Word Count 28: Download your copy of The Gates of Balawat now! Oh, and plus some podcasts and stuff.

by Suw on December 13, 2022

Hi there,

I’m very excited to finally be able to share The Gates of Balawat with you! It feels like an important milestone and one that I shall celebrate with delight.

Suw’s News: Download The Gates of Balawat

The Gates of Balawat ebook cover – an open temple door leading out to a view of London in the distance. 
Yes, it’s the newsletter you’ve been waiting for, the one with the download link for my novelette, The Gates of Balawat! (Though because you’re reading this on my website, your link is to sign up to my newsletter.)

I discovered a print-out of The Gates of Balawat earlier this  year, when I was clearing out my notebooks and files before moving back to the UK.

I’d written it in 2015, sent it out to a few of my old newsletter subscribers and then promptly forgot about it. When I rediscovered it, I read it over and was quietly surprised that I still liked it. So I tidied it up, made a cover, and here it is for your enjoyment over the holidays.

Ella stumbles on a strange mystery in her favourite museum. To resolve it, she must make a life-changing decision.

An aspiring artist, Ella spends a lot of time wandering round London’s museums and art galleries, learning from the masters whilst trying to pick up the courage to turn her passion in to a career. Sketching in the Assyrian gallery in the capital’s biggest museum, she becomes entranced by a fellow artist who is struggling with the same career challenges and who shares her habit of daily practice. But why does he never remember her? And what is it about him that’s always just slightly wrong?

If you like it, please tell your friends that they, too, can read it if they sign up to my newsletter via my website. As soon as they confirm their subscription, they’ll get an email with the download link.

Stop, look and listen: The Creative Penn, The Anatomy Of Genres With John Truby

Author and self-publishing expert Joanna Penn talks to John Truby about his new book, The Anatomy of Genres. As the title suggests, Truby’s book takes a deep dive into genre fiction and sounds like a must-read for all genre writers. It’s certainly on my Christmas list!

In this episode, Truby talks about how he defines genre, the importance of transcending genre and how to write cross-genre. The latter point was, I thought, rather illuminating. We often hear that cross-genre books are a hard sell, because agents, publishers and booksellers don’t know how to categories them. Truby’s advice is to understand the characteristics of the genres you’re mashing up, then pick one main genre to which you add aspects of another genre. It’s like having an A Genre, which largely defines the way that the book will be shelved, with touches of your B and C Genres, which give it colour and originality.

Stop, look and listen again: Write-Off with Francesca Steele, S3E1 – Bonnie Garmus

This episode of Write-Off with Francesca Steele in conversation with Bonnie Garmus was just a delight. Garmus’s recent debut, Lessons in Chemistry, rocketed her to the top of the besteller lists at the tender age of 64 and is currently being made into a TV series. She talks about her writing journey, rejection and how to get moving again when you get stuck in a story.

Maybe I’m showing my age, but I love stories of people who found their success later in life. Like me, Garmus had wanted to be a writer all her life, although I have yet to rack up 98 rejections for a single book, as she has! So if you’re heading into (or through) middle age and wondering if you’ve left it too late to kick off your writing career, this conversation will warm the cockles of your heart.

Stop, look and listen to this as well: Scriptnotes, Ep 576 – What You’re Looking At

Honestly, podcast episode recommendations are like buses – none for weeks and then three turn up at once!

It has been a while since I recommended a Scriptnotes episode, but this one is really good, regardless of what you’re writing. John August and Craig Mazin talk about the craft of “how sentence structure and word choice translate to camera direction, allowing writers to direct the reader’s eye”. If you’re writing novels, then this is about how you’re directing your reader’s mind’s eye, which is just as important.

Most commentary on word choice tends to the trite. All those Pinterest posts about “alternative words for ‘said’” really do steer writers the wrong way. But as you’d expect, August and Mazin go beyond the thesaurus to look at what words are implying and how word choice can focus the reader’s attention, shape what they ‘see’, and even imply motivations and intention.

Read this (or not): Horribly depressing news about UK writers’ earnings

This might be the season to be merry, but the latest survey of writers’ earnings, commissioned by the UK Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) makes for some fairly miserable reading. The median income of a professional author, ie someone who devotes at least 50 percent of their time to writing, is now £7,000 per year. The survey includes authors, journalists and screenwriters.

The top 1 percent of authors earn 24 percent of the income, with the next 10 percent earning the next 24 percent. That leaves just 53 percent of income to be shared amongst the next 90 percent of authors. As with other parts of the economy, it’s clear that wealth is being transferred to a small minority of very successful people and away from the ‘long-tail’ of the rest of us. And, worse, publishing companies are posting record profits.

As author Stephen Cox points out, writers write because we enjoy it and it gives us purpose, but where an actor can expect their earnings to increase as their career progresses, authors do not necessarily see the same dynamics at play. You can have decent success with one book only to see your next tank and your career disintegrate.

It’s no wonder that so many authors, yours truly included, are looking for ways to develop stable income from sources that aren’t publishers, whether that’s by using Patreon or Ko-Fi, developing paid newsletters, or doing other work on the side. Because now only the most privileged writers can spend all their time just writing.

Copurrnicus lying on his back on my lap with all four paws in the air. Obligatory cat picture

After that, we all need a cute pick-me-up, so here’s Copurrnicus as a kitten, when he was small enough to sleep on my lap for hours as I worked.

That’s it for this week! Don’t forget to download your copy of The Gates of Balawat and, if you like it, please do encourage your friends and family to subscribe!

All the best,


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