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Signed with Linen Press – In the Blink of an Eye

Sometimes something just feels right. 

Having toiled for what has seemed like aeons over my fictional version of the Hill and Adamson partnership, I looked at what I had a few weeks ago and realised it was finished – maybe not totally ready for publication, but the beginning and end felt right and the middle wasn’t far off. Most of the writing was polished (one chapter had just won a prize.) Suddenly  it felt like the story I wanted to tell. As I made some minor revisions to the opening chapter, a new title popped into my head.

In the Blink of an Eye

I liked it.

For fun I decided to enter the MS into a competition and discovered writing a synopsis (usually the worst job in the world) had become a piece of cake. After all this time, the feeling of something coming together was  overwhelming. So much so that on an impulse I sent the whole proposal off to the owner of a small press (we’d chatted over coffee last year) to see what she thought. I had a reply straight away saying the proposal was strong and she was looking forward to reading the sample.  Within a day Lynn Michell of Linen Press got back to say she would like to read more and (my approach had been fairly casual)  did I want her to consider it for publication?

By now I was feeling more confident about this book than I have ever done. I had an inkling if Linen Press said no,  someone else might say yes. But who would that be? I could have  gone looking for other, bigger publishers.  That of course would mean finding an agent. The whole process could take months or years – with no guarantee of success. There were other small presses but what did I know about them? Linen Press (recently described as ‘the new Virago’), might be small, but it’s celebrating its tenth birthday this year. Crucially, I liked what I’d seen of its list,  particularly Avril Joy’s Sometimes a River Song, a beautifully written and produced  book  which I mentioned not so long ago  and has since won an award in the People’s Book Prize. Not many small presses had this kind of charisma.

To cut to the chase, I said yes, please consider it. Lynn read it and  liked it – a lot! Within a week  we had ourselves a deal. The rest is not history, it’s the future! If all goes well,  In the Blink of an Eye will be out next year. 

You can read about the book in its new guise on the Linen Press site.  While you’re at it,  cast your eye over the rest of their lovely list. I think you’ll like the look of it.

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FINE WRITING FOR WOMEN, BY WOMEN

Feels like a good place to be.

A win for historical fiction – and me!

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Collecting the trophy!

Having seen my historical short story Silver Harvest shortlisted several times without ever making the winners’ enclosure, I was beginning to suspect that even if competitions were ‘welcoming’ all genres, there was a reluctance to give the overall prize to a historical piece. I’m happy to say my suspicions have been allayed , since on Friday night The Bird of Wax (from the same series as SH) took the adult prize at the Evesham Festival of Words.

The prize was presented at the official opening of the festival which featured a talk by writer and food supremo (suprema?)  Prue Leith who explained just how hard writing can be and how much she had to learn to get a novel published.

 

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Prue Leith signing books

 

(Comforting to know even proven celebs have to put in the hours!)

However the main judge for the competition was acclaimed short story writer Vanessa Gebbie, whose work I’ve always admired, so that was very pleasing indeed, as are her comments, published with the story  in the festival anthology:

 

 

‘I enjoyed so much about this piece – the voice, the characters, the fascinating details which painted the era so well … I found the ending rather poignant and charged with hope.’

Vanessa also admits to googling my characters to find out more, which I think is a good sign! In fact of the shortlisted stories, two others are also historical. So at least one competition judge is in favour of period pieces – fingers crossed this is a growing trend.

 

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Evesham booty

Free tomorrow? See you in Hawkesbury!

Festival founder Debbie Young (centre) with poets Dan Holloway (left) and Shirley Wright

I hope it’s not to late to remind everybody of the amazing opportunity provided by anyone within striking distance of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, everybody that is who is turned on by reading, writing or getting published in any genre or format.

Throw in a cafe with home-made cakes and snacks and really what’s not to like? And did I mention every discussion, workshop and reading event is free? My only complaint is having ‘volunteered’ (organiser Debbie Young is very persuasive!) for three sessions, I’m going to miss out on a few things I would like to have heard for myself!

So, here are the things I am in:

11 am – The importance of a sense of place in fiction

A discussion chaired by Lisa White of the National Trust

1 pm – Short Stories

Complete stories – none longer than 3 minutes – read by star performers: AA Abbot, Rod Griffiths, John Holland, Rosalind Minett, Mark Rutterfod, Jenefer Heap, Jacquie Gooding and moi. I have heard the others, they are all good!

Sue Johnson – short story workshop

4 pm – Contemporary Fiction

Readings with  JJ Franklin, Kate (Under the Apple Blossom) Frost,  author and writing coach  Sue Johnson, Lynne Pardoe, Thomas Shepherd, Katharine Smith Josephine Lay and Ellie Stevenson

Since I’m also having a new author mugshot taken at 12.30 by writer/photographer Angela Fitch, the chance of getting to much else – or even find lunch! – seems desperately small. But I’ll try to pop in to the Short Story Workshop at 2 pm with Sue Johnson – or the discussion on creative thinking led by Orna Ross. Difficult decisions! And I’m very disappointed to miss the 1 pm talk on the History of Print and Publishing.

Best murder mystery in Hawkesbury?

You can decide on what you’d like to do by downloading the full programme here or just see what takes your fancy on the day.

 

One highlight I will not miss is the launch of Debbie Young’s debut crime novel Best Murder in Show set in a village rather like, you guessed, Hawkesbury Upton.  Sounds like a blast.

Free tomorrow? See you there!

Save the dates!

It’s great to see everyone emerging from the winter gloom and getting together again.

Here are a few dates which should be of interest to anyone who loves writing, reading or just listening.

March 19th: Story Sunday ‘Another Country’

As you know I’m a member of Writers Unchained and hopefully this poster says it all. Writers have until March 5th to submit, or just come along and listen.

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Feb 26th: submissions opening for Stroud Short Stories

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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? I am very pleased to be co-judging the next  SSS event (is this the closest a writer gets to promotion at work?!) which is not until May, but submissions are open from Feb 26th to April 22nd. Why not get thinking and writing now? To submit you do need some connection to Gloucestershire or South Glos, but the theme is open. Check out the entry regulations here. Join us on May 21st to see who we picked.  Feel free to get annoyed if it isn’t you!

molpcoverMeanwhile on March 11th I am thinking of taking myself  to the lovely town of Lyme Regis where the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize winners will be announced. Yes, I am shortlisted for the short story prize and I’m planning to treat myself to a day out in Dorset. If you’re anywhere in the vicinity, the evening event looks like fun,  and as well as celebrating great writing, these people plant trees in Kenya.

Tickets here.
Copies of the winners’ anthology will also be on sale.
How nice to be in it!

 

 

Beyond the Bestseller

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Who doesn’t want to be a best seller? Perhaps in the title of this forthcoming event there’s a recognition that we can’t all be best-sellers and it might be as satisfying to find the right publisher for your book and sell it to the right audience. Or perhaps, since it’s being staged by a very small indie publisher, it’s an invitation to wonder if our work will ever suit the limited (and limiting?) requirements of the Big Six, and suggest there are other places to take it?

And of course there’s nothing that says you won’t be a best-seller by going with a small publisher. I’ve just been reading Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, Man Booker shortlisted, from Scottish indie publisher Saraband BooksSandstone Press has also had lots of mainstream success.

ajoyriverLinen Press, possibly the smallest of the small, came up on my radar years ago, I think because of the Scottish connection (director Lynn Michell was based in Edinburgh at the time) and their small but inviting website. Prompted by an online article elsewhere, I ordered one of their titles and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Since then I’ve read and reviewed others and although not all have been to my taste, they have  all had the  stamp of quality fiction: well-written, thoroughly edited and with unique voices. Avril Joy’s Sometimes A River Song was one of my stand-out reads of last year and a worthy contender for the People’s Book Choice prize. (Read! Vote!) I can also recommend Susie Nott Bowers’ The Making of Her, a compelling novel about the media and the beauty industry.

Like many indie publishers, Linen Press accepts unsolicited submissions – always tempting for the un-agented author – but of course they take on very few of those who apply. So what does a small press look for? How does it work?

I think Beyond the Bestseller will be an intriguing event, lifting the lid on what it takes and how it would be to work with this or other indie outfits. £30 for a day (with lunch!) strikes me as very reasonable. I’m consulting my calendar to see if I can make it.

 

 

 

‘Poor Chattie’ comes to Novel Nights

D.O. Hill’s daughter Chattie is best known from the  iconic portrait  taken near the start of her father’s partnership with Robert Adamson, but we have very few further calotype images of her (calotyping was too expensive for regular ‘family shapshots’) .

All we know from the playful letters, notes and sketches her father made for her, is that she remained central to his  busy life and that her early death marked the beginning of his declining years.

When I was talking to other Hill and Adamson fans last year in St Andrews, one long-time aficionado exclaimed ‘Poor Chattie!’ and a  collective sigh went up in recognition of a father’s grief and a young life snuffed out to soon.

Of course in historical fiction, the less we know about someone the easier it can be to incorporate them into the story we want to tell, and I’ve been thinking for a while that Chattie’s voice could be a useful vehicle for her father’s story if only because she provides a unifying thread,  from the ‘Adamson years’  through the 1850’s, when she and D. O. shared Rock House with his sister Mary and an extended family of cousins. This  was also when D. O. Hill grew particularly close to the artist Joseph Noel Paton, an alliance that would  have repercussions on D.O.’s personal and professional life.

Next week  I’m reading the beginning of a story set in 1854 when Chattie would have been fifteen and attending the first ever  Edinburgh school for young ladies. By now she is old enough to take a view on her and her father’s situation. I wonder what she made of it all, and what D. O. made of her? I imagine her confident, articulate and well brought up. But we all know how teenagers can jump to conclusions …

nnaudienceIf you’d like to hear my version of the (not so poor) Chattie, Novel Nights is taking place on Wednesday Jan 25th in its new venue at The Berkeley Square Hotel, Bristol at 8pm.

Several other local writers will be reading their work and there is a talk by historical fiction expert Celia Brayfield (also mentioned here).

Don’t forget to get your ticket in advance.

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The Berkely Square Hotel, Bristol

Looks like a lovely venue.  I think Chattie will be in her element!

 

*Calotype of Chattie Hill by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson,  Scottish National Galleries collection https://art.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/42236/112194?overlay=download

 

Writers just wanna have fun

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With friends old and new at December Talking Tales in Bristol*

If I was wondering how to sum up 2016 (on the writing front that is) this picture looks as good a one as any to do it: some twinkly lights, friends old and new, writers celebrating stringing a few words together.

At these local events (Story Sunday, Stroud Short Stories, Talking Tales, Novel Nights etc) our audience is made up mainly of other writers  – all avidly curious to see who has been chosen to read and what they’ve come up with. Our ‘public’ is chiefly ourselves -and our trusty and long-suffering camp followers, let’s not forget them!

But while the big bad world of commercial publishing sucks its teeth and eats authors, it seems, for breakfast, testing ourselves amongst our peers is a good way to start on wherever we are headed. We may be our own harshest critics, but knowing how hard it can be to chuck out even a very short short story that works, we also love to support each other and give each other praise where praise is due.  And despite the inevitable nerves, it’s also a lot of fun.

So whatever else 2017 holds, here’s to writers around the world getting together to please themselves – and each other.

Despite a few lucky and talented (yes you need both) exceptions, there isn’t much money to be made in this game,  but we sure as hell are going to enjoy ourselves!

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The Twilight Zone at Southbank, Bristol – more writers, more fun!

 

Thanks to everybody who contributed to my writing year .

Happy Christmas one and all!

 

 

*photo by Christopher Fielden 

 

 

Snow is falling – special offer on A Kettle of Fish

Our tree is up and my shopping is (nearly) done!  So to celebrate, I thought I could help you out with yours – 🙂

Signed by the author (that's me)

Signed by the author (that’s me)

So, if you order  A Kettle of Fish (and even if it’s a while since it come out, as far as I know, books do not go off or lose their appeal due to the passing of a few calendar months)  from a well-known online retailer and have to pay postage,  it will cost you £8.99 + £3 – a painful £11.99*.
But hey, it just so happens I have some right here.
If you ask me to post you a copy, I will charge the you the same  – £8.99 – and include the postage. 

Or if you happen to be someone who sees me or can call in, the price is £7.50.

There’s more about the book here and it had lots of nice Amazon reviews.

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This tree is bigger than it looks

And yes, it is still available on Kindle – this week at a paltry £1.15!
You can also order the paperback from booksellers, I just thought I might save you the trouble of going anywhere or doing anything other than contacting me here or via social media (Facebook or Twitter @AliBacon) to set things in motion.

Offer ends Friday 16th by the way.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS

Snow courtesy of WordPress.com!

 

* Of course if you are on an Amazon package or have a bigger order postage won’t apply. I’m just helping out anybody like me who only ever seems to order books one at a time, or who would like a signed copy!

 

Vintage comedy – with Stokes Croft Writers

A few months ago I made the longlist for Christopher Fielden’s To Hull and Back humorous short story competition whose anthology is being launched at next Saturday’s Talking Tales in Bristol.

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Knowing this was sure to be a fun affair ( yes, I got my TT badge in October!) I saved the date to go along and listen – then I heard that more submissions were being invited.

to-hull-back-2016-front-cover-188x300Well  nothing ventured! And now I’m  on the programme for Saturday too, not with my shortlisted story (“the one about the ukulele”) but A Fork Less Ordinary the very first  in what has become an occasional series of reflections on ordinary life teetering  on the edge of sanity (doesn’t it always?) Think domestic noir without  blood  (though this one comes closest to carnage).

Now, the  eagle-eyed amongst you (do these people really exist?) may notice A Fork was highly commended for a prize –  in 2007 – !!!  Yes, apparently it has been that long. So if you can make it along I can definitely promise you an evening of vintage comedy from many wonderful writers.

Let’s hope my bit isn’t showing its age.

Talking Tales - nights drawing in!

No music this time but plenty of laughs

When? Saturday  10th December

Where?  Leftbank, Stokes Croft (BS6 5RW)
When? 6.30pm

http://stokescroftwriters.com/talking-tales/

An interview with Jane Davis (and free novel offer!)

jdbench034I first ran into Jane when someone recommended her historical novel ‘I Stopped Time’ which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I also loved ‘An Unchoreographed Life’, a contemporary novel about a dancer and single mother. But as well as being a great writer with seven published novels to her name, Jane is an example to all ‘indie’ authors in the absolute professionalism of everything she produces.  If you haven’t set eyes on one of Jane’s novels, I can guarantee you won’t be able to tell it apart from anything produced by a big publishing house – and there will almost certainly be fewer typos! She has won several awards and ‘An Unknown Woman’ has just won self-published book of the year. With ‘MMy counterfeit Self covery Counterfeit Self’ – set mainly in the fifties and very much redolent of my own childhood – hot off the press, what better time to have Jane along for an interview?

How would you describe your latest protagonist?

Lucy Forrester is a radical poet and political activist who is a cross between two great British eccentrics, Edith Sitwell and Vivienne Westwood. Having been anti-establishment all of her life, she’s horrified to find that she’s been featured on the New Year’s Honours list. During the book we find out what has shaped Lucy. At the age of nine, she contracted childhood polio. Staring death in the face defines a person. It alters their perception of life, whatever age they happen to be. Lucy has that same stubborn determined streak that Roosevelt displayed when he refused to accept the limitations of his disease. The refusal to wear leg braces, to face the world sitting down. She also resents overhearing her father say that not much is expected of her, and it makes her want to defy him. She becomes totally driven. And then her parents behave so shockingly that it releases her from feeling under any obligation to live up to their expectations for her, and so she adopts a bohemian lifestyle. And into this new life she’s leading walks the man who became her literary critique and on/off lover for the next 50 years.

What is one thing you love about your main character and one thing that drives you crazy?

I love Lucy’s unconventionality, her defiance, her eccentricity, and especially her dress-sense. (Think Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style.) One of my early reviewers called her fiercely moral, which I rather like. She’s my rebel with a cause. Because of the time she was born in, her fear of the Nuclear Bomb is a hangover from childhood. She takes part in the first of the CND rallies and marches from Trafalgar Square to Aldermaston to protest about the nuclear threat, and, later, she takes up the cause of the British Nuclear Veterans. As for what drives me crazy… she can be quick to judge others but she’s blinkered when it comes to her own faults. In fact, that’s her downfall.

It’s the first time you’ve written about another writer, isn’t it?

 Yes, in some ways it’s my most personal novel to date. To bring Lucy to life, I had to draw on all of my insecurities, doubts and fears, writing about how it feels when you show your work to someone for the first time. How you manage to convince yourself that people will like you less when they understand what’s going on inside your head. Lucy’s formal schooling was curtailed by illness, and when she finally goes to school thinking that writing poetry is the one thing she’s good at, she’s told she doesn’t have the basic tools for job. That’s very much me. Someone who left school at sixteen, worked her way up in a company to Deputy MD and then had the audacity to attempt to write novels. I am the person who used to make up an answer on the spot when asked which university I went to! And of course, I’ve through the submission process. I know all about rejection – and I also know how overwhelming winning can be. How part of you never feels you deserve it, and how others will be quick to tell you that they didn’t think you deserved it, that it was a fix, or that you must have been related to the judges, and so how, when you fall from grace, it’s almost a relief. Order has been restored.

My Counterfeit Self is your seventh book. Does it get easier to write and publish over time, or is every process a “birthing” experience?

Getting a new novel out of the ground is always tough. It’s possible I make it tougher by not outlining or plotting. I like George R R Martin’s quote: ‘I’ve always said there are two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. Architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up.’ It takes me a good three months to get to know my characters. By the time I reach the 50,000-word milestone I think to myself, ‘I might just have a book on my hands’, but by 75,000 words I’m back to wallowing in self-doubt, unsure how to fight myself out of a corner. At 100,000 I may have an inkling of how it ends, but that doesn’t mean I’ll know how to get there. Every time you introduce a new angle, each ‘what if?’ question has to be pushed to its limits. Once the structure is in place, you go back and make every page shine.

That aside, certain parts of the publishing process are easier. I used to tackle all of the interior formatting and the creating of eBooks myself, but now I outsource and concentrate on making sure the proofs are as clean as they can be. The mechanics of publishing are far simpler than they were in 2012, because the process is familiar and technology is vastly improved, and getting better all the time.

Your novel, ‘An Unknown Woman’, was named Self-Published Book of the Year by Writing Magazine. Did that put extra pressure on your new release?

an-unknown-woman-finalDefinitely. The editor of Writing Magazine said that ‘An Unknown Woman’ would happily sit on any of the Big 5 publishers’ lists, that the writing was exemplary and that my production standards were outstanding. And I only found out about the win when ‘My Counterfeit Self’ was going into production! So yes, it caused some extra nail biting. The first edition of An Unknown Woman was (as far as I know) error free, something I had never achieved before. With a 120,000 word novel, a few typos usually past even the most eagle-eyed proof-readers (and I know there’s one in My Counterfeit Self).

Like most writers, I want to show progression from one book to another and so I try to do something a bit different, but not so different that it won’t appeal to my readers. You know what it’s like waiting for those first few reviews!  But I’m learning. All the time, I’m learning.

Thanks Jane for showing us so much of the book and yourself.

Here are all Jane’s Social Media links and a special offer for anyone who signs up to her newsletter.

Social Media Links:

Universal Buy Link: https://books2read.com/u/4AgQdK
My website: http://www.jane-davis.co.uk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JaneDavisAuthorPage/?fref=ts
Twitter: https://twitter.com/janedavisauthor
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+JaneDavisAuthor/posts

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/janeeleanordavi/boards/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6869939.Jane_Davis
Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Davis/e/B0034P156Q/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

halftruthsandwhiteliesReaders who sign up to Jane’s newsletter will receive a free copy of her novel, ‘I Stopped Time’. http://eepurl.com/bugqnr

Jane promises not to bombard subscribers with junk! She only issues a newsletter when she has something genuinely newsworthy to report.