Posts By Susan May Oke

His Majesty’s Starship, part 3: a bloody children’s publisher? – by Ben Jeapes

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Originally posted on Ben Jeapes’ blog

HM StarshipGo to the book’s home page

Slowly but surely His Majesty’s Starship approached completion … and approached it … and approached it. For a very long time indeed I was almost there, with just a couple of thousand words to go, and I simply wasn’t writing them. I self-diagnosed the problem, which was that I had a life and I was unwilling to lose it. The solution was to start getting up earlier, writing before going to work. It’s a habit I’ve kept.

Placing it with a publisher was quite atypically easy. Two friends from my writers group already shared an agent, Robert Kirby. Robert had been sufficiently tickled by their descriptions of the group to ask if he could have first refusal if any of the rest of us ever wrote a novel. I sent His Majesty’s Starship to him in August 1995…

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Writing: Art or Craft? by David Gullen

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I remember a conversation in my first writing group from many years ago about whether or not writing could be taught. Some people thought no, that writing alone in all the fields of human endeavour, was somehow special and the ability was innate, Gods-given. The best you could do was encourage, but teaching, darling, was simply not possible.

As a journeyman writer still wet behind the ears I soaked this up. Was it true? I had my doubts. Later I realised this was nonsense. Everything other human activity is taught, from acting to zoology, writing is not that special, not that precious. The conversation moved on to whether writing was art or craft. Over time this has interested me probably far more than it reasonably should.

In paraphrase, the great French poet Paul Valéry wrote that a work of art is never finished, merely abandoned. You can read the full…

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How (Not) to Write a Steampunk Novel by Gaie Sebold

Ah… the ups and downs of a writer’s publishing life…

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I had one of those conversations, you know the way you do, about this idea that might be quite fun, which I hadn’t really thought through in any way at all, and then someone said how about you send us a proposal?

At which point I made that gulping noise, the one cartoon characters make where a big comedy bump sproings up and down their throat, and said, OK sure no problem.  Then I ran away to find a large glass of wine and hide in it.

Because I’d never done a proposal before.  And the writing sort is probably not quite as scary as getting…

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Mind The Gap: Communicating Information to Your Audience by Sam Tovey

All useful, and a good reminder for me re the story I’m writing at the moment.

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As a writer, it can be frustrating to learn that the story in your head is not the same as the story your audience is reading on the page.

Whether it’s a plot point, some description, a character motivation, or even the emotional resonance of a particular scene, there can be something that seems completely clear to you, but falls flat when you share it with your audience.

It’s that dreaded moment when someone tells you that they just didn’t ‘get’ it.

While it’s tempting to ignore that kind of criticism (“You don’t understand my genius!” etc.), it’s worth considering whether you have a problem with the gap. The ‘gap’ of course being whatever was lost in translation between your brain, the page and the reader’s imagination.

Mind the gap

This was one of the most important lessons that I took away from Milford. I submitted a short story with a twist ending…

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The Milford Report, 2019, by Russell Smith

Great report from Russell Smith. I loved the week at Milford. Can’t wait to get back there next year.

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Good day, and welcome to a special edition of The Milford Report, covering the release of 15 authors on to a rural environment in north Wales with nothing but their wits, several bottles of booze and all the pesto they could manage at their disposal.

Our season started with the arrival of each of the writers from across the globe, whom for (not necessarily) legal reasons we shall name each of now. There was Jacey, Tiffani, Powder, Sam, Mark, Victor, Tania, Sue, Kari, Steph, Tina, Terry, Pauline, Liz and myself.

The crack team of scribblers landed in a thoroughly suspecting Trigonos which, of course, being ready for us pacified us with copious quantities of food and cake for the entire duration of our stay. Inevitable desk rearrangements aside, most of us met up on the Saturday evening to make introductions, enjoy our first meal and prepare ourselves for an intense…

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Milford Retrospective by Jacey Bedford

I had a wonderful week at Trigonos. What a great bunch of writers! New writing done; constructive critiques received; totally and thoroughly enjoyed. Planning to go back next year!

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20190915_072826_615 Milford attendees gathering in the library on Day 1, by Victor Ocampo

Milford has come and gone for another year.

Fifteen science fiction and fantasy writers submitted close to 200,000 words between them – a total of twenty pieces, which we critiqued at the rate of four pieces per day.

We will soon be posting the official 2019 Milford Report, always written by someone new to Milford. Russell Smith has volunteered and you should be able to read that on next Tuesday’s blog.

Nantlle Valley 2019 Nantlle valley looking towards Mount Snowdon by Jacey Bedford

This year we had fabulous weather. After a little rain on the Sunday, the sun came out and bathed us in warmth for five days. Those of us who had attended Milford before wondered what this ball of brightness in the sky could possibly be. “For this is North Wales,” we said. “Land of clouds.”

Those  new to…

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Live Blogging From Milford #2

Back at Milford! Hurrah!

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Sunday 15th September – p.m.

Jacey Bedford
Jacey-new hairThe first full day of critiquing went well. Four stories were up for crit. Mine first, then stories from Tiffani Angus, Powder Thompson, and Sam Tovey. No one ran away screaming, ‘But you don’t understand my genius!’ No one burst into tears, and everyone kept to time. That’s a win!

We got some good out-of-context quotes, too:

“This story is Brothers Grimm meets Deliverance.” – Jacey Bedford

“There are possibilities for government snooping. Boris would bloody love this.” – Russell Smith

“I think you’re going to call a penis a tallywhacker and just get on with it.” – Powder Thompson

“A strong man is useful for moving furniture, but you wouldn’t want one to run the country.” – Kari Sperring

Liz Williams
Today has, I think, gone well: we try to start off the first day with 2 critiques for people who know…

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Milford Writers’ Retreat 2020 Booking Now

I’ve attended the Milford Conference a few times over the years and it is SO worth it. Not got to the writing retreat yet, as it’s in term time, which is difficult for me. But I am sorely tempted… it would be wonderful to have a week of uninterrupted writing time in such lovely surroundings and with a bunch of writers too.

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Places are booking now for the next Milford Writers’ Retreat. This is limited to 12 writers accommodated in single ensuite rooms.

Trigonos view 03 View from the main house at Trigonos across Llyn Nantlle to the Nantlle Ridge. Photo by Jacey Bedford

The date will be Saturday 6th to Saturday 13th June 2020, which is a delightful time to spend a week at Trigonos, in the glorious Welsh countryside, being looked after and given time to write, write write. There’s no element of critique in this week, and therefore there’s no bar as to who can attend. You don’t have to have sold a story as long as you are serious about writing and want to spend a week without distractions, though most of our attendees will be published/professional SF writers.

Retreat 2019 Writer shot 01 View from Room 5. Photo by Jacey Bedford

Come and work on your next book, or your magnum opus.

Details are here:…

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Songs for the Elephant Man

A collection of strange contemporary stories featuring outsiders and their tormentors – from the paper based life forms of Alan, to the ghosts of migrants haunting The International Hotel; from the bizarre Two Way Man accused of shocking crimes in 19th Century America, to the teenage bullies of Electricity. These stories include horror, humour, historical fiction, and fantasy. They highlight our capacity for good and for evil – for terrible acts, and for generosity of spirit. And they force us to ask, ‘Who are the real monsters here?’

I am lucky enough to have one of my stories in this rather wonderful collection published by Mantel Lane Press. Check it out here… you might like it!

Songs for the Elephant Man

Inspiration, by Nancy Jane Moore

Now there’s a Master Class! I wish I could have gone too. All great advice and a timely reminder for me.

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Kim_Stanley_Robinson_by_Gage_Skidmore_2 Kim Stanley Robinson

Last fall, I saw that Locus was hosting a one-day master writing workshop in Oakland, California (where I live), with Kim Stanley Robinson and said to myself, “Hmm. Maybe I should do that.” And then didn’t do anything about it, as one does.

A few days later, Linda Nagata, who is a fellow member of the author’s co-op Book View Café, mentioned the workshop on Twitter, saying she wished it were practical for her to go, which it wasn’t since she lives a couple of thousand miles via ocean from Oakland. I responded to her tweet by saying I was thinking about it, and she replied, “You should go.”

I took her advice, and I’m so glad I did. Stan’s presentation was exactly what I needed. I came home with a real sense of what I wanted to do with the pieces I’m working on…

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