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The Right Words in the Wrong Order

It is when things go slightly awry that the best stuff happens. At least, that’s the excuse I’m using. Welcome to my blog. It is, and no doubt will remain, a work in progress essentially describing the journey to publication of my novel The Backstreets of Purgatory and all things related to its content. For the moment that means Glasgow (where it is set) and art (Caravaggio is one of the stars of the show). But that’s just for starters. All digressions, anomalies and inconsistencies are part of a greater plan. Unfortunately I’m not sure what that is yet.

PS If you’ve signed up to my email list and haven’t received your FREE SHORT STORY, check your spam folder incase it is hiding out there. If it isn’t, contact me and I’ll make sure you get it somehow.

Unbound and Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh

Come along to meet some new writers, discover more about an innovative company and support your local independent bookshop.

Are you a writer, a reader? Are you interested in publishing or being published? Are you a bookshop devotee or an ebook enthusiast?

Yes, yes, yes, of course!! If you happen to be near Edinburgh on Wednesday 10th May, I’d love to see you at a special panel event featuring myself and three other Unbound authors, Martine McDonagh, Ian Skewis and Tabatha Stirling. The event is being hosted by Stockbridge’s wonderful independent bookshop, Golden Hare Books in the glorious surroundings of the Great Hall of St Stephen’s, Stockbridge.

Photo of St Stephen's Stockbridge, Edinburgh
St Stephen’s, Stockbridge, Edinburgh

We all know the publishing and bookselling industry is changing fast. The boundaries between traditional publishing and the standard model of self-publishing are blurring as innovative companies like Unbound challenge the status quo. Unbound’s radical new publishing model takes traditional publishing and combines it with a crowdfunding platform. Their ethos is to publish adventurous, exciting books, produced to an impeccable standard, for a readership who are eager to support these books.

And how often do we hear about bookshops struggling? Far too often, I’m sure you’ll agree. So it is fantastic to find an independent bookseller who is going great guns. Golden Hare Books opened its doors in 2012 in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket before moving to its current location in Stockbridge three years ago. The bookshop has a small team of knowledgable staff who are all avid readers and deeply involved in the literary world. Community involvement, collaborations with artists and writers, story and craft sessions for youngsters—Golden Hare Books is committed to being a space for everyone to come and celebrate books. And it isn’t only about the words inside but also books as physical objects, as objects of beauty. I can certainly relate to that. Cover designs, the weight of a book in your hands, the ruffle and smell of freshly turned pages. Bookshop heaven.

From 6 pm until 8.30 pm, while you sip a glass of wine in the beautiful surroundings of the Great Hall in St Stephen’s Stockbridge, the four Unbound authors will discuss the pros and cons, the highs and lows, the success and the difficulties of our crowdfunding campaigns. Although we have all written novels, there the similarity ends. Our projects span hardback, paperback and digital editions, some of us are published, some of us funded or still funding. You can find out more about each of us on Golden Hare’s event page (where you can also buy tickets), or follow the links on our names above to our Unbound pages.

The Great Hall is a magnificent space. It would be fantastic to be able to fill it. Admission is ticketed and the tickets cost only £2 (and you get a glass of wine for that). Come along to meet some new writers, discover more about an innovative company and support your local independent bookshop. We’re looking forward to meeting you!

Image credit: St Stephen’s Centre, Magnus Hagdorn, Flickr reproduced under a Creative Commons licence.

 

 

West End Pat answers my Proust Questionnaire

Pat Byrne: smitten with the West End of Glasgow and intrigued by the people, the parks, the history, the architecture and the atmosphere

Logo for Glasgow West End: Pat's Guide

Pat Byrne is the person behind Glasgow West End: Pat’s Guide, a website aimed at promoting this great part of Glasgow. It focuses on the local community, with a ‘what’s on’ guide and loads of useful information about restaurants, shops, pubs, galleries and more. She’s also a writer and involved in other projects, most recently Ten Writers Telling Lies, a unique collaboration between a group of storytellers, poets and the singer-songwriter Jim Byrne and which was performed as a live event and is now available as a book with an accompanying CD.

Pat was born in Glasgow’s Royal Maternity Hospital (known to most of us as Rottenrow) but her childhood was spent in Old Kilpatrick, a village half way between Glasgow and Loch Lomond.  As a child, one of her great treats was to go ‘up the town’ so the city has always been close to her heart but her discovery of the West End came later, as a student in the 1970s. Now, she says she’s ‘smitten’ with the area Continue reading “West End Pat answers my Proust Questionnaire”

Ecstasy (and a tiny bit of agony)

Celebration time. The Backstreets of Purgatory, my debut novel, has reached its crowdfunding target. The special edition will be published by Unbound later this year. The commercial edition should be available in a bookshop near you sometime early next year. Since I heard the news just more than a week ago, I’ve been wandering around in a bit of a daze with a huge grin on my face, not able to concentrate on anything productive. I’m thrilled, excited, totally chuffed.

And more than a teeny bit scared.

A few years ago, I had a short story published in the (now sadly defunct) Ranfurly Review. Titled very imaginatively as The Kiss, it stars Ade who is in hindsight certainly a forerunner to Finn (the main character in Backstreets), and Crystal, a transvestite who despite not bothering to shave when she goes out on the razz Continue reading “Ecstasy (and a tiny bit of agony)”

Little Blog of Horrors’ Ayden Millar answers my Proust questionnaire

My favourite journey? The drive up north to The Drovers Inn or Rest And Be Thankful. Scotland is just bloody breathtaking.

The latest contributor to my Proust questionnaire series is Ayden Millar, a Scottish lifestyle blogger based in Glasgow. I came across her Little Blog Of Horrors when I was browsing Glasgow blogs and was immediately impressed by the the fabulous mix of content, how well written it was, and how striking the photographs were. (Actually, to be honest, what first impressed me was how flipping cool she was.)

Ayden’s blog started life as a university project when she was studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) where she was encouraged to keep an online journal of her work, experiences and reflections. Once she discovered the fashion, beauty and lifestyle community which existed online, it started to develop into something much more personal and less uni related. Seven years later, she works freelance in the art department for the TV industry and updates her blog regularly.

On the Little Blog of Horrors you can find everything from fashion to makeup, hair and skin care, tattoos (Ayden has some cracking tattoos), and her favourite places to eat, drink and play in Glasgow and beyond. Here she obligingly and honestly answers my rather intrusive questions, introduces me to a poet and an artist that I didn’t know (but probably ought to have), and reveals her slightly unsettling obsession with zombie apocalypse scenarios and her shameless delight in bbq sauce stuffed-crust pizza (who even knew that was a thing?).

1. What was the first music that you ever paid for?

The Spice Girls’ Album, ‘Spice’ in 1994.

2. What was the most recent music that you paid for?

A cheeky wee pre-order of my boyfriend’s band’s latest self-titled album, Alburn.

3. What was the most recent book you read?

A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled by Ruby Wax.

4. What is your favourite novel?

The Beach by Alex Garland.

5. Who is your favourite poet? Continue reading “Little Blog of Horrors’ Ayden Millar answers my Proust questionnaire”

Let’s be Frank. Writing critiques: the diplomatic, the honest and the just plain rude

And I remember…the crushing humiliation the first time the faults in a piece of work that I considered to be a masterpiece were gently and tactfully revealed to me in all their over-written and pretentious glory.

Recently I had the enormous privilege of critiquing an early draft of a short story written by a friend. This is the sort of thing I love doing but also one of the things that I find tricky to carry off. At least, the part where I summarise my thoughts.

As a veteran (or perhaps a more suitable term would be ‘recovering addict’) of creative writing courses (Open College of Arts, Open University, Lancaster University) and having been for several years now part of a cohort of writing friends who share work regularly, the task is something with which I’m pretty familiar. I love the process of picking apart the structure, the details, the dialogue in a piece of work. Of scrutinising everything that is written to see if it is essential or if Continue reading “Let’s be Frank. Writing critiques: the diplomatic, the honest and the just plain rude”

Fillide Melandroni: Caravaggio’s crooked-fingered courtesan

A world of poverty, violence and prostitution, where a pimp claimed his profits in cash and in favours, where knife fights and scarring were common, where the girls were both the victims and perpetrators.

Phillida mia, più che i ligustri bianca,

Più vermiglia che ‘l prato a mezzo Aprile

She may have shared a name with a pale-skinned, rosy-cheeked, golden-haired shepherdessly love-interest in Jacopo Sarazzano’s seminal pastoral poem Arcadia —a prose poem considered to be the first literary work of the Renaissance which was wildly popular at the time of its publication and whose influence can be heard in the work of, among others, William Shakespeare, John Milton and Philip Sydney (who wrote a version of his own)—but Caravaggio’s model Fillide Melandroni, at home among the drinking dens and brothels in the medieval heart of sixteenth century Rome, was an altogether more streetwise creature.

Although she was born in Siena, Fillide had been in Rome since she was a youngster. When she was barely in her teens, she was put to work as a prostitute by her mother. The traces of her that can be found in the archives and the court records show that she was frequently in trouble with the authorities, and not simply for prostitution.

By all accounts, Fillide was a girl with attitude. Take the incident in December 1600 when she suspected that the relationship between her pimp, Ranuccio Tommasoni, and another of his ‘girls’, Prudenza Zacchia, was more than simply transactional. Continue reading “Fillide Melandroni: Caravaggio’s crooked-fingered courtesan”

Crowdfunding your novel: 3 campaign tips and 5 ways (not) to cope with the stress

I have a good line in quackery and jargon that may assuage many of the problems you are presently encountering

Dear Doctor Taylor,

For the last six months, I have been crowdfunding my novel The Backstreets of Purgatory with Unbound. Although I am making good progress, certain things are beginning to concern me. Recently I have noticed that when I start a conversation, my partner’s eyes glaze and he stares wistfully over my shoulder as if he is reminiscing about a time when our conversations sparked with such intellectual firecrackers as whether it is acceptable to add milk while the tea bag is still in the mug, or whether Cheddar or Gruyère makes better cheese on toast.

Tea bag in a mug of milky tea
Milk before the teabag is out? Unacceptable, surely.

Worryingly, whenever we are out and about and I open my bag to rummage through it, he flinches and distances himself from me as if I’m about to batter him with a baseball bat, which is frankly ridiculous because Continue reading “Crowdfunding your novel: 3 campaign tips and 5 ways (not) to cope with the stress”

Novelist Catherine Hokin answers my Proust Questionnaire

I can’t choose between gravy-based and custard-based options

Blood and Roses by Catherine Hokin

The second victim in my series of Proust questionnaires is the Glasgow-based author and novelist Catherine Hokin. Not only is she a fabulous writer but she is extremely generous and supportive of the rest of us who are trying to do the same thing. In her debut novel Blood and Roses, she draws on her fascination with medieval history, political propaganda and hidden female voices to bring a new perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses.

The theme of Catherine’s blog posts and articles is often dangerous women and I suspect that, under her apparently gentle exterior, she may be a pretty dangerous woman herself. Her answer to my first question is evidence enough.

Here she struggles with that age-old dilemma—whether to go for a gravy-based or custard-based meal—and reveals a slightly bizarre situation involving hats with animal ears (a situation that cannot possibly be hypothetical as it has clearly left her traumatised).

1. What was the first music you ever paid for?

Telegram Sam by T-Rex—it was a red vinyl 45. I was impressed [Ed: Me too. Impressed, that is].

2. What was the most recent music that you paid for?

Does shifting to Premium Spotify on the basis of severe guilt count? If so it would be Positive Songs by Negative People by Frank Turner.

3. What was the most recent book you read?

 The Devil’s Feast by Miranda Carter—delicious.

4. What is your favourite novel?

Wise Children by Angela Carter.

5. Who is your favourite poet?

I’m meant to have one of those by now but it hasn’t quite happened. I’m a bit more of a prose person.

6. What is your favourite work of art?

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

7. What is your favourite museum?

The Kelvingrove in Glasgow.

8. What would you spend your last tenner on?

I’m assuming this is an apocalyptic scenario so a Continue reading “Novelist Catherine Hokin answers my Proust Questionnaire”