Thursday, December 31, 2015

Monthy Round-Up: December 2015

As we come to the end of another year, it's an appropriate time for me to look back on what I achieved in my writing in 2015.

OUT NOW
 
It has, on the whole, been a good year for me regarding publications. My horror novel THE WHISPERING DEATH was released by Kensington Gore Publishing in the summer.

There were also two anthologies released this year with stories from me: FORMER HEROES, released by Far Horizons Publishing in July, includes my story "The Unending Scream"; and my story "The Haunted Dolls' House" appeared in FEMME FATALE, published by Kensington Gore in September.

In addition, I also contributed to a short book featuring writing tips from romance and mystery writers, released by Gardener Publishing in April.

PUBLICITY
 
I was aiming to have an online guest slot every month of 2015. I almost got there - there was nothing in May or December, but I managed to get spots in every other month of the year. The publicity game for writers is hard work, especially for those of us who have to make time around the day job to fit it in, along with the writing, and I fear the blog has suffered as a result, since I posted a lot less often this year.

All of my online guest blog posts and interviews for 2015 are now listed and linked on my website. I hope to keep up the momentum next year, but I also plan on paying more attention to the blog as well. I just need to create more hours in the day first.

WORK IN PROGRESS
 
I was pleased to be able to get to the end of the first draft of the third Shara Summers book, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, earlier this year. Well technically it's draft 2.5, since I've restarted this manuscript three times before actually getting to the end. I hope to have it finished and ready to submit in the first quarter of 2016.

I have also started work on a new horror novel, as yet untitled. This one I am also aiming to complete in 2016.

So, some lofty goals there, and I am in for another busy writing year. But I think it's good to aim high. You never know what you are capable of until you push yourself.

I wish everyone a happy and productive 2016, and may you succeed in whatever you set out to do.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Year End Wrap Up

As 2015 draws to a close, I've been looking back, and realize I accomplished more than I thought I had. I got an agent, and currently have a novel under submission at a couple of publishers. Not that I expect to hear anything until after January 4. Hopefully, it'll be good news.

I also have another novel ready to send her that I finished writing and revising after a long hiatus.

My other writing accomplishments were writing an 81,000 word novel for this year's NaNoWriMo, having two screenplays win honorable mention, and publishing two short stories in two anthologies, one which I co-edited.

Unfortunately, I fell short of my reading goal, although I did get a late start. However, in all fairness, I was reading books for a contest, and I couldn't list them without jeopardizing a confidentiality agreement. So let's just say that I read 10 more books than the book reading challenge site shows. :-)

Here are my writing goals for 2016:

Revise and submit full-length crime drama screenplay. (May be able to do this before the end of 2015.)

Write TV pilot. (Story bible is already finished.)

Revise and submit five novels/novellas.


What about you? What are your writing/reading goals for 2016?


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Revisiting Old Friends

And by old friends, I mean characters from stories I've either finished and left behind, or stories that I've almost finished, but for some reason put aside.

One of these manuscripts is Cathedral Girl. I actually started CG before I even wrote Death Sword. This was back in 2004. (Interestingly, I found a Zaphkiel Project manuscript from 2011, which would become Exterminating Angel. Makes me wonder how many drafts I have floating around on my PCs, and explains why I usually save them by the title_month_year to keep track.)

Anyway, the research for CG lead to an interest in the Memitim, which was the original idea behind Death Sword, but ended up becoming my NaNo project. The Memitim can be described as destroying angels (mal'ake habbalah) (from the Jewish Encyclopedia). Basically, angels of death.

Which brings me to where I am now regarding two different series about the angels of death, although one isn't an official series, and the other one is in the early stages.

Death Sword was supposed to be the first in a three book series (originally four) with each book focusing on a particular angel of death. For reasons I don't recall, I dispensed with the fourth book. Anyway, I wrote the second and third books, Serpent Fire and Devil Inside, only to realize my second book was a mess. (Ironically, the third book seemed to work better. Go figure.)

So I'm back to revising Serpent Fire. And the story has developed from a paranormal suspense with possible political thriller overtones.

But once I finish Serpent Fire and revise Devil Inside, I can return to the Memitim series.

Let's just say that's a goal for 2016. Year end goal is to write a TV pilot. :-)



Thursday, November 26, 2015

Monthly Round-Up: November 2015

Here we are in the penultimate month of the year, when the days are too short and the nights are too cold. Winter is not my favourite time of the year. So it should mean I have the perfect excuse to stay in and write, yes?

OUT NOW

Nothing new to report, but there's plenty of my stuff out there from earlier this year. I'm in the anthology of women horror writers, FEMME FATALE. I've got a story in the FORMER HEROES anthology. And of course THE WHISPERING DEATH is available in both paperback and Kindle formats. So that should be plenty to take you through the holiday season!

And just a reminder that if you read any of my work and enjoy it - or if you don't, for that matter - reviews are always appreciated, as it's the best way for a writer to get her name Out There.

PUBLICITY

This month I did a blog swap with US mystery writers JQ Rose. On hers I was talking about making time to write, something I seem to forever be juggling.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Work continues on both of my WIPs. I have almost completed the first draft of the third Shara Summers novel, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH. I'm not very happy with it at present, though. It needs some major rewriting before I am willing to send it out into the world.

Progress has also been made on the new horror WIP, though this one still doesn't have a name. I'm referring to it as the 'urban explorers horror WIP'.

By the time of the next monthly review, the presents will have been opened, the crackers will have been pulled and I'll still be stuffing my face with mince pies and Christmas chocolate and getting ready to say goodbye to 2015. So a review of my writing year will be timely.

See you then!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

50,000 Words and Beyond

Every November, for the past several years, I join thousands of writers around the world for that 30-day frenzy known as NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words during that time. Not a novel, per se, but a pretty darn good start.

A couple of my short novels were even published: Death Sword and The Ripper's Daughter. (I have the rights back to the latter, which I will be putting up on Amazon, B&N, and Kobo, hopefully before the end of the year. But that's another story.)

Anyway, last year, I wrote a 65,000-word political  thriller in 21 days. This year, I wrote 68,000 words in the same length of time. And I'm still writing. Today, I should reach 72,000 with my paranormal suspense, the overall goal being 75,000-80,000 words. And I plan to finish this new novel by November 30.

Why push myself? I don't know. Guess I take it as a challenge. I wanted to get the 50,000 words written as early as possible, and 5,000 words a day seemed reasonable. After that, I dropped the writing down to 2,000 words daily. All that, while revising another book and working on another project (not writing related).

Although NaNoWriMo is almost over, you can check out the site year round. So if you've always wanted to write a novel, and needed a boost, NaNoWriMo might very well be worth checking into.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Conquering NaNoWriMo a Word at a Time

I just hit the 50k mark on my NaNoWriMo novel, The Memitim. No, I'm not kidding: 5,000 words in 10 days. My hands hurt, I'm exhausted, and I will probably take tomorrow, maybe even Thursday, off.

But I'm not done. The projected length is estimated between 75,000 and 80,000 words. And I plan to write all that this month. Last year, I wrote 65,000 words in 21 days, so I know it can be done.

Writing novels that long is in itself a milestone for me. Only a couple of years ago, I would've balked at writing something that length. Let's just say I had to retrain my brain.

How did I do it? Plotting. Not only did I use Dramatic Pro to help develop the story, I used a program called WriteWay Pro. It's like Scrivener, in that you can break your story down into scenes and write in a non-linear fashion, then import the document into Word. I used WWP with my novel, The Judas Dilemma, currently sitting on a publisher's desk. (Fingers are crossed.)

What I like about WriteWay Pro is I can make notes about character, setting, dialogue, conflict, even notes on revisions for that particular scene. I think using it has helped me write faster. Not saying my first draft doesn't suck. I mean, we have to be realistic here. *grin*

But really, writing a book, whether during NaNoWriMo, or any other time of the year, is simply putting one word after the other.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Malice and Mayhem Receives Recognition

This was a nice surprise. My dark fiction short story collection, Malice and Mayhem: Tales of the Macabre, was one of twelve winners for AuthorDen.com's Spooktacular Halloween Theme Contest.

I pitch the stories as reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Night Gallery, Thriller, and shows of that ilk. Yes, I'm old school, but it's nice that people still remember those shows. A friend's dad read it, and he said it was just as I described, which is a nice validation.

This collection was also a return to my writing roots. While in school, I devoured anthologies by Alfred Hitchcock, mysteries by various authors, and tales of the macabre. Many of the anthologies I read in elementary school were edited by Roger Elwood. But probably the biggest influence during my formative horror writing years was a collection called Tales of Terror, by Ida Chittum. It inspired me to write my own collection of spooky tales in the sixth grade. They were hand-written on notebook paper, three stories stapled together. My classmates liked them. Ironically, most were also bullying me. Go figure.

Fast forward to the present. Although I'm writing novels, I still haven't forgotten the short story, and have published seven stories in anthologies, including one I co-edited.
\
I hope that one day, I will influence an aspiring horror/dark fiction suspense author, too.

Stay scary!





Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Monthly Round-Up: October 2015

Here we are at the end of October, rapidly approaching the Witching Hour. The clocks in the UK went back last weekend and it's now dark by 4:30pm. I really hate the long nights, but there are things about Autumn that I really like. The beautiful colours of the trees. The crunch underfoot as I walk through fallen leaves on my way to the station. The anticipation of bonfire night, and of Hallowe'en. And of course October is my birthday month. This year I happened to spend it at FantasyCon. It's the first time I've spent my birthday at a convention, but it was quite nice to get all the extra birthday wishes. Since the date of FantasyCon 2016 has already been announced and it's in September, it's looking unlikely that will happen again next year.

Anyway, on with the news.

OUT NOW

Nothing new to report, but just another reminder that THE WHISPERING DEATH is available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon. If you've read it and feel inclined to review it, I would be most grateful. Word of mouth is the best way to promote a book, and reviews really help.  

PROMOTION

I've been fairly busy with online promotion over the last month.

14 October - I made an appearance on Theresa Derwin's Terror Tree blog talking about the questions you shouldn't ask a writer.

14 October - on the same day I was part of the Horror Writers' Association's Hallowe'en Haunts feature, with a blog post about what Hallowe'en is like in the UK.

25 October - I appeared on Iva Valentino's blog talking about my lifelong love of reading.

In addition, I did two Cons in October - Bristol Horror Con and FantasyCon - and two book launches.

Waiting for punters at THE WHISPERING DEATH launch on 14 October
The first book launch was locally on 14 October. That went rather well, and we had about 20 people turn up, including two who happened to see my poster and liked the sound of the book. So proper punters, as opposed to people who already know me. I was very pleased about that. It felt like one more small step on the path to notoriety.

The second book launch was at FantasyCon, and didn't go quite so well. I am grateful to the five people who did turn up and show support, but clearly all the promotion, Tweeting and cajoling people at the Con didn't have much effect. I think launches at Cons only work if you're well known enough to have a following. Evidently I'm not there yet.  

WORK IN PROGRESS

I've made some progress with SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH - in fact the end is in sight. This is only a first draft, though, so there's still lots of work to do yet. Not so much progress on the urban explorer horror novel, however.

 I've set a new pledge to write 3,000 words a week between now and the end of the year. Most weeks I've managed to meet my target, and every little helps.

Well that's it for now. I wish you a happy Hallowe'en, and I will see you here next month!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

National Novel Writing Month

I enjoy reading murder mysteries, whether cozy or police procedural. I've taken classes on homicide detectives, forensic science, crime scene investigation -- all geared toward writers. I follow a former LEO's blog, and am a member of a Yahoo site related to writing crime.

But I'd never thought I'd write a crime story, until recently. Well, scratch that. I had written one, a paranormal historical whydunit called The Ripper's Daughter. But that doesn't count, because while there are murders, the reader knows who the killer is, and the question becomes can the hero stop that person?

Okay, confession time. I wrote a screenplay with a homicide detective and his retrocognitive partner investigating a series of murders. In fact, I'm considering submitting it to contests.

Maybe I should have started with I'm trying my hand at writing a possible police procedural series, particularly an occult police procedural. In fact, I'm working on two of them, writing one now and plotting the other for NaNoWriMo next month.

The first one, currently called the Tzadkiel Project is one of the few stories I'm writing off the top of my head. The other, called the Memitim, is being plotted in WriteWay Pro and Dramatica Pro. I'm also using the Tarot for my characters' hero/ine journeys.

Usually, I end up writing NaNo by the seat of my pants. October 1 rolls around, and I think, "I have a whole month to plot, write my characters' goals, motivations, and conflicts, etc." October 15. "Oh, I still have two weeks. It's all good." October 31, 11:59 AM. "Damn! All I have is  name!"

Yeah, even I'm surprised I'm more ready for NaNo than usual. Now if I had Walter B. Gibson's drive to write thirty pages a day. Then again, he didn't have Facebook or YouTube to distract him. *grin*

So yes, I'll be participating in NaNo again this year. If anyone wants to look me up, I go by Sapphyre. To all those who'll be aiming for 50k in November, good luck and happy writing!

For more info about NaNo, click here. And remember, if you've ever wanted to write a novel, but were too afraid to ask, NaNo is a great way to dip your toe in the writing waters.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fright Night Film Fest 2015

This past weekend, I attended Fright Night Film Fest. While not on the guest author list, I participated on two panels, one about the history of horror, and the other on how to write horror, suspense, and thrillers. The audience was engaging, making the panels enjoyable, and I hope they were inspired to maybe check out a movie they'd never thought about before, or to start writing that novel.

Overall, it was a quiet but fun weekend. Great to see fellow horror authors I only see a few times a year at other cons. Looking forward to next year.

Fright Night Film Fest banner

James Chakan and horror author L. Andrew Cooper

Stephen Zimmer, author and publisher of Seventh Star Press, with Frank Hall

Urban fantasy and suspense-thriller author Amy McCorkle


Horror author Michael West

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My Top Five Horror Manga/Anime

(Cross-posted from Darkling Delights)

It's October. You know what that means. A celebration of all things horror. People are listing their favorite horror movies and books, but I decided to be a bit different. I'm listing my top five favorite horror anime/manga.

In no particular order:

5. Hellsing
A manga by Kouta Hirano, Hellsing is the story of Alucard (get it?) who works with the Royal Order of Protestant Knights, led by Integra Hellsing, descendant of Abraham Van Helsing. The manga and anime don't shy away from the violence and bloodshed, and Alucard revels in attacking and defeating his enemies. That's what makes this manga and anime such a guilty pleasure.

4. Tokyo Ghoul
I've only started watching the anime version of this, but it's an interesting and disturbing premise. A young man is attacked by a ghoul and becomes one himself. His struggle to deal with his impending change, while trying to retain his human qualities, is complicated by society's belief that all ghouls are dangerous. I'm interested to see where this anime goes and to check out the manga.

3. Tomie 
A manga by Junji Ito. I've read a few of his collections, and he's very effective as a horror manga-ka. Tomie is a disturbing story of a young woman who will not die, even after being hacked to pieces. She's the quintessential undead character, a woman whose beauty and desire drive people to murder her, but who always comes back. Always. Always.

2. Vampire Princess Miyu
At first glance, this beautiful, ethereal young vampire doesn't seem at all disturbing. Until you find out that eternal happiness is a horrible alternative from reality. Narumi Kakinouchi's vampire/guardian is an interesting anti-heroine. She returns the Shinma (god-demons) to the dark, but the impact her and these beings have on human life beg the question of who might be more dangerous.

1. Mermaid Saga
If only Rumiko Takahashi would continue and/or finish her saga of the 500-year old immortal Yuta and his equally immortal companion, Mana. A fisherman in ages past, Yuta ate the flesh of a mermaid. Not only did he survive the encounter, he watched his friends either die a horrifying death, or turn into monsters when they consumed the same flesh. The stories that comprise the Mermaid Saga (Mermaid Forest, Mermaid's Scar, Mermaid's Gaze, etc.spin a cautionary tale of immortality and the horrifying results that can manifest from people desperate to attain eternal life.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What Was I Thinking?!

Courtesy: Morguefile.com
Most authors recognize these feelings when beginning a new work in progress: excitement, determination, even a bit of trepidation...

Which can lead to that moment when, fingers frozen to the keyboard (figuratively, depending on where you live), the mind literally shifts gears from "Yes!" to "Huh?" to "What the hell was I thinking?" That so-called perfect idea has finally reared its ugly head. Why couldn't we see it coming?

Now what? I mean, by this time, we've invested ourselves in our story, and the thought of quitting seems so defeatist. We believe we can fix it, once we know what the problem is.

This happened to me recently. I'd started out to write a short story about an angel homicide detective. Put an excerpt up on my Facebook page, and people actually liked it. Someone asked if this were a novel, and I said not at first, but the way things were going, it seemed to be that way.

So what's the problem? I've never written a police procedural before. I've read them, even taken classes on homicide detectives and crime scene investigations. And while I've always thought I'd write one, part of me flinched at the idea. What if I got something wrong?

The irony? I'd written a screenplay with a homicide detective. In fact, I'm thinking of dusting it off, revising it, and submitting it to contests.

So why does a novel seem so daunting? Screenplays are easier to write: action, scene description, and dialogue. No inner thoughts or long, languid descriptions.

But with both novel and screenplay, I need to make sure I get each one right. And that means research. In this case, not only about homicide detectives but also angels.

It also meant I needed to know where my plot was going. See, I started this book on October 1. Every April and October, I join a group of fellow authors for BIAM-Writathon, a Book in a Month type of event. Sort of like an unofficial NaNoWriMo. Which reminds me, I need to start plotting November's book.

Anyway, I basically started this book by the seat of my pants, and I'm a plotter. So this means that I'm going to have to start plotting this book in order to map the scenes out. Then, go back and revise areas that need it, such as the crime scene investigation at the beginning. To help me, I'm trying Scrivener.

My goal is for my angel homicide detective to become a series character. Need to finish this book first. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Monthly Round-Up: September 2015

This blog has been a tad neglected of late. That doesn't mean there's nothing going on. On the contrary - things have been extremely busy, and thus I have a lot of news to report as we move out of September.

OUT NOW
 
I am pleased to announce that FEMME FATALE, an anthology of horror stories by women, is now available in print and on the Kindle. All profits from this book are going to a charity that supports victims of domestic violence, so if you buy a copy, your hard-earned cash is going to a good cause. And of course you get to enjoy an outstanding collection of stories. My story 'The Haunted Dolls' House' features.

And of course THE WHISPERING DEATH is also available to buy now. I also want to add a reminder that another anthology featuring one of my stories, FORMER HEROES, has also been released recently.

PUBLICITY/FORTHCOMING EVENTS
 
I had a blog swap earlier this week with fellow MuseItUp author Susan Royal. She appeared on my blog talking about tim travel, and I appeared on hers talking about why I wear many hats.

There are a great deal of events going on in real space in the forthcoming month, and I shall be kept very busy. For starters I am attending two conventions in October. The first is Bristol Horror Con on the 17th, where I am appearing on a panel at 11am about the use and abuse of horror in literature through the ages.

The following weekend I'm off to FantasyCon in Nottingham, which runs from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 October. On the Friday at 5pm I'm on a panel about the use of fear in horror - an appropriate topic, since I did my dissertation on this very subject when studying for my English degree. The launch for THE WHISPERING DEATH will be happening at FantasyCon on the Saturday, at 8pm. That day also happens to be my birthday. If you're at FantasyCon please come to the launch; that will be enough of a birthday gift.

And, speaking of launches, this is of course the second launch for THE WHISPERING DEATH. The first will be held at The Brook independent arts centre and bar in Wallington, Surrey at 7pm on Wednesday 14 October. This launch is for everyone who isn't going to be at FantasyCon, and if you're UK based in the London/South East area and can attend, do please drop me a line. I am attaching a copy of the official invite. There will be free bubbly, if that makes a difference...

WORK IN PROGRESS
 
And amongst all this, I'm still hard at work on two WIPs. The third Shara Summers novel, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, stands at nearly 40,000 words and I am aiming to get this finished by the end of this year.

The second WIP is a horror novel about urban explorers, as yet untitled. Thus far only 2,000 words of it exist. I'm aiming to get this one finished by Summer 2016.

So, I have a lot of work to do. I may be neglecting the blog a bit longer as I race my way through my busy October. But if you're going to be at the Cons at either Bristol or Nottingham, do say hello!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fiends: Ten Tales of Demons is Live

Cover for Fiends: Ten Tales of Demons
I'm a bit late posting this, since Fiends: Ten Tales of Demons has been out since August. But considering I had two conventions since then (Indie Gathering and Imaginarium), plus books to read and score for a contest, I suppose I can be forgiven the delay.

Fiends is the eleventh Ten Tales anthology edited and published by Rayne Hall, and the sixth one I have a story in, this one being "Inner Demon," about a hemophobic serial killer desperate to break his homicidal curse.

I've written short stories and short novels ever since I first started writing. My first attempts at writing horror were penning three stories on notebook paper and stapling them together, then passing them around for my sixth grade classmates to read. On the back of each "issue" I asked for their feedback. Despite being the unpopular kid, the one bullied, and picked last in gym, my fellow students liked my writing. Go figure.

Other authors have told me they can't write short stories, that they can't condense their plots like the format requires. Maybe growing up reading collections of short stories in Alfred Hitchcock anthologies, or perusing pulp fiction "trained" me to write concisely, and that's why it tends to be easier for me. Then again, I don't overthink it.

However, because I now have an agent, I have to write longer books, and that has not been as difficult as I'd feared, although I do find it a challenge. So one might say I'm like the authors I mentioned above, only on the other side of the spectrum. But I've done it, and now I'm awaiting to hear from a publisher on one of those books.

You can find Fiends: Ten Tales of Demons on Amazon Kindle. A print book is scheduled for release later this year.



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Indie Gathering

This past weekend, I attended Indie Gathering International Film Festival in Hudson, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland. I went with two author friends, Amy and Missy, and we had a table in the vendor hall, so I took copies of the Reel Dark anthology to sell. I also had rack cards of Death Sword and Exterminating Angel, my two paranormal angel suspense stories. They were the reason I was at Indie Gathering. Both short novels had received an award each.

I'll admit, this is one of the best-run festivals I've been to. All events took place in the hotel, and there was plenty of networking as well as viewing films and attending panels. I went to the short thriller-suspense films and Missy attended the panel on crowd funding. Amy had a couple of short films also screening.

Which got me thinking, could I come up with a short film for submission for next year, plus another screenplay or two? Seeing how they show micro films, maybe it's a possibility that I can enter a project I'm currently playing around with.

Anyway, I have one more con to attend this year in Louisville, Kentucky: Imaginarium. It's a multi-genre writers' conference, with panels, a vendor hall, and a film festival, plus awards banquet.  I'll be sharing a table with Amy and Missy in the vendor hall, which is free to the public this year. Looking forward to meeting new people and seeing old friends again.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Monthly Round-Up: August 2015

Where does the time go? We're at the end of August already.

Summer is nearly over and meteorologically it certainly feels that way. Lots of rain here in London and it's feeling distinctly chilly. I actually put the heating on today.

Anyway, enough about the weather. On with the news.

OUT NOW

I'm very excited to announce that THE WHISPERING DEATH is now available, in both Kindle and paperback formats. The official launch will be at FantasyCon in Nottingham on Saturday 24 October (which also happens to be my birthday) but I have not yet had a time confirmed.

There's also going to be another launch in South London on Wednesday 14 October. If you're not going to FantasyCon but are in the vicinity to make it to this one, let me know and I shall send you an invite.

PUBLICITY

Two appearances to report this month:

18 August - I was on Jami Gray's blog talking about the editing process and how the end is not the end.

24 August - Canadian author Allan J Emerson hosted an interview with me on his blog today.

TWITTER Book launch invite 27-8-2015 MASTERWhile we're on the subject of publicity, I want to mention that tomorrow night (Thursday 27th) there will be an online Q&A session to promote THE WHISPERING DEATH. My publisher, Kensington Gore, and I will be online to answer any questions that people might care to ask. This starts at 7pm British Summer Time, and it will be happening on Twitter. Use the hashtag #QAKGPUB (an abbreviation of 'question & answer for Kensington Gore publishing') to join the conversation. I am attaching the invite here. Feel free to spread the word!

WORK IN PROGRESS

Over halfway through the first draft of SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the third Shara Summers novel, now. Actually, technically it's Draft 2.5, since I rebooted it twice, but I have now got further than I ever did in any of the earlier versions so I am feeling hopeful that progress is being made.

I've set a goal for myself that I will finish this novel, to final draft stage, by the end of the year. This will mean I've got two WIPs on the go, since I'm also in the (very) early stages of a new horror novel. But hey, sometimes that's a good thing. When I get stuck on one WIP I can go work on the other one.

Lots going on, then. So on that note I'm going to sign off and go back to the writing!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Cover Reveal: The Whispering Death

It's time to unveil the cover for the forthcoming horror novel THE WHISPERING DEATH!

This one is being released by British horror publisher Kensington Gore in Autumn. The e-book version may, in fact, be available in a few weeks. The print version will follow in a couple of months. I am hoping to be able to launch it at FantasyCon in Nottingham in October but I am awaiting confirmation on that.

This is the scariest novel I have written in a while, and it's not for the faint-hearted as it has rather a lot of gruesome scenes. It also has a lot of references to LARP, to D&D, to Resident Evil and is an homage to geekiness in general. Oh, and it has zombies, too.

I am very excited about the release of this book. For those of you in the UK and not going to FantasyCon, I'm endeavouring to arrange another launch, in the South of England, to offer another opportunity to attend. As always, watch this space for further info.

In the meantime, here's a teaser in the form of a blurb for the novel.

Blurb for THE WHISPERING DEATH
 
Death comes to us all; life is the name of the game and everyone has a role to play.

When a group of live action role-players perform a ritual as part of a game, they unwittingly unleash an ancient evil that tears their world apart. The reanimated corpse of a long-dead magic user, corrupted by powerful dark magic, offers a promise of unlimited power, but at a terrible price. Having helped open this Pandora’s box, Mark and Elizabeth must race against time to close it again – before it’s too late.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Monthly Round-Up: July 2015

Generally I do the monthly round-up on the last Wednesday of the month. However, last week I was in Darkest Wales, with no access to wifi and barely any mobile phone signal. It was nice to get away from it all, but a bit of an adjustment to be 'off the radar'.

So, July's round-up is a week late. But there is plenty to report, so on with the news.

OUT NOW

The 'Former Heroes' anthology is now available to buy, in print and e-book format. Featuring seven original stories of SF, fantasy and horror, all of these authors are united by being live action role-players. It's a fairly eclectic mix of stories, but it has already started receiving good reviews. My own story is definitely one of the darker ones.

COMING SOON

THE WHISPERING DEATH is in final proof stage, and now I'm getting excited. It's always a thrill when a book starts to become a reality.
It is hoped that this one will launch at FantasyCon in Nottingham in October, but I'm still waiting for confirmation of a launch slot. More news on this as it happens!

PUBLICITY

I was pleased to feature on the Omnimystery page at the beginning of the month as the author interview.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I've not made much progress on the new horror novel, but the third Shara Summers novel, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, continues apace. One of my work colleagues was asking about it the other day, which has given me some motivation to get on with it. I've set myself a goal to have this WIP finished by the end of the year. Not just 'current draft' finished, but at final draft stage. So I'd better apply bum to chair a bit more often and get cracking.

By the time of the next monthly round-up we'll be moving into Autumn, at least here in the Northern hemisphere. Where does the time go? See you then!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Brief Artistic Life

In my continuing quest to move away from my Windows XP to my Windows 8.1, I recently hooked up my Wacom tablet and put Corel Painter X on my hard drive after checking for any compatibility issues (none).

It's been ages since I've drawn. There were a number of years where I spent time reading artist bios, took a few painting and drawing classes, and immersed myself in the world of art. During that time, I quit writing. I wasn't finishing any stories I started, and kept being drawn back into the art world. I wanted to hone my skills to become an animator, even if only for myself.

Still do.

Here's the thing. I wanted to be an artist long before I wanted to be a writer. And I've been lucky to have my work displayed in student art shows and a few non-juried ones.

I'm not leaving writing. Can't. No, really. Tried to quit twice. Failed both times. Looks like drawing/painting and other artistic pursuits refuse to lie down and die, too.

So, in the spirit of honoring one's creativity, here is a small horror art project I'm working on.

It's still a work in progress. I'll be painting with acrylics. Plan to work with both digital and traditional media on my artistic journey.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Monthly Round-Up: June 2015

Summer has reached the UK! Hooray! Long days and the occasional glimpse of sunshine, and I've even felt brave enough to put away the tights when wearing work skirts. Still plenty of rain, of course - this is England. But the alternative rainy days and sunny days seem to make the strawberry plants in our garden thrive. We've got more strawberries than we know what to do with right now.

Anyway, I digress. On with the news.

COMING SOON

I am pleased to announce the imminent launch of the FORMER HEROES anthology, by Far Horizons Press. All of the stories in this anthology are by writers who are also live action roleplayers. It's an eclectic mix, all dealing with characters who were once heroes. There's some fantasy, some sci fi, some horror. My story, 'The Unending Scream', is most decidedly a horror story. Would it be anything else?

There'll be an online launch on Facebook for FORMER HEROES, so you can join the party without leaving the comfort of your own home.

And, speaking of LARPERS (a bit of a reach, I know), we are still aiming for an Autumn release for THE WHISPERING DEATH. I hope to have more news about this soon.

PROMOTIONAL STUFF

Today I'm visiting Eric Price's blog to talk about a subject common to all writers, both seasoned pros and newbies alike: Writer Insecurity.

WORK IN PROGRESS

SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the third Shara Summers book, progresses well. Most of my work on it is being done in Starbucks on Aldwych in London, early in the morning before going to work. Of late, though, I've had to sit in different spots, since my usual seat has been taken. I really hate that.

Well that's all to report this month. See you next month!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Ten Commandments of Writing #5: Thou Shalt Rewrite



Whenever a writer is portrayed in a film or TV series, the process is always the same. They sit at their typewriter or PC (depending on how old the series is), banging out the words, they print out a huge stack of pages, and then they write 'The End' with a flourish, and proudly present finished manuscript to agent/publisher.

I know TV misrepresents a great deal of professionals, but I always want to shout at the screen at this point. I don't know any writer who can churn off a first draft that is perfect and publishable and in need of absolutely no revisions.

Whether you're a plotter or a pantser, there are generally two ways of approaching the writing of a manuscript. Some writers start the first draft with a clear goal of getting to the end. The first draft is likely to be full of inconsistencies and plot holes, but the important thing is to get to the end of the first draft and remember that everything can be fixed in the rewrite. This is my approach. The first draft is effectively putting up the scaffolding. The bricks and mortar and everything else that is required for the construction to be solid and functional can be added in future drafts.

Then there are other writers who revise as they go. Every time they sit down to write, they review what they wrote before and they will quite often go back and polish, or revise and rewrite bits before moving on. So by the time they get to the end they have effectively got a finished product. But it's hardly a first draft, because many changes and amendments have been made along the way.

Whichever way works for you is something that only you will be able to decide, possibly after much trial and error. The point is, revision is essential to the writing process. How many rewrites are required will, again, vary from writer to writer, and may well depend on how much thought goes into the first draft. Some writers I know spend quite a lot of time thinking about each sentence before writing it down, whereas I would rather tap into that early morning flow of words and type the first thing that comes into my head. It means I'm more likely than that more ponderous writer to re-read what I've written and shriek, "what was I thinking? This is complete rubbish and makes no sense". But I know I've got several rewrites to get it right, so that doesn't worry me.

Like many things misrepresented in the media, writing is not as easy as it's portrayed on TV. And no one gets it right the first time.

And so this is the Fifth Commandment. Thou shalt rewrite. And rewrite, and rewrite again, until the manuscript is so polished it shines.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Monthly Round-Up: May 2015

How did we get to the end of May already? I do love this time of year, when the days are long enough that I get to see my house in daylight at either end of the day, the sun starts to shine and everything comes back to life. As a hay fever sufferer I'm not so fond of the pollen flying around, though. So here's the latest report from me on what's being going on writing-wise in the last month.

COMING SOON:

 I'm pleased to say I now have two forthcoming publications to list in this section.

THE WHISPERING DEATH is being released by Kensington Gore later in Autumn this year.

SUFFER THE CHILDREN is being re-released by MuseItUp Publishing in Spring 2016.

So that's two horror novels to look forward to! Sometimes I think the universe is dropping me big hints I'm more a horror writer than a crime writer.

PROMOTIONAL STUFF:

I've been a bit lax with promoting. Nothing new to report here. I hope to get back on the case by next month.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

Work is progressing well on the third Shara Summers book, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH.

I'm also in the (very) early stages of a new horror novel. No title yet, but it is about a group of urban explorers who encounter a supernatural Big Bad.

With two WIPs on the go I've got to crack on with the writing. I will report back on how it's going next month!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Measuring Milestones

Photo Courtesy of Morguefile.com
My daughter graduated from high school today, except she has to return to school tomorrow to finish out the term. A classmate graduated with her.

Only two graduating seniors? How can this be? Not only that, but the official graduation ceremony is next month.

K. and T. both have autism, and it was decided that going through the major graduation ceremony would be too stressful. The principal was even on hand to give them their diplomas. I thanked him afterward, and he said that they do this for their special needs students. Peer tutors talked about K. and T. and how much they enjoyed them, and there was even a small reception with cake afterwards.

It's been a long educational road for K. The first day of kindergarten we had to pick her up at the elementary school because she became upset. It's probably hard for people who don't have children with autism to understand that a change in routine or sensory overload can trigger strong emotions.

Over the years, her outbursts became less and less. K. excelled not only in math and art, but in basketball as well, once shooting thirty-six baskets in a row in gym class. She did volunteer work at an animal shelter and a children's charity.

Through it all, she never gave up. And that inspires me to keep pushing toward my publishing dreams. Sometimes, one needs to put things in perspective, realize that no matter how difficult something seems to be, it's not impossible.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

THE WHISPERING DEATH Finds a Home

I am pleased to be able to announce that my new horror novel, THE WHISPERING DEATH, has sold to British small press horror publisher Kensington Gore. There's an exciting announcement about it over on their website.

THE WHISPERING DEATH is about a group of live action role-players who unwittingly release an ancient evil loose upon the world during a game. I am particularly fond of this novel because it is effectively about a group of geeks, and I was able to incorporate all the geeky things I love into the novel. LRP. Dungeons & Dragons. Video games. Zombie films. And it's got a kick-ass heroine who's also a geek girl. I had such a good time writing about her.

And it's a novel that at one point I lost faith in. It had gone through several rewrites when I first started subbing it, last year. After getting fairly consistent feedback along with the rejections I decided it needed rewriting. But the rewrite took it to a place where the ending I wanted wasn't going to work and I got quite depressed about it.

But it just goes to show you should never give up. Have faith and keep collecting those rejections. Eventually, acceptance will come. And sometimes you have to believe in your own writing, even when it seems no one else does.

THE WHISPERING DEATH is scheduled for release later this year, which means I am expecting edits to come my way very soon. And this one will be out in paperback as well as electronic format. Yay!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Monthly Round-up: April 2015


The more observant may notice that there was no monthly round-up last month. This was partly due to the day job keeping me a bit too busy to keep up with blog posts, and partly because there was nothing to report.

However, I am now back on track , so here is the news from my writing world.

COMING SOON/OUT NOW

No new 'coming soon' announcements since February's news about SUFFER THE CHILDREN being released by MuseItUp next year.

The anthology THE DARK HEART OF PEEPING TOM is out there, though, and it's available in paperback as well as e-book (and Kindle). It features many stories that were first published in the UK 90s horror zine PEEPING TOM, including my story "Jimi Hendrix" eyes. If you like your horror dark, brooding and disturbing, this is a collection for you.

PROMOTIONAL STUFF

After a bit of a quiet period, I have kick-started my online presence and have a few guest appearances in cyberspace to report

29 March - I had a guest post on horror writer Luke Walker's blog about why a nice horror writer like me writes crime.
9 April - I wrote the inaugural post for author and editor Akaria Gale's new series on pro tips, writing about why the author needs a balance of praise and criticism.
20 April - Jan Edwards interviewed me on her blog.


WORK IN PROGRESS

I am still working on SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the third Shara book. This time last month I was quite depressed about it. Then I decided to scrap the old draft and start again. It's never an easy decision to do this. If you keep restarting a manuscript you never get to the end, and I am a big advocator of getting to the end of the draft and fixing it in the rewrite. But I got to a point when I felt the manuscript wasn't working in its current state and there was no point in continuing.

The reboot involved making some fairly major plot changes. Happily, the new draft is going quite well, and I have been able to salvage quite a lot of the earlier draft and incorporate it into the current WIP. Thus proving that it wasn't all complete rubbish after all.

I am, however, only 7,000 words into the new draft so there is rather a long way to go yet.

See you next month!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Walking in an Editor's Shoes

This past weekend saw me doing a marathon edit for a project. And I can say I'm grateful to my editors for being tough on me because I was able to take what I'd learned from them and apply it to the stories I critiqued.

Nothing is more wonderful than reading a story that needs little editing. One gets a sense the writer has studied his/her craft and respects not only the editor (and publisher) but the reader as well.

There were three major issues that were prevalent throughout the editing process. The first one was writers who used two spaces after a period rather than one. Apparently, the situation is so common-place, there's even a Facebook meme going around begging people to stop doing it. True, when I learned to type on an electric typewriter my freshmen year in high school, two spaces was the norm. But not anymore.

The second issue concerned body parts acting on their own. Things like eyes roaming over someone's body. (Okay, that's probably a bad example, but hopefully, you get the idea.) This one is a hard habit to break, and even I've caught myself doing it. But I also know my editor will beat me over the head with her digital blue pencil, so I try to catch when I do it. (Speaking of blue pencils, does anyone remember them?)

And then there's what's referred to as "author intrusion." This is a little tricky, because writers do it without thinking, and I've even seen it in books published by best-selling authors, so I don't know if all editors subscribe to the idea or not.

Basically, what this means is if you're writing in first person POV or third person deep POV, you're inside that person's head. So phrases like "He saw," "He wondered," "He thought," etc., aren't needed. For example: "He watched Carrie storm out the door." Instead, all that's needed is "Carrie stormed out the door." If he's watching Carrie, then that part's implied and the reader will understand what he's doing without needing the "He watched" part. As for phrases like "He smiled," "He grimaced," etc., my editor told me that when one is doing these things, one doesn't think about it. In other words, you don't smile and think, "I'm smiling," and if you don't, neither should your characters.

Breaking this habit can be hard, especially when you want to convey how your character is feeling. I've found The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi to be a wonderful resource.

The last issue is another one that seems to be common among writers: head-hopping. That is, the reader is in one person's POV and then, all of a sudden, s/he is in another's, with no scene break to indicate the POV has shifted. This can confuse the reader, which is why POV shifts are often indicated by scene breaks.

Being aware of the above issues and avoiding them is one way to make your editor happy. Not only that, it will make your writing stronger.



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Writing Wrap Up

Judas Dilemma Excerpt
This past weekend, I attended the Author Fair in Madison, Indiana. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to go to ConGlomeration since both events were at the same time. This was my second year at the Author Fair. This year, I'm probably going to Indie Gathering in Ohio. Depends on if my screenplay finaled. So far, it's been a bust in two screenplay contests. I have my agent shopping it around, and I plan to enter it in a local contest. Who knows? I might get lucky.

Speaking of which, I got a shout out from a speculative fiction author for my novella The Ripper's Daughter during the horror panel at the aforementioned Author Fair. High praise from an established author? Oh, yeah, I was positively giddy. :-)

That said, though, I had no time to rest on my proverbial laurels. Last night, I finished the extended draft of The Judas Dilemma. Originally a novella at 37,427 words, it's now at 84,308, although I'll probably knock a couple thousand off when I revise it.

Next project is expanding Cathedral Girl, which will also need about 40,000 words added. After that, Sins of the Mother, which currently clocks in at 65,000 words, so I'll probably add 10,000-15,0000 words. I never thought I could write long, but having an agent means I need to adapt if I want to have a chance of my books selling to New York. (Btw, none of these three books is Christian fiction. The first two are angel paranormal suspense and the last one is a political suspense-thriller.)

Not that I plan to stop publishing with small presses or self-publishing. My small press project includes helping edit an anthology which we hope to put out next month.

I'm also planning to revise and submit Serpent Fire and Devil Inside this summer, the two books in my three-book Angels of Death series that started with Death Sword. I have a spin off from Exterminating Angel, Hell on Earth, that I'd also like to submit, but since all are paranormal romance, and publishers aren't taking PNR, I'm stuck. Hopefully, not for long, though.

And then there's con season. Fandom Fest, Indie Gathering, maybe Film-Com, the Bullitt County Library Author Fair, Imaginarium, and probably one I'm forgetting. Would love to make it to Hypericon in Nashville this June, not as an author but as a reader. Couple of authors I know will be there.

There's always a chance. Like with anything, there's always a chance.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Ten Commandments of Writing #4: Thou Shalt 'Show' Not 'Tell'

"Show, don't tell" is a common refrain in my writing group. This is generally another way of saying there is too much exposition in the manuscript. Consider the following two sentences:

1. He was angry.
2. He slammed the door behind him and went stomping down the corridor, swearing under his breath.

They both say the same thing, but the second example demonstrates the character is angry without saying so directly.

'Showing' not 'telling' is a way of adding interest to your writing. You could open your novel by spending the first page describing your main character in detail, including personality traits, but it's far more interesting to spread this out throughout the novel, so that the reader can extract this information for themselves. If you want to tell the reader that your character is anxious and nervous, maybe have them gnawing on their fingernails in several scenes. If a character is a chain smoker, you don't have to tell the reader that. If the character lights a cigarette (or even several in quick succession) in every scene they are in, the reader will pick up on that soon enough.

An example of an author I think does 'show, not tell' well is Lisa Brackmann, who writes a series of crime novels featuring Ellie McEnroe, a young former soldier who was injured in Afghanistan. Though more or less physically recovered, Ellie is constantly drinking beer and swallowing pain killers with it, and these actions demonstrate aspects of her character quite clearly without us ever being told directly.

I think 'showing, not telling' is something that new writers often struggle with. It's something that a writer gets better at the more they practise it. If you want to tell your readers that a character is untrustworthy, how would you do it? This would probably be a series of actions in which they repeatedly demonstrate that they go against their word, or betray other characters. This would be more engaging for the reader than another character declaring, early on the story, "I don't trust Tom".

Here ends the lesson on the fourth commandment of writing. Join me next week when we will touch on the importance of heeding the rules of grammar.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Ten Commandments of Writing #3: Thou Shalt Not End With "It Was All A Dream"...

How many of you remember getting assignments to write stories in school? My heart always leapt with joy when that happened. Generally some people were always asked to read their stories aloud to the class. And there was always that one person who'd written some fantastic and implausible adventure, only to finish with, "and then I woke up and realised it was all a dream."

This is another of those tropes that was probably once perfectly acceptable, but it has been done so often that it has become too predictable. A similarly over-used trope is that one where the characters are actually dead and don't realise it until the end of the story. In spite of these two tired old tropes being over-used, there are nevertheless recent examples of both of them being used in TV shows (*cough* 'Lost' *cough*).

An author might decide to end their story this way to provide a twist to the tale. The problem is that it's been used so often that this revelation no longer comes as a surprise. To me, it rather smacks of the author writing themselves into a corner and not being able to think of another way of getting out of it. Plot twists and turns make a thrilling read, but avoid getting into a situation where you get your character into such a sticky situation you can't work out how to extricate them from it.

For fear of sounding like a broken record, this is why plotting is important. I have read more than one novel where strange things happen to the character, and I turned the pages eagerly, wanting to know why these things are happening, only to come across the "it was all a dream" ending. I interpret this to mean the author couldn't be bothered to think of a more original ending. I accept that much of this is personal opinion, but I have heard similar view expressed by agents, and ending in such a way puts a lot of agents and editors off any further negotiations with the author.

So, here we have the third commandment of writing: thou shalt come up with a better ending than "it was all a dream".

Join me next week, when I shall be exploring the difference between "showing" and "telling".

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mission: Improbable?

Last week I mentioned I landed an agent. Tomorrow I'll meet her for lunch. After that, I'm heading downtown with two friends to watch the Kentucky Wildcats in open practice. (I've got a basketball-themed mystery idea but I need to research the sport more before I write it.)

Anyway, I sent my agent the first three chapters of a book I'm working on, and also pitched another story I'd finished. Unfortunately, both are too short and I need to double their lengths. I'm working on one, and finding I hate my beginning. Openings are my bete noire, and I often end up writing different scenarios before finding one I like.

I'm debating putting this one story aside and working on revisions of the other one. Or maybe plotting a new book. But part of me doesn't like to give up on what I consider a challenge to my imagination.

Maybe a day away from the book will give me a new perspective. Maybe talking with my agent will give me some ideas.

Now if I could write faster.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Ten Commandments of Writing #2: Thou Shalt Avoid Conversations Starting With "As You Know"

For the next few weeks in this series of posts, I will be focusing on things that you should not do in your writing. As a disclaimer I will add that you will always find examples of these in published work. Thus proving that if you bring in a huge profit for your publisher, you can pretty much get away with anything you want. But for unknown writers, trying to get a contract, there are just some things that will put an editor off. And these are the things that I want to share with you. The things that I have learned - generally the hard way - not to do.

The trope we are dealing with today is the situation of having two characters discuss something they both already know for the sole purpose of telling the reader about it. In my writing group we tend to refer to it as "As You Know Bob" syndrome or a case of "So tell me again, Professor, how your time machine works."

Imagine, if you will, a novel that begins with the sentence:

"As you know, Prince Edward, your father, King Henry, has been at war with the neighbouring kingdom of Ilyria for nearly twenty years," the prince's aide said.
There is a lot of information here, but since it is all detail that Prince Edward (presumably a major character) already knows, this is a clumsy way of relaying it to the reader. If I were to read a novel starting with this sentence, I doubt I'd get beyond that first line.
The 'TV Tropes' website goes into more detail about this particular literary tool, giving examples from film, TV and literature that are guilty of it. Sometimes it can work, but generally it doesn't, and it is one of those tired old tropes that has been used so often it would put a lot of editors off if they picked up something from the slush pile that uses this. There are generally better ways to get vital information across to the reader. Perhaps one of the easiest examples to pull from popular contemporary TV is Dr Who, where the Doctor's companion generally plays the role of the 'Watson' - the character who is assumed to be less knowledgeable than the audience, and therefore is the mechanism used to allow the main character (ie the Doctor) to explain things, to both the other character and the audience.

To go back to the 'Time Machine' example, let's think about one of Hollywood's more famous time machines, Doc Brown's DeLorean in "Back to the Future". Imagine if the conversation went like this:

MARTY: So tell me again, Doc, how your time machine works.

DOC BROWN: Well, as you know Marty, it is the flux capacitor that makes time travel possible.
Let's go over once more how it works....

In the film, this is not at all how it goes. An ordinary teenage boy plays the perfect 'Watson' to Doc Brown's intellectual 'Sherlock', giving him someone to explain everything to. The audience learn about the time machine at the same time Marty does, when he is summoned to the Twin Pines Shopping Mall one October night in 1985. We never find out exactly how the flux capacitor works, but we don't really need to know - it's enough to know that it is the magical gadget that makes time travel possible. And it works.

And so there it is, the second commandment of writing - Thou shalt avoid conversations starting with "As You Know". Join me next week when we explore the third commandment, which is all to do with how not to end your story.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I Got an Agent! Now What?

2015 started out on a rather momentous note. In January, I had shoulder surgery, from which I'm still recovering. (The entire healing process will take about a year, including physical therapy.)

I also landed an agent in January. The agency is small and new, but my agent has fourteen years of experience in the publishing world. Turns out she'd read a collection of my short stories and liked them well enough to ask me to submit something to her.

Now I'll be the first to tell you I never thought I'd get an agent. I figured my writing career would consist of submitting to small pubs and self-publishing. But that was until my small press publisher became an imprint of a New York publisher. So that adage about "never say never"? Yeah, I need to remember that.

What does getting an agent mean for me? First, I'll still submit to small presses and self-publish. But I will also be working on selling my writing to traditional publishers. (Or, more appropriately, I should say my agent will work on selling while I work on the writing part.) This means I have to do things that I hadn't had to do before, such as write longer books. It's funny, I can write short stories, and I've had fellow authors tell me they can't write short because they find it too difficult to distill a story down to its essentials. Me? I'm the opposite, and I've had to work hard to make my stories longer. But if I want to advance my writing career, I need to push the idea I can't do it out of my mind. Before, I never thought I could write a 100,000-word novel. Well, I did. Once. Granted it ended up being 35,000 words after all was said and done, but the point is, I did it. The third book in my Angels of Death series, Devil Inside, is 68,000 words and my 2014 NaNoWriMo political thriller clocked in at 65,000 words.

I can do this. That's what I have to keep telling myself. Because rehearsals are over and it's time for the main show.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Monthly Round-Up: February 2015

As we reach the end of February, we see signs of the end of winter. Or at least we do here in the UK. I believe over the pond they are still up to their ears in snow and temperatures way too low for any civilised society. Have I mentioned how much I don't miss those Canadian winters?

Anyway, in my world this month has seen builders and other tradespeople come and go as we get some improvement work done to our house. I'm sure the end result will be worth it, but as a creature of habit I hate the disruption, and having everything in the wrong place for several weeks has put me in altogether the wrong frame of mind to do anything writing-related. However, there is some news to report this month, so I move on to my update for the end of February.

COMING SOON

I do have some news in this category. I have just signed a contract with MuseItUp Publishing to republish my horror novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN. Those who have been with me a while will know that this was my first published novel, released by Lyrical Press in 2010 on a three-year contract. I have always had a special fondness for this novel, seeing as how it was my 'firstborn', as it were, and I am pleased that Muse are able to offer it a new home, and give it the promotion that it deserves.

'Coming soon' is a tad misleading, though, since the release is tentatively scheduled for Spring 2016, and that feels like some time away.

PROMOTIONAL STUFF

There are a couple of new online appearances to report for February.

8 February - I was interviewed by Robbi Perna
15 February - I talked about how to beat writer's block on Iona Brodie's blog.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Work continues, slowly but surely, on the third Shara Summers novel, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH.

As for the new horror novel, well it's sort of finished. I've started querying it again. Whether or not it is definitively finished rather depends on what kind of feedback I get on it. I will be sure to keep you posted.
That's it for now. See you next month!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Ten Commandments of Writing #1: Thou Shalt Make Time To Write

Just about all writers have that encounter, sooner or later, at a party or some other social event where they get chatting to someone who asks that stock question, "what do you do?". When they discover the answer is "writer", the person says airily, "oh, I always wanted to write a book. If I could ever find the time."

I've always believed that being a writer is not something anyone chooses to be, any more than we choose the colour of our eyes, or our skin, or whether we are left or right-handed. What we do choose, however, is whether or not to be a successful writer. And the first step in being a successful writer is finding time to write.

It's the stock excuse for many aspiring writers: I could finish my book if only I had more time to write. I used it myself for quite a long time. My first published novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN, took me ten years to write. I used a variety of excuses to try to explain this, but really they were just excuses. Fledgling writers find excuses not to write for many reasons. The most common, if we're honest with ourselves I think, is lack of confidence. But taking ten years to write a book is a luxury only afforded to the unpublished writer, or ironically, the very successful. If you're Stephen King or JK Rowling, your loyal fans will probably wait ten years for the next book, if they had to, and still be there to buy the book at the end of it. For the rest of us, it's worth bearing in mind that there are many writers out there to attract your potential readers when they get bored of waiting for you.

The stark reality is that writers have no more hours in the day than anyone else. Finding time to write is simply a matter of ensuring you block off some of those hours for writing. Many writers, like me, have full time day jobs. Some have kids and school and hockey runs to deal with, elderly relatives to care for, yoga lessons, football practice, swimming lessons, or even a combination of all of the above. Modern life is extremely busy. But amongst all this, the writer must carve out time to write.

What works for me is getting up at a stupidly early hour and getting the early train into London. I sit in Starbucks round the corner from work, and have a soya latte and a muffin for breakfast while I wait for the NetBook to boot up. I try to get an hour of writing in before I head for the office to start my working day. I find this hour very productive, and in truth I get more done in that hour than I do if I take a day off work and write at home.

I appreciate not everyone can face getting up at 5:30am. Fifteen years ago I wouldn't have thought I could have done it, either. But I have discovered that this is the best time for me for writing. It may have something to do with tapping into the muse before my internal editor wakes up, but I find the words flow first thing in the morning when I am not properly awake. Some writers I know carve out an hour of writing time when the kids are in bed. Some find that writing late at night works for them. The key is to find what works for you and schedule it into your routine. Block off the time in your diary. Make sure that your family members also know that this particular time is Writing Time, and you are not to be disturbed.

Making time to write in a packed life generally means sacrificing something. For me, it's sleep. Other writers I know have stopped watching TV, opting instead to use that time as writing time. If your schedule is absolutely rammed, have a look at what you can change to fit in some writing time. If you get a lunch hour at work, can you leave your workplace and set up in a nearby café or some such to use that time for writing? If you regularly meet friends at the pub twice a week, can you cut down to one a week and use the other evening as writing time? If necessary, try experimenting until you find a routine that works for you. As I mentioned, it never occurred to me once upon a time that I could get out of bed so early. But once I got in the routine of doing so, I found it not so bad, and the thought of a nice sugary treat when I get to the coffee shop does sometimes inspire me out of bed at that unseemly hour in the morning.

But the most important thing, in order to be a successful writer, is to write, and so this is my First Commandment of Writing: Writer, Thou Shalt Make Time To Write.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Ten Commandments of Writing: Introduction

Those of you who have been following this blog a while will know that I have been at this writing game for quite a while. In fact, I've been at it most of my life. I've been writing novels since I was 11 years old. I've been submitting my work since I was 17. I am now 45. I will leave you to work out for yourself just how many rejections that equates to, with the added note that just because I have stuff published DOES NOT mean I don't get rejected any more. Nor does it mean those acceptances are any less sweet.

Anyway, when I got to thinking about just how long I've been at this game, it made me realise just how much I've learned along the way. And maybe I can pass on some of those things I have learned over the years to others, who may be just starting out on the whole writing/submitting/rejection carousel.

I will emphasise that I don't have all the answers. The thing about writing is that you never stop learning about your craft. And the publishing world is a whole lot different than it was when I started out, when there was no internet and no email, and submissions had to be sent by post, with a stamped self addressed envelope, and markets had to be researched and the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook was the must-have publication for getting hold of publishers' details.

No, I am by no means claiming to know everything about writing. If I did, I'd be making a great deal more money from it, and would be getting a lot more acceptances than rejections. But there are things I've learned along the way. Things that I wish I'd have known when I was starting. Things that might have led to that novel contract arriving a bit sooner than it did.

For the next few weeks, I am going to run a regular feature on this blog, featuring my version of the Ten Commandments of Writing. I am not claiming to be Moses, and unlike his mine are not written in stone. These will just be things I've learned along the way, that might help someone else as they try to negotiate the thorny path to publication.  These will otherwise be known as the "Writer, Thou Shalt Not" rules.

Join me here at the same time next week for more information about the first commandment:  "Writer, Thou Shalt Make Time to Write."