Awesome Indies

aia_webadgeI was very pleased yesterday to receive this badge of Approval for my collection of ironic short stories, Me-Time Tales, from Awesome Indies.

I can officially say that Me-Time Tales, tea breaks for mature women and curious men is ‘Awesome Indies Approved’ or ‘has been awarded a place on the Awesome Indies list of quality independent fiction.’ 3D-PB_opt

 Male/female – perfect to pocket for a holiday, or in the long wait in traffic to get there!

The book gets a badge and my website gets this one. In the spirit of cross-fertilization, I have to admire the design. The watch works suggest that time is not to be wasted (in getting the writing done) and the gold reminds of the gift a worthy worker was given when he retired after a long period of contributing his skills to the firm/organization, or perhaps won a prestigious contract for the firm. I’m all for badges of approval.

In Awesome Indies case, they have a mission.  Two of these aims are to:

Identify and honor independently published books that meet, or improve on, the standard of books published by major mainstream publishers and their imprints.
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Raise the standard of independent publishing,

‘Self-published’ is gradually becoming less of a blight on a writer’s mojo, and with

initiatives such as Awesome Indies, the momentum towards quality increases. We all know that anyone can publish a book, that marketers will promote them as long as there is money in it. This is true of mainstream publishers too. If there is a huge market for an author, publishers will take him/her on, agents will gladly represent him/her.

The organization I am glad, in fact, grateful to belong to is author-member

The Alliance of Independent Authors. This has a wealth of skilled professionals all aiming for a high quality in the writing of fiction and non-fiction, and helping authors in different ways to achieve this. Quality is not just in the writing, but in the presentation of the book. Many writers will bemoan that this aspect takes as long or longer than the writer. More to be said about this in another post . . .

Bath Literary Festival, 1. Two authors, two issues.

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New authors might sit back and consider the undercurrent in their fiction. Despite a variety in the subject matter, authors may unconsciously repeat themes that have marked their lives.

March 2015. Bath Literary Festival offered its usual treats, the most popular being the talk by Kasuo Ishiguro, booked out within minutes of the programme going live. His first novel for ten years, The Buried Giant, has surprised readers by its fantasy genre. Ishiguro suggested that all of his novels had an underflow of unspok

BuriedGianten, part forgotten material.  There may be fantastic creatures in his novel but ‘buried’ in his title refers obliquely to the human tendency for suppressing memories about painful matters.

He had given a wonderful one-hour interview on BBC4 covering similar ground, whereas Elif Safak was newer to the Bath audience.

The two authors had ‘burying’ in common. Shafak referred to the ‘collective amnesia’ of Turkey, uncomfortable events in history more easily ignored if historic artefacts were not preserved.

medium_01-elif-shafakSpeaking fluently, extemporaneously and passionately in her third language, Safak also had amnesia on her mind, collective amnesia, for so much has been suppressed. The role of the woman, the existence of minorities. There is little urban memory, so that residents do not know the origin of their street names, for instance, and are not encouraged to ask questions or to care about the past. Shafak mourns the loss of cosmopolitanism in Turkey, which is why she loves London. The variety of cultures, nations, sub-groups is precious and stimulates creativity.

As a lonely child, Shafak found the books she read more real than the Turkish world around her. The questions she asked, the situations she wrote about, caused social bullying. She was spat at in the street, prosecuted for her first book, and her work came to the world in translation.

Shafak gave the listeners an insight into the current Turkish situation that was far more powerful than a description of her latest book (The Architect’s Apprentice, out late April).  It was a talk which had the full hall flocking to her queue as soon as her event ended.

‘No,’ she advised a questioner. ‘In the evenings, the streets (in Istanbul) belong to the men.’

Istanbul

There was a parallel with Ishiguro’s talk. Ishiguro had rebelled against being an author who ‘explained Japan’ to other audiences. (He has lived in England since childhood). Safak had ridden the salt water of being a female author in a patriarchal society, so that the ‘wonder’ of her success appeared to be solely that she was a woman.  Both authors wanted recognition for the content of their novels, not to be defined by the stereotype.

But the real highlight of this literary festival came in the smaller room, the salon, with a smaller quieter audience, many of whom were deaf. London-based artist and writer Louise Stern grew up in Freemont, California, and is the fourth generation deaf in her family. Her debut novel ‘Ismael and His Sisters’ is set in a Mexican deaf community and is an extraordinary analysis of the way we experience the world and the barriers we build out of language. She hardly talked about her book, but about communication. It was very powerful.

That is the subject of my next post.

Confused identity

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An emergence from tragedy

This is the first of my reviews of self-published or very small press fiction. In fact, it is not to be published for another few weeks, but I think you will want to put this on your wishlist.

I read Tracey Scott-Townsend’s first book, The Last Time I saw Marion, and was impressed by the quality of writing and unique storyline. When I received Another Rebecca I wondered if the quality would remain, but I wasn’t disappointed.

The title suggests that we are in for a retake at Manderley, but no. This is not a Du Maurier sequel. The other Rebecca is a reformation of her mother, who has the same name. She now calls herself Bex to differentiate from the girl she once was, and sadly, is no more.

The novel opens on a dreamy sequence that is a time slip. Rebecca flits from hospital into a fantastic and erotic adventure, but it doesn’t last long. When we return to the present time, it is clear why Rebecca needs (and deserves) to escape reality.

She lives in a miserable and increasingly crisis-laden home, abandoned by father, caring for an alcoholic mother.

There are three voices: the girl, Rebecca, her mother, Bex and Jack, her seemingly errant father. The language is similar for the two parents, whereas Rebecca has gained more education and maturity despite being a young person.

The alcoholic mother whinges her way to disaster, yet in the chapters in her voice we find the remains of what could have been a nice person. The disgusting state she has got herself into isn’t minimized but the background story, built up slowly, shows her jagged path to destruction.

This author is skilled at setting a conflict from which the story can flow. We soon learn that Jack is caught up in a no-win situation that was caused by his kindness, not his neglect. It is easy to sympathise with his position, torn between competing emotional forces.

Our identification is with the Rebecca whose future is before her. The mystery surrounds and is a part of her, interacting with the art that inspires and possesses her.

As the narrative progresses, it becomes more complex and the fantasy Rebecca began with permeates the theme in a new way. The significance of the title comes into its own. Finally, the tangled threads of these three characters’ story reach their conclusion, making for a thoroughly satisfying read.

This is a thoughtful, well-structured novel with good characterisation. The life-style and thought-processes of the alcoholic are credible, as is the good-heartedness, yet ineffectiveness of the husband. Scott-Townsend has not made the mistake of painting her characters black and white. The positives and weaknesses are carefully revealed.

There are some lyrical descriptions of scenes that add to the pleasure of reading this interesting story. It should please readers of fantasy as well as those who enjoy tales of family conflict.

 

Can Christmas be free?

HAPPY CHRISTMAS READERS, WRITERS AND EVEN CASUAL VISITORS.

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Oh, no, Christmas is never FREE. Even if you don’t spend a cent or a schilling, a pound or a lire, you are unlikely to be free of some responsibility, even if it’s just that of being thankful for the efforts others have made for you.

However –

BOOK ONE of A RELATIVE INVASION – INTRUSION – is FREE – on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

If you’re out of touch with such days of celebration, that’s 25th and 26th December.

Eat, drink and read yourself merry.

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Here’s the link for Japan http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/product/B00NW97US6

but it’s free in US, UK, Europe and S.America too.

The saddest thing I’ve heard is the solo person’s Christmas pack of a tiny pudding, single person ready meal and a one-ended cracker.  Fancy not including a book! To me, a book is essential for Christmas. If you’re on your own, ideal company, a way of leaving sad aspects of this world and joining others in some fantastic adventure or dilemma. If you’re socialising in a crowd and it all gets too much, how wonderful to sink back into an inconspicuous armchair and disappear behind your book. Even a refugee or a rejectee can be empowered during a good read.

Yes, reading does make you free – of the moment, of the company of irritants, of old ideas, to meet people from other worlds or carry favourites from home. See that book-shaped bulge in the bag of the boy at the back? (Note my alliteration!)

entrainedEvac     The Latin Quarter, Paris, France

Whatever your circumstances, I hope Christmas is a good day, one way or another. I hope you discover a book you come to love, and if that’s mine, how wonderful. It will take you into Billy’s world where he worries about his manipulative cousin, while his parents worry about Hitler. Are these emotions so different? Is Cousin Kenneth’s invasion really of a different nature, psychologically, from the Nazis?  In any case, read and enjoy. And it’s not cost you a dime.

Xmas Sav(i)ours – book prezzies

Luckily, Auntie May brought a red paper cover to save the purple cloth from gravy stains. It clashes with the mustard coloured curtains just as badly, but now the glasses are filled everyone’s eyes are focussed elsewhere.  

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In the last post you were faced with your Christmas fellow guests and the solution for ensuring you had more than the most predictable bendable rectangle wrapped in red paper with green conifer design and tin gold curlable twine. Worse still, the ultimate insult: a book token. (“You couldn’t even be bothered to choose something for me!”) NOW FOR THE FUN GAME: Match the book to the beast. (You have to go back to the last post to review the guest list.)  Remember Auntie May has now joined the group. She has flapping jowls but a good heart and will open herself to a chunky read. The books are in random order so as not to help you too much and spoil the game. There are no winners and no wrong answers, only possibly outraged guests if you choose unwisely.

Shi Cheng:Short Stories from Urban China., edited by Liu Deng. Published by Comma Press

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I reviewed these stories in an earlier post. They are of high quality in the writing and in the translation. Let s/he who reads enjoy the irony.

SeaMonsters

                      Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps

                           by Chet van Duzer

Good chance s/he hasn’t seen this one. The sea monsters depicted on medieval and Renaissance maps are analyzed here in beautiful illustrations. The insight into how European thought regarded them is well considered. A person of culture and with an enquiring mind should enjoy this present  

A La Mere De Famille: Artisanal recipes by Julian Merceron, Hardie Grant books. A really lovely present for a deserving person of discernment, this book is something special. From the moment you open the cover, outstanding designs delight your eyes.  Pages of gorgeous confections make you want to rush to that wonderful shop. 

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Schottenfreude, Ben Schott.

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For the wearisome pedant. Attractively presented, small enough to get on the tree. A lengthy German word for each condition/eccentricity. I especially liked the word for someone who extols their description of wine but knows nothing about it.  Potential swearing epithets to non-German speakers, the book provides tremendous up-your-nose fodder. As the family and friends expire, over-filled and -swilled after the Christmas dinner, you say ‘Well of course, in Germany there’s a word for that feeling – totally full, bloated, but sensing that just one more port will fill you with Christmas joy.

The Memory Palace: The book of lost interiors – Edward Hollis MemoryPalace Just the thing for an aesthete. The    fragments of five significant spaces painstakingly recreated to stimulate imagination, fictions and ultimately remembering.

                                            Ramadan Sky by Nichola Hunter published by Authonomy (HC)

RamadanSkycover_2  Jerk someone out of their Mills and Boon. Older competent foreign woman, younger handsome inconsequential man, dependent, trusting fiancee. Wow. Should it happen, even in Jakarta?

SCRAPS – ed. CALUM KERR

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Anyone with a concentration problem? Flash fiction is the answer. Get these prize-winning ones so that the short bites are satisfying.

Me-Time Tales: Tea-breaks for mature women and curious men. Rosalind Minett

Tea breaks for mature women and curious menAll kinds of women unlocked. Dinner guests may be recognised.
                 Short stories with a dark edge. For the wry and cynical who can still cope with a smile.
 
The Creative License – Danny Gregory

Danny GregoryWho wouldn’t love the cover of a messy, interesting room? Inside there are lots of drawings, exercises, incitements to create and find the artistic muse within oneself. Look around, you know who feels like just such a person, who only needs to be freed, darling, if only people would tolerate just a little move from the predictable.

Memories of a Gnostic Dwarf   David Marsden

This is for the guy you need to lock himself in the study, preferably for the rest of Christmas. I’ve pictured the earlier version because the current one advertises too clearly that there are naughty bits inside. In fact this is a very good and interesting book indeed, but there is graphic detail of sexual matters and of violent acts even more.  If you are really fed up with Derek (or whoever) the early description of a noble arse is suitable for a post-prandial puke.

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All these books are available from or via Amazon UK. Independent bookshops often get a book in by the next day. “Not many people know that.”

Writers’ and Readers’ Last Minute Xmas Sav(i)ours

Yes it’s that time again. Mary couldn’t get a cloth to match the curtains and Reginald’s special chair ruins the symmetry of the display. Now, Harold’s coming, totally unplanned-for, there’ll have to be a rattan chair from the conservatory squeezed onto a corner between – ? – whoever looks thinnest on arrival. PRESENTS!!! Thank goodness for the last minute saviours discussed hereSONY DSC

There are characters sorry, personable individuals whom you know, and what’s more have to suddenly buy for. (Yes, we’re all busy, can’t remember everyone) OR (ouch, didn’t know he’d be there for lunch so didn’t buy him anything. He’s bound to embarrass me by bringing something lovely)  It all adds up to: “Must get something for Betty or Betram, but what???”

Let me help. Books can come in different sizes, shapes and surprises.

Ignore that set of highly reviewed and popularised paperbacks on the front tables of your local large bookstore.  Other people will have had the same thought – “Ah, the latest X or Y” (I daren’t specify or my life won’t be worth living).  Be original.  You can’t? You have gone blank with Christmasistis? Here are some books that will please more than one of the following people. If so, their pleasure may warm your attitude towards them. Christmas is the time of Goodwill to All Men. I’m sure this was meant to include women. The books do.

Working out which book for which person is a small problem; all the rest is done for you.

CHRISTMAS GUESTS INCLUDE:
Lorraine: She has frequent periods of depression following failed relationships. In her downs she retires to bed and reads avidly. Take those romances away, they only make her cry. She needs mental stimulation and a new way of thinking. If she can’t cope, there’s flash fiction. That means she can be diverted between pages.

Cyril:     Once he represented HM as consul in a distant island. Life was slow, uncultured and extremely comfortable. Now returned, he is at a loose end, swings between part-time and futile consultancies and no longer feels sufficiently important. He needs a book that will give him instant gravitas.

Avril:     Sharper than we would like her to be, she appears to have read EVERYTHING, mostly with a cynical eye. She needs to be charmed, to be softened up, to learn that books exist outside her realm.

Dominic:   He is a dandy, valuing appearance far too much. Apart from a mirror, he needs to think big, and particularly to think. Go carefully, too taxing a book will prevent him from opening the cover. 

StJohn:          Actually he is a late middle-aged reviewer on DareISayIt newspaper. He thinks he has his eye on everything literary. Most people buy him rare brandy or titbits from Fortnum and Mason’s. Surprise him and he will admire you for ever. But it better be good.

Tom:            He gains enormous pleasure from reading books that have faults. It will fill the room with his tenor bleats if you can find a badly edited book with an erudite author. Unfortunately, I dare not nominate one or every word I write in the future will have spit on it. The other alternative is a book that deliberately compiles mistakes but this is a poor substitute.

Adrienne:    She reads romances hidden between the pages of Margaret Atwell novels and now she has run out of this fodder.  I have just the book for her. An unequal relationship, breached ethics. Let her brood on the outcomes of forbidden lust. OR accept the unlocking of certain females.

Siobhan:      She’s everyone’s cousin, newly arrived from time overseas and totally, but totally out of touch, darlings.  Give her a break. Let her eat cake. There’s plenty in one book here.

Mary:            Always the hostess, never the guest. Give her something so gripping she won’t bother ever making a hot toddy for anyone again, let alone a cooked meal, particularly gourmet. 

Derek:          Was he invited???? I can’t bear him. Can you? No, no-one can, the pontificating has-been. Anywhere, here he is bearing orchids reduced price from B and Q masquerading as high class florist’s choice for “lovely ladies”.  Uck.  Give him something that will make him see women differently. OR a huge book that will cause him to retire to the study almost permanently.

It was a ‘no-kids’ invite, thank goodness. Kids books might emerge on another post. But only if amazingly different.

Have fun with the party games, everyone. Here is one of them is ‘fit the book to the beast.’

PREZZIE CHOICE: SEE DESCRIPTIONS IN THE FOLLOWING POST. Author names include: Kerr, Schott, Merceron, Minett, Deng, Hollis, but there are more . . .