'd share my tips on preparing for one.

1. Find Out What Your Audience Want

First off, find out exactly what your audience are expecting. Are you talking to a group of mainly writers, or mainly readers? (The type of jokes you tell might be different). How long is it: one hour, two? Are you the sole speaker, are there others? Is there a schedule? Do they want a presentation, a reading, Q&As, a signing - a combination? How many people are they expecting? Where is the venue and what does it look like inside?

Knowing what your audience is expecting helps you to plan with confidence.

2. Prepare Your Spiel

Talks where you get to give a presentation are great. Or they can be great if you focus on the right things. Remember, you're there to promote a book that you wrote. That means you know the book really well. You're an expert on your book. What are the most interesting points about that book? Is it set during a time in history that's interesting? Or in the future? What sparked your imagination? What did you discover whilst researching? Where did you draw your inspiration from?

I love PowerPoint, but you need to use it right. Death by PowerPoint occurs when you use slides to write up chunks of text and long lists of bullet-points. Avoid this at all costs. Use PowerPoint to project images and short video snippets. Turn it into a visual prompt to jog your memory, like flash cards, rather than an autocue.

If you're really afraid you'll forget something, jot down some bullet-points to remind yourself what to talk about on each slide. But avoid writing a script for yourself. Having a script means you spend the whole talk staring at the paper in your lap, and if you miss a line you may panic and freeze up. Instead, practise and practise your talk. Trust in the fact that you know what you're talking about. This means that when you do talk, it'll sound natural and free-flowing, and you'll be able to make eye contact with your audience without worrying about losing your place.

3. Practise

I know I said it before, but I'll say it again because it's so important. Practise going through your talk. Practise formulating phrases you're happy with, ordering the information as though you're having a conversation with someone. The more you practise your speech, the more likely your long-term memory will leap in to save you if you run dry. 

4. Keep Calm

Consider what you'll do if you do forget something. This takes the fear out of forgetting. Have a little joke on hand if you freeze up and need a few seconds to find your place again. For example, if I trip over my own tongue whilst speaking, I'll say something stern to myself like 'call yourself an author!' Making a joke of the fact I can't get my words out. Little quips are really helpful - they buy you time, and they also make people laugh, and laughter equates to good will. People tend to be very forgiving of mistakes that make them laugh. Never be afraid of laughter. 

5. Arrive Early

Get to the venue in plenty of time to meet the organisers and set up your equipment. There's nothing worse than trying to get technology to work in front of an audience. Try to maintain the magical illusion of everything being perfect when your audience arrive. And do take time to get to know your meet-and-greeters. These are your strongest allies on the night. Your friendly faces in the crowd, who want the event to be as big a success as you do. These are the people who can smooth over any hiccups and dig you out of a hole if no one asks any questions at the end. 

6. Speak Up, Remain Hydrated

Another advantage of arriving early is that you can lay out the room as you need it and practise projecting your voice. You don't need to shout, but people are coming to listen to you, so you need to be heard. Again, it's easier to project your voice to the back of the room when your head is up and you're facing forward, rather than reading from a sheet in your lap.

Readings often take place in quite intimate spaces, so if you're there before your audience, greet people as they come in. Even a little 'hello' helps to take the edge off your nerves, turning strangers into friends. 

Audiences are often as nervous about authors as authors are about audiences. Breaking the ice in this fashion also makes it more likely people will feel confident enough to ask you a question at the end, or approach for a book signing.

Do have a glass of water. Don't reach for that glass of water in the first ten minutes. The first few minutes of a talk are usually the most nerve-racking. You don't want to let your throat get parched, but at the same time, you want to feel relaxed before you take a drink. I was once so nervous at a meeting that when I reached for my glass I couldn't drink. It was shaking so hard I would have spilt water all over myself before it reached my lips. Instead I reached for a biro to fiddle with - and accidentally threw it across the room.

Take deep breaths. Do not be afraid of short silences and pauses. People are there to listen to you. Speak at a steady pace, and speak when you are ready.

7. Pacing

One of the most common reactions to nerves is to speed up. Try hard not to do that, otherwise you'll whizz through your forty-five minute talk in twenty and have nothing to fill the next hour with. Pacing again comes from practise. Rehearse your speech each day, and be mindful of the pace and pauses. 

Top Tip: If you start a PowerPoint presentation and right click, you should get the option to Show Presenter View

This is a fabulous tool. It allows you to project your presentation as normal, but to see which slide comes next (easy to forget on the spot) and to keep track of your time.

(click to enlarge)

The other thing to be careful of, especially if you're encouraging audience participation or questions, is not to get side tracked and waffle on about something so long that you don't have time to finish what you were supposed to be talking about. Try not to labour points. Assume your audience has understood you the first time. If they don't, they'll ask for clarification during the Q&A. Talking too much about the same thing tunes people out.

8. Consider Your Responses

If your audience are expecting a Q&A, for goodness sake start talking to yourself in the shower. Ask yourself really random stuff like 'what is my favourite colour?', 'who has influenced my work?', 'what was my route to publication?', 'what advice would I give new authors?'

If you've been promoting yourself for a while, you'll know most of the stock questions from doing interview blogs, but there will always be a curve ball. Try to work out where you stand on political issues, creative issues, issues of interior design... Just get used to the sound of your own voice, and again, have a couple of polite next-subject quips in your pocket, ready to pull out if you can't think of a suitable answer to something, like 'how do you get fudge out of the carpet?'

9. Read with Confidence

One of my most dreaded activities is giving readings. I dislike it intensely. Partly because I write a lot of books with words I'm not sure how to pronounce (seriously, I have to listen to the audiobook of Rosy Hours to know how to say çocukcağız), and partly because it's the point at which I fear I'll freeze up entirely. 

Often people think they need a written script to talk publicly. I argue that's actually unhelpful. If you know your subject, just talk about it. Don't be afraid to amble a little. Rely on your inner knowledge (and plenty of practise). The problem with a script is that it's something very exact - like a reading. You either get it right, or you don't. That's a lot of pressure.

I did tank once. With one of my early novels, a member of the audience laughed at something they found funny, and I glanced up and laughed a little too - then panicked when I returned my eyes to the page and realised I'd lost my place mid-sentence. There was an awkward moment whilst I found it again.

Lessons learned on this include: 

  • Whilst talking to your audience, make eye contact. Whilst giving a reading, forget the audience entirely. Don't be tempted to look up between sentences. It's perfectly okay - and preferable - to focus on the page and just read. Your audience have slipped into their own private listening space anyway, they don't need your eye contact.
  • If you're at an event where they want a talk as well as a reading, make the talk longer, keep the reading brief. By the time you've finished your presentation your audience will have been listening to your voice for a while, and they'll be eager to get onto questions. So just give them a brief, tantalising teaser of a reading and move on. The shorter the reading, the less likely you are to slip up.
  • Something magical tends to happen with readings. You can practise and practise your reading, and you'll almost always make a mistake. But everything will be 'all right on the night'. I mess up about 90% of the time when rehearsing readings, but perhaps 1% of the time at the event. I'm not sure why this is, but a part of your brain kicks into gear when there's an audience present (quite possibly the adrenaline), and you're likely to get through it unscathed. If you do trip, don't worry about it. Nobody else will remember tomorrow. Just find your place and carry on.

Above all - rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. 

10. Name Notes

If you're giving a signing afterwards, have post-it notes ready. I observed this at Cheltenham Literature Festival one year, whilst queueing to get a book signed. The author distributed post-it notes for people to write out their names and messages ahead of signing. This ensured that the author was 100% certain of the spelling of the name, and the message. When you're on the spot, it's really easy to mishear something, and there are many names that can be spelt differently or aren't obvious to decipher. Avoid embarrassment, and wasted books, by getting it in black and white before you commit to the page.

Above all, have fun. Yes, it's nerve-racking, but it does get easier with experience, and although I said it's about people making up their minds about you as an author, there's a lot in your favour. People usually turn up in a spirit of good faith. They're usually on your side to begin with, and everyone likes to learn something new, so if you can interest people and get them enthused about your topic, they're even more likely to back you (and hopefully buy a book). 

And, if it doesn't go to plan, well, you're unlikely to meet these people again. 

Which leads me to my final suggestion on the topic of friends and family. F&Fs are often the first people who want to come to an event, but it's my experience that it's often more comfortable talking to a room full of strangers, somewhere far away from home, than it is to a room full of strangers plus your family and friends. 

When you're giving a book talk, paid or otherwise, you're working. You're doing your thing as an author. Yes, it's nice to have friendly faces in the audience, but it can also be inhibiting. Most of us, when we're talking publicly, have a certain level of alter-ego that kicks in to get us through it. 

As mentioned above, it's also comforting to know that if it doesn't go well you can go home and leave it behind you, like a day at the office. But when friends and family are in the audience, it can add an extra level of tension. If you write horror, can you talk so openly about how you envision murdering a character's mother when your own mother is in the room? What if the audience ask about your upbringing, or whether you draw inspiration from real relationships - could you answer? Even if your family and friends love your books, does their presence support you or gatecrash your fourth wall, blurring the line between your professional persona and your private self?

I'm not saying it's bad to have friends and family at talks, certainly not (if I ever make it to Hay I'll resurrect my granny!), but I also think it's okay to say no. Whatever makes you most comfortable and allows you to do the best job you can.

If you've got any personal experiences you'd like to share, or tips I've missed out, I'd love to read your comments below.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Can You Own an eBook?

Well now, I find this to be a very interesting article on Just Publishing:

Well, from the recent story about a Kindle owner having her Kindle wiped clean by Amazon, and her account closed, it would seem the answer is very little...  
...when you buy an ebook from Amazon, you don’t really buy it. You borrow it. I just did a check to make sure, and yes, when you select an ebook from the Amazon Kindle Store it says, ‘Buy Now With 1-Click’. Well that can’t be true. Anything that can be taken back without warning is not really bought, is it?

Something worth querying the Institute of Customer Services with. Does rather whiff of false advertising. Could you imagine if you bought a paperback, then one morning the bookshop owner you bought it off breaks down your door and repossesses it?

Hideously disturbing thought.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Verdigris Lives!

Oh, how wonderful!

Had an e-mail from dad yesterday saying he's managed to fix the screen on Verdy, my elderly Kindle. I posted about how to do this the other week.

So happy to have Verdy back. I'm enjoying the back lighting on my new (still unnamed) Paperweight, but I really do miss the buttons. Hoping to take both back to Rwanda with me. Might go back to Verdy and keep the other as a back-up. Much easier to transfer books onto Verdy with a USB connection than it is to download them from the cloud onto a Paperweight with no wifi connection.

Happy days. Awesome dad.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Musical Interlude: Professor Elemental

I've been working my way through Tea & Jeopardy this week. Fabulous writing distraction. Through it I've discovered the hilarious tumbler feed Title to Come and now Professor Elemental. It's what I imagine would happen if ProleteR were British and got hit by a Steampunk ray. 

You can find a whole playlist online, but I'm particularly liking All In Together (possibly the feel-goodiest song ever), I'm British and Cup of Brown Joy.

He's online, on Facebook and Twitter.

[I think Fighting Trousers was part of the Chap Hop fude between the Professor and Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer... formerly of Collapsed Lung, as in - yes - Eat My Goal!]

Monday 12 October 2015

Magdalena Korzeniewska

I'm absolutely smitten with Polish illustrator Magdalena Korzeniewska's gel ink depictions of legends and fairy tales.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Splintered Door Online

Image Jessica Clarke, Raven Feather Photography

Just to say that I've put the whole of my short story collection Splintered Door online.

The un-a-Musing, anti-inspirational, tangled, twisted and possibly tragic regurgitation of a recovering mind.

Free to read, and please feel free to distribute. A link back to my website, blog, Twitter or Facebook feed always appreciated. 

Saturday 10 October 2015

Joyful Advancement

Explosions of Joy by Amy Giacomelli

Doing the wiggley-bummed dance of happiness this afternoon.

Things haven't been going great with Secret Order since getting back to the UK. They weren't going great before I left Kigali either, but I tried to convince myself it would take off again once in Blighty with creature comforts and cake. I've just really been struggling with the plot. Stuck at the 25k mark and using social media as an excuse not to think about it.

Just when things take a dip, something tends to happen to pull me out of it.

Today I signed my second contract with Ghostwoods Books for The Children of Lir. It's now officially official.

The cherry on top - they've offered me an advance!

I was just saying to Will the other week, as we ambled through a park in Hackney, that I had never had one of those.

An advance is where a publisher pays an amount up front to the author, ahead of sales. The idea is that you make back that money in sales before your royalty payments kick in.

So, what's the big deal about advances?

Well, there are certain points in a writer's life where they feel validated. It's not easy writing, it's really not. Most writers hold down more than one job, few make a full-time living out of writing. The article All Work and No Pay sums it up well. It's hard to hold your head up.

Those little moments of validation are important to a writer. The first is where someone who isn't an immediate member of your family, or someone obliged by friendship to be mindful of your feelings, tells you that your writing is 'good'. Another is the first time someone offers you a publishing contract you don't have to contribute to financially. The first time you win a writing prize for a poem or short story, even if the prize is just inclusion in an anthology or publication on a blog. The first time you win a cash prize. Your first royalty cheque is a big one.

Little milestones along the way.

My first advance is modest, but it means a lot. It's the first time a publisher has said: Yes, we believe in you. We believe that we can sell what you write. We believe this enough to give you part of your future earnings up-front.

In an industry where money is often tight and nothing is ever certain, that's a massive token of trust.

It also has another helpful effect. It makes me want to be a better writer. A publisher valuing what I write makes me value what I write more. Plus, it makes me want to pull my head out my arse and keep writing.

I'm really chuffed. Every book I've written has been slightly better and gone slightly further. Partnering with Ghostwoods has been an amazing experience, and I'm really looking forward to working with them again - they're tops.