Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Publisher Interview and Giveaway

Interview with Mark Heiman of Loomis House Press

Mark Heiman and Laura Saxton Heiman of Loomis House Press have now completed publication of the first new (non-facsimile) edition of Francis James Child's collection The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, completely re-set and edited to include all of Child's post-publication corrections and additions, including 77 additional ballad texts.

In today's post, I interview Mark Heiman, who has generously agreed to offer a hardbound copy of the latest volume to the winner of a draw. More on that after the interview:

Mark, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Some readers may not be aware of Loomis House Press. Could you tell us a little about your publishing objectives.

We founded Loomis House Press in 2001 in recognition of the many core ballad and folklore texts that were no longer available in print — Child being foremost of those. The world has changed somewhat since then, with the availability of digitized holdings from libraries around the world, but we’d like to hope that there are still people who value having some of these titles in hand and on the shelf.

For a long time the Child Ballads were only available as second hand books, often at high prices, but more recently the facsimiles of the first edition have become available again. Why did you choose to produce a second edition of the Child Ballads?

Well, you’d somewhat answered your question. Child was out of print, and used copies were going for exhorbitant prices, unless you were lucky enough to find an old Dover volume on a back shelf in a used book store. Those bookstores had only begun to sell online in small numbers in 2001, so gathering a complete set of Child took a lot of dedication and/or money.

Without a new edition of Child, the likelihood of a new generation of ballad singers and scholars discovering this work seemed remote, and that’s just a shame. For better or worse, Child is the foundation on which all subsequent ballad scholarship and collecting has been built. His 19th century academic prose can seem daunting at first, but persistence is repaid by the breadth and depth and even the wit of his work.

Producing this new edition must have been a massive task. What particular challenges did you face?

The original edition of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads was published in ten volumes over 15 years, from 1883 to 1898, and over that time Child continued to discover new ballad variants, to find better manuscripts of some of his sources, and to develop his understanding of the materials he was working with. As a result, each of those ten volumes contains a lengthy section entitled Additions and Corrections, where Child notes things that should be added to or corrected in each of the preceding volumes. The final volume contains new material for the entire set, including some corrections of prior corrections!

What we set out to do was to carefully carry out the instructions represented by this supplemental material, inserting new texts where indicated, correcting or expanding ballad notes, etc. In order to do that, we had to first create a new digital text of the books, working from an original first-edition set. If we’d started ten years later, now that several public domain texts have been generated, we could have saved many hours of tedious proofreading!

One of the largest challenges, and one we didn’t really recognize at the outset, has to do with page numbers. The original final volume contains a number of indices and an extensive glossary, all of which obviously refer to the original pagination. Many of those references are to text in the Additions and Corrections — text that we have subsequently scattered through five volumes. Identifying the correct new pagination for all of those references was a huge project; it ultimately involved creating software to track the location of repositioned references and dynamically generate new index references. That’s why Volume 5 took as long as it did…

Now that all five volumes are complete and available, what new projects do you have in the pipeline?

We’ve got a long list. As you probably know, we paused between volumes 4 and 5 to bring out a facsimile of Bronson’s Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads; that had been on the list from the beginning, but we were able to acquire the rights at that point in time, so it was well worth taking a little time just then to bring those books out.

At the moment, we’re preparing a fascimile edition of Sharp’s two volume English Folksongs from the Southern Appalachians, another absolutely foundational source for ballad texts and tunes that has long been unavailable.

Also on the near horizon are some online projects — we now have this digital, corrected, highly structured representation of Child’s collection that should be able to serve as the foundation for an amazing online “Child Explorer.”

On a personal note, have you always been in the publishing industry, and what is your interest in the Child Ballads?

I had worked as a writer and editor, and had been doing freelance book design for a number of years before we founded Loomis House, so it wasn’t a big leap. My interest in Child goes back to when I first stumbled across Child (and Bronson) as a teenager, and I’ve been singing ballads ever since, and more recently, giving performance/lectures about Child and the ballad tradition.

Thank you, Mark.

Mark has generously offered a hardbound copy of the latest volume, including shipping, to the winner of a draw. To enter this draw, all you have to do is post on your blog to tell your readers about this interview and give-away. Leave a comment on this post to let me know where I can see your post and you'll be entered in the draw. I will pick a winner, on 20th September - two weeks from the date of this post, at random from the entries and notify the winner, who can then contact Loomis House Press to arrange delivery.

Please do support Mark and Laura's work by posting a link to this post on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or anywhere else. Thank you.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Inspiration for a Title

I have a wip and a new work both in need of a title, and I've been thinking about what it takes to make a good book title.

The biggest question of all is 'what does the title need to convey'? The answer isn't simple. These are the main points I've been considering:

Do you want the title to convey an aspect of the story?

Can you tease the reader with a title which conveys the action of the story without spoiling it? What is it about the story that makes it unique?

A good approach to this is to start with your logline. If you haven't come up with one yet then it's a good idea to do so before attempting to title the book. Coming up with a good logline is an art of its own, so it helped me a lot to research the art before coming up with one. Once you have a logline you have a core statement from which you can key a title.

Is there a message or theme which could be conveyed in the title?

Does your book have an underlying message, moral story or fable? Is there a snappy way this underlying message can be conveyed in the title?

How well will the title convey the genre of the story?

If the title conveys the story genre, all's well and good. It doesn't hurt to do so and in some situations it can be an advantage (such as when your book is listed out of context and without a cover image). What has to be avoided is a title which indicates the wrong genre, or is confusing about the genre. For example a title that sounds historical for a story set in the future.

Will the title reach out to the right kind of reader?

Every title has an effect on a reader, but that effect can be hard to predict, since everyone reacts differently to the next person. This is one of the reasons to get feedback from others on your title choices before making a commitment.

What do you want the reader to think of when they see the title?

Even if everyone reacts differently there is still scope to create an impression with the title. Having answered the question What do you want the reader to think of? the next step is to find ways of conveying that in words. Again, experimentation and feedback are key.

How will the title look on the spine and the front cover?

Once in the shelf the spine is the only visible part of the book. How will the title look when viewed that way?

The title will probably come before cover art, but it is important to consider how it will look on the front of the book. A seventeen word title won't look great on any front cover or spine. Remember, the front cover will often be viewed as a small icon on websites and in catalogues, so whoever designs the cover needs a title they can make readable even at that small size.

Where else will the title be seen?

The title will often be seen without a cover image. This can happen on websites, in lists or catalogues, and the title may even appear without the author's name. These situations need to be considered when answering questions about what the title conveys to the reader.

How does your title compare?

There's a market for your book, and there are other authors writing for that market. Take a look at successful books in your genre that are comparable with your work. Their titles work, or at least don't harm sales, so it's worth considering why to see if there is an approach you can use.

Having considered all these points I try to come up with a small selection of options for the title and begin with my favourite, seeking feedback.

I've been through this process for my wip and here is the logline and title I came up with:

Wishing to free his sweetheart from a government enforced breeding programme, a young man finds himself competing for her with a ruthless underworld boss. - Bolter

This was after a lot of agonising and many options considered. The back cover blurb can be seen at the 'Bolter Baron' tab on this blog.

So, my questions for you...

How do you set about creating a title for your book?

What do you think of Bolter as a title? Do you have a suggestion for me?

Finally, I'd like to say thanks to my followers for sticking with me while I've been a bit sporadic with my posts. You're a great bunch.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Child Ballads. A second edition after 130 years.

In July this year the final volume will be released of the Loomis House Press second edition of Francis James Child's collection 'The English and Scottish Popular Ballads'

The English and Scottish Popular Ballads was first published in ten volumes by Francis James Child between the years 1882 and 1898. The first edition, published by Houghton, Mifflin and Company was later re-printed by them in five volumes, each containing two of the original volumes.

Francis J Child was an acedemic at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and prolific in his work. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads was his greatest and most enduring work; the one by which his name is remembered today.

Since then it has only been available in facsimile editions, the most popular of which is the Dover edition. For a long time the Dover edition was unavailable, leading to sky-high second hand prices for tatty paper back copies.

Revered by lovers of poetry, songs, ballads, antiquity and folklore worldwide 'The English and Scottish Popular Ballads' is one of the most sought after poetry collections.

Dover have since re-printed their facsimile edition, but until recently the first edition has been the only edition available.

Mark Heiman and Laura Saxton Heiman of Loomis House Press have changed all that.

Years' of work have gone into the production of a new edition, newly typeset and containing Francis Child's own corrections in five volumes as well as tunes from Child's own sources.

Volumes 1 - 4 have already been published and volume 5 will be available in July, completing the set.

I would like to congratulate Mark and Laura of Loomis House Press for their diligent work and celebrate the completion of this important new publication.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Quote of the week - Lessons learned

For today's quote of the week I've taken one of my favourite stanzas from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

About 152 years ago, eight hundred years after it was written, Edward Fitzgerald, author and poet, published the first edition of his translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. In all he published five editions of his translations and with each edition the wording of some stanzas changed.

He must have been particularly happy with his translation of this stanza, as he never changed the words.

This is, for good reason, one of the most famous stanzas from this epic poem. The wisdom of the words and the wordcraft of the translation combine to make it profound and memorable.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

I was reminded of this while editing Bolter Baron. My female MC finds solace in the words of Omar Khayam at a troubled moment.

She imagines that some would interpret his words as acceptance of defeat, but that isn't the message.

It is about the future, not the past. If we wallow in the mire of how we arrived here then we focus on recrimination and redress. If we plan for the future with the secure knowledge of the lessons we have learned, we can make a better life. That's what he said with those beautiful, eloquent words.

Image, Edmund Dulac Art Images. If you like this image please take a look at his website here

Friday, 10 June 2011

Book Blurb Friday...

Book blurb Friday is hosted by the fabulous Lisa Ricard Claro over at Writing In The Buff. Please do visit her excellent blog. In Lisa's words:

A "blurb" is the story summary on the back of a book (usually 150 words or less) written to entice you to read the book. Think of your visits to a bookstore or library. A book's front cover may catch your eye, but if the blurb doesn't interest you the book goes back on the shelf; if it resonates with you, you bring the book home.

The goal of this meme is to:

Write a book jacket blurb (150 words or less) so enticing that potential readers would feel compelled to buy the book.

This week's book blurb is for this cover photo:

So without further ado, here it is:

Hipsin's Little Trip

Little! Yeah. Hipsin's mother had always told him he was little, but this was ridiculous.

Ok, together with Dedatur he'd stolen a shuttle to escape the Droundari prisoner transport spaceship. So - no penal colony on Sweldova 9. No lifetime of sweat and toil, but this?

In the name of Wiren! That... thing was clearly a discarded refreshment container, but their shuttle could fly into the opening and they could spend two days exploring. They called me little! They had no idea.

Now they'd have to find a way to survive. Without enough fuel to get away this was their home, like it or not.

What did we do? We armed our weapons and went looking for the inhabitants. They'd be the biggest threat, so we should meet them face to face.

That was our biggest mistake...

Word count 137 excluding the title.

Please check out the other entries for the book blurb. There is a linky to them all here.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Back from travels and tagged

I've been absent from blogland recently as I've been travelling on family matters. I'm back now and raring to go. First and formost I'd like to thank three people who have tagged me. Dorothy Evans tagged me a little while ago (sorry I took so long!), and also Denise of L'Aussie Writing and Nancy Williams at N R Williams, Fantasy Author.

The way the tags work vary a little, so I'm making a kind of hybrid of them here:

1. Do you think you're hot?

The windows in my workshop make it rather like a greenhouse and even in hazy sun it gets extremely hot - so, yes.

2. Upload a picture or wallpaper you're using at the moment.

I'm working on edits for Bolter Baron at the moment, so this is difinitely on my mind. I'm also looking for a final title for the book. Bolter Baron is my working title.

3. When was the last time you ate chicken meat?

Almost every day - I love it. It tastes like chicken.

4. The song you listened to recently.

5. What were you thinking as you were doing this?

I was hoping to goodness I wouldn't have to re-write this post from scratch when my browser locked up. Sigh of relief!

6. Do you have nicknames? What are they?

I had some hilarious nicknames at school (oh, so long ago). Sometimes I was called Bison, sometimes Tibbles (a play on TB). Now I must be quite boring as people just call me Tony, although sometimes I get called Tony Maloney.

Now comes the fun bit - passing on the tag and acknowledging my wonderful followers. I've seen a lot of these tags around lately, so rather than naming specific people to pass it on to I shall do it slightly differently.

I have lots of wonderful people who follow my blog, and I'd like to acknowledge them all. I'd like to pass this on to any of my followers who hasn't been tagged. If that is you, then you may consider yourself 'it'.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Using the passive voice in creative writing

I am in the process of editing my work in progress, and at the moment I am having fun taking out my inappropriate uses of passive voice. In doing so I have had to clarify my thoughts on this subject, so I decided to write them down. I hope my thoughts on this will be of some interest to you.

The use of passive voice in creative writing is widely frowned upon, yet this very statement uses it. Are there times when passive voice is better?

What is passive voice?

Consider the phrase: Roger burned the toast.

The action is “burned”, the object of the action is “toast” and the subject of the phrase is “Roger”, the one performing the action. The fact that Roger performed the action is emphasised.

If I rearrange this sentence so that the object of the action becomes the subject of the phrase, and the subject is no longer the one performing the action I get:

The toast was burned.

The latter phrase is in passive voice. This phrase removes the emphasis from the performer of the action, Roger, and places it on the object of the action, toast.

The grammatical construction is such that a finite form of the verb to be precedes the past participle of the action verb. Generally the past participle is recognised as being the form that ends in “ed”.

Finite form of to be + past participle = passive voice

What is not passive voice?

There are some common misconceptions about passive voice. One of the most common relates to the use of the past progressive (otherwise known as past continuous) form. This is a phrase containing was or were followed by the present participle.

Consider the example: The toast was burning.

This is active voice. It is the past progressive form, and the verb burning is the present participle. This is generally recognised as the form ending in “ing”.

The past progressive form is used to indicate one of the following:

Concurrent actions. Action a was happening while action b was happening. I was working while you were watching television.

An event during a continuous action. Event a happened while action b was happening. I stopped work when you were making dinner.

Creating atmosphere. In the pub the landlord was washing glasses. Several people were playing cribbage while others were drinking or talking.

In order to put this passage into passive voice I would say: In the pub the glasses were being washed. Cribbage was being played and there was drinking and talking.

Clearly this is a much weaker way of writing the passage.

Why is the use of passive voice frowned upon?

The principle reason passive voice is frowned upon is because the statement is weakened by the loss of emphasis on what or who is carrying out the action. In our first example:

Roger burned the toast

We know exactly what happened. When placed in passive voice:

The toast was burned

We lose a key piece of information about the event. This weakens the statement.

Why is the use of passive voice sometimes the right approach?

I have breakfast at the hotel restaurant, and when it arrives it is poorly prepared. At this point my narrative may say:

The toast was burned and the eggs overcooked.

The obvious fact that someone in the kitchen did this need not be stated. Indeed, the reader would be frustrated by the irrelevance if the author told them it was a cook called Roger.

Such use of passive voice is not only acceptable, but it can be preferable to the active voice alternative.

Friday, 6 May 2011

I'm back - and it's Book Blurb Friday

Margo and I have had an amazingly busy time lately, and a part of that has been family health issues. I'd like to thank everyone who's sent their well wishes, and I'm happy to be able to say that things are looking up now. The health issues are much improved and no longer frightening. Good news indeed! Thank you all for your kind thoughts.

We'll be around a little more for a couple of weeks, as our schedule is allowing us a little bit of a life for a while.

Breathes a sigh of relief

The Book blurb Friday is hosted by the fabulous Lisa Ricard Claro over at Writing In The Buff. Please do visit her excellent blog. This week's book blurb is for this photo:

... And my entry is:

Still Waters
By Tony Benson

Solomon didn't know he had unusual powers until he discovered the place that unlocked those powers. As an accountant with a wife, two sons and a dog, with an executive house in suburbia he had always considered himself to be an ordinary sort of person.

Solomon rarely ventured far from his home or work, but one day he was out walking the dog and found his usual path obstructed by municipal works. He took a different path, and was soon in the grounds of a derelict manor house. Coming across a pool he sat watching a rocky waterfall while his dog paddled in the water. When the dog vanished and a beautiful woman walked out of the water towards him he just knew he had turned his darkest desire into reality, and at that moment his life changed in ways even he wouldn't have imagined.

Please check out the other entries for the book blurb. There is a linky to them all here.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Book Blurb Friday

Book Blurb Friday is hosted by the fabulous Lisa Ricard Claro over at Writing In The Buff. In Lisa's words:

A "blurb" is the story summary on the back of a book (usually 150 words or less) written to entice you to read the book. Think of your visits to a bookstore or library. A book's front cover may catch your eye, but if the blurb doesn't interest you the book goes back on the shelf; if it resonates with you, you bring the book home.

The goal of this meme is to:

Write a book jacket blurb (150 words or less) so enticing that potential readers would feel compelled to buy the book.

So, without further ado, here's my entry for this week's Book Blurb:

Gertrude Feliziano was an ordinary person. She worked at the roads department in a small town in Greater Crungina, near the foothills of the Pilazic Mountains. She had only one distinguishing feature, which was her secret habit of bathing naked in the hot springs which abounded in the foothills. She loved to bathe in the hot, steamy water, and she loved her solitude.

Bathing one day, her clothes discarded in a heap at the side of the spring, she was horrified to discover she wasn't alone. The body of an unconscious man was floating at the edge of the hot pool.

Clambering out of the water she discovered his clothes at the foot of an old tree, and poised over them, a fresh red blossom. What follows is both sad and hilarious as she attempts to help him while protecting her own reputation.

Please do hop over to Writing In The Buff and check out the other fab entries.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

And the winner is....

First of all I'd like to say thank you to all my followers for being so supportive and being such wonderful people. You rock! Also a big thank you to everyone who entered my Counting to 200 competition and giveaway.


Today I have my 200th follower on Google Friend Connect in addition to my Networked Blog followers, so I'm now well and truly over the 200 mark.

I've taken a list of all the cool people who entered for the draw, and used random.org to select the winner.

And the winner is...

Robyn Campbell of Putting Pen To Paper

Please visit her excellent blog and say hello to her. There you will find much of writerly interest to delight you. Congratulations Robyn.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Harry Potter Blogfest - Who are your mates?

The fabulous Michael, over at In Time, is hosting this fun Harry Potter blogfest. In his words:

It's quite simple. All you have to do is choose which two characters would be YOUR best mates at Hogwarts. You can use any student characters from any book.

My best friends at Hogwarts are definitely Fred and George Weasley. In fact, since they left Hogwarts we've become good friends. We have so much in common, you see. I left school in pretty much the same way they did, and I was always in trouble at school, wilfully flouting the rules for the sake of a bit of fun. Since we've been friends, of course, we've been pretty much out of control. It's because we encourage each other down that path, and the outcome is always the same. Trouble.

I never have any money these days, as I spend it all on fun tricks and jokes, but I'm happy, and with Fred and George I have many happy hours making muggles fall in a lake, or fixing their saucepans to the cooker. Laugh! Really, you should try it.

Please do check out the other entries over at In Time. There's a list of links to the other entries there.

I'm planning to visit all the other entries in the blogfest, but it may take me a couple of days to get to everyone, as life is particularly hectic at the moment, so if I haven't visited yours yet, then I'm on my way.

Don't forget, it's not too late to enter my Counting To 200 giveaway. Just make sure you're following my blog and leave a comment on the Counting To 200 post.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Book Blurb Friday

Book Blurb Friday is the idea of the fabulous Lisa Ricard Claro over at Writing In The Buff. In Lisa's words:

A "blurb" is the story summary on the back of a book (usually 150 words or less) written to entice you to read the book. Think of your visits to a bookstore or library. A book's front cover may catch your eye, but if the blurb doesn't interest you the book goes back on the shelf; if it resonates with you, you bring the book home.

The goal of this meme is to:

Write a book jacket blurb (150 words or less) so enticing that potential readers would feel compelled to buy the book.

So, here's my entry for this week's Book Blurb:


Dina is in a prison she doesn't understand. She isn't sure whether it is a physical one, or in her mind, but it seems real enough. She's been confined in this dimly lit corridor for days now. She can hit the walls with her fist but they don't move, scream but no one comes. She can tug at the door handles but they don't open. Food and water appears only when she sleeps.

To make matters worse the only view she has out of this prison is a window in one of the doors. She can see through it into a room she doesn't recognise, but there's no sign anyone can see her from the other side.

When her lover is dragged into the room at gunpoint, beaten unconscious and left tied to a chair, she knows she has little time to escape if she is to save him.

Please do visit the other entries in the Book Blurb Friday. There is a linky list showing who they all are at Writing In The Buff

Saturday, 19 March 2011

2nd Crusade Challenge - The Goldfish Bowl Teetered...

The second Crusade Challenge has now been announced by the fabulous Rachael Harrie over at Rach Writes. What she says is:

Write a flash fiction story (in any format) in 100 words or less, excluding the title. Begin the story with the words, “The goldfish bowl teetered” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional, and not part of the judging criteria), see if you can write the story in your own genre (eg if you’re a horror writer, write a horror story; a romance writer, a romance story, etc).

So, without further ado, here's my entry. I believe it counts in at 99 words:

The goldfish bowl teetered at the edge of the vortex. Five intense people watched.

“Let it go.” Said Jerry. “Who cares?”

Alice replied “No, Jerry! The water will collapse the vortex. It's our last chance to reach our friends.”

“Forget the vortex, what about the fish!” Hilary glared.

“If it goes in,” said Adam, “the glass will shatter and burst out on the other side. We may never get our friends back, but we don't want to kill them.”

Taylor interrupted them. “So, we're agreed. We have to stop it going in.”

Please do check out the other entries. There's a linky over at Rach Writes

Friday, 18 March 2011

Quote of the week - Eating is optional

"Nobody will send the bailiffs round just because I don't buy food"

I'm not telling you who said this, but I will tell you about her.

She is a close friend of ours who was invalided from the army after receiving terrible injuries in Desert Storm. She was a seargeant with a distinguished career - up to then. That was a long time ago, but she is still living out the reality of what happened every day. Abandoned by the army, her injuries, both physical and mental, make her un-employable.

She is a good person. She is one of the most generous spirited people I have ever met, and she is tireless in supporting charities that raise money for needy people. She hates owing money, and does everything in her power to pay her way, losing sleep over any debt she incurs.

She has a tiny pension from the army and that is topped up by pitifully inadequate social security. Every time she eats she has to figure out how she will pay for it, and much of the time she simply doesn't eat, because there's not enough money to pay for food, and she'd rather pay her bills. She is in debt, with no hope of paying it off. The debt was incurred paying for necessities, not for luxuries such as food.

The British Government is doing a great job of cutting back on spending. They are doing this, they say, to cut the national debt - legacy of the previous spendthrift government.

Laudable, and we all support fiscal caution, but billions are being spent on the 2012 Olympics, and millions of pounds of public money are being spent a year on ex-prime minister Blair so that he can live it up in his luxury role as... what is it he does? The government has a wine cellar that would be the envy of any connoisseur, and they are still spending a small fortune keeping it stocked. The government is spending our hard-earned money hand over fist everywhere you look.

In their wisdom our Government have reduced the social security paymets to my friend, and by doing so they have reduced her from poverty to extreme poverty. She has gone from woefully inadequate income to less.

What makes all this harder to watch is that she is normally so upbeat about it. Sometimes she gets depressed, sometimes angry, sometimes afraid, but most of the time she's cheerful - as she was when she said to me

"Nobody will send the bailiffs round just because I don't buy food"

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Counting to 200 - competition and giveaway

It seems only a moment ago I was celebrating having 50 followers, and now I'm well on my way towards the 200 mark! To celebrate that and to say thanks to all my followers I'm having a competition and give-away.

The Prize

When I reach 200 followers I'll be giving away two shiny new paperback books (Worldwide shipping included).

The first is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This delightful book is an excellent read, and I didn't want to stop reading when I got to the end.

From the Random House Press website: January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

The second book is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. This is a humourous and endearing book that everyone will enjoy.

From the Persephone Books website: Miss Pettigrew is about a governess sent by an employment agency to the wrong address, where she encounters a glamorous night-club singer, Miss LaFosse. 'The sheer fun, the light-heartedness' in this wonderful 1938 book 'feels closer to a Fred Astaire film than anything else' comments the Preface-writer Henrietta Twycross-Martin, who found Miss Pettigrew for Persephone Books. The Guardian asked: 'Why has it taken more than half a century for this wonderful flight of humour to be rediscovered?' while the Daily Mail liked the book's message - 'that everyone, no matter how poor or prim or neglected, has a second chance to blossom in the world.' Maureen Lipman wrote in 'Books of the Year' in the Guardian: 'Perhaps the most pleasure has come from Persephone's enchanting reprints, particularly Miss Pettigrew, a fairy story set in 1930s London'; and she herself entertained R4 listeners with her five-part reading. And in The Shops India Knight called Miss Pettigrew 'the sweetest grown-up book in the world'.

How to Enter

Entering for this draw couldn't be simpler:
  • If you're not already following my blog, then add yourself as a follower.

  • Give this competition a shout on your blog, linking back here, and encourage your followers to come and take a look here. If you'd like to give it a shout on Twitter as well, than that would be great

  • Leave a comment on this post, telling me something quirky about yourself.

The winner will be drawn at random from all the entries as soon as I reach 200 followers.

Good luck, and happy blogging. Thank you for being such wonderful people.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Family Science Day at the Norman Lockyer Observatory

If you can make it to this event, then please do come. The Norman Lockyer Observatory is a fascinating place, and the event will be great fun for the whole family.

Family Science Day at the Norman Lockyer Observatory, Saturday 12th March 10.00 am - 4.00 pm
Enjoy planetarium shows, story telling, space-related talks, telescope tours, explore radio & satellite communications and get involved with hands on activities for all the family. An all day event with the theme of “Communication”, part of National Science & Engineering Week (www.nsew.org.uk).

Cost: Children FREE, Adults £5.00

Contact: David Strange, 01297 680209
Sponsored by the Institute of Physics South West
Refreshments will be available on site and there is plenty of Free Car Parking.
See www.normanlockyer.org for maps and more.


Carol Boote (NLO) ~ “Is there Anybody There” at 11.00am
David Whitehouse (BBC Science Correspondent) ~ “The Search for Life in Space” at 2.00 pm

Planetarium Shows - at various times throughout the day

Story Telling in the Planetarium - 2 sessions in the afternoon
Professional storyteller Michael O'Leary will be weaving stories of the Moon and celestial beasts.
Suitable for young and old (and particularly 6-10yr olds) to hear Michael spin tall tales in the atmospheric planetarium under a canopy of stars.

Hands on activities - throughout the day
Have a go at some fun hands-on science experiments with students from Colyton Grammar School and members of the Institute of Physics. Make & Launch your own Rockets and enter our 'Alien' Competition too.

Telescope Tours - throughout the day
The Domes will be open and NLO volunteers will be on hand to explain how we communicate with the Stars and what we can learn from starlight.
If the sun shines there will be demonstrations of a heliograph.

Radio Room - will be manned throughout the day
The NLO Radio Group will be demonstrating Satellite and Radio communications..

Monday, 28 February 2011

Quote of the week - Descriptions

A home is not a mere transient shelter: its essence lies in the personalities of the people who live in it

Henry Louis Mencken

What I love about this quote is that it illustrates so well how we can shape the way we describe something. We could simply describe what we see. We could describe, as Mr Mencken suggests, its essence based on the personalities of the people who live in it. We could describe it in terms of the thoughts and memories it evokes in us as an author, or for a character in the story. We could describe it from the point of view of its history. There is no end to the different aspects, or combinations of aspects, we can use in a description.

The aspects we chose to use in our descriptions help to define the character of our writing. It places that character under our control and gives us infinite scope for expression.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Pork Pies and a Thank You

First of all, I'd like to say a big thank you to all of my new followers. You are what makes the world go round. Less than three weeks ago I had fifty followers, and now I have nearly a hundred and fifty awesome people following my blog! Thank you all for your support, your lovely comments and your own entertaining, interesting and fun blogs.

In my last post I told a little porky. Lots of you have guessed at it, and some of you got it right, but first I have to say, I love rabbit - Margo makes a spectacularly tasty rabbit pie. In fact game is really quite popular around here. Many restaurants will serve dishes with rabbit, pheasant or venison, and you'll even occasionally find such things as pidgoen. All worth a try, and all really tasty (unless, of course, you're a vegetarian).

I'm also a bit uncouth, really, because I'll have red wine with just about any dish. I don't ignore the 'accompanying wine' recommendations, but I do love a glass of red.

So what was my porky? Well, sorry to disappoint, but I've never wanted to dress up in women's clothes and I've never wanted to play pantomime dame. Sad, aren't I? Thank you to those who said they thought I'd be a great drag queen, although pantomime dame isn't generally regarded as cross dressing around here because of the hairy legs and wellies.

Porky - rhyming slang: Pork pie - lie.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Crusade first challenge - and an award thank you

The challenge is here, and if you click on the link it will all start to make sense (... sort of).

In this post I intend to bloviate interminably on the given subjects for the First Crusade Challenge. One thing I love, more than anything, is to go, with the Lovely Margo, to a restaurant and have some exotic fuliguline or rabbit dish, accompanied by a glass of the red. It's probably annoying to others that I have red wine with inappropriate dishes, but I'm a cool blade, and I don't care.

Margo says that one of my best character traits is that I am a kind and tolerant person. The trouble is I have no time for impatient or intolerant people. There's a conundrum.

Talking of intolerance, I have a secret to share with you. It's something I've never shared with anyone before. (Sound of trumpets heralding an anouncement...)

Here it is....

I've always wanted to dress up in womens' clothes and be the pantomime dame. The combination of hairy legs with wellington boots and a lacy frock... I'd probably have to get some transfers that look like tattoos, and put on a wig, and there you have it. Widow Twanky. Now I've shared my darkest secret I can't wait for the offers to come in for pantomime 2012.

Something I said here is just not true. Can you believe that? Well, sad to say, I've lied. What do you think I lied about?

And now for something completely different...

I've been awarded the Stylish Blogger award by the lovely Misha at My First Book. Thank you, Misha. In order to accept this award I have to:

1. Link back to the award givers (check).
2. State Seven things about myself.
3. Pass on the award to 3 recently discovered bloggers.

Ok, well here goes with seven things about myself:

1: I'm a Scorpio (Libra cusp)
2: I like being different. Can't stand conformity
3: I love pretty much every kind of music.
4: I play guitar, melodeon, bodhran and violin, but I also have (and occasionally play) mandolin, ukulele, phono-fiddle, banjo, lyre, bowed psaltery, appalachian dulcimer, bones, spoons, penny whistle, didgeridoo... need I go on?
5: Margo is the one. (No. This doesn't rate #5 in my priorities, but I didn't want to come across as too sappy)
6: We don't have a gas supply here, but the previous people here installed a gas fire that runs off bottled gas. It has a remote control. (Oooh! I hear you say).
7: North Devon, UK, where we live is the most windy, rainy place on planet Earth.

And here I pass the award on to three recently discovered bloggers whose blogs I enjoy:

Shelly Batt
Gen @ Living On Earth
Liz @ Laws of Gravity

Do drop in on them and say Hi!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Quote of the week - Communication

The problem with communication... is the illusion that it has been accomplished.

George Bernard Shaw

The Four Facets of Communication

I see four facets of verbal communication that have an impact on its effectiveness.

1 - What I intended to say

2 - The words I used

3 - The words the listener heard

4 - What the listener thought I said

What I Intended to Say

This could be very simple, but mostly what we say is not as simple as we might think. As an example, I might say “it's time for lunch”. There is a lot of meaning in this that is not conveyed simply by the words. I always have a hot lunch, but you may not know that. When I say it's time for lunch, I haven't made it clear that this means I want to eat hot food within a few minutes rather than maybe within a couple of hours. What I think I have conveyed with these few words is largely dependent on my world picture.

The Words I Used

These are just a representation of what I intended to say. Words are never a perfect representation of the intended message, since they are hampered by both the limitations of the language, and the speaker's command of the language. I choose the words based on my experience of what I think it would take to convey what I intended to say. If I am talking to someone face to face, then I also have body language information that I have conveyed to the recipient, whether I am aware of it or not. If I am using a phone, or a video-conference, then some dimensions of the body language are lost, and if I am using written word, then most of the dimensions of body language are lost (but not all – think about such aspects as the exact timing of when you convey the written words).

The Words the Listener Heard

Normally we like to think this is exactly the same as the words I used. Unfortunately it frequently happens that someone hears something different from what was said. This can happen due to background noise, unclear speaking, conflicting body language, listeners expectations and many other causes.

What the Listener Thought I Said

The listener heard certain words, but the way they interpret them, and hence the message that they receive, is coloured by their world view. It is very likely that whoever you are talking to will have a different world view than you, and the more different their world view, the more likelihood there is of a misunderstanding.

So What?

As a writer these facets of communication affect me in two basic ways. Firstly the written word, as much as speech, is subject all four facets, and this can easily lead to the reader getting something different from my writing than intended.

Secondly I can use these facets to bring some spice to the dialoge between my characters. This can be surprisingly difficult to do, but if done well, can lead to some intriguing situations in the story.

The 'Four Facets of Communication' is an extract from my non-fiction ms 'Balancing Act'

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest and...

Today, February 16th is the Bernard Pivot Blogfest, hosted by the fabulous Nicole Duclerior at her blog One Significant Moment at a Time. For more about the blogfest you can see details, including links to all the participants here. The idea is to get to know eachother by answerin the Bernard Pivot questionairre.

Here it is, with my answers:

1. What is your favorite word?


2. What is your least favorite word?


3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Music has always been a passion of mine and I find it truly inspiring. There is one problem though. If I have music playing while I write, I find myself staring into space, enjoying the music, instead of writing. Sadly that means I usually write in silence.

4. What turns you off?

Inconsiderate behaviour or unkindness, most body fluids, politicians.

5. What is your favorite curse word?

Bugger! If you've never said it - with passion - you really must try.

6. What sound or noise do you love?

Pop - glug, glug, glug...

7. What sound or noise do you hate?

Persistent barking from my neighbor's dogs (or is it from my neighbor?)

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I always thought it would be fun to be an astronaut.

9. What profession would you not like to do?

There's a really nice chap who comes here once every couple of years to empty our sceptic tank. I *really* don't want his job.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

101 was a great old age, well done!

Thanks for coming by. Do drop in on the other participants and say Hi to them. Thanks Nicole for a fun blogfest.

...and Thank You

I'd like to say a big thank you to J C Martin, Fighter Writer for awarding me the Write Hard award.

I'm particularly grateful because J C Martin has been an inspiration to me. Her writing is amazing, her talent is great and she is a lovely person. If you haven't seen her blog, then please do visit it here. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, 14 February 2011

A Valentine's Day Wish

I'd like to wish everyone a happy Valentine's Day.

Today the wonderful Margo and I had a romantic Valentine's day lunch followed by a walk in the Broomhill Sculpture Gardens. Now we're settling with a Rusty Nail and looking forward to a cosy evening together.

I am blessed to be married to the most wonderful person in the Universe.

The button I've shown was created by Jules at Trying To Get Over The Rainbow. Share the Love 2011. It's a great way to say thank you for reading my blog and to pass on the love.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Quote of the week

With Valentine's Day coming up I thought I'd bring you one of my favourite quotes from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. This verse is one that my dad used to quote to my mum when he was being romantic. This is from Edward Fitzgerald's second edition of his translation.

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness,

Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

Image, Edmund Dulac Art Images. If you like this image, then please take a look at his website here