Wednesday 1 April 2020

News 1 April 2020


An extraordinary era  

I hope you are all keeping well and safe. We are most certainly living in an extraordinary time and I and many of my fellow writers are challenged to come up with fiction that is more astounding than what is happening right now.  Even The Archers’ recent drama with explosion at Grey Gables seems tame compared with what real life is throwing at us.  At times I think I’m living in the middle of a Stephen King novel.     
My routine isn’t too much different from normal, though. I write in the mornings, complete admin in the afternoons, and edit and promote in the evenings. Of course, I’m not going out except for essentials. A trip for a routine visit to my local health centre seemed like a treat – even though the café was of course shut.   
However, there are some amazing things happening on-line. I had a glorious back stage tour of the Lowry (Salford Quays) last week.  I visited a couple of my own Creative Cafés. Check them out: the Theatre Café , and the Barter Books Café. Many theatres are streaming performances.   
I can’t go to the gym so I’m using fitness videos and taking little walks around the garden. Our garden is small but I put some new plants in before the lock-down and they’re beginning to thrive. I really appreciate our little garden now. 
I’m meeting up with several people via Zoom. This is mainly successful though the software did let me down yesterday.  I think a lot of people are using Zoom, Teams, Google Hangouts and Skype. I wonder whether when this is all over we’ll have learnt to live differently. I note that although there is still traffic on the main road near us the air is considerably sweeter.  
I’m also doing some undergrad marking for the University of Salford.  This has been a little delayed because of the virus.                      

News about my writing

I’m still carrying on much as before: The Round Robin, the fifth book in the Schellberg Cycle, Not Just Fluffy Bunnies, and I’m still working on The Business of Writing.   
I’ve also written a couple of short stories relating to Covid 19. We writers should record, examine and mitigate this crisis. I’m working with a group of other writers on this.      

The Young Person’s Library

I’ve added new this month:  
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
This is a classic Bildungsroman for young adults. It has a fantasy setting. Unlike 21st century YA novels there is not really a love interest. However the main issues are deep enough to make it YA.

Flambards by K M Peyton
This is another classic I read to help me with Not Just Fluffy Bunnies. This is again YA and this time there is a love interest.  In fact possibly the whole series is crossover adult / young adult.  I remember the TV series.  The music was glorious.  I’d love to watch that again.   

Don’t Stop Thinking About the Future by Siobhan Curham
Stevie and Hafiz both have problems: Hafiz is an asylum seeker who has had to leave his family behind. Stevie’s mum suffers from depression and cannot be a proper mother to Stevie.  Stevie and Hafiz become friends and support each other.  I’ve labelled this teen as the friendship remains quite platonic. A very good read indeed. It came close to being my recommend read this month.

Gloves Off  by Louise Reid
This is an unusual YA novel, written in verse.  Louise is one of my SCBWI contacts and I’ve read quite a bit of her work in our critique group. There is a lot of emotional intensity in this text.

Current reading recommendation

This month I’m recommending a non-fiction book: Imagine by Jonah Lehrer. Find details here.  Its subtitle is “How creativity works.” It offers an interesting discussion about creativity.
Two things in particular stood out for me:
·         We benefit from immigration. Where 1% of the population of a society is made up of immigrants, that society secures 15% more patents for new inventions than a society devoid of immigrants. Is this because the type of person who opts to migrate is more imaginative? Or that the stress of migration makes people more creative?
·         Weak but extensive networks lead to more creativity.  Weak networks are defined as groups of people who interact, and though they may be positive about each other, they’re not all that intimate.  It’s the broadness of the network that counts. This rather coincides with my notion that you don’t have to just be good at your art but you also have to network to become known and therefore paid for your work.  
There are many other fascinating ideas in the book and it is extremely easy to read. It is detailed and it invites you to change the way you think but it’s not at all dry or dull.    


Note: these are usually mobi-files to be downloaded to a Kindle.  Occasionally there are PDFs.
This month I’m giving away The Prophecy, the first part of my Peace Child trilogy. This is also the novel I wrote as part of my PhD, though it has changed considerably since then. I’ve just completed a fourth part and it is queued for publication. Yes I know. A trilogy normally only has three parts. I suppose I should now call it a series for I already have book five planned as well. Book four has some references to the political dramas of how we live now. Book five has a kidnap planned though I now wonder whether I could have the affected characters unable to return because of the outbreak of a deadly virus. Maybe?  
Certainly the economic situation at the moment is making me realise how the Zenoton may have created their society. And that is one of the bits of Covid 19 writing I’ll be doing shortly. 
You can download The Prophecy and lots of other free materials here.
Please, please, please review it if you read it.     
Note, that normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99, with most on Kindle being about £2.99 and the average price for paperback being £7.00. We have to allow our writers to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy. Also at the moment I’m quite happy for you to share these links with other people and any of the items you’ve downloaded before - just until the end of the lock-down.   


The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust and also for other writers of historical fiction.
This month I’ve reviewed two books:
This is a fictionalised account of an actual survivor who has approved the content. It’s a reasonable read and offers some interesting detail for scholars.
Ambulance Girls  gives us some insight into to what it was like working as an ambulance driver during the London blitz.  The story is rather dramatic but this would keep the average reader engaged. The book has a useful bibliography at the end.

I’ve also added a post about the theatres closing in Germany and comparing that with what’s happening here. Read it here:    

School visits

I’ve suspended these until further notice. I’m now starting work on a series of on-line materials.  

Some notes about my newsletters and blogs

They do overlap a little but here is a summary of what they all do.

Bridge House Authors For all those published by Bridge House, CaféLit, Chapeltown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.

Chapeltown Books News about our books. Sign up here.

The Creative Café Project News about the project and CaféLit – for the consumer rather than for the producer.  Sign up here.   

Gill’s News: News about my writing, The Schellberg Project, School Visits and Events. Book recommendations and giveaways. Find it here.   

Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher News about conferences and workshops to do with the young adult novel. (infrequent postings) Sign up here.  

Red Telephone Books News about our books and our authors. Sign up here.

A Publisher’s Perspective Here I blog as a publisher. Access this here.   

The Creative Café Project Listings and reviews of creative cafés. See them here.   

CaféLit Stories Find these here

Gill James Writer All about writing and about my books. View this here.

Gill’s Recommended Reads Find information here about books that have taken me out of my editor’s head and a reminder of the ones I’ve highlighted in this newsletter.    

Gill’s Sample Fiction Read some of my fiction here.

The House on Schellberg Street All about my Schellberg project. Read it here.

Writing Teacher All about teaching creative writing.  Some creative writing exercises. Access this here.     

Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 

The Young Person’s Library I am gradually moving the children’s book catalogue over to this site.  Access it here.

Fair Submissions I am gradually moving the Opportunities List to this site.  Find it here.   

New ones are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I go through it and take out all of the out of date ones. At that point I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  

Happy reading and writing. 

Image by Image by ianvanderlinde from Pixabay 

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