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Preview: Debi Alper

Debi Alper



Author of contemporary urban thrillers, freelance editor, mentor and creative writing tutor.



Updated: 2018-02-03T00:36:15.763+00:00

 



Stories for Homes 2

2017-11-21T14:15:46.556+00:00

The story behind the stories: 256 anonymised submissions, all on the theme of 'Home'. 55 stories chosen (with great difficulty!) for the anthology. Another 29 published free on our website.And, now after many, many hours of hard work by our team of committed volunteers ... ... I'm more than delighted to share the news that the paperback launch for Stories for Homes 2 is TODAY!See an interview I did with Retreat West here.Check out our forthcoming events here.And, in case you need any persuasion, this is why we're committed to doing something about the housing crisis.* According to Shelter, 65,000 families will be homeless this Christmas. * At least one more family becomes homeless in Britain EVERY TEN MINUTES. * There are 250,000 homeless people in England. That's a quarter of a million! * 300,000+ in Britain. * In the worst hit areas, 1 in 25 people are homeless. * Last year, the lowest number of socially rented homes were built in 71 years. 71 YEARS! * Tory austerity is linked to 120,000 deaths, according to a study in BMJ Open (medical journal).The devastating tragedy of Grenfell Tower should never have happened. That's why we dedicated this book to the victims and survivors of the Grenfell fire.SfH1 raised over £3000 for Shelter. This is a photo from our previous launch. We eventually doubled the figure in that dummy cheque! You can still buy the first anthology here.Read more about the project here, in a blog by the wonderful Jel, who has been doing sterling work with promoting the anthology. The gorgeous cover was designed by Head and Heart, featuring an original artwork by my co-editor, Sally Swingewood. As before, all this has only been possible thanks to our fabulous team of volunteers. Their unpaid hard work means that every penny raised goes direct to Shelter. Access to a safe and secure home is a human right – one that thousands of people are denied in 21st century Britain. This world class anthology is a good deed in a very naughty world. Thanks so much for your support. Together, we can make a difference. [...]



Fow17 In photos - and a shout out for Stories for Homes

2017-09-16T12:59:50.000+00:00

Another brilliant year in York for the 8th Festival of Writing and I now have the distinction and pleasure of being one of only three people who have been to every single one.As well as running the self-edit mini course, a Voice workshop ...... chairing the literary genre panel ...... chairing the final keynote address and doing two hours of Book Doctor sessions (this is the view from my Book Doctor desk) ... ... I devised a new workshop this year.The idea for Facing the Fear came as a result of the responses to this blog post, where I had a conversation with the Doubt Demons. This photo is of people struggling to find the love for themselves.And in this one, they're sharing that love with each other.Tha gala dinner rocked, as ever. This will be the last year in which Mandy Berriman, my wonderful friend and mentee, is at the festie as an unpublished author. Her stunning novel, Home, will be published next February and I couldn't be more delighted and excited. John Taylor and I are two of the three people who have been to every FoW.Lovely to share a table with literary lovelies, Deborah Install and Tor Udall, who were also both on the platform for the final keynote address. Both credit FoW for setting them on their journey to publication, having met their dream agent, Jenny Savill, at YorkMassive congratulations to Sophie Snell, who won Friday Night Live, and Ruby Speechley, who won the Opening Chapter competition, as well as being runner up for Pitch Perfect. That's Ruby at the mike, with agent Sallyanne Sweeney, who judged the Opening Chapter comp, on the left.And here's the traditional photo of Emma Darwin and yours truly, with our self-edit alumni who had made it to York. We keep adding new names to our Hall of Fame. Details of the next online self-edit courses will be appearing here. While I'm here (and we all know how scarce I am on my blog these days) I want to talk briefly about Stories for Homes. Remember the amazing success we had last time, when we published our world-class anthology and raised over £3000 for Shelter? Well, we're doing it all again and this time the book is dedicated to the victims and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire. I'm sure no one here needs to be reminded of how acute the housing crisis is in the UK and the causes of the tragedy, as well as the response since, highlight just how appalling life is for the most vulnerable people in our society. The fire happened three months ago and, at this point, there are still no firm figures for the number of people who died ('about 80') and only two families have been permanently re-housed.This time, Sally Swingewood and I received 256 submissions for the anthology, which we had to whittle down to 55. Damn, but that was hard. So hard, in fact, we decided to also publish an online anthology, where people can read free stories on the theme of 'home'. The website has been spruced up, with tabs for Real Life stories and posts by a professional who works with homeless people, as well as the online stories and a donate button that goes direct to Shelter. Once again, producing an anthology at this standard has only been possible thanks to our wonderful SfH community, who have generously given their time and skills to create a world-class anthology.The e-book is due to be launched on 28 September, with the paperback following in November. This is when we'll start to make serious money for Shelter. Please keep an eye on the news tab on the site. Meanwhile, we want to spread the word and get the hashtag #SfH2 trending. Please help us to make that happen by supporting our Thunderclap, as well as publicising (and buying!) the anthology. [...]



In which I try to find the words ...

2017-04-05T15:37:18.843+00:00

Towards the end of last year, a Bad Thing happened to me and my family. It wasn't a Very, Very Bad Thing - no one died, we didn't lose our home or our income but, nevertheless, it was a Thing that caused us great pain and stress, and it rocked our faith in human nature.I'm not going to go into detail here about the Thing, though I intend to at some point in order to warn others. The Thing was very negative and this post is the opposite of that. I won't allow it to taint this space. I don't like spreading negativity - there's more than enough of it online and in the real world - and so I haven't said anything in public about the Bad Thing before now. Only those closest to me knew about it.At the lowest point in the last five months, I turned to G and said, 'I've always thought things happen for a reason. We're in the middle of this right now and have no perspective beyond it but a point will come when we'll look back and say, Ah, so that's what all that was about.'How right I was, though I never expected the answer to come so soon and I could never, in my wildest dreams, have anticipated the form it would take. Without my knowledge, those few people who knew about the Thing - some of whom had never met each other - got together to start thinking about ways they could turn the Bad Thing around, support us in a practical way and, most importantly, restore our faith in human nature. They came up with an audacious plan to start a Crowdfunding campaign. Knowing me as they do, they agreed it was vital to keep the plan a secret from me because I would have vetoed it. Not because I'd be ungrateful (how could I possibly be?) but because the very idea would make me squirm with discomfort.By the time I knew it was happening, donations were well into four figures. I sat staring at my laptop, struggling to breathe, trying to process what I was seeing. What had me gasping for breath the most was not so much the gob-smacking amount that had been raised but the comments people had left. I was reading the sorts of things usually said about someone after they've died, when everyone says what a shame it is that they never knew people cared so much for them. And here I was, alive and very much kicking, the recipient of an outpouring of love and generosity that knocked me sideways. I was way beyond my comfort zone and had no idea how I was supposed to be, or act, or even feel. Words - the raw material of my trade - escaped me or took refuge in cliché. The only way I could cope was to pretend it wasn't happening. I asked the inner circle to pass on a request not to link to me, while worrying that it might look like I was taking it all for granted. But the one thing I was certain about was that it was really important for me not to appear in any way as if I was soliciting on my own behalf.By the end of the campaign, 171 people had donated, leaving comments that made my eyes stream and my heart soar. (See? Not possible without resorting to clichés.) Many chose to be anonymous and I will never know who they - you - are. I wanted to contact everyone and thank them personally but it felt somehow wrong when there were so many I can't identify.So I hope no one will consider it lazy if I give a huge collective  THANK YOU  here to each and every one of you. Please imagine me looking into your eyes and holding your hands and telling you how you have touched my heart. I hope that everyone this applies to will see this at some point. One person was responsible for the Bad Thing. 171 of you have counter-balanced that negativity with a tidal wave of love. If life is all about making a difference, then you all win at life. And I win because I know all of you. I think it's appropriate to end by quoting my dad. I once remarked when out with him that he always chatted with everyone he encountered: in shops, banks, on the street.       'I like to think that when I meet someone, they go away feeling a little better than before,' he replied. Thank you all for[...]



The Nirvanans are back!

2016-12-27T14:50:36.965+00:00

This has been quite the year, hasn't it. For so many people, it's been filled with shock and grief on a national and international scale and I have to admit I've had some tricky personal challenges too.But there have also been things to celebrate and that's what I'm trying to focus on. I ran 4 more online Self-Edit Your Novel courses, together with Emma Darwin, taking the total to 21 courses and 239 alumni. The Hall of Fame for our graduates is getting crowded. I started singing in a choir (video here) and discovered a love for mudlarking, inspired by this wonderful woman. In the face of the housing crisis, Sally Swingewood and I decided it was time to create another Stories for Homes anthology. (The last one raised mucho dosho for Shelter, as well as being the launchpad for several authors who have gone on to achieve great things.) Details of how to submit are here. Join our community on Facebook, where you can find out all the ways you can get involved. On Mayday, I published De Nada Nirvana - my first new (though written over a decade ago) novel to be available to readers since 2005. And on 20 December, Me, John and a Bomb exploded onto the scene. This novel was written in 2004-5 - a time when chequebooks and cards were still a thing, it was announced in July that London had won the 2012 Olympic bid and, the following day, the city reeled under devastating terrorist attacks.What goes around, comes around and the issues are still very relevant. No one needs me to tell them about the ongoing terrorist threat. And, in one of those strange bits of writer-ly synchronicity, the day before Me, John and a Bomb was published, I saw a piece on the news about a cop who infiltrated the anarchist network in Cardiff 10 years ago - the central plot thread of my novel.We all know Amazon rankings are pretty much meaningless, but I had a little frisson when I saw Me, John and a Bomb had shot up higher than Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana ever did when they were published by Orion. Of course, that was pre-FB and Twitter. Still worth a small squee, I reckon. You can see excerpts from all my Nirvana novels on my website. Next year, I hope to publish The Gene Pool, the 5th and final book in the series.Wishing you all the very best for 2017 and hoping for some sweetness and light in a world that often seems filled with darkness. [...]



FoW16 in photos

2016-09-12T15:58:58.659+00:00

Yet again, the Festival of Writing was an absolute blast. So much talent; so many inspiring stories; such warmth and love between fellow authors. I think the weekend is best summed up in this email I've received from a delegate who has just signed up for the January online self-edit course. (September's is sold out.)I did feel a huge sense of trepidation on Friday when I was driving up to York.  My inner monologue kept asking me what on earth I was doing!  By total contrast, I listened to Jo Cannon's heartwarming story yesterday and felt a real sense that I belonged there.  I really didn't want to leave!  But I have come away with a wealth of information and tips to apply to my writing, and am looking forward to getting stuck in.For me, it was my busiest festie yet - and that's saying something. I ran the self-edit mini course on Friday and was also on the panel for the wonderful Friday Night Live experience. Massive congrats to all the shortlisted authors and the joint winners, Gerry Fenge and Jo Bunt. On Saturday, I had two hours of Book Doctor slots, a workshop on psychic distance and I did the compering for the Saturday competitions after the gala dinner. Congrats to everyone who had cause to celebrate. The real high was being on the crime genre panel as an author rather than an editor or tutor. And on Sunday, I had another hour of Book Doctoring, a final workshop on dialogue and - oh bliss - I had the privilege and enormous pleasure of being the person who introduced the final keynote speaker and FoW success story, Joanna Cannon.Self-edit mini course. Interesting body language when people are forced to write about an emotionally charged episode from their own past.CloudiesMore CloudiesSelf-edit alumni: Gerry Fenge, Sylvia Petter, Julie Cordiner and Arabella MurrayThe view from my desk for Book Doctor sessionsVeggie starter at the gala dinnerYet more CloudiesAnd moreThe wonderful Cally Taylor and her agent, Madeleine MilburnCally and MadeleineStruggling with psychic distanceCloudie, Scheherezade, who won the Pitch Perfect competitionKatherine Hetzel AKA Squidge, with tiara for added sparkleWinner and runner up for Jo Cannon's Goat bursary: Linda McLaughlin and Nasreen RafiqThe glorious and inspiring Joanna Cannon, who made me cry in front of several hundred people. Be more goat, peopleThe only book I came away with - but what a bookI've been mentioned in acknowledgements for many novels but this is the first time I've had one dedicated to me. Thank you, SquidgeDialogue workshop - writers gotta writeWho could ask for a more beautiful setting?The traditional self-edit alumni photo. Similar numbers to previous years but many different facesHaving been reminded that I'm also an author, I'll sneak in a nod and a wink to remind people that my first three Nirvana novels are all available as e-books on Amazon: here for the UK and here in the US. This has just been posted on my FB wall by someone who bought a copy of Trading Tatiana over the weekend:Every line is bursting with wit handled with the lightest touch, and I can't stop chuckling. The characterisation is very clever and your observations hilarious. Every time you introduce someone they become my new favourite... The list is growing.My cockles are warmed to boiling point. As in previous years, lives will have changed over this weekend. Whether or not people end up being signed by agents, everyone should go away with new tools to apply to their writing. FoW is magical and I wish everyone the very best for the journey ahead. See you online - if you haven't already joined the Cloud, what are you waiting for? - and, hopefully, at FoW17. [...]



Self-edit course roll of honour

2017-10-11T17:34:17.358+00:00

Writing a novel is hard. Getting said novel published is even harder. Authors need to do everything they can to polish and perfect their story until it leaps off the page. Of course, you can pay for a professional critique, but it's also possible to learn how to edit your own novel.That's where the 6-week online Self-Edit Your Novel course comes in. Emma Darwin and I designed the course for The Writers' Workshop and wrote the tutorials together, though I now do all the detailed feedback, with Emma coming in at the end of the week with an invaluable round-up of the topic.But does the course make a real difference, in practical ways? Can it increase your chances? Is there any way of proving that it does?This should convince you: the self-edit course in numbers.The first course was in April 2011, and it runs 4 times a year.As at April 2016, we have had 19 courses and a total of 215 participants.I recently asked on Facebook and the Word Cloud how many of our alumni now have books 'out there'. Most of these come from our early courses, the authors having had the time to edit their drafts and go through the next steps towards being published. I'm sure there are many more in the pipeline and probably several I've missed.So how does that figure compare to the industry average? A top agent will receive about 2,000 submissions a year, of whom they will sign maybe 2 authors - a hit rate of .01%.The hit rate for our alumni is 36 out of 215 = 16.74%. (I will be editing this figure as new deals are announced.) Some of these have self-published but I know from the signed books on my shelf that they are as professionally presented, and as well-written, as the trade published novels they sit next to.In case you don't believe me, here's our Self-Editing alumni roll of honour, with links to their Amazon pages and other sites when the novels are forthcoming. Oh, and we've sneaked a poetry collection in there too, though I'm not sure how much credit we can take for that.In no particular order, hearty congrats to:Cathy BramleyClaire FlynnJody KlaireKatherine HetzelG D HarperLouise WaltersSusan MurrayJules IronsideClaire Evans Sonja PriceAmanda SaintJackie BuxtonClaire WallerMatt WillisMari GriffithChrissie Bradshaw Sandra DaviesKat MountfortBernie SteadmanIsabel Rogers Shauna BickleySally Miller (writing as Sara Bailey)Voula GrandAneeta SundararajSusie CampbellBarb Ettridge E S RollettSophie Cayeux Laxmi Hariharan Marjorie LazoroSophie WellstoodVicky Newham  Mandy BerrimanMaddie PleaseSophie Jonas-Hill Fiona Erskine      If you know of anyone I've missed, please shout in the comments and I'll add them to the list.People who have attended more recent courses:Emma RobinsonTo see details of forthcoming courses, click HERE.As at Sept 2017, we have 274 alumni. The above percentages refer to people who had taken the course at the time of the original post.  [...]



On this day ...

2016-05-01T12:10:48.088+00:00

It's Mayday 2016. 

To pagans, this is Beltane.

 To lefties, it's International Workers' Day

And, to me,  it's LAUNCH DAY for De Nada Nirvana




No party, no booze and nibbles and signings, no cards and flowers, but this one is just as meaningful as the previous ones. So here's a photo of me and my dad at the launch of Trading Tatiana in Jan 2005. Dad was 90 in this pic, and had crossed London on public transport from Edgware to Crystal Palace to be there. (Londoners will get the enormity of going from NW of the city to SE.)

DE NADA NIRVANA IS NOW AVAILABLE HERE IN THE UK AND HERE IN THE US
NIRVANA BITES AND TRADING TATIANA ARE STILL ON SPECIAL OFFER AT 99p EACH. Check them out here (UK) and here (US)

Massive thanks to all those people who have encouraged me to make this happen. You know who you are.



Facing Down THE FEAR

2016-04-29T11:02:00.008+00:00

Everything was on track. I'd received the fourth version of the converted file of De Nada Nirvana. All I needed to do was a final, final proofread and I'd be ready to publish. At least, that was the theory. The reality turned out to be rather different. I'm going to talk through this part of the journey here. Let's get ready to ramble.I can't say procrastination paralysed me. Instead, I suddenly found a huge number of things to do that needed to take priority. Except I didn't. Not really. True, I was running a self-edit course, but there was a lull in editing commissions and I didn't have my usual pile of MSs to work through. But there were Other Things getting in the way. I told myself my website had to be updated first. Emails that I'd usually consider to be non-urgent shot up the to-do list. I even cleaned corners of the flat that were shocked to see me.My mood plummeted and the questions began to roll in. What if this wasn't just a lull in editing work? What if it had dried up forever? Had my career stalled? Was I going to go back to struggling to pay the rent? Eventually, the questions crystallised and I identified the big one, The Fear.What if people HATED my new novel?Yep, I'd been beset by the Doubt Demons, as a writer friend calls them. Only one way to deal with them. I had to call each of them out from the shadows and get them to state their case so I could come up with the answers to silence them.The conversation went like this:Doubt Demon: De Nada Nirvana is the first novel you've published in ten years.Me: No need to rub it in.Doubt Demon: Ah, but this one's different, isn't it. It hasn't been through a gatekeeper.Me: That's not strictly true. My agent took me on, on the basis of this novel.Doubt Demon: Wait. You mean you didn't have an agent for the first two? Are you mad? Or just stupid?Me: Quite possibly both. What can I say? Hindsight's a bitch.Doubt Demon: So let me get this right. You were signed direct by Orion without an agent. They didn't offer you a third book deal though, did they? Hmmm? Wouldn't you say that suggests it Just Wasn't Good Enough?Me: Maybe. But it's also true that a lot of that might have been down to timing and circumstances beyond my control.Doubt Demon: Yeah, yeah. Keep telling yourself that. Or maybe it's because the first two weren't that good either. Your sales didn't exactly set the world on fire, did they?Me: Sales of Nirvana Bites were not spectacular, it's true, but they weren't disastrous either. Don't forget I had no web presence back then. It was much harder to build a buzz. But Trading Tatiana had a fraught journey before she even got to the published stage. There was a series of events at the publishers - some tragic - that meant she went through four different editors before she was launched. It was nothing to do with me, nor did it have any connection to my novel. The editorial team must have been in total disarray. There was no one in my corner, championing me.Doubt Demon: Shame you didn't have an agent back then, isn't it, eh?Me: Oh, do piss off. We've covered this one. Move on.Doubt Demon: OK, we will. Let's get back to De Nada Nirvana. Your agent loved it but he couldn't sell it, so it hasn't been through any kind of professional editing process, has it. Answer me that one.Me: I believe I can answer that, since you ask. I wrote De Nada Nirvana over ten years ago and only returned to it last year when I decided to self-publish it. In those intervening ten years, I've worked as a freelance editor, editing an average of 2-3 MSs a month. For the last five years, I've run an online Self-Edit Your Novel course with Emma Darwin, as well as teaching creative writing at events and to writers' groups. I believe I have both the skills and the distance to edit my own novels. In any case, De Nada Nirvana looks very different now from the version my agent was unable to sell. I know it's [...]



Love your local library (before it's too late)

2016-04-08T18:34:20.356+00:00

UPDATE FRIDAY 8 APRILAN EVICTION NOTICE HAS BEEN SERVED ON THE OCCUPIERS OF THE CARNEGIE LIBRARY. THEY HAVE 24 HOURS TO LEAVE OR FACE ARREST. PLEASE SUPPORT THE DEMO TOMORROW. DETAILS AT THE END OF THIS POST.  When I was growing up, my parents couldn't afford to buy books but I was addicted to stories. I swept through the children's library, exhausting the stock well before I'd left primary school. A kind librarian agreed to allow me to enter the hallowed halls of the adult library, where the biggest excitement was that I could now borrow five books at a time, instead of a paltry three. It was during my teenage years that I ploughed through almost all the books on the lists of 'classics you should read' that come out every so often. I worked through biographies, as well as novels, discovering the likes of Tolstoy, Kafka, Hesse, Austen, de Beauvoir and many more. Genre was meaningless to me: strong stories were what I was after. It was on the shelves of the library that I discovered that stories could take many forms.In secondary school, I discovered a new use for the library and was there almost every day in the study room, revising for exams. Once I had my children, I was once again in my local library several times a week, pulling books from the shelves and attending reading sessions and after-school clubs. As an author, I've read at many events organised in libraries, connecting readers with writers. The staff were invariably warm and welcoming. One heard that the day I was appearing in their library was also my birthday - and baked me a cake!When my father was in his nineties, and before he moved to a care home, I would often go over and find he wasn't at home. Needless to say, my initial response was always a stab of anxiety. My first port of call was to check his library, just a few doors away from his flat. And nine times out of ten, there he would be, sitting in an armchair, chatting to other people, or reading a newspaper or books pulled from the shelves.  As a member of the East Dulwich Writers' Group, I was part of an event at the glorious Carnegie Library in Herne Hill in June 2011. We read in the gardens on a beautiful summer's evening and it was clear to us all that this was a perfect example of a library that was deeply rooted in the community. Libraries like the Carnegie operate as community hubs, offering so much more than book loans, though Gawd knows that would be enough. And now the local council has decided to close the library and re-open it a year or so later as a fee-paying gym, with a single room with books, but no librarian. On 1 April (the council has no sense of irony) the library was officially to close but a group of about 80 people, including some families, occupied the building.The council has since served them with an injunction - which they're determined to ignore. It's worth remembering these words from Andrew Carnegie: 'A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a spring in the desert.'In other words, the library belongs to the community, the people. It's not the Council's to take away.The campaign website is here. Lots more info on Brixton Buzz. If you're on Twitter, there are numerous accounts to follow but this is the one for seeing tweets from those inside the building. There's also a Facebook page. And, finally, this is a map of the location of the library. If you live locally, why not pop along. They have no cooking facilities so gifts of food are welcomed. After snipey tweets from Labour councilors in response to a photo of the occupiers drinking wine, loads of people turned up the next day - bearing gifts of wine. This is community activism at its best. In case you're still wondering if libraries are about much more than 'just' borrowing books, have a look at the list of events which will not take place if th[...]



Praise for Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana

2016-03-23T15:49:22.469+00:00

As Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana are both on special offer at 99p each for the next week or so, I thought I'd post some reviews the novels received at the time when they were published. (In truth, several writer friends have ordered me to do this.) No links, I'm afraid, as these date back over ten years ago. However, I have managed to track down this on the wonderful Crimeficreader's blog (re Nirvana Bites) and this re Trading Tatiana. Also the late and much missed Maxine Clarke posted about Nirvana Bites on her Petrona blog. Cath Staincliffe, Manchester Evening News When unemployed Jen goes for an interview for a post as a researcher at the BBC she walks in on a scene of mayhem: a naked man stands on top of a ladder, his most private parts attached to a chain and his colleagues seemingly incapable of talking him down. But Jen recognises the man from his distinctive piercing as Stapled Stan, a regular on the S&M scene, and she persuades him not to jump. Stan, married to a high profile Tory MP, is being blackmailed and Jen is enlisted to try and find out who’s calling the shots. Assisted by fellow members of the Nirvana Housing Co-op, a handful of outlandish and damaged individuals who still manage to function as a collective, Jen becomes enmeshed in a world of murky dealing. Sustained by vegetarian feasts, regular spliffs and occasional flurries of direct action, the motley crew discover the trail leads them to the aquatic shop, Koi Korner. When Jen’s friends are on the receiving end of some very ugly violence things get a lot heavier. Comic crime caper from Alper who writes with panache and affection about the alternative worlds of co-operative living, new agers and fetishists. She’s very funny and … delivers a very entertaining read. A fresh voice we should hear more from.Big Issue A quick-paced and witty trawl through London’s sub-cultures.Publishing News A mix of funny, sad and astute.Zaria Shreef, New Books MagazineA funny, decidedly unpretentious thriller with a sub-cultural cast of characters and a fantastic heroine … From the first page NIRVANA BITES is a gripping, witty and distinctive read. It may stick in the throat of the old-school, anti-pc brigade, but its cast of lesbians, New Agers, animal rights activists and drop-outs is an engaging and refreshing alternative to the usual cast of fictional characters … An education for those who have no inkling of the S&M, drug and anti-capitalist scenes, it’s great fun.Marcia Wellington, The Beaver A hilarious whodunit set in the backdrop of the netherworld … A side to humankind that is dark and sinister yet, in spite of the negative environment, love and a true sense of family prevail. Woven into all this is a mystery to die for (some did) that kept me guessing to the end … It allowed me a peek into the dark, disturbing world of S&M, junkies and the otherwise fringe elements of society … A series of comical twists and turns … NIRVANA BITES is a definite must read for all mystery buffs. Otherwise it’s a good/funny/sad/whimsical book for those of us who just like a good read.Tangled WebBursting with energy, NIRVANA BITES is a brilliantly observed comic triumph, and heralds the arrival of a highly individual and hilarious new voice. Give Me a BreakBecoming a bit fuzzy? Here’s a in yer face tale of blackmail, villainy, bondage and housing co-ops that really kicks. Get down to a bit of amateur sleuthing and have some laughs by all means, but wake up to what you know is really going on.Daily Mirror Look out for NIRVANA BITES by Debi Alper – dark comedy as Jen’s job at the BBC leads to bondage and blackmail Families SouthEast Full of wild and whacky underground characters, involved in a weird world of eco-terrorists and S&M. Magenta PublisherGripping stuff. Gwyn Griffiths,[...]



Over a decade later, the Nirvanans are back

2016-03-19T14:33:44.747+00:00

As I draw closer to the publication of De Nada Nirvana, I'm feeling the excitement of releasing a new book into the world. Although each of my novels is able to stand alone, it's obviously best if people read them in sequence. And so ... drum roll ... I've reduced the price of Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana to 99p each for the next two weeks. Those links are to Amazon, but you can read extracts of both novels on my website. I'm also taking this opportunity to look back at the amazing journey I had to publication, over twelve years ago now.Unlike many debut authors, I hadn't been toiling away for years, I had no piles of unpublished MSs under my bed, and I had no ambitions to become a published author. I simply started writing a story to read out to my writers' group, with no idea that it would even be a complete novel, let alone any understanding about how publishing works. It's hard to believe that Nirvana Bites ended up being picked up directly by Orion and I was offered a two book deal with what nowadays would be considered a healthy advance. Nirvana Bites was published in 2002 and Trading Tatiana followed in 2005.Trading Tatiana had a fraught journey, bless her. As the result of a series of unconnected (and sometimes tragic) events at the publishers, the novel went through four pairs of hands before landing up with an editor. The MS came back to me with comments and corrections made in all their different handwriting. I already knew that sales of Nirvana Bites had been decent but unspectacular. (This was pre-internet days, when word of mouth was much harder to access than it is now.) I also realised there was no one left at the publishers to promote my cause. By now, I was savvy enough to know that it was unlikely I'd be offered a subsequent deal by Orion and so I started the (some may say belated) search for an agent. (Worth noting that many long-established authors, including Val McDermid and Ian Rankin, have said their novels didn't take off until the fourth or fifth in the series and that if their career had begun a few years later, they would have been dropped.)Ten years later and my agent had another three Nirvana novels. He loved each of them but, in spite of some near misses, he was unable to sell them to publishers who were unwilling to commit to a series in which the first two novels had already been published. Of course I was disappointed but you know what? It wasn't as bad as you may think. All authors go through rejection at some point. My career may have been arse-upwards to most others, but that didn't mean I could escape the inevitable pain. And what happened to me had been life-changing. Without that original deal, I wouldn't be doing what I do today. I've loved spending time over this last decade with other authors, polishing and perfecting their novels, crying with them when they get setbacks and dancing with them when they achieve success, in whatever form that may be.But ... but ... I was still an author. I still had those unpublished novels and I still had people contacting me to ask when the next were coming out. Timing may have been instrumental in me not being offered a subsequent deal by Orion, but I'm also around at a time when I can bring those novels in front of readers by other means. The Nirvanans are back on the scene.Now I need to adjust my thinking. Going it alone means that I need to wrap my head round pricing and promo and all that other stuff that I don't want to be taking up time and head space. I'm not good at this. It's not what I want to be doing. So don't look to me for answers about how to successfully publish and promote your own novels. I'll be crap at it. One thing I can do though, is write blog posts like this one and then FB and tweet the link. If you don't like the method, look away now.[...]



I'm a hybrid!

2016-02-01T14:57:12.198+00:00

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed an addition to the sidebar of this blog. Yep, I'm now a fully paid-up member of the Alliance of Independent Authors - a giant step forward for my new incarnation as a hybrid author.

For those of you who may not know, my first two novels, Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana were originally published by Orion. A few months ago, (on my birthday, since you ask) I set up my own imprint and published them as e-books. (See here for Nirvana Bites and here for Trading Tatiana.) I've now edited De Nada Nirvana, the third novel in the series. It was fun to re-visit a novel I considered to be final draft several years ago, when I was still largely operating by instinct. This was my first novel written in third person, with two different threads: one set in London, following Jen and her fellow Nirvanans, and one set in Spain, where Jo has gone to search for a missing teenager.

As an editor and tutor, I often advise people not to have characters with names beginning with the same initial but it's too late to change Jen and Jo now. Anyway, if it was good enough for Orion ... But I did have to cast a beady eye on some of the other characters when I realised four of them had names beginning with T.
  • Tony Bennett is a mobster and there are references to him having the same name as the crooner so that's not going to be changed
  • Tina's name is fixed in stone for me but she's a woman and stretched very far apart from TB, so no possible confusion there
  • Techno Tom has only a small part and is likewise unlikely to be muddled up with TB
  • Ted Baxter, I decided definitely was a problem and so he has become Harry Baxter. There was a salutary lesson there, folks. Thank goodness I knew not to use a global find/replace, or I would have ended up with lots of things like I wanHarry and I was exhausHarry. 
While I'm naming names, I have a main character who never appears in the story: the missing teenager, Matt Willis. Since I wrote the original draft, I have met a real life Matt Willis and wondered whether to change the name of my character but have been persuaded to let it stand. I guess this is why novels always have the warning note about characters not being based on real people.

Anyway, the previous draft has now been edited (by moi), proofread by my wonderful friend Angie, who has been with me on this journey from the beginning, and has now been sent to the wonderful Leigh Forbes, who is doing the techy schmecky stuff, including creating the series covers. I LOVE working with other people on their novels but I have to say it's felt really good to focus on my own stories again. Who knows? I may even find myself blogging more.






 



Happy 10th birthday to my blog

2016-01-02T17:55:21.557+00:00

This blog is ten years old. A whole decade of blogging.



A lot has happened in the world since then and it's fascinating to look back at my early posts.

I'm still spending a lot more time over on Facebook and Twitter these days but have popped in here to announce that De Nada Nirvana is scheduled for publication in the next few months under my Nirvana Publishing imprint. Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana are already available and I intend to edit Me, John and a Bomb and The Gene Pool next, thereby completing the Nirvana series. Unless there's a miracle between now and then, I'll also be publishing Somebody's Child, the novel which my agent loved so much but has sadly been unable to sell.

The only way I've been able to carve out time for my own writing has been to treat myself like a client. And, as a client, I've also felt free to tell my editor-self to piss off, as I break the rules the Editrix points out.







#FoW15 in words and pictures

2015-09-08T09:40:53.007+00:00

It's the morning after the weekend before and, as ever, I feel jet-lagged, hung-over, culture-shocked (Real Life is WEIRD!) and, especially this year, very happy. Although previous years have been fab, it always felt like I spent a lot of time picking people up from the floor and handing them tissues. In some ways, that's not a bad thing. It shows how much they cared about what they do.Back: Sophie Wellstood, Mandy Berriman Front: Jody Klaire, Katherine Hetzel, John TaylorBut here's the real point: those people who had dusted themselves off, who had taken on board the advice from their 1-1s, internalised what they learnt in the workshops and panels, and come back to the festie with sparkly new writing were the ones who, this year, had the affirmation they had worked so hard for. Time after time, I was approached by shiny-eyed people who had received really positive feedback from agents who want to see the whole MS. At least one, including my gorgeous mentee Mandy Berriman, was told by a top agent that they are 'really excited' by their stories. Another RL friend, Rachael Dunlop, faces the possibility of having to choose between several agents. Two Cloudie friends, Michelle Bromley and Hilary Taylor, were shortlisted for the Friday Night Live Competition and one, the fabulous Sophie Wellstood (who I first met when we accepted her submission for Stories for Homes) won the Opening Chapter competition.The shortlisted authors in the Friday Night Live competition These are the competitions which have led to such runaway success in the past for authors such as Shelley Harris, Deborah Install and Jo Cannon. (Click the links to see their FoW stories.) And these are just a few of the people I know who were wearing ear-to-ear grins this time. Truly, my cup runneth over.Andrew Wille, Deborah Install and Jenny SavillWhen I stood in for Harry Bingham on Saturday night, I asked for a show of hands. How many people were festie returnees? I calculated approximately a third. When I asked our self-edit alumni to come up on stage for a group photo, I was blown away to see that about 30 of the 179 people who have taken the course so far were at the festival. These are the people who, by dedicating themselves to their craft and demonstrating their commitment to their writing, are now reaping the harvest of all that hard work.A reminder that the self-edit course runs 4 times a year and consists of detailed tutorials to give you the tools of creative writing, and exercises which are based on your own WIP, thereby showing how to apply the tools to your own story. See here for some feedback and here for the syllabus and booking details.Huge thanks to everyone who has tweeted, FBd and emailed their appreciation following the mini course, workshops and 1-1s. The Psychic Distance workshop was, as ever, the one that blew people's minds, even though it was the last workshop of a packed weekend. More than one person said the insights almost brought them to tears but then it was the end of a totes emosh weekend for all of us. Do check out Emma Darwin's blogposts on PD to get those synapses firing.If anyone is itching for more writerly input before FoW16, I'll be running workshops at Verulam Writers' Get Writing Day on 26 Sept and also a one day Craft of Writing event in Exeter for The Place to Write on 10 Oct.York Uni is a stunning settingSome of the wonderful Writers' Workshop teamDelegates and pros trickling inJane Ayres and Moira Please, who run The Place to WriteMandy Berriman and Janette Owen - natural storytellersNo caption needed. Well worth the indigestionCraig Taylor at the controlsFor the first time - a DISCO!Discovering the magic of Psychic DistanceHappy birthday, WW!One final thing, which[...]



Lovely bloggers

2015-05-07T12:50:20.695+00:00

A glance down my list of recent posts shows I've been a lazy blogger for some time now. I'm so busy, and there are so many other people who say what I would about the craft of writing better than I can, so I spend most of my online activity accessing the quick fix of Facebook and Twitter.So why am I posting now? Well, I've been shamed into it by the wonderful Loretta Milan who has declared this blog to be lovely.  To accept the award, there are a few things nominees have to do…Thank the person who nominated them for the award.Add the One Lovely Blog logo to their post.Share 7 facts/or things about themselves.Nominate up to 15 bloggers they admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog.I've ticked off 1) and 2) so here are 7 personal facts that you might not know about me. In no particular order: I can speak backwards fluently.I covered my hair for 6 years when I was in my 30s. In that time, more people saw my breasts than the top of my head.One of my eyes is lighter than the other.In another lifetime, I would have been an archaeologist.I'm the shortest person in my immediate family by over a foot.I was made homeless when I was seven months pregnant.I once lost the losers' race at my primary school, despite being the oldest child competing.There we go. Please note: I will NOT be elaborating on any of the above.  And herewith my nominees, bearing in mind that Loretta has named many I would and Squidge has named some more of my favourites. I've chosen the ones I think are most useful/entertaining and, in some cases, it wouldn't be appropriate to leave a comment on their blog so I'm just putting these up here as a resource.Jackie Buxton's Agenthood and SubmissionvilleIsabel Rogers' blog never promises to be entirely seriousA collective of bibliophiles talking about books - Vulpes Libris Rachael Dunlop's blog, ButterfliesWriters' Workshop House Blog Agent Hunter blogNicola Morgan's Heartsong And though she no longer posts there, Nicola's Help! I Need a Publisher is a treasure trove of useful adviceI know Squidge mentioned Chuck Wendig, but his Terrible Minds blog merits a mention here too The ramblings of a few scattered authors - An Awfully Big Blog AdventureNorman Geras sadly died in October 2013, but his normblog remains as a beacon of sanity in a naughty world While I'm here and have you attention, do you know about Authors for Philippines? Set up by the wonderful Julia Williams, you can bid on ebay for all kinds of goodies including signed books, illustrations, named characters and critiques. Every penny goes directly to help the Nepalese people in the wake of the devastating earthquake. My offer of a crit of synopsis and first 5000 words of a novel is here. Right, I'm off. I'll try not to leave it so long before I post again. Thanks again to Loretta's Literary Lightbox for bringing me out of the shadows. [...]



Hold the front page

2015-02-12T16:18:38.455+00:00

Hmmm. The ups and downs of authordom. For reasons too complex to go into, I have ended my contract with the e-publisher and have negotiated the rights back. This means that, for a while at least, my novels will no longer be available in e-format. I fully intend to self-publish them, as well as the next three in the Nirvana series, and will be on the case ASAP.

In the meantime, if you want to know just how bumpy the road can be for authors, check out Harry Bingham's journey in his blog posts on the Writers' Workshop site. Pulls no punches, does our Harry.





Electronic Nirvana

2015-02-12T16:32:17.580+00:00

NB: this post has been superseded by the next one but, in the interests of keeping an accurate record, I will leave this one to stand.

When it comes to self-promo, it's very much a matter of do as I say, not as I do. Hates it, I does, but it's essential if I want to sell any of my own books. So here goes ...


I'm delighted to announce that my first two novels, Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana, are now available as e-books. They were originally published by Orion in 2002 and 2005 respectively and it's great to know that they will now be available to a new and wider readership via US indie publisher, Dzanc Books as part of their rEprint series. If you would like to know more about the novels, including extracts and reviews, please click on the books tab on my website. The e-books are available direct from Dzanc here or from the usual other places: Kindle and Kobo.


This has given me the impetus to self-publish the next three novels in the Nirvana series. That will mean my Nirvanans will eventually represent every type of publishing, from trade, through indie to self-publishing. An interesting journey. Before I can execute the next stage I'll need to edit the MSs though. I had a quick scan and realised there's a lot that needs to be changed. They never went through an external editing process but, fortunately, I now have the distance (and skills) to self-edit them. I just need to find the time.

And if there's one thing I'm even worse at than self-promo, it's finding time for my own writing.



#FoW14 in pictures

2014-09-16T11:58:13.384+00:00

In previous years, I've live-blogged the Festival of Writing in York. This year, I've decided to let my photos do the talking.There are plenty more on Twitter on the hashtag #FoW14 and on @festivalwriting's profile. I will add more as I come across them.Emma Darwin and I re-hashed our double act for the self-edit mini course.Here's Emma - using chalk!  Cathy Bramley, who says her life was changed by the online self-edit courseMy FoW14 sloganWorkshop attendees wrestling with clichésYork wouldn't be York without at least one duck photo The view from my bedroom window Gala dinnerShelley Harris and Jo Unwin announcing the results of the Opening Chapter competitionJoanna Cannon, winner of Friday Night Live and runner up in the Opening Chapter competitionSara Green, winner of the Opening Chapter competitionJohn Taylor and Jody KlaireAll hail to the wonderful 1-1 guardians. L-R: Ellen Hanns, Mark Clementson and Susan FranklinBecause everyone knows writers need cakePhoto by Imran Siddiq Some of the awesome team assembled by Writers' Workshop Massive shout out to Laura and Nikki who don't get nearly enough credit.Without them, there would be no FoW.   Agent table tennis (no, I'm not quite sure why either)featuring Sam Copeland and Chris Wellbelove, with Juliet Mushens keeping scoreThese lucky writers have just discovered the magic of Psychic Distance I met an empath at FoW14. And her book rocks. (T-shirt's good too.) With JK - she's the one with proper proportions. I'm the one who apparently has a huge head and teensy body Katherine Hetzel and Jody Klaire - the only authors who offer Welsh cakes as well as booksAneeta Sundararaj came all the way from Malaysia for the festieL-R: Mandy Berriman, John Taylor, yours truly and Rachael DunlopCloudie alert! (Links are to Cloud profiles)Back L-R: Hil, Skylark, Xander, Flickimp, moi, John TaylorFront L-R: Squidge, Jody Klaire, BlueDiamondMist UPDATE: the official photos have now been posted on the Festival's Facebook page. And here's one of the photos of the online self-edit course alumni.  Emma and I couldn't be more proud.  Photo by NE DavidAnd another - this one by our Squidge, who has posted yet more pix on her blog. Photo by Katherine Hetzel   [...]



Adventures in Cyberspace

2014-07-01T20:13:45.127+00:00

I was interviewed recently by Julie Tomlin for Digital Women UK about my online journey. You can go straight to the interview here. It was interesting - and fun - to look back over the almost-ten-years since this blog first emerged, blinking in the blinding light of cyberspace, in Jan 2006. And you know what conclusion I came to when I looked back over this journey? This is a great time to be alive. The contacts I've made online with people who enrich my life in so many ways - people I would never have met if we lived in a different time - are part of a phenomenon unique to our generation.When my Teen1 went to Cambodia and Goa earlier this year, I saw photos of sights at the same time as he saw them or soon after. In the Cambodian evenings and UK mornings, we would chat about how he was doing as a volunteer at Anjali House. Sometimes we'd be popping in and out of chats over an hour or so. (Didn't happen when he was in Goa, where he was with friends, but that was OK too.) Compare that to when I was in Grenada and my parents relied on the occasional hand-written letter or a rare phone call when I could make it to the Cable & Wireless office in the capital.These days, this blog is pretty dormant. I gave up thinking I had to post regularly and took the pressure off, posting only when I have something to say that wouldn't fit into a tweet or FB status. Since I'm doing a review of my online journey, I just checked my stats for the first time in I don't know how long. 93,197 people have visited this blog and there have been 151,920 page views. That's a lorra lorra clicks.While I'm here, I thought I'd do a quick round up of what I'm up to. I'm currently hosting the 12th 6-week online self-edit course together with Emma Darwin. Emma and I knew each other for about 6 months online before we worked out that we lived a few doors away from each other. The vast majority of my editing work comes to me online, either through my website or via Writers' Workshop. I recently ran a workshop for the delightful Chiltern Writers' Group who approached me online. The Festival of Writing in York sells all its places online. I have another workshop lined up in October for Verulam Writers' Circle who found me online. Also in October, I will be running workshops and Book Doctor sessions at a retreat in a 12th century monastery run by The Place to Write. The same people have asked me to do the same sort of thing at a different retreat in January 2015. Needless to say, this came via online contacts. I'm currently forming links between Stories for Homes and Journey to Justice. The latter is particularly interesting in this context because the project's aim is to build on the civil rights movement and other historical struggles to tackle injustice today. Just look at what we can do in terms of mobilisation now that was not available just a couple of decades ago.Wonder what this will all look like in ten years time. Yes. This is a good time to be alive. [...]



Get your self-edit toolkit here

2014-03-12T12:37:30.873+00:00

Completing a full draft of a novel is an awesome achievement and one which should be celebrated but, on its own, it's not enough. Whether you intend to pitch to agents or self-publish your novel, you need to polish your MS until it sparkles and it's hard to do that on your own. A critique is one possibility. According to the 120+ people who have done the Writers' Workshop 6-week online Self-Edit Your Novel course, is another option and one that you won't regret.Emma Darwin and I designed the course together. Hosted in a private group on the Word Cloud, each week, there's a short video introduction and a detailed tutorial. The homework we set is based on participants' own novels and we workshop the exercises together in the group. In other words, the course is designed to give you the tools of creative writing and then show how you can apply them to your own MS. In a couple of weeks, the 11th course begins, adding to the wonderful groups we've had over the last years. The fruits for many of those on the earlier courses are beginning to be harvested. How amazing is it to hear that authors have gone on to success and credit the course for getting them there? It can't and won't happen for everyone, but we can guarantee that the standard of your writing will shoot up several levels as a result of those 6 weeks. If you're not sure if the course is for you because, say, you're not confident about your grammar, have a look at Emma's blog here. Check here for an example of the sort of detail we go into in the Prose Microscope week.One of the advantages of the course is its flexibility and the way you can fit it into your Real Life (though some will say it tends to take over for those 6 sweaty, intense weeks). Also, the groups stay in place on the Cloud for EVER, and several have continued to function as online writers' groups after the course finishes.But don't take my word about how good it is. I'd rather you hear it from some of our self-edit graduates. Jules Ironside blogged about it here. Below is a selection of quotes from various posts on the Cloud.It's a really fab course - you won't regret a moment on it ... what I've written since has taken leaps forward in terms of writer's craft and how I feel about what I write.SquidgeSome of our group are still meeting ... and offering pieces to read and critique ... the SE course gave me the tools to look critically at my own work ...to stand apart from my baby and be a bit less emotional about it. Clear and supportive, but not namby pambying direction from Debi and Emma got me to the stage where I understood that writing is re-writing, rather than just spouting the phrase. So, absolutely excellent investment into your future as a writer!  BernieThe six weeks was the most writing-related fun I've ever had ... the best investment in your writing you'll ever make ... The course does much more than teach you how to edit. It teaches you to be an all-round better writer. Yes, in six weeks.Richard B Do this course. Your writing will level up and you'll get more weapons. Barb It has given me the confidence to pull the whole WIP apart and weave it back together, hopefully with better materials! Woollybeans Do it. Get the money - sell the car / kids / a kidney, it doesn't matter ... JUST DO IT!! The skills learned on this course don't just apply to the WIP you work on, but to ALL your writing - it's invaluable, and I have never, ever regretted doing it. CJ I have not had so much intense fun in ages (but then I'm an engineer...). No hesitation in recommending [...]



Stories for Homes - making a difference

2013-12-18T11:25:43.103+00:00

Watch out, I'm about to get philosophical on y'all.So what's it all about, eh, this life business? What's our purpose in being here? We all know that the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything is 42 but that can't be all there is to it, can it?With such a diversity of belief systems (or lack of) among us all, I reckon there's one thing we can agree on: we're here to make a difference. In the week that Nelson Mandela died, we're all aware of the enormous difference one single person can make. Here's what Madiba said on the subject:  “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Madiba was unique, of course, but on a much smaller scale perhaps we can emulate his example. We're at our strongest when we join together, rather than act alone. I've seen people doing that recently. The Authors for Philippines project raised over £50,000 for the Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan appeal and is just one example of a good deed in a naughty world.But the difference I'm posting about today is the Stories for Homes project which was the result of a community of people united for one purpose: to create a world-class anthology of short stories on the theme of 'home' with all proceeds going to the housing and homelessness charity, Shelter.You can see the background to the project in this blog post in July, which celebrated the launch of the e-book - available here. Our community of supporters have made a promotional video, supplied unique artwork, come up with genius ideas, created a press release, contacted local and national media, emailed, blogged, Facebooked and tweeted. We've had authors, editors, proofreaders, designers, techy wizards, artists, journalists and more on board. There are far too many places where the anthology has been promoted for me to link to here. Check the hashtag #storiesforhomes on Twitter for a full list.And readers, of course, we've had readers who have bought the book, knowing they can enjoy great writing while simultaneously sending money in Shelter's direction. Because we all know books need readers.We started here, back in June:The e-book was published in July and we watched as it leapt up the Kindle charts and the royalties flowed in. In less than four months, we raised almost £600. The reviews have awarded the collection an average of 4.8 stars and we knew we had achieved our aim. Truly, this is a world-class anthology and. most importantly, Shelter was receiving some serious money.And now, five months later, we're here:The paperback was published a week ago (available here) and has already raised £213 in royalties at the time I'm posting. Add this to the money already raised from sales of the e-book and we've already made over £1000. We have a launch event at my fave indie bookshop, Bookseller Crow on the Hill, coming up this Friday. (Other events will be taking place across the country.) Another talented person has joined our community and created this wonderful window display.But hang on, let's just take a moment to remember what all this is about. All the following info comes from Shelter's news page. 80,000 children will be homeless in the UK this Christmas. The highest number of families are in emergency accommodation for a decade. In over half the country, less than 10% of properties are affordable for a typical working family. 45% of people renting in the South West are living in homes that are dam[...]



The Editrix

2013-12-03T12:21:22.420+00:00

Further to my last post about Stories for Homes, the awesomely talented Jody Klaire is creating profile pics of all the contributors. Here's mine! Note that the Editrix's pen drips blood.





Stories for Homes launch

2013-12-02T15:57:11.868+00:00

This is just a quick post to let you know that the Stories for Homes anthology in aid of Shelter is now available in both e-format and as a paperback. The first launch event will be 13 Dec at my fave indie bookshop, Bookseller Crow. Details here.

(image)
Leaflet credit Debs Riccio

I'm going to be blogging about the project in full on 11 December, when we intend to have a Book Blast of focused publicity in an effort to get #storiesforhomes trending on Twitter.



FoW13 - the day after the weekend before

2013-09-16T19:47:48.948+00:00

I did warn you I might not be able to live blog the festie this year. And so it came to pass. I quite literally was on the run the whole weekend and could never grab enough time to turn on my netbook for anything other than Powerpoint presentations for my workshops.So herewith a brisk round-up to the best of my ability. The photos might suggest that my course and workshops consisted of me making other people do all the work. Reality is that it was only when they were scribbling that I had the opportunity to take any pix. The photos might appear a bit same-y as a result, but I'm going to post them anyway as I think/hope it will be nice for people to spot themselves and others.Day 1. Friday begins with a minor panic when trains out of Kings Cross are all delayed or cancelled. Twitter was awash with panicking writers on their way to York. But, hey, we made it.And so straight into the self-edit mini course, with a lovely group of enthusiastic and engaged writers. There was just enough time to pick up my room key and drop off my bags, then I raced through the driving rain (unlike the glorious sunshine of previous years) to the Roger Kirk Centre for drink, food, drink, chat, drink, hugs.WW photoJulie Cohen and Nicola Morgan showing how it's done. The Friday Night Live competition, where seven brave souls read 500 words of their WIPs to 3 'judges' and an audience of 400 was won by Gabrielle Kent. WW photo Day 2. Saturday begins with a keynote address by Adele Parks. Among her pearls of wisdom was an example of the perfect elevator pitch, which I referred to over and over again in my 1-1s.Then it was straight on to the prose microscope workshop. This was one I stepped into at the last minute to replace (as if I could) a workshop that would have been run by the fabulous Emma Darwin, who had to pull out at the last minute. This was a smaller group, maybe twenty or so. (They even had tables to lean on.) I do like the fact that so many people used pen and paper for the exercises.Ten minutes later, I was chairing the thriller/crime genre panel with industry experts David Haviland (author and agent with Andrew Lownie), Alison Hennessey (senior crime editor at Harvill Secker) and Suzie Doore (editorial director at Hodder and Stoughton). At least the sun was shining today.Straight after lunch, an hour of 1-1s was followed by a rammed workshop for exploring the magic of Psychic Distance. If you missed it, do check out Emma Darwin's blog. Actually, check out Emma's blog anyway. It's packed with writerly insights into PD and much, much more. Then another hour of 1-1s, a quick dash to my room to shower and change for the gala dinner.Some of the wonderful Cloudies who were there. L-R: John Taylor (Johnonceupon), Neil Evans, Katherine Hetzel (Squidge), Sophie Jonas-Hill (Tenacityflux), Mandy Berriman (Skylark) and Imran Siddiq (Flickimp). Don't they scrub up well?  Anouska Huggins and Isabel Rogers with essential propsInevitably, the absence of Harry Bingham was keenly felt though not everyone knew the reason why he wasn't there this year. It was up to me to get up on stage, welcome everyone and introduce Harry's virtual contribution to FoW13 - a video that left everyone sniffling. You can see the reason why here. (Warning: have a box of tissues close by.)While on stage, I also tried to link people together so the net wouldn't be rattling for weeks after with people regretting they hadn't linked up. Stand [...]



Festival of Writing. York 2013

2013-09-12T18:31:16.724+00:00

It's all happening. Over the coming weekend, I'll be in York, running a 4 hour mini course, 3 workshops, 24 Book Doctor sessions, chairing a genre panel and dispensing lots of writerly warmth.

I was pretty rubbish at my attempts to live blog the festival last year, but you can get a flavour here. (Scroll down.) Then, of course, there's the Festie 2012 book, available here. Given that my schedule this year is even more packed than last time, I make no promises to live blog but I'll do my best. If you can't make it to York and would like to find another way to improve your writing, you might be interested in the 6 week online self-edit course I run with Emma Darwin. Next one starts 22nd October.

See you when I see you. Oh, and if you're on Twitter, the hashtag is #FoW13.