September Writing Magazine

In the September issue of Writing Magazine Adele Parks discusses Whatever It Takes to write 12 novels in as many years. Actor-turned-crimewriter Linda Regan explains how she got published with Street Girls and there are features on historical romance writer Linda Mitchelmore – To Turn Full Circle – and bestselling Below Stairs author Margaret Powell.

Margaret James explores defining commercial fiction for male readers, focusing on the adventure novels of Dave Gibbins, Matt Lynn and Simon Scarrow. Other features cover ‘second novel syndrome’, novel approaches, writing picture books for children, penning flash fiction and boosting your ebook profile. Agent Jane Judd discusses the importance of not giving up too easily.

More besides, including turning dreams into stories, Waterstones’ longest-serving manager on how writers can make the most of high street bookshops and top tips for writing about pop. Plus competitions, fiction and non-fiction writing columns, even more advice and tips, poetry, and my usual market reports and news roundups in Writers’ News.

Writing Magazine, September 2012


Time’s Arrow to the Cryptozoic!

Here is some evidence from a reputable website that, as suggested in Brian Aldiss’ An Age (published as Cryptozoic! in the US), and much later (or earlier), Martin Amis’ Time’s Arrow, time does flow backwards and we are perceiving the wrong way around. Either that or every piece of writing, from book to webpage, needs an editorial once-over.

Click on the image to see full size and read the ‘newer edition’ text at the bottom. ‘See a problem with this suggestion?’



Bad News Customer Reviews

What use are Amazon customer reviews, or indeed the user reviews on any website? During Amazon’s first decade the company employed a team of freelance writers to review books, videos and DVDs. I was one of them. Crucially, our opinions remained our own. But we worked to guidelines which included being factually accurate, not committing libel and avoiding spoilers. Then Amazon introduced customer reviews, and the result is now a caveat emptor free-for-all.

While many customer reviews are excellent, Amazon imposes no quality control – some reviews are no worse than ill-informed and amateurish –  and no warning that one might at any time come across a massive spoilers. Amazon long ago gave-up proofreading customer reviews, and some Amazon users have no consideration for the reader or creative artist, and no idea of civilised reviewing etiquette.

Stone's Fall by Iain Pears

I have just finished reading the novel Stone’s Fall, by Iain Pears. This is an exceptionally long, intricately plotted historical thriller / mystery. It’s not perfect, but it is an extremely enjoyable and intelligent piece of work. Unfortunately, with 450 pages to go I decided to see what Amazon’s customers made of it. I happened to read a short ‘review’ by someone who admitted they had not read the whole book (they awarded it one star and described it as ’a waste of money’), but felt it their right to explain the central mystery of the entire narrative. Something the author chose to keep secret until almost the last page. It is a testament to Iain Pear’s skill that I remained engrossed despite knowing where the story was heading.

Not content with attempting to spoil the novel for the reader, the ‘reviewer’, hiding behind a pseudonym, also casually libeled Mr Pears, stating without evidence that he ‘must have stolen this idea for a book from some movie or book from the 1940’s or ’50’s’. I would like to see that stand-up in court.

So faced with the contemptible and unacceptable I have decided to stop looking at customer reviews before reading or watching any work of fiction. Meanwhile with some reservations I’d recommend Stone’s Fall. Clare Clark sums up the novel well on The Guardian without spoiling anything. Read the Amazon customer reviews at your peril.

August Writing Magazine

The August issue of Writing Magazine is out. Philippa Gregory is interviewed by Judith Spelman about her passion for history and her new novel The Kingmaker’s Daughter. This Is How It All Ends author Kathleen MacMahon discusses her writing day and the luxury of writing time. Children’s writer and illustrator Steve Smallman talks about how he got published, and there are features on CJ Sansom and Redemption thriller writer Will Jordan.

More besides, including the regular columns, features on the secrets of successful ebooks, how to edit like a pro, using an iPad as a writing tool, what a writing MA can do for you, improving your journalism, breaking into health writing, fiction and non-fiction writing columns, advice and tips, poetry, competitions, and my usual market reports and news roundups in Writers’ News.

Writing Magazine August 2012

July Writing Magazine

The July issue of Writing Magazine is out. Patrick Gale is interviewed by Judith Spelman  talking about everything from The Aerodynamics of Pork to new novel A Perfectly Good Man. Eden’s Garden author Juliet Greenwood discusses exploring her character’s interior lives. Agent Madeleine Milburn examines what makes a successful women’s fiction submission and with tongue in cheek, Birthdays for the Dead crime writer Stuart MacBride describes his working day. Debut author Liz Fenwick looks back on how she got her novel The Cornish House published and Tony Rossiter reveals the keys to the success of bestselling writer Carole Matthews.

More besides, including the regular columns, a cautionary blogging tale, writer’s holidays, the pleasures and pitfalls of Pinterist for writers, fiction and non-fiction writing columns, advice and tips, poetry, competitions, and my usual market reports and news roundups in Writers’ News.

July 2012 Writing Magazine

Adrift on the Sea of Rains — book review

Adrift on the Sea of Rains is the first volume in Ian Sales Apollo Quartet. Available as a limited edition hardback (75 signed copies), paperback and ebook, this science fiction adventure falls between alternative history and parallel world story.

Adrift on the Sea of Rains - Ian Sales

It is the late 1980’s, the Cold War has gone nuclear and all that’s left of the human race is the crew of the US moon base Falcon. Colonel Peterson is looking for a way home before the food runs out. Hopes lie in a partially understood piece of Nazi technology called the Bell.

To say more would be to give too much away – the story is only 43 pages long. Within this length Sales does a fine job of evoking the detached, almost mechanical efficiency of a team of men who, in the face of overwhelming tragedy have withdrawn into themselves. There is a starkness here reminiscent of Arthur C. Clarke at his most nuts and bolts cool.

In what is essentially a hard science fiction escape story unfolded against a detailed and well imagined alternative military / space exploration history, and perhaps too much tec. / maths talk for some tastes, Sales gradually reveals that character is all. There is good reason Peterson is on the moon rather than the front line, and the conclusion is chilling. Anyone who liked the idea of the recent SF film Moon, but found the execution too silly, will much prefer Sales’ more rigorous story.

Adrift on the Sea of Rains comes complete with an extensive list of abbreviations (looking them up while reading the story does tend to break the narrative flow), a lengthy glossary of the history of the US space program (real and imagined), bibliography and online resource list. This extra material totals another 20 pages.

Sales has written a strong story, but it is an unusual approach to self-publish something so short as a self-contained book. At 17,000 words or so it doesn’t quite class as a novella. The author explains the reasoning behind his decision on his blog. Even so, while Adrift of the Sea of Rains would grace any collection or anthology I am not sure it stands out so far ahead of other stories as to deserve individual publication. That said, it is well worth reading and now that it has been published makes a useful addition to any serious SF reader’s library.

June Writing Magazine

The June issue of Writing Magazine is out. Peter James is on the cover and interviewed inside talking about making crime pay. Discover “Why I’ll never write for the Daily Mail”. Julie Cohen discusses My Writing Day and there is advice from non-fiction agent Andrew Lownie, pieces on becoming a columnist, a home and garden writer and much more. Everything from handling controversial topics and moral ambiguity in fiction to help with online marketing from social media expert Rebecca Woodhead. Beat the Bestsellers looks back at Kenneth Grahame and regular features include Grumpy Old Bookman and From Script to Screen. And as usual I’m in there with assorted news and publishing  opportunities.

June 2012 Writing Magazine