Fishcake Publications ~ the story

Fishcakes Logo copyI’ll let my guest, Martin Rothery, tell us his story.

The Birth of Fishcake Publications.

It all started when I was made redundant in December 2011 and I thought ‘Oh no, what am I going to do now?’

Firstly, I didn’t panic.

Secondly, I was relieved, as I’d been miserable in that job anyway.

Thirdly, I took stock of my life, looked at my skills and ambitions and made the big decision – I was going to work for myself. But doing what?

Publishing.

A big leap, I know. So how did I come up with this fantastic plan?

Well, I’d been laying the foundations for a few years. I’d started writing in 2008, attending creative writing classes through adult education. I’d attended various workshops over the years to get a feel for all types of writing. I’d joined the Holmfirth Writers’ Group which provided a great support network, and where I was lucky enough to spend some time as treasurer. As a group, we’d also launched two anthologies. This provided some great experience.

But most importantly, I’d written a book that was ready for publishing and so I had something to act as the launch vehicle for my business. However, I found writing was the easy part. Starting a business is scary when you’re unsure what you’re doing. Luckily, I found plenty of free business courses and the most useful ones were run by Her Majesties Revenue & Customs, which was quite handy since these were the people I feared the most.

Cows! Front Cover

So, in February 2012, Fishcake Publications was launched with my first book, COWS!. Initially launched as an eBook, a printed copy soon followed. This has now sold over 110 copies in the UK and the USA, which I’m quite pleased with (although I’m striving to sell more!)

I have also released a book called Nonagenarians in memory of my grandparents and containing poetry written by them. This is currently free on Smashwords, as I wanted to share this with as many people as possible. It was also produced in a small booklet which raised over £140 for the Parkwood Methodist Old Folks Luncheon Club, a cause close to their hearts.

Souls_Of_Darkness_1400 (Cover_b)Fishcake’s latest release was a book called Souls of Darkness and was a collaboration between three authors (me being one of them).  I am currently marketing and promoting this and, hopefully, there will be a printed copy available soon.

At the end of last year, I was also very pleased to launch my own website www.fishcakepublications.com (of which, I am proud to say, I did all the work myself). I now offer my services to the public in general. I am especially keen to help new unpublished writers, as I believe every new writer needs a step up the ladder and if someone’s taken the time to write something, it deserves to be read. I have received a few submissions over the last few months that I’m very excited about, and I hope I will be able to bring to the world in the near future.

After doing all this, my advice to anyone nowadays is, if you believe in your ideas, don’t be afraid to give them a go.

Amazon Kindle links:

Cows! http://www.amazon.co.uk/COWS-ebook/dp/B0075L8DM4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1359042480&sr=8-1

Souls of Darkness  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Souls-of-Darkness-ebook/dp/B0088DCG4Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1359042495&sr=1-1

Nonagenarians http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nonagenarians-ebook/dp/B0078MXHQM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1359043823&sr=8-1

Smashwords links:

Cows! http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/129478

Souls of Darkness http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/168150

Nonagenarians http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/237120

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Alert for Writers

English: Millenium Gardens at University of No...

The National Association of Writers’ Groups is holding its yearly Festival of Writing at Nottingham University from 31st. August to 2nd. September. There are workshops by excellent tutors, talks by authors, fun and celebration of the art of writing in a very friendly atmosphere.

A free workshop; a barbeque; a booked workshop followed by professional entertainment from performance poet Mark Gwynne Jones on Friday will be an exciting start to a memorable weekend. Mark recently performed at Ronnie Scott’s Club in London. The weekend includes four choices from sixteen workshops to hone your writing skills; fun sessions; discussion panels and much, much more, including our Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony on Saturday evening, during which the 2012 Writing Competition Winners will be announced.

For more information about the Festival and the benefits of joining NAWG, visit the website or upload the brochure

There is still some availability, but please be quick if you want to be part of this year’s Festival. If you cannot join in this year there are competitions, a Writers’ Retreat and another Festival next year in a new venue, yet to be decided. Visit the NAWG Website and see what’s on offer.

 Come for the whole weekend or a single workshop.

£230 for Nawg members, £250 non-members, for 2 nights full-board and 4 taught workshops.

For continuously updated details go to: www.nawg.co.uk where you may download a brochure and booking form and pay by PayPal. Or, contact the Festival Booking Administrator: Anne Steward. casualwriter@hotmail.com – Tel: 01484 769930

The Farther Shores of Historical Fiction.

La Hougue Bie Photo credit: Man Vyi

Is it possible to write historical fiction where there is no history to base it on? If a writer wishes to set a story in prehistoric times, he or she has to find a way through this dilemma. When I came to write my novel, Undreamed Shores[i] (set between Southern England, Northern France and the Channel Islands in c2400 BC), I was consciously inspired by writers such as William Golding (The Inheritors, Faber & Faber 1955) and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas (Reindeer Moon, William Collins 1987), but still had to find my own way of approaching the task. Where history has nothing to say, one falls back on archaeology – an easy option for me, since I have a PhD in the subject, and have taught it in various universities for many years. Many of the places in Undreamed Shoresare based on real archaeological sites, and many of the objects mentioned can be seen in museums. Even some of the characters are based on skeletons excavated by archaeologists. In all of these cases, I have tried to be as faithful as possible to the evidence as I understand it.

Undreamed Shores

Archaeology, however, only takes us so far, and not nearly as far as a novelist wishes to go. It tells us nothing of the languages spoken in prehistory, of the etiquette of prehistoric peoples or their modes of courtship. It has little enough to say about their clothing, the way they dressed their hair, the sorts of medicines they used, the sort of music they enjoyed. Some of this, of course, I simply made up (it’s what fiction writers do, after all), but I drew inspiration from a variety of disciplines, ranging from social anthropology to linguistics, herbalism, the psychology of myth, the craft of oral story-telling. The story-teller, Sally Pomme Clayton; natural food expert, Robin Harford; and survival guru, Ray Mears probably all deserved credits in a list of acknowledgements that could easily have got out of hand. I drew also on my personal experiences, especially in my youth – sailing, open-water swimming, hiking, bird-watching – the reader will easily spot these!

Ancient hair clasps

A lot of my inspiration came from the countryside, which one might almost consider a character in the book (my characters walk from Chesil Beach to Stonehenge, and I actually did the walk myself, making copious notes along the way about the plants, birds and animals that I encountered) but, as a Londoner, I also took full advantage of the museums that enrich our lives in the capital. The lyre played by one of my characters is based on an Ethiopian lyre in the Horniman; the painted jackets that some characters wear are based on Native American examples in the British Museum; even the map which plays a crucial part in the plot is based on an object in the British Museum – one of the earliest maps made in the Americas.

Novelists draw inspiration from anywhere and everywhere, and this is as true with the remote past as it is with contemporary fiction.


[i] Undreamed Shores is published by Crooked Cat Publications, 2012. (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Undreamed-Shores-ebook/dp/B0084UZ530/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1337840626&sr=8-6)

Related articles, if you’d like some inspiration for your historical fiction:

A-C Writing & Self-publishing tips

Maria Savva has kindly supplied today’s brilliant post. She has an impressive list of published works, which I’ve added at the end. Now over to Maria:

Firstly, I would like to thank Kimm for inviting me to write a guest blog for this wonderful site. I’ve decided to write a list of tips for self-published writers. This blog post will be the first of many. I will continue with a series on my own blog in the coming months.

I started writing my first novel in 1997, and before that I wrote lots of short stories. Over the years I like to think that I have learnt a few things about writing and self-publishing that might be of some use to those writers who are starting out, or those who just need a few ideas to help navigate their way in the minefield that is modern day writing and publishing/promoting.

I’m going to list my tips in alphabetical order, to make it easier to use as a reference guide. In this first in the series, I will cover A-C. So here we go:

A

Apostrophes.

These little punctuation marks seem determined to appear in as much fiction — or non-fiction — as possible; they are the literary equivalent of people who try to get into the background when they see someone filming a news item for TV. Apostrophes have a tendency to appear in text where they are not needed, and even the most seasoned writers will admit to accidentally putting apostrophes where they don’t belong. It’s as if there is an apostrophe gremlin who is determined on world domination. It’s important to know when and when not to use these little upside-down commas… perhaps they are just drunk commas; they are often there when they shouldn’t be and missing when they should be there. One thing to note here, though, is that I started this section with the intention of making it clearer as to when apostrophes should be used, but discovered during my research that there are many grey areas, and there are many usages that are acceptable to some but not to others (now I hope you are getting an idea about how stressful the editing process can be for writers!)

In the English language apostrophes are used:

1. To indicate possession e.g. Rebecca’s toy (the toy belongs to Rebecca);

2.  To replace something missing from the text e.g. didn’t — the apostrophe indicates that the o is missing from not; and,

3. Less commonly, they’re used to avoid a word being read as something else. For example, where you are writing a sentence such as ‘there are two i’s in limit’ to avoid i’s being read as is. Although I will explain later why I don’t necessarily agree with some of this type of usage.

Some common mistakes I have noticed:

I most commonly see apostrophes misused in dates. For example, I’ve seen: “Television programmes in the 1980’s”

That in my opinion, is wrong (although there are some that argue it is correct usage. There are many grey areas in regard to use of apostrophes, as I mentioned above). In my opinion, this should just say: 1980s i.e. plural of 1980. The reason I say this is because there is no chance of someone misreading 1980s as something else, so why use an apostrophe?

You do need the apostrophe if you don’t use the full year and condense it to ’80s. This is because the apostrophe is then being used to indicate that there is some number missing at the start. So, if you were abbreviating the word because to cause, you would put the apostrophe in front: ’cause — to indicate missing letters.

I’ve also seen misuse where people think it indicates the plural of something, like: I took some of my CD’s. Again, in my opinion, that is wrong. It should just be CDs.

There is one usage that can be quite confusing and stumps many new writers: It’s and its.

It’s indicates it is or it has

Its is used for possession, so ‘the cat stretched its paws’ (yes, grammar is confusing).

In general, I think you should remember that where you are indicating the plural of something you don’t need the apostrophe.

I’ve just realised I could probably write a book about the misuse of apostrophes and the arguments as to when they should be used… those little blighters would be happy with that, I’m sure.

Another common mistake is where there is more than one person possessing something. In that case the apostrophe goes at the end… for example parents are two people, so if you’re talking about your parents’ house, the apostrophe goes at the end.

Names that end with S can cause confusion e.g. James. The possessive is sometimes seen as James’s or James’

I would argue that the first usage is correct, because of the way the word is pronounced i.e. you pronounce an extra S, so should use one, however, it is not necessarily considered wrong to miss off the extra S.

I could go on for ever here, but I’ll just mention one more common misuse. They’re and their are often mixed up. They’re means they are (apostrophe is used to replace missing letter); their means something belonging to them… and when I say themI mean more than one person. That’s a whole other grammar lesson that I won’t get into here…

So, my advice is to check your usage of apostrophes carefully. There are many online resources you can use if in doubt. Just Google your query and you’ll find some answers on grammar websites or forums.

So, now I have thoroughly confused you about the use of apostrophes, I will go on to the next letter:

B

BestsellerBound.com is an indie writers’ forum. Suspense author, Darcia Helle, created the site in 2010, but before she launched it, she invited mystery author, Stacy Juba, and myself to join her on the site as resident authors. We launched the forum in the late summer of 2010 and it is a very successful forum where indie writers meet to chat and discuss writing projects. We also undertake group projects such as short story anthologies.

I would advise all writers to join a writers’ forum, even if it’s not BestsellerBound. The great thing about being part of a writers’ group is that you can bounce ideas off each other, you can support each other with promotion, and also you can just have somewhere you can go to rant about things like the unavoidable bad reviews.

Blogs:

I think it’s a good idea for a writer to have a blog. A blog helps your readers get to know you a bit better, but at the same time you are in control of what you post on the blog and so can reveal as much or as little about yourself as you feel comfortable with. On my blog, which is on my Goodreads.com Author Page, I interview other authors and host giveaways of their books; I use it to promote my own books and keep readers up to date with my new projects; I also use it as somewhere I can link to interviews I have done, and just as a general place to let people know about my latest news. You can set up your own blog on WordPress or Blogspot, both seem to be quite popular with authors.

Here are links to some of my favourite author blogs that will give you an idea as to what you can use a blog for:

Quiet Fury Books: http://quietfurybooks.com/blog/

The Tale is The Thing: http://thetaleisthething.blogspot.co.uk/

The Farthest Reaches: http://www.thefarthestreaches.com/

Of Cats and Magic: http://michaelradcliffe.wordpress.com/

Goodread’s Blog of author Quentin R. Bufogle: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2662374.Quentin_R_Bufogle/blog

C

Contests/Competitions/Challenges:

For most of my writing life I have entered short story competitions. I have found this a great way to keep my creativity and inspiration flowing. Many years ago I subscribed to a writers’ magazine and began to enter the monthly competitions. I haven’t entered them for a couple of years, but only because of lack of time. What I liked about entering the monthly competitions was that they were always a challenge. There would be either a theme given, a first line, last line, sometimes a photograph, or even a description of a character, and the challenge was to write a story based around this, and to keep to a certain word limit. I believe that by writing these stories regularly, I really developed my skills as a short story writer and these days I find it quite easy to write a short story without thinking too much or planning too much. I think any kind of writing contest is good for developing your writing skills and becoming a better writer. It’s not important to win the contest, but more important that you get something out of entering. I was short listed for many of the contests and I won one of them. Here’s a link to my winning story, The Game of Life, which is free to read on Freado.com: http://www.freado.com/book/9186/the-game-of-life

As well as entering contests as a challenge, you should also challenge yourself in other ways with your writing. For example, I took part in an unplanned writing experiment on Bestsellerbound a couple of years ago, where I wrote an online novella with another author, Jason McIntyre. We wrote the story online, one chapter at a time. He wrote the first one, I wrote the next, etc., and we wrote the story without planning it or consulting each other about how it would progress. That was a fun challenge, and the interesting thing about it was that it gave me a bit of an insight as to how another writer, with quite a different style of writing, would approach a story. If you ever get the opportunity to write with another writer or group of writers, I think that can teach you quite a lot about your own writing. The novella I wrote with Jason McIntyre, Cutting The Fat, is available on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Cutting-The-Fat-ebook/dp/B004KPM27K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342636329&sr=8-1&keywords=cutting+the+fat

Another challenge that other writers recommend is the NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month: http://www.nanowrimo.org/ which takes place each November, when you can challenge yourself to write a novel in a month. I’ve never taken part, but have been told it’s a fun and useful thing to do. Even if you don’t finish a novel in that time, you will have a good start for your next project. It could be used as a way to kick-start your writing if you find yourself in a rut. There is a community feel about the event as many writers take part.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post and if you have, you can follow more of my tips at my Goodreads blog in the coming months: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1418272.Maria_Savva/blog

Thank you, Maria, for your informative post, lots of things to think about. 

Maria’s published works:

Coincidences 2001

A Time to Tell 2006

The Game of Life a short story (Writers’ News magazine) 2008

Pieces of a Rainbow 2009

Love and Loyalty (and Other Tales) 2010

Second Chances 2010

Fusion 2011

Cutting The Fat 2011 (co-author Jason McIntyre)

Flames a short story (The BestsellerBound Short Story Anthology – Volume 1) 2011

The Dream 2011

Isolation a short story (The BestsellerBound Short Story Anthology – Volume 2) 2011

Winter Blues a short story (The BestsellerBound Short Story Anthology – Volume 3) 2011

Coincidences (second edition) 2012

Maria is currently preparing to publish her fifth novel.

She is a resident author at BestsellerBound where readers can meet and chat with indie authors.

Maria also writes book reviews for Bookpleasures.com

The bittersweet smell of success

Cornerstones is a literary consultancy. I learned an enormous amount on one of their weekend courses and used their manuscript appraisal service to help polish my novel, Once Removed. Kathryn kindly gave me permission to share this post from their blog, http://cornerstoneslitconsultancy.blogspot.co.uk/

At Cornerstones there’s nothing that gives us more happiness than placing our authors with agents and seeing them go on to get a publishing deal. Whilst what we do is rewarding in so many ways – helping authors find their way forward when they’ve got stuck with a story, shaping promising manuscripts into something that’s really dazzling – publication is everybody’s long term goal and it’s what we’re all working towards. So why do we always feel kind of sad when it happens?

It’s like saying goodbye after a long journey you’ve made with strangers who’ve become friends. It’s like handing over your child at the first day of school and knowing you won’t play such a big part in their life from here on in. It’s like the end of a love affair.

I think most people in the industry feel the same way to some degree – and authors will certainly know what I’m talking about. When you work on a manuscript for a long time it feels like you’ve poured a lot of yourself into it. You’ve got to know the characters and the plot so well you dream about them. You can’t help but think of it as yours.

But the crux of what we do is preparing authors for the publishing arena; for starting a career in writing. And so much of that is about learning to self-edit, perfecting those independent editorial skills that will stand you in good stead throughout your writing life. When authors first come to us it’s because they’re looking for advice on these techniques; putting their manuscript through the editorial process is often the start of a learning curve that can last months or years. And the end goal of that process is for an author to go out into the publishing world on their own two feet, without needing our help any more.

With every successful edit, a manuscript (and its author) becomes bolder and more confident and seeing that happen is the most rewarding part of all. But it’s also kind of sad to know that if the process is working then each edit is bringing us closer to the moment when we have to say goodbye.

Sniff.

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