March is for indies*

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Indieathon is back! This time it’s being organised by Ninja Book Box, who have a Youtube video about it here, and takes place over a week (8th-15th March) rather than a month. (Last time round I only found out about it halfway through March, so this is less of an adjustment than one might think.)

Anyway, I’m planning to join in, in a somewhat desultory way – by which I mean that I’ll be reading a little bit more than usual for a not-writing fortnight, and what I read will come from independent publishers and self-publishers, and will appear in due course as an #indiechallenge review.

The picture might look like one of those carefully curated TBR piles, but it’s really just a collection of books that I’ve been meaning to get around to reading that happened to be in an accessible place on the bookshelves. I need to check some of them to make sure that they really are independent publishers, and not just some imprint of one of the Big Five. And of course The Art of Lent is going to take me rather more than a week, otherwise there isn’t really much point to it.

Also in the middle of that week is the London Book Fair, which I will be attending courtesy of my Selfies Award shortlisting. The awards ceremony is in the afternoon of Tuesday 12th March, and I may also be appearing on a panel in the morning, talking about ‘the joys and perils of self-publishing’, in the morning. Both events are in the Author HQ.

 

*Now is probably not the moment to confess that I’ve always found the term ‘indie’ insufferably twee, is it? Oh well. There isn’t really anything else that covers ‘self-publishers, plus independent-but-not-necessarily-small-presses’, and ‘independent’ would sound insufferably pompous.

train lines: a writing exercise

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When writing time is scarce, it helps to have some sort of ritual, something to mark the transition from ‘not writing time’ to ‘now we’re writing’.

Joanne Harris starts the day with a Tweet about her Shed. But I don’t have a shed, and I know that if I were to look at Twitter then I’d lose the rest of the train journey – and my writing time. So instead, I write a line in the back of my exercise book about my train, or about where it’s going.

Some of them come out better than others; but that’s not the point. It’s the writing of a single line, a single line that doesn’t matter at all, that bypasses the bit of my brain that thinks I can’t write the ones that do matter.

I thought I’d share a few of them:

The 0729 toils through a burning desert, over sand dunes a mile high, through strange landscapes that might only be a mirage (but best not to bank on it). Keep the window closed at all times.

The 1742 stands still while the world moves around it. Its passengers run, run, run on the spot to turn the earth.

The 0729 runs between rock strata, and chips of quartz glitter in its path.

The 1742 stops at a weathered halt in a village in a forest, where no birds sing, and no passenger waits on the platform.

The 1340 never runs at all. Also it’s a bus.

The 1742 flies noiselessly, without bump or friction, between the galaxies, guided by a pinprick of starlight.

The 0754 drifts from cloud to cloud. We’ll get there when we get there.

The 1712 bounces from wall to wall of a fibre optic cable, miles beneath the surface of the ocean.

The 1742 is a jigsaw puzzle with a picture of a train on it, and if you shake the box hard enough it might assemble itself. Or the lid might fall off, sending pieces flying across the room.

Rainbow Bouquet

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Rainbow Bouquet is live! There’s a pleasingly eclectic mix of stories in this anthology: the narrator of mine is an English Civil War ghost on a mission to save the family home from being turned into offices. It owes something to Eleanor Farjeon’s Faithful Jenny Dove, and something to Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost, and a little to my parents’ short-lived plan to buy a water-mill and operate it as a tourist attraction.

I’m also very pleased to say that A Spoke In The Wheel was a finalist in the North Street Book Prize 2018. It’s pleasing that there are more competitions out there that are willing to consider self-published books, and very pleasing that there are some set up specifically to honour self-published books, and – of course – very pleasing indeed when they honour mine!

Three good things

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Well, after a winter that I’ll freely admit has been a bit of a slog in terms of writing, I’ve got three pieces of good news to share this week.

The Selfies

I’m very pleased to announce that A Spoke In The Wheel appears on the first ever shortlist for The Selfies Award. Self-publishing can get you second-guessing yourself and your work, and it’s such a delight to have the quality of your work recognised. Kudos to BookBrunch for establishing this award.

I’d also like to say how good it is to be part of the self-publishing community. All eight women on the shortlist seem to be as pleased for each other as they are for themselves! I’m really looking forward to meeting them at the awards ceremony.

Rainbow Bouquet

My short story Stronger Than Death appears in Rainbow Bouquet, a Valentine’s anthology from Manifold Press.

Cecily Strangways could never see ghosts – until she became one herself. Now, three hundred and fifty years later, she’s got to find some way of saving the family home from being turned into offices – and persuade the Grey Lady to help her.

The other stories in the anthology also look like a lot of fun! You can pre-order it at Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, and Smashwords.

Lesbian History Motif Podcast

You’ll have to wait a bit longer for this one, but I’ve also got a short story lined up for the Lesbian History Motif Podcast’s fiction series. Again, the rest of the table of contents looks very intriguing as well.

In The Mermaid, a farmer’s daughter on the treacherous south-west coast of the Isle of Wight finds unexpected treasure in a shipwreck. But someone else thinks it belongs to him…

December Reflections 28: new book

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I suspect the prompt is really looking for ‘a book you received as a gift recently’, or ‘a book you picked up in the sales’. I was given a delightful selection of books for Christmas: see the picture. I’m most impressed by my youngest brother’s having found an orange Penguin edition of Racundra’s First Cruise.

But yes, I do happen to have a new book out this year. A Spoke in the Wheel appeared in May, after a lot of wibbling about whether it was going to be as good as the last one, and has been trundling along gently ever since. It hasn’t set the world on fire, but it’s had some decent reviews. Cycling friends have found it convincing and respectful. So have disabled friends. Sometimes I think it isn’t as good as the last one. Sometimes I think it’s better. Mostly I think I did with it what I wanted to do, and that really is as good as it gets, when it comes to books.

December Reflections 21: paper

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“What people bring with them is treasure“.

I was tidying my desk, as one does on the last day in the office before Christmas, and turned up my coursebook from the autumn’s tutor training course, and remembered what I’d scrawled on the cover.

I’ve underlined ‘people bring with them’, so that must have been a quotation. And I’ve double-underlined ‘treasure’, so that must have been something important.

My recollection is that we were talking about the mental and emotional baggage that people bring with them to courses. They bring bad memories from school. They bring a grudge about having been made to attend the thing in the first place. They bring cynicism. They bring whatever’s going on in their life outside the classroom.

They bring knowledge. (Something that stuck with me from the first two days of the course was the estimate that, when dealing with adult learners, 85% of the knowledge already exists in the room, and the task of the tutor is to bring it out and then fill in the gaps.) They bring wisdom. They bring experience. Curiosity. Good ideas.

And perhaps that was what I meant by ‘treasure’.

But I think it must have been something more than that, to make me write it down there, on the cover, rather than next the activity that prompted it. And I think I meant something like: people bring with them is everything that’s gone to make them who they are; all their triumphs and their tragedies; everything they’ve ever learned and seen and been through, and everything that they’ve forgotten; all their fortunes and misfortunes; all the lies they’ve heard and all the truths; all their hopes and fears.

People bring their whole complicated selves.

A phrase that has come up a couple of times for me this year is this: Nothing is wasted. I’ve seen it on writing Twitter (nothing you write is wasted, even if it never sees the light of day). It’s been murmured to me in church (to which I brought things ill done and done to others’ harm – or, in this case, my own – /which once you took for exercise of virtue). I’ve reminded myself of it as I wonder what I’m meant to be doing next, and whether I’m in the right place now. Even if I end up on a different path, my experience on this path will come in useful. (Sometimes I think that I see them converging at the horizon, and sometimes I think that’s just the vanishing point…)

Nothing is wasted.

What people bring with them is themselves.

What people bring with them is treasure.