Friday, 31 December 2010

Friday Five: Five Reasons To Be Grateful

As we come to the end of 2010, I find I have so many reasons to be grateful. The most important reason is that my family and friends are well, and those that are working are still in employment. I don't think I could find anything else more important than knowing they are all safe and happy.

But 2010 has also been an amazing year for my writing dreams. Here is my top five, in chronological order:

1. In March my short story, Second Chances, was published in the 100 Stories for Haiti anthology. It was my first anthology publication and, since then, I've had 20 stories published and accepted into 17 anthologies. I would like to thank the following editors, who without their belief in my writing, I would not have been published:

Greg McQueen for 100 Stories for Haiti.
Jessy Marie Roberts at Pill Hill Press.
Chris Bartholomew at Static Movement.
Robert McEvily at Six Sentences.

2. In May I started my first blog and it has been one of the most satisfying elements of 2010. I never dreamt I could find so much fun and enjoyment, not to mention meeting new, I hope, lifelong friends. To all the bloggers who have stopped by and helped to motivate and inspire me to continue writing, I thank you. I would like to mention a few bloggers in particular, who really have shown themselves to be caring individuals:

Madeleine at Scribble and Edit.
Jeremy at iZombie.
Dominic de Mattos at Writes of Passage.

To all my readers and those I follow; if I haven't stopped by your blog enough this year, I apologise. I will try to do better in 2011.

3. In July I attended my first film convention and met my childhood idol, William Shatner. Who am I kidding? I still idolise him at 38 years of age. Strictly speaking, this is not a writing dream. However, I'm a sci-fi kind of gal!

4. In September I earned my first money as a writer, when Yours published my short story, Counting the Pennies. Even though I have since decided I do not want to write fiction for magazines, I am still proud that I achieved one of my 2010 writing goals.

5. In November I completed NaNoWriMo and in the process wrote 50,000 words of my sci-fi novel, Dreaming of Sleep. My 2011 goal is to complete it and get it to a standard fit for submission.

There are so many more, but if I attempted to list them all this blog post would take too long to read. All that is left now is to wish everyone a Happy New Year. And as Spock would say, 'Live long and Prosper'.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Looking Backward and Forward

New Year Resolutions; you've probably made and broken more than you can remember. They are usually about stopping something - you will not eat sweets or you will give up smoking - and when three weeks into January you break your promises, you chastise yourself and give up.

Sometimes your resolutions will be positive, but often they are also unrealistic. Then, when you break your resolutions, you decide you will never succeed and give up trying at all. My answer to all of this is don't make New Year resolutions. Instead try something I started two years ago and have found to be a much greater influence on my path to writing success (feel free to apply this to non-writing aspects of your life as well).

The first stage is to write a letter or journal entry to yourself during the last week of the year. In this letter you will do two things: evaluate your successes and failures over the last 12 months and decide what your writing ambitions are for the year ahead.

Celebrate what has gone right for you. Then look at what didn't go the way you planned it, but (and this is very important) don't beat yourself up over it. Instead try to turn any failures into a positive. Why did it not go right? What have you learnt about yourself? What lessons can you apply to next year?

The next stage of the letter is to decide what your new writing goals will be. It is okay to aim high but be realistic. In my letter last year I aimed to submit and be published in short story anthologies. I also said I would begin writing my novel. I didn't say, I will write and submit my novel, begin the second and third, and start several screenplays. Also, I'll give up work and write full time. Push up the bar but not so high you'll never get over it.

Once the first stage is complete, print the letter and seal it an envelope. If you're keeping it on your hard drive, file it away where you'll not see it every time you use your computer. This is important because you are not going to re-read it until the last week of following year. It will be there at the back of your mind, a kind of subconscious stick driving you to succeed. But you won't keep re-reading it and then punishing yourself for not sticking to your goals resolutely.

The second stage will come at the end of the New Year, when you will rip open that envelope, or double-click on the file, and re-read your writing ambitions. You will use this letter to begin the process again - evaluate, celebrate, learn, and plan ahead. You'll be surprised at just how much you achieved over the last 12 months. The important part here is that you gave yourself 12 months not the first few weeks of the year.

This method might not be to everybody's liking - you may be the type of person for whom New Year resolutions work. But I've found this technique to be cathartic and invaluable for motivating me to carry on and never give up my writing dreams. It really does work.

Have you used this technique or do you make New Year resolutions? Did either method work? Is there another way of starting the New Year you would like to share with us?

Friday, 24 December 2010

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas to all my blogger friends; may the festive season be filled with merriment and fond memories. I'll be back next Wednesday, but starting tomorrow is my alternate version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. See you next week!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Friday Five: Writing Challenges for 2011

Here are five writing challenges to inspire you in 2011:

1) Write 1 Sub 1. Milo Fowler and Simon Kewin have come up with the perfect writing challenge for 2011 - 52 submissions in 52 weeks. I was going to dedicate a whole post to this one, but Madeleine at Scribble and Edit has already done an excellent job of explaining it. Thank you, Madeleine.

2) The First Line (or TFL) is a quarterly literary journal that gives you the first line of a story and challenges you write the rest. Stories should be 300 - 3000 words in length. Here are the 2011 first lines and submission dates:

  • Sam was a local employee. Due 1st February.
  • "We need to talk." Due 1st May.
  • Edwin spotted them the moment he stepped off the train. Due 1st August.
  • It had been a long year. Due 1st November.

3) Elena Solodow at 'You're Write. Except when you're rong' is hosting a 100 words for $100 dollars challenge from the 1st to 31st January. The objective is to write a 100-word sentence (one semi-colon allowed) and post it between the dates given. Read the full details here.

4) Have you ever wanted to parody a horror cliché? Well, now you can. Pill Hill Press are looking for submissions to their It Was a Dark and Stormy Night horror anthology. Here's what they are looking for:

'We are not looking for cliché stories here; we are looking for funny-on-purpose parodies of them. That old zombie or vampire or werewolf story you haven’t been able to get published because it had overused themes won’t cut it. Now…make me laugh, cackle, chuckle, giggle, and snort!'

Read the full details here.

5) Summer Ross at My Inner Fairy is hosting the New Creation Blogfest on the 5th January, to celebrate her 29th birthday. To enter, post the last sentence from one of your 2010 stories and the first line to a new story. This looks like it will be a fun challenge. Read the full details here.

That is it for today's Friday Five. I hope you found something here to challenge you in 2011.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Organizations as Villians

Today I have the honour of introducing a guest post by author Stephen Tremp. Yesterday I visited his blog and talked about using villains to create conflict, as part of his Home and Away blog tour. Today Stephen talks about organizations as villains.

Villains do not have to be people per se. They can be organizations like governments, corporations, law firms, Wall Street, organized crime, and science, although individuals within the organization need to be the ones making the nefarious decisions. Organizations make great villains! Just think of the resources they have at their disposal. Money. Power. Secretive Research and Development. They recruit some of the best minds in the world. They have ambition and are motivated by greed, fear, and expansion. They can hide behind a veil of secrecy. The bribe public officials. They can bury opponents and enemies in a landslide of attorneys and tons of paperwork.

Governments and their intelligence agencies can conspire to cover up truths, such as knowledge of aliens in the TV series the X-Files. Secret societies and New World Orders enslave mankind while destroying democracy and freewill. In George Orwell’s 1984 is set in perpetual war, public mind control, and spying and surveillance. In a more humorous note, remember KAOS from the TV series Get Smart? They were an international organization of evil during the Cold War bent on word takeover.

Corporations and industries also make for deviant villains. Movies like The Fugitive and Avatar have greedy institutions, or individuals using these organizations as a front, as the central character. Corporations can pollute the environment causing innocent people to become sick and die ala Erin Brokovich (Julia Roberts) and A Civil Action (John Travolta). Joseph Finder, author of Killer Instinct, Paranoia, Company Man use a corporate setting. I’ve read all three of these books and recommend them all.

Wall Street has no shortage of bad guys. Who can forget Gordon Gecko saying, “Greed is good.” I recommend renting Barbarians At The Gate (James Garner), a true story of that follows the actual takeover of the RJR Nabisco empire in a tongue in cheek way. Some stories will incorporate capitalism or capitalists as the villain.

Law Firms can make for a formidable foe. In the book and movie The Firm, the protagonist is recruited and seduced by the money and gifts showered on him, while being totally oblivious to the more sinister side of his company. Their MO is to suck you in, get you used to the lifestyle, kids in private school … before you know it you are committing crimes. Good luck getting out.

Organized Crime stories like The Godfather, The Sopranos, and Payback make for great movies. Good Fellas and Casino were great movies based on real life people and events. Organized Crime could be a series of posts all its own.

Science. Where do we begin? Physics, nanotechnology, biology, and anything that is genetically modified makes for a great backdrop. Countless books and movies are based on technology gone too far. Science run amok. My book Breakthrough focuses on this premise. Many people today are more than concerned about the boundaries science is pushing. Even the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has been accused of creating mini black holes that could eventually swallow up our planet earth. The inspiration for science-based stories are endless.

Okay, speaking of science, I promised Ellie I would somehow include something regarding Dr. Brian Cox, a Royal Society University Research Fellow based in the Particle Physics group at the University of Manchester, where he holds a chair in Particle Physics. He works on the ATLAS experiment at CERN in Geneva. I thought I would end this post on a humorous post with this YouTube Clip .

Stephen Tremp blogs at Breakthrough Blogs and is author of the Near Future SciFi Thriller Breakthrough.

If you feel this blog is worthy, go ahead and make my day. Retweet it.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Guest Post at Breakthrough Blogs

Hello everyone. Today I am a guest over at Stephen Tremp's Breakthrough Blogs, as part of his Home and Away blog tour. I will be talking about how you shouldn't avoid conflict in your writing, and how to use villains to create it. Stephen will be returning the favour and appearing here tomorrow. Please drop by and have a read.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Through the Keyhole Blogfest Results

Last Monday, I took part in Madeleine’s Through the Keyhole Blogfest and posted a brief scene that described a character’s living space. Quite a few of you had a guess as to who the person may have been and most of you were thinking along the right lines - you decided it was probably set in the future and that the person was in some way connected to a machine, or even the machine itself.

The blogger who correctly guessed the room belonged to the main character from my NaNoWriMo novel, Dreaming of Sleep, was Margo Benson. Well done, Margo. You have won the winner’s key, provided by Madeleine.

Dreaming of Sleep’s Myron is trapped two thousand years in the future, after his time travel mission goes wrong. He lives in a government assigned pod, which is sparsely furnished and serves one important function – it ensures Myron is connected to the worldwide information hub for at least 18 hours a day. Paper-based products no longer exist and personal possessions are frowned upon. Sleep is illegal and the penality for breaking the law severe.

I really had fun with this blogfest. Thank you to Madeleine and everyone who took a guess.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Friday Five: Secret Christmas Wish Lists

Do you secretly wish for something every Christmas but you’ve always been to embarrassed to ask anyone? Well now is your chance; if you feel brave enough. Share those gifts you’d like to receive but probably never will, because friends and family would never let you forget them.

Here are five of mine:

The entire Barry Manilow back catalogue and membership to his fan club. I want to be a Fanilow!

A teasmaid. You remember, the clock that also made you a fresh cup of brew in the mornings. I think they were last seen in the 1970s, along with our metallic green Ford Cortina.

A shopper trolley. I would look like an old lady but it would make carrying the shopping home a lot easier.

Technically this is not a gift, but I’ve always wondered what happened to the boy I sat next to in Primary School. His name was Rory and he would suck the ink out of his fountain pen every day during class; there was always an ink stain around his mouth by the time he went home. He lived at the bottom of my road and was the first boy who tried to kiss me. I was mortified and ran home. I’ve often wondered what happened to him.

A Space Camp uniform and patch. As a child I wanted to go to Space Camp, and if I owned a uniform I could pretend I did.

What are your secret wishes and will this be the year you finally pluck up the courage to ask for them? (Please feel free to use the image above on your blog)

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

What are your writing fantasies?

Everyone has writing dreams. If you are just starting out it could be something as simple as being published for the first time or if you've written a novel, to find an agent and be offered a book-deal. It may be you want to give up the day job and earn a living through your writing. Or you could just be looking to continue enjoying your writing as a hobby. But I'm not talking about your dreams; I'm talking about your fantasies. The certain something that seems like you would need the planets to realign and a cosmic influence to make it happen. In fact, you're convinced you stand a greater chance of winning the Lottery and you don't even play.

Here is mine:

My short story Why Do Aliens Love Iowa? is published in Tribute to the Stars in early 2011. As the tribute actor, William Shatner is sent a copy. He loves it and decides to make a movie of it; the idea is that strong. He contacts Steven Spielberg and asks him to read it. Spielberg loves it too. Soon after I get a call from Shatner offering to buy the movie rights, but there's a catch - they want me to do the screenplay. My answer is yes and several days later I'm flying to LA to begin work on it. The movie comes out the summer of 2012 and it's a blockbuster. We all live happily ever after.

Okay. I live in the real world and I know my fantasy is just that - a fantasy. But it makes my dreams seem all the more possible. I have been published and I have started work on my novel. First-time novelists do get offered book deals. It can happen and I have faith it will happen to me, eventually. Believe in your dreams, and with hard work and sometimes luck, they can come true. After all, someone has to win the Lottery.

Do you have a writing fantasy? How is it different to your writing dreams and does it influence them?

Monday, 6 December 2010

Through the Keyhole Blogfest

The gorgeous and talented Madeleine is hosting the Through the Keyhole Blogfest until the 11th December. Here is what you need to do, in her words:

"Describe someone's living space in no more than 500 words so that we can vividly imagine the absent person. Then guess from the descriptions posted the type of person who might live in a room like this.It could be a policeman, assylum seeker, a housewife, an author, a foster child, a Vicar who likes DIY, an axe murder (!) anyone you like, really, but not anyone famous."

Visit her blog for full rules and linkey.

Here is my entry, which I have to admit was not written specifically for this blogfest. But I really wanted to take part and I'm hoping it will qualify:

The pod was exactly as I had left it – the lighting set to the dimmest level to appease my migraines and the ambient temperature set to exactly 16.5 degrees Celsius. The faint hum of the air-conditioning unit brought the only natural element from the outside world and the opaque windows to the rear and front offered a hazy glimpse of the setting Sun.

The remains of my last meal – a re-hydrated vegetable stew – sat on the table in the pods small food allocation and disposal area. Beside the meal was a paperback copy of Jasper Fforde’s Lost in a Good Book, the only possession I was allowed to keep after my arrival. Paperback books were obsolete; no printed materials of any kind existed. The interrogation officers had been amused by my attachment to the book and against the rules, allowed me to keep it. I wished I’d brought more than one but then the trip was only supposed to last a week, not forever. Besides, where would I put them? There were no shelves of any kind and the pod’s sterile, white walls, performed their role efficiently – why hang pictures or display ornaments when none existed?

I glanced up at the neon time display, which blinked a constant reminder of the pod’s main function; connecting to the central hub. It was only 1800 hours and I was not required to login in until 0600. Had they left me with twelve torturous hours as a test? Where they willing me to fail again? I sat down at the desk that ran the entire length of the pod’s right side and did the last thing they would expect – I logged in early. The pain from the migraine would almost kill me but I didn’t care. “Conform and stay alive,” had been her last words and I intended to follow them.

I will let you know who it is next Sunday.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Friday Five

Some random writing bits that caught my attention in the last week:

1. Over at Write-Brained, Christine was inspired to use the titles of books to create a story. It looked fun, so I had a go with the short story anthologies I've been published in:

(I was) HAUNTED (by) 100 STORIES FOR HAITI (but) THE MYSTERIOUS DR. RAMSEY (had) PATENTED (my) DNA (and created some) CREEPY THINGS. (His) DAILY FLASH (and) FLASH! (news brought out the) FEM-FANGS (in me and my only escape was to hide with the other) TRUNK STORIES.

Check out Christine's post and you might also be inspired to create your own Titles Tell A Story.

2. Over at You're Write. Except When You're Rong, Elena Solodow is offering to read an excerpt from your current WIP. She's looking for submissions for her weekly slot. Here is what she says, "Join my weekly vlog posts, in which I'll read YOUR 250-500 word excerpt out loud! Send submissions to esolodow at gmail dot com."

3. Jane Wenham Jones's follow up to her warm and funny Wannable A Writer? is now out. I haven't bought Wannabe A Writer We've Heard Of? yet but I'm sure it will be full of the same wit and practical advice as her first book, and I've placed it on my Christmas wishlist.

4. C. Hope Clark posted about the 5th Annual International Short Story Challenge. I'm not going to say too much about this one, as Hope has done it already. If you want to enter a writing competition with a difference, pop over to Hope's blog.

5. Finally, a quiz for writers of science fiction. Find out which science fiction writer you are most like by taking Paul Kienitz's quiz. According to him I'm Arthur C. Clarke.

I am:
Arthur C. Clarke
Well known for nonfiction science writing and for early promotion of the effort toward space travel, his fiction was often grand and visionary.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Hating Game Web Splash

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

What are you waiting for? Help Talli's novel become a Kindle Bestseller.


Don't forget to enter my caption competition, which ends midnight Saturday (GMT). Also, check out my Christmas Tales Blogfest.