PLR – Have you signed up?

I just received my PLR statement for this year. If you’re wondering what the PLR is, then read this, taken from the PLR website:

Public Lending Right (PLR) is the right for authors to receive payment for the loans of their books by public libraries.

I’m a huge fan of the PLR and not only for the obvious reason that they send me money each year, but also for the fact they are so good at their job.

I first found out about them a few years ago when one of their operatives phoned me up to say she’d noticed I hadn’t registered with them and was due some money if I did so. Since then they have operated with quiet efficiency, paying my money directly into my bank each February without fail. They’ve also got an excellent website – nothing fancy, it just works.

If you’re a published writer and you’ve not signed up yet, you could be losing money. Where does it come from? Well, again, as it says on the website:

Under the PLR system in the UK, payment is made from government funds to authors, illustrators and other contributors whose books are borrowed from public libraries. Payments are made annually on the basis of loans data collected from a sample of public libraries in the UK. The Irish Public Lending Remuneration (PLR) system covers all libraries in the Republic of Ireland and operates in a similar way.

To qualify for payment, applicants must apply to register their books.

It takes less than ten minutes. There’s absolutely no reason not to sign up.

There’s a nice end note to all this, too. Many top selling authors waive their PLR payments, allowing them to go back into the pot to help out other writers.

PLR, they really do bring a ray of sunshine into these dark January days.

Live Writing

I’ve just returned from a few days in Paris where I’ve been finishing off the first draft of my next novel, Dream Paris.

Did I have to finish the book in Paris? Well, there’s no denying it was an enjoyable experience: walking down the boulevards in the unseasonable autumn sun; stopping at a cafe to drink a Leffe and watch the world go by; taking my time over coffee in a restaurant at the end of a meal…

But was it really necessary to go to Paris? I think so. It gave me the opportunity to take lots of photos to use as reference images. But more importantly, It gave me the opportunity to use my note book. I’ve written about this before (and I’ll mention it again in the future), there’s nothing like capturing a scene live. One of my favourite definitions of a novelist comes from Sol Stein: a novelist is someone who communicates emotion.

I’m not a photographer, I can’t capture the emotion in a scene with a camera, all I can do is to take snapshots. I do like to think that I can capture a scene in words, however, and this has to be done live. You’re capturing your emotional reaction to the scene, or the imagined reaction of your characters. Failing to realise this is a mistake that many beginners make: a simple description of the scene before you is not good writing, no matter how detailed that description, no matter how many fancy words you use.

In a story, the scene you are describing should be there to communicate some emotion: tension, happiness, fear, excitement. You can recreate this emotion at your desk or in the coffee shop, but if you are moved by what you see before you remember, it’s not play of sun on the leaves that you are trying to record, capture those emotions there and then.

The Waters of Meribah

I was contacted by a college SF class, asking me about my short story The Waters of Meribah. In particular, they wanted to know, what did it mean? Here’s my reply…

My degree was in Mathematics. I’m fascinated by what can be mathematically proven and what can’t. I’m intrigued by the fact that maths reveals so much about the universe, and that leads me to wonder about the things that aren’t revealed. The things we simply can’t comprehend.

I’d been planning a story describing the gradual process of changing from human into the other whe(so, in the story, Buddy can’t know if the other aliens exist or not whilst he is still Buddy). n a friend of mine lent me a book. Inside it was a photocopy of the passage from The Waters of Meribah, being used as a bookmark. I don’t remember what the book was, but the bookmark captivated me. What really struck me about the passage was that Moses and Aaron’s reaction was quintessentially human: they questioned.

A recurring theme in Science Fiction is our relationship with the alien. I wanted to examine the totally alien, something so alien that humans couldn’t comprehend it. Something so alien that in order to understand it, we would have to stop being human.

I didn’t know the ending to the story when I began writing, but as it progressed, as Buddy Joe changed, I realized that what made something truly alien wasn’t a different body, or different emotions, it was something that struck at the heart of what it is to be human: to think, to reason, to question. If something is truly alien, it won’t think as we do. If the alien visits our world, we won’t be able to comprehend it,

If we are to understand the alien, if we are to gain a greater understanding, we have to do what Buddy Joe does at the end of the story. We have leave to our current minds behind in this world.

I’m not sure that the above answers any questions, I’m not sure it even answers mine. I suppose if the answers were clear cut, I wouldn’t have written the story, I’d have just done some maths instead…