Sunday, 20 December 2009

Christmas Wishes

I would just like to wish all the readers of this blog a very merry Christmas. May all your Chrismas wishes come true and have a fantastic break. I'll see you all back here in 2010.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

2009 Writing Achievements

So what has 2009 been like for my writing? Well not too bad actually. Of course there’ve been disappointments, rejections, entries in competitions that came nowhere – but when I put together everything that I have achieved this year – well here it is and I’m quite pleased with this 2009 writing round up.

Publishing achievements:

Short Stories Published in 2009

Rosemary Lane, Pseudopod February 2009
Cone Key, Escape Velocity Magazine, March 2009
The Last Traces, Footprints (Hadley Rille Books) July 2009
The Oracle, Jupiter SF, July 2009

Short Story Sales in 2009

The Last Traces, sold to Footprints Anthology (Hadley Rille Books) published July 2009
Symbionts, sold to Absent Willow review (publication due Feb 2010)

Writing achievements:

Total number of short stories completed: 7

Novel status – 1: Two complete rewrites
2: ½ written first draft

Also – the Hangman Inn Anthology compiled and edited for the Yeovil Cre8ive Writers (includes one of my own short stories).

So all in all, not a bad year when I list it like that. I think I deserve another glass of mulled wine.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Tinsel and Lights

The run up to Christmas has begun in earnest. The kids spent a wet and grey Saturday afternoon decorating the tree whilst my husband wrestled with last years lights trying to get them to work – finally admitting defeat and heading out to buy a new set!

As usual our tree looks very much as if someone grabbed and armful of decorations and lobbed them in its general direction, even though it took a whole afternoon of painstakingly stacking as many baubles as possible on one branch for the kids to achieve that effect!

Anyway, time for the writing to go on the back burner – for a while – mulled wine and mince pies are the order of the day – and there seems to be a non stop round of school fayres and parties. Still the turkey is ordered, the pantomime tickets bought, the cards in the post and all I need to do now is finish off the Christmas shopping.

It’s a good time to take a break. The re-written short story has been dispatched, and the rewritten novel is, well, rewritten. I plan to send it back to the agent in the new year, but for now I can forget about it and get on with enjoying the next few weeks.

Monday, 30 November 2009

First and Third

I’ve just finished reading ‘When the Wind Blows’ by James Patterson. A good read, pacy and interesting. But I’m not planning to post a review of it here. I want to talk about something else.

Some time ago, over on Litopia, someone posted a piece of work that had two POV characters, both written in the first person. Now several people pointed out that this didn’t really work, so the author asked whether it would be reasonable to write one POV character in the first person and one in the third person.

The overwhelming response was No.

But this is exactly what Patterson has done, both here and in his Maximum Ride books that my daughter has been devouring. And you know what – it works.

But how has he managed it? Why has he pulled it off? Well, obviously with a great deal of skill. But it’s worth noting that the main story is told through the 1st person POV character and the 3rd person perspectives are all secondary characters, and the periods we spend in their heads are much shorter. Maybe this is the key.

I wonder what everyone else thinks?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Rewriting

Another stormy weekend and a good time for writing, although all my writing seems to be dominated by rewrites. I’ve just finished the bulk of the rewrite of the ‘novel formerly known as Myth Making’ – all the main structural elements are now in place, the new themes added and blended it. So it’s time to set it aside for a few weeks before I give it its final read through.

But I’ve also had a rewrite request for one of my short story submissions. The editor makes a valid point, so I’ll be revisiting this over the next few weeks – should make a refreshing change while said novel gestates.

Meanwhile I’ve just heard from the editor of Arkam Tales that the latest issue is to be their last and all stories yet to be published have been released back to the authors. This, of course, includes one of mine. So it’s back into circulation for that one – but I’ve sold it once – I’m sure I’ll find a home for it again. This is the second story of mine this has happened to – I had one released when Dark Wisdom folded. It just goes to show how fragile the short fiction market can be.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Story Acceptance

This is the sort of e-mail I like to get first thing on a Monday morning. Bodes well for the week ahead!! (I hope)

Thank you for submitting your story for our consideration. I am pleased to inform you that “Symbionts" has been accepted and will appear in the February 16, 2010 issue of The Absent Willow Review. Please continue submitting and thank you for sharing your work with us!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Guest: Joanna Swainson Slush Reader for a literary agency

Please welcome Joanna Swainson, reader with a literary agency, who has agreed to answer a few questions on this blog.

Please could you tell us a little about your job?

I read a lot! We get hundreds of manuscripts every week across the different genres. I read the women's and general fiction that comes in - so anything that isn't non-fiction, crime/thriller or childrens/YA comes to me. If there is something I think the boss will like, I pull it out of the pile and leave it for him to look at with a brief summary of why I think it's good. If he likes it we will request the full. If he really likes it, we will ring the author straight away.

Are you given a specific steer by the Agent of what he is looking for?
The agent is very, very clear about what he is looking for. He told me in no uncertain terms when I joined the agency and he repeats his mantra on a regular basis. For him, a great character(s) is the single most important thing. Next it's story and plot. The writing comes third because he's prepared to work with an author to fix that.
It's quite strange really - I am not reading for myself, so have had to reject things that I liked, knowing they weren't going to be suitable for the agency. These tended to be things that were more in the way of literary fiction which is not what the agency covers - we are out and out commercial. Luckily I love commercial fiction too!

We hear stories of how bad the quality of the slushpile is. In your experience is this true?

I heard those stories, too, so was surprised by how competent the slushpile is. It's not dire, no. That said, in order to get picked out a manuscript has to have something pretty sparkly about it and I'm afraid that's pretty rare. I can understand why the slushpile gets such a bad press - agents have so much to do - but since my job is to read and only to read I can look on it quite kindly. If it wasn't for the slushpile I wouldn't have such a great job!

What depresses you?
Manuscripts imbued with cynicism, arrogant characters that have no wit or verve or anything else going for them, and authors who for some reason don't like the characters they have created.
Sometimes the ideas can get a bit repetitive. The number of manuscripts I've read about internet dating, for example, which are the thinly disguised experiences of the author - but that's not so much depressing as... here we go again!

What gets you really excited?

When you 'hear' that elusive voice and you just know you've got something special. Then when others in the agency read it and we all love it. I've had really buzzy days in the office like that.

Have you made any ‘discoveries’?

Two of my 'finds' have been signed so far. That's two out of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of manuscripts I've read, so it just goes to show. That said, sometimes I pick things out where the agent has thought it's not quite right for us, but we encourage the author to send us their next thing.
In the time that I've worked there, other authors have been signed, but they haven't come via the slushpile. They come through recommendations from existing authors or writers' conferences and such like. One recent author handed one of our staff a manuscript at a party. It turned out to be absolutely brilliant. So there are other ways.

Apart from reading the slush, what else do you do with the agency?

Sometimes an agent will ask me for a second opinion on something so I'll have a read of their manuscripts. I do readers reports and give editorial notes. I had some web designing skills from previous work I'd done, so I redid our whole website and I help keep it up to date.

Do you get to meet any celebrities or go to any fancy parties?

From what I can gather, big parties are a thing of the past but they do happen every so often. I did go to a glamorous book launch the other night where there were lots of recognisable faces. Our writers are writers proper, though, and we don't have 'celebs' on our books so it's perhaps not so relevant to our agency.

What advice would you give to the aspiring writer?

My advice would be pretty mundane: write and write and write, read authors who you want to write like and really study them. Above all be rigorous and ruthless with yourself.
If you can delight in the process of writing that's a bonus because I think that always comes across in the good manuscripts that I read.

Thank you Joanna.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Stormy Seas


Yesterday was a day of wild westerlies. We took the coast path round Portland Bill and watched the swell roll in and crash onto the rocks. Salt spray was in my hair and on my lips. I love it when it’s wild and windy like this.

Today the copies of our Writers Group anthology – The Hangman Inn arrived. This was a lot quicker than I expected and I think the group are going to be pleased. I took the proof along to show them on Thursday. Quite few people are going to be giving them as Christmas presents.

I’m not sure I’m going to take on editing something like this again in a hurry though. It was hard work – especially when people sent me files in weird formats or didn’t wrap their text!! I’ve got an awful lot more respect for the editors of all those short story anthologies and magazines out there as a result of this little exercise.

And as for the rewrite? It’s chugging along. Life seems to be getting in the way a bit though – what with Halloween just gone and Guy Fawkes night to come – not to mention Christmas looming on the horizon!
I must keep on reminding myself – make time to write!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Relics of a Darker Age

A fine Sunday afternoon and everyone is out enjoying the sunshine. A hanglider hugs the cliffs whilst dog walkers throw sticks into the surf on the beach below. Jetskis and windsurfers skim the waves and down at the Smugglers Inn people soak up the sunshine and sip their beer.

Today the bay is a wide playground, but here and there we come across reminders of a darker time – a time when the threat of invasion was very real, and the coastline was fortified. A time of war.
As you walk along the coastpath, you could easily pass these by. The brickwork still stands, overgrown with brambles and nettles; machine gun emplacements looking out across the bay, reminding us that things here were once very different.

But even today not everything is as it seems, for there a four large ships tied up in the shelter of the bay. There’s a storm out there somewhere. But me? I’m eating ice-cream and playing with my children in the sand.

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Hangman Inn

The Hangman Inn is an anthology of poetry and prose produced by the Yeovil Cre8tive Writers with yours truly here has been busy editing. It’s been hard work but I have to admit I’m very pleased with the result. We have such a diverse and talented group and it showcases the broad spectrum of writing styles and genres that we cover. The cover art was kindly produced for us by the very talented Wayne Chisnell.

The theme of the anthology is the Pub, The Hangman Inn, which is situated on a lonely country road to the south of Yeovil and the stories had to feature the pub in some way, and any point during its history. I even produced a photograph of said pub for inspiration.

Of course, this isn’t the Hangman Inn at all – the Hangman Inn is purely fictional!

What made me laugh though was when several members of the group suggested that maybe we could have our Christmas do there. Another suggested that the landlord might like a copy, and another spent ages searching for it on a map. They all looked so disappointed when I broke it to them that The Hangman Inn doesn’t really exist. (well I’m sure there’s a Hangman Inn somewhere – there’s bound to be!). But I guess it had become real for us.

The proof copy has finally arrived and it’s looking good. I’ll be ordering up the rest of them so that we can give it a launch in November at the next Prose Café, and we can all get copies for Christmas!

Anyway, I’m afraid you won’t be able to buy a copy unless you come along to one of our Prose Café’s at the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil. Sorry.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Why We Should Plot

Plotting isn’t for everyone. I know some writers who like to sit down with no idea where a story is going and see what evolves as they write. When I first started I did this. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I really need to plot.

When I write a short story I need to know, in my head, exactly what is going to happen – and, with the short form in particular, how it is going to end, since a short story always needs a powerful ending.

But the same applies to novels. At the very least I need to know how it is going to end, but with a much bigger canvas to work with, I’m finding it more important to know what the twists and turns along the way are going to be. I guess plotting has never been my strongest point. But this is something I really need to crack.

For, even though I thought I’d done enough plotting for the WIP before I started, I seem to have come unstuck. One of my characters, who I’d clearly not thought carefully enough about, managed to involve herself in the story for far longer than she was needed, and now I’ve had to go back and write her out of the last five chapters!!

I think I need to do a bit more work on the plot for this one before I go any further!!

But for now it can sit and gestate at the back of my mind – I’m up to my eyeballs in the ‘novel-formerly-known-as-Myth-Making’ rewrite – and I need to make sure the plot is solid in this one too!

Monday, 5 October 2009

One Step Forwards

And two steps back. At least, that’s what it feels like. Although in reality it’s actually all forwards.

What am I talking about you ask? The answer is that elusive gold-dust of Agent feedback.

I’ve posted about my Agent hunt before, and I know I’ve been quiet on the subject – well that was because I was busy rewriting, and then resubmitting, and now…. More Agent feedback, and it’s back to the drawing board.

I was just about to crack on with the WIP, but that will have to wait. There’s another rewrite to be done for this one, and some major changes to be made.

Monday, 28 September 2009

The Journey to Publication

The wonderful How Publishing Really Works blog has just announced a new series of articles coming our way – stories of people’s routes to publication. This is going to be really interesting, I can tell.

As an aspiring author, published in short fiction but as yet unagented and without a book deal for any of my novels, I find these sorts of stories of hard work and determination wholly inspiring. It makes me feel if they can do it then so can I, if I just stick with it, work hard, improve my writing and come up with that killer idea!

So pop over there and take a look. The first will be posted tomorrow.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Equinox

It is the equinox and summer is turning to autumn, berries in the hedgerows and falling leaves.

It’s a beautiful September this year, clear skies and sunshine. But the seasons are turning.
All summer this sandy bank was a bustle of sand martins, dashing back and forth, raising their young. The skies were filled with their cries, and their dropping splattered over any cars that foolishly parked too close.

But last week they left. Their nest holes lie empty. The skies are silent. Autumn is here.

Time for me to turn away from the fields and woods and get on with some writing…

Monday, 14 September 2009

Old Bones

We used to have a hedge at the bottom of our garden – one of those messy old hedges with lots of gaps. But, getting a bit tired of regular garden invasions by the local livestock, we decided to remove it and put in something more substantial.

It was then that the children found the bones...

My first thought was that we’d found the remains of someone’s pet dog – and my husband was worried that they might be human!! But, having convinced him that they were definitely animal, the kids put them in a box and proudly marched them up to the local museum for identification.

We got them back at the weekend, along with the archaeologists report, and it looks like neither of us was right.

The bones belong mainly to young cattle with a few rabbit bones as well. Some have been cut or sawn suggesting that they were killed for human consumption. They are also likely to be well over a hundred years old – dating to the times before organised refuse collection, when people buried their waste in pits. The suggestion is that these bones are the remains of the meals of workers who were building the nearby railway in the 1850’s.

So there you go – our very own archaeological dig! I wonder what the kids will find next – a stash of gold coins would be nice!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

More Jupiter Reviews

Another couple of good reviews of Jupiter SF 25: Erinome have appeared – one over at the Sfsite which is very positive about Jupiter 25 in general and another, also good, over at SF Crowsnest. Here are a couple of extracts…

About the issue as a whole:

'Jupiter Magazine' allows the fiction to speak for itself and in this case we have five excellent stories to entertain the readers.'

And my story:

'The Oracle' by Kate Kelly was a rather disturbing tale. Not the sort of thing you would want to read if you were claustrophobic!"

I’m pleased with that. Just the effect I was aiming for. :-)

Friday, 28 August 2009

Footprints Signing Pictures

Last night myself and David L Clements met at Waterstones in Dorchester to read from our 'Footprints' stories, answer questions and sign copies.

There event was well attanded and there was a lively discussion afterwards - inevitably the question of whether the Apollo landings really actually happened came up :-) - and my thanks to everyone who attended.

I've posted some pictures over on my website -

Here.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Footprints Signing Reminder

Don't forget to get your tickets for Thursday's Footprints signing at Waterstones in Dorchester at 7:30pm - see post below for details.

You can either buy them in the shop or give them a call on 01305 257123 to book your place.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Footprints Signing in Dorchester on the 27th August

On the 27th August myself and fellow UK author David Clements will be in Waterstones in Dorchester, Dorset at 7:30 pm.

We will be reading from Footprints, and anthology of science fiction stories from Hadley Rille Books to which we are both contributors, and will be answering questions about the anthology, our stories or anything else you care to ask.

Footprints is an anthology of science fiction stories based around the fact that, long after our civilisation has crumbled to dust the Apollo astronauts’ footprints will still be there on the surface of the moon, and the stories it contains explore how visitors from distant worlds might interpret this evidence. Footprints has been released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

I do hope that anyone reading this who might be in the vicinity of Dorchester on the 27th August will join us. Tickets can be purchased beforehand from Waterstones and are £1 which is redeemable against the cost of the book, or you can pay on the door. Refreshments will be available.

But above all it will be a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow authors, and it would also be great to meet any of my virtual friends if you can make it.

I do hope to see you there.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

"The Oracle" reviewed

There's a very nice review of Jupiter SF 25: up over at SFrevu. All in all it's very positive. Ian Redman should be pleased, since all the reviews I've seen of Jupiter recently have been good ones. This is what it says about my little tale:
The settling of "The Oracle" by Kate Kelly is a near-future Italy in which Naples was covered by ash from Vesuvius, the same way Pompeii was. Aldo Martinelli leads a group of archeologists into an area where they discover an ancient antechamber. When they descend, they are overcome by gas and hallucinations. What they find is something that even predates Pompeii. Kelly contributes a fine story here.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Poppies


Out walking today and we passed through fields of poppies. They're so fragile, giving the countryside a blush of red against the meadow grass, or nestling in amongst the barley and wheat. Poppies are the flower that says to me 'Summer'.

But poppies are speacial for other reasons too. Poppy is the main character in my children's novel - originally called Myth Making but now out on submission under the title Broken Mask.

Poppies are also my mother's favorite flower.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Footprints Story Published

It's out - the Footprints anthology from Hadley Rille Books which contains my short story 'The Last Traces' This looks like it is going to be a fantastic anthology - I'm eagerly waiting for my copy to arrive - can't wait. This is my 9th published story and my third in a Hadley Rille Books anthology.

You can buy it here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk, and if you are likely to be in the Dorchester vicinity next month we're trying to get a signing set up - watch this space!!!

In the meantime - I hope you enjoy the stories!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

40 Years Ago

40 years ago today Apollo 11 was launched. On Monday it will be the 40th anniversary of the first men, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin setting foot on the surface of the moon.

I’m not old enough to remember the moon landings, but it must have been a fantastic time. People must have looked at the stars and thought ‘Our children will be out there’.

Except we’re not. Why not? Why did we take that first step – knock at the door of space exploration and then back away to the confines of our one small fragile world. I can’t help feeling that we should have gone forwards – we should have gone on!!

But in my imagination I’m out there, in the stories that I write. And one of these stories will be coming out soon, for with the anniversary of the Apollo landing comes the launch of the Footprints anthology from Hadley Rille Books.

Watch this space…

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Jupiter SF 25 is here!

I arrived home from work to find my contributers copy of Jupiter SF 25: Erinome, waiting on the doormat. It contains my short story The Oracle, and I'm really pleased to see this one in print!

So far I've only managed to read one of the stories - 'Radio Free' by Sam Kepfield, which I really enjoyed. I'll be settling down to read the rest of them later this evening - but after Torchwood of course!!

Anyway - head on over to the Jupiter SF website and order yourself a copy - this promises to be an ejoyable read!

Monday, 29 June 2009

Back out there!

It's time. The edit is complete and it's time for the children's novel to get back out into circulation.

My first batch of submissions - (gosh it feels like ages ago) - had a good response - a couple of requests for fulls, some superb feedback from one particular agent, and a promise of feedback from another (which has yet to materialise but as she's not made me an offer I guess I'm pretty much at the bottom of her heap).

But following the advice given to me by Agent#1, Myth Making has had an extensive rewrite - along with abrand new title!

So the time has come - it's been out of circulation for long enough (tied up in an exclusive with Agent#2) - and there are still plenty of agents left on my list. The first couple of submissions are winging their way across the ether as I speak (type), and I'll try to get more out over the next couple of weeks.

Lets hope that Agent#1's advice is enough to tip the balance. Wish me luck everyone!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Waiting

It’s so hard to be patient in this game. But we must. The cogs of this industry can move so slowly at times.

It can take an Agent several months to respond to a submission, many more months to respond to a full, and if you are honouring an exclusive on that full the wait can seem interminable.

I think if it wasn’t for the short stories I have out in circulation I would go crazy waiting. But fortunately the turn around on shorts can be much quicker - can be – but not always. I’ve had short stories tied up for over a year before now – and even once it is accepted it can be a long time before it appears in print. One contract I recently signed said the story would appear sometime in the next three years. So even here the turnaround can be very slow.

But patience is also important in the writing process itself. So many people finish their novel or story and then rush to submit. It’s so tempting to do. I’ve done it myself in the past, and watched the rejections rolling in. Why? Because the story wasn’t ready.

The editing phase is vital. It mustn’t be skimped. Put your work aside. Write something new. Do something else. Have a holiday. And come back to it fresh. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll see that needs to be done.

So I just have to try to be patient – only I’m not a very patient person.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Dismembered Bodies

They’ve found a load of dismembered bodies in the hills nearby, where a new road is being built – check this out:

But before you start thinking serial killers I ought to point out that these bodies date from Roman times.

It’s a fascinating find – seems that the heads are in one pile and the bodies in another. Apparently cutting off your enemy’s head was a mark of disrespect – no kidding!!

Archaeologists are busy all along the route of the new road. Here’s one of their dig sites showing some sort of circular structure. No bodies here though. They’re on the next ridge under 24 hour guard.
It’s fascinating to think about the people who lived here two thousand years ago – their lives – their worries. And what happened here? A pile of bodies with their heads cut off? There’s a story here somewhere – I can feel it.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Twin Tales

Over on Litopia they’ve been running a flash fiction contest. I have to admit it made a nice break from the rewrite I’m doing, to turn my hand to this exercise.

That’s the great thing about short stories – they’re fun to write, refreshing and stimulating. When you’re writing a novel occasionally you have to pause, either to do some research or maybe you just need a chance to let things gel a bit in your mind.

Whatever the reason this is a good time to break off and write a short story – about something completely different. Whenever I do this I come back to my WIP refreshed and eager to go.

So this little contest was well timed for me because I’ve just finished the first and main phase of my rewrite. All the structural changes are in place, and now that I’ve revitalised my creative juices I can go back to it with fresh eyes and give it a thorough read through to make sure I haven’t left any holes.

Anyway, the shortlisted stories are being read out this week over at the Litopia Podcast. The calibre of the colony writers is extremely high so you can be certain that these are going to be good. I’m looking forward to listening to them

Monday, 1 June 2009

Monsters?

What manner of beast is this?

It's a grotesque on the tower of a Norman church. These creatures are a common feature in this region - over in Somerset they are known as hunky punks. Here they have no name. They are just there - staring down on the Sunday worshipers as they file their way to mass.

But what are they? What are they supposed to represent? Half goat? Half pig? What possesssed those 12th Century sculptors to carve such creatures?

If anyone has any ideas I'd love to know!

Friday, 22 May 2009

Prose Cafe with Moish Sokal

Last nights Prose Café at the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil was a talk by watercolour artist Moish Sokal. Here he is discussing one of his paintings with Liz.

His paintings are quite stunning, but what really interested me was the way his craft had developed. He showed us examples of his early work (which looked excellent to my untrained eye) and then described some of the different things he had tried. But what was so interesting was the way that each of these phases in his painting life went on to contribute to the paintings he is producing today.

In a way this is analogous to the way we writers develop our craft. We may experiment with something new, and then move on, but what we have learned all contributes to our craft.

And of course it never stops. What will Moish be painting in ten years time? What will I be writing?

Anyway, Moish has an exhibition of his art opening on the First of June so if you are in the Somerset area it will be well worth a visit. There are details on Miosh’s website here. I will certainly be going along!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Well Dressing

It’s May, and well dressing time.

The image is made up purely of natural things, leaves and twigs, stones, beans and petals, pressed into wet clay, mounted on a wooden frame. This image has faded a bit now, but should last for the rest of the month.

The well dressing tradition originates in Derbyshire but has been spreading to wells in other parts of the country, like this one, over the years. It dates back to the time of the Great Plague, and since the plague first arrived in this country through the harbour of the nearby town, it’s rather fitting.

And of course, like many old wells, this is a wishing well. You must stand with your back to the well with you feet on either side of the stream. Scoop up and handful of water and take a sip. The throw the rest over your shoulder back into the well and make your wish.

I’m not going to tell you what I wished for but you can probably guess.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Guest Author: Michael O'Byrne

Michael is the author of “The Crime Writers Guide to Police Practice and Procedure,” which has just been published by Robert Hale Publishing. It is a ‘must have’ book for any budding crime writer and Michael has kindly agreed to stop by my Blog to answer some questions. Mike will also be happy to answer any questions you care to add in the comments below.


Tell us a bit about your book.
It is what it says on the cover! It’s a guide to police practice written I hope in non-technical language aimed specifically at crime writers – (although a lot of journalists/reporters would benefit from reading it even if only to get the rank structure right) – as a crime writer myself I think I can see what is of interest to other writers and can give them some guidance on what they need and don’t need to know, and maybe some ideas on roles that have not been used to best effect.

What motivated you to write this book?
I went to the Swanwick Writers school about three years ago and was asked to run a short workshop on crime. I enjoyed it and could do it without too much extra work on my part. It was very successful and I was asked to run a 4 hour workshop the next year. I had to do a lot of research for it – I looked around and found that there is a real dearth of books on this subject despite the fact that crime writing is probably one of the biggest genres so I put the idea of a book to three publishers, two turned it down and Robert Hale took it up.

Did you have to do much research on top of what you already knew from your police career?
I had to do a lot of research in two areas DNA and profiling. DNA had moved on a lot since I retired and I needed to get up to speed and of course you need to know a technical subject well if you want to describe it in non-technical language. I have just about enough science in my background to find this interesting rather than a bore, I can only hope that I have managed on the ‘non-technical interesting read’ bit. Researching profiling was fascinating as it is a much loved device now, especially with American writers, and of course by journalists. My interest was also fired by the fact that I was in Surrey Police when it was first used by the British police in the railway murders. Geographic profiling, trying to narrow the possible suspects by working out where he/she might live or work has some value but psychological profiling is just sophisticated guess-work with real dangers attached to its use. I had to be sure of my ground when writing this just because of the mythology that surrounds it.

Have the police procedures you describe changed much over the decades?
There are two ‘procedures’ to consider those for detection and those for prosecution.
Those for detection changed for the first time with the development of fingerprinting at the turn of the last century, then the growth of sophisticated forensics in the 70s and 80s then finally with the development of genetic fingerprinting in the 90s. The latter has revolutionised the treatment of crime scenes as the dangers of contamination are so great, such that for some crime scenes the Senior Investigating Officer may not get in for two or three days while the SOCOs do their work.

In prosecutions the first major change was the introduction of the Judges Rules and the police caution in 1910/11 then nothing much really changed until the Police and Criminal Evidence Act in 1984 followed by the introduction of the Crown Prosecution Service in the late 80s. The most recent changes have been the avalanche of anti-terrorism provisions which could take up a whole book themselves.

The other change worth mentioning is the culture of the service itself. When I joined in 1970 it was very male, white, conservative whereas there are now a lot more women in every rank and specialism and a growing (although still too small) number of people from the visible minority communities.

What do you think will change most in the future?
In the immediate future the service will be subject to the same pressures as the rest of the public services in have to cope with significant budget cuts – my own hope is that this leads to an appraisal of the use of Community Safety Officers a change that has never been evaluated and which now takes up a significant amount of forces’ budgets.

Longer term I think that there may be a backlash on the repressive legislation that has been introduced by the Labour government in the last ten years, I think we have seen the beginning in the way they have been forced to change their stance on retaining DNA and in the recent reaction to the fact that the Met used the powers under the terrorism acts to stop and search over 150,000 people, nearly a third of whom were of Asian or Afro-Caribbean origin. This cannot be right and is alienating the very communities whose active support we need to cope with the problem that Islamist terrorism presents

Your first love is fiction – is that where you will be concentrating your efforts next?
I have written two books neither of which could find a publisher’s editor who could ‘fall in love with’ them. I am now in the middle of a crime thriller based on a retired police officer living in the Greek Islands which I hope to finish this summer. If it works I may be able to fulfil my wish to emulate Hammond Innes who managed to finance his life sailing round there on the basis of his writing.

What is the best thing about being a writer?
Putting together a piece that you know instinctively hangs together and works – especially if it has dialogue that sound real and pacey.

And the worst?
Same as everyone else – the first blank page/screen where you know you want to write something but can’t seem to get the first sentence to emerge.

What piece of advice would you offer to anyone thinking of writing crime? (apart from buy your book of course)
KISS – keep it simple stupid! Don’t get too technical unless you really need to and are willing to do the research. One of my favourite writers in Ian Rankin and I think it is (apart from super plots and characterisation) because he never gets technical ( I don’t think Rebus ever actually arrests and cautions anyone) and because he has great cop dialogue which creates the right atmosphere.


Thank you Michael for answering my questions.

Friday, 8 May 2009

One story – so many different tales.

There is always more than one way to tell the same story. Some of these will obviously work a lot better than others, and it is up to us, as writers, to work out the best way of telling the tales that we have bubbling around inside our heads.

So here’s an example of how the same story can be told in many different ways.

Just before Christmas our writing group carried out a little exercise that you might want to try yourselves.

We selected a well known fairy tale that we were all familiar with, in this case Snow White, and then we each selected a different genre out of a hat. We then had to rewrite Snow White in the style of the genre we had picked.

Well I picked out romance so mine was a slushy Mills and Boon style offering revolving around the love triangle between Prince Charming, Snow White and Grumpy, and yes, the Prince and Grumpy did get together in the end.

We had stories written as horror and chick lit, science fiction (the dwarves are aliens) and of course it worked particularly well as crime.

But my favourite was Jackie’s offering as erotica – my what a wicked, wicked queen!!

Friday, 1 May 2009

Colours of Spring

Another gorgeous day, and the valley before me is awash with yellow - fields and fields of oilseed rape smothering the landscape like a blanket - and ocean of yellow aglow in the sunlight, lapping at the base of the ridge.

Every year more and more fields seem to be planted with rape - more brilliant yellow to herald the coming of spring.

It's far too lovely a day to get much writing done. But perhaps I'll take some printouts into the garden in the hope of doing some editing. They are all coming together at the moment so I'm pleased with the progress I've made.
The WIP however has run into a small glitch - one of the minor characters has muzzled her way into the action. Don't you just hate it when they do that? She's been there for a couple of chapters now, but she's not contributing anything to the plot. Sorry Lucy. I'm afraid you've got to go.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

April Bluebells

A beautiful sunny spring day and my local woods are a sea of bluebells. There's nothing like strolling between the trees or over the hills to help the final pieces of the Myth Making rewrite I am about to embark on, to fall into place.

A few weeks ago I had some superb feedback from an Agent who highlighted a number of things, including several plot holes, and I've been mulling them over ever since, working out what I need to change and how. His critique was very astute - a bit of a 'why didn't I do that right first time' moment. It all seems so obvious now!

The thinking is over. Let the edit begin!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

What makes a good short story?

Having had some success with the short form (9 short stories sold to date plus one reprint) I thought I might share with you some thoughts on the subject.

I think it is a good idea for all new writers to dabble with short stories. It’s an excellent way to hone your writing skills and learn the craft. It’s also a good place to experiment and try things out. After all, if you try something with a short story that doesn’t work you’re only discarding a few thousand words, and as you’ve learned from the experiment it’s not time wasted. If, however, you’ve tried something experimental in a novel length work that hasn’t worked ... Well, you don’t need me to do the maths for that one!

Another advantage is that when you start to get good at it your can enter them into competitions and submit them to magazines. Before you know it you’ll have a writing CV for when you start to tout that novel of yours round the agents. And of course that novel of yours is going to be so much better because you’ve learned the craft by writing short stories.

So that’s two reasons why I think you should have a go at writing short stories. But what is it that makes a short story a good one? Well here are a few of my thoughts on this subject – and I hope your find these tips useful.

1. Stick to a single POV. Multiple POV short stories can be made to work, but if a story can be told from a single perspective it’s better to do so.

2. Avoid preamble. You don’t have much space so get into the story and your character’s head right from the very first sentence.

3. Make every word count – a short story should be tight.

4. Minimise number of settings – try to keep the number of scenes down – only those that the story actually needs.

5. Minimise number of characters – you don’t have the space to develop a wide cast of interesting and varied characters, so keep these to the bare minimum.

6. Keep it consistent – this goes for voice and rhythm as well as POV.

7. Finish with a punch – make your last line really memorable to that it resonates with the reader after they have stopped reading.

8. Don’t write on beyond the story’s natural end – this is so easy to do. Come back to it later and check whether where you have ended it is the best place or whether it would have more impact if you finished it a couple of paragraphs earlier.

9. Edit it – let it rest for a few days, then come back to it with a critical eye. Rewrite if necessary – I’ve been known to turn a story completely about!

10. And finally enjoy it!! Writing short stories is fun.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Lulu Experiment

I finally gave my mother the book of my father’s memoirs that I produced using Lulu and I would like to declare this little experiment of mine a resounding success.

The book itself is a perfect bound paperback and I used a photograph of the nearby moors for the cover, since I know how much my father loved those moors. I was really pleased with the quality, and as for my mother, well she was moved to tears – quite literally.

I have since ordered a batch of copies for the other family members and they arrived the other day. I think everyone is going to be really pleased and I think that it makes a lovely tribute to him.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Ruins in Seattle

If anyone reading this lives near enough to the Seattle area there are going to be a number of book signing/reading events for the Ruins series of books from Hadley Rille Books – That’s Ruins Terra, Ruins Extraterrestrial and Ruins Metropolis – two of which (Ruins Terra and Ruins Metropolis) contain stories of mine.

Details here

Unfortunately it’s on the wrong side of the pond for me but Eric tells me he is trying to get something organised over here and if he does I’ll let you know.

And in other news my contributor’s copy of Escape Velocity Magazine dropped through the letterbox at the weekend - and there - nestling among the fascinating articles and fabulous fiction is my story ‘Cone Key’.

If you haven’t already ordered yourself a copy I strongly suggest you do! You really won’t regret it.

I’d post a picture of it since it looks so lovely – if only I can find out where my hubby has hidden the charger for my camera!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Rosemary Lane Reviewed

There’s a nice review of February’s Pseudopod stories up at The Fix. Here. This is what they have to say about Rosemary Lane.

"Rosemary Lane" by Kate Kelly (read by Alasdair Stuart), a Pseudopod Flash, is a first-person ghost story, spanning the years between one murder and another. Creepy cogitation in the undergrowth, as a lonely child sees the ghost, and is then unsurprisingly disbelieved by the taunting group of which she is not really a part. Atmospheric, concise, and well read by Alasdair Stuart.
Incidentally, Rosemary Lane is a real place. I used to play there as a child – a disused road that only the village kids knew about! I never saw any ghosts there mind – but it wouldn’t surprise me at all!!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Another Story Published

It's Out!
Escape Velocity # 4 is out and looking fabulous! What a superb cover! This magazine contains a mixture of fiction and articles and looks like it’s going to be a superb read. There is a story in it by Sonny Whitelaw – author of Stargate! Cool – can’t wait to read that one!

It also contains a story by yours truly here – called “The Cone Key”

So head over to their website and order yourself a copy. You won’t be disappointed. And I do hope you enjoy my story.

And they have a very friendly little yahoo group so stop by and say ‘hello’.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Voices Across the Pond

Anyone who is looking to sell their short fiction, particularly if, like me you are writing in the SF/horror genres, will sooner or later start to submit to markets based in the States. In fact, although there are some excellent small UK based magazines, over in the States the short fiction scene in these genres is positively flourishing, so really you’d be daft not to.

Now as a UK based writer who writes in UK English, I used to spend many a long hour painstakingly converting all my UK spellings to US ones to have a version of my story to send across the pond, but after a time I stopped doing it.

The main reason behind my rationale is that UK and US English seem to differ in more than just spelling. There are all sorts of words and phrases that exist over here but not over there, and I’m sure – in fact I know that I use a lot of these in my writing, without even being aware.

So out they go in UK English and you know, I don’t think it makes any difference. I’ve sold a number of stories now to markets in the States.

It is interesting though, some of the words and phrases that differ. Okay, we all know the obvious ones such as ‘flashlight’ for ‘torch’ or ‘sidewalk’ for ‘pavement’, but a new one on me, which Eric over at Hadley Rille Books pulled me up on in the edits of my ‘Footprints’ story, was the phrase ‘as of old’. (Which for any American reading this blog means ‘as in the past’.)

It had never occurred to me that this might be a very English turn of phrase. I wonder what other phrases and words I use that leave our American cousins scratching their heads in confusion.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Competition Time

I am contemplating whether to enter any writing competitions this year.

I think I’ll probably have a go at the Yeovil Prize again. I like to support this one, partly since it is my local prize, and partly because I’ve done well in it in previous years, culminating last year in me winning the Western Gazette award for a local author as I was shortlisted in two categories, with my novel, Myth Making being highly commended.

Competitions with a category for novels are few and far between, but this year, I’m not sure my WIP is far enough along to enter. Perhaps I’ll save it for next year, or maybe, by the time the deadline approaches (31st May) I’ll feel differently.

But I will definitely be having a go at the short story category. It’s written, just needs a bit of a spit and polish and I’ll send it in.

Monday, 23 February 2009

"Rosemary Lane" now up at Pseudopod

My short story "Rosemary Lane" has just gone up at Pseudopod.

It's the first time I've had a story published as a podcast - so I'm very excited. You can download the MP3 file here at Pseudopod, so listen and enjoy, and if you like it leave a comment.

As for me, I'm off to celebrate!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Footprints Sale!


I’ve just heard from Eric T Reynolds over at Hadley Rille Books that my short story ‘Last Traces’ has made the line up for their forthcoming ‘Footprints’ anthology.

This will be my third story to be published by Hadley Rille Books and I am, needless to say, delighted. They produce some fabulous books and it’s great to be a part of it!

In fact, if anyone reading this is on the lookout for a great market, they’ve just announced a new call for submissions for a new anthology, ‘Destination: Future’. I’ll certainly be sending something in for this one!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Memories

For some years now I’ve been looking at my late father’s memoirs gathering dust on my hard drive and thought how nice it would be to get them into print for family and friends. The problem always was that we only need a handful of copies between us, and most people from my writers group who have self published have used printers that do print runs of several hundred, which, in this case is quite unnecessary. Add to this the fact that any form of self publishing or vanity publishing is completely off the agenda as far as my own work is concerned, it was looking as if my father’s memoirs were destined to remain for ever electronic.

But then a new guy at my writers group, David Smith, told me about Lulu.com. So I checked them out, and came to the conclusion that, for what I needed, they might be the way to go.

Well, worth a try. So I re-formatted his old Macintosh file and uploaded it. And I managed to dig out a photograph to use for the cover, and I can keep the file private – most important since this is family stuff and not for public consumption.

So all I need to do now is order one and see what it looks like. And hopefully that’s this year’s birthday present for my Mum sorted!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Writing Weather

The rain has been pounding down all day washing away the last of the snow. Rivers and roads are one and the same and where I once looked out on fields all I can see is a brown muddy lake. The Frome has burst her banks (not that she ever needs much encouragement to do that!!) and I’m so glad that I live on a hill!

The wind is lashing rain against my windows, but my fire is warm. This is good weather to get some writing done – and as I’m writing about a flood at the moment it’s rather appropriate.

Winter for me is the best time to write – the time when I get the most done. For, come the summer with light nights and sunny days the fields and the valleys will call me, and I’ll be heading for the beach instead. (Assuming we have a decent summer this year!)

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Control those Characters!

This is the part of writing I like the most – the moment my characters start to take on a life of their own.

I reached this point last night with the WIP. One of my characters went and did something quite unexpected, and yet it was the right thing for him to do. It added a bit more excitement to the scene I was writing. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it first!

Of course, if my characters get too carried away it can be a bad thing. Sometimes they want to go off at a tangent, and when I first started writing I used to let them get into all sorts of pickles. I’m stricter with them now. I know where they have to end up and if they start to digress too much it’s down to me to steer them back on track.

But even so, they never cease to throw up surprise after surprise.

Of course, if you don’t write you probably think I’m quite mad by now. But I’d like to wager that any writers reading this know exactly what I’m talking about.

(I wonder what they’re going to surprise me with next?)

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The Trees

I have only just stopped hugging my sides with laughter at the two local road protestors who climbed up a tree that wasn’t actually scheduled to be felled – so the engineers left them up there while they got on with felling the trees that were!!! I wonder how long it took them before they realised their mistake – and it’s been awfully cold of late as well!!

Anyway, some years ago I wrote a story about a group of road protestors. It was my first modest writing success, being commended in the short story category of the Yeovil Prize.

It’s been gathering dust on my hard drive and I gave up any idea of selling it some while back. But I thought I would dig it out and post it over on my website, as a tribute to those two guys, who, as far as I know might still be sitting in those cold, cold branches.

So pop over to my website, where I am proud to present – The Trees. (It’s under ‘short stories’) Enjoy.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Free Science Fiction

Guys - if you want some good free SF then pop across to the Escape Velocity Magazine website - they've just made issues 1, 2 and 3 available as free PDF downloads to celebreate some of their stories being nominated for the BSFA awards this year.

Still no firm date for Issue 4 (which will contain a story by yours truly here) but I'll let you know as soon as I hear anything.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Tracking those Agents

It’s now a while since I posted that I was about to embark on the hunt for an Agent to represent Myth Making and I thought I would say a bit more about that whole process.

Ah, and a slow process it is too.

“Why’s that?” I hear you ask. “You just stick them in the post.”

And here is where I tear my hair and shout “NO NO NO!!”

You can’t just go and bung a dozen or so submissions in the post to the first names you find in the Writers and Artists Yearbook. You have to do your RESEARCH first – and that is what takes the time.

Take Myth Making for example, my children’s book aimed at kids aged 10+. Well for starters, not all Agents handle kids books. So why waste my time and theirs sending them something they’re not going to be interested in the first place.

But it goes deeper than that. Once I have an Agent’s name I check them out. Many have websites - a good place to start. If they list clients I check them out on Amazon. If not a quick google should turn up the websites of some clients. This then starts to give me a picture of what sorts of books these Agents handle. Have I heard of them? Who are their publishers? Does my book seem to fit with their lists? Are they a member of the Agent’s Association? And many many more.

All these questions take time to answer, but, once they’ve checked out then at last they go onto my list.

So if you’re an Agent reading my blog because you’re looking at Myth Making and you’re checking me out – then that means I checked you out first :-)

Monday, 12 January 2009

My Thoughts on Arkham Tales #1

The first issue of the new Weird Fiction magazine Arkham Tales was made available for free download back in November 2008, and, since I’m a huge fan of weird fiction, coupled with the fact that they’ve already accepted a story of mine for a future issue, I thought I ought to take a look.

The magazine is issued as a PDF download, and the first thing that struck me was the superb artwork on the covering page. But since my main interest is the content I shall move on.

There is a veritable feast of weird fiction in this issue with seven short stories and one novelette, which form an interesting blend of genres. The House on the Hill of Stars by Jeffrey Scott Sims, a haunted house story with a distinctly Lovecraftian feel to it, is exactly the sort of thing I was expecting and I wasn’t disappointed. Night Frights by Benjamin W Olson is a more conventional horror tale while MageRider by Mike W Barr is a story more in the fantasy genre, but one with a dark underbelly of deception.

Talking About Cet Baker by Derek Rutherford which opens this issue is a frightening tale of revenge that has alarming repercussions while Market Values by Jenny Schwartz explores corruption in the organ vending business.

I spotted Pickman’s Progeny by Robert Masterson listed over at the Predators and Editors Readers Poll, and with good reason. It is a beautifully written and powerful piece. However, my personal favourite has to be Animal Rights by Steve Calvert. There are some lovely touches of humour, which balance so well with an ending that I didn’t see coming.

Finally Until death, I Eat by Steve Bastedo made a cold shudder pass up my spine. A chilling parting shot and definitely not one for vegetarians!

All in all this is a cracking debut, so if you like your fiction good and weird, head over to their website and download it for yourself. And look out for Issue 2 next month!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

I've Been Tagged!!

Aww I’ve been tagged – thanks Rich!!

This is how it works: Display the award. Link back to the person who gave you this award. Nominate at least 7 other blogs. Put links to those blogs on your blog. Leave a message on the blogs of the people you’ve nominated. You can only answer in one word.
1. Where is your cell phone? Somewhere
2. Where is your significant other? Work
3. Your hair colour? Dark
4. Your mother? Abroad
5. Your father? Deceased
6. Your favourite thing? Intrigue
7. Your dream last night? Intriguing
8. Your dream/goal? Published.
9. The room you’re in? Lounge
10. Your hobby? Writing.
11. Your fear? Betrayal
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Published.
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. What you’re not? Mean
15. One of your wish-list items? Time.
16. Where you grew up? Rural
17. The last thing you did? Eat
18. What are you wearing? Jumpers
19. Your TV? Off
20. Your pet? Hungry
21. Your computer? Old
22. Your mood? Content
23. Missing someone? Yes
24. Your car? Broken
25. Something you’re not wearing? Handcuffs
26. Favourite store? Waterstones
27. Your summer? Rainy
28. Love someone? Definitely
29. Your favourite colour? Green
30. When is the last time you laughed? Earlier
31. Last time you cried? Forgotten
And I will tag...

Emma, Liam, Jean, John, Crowe, JD, Kelly

Monday, 5 January 2009

2009 Writing Resolutions

A new year, and new opportunities – so what are my writing goals for this year? Here are my targets for 2009:

1. Find an Agent to represent Myth Making
2. Sell a short story to a SWFA pro market
3. Sell more short stories than in 2008 (more than 3)

4. Complete first draft of current WIP.
5. Enter the Yeovil Prize again.
6. Start putting reviews on this blog.


And do check out the Preditors and Editors readers poll – Ruins Metropolis has been nominated in the anthology category so if you’ve read and enjoyed it why not give it a vote.

Oh, and Happy New Year!!