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In an attempt to increase my word count, (unpublished novel #1 for example, started life at 23.250 words) I developed The Method, otherwise known as Write & Delete - a six-point plan to increase my wordage: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.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Musical Stories 29: Horror

If you would like to read my entry for the Campaign Challenge, it's the post below this one. Or you can just click here :-)

On a personal note, if any of you live in Indiana, please could you email me?

Thank you for taking the time to vote in the Musical Stories poll. The poll is open for another week, but I've had 40 votes already, way more than I expected and, unless there's a mad swing, it looks like we'll be moving onto pastures new when this series comes to a close. 70% of you have voted for the synopsis idea, which is exciting, and also a little scary! I'll post about that later on, but today we're back to the Horror genre. As this is probably the last horror week I've included two songs that have been on my list of possibles since day one.

I didn't think I could originally include the first one, because it isn't truly a story but today I realised something. It's flash fiction, so it definitely counts! (Also the video is rather creepy).

Our second story might not seem like a horror story at first but, if you listen to the lyrics there's a definite horror story message there. Trust no-one. Especially not the people you think you can trust. (I should add that the last 30 seconds of the video are a teeny bit gory, just in case that's not your thing).

Our final horror entry is a bit heavier than my usual offerings, but it's definitely a classic plot!

Don't have nightmares! If I've scared you, don't worry, next week we'll be getting romantic :-)

Lyrics here

Lyrics here

Lyrics here

Friday, February 24, 2012

Campaign Challenge 1

Musical Stories will be up later tonight, but here's a little extra post for you, my entry for the first Campaigner Challenge of 2012.  You probably know the rules by now, but just in case:

It's a flash fiction story beginning with the words 'Shadows crept across the wall.'
It ends with the words 'Everything faded'.
It includes the word 'orange'.
It's the genre I'm currently writing.
It's 200 words exactly.

I think I've fulfilled everything, so here it is. (If you get that far, it's entry 188 on the list).

Shadow Puppets
Shadows crept across the wall; a dog, then a rabbit, then something that Emma thought was an elephant. Robbie obviously liked it. His sweet giggle pierced her heart.

“More, Daddy, more.”
How she would miss her darling boy.

From her vantage point by the door, all she could see was Robbie's back, his head covered by the oversized orange baseball cap. It didn't matter though, every part of her son's face was etched in her brain. She wished to God she had the strength to fight this.

Jack's head appeared from behind the sheet that he was using as a screen. Even from across the dimly lit room, she could see his raised eyebrow, that meant 'are you still here?'. She felt for the doorhandle behind her. He'd won. The evidence he'd gathered about Robbie's illegal adoption saw to that. She could walk away, or end up in prison. Whichever, she'd never see her beautiful son again. Instead, the man who wasn't really his father would be left to raise him.

As Emma left the house she strained to hear just one more peal of laughter, but she could hear nothing. The music, Robbie, even Jack. All gone. Everything faded.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Daniel Marvello and the Magic Appreciation Tour

If you're wondering what the poll on the right is all about, read this post for details.

 If you read or write Magical Fantasy in any of its many forms, here's something that will interest you. The Magic Appreciation Tour, brainchild of Daniel Marvello of The Vaetra Files, is a new website going live on March 1. I've used some of Daniel's own words to help me tell you about it.

What is it?
The Magic Appreciation Tour (MA Tour) and Book Sale is a website that helps fantasy readers find out about new authors and get great deals on Magical Fantasy books. Each tour will run quarterly.

The term 'Magical Fantasy' refers to any fantasy book that includes a force or power that readers would recognise as magic. The book might be considered an urban fantasy, epic fantasy, romantic fantasy or whatever. The critical element is that it has magic of some kind.

What's in it for readers?
It serves readers by collecting Magical Fantasy books in one place and displaying them in a format that makes it easy to find the books that interest them. It also gives readers the opportunity to learn more about the authors of those books.

Readers participate by visiting the book sale and author pages of the MA Tour website.

What's in it for writers?
It serves authors by showcasing their work on a site that is dedicated to their genre and by helping them form new supportive relationships with other authors.

The Book Sale page shows the cover and blurb for every participating book, along with links to buy, see reviews, and learn about the author.

The Author page shows a picture (or avatar) and a bio for every participating author, along with links to visit the author's blog, read interviews of the author, and read guest posts by them.

Authors participate by making their book available on the MA Tour site and by engaging with other participating authors through their blog and social networking during the tour. By pooling their social connections, authors help each other get the word out about their books and make new friends.

Note that the MA Tour site does not actually sell books; buy links take readers to either Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords. Listing books on the MA Tour site is NOT a violation of the KDP Select terms, as long as the buy link goes to Amazon.

I've added links to Daniel's blog, and to the MA Tour site itself if you would like more information but, if you  have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'm sure Daniel will be happy to answer. I should add that Daniel didn't specifically ask me to blog about this, I just happen to think it's a really great idea, and one that I'd love to see take off. Also, the guy has an excellent blog photo :-)

Monday, February 20, 2012

(Finally) A Poll

Happy Monday everyone, and thank you all for your well-wishes. After about a week of feeling like my head is going to explode, and my limbs weighing about as much as a small car, I'm finally feeling something like my usual self. I've got some catching up to do so apologies for not responding to your comments, or reading your blogs over the last few days. I have nearly 700 blog posts on my feeder, so it could take a while! (And no, I'm afraid I'm probably not going to read every single one).

I felt awful about not putting any Musical Stories up last Friday, I think it's the first week I've missed, but they'll be back this week. For those new to the blog, this is the first one I did, which has an explanation of what the series is about. There are two more weeks to go and then we've come to the end of another series so I'd like to know what you want to see next. I love doing them, this isn't me looking for a way out, but I only want to carry on if you're still enjoying them. I did wonder about dropping the number of songs down to two. I know we all like to read a lot of blogs, and maybe three songs a week is just too many.

I've added a poll to my sidebar at the top, which will be there for the next ten days. I'd really appreciate it if you'd take a few moments to complete it for me. You'll notice there's a vote for the 'synopsis idea'. Laura at Daily Dodo had a really interesting idea. She suggested I get you to send me a short pitch or synopsis of your story, and I'll pick a song or two that I think suits it. I love this idea, but obviously I'd need some audience participation to make it work! If you have any other ideas you think might work, feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment below. Thanks guys.

Now to catch up with you all :-)

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Apologies for the fact there are no Musical Stories this week. I didn't feel well last night. Today I feel worse, so I'm going back to bed. Hopefully, I'll see you Monday. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

George R. R. Martin to the rescue

It recently came to my attention that I hadn't actually read the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Blame my daughters' school library, they didn't have it in stock last year. Last night I decided to put that right. Of course, I had to read the first two again. Do other people do that? (Whenever a new Harry Potter book came out, I always had to read all the previous books before I could enjoy it. I've read the first one about eleventy million times, the last one only once). About five minutes ago, I finished Mockingjay. Am I the only one who thinks that, with one paragraph, Suzanne Collins came within a whisker of being able to subtitle this book Animal Farm 2?

It was a pleasure to spend the whole day reading. I don't get to do that very often. It does explain why you don't get a proper post today, as it's almost midnight and I want to catch up with some of your blogs before I go to bed. To make up for it, I'm leaving you with something that I find amusing. Enjoy :-)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Musical Stories 28: Children's Literature

After today I promise not to mention the girls' college adventures again, (at least until we find out if Diva gets accepted), but I just wanted to share some good news and bad news. The good news is that, the same day as Diva's new application form arrived, so did a letter thanking her for her completed application form. I called them to confirm that they had actually received it and was told that yes they had, and a letter inviting her to interview was on its way. That letter hasn't arrived yet, but at least we know it's coming. The bad news is that, as the deadline given for invitation to interview has now passed, Blue hasn't made it. We knew it was a long shot, they only take twenty British students per year, but I still hate seeing her unhappy. Now she has to decide which A-levels to take. Tough decision for someone who has absolutely no idea what she wants to do in the future. And why should she know? She's fifteen years old. I'm secretly quite excited that she's looking up entry requirements for creative writing degrees at University though, although I'm keeping quiet.

Anyway, on with this week's Musical stories. It's Children's Literature week, and I have three quite different songs for you to enjoy.

I think children tend to fall into two camps. The first are those who can't wait to get older, so they can stay up as late as they like and eat ice-cream for dinner, (or was that just me?). The second group, which is where our story fits, like things just the way they are thank you very much, and paying bills and going to work are for other people. They want to stay kids. Now that I'm an adult, I can definitely see the attraction!

Our second story is about the adventures of starting school, and how it's so much better if you have a special friend to share it with. It's no fun digging for worms on your own, you know :-)

When I first heard the last one, I could see it in my head as a picture book with beautiful illustrations. It seems as though someone had the same idea because tonight, whilst trying to find a decent version, I came across an Amazon entry for a picture-book of the same name. Further investigation revealed that it wasn't co-incidence, the two are the same. I suppose that means that technically I shouldn't include it, as these are all imaginary books but, you know me, never one to shirk the breaking of my own rules, I'm including it anyway because it makes me smile. (Incidentally, there is nothing wrong with your computer, the song is playing over a black screen, sorry but there wasn't a lot of choice).

I hope you enjoyed these. Prepare for chills next week, as we're revisiting the horror genre.

Lyrics here

Lyrics here

 Lyrics here

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fourth Writers' Platform Building Campaign

I'm pretty sure that you've all heard the news by now but, just in case you've somehow missed the announcement, the Fourth Writers' Platform-Building Campaign is upon us. I was part of the last one, and it was a lot of fun. You have until 15th February to sign up and you can do so here, at Rachael Harrie's blog, Rach Writes. . . This time around it's a mini campaign running until 17th March, so it's a perfect way to try it out if you're new to the campaign, before the big one in the Summer. It's a great way to make new friends :-)

In other news, I found out yesterday that The Old Geezer's blog has been hacked by spammers, so if he's on your reader it might be a good idea to remove his blog. Ron, if you're reading this, I hope you're back with us soon.

After four weeks of waiting, Diva phoned the art college yesterday to ask when she might hear from them. You know what's coming next, right? Yeah, they didn't receive her application. So, it's back to square one whilst we wait for a new one to come in the post. So, please keep those fingers crossed for a few weeks longer!

Today's post is a short one, so I'll leave you with a new trailer for one of the most eagerly awaited films of the year. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Musical Stories 27: Fantasy

Apologies for the very late post today. By the time I chose the songs last night I was too tired to battle with Blogger. (For some reason, it takes four or five attempts to post a video since they 'improved' the dashboard). Then, this morning there was a crisis in the kitchen when the the brownies that Diva was making to take to a Sherlock Holmes sleepover didn't go as planned. We managed to fix them and they're safely out of the door now. (That is, Diva and Blue are out of the door, not Diva and the brownies. Although, sadly, the brownies have gone with them).

I had a great long list of songs to choose from this week but when I went back over the lyrics it seemed that a lot of what I thought was Fantasy was actually Sci-Fi or Horror. There's definitely a fine line between genres these days, which I think is no bad thing :-)

The first song was recommended to me a while ago by Diva, but I only recently got round to watching the video. As soon as I did, I knew I had to post it this week. It's one of those stories that in no way has an original plot, but the execution of it, (both the tune, and the video), is just wonderful.

I'm a great believer in meaning being in the mind of the reader (or listener). To me, the second song is how Lucifer felt when he was first cast out, before he became the 'big bad' that we know and – as storytellers, rather than from a religious aspect – 'love'. I'd be interested to know if any of you interpret it differently.

My final song is a demonstration that the best fantasy comes from our own imaginations. We can be anything, go anywhere. (Have fun reminiscing over the video, too :-)).

I hope you found something to love this week. Next week, we're revisiting Children's Literature.

 Lyrics here

Lyrics here

 Lyrics here

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group 5

It's the first Wednesday in the month, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group to come to order. So, what insecurities are plaguing me this month?

I think I might have made a mistake and over-estimated how good I actually am at this writing thing. Not the writing itself, I'm not amazing at it, but I can write stories that (usually) make sense, that have a beginning, a middle and an end. It's what comes afterwards that I'm having the problems with, the editing.

I know lots of people have difficulties with this, they read and they learn and they work through it. I've read, I'm learning, I'm taking advice and I still can't get it right. I had some brilliant feedback from someone about the story I'm working on but, no matter how I try, I can't seem to make the changes in a way that makes sense. I'm now at the point where I dread opening up the damn document. I just want to start the first draft of something new and forget this one exists. But I've done that, four times. I promised myself that 2012 would be the year I finally got something 'finished'.

I'm actually not as bothered by this as I was a few weeks ago. I'm beginning to resign myself to the fact that I might never finish something. Is it the end of the world if I just write story after story, first drafts, all of them? I never expected to make any money from my writing, so perhaps this is where it ends, a whole bunch of ideas sitting on my computer. I'll still be writing.