Climbing back off the roof… virtually

Silence may or may not be golden, but I never liked gold.

The devil may or may not a) make work for idle hands and/or b)have all the best music but I cannot listen to music while I work and I’ve so much work on that idle writing has gone by the by. (As has a lot of important writing. And reading) But sometimes you just have to take a ‘time out’ to consider the maelstrom that is happening all around and to give credit where credit is due.

It’s a truth which may or may not be universally acknowledged by some people some of the time or all of those people who you can’t please all of the time, that it’s a hard row to hoe being a writer (not ‘hard’ in any ‘real’ sense you understand.) If I were to make a list of ‘hard’ jobs I’d not place writing in the top 100. Writing isn’t hard. In any ‘real’ sense. Mark Frankland points this out often enough on his brilliant blog which I turn to to get me ‘back in perspective’ on a regular basis. But ‘being a writer’ can be hard.  Let’s face it, just being ‘alive’ can be hard work sometimes (more than sometimes to a lot of people)

Am I coming to a point here? Maybe. I don’t know. All I want to say here and now is that while I’ve been busy avoiding the devil through music and idleness and keeping a kind of blog silence, a lot of things have happened and it’s time to NAME NAMES  (only to praise those who deserve it of course. The others, they can stew in their own…)

Mark Frankland has already had his mention. Mark blogs about things that matter. Mark lives a life that matters. Mark is just Mark. And he’s great.  If only he didn’t smoke so much. That’s just because I want him to be around for a LONG time so that we may all see a GOOD time some time.

So who else is worthy of mention in the Cally hall of fame this week?  In no particular order of merit here they are:

Lee Carrick  who has (perhaps somewhat nervously of my response?) written a review of A Week With No Labels.  He said things that are nice to hear. That show someone is getting the point of advocacy writing. And passing on the advocacy in his own way. Thanks Lee.  Especially since my ‘review’ of his first novel The Care Home pointed out what I felt were a few ‘structural’ issues – it’s great when people rise above ego and can live in the land of honesty.  The Care Home is a good read.  Don’t get me wrong.  If you’re looking for a way to spend 77p on an ebook (and come on, that’s a ludicrously cheap price) GET IT.  Published by McStorytellers.

In fact that means I have to digress and give thanks for Brendan Gisby (Mr McStoryteller) even if it bores you all to hear me praising him yet again. Brendan is definitely one of the good guys. Not just a great writer but a great advocate for other people’s writing. And a man with an element of pragmatism I sometimes lack. Brendan and I often come diametrically opposed to things but that’s great because when we are both prepared to work through the ‘problem’ or ‘issue’ we usually have all bases covered when we come out the other side.

I’m currently blowing a big sigh or relief that the ‘advice’ I gave Brendan some time ago to ‘go properly indie’ and escape from the clutches of other ‘small/indie/vanity’ press types he’d been published by has paid off for him.  And opened new doors. He’s publishing other people like it’s going out of fashion.  The McStorytellers imprint now has 23 titles to its name (that’s vying with Mark Frankland’s current 21 or is it 22 -I lose count – publications. ) So there’s no excuse not to get READING this long hot summer. And if you have a decent ereader (kobo, I can’t speak for kindle) you’ll find that there’s no glare even in the sun.  Ridiculously if you happen to have ‘upgraded’ to tablets Fire or ipad type things you probably can’t read ebooks outside any more. So dust out that dedicated ereader and READ.  Use the tablets for tablety things and the ereaders to READ (as long as you can handle the small screens which I have to say I find a bit of a pain even with my new expensive varifocal contact lenses but hey, the sun makes it worth the effort!)

Back to the Hall of Fame.

Bill Kirton is, it seems to me, a man who can always be relied upon in a crisis.  He understands absurdity and sometimes that’s just what you need in life.  Between him, he and Lee have (unwittingly)  given me a new mantra/strapline every bit as good as ‘writing the erevolution’ which I shall now reveal with drum roll  –  ‘we can use words to change the world.’  Okay, I think it may need a bit of work still, but I’m excited by the realisation that language in and of itself has a power which as writers we may harness for GOOD purposes.  Bill wrote a most thoughtful review of Jock Tamson’s Bairns at McVoices and singlehandedly pulled me back from the brink when I was deciding to completely give up advocacy publishing and spend more time with my vegetables. I’m generally a well motivated person, but sometimes it just really helps to have someone tell you that they think you aren’t wasting your (or their) time with your writing.  Thanks Bill. For review and email ‘support’.

And then we come to a few more ‘wee voices’

Tom Greenwood has recently come back from Cuba. Which gave me the opportunity to throw in my 10ps worth about the place (actually it’s more like about $100 worth)  I am always worried when I comment on other people’s posts that I might be seen as ‘hijacking’ them and this time I went off on one as I tend to do when Cuba is mentioned. Tom was graceful about it and even bought a copy of Another World is Possible.

This flurry of interest in Cuba (Jo Carroll travel writer extraordinaire and since there’s no WIMMIN mentioned here I’d best throw her in for good measure) is going to Cuba this winter and I’m so worried she won’t see ‘the real’ Cuba because she doesn’t speak Spanish, or that she won’t see ‘my’ Cuba because – uh, she is HER that I’ve been getting my wotsits in a twist wondering how and what to write to her to explain WHY I have to write to her.  I feel an email coming on. I apologise in advance Jo!)  Both Tom and Jo have shown me that ‘sitting on’ the first draft of The One That Got Away’ isn’t really the best thing to have done as now I have this first draft which is rough as a badgers bum which I think both Jo and Tom would like IF it were finished. Sigh.  There’s just never enough time even without that devil monkey on your back eh?  Resolve to get up even earlier, work even harder… etc etc.

And last but not least David Wailing.  Yesterday he had an online launch party for his Auto Series omnibus. I read some of the earlier ones and was blown away by them. I always say I don’t like sci fi and in some ways I don’t. I like the ‘classic’ Wyndham and Arthur C. Clarke (I’m not a charlatan) but I’ve never got into the sort of fantasy type stuff.  I haven’t (here’s a confession) read Tom Greenwoods first novel (even at 77p) yet because the names kind of put me off and make me fear the fantasy element.  Now Tom’s bought Another World I SHALL buy his book and place it strategically on my reading list.  (After I fill my boots with Auto Series obviously)  David has just bought a copy of my Brand Loyalty. I hope he’ll enjoy it. I think he will. It covers some of the same ground as Auto series (not as clever or skilfully as I feel he does but I had ‘other’ agendas as well being as I was trying to write something about the future which was not so much sci fi as an exploration of memory) but David and I both have a ‘thing’ about identity and so I can only hope he enjoys Brand Loyalty as much as I enjoy Auto Series. We’re not, in my mind, competitors in the market place at all, we are possibly offering complementary fare.

Which brings me to a salient point about ‘indie’ publishing (something I’ve stayed quite quiet about for a while while processing what happened as a result of a year reviewing for Indie ebook review site)  Through that experiment I found a lot of ‘writers’ who actually were just of the ‘promote self use others’ variety had seamlessly moved themselves ‘indie’. People who want reviews but never actually think they might read the work of the reviewer either before or after the review.  That saddened and somewhat shocked me. I had to take time to think about it.

And now, with the benefit of some thinking time:

It’s an interesting thing this ‘you read my book I’ll read yours’  It seems that there’s a notion that we  should think there’s something a bit suspect in that  (like trolls or sock puppet alerts) but hey folks, that’s part of what ‘indie’ writing is about. It’s about finding people you have some kind of a connection with – and guess what – you’ll probably find you might like their writing.  Of course sometimes they write in genres you’re not that familiar with (or claim not to like – for me thrillers and sci fi) But sometimes it’s worth stepping out of your comfort zone.  And when folks bother themselves with my writing, yes I do feel some compunction to ‘explore’ the worlds they have created and ‘meet’ them through their writing. I’m not ashamed to say that. Because part of what’s great about the ‘indie’ scene is that you can find writing that suits your own personal tastes.  And that you can then find a point or points of communication with the writers. You can get to know them.  (And if you’re me, you then invite them along to a festival!) I don’t think that being mediated by gatekeeper, guardian mainstream publishers guarantees me a ‘good read’ and I’m happy to take the responsibility on for myself to find what I want to read.  And if, in the process I make virtual (or real) friends of other writers, I’m not going to be embarrassed about that. It’s a good thing.

What’s not to like? Oh, okay you can’t ‘chat round the water cooler about the fashionable writing – uh, 50 shades of anything anyone? But you can read things you’d never have read while you grazed from the mainstream trough.  And that’s no bad thing.  Unless you want all your reading pre-packaged and homogenised off the supermarket shelves (in which case I’m sure you’re not even reading this!)  Time to stop being embarrassed about actually wanting to ‘make contact’ with other writers if you’re a writer or getting to know ‘live’ writers if you’re a reader. If you like what someone writes TELL THEM.  And tell other people.  It’s not about fashion, it’s about what we like to read. We may in some ways be defined as people by our reading choices. Don’t be afraid to be honest. Don’t be afraid to take some risks.  And don’t be afraid to tell people when they have made your day that little bit brighter.  The personal hall of fame is a great thing. And thanks to all those who I’ve mentioned today on mine.   There are many others of course who will have their day in the sun, I’m sure.

I should have provided links to all these great folks but if you just google any of their names and add writer you’ll find them easily enough!  Go make some friends. And tell them Cally sent you.

I suppose I could have labelled this post Two Reviews, Two Book sales a party and a trip to Cuba. But we’re always wise after the event eh?

Meanwhile, back to work. Much writing AND reading to be done!

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Festival update…

Edinburgh eBook Festival 2013

derekWhere in the world is Derek the Weathersheep?

It’s been a torrid time in festival virtuality recently. Only yesterday festival scheduling ground to a halt.  Reason? Took a while to find out.  ‘Question about content’ – but eventually it turned out it wasn’t about ‘quality’ but about ‘quantity.’  Apparantly it is unreasonable to plan ahead. (for free, I bet you can if you pay premium rates) 100 scheduled posts is the limit. We have 165 events (more of that later) so we ‘bust our limit’ by being organised in advance.  So now Week 2 has to be saved as ‘draft’ and scheduled in quickly while the festival is underway. You the festival goer shouldn’t even notice this, but it was annoying enough to mention ESPECIALLY in the light of a more iniquitous thing that happened yesterday.

Derek the Weathersheep has been banned off Facebook (possibly not the first time this…

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