17 from 17

Tim Diggles

Well to be truthful, 21 from 17. It’s that time of year to look back at the past year and I have chosen a few photographs, which I would say are photographs I planned to make, had a good idea of what I wanted and what would be the outcome. There is of course an element of the found when photographing an event like Workers’ Still Life or Nelken Line, but the ones below are ones I had prepared for and had in mind; the landscapes are taken at times and in places where I knew what the light and effects would be,  such as the Edges project planned for my visit to Cornwall. I was really honoured and delighted to take portrait photographs for Alice Cunningham’s Let By for Festival Stoke, to work with The Cultural Sisters, and take many hundreds of portraits for The Face of Stoke-on-Trent. I…

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I don’t want a lot for Christmas…

What a great list.


The whole point of having money is to be able to buy the things that are most important – things like warmth and food and drink, presents for loved ones (and for marginally liked ones, depending on how you structure your gifting). If you gave me all the money in the world, I’d sponsor a literary prize (the Prize Pratt Award sounds great, right?), run a nationwide not-for-profit library service and buy myself a Degas bronze of a racehorse. (Also possibly a racehorse – I’ve read Dick Francis, I have the credentials.)

But there are some things money can’t buy, because they don’t exist. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to receive these gifts for Christmas…


First-to-Third Flipper
For the author who writes ten chapters of a first-person narrative and then wonders whether it might not be better in third.

Tense Locatorpluperfect
A drop down menu to check what…

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How to choose a cover for your novel

“Shadows on the Grass” being on the verge of publication this has greatly exercised my mind.

Conventional wisdom appears to dictate that covers must signal the genre. This of course is good marketing. A potential reader knows exactly what sort of book they are buying by the cover. All well and good you might think.

However, with the rise of the generic cover I am not too sure about this approach. As I see it and I’ve spent a lot of time looking at book covers over the past few years, books that all look the same, do their writers no good.

The image on the front says, thriller,51IUJqx80OL._AC_SR160,160_51QaRt50aUL._AC_UL320_SR210,320_ or romance, historical novel, but since one book looks very much like another how do you make up your mind which one to choose.

The answer: pick the author you already know.

Great for the established writer. Generic cover, name in large font, job done.

Not so good for someone starting out. Why should I buy a book by a writer I know nothing about when the same type of book by an established author is easily available. By choosing them over the unknown I am sure of a good read and money well spent.

To be honest, covers are so similar that we might as well go back to the days of Penguin who used a simple colour scheme, two solid bands of colour sandwiching a band of white, as very general way of identifying the genre of the book.  Green covers were generally for crime novels, cerise (or pink to some) was travel and adventure, dark blue were biographies, red for drama, purple for essays, and yellow was for miscellaneous titles that did not fit into any of the above categories.  The most common and most famous colour scheme was orange for Penguin’s fiction. Those iconic and instantly recognisable novels were found on every reader’s bookshelf from World War II to the Swinging Sixties.

These colour-coded books were not only inexpensive to manufacture but they were a marketing masterstroke. Everyone could spot a Penguin book from 20 yards away. Even today, decades after Penguin stopped issuing those designs, the orange paperbacks stand out from the crowd in every used bookshop.md20443829428



Simple effective and no long hours spent on finding the “perfect” cover.

Since this is not an option for me, I’ve decided to go rogue. My covers feature original art work. My sister Anuk Naumann  lets me use her image and her paintings are turned into covers by the very talented Peter Coleborn. Thanks to them the covers of “Picking up the Pieces” and now “Shadows on the Grass”Cover 1 are certainly unique and catch the eye in any pile of best sellers.

Let There Be Light… #christmastrees #christmaslights

Jan Edwards

fibre-optic-treeOurs is not a house where decorations are gone into in any great quantity but I do usually stretch to a tree and a few bits and bobs.

The tiny fibre-optic tree in the dining toom was simple – out of the box and plug it in.

Then came the front room – something more of a mission. But as it was a cold day and Yule is just 11 days away it seemed as good a time as any to deck the halls. I had tested both sets of tree lights a couple of days ago. Both worked so I didn’t buy any more whilst we were out shopping yesterday. This afternoon when I got them all out I tested them again.

All was well…

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On Peeling a Parsnip

Snowy garden

It’s quiet here in the kitchen. The back garden is covered in snow, there are no cars going up and down the hill. Everyone appears to have retreated into the warmth of their houses. I am tempted to put on Radio Four, but desist and am rewarded by silence. It’s very peaceful standing here by the sink preparing to peel the parsnips to go into the soup.

The vegetables straight out of my friend Joan’s allotment are gnarled and misshapen. For a moment I am tempted to discard them. This is going to be no easy task and I have a fleeting understanding of why supermarkets only stock “perfect” fruit and veg.

I will, however, not be daunted. Food is food and ruled by “sell by dates” we are too prone to throw away what is good and wholesome. Besides, these parsnips could not be fresher. So I begin.

As I cut through their awkwardness, trying to simplify their shape, I am reminded of Mimi, in “House of Shadows” and how when the Russians invade her home town, she fights her way through the queue to buy food for her family.

“White light dazzles as another image floods her memory. The sun beats down on her head. Already, she feels the sweat spring up on her shoulders, is aware of the dampness under her arms. Her hands grip the handle of her basket. “Please,” she prays, “let there be meat today. If only a bone to make stock.” The shopkeeper opens his shutters, the queue shuffles forward. Mimi brings the corner of her basket hard into the side of the woman in front of her and forces herself to the front. She will do whatever she must to make sure her family does not starve.”


The Final edit

I’m on the last lap. My editors, Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards, have read, scrutinised and commented on the various incarnations of “Shadows on the Grass” and all I have to do now is to put Peter’s final emendations in place.

The odd typo is easy. I’ve found a few myself the last time I did an edit. The comments take more processing. There are places where the text is not clear, or it’s not obvious which character is speaking. There are also the few clumsy or awkward sentences that need honing so that the whole will run more smoothly.

I’ve spent much of today hunched over my computer working on what I hope will be the last edit and there is only one more chapter to go. I could push on and finish tonight, but part of me doesn’t want to.

This book has been part of my life for the last six months and I’m reluctant to let it go.  Once I get to the end, then there is no more I can, or should do. Because there is a point in any book where enough is enough. Whatever its flaws “Shadows on the Grass” must be allowed out into the world.

It’s a little like saying goodbye to your child. You’ve done your best and now it’s time for them to stand on their own two feet.

For which of course I need to rev up the marketing ….

6X6 Mini Book Fayre #buybooks

6x6 Writers Cafe

A book always makes a perfect gift for the reader in your life.

As christmas is almost on us, and 6X6 is all about local authors, we are inviting ALL of our local writers to bring their books to display at the December 6X6 in a Mini Book Fayre!

It goes almost without saying that our local readers will want to come and buy them so bring your purses and wallets ready to start or even finish your Christmas shop!

books xmas

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