Saturday 13 September 2014

Life in an English Village

I walked down into my village today to hit the post office and have a coffee at my local bakery, to find that not one but six different groups of morris dancers and clog dancers had come to visit, choosing a spot dead centre, next to the lower dam, where the ducks would get as good a view as the humans. If you haven't come across these before they are a leftover from medieval times, and often still mix dance with a story element.

So as well as coffee - yes and cake, this was the baker's - I got treated to a free dance concert across the way; a whole crowd of them, mainly men, in lots of different historic costumes; painted faces, knee breeches, sashes, ribbons, bells, sticks, kerchiefs, flowered hats, ostrich feathers, you name it. A great sight. And then there were their various musicians. I spotted drums, a guitar, and a collection of accordians from large to small. Small wonder a crowd gathered, and applause was the order of the day.

After that the groups were apparently heading on to a local stately home - that's what we Brits call our old, historic mansions etc - to perform there. Nice to know we're on a par with the best!

Why us? Good question. I live in a village almost in the middle of England called Lymm. It's just south of Manchester, but nowhere near as famous! Though we have a website if you're curious.

It has an ancient cross on cobblestones in the centre, and it being summer here there are hanging baskets along the main streets [all two of them]. A canal goes right through it, regularly stocked with ducks, swans and canal boats - you might call them barges - and other craft taking advantage of the 48 hour moorings to stop and walk off their decks straight into the village pubs, shops etc. And yes, I guess the place is friendly as well as picturesque. So I suppose it is a good place for the Morris Men to choose.

I don't suppose, and certainly don't suggest, that all English villages are like this, but a few lucky ones have managed to deal with modernity and stay essentially community-minded, and to a fair extent mine has done both.
Explains why I'm reluctant to move, huh?
[Luckily, maybe, not many people here know too much about my involvement in SF, or my upcoming novel. :-) ]

PS_ I'll try to remember to add more 'village life' from time to time as things occur here, for anyone who finds it interesting, or maybe a little different from their own localities, wherever you are.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Predators, or Preditors? Heard the quote; "Money flows to the Writer"?

I've just been chatting, online of course, to a writer in the UK who feels let down by her publisher. During our exchange I realised that she had been scammed into paying for her first 2 books to be 'published' before working out it was a con.

As many of us know, this happens, and sometimes the cost of knowing better can be very high, both in cash and trust and disillusion. So I'm repeating the warning I once got from more experienced writers, because it never hurts to pass it along.

And so, a cautionary tale...
Not so long ago another writer told me about meeting with an agent, who bought an expensive lunch, offered to represent the writer and asked for a modest 'stationery costs' subsidy to get things rolling. Since the agent had just spent more than that, on lunch, the writer agreed.

Over the next few weeks, then months, the agent kept the writer informed by email as to which publisher had taken a look and declined, then that one major publisher was very interested, and finally that one of their editors had made an offer. Wonderful!

At which point the writer contacted said editor to say thanks - and discovered she had never heard of him, and never read the manuscript.

Worse, when the writer started spreading the word it transpired they were by no means the only victim, there were a while bunch of them out there. Worse still, while our writer had previous publishing credit, most of the rest had none, and to put it bluntly, had been encouraged to believe their manuscripts were a great deal more likely to find publishers than they actually were, being at best first draft standard.

But weren't they entitled, inexperienced or not, to think otherwise, if an agent bought them lunch...?

To cut a long story short, in the case of my more recent exchange, I mentioned checking out Preditors and Editors before taking the plunge, assuming this writer would know of them.
 They didn't. But they checked them out straight away, because they emailed me right back, to say how cheered they were to discover the publisher they'd fallen foul of was already blacklisted there.

Not quite a happy ending, but it's something, I guess, that she knows a place to look next time?

As I said to her, trust isn't always enough. Always check things out, anywhere you possibly can.
 And never pay them, unless you know that's what you intended.

 "Money flows to the writer."
Not the other way round.