Thursday, 28 February 2013

Procrastination - I blame it all on the Social Media - by Hywela Lyn

Coincidences don’t have any place in fiction (or  so we’re always told) but when I was desperately trying to think of a theme for this month’s post, one thought kept creeping in. "If I didn’t have to spend so much time on Facebook, Twitter, and – dare I say it – blogging. I would be able to concentrate more on my writing." Then I realised that Ros said pretty much the same thing in her post yesterday. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy blogging and it is an exercise in writing after all.  I have my own blog, a blog I run with friends, and of course 'Authors Electric' and I love them all dearly, but all this 'social networking' lark does tend to run away with the time, sometimes.

The trouble is, as Ros says, in order to sell your books, people have to know who you are, or at least what your books are, and where they are.  These days, whether you’re self-published or traditionally published, or with a ‘small press’, paperback, hardback or E-book,  the problem is the same. Once the book is ‘out there’ you have to put yourself ‘out there ‘ too,  so that you can ‘promote’ your work. It’s not even that easy, though. There are thousands of authors out there, all willing the readers to purchase their books, and readers very quickly get tired of the same old ‘this is my book, it’s fantastic – really, please buy it.’ So we have to find some other way to capture their interest and hopefully get them to remember our name. We resort to the aforementioned Blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, Good-Reads, Linked-in, and a myriad loops and groups out there, we try to 'chat' and be friendly, and support each other, but even so, sales are not guaranteed. Is it any wonder we become exhausted, dispirited and discouraged, and allow our muse to go to sleep or worse, wither away from neglect?
It occurred to me a while ago that the reason my Work In Progress is still a WiP and not a finished manuscript, revised within an inch of its life and ready to be sent to an editor , is because I spend far too much time on the internet.  Not being a morning person, my first hour or so is spent wading through the two hundred or so emails I get daily (my husband and I also have a small on-line business  so not all the emails are mine, but they still have to be dealt with. )  Emails are about the only thing my half asleep brain can cope with first thing in the morning.  Then, in between walking the dog, housework, seeing to the horses, etc. etc. there is Facebook to be checked out, My  Triberr stream to be approved (I’m really not much of a Tweeter but I do my best) Blog posts to be prepared,other people's blogs to be visited and commented on (it’s only polite to visit someone’s blog if they’ve been kind enough to comment on yours) and before I know it the day’s gone and I haven’t written or revised a word of my novel.  

After some further thought, I have concluded that I need  a deadline in order to ‘kick my butt into gear’ and actually do what I enjoy and want to be doing.  I can manage to write 50,000 words in a month for National Novel Writing Month by forcing myself away from the Social Media circuit and making myself write for an hour or two or how ever long it takes to get those 1,700 words a day written (and 1,700 words a day is not really all that many).  So why can’t I do it every day?  There is an American group called the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, and every February they hold a ‘Writing Festival’ for six weeks, where anyone can register and set their own goals, gaining a point for every day they achieve the goals.  It’s very casual, you are encouraged to award yourself a point just for making an effort to write on a difficult day.  There are prize draws for those who achieve their goals each week and daily ‘sprints’ where members meet in a ‘chat room’ and write together for sprints of 20 to 40 minutes.  There is something about working on-line in the company of others doing the same thing that is very empowering and encouraging and the support when we get to chat, in between sprints, helps to motivate us to further efforts.

So – if I can get away from the internet and force myself to work on ‘the novel’ for four weeks, or even six weeks, and still manage to keep my blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts up to date, and not neglect my online friends too much, I should be able to do it every day, shouldn’t I? 

Only time will tell, but I’m certainly going to try.Get thee behind me, Procrastination!


You can find out more about Lyn and her books on her  WEBSITE
She also blogs at her own BLOG, and THE AUTHOR ROAST AND TOAST

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A Writer on the Edge of Giving Up...

Two weeks ago I scribbled a possible title in my diary for today's post. It was not a good day. 'This writer is on the verge of giving up,' I scrawled. Then my internal editor kicked in and said: 'No, you can't possibly write that. It will discourage other people and what will they think of you?'

I decided to give it a bit of time. I got back from a week in my seaside flat this afternoon and saw, with rather a shock, that tomorrow was the 26th and I had not yet written my blog. Nor did I have any ideas - just that barely-legible note from a fortnight ago.

So I will go with that. It has not been an easy few months, writing-wise. I am very disappointed with sales (or rather lack of them) of my self-published books. I know it's probably my own fault for not being sufficently committed to publicity. But I've tried so many things, all time- and energy-consuming, some of them costing money, and to be honest, I'm rather sick of all the social networking. Not, I hasten to add, of chatting to friends and getting to know fellow authors - that's the fun part. But using social media to try to persuade people to read my stuff - well, folks, it just aint working for me.

Going off to the seaside is good in a number of ways, one of which is that my current internet connection there is lousy, so I can't even reply to emails very easily, and the thought of trying to blog and tweet and Facebook and all the rest... it's just not possible.

Which gives me all these empty hours. Some of them I spend walking (well wrapped up, this past week), on the cliffs or on the beach. Wonderful. I've caught up on reading (just discovered Barbara Pym - how could I not have read her books before now? So very funny - and her career is rather inspiring too, but that's for another time). I've been listening to piano music and decided I would like to have a go at playing again. But most of all, I've been sitting with a notebook and pen, just thinking. And scribbling. Not just messages to myself about giving up writing, though there was a bit of that. But one or two characters turned up - ones I already knew a bit - and suggested to me that they might have developed a bit further while I had my eye on other things.

So I listened in and wrote down what they said. I rediscovered some of the joys of just writing, nothing else. With no eye on the clock. No jumping back and forth between different books. No juggling with household chores. Not even thinking about who might eventually read this stuff or how to make it accessible and visible. Just me and the notebook and pen.

It was lovely. That's really all I can say. This is a short post, partly because I haven't given myself much time but also because I don't have a lot to say. Except - I haven't quite given up, not yet...

Best wishes
Ros



Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A Tale of Two Publishers (and 'Excepots') by Enid Richemont

My illustrator and colleague, the amazingly talented Jan Ormerod, died recently. We'd been out of touch for some time, not deliberately, but in the way that these things happen, so, sadly, I learnt of her demise via FACEBOOK - not my favourite means of communication.

Jan illustrated just one of my children's books  - 'THE MAGIC SKATEBOARD', and I was enchanted by her work. The story is about a black kid - Danny - who, in trying to perfect his skateboarding skills, encounters a very old lady who can perform so much better than him that she can skateboard up the sides of nearby houses and across the roofs. Danny's now magic skateboard will take him on an amazing journey up Nelson's Column in London and then across  night and day skies to a beach in Australia, and finally into Buckingham Palace because Danny really needs a pee. Jan did wonderful (I think) scraperboard, black and white illustrations for the text, and also silhouettes of a boy skateboarding. The cover image she did went through several small changes, one to please the American market, and the back image was a joy - the Queen's loo roll!

I'm thinking of re-publishing 'THE MAGIC SKATEBOARD' as an ebook, using one of Jan's cover images which is out there on Amazon anyway.  She was happy for me to use her work for this, but the inside drawings are part of a layout which my 'then' publisher owns, so they will never be seen, and neither will the back cover image which won't appear on Amazon. If you can get hold of a secondhand copy, please do. Jan had a recent obituary in The Times - do Google. She was a lovely person, and a great illustrator.

And now to my Tale of Two Publishers - a cautionary tale (apologies to Beatrix Potter). Once upon a time there were two publishers. Each one fell in love with a Mouse, but not the same Mouse. After, maybe, three years, the First Publisher said: 'I will bring this Mouse to life, but he requires major surgery'. A contract was signed and surgery was performed. A year and a half went by. There was talk of earwax and candle wax, of cabbages and kings, but still the Mouse lay dormant. He lies dormant right now, awaiting a Frankenstein lightning strike, but will they deliver it?

The Second Publisher said, joyfully: 'I will bring this Mouse to life, because I totally love this Mouse.' And he did, and in the Kingdom of the Mouse, there was great rejoicing.

Take whatever moral you will from this story, indie authors, with my blessing.


I am currently playing with the idea of turning some of my Young Adult novels into film scripts. I've already converted 'THE TIME TREE', which is being marketed by Wild Thyme Productions, but film deals take a long time to come to fruition (and can I live so long?) Many years ago, 'THE GAME' was optioned by David Wood. It was based in and around Camden Town, London, which would have made location very easy, but the project ran out of money - as so many other creative projects do - so it never happened. The exercise of converting a novel for film has been very valuable, though - not time wasted.

And lastly, typos. I've recently become fascinated by them, and am considering making a personal collection. Mine tend towards Middle English and, possibly, Serbo-Croat. The verb:     ' woulked', which seems to crop up regularly, seems to suggest an activity we no longer indulge in, but I like its sound (when did you last 'woulke?') Definitions would be welcome. And what about: 'excepot'? Is it a word for an urinal? Or maybe the emergence from a drug-induced euphoric state? Suggestions please. I have a theory that, if I collected enough of them, I could use them in a poem.






 

Monday, 25 February 2013

Electric Publishing Gets Cool - Andrew Crofts

Jamal Edwards, an extremely cool young music and on-line television entrepreneur, who is starring in the dramatisation of my novel, The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride, has just signed with Virgin to produce a digital business title, which will be released in six separate downloadable levels by Virgin Digital.
In each level the reader works through a different stage of setting up a business. There are crunch decision points where you have to choose which path you’ll take, which might lead you to success, but might also lead you to ruin. 
I’m pretty convinced that Jamal is one of the coolest men on the planet, (apart from anything else, I am reliably informed that his mother is the “Killer Queen” in “We Will Rock You”), and if he is moving into electric books that makes the rest of us equally cool by association.
Faber, meanwhile, have designed an eye-catching cover for a new edition of Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar and the complaints have started to fly. Literary folk who are just as likely to be complaining that their publishers are “useless as marketing” raise their hands in horror, suggesting that the Philistines have now made La Plath look like a purveyor of “Chicklit”.
At the same time Wattpad.com, a true purveyor of writing to and amongst the world’s masses, launched its own “Chicklit” genre this month, spearheaded by the fabulous Marian Keyes, a woman who has never shrunk from any label which will help her to talk to wider audiences. (23 million books sold so far and constantly rising).
Personally, I love any “label” and any cover design which coaxes more people to read whatever I have written, and I had better declare an interest here and admit that Wattpad included The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride, in the Chicklit launch. I am looking forward to a great deal of correspondence with readers on the site as a result, since connecting with readers is the whole point of coming into this game in the first place – a concept which I suspect would seem so obvious to young Jamal Edwards as to be barely worth pointing out.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Author Events At The London Book Fair 2013 - Stephanie Zia

Preparations for The London Book Fair  (April 15 - 17) are in full swing with news of seminars and events gradually going up online.
The London Book Fair, Earl's Court
I was planning on giving the Author Lounge a wide birth this year. This tiny space furnished with toadstool-like perches and featuring hard-sell salesmen seemed to embody all that was wrong with the author/publishing industry relationship. It looks like it's all change this year. The Author Lounge has its own Seminar Room with a schedule of talks, discussions and events and authors are even being pitched to on the front page of the Fair website. Alongside digital - another backwater a couple of years ago. Times they have changed.



Full details are still coming through but already announced are:

E to Eternity  The future of digital  hosted by Kindle Direct Publishing

Are bookstores here to stay?  Sam Husein, Chief Executive, Foyles.

The challenges facing digital publishing with Jason Cooper, digital director Faber & Faber and Friday Project's Scott Pack (1pm 16th April - I'll be queuing for that one)

Author as entrepreneur with G. P. Taylor and Polly Courtney

How to get a literary agent Henry de Rougement, The Hanbury Agency

The future of literary agents  Andrew Lownie  Andrew recently announced his own ebook and POD publishing initiative, Thistle Publishing.  From The Bookseller 15 Feb 2013" Lownie said, “With e-book publishers and Amazon offering up to 70%, publishers will be left behind if they don’t adapt.” He added: “This is something we do in addition to our main job. There are some books that don’t fit the conventional model, where publishers don’t see the market for it, but we do - or they can’t publish it quickly enough … We are still acting as agents - but we are giving a brand, through Thistle, to these particular books. We are giving people the opportunity to earn while we showcase the works.” 

When is a book not a book? Eric Huang 
Director, New Business & IP Acquisitions at Penguin Books Charlie Redmayne 
CEO, Pottermore

There's also The Pitch, a literary agent pitching event. You have to book your place in advance & can register for a flags-up of when tickets are being released here. This is real progress as in years before the agents were all hidden away on their own floor at the top of escalators you needed a special pass for! They still are, of course. My friend and I went up to have a look, pointing our noses straight ahead and not catching Security's eye we got through. There's not much to see, lots of tables and a champagne bar.   

The AuthorLounge is being curated by Authoright. I know nothing about them but this can only be an improvement on what went before. The events there are only the tip of the iceberg. The three days are crammed full of seminars and discussions scattered in rooms and on stands through the vast space that is Earl's Court. Registration also includes a year's free membership of an international rights website initiative called PubMatch. I attended the LBF for the first time two years ago, I was full of 'not for the likes of us' trepidation it didn't seem a place for authors to be turning up unless you were already successful and part of the show.  So it's good to see the tone has definitely changed.


Base camp - The English PEN Literary Café 
I have yet to make my final list but already booked is the Alliance of Independent Authors' meetup on the 15th (at 10.00 on the same day is a talk by founder Orna Ross Going Indie: Lessons from The Alliance of Independent Authors On Successful Self-Publishing) and I'd like to see Salt Publishing's presentation on how to build social and brand equity on a shoestring. 
Kazuo Ishiguro At The London Book Fair 2011
Base camp will again be the English PEN Literary Café. Two appearing this year are Will Self and Lionel Shriver. Two years ago we caught an interview with Kazuo Ishiguro. And last year, Tom Watson, Caitlin Moran...
Caitlin Moran at the London Book Fair 2012

and, Where's Wally moment, this Booker-winning author:



















Saturday, 23 February 2013

What's Poisonous and Everywhere? - A Review by Susan Price



Pure, White and Deadly, by John Yudkin
          This is a review of two books.
          They have little connection with Authors Electric's usual subject of independent publishing, but as I've spent years watching this poison damage the health of my family, I feel strongly on the subject and want as many people as possible to hear of these books. So I post here, to a larger audience, rather than on my own Nennius blog.
          I know I shall probably be accused of being a kill-joy, but I think people should have the information in these books - to ignore if they choose. But an uninformed or misled choice, is no choice at all.

          I was haunted in the supermarket recently. In almost every aisle, a voice whispered in my ear, “Pure. White. And deadly.”
          I’d been re-reading Dr. John Yudkin’s classic book of that name. It's about a slow poison, with which it's perfectly legal to adulterate our food. It's probably in the next thing you put in your mouth, and it's responsible for a mountain of pain, sickness and death.
          I first read Pure, White and Deadly in the ‘80s. It’s probably why, at 57, I am healthy and only slightly overweight rather than obese and diabetic, as my parents were by their 40s. The book caused me to change my ways: to exercise more and alter the way I eat.
          But this invaluable work's been out of print for decades. Why? – Dr. Yudkin’s chapter on how Pure, White and Deadly's pushers campaigned against him provides a clue. They finance scientific conferences – but only if speakers say nothing critical of their product.  More than once they threatened withdrawal of their support from a conference unless Yudkin was dropped from the programme or submitted to censorship,
          The pushers told conference organisers that Dr. Yudkin (a respected Professor of Nutrition at Birmingham University, UK) was ‘not qualified’, ‘not even a professor’ but ‘only a teacher’ who held bizarre and unproven beliefs about their product.
          All untrue, as his book shows. But the Pushers know mud sticks.
Fat Chance by Robert Lustig
          Thankfully, this important book is back in print, and Yudkin is given his due in a new book, Fat Chance’ by Robert Lustig. This presents modern research showing Yudkin to have been on target even where he himself admitted he had only suspicions rather than proof.
          Both books are aimed at the lay-reader – because both doctors desperately want to inform us. Both books are easily read, and supply an uncomfortable answer to the question: Why is obesity increasing, world-wide, at such a rate?
          Why are more people reaching weights of 20, 30, 40 stone? Why are diabetes, heart disease and cancer increasingly found in younger people, even children, with such frequency our economies are threatened?
          Why have these things increased so sharply in the last thirty years? Is it simply that we eat more and do less? If so, why is exactly the same thing happening in countries where life isn't sedentary?
          Lustig is furious at the complacency which says that if the obese ‘showed some will power’ they would be slim.
          Lustig once believed this himself, before he began treating obese children. Now he's convinced that ‘a calorie is not a calorie.’ That's what the Food Industry would like you to believe. Then they can put all the blame on us.
          Our bodies are not passive containers, with calories poured in as fuel, and poured out as exercise. If they were, only the number of calories we consume and burn off would matter, regardless of what those calories were made of.
          But our bodies are active, living things, controlled by a complex relay of chemical reactions which evolved millions of years ago and haven't changed. The chemical content of our food dictates how the body's chemistry will deal with it - and how our body will then make us behave.
          Our bodies haven't changed since the Stone Age. Our environment and the food we eat have changed enormously.
          The body is not a machine that we control, like a car we drive, whatever we think. The body has its own agenda and the control-panel is often not within our reach.
          The Pushers' refrain is that people ‘have choice’ about what they put in their mouths, and therefore, if they choose to eat in a way that makes them obese, that's 'their choice'. People should have 'freedom' to eat as they like. And 'freedom' is sacrosanct, isn't it? When huge, multi-national corporations become concerned with your freedom, beware.
          Lustig asks what choice did a grossly obese six-month old have? What choice do people in poor neighbourhoods have, when every supermarket selling fresh food has shunned them, and the only food easily and cheaply available is the preserved and packaged stuff in the corner store? What choice do we have when we aren't told what the food we eat contains?
          Remember the misinformation spread about Yudkin. How 'free' is a choice based on misinformation?
          What true choice do any of us have when Pure White and Deadly's pushers cram it into everything, to extend shelf-life and make their products more palatable and addictive? When they use so many different names to disguise it in ingredients’ lists? When they spend millions on advertising, using beautiful, slim actors, to convince people that their products are ‘natural’, ‘healthy’, ‘energising’, even ‘cool.’ (Think of a certain fizzy drink.)

          Lustig tells of one patient, a child who, because of a tumour, had her hypothalamus removed. This is a tiny but important part of the brain which regulates the release of many hormones, including those which regulate sleep-rhythms, body temperature, sexual behaviour and some emotional responses.
          As a result the child felt constantly ravenous, regardless of how much she ate. She became obese, and also utterly listless, disinclined to move and without interest in anything.
          Was this ‘her choice’? Her unregulated hormones made her sensation of hunger never-ending. Her sedentary listlessness was due – not to psychological depression or laziness – but to her brain’s physiological determination to save energy because it perceived her as starving.
          Her constant eating raised her blood-insulin level, thus ensuring that everything she ate was stored as fat – while her hormones continued to scream, 'Starving!' at her brain. None of this was remotely within control of her will-power.
          Lustig treated the child with the hormone leptin, in which she was deficient. Almost instantly, her constant food-craving stopped – what a huge relief - and she lost weight. She became more interested in life generally, and did more, helping her mother about the house. Her mother was ecstatic. Probably not because of the dusting.
          What has this to do with the rest of us, with our functioning hypothalami?
          Remember, the body is not a passive receptacle for any old calorie. Lustig explains how our hormones act in complicated chain dances. We may label them, say, ‘sex hormones,’ but they are seldom responsible for one action alone. Rather, they act in concert with different bio-chemicals, in different degrees at different times, to produce a whole range of results. The over- or under- production of one hormone destabilises other body systems, resulting in ill health.
          You may have a functioning hypothalamus. Your body may produce leptin. But what if some imbalance prevents your body from recognising it? Or blocks its action?
          Leptin ‘turns off’ hunger, but can be blocked by insulin. If it is, you will crave food and over-eat. (One reason why a carbohydrate-rich diet can trigger over-eating.)
          Perhaps you won’t crave to the extent that Lustig’s patient did, but the craving will, nonetheless, be beyond your will-power - which is why, Lustig says, 'will-power' always, ultimately, fails. It is no match for the body's hormonal insistence that it is hungry.
          It’s well known that the body becomes increasingly resistant to drugs, requiring higher doses to produce the same effect. The body also becomes resistant to its own productions, such as insulin.
          Everyone knows that insulin regulates the level of blood glucose, lowering it when it's too high. What’s less well known is that insulin works by converting the glucose to fat. It isn’t floating in your blood anymore – it’s neatly tidied away into your fat cells
          Refined carbohydrate and fructose is quickly digested, triggering high blood-glucose and high insulin release. The more insulin is in your blood, the more likely it is that leptin release will be blocked – causing you to continue feeling hungry.
          Meanwhile insulin is busily tidying up. It's much quicker to lower glucose levels by storing it as fat than to burn it for energy. It often tucks the fat away around the major organs. This is visceral fat: the most metabolically active and dangerous kind.
          Not all foods raise blood glucose levels quickly enough to send insulin into a tidy-up frenzy. Protein - eggs, fish, meat, nuts - doesn't trouble blood-glucose or insulin at all. Foods full of fibre - whole fruit and vegetables - release their glucose so slowly over such a long period that they don't cause any problem either. Even whole grains cause little problem.
          It's no coincidence that these are the foods the human race evolved to eat back in the Stone Age. The body knows how to deal with them.
          So all calories are not equal. It matters what foods your calories come from.

A calorie plus low insulin equals energy.

A calorie plus high insulin equals fat storage.

          When the body becomes resistant to its own insulin, it’s possible to have both high blood sugar and high levels of insulin. Neither is good news. High insulin levels are a marker for obesity. And Diabetes II.
          So, what are the foods that cause soaring blood-glucose and insulin, and the disruption of hormone-pathways?
          The answer's simple: the foods we didn't evolve to eat. The food and drink that has that poisonous additive, Pure, White and Deadly. Refined sucrose; aka fructose, or high fructose corn syrup. More and more of the stuff has been added to our food, world-wide, in the past 30 years: corresponding exactly to the ‘obesity pandemic.’
          This is what Yudkin said in the '80s, when the Pure White and Deadly pushers tried so hard to discredit him.
          Lustig and a colleague undertook some research on figures for sugar-fructose consumption per capita, world-wide – allowing for age and income and even for the fact that not every kilo bought was necessarily consumed. They looked at figures not only for the West, but for countries which have only very recently begun to eat our sugar-heavy diet. When compared with figures for obesity, they expected to find a correlation. Instead, the figures matched so closely that they amounted, Lustig says, to ‘causation’.
          As with Big Tobacco, it’s hard to find something good to say about Big Sugar. It was started by people who felt entitled to kidnap other human beings, and force them to spend their lives working to enrich their captors.
          The slaves were freed, but today the industry - and the Food Industry generally - manufactures a damaging, addictive, unhealthy product, while trying to silence criticism and using every trick of advertising and deceptive labeling to dodge the truth about what they sell, and keep us buying more. Like Big Tobacco, Big Sugar tries to hook ‘em young, with cute characters fronting cereals that are 50% sugar. (And, as Lustig points out, Big Tobacco and Big Sugar are often the same companies.)
          I suppose you can say these industries are consistent.
          They would love you to believe their product is ‘natural’. It’s made from stuff that grows in fields, so it's got to be natural, right?
          Most European sugar is produced from beet, and that isn't especially tempting in its natural state. Yudkin’s account of what the sugar industry does to its raw material is another jaw-dropping read. I'd forgotten just how processed this ‘natural’ food is. First it’s mashed and pulped to remove all fibre, keeping only the juice. Already concentrated and calorific, the juice is processed still further, and bleached, until the pure white crystals contain no trace of any nutrient whatsoever.
          I’ll repeat that. No nutrient whatsoever. No minerals, no vitamins, no protein, no fat. You might as well eat cardboard - except, of course, that cardboard isn't addictively sweet and stimulating to the brain's reward centre.
          Pure White and Deadly contains nothing except concentrated carbohydrate in its most empty, refined and quickly absorbed form. It dehydrates and irritates the tissues and is implicated in Crohn's and IBS. It punches blood-glucose high, triggering over-production of insulin – and what does insulin do, besides lowering blood-glucose? – It stores the excess as fat.
          Constant repetition of this cycle plays Old Nick with the body’s hormonal system.
  Poison
          Definitions of 'poison' from the OED: 'Substance that when introduced to a living organism destroys life or injures health (emphasis mine)…substance interfering with normal progression of chain reaction, catalytic reaction…'

          Sugar is not a food. It is an unfood. An anti-food. A poison. And it’s addictive. It’s an addictive, poisonous, anti-food.

          You cannot win with the stuff. Say that an adult woman needs 2,500 calories a day to survive and maintain her weight. Some of those calories need to be protein, some fat, and some unrefined carbohydrate, from vegetables and fruit or wholegrains. These should supply everything her body needs.
          If she eats Pure White and Deadly as well, she must either replace some of the food above, to maintain the level of 2,500 calories; or eat the PW&D in addition to it.
          If the PW&D is in addition to her healthy diet, then she not only plays havoc with her hormonal system, but eats more than she needs. Her weight gain will be exacerbated by insulin's tidying up.
          If she maintains her calorie level by replacing some of her food with sugar, then she will not only play havoc with her hormonal system, but will be malnourished – which doesn’t necessarily mean thin. It does mean functioning at below full health. Her body, in struggling to deal with a substance it didn't evolve for, will promote storage of visceral fat, even if she doesn’t appear overweight. (She will be secretly fat: there's paranoia for you.)
          It’s not guaranteed that she will become diabetic. As with cigarettes and lung-cancer, much depends on individual genetics and luck. But diabetes is certainly in the cards, especially if it's already in your family. If we’re going to take this gamble, shouldn’t we be made, all of us, fully aware of the risk?
          Tobacco has its shocking warnings on every packet. Shouldn’t every can of fizzy drink, every packet of  biscuits, cakes, ready meals – and all the other foods loaded with PW&D – carry a large picture and history of an obese person? Take just one member of my family, for instance, a morbidly obese diabetic. She went blind. One foot was amputated because damaged blood-vessels turned it gangrenous. She suffered years of congestive heart-failure, had a stroke, and lingered for a month or so before finally dying. All these ills were complications of diabetes.
          Us chubby men and women in the street are told that the obesity epidemic is our fault because we 'choose' to ‘eat too much and do too little.’ While parroting this slogan, the Food Industry does all it can to persuade us to buy food and drink crammed with sugar and fructose. It’s hard to avoid, even when you’re fully aware and check labels obsessively.
          Feed your children healthily, and they're made to feel deprived. Why can't they have chocolate and biscuits in their lunch-box, with a can of sweet, fizzy drink to wash it down? Look, that advert says that sweet sticky 'fruit-bar' is healthy, and those chocolates are 'light'. And they don't like porridge, they don't want porridge. Why can't they have the chocolate cereal advertised by the cute funny animals, which is crammed full of sugar to hide the natural bitterness of chocolate?
          Like tobacco, Pure White and Deadly is a substance that is only legal because it was first marketed hundreds of years ago. Like tobacco, it would never be passed for legal consumption today, in the light of modern medical knowledge.
          The Pure White and Deadly industry’s constant claim is that we know what we’re doing when we buy food containing their poison; that we make a free choice. And they care so very much about our freedom.
          Okay – let’s make their claim true. Please, everyone, read these books. Inform yourselves – and then make informed, truly free choices about what you buy and eat.

          Here’s Lustig’s conclusion: Sugar is addictive and toxic.

          And Yudkin's: Sugar is Pure. White. And Deadly.

         Find Yudkin's Pure White and Deadly as a Kindle book here. (It's also available as a paperback.)

         Find Lustig's Fat Chance on Kindle here. (Also in paperback.)

          The links to these books are supplied by ViewBook One link is supposed to take you to the correct Amazon store for your location, whether it's the UK, the US, Canada or wherever. I'd be interested to know how well they work!

          Susan Price won the Carnegie Medal for her book, The Ghost Drum.
          She won the Guardian Fiction Prize for The Sterkarm Handshake.
          Details of all her books can be found here.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Work Flow and Scrivening by Mark Chisnell


An admission: I wrote my first novel in WordPerfect 5.1. Fortunately, I’ve now got it out of that format (before the converters cease to exist) and it currently resides on my hard drive as an MS Word file, along with everything else. I can’t remember exactly when I switched but, judging by the file dates, I’ve been using Word, or the cut-down version in Works, for almost two decades. 

For a writer, the word processor is much the same as a chisel and saw for a carpenter, or the canvas and paint for a painter. It's our interface to the creative output. It’s the most important tool in my life, and the  Word interface feels like an old friend - even if I get annoyed every time I have to upgrade and Microsoft move everything around.

There are many things MS Word won’t do for me though – I can’t outline effectively, instead I have to use a spreadsheet for that job, using a row of cells to hold all the necessary information for a scene; weather, location, character motivations and so on. If I write the whole book in one document/file it quickly becomes too big to be manageable, while if I split it up, I then have to put it all back together every time I want to print or output a full draft. If you create a new file for each chapter this rapidly turns into a massive pain in the butt, and even with my preferred five-chapters-to-a-file rule, it’s still a chore. And then there are all the other files I need for character biographies, location research, and the rest of the gubbins that goes on in the background in my efforts to make the finished product polished and smooth. It’s easy to end up with the pc desktop a confusing mess of open files and scarily unsaved edits. Disaster is only a click away.

So when I heard about Scrivener I thought it was worth a look. The software was originally developed by a guy who wanted to be a writer but - in the interests of procrastination - decided to write the tools of creativity before he wrote the novel. He still hasn’t written the novel, but Scrivener is a huge success as that rare thing - a computer programme written specifically for the authors of long-form narrative. I downloaded it a couple of weeks ago, and (surprisingly) did exactly what the company suggested - went through the tutorial. 

I’m no expert but it seems to be built on a database principle, and so it can do things that just aren’t possible in a word processor. Everything I need is there – a single interface to the manuscript, outlines, bios and research. It breaks the text down to make it easy to work on individual scenes, but allows you to ‘compile’ it back into a complete manuscript at the click of a few buttons.  It’s simple to use, seems quick to learn, and although I have yet to write my first story on it, I’m already a fan.

Best of all, the software company that makes it, Literature and Latte, are based in my favourite part of the world, Truro in Cornwall. There’s even a Scrivener for Dummies – which shows they’ve really arrived. So for me it's good-bye to the old familiar face of MS Word - at least for the novels and short stories, although I'm sure I'll be using it for blogs and journalism for a while to come. And hello to Scrivener... 

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