Author Talk: The Sinking of RMS Tayleur – as part of Warrington Literary Festival, 25/4, 7pm

[NB – I copied this from http://www.pyramidparrhall.com/whats-on/event/gill-hoffs-author-talk-the-sinking-of-rms-tayleur/.  Free grin to anyone who brings me caramel eggs or Nutella!]

Date(s)/Time: 25 Apr 2014, 7:00pm

Ticket Price: £3

Location: Pyramid

 

Gill Hoffs Author Talk: The Sinking of RMS Tayleur

 

Join Gill Hoffs for this evening’s talk on RMS Tayleur, how this book came about and how Gill, inspired by a visit to Culture Warrington’s Museum & Art Gallery, researched this. Gill will also share insights on the practicalities of writing nonfiction including structuring the book, research, overcoming difficulties and deadends, approaching publishers and agents, editing, sourcing illustrations, and promoting the finished product and finish with a Q&A.

Bio: Gill Hoffs was raised on the Scottish coast but has considered Warrington home for the past ten years.  Her nonfiction book “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic’” (Pen & Sword, 2014) was written after a conversation with a curator about the Tayleur artefacts in Culture Warrington’s Museum & Art Gallery, and her short fiction and nonfiction pieces are widely available online and in print.  Please see https://gillhoffs.wordpress.com for further details, find her on twitter as @GillHoffs, or email gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk

 

The Boy Who Wrote – Kevin G. Bufton on writing, editing, school, and Sabrina The Teenage Witch

Hello, and welcome to the third stop on my Piece of Cake Blog Tour. I’d like to thank Gill for giving me this opportunity to chat about my writing career in the wake of my debut novella, Cake, which will be released this week.

I was always the boy who wrote. I grew up in Moreton on the Wirral, and attended Sacred Heart Primary School. I was the kid that would go up to the teacher’s desk, midway through a creative writing assignment, and ask for extra paper, because I’d already filled mine – front and back, baby! Sometimes we were told that we had to limit ourselves to a certain number of pages, which is why my handwriting, to this day, is a cramped, near-illegible scrawl; just one of my literary battle scars.

But this isn’t meant to be a retelling of Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Here I am, at the ripe old age of thirty-four, and I have just released my first novella; so what happened? How come the boy who wrote, became the man who didn’t?

It boils down to a lack of discipline. I found it all too easy to put things off, in lieu of something else. Maybe it was a night on the tiles with my beautiful wife; perhaps it was putting together some flat-pack furniture – both very worthy reasons to put off the writing for a night. That was the crux of the problem, of course; once I’d opened the door to a good excuse, it paved the way for bad ones. I think things reached their lowest depths when I traded a night of writing for an all-day marathon of Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Indeed, in the ten years since leaving university, I penned a total of six stories, none of which were suitable for publication, largely because I had spent so long writing them, I no longer loved them the way I should.

In January of 2009, I decided that enough was enough. I was thirty years old, I was married, and we had our wonderful son, Kieran; the time had come to buckle down, and make a go of this dream I had pursued so erratically since childhood. I penned a drabble (that’s a story consisting of exactly 100 words, fact fans) called ‘In the Darkness’, and submitted it the same day to the now-defunct Micro 100 e-zine, edited by Dustin LaValley, who is a phenomenal writer in his own right, and well worth your time reading. It was my first submission and, a few days later, became my first acceptance.

It is difficult to put into words how I felt when I opened Dustin’s e-mail. Objectively, I knew it was only 100 words, that it was only going to appear in an online magazine, and that I wasn’t even going to get paid for it, but none of that mattered. Aside from the birth of my children, and my wife agreeing to marry me, nothing even comes close to the elation I experienced upon receiving that first acceptance e-mail. Not getting a job, or a promotion; not buying my first house … nothing. The best thing about it is that the feeling never goes away. I don’t know how many readers of this blog are also writers, but every time I have one of my tales picked up by a publisher, I still get that same buzz. Here is something I have created from whole cloth, with nothing more than my imagination, and the words in my vocabulary, and now anyone in the world can read it, if they have the will to do so.

Since then, I have written about sixty stories, over half of which have seen the light of day in anthologies, magazines and websites across the globe. I have been the editor for a small publishing house, Cruentus Libri Press, which has brought me in contact with a huge number of talented authors, many of whom I am pleased to be able to call my friends, including the lovely Gill Hoffs herself. With regret, I have been forced to end my time as an editor. Just as it was in the past, I found that I was giving up my writing time to another pursuit and, whilst editing an anthology is probably more noble than sitting down in front of Melissa Joan Hart for six hours, it’s still not what I was put on this Earth to do.

Cake marks the pinnacle of my achievements as a writer, to date, but it is really only the beginning. An eighty page novella, clocking in at around 20,000 words, it is the longest single piece of fiction I have ever written, and I am immensely proud that I managed to get that far with it. However, even though it will only be released this week, I’m already looking ahead to my next project.

I’ve compiled a collection of my flash fiction, which will see its release before the end of the year. I’m also writing a collaborative novel with American horror author, Roger Perry, which is a uniquely satisfying experience. Those six stories I mentioned, that never got anywhere? I’m polishing them off, revising and, in essence, rewriting them, for a mini-collection. And then there is my next novella, Ancient Wings, which I hope will see the light of day around August this year.

So much writing to do, and so much time and energy to commit to it, but I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going.

I guess, when all’s said and done, I’m still the boy who writes.

grab a slice of the action this week!

grab a slice of the action
THIS WEEK!

CAKE

In May of 2053, forty years following the Separation of Wirral from the mainland, there is but a handful of people who remember what life was like before.

Geraldine Waters is one of the few.

In a land ruled by gang law, and horrors beyond mortal imagination, Geraldine lives in a perpetual nightmare, from which she knows she will never wake.

Her story is one of hatred and desperation, of living shadows and dying hopes.

It is a story about family…

It is a story about cake.

Check out Kevin‘s amazon author profile here – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kevin-G.-Bufton/e/B007SHCCI6/

Buy CAKE here

Paperback (UK): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1484887018
Paperback (US): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1484887018
Kindle (UK): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00DI72JBU
Kindle (US): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DI72JBU

Foster Trecost – a writer abroad

I’ve asked Foster Trecost to write a guestblog for me while I work on my book (the deadline’s drawing so close I think I can hear every single ‘tick’ of my Bagpuss clock).  We’re friends on facebook, so I knew he’d moved countries and wanted to know if this had affected his writing in any way that he’d noticed.  I know when I relocated to Scotland from England then back it really gave me a mental jolt, and not in a good way.  I wondered if moving to a completely different culture and then learning a new language had added an extra dimension to his work or if it had derailed it – and was surprised with what he said.  If you have any suggestions for Foster, please feel free to leave them in the comments!Foster Trecost

Here’s an obvious fact: I live in Germany, but don’t speak much German. Okay, I speak very little German. Truth be told, hardly any.  Here’s another fact, less obvious: I’m a writer, but don’t write many stories. Believe it or not, these things, these seemingly unconnected things, are very related.

When I moved here, I thought everyone spoke English. This might be closer to the truth in bigger cities, in Berlin, where English is common, but where I live, it’s not true at all. I live in a village so small it doesn’t even have stores. No grocery, no café, not even a post office or bank. Just a bunch of houses. We’ve got a mayor, but I don’t think he gets paid. And he certainly doesn’t speak English. Nor does anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to learn the language. I’ve no desire to be that guy, that American who expects everyone in the world to speak English. Nope, I’ve no interest in being him. So what did I do? I enrolled in a language course, four hours a day, five days a week. Great, right? For learning German, yes. But entwine these studies with literary output and both come up short, especially the latter.

I’ve never been all that prolific, so I won’t spend too much time on what it means to be a writer. My simple definition: “A writer is someone who writes.” But lately even this standard doesn’t apply, at least not with any regularity. These days I feel more like a quilt maker. I jot down patterns and when I have enough, I sew them together, even if they don’t match. When I’m done, I’ve got a blanket, sure, but does it cover anything? Not really.

It wasn’t always like this and since I need to place blame on something, I’ll blame the local language and my failing attempts to learn it. Several years ago I lived in Italy and learned Italian while writing some decent stories. Or I wrote some decent stories while learning Italian. Either way, when I left Italy (of course I didn’t completely leave, no-one completely leaves Italy) I took with me a wonderful souvenir that I didn’t have to pack, and a stash of stories, most of which I’d go on to publish.

So why’s it different now? Well, I’m older and the older you get, the harder it becomes to learn a language, but can I really rely on that? Can I really dump my troubles on my age? Some troubles, yes, but not these. I learned Spanish in my 20’s, Italian in my 30’s and I’ll find a way to learn German in my 40’s. The language is difficult, yes, but the real challenge, it seems, is how to learn it without blocking myself in the process. The age-old adages, you know them: read, read, read or write through it, they don’t seem to help. As soon as I type a few words, my mind tries to translate them and for a second, I’m impressed if I know the German equivalent, but then I realize I’ve completely derailed my thought, giving myself little chance to finish the sentence, much less write the next one.

So for now, I’ll continue with my studies and continue with my quilts, and hope someone mistakes my incoherence for cutting edge literature. But I doubt it, editors are smarter than that…unfortunately.

Foster Trecost is from New Orleans, but he lives in Germany. He writes short fiction, sometimes very short. His work has appeared in Elimae, Dark Sky Magazine, and Metazen, among other places.

An interview with Sarah Collie about writing, location, language, and Not Stalking

I met Sarah online through a friend who brought me chocolate when I was feeling blue at Uni, and since she’s so much fun to PM it seemed the obvious next step to get her on here for an interview.  So, without further ado, guys … meet Sarah Collie!

the stunning Sarah Collie

the stunning Sarah Collie

You grew up in Oban, on the Scottish coast, and now live  in Yorkshire and about as far from the sea as you can get in the north  of England!  Has this shaped your writing in any way?  Do you notice a  difference between then and now linked to the change in culture,  scenery, and location?

I miss the sea enormously, it’s a strange thing to try to explain to anyone who hasn’t had that presence in their life.  You miss the smell, even on the ripe days of summer when it didn’t smell particularly pleasant… I think you don’t realise until it’s gone how there’s a sound, not loud but just there, a constant thing that I noticed was missing once I’d moved.

I lived in Australia for four years but I was near the ocean then as well, this is the first place I’ve ever lived where I can’t just walk there, it’s a 2 hour drive away.  I think moving around is good for writers, you experience new things and new cultures.  Even within the UK there is such a vast difference even down to how people talk.  I have to sometimes rethink how I ask questions or the words I use because people have no idea what I’m talking about, or how ideas of what is polite to ask or to say differ depending on where you are.

Making (what I thought was) polite conversation, I asked a person here recently if she lived in Huddersfield and she gave me a look that implied I was obviously considering stalking her, we worked it out but it was funny at the time.  I love that, because I notice that other people find it fascinating as well, try asking a person from Yorkshire why they’re looking “scunnered” and you’ll see what I mean.  I’m sure half the time they think I’m making them up.

Yep, same here.  The food differences are what tickle me the most – fruit cake and cheese in Yorkshire seems just as much an acquired taste as deep fried pizza with salt and vinegar in Scotland.  Anyway, before I soak my lap with drool, back to the writing!  You’re part of Holmfirth Writers’  Group.  Tell me a bit about how that came about, how you got involved,  what you gain from it as a writer, and if you’ve anything exciting lined up in the coming months.

Holmfirth Writers Group has been a fantastic experience for me, it’s very democratic although there is a committee who do a great job dealing with everything from meetings, to organising a spot on the local radio for us to do readings once a month. (I’ve included this link, the first story is mine read by a lovely fellow writer called Christina Longden http://www.twovalleysradio.co.uk/listenagain/holmfirth-writers-group-relationships/  )  we all take turns to volunteer to run workshops which works really well because there’s such a broad range of writers there.

The rule is constructive criticism only which I love.  They’re a really nice group anyway but it means that you feel comfortable sharing what you’ve written because you know that anything that they say is only to help you improve your writing.  I personally have come on a lot as a writer since I joined about two years ago and I’ve published a horror anthology ebook called “Souls of Darkness” with two of the other writers under a pen name.  I’d written for years but joining the group gave me the confidence to start putting my work out there and I’ve been really touched by the feedback I’ve received, which in turn has given me even more confidence!  I started actually telling people that I’m a writer and as a result that has led to more introductions and more opportunities, like this piece.

That’s great!  Have you had any key moments as a writer, times when everything has come together and helped you progress to the next stage?

A few years ago my writing started to get neglected because I had so much else going on in my life, I’d just moved house, got married and started a business very close together and I was working a lot of hours and sleeping whenever I wasn’t working.  Things happened in my life that changed absolutely everything and I suddenly had time when I couldn’t leave the house but I had time when I could write again, so I did.  It wasn’t exactly a fun time but it brought me back to my passion instead of focusing so much on running a business which I enjoyed for the ability to meet and talk to people but if I’m honest I didn’t love as a job anymore.  Circumstances made moving to England a necessity and without that I wouldn’t have found my writing group or progressed so quickly.  I feel much more confident sending off my stories now than I ever would have if I’d stayed in Oban, much as I loved it there.

Likewise – it’s freeing to start again, don’t you think?  Especially far from wherever you made the usual teenage mistakes (I know I made more than a few).  Have you been given any bad advice about writing?  Anything you think people should perhaps avoid, or only pay heed to in very limited situations?

I don’t think I’ve been given any bad advice to be honest, not yet anyway!  I’ve found that people are usually happy to see someone else succeed, I think it gives them hope, that’s how I feel when I hear about someone’s good news anyway.  I’ve found that the writers who I’ve met or talked to online are very supportive and encouraging, I hope that one day I can inspire and help someone else the way the people I’ve met have with me.

You’ve certainly been a wonderful sounding board and source of support (and chocolate) for me!  And definitely an inspiration.  What about good advice?  Do you have any suggestions to writers or those interested in writing?

“Be brave” I was so nervous about people sending me messages back saying ‘are you serious? Do you honestly think that you can write?’ but having a folder full of beautiful, imaginative and creative stories is no good unless you have the faith in yourself to send them out into the world to be read and enjoyed.  My grandmother wrote lovely poetry, a skill I did not inherit, but they stayed on scraps of paper or in notebooks and will never be read by anyone now which is sad.

Aw, that’s so sad!  Yes, definitely be brave.  It makes such a difference!  Do you have any favourite sites – for submissions, reading, inspiration, craft tips, etc?

I love reading the work at Pure Slush, and I was recently recommended a site called Literary Orphans which has some amazing writers.  I’m writing a piece just now that I’m hoping to submit, although it’s my first time so I’ll be happy just to have the confidence to send it off.  That in itself will be progress, if they like it then that’s even better!

I’m a big fan of both of them, too.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.  What have you achieved this year with your writing that you’re particularly  proud of or satisfied with, and how did this come about?

I started my first proper novel!  Everything I’d written before was a short story or a not so short story in some cases but I never had something that I felt strongly enough about to be able to see it as a full novel.  It started out of one of the writers workshops actually, the piece I wrote is now the opening scene but my mind couldn’t let it go.  I dreamt about it, I would have ideas for how to develop it at the most inappropriate times, like when I was driving or when I was in a meeting or doctors appointment.  I have a stationery fetish, I believe it’s common among writers, and I devoted a beautiful red leather notebook that my dad had given me a year before to notes for it.  I buy gorgeous notebooks but I won’t use them until I have something worthwhile to put in them.  Luckily I also have some lovely family and friends who feed my habit!

What did you do to celebrate?

Nothing… yet.  Once it’s finished, and I’ve sent it off to see if anyone else loves it as much as I do, I’ll probably return to Oban for a girls’ weekend with my friends.

Sounds fab!  What are your aims for 2013?  How do you propose reaching your goals?

Finish my novel is the main one.  Hmm, write, write and write some more?  To get some of my short stories published online.  Not getting distracted and to trust in myself more, I feel happiest when I write so to spend more time being happy.

Very best of luck for 2013, Sarah – hope to see your name up in links if not lights in the near future! 

Sarah writes a range of genres depending on her mood.  She contributed five stories to a ebook anthology of short stories along with two other authors under the pen name Louise Hunt called “Souls Of Darkness”. Sarah is working in her first full length novel under the working title of “The Beach In Winter”. She is currently studying for a degree in English Literature with the Open University.

You can find her blog and ask her about the potato connection here http://spud09.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1 and check out “Souls Of Darkness” here http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B0088DCG4Y/ref=mp_s_a_1?qid=1356047239&sr=1-1

‘The Next Big Thing’ (and no, I don’t mean my belly)

Victoria Watson, author of the short story collection ‘Letting Go’, has kindly tagged me as one of the next writers in a blogging experience called The Next Big Thing – you can find out more about her here http://elementaryvwatson.wordpress.com/
Each featured author is sent ten questions about what full length projects they’re working on at the moment. Here are my answers – if you’ve any questions yourself, stick ’em in the comments section below and I’ll get right back to you.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing

What is the working title of your book?

Well, I’m writing two at the moment as well as one with another writer which will be revealed in due course. ‘Fairer Prospects: the true story of the Victorian Titanic is a nonfiction book, and ‘An Unusual Darkness’ is a novel.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The nonfiction one presented itself to me a few years ago. I saw a small brass porthole in a museum, talked to an attendant, and was haunted by the tale of how it got there. Writing is the best way I can think of to exorcize this little known tragedy from my head. The fiction idea came from a heady mix of sleep deprivation as a new mum, a National Geographic advert on the TV, and reading lots of Roald Dahl as a kid (well, and as a big kid, too).

What genre does your book fall under?

‘Fairer Prospects’ could be classed as maritime nonfiction, history, and a tragic thriller. ‘An Unusual Darkness’ is a thriller set in the 1930s, so depending on the shop, site, or library it might be under historical fiction or thrillers or be cross-merchandised under both. But having said that, I don’t usually write with a specific genre in mind, I prefer to write the books I want to read.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m tempted to say ones I’d like to get to know because they sound or look like interesting people (or they’re terribly attractive) so that’s exactly what I’ll do.
‘Fairer Prospects’ would suit, in my mind, Alan Rickman, Sean Hughes and Ed Byrne, and maybe Stephen Rea. I think Neve Mackintosh is fab and would be perfect, with Shalto Copley (‘District 9’), Sam Rockwell (‘Moon’), and Tim Robbins, too. Paul O’Grady would be fantastic in it – especially with his strong Liverpuddlian accent.

In ‘An Unusual Darkness’ I’d say Sean Penn or somebody like that for the lead adult role, but I’m stumped for the kids. To be honest, I get more into a movie – especially those based on books I like – if the actors are unknown or so good at getting into character that you see them as the character rather than going ‘ooh, doesn’t so-and-so do the 1930s outfits well!’

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

‘Fairer Prospects’ – Heroism and villainy, treasure and tragedy; the true story of the Victorian Titanic on land and at sea.

‘An Unusual Darkness’‘Lord Of The Flies’ meets ‘Jonah And The Whale’, with a liberal dash of ‘Jaws’.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

With the nonfiction one, I’m hoping to go with an established publisher I love the sound of who has a great track record and good attitude to new work and new authors. I gather it’s more acceptable to do this with NF publishers than it is with fiction publishers; if anybody has thoughts on this I’d love to read them in the comments below.

As for the novel, I’ve had some interest from an agent I like and respect, and an invitation to send the full MS once it’s finished and I fully intend doing so.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m still in the process of working on them and sending the chapters to beta testers. ‘Fairer Prospects’ should be complete by the beginning of November, and I’m hoping ‘An Unusual Darkness’ will be done for spring. We’re moving house in a fortnight or I’d be happily thinking Hallowe’en and Christmas as endtimes. I’m really enjoying writing them, but there are boxes to pack and keep my 5 year old from emptying, and that’s temporarily getting in the way.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Oh, this is a tricky one – how to answer without sounding big-headed?  Please bear with me on this one!  In terms of structure, I’d say ‘Fairer Prospects’ – hmm, possibly ‘In The Heart Of The Sea’ by the amazing Nathaniel Philbrick (one of my favourite books). I’d be interested to hear what my beta-reader would compare it to as she’s coming to the story as reader, not writer. As for ‘An Unusual Darkness’ I’d refer you back to my pitch above. My literary mentor suggested ‘Life Of Pi’ by Yann Martel but I’ve not read it and don’t think I want to until I’ve completed at least the first draft, though my sister gave me a copy as she knows I love to read and write about the sea.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

An otherwise uneventful trip to a museum sparked the need to write ‘Fairer Prospects’. My favourite author, Jeremy Scott, read one of my first short stories from way back in 2010 and encouraged me to develop ‘An Unusual Darkness’ into a novel. I was already thinking about doing so, but to have my literary hero echo that desire was wonderful.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think with ‘Fairer Prospects’ there’s something for everyone – adventure, romance, treasure, skulduggery, tragedy, miraculous escapes and falls from grace. There’s also the distinct possibility that a member of their family was affected by the key events in some way.

With ‘An Unusual Darkness’ there’s something for people who like to read about the sea, shipwrecks, tough decisions, survival, and treasure. It’s full of adventure and if you like strange but realistic fiction that will lurk in your head and distract you in meetings then this is for you.

This is probably the most difficult question to answer. Who knows what key event or tiny detail might be the tipping point that allows the reader to lose themselves in your book?

The five authors I’m passing the questions to are:

Joanna Delooze – http://bumblefingers.blogspot.com

Len Kuntz – http://lenkuntz.blogspot.com/

Matt Potter – http://sweetscrippen.blogspot.com.au/

Sarah Collie – http://spud09.blogspot.co.uk/

…and one more writer who’ll be announced shortly.