Friday 27 November 2015

Creeping Crawlers by Allen Ashley

Greenacre Writers tutor and award-winning editor Allen Ashley has a brand new book out called Creeping Crawlers 

This is an anthology of science fiction and horror stories centred on insects, worms, spiders… and other things which creep or crawl.

The book contains 19 stories; almost 400 pages.

Contributing authors include Dennis Etchison, Storm Constantine and John Grant as well as some newer voices.

The specially commissioned cover is by Steve Upham and it is published by Shadow Publishing (UK). The publishers are currently running a special offer which includes a limited edition souvenir postcard and envelope. Go to:

You can follow Allen on Twitter:  @AllenAshleyUK

Read Allen's recent guest blog on:

Sunday 22 November 2015

Sebitically Speaking: Reviewed by Mumpuni Murniati

Born in Ghana in 1975, Nana Awere Damoah is the author of four non-fiction books: Sebitically Speaking (2015), I Speak of Ghana (2013), Through the Gates of Thought (2010) and Excursions in my Mind (2008); and one fiction book, Tales from Different Tails (2011).

Sebitically Speaking

At dawn on Tema Motorway, a taxi driver goes along a nineteen‐kilometre stretch; half of the street lamps are out of order. At the same time he is dodging potholes with metal protruding, like a cat gnashing its teeth.

In the back seat the passenger, aware of the foreseeable dangers he’s facing, reflects: ‘Ghana is usually happy to be the first to hit a mark but we don’t do anything else beyond that, least of all maintaining the lead. We seem to have used all our allocation of creative ideas before 1966...’

To Nana Awere Damoah the motorway represents the state of his country’s development since her independence in 1957. Opened in 1965, it was one of the first motorways in Africa. Fifty years later it remains the only one. Nonetheless, it is not the only issue which tickles him: From education and social mobility to the Government’s absurd policies; from the running of the state-owned energy company to Sikaman’s customs, his musings list a number of developmental challenges still engulfing the Land of Gold. Sebitically Speaking deliberates on the unsolved and ongoing problems when it comes to meeting the basic rights for the citizens and attacks the politicians’ fixed mindset which hinders progress.

In his lucid and fervent narrations Damoah weaves in the wisdom of his enigmatic uncle Kapokyikyi, enthralled by the old man’s liberating mantra ka na wu : speak your mind and damn any consequences. ‘If a big mouth was the requirement for being a Catholic priest, the pig would be a cardinal,’ he says on one occasion. On another he enquires of the Chieftain as to whether he knew that his subjects were calling him ‘Comfort’ because he didn't crack a whip. Although he would say ‘sϵbi‐sϵbi’ beforehand – Akan’s phrase asking for permission to speak bluntly over a matter.

With humour bordering on irony Damoah is far from shy to admit that some problems depicted have gone from bad to worse. Thus, Sebitically Speaking, if half of the roofs in a primary school are gone after a storm, expect the government to fix them ‐ eventually. For a ‘deadline is on wheels’ is the norm – so, it is either: through a social media campaign the roofs return shipshape in five months’ time or wait. Also, Sebitically Speaking, if a road construction which began in 2007 is still uncompleted, consider it as an on‐going project. For one minute in Ghana Man Time (GMT) is a hundred seconds.

Be that as it may, Damoah’s comparison of his countrymen’s attitude with the neighbouring Nigeria is intriguing. From the traffic arrangement to voting for their next president, he expounds his views in the decision‐making process involved and points out the similarities in the results.

The drawback of the book seems to be its target reader. It may be easier for Ghanaians and West Africans to laugh at Damoah’s satirical illustrations, given their knowledge on both political and cultural contexts. Non‐African readers nonetheless may require background information on Ghanaian history and culture and therefore fleshing out some chapters, particularly for a certain custom, is in order. What’s more, selective use of Akan words will help the flow of the writing; having too often to refer to footnotes to find the meaning of a phrase can be quite taxing.

In the end, the book’s explorations on growth versus fixed mindset encompass race and ethnic groups. Damoah nails down the need to change attitude to move forward. The book may be about a West African country, but I suppose in every country in the world, regardless of economic growth, the dynamics of developmental issues and challenges bear resemblances.

Next time while driving on the A1 Northbound after dark, take a few minutes to imagine how it would be if the street lamps were not working, or remember what is was like to be stuck overnight in 2009’s blizzard.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Book Reviewer - Tony Malone

As part of our #diverseauthorday Greenacre Writers want to continue the trend and will be posting interesting books and linking to book reviewers.

Danish poet and writer Naja Marie Aidt was born in 1963. Her first book of poetry While I’m Still Young, was published in 1991 prompting Aidt into full time writing shortly after. She won the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize in 2006 for her short story collection Baboon and first novel Rock, Paper, Scissors(2015) was translated from the Danish by K E Semmel.

The following quote is from a review written by Tony Malone for WORDS without BORDERS:

“With many readers praising Naja Marie Aidt’s short story collection Baboon (Two Lines Press; translated by Denise Newman), it was not a huge surprise to see the efforts of writer and translator alike rewarded with the PEN Translation Prize earlier this year. Those who enjoyed Aidt’s slices of the darker side of life will be happy to see her vision extended over a broader canvas in her first novel, Rock, Paper, Scissors (Open Letter; translated by K.E. Semmel). This book is centered on the extravagantly-named Thomas O’Mally Lindström, the owner of an upmarket stationery supplies shop, with the story starting after his father, Jacques, an inveterate criminal, has passed away in prison while awaiting trial for an unspecified crime.

Tony Malone has been reviewing works of literary fiction in translation for over six years and has reviewed over seven hundred books. His site Tony’s Reading List comprises reviews on books originally written in German, French and Japanese and is expanding to works from Korea.

You can follow Tony Malone on Twitter:   @tony_malone 

Sunday 1 November 2015

A Conversation with Katarina Bivald

Katarina Bivald grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Today she lives outside of Stockholm, Sweden, with her sister and as many bookshelves she can get by her. She's currently trying to persuade her sister that having a shelf for winter jackets and shoes is completely unneccessary. There should be enough space for a book shelf or two instead. Limited success so far. Apparantly, her sister is also stubbornly refusing to even discuss using the bath room to store books.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a book about books. All sorts of books, from Little Women and Harry Potter to Jodi Picoult and Jane Austen, from Stieg Larsson to Joyce Carol Oates to Proust. It’s about the joy and pleasure of getting lost in books, about learning from and possibly even hiding behind them. And one of the questions at its heart is whether or not books are better than real life or real relationships

The Readers of Broken Wheel has touches of 84 Charing Cross Road, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Chocolat, but adds an eccentric Swedish originality and intelligence all its own. It is a celebration of books and the bookworm. The descriptions of Broken Wheel are so lifelike that somebody once asked if Bivald had ever visited Iowa: "I just made it all up. In fact, When I wrote the book, I had never even been to the US, let alone Iowa. The only thing I knew about Iowa when I began was that they once had a library cat named Dewey Readmore Books"

Katarina Bivald sometimes claims that she still hasn't decided whether she prefer books or people but, as we all know, people are a non-starter. Even if you do like them, they're better in books. Only possible problem: reading a great book and having no one to recommend it to. But, of course now we have social media so never have to speak to a real live person ever again!

The Readers of Broken Wheel is a beautifully written book and we wish Katarina much fictional good luck with its future and look forward to the patter of tiny text in the not too distant future.

1. Tell us of your journey as a writer

I have always known I wanted to write, and somehow, I have always known that one day, I’d get a book published. It’s been a dream of mine so long that I never doubted it would come true. But then again, I never really worked on it either. Oh, I wrote. I started ideas. Gave up. Got a new one. Wrote for a weekend, or a week, or a few nights. Moved on to another idea. I studied and I worked and somehow I spent the least time and energy on the one dream that really mattered to me. I wonder if that’s not often the case in life? So one day I sat down, and I said to myself: pick any idea you like, it doesn’t have to be a great one, write a book, it definitely doesn’t have to be good. It will never be published. But write from Chapter 1 to The End and finish something.

Since I only wrote for practice, I decided to fill it with everything I like in books. And I like small American towns, quirky characters, unexpected friendships, books and love.

2. How do you see your role as a writer and what do you like most about it?

I want to write books that people put down with a smile after reading it; that makes people feel that life is more strange, fun, quirky and warm-hearted.

Otherwise, I don’t really know anything anymore about what a writer should be or do. I used to have very firm ideas on it. A writer should entertain, take responsibility towards her readers, write only great books but at least one a year, and whatever else, never experiment. Just focus on the readers and do their job. I need hardly say that I feel slightly different about it since becoming a writer myself…

My characters. That’s what I like most about writing. Writing is basically a socially acceptable way of having imaginary friends as a grown up. And if the book gets published, it’s like having imaginary friends that other people can suddenly see and relate to and have as their own friends.

3. Have you ever created a character who you dislike but find yourself empathising with?

Yes. He makes all the wrong decisions for partly the right reasons and suffers as a consequence – I identify with him, I understand him, I suffer with him, but I can’t bring myself to like him. I can’t even give him a happy ending. He just refuses to be happy. Although it’s not entirely his fault, but he refuses the small chances of happiness that he gets. I’m still not sure if I’ll ever be able to write the book. And if I do, I’ll probably have to use a pseudonym.

4. If you could be transported instantly, anywhere in the world, where would you most like to spend your time writing? And why?

At the moment, Chiloquin, in Klamath County, Oregon. But like Sara in my book I don’t have a driving license for cars, so small American towns is somewhat impractical.

5. What is the one book you wish you had written?

Fried Green Tomatoes at Whistle Stop Café. It’s a wonder of a book. And I would have loved to get to know Idgie. But it’s also such a great book that I’m deeply grateful that I did not write it, but just get to enjoy it.

6. What advice do you have for would be novelists?

Write the same way you like to read. I often like to read for escapist purposes, to go some place else and meet other people, experience other things, make things up – so that was how I wrote The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. I had never even been to Iowa when I wrote it, but I could sit in my apartment in Sweden, look out on our pine trees and birches and see corn fields. And I could sit at a bar, talking to some acquaintances from work, and hear my characters answer instead. 

7. What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to reading?

My second book has just been published in Sweden – Life, Motorcycles and Other Impossible Projects. It takes place in a small, fictive, Swedish town and features Anette, a single mom who starts taking motorcycle lessons when her only daughter moves away to study in another town. So at the moment, I’m toying with the idea for my third book – looking out over the small pine trees and birches outside my apartment and seeing the trees, mountains and lakes of Oregon. Or possible Idaho. I’m not sure.

You can follow Katarina on Twitter: @katarinabivald

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is published by Chatto and Winduspart of Vintage Publishing.