February 2020 Competition Results – Joel McIver Adjudication

Adjudicator for February’s competition was bestselling author of 20 books on rock music, Joel McIver. Our main speaker on the evening, he is also known for contributing to various music and film magazines and regularly appears on radio and TV.

Joel McIver Feb 2020
Joel McIver announces the winners

This month’s competition brief was: 

Everyone hates this song, here’s why I love it, in 300 words.

Joel’s adjudication was as follows:

First Place: Solveig Godauski with Rick-Rolled

Second Place: Maggie Farran with My Way

Third Place: Damon L. Wakes with Turfin’ Bird

Highly Commended: Barbara Needham with A Discordant Note

Highly Commended: Lynn Clement with Sherrington Woods

 

February 2020 winners
L to R: Joel McIver, Solveig Godauski, Maggie Farran, Barbara Needham and Damon L. Wakes

First Place: Rick-Rolled by Solveig Godauski

“Succinct, well-reasoned and very familiar from my own experience as an Eighties teenager, this piece of text makes it clear both why this song is both loved and hated.

I have always had a better taste in music than you. I’ve been a fan of indie and metal bands which you have never heard of and I have always had my finger on the pulse. I saw the Killers at a small, grubby venue, the Strokes before they’d even released their first album and Coldplay as the first act on stage, supporting three other bands.

I stage dived at a Biohazard concert. I emerged from a Paradise Lost mosh pit covered in bruises. I turned the car stereo up to 11 and let myself be engulfed in the insane racket that is Lightning Bolt’s “Dracula Mountain” – music which you could never endure. I laughed when you said you liked Crowded House.

Looking back, I realise how painfully self-conscious I was in those days. I was desperate to be one of the cool kids, desperate to impress people, worried that I might accidentally like the wrong thing.

These days, you can find me at a local school on a Sunday morning. I’m at the Sunday Assembly: a non-religious community gathering, a non-churchy church – wholesome, uplifting, inclusive, definitely not cool and not trying to be.

There’s a long talk and a short talk, poetry, mindfulness, homemade cake. Instead of hymns we sing pop songs; catchy tunes that everyone knows. I’m in the front row, happy and relaxed, comfortable in my own skin, well rested, sober. A lyrics video, downloaded off YouTube, appears on the screen and the intro of a cheesy 80s song blares from the speakers. I grin, start tapping my foot, sing along to the first verse and then belt out cheerfully and louder than anyone else: “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you!”

 

Second Place: My Way by Maggie Farran

” I do like a revenge story, and how better to frame it than within in the context of the most annoyingly smug songs ever written?

His coffin slides into the cremator to Frank Sinatra belting out ‘My Way’. I smile secretly as I feel the mass hatred for this song from his friends and family. That is why I chose it. It is my parting gift to him, the man who did everything his way and made my life a misery.

‘Regrets I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention’

I don’t think he ever regretted anything. He was convinced that every decision he made was absolutely right. He dragged me away from my hometown to live in the middle of the country. I was lonely and bored, but he didn’t even notice. He was down the pub every night with his so-called mates.

‘Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew’

He always had some new money-making scheme that came to nothing. He was always going to make a fortune, but it never came to anything. I was often hungry and ashamed of my scruffy clothes.

‘To say the things, he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels”

He crushed me with his words. I can’t remember him ever saying anything kind to me. He seemed to enjoy criticising everything I did and reducing me to tears.

‘And now, the end is near
And so, I face the final curtain’

So now my father’s life has ended. I have no regrets. I’ve looked after him through his final illness. I’ve shown him a kindness he never showed to me. However, this song he hated with a passion is how I will always remember him. I squeeze my daughter’s hand. We exchange a knowing look and walk slowly towards the sunshine outside.

‘I took the blows
And did it my way’

 

Third Place: Turfin’ Bird by Damon L. Wakes

“I’ve been in the position of the writer of this piece, struggling to make people leave the pub where I was a student. The chosen song is an inspired choice!

Ted had a few options available when people got a little too comfortable at the bar.
Simply putting chairs on tables usually did the job. Should that prove inadequate, wiping up around a pint was often enough to drive the point home. Only on very rare occasions did he have to resort to actually asking people to leave. And on nights when that failed?…

Despite the group’s assurances that they were just finishing up their drinks, Ted was beginning to get the distinct impression that this dreary Friday was just such a night. He’d already opened up Spotify. His finger hovered over the button. The nuclear option. He looked over at the gang of lads and their still half-full glasses of Foster’s, silently pleading for them to just walk away, but they were oblivious.
As the one known as “Lanky Carl” launched into yet another rendition of Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” Ted decided it was, at last, time for a counter-offensive. He turned the volume all the way up and hit play.

“A-WELL-A EVERYBODY’S HEARD ABOUT THE BIRD!”

The group downed their pints and was out the door even before the first b-b-b-bird.
Ted locked up behind them and got started mopping the floor, letting the song blare on in the background.

The Trashmen were right: everybody knew that the bird was the word.

And if they didn’t?

They’d soon find out.

Highly Commended: A Discordant Note by Barbara Needham

“The best plot-twist I’ve read in quite some time!

‘I can’t stand that song.’

‘It’s an awful racket.’

‘It just goes on and on.’

As soon as the singer starts belting out his signature tune, these are the frequently heard complaints. Inextricably tied up with the song, is the reputation of the musician himself. He stands accused of being a notorious serial cheat. His brief encounters with the opposite sex have produced many offspring, which he succeeds in offloading to others to raise. He has devised strategies to dupe the unwary – and to the chagrin of his detractors, he often gets away with it.

The history of the music world is strewn with examples of stars whose private lives were messy. Elvis died obese and alone, truly in ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. Judy Garland’s life was far from the paradise ‘Over the Rainbow’, that she sought. She had five husbands some violent and abusive. Amy Winehouse’s struggles with alcohol are well documented; one of her famous songs is entitled ‘Rehab’.

So who is this individual whose trademark song and questionable lifestyle is so detested by some? He is an international traveller whose brief British tour starts in April. For the next three months, he has a phenomenally punishing schedule. He performs every day. By early summer, when he flies off, even his most ardent fans think his voice is losing its fabled clarity.

It is early morning. We are tired of the cold and wet of winter. Nature is waking up. Trees are putting forth their first leaves. Days are getting longer. Then, across a meadow, if you are lucky, comes that unmistakable first call. Loud and ethereal. You rarely see him, but he is indisputably the herald of Spring.

I love the cuckoo’s song – and am a member of his fan club.

Highly Commended: Sherrington Woods by Lynn Clement

“A palpable sense of menace oozes from the page.”

Terry Jacks, ‘Seasons in the Sun,’ plays in my head. All your friends hate it. They hate me.

We’re in Sherrington Woods, amid the noble colour, in the feeble sun of autumn. Copper and dun, woven together lay a patterned carpet. The early morning. Jack had waved his spiky fingers, crisping the edges of each fallen leaf. White webs were woven, sticky and clinging – makes me shiver now. But it’s the surprise of the hoary headed mushrooms, unexpectedly emerging in the soggy shade of the oak, which reminds me of you. And what was.

‘Hello Jessy, how are you?’ A voice interrupts my thoughts.

‘I’m good,’ I reply.

‘Your painting is taking shape now.’

‘Yes,’ I say.

David means well, but he doesn’t understand. No one will ever understand.

‘Do you have all the colours you need?’

‘Sure,’ I give.

Red is red is red, I think – except when it’s scarlet.

David usually leaves me alone, wafting off to help some other deserving soul. I have to get this bit right. His eyes dart around the room.

Yellow and red, the story of our relationship really. You mellow yellow, me blood red. Then you turned grey. Fungus-like. Sucking the colour out of me. I bought a sweet-cherry hair dye, like in that photo you hid in your drawer. The one with the scarlet, lipstick kiss. ‘It’s not you,’ you said. It’s not her, you meant. So I went back to black, and made vermillion lines on my arms instead.

‘Does the pallet knife help with the texture, Jessy?’ David again, from across the room.

‘Yes, thanks.’

The blade spreads the thick claret colour across the sienna. Just like it did that autumn day. Pooling on the rusty splashed carpet.

David’s approaching.

‘Oh, you’ve spoiled your painting Jessy!’ – Just as I’d anticipated. I raise the knife.

He hits the red button, and they come for me.

I’ll start the painting again…next time I’m allowed out.

I love that song.

All photos by Alex Carter, Lexica Films
http://lexicafilms.wixsite.com/lexica/photography

 

Joel McIver – The Geek Will Inherit the Earth

“The music industry is a place full of damaged people.’ Joel McIver, Bass Player, Editor and Co-writer of autobiographies with such people as Woody Woodmansey, Glenn Hughes and Cannibal Corpse, told the gathered members and guests of the Hampshire Writers’ Society this Tuesday night, ‘Being a geek is a good thing.’

Justice for All: The Truth About Metallica

After acquiring a degree in German, for no other reason than he was good at it, Joel began his career as a journalist on the magazine: The Record Collector. At the time, the publishers wanted a German speaking journalist! The Record Collector gave Joel a platform from which he could pitch book ideas whilst being taken seriously by the publisher. In 2004 his book, Justice for All: The Truth About Metallica, found a niche selling close to 50,000 copies and translating into nine languages. Joel left his job and became a full-time writer.

“It sounds weird,” he confesses, “when, at your writers’ circle, you say you’re writing an autobiography.” But the fact is, Joel’s subjects simply do not have the time to sit and write an 80,000-word memoir.

Co-writing differs from ghost writing in that, the writing and research is all the author’s work. This Joel does, using around 50-60 hours of interview, subsequently crafting it together, with a start and a finish. A ghost writer will receive no credit on the book’s cover.

“To sit in front of a blank screen and fill it with…anything…that’s where the burden comes in.” Joel declares. He has tried writing fiction: “It is bad sixth form!” he admits.

Entirely from the subject’s point of view, an autobiography must, in the same way a fictional character speaks with their own articulation, portray that subject’s voice. Joel conducts his interviews in an informal atmosphere, perhaps in a cottage deep in in the forest, sitting in front of a roaring fire with a bottle of whisky. Thus, the vibe of the interview is one of conversation, which when transcribed, comes through in the writing. Joel recollects writing an autobiography with a Brazilian rock star for whom English was not his first language: with no polishing, the subject’s strong accent was evident in the finished product; his voice was in the writing.

“It is an honour,” Joel announces, “to sit down with these people and talk about their lives.” These are the people whose faces were in the posters on his walls.

Cannibal Corpse – Bible of Butchery: the Official Autobiography

The autobiography writer must exercise judgement, steer the book. When tackling a project, Joel asks not only himself, but the subject as well; “Who wins from telling this story?” To get back at someone or for the money are not good reasons for writing the book.

He also makes a point of avoiding details, too depressing or disgusting; addictions can affect anybody and although this evasive action does not include the ‘sad’, most readers will have experienced bereavement. Not everybody wants to read about misery or debauchery, even for those that do, it will become monotonous, they will tire of it after a few chapters.

Joel went on to explain how he and Woody Woodmansey felt that whilst they were “committing history to paper”, they did so with the intention of surpassing the account that general media will circulate. “It may sound pretentious,” Joel said, appeasing us with: “But you guys will know what I mean…”

With a background in journalism, which is to entertain, Joel sets out to do just this with his writing. When writing an autobiography, you are trying to capture the person’s personality for prosperity.

Joel is currently working on an autobiography of whom he wouldn’t be persuaded to tell; suffice to say that “they” were a phenomenon in the Eighties…and have some juicy stories to tell. “Be patient,” he says, “it takes about a year to produce these books.”

Report by L Nightingale.

 

This is Glenn’s Song – and this is why he loves it.

Our special guest at the next meeting of the Hampshire Writer’s Society will be Head of Department for English, Creative Writing and American Studies at the University of Winchester, Glenn Fosbraey. You may remember that Glenn spoke to us back in 2016 when he waxed lyrical about his latest addition to the University – the degree on Popular Music. A month or so later, Glenn very kindly sent us his top five favourite song lyrics, explaining, in his very poetical way, why he liked and valued them so much. Still a huge fan of The Smiths, this is his favourite song of all and he tells us why.

‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ – The Smiths

It was on a gloomy winter’s afternoon at the age of fifteen, teenage angst and unrequited love in full-force, that I had my best Smiths experience. I had been infatuated with the band for a month or so by this point, started via a random purchase of Greatest Hits album Best 1 from the bargain bin at Woolworths, and I was ready to graduate to their masterpiece The Queen Is Dead. As I start the long walk back from HMV in town, I read the lyrics from the CD brochure and savour the anticipation of those words being set to music; hearing those first sounds coming out of the speakers; feeling the irresistible mixture of nerves and excitement as I get ever-closer to my house and CD player. At home, I close the bedroom door behind me and turn the lights off, cutting myself off from the bustle of family and TV downstairs, creating perfect Smiths-listening conditions. About half an hour in, I arrive at the penultimate track. ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’. I fall in love. The mixture of the everyday (‘driving in your car…’) with the philosophical (‘…a heavenly way to die’); the way Morrissey is able, in a couple of lines, to demonstrate the shyness, frustration, and confusion many teens encounter when faced with the objects of their desire (‘…and then a strange fear gripped me and I just couldn’t ask’); the mixture of the ugly (‘and if a ten tonne truck kills the both of us…’) and the beautiful (‘…to die by your side, well the pleasure, the privilege is mine’); it’s the slight pauses before the choruses kick in; the swirl of the strings in the choruses themselves; it’s Morrissey not quite being able to reach the highest note but not re-recording it, making the listener feel at one with him, as if it could be them in that vocal booth instead of him, missing perfection but making it somehow more perfect because of this; it’s the repetition of the title again and again in the outro. Love and loss, hope and despair, alienation and belonging, all crammed into four life-changing and life-affirming minutes. There is, indeed, a Light That Never Goes Out, and for me, it will always be this song, in that moment, on that CD player.

January 2020 Competition Results – Paul Newsome Adjudication

Founder of The Self Publishing Studio, Paul Newsome, kindly agreed to adjudicate the January competition.

Paul explained it was a really tough choice, however the winner was, for him, the stand out piece.

The competition brief for January 2020 was:

‘Why I write and where it can lead’, in 300 words.

Paul’s adjudication was as follows:

First Place: Gill Hollands with Champagne Brain

Second Place: Jordan Dean Ezekude with Writing is Talking

Third Place: Peter Duncan with What If…?

Highly Commended: Angela Chadwick with Writing for Bucks

Jan 2020 winners
Jordan Dean Ezekude and Gill Hollands hold their certificates and book prizes

First Place: Champagne Brain by Gill Hollands

Nice flowing story, good use of the champagne metaphor, made it quite quirky and stood out.”

I believe everyone is creative. How else could humanity survive? We teach children to problem solve from an early age. We can all do it.

Mum read me bedtime stories as any sensible, loving parent does. She’d point out the cloud creatures in the sky when we walked. I’d daydream what they’d do, those cloud-beasts, where they’d go. As a coddled, ailing child, I spent long winter spells in bed, reading voraciously. It opened my cage, showing me strange people, surprising situations, glorious places. My daydreams grew into fantasies, kaleidoscopes of wonder. I began to write, capturing my dreams, tailoring my tales. I fizzed.

Gill Hollands - Jan 2020
Gill Hollands reads her winning entry

Champagne bubbles rise up from the depths, gathering momentum, ideas growing as they jiggle and soar. They expand, catching shafts of colour and light, patterns shifting on the delicate surface. Each one is a story, an idea, perhaps a subconscious snatch from the news or everyday life, maybe a glimpse across the street or a phrase of bitten off overheard conversation. Each one swells with potential.

It’s up to you whether they tickle your nose as they pop, or you grab them and absorb the priceless treasure inside.

Those bubbles keep me writing. If I don’t write, I dream. I love escaping into that special world. I’ve published three children’s books now with two more underway.

I’m working with local libraries, art centres and schools. I lead creative writing workshops for adults. I love to visit schools and see the children’s faces light up in my imagination workshops. When they come back to tell me how much they love my books, I light up too. That’s the champagne part.

One day, I’d love to see my books as movies. I don’t plan on retiring.
So, read, wonder and explore. Find your champagne.
Cheers!

Second Place: Writing is Talking by Jordan Dean Ezekude

“I felt this had a real personal meaning, with a very charitable theme.

To write is to communicate – that’s how I see it. I’ve always been more of a listener than a speaker. For me, writing is another way of talking. Along with my drawing, painting, designing and music creation, I see writing as a means to share my feelings and ideas with other people, whether it’s adventurous children’s stories or mindful non-fiction. Furthermore, every time I write, I feel like I’m taking one step forward on the journey of my life with multiple paths for me to follow. The best part is that there’s no end to this adventure until I die.

However, I don’t write merely for thrills, chills or paying the bills. I write for the same reason why I paint, design and compose: to make a positive difference. It’s my belief that there’s always something I can do to help people through life. I may still be young but I know how much life can feel overwhelmingly troubled, especially with so many people out there being misled, misjudged and abused as we speak. As a coloured man with learning difficulties and years of mental illness, I strive to do everything in my power to help people like me live their lives as they see fit.

Therefore, I strongly believe that my work can reach out to the hearts of the earnest, faithful and kind-hearted people of the world, encouraging them to keep on living in peace and productivity. Finally, I believe that it’s the least I can do in return for everything that the people I care about have done for me in the past. All in all, my writing is my way of communicating with other people and saying to them ‘thank you’, ‘I believe in you’, ‘don’t give up on life’ and ‘I love you’.

Third Place: What If…? by Peter Duncan

“Quite an intriguing plot in the making. It did capture my imagination, and would make me want read the full story.

A few years ago I went to work in France. If this sounds glamorous, it wasn’t. I was actually living in a grim, dark northern city and working for an organisation that had a terrible air of unhappiness about it. Shortly after arriving, I discovered that tragically there had been a recent employee suicide. Nobody could tell me what had actually happened: it was the kind of place where you didn’t press questions.

As I wandered around the unlovely city or trudged back and forth between work and the bare and soulless apartment that had been arranged for me, I began to notice the knots of dispossessed people hanging around. I thought that some might be illegal immigrants fleeing violence and poverty elsewhere: Africa perhaps. In my workplace I heard that the organisation’s Director was front- runner for a ministerial appointment in the French government.

I mulled over everything I was seeing and hearing and began to think: ‘What If…?’ What if there was a death here that everyone talked of as suicide, but was actually murder? What if the person killed had been about to expose French government wrong- doing in a poor African state? What if the person at the heart of that conspiracy was a ministerial candidate a bit like Monsieur X…?

I came back to England, still thinking these ‘What If?’ ideas. They started to appear as words in a draft of what I cautiously began to call a crime thriller. The thinking in France and the writing in England kept me sane during a difficult part of my life: a lot of the time I felt like a stranger in both countries. Writing is still doing that. As to where it will lead: for me, the possibilities of ‘What If?’ seem endless.

Highly Commended: Writing for Bucks by Angela Chadwick

“Writing for bucks. There was a certain rawness and honesty to this. The Precariat theme is very relevant at the moment.

It all began with Tinder. Girls don’t really go for blokes who put unemployed on their profile, and why would you, when it is so easy to lie?

At first, I put mechanic or electrician but it’s amazing the number of girls who expect you to fix something before getting down to business. That’s when I hit on the brilliant idea of writer. It explained why I could be available at all times of the day and when I said I was struggling to get published, it also covered why they couldn’t find a book I’d written.

I used to claim some other guy’s book but I’m not a great reader and it turns out that some girls are.

But women are incredibly nosy and they go on and on about wanting to read something you’ve written. I think they think they’re being supportive. In the end I had to write something, so I wrote the story of me and my mates, our aimless existence in a town with no jobs. We’d left our shitty school with barely a GCSE between us. Sometimes we’d get a bit of cash in hand and we’d be flush for a while but mostly we’d just hang. There’s nothing in this town, no tourism, no industry, no hope.

My sister saw it. She’s still at school and right smart. She stayed late, using the school computers she typed it up for me in Google Docs. One day she uploaded it to Kindle. Turns out, we’re a thing. A Precariat. All those loony lefties went mad for my book.
Now I’ve got an agent and an accountant. They tell me I’ve got to get out more, write more. Tell you what though, being a published author is a fucking good way to get laid.

Photos by Alex Carter, Lexica Films

 

Beyond the Creativity Bit

Paul Newsome

“What do The Martian by Andy Weir, 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James and Eragon by Christopher Paolini have in common?” Paul Newsome, writer and founder of The Self Publishing Studio asked the gathered members and guests of the Hampshire Writers’ Society this Tuesday night.

The answer is that they were all self published.

Paul’s story begins the same way as that of many writers. He’d written a book and he had a dream of becoming a published author. Naturally excited, he embarked on the next step — find an agent. He set about writing the perfect enquiry letter along with the perfect synopsis. Those were sent off and Paul waited for the replies. He waited…and he waited. Every now and then he received a rejection email, two or three lines long saying nothing more than thanks, but no thanks. Often, he heard nothing at all.

The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook! The almanack recommended by the agents themselves, the enchanted book of publishing spells. Now he was really excited – “What could possibly go wrong?”

Indeed, the Writers’ and Artists’ yearbook is crammed full of contact details, advice and useful articles.

Paul looked into using ‘Other Publishers’. “Confusion!” he recollects, “If you get an agent, they do it all for you. But some ‘Other Publishers’ do nothing.”

By now, Paul knew enough about” the publishing industry to smell a rat with the publisher who wrote to him, loving his work, promising bountiful opportunities and in the small print asking for a mammoth fee.

There are some genuinely helpful independent publishers. The list of things that they couldn’t do however, was too large.

Using the DIY approach, Paul published his book, Hamish. Followed by Hamish and the Vegetarian Crow. “Definitely,” he says, “publishing is 1% Inspiration and 99% Perspiration.”

Amazon is a minefield. There are many opt-outs within its obstructive contracts, an author just needs to find them.

Paul’s gap in the market gaped – the writer’s dream on one side and the reality on the other.

He set up the Self Publishing Studio offering the author all the publishing processes without the stress over the perfect enquiry letter. Paul knows his authors have passion, they must have, to have got this far.

“Think about your goals,” he tells us, “keep it simple, keep realistic and have clarity.”

It is up to the writer to cherry pick their requirements. The Self Publishing Studio will work to the author’s budget.

An editor can be found, one who will read your story and comment on flow, plausibility. They expect the author to return their comments, and they understand that they will have to explain themselves.

Assistance with marketing will be given too, advising the writer to find something different e.g. Andy Weir published The Martian chapter by chapter on a blog until he had such a large following who were all telling him to publish professionally.

“Not all writers want to be the next JK Rowling, it is perfectly fine to want nothing more than to see your manuscript, turned into book form, adorning your coffee table.”

 

Report by L Nightingale

A Bite of Success

First of all; we wish you the best of luck with all your new year endeavours.

My book

Our speaker on Tuesday 14 January is Paul Newsome, founder of the Self Publishing Studio. So I thought I’d share my experience of self-publishing with you.

Publication date is so exciting, regardless of how you got there. Using a self-publishing agency an author could find themselves holding a

beautiful hard copy of their book; one that sports the cover that they have designed. Most agencies also offer a slot on Amazon, an e-book and an ISBN. That author, especially if they are a member of the Hampshire Writers’ Society,

could be attending book fairs where they’re the one standing behind the banner, signing and selling copies.

Anne Wan

Perhaps this isn’t what you want from your work. Some authors simply want to hold their book and smile and say, “I’ve written it.” without a big, intimidating publishing house in sight! Or is there? If you self-publish then that big intimidating publishing house is you! You, in your three-bed semi. You in your mid-terrace two-up, two-down, or you in your studio, mansion or back seat of your car. Whatever your abode, you are the publisher.

Or perhaps you want to hand over your life’s work; well however long it took you to write, edit, redraft and edit again, to an agent, ergo a publisher, financiers, salespeople, marketeers and target-setters? You’ve worked hard on your novel, you’ve juggled your life and your treasured characters; found your voice, lost your voice, dragged your family around your research and then (leaving them out) wrestled it into you story. It is your novel and you, quite rightly, believe it is the best novel ever written. The answer’s in the question – “How should you publish your book?”

Catherine Griffin, Sally Howard, Maggie Farran, Karen Stephen

No, you don’t have to be a technological whizz. Keep an eye on your finances; you know your budget and use a self-publishing agency. The agency should offer you proof-reading services, along with some editing and the final answer of what exactly goes between the covers is all down to you. As long as you are keeping your eye on your finances, it shouldn’t matter how many times your manuscript goes back and forth to the editor. If you’re not happy with it; send it back again. You’ll get there eventually!

You do not have to be a photographer with the eye of David Bailey or the creativeness of Linda McCartney. Neither do you have to have the genius of Leonardo de Vinci or the resources of Banksy! When it comes to your cover, your agency will be able to advise you and, using examples of covers that you like, help you put it together. Then you can start the tooing and froing again. You’ll soon be on first-name basis, although I can’t guarantee you’ll make the Christmas Card list.

Type face is the same – pick one you like and leave it up to your agency. It is surprising and reassuring, how many times your agency will be in contact, chasing you for a yay or nay. You could opt for hiding behind the settee or under the duvet, but this is where that down-payment comes in handy. You both know you’ve paid for the agency’s services and you both know the agency will not want to let you down. So unfortunately, the settee or duvet will only obscure you, the agency will still be there when you come out for a comfort break.

So, you can’t add! Not all of us can be good with money. You are a writer and you move in the world of words. What you do know, is how much you are happy to pay for a book. Carry out your own research, find out how much books, the size and type of yours are selling for. Arm yourself with answers ready for the discussion with your agency when they want to know how much to tell Amazon to sell your book for.

It’s all a discussion and you can choose how far you are happy to be ruled by your agency. Be bold; you don’t have to agree. Okay so perhaps you aren’t a bold type. Remember though, they have done it all before to varying degrees of success, so they should know a thing or two about what they are doing, enough also to advise you who might be doing it for the first time.

Lisa Nightingale

And then, it’s all yours. So is the marketing and selling. You will probably find your agency has a handle on that too – if you let them. If not, there are many, many helpful hands out there willing for you to grab on. Not least of those is us, the Hampshire writers society. Check out our blog posts, previous and future. Deciding to self-publish, puts you in the driver’s seat. Our programme of meetings where you can meet and pick the brains of industry professionals is on the website and, of course, people like me with no other qualifications than, I’ve done it before.

REPORT BY L NIGHTINGALE

December 2019 Competition Results: Caroline Wintersgill – Adjudicator

The December competition was judged by editor, Caroline Wintersgill.  The brief was to write a 300 word novel pitch to an editor.

And the winners were:

First Place:  Jane Austen Pitch by Angela Chadwick    

Second Place: Icefall by Mark Eyles

Third Place: Dear Wolfy by Grant Taylor         

Highly Commended: Dear Mr Johnson (The Woman Who Does Not Exist) by Margaret Jennings

Highly Commended: Brexit, A Survivor’s Guide by Kate Loveridge          

December Competition Winners: Kate Loveridge, Angela Chadwick and Mark Eyles

Photograph by Summer Quigley

First Place: Jane Austen Pitch by Angela Chadwick

Dear Ms Wintersgill

I wonder if you, like me, are exhausted by the current crop of romance novels featuring endless numbers of kidnappings, where our poor, endangered heroine must flee in a state of some considerable disarray across wild and windswept moors or face the destruction of her simpering purity. Indeed, the fear and suspense leave me quite faint.

I believe today’s women no longer require brutish, unnatural acts to find passion.  My heroine is a modern woman herself. Civilised, educated and well-read, she is in charge of her future and refuses to settle for less than her worth.

My novel, Pride and Prejudice, is a romance, unique in its tone and construction. Might I venture to say it is a delightful take of the Enemies to Lovers trope. Written as a modern-day play on manners, the hero is the sort of man you could happily introduce to your parents without giving them undue concern for your future safety or prosperity. Initially abrasive, he does a good job of redeeming himself when he successfully saves the cat (in this case a foolish, naïve and headstrong girl – oh yes! There is a moral).

The villain is indeed villainous but (mostly) within the confines of the law. We do after all live in a society where young women of good family cannot just disappear without causing much consternation.

Written in a light, slightly humorous tone, this book is the first of many I can offer to you. Dare I say it, this novel is revolutionary. I believe its charm will be enduring and it will set the tone for the new century.

I, myself, am a woman of good character; a vicar’s daughter. With your help, maybe one day I can designate myself, published author.

Yours sincerely

Jane Austen

 

Second Place: Icefall by Mark Eyles 

Dear Caroline

I am pitching my first (100,000 word) book, Icefall, in a sci-fi space opera series. I’ve had a passion for writing my whole life and have been honing storytelling skills working as a video game designer and Principle Lecturer teaching game design and interactive storytelling. I have previously written series for 2000 AD (Wire Heads, PARAsites), weekly scripts for Sonic the Comic (including the popular Zonerunner series) and was published in Fear magazine. I have taught a creative writing evening class and recently worked on a transmedia storytelling project (Cursed City, Dark Tide).

Icefall pitch: “Planetary intelligences, flocking ships, star destroying music and quality assurance clash at an outpost built by deranged robots.”

Icefall brief synopsis: “Carrying out quality assurance on a new outpost, far along the Orion-Cygnis arm, should have been simple for Checkani NiFe. Unfortunately, she discovers the robot builders have created a deadly maze of overlapping cities on the icy planet. Struggling to survive and unlock the planet’s secrets she is hindered by a gender neutral 232-year-old, an autistic musical savant, an inept assassin, a clutch of bickering spaceships and a community of stoic squatters hiding fearful abilities. However, the greatest threat comes from an entirely different universe triggering events that change everything, forever.”

Set in 3134, Icefall is the first volume in a series that moves from planet to planet back along the Orion-Cygnis Arm of the galaxy towards the Earth. The second volume Rocksunsea is in preparation.

First three chapters and full synopsis attached.

I believe Icefall and subsequent books would be a good fit for your company. Inspired by Iain M. Banks, the milieu, style and characters of my books would complement your existing books. I am especially encouraged by seeing the authors you already represent and believe I have something new and fresh to offer.

Thank you for taking the time to consider Icefall and my future books.

Best regards

Mark

Third Place: Dear Wolfy by Grant Taylor

The Old Morgue

                                                                                                            Lower Upping

Saint Eadburh’s Day  2019

Dear Wolfy,

I know you won’t mind me calling you Wolfy. As my putative editor I feel our relationship is close enough now for me to address you by your first name and Dear Mr Wolfgang Nachtnebel-Leichenberg is a bit of a mouthful after all.

Anyway, here it is! I guess you weren’t expecting this manuscript so soon Wolfy – or perhaps at all – but Dolina, my tiny, difficult wife just loves it. Eleven false starts, sixteen complete rewrites and not forgetting the 2018 housefire that destroyed my PC and most of the village . . . oh, and the unfortunate business with that awful court ruling . . .  but I got there in the end Wolfy.  Eight hundred and ninety-two pages of toil, perspiration and burning the candle at the bottom. But I’m sure you will agree every word is worth it.

The title deserves some explanation. I know, I know, “I Must Have Been Conscious” is a tad obscure for most tastes, but as you become engrossed you will see the relevance. After all, our hero has his flaws, as do we all Wolfy, as do we all.

The illustrations are by my ancient mother. In her dwindling years I concede that her monstrous, detailed, black spiderwork has become a trifle bizarre but I can explain the connection between mother’s asymmetrical Rorschach and my zesty prose in footnotes if you think it’s needed.

Finally, subject matter. I know you favour Scandi-noir but ‘write about what you know’ has become my maxim since our last difficult conversation. So, you will understand why neurological encephalitozoonosis in small rodents it is Wolfy. Our hero must face his demons after all.

Humbly I commit my work to your expert scrutiny in the knowledge that your silent support will be as challenging as ever.

Let me know your thoughts.

The world waits.

Love,

P Hubert Fuffing (Percy).

Highly Commended: Dear Mr Johnson (The Woman Who Does Not Exist) by Margaret Jennings 

Dear Mr Johnson,

I am sending you the details of my new novel because research tells me that you very much enjoy the gothic horror traits that this story portrays. I also suspect that this book might be a good fit with your other publications.

This novella is a work of  literary fiction. A dark psychological horror story with strong gothic elements, The Woman Who Does Not Exist is written in the unique voice of the first person main character. It is a voice you will never have heard before. The Woman Who Does Not Exist will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you rethink your relationship with the world. It is a shorter, more accessible version of Steven King’s horror stories and will be instantly recognisable as a distinctive new voice.

In brief, a woman believes there is a space built into the home she has lived in since childhood, a space where evil lurks. What will happen when the room is opened up?

I have been writing for many years and have an MA in Creative Writing. The Woman Who Does Not Exist my fourth novel. I write poetry, short stories and have recently branched out into playwriting and screenwriting. My first poetry chapbook, ‘Killing the Dragons,’ has recently been published and received good reviews.

Short listed in the Bridport for flash fiction and long listed for the Bare fiction literary prize, my work has appeared in several anthologies and The Lighthouse magazine.

I  enjoy reading at literary events and supporting other writers in their writing.

I hope you enjoy reading The Woman Who Does Not Exist chapters I have sent to you,

with best wishes,

Francis Liitlewood

Highly Commended: Brexit, A Survivor’s Guide  by Kate Loveridge 

Dear Caroline,

I’m currently seeking a publisher for my debut, Brexit – A Survivor’s Guide.

For Brexiteers and Remainers alike, this self-help bible will harness the anger and frustration of those unsure of the future and riddled with fatigue, guiding them through the next 30 years of inter-governmental negotiations, creating the power of positive in all areas of their lives, including:

Health, Well-being:

Yoga for Brexiteers – perfecting the flexible extension

Coastal waking for Remainers – avoiding the cliff edge

101 yummy chlorinated chicken recipes

Relationships Coping with the intolerance of your nearest and dearest

Influence your family to your point of view

Working Life and Finance

Keeping your job as companies fail

Managing budgets as prices soar

Fashion of the Supreme Court

What the not so hidden meaning of Baroness Hale’s broaches tell us about the constitution

Holidays

A traveller’s country-by-country guide to 194 trade deals

Can’t get a visa or afford travel insurance? Embracing the staycation

The back roads – avoiding Brexit motorway chaos in Dover and Portsmouth

Hobbies

Introduction to genealogy – find long-lost Irish, French, German or Greek ancestors to facilitate your EU passport.

Failing that, our guide to romance includes a full list of dating websites – your ideal EU match awaits to secure your EU citizen’s rights.

And much, much, much, much, much, much more!

“The GREATEST book…reading it makes me the smartest ever.”                        D. Trump

Teresa May or may not read this guide, but one thing is certain, “Brexit means Brexit”.

I’m currently working on my second tome, “Twenty-First Century Lorry Parks of Kent and Hampshire”.

Having lived and worked harmoniously in Europe for 50 years, I’ve recently taken residence in Brexit Party MEP Nigel Farrage’s constituency. The roller coaster ride of the past 3 ½ years has driven me to submit this proposal to you Caroline.

The synopsis is attached for your perusal. If you can bear to hear any more of Brexit, please get in touch.

Yours sincerely

 

 

What Editors Want!

“Editors are often thought of as gatekeepers, holding back the masses from Mount Olympus.” Caroline Wintersgill, editor for thirty years told the members and guests gathered for the December meeting of the Hampshire Writers’ Society.

Caroline Wintersgill

An editor, specialising in non-fiction, for publishers large and small, corporate and independent, including Bloomsbury, Cassell, Routledge and now Biteback, Caroline sees herself more as a curator. A “snapper up of unconsidered titles”. One of the first books she snapped up, the uninteresting sounding ALMANAC OF BRITISH POLITICS was given an illustrator whose caricatures bordered on rude, along with scurrilous, unheard excerpts from the Alan Clark diaries. The Almanac became fun to work with. “We worked on the knowledge that MPs rarely sue”, Caroline smiles, “they look too silly.”

Publishing a book is a process, a honing of skills, developing of a craft and it will pass through many hands before it comes to publication day. The editor’s appraisal will be based, using their experience of similar works, on the authors’ use of their artistic craft.

Publishers tend to problematise taste, turning it into a literary issue. It is the story that counts. Like all other readers, an editor desires an emotional sometimes visceral response to the proposed book. This is where the author needs to start. “When the book makes them shake,” Caroline laughs, “then the editor wants to work with it.”

With a non-fiction book, the chance of publicity is higher. Non-fiction books are much more likely to be included in the review sections of magazines and newspapers.

Perhaps for some nature, art, music, current events or cookery books, Caroline points out, it is necessary for the author to have an agent. But, in general it is possible for non-fiction authors to settle a good publishing deal without an agent. The life of a non-fiction book being longer than that of a fiction, the author may only write one or two books; this may not be the length of career that an agent is looking for.

For a non-fiction author, media platform is important. Your platform may start small, but it will expand. “Consider the CHEESE MONGER’S HISTORY OF THE BRITISH ISLES; the author had little more than his being a cheese monger that ran tasting events to go on. When published, the book outsold the popular fiction titles.

The author should know their audience, where to reach them and what they are looking for. Taking a risk, Caroline used previously unrecognised language in THE PRECARIAT, this catapulted the book into the limelight. Then, recognising that the book’s audience was not likely to buy it, she took a leap of faith and made chapters freely available to read on the internet. The book became a best seller rocketing the author to two four-figure deals with Bloomsbury.

Non-fiction authors do not need to wait until the manuscript is finished to submit it. A proposal of the work will do; an editor will be looking for a chance to shape the book for the correct market. Also included must be your title; it must be clear and memorable and the contents page which needs an outline of each section. The author still needs to be able to write, so also include a chapter or two. “It is difficult,” Caroline agrees, the sample chapters should show your distinctive voice but also the book’s similarity to the editor’s list.

Site your book, know the editor’s list, motivate them too. With the growth and ease of on-line shopping, readers can buy any or every book on earth; so why should they choose yours? Think of the best-known person in your field; this is your competitor.

Often working against a deadline, time constraints on the editor are tighter. The non-fiction publishing process is “old fashioned” with salespeople touring the booksellers roughly twelve months in advance. Remember, that salesperson will have only thirty seconds to sell your book to busy booksellers.

Create a buzz! If there’s a society that appreciates your subject, then you should join it. Do this prior to publication. “Have a go,” Caroline urges; write your blurb and an elevator sales pitch, gain a clear insight into the selling of your book and go some way to showing you what the editor is looking for.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Tips for Book Sellers!

The Hampshire Writers’ Society December book fair will be taking place in just a few days –

Tuesday 10 December at 6.00 pm.

So here are 6 very quick ways to promote your stall from author and strategist EMMA-NICOLE LEWIS.

Emma’s tips are a swift and easy way to let potential readers know about your presence at the book fair:

  1. ESTABLISH YOUR PROMOTIONAL HOOK

    Author and Strategist, Emma-Nicole Lewis

This is the first thing that you need to do. It will give you something to shout about that will attract attention and make people feel as though they’ll be missing out if they do not attend.

Is there something unique or special that you can offer on the night? Here are some examples:

‘Buy one book and get another half price’.

‘30% off on the night’

Everybody loves to feel like they have snagged themselves a bargain, so could you play with your pricing strategy? Use a pricing offer or a discount that works for you, without losing money.

Or, how about offering all those who buy on the night an entry into a prize draw for a 10 local bookshop voucher? If you are not successful, you can use the voucher in another promotion. You’re likely to only need sell a few books to get a return on that investment. If you feel confident that you are likely to break even through your sales, you can offer a bit more as a bigger hook.

Alternatively, you may want to lead with a message that focuses on supporting local authors this Christmas or lead with an offer that offers a personal touch. For example:

‘Give a unique gift to someone special this Christmas – a signed book containing a personal message from the author’.

It is up to you what kind of message you will use to draw people to the fair and your stall, but try and think of the sort of thing that is likely to appeal to your target readers.

When you have defined your ‘hook message’, ensure that this is exactly what you say on all promotional material. Consistency is key to reinforcing and reminding!

  1. PROMOTE ON YOUR WEBSITE

People stumble across your website all the time. Ensure the message is on the front page and in your news/events section or blog, if you have either of these menu options.

You could always direct people to your website’s contact page inviting them to get in touch in order to ‘reserve a book’ so that you can ensure that one is kept aside for them. If you generate responses to this, you are creating a level of commitment for visitors to actually attend and buy one of your books.

  1. USE SOCIAL MEDIA

    Goodies at HWS Book Fair

There are a variety of ways that you can use social media to shout about what you are offering at the book fair:

  • Creating a banner to add to your Facebook and Twitter accounts will help keep the message front of mind for all your followers. Below is an example of a Facebook banner I have used for promoting one of my own books. It sits on top of my author page so that followers always see it whenever they visit my page.
  • Create an event on Facebook. You have the option to do this on your main Facebook page and followers will see it.
  • Create a post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram promoting the fair and what you are offering there. Ensure that you use hashtags to attract local people, but you can take the message a little broader by popping some more generic ones in too. For example,

WinchesterChristmas

Winchester

Christmasmarkets

bookfair

Winchesterbookfair

I tend to check out which hashtags are trending and try and use them, if appropriate and relevant.

  • Publish an advert on Facebook, but ensure you refine it to only go out to UK Facebook Users and to those in ‘Winchester’. You may have to refine using ‘Winchester’ as part of the target audience’s interests. Cleverly work something into your copy in order to encourage people to comment on the post and share.
  1. USE LOCAL VENUES TO PROMOTE

Can you leaflet drop in coffee shops, specific shops that your readers are likely to visit, or community centre noticeboards?

The Stripe Lecture Theatre

Are there local book clubs you can send an email to, advising of the book fair and your promotional offer there – particularly if you are leading with a message that offers a discount to local book club members?

A successful tactic I once used was to stand up in front of a very large gym class and use the instructor’s microphone to promote my book. I left a home printed leaflet behind too. A large WI book club bought it as a result and that led to more opportunities too. So, if you are a member of a club or a gym, enquire whether they will let you shout about your stall. Make sure you do leave behind a leaflet though, as people will forget if they do not have something with details on it.

  1. TRY AND USE LOCAL PRESS

If there is time to get into a print run of a local paper and you think your message has enough stand out, then there is no harm in contacting the Daily Echo or the Chronicle. You are likely to have missed the opportunity with any of the Winchester magazines, but it is worth trying weekly publications.

  1. WORD OF MOUTH

    HWS June Book Fair

Ask your friends and family to share this message too. If you know anyone locally who has read your book, get them to recommend it and share the message. Word of mouth is a wonderful tool.