Meet Paul Smith

I'm delighted to introduce the multi-talented Paul Smith to you. 

Many Yorkshire writers (born or living here) are now familiar with Paul as one of the founder members, with Edwin Rydberg, of the Promoting Yorkshire Authors site. A fabulous tool for everyone - talks, workshops, meetings - but more of that another time.

Paul has achieved such a lot on his writing journey, that it's easier (for me!) to let him tell you the story.

Go ahead Paul...

I've written two novels and three travel guides in my own name, a six part fantasy series plus some prequels and a sequel under the pen name Joseph Murphy-James and two Yorkshire Sagas under the name Annie Eileen Rogers.

I have also provided proof-reading and editing for some successful novels including Hell Holes, The Khan, The Mission, Sistaz Revenge (loved this one), Above and Beyond, Operation Underpants (and this one), Claudia, The Frenchman's Daughters, The President's Legionnaire and Wolf 359.

I‘ve been a volunteer technology writer for the IET, a Professional Engineering Institution of which I am a Fellow; many of my articles appear in newsletters, blogs and on the Yorkshire IET You Tube channel as short videos. I'm also a freelance writer for an academic technology journal and an active member of the Harrogate Writers’ Circle and my work features in competitions run by it and other writers guilds. My short story 'Change' about homelessness was shortlisted for Story Tyne 2019.

Like many writers, I’ve done other things with my life to pay the mortgage and keep the wolves from the door. Ask me about them if you’re interested but they include testing roles like Senior Management in FTSE 50 companies plus a stint growing an SME and helping others to expand theirs. For the record, I’m keen on technology and know a great deal about it.

 I founded and now run the Wise Grey Owl book promotion site that has achieved over 2M book views. You’ll find my blogs on Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook, mostly to assist in the marketing and sales of my own and other authors’ books.   

What did I say?

Here are the links to Paul's books - enjoy!

The Shires of York Series

Volunteering at the Huddersfield Literature Festival.

Over the last 10 days I have been volunteering at a few events at the Huddersfield Literature Festival.
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I've had a fabulous time, made new friends, met some wonderful people and listened to inspiring speakers.
The festival kicked off with an excellent interview with Anne Cleeves and Cath Staincliffe, who could fail to be inspired by these amazing authors.

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Johnny Ball spoke about the magic of numbers at the Huddersfield Library. He has an amazing talent to make this sound so easy and such fun. He spoke to a packed audience. The queue for his book signing was the longest I've ever seen.

Among other speakers I heard was the brilliant Stephen Wade, speaking about the history of crime and being a cold case detective.

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Joanne Harris came to speak about her new novel 'The Strawberry Thief''. What an amazing author. She is involved in so many things including writing libretto for opera.

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standingThis year I really got involved in a variety of  events from speakers through to meeting Elmer the Patchwork Elephant who visited Read Bookshop in Holmfirth. The shop was mobbed! The children loved him.

There were some fabulous costumes at the Cosplay Ball.

Image may contain: one or more peopleI really was working during this time. We could be involved in setting up the furniture, selling books, helping people, serving teas and coffees.  There is a great crowd of volunteers each year. In fact they are so good we won an award!

So what is involved in volunteering I hear you ask.  It all starts around October when meetings are held to discuss the next festival. All contributions and ideas are talked about and Michelle Hodgson, the festival director, takes it all on board. We've had many excellent speakers, workshops, panels, poetry slams and much much more, all down to Michelle's creative  and far-ranging ideas.

After Christmas we have training workshops. These vary from customer service through to helping people with mixed abilities. I especially enjoyed the workshop on learning sign language. It was fascinating and very enjoyable. We work under the directions of  hard working Festival Manager Julia Lilof.

Here is a link to last year's Literary Afternoon Tea, where a number of us spoke about what it meant to volunteer. I wonder if you spot me?   Here

There is a huge amount that happens in the festival, which I haven't really mentioned- the poetry slams, writing and well being workshops, children's events, films and history talks. Next year I may broaden my horizon and volunteer for some of these.

If you're interested in volunteering at your local festival, go for it! If you'd like to join us at Huddersfield, visit the website.  You won't regret it!

All photos courtesy of HLF.

Devastating fire on Fair Isle

Fair Isle Bird Observatory on fire
Photo with thanks to BBC site.
My current work in process, is a historical novel, set in Tudor times and located on Fair Isle in Shetland.
Yes, I'm often asked why there? But you'll have to wait until the book is published.

Fair Isle is the remotest inhabited island in the British Isles. It is famed for its Bird Observatory and for the sightings of many rare birds. The Observatory had accommodation for many visitors who loved to visit the island. Of course it is also famous for its knitting.

A week ago Fair Isle suffered the devastating loss of the Bird Observatory in a terrible fire that not only destroyed the building but many books, records and exhibits. Also the home of the wardens and their children was destroyed.

It was only constructed in 2010 and will be a huge loss to the island. It will be re-built as it was insured but many things can never be replaced. This will be a huge loss of revenue to the island I'm sure, until there is a new building. As I understand it has a small population of just 55.

One day, before too long I very much want to visit the island. I need to, to complete my novel. But it's not the easiest place to get to! Wish me luck!


B is for Backstory

What exactly is backstory? How does the dictionary define it?

A narrative providing a history or background context, especially for a character or situation in a literary work, film, or dramatic series.

The experiences of a character or the circumstances of an event that occur before the action or narrative.

As an author it is something I'm very aware of. My first novel, Resolutions, had an event, which had happened prior to the story started, and was the reason there was a story at all.

However, I didn't just jump in and tell the reader what had happened twelve months before. This came out slowly, in the early chapters, and mainly through the dialogue of some characters e.g.

Mrs. Williams’ eyes widened and her mouth dropped open. "Well, well, so you’ve finally returned. I never thought you'd dare to show your face again here, especially at this time of year.”

Hopefully at this point the reader will want to continue reading, wondering 'What has Carly done?'

If I'd let 'the cat out of the bag' at this point, there would be little point in reading on! Also if all the backstory is given early on, as an 'info dump', this can be boring and tedious to read.

In the next chapter we have a clue as to what has happened from another character, whom Carly visits:

“Don’t expect too much from him. Seeing you will come as quite a shock. He’s spent the last twelve months working hard to put you out of his mind and out of his life. He may not want you back. I don’t think you’ll find that Yeardon and New Yeardon are the same places you used to know.”

Have I got you intrigued? I hope so! Would you like to know what Carly has done that has caused so much anguish? Let Steve, her ex- fiancé, tell you:

“New Year’s Eve would have been our first wedding anniversary. It seemed a good time to try to say sorry.” She moved towards him. “I’m really sorry for what I did.”
Steve’s arms widened to grip the sides of the car as he stared down at the engine. “Sorry? Sorry for leaving me standing at the altar like an idiot? Sorry for disappearing without a word? What exactly are you sorry for?”

It's far better to keep the reader guessing and wanting to learn more.

Later on we learn that the hero, Ben, also has a secret in his past. However if you want to know what that is, you'll have to read the book!

A is for Adjectives

I haven't blogged for some time and need to get back into the routine. I gave it some thought about how to go about this.  I decided to concentrate on 'writing' topics for a while, going through the alphabet, with guests giving their views and ideas.
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This first post is A is for adjectives and I'm delighted to have Paula Martin on board to talk about this. As well as being an excellent author, Paula is particularly keen on the correct use grammar and punctuation. 

When I was at school (a long time ago!), my English teachers insisted we used lots of adjectives to make our writing more descriptive. In contrast, writers are warned against the overuse of adjectives.

Various reasons are given for this: too many adjectives give your novel a ‘purple prose’ tint, or clutter the text with unnecessary modifiers, or give the impression that the writer cannot quite find the right word.

Mark Twain said: "As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out."
The question is – which adjectives should you strike out?

First there are the redundant adjectives – the tiny kitten (aren’t all kittens tiny?), the large mountain (ever seen a small mountain?), the narrow alley (an alley IS a narrow passage), the cold snow (if snow wasn’t cold, it would be water!). Omit the adjective if the noun is self-explanatory.

Secondly, there are the adjectives which, with their nouns, can be replaced with a much more descriptive word e.g. ‘a downpour flooded the streets’ instead of ‘heavy rain flooded the streets’, or ‘the witch cackled’ instead of ‘the witch gave an evil, sharp laugh’.

There are also some adjectives which have become almost meaningless and should be avoided (except in dialogue), including wonderful, lovely, pretty, stupid, foolish, pleasant, comely, horrid – and the obvious one, nice.

However, a story without any adjectives could end up as very clinical and dry. As with most things, moderation is the key. We are not advised to avoid adjectives altogether, but to avoid overusing them.

Eliminating all adjectives would be as big a mistake as overusing them. Adjectives can clarify meaning and add colour to our writing, and can be used to convey the precise shade of meaning we want to achieve. We should save them for the moments when we really need them and then use them selectively – and sparsely. Too often we feel the need to beef up our nouns in an effort to get our point across.

Compare: The dark, dreary house had an empty, suspicious feel to it, the thick air stale and sour with undefined, scary kitchen odors. Are all these adjectives necessary?
A tighter, more dramatic description would be: The house had an empty feeling to it, the air stale with undefined kitchen odors.

Use adjectives only to highlight something the noun can’t highlight. We’ve already seen that the ‘narrow alley’ has a redundant adjective, but what about the ‘dark alley’ or the ‘filthy alley’? Not all alleys are dark or filthy so in these examples, the adjectives are adding something that is not already shown by the noun. This is the main reason for using an adjective.

And now I’m off to take my own advice, and look through my ms. for redundant adjectives!

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Final port of call - Quebec

Sailing down the St Lawrence seaway is a treat in itself.
The trees were beginning to dress themselves in their autumn colours. Quebec is a beautiful city, especially the old town and its always a pleasure to visit there.  You could almost believe you were in Paris.

We spent a wonderful day roaming around this area, its lovely boutique shops and fabulous coffee bars and restaurants.
The first day we were there (we stayed over night), it was bitter cold, so our first thought was to find a shop selling hats and gloves!

It is such a gaily coloured area, my photos can only give you a taste of it.

As we wondered around the old squares and cobbled streets, Quebec was busy preparing itself for its Halloween celebrations.

We caught the local bus to the Montmorency Falls.
These falls are higher that Niagara but only narrow.  It was a beautiful spot with wonderful colours again. However all too soon it was time to make the journey home.

We are sailing Halifax part 2

We really enjoyed our visit to Halifax. It is a lovely city and harbour.

The city was founded in 1749 when the British built Fort St George on top of the hill.

The citadel is now a 'living history' museum with volunteer re-en actors giving visitors a real sense of what is what like to live there.   They fire the noon day cannon still.  It goes with quite a bang. I forgot this was going to happen and we jumped out of our skins!

The soldier in the dormitory was a young university student vounteer.

After visiting the citadel we strolled around the beautiful public gardens before finishing our trip with an ice cream sat on the harbour front.

Next and final port of call - Quebec.

Meet Paul Smith

I 'm delighted to introduce the multi-talented Paul Smith to you.  Many Yorkshire writers (born or living here) are now familiar w...