Monday, 28 February 2011

A New Weekly Schedule & The Week Ahead

I have decided to follow a new blogging schedule, which will hopefully free up more writing time. It is not a rigid schedule; blogfests will occasionally take the place of a set day.

On Mondays I will discuss my writing plans and anything that has caught my attention for the coming week. On Tuesdays I will post a teaser from my current read and another from a work-in-progress. On Wednesdays I will ask you a writing or blogging related question. Finally, on Fridays I will post my usual five writing related links and take part in a new meme called Book Blurb Friday.
It's Monday, so over to . . .

The Week Ahead

There are two exciting events starting this week. This Friday is the first Book Blurb Friday, hosted by the wonderful Lisa Ricard Claro. BBF is a new and unique meme that challenges you to write a book blurb for a set image. Here is how it works:

'Every Thursday evening I'll post a photo that we'll pretend is the cover of a book. In 150 words or less (length of the average book blurb) write the blurb that you think belongs on the back of the book. You create the story, decide the genre, fiction or non, etc. You'll post your blurb on your site with a link from/to this one so others can find you or come here to participate.'

'The goal: Write a book jacket blurb (150 words or less) so enticing that potential readers would feel compelled to buy the book.'

This week's book cover to tempt your creative taste buds:

The second exciting event is Wonders of the Universe, which starts Sunday 6th March on the BBC. This is a must see series for anyone remotely interested in science, astronomy or physics. Last year's Wonders of the Solar System was a huge success and launched Professor Brian Cox into the public eye - his enthusiasm and passion for physics is contagious, so don't miss out.

That is it for today's The Week Ahead. Is there anything happening this week you think we should know about?

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Nifty 50 Blogfest

Today is the Nifty 50 Blogfest hosted by the fabulous Anstice Potts (Tizzy) at Impossible Dreams, in celebration of reaching 50 followers.

The brief was to write a blog post based on the theme of fifty. Your post 'could be a poem, a short scene, anecdote or even a list of your top 50 favourite things-the choice is yours! It could be about a 50th birthday or wedding anniversary, a group of fifty people, or perhaps be set in 1950. Whatever you choose, it has to involve the number 50 in some significant way'. For further instructions and to read other entries click here.

My short scene is told through dialogue only and, unusually for me, has no speculative element. I wanted to write something fun and light hearted. I hope I achieved it!

Pushing Fifty

“Did you say 50?”



“I know. I don’t look 50, do I? People are always saying how young I look.”

“Well I-”

“It’s all about skin care. Cleanse, exfoliate and moisturize. And plenty of water!”

“It’s just the role calls for a woman in her late forties.”

“Well, then I’m perfect for the part. When do we start shooting?”

“No. What I’m trying to say is you look too old.”

“Too old?”

“Yes. I mean obviously you look good for your age, no one is saying anything different. It’s just you look nearer . . . .sixty. How old are you really?”




“Right. Well thank you for auditioning. We’ll be in touch.”

* * *

“Are you next?”


“I wouldn’t bother.”


“They’re looking for a woman in her late forties who looks like she’s in her thirties. Of course, I was perfect for the part. But time conflicts and so on. Never mind. Maybe next year.”

* * *

“Did you know that woman?”


“What did she want?”

“I’m tempted to say botox.”

The End

I will not be able to visit and comment on the other entries until Sunday, as I am working all day and then have my step-granddaughter's first ballet recital. Please accept my apologies and be assured I will be visiting tomorrow.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Friday Five: Astronauts, Library Cats, Dave Gorman, Hedgehogs, and The Perfect Storm

I've decided to do something a little different for this week's Friday Five; non-fiction. I've read all of the following and can highly recommend them:

1. We Can't All Be Astronauts by Tim Clare. Tim Clare dreamt of writing a critically-acclaimed bestseller, but he was single, still living with his parents, and, worst of all, his friends had beat him to it. Read how he decided to give his publication dream one last shot, grovelled to Jeffrey Archer on a reality TV programme, and suffered a mental breakdown before finally answering this question: Could things get any worse?

2. Dewey by Vicki Myron. The true tale of how one small-town library cat touched not only the people in his hometown, but the rest of the world. This is an inspirational story of the power of one animal to unite people and provide comfort through the worst of times. Have your hankies ready.

3. Are You Dave Gorman? by Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace. I first read this book in 2001 and have read it again several times. It is a hilarious and touching account of two friends who decide upon a drunken bet late one night in their local pub. Dave Gorman thought there must be hundreds of people who shared his name. Danny didn't. Read how they travelled around the world in search of Dave Gormans and tested both their friendship and Danny Wallace's long-suffering girlfriend to the limit.

4. A Prickly Affair by Hugh Warwick. Given the topic of the book - hedgehogs - you might be forgiven for asking how could a book about Hedgehogs be interesting? But it is about far more than facts and figures; it is about our relationship and fascination with them. Read how Warwick, an ecologist and member of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, travelled to American to take part in the International Hedgehog Olympics, to China to find the rarest breed of all, and many other adventures.

5. The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger. The first thing to say about this book is that it is not one of those awful based-on-the-movie books. The Perfect Storm does tell the tale of the Andrea Gail and the awful events of October 1991, but it is about so much more. Junger tells the human story of the tragedy and the myriad of people whose lives revolved around the sea and fishing. The fact that it remained on the international bestseller list for four years is an indication of the quality of Junger's writing.

Well, that is it for this week. What non-fiction books would you recommend?

Thursday, 24 February 2011

A Comment on Commenting - Bloggerland Speaks

Thank you to everyone who took the time to answer yesterday's question - how do you respond to comments on your blog? Judging by the number of responses, commenting is something you are all passionate about.

As usual there were a variety of answers. Some of you, like I, respond in the comment box and by email. Others enjoy the conversational aspect of just using the comment box, whilst some do not reply to a comment unless a question has been asked or they want to add something further to what they've already said. Others worried that by replying to comments via email they could be overloading already time-starved bloggers. But there was one point that kept reoccurring: the most important aspect of blogging etiquette is to visit the blogs of those who visit you.

By the time I'd finished reading all the comments this morning, I'd concluded that I like replying to comments by email. But I also realised that I don't spend enough time visiting the blogs that I follow and those who follow me. I need to find more time, without eroding the limited time I have for writing. This could mean cutting down on my responses to comments and/or posting more blanket responses, such as this one, and finding a better method of ensuring I regularly comment on the blogs I follow. I shall be experimenting with different options over the next few weeks.

If you decide to change the way you respond and/or comment, please pop back and let me know how you got on. Finally, don't forget blogging should be fun. It might be hard work at times, but if you're not enjoying it you may need to re-evaluate how and why you blog.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

How do you respond to comments?

In the first few weeks of starting my blog there was one question that troubled me more than any other - how should I respond to comments?

At first I responded within the comment box itself and assumed that if a blogger was interested enough in my post, they'd come back to see if I'd responded to their comments. Then I realised I rarely went back to another bloggers post; not because I wasn't interested but because there simply wasn't enough time.

But at the same time I really appreciated the bloggers who took the time to reply to my comments via email. It felt as if they had made an extra effort. So I decided to do the same, and now I reply to comments via email and post my response in the comment box. Unfortunately it does take more time and I can't always respond straight away, and sometimes I wonder if I attach too much importance to commenting.

How do you respond to comments on your blog? Do you appreciate bloggers who respond to your comments via email? As your follower numbers increase, how do you plan to balance responding to comments, visiting other bloggers, and writing?

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Teaser Tuesday (1): Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

I've been thinking about joining the weekly meme Teaser Tuesday ever since I first saw it on Rachel Morgan's blog and decided today was the day to start. Here is my first book teaser:

Title: Something Rotten
Author: Jasper Fforde

It was a bright and clear morning in mid-July two weeks later when I found myself on the corner of Broome Manor Lane in Swindon, on the opposite side of the road to my mother's house, with a toddler in a pushchair, two dodos, the Prince of Denmark, an apprehensive heart and hair cut too short. The Council of Genres hadn't taken the news of my resignation very well.

I love Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books, and the fourth is proving itself to be the best yet. If you've not read Fforde before, and are intrigued by the snippet, make sure you read the books in chronological order, starting with The Eyre Affair.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
    BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others.
  • Share the title and author too so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Passing Time at February Femmes Fatales

I am appearing today as a February Femme Fatales (FFF) over at Lily Child's Feardom blog. Lily is a talented and dedicated writer and if you haven't visited her blog, please do.

My featured short story is called Passing Time and was written especially for the FFF event and I'd like to share with you what inspired the supernatural tale. Whilst this may sound morbid to some I've always been fascinated by death and the statement, 'the only two certainties in life are death and taxes.' Is death a certainty? Do some of us become trapped between life and death? And what if before we die we have another stage of life to live through?

Though I have not talked about this on my blog before, another important source of inspiration for me has been David Bowie. Unlike my peers, I was not swooning over Duran Duran or Limahl in the 1980s; I was obsessed with anything Bowie, and the earlier the material the better. Ziggy Stardust. The Thin White Duke. I loved them all. There is one song in particular, which ironically he did not write, that captivated me upon first hearing his cover version - My Death by Jacques Brel. It is this song that gave me the idea for Passing Time and I thought I'd share it with you. I don't think Passing Time comes anywhere near doing justice to this song and Bowie's performance of it, but I like to think I tried.

Has an artist or song inspired any of your stories?

Friday, 18 February 2011

Friday Five and Write 1 Sub 1 Update

It's been five weeks since my last Friday Five. Where did the time go? I've got an assortment of writing challenges to feast your eyes on today, from playing casting director to joining The Fictioneers.

1. Have you ever dreamed of your story or novel being made into a film and making the casting decisions? Well on the 25th April you can do just that by taking part in the Now Starring Blogfest, hosted by Lindz at Rapturous Randomocity. I've already cast Steve Buscemi as my serial killer in The Vegas Screamer.

2. Staying with April, I don't suppose many of you have not heard of Arlee Bird's A to Z Blogging Challenge. But in case you haven't, this marathon blogfest has (at the last count) 236 bloggers signed up. Whilst posting 26 times during the month of April will be a challenge, this will be the blogfest event of the year. You don't want to miss it.

3. There's still plenty of time to take part in Madeleine's Flowing Fonts Giveaway, in celebration of her reaching 200 followers. In fact she now has 264 and I have a sneaky suspicion she'll reach 300 before the giveaway ends. If you haven't visited her blog before, please hop over and say hello.

4. Two weeks ago I finally made the decision to take part in Lily Child's Friday Prediction, a weekly 100-word flash fiction competition, and ended up kicking myself for not doing it earlier. The two pieces I've written so far have already inspired longer stories and my second piece, Gravity, was runner-up last week. If you haven't visited Lily's blog or any of the February Femmes Fatales, I urge you to do so - you won't be disappointed.

5. Finally, Steve Chapman blogged about joining a group called The Fictioneers last week and I was intrigued to discover more about them. The Fictioneers are a non-profit writers' club made up of writers of science fiction, fantasy, and/or horror. There are different levels of membership, with different entry requirements, and you must apply to join. I emailed my application a few days ago and found out today I've been accepted. I shall be exploring the site in more detail this weekend and will let you know more about the organisation next week.

Write 1 Sub 1 Update - Weeks 6 and 7

Weeks six and seven have been a little disappointing for me. In week six I wrote and submitted Gravity to Lily's Friday Prediction, and though I was thrilled Gravity was a runner-up, I felt I hadn't done enough writing that week.

I started week seven with a list of seven writing projects to work on, intending to pick a couple to run alongside my other WIP, Dreaming of Sleep. However, work and other unforeseen events have left me leaving my submissions to the last day. By the end of today, even if it's at 11.59pm, I should have submitted to pieces to Pill Hill Press's Daily Flash and Daily Frights 2012.

So, how has your writing week been? Did you achieve all your goals?

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest

It's happened again - The Writer has gone AWOL. So, my friends, it's been left up to me - The Laptop - to honour her commitment to the Bernard Pivot Blogfest. It's a hard life but someone has to do it.

I'm not sure who Bernard Pivot is but the wonderful Nicole Ducleroir (and her awesome computer) are celebrating 500 followers and have asked us to answer a series of questions. Now normally I prefer talking about html, motherboards, and sound cards, but I think I can give it a go.

1. What is your favourite word?

Shut Down. Okay, that's actually two. But I sometimes wonder if The Writer will ever give me a break. There should laws against overworking a laptop.

2. What is your least favourite word?

Apple. Acer. Hewlett Packard.

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Just press the button below the screen and I'll do anything you want, baby. Actually, scrap that answer. I do have standards, you know.

4. What turns you off?

Who wrote these questions? Come on Bernard; point the mouse and click on shut down. Haven't I gone over this already?

5. What is your favourite curse word?

S**t. I hear it a lot.

6. What sound or noise do you love?

The sound of The Writers fingers caressing my keys, but not all night. There's only so long a laptop can keep it up.

7. What sound or noise do you hate?

A boiling kettle. What is it with writers and coffee? It's a hot liquid. Just one drop could render me useless. Have they no common sense?

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I've always wanted to be on television and did once apply for a job on the six o'clock news. Unfortunately, I didn't have the necessary qualifications - a degree in Media Studies and a wireless mouse are the minimum requirements. The laptop they are currently using is a professor!

9. What profession would you not like to do?

The editor's laptop at some big fashion magazine. Do you know how harsh they can be? One mistake and I'd be out.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Welcome to Heaven Laptop, where there are infinite de-frags and constant upgrades. You'll never be outdated again.

So, there you have it. I've stepped in and saved the day, again. When The Writer can drag herself away from the day job, I'm expecting at least a 1GB of extra memory. Don't forget to visit all the other computers entering the blogfest - they need love too.

Monday, 14 February 2011

See and hear The Devil's Song at Movie Monday

An excerpt from my WIP, The Devil's Song, is appearing on Elena Solodow's Movie Monday Vlog today; please give it a view and thank Elena for me - she has done a stunning job as always.

Why not consider submitting an excerpt from your WIP? Elena is a truly selfless blogger, who wants nothing more than the opportunity to read and interpret your writing. Go on - give it a try.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Cannibal Cookoff, Strange Emails, and Questions Answered (Part Two)

Before I announce today's two competition winners and answer the final 18 questions, I have couple of items that might interest you. Whilst taking part in Lily Child's Friday Prediction, I noticed a comment that referred to's first short story competition - the Cannibal Cookoff. Intrigued by the unusual title I visited the site to find out more. The Cannibal Cookoff is a horror short story competition and entries must be submitted by the 22nd February. Judging and voting will take place on a special forum. Are you brave enough to enter?

The second item is that I received an email from someone called 'Paul' offering to buy my blog. Being suspicious of 'Paul's' motives, I didn't click on the link given and added the email to my blocked senders list. Has anyone else received an email like this? Did you click on the link to find out more or ignore it like I did?

200 Followers Q and A Competition (Part Two)

Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment on Friday's post - I will be replying to all the comments individually as soon as time allows. Today's winners are:

Congratulations to both of you - Amazon vouchers will be with you soon. Now it's time for more questions and answers:

Elaine AM Smith asked something which pestered her on day one with her blog, 'Which is more important to you and why - flexibility or expandability?'

This was a tough question to answer, but I think flexibility is more important than expandability. I want to be able to adapt my blog whenever change arises but, at the same time, ensure my blog fits around me, not the other way around. As some of my long-term followers will know, I have struggled with finding a balance between writing and blogging.

Rachel Morgan asked, 'I'm assuming you made the mock covers on the side bar for your WIPs? Why did you pick the picture of the hand for DREAMING OF SLEEP? Like, is it symbolic for something in the story?'

I did make both mock covers. Finding an image for The Devil's Song was quite easy, but Dreaming of Sleep took a long time. Even now, I'm not totally happy with the image I chose. However, the hand is symbolic of the clustrophia and entrapment the main character feels - he is smothered by the interconnectivity of the 41st Century and is, you might say, trying to push his way out. Unfortunately, I don't feel the image captures the central theme of dreaming well enough, and I'm still looking for the perfect image.

Nicole Zoltack asked, 'What was your favorite movie as a child?'

My first response to this question was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but there was one film my best friend and I watched over and over during my teenage years - Girl's Just Want to Have Fun, staring a young Sarah Jessica Parker. We loved the main character's journey from good girl to rebellious teen to amazing dancer. We wanted to be her. Great memories.

Margo Berendson asked, 'What's your favorite book and why isn't it Lord of the Rings? Just kidding. Why is it your favorite book?'

Currently, my favourite book is Lost in the Well of Plots by Jasper Fforde. It is the third in a series of books by Fforde featuring the protagonist Thursday Next. The books feature an alternate course of history, in which the Crimean War never ended and literature is the drug of choice. Thursday Next is a Spec Ops officer charged with ensuring important works of literature are not stolen, destroyed or altered. I'm not going to say anymore than that, as I'd be heading down the spoiler route. All I can say is if you haven't read Jasper Fforde, you must. You will not be disappointed. But make sure you start with the first Thursday Next book, The Eyre Affair.

Donea Lee asked, 'What's the best little-known spot to visit in England?'

Bystock Pools, which is on the outskirts of my hometown Exmouth. It is a nature reserve, featuring a small lake, trees and an area of mooreland that is home to several Dartmoor ponies during the summer months. A wooden path runs around the lake, which allows you to watch plant and insect life. Dragonflies are the biggest attraction. What is perfect about this spot is that it is little-known and thus mostly undisturbed.

Christina Lee asked, 'If you could only bring three books to a deserted island, what would they be?'

Only three? The Stand by Stephen King, Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde and a dictionary/thesaurus.

LTM asked, 'So what will you do to celebrate?'

I was going to hold a big Hollywood-styled party and invite William Shatner, but I realised I didn't have any red carpet. So, I raised a glass of non-alcoholic bubbly to all my followers.

Theresa Milstein asked, 'Which genre do you prefer to write, science fiction or horror?'

Science Fiction, though paradoxically I've written more horror. I think it is because I'm in awe of all the amazing sci-fi writers both past and present, and this makes me nervous of my own efforts.

Lisa Potts asked, 'What's the one song you sing in the shower/car that would cause you to die of embarrassment if anyone ever heard you singing it?'

I laughed when I read this question because don't we all have one of these songs? My answer would be D:Ream, who had a it in 1994 with Things Can Only Get Better. I was working through a lot of personal issues in '94 and it was the only song that seemed to express how I was feeling. When I hear it now, I can't help but sing along.

Kulsuma asked, 'Have you done research for your WIPs, what does it consist of and do you like researching?'

I've done next to no research for The Devil's Song, other than using Google and my own memories - the location is based on a holiday cottage my partner and I stayed in three years ago, right down to the sound of the crows and the Old Mill house. For Dreaming of Sleep I have done extensive research into lucid dreaming and electrical brain patterns, though I intend to seek professional advice when my first draft is written, to check for errors.

Do I like researching? Not really. As I said in my Friday post, I'm not a plotter and research feels like plotting.

Anne asked, 'Star Trek or Star Wars?'

Star Wars?! I spit my last breathe at thee. In space there is no competition . . .only Star Trek!

Myne Whitman asked, 'So what's the back story to the William Shatner comment?'

I love William Shatner. Not the 'I'm in love with' kind, rather I admire his film and TV roles, his books, and all the other quirky things he does - like selling his kidney stone on eBay. No, I didn't buy it. Plus, it is quite a long running admiration - I think I was about nine when I first started watching Star Trek, and I'm 39 this year.

Lynda Young asked, 'If you don't have a pic of William Shatner that you kiss every night before bed, whose pic DO you have?'

I was going to say Professor Brian Cox but the Long Suffering One might object. Beside my bed I have a picture of the LSO and I taken around 15 years ago, in the early days of our relationship.

Janet Johnson asked, 'Where is your dream vacation spot?'

The New Forest, which is about a two-hour drive for us. It is beautiful part of the South and is near to the sea and several major towns. I'd love to live there one day, as literature is much more represented than in Devon - there are regular workshops and lots of writers groups. It would be like living in heaven for me.

DL Hammons asked, 'My question is...when was the first time someone other than family made a fuss over your writing?'

I would have to say my best friend, Rachel. She has always been interested in my writing and never fails to encourage and motivate me.

Lisa Blandford asked, 'How do you celebrate when you complete a first draft?'

I don't - at least not with my short stories. At the end of NaNoWriMo last year, when I completed 50,000 words, I treated myself to a winners t-shirt. However, I will definitely be celebrating when I have finished the first draft of my novel. Any suggestions as to how I should celebrate?

Steven Chapman asked, 'You’re stuck in Shatnerquake and can only save one version of Shatner, which version would you save?'

Steven, you never fail to make me laugh. I would have to save Mr. Shatner himself - the one who starts the novel in a grump and then falls in love with himself at the end. The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many . . .

So there you have it; the answers and questions have ended. I hope you enjoyed reading them and have been inspired to do something similar yourself, because I'd love to get to know all of you better.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Serial Killers, Winners, and Questions Answered (Part One)

My short story The Vegas Screamer has been published in the Serial Killers Anthology, which I'm both excited and nervous about. The only person who has read my story is the editor of Static Movement, and it is a dark story. When the LSO read my piece in the Hometown anthology he was quite shocked, but that was quite tame compared to The Vegas Screamer. I'll let you know what he says when my copy arrives.

200 Followers Q and A Competition (Part One)

There were 36 questions in total and I shall be answering 18 today and the remaining 18 on Sunday. But before I begin, let me announce today's two winners, drawn from the first 18 entrants:

Congratulations to both of you; two Amazon vouchers will be with you soon. Now on with the questions, which were as fun, varied, and as devious as I thought they might be:

Pk Hrezo asked, 'What inspires you the most?'

If you had asked me this question a year ago, I would have said anything related to science fiction - movies, TV series, music, books etc. Today it is all of you. Whenever I feel low or despondant about my writing, it is all the amazing bloggers out there who keep me motivated with their kind words and constant encouragement.

Madeleine asked, 'What are your writing goals?'

At the moment (they tend to change often) my long-term goals are to earn a living through writing and to publish a book. My short-term goals are to practice and learn my craft and to continue to submit short stories for publication.

iZombie asked, 'Hand puppets or marionettes, which scares you more in this you open your eyes and this... is staring at you?'

Marionettes, because they would be hanging there in front of me and who would be working the strings?

Ellen Brickley asked, 'How do you balance a day job and writing?'

I am fortunate enough to only work four days a week and most of my shifts are afternoons and evenings - this leaves me three days and three mornings to write. In reality it doesn't quite work out that way, as family, friends, and the LSO demand my attention. But I do make time every day to write, even if it's only 30 minutes.

Old Kitty asked, 'Would William Shatner make a good smouldering vampire or a coherent zombie?'

He would have . . .to be . . .a . . .coherent . . .zombie. I can't see the smouldering vampire working with him.

Hannah Kincade asked, 'Are you done with Dreaming of Sleep yet?'

Unfortunately, no. But I am working on it every day!

L. A. Colvin asked, 'Do you world build before or during your first draft?'

I literally write by the seat of my pants and do not plot or put down any world-building information. But during NaNoWriMo last year, I did take two days out to plot my novel. I realised writing 50K words could not happen without any kind of direction. However, when I re-read what I'd written after plotting, it seemed forced to me. The flow was not there. Now I have a file in which I put key information about the characters and setting, so that I don't make any obvious mistakes, and then just write and see where the story takes me.

Janel asked, 'So, were you born with the William Shatner obsession (inherited obsessions - now there's something to write about) or did it come about later in life?'

I think I was born with it. During one of Captain Kirk's time travel missions, he visited Earth in 1972, altered my DNA before I was born, and then left me with the on going mission to watch re-runs of Star Trek and T. J. Hooker. We are destined to meet again in the year 2234, when both of us will have travelled through space and time and will be exactly the same age.

Colene Murphy asked, 'How do you revise?'

After I've written the first draft, I leave it for a few days. I'll then print it off in a different font and size, and then go through it word-by-word with a red editing pen. I then repeat the process two or three times. When I'm confident I have the final draft, and that there are no glaring errors, I ask the LSO to check it through one final time.

When I'm revising I'm looking for any of the following: spelling and grammatical errors; repetition; awkward sentences or dialogue; elements that don't move the story forward or do not make sense; and over-writing.

Talli Roland asked, 'Do you drink? And if so, how much is too much?'

I don't drink often because I'm intolerant to yeast - wine and whiskey make me sick. So, if I do drink it has to be pure spirits, like vodka. As I'm only 5ft and not overweight, it wouldn't take any more than three drinks to get me drunk.

Margo Benson asked, 'What were your favourite childhood books?'

There are two that stand out, The Tales of Olga da Polga by Michael Bond and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. In my teens I loved anything by Stephen King.

Chantal asked, 'When did you become interested in science fiction?'

I cannot remember the exact age, but certainly before the age of eleven I became obsessed with science fiction TV shows such as Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Dr. Who. Films such as ET, Star Wars, and Close Encounter of the Third Kind fascinated me. I remember asking for the Millennium Falcon and Storm Troopers for Christmas, but being given a Sindy doll. Girls were not given toys for boys!

Alex J. Cavanaugh asked, 'What's your favorite science fiction movie AND favorite horror film?'

After much thought and hair pulling, I decided the two films I would want with me on a desert island are Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Thing.

welcome to my world of poetry asked, 'My question is did you like writing at school or did you become interested in it as you got older?'

I had no inclination towards writing before I left school. In fact, all my primary school reports pointed to some who had little grasp of spelling, punctuation and grammar. My standard of English did improve in secondary school though and I moved to the top set. But I did love to tell stories and was often classed as having an over-active imagination and being a chatterbox. It wasn't until much later in life that I realised I could tell those stories through the written word.

Elena Solodow asked, 'What is your favorite word?'

I think this was the toughest question. My answer, which could be different tomorrow, is discombobulate, which means to disconcert or confuse.

Melissa asked, 'If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?'

I would have to say my hometown of Exmouth because it's where all my family and friends live. Now if I could live anywhere in the Solar System, I'd like to be one of the first settlers on Mars. Can you imagine how challenging, dangerous, and thrilling it would be?

Tony Benson asked, 'So, my question is this. Imagine you're sitting on a mountain, watching a dramatic sunset. Where are you?'

I'm going to cheat a little, because I'd be at the Erte Ale volcano in Ethiopia. Oh and Professor Brian Cox would be there to answer all my scientific questions.

Jen Daiker asked, 'If you were trapped on an island with me what would you do to keep me entertained?'

Assuming we're trapped on an island with plenty of food, so I wouldn't need to kill you to survive, I would tell you the plot to Dreaming of Sleep. But then I would need to kill you . . .

Well today's questions and answers are finished, and I feel exhausted. I'll be back on Sunday, refreshed and with the other winners and answers.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Dear Author - A Rongdoers Special

Over at You're Write. Except when your rong, Elena Solodow has posted another of her fill in the blanks letters. If you have time pop over to her blog and have a go; the letters can be quite amusing.

Here is mine (my words are in italics):

Dear Author,

I am writing in response to your suggestion Mr. Shatner should play the lead in Trek Stars. While I’m sure he would be flattered you thought of him for the part, as his agent, I really don’t think he should play another captain of a starship or that you can be sure Paramount will not sue when they notice the similarity between Trek Stars and Star Trek.

This is a subjective business, you know, and it’s really important to come up with something original, which clearly you haven’t.

While this may seem like a huge kick in the teeth, please remember Mr. Shatner will normally take any role offered to him and will happily consider anything else you have to offer.

Oh, and a level two diagnostic does not include cleaning the engine manifolds. Thank you.



Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Thank you and Dark & Stormy Blogfest Revisited

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in the Top Ten Movie Quotes Blogfest, my 200th Followers Q and A Competition, and those who gave me much needed feedback on the first line of my horror novel, The Devil’s Song. On Friday I will post the answers to half the questions you posed for the competition and announce two of the winners, and then repeat the process for the remaining questions and winners on Sunday.

Now back to the It Was A Dark and Stormy Blogfest. Whenever a writer asks for feedback they are laying themselves open to both positive and critical comments. You will note I did not say positive and negative comments. Why? I do not see criticism as a negative thing.

To have something you’ve invested a lot of time and energy in criticised is painful; you cannot get away from that fact. But it does not have to be a negative experience. Writers are a selfless group of individuals who will always give advice along with the criticism, and you should listen. These writers who you seek an opinion from may one day be your readers and, right now, many of them will have considerably more experience than you. They know what works and what doesn’t. They know what they want to read.

From the comments I received during the last two days, I was able to list the reasons why the reviewers felt the opening line did not work and also what about it was worth saving. The reasons were varied and included:

Too long.
Too many adjectives and adverbs.
Clunky and purple prose.
Not enough of a hook.
Needing more tension and malevolence.
Passive verbs.
Clich├ęd opening.
Overuse of ‘that’.
Good character name and imagery.
Intriguing opening.
Use of crows a good foreshadowing device.

So, after careful consideration, I rewrote the opening line:

Morwenna was not sure which had awoken her, the noise of her notebook dropping to the floor or the incessant cacophony of the crows surrounding the cottage.

But I was still unhappy with it. I wanted an opening line with more of a hook. So, I decided to cut the second and third paragraphs from the prologue and go straight to the point where the reader learns what evil force the crows are foreshadowing:

Morwenna covered her ears in a futile attempt to block out the noise of the murderous chorus of crows surrounding the cottage. She knew their incessant cries were a warning – Lucian King was back.

Okay. Neither of these lines (two in the second re-write) have yet convinced me they are worthy openers but I hope I am on the right path. I would be very grateful to learn whether you think either of these is an improvement on the first.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Dark and Stormy Blogfest

Before I show you the first line to my horror novel, The Devil’s Song, I must make a confession and apologise. When I signed up for The Dark and Stormy Blogfest (hosted by the wonderful Brenda Drake) I committed the cardinal sin – I didn't read all the rules. The first line must come from a finished manuscript and The Devil’s Song is nowhere near finished.

So, my entry is not eligible for the competition prizes. But as I’d already posted my name on the linky, I thought I might as well give you my first line and seek some feedback. I hope none of you will think me rude and be assured I will be checking all the rules before I sign up for another blogfest.

To help you judge my first line, here is a little background to The Devil’s Song:

Kristi and Warwick Black don't have the perfect marriage. But Kristi believes their love for one another is strong enough to survive leaving their jobs and moving to an isolated house in the countryside, so that she can immerse herself in the tranquil setting and begin her writing career. But as morning dawns on her first day at The Old Mill and a myriad of crows begin their devilish chorus, Kristi discovers she has failed to do her research. Before purchasing The Old Mill and adjacent rental cottage, she was told novelist Morwenna Maddox died there some 30 years earlier, but she was not told how Maddox died and soon a force more evil than she can imagine is unleashed.

With only a local historian, who is still in love with the dead novelist, and a policeman who seems too keen help her, Kristi begins to suspect that no-one is who they first appear to be, including her husband. She must discover the truth of what really happened to Morwenna Maddox if she is to survive another morning chorus.
Here is the first line of the prologue:

Morwenna was not sure which had awoken her, the noise of her notebook dropping to the wooden floor or the cacophony of crows that cawed their strange and unmelodic morning chorus amongst the trees that surrounded the cottage.

What to you think? Does it make a good opening line? Is there enough of a hook? Are there too many words starting with the letter C?

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Top Ten Horror/Science Fiction Movie Quotes Blogfest

In space no one can hear you scream . . .but in blogland they can. Turn on your 50-inch televisions and 9.1 surround sound system, pour yourself a drink and begin munching on the popcorn, because iZombie and I bring you the Top Ten Horror/Science Fiction Movie Quotes Blogfest.

Cue studio credits and suitable music (John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith). Then the obligatory drum roll . . .

Here are my top ten quotes:

10. “Not for me! Not for me!” Riddick.
Pitch Black (2000).

You’ll need to watch the film to understand the dialogues significance, as I don’t want to give away the ending.

9. “I was wondering when El Capitan was gonna get a chance to use his popgun.”
The Thing (1982).

A true classic of the horror/science fiction genre.

8. “Redrum. Redrum. Redrum.” Danny Torrance
The Shining (1980).

Who wasn’t freaked out by this line of dialogue?

7. “You sold a reverberating carbonizer with mutate capacity to an unlicensed cephalopoid, Jeebs, you piece of shit.” Agent K

Men in Black (1997).

He sold what?

Rumour has it Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith have signed for Men in Black III. I hope it’s true.

6. “He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him! I'll chase him 'round the moons of Nibia and 'round the Antares Maelstrom and 'round Perdition's flames before I give him up!” Khan
Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (1982)

Wrath of Khan ranks in my top five films of all times and Ricardo Montalban was superb as Kirk’s nemesis.

5. “Khaaannnn!” Admiral James T. Kirk
Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (1982)

Do I need to say any more?

4. “I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die.” Roy Batty
Bladerunner (1982)

This piece of dialogue speaks for itself (excuse the pun).

3. “We'd better get back, 'cause it'll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night... mostly.” Newt
Aliens (1986)

The line of dialogue my other half and I repeat more than any other.

2. “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” Colonel George Taylor

Planet of Apes (1968)

I never bore of this film and the ending is probably the greatest in film history.

1. “What does God need with a starship?” Captain James T. Kirk
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

Well. Did you expect me to end with anything other than Captain Kirk? A classic and hilarious line of dialogue.

Please don’t forget to view the other participants!

Friday, 4 February 2011

A Trip To The Bookstore

Yesterday I went to our nearest city and spent an hour in Waterstones. Like a lot of readers I buy most of my books from Amazon because they are cheaper, but occasionally I will buy one or two from an independent bookstore or a high street chain - I see it as doing my bit to keep high street bookstores open.

Whilst I was distracted by the pleasure of choosing a couple of new science fiction books (I opted for Arthur C. Clarke's Randezvous With Rama and Childhood's End) I noticed something about the two genres I am currently writing in - horror and science fiction - that made me stop and question my choices: Waterstones had five mods of shelving for science fiction and only half a mod for horror. What does that say about the two genres and how they fare in the book-selling world? Was this just peculiar to Waterstones? And as an aspiring author what does it say about my chances of being published? Should I even be worried about this?

In effort to answer these questions I visited my local branch of WHSmiths and found they had just one mod for science fiction and horror, which was what I expected from a retailer that until recently devoted two mods to what I call Misery Lit (i.e. A Child Called It). I then visited two local independent bookstores and found one had two mods for science fiction and one shelf for horror - around the same proportions as Waterstones - and the other several shelves of science fiction and only Stephen King and Dean Koontz available for horror.

Are there more authors writing science fiction than horror or are there less publishers prepared to publish horror? Does science fiction sell better than horror? As someone who works on the book department for a supermarket chain, I can tell you that I have never seen an adult science fiction book for sale in our chart. But on the odd occasion we have sold a horror novel, it has sold extremly well. It makes me wonder what else would sell if they just took the chance.

Have you ever stopped to assess the shelf-space and range of authors stocked by your local bookstores? What did you find? With the range of online bookstores, ebooks and the plethora of self-promotion the internet now offers, do you even consider this a topic worth worrying about?

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

February Femmes Fatales

I am thrilled to announce I will be taking part in Lily Child's February Femmes Fatales. Throughout the month of February, Lily will be showcasing the very best work of 14 female writers. As anyone who follows Lily's blog and her writing will know, the short stories and poetry featured will be of a dark nature. As she put it in her email to me, 'dangerous, beautiful and disturbing tickles my fancy.'

My short story, Passing Time, was written specifically for this event and will appear on the 21st February. Please take the time to read all the entries, two of which have already been posted. Some of the writers I know and others I'm looking forward to reading for the first time.

February's Femmes Fatales are:

Now a couple of reminders - don't forget to enter my 200 Followers Q and A Competition and that this coming Sunday is the Top Ten Horror/Science Fiction Movie Quotes Blogfest.