How Many Genres do You Write in?


…. and should you write in more than one under the same name?

I don’t know if there is a correct answer to that question – I think it’s pretty much down to personal preference, really.  Certainly JK Rowling writes in different genres, and uses different names for each. Although, since (I believe) most people know they’re both the same author, I’m not sure if it has made any appreciable difference! I was at an event in 2012 where the line of readers clutching Ms Rowling’s first ‘non-Harry Potter’ book and hoping for an autograph, was easily the longest in the building (and it was a BIG building with a very long and windy staircase…) which made getting anywhere in said building quite difficult… I wasn’t in the queue by the way.

I’m best known for writing speculative science fiction (usually, stories which have some basis in known science, and in which I explore themes and consequences and how they might affect people, whilst (hopefully!) entertaining. I do try not to moralise – if my stories get people thinking about where science might be taking us, that’s good enough! ) – ‘The Journey & Other Short Stories’ and ‘The Methuselah Paradox’.  But two years (ish) ago, I released a romance story, ‘New Leaf’. I wrote it because (a) I was curious to see if I could and (b) I had a particular story in my head which was fun and relatively easy to write – it was one of those which almost seemed to write itself and I didn’t spend months/years agonising and editing it. I’ve been told it’s really good by people who wouldn’t fib just because I wrote it, which is lovely! I’m very bad at blowing my own trumpet, however, so you’ll have to take their word for it!

I used my own name (having briefly published it with a different cover under a pen name when I thought I might get into writing erotica – it wasn’t sci-fi and it wasn’t erotica but that’s about as reasoned as I ever got about it!) but for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I haven’t really promoted it very heavily – perhaps because I’d rather be known for writing my first love, sci-fi. So perhaps I should have stuck to a pen name… too late now, though. It’s out there. With my name on it.

If you’re a writer who crosses genres, do you use a pen-name(s)? How has that worked for you? Do you think you made the right decision (to use -or not use-  a pseudonym)?  I’d love to know!

Thank you for reading!

The Questions…


Now I hope I’ve understood this correctly… I just came across a really interesting blog  classicsandcraziness  and a series of questions people could use to introduce themselves. The idea is to tag the last person who answered the questions, and then answer them yourself…. I think.  So here’s my version: 

 

THE QUESTIONS

Appearances!

 Name: Elaine Jackson (writing as EJ Jackson)

 Nicknames: I don’t really have one; our parents apparently named us Elaine and Jean because they didn’t want people to give us nicknames (no idea why!) but one of my managers found a great way around that – he used to call me MissElaineious and I loved it! When I married he briefly toyed with MrsElaineious but it didn’t trip off the tongue quite so easily…

 Birthday: 9th October – I do it the other way around because I’m in the UK and we put the day before the month! I’ll be *ahem* 60 this year (eek). Mostly I don’t feel it… if I could find an anti-ageing pill/machine/gene I’d go for it. As the Tenth Doctor famously said, “I don’t want to go”.

scales-vector

Hair colour and length: My hair used to be dark brown, but these days I’m silver/grey. I’ve had it in a chin-length bob for years now – and I try to keep it trimmed, because (a) it looks better and (b) I love the scalp massage you get when you go to the hairdresser’s!

Eye Colour:  hazel.

 Braces/Piercings/tattoos: Nope. I did have my ears pierced in the 1980’s (I was okay until they put the stud in and twisted it, and then I fainted dead away – very embarrassing) but I kept forgetting to put earrings in and the holes closed over. I can’t bear the thought of getting it done again, so…

Righty or lefty: I’m right-handed

Ethnicity: Caucasian.  British – Scottish, Irish and Welsh roots and, according to a DNA test, a link to the Caucuses area of Russia…

First…

 Book Written: a short story collection, that I published on Amazon in 2014. I’d written lots of fan-fiction (mostly Dr Who with some crossover with Torchwood, Sherlock and (don’t ask) Crime & Punishment, some of which will never see the light of day…. But in 2011 I decided to write original fiction and haven’t stopped since.

 Journey Cover

Novel Completed: A time-travelling detective mystery set (mostly) in present day about how gene therapy might go horribly wrong… published it in 2016. It represented about four/five years of writing off and on, and hair-tearing out (time-travel really messes with your head).

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Award for Writing: None. Somehow or other I never get around to entering competitions, even though I know it’s a Good Thing to do.

Publication: Oops, I think I jumped ahead with this one. So, they’re called ‘The Journey & Other Short Stories’ and ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ (both sci-fi) and ‘New Leaf’ (a romantic novella, because I felt like it). All available on Amazon and other platforms. 😉

a new leaf.jpg

 Conference: If by that is meant have I been to any writing conferences, then yes!  Went to The Festival of Writing at York in 2013 (where I met a lovely lady I’m still friends with today, although she’s shy & doesn’t do social media so I can’t give her a Shout Out here). She was a huge help with my magnum opus (the time travel/gene therapy story).

 Query/Pitch:  My motto is ‘Imagination is the highest kite one can fly’ and it was said by Lauren Bacall.

 Favourites!

Novel (that you wrote): ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ is very close to my heart, partly because it took so long to write and partly because the core premise (is it okay to tweak genes so people live longer) is of Great Interest to me … but my current project is a post-apocalyptic comic book series which I’m SO excited about because I think it has Potential (and I say that with a cringe because, being a Brit, I’m not good a blowing my own trumpet – at all. It’s like pulling teeth.

Genre: science-fiction – first, last and foremost. I grew up watching Dr Who, Captain Scarlet, Star Trek, Blake’s 7 – the idea that there might be life Out There has always captivated me. Although these days I’m quite likely to run for cover at the first sigh of an alien spaceship. I saw ‘Alien’ and quaked in my boots. I also saw ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ a ridiculous number of times (I was working in a cinema at the time) but it’s sods law they’ll be of the ‘Aliens’ variety!.

Author: Oh goodness, too many to remember. Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury, Carl Sagan… Philip K Dick… Douglas Adams  (oh yeah, I founded the official HHGTTG appreciation society in 1980 – and it’s still going strong!  One of my proudest achievements) and lots and lots of newer writers. It would take forever to list them all, honest.

 

Writing Music:  I wrote a LOT of my Dr Who fanfic listening to Avantasia, Eryon, Tangerine Dream (still got a vinyl box set somewhere in the loft)… but also love Mike Oldfield, Jean Michael Jarre, Muse, The Moody Blue…. And loads more.  I tend to prefer instrumentals for writing. But I don’t always listen to music when I write, it depends.

Time to write:  Whenever I can get time on my own, so it could be early morning before work or late at night before bed.

Writing snack/drink: Coffee.  Tea (usually peppertmint) but I can’t eat and write at the same time. Or even drink, really – I’m Queen of the Undrunk Tea.

Movie:  ‘Blade Runner’, ‘I, Robot’, ‘Avatar’ and, perhaps bizarrely you might think, ‘The Remains of the Day’.

 

Writing Memory: My first ever fanfic – a Star Trek story titled ‘The Berengaria Dragon’ when I was in my teens. It was pretty dire, and the illustrations I did to go with it even more so. But I still published it in our local Star Trek group fanzine and nobody threw things at me, so maybe it wasn’t so bad.

 Childhood Book: ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’, various ‘Noddy’ books and ‘Black Beauty’. I still have the ‘Black Beauty’ I was given for my 9th/10th birthday. I drew horses on all the blank pages in it…

 

 

Currently…

Reading:  ‘The Quartet Murders’ by J.R. Ellis. I like detective stories, too!

Writing: My blog, updating my websites and a kickstarter campaign for my current project, ‘Minding Mama’ – the post-apocalyptic comic book. My art isn’t anywhere near good enough, so I’ve got a brilliant artist, Dan Schaefer, who’s illustrating it.

Listening to: nothing, for a change! (well, my son sneezing)

 Watching: Well, not right at this moment, obviously, but currently hooked on ‘Gotham’, and looking forward to the new John Simm drama, ‘Strangers’, which starts on the 10th. Also partway through ‘Sense 8’ on Netflix. Oh, and will get to watch Season 2 of ‘WestWorld’ eventually…

Learning: All the time! Studied creative writing at Faber Academy in The Writer’s Workshop in 2013/2014 and screenwriting and self-editing with The Writer’s Workshop in 2014; I’ve got a couple of Udemy courses I signed up to and can’t find time to complete and I’m learning the art of marketing as an Indie Author the long way round… also taught myself how to make book trailers. And although I’ve got a dear friend who records and edits my live-action trailers for me, I still love learning how to make them using a program called Filmora. I’ve made a couple of book trailers myself and one for a friend, I love it.

 Future!

 Want to be published: well, I’m self-published, but I’d be fibbing if I didn’t admit that the idea of getting traditionally published doesn’t have some appeal (mainly, the advance, so I could maybe give up the day job – I have another 6 years to work before I’m eligible for the State Pension!).

Indie or traditional: Oops, I’ve skipped ahead again! Done the first, would love the second. It’s unlikely I’ll be the next JK Rowling, but it’s useful to have a dream! The idea of my stories reaching that many people is quite mind-blowing.

 Wildest goal: To have one of my books made into a TV series or film. If I can achieve that, I’ll go happy. Well, maybe not happy… fulfilled. I don’t want to go!

 

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We’re up and Running – ‘Minding Mama’ Trailer goes live on Kickstarter!


mama poster2 internet copy
art by Amanda Fullwood

The trailer is finished – and our campaign to crowdfund production of  Issue 1 of our comic book series is now live! 

There’s no denying it’s been a long haul – fitting in the creation of a four-minute, part-live action trailer around busy workaday lives has been a constant challenge for everyone on our team, with members living far apart: the Hampshire/Surrey border, the south coast, Nottingham and Oregon (USA) but we finally got there: and the result is even more exciting and spectacular than I could ever have imagined when we began the process!

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while may remember that this isn’t my first trailer – back in 2015 with the help of my good friend Sue Turner of www.elephantinscarlet.co.uk , artist Catherine Archer-Wills , composer Matthew Thomason and lots of other very lovely people, I created one for my sci-fi novel, ‘The Methuselah Paradox‘.  Whilst that trailer did have real, live people in it (take a bow, Simon Bugg, Richard Oliver and Amelia Wray) there were no costumes, props or special effects to complicate things … just some very nifty video-editing by Sue!

As you’ll see from the finished trailer if you click on this link,  the ‘Minding Mama’ team managed to create a small corner of future Earth in a drama studio in Surrey on a very small budget. We used polystyrene packing, old electrical equipment, as well as a prop robot.  We had a brilliant Mama in Kate Davies-Speak, and the voice of Cyril the FarmBot (and our narrator) was none other than David Learner, who has played Marvin the Paranoid Android on stage and TV, and was one of our very first celebrity guests when I ran the official appreciation society back in the early 1980’s.

We’ll be running a series of interviews with the team over the duration of the campaign (which ends September 23rd), so please do check out the campaign

Neon Sky Books will also be at Reading Comic-Con on Saturday & Sunday October 13 – 14th, so please drop in and say ‘Hello!’!

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A Tale of One Duckling…


little-cute-yellow-duck-standing-1115byClassroomClipart
(c) Classroom Clipart

After Thursday’s Road Rage incident, it was nice to see a retweeted post this morning showing some kind people in the US of A rescuing a mummy duck’s babies after they fell down a drain. Went some way to restoring my (slightly dented) faith in humanity!

It reminded me, too, that my husband and I carried out a similar rescue in Midhurst, Sussex, in the summer of 1990. We’d taken my old Mini Clubman out for a spin and decided to stop off for a meal before making our way home.

AUSTIN MINI CLUBMAN ORANGE
   Classic Mini Clubman   (not mine  -it was never that shiny!)  with thanks to Pinterest

We arrived in the car park and noticed a crowd of people gathered around a drain (the picture below isn’t the actual drain (in fact this one is from Vancouver, but it’s very similar) and joined the throng to see what was going on.  It seemed that a mummy duck had been leading her kiddies back to the river Rother (you try saying that in a hurry) which runs through the town, and one of her ducklings

UK STREET DRAINS

had fallen through the grating and was now sitting miserably on the bottom, calling for his/her mummy.  Various discussions ensued, which ran along the lines of ringing the RSPCA to see if they could send someone out, ringing the council to see if they could send someone out (to open the drain cover) and so on. Because there was quite a big crowd and it all seemed to be in hand, with people donating a handkerchief and shoelaces to improvise a sling, we went off and got something to eat. When we got back about an hour or so later, it was late in the afternoon and we were surprised to see that the crowd had dispersed but that one chap was still there, with the duckling in his hand!  He said he didn’t know quite what to do – he lived in North London and had to get going, so hubby told him we didn’t live too far away so we’d take the duckling and see if we could reunite him/her with his/her family.

Because this was way before people routinely carried mobile phones, no-one had known the local RSPCA number, but we thought if we couldn’t find the duck family we could hopefully drop it off at a local RSPCA or veterinary practice in our local area.

By that time the mother duck had long given up on her stray child and had waddled off towards the river with the rest of her brood. I suppose when you have half a dozen babies you have to consider the family as a whole – ‘the needs of the many’ and all that!  We decided to follow the path down to the river and see if we could find the Mother Duck and her family.

We were younger and fitter in those days (!) so what looks like quite a long walk on the map didn’t take too long. We found the river, and after following it along for a little while, found a duck family.  The duckling tweeted but there was no response from the mother duck. Wrong family! We walked a bit further and found another family  – the duckling heard them and tweeted loudly; again no response.  ‘We’re going to end up taking him home with us!’ my hubby worried.  Then we found another family – ‘our’ duckling started tweeting loudly again. This mother duck stopped paddling and quacked back – we’d found the right family at last! Hubby went as close to the water’s edge as he dare, and as soon as he opened his fingers, the duckling tumbled out of his hand and down into the water, then started paddling. He was quickly rounded up by his mother, who seemed to be telling him off, then away they went. Our good deed for the day!

Below you can see the car park (on the right, near the bus station) where the duckling fell into the drain, and somewhere between the right angle of the river near the Cowdray ruins and Midhurst Castle is where we finally caught up with Mrs Duck.

Thanks to my hubby’s prodigious memory, I’ve been able to tell our little rescue story with reasonable accuracy. I often wonder if the other people (those who donated a handkerchief and their shoelaces) remember their part in the rescue. It would be lovely if any of them were to see this and realise that all was well in the end!

Thanks for reading!

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Midhurst – site of the 1990 Duck Rescue! with thanks to Google Maps

“Times, they are a-changin’…”


Bob Dylan certainly got that right… This last Christmas holiday, my husband and I spent quite a lot of time watching YouTube on our Smart telly, and some of what we watched was footage of the world in the 1890’s, early 1900’s, and the years up to 1958. It was a fascinating glimpse into a world which has vanished forever, except in those snippets which have been immortalized in family photographs (on which no-one ever wrote names) or on jerky black and white film (any sound has been added post-production and probably was not of the exact event(s) being shown). But still, it was captivating.

Then I saw a post on Facebook which essentially congratulated people born in the thirties, forties and fifties for having been able to play outside rather than sitting indoors on a computer, tablet, or PlayStation.  And I wondered, is this down to concerns about safety, or is it because today’s children simply prefer to play in a virtual world rather than the real one? And is the world really any more dangerous than it was when people of my generation were growing up?

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, when personal computers simply didn’t exist. I was excited to get my first transistor radio!  I remember having to perch on the edge of the bath on a Sunday evening to listen to the Top 40 on Radio One, because you couldn’t always get a signal. Mine had a little arial you could extend and move about, but it didn’t always help.ITT TRANSISTOR RADIO 1970S

But prior to that,  my friends and I would play – quite happily, for the most part – in our back gardens. When we got a little bit older, we would ask permission to go to Rowhill Copse  (now a nature reserve). To us, it was the biggest & best playground you could wish for, and we spent many happy days acting out adventures. It often featured in my dreams well into adulthood! To today’s parents the idea of letting your pre-teen child go off into a nearby wood with others of a similar age might seem horrendously dangerous – we had to cross at least one main road to get there, and there were all manner of opportunities to injure ourselves, probably the biggest being a pond deep in the woods.  But of course we didn’t worry about that, and I remember being grounded on at least one occasion for going there without first telling my mother where my sister and I were going.  As we got older, days spent ‘up the copse’ or in the garden became few and far between, and we swapped outdoor delights for our bedrooms, where we would read books, play vinyl records and moon over ‘Elvis Monthly’ magazines.  Nowadays we’d be surfing online, listening to music on YouTube and Googling ‘Elvis Presley images’. (which I just did to get the picture below)

vintage record player.jpg   elvis monthly

My son will be twenty-five this year. He spent quite a lot of his childhood playing outside with friends, but (just as with my parents) it was very rare indeed that we didn’t know where he was or who he was with. We lived, for most of his childhood, in a cul-de-sac, and his playmates mostly lived in the same road.  But as he got older, he too opted to play indoors more often – and when we got our first home computer (in 2001, and it cost in the region of £1,000 for not very much processing power at all, really) that was – mostly –  the end of outdoor play!  Even now his preferred free time activity is an online game.  He recently bought himself a ‘daylight’ lamp… I wonder why?!

playstation1.jpg    colin-mcrae-rally-usa.jpg

So do today’s children ever ‘play out’ like we did? I’m of an age now where most of my friends also have grown-up children, and since we’ve not yet been blessed with grandchildren, I am a bit out of touch…

Will the children of today make tutting sounds when their attempts to get their own children outside for some fresh air fail miserably, or will they see nothing unusual in it? Perhaps they will be trying to convince the younger generation that laptops and tablets are a safer/healthier option that virtual reality games!  My parents used to stand at the gate and call our names – and later up the stairs – when it was time for dinner or tea or bed.  Now we have a hand bell that we ring, because nothing else penetrates the headphones our son wears clamped to his head most of the time… I sometimes worry that things might grow in the warm, dark interior between his ears and the ‘cans’ -but perhaps that is preferable to worrying about him being attacked in a nightclub…

Do you have pre-teen children? Do they play outdoors, or do they prefer computer games? How do you feel about that?  I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

Elaine

 

 

WASPI WOMEN & THE SPA – THE DEBATE RAGES ON


I have been following (and sometimes participating in) this ongoing debate on social media for a while now.  As with all conversations on social media, it becomes fractious from time to time, and it is a sad fact that many people (not just women) do not understand what many women who were born in the 1950’s are upset about.

To clarify:

SPA” = State Pension Age – the age at which you can claim your state pension.

“WASPI” =  WOMEN AGAINST STATE PENSION INEQUALITY” – a voluntary UK-based organisation founded in 2015 that campaigns against the way in which the state pension age for men and women was equalised. They call for the millions of women affected by the change to receive compensation.

Some participants express incredulity that women are complaining that they now have to work as long as men (FACT: the SPA age will equalise next year, with both men and women who were born in the 1950’s having to work until we are 66 (and 8 months in my case) before we can claim our State Pension.

Some participants express incredulity that many women did not know that they would no longer recieve their state pension until they were 66 (an example – the SPA varies according to the year you were born) – the primary reason being that many women born between January 1954 and December 1959 did not recieve a letter informing them of the change in their SPA from 60 to 66.  I am one of them.

Often (but not always) those same participants in the conversation seem to find it hard to believe that, even though many women didn’t get a letter, they still didn’t know about the change to their SPA, even going so far as to accuse these women of “living under a rock”.  There may well have been articles in the tabloids and features on the radio, but it is a fact that not everyone reads tabloids (I don’t) or listens to the radio (very rarely) – nor do they belong to a union (never have). And if they heard anything about it via friends and family, that is patently not the same as hearing it officially, as should have happened.

The DWP (or whatever it was called back in t

When the SPA issue started to come up on social media, I talked about it with friends and work colleagues, and the number of women who, like me, had not received a letter was considerable.

SPA TIMETABLE ORIGINAL

On Creating a Book Trailer…


As I write this, my good friend Susan Turner of www.elephantinscarlet.co.uk is close to the final edit on the crowdfunding trailer for my graphic novel, ‘Minding Mama’.

Here’s the lovely Kate Davies-Speak as Mama, lead character in my post-apocalyptic tale of life on Earth after decades of intense solar flare activity has severely damaged the ozone layer and sent humanity underground.  The fragile community is facing starvation as their aged hydroponic equipment starts to fail. Desperate to save her son, Bully, Mama and her trusty FarmBot Cyril (voiced by ‘The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ actor David Learner)  set out to find other survivors.

image by Stephen R Cox
Mama prepares to make a broadcast for help

image by Stephen R Cox
Cyril is a FarmBot – immune to UV radiation, he can safely venture onto the surface in order to raise UV-resistant food plants for his human charges.

 

Creating a live-action trailer (complete with a set, props, and limited green screen effects) has been a real challenge – and, I should add, a lot of fun!  From the original short story, to first concept art by Amanda Fullwood

to the first sample pages from  Dan Schaefer  (who has worked for DC, Marvel and Dark Horse Comics, and more recently as storyboard artist on NBC’s ‘Grimm’) , it has been an interesting journey!  There is a saying that one should not work with children or animals – should we add robots to that list, I wonder?  Filming Cyril wasn’t without its challenges!  And it’s not over yet…

MM_MAMA_by_Dan_Schaefer
art: Dan Schaefer,  coloring: Grant Kempster

Now I’m working on the details for the crowdfunding campaign which, if successful, will allow us to produce Issue 1 later this year. We’ll be offering some fabulous rewards to our patrons, including signed canvas prints, signed scripts, photos and more.

You can find out more on www.mindingmama.org

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WIP -Minding Mama – from a short story by EJ Jackson, art: Dan Schaefer, colouring: Grant Kempster