How to survive the quiet times: A guide for writers, part 4

Toothpaste and forkAlmost every freelance writer experience the occasional lull. In this series of guest posts, freelance journalist Deborah Willimott offers some favourite tips for surviving those quiet times.

Survival tip 4: Seek food

Despite having hours of free time in which to go to the supermarket, flancers never have any food in the house. After your email inbox, the fridge is the second most depressing thing a flancer can open due to lack of exciting content.

It is difficult to describe the depression that descends when, after deciding to console yourself over another work-free morning with a coffee and a nice piece of cheese on toast you discover that you don’t have any bread, cheese, milk or coffee, and have to make do with a steaming mug of boiled water.

For the majority, all the cupboard has to offer is powdered milk, a jar of sweetener (which you momentarily consider adding to boiling water), a tin of flageolet beans and a Christmas Pudding that’s been there since 1990.

At this point, your blood sugar has hit rock bottom, all you have to eat is toothpaste and so you call a parent/guardian/older sibling, sobbing about how your only prospects for dinner are a bowl of pasta with an oxo cube dissolved in it.

Hopefully they will make reassuring noises and put some money in your bank account/invite you over for a hot meal, and mid-way through the conversation you will remember that there is *definitely* a packet of Malteasers in your handbag which you had forgotten about.

Crisis averted!

Survival tip 1: Become a ‘Curtain Twitcher’
Survival tip 2: : Accept the commission from hell

Survival tip 3: Google your illnesses
Survival tip 5: Experiment with a new computer font
Survival tip 6:  Consider organising your accounts

Awaiting the arrival of The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby film stillThe long-awaited Baz Luhrmann adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s remarkable The Great Gatsby comes out this week, and I can barely contain myself. I’m currently rereading the battered old Scribner edition I’ve had since my teens and can’t stop marvelling at the way Fitzgerald so seemingly effortlessly conjures up an entire world and time with his attempt to “write something new – something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.”

The book is a work of art, and if Baz Luhrmann’s track record is anything to go by, the film starring Leonardo Di Caprio is likely to be just as sumptuous a visual feast as this era of jazz, flappers and bootleggers deserves.

fitzgerald-the-great-gatsbyTo celebrate the occasion, a rare UK first edition of The Great Gatsby is currently available from Published in 1926 by Chatto and Windus, the book is apparently in good condition with only minor handling marks and some light signs of wear. It’s certainly not cheap at £950, but owning that book would be akin to possessing a sparkling slice of history.

Book review – The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean

The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughreanThough written for children, it’s clear from the wit and dark undertones sprinkling the pages that Geraldine McCaughrean wrote The Death Defying Pepper Roux with adults in mind too.

The tale begins with Paul Roux, nicknamed Pepper, reaching his 14th birthday – a momentous event considering he’s been told since birth that he would die before this date. This grave proclamation has been made by Aunt Mireille, an overly religious saint-obsessed woman who has controlled Pepper’s meagre life, mainly by reminding him at every turn that it is due to end before he turns 14.

But when his birthday, and, if you believe Aunt Mireille, his deathday, arrives with Pepper Roux intact, and rather than wait to have his life removed from him by hordes of fiery angels he flees and begins a series of adventures, hiding in other people’s lives.

It’s a wonderfully imaginative journey that requires the reader to leave their grown up scepticism at the door and accept Geraldine’s reminder that: “People see what they expect to see. Don’t they? Or do they see what they choose?” Continue reading

Salt invites novel submissions from unrepresented authors

Salt Publishing booksIndependent literary publishers Salt is actively seeking new authors, and have issued guidelines to help you get your novel submission right. Refreshingly, you’re welcome to send your work direct, rather than via a literary agent.

How to submit your novel to Salt

Please note, they only wish to receive fiction submissions that meet the following criteria.

All works must be in English, and must be aimed at a British market. They prefer works of less than 80,000 words, and are not currently accepting submissions of short stories, poetry or memoirs.

Please send an email to initially with:

  • an 80-word biographical note
  • an exciting 250-word sales pitch to us about your book
  • six bullet points (of no more than 15 words each) that provide highly-specific and compelling reasons why British booksellers would wish to sell your novel

Novels types that Salt are currently interested in

  • NORFOLK GOTHIC –dark fiction set explicitly in the English county of Norfolk. That is, works which centrally feature Norfolk settings and landscapes and which deal with the sinister side of human nature, containing elements of threat, menace, fear and death.
  • LITERARY FICTION – accessible, original, serious and compelling literary novels – though not experimental fiction.
  • CRIME FICTION – sophisticated and original literary crime fiction; dark, fast-paced thrillers (especially those which feature both UK and continental European settings); traditional mainstream detective fiction and procedurals.
  • FANTASY FICTION – adult fantasy novels – science fiction, fantasy and horror, with an emphasis on the literary. These may include stark, post-apocalyptic settings; futureworlds; supernatural thrillers; paranormal adventure; monster fiction (especially with a profoundly literary and original take on species and identity); police states; new urban decadence, fin-de-siècle excess and political and social disorder.


Tales of Tunisia

Tunisian marketIn May 2011 I visited Tunisia and found a country still reeling from its revolution.

It’s a complex place, Tunisia – a country where the locals describe themselves as Mediterranean, yet the main religion is Muslim, and as many farmers keep camels as sheep. Tourism has overtaken agriculture as the main earner in recent years, transforming many coastal areas, particularly those in popular Hammamet, into spa and bar hotspots that could almost be anywhere on the Med, if it wasn’t for the elegant curling Tunisian script adorning street signs and shop fronts.

Tourism is often accused of diluting local flavour, but in the case of Hammamet, the dearth of visitors following the 2011 revolution may have helped restore it, to an extent. There’s enough exotic flavour here to bring to mind the stories of the Arabian Nights, with restaurants serving up meals while belly dancers perform like flocks of chiming butterflies. Continue reading

A few inspiring words

Tania Hershman websiteI’m a frequent dipper into other writers’ websites, particularly those of authors who manage to faultlessly produce the kind of fiction I aspire too.

One of my favourites at the moment is Tania Hershman’s website, which draws me back time and again, usually when I need a brief break that will leave me inspired to get back to my own writing. The tone is unpretentious and chatty, and for fiction addicts like me there’s plenty to tuck into. Continue reading

How to survive the quiet times: A guide for writers, part 3

Google symptomsAlmost every freelance writer experience the occasional lull. In this series of guest posts, freelance journalist Deborah Willimott offers some favourite tips for surviving those quiet times. Who knows, some of them may even lead to feature/fiction ideas!

Survival tip 3: Google your illnesses

Irrational fear over new and unusual lumps/rashes/coughs/tongue patterning is a common affliction for the work-from-home flancer. And what a stroke of luck it is that the World Wide Web is sitting there in front of us, 24/7 so that we may enjoy full, unlimited access to the sort of information that can turn gentle puzzlement into paranoia and terror of epic proportions within seconds.

Online doctoring loves a bit of worst-case-scenario. Google ‘Headache’ and you will find out everything you need to know about brain stem tumours. Google ‘Rash’ and ringworm will haunt your dreams. Google ‘Dizziness’ and The Brain and Spine Organisation of Hull will present you with a questionnaire to discover the likelihood of you losing the use of your limbs within the next 48 hours (Answer: probably).

And so if you happen to stumble across a flancer gazing in dread at a laptop screen you can make an educated guess that they have just Googled ‘Mole’ and are now looking at a page full of words like: ’spread’, ‘malignant’ and ‘nodular’ and other unpronounceable horrors.

Either that or they’ve just Facebooked an old boy/girlfriend and are looking at their wedding photos.

But at least it stops you worrying about your overdraft for a bit.

Survival tip 1: Become a ‘Curtain Twitcher’
Survival tip 2: Accept the commission from hell
Survival tip 4: Seek food
Survival tip 5: Experiment with a new computer font
Survival tip 6:  Consider organising your accounts
Survival tip 7: Cook something complicated
Survival tip 8: Dress inappropriately 


Experience museums after dark this May

Museums at NightThere’s something magical about entering a museum after nightfall – the usual exhibits take on shadowy countenances and it really feels like anything could happen.

If you’ve never experienced this for yourself, take advantage of the annual Museums at Night late night festival of art, culture and heritage. This year it will take place over three nights from Thursday 16 till Saturday 18 May.

Hundreds of museums, art galleries and heritage spaces all over the UK will be putting on a fantastic mix of after-hours entertainment, from spoken word and literary events, to live music, sleepovers in palaces and the chance to see beautiful historic houses aglow with candlelight. Continue reading

Book review – Twenty Thousand Saints by Fflur Dafydd

Twenty Thousand Saints coverThe Bardsey Island of Twenty Thousand Saints is as rich, bizarre and wonderful as any fictional land. Each time you pick the novel up, you’ll find yourself eagerly anticipating an absolute sense of transportation, as Fflur draws you into the world of Bardsey until you feel you’ve walked those mountain paths, felt that sunshine on your skin, tasted the salt on that breeze.

It’s so vividly portrayed that it seems impossible this place actually exists in the real world, yet it does, and Flur’s ability to evoke it so powerfully stems from six weeks as the island’s writer in residence, making us wonder how much of her there is in the character of Mererid, the poet in residence.

Mererid is just one of the island’s visitors, each presenting a different view of the island, from sensual ecologist Elin to single-minded documentary-maker Leri. Of the temporary inhabitants, archaeologist Deian offers a more complex view of island life, having spent his childhood years there until the disappearance of his mother Delyth when he was 18. Continue reading

Call for submissions with a superhero theme

Minor Arcana Press logo cr SergioCoy

Minor Arcana Press logo cr SergioCoy

Moved to write something a bit out of the ordinary?

Minor Arcana Press is currently welcoming submissions of poems related to superheroes and superhero mythology for a new anthology titled Drawn to Marvel, which will be edited by Bryan D. Dietrich and Marta Ferguson.

They say: “We seek out, publish, and promote poets whose work is esoteric, gorgeous, and a bit too weird for the other presses.”

The deadline for submissions is Wednesday 15 May 2013.

To submit, please send poems with the subject Super Poems to