Tuesday 17 July 2018

140 x 140

I'm delighted that my second collection of flash fiction, 140 x 140 is now out. It was fun to write. I wrote these pieces on days when I was editing longer works.  This allowed me a little time to do something more creative. 

Each piece used a prompt: the first picture I saw on my Twitter feed that day. So, each piece has a title and a date. The collection starts on 13 May 2014 and ends on 11 March 2017. Perhaps those dates tell you a little about how long it takes to write and publish a collection. Flash fiction isn't for the faint-hearted. 

Each story had to be exactly 140 words long. This was quite a challenge. 

I'm now working on another collection: that's right 70 x 240.

140 x 140 is one of Chapeltown's little square books. We now have seven of those plus two more conventional 8 x 5, one of which contains slightly longer stories and another which has quite a bit of verse. 

140 x 140 retains the square format but is considerably thicker than the other "square" collections. The paperback copy is slightly more expensive than the others though the Kindle version comes in at about the same price. Our Kindle prices tend to be dictated by the relationship between the pound and the dollar on the day.   

140 x 140 - available from Amazon. 

Wednesday 4 July 2018

Interview with writer Celia Jenkins

Today I'm pleased to welcome to my blog one of our community of writers: Celia Jenkins. 

Celia, what do you write? Why this in particular?

Because I write as a professional freelance writer, as well as writing things of my own choosing, I end up writing quite a lot of different things! My freelancing usually revolves around travel writing, ghost writing children’s books and writing educational materials. I often get commissioned on these topics as I spent time living abroad (where I taught English) and because I was a teacher I’m considered an expert on graded materials. When I write for myself, I write children’s books (anything from picture book texts to YA/NA material), light-hearted romance novels, short stories and haiku. Quite eclectic! I imagine that when I ‘find success’ in one genre, I’ll specialise and stop stretching myself in so many different directions.

What got you started on writing in the first place?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer – I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. I’ve never really wanted to be anything else.

Do you have a particular routine?

Because I have a number of other day jobs to pay the bills (three other jobs, to be precise!) my routine changes all the time. Basically, whenever I’m not doing anything else, I write. Quite often I have patches of time between jobs. Often I’ll wake up early and cycle off to my first job, come home and do a few hours of writing before a lunchtime shift, and then do some more writing when I get back in the later afternoon (phew!)

Do you have a dedicated working space?

Yes! For the first time ever, I have an office! I’d never been without one now, even if this one is a tiny box room. It’s even tinier because I’ve laid it out in a very feng shui sort of way, which feels lovely but basically has my desk right in the middle of the room. A bigger office would be nice, one day…

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

The first time I was told to start referring to myself as a writer (rather than ‘aspiring writer’) was at university. I think in actuality I started referring to myself as a writer when I started getting paid for it. Now that I have four jobs, even though the writing quarter might not be the most regular or reliable of my earnings, I still lead into the question ‘What do you do?’ with ‘I’m a writer’.
How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing?
My husband is very supportive – he knows that, in order for me to chase my dream, I have to spend a lot of time squirreled away in my office. Also, to make sure the bills still get paid at the end of the month, I take on weekend work and night shifts to balance out the unpaid hours I spend during the week working on my own writing. The time when I first started really dedicating time to writing was about 3 or 4 years ago, when I reduced my working hours to four days a week so that I could write. I couldn’t have done that without the support of my husband.

What are you most proud of in your writing?

I’m proud to have not given up yet! Having studied creative writing at university, rubbing shoulders with dozens of other hopefuls, it’s incredible to see the high number of people who, since graduating, haven’t written anything at all. Some people I know even went on to do the Masters degree and barely write nowadays. I know a number of people who have found real success, and that’s so awesome and inspiring for me. But something I really sympathize with are the people like me who, years after graduating, are still slogging away and are hopeful of getting an agent, a book deal, etc. I’m proud to say that I haven’t laid down my pen, even though life has that ability to worm its way between you and your dreams, whether that be in the form of a day job, getting a mortgage, getting married, having kids, etc. Whatever else is going on in my life, being a writer will always be a major chunk of who I am.

Website: https://www.celiajenkins.com/
Twitter: @CeliaJWriter
Ceilia's books:

Sunday 1 July 2018

News June 2018

Grass Fire Firefighter Smoke Preventive Bu

How is everyone coping with the hot weather? We have all windows and the patio door open all day and our bedroom windows at night. We're plagued with smoky air from the wildfires up here in the North West and no sign of any rain.  Who'd have thought it? Wildfires in the North West of England? Rainy City without rain? And I've recently written a short story about a state of emergency in the North West because of violent storms.     

News about my writing

I'm getting excited now about having the play script of The House on Schellberg Street read out on 8 July. There's still time to get involved if 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 a read through and a walk through. I hope to pre-cast it. I shall provide cake and other refreshments.
I'm now working on the extra material needed in The House of Clementine. Currently I'm adding in some chapters of Rozia's Glog – rather like I did in The Tower.  (This is my giveaway book this month.)  
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've had some positive comments from one reader so far. Thank you!
I'm also still working on 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. 
My second collection of flash fiction is out on Kindle.  The paperback will follow shortly. As usual, reviews are welcome and I can supply a mobi file or a PDF. 140 x 140  is made up of 140 pieces of flash fiction, each 140 words long. Each one is written from a prompt – the first picture I saw on my Twitter feed that day. I'm now working on 280 x 70. I think you get the picture. 140 x 140 is one of the little square books but has to retail at an RRP of £7.00 as it has more pages that the others.  Of course, you could get a free copy if you came to my event at the Buxton Fringe.  More about that later.   

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/    
So many parallels are now being drawn between what is happening now and what happened in the 1930s and 1940s. I see them too but I think this what is happening today is both mediated and escalated by social media. My girls hardly read the newspaper or listened to the news. They didn't really know what was going on and knew that they didn't know. We think we know but how much are we taken in by fake news and a monopolised press? There's another story in the making …. 


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.   
I'm delighted to have Neil Campbell on board as a reviewer.

More about Amazon

Amazon's next trick is the removal of reviews.  As I understand it, they use algorithms – which they change continuously – to determine which reviews to keep. If they see a personal connection between you and your reviewer they may remove the review. I'd still argue, however, that with over six hundred people on the lists I manage, if everyone wrote a review occasionally we'd have enough variety to get around Amazon's algorithms.
Personally I'll add a review if I can give four or five stars on Amazon and if that book hasn't already got over 50 reviews. If I really love a book and it takes me out of my editor's head it goes on to my Recommended Reads Blog.   
If someone asks me to review I'll be scrupulously honest. You have to be. Same with social media – only like what you genuinely like. If it's someone I know I'll warn them that the review will be harsh.  
It's worth remembering that one, two and three star reviews don't actually harm. The lower ratings sometimes make me curious as a reader.
Yes, Amazon continues to be powerful. Publishers cannot do much about it. However, I'm attending a meeting with them and several other small publishers next Thursday. We'll see!

Illegal Downloads

One of my writers informed me that a site was providing copies of her book illegally. A lot of these sites are fake. This one actually wasn't. As soon as I started filling in the contact form it asked me which book I wanted removing and offered apologies in poor English.
Interestingly when your book appears on one of these sites you often get a spike in sales. The download offered is of such terrible quality – often a PDF of a poor scan – that if the reader finds the book satisfying they'll go and actually buy one.
As a published writer I've found publishers and the Society of Authors almost shrug their shoulders when this happens. However, just this weekend, the Society of Authors has launched a Twitter campaign on this matter. Hooray!  
We can best combat this by refusing such free downloads and educating our readers about why this is wrong.
How does this compare, though, with buying second hand books?  Or book crossing?
I do think we must carry on asking for our titles to be removed from sites that offer illegal downloads.                         

Bridge House

Jenny Palmer's Keepsake was published this month.
Keepsake and Other Stories is a collection of Jenny's finest writing. There are stories to make you smile and stories to make you think.  And they ask many questions. Why do the visitors decide never to return? What will happen to a relationship if one of the partners becomes too obsessed with a project?  What is in the shed? What exactly is the keepsake? One thing is for sure: you will enjoy finding out.         
Jenny Palmer lived and worked abroad and in London for many years, teaching English to foreign students. She has co-edited four anthologies of short stories, published by the Women's Press and Serpents Tail. Following her return to Lancashire in 2008, she self-published two memoirs and a family history. Nowhere Better than Home is a childhood memoir about growing up in rural Lancashire in the 50s and 60s.  Pastures New is the sequel and covers the heady days of the 70s and 80s.  'Whipps, Watsons and Bulcocks: a Pendle family history' traces the history of her family, who have lived in the same house for 400 years. Her poems and short stories have been published in the Lancashire Evening Post, on the CafeLit website and in various local anthologies. 'A59' and 'Fatal Flaws' are in the Best of CafeLit 3 and 5.
As usual, I'm happy to provide a mobi or PDF file for reviews.

We were delight, too, to launch To Be … To become  
See the full list of contributors here: https://www.waterloofestival.com/winners
Here's the blurb:
"To Be  .. To Become is the theme of the 2018 Waterloo Festival Writing Competition. It is also the title of the e-book, which contains the sixteen winning entries.  Some fantastic writing was offered and all of it was potentially publishable.  We chose these because they told a good story, had a strong voice and were imaginative in their interpretation of the theme. 
"Entrants were asked to produce a short story or a monologue.  Style was diverse and each story is completely different from the others.  
"This delightful English language anthology of literary fiction comes to you for under £2.50."     
Again we can offer review copies as mobi or epub files or as a PDF.  
If you're waiting to hear about your book, 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
And we have the list for Crackers:
Angel’s Wing Alyson Faye
Believing Lies Stephen Faulkner
Supermarket Sweetheart Jennie E Owen
No Fool like an Old Food Margaret Bullyment
Crackers the Clown Anne Wilson
Cracks in the Mirror Sally Angell
In Plain Sight Kay Middlemiss
Dress Form Christopher Bowles
Eton Mess Merlin Ward
Firecracker Elizabeth Cox
Horseflesh Adrian Naylor
Julia’s Crackers G. Norman Lippert
Rescue Me, Saving You Linda Flynn
Sheep Be Damned Dianne Stadhams
Snap Karen Kendrick
Snow Ian Inglis
The Annual General Meeting of the East Kent Macumba Society Michele Sheldon
The Bogeyman Steve Wade
The Flaw Stuart Larner
The me Phone Boris Glikman  
Timothy and Pandora's Box Dawn Knox
Up in Smoke Paula R C Readman
Very Little Helps Clare Weze
Years of the Eclipse - Erik Löfroth

Once again, it was hard to choose. There was some very good writing and pretty well all of what we saw here is publishable. We favoured those stories that captured the theme best though the interpretation of the theme was varied.



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 June we had stories from: Peppy Barlow, James Bates, Ruth Ogilive-Brown, Alan Cadman, Jo Dearden, Jody Durkin, Susan A Eames, Alison Faye, Bren Gosling, Boris Glikman, Linda Hutchinson, Pat Jourdan, Shawn Klimek, Dawn Knox, Nick Maynard, Kim Martins, Roger Noons, Jenny Palmer, Linda Payne, Mari Phillips, Copper Rose, Allison Symes, Netta Shlain, Morna Sullivan, Andrea Williams and Robin Wrigley. Thank you and well done everyone.  
This again includes several new writers. Our community continues to grow.
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 in the next few weeks. We're doing an in-house proof-read at the moment and then it will go out to authors to check.  
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. 


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 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.
I have a new book with Chapeltown: 140 x 140 Details above.


Creative Café

I've added just one café added in June: Short and Sweet at Wimborne. Read all about it here.  You can also read about Gail Aldwin's residency at the café. Good work Gail. News of this sort is always welcome.    
There are a few more cafés waiting to be added.     

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.        


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

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!)

Past events

Scribblers Sans Frontières Event Manchester 2 June, International Burgess Foundation

This was an intimate occasion but very enjoyable. The trains continued to be awkward, there was a huge protest march in the city centre, it was half term and there was a nasty bug going around.
Nevertheless it was very enjoyable.
We did our usual speed-dating, I summarised the work of our various imprints, and several writers read. The Burgess Foundation was the ideal spot.   
Some useful networking took place.   

Launch of Word Weekend and To Be…. To Become  

14 June at St John's Waterloo. We heard from the WINNING ENTRIES of Waterloo Festival’s Writing Competition! Several people also read at the OPEN MIC SESSION.
St John's is a fabulous venue. It was good to meet contributors to the anthology.
Read more about the festival here.   

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

I've actually been reading a few collections of student writing. I picked up some anthologies at a conference I went to a few weeks ago. The work was delightfully good and I'm pleased to see that a small anthology of writings by some students I've taught at the University of Salford was truly excellent.
However, my book of choice this month has to be Alan Bennett's Keep on Keeping On.   This is a collection of his diaries from 2005-2015. There are also a few articles and introductions to various other works. There are two scripts that have not been produced.    
I was delighted and surprised to find that Bennett and I see eye to eye about politics and about writing. I could just imagine the two of us sitting together watching Question Time and shouting at the television.
I acquired the book for £10.00 – RRP is £19.99 – at a special event at Bury library: An Evening Not with Alan Bennett. We did have a recorded video link to Bennett and an "afternoon tea" was put on in the evening. It was quite a spread and there was as much tea – builders' variety – as you could drink. Amusingly, it was supplied by the Co-Op Funeral Company. That would amuse Benett, no doubt. In fact, I'm fairly certain this was deliberate.
It's a good but long read: 702 pages.           

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


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.