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AUGUST - Editorial

Welcome to this August edition of Hackwriters . Read us and the amazing archives too. 16 years on-line, 7233 articles - reviews - stories - travel - share any feature you like and pass them on using the share links. Next issue September 1st

Travel to Laos this month, or Albania and Manila. Try a Workaway in Portugal, discuss the merits of Uber and whether Podemos will cause Spain to self-destruct. Experience an Ausralian Road Trip. Discuss teacher training in the Uk and China. We have new fiction and there's more to come. Enjoy August reading on Hackwriters -

At the bar Editorial: A Bad Education
Don't mention the arts...

I’m pretty sure I had a life plan from an early age, but like everyone else I had to get through all those tortuous years of schooling and college first.  My elder sister reminded me that at aged nine I had declared to the assembled family over one Sunday lunch that I was going to be a successful writer one day and then promptly received a long and painful lecture from my father that since I was consistently bottom of the class in Maths, Latin, Physics and most likely a lot else – the chances of me being a successful dustman was a better goal for my ambitions.  I may have tried to defend myself and mentioned that I was top in English, History and Geography, but that cut no ice with my father.  He’d pretty much written me off already. Math came easy to him, as did most things. He'd been flying planes since he was 15 and knew I had no navigation skills. To say he was disappointed in me would be a slight understatement. He’d already vetoed any art classes and then when I turned 13 sent me to naval college to ‘toughen me up’.  He was deathly afraid that anyone who liked ‘reading’ or the ‘arts’ including drama ( my mother was an actress) would turn out to be gay.  So he sent me to a Navy College near London, which shows a remarkable naivety on his part.  He never lived long enough to discover whether I was straight, gay or trans-gender.  Navy College was certainly an education on that score.  I never did quite understand what the attraction of spotty boys were, but there you go, but I did get beaten up for having almost naked pictures of Marsha Hunt in my locker. (Star of the stageshow Hair for those who don't know)


My Pa certainly succeeded in preventing me from any exposure to the arts however as the college despised culture as much as he did.  They hadn’t reckoned on the Reverend Emlyn Williams, my English teacher – who could see I was bored stiff by classes and encouraged me to write short stories ‘for which I’d receive no marks’. But at least he read them and sent them back with big red scrawls through spelling and grammatical mistakes and muddy dog paw stains, as he had a dog that walked over most of the student work he left strewn over his office floor.
In tutorials he stressed that there’s no inevitability of success in life as a writer.  There’s the matter of talent, luck and timing. (He had at least two unsold novels completed and enthusiastic rejections letters pinned up on his wall). ‘Get a trade boy, get some life skills.  Clearly the merchant navy isn’t for you as you can’t even tie a knot.’ Tying knots, scrubbing decks and flag signalling were REALLY important skills apparently. I recall in one theoretical exercise in navigation I managed to sail an oil tanker through most of the landmass of Cornwall. I never mastered the slide rule either. I was desperate to escape and finally learn something 'useful'. 
I am reminded of this when I see all these government plans to emphasise maths at the expense of culture, or reading, or the arts in schools as they try to take us back to the 1950’s.  Not to mention keep kids in education till 18.   Essentially school isn’t really designed for dreamers or creatives.  Sure there’s smart kids who excel at all and right now are designing an app to make your life more miserable than it is already, but if you want to be a writer or artist – school is your enemy and will, with very few exceptions, conspire to crush any ambitions out of you at an early age. You can't blame the teachers, the relentless testing of students, the endless marking and lesson plans suck all the joy out of learning and teaching and we are essentially training seals to clap rather than sharpening minds.

*I must stress there are clearly some dedicated teachers out there who love encouraging young creatives – but the new curriculum just isn’t suited to that and it’s all gradgrind material now.  As for reading fiction, (a whole book even) and discussing it in depth in the literacy hour – well good luck.  We need reading weeks, where kids do nothing but read fiction of all types and then discuss and debate what they have discovered about the world.  Wouldn’t that be useful?  We need holistic teaching where history, geography and economics are all one subject – leaping in out of each other.  They aren’t separate in real life, why in school?  No one is thinking creatively about the curriculum.  If you are going to learn about Romans, then discuss corruption, war, politics, economics, law and language concurrently  - all of which made them dominant for 400 years.  Then discuss their legacy and how quickly it was forgotten and why. 

Make a subject come alive in all disciplines and it won’t be forgotten or wasted time.  Do that with all kinds of subjects, such as the Industrial Revolution. Emphasise 'revolution' and how it is happening right now all over again with the great disruption.  Make education matter.  It can’t be that hard.  Dickens is nothing more than stories about law, economics, social life and depravity, not to mention greed and misfortune – snapshots of Victorian society and how it was lived.  ISIS are right now fighting to restore the 6th Century in the Middle-East and a live a life of perpetual war.  History is a living subject, it should be foremost in the curriculum, not an option you can drop. You don’t study it at your peril.

I can't say that I got anything out of school. Had more fun at film-school that followed, but at some point decided that nothing beats just doing it and I've been writing ever since in various mediums. Learning eventually that research is the fun part of writing, the thinking and planning and discussing of ideas with creative people.

So how to become a successful writer in the 21st Century.  I am informed it is simply a matter of becoming popular on social media.  We are measured by how many followers we have.  How many photos we upload or pithy slurs we post on twitter.  There are thousands essential social media platforms that you have to have a presence on and with that you can sell your ‘brand’, spread your ubiquity and if you are unfortunate enough to be a writer, find a readership.

Needless to say, with my father’s angry words still echoing down the years, I have significantly failed to achieve much of that.  I feel more like the old novelist in Mervyn Peake's Titus Alone living under a stack of his unsold novels, burning pages to keep warm.  The occasional reader may stumble across one of my books online and might actually read it.  Sometimes, and this is more rare, may send an email to say so. This isn't so surprising. I read Paulo Bacigalupi's latest book last month (The Water Knife) and really wanted to send him an email to say how much I enjoyed it, but felt it was a bit naff. After all he doesn't know me, what does he care? In fact his PA sent me a nice note to say he'd liked the review, so here's my tip. I am totally wrong. Writers love to hear from their readers. Unless they are trying to borrow money of course. Wake up at the back, writers have no money. Well this one doesn't anyway.

Acquaintances in my local SCWBI group all still trying to get published in the main, but if you have already been down that route you might discover that agents are pretty useless, publishers blatantly lie about marketing, the sales team give up pretty damn quickly on your books and since they are only going to pay you about 6p a book (9 US cents) after Amazon and others take their discounts, it takes hundreds of thousands of sales to make any money and that’s pretty rare for most authors that don’t write about whips and chains.
Of course some are amazing successful, but I have read some fantastic published books in the last few years that haven’t made it into the popular consciousness and for the life of me can’t figure out why not.  I am sure their authors can’t either, but in the UK at least, apathy rules for some reason.  And often mind-numbingly dull stuff is what gets promoted and always by the same authors. Rather like every drama on the BBC is written by one person it seems.
I should definitely be more visible on social media, but to be honest Facebook has become a shill machine. 'Buy my stuff' is the main sub-text. Sure I advertise our books here on hackwriters - but I'm not trying to be a secret, we want people to read them. My younger sister cajoled tons of people to link to me but I need something different. Proximity perhaps. We've been running this web magazine for 16 years and probably only met 2% of the writers – that’s quite enough remoteness in our lives.  Engaging with your readers is the modern way to sell more books is the mantra. I am absolutely sure that is right, but most of my readers are going to be from age 13-17 and it's kind of inappropriate to be on any forum that they might be sharing, and downright scary to be frank. Kids share way too much and have no self-censorship button. And my sister goes 'but be engaged with their mothers who might buy it for them'. True, they might, but they may also take look at my latest Marikka and say 'she's attacked by her step-father, it involves arson, kidnapping, shootings and a father's search for a daughter who was stolen from him by the mother,' are you kidding me? I'm not buying that for my daughter.' That is is all based on a true tragic story might not cut any ice. Damned if you do, damn if you don't as they say.

Yes I wish I lived in a city that had more writers and artists, but I’m stuck in a town that doesn’t even have a bookshop.  Marooned in a place where the property prices just go down, never up it seems.  You’d think there would be more penniless artists here as it's so cheap, but I think there must be something wrong with the beer – you never meet anyone but piss artists sadly.
So I keep my head down, do what I enjoy, and sell, if I am lucky, to a discerning few who appreciate the rarity of what they are reading.  I write fiction. Always have, always will, whether anyone reads it or not.  And my father was right all along – the dustmen make a fortune around here.  Sigh
© Sam Hawksmoor August 2015 - Joint Editor - go to samhawksmoor.com
*As ever Hackwriters is supported by sales of our books - so do buy, print or kindle we aren't picky.
**And thanks for those who do. The Heaviness, Another Place to Die: The Endtime Chronicles and Repercussions finally selling in some numbers on Kindle - Check out my new book Marikka just published by Hammer & Tong

Marikka MARIKKA- exclusively on Amazon Print and kindle 2015

Based on a tragic real life event, Marikka flees from an arson attack on her home to the sea, where she meets Starfish boy – a runaway working for Jackson, a scarred man hiding a sinister secret from the world. Meanwhile her real father searches for her with the aide of Anya, ‘the girl who can read objects’. More about the writing of this book

Long after my tears dried, my heart stayed with Marikka, Starfish Boy and the strange girl who reads objects.’ CT
You will smile, you will gasp with shock, and you will struggle to read the words through your tears. Gemma Williams Amazon.co.uk 2015

By Sam Hawksmoor and Sam North
Print & Kindle
Q&A interview with the authors here
A city gripped by fear as a lethal virus approaches from the East. No one knows how many are dying. People are petrified of being thrown into quarantine. Best friends Kira and Liz once parted are scared they will never see each other again. Teen lovers, Chris and Rachel, prepare to escape to the islands. Do you stay and hide, or do you flee? And if you flee - how do you know you aren't taking it with you?

Review from the First Edition:
'Beautiful, plausible, and sickeningly addictive, Another Place to Die will terrify you, thrill you, and make you petrified of anyone who comes near you...' Roxy Williams - Amazon.co.uk

Another Place To Die

The Repossession

The Repossession by Sam Hawksmoor a fast paced edgy romantic thriller
'Smart, dark and graceful, this story is sure to send chills down your spine...one of the best, and most fascinating, debut novels I've ever read'. Evie-bookish.blogspot
* Published in Turkish Summer 2015 - look out for it in Istanbul

The Hunting - the thrilling sequel - order yours from Amazon or ibooks or Kindle
'Without a doubt, one of the best YA Sci Fi series out there.' Evie Seo Bookish
Now read the final thrilling conclusion to the series 'The Heaviness' suitable for any reader who likes to think about such things as betrayal, revenge, relationships and the laws of gravity

If you're looking for an exciting YA book set in WW2 - Kindle download
All proceeds go to keeping Hackwriters going

The Repercussions of Tomas D
A Hero? Or Englands Greatest Traitor? USA Paperback here

'Disturbing and very poignant YA love story that presents a chilling alternate future for an England that lost the war.'
Marcel d'Agneau
*download the Kindle version or buy the paperback
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