Monday, 27 December 2010

Melting Snow

The snow is melting as the year draws to a close. 2010 has been an exciting year for me as far as my writing is concerned - signing with an agent being the highlight, but I also attended my first literary festival and had my success in the Yeovil Prize, as well as doing well on the short story front.

Who knows what 2011 will bring. I'm starting on a journey into uncharted waters (uncharted for me at any rate). It's a new adventure - like my new WIP. My heart beats a little faster and I can't wait to find out what happens next.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Me and My Caganer

Last Christmas my Catalan friend brought me back a caganer when she went home to Barcelona for Christmas.

So this year my Nativity scene has an interesting addition. And here she is in all her glory, squatting in the bushes round the back of the stable. Isn’t she great?

The Catalan people are very keen on their Nativity scenes, making them much more elaborate that the simple stable gatherings we Brits have, and there is always a caganer, somewhere in the background. Traditionally it is a little peasant boy having a dump, but if you take a look at the caganer website you can see that they now come as a wide range of celebritites, footballers, and I’m guessing that some of those I don’t recognise are Spanish politicians.

The kids think my caganer is fabulous. I think it’s a tradition that should be introduced over here.

So Happy Christmas dear blog readers. And if you have any interesting or unusual festive traditions where you come from that you think I should adopt do let me know about them.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Cooking up a Sequel

I’ve made very little progress on DF over the past couple of weeks. And this is why.

You see, my Agent (can you see the big smile as I say that) has asked me to think about a possible sequel for WRRW (which now has a new title but I’ll stick with the original acronym for now).

And that’s what I’ve been doing.

There are so many possibilities – different options – different ways the story could go. The trick is to pick the right mix of ingredients – a bit like inventing a recipe – does that ingredient work – if not take it out! I may think up a couple of characters – only to morph them into one. I may completely change a section of the plot because I’ve thought of something better.

I’m one of those people who like to outline anyway, so it’s not too hard.

But of course, this is a story that may never be written. WRRW still needs work. And then it will need to find a home. So we’ll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Book Launch – Enchantment of the Black Dog.

Sunday afternoon – clear skies and frost – a lovely day to visit Portland for the launch of Carol Hunt’s latest book in The Portland Chronicles series – The Enchantment of the Black Dog, published by Roving Press.

The second in the series of children's books, The Portland Chronicles, by author Carol Hunt. In Enchantment of the Black Dog, Isabel Maydew sets out to unravel the mystery of the phantom Black Dog of Portland. The story features time travel to the English Civil War years and to the Ice Ages, when snow wolves roamed the Isle of Portland. Joined by a Southwell fairy and a cool surf-dude, Isabel finds clues to the true identity of the mysterious Black Dog.

It all took place at White Stones Café in Easton where Carol and the illustrator Domini Deane were signing copies and the kids (and Carol) were dressed up as characters from the book. People queued to buy their copies and to get them signed and there were activities to keep the kids busy while the adults supped coffee and scoffed cake. There was a really good turnout, which was great to see.

So congratulations Carol and I hope you have as much success with this one as you did with The Portland Sea Dragon.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Guest: Romance Writer Emma Shortt

Please welcome romance writer Emma Shortt.

Emma works as an editor for Evernight Publishing. As well as having a short story 'The Christmas Fae' in their Christmas anthology 'Twas a Dark and Delicious Christmas, she has a series of romantic novels coming out throughout 2010. This series is called FairyTales (the erotic kind) and takes up where The Christmas Fae finishes.

Tis Christmas and everyone is stirring…

From the keeper of Santa’s naughty list, delightful little Elves eager to please, and the sensual love of a toy soldier—the holidays are filled with orgasmic cheer. Where wishes come true, Frosty is itching for a melt-down, fairies and angels are randy to grant your every wish, and ‘tis the season to be oh, so jolly-filled.

Unwrap your darkest desires…for this is Christmas, and it will never be the same

Emma has kindly agreed to answer a few questions

1. When did you first start to write and why?

I actually wrote my first book when I was fifteen. It was called Crimson Wars (I was in my Anne Rice inspired goth phase) and was this human-vampire war type epic. It was done by hand (we were poor so a computer was about as attainable as the moon) and I reckon it must have been about thirty thousand words - a huge number to a fifteen year old. I’ve still got the scribes bump that the book produced, it’s never gone away. I wish I still had a copy, I bet it was dire.

Anyway I turned into a bit of a science geek from then on and the writing took a back seat but it was always on my mind. Then about five years ago I started to really think about doing it, as a job, not just a hobby. I was working a really stressful corporate job at the time, travelling all over the country and felt myself coming close to burn out – I’d gone straight from uni into a high pressure job, was only twenty five and knew already that it wasn't the life for me. So I quit my job, got a far less fraught one and started writing. When I didn't get published right away I took a better job, and then another and now I'm back in the 'stress zone' only writing as well!

I just love books, I love reading, I love writing. If I don't write something just feels 'off', it's a compulsion for me and I can't deny it. My perfect life involves me sat in front of my computer writing all day... oh, the bliss.

2. When did you realise that romance was your genre?

Other's realised it before I did. I started out writing YA, I think, because everyone else was at the time. HP was making millions and Twilight had just come on the scene - to me it seemed the obvious genre to write in. Then too I had a teenage daughter and it was like having a perfect beta reader in situ. I wrote several YA books and the first I really finished and loved was Immune. I subbed it to various agents and publishers and though the feedback was good it wasn't published. At the time I was devastated but I know now that I wasn’t ready. The writing wasn’t good enough and I wasn’t savvy enough about the business. I spent two years chasing agents, I’d never do that again.

So I carried on writing YAs but something was clicking. It got to the point where I’d start something and get bored or I’d write thousands of words then delete them the next night because I wasn’t feeling them. I couldn’t work out what was wrong and it was my fiancée who cleared things up for me. All my YA books were romance, that was the central theme, I knew that but I’d never classified them as romance. To me they were sci-fi or horror or something else and the romance was simply part of the plot, my chap disagreed! He insisted I was a romance writer and urged me to try and write a ‘grown up’ romance. I was intrigued by the idea. I’d thought about it certainly, but never had the nerve to follow it through. I think part of me was worried I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a romance writer but that was a stupid thought. I love reading romance books, some of my favourite authors write romance… so what was holding me back?

Nothing, so I plunged in and started writing… I’ve yet to stop.

3. Tell us a bit about the Fae?

I’d been thinking about a paranormal romance involving fairies for a while. I wanted to create a world ‘The Faedom’ where fairies live separate to humans. But I wanted those fairies to want to be part of the human world and to do whatever it took to achieve that. So, I created a world where Fae society is very much like ours - structured and hierarchal - and the only way for a Fae to interact with humans is to get one of the approved jobs – either as a holiday fairy or a guardian fairy. The thinking behind it is that once a fairy has one of these jobs they can interact with the human world by granting wishes. Just one wish for each fairy, once a year.

In The Christmas Fae Isadora has just been promoted and it’s now her job to grant one wish to make one human’s Christmas perfect. The wish will not be what she expects. The book is rated heat level ‘3’ so I need say no more than that!

I’ve really enjoyed writing this and I’m now editing the next book The Valentine’s Fae.

4. What does your job as an editor involve?

I’m both a content and copy editor which means I work on everything once the contract has been signed. At the moment I don’t play any part in the acquisitions process. I mean sure, if someone sent me something I could pass it on to my publisher and say, this is one for us, but I’m not a reader. My job is back office only. I get the manuscripts after the contract has gone out so there’s no turning back. Once I have that book I HAVE to make it saleable. Whatever it takes, removing chapters, adding them, deleting characters – it’s all wide open.

Generally speaking how it works is that my publisher (Evernight) sends me a manuscript through. I do a first read and give initial thoughts, concerns etc. This might be something as simple as a few tweaks to a major re-write. The MS goes back to the author who then addresses these issues. The turnaround for this is about a fortnight. The MS comes back and I'll check it to make sure the author has addressed the issues, if so I'll do a complete proof read of the whole MS, I'll re-write parts if need be, correct grammar and punctuation and make sure the flow is right. I both copy and content edit – so it’s the whole nine yards. If the issues haven't been addressed then it goes back to the author again. This is rare, usually we only do two edit rounds. Total turnaround is about 6 weeks, this is all done by email.

One thing I won’t do is compromise the author’s voice. This is her book, not mine, my job is to polish it up not re-mould it. Preserving the author’s voice is crucial, all ego has to be swept away. I’m lucky because I come at it from a writer’s perspective and so I know how much has gone into it. I know the author will have spent hours reading each bit and tweaking each line. I respect that totally and only make changes where they’re necessary. The impulse to re-write it the way I would has to be crushed, it’s not my book.

5. What do you see as the future for e-publishing?

E-publishing is the future, it’s as simple as that. I see us reaching a point where only the very high selling books come out in print. Ebooks first, then if sales targets are met, a print run. This makes perfect sense to me, both from a financial and environmental perspective, and in my genre we’re well ahead of the game.

It’s funny because a year ago I always said I would never get an e-reader. I love the smell and feel of books and the idea of having them in e-format was abhorrent to me. Now however, if there’s not a Kindle wrapped under the tree for me come this Christmas my chap’s going to be in trouble.

6. What piece of advice would you offer the aspiring writer?

Ooo someone else just asked me this and I’ll tell you exactly what I told them, I’m not the right person to ask this question! These days when someone tells me they’re thinking about writing my usual response is, please don’t. The trouble is I don’t think most people have any idea the amount of work that’s involved, I know I didn’t. When I got involved in writing (about five years ago now) I assumed I’d write an amazing book, get published, make a load of dosh and duh dah! It sooo doesn’t work like that.

Try instead long hours hunched over the computer, after a manic day at work, trying to cudgel the old brain into producing 2000 words. Or having to delete yesterdays 2000 because they’re crap. Try coming home to rejection envelopes piled high on the mat and feeling your heart drop. Countless hours spent trying to build yourself a platform. I wouldn’t even want to calculate the hours it takes to increase the blog by one follower or the Facebook group etc. It’s very, very difficult, like a full time job only with no pay.

Any newbie writer needs to realize that it is HARD work with very little reward for a long while. I’m only just seeing the fruits of my labors – five years after I begun. And the cash I’ve made so far? Oh, I don’t even want to think about it.

Still, I don’t want to be all gloom and doom, there are some positives. Like when something gets accepted and you see it out there in the real world. That is an amazing feeling. Or when the words work properly and you read it back and your heart beats a little faster. Being a writer, in my opinion, is just about the best darn job there is, but make no mistake, if you’re going to do it properly you have to treat it like a job.

Once you’ve made the decision that writing is for you then my best advice is to follow your own instincts, and if that means breaking the rules, break them. I don’t think I ever did what I was told, don’t phone agents, don’t email publishers direct, no multiple POVs, no telling. Bugger that, I write what feels right and if someone wants to read it after the fact then that’s brill but if they don’t then that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I shudder at the idea of this formula type writing that we get rammed down our throats or the strict way we’re told we must approach agents and publishers. They’re human beings for crikes sake, yes they’re busy, but you know what, so am I. I’ve never once had an agent or a publisher complain about the way I interact with them. Besides publishing is changing drastically, it will be the canny, break-the-rules type writers that will flourish.

Thank you Emma for answering my questions.

You can find out more about Emma at her website and her blog.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Call

It’s happened…

I can hardly believe it……

I was at work when the call came and I’ve been grinning from ear to ear ever since.

I want to shout it from the rooftops – but perhaps I’ll just whisper it really quietly…

I have an Agent………

Friday, 26 November 2010


One of the things I love most about living where I do is watching the changes - the seasons - the tides - the weather.

It's freezing cold, the first really cold weather this year. Until a few hours ago we had brilliant sunshine and crisp blue skies. But that's changing. The first altocumulus crept down from the north a few hours ago and now, over the hills, the clouds are thickening to grey.

There's a weather warning on the met office website - heavy snow and icy roads. And these days I don't just need to rely on the sky - I can see it tracking down across Wales on the rainfall radar.

I'm like a small child once again, my nose pressed against the frosted glass peering out at the sky -

Is it going to snow?

Did Father Christmas get my letter?

Will I hear back from that Agent soon?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

In the Footsteps of Vikings

Sometimes a throwaway comment is all it takes. A chance word and from nowhere a new idea springs into life.
This time it happened as we sat round the fire in this Viking Longhouse chatting, while the kids were outside ploughing the fields (I'm not making this up - they were - but as there weren't any oxen they had to pull the iron age plough themselves)

A casual comment from one of the archaeologists and a whole new dimension to my WIP sprang into my head.

I've been trying to work out how to fit it into the story, except I can't. It wouldn't work. The plot doesn't need anything so major.

But then I realised that it would make a fantastic sequel, notching up the tension and the stakes tenfold.

I've never done this before - I normally put everything into the story I'm working on. But this case is different. I'm barely 10K words into DF and already I'm planning a sequel!

And for anyone who is wondering this Viking Longhouse is at the Cranbourne Ancient Technology Centre.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

And So It Begins...

When I wrote my first novel I started with a character and a setting, nothing else. I sat down and wrote and let the story take me where it wished.

The novel rambled. It wandered off at a tangent and when at last I drew it to a close the ending felt contrived. That novel now gathers dust in the Box-Under-The-Bed.

These days I start somewhat differently. I let the idea marinade in the juices of my imagination – the characters grow and mature, the setting takes shape, the plot forms structure. I jot down notes. Soon these become an outline.

Then I start to write.

But wait. Something else is happening. When I take a closer look I realise that the first couple of chapters aren’t really needed. The third one makes a better opening. By then the voice of the piece has settled, the characters have developed. The action really starts.

What I’ve been doing is writing my way into the story.

So Chapter Three becomes Chapter One (For now).

And this is where I’m at – a new project flowing from my fingertips, the characters arguing with me in my head whenever I give them the chance. (Plus it stops me fretting about WRRW as I wait to hear if I hit the mark with my revisions).

Enough blogging - back to the writing!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Here be Dragons

Some people come here with their binoculars to look at the sea birds, but I come here looking for dragons.

There are caves like these all along this stretch of coast. Not many people know it but there are dragons living in most of them. They’re very shy and hard to spot. But if you are patient and sit quietly as the sun drops below the horizon and the shadows deepen into dusk, you might just see one slip out if its cave and take flight over the sea.

Back down on the shore I wandered into one such cave with my children. It’s okay though. I checked for tracks in the sand by the entrance before we went in. It was definitely uninhabited.

Even so, we didn’t go too far – just in case.

Friday, 29 October 2010


Quite often when I wander into my local bookstore there will be a writer sitting signing books on a Saturday morning.

One time there was a man with a pile of thrillers and since I like thrillers I picked one up to take a look. Soon we were chatting.

“This novel, my first one,” he said, “Has just gone out in its fourth edition and I now earn my living entirely from my writing.”

I was impressed. It must be selling well. So I asked him about his route to publication. He didn’t have an Agent but said that he’d submitted directly to publishers and had two offers which he’d had to chose between.

I glanced at the publisher. I'd never heard of them, but from what he was saying I assumed they were one of the respectable indies.

He started talking about book deals, and how his publisher wanted to see how well his first book sold before offering him his second book deal. He also told me about how he went to major literary festivals such as Hay on Wye with his writing. He was very convincing.

He then asked me if I was a writer too.

“Yes, I said. I’m writing children’s books.”

“Oh. It’s virtually impossible to get published in the children’s book market,” he told me. “Most of them are ghost written or written to order. You’ll never break into it.”

I was a bit taken aback. It seemed an awfully negative thing to say to a fellow writer.

Maybe I should have put his book back down at this point. But it was a thriller. So I bought it.

When I got home I started to read it. It was awful - about six typos or grammatical errors in the first pages, the writing was laboured and packed with clichés, the dialogue clunky.

Disappointed I googled the publisher – it’s a vanity outfit.

I feel cheated!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Analysis: Invisible City by MG Harris

Apart from the fantastic neon orange cover sleeve, I was drawn to this book because the author is a member of a writing forum I belong to and I had been reading about her success with interest.

So I bought a copy and gave it to the daughter to read.

However this is one that she put down part way though and when I asked her why she told me that one of the characters had died and she didn’t want to read it any more.

Interesting. So I read it myself.

Now I love these sorts of adventure books and I thought it was really very good. MG Harris writes superbly well and Josh has a strong and engaging voice. The plotting is excellently woven with enough intrigue to keep the pages turning and enough excitement to keep you on the edge of your seat. Josh is very much on his own and there’s a lot at stake – two elements that are key to this type of story. I was really rooting for him, and I felt his highs and lows along the way.

I thought it was great and I’ll certainly be reading more of this series. But the question is - why didn’t my daughter?

Well this book is very much aimed at boys. Of course plenty of girls love this sort of thing – I’m one of them – but from what my daughter told me I think she was looking for a female protagonist to engage with. In fact I’ve noticed that all the books she loves either have a female in the leading role or one of the MCs sidekicks is female.

So what I think happened here is that she started to engage with a particular female character who was introduced to the plot, but when that character was killed off she didn’t want to read on any further and that is why she put it down. Interestingly there is another female character in Invisible City, but it was the death of Josh’s sister that stopped her reading. Maybe because Josh was so emotionally involved then she, as the reader, was too.

Shame really because she’s missed out on a good story.

Analysis: Adventure for Boys

Friday, 15 October 2010

Sale to Jupiter SF

They're coming thick and fast at the moment - my short story 'High Tide' has just been accepted for publication by Ian Redman at Jupiter SF.

This is the second story of mine to find a home at Jupiter.

Happy dance.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Booker Debate 2010

Last night I went along to the annual Booker Debate held at the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil, where a panel of readers gave their reviews of the six shortlisted books. Members of the audience who had also read the books were able to chip in and the result was really rather fascinating.

Just to remind you the six shortlisted books are:

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
Room by Emma Donohhue
In a strange Room by Damon Galgut
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
The Long Song by Andrea Levy
C by Tom McCarthy

What I found most interesting was just how polarised the opinions of the books were. The two in particular that provoked this sort of reaction were In a Strange Room, which one panellist hated but another loved with a passion, and The Finkler Questions which again, the panellist wasn't at all impressed with but a member of the audience who had read it couldn't sing its praises enough.

The Room provoked rather a hot debate, but more because of the subject matter, and C received a rather tepid response, although the panel were all rather impressed with the cover.

The two that went down best were Parrot and Olivier, which everyone who had read seemed to enjoy, and The Long Song, which really does sound like one to read - certainly if the review from the panel was anything to go by.

So all that remains now is to see which one actually wins. This will be revealed on the 12th October.

Of course the Booker Debate was memorable for a couple of other reasons - I was presented with the Western Gazette Award for my success in the Yeovil Prize, and it was also lovely to meet up with science writer Brian Clegg who was one of the panellists and is also a fellow Litopian.

I have posted a few photographs over on the events page of my website if anyone fancies popping over and taking a look.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Sale to Aoife's Kiss

I've just heard from the editor of Aoife's Kiss, that they will be publishing my short story 'Down to the Sea' in their September 2011 issue.

I've been on a bit of a roll recently and I now have only a handful of stories out in circulation. I guess I'd better get on with writing some more - as soon as I finish these novel revisions!

Friday, 24 September 2010

The Truth about Stonehenge

There are many theories about Stonehenge. Was it a Neolithic temple? Or perhaps an astrological calendar? Did druids gather here to watch the sunrise on midsummer’s day? (Actually they still do.)

I, however, know the truth.

And I told it to my kids as we strolled around the perimeter.

The rocks are in fact giant’s dominoes. They belonged to two young giants who were playing at lining them up on end and then sending them toppling. Sometimes they all toppled over but this time several remained standing in one of the swirls they had made.

But before they could pick them up they were called in to dinner – and it was their favourite – the ground bones of murderers in pesto sauce with spaghetti. So off they ran, forgetting to collect their dominoes.

Nobody knows why they never returned, but the stones have been here ever since.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Guest: Carol Hunt - author of The Portland Sea Dragon

Please welcome Carol Hunt, author of the children's adventure story The Portland Sea Dragon, Published by Roving Press.

There's a sea dragon flying over Portland Dorset - a bad omen.When the dragon is accused of murder after the unexplained disappearence of Sally Lucke in 1616, only Isabel in 2011 can solve the mystery. So she sets out on a time travelling adventure. Along the way her cool friend Ben, annoying little sister Suzy, and Gregor, a scruffy collie dog with attitude, both help and hinder Isabel's search.

1. What inspired you to write The Portland Sea Dragon?

I moved to Portland in 2005. We lived on the West Cliffs of Portland, close to the sheer cliffs and in the path of howling gales. I was trying in some ways to make sense of our new life and find a feeling of belonging, but was also intrigued by Portland and its myths, legends and history. As well as this, the children encouraged me to write something about a dragon, based on stories I told them at bedtime. The dragon became very symbolic to me, both of our isolation at the time and of Portland itself.

2. How does a Sea Dragon differ from an ordinary Dragon?

My sea dragon is a peaceful creature, not as fiery as an ordinary dragon, and much misunderstood; a creature so ancient that it's difficult to grasp what he really is or how he thinks and feels. He also represents a quest for 12 year old Isabel, my main character, to find out more about herself and her family, as the sea dragon is accused of a murder that impacted on her 17th century family history.

3. Or a Sea Serpent?

In an interesting piece of synchronicity, the launch of The Portland Sea Dragon coincided with the discovery of the remains of a pliosaur, an ancient sea monster/serpent. Dragons and serpents are heavy with symbolism, which makes them fascinating to read and write about. I especially like the connection between the dragon and the rainbow, both of which are said to connect the earth to the heavens.

4. Roving Press normally publish local interest non fiction. How did you persuade them to add children's fiction to their list?

There's a lot of local history (smugglers, witches) as well as contemporary Portland places in The Portland Sea Dragon. Roving Press are also publishing further local interest/children's fiction titles soon.

5. Could you tell us about your journey to publication?

I finished writing The Portland Sea Dragon by summer 2009, and had written most of 3 further Portland Chronicles. I always felt that Portland itself was one of the most important 'characters' in my story and that a local publisher was exactly what I was looking for. I dreamed of seeing the book in the hands of local children, who had inspired my story. I bought a copy of The Spirit of Portland by Gary Biltcliffe and realised that Roving Press, the publisher, was taking a new approach to local interest books. I emailed the first 3 chapters to them with a synopsis and luckily Tim and Julie Musk liked it!

6. So there is another book on its way. Can you tell us a bit about it?

My next book is called Enchantment of the Black Dog and will be launched for Christmas. Domini Deane, the local artist, is currently working on the artwork for the cover and map. It follows the adventures of Isabel as she travels back to the Civil War era (1642) and introduces new characters such as Ryder the surf dude and Rainbow the Southwell fairy.

7. What piece of advice would you give to the aspiring writer?

I think it's important to write something you're passionate about. Then let your potential audience read it and tell you what you need to do to improve your work. Children are great critics! Improving your work takes commitment and time; it took 3 years to write and re-write The Portland Sea Dragon.

8. Where can we find out more about you and your dragon?

I am on the Roving Press website at and I also write a blog at, as well as two Facebook pages (one for Carol Hunt and one for The Portland Sea Dragon).

Thank you Carol, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Exciting News

At last I can tell you.

Those lovely people who organise the Yeovil Prize e-mailed me a couple of weeks ago to let me know that, not only have I got a Highly commended in the short story category with “Weedkiller” but my children’s novel – the one I cryptically refer to on here as WRRW, was also highly commended in the novel category.

As a result of this I am to be awarded with the Western Gazette award for Best Local Author.

This is the second time I’ve pulled off the double like this and received this award – last time was in 2008.

So as you can imagine there are going to be corks popping tonight.

I’ll be going along to the Booker Debate at the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil on the 7th October to receive my prize, so if anyone here is going to be there then let me know and I’ll look out for you.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Fate of 'Myth Making'

There comes a time when you finally realise that your much loved novel isn’t actually as good as you originally thought. So, with a tear and a fond farewell you consign it to “The-Box-Under-The-Bed”.

A few months ago this is what happened to my previous novel – the children’s adventure story originally titled Myth Making.

Two things led me to this decision.

Firstly the fact that, despite several requests for fulls, the agents concerned all came back with similar comments in the rejections.

And secondly I was nearing completion of WRRW, making the final pass of edits, getting it ready to send out into the big bad world and start the whole process over again.

I think this is why you should always follow the advice that while your novel is out on submission you should get on with writing a better one.

There were a number of fairly fundamental flaws in Myth Making and I’ll talk about these in blog posts to come.

But one thing to remember – although a novel may have been consigned to TBUTB the ideas a characters live on. One day they will return – in a very different story and a very different form – but they will be back!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Follow-Fest 100!

I don’t believe it – my little blog has hit the milestone of 100 followers! (105 as I post this)

In order to celebrate this I thought I’d run a Follow-Fest - I’m going to point you in the direction of some blogs that I follow which I really enjoy but have yet to reach the magic three figures.

But first a huge cheer for my 100th follower I'm not entirely sure which one it was but it was either Roxy or Catdownunder. Thank you and welcome.

And now to the blogs. Do visit them and take a look, and if you like what you see why not follow them too. Maybe we can get one of them up to a century!

That Elusive Line: This is a really interesting blog that I regularly visit.

Sarwatchadda: I found this one recently and find it intriguing. These books are next on my wish list.

Moonlight And Roses: A fairly new blog but again, packed full of interesting stuff.

The Portland Sea Dragon: A new blog for a new author who has just had her first book published. Pop over and give her a warm welcome to the world of blogging.

The House of Burning Bras: I just love this blog – the anecdotes on here are simply hilarious! Go read and enjoy.

Ebony McKenna, a published writer from the Antipodes

Cate Gardner - fellow Sci Fi writer who has also been published by Hadley Rille Books

Tales from the Computer Bank: Another fellow Sci Fi writer

Friday, 3 September 2010

Discord Published

First of all a special hello to anyone popping across from Karen G's blog party.

Today's the day that my 13th short story is published. This little piece of horror is in Issue 2 of Dark Valentine, so pop across and download...and next time you sit down at a piano...

Oh and do check out the fabulous illustrations that go with my story!

There are other things I'd really love to blog about only I can't say anything yet, but if you pop back over the next couple of weeks I'll have some news for you.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

One Lovely Blog Award

Thank you Nancy for giving me this blog award.

In turn I will nominate the following blogs, all of which I really enjoy reading. I could have nominated many more but I thought I'd keep it down to seven as that's a nice and lucky number.

So here you go - I award One Lovely Blog Award to:

That Elusive Line
The Elephant in the Writing Room
Moonlight and Roses
Alex J Cavenagh
B Miller Fiction
To Stalk a Publisher

Sunday, 15 August 2010

About the Agent 1-2-1

In my last post about the Frome Festival Writers and Publishers day, I mentioned that I had attended an Agent 1-2-1. Well I promised to come back and tell you about it, so here I am.

This year the Frome Festival attracted three major London Agents who were offering 1-2-1s, as well as 1-2-1s with a creative writing tutor. Needless to say the Agent slots sold out very fast. This was simply too good an opportunity to miss – the chance to meet an agent face to face and get feedback on the viability and marketability of your work. I’ve also noticed that other, larger, writing conferences offer similar 1-2-1s, with many more agents to choose from. But as far as I was concerned the line-up at Frome was as good as any of them.

Agent 1-2-1s, when you’ve never experienced one, are a scary prospect. I was determined to get the most from my slot and so I researched what had happened at other conferences, reading blogs and feedback, and what I saw filled me with dread – Agents who hadn’t bothered to read the work the authors had sent in, or were rude and negative, and other such horror stories.

But I needn’t have worried. The Agents at Frome were nothing but professional. The one I saw put me at ease the moment I met her. And where else can you sit and chat about your book to someone who actually wants to listen!

Comparing notes with other writers who also had 1-2-1s at Frome all I can say is that all the Agents there were excellent. They gave astute and constructive feedback and all the authors came away invigorated and enthused – keen to go back and work on their manuscripts, some of us even with invitations to submit further down the line or send a full. A few years ago author Rachel Ward had her novel, the now bestselling ‘Numbers’ picked up at one of these Frome Festival 1-2-1s. Maybe one of the authors I spoke to will follow in her footsteps this year.

I read on the Frome Festival website that the agents were impressed by the quality of the work they had seen. All I can say is that the writers were impressed by the quality of the agents.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Guest: Yeovil Prize Organiser - Liz Pike

Please Welcome Liz Pike, one of the people behind the Yeovil Prize.

Hello Kate. I am Liz Pike, the administrator of both the Yeovil Community Arts Association (YCAA) and the Yeovil Literary Prize. I’m an active member of a small group of dedicated people who give their time freely to organize these two linked endeavours.

Thank you for inviting me to do a guest blog on your website. As a past winner of the Western Gazette award for the best local writer, I know you are familiar with the international writing competition The Yeovil Literary Prize.

I’ll answer your questions with the greatest of pleasure.

1. Please could you tell us a bit about the Yeovil prize.

This truly international writing competition is now in its seventh year. It attracts entries from many countries and covers all genres. It is fairly unusual in that it has a category for novels, as well as short stories and poetry.

There are significant prizes as well as the cachet for the short-listed winners being able to add a placing onto a writer’s CV. Our judges are renowned in the literary world and give valuable advice to the winners.

Next year we have Daisy Goodwin judging the poetry category; Mark Lucas, literary agent of LAW, judging the short stories, and Katharine McMahon, who wrote Rose of Sebastopol and The Crimson Rooms will be our novel judge. 2011 looks like it will be even more successful.

Our numbers of entries are building and this year were record breaking. All profits from the Yeovil Literary Prize are ploughed back into the arts by sponsoring local talent and cultural events, via the charity Yeovil Community Arts Association.

2. How do you select the judges?

The YCAA discuss who we would like to have as our judges and I then send off an invitation to a potential judge for that particular year. I am now filling the 2012 list of judges. I currently have Louis de Bearniere judging the poetry, and Sophie Hannah judging the novels. I’m on the lookout for a good short story judge. Many writers decline as it impedes their own writing. I do keep pestering away though until someone offers to do the job!

3. As one of the judging team for the short story category please could you tell us a bit about the judging process?

There are two ways of entering the Yeovil Literary Prize, the original postal entry method, and the now very successful on-line way to enter. On-line is relatively easy to complete the entry form and paste the novel, short story or poem(s), with payment by PayPal or as a separate postal payment. Postal means that the entrant completes an entry form and sends their work and payment together.

On receiving a postal entry, all details are put onto our database. At this stage a number is allocated; the entry form is taken off and the entry is given to the judging team of each category. Therefore our decisions are always based purely on the writing of an anonymous entry.

The local judging teams read all the entries and finally bring their long lists to the table. Each entry then has a fresh pair of eyes looking at it. This year the debates as to which entries would be in the final short list were fierce. From our list we then nominate eight to go to the main competition judge. That judge will choose the first, second and third winners, making the other five Highly Commended. The other eight become our Commended. To be truthful, at this stage, I consider the entries in each category as potential winners; the standard of writing is superb.

4. You must read a lot of stories, do you notice any recurring themes?

Yes, simply because some writers use the short story, as well as the novel, to cleanse their past. Sadly, abuse of some form or another is often the theme. Writing can be very therapeutic but does the reader enjoy this type of story? If abuse is the theme of a powerfully written good story then that is good, but quite often it is not.

5. What do you look for in a story?

I think we all have personal preferences for a particular genre, but I enjoy anything as long as it is well written. By that I mean it has to involve me almost immediately, then build, therefore keeping me interested. If I find I’m reading faster, that’s good, I’m hooked. A short story still needs a plot and a theme. It may be more subtle than is found in a novel, but each story needs a good foundation to enable the characters to enthral the reader. My personal tip is to make the last line good. No reader wants to be deflated after reading what felt like a good read right up to the end. A twist in the tale or a satisfying unusual dénouement is what I usually enjoy. I always read every short story entry right to the end, not only out of respect for the writer, but to have the full benefit of that last moment.

6. How much does subject matter and genre matter?

I love reading a good short story and will happily read any genre or subject matter. As I’ve already mentioned, it has to be a complete tale with a satisfying ending to make me call something ‘a really good read’. My first encounter with the short story was H.E.Bates. I found a fat, battered old book in the library and wondered about how an author could fill a book with essays, or what exactly was it, as I flicked the pages? It was full of gems. Two of those stories were made into brilliant television productions; The Darling Buds of May and Fair Stood The Wind For France. From that first encounter I have enjoyed the short story. I bought a super book of Australian short stories whilst on holiday there, so as long as it is interesting and well written, I’ll read it.

7. Has the quality of entries increased over the years?

I would have to say a definite yes. I think there are trends or fashions in writing. Last year there were many that were obviously meant to shock the reader; heavy on foul language but light on plot and character. Having said that, it made choosing the winners a pleasure because good writing will always float to the top. This year bad language and so many obscure themes appeared less often, thank goodness. We had some cracking good reads. All the local judges commented on the extremely high standard of the entries in each of the categories. The Yeovil Literary Prize is now becoming known right across the world and quite often the ‘voice’ of the country is evident, with short stories and novels being set in new environs for the reader to enjoy.

8. Have there been many Yeovil Prize success stories?

Our 2005 winner, Sophie Duffy found her agent as a result of winning the Yeovil Prize.

Locally, as a member of the Yeovil Cre8ive Writers, I’m proud to see that the writers who have entered in the past have achieved such a lot of success. Our current star of the literary world (as far as the Yeovil Cre8ive Writers are concerned) is Jackie Gingell. Two years ago Jackie gained a Highly Commended for her first novel Ee Aye Addeo (the farmer wants a wife) in the Yeovil Literary Prize. This encouraged Jackie to send it off to an Agent. The end of the story is that she was published last March and is currently the No 1 bestseller in our local Waterstone’s.

But there must be many more out there, with writers owing something to the Yeovil Literary Prize writing competition. I would love to have more feedback from our prize winners.

I hope you will continue to enter for many years to come Kate. Thank you for asking me to do this ‘blog’; it was a pleasure.

Thank you Liz. You can find out all about the Yeovil Prize HERE, and about the Yeovil Community Arts Association HERE.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Smugglers Cave

I took the kids rockhopping over to the Smugglers Cave. It looks like no more than a crack in the cliff face from a distance, but when we slipped inside we found this tunnel, hewn into the solid rock.

t was very dark and we scrambled and bumped our way over the boulders with only our torches to light our way.

After a while the tunnel took a 90 Deg turn and suddenly ended at this shaft.

I told the kids that this was where the smugglers brought their booty ashore and stored it. The people in the house at the top of the shaft were in on it and used to use the shaft to bring the contraband to the surface on dark stormy nights when there was nobody about to watch their illegal activities. There they would load it onto carts to take to the mainland. And they never got caught ... until one day a young girl.....

I think that's much more exciting than being a service tunnel for the old pump that was used to supply water to the naval base, don't you?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Guest Author: David Bridger.

Please welcome today’s guest, David Bridger. David’s debut novella ‘Beauty and the Bastard’ has just been released as an e-book from Liquid Silver Books

Hello David, Welcome to the Scribbling SeaSerpent.

Thank you for inviting me to the Scribbling Serpent, Kate. It's a pleasure to be here.

Please could you tell us a bit about ‘Beauty and the Bastard’?

Beauty and the Bastard is a paranormal romance novella about a dangerous love in dangerous times, involving a tortured fallen angel who works as a bounty hunter for powerful urban demon families, and the modern-day demon princess he is hired to protect when those who mean her harm get too close for comfort.

What draws you to Paranormal Romance?

I love paranormal romance, and her brother genre urban fantasy, for their dark and delicious danger. I love the battered and bruised characters who strive to find light in the darkness against all odds and most people's better judgement. And I love the coolness of it all. These are very cool genres.

The e-book market is fairly new. How do you see it evolving?

The ease of self-publishing via ebooks and POD has exploded the potential for every man and his dog to put their stuff out there. But I honestly don't believe this huge wave of self-published (and largely unedited, and therefore quite often rubbish) books will pose any threat to anyone. I don't think it will do much of anything, really, except just sit there.

The only authors who will thrive in that medium are the ones who would thrive anyway - or who are already thriving. Good writers, in other words, many of whom are already published and who are extending their reach via self-publishing.

Professionally published ebooks come from two different segments of the industry.

There are the ebook-first ones, such as those from a small group of well-established and very succesful epublishers of the various romance sub-genres. My publisher is one of them. In my opinion, these guys have it sussed. Their authors and readers are respected, well-treated and happy, and who can ask for more than that?

Then there are the traditional publishers who are trying to muscle in on the ebook market, mostly through fear. Their sweaty desperation is clear to see, and they're throwing their weight around the same way they always have. If they had any common sense and really wanted to learn how to succeed in the electronic market, they would study how dedicated epublishers go about their business. But I won't hold my breath on that one.

Do you need to buy and e-book reader in order to enjoy an e-book?

No. I don't have one, but that doesn't stop me from buying about 50% of the books I read from epublishers. I'm quite comfortable reading on my PC screen, actually, and I use my netbook as an ereader when I want to take a proper break from the computer.

So how does it feel to be published?

Absolutely bloody brilliant!

Honestly, I'm over the moon. I was about to trot out the "words fail me" phrase just then, but that's even less true right now than it usually is. So I'll dam the enthusiastic river and just say: it's wonderful.

Can you tell us about your journey to publication?

I always wanted to writing novels when I came home from sea eventually, but I didn't expect that homecoming to happen traumatically and in my early thirties. I was badly injured and it took me several years to regain movement and mobility. Learning how to write novels helped me stay sane during that long process.

And once I thought I'd cracked the creative learning bit, when my first novel was complete and I thought I was ready to start learning the business side of writing, that's when I really started to learn.

Joining a good writing community was an invaluable step in the right direction at that point, as was finding and joining other communities along the way and, later again, teaming up with my wonderful crit partners. Without those most excellent people, I'd still be stumbling around in the wilderness.

So what else do you have in the pipeline?

I'm writing another paranormal romance at the moment. It's set in the same world as Beauty and the Bastard, but features a new cast of characters. I love it!

Thankyou David for stopping by. And you can buy Beauty and the Bastard here.

Monday, 12 July 2010

What Happened at Frome

Yesterday I attended the Words at Frome Writers and Publishers Day at the Frome Library. It was the first time I had attended on of these events and it was a fascinating experience – I talked to some interesting people and learned quite a bit along the way.

Anyway, I thought I would share some of my experiences with you.

Well Frome is quite a trek for me to get to – there’s no easy route, so it was a good thing I hadn’t already bought a ticket for the first talk because I would have missed most of it. Still, chilling out after the long drive in the sunshine with a coffee was rather pleasant and everyone there seemed to be very friendly.

A group of self published authors were setting up a stall nearby and it wasn’t long before I was chatting to them. Now I don’t buy self published books as a matter of principle. I’m sure there are some good ones out there but when I’ve bought one in the past (usually more to be polite because I know the person) I’ve always been disappointed and I don’t think I’ve ever finished one.

So these guys kept telling me about their books and handing them to me and I kept putting them back down, After a while one of them frowned at me and said:

“You’re not going to buy anything are you?”

To which I’m afraid my answer was “No.” But all credit to them they took it in good heart and were an interesting bunch of people to talk to.

Then I managed to hook up with a couple of people I do know. Well, one person I know in real life from my real life writers group and the other a friend from Cyberspace – Journeygirl from Litopia. It can be strange meeting up with other Litopians – staring at someone wondering if they fit the description they’ve given you, but for some reason we recognised each other the moment our eyes met. And she’s a scientist too!! Yay – let’s hear it for women in science!

But I digress. Back to the festival:

I attended two talks.

The first was the short story prize giving, which I went along to with my writing group buddy. The overview of the stories was very interesting, but two things stood out immediately. First the fact that a number of the shortlisted stories had been sent off to women’s magazines and the second was when the lady giving the summary went through her pet hates in a short story – you know the sort of stuff – telling not showing, inconsistent POV, bad grammar and spelling and Science Fiction.

Yup, you heard me. SF was on the pet hates list.

When she said that my friend and I rolled our eyes and looked at each other. Oh dear. Well at least we now know why our entries didn’t get anywhere.

In fact all the shortlisted stories were very much in the women’s fiction genre, and I also noticed that there wasn’t a single man amongst the finalists!

I think that’s really quite telling!

Since I don’t write women’s fiction I don’t think I’ll enter this one again.

The second talk was on how to get an Agent for your Children’s Book given by – yes – you guessed – an Agent. It was an excellent talk packed with useful advice. I sat there, frantically scribbling notes (and noticed the woman beside me was doing the same.) I just hope I can read my own handwriting.

And of course, I had a 1:2:1 with said Literary Agent. But I’ll tell you all about that next time.

So all in all, my first foray to one of these events was an excellent experience –. I was quite nervous but everyone was so welcoming. Bring on the next one! I’ll be there.

And if you’ve never ventured to one of these yourself then do it! You won’t regret it!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Analysis: The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence

This is the first novel in the Roman Mysteries series. I picked it up in an offer in Waterstones and gave it to my daughter to read since they were doing the Romans in school at that time.

She devoured it, worked her way through all the subsequent stories that were published, and then waited eagerly for each new volume to appear dragging me into town so that I could buy it for her. So I thought I’d better read one of them to find out what it was that gave them their appeal. Actually I’ve read a few of them because they’re really rather good, but I’m just going to concentrate on the first one here.

This is a wonderful book that really brings Ancient Rome to life – you can almost taste the figs and smell the dusty streets. And it’s a good story – an adventure mystery set in the ancient world.

But what I think gives this book its appeal is the characters. We have Flavia, a well bred Roman girl, her slave Nubia, Jonathan the Jewish boy next door (who is really a Christian) and Lupus the deaf mute beggar boy. These are a group of characters that are really well drawn and authentic, that the reader really empathises with and cares about. They have great depth and each of them reflects an aspect of Roman society. They drive the story forwards and when the novel ends you don’t want to leave them.

My analysis: Engaging Characters

Monday, 28 June 2010

Sale to Dark Valentine

I've just heard that my short story 'Discord' has been accepted for publication in the Autumn issue of Dark Valentine. This is a fairly new zine - a free pdf download. I've just been taking a look at Issue 1 - some great stories and some fabulous illustrations to go with them.

So if you like your fiction good and scary then head over there - right away!

I think this is a great home for 'Discord' and it will bring my tally of short stories published in 2010 to 5.

Off now to celebrate!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Flash Fiction on the Wasted Blog

Nicola Morgan has just posted the results of her flash fiction competition over on the wasted blog.

Check them out here...

I'm really pleased to tell you that mine made the shortlist - and considering the standard of the pieces I've just read over there that's quite an achievement - they're all really good and the winners deservidly so. I'm really impressed with the standard of the juvenile entries too - there are some really talented budding writers out there!

Anyway I suggest you pop over and take a look.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Analysis: Frozen in Time by Ali Sparkes

My daughter thrust this book into my hands one morning.

“Mum, you’ve got to read this – it’s really gripping – it won the Blue Peter award for book you can’t put down,” she said, as she dashed off to catch the school bus.

In fact she’d been up half the night reading it. So there has to be something about this book that makes it so special.

I read it, and she was right. It is really gripping. The question is, why?

I think there are a number of reasons that this book works so well.

The obvious ones are pacing, Ali manages to get this just right, and tension - the slow build up of the unanswered questions and suspicious characters – both of which draw the reader towards the story’s thrilling climax. It has all the elements of a good thriller – a brilliant scientist – cryogenics – government conspiracy – Russian spies and the underlying mysterious disappearance to cap it all!

But in my opinion what makes this book special is the underlying killer concept.

Kids these days love Enid Blyton just as much as they did 60 years ago. I loved them and my kids love them. Go into any bookshop and you’ll see at least one entire shelf dedicated to the likes of the Famous Five and the Secret Seven.

So to take two kids from the fifties, who might have walked straight out of these books, and transplant them into the 21st Century is going to be good. We’re familiar enough with the era (thanks to Enid) to enjoy their reaction to our modern world, and this brings in some lovely touches of humour which balance the tension so very well. And conversely we have the reaction of the modern kids to the old 50s equipment and attitudes.

And it is this combination of the old meets the new that, in my opinion, really gives this book its edge.

So in a nutshell, my analysis of this one is: Killer Concept.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Books my Children Love

I’ve been reading a lot of children’s literature these past few years. I started off, like most parents, reading to my kids, rediscovering the old favourites and discovering new ones along the way. Then as the kids began to read for themselves I started to read what they were reading – just to monitor – oh who am I kidding – it’s because there are some really good stories out there and I simply couldn’t help myself!!

And of course, since I find myself increasingly drawn towards writing for a younger audience, I’m reading them as a writer - curious to see what I can learn from these other writer’s success.

So it seems appropriate for me to start to review some of the books I’ve been pinching off my kids – the ones they can’t put down – asking the question ‘what makes them work so well?’ and trying to answer it from a writer’s perspective.

I’ll be posting these analyses on this blog, so keep an eye out for them. But I’m also going to look at some of the books that they didn’t get on with, and try to work out why they stopped reading where they did, and what we, as writers, can learn from that!

Monday, 24 May 2010

MUSE is Here!

The moment has come – the much anticipated new quarterly e-zine MUSE, from the Litopia Writers Colony, has arrived.

Download it here for free.

You won’t be disappointed.

The first issue is themed ‘Beginnings’ and has a genre focus on Crime. Inside you will find all sorts of exciting things – interviews with big name authors such as Bernard Cornwell and MG Harris, articles about writing, including the Seven Deadly sins of crime Writing, by Michael O’Byrne, and even a writing agony column with the straight talking Granny Bates. Not to mention original fiction and reviews as well.

And in fact one of these fiction spots is my first foray into crime – a short story called ‘Starting Over’.

So download you free copy now and enjoy!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

SF Short Story now Online

My latest published Science Fiction short story is now online over at The Absent Willow Review. It is called 'The Sea and The Sky' and you can read it here.


Friday, 14 May 2010

Guest: Nicola Morgan

Today Nicola Morgan, author of the fabulous novel Wasted, has agreed to stop by and answer some questions as part of the 'Talk About Wasted' Blog Tour.

Wasted is all about luck and chance and how one small event can have vast ramifications. What was it that first drew you to this theme?

A small event, actually! One day, I'd travelled from Edinburgh to London to do my very first speaking event. After the event, I was feeling weird, very hyper, my thoughts darting everywhere, but also in a world of my own. I made a sudden, unexplainable decision to go on a different tube journey from the obvious one. On that journey, in Charing Cross station, I bumped into a friend from Edinburgh - hundreds of miles from home. It was a coincidence but not significant at all - our lives didn't change. Except that, actually, mine did, because it made me think: how many times do people nearly but not quite have chance encounters? What if you were God and you could map all the particles and people and watch them all buzzing about and sometimes meeting but usually missing each other? Then I began to read about quantum physics and Wasted began to grow. I started to write it all those years ago, but "stuff happened" and other books got in the way. But Wasted is the book I've been wanting to write for about 15 years. I didn't know if it would work so I decided I would begin to write it without a contract, until I was sure. When I was sure, I sent what I'd done to my agent and editor and vowed that if they didn't like it, I had to write it anyway, for me. They loved it, in a very exciting way.

What does Schrodinger’s cat mean to you?

In some ways it's where fiction and science merge, because in fiction we ask people to believe made-up things. We ask them to bury themselves in a "what if?" scenario. And the Schrodinger's Cat paradox asks scientists to do the same. It poses an "impossible" state - that two opposites are simultaneously true, that the cat is both dead and alive and neither dead nor alive and that nothing is real until it is observed. At least fiction makes sense! Also, it makes me very glad that I'm not a scientist....

I was fascinated by the way Jess was moved by the colours of the music. Could you say a bit more about this blending of the senses.

My first published novel, Mondays are Red, was about a boy with synaesthesia - where the senses overlap, so Luke experiences colour when he hears sound, for example. This is a fairly rare experience, but not as rare as people think. I don't have it but I have discovered that nearly everyone can access these experiences, using our collective imagination. For example, if I ask a group of people (as I often do in school-talks!) whether they think that a cello sound would be pale yellow/lime, or bright orange/red, or dark purple / brown, over 95% will say the last option. When writers know this, they can use it to enrich their writing. However, I don't do it deliberately - these are just the ways I naturally describe things. We all do it to an extent: we talk about someone having a smooth or warm voice, for example - but smooth is about texture and warm is about temperature: what's that got to do with sounds??? But we think like this naturally. My editor used to try to stop me doing this - she said I should keep that for Mondays are Red, but I said, "No, this is me, it's my way of describing things, and people understand." And they do! People tell me all the time that they relate to it even if they don't have synaesthesia. My editor didn't even bother to stop me when I used it for Jess and how she experiences music! (By the way, I'm not a musician or a singer so this was entirely imaginary, but I could easily imagine feeling like this if I was a singer.)

As an aspiring writer myself I would be interested to know how much you feel luck plays a part in achieving our aims or whether we can make our own luck.

As Jack says in Wasted, "Luck is just what we call it." I think we very largely make our own luck. Terrible things happen to people through no fault of their own, and sometimes good things happen to those who don't deserve it, but I believe that there are lots of ways of maximising our chances in all aspects of life. With trying to be published, there are right things to do and wrong things. The more right things you do, the more likely you are to be "lucky". For example, a lucky meeting is not likely to happen if you don't take steps to meet people! But the biggest luck is actually something you can't control: whether you have talent. Everything else is in our power: the hard work, listening to the right people, learning from mistakes, not giving up, not being bitter - all these things we can do for ourselves. Then luck will follow.

How much did luck have to do with your own journey to publication?

It didn't feel very lucky! 21 years feels very unlucky indeed, to be frank. I was doing all the wrong things, so I'm not sure how luck could have helped me. After all, you get published in the end because you write the right book and send it to the right person at the right time. Apparently, I was writing beautiful words but not in the right book! But, I think the luckiest thing was "choosing" my agent. I'd almost signed up with another one, but then she became ill and decided not to take anyone else. So I went through the list in the Writers' and Artists' yearbook and picked the name Elizabeth Roy because I like the name Elizabeth and she said she specialised in children's books. She didn't have an email address listed so I wrote a letter. I also found another one (not called Elizabeth!) and approached her too, by email. That one should have replied first, but actually Elizabeth did - she phoned me immediately. Just after I'd finished speaking to her, the other one emailed and said she was interested too. Of course, I've no idea what the second one would have been like but I couldn't be more pleased than I am with Elizabeth. That was luck.

Do you ever play Jack’s game yourself?

No! I couldn't give up control to a coin - I am actually a control freak. Seriously. Ask anyone who knows me!

Thank you Nicola for answering my questions. I wish you every success with Wasted.

You can find out more about Wasted at : And visit Nicola's wonderful blog Help I need a Publisher which offers superb advice for the aspiring writer.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Face to Face with an Agent

Every so often I spot Literary Agents offering 1-2-1 sessions at literary festivals. I’ve often wondered what these entail. Are they slots in which you get to pitch your work, or are they more like writing surgeries where the Agent will critique your submission?

I’ve no idea – but I’m going to find out.

I’ve just booked myself a 20 minute slot with a major London Agent at the forthcoming Frome Festival. I’ve popped my sample chapter in the post, and now I’m wondering what I’ve let myself in for.

I’ll certainly be back here to blog all about it after the event, but in the meantime has anyone else done one of these?

If you have do please comment below and let me know what happened. I’m ever so curious.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

'Return to Athelnay' Published!

My fantasy short story, 'Return to Athelnay', has just gone online over at Sorcerous Signals. You can find the current issue with it in here.

Do pop over and have a read, and if you like it enough give it a vote in the readers poll.

I hope you enjoy it... and to some of you the location might be a familiar one...

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Jumping Ahead

Now here’s something not everyone knows –

A novel does not need to be written in sequence.

Some of you blog readers will now be thinking – “But that’s so obvious – I write my novels piecemeal and then slot it all together at the end.” And that’s fine.

But not everyone writes that way. Others begin at the beginning and keep on going until they get to the end. This is the method I prefer. But occasionally, with this method, you can run into problems.

You get bogged down in a scene. You can see where you want to go – Point B, from where the next part of the story stretches out before you like a vast plain, waiting, begging to be written. But there’s a problem, there’s a range of mountains in the way and you're lost among their peaks - Point A. There is a pass through from A to B but for now you can’t see it.

I’ve also heard of this stage referred to as ‘plodding’, plodding up that mountain, bogged down in mud, when all you want is to be racing towards that wide open plain and the rest of your story.

So what do you do when you reach such an impasse?

It’s really very simple. You are at Point A, you want to get to point B.

What’s stopping you?


Just jump ahead. Jump ahead to where you want to be – Point B, looking down on those wide exciting rivers and forests and carry on from there. Forget about the mire and mountains for now. You can come back to them later.

And from the other side you’ll probably find that elusive mountain pass much easier to spot.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Review: Wasted by Nicola Morgan

Nicola Morgan’s new book, Wasted, is due to be published on the 3rd May, but, since I have agreed to participate in her promotional blog tour, I was fortunate enough to be sent an advance copy.

This book is excellent, innovative and gripping. It’s a story of love and chance. How small changes and choices can have massive ramifications.

The main characters are well drawn and engaging and I felt a strong empathy with them, even the ones I wasn’t meant to like. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to be seventeen.

I was intrigued by Nicola’s skilful use of POV, both Jack’s and Jess’s as well as a third, omniscient POV, one which I’ve always been told to avoid. Yet Nicola uses it to great effect, the omniscient POV sections serving to ramp up the tension. It’s a perfect example of how, in the right hands, the rules can be bent to dramatic effect.

The tension never lets up either. This is a real page turner. I read it over the Easter holidays when the kids were at home and finding a suitably long chunk of time to sit down and read it from cover to cover simply wasn’t going to happen. But I found the book eating away at me, creeping into my thoughts, and I ended up sneaking away whenever I could for another chapter, another fix.

And at the end, the final toss of a coin – the final choice. I almost couldn’t bear to do it! Stunning.

I threw tails.

I can't recommend this book strongly enough. It's one of the best reads I've had in ages. And look out for Nicola’s guest appearance here in May.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Oooh - some lovely blog awards!

Oh look, I've been given a couple of blog awards. Thank you Christine and Sandra.

This first one is from Christine and I in turn nominate the following blogs:

The House of Burning bras
Reading Writing Learning
The Elephant in the Writing Room
Musings on a small life
Agenhood and Submissionville

This one, from Christine is such a lovely girly pink that I'm just going to have to give it to some blokes. So I hereby nominate:

The Witching Hour
That Elusive Line
Lee Moans Steam Powered Typewriter
Huw Langridge

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Coming Soon!


The brand new Litopia e-zine Muse will be making its debut soon, and guess what - it's going to have one of my short stories in it!

So watch this space.....

And that's not all - there are more exciting things going on over at Litopia with the imminent launch of Litopia Radio.

And since we are talking of things that are coming up soon let me draw your attention to 'Wasted' the new book by Nicola Morgan - and mine is one of the blogs that she will be visiting during her blog tour in May.

So stick around - interesting things are happening.

Oh, and I finished the first draft of WWRW too.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Natasha Solomon's Book Launch

On Saturday we headed inland for the launch of Natasha Solomon's novel 'Mr Rosemblum's List'. I have been following Natasha's blog for some time now and it was lovely to finally meet her in person.

The village hall was all decked out with bunting, and cream teas were being scoffed. Natasha read from her book - a piece describing the very hall we were all sitting in.

And we even spotted a wooly pig (but for some reason blogger has decided not to let me upload the picture I took of it!!)

As for the book I bought - I'm really enjoying it!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Short Story Sale

Another short story sale to The Absent Willow Review!

This one, a Sci Fi tale called The Sea and The Sky will be going live in May and is my second story to find a home with this market.

Monday, 15 March 2010


Where do these characters come from?

It’s strange, isn’t it, how a character can suddenly turn up and make him/herself known to you. As if to say

“I’m going to be in your story too – only you don’t know it yet.”

I’ve just had one such character walk into my WIP – quite literally – he just opened the door and walked into the room. I hadn’t planned him, and while I was writing his scene I was puzzling over him. Why had he appeared now? He clearly had a part to play in all this – but what?

“Well,” I thought. “I can always delete you later.” So I carried on writing.

And a few days later it hit me! He actually has a crucial part to play in this story – I need him!

But how come he knew this before I did?

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Where Stories Lurk

I often see writers being asked where they get their ideas from, and this always strikes me as a very odd question. You see stories are all around us, everywhere we turn; snippets of overheard conversation, strange looking buildings, those quirky items on the news.

Or even in the middle of a field.

On the map this is marked as an old dairy. A walled enclosure and a ruined building, now wild with trees and brambles - a small oasis of history in the middle of a field of young rape. The old meets the new.

There are many stories here. We only have to look a little deeper.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Falling in Love Again

Or the thrill of the first draft.

I’ve been throwing myself back into WRRW. The poor novel has been languishing on my hard drive for long enough. But I’m here now, and I think my characters are pleased to see me.

If fact my MC has grabbed me by the hand and is dragging me along on her adventure faster than I can type. I can’t blame her. I left her hanging in a bit of a tricky situation and she’s keen to get out of there – only thing is, I’ve got some nasty surprises for her up ahead.

Ah, but I suspect she has a few surprises for me!

That’s the thing about falling in love again – you never quite know what is going to happen. Will it all work out? Will this turn into a permanent relationship? Or am I still in love with my last novel – the one winging its way back to the agent’s in tray as I type.

Will I end up two timing? Maybe I’m a novel bigamist?

But for now I’m happy to go with the flow. I’m keen to know how things work out in this story, and, well, what happens afterwards – I’ll worry about that another day.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

'Symbionts' Published Online

My short story 'Symbionts' has just gone up at The Absent Willow Review in their February issue. You can read it here. Do pop over and take a look.

There are some great stories on that site and some lovely artwork to go with them.

Symbionts is my tenth short story publication. It great to see it in print. :-)

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Grabbed by the Throat

We drove to the Alps last week to go skiing, and as we drove through the mountains I stared up at their snow clad slopes and dark forests and allowed my thoughts to wander.

And as usual, at times like this, when my mind is empty and I’m not thinking about writing at all, along comes a new idea, sliding into my head from out of nowhere.

And as we drove and the snow started coming down it began to grow.

I’ve been buzzing with it all day, jotting down notes as they occur to me, and it’s growing, developing, taking shape like a piece of unformed clay in a potters hands. At first it was one story, but now I see it could be a series.

And it’s exciting. It’s very exciting.

But I’m not ready to write it just yet. Let it mature a little bit longer, like a good wine.

And anyway, I’m right in the middle of writing WRRW, and that one isn’t about to let me go.

So many stories – so little time to actually sit down and write them!! This one is just going to have to be patient!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

When to Stop

Editing that is, not writing in general

But when do you decide to stop tweaking and changing things as sit back and say to yourself ‘enough’s enough, time for this baby to venture out into the big bad world.’?

I seem to have done nothing but edit, and rewrite, and edit and rewrite for the past few months, and I’ve reached the stage where every time I look at it I see a word I want to tweak, or replace with a stronger one, or change the emphasis in some small way.

I could go on like this for ages.

I’ve set it aside, come back to it with fresh eyes and set it aside again.

Have I addressed all the issues the agent raised? Have I done a good enough job? Is this something he can sell? I could stare at it and ask myself these questions for months to come.

No. The time has come. Time to stop tweaking and putting things off. Time to get it back out there.

Maybe this version will be good enough to attract the attention of an agent, maybe not. But there’s only one way to find out.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Rules are to be Broken

One of my regular blog readers e-mailed me a few days ago to point out that he could name a number of short stories that actually made the ‘mistakes’ that I listed in my last post but managed to pull it off. (Thanks Ken – a very valid observation)

Here are the examples he cites:

3) The bad joke – similar to 2 – the only point of the story is the delivery of a [bad] punchline at the end.

“Normally yes, but it can be an effective device occasionally; see "Shah Guido G" by Issac Asimov for a rare example where it is.”

I have to agree that I have also seen this done well. It’s a version of the twist in the tale story and I have a friend who is particularly good at those. However, I think my point is that it has to be skilfully executed. And the joke has to be pretty good too.

1) It’s not a story (beginning, middle and end) – just a scene or setting & 5) No Proper ending.

“As in pretty much anything by the American writer Lorrie Moore IMO.”

I’m not familiar with this writer so I can’t comment. But again, it wouldn’t surprise me.

You see, this was never meant to be a definitive list. All rules can be broken, you just need the skill to do it and an experienced writer could probably pull off pretty much anything. But for the newer writer, still developing their skills, some of these are pitfalls best avoided.

So who else can think of an example where someone has broken one of these ‘rules’ and got away with it? I bet there are loads!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Common Short story Mistakes

I have both written a read a fair number of short stories in my time, and I thought it might be timely – (what with the ongoing flash fiction contests over at Litopia getting more and more people to try their hand at this form) – to summarise some of the more common mistakes people make when writing short stories.

1. It’s not a story – often just a scene or setting
2. The bolt from the blue – the twist ending that comes from nowhere – a twist in the tale can be good, but not if it’s just been tagged on for effect
3. The bad joke – similar to 2 – the only point of the story is the delivery of a [bad] punchline at the end.
4. The summary of a story – almost like a mini novel or a synopsis
5. No proper ending – endings are hard – they need to resonate and have strength and purpose. So often stories seem to just fizzle out. Sometimes this can be something as simple as not ending in the right place.
6. And then he woke up – I really hate these – it’s a case of ‘drat, how do I get my characters out of this situation – oh I know…’
7. It’s a cliché – I won’t list cliché’s here – it’s been done elsewhere and so much better – here’s one such link.

Of course, just getting these things right doesn’t automatically mean that you’ve written a good story – there’s far more to it than that. The short story has so much to squeeze into a small space; believable characters, a satisfying plot with a good resolution, but also, more subtly, the really good ones manage to work on many different levels.

And that, of course, is where the real skill lies.

Anyway Sally Zigmund is running a series of excellent articles on short stories over at The elephant in the writing room – I suggest you go and check them out!

Saturday, 9 January 2010


There’s a bit of an easterly swell coming in today. Fresh and ever so cold. A good day for walking along the beach and trying to untangle all the conflicting advice I’m getting at the moment about the novel I’ve been rewriting.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Something New

The rest of the coutry is blanketed in snow - I think everywhere except here - but we never get much down by the sea. Even the hills that I look out on have a light dusting!

Still, the cold weather is a good excuse to stay in and get on with some writing. But I also wanted to share with you a new project of mine. This year I'm going to attempt to grow my own veg. And to catalogue my successes/disasters I've started another blog. So do pop over and give me some moral support - or - if you already grow your own - share your wisdom with a newbie!

A Patch of Dirt

Monday, 4 January 2010

A Good Start

It’s gorgeous here at the moment – freezing cold with clear blue skies. It’s lovely out in the hills – hardly another soul to be seen and only the deer and buzzards for company. Normally the sea and the ridgeway keep the frost away, but not this year. This is the way winter should be.

2010 has got off to a good start – with my first sale of the year!! I’ve just heard that Sorcerous Signals will be publishing ‘Return to Athelnay’ in their May issue. I’ll post the link to it once it comes online and I hope as many of you as possible will pop over and have a read.

So, refreshed and enthused, it’s back to the novel edit. The end is in sight, and the MC in the WIP is nagging at me to get on with it. I’ve neglected her for long enough, but not for much longer.

Friday, 1 January 2010

New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year everyone.

A new year and a new decade. I hope everyone has been letting it in with style. I wonder what 2010 will hold as far as my writing is concerned?

At the start of 2009 I set myself a number of writing targets. So I thought I would revisit them and see how I got on.

Here they are:

1. Find an Agent to represent Myth Making
Nope, although I’ve come close twice with this one, and it’s not over yet!
2. Sell a short story to a SWFA pro market
Nope, no joy with this one
3. Sell more short stories than in 2008 (more than 3)
Nope, only two sales this year
4. Complete first draft of current WIP.
Nope, only half written, due to the amount of time I’ve spent on the rewrites of novel 1.
5. Enter the Yeovil Prize again.
Well yes – I managed this one – didn’t come anywhere though!
6. Start putting reviews on my blog.
And at last a proper yes, a couple of reviews and also some guests.

Well that wasn’t particularly successful was it? :-(

But just a moment – if you a reader of Nicola Morgan’s blog you’ll have seen this post about writing resolutions.

Looking at these targets again perhaps they weren’t the smartest. The first three are clearly aspirations – they’re my ambitions, not fully in my control. The last three are the only true targets. So, 2 out of three. Not so bad.

Bearing that in mind here are my new writing targets for 2010.

1. Complete the final rewrite of novel 1 and get it back to that agent!
2. Get novel 1 back out in circulation should Mr Agent pass.
3. Complete first draft of WIP
4. Complete 6 new SF short stories
5. Maintain my blog with guest and reviews and interesting writing articles.

On that note it just remains for me to wish everyone a Happy New Year – may all our writing dreams come true in 2010!