Book review – Recovering Apollo 8 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Recovering Apollo 8 book coverMost fiction writers shy away from using real people in their work, but not Katrine Kathryn Rusch (hereafter to be called KKR in this review).

The title story of Recovering Apollo 8 And Other Stories is an award-winning re-imagining of the Apollo 8 launch, examining what would have happened if that space flight had been unsuccessful in its mission to orbit the moon.

By telling the tale from the point of view of Richard, a man who had been a child when the launch took place, she gives the piece a deeply personal viewpoint that makes it identifiable to all, so that the moment when he believes he about to meet the recovered crew for the first time is palpably intense. ‘”He had waited a lifetime for this. He wished the internal mikes were off. He wanted to whisper, “Welcome home, gentlemen.'” Continue reading

Marketing your published book

Man casting stones cr Judy DarleySometime launching a book can feel like casting a pebble into a stormy sea. Author, journalist and writing tutor Martin Cloake looks at how you can make your marketing experience far happier.

Mention the word ‘marketing’ and it invariably furrows the brow of aspiring writers. Its association with spin, with the style-over-substance culture, seems a long way from the creative process. One recent comment on a forum for writers summed up the mood “Sigh… Writers today have to have SO much focus on marketing etc that the writing is becoming the second thing. It’s backward.”

But, at the risk of coming across like a purveyor of marketing snake oil myself, you can make the marketing process work for you. I should at this point declare an interest, I run a one-day course called How to pitch and market a book, but the experiences I’ve had since my first book was published in 2004 have convinced me that writers could and should embrace the marketing process. Continue reading

Midweek writing prompt – snow dog

Okay, not exactly midweek, but yesterday was all about carousing, carolling and Christmas spirit! Now we’re back on track, here’s a pic to perhaps prompt a wintery tale.

Snow dogI encountered this small dog built from snow standing on a war memorial on a particularly wintery day. It made me think of an eerie tale my dad used to tell of a loyal hound standing guard over his master’s grave until he himself froze to death…

The way my dad told it, only his head remained un-iced, so that he became the ‘dog-less head’ – a terrifying ghost story when you’re a small child!

Of course, the snow dog also brings to mind more genial ideas of children playing, and of course, the thought of a lonely boy or girl making him as a friend who might then come to life…

So many possibilities!

If this idea prompts you to write something, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket You could end up published!


A Moomin festive show

Finn Family MoomintrollThis Christmas I’m accompanying my middle nephew to see Moominland Midwinter at the egg Theatre in Bath. I know of these creatures, of course, but have never watched the TV series, nor read the tales, so when I found the book Finn Family Moomintroll in my local Oxfam Bookshop, I decided I’d better do my homework and gain an insight into author Tove Jansson’s characters.

The novel begins with the whole moomin family and all their lodgers (who include Snufkin, a worldy-wise scarecrow-like creature, and Sniff, who looks a bit like a kangaroo and is afraid of everything, prepare for hibernation by feasting on pine-needles and snuggling up in bed.

When they wake the long Moomin winter (as long as Finland’s winter, I’m guessing), is over and Moomintroll and his friends head out to explore and have adventures, often prompted by mistakes made with a goblin’s hat (which, they found on a mountaintop), and other things that wash up on the seashore, including an old boat that they sail to a smaller island than the one they live on, encounter hundreds of Hattifatteners’ (who, incidentally, can neither hear nor talk), survive a storm and then have a jolly morning of beachcombing.

There is a dreamy, fantastical feel to Tove’s writing that means you drift along with the characters and accept everything that happens to them. Comfortingly, whatever scrapes they get into are easily solved, sometimes simply by the day ending and the sun setting.

I’m intrigued to see how Tove’s stories will be adapted for the stage, but know from the pay’s description that it will include puppets and a ‘specially-written soundtrack.’

The story seems rather different to the one I’ve read, but features Moomintroll waking early from hibernation to discover a world of snow populated by a variety of curious characters,

It has potential to be absolutely magical – I can’t wait!

Enter Richard and Judy’s novel-writing competition

Tal y Bont cairn cr Judy DarleyYou must, I’m sure, be aware of the Richard & Judy Book Group, which has transformed the fortunes of any published writer who’s novel is chosen as a favourite.

Now the influential pair have their sights set on unpublished novelists, with their Search for a Bestseller Competition.

The closing date for entries is 1st January 2015, but if you already have the first 10,000 words written, I recommend you enter. All you need to do is submit the first 10,000 to 12,000 words of your novel, along with an outline of the rest of the novel (not more than 1,000 words), and up to 500 words about yourself.

The prize is pretty spectacular. In collaboration with Quercus (Stieg Larsson’s publishers), WHSmith, and leading literary agency Furniss Lawton, Richard and Judy will present the winning writer with a £50,000 publishing deal.

Not a bad start to any writers’ career!

There are masses of terms and conditions, so make sure you read them before you submit your work, but the key ones are that you must not have had a novel published previously, or have an agent already.

Find full details and submit your work here. Good luck!

Tal y Bont cr Judy Darley

Response to a writing prompt – Artist’s Corner by Fanni Sütő

For every writing prompt I post, I invite you to let me know if you end up producing a piece of writing in response to it. Fanni Sütő wrote the following contemplative tale in response to the prompt posted on December 4th – Creative Spaces.

Iona Pottery cr Judy Darley

Artist’s Corner by Fanni Sütő

I felt for the switch and hit it with an impatient tap. The many eyes of my chandelier responded with a flicker and poured their yellowish light on my room. I felt something was amiss even before I had entered or had seen the state of my bedchamber – the term is not an exaggeration, the colours and style of furniture made my humble abode resemble the boudoir of a very clichéd vampire lady, although when I was drawing up the plans I had absolutely no intention to aim for this effect. I was suspicious because of that strange and peculiar smell that permeated the air around my door – furniture polish and window cleaning liquid. It could have meant only one thing: my mother had neutralised all my precautions, got herself past all my crafty defences… and cleaned my room.

When I looked at my desk my misgiving proved true; it was clean and devoid of any mess. All my scrap papers, coffee-ring patterned notebooks and doodles were away now, probably being deported to their death in the belly of a rubbish-wagon. My laptop was huddling alone in the middle of my cleanly polished desk. I sighed and tried to swallow back my disappointment. I didn’t even notice the fresh bed sheets the ironed clothes and the general orderliness which was enveloping me, I only felt the disturbance in the force and the grief about my genius ideas which were now dying at the end of a dustbin somewhere far away from home. I was trying to find the silver lining on this fat black cloud: at least she didn’t throw out the fake book critics I scribbled on post-its about my yet unborn book and pasted all over the wall above my desk. They were supposed to provide me with inspiration and motivation but sometimes I caught myself just reading through them and grinning like an idiot. It is difficult to be a writer nowadays… all those 19th-century writer guys with their big bushy beards who were pouring long novels out of themselves like nowadays teenagers pour tweets… but they didn’t have all the stress and distraction.

And I would like to see Mama Dickens going into Charlie’s room and cleaning up all his notes – he couldn’t even hide it on a funny shaped USB key or in the depths of the internet. Then my heart melted because I found a big mug of my favourite coffee hiding shyly behind my laptop. It was, of course, already cold but that’s the way I drink it so I smiled feeling the love and caring and forgetting about the ruin of my working place.

Sometimes when I sat here waiting for inspiration, like a bad lover it never arrived. Other times an idea nestled itself in my head, hatching to the taste of cold caffe latte and the sound of the barking of the neighbour’s dog. There was a secret magic in the constellation of things, how a sudden flash of thought or a fragment of music can give birth to a whole new pulsating universe, which lives partly in your mind, partly on paper or on the screen. Again, I was not writing. I was staring at my wall imagining how my ideal writing corner would look, and I admit going to Pinterest to pin ideas of how to furnish a creative environment then I peeked on Facebook and sent my new board to my writing buddies. I looked around trying to find a new distraction but there was nothing else – just me, my ideas and the blankness of possibilities. I sighed, took a gulp of cold coffee, and let the work begin.

Fanni SütőAuthor bio
Fanni Sütő is a 23-year-old writer of everything from poems to flash fiction to novels, or anything you can imagine. She has been writing in her mother tongue (Hungarian) for a good ten years and started to come up with stories in English since the beginning of 2013. Her favorite genres are urban fantasy, fairy tale reworks and magical realism. She has been published in various online magazines and e-journals including Tincture Journal, Enchanted Conversations and The Casket of Fictional Delights. Find her at

What an artist saw

Louise Boulter WHAT I SAWBored of your advent calendar? Bournemouth-based artist and illustrator Louise Boulter is running a blog I’ve become addicted to, called WHAT I SAW, that might just be the answer.

Almost every day Louise posts a quirky, gorgeous or slightly disturbing illustration of something she spotted that day – from Louise Boulter is running ‘A very cute little boy having his hair dried into an afro’ to “A dead fox’ to ‘A flustered looking woman sat on the toilet’ (shown below).

A flustered looking woman cr Louise Boulter

Brilliantly observant, endlessly intriguing and occasionally laugh-out-loud weird, they’re a fabulous collection of original works you can dip in and out of at will, and, fabulously, Louise intends to keep posting her images long into the new year.

A pensioner cr Louise Boulter

“I decided to start the blog because I felt that doing a drawing a day would enable me to think about the subject and experiment with different mediums, pushing me to work a little faster and to gain more confidence in showing them on the web,” says Louise. “I feel the necessity to draw on a regular basis anyway so this really is a pleasure for me.”

A dead fox cr Louise Boulter

She adds: “I’ve also become aware that I am influenced by simple interactions between people, animals and objects – my memory is terrible so this is a good way of recording theses aspects!”

A beautiful girl cr Louise Boulter

Louise admits that initially she was only planning to do the blog for a couple of month or so, but outside interest in the blog )and the fact it has led to several commissions) means she will continue with it – hurrah!

“Through it I’m beginning to get a clearer understanding of the narrative of my illustrations, which has been invaluable to me,” says Louise. “Eventually I would like to aim for an exhibition of these drawings as one-off prints, but for the moment I’m just going to keep going and see where it takes me as I am thoroughly enjoying it.”

Me too! To see more of Louise’s designs head to WHAT I SAW.

Midweek writing prompt – Christmas inspiration

Arnos Vale Christmas card cr Judy DarleyWith exactly a week until Christmas day, it seems only right that this week’s #writingprompt should be noel-ish in tone!

Arnos Vale card cr Judy DarleyYesterday I was meandering through the wilds of Arnos Vale Cememtery when I came across this wee card propped up on a fence. And it got me to wondering…

Was it dropped by some child, or placed here intentionally? And if the latter, then who can it possibly be for? If you go with the latter, the possibilities are endless – I’m thinking along the lines of ghost, imaginary friend or tree spirit.

Allow your imagination sprint away and let me know what you come up with!

If this idea prompts you to write something, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket You could end up published on!