Jenny Greenteeth is coming to Liars’ League on Tuesday 11 August

I had a short story accepted by the London chapter of Liars’ League for their annual Women & Girls event. My story, 50 feet deep, which looks at what can happens when myth and modernity comes into conflict, is one of six. You can see them all online, either at the viewing party on Liars’ Leagues’ Facebook page from 19.30 on Tuesday 11 August, or on their website.

Jenny Greenteeth appears in my current project too, but as a secondary character. In 50 feet deep we get to see the world from her perspective. It’s not a nice place, unless you’re Jenny, but I enjoyed spending time in her world.


#stayathome – and attend a literary festival

I went to a workshop on world building earlier today. It was part of The Stay At Home! Literary Festival and used Zoom as a medium. Last week, I hadn’t heard of Zoom. Now it’s everywhere.

Laura Laakso, author of the urban fantasy crime series Wilde Investigations, talked to us about building your world without overwhelming the reader. Urban fantasy is often set in very near-real worlds with the details tweaked. There’s a lot of pleasure to be had both from the reading and the writing and world building is core to how the characters and plot works.

The workshop was fun, informative and interactive. We looked at different scenarios and discussed how we’d describe that particular world without info-dumping. For example, how do you tell the reader that the rain is poison without saying ‘hey, the rain is poison, don’t go out in it!’?

It wasn’t my first world building workshop but it was my first time on Zoom. Laura talked on the topic, questions came in on chat, and towards the end we had an open Q&A session with camera and voice. It worked really well. I enjoyed Laura’s style – digressions included – and was reminded about the rules of world building.

The Stay At Home! Literary Festival is on until April 11. The programme is a mixture of workshops, book launches, authors and poets; all free, all online.

On a stage near you soon: Story Shop

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is on August 12 to 28. It’s the 11th year of Story Shop, the strand I’m part of. Story Shop gives local writers a platform to reach audiences by reading stories. I’ll be reading The First Appointment in which Lynn and Audra go to the doctor. It’s not a usual appointment. Or maybe it’s Lynn and Audra that are unusual.

Story Shop is on every day of the festival and takes place in the Spiegeltent at 15:00. Sometimes, it’s really busy with people having coffee and cake, sometimes it’s Story Shoppers and their friends. If you’re anywhere near Charlotte Square at 15:00, pop in. Whomever is on the stage will appreciate your support. Read the announcement.

I don’t yet know what date I’ll be reading: update to follow.

Hector Kreeping’s Tales of Terror: Halloween-appropriate stories

Much excitement! The day before Halloween, Hector Kreeping is bringing fun and fear in equal measure. I really looking forward to getting back on stage. Scritch, scratch the armoire. That’s all I’m saying.

What is it? A night of spooky tales in a small, independent bookshop. The event if part of the Edinburgh Horror Festival.

When it it? Sunday 30th October, Otherworld Books, Dalry Road, Edinburgh. Tickets are £5/£3. Get tickets.

Who’s reading? I am. I don’t know who else yet, but keep an eye on the Illicit Ink event page.

Shameless plug: FREAK Circus magazine and showcase

Last week I had a cold and, disappointingly, was too ill to go to the launch of FREAK Circus, the new Edinburgh-based literary magazine. Matching theme to name, the first issue presents at all kinds of prose and poetry freakishness. My contribution, Mouth, is about a young woman who has odd growths on her side. Some things you can get used to, some you can’t. (If you want to read Mouth, buy FREAK Circus. Links to paper and Kindle copies below.)

If you want to find out more about the magazine, why not attend the free FREAK Circus show case at the Bongo Club on November 6th, 19:00? I’m looking forward to it and see it as a launch party for those of us who missed the launch party.


‘Mouth’ appears in the first issue of FREAK Circus

I have a routine. It helps me manage my condition.

Mouth, a short story about a woman with an unusual growth on her side, is one of the stories appearing in the first issue of Edinburgh’s newest literary magazine, FREAK Circus. I’m thrilled to be part of a new literary venture, and hope FREAK Circus readers will like Mouth, a story that I’m very fond of.

The official magazine launch is part of the 2015 Portobello Book Festival and takes place 19:00, October 1st, at Dalriada Bar in Portobello. Come along for live readings, poetry and assorted fun. The event is free, but ticketed. Visit the Facebook event page for full details.


Getting ready for the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Last year, I spent more time in the book shop than I did at the actual book festival. I can’t remember what happened to keep me away, but this year, I to play it differently. I didn’t hang on the phone and book hundreds of pounds of tickets but am taking a more leisurely approach. The first tickets I booked were not just for me but also a gift to my father-in-law.

My father-in-law and I have bonded over books. We don’t read all the same writers, but we both read quite a lot. After he told me about Benedict Jacka and lent me a book by him he’d enjoyed, I set out to introduce him to more urban fantasy/crime. My first step was to buy him three of Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant books.

I’m a fan of Peter Grant. I took to him, and the people around him, immediately and enjoy spending time in his universe. I’m delighted to say that my father-in-law does too. He’s re-read the books at least once and is looking forward to the next one with some impatience.

He also reads Jim Butcher and we’ve had interesting conversations about the differences between the American way of telling a story and the British way. What makes one set of characters human and endearing and the other occasionally irritating? (We have other series to use for the comparison too: we’re getting erudite on this genre, Jim and I.)

So the tickets I got for the book festival? Ben Aaronovitch talking about writing a series. We’re looking forward to it and I expect we’ll have a grand evening.

Lost in translation – reading values between the lines

I went to see a Swedish film recently. I enjoy watching films in my mother tongue, not just because I learn (or remember) things about Swedish culture, but also because I have fun reading the subtitles.

Subtitling is a difficult job. The translator has to fit everything that’s said, ideally with nuances and not just the literal words, into one or two lines of text. It’s like tweeting film dialogue: A lot is lost. When the translator is good, you don’t mind,this is how it works. When the translator’s not so good, well, it can be annoying. I have tales. But I’m not telling one of them today. This film was well translated. It did, however, tell me something about British culture*.

Two women are talking together. One of them doesn’t understand the other one’s relationship choices. She says something along the lines of: ‘You meet someone, build a relationship, have kids and get married‘, neatly spelling out a Swedish relationship narrative. The translation laid out the British version: ‘You meet someone, build a relationship, get married and have kids.’

As my fellow lady scientist Jessica Johannesson Gaitán said when I attended a poetry translation workshop she ran, ‘translation is about choices‘. I imagine that when you translate a film, the aim is to help the viewer understand the dialogue, to ensure that there’s as little as possible between them and their enjoyment of the film.

I can’t stop wondering why the translator decided that the idea of having children before marriage would shock the viewer out of their engagement with the film. Were they they concerned that the original order would mean the film wouldn’t work in English-speaking countries with strong religious leanings? Where they themselves taken aback and wanted to save the viewer the same shock? Or was it a not a decision at all: Did they miss-hear, or assume, the order?

It’s not the choice I would have made, but the reasons for it will continue to intrigue me.

* Assuming that the translator was British.

(If you get a chance to watch Force Majeure – do. It is frustrating and sad and full of family drama, but it is also very funny and sweet.)


Lady scientists step out in Dundee

We had a ball on Friday. The lady scientists got back together and this time it was for a road trip to Dundee where we shared our stories as part of the Women in Science Festival. The D’Arcey Thompson lecture hall has great acoustics so we needed to help to raise our voices. The organisers of the festival had got the word out of our visit to all the right places so we had a great audience. It wouldn’t have been as fun without them, helping us along by laughing in the right places and generous with praise in the interval.

Before the show, we had a photo call. Dundee Courier ran an article about us on Saturday and the photo below, by CD Thompson, is from that article.

The lady scientists stitch, bitch and walk in Dundee.
The lady scientists stitch, bitch and walk in Dundee: Melissa Hugel, Kaite Welsh, Rebecca Douglas, Jessica Johannesson-Gaitán, Emily Dodd, Rachel McCrumb, yours truly.


Lady Scientists’ Stitch and Bitch comes to the Dundee Women in Science Festival 2015

The Lady Scientists have been invited to perform at the Dundee Women in Science Festival. We will tell our tales on March 27th, in the D’Arcy Thompson Lecture Theatre at Dundee University at 19:00. The lecture hall can take 290 people and we really hope we’ll fill it! More details will follow, including information on how to get tickets. In the meanwhile, here’s a sample of what you’ll hear.

This 1 minute 36 second snippet from the second part of Marie Curie’s story is from our first performance, at the Edinburgh International Science Festival in April last year. I make a gaff towards the end, but you’ll probably only notice is you’re an avid knitter. Enjoy!