Paperback for more

News!

To date my novels Cycles of Udaipur and The Gun of Our Maker have only been available for e-readers like Kindle.

Coming this Sunday, you’ll now be able to order them as actual paperbacks made of actual paper, thanks to Amazon!

If you already have the e-books, feel free to get a lovely tangible version too for your bookcase. They look real pretty.

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CnUZIdaWAAA7rH2.jpg large

What is the REAL future of the ESL CLASSROOM? — from AIYSHAH’S ENGLISH PAGE

(Photo credit: http://bit.ly/29LnaH1) One of the greatest phrases I have heard in recent times is, ‘If a computer can take over your job – it should’. Makes you think doesn’t it? For some people it is worrying because they are not entirely sure that they are good at what they do, but they are sure […]

via What is the REAL future of the ESL CLASSROOM? — AIYSHAH’S ENGLISH PAGE

What the Brexit EU Referendum results could mean for the arts

cBREXIT EU scrabble

Like almost half of the UK yesterday morning, I was aghast, troubled, disgusted and angry to learn that the British public, in their wisdom, has voted for the UK to leave the European Union. There will be almost endless ramifications for both Britain and Europe for decades to come – but how will this affect writers and other artists?


1. Funding for the arts will be harder to obtain
Let’s face it, the attempt to secure arts funding from nepotistic organisations like the Arts Council is a pessimistic shot in the dark in any case. For two reasons, writers and artists will now have an even tougher time.

Firstly, the economic uncertainty of leaving the EU will plunge the UK economy into another recession, which already seemed inevitable as part of a predicted “double-dip” following the horrendous austerity in the wake of the 2008/9 crash (which incidentally resulted in plans for my second novel, signed off for publication by my publisher, being scrapped). The government has always been tight when it comes to funding the arts, but when times are tough and artists are most motivated to create, those opportunities will shrivel further.

Secondly, much of the arts funding available to artists is provided by the EU. We can probably say a regretful goodbye to any real help from the likes of the European Cultural Foundation, who despite their adoration of the arts and artists from around the world may have to limit their grants and other support to EU members only. Britain is European in the geological sense, but soon no longer in the political sense, and often that is what matters. According to WelcomeEurope.com, there are 62 funding bodies available for cultural projects, but only a fraction of these include the arts, and they will likely soon be withdrawn for British artists.

One of the biggest organisations, Creative Europe from the European Commission, replaced the European Union Cultural Programme in 2013 and was intended to last until 2020, but whether British artists will be able to continue to apply after the separation remains a mystery. I have contacted them for comment.

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, has this to say: “The Art Fund is deeply concerned at the impact leaving the EU will have on culture in the UK, and particularly on its museums and galleries. At one level there is obviously now great financial uncertainty – the effect on European funding for the arts, for example – but quite as important is the potential effect on the spirit that drives a myriad of international partnerships in the arts.”

For more info on grants for writers, check out FundsForWriters.com.


2. We will lose the love of those who have helped our literature in the past
At the latest European Literature Festival, held in London April and June this year, author Kate Mosse pointed out that “the fundamental building blocks of this country you could say come from the nature of translation,” citing the Magna Carta, “written in Latin not translated into English until the middle of the 16th century”, and the King James Bible, which eventually appeared in English in 1611. “So all of us here, wherever we come from, have grown up with this sense of other voices, other languages, in our head. But sometimes we forget that.” Her 2005 bestseller, “Labyrinth”, has been translated into more than 37 languages.

It is a ridiculous stretch to think that novels written in European languages other than English might not get translated, but there are many projects that bring lesser-known non-English writers to the English audiences, and those UK citizens living and working in Europe may now have to face expensive and difficult visa processes to remain where they are if they wish to continue to work.

Source: The Guardian: “Kate Mosse speaks up for European literature in face of Brexit”.


3. Our most-loved artists and creative teams might be affected
The much-adored Game of Thrones may be in trouble, since it is partly filmed in the lovely landscapes of Northern Ireland. It has been speculated that HBO may lose its EU funding due the separation, however the studio has recently reported that this is unlikely to happen. HBO now gets funding from the UK for Game of Thrones, not from EU sources, so non-fans like me can continue to hear about that damned show for years to come.

However, Fortune states that the Referendum result could “discourage Hollywood studios and cable networks to film shows and movies in Britain, in part because the country would no longer have access to European subsidies”. The likes of Film4, which continues to make some incredible cinema, doesn’t rely on EU funding, but with austerity measures looming they may already be thinking about reducing their budget, which was only increased from £15m to £25m this February.


4. Artists will have more opportunity to build bridges – a step backwards
In a heartbreaking article from The Guardian yesterday, artists decry the sorry state of affairs that now blights the UK. Sensational pianist Stephen Hough, who has played on all the world’s greatest stages and released over 50 recordings of his classical performances, hits the nail on the head:

“Whether in or out of Europe, we will always need to be building – and repairing – bridges. Sometimes the arts can be the only way a connection can be made across turbulent waters.”

Actor and theatrical Artistic Director Barry Rutter, OBE adds, “For artists, it will only increase dynamism and creativity – hungry artists are always creative.”

Philip Pullman presented this scathing account of the causes of the Brexit separation, which at the very least evidences how trauma can inspire literary works, as well as being precisely damning and entertaining.

One of my personal reasons for voting Remain was the strong feeling that, as a global community, we should be striving for togetherness, not division, even if there are minor compromises. The pain of separation may have inspired the greatest art and literature of all time, but I would much rather that pain not be put into the world – by a vote.

–db


Added 30th June 2016 One of the Creative Europe desks kindly responded to my query with the following, which was to be expected:

“Thank you for your enquiry. Given the complexity of the issue and the number of partners involved, Creative Europe Desk UK are hoping to issue a statement later this week.”

Since there is still talk about a second referendum, and that the shambling remains of the British government have yet to initiate the ‘divorce’, there may be hope yet for creative souls across the UK and Europe.

–db


Added 3rd July 2016: I received a further replace from Creative Europe:

“You can find Creative Europe Desk UK’s statement on the Creative Europe and the impact of the UK’s EU referendum outcome on our website. The statement also contains contact details for any further enquiries you have about Creative Europe’s MEDIA and Culture sub-programmes.

You can also read Creative Scotland’s statement in response to the EU referendum result on the Creative Scotland website.”

–db


For further reading, see my follow-up from February 2017 here.

Now you can support your editor!

Occasionally, clients ask me about how to provide a tip for a job well done. This makes me extremely flattered and grateful. The best bonus is a smashing testimonial for this website (read them here), but if you’d like to palm me a little extra, I’ve now made it super easy.

If you’d like to help feed/clothe a starving writer/editor, there is now my fancy new ‘Support’ page (here) where you can drop a little something into my tip jar with just a few clicks.

A huge thanks again to those lovely people who suggested this!

—db

Free short stories from David Brookes!

About a year ago I chose to give up writing genre fiction, which I’d been writing since I was 13, and focus on what I considered more ‘literary’ fiction. With the exception of the re-release of ‘Half Discovered Wings’, my first novel (2009) and a fantasy, which was more for nostalgia than anything else, my efforts have been towards more meaningful (and marketable) fiction:

I also discontinued sale of some of my other material that was available on Amazon and Smashworlds, namely the science fiction short story collection ‘The Gas Giant Sequence’ and the steampunk fantasy adventure stories in my ‘Professor Arnustace’ series. Although I’m super proud of these works, which were a lot of fun to write, and despite the fact that they sold far more than my other releases, they weren’t fitting with the direction I wanted to go in. I know, how arty of me.

It’s both pleasing and distressing that I’ve had such a response from readers about this. The second ‘Professor Arnustace’ story in particular had some of my best reviews, and I still get messages asking whether there will be a third. Although I don’t have plans for the gentleman detective, as a thank-you I’ve decided to make all my discontinued stories available here for free. Yay!

You will need to connect your e-reader to your computer to copy across the files to your device.

Happy reading!

–db


The Gas Giant Sequence

Krill Split Omnibus cover

Part 1: Krill
Part 2: Split
Part 3: Tranquil Sea
Part 4: Tulpa


The Professor Arnustace Stories

Professor Arnustace

Story 1: An Account of a Curious Encounter
Story 2: Iced Tea for Professor Arnustace


 

Available for pre-order: ‘Cycles of Udaipur’ by David Brookes

I’m thrilled to announce that my new novel, ‘Cycles of Udaipur’, is currently available for pre-order! It will be published in ebook format to coincide with Maha Shivaratri, the Hindu festival in honour of the deity Shiva, occurring on Monday 7th March 2016.

You can read more about the book and pre-order your copy here on Amazon (for Kindle) or here on Smashwords (for non-Kindle e-readers).


 

Final Cover 01


 

CYCLES OF UDAIPUR
David Brookes

Rajasthan is a vivid land of colour and spice, Maharajahs
and gods. But the vibrant city of Udaipur is not the peaceful
Hindu refuge it once was, and as India races towards
modernity its youth faces a cultural identity crisis.

When young Raj hits a cow with his motorcycle, little does
he know that he has started a chain reaction that will
obliterate his close-knit group of friends. Mariam is a Muslim
artist forbidden to paint Hindu deities. Her paramour Shiv
aches to be a politician in a city ruled by gangland overlords.
And lovelorn Vansh finds himself sucked into a mystical
vortex from which his mind may not recover.

Set against the sweeping grandeur of Rajasthani history,
Cycles of Udaipur spins on the axle of tradition and
progress: a tangled web of hope, faith and enduring passion
that epitomises a new India heretofore unknown to the West.


 

Thanks again to everyone for their encouragement and support. Happy reading!

—db


 

New Release: ‘Cycles of Udaipur’ – coming soon!

I’m extremely happy to announce that my latest novel, ‘Cycles of Udaipur’, is almost ready for publication via Amazon and Smashwords!

Set in colourful Rajasthan, India, ‘Cycles of Udaipur’ has been described as a coming-of-age story for a whole country, as India rapidly modernises in the wake of Partition and globalisation.

More details to follow! Thanks to everyone whose love and support helped bring about this novel after four years of hard work.

199 Pichola Lake

Pichola Lake, Udaipur – 2012. (C) David Brookes

—db

How to fail at writing a novel (pt.3)

As part of my grumpy-but-helpful series on the worst aspects of literature, welcome to ‘How to fail at writing a novel, pt.3’. If you missed my earlier pieces and would like some pointers and case studies for what not to do when writing your novel, check out ‘Pt.1: genre‘ and ‘Pt.2: originality‘.

I recently began working on a new novel, and after weeks of reading dry non-fiction books for research was finally free to read literature again. I wanted to refresh myself on what a good novel looks like and be a little inspired. For better or worse, I picked up an e-book from one of my favourite writers, John Irving, famous for ‘The Cider House Rules’ (1985) and ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany’ (1989) (although I haven’t read either – I liked ‘The 158-Pound Marriage’ (1974) and ‘The Fourth Hand’ (2001)).

There is a lot a writer can learn from Irving. He is a master of vignettes (his opening chapters are usually nothing short of astounding), and he somehow manages to write novels that are deeply moving as well as comic. I rarely find it harder to put down a novel than when I’m reading Irving. But–

Have you heard that old writer’s trick, write about what you know? Well…

3. Don’t write about what you know

John Irving - A Widow for One Year

John Irving is one of those writers who writes about what he knows. He was raised in upper-middle class USA, practiced wrestling as a hobby, went to a posh university, and later became a writer. Guess what? Most of Irving’s books contain one or more of those things. ‘A Widow for One Year’, the aforementioned book I picked up recently, contains all of them.

Writing about what you know is generally sound advice. A writer can do a hell of a lot of effective research from his or her desk nowadays, but nothing beats experience for getting to the nitty gritty that will really sell your story and characters, which should be bursting with life. It’s hard to get the skinny on those tiny details from a Wiki article. For the most part, I advocate writing about what you know.

There’s one thing that all writers have in common. They all know what it’s like to be a writer. And do you know what is going to bore all those writers silly in a novel? Reading a book in which the main character is a writer!

The problem is that writers are almost intrinsically introspective and obsessive. Many artists are even egotistical. It comes from staring into one’s soul for weeks on end trying to pass the next grade in Human Nature just so your protagonist’s motivations make sense. Personally, I think that writing about writing is not only lazy, it’s downright narcissistic. 

Take Stephen King. He is a writer who is a recovered alcoholic who lives in Maine. Coincidentally, so are half of his protagonists. I’d love to see some kind of chart, because with King this crops up a lot.

I have a love-hate relationship with Jonathan Ames, creator of Blunt Talk. His dialogue and characters are often perfect, but I had trouble enjoying Bored to Death because the protagonist was a writer – who (unbelievably) was called ‘Jonathan Ames’. He was also Jewish and had lots of warped sexual adventures and lived out his fantasy of being a private detective. It’s almost embarrassing. Ames pulled the old trick of acknowledging his narcissistic choices by having a fictional critic accuse the fictional Ames of “writing with only one hand” – i.e., whilst masturbating. A fun joke, but acknowledging a cliché does not eradicate it. Characters in bad novels constantly try to justify the author’s unoriginal efforts by saying laughable things like “This isn’t a romance novel!” and “I know it’s a cliché, but… A writer should avoid these flimsy tricks at all cost.

It was when opening ‘A Widow for One Year’ that I rolled my eyes to learn, yet again, that Irving’s protagonist was a writer. I suppose I should shout ‘spoilers’ before continuing. Spoilers!

In the first part of the book, we learn that Ted is a writer who turned from producing novels to children’s fiction. Ted is married to Marion, who is almost catatonic with years-old grief following the deaths of their two sons. Having a third child, Ruth, didn’t help. Ted, seeing that Marion was becoming somewhat obsessed with teenaged boys (the age their sons would be now), hires 16-year-old Eddie as his assistant. His plan appears to be to orchestrate an affair to make a divorce go easier for him following his own many infidelities.

The second part of the book sees Ruth all grown up. She, too, has become a writer like her father. This isn’t too hard to believe, considering her upbringing and witnessing her father’s success. It also helps her to work through the trauma of being abandoned by her mother, Marion, when Ruth was 4. When Ruth sees Eddie for the first time in decades, she sees that he is still obsessed with Marion after their brief sexual relationship. Eddie also writes novels, apparently bad ones, in which the main characters are always young boys being seduced by older women, in constant regurgitation of his powerful adolescent memories. Writer count: 3.

Both Eddie and Ruth would dearly love to see Marion again, who disappeared without trace, apparently to Canada (unsurprisingly, Irving lives part-time in Canada). Eddie thinks he finally has a lead: a reclusive female author has been churning out crime novels in which the female lead detective is obsessed with two teenaged boys who have gone missing, never to be found. Eddie (correctly) believes the author to be Marion.

Of the four main characters in Irving’s one novel, four of them are writers! As someone who has never hid his dislike for this kind of thing, you might be able to imagine how sore my eyes were from rolling so hard. I almost abandoned the book halfway through in despair. Does he really not realise what he’s doing? I thought despairingly. To his credit, the book club gubbins at the back proves that he did, but as I touched on earlier: saying that your bad choices are intentional does not make them any less bad.

Worse still, Irving falls into a common trap: he writes about writing too much. Not only does he describe the intricate detail of Ted’s writing desk, his process and his schedule, but he also includes whole chapters from his characters’ books. A deluded author would insist that these excerpts are important because they show us something about the character who wrote them. This may be Irving’s excuse, but it’s a bad one. The excerpts tell us nothing that Irving’s omnipotent narrative voice hasn’t conveyed already, in far fewer words and in more entertaining fashion.

The proverbial straw was how later several chapters are devoted to one of Ruth’s book tours, which takes her to Amsterdam where she is inspired to write her next novel. She takes a long, long research trip around the city, thinking about her story and characters as she goes, tweaking the plot to improve or enhance it with each new discovery. I suppose this tells the reader a little bit about what it’s like to be a writer, but we should expect it to sound genuine: Irving is a writer! Those chapters smacked of what I call “researcher syndrome”, which is where an inexperienced writer has put in so many hours of research that s/he feels compelled to cram every last detail of it into his/her novel, for fear that it would be wasted effort otherwise. The truth is that research is never wasted, even if it’s not overtly referred to in your narrative. In ‘A Widow for One Year’, it is as though Irving had an idea in Amsterdam once but decided it wasn’t worth writing it up as a novel, so he made Ruth write it instead so as not to waste the material. Just cram it in there, it’ll be fine! Who cares if it bears no significance to the rest of the book? At least it’ll fill out the page count. “Researcher syndrome” is an even more deadly risk if you are writing about writing, but you may be fooled into thinking that it’s relevant. It’s not.

That Ruth’s idea is to write a novel in which the protagonist is a writer like her is even worse: it means that Irving is a writer who is writing about a writer who is writing about a writer! This is an atrocity.

At least Irving steered clear of clichés. According to Hollywood, every writer is a chain-smoking alcoholic who produces their manuscript on a typewriter. Yes, it’s a fine image, but it’s also not true; only the most vain of pretenders chooses a typewriter over a word processor, which is far more efficient, not to mention portable. But then the world is now occupied by people like this prat:

Typewriter hipster prat.jpg

Yes, he took his typewriter to a café to show everyone what a writer he is. Meanwhile:

 

Apparently laptops and MS Word are just too mainstream nowadays. Avoid trying to learn anything from people like these, who are more in love with the image of a writer than actually being one. Enamored with the cliché, they are also the dopes who perpetuate it. Joining them will only drag your fiction further away from reality and into the realm of the unbelievable – or even the laughable.

Here are some tips for writing about what you know effectively:

  1. Don’t write about being a writer! It’s boring and vain.
  2. Don’t write about the same thing over and over, in all your stories. How likely is it that the protagonists of all your novels are all into sailing?
  3. Be sure that it makes sense that your character has the same interest as you. You may love anthropology, but if your protagonist is a devout Catholic from a poor household and therefore never went to school, this will be incongruous.

Keep reading, keep writing, never surrender!

—db

What is line-editing, and do I need it?

The St. Paul's Editing Service - David Brookes

 

As part of my short series on editorial processes, I will be looking at proofreading, line-editing and copy-editing to give some insight onto the features that distinguish them from one another. Last month I looked at proofreading. This article covers a more substantive approach, line-editing.

What is line-editing?
Line-editing, unsurprisingly, works at the ‘line level’ of your text. Often confused with copy-editing (the subject of a future post), this is not a more intensive proofread, but a genuine deep edit that examines the detail of your writing to generally enhance your work. A line-editor will help with clumsy wording and sentence structure, improving your clarity and flow, and fact-checking. It could involve the moving, cutting or adding of whole paragraphs (or, if you really need it, chapters). This is generally what most laypeople think of as “editing”.

A deeper look
A proofreader looks for errors such as typos or obvious blunders. A copy-editor will work on things like grammar and consistency of language and regional spelling (i.e. UK or US English). A line-editor’s job usually comes before both of these things, and works hard to draw out the best from every line in your text. It could be considered “heavy editing” and, at the end of the process, you may be looking at a completely different piece of writing to the one you started with.

Rewording of sentences will help get rid of unnecessary passive voice, extensive adverbs (which Stephen King described as paving ‘the road to hell’) repeated words and phrases, tautology, cliché, overwriting, and mixed or broken metaphors and similes. There’s also an element of fact-checking and improving on the writer’s general voice and style.

Voice is something that I would prefer not to interfere with as an editor, but sometimes it’s necessary. Take a novel. If the writer’s personal voice is too strong, it can draw the reader out of the moment and spoil the illusion that all good fiction strives for. Charlotte Brontë is often lauded for breaking this illusion in Jayne Eyre (“Reader, I married him.”) and good editors have been undoing the damage she caused ever since! Voice should not be confused with style, which is (read “should be”) unique to every writer and carries an element of their voice within it.

Tone is also examined, to make sure that it’s appropriate. In an autobiography I would expect the writer’s voice, style and tone to naturally be perfectly appropriate, since it’s their story after all, but even here tone can distract or confuse the reader. It wouldn’t do to make jokes throughout the chapter of your heartbreaking divorce, for example, but the very nature of reliving such an upsetting episode could interfere with the writer’s sense of what’s appropriate for the scene. Likewise, a children’s picture book with a deadly serious tone probably wouldn’t go down so well (“I must protest, Sam-I-Am. I most sincerely would prefer not to eat your green eggs and ham.”).

I generally consider my job as a line-editor to scrub out anything that holds the text back and, if possible, also elevate the text to something closer to the writer’s original vision for their work, helping with vocabulary, sentence structure and imagery. I would also work (in the case of fiction) on characterisation, plotting and originality.

In terms of an ongoing editing process, I would expect line-editing to come first. Once the writer has written their first draft and given it a once- (or twice-) over and can no longer see how it can be improved, the line-editor gets a go. You could, potentially, end up with something completely different by the time they’ve finished, but it should be improved. The reason this would come before copy-editing is because there’s no use having a copy-editor scour your novel for problems with grammar, typos and other minute issues if the line-editor is going to cut that pointless dream sequence or rewrite all your dialogue afterwards.

Do I really need a line-editor?
How do I answer this?  YES … Probably.

If you’ve finished working on a blog post or some SEO content for a website, there’s a case for saying that deep editing is unlikely to be a major advantage. Generally your proofreader, if they’re feeling generous, will point out any glaring errors whilst correcting your typos.However, if English isn’t your first language or if you’re a new hand at writing, an editor will really help you to develop simply by showing you where you might be going wrong (ideally with some helpful annotations to justify their changes and suggestions).

If you’re writing an essay, you’d be better off with a copy-editor than a proofreader so that you can have your grammar examined (not all proofreaders consider grammar part of their purview), and a line-editor may be of use there too. Most substantive edits will be a mixture of line-editing and copy-editing anyway, so it’s important to talk with your editor to discuss exactly what you expect from the process. Many fiction writers, when looking for an editor, are seeking a line-editor who will work on their copy too.

The people who I know who have undergone a third-party editing process have always been very relieved that they did!

Finally…

grammar-meme-grammarly-alphabet-soup

…learn from your editor!

—db