Book Launch

The Sheppey Writers through TAUP – the publishing arm of the writer’s group is pleased to announce the launch of Pigeon Pie and other tasty tales by Gordon Henderson.  The collection of short stories explore the macabre, ghost tales, detective tales and the subject of suicide.  Gordon Henderson writes on a wide range of subjects and the result is an entertaining collection of short stories sometimes making some disturbing perceptive points and others simply thought provoking and others quite spine chilling.   For a first public collection of fiction this book is a good read.

The Author posing with his book.

The Author posing with his book.

Extract from Gordon Henderson’s Press Release.

The MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Gordon Henderson, is to have his first book, Pigeon Pie And Other Tasty Tales, published by a newly formed group set up by Isle of Sheppey based writers.

Terrestrial And Universal Publications (TAUP UK) was set up by unrelated Peter Apps and James Apps, as a vehicle to publish their own literary work and that of other local writers.

Mr Henderson explained:

‘I agreed to have Pigeon Pie published by TAUP UK in the hope that my involvement will help them generate the publicity they need to make the venture a success.

‘It is incredibly difficult for unknown writers to get their book published by the large publishing houses and this fantastic initiative by Peter and James allows new and unknown writers to see their work in print.

‘We have loads of talent locally, all it needs is a platform on which to be showcased. I think TAUP UK is that platform.’

The official launch of Pigeon Pie will take place at Sittingbourne Library at 1pm on Friday 28th March 2014 and Mr Henderson will happy to sign copies of his book on the day.

Pigeon Pie will be more widely available, in either in hard copy or Kindle version, on Amazon on March 30th 2014.

Mr Henderson is hoping to have other work published by TAUP UK and has five novels in various state of preparation that should be available over next couple of years, the first of which, The Nightjar, should be available by the end of 2014.

In addition Mr Henderson plans to publish his first children’s book, The Almost Twins and the Litter Angel, during the summer of 2014.


For more information about TAUP UK contact Peter Apps on

Writing short fiction

A short story can be very short or it can be a medium length, or even a novella.  The problem for many writers is getting their tale into the length required, or aimed for.  Some can write very short stories and struggle with the longer versions wanting to cut out what they see as padding.  Others have equal difficulty writing the short versions.

For both writers the exercise of writing out of their normal fashion is useful.  For the novel writer attempting short stories is a way of training themselves to write more concisely and get the best out of their writing.  Obviously for the writer of short fiction the enormous task of writing a novel is daunting.

The trick for the latter is to treat each chapter as a short story with a similar theme and the same range of characters.  The short fiction is much like writing for a soap opera, you have to begin, write a middle and leave the tale hanging to use it for a novel, or conclude the tale.

The skill is in writing to a set formula and ignoring the fact.

The challenge for most of us is to allow our creativity to be controlled by discipline but writing is a discipline and any extra skill that enhances your prose is a good move.

Some comments on writing short stories are, in the main, that it is useful to concentrate your story structure, to create a discipline that is useful for longer prose in that it tends to restrict you to getting to the point quickly.  The last is a great tool for packing more into your longer stories and will help when cutting out the ‘purple prose’ so beloved of the long winded descriptive writer.

To paraphrase, a short story such as ‘The last man on Earth turned in surprise when he heard a knock on his door.’ carries everything a short story needs including an ending that leaves the reader with a mystery.  Whether or not it has a beginning, a middle and an end is a moot point, but it has a protagonist and an unknown antagonist and leaves the reader wanting to learn more.  The object of the tale is to let the reader engage with the story and anticipate an end, or project an ending although the ending is the knock on the door. 

The idea is to entertain and allow your reader to interpret the tale in their own way but to also direct them where you want them to go.

Sometimes the short story is a glimpse into a passage of a larger tale, or is related to a longer piece of fiction.  Others are deliberately complete tales that make up a series, and we are all familiar with the Sherlock Holmes tales that use the same characters in each tale as protagonists that give consistency to our expectations.

The skill comes in creating a tale that is unpredictable as to the conclusion and satisfying in the telling.  Most of us have trouble with that and that is where our peers come in handy when we read them out loud and receive constructive criticism. The satisfaction is having the faults pointed out and the good bits praised.


We are heading into the time of commemorating the advent of WWI and although as a group we have resisted this realising that what happened 100 years ago is history, we are planning to take part a little.  Not because we expect to do a ‘thing’ about WWI but because at the moment it concentrates our thoughts on short writing pieces.  2009_0623poppies0343

We are planning some great things for this year and we want to be ready to carry them through as well as take part in the 2014 Promenade event.  So, the theme is short fiction based around the 1914 – 18 conflict – with apologies.

We have a new author on our list who will be launching his book of short stories next month – a moderate mystery at the moment but more soon when arrangements are finalised.

In the meantime let us go with a theme of poppies – the symbol of remembrance each year and a story of the flowers of Flanders fields.

Poppies like to seed in disturbed soil – plough the ground and they will grow or where animals disturb it, or they are shoved out of the fields during tilling to the edge.   One year a farmer allowed the poppies to grow in his rapeseed fields near Boxley.  It was quite pretty.

Also realise that the bright red of the poppy is also the colour of love – Cupid’s Red.

Christmas – it’s that time of the year again

It’s that time of the year again or haven’t you noticed?  Scrooge is rampant, the retailers are trying to suck us in – since September would you believe? – and the radio is playing endless reels of “Christmas songs”.

Jingle ruddy bells!

Jingle ruddy bells!

Dominating the adverts I have seen in the press and on the Net, in my inbox and all the shops is the Big Red Clobbered Fat Man selling everything from merry radioactive Robins to a complete suite of dining room furniture.  Try getting a sofa down my chimney Fat Boy!  So, what of it? We get suckered in every year forgetting that many people celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas having hi-jacked the end of year feast for the purpose, and others simply get p… Inebriated.

Anyway, for your entertainment here is a lovely Christmas Story.

Santa’s Grotto by James Apps

Danny Morris hated being Santa.

“It’s because I’m fat they choose me,” he complained to the new boy.

“They say you have the deep kindly voice the children like,” the new boy replied. “You know, the ho, ho, ho and the jolly laugh.”

“Nah, I’m the only fat old bloke they’ve got,” Danny said, and with a dismissive gesture of his fat hand he indicated the row of Santa suits hanging on the rack.  “And on Monday I have to get into one of those and act the fool for a few hours.”

The new boy shook his head. “Well, it is Christmas, and the store does a nice Grotto.  I will be one of the Elves, sort of helping you out,” the boy said enthusiastically.

Danny glowered at him. “You cheeky sod.” He said.

On Monday morning Danny had a last fag outside in the yard and walked reluctantly back into the store.  Donning the Santa Suit, with a fat sigh he waddled into the Grotto using the rear door and took his place on the Santa seat flanked by the helpers, the bloody elves, who were there to give out the gifts and make sure the brats moved on.  It was a Santa conveyor belt.

“Oh well, here we go,”  he said with a groan a few moments before the doors opened.

“Should be fun,” said the new boy cheerfully and pushed the switch to start the music.

“Oh no! Not ruddy Jingle Bells!” cried Danny glowering at the new boy who grinned at him and mouthed the words in time to the song. Danny clenched his fists wanting to smack the silly grin from the new boy’s face but already the first children were coming in.

From the first HO, HO, HO that launched him into the mind boggling realm of snotty noses, suspicious mothers, endless questions about bloody reindeer and greedy kids who wanted too much he was embroiled in the beginning of the worst three weeks of his employment.  That he managed the first week without taking to drink or throttling one of the kids was a minor miracle.

The second week the elves started to get on his nerves, especially the new boy who was cheerful, helpful and sickenly enthusiastic.  It was week three, on the Monday after a weekend of drinking trying to deaden the run up to Christmas that it all went pear shaped.

A small boy waddled up to him, wiped his nose with his sleeve, picked the gum from his mouth and stuck it on Rudolph’s pulsating red nose.

Danny had no chance to remonstrate with him because the far from angelic face looked up at him and said: “All right fatty, what am I gonna get fer Christmas then?”

He wanted to say: ‘Your legs slapped hard, for a start and your ugly mother given a walloping for birthing a horrible kid like you and your father hung, drawn and quartered for possibly being a moron.’  Instead he gave the little horror a smile and a meaningful Ho, Ho, Ho and said: “I cannot say what Father Christmas will bring you, sonny.”

“Who you callin’ sonny, fatty?” said the kid whose mother waddled up close behind clutching a mobile to her ear declaring that she was “In effing Santa’s effing grotto, and it’s effing crap,” virtually ignoring what her offspring was doing.

“‘Ere mum, fatty called me sonny!” the boy wailed and ran forward, stopped and kicked Danny’s leg hard.

“Ow! You little sod!”  Danny yelled and clutching his leg, bent forward in the seat, his eyes watering from the pain, and without thinking he whacked the kid with his fat hand and knocked him, as he liked to say, base over apex.

There followed a confused cacophony of female indignation, small boy yelling and crying, Elves rushing to sort out the incident.   Samantha, the chief Elf fussing around calling the supervisor.  The new boy trying to comfort the child and the mother demanding action.

Danny eased his leg and swore one long string of unrepeatable oaths and, overcome by the previous night’s drinking, and the pain in his leg he attempted to rise from the seat to leave the grotto by the back door.

He needed a fag.

Instead he staggered and dropped to the floor to the same level as the small boy who sat staring at him with his mouth  wide open, no tears but eyes wide in wonder as he gazed at Danny whose beard and whiskers had shifted to reveal his fat face mapped with small, broken veins and his tobacco stained moustache.

“You said rude words and hit me,” the boy said.  “Cor!”

“Cor?” said Danny,  “What do you mean by Cor?”

“You said more rude words than me Dad,” the boy said, his face aglow with admiration.

“Do you mean you think that’s good?” said Danny struggling to raise his fat, weary body to its knees and succeeding.

“I didn’t fink Santa was real, mister, cor!”

Danny, aware of the noise surrounding him and the boy’s sudden hero worship he had an inspiration: “What do you want from Santa, sonny?”

As quick as a flash the boy pointed out into the shop and said: “One of them!”

And before the men from Security grasped him and hauled him off to the staff room Danny replied.  “Then that’s what you will get.”

What Danny Morris got was a dressing down by his employer, his status as the stores Santa taken away from him and given to the new boy.  Penitent and promising to behave, he changed out of the Santa suit into his normal working clothes and settled down to carry on as usual in the store.  He was surprised and pleased that nobody pressed charges, and even more pleased when he was informed that he would ‘never again be trusted to work in the Grotto’, and that he also kept his job.

“You are lucky that we were not charged with assault,” said the Manager.  “The child’s mother gave him a whacking on her own account referring to him as, and I paraphrase,  ‘akin to an awkward, illegitimate, fundamental orifice’ adding a string of epithets that I will not repeat.”

Danny walked off happy with his lot and happy that somebody else was lumbered with being the store’s Santa.

He was still very happy on Christmas Day, drunk maybe, but happy.

And so was little Robert Walker.

His ‘one of them’ stood on the carpet in all its glory.  His father, Denis and his mother, Sylvia, were surprised when the courier delivered the large parcel late on Christmas Eve addressed to their four year old son.  They were puzzled too.  The label on the box inside the parcel had written on it ‘To Robert from Santa’ and the moment the boy saw it his grubby little face lit up and he said: “Coo, bleedin’ ‘eck, ‘e give it me, didn’t ‘e?”

“What’s the effing little bugger on abaht?” said Denis.

“I don’t effing know do I?” said Sylvia. “You ask him.”

And Robert’s reply when his father spoke rudely to him as he sat on his new collapsible trike was: “‘E couldn’t ‘alf bleedin’ swear!”

His father’s face was a picture of puzzled confusion.

Publishing books – a guide

Attached is a PDF that Peter Apps put together as a brief guide to publishing.  The notes are just that – a guide – but it is a good working document for the moment.

Peter has saved us a lot of effort by working on creating a template for a book, and is working on another for a cover.  Through TAUP – the publishing site we, as a writer’s group can begin to produce publications that look professional, are professional and will have an identity as part of a local publishing house based on Sheppey.

The idea is to create a local publishing base, to share costs plus create some momentum for publicity beyond the shores of Sheppey.

How ever you work, the steps outlined are useful to follow because they will give you realistic deadlines.  Taking your time means that you probably wilt procrastinate and never get that book on the shelves.

I am about to take the plunge with The Reluctant Hero the first volume of The Zradian Chronicles.  The major restructuring and editing is done and now it is a matter checking to make sure that the gaps are right, the story lines tie up and I have eliminated the typos.


Meet the Authors

Dateline; 1st June 2013 – place The Old House at Home – Sheerness High Street.  

Peter Apps’  new book Deja Vu to the Nth was launched successfully.  The third in the series this book ties up a lot of the story threads that began with the two previous tales but adds a new dimension, or rather a series of new dimensions, to entertain and make the reader think.IMG_9569Also and not least Sandy Edwards a poet and writer of excellent short stories launched his new book of poetry – a re-print with additions of extra poems that cover a journey in the east and his experiences here in the UK.   Sandy is planning to produce a volume of short stories and is currently working on a novel and a novella, but we must enjoy the poems and look forward to what will be a worthwhile read – having heard some of the tales in draft form I can say they are good.  An Antique Place is an enlarged second edition and one of those handy books that you can keep handy to read occasionally for inspiration after you have read it all the way through.

Karm Arger, although his book was not quite ready on the day it is possible that we will have copies ready for the event at Eastchurch on the 8th June.  However, The Killing of a Nobody and other stories, is worth the wait with some interesting tales that take the reader out the comfort zone and again gives food for thought.

In addition to the three authors featured Ruth Partis, local poet, and writer arrived with her two popular books, The Works of Ruth Partis, and My Sister’s Shoes.   And James Apps was there with copies of Jake’s Progress and the epic poem The Turval and the Grobble.   

Snacks and Pimms provided by the establishment, singers by members of the Big Fish Band, and interest shown by the patrons and visitors.

In the many years I have used computers for writing I have had a number of printers.  When I first started using a computer I had a robust dot matrix printer that went well with the Amstrad computer I was using.  I had that for a a number of years, re-programmed it to work more efficiently, and set it up to respond to the DOS commands the computer’s required to respond.  Special Piccies 798

This article is the editor’s opinion, is also influenced by choices made and does not reflect  on the general quality of printers on offer.  Of necessity, I have had to buy at the lower end of the scale, although in 2013 the quality of printers for home use has risen and usually you get value for your money.

Eventually the printer began to wear out as I had a number of long essays to write.  I exchanged it for a small HP printer that lasted several computer upgrades, but being a simple unit it eventually suffered paper tearing, and bent or worn out parts.  I had to replace that but it was fast, gave good quality printing but was only a black ink model, which was fine for much of what I needed.

The trouble was it suffered eventually from a lack of compatibility as I upgraded my PC’s.    Although this would not normally be a problem; simply replacing a worn out printer, or getting it repaired at that time was quite easy to plan and make decisions.  Replacing the printer with a similar, upgraded model seemed a good idea.

The problem was that as the new century progressed inkjet printers became cheaper, and more or less consumable items in the general run.

When I bought my first Dell PC I also had the printer with it.   It had an excellent ink system, was fast, printed reasonable colour and what you saw on the screen most of the time was reproduced on the page.  The printer was in fact rubbish regarding longevity.  Dell replaced it for me when it started to chew paper, pick up more than one sheet, print half a page and in general fail to work.

I used other makes after that.

One printer (make not revealed) worked well for nearly two years with the PC I was using with no trouble, but as the updates on the PC arrived, and the maker upgraded its products so I became aware that the printer was failing.   It insisted on suddenly losing the contact with the PC and I had to re-boot the printer, search for printer driver upgrades until eventually it refused to work.

Result:  I changed to a Canon which was an excellent choice.  This is not a product promotion, but merely an observation on my experience with same.  This worked extremely well, produced good results and in particular, as a 3 in 1, which is what I like, as well as a quality photo – printer, it fitted the bill.   A problem arose when paper jammed in it creating an error which needed a service agent’s expertise.  The cost of the repair would be more than the cost of a new printer.

I plumped for a new printer.

Good idea?

Yes and no.

Yes because I got an upgraded version but no because there is a generational change in the printer design to take into account.

It appears from my recollections that what I want is a printer that will print text, posters, flyers and other small items including  leaflets, but what I have got is a printer on which the emphasis is on the Photo Printing facility.  Its default design purpose is to print photographs. And that means a strange development.  My latest printer seems to be reluctant to shut off, is slow to process and when the black ink runs out needs the cartridge in the print tank set to continue printing if you print in a colour.

Previous printers had the faculty to simulate black from the colours.  Previous printers would accept ‘fast’ print settings including draft settings until changed to default.  Previous printers were also easier to do double sided printing.  This latest model has good quality printing but unless it is set on fast printing takes far too long to process the print job.

When it does decide to print it will do what it is asked and do it well, but then that is why I bought the damn thing.

But, when we look at what the inkjet can do my niggles are petulant chunterings compared to the printers we used to have.   I remember buying the plain, perforated paper in boxes and having to tear off the side strips afterwards, and re-inking the tapes.

Still, it is better than setting thew type in boxes and pressing it in a wooden press, oh, and making the paper yourself.


Self Publishing – a few comments.


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One of my books - self published through Lulu.

One of my books – self published through Lulu.

The question the aspiring author is often faced with once the work is completed to publication standard, is how to get the masterpiece into print.  The traditional route for many is to use an agent who will place the manuscript with the a suitable publisher, handle  much of the mechanics such as editing, publicity and of course the contract.  All this done for the usual fee, and fair enough too if the heavy administration work is to be done allowing the author to get on with writing the book.

However, in these modern times it is difficult for a new writer, unless they are in the right place at the right time with the right and popular material, to get a sniff at an agent let alone a publisher.  Most publishing houses are unwilling to risk investment in the work of an unknown preferring their established authors or celebrities’ books.

You could say that some of the latter are money making rubbish, but unless an agent or a publisher can see money making from your work they do not want to deal with it.   Any writer will be aware of that.

So, what happens?

The alternative is self-publishing.

Self publishing systems can be tricky ranging from those that sell a simple low cost system hooked into the current e-book market as well as print productions, offering ‘print on demand’ (POD) marketing, to those who want to tie the author in to expensive contracts.

I will not name any of these systems in this item but point out the differences in approach and some of the traps that can await the unwary.

Let us begin by stating that the easiest American based POD company gives the author control of all processes during publication, has an individual ‘shop window’ and is fully up front with all charges, and will not expect, or demand the author buy large numbers of copies, although the more you buy the cheaper each copy is.   This same company offers facilities beyond the basic that, if taken up can cost a considerable amount, but again you as the author can control how many services you want to buy.

The alternative is the extension of the so-called Vanity Press systems.   Some you will immediately recognise for what they are, garage fillers whose sole purpose is to get you to use their system and, under the directive of marketing for your self will send you boxes of books all looking quite plush and well finished, but destined for the re-cycling bin.  You will be charged a lot of money for an item that you cannot sell unless you are a gun at marketing.

The next, and most interesting system, is the one that will offer a professional service at a price that appears to produce a quality product, and will do so.  Within limits you have control of the process all the way and on offer is some excellent marketing tools for you to use.

It is at this point I am tempted to identify the companies but it would be unfair to do so and instead point out the pitfalls.  Both companies offer similar services but one appears to be more professionally concerned with the success of the author rather than the success of their bank balances.

Company A:  Offers a professional service that will need some investment by the budding author.   The service includes, templates for setting out the book, cover design including the ISBN, editing to a professional standard, a quality end product and promotion of the book with a POD and advice on how to personally sell yourself, how to promote your book and will give you a place on their extensive lists.   All is given with good follow up support and charges are negotiated at the outset with no hidden extras.  These services are normal with all such publishers and are paid for by you but the results can be good. You do not have to buy large numbers of your books.

Company B:  Offers the same or similar services but without the marketing or promotion.

Both companies take a share of the profits and pay royalties on all books sold.

As you can imagine, all self publishing systems will charge for printing the copies, charge for shipping, and will offer discounts for trade orders.

The traps are:

getting tied into a contract you cannot really afford.

paying for shipping costs that are far too high

not having access to promotional sites

being charged for items, such ISBN that you can buy cheaper

sent promotional ideas that you cannot use

being overcharged for services

Lastly, the author can take the step of creating their own publishing house.  A group of authors can set up a web site, find editors, design artists and printers in their local area and using the templates that can be created on most text formatting systems, write and design their own books.  Control of the process is assured every step of the way, knowledge and resources can be shared.

Marketing becomes problematic but by linking in to local book fairs, using the web sites and alerting the local press there will be some success.

In conclusion it should be said that self publishing books is popular and your book, unless you find innovative ways of marketing, will be lost in the mountains of titles on offer.

James Apps – editor.