I’m odd.

– or at least a little unusual. To be polite, you might say “interesting”. Whether it’s my writing, voluntary work, disability or unusual hobbies, I’m accustomed to being approached by journalists and their ilk with media requests.

This can be very flattering – I’m being interviewed on BBC Radio Wales at the end of this month about my volunteering in connection with creative writing and NaNoWriMo.

Sometimes it’s not actually about me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t assume the world revolves around me, but if a reporter says they want to interview me, I at least expect them to ask questions that show they know who I am and then show some interest in my response.

I’ve had a rash of requests recently from non-professionals contacting me for information without being entirely honest about themselves. Or thinking properly about their questions.

To make things a little easier for such people, here is a template you can use for such emails.

________________________________________________________

Dear [insert name]

I am a [schoolchild / student / wannabe writer] and I [have been given an assignment to investigate / need some padding for a free magazine on / think I can sell an article about] [insert topic].

My [teacher / lecturer / editor] is too stupid to realise that all I’ve done is to ask [weirdos / experts / other writers] like yourself to do my work for me. So if you’d just tell me [what it’s all about / what your life is like / everything about your subject], then I can copy and paste this into my own assignment.

Of course, you are too stupid to realise that that’s what I’m doing, either, or maybe you are just flattered that a normal person is condescending to ask you about yourself. So you will send me a nice long reply, which I can cut to fit the 250-word limit I’m meant to be writing.

You must realise I am paying you a great compliment by asking for your input, so you should not expect me to [thank you / give you any credit / learn anything from this exercise].

And when I’m famous for being an [investigative journalist / radical film director / television reporter], you’ll be able to tell people you knew me just before I hit the big time. But don’t expect me to remember you – I meet so many little people.

________________________________________________________

Not that I’m bitter or anything – but I wish so-called journalists would at least be honest about who they are, ask specific questions and explain why they’re asking. Oh, and say “thank you” for the response.

Is that so much to ask?

 

Steampunk Novel: Interview and Crowdfunding

My main writing project at the moment is a Steampunk novel about a Victorian lady who’s still alive in the 21st Century by virtue of having a Chrystal Heart. I will be self-publishing in March, 2013.

I’ve written a short story featuring the same character. The Collector has already been published in an anthology http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Souls-Asylum-Steampunk-Compilation/dp/0956674429/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1350134066&sr=8-4 and will be featured in the inaugural issue of eSteampunk magazine – due out imminently. The magazine have also posted an interview with me, which can be read here: http://www.efictionmag.com/steampunk/

Secondly I’m crowdfunding to raise money for printing this book – and also for a launch party which will be in Cardiff, Wales next March. If you’re interested and would like to know more (including a sneak preview of the novel), see here:

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/investment/chrystal-heart-1255

You don’t have to purchase, the sneak preview is free to read. 🙂

 

 

Droit de Seigneur – Are Celebrities the Modern Royalty?

Some historians talk about the right of a lord to take the virginity of his serfs’ daughters. There is some debate about whether such a practise ever happened, or if the right was ever truly accepted. But true or not, the myth is well-established in Western culture.

And maybe we are now seeing a modern variant. Are certain celebrities being allowed to commit crimes simply because they are public figures?

Have celebrities become the new Royalty and are therefore above the law?

With dozens of charges now being brought against the late Jimmy Savile, we have to wonder who else has been getting away with behaviour that in a lesser-known person would be called paedophilia or perversion. And some of those may continue to escape justice by denying they ever even met the girls in question – unless they were caught on camera.

Women are saying they didn’t speak out because they thought no-one would believe them. Others did complain and weren’t believed. Are we allowing an unelected class of people free rein over ordinary people just because they are famous? Why should we trust someone who seeks attention above anyone else?

The neatly-rhyming phrase stranger danger has a lot to answer for. Not only does it lead people to believe that someone known to a child cannot be harmful, but now it appears that vulnerable children have come to harm because no-one would believe that a famous face could hide an abusive personality.

Lessons need to be learnt from this chapter of celebrity history. Never again can we assume that someone is above suspicion just because we’ve seen them on the telly.

Book Review: Build a Business from your Kitchen Table

Title: Build a Business from your Kitchen Table
Author: Sophie Cornish & Holly Tucker
ISBN: 978-1-47110-211-0

It’s a nice idea, and there is undoubtedly a market for books on starting your own business from scratch. But this isn’t a book that delivers what it promises. This is more the story of how they did it and not a how-to guide for aspiring entrepreneurs. It’s readable and an interesting study of how to recover from your mistakes when starting out in business, but there are more useful books on the subject.

I felt patronised that they assume “woman” is the same as “mother of young children” and annoyed at their stereotypical views of the male gender. Not to mention their idea that £80,000 is the kind of start-up capital that all new businesses need to get off the ground.

Much though I wanted to admire them, I would rather not have read this. I like their company, but I wouldn’t recommend their book.

Personal read: 2 stars
Reading group read: 2 stars

Book Review: Cloud Atlas

Title: Cloud Atlas
Author: David Mitchell
ISBN: 978-1444761788

A Matryoshka novel. Like those staples of Russian souvenirs, there are stories nested within stories. Within stories. But unlike those wooden dolls, each level ties in with the one that comes before and after. A history unfolding in layers – perhaps an onion would be a better metaphor.

No – forget talking about its structure, just enjoy the writing. Each story is well-written – each in a different style, appropriate to its period of history or future history. That’s the impression that stays, even when you’ve forgotten about the trick of nesting them.

A great book, but not for the faint-hearted.

Personal read: 4 stars
Reading group read: 4 stars

Book Review: Diary of a Mad Man

Title: The Philosophy of a Mad Man
Author: Steven Colborne
ISBN: 978-1-78132-023-5 (Paperback)

A book that does exactly what it says on the cover.

Psychiatric patient Steven Colborne has spent much of his adult life looking for something that could mend his broken life. He’s tried a variety of possible fixes, including non-mainstream religious interventions and illegal drugs. By most people’s reckoning, his self-description would be accurate – Steven is what most of us would call a mad man.

But at least he can write. The subject matter gets uncomfortable, but remains readable. His honesty can be painful to read, but there’s no doubt he means every word.

I found Part I, chapters jumping about through the years of his searching, to be far better than Part II, when he details his resultant philosophy. I ended the book feeling that it left too much hanging – I wanted a rounding-off and it didn’t have one.

An interesting insight, but not a book for everyone. 

Personal read: 4 stars 
Reading group read: 2 stars