Janet Few, author of our bestselling “Barefoot on the Cobbles” writes and talks on history and genealogy travelling all over the world even as far as New Zealand. However, in this very personal blog post she covers a different subject, that of her grandson (with his parent’s permission) and his Autism and Passive Demand Avoidance, and the difficulties that can cause when interacting with members of the public who don’t understand the condition.
Janet Few’s brilliant historical novel set in Clovelly and surrounding areas at the turn of the 19th century and through the First World War has been going from strength to strength since it’s launch in November of last year.
Now it has been given a Chill With A Book – reader’s award as well as gaining several four and five star reviews on major websites.
Blue Poppy Publishing wish to congratulate Janet on her well deserved award.
Autism is not intrinsically a disability, but the way society is organised makes it so. Downloadable poster to help people understand this.
Just a very quick post inspired by an item I saw on Facebook and shared because I agreed with the sentiment.
The original post was made by http://autisticnotweird.com/ who of course I give full credit to for putting my own thoughts into good words.
One of my characters, Maarten, who appears in “Time Tunnel to West Leighton” and “Time Tunnel to Ironbridge” is autistic.
I have created a hi-resolution image because someone I know wanted to make a poster for their classroom, and I’m sharing it below because I couldn’t get it to go through on Facebook uncompressed. The format is A3 300 dpi so should be easy to convert to PDF for printers.
I (Oliver Tooley) am autistic although I was never diagnosed. Two of my children are diagnosed and they get help to cope with society as it currently operates. Yet, as the words in this image imply, it’s all those neurotypical people who are weird, not us.
I think it’s fair to say this is partly tongue in cheek, but there is a serious note backing it up.
You need to click on the image to open it up full size, then right click to save.
“I’m autistic, which means everyone around me has a disorder which makes them say things they don’t mean, not care about structure, fail to hyperfocus on singular important topics, have unreliable memories, drop weird hints, and stare creepily into my eyeballs.
So why do people treat me as the weird one?
Because there are more of them than people like me.”
Friday the 15th of December
3:30pm – 6:00pm at Ilfracombe Library
Every child (age 0-16) with a valid Devon Library card, who comes to the library in Ilfracombe on Friday 15th December, between 3:30 and 6:00 pm will receive a FREE copy of “Dr Gnaw” the latest Felix Whiter book, and sequel to “For Cats’ Eyes Only”
This event is once again made possible by Ilfracombe’s very own David Tubby. Olli will be there with the illustrator Amii James to sign books. David Tubby won’t be able to make it but he has arranged for none other than Father Christmas himself to be there in his place.
make sure you have a valid library card
Check your card is up to date, or if you don’t have one, head on down to the library and get one. You don’t have to register at Ilfracombe, as long as you have a Devon Libraries card, and are 0-16 years of age, and you come into Ilfracombe Library at the time stated above, you will get your book.
See you there.
I stopped writing my NaNoWriMo at 17,796 words on day 8
I only started it for a giggle, I was well on target, but the story just didn’t have the legs for 50,ooo words, in my humble opinion.
Actually, perhaps with time or sufficient motivation I could have done it, but I really do have better things to do.
Anyway, I thought I may as well offer up my efforts so you can have a giggle, at my unpolished pantsing.
‘Don’t look back,’ John thought, ‘just keep running’. He crossed the street and a cab screeched to a halt, the driver waving a fist. John looked back. They were gaining. Crowds; crowds were useful, he was small, with a low centre of gravity. He could twist and turn, disappear into crowds, invisible among tall people in heavy cloaks. A marketplace would be great; redolent of spices from the farthest corners of the empire, or a port! Ports were a good place to lose oneself among travellers. There was the entrance to the underground up ahead. People were entering and leaving in large numbers. He focussed his thoughts on reaching the safety of the crowd and put on an extra spurt. A gust of warm stale air rushed up the stairs as he dived among the harried commuters.
“Hey, watch where you’re goin’ asshole!”
A woman crossed his path dragging a bright red case on wheels. He hurdled it like he was a youth, jumping a bonfire. ‘The onlookers roared with approval as John the minstrel leapt the flames to purify his soul…’ his thoughts were interrupted by a man carrying two bags of groceries clasped to his chest between outstretched arms. There was no way to avoid a collision. He was a big man, the look in his eyes spelled murder, but somehow, despite the speed of the collision, nothing was spilled. John cradled the bags as though he was the saviour and not the cause of the whirlwind of chaos that had briefly engulfed the big man. Smiling cheekily, he said, “My lord, you dance divinely, but I must not tarry, I bid you good-day sir.”
And then after a brief involuntary tango, the two men parted, no better acquainted than when they had met, and John sprinted down into the cavernous dungeon where metal serpents roared through tunnels, spewing sparks. The barriers ahead were no obstacle. He slid under them. Timing was everything. He chanced another glance back, he couldn’t see them, but they would surely follow. Another sprint took him onto the train, and then moving along the carriage, between surly teenagers and elderly couples. A man with a bushy red beard, and amateurish tattoos, looked like he might be a Pictish warrior, although the MP3 player and the little earbuds suggested otherwise.
‘Come on doors. CLOSE!’
The background music was fast and intense in his mind, snare drums featured heavily in the mix, power chords, and… was that mandolin? The rhythm was intensifying, it was keeping time with his heartbeat, which was already too fast, but seemed to be getting fasterer. And there they were, sprinting towards the train where he was either a rat in a trap, or safe and sound. It all depended on the doors closing. ‘NOW!’
There were three of them. Warriors of the Eastern steppes, in leather and high boots, he couldn’t see weapons, but of course, they would be sheathed until combat, the blade sharp enough to cut through chain mail. The doors closed; the barbarians were defeated. The serpent moved forwards, slowly at first, then gaining speed, it roared into the labyrinthine tunnels towards the next valley. He fingered the item in his pocket. It seemed alien, a palm sized rectangle of smooth black obsidian. He touched a raised area on the side and the obsidian surface lit up. He slid his finger across the smooth stone and revealed the news that he had no internet connection. John put the phone back in his pocket and tried to focus on what was real and what was not.
The subway train slowed, and John stepped out onto the platform. In his haste, he had gone in the wrong direction. It didn’t matter, he had nowhere special he needed to be. The barriers were attended though. That was awkward, he would need a diversion. He looked around. The platform was deserted. His heart was beating faster again. He could feel it, bursting from his chest.
‘Run into him. The shock will give you time to escape. There’s nobody else around,’ the internal monologue said.
John shook his head. He had already spent most of the day running away from those other guys. He didn’t need to kick their horses, err, bikes. He didn’t need to call them hairy barbarian scum. But he had done it anyway. There was a rushing noise like another train coming into the station. But there was no train, no serpent, no magical sparks, and there was the royal guard, waiting at the gates to the city. He was an outsider, an interloper, outlawed. There was a price on his head, the King himself would surely oversee the torture, unless he could get past un-noticed.
He ran, only he wasn’t running, he was moving as though through treacle, the rushing noise was deafening now. Another metal serpent curved into the station spitting fire, but the sound was drowned out by the waterfall, the roaring screaming noise of water, falling and slowing him down, and then, there was nothing.
It only takes ONE comment from a reader who wants to read chapter 2, and I will post it up for you.
In case anyone is wondering first of all what it is, here’s a link https://nanowrimo.org/
If you don’t want to follow the link, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and it is now an international event every November when writers take on the challenge of finishing a 50k + word novel in 30 days.
Pros and Cons
First off, I should say that I wasn’t really that fussed about doing it in the first place, but I fancied having a go after deriding the whole idea.
Actually, I seriously don’t know what I feel about this idea. In one way, I can see it is a great way to focus writers’ minds on a deadline, and getting them all to work together and encourage each other; but in another way, I don’t think great novels are written in a month. I’d go so far as to suggest that NO worthwhile novel was EVER written in a month.
Now, I can almost hear you screaming, “But that’s not the point!”
A lot of writers will have plotted aspects of their novel in the months leading up to NaNoWriMo, and anyone who has written anything they want to publish will no doubt put their manuscript through a full editing process before it reaches the market.
Another thing I don’t much like is the constant badgering you to contribute to their “non-profit”. What exactly does my money go to?
Well, it goes towards running the site, and funding educational programs, but at this stage in my writing career, I am the one who needs funding. I think a lot of us probably feel that way too.
OK, so fair enough, nobody forces you to donate, and they do good work with it, but it was a bit incessant; a bit “American”, if I am honest. Anyway, that’s not why I stopped.
Here’s why I stopped.
I decided to be a total purist. I had no need or reason to do NaNoWriMo apart from the curiosity to see if I could write a 50,ooo word novel in a month. So there was no point in using an idea that I was already working on.
I set out with nothing more than a few suggestions from Facebook friends on November the 1st, and I ‘pantsed’* it the whole way.
*New word; “pantsed” verb “to pants” – from the noun “pantser” one who writes by the seat of their pants; as opposed to a “plotter” one who plots the story beforehand.
I got as as far as 17,796 words in the first 8 days when I decided that there was simply not enough meat in the idea for 50,ooo words.
Since it did not matter to me, I stopped. Simple as that.
It was a fairly daft idea, but maybe fun.
Possibly someone might enjoy it, or possibly someone might even want to take it over and make it work. I don’t care. I have too many book ideas, and nothing like enough time.
I am going to post it up on the blog, and even if just one person wants to read it, they can.
The launch of “For Cats’ Eyes Only draws ever nearer and for any libraries in Devon, or beyond for that matter, who would like an author visit, here’s what to expect.
- Ideal for kids aged 6 – 10 years but with a bit of leeway either side.
- Suggested max 30 children per session.
- Olli will talk briefly about how the book came about and answer any questions.
- Reading passages from the story which is packed with terrible puns, with a fair bit of silliness, and a smattering of fart humour.
- Everyone (who wants to) gets to make their own personalised secret agent I.D. card which can be disguised as a credit card.
The craft activity
For a poster to promote this activity right click and “save as”
Just a quick blog post to list the dates booked so far for my author visits this summer.
Saturday 15th July 10:00 – 15:00 is the official launch of the Summer Reading Challenge and I will be at Barnstaple library North Devon for that, although I won’t be selling For Cats’ Eyes Only because it is being launched at Ilfracombe library’s event.
Wed 19th July 15:30 – 18:00 is the launch of the Summer Reading Challenge at Ilfracombe Library. I will be there with copies of “For Cats’ Eyes Only” to give to all children who sign up for the challenge. Amii James will be there too, doing a related art/craft activity as well as face painting, balloon animals, and more.
For Cats’ Eyes Only reading and craft session
- Mon, 24 July 10:30–12:00 Tavistock Library, The Quay, Plymouth Rd, Tavistock PL19 8AB
- Tue, 25 July 10:30 – 12:00 Ilfracombe Library, The Candar, Ilfracombe EX34 9DS
- Fri, 28 July 10:30 – 12:00 Dawlish Library, 1 Lawn Hill, Dawlish EX7 9PY
- Fri, 28 July 14:30 – 16:00 Newton Abbot library, Passmore Edwards centre, Market St, Newton Abbot TQ12 2RJ
- Tue, 1 August 10:30-12:00 Crediton Library, Belle Parade, Crediton
- Tue, 1 August 14:30-16:00 Lynton Library, 17 Queen St. Lynton EX35 6AA
Week commencing 7th August, I have to visit beautiful Suffolk. Never one to waste an opportunity…
- Sat, 12 August 11:00-14:00 Chantry Library Summer Fair T.B.C.
- Tue, 8 August 14:00-15:30 Gainsborough library, Clapgate Ln. IP3 0RL
- Wed, 9 August 10:30-12:00 Hadleigh library, 29 High St, IP7 5AG
- Thu, 10 August 10:30-12:00 Haverhill library Camps Road, CB9 8HB
- Thu, 10 August 14:00-15:30 Glemsford library, Tye Green, CO10 7RH
- Fri, 11 August 14:00-15:30 Ipswich County Library, Northgate Street, IP1 3DE
And then back to Devon…
- Mon, 14 August 10:30 – 12:00 Barnstaple library, Castle Walk, Barnstaple
- Wed, 16 August 10:30 – 12:00 Combe Martin library
- Wed, 16 August 14:00 – 15:00 Okehampton Library, 4 North St, Okehampton EX20 1AR
I’m thrilled to be able to add, that I am at two finishers’ events.
- Sat 16 September 10:30-12:00 Ilfracombe Library finishers event
- Sat 16 September 14:00-15:30 Braunton Library finishers event
Worst self-published print book ever?
The first book I began to write was “Children of the Wise Oak” but that stalled because I decided the original idea was terrible and I didn’t know how to proceed with it. The very first book I finished was a short story called “Time Tunnel to Londinium.”
I had no intention of trying to find a traditional publisher. Not because I didn’t want one, but because I felt that the entire industry is geared up to a “rejection” process rather than a “selection” process. I knew my shallow ego could not face rejection. I also felt that publishers were only interested in books by celebrities. While this may not be strictly true, it was enough to put me off.
But at that time, I came across a company called “Blurb” who are still going. They offer a self-publishing service for any number of books from a single copy to hundreds. They have a variety of options including their own software for creating the book interiors and covers, and a huge range of book sizes and formats. They even offer hardcover options.
What they don’t do, at least not for free, is tell you how to make sure your books looks professional. Nobody does, and boy is it easy to make mistakes. See here for help to avoid some of those mistakes.
- Book size
- Paper choice
- Font size
- Line spacing
- Cover design
There are so many little things to consider, and if you get any one of them wrong it sends a signal to prospective readers “this is an amateur book”. They might not even know why!
So how bad was my first effort? – Pretty terrible, but don’t take my word for it; I still have plenty of copies left.
Let’s start with the front cover. Well ok, it could have been worse, but I mocked it up using images from the internet without bothering to check if they were available for reuse. (This is a serious mistake and nobody should ever do this, although I fear huge numbers of people do) If you cannot find an image you like which is officially available for commercial reuse and modification then you should not touch it with a barge pole. Take a photograph yourself, get a photographer, or artist, or a professional cover designer to help you. Rather use a WYSIWYG cover designer like on Amazon Kindle than leave yourself open to a copyright suit in the future.
Then there is the size issue. These books were a standard size offered by Blurb, but paperbacks in the USA are a different set of sizes from those in the UK. Almost all my market is the UK so I should have used a standard UK paperback size. That size is 198mm x 129mm (I just typed that from memory and then double checked) (It is actually 7.8 inches by 5 inches but who uses inches these days?)
Let’s just reiterate that
UK standard paperback size for a novel is 198mm x 129mm
If that is the only size you know you will be fine for some time to come.
So what about the interior? How badly did I mess up that can of worms? Well…
Have you spotted it yet?
That’s not all, but it is enough. I wanted to make it easy to read for young readers. I personally dislike double story “a” even now. Nobody writes an “a” like it is printed. But that is no excuse for using Comic Sans in any book aimed at children over the age of about five.
Now it turns out I was worrying over nothing much. Most junior school children can comprehend the difference between a double-decker serif “a” and the letter “a” they write with their pen or pencil. It might be an issue for Aspies like me who spent ages fretting about this little detail but not for “normal” children. (there’s a whole world of things you can do to help those with dyslexia, but that’s an article in itself)
I now tend to use Century Schoolbook 12 or 14 point (the larger for younger readers 6-18 smaller for 8-10) and Garamond 11 point for YA.
I also got it printed on white paper because I naively thought that looked more expensive. Alas it also makes it less readable, especially to dyslexics apparently.
Blurb saved me from making some of the other classic mistakes, for example page numbering and titles in headers being incorrectly formatted, not having gutters (the words disappear into the book spine without them) and mirrored margins; but it did allow me to use “left justified” instead of “both justified”. In books you do not want a ragged margin on either side of the page.
So I had one hundred copies of this book printed (the more you print the cheaper it is per book) I sent out copies to people who bought them, but now I refuse to sell any more because I know how awful they are. I keep them as a warning to myself and others of the perils of not doing proper research.
For me, one of the most exciting things about preparing a new book for publication is the cover art.
With the “Wise Oak” series, that process is deliciously drawn out as Iver Klingenberg sends me the preliminary sketch first, and then usually a work-in-progress close to completion, before I see the final finished painting. Then there is the next step which involves taking the painting to Andy Jones who turns it into a finished cover.
Well, we have reached that very first step and I absolutely LOVE it.