Friday, 30 November 2012

NaNoWriMo Winner, Just

I did it. I finished NaNoWriMo with a couple of hours to spare.

I'd like to say I jumped with joy. Instead I patted myself on the back metaphorically for finishing at all. You see compared to 2010, this year's NaNoWriMo was traumatic. All was going well until the 21st, when I received devastating news about someone I love dearly. Since then, I've been living in the hazy world of shock, sadness, hope, anger, and frustration. I've tried to do what usually comes naturally to me, getting on with life until more answers come. Not bothering to many people with my worries. It hasn't been easy. But somehow I managed to write my 50k, despite only writing for 19 of the 30 days of November.

I have to thank all my Blogging, Twitter, and Facebook friends for their encouragement. In particular the Devon NaNoWriMos who kept me writing; for saying it was okay to lose myself in my writing and to forget my worries for a while.

I need to thank my best friend Rachel Morris for keeping it real and keeping me laughing. But the biggest thanks of all goes to my other half for his daily lectures on how it didn't matter if what I was writing was rubbish because it's just the first draft. For reminding me it's what you make of it in the second and subsequent drafts that matters. You rock, Mr. M.

To those of you who took part in NaNoWriMo this year, whether or not you made the 50k, I salute you. It's the taking part that counts.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Martin T. Ingham - Speculative Fiction Writer

Please say a big hello to today's Speculative Fiction Writer, Martin T. Ingham. I was delighted when he volunteered to be interviewed, as I am a huge fan.

Welcome, Martin.

Q:  Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, and what do you do when you're not writing short stories or novels?

MTI:  I was born and raised in a quiet, rural corner of eastern Maine.  It wasn't the most exciting upbringing, but it gave me a fertile imagination.  I was gifted with a great intellect, and I learned to escape into my own mind at an early age, perhaps a little too much.  However, it gave me the raw talent I needed to write fiction, and that coupled with determination and attention to detail gave me the skills necessary to compose quality works of fiction.
            When I'm not writing my own stories, I am, in many cases, reading other people's work.  My reading diet mainly consists of sci-fi & fantasy, though more history has been supplementing that lately.
            I have a few hobbies that take up my time sporadically.  Coin collecting is an old favorite, and I've also dabbled in horology (the study and repair of mechanical time-pieces).  I have a knack for mechanics, large and small, and I've most recently begun working on antique autos.  I have a 1954 Chevy Bel Air sitting in my yard which is sucking up way too much of the time I should be writing, but the time away from the computer screen could be helpful.  Heinlein liked to build stone walls to cure his writer's block, and there's nothing wrong with getting your hands dirty doing constructive labor.

Q:  On your blog you describe yourself as a writer of science fiction and fantasy. Would you say you have an equal love for both genres or is one more your favourite?

MTI:  I'd say there is a mutual attraction to both genres, and selecting a "favorite" from amongst them often depends on my mood.  As of late, I have been reading more Sci-Fi, though I do have a copy of George R.R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones" sitting on my desk, just waiting to be read (and I've never watched the tv show, so it'll all be fresh for me).

Q:  You have a new book coming out later this year. Can you tell us a little about it?

"The Curse of Selwood" is the sequel to my first Fantasy Western novel, which takes some familiar elements of traditional sword and sorcery and interjects them into the American west of 1882.  In this world, history is pretty much the same as it is in our own world.  You see the same key historical figures, the same nations, the same geography; only, the world is not just populated by ordinary humans, but by elves, dwarves, warlocks, and all manner of mystical beings.  It's a very parallel Earth, just with some added variety.
            In this second volume, we peer deeper into the lives of the main characters, including Warlock Sheriff James Doliber, gunslinger dwarf Ron Grimes, and the very independent lady elf, Joella Talus, who continues to serve as a deputy.  We also peer into the seedy past of the town of Selwood, and discover the origins of the "curse" which now comes to rear its ugly head.

Q:  Would you like to share an excerpt with us?

MTI:  Here are the first few paragraphs from my latest book, The Curse of Selwood:

            The dry wind of the arid expanse blew up tufts of dust against the stony hillsides.  At a glance, most people would see a lifeless frontier, but scratching the surface, a larger ecosystem would be exposed.  Tiny life scurried around amongst the underbrush—lizards and snakes that had adapted to survive in the harsh landscape; insects and worms that lurked in plain sight, too small to be easily spotted.  All the while, old horse tracks revealed the presence of man.  The desert is never as dead as one would assume.

            A faint whistle blew in the distance, a sound of civilization.  The train was several miles off, hauling passengers and cargo across southern Nevada, to the various trading centers of the burgeoning west.

            The creature crawled out of his cave, the thin, emaciated being in the rough form of a humanoid.  While proportioned much like a human being, he was certainly not a man.  Bony protrusions jutted out of every joint, forming a crusty exoskeleton over his slim body.  The face was parched and flaking, akin to white sandstone, and the skin was sucked so tightly against the skull to appear ghastly.  No hair could be found upon his scalp, but a few black tufts sat along his jaw line.

            One might assume the creature to be native to the desert, and in recent years he had been, though that had not always been the case.

            Hearing the train, the bony being moved to action, rushing across the dusty landscape like a jackrabbit.  Speed increased with every lurching leap until the creature came to the top of a ridge and saw his quarry, the metal machine of man spewing black smoke from its stack, towing a dozen boxcars along the steel rails.

            The train was picking up speed, going faster than any horse could run, though that did not deter the creature from continuing the pursuit.  Racing down the hillside, the being rushed faster, darting along at remarkable velocity—soon matching, and then surpassing the rolling wheels of the locomotive.  He was within striking distance of the caboose before long, and made his move onto the back deck, reaching it in one leap.

            The moment was approaching at last; the time of retribution!

If anyone wants to continue reading, the first 6 chapters of this are posted online for free here.

Q:  You’ve had six novels published so far, which would you recommend as a good place to start for a new reader?

MTI:  I suppose the best place for readers to start would be with my first Fantasy Western novel, "West of the Warlock."  Most of the text is available to read for free online, and it gives a good example of my writing style.  For those who are after a hard sci-fi story, however, you can't go wrong with "The Guns of Mars."

Q:  From being a regular reader of your blog, I know you have a growing family. How do you find the time to balance your family life with writing? Do you have any tips to offer other writers?

MTI:  Balancing family life can be a trial at times, but it helps to have a wife who is good with the kids, and is willing to keep them out of my hair for a few hours when I need to write.  Without sounding too self-centered or selfish, I would say that it's important to have people around you who are willing to give you time to write when you need it.  It can be difficult, as there are only so many hours in the day, but if you aren't willing and able to set aside time to write, it will be increasingly difficult to be successful on the literary scene.  It's important to put family first, but part of that must also be reciprocal.  To care for a writer, you must let them write (i.e. your spouse/children should understand that you need to spend time with your imaginary friends on the page, instead of watching tv with them).

Q:  You are currently accepting submissions for an exciting new anthology called The Temporal Element: Time-Travel Adventures. Can you tell us how you came to be the editor for this Halls Brothers Entertainment publication?

MTI: The Temporal Element anthology is something I conceived of quite a while ago.  I've always been a huge fan of time travel stories, and the very concept has fascinated me since early childhood.  A few years back, I noticed the relative scarcity of story anthologies based on the theme of time travel, and thought it would be nice to put together my own collection.
            So, after two years of serious contemplation, I finally decided to move forward, and that's when the Hall Brothers came on the scene.  They are familiar with the high quality of my work, and when I asked them if they wanted to team up with me in creating this time travel anthology they jumped at the chance.
            Becoming an editor is a logical supplement to my writing career.  I love a good story, and I will now be able to discover exciting tales from my fellow authors during this anthology endeavour.  I also have a finely honed penchant for proofreading, so I'll be able to fix whatever minor typos present themselves.
            The original deadline for submissions was set as November 30, but in an effort to acquire the best stories possible, I've extended the deadline by 2 months.  Writers may now submit time travel related stories until January 31, 2013!

Q: Do you have a specific vision for it and if so, has that vision changed in any way since you started receiving submissions?

MTI:  My initial vision for this collection was to form a balance of stories based in the past, present, & future.  That is still my intention, but it will all depend on the type and quality of the submissions I receive.  This is part of the reason I'm extending the submission deadline.

Q: Where can we go to read the submission guidelines?

MTI:  The complete list is here.

Q:  What would be the key piece of advice you would offer someone before they submitted?

MTI:  Other than keeping your grammar correct and watching for typos, try to be a bit objective with your story.  I've seen a few submissions that are kind of preachy, trying to demonize or chastise some facet of modern society, and that can get old in a hurry.  I'm more likely to accept an "adventure" story, as opposed to a moral object lesson thinly veiled as speculative fiction.

Q:  Now for the compulsory random question: if you could live in any fictional setting, where would it be and why?

MTI:  If I had to pick one, it would probably be the Star Trek universe.  It's a pretty idyllic future, almost illogically so.  I doubt I'd fit in that well.  I'd probably end up like Reginald Barclay, nervous around everyone, afraid of everything, often misunderstood and marginalized.  Plus, the money-less society thing still drives me nuts.  What do you mean you don't get paid?  I guess I'm more Ferengi than Federation at heart.
            But, barring a freak Borg attack or a Dominion war, life would be pretty sweet in the Federation, and if you're bored with that (or want to find a planet where they still use money), you can always go exploring.
            Hey, speaking of that, when is Paramount going to finally get their act together and bring back a new Star Trek series for television?  It's been too long since Enterprise ended.  If they'd only hire me to write for the new series; now that would be a fantasy world worth living in! 

Thank you, Martin. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your answers. If Paramount ever come knocking on your door, remember me. Khaannn!!!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Devon Floods, SpecFic Authors Collective, Writers4Writers, & Cavanaugh Blogfest

Today I'm highlighting some exciting events in the blogging world, but before that I have to tell you about my washed-out weekend. Southwest England was hit by major flooding last week. Saturday was the worst day. My home town was officially classed as cut-off by the Environment Agency by late evening. There was no way in or out, and several roads within the town were flooded.

I live a few minutes walk from the estuary and sea front, and the road I live in was one of those flooded. The video below taken by another town resident is my road. Thankfully the high tide in the early hours of Sunday morning was not a particularly high one, so water levels did not rise too a life-threatening level.

The flooding in most of Exmouth was gone by Sunday morning, but over 200 flood warnings remain in place for the Southwest. Some towns such as Sidmouth are still cut off. I'm praying the rain stops soon.

Now onto to the exciting events taking place:

On November 25th, Jeff Chapman, Simon Kewin, Lyndon Perry, and Milo James Fowler launched the SpecFic Authors Collective. Visit their blog to learn more about what the SpecFic Author Collective and to enter their competition to win four eBooks.

Writers4Writers (W4WS) is a new initiative hosted by Stephen Tremp, Mary Pax, Christine Rains, and CM Brown with the following mission:

· Help writers bring awareness of their book(s) to tens of thousands of new people
· Help writers reach Amazon Top 100 in at least one category (i.e., suspense, free, whatever)
· Increase sales of their book(s) after the promo is over
· Drive new traffic to their blog and increase following
· Create verbal and viral buss.

The spotlighted author (December 6th will be Nancy Thompson and her book The Mistaken) will choose a social media avenue such as Twitter or Facebook (or both). The good people of Bloggerland will then promote the author’s book to their Twitter followers or Facebook friends - an incredibly large new audience the author could not reach on their own. To find out more visit the W4WS Facebook page HERE.

Finally, in December we have the Cheers, Cavanaugh Blogfest in honour of the mighty Ninja himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and it's going to be huge. You can read all about it and sign up over at David Powers King's blog.

Talking of Christmas, if you watched the video above there is a link afterwards on the bottom RIGHT for the Exmouth Christmas Day Swim 2011. Click on it to see how the mad people of Exmouth celebrate Christmas Day. It starts and ends with a series of photographs, and a video of the swim in between.

Have a happy and safe week.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Samantha LaFantasie - Speculative Fiction Writer

Please give a warm welcome to today's Speculative Fiction Writer, Samantha LaFantasie. Over to you, Samantha.

First and foremost, I want to say thank you, Ellie and her readers, for having me as a guest. This is a wonderful honor. I’m Samantha LaFantasie, author of Heart Song. I’m hoping over from central Kansas, USA! Though, I’m mainly a fantasy author, I do dip my hands into other subgenres and more than likely everything that you will read of mine will include some level of romance.

Speaking of writing…

It’s well into November and most of us are stressing to get the final words on our projects for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For those of you that don’t know, it’s the act of sitting down with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days or less. If you write 1667 words each day, you’ll make it. That’s the goal.

Easy, right? Not always.

And that’s where the fun comes in. All over the world writers, amateur and professional alike, sit in front of their computers every free and waking moment they can to make this goal. Some go over the daily goal, some don’t even come close. Writing under pressure and then some…

It just so happens that my first year doing NaNo was 2010. I won in 11 days. It may not be that fantastic in hindsight and a lot of the time I wonder if I wasn’t pushing it, but little do you realize that it was this very NaNo that blossomed into my first novel, Heart Song.  Two years of painstaking rewrites and edits later, I have a published work that may or may not make the best seller list. But I’ve achieved my dream of becoming an author with that book and so it will always have a place in my heart.

The following year I participated and won in 14 days. That story is still a work in progress and most likely will not have anything come of it. It was fun to write though and I think that is the most important thing.

This year, I don’t think my win will be quite as ambitious as the previous two years. Mainly due to challenges that have come to my family and home life this year and I’m still learning to work around them. I’ve also added a little bit of a challenge by doing a ‘Word War’ with another friend and writer of mine. We’ll see how it goes.

That is the point of NaNoWriMo. To sit down, and come Hell or high water, push out a novel in thirty days. It may not always turn into a published work, like Heart Song. But it is the act that sticks with you; the feeling of accomplishing that goal. It’s an experience that every writer really should feel and be exposed to. If you’ve been thinking about doing it but think it’s too late? Don’t think that way. I’ve done it in 11 days! You can do it with just over a week left and if not, it gives you just enough of a taste to get you prepped and primed for next year.  If anything it’s fun.

Now for an excerpt of Heart Song, the story that I won the 2010 NaNoWriMo with:

 “That wasn't entirely his fault,” Marren spoke, walking up behind me.
I turned, startled by his appearance. “Are you always so quiet?”
“Yes,” he answered in matter of fact manner.
I shook my head and rolled my eyes. “And how was it not entirely his fault?”
“He was set up.” He walked over to a sword, pulled it out then inspected it by spinning it in his hands. All the while remaining nonchalant.
“By who? How do you know this?” I asked with insistence.
“I would think that after my conversation with you last night you would have figured out that I have been following you.”
“Ah, well I also recall that you refused to answer any of my questions, and so I still don’t know how you know about the set up.”
His eyes rested on me, taking in everything they could. I almost felt exposed with the way he stared. It was as if he saw right to my very soul. Before I could say something about it, he blinked a few times then said, “Pick up your sword.”  He pointed to mine with the tip of his.
I hesitated, wanting to question his seriousness but thought better of it as I walked over to my sword. The excitement in me was about to burst. I was going to take some of my frustrations out on him and I wouldn't hold back. By the time I turned around with my sword in hand, he was already advancing on me. The element of surprise was definitely his strong suit. I fought him off the best I could. But he was fast—incredibly fast. Too fast to be human. But I didn't have time to think about that.
“Breathe,” he instructed coolly. I let out a breath, not realizing that I had been holding it the entire time.
Our swords clanked against each other, hitting hard. Thrill, excitement, and strangely, a heated, powerful passion ignited within my center. I couldn't help the way it felt to make my body move faster than I’d ever moved before. I twisted and dodged his attacks while he did the same to mine. Moving together in perfect unison.
Just as I was feeling the rhythm of our dance, he spun so he stood behind me. He held his blade to my throat with one hand and gripped my wrist that held onto my sword with the other. His body pressed firmly against mine, hard as stone. A pulsating rush ran through my veins.
“Don't think, just do,” he whispered calmly into my ears, sending tingles down my spine with the warmth of his breath, increasing the rush.
“How can you not be out of breath?” I spoke through gritted teeth, still holding a hate for Marren, despite what this dual was doing to me. I rammed my elbow into his side, forcing him to release me.
“Many years of practice.” His words came out effortlessly, along with another attack that disarmed me.
I watched my sword slide across the floor, spinning several rotations before settling with its point in our direction.  The crisp slice of his blade on my neck brought my attention back to him. I glared into Marren's eyes only to have the look dissipate as I saw my own reflection staring back at me.  I lowered my eyes, submitting to my second defeat.
Marren lowered his sword as Enid walked up to take it. Marren stepped closer to me, pulling up a part of my hood and lifting the hair from my neck with a gentle graze of his hand, to reveal the cut. The touch lingering long after his hand was gone. My heart flipped. Stupid heart.
 His brow furrowed slightly as he placed a cloth firmly against the cut with one hand and his other on the lower part of my back. He put enough pressure on my neck that I had to grab a hold of his arm that held me to prevent myself from falling over. The warmth in his skin was surprisingly soothing. I felt everything within me that was once frozen start to thaw.
“Sorry,” he said softly.
“I've had worse, trust me.” I worked to control my breathing through the stinging of the cut, the pressure he had placed on it and the fact that he was standing against me and it didn't bother me. I actually rather enjoyed it, much to my dismay. My mind started to spin with the conflict. I forced my focus onto other things, resisting looking at him again for fear of completely losing myself.
“You shouldn't keep yourself so guarded,” he spoke quietly. His voice was so soft it brought out of me a nervous chuckle. I was losing it. It felt too good, standing against his body, having his warmth seep into my skin. I felt too good. I couldn't resist looking into his eyes any longer. Confusion flashed across his face. It made me feel like I had done something to upset him. He removed the cloth from my neck. The need for me to hold onto him was no longer there, but I didn't want to let go. It wasn't until he started to back away that I followed his lead by releasing my grip on him.

Heart Song can be found at:

A Kansas native, Samantha spends her free time with her husband and three kids. Writing has always been a passion of hers, forgoing all other desires to devote to this one obsession. Among her writing credentials, she’s a board member of the Kansas Writer’s Association as the Contest Chair and has founded her own critique group lovingly named The Fighting Hamsters. 
You can find her presence on


Thank you for your inspiring insight into NaNoWriMo and your writing world, Samantha. I have a feeling you will have no problem achieving this years 50,000 word goal. For those who are not taking part in NaNoWriMo this year there is always next year or, before then, Camp NaNoWriMo during June and August.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Do you collect free eBooks or read them?

There is a question doing the rounds in the writing world at the moment - do you collect free eBooks or read them? In other words, do you collect free eBooks because they are free or because you want to read them? I am sure that most readers fall somewhere in the middle - some they wanted to read and some they downloaded because they didn't cost anything. But how many of those falling into the second group were actually read?

Currently, I have 34 books on my Kindle. Of the 34, 19 were free. Most of the 19 were downloaded not just because I wanted to read them but because I was wanted to help the author push their eBook up the bestseller lists. I want to make it clear I would never download anything I had no intention of reading, but I will do everything I can to help promote a friend's book. I am also a real book reader at heart. Nothing beats the feel of a book in my hands. So, when I sit down to read at night, given a choice between a book or an eBook, I will usually choose the book. This probably explains why out of the 19 free eBooks, I have thus far only read ten. Some of those unread free eBooks have been on my Kindle for months.

As someone who is launching my first eBook collection in February 2013, I know this is an attitude I need to change. According to Amazon the sales of eBooks have tripled over the last year. They are here to stay, and I am sure there will come a time in the future when physical books will be a thing of the past, just like vinyl and cassette tapes are to my generation.

But if people really are collecting free eBooks and not necessarily reading them, what is the point of offering them for free? The obvious reason is marketing - pushing your eBooks into the top 100 bestsellers list guarantees they will be noticed. Hopefully, most of the people who download your book will read it. If it is good enough they will be more likely to buy your next book. Or, like myself, they will go out and buy the paperback versions, as I have done with Martin T. Ingham's Guns of Mars and Alex J. Cavanaugh's CassaStar.

Offering a free eBook, if only for a limited period, does offer benefits. You just have to hope those benefits outweigh offering your book for nothing. But that leads us onto whether offering your book for nothing or at a low price devalues your work, and that is a topic for a whole other post.

So, what are your thoughts on this? Have you read every free eBook you've downloaded? If not, why? How do you feel about authors offering their books for free? Have you offered your eBooks for free and how does it make you feel knowing they may not have all been read? As always, I'd love to know your thoughts on what I am sure is a controversial subject.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Jessica Bell's Show & Tell In A Nutshell

Is it me or is this November turning into a major book-release month? Today I'm honoured to hand my blog over to writer, poet, and musician Jessica Bell. Her book Show & Tell In A Nutshell has just been published.

Over to you, Jessica.

Click to add me to Goodreads!
Have you been told there's a little too much telling in your novel? Want to remedy it? Then this is the book for you!

In Show & Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing you will find sixteen real scenes depicting a variety of situations, emotions, and characteristics which clearly demonstrate how to turn telling into showing. Dispersed throughout, and at the back of the book, are blank pages to take notes as you read. A few short writing prompts are also provided.

Not only is this pocket guide an excellent learning tool for aspiring writers, but it is a light, convenient, and easy solution to honing your craft no matter how broad your writing experience. Keep it in the side pocket of your school bag, throw it in your purse, or even carry it around in the pocket of your jeans or jacket, to enhance your skills, keep notes, and jot down story ideas, anywhere, anytime.

If you purchase the e-book, you will be armed with the convenient hyper-linked Contents Page, where you can toggle backward and forward from different scenes with ease. Use your e-reader's highlighting and note-taking tools to keep notes instead.

The author, Jessica Bell, also welcomes questions via email, concerning the content of this book, or about showing vs. telling in general, at

“Jessica Bell addresses one of the most common yet elusive pieces of writing advice—show, don't tell—in a uniquely user-friendly and effective way: by example. By studying the sixteen scenes she converts from “telling” into “showing,” not only will you clearly understand the difference; you will be inspired by her vivid imagery and dialogue to pour through your drafts and do the same.” ~Jenny Baranick, College English Teacher, Author of Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares
“A practical, no-nonsense resource that will help new and experienced writers alike deal with that dreaded piece of advice: show, don’t tell. I wish Bell’s book had been around when I started writing!” ~Talli Roland, bestselling author

Purchase the paperback:
$4.40 on Amazon US
£3.99 on Amazon UK

Purchase the e-book:
$1.99 on Amazon US
£1.99 on Amazon UK
$1.99 on Kobo

About the Author:
The Australian-native contemporary fiction author and poet, Jessica Bell, also makes a living as an editor and writer for global ELT publishers (English Language Teaching), such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

She is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and co-hosts the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek Isle of Ithaca, with Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest.

For more information about Jessica Bell, please visit: 


Thank you, Jessica. This is one book every writer should have.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Alex J. Cavanaugh - Speculative Fiction Writer

Today I have the honour of hosting the mighty Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. He's going to talk about something all writers should have - critique partners.

Critique Partners

Critique partners – does that scare you?

I was nervous just letting my wife read my work. Letting someone else read and critique it was terrifying.

I finally allowed two friends read the manuscript for my first book and it wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined. Neither friend was a writer. They just read science fiction. But it let me know if my target audience would enjoy the story. (And to this day I still let them read my manuscripts. One is my go-to guy for dialogue, as I tend to suck in that area.)

After CassaStar’s release, I was prompted by both fans and my publisher to write another book. That’s when panic set in. Write another book? One that’s better than the first? Oh, the pressure! I knew I’d need more help than my two test readers and put out a call for critique partners on my blog.

Smartest move I ever made. (One of them, anyway.) Those three critique partners made such a difference in the quality of my work. They saw all the crap I missed and made suggestions for improvement. The result? CassaFire was a much better story and certainly better written.

If you’re worried critique partners will tear your work to shreds, don’t be. (Save those concerns for editors, publishers, and agents!) If you’ve chosen your critique partners wisely, the feedback will be all positive. All positive? Even when they point out your grammar mistakes, crappy dialogue, and plot holes? Yes, because that feedback will make your manuscript stronger. You don’t have to adopt every suggestion. It is YOUR story. But take each idea and weigh the merits. You might even come up with something better.

Another benefit is being able to bounce ideas off your critique partners. You can let them review the outline for your next project and let them suggest changes and new directions. I let two of my critique partners read the outline for CassaStorm, and it resulted in the addition of an awesome character who tied the story together and gave an extra punch to the ending.

Still worried? Let me share with you some of the comments I’ve received from my critique partners:

The sweet taste of sugar and fruit began to ooze across his tongue. - This made my mouth water. Thanks for that, now I’m craving jolly ranchers! Lol.

“…a common ancestry will never be accepted by the general population of either race.” - Dammit. I forgot you wrote that part. I’m not deleting all those words above. It took me a while to write them.

You never smell bad, he thought, entering the room. - Haha! Yeah right. I went on a weeklong camping trip, and we had showers, and I still came home smelling like a hot piece of poo.

Bassan nudged his friend. I have lots of good ideas. - That was amazingly well done too. Weaving info like that into a scene and making it so compelling is hard to do. You nailed it. That calls for another drink! Reward yourself!

He wants to be with his father. That’s all the reason that matters. - Listen to wifey. She’s smart.

“We’ll have to play when you’re not rusty then.”Hey! That’s my name! Woo hoo! I’m in your book.

Think you could survive critique comments like that? I bet you can!

Alex J. Cavanaugh

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Thank you for a fascinating insight into critique partners, Alex. Anyone feeling brave enough to share a critique comment they've received?

Monday, 12 November 2012

M. Pax's The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear, Jousting, & Passing Time News

It's another Awesome Monday, where a fabulous new book is released by one of my writing friends. Today is the launch of Mary Pax's The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear.

The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear

A New Adult Urban Fantasy, The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear is the first book in a new series. And it’s now out! The main character, Hetty, is a twenty-two-year-old, stumbling about in an effort to become a full-fledged adult. She struggles with self-esteem, weight, relationships, and making the transition between college and the real world. 

Graduation from community college isn’t the magic elixir Hetty Locklear counts on for becoming an adult. Her parents, who work the Renaissance fair circuit, insist she spend part of the summer with them. Hetty doubts pretending to live in the Middle Ages will help her find her way. 

To make it worse, an entity haunts her at her dead-end job, warning her of a dangerous man she doesn’t know. The ghost leads her to a lover who has a lot of secrets. He pulls her farther into peril and into a strange, hidden world of genetic experimentation. 

New Adult Urban Fantasy with a contemporary sci-fi twist. Mature content.

Available as an ebook at Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords / iTunes / Kobo 

Visit for more links.

Now for Jousting!

M. Pax is celebrating her latest release with a jousting tournament and contest at Cheer for the knights to help them win the grand prize, and you’ll be put in a drawing to win an ebook copy of The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear. Five will be given away. Huzzah!

Passing Time News

Thank you to everyone who generously offered to help with the cover reveal and blog tour for Passing Time. I was touched that so many people wanted to take part. Deciding on the ten blog hosts was nearly impossible, as I did not want to turn anyone down. However, I have now selected and contacted ten bloggers. 

Now for a big but (and it's a big one), I realised that in my eagerness to sort out the cover reveal and blog tour, I never asked if anyone could help launch my book on it's actual publication date, February 11th. I don't want much, do I? So, my friends, I am asking for your help once again. 

Don't worry. If you do or have offered to help, I will keep track of who is doing what and when, will send out everything with plenty of time to spare, and send a gentle reminder near to each date. Also, I will be giving all those who take part in my cover reveal, blog tour, or book launch a little something to say thank you. And if there is anything I can do in return to help promote your book or event, please let me know.

Finally, the mighty Ninja Alex J. Cavanaugh will be this weeks Speculative Fiction Writer. Please call back on Wednesday to read his guest post on critique partners.

Happy writing.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Michael Offutt's Oculus

I wasn't expecting to post today but when I found out Michael Offutt had revealed his cover for Oculus: Book 2 of A Crisis of Two Worlds and it had been published, I had to write a quick blog post.

Here's a short synopsis:

Autumn has arrived in New York, and Jordan Pendragon attends his first classes as a freshman at Cornell. Born with a brilliant mathematical mind, he balances life as a research assistant with that of a student athlete.

But Jordan also has a quest. He must find the Black Tower, a monolithic edifice housing a thing that defines the very structure of the universe. Jordan believes it is buried somewhere in Antarctica under miles of prehistoric ice.

October finds Jordan earning a starting position with the Cornell hockey team. But a dark cloud gathers over his rookie season. Unexplained deaths, whispers of a cannibal cult, a prophecy, and a stone known only as the Oculus, cast a shadow over his athletic ambitions. It is the start of a terrifying journey down a path of mystery, murder, and to a confrontation with an Evil more ancient than the stars.

You can purchase it here:

AMAZON KINDLE - $4.79             
AMAZON UK - £3.08
KOBO - $4.99


Did I mention Michael is also an artist?

You can find Michael here.

Right. Back to my NaNoWriMo word count. Have an awesome weekend everybody.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Barbara Ann Wright - Speculative Fiction Writer

Today I would like to give a warm welcome to my very first Speculative Fiction Writer guest, Barbara Ann Wright. Over to you, Barbara!

 A Big Ol' Fraud

Before I went to Women's Week at Provinctown to promote The Pyramid WaltzI had a nightmare. I was sitting in a bookstore, waiting for a signing, when I happened to open one of my books and found that it was blank. Seems I had somehow snowed Bold Strokes Books into publishing a book I'd never even written. I was a big ol' fraud, and now everyone was going to find out.

I know: impossible. But scumbag brains don't care about impossible. Years out of university, I still sometimes dream about impending physics exams for classes I've signed up for but have forgotten to attend all semester.

No need to worry. In reality, my books were filled with my words, and to my scumbag brain's surprise, people seemed to like them, at least to my face, a fact which pleased me beyond words, literally. When people told me they liked my work, I was able to croak out a thanks, and part of me still thought they were just being polite.

Normally, I'm pretty confident. When I write, I usually like what I'm writing, but something about other people liking it has always made me doubtful. Sort of a, "This is great! Everyone else will hate it!" Has anyone else ever felt this way? Confident in your own head, but self-doubting outside of it?

I hope I can get over it because I'm signing myself up for more public appearances, and hopefully people at some of them will like my work. I'm going to try to do some SF/F cons here in Texas, and some bigger events in other states and other countries to prove myself not a fraud again. Maybe someday, even my scumbag brain will believe it.

Just to prove my book isn't really blank, here's the synopsis: 

To most, Princess Katya Nar Umbriel is a rogue and a layabout; she parties, she hunts and she breaks women’s hearts. But when the festival lights go down and the palace slumbers, Katya chases traitors to the crown and protects the kingdom’s greatest secret: the royal Umbriels are part Fiend. When Katya thwarts an attempt to expose the king’s monstrous side, she uncovers a plot to let the Fiends out to play.

Starbride has no interest in being a courtier. Ignoring her mother’s order to snare an influential spouse, she comes to court only to study law. But a flirtatious rake of a princess proves hard to resist, and Starbride is pulled into a world of secrets that leaves little room for honesty or love, a world neither woman may survive.

I swear it has more than just those words. See for yourself at AmazonAmazon UK,  or on the Bold Strokes Books website.

Bio: Barbara Ann Wright writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories when not adding to her enormous book collection or ranting on her blog. Her short fiction has appeared twice in Crossed Genres Magazine and once made Tangent Online's recommended reading list. She is a member of Broad Universe and the Outer Alliance and helped create Writer's Ink in Houston. The Pyramid Waltz is her first novel. It's sequel, For Want of a Fiend, comes out May 13, 2013.

Thank you for making the first speculative fiction writer guest post such an enjoyable experience, Barbara. I have a feeling that scumbag brain already knows you're not a fraud.  


The first page of my YA dystopian novel has been critiqued by the teen spies over at YA Confidential! If you have time, please give it a read and let me know what you think.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Laura Diamond New Pride Novella Launch

It's been a busy few days in the blogging and publishing world. Last week we had the cover reveal for Donna Hosie's The Fire of Merlin, String Bridge by Jessica Bell was available as a free download, NaNoWriMo officially started, and on Friday Laura Diamond launched her prequel novelette, New Pride.

Today I'm handing over to Laura to tell us about New Pride.

 New town, new love, new terror.

It’s here! My prequel novelette, NEW PRIDE, was released on Friday. I’m SO stoked for it to run wild in the world.

NEW PRIDE was born from my upcoming novel, SHIFTING PRIDE (coming December 7, 2012!). In SHIFTING PRIDE, the main character, Nickie, searches for her missing father, Richard…and NEW PRIDE is all about Richard’s journey to independence and new love.


A shape-shifter without a pride, Richard Leone strikes a tenuous friendship with power hungry, Derek, from an unstable, rogue group. On a hunt in the forest, they encounter a gorgeous brunette, Molly, partying with friends around a campfire. Derek tells the rogue pride and they bristle at humans trespassing on their territory. Richard risks life and tail to protect his secret and the humans—especially Molly—while simultaneously trying to win her heart. When Molly is kidnapped, he faces taking on the rogue pride alone, but quickly finds he has to put his trust in Derek, not only to rescue his new love, but to ensure the rogue pride doesn’t wreak havoc on his new town.

Author Laura Diamond:

Laura Diamond is a board certified psychiatrist and author of all things young adult paranormal, dystopian, horror, and middle grade. Her short story, City of Lights and Stone, is in the Day of Demons anthology by Anachron Press (April 2012) and her apocalyptic short story, Begging Death is in the Carnage: Life After the End anthology by Sirens Call Publication (coming late 2012). Her debut young adult paranormal romance, SHIFTING PRIDE, is coming December 2012 by Etopia Press. When she's not writing, she is working at the hospital, blogging at Author Laura Diamond--Lucid Dreamer , and renovating her 225+ year old fixer-upper mansion. She is also full-time staff member for her four cats and a Pembroke Corgi named Katie. 

How to find Laura Diamond on the web:

YouTube interview: In The DM Zone—Talking about SHIFTING PRIDE

Thank you, Laura. I particularly enjoyed the interview on The DM Zone. Congratulations on the launch and the upcoming publication of Shifting Pride.

On Wednesday Barbara Ann Wright will be my first Speculative Fiction Writer guest. Please call back to cheer her along.

Even though I pre-wrote all of my November posts, I could not resist adding a couple of extra lines to say I reached 9567 words by the end of NaNoWriMo Day Four - that's 10% of my YA novel. Go WriMos!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Fire of Merlin Cover Reveal & Win A Custom Book Cover

Today I am honoured to be taking part in Donna Hosie's cover reveal for The Fire of Merlin, the second in her The Return to Camelot Trilogy. Here is the stunning cover and blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Natasha Roth and her older brother, Arthur, are reunited once more with the Knights of the Round Table. Unfortunately their joy is not shared by Arthur’s girlfriend, “Slurpy” Samantha, whose hatred of Natasha has not been lessened by time or distance since the Roth family relocated to London.

But Natasha’s happiness is short-lived.

The knights come with ill news from Logres: a magical darkness has fallen over the land. The Lady of the Lake, Nimue, is battling against her former lover, Merlin, whom she imprisoned before the enchanted sleep. He has been freed and Natasha soon discovers that her own actions the previous year unlocked more than just a gateway between the past and the present. When “Slurpy” disappears, a frantic Arthur decides they must leave the 21st century once more and return to Camelot.

With her beloved Sir Bedivere at her side, Natasha follows the sound of the bells and leads Arthur and the knights back into Logres. But there are more than bells ringing in her head. Natasha starts to suffer from terrifying visions in which she sees the destruction of Logres.

As the darkness continues to infect the living, the people start turning on each other, accusing outsiders of witchcraft. Terrified that Natasha will be hurt, Sir Bedivere takes her, the dwarf Byron and Byron’s sister, Guinevere, into the safety of his father’s castle. Yet nowhere in Logres is free from fear and suspicion, and Sir Bedivere unwittingly leads Natasha into a terrifying chain of events in which time itself is manipulated.

Natasha must uncover the truth about the danger to Logres and those she loves. Who is the real threat to Arthur? Can myth and legend become fact? What is the secret that “Slurpy” is now hiding?

And for the love of all things holy, when will Logres invent saddles?

Here's where you can get the first in the trilogy, Searching for Arthur: 


Laura will be giving away copies of NEW PRIDE to several lucky fans! Just follow the link below and fill out the form on her fan page to enter.

If you have time, please pop over to Donna's blog and congratulate her on another stunning cover.

The designer of my cover for Passing Time is holding a competition. You can win a professional custom made book cover. All you have to do is like her Facebook page. What could be easier than that?

Finally, today is officially the start of NaNoWriMo. I shall be taking part, and aiming to write 50,000 words of my young adult dystopian novel. I won't be using my blog to comment on my progress, as I have pre-written all my November posts to free up time for my daily word count. However, you can follow my progress either by becoming my NaNoWriMo buddy or by following me on Twitter and Facebook.