Tuesday 2 January 2024

News 2 January 2024

Book-shaped swimming pool, anyone?  


Yes, it’s that time of year again when we look back on what’s happened in the old year and make our plans for the new one.

I recently asked the members of my Scribblers Facebook group about what success as a writer looked like for them and so I thought I really should have a go at answering my own question.

When I used to visit schools I was sometimes asked whether I was rich or famous. I would sometimes glibly reply: “Well, have you heard of me?” and I might have occasionally thought, would I be making visits like this if I was rich. Maybe I would have. I enjoyed school visits.  I don’t make them anymore because I’m no longer really writing for young people. Not that young, anyway.

There is that joke about would success as a writer mean that you earned enough to be able to afford a book-shaped swimming pool at your home? Well, I would quite like my own swimming pool ….

However, I have managed to get to the stage where I can justify sending a fair amount of the day on my writing.  I write quite well, and I believe I’m continuing to improve, though my writing may not always have commercial appeal and I may not always push myself enough to make myself all that visible. I’m retired from the day job and live on the state pension, my teaching pension and a pension from eleven years in a job where I was basically paid to be a writer.  I’m quite content with my material existence.

I might like a little more attention to my work, but not to me. However, I have to be pleased that my daughter’s friend has really enjoyed the second book in the Peace Child series and she hasn’t read a book since she was in Year 8 at school – she’s in her mid-thirties now. Add that to the student in the isolation room who wanted to read more of my book rather than the Harry Potter one she had brought with her and the young boy who hated reading but made a point of buying my books when I visited his school.

So, am I going to do anything and differently this year? Not really, though I am going to carry on with something I started mid-way through 2023. I alternate writing days with working on my publishing and marketing activities but on Wednesdays I do none of these things. Wednesdays are for some routine admin tasks but also for working on the bigger picture. So, I might tidy up my sock drawer or do any admin for my U3A groups but also look at a more effective way of administering royalties or making various adverts work better. I absolutely forbid myself to do routine writing or publishing work on Wednesdays. Every week thereby becomes a bit like a year end.

It may not suit everyone to use one day of the week this way but it is probably quite important to pencil in some “down” time both for tidying up and expansion.

I wonder whether it will eventually lead to that book-shaped swimming pool.         



Writing news

I’m pottering on with Peace Child 6. I’m now half way through looking at whether the content and length is right for the target reader – which at the moment I’m defining as the older young adult.

I have a couple of reviews on Talking about My Generation: https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/around-the-world-in-80-days-at-the-octagon-theatre-bolton / and  https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/review-little-women-at-home-manchester/

Both plays offer interesting takes on well-known stories.   

On My Blog

I’ve written a short article about artificial intelligence: https://www.gilljameswriter.com/2023/12/ai-embrace-it-or-fear-it.html This seems to be a very important topic at the moment and one which fascinates me personally.

I’ve also supplied a quiz. Some of you may already have seen it. https://www.gilljameswriter.com/2023/12/writing-trivia-new-years-eve-quiz-for.html I supply the answers at: https://www.gilljameswriter.com/2024/01/answers-to-quiz.html


The Young Person’s Library

No new books added this month I’m afraid but I’m hoping January will be very different.


Recommended read

So, this month I’m recommending: The Storyteller of Casablanca by Fiona Valpy

The lives of two young women in Casablanca intertwine though they lived seventy years apart.

Zoe finds Josie’s diary when she tries to fix a loose floorboard in her daughter’s bedroom. She becomes fascinated by the young girl’s account of fleeing Paris in 1941 because her mother was Jewish. Zoe too has her problems and she and Tom are trying to make a life in Morocco as they flee their old life and its troubles. There are still refugees in Casablanca and Zoe finds that helping them takes her away from her own problems.

What has become of Josie and will Zoe and Tom succeed in establishing a fulfilling life?

Fiona Valpy keeps us guessing in this delightful story worthy of The Storyteller of Casablanca.     


Sample pages

This replaces my previous giveaways. If you like what you’re reading you can click through and find out ways of buying the book. However, I’m still happy to give you a free copy if you’re strapped for cash and / or you’re willing to review.  Just contact me.   

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

This month I’m offering January Stones my first flash fiction collection.   


These stories were written one a day throughout January 2013. They were originally published on a blog called Gill’s January Stones. In fact, they were published in reverse order. The first one you read here, When Physics Got Sick was the last one to be written and originally published on 31 January 2016. 

Sometimes the stories would come right at the beginning of the day. Sometimes they would take a while longer.

Do they have a theme? Not really, though the idea of ‘stones’ is one of turning them over slowly on the beach until we find the right one. It’s not a bad time of year, anyway, right at the beginning in January, as the New Year starts and the days slowly become longer.    

There was no strict word count. Each story is as long as it needs to be.

In any case, each on stayed with me until it felt finished. It had to be finished though, by midnight of that day.

As I’ve put this volume together, I’ve edited them again. This just goes to show how we’ve never actually finished editing.

Quite possibly if I ever perform any of these pieces for you, I’ll edit them again before I read them out loud.    

When physics got sick

The Scientist carefully took the shards of glass out of the cupboard, dropped them in the sink, and watched underwhelmed as the tumbler formed itself. It seemed natural, as if it had happened a thousand times before. Yet his constantly questioning mind wondered whether this, this first occurrence of something quite extraordinary, marked the beginning of the end as the second law of thermodynamics was breaking down.

As he filled the tumbler with water he became aware that at the same time as being in his kitchen he was also upstairs and at the other side of the universe, so clearly Planck’s Constant had suddenly become somewhat bigger.

Later, examining the internal structure of protons, he found that they were indeed made of cream cheese and constantly mumbled nonsensical German so the label “quark” was actually extremely apt. Yet there was a paradox because surely the cream cheese itself was made of atoms, and they, in turn, of protons.

And yet.

There was no problem for Newton. Apples still fell merrily on the heads of those foolish enough to sit under apple-trees in the autumn. The big nuclear reactor in the sky still reacted. His home planet appeared to be carrying on its Maypole dance around its star and keeping up its complex ceilidh with the rest of the universe.

The Scientist paused for a moment and pondered. Perhaps the Humanities people were right after all. Every physicist knew that all of these laws did not work all of the time. Everything was relative anyway – Einstein had shown this. There could be a god, then. Or maybe the Matrix was not so far-fetched. It might even be the philosophers who had got it right – that life is but an illusion.


Scientific advice by Doctor Martin James who identified two subatomic particles, some ten years or so before the World Wide Web was born at CERN, thereby gobsmacking his children’s science teachers.



Weather Behaving Badly

They talked about El Niño and La Niña. So we had quite a few years of proper summer unfortunately accompanied by drought. Then we had several years of miserable weather.  They talked of Global Warming and then renamed it Climate Change because the Warming was actually making it cooler for the posh people. But we hadn’t seen anything yet.

They made a film about a new ice age arriving suddenly. It seemed melodramatic. Then came Katrina and the film seemed more reasonable. After Sandy it began to look tame.        

The stream winds started moving in the wrong direction. We got snow on snow followed by rain on rain and floods, followed by temperatures going up overnight. Two feet of snow fell and disappeared within twenty-four hours.

Yet, one morning soon after, there was thick ice on the windscreen and cars sliding round the S bend though the temperature gauge said it was six degrees Celsius. Later, after the sun had shone all day and the gauge now said seven, there was, once more, ice on the car.

What’s going on?   

Like to read more? Find it here: https://www.thebridgetowncafebooksshop.co.uk/2021/06/january-stones.html




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 added a couple of new posts this month. One is about Alissa Oldenburg’s excellent novel about a Holocaust survivor (?). You will understand the question mark if you read the book. Read the full review here: When Glass Breaks by Allissa Oldenberg

I’ve also included a short article about Nicholas Winton, in anticipation of the new film about his life. Read that here One Life – Nicholas Winton





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.



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