Magic, Mystery and Mayhem

Writebulb Book-Signing Event

by Beverly Townsend

On Saturday 5th July the Writebulb Writers Group held their third book signing event at Chelmsford Library. Our latest tome worthy of a signing is called ‘Magic, Mystery and Mayhem’ – an anthology of eighteen stories written by members of the group. After months of writing, editing and proofreading our latest, much anticipated book, has finally been published.

The signing was well attended by the authors who were all in place at 10am, at desks arranged in a U-shape formation with notices on boards positioned behind us stating who we were and encouraging the library patrons to come across, say ‘Hello’, and with any luck buy a copy.

Carlie and Maria organised the event and Sarah-Jane made delicious cup cakes which were much appreciated by everyone.  Kerry acted as cashier for each book purchased and Carol handed out advertising leaflets in the City Centre with her new baby boy in tow.

There was much anticipation by the authors, all poised with pens in hands waiting for the hoards to arrive, buy a book and come across for our signatures. Alas it was a bit of a slow start; most of the Saturday morning regulars just looked across in our direction, then carried on with the task of choosing their favourite reads, but others approached us curious to know why we were there.

Some of the authors circulated, speaking to staff and public encouraging them to come over and take a look at our latest work together with a choice of other published works by the group.

Friends and families of the authors arrived and purchased books and chatted to us and said they were looking forward to a good read; it was also the first opportunity for the authors to purchase a copy.

Trade improved as time went on, and as far as I could see quite a few books were sold towards the end of the session which were all enthusiastically signed by the authors. Everyone was in good spirits and at 1pm when the event ended I lost count of the number of books I had signed.

 

One of our group members did a Vlog of the event:

 

If you were there, let us know what you thought in the comments below!

The book can be purchased here, and all profit goes to Farleigh Hospice in Chelmsford.

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Writing – the (not so) lovely endeavour

by Anna Jones Buttimore

The lot of a writer is one of long hours hunched over a keyboard in a dimly lit room with nothing but a cat for company. Shut away from the real world we pull faces and make hand gestures as our characters do, mutter dialogue to ourselves, and live in a strange environment peopled entirely by creatures of our own imagination. Alone we face the frustrations of edit after edit, and the crushing disappointment of rejection after rejection of our precious offspring. It’s little wonder that many of us seem to be a little eccentric, if not downright mad.

As least, that’s how it used to be. These days writing is no longer the lonely and solitary profession.

  • Today Hellen is coming to my house to work on her novel. She’s coming partly because I have a spare desk and she won’t be tempted to do housework in my house (although I’ve told her she’d be welcome to), but also for the company. And once in a while she can ask me, “What’s that word that means..?” or “How would you describe the smell of..?” Hellen and I have written a book together, and writing in the company of others is a lot of fun.
  • Years ago when my first novel was printed my editor put me in touch with a fellow author I admired, Kerry Blair, and she in turn “virtually” introduced me to several other authors, most of whom I have now met in person. For many years we emailed each other frequently with messages of support and encouragement. We congratulated each other on books accepted and published and commiserated on rejections. We cooed over baby photos and offered support in times of illness and despair. Most of all, though, we shared the experience of writing, its rewards and its difficulties, and we were there for each other. We email less frequently than we once did, but we do now share a blog.
  • Hardly a day goes by without me receiving an invitation via Facebook to a book launch party; probably because around half my Facebook friends are writers. I also belong to many writers groups on Facebook where I find discussions on editing, naming characters and every and any aspect of this strange craft of ours.
  • I belong to two writers’ groups (Writebulb and Rayleigh WINOS) and thus two Saturdays a month are spent writing flash fiction, undertaking challenges and setting goals with other writers. It’s a really wonderful opportunity. One Writebulb member pointed out “We learn far more in two hours than we could at any creative writing class”.
  • Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month – November) sees groups of writers meeting together in libraries for “sprints” on their laptops, badges popping up all over Facebook, and a real sense of solidarity as thousands of writers struggle to write 50,000 words in just one month. I’ve only done it once, and I failed due to poor planning (got 20,000 words in and realised I had no idea where the book was going and needed to do some major research) but I’m going to try again in this year.

Writing may once have meant working in glorious solitude, but it doesn’t have to any more. We authors can support and encourage one another, get together and share our experiences and goals, either online or in person. Even if, at the end of the day, we like to retreat to our dimly-lit attic room with our laptops to immerse ourselves once more in the worlds we create.

 

Reading Memories

by Natacha Dudley

‘There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.’ Walt Disney.

I have always enjoyed books and I was fortunate to grow up with parents who loved reading and passed on that joy to me. Every week they would take me to the local library to choose new books. I can still remember the excitement of walking through the great entrance doors and then sprinting to the children’s section.

I briefly returned to that world when I heard about a recent survey of the most popular children’s books. The YouGov poll was carried out in association with the children’s charity Barnardo’s as part of a campaign to promote reading for vulnerable children in the UK. In the poll of more than 2,000 adults I was delighted to see Winnie the Pooh in first place, but the Top Ten also included other personal favourites such as Black Beauty, Treasure Island, and the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

As adults, reading gives us time to pause in our stressful lives and enjoy a moment of privacy and relaxation. When we read a story, we experience all of our favourite character’s emotions, and we escape into their world. Reading with young children not only stimulates their imagination but also gives them access to a wide vocabulary.  Literacy isn’t just a life skill it’s a passport to happiness. I wish the Barnardo’s Story Time initiative every success for the future.

 

 

Help! One Of My Best Friends Is A Book.

by Hellen Riebold

Around this time of year, almost every year, I get reacquainted with one of my closest friends. The Christmas rush is over and I finally have time to sit with a coffee and hear all about her exploits, to share in her joy, weep at tragedies that have befallen her and pick up craft and cooking hints from her to try out while we are apart. Nothing strange in that, I know except that this particular friend’s name is Laura Ingalls Wilder and she died in 1957, exactly ten years before I was born. This minor detail has never come between us, however, and, as I look back, I can see that hers has been one of the most influential relationships of my life.

I first read about Laura when I was about seven, at that time I only read Little House on the Prairie because I found it in the free-readers section of the school library, it looked interesting and I was in a hurry to go out to play. I had no idea that there was a whole series of books to enjoy or that I was about to begin a lifelong friendship, but then, isn’t that often the case?

Laura told me all about the journey across the prairie she had made with her Father, Mother and two sisters in a covered wagon. She was a great story teller and gave me tiny details about the land she passed through and the beautiful night skies she passed under. Then she told me exactly how her Father decided where they would settle and how he set about building their little house, she told me how her Mother managed to keep them all fed, schooled and respectable whilst also keeping them safe from the snakes, wolves and native Americans that surrounded them (to be fair they were actually stealing native American land but Laura was only 8 and didn’t know that). She told me all about the challenges of raising that first crop and all the work she had to do to help her folks succeed. I lived on a farm too so I immediately understood what she meant when she complained about the unfairness of an ill-timed storm that could destroy a crop. Around about that time we got our first television too so imagine my delight on discovering there was a TV series devoted to Laura, I was hooked and, for a while, that was enough.

In my teen years I met with Laura again but this time she told me all about her early life in the Big Woods, she made my mouth water as she described the taste of bear and I licked my fingers as we roasted the hog’s tail together. This time I found she had lots of new stories to tell me and, as a redhead who loves the cold, I particularly enjoyed the tales about the longest, hardest winter I have ever heard of.

She and I went our separate ways for a few years, while I got married and raised my daughter but then, when life got quieter and sadder, she came back round. She told me all about the child she had lost and helped me through my own grief and she also told me about the new crafts she was having to learn as a wife and mother and challenged me to have a go too; so I learnt to knit and sew, making clothes, hats and quilts, cardigans and blankets; she told me about the preserving she had to perfect to ensure her family survived the harsh winters and got me into jam and chutney making. Pass-times I love to this day. She brought me so much comfort I wanted to spend as much time as I could with her and I read every book she had ever written then gave them pride of place on my shelves.

Now, as the busy-ness of Christmas fades and the cold nips my face as I walk the dogs I’m drawn back to Laura. I sit down with a coffee and let her words flow over me with joy, each meeting brings new experiences to try, new challenges as we grow older together. As I look back I’m so grateful I got to know her.

 

Airborn By Kenneth Oppel

by Christopher Kennett

Airborn

“Matt Cruse is cabin boy aboard the Aurora, the luxury airship he has called home for the past three years. He has high hopes for promotion to junior sailmaker – until Kate de Vries arrives, fired with her own mysterious quest. She may be rich, but she’s spirited and brave and won’t let social distinctions prevent their friendship.

Then one night, over the middle of the ocean, deadly air pirates board the Aurora. Far from any hope of rescue, Kate and Matt are flung into adventures beyond all imagining….”

 

The blurb on this book was what caught my interest and I’m glad I took it out of the library and then later brought my own copy, as it was a very good read. The time setting for this story is roughly Victorian age, properly before airplanes became common use.

The style of writing is told in first-person from Matt Cruse’s perspective. Kenneth Oppel really did a great job in diving deep into Matt’s character, which portrays him as a young honest, reliable, resourceful and hard working cabin boy. At the same time he is also trying to bottle up his inner fears that surface when he isn’t airborn, as he was born as a baby on an airship halfway across the ocean and he feels his life belongs in the air, hence the title of the book.

Matt has a very deep attachment to the ship, which he considers is his home, so if something bad happens to the Aurora, he feels very insecure and worries that he may never be happy again as the ship makes him feel connected to his deceased father. The way Kenneth writes Matt’s view of things truly makes the reader get a very good look into Matt’s personality, how he handles things and in some cases makes me at least sympathize with him.

I also took a great liking to Kate. It should be noted that this story takes place during an age where men do all the work while women don’t and have no right to vote and stay home doing lady things. Kind of like before women started to get equal rights to men during world war two in real life. While most women in “Airborn” accept this way of life, Kate doesn’t. On the contrary, she stands against this society’s way of thinking and is willing to do anything to make sure she gets to stand on equal ground as men.

The actions she takes during the story as well as some of her quotes make for some interesting moments, not to mention putting Matt into some awkward situations. But this is what makes Kate a fascinating character. Mostly female characters in fiction that play a minor role and let the males do all the work just blow over me. But when there’s a strong willed lady like Kate who does not like sitting on the sidelines, but want to get into the thick of the action despite male views comes along, I tend to take a shine to them.

Onto the writing structure, it is very well done. The pacing of the events is smooth and allows the reader to follow the story without suddenly jumping from one event to the next and not give an explanation as to how the characters got there. The story is well built, starting slow, then moving nicely to action, then back to calm actions again before building up to the climax.

The epilogue is also excellently done. It is written so that the reader can choose if they want to go onto the next book or go on to different story altogether. It ties up the story nicely and brings it to a close, yet at same time there are very tiny hints that a second book could follow the first. When an epilogue does this, it is a great bonus in my view.

Another score for this book is Kenneth’s descriptive writing of his fictional creature for the story. During the story, Kate is trying to find an undiscovered species. It’s one thing to describe how a fictional creature appears in any story, it’s quite another to detail the biological side of the said animal, and through Kate, Kenneth does this very well. From the animal’s skeleton, to its habitat, to things like Kate observing the animal is an omnivore (an animal that eats both plants and meat), clearly shows that Kenneth has done his research of animal zoology before writing this book.

Overall, this book is a great read, both for young children and adults alike. It has a well-built story. An interesting cast of characters. Apart from Matt and Kate, I also give honourable mentions to the Caption of the Aurora, Captain Walken and the chief cook, Chef Vlad. The descriptions of the characters, places, and creatures are expertly done. And it has a good epilogue that ties it all up soundly. I would recommend this book as well as its audio CD version to anyone.

 

10 out of 10!

 

The Birthplace of Inspiration

by Sofia Andrewski

It is a common experience for a writer—or even an enthusiastic reader—to stare with awe at the words and ideas imparted on paper by the great authors and storytellers. Sometimes it is hard to understand where their inspiration came from, whether it be the imaginative worlds of Tolkien or J.K. Rowling, or the complicated network of passageways in Mervyn Peake’s castle Gormenghast. There are a million and one other examples of course, a lot of them quite ordinary. For instance, little accents of character, or an intricate plot-line. Sometimes these little touches strike the reader as a brand of genius.

If you are dabbling with writing, these strokes of brilliance in other’s works can be quite depressing. Thoughts such as, I could never do this, or, my imagination isn’t good enough, may be overwhelming. Sometimes it seems better to close our books and ignore the existence of every decent writer while we are attempting to put pen to paper.

However, this could be a mistake. Whilst no one wants to plagiarise, humans learn best by imitation. Looking at how something is done is a surer way of picking it up than turning our backs and trying to figure out how to do it ourselves. When it comes to generating fresh ideas, or recharging inspiration levels, it is helpful to re-read authors we admire, and work out why their stories are so immersive.

There is another benefit of scouring for new concepts. Not only does the mere act loosen the mind enough to see things from a new perspective—which can actually alter our style of prose—but it puts the subconscious to work, encouraging it to come up with new connections. Countless writers confess to forming the first structures of their story from ideas they had during sleep.

This is something I have experienced many times, and even just a few nights ago is another example: in the dream I was quite impressed by the inventiveness of one of the dream characters, as he found a variety of uses for a magnetic shield. I remember thinking in the dream, wow, I never would have thought of using it like that, completely unaware that it was indeed my brain that had come up with all the ideas—let alone the fact it was constructing the whole environment I was so engaged in. I woke up convinced that if my brain does that every night, creating such an absorbing environment, then surely it is capable of creating enough concepts for a decent story!

There is a certain beauty in the way the mind works, and how the imagination can flex its muscles, mixing bits of information together and coming out with something new and personal. Sometimes it is easy to forget we all have this ability, even the novice writer. It doesn’t really matter if you can’t afford to travel the world, or can’t break out of a chain of mundane situations; as long as we have access to a library, a world full of stories and inspiration awaits.