Apr 30th

Hooray, hooray, it's publication day. Or not exactly...

By EmmaD
So, today is officially the publication day of the paperback of my second novel, A Secret Alchemy. And bugger-all is happening, except for a lovely card from my editor and her assistant. But then I knew it wouldn't be. For a start, 'real' publication was back last November: it's the hardback which garners reviews (you hope); is waved at the book trade; given, lovingly inscribed, to your granny (the rest of the family and friends should bloomin' well shell out); sold to the libraries. But the big sales push has been for the paperback, newly garlanded with those review quotes, and just in time for the festival season.

And such are the peculiarities of the book trade that, actually, A Secret Alchemy has been available for a couple of weeks online and in the shops.  Best of all, last week it was The Times' Recommended Read, available in W H Smith for £2.99, if you bought the paper. It's the kind of promotion you hope and pray and try not to murder your stablemates at your publishers' for, because it can do magical things to sales: according to Bookscan, last week A Secret Alchemy was officially the 14th biggest selling paperback fiction in the UK.

Now that's a one-week-only appearance, obviously. I may be wedged between Katie Fforde and Val McDermid, but they'll still be there in quite a few weeks. But though the promotion costs my publisher a fortune, it means that there are now several thousand people with copies in their hands, who might buy my first novel The Mathematics of Love, or seek out my third. I'm not a total newbie in the sales charts: TMOL made no.7 in the Heatseekers chart, which is made up of the bestsellers among books by authors who haven't appeared in the main charts. But to have my second novel - "that difficult second novel" - an official bestseller, however fleetingly, is amazing. On the other hand it's also disconcerting. What you can't see is that I'm not really blogging here, I'm actually slap in the middle of writing the first draft of a new novel. It's bare, it's bony, I've just realised this chapter has no plot, and I'm not at all sure I like one of my MCs. So how the f***k am I going to get it higher than no.14? And now that ASA is out there, it's no longer - I'm no longer - private. Until now, the only people who held opinions about me and what I do were people I knew. Not any more.

So, what's A Secret Alchemy about? This is my publisher's blurb, so I'll turn away and blush in private, because is there anyone who can take standard booktrade hype without blushing? To quote Four Weddings & A Funeral, "if there is, they're not English":

"Powerful and utterly convincing.'"- Daily Mail

"There is historical fiction - and there is historical fiction... It takes real skill - and devotion - to bring characters blurred by the passage of time into focus, to breathe real life into them... Emma Darwin has managed such sorcery... Passion is the key to the success of this book... Spellbinding" - The Times

Two murdered princes; a powerful queen betrayed; a nobleman riding towards his certain death...

The story of the Princes in the Tower has been one of the most fascinating - and most brutal - murder mysteries in history for more than five hundred years. In a brilliant feat of historical daring, Emma Darwin has recreated the terrible, exhilarating world of the two youngest victims of the War of the Roses: the power struggles and passion that lay behind their birth, the danger into which they fell, the profoundly moving days before their imprisonment, and the ultimate betrayal of their innocence.

In
A Secret Alchemy, three voices speak: that of Elizabeth Woodville, the beautiful widow of King Edward IV; of her brother Anthony, surrogate father to the doomed Prince Edward and his brother Dickon; and that of present-day historian Una Pryor. Orphaned, and herself brought up in a family where secrets and rivalries threaten her world, Una's experience of tragedy, betrayal and lost love help her unlock the long-buried secrets that led to the princes' deaths. Weaving their stories together, Emma Darwin brilliantly evokes how the violence and glamour of past ages live on within our present.

And if that hasn't put you off, you can buy it in all good bookshops now - really truly, they should have it - or online at The Book Depository, (miles the cheapest) Waterstones, or Amazon
Apr 29th

Being brave...or not.

By Kim

Well, that time has come. A time we prospective writers both look forward to and that fills us with foreboding. A time of excitement, anticipation, heartache, concern, self gratification, self doubt, joy, sadness, hope and anxiety...But what to do next? Which voice in your head do you listen to?

 

Do you actually insert the freshly printed off second re-write laying on your desk next to the two covering letters; one to Harry; one to the Editor, into the envelope, affix the postage and send them off? The letters are dated after all, so it makes no sense for you to have to redo them. Or do you give it one last onceover? You did give it one last onceover yesterday... and the day before if it comes to that. Okay, so you’ve been dithering for weeks, admit it.

 

With the feedback you’ve had so far, is it now the best it can be?  In truth you have no idea because you’re exhausted and all out of ideas on how to improve it further. You hope so. You think so. You believe you’ve ticked the boxes on the Editor’s to do list but what do you know? You’ve now read the bloomin’ SP so many times that the words have lost much of their meaning. The funny parts bring barely a titter and the sad parts fail to draw a tear anymore; relentless repetition has taken its toll.

 

Right, so that’s it then. Only one thing for it. You’ll send it. Decision made.

 

Or...You could just read it through one more time, just to make sure?

 

“God Almighty, just send it off woman!”

 

Who said that?...There’s no need to shout.

Apr 29th

What defines a writer?

By JMOCK
What actually defines being able to call oneself a 'writer?'

Browsing the web last week, I came across a discussion among a group of writers and like minded individuals (I cannot remember the web address), and the point being raised is what qualifies the individual as being termed as a writer/author.

A matter of opinion, but the general concensus appeared to agree that writing in print, as opposed to on-line, is the defining factor. So now begs the question, is a writer who sells an article for publishing on the web any less  of a writer than one who has attained author status in print?

(It did appear that those who agreed on the 'in print side' were the majority who have previously achieved publication of a novel or magazine).

Should 'in print' be the aim for all writers, or can on-line publication be of equal acclaim?

Apr 29th

Writing Advice

By JMOCK
At times, a writer can experience a period of self-doubt, so what advice can be shared?

During one of my (frequent) episodes of self-doubt, a director/screenwriter in America responded with this comment:

"Self-doubt is of the human realm, creativity is of the divine.  Don't let the human aspect rule the divine, and keep an open mind and heart to all possibilities."

Do you have any advice to share with the fellow writer?
Apr 28th

Hub, Issue 79

By Boudica

The story in Issue 79 of Hub plays with format.

SBIR Proposal
by Richard K Lyon takes the well used guise of a letter from one organisation to another. There is quite a lot of back story early on that I think would be unlikely to form part of the content of such a letter. The central idea is entertaining and suits the letter format, but it might have been more effective to have had an exchange of letters. I found myself skipping a couple of paragraphs. It's a neat idea that could have been executed better.

Apr 27th

An older article of mine on the occupational hazards of being a writer.

By JMOCK
The Unknown Hazards of Writing

How often does one consider the seemingly innocuous life of a writer to be that which is laced with occupational hazards? Probably seldom, yet evidence prevails that would suggest the field of writing to indeed be an occupation that is coveted by negative characteristics.

The exploration of scribble, scrawl, script and print brings forth mixed potential to all who delve into its murky waters. Achieve the well-deserved accolade and pleasant remuneration, and it will be accepted with open arms and a pat on the back, but writing is also fraught with traits of disillusion.

Rejection
Pray tell - for I truly wish to know the answer - what other vocation openly accepts rejection as a duty incumbent upon the role? Why is it that you can spend hours, days, even weeks and months, committing your body and soul (down to the last ounce of sustenance) into producing an amalgamation of words that appear to be drawn in your own blood, only for it to be discarded in the blink of an eye, or be deemed only worthy of a pittance in compensation? A cruel fate, I can admit, but not nearly enough of a deterrent - although this opinion is subject to change of view.

Tiredness
Why do writers feel compelled to endure the nightmare that is sleep deprivation in the quest of the written word? With heavy eyelids, the words take on one of two forms. A masterpiece of flowing text, well-formed and constructive, or a collaboration of the native language that makes little sense in the glimmer of the morning light.

It is a fact, though, that when in peak flow, time will become irrelevant to a writer on a mission. Many hours may pass before the realization of day and night, as if all around dissipates into a black-hole. Concentration levels can extend to such pronounced depths that the writer become oblivious to their mortal surroundings. Communication with family and friends cease to exist, as the author lives and breathes the written word. One could argue that even the presence of mortal danger would not up-seat the writer from their place of work. To test this theory one could place a writer at a desk in the path of stampeding bulls to see if he or she would remain.

Aches and pains are common ailments one may exhibit, all in the line of duty.

Eye strain
Hours spent staring at a screen must rank high on a writers list of negative characteristics, but this hazard is probably exasperated by sleep deprivation. Red, watery, swollen eyes, after 48 hours without sleep may do nothing for the individuals outward beauty, but it is perfectly acceptable when the person is embroiled in the quest for a literary masterstroke.

Two limbs, three ailments
Numbness in all ten fingers (eight fingers and two thumbs for those who wish to be pedantic), tired, aching wrists and repetitive strain injuries can present itself due to the excessive use of the keyboard and mouse. Even laden with bandages, after medical intervention, the afflicted will continue to tap away at the keyboard, though production tends to decrease.

Work and play
Can the writer really separate work from play? At any time of day, even at the most inopportune of moments, the mind sees fit to take it upon itself to reveal a sample of text that strikes the writer as sheer brilliance. For no apparent reason, the mind will conjure a passage of words that must be transferred into print.

Take, for example, the supermarket. You could be strolling down the aisles, calmly filling the trolley with the wanted luxuries, when there it is! No warning, just a free-flowing stream of words that make sense. It's as if the mind wants to tease you, because you are in a place where you cannot automatically record this revelation.

What follows is a hastened rush, to reach a destination whereby this 'broadcast' can be transplanted into hard evidence, before it vanishes into the dark realms of non-existence.  It appears that the writer can never put the writing aside, for it remains ever-present in daily life.

So there you have it! Writing is fraught with occupational hazards, and is not the safe vocation it would initially appear to be. Will it deter the writer? I doubt it, for the passion of writing overwhelms all negativity. I'm off now in search of the latest 'rejection' because at some point there is sure to be a reward of some description, either internal or external.
Apr 27th

A Country Crime - A short story in need of work.

By JMOCK

He eased himself slowly down onto the weather worn seat, uneasy as to whether it would take his weight. He paused repeatedly, half expecting the decades old plank to crumble beneath him. With baited breath, he finally relaxed and applied his full weight.

The branch above creaked and groaned, as he pushed gently with his feet to start himself in motion. Oh, how this stirred a thousand memories of his glorious childhood, of summers spent in a seemingly distant world of ease and playful dreams.

The gentle breeze brushed his face, the sweet smells of the summer air enveloped his mind, opening long shut rooms that had lain dormant since his transition into adulthood. How he wished to regain those thoughts, to live through them again, not to change a thing.

A tear rolled down his beaten face, a tear confused with joys and despair. Joy to be back amongst true harmony, mixed with a fear and longing, a knowing of times elapsed, never to be retrieved again.

But he had had to return to this place, and a time not forgotten, but paused. That is why he had left the city, traveled 300 miles in the blistering heat, as soon as word had reached. He had to return, to see for himself the crime that had robbed a part of his life.

He raised his gaze, the anger swelling through his veins. Why, why had this happened? For money no doubt. Greed even. The heat rose deeper, almost boiling. He had the money, a good life, friends, a family. He worked hard for which the rewards were seen. A posh apartment, the latest gadgets, a 50-inch TV and sports car. A diet of the finest foods, made by the classiest of chefs tempted his tastebuds almost eveyday of the week, but all that meant nothing now. Nothing compared to the cruelest of fates that had changed his life.

In his field of view lay the deepest cut he could endure. A slash that only he could see, a wound deeprooted in an acid stomach. For what was once the beauty that had made him, of what had given him his soul was destroyed. Gone forever in the eye, and left only to the memory of the seen.

Staring forward in rhythm, with a total disbelief, forever blinking in hope that when his eyes opened it would reveal a dream. But no, it was still there, in vivid view.

The sounds of engines roaring, men chatting, of foundations being laid. These were the noises that now filled his ears. Not a stream trickling, or grasshoppers singing. No! This was the sound of development, of modern times. and urban expansion.

A new housing estate, here, where he had lived. How dare they! Who would allow such a thing to happen, to him? This was his life, his youth, being swallowed whole before his own eyes. And he could do nothing to halt this, this opinionated progress.

He stopped suddenly, his shoes scraping fiercely on the dry grass. This was the finest place on earth, he had spent his childhood running through the open fields, of climbing tall trees and chasing rabbits and deer. Now it was empty, a nothing land. He could never again return to the place he called home.

The dull thud was heard by him alone, as he fell back off the swing. This was fate, he thought. A fate to be thankful for. He knew, but did not care. He did not reach for his phone, or call out for aid. He just lay there, his pupils fixed through the leaves of the tree.

A smile crossed his face. He was now at peace. A peace he deserved. A peace that he desired and would wholly allow. He thought of his family and hoped that they would understand his reasons through their grief. Just one last photo image amid a retracting breath. Then a darkness fell over his vision, that to him was the brightest of all lights.

Apr 27th

Hoffnung's Brick Layer

By Caducean Whisks
A famous example of telling a serious story in a funny way - you shouldn't laugh though, it's not funny.

Hoffnung's Brick Layer

The Bricklayer's Lament

 

Told by Gerard Hoffnung at the Oxford Union, December 4th, 1958.

A striking lesson in keeping the upper lip stiff is given in a recent number of the weekly bulletin of the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors, which prints the following letter from a bricklayer in Golders Green to the firm for whom he works.

"Respected Sir,

When I got to the top of the building I found that the hurricane had knocked some bricks off the top. So I rigged up a beam with a pulley at the top of the building and hoisted up a couple of barrels full of bricks.

When I had fixed the building, there was a lot of bricks left over. I hoisted the barrel back up again and secured the line at the bottom, and then went up and filled the barrel with extra bricks. Then I went to the bottom and cast off the line.

Unfortunately the barrel of bricks was heavier than I was, and before I knew what was happening, the barrel started down, jerking me off the ground.

I decided to hang on, and halfway up I met the barrel coming down, and received a severe blow on the shoulder.

I then continued to the top, banging me 'ead against the beam and getting my fingers jammed in the pulley.

When the barrel hit the ground, it burst at its bottom, allowing all the bricks to spill out. I was now heavier than the barrel, and so started down again at high speed.

Halfway down I met the barrel coming up, and received servere injuries to my shins. When I hit the ground I landed on the bricks, getting several painful cuts from the sharp edges.

At this point I must have lost my presence of mind because I let go the line.

The barrel then came down, giving me another heavy blow on the head, and putting me in hospital.

I respectfully request sick leave. "

Apr 25th

Little Gods

By Aiyla
We writers are different from other people. That is why, what we share on this site is more a happy family, rather than a dreary deck of Dribbles.
We share a comfy cosy little community, and I’m jolly pleased to be amongst you all. We understand the dark sides to being a writer; the dubious stares we receive as we write in queues, pubs and on public transport and the sometimes discouraging comments we must endure from our families. But we know (I hope) to take it all with a pinch of salt.

The passion is in our blood, running through our veins and this red hot passion creates an invisible energy that keeps us at it, day after day, rewarding us with a satisfaction that sometimes can be hard to find in our daily jobs. Even if we never reach the stature of the published novelist, it is this journey that we are on now, that matters.

Sometimes we can feel like failures and look longingly at those who seem to be having a wild time in life, out every evening, living it up, whilst we are alone at our desks wallowing in our world of words. But we are doing a worthy job. Don’t forget that.
 
We only have one chance on this earth. It is important to do something special, and that’s what we do. Through time, we will manage to become better writers, with discipline and constant motivation. The importance is to do what you love, whether we make it or not doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. Think of Mozart or Beethoven. Where would we be without their sensitive emotional pieces of music?  They never reaped the praise they deserved but I’m sure they enjoyed what they did. They lived for their passion and saw it through to the end and that’s what made their lives complete.

We create - maybe not the universe - but we create. In fact, we are geniuses and the world needs people like us. The world needs YOU. We possess the gift to imagine the world a better place, a reconditioned world with all the dust taken away, and we can add in chocolaty delights wherever we want. In fact we are nothing less that little Gods. Little Gods camping out in the sky, on this lovely cloud and we float around searching for the bundle of words that might mean something special to someone.
(I hope this makes at least a little sense, I do tend to get carried away at times, but then, as a writer, you probably do too).

We writers are needed and have an important job to do. We dig deep. We mine in the mind and in doing so find treasures more beautiful than most people will ever see. Many people pass through life without realising that this cluster of precious stones exists. But you know this, and I know this, and that is why we write.
Without us, the world would be a dreary place indeed.
Apr 23rd

First Hot Curry.

By Kenty

First Hot Curry.

 

Keep this out of the reach of children. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich manoeuvre! They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.

 Call 999. I've located a uranium pill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drain Cleaner. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I'm getting pissed from all the beer. -- I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds?

 Carol, the barmaid, was standing behind me with fresh refills. That 20 stone woman is starting to look HOT...just like this nuclear waste I'm eating! Is chilli an aphrodisiac?

My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead, and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics. The waiter seemed offended when I told him that him chilli had given me brain damage.

 Carol saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from the glass. I wonder if I'm burning my lips off. It really pisses me off that the other people in the restaurant asked me to stop screaming. Screw them. My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulphuric flames.

I am definitely going to **** myself if I fart and I'm worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that Carol. Can't feel my lips anymore. I need to wipe my arse with a snow cone ice-cream.

. You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn't feel a thing. I've lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water.

 My shirt is covered with curry which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava to match my shirt. At least, during the autopsy, they'll know what killed me. I've decided to stop breathing- it's too painful. Screw it; I'm not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air I'll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach...