Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Joys of Re-reading


I’ve always been an avid re-reader, but it occurred to me how much more re-reading is possible now than it was when I first went back to revisit a William story and discovered the joys of adventuring through the same territory – discovering things I’d never noticed before, things I’d forgotten.

These days with so much available online at the click of a button, it’s not just books that are easy re-read candidates, but stories, articles, letters, random accounts of odd experiences; things that would rarely have been contenders for re-reading. And of course ‘Joys’ is not always the word. When a lot of time has passed, things can appear in very different lights. Attitudes change, cultures change, the written word dates along with everything else. Re-reading can be a salutary experience full of more surprises than seem possible.

My latest re-reading venture (other than my well-thumbed stack of favourite books) was this series of interviews I did some years ago with a diverse group of SciFi authors. 



Friday, 2 November 2018

#SFF at Waterstones Hull, 10 November

Among her many talents, member Shelli Horst runs Humber SFF, a group which brings speculative fiction authors to Hull, 2017's City of Culture. 

This time she's blagged her way into Waterstones bookshop to host a triple author event:

Daniel Godfrey, published by Titan, writes near-future SF, so near-future it's difficult to stop the hair rising on the nape of your neck. 

Ren Warom, published by Tor, Apex and Fox Spirit, writes in the dystopian world of cyber-punk, among other sub-genres.

RJ Barker, published by Orbit, leads readers into the grimdark epic fantasy world of assassins and magic.

The event on Saturday 10th November is free, but seating is limited. Book your place HERE.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

‘Beta’ the Devil You Know

I love the excitement of a good book on its first read, but I’m an inveterate re-reader. It’s so much safer at the end of a long day to settle down with a reliable favourite; either a book I know or one by an author on my ‘authors worth reading’ list. With no external stimulus, I might never read another new book. Recognising this trait in myself, I tried joining reading clubs, but they never worked out. I swayed between cherry picking and forcing myself to keep up, and eventually after ploughing through a couple of books that didn’t spark my interest at all I gave up.

Then a few years ago, I found the answer. I began beta reading new books for a publisher with an eclectic list. The variety has been amazing. Have I enjoyed them all? No, but I count the real turkeys on the fingers of one hand, and I’ve encountered some amazing new authors.

From last year’s new offerings here are two books I’d never have found otherwise. They’re as different from each other as the proverbial chalk and cheddar but have added two new names to my ‘authors worth reading’ list.

Mary Brown’s I Used to Be is a debut novel from an author in her 80s. She got the idea for it whilst listening to William Golding at Reading Literature Festival several decades ago. My review is HERE.

Walt Pilcher’s Everybody Shrugged is a clever (and very funny) parody on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged – well, that’s the way I saw it. Rand does not get a mention. My review is HERE.

Left to my own devices I would not have picked up either book. Thank heavens for beta reading!

Friday, 19 October 2018

#Sci-Fi on the Humber - World-Building Workshop

Being a writer isn't all starving in damp garrets hunched over hot laptops. Often we are asked to cascade our skills by leading writing workshops. One of the group's newer members is doing just that on 27 October at The Ropewalk, Barton on Humber. Now is the time to grab the final few tickets.

Shellie Horst is a writer of short and long fiction within the Fantasy, Steampunk and Science Fiction subgenres of Speculative Fiction, contributes to online magazine, SFFWorld, and has written for The Bookseller. She runs HumberSFF, and is to be seen on panels during the wider community's conferences.

The workshop will focus on world-building environmental surroundings for characters to interact with by re-imagining the Ropewalk building in various guises. The techniques used will be transferable to any genre, a skill needed for all characters, past, present and future. 

Further Information: Fathom Writers

Booking is essential: 
Phone: 01652 660380

Saturday, 13 October 2018

How to write your novel...or not!

Phil Collins sang about not being able to hurry love. You can’t hurry plots, either. Well, that’s not strictly true. You might be able to put a plot together in three minutes flat, but fleshing out your characters, their interaction and how they affect the overall story will take longer. Sometimes much longer. Some how-to-write-your-novel books make this process seem quick and easy, but that isn't the whole story (pun intended).

There are hundreds of books about how to plot your novel, together with timelines on character arcs and the like. I have never liked the by X%, your character should be doing this and your story should be at this point approach because it seems too mechanical to me. Flowing water is not a ten second soundbite repeated ad infinitum. However, because I was interested in the concept, having never done it, I did attempt to write by formula and ended up being unable to enjoy my writing for a year or write anything I felt could be read by anybody else. 

 
It’s a confidence thing and very few authors - by which I mean 95% of us - have so little confidence in their writing that they will try something new just in case it throws up a different approach that they like. Such open-mindedness is healthy, but what it highlighted for me was that I knew, either by practise or instinct, that my method of writing worked best for me.

While I do accept that there has to be structure to the book you are writing, I also believe that sticking rigidly to a you must do this by this time approach might teach you a lot about how to put x thousand words a day on paper/keyboard but you may also end up with a confused, bloated, perhaps stilted book that has no flow or logic to it.

So, what do I advise? There are so many ‘how-to’ books on writing out there that lead this cynical writer to believe that some do and others teach. That said, many how-to authors write fiction as well, so my first advice would be to read the reviews of those books and then download a couple and judge for yourself. I am assuming (dangerous) that these authors write their fiction using the guidelines they champion in their how-to books. If so, check that out while you are reading the book. Does it grab you? Are the characters fully formed, true to themselves or generic and shallow? Does the progress of the action seem forced or, in the down chapters (can’t have ups without downs), are you bored?

Then read a book you truly enjoy - it might easily be one written by a how-to author. I am thinking Stephen King here. How does that author hit the highs and lows? And, most important, even vital, is the rule that if you don’t agree with what they say, it does not mean they are right and you are wrong. I am again thinking Stephen King and his rule about adverbs. Chips/fries can be very bland without a sprinkling of salt. 


I have always put my instinctual approach to writing down to the fact I am musical and know a lot about structures of symphonies and the like, having studied the subject since I was a child. The great Edward Elgar taught himself to write symphonies by copying a Beethoven symphony structure, down to the number of bars and how each theme was developed. It worked for him. Deconstructing a book you admire might work for you.


You can read more about April Taylor here:

 
 

Saturday, 6 October 2018

The Self Destructive Urge to Tell the Tale

The writer Maya Angelou talks about the compulsion to tell the tale. It’s something that most writers will relate to. But there is a downside …

Would you swap your life’s fabric for a five minute opportunity? Hornsea Writer, Penny Grubb explores the issue HERE.


Sunday, 23 September 2018

The Anatomy of a Book Cover

There's no keeping a good woman down, and across on her blog Linda Acaster has been writing about the more esoteric elments to consider when constructing a DIY cover: How A Book Cover Does Its Job


Finding suitable images is the least of it. But there are plenty of tips and links to help, and no need to own image manipulation software, expensive or otherwise.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

New Cover: Scent of the Böggel-Mann

Linda Acaster is revealing a new cover for her stand-alone short, Scent of the Böggel-Mann.

The blurb has been updated, too:
Some lots are best left in the auction room.
Elaine haunts auctions held in crumbling country mansions, dreaming of a find to make her and Gary rich. A plain wooden shipping trunk has no key to its iron-banded locks but is far heavier than it should be. What might it contain?

Some lots are best left in the auction room.

Mainstream publishers regularly change the covers of their titles: to re-brand the author, or a series, or to edge a title further into its genre ‘look’. Scent of the Böggel-Mann is aligned with the Horror genre, something readers should pick up in a single glance. It could hardly be Chicklit, could it? And it would make a very odd cover for a Crime/Mystery novel.

This is how covers work. They act as fast tags to the type of story to be found within. With a book cover, 'a picture paints a thousand words' has never been more true. 
The title is on wide distribution at an entry level price of 99p/99c, available from Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, Nook, and Smashwords for all formats.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Reading and Writing Historicals

What are you reading?

Lately, Linda Acaster has been reading "faction". This is the art of fictionalising recorded facts about real people, usually now dead, to give an insight into their life and times, written in such a way as to challenge the reader to discern the fact from the fiction. 

It's not a sub-genre of the historical novel that she's normally drawn to. As she maintains in her blogpost, no matter the amount of research undertaken, no writer is going to get all the details correct.

But does it matter? And why the sudden interest? Check out her blogpost to see if you agree.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Launching the Last Book in a Trilogy.


For the past three years, Hornsea Writers member, Stuart Aken, has written a novel each year for his Generation Mars series. The words ‘science fiction’ may put off some potential readers, but the series is much more about relationships and human potential; there’s even some romance in there. This year, he’s finished the trilogy with ‘Return to Dust’. 

The series follows the lives, trials and triumphs of a group of selected individuals, initially called the Chosen, sent to Mars to begin a human breeding programme in the hope of preventing the specie’s extinction on Earth due to catastrophic climate change. Scientific advances, and those in the technology that follows such progress, ensure they have success in their prime purpose. But it comes at significant cost and involves many battles.

There’s social struggle here, the consequences of greed and selfishness, the injustices of gender and wealth inequality, and the rewards of truth and compassion. The first two books, Blood Red Dust and War Over Dust, are based mostly on the red planet and deal with the setting up of a colony in difficult circumstances, the expansion such opportunities inevitably provide for the wealthy and commercially acquisitive, and the conflicts that inevitably occur when the profit motive envies the idealists. This final book looks at the threat of overreliance on technology and sees the settlers returning to an Earth much changed but at least habitable. Here they face new challenges and must deal with an enemy powerful enough to threaten the existence of all life in the solar system, and maybe the entire universe; an enemy they’ve unwittingly created.

Return to Dust’ is due to be launched in both digital and paperback versions at the science fiction, fantasy and gaming convention, Fantasticon 2018, in Cleethorpes, on 1st and 2nd of September. Stuart Aken will be there, helping on the bookstore and signing copies of the new book. He’ll also take part in a couple of on stage discussion groups relating to writing and the creation of fictive worlds. Why not pop along and join in the fun? You can get tickets here, or just come on the day and pay on the door. As Stuart would say, ‘Enjoy!’

For more information on the series, and the author’s other work, visit his website, here.