Bussing it – in Praise of Book Blogs

IMG_2398You wait a while for a review and, what do you know, two come along at once.

Book reviews are the buses of publishing that can take a book elsewhere. The preferred destination: discovered, bought, read and enjoyed is clear, although there’s no guarantee any book (however good) will succeed.

‘Bussing it’, as in catching a bus and staying on wherever it goes has its fans, such as teenagers with free travel cards, OAPs and even rock chick Chrissie Hynde. It’s about the journey, and the opportunity to discover unexpected places along the way that may be more interesting than the final destination.

Independent book blogs are bussing-it-trips compared to the straightforward journeys on offer via the book review pages in the mainstream media.

Book blogs, through their willingness to read widely and without prejudice towards self-published works, offer a chance for other voices to be heard and new, perhaps more unusual books to be discovered. As Haruki Murakami says, ‘If you only read the books that everyone is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking’.

Thank you to Book Fabulous and Published Moments

GIRL

 

Available from Amazon / Kobo / Barnes & Noble

The Story Behind the Story: a True Hero?

What if a hero isn’t a true hero? This was my starting point when I came to write my dark comic short story Shopping at Tesco.
They say you should never meet your heroes, the simple reason being that in reality few people measure up to the hype, and it was with this cynical thought in mind that I listened to news of the Hudson River hero.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B002QHATEC/jaqhazack in January 2009 (yes, I wrote the first version of Shopping at Tesco that long ago), American pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was hailed a hero after successfully making an emergency landing of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, New York, after the plane hit a large flock of geese, disabling both engines. All 155 passengers and crew survived.

It was the perfect good news story and there aren’t many of those, but at the time my initial thought was, I hope the pilot is up to his new role as the US nation’s hero. Well, of course it turned out that he deserves all the adulation he has since received: an outstanding scholar, president of the high school Latin club, an experienced pilot with 40 years and 20,000 hours of flying experience, an air safety expert, successful author and a happily married family man who friends describe as “shy and reticent”. In other words, Sullenberger is an all round good guy.

But, what if a hero who becomes a hero suddenly and accidentally isn’t so great? Shopping at Tesco evolved from this simple question. The plot formed subconsciously in a dream that was further developed until Joanna, my “Tesco hero” who isn’t a true hero, came to life. Meanwhile, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger is so much a true hero that a film based on his life is to be directed by Clint Eastwood, and if there’s one thing Clint knows about it’s heroes.

What’s in a Name?

My main website and blog is moving to here. Why? Well, I’m about to publish several works starting with a dark, humorous short story called SHOPPING AT TESCO (free on Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords etc), and I came to the conclusion that shortening my name to “Jaq” is a good idea.

SHOPPINGJaq is what close friends and family call me. It’s also how I used to sign artworks when that was my main creative outlet, and as Jaq Hazell I appear to be the only one on the internet.

There are many Jacqui Hazells. There’s a witch in Wales, a health consultant somewhere else, and another Jacqui Hazell who likes to run marathons. I’m sure they are all lovely people but they are not me.

SHOPPING AT TESCO is about a snooty yummy mummy who takes decisive action when faced with panic and danger at a London supermarket. It’s available as a free download from your favourite ebook retailer. And for news of new titles please join my mailing list here. Thank you.

Where Would we be Without Authors?

London Book Fair 2015
London Book Fair 2015

It’s the final day of London Book Fair. I managed two days out of the three before I thought, enough.

It’s often said book fairs are not for authors – like lambs visiting a slaughterhouse – and best avoided. However, this is the third year I’ve visited and it is changing.

‘Effective PR and Marketing’, ‘5 Ways to Supercharge your eBook sales’, and ‘The Principles of Successful Book Cover Design’ were just three of the many useful seminars on offer.

Alongside author interviews such as Ali Smith who was inspiring, and Conchita Wurst (Eurovision winner) who was entertaining but irritating because: a) I was expecting a seminar full of tips about writing non-fiction, b) her autobiography is ghostwritten, and c) she’s not into books, and only reads “the Vogue”.

Conchita Wurst at LBF 2015Thankfully there were also interesting panel discussions including established talents such as author Melvin Burgess, and his charismatic publisher Klaus Flugge, founder of Andersen Press.

‘Where would we be without authors?’ he said. ‘Publishers are just midwives.’

Waiting for Rain

London from the parkI am waiting for rain. I’m looking forward to it. I’m scanning the weather reports, and even managing to listen to the weather on TV without glazing over. I have to know when?

Weird I know, seeing as I’m British and as these things go the British are absurdly grateful for one fine day, let alone over a week of good weather, but I am hoping for rain. It’s April and I’m in England, so what is going on? The showers should be frequent, but so far they are falling elsewhere.

This is not a gardening issue, it’s a writerly one. And I don’t mean the usual summer conundrum that writers have to solve on a sunny day, as in you really should stay in and work but you feel you have to go out because in the UK one or two hot days can make a summer, and that’s your lot. No, it’s more straightforward than that. I’ve got it in my head that the cover for my short story collection, London Tsunami & Other Stories, should involve a shot of a wet London street by night.

Should be easy, I thought, it rains all the time, only all of a sudden it’s London street fine weatherstopped.

Never mind, I’ll bide my time, I’m sure that perfect shot of a damp lamplit London street can only be a matter of days away, although apparently not according to the weather forecast.

For more information about London Tsunami & Other Stories click here.

Writers, Dogs and the Tsunami that is Ill Health

Basil
Basil

My dog Basil is always with me whether I’m walking, writing, cooking etc. He’s a constant.

Yesterday, however, things changed, and the only walk Basil had was in my arms, wrapped in an old towel, straight to the vet’s where he remained.

Illness can hit like a tsunami. After an average day of walking, writing and more walking, Basil threw up, and in the early hours he repeatedly excreted blood.

With Basil at the vet’s on a drip etc, I didn’t even try to write. How could I concentrate without my little friend? Instead I worked on a linocut for the cover of my upcoming book, London Tsunami.

Linocut in progress
Linocut in progress

The title story, London Tsunami, is about a woman whose partner, without warning, becomes dangerously ill. Whilst other stories in the collection deal with similarly sudden and unexpected shifts in reality.

Cover designToday is of course another day and after a night on intravenous antibiotics Basil has bounced back. He’s now home and although he’s a little quieter and skinnier than normal he’s well on his way back to good health.

The Importance of Writer Friends

Writing is by its very nature a lonely business. Solitude helps. Somehow, at some point after spending time alone, the magic happens: words, paragraphs, chapters and novels finally emerge to do what they will.

As Anne Enright says in The Guardian’s Ten Rules for Writing Fiction, ‘The first 12 years are the worst. If you sit at your desk for 15 or 20 years, every day… it changes you… It makes you free.’

After a day spent home alone writing it’s good to meet with writer friends. These are people that understand what it’s like to start from scratch and go on to create an imagined world. They also write and rewrite until it works (and hopefully sings), and send out until there’s a positive response.

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London literary event The Books that Built Me seemed like a good excuse to get together with writer friends Stephanie Zia and Jacqui Lofthouse.

Writer and playwright Samantha Ellis discussed the books that have had a major influence on who she is and in turn inspired her to write How to be a Heroine.

The Modigliani GirlHer choices ranged from Henny Penny to Lace and personal favourite, Wuthering Heights – always worth revisiting. And more importantly, it was a good opportunity to celebrate the publication of Jacqui’s latest book, The Modigliani Girl. On a sadder note, I heard from another friend who has had to bow out of our writing group due to ill health. He’ll be missed.

The Six-Day Writing Week

Since recently increasing my writing week to six days rather than five my output has greatly increased. The two-day pause of the traditional weekend is, for me, too long making Mondays a wasted day as I struggle to reacquaint myself with whatever project I’m on.

“Total Immersion” is the answer. Writing in The Guardian, Kazuo Ishiguro recently revealed that a process he refers to as the “crash” meant that for a number of weeks he wrote from Monday to Saturday, 9am-10.30pm and that’s how The Remains of the Day came to fruition.

Well, if it’s good enough for Ishiguro it’s got to be worth a go, though I’m not sure his hours would fit in with my family. Even so, squeezing in a couple of hours on a Saturday can make all the difference when it comes to maintaining momentum to make Mondays more productive.