Friday 1 May 2020

News 1 May 2020


Days and Weeks Passing By

The days are passing by and so are the weeks. I can’t believe I’m writing this newsletter again.  It seems like just a few days ago that I wrote the March one. This virus is still worrying but the only way to cope, I find, is just to live each day, nay, each moment as it comes. Occasionally, very occasionally I wake in the middle of the night and old monkey mind takes over. What if I get it and it carries me off? (Though I’m convinced I’m going to live to be 104!) What if I lose one of my close friends or relatives? What if we don’t return to normal and we do really start living in a dystopian near future novel? Psychologists tell us that monkey mind is necessary. It provides a kind of risk assessment. The point then is to look at what you can do in the worst case scenario.  Plan for the worst, hope for the best. Put monkey back in his place.  And the best plan is then just to breathe through each moment. I’m fortunate anyway that old monkey only appears very infrequently.  

I’m finding a lot to occupy me.  Tai Chi is replacing my trips to the swimming pool.  The movement and the breathing are similar and the commute is shorter. Most of my U3A meetings are carrying on remotely. But instead of taking a short bus ride into town I just go to my computer and into Zoom.
There is some extraordinary good material now online. The Society of Authors is providing lots of excellent virtual meetings.  I love some of the videos on Classic FM and The Literary Hub.  There are others too. The other day I even went for a virtual walk along the coast in Spain. 

So many people are doing so much. We’re a little restricted in what we can do. So, we’re giving to the food bank every week and I’m donating to a few charities as and when I feel appropriate.  As Cultural Champion I’ve been asked to create some creative writing materials for people who are in total isolation and don’t have access to a computer or broadband.   These and other ideas for creative activities are being distributed throughout our local area.  I’ve produced a couple of ideas for writing stories and a couple of ideas for writing poems, all inspired by old photographs and what people can see out of their window. I’ve also added ideas about how these activities can produce items people may still be able to use after lockdown ends.  I’ve written these prompts in such a way that people who have never written before can use them but so that they’ll also be of interest to more experienced writers. I hope they’ll prove to be worthwhile for a few people. 

If you think they may of interest to you or to someone you know, email me and I’ll send them by return.  

News about my writing

I have had an extraordinary acceptance: a recipe for a charity cook book. My friends in Spain run a charity that supports the provision of palliative care for people with terminal illnesses. If you would like to read my recipe, along with others, and support the charity, here is the link: . My recipe was inspired by a seafood dish I had one night when I was at the Hay Festival. It was so delicious I had to replicate it. This was the result.

I also had a piece of flash fiction short-listed in the Axe to Grind competition. It didn’t make it through to the winners’page but it was nice to be short-listed.      
I’m still carrying on much as before: The Round Robin, the fifth book in the Schellberg Cycle, Not Just Fluffy Bunnies, and I’m still working on The Business of Writing.   
I’m also continuing to write stories relating to the virus and the collection I’m putting together with other writers is growing.       

The Young Person’s Library

I’ve added new this month:  

A Most Amazing Zoo  

By Linda Flynn and Linda Laurie
This is a richly illustrated text for emergent readers with a lot of information about animals.

The Death Cure

By James Dashner
This is the third book in the Maze Runner series. This is about a dystopian world for younger teens.

Ted Rules the World

By Frank Cottrell Boyce
This is a high-low, aimed at upper primary children. It unusually touches on politics.   

Current reading recommendation

This month I’m recommending a collection of short stories Scratched Enamel Heart by Amanda Huggins.  Find details  here.  

Amanda asked me to review it for her. I did this gladly and I was pleased to create five star reviews on both Good Reads and Amazon. I can’t post them yet as the book isn’t out until 27 May but here’s what I’m saying:
“The short stories in this collection give a strong sense of time and place and allow the reader to follow the characters as they make a journey. Sometimes this is an actual physical journey, at other times it is a journey of the soul. Each story too brings with it an atmosphere that we cannot ignore. We are drawn to the characters and their settings.” 

And here are a couple of extracts from other reviews:
“Her use of all the senses in her stories is wonderful. When she describes food being eaten, it is as if you were there watching the food being eaten! This is hard to pull off well. All of the stories will move you and make you wonder what you would do if you were this character faced with this situation. Huggins creates a miniature world with every story, and you are drawn in, almost hypnotically.” (Allison Symes

"This short fiction collection contains twenty-four emotionally-charged stories that take readers on a journey to households and communities in a range of countries. Through these stories, Amanda Huggins cleverly shows us the commonality of emotional experience. That feelings of isolation, love, grief, loss and regret occur in different backgrounds and cultures. And equally, that hope and the promise of a fresh start is possible. Amanda Huggins writes in a beautiful and empathetic way to immerse readers in the challenges and dilemmas she presents to her characters. As readers we care about these characters and learn from them. This is a truthful, authentic and essential read." (Gail Aldwin

Well worth pre-ordering, I’d say.  


Note: these are usually mobi-files to be downloaded to a Kindle.  Occasionally there are PDFs.
Continuing with dystopian themes this month I’m giving away Babel. This follows on from the novel offered last month and continues the story of the Peace Child. Protagonist Kaleem started nagging at me and I had to write a fourth story about him. I have a fifth one planned. So much for it being a trilogy!    

Certainly the economic situation at the moment is making me realise how the Zenoton may have created their society. And that is one of the bits of Covid 19 writing I’m currently working on.  
You can download Babel and lots of other free materials here.

Please, please, please review it if you read it.     

Note, that normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £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 I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy. Also at the moment I’m quite happy for you to share these links with other people and any of the items you’ve downloaded before - just until the end of the lock-down.   


The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust and also for other writers of historical fiction.

I’ve written a post this month about going back to my primary materials. You can read this here:  
I was involved in an interesting discussion at a research seminar at the University of Salford (conducted remotely of course): why has the Nazi era not been romanticised? Most people would probably say that it’s obvious why not. But what about the way it’s portrayed in Hello, Hello? And what about what I’m doing in my Schellberg Cycle? It’s already been described as unusual because I show the German point of view. I discuss that a little in my post Romanticising the Nazi era?

I’ve also added another book review. Past Remembering by Catrin Collier. This is an easy fictional read that gives us much insight into civilian life in the UK.  


School visits

I’ve suspended these until further notice. I’m now starting work on a series of on-line materials.  

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.

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 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.     

Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 

The Young Person’s Library I am gradually moving the children’s book catalogue over to this site.  Access it here.

Fair Submissions I am gradually moving the Opportunities List to this site.  Find it 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.  

Happy reading and writing. 

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay  

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