December 16, 2011
Been a long time since I updated but been pretty busy. My book is just about finished and will go out to people in the New Year. It’s called The Station at the End of the World and is a love story about a school teacher from Edinburgh who falls in love with a communist from Glasgow, all set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. I’m going to immediately start something new as I can’t bear to hang around waiting for that call/email. Not sure what yet. I’ll be thinking it over during the holidays.
It’s been a busy year. We moved house and I now have a fantastic study with a view of a church steeple and lots of rooftops. At the moment they’re covered with snow. I’ve been busy teaching too. As well as mentoring novelists – see my website for details – I am working for the OCA. This is an image from a workshop I organized for Algebra, the digital journal I edit for Tramway. Eight new writers experimented with modern dance and plasticine.
Will update soon with news (hopefully good) about the novel. It’s chilly out there. Take care . . .
May 9, 2011
Just read the very brilliant Red Spanish Notebook by Mary Lou and Juan Brea. They catalogue the heady early days of revolution in Barcelona before the reality of the civil war really took hold. The writing is lyrical and often wryly comic as they take it in turns to narrate the progress of the war, the brutality of front plus vivid descriptions of the colourful, liberated Catalan city of Barcelona in 1936. But it is the people who bring it to life, people who are described with exacting economy.
‘If you ever heard him laugh,’ Low writes at one point of a man they meet, ‘you would know what sort of man he was, cut all out of one piece.’
Apart from the prose, the text is illuminating and often heart-breaking. It’s a wonderful description of how idealism can very quickly take a wrong turn and end up somewhere else.
March 21, 2011
My short story The Suffragettes Party is on BBC Radio 4 tomorrow at 3.30. It’s one of three commissioned to mark the 2011 census. It is read beautifully by the Glasgow-based actress Melody Grove. Other stories are by Louise Welsh and Kathryn Simmonds. If you miss them you can catch them for a week on the BBC iplayer Listen again.
I’ve been busy making a new cover for my second book, The Disappearing Act which I’ve made available on Kindle (price £2.13). It involved stitching a circus tent, buying strange shoes from ebay, a wooden box from a recycling wood furniture place and hay from a pet shop. Paul at swordfishphotography.co.uk set it up and made the image, which I love. Next I’m going to do my first novel, Nude Untitled. Both books are out of print which means I own the rights. Publishers today buy the digital rights in perpetuity but I’m lucky that when both were published, in 2002 and 2004 (I think) digital publishing didn’t exist. You buy it on Amazon here.
And here’s the cover:
March 18, 2011
Next week; Spain, the Basque coast to be exact. First Bilbao, then San Sebastian and then Pamplona where there will be no running bulls – that’s in July.
In 1937, Franco’s troops pushed the Republicans back along the coast where they tried, and failed, to keep Bilbao. Some British ships took some of the Republican army on board. But when they were told that they would be well treated by the Nationalists, they shipped them back to shore. Franco went back on his word and all of them were executed.
We’ll finish up at Guernica, the small village that was bombed by the German Luftwaffe and commemorated by Picasso.
I’m about half way through my Spanish novel and I want to go and take in the feel of the place, the smells, the sounds etc. My character is just about to cross the Pyrenees, so the timing is good. Wish I had longer than three days but hey, it’s good to be able to go at all. Just hope it doesn’t rain. Will post some pics when I get back.
March 14, 2011
It was as I was watching Iron and Wine in Edinburgh that something about my Spanish Civil war novel seemed to shift and make more sense. I wasn’t even thinking about it, just about why I always love the soft acoustic music of I&W and hate the retro-jazz funk rock outs. Anwyay, in my head the novel seems to have shifted a few inches, like the world on its axis after the Japanese earthquake, and become a slightly different creature. On Friday I didn’t have a great day writing and was feeling a bit low about it. A bit low about everything, actually – who could concentrate on anything after seeing those images of the Tsunami.
Disasters aside, I often find good ideas come after absolute despair. The highs and lows are part of the process. But the strangest part is how much work is unconscious. It makes me wonder what else goes on in our brains that we aren’t aware of. If we can go on working out stories long after our conscious mind has given up on them, what else do we do?
February 25, 2011
Yesterday I attached the manuscript of my book, The Pyrate’s Boy, in an email to my agent and pressed send. Of course when I happened to glance at it a little later all I could see were mistakes. I know I should have kept it to myself for a week and then looked at it again before letting anyone see it. But I have end of draft fever when all I wanted to do was send it out. Simon, my agent, said he won’t be able to get to it until next week anyway, so he may well get another version.
I’ve given it to two people to read and have to stop myself from calling them up all the time and saying, have you read it yet, have you read it yet?
Next, I have yo get back to my Spanish Civil War novel which I’ve been totally neglecting. I’m planning a trip to the north of Spain next month, part holiday and part research trip. If all goes well and with only one novel to write instead of two, I hope to finish that one by summer. And then . . . who knows what I’ll do next.
While I wait for my agent to get back to me I want to explore kindle and maybe even buy one. Should I upload some short stories? And there’s my earlier novels? It seems that the ones that do well at the moment are those that sell for 99p. I don’t think books should be that cheap – although Lilly is for sale on Amazon for 1p.
Advances for books, however, have apparently tumbled. A friend of mine recently signed a deal for a book for a couple of thousand pounds. What would be the point? You might do better by going down the 99p kindle option.
Otherwise I have a load of other things to do. Algebra, my Tramway journal thing is coming together – more news soon – and I have been asked to talk at Largs Library in June. I’m also at Arvon this summer, which I’m really looking forward to.
Here’s the blurb for my pirate book:
The Fantastic Adventures of a Pyrate’s Boy: the Powder Monkey’s Box.
By Beatrice Colin
Set in last days of the golden age of piracy, this novel for children follows the fate of eleven year-old Silas Orr, a pirate’s boy. After being rescued and given a job by a pirate captain called Black Johnnie on board his boat, the Tenacity, Silas gets caught up in adventure that takes him from the plantations of Jamaica to Glasgow in the time of the Tobacco Lords. Sailing the triangle in pursuit of a high prize, they must survive not only stormy seas but also volcanoes, deadly assassins and the pull of their own pasts.
February 12, 2011
I’m teaching at Arvon this July at Moniak Mhor http://ow.ly/3V8MB Had a brilliant time last year in Totleigh Barton.
February 7, 2011
Almost at the end of my pirate novel, tentatively titled The Fantastic Adventures of a Pirate’s Boy. I’m hoping to finish it by Friday!
Endings are hard for a number of reasons: it has to be totally unexpected and yet totally right, the only possible outcome. Recently, I loved ROOM by Emma Donoghue – it had the perfect ending.
Once finished, I’ll have to give it to my agent to sell (if he thinks he can). That feels like putting up your favourite pet for sale in a cattle market. It’ll either be bought and well treated or immediately consigned to the abattoir. While you wait for the weeks it takes you try to forget about it and work on something else, but you have that horrible nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach.
And then, if someone does want to publish it, there the whole publishing mess. I am sure that digital will take over much faster than we realize. Bookshops will become highly specialized and old worlde, like hat shops. Real books will be print to order or be beautifully produced and expensive. Everything else will be readily available to download. In some ways this will be much better for writers – at the moment we get a really shocking 7% on a paperback. Once it has been sold at a discount, of say, a fiver, we get around 40p a book, minus agents commission and tax. You have to sell an awful lot of books to make a living. With digital, writers get 25%. Much better, I know, but what do the publishers get 75% for? PR? Editing? Hmm.
I’m going to put my first two books on to Kindle (they’re out of print) and if anyone buys them, I get 70% That’s ten times what I get on a paperback. All of a sudden, you realize that it would be possible to sell a smaller amount of books and make a living.
All of which makes me really unsure of the future. Do you self-publish and employ a PR and an editor (which a lot of published writers are doing anyway)? Or stick with big publishers? Why did writers ever accept such terrible deals? And why should publishing, which is a huge million pound business rely on writers who can only write if they are independently wealthy or have rich husbands? Nobody tells designers that designing cereal packets is a vocation, therefore they should expect high risk, poor returns and no job security. So why have writers over the years accepted it? Baffling.
My only problem is that my audience – children 10-14 – don’t have ipads or kindles yet. It won’t be long, though, maybe even by the time its published.
Anyway, back to Gallows Point. I have to save a man from hanging . . .
January 27, 2011
I have started editing a new app for the Tramway of new writing called Algebra. Inspired by a show by the artist, Keith Farquhar called More Nudes in Colour, I have just received the first piece, a wonderful story by the New York-based writer, Ellis Avery, about the painter Tamara de Lempicka (see above) and her relationship with her model Rafaela. Her novel, THE LAST NUDE is out later this year. Can’t wait to read it.
More exciting pieces coming in soon. . . .
You will be able to access Algebra in March.
January 21, 2011
I promised myself I’d finish my pirate book by the end of January and I may just make it. Of course there’s a load of other things that have just cropped up: my tax return, taking part in Pecha Kucha where I have decided to tell a story with 20 images in 6 minutes, my new one day a week job at the Tramway, plus the Poles putting up the shower. But, fingers crossed, I’ll do it.
Endings are always impossible though – all those loose ends and characters I introduced then forgot about – they all need closure. I’m going to teach a class on it next week. What can I say apart from that it’s like winning at a game of patience. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Hopefully, though, next time I’ll have enough time and enough editing skills to fix it.
Right now, though, I just want to finish the book. I’m in Jamaica in the Blue Mountains and today we head to Kingston. But how and why? Right now I have no idea. About ten thousand words to go. Enough space for a dramatic ending? I think so.