Jun 22nd

Editorial critique for #authorsforgrenfell

By Andrew

Bid for an editorial critique from me for #authorsforgrenfell - here is a link to my offer, and there are lots of other critiques and agent lunches and signed copies and other bookish giveaways too. 


Jun 20th


By RichardB

'It's lovely to be here tonight. Actually, I'm seventy-three and he's seventy-five, so it's lovely to be anywhere.'


Thus, Frank Allen of the Searchers, speaking from the stage of the Pavilion in Whitby during the sixties music festival I was at a couple of weeks ago.


The Searchers, who grew out of a skiffle group founded by the teenage John McNally (the one who's seventy-five) as far back as 1957, were one of the original Merseybeat groups (never bands in those days), but they always had a bit of a penchant for softer, more melodic stuff, going so far as to record folky songs like Malvinia Reynolds' 'What Have They Done to the Rain?' and Gordon Lightfoot's 'Four Strong Winds.' The teenage RichardB, who liked his music with a bit of oomph and edge and was a fan of the Stones and the Who, was not impressed.


As I got older my tastes broadened and my tolerance increased, as they hopefully do, and I couldn't help but to give the Searchers respect when I learned that, unlike many acts from that period who have reformed (often with only tenuous connections to the original line-up) to take advantage of the current climate of nostalgia and tribute bands, they have never disbanded. Since the hits dried up in the late sixties they have continued to slog away without a break, touring all over the world and releasing the occasional album, sometimes to critical acclaim but seldom with much in the way of sales. In the last couple of decades they have undergone a bit of a renaissance, building a solid reputation as one of the best acts on the nostalgia circuit.


True, John McNally is the only remaining member who played on their first hits in 1963, but their line-up always was a bit fluid, and Frank Allen has been hanging in there since 1964. This is not a tribute band. The tradition is unbroken. This is the real deal.


As for me, my conversion was completed that Saturday night in Whitby. The festival is done cabaret style, with the audience seated at long tables, a bar in the corner, and a space left in front of the stage for dancing. This creates an informal atmosphere in which enthusiasm can blossom, and that night it did.


Okay, so two of the group are in their seventies, but that also means they have had plenty of practice at what they do. Buoyed up by an audience out to have a good time, they delivered a stonking set, playing with verve and obvious huge enjoyment. It wasn't a bad performance for a bunch of old farts. In fact, it was one of the best gigs, and probably the most joyous, I have ever been to.


You've got to hand it to them.

Jun 19th

Stories for Homes - new story

By Catasshe

Brilliant new story this week on Stories for Homes site. 

In light of recent events, affordable housing is at the forefront of so many minds, having seen the dire consequences of unsafe housing. 

Shelter is doing a truly heroic job of trying to combat the many evils of the housing crisis and all the suffering it causes. A job that is not being done by government and councils. 

Please share far and wide on Twitter, Facebook, email to friends. 




Jun 16th

Monica H and Bric Go Mad in Montenegro (II): Return from the Balkans

By Monica Handle

You know you’re not in Kansas anymore when you find yourself swimming into the dark maw of a Yugoslav National Army submarine tunnel, cut into the side of an Adriatic mountain, occasionally doing a bit of backstroke just to have the comfort of reminding yourself that there is still a blue sky at the entrance, and then realising that the weird screechy noises above you are evidence of lots of bats somewhere up ahead.  Yes – up ahead - in the scary black bit where you hope the tunnel finally ends.  To cheer yourself up (your fellow swimmers have gone a bit quiet; there’s just a steady splash, splash going on) you think: well, at least we haven’t seen any jellyfish over the past couple of days.  Right then, as if it had read your mind, something white and bulbous looms up, something with pale tentacles looping downwards, absolutely fucking right next to your face.  There’s some thrashing and gasping at this point.

The other thing we hadn’t seen much of by day 4 of the Montenegrin swimming adventure, was rubbish.  For a couple of days, I’d been internally congratulating all the crews of the fishing and tourist boats, the staff and passengers on the vast cruise ships and the various hotel, restaurant and bar owners, on their very tidy habits and careful recycling policies.  You really notice these things when you spend hours in the water, and it’s a lovely surprise these days to find whole stretches of coastline without the usual detritus of a messy, careless ‘civilisation’.  I well remember an ill-considered dive into the chilly Atlantic off the coast of Portugal, which resulted in me surfacing in the midst of a disgusting Sargasso sea of plastic bottles, used condoms and bloated sanitary towels.  That day I discovered that I can hold my breath for a surprising length of time when I really need to.

Lovely as the absence of sea-going junk may be, in that creepy submarine tunnel I was ever so relieved and pleased to suddenly identify the ‘jelly fish’ as a simple, flimsy supermarket shopping bag.  ‘Maybe that’s what keeps the jelly fish away,’ I mused.  ‘Perhaps they see the bags as competitors, and go elsewhere.  Good for you, bags.  Actually, we need more of you in the sea.’

Montenegro SwimTrek wasn’t all crass Freudian experiences, thank goodness.  We had five days of blissfully warm sea and fresh water, swimming along rugged karst coasts and across wriggling fjord inlets, exploring the amazing Lake Skadar right up to the Albanian border (marked, it seemed by giant pelican sentinels), and even braving a rather colder river swim which took us through landscape which seemed a mix of the scenery from Apocalypse Now and Deliverance.  We climbed rocky hillsides to picnic outside half-abandoned churches, took turns at trying out the SwimTrek drone, and amazed visitors to various islands by boasting that we hadn’t taken the ferry.  All in all, it was easily the best fun you can have lying down.  Well, almost….

We were an eclectic and multi-national bunch, comprising swimmers from the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Australia, Iceland and the USA.  Some of the party were decidedly hard-core: one of our Icelandic chums had completed a 70km solo channel swim on his second attempt, the first being interrupted by the inconvenience of a broken shoulder at km 30.  Our American companion was a regular at the Alcatraz crossings, and never missed ‘a day in the Bay’, as he put it, even when water temperatures were barely above freezing.  No wetsuit, neither.  The Swiss swimmer was still competing in Masters events, even as she passed 40.  Luckily for us, there were a few slowcoaches as well, who didn’t mind taking turns with us to share the pink (very slow) and orange (medium-slow) swim caps. 

Montenegro is still emerging from the horrors of the wars in the Balkans, and there are some signs of rushed development: bodged roads, planning thrown out of the window, mysterious giant marinas apparently funded by dodgy money from Azerbaijan.  But, on the whole, it’s a delightful place, with delicious seafood (the best grilled octopus ever), undiscovered wines and unintentionally funny snack names.  Macho chocolate bar, anyone? 

Best of all, though, was the swimming, in and of itself.  No phone, tablet or laptop.  Not even much in the way of thought.  Just splash, glide, pull, breathe, repeat, until another shore came into view and, hopefully, also a glass of wine, a splendid dinner, some swimming chat and an early night. 


Jun 13th

Independent publishers and Kindle Scout

By curlykats

I’ve learned a lot since first joining the Cloud, around 7 years ago. Back then I thought that the only way to get my novels published was to find an agent and then a publisher. So I went on the ‘Getting Published’ day, diligently followed agents’ guidelines, and collected rejections, some more positive than others. Occasionally my hopes were raised, the odd full manuscript request, but the end result was ultimately the same.

 I then saw a request for submissions to an independent publisher of speculative fiction, Elsewhen. These seemed a perfect fit for the first of what became the first of my Blueprint trilogy, Future Perfect, and so it proved. All three books have now been published, and it’s been a positive experience. Elsewhen have been supportive throughout the process and created a lovely family feeling among their writers. There are a couple of downsides. The sales, for one. But over the years, I’ve realised I’m not writing to make money. I’m writing for the love of it, and if a few hundred people read and enjoy my books, that’s a bonus. It’s hugely liberating to reach that realisation. After all, I always preferred indie music like the Smiths to big-label acts like Duran Duran. Why should I be any different as a writer?

But the major downside of Elsewhen is that not all of what I write comes under the banner of 'speculative fiction'. So I’m now trying something new, Kindle Scout, and wondered if anyone else has tried it? It involves submitting a book and a cover and, if approved, you have 30 days to get as many nominations as possible. The books with the most nominations are then considered by the judges and if successful, are published on Kindle, with a $1,500 advance, 50% royalties and publicity. I know someone who succeeded last year and hit the top 100 Kindle bestsellers. You have to give them a 45-day exclusivity period but that was no problem, the novel’s been finished for ages and was just sitting around. I’m almost hallway through the campaign and I have to say it’s been a good experience so far. I’ll blog again at the end and share what I’ve learned. But in the meantime, I'd love to know if anyone also has tried it and how they found it?

 Finally (you guessed it!) I’d be grateful if anyone would like to check out my campaign page and nominate me if you like what you see. As an added incentive, if I win, you get a free copy of the e-book when it’s published.





Jun 12th


By Catasshe

Hello all, 

This may be rather a hackneyed theme, but just heard that I did not get a place in a local competition I very much wanted to get into. 

I know, don't we all, that having to develop a thick skin and weather countless knock-backs is just run of the mill for writers... JK Rowling rejected 9 times etc etc... 

But somehow knowing this intellectually never seems to prepare one for the pain of the knock-backs.

Wondering if Cloudies have any words of wisdom on how exactly to cope with it when you get rejected from something you felt you had a good chance in and now feel stupid and no good as a result...

Anyone got any specific tactics to recommend? (Other than, just get over it, or turn to hard liquor...)

Catherine x

Jun 12th

Stories for Homes

By Catasshe

New fabulous story this week by Katherine Hetzel: Potato Soup


Please share on Facebook and Tweet about it!

Catherine xx

Jun 11th

The Khyber Pass

By John Alty

Another snippet from my assignment in Pakistan….


For some time I’d wanted to travel through the Khyber Pass to the Afghanistan border at Torkham but so far had been too busy with the mill. Throughout history the Khyber Pass has been an important trade route between Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, part of the Silk Road, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see it. One day Salahuddin told me that Marooh and Hammadi wanted to go to Landi Kotal, a town at the highest point on the Khyber Pass, to buy some duty-free goods. He suggested I go with them and while they shopped the driver would take me another three miles to the border so I could look into Afghanistan. I quickly agreed and we set off early the next morning to cover the thirty or so miles to Landi Kotal, me up front with the driver and the odd couple on the back seat, holding hands as usual. From Peshawar we took the Asian Highway up through the Spin Ghar Mountains, through the Khyber Pass. The road snaked this way and that as it gained altitude, a precipitous drop to one side, my side, a steep rock wall to the other. Down in the valley I could see concrete anti-tank structures strewn like giant children’s jacks, a legacy of the Second World War. We passed convoys of gaudily decorated buses belching black smoke, their roofs piled high with baggage and bicycles and boxes, and trucks staggering under massive loads of timber, scrap metal and grain sacks.


At Landi Kotal, the western end of the Pass and highest point at 3,500 feet above sea level, we dropped the boys, made arrangements to meet them in an hour and set off for the border. Parked at a spot just off the road I looked down into Afghanistan, the valley floor broadening out to an endless plain framed on each side by mountains. In Pakistan they drove on the left and in Afghanistan they drove on the right. This conflict was resolved at the Torkham border post below us where a sort of miniature spaghetti junction directed the opposing flows of traffic across each other to continue their journeys on the other side of the road.


Back at Landi Kotal the driver went off to round up the others and I wandered through the town in the increasing heat as noon approached. The bazaar appeared to have grown haphazardly over the years with crude structures erected here and there with no logical layout. There were stalls offering leather goods such as Peshwari sandals, belts, holsters and bandoliers, there were colourful mountains of fruit, piles of exotic eastern spices and bolts of material in every hue. Goat carcasses hung from steel hooks outside the butcher’s shack, the proprietor occasionally flicking a whisk to momentarily interrupt the gorging of the black flies which encased them. Men squatted in groups drinking green tea, smoking and chatting, their eyes following me as I strolled by, an alien interloper. 


Further on I came across some rough brick buildings and in these were several gunsmiths. I watched a worker boring out a metal rod by hand to make a gun barrel and stacked against a wall were several completed rifles. This area had a reputation for producing unlicensed, homemade copies of firearms using whatever scrap metal was available. They’d make anything from a perfect copy of a British Army revolver to a musket and the quality would vary from superb to dangerously rubbish. 


Pashtun tribesmen with Kalashnikov rifles slung over their shoulders strolled in twos and threes. The pungent smell of hashish was all around, mingling with the tang of wood smoke from the small bakeries churning out coarse chapattis. I returned to find Hammadi and Marooh cuddled in the back seat of the Toyota enjoying the air-conditioning, surrounded by boxes of electrical appliances and stainless-steel pots and pans. Then we were wending our way back down the Khyber Pass to Peshawar, dust billowing behind the car and the boys chattering happily together.


Jun 11th

re boot


Out of the blue I had a nudge from someone in the trade albiet magazine publishing who read some of my wip last year,  asking if I had finished it yet.  

I met them socailly last year and sent some of it to them on their personal email.. They then requested some more and I never heard anything else from them after sending the first 10k explaining that it wasn't finished. 
Told them I hadn't written a word in months. They suggested I should and did so with an implied enthusiasim.   It was a nice ego boost.
How do I finish something I have lost all interest in?
How do I plow through the mechanics of turd polishing once I finish what ever it is?
What happens when, after all of the above, I actually have to meet some of these people and they discover that I am actually Alf Garnett?
... On the financial side, I have done some pencil equations on betting slips and if this goes ahead, I would gain about £4226.45 before I ever published a word as that is the amount I would have been spending in the pub instead of spending time writing?
So,  the reboot of my writing , here goes...
It was a Dark and Stormy night so I was staying with the theme and drinking Hurricanes in a bar called Monsoon in the unflushed  toilet which is Batangas City.  It was the kind of place where they search you for guns on the way in and if you don't have one, they will sell you one.
I had brushed off a barmaid who had promised me a lifetime of sexual fullfilment if I married her and took her to Tesco in London.  Her brother, a jeepney driver had offered me everthing from automatic weapons to class A drugs if I would give him my passport.   
In the corner, a band was cranking out a Beatles medly includubg Wuv Wuv me Doo and a song I had requested for some Russian 'engineers' at a table nearby with their 'dates', a special verson of 'Back in the USSR'....
When it played, the Russians looked around in annoyance which is something Russians do quite well, probably because they do it so often.  
I nodded to Andre and said;
"Job tvoyu mat, Tovarich. Shouldn't you be getting your girlfiend home soon, she probably has homework to do?"



hmm. needs work. maybe try again next month.


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