Sunday, 21 December 2008

2008 Summary

This is my last entry of 2008. It’s time for the festivities to begin! So I thought I would give a quick summary of what 2008 has meant for my writing. All in all, it’s not been a bad year, what with my success in the Yeovil Prize, and I’ve kept up the momentum with the short story sales.

Short stories accepted for publication in 2008:

“The Oralce” Jupiter SF # 25 due July 2009
“And Let Them In” Arkham Tales Issue TBD
“The Cone Key” Escape Velocity Magazine # 4, due 2009

Short Stories Published in 2008:

“In the Precinct of Amun-Re” Ruins Metropolis July 2008

Competition Results:

“Myth Making” Western Gazette Award for best local Author Yeovil Prize
“Myth Making” Highly Commended Yeovil Prize (Novel)
“Remember Normandy” Commended Yeovil Prize (short story)
“Moondust” Honourable Mention, Return to Luna Contest (Hadley Rille Books)

So all that remains is for me to wish all the readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy and prosperous 2009. May all your writing dreams for 2009 come true.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Another Story Finds a Home

I've just heard from Ian Redman - the editor over at Jupiter SF - that they would like to publish my short story 'The Oracle'.

It should be in Issue 25 which is due out in July 2009.

Jupiter SF is a fabulous UK based SF magazine with some first class fiction that regularly appears in various awards lists. So needless to say I'm thrilled that I'm going to be part of it.

And I'm also thrilled to have found a home for 'The Oracle' which is a personal favorite of mine.

Head over to their website and check them out. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

It came to me in a dream...

I woke up this morning with the most brilliant idea for a novel. I was buzzing with excitement as I stumbled through to the bathroom, shivering in the grey chill of dawn. When I flicked on the lights the grey turned to black outside and I stood in the shower as the water stirred me from sleep into wakefulness, mulling over my dream – my story – it was wonderful, so unique, so original, everything linked together so well…

But wait a moment… I blinked; more awake now…what was that? A gaping plot hole? And another? And the MC? Talk about one dimensional! And how could I have possibly thought THAT would work – it was ludicrous – preposterous!

I laughed. I was awake now and the dream was vanishing in the grey dawn light. There was no story – no plot, no great idea for the next big thing. For a dream was really all it was.

No matter – I’ll just have to stick with the WIP!

Friday, 28 November 2008

Prose Cafe with Bonnie Sartin

Last nights Prose Café at the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil was a talk by Bonnie Sartin of The Yetties, one of England’s most popular folk groups.

Now I have to admit that I’ve never really known much about this part of English culture before, so, for me, Bonnie’s talk was a real eye opener.

He told us about Henry and Robert Hammond, two brothers who cycled round Dorset at the end of the 19th Century recording the songs sung by the local people, and sang some examples for us which was superb. There was even a bit of audience participation!

So it was well worth braving last night’s Yeovil parking nightmare!!

I can safely say that I have completely changed my perception of folk music. Thank you Bonnie for a fascinating talk!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Launching My Website

Well, at last, my new writing website is ready for launch. I've tweaked with the layout and fretted over the content, changed the colour scheme again and again until I found one that I liked, not to mention going through several possible titles...

I've had a stack of fantastic help on this from fellow Litopian Emma Shortt - thank you Emma!

So, let me present:

Please take a good look around and if you have any comments or suggestions then please make them here. I hope you like it.
Oh, and what could this be?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

A Buzz in the Forums

There have been a couple of very exciting developments over in Litopia over the past week and the whole forum is buzzing with it.

The first of these is the opening up of the Pitch Room. Here members who’ve done their time and put in the pre-requisite number of posts, can have the chance to pitch directly to agent Peter Cox.

But there’s more – they get feedback!! Yes, you read that correctly – FEEDBACK!! And what feedback it is – it comes in the form of a short video where he comments on their pitch and their writing and gives them constructive advice. I still can’t quite believe it.

And the other cause of excitement is the proposed Litopia e-zine. I’ve no idea how this is going to develop but I have the feeling it’s going to be good, Very Very good.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Tar Barrels and Guy Fawkes

Wherever you were last night, despite freak hailstorms, floods and soggy bonfires I hope the festivities went well. We didn't make it down to the Ottery Tar Barrels last night although I hear it went well. But we took these pictures a couple of years ago, so here's what we might have been doing.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

The Great Agent Hunt

The hunt is now underway. I’ve rolled in their dung to disguise my scent and I’m creeping up on them from downwind. There’s quite a lot of slush around here mind, which is getting in the way.

I’m surprised at how many of them they are, all crowding round the publishers watering hole. So far they haven’t spotted me, and I’m inching closer, ready to pounce. Ugh, more slush – where does this all come from?

So many agents, but which one to target? Look there’s a fairly new one, floundering around over at the edge of the water. Should be easy pickings, but there’s not much flesh to it and it doesn’t seem to know anyone. That big fat one though, feasting on the riches in the deeper water, now he looks like a good wholesome meal. Oh, but see how he ignores the slush and tramples it into the mud.

Now there are other predators approaching too – I’ll have to strike soon, before one of them startles the prey and they all take off.

Like so many others I started my hunt with the Writers and Artists Yearbook, but I’ve also come across a couple of other useful things in my search.

Writersservices lists the Yearbook entries but you don’t have to buy anything. However I have noticed that a few Agents are missing.

This is a list of the Agents who are members of the Association of Authors Agents, useful to know when you are checking out a potential agent to submit to.

I’ve also come across this useful little website – Litmatch, which is full of useful information and has a handy little search facility – a great time saver!!

And not to forget Preditors and Editors, which has lists of the latest scammers and sharks that you want to avoid!!

Wish me luck guys - here I go...

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The Novella Dilemma

If two editors come back with the same comment on a short story submitted to them, then they could have a point, and when three editors say the same thing then it’s definitely time to pay attention.

This is exactly what has happened with my short story, Fire Flood. Readers at Murky Depths, ASIM and now Sybil’s Garage have all come back with exactly the same comment – this story is trying to cram too much into a small space. It ought to be expanded to novella length at least.

Well, the story has now been pulled from circulation and I’ve been giving it some thought. They’re definately right. There’s quite a lot I can do with this piece. In fact it’s crying out to be expanded. But I’m not so sure about turning it into a novella. The market for work of that length is rather limited and I don’t want to pour a load of time and energy into something that will probably never sell.

But then it occurred to me – This should be my new YA novel!! Jess is the right age and the story is sufficiently dark!! The dual narrative structure might just work and I’ll have the scope to really develop the character of Nick. Maybe I’ll turn this into my new project while I wait to hear back from the Agents I’m submitting to.

Move aside WRRW – there’s a new kid on the block!!!

Friday, 17 October 2008

News and Radio

I’ve just heard from the Yeovil Prize administrators that they’ve been contacted by a lady from BBC Radio Somerset who is interested in reading out some of the winning stories. What an opportunity!! I’ve dropped her a line and I’ll let you know of any developments.

And I’m featured on the front page of Litopia. Check it out, it’s a great write up!

It’ll be good to see if Miranda, one of the panellists at the Booker Debate last week, puts something into the Blackmore Vale as well. Its coverage doesn’t extend down to Dorset but I’m sure someone will pick me up a copy if they do.

And following on from the prize, and taking the advice given on the Litopia Daily Podcast answering a question that I posted on Litopia about how to use this success to my best advantage, I’m starting to submit. So fingers crossed. This is the tough bit.

But in the meantime – on with plotting the new project.

Oh, and I see The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga won the Booker. I’m going to have to read it now!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Booker Debate and Yeovil Prize

Last night the Booker Debate took place at the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil, and as always the evening was a huge success. But for me it was particularly special since I was presented with my prize by crime writer Penny Deacon. The prize is the Western Gazette award which is awarded to a local author who does particularly well in the Yeovil Prize. In my case my novel, "Myth Making" was Highly Commended and my short story "Remember Normandy" was Commended.
The evening then went on to the Booker debate itself with a panel of writers reviewing the shortlisted novels. In the past years most of the books have been slated by the reviwers but this year three of them got a big thumbs up: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Berry and A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz. It will be interesting to see if one of these wins. Here is local author Malcolm Welshman reviewing Fraction of the Whole watched by Rosie Boycott and Penny Deacon.
And finally, there were a number of fellow Litopians present and here's a picture of three of us: Steve, me and Emma. Three people who met in cyberspace.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Starting the Edit

Having taken a break from writing over the summer, and having been distracted by writing another short story that was just screaming at me to be put down on paper, I have finally turned my attention back to my novel, and started the edit.

When I first started writing I thought that every word I wrote was precious. The thought of even changing a sentence around – let alone cutting it was appalling. And to cut out a paragraph or two – or even a whole chapter - that would be abhorrent!!

But as we grow as writers so we learn to edit and cut. I never send out the first draft of a short story – I always put it aside for a few days and then come back to it – hard on the delete key. Sometimes I’ll turn a story about completely, sometimes all I do is tighten and polish. But always it goes through at least two or three iterations before I finally read it through and decide that it is ready to be sent out on its first journey into the perilous world of the short fiction market.

This is the process I’m just about to embark on with my novel. I have a list of changes I want to make, some extra research I need to apply, and of course I need to polish it until it shines. Only then will it be ready to tackle the greatest challenge of all – finding an Agent!

Friday, 26 September 2008

The Yeovil Prize and Me! Yippee!!

I've been bursting to tell you all this for over a week now - but finally the results of the 2008 Yeovil Prize have been published - you can find them here. Both my entries in the short story and novel categories have done well.

My short story "Remember Normandy" was Commended.

But my novel, "Myth Making" was Highly Commended - am I pleased about that or what !

And to cap it all I've won the Western Gazette Award for a Local author!!

But I'm also deligted to see that I'm not the only one from the writers group to have done well, both Suzy and Chip were also shortlisted in the short story categories, so congratulations to you both as well. And of course congratulations to all the other authors who were either shorlisted or were winners.

And finally thank you to everyone involved in organising the Yeovil Prize, especially Margaret, Penny and Liz, and everyone in my writers group and over in Litopia for making this possible.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Submitting Short Stories - A Few Tips

I’ve been sending short stories out for a while now to various genre fiction markets, mostly SciFi and Horror and thought I would share a couple of tips I’ve picked up along the way.

  1. Short story editors are more likely to give feedback on why they reject a story than Agents are for longer fiction. Some magazines in particular will try to comment on everything they reject. Always remember, it is just their opinion, but if you find them repeatedly saying the same thing then perhaps it is time to take the story out of circulation and revise it.
  2. Stories can be rejected for lots of reasons, not necessarily the writing at all. Each magazine has it’s own particular style and niche and if your story doesn’t fit with that they won’t take it, even if it’s the best story in the world. So don’t be disheartened, keep sending them out, but do your research.
  3. Keep and eye out for new magazine markets – if you get in early you could well stand a better chance of selling them something, before they begin to get swamped with accepted material. And if that magazine then goes on to carve out a niche for itself and become well known then you’ve a decent little publishing credit under your belt.
  4. If an editor asks you to send them something else then do it – they don’t say that unless they mean it. They clearly like your writing style even if that particular story wasn’t a good fit for them.
  5. Once you sell something to someone then keep submitting to them. If they’ve published you once there’s a good chance they’ll take something of yours again.
  6. Here is a useful link from Strange Horizons that lists stories and plots that editors see all the time and are best avoided.
  7. And here is another useful article from the Arkham Tales website on the secret art of wooing editors.
  8. And finally, good luck.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Sale to Arkham Tales

I've just had an e-mail from the editor of the new Weird Fiction magazine Arkham Tales accepting my short story 'And Let Them In'.

Arkham Tales will be published as a free PDF download, and it's debut issue is due out in November. It's always good to find a new paying market for this type of fiction since most of my stuff seems to fit with this genre.

At this stage I've no idea when my story likely to appear but it could be over a year from now. This sort of timescale is not uncommon in the short fiction marketplace.

I look forward to seeing how this magazine develops.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Strange Tales of Shipwrecks and Rings

I’ve just picked up a copy of Robert Goddard’s latest book, Name to a Face. I quite like Robert Goddard’s books anyway, but it was this bit of the blurb on the back that really caught my eye…

“...When Tim Harding agrees to do a favour for a friend by bidding on his behalf for an antique ring at auction, little does he know of the secrets that tie the ring to three tragedies: the sinking of HMS Association off Scilly in 1707, a murder in Penzance thirty years later and the drowning of a journalist diving at the Association wreck site in 1999… “

The reason this caught my eye is that a good friend of mine was diving the HMS Association and he found a gold ring. The original is in a museum on Scilly but he had a copy made, which he showed to me once - and this is no ordinary ring, for it is a death ring. But it not the only ring with links to the Association.

This is what he told me.

The cover photo [of the book] is of Porth Hellick in Scilly, where the body of Admiral Sir Clowdisley Shovell was washed ashore in 1707 after the wreck of the Association. So the legend goes, the island woman who found his body stole an emerald ring from his finger before he was buried, and gave it up on her deathbed a quarter of a century later

Fascinating stuff!! I can’t wait to read this book!!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Another Review - Ruins Metropolis

Fellow Ruins Metropolis author Ahmed A khan has just posted this review over on his LJ. I see we agree on several of our favorites.

Glad you enjoyed my story Ahmed.

Monday, 8 September 2008

How did I miss this one?

I just came across this review of Murky Depths #1 up at Since it was posted back in April I’m not sure how I’ve not managed to spot it before. It’s a good review and here is what it has to say about my story…

Supply Ship by Kate Kelly is a well written piece with a totally unexpected ending. Set on a bleak, barren world, the inhabitants build a beacon from scrap so they can get a supply ship to pass and drop badly needed supplies. Kept to a tight budget of words, it is succinct while not being too short. Mainly though, it’s the twist-ending which makes the story. The associated artwork suffices and compliments the story.

Nice one!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Getting it Right - Doing the Research

The advice we always hear is Write what you Know, and this is sound advice for it is always easier to write from our own experience. But sometimes we want to write about something we don’t know anything about and that is when we need to do our research.

Take a look at this post on the Behler blog which gives a publishers take on this subject, and from a readers perspective I couldn’t agree more.

There’s nothing more irritating than absorbing myself into a story only to be brought up short by an erroneous fact. I recently read a story where someone was playing pub skittles and knocked down all ten pins. That takes some doing as pub skittles only has nine. Now a little bit of research and the author could have got this right. As it was only the first of several similar errors I think it just shows laziness on the author’s part.

I really enjoy doing research for a story. I’ve delved into subjects I would probably never have otherwise known anything about. And even if I only use a fraction of my research in a story it’s never time wasted – I’m amazed how much I don’t know, particularly about some periods of history.

Some of the more interesting subjects I’ve researched recently include the history of radar, the Treaty of Wedmore, the Mayerling Incident and 19th Century printing presses. But the subject I’m reading everything I can find on at the moment is the Apollo missions and in particular, what they left behind on the surface of the moon. No prizes for guessing what that one’s for!

Who knows where my research is going to take me to next – I can’t wait to find out!

Friday, 29 August 2008

My Take on Ruins Metropolis

Having finally finished reading all the stories in Ruins Metropolis I thought I might as well post my thoughts on this superb anthology from Hadley Rille Books.

The theme of the anthology was for all the stories to be based on the cover art by Debbie Hughes, and the variety of the stories produced is stunning. They range from fantasy such as Sumari’s Solitude by Alycia C Cooke which opens the collection, to science fiction stories like Veilsight by Camille Alexa.

There are stories set in the ancient world at the time of the Pharaohs for example A haunting in Gisa by Brenta Blevins. Mrs Kelly’s Ghosts by Anna D Allen in which Mr’s Kelly’s archaeological discovery has a personal resonance for her is set during the great age of Egyptian discovery. There are stories set in the present such as Amulet by Jacqueline Seewald, and the far future like The Tomb of Setankan by Sarah Wagner in which a dig on a distant world, aiming to prove a link with the Ancient Egyptians turns up something far more telling. There are stories that move across time like The City of the Dead by Barton Paul Levenson, or are set on distant worlds like When Love Dies by Jonathan Shipley.

A number of the stories are set in Egypt, but we also have stories set during some of the world’s other great civilisations. Karrying Keptara by RF Long is a beautifully written piece that really resonates, set during the destruction of the Minoan Civilisation, and Dancing on the Corpse of the World by Jude Marie Green is a powerfully evocative piece about the Mayans.

All these stories are superb, beautifully written and thoroughly gripping. Some others that I feel deserve a mention are: The Memory by Meg Swanton, In search of Camanac by C L Holland, Burning Stone by Stephen Graham King and End by Ahmed A Khan.

But I think my personal favourite story of the anthology is Children of the City by Lyn McConchie – a futuristic story of a group of children eking out an existence in the ruins of an ancient city, and the mysterious storyteller who appears as something different to everyone who listens to her tales, and yet turns out to be something else all together.

So all in all, if you are looking for a collection of really good stories to read then can I strongly recommend Ruins Metropolis – and I’m not just saying this because it contains my own story, In the Precinct of Amun-Re. I’ve really enjoyed reading it and I’m proud to be in such good company.

And check out the Hadley Rille Books website for some of their other excellent anthologies.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

The Locals...

There's something odd about the people in this town...

They don't move much...

And on closer inspection appear to be scarecrows...

Sunday, 17 August 2008

The Ghosts of Bodmin Jail

One rainy morning whilst camping we took refuge in Bodmin Jail to see what strange things people were executed for a hundred years ago – but stranger still was the man we met who told us about the ghosts. He was standing by a series of blurry photographs and told us that if we looked hard enough we could make out the images of the spirits that haunt this prison. Well if I screwed up my eyes and turned my head on one side I think I could make out the shadowy shapes of the figures he claimed to commune with.

But as it is natural for the human brain to see shapes in random patterns I’m really not convinced. In fact I reckon I can make my own Bodmin Jail ghost, so here’s part of a photograph that I took while I was there.
I’ve enhanced the contrast but no more. In fact I think it’s a better shadowy ghost image that the ones he had on show – and I can just make out the shadowy shape of some sort of beast – OMG! I think it’s the Beast of Bodmin!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Results of 'Return to Luna'

The 'Return to Luna' contest run jointly by Hadley Rille Books and the National Space Society has announced it's results - here - and I'm pleased to report that my Story 'Moondust' recieved an Honorable Mention.

And check out the Hadley Rille Books website for their latest call for submissions - a new anthology called Footprints, also with a lunar theme:
Long after our species and all its works have turned to dust, the moon landing sites will still show evidence of our time here on Earth. Imagine future explorers from among the stars interpreting that. The astronauts’ footprints should last longer than the fossils in the Olduvai Gorge have.

The story I already have that fits the theme is far too short, but I think I've another idea brewing. :-)

Monday, 28 July 2008

Sale to Escape Velocity Magazine

I've just heard from the editor at Escape Velocity Magazine that they are going to publish my SF short story 'The Cone Key'. It will be appearing in Issue 4 which should be out in September. This is a nifty little SF magazine and it's great to be part of it. Definately a good start to the summer holidays!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Reasons not to Write

School's out, the sun is breaking through and the beach is calling. This is the time of year when writing takes a back seat. The Writers Circle met last night for the last time before the summer break and I've put down my pen until the Autumn. Not that I won't still be thinking about writing - this is a good time of year for inspiration.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Hanging My Bithell

Today I finally got round to hanging ‘Last Light over Charmouth’, the oil on canvas by artist Stephen Bithell, that I bought during Dorset Arts Weeks.

It’s a beautiful seascape, capturing that calm of the evening that reminds me so much of the days before we had children, when we used to go diving, straight after work. As the light faded and the sea assumed the calm of a summer’s evening, still buzzing from the dive and clutching a bag of scallops or a couple of crabs, we would turn Fast Reactor back towards the Cove where she had her mooring, and the cliffs of Bats Head or Warbarrow Tout would be lit with that same quality of light that Steve captures so magnificently in his paintings.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Wet Weather and First Drafts

I can’t be a writer from Blighty and not moan at least once on this blog about the Great British Weather, but I’m sure that river I drove along to work today used to be a road!

Usually, at this time of year, when the weather gets warm and the evenings are long and light, writing takes a back seat. I’ll be sitting in the garden in the evening warmth, supping on a glass of wine as the sun sets behind the sycamores, watching the logs in the chimnea glow red.

This year however the biting sea winds have driven me shivering back inside to my computer. Still, the one good thing about it is that last night I finished the first draft of my novel. OK, so it still needs a lot of work, but the bare bones are now in place. For now I intend to put it to one side and come back to it fresh in the autumn. So come on sunshine!

Even so, I think I’d better upgrade my sleeping bag to a four season and invest in a new set of waterproofs before our camping trip, and hope it isn’t a repeat of this trip to Exmoor a few years ago.

Poor Little Bedraggled Things

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Short Stories - Market Resources

Since this is a subject that often comes up I thought I would mention some of the online market resources I use when working out where to submit my short fiction.

I’ll start with two very useful market listing websites.

The first of these,, is generally my first port of call. Markets are listed according to pay rate with pro markets clearly marked. There are also separate pages from humour, books, anthologies and even an interesting little section called ‘Adult’. At the top of each page any new markets are listed along with any recent market updates.

Duotrope is another very useful market listing website with a nifty little search facility covering a broad spectrum of genres. It is particularly useful for its response time statistics – always good to know when you submit somewhere that it’s not going to end up sitting in the slush for over a year.

The Black Hole also lists response times, but doesn’t seem to have quite as much data as Duotrope, still, it’s another useful resource, as is Black Hole Extensions which gives the most recent responses, since some magazines seem to send them out in batches.

Storypilot is another market listing website with a search facility, specifically for Science Fiction, fantasy and horror markets. The search results link directly to the websites of the magazines that fit your specifications. However this site does not seem to be kept as up to date as the other two and lacks the response time data of Duotrope.

Of course I’m sure these aren’t the only ones, and if anyone reading this knows of any other particularly useful resources of this ilk do let me know.

Friday, 27 June 2008


Well last night was the Writers Circle AGM and I’ve been duly voted in as Chairman for another year. It’s certainly a role I enjoy.

The group as a whole keeps expanding. We’ve had quite a few new members join us, and what with our forthcoming Prose café’s and the Booker debate in October, we have a fantastic programme for the coming year and we seem to be going from strength to strength!

The train project is going well, with more characters being added by the new members. And as for Gary Styles – my Used Car Salesman – he may be feeing rough now – but he’s no idea how bad things are going to get … (I’m feeling quite evil at the moment poor chap.)

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Ruins and Adders

My eagerly awaited contributer's copy of Ruins Metropolis has finally arrived, and it is a thing of beauty. I've only been able to read a couple of the stories so far though, because it's been swiped by my 10 year old daughter - but not for long - once she's asleep I'll swipe it back...

And why do people keep saying that adders are getting rare? We saw another one today, just a little baby, slipping through the leaf litter by the side of the road. (Not a red one this time though - just normal colour.)

Shh - she's asleep - time to go and reclaim that book...

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Snakes in the Heather

Today, while I was walking around Winfrith Heath at lunchtime, I spotted an adder - one of those young brick-red ones. I’ve never seen one that colour before and I head to look twice, but it was most definitely an adder. The bloke I share an office with tells me that these red adders are typical of this area. He’s seen quite a few of them this year so far. Needless to say I picked my way back over the heath with extra care!

And in writing news – Ruins Metropolis is now available from as well as Looks like it’s going to be an interesting read. There are quite a few names I recognise in the line up, which is as follows:

"Old World Magic" by Adele Cosgrove-Bray
"End" by Ahmed A. Khan
"Sumari's Solitude" by Alycia C. Cooke
"Mrs. Kelly's Ghosts" by Anna D. Allen
"City of the Dead" by Barton Paul Levenson
"A Haunting in Giza" by Brenta Blevins
"In Search of Camanac" by C.L. Holland
"Veilsight" by Camille Alexa
"For Sale: One Gold (plated) Eye Of Horus" by Chris Benton
"The Eye of Re-Atum" by Christine Poulsen
"By the Pool of the Blue Lotus" by Erin M. Hartshorn
"The Name and the Shadow" by Gene Stewart
"Seeker of the Dead" by Gerri Leen
"Goddess Reborn" by Gianna Robbins
"Chamber of Illusions" by H.F. Gibbard
"The Final Goodbye" by Heather Kuehl
"Amulet" by Jacqueline Seewald
"The Return of the Queen" by Jennifer Moore
"When Love Dies" by Jonathan Shipley
"Dancing On the Corpse of the World" by Jude-Marie Green
"Convergence" by K.L. Townsend
"Kehmet's Curse" by Kari Livingston
"In the precinct of Amun-Re" by Kate Kelly
"The Librarian of Talimbourne" by Kimberly Vandervort
"The Amulet of Passages" by Leslie Brown and Sarah Totton
"Children of the City" by Lyn McConchie
"The Memory" by Meg Swanton
"Panthanatos" by Megan Arkenberg
"Carrying Keptara" by R.F. Long
"Qui's Contract" by Ransom Noble
"The Great Sleep" by Rob Rosen
"The Tomb of Setankan" by Sarah Wagner
"Burning Stone" by Stephen Graham King
"The Deserted City" by Victoria Kennedy
"Haroeris's Favor" by Willis Couvillier

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Ruins Metropolis - Now on Amazon

It's out!

Just had an e-mail from the editor to let me know that Ruins Metropolis is now up at and should be available from fairly soon, as well as serveral other outlets.

Now all I need is for my contributers copy to arrive, so that I can see my story 'In the Precinct of Amun-re' in print, as well as read all the other stories and see what the other authors came up with. It's an exciting project, and an impressive line up. Hadley Rille are producing some lovely books. Long may it continue!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

The Long Wait

Most of the short fiction markets I submit to are pretty good with their response times, but sometimes they seem to take an age.

At present my longest outstanding submission is with Dark Discoveries. They’ve now had it for 15 months and counting. When I queried them back in January they were only just getting round to their November 2006 submissions. Very frustrating since, when I submitted to them their response time was stated to be 6 months. Looking on Duotrope they’ve now got round to their January 2007 submissions. This is an awfully long time to have a story tied up with a market that, chances are, is probably going to reject it anyway. I don’t think I’ll be submitting to them again.

The other market that I’m waiting on is Dark Wisdom. Since I’ve got two stories tied up there I’ve bitten the bullet and e-mailed the editor to try to find out what’s happening. However, I’ve a lot more patience with this one since it is a SWFA pro market. The mere fact that they accepted my story in the first place was a huge boost to my confidence. So fingers crossed that it doesn’t fall foul of their restructuring.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

End at the End

So much emphasis is put on getting the opening right, but a good ending is also important.

Of course the point at which a short story ends is very different from the point at which a novel ends. A novel usually provides resolution where a short story ends with, of just after the climax.

Even so, as a reader, I get very frustrated when a story or novel doesn’t end well. Some of the types of ending that annoy me most are as follows.

The story runs on – often happens in short stories where the writer writes on beyond the story’s natural end. I’ve done this myself often enough :-)

The story fizzles out – almost as if the writer got bored and didn’t really know how to end it. I get really annoyed with these.

Loose ends are left hanging – OK if they are part of the set up for a series or sequel, but really annoying if they are just the writer being sloppy.

So what makes for a good ending? Well for me the best ones are those that resonate and haunt me for the rest of the day. When you get that feeling that you don’t want to pick up another book just yet. That’s when I’ve read a truly satisfying ending.

Of course, it’s one thing to spot these, quite another thing to pull it off myself. So did I manage it? I’ll tell you when I get there!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Thoughts on Plotting

Plotting is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. It’s one of the hardest things to get right, and the hardest thing to get good feedback on, simply because it would involve getting someone to read the entire novel, which is a lot to ask of anyone.

Anyway, after trawling through writing books and the internet I thought I would post some of my thoughts on the subject here.

Now it seems that most stories will follow the same general plot principle, which I’ve tried to visualise in my little graph below.

Arc of Tension:
1. Normal World
2. Point of Change
3. Conflict/Crisis (Rising arc of tension)
4. Climax
5. Resolution
6. New Level (different from the starting point)

So how does this compare with all the other structures described out there? Well I think they are one and the same and in order to illustrate this I’ve taken 4 popular ones: The Heroes, journey, the 3 act structure, the 7 basic blot beats and the 8 point arc, and mapped them across onto my arc of tension graph.

Basic 3 Act Structure
1. Beginning
2. Middle
3. End

8 Point Arc
1. Stasis
2. Trigger
3. Quest
4. Surprise
5. Critical Choice
6. Climax
7. Reward
8. Resolution

7 Basic plot beats
1. Problem
2. Opponent
3. Desire
4. The plan
5. The battle
6. Knowledge
7. New Level

Heroes Journey
1. Ordinary World
2. Call to Adventure
3. Refusal of call
4. Meeting Mentors
5. Road of Trials
6. Approach Innermost Cave
7. Woman as Temptress
8. Ordeal
9. Reward
10. Road Back
11. Rescue from Without
12. Magic Flight
13. Resurrection
14. Master of Two Worlds

Apologies if it’s not that easy to read but hopefully you can get the gist. It seems to me that they map across rather well.

So how does this apply to my own work?

Well as a little experiment I thought I would try to map the tension arc for my children’s book. Estimates for tension in each chapter are of course based on gut feeling. Here it is.

So what does this tell me about my plot eh? Well I'll leave that for you to decide :-)

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Begin at the Beginning

This sounds straightforward enough, but isn’t always the case. If fact, sometimes it can be quite hard to identify where exactly a story should start.

The simple answer we’re told is that a story starts “in the character’s normal world at the point of change.”

But is it always easy to identify that point of change?

Now I’ve just completely re-written the opening chapters of my children’s book. Coming back to it after a break it was clear that, although it started at a point of change, the story itself didn’t really get going until halfway through Chapter 2. In fact, this second point of change was much bigger, incorporated the first point of change, which was really quite minor, and also means that the story now opens with action.

So were those earlier pages a waste of time? Of course not – I needed to write them to get to know my characters, get a feeling of the period and setting, and truly absorb myself, as a writer, in the world I had created – in fact, in my MCs “normal world”.

I see this so often when I’m reading through my own, as well as other people’s work – large chunks of exposition being particularly common in Science Fiction. Yes, this sometimes does need to be written, if only to help the author get his/her head into the world, but the hard thing to learn is that it doesn’t need to be kept.

Find where the story really starts, highlight everything that comes before, hit delete and go from there…

Friday, 16 May 2008

Prose Café with Kate Lynch

Last night’s prose café at the Octagon Theatre was a talk by local artist Kate Lynch. Her paintings form a unique record of the Willow and basket making industries of the Somerset Levels and the book she has produced, Willow, which includes comments by the people in her pictures about their work, forms a unique rural documentary on a way of life that had its heyday in the 19th Century, but is now much reduced.

It was a fascinating talk for instance I never knew that during the war basket making was a reserved occupation, or that being buried in a willow coffin had become so popular. Next time I am up in the wetlands I will be on the lookout for the willow beds.

For more about Kate and her work check out her website:

Kate Lynch is just to the right of the sheep, sheep farming in the Somerset Levels being her next project.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Ruins Metropolis Update

Well not much longer by the looks of things – just had an e-mail from the editor and he’s hoping to start shipping the contributor copies in about a week. So, fingers crossed, I could have this in my sweaty little mitts sometime this month. I’m really looking forward to this one – it’s a really interesting project and I can’t wait to see what the other authors have done with the theme: (a story set in the ruins pictured with the woman as protagonist).

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Mayday Blooms

The first of May and the azalea my father grew from seed just before he died has burst into flower for the first time, as if to welcome Mayday. Whenever I see it I think of him. So here it is, in tribute. A published author himself, he was the man who inspired me to write.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Agent feedback – the word-count issue

As I’ve said in an earlier post, feedback from an Agent is a rare treasure, but that it exactly what I received today. She makes some useful comments about my writing but the really interesting point she raised concerns word count, where she says:

In 8-12 Junior fiction in the shops you would be shelved next to the Alex Rider books and Young Bond and Robert Muchamore which are all now approaching 80-100,000 words and are very sophisticated and grown up.

Now this is interesting as up until now I’ve been working to the following length guidelines for children’s fiction:

7 - 9-year-olds. 49 - 80 pages, 12,250 - 20,000 words.
8 - 12-year-olds. 80 - 160 pages, 20,000 - 40,000 words.
10 - 14 year-olds. 128 - 200 pages, 32,000 - 50,000.
YA: 12 plus. Up to 250 pages, 62,500.

Looking in the bookshops it’s clear that the very successful titles for 8-12s do have longer wordcounts than the guidelines suggest - Golden Compass, Alex Rider, Harry Potter, Invisible City etc. This would seem to confirm what the Agent says here. And of course, a children’s book can’t take padding – this would have to be plot driven.

At 26K words my current submission is clearly much too short to easily expand to this kind of length. However my WIP has plenty of scope for plot development.

Time to get on with some writing. I’ve got a lot of pages to fill.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Ruins Metropolis - The Proofs

I’ve just had the final set of proofs through to check for the forthcoming anthology ‘Ruins Metropolis’ from Hadley Rille books, which will contain my short Story ‘In the Precinct of Amun-Re’.

The guidelines for this one were to write a story based on a picture – the picture that will form the cover of the book – you can see it here. The story had to feature the woman in the picture as the protagonist and be set in the ruins where she is standing.

I took the ruins to be the temple of Karnak and set my story there, but it is in fact Temple of Horus in Edfu, which looks very similar.

It’s going to be really interesting, when I get my contributor’s copy, to see what all the other authors came up with!

So, since it’s raining and I’m now feeling in an Egyptian mood I think we’ll go and see some mummies this afternoon.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Meet Gary Styles

This is the pen picture of my character for the Yeovil Writers Group latest project: The 9:29 from Tauton Pebley. I can see some serious misadvesntures coming up for this chap :-)

Meet Gary Styles - Used Car Salesman.

Gary Styles is 26 years old. He has ginger hair which is cropped short, a face covered with freckles and bright blue eyes. He is 5ft10 but if asked will tell you he is 6ft tall, and slight of build. He is dressed in faded jeans with a mauve shirt and red leather tie. He thinks he looks rather dapper. (He is mistaken)

Gary is a used car salesman. Well actually he is a recently sacked used car salesman who is trying to set up on his own. He is on his way to Peepingley to pick up a car he bought at auction the day before, but left round his friend Dave’s house when for some odd reason it stopped within five minutes of driving it away from the auction house and he couldn’t get it going again. (As it was a bargain at < £1K he doesn’t have any comeback.)

Gary is a likeable and well meaning fellow. He tries to portray himself as a bit of a wide boy and a wheeler dealer. However he is something of a hapless muppet, not too bright, and everything he turns his hand to ends in disaster. Just look at his last job on the forecourt of that car supermarket. How was he to know that that car he sold belonged to the MD? Anyone could make a mistake like that. It was really unfair of them to sack him for it! And he got a good price for it too!

Today Gary isn’t feeling too good. He was out on a massive bender last night with his mate Dave and woke up in Tauton Pebley this morning with a fat bird whose name he didn’t know. Thankfully he managed to slip out while she was still asleep and is now on his way back to Dave’s. However his head is pounding and his stomach is churning and he’s sure he’s going to be sick any moment now…

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Researching the Market - Short Fiction

Selling short fiction is much like selling anything else – you have to research your market, in this case the numerous small press magazines, e-zines and podcasts that all publish genre fiction.

Looking at their submission guidelines gives you some idea – some ask for Hard SF, some for Fantasy, some for Horror. But the reality is far more subtle than that. Within each genre each magazine has its own unique distinctive flavour, and with a successful magazine this enables it to carve out its own specific niche in the market.

But how do you identify that certain something that a magazine is looking for? Well the obvious answer is to read the magazine – easy with e-zines that are free to download – in fact there’s simply to excuse for not researching these properly - but for the struggling writer it’s just not viable to subscribe to every single one of the rest. So how else can we research the market without spending too much money? (Is this my Scottish blood showing through?)

Well one of the methods I use is to read reviews, although this really only gives a slightly better idea of genre and theme. Another thing worth watching out for is that sometimes, if a story is up for an award, a magazine will make it freely available on their website. Another method I’ve used is to buy a short story collection, one of those ‘best of’ anthologies perhaps, and then look at where the individual stories first appeared. And of course, when sending stuff out, it’s worth taking note where your stories are getting hold notices since these are the markets that your work clearly fits best.

And when you make a sale? That’s when you got it right.

Happy submitting.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

It's all change at Dark Wisdom

In the short fiction market magazines come, magazines change and magazines fold. Some only last a couple of issues whilst others go to carve out their own special niche. Some never even make it as far as issue 1. Others change their format.

This happened with my story, One in a Million. Hub started life as a print magazine and One in a million was originally accepted for issue 2. However, due to lack of space it had to be bumped to Issue 3. Then Hub reinvented itself as an online zine, and One in a Million finally appeared in Issue 8. Hub has since gone on from strength to strength and now has a readership of over 6000!

And now it looks as if Dark Wisdom Magazine is going the same way. They accepted a story of mine a while ago which was due to appear sometime this year. However, they have just posted a message on their website stating that Dark Wisdom has ceased publication and all accepted stories are now under consideration for a place in one of their forthcoming anthologies. We should hear within the next six months. However, some stories may be dropped.

So it just goes to show, that until a story actually appears in print nothing is certain in this game. And as for my story? Well I’ll just have to wait six months and see if it makes it into the anthology. So for now it’s fingers crossed…

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Rejection Letters

So, you’ve written your novel and polished it until it shines, and the time has come to find an Agent – or rather the time has come to start collecting rejection letters. Now I reckon that rejection letters can be divided into four main categories as follows:

Type 1 – The Nil Return – This is where your submission vanishes into a black hole, never to be heard of again.

Type 2 – The Form Reject – This is the commonest type of rejection letter because most Agents are far too swamped to provide anything more. Sometimes this is a photocopied letter, or maybe just a card or a slip of paper.

Type 3 – The Pseudo Personal Response – This type of letter traps many an unwary writer into thinking they’ve had a personal response from the Agent. The letter is addressed to you and even mentions the title of the book in the text, and the wording appears to be personal – but it isn’t! The clues to look out for are the general nature of the letter with no mention of any specific reason why they rejected you. It will generally go something along these lines

“I really enjoyed reading “The Frustrated Writer” and although there was much about your work to admire, in today’s competitive market I just can’t take on anything I’m not 100% sure of, and so, on this occasion I must decline.”

Type 4 – The Genuine Personal Response – These are the real gems. They contain a specific comment about you work, and maybe even a constructive criticism or indication as to why it is being rejected. They usually mean that the Agent likes your writing, because they’ve taken the time to give a comment, but remember, it’s still just one person’s opinion, although if you start to get more than one saying the same thing then perhaps it’s time to take notice.

So to anyone reading this blog who is just about to start submitting/collecting rejections – take heart – I’ve yet to meet a writer who hasn’t.

Friday, 4 April 2008

The 9:29 from Tauten Pebley

Our latest project at Writers Group is set on a train. We've each drawn a character out of a hat and the idea is to write stories about our characters which involve some of the other characters on this journey.

Well I've picked the Used Car Slaesman, and from the seating plan he's opposite the Soldier and the Drag Queen. There are a number of other interesting people on this train too, including and Escaped Convict, a Secret Agent and a Minor Royal.

I think we're going to have quite a bit of fun with this...

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Writing credits to date

Short stories published in 2009

The Last Traces Footprints (Hadley Rille Books) July 2009
The Oracle Jupiter SF 25: Erinome 9 July 2009
Cone Key Escape Velocity #4 March 2009
Rosemary Lane Pseudopod 22 February 2009

Short stories published in 2008

In the Precinct of Amun-Re Ruins Metropolis (Hadley Rille Books) June 2008

Short stories published in 2007.

Supply Ship Murky Depths # 1 September 2007
Icebound Ruins Terra (Hadley Rille Books) August 2007
Rosemary Lane The Willows # 2 July 2007
One in a Million Hub # 8 May 2007 (PDF download available here)

Supply Ship recieved a couple of fairly decent reviews at Tangent Online, SFRevu and Whispers of Wickedness

Let's hope this is only the beginning...

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