Limbo

18 Mar

I seem to be in a strange kind of limbo, writing-wise at the moment. I’ve finished my latest novel, The Sarcophagus Scroll, and I’ve given it to my editor and a couple of beta readers (at their request), but as my editor has just given birth and beta readers (in my experience) rarely do much reading, there’s no news. It almost feels as if I never finished it and it simply doesn’t exist.

Then there are a couple of magazine articles that are due to come out in April – which in magazine terms actually means mid to late March – but as they’re out of my hands, and not yet out in the shops, they are sort of in limbo, too.

And finally there’s Twitter, where I usually chat to writer friends, and plug my books, and roll my eyes at everyone else’s book plugs. I decided to give up Twitter for Lent,* just at the very last minute, so I didn’t even announce it before I left. I don’t expect too many of my followers are wondering where I’ve gone. The sense of community on Twitter is largely an illusion. But it makes me feel cut off from the land of the living (or at least, the tweeting) which adds to my sense of limbo. I’ve started texting my brother-in-law more, because who else am I going to share my current-affairs-related mild witticisms, now that I don’t have about 600 perfect strangers to do it with?

At least my blog is no longer in limbo. And I have started work on a non-fiction book on alchemy (although that will be a very long road), so I am still plodding along in my writing career even if I don’t seem to be externally.

There’s a vaguely appropriate concept in alchemy called palingenesis, which involves bringing something back to life in a new and improved form. It would be nice to think something like that will happen to my visibility as an author, but as the techniques of palingenesis tend to be pretty extreme (you have to reduce the original thing to ash, and that’s just the start of it!) maybe I’ll just be patient a little longer.


*If you’ve clicked through to this from a notification on Twitter, don’t worry, I haven’t slipped; it’s just that I’ve got automatic notifications set up.

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Dyslexia-Friendly Storytelling

15 Feb

I’ve just written a wee blog post for Dyslexia Scotland about the BBC’s 500 Word story competition for children – a very dyslexia-friendly competition, as it happens. Who said dyslexics can’t be successful authors?

A Life less ordinary

child-writingA couple of weeks ago, the BBC launched this year’s 500 Words competition. 500 Words is a writing competition for children between 5 and 13 years old. Each entrant submits one story of up to 500 words. The three winners in each age category win either their own height in books, the Duchess of Cornwall’s height in books (5’6”), or DJ Chris Evans’ height in books (6’2”).

Entries are judged on

  • originality
  • plot
  • characterisation
  • language

Crucially, entries are not judged on spelling, punctuation or grammar. In fact, the official rules say that entries are judged “without regard” for these potential stumbling blocks for young dyslexic writers.

Entries are also submitted by copying or typing into an online text box. A helpful adult is supposed to do this bit, and to fill out the rest of the online entry form for the child. That removes another potential barrier for children with…

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Beautiful Bute

7 Feb

I’m just back from what my sister called my “overseas tour” – speaking to a literary society on the Isle of Bute.

Bute is really not that far from Glasgow, so I was half embarrassed that I had never been there, half unable to believe that I had really never been. I spent the first few minutes as the ferry docked in Rothesay dredging up childhood memories of seaside towns I had visited, like Tarbert (ok, lochside, not seaside) and Millport, and mentally holding them up for comparison. But no, none of them fitted.

Rothesay, the capital, is bigger than I realised, and surprisingly town-like. (I was expecting a village.) It has a cinema, swimming baths, lots of social housing, a decent library and actual shops selling things other than postcards and scented candles.

As for the rest of Bute, I never saw it, although there do seem to be a lot of tourist sites (famous gardens, impressive buildings), and three different people told me I must visit St Blane‘s church on the south of the island. So I expect I will go back some day, probably in summer when the weather is a bit less dreich. After all l it’s only two hours and 20 quid from the centre of Glasgow.

As for the North Bute Literary Society, they were very welcoming and listened intently as I took them on a flying visit to the late Roman era and the dark ages, although they asked some seriously challenging questions afterwards! And could I remember the date of Constantine’s conversion off-hand? No reader, I could not. But I survived, and they seemed to enjoy it, and now it is on to the, ahem, international leg of my tour. (I’m away to England.)

And just so you don’t say I’m not nice to you, here’s another lovely picture of sunrise on Bute.

Robin Hood on Tour

2 Feb

Next week I’ll be travelling to Robin Hood’s heartland which is, of course, Yorkshire!

On this mini-book tour I’ll be speaking to the sixth formers at my old school, Sheffield High, but I’ll also be doing a public event at Stannington Library. Stannington is a suburb of Sheffield that is still almost like a village, and is conveniently close to Loxley, of Robin Hood fame.

It’s on Tuesday 12th of February at 7pm, and it takes the form a discussion between myself and a storyteller called Carmel Page, who has written fictional stories about the young Robin Hood.

Entry is free, but as it’s a volunteer library, donations are encouraged. I will also have copies of my book Why Everything You Know about Robin Hood Is Wrong available for sale.

There’s a PDF of the event poster here, which you may share as widely as you like, and there’s this adorable wee gif that Stannington Library created for me. (If it doesn’t play automatically, try clicking on it.)

two_heads

By the way, if you have an idea of an author event for me, or would like to invite me to speak to your school or organisation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch using the “Get in Touch” section (obviously). ➡️

 

 

Isaac Newton – Mathematician, Physicist and … Theologian?

28 Jan

20190126_113909In the latest edition of Premier’s Christianity magazine you will find my “Ten-Minute Guide to Isaac Newton”.

Why would Isaac Newton be featured in a series of short guides to figures in church history? Because he had some wacky, but sincerely held, theological views. Although he’s best known for dabbling in maths and physics (you may have heard of one or two of his wee laws of motion that revolutionised the science of the time), his real passions were biblical criticism (especially trying to construct a universal chronology of all human history after Noah’s flood) and alchemy.

While I was researching this article I also happened to be reading Somerset Maugham’s brilliant novel, The Magician. The result was that I quickly became deeply fascinated by the history of alchemy, to the extent that I want to write a book on it someday.

Apparently not everyone shares this fascination, because one of the boxes I had written to accompany the article, about alchemists who were also Christians (or Christianish, in Newton’s case) was cut in favour of some interesting Newton quotes. That’s not anything unusual. When a book is edited, you spent time going back and forth with your editor discussing and negotiating changes; when a magazine is edited, time pressure means that you only find out afterwards.

However, you lucky people who follow my blog can still enjoy the deleted box! Here is a rundown of some of famous Christians who also dedicated themselves to the pursuit of the philosopher’s stone.

morienusMorienus – Christian hermit who introduced alchemy to the Islamic world.

dunstanSt Dunstan – abbot of Glastonbury and later Archbishop of Canterbury. A work on how to produce the philosopher’s stone is attributed to him. [Although to be fair, it could all have been false accusations by his enemies. But he was awfully good at metalwork, which is associated with alchemy. Just sayin’.]

sylvester iiPope Sylvester II – French pope who was deeply interested in arts and sciences, including alchemy, and helped to introduce Arab knowledge to Europe.

albertus magnusAlbertus Magnus – Dominican monk who taught Thomas Aquinas and spent 20 years setting down in Latin the knowledge of every branch of learning that existed.

Each of these men is fascinating in his own right, and well worth looking up. Or if you’re feeling lazy you could just wait, possibly several years, until I write that book I mentioned. But don’t wait years to read the article on Newton – it’s only available this month, and if you’ve never subscribed to Christianity before, you can even get a free trial copy.

Plastic-free(ish) Living

15 Jan

I ran a Twitter poll to see what I should write my next post on, and of the two people who replied, half wanted a post about plastic-free living. That is clearly the undeniable will of the people, so let’s proceed.

Background

I’ve been trying to reduce my plastic use over the last year or so (yes, basically since Blue Planet II), and I’ve tried out a number of plastic-free alternatives and techniques – some successful, some less so. This is not based on exhaustive research (for that, try My Plastic-Free Life), just one woman’s dabbling. But it might give you some ideas, if you too were very sad about the baby whale.

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Robin Hood 2018 Review

22 Nov

This review is going to contain one or two spoilers, so if you’d prefer a quick summary, here it is: just plain daft.

Robin-Hood-quad-poster

Looks cool. And…that’s about it.

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The Story of Robin Hood in Pictures

21 Nov

When I was preparing my new book, Why Everything You Know about Robin Hood Is Wrong for publication, I initially intended to have an accompanying image in each chapter. I ditched the idea, mostly because it would make the book to expensive (always thinking of you, my dear readers) but I thought you might like to see them anyway.

So in this blog you will see the pictures that would have been in the colour edition of the book, in order, along with their original captions. They may not make total sense out of context. To fill in the blanks, you will have to read my book – which is released tomorrow! (22nd November 2018, that is.)

(By the way, most of the images in this post are licensed for resuse, but not all. Check the caption for the origin if you plan to reuse them.)
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Robin Hood on the Other Side

20 Nov

I recently had a cross-timezone Skype chat with Mike Huberty, a rock musician who also runs a podcast called See You on the Other Side. The podcast deals with pop culture and the paranormal (fairly interesting, right?) and I was talking to him, naturally enough, about Robin Hood in connection with my new book, Why Everything You Know about Robin Hood Is Wrong.

If you want to listen into to our conversation, and find out my fun facts about Will Scarlett and the dodginess of medieval May Games, you can listen to the podcast on Mike’s site, or on Podbean, or iTunes.

Happy listening!

Why Everything You Know about Robin Hood Is Wrong – book launch

14 Nov

After much to-ing and fro-ing, the book launch for Why Everything You Know about Robin Hood Is Wrong is set for Saturday 24th November at the Virgin Money Lounge in Glasgow, on the corner of Royal Exchange Square and Queen Street. (Here’s a handy map.)

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