Tips for Reading Aloud

Julia Thorley has published a collection of monologues and first-person stories, Nine Lives. Nine Lives by Julia ThorleyThe tales are meant to be read aloud. Julia recently launched the book with some readings and has very generously agreed to share her experience and some great tips on reading aloud to groups:

In my other life as a yoga teacher I am used to speaking to groups of people, but this didn’t stop me being incredibly nervous. An audience is a different proposition from a class of students.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to read my story ‘Scoring an Own Goal in Tennis’ at the awards evening of the H E Bates short story competition. At the time, I sought the advice of my friend Kezzabelle, who is a performance poet. She gave me some excellent tips, which I applied not just on that occasion, but also at the launch events I held for Nine Lives:

  • Wear the right glasses! Print out your text extra-large, if you think you might struggle to read from the original.
  • Punctuation for reading aloud isn’t necessarily the same as that for reading in your head. Be prepared to tweak, and practise before you perform. Dialogue can be particularly problematic. On paper, the implied ‘he said, she said’ of a conversation is obvious, but unless you plan to use different voices it can be hard to follow out loud.
  • Highlight in colour words that need particular vocal emphasis or provide the chance for a gesture.
  • Turn your pages at the end of a sentence, so you don’t break your rhythm.
  • If you’re reading before and after an interval, pop to the loo just before the end of the first half. That way you’ll be able to avoid the queue and, more importantly, be available to chat to people and, all being well, sell a few books.

Tips for Reading AloudWhile I had a voice in mind as I wrote each story, I said in the introduction to Nine Lives : ‘. . . if you hear a different voice, that’s fine with me.’ I’ve asked other people to read some of the stories for me – I have written some from the male POV, for instance – and it’s very odd hearing another person’s interpretation. I wasn’t prepared for that!

I’m never going to be able to recite my tales from memory, but my confidence is increasing each time I read in public. I’m no Victoria Wood, but I’ve managed to raise a laugh in the right places and make people cry at the sad bits, which is pleasing.

Why not give it a go? If you read aloud anything from your copy of Nine Lives, I’d love to hear how you get on.

Nine Lives: monologues and first-person stories for reading aloud is available as an e-book from Amazon for 99p. Paperbacks are available via www.juliathorley.com for £5 + p&p. Or contact her through her Facebook page: @JuliaThorleyAuthor or her blog: Life, yoga and other adventures.

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Growing Up with Enid Blyton

We can all pinpoint particular books or authors that got us reading as a child. For my daughters it was Harry Potter and Jacqueline Wilson.

For me it was Enid Blyton. Her books offered children a different series for whatever age they were at. My ‘ladder’ of Enid Blyton series was:

Mr Pinkwhistle
Mr Pinkwhistle is half brownie and half person, and he has the ability to make himself invisible at will. He’s always helping people in trouble and this often leads to funny situations. There is a moral to the stories – people who do bad things always get punished. For example a brother and sister have pet rabbits and neglect them. Mr Pinkwhistle sets the rabbits free to enjoy the grass and the children lose their pets (if I remember correctly!).

The Magic Faraway Tree
The Faraway Tree is a huge tree that reaches up to the clouds. Each day there is a different land to be found above the clouds e.g. the land of spells, the land of toys, the rocking land (the land tips up and sideways and you keep falling over). A group of children discover the tree and have various adventures in the different lands.
What really captured my imagination was the the slippery slip – a helter skelter that runs down the middle of the tree.
There are lots of amazing characters who live in the tree, such as Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot (the children have to dodge her water as she empties down the tree).

The Famous Five
Four children and Timmy the dog have amazing adventures which involve camping on deserted islands, tracking down jewel thieves and more. I wanted to belong to this group of children. The eldest, Julian, was like the big brother I would have loved to have had. George (real name Georgina) was the brave tomboy I’d like to have been. Timmy was the pet dog I never had. And I longed to camp out on a bed of springy heather and drink lashings of ginger beer (although I had no idea as a child what ginger beer was!).

In the 1990s potentially offensive language was removed from the Famous Five, with words like ‘queer’ and ‘golliwog’ removed. In 2010 things went a step further. An attempt was made by the publisher Hachette to modernise the Famous Five. Old fashioned words were swapped to their modern day equivalents. For example ‘frocks’ was changed to ‘dresses’, ‘mother and father’ to ‘mum and dad’ and the expression ‘Golly!’ was removed. The children wore jeans instead of shorts. I’m glad to say that the 2010 the changes were deemed a mistake and were reversed in 2016.
Can you imagine if they’d gone further with their ‘modernisation’ and given the children mobile phones and tablets!

Malory Towers
This is a series of six books set in a girls’ boarding school. The books follow Darrell Rivers from the first term in her first year to the last term in her last year. School life is full of midnight feasts and playing tricks on the teachers, with no parents getting in the way. Memorable characters were the unpopular, malicious Gwendoline Mary, little Mary Lou and Darrell’s best friend Sally. French teacher Mam’zelle Dupont was often the butt of the girls’ tricks.
Apparently the school is based on the boarding school, Benenden School, that Blyton’s daughter attended, during its wartime relocation to the Cornish seaside. And Darrell’s name is taken from Enid’s second husband – Kenneth Darrell Waters.
This series’ continued popularity with modern youngsters was recognised in 2009, when Pamela Cox wrote another 6 books in the series, they continued where Blyton had left off but focused on Darrell’s younger sister, Felicity, who joined the school when Darrell was in the 4th form.

Do you have a ‘ladder’ of Enid Blyton books? Or did you grow up with something different?

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Improvements to KDP Paperback Offering

In 2017 Kindle Direct Publishing introduced the facility for authors to self publish in paperback as well as on Kindle. This meant it was no longer necessary to use Createspace to produce paperbacks for sale on Amazon. However, there was a downside to moving away from Createspace towards KDP paperback publishing – unlike Createspace, KDP paperback publishing didn’t allow authors to order proof copies or author copies (i.e. books for the author to sell direct to the public). I blogged about this previously.

However, that has now changed!

It is now possible to order proof and author copies of paperback books via the KDP Author Bookshelf. According to Amazon, authors will pay just the printing costs plus delivery and any taxes. And the really good news? Copies for the UK and Europe will be printed and shipped from within Europe – an improvement on CreateSpace, which ships from America.

Chris McMullen has written a detailed blog post comparing Createspace and KDP paperback publishing, which is well worth a read if you’re wondering which path to take or whether to switch from Createspace to KDP. He concludes that for most authors KDP is now the better option.

On a personal note, I’m now glad I tried KDP paperback publishing for A Coffee Break Story Collection and will consider switching from Createspace when I need more author copies of Bedsit Three.

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Publication of The Promise

Today The Promise goes out into the big wide world! The Promise by Sally Jenkins

It’s been a long time coming. I signed with The Book Guild last June and since then there’s been cover designs (back and front), proof reading, a marketing meeting, sorting out a blog tour etc. etc. Lots of people have been involved in bringing The Promise to publication. As well as the lovely people at The Book Guild, there’s my writing friends who have cheered me through the whole process of blank page to finished manuscript, my husband who puts up with a wife hiding herself away with a computer (at least I’m not hiding myself away with another man!), my mum who totally believes in me, everyone who bought Bedsit Three and made me think it was worthwhile trying to write another, all the followers of this blog who let me know I am not alone in my endeavours plus everyone in my non-writing life who has asked when the next book is coming out. The dedication at the front of The Promise is to you all with very many thanks:

For all those who have helped along the way – your support continues to be invaluable.

The Promise is dark fiction and the back cover blurb reads:

Olivia has recurring nightmares about the murder of a man which took place when she was a teenager. She refuses to explain the dreams to her worried fiancé, Mark.
Petty criminal Tina is diagnosed with a terminal illness and becomes concerned for the future welfare of her younger brother, Wayne.
When Tina finds a forgotten letter from her ex-cellmate, Audrey, a promise made decades before links the two families.
But the letter also contains a sinister secret…

The book is available in paperback from all major online book retailers and in high street bookshops. It’s also available on Kindle, iBooks, GooglePlay and Nook.

In the coming week I’ve got wonderful bloggers helping me get publicity for The Promise off to a flying start:

Monday 29th January – Helen Yendall’s Blog About Writing. Helen is my longtime writing buddy and fantastic womag writer.
Tuesday 30th JanuaryLou’s Book Blog. The lovely Lou will be shining the spotlight on The Promise.
Wednesday 31st January – Anne Harvey’s Passionate About The Past. I met Anne through my contact with the Birmingham Chapter of the RNA and we’ve helped each other along the way.
Friday 2nd February – Julia Thorley’s Life, Yoga and Other Adventures. Julia is a woman of many talents. She and I are virtual friends.

And week commencing February 5th there’ll be a 21 stop blog tour organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.

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Jelly Working

The concept of writers and other home-workers pulling out laptops and working in coffee shops is familiar. It lets us escape those same boring four walls of home and all the domestic distractions. And it makes us feel part of society, even if the only person we speak to is the barista.

UK Jelly takes this a step further. Their aim is to ‘to bring home workers, freelancers, small business owners and entrepreneurs together in a relaxed, informal, working environment to maximise creativity and minimise the isolation that being your own boss can bring.’ It is not networking to sell yourself or your business. It’s about having some company whilst you work and maybe exchanging help and advice. At Jelly events the venue, wi-fi and parking are free, the only charge is for refreshments.

I went along to my first Jelly event last week. There were only a few of us and we had introductions and a bit of a chat before getting our laptops out to work. I deliberately didn’t connect to the free wi-fi because I wanted to do some distraction free editing. By the end of the session I’d done two hours solid work and met some new people. It beat coffee shop working because I didn’t feel guilty about taking up space for a long time with only one drink and I liked that I was part of a group. My local Jelly only meets monthly but I’ll definitely be going back in February.

Why not find out if there’s a Jelly near you?

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January is Hot Month for New Crime and Thriller Releases

If you’re a crime or thriller fan, January is your month. The first month of the year used to be the post-Christmas dead slot in the publishing world but not any more.

An article in today’s Sunday Times reports that January is the hot time to release new titles in these genres. The trend started with the January release of The Girl on the Train in 2015 and that book occupied the UK hardback number one spot for 20 weeks.

Nicholas Clee, joint editor of the book-trade newsletter, BookBrunch, says, “You’re making a statement putting your book out in January — you’re saying it could be the next Girl on the Train.” And there’s no sign of the popularity of this type of book diminishing.  Alice O’Keeffe, books editor at the Bookseller magazine, puts it down to the “blurring of the psychological suspense thriller with the women’s fiction market. It pulls in two readerships.”

So what have fans got to look forward to in January?

Dark Pines by Will Dean is Nordic noir by a British author.

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland is about a CIA analyst who believes her husband could be a Russian sleeper agent.

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka investigates the death of a teenager in a small Colorado town.

It looks like The Promise by Sally Jenkins, about a vow made in prison 30 years ago, will be in good company when it’s released on January 28th!

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Head Count by Judith Cutler

I’ve written before about Judith Cutler, known as Birmingham’s queen of cosy crime. She has a knack of creating feisty female lead characters and also a prolific output. Judith knows her fan base well and how to please them, which she does time and time again. Her books are very readable and so I was pleased to hear about her latest novel, Head Count. This is the second in a series of novels featuring Jane Cowan, a primary school head teacher. 

In Head Count, Jane Cowan gets mixed up in the horrors of people smuggling, in particular children arriving in the UK alone and having to fend for themselves. It is cosy crime with a realistic and very topical sharp edge. As a writer I found the structure of this book very interesting. Generally, crime fiction begins with a body on page one and then the hunt is on to find the killer. In Head Count, Judith Cutler takes a different tack. The story starts with Jane being knocked off her bike and into a hedge. She’s not badly hurt and an elderly couple help her back on her feet – but when Jane later goes to their house to thank them with flowers, the couple have disappeared into thin air. From that point on the mysterious happenings come thick and fast – no local builder will touch the renovations needed to Jane’s house, a village do-gooder constantly interferes with Jane’s school and two small boys with no English keep turning up at the school’s breakfast club.
If you want to find out how to create a layered mystery rather than a traditional whodunnit, Head Count is worth a read.

Head Count is authentic and well-researched. As well as being a head teacher, Jane Cowan is also a cricket umpire and match descriptions and after match socialising events in the novel feel real. Jane Cowan also has friends in the police and I’m guessing that Judith Cutler does as well – the police involvement in the book appears true to life, in particular there’s a clever piece of advice included in the narrative about how to make a 999 on a mobile phone when you are in the process of being kidnapped and can’t speak out loud to the operator. It’s worth reading the book just for this advice – it might save your life one day!

Judith Cutler is not afraid to tackle topical and controversial  issues but she does so in an empathetic and accessible way. If you like your cosy crime to be relevant to today’s society, rather than 1930s golden age, Judith Cutler is an author to watch out for and Head Count is a good place to start.

Now I’m off to catch up with the first book in the Jane Cowan series, Head Start.

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