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[sticky post] Welcome to Warrington's Weird World of Writing

Hi and welcome to my thoughts... I’m the author of twenty or so fantasy novels, including A Taste of Blood Wine, Elfland, A Blackbird in Silver, The Amber Citadel, Dracula the Undead, The Court of the Midnight King among others.

I love to chat about writing, books, and life stuff in general.

I’ve written sword n’ sorcery, contemporary fantasy, vampire novels, alternative history… all sorts really. I like attending SF conventions – mainly in the UK – which is how I met my hubby Mike! This year we’ll be at Eastercon, ‘Eight Squared’ in Bradford – I’m the Fantasy Guest of Honour – and at World Fantasy Con in Brighton. My current publishers are Tor (US), Titan and Immanion Press (both UK).

I just love losing myself in my imagination, and creating characters, and writing about them… And talking about it! You can also find me on Facebook and www.fredawarrington.com. Please come and gossip with me… I don’t bite!

Edge-Lit 4 - A report from a Happy Camper

The annual Edge-Lit event, a one-day literary festival held in Derby, gets better and better each year. This year’s, held on 11th July, was the best yet. More big name authors, more readers and writers, more indie presses, more panels – more of everything. There was such a great buzz about the day, yet everything was fun and relaxed. And what a great chance to catch up with friends. I bumped into people I hadn’t see for ages, took part in a panel about History in Fantasy - thank you Alex for putting me on a panel NOT ABOUT VAMPIRES! - watched a number of interesting panels/ interviews, and met Joanne Harris of Chocolat fame, and had a truly fantastic time at the Knightwatch launch party helping to promote the NICE DAY FOR A PICNIC horror anthology in which I have a story, along with Theresa Derwin, Alex Davis and many more Knightwatch authors and editors. Several of us did a short reading, and there was wine and cake. Zombie Brain Cake!

Well done Alex Davis for organising a packed, inspiring and generally awesome day.

To quote fellow attendee Kevin Redfern: “It’s been an absolutely barnstorming weekend. EDGE-LIT 4 came and went like an emotional hurricane - for those of us trying to forge a trail into the world of writing, this event is a pit stop of mental nourishment, a shot of pure inspiration in the veins of imagination. You are surrounded by people you admire, people whose books you've read for years or whose screen work has been with you since your early years, and by those who are starting out right now, whose earliest works show hope and adventure and wonder and magic and brilliance. You meet old friends, you meet Facebook friends in real life, you meet your heroes, you meet people you've never met in any other way but just get on with like a house on fire. It’s one of the most encouraging, inclusive, welcoming and inspiring environments you can possibly find yourself in as an author. In a job/hobby that is mainly solitary, conventions such as Edge-Lit are a vital lifeline, a buoy you cling to as a chance to get out of your pit, to crawl toward the sunlight and meet your fellow scribes, also blinking into the sun (and usually trying to live through an epic hangover). I lead a fairly social life, but Edge-Lit is more filled with people I love than practically anywhere else or anything else I do all year. This year, I got my first published short story in an anthology launched by the magnificent Knightwatch Press - a huge honour, especially sharing the stage with such talented authors. The other readings were so great, we bought both anthos, and will be after more at Sledge-Lit!!”

I couldn’t have put it better!















Up the Amazon without a paddle



This blog by Imy Santiago has gone viral in the last few days. I can understand Amazon trying to ban ‘false’ reviews by the author’s family and mates, or reviews that are paid-for or posted from fake accounts – but in trying to ban reviews by anyone who “knows” the author, they have gone much too far. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. For a start, they DON’T know whether the reviewer knows the author or not. They can’t know. The premise is a nonsense. Just because people are in touch via social media doesn’t mean we are real-life buddies. Secondly, do they not understand that the genre communities are just that, communities? Whether you’re into crime fiction, romance, SF/ Fantasy, whatever – of course a lot of us know each other! Writers are also readers, and vice versa. We rub shoulders at conventions. Of course we follow our favourite authors on social media – that’s what it’s for! – and sometimes we chat to them, or win a giveaway book, and so on. Amazon seems to have decided that this disqualifies us from ever reviewing any book ever again.


Amazon… A virtual marketplace, or Big Brother?


A couple of weeks ago I read the third installment of a series I really loved. I will refrain from sharing the name of the novel and its author.

Like any reader, as soon as I finished reading, I wrote my review. When I tried posting it on Amazon (I did buy the eBook, just like any normal and decent human being would), I received a rather concerning email.

I will not share the screenshot of the email as it does contain the title of the book and name of the author. In its place I have copied the body of the email below.



Dear Amazon Customer,

Thanks for submitting a customer review on Amazon. Your review could not be posted to the website in its current form. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines:
http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines


Here I was, thinking I had included an expletive, or mentioned a brand name within the review. I went back and cross-referenced it against the review I posted on Amazon’s sister site Goodreads, and didn’t see anything wrong with it. I tried to upload it again. Immediately, I received the below message.



Sorry. You’re not eligible to review this product. For more information, read the Customer Review Guidelines.


I thought for a minute, and figured maybe there was an issue with their website… So I tried to input a review for another book by another author, and received the same system message I shared above.

I wrote an inquiry to Amazon regarding the issue. To my surprise, this is the message I received the following day.



Hello,

We cannot post your Customer Review for (book title deleted) by (author name deleted) to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author.

Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers. Because our goal is to provide Customer Reviews that help customers make informed purchase decisions, any reviews that could be viewed as advertising, promotional, or misleading will not be posted. To learn more about this policy, please review our Customer Review Guidelines (http://amazon.com/help/customer-reviews-guidelines) and FAQs (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=201077870).

We encourage family and friends to share their enthusiasm for the book through our Customer Discussions feature or Editorial Reviews feature. To start a Customer Discussion visit the Meet Our Authors forum and enter your discussion title in the Start a new discussion box. You’ll find the forum here:
http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors/&cdForum=Fx2UYC1FC06SU8S

To have your Editorial Review posted to the detail page, e-mail it directly to the author so they can add it for you.

If you believe you’re eligible to write a Customer Review for this book, send additional details to review-appeals@amazon.com.

We hope to see you again soon.

Best regards,

Harm J,


At this point I am dumbstruck. “I know the author.” That is quite an erroneous and quite presumptous assessment, so I went through the painstaking process of escalating the issue to their Review Appeals Department. At this point, I’m pretty upset.



Greetings,

I am appalled with your recent email message stating a review I wrote could not be posted because my “online activity suggests I know the author.” (Online purchase: X by X eBook.)

This response is ludicrous. I am a writer and published author. I understand the Indie Community is a small one, and among our circles, rubbing elbows with peers is not an uncommon occurrence. I am also a blogger and reviewer who also buys books. When I’m not writing, I am reading and reviewing. My reviews are one hundred percent unbiased, regardless if I have rubbed elbows with peers online. I would like to know who is providing you the information that suggests I may know the author.

That’s a two-edged sword; knowing of an author online, and personally knowing an author in real life are two different things. By your definition it would mean that bloggers such as myself are being barred from reviewing books they legitimately purchased, which in turn contravenes with the notion that reviews for a verified purchase are highly encouraged.

I am left speechless as I don’t know any authors on a level you are suggesting. I merely follow authors on Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, tsu, and on your partner site Goodreads. I interact with these authors during takeover events. I am an avid reader and I buy my books like anyone else does.

Your claims are unfounded, and as a paying consumer, I demand my review be posted. It is unfair to the authors whose work I love, to be punished for a claim that simply cannot stand. I don’t know any authors on a personal level.

Expecting your prompt response,

Ms. Santiago

(Amazon user: x@x.com)

Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone


I was hoping for a better outcome. It took them a week to answer back. To my dismay, this below screenshot is the response I received today.

Amazon has crossed the line.

I pay for my eBooks. I take the time to read and review books I love. The Big Brother mentality Amazon is employing is appalling, and crosses an ethical line of unfathomable proportions. They are not God, and are censoring my passion for the written word. Because of them, I will not be allowed to write and post any further reviews on their site, regardless if I paid, or not. It is a disservice to readers, and a back-handed slap in the face of all authors across the board.

What quantifiable and verifiable ways is Amazon using to determine if I know the author of a book, or not? The fact that they refuse to elaborate as to how I “know the author personally” is highly concerning.

This is what happens when you are a published writer, and write reviews for the books you paid for.

This is wrong, and it has to stop.

It  is censorship at its finest. I have interacted with a couple hundred authors over the past year; from events to signings, authors and writers rub elbows during networking sessions. This does NOT mean I know you personally. Knowing someone personally is bearing knowledge about them, from say… their favorite color to their social status.

Amazon, you have spat in the face of those authors and writers whose work deserve praise and recognition. I am shocked and appalled. At this time, I will discontinue writing peer reviews. I will complete my list of pending reviews, and will cease from posting them on Amazon.

I’m truly sorry, but my wings have been clipped.

Don’t hate me for it.

Blame Amazon for their questionable business practices.

Feel free to post your comments below. I’m eager to read your thoughts.

-i

Please share this blog post if you think this business practice is unfair.

#ExplainYourselfAmazon #Censorship #QuestionableBusinessPractices #AuthorsDependOnReviews #ClippedWings

crtmking

It’s been a very exciting week for those interested in Richard III, whose remains have been discovered beneath a Leicester car park that I must have walked past 100s of times all unknowing. A documentary (on Monday 4th Feb) told the full story – though I could have done with less of the wild-haired presenter and more solid history. That aside, it seems utterly surreal and magical that they found him after all this time – that by sheer luck his grave was beneath an area that could easily be dug up, that they found him so quickly, that they have the advanced technology to prove it’s really him. Spookier still, he turns out – physically at least - to have been so very much as I’d imagined him from portraits and contemporary accounts. Even those ancient fragments managed to convey a pretty accurate impression of the actual man.

Who gets passionate and excited about Henry VII? Er, thought not. Yet King Richard III, for reasons many and mysterious, still excites massive controversy, debate and high emotion. For me, it was Lawrence Olivier’s portrayal of him that first got me hooked – that combination of wickedness, charm and ruthless intelligence was irresistible. Of course, we know that was Shakespeare’s brilliant creative imagination at work and not the plain truth.

Did Richard arrange the murder of his nephews, the ‘Princes in the Tower’? I don’t know. Possibly. While I don’t believe in the Shakespearian villain, I also don’t subscribe to the opposing view that he was an unfairly besmirched, absolute saint of a man. By all accounts, Richard was a good and fair ruler. I believe he was no worse than his contemporaries, and probably better than most. And I believe that his reason for seizing the throne was simple: he wanted to keep it out of the grasping hands of the Woodville family, and in the Plantagenet line, by passing it to his own son. Sadly, his son died in childhood.

Over ten years ago I wrote a novel about Richard, called THE COURT OF THE MIDNIGHT KING. I say ‘about Richard’ but actually it wasn’t that simple. I set the story in an alternative reality slightly askew from this one. I did this so I could explore Richard III from several different angles. Really it wasn’t about HIM in the strictly fact-based, historical sense, but about the fascination he holds for us. What I was trying to say through the novel was that, in the end, no matter what view we take of him, no matter how many historical facts we unearth or how much we speculate, we will still never, ever truly know him. And that’s part of his enduring fascination.

Regardless, the discovery of his skeleton is astounding. I know many historians are only interested in plain facts and sneer at novelistic invention. But surely there’s plenty of room for both – I’m not a historian, but why shouldn’t I delve into the psychological side of Richard’s hold on our imaginations?

I’m thinking maybe it’s time for my novel to make an appearance on Kindle, as soon as time allows…

A Minor Miracle

Hello friends… 2012 was a funny year of ups and downs, in which I was reminded that the only thing that swallows time faster than writing is the internet. You only have to glance at Facebook and four hours of your life vanishes! Well, not quite that bad, but… as a result, my blog has been neglected. I felt I spent the year floundering around not achieving very much. I did enjoy gawping at the Jubilee, and the Olympics, and the Paralympics, but I don’t think that really counts as achievement

Looking back, though, I realize I did quite a lot… Proof-read MIDSUMMER NIGHT for the paperback. Edited GRAIL OF THE  SUMMER STARS (Tor – due out in April). Made some jewellery, and some artwork inspired by my own novels, for Eastercon. Completely re-edited A TASTE OF BLOOD WINE and A DANCE IN BLOOD VELVET. Wrote a detailed outline for a fourth ‘Aetherial Tale’, which is on ice for the moment. Started some YA ideas, which haven’t gone very far yet, because… Well, parts of 2012 were not easy, and I crashed into a deep dark lake of despair for a few weeks. But then, a minor miracle happened!

In the 90s I wrote a vampire series for Pan Macmillan: A Taste of Blood Wine, A Dance in Blood Velvet, and the Dark Blood of Poppies. They remain my most popular novels, and I still get emails about them even after they’ve been out of print for years. I was so fed up with them being out of print, I had decided to reissue them myself. Then suddenly – along came the publisher Titan! They’ve contracted to republish the three books, AND to write a brand new one! I feel like a proper Writer again!

So that’s where I am. Editing the existing book three, The Dark Blood of Poppies, and working on the new one, The Dark Arts of Blood. What is it like, revisiting an old but much-loved fictional world? That sounds like a subject for next time.

A Taste of Blood Wine comes out in April.

Olympus 2012 - my con report

This year’s Eastercon was held in the Radisson Edwardian near Heathrow – a venue that’s hosted the convention several times before and is memorable for its quirky, rabbit-warren layout interspersed with huge glass atriums and bizarre water features. I’ll keep my report brief as no one needs the minutiae of our day-to-day con experience, but I will just note that we’ve taken to staying in the Marriott next door as we like its huge, comfortable rooms!

It was certainly a busy, bustling con. I think I saw everyone I was hoping to see, but often managed only one conversation with them! There was so much going on.

The consensus seems to be that Olympus was a highly successful event. Membership was completely sold out, and they weren’t even taking walk-ins on the day, which is very unusual. This was largely due to the big-name attraction of GRR Martin, but Tricia Sullivan deserves a special mention for being a superb SF Guest of Honour. She’s a fascinating speaker on panels, and a warm, friendly person to chat to in the bar too.

The art show was one of the best I’ve seen, stuffed with great art from such acclaimed talents as Anne Sudworth, Jim Burns and Chris Baker (Fangorn) along with many others. I like to take part in the art show, because it lends an extra dimension to the convention for me. I don’t want or expect the con to be all about hoping someone will remember I’m an author! (Actually, it’s many years since I naively thought cons should be like that). For Mike and me, it’s about getting together with like-minded friends and having fun. Chatting with other writers, having a business discussion with your agent, and signing the occasional book are all bonuses, and pretty great ones.

Oh, and going to panels! The programme was amazing, almost too big – there were at least five different things going on at all times, making it difficult to cherry-pick what you most wanted to see. Mike doesn’t go to panels at all, preferring to wander about chatting and book-browsing, but I don’t feel I’ve properly been at the con unless I catch at least a few events. On the Saturday I made it to five panels (plus a signing) which was pretty good going. In the main convention hall, the ops had rigged up cameras and a big screen, so everyone had a great view of the panels, which were recorded for later viewing on the net. Great for catching up on anything you missed!

An interesting and welcome theme is taking shape, that of Gender Parity.

I blogged a while ago about the fact that while female authors were publishing very nearly as many books as males, we were getting only half the attention, review-wise – sometimes as little as a tenth of the attention, in SF publications. Now there’s a big push to get male and female authors/ editors/ academics/ fans and so on equally represented in all spheres, not least on panel discussions.

I heard a few of the inevitable moans, ‘What if brilliant male panellists are overlooked in favour of mediocre females?’ >>SIGH<<. It should hardly need pointing out that for countless years – not just on con panels, but in all walks of life! – brilliant women may well have been overlooked in favour of mediocre men, and yet this was taken for granted. Heaven forfend we should challenge the notion!

I don’t wish to get on a soapbox about this, but it seems to me it’s a never-ending battle for women to be seen as equal to men, even in the most supposedly civilised parts of the world. We make progress, then we slide back as society gets antsy and tries to push us back into our ‘place’. It’s like running up a down escalator. Is this going to be The Forever War?

I seem to have got right off the subject here but to sum up, a) we had a great con and b) I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been invited to be Fantasy Guest of Honour at next year’s Eastercon, Eight Squared in Bradford 2013. The others Guests will be Walter Jon Willliams (SF GoH), Anne Sudworth (Artist GoH) and Edward James (Fan GoH). More info soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve posted some links and some fun photos on my Facebook wall, www.facebook.com/freda.warrington. There’s one of Tricia Sullivan, Aliette de Bodard and Justina Robson that I love. Three of our best contemporary writers, folks!

Still Around!

Well, it’s been a while since I blogged, mainly because Life got in the way! And I feel my blog needs a revamp, which I simply haven’t got time to do just yet. However, as a couple of people have visited to ask questions I thought it was a good time to drop in and say ‘hi’!

In answer to the main question, yes, I do intend to bring out at least some of my backlist in e-book format. The first title will be A TASTE OF BLOOD WINE, to be followed by A DANCE IN BLOOD VELVET and THE DARK BLOOD OF POPPIES. I don’t know whether I’ll make my entire backlist available, because it’s a lengthy process, but I’ll certainly do the most popular ones – that is, my Blood Wine vampire series!

Meanwhile, if you’d like to chat I can most often be found on Facebook. See you there.

Last Days of Summer


YIPPEE! I’ve finally finished Book 3 of my Aetherial Tales series, THE GRAIL OF THE  SUMMER STARS. When I say finished, I mean in a fit state for my editor to read. Of course there’ll be editorial work to do yet. I’ve reached that stage that I guess most authors reach – where you’re so close to the work, you just can’t see what’s wrong or right any more! I feel pretty happy with it, at least for now. Although it’s a standalone story again, there are connections with the first two, Elfland and Midsummer Night – including the conclusion of a story-arc that’s been simmering in the background of all three novels. That was a development I hadn’t planned or expected, so it came as a pleasant surprise!

Meanwhile, I’m basking in the relief of getting the ms finished. Now is the time to catch up on all those pesky chores like tax, updating my website, cleaning the house, brainstorming some new book ideas and so on.

Really enjoyed the Glastonbury Festival for the Fantastic in Literature on 3rd September. Some really interesting talks were given on esoteric subjects, and the event had a very intimate, friendly feel. As my GoH spot, I did a reading from Midsummer Night featuring my 60-something character Dame Juliana Flagg, which prompted an interesting discussion of ageism in fantasy and SF. Liz Williams interviewed me, and the audience were very chatty and interactive so we had a very enjoyable conversation.

As I’ve written vampire novels, the comments turned to the inevitable subject of ‘Twilight’ etc, a body of work that seems to come in for adulation and contempt in equal measure. Now I haven’t read the books, and in fact had only seen the first film the week before and found it not as bad as I was expecting. The character of Edward seemed to come in for particular flak (for being an over-idealised, vegetarian vampire I think!) and I found myself in the odd position of saying a few words in his defence. I think that the idea of a character who is unfeasibly good-looking, utterly devoted to his girl, beset with desire for her yet able to practise gentlemanly, iron self-restraint acts as an antidote to the sort of boy that teenage girls may meet in real life – spotty, immature, wanting to hump them like a dog one moment and ignoring them the next. I think that’s what Edward is, a much-needed antidote to reality.

And this thought brought me round to my own work again. I remarked that I loathe reading about sex and relationships in fiction where the genders aren’t equal, where the man has all the fun and the woman has a horrible time, or is left feeling used, abused, dishonoured. Yes, I know this sort of thing can and does occur in real life. But I have always tried to write a different vision, a better world in which the sexes are equal and there is mutual passion, mutual enjoyment. This state of affairs is increasingly achievable in the real world and I will always promote this in my writing (as opposed to the misogynistic/ porn version of the world that’s regrettably still so prevalent). Appropriately to Glastonbury, we discussed the pagan sensibility that views male and female as equal: equally sacred, equally sensual, equally valuable and so on. We desperately need to strike this wise middle path between the ‘holy virgin or whore’, absurd view of women that still refuses to die. And writers are in a good place to do that. I will always keep trying, anyway.

Thanks to Liz Williams for organising a wonderful conference.



A Date for your Literary Diary


Well, this isn’t quite the blog I was going to write as the week’s been full of shocking news. Events in Norway so terrible I can’t find words to comment. And poor Amy Winehouse. I can’t say I was a fan because she seemed to epitomise the unfortunate image that it’s cool to be wrecked and out of control all the time. However, there’s no question she had the most stupendous natural voice and stage presence. She also epitomised the hope that someone heart-breakingly ill could turn around and recover and go on to have a happy healthy life and amazing career. But it wasn’t to be and that’s unbearably sad.

It’s all very well for people to sneer at addicts and alcoholics (I suppose I’m thinking of my parents, the older generation) but who is perfect? For example, if I’m feeling stressed, one drink may make me feel better, but two will give me a bad head. So I stop… at one and a half. That makes me lucky, not virtuous. But what if you need 20 drinks, or more, to make the pain go away? With perfect timing our Tai Chi teacher read out the following that a friend had sent him by email…

If you can start the day without caffeine,

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food everyday and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can overlook it when those you love take it out on you when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can face the world without lies and deceit,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without liquor,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,


Then, my friend, you are probably your family dog!


- “Author Unknown"

 

Artists who died young such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, it goes without saying, have become legendary. However, the premature deaths of musicians that hit me personally so hard that I can never shake them off are those of Sandy Denny and Kirsty McColl. Both wonderful singers who died too soon as a result of accidents. Denny in 1978 apparently from a head injury following a fall downstairs – I can still remember my shock when I heard the news because her music had been part of my life for only a few years and I couldn’t believe she was gone so soon. I remember repeatedly waking up that night with her name going through my head like a chant.

 

The one loss I truly can’t get over and never will was that of Kirsty MacColl. I loved her. The woman was an utter genius. She was killed by a speedboat while scuba diving in Mexico on 18th December 2000. My father had died, aged 84, on the 8th and I could not get over the fact that she was 41 yet lived only ten days longer than my dad. I miss my dad, of course, but eleven years on I’m still heart-broken about Kirsty. Why did such a horrible freak accident have to happen to her? Why her? It took me years to listen to her music again. Even now I can’t listen to her without getting choked up. I don’t think I’ve even ever told anyone this before but I’m certain there are thousands out there who feel the same, that she was unique and wonderful and still so, so missed.

 

What I actually set out to say was that, first, I’m not blogging much at present because I now have a deadline and I MUST finish The Grail of the Summer Stars within the next few weeks. Second, to mention THE GLASTONBURY CONFERENCE FOR THE FANTASTIC IN LITERATURE. Saturday 3rd September 2011 at The Grail Centre, 24 Chilkwell Street, Glastonbury. Speakers include Dr Liz Williams, Dr Kari Maund, Paul Weston, and members of The Write Fantastic. More info at www.thewritefantastic.com.

Oh, and the Guest of Honour is me!