Tuesday 29 March 2022

Anne Wilson tells us about her life as a writer



I write short stories, memoir and, currently, early ideas for a third novel. It comes naturally to write what I know, born of an interest in natural history, people I encounter, and to fill in the blanks with some research.


I wanted to write when I discovered how powerfully the written word could take you on journeys you would never otherwise have taken. I particularly remember going to meet Alm-uncle with Heidi and exploring the forest with Children of the New Forest. I also devoured travel books and nature books at every opportunity. These subjects were my inspiration, honing the writing skills to which I aspired.


Routine works for some writers but I can’t claim to be so disciplined. I am a haphazard writer who jots down notes on a tissue at 4.00am, makes notes whilst on a bus or in a coffee bar and fleshes them out when I come to the end of the book I happen to be reading, perhaps once or twice a week. However, my writing output has always been governed by “life getting in the way”.


Do I have a dedicated working space? See above. My too-small desk is covered in paperwork of many different kinds and I favour first drafts written in a comfortable chair on a large pad on my knee.


Calling myself a writer has always seemed too pretentious and invites a lot of annoying questions generating unsatisfactory answers. I would probably say “I write a bit” then change the subject.


As to support from friends and family – family are divided between a studied disinterest and some pride in any success I may have. Friends do their best without yawning. They all understand I’m writing something and wonder why. I live with my son who manages I.T. systems involving complicated codes and fiction is a far country.


I am probably most proud that writing in some form has endured through my life and defines me to people who know me, even if they don’t understand why anyone would do it. I find it strange that even avid readers often have no interest in who wrote what they’re reading.


I quite like the process of editing and enjoy research because my subject, by definition, will interest me.


I have had the same goal now for years which is that of having at least one of my novels published. If that happened it would encourage me to stop procrastinating and take my writing more seriously – a case of better late than never!


The question of which writers have inspired me always comes up and the answer would be so long. Even, which writers have most inspired me is very difficult to answer. I can say that beside an eclectic assortment of books and reading material and some biographies, I keep everything ever written by Joyce Carol Oates, early Hilary Mantel, Peter Mayle and Lisa St Aubin de Tehran. I also have a large assortment of nature books. Other authors, past and present, are discovered, burn brightly and then go (usually to Oxfam).


A recent review of Anne's latest collection: 

'Stylishly vivid stories from a literary artist of first rank. At heart a nature lover with supernatural persuasion:

Do you, dare to be led down the garden path ...... to meet the bogey-man?' 


Saturday 19 March 2022

Authenticity on Social Media


Icon Set, Social Media, Contact, Web

I was quite irritated by a post I read on Twitter the other day and I got into quite an argument with the person who posted. They said they had considered refollowing some people they had unfollowed. They had unfollowed them because it was important for them to have more followers than they followed. This was pressure from an agent.

I can understand several things here. An agent has to make money and they’ll make more form their authors if they sell well which they may indeed if they have a big following on social media. In my role as a publisher I’m pleased to see authors who are proactive on social media. And I will unfollow in some circumstances: for example if someone is being offensive or if they keep trolling.  But it seems to me immoral to unfollow if someone is not being useful to you.

But that isn’t the whole story and in fact I’d cringe if I saw one of our authors being inauthentic on social media. In fact, I might cringe so much that I wouldn’t publish them again.

Surely bottom line = you follow people because they are interesting and your ambition is to have people follow you because you are interesting.

There is a grey area; you want to follow back people who follow you.  You may be able to help each other. That was always true of normal networking. But it usually works better if you think in terms of what you have to offer rather than what you have to gain.

So what’s the difference between authentic and inauthentic?


Liking only what you genuinely like

Following people who seem interesting

Seeing social media as a tool rather than a master  

Limiting the amount of time you spend on it

Remembering your readers and brightening their day

Having the courage to raise something that may be controversial

Posting things other than the product or service you’re trying to sell

Posting different types of material on different platforms   

Remembering it’s “social” media not “marketing” media

Offering something to the world

Being generous in sharing, liking and responding to a post that deserves it

Not expecting all of your posts to be liked commented upon or shared but being grateful when they are

Tagging people because you are posting something you think they ought to know about


Liking a post because you feel obliged to and because you think you might gain something from it

Following someone just became they’ve followed you or in the hope that they will

Unfollowing people just because that don’t follow you

Tagging people as a way of showing off and making them aware of just how good you are

Becoming a slave to social media

Going into a sulk because people don’t respond to every post you make

Constantly screaming “buy my book, buy my book”

Putting exactly the same post on every platform

Shying away from the controversial because you don’t want to offend or be trolled

Expecting only to gain without offering something in return

Liking and sharing because you don’t want to offend the person who has posted  


There is possibly an argument that one tries to appear authentic in order to gain kudos. But is that actually sustainable?  


Recommended: be authentic on social media – it’s much more fun than being a pain.


Friday 18 March 2022

A warm welcome today to Alan C Williams, romance writer


G’day everyone,

Many thanks to Gill for providing this opportunity to reveal a little of the story behind my stories. I hope you enjoy delving into my somewhat strange mind and aren’t too traumatised by the experience. You have been warned.

As you might gather from my antipodean greeting, I’m an Aussie, born and bred. I’m currently exiled from there, living in Southport England with my Brit wife, Anne.

I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as I write mushy romance stuff, usually with a twist; an explosion, murder, ghosts or kidnapping. I’ve always liked HEA  (Happy Ever After) stories, mainly from reading comics throughout my life. Yeah, kinda sad in a way. I still have my Superman costume worn in public well before it was seen as cool to be a cosplayer.

I found my niche writing for women’s magazines where my tales feature a strong female lead. I’ve also done okay with children’s stories sold to an Australian publication used in classrooms to inspire kids to read.


Okay. Where did it all begin? I used to write and illustrate my own comics back in the days when Marvel was just starting. I was more a DC fan. Then work got in the way – a Science teacher and eventually a Financial Services manager. After early retirement at 49, due to ill health, I started going to art and writing in a town called Cygnet, SW Tasmania. We’d make up a new story each week, listening and encouraging others in the group. Most were female and humoured me about my stories of telepathic Tasmanian tigers and love in the Garden of Eden, not the usual type of short story.

I won a few competitions and eventually was thrilled to have my story The Cool, Dark Place bought by That’s Life in Australia ten years ago. A few editors enjoyed my different style and asked for more. Since then I’ve sold over 60 short stories to national magazines in Australia, Britain and Ireland.

As for a writing routine, I don’t have one. I sit in the lounge and type away with the telly on. I compose my stories at night in bed and type them the next day.

I guess I first called myself a writer after selling that breakthrough story. With retired men especially, it’s customary to say as an introduction that ‘I’m retired but I used to be …’. Our jobs were a part of who we are. These days I say I’m a romance writer proudly. I mean everyone writes – shopping lists, letters, SMSs so  I prefer novelist or author these days. When I sold my first tale, I was so ecstatic that I wore a cardboard sign around my neck for a day with Superstar on it. History hasn’t recorded what the neighbours thought but my wife had serious doubts about my sanity. She still does.

I’m the proudest though of my readership. I write to entertain and if a reader enjoys my ideas, characters and convoluted plots then I’ve achieved my goal. I’ll never be famous but I gather that some readers search out my books on supermarket shelves or libraries.  Feedback suggests they enjoy my heroines’ exciting adventures whether they be riding with bushrangers in outback Australia, as a nurse fighting Nazi spies in WW2 or as a modern-day teacher helping search out an arsonist in rural Tasmania.

A month ago, mine was the sole fiction story in That’s Life Mega Monthly in Australia. It has a readership exceeding 550,000. That’s a lot of people possibly reading my love story. To know that others are following my characters’ lives is special. There’s nothing like that engagement.

I use Grammarly and Smart Edit to help guide me. Not that I follow all suggestions. I don’t have beta readers as that didn’t work for me. If an editor requests changes, I’m happy to do so. I understand my limitations. Regarding research, I try to be though but often merge fact and fiction. To me giving a flavour of an era or setting is more productive than being meticulous.

As to the future, I aspire to continue letting my imagination and my characters discover further adventures, hopefully with an even wider audience.

I used to read voraciously, fiction and non-fiction. If I pointed to influences, I’d cite Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Brad Meltzer, Neil Gaiman and Clive Cussler. Despite writing romance, I don’t read much apart from my friends like Dawn Knox, Jill Barry, Enid Reece and Sue Cook amongst others.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. If you wish to find out more, here’s my website


Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TassieTiger2020

Café lit https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/search/label/Alan%20C.%20Williams

Or my short story collection on Amazon – The Rain, The Park & Other Things



Thanks again, Gill

Sunday 6 March 2022

Mind Your Language: can you and should you include swear words in your fiction?


Swearing, Profanity, Cursing, Curse


What the Bible suggests

But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Matthew 5:22

“Raca” was an extremely abusive swear word in Jesus’s time and if you were heard using it you could be punished by law. Jesus is here saying that it the intent behind the word that is important. Calling your brother a fool is not a Christian act.

Can the expletives we use in our fiction show a level of emotion?

On the other hand do some of our characters overuse swear words but that’s just part of their personality so should be included?


Made up swear words

If you write science fiction, fantasy or science fantasy, how people swear might be something you need to consider in your world-building. Do you need to make up news ones? That might avoid the dilemma about whether to include them or not and save you from offending a publisher?  In Battlestar Galactica we have “fracking” - an alternative and perhaps rather unfortunate ‘f’ word.   

A school friend of mine used to tell people to “go and stink in a quagmire”. She thought this more acceptable than more commonly used expletives. Well perhaps it was less clichéd, but isn’t it even in fact rather stronger than calling someone a fool and would it put the speaker in danger of more than hell fire?   


Some publishers do, some don’t

Will it compromise your product if a publisher will not accept your swear words?  I have heard of one that is quite happy with the “f’ word but rejects ‘bloody” unless it means “covered in blood”.  This is because it is actually short for “by the lady” which refers to the Virgin Mary. This particular publisher has ties to a religious institution.

If your expletives really must be there, might you not have to give up on some publishers? I actually had a short story rejected by an academic journal because it has the ‘f’; word in it. I won’t take it out of hat story. It is so much part of the character who uses it.


Less is more

If you have a character that swears all the time, they probably don’t need to do it as much in your fiction. A few examples are usually enough to give the reader the impression of what the character is like.  The same is true of dialect and you certainly don’t need to try to capture all of an accent or you might make the work unreadable.


There are always exceptions

The word “fucking” occurs twice in most lines in John Cooper-Clarke’s Evidently Chickentown.  Here  it is extremely effective because it occurs so often.


I once had the dubious pleasure of introducing an adult leaners’ class to this.  This was something that the University of Salford ran as an offering to the community.  Most of the group was made up of middle-calls ladies over 60.


I was covering the class for a colleague who had to attend a funeral. It was only a few hours before the class began that I realised that there might be some difficulties.

I needn’t have worried; they absolutely loved it – and all of his other work.


It might be worth looking at how he does it.


So, to swear or not to swear?

Is it an essential part of your character, in earnest or as habit?


Are you prepared to walk away form a publisher who doesn’t want to include this part of your style or of a character’s voice?


Can you use just enough to give us the essence of the character?


Or do you want to go to the other extreme like John Cooper-Clarke?


In certain circumstances can you make up new expletives? And if you write historical fiction you can engage in some interesting research to find out what they said back then.  


Wednesday 2 March 2022

News 2 March 2022

 Bicycle, Meadow, Flowers, Grass, Bike

Many of us are feeling anxious and horrified at what is happening in the Ukraine. Some unprecedented sanctions are now being taken against Russia and that must be affecting the lives of ordinary Russians. Truth is being stranger than fiction again. If you’d written this as a story two years ago might some publisher have accuse you of being too far-fetched?  Even as we were entering an extraordinary situation at precisely that time.   

I took two taxis today and they cost considerably more than the last time I made that journey. Yes, there was heavy traffic on the way into town but coming back was quick. Hardly surprising; we passed several petrol stations and the prices were horrific. 

Is it part of our remit as writers to write and record what we observe from whichever angle we’re seeing it?

And yet; the sun is shining outside, there are green shoots everywhere. The snowdrops and crocuses are in full bloom and I even saw some daffodils yesterday.  Well, it is 1 March. Nature is just getting on with it.     

Current writing

I’ve now well into the sixth book in the Schellberg Cycle. This is Helga’s story. Helga is a Holocaust survivor and the story is set partly in World War II and partly in 2001. The more modern part is set in North Wales and I have to learn about sheep farming in Wales! The story is as ever taking on a life of its own and the plot is even more intricate than the way I’d seen it.      

I have just one short story out this month and actually in CafeLit: https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2022/02/afterwards.html   This was in response to a prompt. “Afterwards.”  I deliberately used the word “after” a lot.


The Young Person’s Library

This month the The Hive and Bookshop.org have made some suggestions. So, this month I’ve added

Refuge  by Anne Booth and Sam Usher

This is a picture book that tells the less well celebrated part of the nativity when Joseph, Mary and Jesus have to flee to Egypt. Charmingly it is told from the point of view of the donkey that accompanies them.       

Santa’s Lost Buttons by Kirsty-Louise Garbutt and Meneer Marcleo  

This is another picture book. Children can have fun finding the lost buttons in the pictures. And there is a surprise at the end of the book as well.

I even added one book today but that will appear in next month’s newsletter.


Current reading recommendation

I’m recommending today Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

A mysterious adventure that navigates tricky cross-class relationships.

Who is the odd-looking woman who has murdered someone and who has been killed?

The book opens with this figure being escorted by two policemen from a ship that has docked in Sydney. We are kept guessing right up unto the very end. In the meantime, we meet many women who may have committed this crime and we might even decide there are several passengers on board the ship that we might feel like murdering if we were trapped with them for several weeks

The action takes place in 1939 and our travellers arrive in Australia within a few hours of the beginning of World War II. Protagonist Lily is travelling on an assisted passage to find work in service. This scheme existed to remedy a labour shortage in Australia.  Young women travelled tourist class and were well looked after as well as being given the chance to see something of the world before they settled down into domestic service. They would have to stay for at least two years. 

Rachel Rhys draws her characters well and keeps us guessing about what actually happens in Dangerous Crossing. 

Find your copy here.     


Note: these are usually mobi-files to be downloaded to a Kindle.  Occasionally there are PDFs.

This month I’m offering my The Tower, the third story in the Peace Child series.


Kaleem has given up the love of his life in order to protect her. He now lives and works on Zandra. A sudden landquake, not known on the planet for many years, destroys many of the forests his father has planted to bring life back to the planet. The new relationship Kaleem has helped to establish between the Terrestrans and the Zandrians is also under threat. A third party gets involved and Kaleem has to use all of his diplomatic skills to keep everything on track. Mistakes cost him dearly and he looks set to lose Rozia for a second time. The Babel Tower mystery, others mysteries and sadness plague him. Can he find a way through to fulfil his role as the Peace Child?


Find out more.  Grab your copy and lots of other freebies here.

And please, please, please leave a review when you’ve finished.    

Note: Normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99.  Most on Kindle are about £2.99 and the average price for paperback is £7.00. Writers have to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy.


The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust.  They may also be interesting for other readers of historical fiction.

Sometimes I also write about what might be of interest to other writers.

I’ve added two posts this month. One explores how the hate develops and how this is happening in my latest novel in the cycle: Exploring the Hate.    

I also define the difference between a series and a cycle: The Difference between a Series and a Cycle


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.


The Bridgetown  Café Bookshop where you can buy my book and books published by Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, Chapeltown Books and The Red Telephone.  Visit us 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 and some other editors 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 The children’s book catalogue. Access it here.


Fair Submissions  Find it here.   

Opportunities for writers are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  

Happy reading and writing.