In With The Old (TV)

New Year, Old You and Happy New Year to you all.

Image result for happy new year vintage black and white
Happy New Year, dahlings.

Being poorly is pretty crap. Being ill over Christmas and New Year is downright shitty. You might think that you could get on with some writing – but no. When the head is full of flu and you ache from top to toe, there’s nothing for it but sleeping and mindless TV consumption.

Then I discovered Talking Pictures TV – (sorry folks, available only in the UK as far as I know) – if you’re a lover of old movies, this is the place for you.

Image result for vintage TV black and white
One of the very first TVs. 

Could there be anything finer than settling down with a cuppa and some ginger nuts to enjoy a golden oldie? I think not.

It really is like stepping back in time, and I have loved and am loving every minute of it. Remember the days when producers told stories? When men were gentlemen and women were ladies? When kids would run away from a copper? It’s all here on Talking Pictures folks – in black and white primarily.

Image result for vintage british films
Saying goodbye to a lover… the British way.

Admittedly things move a lot slower than today’s films. Yesterday, we watched The Lady Vanishes (1938) with Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave. There is a hilarious moment when the two of them are fighting one of the ‘bad guys’ in the baggage carriage. The men tussle and wrestle to the ground, whereupon she jumps on top and gets an elbow in the face for her troubles. The fighting is what I would call realistic. In today’s films it seems like everyone can do martial arts, or at least fight semi-professionally – back in the old days people looked like everyone else, a jumbly, awkward mess of thumps. What we Brits call scrapping.

Image result for vintage british films the lady vanishes
Crikey! I’ve been shot!

At some point, films morphed into action-packed, fast-paced, mile-a-minute assaults on the senses. Apparently audiences demand was for instantaneous gratification, move on to the next thing, and the next, quicker, faster – like NOW! Media students will be familiar with the Hypodermic Needle Theory – simply put, the audience is passive and communication goes one way, from the makers to the audience, and suggests that we all watch TV/films in the same way. Later came the Uses and Gratification Model; the audience seeks out what they want and can interact to a degree, to satisfy own personal wants.

Related image
The height of technology in 1952 USA.

The films shown on Talking Picture TV, were all made during the era of the supposed Hypodermic Needle Model. In the late 1940’s not many people actually had TV’s in their homes, they went to the cinemas to watch films. (In 1950 only 9 percent of American households had a television set, in the UK it was less.) So going out to watch a film was a big deal. Now with the advent of DVD’s and online streaming audiences are going out less and the cinemas are struggling.

Talking Pictures TV takes us back to a slower time, when people said things like “What ho?” and “Terribly sorry” in RP – Received Pronunciation. When nurses and nuns were heroines, men wore suits, and everything was tickety-boo at the final scene.

Image result for vintage films man in the moon
Talking Pictures TV? Oh, yes please darling.

So I invite you to join me this week for such treasures as Colonel March of Scotland Yard (about a stolen skull), Man in the Moon (finding the perfect man to send to the moon!) and The Monkey’s Paw (a wish granting artefact). Let the story unfold at a sedate pace, relax into nostalgia with your favourite tipple and a slice of tiffin.

Until next time, cheerio!

Image result for vintage movie goodbye gif

Advertisements

Plough on or Chill Out?

We’re fast approaching the end of 2018 – has it been a good one for you? A wild ride? Productive? Or has it been a fallow year, with less accomplished than you had hoped?

I know I definitely tried to accomplish too much this November making me feel, like Bilbo Baggins, “… sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” I took on three online courses in one month, completed two. The third hangs in the balance. I tried to be the ‘Little Engine That Could’ – turns out I couldn’t, not quite…

Part of my problem is that I am a dilettante – a dabbler, a tinkerer, a potterer. I have been told on the one hand that I have the mind of a butterfly, on the other, that I am a mine of useless information. I have taken part in NaNoWriMo with a novel planned, and also writing by the seat of the pants. The second works best for me. You’ll have your way of doing stuff.

Don’t despair if you didn’t get to do all the things you’d hoped to, it’s all a learning process and next year is a fresh start. As Professor Albus Dumbledore said, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

Image result for albus dumbledore
Professor Dumbledore

Though I do have to admit to feeling a little miffed when I hear, on the radio, as I did this morning, about someone who began writing five minutes ago and just got their first novel published! What’s that all about? I ask myself, how did anyone even know they had written this little gem? I am by inclination, a combination of melancholic and choleric, and have been trying to train myself to be more pragmatic, so forced myself to feel good for them- sort of, a little bit, maybe. Oh all right, I hate them!

Lyra Belacqua tells her father in Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass, “You told me that was my nature, and I shouldn’t argue with it…you were wrong… I can’t choose my nature, but I can choose what I do. And I will choose, because now I’m free.” She learnt that as a child, I, in my mid-life am just beginning to.
Do you take stock at the end of each year, of your accomplishments? And how do we assess our own accomplishments anyway? Some believe we are too close to give an accurate appraisal of our own selves and work done.

I have met many people who are extraordinarily hard on themselves, they are the perfectionists who can never meet their own high standards – this does not mean all they do is done well, sometimes effort isn’t exerted so as there is an excuse to have not met one’s own exacting standards. Then there are those people who – and this is particularly pertinent in regards to creativity – think what they have made is wonderful, when in fact the rest of us can see the awfulness, or blandness, of it. Self-criticism does not come easy to these folks.

And yet…should we just not try? Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.

As Christmas approaches, will you slow down your production? Will you take a complete break from your current project to frolic with family and friends? Or, will you be the snow plough that keeps on going through the deep mid winter? Will you plough onward, or take time out to chill and recuperate?

Related image
Does Father Christmas write all year round?

One habit to cultivate is taking account of our successes and failures – and do not be afraid to use the word fail, we cannot all be winners in everything we do, if we don’t fail we don’t learn –only ‘snowflakes’ don’t like to fail – some will keep an actual written account, for others it might be a simple check-list, or just a mental run-through. Have a general idea of what you wish to achieve in the coming year. Bloggers are encouraged to plan, keep a calendar of what will be written every week for months – I typically tend to waft from week to week writing whatever takes my fancy. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go...” Doctor Seuss.

Here comes the end of the year, approaching fast, like a steam train with the whistle not quite screaming, and the engine driver trying to wave me off the track, because I’m too stupid to move! Each year I make myself promises and set targets and charge headlong into too many projects at once – like I said, too stupid to move off the same track!

 

THAT’S MORTALS FOR YOU, Death continued. THEY’VE ONLY GOT A FEW YEARS IN THE WORLD AND THEY SPEND THEM ALL IN MAKING THINGS COMPLICATED FOR THEMSELVES.

Related image
Death as The Hogfather (Source: https://ani-izzy.com)

What’s Gone Wrong With Doctor Who?

People have been seriously divided by the new Doctor Who series; fans and critics alike.

Regular and long-term viewers will all be aware of the flurry of discussions that went on preceding the revelation that a female would play the titular character – it’s actually the same with each new incarnation –Morgan Jeffrey did a great piece for Digital Spy, last month, about what critics had said over the years about each new Doc; not all complimentary.

But the Twitterverse has been all a-Twitter with things like –

There’s delight and disappointment in equal measure. And thankfully, little of it has to do with having a female lead in the role that has for 55 years had a male lead.

Finally the show took the great leap and Jodie Whittaker took up the mantel. And she’s pretty good, as far as I’m concerned. Her Doctor has passion, energy, a curiosity for the universe, delights in the company of others and gets smarter by the episode; as her Doctor comes to grips with previous incarnations information pile-up. Though I wish she was less ‘gushy’.

My issue is with the writing.

Going back to Seasons 1 through to 4, the writing is strong, the stories gripping and the acting compelling. This block of shows had Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat as the primary writers, with Davies writing 6 out of the 12 episodes for Season 4.

Season 5 saw the departure of Davies and the arrival of a new Doctor, in the form of Matt Smith – I hated this Doctor from the start. He was childish, impulsive to the point of idiocy, and seemed purposefully designed to appeal to little kids. Of course, some will cry, it’s a kids show!

Although created as a show for children – the audience demographics reveal something else. One brief student research I was party to, suggested the largest group that watches Doctor Who is – women aged 30 to 50-something with an academic background. Others show it males in their 30s working in IT. And then others that it has a target audience of 7 to 14 year olds. Demographics is not the same as target audience – one is the result of who actually watches, the other is who the producers have targeted – obviously with demographic research taken into consideration – the two don’t always match up.

Jump to Season 10,and there were nine writers. I felt that Peter Capaldi could have  been as excellent a Doctor as David Tennant, but for the writing. The tenure of David Tennant as the Doc seemed to be a convergence of all the best things at once – great acting, great lead, newly resurrected series but not first Doctor into the fray, excellent writing team; not too small, not to big – this for me was, to put it in astronomical terms, the Goldilocks phenomenon – not too adult, not too childlike – just right.

The Girl in the Fireplace S2: E4

In this new Season 11, we are only 9 episodes in, and already there have been 6 writers. And I wonder if the issue with this season has been the exact opposite of the David Tennant Goldilocks effect – too many writers, new non-male lead, writing to appeal to too many ages, too many companions!

Too many companions spoil the plot

I don’t know what I expected with a new writer/show-runner; ChrisChibnall. I didn’t feel like the Doctor should need to be a female just to be ‘politically correct’; I have no issue with male leads. But there is something missing, the spark – or darkness –that made Doctor Who so watchable. I feel as though I am sticking with it through some false sense of loyalty built from years of viewing ,and a kind of nostalgia. I want it to be good, I really do,because there have been times when the episodes have been fantastic. But it simply isn’t.

Sometimes it feels like the writers are trying to be clever just for the sake of it. Too many twists and connecting threads, and ‘explanations’ etc, etc, do not a good story make. It’s as though someone has gone – ‘here’s the story, now what if….’ and another person has gone…..’and what if we just add….’

A couple of the episodes have been good, as stand-alones. The Rosa Parks story was beautifully poignant – sometimes you have to watch people fall and not step in. And having political messages isn’t the issue – it’s the writing.

I believe a part of the issue is having three companions. Why are there three? I cannot fathom the need. For starters, there is never enough dialogue to go around and sometimes I watch the non-speaking characters and they’re just standing there, doing nothing! Edgar Wright would never let that happen! Also, if I were to get rid of one, or two of the three, I’m not sure which I’d choose. I think they’re all equally wooden. Some of the voice acting has been like listening to an amateur read lines.

What’s needed is:- Tight-knit writing team. Character development. Simple stories just well written. There must be psychological realism, it doesn’t matter how bizarre, let it make sense.

Will I be sticking with it?

I can’t honestly say I will stop watching – I live in hope. I wonder if they could invite Russell T. Davies to write an episode or two?!

Or, Maybe I should write something myself…hmm…

https://graphicpolicy.com/2013/09/16/facebook-fandom-spotlight-doctor-who-fans-50-women/

https://georgeakcm.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/doctor-who-target-audience/

http://bethkirkbyunit1media.blogspot.com/2014/02/audiance-demographics-and-profile-of.html

NaNoWriMo 18 – What Now?

Apologies for the huge gap between my last post and this – it’s been a busy time.

NaNo-2018-Writer-Badge
NaNoWriMo 2018

We haven’t quite reached the end of the month – but – I have hit the 50,000 target with five days to spare.

It’s an odd sensation, a combination of exhilaration; I did it! I finally did it! And, What now?

I am sure that if you have been following my blog for any length of time, you will be aware of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. There are around 400,000 writers taking part, it’s a wonderful image isn’t it? People from all over the world, from all walks of life, busy beavering away at their stories.

To describe it as a race doesn’t quite do it justice. To talk about competitiveness only grazes the surface.

When you take part in NaNoWriMo, you can, if you wish to, award yourself Personal Achievement Badges; Planner/Pantser/Procrastinator/Word Sprinter and so on. You also gain Earned Badges; Word Count/Update/Winner. You can also add Buddies. I know, it’s tres American, but it can be a device that helps you get through the difficult times.

my NaNoWriMo Badges
My NaNoWriMo Badges

I have eight Buddies, I don’t get in touch with all of them, but this year three in particular have been on this journey with me – and that’s the point of having Buddies. Three of mine are based in America, one in France, two in the UK and the others haven’t posted their locations. Amy, David and Kristi and I have, this year, mailed each other throughout the event. Congratulating each other on reaching benchmarks, 10,000, 30,000 etc. We have spoken of time – not enough, word counts – falling behind, and emotional barriers – varied.

It reminds me of a tribe I once read about, and watched on TV many years ago – ‘Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World’ by David Maybury-Lewis. (The Xavante of South America I think it was, but I cannot be absolutely sure.)

This community held a race each year. Everyone took part who wanted to – from the smallest kid to the oldest tribal member. An exciting event where everyone gathered at the starting line amidst cheers and joyful shouts. And off they went, running. I remember watching this really elderly man fall midway. The race slowed down. A couple of others came and raised him up and continued to run alongside him, everyone, every single participant crossed in a muddled lump of laughing and cheering.

The point was, the race was symbolic. They were sort of competing against each other, but more importantly – they were running the race together, as one. It was an analogy of life.

In the NaNo writing event, we all compete against ourselves. We push to reach that Finish Line ahead of others, but at the same time we are supportive of each other. Should someone not make it, then that is okay, they have written something and that’s what matters. We all begin with different skills at different levels and that is to be expected and appreciated.

So it is never an ‘In your face!’ moment. It’s a kind of ‘Phew! I made it. And you can too.’ moment. It’s not only about the individual; you, but about interconnectedness.

Image result for helping others
Helping Hand

Last year I did not reach the Word Count goal – but I had never intended to. It was a 30,000 word novella. The previous year, my first NaNo, I hit the goal in good time – but – and this is important to remember for all participants – I am still writing it! When NaNo ends, the writing doesn’t. 50,000 words does not a novel make. And it will depend greatly on which genre one is writing in. Just over that word count might be a YA fiction story, but if it’s fantasy your writing, which is what I am doing this year, then I’m only half way there.

So a goal was reached. Now there is a new one – finish the novel. After that there will be another goal – edit the novel. After that another – re-edit/re-write.

And so on and so forth.

As with life in general.

Good luck to all those still working at their word counts, but remember, that reaching it is only one stage in the life of a novel.

Image result for crossing the finish line
Finishing. Not the end.

FL/RPGWW/NANOWRIMO- or How I Bit Off More Than I Can Chew

Header for Blog 3 courses

Its NaNoWriMo time.

For those readers not familiar with this acronym, this is – National Novel Writing Month. An annual event lasting the whole of November for writers to encourage us to attempt 50,000 words in a month – no research, no editing, no worries – just write.

This is my third year of taking part. Previous  years I wrote a sci-fi story and a historical/magical realism story. This year it’s fantasy.

Plus…

It’s RPG Writer Workshop month. A new pilot programme being run by Ashley Warren to help gamers write a ‘one-shot-game’ before the first week in December. Game writers range from absolute beginners; never played TTRPG (Table Top Role Playing Games), to those who have already had work published and sold.

This is the first time -obviously – and although I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons for around 30 years or so, I am WAY behind with the changes that have taken place in this scene. Plus, it’s all online, so digital comms, chat rooms, etc are a challenge!

Plus…

FutureLearn  is currently running a course title, Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People. It’s running throughout November only and it’s something that will be useful for the job I am employed in – Learning Support Assistant.

This is probably the easiest of the three as I need no tools, except my laptop to access the course.

I have to say, I do not know how many people are on each of these courses, but combined, it’s thousands – NaNoWriMo itself gets around 500,000 writers enrolling. As someone who is not au faix with Discord, or chat rooms, or, let’s be honest, any digital technology beyond TV’s before the advent of the remote control, I do struggle, but people are so helpful. Really. The number of times I’ve posted in the wrong place, been unable to find something, couldn’t do whatever needed to be done – someone has ALWAYS come to my rescue.

Image result for d&d characters talking
Things were getting heated in the chatroom. 

However…

I hadn’t really thought this through when I signed up for all these online courses. In previous months; the build up and promotion of these courses, I had paid very little attention to the time they all took place.

Of course, I just had to do NaNo again. And wouldn’t it be cool as a writer to be able to design/write games and sell them? Yup – sign me up for that too. And what opportunities are there for what essentially boils down to free training?! Most industries provide staff training, but that little extra you do yourself always goes down well. So, yeah, I’ll do another course to help me do my job better.

So I find myself now, a mere 9 days into November, staring at blank docs. A kind of numb terror creeping up on me….how am I ever going to get 50,000 words written before the months end? How can I read a whole new rule-set for games and make a decision. How do I complete ‘Thinking Diary’ when my brain is turning to cheese? How can I go to work and give my best to those who rely on me? I know, thinks I, I’ll write my blog – as if I don’t already have enough writing to do -but the folks will be waiting for something, some pearls of wisdom, some amazing insight into creativity and gardening – phtuh! – no pearls here folks – brain, cheese = panic…

Related image

What if I get some hideous cross-over like in a 50’s B-movie!!

Characters from the RPG workshop sneaking into the NaNo story and developing depression!

The low mood student wends his/her way into the game writing and ruins the jolly humour!

My NaNo protagonists burst free and run amok amongst the comments section of well-meaning, kind-hearted people studying on FutureLearn, swords flailing, and continue the charge into the RPG workshop, dog-lock pistols ablaze – there’s bullets and documents flying…people fling their laptops aside as a black-eyed soldier leers from a video of a gentle soul telling his tale…nascent character ideas from the minds of newbie gamers are quickly laid to rest by a swift and smartly placed stiletto blade…and the Dark Order find an in-road during all the mayhem and the seeds of disorder are planted and then the NPC’s take over and…and…

Genre Mashups. Image from Indiereader.com

but that’s never going to happen!!!!

Or is it…

Oh, hey, remember that pearl of wisdom? Let me know if you find it! Right, I’m off to dig a hole and scream into it.

 

Fantasycon -2018 Notes from a Newbie

This is a loooonnnnnggggg post, so grab a G&T and a settle in…

fantasycon18

So this weekend – happening now, as I write – is the Fantasycon 2018 convention. I, unfortunately, was only able to attend one day, Friday. (Boo)

Fantasycon, so I was reliably informed, is the extension of what started out in the early 1970s as the AGM of the British Fantasy Society.

I have been to conventions before, just not book/writer ones, and lord knows, writers – especially sci-fi and fantasy and horror writers, are a weird bunch – aren’t they?! So, wasn’t sure what to expect. Would there be loads of teen and middle-aged men in sweat-pants and lank hair wandering about like herds of obsessive bison, intent on visually feasting upon their favourite authors, leering at them through semi-steamed spectacles wiped on too-tight tee-shirts with images blazoned across them of dragons and heavy metal bands or D&D dice and doing heavy nasal breathing? Jeez, I hoped not.

And I was not disappointed. Sure, there were loads of guys, but there were plenty of women too, and none-gender specific visitors. People of all types; the hirsute and less so too!

The event was held at The Queen Hotel, Chester, with a plethora of people stuffed into a series of rooms to listen to a bunch of writers and editors and publishers ply their trade – and I did not hear a single disgruntlement all day. No whining, no arguments, no attitude, just a big group of people who all enjoy the same thing – it was very cool. (The bowler hatted Greeter was an excellent addition I may say.)

So, blah, blah, blah, lunch, G & Ts, admiring the ladies washrooms, big gold doors, what did I actually do? Surely Alexandra, you ask, didn’t you go to meet, connect, get some lowdown on the industry? Didn’t you attend writers panels/talks? After my gin(s), here’s what Alex did next:-

Image result for bsfa fantasycon 2018

  1. Blogging in Genre Fiction – on the panel – Kate Coe, Alasdair Stuart and Micah Yongo. Moderated by Kit Power. Kit is a staff writer for Ginger Nuts of Horror, Alasdair has been a journalist and now does RPG writing, co-owner of Escape Artists podcast runs his own blog ‘The Man of Words‘. Kate is a writer of fantasy fiction as well as being an editor and blogger. Micah is the author of Lost Gods and blogs on The Mancophile.

The panel were asked, how did they decide on the content for what to write on their blogs – Kate said hers could be anything from snippets of writing, new ideas, what has inspired her and so forth. She also discussed about permission to write, post information, or photo’s that others might have shared with her; it came across as very important to her that she be appropriate with the material she blogs. Alasdair talked about being naturally enthusiastic, a natural critic and his love of comics. He seemed to have boundless mental energy and just a love of writing in many forms. Kit was keen to give indie fiction a spotlight, a voice. When asked about building an audience, the responses ranged from writing regularly, putting out a newsletter, cross-referencing to networking, linking to Twitter and Facebook and giving time and space on your own feeds to other workers in the industry. How did they find blogging different from their fiction writing? Micah enjoyed the freedom of writing without being edited by someone else, that is used different ‘muscles’ from writing a novel. there is, he added, no obligation to anyone, he came up with a lovely term – ‘palette cleanser’ – in that, one could allow oneself to free flow when blogging, before returning to the oft restrictions of writing in a specific genre.

All in all, an interesting panel with some sound advice for writers who blog. I have visited their sites and signed myself up to them.

2. The Elderly Guard – on the panel – Mark A. Latham, Dion Winton-Polak, David Stokes, R.B. Watkinson. Moderated by Charlotte Bond. Mark is a writer and editor and has around fourteen books to his name. Dion is a freelance editor, with This Twisted Earth anthology and Sunny With A Chance of Zombies under his belt. David runs a small press called Guardbridge Books. Rosa (R.B) is a writer of fantasy fiction. Charlotte writes horror, fantasy and sci-fi. (*I arrived a couple of minutes late so did not account for everyone’s status’ or genres).

The panel were discussing why – if there weren’t – any or more older heroes/heroines in the fantasy genre. Where are the older characters in leading roles? Dion cited Cohen the Barbarian, from Terry Pratchett’s books, as well as the witches; Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. David cited a number of books that do contain older characters – The Powder Mage trilogy by Brian McClellan, the Chalion series by Lois Bujold as well as Kings of the Wild by Nicholas Eames.  Asked about why is fantasy so fixated on teenagers? Dion said  it’s what we read and connect with as children, there is a kind of wish fulfilment which we then slowly lose as we age. The world becomes less ‘pliable’ as we age.

The genre – fantasy –  seems to automatically attract younger people, who then stay with it; the reader, like the young hero, learns of the world (presented by the author), as the story progresses. The elderly hero already knows his or her world, and so presents a different angle for both writer and reader. Young hero’s, all agreed, have to learn something towards the end of the story – the older one already has – otherwise he/she wouldn’t have reached old age! Although Rosa did point out that older does not necessarily mean wiser! Also posed was the question, a hero having a mid-life crisis, why is that any different from the teen? (Interesting point, speaking as someone in mid-life, am I having a crisis? I don’t know, I’ll tell you when I stop shouting at everything and everyone). There is, it was pointed out, the trope of the ‘old soldier’ on one last mission, who represents resistance to change maybe, this hero knows he needs to change or die – though we didn’t resolve the mid-life crisis question! Annoying stereotypes included, the ‘caring’ mum, the older ones who don’t believe it’s happening, or having dementia. Books cited by the panel also included, The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis, The Gunslinger by Stephen King, The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro and Snakewood by Adrian Selby.

A very interesting and engaging panel.

3. Shared Worlds – on the panel – Dion Winton-Polak, Pauline Kirk, Gavin Smith and Adrian Tchaikovsky. Moderated by Cheryl Morgan. Dion is a freelance editor, Pauline writes sci-fi and, in collaboration with her daughter, thrillers under the pseudonym P.J.Quinn, Gavin is a writer of sci-fi, Adrian writes sci-fi and science fantasy.

The panel were asked what attracted them to the idea of shared worlds. Pauline, coming more from the collaboration angle described how she enjoyed working with her daughter. Adrian and Dion hi-lighted the difference between joining a shared world as a writer, or being the person (editor?) who created the world. It was enjoyable to see what others would make of it, “What people will do with the toys you create.” A.T, and how the hive mind sees things that either might not have occurred to you, or that you don’t have the necessary tools to do so, DWP. Pitching an idea to a publisher might be for a number of reasons – for the cache, for money, or pleasure, but being aware of the canon of the existing world. The ‘bad bits’ seemed to be mostly having to mould yourself to the other world, sticking to the familiar (to the audience/reader), having constraints if you decide to write for, for example – Doctor Who (Oh how I dream of writing for Doctor Who…). Gavin admitted that authors can be quite insistent on doing their own thing and that writing a novel can be rather self-indulgent and although one might have an editor to contend with, writing for an existing franchise means contending with the publisher, the producer, the franchise, editing by committee. As an editor Dion noted that it can become difficult keeping track of what all the writers have produced and ensuring everything fits in the shared world.

What makes a good Shared World? Cheryl asked. “Consistency is vital.”G.S. “In itself it should be credible.” P.K. Adrian suggested the idea that creators should make a ‘bible’ of their world, and include items, backstory and leave ‘hooks’ that other writers can work with. When asked if there was a particular Shared World they would like to write for, both Gavin and Adrian said they would like to write for Wild Cards (George R.R. Martin series), though Gavin said without the least trace of rancour (!) that he would be happy to do anything for financial gain – you heard it here – Gavin Smith IS a gun for hire! Cheryl would like the chance to write for Marvel, preferably X-Men and/or Avengers.

Something I did not know – Amazon is playing with the idea of making a Lord of The Rings TV series (Gag). Asked, if offered the chance, would they write for it. All said yes – apart from Dion who isn’t a writer – with varying degrees of enthusiasm. And what would they NOT want to write in/for? Worlds that aggrandise evil said Pauline, she said these were ideas that she doesn’t share. Star Wars, Gavin said (Liking him more and more). For Adrian it was stuff that’s become ubiquitous – zombie survival and similar tropes.

This was a great panel, with lively banter between the writers; especially Adrian Tchaikovsky and Gavin Smith. A bunch I could definitely enjoy a pint with (if they’d have me)

4. Adventures in Self-Publishing – on the panel – Richie Valentine Smith, Steve McHugh, Iain Grant and Rachel McLean. Moderated by Heide Goody.  Richie writes the Words of Power fantasy series, Steve writes urban fantasy, Iain co-writes with Heide, comedy fantasy and Rachel writes dystopian, political thrillers.

Straight in with – the benchmark for average earnings of a professional writer is…       £10, 500. The panel were all very honest about where they were in relation to this, some hovering below, others above, a couple way above. Iain maintained that a main skill in self-publishing was to understand that you had to become a salesperson in most instances – 30% writer, 70% salesperson. You need to be persistent about self-promotion, “…just because it is good, doesn’t mean it will sell.” He and Rachel also talked about how important book covers are; readers will forgive poor grammar (apparently) as long as there is a good story and engaging cover – the cover draws people in, and once they have bought it, then that’s it, sold.  Heide claimed to enjoy the variety of moving between the writing and marketing. Richie spoke of persistence and making contacts. Rachel told us to be entrepreneurial, learn new skills – and this- publishers do NOT always do the marketing for you! So how to divide your time – Iain is lucky in that he does 90% of the writing most of the time, whilst Heide seems left to write AND market their books! Although Steve does have a publisher, he still does his own publicity, via social media. Richie does not have any social media accounts and sees this as his downfall, plus he offered a little piece of info for budding self-publishers of sci-fi – the BFS does NOT revue self-published books. Rachel was insistent that engaging with other writers on social media does not help with sales, you need to find readers, you need to join Facebook groups, you need to be prepared to read other peoples work, keep communicating and learn the skill of marketing – not sales. When asked what they would spend £300 on in regards to self-publishing, the cover came top for most of the panel – get it properly edited, proof-read, copy edited, line edited and so forht – but the cover will sell the book! Some examples given, for the writer who pays for everything are – cover: up to £1000 if Fantasy, £160 for comedy. Editor £200, Marketing £500 and up. Rachel revealed that she had spent £400 for all her editing (of one book), £200 for a proof-reader  (70 – 80,000 words) and £300 on the cover.

This sort of practical information is what I found really helpful, often there is a kind of moving mass of information of ‘around this much’, ‘depends on…’ and so forth. This panel’s openness was refreshing. they also gave some hints and tips:-  visit Deviant Art for potential cover artists. Join reader Facebook groups. Do not e-mail another author. Do not add people to your author page. Do not bombard people with your latest title. Be nice.

5. The End of The World – on the panel – Tiffani Angus, Helen Marshall, Jane O’Reilly, Duncan P.Bradshaw. Moderator was Leila Abu el Hawa. Tiffani is a university lecturer and writer of Fantasy, Erotica and more, Helen writes about weird realities and the apocalypse, Jane writes sci-fi space opera, Duncan writes horror and post-apocalyptic zombie tales.

This was, despite the theme –  the End of the World guys! A really light-hearted get together. Leila asked the panel members, as it was the end of the world, who would be your sidekick, what song would play and what special skills did they bring along? Jane chose Captain America as her sidekick, because, duh, looks good as well as kicking ass. She chose REM ‘End of the World’ and as she is a self-proclaimed bossy person, her special skill was supervising Steve Rogers. Duncan very diplomatically chose to have his wife (who was in the audience!) as his sidekick, he chose ‘Well Done’ by The Idles as his track and his special skill is that he is annoying! Helen chose co-panellist Tiffani as her sidekick (because apparently she’s scary to cyclists! I dunno, wasn’t me who said it!) ‘The Final Countdown’ as her track and her special skill? Summon soup – this turned out to be some kind of in-joke that kept getting referred to throughout. Tiffani kept with the apocalyptic them by choosing Imperator Furiosa as her sidekick, ‘Mo Fo’ was her song and her skill is that she is bossy too!

Asked what they enjoyed about apocalyptic fiction, Tiffani said she liked playing with the idea of how things fall apart and are put back together again. Duncan said we would discover people’s skills, our innate abilities and that quality humans have for muddling through. Jane said in regards to writing, one can kill off everyone you hate, but that she found apocalyptic stories fundamentally optimistic; people survive, we can go on after disaster. How has Apocalyptic Fiction changed? Jane said the social situation has changed, the rise of different diseases and technology. Helen remarked at the way people in 14th century literature were much better at thinking about and dealing with death – ‘Dying well’ – which we seem unable or unwilling to do nowadays. After lots of discussion about the role females do or don’t play in dystopian/apocalyptic stories; including TV shows, the panel were asked, What tropes are you tired of? Jane said why is everyone always filthy?! There are tonnes of baby-wipes out there to use. Tiffani hated the way women still had shaved armpits. Helen lamented how quickly people became cannibals. And Duncan was tired of the same old gangs – every story has the heavy-handed, thick-headed leader, etc. And what would these guys save for our future dear reader? Turns out flushing toilets, soap, libraries, music and chocolate!

I think it was a wobbly discussion that seemed more about the writers sharing with each other, than offering budding writers much to go on.

 

Embarrassing moments –

When asked if I was an author too “…I do write, er…I suppose so… am I a writer? yes, yes I am a writer.” Honest mate! I suddenly felt like a complete fraud. I was talking to a guy who had published 5 fantasy fiction novels – what the hell have I done?!

To meet or not to meet. I have an appalling habit (I call it a strength) in that my Default position is –  Tactless, I once vaguely insulted Richard Hammond from Top Gear, but that’s another tale. So I had just listed to Dion Winton-Polak talk, he had once rejected a story I submitted – to introduce oneself or not?! Hm, how to not be offensive – Christ! I might need to go back to him at some point in the future! “Hi…I just…I wasn’t sure if I should…I just wanted to say hello…” He shook my hand, peered at my name badge and… it was fine. Phew. He was in fact, extremely pleasant and I didn’t insult him.

Waving. And waving some more, at some guy who didn’t even know me!!!!! I don’t know why. I just did. Okay!?

Getting caught mooching around the hotel corridors – I wasn’t a staying guest – I’m just a nosy person.

That concludes my ‘report’ about my first ever Fantasycon. Would I do it again?

Hell yeah!

 

 

Caveat Emptor

Related image

Writers Beware!

This week I received an unsolicited e-mail from this company, FlipLoud. So what? We all get this kind of stuff. I hate it with a disproportionate vengeance. Except, I had one of these a few months ago and didn’t even read it that time, it went straight in the rubbish bin (possibly with other stuff I should have read!) You might recognise it…

Hi Honorable Author Alexandra Peel,

I hope your book “Sticks & Stones” is doing well.

I am an associate of Fliploud.com -one of the biggest book promotion companies.

At Fliploud we reward book readers with Gift Cards when they read books listed in the Fliploud library hence it gives a lot of exposure to new books and authors.

Here are few key features of our Fliploud Book Promotion services-

1. We will list your book on our site for 30 days. The benefit is that you can get more sales from our site visitors. We get more than 75,000 visits per month.

2. Featuring your book in our weekly email newsletter to more than 65000 subscribers.

3. Promoting the book on social media to more than 1 Million combined followers.

4. Recommending your book to our 1000 social media contacts with a personal message.

If you are interested in listing your book on Fliploud, please visit Fliploud Book Listing for more details.

You can also promote your other book too, which book you want.

For any further questions, please feel free to write to us.

Thank You

Team Fliploud

Okay. That’s the letter. Yep, it’s promotional. Initially it appears to be promising great things – What! You’re gonna promote the shit out of my book and I’ll make a tonne of dosh?! Woo!

You know when you go on a first date and he/she does something you might find odd, not cutesy, what a funny character odd, but ODD – alarm bells may ring – you should always take note. So let’s look a little closer at the e-mail I received…

*At this point I want to say, I have NO PROOF THAT THIS COMPANY IS REAL, FAKE, LEGIT OR OTHERWISE – I am not on a defamation mission, all I’m attempting to do is raise awareness in the writing community about those that are willing to make money off your efforts.* Other ‘companies’ are available*

So –

1) ‘Hi Honorable Author Alexandra Peel‘. And yes it is bold type in the original. No-one in the western world calls one another ‘Honorable’. This is specifically an eastern trait in the spoken and written word. As a Brit, I also recognise the spelling as not being UK English – honourable, is how we spell it. So this is either someone working in Asia, or an Asian working in America. This introduction immediately puts me on alert – it’s over the top, it comes across as creepy, sucky, and you don’t know me, so don’t say ‘Hi’! Where did they get my details? Who’s been trolling for business? What else of my stuff have you accessed!!

2) ‘I am an associate…’ we will return to this…

3) ‘One of the biggest book promotion companies‘. Well, I’ve never heard of them, but that doesn’t mean shit, I don’t know heaps of things… I asked around and no writer I spoke to had heard of them. Online, people have, but in a puzzled ‘who’? Kind of way. On their Support For Indie Authors discussion thread – Goodreads members have shared some feelings about the ‘company’. – https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/19147288-fliploud

It’s a pretty bold claim to make. But hang fire a moment – it doesn’t say where in the world it is the biggest book promo company! It could be Outer Mongolia, the Faroe Islands, anywhere! So they may be the biggest wherever they are. We just don’t know because it doesn’t tell us much on their web-page!

4) ‘we reward book readers with Gift Cards when they read books listed in the Fliploud library‘. Whoop-de-doo. This is pure, self-promotion on the part of the company. Remember, you don’t get anything for nothing, this is a way to drive traffic to their own site and thus increase revenue.

5) ‘We will list your book on our site for 30 days‘. So what? They claim to have 75,000 visitors a month, but we have no way to substantiate that claim. Maybe they do, but I’m guessing they wouldn’t be sending e-mails to writer’s like me if it were true. Besides, twenty minutes work to stick a picture of your book up, then just leave it there on the site page is no big deal. And 30 days is not a long time.

6) ‘1000 social media contacts with a personal message.’ Go and check out the links. They aren’t personal at all. In fact, when I looked at them, I discovered – 1 Facebook profile did not open/exist anymore, 2 had the same Profile picture (which always smacks of fake to me), and there are no personal posts or photos that would suggest that real people exist behind these accounts. No personal stuff on Twitter and Facebook is often an indication of dodgy goings on.

7) ‘Thank You Team Fliploud‘ – see #2. The letter began with a single person and ended with a team! Who wrote to me? What’s your name? This is not how you structure a letter, especially a business one.

Fliploud does not come up on a UK company search. I did a number of searches on business company check sites, including international. There is no contact address on the site – it does not, as far as I can see, even say where in the world they are based. Two of the #handles have the same initials as those of whomever set of the website. It all begins to smell a little suspicious to me.

Fliploud says it promotes your content online. I’m not disputing that. It does (maybe), to a greater or lesser degree than you imagine. But you need to be aware that there are charges, of course there are, it’s how they make their money, you get nothing for free remember! So how much will it cost you?Their page tells us they they will promote your book on Facebook, Twitter, and their own website. It costs: $19 (£14) Basic/ $29 (£22) Standard/ $49 (£37) Premium. But it doesn’t explain which of these rates, Basic, Standard or Premium relates to the number of posts they will generate on your behalf.

And another thing – Fliploud also promotes Apps, Online Stores, Online Courses, Competitions and Crowd Funding events – it isn’t just about books – it isn’t a publishing company – it is about them making money off you. We are all aware that models are told never to pay for a portfolio of pics, well this is similar – you shouldn’t need to pay to promote your work. Ultimately it’s your choice though.

My Spidey senses tingle the more I read about this company. I may be totally wrong, but I strongly suspect that this is an individual, or small group of individuals, who are extremely tech savvy. They have time to have multiple accounts and time to keep promoting these on a weekly basis – bear in mind, that there are jobs that will pay you to sit at home and type stuff for them, on an hourly basis.

All I’m saying is ‘Buyer Beware’

Image result for book promotions

P.S: If anyone can prove me wrong in my suspicions, then let me know.