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Blowing in the wind


Sometimes a random stroke of luck brightens the day for me. Like a chance encounter with the woman behind the bookshop counter who, in answer to my question about her love of writing, revealed herself to be a fan of mine. [My writing, that is]. That led to an invitation to come and meet her writers’ group; things like this make me realise afresh that writing isn’t just what writers do in their offices, it’s a way of thinking and being, and of taking pleasure in hearing how others find their way to being writers.
Here’s another fine human being whom I don’t know and am not related to, who’s picked my book to review, and this could be a link in a serendipitous chain of events that brings home to me, who can’t easily get out there and push my work into public attention, how the word gets around and around.

Here it is, a kind and fair review from someone who ‘gets’ the book perfectly:


First of all, I love the word itself. ‘Yes’ is generous and open to infinite possibilities, ‘Yes’ says that we are not afraid to take a bold step into the unknown; ‘Yes’ is brave; we are born out of ‘Yes'; it shines in the faces and echoes in the joyous cries of babies.
‘No’ is a shrinking word, a timid, fearful word that narrows our imaginations and our potential, so, craving safety, we reject the adventure of the new. As a writer, I can only create out of the ‘Yes’ I say to life. Those of us who grew up in a world ruled by constant ‘No’ can, in our writing, fashion those wonderful possibilities and dream the dreams that real life may have denied us.
But of course this is simplistic. The decision for Yes or No is political, social, cultural, financial – all those things and more. But whereas ‘No’ offers us security, more of the same, the status quo, ‘Yes’ throws everyone from the clever banker to the wily politician into spasms of terror because, suddenly, life is not safe or predictable.
Drama and story is made by ordinary people saying ‘Yes’ to offers that, in our lives, we would go to some lengths to avoid. What if we could become billionaires merely by pressing a button that would cause the death of someone somewhere in the world who we don’t know? Would we dare to open the closed door we are forbidden to unlock? What if all men were able to bear babies? The possibilities of ‘Yes’ are exciting, inspiring, limitless.
Of course, you might reply, that is fine for drama and fiction; real life is different. Real life is about doing business, balancing budgets, knowing our proper place in the order of things. I am sorry to say that my life is not, never has been nor never will be about knowing my place. My place is where the struggle is for self-expression, self-determination, my task to give those people a voice who have never been listened to.
I am not Scottish and I have no Scottish connections, but if I lived in Scotland, to be sure I would vote Yes on Thursday. And I would be prepared to accept the consequences. I live in Wales and I lived for twenty years in Ireland. Who can deny that the Scottish decision will have an influence on Welsh politics and how the people of Wales wish to position themselves with regard to London? And what about the elephant in the room, Northern Ireland? Does London want or care about Northern Ireland? How will the Northern Irish feel once Scotland is removed from the uneasy equation that is the ‘United’ Kingdom?
All the terrors and threats implied in Cameron’s last speech were also faced by the nascent Irish nation in 1922, and after a bitter Civil War, Ireland became more, though not completely, independent. [They kept the pound - but it was Irish]. And can anyone say that Ireland before 1922 was part of a ‘United Kingdom’? Some of the problems of being a small nation still adhere, many of the bad practices of politicians have recently tarnished the ideals of Connolly and Pearse. Ireland is not currently a success in financial terms, in spite of what the media parrots, since Dublin nowadays is occupying exactly the same role as London. Wealth and full employment have not spilled out to the regions, emigration is leaching the population of the skilled and intelligent of working age, anger and disillusionment are apparent in the forgotten regions and those at the bottom of the heap – the poorest, the old, the sick, disabled, the children – are the ones being stripped of their incomes.
No wonder Scots are cynical about the promises ‘London’ is making. London is frightened – and like any bully, when scared, they are making dark threats about how awful life after Yes will be, because they will make it so. Anyone who votes ‘No’ tomorrow out of fear, because they have been threatened by Cameron and the banks, has my sympathy. I hope people won’t choose ‘No’ out of fear or because they feel bullied.
The unknown will be scary, confused, joyful, dangerous, above all, the old certainties will be turned upside down, and a peaceful revolution in the consciousness of all of us could herald the end of a system of government that no longer works to serve its people, and the end of political parties which have no relevance any more to the lives we actually lead.


It’s like watching tadpoles, as I did one summer, having struggled out of their jelly and learned about wriggling and eating, becoming reduced in number every day by natural hazards such as sibling [or possibly parental] cannibalism, bird attacks, or the gradual drying out of their nursery before they had legs enough to hop to the next pond.
It’s exactly the same with the many, many small publishing companies now struggling at the fringe of that enormous pond. Writers can scan a growing alphabetical list, read their submission guidelines and pick one – or sometimes more – to submit to. That’s what I did, when faced with a choice of self-publishing or not publishing at all. I like working with editors; polishing a novel that you consider couldn’t be buffed up any further to a shine so dazzling it’s amazing the whole world doesn’t notice it, is fun, worthwhile, and exciting.
Ah, but there’s the rub. DOLLYWAGGLERS is now published, and the world doesn’t turn a hair. Everything stays the same. Your book may be brilliant, but somehow, nobody who forms opinions notices the brilliance.
Here’s where self-published authors go ballistic; writing articles, taking blog tours, getting interviewed, visiting book festivals, doing talks and workshops, until their baby begins to attract the attention it deserves. I’m somewhat handicapped from marketing myself, being too disabled to travel far or run workshops [as I used to do]. This blog and my FB page are the only megaphones I have to speak to my world.
So, I’d like to invite you to watch the Grimbold video on Kickstarter, to find out if this tadpole is worth feeding. Your contribution could make the difference between life and death to their precarious existence. Thank you.
Here’s the link:

 

Frances Kay


franceskaywriter:

A lovely interview for me, with Fran McIlvey. I’ll be reciprocating soon.

Originally posted on franmacilvey's blog:

Today I am delighted to introduce Frances Kay, a writer and children’s playwright.  I first met up with Frances (‘Fan’) on a lively on-line writers’ forum.  Apparently, she agreed to read my own book after noticing that I had included the word “sossidges” in a comment to a mutual friend.  We swapped reads, and since then, have kept in touch.  Fan’s writing is very strong, eerily atmospheric and convincing, threaded through with sardonic wit and humour.  Fan’s first book,  MICKA was published in 2010 by Picador and won 100% positive reviews from The Guardian, The Times and the Financial Times, as well as being featured on BBC radio 4’s programme ‘A Good Read’.  Her second novel, DOLLYWAGGLERS, has recently been published by Tenebris Books.

Welcome, Frances. Can you tell me a little about what inspired you to write the ‘Dollywagglers’?

A long time love of dystopian literature, ever…

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Blog Hop: What Do I Write And Why?

June 2014

Kristin Gleeson has invited me to join her blog hop. I’m now a link in a chain of great minds, connected by our passion for writing  – and, even more important, reading.

Kristin is a writer of intensely felt, meticulously researched, wonderfully evoked historical literary fiction novels, spanning her own territories of Ireland, North America and Canada. I recommend Selkie Dreams  She’s also the world expert on the Canadian First Nation woman Anahareo, wrote the first biography of this extraordinary and troubled woman, Anahareo – a Wilderness Spirit, and this summer will be a keynote speaker at a conference on herself and her husband, known to thousands as ‘Grey Owl’, in fact an Englishman from Sussex called Archie.

We first met on an advanced novel writing course at the West Cork Literary Festival, run by the amazing Carlo Gébler, and we have remained friends ever since, beta-reading each other’s unpublished work, mutually being encouraging, and cheering on our publishing successes.  As well as writing, Kristin is also a gifted musician, singer and painter; if you are lucky enough to attend one of her book launches, you may see her playing the Irish harp.


What Do I write?

I write plays and novels. Drama is in my blood, on both sides of the family – my Dad was the best theatre carpenter in the business, my mother acted straight out of RADA with Laurence  Olivier – she was one of his daughters in ‘Oedipus’,. My father’s parents and grandparents ran ‘fit-up’ travelling companies; musical theatre was my grandmother’s field and she was one of the original ‘Tiller Girls’. So writing plays started early [I was five when my brother and I performed 'Clever Fox', a two hander, to an audience of kind parents and neighbours].

I write plays for children, mostly in Ireland, but have written puppet shows and TV dramas in the UK as well. Adult novels are where I let my shadow side out to play. Children deserve optimism and hope, but my novels pull no punches. I write with passion and from a perspective of people in our society many would rather not know about, about events and feelings we’d like to pretend don’t exist. My latest novel, Dollywagglers, published by Tenebrisbooks,is a dystopia set in England, after a flu pandemic has decimated the world’s population. I love reading dystopias, from ‘1984’  and ‘The Road’ to ‘The Hunger Games’, but I didn’t want an atmosphere of despair and gloom, so I made my central character a puppeteer with a wonky sense of humour.

My first novel, Micka, published by Picador in 2010, was a sad and brutal story, told in the voices of two ten year old boys. Neither of these books pleased a mass audience, but I feel joyful and privileged to be speaking to adults and children in a way that, I hope and trust, enters their heads and hearts in a truly reflective and gripping way.

What am I writing now?
I’m at work now on the sequel to ‘Dollywagglers’, a story with utopian threads mixed in with the darkness. Quite a challenge to write with the same black humour and not be too predictably liberal and socially aware as I construct a new society from the remnants of the old.

I’m also working on the second draft of a memoir, I suppose, it’s about fifty percent true and fifty percent made up, about a nine year old girl at boarding school in the 1950s. It’s far from being Hogwarts; it’s a place that tries to break her spirit and crush her imagination.

Two children’s plays I wrote last year had a great run in Ireland. Feast of Bones is set in 1918 Dublin, and loosely follows the fairy story of Henny Penny going to see the King. The sky fell on many heads during that war; it makes a powerful metaphor, and in some ways you can only tell the tales of war in metaphor, unless you were actually there.

The second play, which ran for three months earlier this year, was about an old man, alone with his radio and his memories, talking to an audience of 6 year olds and up. My challenge was to make his life, so removed from their experiences, into a story that they could connect with. A spider and a jackdaw helped, plus his tragic love of Gretel, a circus bareback rider. Mr. Foley – Radio Operator played all over Ireland this year., and will be at the Babaró Children’s Festival in Galway this September.

Why Do I Write?
It’s an addiction. If I don’t have a piece of work on the go, the sparkle goes out of my world. Three years studying English Literature at university dried up the flow of ink, partly because I was constantly deconstructing great writers and literature, and partly because that critical approach helped sharpen the teeth of my inner critic, so that I was too intimidated to create anything for about three years after I left. Maybe you share that experience? Sometimes, our formal education can be a serious handicap. Happily, the flow of thoughts came back and has never dried up since. I live an extremely eventful life, high with joy, elation and adrenalin, and low with massive bereavement at a young age, lack of money, and near despair at the awful start in life some children have. I worked on projects in Newcastle and Scotland with kids whom society forgot, and their resilience and cheerfulness was an inspiration to me when I started writing plays for them.

Tagging the next three:
Here are three more writers.  You can follow the chain onward or backward to see all the other writers in this blog hop. Happy Hopping!

Nichola Hunter,  blogging at http://nicholahunter.blogspot.ie

Nichola’s evocative novella, ‘Ramadan Sky’ about an Australian tourist having an uneasy, passionate romance with an Indonesian man, was one of the very first books to be talent-spotted and published on Kindle by Harper Collins after their editors  read her work uploaded to their ‘Authonomy’ site. Find herbook on Amazon UK at: Ramadan Sky

Anyone who writes is welcome to join ‘Authonomy’, and if your novel gets voted to the top five by the reading community, it will be professionally read, and may lead to publication. You also have the benefit of other writers’ good critiques of your work, which, in my case, led to beneficial rewrites.

Neil Randall, blogging at http://narandall.blogspot.ie is a writer of dark and disturbing fiction, often with a Russian flavour. His most recently published work is The Holy Drinker; another novel set in Stalinist times is satirical, compelling and highly recommended by me; find it at: Amazon uk ‘The Butterfly and the Wheel’  – it will be published later this year.

Third in my list, but the most celebrated and consistently selling of all of us here, is Cathi Unsworth, the Queen of London Noir, as she was recently described by David Peace. Her novels expose the seedy underbelly of human desires and vices. Check out her website: http://www.cathiunsworth.co.uk and find her most recent book on Amazon UK at : Weirdo

Hope you’ve enjoyed my section of this hop. I welcome any comments! Thanks for reading.

 


The UK Government is consulting you and other citizens on its plan to make fracking under your house a right for private companies. to which you can no longer object. This process continues until August 15th.

I would urge any of you who are UK residents to write in response to a sad mindset that cannot conceive of any values other than material and financial, one that is willing to use an act of parliament to abolish our natural rights over our land and homes. It is as pernicious, as greedy and as unjust as the Enclosure laws.

Here’s the link: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/underground-drilling-access

And here is the substance of my reply –  hope it inspires you to write with wit and sincerity.

3 What is your organisation?

I am an individual who works at home.

4 Should the Government legislate to provide underground access to gas, oil and geothermal developers below 300 meters?

No

Please elaborate on your answer above. :

No financial compensation or promise of material reward can influence me to change my mind; this is an unwanted invasion of my privacy and my right to enjoy my property and to bequeath it unspoiled to the next generation. Not everything has a market price. My peace of mind, my domestic security and serenity, my ability to enjoy my house and my land in the knowledge that nothing except acts of God or natural subsidence will change the place I have chosen to make my home, far outweighs any money you or anyone can offer me to forget the blessings I am being asked to relinquish. This is a deeply unpleasant attack on the rights of homeowners and any government should be ashamed even to contemplate it. Our feelings about our homes are more important than the business plans of any private company wanting to make profits. Wherever there is a profit motive, the safety and happiness of human beings is always placed second. I do not and will never agree to this ordering of priorities.

5 If you do not believe the Government should legislate for underground access, do you have a preferred alternative solution?

Yes

Please elaborate on your answer above. :

I would like us to look not at unlocking more sources of finite energy but at becoming more careful and thoughtful about our energy use. Fines and penalties for over-consumption of natural resources, a sense of public responsibility for the future of this land and our planet, could bring about the kind of change in consciousness that citizens had during WW2. It is you, the government, which must give the lead to a different way of using our resources. Shale oil and gas must be left in the ground. It is directly opposed to the Kyoto protocols on climate change. Until you take this seriously, you cannot expect your voters to re elect you.

6 Should a payment and notification for access be administered through the voluntary scheme proposed by industry?

No

Please elaborate on your answer above. :

I do not accept this premise. You are prisoners of outdated thinking. Money has nothing to do with the things I care about. Until you understand that, you are still living in the Victorian expansionist world. That world is doomed and unsustainable.

 

Have fun!


franceskaywriter:

David Gaughan’s thought-provoking blog hits the nail on the head again.

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

Since the huge shift to online purchasing and e-books, a common meme is that there is some kind of “discoverability” problem in publishing.

The funny thing is readers don’t seem to have any problem finding books they love. Any readers I talk to have a time problem – reading lists a mile long and never enough hours in the day to read all the great books they are discovering.

The real discoverability problem in publishing is that readers are discovering (and enjoying) books that don’t come from the large publishers. What these publishers have is a competition problem not a discoverability problem.

Amazon regularly gets slated for purported anti-competitive actions, but it has done more to create the digital marketplace than any other company. It has also done more to open up that marketplace to vendors of all shapes and sizes than any other company. Small publishers…

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