Tuesday 19 June 2018

Writing about a Material World

 Globe, Sculpture, Park, Metal, Earth

This is an interesting debate. Is the world material? Is it just energy? Is it just a construct of our thoughts and imagination? How do things like The Secret work in a totally material world?  
The video It's an Immaterial World discusses these ideas. 

But what about the writer? Do we live in our heads or are we engaged with the physical world? 

"Write what you know," the gurus tell us.  But if we wrote only what we knew, surely there would be no Star Wars, no Harry Potter, no Lord of the Rings. Neither probably would there be any historical fiction. However, we do write what we know in answering the question "What if?" What if there were a universe full of inhabited planets, at war with each other? What if there were a school for witches and wizards? What if there were some rings that had supernatural  powers? What if the only place for the poor were the workhouse? We work out how all of that would feel like from our experience of our physical world with a little emotion thrown in to salt it.  

"Write with your senses," I tell my students. This means being precise about what they see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Feel can be used in both senses. It always produces effective writing and helps them to "show not tell". This is so very much about the physical world. 

A writer may seem locked up in her head. But all of those ideas that buzz around in there relate to the physical world. We write about scenery, human beings, sounds, what people say and do. This is all physical. A film plays itself out in our heads and we write in order to create the same film in our readers' minds. 

Go to any beach or airport, and you will see many people sitting close to each other, all immersed in other worlds. What is going on in their heads? Ask them to define it and they come out with words which are physical entities: sounds in the head or little marks that mean something on a page.

Many texts, of course deal with the inner monologue of its characters. Even these characters always think in words and words have that physical presence described above. 

Many writers like to experience the physical world they write about. They notice more when they are in the park, the prison cell or the sailing boat than when they just rely on their memory or imagination.     

So how do affirmations and dream-confirming work? In a material world? Well, when we write we isolate certain details we deem important. We focus on them. When we make affirmations or reiterate our dreams we also bring a focus. The former is our creative act. The latter reminds us of what is important to us and is also a creative act.      

The beautiful irony is that matter is mainly empty space. What looks like real matter is actually energy.               

Sunday 3 June 2018

Fellow Chapeltown author Mandy Huggins launches a new book

Today I interview Mandy on the release of her  new book Separated form the Sea 

Northern Short Story Festival in Leeds on June 2nd

Tell me about your book and your inspiration

Separated From the Sea is my debut full length short story collection, and the first single author collection to be signed by Retreat West Books. Some of the stories have been written especially for the collection, and many others have won writing competitions or been published elsewhere in the last five years or so.

I love the short story form, the challenge of crafting a complete story in a few pages, and striving to make every word count. Capturing entire worlds, creating plots and characters, evoking a gamut of emotions in only a couple of thousand words, fully aware that you have to pull the reader in from the very first sentence. And you know you’ve got it right when people tell you that they were moved to tears by those words, or that they couldn’t stop laughing, or that they want to know ‘what happened to her next.’

Some of the stories from my flash collection, Brightly Coloured Horses, have developed into longer stories which appear in Separated From the Sea - because I had to find out what happened next as well!

Separated From the Sea:
Crossing oceans from Japan to New York and from England to Havana, these stories are filled with a sense of yearning, of loss, of not quite belonging, of not being sure that things are what you thought they were. They are stories imbued with pathos and irony, humour and hope.

Evie meets a past love but he's not the person she thinks he is; a visit to the most romantic city in the world reveals the truth about an affair; Satseko discovers an attentive neighbour is much more than that; Eleanor’s journey on the London Underground doesn't take her where she thought it would.

'This is a writer who knows her craft. Never a word out place, poignant, sometimes sad, sometimes startling, these stories fit worlds into small spaces. A long awaited debut.'
Angela Readman – author of Don’t Try This At Home

'If you want the perfect witness to a crime, Amanda Huggins is your woman. She notices everything about the people, places and the things around her. And she gets all this down in lovely little stories that spin around in the reader's head, dizzying us with her powerful images of loss, regret and yearning.'
David Gaffney – author of All The Places I’ve Ever Lived

'Amanda’s work is well crafted, subtle, and shows a deft hand. She delves into the secret wishes and desires of each character, giving us insights into how and why people act the way they do.' 
A M Howcroft – author of Nobody Will Ever Love You

'From the first to the last, the reader rejoices and grieves, empathises and identifies with a range of human emotions depicted with great skill and flair. The writing is flawless and carefully shaded, the layers of meaning unfolding elegantly.'                                                                                                                                                                 Joanna Campbell – author of When Planet Slip Their Tracks

What's Next? Do you have any events planned?

A couple of months ago I started work on a poetry collection. A number of the poems are about growing up in a seaside town in the seventies, but others explore themes of grief and loss, and of yearning for a different life, closer to nature.
I have a busy time ahead promoting both of my collections, and I'm hoping to organise readings with another local author. I'm also the judge of this year's I Must Be Off Travel Writing Competition, so later this summer I'll be reading the shortlisted entries, which I'm looking forward to!
The official Blog Tour for Separated From the Sea carries on throughout the first week in June.

How can we get a copy of the book?

Separated From the Sea
Published by Retreat West Books
2nd June 2018

Ebook                ISBN: 978-1-9997472-7-5
Paperback         ISBN: 978-1-9997472-6-8
The collection is currently in stock on Amazon:


Foyles: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/separated-from-the-sea,huggins-amanda-9781999747268
Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/separated-from-the-sea/huggins-amanda/9781999747268
Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Separated-from-the-Sea/9781999747268

Saturday 2 June 2018

Newsletter May 2018

Bird, Nature, Outdoors, Animal, Wildlife
I hope you've all been enjoying this amazing weather. It's been lovely working next to an open window and hearing the birds singing. I have a bird feeder actually attached to the window of my study and a lot of birds have been visiting. I think they're mainly youngsters. It's good, too, to be able to spend some time enjoying the garden.  I also find I have the strangest dreams when it's so warm like this. Some of them may turn into stories. Is it because we sleep more lightly?       

News about my writing

Our Daily Bread, my collection of short stories, is now out. Thanks to Allison and Paula for their reviews – and for spotting a few typos. I'll be getting it out on Amazon shortly. I can also still get review copies out to people. Just email me and specify if you would like a mobi file or a PDF.     
I'm still making arrangements to have the play script of The House on Schellberg Street read out on 8 July. If you'd like to be involved and you live within commuting distance of Greater Manchester, let me know.  This will be at the Garrick Theatre, very close to the Metrolink in Whitefield. We shall start at 1.30 and finish at 6.00  p.m.  I'm hoping to have read through and a walk through. I hope to pre-cast it. I shall provide cake and other refreshments.
The first draft of The House of Clementine is complete. I'm now about two thirds of the way through reading it. I'm aware that several threads aren't quite tying up and I'll be working on those over the coming weeks.  
Clara's Story is now out. You can find it here. As usual reviews are welcome and I can provide the mobi file or a PDF. Here's the blurb:
"Clara will not be daunted. Her life will not end when her beloved husband dies too young.  She will become a second mother to the children who live away from home at an early age in order to visit a rather special school.  When life becomes desperate for a particular class of disabled children growing up in Nazi Germany she takes a few risks. Is her ultimate faith in the goodness of human beings a fatal flaw that leads to her tragedy or is her story actually one of hope? 
"Clara's Story is the second book in the Schellberg Cycle, a collection of novels inspired by a bunch of photocopied letters that arrived at a small cottage in Wales in 1979. Renate James, nee Edler, Clara's granddaughter, began to recognise the names of the girls she had been at school with. 
"The letters give us some insights into what life was like growing up in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Renate used to tell the story of a school for disabled children that defied the Nazi regime.
"We have a few verifiable facts and research has uncovered a few more. Some repeated experience added more understanding.  But most of all that act of imagination that belongs to actors and writers enabled us to fill the gaps."
I have actually now also started writing the fifth book in the cycle: The Round Robin. This looks more closely at the lives of some of the people who were involved in the class letter in The House on Schellberg Street: Anika who becomes an actor, Gerda who helps to run the family farm, Elsa, one of identical twins, who ends up running the family business and Hanna Braun, their former teacher who refuses to teach the Nazi doctrine and who knows more about what is going on than many other young women do.  I'm finding this much easier than my fourth Peace Child book            


1940s Group

This is a Facebook group 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.
If you feel that is you, do join us: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2026868870924138/    
Last weekend we went to the 1940s weekend on the East Lancs railway. There was a fantastic turn out and many people really got into the spirit of the occasion with some impressive costumes.
However, I personally would welcome a more immersive experience. Something is bubbling at the back of my mind about creating that.

Nevertheless, it was all very interesting and entertaining. Get a flavour of it here: https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/gallery/east-lancashire-railway-1940s-weekend-14714639        


The Dream Team continues to grow. Find members 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 mailing 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.    


General Data Protection Regulation. This newsletter is brought to you by MailChimp, which is compliant with the regulations, or is displayed on Blogger, where you watch us but we don't know who you are.  You can always opt to unsubscribe from the mailing list but we ask that you don't; this is the main means of communication between us and our writers and readers. It's very hard to get you back on the list if you remove yourself. We don't expect you to read everything every time, so your delete key can be handy.   
In addition, we're destroying all submissions for books that are over a year old.  In future we'll no longer ask for your address on contracts or submissions. No photos will be kept on local computers / disks and at any time you may decline having a photo taken or ask for it to be removed from social media.

Update on Amazon

It seems to be back to normal now, though "normal" isn't necessarily all that satisfactory for us small publishers. Amazon UK, as opposed to all of the other Amazon platforms and other online retailers, is cautious.  If it doesn't actually have your book in stock it will suggest an outrageous delivery time. It prefers to do this than promise one to two days and then let customers down.  On the other hand we've had an example recently of the Book Depository (ironically also owned by Amazon) promising a two day delivery and actually taking two weeks. The best way round this is to sell lots of books …. Then Amazon will keep a stock.  Of course, that may be easier said than done. However, here's a note of encouragement: A book I reviewed recently published by one of the Big Five has fewer reviews on Good Reads and Amazon and a lower sales ranking on Amazon than the average of all of Chapeltown's little square flash collections.
There is another side to this that is worth looking out for. It's a bit of a negative, really, but you can change it into a positive.  Sometimes if your book is taking up shelf space and not moving, Amazon will sell it off at a loss to themselves. Often this will be below the price of an author copy. The trick is to order five – they may only have two or three at that price but this may trigger them to stock more.
I'm a member of the Independent Publishers' Guild and shortly I'm going on their course about selling more books on Amazon. Watch this space and watch our sales on Amazon.    

Bridge House

We are currently processing Crackers. In the end we had over 100 submissions.
We've made the selection for the Waterloo festival. We have chosen sixteen stories / monologues coming to about 13,000. The Waterloo festival people have announced the winners I've also been in touch.  
The book has now been put together and proof copies will be to authors in the next few days. We have a tight turnaround on this. But it will be out as an e-book on 14 June. We're actually launching it on 14 June in London. Details here.     
We’re still 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.
We have a huge backlog so please be patient. You can always check our progress at: http://apublishersperspective.blogspot.co.uk/p/work-flow.html



Stories are now all being posted at 4.00 p,m, Afternoon Teatime,  Kaffee and Kuchen time and it's also when the kids are home from school. Just the right time for a cuppa and a good story.

In May we had stories from Mehreen Ahmed, James Bates, Alan Cadman, David Deanshaw, Ann Dixon, Jesus C Deyquitez, William Edgar, Boris Glikman, Bren Gosling, Iris Green, Shawn Klimek, Dawn Knox, Clyde Liffey, Kim Martins, Thomas J Misuraca, Roger Noons, Wendy Ogilvie, Jenny Palmer, Marilyn Pemberton, John Riley, Karen Schauber, Allison Symes, Foster Trecost and Sandy Wilson. This includes several new writers. Our community is really growing.
Here's a reminder of how we select stories: I open my inbox, I'll often see four or five submissions. I'll select the best of the bunch and schedule it for in a few days' time. I'll let you know. I may reject one or two but ones that are basically sound I'll keep forever or until they’re published.  Consequently if one you've submitted to us has not been rejected, and you find a home for it elsewhere, let us know the name of the story and the date you submitted and we'll remove it from the archive. Try to include the drink each time do put CafeLit in the subject line so we can identify your submission. Remember to include your bio (50-100 words including links for longer stories, just links for 100 words or less) each time. I haven't got time to look up an old one and in any case your bio is probably changing all the time.


We're always open to submissions. Find out to submit here. Remember, this gives you some exposure, you can add in a short CV each time, and there's always the chance that your work might be accepted for the annual anthology.    
I hope to get the Best of CaféLit 7 book out by the end of June. I've almost put the book together.     
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 also link the page to your stories on CaféLit. Send to gill at cafelit dot co dot uk.  Latest addition is Kim Martins. See her page here.


Our Chapeltown authors have been very proactive in promoting their work. They have managed to get their books into shops and libraries. They are also buying lots of author copies and being very proactive on getting on to blogs – mine included, of course.
I'm always pleased to mention where Chapeltown authors have success elsewhere and must congratulate Amanda Huggins on the publication of Separated From the Sea by Retreat West Books. It has endorsements from Joanna Campbell, David Gaffney, A M Howcroft and Angela Readman.  Read more here.

I'm still trying to build up the Chapeltown readers list. I'm giving away a free copy of my January Stones 2013 to anyone who joins. See details here: http://www.chapeltownpublishing.uk/ Spread the word.


Creative Café

I've added just one café added this month: The Belgrade Theatre Café. Coventry: http://www.creativecafeproject.org/2018/05/the-belgrade-theatre-coventry.html
However, two more are waiting to be added in the wings.  

Keep sending suggestions and review them if you can.     
I'm continuing my tour of creative cafés where I collect stories for an anthology. In some cases, writers may offer them and in others customers may tell me their story and I'll write it for them. Do you know of a café that might be interested in this? Let me know if you do.         
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.


The Red Telephone

Our mentoring programme is now full. I’m 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.        
I was delighted to see Lauren at our recent Celebration Event in London. She read from her novel.


Facebook Group for the Imprints

Scribblers Sans Frontières -  Here you can:
·         Discuss all technical issues re our books
·         Exchange marketing ideas
·         Advertise and report on your events
·         Promote any of your titles or successes
·         Share good practice and ideas
·         Get help with writing problems
·         Anything else appropriate
Please come and join us if you're eligible. Or you can ask me to sign you up.  

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.
It is now possible to purchase the kit to work on on your own. Find details here.
Costs for my workshops = 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.
Please remember, with these as well, I’m open to negotiation if you can’t afford the full price.

Free listing for our writers

If you are one of our writers and would like to offer school visits, please contact me. I'm offering a free listing on the imprint pages.
State: age groups you are prepared to work with, a definition of your work, distances you are prepared to travel. Appropriate links. Please provide an image.         


Upcoming events

I have two events to mention:
2 June at the International Burgess Foundation., 2.00 p.m. until 5. 00 p.m.  It follows the pattern of the London events.:
  • general mingling
  • cash bar
  • 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)  
Flash Fiction Reading and Workshop at Buxton Fringe 19 July 
https://www.buxtonfringe.org.uk/descriptions2018.html#2374  I'll be doing readings from January Stones 2013 and form my new collection 140 x 140. The ticket £7.00 or £5.00 includes a copy of one of the books and a workshop on writing Flash Fiction. Do come along if you can.         

More specific details of the following will be posted later of the following:
  • I'm hoping to run a workshop on marketing for indie writers / publishers. This will be free of charge but you may make a donation if you wish. This will enable me to put on further events.
  • A Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher Master Class about writing the young adult novel.
  • London event 1 December 2018 (Save the date!)

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 recommendation

Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll.
Emma Carroll is a graduate from the MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. I personally champion the MA in Writing for Children at Winchester. But then I would do. That's where I got my MA. I have to admit though in Carroll's case they're on to a winner.

She has a diverse portfolio of novels and I'll now try to read some more of them.

Letters from the Lighthouse is set in World War II. It touches also on the Holocaust. One of the main characters, Esther Jenkins, has come to England on the Kindertransport.

A little unusually for this age group – I would describe this as a fluent reader book, though it may cross over from late Key Stage 2 to early Key Stage 3 – it uses a first person narrative. However this gives Olive an authentic voice and shows us what it was like for a child in that era.

There is also a very good story, woven together via a carefully crafted plot. Not only is this story exciting and our attention is held but it explores the themes of prejudice and friendship in a sensitive way.

A lovely read.

No wonder it was nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal.
Read more here.   

Calling all writers

I'm running an occasional series of interviews on my blog. 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. 
I 'm also happy to offer you a post whenever you have a new book come out, even if I'm not your publisher. In this case answer the following questions:
  1. Tell me about your book.
  2. Tell us about your research for this book.
  3. What inspired you to write this?
  4. What's next?
  5. How can we get a copy of the book?
  6. Do you have any events planned?
Again write as much or as little as you please. Alter and add to the questions if you wish. Provide as many pictures as you wish.
Send to: gill dot james at btinternet dot com


This month I'm giving away Babel.
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.   
Naturally we welcome reviews.

Happy reading and writing.