Fire Horses Competition: WINNER

We have a WINNER!

A couple of weeks ago, we featured Fire Horses by Mark Piggott, with his publisher Legend Press giving away a signed edition of Mark's book for a prize for our competition.

To win you had to think of a song title that includes one or more of the words

Horse or Horses

And the winner is Jane Turley with:

Indoor Fireworks by Elvis Costello

Well Done Jane, a signed edition is on its way!

Preditors & Editors Interview Part 2 of 2

The View From Here Interview:
Preditors & Editors

Interview by Mike

Part 2 : Part 1 can be found here.

Preditors & Editors is a resource intended as a simple compendium for the serious writer, composer, game designer, or artist to consult for information, regardless of genre. Famous for daring to list publishers and agents that are just out to scam the writer, it is a valuable resource in a world that will bite you as soon as feed you. I speak to editor & founder, Dave Kuzminski, about the history of the site and how it is currently under threat.

How are you generally received within the publishing industry?

Within the publishing industry, P&E is acknowledged as a valuable resource. Our listings may not always have the depth and detail of some other resources, but we fill a niche that many of those shy away from because we dare to give out negative recommendations to businesses by name. I can state that a number of legitimate publishing businesses actually have w
ritten to P&E asking to be listed or have their listings expanded upon, so that's another source of our listings. Others have recommended P&E at different conventions across the country. Clearly, that shows there is a definite level of acceptance of P&E within the industry.

How many times has action been taken against you and can you tell us anything about any of them?

The first time action was taken against P&E, we were briefly bumped from the Internet by a false claim. We thank the SFWA for assisting P&E in those early days when some ISPs would react by shutting down the site instead of actually evaluating the complaint for validity. The SFWA gave P&E a temporary home that proved sufficient for P&E to show that it wasn't going to be bullied by scammers. When the SFWA later produced its own watchdog site in the form of the Writer Beware site, we went our way and accepted them as a long needed and welcomed partner in watching over the interests of writers. It's best for the industry that there be more than one watchdog site because such operations carry a lot of responsibility. Because of P&E's early success, there are now several others and not just Writer Beware and P&E. Since those early days, there have been plenty of threats, but only the two recent and pending court actions are significant since both are threats not only to P&E, but to the interests of all writers.

Can you give me some examples of the type of bully boy tactics that have been used against P&E and have there been personal threats against you?

Typically, P&E and I get threats that we'll be sued, that my books will be burned or that I'll never be published again after I'm reported to my publisher, that I'll be reported to the government (probably because some folks have accused me of being a foreign agent), and so forth. Most threats dissipate when they discover how much it costs to hire an attorney in order to sue. A few individuals have created sites that oppose P&E. Usually they fold after they discover how difficult it is to maintain such sites or when they find themselves on the receiving end of criticism from those who rely upon P&E's recommendations (which I heard happened to one such site).

Can people help you in any way?

Yes, P&E can use donations to help pay its attorneys. Right now, we have enough in donations to pay for attorneys in only one case.

Do you have any advice to new authors seeking agents or publishers?

Advice for writers? Absolutely. Practice your craft, improve your skills, never lose sight of your goal, and be patient. It can sometimes take a lot of time to be recognized, so never give up.

What are your feelings about the amount of Self-publishing that is pushed to new authors looking to get their book out there?

Self-publishing is fine for poetry and books applicable to speakers giving how-to speaking engagements based upon specific platforms. On the other hand, it's the second worst route to take for fiction. Only vanity publishing is worse for novelists.

What is your advice on competitions that have an entry fee. Some like the Bridport Prize are reputable organizations and provide a way of an author gaining recognition.

Unless it's a long established contest that has a fee, P&E recommends that authors avoid such new contests because they're too often meant to make a quick buck for someone and their backers frequently do not have the proper background for judging literary works.

Do you see any new trends or scams appearing that writers should be aware of at the moment?

I do, but I'm not going to state what they are because I don't want to see an explosion among the scammers trying to emulate the latest idea that's starting to show already.

If a writer is unsure about a company and they are not listed with you, what route would you advise them to go down? Can they contact you?

Writers should keep in mind that P&E lists businesses with significant complaints as soon as those are verified. Reputable businesses don't get into our listings quite so fast. So it's not at all unusual for reputable businesses to not be listed yet because there are so many of them. Still, if there's a question, any writer can email P&E to ask about a business.

Finally can you give us a few tale tail warning signs that writers should be on the lookout for when dealing with agents or publishers?

The biggest warning sign is when the agent or publisher asks for money. As James Macdonald, author and operator of SFF.Net, has stated, "Money flows to the author." His words are golden and should be heeded. If a writer follows that advice, odds are the writer will avoid ninety percent of all the scams facing writers. And if they're still not sure, they can always visit P&E to see what we know about any publishing business. We do our best to tell the truth and be accurate because our integrity is always on the line.

Thanks Dave, it's been fascinating talking with you, good luck with the future of the site.

Visit Preditors & Editors here.

Support Preditors & Editors :

Just the Job

Guest article by Paul King

"Right then, we're going to teach you to do a pin-up!" This was not, however, a lesson on how to get your end away with a model – oh no. This was my introduction in how to lay out pages for the publishing company I was to work for way back in January 1988. You have to bear in mind that 1988 was a year when we were right on the cusp of the desktop publishing revolution. We got our first Apple macs in late 1988, so I had almost a year of working in a dying, bizarre niche world of publishing before the big change came into play.

At that time, most publishing houses would receive their text matter in the form of galleys. These were full pages with columns of text for designers (or in my case, editorial assistant) to be cut up and arranged in a pleasing composition along with any photographs or advertisements. It was more common to use a wax heating machine to fix the text strips to the page unless you worked for a really flash outfit that might use spraymount (for us, Spraymount was always considered too expensive). So alas no, we had our own unique system.

I was presented with a box of pins to literally pin the strips of text to a page (the theory being that it was easier to alter if necessary). Once this was done, along with such instructions to the typesetter as , "Minus lead this column please to make it match up with its partner," it would go back to him (or her) to be set as indicated. At that time none of us got a look-in when it came to the covers. most of them had been done months prior to the book being worked on. We used an agency to do them and we all felt a bit cheated about it. Within 6 months that all changed. This was because myself and a couple of other, newer staff members had used earlier desk top publishing systems at college and so we started campaigning at our company to get Apple Macs. The funny thing is that when we did eventually get the computers they were on our desks for over 3 months before we were allowed to use them. If we attempted to, we were told to, "get on with our proper work."

As we all know now, this proved to be the end of jobs such as 'compositor' and 'typesetter' and expanded the role of graphic designer because of it. Most of the books I designed were funded by advertisements and were designed for Local Authorities. This meant that 50% of the advertising would also be created by me as would all of the editorial content. The photographs would be supplied as hard copy, in the early days at least. These would have to be marked up to show size needed and any cropping preferences and sent away to be scanned. These days everything arrives on a disk, so much easier.

It was my job to select the right pic to accompany the text, crop it Photoshop, improve it where needed (no yellow teeth in my books and skies were always blue!) When copy for an advert was needed, I would jump at the chance to write it and ultimately, the job became all-encompassing and I really enjoyed it. It was only the management that really made the job unpleasant.

I must have designed hundreds of books in my time (twenty years) at the company and even though they are no more, it was a fascinating place for me to learn my craft and to evolve as both a designer and as a person.

Now I am ready to be snapped up again at 51, so if you are looking for a well qualified designer/illustrator with flare (flares actually, they never died out in Gloucester!) – then I am your man!

Art by Paul King

Preditors & Editors Interview Part 1 of 2

The View From Here Interview:
Preditors & Editors

Interview by Mike

Preditors & Editors is a resource intended as a simple compendium for the serious writer, composer, game designer, or artist to consult for information, regardless of genre. Famous for daring to list publishers and agents that are just out to scam the writer, it is a valuable resource in a world that will bite you as soon as feed you. I speak to editor & founder, Dave Kuzminski, about the history of the site and how it is currently under threat.

Tell me a bit about yourself.

Besides being a writer, I work as a programmer during the day. Very exciting, to be sure.

What's your ideal night out/in?

My ideal evening is spending time with my family and still having some time to spend writing and maintaining P&E. Sometimes, I accomplish all three.

What is your favorite book?

My favorite book is usually the one I'm writing. Otherwise, why spend the time writing? Yes, I find it entertaining to create something new.

What challenges did you face as a writer when seeking publication of your own work?

The biggest challenges were learning enough about the business so that I wouldn't spin my wheels sending my work to the wrong places.

Are you still writing today and if so what are you currently working on?

I still write. Presently, I'm working on a series of short stories I hope will become a published collection.

Can you tell us how the idea for the site came about and how you made that into a reality?

Preditors & Editors came about after I agreed to moderate a writer's forum years ago for Prodigy. There were lots of questions and many were wanting the same information, so I created a one-page website with the publishers I recommended. When writers then asked who to avoid, I realized that was critical information that no one was giving out. I chose to do so by listing those I didn't recommend and the name for the site came about because of that. Because P&E operated on strict criteria, writers realized that they could rely upon P&E's recommendations. Our integrity became very visible to everyone after we were threatened and refused to bow to outside demands to remove negative recommendations.

You say on the site that you "believe strongly in the future of the Internet as the media of choice for future publishing." Can you expand on that and what are your views of traditional publishing?

I believe that electronic publishing will become a part of the industry and has just as different media such as movies, radio, and television joined what was solely the province of newspapers, magazines, and books. It's not a replacement, but it's needed and will eventually be accepted all around. On the other hand, let's be careful with the word "traditional." It's not actually a publishing industry term. It was invented by PublishAmerica's management to distinguish themselves from other vanity publishers. Larry Clopper of PublishAmerica admitted that in an interview with The Washington Post. However, if you mean how will electronic publishing fit in with the existing publications, that's what is being determined now. This is because it presents certain advantages that will become more evident as time goes on. Clearly, it's less expensive to produce in massive quantities. With proper editing, it can be every bit as good as any printed book. At the same time, it's a great training ground for new writers, provided publishers are willing to give those writers and their work enough exposure and promotion so that readers will know they exist.

Do you have others helping you with Preditors & Editors?

Over the years, P&E has been given assistance from others, but most of the time I'm the individual responsible for everything that goes into it. Even so, I'd like to see others get involved. We would gladly offer a writer the opportunity to write a regular column with byline. If other writers have ideas, we'll listen to them. We want anything that's good for writers.

How do you maintain the site with no revenue coming in? Is it something you do in your spare time?

Yes, I maintain P&E in my spare time. We don't have revenue coming in though we have asked for donations for our legal expenses since I'm being sued in two different courts.

Can you give us an idea of how serious this is to P&E - is your existence under threat in these cases?

The threat to P&E's existence is serious. However, I'm not going to go into this any further.

How do you decide on your listings, do you have "informants" that tip you off from within the industry and if so do you have to protect your sources?

Listings are chosen by what they offer. In other words, sites promoting a book are often not accepted for listings unless the site offers much more than that. The listings come about from tips, complaints, and surfing the net. So yes, we do use informants. Likewise, we do protect their names unless they don't mind being attributed. Because of recent legal problems, P&E tends to not list their names because some of our legal adversaries have a tendency to retaliate against anyone associated with P&E.

Part 2 on Friday where Dave talks about self-publishing, threats to P&E and talks about some warning signs that writers should be looking out for.

Part 2 here.

Visit Preditors & Editors here.

Support Preditors & Editors :

Do writers dream of gilded monuments?

by Stella

Every writer wonders whether their work will hold up over time. You can’t help but wonder why some things get better and better, others seem dated, and some outright laughable. Why some are canonized, others gain cult status, and others fade away. Cue the wavy fantasy dissolve...

As I peer through the haze to see into the future, I find the grass growing thick and green, the sky showing blue and clear, the air smelling sharp and clean, and chocolate is common currency. In this tranquil but never boring utopia, anthologists argue over whether to organize my haikus chronologically or thematically. Poor school children sigh in frustration as they’re forced to read countless lines which seem meaningless. Miserable college students stumble over paper topics such as “Subjectivity and Selfhood in Seventeen Syllables,” “Stella Carter: Subversion or Conformity.”

Film festivals celebrate my twenty or so films, ten of which have already been remade and are screened in conjunction. Panelists question why they still find something to relate to in my work, or perhaps question whether my work had ill-effect on succeeding writing generations. The latest documentary will try to reconstruct a script I never finished, perhaps capturing another author trying to finish it for me, relating his or her own artistic struggle. Theaters will have midnight screenings of an odd film that did alright with critics and flopped at the box office, but has become a cult hit over time. Some people wonder how it was overlooked in the first place, and see the rest of my more loudly hailed work as obviously inferior. There are afternoon matinees of old favorites with iconic scenes, and lines which have become well-worn catchphrases.

Cut to an alternative futuristic landscape where hovercrafts weave in and out of the smog, past the gigantic neon billboards; a future in which nothing of mine will be left save a single haiku. My surname will be long forgotten. I will just be Stella and her little haiku. In between dysphoric drinking binges, the jaded will puzzle over it. Do these seventeen syllables encapsulate what has been lost, inspiring people with nostalgia for a time faded and gone? Perhaps my first name is forgotten and only the nondescript Carter remains. Was I man, woman, cyborg, super-intelligent cat? It will have to remain a mystery. At least until my diary is discovered with some dozen or so haikus that I scribbled in its margins. Except I never wrote the diary; it’s someone else’s brilliant hoax to exert their power over the masses.

Dissolve back to reality. Cue the thematic pensive music.

Write and enjoy it.

Fade to black.

Week 7 Results of Hi Ho Books Away!

by The Lone Ranger

Arthur & George by Julian Barnes

Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

The video below is actual footage and not actors! Contrast the old and new - books v mobiles!

The Lone Ranger Getting the Nation Reading!

For last weeks account click here.

Next week: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Mark Piggott Interview Part 2 of 2

The View From Here Interview:
Mark Liam Piggott

Interview by Mike

Part 1 can be found here.

Mark's debut book Fire Horses came out at the end of May from independent publisher Legend Press. I catch up with him a week after his book signings at Borders in Oxford Street.

In Fire Horses your main character, Joe Noone says, "I stuffed the project back into the box, vowing that from then on art and autobiography would always remain separate." How much have your own experiences coloured your writing on Fire Horses?

Well we both grew up in a small Yorkshire town and moved to London, so obviously there’s some overlap. I put that line in to play with the idea a bit more. Joe’s a bit like me in that he’s angry, frustrated, and unable to make sense of the world. Unlike me he’s tall, bald, hates football and loves egg.

So you're short, love football and hate eggs?

Short-ish – five foot seven in the old money. I’ve hated eggs since primary school where they used to serve up this stuff called egg sauce – cold – and pour it over everything which you then had to eat. Oh god… (sound of toilet seat lifting).

What football team do you support and do you manage to get to their games?

I’m not sure I should answer this because it will alienate half the readership but Man United. I was born in the city, and was taken to Old Trafford a fair bit in the Seventies. In fact I started following them when they were in the second division so I don’t think you could call me a glory-hunter.

Calling me an armchair fan would be more accurate – I haven’t been for years but I do like to rant and rave at the telly – for footie matches and Question Time.

Anyway, sorry, you were telling us about how much your own experiences coloured your writing on Fire Horses?

I decided to play up the autobiographical element by setting a few scenes in the book in places I was: in the building site I was in the next cubicle; in Cornwall I was at the pub. I also decided to go first person to really get inside Joe’s head. But obviously nothing in the book happened to anyone I know, and none of the other characters are based on any one person.

In 1983 I ran away from home but went back after a few days. I suppose I sometimes imagine what sort of person I’d have been if I never went back and met the people I met.

Ah Cornwall, that's where I come from. Where about in Cornwall and what was the name of the pub?

Ah, Kernow! A strange place. I watched the eclipse near Marazion but I think this fictional village was based on Mullion Cove, somewhere like that. Cornwall’s a bit like my home town in Yorkshire: beauty masks poverty.

There is a lot of sex in the book. Do you find this an easy subject to write about and how is it received by people who know you?

I like writing about sex but it is difficult, and I’m half hoping I get nominated for the bad sex award. You want to write about it in some brand new way no-one’s ever thought of, but of course it’s all been done before. You become paranoid that everyone will think you’re into the same sort of stuff as your protagonist, but so what?

Funnily enough I got an email from my aunty Kath in Australia recently which was rather mortifying, so I may as well share it with you here:

“…Hi Mark - well its Wed arvo and your book arrived late Monday. I was about 80 pages in when mum rang for a chat and to tell me that she'd already read the book, as had dad. Now I don't reckon mum skipped the sex scenes as instructed cos she wasn't too sure about the anal sex bits - "I always enjoyed it the usual way" - yes mum, far too much information….”

Your use of language is poetic. How important is the rhythm and flow of your writing to you and what processes did you go through to find your style?

I started out as a poet but I realised it wasn’t my best format so I decided to make my writing as poetic as possible. I strongly believe that you can depict ugly subjects and places with beautiful prose. Apart from Updike, Saul Bellow was a master of this. There aren’t too many over here who do it well – I do like John King and used to like Martin Amis up till Yellow Dog, which I found staggeringly awful, like a spoof of an Amis novel.

I personally enjoyed Fire Horses, but it took me a while to get hooked. The blurb on the back cover says, "An unflinching lesson in modern history" and "Fire Horses views England over the last 25 years, “and it seemed that they really didn't know how to package the blurb for you. I was hooked once I realised that there was no real plot other than Joe Noone's personal journey and how his actions formed consequences that he then interacted with as he crossed their wake. How would you sum up Fire Horses?

I wrote that blurb, so don’t blame Legend! I’m terrible at writing synopses – I need about 200,000 words. How do you summarize everything the book’s about? It’s about life, and love, and grief, and England, and perversion and politics… god, do you think I’ve made the Private Eye pseud’s column yet?

I wanted to tell a squatter’s love story in a lyrical way, for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider and anyone who wonders how this country thinks. That’s why I set a lot of it in Spain: to regard it from without.

It’s good you spotted how his actions affect him through his life. In fact it can all be traced back to the snowball he throws at Tony because there was this rumour that Tony had read a book.

Have you started on your next book yet and if so can you tell us something about it?

A lot of people said they liked the humour in Fire Horses, and I do have plans to write a series of comedy novels – maybe under a pseudonym. But my next book (provisionally titled Breakdown) is about a man losing his wife, his sanity and his self-respect as England collapses around him, so plenty of scope for jokes there.

Thanks Mark, it's been really entertaining interviewing you!

You can order Fire Horses from Legend here.

To visit Mark's site on MySpace click here.

And you can enter the competition to win a signed copy of Fire Horses here.


by Kathleen

Joyce Payson was saying good-bye to her daughter Emma for the second time since her daughter had gone to college. The first time Joyce visited, her existence as Emma’s mother, or something, had caused acute embarrassment. This time, however, Emma introduced her mom to everyone in sight. Much as Joyce appreciated this, she was mostly relieved that her daughter had found a way down from such anxiety.

They were getting her overnight bag from Emma’s dorm room and were halfway down the steps, when two shouting boys carrying bicycles distracted Joyce. She heard them laughing and saw their thick calves coming and her foot landed wrong. It crashed through a mirage step and twisted on the real one.

Fists clenched, she tried to fool Emma, insisting it was nothing. Meanwhile, her ankle radiated dull, sharp, and steady pain, three in one. Too bad: No way was she overstaying her welcome.

“It might be broken, Mom.”

But Joyce said, “Please, it’s fine.”

Ten minutes later, during which Joyce tried not to focus on Emma too much—no staring awestruck by her mouth and eyes—the taxi arrived. A middle-aged woman driver sucked on an antique pipe reeking of cherry tobacco.

Holding the stem in her teeth, the driver said, “Hurt your foot, didn’t you? The reason’s emotional, did you know that?”


“Think carefully. And confront your feelings.” The driver watched Joyce in the rearview mirror.
In too much pain to argue, Joyce agreed, and the driver continued. Studies, she said, had proven that even cancer stemmed from emotions. “People with cancer who aren’t depressed recover better than depressed people.”

“Are there people with cancer who are happy about it?”

“Not happy, probably. But not depressed.”

A block from the train station, Joyce said “Here’s fine,” and overtipped the driver, which meant she was angry. On the strength of that anger, she hobbled to the platform.

No one would convince Joyce that her mother, Emma’s namesake, had died from breast cancer twenty-six years ago because she was depressed. Her mother had vowed she wouldn’t die and leave Joyce to her grandparents. If she failed to keep that promise it was not due to bad attitude or weak will or wrong thinking.

No one knew why her mother had had to die while everyone else lived on. A random, fatal illness that could happen to anyone had stolen her mother. Joyce, her mother, the doctors, and even God apparently, couldn’t stop it. As a girl, Joyce told herself over and over: it’s no one’s fault. No one’s.

So now? A twisted ankle? It was not even as significant as the mother-daughter bond that had initially left Emma so anxious. A bond that Joyce hoped one day when her daughter recognized it only in retrospect, she would accept as a gift.

The misstep that caused Joyce’s twisted ankle was nothing. Really. In fact, the growing physical pain was starting to recall her long-gone joy.

The View From Here Live Interview with Rachel Holmes

Listen to The View From Here  on internet talk radio

The View From Here Live Interview:
Rachel Holmes

Interview by Mike

Thursday 10.30 AM UK Time

Listen in live - click the Blogtalkradio link above. The interview will be available at the magazine to listen to later if you can't listen in live.

Rachel Holmes is the Head of Literature at The South Bank Centre and an Orange Prize and Whitbread Award judge. In 1998 she became part of the launch team of, and was Web Site Manager of the Amazon UK site until leaving in December 2002 to pursue a full-time writing career. Her first book, Scanty Particulars: The Life of Dr James Barry, was published in 2002, and her second, The Hottentot Venus, a biography of Saartjie Baartman, was published in 2007. She has appeared on Any Questions and Newsnight Review.


Interview went well apart from the site crashing a minute before being on air and so the start of the interview is silent for about a minute! Then I disconnected Rachel by mistake!
But heh you live and learn , next time it will be a bit more slick.
It was a great interview though and Rachel was excellent. Listen below and hear her talking about The London Literature Festival and the influence of technology on books.

Click here to find out more about the London Literature Festival.

Week 6 Results of Hi Ho Books Away!

by The Lone Ranger

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

Time: 12 mins 51 secs

Yes that really is the man who sat down to read it - under cover photography by me The Lone Ranger.

For last weeks account click here.

Next Week: Arthur & George by Julian Barnes

Mark Piggott Interview Part 1 of 2

The View From Here Interview:
Mark Liam Piggott

Interview by Mike

Mark's debut book Fire Horses came out at the end of May from independent publisher Legend Press. I catch up with him a week after his book signings at Borders in Oxford Street.

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I’m 41, born in Manchester, brought up in West Yorkshire. I’ve lived in London since 1985 and have a wife and two kids. I’ve had a colourful life, and lived life on the edge for a long time. I used to get into fights, go on long benders. In fact I once said, only half-joking, “I’ve been on a session since 1978.”

However, it’s been a bit of a schizo existence: even when I was 20 and living in condemned housing I was writing for the Guardian and Observer, and once presented Network 7 on Channel 4. A lot of the time as a freelance journalist I was undercover and not really sure whose side I was on.

What's your ideal night out/in?

Out: a pub with friends, solving the world’s problems with humour.

In: a meal with my wife and kids, then they go to bed without a fight leaving us to drink wine and watch something funny. Boring, eh?

No I don't think so, but then I'm 41 myself! What's your favorite program at the moment?

Peep Show – absolutely brilliant writing, acting and above all its concept – that we all have this image of us that we think is how others see us and its poles apart from what they do actually see. I mean, I look like an angry, yobbish Northerner, whereas in fact I’m only an angry, yobbish Northerner on the outside – inside I’m crying.

What is your favorite book?

Rabbit, Run (John Updike). I love the whole Rabbit series. To me he’s the best at making the everyday world luminous; and I love how he writes about work and marriage.

How did you get your publishing deal with Legend and how many publishers did you approach before them?

I’ve had two agents, both of whom kept trying to make me write “thrillers” because of my background. A lot of publishers get confused when you want to write about drugs, violence and sex but also want to write something literary – Maeve Binchy on crack if you want a lazy label.

How did you come to have two agents and was it one of them who secured your Legend deal?

My first agent, David O’Leary (no, not that one) was back in the early 90s when I was working in a warehouse – I’d go to see him at his little office in Holland Park all covered in sawdust, which he seemed to find amusing. I later found out he represents Ken Russell. I just sent him some stuff and he liked it.

My second agent was Dr Radice at Gregory & Radice (now Gregory & Co). Again, I sent her an MS and she left this message on my phone saying something like, “… I can’t say I enjoyed reading this – it was like a 500 page suicide note – but if you were to try writing something else I’d like to represent you…”

I “resigned” from both agents, due to that old thriller business I mentioned, and since 2000 I’ve gone my own way. I sent Legend something on spec and luckily for me they liked it.

How long did you take to write Fire Horses and what processes did it go through to get to what it is today?

It’s been through several incarnations – I first had the name as long ago as 1991. I knew there was a story there, but I couldn’t get the format right. In the end I went and did an MA at Manchester and that helped me see the flaws, so I tore it up and started again.

How have you found the book signings and readings?

I’m having to get used to readings – I have a strong accent and tend to speak too fast. I used to get over the nerves with a few drinks, but then I start to mumble and rush headlong to the end so now I stay clear-headed. I have to keep reminding myself that people do want to hear this, and even if they don’t they’re unlikely to turn violent.

Does it feel like you expected to have your book out there on the shelves?

It’s funny, I experienced a series of anti-climaxes (is that a word?): hearing they were publishing my novel; seeing the cover; getting the proof copy; seeing the final product. It only really hit me when my sister texted me to say she’d just bought the book in Waterstones, a day ahead of the release date. I went to Camden and saw it on the shelf and then yes, I buzzed. I’d been trying to reach this point for 25 years and now I needed to find something else to strive for.

I’ve found it: trying to get any sort of review into the nationals would be great, but they don’t like indie publishers much.

Care to expand on that throw away comment!

I find it really infuriating when I read reviews of all these established, boring writers, none of whom seem to have the nous or knowledge to write about England now. There are all these billions of books set in the 16th century or among the aristocracy… hang the lot of ‘em with their own giblets. The aristo’s, I mean, not the writers. Well – not all of them.
I just think the nationals – like the big publishing houses - pick books that reflect their particular world view – one that’s easy and safe and unassailable. But real life is messy and contradictory and not enough English books seem to get that. Hence Joe’s motto: embrace your contradictions.

I'm afraid I had The Osmonds' Crazy Horses going through my mind whilst reading your book. I see you like New Order and list a whole host of bands on your MySpace page - Do you listen to music as you write and is your writing coloured by your love of music?

I do love music and in fact each chapter in the book is named after a song released in the year it was set. But I left this off the last draft as it seemed a bit… sad. Go to my myspace page if you want to see the track listing. But I don’t write very well when music’s playing as I start thinking I’m Jools Holland on a piano and start typing risible, stream-of-unconsciousness stuff just to get in the rhythm.

For part 2 of this interview click here.

For the printed edition of this interview at TVFH go here.

First Line Competition: Winner!

Last month we asked:

The first line of a story can be a tricky one. How do you start to hook people in without making the sentence convoluted or clunky?

Well have a go with the picture above.

And we had 17 great entries. Some of our favourites were:

"Do you think the table will ever come back?"
by George Wicker

"The whales had returned. It must be summer."
by Linda

'After what the four of them had been through the crashing of the waves was the only thing they could really count on.'
by GO! Smell the Flowers

But the WINNER is :

Years and experience had made them unapologetic survivors; now there were four, each carrying a secret they'd deposited into the sea.

by Niki Aguirre who somewhat appropriately released her debut book of short fiction 29 Ways to Drown last November.

Well done Niki a £50 Amazon voucher is on the way.

Photo Credit: Natasha Hirtzel

Fire Horses Competition

Competition Time!

This week we are featuring Fire Horses by Mark Piggott and his publisher Legend Press have given us a signed edition of Mark's book for a competition here at The View From Here.

To win think of a song title that includes one or more of the words

Horse or Horses

and leave your song title as a comment with your name.

So for example Bring on the Dancing Horses by Echo & The Bunnymen

Best one that I think matches the subject matter of the book wins!

(See our review here if you want to see what the book is about.)

Good Luck! Competition closes Friday 27th June.

Shiny Stuff From Rubbish

Fire Horses

by Mark L Piggott
Publisher: Legend Press
Review by Mike

"You're fire horses, twice over. Conceived and born under the sign. You're the end of the world, you two."

Fire Horses is a contemporary novel written in a poetic literary voice dealing with the hard grit of British life as experienced through Joe Noone. It's about consequences and how Joe has to travel a world that doesn't always make sense whilst his past and future rage against him.

"All the sublime magic of youth had been knocked out of me; I was still wandering, but all the wonder had gone."

Joe doesn't walk a track that commercial demographics would predict walking into Burtons and spending money. He walks off the beaten track. Sometimes invisible, sometimes walking into traps that destroy those around him. He embraces the drinking culture and is wired chemically for sex, yet is a hopeless romantic.

"Hours were lost, the sky darkened, alcohol began to coat my brain and eat away at all the layers of sophistication, culture and self-consciousness."

Blur's, Modern Life is Rubbish, sums up this book well. Yet despite this, or because of this, there is hope and redemption threaded throughout the book. Mark Piggott shows us the rubbish, but embraces it and produces art and a life for Joe that has beauty once Mark has shown you how to look.

Mark Piggott obviously loves his characters. At one point Jo muses, "Only be a passenger if the driver has something to live for," and it could be said the same for Jo as a character in Mark's novel, "Only be the protagonist if Mark gives me something to live for." I can almost see Mark pitching the job to fictional Jo, "It will be bad, real bad. But you'll get to have lots of sex and I'll dangle the carrot of love before you. The money will be shit though."

As in life, where humour is born out of misery and gives reason, Mark's book is full of fun one liners. At one point Jo says, “It came as a relief when I reached my 34th birthday because then I knew for sure I wasn't Jesus."

As a debut novel it shines, both in the quality of the writing and the insights into mankind and modern history.

Now that's not bad.

Shiny stuff from rubbish - go buy it and see for yourself.

Later this week the View From Here interviews Mark Piggott.

The Oddville Press

The View From Here Interview:
The Oddville Press
Interview by Paul

It leaves me despondent whenever I hear that a publishing house has shut its doors and stopped doing business, as if the world will be a lesser place without it, regardless of whether I’ve read any of their publications or not. It’s not something I’d feel if I heard that an armaments manufacturer had gone bust---not that I know of one which has. But the upside of this is that, for every publisher who shuts up shop, there seems to be another ready to open its doors and call for submissions. And then: “Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

The Oddville Press recently entered the publishing arena and is calling for submissions for a new e-zine, which it plans to release in September. I spoke to Steph (of the delightfully named blog Watch Your Steph), who’s on the editorial team at Oddville, and asked her about the company’s origins and what sort of writing they’re looking for.

So, Steph, how did The Oddville Press come into being?

It all started when Mike Coombes (fellow writer and reigning God of Oddville) made a post on a writing forum entitled “Looking for Talented Writers, Editors & Geeks.” The original plan was to give members of that writing forum a glimpse into the publishing world, as well as give the veterans a place to showcase their talent. In a matter of hours, quite a few of us (predominantly geeks like myself, I dare say) jumped on board and started setting things in motion.

In my opinion, one of the niftiest aspects to Oddville is the fact that all of us working together have never met in person, as far as I’m aware. We have staff members from all over the world doing their part without any major hitches to speak of, unless you count the extreme reluctance of some staff members to include a picture with their bio on our staff page. (The staff page is now bereft of pictures for that very reason.)

What are the short-term and long-term aims for The Oddville Press, and what sort of submissions are you seeking?

The plan in the beginning, as I mentioned above, was simply to give members of the writing forum an opportunity to break into print. However, since getting things rolling, we’ve already expanded on that. We accept submissions from any writer, regardless of their publishing history (or lack thereof), and we certainly don’t give special treatment to members of that forum. Our long-term goal would be to become one of the high-risers, so to speak. To be literally acclaimed and, in general, to be the zine every writer wants to submit to.

The kind of submissions we’re looking for vary as far as genre is concerned. In general, we want submissions that keep us riveted, that make us forget we have a sink full of dishes to wash or that our dog is peeing on the carpet. We don’t accept slash, erotica, fan fiction, Tolkienesque fantasy, ‘angst’ poetry, or previously published work—and besides, there are zines that cater specifically to those genres anyways. It’s just not our cup of tea.

What advice would you offer writers submitting their work to a publisher? What generally excites you about a piece of writing and what turns you off?

Be professional. Just the other day, some of us at Oddville were discussing the lack of cover letters in many of the submissions we receive. Granted, that won’t impact our decision on a story or poem if we like it, but it does start the relationship out on a bad foot. Also, speaking as a writer myself, I’ve had stories rejected simply for not double-spacing the file. You never know what’s going to push an editor’s buttons.

Writing that excites me generally has to have strong characters. (I can’t speak for poetry, though. We have poetry fanatics among us at Oddville—I’m just not one of them.) I prefer stories about people more than I care about what happens to those people. I don’t necessarily want a detailed run-down of every thought that passes through a character’s head, but I want the voice and tone of the story to make me feel as though I’m intimately connected with the characters—even if they’re a bit on the shady side. My guilty pleasure is a protagonist with a less-than-perfect view on morality.

Things I don’t like are teen oh-woe-is-me stories with nothing new to add against the insurmountable number of other such stories. The same goes for vampire and zombie stories. I approach these expecting not to like them, so it takes a large amount of creativity and compelling writing to break down my resistance.

Who are some of the favourite authors of the editorial team?

We’re a pretty diverse group of people when it comes to writing tastes, but some unanimous favourites are: Tom Clancy, Margaret Atwood, Dean Koontz and, from the poetry side, Richard Hugo.

You’ve embarked on writing a novel of your own. Has the process of reading other writers’ submissions affected the way you write or think about your own writing in any way? Have you discovered any other synergies from undertaking these different, but related tasks?

Absolutely. In order to reject a story, I have to pinpoint what it is about that story that I don’t like—be it purple prose, inconsistent voice, or a complete lack of coherent sentences. By thinking critically about writing in this way, it helps me to better recognize the strengths and weaknesses of my own writing.

Thanks, Steph, and good luck to The Oddville Press.
To visit The Oddville Press, click here.
To visit Steph’s Watch Your Steph blog, click here.

The London Literature Festival

The View From Here is going to the London Literature Festival

Saturday 5 – Saturday 19 July 2008, Southbank Centre

The Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, occupying a 21-acre site that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames.

And we're going to be there.

We have Press Passes and will bring you first hand reports and tell you what it is like going to a Literary Festival.

This is the second year for the London Literature Festival and Rachel Holmes, Head of Literature and Spoken Word at the Southbank Centre, says of the event:

“Irreverent. Edgy. Unexpected. International. This year's London Literature Festival is the embodiment of London's global identity. From comic books to environmentalism. From London Liming to Best of the Booker, the festival offers two weeks of live literature, fun and inspiration at the heart of the city.”

The two events we will be attending are:

The Best of the Booker Prize

Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7:45pm, £9

To celebrate the shortlist for The Best of the Booker Prize a distinguished panel of writers champion the novel they think should win, featuring Edna O’Brien on JG Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur, Kamila Shamsie on Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Peter Kemp on Pat Barker’s The Ghost Road and Mark Thwaite on JM Coetzee’s Disgrace. The panel read short extracts from the books, followed by their own critical appraisal, and the audience can cast their vote at the end of the evening.

Alan Moore
nd Melinda Gebbie

Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7:45pm, £9

Alan Moore is a seminal figure in the graphic novel genre, and together with wife and collaborator Melinda Gebbie they discuss Lost Girls. This visual presentation is chaired by Roz Kaveney, writer, journalist and author of Superheroes!

And maybe The Lone Ranger would be interested in this:

Best of the Booker Prize Bookcrossing

Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer and across Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre is an international bookcrossing site, encouraging you to share books by leaving them around the site for others to find. This year, hunt down 100 prize-winning paperbacks from the shortlist of The Best of the Booker Prize. Come down to catch a new book or release your own.

For full listings and details visit:

To purchase tickets for the LONDON LITERATURE FESTIVAL, visit or on telephone 0870 160 2522