Category Archives: Electrik Inc

Technology Can Help You

You’ve written the book. You’ve finished the rewrites, put it all aside for months and then read over it again. You decide it’s not too bad. Good, even. You’ll take a chance. So, you line-edit it, proofread it and send it off…

And it’s rejected. Again.

Yes, it’s disheartening. Yes, you could have built the Great Wall of China waiting for agents or publishers to get back to you. No, you mustn’t give up. That’s not just a saying, you know. For most of us, it’s a way of life.

Jody Sabral, author of I Never Lie, wrote an interesting piece for the BBC Entertainment and Arts recently: E-books. How digital publishers are ‘shaking up’ the industry.

This was an informative read for a few reasons. Not just because of the higher royalties writers can expect from digital publishers (and in an industry where traditional publishers so often shaft authors, this was good to see), or the technology that can tell you if readers finish your book (invaluable). The most important thing for me, and what I think would appeal to many writers, was when Jody Sabral mentioned being able to connect with readers via an app, and getting their comments and feedback live. That would be fantastic – almost like having your own group of Beta readers.

Jody Sabral’s piece made me aware of the whole new world that’s opening for writers. The creative world never stays still and, like so many things, the world of books is constantly changing.  That’s a good thing because it means we are all constantly getting the chance to try new things – to reinvent ourselves and our writing, to try another genre or dabble in new technology. Not sure about something you’ve written, or just want to try something different? Put a few chapters up online to gauge reader reaction. Need a tool that helps you sort your chapters, editing, word counts or ideas? Check out the different (mainly free) apps and tools out there.

There’s a lot to help you, no matter what genre you prefer, whether you’re aiming for traditional or independent publishing and whether you write for adults, YA or children. There are lots of blogs too, giving information on good technology for writers. Here is a useful blog about 20 of the best free online tools for writers.

There are always new opportunities opening up for your writing, so put the rejections where they belong – behind you – and use technology to improve your game. There’s a whole new world out there just waiting for you. Think of that as you meander, stride or gallop into 2019.

Happy writing.

Kay
Author of   Treasure This
co-founder of Electrik Inc

Coming up:  Keep an eye on the Electric Inc blog – my next piece will be about online forums for writers.

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Courage

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”  Mary Anne Radmacher

That reminded me of my writing, so I thought I’d pass it on in the hope it inspires you too. We all have dispiriting days. Keep trying. Whatever it is you love, do it. If you cannot do it right now, that’s okay. Work, budget, family, life – all these things  interrupt or postpone our creativity. Just try again tomorrow. Everything you wrote today was rubbish (you think)? Try again tomorrow. Another rejection? Try again tomorrow. You get the message.

Here’s another one I love: “Fortune favours the prepared mind.” Dr Louis Pasteur

I know he was a scientist but I think he’d have made a good writer; writing is all about sharpening your mind and being prepared for anything. So, in brief: keep trying, and be prepared. That means sit down and finish your book, short story or poem. Have it ready to send off if suddenly a reputable magazine runs a writing competition, or an agent you thought had emigrated to a parallel universe because you haven’t heard from them in, like, aeons… finally gets in touch with the magic words: can we see the full manuscript… or you  get the chance to draw up your own marketing and publishing plan and decide to do it yourself.

Whatever you want to do, here’s a link to a blog that does some of the hard work for you and lists Calls for Submissions  for all kinds of writing. So, no excuses… write on! 🙂

Kay Leitch
Treasure This
Founder member of Electrikinc
Also posted on kaywritesheretoo

picture: Courtesy of Pixabay

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The Shoemaker’s Secret

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The Shoemaker’s glass slippers and soft leather boots were coveted by royalty and the very rich. Other shoemakers wanted to know the secret techniques and materials he used to craft them, but his big secret was he didn’t make the shoes; they were the work of elves.

He had found the elves working in his shop late one night, stitching fabric. They were no bigger than dolls and wore tatty, green tunics over woollen tights. He thought he should pay them in some way and presented them with new clothing; they were like excited children on Christmas morning.

Over the next few months the elves produced more and more new designs while The Shoemaker took the credit for their craftsmanship, gaining considerable wealth and status. He continued to pay his workers in tiny shirts, trousers, underwear and socks, but then one night the elves turned the tables. They took something belonging to him before they made the shoes: the book he was reading. He bought another copy and thought no more of it.

But the following evening, the same thing happened. This time they chose a framed picture of his baby daughter and paid him five pairs of sandals. The day after, they took a curl of her blonde hair.

The Shoemaker held his child tight to his chest and said to his wife, ‘I’ll put a stop to it.’

The next night he waited up for the elves. They appeared on the stroke of midnight.

‘I don’t need your services any more,’ he said firmly. ‘Please go.’

They smiled smugly, bowed and left the shop. He hoped this was the end of it all, but in the morning he discovered a pair of sparkly silver shoes taking pride of place in the shop’s display window. His daughter’s beloved teddy bear had disappeared.

He tried moving his family to a nearby coaching inn, but that night they took the child’s little toe. The Shoemaker wept, not knowing what to do. The elves would take her bit by bit; he was sure of it.

The bell tinkled as the shop door swung open and a young man walked in.

‘I’m enquiring to see if you have any jobs?’ he said. ‘I want to be as good a shoemaker as you.’

‘Do you have a wife, children?’ asked The Shoemaker.

‘No, it’s just me,’ he replied.

The Shoemaker sighed with relief and smiled. ‘You can have my business for free,’ he said.

He handed the bewildered man the keys to the shop and left immediately with his wife and child. They were never seen again.

The new shoemaker was the talk of town. His glass slippers were exquisite.

Story by Kim Donovan. Image Pixabay. All rights reserved.

First published on my author blog.

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When The Dragons Came To Play

(For Findley – born 19.04.2016)                                                              

The dragons came again today.
They came in style, as dragons do.
I thought they’d come to eat us up,
But they just wanted to meet… you.dragons-at-sunset

The sky was filled with dragons’ wings
And spiky scales of every hue.
Their amber eyes saw everything,
And glittered when they looked for you.

And the wind in the trees went woooosh, woooosh, shhhhhhh
When the dragons came to play.

findley-6-months-copyThey’d heard you were the bravest boy,
You seldom slept or seemed to tire,
But smiled at everything – and laughed
When they came breathing trails of fire.

Legend foretold your bluest eyes,
Sprinkled with magic, three times blessed.
And dust of stars within your heart
Meant you would master any quest.

And the wind in the trees went
woooosh, woooosh, shhhhhhh
When the dragons came to play.

 

They mentioned they had come before,
To barbeque us all, but when
They saw you smiling up at them
They turned and flew back home again.

They wondered if you’d like to go
Up to the mountains – you could fly
Straight to their lair on dragons’ wings,
And ride across the morning sky.dragon-silhouettejpg

They’d make some toast with just one breath,
Play hide-and-seek behind the sun –
There were so many of their games
That you could try. You’d have such fun.

And the wind in the trees went woooosh, woooosh, shhhhhhh
When the dragons came to play.

I said we would consider that,
Though we had lots of things to do.
(It always pays to be polite
When dragons want to play with you.)

findley-elephant

 

They said they’d take the greatest care,
That they would never let you fall.
They’d play some dragon games to see
How brave you really were, that’s all…

They promised not to breathe on you,
Would bring you back in time for tea.
I thanked them very much, but said
I’d like to keep you here – with me.fikndley-tomatoAnd the wind in the trees went woooosh, woooosh, shhhhhhh
When the dragons came to play.

One dragon tapped his claw and hummed
A little tune. He looked quite nice,
Until I asked him if he knew
You had the gift of Fire and Ice?

The dragon’s scales turned pasty grey,dragon-and-sky
And ice?” he stuttered, blinking fast.
I nodded. You sat there and smiled.
“Good grief, is that the time?” he laughed.

 

findley-grinning-june-2016-copyYou traced a pattern on your hand.
A snow storm came, icicles grew.
The dragon’s breath puffed white with frost,
His ruby tail turned wintry blue.

Snowflakes swirled, the north wind howled,
Dark clouds gathered, spitting rain.
But then you sighed a little sigh
And everything was calm again.

“It was an honour meeting you,”
The dragon bowed; soared to the sky.
A thousand wings beat after him
Into the sun. We waved Goodbye.

dragons-nto-sun2

And the wind in the trees went woooosh, woooosh, phhewwwww
When the dragons flew away.

 * * * * * * *
dragon-every-hue

This poem was inspired by Findley, the smiliest, happiest baby that dragons have ever seen.

findley-blockfindley-7-months

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kay Leitch
Treasure This
kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

Pictures: Kay Leitch, Vicki Boyd; images: Pixabay

 

 

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Ploughing for inspiration

As a city girl, growing up first in London and then industrial Luton, I never dreamed that one day I’d spend more time in wellies than heels – and become a farmer! But that was where my career led me for more than a decade. In a beautiful corner of rural Essex I learned to drive tractors and spent each autumn ploughing the heavy boulder clay from dawn to dusk, and sometimes into the night. Acre after acre.
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The experience turned me into ‘a watcher’, mindful of any tiny change in the landscape. And it forged a deep spiritual connection, especially with the other watchers who sometimes showed up … The deer, for instance, who scattered at the sight of a human figure, yet never seemed bothered by the to and fro of our monster machines as they strained across the fields.

The Watchers

Autumn has drawn a foggy curtain
Over the farm by the church,
Trading rich summer gold for burnt coppers
Scattered and spent among the leaves.
 
In the fading gloom
A tractor driver traces patterns
Across the ploughed land.
Absorbed in mechanical rhythm he moves,
Away from the church, towards the wood,
Away from the wood, towards the church,
Changing the face of the earth
With every pass.
 
A noise disturbs him
Jangling off-beat and out-of-tune.
Resigned and weary he climbs from the cab
To fumble in the mud
And remove a rusty horse shoe
Hooked up in the harrows.
How many bouts to go?
How many have been here before?
 
Later, turning into the homeward stretch,
With just enough light to see,
He is startled by two deer
Watching close by
Like statues – strange, silent and beautiful,
Unperturbed by his roaring machine
As it strains across the heavy clay.
And in that dusky moment
His heart misses a beat,
Filled with splendour so measureless
He holds his breath
Knowing it will slip away.
 
The last rays melt behind the spire.
As he reaches the lane, he yawns,
Thinking of supper and a good night’s rest.
The seedbed is ready, the pattern is complete.
img005
Poem by Jenny Landor
Illustrations by Julia Draper

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Autumn fun in a nutshell

Apples, blackberries and pumpkins… Nature’s grand autumnal finale always triggers in me a kind of elation no other season can match. Ever since childhood, it’s been my favourite time of year. The shortening days, tinged with melancholy, the smell of ploughed earth and the prospect of bonfires are definitely part of it. And I still can’t resist kicking up the leaves – especially under the horse chestnuts where the greatest treasure of all might suddenly gleam up at me: the perfect conker.

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Preparing for combat

Last week saw the celebration of one of the country’s most traditional games at the World Conker Championship in Southwick, Northamptonshire. Organised by the Ashton Conker Club, the contest has been running for fifty years. It attracts thousands of visitors and teams from the around the world who fight it out like gladiators, armed only with a nut and 12 inches of string. All of which prompted me to add the following piece of fun to our creative archive. Someone once told me that it isn’t just about good hand-eye coordination and the desire to conquer. You have to psych your opponent out …

Just a game

Okay, now here’s the thing
It’s a nut on the end of a knotted string.
You hit mine, I SMASH yours …
Yes, let’s go play out of doors.
This is my favourite,
See that gleam?
It knows it’s on the winning team.
Good question; how can I possibly tell?
I partly oven-baked the shell.
Ha! Only joking.
Are you ready?
Three fat misses!
My turn, hold steady.
No, the sun wasn’t in your eyes.
That’s the rule, you had your tries.
What’s wrong?
Oh, please.
Don’t go bonkers,
It’s just a simple game of conkers.

william-the-conker-1

William the Conker leading his minion hordes.

Poem and photo by Jenny Landor
Illustration by Julia Draper

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Mobile homes with a difference

I love the creative freedom independent publishing gives me. Here’s one of my micro stories. I hope you like it!

Mobile homes final.JPG

First posted on my author blog.

Kim

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The Magic of Storytelling

Fairy tales witch readingWho doesn’t love fairy tales? From that lyrical “Once upon a time”, which tells us we’re entering another realm, to the “Happily ever after”, which we all seek, children and adults alike. Of course there are fairy tales with unhappy endings, too – but you won’t see many of those on Disney.

Now, researchers have examined the evolutionary development of fairy tales http and found many to be much older than we thought. Thousands of years older.

Sara Graça da Silva, a social scientist/folklorist with New University of Lisbon, and Jamshid Tehrani, an anthropologist with Durham University, have conducted a phylogenetic analysis of common fairy tales, using a technique that traces linguistic attributes back to their origins. The origins appear to be much older than modern linguists and anthropologists believed.

The part of the report that caught my attention was: “they started with 275 fairy tales, each rooted in magic, and whittled them down to 76 basic stories…”

for fairy tales blog 1Each rooted in magic. I loved that. I don’t know about you, but I find all creative writing to be rooted in magic. That doesn’t mean it has to be about spells and fantasy. All sorts of magic can be yielded by a blank page and a quiet afternoon – though maybe not so quiet if you count the barking dogs, beeping mobile and husband yelling, “I said dinner’s ready!”

I’ve found that, like in so many fairy tales, what we end up with in our own writing is not what we started with, after all the editing and changing and rewriting is done. But, hopefully, we retain the core of the story we’re trying to tell. That’s where the magic is.

Physics teaches us that a pure element cannot be destroyed. I think fairy tales are literary creativity in its purest form and no matter how we rewrite them, edit them, disinfect or Disneyfy them, they will endure. The core remains. Stripped to its core element, the fairy tale is pure story.

Here’s how one core element changed over the centuries: Cinderella started life as Yeh-hsien, believed to have been written down by Tuan Ch’eng-shih in mid 9th century China. In the original version there was no fairy godmother; a magic fish helped Cinders. In Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s version, a hazel tree helped her, the ugly sisters cut off their toes and heels so their feet would fit the shoe, and their eyes were pecked out by doves. Can you imagine the collective fits of apoplexy at a Disney editorial meeting if they read that story board? I’d love to see it. 🙂

Cinderella Manga

 

Yeh-hsien went on to be called Zezolla by Giambattista Basile in 17th century Naples, then Cerentola. Joseph Jacobs called her the Cinder Maid. Charles Perrault (end of 17th century) introduced the fairy godmother and the pumpkins and mice… And what story do you think the film Pretty Woman depicts? Same core, different clothes.

If Sara Graça da Silva and Jamshid Tehrani are right and fairy tales are more ancient than we thought (Wilhem Grimm also believed this), then these core stories are even more embedded in our psyches than we thought. Which is great news for all story tellers.

Fairy tales teach us much more than the ultimately unchanging human condition – they hold good lessons for writers too: keep structure and plot simple. Remember, “character is destiny”, and be aware that rhyme, rhythm and poetic sentence structure are important. fairy tale pic 2Symbolism is universal. The words “once”, “long ago”, “far away” and “for ever and ever” can give us instant access to the reader’s unconscious, especially children.

I’m delighted that, as a storyteller, I’m carrying on an ancient tradition and, yes, I believe it is rooted in magic. As writers, we can take these cores and dress them in whatever finery we choose. And that feels magical, too.

Kay Leitch
Treasure This

 

Pictures courtesy of pixabay.com

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How to Write a Bestseller

Electrik Inc is always on the lookout for good advice that helps us hone our writing skills. I loved this Ted Talk video with literary agent, Jonny Geller, about what makes a bestseller, and what agents/publishers look for in new writers. Think about his comments when you’re editing your own work because everyone wants to sell their books and the more we get right, the better it is for our readers as well as our bank balances.

There are lots of how-to-write-a-bestseller tips, from Dean Koontz to Matthew Sparkes writing in The Telegraph on how scientists developed an app in 2014 that analysed best sellers. The findings were very interesting but guaranteed success remains elusive. And so the advice is just that: advice. Remember, what works for one author may not work for you.

I especially like how Mr Geller looks for the “space between the sentences” in any piece he reads. There is often a temptation for writers to give too much description, too much information… I’m always advising my clients to trust their readers to fill in some of the blanks themselves.

Mr Geller’s five-word sentence example is excellent too – a fun way of learning the importance of varying sentence length.

Personally, I would add story to the list. Not the plot or pacing (though they’re important too), but the story: is it strong enough to hold the reader. I always think of that in my own writing. Will the reader care enough to keep reading to find out how this story unfolds – and ends. For me, story is vital. Of course great characters, tight prose and sharp dialogue help, but if I don’t connect to the story, I lose interest. Whether I’m assessing manuscripts, reading for a publishing house or writing my own novels, I keep that in mind.

Jonny Geller also mentions how it all comes down to us, the reader. That reading “makes us better people”, that original writing is so often harder to place because publishers find original material “very hard to market”. Yes, some of us have figured that out already. 🙂

The five things Mr Geller looks for are:

The bridge: does it take us from the familiar to the new?

Voice: the unique sound of the writer, which is nothing without the next part:

Craft: writing is difficult. Amateurs and professionals alike do draft after draft to get it right. Does it have resonance? Will it reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible?

The gap: the space between the sentences. The gap the writer leaves for the reader to inhabit.

There’s lots more. Jonny Geller has a natural style that’s easy to listen to without feeling you’re being lectured. Check it out.

KAY LEITCH   co-founder of Electrik Inccropped-electrikinc_logo3_colour1.png
Author of  Treasure This
kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

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C S Lewis and The Inklings

One of the first books I ever owned as a child was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis. Lucy, the youngest of the four Pevensie children – my age and clearly the heroine! – won my heart, especially when no-one would believe her about the existence of Narnia. I re-read the book several times over, and whenever I crept with her through the fur coats to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe collectors editionthat icy world gripped by permanent winter, it sent tingles down my spine. It became a sort of touchstone for what I was looking for in a good story. Though I grew up disagreeing with some of its themes, as an eight-year-old the religious symbolism went right over my head. Aslan shaking his golden mane to bring back spring was, for me, about the magnificence of nature. What the book provided was a sense of wonder at the ordinary world. I made dens in my own wardrobe and lived in a land of make-believe dreaming up stories about seemingly mundane everyday things that turned out to be extraordinary. The iconic lamppost had worked its magic.

So it’s no exaggeration to say The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was one of the books that turned me into a writer and led me to become a member of Electrik Inc. We refer to ourselves as ‘inklings’, a fun nickname which isn’t only about digital ink and indie publishing, the group’s purpose. It also conveys a sense of magic just around the corner; that goosebump moment when your imagination is on the verge of something fabulous. How strange then to discover that the great C S Lewis himself was also an Inkling – along with his friend and drinking buddy, the author of a vastly different yet equally remarkable fantasy series, J R R Tolkein …

‘The Inklings’ were a small literary circle, mostly academics of Oxford University, who met every Thursday evening in Lewis’s college rooms to read aloud and critique the books they were each writing. Like us, they were a fellowship of friends as much as writing colleagues. Among the group was the lawyer, philosopher and author Owen Bardfield, and it was to his daughter, Lucy, that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was dedicated.

The Eagle and Child, St Giles, OxfordRather more informal meetings took place in The Eagle and Child which became a favourite haunt every Tuesday for many years between 1939 and 1962. On a recent trip to Oxford I decided to visit the pub to pay homage. It’s a must for Narnia fans. Built around 1650, The Bird and Baby, as it’s also known, is a warren of small wood-panelled rooms that feel a bit like the compartments of an old-style railway carriage. ‘The Rabbit Room’, where The Inklings met, is at the back and the walls are full of memorabilia. Most intriguing of all is a framed letter signed by eight of them and addressed to the pub landlord, Charlie Blagrove. ‘The undersigned, having just partaken of your house, have drunk your health,’ it declares.

Part of framed letter signed by The Inklings

Part of a letter signed by The Inklings on March 11, 1948

It’s probably safe to assume that a few beers had been consumed at the time of signing. Lewis’s handwriting looks especially wobbly. The document is dated 11th March 1948, the year he completed The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. We’re told by his biographer that he read it aloud to his friends. And apparently, Tolkein loathed it.  The creator of The Lord of the Rings was meticulous in the way he crafted Middle Earth and didn’t approve of Lewis’s jumbling of different mythologies.

Were feathers ruffled at The Bird and Baby? As an Inkling used to forthright editorial debate I couldn’t help imagining the conversation…:‘My dear fellow, you’ve got a lion, a witch, a magical wardrobe, various fauns and centaurs, a pair of talking beavers, even an appearance by Father Christmas. It’s wild beyond belief. Simplify, that’s the ticket. Give Narnia some rules, for heaven’s sake.’

A jowly photo of Lewis stares down in the Rabbit Room. I could almost hear him harrumphing into his pint. ‘At least it’s about ordinary children. Your protagonist lives in a hole, has pointy ears and hairy feet!’

The Eagle and Child pub signI must have been intoxicated – not by drink, honest! Simply by being in Oxford, that most hallowed of literary places – but, I swear, as I left and headed along St Giles something about the pub sign was different. The child, who at first glance, looked like he was being abducted by a horrible huge bird, was actually smiling … Whatever you think of the world view underlying Narnia (I’d much rather help build Philip Pullman’s ‘republic of heaven’) it’s nevertheless a fairy tale that expanded the imaginations of a generation of children like me.

The lamp light shines on, creating new inklings.

Wishing you a wondrous spring.

Lion

(Wikimedia commons) Photo by Trisha Shears

 

Jenny Landor, Co-founder

11.3.2016

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