Writerly Round-up: May 2019
May is one of my favourite months. It’s when my garden puts away its winter garb and starts dressing for summer. Looking through the office doors as I type, I can see at least eleven different types of plant in full bloom; there are bees buzzing in the border; and sparrows squabbling above the stream. And it’s Bank Holiday Monday here in the UK; the sun is shining (well, just about); and it doesn’t feel right to be working away while the rest of the country rests. So, this month’s round-up is going to be a short one.
Writing in May
My writing this month has been sporadic and mostly non-fiction. I wrote blog posts for this and other sites; articles for our town’s community magazine; and publicity copy for upcoming events. The Business of Writing Part 4 is currently with my beta readers, so I’m having a rest from that at the moment. I did take some time to edit an short story I wrote some years ago, which seemed particularly appropriate for a competition. It felt good to be writing fiction again; maybe taking a year off (after finishing my trilogy of thrillers) is a mistake. I’ll see how the next couple of months go.
Sales and Marketing
It’s been a quiet month on the e-marketing side, but I had a very successful book signing at WHSmith in Exeter earlier this month. As well as selling quite a few copies, I gave out lots of book marks and chatted to people about what they liked reading. And the store kept back copies of all four novels to put on display, which was unexpected and gratifying.
My Russian research reading continues. I’m still reading non-fiction at the moment, but have moved on from the Romanovs to Russian mythology. And I’ve identified some novels I want to read next.
Last month, I called this section ‘Out and About’ but I’ve been office based most of the month, and have spent a lot of time on administration, partly related to Literary Festivals (see below), but also working on my accounts and a number of non-work projects. You know that feeling you get when there’s so much ‘other stuff’ waiting to be done, it starts getting in the way of the real work? Well that’s how it was at the end of April. So I made a list of all the things I needed to get out of the way, to see my way clear to writing again – and just got on with it. Having decided not to do anything creative, I stopped worrying or feeling guilty, and found I was being quite efficient with my time. And I also started thinking seriously about the number of non-work things I get involved in. I’m going to be making some tough decisions in the next couple of months – and practising saying ‘no’ as well. Watch this space.
The programme for Chudleigh Literary Festival, on Wednesday 10th July, is now up on the website and booking have started to come in. A reminder for any of you local to Devon that we are running Face The Chudleigh Dragons for a second time; if you have a novel you would like to pitch to our panel of experts, then check out the details here. There’s a great prize for the winner.
The programme for the Exeter Literary Festival in November continues to develop well and the website is being updated as details are confirmed. Entries have started arriving for the Short Story Competition; there are three categories, covering all age groups including children. Do check it out and consider entering if you are a writer of short stories.
Writers Are Readers Too
One of the reasons I am having to do so much research for my next novel is that I gave up studying history at the age of thirteen and have some serious gaps in my knowledge as a result. And I find historical novels a good way of topping up my knowledge, even though I am aware some authors take a certain amount of liberties with the truth for the benefit of the story. Not that I would suggest that was the case with the author of The Outcasts of Time. I just loved this innovative novel which used a fascinating literary device to subtly educate the readers at the same time as entertaining them. Here’s my review:
Brothers John and William make a pact with the devil when they become infected with Black Death in 1348. They have just six days to live and seek redemption, but each day is ninety-nine years in the future. This is a fascinating concept, showing us the changing world through the eyes of someone without the knowledge and experience to understand what he is seeing. For example, I loved his description of German WWII warplanes as crosses in the sky.
Dr Ian Mortimer is a respected historian and his detailed knowledge of each age is evident. By presenting it through John’s eyes, he manages to show us many things without it seeming like unnecessary downloading of facts. And John’s plain speaking logic about man’s inhumanity to man certainly rings true.
This is a very readable book, despite its range of deep subject matter: religion, philosophy, redemption, history. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended.