AND THIS IS THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED #thursdaythoughts @Pembrokeshire #poetrycommunity

As some of you may know, as well as holding private creative writing workshops, I also tutor creative writing for the local council. Tutoring adults can be  rewarding (discovering wonderful writers), chaotic (my lesson plans are rarely followed – someone will inevitably take things off at a tangent) hilarious (the undiscovered comedian/ the completely unaware comedian) and thought-provoking (especially with memoir writing) Every now and then I like to share some of their work.

Here is a piece written by one of my students after I set them an exercise which ended with the last line, “And this is the room where it happened.”

This is a poem by Alex Abercrombie. 

owls

 

You’re shaken awake from a jittery nap and

The mantelpiece clock shows a quarter to two.

The dog on the mat and the cat on your lap and

The owls in the attic are wakeful too.

There’s a rattle of chains and a loud ringing rap and

A creak of a door and a hullabaloo –

By the light of the moon on the cold foggy dew

A leathery, whiskery, rogue of a chap, and

A girl in a plain cotton smock and a cap and

A red woollen petticoat, float into view.

 

They say the wench brought the man down with one slap and

A knife in the ribs – though whether that’s true

Or a tall tarradiddle, I haven’t a clue.

But there are some things’ll make anyone snap and

Commit bloody murder and all – and I do

Say it’s not very nice of a toff to entrap and

Abandon a poor village lass. Don’t you?

When all that she got was a dose of the clap and

A bun in the oven (which turned into two)

And this is the room where it happened.

 © Alex Abercrombie 2018

 

 You may also like to see a prose piece on the same subject written by another student,  Trish  Power   https://judithbarrowblog.com/2018/01/17/and-this-is-the-room-where-it-happened-thursdaythoughts-pembrokeshire-humour/here

Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected! #ThrowbackThursday

Well, yes it is worth it – we love it, despite the unexpected. Having a holiday apartment attached to our house has brought us many friends; visitors who return year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We love seeing them again. And we are fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there have been downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the two elderly sisters …

I watched Husband walk past the kitchen window and waved. He didn’t wave back. Because of the goggles and the scarf around his nose and mouth  I couldn’t tell if he smiled or not. I thought – probably not. He wore a helmet over a balaclava on his head, navy overalls, elbow length gloves and thigh waders. He looked ridiculous but I didn’t dare laugh. This was serious. He was on a mission… a clearing the sewers mission…

Husband in a hole!

The story of the sewers began  a fortnight earlier in the shape of the two ladies. They arrived late on the Saturday evening; it was already getting dark.  Despite our assurances that it didn’t matter; that we were home anyway, they  continued to apologize profusely as we showed them to the apartment. There’d been traffic hold-ups, one of them suffered from car sickness so they’d had to stop often, they’d lost their way; gone off at the wrong junction of the M4 and ended up in Swansea.

We calmed them down, Husband offered to carry their luggage in.

‘No,’ they said, ‘we’ll be fine. You leave us to it. We haven’t much.’

They were ideal guests; the type we’d  hoped for when we started this venture.

old lady twoold lady

They were quiet, friendly, pleasant to have around.. Ever ready for a chat they sat with us in the garden a couple of the evenings enjoying a glass of wine, some nibbles. They didn’t go out much; just for one or two hours each day. Most of the time they sat on the guest patio, reading. Aged around eighty, we discovered they were twins; obviously both retired; one an ex school teacher, they other a librarian. They called us Mr and Mrs Barrow and we  called them both Miss Smith (obviously not their real name!!) They wore almost identical clothes and shoes, had the same hairstyle, finished one another’s sentences  in the same refined tones. 

When we asked if everything was all right,did they need anything , we were told all was perfect. On the middle weekend they insisted I hand over the clean  bedding and towels and changed the bed themselves. 

On the last evening we invited them in for a meal. They only stayed a couple of hours; we were told they had an early start in the morning.  Later we heard them hoovering. I knocked on the door and told them not to bother, they had a long day in front of them the following day.. Despite my protestations, they persisted for another hour.

 They must have gone very early, they’d left before we got up at seven the next day.

 Which I thought was great; it meant I could get on with the cleaning before the next visitors arrived.

It was halfway through the following week when we noticed the problem. Our new visitors complained that the loo wasn’t working properly and the bathroom was smelling. By the end of the day the kitchen sink in the apartment was backing up with unpleasant water and the lavatories in the main part of the house weren’t flushing efficiently. In fact they were overflowing!

At this point I’m wondering if I should have put a health warning on this post. Hmm?

 Trying to be as delicate as possible here!!!loo

And so to the beginning of this sorry tale… 

I watched Husband walk past the kitchen window and waved …

He stopped, came back to the window and motioned (sorry!) for me to open it. ‘I don’t suppose you want to help?’ he shouted through the scarf. I closed the window – the smell was bad. Besides I thought we should have sent for the local drains/ sewage clearing people. Being a ‘careful  with money’ man, Husband thought he could “do it himself” 

 The new visitors went out for the day with a donation from us for meals.

Without going into any more graphic detail all I can say is that the blockage was… cat litter (with the evidence!). Our two little old ladies had apparently smuggled brought their cat on holiday with them (into our “no smoking, no pets” apartment) and flushed the contents of the litter tray down the loo. Which was washed by the water along the pipes only so far before setting like cement in the drains.

Six hours later – and after much shovelling and swearing – Husband conceded defeat and we sent for the specialists. 

I connected the garden hose to the outside tap on the garage and hosed him downBefore he was allowed back into the house, he stripped off.

Which reminds me. Have I told you about the Naturists who came to stay…?

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today with Margaret Kaine#MondayBlogs

Over the next few months I’ll be chatting with authors who, like me, write Family Sagas, (#familysaga) a genre that can cover many countries, years  and cultures.I am thrilled that so many excellent writers have agreed to meet here with me. I’m sure you’ll find them as fascinating as I do. All I can say is watch this space. Your TBR list of books will be toppling over!!

margaret

Today I’m chatting with Margaret Kaine. Margaret was born and educated in the Potteries and now lives in Eastbourne. Her short stories have been published widely in women’s magazines in the UK, and also in Australia, Norway, South Africa and Ireland. Ring of Clay, her debut novel, won both the RNA’s New Writer’s Award in 2002 and the Society of Authors’ Sagittarius Prize in 2003. She has written several romantic sagas about life in the Potteries between the 50’s and 70’s,and translations include German and French. All are published as eBooks, paperbacks and hardbacks, also Large Print and Audio – cassette and CD. I’m thrilled to have Margaret here.

Welcome, Margaret, lovely to see you here today.

Good to be here, Judith 

Tell us, what made you decide to write in your genre?

Simply because I always loved to read family sagas. Born and educated in Stoke-on-Trent, the area known as the Potteries, I always had a dream of becoming a writer. But once married and with a family, two dogs and a career as a lecturer in further education, there never seemed to be any me time. It wasnt until I had an empty nest, that I came to this wonderful world of writing fiction. I attempted short stories at first, gaining encouragement and constructive critiques from a writers workshop – Id advise anyone to join a good one – and had my share of rejections, but eventually became published widely in womens magazines in the UK, and also in Australia, Norway, South Africa and Ireland. Then obeying the maxim to write about what you know, I wrote and finished my first novel, Ring of Clay, set in the Potteries after WW2. Published by Poolbeg in Ireland, I was thrilled when it won the RNA New Writers Award in 2002. The following year, the same novel won the Society of Authors Sagittarius Prize, sponsored by Terry Pratchett. Hodder & Stoughton bought the UK & Commonwealth rights and I continued to write six more romantic sagas about life in the Potteries between the 50s and 70s. It was a nostalgia trip for me really, but I enjoyed so much describing life as I remembered it in this distinctive industrial area.

Ring Of Clay by [Kaine, Margaret]

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

This is an unusual question, and my answer is that I would doubt it. Even literary writing needs emotion and imagination.

Do you want each book to stand-alone or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

All of my books are stand-alone, even Ring of Clay and Rosemary, although they are connected with the latter being a sequel.

Rosemary by [Kaine, Margaret]

How do you select the names of your characters?

Oh, names! I cant continue until I have my main characters names. I will try several as I begin a novel, and know within a page or two whether one strikes a chord with me. And then it becomes a challenge, as I know I wont be able to write a word until Ive found the right one, otherwise I cant seem to see the person. The internet is a wonderful tool for this, especially for checking whether a name is correct for the era.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

When the writing is going well, nothing has ever given me such a buzz, so I suppose at the time it gives me energy. But I admit that later – usually in the evening – I can feel quite tired. This happens especially if Ive been writing an emotionally draining scene, or if Ive been in what I call full flow, and forgotten how long Ive been sitting at the computer. But writing has enriched my life in so many ways, that I cant imagine not having it in my life.

Ribbon of Moonlight by [Kaine, Margaret]

What would be the advice you would give to your younger writing self?

One of my biggest regrets is not to have begun writing at a much earlier age. With hindsight, I should have made the time to creatively express myself. And yet, somehow it wasnt in my mindset. I admire so much young women who manage to write successful novels while bringing up a family.

Friends and Families by [Kaine, Margaret]

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

My subscription to join the Romantic Novelists Association. Its a wonderful organisation offering encouragement, support and friendship. I have learned much about my craft from attending the annual conferences they hold in different parts of the country. They also provide several glittering occasions to socialise with other authors, many of whom become good friends.

Song for a Butterfly by [Kaine, Margaret]

Have you ever had reader’s block?

Im afraid I just cant get into any books about vampires or zombies.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Now was it Little Women or Black Beauty? I read both as a child and dont think any books since have moved me more.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Yes, I do read them, I cant resist it. Besides one can learn much from perceptive comments. Naturally the good ones are my favourites and can put a spring in my step all day, and eventually one learns to expect that not everyone will like your book and to accept negative reviews. What does annoy me is when people put reviews on Amazon, lowering the average star rating with such trite  remarks as I havent read it yet, or the cover was damaged when it arrived. I mentally scream.

Would you like to talk about your latest book here?

The last of my Potteries family sagas, was Song for a Butterfly, but after 7 books in the same genre, I felt I needed a challenge. I decided to write an Edwardian romantic historical suspense set against a more cosmopolitan background, and Dangerous Decisions was published by Choc Lit. I loved doing the research, describing the elegant fashions, the beautiful great houses. The aristocracy certainly knew how to live in style. But supporting that lifestyle would be a veritable army of servants, domestic service then being the main employment and these were often exploited. I have also set my recently completed 9th novel in the same era. With a working title of The Black Silk Purse, the story begins with a young girl being harshly treated in a workhouse, and the way her life becomes intertwined with that of a wealthy spinster. My agent loves it (always a huge sigh of relief), its out with publishers and so Im currently in that period authors know well, of waiting.

 Dangerous Decisions (Choc Lit) by [Kaine, Margaret]

Please supply links to all your social media including websites.

website – http://www.margaretkaine.com

Twitter – @MargaretKaine 

Facebook – Margaret Kaine

Goodreads – Margaret Kaine

Instagram –  Margaret_Kaine

Today With Sarah Jane Butfield

 

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So… here we are; the last of the interviews with our authors, all twenty-seven of them and all will be at the Tenby Book Fair, http://bit.ly/27XORTh, the first event of the Tenby Arts Festival http://bit.ly/24eOVtl 

There are many genres and many books to browse over. And twenty-seven authors to chat to about their writing. The winners of the three writing competitions will be announced on the day and the prizes given.

 And just a word of thanks here to the three publisher who will be donating the prizes:

 http://www.fireflypress.co.uk/  A collection of  their books for the Children’s competition.   Cambria Publishing Co-operative  is sponsoring the YA Flash Fiction prizes and  http://honno.co.uk/  also a collection of their books for the Adult Short Story Cpompetition 

In the next week or so I’ll be showcasing all three publishers who will be also giving short talks at the Book Fair: http://honno.co.uk/, http://www.fireflypress.co.uk/ and http://www.cambriapublishing.org.uk/

And I’ll be sharing a post from the brilliant http://showboat.tv/ Who always video and share our Tenby Book Fair.

Please feel free to check out all our authors and their great books. 

Rebecca Bryn: http://bit.ly/1XYWbtF, Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/1P6zDQh  Matt Johnson: http://bit.ly/1RUqJFg , Christoph Fischer: http://bit.ly/1svniAr , Sally Spedding: http://bit.ly/1VNRQci, Wendy Steele: http://bit.ly/1PMoF8i ,Kathy MIles: http://bit.ly/1twN3Bg , Graham Watkins: http://bit.ly/2aEgwRv , Carol Lovekin:http://bit.ly/1Y2z6HT, Colin R Parsons:http://bit.ly/1tvBc5G , Lisa Shambrook: http://bit.ly/28NMI5v:  ,Alex Martin: http://bit.ly/28VLsQG ,  Judith Arnopp:  http://bit.ly/290cJMl , Sharon Tregenza:http://bit.ly/29frGPq    Juliet Greenwood:http://bit.ly/29jylrM , Nigel Williams:http://bit.ly/29racfO , Julie McGowan:http://bit.ly/29CHNa9 , John Nicholl:http://bit.ly/29NtdtX  ,Tony Riches:  http://bit.ly/29y3a8k:  ,Wendy White: http://bit.ly/29TMCpY  ,Angela Fish:http://bit.ly/2a5qY2U  David Thorpe:http://bit.ly/2a9uG0V , Eloise William:http://bit.ly/2aoZk1k , Phil Carradice: http://bit.ly/2aYINV5 , Jo Haammond:http://bit.ly/2b7nMqf  and Sharon Jones: http://bit.ly/2bhZ9sa .And thanks to Thorne Moore for interviewing me: http://bit.ly/1VTvqGq 

There may also be a short chat with John and Fiona of http://showboat.tv/ who, as usual, will be filming the event.

So now let’s meet our author of today.Sarah Jane Butfield. Sarah Jane was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, UK. She is a wife, mother, retired Registered General Nurse and an international best-selling author of Travel, Nursing and Culinary memoirs. She has also written a series of self-help guides for new authors based on her experiences to date and inspires and mentors new authors in her role as CEO at Rukia Publishing. 

 

sarah jane profile

 

Welcome,Sarah Jane, great to have you here today; last but not least!

And I’m pleased to finally arrive, Judith

So tell us, please,how long have you been writing?

It feels like I have been writing my whole life, but the reality is that I started writing in 2013. I think that is because the majority of the content of my books so far have been about my life and my experiences I am constantly reminiscing which completely takes over my thoughts.

What kind(s) of writing do you do?

I currently write non fiction author guides, travel and nursing memoirs. Although I also have a romance novel in progress and a couple of ghostwriting projects which are outside of my usual genre of writing.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

To be honest I didn’t choose a genre when I started writing it was entirely by accident, hence the title of my first author guide, The Accidental Author. I resurrected my love of journaling, that I had in my childhood, after the traumatic events of the Brisbane floods in 2011. It was more of a cathartic exercise to begin with, but as I started to tell people about our experiences after relocating to Tasmania to start over and rebuild our lives, I was encouraged to share our story to help and inspire others who may be facing life changing events.

The Accidental Author (The What, Why, Where, When, Who & How Book Promotion Series 1) by [Butfield, Sarah Jane]

The Accidental Author is permanently free as I hope it offers aspiring authors a real glimpse of how they could start writing based on my experiences

So, what have you written?

Two Dogs and a Suitcase: Clueless in Charente

Our Frugal Summer in Charente: An Expat’s Kitchen Garden Journal

The Amatuer AuthorpreneurProduct Details

The Intermediate AuthorpreneurProduct Details

Where can we buy or see them? 

I have added the links at the end ..

What are you working on at the minute?

I have 2 main projects on the go at the moment.

Firstly, I am co-writing the sequel to Shame by Phil Thomas after working with him on the second edition of book one which details his horrific true story of abuse within the UK criminal justice system in the 1970’s which is now part of a judicial review which culminates in 2017. We hope to coordinate the release of the sequel with the finalising of the court proceedings and issue of the final report on how to try to prevent events on this scale happening in the future.

Secondly, a bit overdue, I am in the final stages of preparing Ooh Matron 2! Bedpans to Boardrooms to be released.

Ooh Matron!

Product Details

What’s Ooh Matron 2 about?

Book 2 in my nursing memoir series follows the story of my nursing career and patient experiences over a 28 year career when I worked  in a variety of specialisms and roles in healthcare settings in both UK and Australia. These books form part of The Nomadic Nurse Series which is proving popular not only with medical memoir fans, but also those who enjoy travel and personal memoirs.

What was the hardest part of writing Glass Half Full?

Product Details

In some respects the hardest part was reliving very personal and emotional events and trying to portray them accurately in a way that readers could relate to the decisions we made and how when life changing events happen you often don’t get long period to debate discuss and decide what to do. Sometimes you have to just make a decision and act on it.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I really enjoyed reliving the happy times that occurred during our time in Australia. I still feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to live and work in a country which is so family and community focused and I have no regrets despite how life turned out for us there.

Product Details

Are there misconceptions that people have about your book?  If so, explain.

I think the biggest misconception some people have is that making the decision to emigrate was easy. It was very far away from being easy. Both Nigel and I had been married and divorced. We had child custody issues due to having children from previous marriages and this meant that our decision would result in some of our children remaining with our ex partners in the UK. This was one of the hardest decisions we have ever made, and as I said before trying to portray enough of our story without intrusion into our children’s lives, yet being able to give readers an idea of the rationale to our decisions was very hard. There were elements of my personal situation in the lead up to our decision which at the time of writing Glass Half Full I could not go into in detail because of the ages of the children and the ex partner involved, but suffice to say psychological and physical domestic abuse was involved.

What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject matter, that isn’t so?

This is tough, but honestly I think the answer is that unless you have personally parented children and step-children through child custody, divorce and child safety life events, it may be difficult for readers to totally comprehend the enormity of emotional and psychological thought processes involved. For this reason readers may build up preconceived ideas and as one reader wrote in a review “Surely he couldn’t have been the monster you portrayed him as.” When in fact I underplayed the extent of his behaviour towards me and my children.

What inspires you?

My biggest inspiration is my family. Without the support and encouragement from my husband Nigel I may never have started my writing journey on a professional level.

How did you get to be where you are in your life today?

I feel very fortunate to now be able to write and support new and aspiring authors as a full time occupation. This wasn’t a planned career move but it now feels as if it was meant to be and I love everything about what I do and the people I work with.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

I love reading paperbacks and I thoroughly enjoy browsing in second hand book shops and charity shops for new material. I have a favourite book shop in Tenby actually called

However, my Kindle is overflowing with awesome books from fellow independent authors.

What book/s are you reading at present?

I am currently an ARC reader for Peri Hoskins and his upcoming book called East, which is set in Australia and although it is called literary fiction it is based on his memoirs so it is very poignant.

Who designed your book cover/s?

I have had a few cover designers but I have now developed a working relationship with Ida Jansson at AMYGDALA DESIGN. Together we are reworking some of my original covers and her work on Glass Half Full has been amazing.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

Yes the cover plays a huge part. It’s funny how when I first started out I didn’t realise quite how important it was until I questioned what makes me pick up a book or click on a book online, and it’s the cover 80% of the time

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

What I love about self-publishing is having total control of not only the content and how I portray it but also the timeframes. Having a large family means that rigid timeframes would create increased pressure which I feel would stifle my writing ability. I like to write everyday even if that means getting up 5am for some quiet time!

Which social network worked best for you?

It’s funny how social networking has become so integral to publishing over the years and particularly so for independent authors. I love to interact with my readers and I find Facebook and Twitter the most responsive, however I get a lot of emails from my mailing list and via my blogs.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Websites:

http://www.sarahjanebutfield.com/

http://www.rukiapublishing.com/

Linkedin:https://www.linkedin.com/in/authorsarahjanebutfield

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/readgoodbooks/

Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7391697.Sarah_Jane_Butfield

Connect with Sarah Jane on social media:

Twitter

@SarahJanewrites

@SJButfield

@GlassHalfFullTM

@TwoDogsMemoir

@FrugalSummer

Facebook:

www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahJaneButfield

www.facebook.com/Twodogsandasuitcase

www.facebook.com/OurFrugalSummerinCharente

www.facebook.com/Ooh-Matron-1646665865549530/timeline/

Blogs:

Sarah Jane’s Writing Blog http://sarahjanebutfield-glass-half-full.blogspot.co.uk/

Sarah Jane’s Blog at Rukia http://www.rukiapublishing.com/sarah-janes-blog

Amazon Author Page:

US https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Jane-Butfield/e/B00GPLZW2Y/

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarah-Jane-Butfield/e/B00GPLZW2Y/

 

Tenby Book Fair: 24th September 2016

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Events

Events to be held at the 2016 Tenby Book Fair, 24th September

Revised
Some talks, readings, Q&A sessions will be held in an adjoining room at the fair. Numbers will be limited, so it is advisable to reserve a place in advance. There is no charge.
  1. 11:00    Cambria Publishing Co-operative will be giving a talk and taking questions about the services and assistance they offer to independent authors.
  2. 11:30    Poet Kathy Miles will be giving a reading of some of her work.
  3. 12:00    Firefly Press will be talking about publishing children’s books and what they look for in submissions.
  4. 12:30    Prizes for the short story competitions will be presented in the main hall – no booking necessary.
  5. 1:30      Colin Parsons, children’s writer, talks about his popular work
  6. 2:00      Honno Welsh Women’s Press will be talking about their work, publishing contemporary novelists, anthologies and classics, and discussing what they look for in submissions.
  7. 2:30      Matt Johnson, thriller writer and ex-policeman, talks about his work and experiences.
  8. 2:55      Main hall (no booking required): raffle prizes.

 

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TAF vs

 

 

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The Eunuch’s Voice

Shakespeare, Poet, Writer, Author

 

Another of Maggie Himsworth’s fascinating slants on one of Shakespeare’s minor characters. Here’s what she says about this month’s post.

Antony and Cleopatra is one of my favourite plays. Mardian, the head eunuch, doesn’t make many appearances, but this is what I think he might have said if he’d been given a voice.

Drama, Comedy And Tragedy, Theater

I don’t understand it. Here I am, stuck in this tomb, with three dead women, the queen herself and her two ladies in waiting. They’ve cheated Caesar of his prize at least. Slippery as a snake that one, he’s not a man who keeps his promises. His father was a better man, or so I’ve heard.

My great queen, dead.  By her own hand, well, the serpent’s teeth actually, but you know what I mean. She couldn’t wait to get to Antony, jealous that Iras would get there first and get the first kiss.

Those three used to torment me, but I was fond of them.

‘I take no pleasure in anything you’ve got  Mardian’ she used to say, and they’d all laugh. Give them an extra inch and they wouldn’t stick it on their husband’s nose – how rude. But they always talked like that, women together, just as coarse as a group of men.

I always knew though that love between her and Antony would be their downfall. I say love, it might just as easily have been lust, what do I know, or perhaps it was a mixture of both. When she turned her ships and he followed, it was the end for Enobarbus. There was never anyone so loyal to Antony and for him to go over to Caesar’s camp, well, it killed him. I have to say though, Antony never held it against him, was magnanimous, but of course that made it worse.

Antony knew he had lost his honour, and that was more precious to him than anything, even his gypsy queen. He was a broken man. I don’t think she understood that. She was good at playing both sides, she knew how to get the best deal for herself, but for Antony, something was right or wrong. Maybe that’s the difference between men and women, not that I would know as I’m neither. Women have been used to being, what shall I say, adaptable? She had to live by her wits and her wiles, it was all she had.

Octavia I feel sorry for. Used by her brother and used by her husband. She must have known that Antony’s interest lay in Egypt, not with her. But then, she had no choice. It’s only men who have choices, women and eunuchs must do what they can.

I often used to wonder if I could have been an Antony. Great soldier, great general, great  leader of men. Great lover of course, but that part goes way beyond my imagination. I like to think that I could have been some of those things at least, instead of being stuck in this place where I fit neither with men nor with women.

How we laughed though, when the messenger arrived to tell her that Antony was married. We didn’t laugh to her face of course, that would have been suicide, but we all thought she was going to kill him she was so mad with jealousy.

‘Tell me about Octavia’s voice, is she tall, does she have a round face’.

I don’t know whether he told her the truth or not, but he managed to save his own skin.

But that’s all gone now. Enobarbus dead,  dead, my queen, all died by their own hand. What a waste. Maybe it’s easier to be who I am. I’ll never know the extremes of passion but perhaps that’s a good thing. I think I’ve had quite enough excitement in my life without even looking for it. I have no one now to serve, no master or mistress. Perhaps, just for once, I could do what I want to do. Go back to my family if I can find them. Live a quiet life.

They’re over there now, Caesar and his men. He wanted to parade her through the streets of Rome so that everyone would say what a great man he is. I’m pleased he didn’t get the chance. She outwitted him after all. I wonder if I could leave without them noticing?

©  Maggie Himsworth 2016

Today With Kathy Miles

Introducing the authors who will be at the Tenby Book Fair, http://bit.ly/27XORTh, the first event of the Tenby Arts Festival http://bit.ly/24eOVtl .  I’m looking forward to having many more such chats over the next couple of months. 

So far I’ve interrogated interviewed Rebecca Bryn: http://bit.ly/1XYWbtF, Thorne Moore:  http://bit.ly/1P6zDQh , Matt Johnson: http://bit.ly/1RUqJFg , Christoph Fischer: http://bit.ly/1svniAr  and Sally Spedding: http://bit.ly/1VNRQci. and Wendy Steele:  http://bit.ly/1PMoF8i  and Graham Watkins: http://bit.ly/1UMLvLN  And thanks to Thorne Moore for interviewing me today: http://bit.ly/1VTvqGq  Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing the rest of the authors and I’ll also be showcasing the publishers who will be in attendance. There may also be a short chat with John and Fiona of http://showboat.tv/ who, as usual, will be filming the event.

 

Today I’m really pleased to be chatting with Kathy Miles whose work has appeared in many anthologies and magazines. She was the 2015 winner of the Bridport Poetry Prize.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? 

I am primarily a poet, but also write short fiction pieces, drama, and non-fiction. The disciplines required for each genre are very different, but also exhilarating, and I enjoy the challenges involved in writing out of my main genre area. I think I was initially drawn to poetry as a means of expression because of an overwhelming love of words…I’m  just as happy browse-reading a dictionary or thesaurus as a novel. I particularly like exploring their etymology, how the meanings of words have changed over the centuries. So many wonderful words have fallen into disuse, or their meanings changed completely from the original: in these cases, it’s not only the words which are lost, but their associated cultural mores. I always work with a range of  dictionaries and thesauri on my desk, many of them published prior to 1950, and find it exciting when I can trace a word back to a meaning quite different from its contemporary usage. I love playing with words, as well as with the various structures and rhythms of a poem, and I think this is why I write mainly in this genre: for me, what I can do with the words is very satisfying.

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Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

My parents read to me when I was little: there was always a bedtime story, and the house was full of books. My father was a part-time writer, and I would go into his study and read whatever I could lay my hands on. He worked as a clerk in the local government offices, and was paid monthly. I remember that whenever he got his salary (in one of those little brown folded envelopes) he would go to the bookshop on the way home and buy me a new book. My mother had no literary aspirations, but she read magazines avidly, so along with the books, I grew up on Womens’ Own, Womens’ Weekly and The Readers’ Digest, which in those days always published a good range of short fiction in their pages.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I could hold a pen. I have drawerfuls of poems and stories I wrote as a child, the earliest being from when I was about five. There was no specific reason for it: it was just something I always did, and which I never questioned. Other people took part in sport, went swimming, drew pictures or made things, and I wrote.

What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?

I’m very careful to research each poem thoroughly. When I’m writing I use resources which would normally include subject-specific databases and web sources as well as hard copy books, encyclopaedias, dictionaries and thesauri. I have a massive Dictionary of Mythology which is pretty much falling apart at the seams!

 

SHADOWHOUSE

 

What do you think most characterises your writing?

I write a great deal about the landscape: living in a rural area is a huge privilege. I have badgers visiting my garden at night, dragonflies skimming over my pond, and the sight of mountains and the sea in the distance, so it would be hard not to write about these things. But I dislike the idea that writers should be put into specific genres, and so I wouldn’t describe myself as a ‘landscape poet’ because that would be to ignore all the other things I write about. What I would hope characterizes my writing is the truth of what I am trying to convey: but that, of course, is for others to decide!

Links to Kathy’s books.

Amazon.co.uk:

Gardening With Deer: http://amzn.to/1XTUa3i

The Shadow House: http://amzn.to/236LaHk

Amazon.com:

The Shadow House:http://amzn.to/1tnREoA

 

Today with Matt Johnson

I’m interviewing the authors who will be at the Tenby Book Fair, http://bit.ly/27XORTh, the first event of the Tenby Arts Festival:  http://bit.ly/24eOVtl. The initial interview was with Rebecca Bryn: http://bit.ly/1XYWbtF . The second was with Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/1P6zDQh. Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing them all and I’ll also be showcasing the publishers who will be in attendance.

Today I’m really pleased to be chatting with  Matt Johnson,who tells a fascinating story.

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Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? How long have you been writing?

Write what you know. I served for a little under twenty-five years in the Army and then in the Metropolitan Police working in a number of specialisms and departments. In terms of exposure, my career spanned a time that saw my involvement in a number of high profile incidents. For example, I attended the Regents Park bombing in 1982 and, in 1984, I escorted my mortally wounded colleague, WPC Yvonne Fletcher to hospital.

Unfortunately, my career came to an abrupt end when I was diagnosed with PTSD. I was referred for counselling and initially found expressing myself very difficult – I would be overcome by emotion. To help my progress, my counsellor suggested I try recording my experiences, emotions and feelings in writing, and then bring my notes to be discussed at sessions. One day, many months later, she commented how much she enjoyed my writing and ‘had I ever considered writing a book?’

I hadn’t, and at the time had no desire to do so. But, several years later, with my police career over and my personal circumstances having changed, I pulled those notes from a drawer and started to weave them into a novel. And so, to answer the question, I am very knew to creative writing. Wicked Game is my first book.

What is it about being an author that you particularly enjoy?

Many things. I’ve always been very self-motivated and have been equally happy working as a member of a team or as an individual. But, I now find that I do like working on my own, setting my own deadlines and managing my own time. I enjoy research, learning about new things and brushing up on gaps in my knowledge. I enjoy the moment the words start to flow, that realisation that you are ‘in the groove’ and the story is unfolding, sometimes faster than I can type. I often lose track of time, forget to eat and have been known to write into the early hours.

All that said, what I most enjoy is the eventual interaction with readers that the book produces, particularly when it comes to meeting and having the chance to chat.

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them? 

I was motivated to write fiction after reading a book on creative writing. I recall reading the expression ‘show don’t tell’. The explanation discussed the use of words to enhance reader experience but for me this struck a chord. I realised that to really explain to readers how service men and women are affected by PTSD I would be wasting my time writing just another book on the subject that ‘told’ people. I hoped that, through the medium of fiction, I might be able to show people and to help understanding.

Are there misconceptions that people have about your book?  If so, explain.

Some, yes, but from the reviews it appears that many have overcome them. The main misconception is that Wicked Game is a ‘boys only’ book, as it is a military/police thriller. But readers have discovered that it is much more than that, it is a story about family, secrets, friendship and coming together to face a threat. I’ve been so please to read the comments of readers who have said that the book has delivered so much more than they first expected.

wicked game

What process did you go through to get your book published?

When I finished my first draft I did the usual thing and sent a synopsis to a few agents. Having failed to secure any interest I self published through KDP Amazon. The book did surprisingly well and I was enjoying the pocket money. Then, an author working in Afghanistan with the Chinook force stumbled upon a soldier reading my book on his kindle. He asked what the book was and decided to download it himself. He liked it and decided to recommend me to his literary agent. With a few months I was in London signing with Watson-Little Ltd and it was they who secured the publishing deal.

Where can we find your book?

In e-book form, Wicked Game is available on Amazon, Kobo, Ibookstore, Nook etc. In paperback it’s available in Waterstones, WH Smith, Hive, Amazon and through many independent book shops.

For signed copies, I’m supporting Book-ish of Crickhowell who were the winner of the Wales and west independent book shop of the year 2016. Order from Bookish and they will call me in to sign a personalised copy for you.

A sequel to Wicked Game, called ‘Deadly Game’ is scheduled for publication Spring 2017.

You will also find Wicked Game on sale at a number of literary events this year.

I’m at Crickhowell and Berwick Literary Festivals, Tenby Book Fair and Bristol CrimeFest. I will also be touring with the Orenda Author Roadshow.

Wicked Game, Published by Orenda Books, had been long-listed for the CWA John Creasy Debut Dagger Award 2016.

Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk:  http://amzn.to/1TJuMGP

You can find Matt here:

Facebook: http://bit.ly/1XgfZd6

Twitter: http://bit.ly/22xJcPN

My Review of Best Seller: A Tale Of Three Writers by Terry Tyler

 

Best Seller: A Tale Of Three Writers

 

I gave Best Seller: A Tale Of Three Writers 5*out of 5

The Blurb:

Three women, one dream: to become a successful author.

Eden Taylor has made it—big time. A twenty-three year old with model girl looks and a book deal with a major publisher, she’s outselling the established names in her field and is fast becoming the darling of the media.

Becky Hunter has money problems. Can she earn enough from her light-hearted romance novels to counteract boyfriend Alex’s extravagant spending habits, before their rocky world collapses?

Hard up factory worker Jan Chilver sees writing as an escape from her troubled, lonely life. She is offered a lifeline—but fails to read the small print…

In the competitive world of publishing, success can be merely a matter of who you know—and how ruthless you are prepared to be to get to the top.

BEST SELLER is a novella of 40k words (roughly half as long as an average length novel), a slightly dark, slightly edgy drama with a twist or three in the tale.

 

One of the most outstanding features of any of Terry Tyler’s book is her ability to create rounded characters that come alive the first time they open their mouths.

Best Seller, a Tale of Three Writers, is no exception.  And the reader is also allowed to observe the inner dialogue, the immediate and complex emotions of these young women, Jan, Eden and Becky, so we are drawn right away into this novella.

There is a consistent and steady rise of tension through the twists and turns of the various strands of the plot. Each character is striving to attain recognition in different ways and with varying success.

 Not one to give spoilers all I will add is that this is a clever and knowledgeable insight to the publishing world. And,as usual, Terry Tyler’s writing style is reflective, skilful and absorbing.

 This is a short read that leaves the reader wanting to know more and I thoroughly recommend Best Seller.

 Oh, and by the way, the end will make your jaw drop.

 

Buying Links here:

Amazon.UK: http://amzn.to/1pKn1IH

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/1Rk6lBY

Thanks to All

Being off-line for five weeks I fully expected that I would drop out of sight. I’ve been amazed and grateful that the opposite has been the case. There are so many people I want to thank for their support

First of all, my publishers,http://www.honno.co.uk/     Gwasg Honno Press

Supportive and understanding as always. Thank you, Helena, Janet,  Caroline, Ali, Lesley. I’m working hard on the next book

And thank you to fellow Honno author Juliet Greenwood: https://twitter.com/julietgreenwood for her continued friendship and support

And my gratitude for the friendship and kindness of the people I have got to know through the world of blogging, writing & twitter etc.: Sally: https://twitter.com/sgc58,     Sue: https://twitter.com/SCVincent. Terry: ttps://twitter.com/TerryTyler4

And to Rosie:  https://twitter.com/rosieamber1

I’m a member of Rosie’s review team (#RBRT) and it’s lovely to discover how many times fellow reviewers have mentioned me while I’ve been absent. Grateful to all of you. And I see I have missed the launch of #TuesdayBookBlog ( https://twitter.com/search?src=typd&q=%23tuesdaybookblog ) and #MysteryNovember https://twitter.com/search?q=%20%23MysteryNovember.&src=typd) I have so much to catch up on. Thank you all. And, Rosie, I’ll be catching up on reviews this week.

And a big thank you for the continued support from https://twitter.com/LPOBryan
https://twitter.com/findnewbooks
https://twitter.com/YourNewBooks

Books Go Social

I’m also grateful to Debbie and her brilliant team at http://brookcottagebooks.blogspot.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/BrookCottageBks

Brookcottagebooks
I’ve just seen all the lovely reviews and posts she’s been promoting for my latest book on the book tour: http://amzn.to/1JzO3Jh. Wonderful!! Thanks Debbie.

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Not forgetting my dear friends from our ‘Semi-Colon’ writing group: Thorne Moore: https://www.facebook.com/thornemoorenovelist/?fref=ts and Alex Martin: https://www.facebook.com/alex.martin.3532507?fref=ts

And for her continued and valued  friendship over the years  (and help in all things)  – never more so than over the last few weeks – great mate and award winning children’s’ author, Sharon Tregenza:  https://www.facebook.com/sharontregenzabooks?fref=ts

There are so many others I’d like to thank. Among them are fellow writers and bloggers:
Olga: https://twitter.com/OlgaNM7

Jenny: https://twitter.com/JennyBurnley1

Christoph: https://twitter.com/CFFBooks

Georgia: https://twitter.com/GeorgiaRoseBook

Mary:https://twitter.com/marysmithwriter

Linda:https://twitter.com/lindaabbott55?lang=en-gb

Cathy:https://twitter.com/CathyRy

Alison: https://twitter.com/Alison_WiIliams

Hugh: https://twitter.com/RobertHughes05

As I’ve said, I’ve been offline and the above are the people I’ve seen the few times I managed to find WiFi. I’m sure there are more I’ve missed. I can only apologise and hope to make amends by sharing all their news in the near future whenever and wherever I can.

I’ll stop now – this is beginning to feel like one of those radio programmes where participants in shows ask if they can say hello to friends and family and “to all who know me”…

ROSIE’S BOOK REVIEW TEAM #RBRT

Rosie's Book Review team 1

My review of Broken Wings by Ian Welch

I’ve given this 3 out of 5 stars

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First, I would like to thank Rosie Amber and Ian Welch for providing me this book so I may bring you this review.
Broken Wings has a huge plot-line that spans over many years. I’ll put my thoughts down in a different way than I normally do by giving the gist of the story:
Lawrence Cranston, the eldest son of a poor family who live in Portsmouth in England just after WW2, has died in mysterious explosion. The father, Edward, drinks. The mother, Isabel, is struggling to keep a roof over the family’s head. Edward becomes terminally ill. The scene is set for him to make some monumental changes that will provide for the family when he dies and will also settle an old score. After his death, and following a certain incident, Isabel makes drastic changes for herself and the rest of the family. They move to Los Angeles but trouble follows them in many guises. Eventually Isabel moves back to England to face her past.
I’ve said no more than is in the book description on Amazon.

Okay … this is a storyline that covers many years and it’s an interesting one. It’s easy to see that there has been a lot of research carried out to get the setting correct and give a sense of place, both to the houses and the towns and cities that the characters move around in. And there are enough descriptions dropped in to also give a sense of the era.
My main problem is that there is no even pace within the book; sometimes there is a great deal of time spent on scenes that, in my opinion, could be shorter (such as when Isabel and Abby meet Selwyn Sainsbury. And then there are other scenes that I wanted to be longer, to be explored, to get an inner depth (such as when Edward is diagnosed with his illness and struggles to come to terms with it). Yet overall I thought there was too much crammed in. And I felt as though the author realised this as the phrase, ‘weeks flew by’, time flew by,’ etc. was constantly reiterated. I was just getting into a certain part of the plot when, as a reader I was forced to follow another storyline. Sometimes I felt that parts of the novel read as a synopsis.

Told from an omniscient third party point of view, it was interesting to see the viewpoints of the main characters Isabel and Edward with the odd chapters designated to the children, Frank, Phoebe, and Abby.

Although the frustrations that both Isabel and Edward struggle with is revealed in the inner dialogue of both, I wanted more from both of them; Edward’s fear as a man terminally ill, Isabel’s worry about how she would cope without him as a person, rather than cheerfully planning which part of Eleanor and Selwyn Sainsbury’s house she would live in.
I did feel that, sometimes, the dialogue of all the characters was quite stilted and there was often a hint of an American vernacular. But my main problem with the dialogue was with that of the youngest daughter, Abby. At the beginning of the book it was stated she was three but soon became five (and I re-read this part because I thought I’d missed time moving on – but no). Even so, either age, she spoke more as an adult than a child and this both irritated and made her unbelievable.

So … my final thoughts
This is a wonderful story but it feels rushed. There is far more to be explored with all the characters to give them all depth, to give them backgrounds that show the reader why they act as they do. To my mind it’s at least two books, maybe even a trilogy. There is certainly enough action and plot to take it over more than one book

The book would be stronger if more evenly paced

Perhaps another edit would iron out some of the minor formatting, repetition, grammar and punctuation problems?

And, lastly, I wasn’t keen on the title, Broken Wings. The phrase wasn’t brought in until the end of the story. The strength of this plot deserves a stronger title. But this might be me … I might have missed something.

Anyway, give it a try; I’d be interested to see what other readers think.

This book is available on:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/1K5TWdl

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/1MQwt5X

The Three Day Quote Challenge:

The Three Day Quote Challenge:

My thanks go to the wonderful Sally Cronin, blogger and writer extraordinaire,  who tagged me in this challenging (for me anyway!) challenge:

Sally G Cronin

Sally’s  blog is https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com
And for more information on her books listed here at Amazon please visit
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books/

Okay, the deal is, you share your favourite quote (even if written by you) and also inspire people.
The Rules:

As always these challenges come with a few provisos and here they are.

Thank the person who nominated you. Share your favourite quotes (even if written by you)  that inspire you and could inspire other people   Pass it on by tagging some poor unsuspecting person  that you admire (bearing in mind you’ll want them to be your friend afterwards. Hah!)  Do we have to post three quotes, or one quote every day for three days? Not sure but mine are all here today…

My Quotes:

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

— John Steinbeck

download (7)

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’

— Toni Morrison

download (8)

And finally: – a list of quotes – just to prove I know who I am, where I belong – and that I’m always right.

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Now I’m tagging the following three lovely ladies – only if they fancy doing this – no pressure – really!!:
Thorne Moore: http://www.thornemoore.co.uk/: Author of the brilliant Honno novels: Time for Silence: http://amzn.to/1TkRFll and Motherlove: http://amzn.to/1gnpnsc. Also available at  http://www.honno.co.uk/

Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/1Co3ItD:  Author of  the excellent Katherine Wheel Books:  Daffodils  http://amzn.to/1JTFdUZ  and Peace Lilt: http://amzn.to/1Mebk26

 Sharon Tregenza: http://bit.ly/1dLEsSf: Author of the superb children’s’ middle grade books: Shiver Stone,  http://amzn.to/1COq01b – also available at http://www.fireflypress.co.uk/ – author of Tarrantula Tide: http://amzn.to/1HfqYpC

And if too busy to accept the challenge, ladies here’s something else for you to take as a thank you. Have a drink on me

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Wednesday’s Interview with #Honno: Today With Janet Thomas, Freelance Editor for Honno & Editor for Firefly Press

Today I’m really pleased to be chatting with Janet Thomas, Editor for Honno and Firefly Press.

Janet-Thomas

How did you come to be an editor?

I studied English at university, which taught you to analyse writing and also how to explain your views of a text, which isn’t always easy. I did it because I loved the subject, I had no idea what I was going to do afterwards. After college I got a job as a secretary to an editor at Hodder and Stoughton, and worked my way to editor from there. All the editors I was working for were willing to explain their decisions, etc, so I learned from them. I was very lucky in who I worked for, but I was also incredibly lucky to have support from my family so I could live in London on a tiny salary. After doing that for a while, I wanted to move back home so I went freelance, which suits me as I don’t really fit a big business environment.

Now (years and years later!) I work as a freelance editor, I am on the Honno management committee and I’m Firefly Editor. Honno has been a fantastic part of my life since 2001 — I get to work with the brilliant staff and committee and to work on some wonderful books with authors I think the world of (like you, Judith, though I’m not your editor). Last year Penny Thomas, Firefly Publisher, and I set up Firefly Press, specialising in children’s books, and that’s been a whirlwind but such an exciting project. Penny’s extraordinary. We’ll have 17 books by the end of 2015, and each one makes me burst with pride. Small publishing is very exciting because it’s really personal. The downside is that we never have enough money or time for all we want to do!

My great enthusiasm is for stories. I love working on fiction and children’s books — that’s where my heart is. Editorial is a lovely job, but like anything it has its negative sides. Nobody knows what will sell — you have to have (or fake!) tremendous belief in your own opinion, and when you have times when you lose faith in yourself, you can’t get the job done. Juggling all the different books is hard, and it’s always horrible to have to turn down books you know a writer has put their heart and soul into — but we can’t do every promising book, we only have limited resources. I have to tell myself that I can only do justice to the authors I have taken on if I don’t overstretch the press. That’s what I want to do — to do justice to each book in every element of how we publish it. I’m not saying I achieve that at all, but it’s the aim.

What do you look for in a manuscript?

It’s really hard to put into words. You know that feeling where you only meant to read a page and you’ve read ten pages before you could stop yourself, because the story pulled you in? I love being surprised. As a reader, I love an author who does whatever they do full-bloodedly, whether it’s escapist entertainment or tiny eccentric stories or a literary epic.

Generally, the mistake I see most authors making is trying to stuff too many good ideas into one book, and ending up not doing justice to any of them.  Sometimes that’s because they don’t have enough confidence in their ideas, so they keep adding more. Sometimes it’s simply that structuring a novel is hard. I think it’s one area where an editor can really help. And sometimes I think authors get caught up in the sheer fun of making stuff up and just get a bit carried away!

Write a book you would love to read. Imagine yourself in an enormous shop or library, as a reader what are you naturally drawn to? Write that, and then find the right publisher for it, rather than trying to second-guess what a publisher wants and copying it. Write what you love, whether it’s genre or literary, fantasy or historical — stories connect to the reader’s heart more than their head and you can’t generalise about how to do that, but it’s more likely to happen if you are writing something that you feel passionate and brave about. A story that people will lose themselves in, that they’ll love and remember — and talk about. Almost all sales for new writers come from readers recommending books to each other. To succeed your book needs to inspire such passion in a reader that they must tell their friends all about you.

What are your tips for submissions?

All the obvious stuff really. Read the agent or publisher’s website, see how they want work submitted, and do that. Do your best with the synopsis, but don’t agonise over it — nobody says, ‘Brilliant sample chapters, poor synopsis, let’s say no.’

Your first job is to get the reader to care. Give us a character and situation we can invest in, start focussed on one storyline, and once we’re invested, then you’ve got us for the rest of the book — then you can expand the story, build the world and weave in the other plotlines, etc.

s well as starting the plot, your beginning tells the reader what kind of story it is. You need to have the confidence to say to the reader, by how you begin: ‘This is the kind of book this is. If you don’t like this kind of book, you should stop reading now. If you like this kind of book, you’re going to LOVE this one.’

What does an editor do?

At a big publisher an editor is the middle person, working with the author and making sure the production, design, accounts, contracts, marketing, PR and sales departments all know what they need to do and when. At a small press, the editor has cover many more of those areas themselves. It will vary from small press to small press which ones.  Generally you don’t have anyone to delegate to, so you do everything from the big business decisions like which books to do, right down to the admin, masses and masses of admin!

Honno’s an established firm with a staff of four and a management committee of nine volunteers. I simply help with some of the admin for the meetings, attend meetings, take part in some of the grant bids (Honno is supported by the Welsh Books Council) and edit a couple of books a year to help Caroline Oakley, Honno’s editor, with her huge workload. Most of Honno’s authors are Caroline’s. It’s a privilege to be part of it.

Firefly Press is new and is Penny and me, with several people helping us with marketing, particularly at the moment the brilliant Megan Farr. It’s a completely different game from working as an editor for someone else. We read the scripts, select them, plan them, book the printers, commission the covers, get everything designed, send out review copies, organise events, store books in every spare corner of our houses, etc etc, and do all the admin. Masses of admin!

All that work has to be done before the unsolicited manuscripts are read. It’s a constant battle to find any time to read them. I have to prioritise the books we are doing. We’ve just come to the difficult decision that we’re not going to accept any more submissions at Firefly for the next six months, as our list is full till the end of 2016 and we’ve had so many submissions I’ve not been able to keep on top of managing them and replying to everyone. I apologise very deeply to anyone still waiting to hear. We will still read everything we’ve already been sent thoroughly.

I think an editor’s job in the editorial process is to help the author but at the same time represent the reader, the person who paid their money to read this book. Writing is hard work and sometimes things get fudged when the writer is tired, so it’s my job to find those points in the story and push the author to come up with a better idea. It’s not my job to tell them what to write, only which bits to look at again. Or sometimes the writer is too close to the material to see that they haven’t said what they think they’ve said, or they have a little tic that they don’t notice that they repeat too often. It’s picking up things like that. And then there’s all the issues of what books to do, when to do them, how many to print, what market to aim for…

I think if you get useful advice, you know it straight away. Sometimes you might have to compromise on smaller issues, but if any advice will make your story something you never intended, that goes against why you were writing it in the first place, don’t do it. Even if you have to pull out of the deal, don’t do it. I think that when advice is right, you already knew it really, you were just too tired or scared to do it. Sometimes an author needs an editor to give them permission to tell the story they want to tell.

Any tips for building a career as a writer?

As I say, I don’t think you should worry about what a publisher wants till at least you’ve finished the first draft. But I will say that you make life easier for a publisher if you choose a type of story and concentrate on that at least for a few books, to build a readership. Sometimes writers feel they should be able to turn their hand to anything, and I meet writers who want to show me a fantasy novel, a historical novel, a children’s book and a radio play, and that’s great, don’t get me wrong. But thinking as a business person, a writer who chooses a type of story to specialise in, and builds a reputation in that, writing books at consistent intervals, is more likely to do well in the current trade. But if that’s not who you are as a writer, then you must trust who you are.

The best advice is the hardest — keep going. Tell your stories.

Wednesday’s Interview with #Honno Authors: Today with Margaret Redfern

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1: Please introduce yourself and your book to help our readers get to know you.

 A: I’m a Yorkshire woman by birth. ‘New Welsh’, to use Gwyn ‘Alf’ Williams’ expression, by adoption, but have been fairly itinerant throughout my life: as well as Yorkshire and west Wales, I have lived in Lancashire, Dorset, southern Turkey and, past and present, Lincolnshire.

The ‘Storyteller’ books reflect this nomadic tendency.

 

Q2: Please explain how you came to be a writer, what inspired you to write your book(s) and how long it took.

A: The earliest so-very-serious writing was in my early teens. I was besotted by the 1960s TV series, ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’, and my adolescent heart was ripped between Captain Lee Crane (David Hedison) and Admiral Harriman Nelson (Richard Basehart). I wrote each episode in fiction format. No, I no longer have these early efforts.

B: Years later, a not-that-young first-time mother, I started writing for IPC magazines and, later, Bauer Publications’ new magazine ‘Bella’. Then, the fiction editor of Woman’s Weekly was the redoubtable, amazing Linda O’ Byrne who encouraged all her writers to develop character, plot, sub-plot, sub-characters, setting, style. She had a super-efficient red pen and downright approach to the ‘too many words’ syndrome – especially of the polysyllabic variety – exactly what I needed. I still have to be on my guard but she armed me. She was head-hunted for ‘Bella’, and persuaded me I could write short stories just as easily as long. She was right, and I enjoyed a modest success as a writer of Rom Fic serials and short stories for a number of years.

C: Years later, now in west Wales, I started writing again – first for the MA in Creative Writing (Trinity-St-David’s University of Wales) and then for Honno.

D: Inspiration? Comes in many forms. For example, in my early 30s I was an assiduous jogger. I could think through possible plots whilst jogging. One afternoon, loping along beside a field of barley, I decided I would have a blond heroine and explode the stereotype. I gave her a red Kawasaki to ride and freedom to roam. I guess this tendency has continued – Storyteller’s Granddaughter, for example, I was still exploding stereotypes and clichés. In this case, the girl-masquerading-as-boy scenario.

E: How long does it take? Too long! I cannot write a rough draft and then go back to ‘polish’. It has to be painstakingly re-drafted and re-drafted throughout. Also, I spend far too long on research.

 Q3: What did you enjoy most about creating this book?

  1. This series of books? Research! Actually, this means not only researching books and internet info but boots-on-exploring, meeting and talking to chance-met folk who contribute ‘gifts’ of unexpected information, building up a disconnected portfolio of ideas until all explodes and settles into ‘the story’. That’s the thrill. Then comes the slog of writing…

 

Q4: What facets of your life, both personal and professional, are woven into your book, if any? 

  1. For ‘Flint’ I am indebted to Robert Evans of ‘Bragod’, crwth-player extraordinaire, and his incredible knowledge of both medieval music and the medieval world.
  2. Storyteller’s Granddaughter: I lived and worked in southern Turkey in the early 1970s – a different world from now – and it was then I first learned of the great Sufi mystic, the Mevlana. His philosophy has stayed with me.
  3. In all my books, place is of great importance so travelling/research becomes ‘justified expense’. I admit, also, to using a camera as much as notebooks. For example, in ‘The Heart Remembers’, a chapter begins by describing the sun setting on a late winter’s afternoon between dark clouds and dark sky. I had rushed along to Bloxholm Woods (Lincs) especially to observe, note-take and photograph. Similarly, the 800 year old coppiced lime tree really does exist and yes, I wept salty tears when I hugged one of its multiple trunks.
  4. Is this ‘personal’ or simply observation?

 

Q5. How did you get published?

  1. Years back, during the IPC days, I entered a competition run by Woman’s Weekly. I didn’t win but Linda (O’Byrne) phoned me with an offer to buy the MS to be published in the then-monthly WW fiction series. After that, I regularly submitted MS. A number were serialised and sold on to Robert Hale.
  2. During the MA days, I occasionally had poetry published in Roundyhouse; wrote an article on Bob Evans that was published in Planet, and of which I was very proud; submitted (and had published) autobiographical ‘childhood’ stories (part of the MA coursework) to Down Your Way, a Yorkshire magazine that is affiliated with The Dalesman. I still write occasional pieces for them. Living in west Wales, I became (and still am) fascinated by the Gentleman Antiquarian, Richard Fenton whose ‘Tour of Pembrokeshire’ was published in 1810. I spent many happy years toddling around Pembrokeshire in his company, and subsequently had the pieces I wrote regularly published in ‘Pembrokeshire Life’.
  3. Now, I am also published in the SLHA (Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology).
  4. Honno? Isn’t it strange? I can hardly remember. The first five chapters of ‘Flint’ were written for my MA dissertation and I seem to remember I submitted them to a couple of the Welsh publishers before they were taken up by Honno. There was no official acceptance until I had to ask, ‘are you going to publish it?’ I feel I’ve been part of the Honno family for ever.

 

Q6: Did you have any surprises or hiccups along the way during the book writing and/or publishing process?

  1. Hiccups? Losing my way, usually. That awful moment of realisation that you’ve reached stalemate, it’s just not working/credible/in character…realisation often comes during the most mundane of domestic chores, and then the unwilling acceptance of scrapping chunks of text.
  2. Surprises? Many. The elation of discovering another unexpected detail, another aspect of history, another setting, another writer, dead or alive, who becomes a part of me…Jehan Iperman, Ibn Battuta, long since dead: Peter Brears, very much alive.
  3. I am not a historian so I am in a state of constant astonishment when researching. The Black Death supposedly ‘changed the western world’ but that world was already changing in the 1330s, and it was a very different world from that of Flint (1277).

 

 Q7: What one thing did you wish you’d known before you started this project?

A How to go about historical research! As I say, I am not a trained historian. I suppose ‘I’m getting there’. SGD, for example, set in the 1330s because this was the best time-scale to accommodate generations – but I hadn’t registered that this was an ‘in-between time’ in Turkish history, ie between the Selcuk and the Ottoman Empires, and very little is written about it. Serendipity came in the form of Kate Flett’s edition of the CUP History of Turkey. Would I change the dates? No. In fact, just as well I didn’t know anything about the 1330s before I started.

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 Q8: You’re a fly on the wall when readers are discussing your book.   What would you hope to hear them say about it?

  1. That they think it’s great, of course! No, seriously, that they recognise themes, subtleties, shifts in point-of-view, language difficulties in all three books – after all, this is a melting-pot world, linguistically speaking as well. Would anyone notice, for example, the boy-narrator in Flint uses non-Latinate vocab?
  2. I’d hope, as well, that they might want to look up the Mevlana, of Jehann Iperman, or Ibn Battuta, or any of the places referred to. In the latest book, the settings are Venice, Ypres, Lincolnshire, Wales, and identifiable, but 1330s.

 

Q9: Tell us one thing about you that most people don’t know or would surprise them.

  1. Crikey! I have two heads? OK. I’m a cynic who belongs to no religion – doesn’t mean to say I have none – but given that all three ‘Storyteller’ books bang on about religion, I suppose that’s possibly a surprising thing.

Q10: What single piece of advice would you give new authors?

  1. The same advice that was given to me: write every day and don’t go anywhere without a notebook and pens. Er – no – I don’t always follow that advice. I do carry a notebook, though, and jot down ideas and impressions and vocab as it filters through the brain cells. If you don’t, it will vanish. Also, not ideal advice to give to a new wordsmith, but I use a handy little camera to record places/info etc

 

 Q11: Share a short summary of a typical day in your life with us please.

  1. Do I have ‘typical days’? Get up, feed the cat…

 

 Q12:  Describe where you do most of your writing. What would I see if I was sitting beside you?

  1. Initially, not sitting beside me but walking – not talking! You’d have to stop-and-start while I made notes. HB pencil preferred. Back home, the initial ideas are handwritten (using that nicely sharpened HB pencil) until the lap top is fired up. And that moves around the house. Quite often, I like to sit at the dining room table in the conservatory until sunlight-stops-play. I inherited my mother’s gate-legged 1930s Jacobean oak furniture, now stripped back to light oak, but it’s where I used to do my homework when I was a Grammar School girl back in the 1960s. Sometimes I shift down to the breakfast bar in the kitchen – not ideal but the cat likes it. Or – as now – in the study space upstairs, conveniently close to the Broadband point.

 Q13: What’s your motto or favourite quote you like to live by?

  1. A couple, and not dissimilar. The first I came across in my early teens, when H G Wells’ ‘Mr Polly’ was on the syllabus. ‘If you don’t like your life you can change it’.
  2. Then there’s Jalal al Din Rumi, the Mevalana, quoted by Dafydd in SGD:

 

‘Come, come, come again,

Whoever you may be

Come again, even though

You may be a pagan or a fire worshipper.

 

Our Centre is not one of despair.

Come again, even if you have

Violated your vows a hundred times.

Come again.

 

How are those for comfort and encouragement? I suppose ‘J’y suis’ is not far behind.

 

Q14: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us in closing such as your website, an imminent book launch or what you’re working on presently?

  1. Well, The Heart Remembers, the last of the Storyteller books, is due to be published in August. I may be at the Penfro Book Festival in September
  2. Website? ‘In progress’, as they say, but it’s getting there.
  3. Similarly, I’ve Good Intentions to start an Author’s Page on Facebook
  4. Currently, I’m torn between two writing projects. I want to crack on with a biography of Richard Fenton and his three sons. The second son was first curate, then vicar, in Lincolnshire so I am strategically placed, so to speak. It helps sugar the in-exile pill. One of the reasons for creating a website is to up-load the P Life articles, photos, illustrations written while following the Richard Fenton Itinerary. I can include maps as well. Otherwise, it’s a Publisher’s Nightmare!
  5. The second project is one that’s been simmering for a while. Again, non-fiction so another departure from what Honno has published. Writers, both male and female, who were famous, household names in their day and now largely forgotten. I want to associate them with particular places. So it’s what I love: getting to know new people-writers; research, both book-bound and physical; lots of lifting of stones to see what scurries out from underneath; travel, exploration…bliss! And reminding readers of amazing, astonishing people who are now forgotten writers.

 

 

 

My Interview with the Talented and Successful Best Selling Children’s Author Sharon Tregenza.

 Today, I’m pleased to be talking to best selling children’s author Sharon Tregenza.

Quick introduction, Sharon; tell us who you are.

 

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I’m a Children’s author and a proud Cornish woman living in a converted chapel in Box near Bath.

 

 Why do you write and when did you start writing?

 

I write because I simply love writing. I started over 20 years ago when I lived in the Middle East. I wrote articles, stories and poetry for the newspapers. I started off writing anything and everything they asked me to but soon realised it was the children’s stuff I loved. I wrote the children’s section of the inflight magazine for Emirates Airlines too.

 

 

What is your most memorable moment when writing?

 

Winning the Kelpies Prize. The three short-listed entries were presented at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I won a big cash prize and instant publication for my MG Mystery “Tarantula Tide”. Friends and family had travelled with me so there was a lot of partying that night. Brilliant moment. 

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Please describe your latest book.

The Shiver Stone” is another MG Mystery set in beautiful Pembrokeshire. It involves mysterious strangers, hunting accidents and a stolen dog – there’s plenty of mystery and danger and a sprinkle of humour too.

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What are you currently working on?

I’ve just sent my latest children’s book to my agent. That one is called “The Jewelled Jaguar” and set in Cornwall. There are dangerous sinkholes, Aztec knives and some very nasty characters for my young heros to catch.

I shall now work on two books simultaneously. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out. J

Sharon’s book,“The Shiver Stone”  can be found on:

Amazon,co.uk:

http://amzn.to/1DxeMCV

You can see more of Sharon on her website:

Website: sharontregenza.com

And contact her on:

Email:sharontregenza@gmail

http://www.facebook.com/sharontregenzabooks

twitter.com/SharonTregenza