Frank Parker's author site

The Discovery Dilemma

As authors outside of the ‘mainstream’, we all face the difficulty of getting knowledge of the very existence of our work out to the people we are doing it for – readers.

Fellow author Stevie Turner has captured the dilemma precisely in her blog:

via Engaging With Readers

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A Date With . . . Ceri Bladen

My date this time describes herself as “a Welsh girl who now lives in Turkey with her family.” When she is not writing or drawing, she loves to cook with fresh produce from the market, and look after her “thirty-odd street cats and one street dog”.

51o7dbtbawl-_uy250_I was curious about her choice of Turkey, given it’s poor human rights reputation, as a suitable place to bring up a family. Her experience gives the lie to that reputation:

“I enjoyed many years teaching primary-aged children in beautiful Swansea. Although I never dreamed of giving up my chosen career, my life shifted focus when I had a set of twins and another child just seventeen months later. My husband and I had waited seven years to have children so when we were blessed with them, they became our main priority. I decided to take time away from my profession to enjoy time with them.

While they were toddlers we spent a couple of weeks a year in Turkey on holiday. After a while we decided to move there for a couple of years.

Turkey is a friendly, family-orientated place, as anyone who has visited will know.

In our twelve years living there, we found the Turkish people welcoming and have never once thought it a ‘far from ideal’ place to raise a family; in fact, quite the opposite. They have been able to experience an idyllic outdoor childhood; they have acquired another language; learned about a different religion, and culture; and have had the opportunity to travel. Our focus in life has always been the children, and we are proud that our Turkish lifestyle has enabled them to grow into socially adaptable, polite teenagers.”

51ljsm2bzabl-_uy250_Next I wondered about the temperature in Turkey, especially as the British Isles is currently experiencing one of the longest, hottest summers for a long time and some people are finding it difficult to cope with. In addition, the small coastal village she calls home sees a huge increase in population every summer.

“Turkey’s dry atmosphere is entirely different to the UK’s more humid environment, which makes the equivalent heat in Turkey feel much cooler. Having said that, I am not a fan of searing heat or hordes of tourists. To avoid both we leave Turkey from mid-June until the beginning of September (while the schools are closed.) This allows us to pack our trusty car with a tent (or book an airline ticket) and travel for three months a year. We have been fortunate to visit many places, from the more traditional USA, Australia and European destinations, to the more obscure countries such as Syria, Moldova, and Transnistria. Each country we visit gives me inspiration for another story!”

51arltw0sll-_uy250_She recently published the fourth book in her series about Vikings. I wanted to know what drew her to that period in our history as the setting for her stories.

“I’ve always loved history and most of my books contain snippets in some form. I grew up in the old Roman town of Isca (the modern village of Caerleon, not to be confused with Exeter, fp), surrounded by history.

My father’s enthusiasm for the ruins, museums, and castles firmly cemented history into my heart.

I am particularly interested in the ‘rise-in-power and fall-from-grace’ of groups of people—the Huns, Egyptians, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Ottomans, to name a few. Hopefully, in the future, I will write stories about them all!”

51xcwhpxgkl-_uy250_Each book in the series has taken about a year to produce:

“Due to their historical genre, research takes most of my time, but this is the part I love. I take roughly six months to compose and write the story, and a couple more months to edit. This timescale is not set in stone as I am not an author who has the whole story in their mind before they start. I have a rough idea of its path, and as I write, the characters develop the rest of the story for me. (Unfortunately, this method keeps me awake many a night! Lol)”

She does not invest in professional editing for her books:

“As an emerging indie author, paying a professional editor has been out of the question so far, due to the cost. I have trusted beta readers who help me, and as I gain more fans, finding people willing to help is becoming easier.”

415v6p-6nyl-_uy250_Ceri does not yet regard herself as a full time writer, nor does she regret leaving her profession as a teacher

“I am not a full-time writer—I write if, and when, the opportunity arises. Most of the time, this works for me, although it can be frustrating when I have a story in my head and haven’t had the opportunity to get near my computer. I have no regrets about leaving teaching because I have spent the last sixteen years dedicating my time to educating and travelling the world with my children.”

My next question was posed before I realised how long it is since she left teaching. I wondered if recent cuts in all public service budgets in the UK, including education, had influenced her decision.612b2bmgkskl-_uy250_

“It saddens me to see cuts in the UK public services. Education is close to my heart, and one day I hope the ‘powers’ realise that they need to invest in the future generation.”

She offers a long list in response to my question about authors she admires – and has a cheeky question she would love to ask the Brontë sisters.

“There are so many! My tastes vary greatly from the Brontë sisters, Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and Mario Puzo to the modern Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, Cassandra Clare, and Janet Dailey.

What would I ask them? That’s difficult…

I would ask them all what gave them the determination to continue to write when they were knocked back by publishers and critics many times? I wouldn’t ask them about their writing processes as I am sure they are as diverse as the authors themselves. (ps I would ask the Brontë sisters why they burned Emily’s unpublished book after she died? I’m sure it would have been another amazing story…)”

51qs1ss1z7l-_uy250_51gwgtlwjil-_uy250_Her preferred time for writing is in the afternoons:

“when my children are in school.

Over the years, I’ve learned that every author has their own method of getting their story written. It took a long time for me not to feel that my method of a more ‘free’ story structure wasn’t incorrect; it was my more random way! Some authors have dedicated times for writing, and have strict story arcs and structures; I do not. I jump around my story, filling in the gaps when I get inspiration. I also have a computer filled with half-finished stories and will leave them there until they invade my mind and I have to finish them. I am sure my method would send most authors into a tizzy! lol

The only thing I always do is keep a notebook by my side. It contains vital research, dates, and names in it. I use it when my memory fails me! Lol”

41bqskxp3el-_uy250_Like most independently and self-published authors she feels uncomfortable with self-promotion, and marketing is not her favourite part of the process.

“But I realise it is an important part of the journey. Luckily, my four Viking books are in the top 100 bestsellers in Amazon’s Viking romances and because they are visible to potential readers, I no longer have to ‘push’ my books so hard, which is a great relief.”

I learned quite a lot from my conversation with Ceri – that Turkey is not as bad a place to live as I had supposed; that there are at least two Iscas; and the location and political status of Transnistria, among other things. I hope you now feel equally well informed!

I suggest you check out her Facebook page and her Goodreads page where you will find links to all her books.

Closing Borders is not a Moral Option #WATWB

There is nothing new about refugee crises. As my followers will know, I have, over the last 2-3 years, been exploring the appalling events that took place in Ireland between 1845 and the early 1850s. These events led to an exodus of people from Ireland to North America, and Australia.

watwic-bright-tuqblkLast week I was privileged to be a (minor) part of the 7th International Famine Conference which took place in Strokestown Park House, home of the Irish National Famine Museum. The event was truly international, with contributions from academics from the USA, Canada, Australia the United Kingdom and Germany.

My link will take you to a film by a Canadian documentary film maker, made as part of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations last year, it describes the way ordinary Canadians responded to the arrival on their shores of ships laden with refugees from Ireland’s disaster. The film received it’s Irish launch on the opening night of the conference.

There are, surely, important lessons to be learned by legislators in the USA and Europe as they grapple with the 21st century refugee crises – not least the reality that we are all descended from immigrants or invaders. We are, indeed, the world. Closing borders is not a moral option.

Have you got a good news story to share with the world? Here’s how to join in:

1. Keep your post to Below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. Link to a human news story on your blog, one that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood. Paste in an excerpt and tell us why it touched you. The Link is important, because it actually makes us look through news to find the positive ones to post.

3. No story is too big or small, as long as it Goes Beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

Place the WE ARE THE WORLD badge or banner on your Post and your Sidebar. Some of you have already done so, this is just a gentle reminder for the others.

5. Help us spread the word on social media. Feel free to tweet, share using the #WATWB hashtag to help us trend!

 

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A Date With . . . Lesley Hayes

My ‘date’ this week is with a woman who lives a stone’s throw from the ‘Dreaming Spires’ of Oxford.

covers_round_robin_pic“I moved to Oxford about thirty years ago, having flirted with the idea of living here for at least five years before that. I was born in London and lived there until my early twenties. I’d never want to go back there for more than a visit now.

I’ve found Oxford is an ideal place for writers, eccentrics, and artists. It’s a place that celebrates diversity, and where you can be anonymous if you wish, and yet experience the feel of a village if you want to find your tribe. I love the way history is embedded in its streets and secret alleyways.

My own personal history is embedded there too, now. The only thing I would change seems like wishing for the tide not to turn – I’m not keen on the vast new shopping centre that screams commercialism, and the mad traffic congestion. But I suppose those hazards are inevitable in our modern society.”

Lesley worked full-time as a writer from the age of 17 and, afterwards, had short stories published and/or read on radio over a period of several years before deciding to switch careers and become a psychotherapist. I wondered if that was a difficult decision to make.

covers_field_pic“Not at all. It seemed an organic progression, just as turning again to my writing twenty years later felt the right time. My writing had always focused on the psychological motivations and quirks of human nature, and I was trying to work out my own salvation through it, without realising it at the time.

As I reached the end of my thirties I had survived a great deal of trauma and my move to Oxford had begun a process of profound healing. I trained as a psychotherapist to help me understand more of that trauma and what had enabled my survival, and having learned how to go beyond my own suffering, I wanted to pass that on. It’s something of a cliché that therapists are wounded healers, but it’s true.

My work in therapy and in writing fiction has not been so different.

For me, it’s always been about reaching for the truth, and communicating on a deep level with other human beings.

I recognise that like many introverts I also have a driving need for meaningful connection. It’s what keeps us all afloat.”

Her childhood was lived in a part of London that followers of the BBC soap opera ‘Eastenders’ would recognise. However, whilst the fictional ‘Walford’ has changed hardly at all in the 40 years since its arrival on our screens, the part Lesley knew has changed beyond recognition.

covers_drowned_pic“It’s now very different – the little I’ve seen of it in recent years. I’ve looked up the street where I lived for much of my childhood on Google Maps, and it’s weird to see that it’s all part of Docklands now. The interesting thing, however, is that I only have to call on my memory to see it exactly as it was. I have strong images in my mind of the house where I grew up. I didn’t realise it was a slum, and took for granted the outside lavatory and the huge bomb site at the end of the road. Those early experiences in my working class family are vividly imprinted on me.”

Mention of bomb sites reminds me that Lesley recently turned 70. What do the advancing years mean to her in her life and her writing?

“In spite of the additional physical challenges that ageing brings, I don’t think I’ll ever feel old. The generations of women in my maternal family have been strong and feisty, and youthful in our outlook. I loved my grandmother, who in her late eighties still had a wicked sense of humour.

covers_dangerous_picMy mother died only two years ago, also in her late eighties, and she remained politically astute right to the very end – and made sure her vote got cast in the referendum, even though by then she was bed-ridden.

I’m anticipating clocking up quite a few more years than either of them. But I’m also prepared to give in gracefully at whatever age my number comes up. My friends range in age from their early forties to their mid-eighties, and

where like-mindedness and a lively, creative intelligence are present I don’t think age really matters.

As a writer I feel I am at my peak (though I’d probably have said that at whatever age I’d reached when doing this interview!) In writing my current novel I am aware that I am bringing a lifetime of experience and understanding to it. I write with increasingly more compassion and empathy for my characters – which is a reflection of one of the blessings of getting older.

As I see the end of my life no longer as a mere dot on the horizon, I am poignantly aware of my connection not just with other humans but with all creatures, all life. We are all part of ‘it’, and although I’m still no wiser about what ‘it’ is (a lifetime’s inner and outer journeying have been devoted to finding the answer to that) I feel more strongly aware that it is all-encompassing and beautiful.”

How did her past experience as a published writer influence her decision to self-publish when she returned to writing in later life?

covers_twin_pic“Initially I did put some effort into finding another agent, as the one I’d had for all those years before had retired from Laurence Pollinger. But I soon discovered that in those twenty odd years since I’d last been published the whole world of publishing had changed. It was a salutary lesson in humility to be reminded that for all intents and purposes, and whatever my previous history, I was now a new girl on the block.

I was reluctant to self-publish at first, but it was my son who persuaded me. I hadn’t even heard of kindle, never mind discovering the joys of having one. As it has been with most projects in my life, once I seized the nettle I began vigorously waving the flag for nettles everywhere.

It gets easier with each book I publish to learn the ropes of what’s required. The hardest part has been managing to generate the publicity, as I’m not comfortable with blowing my own trumpet. But I love the process of creating the ads for my books, and the covers. And the one huge advantage of self-publishing for me has been editing my own books (which I always did in the past anyway) and not having a publisher trying to convince me to put in more of this or less of that. I do like having complete creative control.”

Her training and work as a psychotherapist feed into her more recent writing:

covers_girl_pic“I’m sure the richness of those years of deeper exploration into the psyche, and more importantly the human heart, have influenced me more than I realise. I have always been fascinated in hearing people’s stories (sitting at the feet of my mother and grandmother as a child, listening to them gossip and relate anecdotes about their history, was a rich source of material for my imagination!) I brought that genuine deep interest to my work as a therapist, and I learned to look for patterns and layers in the stories people told about themselves and their families. I think that honed whatever skills I already had, so that I now embed those patterns and layers in the novels I write. I’m not sure I could write in any other way – because I have to be fascinated in what I’m writing and the characters who introduce themselves to me as I bring them into life.”

She is reluctant to start listing author she admires

“because I’d have a hard job choosing which were more important or influential. The writer who has impressed me most recently has been Philip Pullman. I watched a documentary about him and felt such a rapport with him and how he described the way he works. I admire the way he delves so deeply into his characters and the invented landscape he creates in his books. He has such an incredible imagination, and he brings philosophy and spirituality into his books in a way that encourages the reader to question and perhaps even begin thinking in a way they hadn’t before. I love a book and a writer who is able to do that. I don’t know that I could learn anything as a writer from spending time with him, because we all have our unique style. But I would so enjoy hanging out with him and just talking about the process of writing, and life, and what it means to us.”

Like me, Lesley is full of admiration for the way in which other self-published and independently published writers support each other through organisations like IASD. Some say that such support is less forthcoming from traditionally published writers. Some of the people Lesley worked with in the 1970s went on to become household names. Did she consider approaching them when considering re-entering the world of publishing?

“No, I haven’t done that. I did get in touch with a local writer who has had some success (and ironically, all those years ago, just before I gave up writing for psychotherapy, I gave him the name of my agent, which started the ball rolling for him!) I contacted him a few years ago, just before I started writing my last novel, when I was considering trying to get back into mainstream publishing. He wrote back and said he’d had a look at my profile on Amazon and all the reviews I had, and his advice was to stick to self-publishing. Although he had continued to be published by one of the ‘big’ publishers he was making very little money, and being messed around by them. As for those who worked with me on the magazine, it honestly hasn’t occurred to me to get in touch with them. I tend not to look back once I’ve moved on.”

I am envious of her disciplined approach to writing:

“I’m quite disciplined, which I think is essential. I’ve always had to have a ‘writing room’, wherever I’ve lived, although it’s also an internal space. The one thing I’ve always required is non-interrupted silence – which is probably why I’m much happier living alone, and have a cat who doesn’t even purr. I work in the mornings. My preferred routine is between breakfast and lunch, although because I also have a healthy routine of meeting friends in the mornings, that can be reduced. If I’m burning to get on with a particular chapter I’ll return to it later in the afternoon, but never past 6.30 pm. Every day I go back over the previous day’s writing and edit before starting anew. It helps to keep the thread active, and I’ll sometimes see where I need to insert a couple of paragraphs that link to something that has gone before or is about to be written.”

There is nothing not already exposed here or on her website that she would wish to reveal about herself:

“As you’ve pointed out, I reveal a great deal. Possibly too much. When I was writing the material for it (her website) I lost sight of the fact that complete strangers would one day be reading it. On the other hand, anyone who reads my novels can guess certain things about my own life (although the tease is – which bits are fictional?) I’m an odd combination of being both open and private. I’m honest about who I am, and the truth has always been important to me. The details I wouldn’t want to reveal are those that cause me pain to talk about or would in some way impact on someone else.

I’ve always been good at keeping other people’s secrets… and a few of my own.”

Connect with Lesley on Facebook, Twitter, and follow her blog here.

No Deal? No Way!

It was the early 1960s. The company I worked for designed and manufactured specialist components for aircraft. We were asked for initial designs for such components to meet the stringent requirements of a supersonic airliner – Concord – proposed as a joint project between British and French aircraft manufacturers.

800px-concorde_1_94-9-5_kix

An Air France Concorde (the UK version of the plane’s name omitted the final ‘e’). Image from wiki media commons.

We were in competition with a French manufacturer of similar components. Whoever won the design competition, both companies would manufacture the components. Winning the design competition offered prestige, but it was manufacturing that held the promise of long term profits. So neither company tried too hard to win the design competition.

In the event, our designs were the closest to the specification so it was we who were asked to work up the designs into plans for manufacture. And, decades later, we all know that no-one made any money from Concord.

I tell this story because it is an early example of international co-operation in manufacturing. Britain was not even a member of the EU back then, although much effort was being put into applying, only to be vetoed by the then French president, Charles DeGaule.

These days most complex machines – not just aircraft, but motor vehicles and domestic appliances – are manufactured by international consortia using components sourced from around the world. Within the EU, these consortia take full advantage of the Single Market and Customs Union to import components tariff free from one part of the Union to another and sell the resulting machine in most member states.

In the automotive industry, for example, final assembly of one model might take place in the UK, and of another in France or Belgium, with components for both sourced from several countries. No wonder these companies are worried about the possibility of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Their supply chains will be disrupted, their UK businesses rendered unviable. This applies to UK based component manufacturers supplying end users elsewhere in the EU just as much as to UK based manufacturers sourcing components from other parts of the EU.

It also applies to UK based food processors importing ingredients from within the EU, and UK farmers and horticulturalists supplying ingredients to EU processors. Such contracts generally take years to negotiate. This explains why the UK can’t “just walk away” as some of those who voted “leave” two years ago would wish. The reality is that, unless David Davis and his team can come up with something as close as possible to the existing Single Market and Customs Union, the future looks very bleak indeed for British businesses of all sizes.

Patrick Minford, one of the few economists who favour Brexit, admits this but is unconcerned, stating that the UK can do without manufacturing. The leadership of the Labour Party should be very worried about the livelihoods of their members and supporters. It is beyond belief that they are not fulfilling the proper role of an opposition and fighting tooth and nail to prevent #Brexit.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!

That’s what makes a great writer, according to Rebecca Bryn and she should know, being one of the greatest. Her work deserves much wider recognition. “For Their Country’s Good” would make a TV series to rival “Poldark” and “The Dandelion Clock”, which I had the privilege of reading pre-publication, has echoes of Michael Morpurgo’s “War Horse”.

Writing that comes from the heart, with deep emotional overtones and well developed characters, will always captivate me as a reader. Ms. Bryn does that brilliantly.

via It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!

A Date With . . . Lacey Lane

My “date” this week has an “adults only” ending. I’m talking to Lacey Lane who lives somewhere in the West Midlands of England, the seat of the Industrial Revolution.

“It’s not a busy town, but not quiet either. I love the sea, but unfortunately the nearest beach is about 3 hours drive away. Sometimes, I think it would be nice if I lived closer to the sea. When I was younger, I sometimes wondered what it would be like to move to Germany.

There’s a great open air museum not far from where I live. It’s called The Black Country Living Museum. I highly recommend it. It’s my favourite West Midlands attraction.”

She loves gardening and is planning a major re-design of her garden this year.

“I usually grow a mixture of vegetables and plants. It’s not unusual to find potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, herbs, tomatoes, and lettuce growing in my garden. This year, however, I have a bare garden. I’m planing on completely re-landscaping my garden. I’m still not completely sure how I want the finished garden to look, but I would like a new patio area and a pond to attract some frogs. In the past, I’ve gone for a wild meadow look with my flowers, but next year, I’ll be going for a more organised look.”

She does not have a favourite flower, “but forget-me-knots and honesty plants remind me of my Nan’s garden when I was a child.”

She is married, has neither children nor pets although she has previously owned “a dog, a rabbit and 5 hamsters.” She has “a passion for pole fitness and nail art.”

Her fiction is short, aimed at young people, and involves aspects of horror. “I’ve loved horror since I was a kid. My mom used to tape the late night horror films and we’d sit and watch them together. As a teenager, I used to love to read Goosebumps books and Point Horror books.”

She has a love for making things and her non-fiction reflects that.

“I like to do things to keep active. I’ve also organised craft fayres for my church. Since releasing my 2 craft books, I’ve rekindled my passion for nail art. I spend more time now on nail art than crafts. I guess some people would also consider nail art a type of craft.

I love searching the internet for inspiration and I love painting my friends and families’ nails. I’ve lost count of the amount of polishes I have. It must be at least 300. I have all sorts of nail art brushes and tools. I love looking for nail art related bargains on eBay. I’m actually working on a nail art book. I have no idea when it will be released. Hopefully some time next year.

My craft fans will also be glad to hear that Christmas Crafting with Lacey will be out by the end of October.”

Lacey works in a supermarket: “It’s far from glamorous but it’s well paid and pays the bills.” She also makes and sells jewellery. “It’s a nice little hobby. I’ve also released a range of horror themed jewellery to go alongside my horror books.”

She is happy being a part-time writer and loves getting feed-back from her fans. She is self-published and thinks “being traditionally published would be too stressful. I can write every day for weeks and then other times I can go months without writing. I like that flexibility.”

She can’t afford an editor but appreciates the support she gets from other members of the Independent Authors Support and Discussion on-line group. “Members of the wonderful IASD group beta read for me and point out any issues they spot. Sharon Brownlie has made some of my book covers and I’ll be sure to use her again in the future.

I love being a part of the IASD group. Everyone is friendly, helpful, supportive, and great fun.

I’m really not very good when it comes to marketing. I plan on starting up a blog some time soon, although, I’ve been saying that for at least a year and still not started it. I also plan on creating some new marketing images.”

She loves reading, especially the works of IASD members.

“There’s so many great authors out there, especially in the IASD group. My favourite horror author is John Hennessy. I read Murderous Little Darlings and I was hooked instantly.

When it comes erotica, Tom Benson is the king. John and I could talk about ways to murder and torture people. I could give Tom some pole dancing scenes to put in one of his books. I’m sure meeting either of them would be awesome and we’d talk about anything and everything.

I’ve also been lucky to meet Sylva Fae, Suzanne Downes, and Barbara Speake. I would love to meet them again. I would also love to meet Sharon Brownlie and Susan Faw. In fact, I would love it if we could get everyone from the IASD group together and have a big party. I’m sure there would be lots of cheesecake, beer pools, and naked dancing lol.”

I would certainly be up for that, but first I need to find out what tips Lacey has for would be writers.

“My main tip would be if you love writing, just do it. Create the story that’s deep inside you. It doesn’t matter if you’re not good at spelling or if you’re hopeless at grammar. There’s people out there who can help with that. Just write and have fun.”

Great tip, Lacey. Now, did you say something about a beer pool somewhere? I’m on my way.

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