Lazy Writers

Och, ma heed. I over-indulged last night.

However, at the start of the night I met friends, and was sat at a table with a 7 year old and his parents. Once he found out I was a writer he asked me loads of perceptive questions about writing, characters, story ideas, settings, what it was like being stuck on an island writing Turner, why do people read sad stories, and so on. Kids often seem to like me, and to be honest, it's fun being interrogated about a subject you love.

At the end he asked how long it takes to write a novel.

“Well, for a 70,000 words, maybe it could take two years. A year of research, gathering ideas, plotting and so on; then a year of writing and rewriting.”

“Why does it take you so long?” he asked, looking shocked. “I think of an idea in about five minutes; then spend another few minutes writing it down. Then if you just go to a quiet place like a library and work hard, you should have it finished within a week. Two years is just lazy.”

“I have no answer to that,” I said, shamed.

Maybe I'll try his method and write 52 novels next year. We'll see.

Writing Courses In Welsh Coastal Life

I recently received a copy of Welsh Coastal Life magazine, where I had contributed to one of the articles on writing courses. I'd attended courses at Tŷ Newydd in July of this year and August last year (amongst many other writing courses over the years, and a week-long Arvon course last month). The article was necessarily truncated, but here's the full text of what I said about the writing courses, which includes some tips on attending them.

1: Which courses did you attend at Ty Newydd, and when?

In August 2014 I attended Fiction: Where to Start? run by Mavis Cheek and Francesca Rhydderch; then in July 2015 I went to Writing Women’s Popular Fiction run by Julie Cohen and Rowan Coleman. Two courses in twelve months!

2: Why did you decide to sign up?

Back in August 2014 I was editing my third novel prior to publication, 2000 Tunes, and it seemed like a good opportunity for some intense creative work. Also Francesca had agreed to look over the final draft for me, so it seemed sensible to attend one of her courses and meet her face-to-face first. She was as friendly and talented as I’d hoped.

At the time of the Julie and Rowan course I was starting a new project – two collections of short stories, which are a mix of existing work published elsewhere, and brand new stories. As such, the timing was ideal. This course appealed to me because I often write from a female perspective, and for a mixed audience (c.75% of my readers are women) so I thought a course on writing popular fiction for women would be a way of saying thanks to my fans.


NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #10 - The Final Update!

'Tis done!

I can hardly believe that I did it! On Sunday I woke at 4.30am, got up, started writing, and hardly made any progress. Went back to bed hours later, got up again, worked until evening, and only just scraped the day's word count. Still wasn't sure if I would do it. Today was the last day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I have been writing, and writing, and thought I was just short of 50,000. Then I did the NaNoWriMo validation, and it told me I had written 50,580 words. More than I needed! Wow. Again: wow. I'm still trying to feel normal.

Since the last update I wrote a new story called Transmission (in two parts, intended to bookend my collection). Also a bonus for my horror fans: "Turner began with a prologue. But what happened before that?” You'll find out (if my beta readers vote for the story to be in the collection).

You'll find all my NaNoWriMo posts here, if you want to look back over my progress. This was difficult. Maybe a novel would have been easier than a short story collection. And maybe I'll find out next year! Thanks to everyone that followed my journey and wished me luck. :-)


NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #9

It's proving to be a real struggle here at the end of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). See the chart? I'm catching up to my goal slowly, but am having to write 2,750 words a day minimum to recover from the week on a writing course (isn't that paradoxical?) I was also caught out by the NaNoWriMo "Words Per Day To Finish On Time" in the image above. I assumed it was my daily goal, but even if I finish and add my daily word count, the figure still includes the current day - something I had not realised at the start. So, for example, I have two days left, Sunday 29th and Monday 30th. But that
Words Per Day To Finish On Time 1,849
is actually only a third of the 5,547 words I still need to write! So I have to halve it and add it back on to get the real figure of 2,774 words on Sunday, and the same on Monday. Yes, it caught me out. Maths is not my strong point.

I think if this was a novel I'd find it easier, because characters and settings and styles would carry on: but when I have to start a new story every few days I have to reinvent all that, dig out a different folder of research to assimilate, and somehow force my brain into creativity.

How's it going? Well, I finished the drafts of the following stories:
  • Harvest Festival (action survival horror)
  • Web (dark; women's fiction)
  • Living In The Present (Christmas horror)
  • Claws True For Buyer (the working title; archaeology gone wrong)
  • Overload (teenage techno horror)
  • WV (not got a proper title yet; wintry and ghostly horror)
  • Sinker (Scottish angling horror)


Newsletter Time Approaches

Once I've finished NaNoWriMo I'll be working on my next newsletter, hopefully with a redesigned format so it works well on mobile devices as well as PCs. I'm planning on including a few new things amongst my usual ramblings:
  • A bonus Christmas horror story, only finished last week and never seen before!
  • A chance for your name to appear in one of my stories as a character.
  • An opportunity to beta-read and give feedback on my next work, a collection of horror stories.
These will only be available to the people that sign up for my newsletter, so if you are interested, sign up today! And sign up your sister/brother/parents/the thing under the bed/singers/third cousins* while you're at it.

* Delete as appropriate.

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #8

These stats tell a story

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) nears the end. One week left! I'm up to 33,677 words, out of my 50,000 word target. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it... :-)

My current story is about claustrophobia (though I need a title that doesn't give it away too early); exploring old caves looking for treasures to plunder is a setting I haven't tried before, and is ripe with opportunity. I'll have that one finished in a couple of days, the fourth story since I began NaNoWriMo. I also had some good news yesterday. I'll put it in my next newsletter, I think - something I'll send out after NaNoWriMo. Sign up if you're interested.

Since I'm feeling generous, I dug out links to two posts from my archives, for those who like listening to stories. Back in 2013 one of my horror stories, Creeping Jesus, was turned into audio - blog post / YouTube. Then, a month later, it happened again! Just Telling Stories was adapted with actors - blog post / YouTube. Both productions are really good quality, so give them a listen if you want to get into a creepy mood!

Lastly, I keep reading articles about things being "banned" as being culturally insensitive. The media obviously sensationalise these stories, so the founding incident may not be so severe as it is represented, but the discussion around the events can get quite heated. I've just read this one about yoga. It left me with three thoughts.


The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins)

My thoughts on the books after just finishing the three of them. Spoiler alerts! Best to read on only if you know the story. Having said that, I won't be recounting what the books are about, just some of my impressions.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)

Well-written, well-paced, enjoyable, a page turner. Any book that I want to pick up and continue with is on to a good thing. I enjoyed the story, characters and twists.

I wasn't so keen on the use of the present tense - I'm so used to reading novels in past tense that this regularly grated. I was also a bit surprised at a few errors, considering the book will have been edited so many times and made so much money - publishers cutting back on polishing books? For example "I know one has found me and the others will be honing in". Should be "homing in" (though it is a common error). There's also some badly-planned sections that come across as unconvincing placeholders. For example, Katniss decides she wants to hunt alone because Peeta is noisy, then come back for him, but doesn't think he'll agree. She hasn't said anything about it aloud but immediately he states that's what she should do, for those reasons. It's the kind of thing an author writes because they have an omniscient view, but later editing should remove the too-obvious god hand.

I should also go and fuss the big grey thing stood in the corner. When I started reading The Hunger Games I knew little about it, having avoided mentions and spoilers and films. I just had a vague idea that it was popular and was dystopian sci-fi, maybe like 1984 – I switched off whenever Hunger Games was mentioned online to avoid knowing more. As such I was surprised as I read it that it seemed so familiar – and immediately connected it with Battle Royale. I kept thinking “Wow, that’s similar, surely it can’t be an accident?” Suzanne Collins says she never read Battle Royale or knew of it as she was writing Hunger Games. I can accept that, though it still seems strange to me. I knew about Battle Royale years before Suzanne Collins wrote Hunger Games. Battle Royale was widely talked about and praised - I bought it from a Waterstones display. It wasn't something obscure. Then they made a film of it and it became even more well-known due to the controversial violence. Still, this has been discussed elsewhere, I just wanted to mention it as someone who knew nothing of the controversy or what Hunger Games was about, but the resemblances immediately struck me – children forced to kill each other as a punitive lesson by a controlling, hi-tech Government; an arena with randomised weapons, areas altered to force victims together; a person forced to enter the games twice; a hero finding a way to outwit the controllers; rules saying only one can win, but a pair of potential lovers finding a way to both survive; technology to track and observe the children and so on.


NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #7

Can't have weekends off, or I'll never catch up!

I don't celebrate Christmas. But today I started a new story, called Living In The Present. A Christmas tale, full of carols, brandy by the fire, decorated trees, snow, and happy children. Ah, so lovely! Of course, since I am working on a horror collection, things are much darker than they seem at first (especially when Dada arrives). Anyway, I surprised myself by also finishing that story today! Only 1,400 words, so short and sweet compared to my usual outpourings.

While typing away I was aware of how easy it is to adopt bad posture, and to increase the risk of wrist pain, RSI et al. I had it really bad once, to the point that I could hardly even bend my wrists (in my case from over-use of the computer mouse, especially during one long, fateful late-night session of System Shock 2 in a dark and cold room - I was left almost paralysed the next day, and martial arts was agony, since I did aikido which involved wrist-locks!). Anyway, once you identify a problem you can start to rectify it. In my case I got better due to adopting more sensible habits. My top tips?
  • Use helpful technologies such as wrist supports, vertical mice, mouse beans - whatever helps.
  • I learnt to use the mouse in my opposite hand, which hardly took any time at all. It's a good idea to alternate, so one hand gets a rest. For general computer use you don't need precision.
  • Another tip is to let go of the mouse when you don't need it. Reading a long page of text? Rest your hand on your lap rather than leaving it in the clutch of death all the time. Also you can scroll through docs and web pages with pg down/pg up (or arrows) rather than always using a mouse.
Look after yourselves!

I also saw that an author had included one of their fan's names in one of their novels. A fun idea! I could probably use some people's names in the short story collection I'm working on, which saves me from leaving my nose stuck in the horror that is baby-naming books. I will probably offer this to people on my mailing list, so if you don't want to miss out, sign up! Of course, you'll have more chance of being eaten by cannibals than being a surviving hero, but it is still fun to see what happens. :-)

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #6

It's difficult to catch up once you fall behind!

Yesterday I finished Harvest Festival (draft 1). The ending really got me going, it was like watching an action film and the words kept coming out! Such fun to write. It needs editing next, but I'll probably put it to the side until NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is over. It's good to let work sit for a while so you can assess it with fresh eyes.

A real change of pace today, from fast action-adventure-horror to a dark character piece tentatively called Webb. Spiders, babies, women's issues, from the voice of a Pakistani immigrant woman. It's been a fun challenge so far, and I've made a good head start. Here's the opening, drafted this morning without much planning, just trying to develop a voice:
This country is three things to me. I list them. First, it is cold. I shiver. I think I have not stopped shaking since I was made to come here. Two, is dark. I have lost the sun that watched me grow up. This one is small and mean and is so far away it has no interest in the people here. Three, is damp. I know heavy rain, yes, but not this always-water thing. Black mould grows along tiles in the bathroom, even if I scrub, scrub a lot, it come back quickly. There is a thing in the kitchen (cupboard? But it has no cups in?) and it is not wood, it is made of something like pieces of wood, all mashed together, baby-food furniture. And where it touches ground it gets bigger, splits, crumbles, and I sweep up the bits. That is what I mean! Damp!
And things you call creepy crawlies, they like it. They are always here. They run in lines along the edge of the carpet. I get up in morning to make Husband breakfast, I see curvy slug trails drying on the worktop. 
And every day I clean up thick old web. So much. This, up in the corner. I have to use a long duster, it try to hide from me. I push it in, turn it, and all the sticky grey and bits wrap around. It remind me of something I see on your television once, called candy floss. Your fairgrounds make people smile, but this is like making evil candy floss as I twist sticky horrible on to it.
I would not eat this.
Talking of food... Consider making vegan chocolates as presents! Talented UK game developer Tom Francis posted this idea on his website. (My postal address is available on request, imperfect chocolates and off-cuts are welcome).

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #5

Well, I'm back from my week-long writing course. I'll do a separate post about that when I get the chance. In the meantime, you can see from my latest NaNoWriMo stats (above) that I fell behind a bit on my daily wordcounts - but I am catching up!

I really enjoy writing Harvest Festival! Tomorrow I'll finish the story. The ones I've posted on Facebook are a few parts behind where I am really up to. I'm now pondering the idea of publishing Harvest Festival separately as a 99c novella, which can work quite well with some stories. It does seem to break up into short, natural chunks. If you want to read it so far, then here are the links (though note that Facebook loses italics and paragraph spacing, so things do look neater on the page). Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7.

My observation of the week is about the Internet. Talk about the feels and you get 3 views. Post a photo of your dog or cat = 1,000,000 likes. :-)

IT BT: Spammy Rants And Stupid Routers

Writers are multi-talented beasties. I have a background in e-learning, computers, librarianship, information science, and other such crafts. As such, I often get asked for help with anything computer-related. Computers are complicated. Variants of hardware, software, drivers, settings, operating systems and so on. Inevitably even a genius like myself needs to seek help with some problems. But my other interest is communication, and words - surely it shouldn't be difficult to find that help?

Today I had to help a family member who had upgraded their broadband connection to BT Infinity. It wasn't something I was familiar with, because I prefer to use independent, ethical or green companies, such as the Phone Coop, GreenISP, and Triodos. The basic problem was that every device connected to the new Wi-Fi router with no problem, except for the laptop my mother uses. It just didn't ask for the router password. I forced it to use the password via advanced settings, but it still didn't work. Since I didn't have the Internet yet, I couldn't use online help, so decided to ring BT support.


NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #4

Angel Of The North, or Wicked Wizard Of The West? You decide.

November is National Novel Writing Month. It’s also World Vegan Month. Sounds like a good excuse to make some rich chocolate cake (as if an excuse was needed…) Or try this pumpkin cake. Pumpkins, you say? Must be time for a daily update to Harvest Festival! Make Part 4 your lunch-time read. (Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3)

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has been an eye opener for me. I hadn’t expected it to be so much fun, and to fuel my creativity in that way. Veni, vidi, scripsi. You can take part even if you aren't working on a novel.

Here's an inspirational quote from Ray Bradbury.
"What can we writers learn from lizards, lift from birds? In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth deadfalling".
Ray Bradbury; from "How To Write Tales Of  Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction", edited by J.N. Williamson.

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #3

My current NaNoWriMo stats

Still going strong. Some of the Scenes for Harvest Festival have had me typing so fast it was like a brain-to-page translation splurge in real time. When that happens you know you're into the story! You can get a sneak peak at this new horror story on my Facebook page (if you Like the page you'll get updated when there are new posts): Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3. The story won't be there forever, so get it while it's fresh! Another option is to read it on Wattpad (again, only there for a while, then I'll delete it).

Writing is something you learn all your life. That's why I go on writing courses, and read books about the craft. I try and learn something every day. This morning I read an article by Robert Bloch where he complained about books which were padded artificially so they could be sold for more; flimsy ideas stretched into series so even more books could be sold; books written just to catch the current trend and to make more money. He said that it is more important to write a good book than to just try and write a commercial book, with the market and projected sales put before the needs of the story. It's a good lesson.
"The story should be written in the length that is most effective. When the primary consideration is to tailor it for the market, all too often one ends up with the sorry realization that the emperor has no clothes.
Of course, all these admittedly anachronistic notions can and should be dismissed if you're only looking for a fast buck. In such a case, just do the exact opposite of what I've advised here: Get a premise, any kind of a premise you can beg, borrow, or steal; blow it up into the biggest book or the longest series you can manage. Substitute sex for substance and violence for vitality, and God bless."
Robert Bloch, 1986; from "How To Write Tales Of  Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction", edited by J.N. Williamson.

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #2

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This is really fun. It doesn't stop you doing research, or planning; it just gets you writing. Every day. Developing good habits. It cracks my whip and dangles my carrot.

It seems like a good time to point to a resource for writers. I bookmarked the Inspiration For Writers tips many years ago, and only just got round to reading them. There's some solid advice there. Showing versus tellingavoiding redundant words, active writing, character development, dialogue and tags (the latter relevant to my recent post), using flashbacks, POV, commas... Use the Writing Tips menu and sub-menus on the left to find all that and more. They also offer editing services.

Today I wrote 1,915 words. I'll refrain from including any tables or charts. If you're interested in the current work you can get a sneak peak at my new horror story, Harvest Festival, on my Facebook page (make sure you Like the page while you are there!). Part 1 / Part 2. I'll probably add another part tomorrow. Happy writing!

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #1

I said I'd signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) - here's my first update! As you can see from the image above, I am on schedule at the moment. Over 5,500 words of my new horror story Harvest Festival have been written. That feels good. Sometimes I stare at the screen for a while, but it is usually because I am ordering events in my head rather than because I am stumped. And now that the main action is kicking in I found myself typing away like a demon at one point. I can't tell how long this story will be - at this rate it could easily end up as 20,000 words! After it's done I'll begin my next, tentatively called Webb. I'm aiming at different kinds of horror, including monster features, killers, phobias, sci-fi, psychological horror, and action adventure horror. It's fun to try different things. It will be interesting to see if the residential writing course I'm going on next week helps or hinders my NaNoWriMo project wordcount! However, I can honestly say that NaNoWriMo has added some fun to my work, and I have been genuinely excited about achieving my daily wordcounts.

As an aside, I noticed that Amazon opened their first physical bookshop (in Seattle, USA). I like the way they want to show the books face out - in traditional bookshops you often have to remove and put back every book in order to see the covers. Covers are frequently works of art, and should be displayed face out. Another interesting angle is that Amazon will be interested in stocking books which sell, based on the huge amounts of data they have access to. As such, it probably won't matter whether a book is traditionally or independently published - only how popular it is. That is a massive difference from traditional bookshops, which are very focussed on production method (as are literary prizes in many cases, unfortunately, which exclude quality books from being considered). It's about time book discussions considered only the book itself, not how it came to be. Yesterday Orna Ross wrote an interesting piece about e-book sales, and the way the statistics often exclude independently-published books. Times are changing.

Backup Of My Halloween Post For A Lover Of Books


NaNoWriMo 2015

Today's delivery of vegan organic treats - is it enough for NaNoWriMo?

This year I signed up to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time. You have the month of November to write 50,000 words. They don't have to be good, but they do have to be words.

I have a spartan profile on the site, and you can do some kind of contacty thing on there I think. Feel free to add me as a friend.

It is good timing. I have 30,000 words of horror short stories written: if I write another 50K in November, then cut out 10K in edits and snips, I'll have another 70,000 word horror book! Oh, the pain and agony, it shall be magnificent.

Some people write every day, some weekdays only, some weekends only - there are ideas for scheduling word counts here. I quite like the schedule "Write 50,000 words on 1st November. Done."

I'll try and include updates on the blog throughout the month, but if it goes quiet it's because I'm working on that. I am also away for a week on an Arvon Foundation writing course so will have to squeeze the NaNoWriMo around that. I don't think I'll have access to the Internet at the Arvon centre, so you definitely won't hear from me that week. But I will be working. Oh yessirree.

Any of you signed up for NaNoWriMo? What are your plans? I'm getting started with some warm up exercises, just wrote out some ideas including this extract:


An Interview With Chris Turner

Karl: "Since it is nearly Halloween I decided to have a guest interview with someone who knows all about horror: Chris Turner."

Chris sits there in a polo-neck shirt and jeans, a picture of subdued menace as he scowls: "No, my name's Chris Jones."

Karl: "But I thought-"

Leaning forward and staring me in the eye. "Jones."

Karl: "Sorry. Chris Jones."


Karl: "You survived a visit to Ynys Diawl, off the coast of Anglesey in Wales. Storms, missing people, madness ... that must have been pretty horrifying."

Chris: "I've had worse."

Karl: "Didn't people try to kill and torture you?"

Shrug. "Like I said, I've had worse."

Karl: "How did you feel about me turning the events of your visit into a survival horror novel?"

Chris: "I'm still waiting for the money you promised."

Karl: "So am I ... I thought I'd sell more copies of Turner."


Asking Questions

I pointed out the ambiguity of "if not" constructions this week. I thought I was done with grammatical posts, but last night I was reading Catching Fire, and even though I am enjoying the book it includes one of the writing/editing errors that leaps off the page and slaps me in the face, inducing rage and spluttering. The image above gives you an idea of what went on in my brain as I read that section.

Yes, it is when someone "says" a question.

You do not "say" questions. You ask them.

You can say any statement that isn't a question (or shout it, or scream it, or whisper it, or mutter it - though don't overuse descriptors like that).

Bear this in mind, otherwise questions will be asked about your speech tags...

Quick Zombie Competition

One print copy of The Book Of All Flesh, a zombie anthology (my review). If you love zombies then enter this competition, and hopefully you'll win it and get it by Halloweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen (that was said in a spooky voice, just so you know).

[Entry form removed, winner notified.]

The Book Of All Flesh

With any anthology you'll have a mix of stories you like, and stories you are less bothered about. So with The Book Of All Flesh. In this collection of 25 zombie horror stories there were 12 that I really appreciated, enjoyed or admired, which is a greater success ratio than many other anthologies I have read. That's praise. Many of the other 13 stories I enjoyed, just not quite as much.

My favourites were:

- Consumption by Steve Eller (terse and fittingly emotionally dead)
- Susan by Robin D. Laws (incredibly nasty)
- Number of the Beast by Kenneth Lightner (interesting framing)
- Trinkets by Tobias S. Buckell (an unexpected approach to zombies)
- Prometheus Unwound by Matt Forbeck (interesting framing and concept)
- Salvation by L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims (very British feel and rounded story)
- The Other Side of Theory by Daniel Ksenych (coldly scientific horror)
- Inspecting the Workers by Jim C. Hines (classic zombie fiction of science backfiring)
- Last Resort by Michael Laimo (desert-sparse writing that implies a lot)
- Same Night, Different Farmhouse by Gregory G. Kurczynski (pulp nastiness)
- The Cold, Gray Fingers of My Love by Pete D. Manison (unexpected and moon-cold)
- Scenes From a Foreign Horror Video, with Zombies and Tasteful Nudity by Mark McLaughlin (imaginative and dreamlike)

In general the collection was well edited (though there is a particular glaring zombie fiction error which appeared once here: "zombie hoards". HORDES. ZOMBIE HORDES. Hordes are large groups. Hoards are secret stores.)

Overall a mix of styles, settings, tones and outcomes gave the collection real variety. If you like zombies, you'll like this.

If Not

"Karl was a great boardgamer, if not the best in the village."

So what does that mean?

"Karl was a great boardgamer, but not the best in the village."
"Karl was a great boardgamer, perhaps even the best in the village."

They're both valid interpretations, even though they're opposites (in one I'm not the best; in the other I may be the best). "If not" is an inherently ambiguous construction - so avoid using it unless you intend to be ambiguous. Instead use alternative constructions which make your meaning clear. Readers will thank you for it.

Further reading:
P.S. I am quite good at boardgames.

Backup Of The Piece Written For Janet Emson's "Get Shorties" Week

[This is a backup of the piece here, from Janet Emson's fromfirstpagetolast blog. The guest post includes my thoughts on short stories, plus a very short one of my own.]


Get Shorties

I'm proud to be on Janet Emson's blog fromfirstpagetolast today, opening the Get Shorties week! The guest post includes my thoughts on short stories, plus a very short one of my own.

Licensing And Collecting Societies

Image from Gratisography

As well as income from sales there are other possible sources of money for writers. One of them is Public Lending Right (PLR), which is handy, free, and legally established. If you have books in public libraries you might as well register.

Another is the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), which is quite different. It’s not established by a law (i.e. they are an intermediary commercial body, a "collecting agency" for paying members). Nor are they required for legal protection - the law of copyright already means people can't re-use your work without permission.

Maybe I worry about nothing, but when I was advised to register with the ALCS I felt slightly uneasy, and had to examine why this was so. Some other authors I spoke to seemed comfortable with signing up to the ALCS and thought it strange that I wouldn't; even more had nothing to do with the ALCS, or didn't know about it. Very few had thought deeply about the role of collecting and licensing societies, which isn't surprising, since our primary occupation should be ... well, writing. Still, I had this feeling, and suspected part of it was down to my prejudices as an ex-librarian. After thinking about it for a wee while I came up with some reasons why I felt this unease. Oh Mighty Mousse-Lord, this might be a big one.

1. Collecting Societies Seem To Be Collecting Money They Aren’t Entitled To

The main reason is that none of the collecting societies represent all creators in their sphere. For example the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation does not represent all films made, yet sells licences and collects money as if they do. We have a similar thing with music licensing bodies - if you own a public venue you're pushed to buy PRS for Music and a licence to play background music (PPL), even though neither licence actually covers all music that is made, and there is lots available that is excluded from their licences. Likewise the ALCS does not represent all authors. It is a membership organisation, and only pays money to members.

All writers?

Yet the licences sold and wording used by collecting and licensing organisations often implies that they do represent "everyone", presumably to make licences seem better value for money, and to pretend that they are shouting with a louder and better-supported voice when lobbying. For example, the ALCS website metadata says they are "the British collecting society for all writers". This is carefully-chosen wording, implying at a quick glance that they represent us all; however, they don't represent us all, they only represent paying members, a subset. If challenged they would say they mean they are “for all writers” in the sense of being open to membership by all writers, which is a very different thing from representing all writers. </quibble>

Where does the money come from? As one example, 65% of the ALCS income derives from the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) - which the ALCS set up with the Publishers Licensing Society (PLS) [source]. The basic business of the CLA is selling licences to organisations to re-use author's work - regardless of whether that author is anything to do with the ALCS, or has given permission for the CLA to include their work in CLA licences.

It is a similar situation for other income streams, such as money from the levy added to the costs of all recording and copying equipment. Again, they are receiving money for global copying agreements as a whole, even thought the ALCS only represent and distribute to members.

The ALCS "Online royalties checker” says:
“Enter the title of your work into the search box below and
see if we're currently holding any money for you."
It’s weird because they have no right to be
"holding any money" for authors who aren’t members,
just as the CLA had no right to it either.

On to the CLA. They generally categorise the works as either "included in their licence" (i.e. the author/publisher/creator is registered with them) or "specifically excluded" (which involves checking various lists to find out more, such as these and these and their homepage search tool). Firstly, the thousands of students using an institution's photocopiers/scanners can't check all those lists each time, it is an impractical idea, so the fact that a work is excluded does nothing to stop it from being copied - the CLA licence may even do the opposite, since it creates a false sense of security. After all, their web pages include text like "All our licences permit the copying from books".

Should that be "some books"?

Lots of focus on what you can do,
but little mention of all the authors
who have no connection to the CLA.

Secondly, the CLA totally neglect to mention a third category - authors who are neither included nor excluded. My work is not included in their licence; nor have I contacted them to exclude it. Yet the CLA continue to sell their licences and make money from this ignorable "third category" that acts as the elephant in the room. These are the people who opt out of the CLA system (or don't know about it), whose work is often copied based on the payments made to the CLA, but who see none of the money. When trying to sell their licences the CLA's wording is much more about how inclusive they are.

"The licence fees collected are then passed on to the copyright owners - the authors, publishers and visual artists - that we represent. [...] We undertake royalties data exercises with licensed organisations to help us pay the authors, publishers and visual creators whose work is being copied."
CLA site. Careful avoidance of the many authors they don't represent with their licences.

In many cases people may be copying within legal limits; or copying work that the CLA is not licensed to cover. But because it is so difficult (perhaps impossible) to find out what the licence includes and excludes, it then becomes difficult or impossible to avoid breaking the law. And so the fear of litigation pushes more organisations into taking out the licences. (A bit like how music companies forced people to pay millions for songs that it turned out were in the public domain.)

Summary: The CLA can only licence and sell rights assigned to them. So, for example, when they are extracting money via the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) it should only apply to a whitelist of rights they are authorised to licence. But that isn't how they work - it is incredibly difficult for the average user at a photocopier to browse a list of authorised titles and authors. So their fudged approach is to play up what the licences they sell can do, and to collect money from what is actually copied, often illegally (discovered via occasional surveys). So the ALCS ends up with money from licensing work that they had no legal right to licence.

Afterwards the ALCS may use the results of samples to try and contact a creator and offer them money after a cut for "admin" - admin the author never asked the ALCS to do, via selling rights the ALCS had no permission to sell - and the money is withheld from the author unless they agree to give ALCS their cut and to join them (thereby agreeing to let them licence future work, and restricting things to CLA licence). So if an author doesn't want to join the ALCS, or agree on the ALCS stance on the issues that the ALCS campaign for, the ALCS will either keep that money or pass it on to other authors - money they had no legal entitlement to collect. I'm pretty sure if I licensed rights belonging to someone else without their permission, then tried to pay them minus my cut, I'd be taken to court pretty quickly. See what a mess it is? 

It gets worse. The CLA have a blacklist of "excluded works" (that is fiddly to find, or get on) but that is misleading - they want to imply all authors are on one list or another, the whitelist or the excluded blacklist. But many - maybe the bulk of authors writing today - are not on either of those lists. And yet the CLA/ALCS will be collecting money from the authors' work being copied. This is why I generally disagree with licensing societies. I would rather the law made more exceptions to copyright so people can do more with a work, doing away with all that admin and sampling and licensing and staff time..

2. Aggressive Licensing

In my career as a librarian and adviser to librarians I often had to deal with collecting societies. And it is an awkward feeling as I picture heavy-handed letters and emails, often threatening, talking about all the crippling legal implications and "risk" of "non-compliance" or "serious infringement" if you don't pay for a licence. All this, even though in many cases the licence wasn't required because the law already allowed for certain educational exemptions for Fair Use.

The CLA "has a compliance arm, Copywatch, that works to prevent illegal copying".
Yes, the site includes a "Give information" snitch form for grassing up your organisation:
"You can provide the information confidentially here".
The post-millennial culture of fear, right here.

And so organisations would surrender out of a kind of fear, or from the legal and informational complications and obfuscation, or maybe just treating the licences as an extra form of insurance. It always reminded me of the TV licensing people, which adds to my unease.

Ah, the TV licensing people. I've lost track of the many threatening letters I have had off them over the years. I've told them online that I had no TV - the letters kept coming. I filled in forms - the letters kept coming. I sent them back - the letters kept coming. As someone who hates spam, junkmail, and threatening legal letters it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. (I should add that I'm not breaking the law, I genuinely haven't owned a TV for over 25 years).

Back to the various licensing societies. No doubt the individual artists, musicians, authors, actors and so on have no idea how heavy-handed these kinds of bodies can be "on their behalf". But the business model of a collecting society is based on acquiring rights-holding members (since the society has no legal right to material/content themselves), then aggressively selling licences to use that material.

Litigious societies

I had contacts in libraries across the UK, in all sectors, and it was quite common to hear about them being hounded by licensing and collecting agencies, seeing chunks of their budget going on that rather than books, staffing, learning resources, education, and opening times. And that is a key difference from PLR (Public Lending Right, mentioned at the start of this post). PLR is paid by central UK Government, so doesn't impact on library budgets. But licensing and collecting societies go after libraries and educational institutions directly, asking them to pay, so it does impact on their budgets. In one case a licensing society had been really hammering libraries, sending letters arguing that since they had computers for public use the PCs could in theory be used to access media (films/music) illegally, and it would count as a public broadcast, so libraries should take out extra licences... It seems nonsensical to the average person but this is what seemed to go on behind the scenes.

What annoys me, as someone who supports education and information sharing, is that in most cases I'd have said to the organisations, "Sure, use my material, use it for free, no need for a license - I'm just happy to support you and let you re-use some of my words; maybe I'll even sell more books because of it." I'm sure I'm not the only author who would take that approach. But instead the organisations are pushed into taking out licences they might not need.

Maybe I'm not being understanding enough here. I always try to be a balanced and reasonable person. Maybe licensing societies feel they need to do the hard sell simply because the current situation is so confusing, with conflicting legal advice, lack of clarity over Fair Use, a profusion of licensing bodies and licences and so on meaning they worry that people just don't know. Unfortunately, when everyone shouts at you it doesn't make things clearer; and whenever you're talking about legal licences being clear and comprehensible you're asking for trouble.

(As an aside, I once copied and pasted into a Word document a selection of the End User License Agreements (EULA) or Terms & Conditions I was forced to agree to over a five month period. It certainly wasn't every relevant agreement/T&C/licence, and nor was it from some specialist sphere like work. This was just from being a normal person using my PC and installing a few games and bits of software. The agreements over that period amounted to 331,993 words, or 592 pages of dense single-spaced legalese. Seems ridiculous doesn't it? No-one can realistically be agreeing to all that; if I'd included licences I had to deal with from my work in libraries it would probably have tripled that figure or more...)

3. Lobbying For Stricter Copyright Restrictions

I think copyright laws are currently too strict. I campaign for things to be more open (e.g. anti-DRM, removing some of the copyright restrictions, not always agreeing with bodies that claim to speak for authors and so on). I'm obviously not saying it should be a free-for-all - I don't want people copying my full books and selling them, or passing them off as their own. I wouldn't mind people quoting from them though - yet currently that is illegal except in certain limited circumstances. I think people should be able to quote (as long as they fully reference source) from songs, articles, books, poems - without having to track down rights holders and get permission, or pay. It's free advertising, it keeps the words and work quoted in the public consciousness, and it's only snippets, not the whole work. In my time I have read a huge amount of classic (and classical) fiction, where it was common to quote from other works and writers, share knowledge of them, promote them, widening knowledge and appreciation of the thing quoted - nowadays in the UK you couldn't write such a work without having to track down rightsholders, get permission, pay, and probably re-negotiate and do it all again if you print more copies, do a new edition, change format (e.g. audiobook) and so on. So nowadays it is easier to just avoid that negotiation, administration and paywall nightmare. The common attitude of publishers to their writers when, for example, a quote from a song is used is to just strip it out. "It isn't worth it."

Licensing and collecting societies are often involved with legal lobbying, campaigning, pushing for tougher copyright laws, allowing fewer exceptions - and that makes me uneasy. As one example, you'll find details of ALCS lobbying here - just imagine how much more the big multimedia-supported licensing agencies do! The ALCS say:

"Our varied lobbying and campaigning work encompasses everything from press campaigns to gain media coverage for issues of topical importance, to direct lobbying of government on vital matters of policy which directly affect writers. Through our lobbying and campaigning work ALCS aims both to protect the existing secondary rights of UK writers and, in this digital era, secure recognition for their rights in new and developing areas of content provision, for example digital downloads."

"Protect existing secondary rights" = not allow any relaxation in current law.
"Secure recognition for rights in new and developing areas" = make laws stricter/get new laws in place.


All writers?

Aside #2: I imagine very few ALCS members have read the contents of all those submissions made in their name (after all, who has time to do that?), yet many authors do believe current copyright restrictions are too strict (including biggies such as Paulo Coelho and Neil Gaiman).

Aside #3: as with most organisations, licensing and collecting societies in general can act in their own self-interests too, wanting to make themselves indispensable "for the benefit of our members", kind of like how the shareholder system acts to put profit before goodness.

Aside #4: it's an issue with joining any organisation/society/union/alliance. It doesn't matter if it is the Automobile Association (AA) or the Society for Gentlemanly Pursuits. Membership pages always talk about the "benefits of membership" and "what we do for you". But there is another side, not made overt - what you do for the organisation. If they lobby and campaign then their perceived strength is made up of the membership numbers. By being as member, you are adding to that strength. But the problem is if they are lobbying or campaigning on an issue you disagree with, you are then acting against your own goals. It's why - (if I owned a car, which is as unlikely as me owning a TV) - I wouldn't join the AA, who campaign for more roads criss-crossing through dwindling green spaces, but would join the Ethical Transport Association (ETA) instead. You join something, you put your faith in it. Don't let your good faith get used for things you don't agree with. Membership is a form of legitimisation that works both ways.

4. Complication

Maybe this is just an unease at modern life. Who knows. But I think the profusion of licensing and collecting societies makes many things more complicated. Here's a few examples.
  • The licences these societies sell are in addition to what the law says - the law would work even if these societies didn't exist. And in some cases the licences are sold even when the actions done (such as a school quoting from a book) would be legal even without the licence. They are additional complications, wordage and administration.
  • I suspect that because licensing societies exist, many creators are now less likely to see income from commercial re-use of their work. Here's an example. The CLA sell a licence to Big Research Laboratory. The laboratory looks at the licence, decides it is now okay to make use of my future work that touches on their area of expertise, and distributes copies of it (within the CLA licence) as part of their welcome pack to new staff. The CLA has that money. They pass some of it on to the ALCS. It never gets to me; instead the dribbles of cash just benefit the CLA and ALCS. If the CLA and ALCS didn't exist then Big Research Laboratory would contact me and get permission to re-use the material in their pack and pay me directly. I would actually see the money then.
  • I've already talked about the complications of licensing above, while talking about End User License Agreements (lots of words to read), aggressive licensing (complications in understanding what is legal or not) and so on.
  • "Profusion of licensing and collecting societies" (section 2) - what did I mean? Well, just for one type of organisation (independent schools) in one country (England) there might be a need for more than ten licences from different licensing societies! Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA); The Educational Recording Agency (ERA); Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI); Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL); The Performing Right Society (PRS); Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS); Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC); Filmbankmedia (Public Video Screening Licence - PVS); Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA Media Access); PMLL (Schools Printed Music Licence - SPML). No, that list is not comprehensive of all licensing societies.
Please, no more of them... The ALCS.

"But Karl, what would you really want?"

Well, I suppose I'd want some relaxation of laws on things like copyright, so that licences from all the organisations wouldn't be necessary - the law would just allow for those educational uses, and the minimal Fair Use (and define Fair Use clearly). So that anyone could quote and reference (within limits) without needing to get permission or pay. Then there would be no need for a complex superstructure of various licences, exceptions, apportioning, membership, collecting societies, grading and so on, on top of the law - we would just have the law. It would be much simpler to know what we can do; would make information literacy and plagiarism teaching easier and therefore more effective; and would be a good balance between re-use and rewards for creativity, as well as saving all the money spent on this wonky infrastructure built to prop up unstable and wobbly law.

Or, second best, if we're forced down this wobbly road of law + licensing, at least get rid of the messy and wasteful situation we have now. Have a single organisation (combining PLR and various licensing bodies and so on), rather than different bodies for each type of right, and different sets of bodies for each country. Yep, a single institution to deal with this, not the Hydra which currently exists. Then creators only have the admin burden of registering their works with one place; and people wanting to re-use their creations beyond what the law allows only have one organisation to deal with.

Personally, I think authors would be financially better off if there was no ALCS and PLR (which comes to a few hundred a year for many authors, but a lot less - or nothing - for a great majority) and instead the Government just removed tax from e-books. Then authors would make a heck of a lot more money (20% more on every e-book sale - I sold a few thousand last year), and there would be zero admin.

I'll Shut Up Now

I should add that this is not directed at ALCS specifically (since they don't sell the licences, though they do gain money from licences sold by their partner organisation - a kind of splitting of function). It's unease about collecting societies in general, and their partners, though they do tend to have lots of connections with each other - just off the top of my head I can say that the ALCS helped set up the Copyright Licensing Agency and is a member of the Educational Recording Agency (ERA). It's the behaviour of this whole interconnected group of collecting and licensing societies that makes me uneasy, not any individual member.

And maybe I'm being unreasonable. Maybe I overlooked something obvious. Maybe I'll be forced to cave in one day. But when there is an issue where there are lots of assumptions that no-one seems to question, my ears prick up. And so I finally got to the bottom of why I was uneasy at the thought of working with a licensing and collecting society. Though I am pleased that the ALCS have a correctly-used apostrophe in their name.

Update: You may also want to see my later post, Copyright Restrictions On Books.
Also, this is my super-short summary: the legitimacy and legality of ALCS is unclear. I'm not a fan of them because I am fairly open with what I allow with my books, which means I can't allow the CLA to licence my works (their licences are more restrictive), and therefore any money the ALCS collected from licensing my works without my permission would be illegally collected. A minefield, but they realise few authors have the resources to go to court over it.

Jump Around

Actually they get a few mentions, and a whole scene set there in the chapter "Ever Fallen In Love With Someone You Shouldn't've".


Roadside Picnic (Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky)

I'd seen the film, I'd played the game, but they didn't take anything away from reading the book. Minimalist, stark, not afraid to make the reader fill in the gaps, this is a riveting read that paints a big picture. Tense, sad, depressing even, it's a classic.

Evidence Of Being A Writer - What I Do!

Jumping for joy

I've just had to provide an "evidence of trading activity" report to the Department Of Work And Pensions (for boring reasons I won't go into). Generally the required evidence is geared towards businesses such as shops with weekly accounts; it's very different for a writer because it takes c.12 months to write a novel, then further time for sales to begin, so providing reports over a period of a few weeks may not show lots of units shifted! Still, this request (which feels like "Justify yourself!") is a good way of making me look at my activity recently. What have I done?

Obviously, some writing. Or, in many cases, research and planning preparatory to writing. When I have a pile of notes for a story I have to sort them out before I can start writing: make decisions, and get rid of contradictory ideas written at different times. That way I can be clear about what I need to write to fit into a cohesive whole. So the writing and planning done could be potential evidence.

Because of where I am - still doing publicity for one work while planning the next - it means I've been doing lots of marketing work in order to drum up reviews, sales and interest. This is just a selection of what I've done, in a random order, but it gives you a flavour of this kind of task. Any item in the list will have taken a lot longer to do than to write out as a bullet point!


"Look At The Size Of That Thing!" Book Sizes.

Time to get the tape measure out

What is the ideal print book size? I never used to think about it. At one point in the distant past I probably thought all paperback books were equal. But as an author I do have to think about it now, since so much of the work depends on having a fixed size in mind at the start - cover dimensions, interior templates, image sizes. In the past I used A5 as a print size (or "trim size") for my books. It worked out cheapest when there are lots of pages; the cover ratio work for e-books too, so the same cover image can be used for print, Kindle, Smashwords etc. without redesigning it; and it looked nice when held in my hand. For various reasons I won't go into I'm now going to switch from A5 to another size, and I can tell you - it is a bit of a pain. Once I make this change I want to know that I won't have to do it again for a long, long time.

Once I started looking into this I realised that it's more complicated than I'd expected. I was told "these are the sizes of books" - promptly contradicted by other sources quoting different standard sizes. It didn't help that sometimes dimensions are given in cm, sometimes mm, sometimes inches; sometimes the horizontal dimensions are given first (6" x 9"), sometimes the vertical (210 mm x 148 mm); sometimes names are used instead of dimensions (Demy, A Format, Trade); and dimensions for the "same" sizes vary according to different sources. So much for standardisation.


Secondary Character And Other Stories - Launch

Secondary Character And Other Stories is an anthology of Welsh short-story writers, just published by Opening Chapter.
"The twenty-eight stories collected here offer a wealth of both connection and contrast in plot, theme and style. By its nature the short story is capable of leaping into the reader’s imagination to vivid and startling effect, as demonstrated here; each story in this diverse anthology plays with both the everyday and those profound and life changing emotions of loss, jealousy and regret."
My cheery story Miasma is included so I attended the Cardiff launch and read my work, along with some other lovely writers (Chapter Arts Centre, Saturday September 12th 7.00pm). An uneventful train journey got me to Cardiff, and I used it as an opportunity to work on some other short story ideas for my forthcoming collections.

On Saturday evening it was really sunny and bright as I set off walking to Chapter Arts Centre. A good omen. I chatted with people as the room filled up, then we got started. I was the second reader, which is good from the point of view that you can then relax for the rest of the evening! I said a bit about myself then read Miasma. It is quite a dark piece of fiction, disturbing to some (at the end I should have pointed out I was a cat lover), and it is always interesting to read out something challenging and watch people's faces. I've embedded a video of the reading below, and included captions you can turn on.


Launch Talk


Secondary Character And Other Stories is an anthology of Welsh short-story writers, just published by Opening Chapter. My cheery short story Miasma is included.

I'll be reading at the (free!) Cardiff launch, along with some other lovely writers:

First Space, Chapter Arts Centre, Saturday September 12th, 7pm

See here for further details about the book and the launch events. (Facebook event.) Maybe see you there!

What Do You Call Yours? Book Types And Their Value; Plus DRM

Another interesting and thought-provoking article I read this week: "Why Indie Authors Should Start Talking About Pbooks and Abooks" by Orna Ross (who wrote "A manifesto for self-publishing authors" in The Bookseller yesterday). The central idea is that all book formats are equal - i.e. e-books aren't secondary to print - and therefore it makes sense to categories them equally using the system pbooks = print books, ebooks = electronic books, abooks = audio books.

I have some sympathy for this: I'm a vegan, and categorise all milks with a prefix. Soya milk, oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk, dairy milk. They're all milks and dairy milk isn't the default (despite EU rulings that try to redefine language in order to protect the dairy industry). So I can see why something similar could work for types of book.

I haven't gone that far yet: with book formats I talk about e-books, print books and audio books, but generally see them as equal. I can see why some book champions would want to take it a step further.


How To Support An Author

I read an interesting post on Pamreader yesterday: is supporting an author just about buying books? No, it's not. That's just one of many ways in which we show appreciation to the authors we enjoy.

To add my personal spin: a single sale means very little financially - I would need many thousands to break even on a novel - though the sale means something significant to me emotionally, since someone has been interested enough in my writing to spend money on it. Book sales certainly aren't the whole story though. A single favourable review or comment means loads. My days are always brightened when someone says something nice about my books or writing. At present that’s one of my key rewards: connecting with people. That’s why I happily give away my books (often print copies) because finding readers who enjoy your work is why writers press fingers to keyboards. So thanks to all fans of writers and book bloggers who say nice things and make it all worthwhile. I can’t emphasize how important that is.

I plan to do a blog post about finances in the future - to counteract the view that published books = money rolling in! Since I started writing I'm probably about £20,000 down from if I had just done a normal job, and if you take all my income from writing over the years, and take it away from my expenses (research, cover design, editing services, proof copies etc) then I am probably on -£6,000 or more. Yes, that is a minus symbol! So I'd have to avoid spending a penny and sell over £6,000 books just to break even. Eek! Good job people who appreciate my work and write about it make it all worthwhile. :-)

Backup of the interview from Catherine Hokin's website


Book Metadata, Keywords, Tags - What, Why, How

Adding keywords on Smashwords

Because of my librarian past the word metadata means a lot to me. Basically it is data used to describe things, in order to make it easier to find the relevant item later. A book's title and author can be stored as metadata. Emails have metadata stored which includes who it was from, and the time of sending.

As well as titles, authors, date of publication etc, which are visible forms of metadata (the back the the title page in a printed book is basically just a long list of metadata!), there are also keyword descriptions which are used to help people find relevant books in search engines (including on-site engines such as the one that searches Amazon). Suppose a book is called "Rog Bottle". The title gives very little away. But the metadata about the book (book description, genre/category, and keywords) would give a lot of information. When someone searches for the kind of book they are interested in, the search engine will look at all this metadata and find things that seem relevant. So metadata is important for making a book discoverable.


Secondary Character And Other Stories

Secondary Character And Other Stories is an anthology of Welsh short-story writers, just published by Opening Chapter. My cheery short story Miasma is included.

There will be readings at the two (free!) launch events. I'll be reading at the Cardiff one.

Mozart's Bar and Venue
Wednesday September 9th 2015 at 7.30pm

First Space at the Chapter Arts Centre
Saturday September 12th 7.00pm

See here for further details about the book and the launch events. Maybe see you there!

Manchester Music In The Septembers Of Years Past

September is the month for new things connected to Manchester music.

  • September 1971: Richard Ashcroft born.
  • September 1978: "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)" released by Buzzcocks. People should love it, and they do.
  • September 1978: Joy Division's first television performance; the Granada Reports host is Tony Wilson, who later co-founds Factory Records.
  • September 1979: Ian Curtis gets his first guitar; it's eventually inherited by Bernard Sumner and used in early New Order songs.
  • September 1983: James release their first record, "Jimone" (Factory Records).
  • September 1985: Factory Records release the first official record by Happy Mondays. It is delightful.
  • September 1987: "Strangeways, Here We Come" released by The Smiths; their final studio album.
  • September 1989: Inspiral Carpets record "This Is How It Feels"; becomes their first Top 40 single.
  • September 1990: Factory Record's headquarters (FAC 251) open on Charles Street, near BBC Manchester's Oxford Road building.
  • September 1991: The Stone Roses release "I Wanna Be Adored". They are.
  • September 1994: Release of "Definitely Maybe", Oasis' debut album. Straight to number one.
  • September 1995: The UK's number one album is "The Charlatans" by The Charlatans.
  • September 1995: Chemical Brothers single "Life Is Sweet" released; guest vocalist is Tim Burgess from The Charlatans.
  • September 1997: The Verve's "Drugs Don't Work" single gets to number 1 in the UK; their first #1.

Hopefully a good month for 2000 Tunes!

(Guest post written by Mark Hopton).

Book Layouts And Starting New Chapters

I'm interested in books - both the knowledge and stories in them, and their existence as physical artifacts. Yesterday on one of the writing fora I visit someone asked "Should the first page of the first chapter always be on a right hand page?"

"Easy!" I thought at first. "For print - if you have the spread open, a new chapter always begins on the right, which will be an odd-numbered page."

I felt certain that this was common sense. It means that sometimes there's a blank page on the verso (left-side page when the book is open), but you just learn to love the space and tidiness. It means that in my latest novel, 2000 Tunes, where a dark full-page image starts each chapter, you can even see where each chapter begins when the book is closed because of a black line, making it easy to flick back and forth - very helpful in a long book.

(Aside: for e-books this is irrelevant, because the device or app will re-size the pages based on the font and size chosen by the reader. Likewise there are usually no blank pages in an e-book. I just insert a page-break at the end of each chapter, so a new chapter begins on a new page, whether reached through the table of contents, or just through normal reading.)

Of course, our most cherished "knowledge" is often an oversimplification. Other contributors pointed out that the first page of the first chapter does always begin on an odd-numbered page (i.e. on the right when a book is open), but the rule doesn't have to apply to the pages following. There are actually three possibilities.


Zombie Survival

I've always liked games that tell good stories, such as Go Home. I also like PC games which let you add characters, so you can include yourself and friends in the game. The Sims was probably the first time I'd experienced that. Recently I had a bit of fun with a zombie apocalypse survival game called Zafehouse Diaries (buy / review) that lets you import photos of you and your friends and create them as in-game survivors, along with photos of their homes and workplaces that you can visit and fortify in-game.

So, I entered some names, then sat back to see how my friends would survive in a zombie apocalypse. The game then lets you export all the actions as a diary. It didn’t go well. This is their story.


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