Publishing: A lot of Smoke and Mirrors?

This so resonates with me.

Jan Ruth

In which I’m made to eat my words as I come full circle through the maze of publishing to discover that the grass isn’t necessarily greener over there; it’s still mostly desert scrub from every direction…


Last year I wrote a general post about the publishing industry which resonated with a lot of independent authors:

It came about through sheer frustration at the lack of visibility and the cost of producing books. A turning point came when a small press offered a contract for Silver Rain. This is it, I thought. This is the change of direction I need… but be careful what you wish for! Don’t get me wrong in that I had huge delusional ideas at this stage. I was simply seeking greater visibility and some respite from the nuts and bolts of self-publishing.

And all the outward signs were good: they took five back-catalogue titles and one…

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Going Back and Looking Forward


Going back to a place you used to live is an experience that can be both pleasant and disturbing. The house might look very different, there might be new windows, or paintwork, and the garden certainly will have grown. Hopefully it will have matured, but it just as likely that the lawn will have become a drive, or a patio and the carefully tended shrubs up-rooted. The street won’t look the same either, different makes of car, different neighbours, the children grown up and moved away.

Going back and meeting people that you haven’t seen for over twenty years can be even more challenging. Will they recognise you? Will you recognise them? And if you do will you have anything in common?

These were some of the thoughts that had crossed my mind when I accepted an invitation to the fortieth birthday celebration of the Market Drayton National Women’s Register.

It was over twenty years since I’d been to a meeting. Since then I had lived in Jamaica, for a few years, before coming back to the UK and settling in Stoke. Not a million miles away, but too far to go back to the weekly NWR meetings, or to take up the reins of the book group I started and used to run.

Although my life is very busy, there are times when I miss the buzz of the conversation, the dissecting and analysing of ideas that go on at NWR meetings and of course the coffee and the cake.

The National Housewives’ Register, as it was then, was set up for that very reason to give women time and space to step out of their roles, in those days mostly as wives and mothers, and be themselves and although the name has changed, for obvious reasons, this is what it still does.

dsc03556The talks on Saturday were stimulating and informative. Elizabeth Gowing talked about how she set up a school for Roma and Ashkall children in Kosovo, Sarah Gathercole uncovered twenty centuries of the female nude in art, while rubies were the topic covered by Martin Carruthers.

There was time for questions and for taking part in creative workshops and most importantly of all for re-connecting with women I hadn’t seen in decades. And yes we recognised each other and everyone was so welcoming and there was plenty to talk about and to learn from.

Which is where the going forward comes in. There was a little nostalgia about the past, but the feeling I came away with was of a group of women who  are questioning, thinking and moving on in all sorts of directions and supporting each other as they do so. Just as Liz, Elsa and Bernie do in “Picking up the Pieces”Front over for Blog




Oddness #Skyr

Jan Edwards

I have often bemoaned the demise of the unsweetened fruit yoghurts available in the 60s/70s.  Almost all modern products are sickly sweet. Doubly so with many ‘free’ varieties that merely replace the bucket load of sugar with artificial sweeteners that to me at least taste as sweet and then some!

When Skyr came about I thought ‘yay’, but without wishing to be boring… Apple, Carrot & Ginger?

Having sample this I think it might be termed ‘interesting’ but the jury is out on whether I would repeat the  experience. I liked its fresh, tangy tones but something in the mix gave an odd aftertaste.

Image result for skyr carrot

I have yet to sample Rhubarb & Beetroot still sitting in the fridge.Image result for skyr beetroot

Maybe I am old fashioned  but thus far  I prefer the Blueberry or Raspberry Skyr 🙂

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Our Lives in Art

What is your favourite piece of art? What memories does it conjure up? What feelings? And why? When Jill asked me those questions my mind went blank, only to be ambushed seconds later by a swirl of images. The picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that hangs in my mum’s dining room has so much family history behind it. The portrait of a small boy clutching a bird, painted sometime in the fifteenth or sixteenth century, by an artist I can’t remember, but the child’s pale face and determined expression held me wrapt whenever I visited the Art Gallery at Bristol Museum. My sister’s painting of a street in Clifton, which has partly inspired my latest work in progress. And there are so many, many more.

So which to choose? In the end it was the Wilton Diptych with its blaze of blue and gold, and the memory it invoked of my first year as a student in London, that was the inspiration for my voice over in “Our Lives in Art.”

Other members of Ages and Stages Theatre Company have chosen their own pictures, or sculptures and working together with our director Jill Rezzano have put together a piece to be performed at Keele University as part of “Back to the Drawing Board.” A celebration of the life and work of Peter Rice and Pat Albeck, the parents of Mathew Rice who is of course married to Emma Bridgewater.

“Our Lives in Art” was first performed at the Live Age Festival two years ago and has been re-shaped for the occasion. Which was lucky for me as this time I could take part, not only in the performance but also in the creative process.ages-and-stages-5

From our memories and our pictures, we’ve shaped our stories. There are moments of profound sadness, humour and uplifting insight. We’ve used music and speech and movement and,  of course, the frames.. A brilliant concept that enables us by removing, or stepping out of them to bring our pictures to life. The only trouble is remembering where your particular frame has been placed on the set and the fear of not propping it up properly so that it slides with a great crash to the ground in the middle of the action.


I’m trying not to think about that in the run up to the performance date, nor of forgetting my lines, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I know that Jill will keep us calm and that we will all support each other, because the creating and the interacting with others it’s really all about.

Oh and going out there in front of everyone and showing them what we can do.







Maddy’s Castle


Pride of place in our dining room is this edifice constructed by my granddaughter, with help from one of her other grannies. My grandchildren have eight grandparents, but more of that on another blog.

The castle has been there for quite a while now, but I am strangely reluctant to relegate it to the recycling bin. I love it because Maddy gave it to me and I when I was young I wanted a toy castle and soldiers. Those, however, were not considered toys for girls and, in any case, there was no way my parents could have afforded anything so expensive.

So my sister and I made our own. We drew and cut out cardboard battlements, plus towers and a keep, then I, being the eldest and at that time marginally better at drawing than Anuk, who went on be a professional artist, but more of that in another blog, drew the king and the queen, the knights and the princes and princesses. Younger sister was allowed free rein on the foot soldiers.

Once we had our characters, the stories could begin. Out of very little we had constructed a world with its own hierarchy, its own history, which kept us occupied for hours and which still exists somewhere deep in one of my mum’s cupboards. Next time I go down to Bristol, I’m going to find them and who knows what these figures will inspire.
In the meantime, now that Maddy’s castle has been photographed, maybe, just maybe it will find its way into the blue bin.


Dramatis Personae

Peter Coleborn

Many novels, particularly the lengthier multi-volumes in the fantasy field, are packed with characters, some major, some minor, others appearing so intermittently that they can be easily forgotten. Many readers will remember a full cast list with no problem; or they simply go with the flow and, especially with a well-written story that has an engaging narrative, hardly ever need to check the list of characters, or dramatis personae . Nevertheless, having something that can be referred to when you’re unsure just who is who can be invaluable. Think Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones and you can see what I mean. Or you may be reading mainstream or crime or any other genre: the arguments for the dramatis personae may still apply.

You can read the full essay over on the Penkhull Press website. Don’t forget when you do: these are guidelines, not rules.

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My Writing Day


The day begins with meditation, followed by core muscle strengthening exercises. Next, I have a shower, a cup of tea and breakfast, which is usually a bowl of fruit and yoghurt. Mango is our current favourite and since I’m useless at de-stoning a mango, that is Mike’s job. I’m delegated to chopping the banana and scattering the berries.

We have coffee and a chat over breakfast and then I go up to my office, where I check my emails, then write for the rest of the morning. After lunch, I go for a walk, camera and notebook at the ready and come back to edit and jot down ideas for the next day’s writing.

Sounds good? Of course it does. Apart from breakfast most of what I’ve written is how I would ideally like to go about a writing day, rather than how I actually do it.

In real life, I do the washing, I look at FB, I clean the house, a bit, or more, depending on whether we are having guests, garden, if the weather is good and do a host of other stuff that has nothing to do with the current WIP.

What I probably need is to stick to a routine, but routine stifles creativity. It’s what happens in the rest of my life that sparks off ideas, the conversations with friends that  especially those that also write, or those snippets overheard on the bus, or the way the light falls on the grass, or a single shoe lying at the side of the road. The list is endless.

Sometimes, it’s not even an object or an event, but letting my mind wander as I walk back from the shops, or a meeting.

When I worked full time, any time to write was precious. Now I have the whole day it’s much easier not to sit down and get on with the work and although I don’t stick to a rigid routine, what I do find essential is carving out at least an hour day to write.  Without it I get irritable, the book, or story I’m working on loses momentum and picking it up again takes much more effort.