Category Archives: Roderick Hart

How to Set the Scene ~ Familiar or not so Familiar Locations?

Guest post by Eventispress author Roderick Hart

Rod asks, ‘Do we need to know a place well in order to write about it, or can we rely on books or the internet?

How true is the often quoted advice,

‘WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU KNOW’?

“If you are an author who writes fantasy – talking bears, flying witches adept at airborne archery, you know the sort of thing – then setting scenes accurately is unlikely to concern you much. If nothing else is realistic, why would your locations be?

Moving on to those of us at ground level, decisions must be made. Starting with historical novelists, the approach will surely be researching what your chosen locations were like at the time your book is set. What was Naples like in1640 when your heroine, Artemisia, was active with oil on canvas? Not like the Naples we meet in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan books, we can be sure of that. Recourse to libraries in person or online will be called for. I am not a historical novelist, but I’m sure they cover their bases as well as they can and if they make the occasional mistake it won’t be for want of trying to get it right.

For authors whose work is set in present times, or near enough, there are two ways to go. Knowing that you’re writing a work of fiction, you think to yourself I might as well make up the settings as well with an occasional nod to actuality. In Paris, a reference to the Eiffel Tower, in Edinburgh to the Castle, or Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags. Yes, that should cover it. But not everyone will  be comfortable with that approach and here I can only speak for myself.

Three of my novels are set in #Edinburgh, where I have lived for many years. Although I know the city well, I visited the sites which would figure in each book and took many photographs as an aid to memory. For example, Interleaved Lives.

Scenes set in Dublin and Traquair are  supported by photographs. One location within the city is a disused church.

The references to this building are detailed and accurate, though changes may have occurred since I finished writing it.

But the fourth book, The Ears of a Cat, never comes near my native city, and instead visits Berlin, Los Angeles, Hokkaido and Charmouth (a coastal town in the English county of Dorset). Of these places, I have only ever set foot in Charmouth, so where does that leave me in search of accuracy?

Were it not for the internet, it would leave me up the creek without a paddle. Now, though, I can travel far and wide without leaving the house. A major aid here is Street View, which not only enables the armchair traveler to visit a given street on the map, it also enables that traveler to see all its buildings.  And as if that were not enough, travelers who have actually been there are often kind enough to post photographs of their visit, a further source of reference. Without these aids, I could not have written the Berlin chapters of Ears. In one there is a reference to Leise Park and a gravestone there. The gravestone exists and the reference to the inscription is accurate. How amazing that such a thing is possible? When I was younger than I am today, it was not.

Click here for a tour of Leise Park.”

How do you set the scene of your novel? By familiar or not so familiar locations?

You can read more of Rod’s musings on his blog Fragmented Mind

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To Publish or not to Publish ~ by author Roderick Hart

Margaret, a friend of my wife, used to write quite a bit. She told us once that I figured in one of her stories but despite that fact – or perhaps because of it – she wouldn’t let us read it. In fact, she wouldn’t let us or anyone else, read anything she’d written. Which gave rise to the question, why had she written her stories in the first place? We both asked her this but got no clear answer. So we have to assume that she wrote for her own satisfaction because, when you come to think of it, she did have one reader. Herself.

I am not suggesting that Margaret is typical in this respect. Or in many others. For example, she disputed that there was such a thing as poetry. When I wasted a couple of hours drafting a response to her view, she replied along these lines: I take these points but I still think . . . Putting it another way, she didn’t take these points at all. Her view was that poetry was an invention of people in the upper classes who were pulling a fast one on their social inferiors. You could call this approach Marxist insofar as it rested on class distinctions. And this  was odd in itself, because she was very well off.

With the exception of the Margarets of this world, most people would assume that writing is a form of communication with the greater world, though there are a few exceptions. Those who keep diaries might well prefer that others don’t read them, allowing them to communicate their thoughts and feelings to the page, paper or electronic, without fear of contradiction or exposure. Some are so apprehensive about it that they resort to code (for example, Samuel Pepys  and Anne Lister). Then there are those who write memoirs of their lives for which the only intended audience is their children and grandchildren, and who would have a problem with that?

But Margaret was not writing a diary or a memoir. She could have chosen to publish her stories but had no intention of doing so. But at least she had the choice. There have been some who have been obliged to have their writing circulate in manuscript, passed from hand to hand. An obvious case of this was samizdat in the Soviet Union – which might well make a return under the oppressive regime of Vlad the Vicious. This approach was forced on writers such as Mihail Bulgakov who were frowned on by the authorities. Of course, those same writers would probably have chosen to publish in the traditional way had they been able to do so.

Moving to the realm of music, it is interesting to compare the reputations of Joseph and Michael Haydn. It is almost always the case that mention is made of ‘Haydn’ as if only Joseph wrote music.

In fact, his brother Michael wrote music of great quality and a lot of it. But where Joseph made sure his music was published, Michael made no attempt to publish his.

This did not prevent his reputation reaching far and wide during his lifetime. His work was commissioned by the Spanish court (Missa Hispanica) and he was honoured in Sweden. Mozart, who had some trouble with sacred music when it came to style, wrote to his sister asking for copies of Michael’s work. And Leopold Mozart, while doing his best to undermine him in favour of his son in public, privately expressed a true appreciation of Michael Haydn’s talent.

When Michael died his achievements gradually faded from view. There are probably two reasons for this. As was recognized during his lifetime, he excelled in sacred music, and some people prefer symphonies and concertos, though he wrote quite a few of them as well. But a major factor will have been that his works, never published, were not easily available. It was necessary to search them out.

We are fortunate now that they are being sought after and performed, often to a very high standard. Discographies may not reflect this much, but there have been many live performances in recent years, some of them exceptionally good. Which is where Youtube comes into its own and where you can find them if you look.

The following performance is outstanding.

(The wonderful Hanover Girls Choir on this recording should not be confused with the Hanover Choir based in London, which is named after Hanover Square and includes male voices.)

Thank you so much Rod for sharing this wonderful post with us; so interesting and the music is uplifting.

Post re-blogged with permission from Roderick Hart’s website:

Fragmented Mind

Why and When is it Valid to Update Fiction, Memoir and Other Genre

In our last post by author Brian Kerr we looked at specific reasons why it is good to revise non fiction. Here we look at our wider publications:

To improve an earlier novel to re-release to a new audience

Author Diana Jackson was one of the founding writers in Eventispress, taking back the rights of her debut novel Riduna and rereleasing it under the Eventispress umbrella.

As Diana says, “You learn so much, the more you write, and by the time I wanted to rerelease Riduna, I had already completed the manuscript for its sequel Ancasta and had begun to write a third novel. When I read it afresh I knew I could improve it, making the story line crisper and deleting some of the waffle ~ well written waffle maybe, but nevertheless I felt some of it had to go!”

To give a book that extra polish if it was once self-published, but it is now being released under the arm of a small publisher

Author Roderick Hart is rereleasing his novel The Ears of a Cat with us shortly, having self published it a few years ago.

Rod writes, “Since The Ears of a Cat is now to be published by Eventispress, which makes sense because it is in the same series as Interleaved Lives, I felt I needed to work on parts I just wasn’t 100% happy with, before the Eventispress team read it for the final edit and approval.

To amend chronological details of dates

As Diana Jackson explains,

When I wrote MURDER, Now and Then to be published in 2014 I was predicting a world in 2019, one hundred years after the first murder took place. Once 2019 came along there were two good reasons to rewrite bits:

  1. Some of the chronological happenings were not synchronized with the real world in 2019 and although I had guessed the future pretty well, I’d got some of it wrong too.
  2. Also, the book takes you through WW1 and bringing it up to date before rereleasing it in 2018 was too good a centenary to miss.

To respond to any constructive criticism in reviews

We are grateful for the positive and enthusiastic reviews for our books and we are not advocates of taking negative reviews too seriously. We believe in the quality of our books, but there are times when constructive criticism should be acted upon if possible.

An example could be “I enjoyed the book but found too many names beginning with ‘H’ quite confusing.”

It is a big thing to revise and rerelease a book but if the effort is to be made, then correcting something like this could be really good to ensure optimum pleasure for the reader.

And finally …

If you are doing a new promotion to reach new audiences or releasing the next one in the series and there’s that one thing that niggles you about your book, then we say go for it!

We are flexible enough at Eventispress to work with authors to achieve their goals. That’s partnership for you.

Character, character character ~ Make them believable.

A thought struck us at Eventispress is that we warm to certain elements in stories and firstly that:

‘the characters need to be believable so that readers can identify, empathise with, warm to or be repelled by them.’

Whether the novel is loosely termed crime, historical fiction, dystopian or mystery, all of the novels we release are weighted heavily on genuine characters. You don’t always have to like them, but we promise you that you will feel their pain, their joy, their frustration ~ in fact every human emotion. You may laugh out loud or be in sobs of tears. You may pick up the book and find it hard to put it down, but we hope that some of the characters therein will live with you a while after you leave their make believe world.

What you will not see in our fiction so far:

For crime you will not see too many car chases and for murder you will not have scenes that are so graphic you can’t sleep.

For historical fiction you will not see a real person from the past brought alive in the written word, but imaginary characters set in an authentic period in history. (unless loosely based on a true murder as in MURDER Now and Then)

For mystery it is less the police involvement in the crime and although there are certainly mysteries not revealed until the end, it may not be the reason you are compelled to keep reading. (as some readers have mentioned in their wonderful reviews)

For dystopian you will not read about elves or folks from outer space in an imaginary world, but believable people with real lives entangles with a plausible (well almost) future, not of their own choosing.

Instead, this is what you will read in our books so far:

In Roderick Hart’s crime novel Interleaved Lives you will identify with the lives of people struggling to find the truth of what happened to their missing spouses, gaining some solace in each other’s company, rather than gritty police procedure.

For dystopian in Ian K Pulham’s Ticket to Eden there are monsters in the depths of the sea, but they are almost believable and their interaction with the characters in the story almost amusing at times, if it wasn’t so hauntingly disturbing. Also, the web of confusing relationships Ian weaves, as the world loses its grip on any future, is unsettling, and yet there is almost an inevitability but poignancy to it.

In Diana Jackson’s mystery inspired by history series, it is yet again the web of relationships and mixed aspirations which lead to murder in MURDER Now and Then, added to the complex parallels with the past, which compels the reader. In MISSING Past and Present readers tell us that they are desperate to find our how Dot brings herself up from rock bottom. Yes, her husband is missing, as his her step son, but it is the relationships Dot builds which make a tragic story so heart warming.

In summary

…And so, in our fiction at Eventispress expect the characters to lead you into their world ~ one you may be reluctant to leave behind when you reach the last page … and do let us know what you think and write a review.

eventispress@outlook.com

Much appreciated!

Does it Sound Good to You

Rules for Writers ~ Part 2

Author Roderick Hart continues with writing rules he adheres to, with an excellent piece of advice especially for new writers:

Read with you ears!

Read it aloud: Referring to the essay in which he expounded writing rules Elmore Leonard said: “My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” Note that he said ‘sounds’ like writing, not ‘reads’ like writing. This is important for two reasons. The first is that what we write should read well. If you have trouble reading out loud a passage you have written there is more work to be done. If you are aiming for an audio book as well this is even more important.

Punctuation: The second reason why this matters is punctuation. There is a set of conventions governing punctuation of the written word, but I have usually found it helpful to mark up scripts for reading aloud, and as often as not these punctuation points diverge from the convention. For example, my version of Word often tells me that a comma isn’t needed at a certain place. Well, strictly speaking it may not, but it but it helps the talent reading it to the mic and can save several takes.

Microsoft word prompts: Another habit your software may have is pointing out that a certain phrase might be more succinct: where you have used five words three would be enough. And this may be the case, but your slighter longer expression might carry an emphasis which the shorter version lacks. And then there is the question of rhythm. The shorter version may lack the rhythm of your original. Ultimately, these are questions of style and are, or should be, under the control of the author rather than software.

Afterwards: Since this post appears on the blog of a small press, the question arises: how relevant are rules for a writer hoping to be published? While some might cite the old adage that rules are there to be broken, this would not be safe at the outset of a writer’s career. Keeping to reasonable rules is more likely to result in a marketable product. No publisher would consider a book which shows a lack of competence in, and respect for, basic writing skills.

But, as was pointed out at the beginning of Writing Rules Part 1, rules for writers are forever telling you what you should avoid. What they never tell you is what you should actually do. The truth is, we must all work this out for ourselves.

We at Eventispress would also add the advice of converting your manuscript to a format for a device such as a Kindle and read it as you would read any novel or book ~ after a break of a couple of months from your own edit that is. Also to do this before you think of agents, publishers or self publishing.

Thanks so much Rod!

Rules for Writers ~ Compiled by Roderick Hart

Part A) The Nuts and Bolts

Thank you to author Roderick Hart for these useful posts on writing rules. Much appreciated. The original has been split into two parts;

A) The nuts and bolts of writing

B) Does it sound good to you (next week)

Avoidance tactics

Over the last few years there have been many posts on this subject. Usually, the emphasis is on what to avoid. For example, the aspiring writer should avoid adjectives, adverbs, verbs ending in ‘ing’ and the passive voice. It has also been suggested that question marks should be avoided, so presumably questions should too. Not so helpful when your detective is interrogating a suspect.

Advice from successful authors

In some cases, writers are pulling our legs with their suggestions. For example, Margaret Atwood tells us not to take a pen on a plane because it might leak. So we should take a pencil. Which she then qualifies by saying we should take two in case the first one breaks. Mildly witty, but not so helpful. Stephen King’s advice to writers is well known and easily found online, so let us consider instead what Elmore Leonard has to say on the subject.

The weather: His first rule is never to open a book with weather. This may be well advised since the weather, in daily life, is often relegated to small talk. Those with nothing else to say, comment on the wind and rain.

Prologues: His second rule is to avoid prologues. Some prologues are clearly designed as hooks to lure the reader in, but Leonard would probably say ‘just get on with it.’ There will be exceptions, but this advice is probably good.

Said or not to ‘said’: His next rule concerns the handling of dialogue. ‘Never use a verb other than said to carry dialogue.’ There is something to be said for this one too if it discourages us from using verbs at one remove. ‘I give up,’ she sighed. Maybe she did sigh but she definitely spoke.

Next, on an associated topic, he advises us never to use an adverb to modify the verb said. ‘I’m cashing in my chips,’ Victor said vehemently. Leonard would strike the ‘vehemently’. You can too if you like. One group of people who have taken this advice to heart, though in the worst possible way, is tennis players who, when interviewed, often state their intention to ‘play aggressive.’ This habit of reducing adverbs to adjectives is never recommended in indirect speech, though it might occasionally happen that one of your less-well-educated characters speaks in this way. Tennis, anyone?

Exclamation Marks: His next rules deal with excessive use of exclamation marks, avoidance of words such as ‘suddenly’, and limiting the use of regional dialects. Then we have his injunction to avoid detailed descriptions of characters, places and things. Why? Well, we don’t want so much detail that the narrative flow grinds to a halt. On the other hand, some writers are masters of descriptive writing, so if you are in this select group you might water down this advice.

And finally: Since this post appears on the blog of a small press, the question arises: how relevant are rules for a writer hoping to be published? While some might cite the old adage that rules are there to be broken, this would not be safe at the outset of a writer’s career. Keeping to reasonable rules is more likely to result in a marketable product. No publisher would consider a book which shows a lack of competence in, and respect for, basic writing skills.

But, as was pointed out at the beginning of this post, rules for writers are forever telling you what you should avoid. What they never tell you is what you should actually do. The truth is, we must all work this out for ourselves.

Great advice Rod. Continued next week with Does it sound good to you…

Everyone Likes Free Short Story

Continuing with marketing tips here on Eventispress, three of our authors are giving away short stories and encouraging readers to sign up for their newsletters:

Ian K Pulham’s Radical Action, is a standalone prequel to Ian’s debut novel Ticket to Eden:

Roderick Hart’s Back to the Wall, which includes some of the characters in his recent novel Interleaved Lives:

Author Diana Jackson’s short story is unrelated to her novels but has a quirky title, A Very Yellow Memory and like much of Diana’s work is fiction but has fragments of truth much in the flavour of The Healing Paths of Fife:

Let’s Zoom to Face to Face

As most businesses we at Eventispress have ‘met’ regularly on Zoom during the last couple of years, both as a whole group and in two’s, for particular in depth discussions, guidance and support. These meetings have been vital and energy giving, when the author’s life, especially during this pandemic, has been quite a lonely one.

‘You are the only people in my life I can really talk about writing issues with. My family and friends care, but they just don’t really understand,’ remarked one author.

We are pleased to say that our first ‘face to face’ meeting of our Bedfordshire contingent is taking place shortly. We hope it will help to:

  • Re-energize individual authors
  • Help to share and explore ideas for marketing
  • Discuss best approaches
  • Think of ways to be mutually supportive

The list could go on and on. Joining a writer’s group is similar but has a slightly different focus. More about that in another post. All of us at Eventispress have a goal to promote the Eventispress brand, as well as our own books. This is far easier than purely self promotion, where everyone benefits and everyone contributes.

A Joint Venture for Roderick Hart’s Novel

Roderick Hart published his novel ‘Interleaved Lives as an ebook through Troubadour Publishing a year ago.

Rod dearly wanted to publish it as a paperback, because many of his readers have preferred to read his books that way in the past and Blackwell’s stocked it.

We had discussed his project here at Eventispress several times, but decided that it wasn’t the best time to launch a paperback for sales in bookshops, during lockdown especially, and so Rod chose the option with his other publisher, to focus on an e book only at first.

We at Eventispress are pleased that we published Interleaved Lives as a paperback a month ago, initially on Amazon, but aim for it to be more widely available in June.

The universal link above will take you to any Amazon site.