Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It's not you ...

I've started and deleted this post so many times it's getting ridiculous so I'm just going to say it. I have some stuff that I have to do that I thought would take a few days but is actually going to take a few weeks. It also needs my full attention, which it isn't getting at the moment. So, I'm taking a break from blogging. I think for at least a couple of months, I'm not sure exactly yet. Let me be clear, I'm not 'burnt out' or bored, or tired of blogging. It's that I still, after more than a year, haven't learnt how to manage my time effectively.

For those of you who I promised Musical Impressions to in May, I'm really very sorry and I'll be in touch when I get back to see if you're still interested. I'll be taking a complete break from the internet for a week or so, but then I'll be back to reading some of my favourite blogs, so you won't get rid of me that easily!

To all of you, thank you for making this the most fun I could ever have with my clothes on. I'll truly miss you. I felt it was only right that I should leave you with a song. This song is dedicated to everyone but especially those who are old enough to remember Lenny before Cinna was even thought of .

Take care guys, love you.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M: Magical Words

Blogging from A to Z: M

I'm falling behind on visiting people's blogs, but hoping to catch up over the next few days, so please forgive me if I haven't visited you for a little while. I'll get there, I promise!

This video is a little longer than I've been putting up for the challenge, but I hope you'll have time to listen to it. Whether you agree with Mr Fry or not, there's no denying his love of language, and it's a joy to listen to him speak. I first heard this when someone left a link to it in my comments. I'm afraid I can't remember who it was. If it was you, please let me know so I can credit you!

Friday, April 13, 2012

L: Light of Love

Blogging from A to Z: L

We have music over here every Friday and I don't see why we should change that just because of the challenge. Usually there's some sort of writing slant to the music I choose, but April is a writing holiday (you may have noticed this from my previous, distinctly non-writing related, posts). That's why the song I've chosen today is for no other reason than I love it :-)


Thursday, April 12, 2012

K: Kitties

Blogging from A to Z: K

Depending on your point of view, one of the greatest - or worst - things that the internet has brought us is the invention of the LolCats. Actually, that's not quite true.

Harry Pointer, a Brighton photographer, did a bit of lolcatting himself in the 1870's.

Okay, so it might take another 140 years or so before anybody put a bit of effort into the captions but it's true what they say; there really is nothing new under the sun.

All images taken from Harry Pointer's Brighton cats page where you can see plenty more if you so desire :-)

(Images removed).

(I know, I know, but I wanted something silly after my slightly grumpy mood yesterday. I can't promise my posts are going to get any less silly either, at least not during April!)

ETA: I just found this video, and had to add it :-)

J: Job-hunting

Blogging from A to Z: J

Sorry this is late. Something came up yesterday that took longer than expected. Also, I'm not trying to insult anyone, especially teens, (I have two hard-working ones of my own), with this. I'm just fed up with being seen as inferior. Apologies. I'm not feeling very funny today. I'll come back with something better for K, I promise!

Five reasons prospective employers don't like me.

1. I'm too old
That's very short-sighted of them, considering that next month I will be The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything. That's got to make me worth having on staff, surely?

2. I'm over-qualified.
It may look like it, after I went back to school to get my degree a few years ago. But honestly, a general sociology/social psychology degree doesn't actually qualify me to work in those fields without further study, which won't be happening.

3. I haven't had much experience in the past ten years.
I know I've only had one job, but I do have five years of study and a set of well adjusted twin daughters. It's not like I've been sitting around doing nothing.

4. Hiring a teen is cheaper.
Probably, but you know when you and your friend each buy a kettle, and she buys an expensive top-quality one whilst you buy the cheap one? You're on your fourth cheap kettle by the time she needs to replace hers, and it's cost you a lot more than her in the long run. Do I need to say any more?

5. I haven't worked in this field before.
I'm smart. I can learn to operate a cash-register, stack a shelf or greet a customer in the corporate manner fairly quickly. I already know how to write a letter using real words, and answer a telephone using words of more than one syllable. That should count for something.

One more thing, prospective employer. I should thank you. Your policy of 'no response means no' may be irritating but at least it's preparing me for the industry I'd really like to enter. Apparently, they are masters of it :-) Don't worry though. If you hire me, you'll never know there's something else I'd rather be doing. As long as you never find my blog ;-)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I: Imagination

Blogging from A to Z: I

I couldn't work out a way to embed this onto my blog, but please go look at it. You'll be glad you did.
I had this on my blog a long time ago but, even if you've seen it before, it's worth reminding yourself of why we do this thing we do :-)

Born Like an Artist

Monday, April 9, 2012

H: Harlequin

Blogging from A to Z: H

I was whining to  discussing with my daughters the fact that I didn't have a great word for H. Thirty minutes later this picture turned up in my email in-box. I love the school Easter holiday :-)

Copyright: My Daughter :-)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G: Grab this book

Michael Offutt: Slipstream

Today's title is the most tenuous of links to this post but it's there, (and the book is green), so I think we're covered. I don't care anyway, I'm just so excited to be writing this post.

Michael Offutt wrote a book which was due out in May. He has a blog tour set up for May and everything. I really really want this book and, luckily for me, my birthday is in May – neat plan huh? Well, he went and ruined my plan by releasing the book. It's okay, I'm going to buy it anyway, there's no way I'm waiting until May. From what I gather, everyone who has read it thinks it's amazing. This is the blurb:

Jordan Pendragon is crazy good at fixing situations that have gone bad. It's a talent prized by his high school ice hockey team. However, when a car accident puts Jordan in the hospital, he wakes up with more than just an amazing slapshot in his toolbox. Jordan can manipulate space-time and in just a few weeks, he'll depend on it to save his life. 

When earthlings detonated the first atomic bomb in 1945, something incredible happened. The detonation triggered an extinction level event on a parallel world. A computer program saved humanity and became the ruler of this place. However, its brilliant mind fragmented and became insane. 

Jordan's power strands him in this nightmare universe. To get home, he becomes a professional in a sport where athletes are killed to boost network ratings. To survive, he discovers that the most broken among us can be fixed and that love is unpredictable. Near the end, he also learns a startling truth about his own birth. If he fails to fix the computer’s insanity, both Earth and this sister world are doomed

I nabbed that from Goodreads, as I didn't tell Michael I was writing this post but I'm hoping he won't mind :-)

I should warn you, from what Michael and others have said, this is a book that doesn't shy away from tackling dark themes and tough issues. It's not a frothy romance that's for sure. Of course, that just makes me want to read it even more :-)

Congratulations Michael, I hope the book is a huge success.

Buy it from:

Friday, April 6, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E: Elephant

Blogging from A to Z: E

You're either going to think this is as funny as I do, or you're going to think I'm nuts. Either is fine.

Nobody wanted to be the one to mention it. Well, they never do, do they? It's that thing, the thing that nobody talks about. Our family secret. The obvious, that nobody states.

Leave it to Grandma to break the unspoken code. She doesn't do tact.

“Marjorie!” She bellowed at my mother, in that special decibel level that old people who are deaf but won't admit it, use.
“Marjorie, why is there a bloody great elephant in the living room?”

Denise Covey over at L'Aussie Writer has been kind enough to feature me today in her Bloggers Were Children Too! series. Check out seven-year-old me :-)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D: Dejection

Blogging from A to Z: D
Insecure Writer's Support Group 7

I could write a post much longer than you would want to read about dejection but, as it's the first Wednesday in the month, let's stick to it as it pertains to writing.

One of the simplest definitions of dejection is 'lowness of spirit'. I'm not talking about depression, that's something very different. Dejection is that feeling where everything seems grey. The words that seemed absolutely fantastic yesterday now appear less interesting than a telephone directory. Or, and this is the one that's plaguing me right now, the idea you had that you thought was so brilliant and innovative just seems ridiculous and implausible.

I've learned that when I feel like this I'm not a good judge of whether something is working or not. If you feel dejected, often everything seems wrong and it's hard to tell the good from the bad. The one thing that works for me is editing. If I focus on looking for grammar and punctuation mistakes, I can tell myself that the quality of the words aren't important right now, they're not my focus. When the mood passes, as it always does, I can more accurately judge what I've written.

How do you deal with dejection?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C: Courage

Blogging from A to Z: C

"Come to the edge."
"We can't. We're afraid."
"Come to the edge."
"We can't. We will fall!"
"Come to the edge."
And they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.
Guillaume Apollinaire

Are you courageous?

Monday, April 2, 2012

B: Blame

Blogging from A to Z: B
Note: The video below was made over two years ago.

(Five pictures of Mr Jackson and guns removed).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A: Anniversary

Blogging from A to Z : A

Even though I've thought of, and discarded, several themes for the A to Z challenge, the one post that I never had any doubts about was the first one.

It's one year ago today that I started blogging. I spent weeks following other blogs before finally jumping in so I'll never know why I picked April Fool's day to start, but I did so today is my anniversary :-)

In the past year I've finished another three first drafts, experimented with flash fiction, let other people read my work and written 118 posts.

More important than all that though, I've made friends. People I care about . People who I visit and who visit me. I've continued discussions over email, received support when I've needed it – sometimes from the most unexpected sources – and hopefully, offered support of my own.

What I'm trying to say is thank you. Thank you for making this blogging lark so much fun :-)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Musical Impressions 3: Patsy Collins

I told you today's Musical Impression was a special celebration didn't I? That's because Patsy Collins today became a published novelist, and I'm so happy to be able to help her celebrate.

For those of you that don't know Patsy, (and even if you do), here is a brief introduction to her. I swear, this is my favourite video on youtube. Watch it if you're down, I defy you not to smile!

 Now, on to the story. Constructive criticism not needed on this one because it's OUT TODAY! (I may have mentioned this already). There are two songs again this week, one that was just made for this story, and one which, as Patsy herself says, pretty much sums up how Leah feels about both the men in her life at different times.

Amazon USA Paperback  Amazon USA Kindle
Amazon UK Paperback    Amazon UK Kindle

Escape to the Country
Leah is accused of a crime she didn't commit. Dumped by Adam, the man she planned to marry, she escapes to Aunt Jayne's smallholding in the Kent village of Winkleigh Marsh. Heartbroken and homeless, she strives to clear her name and deal with her emotions.
Jayne treats Leah's unhappiness with herbal remedies, cowslip wine and common sense in equal measure. In return Leah works hard for the delicious home-cooked meals they share. She wrestles with sheep, breaks nails and gets stuck in the mud - learning as much about herself as she does about farming. Soon Leah is happy milking cows, mucking out pigs and falling halfway in love with Duncan, a dishy tractor driver.
Back in London, steps are being taken to investigate what's happened to the missing money. It looks as though the real embezzler must soon be unmasked and Leah will have to chose between resuming her old life or starting a new one.
That's when her problems really start.

Lyrics here

 Lyrics here

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Catching up

I've been quiet this week. I'd like to say it's because I've been preparing my A-Z challenge posts but, uh, no. (More on that in a moment). I have been trying to get a few things wrapped up before the mayhem begins on Sunday though. I watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last week and it was enough to get me started reading the trilogy I've had since Christmas. I finished the last one last night and, although I thought they could have done with a serious edit, (really I don't care about all the specs of Lisbeth's laptop, just tell me it was 'top-of-the-range), I was hooked enough to read them one after the other. Yeah, that's my review.

I also went to see The Hunger Games at the cinema with the girls on Tuesday. I thought the last time I went to the cinema was to see Rugrats go Wild but the girls reminded me that I took them to see Nanny McPhee. That was in 2005, so going on Tuesday was a big deal. I would happily have waited for the DVD but it was lovely for the three of us to do something together. I was pleasantly surprised that, including us, there were only twelve people watching. I don't do well in crowds, so that helped me relax. As for the film, I thought it was okay. My biggest disappointment was the scene with the dogs. I'll say no more because of spoilers, but you probably know what I mean. On the plus side, there was nobody who I thought shouldn't have been playing the part they had. The stand-out for me was the girl playing Clove. I thought she was fantastic.

I had a great deal of trouble choosing a theme for the A to Z challenge so I'm going with … no theme. Big surprise, huh? I've got a few things written for other themes I was going to do (flash fiction, eighties stuff), so I'll still use those, but sometimes it might be pictures or other bits and pieces I've found. The only thing that hasn't changed since I signed up is the first post – it's a very easy one for me :-)

I've sent off the first chapter of one of the stories I'm revising to two different people for a critique. I'm plodding on with the rest of the work, so I'm happy with how that's going. I've also had an awesome idea for a new story, but I'm not quite sure how it's going to work, so I've written some notes and am just waiting for it to ferment some more.

To the nice people who have been inviting me to Google+ this week, I'm not ignoring you, I'm not on Google +. Thanks for asking though :-)

There will be a Musical Impression tomorrow, it's a special celebration one, so I hope you come back and share a friend's good news!

How has your week been?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Musical Impressions 2: Jaycee Delorenzo

This week's Musical Impression is for a new friend of mine, Jaycee DeLorenzo. She already has a great playlist  on her blog for this story, which you can find here. The songs I've chosen today are a bit different from those but hopefully, she'll think they work!

You might note I said 'songs' and not 'song'. Yes, second week in and I'm breaking my 'one song' rule, but it was so hard trying to decide between Ivy and Ian's voice that I thought it was only fair they should both get a say. Also, I think the lyrics of these two work really well together :-)

Constructive criticism welcome.

The Truths About Dating and Mating

Spunky Italian girl Ivy Rossini loves to talk and push the boundaries. She gets to do both alongside her best friend, reputed bad boy, Ian Hollister, as they host The Truths about Dating and Mating, a sex-edutainment program for Riordan College's radio station. For Ivy, Ian has always been like an overprotective big brother - but that's about to change with a near kiss. With the memory of the moment fresh in her mind, she finds herself aroused by his slightest touch and fantasizing about finding out for herself what those girls on campus mean when they say he's an "intense lover." 

Ivy has always been Ian's one ray of sunshine, the only girl who really sees beyond his bad boy reputation. It's only fair he protect her from the typical jerks around campus, or so he tells himself. But when he sees her in a steamy embrace with another guy, he's forced to reconcile the sexy, confident woman she's become, with the "little-sister" he's always looked out for. 

With their friendship hanging in the balance, can they follow the advice they give their listeners to communicate, be honest, and trust in themselves - and each other - or will foolish pride ruin their fledgling relationship before it even gets off the ground?

Lyrics here

Lyrics here

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Things other people are doing

Today was supposed to be the day I answered some of those questions I got tagged with, but I've got a few bits and pieces that I wanted to pass on, so you'll have to wait until next week to find out what my favourite colour is :-)

Hands up if you're doing the A -Z challenge? Now, keep your hand up if you haven't got all your posts together yet. Well, if you need a hand with the letter P on 17th April, Madeleine Maddocks of Scribble and Edit is running the Plotting Blogfest. (It's open to pantsers too!). So if you've got any tips or hints to share, and a post shaped hole on that day, go here for details and sign up.

If your brain is already overloaded trying to get those posts ready for next month, L. Diane Wolfe from Spunk on a Stick is running the Sad Songs Blogfest on Friday 30th March. We all have those songs that move us, or threaten to break our heart. Here's where you can sign up to share them with everyone else!

Finally, Unicorn Bell is running 'A Picture Paints 1000 Words'. Go here to sign up, and between 26-28 March post a story of 1000 words or less inspired by one of the ten pictures shown. There are prizes for this one, too!

One more thing before I sneak off to bed with my dragon-tattooed girl, a blogging friend of mine, Kayeleen Hamblin, from Kayeleen's Creation Corner announced today that her husband Greg has left the writing closet and is joining us all in the light. He has a brand new blog, so if you have a couple of minutes, it would be great if you could drop by The Gregwriter and say hello :-)  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lucky 7

I've been tagged for the Lucky 7 meme by Medeia Sharif and Traci Kenworth.

I'm sure you all know the rules by now but, just in case:
  1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WiP
  2. Go to line 7
  3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences or paragraphs, and post them as they're written.
  4. Tag 7 authors.

My current WiP has a huge spoiler on page 77 and, as I'm hoping a few of you might want to read it after the A to Z challenge, I decided to go with the other one that I keep going back to revise bits of. The working title is The Bad Mother, but that's only because I have absolutely no idea what to call it.

Beth took both of Amalia's hands in her own.

“Listen to me, maybe it's time to let go. Get on with your own life. Yes, it's sad that some women don't get to have babies but maybe we have to look at the bigger picture. Society works pretty well the way things are.”

Amalia was aghast.

 “Beth, I can't believe you're saying these things. You were as horrified as I am when you found out about all this. I thought Matthew was getting somewhere, however slowly.”
“He is, and that's what worries me. What if all this comes crashing down on his head. Is it worth it?”
“Yes.” said Amalia firmly.

So, there you have it. As clear as mud :-)

I love reading snippets of people's work, but I know lots of you have done this aleady, so if you'd like to take part, consider yourself tagged!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Musical Impressions 1: Tania Walsh

This week's Musical Impression is for a story by Tania Walsh of T. F. Walsh. If you don't know this blog, you should check it out; she has a fantastic series on mythical creatures. Thank you so much Tania, I hope you enjoy it.

When I received this entry I knew exactly what song I was going to pick and I've stuck with it all week – until last night. Yes, as is (apparently) a woman's prerogative, I changed my mind at the last minute. I hope you enjoy what I've chosen. I think it captures the spirit of what the lead character is feeling in this story, but I'd love to know your views. Love it? Hate it? Have a better suggestion?

Constructive criticism welcome.


YA Fantasy/Mythology

Joking about someone's death at school and then having it come true is never a good thing. Now minus her friends who are scared of her, Leev's life just got worse - a wraith turned up on her doorstep. She's dragged into a terrifying spirit realm where black swans dive bomb from the air, hungry to steal your eyes, where wolves the size of horses wear harnesses, and where beautiful necromancers control wild spirits to do their bidding.

Leev learns that Valkyrie blood courses through her veins, and she is appointed as a mighty Mist. Like all the females in her family, she must collect the spirits of dead heroes and guide them safely to Valhalla. 

A cinch, especially since Leev can sense which hero will die next and delivers them before her collection memo is even issued. But when her death-senses point next to her firefighter dad, she struggles to accept his destiny, and sets out on a mission to save him, even if means breaking all the rules.

However things just got complicated. Her ability is unique and drawing the wrong kind of attention. A demi-god and powerful necromancer both set their sights on her soul, drawing Leev into a deadly cat and mouse game. 

And the stakes are higher than Leev could have ever imagined.

Lyrics here

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Behind the Curtain of the Magic Appreciation Tour

You may remember me telling you about Daniel Marvello's Magic Appreciation Tour a while back. I asked Daniel to come and tell us how it was going once it had been running for a few weeks as it's a model I'm interested in, and that I think may work for other genres. So, here he is :-)

I met Sarah through Rachael Harrie's Platform Building Campaign last year and we've stayed in contact since then. The Campaign was supposed to help us make new friends and build a following, and I must say it accomplishes that goal. Thanks for inviting me to guest post on your blog, Sarah!
Sarah asked me to share my experiences with an experiment I started a couple of months ago called the Magic Appreciation Tour and Book Sale. The "MA Tour" is a Web site dedicated to magical fantasy books and authors, and I'm "the man behind the curtain."

Why the Magic Appreciation Tour?
The idea for the MA Tour came about one day while I was thinking about unobtrusive ways to market my book. I needed to find a way to get my book in front of readers. However, every social network I'm involved with takes a dim view of self-promotion. As Joe Konrath says, "It's about what you have to offer, not what you have to sell." I didn't want to be that guy who never shuts up about asking people to buy his book.
While researching marketing options, I found an interesting site called the 99-Cent Network. However, the site has no particular market focus and finding books in a specific genre was painful. Their registration form didn't even have "fantasy" as a category! I was going to give them a try anyway after my book was done, but they switched to a paid model almost the day I registered. They wanted $25 per month to put my book on their site. At 99 cents, I'd have to sell 72 books every month just to break even on their fees. Scratch that idea!
What I needed was a place to offer my book that was specifically oriented toward the audience I wanted to reach, in my case, fantasy readers. It comes down to basic marketing theory: identify your audience and then find ways to reach them. I had no luck finding such a place, so I decided to create my own.

Creating a Venue
I knew I was in for an uphill battle. Attracting an audience to a brand new Web site takes effort and time. But I'm in this writing thing for the long haul. It's not like my book was traditionally published and has just six weeks to sell or be taken off shelves. It's out there and it will stay out there. Plus, more books are coming, and by the time they do, the MA Tour may have gathered some steam.
The basic premise of the site is that it is a resource for readers to find fantasy books. But not just any fantasy books. Taking marketing theory a step further, I narrowed the focus to books that contain magic (like mine.)  
I wanted the book listing page to reflect the best attributes of the book sites I've visited. The cover thumbnails are generous, a short blurb is right there next to the cover, and links are provided for readers who want to learn more about the author or buy the book. The author page lists all of the authors with a photo and bio, and it includes links to their blogs and books. I'm very happy with how quickly a reader can size up a book and then take action to learn more or buy.
But I needed more believers like me. I set up a basic Web site and started calling for authors through Twitter, Facebook, and Google-Plus. My efforts brought in a few authors, and those authors brought in more authors. I'm pleased to say we now have 19 authors and 30 books. That may not sound like a lot, but I think it's a great start.

How Authors "Tour"
In the spirit of the Platform Building Campaign and the various blog tour services, the "tour" aspect of the Magic Appreciation Tour is designed to help authors network with one another and share audiences. It has two tools to facilitate this: the author page itself, and the Post Exchange.
The author page is not only a resource for readers, but for authors as well. Authors can quickly see who else is touring and click links to visit their blogs. Like the Platform Campaign, we can follow each other and comment on posts to show support.
The Post Exchange is essentially a blog tour dedicated to MA Tour authors. An author submits a blog post offer and requests a blog post in exchange. I match authors up according to the type of post they want to do, and connect them via email. Once the post goes live, I add a link to either the book listing or the author listing on the MA Tour site.
The relationship between the site and the author blogs is symbiotic from a search engine standpoint. Author blog links to the MA Tour site give it more authority, and the site's links back to them give them more authority. That relationship will only get more powerful over time.

How Are We Doing?
I'm pleased with how the MA Tour is progressing. We are only in our second week, and we've had 20 Post Exchange submissions, which translate to 40 blog post pairings. Our authors are meeting, networking, and sharing audiences.
I've personally made several new author friends, which makes me happy. Being a magical fantasy reader myself, I've enjoyed finding new books to read by the participating authors. You could say that I'm my own best customer!
I don't know about the other authors, but I've yet to see a bump in sales beyond those I know are going to other authors on the tour. But these are early days. Like books themselves, the site will take time to gain traction.

What's Next?
Judging from the stats, readers have not found us yet. But that isn't a surprise. The site is brand new and the benefits from touring are rarely immediate. This kind of marketing takes time to bear fruit. Also, I'm just getting started with spreading the word about the site at other places where fantasy readers gather. Telling readers about a free resource isn't the same thing as telling them to buy your book.
From a site standpoint, the next step will be automation. Everything from registration to the Post Exchange can be folded into a membership site where authors have full control over their listings and can pick-and-choose their own blog post pairings. Automation would also have the benefit of replacing the manual processes I'm doing now. I hand-code every book listing and author listing, and I'm managing the Post Exchange in an Excel spreadsheet at the moment.
At the same time, my wife has expressed interest in using the MA Tour model for other markets. Once the system is automated, it will be fairly easy to run multiple sites like the Magic Appreciation Tour.
Overall, I'm very pleased with how the site is working out. We have authors, we have books, and we have participation. The rest is just a matter of time and perseverance.
If you'd like to learn more about the Magic Appreciation Tour, visit the Web site at To learn more about Daniel Marvello, visit

Monday, March 12, 2012

Introducing ...

Before I start today's post I must give a quick shout out to my friend Mark Koopmans over at Aloha! He's running 'Got Green?' a blogfest in honour of St Patrick's Day. Sign ups began today but you have until the 16th to join in, before sharing your memories, dreams, or complete fiction about the Emerald Isle on the 17th, the day itself. Full details are here.

The results for the poll I ran a few weeks back are as follows:
Keep Musical Stories – 8 (18%)
Reduce to two songs – 5 (11%)
The 'synopsis' idea – 30  (68%)
I don't visit Fridays – 1     (2%)

Therefore, I'm very pleased (and more than a little nervous) to announce that Musical Stories has been replaced by Musical Impressions. Thank you to Golden Eagle at The Eagle's Aerial Perspective for the name. As soon as she suggested it I knew it was perfect.

Here is how it's going to work. I'd love it if you could email me a pitch, outline, synopsis, blurb, or whatever you prefer for one of your stories. This can be something you're working on, something that's finished or even something you just made up ten minutes ago. Every Friday, I'll take one (in the order they arrive) and select a song that I think matches your plot, theme or mood. They may not be 'exact matches', just something I think your work reminds me of.

You'll have a choice as to whether you would like your work critiqued or not, and whether you would like to remain anonymous, just let me know in the email.

Put Musical Impressions as the title of the email, then your outline either as the body, or an attachment. I'd like it if you can keep it to under 500 words but if you really can't, I'm not going to chuck it out :-)

I'm going to run this for the three Fridays left in March and decide what to do from there (in other words, if it's really really hard, I might have to think of something else!).

I hope this is clear, if not feel free to drop me an email or a comment. Also, this is an idea in progress so if you have any suggestions feel free to voice them. And someone, please send me something or I'm going to feel really silly!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Musical Stories Special Edition: The End

And so it ends. This special edition is the last chapter of my Musical Stories. I've been a bit self-indulgent this week, so I hope you'll forgive me but I'll get to that in a moment. We have three Fridays before The A-Z of Blogging begins, and I thought I'd use that time to try out the new series before I take a break. This could be absolutely brilliant, or I could fall flat on my face, but we'll see.

I was going to give you all the details here, but it made this post far too long, so I'll do that separately on Monday. If you're interested in taking part, all you need to do right now is have a short pitch or query, whatever you like, ready to email to me after Monday's post. It will be up to you whether or not you allow critiques. There's no word limit, but remember, shorter is usually better (leave me something to work with though!).

To end Musical Stories, (and I suppose to introduce the new feature, although there's no blurb), I decided to choose three songs that represent the story I'm currently revising right now. Like I said, self-indulgent, but I'm really excited about this project, (turns out I didn't hate revising, I was just working on the wrong story), and I want to share. Just for fun, see if you can guess what genre it is. And 1000th Monkey, you're not allowed to guess :-)

No explanations this week, just enjoy the music.  

Lyrics here

Lyrics here

 Lyrics here

Friday, March 9, 2012

Campaign Challenge 2

There will be a special edition of Musical Stories tomorrow morning, but I'm sneaking another extra post in this week, for the Campaigner Challenge.

I found this one very difficult, but I was determined to complete it. The original story was written very quickly - reducing it from 1100 words to less than 200, took hours!

I've used all five prompts in the following story, which is 199 words. For an added challenge it's the dystopian genre, which is new to me. (Although to be fair I couldn't come up with a story in any of my usual genres that the prompts would lend themselves to).

Also as an additional challenge I'm happy for anyone to offer any constructive criticism that would help me to improve. To be honest, I think the story has lost something in the word reduction, but rules are rules :-)

ETA: Forgot to add the link to Rachael's page, where you can view the prompts.
(I'm number 93)

He was obviously privileged, judging from his scarlet coat. Seeing him, after passing kids scrabbling through trash, made me want to scream.

Distraction made me careless so, when the flash came, I was flung off the bridge. I wasn't injured but I needed to get out of the water quickly. I swam to the support and climbed. The boy was there.
“Are you hurt?” I asked.
He pointed to a gash on his leg, nothing serious.
“Where do you live?”
“Nowhere. Men came and took Nana, 'cause she's a creator. I hid, but then I got lonely.”

The cabal. Because of them, the few remaining water creators were hidden, only helping family or the wealthy. The rest of us drank the stuff the daily flashes poisoned.

At home, after I'd cleaned his leg, he wanted water.
“Sorry kid.”
He grinned then grabbed an arid pear, balancing it on a wooden spoon.

As I stared, the pear vanished and a spray of pure water shot across the room.
“You're a creator? How? You're a kid.”
He shrugged.

The world was saved. I'd take him to the authorities, they could find others.

But what if they didn't?

I had water now.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group 6 - Rachel Morgan

Remember I told you that Rachel Morgan was visiting today? Well, as her visit co-incides with our monthly meeting of the IWSG, she very kindly agreed to talk about how her dream has changed. Hopefully, her words will be an inspiration for those of us who still have no clue what path we'll be taking :-)

Follow Your Dream -- Even If It Changes 

Two years ago I knew exactly what my writing dream was: get published by a major publishing house. Two years ago, when anyone asked me if I’d considered self-publishing, I politely said something along the lines of, “Uh, you know, that’s not really the way I want to go,” while inside I was thinking, Hell, no! I want to be a REAL writer! (Apparently, in my mind, you could only be a real writer if some big publisher said you could be. I didn’t actually know at that point that there were books I’d read and loved, like Eragon and The Shack, that were initially self-published.)

So what does this mean, two years down the line, now that I’m embarking on a self-published writing career? Does it mean I “failed”? Does it mean I gave up on my big dream?

No. It means my dream changed.

Seriously. I’m not just saying this! Yes, I may still query publishers in the future for as-yet-unwritten novels. Will I be excited if one gets accepted? Yes! Will I be excited if I can walk into a bookstore and see my own hardcover sitting on a shelf? Yes! But you know what else I’m super-duper excited about? Self-publishing the Creepy Hollow series. I am LOVING every step of this journey! (Okay, not the part where I had to apply for a US Tax ID number to blah blah blah boring story that has no end yet . . .) I love designing the covers, I love the formatting (yes, the formatting!) and interior design of ebooks, I loved organizing this blog tour, and researching marketing methods. Heck, even receiving an email attachment with a list of ISBN numbers was downright thrilling. You should have seen me: “I have ISBN numbers that belong to MEEE!!”

So what’s my bottom line here? Sometimes a dream grows and changes and transforms into something you never thought you’d be striving for. And that’s okay, because it doesn’t mean you failed your old dream. It just means you have new stars to reach for.

~  ~  ~

Rachel Morgan is the author of Guardian, the first novelette in the Creepy Hollow series. She was born in South Africa and spent a large portion of her childhood living in a fantasy land of her own making. These days, in between teaching mathematics to high school children, she writes fiction for young adults.

Buy Guardian from

The Creepy Hollow Series

Author Info

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rachel Morgan's Guardian

Rachel Morgan over at Rachel Morgan Writes is celebrating the release of her novelette today. I'm not usually a lover of faces on covers but I adore this one. How could I not, when my favourite colour is purple?

I'm delighted to announce that Rachel will be visiting here on Wednesday, but for now let her tell you about the book.

Today the Creepy Hollow series kicks off with the release of the first story, GUARDIAN.
GUARDIAN introduces readers to the magical world of Creepy Hollow, a realm where fae creatures both safe and definitely-not-so-safe dwell. Things are cool as long the fae stick to their own realm. It's when they find their way into the human world that things start going wrong...

1. Receive assignment.
2. Save a life.
3. Sleep.
4. Repeat.

Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day’s work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone—she’s about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years. That is, until one of her assignments—a human boy who shouldn’t even be able to see her—follows her into the fae realm. Now she’s broken Guild Law, a crime that could lead to her expulsion.

The last thing Vi wants to do is spend any more time with the boy who got her into this mess, but the Guild requires that she return Nate to his home and make him forget everything he’s discovered of the fae realm. Easy, right? But Nate and Vi are about to land themselves in even bigger trouble—and it’ll take all Vi’s training to get them out alive.

Buy from Amazon US
Buy from Amazon UK
Buy from Smashwords

The Creepy Hollow Series

Author Info

To find out more about the series, the author, and the characters, check out the blog tour that’s happening over the next two weeks.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Musical Stories 30: Romance

So here it is, the last official issue of Musical Stories. I'll do a couple of special editions over the next couple of weeks and then we'll be moving on to our new feature, which I still don't have a name for. (Any suggestions welcome!). I'll be doing a post all about it soon, and asking for volunteers to submit, so watch out for that.

It seems fitting that we're ending with romance. After all, isn't love supposed to make the world go round? Whether you believe that or not, I hope you find something to enjoy amongst this week's selections.

The first story has been sitting on two lists for a while, this one and YA. I've included it today because I don't care how old you are, when you feel it you feel it. Boy, does this guy feel it!

The second one, perhaps as a counterpoint to the first, is proof that romance isn't the province of the young. True love is what remains when that first flush, that 'I-can't-bear-to-be-away-from-you' wears off.

The final entry for Musical Stories is one that is very special to me. It's not 'my' song, it doesn't remind me of anyone or anything in my past, I just think it is one of the most beautiful songs ever written, and although I've heard it sung by many different people, this is the singer I think does it best. This is another one of those songs that I have avoided using because I didn't think it told a full story but, thanks to Denise Covey at L'Aussie Writer I have the answer. It's a vignette. Denise says (and I hope you don't mind me quoting directly from your blog Denise):

"Vignette" is a word that originally meant 'something that may be written on a vine-leaf.' It's a snapshot in words. It differs from flash fiction or a short story in that its aim doesn't lie within the traditional realms of structure or plot.
(Originally from The Vine Leaves Literary Journal).

Thank you all for sharing my Musical Stories with me, and for all your comments and suggestions.

 Lyrics here

Lyrics here

Lyrics here

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Counting words with Annalisa Crawford

That was some party yesterday, wasn't it? No time for hangovers though, I have to clean up around here. *Sweeps confetti under the rug*. I've got a guest!

It's my absolute pleasure to welcome Annalisa Crawford from Wake up, eat, write, sleep to my blog today. (If she added 'blog' to that title, she'd have my whole life!) Annalisa's novella, Cat and the Dreamer was released on 14 February. Here's what you want to know:

As a teenager, Julia survived a suicide pact, while her best friend Rachel died. Julia’s only escape from her guilt, and her mother’s over-protection, is her imagination. When Adam arrives in the office, Julia’s world takes a startling turn as she realises reality can be much more fun than fantasy. Finally she has someone who can help her make the most of her life. But can she allow herself to be truly happy?

Buy it here:

Now, take it away Annalisa!

Firstly, a big thank you to Sarah for inviting me over to her blog today. Posting on someone else’s blog is a bit like being inside your TV and looking out, slightly disconcerting but lots of fun.

Did you know that War and Peace has approximately 570k words (a Google search brings up varying counts – that’s an average), To Kill a Mockingbird has 99k, but The Color Purple only has 67k? I did - because I’ve previously Googled them (and before Google, I searched Yahoo!). I used to be obsessive about word counts. In fact before the internet, I’d grab books from my shelves just to count words:

Average words on a line x number of pages – 1000 or so for empty spaces = The Word Count.

And then I’d compare the counts to my own novels, fall short and feel disappointed. Put your hand up if you recognise yourself in this… erm… please tell me I’m not the only one!

I also – still – buy books based on their thickness. There’s nothing better than seeing a short novel on the shelves: if they can get published at that length, so can I! I’ve found some wonderful books doing this, but I also realised they were the exception to the rule.
In an attempt to increase my word count, (unpublished novel #1 for example, started life at 23.250 words) I developed The Method, otherwise known as Write & Delete - a six-point plan to increase my wordage:

1. write your story, preferably longhand
2. type up the first draft, editing and developing as you go
3. print out and then delete the file (or move it to another part of your hard drive if you’re not brave enough to delete it completely – just don’t look at it anymore)
4. read the print-out, make notes, scribble all over it, huge chunks of prose should appear as if by magic
5. retype
6. return to #3, and repeat as many times as you choose.

BUT, WAIT… these days, is word count so important? Am I stressing about nothing?

When I wrote Cat and The Dreamer – the first version was written about seven years ago – I loved the story, I thought it was perfect, but I assumed it would never get published, solely based on the fact it was only 22,000 words – too long for a short story magazine, far too short for a novel.

Seven years ago, if you remember, was before the explosion of ereaders and ebooks. And when that explosion happened, people were suddenly clamouring for books to read on their Kindles. Now there are Nooks, iPads and smart phones too, the clamour has grown.  Can you imagine reading War & Peace on your smart phone?

Shorter pieces, it seems, are now much more desirable than they are when printing volume costs and unit costs have to be taken into consideration. Based on this, and after some thought-provoking comments on my blog, I pulled Cat and The Dreamer out of its drawer and submitted, and the rest is history!

It's taken me a long time to realise it, but in today's market size is not important. People are selling individual short stories of 2000 words, and making a name for themselves. Simply write the story you want to write, make it the best it can be, and there will be more of a market than you think!

Thank you so much to Annalisa for visiting, and for making me feel more hopeful about all my work that doesn't seem to fit any known word count! Do you think word count is still important? Or do you think 'anything goes' these days?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alex J. Cavanaugh and CassaFire

I've sneaked an extra post in today, but I know you won't mind when I tell you that it's for Alex Cavanaugh's newest release. I don't think there's anyone out there who doesn't know what an awesome guy Alex is, so here's hoping CassaFire is a huge success!

The blog tour for CassaFire began yesterday and will run through to March 9. Anyone who comments on any of Alex's posts during this time will be entered to win all the goodies shown in the picture, courtesy of  his very kind publisher. There will be other book giveaways during the tour too. For more information about them see Alex's blog for details. Don't forget, if Twitter is your thing, you can join in at #CatchFire.

by Alex J. Cavanaugh

CassaStar was just the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities. 

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

Want to buy it? Here's where you can:

And, just because it's cool:

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Evil Genius Blogfest

The Golden Eagle over at The Eagle's Aerial Perspective is having her second blog birthday today, and to celebrate she's holding The Evil Genius Blogfest. The rules are simple: create a story,or non-fiction piece, in any format about an evil genius. It can be an already existing person from history or literature or you could, as I have done, create your own.

At 450 words, my entry is a little bit longer than The Golden Eagle's suggested limit of 400, but I hope you'll forgive me. Also, please bear with me. Humour is not something I usually tackle!

Handsome hero crept round the corner, punching First Anonymous Bad Guy in the face. Second Anonymous Bad Guy was no problem either. Handsome Hero back-kicked him without even turning round.

Handsome Hero made his way to the pool area, not even caring that he still had his shoes on. Rules were made to be broken. There she was, Plucky Heroine, bound to a chair, gagged . She'd held her own so far through this long adventure, but now it was time for him to rescue her from the clutches of Evil Genius.

He ran over to her, breaking another poolside rule, and began to work at the knots holding her captive.
“Mmmph,” she said.
“Sorry sweetheart?” He was still concentrating on the task at hand.
“MMMPH,” she said again, more urgently this time.

He looked up. There stood Evil Genius, a gun in his hand.
“I knew you'd come. This time Handsome Hero, it really is the end for you. I don't know how you escaped the ski lift of death, the roller-coaster of doom, or the runaway-driverless-subway-car of destruction, but no matter. You won't get away this time.”

From the corner of his eye Handsome Hero saw something move. Turning his head to look, he realised that the pool wasn't empty. There were several sharks swimming in it. Sharks? Really? Even as he'd stuffed the Shark repellent in his pocket this morning he hadn't thought he would need it. Sharks were so last decade. On the other hand, it would make this all a lot easier. He would be forced into the pool, then whilst Evil Genius was recounting every last step of his incredibly long and detailed plan to take over the world to poor, helpless Plucky Heroine, He, Handsome Hero, would despatch the sharks, silently climb out of the pool behind his nemesis and knock him unconscious. He sighed. It was a shame he had to get his hair wet.

“Stand on the edge of the pool,” ordered Evil Genius.
“I suppose you think you're going to make me jump in. No way that's happening.” Handsome Hero was pleased that he'd finally got some use out of the reverse psychology degree he'd taken all those years ago.

Evil Genius grinned an evil grin.
“Know why they call me Evil Genius?” He asked.
“No, why?”
Evil Genius raised his gun and shot Handsome Hero in the head. He watched as his enemy's lifeless body toppled into the pool.
“Because I learn from my mistakes.”

Plucky Heroine watched as Evil Genius walked away. She wondered how hard it would be to change her name to Evil Badass Sidechick.