Thursday 26 October 2017

Banned books, burnt books, freedom of speech, freedom of information and censorship

We're just about to release a very daring book. Its title is Citizens of Nowhere, 'Stories about the Global Citizen'. Yes, you probably recognise the sentiments. And yes we're probably being just a little bit political. At least we're doing it the way we know best: we're weaving our theme into readable pieces of fiction. 

I might be glad to have my books banned or even burnt. There's no such thing as bad publicity. At least if they're banning or burning them my words must be having an impact on someone. It also means we have something in common with Albert Einstein, J K Rowling, and D H Lawrence.


When books are banned

Books are banned in some harsh regimes. We must not incite the people. They are also sometimes banned because they contain something lewd. There is a very fine line between erotica and pornography and it is one that is very difficult to define. Lolita and Lady Chatterley's Lover may have raised some eyebrows earlier. Now they are part of our culture.  They may be banned because they clash with certain religious attitudes. This is what happened to the Potter the books. They include magic and magic is the work of the devil. 

Judy Waite's Game Girls also caused some furore. The game girls are exactly what they sound like. Yet this book is very moral. It all goes wrong for the three young women who have reinvented themselves as prostitutes. The story shows that going on the game is very risky indeed. The book nevertheless caused a fuss. A school visit was cancelled. Books were removed form a library. A TV crew pursued Judy when she came to deliver a workshop at the university where I worked.


And when they're burnt

It seems extreme. Yet recently some of us have wanted to burn the Daily Mail and some people actually did it. Burning books today is probably less effective than it was in 1933. Digital copies abound. 

Books are burnt when we want to have a simple version of the truth - or even of lies or of something that is morally wrong, and not be exposed to multiple interpretations of life. The quickest way to get rid of the unwanted books is to burn them.                 


Freedom of speech

So everyone should be allowed to say and write what they think. But what if you want to incite hatred or encourage others to take up arms about the status quo?  Do we still allow freedom of speech then? What if we know the writer / speaker is wrong and that we are right? Should we suppress what they wish to say? 

There have been examples recently of some speakers being banned from universities because of their unpopular belief system. Is that right? 

What should we be allowed to say about the Final Solution? The Nazis would want us to suppress it. The UN would want us to explain it. 

The whips come out and make us toe the party line. 

The agent and the editor nag. "You can't say that. We may be accused of not being politically correct."              

Freedom of information

Yet some things remain classified. Several of my novels, set in another world, include Hidden Information and Golden Knowledge. The latter is available only to a very privileged few. The former is kept form the masses because a little knowledge is dangerous. Darn, though. Some things that are very sensitive would help so much with my research. Who keeps and curates the information anyway? Perhaps we writers do. We access material under the Freedom of Information act and we use it to inform our writing, thus sharing the facts with others.

Some publishers thought that my Hidden Information and Golden Knowledge was unrealistic. Really? A little knowledge can be dangerous, we all know that. And doesn't MI6 keep some secrets.   


We see little of this applied to writing. The film and TV world use it more. Some young adult books, if made into films, would not be passed by the board of censors. 

The film industry anyway has the complex description of suitability of films for certain audiences. Some scenes can be cut by the censors. Nudity was only allowed on stage if the actors weren't moving. TV has its watershed, only showing certain types of programme with an "adult" content after 9.00 p.m. 

Yet even for writers there is a subtle censorship in that there are gatekeepers all the way. This is especially so for young people who have as well as everybody else, teachers, librarians and well-meaning caring older family members who stand  between them and the book. The publisher is the biggest gate-keeper and some will not accept a book because of the language it uses.  Bizarrely, one that also publishes for children will accept the 'f' word but not the word 'bloody' – it really means 'by the lady' meaning the Virgin Mary.

Censorship must be in other contexts: letters sent in war situations, for example. 

Should we also censor books that include extreme violence, or show how to build a bomb? Or does that contravene our right to freedom of speech? 

Perhaps it's better to say less now so that you can live a few more years longer and be able to say more in the future.                    

Monday 9 October 2017

Guest Author Dawn Knox


What do you write? Why this in particular? 

I write whatever takes my fancy at the time and not necessarily what I actually set out to write! My first published work was a short horror story which surprised me because at the time, I was only interested in writing for children. I was given the opportunity to submit a short horror story and to my amazement it was accepted and published in 'Shrouded by Darkness - Tales of Terror'. I have also written a script for a play about World War One. That also took me by surprise because initially, I was asked to write a short sketch. The short sketch grew into a 'series of playlets' which eventually was performed in England, Germany and France and will be seen again in November 2017 in Essex. At the moment, I'm writing a historical romance but my latest book, published by Chapeltown Publishing, entitled 'Extraordinary', is a collection of short, speculative fiction. Probably the only thing I haven't tried is crime and poetry - oh, and I don't write anything I consider offensive! 

 What got you started on writing in the first place?

I tried to get my son interested in his creative writing homework when he was at school and suggested I give him the first sentence to a story and he give me the second. He looked at me blankly, so I gave him a paragraph and suggested he complete the following paragraph. Still nothing. But the story I'd started interested me so much, I thought I'd continue and in the end, I carried on until I'd finished. It's never been published but I might return to it one day and revamp it. My son never did take an interest in creative writing. But as his mother was in her forties when she started, there's plenty of time for him to develop an interest yet!

Do you have a particular routine?

No, I just write when I can. As I go to sleep, I'm planning the next day's writing, which possibly counts as a routine and sometimes gives me very useful dreams!

Do you have a dedicated working space?

Yes! I've only just got it and it's not quite sorted out yet, so no pictures! It's in the loft, the units are sky blue and I have all my favourite pieces round me, like the writing set which my dad gave me which has a cherub on the top. I rub his head every day. Perhaps I should have mentioned that under 'Do you have a particular routine?'!

When did you decide you could call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact?

Probably the only time I refer to myself as a writer is when I'm with other writers. Otherwise, I say that I write but don't refer to myself as a writer or author. Calling myself a writer sounds rather conceited although I have no idea why because if I write, then surely I'm a writer? I look forward to seeing other writers' answers to this question!

 How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing?

My mum is incredibly proud of me and I think my husband and son are too although I'm not sure they know how much time I spend thinking about my writing. I only tend to talk about what I'm working on if I'm asked - which isn't very often, so I suppose it would be hard for anyone to guess how much of my time is spent thinking about my characters or the next bit of plot. Other writers who are friends, understand what I'm doing, but I suppose it's always easier to talk to people about interests that are shared.

 What are you most proud of in your writing?

I'm most proud of my book 'The Great War - 100 Stories of 100 Words Honouring Those Who Lived and Died 100 Years Ago'. It was a challenge writing one hundred stories, each with exactly one hundred words and I hope that I covered a wide range of aspects of the war and of course, honoured those whose lives were touched by those dreadful years 1914 - 1918.

Do you have any goals for the future?

I want to write whenever and whatever I can. And I would like to improve the way I write As for projects, I have written a new play about the end of the First World War and the return of the soldiers, called 'The Other Side of Peace', which I hope will be performed next year. I'd also like to go in for some competitions - and it would be lovely to win occasionally too!

Which writers have inspired you?

As an only child, I spent much of my childhood reading, so I suppose all the writers whose books I read must have inspired me even if it took many years for me to start writing. Recently, writers which I have enjoyed include Terry Pratchett, Ken Follett and Wilbur Smith. The book that I am currently reading is 'All the Light We Cannot See' by Anthony Doerr which is beautifully written and I am appreciating his vivid description.

Dawn's single author collection Extraordinary is published by Bridge House next week. 

Read Dawn's work here:

Friday 6 October 2017

Newsletter 6 October 2017


News about my writing

We've just got back from what is fast becoming an annual trip to Nerja on the Costa del Sol. In theory we only go there every other year, but we're so drawn to it that we'll probably now continue to go there once a year. It's an important place for me: it kick-started my writing.

However, when you're a writer and a publisher, as I am, you don't really stop "working". I don't really like to divide life into work and non-work because if you love what you're doing there is no such thing as "work".
The change of climate, scenery and food was nevertheless welcome.
I've come back full of good ideas.       


Gift to or from a writing friend?

Why not get a mug made at Vista Print with book covers? Here's how: Then fill the mug with other goodies -  a bar of chocolate, some nice pens, a small note book? If it's for a friend who is not a writer, consider adding in some nice snacks or toiletries.    


1940s Group

I'm getting a few members into my 1940s' group now. We're beginning to become beta-readers for each other. Hopefully we'll also soon attract reviewers. 
This is a Facebook group for those of us who write about the 1940s. This group is for all people who write about the 1940s. Fiction and non-fiction, for young and old. Topics might then be: the Holocaust, World War II, Civilian Experience (all sides) and the battle front. We can exchange ideas about research and marketing. We may promote books and stories, - the last day of every month and on launch / release day. In particular, we might work together to make use of the many 1940s' weekends that take place.
If you feel that is you, do join us:    


My Dream Team of reviewers and beta–readers and for my publishing and self-publishing projects, editors, proof-readers, illustrators and designers is beginning to take shape. Take a look at some of the people I've added: Roger Noons, Alyson Rhodes,  Bartosz Milewski, and Karda Zenko. Do take a look at what they can offer. There are a few others on the site, too. Find them here.    
This is a personal recommendation. Initially I intend to use my Dream Team a lot myself but gradually I would add in people that friends and friends of friends have recommended.

What happens?

You sign up to a mail list and every time a request comes in we mail it out to you or the enquirer contacts you directly via my web site. The conversation then carries on between you and the person making the request. You may also have a page set up on my blog and you may update that once a year. 
Interested? You may sign up for more than one category. 
Beta readers sign up here.
Reviewers sign up here.
Editors sign up here.
Illustrators sign up here.
Designers sign up here.
Proof-readers sing up here.   


Bridge House

Editing is well under way now for Gliterary Tales and many stories have now been saved to Final. We've decided on a cover picture and I've also been busy making a book trailer.  
We’re getting plenty of interest in our single-author collections. These are for authors we’ve published before and they may include stories we’ve already published, ones they’ve had published elsewhere and new ones. The description for this is now on the web site. We’ve already had some enquiries and we’re currently working on several anthologies.  You may recycle stories we’ve already included in another anthology, and you may reedit these if you wish. You may also add in new stories. We’re aiming at a total word count of between 30,000 and 70,000 words. 
If you’re interested in this, contact me here.    
Already in progress are collections by Paul Bradley, Phyllis Burton, Jesse Falzoi, Dawn Knox, Jenny Palmer, Dianne Stadhams and Paul Williams.
We have now almost finished working on edits of Citizens of Nowhere, with the theme of the global citizen. Several books are due out any moment now.


I've just decided that from now on stories will be posted at 4.00 p/m. After all that is the time Afternoon Teatime, for Kaffee and Kuchen and it's also when the kids are home from school. Just the right time for a cuppa and a good story.
We're getting quite a few submissions now but still not quite up to one a day. Sadly, of course, we have to reject some.      
Some new writers have joined us recently: Sandy Wilson, Mandy Percy, Wendy Ogilvie, Janelle Hardacre and Sophie Flynn. You'll find several of your old favourites there as well.    
But we're always open to submissions. Find out to submit here. We are now interested in a few seasonal stories – Guy Fawkes, autumn, Halloween, Christmas and would like to have them now so that we can schedule them effectively. Remember, this gives you some exposure and there's always the chance that your work might be accepted for the annual anthology.    
The Best of CaféLit 6 has been produced and copies are on sale. As usual we welcome reviews. I can let you have a PDF or an e-mobi copy if you're willing to review. You can also buy copies here.   
On offer for CaféLit authors is a page on our web site. See examples here.  The list is growing. Click on the names to find out more about the authors and to access their work. If you're a CaféLit author and would like a web page, use the ones there to get ideas. You need to send me between 250 and 350 words about yourself, an attractive image, a list of up to six publications, up to six awards and up to six links. I then alos link the apge to your storeis on CaféLit. Send to gill at cafelit dot co dot uk.         


Christopher Bowles' Spectrum, a challenging but very satisfying read. Again reviews welcome. The Kindle version was quite a challenge. He has some fabulous reviews. See them here. More are welcome. I can send you a PDF. Be warned: there is some adult material in this. There is also a lot of beautiful writing. If you would like to buy the book, see details here.      
Chapeltown has now successfully published its first picture book. Colin Wyatt’s Who will be my friend? – is a delightful story about friendship and accepting others. Yes, Colin is Debz’s dad. He is a Disney licensed illustrator and his previous publication is The Jet Set. We feel very honoured to have published him.
The book is out now and available at  Reviews welcome. We can provide the PDF. 
We’re very pleased with this book and now aim to publish more picture books. We're working on an illustrated book by Philippa Rae and we've offered two more contracts for picture books.   
If you're interested in reviewing any of the above, just email me.
Coming soon: work by Anusha VR, Gail Aldwin,  Mandy Huggins and Roger Noons.   

Creative Café

Shortly I'll restart my tour of creative cafés where I'll collect stories for an anthology. In some cases, writers may offer them and in others maybe customers may tell me their story and I'll write it for them.      
Remember you can now buy merchandise for the Creative Café project. The profit on anything you buy here goes to the Creative Café Project. Check this out here.    
We’re always looking for new cafés.  If you visit one of the cafés in the project and would like to write a review of between 250 and 350 words – nice, too, to have a couple of pictures – send it to me here. Do the same if you find a new café.
I’m also now proactively encouraging cafes to stock The Best of CaféLit. Do you know anyone who might like to stock it? We can offer a 35% discount to retailers. Query gill at cafelit dot co dot uk.     


The Red Telephone

I am now working on Richard Bradburn’s Evernrood.
Our mentoring programme is now full. I’m now working quite closely with three very different authors: Charlotte Comley, Dianne Stadhams, and Nina Wadcock. They are all presenting some fascinating material. University of Salford graduates Lauren Hopes and Christian Leah have also joined our happy band.        

Book tours

If you’re a Bridge House / Red Telephone / CaféLit / Chapeltown author and you want to get serious about book tours, consider our author’s kit. We provide twenty or so books (exact number is up for negotiation) you take to the bookshop and the bookshop can put these through the till. We then invoice the bookshop, with a 35% discount for any sold and top up your supply to twenty. At the end of the tour you can either pay for the remaining books at cost + 10% or keep them until you’ve sold them and then pay the normal price of 75% of RRP. The latter can in any case be set against royalties. You need to allow at least ten days between events. Contact me here if you’re interested in this.           

School Visits

I’m proactively promoting my school visits associated with The House on Schellberg Street project. I’ve now developed a whole workshop for this. It starts off with a board game, includes some role play and creative writing and ends with a discussion.
Costs= travel expenses plus £400 for a full day and £200 for a half day. This includes all materials and some freebies. Two schools near to each other might consider splitting the day and halving the travel expenses and fees. This is open to negotiation in any case.       
I also offer a free half day visit, though you pay my travel expenses, if you allow me to promote my books.       
I’m continuously adding materials for schools to the site that are different from the ones I use for the workshops. I’ve recently added in resources and books to do with the topic. See them here:       
Query for a school visit here.
I’m also happy to tailor a visit for your agreed donation. This can be for either a Schellberg Cycle visit or a creative writing workshop. Any monies raised this way will go specifically to a project I have for a non-fiction book about a journey that will follow the footsteps of Clara Lehrs. I’m hoping to do the whole journey by train, including departing via my nearest Metrolink station. It’s important to feel the rails beneath my feet.       
 I offer as well standard author visits which include readings from my books, Q & A sessions and creative writing exercises.
It is now possible to purchase the kit to work on on your own. Find details here.
Please remember, with these as well, I’m open to negotiation if you can’t afford the full price.


Upcoming events

The London Bridge House / CafeLit / Chapeltown / Red Telephone celebration will be 2 December at the Princess of Wales again. This year we are again “sold out” – the event is free but ticketed but it is possible to go onto a reserve list. We shall have:  
  • general mingling
  • cash bar
  • an opportunity to buy lunch
  • an opportunity to buy books at an advantageous rate    
  • “speed-dating”  where you get to speak to as many people as possible in the room i.e. promote yourself to readers, swap tips with other writers
  • author readings
  • latest news from me  
  • collection for a local charity
  • big book swap (bring one of your other titles and take something else home – hopefully all will be reviewed. If you bring a non-writing friend they can just bring a book they love)  

Writing opportunities

Remember I keep a full list of vetted opportunities on my writing blog. See them 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.    


Current reading recommendations

Her Father's Daughter by Nessa O'Mahony

I'll be quite upfront to start with and say that Nessa O'Mahnoy is a friend of mine. We both worked for our PhDs 2003-2007 and graduated together form the Bangor University in 2007. I'll also say that straight away afterwards that that makes no odds

I've had this book for quite a while. I wish I'd read it sooner. It is a delight.
As the title suggests, there are autobiographical elements here of the Nessa's relationship with her own father. It also contains the story of her mother's relationship with her grandfather.
The poems are strong because they relate to the real world. Nessa uses a powerful mix of writing with the senses and her own inner thoughts and observations to tell an engaging story through language carefully chosen. 

A particular favourite of mine is 'Natural Selection' (34):
April blusters into May,
plays a glassy tune
on the wind chime
guarding the crab-apple
from bull-finch rapine.

At my desk on the first floor
I miss most of the garden action,
though the upward climb
of pink and white
on the silver birch
can still arrest me 
Available here.  

Calling all writers

I'm running an occasional series of interviews on my blog. Take a look at my interview with Allison Symes.  If you would like to be on my blog just answer the questions below and send them with appropriate images to gill dot james at btinternet dot com.
Please feel free to pick and choose which of these to answer. 
1.      What do you write? Why this in particular? 
2.      What got you started on writing in the first place?
3.      Do you have a particular routine? 
4.      Do you have a dedicated working space?
5.      When did you decide you could call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact?
6.      How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing?
7.      What are you most proud of in your writing?
8.      How do you get on with editing and research?
9.      Do you have any goals for the future?
10.  Which writers have inspired you?
Please write as much or as little as you like for each section and supply as many pictures as you like. Also let me know your latest publication and supply me with a link if it's not on Amazon.      



This month I’m giving away an e-mobi file for your Kindle of  Snowflakes. Sign up to get this newsletter with news of other freebies and offers. 
You will also find in this dropbox:
·         An extract from Clara’s Story
·         Some seminars for schools about The House on Schellberg Street
·         Some fiction writing exercises
·         The opening chapters from my manual for writing the young adult novel  
Note, that normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage, sell for anything form £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 we’re offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy. 


Happy reading and writing.