Sunday 31 December 2023

Writing Trivia A New Year’s Eve quiz for you.

1.      Who started writing cookery books in order to give her husband something to publish?

2.      Which writer finally learnt to write what she knew and then invested the hard-earned money from this in the railways, thereby becoming very rich?  One of her well-known characters is also a woman who writes.

3.      Which writer walked up to fifteen miles a day?    

4.      Which hard-up writer was gifted a boat-house to live in?

5.      Who is writing further Agatha Christie style books at the behest of the Agatha Christie estate?

6.      Which crime writer has passed on his most well-known character to his brother?

7.      Which husband and wife team produced amazing picture books for children, including one about well-known fairly-tale characters and a postman? 

8.      Which writer died after collapsing on stage playing a character in one of his own plays? Doubly ironic, as it was a play about medicine.

9.      Can you name a language in which the word “story” and “history” are the same word?

10.  Why “novel”?  How does this word come about?

11.  Which writer used up to sixty pencils a day?

12.   In A Christmas Carol how many ghosts visit Scrooge?

13.  The royalties from which children’s book support a children’s hospital?

14.   Which novel opens with the line, “The Mole had been working very hard all the morning spring cleaning his house”?

15.  Which writer of horror stories was involved in an unexpected road accident while out walking in 1999?

16.  What is the name of the author who wrote the short story “I, Robot” which was also made into a movie?

17.  What is the title of the longest-running play ever written?

18.  Whose novels were published after his death, even though he had asked for his work to be destroyed? We now use an adjective from his name to describe the bizarre and uncanny.  

19.  Which French writer lived mainly on coffee?

20.  Which writer was the son of a beer-taster and glove-maker, survived a pandemic and really wanted to be an actor?

Answers here.

Thursday 14 December 2023

AI - embrace it or fear it?



It seems odd to me that we fear it yet we inverted it. We could pull the plug, couldn’t we, and surely it ought to be in our control? Yet we let it continue because we sense it could be used and should be used for good.

I’m reminded of my initial reaction to Google translate. I’ve worked for over twenty-five years in teaching modern languages and speak French, German and Spanish reasonably fluently. As a secondary school teacher I might have been horrified if someone had used Google translate to prepare work. Yet I find myself doing that from time to time for my French, German and Spanish U3A conversation groups. One colleague who runs a French group and a German group has recently joined our Spanish group. He uses Google translate all the time. There are a couple of tricks here; you must know enough to know when the translator has made a howler. But anyway it introduces you to new vocabulary quickly. It is in the end another way of learning.

Can AI do the same for our writing?

I recently asked Chat GPT to put something together on the advantages and disadvantages of self—publishing. I was creating some Tip Sheets for my creative writing students.  Each subject should be covered in no more than two pages of A4. So, I asked for about 300 words in bullet points. It obliged. I rejected a couple of its arguments.  I added in a couple of extra ones of my own. I rewrote most of it so that it more resembled the style of the other tip sheets. It didn’t really tell me anything I don’t already know. Not much anyway. It in effect helped me to gather and marshal my thoughts. .

Before Chat GPT came along I might have done a Google search. Or similar. After all, Google is your friend. Except sometimes it leads you up the garden path.  Again, as with Google translate, you have to know how to recognize the fake and clumsy. We are used to that now, aren’t we?  

I read an article yesterday in an academic journal about how one professor encouraged his students to produce their essays using AI. The trick it seems is to make the essays the type that requires original and critical thinking. I remember being encouraged to set up open-ended projects so that each student’s work would be unique. This helped in the war again plagiarism.

Similarly therefore one can use AI to collect and collate the data. How to interpret and apply it remains a human activity.  

I guessing I’m tapping into the Zeitgeist a little at the moment. My latest SF YA novel includes a piece of AI that is becoming more and more sentient but still knows it has to serve humans. And I am becoming a little concerned that we are enslaving AI. I’m only half glad to see that local authorities are beginning to use robots to sort out the recycling. What if they rebel?           

Thursday 7 December 2023

Newsletter November 2023


Writerly activities

Sometimes I feel so privileged to be a writer and therefore to be allowed to indulge in several activities that aren’t exactly writing but might be described as “writing related”. There have been two this week:

I attended a meeting of the Manchester City of Literature partners.  Yes, we’re very proud that Bridge House is a partner. Take a look at the other partners here:  And have a look at what the City of Literature does. Even more exciting was to find that one of my former students from the University of Salford now works for them. Another former student was representing one of the other partners. Our meeting involved some brainstorming about the year’s literary calendar in Manchester. We also talked about the aims and objectives of the organisation.  This was followed by a social event where I was able to network and made a lot of useful contacts.

We Talking About My Generarion  reporters were invited to a show case of some younger reporters’ work: It’s probably also the first time I’ve been to Stretford, so new experiences all round.

I also love going to the theatres and have two visits planned next week. I’m going to the Bolton Octagon to see Around the World in Eighty Days  and Home to see Little Women This helps satisfy my continuous need for story. And I can convince myself it’s work; it helps my understanding of how plots work.      



Writing news


I’m pottering on with Peace Child 6. I’m now just finished the fourth draft which looks at the logistics of time with the novel; no two year pregnancies and enough time / space for characters to eat and sleep. I also had to work on the transition between two chapters where it wasn’t clear how much time had passed.  I tend to have cliff hangers at the end of chapters in this novel, so picking up the story again is important.   

I continue to write for Talking About My Generation. I have written a review of a play at our local Whitefield Garrick, and I’ve taken a look at the new episodes of Neighbours:

I’ve also supplied a few ideas about mincemeat:

I may have mentioned last time that I’m having a go at poetry? Yes that continues, but I’m still on ‘A’ in Alison Chisolm’s The Poet’s A-Z

Another book has appeared in my Kofi-shop. You can now buy 140 x 140 there.

If you would like to know more about the Creative Writing Tip Sheets I mentioned recently, you may like to watch this video: Creative Writing Tip Sheets    



On My Blog

This month I’ve talked to several people who have appeared in our Gifted anthology. Read all about them here:  Hidayat Adams, Linda Flynn, Adjie Henderson, Paula Readman, Seamus Norris, Ellen Sullivan,Allison Symes

Their account make interesting reading.


The Young Person’s Library

I’ve added just two books this month, both are teen  / YA. Totally Deceased by Sue  H Cunningham, a humorous murder mystery where a young heart transplant patient and the ghost of the girl whose heart she has received investigate who murdered the latter and why.

Happiness Seeker by Jennifer Burkinshaw is totally different though may appeal to the same reader. It all takes place at Grange-over-Sands, which can be dangerous enough.  Peer pressure and modern slavery make it even more perilous for the young people involved. This is a well-written novel with a strong sense of place and well-developed characters.       



Recommended read 


So, this month I’m recommending: Happiness Seeker by Jennifer Burkinshaw

Yes, again I’ve chosen a text for younger readers again.  I could hardly put this one down.  

Allie is at Grange-Over-Sands on a school trip. The very place is beautiful and dangerous at the same time.   

There are other delights and dangers too. Allie is irritated by the relationship developing between her best friend and her nemesis. Then she becomes romantically involved with the mysterious Mareno. He is threatened not just from the shifting sands and strong currents. Allie’s attempt to put this right is doomed to failure.  When her greatest enemy attempts to right a wrong, four lives are put in danger. There are deaths and near misses. This text tackles some modern but also age old problem: migration and modern slavery.            

Happiness Seeker is beautifully narrated by the very talented Jennifer Burkinshaw.    



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

This month I’m offering The House on Schellberg Street, the first in my Schellberg cycle.  

Renate Edler loves to visit her grandmother in the house on Schellberg Street. She often meets up with her friend Hani Gödde who lives nearby. This year, though, it is not to be. Just a few weeks after a night when synagogues are burned and businesses owned by Jews are looted, Renate finds out a terrible secret about her family.

At a time when the world is at war and the horrors of the Holocaust are slowly becoming apparent, Renate has to leave behind her home and her friends, and become somebody she never thought she could be.

The house on Schellberg Street needs to stay strong. Will it and those who work in it be strong enough? Will Renate ever feel at home again? And what of those left behind?


Grab it  here:  You may have to copy and paste the link.   

And please, please, please leave a review, perhaps on Amazon, Good Reads and / or Story Graph, 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 £8.00. 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.

I’ve not added nay new material this month, but there are over 370 posts and 30 pages of extra information, so it is worth a browse?  Take a look at The House on Schellberg Street.  



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 books 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.  I also invite other writers to provide prompts and work for critique.     


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.