‘Stories For Homes’ launched on Kindle

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Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I’m not a great fan of Amazon so I’m wriggling in my seat as I write this.

My short story ‘Room with a View’ has been published in the anthology Stories for Home which is now available on Amazon Kindle . For those of you who, like me, prefer books with pages and ink and supporting local bookshops, a paperback will be out at some point in the Autumn.

‘Stories for Homes’ is a project to raise funds for the housing charity Shelter and to raise awareness about the housing crisis in London and beyond (because as some of us know, there is a ‘beyond’). Known and ’emerging’ writers (emerging sounds better than saying ‘unknown’ doesn’t it?) were invited to submit stories of up to 3,000 words on the theme of Home.

The book has had a great start. For those of you who like numbers, here’s the stats:

Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews) – thank you to the ‘the eternal optimist’ who mentioned my story as one of her favourites.

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,229 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store), #6 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Anthologies, #9 in Books > Fiction > Anthologies

Naturally I’m really pleased to have been selected for the anthology. I’d love it if you’d support Shelter and even more so if you’d do so through buying the e-book or the paperback.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy the tales from some of the UK’s top short story writers.

Stories For Homes

I’m really pleased to say that my story ‘A Room with a View’ will be published this summer in the ‘Stories for Homes’ anthology in support of housing charity Shelter. As you may know, many people are now facing homelessness as a direct consequence of Government policy and the ongoing economic crisis in the UK. As I was brought up on a council estate (my Dad still lives there), I’ve an appreciation of what’s going on so this is a project close to my heart.

I’d struggled to come up with an idea for a short story right until the final day and was apologising to one of the editors, Debi Alper on Twitter. ‘You’ve got until midnight.’ she said. Actually, I hadn’t. I had two hours before I had to go out. Somehow I managed to think of something that would work and then there was a mad scramble to write and submit it in the time available.

An acceptance is always good but it comes as a nice boost to my confidence and I’m looking forward to seeing the final collection. I’ll publish more details when I get them.

As a teaser, here’s a short excerpt:

From our window, you can see the pier and sea. There’s a film called ‘A Room with a View’ and that’s what we have. Except it isn’t ours. It belongs to the hotel we stay in now. Most people think living in a hotel by the seaside would be fabulous, like being a film star, but there’s nothing good about living here.

The Peculiarly British Bedsit Disco Queen

isbn9781844088669-detailAfter last night’s event, I now have a vision of someone in their early thirties moving next door to Tracey Thorn. After six months their friends ask them about the neighbours.
‘Tracey and Ben, they’re really nice.’
‘What do they do?’
‘Dunno, really. I’ve never asked.’ And so the next time they meet, the neighbour asks what her what she does for a living.
‘I’m a musician’ she says
‘Anything I’ve heard of?’ asks the neighbour not really interested in music, expecting that she might play third violin in an orchestra occasionally.
‘Probably not, I was in a band called Everything But The Girl.’
‘Oh right, ok then’ the neighbour replies and moves the conversation on, only to Google it a few few hours later. ‘Oh f***!’ says the neighbour as the Google search comes back on screen.

Of course, everyone of the sixty odd people crammed into The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green knows who Tracey Thorn is and they’re all here tonight to hear her talk about her autobiography ‘Bedsit Disco Queen – How I grew up and tried to be a pop star’ which is a funny, candid and compelling account from childhood in Hertfordshire to becoming a Marine Girl, meeting her husband Ben Watt and how, as Everything But The Girl, they went on to make nine albums and sell nine million records (during the course of which Ben developed a life threatening illness), through to her semi retirement to raise a family and her first post EBTG solo album.
Tracey opens by reading a piece of the book about meeting and playing with Paul Weller. It’s funny and self deprecating but it’s an interesting passage about how we feel awkward when we meet our heroes (see later) but also how, even so early in their career, fellow musicians held EBTG in such high regard. The main act is an interview with rock critic Pete Paphides. It’s a fascinating interview covering her career, the history of British music and the pressures of the record industry.
A few times she uses the phrase ‘peculiarly British’ as she talks about situations such as touring where every meal is prepared for you, yet you crave for something different but are afraid to make a fuss for fear of offending anyone or being called a diva and how they reacted finding out that the laundry bill in the Fours Seasons in LA was more than the entire recording budget for their first album. If we were in America, there’d be whoops and cheers at the mention of Paul Weller, George Michael or Massive Attack. But it’s a book shop in North London and there’s just people listening quietly and respectfully as we British tend to do.
At the end of the evening, there’s a book signing and I take my place at the end of the queue. I ought to tell that I’ve loved her work ever since I first heard ‘Eden’ in 1984. I ought to say that ‘And I miss you (like the deserts miss the rain)’ from ‘Missing’ is perhaps the most perfect line from the most perfect song ever written about losing someone you really love or the fact that ‘Oh, The Divorces’ makes me well up ever time I hear it. But I don’t say any of  that because I’m peculiarly British too and saying that that would just make me look a complete idiot. So instead I say something inane. She smiles politely, signs my book and probably thinks I’m an idiot anyway. I have my excuse. I’m a fan and, despite all her down to earthness, she is and always will be the Bedsit Disco Queen.

Thanks to The Big Green Bookshop for putting on this event. Amazon run huge distribution warehouses and sell books alongside printer cartridges and garden furniture. Tim and Simon love books, run a bookstore, put on events for booklovers and and sell books. There’s a world of difference.

The Launch of ‘The Night Rainbow’

On Wednesday, I was delighted to attend the launch of Claire King’s ‘The Night Rainbow’ at Daunt’s wonderful bookshop in Marylebone.

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I’ve gone on about ‘The Night Rainbow’ (a lot, sorry) for two good reasons. Firstly, Claire is a friend. We worked together many moons ago in London and shared that Northern sense of humour that made the full on heads down madness of London a little more bearable. And, since I started writing, she has been a great source of encouragement and help.

Claire brings people together and good things happen; it’s a gift. I love seeing my friends do well in any aspect of life but, outside sport, it’s rare to be present at a moment when someone’s dream comes true so I wanted to be there to celebrate her success.

Secondly, when I put all my bias and partisanship aside and sat down quietly with a proof copy of the ‘Night Rainbow’ over Christmas, I thought it was an extraordinary book. I could see why Bloomsbury snapped it up and why they have put a lot of love and care into it. It has its own beguiling mood and rhythm which is captured perfectly by the trailer. .

Being a photographer, I took my camera along and took a few photos just to capture the moment*. The setting is fabulous. If you haven’t been to Daunt’s, go and visit them. There is nothing better than talking about books, whilst being surrounded by books (oh, and drinking wine). It was lovely to see a collection of Night Rainbows in the shop window and a huge pile of them on the shop counter beforehand; even better to see that they had all been sold at the end of the evening to find their way to new homes far and wide.

I took away two things from the evening. The first was that, as much as I love Twitter, making personal connections with someone just adds something else entirely. Secondly, that as writers, editors or just book lovers, we really need to champion our remaining bookshops and libraries and we must never undervalue the skills and sheer hard work that go into writing a novel and bringing it to an audience.

So, after a very long wait, it gives me enormous pleasure to write my final sentence. ‘The Night Rainbow’ by Claire King has been published by Bloomsbury and is available from all good bookshops.

*If you’ve a strong objection to having your photo on the gallery e.g you’re wanted by Interpol, please let me know the number of the photo and I’ll remove it.

The Night Rainbow – Claire King

I’m delighted that my friend Claire King has her first novel ‘The Night Rainbow’ published in the UK by Bloomsbury today. I’m delighted not just because getting a book published is such a big thing but because it is an extraordinary book. Here’s the marketing blurb:

During one long, hot summer, five-year-old Pea and her little sister Margot play alone in the meadow behind their house, on the edge of a small village in Southern France. Her mother is too sad to take care of them; she left her happiness in the hospital, along with the baby. Pea’s father has died in an accident and Maman, burdened by her double grief and isolated from the village by her Englishness, has retreated to a place where Pea cannot reach her – although she tries desperately to do so. Then Pea meets Claude, a man who seems to love the meadow as she does and who always has time to play. Pea believes that she and Margot have found a friend, and maybe even a new papa. But why do the villagers view Claude with suspicion? And what secret is he keeping in his strange, empty house? Elegantly written, haunting and gripping, The Night Rainbow is a novel about innocence and experience, grief and compassion and the dangers of an overactive imagination.

It’s a good summary but I think it struggles to capture the mood and language. Fortunately Bloomsbury produced this wonderful trailer which does exactly that. 

If you’re going to buy one book this year, make it this one. I don’t think you will regret it.

Seconds, Months, Years?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a poem called China for National Poetry Day and put it on Fictionaut. It took seconds. Not ‘published’ as such, no kudos or slap on the back, but out there for someone to read when the thought behind it was still warm in my head. By contrast, the lag between producing a few words and publication in a book seems an eternity. An acceptance appears in your email and you remember suddenly that you submitted it ages ago. Eventually there’s a request for proofing and you look at it as if it were an old photograph from a distant era. Then, by the time it’s published, you’re greeting it as if it were a long lost friend you thought had been lost at sea.
I’ve had two pieces of work published in the last couple of weeks. The first is a flash fiction piece ‘Greyhound’ which appears in ‘Best of Friday Flash: Volume 2’ in both ‘e’ and paperback formats. This is a slightly modified version of one of my very first stories written nearly two years ago. #Fridayflash has been a great vehicle for promoting the art of the very short story and this volume contains many writers that I have come to admire. It’s a thrill to be included alongside them.
The second publication in Kindle and paperback formats is ‘A Blackbird Sings; a book of short poems’ – little pieces of description or small stones as they are sometimes called. These few words were written on a dreary winter’s day in January and it is ironic that I am writing this in October some ten months later as the wind picks up, the leaves fall and the skies darken in the middle of the afternoon.
I really pleased with the publications. I just wish it didn’t take so bloody long!

100RPM – One Hundred Short Stories Inspired By Music

Today sees the publication of 100RPM – One Hundred Short Stories Inspired By Music, with an introduction by ‘80s Popstar and singer / songwriter Nik Kershaw (‘Wouldn’t It Be Good’,’The Riddle’). The anthology put together by celebrated author Caroline Smailes and features one of my stories ‘Baker’s Shop’.

This anthology of 100 stories is made up of short piece of flash fiction based on a song on YouTube. Full details of the project and the other chosen writers are available here.  My entry ‘Baker’s Shop’ is based one of my favourite Tori Amos songs ‘ Baker, Baker’ from the album ‘Under the Pink’ (1994). If you’ve never heard it before, then have a listen here

All proceeds from the book will be going to the charity One in Four, which provides support and resources to people who have experienced sexual abuse and sexual violence.

 

 

The e-book is available via Amazon (UK) or Amazon (US) at a discounted price for a limited period only.

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