Tuesday 29 June 2010

Sharing Success!!

Those of you who've been to a Year Zero gig, or have read about a Year Zero gig, will probably know the name Jessie Grace. Jessie has played a barnstorming 3 gigs with us now (as well as the launch of my first book), including our humungous, fantabulous show at Rough Trade East. You can learn all about her, and her involvement with Year Zero, and see her playnig at some of our gigs on the footage HERE.

Because it's exciting when someone has great news, and because we think Jessie is just about (I only say just about because I was at The Dead Weather last night, and it'll take a lot of time to get Jack and Alison out of my head!) my favourite musician on the planet, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share two pieces of wonderful news. First, Jessie now has her very own band - check out there stuff on her myspace. Second, one of her amazing songs is featured on this hilarious ad - how cool is that!

Oh, and third - Jessie is headlining Friday night at Rugfest this week, which promises to be unmissable.

I hope Jessie will be playing with Year Zero again very soon - because if we don't nab her very soon, she will be off in the stellar stratosphere (to mix metaphors) whilst we're left far behind.

Oh, and BUY HER CD - Asleep on the Good Foot - it's on her myspace.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Andromache: A little Corner of Excellence

Next month, I will be launching a new project, eight cuts gallery, to break down barriers between the arts, to act as an installation space bringing writers, artists, filmmakers and musicians together online and in the physical world around key questions, and to bring extraordinary writing to the world's attention. A week or so ago I sent out some very preliminary feelers, and I have already discovered some amazing people doing fantastic things. This week, I got to chat with one of them, Grace Andreacchi, author and managing editor at Andromache Books

1. I love the fact that Andromache is a tiny press yet you have music, and you have shorts mixed with poems, and novels and novellas, all in together. I imagine you looking at the work first, and wondering about the medium second. Would that be fair?

Yes, that’s how it is. The whole idea behind Andromache is to put things out there that are extraordinary, that deserve to see the light of day, and have no serious chance in a commercial environment. ‘A little corner of excellence’ – that’s what we strive to be. I became aware that music publishing has gone the same way as that of serious literature, as poetry and I thought – Why not? As a dedicated music lover, I felt a great desire to do something here as well. As a writer, I understand the imperative to write well and damn the consequences. I want to make a place for others who feel as I do, and are as dedicated as I am to their art and to their craft. Which sounds horribly solemn – but we’re not that!

2. I'm intrigued that Andromache's titles (and, indeed, their covers) feel as though they fall into two camps - there's the decidedly classical (in the Latin & Greek sense), as one would expect from the imprint's name; and yet there's also the black and white, Beat-feel of Clearout Sale and Out There. Was that conscious?

I’m very open-minded about genre, style – all of that. I try to match the look of each book as closely to the content as possible. I design all the covers myself, and there have been some headaches, but in the end each one is a thing of beauty, that expresses something simple and straightforward about what’s lurking inside.

3. You say you don't take submissions, but for people to get in touch if they feel their work would be of interest. I love that - it's exactly our policy at Year Zero. Can you explain why, and how you find material?

My first commitment is to write, I’ve very little time for editing and can’t afford to be overwhelmed by random submissions. One must draw the lines rather closely and stick to them. Having said that, I want to leave the door open for the happy few. I haven’t gone looking for material, writers come to me and if I love their work and we get along, then we’ll do a book.

4. Could you explain why you offer your ebooks for free?

This is right at the heart of my whole philosophy – ebooks are the wave of the future and there’s no particular reason to charge for them – they don’t cost us anything to produce. They cost us in time, to be sure, but everybody at Andromache is working for the sheer love of it, nobody gets paid for this. We can’t give away print books, obviously, because we have to pay the printer. But whatever you charge for a book, it is in fact a gift. There is no meaningful correlation between the money you pay for a book and the heart’s blood that went into it. Ebooks allow this equation to be made completely manifest. We are not a business at Andromache, we are a service to writers and to readers. We are giving you a gift. The whole electronic revolution in publishing has made it possible for serious writing to get up on its hind legs and do a dance! Here we are, look at us, how beautiful we are!

5. What's the one thing that drives what you do at Andromache?

I believe in the power of literature to affect us all at the deepest levels. And I believe that art should be uncompromising in its excellence.

6. One doesn't have to scratch the surface of today's literary world very much to find some incredibly exciting things happening. Does it bother you that by and large the public is utterly unaware of most of it?

Oh now, ‘the Public’, you know, that’s a very slippery concept, ‘the Public’. Who is this ‘Public’ whose unconsciousness should afflict us? I have no illusions in the sense, I’ve been round the block a few times, I’ve been published by a couple of very well regarded literary houses, and ‘the Public’ remained, to all intents and purposes, unaware of my existence. I’ve certainly attained a far higher degree of visibility in the two years since I’ve been working with Andromache than in the preceding twenty-five, struggling upstream in the commercial waters. There is a very intelligent, hungry Public out there, and they love what we do, and they read us, and we love them too.

7. Do you think we are in exciting or depressing times for literature?

Oh exciting, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Depressing was ten years ago… I remember how it was very well, having sent out one’s really rather good work to every conceivable and inconceivable destination only to be told the same old same old… ‘wonderful but there is no market for this’. All of a sudden we don’t need a ‘market’ for literature. We can connect directly with readers all over the world. It’s the biggest revolution since the printing press, and the results will be equally astonishing. Already those nay-sayers who were wringing their hands over the rubbish that would result from self-publishing are having to eat their words. Sure, some rubbish gets published, but nobody pays any mind to it. The power is back with the writer, where it should be.

8. In five years' time, Andromache will be...

A little corner of excellence in an ever more beautiful literary world.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Beautiful Things That Happen to Ugly People

It's several months and considerably different weather ago since we launched the Year Zero Live tour at Rough Trade East. Now, we are coming to the tour's grand finale at another fantastic music venue, The Good Ship in Kilburn.

The event Berautiful Things that Happen to Ugly People brings together readings, music, and art, looking at those oases of beauty that spring up like unkillable weeds in even the most arid of lives. And hoping to be such a moment for everyone there. That stunning poster art is by Sarah E Melville, whose extraordinary moedern illuminated manuscript Beautiful Things that Happen to Ugly People is the centrepiece of the evening. You can also enjoy it forever on a commemorative T-shirt.

There’s also a Facebook event page - sign up and invite everyone you know.
and we are delighted to welcome as our very special guest top London poet Becca Fenton
Becca Fenton likes words and playing with sounds and likes you too, for coming to listen to hers. She used to run the 'wordPLAY' spoken word night at The Good Ship and is very excited about the current spoken word and new writing scene in the UK. her favourite cheese in Lincolnshire Poacher and her favourite film is Truly Madly Deeply.

Art by Sarm
Featuring the international launch of the books:
Beautiful Things that Happen to Ugly People by Sarah E Melville
(life:) razorblades included by Dan Holloway

Tuesday 15 June 2010

All my books in one picture

Simon from Stuck in a Book is challenging people to sum up their reading tastes in a single photo. I came across the challenge on the wonderful Farmlane Books. This is fascinating, and wonderful (we are so used to being drawn to covers that there's an inbuilt connection between books and images in all of us, such that we see a picture and can make a choice about the book ofetn without reading a word), but one of the easiest challenges I've ever been set. I'm sure my choice is no surprise. Sarah E Melville's "What's the Point of Living Anyway" is the reason she's my cover artist of choice precisely because it says everything about the things I love in a book - a sense of displacement; fragility; dystopia; deep unease; an oasis of hope; loneliness and longing. Everything is in this one image.

For more of Sarah's art go here. For her amazing blog go here. For details of her upcoming live shows in the UK go here.

Monday 14 June 2010

An inspiring author across media

On #litchat a week or so ago, I came across Cendrine Marrouat, an inspirational self-published author who works in performance, photography, and video as well as literature. It was exactly the kind of approach that excites me about writers, and Cendrine was kind enough to let me ask her some questions.

1. I get an immense sense of calm from your website. Can you tell me about the central message you try to convey through your work?
First of all, thank you very much for interviewing me. I am honored. And thank you for the compliment.
Through my work – poetry, freelance writing, photography and spoken word – I try to convey an uplifting message of peace by focusing on topics about which a lot of people are reluctant to talk. One of them is death. I even wrote a book on it.
Life is beautiful. We can only be happy if we embrace our fears.

2. I'd love to know why you took the decision to self-publish.
I have always been of an independent mind. I like to do things myself and I rarely rely on third-party help. I am a perfectionist and can spend hours polishing up small details. When you are cognizant of Photoshop, you can create great covers yourself. And Lulu provides excellent quality. I have heard a lot of people complain about them, but in my case, I only have nothing but great things to say.
However, self-publishing is not for everybody. A lot of authors do not realize that writing and publishing a book are the easiest things in the world. Marketing and promotion are the killers.
So for writers like me, who have a lot of patience, do not mind spending hours doing research and working a lot, and love to learn new things, it is an excellent choice. Self-publishing really works in the long-run.

3. You work in many different media. Do you find this helps your work, and if so how, or do you find that the different strands detract from one another?
As the Winnipeg Art Examiner and Winnipeg Spirituality Examiner, I have to write like a journalist and follow the Associated Press guidelines. With WAGTi Media Group and WAGTi Radio, it is a mixture between blogging and journalism. I also have had my blog for a couple of years. I wrote two plays and a few short stories, and dabbled in novels. Of course, I write poetry. I am an aspiring photographer with a focus on natural settings; and I do spoken word.
So, these different media help me define my unique style and force me to question my purpose as an artist. As a matter of fact, they complement one another.

4. There is such a distinctive feel to your site, I'd love to know what someone could expect who went to one of your live events.
Why, thank you!
Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to perform yet. And that is why I recorded a spoken word album. Here, in Winnipeg, Canada, nothing much happens on the poetry scene. There are a few spoken word events but they are not promoted well. Often, you hear of them after they happened. However, I would love to perform someday soon!

5. Do you think it's important for writers to perform their work? Do you feel it adds something that isn't there on the page?
I think that a real artist will always try to give his or her audience/readers a unique experience. So, ideally, I would say yes. It helps get the message across better and allows an artist to promote themselves in a more effective manner, I think.

6. Would you like to say a bit about what you have just finished working on?
My new collection Five Years and Counting. A Journey into the Mind of Soul Poetry will officially be released around August 2010. This book is unique. I regrouped more than 150 poems and put them in a specific order. I see poetry as a reflection of the human mind and as such, I wanted to highlight the most important stages in a person's life: birth and childhood, teenage years, adulthood and finally, elevation. This last stage is really about how understanding the meaning of life and death can help anybody let go of their fears and start to enjoy life to the fullest.
Right now the book is only available to members of the Five Years and Counting fan page on Facebook. Anybody can join and take advantage of the offer: http://www.facebook.com/fiveyearsandcounting.

7. And what will be coming next?
I have a second spoken word album in the works. For the first CD, I worked on my own, and recorded everything but the music at home. The music was provided by three amazing composers. This time, I have asked some incredibly talented spoken word artists, musicians and singers to collaborate in part on the project. I gave them free reign to interpret my poems; and the results so far have been amazing. This album should be released around the end of 2010.
I have also started working on a series of monthly Vlogs to help writers, especially beginners. I remember when I started five years ago, I could not really find anybody to give me advice; and the Internet was kind of confusing. Now, after many trials and errors, and a lot of work and research, I am quite knowledgeable on the topic. My first Vlog was on "good content": what is it and how do you provide it? People can view it on my YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/soulpoetrysite).
I am also looking for artists (writers, authors, musicians, etc.) in Manitoba, Canada, who are interested in being featured for my Winnipeg Art Examiner column. Feel free to contact me at info@cendrinemarrouat.com.
For more information on what I do, visit my official website: http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com/. For every purchase in the Books & CD section, I donate a dollar to a selected charity.

Friday 11 June 2010

reading (poem)

cinched in the waist of a wholesome window
five streets from soho
ohso proper doorways
and strangers in sunhats with san miguels
and they've all got drinks and kisses
and they've all got slickety laughs
and they've all got smiles and cigarillos
and just enough friends
and just enough coke
and just the right words
and just the right names
and in streamers we tattoo the streetlamp black
and in velvet our tongues streak the glass
and we're all strung out for the smell of piss
and all the beers are someone else's

Wednesday 9 June 2010


My new book (life:) razorblades included is now on sale!!The chapbook, with a beautiful wraparound cover made from Daisy's stunning image (a photograph she took of herself as soon as she had finished reading the book), is just £5 + P&P.BUY THE BOOK HERE

Most of the content can be found online in various places, but the fully curated (i.e. I actually thought up an order that kind of reads like a journey. Or something), collection, with introduction, is just 99 cents, for all ebook formatsBUY THE EBOOK HERE

(cover image copyright Daisy Anne Gree)

That's the promo bit. What I wanted to share here is the introduction to the book, which explains why I put together the pieces I did, and left others out. Of course, I hope it makes you want to buy the book. But I hope it's also something to think about.


Camus was wrong. Whether or not to kill oneself is not the only question. That would be as absurd as those old romantic novels that ended at the altar, as ridiculous as Ewan MacGregor walking into the credits choosing life. The difficult question, the one that matters, the one we have to answer in the real world and not the halls of learning, is what the hell you do next once you’ve decided to live.

For all that so much of the material in this book deals with death, this is a book about life. It has two starting points, the two things we wake up to every day – that it would be so much easier not to open our eyes, but to lie back down and slowly forget to breathe; and that we do not. We take that magnificent, exhilarating, impossible, anarchic, destructive, mind-boggling, terrifying decision to live.

Choosing life does not mean oblating oneself on the altar of beige. To live, in the belief that it is somehow easier to do so than to die; to live, and to believe every obstacle is thereby behind us; these are acts of self-deception I long to able to perform, but can’t. For many many people, making the choice to live means a daily struggle with, and embracing of, pain, hurt, and helplessness.

This collection is about the full implication of what it means to live, not just to breathe, but to grapple again and again with the effortless simplicity of death and the impossibility of life, but to choose, again and again and again, the latter. To choose life is to choose the unpassable course. To choose life is to live at the edge of the map of the human soul, in a place where every eyeline looks beyond the horizon, and to continue into that hot, chill, black, burning bright unknown regardless. To choose life means, on occasion, to choose the unacceptable, the inconceivable, the immoral, the ridiculous.

My writing has been called bleak, dark, and bereft of joy and hope. The first two of these I will readily concede. The latter two, never. In a world where the default setting is vanilla, acceptance, expectation, normal; in a world where the tragic few who wrestle with life full-on and fail are condemned when it is not they who are too sick for the world, but the world too sick for them; in a world where the grey, suited swamp of the billion walking dead is revered; in this world, anyone or anything that celebrates the full, damaged, despairing, fucked-up and spectacular reality of life is a shriek, a shout, a holler of joy to pierce the eardrum of death.

Open up this book, take a deep breath of it into yourself and smell and taste and touch the words and let them graze the inside of your lungs. Fill your heart and your blood and your head with its oxygen, and go out and live.

Saturday 5 June 2010

(life:) razorblades included

My new book is almost here!!

(life:) razorblades included is now on sale!!
The chapbook, with a beautiful wraparound cover made from Daisy's stunning image (a photograph she took of herself as soon as she had finished reading the book), is just £5 + P&P.

Most of the content can be found online in various places, but the fully curated (i.e. I actually thought up an order that kind of reads like a journey. Or something), collection, with introduction, is just 99 cents, for all ebook formats

A HUGE thanks to Daisy Anne Gree for the cover image (and a note to all that this doesn't mean that I've turned my back on Sarah as my lifelong cover designer!)

It will be published by eight cuts gallery press, which is part of my new eight cuts gallery project.

Please spread the word, and if you'd like to interview me about it or review it that would be fantastic. Here's what the blurb ni my press release thingy says:

“Die living” urges the dedication to (life:) razoblades included. But just what does it mean to “live”?

Camus was wrong. Whether or not to kill yourself is not the only question. It’s just the start. Dan Holloway’s first collection of poems and short stories ranges from the lyrical awake to the transgressive SKIN BOOK; the Beat-inspired adam to the blankness of The Last Fluffer in La La Land; but they are held together by a single theme. The decision to live. Not the happy ever after that comes when deliberation ends, but the beginning of the joyous, energising, enervating, exhilarating, immoral, implacable, impossible decision to wake up, open your eyes, and truly live, with all the exhilarating, nightmarish consequences that decision brings.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Interview with an Inspiration

For those of you who don't know her, Shayne Parkinson is the author of Sentence of Marriage, a beautiful work of historical fiction that's the 6th most downloaded book of all time on Smashwords from over 11,000. I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak to her about how she has managed to achieve this in such an unassuming yet effective way.

You can find out about Shayne on her Smashwords profile, and her website, and you can follow her blog.

Sentence of Marriage (read a recent review here)

In 19th Century New Zealand, there are few choices for a farm girl like Amy. Her life seems mapped out for her by the time she is twelve. Amy dreams of an exciting life in the world beyond her narrow boundaries. But it is the two people who come to the farm from outside the valley who change her life forever, and Amy learns the high cost of making the wrong choice. Book 1 of "Promises to Keep".

A huge thank you to Shayne:

1. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I've never tried the traditional publishing route. I write mainly because I enjoy the company of my characters, and want to find out what they're up to. Cool observation of the process of seeking publication (especially in New Zealand, where very little fiction by unknown writers is published) suggests to me that if I *did* try I'd plunge myself into a cycle of ill-founded hope, well-intentioned but quite possibly ill-advised rewrites, and repeated disappointments. I decided to skip the disappointment stage.
But I *do* love having readers. In the early days of my writing, this meant manuscripts passing around to friends and acquaintances and friends of acquaintances. Now I can use the wonders of the Web to distribute on a grander scale.

2. Having made the decision to self-publish, you have focused very much on e-publishing. What was the reasoning behind that?
I didn't actually start with e-publishing, though it's certainly where I am now. I first encountered self-publishing when an online friend of mine mentioned that she'd put a novel on Lulu. It seemed a good way of making print versions of my work available to people who'd expressed a desire to have a copy of their own, and that's what I used it for. Print-On-Demand for long books like mine is an expensive option, and my print sales have never been above a trickle.
I came across Smashwords last year. I loved the enthusiasm and energy of its founder, Mark Coker, and his determination to make self-published e-books available on an ever-increasing range of platforms. With e-publishing, it's no more expensive to produce a 600-page book than a 200-page one, and there's no postage to double the price of my print books. The tyranny of distance no longer rules.

3. You write historical fiction, and it has always seemed to me that this lends itself very well to your approach, both because it has a loyal, genre-based following, and because HF books tend to be longer than average, meaning the price of a self-published paperback will be relatively high. How effective do you think your approach is for authors working in different areas?
That's an interesting observation, and you're quite right regarding length and price. I can't comment with any authority on other genres, but I won't let that stop me.
Fantasy also tends to be long, and seems quite well-represented on Smashwords (my husband has a couple of fantasy novels there, so I keep an eye on the genre). Science fiction, too, seems to do well as e-books (and the one full-length novel on Smashwords with more downloads than mine is SF). Romance has a very visible e-presence, perhaps because romance fans are often voracious readers. They're certainly well-served by some very smart sites.
I'd wondered if historical fiction readers might be less enthusiastic about adopting e-reading than followers of more tech-y genres, but that doesn't seem to be the case, going by download figures. Liking to read about the past isn't the same as wanting to live there.

4. You have made the decision to make Sentence of Marriage free, but to charge for other books. Can you explain the rationale behind that.
I'm an unknown writer amid a plethora of unknown writers, and using a medium where people are used to finding vast amounts of free content. Even a cost of a few cents can be enough to put people off if it means registering with a new site, remembering where the credit card is, etc. By making Sentence of Marriage free, people are far more likely to download it. Most of those people will never get around to reading it, of course (some people collect more or less every free e-book they come across), or will take a look and decide it's not for them. But quite a few get entangled in my web, and find they have to read on.
I did originally charge for Sentence of Marriage as well, and sales were more of a drip than a trickle. It didn't take long after I made it free of charge for sales of the other books to reach the hundreds. The fact that I'm now making a modest amount of money from my books means I can justify spending more time writing, and no longer need to subsidise my research costs with my "real" job.

5. Sentence of Marriage is the 6th most downloaded book on Smashwords, a site with almost 12,000 titles. How did you manage that?
I'm as surprised as anyone else! I'm also delighted. It still feels like a compliment every time someone downloads a book (and there have been over 11,000 downloads now, so I feel very complimented).
Marketing is not something that comes naturally to me, but I do like talking about my books. I've been lucky enough to have enthusiastic readers who've encouraged others to take a chance on an unknown. Probably the biggest single factor has been an unexpected bonus of making Sentence of Marriage free: it then got listed in several directories of free e-books. That was when I first started seeing a big increase in downloads, and it's a trend that's continued.

6. Your book has attracted a lot of very positive reviews. How easy did you find it getting people to read and review a self-published e-book?
Many review sites do say "No self-published" and/or "no e-books"; probably the majority of them, in fact. But I think this is gradually changing, especially regarding e-books, and it's worth looking for the exceptions. Some sites do specialise in particular genres, or perhaps specialise in *avoiding* particular genres, and of course it's important to check that before submitting.
I've had very nice reviews from formal review sites, and I've also been fortunate enough to have some lovely ones on Smashwords. Almost all the Smashwords reviews are from people I've had no contact with, and have no idea how they found the books - I wish I did, as I could thank them properly! I've also come across an occasional review in blog entries from specially generous readers, and I'm sure these have sent people my way.

7. What would your three top pieces of advice be to those thinking of doing what you have done?
- Trite though it sounds, make your book the best it can be before you unleash it on the world. Share it with people who'll give you their honest opinions, take note of their responses while respecting your own gut feelings. Polish, polish, polish. Don't give ammunition to the people who disparage self-published work as full of typos and grammatical errors, and inevitably poorly edited.
- Be visible, but don't be a pain. People don't appreciate having their forums or blogs invaded by people who are only there to blatantly promote their books. I've found a couple of friendly forums where I enjoy chatting about books and about life in general; if I didn't feel I wanted to interact with these people, I'd just slip away quietly.
- Make the most of what the Web offers. Use tools like Google Analytics and Google alerts. Make judicious use of hyperlinks; for example, in my books I put a link to my website, where I have family trees and some historical background to the books' settings. Blog, but don't try and make your blog a clone of anyone else's. When I started mine, I vaguely assumed I'd mainly blog about the writing process. I soon realised that there are squillions of other blogs out there where people make a better job of that than I would, and the world does not need to read my love song to the adverb.

8. What next for you?
I'm looking forward to Smashwords books being available in the Kindle store, and to getting sales figures from partners like Barnes & Noble. As for new work: one thing I'm never short of is ideas. I have a work-in-progress; unfortunately I'm possibly the world's slowest living writer, and it's likely to be at least a year before it's finished. I have plots in various stages of development for at least half a dozen after that. I've plans for research trips to various parts of the country, including some places I haven't been to since childhood. I have vague plans for making an audiobook, and have made a small start towards that. My head continues to be full of characters clamouring for attention, and I continue to enjoy letting them tell their stories.