You’ll need a wheelbarrow for this 99c box set!

Two of my favourite indie authors, Don Bailey and Kerry Donovan, are part of this fourteen author eBook box set.

Crikey, what will they think of next? Two box sets for the price of one? Discount for seniors? Free popcorn?

If the other twelve authors are as good as Bailey and Donovan, then it will be 99c well spent. You can get it on Amazon here.

Smoking – the novelist’s best friend?

cleopatra
Cleopatra cigarettes: One of the stars of my novel Cairo Mon Amour

It’s been decades since I smoked, but I haven’t quite given up the habit. Having no desire to inhale burning vegetation these days, I still enjoy a vicarious smoke using the lungs of my fictional characters. In fact, smoking is a remarkably useful literary tool.

I identify four ways to exploit tobacco in fiction, but there are undoubtedly more.

But let me first offer a caveat: If you’ve never smoked, the remainder of this post might not hit that sweet spot: The hit you didn’t get from the first slim, black Balkan Sobranie outside a club in Soho; the hit you missed from the first gorgeous, toasted lungful of a Gitane outside Gare du Nord; the hit you could never experience from a mean-spirited little Players No. 6 after a meat pie and a pint in the Lawnmowers Arms somewhere west of Croydon.

Whoops, I slipped into nicotine reverie. Anyway, here are the four ways I use tobacco without actually smoking the stuff:

Historical setting: When I was a student at London University in the seventies, there were still ashtrays in tutorial rooms. Smoking wasn’t taboo. It wasn’t stigmatised. It was perfectly OK to inflict second-hand fumes on your tutor, or sit at the back of a plane filling the armrest ashtray with dog ends. But nowadays, only bad people smoke, and the best way to cast a negative shadow over a character is to have them light up. But good characters can reminisce about the Good Old Smoking Days. The shortest sex scene I ever wrote, set in 2011, goes, ‘Thea sat up, flushed and tousled, and pulled the covers around her. I lay back and mentally smoked a Gauloise’.

Social gradation: If you’re working in seventies England, as I am with my current work in progress, smoking is a wonderful index for where your characters fit into society: Working class characters smoke roll-ups and cheap fags (the Players No.6 is the epitome of poverty smoking, especially with a packet of ten rather than twenty). Better class smokers are more of your Benson and Hedges types, and homosexual men puff effetely on menthols. Elderly men in tweeds suck on pipes, and posh old geezers smoke cigars. Lesbians haven’t been invented yet.

Filling in a pensive pause: Want to fill a pause while your characters need to have a think? Let them have a smoke. You can tell that smokers are thinkers when you watch those wretched outcasts having a gasper outside the office block and pretending that they are pondering a takeover bid for CitiBank. The key to blowing a tobacco-induced thought bubble is to exploit the physical  and psychological details of smoking: Tapping the packet, finding the lighter, the first delicious puff, the sixth puff when you realise how much you hate being addicted, loathing the stinking ashtray. But what a boon for the writer, when a bit of internal monologue can be slipped into the moments of mental vacuum.

Male bonding: What did two blokes do in the Good Old Smoking Days when, left alone, they could find no words? They had a fag, and busied themselves with tapping the packet, finding the lighter, inhaling manfully, etc. Saves on dialogue!

Time for a Scotch, I think.

I write quirky novels about love, betrayal and redemption. Have a look here.

Should I rewrite history to make it fit my novel?

Arthur or Martha? © Sara Campbell 2015
Arthur or Martha?
© Sara Campbell 2015

I’ve got a problem.

I’m writing a novel* that includes episodes set in London in 1975. I want one of my characters to go to a concert by Ravi Shankar and Yehudi Menuhin at Southwark Cathedral.  The concert actually took place – I was there, and I remember that it was very long and I was very uncomfortable on the cold stone floor.

Trouble is, that concert was in 1972, not 1975.

Or was it? According to a website that catalogues Ravi Shankar’s tours from 1964 to 2012, the maestro didn’t play any concerts in London at all in the seventies. But then I found a copy of the concert program for sale on Italian eBay, and it’s eerily there in black and purple – 1972.

Should I rewrite history? All my  instincts tell me ‘no’ – I was, after all an academic researcher for years of my life, and  fiddling with evidence was on a level with shoplifting.

Is that particular concert so important to the book? Well, yes, but I suppose there is some other emblematic event that I could replace it with.

I’ll keep you posted.

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*The sequel to Cairo Mon Amour (to be published in London in 2017). The working title is Bury Me In Valletta.

Note on the portrait: I call this my querulous guinea pig picture, but somehow it acquired the title of Arthur or Martha?. For non-Australian readers, the origin of the phrase can be found here.

Five stars for Kerry Donovan’s ‘The Transition of Johnny Swift’

512plzra3dlI’m a fan of Kerry Donovan’s DCI Jones English police procedurals, and I particularly enjoyed his US debut On Lucky Shores.

The Transition of Johnny Swift is completely different. This time, the author throws us into a jangling world of motor racing, dire injury, psychological stress, simmering romance, and family loyalty. The spiralling plot has the reader on edge until a clever resolution in the last few pages. I was unclear about what genre I was in until the ending, but this added to the pleasure! The technical stuff – medicine, neuroscience and some weird physics – was convincing enought to keep me engaged. The style – an urgent, present tense meld of introspection, narrative and economic dialogue – pushes the pace.

Well done, Mr Donovan. More like this please!

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Read about Stuart Campbell’s books here.

Stuart Campbell’s Books – Newsletter September 2016

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 1.54.11 PMMy September 2016 Newsletter is now out. It’s brief and informative, and I’ll only be sending it out when I have news of a new release or a special promotion. You can get a copy here. If you want to subscribe, click here. I’m not keen on spam, so I’m using MailChip to manage my email list. That means that:

  • You  verify your choice to subscribe.
  • You can easily unsubscribe.
  • Your email address won’t be sold or passed on to anyone else.
  • My email distribution conforms with anti-spam legislation.

Publisher contract for Cairo Mon Amour

CMA redesign coverI’m pleased to announce that my novel ‘Cairo Mon Amour’ has been accepted for publication in 2017 by an international publisher, thanks to the great work of my agent Michael Cybulski and the team at New Authors Collective. Many thanks to those who have supported my efforts in bringing ‘Cairo Mon Amour’ to this point. I’ll be keeping my readers up to date with details of the release date as they come to hand.

My books discounted or free on Amazon this weekend 16-17 July

weekend discount 2Two of my books are on special this weekend on Amazon. Remember that you don’t need a Kindle to read them – just click on Read with our free App when you download the book.

Click here for The Making of Martin F. Mooney … and here for An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity.

Happy reading!

 

My challenge: Explain my novel ‘An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity’ in 80 seconds

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 9.25.07 PMMy challenge this week was to make an 80-second video promotion for my novel An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity. I’ve used a DSLR camera previously for this kind of thing, but I just got an iPhone 6s, and it did the job just as well. I used iMovie to compile and edit the film, and Graphic to make the opening title. The only problem was getting the video file from the iPhone to my laptop because it was too big to email. In the end, I managed to do it with iCloud.

I wrote a script, but on the first few takes I kept peeping it at and my eyes were darting all over the place. I solved the problem by taking off my glasses so that I couldn’t see the script, and had to memorise it instead.

You can find my video here.

Let me know what you think!

 

 

Garry McDougall’s poem ‘Indebted’: Almost unbearable intimacy

Garry (right) and Stuart at the NSW Writers Centre, Sydney
Garry (right) and Stuart at the NSW Writers Centre, Sydney

My poet friend Garry McDougall has allowed me to share his poem ‘Indebted’ on my blog. Garry is a novelist and painter as well as a poet, and we meet most Tuesdays at the ‘Write On’ writers group in Sydney. ‘Indebted’ is my favourite among his works. It relies on familiar McDougallesque poetic techniques: Semantic slippage as word meanings blend oddly with their neighbours,  homonyms that bump into each other in surprise,  grammar mystically subverted , and the resonation of patterned sounds.

What sets apart ‘Indebted to’ is the almost painful intimacy of the fleeting scene it describes.  If you wake up each morning with somebody special, you’ll get it.

 

Indebted To

The hours nest

between herself and mine,

until first trains grumble in the dark,

a car’s whisk,
 my mind

in the picture-of-often-not,

knot hours, and ‘Not now, not now,’

that telling blanket cover cosy-

warm bed, binding time,

faint breath

in the hour of in-between.

 

Body weight to a faceless clock

in this so silk sack of nether warmth

and ponder pillows,

covert and dissenting blanket,

underhand train,

bare feet at the fay end of time,

brain and body exhaling

my half-hymn for her,

in temple red and slumber

our fingers touch,

accepting hearse time defining,

the hour of in-between.

 

Long lost in a feather sac

and limber light,
 locked alive in flesh,

grumble tum, harmonic match,

patter knack of morning dew,

reigning home besides you,

moist, hot breath to sticky rest,

towards a whisper,
 lover of tides

blessed
 to be here, steep steps of breath

in the hour of in-between.

 

Fathoming yesterday’s remains,

while she recalls day’s first chore
,

rolls over, dawn driven, first feet on floor,

and I stay, viscous,
 encumbered,

chalk words to sing her sun still,

my self stumbling

in the hour of in-between.

© 2016 Garry McDougall

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You can read about Stuart Campbell’s books here.