Sprung has springged

he says:

Words, huh? Sticks and stones. This was originally a dummy post in order to do some internal word press technical stuff. But I got intrigued by the nature of words hidden within words and anagrams and stuff when I saw a word within, a word that is now-a-days forbidden and glossed over but once was common currency. A bit like the English town Scunthorpe. The word within bit. Another proof needed that words can have a power? And can be deceptive too, however feint. And my mind dwelled on how much easier it would be to hide information in a message that you – anyone, not you specifically – didn’t like because of the energy of a word so thus turned away from the message. Isn’t that the root of most relationship breakdowns? Then my mind went back to a conv I had had with a friend and colleague of mine, Mark at 3Deal, about a blog post which never quite ticked the boxes. But I reproduce it here. If you have the remotest idea of what I’m on about mail me and you’ll win a prize.


Stega stega stega nog  nog free

I understand there may be an elephant in the room, in the modern parlance. Better not poo on the carpet. If you don’t get it, it’s a metaphor. But you don’t – there’s really an elephant in the room – do you? But for these purposes spotting the allegory, analogy, metaphor or whatever gets the message across. If there’s something that we’d rather, in this exposition, not address then this goes out of the window, the baby with the bath water. For writers, or at least writers of fiction, allegory, metaphor, analogy – a message through allusion or plain telling not showing, all are a means of getting the message that the writer means to convey across without the reader knowing necessarily that there is a message in the text at all. Likewise with imagery. Imagery? “He put the phone down on her ‘goodbye’ knowing it was over and looked around him, startled, as all the lights went out.”

The point about the Elephant in the Room aphorism is that it does a job – it lets you know that there is something that you should address, or something that everybody knows about but is pretending that they don’t. The elephant, in cipher parlance, is hidden in plain site. The point about cryptography, well I guess there are a few, is not that you won’t know that I am communicating secretly to your wife, or the Chinese / Russians / Blofelt or my own forces in the field, but that you a/ won’t know what I’m saying or b/ it will be too difficult to find out so you’ll go and do something else. Not necessarily so with Steganography (from the Greek – ). I don’t care if you see my message because you won’t know that it is hiding something. Look all you want.


How well did that first paragraph read? Well, I hope because I’m a writer and I hope to be able to get my message across to you, the reader, without arresting you. But if it juddered a little, I accept that. Why? Because it had a job to do.

What do I mean by that?

So. Read Simon Singh’s Code book. It’s excellent, a good read, you may well go on to find out about Fermat’s Last Theorem or other stuff he has written. What’s my point? My point is there’s an elephant in the room. Cryptography is about theorems, algorithms, it’s not for the feint of heart. It’s about mathematics. But, in a funny way, Steganography doesn’t have to be – although it can be, believe me.

Every picture you see on a computer monitor is made up of pixels – no, no, don’t get excited in Ireland, not pixies, pixels. Each pixel has three colour ‘channels’, representing the primary colours red, green and blue, and a transparency channel. (How much can you see through it to the underlying image below.) By the nature of bits and bytes there are 256 (red) x 256 (green) x 256 (you guessed it, blue) x 256 (am I insulting your intelligence now? Transparency) available permutations – or is it combinations? see I told you mathematics is involved – and if I lose some of those bits and do something else with them your eye won’t notice the difference. Huh? If I have an image of 940 x 250 pixels – bear with me, am I losing you at the back? – a standard web page banner – which in term of the number of pixels to display it on your screen is 256 to the power of four times 960 times 250 (have you done the maths yet?) pixels and I alter one bit in each pixel your eye won’t know the difference but I get 245, 760, 000 bits to hide a message in. And that’s big bits.

And that isn’t rhyming slang.

Sorry, where was I? Fibonacci gets a mention in Singh’s Fermat’s last theorem. Look it up. Then use the first seven positions to come up with the word, it might be the syllable position and transpose that position for each of the first seven sentences in the first paragraph. (The par after Gx, that is.)

And if the first paragraph lost you, as a reader, and you went somewhere else, that’s ok. Even for a writer. Because it had a job to do.

A message, hidden in plain site.

Bath Literature Festival 2015

She says:

Sophie and Sandy

If you love books, then you should love literature festivals. I started going to the famous and arguably the best festival in Hay on Wye in 2006 and have been back many times since. The Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2013 was enough to tempt me back to the town to live in 2014 and after spending most of October’s disposable income on events at the festival last year, I decided it was time to get serious. 2015 was going to be the year of literature festivals.

If you’re a book lover, author, or simply a culturally-minded person, then there’s something for you at even the smallest literature festivals. Most include a diverse mix of speakers from novelists, non-fiction writers, polititians, scientists, musicians and even – whisper it – celebrities.

The literature festival circuit in the South West kicked off this month with the Bath Literature Festival. It’s ‘just down the road’ so I picked a Saturday when I was free and chose two events to go and see.

Capture the Castle

The first was one of the headline names of the festival, and she’ll appear at many similar events over the coming year (you’ll find the same names coming up again and again on the circuit). Antonia Fraser spoke in the majestic Bath Theatre Royal about her latest biography – this time, her autobiography – which covers the period of her life when she discovered her love of history and writing. You’ll no doubt have your own view of Antonia Fraser, but as a personality in the very essence of the word, she was fantastic. They don’t make then like that any more. But – and here’s my lefty politics coming out – don’t get me started on someone who argues over the use of the word ‘privilege’ when they were born in a castle…

Moving swiftly on from Antonia, and I mean swiftly – the event organisers let her ramble on a little too long before finally embarking on a Q&A session, at which point my friend and I had to make our apologies and shuffle out, before a tense 10 minutes trying to find the next location which was poorly signposted – we finally headed to what was our main event, Moving on in Self Publishing.

Cops and Robbers

As indie authors, like most of the audience, we already knew the basics of what the talk would be about, and we were poised, notepads at the ready, at the front of the room. Successful Bath-based indie author and cop Sandy Osborne spoke about her experience of publishing her two novels, Girl Cop and Girl Cop in Trouble. Her story was music to the ears of the authors sitting in rapt attendance. She had written her novels while being a mum, wife and serving police officer in some super-mum style of writing effort. When I asked her afterwards how she had managed to fit it all in, Sandy just replied that it had been a ‘busy two years’. Now she gets to reap the hard-earned benefits of her work, as she gets regular paid speaking engagements to talk about her success.

From the finer points of organising crowdfunding campaigns which pay for what sound like all-singing all-dancing book launches, to pitching to the local press, Sandy let us in on the secrets to her success. But she paid tribute to the support of her publishers SilverWood Books (yep, we’re not afraid to advertise our competitors) represented at the event by Helen Hart. Helen then took to the stage to give us a more business-orientated guide to self-publishing, from designing a great cover, and hiring an editor, to finding your own niche and ‘owning it’.

The room wasn’t full (although apparently last year’s event was packed to the brim so they moved to a larger venue this year – but I suspect most people couldn’t find it) but the majority of attendees raised their hand when asked if they had or were planning to publish a book. The number of self-published e-books rocketed last year, and is predicted to rise even more this year. Yet the number of events at literature festivals aimed at indie authors or would-be novelists is still lacking. Festival organisers should be staying one step ahead of the curve on this trend. Indie authors are out there and they want to learn more. Providing more events on niche and specialist aspects of the industry is a must if the wider literary world hopes to evolve to embrace the new era of digital publishing and the wealth of talent it offers.

Measure for measure

Keats’ last sight on earth

he says:

The genre category “Self Help” has always had a feint whiff of derogortryness. Snake oil salesman. Not real science. Even Waterstones knew as much and came up with a section called “Smart Thinking” which is pretty smart thinking because you’ve got something that isn’t Mind, Body, Spirit and something that isn’t science. And sells well.

I’ve been a writer all my life, I think there is a solace in it for a deeply shy only child. A writer in the sense that I’ve written. Yet I have never considered myself a writer. Not a Writer. Now I do consider myself a writer, a novelist. But if I meet someone new, in the pub say, and as the conversation develops they ask “what do you do?” I still hesitate. I do not have a job other than gecp and writing, and although I once felt the definition of a writer was not having some full time job to ‘support’ your writing, now that I’m in that position the bar has been raised.

A high jumper walks into a pub.
“Pint of beer, please, mate.”
“You can’t have that here,” says the barman.
“Why not?”
“The bar has been raised.”

I just made that up. You can tell, right?

There are 90-odd poems of mine published on Kindle. Some date back to 1977. I published them because some very smart writers at the Montpellier Writers’ Group said some nice things about them. My friend Russ has three successful novels on KDP and he said he liked my poetry. And here’s the thing. There are some people who like my poetry, but I don’t think – believe – it to be any good. A bit like soap operas, they don’t have to be good, check the ratings. I once stood next to the bed in which Keats died at 25 years of age. Keats wrote good poetry, people study it and admire his ability to weave an image. It’s universally acknowledged. Greene, Fitzgerald and Waugh, illuminaries of my youth, Hemingway and although I loved the writing I most wanted to be like the man. These are writers. Shelly, Byron, these are poets. I’ve never Kippled but I love Kipling, his recited Barrack Room Ballads were the theme tune to my teens. He’s a poet, a proper writer. I’m just me.

So what is the metric?
Putting words on a page?
Being published?
Being reviewed?
Being recognised?
Making a living?

Here’s the thing. If you want to be a footballer, are you not one if you’re not Pele or Beckham? is that the metric, the bar?

There’s the old adage that we come into this world on our own and we leave it on our own. I see it differently. We couldn’t come into this world without the help of our mothers. Fathers before that too, presumably. We often leave it with a whole bunch of help be it family, hospital staff or undertakers.

Throughout my life I have presented plenty of signs of ‘damage’. On the outside and the in. As a sportsman I had a coach, as a child a parent, as a sick person a doctor. As a receiver of PPMS there is no help apparently, as a troubled soul I have seen plenty of therapists. I have read, too, plenty of self-help books. Have I self-improved? Who knows, it’s not for me to say.

Writing can be a lonely life, a solitary life, rather, but it doesn’t mean that we are alone. We are connected. To the words on the page. To characters. To our imagery, our theme our message. Other writers, agents, publishers too if you have them. And maybe, in the primacy, through the writing, to ourselves.

How self help is that?

How it all began

SophcropShe says:

How it all began

We’re writers, right? So we should write. All the time.

An introduction is as good a place to start as any, so let me tell you a little bit about me.

I guess all roads start in childhood, and the roots of my current career began a long time ago – roughly 30 years, but who’s counting? – when my ingenuous mum taught me to read using Smarties as an incentive. If I read the word on the flash card, I got to eat the Smartie sitting on top of it. Needless to say I could read by the age of two and a half and had developed a lifelong addiction to chocolate.

A voracious reading habit also started. A photo in my baby scrapbook shows me sitting in my highchair with a book. ‘Has a book in her hand before breakfast’ reads the caption – something I consider to be the sign of a good day (albeit usually a weekend morning) if it happens now. As a child I read anything and everything, even setting myself the challenge of completing the children’s section of Fishponds Library in Bristol (I think I got to B, but in my defence there were a lot of As). Weekends at car boot sales and Saturdays trawling charity shops (yes, that is the world’s smallest violin you can hear playing just for me) meant that 99% of my books were second hand – and I loved them. I built a huge collection of more than 1000 books by the time I was 12 – this was the age I counted them and recorded their titles in a little notebook to avoid the danger of duplication – and the majority of these had been picked up for 10 or 20p. They were 1970s editions of the Famous Five, 1950s classics and random 1980s supernatural books covering such fascinating topics as witches and werewolves. Very rarely did I get a new book, but that’s ok. When the Scholastic book fair came to school I loved picking out a brand new edition hot off the presses. I can still pick them out of my bookshelves now at 100 paces – they stand out with their unbroken spines.

My bridesmaid mentioned in a speech at my wedding about the danger of borrowing one of my books. You won’t know it’s been read by me, as I keep the page corners unturned and try to keep the spines unbroken. Something that was admittedly impossible when I read the huge Wild Swans aged 12. At my parents’ evening that year, my English teacher asked me what I was reading at the moment. I think even my parents felt a bit embarrassed when I told her it was Jung Chang’s epic.

So after studying English Literature at degree level, I wanted to work ‘with books’. Not sure how or where, just somewhere there were books. So I took the plunge and applied for a job at Oxford University Press – well, why not start at the top? It was my first interview for a ‘proper job’ and it took place the day before my 21st birthday. A couple of weeks later I was the youngest person in the journals department as a production editor. But after a year in what was probably the best job I’ll ever have, I got restless and wanted to go back to school. So it was back to Bristol to the big university at the top of the hill to study English Literature again – but this time in the stereotypical dusty book-lined studies of tutors to talk about poetry with my friends – just as I’d always wanted. After a quick trip round the world, I ended up trying to seek my fortune in London at another publishing company, before getting bored again and deciding that I wanted to write words too. So it was back to school – and probably not for the last time – to train to be a journalist. Passing my exams meant I ended up as a cub reporter on a local paper in Maidenhead, before becoming news editor for two weekly papers. But commuting for three years nearly killed me – if not my body, then my spirit – and I took a job in Putney where I could walk to work along the river.

After moving to Cheltenham in 2014 I joined a writing group and met a bunch of inspiring writers who have published their work online. Finally – people who have achieved their dreams. I started editing outside of work and most importantly, started writing again. Now I’m the one with the publishing company, so it’s almost as if my journey with words has come full circle – and I’m still addicted to chocolate.

Hello changing new world!

Welcome to green eye coeur presse. We are a digital publishing company based in Cheltenham, UK. If a blog post starts with “She says …” you can be pretty sure that’s Sophs “He says …” is likely to be Guy. The “She says …” posts are going to be the ones worth referencing, Guy tends to waffle … just like he’s doing here.

As they say in restaurants now-a-days: “Enjoy!”