Thursday, 15 February 2018

Review: The Misper by Bea Davenport.

“I knew this girl, you see. A sort of a friend. No one thought she really mattered much, but that turned out to be a mistake. Because she blew a hole through my life – and the lives of everyone I knew.”

The Misper is the new YA thriller by Bea Davenport which will be hitting the bookshelves on the 1st March this year. It is published by Conrad Press which is a fairly small publisher, and as I result I fear this book might not get the exposure it deserves.

First impressions – the cover – the cover is great! It hints at the three friends and yet you don’t see their faces – they remain a mystery – a mystery that can only be unlocked by delving into these pages.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term Misper, let me bring you up to date – it is, quite simply Police slang for a missing person. And in the first few pages it is immediately clear that this is the thrust of the story. Someone has disappeared and at first we don’t even know who – not to mention why! Police are everywhere, parents and friends distraught.

Rewind several months and we start to fill in the gaps. Anna is starting a new school, and is instantly drawn to goth girl Zoe. As their friendship develops it soon becomes clear that something is not quite right with Zoe, but before we can find out more in bounces Kerry, an awkward geek of a girl who nobody really likes. Anna feels both sorry for her but at the same time that she is driving a wedge between her and Zoe. They both wish Kerry would go away and leave them alone.

Then Zoe starts dabbling in witchcraft and things take a more sinister turn.

This is a really gripping book. From almost the first page I was embroiled in Anna’s world and the pace and intrigue never lets up. The scary parts are really scary, the tense parts really tense, and I can tell you I won’t be snooping round any graveyards anytime soon.

But what I loved the most was the character of Anna. I really felt I could relate to her, almost as if there was a bit of me in her. I think if I was in her shoes I would have done exactly the same…

I know this is a book aimed at the teenage market, but I really enjoyed reading it too. In fact I read it in one sitting before I realised what was happening – and I’d only meant to read the first chapter!

It’s easy for a book published by a small press to miss out on the recognition it deserves, so all I can say is buy a copy, buy your friend a copy, ask your library to stock it, leave a review. This is a book that deserves to be noticed. Let’s make that happen!

Bea Davenport's Website

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Enter the Aftermath

Enter the Aftermath, a collection of post-apocalyptic fiction from TANSTAAFL Press has just been released. This is the second in the ‘Enter the…’ series of anthologies and contains my Cli-Fi short story “A Time of Dying”.

The first in the series, Enter the Apocalypse, was published last year and explores a range of possible apocalypses that might befall mankind. In Enter the Aftermath the stories explore the height of these apocalypses and in the third, to be released later this year, Enter the Rebirth will look at how the world might find a new equilibrium.

Enter the Aftermath is available in both print and kindle formats from Amazon US and Amazon UK. So if you like your fiction apocalyptic why not head over and buy yourself a copy. And in the meantime here is a little extract to whet your appetite….

“From here I had a better view. It was definitely a settlement up ahead. A cluster of houses that must once have been a village or small town. Only the walls remained, the roofs caved in, either by the weight of the sand as the shifting dunes had smothered them, or by the bombs that came before. Either way, the dune field, running before the wind, was clearing away, leaving the ruins exposed. For a while at least, until the next set of dunes reached this spot. 
Places like this were always good for scavenging. The last place we’d found ammunition and dried rations, out of date but still usable. This place looked promising. 
But someone had got here first.” 
Buy Enter the Aftermath at:

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Creating a Sense of Place: Guest Post by Kathy Shuker.

Today my special guest is Kathy Shuker, a Devon based author who writes intriguing mysteries with an evocative sense of place. Welcome to the Scribbling SeaSerpent, Kathy.

I’ve been writing novels now for around fifteen years. Most of the early ones never saw the light of day (fortunately) but three have been published and many readers have commented on their strong sense of place. It’s been a long learning curve and here I’ll try to share what I’ve learnt and how I approach the setting for a story - and why I think it’s important.

Writing a novel, I quickly found out, involves endless decision-making - there are so many different ways to tell a story. If you’re indecisive like me, it can slow you down; you become literally spoilt by the choice. And it’s all too easy to get wrapped up thinking of exciting plot details or complex characters and neglect the all-important background information. Along with the time period, the setting is fundamental to the atmosphere of the work. For example, if you want to tell a story that’s hard and fast and clean-edged, brisk with people and the insistent thrust of modern life, you would probably set it in a big city. If you want a moodier story with a haunting backdrop, you might choose something rural and remote. Again, there are many options. Whatever you choose, the setting is like another character in the story, something that has an essence of its own and, if it’s to play its full part, needs to be respected as such.

I write mysteries which are character-driven, stories that revolve around small communities, families with untold back stories, groups of old friends whose relationships have grown or stretched out of shape or have even broken down. I feel they suit intimate and sparsely populated settings. There’s time for the characters to interact; there’s space for the unusual, the surprising, the unspoken, all of which add to the mystery. I have spent most of my adult life living in rural areas so my choice of settings is not surprising: I know how small communities work; I breathe more easily in the countryside. And I think that’s an important factor in choosing a setting for a novel: you need to know and understand where the story takes place. It’s going to be a long writing journey and that setting is going to hold it all together. As the story unfolds, it will keep throwing questions at you - points of detail which, if you get them right, can help to make the story credible. If you get them wrong, the reader may pick up on the inconsistencies and be pulled out of the story.

So, what do you need to know about this place you have created? I use real settings but subtly alter them to suit my story and I use fictional names. Wherever you choose to set the book, you need to research it as you would the other characters. You may not use all that information but you need to know it. Firstly, you need to know what the place looks like - how it’s laid out; what the architecture is like; what the buildings are made of. If it’s rural, you should find out the species of trees and flowers that grow in the area. Is it barren or fertile? What is the climate like? And you may need to know the times of sunrise and sunset. I always keep a diary to hand for that. And, since a previous book and the one I’m currently working on are both set by the sea in the UK, I have to know the tide times for the period I’m writing about too. Though you don’t have to live in the place the book is set, it does help if you have at least visited it. A lot of really useful information can be found in books and on the internet but there’s no substitute for first-hand experience.  My second novel is set in Provence. I’d been lucky enough to have visited the area several times before writing it which enabled me to remember the piercing brightness of the sunshine, the oppressiveness of the mid-summer heat and the way storms can develop and pass quickly leaving the ground suddenly washed and sparkling again. Information like this can give the story more depth and life.

But looks aren’t everything. It’s important to describe sounds too, and smells - very emotive - and the feel of something to the touch. Every little nudge of information can help to produce a more rounded and three-dimensional image. And do it slowly. As a reader, I know how easy it is to switch off if too much information is presented in one go. When I’m writing, I give a brief overall description initially then drop more crumbs of detail in as I go along. Sometimes a single adjective, well-placed, can be more effective than a whole paragraph. And don’t forget to leave some leeway for the reader’s imagination; that’s part of the pleasure of reading. ‘Less is more’ is a mantra I often say to myself!

Above all I think you should enjoy your setting, have fun with it, inhabit it for the duration. If you can believe in it yourself, your readers will too.

Kathy trained as a physiotherapist but a back injury forced her to change career. She studied design and worked as a freelance artist, painting in oils and watercolours, exhibiting and teaching, before starting to write. She now writes full-time. As well as a continued love of reading, Kathy is a keen amateur musician, singing in a local choir and playing guitar, piano and fiddle. Art, the natural world and conservation are also particular interests. She lives with her husband in Devon, UK.

Kathy’s books are available in digital and print format on multiple platforms.

Kathy's Wesite
Kathy's Amazon Page
Kathy's Facebook Page

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Seven Tips for Writing great Dialogue

Sooner or later you characters are going to have a conversation – preferably sooner because dialogue breaks up a page of text, making it easier on the reader, as well as being an essential device for moving the plot forward. But it’s all too easy for dialogue to come across as stilted and contrived. So here are a few tips to help you make your dialogue shine.

1. Dialogue Tags

Many new authors are afraid of using ‘said’ or ‘asked’ and replace them with words such as ‘retorted’, ‘sniggered’, ‘growled’… I could go on – there are endless possible substitutions – but my advice on this is simple. Don’t!

Keep to using ‘said’ and ‘asked’, for these two words have a tendency to become invisible whereas words like ‘shouted’ and ‘murmured’ scattered throughout the text distract from the dialogue itself. There are far better methods for showing the reader how something is being said, without resorting to telling them, and that is something I will be coming on to below.

And as for a page of repeated ‘he said’ and ‘she said’? Well again, there are ways of avoiding this. Read on….

2. Who is speaking?

So what are the purpose of dialogue tags? Well, quite simply, they exist to show the reader which character is speaking. So if it is clear from the context of the conversation who is speaking, then dispense with the tags.

But it must be clear who is speaking. An unbroken spool of dialogue with no dialogue tags and nothing else going on will soon become confusing, and if there are multiple characters involved in a conversation then it is vital that the reader is always clear about who said what.

Sometimes dialogue tags will be the best way to achieve this. But there are other methods too .….

3. Adverbs.

You’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again, avoid the use of adverbs as much as possible. I’m not saying never use them. As with all types of language they form part of the writer’s arsenal, but should be used with caution and only when absolutely necessary.

The problem with adverbs is that they often reflect lazy writing, and this is particularly true in dialogue.

Adverbs are often used to enhance a weak verb, so, instead of a weak verb plus adverb – use a stronger verb!

And with dialogue – instead of saying “He said angrily” show the reader that the character is angry, both through the actual words the character uses – and the next point that I am going to discuss …

4. Action

So far I’ve been telling you what to avoid. Now I am going to tell you what to include.

Include action in your dialogue!

Your characters are not simply talking heads – they are living breathing entities and as such their actions will reflect their words. Think about how your characters react as they speak. Do they slam their fists on the table in anger and frustration? Are they bored and staring out of the window at something more interesting?

Use action to set the scene, show the reader what the characters are feeling and how they are reacting to the conversation, and also use action to show us who is speaking at any one time. But action is only part of the story….

5. Content

And now to the content of the conversation itself.

In real life conversations have a tendency to drift off at a tangent, or include in-jokes and banter, or for one person to waffle or maybe change the subject entirely.

However, as a writer we are not reproducing a conversation in its entirety. We are not trying to reproduce real life.

A conversation in a story is there for a reason. It is there to make a particular point or as a plot device, and for this reason it should be tight. The dialogue should move the story forwards, or give some insight into a particular character. In other words it should serve its purpose. Keep it relevant.

Also the words themselves should betray the feelings and hidden agendas of your characters, as well as how they are saying it, think about what they are saying.

6. Eavesdrop

Listen to the way people speak. Eavesdrop on the train or on the bus. Note down weird little snippets, but also listen to the way people interrupt each other, the way they interact, how the conversation ebbs and flows.

Now bring this to you dialogue. Let your characters interrupt each other. Let them be rude.

7. Location

Finally think about where the conversation is taking place. Is there any way you can bring movement to the scene? For example, instead of staring at each other across an empty table why not move them outside onto the street and have them walking? Put them somewhere that offers more scope for action and scene setting.

If you are writing a scene where the dialogue feels stilted and you’re struggling to show how your characters are feeling then try writing it again set in a different location. It can make a big difference. Use the setting to add richness.

I hope you find these tips useful. If you are looking for more writing advice check out the Tips for Writers tab on the menu bar above.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Self Publishing: Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them - Part 2 (Guest post by Celia Moore)

Having self-published my debut novel Fox Halt Farm, I thought I’d share a few more of the mistakes I made. I talked last week about my cover (here is the post if you would like to start at the beginning).

I hope this might save other indie authors time, money and worry.

3. The interior design is crucial too

I watch when people pick up my book. All pause on the cover and I always expect them to turn it over to read the back – just like I would but some don’t, some people flick the pages – some read the dedication, some wade through a random paragraph of text. I find it fascinating trying to imagine what they are thinking and how they are judging whether they will enjoy reading my novel.

I love a thick book with an intrinsic plot to savour – I want to be taken to another place and live there as long as possible, I don’t want the end to come, so it’s important that the book is thick and the font isn’t too large – but not so tiny or faint that I am going to struggle to read it. There are fonts I dislike too, the type must easy to read.  I want a simple layout but I can be impressed when the chapter titles reflect the cover design.

What I am saying is, you have to consider not just what you are saying and the way you are saying it but the actual interior design is vital too.

I changed the dimensions of my book and reduced the font size by 0.5 so its thickness didn’t feel uncomfortable to hold. There are so many factors to bear in mind.

The lesson I learnt was that the layout is really important. Always try to keep in mind that a potential purchaser could open your book on any page and their initial scrutiny has to be positive. 

4. Employ an Editor 

Initially, I didn’t think an editor was within my means, I didn’t have any budget for writing my book and I had good friends who had read my initial drafts.  They picked up spelling mistakes, told me about holes in my plot and said candidly about the places where it was slow or awkward to read.  I acted on their feedback and then employed literary consultant Melissa Eveleigh who gave me a wonderful summary of more things to work on. I rewrote and rechecked for typos and I was ready to publish.  Okay, so I still had a niggling doubt about my ending but that was all – the rest was perfect!

Two things led me to my editor, one was the need for reassurance about my ending and the second, was the gentle prompt from the wonderful book blogger Anne Williams (of Being Anne) – this lady read the first pages of my ‘final’ manuscript and said in the nicest way that I needed someone to check my manuscript again.

I think the testimonial I wrote for Amanda Horan, the editor I found, says it all – I have shortened what I said, ‘My debut novel Fox Halt Farm has been a massive undertaking for me… I have invested hundreds of hours in it whilst trying to work full time, and it has been a massive mental and financial outlay.  Amanda has been the best thing to happen to me on this journey… Amanda opened my eyes to so many things that were wrong with my original manuscript. She confirmed my doubts about the parts I wasn’t sure of and provided appropriate and well thought out solutions…I feel like I have been on a creative writing course…

My editor made my writing better. She highlighted bits that weren’t phrased well. There were paragraphs that were obsolete and other places in need of expanding. She highlighted where my characters weren’t interacting in a realistic way. The edits were all my own because Amanda just showed me where the rewrites were needed.  I still feel the book is wholly mine but the changes left me with a book that I am chuffed about. I love the revised ending and I feel very excited about sharing Fox Halt Farm with the world.

The lesson learnt is that a professional editor is essential – he or she will read your book from the reader’s point of view – they will add the polish and best of all, if you find an editor like Amanda then their suggestions will seem obvious. It will feel like they are just shining a torch on the bits that need changing and then shining it again to show you which direction to head in.

Celia Moore (1967-now) grew up on a small farm in Devon and had a successful career as a Chartered Surveyor working in the City of London before working her way back to Devon.

In 2000, she left the office life behind to start a new adventure as an outdoor instructor, teaching rock climbing and mountaineering amongst other things and managed an outdoor residential centre until she met her husband. Today she gardens for a few lovely customers, runs and writes accompanied at all times by their border terrier cross jack russell puppy Tizzy 

Her debut novel FOX HALT FARM is a change-of-life set over two decades inspired by some of the experiences her life.

Celia’s blog/website  -

Celia Moore’s Fox Halt Farm is on Amazon - the Kindle version has a special launch price of 99p

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Guest post by Oliver Tooley, owner of Blue Poppy Publishing.

Oliver Tooley is the sole proprietor of Blue Poppy Publishing, a very small name in publishing, boasting a loose collective of self-publishing authors, and offering as much or as little help as an author wants or needs to produce a professional product. 

Blue Poppy began in 2016 when I was all ready to publish my first novel “Children of the Wise Oak”.

I was inspired by Liz Shakespeare’s “Letterbox Books” imprint and logo.

I liked the idea of having a name that would give my book an air of credibility, as if it was a proper publisher, and not just some amateur bloke printing up a few copies to sell to mates.

So, I asked around for ideas for a name, and my son, who is a mine of brilliant ideas, suggested Blue Poppy in reference to my grandfather Frank Kingdon-Ward who famously brought back the first viable seed of Meconopsis betonicifolia, the Himalayan blue poppy.

I spent money I didn’t have getting a logo designed, and subsequently also registered the name and logo as trademarks.

Having paid out for 100 ISBNs and experienced the insane hoop jumping required to make my books available in “all good bookshops” it occurred to me that other authors might enjoy having some of those tasks done for them.

I offered the Blue Poppy logo and ISBNs to anyone who was planning on self-publishing anyway but wanted to come under the umbrella of an established, albeit very tiny, imprint.

Soon I was approached by Ben Blake who wanted exactly that. With six self-published books already in print he didn’t need any help with production, but he is not a natural publicity hound, and hoped that having the Blue Poppy brand might add a certain degree of extra promotion.

His book “Black Lord of Eagles” was the second Blue Poppy title, published in April 2017.

The next author to join was Joni Dee.   Although I originally planned to take on only local authors, I couldn’t resist London based Joni’s offering. Having sold 750 advance orders for “And the Wolf Shall Dwell” and then finding himself let down by another publisher he came to Blue Poppy.

I introduced him to Dorset based Helen Baggott for editing, and she and Joni hit it off straight away.

Joni had to restart his advance orders campaign but when we published this summer he had recovered the majority of those orders. Joni came over to sign copies, and I spent two days  packing, addressing, and posting books all over the world.

Meanwhile, a little closer to home, author number four came on board. KY Eden had already published books 1 and 2 of The Redcroft Journals on Amazon Kindle, but needed a little help producing a polished professional print edition.  Blue Poppy did the formatting and found a new printer who were able to produce very short runs at a really competitive price. Redcroft Journals 1 “The Missing Journals” and 2 “The Raven Stones” are now in print, with book 3 coming soon.

Author number five approached me during the summer, and her book “Teeny Tiny Witch” has had the most Blue Poppy involvement of all. Edited by Sarah Dawes who edits all of my own books, the cover design and formatting was done in house, and I organised a crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds needed to cover production costs.

The book is due out early in December just in time to make a beautiful Christmas gift for any young reader.

Not forgetting myself of course. 

Since “Children of the Wise Oak” I have published the sequel, “Women of the Wise Oak” as well as a new children’s spoof animal spy story “For Cats’ Eyes Only” featuring cat detective Felix Whiter. Three hundred copies were handed out to children for the “Summer Reading Challenge” and the sequel “Dr Gnaw” is about to be launched early in December.

Looking to the future. In 2018 we have already confirmed at least one new author and half a dozen new titles, and with some production lead times as short as a few months, who knows how many books and how many new authors we will have published by this time next year?


Oliver hated writing in school. He finds using a pen for any length of time painful, and he makes sloppy mistakes. If it wasn’t for computers, he would never have considered being a writer. He has never been diagnosed as autistic, being high functioning, and not especially gifted; although undoubtedly, he is on the spectrum. 

At school he was diagnosed as “Brilliant but lazy” and “You’d forget your head if it wasn’t screwed on”.. He knew that wasn’t true after attempting to unscrew his head (really!). The only thing he agreed with was, “It’s never you is it? It’s always somebody else’s fault.”

Monday, 13 November 2017

Guest: Richard Dee: Steampunk is closer than you think.

Hello everyone, I’m Richard Dee and I’m a Steampunk author. My world of Norlandia features in two novels, The Rocks of Aserol and A New Life in Ventis,

a short story collection, Tales from Norlandia,

and various other projects. As I’ve created a Steampunk world, I feel able to comment on how the technology has been developed from what we have, or had, in our world.

Only one thing really separates the world of today and the world of Steampunk. And I don’t mean the costumes, although they are pretty cool.

That thing is electricity, whether you like it or not, the thing that catapulted the Victorian world into the modern world was cheap electricity.

Some might say it was oil, or war. I disagree, oil only made things easier, war is a spur to invention but at a terrible cost.

So when we consider a Steampunk world, we have to look at the way the clever fellows at my Ministry of Invention in Norlandia took what they had and created the mighty machines, intricate clockworks and all the modern things that the inhabitants of that place take for granted.

The Victorian age, on which the genre rests, gave us some amazing stuff, the question for writers is how can we build on these foundations to make a modern society, what sort of a twist can I put on those times to give my stories an edge?

When I created the world, every time I needed a piece of technology I worked backwards, starting from a thing that we have and reverse engineering it, designing a way that we could achieve the same effect without using anything modern. And once you start to do that, you find that a lot of the things you need to make your world function actually existed in another form, they were only overtaken by the cost or simplicity that electrical and oil powered versions provided. In the same way that the steam locomotive was overtaken by the electric train.

So for example, as there is no electricity, my cities have steam pumped into the houses along steel pipes buried underground. Because of the limitations and difficulties of keeping high pressure steam, well; steamy, we need a lot of local power stations. These require coal so out of necessity I developed a steam vehicle to transport it from the rail yards to the furnaces. Of course steam vehicles existed, I just made them a bit more advanced, in effect bringing the technology up to where it would be without the internal combustion engine. I was doing the R&D in my head that was never done in reality.

As I was devising a way to mine all this coal, I wondered if steam could not be used to power a robot. Well I’m sure it can, using pistons and valves, steam pressure could move articulated arms and legs just as well as any other system. And from that idea, the Exo-Man was born.

Now, steam cannot be transported over long distances, even in my imagination. I have to keep things realistic to carry the reader. Sure the ground will insulate the pipes but in the country this would be impractical. But steam power can be used to wind a spring. The Victorians had clockwork motors, after all a watch is merely a spring powered motor.

What I did in Norlandia was develop the idea to produce springs of all sizes, like batteries, that could be attached to any device and power it. Exhausted springs could be recharged at any power station, for a price. And for those that have no access to a recharging system, or cannot afford it, water power can drive a wheel in any stream to wind your springs for you. The applications are endless when you have to invent or starve.

As I hope you’re starting to see, there is little that can’t be done, so let’s move on to what else might have been developed out of necessity.

As you know, jet engines in aircraft are fuelled by gas, in effect vaporised hydrocarbon. And the Victorians lit their streets with gas produced by cooking coal with steam. Do you see where I’m going with this? All we need in our population is an understanding of the reason aircraft fly and we can build a Steampunk aeroplane!

This gas can do a lot of the things that drive our civilisation. It can be stored, like gunpowder, in cartridges and used to propel bullets; it’s an advance which may have occurred in our society if we had taken another path, I’ve only borrowed it and made it better.

And with the freedom to invent, discoveries that were unintended have also been made in Norlandia.
In my books, as well as the things I have already mentioned, I describe clockwork limbs, controlled by the body’s nerve impulses, a type of speech recorder based on a vibrating diaphragm and a telephone system, powered by sound itself!

And that’s before you get to the characters and their adventures.

Of course the one thing that all this steam and clockwork powered technology cannot do is give us a moving picture that can be transmitted over distance, or provide a box in our hand to talk to the world. But at the Ministry of Invention, they’re sure to be working on it.


My Steampunk journey is described in more detail on my website, which also features my other Sci-fi work. Find my main site at, or on Facebook @RichardDeeAuthor

Just go to this page, for everything Steampunk.

Tales from Norlandia features stories about the inventions and technology of Norlandia, Exo-men, power stations, bio-mechanical arms, even the Ministry themselves. And much more. You can get a copy from my shop at

My Steampunk novels are available at all eBook retail sites, including Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Apple, the universal links are,

The Rocks of Aserol,

A New Life in Ventis,

To read one of Richard's short stories "This Could Change The World" follow this link.


I’m Richard Dee, I write Science Fiction and Steampunk adventures. I come from Brixham in Devon, where I returned to live in 2010. I’m a retired Master Mariner and Thames Pilot, married with three daughters and several grandchildren. I walk on the cliffs and beaches of South Devon for inspiration.