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Archive for the ‘Alex Draven’ Category

Linking someone to Fiona’s recent post on the vanishing apostrophes on Birmingham’s street signs reminded me of something, which sent me to Guardian’s style guide.

(Should you be interested, “St James Park home of Exeter City; St James’ Park home of Newcastle United; St James’s Park royal park in London.”)

I must recommend the Guardian’s style guide. I far more often need to turn to my faithful Strunk and White, for dealing in American English, but I can waste goodly chunks of time reading the Guardian’s – it’s such a excellent combination of useful information, useless information, self depreciation, sense, and general British-ness. All this and they helpfully provide an online edition, so I can waste time all over the place, not just when near my shelves.

For example, take a look at the H section, which offer everything from where to put the apostrophes in the name of a famous girls’ school to the correct spelling of hyperthermia and hypothermia, via hi fi (how we listened to music in the days before iPods), hummus (you eat it) vs humus (you put it on the garden) and a long digression on the construction of an excellent headline.

Who can resist that sort of miscellany?

* For those as might not recognize the nickname, the Guardian is a major national paper in the UK. In the 60s it was renowned and ridiculed for its poor proof reading. As they say in the introduction to the printed edition of the style guide: The ‘Grauniad’ nickname, once well-earned, has been hard to shake off, but we do better today. ”

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This is one of my favourite times of year, and I’m posting today, talking about Whitby.

What do I mean, Whitby?

Whitby.

1) A small seaside town and fishing port on the north east coast of Yorkshire, famous for it’s jet.

2) An important medieval abbey. See also St Hilda (Abbess)

3) “a gathering of as many goths as we possibly can get in one place for drinking, bands, partying on top of cliffs all night, posing for tourists, and generally living it up…”

The Abbey is beautiful, and the lovely town very much part of the thing, but when me and mine talk about ‘going to Whitby’, we’re talking about definition #3 – the Whitby Goth Weekend.

Way back in 1994, a bunch of net-goths decided they’d get together, basically to see how many goths they could get in a seaside pub. The answer was about 250, so the next autumn they decided to actually organise things … bands, the bizarre bazaar, club nights, auxiliary extra club nights, fashion shows, sandcastle competitions, art exhibitions, photo dates with the local photography clubs, history walks, charity football matches against the local newspaper….

Add in personal rituals (for me, that includes at least one afternoon’s raid on the Shepherd’s Purse, buying chocolate coffins in Justin’s, catching up with a lot of people who I don’t otherwise get to see, Getting Ready Together, Sexbat’s 80’s night at Laughton’s, a massed cafe breakfast on the final day for the saying of goodbyes, and the totally unofficial not-quite-legal bonfire) and you have a recipe for a very fun, very full, very customisable long weekend.


It’s a gig-come-convention. It’s a festival. It’s a holiday with like minded friends. It’s an invasion (if you squint – local businesses love us, and the crime rate tends to droop when we’re in town), it’s a party, it’s an opportunity to dress up, it’s – it’s a twice-yearly celebration of community.

I’ve not been able to take time off from my day job to go up to Whitby for three years now, and I miss it. I spent one night this week doing a friend’s hair for him – wielding my latch hook to tidy, tighten and adorn the dreads that were barely to his shoulder blades when I first help make them, and are now past his waist – and I’m glad I got to do that, to be at least that little tiny bit involved in this season’s bi-annual migration to the North.

I could probably ramble on for a few thousand words about Whitby, but, in an attempt not to, I’ll stop now, and just ask this: What do you want to know?


As I write this, my email is all aflutter with people doing last minute prep and posting their farewells, and by the time I post it, on Halloween, there will be a seasonal silence on those channels.

I’d raise a pint of snakebite and black to the departed, but mine’s an absinthe and lemonade ;p

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Hi, I’m another Alex – Alex Draven. Mostly I write queer romance (sometimes dubbed m/m erotic romance, or original slash, or any one of a hundred other labels), and I’ve been putting off making my introduction post, because I always find it slightly embarrassing to talk about myself – how terribly stereotypically British of me!

(Photo by Chanc)

My tagline is ‘Librarian by day, storyteller by night’, because that’s pretty much true – I’ve worked in various libraries, largely in London, and they’re excellent places for watching people. My writing has to fit in around the day job because I’ve learned that nothing takes the joy out of something like making it responsible for keeping a roof over your head. I’ve made that mistake before. I can’t not think about stories, though, so the writing happens in all the spaces where it can, and I get to still enjoy it.

A fair amount of what I write is set in Britain, because that is my background – I’ve lived in England and Wales my whole life.

That said, I struggled for a long while to find a way of writing contemporary stories set in the UK that didn’t get bogged down in specific locations, and my first published stories were set in the USA. (Fall, which is urban fantasy with centaurs, is out of print and freely available on my journal, and Sleeping Bears, which is urban fantasy with bears and set in Alaska. Originally published in an anthology, it has been extended and will be coming out as a stand-alone ebook from Torquere Press in October)

(photo by unclebucko)

How did I make the jump to bringing my stories closer to home? I created fictional locations. There’s Kettle and its environs, which was home to my early experiments in English urban fantasy – some of which I plan to eventually revisit – and there’s Tawnholme, which is home to a lot of my contemporary stories, including both my current publications, Staytape and Favour (or, officially, Favor, because it’s with an American publisher). It took a long while to get a good grip on their geography, their history, but at least most of the background rules that shape the way people act – school systems, police systems, the rules of the road, media distribution, power supply – were already familiar to me.

If you followed the links, you’ll see the other reason I have ‘storyteller by night’ in my tagline – a lot of my stories are set in the UK’s goth/alternative scene. Why? Because boys in eyeliner. Okay, so that’s flippant (if a little bit true). Mostly because that, too, is my background. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s wondered where my pen name comes from, but, yes, I’m a goth. Or, these days, more of a metal-tinged rivethead corp-goth with terrifyingly eclectic music tastes, depending on how you look at these things.

I don’t write from life, but I do take inspiration from what’s around me, and my aesthetic is what it is.

(Photo by fluffy_steve)

I had a conversation with an editor last year where they queried a description of one of the characters, and I paraphrase.

“Are you sure this is saying what you want it to say – I’m getting Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, they said.

“Yup,” I said.

“Oh,” they said. “If that’s what you intended, then, fair enough. Only that’s not an image that says sexy to me”.

“Um,” I said. “It does to me …”

I’m just glad that the story found readers who see things more my way than the editor’s!

At the moment I’ve got several Tawnholme stories on the boil – the drag queen and the reluctant stag-party guest, the librarian and the children’s author, the roadie and the musician, the one where they meet by dropping milkshake on the pavement, the one where they go on holiday to Cornwall – and a ghost story that’s percolating in the back of my head.

So, in a nutshell, that’s me. Hi!

My website is currently a work in progress, so alexdraven.org.uk will take you to my journal, and the fiction that I’ve posted there.

My published works are available direct from the publisher here or via Amazon / Fictionwise / etc.

And my email inbox is always open, if people have questions or want to get in touch. (Alex@ the domain above)

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My fellow britwriters have covered many of the essential signs of a British summer already – Wimbledon, the seaside, steam fairs, celebrating the solstice, rain – but I have one more to add to the collage – village and church fetes!

These are community-run fund-raising days, and a chance for everyone to get together and have fun in the sun (or while huddling in tents and under umbrellas, depending on the weather) Church fetes are normally raising money for the church buildings, and village fetes may be fund-raising for a village hall, the local Brownie and Scout groups, or any other local or larger charity that’s been agreed on.

(I’ll leave school fetes, fairs and sportsdays to someone with more recent experience.)

Recipie for a church or village fete.

A medium-hot day is preferred, but temperature is not essential. With enough community spirit, your fete will rise, even in the rain.

Basic components:

– Space (outdoors preferred, but if you can’t get it, a church or village hall will also work)
– Sound system
– Marquees
– Folding tables
– Banners, posters, and signs
Bunting to taste.

Begin the day early with a generous serving of volunteers. Mix well with the basic ingredients to create your temporary fairground. Allow approximately four hours for this stage of the process.

Add at least one and preferably more element from each of the following categories:

Stalls, selling things donated by members of the church/village .

  • Cake stall – baked goods by the slice, or in the round from the best cooks- an essential component.
  • Plant stall – houseplants and bedding plants from the green fingered.
  • Gifts – candles, jewelry, cards, bath bombs, wood carvings, from the craftily inclined.
  • Book stall – books, dvds, videos, cds, records etc
  • Bric-a-brac or white-elephant stall selling random *stuff* – ornaments, jewellery, pictures, toys, if there’s not a separate toy stall. (NB – *not* clothes; this isn’t a jumble sale, after all!)

Games of chance.

  • The Raffle – an essential. It’s not a proper fete unless you’re presented with a table mounded with prizes and the opportunity to buy a strip of tickets when you arrive. You will need the sound system for the raffle calling at the end of the day, as well as the interim entertainment.
  • Tombola – another essential. Sometimes split into adult (mostly alcoholic) and children’ (mostly sweets) but the principle is the same. The stall will be filled with bottles and jars, each with a numbered ticket taped to them. The punter picks from the bucket of folded tickets, and if the numbers match, they have themselves a prize. Most of the time numbers ending in 5 or 0 are the winners
  • Wheel of fortune – like the tv show, but on a domestic scale.
  • Lucky dip – everyone gets a prize from the barrel full of sawdust or straw, but some of them are penny sweets, and some of them are pound coins.
  • Key dip – pick a key from the bucket and if it unlocks any of the locks on the test bar, you win a prize.
  • String pull – pick a string, and pull – if it’s tied to a prize, you win.

Games of skill.

  • Whack-a-rat – home made, with a length of drainpipe, and rats made out of newspaper stuffed tights, with something heavy at the nose. The volunteer drops the rat down the drainpipe, and the punter takes a swing with a bat or stick, with a prize for anyone who can pin a rat on the base-board.
  • Electric buzz – manouvering a metal ring along a bendy wire course without touching the wire and completeing the ‘buzz’ circuit.
  • Coconut shy – some would argue this should be in with the games of chance, but that’s just sour grapes ;p.
  • Beat-the-goalie – does what it says on the tin – the punter normally gets three attempts to get the ball in the net, like a penalty kick in football (soccer for the Americans).
  • Hoop toss – throw your hoop over the prize and it’s yours
  • Horseshoes – toss your horseshoe around a prize, or a prize-representing-stake and it’s yours
  • Beanbag toss – land your palm-sized beanbag on the prize spots to win
  • Skittles – like ten pin bowling, but not (this one’s a whole entry’s worth on it’s own.)
  • Guess the weight of the X / number of Y in the Z (weight of the cake / sweets in the jar etc)

Stuff for the kids.

Food, and drink.

  • The tea tent is essential – tea, squash, and scones with cream and jam at a minimum, a wider range of cakes, drinks, and sandwiches if you can muster enough volunteers willing to cook and serve it all.
  • Beer tent
  • BBQ
  • Hog roast
  • Icecream
  • Stawberries and cream

(getting a hot dog van or similar to show up is clearly *cheating*. Perfectly appropriate for a fairground, or showground, but not really cricket for the amateur-run fete. Similarly, candy-floss is an option, but is more traditional for a fairground or carnival. )

Entertainment

A harmonious mix from the lists above will ensure that there’s something for everyone, and that your fete will fill the temporary fairground base well. Allow time for the stalls and games to set before presenting your fete to the appreciative audience waiting at the gates.

As a final garnish, you may wish to add a local celebrity to declare the fete officially open.

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