Sunday, 21 March 2010

Bookwitch - on Hamish McHaggis

Why not drop in on Bookwitch  to see how she is getting to grips with Hamish McHaggis and a few Scots words and phrases.

Here are Hamish and the rest of the McHaggis clan from all over the world as they set off on their tour of Scotland in the double-decker Whirry Bang bus!

From Hamish McHaggis and the Clan Gathering

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Does size matter? ABBA post....

What length is the right length for a book?  

Surely a book should be as long or as short as the story demands?

I know we as writers have to work in the commercial world of publishing if we want to see our work in print. But does this mean writing longer and longer books because there is a perception that a book needs to the thick enough to sell?

This line of thought was prompted by  an article in the Guardian yesterday .

There are some amazing books that are short, sharp and work because of their length, and others that are a delight because they are long and involved.  As a reader I know there are times I want to get lost in a long book, or even a series of lengthy novels, to live with the characters for a longer time  but there are also times when I want to dip into something that will charm and delight me because of the pared down prose.

When Spider came out it got some great reviews but the occasionally someone would mention that it was a short novel for teenagers, as if that might be a problem.  It is short, but as far as I am concerned it is the right length for the story and for the way it is told.  I could have added padding to make it a longer book, but  would that have made it a better read?  I don't think so.

My new book Dead Boy Talking will be a similar length.  Some readers have said they like that length because it was less daunting and they felt confident they would finish it.  Others just enjoyed the fast pace that might be difficult to sustain in a much longer novel.

Personally I feel that if publishers are pushing for longer books because it seems like they might sell better I think that is a dangerous road to go down, a similar avenue to the thinking behind publishing celebrity authors whether they can write or not.

The writing, the plot, characters and the story have to be what dictates length, or am I being naive in this commercial world?

Do you think length matters?

Read my blog  - Bookwords -
Visit my website - to find out about
my new book Dead Boy Talking - published June 2010- Strident Publishing

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Sunday, 14 March 2010

Delgatie castle - great place for a creative writing day!

Last week I ventured into deepest Aberdeenshire.
One of the things that I enjoy about being asked on author visits is that I get the chance to see new places, meet lots of new people and generally the experience is a good one - although there have been times... less said about them the better!

Thankfully this was a great experience.  I was asked to visit               Delgatie Castle which is near Turriff in Aberdeenshire.
The wonderfully enthusiastic local librarians had organised a writing day.  I was working with fellow tutor, author and poet Kenneth Stevens.

The snow, evident here, had cleared a bit before we got there but at least one of the small ponds in the garden was still frozen over when we arrived.  The sun shone and as I was running the workshops in one of the beautiful stone-clad castle rooms,  sunlight was streaming in the windows most of the day.

The ladies who run the kitchen in the castle had provided beautiful homemade scones to accompany the morning coffee and tea, and a delightful lunch, too, which were served in the Laird's Kitchen in the castle. This provided a chance to chat before and after the workshops.

The writers were all keen, some experienced and some beginners, but it was a great day and I hope they enjoyed it all as much as I did.

Sometimes staying away can be a bit of a hit or miss but again this was proving to be a good one.  I was staying in the area for a few days and stayed in the small but very comfortable
Redgarth Hotel which is situated on the hill above Oldmeldrum.  My room looked over to the snow-covered hills, the view skimming the rooftops of Oldmeldrm. It was delightful and the continental breakfast served in my room in the mornings was just perfect.
I had a visit to Meldrum Academy the following day to speak to some S5/6 students who had volunteered to come along for a creative writing workshop. They worked hard but we had some laughs and I am sure there will be some very good writing produced from these young writers in the future, they were a credit to the school and their teachers.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Out of Print- feels sad- like I've lost a friend

A strange thing happened to me today.  I discovered one of my books had gone out of print -  it has gone....possibly forever,  and the strange thing is how sad it made me feel.  I wasn't expecting that.

I was busy putting things together in preparation for trips away over the next few weeks -it being March that exciting time when World Book Day celebrations seem to extend to much of the month. I was in cheerful mood I had a great event yesterday with a class in the local library, they had been very responsive and they seemed to have enjoyed it as much as I did. I was speaking about myths and legends something I'd not done for a while and  I based the talk around one of my books  The Trojan Horse and other Greek Myths. 

Yes, I know it's not exactly a catchy title but it does what it says on the cover, 6 Greek myths retold as fairly short stories. They are a good length for using during a talk ( or in class, which they were designed for).

I wrote this book a while ago for an educational publisher and  it had strict guidelines but the most challenging part had been to find 6 Greek myths that could be easily told and were appropriate for primary school children. 

One of the other interesting facets of the book was that the stories were designed to be read by different abilities within a class, but not obviously so.    The first two were easier to read,  the middle two were for the average reader and those struggling could read them with assistance and the last two were more challenging. 

When I checked my bookshelf I realised I had only a couple of copies of the book and thought I would like to have a few more so I emailed the publisher and asked about buying some.  Today I got an email to tell me that the book was not only out of print but there were no copies of it left.

The editor did apologise that this had happened as I should have been told beforehand and offered any copies they had left and I accept that mistakes happen and there is not much that can be done about it, but it is irritating because the exact same thing happened not that long ago with another book, again one about myths and legends...

Is there a connection, are the myths fading and disappearing all by themselves..... makes you wonder if there's not something weird going on here........  ?

But seriously, I was surprised at how sad I felt when I thought that the book was no longer in print.   I didn't expect that I hadn't realised the attachment I still had to this book which I wrote some years ago. 

Is it the fact that you put so much of yourself into every book, the creative energy, lavishing love and attention, time spent on research and crafting the words, that when they are suddenly not there...?

I feel a bit like that chap in the advert who goes looking for a copy of his book and then you see the delight on his face when he finds a copy!  At least I have a couple of copies left.