Monday, 28 February 2011


It is the last day of February. This is a shame. My aunt,when she was a child, had a real problem with 28th February being followed by the 1st March. 

She was six when she realised something was wrong with her birthday, but she ignored the fact that the calendar seemed to be wrong . 

She was eight when the first smart-child told her she was two. 

Later on, she complained about her dilemma a lot less... she was aging remarkably slowly and she pointed this out to the same group of friends. :D

On the last day of February:

  • I coached my son through the difficult, but necessary, blood test. Persuaded him to allow a nurse to draw three of the four vials of blood.
  • Dealt with the pain when he pulled the needle out.
  • Went to the park to look for signs of spring amongst the uniform grey of the persistent rain
  • Bought the cutest tiny pink shoes for a friend's new baby
  • Read through ENCOUNTERS with two new Betas
  • Am amazed by how much you see with other people reading with you - and that different people see such different things
March is such a muddled month - all mud and promises - I'm looking forward to APRIL when I am Blogging-around-the-Alphabet - I have a plan :D

Friday, 25 February 2011


On his Blog, The Graveyard Shift, author Lee Lofland, interviewed Benjamin LeRoy: the founder of Bleak House Books (Madison, WI.) whose company specialises in a publishing crime and dark literary fiction.


Benjamin Leroy says an editor is like a Building Inspector.

An author is like a general contractor. The author’s job is to make the best possible use out of the tools accumulated and experience gained to build a sturdy, up to code building. When the author is done with the construction and the clean up, the inspector is brought in to check the big things: is the foundation level? Does the plumbing work the way it’s supposed to? The electricity? After the inspection is over the author receives a checklist of things that need to be fixed before the structure is ready for occupancy.

The building inspector doesn’t pound nails or rework the wiring, that’s the contractor’s job.

Too many authors get the checklist of major problems and think if they hurry and throw a new coat of paint over the walls, nobody will notice that the building is still crooked. (I saw visions of my first house where the “new” wiring joined to the ancient, out of sight, under the floorboards.)
Often what we see in the slushpile are buildings that are better off condemned. And, more often than not, the people put in charge of the repairs are either too lazy or too unskilled to fix the trouble spots.

"We receive over two thousand submissions a year. We publish somewhere between 15-20 books, and most of those are from authors that have a history – have proven that they can successfully... build skyscrapers that won’t crumble in a stiff wind."

I’ve got a busy weekend ahead, following my architectural plans, I'll be laying a few more bricks J


Thursday, 24 February 2011


Alicia and Theresa at edittorrent.blogspot are conducting a two-week class - entirely in an email list – on the subject of writing a synopsis. There is a cost but it is a chance to get guidance and feedback from an expert. The art of distillation is not one of my strengths so I went to read their advice:

The trick is to leave the plot behind. Too many writers get bogged down in events, and end up with a boring chronicle of “this happened, then this happened.”

The idea that a synopsis like this will bore the reader is not a great surprise but writing a synopsis that reflects the writing and the story - not just the plot - is a challenge.

Theresa calls this her SCORE method:






Using these key thoughts, it would be easier to evaluate and tighten the synopsis while weaving in plot events; maintaining coherence and representing the intensity you worked hard to create.

SCORE when writing a synopsis, with their key advice.

Did you find any advice useful when you were writing a synopsis?

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!  Stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon - it's a dash!

The information given tends to be informal and flavoured with humour, when a dash is the perfect piece of punctuation to use.

The only thing the butterflies did when Lucas arrived at his desk - besides giggling and turning a prettier shade of pink - was to stare at their books, and completely ignore him.

I could have used commas instead of dashes. This was a stylistic choice. William Strunk Jnr and E B White in "Elements of Style" point out that, unlike other punctuation marks, the dash doesn't have one specific usage. It is strictly an either or with commas, colons and parentheses where the dash offers more choice to the user and more understanding for the reader.

Lucas Orme's foul temper - according to his teacher, Master Wix - was going to get him plucked.

The other students bubbled with enthusiasm - generations of magical talent swirling their confidence - in the most special lessons the school offered.

I'm addicted to dashes - and humour - in my writing. Do you have a writing vice?

Monday, 21 February 2011


When I read the word - the blade is all see.
I find it odd that Challenge #1 unlocked the words that had been simmering away inside.

In 300 words or less, tell us - 
(a) one secret 
(b) one lie 
(c) one interesting quirk 
(d) one annoying habit 
(e) one of your best character traits, and 
(f) one of your favourite things in the whole world. 
AND include the following words - bloviate, fuliguline, rabbit, and blade.

I have squinted, like a rabbit with a nervous tick, all week when reading around other blogs. What I am about to write is going to sound like the biggest piece of bloviation but I guess I thought you'd like to know how I've been feeling.  (a) The subject I studied, in depth, at University, was (English, European and World) Medieval History. (b) I hold a masters degree in the subject. (c) My ability to empathise with others is highly evolved. (d) I see shades of grey in every argument but things tend to condense down polar views. (e) My need to see fairplay and justice is passionate-in-the-extreme. (f) My favourite thing in the whole world is tolerance. If the group to which the challenge belongs had selected a fuliguline theme I would have signed up in a heart beat but I cannot see the word "crusade" in any context that is positive. That doesn't mean I don't see that to others it is a benign word. To me, the word is multi-layered and powerful. 

Sunday, 20 February 2011


I had fun reading some of the Six Sentence Sunday Blogposts; but the link won't allow any more participants and I came-over-all-Lucas: I wanted to play and it wouldn't let me.

I had to decide if I wanted Sunday to be the first day of the week and post a hook or the seventh day and post seven sentences. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling hook-rusted ;) I needed to do something a different. 

The seven sentence excerpt is from STARRING - MG SF magical realism

Palms flat, he scooped the shattered glass into a pile. Vacant, absorbed in the task, Lucas stared up when one of the Prefects tugged at his collar. Old enough to have spots sprouting among her freckles, she ghosted a smile. Lucas blushed and hurried to pick the pieces up, but she tutted and nudged him with her toe. The importance didn’t register until the pieces started to circle – the shards from his hand spinning in with the rest. Once the glass had reformed, the Prefect put it on the table behind her and carried on walking between the ten-seater benches encouraging slow-eaters to finish up and get ready for the morning class. Lucas clenched his fists and glared at the perfect shape.

Let me know if you are posting a seven sentence excerpt. I'm doing the five mile River Gade walk and dinner, but then I'll come around a-reading ;)

Friday, 18 February 2011


The Center for Writing Excellence is a place where I love to lurk and learn; check out Janie Sullivan's Blog

Dr. Laurel York, author of Take Your Characters to Dinner, created a check list of conflicts.

This is one of them:


Give both sides options.

Give them a voice and a fully formed shape.

Tension is what makes the story begin but  friction between the characters or other elements of the story makes it continue. 

nternal or external conflict: it is the shifting balance between the elements that keeps the reader involved in the story. 

  • Main character against him or herself
  • Main character against society
  • Main character against another character
  • Main character against nature

The main character should be at war with him/herself - needs, wants, duties or responsibilities
He/she should question society but see the advantages and disadvantages of it.
The protagonist and antagonists should both be fully rounded, driven and struggling to do what, in their opinion, is the correct thing.
It is hard to argue against nature but the main character can find and lose advantages and benefit from lulls in the storm.

Characterisation and realistic details are the core of believable fiction.

I love the BBC drama, Garrow's Law, which is about an 18th century barrister at the Old Bailey Court. William Garrow was a passionate believer in social and legal justice. He championed the poor and was critical of the corrupt reward-driven criminal justice system of the day. The Arts and Humanities Research Council has funded a digital archive project detailing the lives of non-elite people. The Old Bailey Online is a fabulous writers' resource.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Barry Cunningham's top tips for writing children's fiction

In August 1996, Barry Cunningham spotted a manuscript about a boy wizard with a jagged scar on his forehead and the rest is history. 
If Barry Cunningham has any advice on writing I'm going to tattoo it on my forehead until it is learned - and invest in laser removal surgery later ;) 
Barry is currently the editor, managing director, of Chicken House Publishing. Sadly they are no longer able to accept unsolicited submissions. However, with The Times newspaper they run the Children's Fiction competition - judging for the 2010 competition is well underway.
Barry Cunningham's top tips for writing children's fiction
Think about who your reader is and try imagining yourself at same age as your characters. What did you feel as a child? Can you remember what was important to you? What made you laugh or cry? It’s a great place to start.
It’s very important to plan, however loosely. Some writers use a storyboard to lay out their plots graphically. They have detailed descriptions of their setting, plots and cliffhangers, as well as character breakdowns – so they can be consistent. The beginning and ending of a novel are by far the most difficult parts to get right. Think carefully about where you want to begin your book – it doesn’t have to be at the start of the story! You might want to cut straight to the action, or even begin from a minor character or animal’s point of view! Don’t be afraid to experiment although the end of a book should always offer some "reward" to the young reader.
You need the reader to feel something for your characters. Sympathy and admiration for lead characters is sometimes not as important as writing a wonderful villain or anti-hero, but try and make both intriguing, not just plot devices for moving your story on. Good description is important, but almost always it’s better to express yourself in dialogue, or through your characters actions, than in lengthy explanations. Humour is also very important – children often laugh with fear or cry with happiness, and the use of both is effective.
I love the advice to feel it - ties in well with the time I spend visualising whole sections before I write them. 
I read this again today, before I sent off two submissions  - yes: printed chapters and a chat to the post office staff when HE used sellotape to seal the envelope. Two agencies - whose names I'd happily have tattooed under the image of m'mother (;)) - only accept postal submissions. After the widow's mite comes the long wait.
To pass the time, and encourage me to not bite my finger nails down to the elbows, I have my Valentine's-iversary present: my DVD of Garrow's Law Season 1. For some reason, probably writing related, I didn't see this. If anyone is going to give James McAvoy a run for his money it is Andrew Buchan. 
I read a recommendation for a new vampire TV programme but I forgot to write it down. :( Any viewing suggestions?

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


Today is the Bernard Pivot Blogfest hosted by Nicole Ducleroir at One Significant Moment at a Time. She is celebrating her 500 followers milestone (WOW!) with a blogfest designed to bring people together, so they can get to know more about each other.  This is Bernard Pivot's famous questionnaire.
Anyone who's watched Inside the Actor's Studio will recognise the questionnaire.  The show's host, James Lipton, asks it of every celebrity guest at the close of the interview.  The questionnaire was originally created by Bernard Pivot, a French journalist, for the series he hosted on French television from 1991-2001, called Bouillon de Culture.

If you fancy joining in these are the questions:
  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What is your favorite curse word?
  6. What sound or noise do you love?
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
1.            What is your favourite word? Porcelain - family in-joke -  thanks to Moby.
2.            What is your least favourite word? Moist – makes me squirm but not in a good way
3.            What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Touch. At touching distance all other senses are heightened. Call me (Thomas) kinaesthetic.
4.            What turns you off? Nothing – I look for the positive in the negative
5.            What is your favourite curse word? FU**PI**BOLL****SH**! – I'd need to be pushed beyond my limit, but, if I need to swear I’m not big on half measures ;)
6.            What sound or noise do you love? The whispered, muted, sounds you have to strain to really hear: the first raindrops in the shower; leaves that flutter to summer’s ghost breezes; sunlight cracking old gloss paint; the murmur of the sea, at a distance.
7.            What sound or noise do you hate? Anything loud, unexpected and un-organically metallic
8.            What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?  CEO of a multi-national company
9.            What profession would you not like to do? Nursing – I faint at the thought of needles... that’s long before the sight of them!
10.         If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Morally good is fine with me. ”

I'm looking forward to reading and learning more about others.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Raymond Federman, Double or Nothing (1971)

Once upon a time two or three weeks ago, a rather stubborn and determined middle-aged man decided to record for posterity, exactly as it happened, word by word and step by step, the story of another man for indeed what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal, a somewhat paranoiac fellow unmarried, unattached, and quite irresponsible, who had decided to lock himself in a room a furnished room with a private bath, cooking facilities, a bed, a table, and at least one chair, in New York City, for a year 365 days to be precise, to write the story of another person—a shy young man about of 19 years old—who, after the war the Second World War, had come to America the land of opportunities from France under the sponsorship of his uncle—a journalist, fluent in five languages—who himself had come to America from Europe Poland it seems, though this was not clearly established sometime during the war after a series of rather gruesome adventures, and who, at the end of the war, wrote to the father his cousin by marriage of the young man whom he considered as a nephew, curious to know if he the father and his family had survived the German occupation, and indeed was deeply saddened to learn, in a letter from the young man—a long and touching letter written in English, not by the young man, however, who did not know a damn word of English, but by a good friend of his who had studied English in school—that his parents both his father and mother and his two sisters one older and the other younger than he had been deported they were Jewish to a German concentration camp Auschwitz probably and never returned, no doubt having been exterminated deliberately X * X * X * X, and that, therefore, the young man who was now an orphan, a displaced person, who, during the war, had managed to escape deportation by working very hard on a farm in Southern France, would be happy and grateful to be given the opportunity to come to America that great country he had heard so much about and yet knew so little about to start a new life, possibly go to school, learn a trade, and become a good, loyal citizen. —

I'd want to read on. I'd need to wear my glasses and develop a lot more patience, but I would want to know what came next

Monday, 14 February 2011

Just Kiss Already - BONDED; don't you know? ;)

Christina Lee and Stina Lindenblatt have combined to create a formidable force and a kissing, fantastic blogfest, in honour of St Valentine's Day. It's never too late to share the love. If you want to spread a little love, here are the details: 

1. Sign up on Mr. Linky, below, or on Stina's blog.
2. On February 14th (Valentine's Day), post an excerpt from either your own work, or another's authors work you admire (give them credit, though), beginning at 7 am EST.
*But* make sure the excerpt is no longer than 250 words (it's tiring to read long excerpts). And if there's an intro to the scene, please, keep that short too!
Oh, and *don't forgot*, this is an actual KISSING SCENE! So go crazy :D
3. To make this *really simple*, we won't require you read everyone's entry (that's exhausting)! How about just 3-5 other entries?

I hope to get around all the scenes posted, but as Valentine's Day is also my wedding anniversary my other half has strong opinions about how much attention I need to share in his direction, today of all days ;) I'm all about balance.

This excerpt is hot off the press - taken from BONDED my SF romance

With the Hale of Khiphurdar destroyed by a chemical warfare, the Haft are doomed to fray. The invasion of Khiphurdar was overwhelmingly decisive. Rion, Thagne of Khiphudar, was captured, tortured, and exiled beyond the frame. 
Drained and abandoned in the most inhospitable environment, Rion is only a degree from fraying when he is rescued by Saffi Rand. 
Saffi is an empath, a magnet for any who are experiencing  emotional extremes, grown too sensitive to survive her gift and remain whole,  she withdraws from human contact. She is appointed to the Wardens of the Aggragate Hinterland
The pain that draws her through the arid, mountainous region is beyond any she has experienced but she cannot resist this attraction. 

Bathed in her luminous essence, Rion could not force himself to maintain his distance. Light and insubstantial, her touch imprisoned him. He gloried in the frisson of her esse.  This close, the protection offered by her serviceable cotton shirt and shorts faded from minimal to none. Fear that he could harm her fuelled his resistance but desire weakened his resolve. He curved to encompass the essence of her. Rion froze, moisture beaded on his brow, as Saffi's rock-roughened fingertips grazed the skin of his neck. His thoughts jumbled to incoherent pleasure when she splayed her fingers over the back of his head. The force she exerted was faint but the pressure he experienced was incalculable. 
Rion slid flat palms over her shoulders to the indentation of her lower back. He drew her forward until he was bathed in the flowing pulse of energy that ranged within her helios.  He gasped at the infusion. Saffi’s fingers clawed at his scalp. She jerked; closed the distance between them with instinctual speed and met his open mouth with hers. A lightning blast could not have shocked him more. When, wide-eyed, Saffi staggered back a pace, Rion touched his fingers to his lips and hers: he bridged the distance. Her hot breath, the comfort, the elastic tug and the soft give of her lip sent shivers of pleasure through him equal to the charge that sealed his bond. The contact allowed the synergy to flow, but Rion could not force himself to break away. 

Happy Valentine's Day.

Rough. Almost ready. I jumped ahead of the rescue I'm currently writing to a point, perhaps a third of the way into the story.

Friday, 11 February 2011


That's passive! From Anne Chadwick

Bleeding from the eyeballs hampered my ability to write this post.
My ability to write this post was hampered by the blood streaming from my eyes
Writing this post, I was hampered by the blood streaming from my eyes.
I was hampered by the blood streaming from my eyes, when I wrote this post.

I spent the afternoon using FIND to hunt down and eliminate clunky past tense constructions in my novel. The aim was to make sure I was writing in the active voice, rather than slipping into passive.
Active voice emphasises the doer:
Selene wielded the gnarled branch high.
The passive voice moves the focus of a sentence away from the doer:
The emphasis in the passive voice is always on what is happening, not who is doing it.
The gnarled branch was wielded high.
The gnarled branch was wielded high by Selene.
Passive voice has its uses (humour amongst them,)  but, nothing beats the active construction.
It is best to write in active voice when possible. If you want to identify a sentence written in the passive voice, watch out for these keywords (remember the eyes bleeding thing?) :

has been
have been
will be

In order to change passive voice to active voice, you need to know who or what the subject of the sentence is and then rewrite the sentence so the subject is before the object.

You can simplify the writing in past tense verb forms too – present :

ACTIVE: I taught                     PASSIVE: was (have been) taught [by someone];
ACTIVE: I learned                  PASSIVE:  It was (has been) learned [by someone].


I could only shrug; I had been too wrapped up in sickly, nervous tension to pay much attention to the words coming out of his mouth.
I shrugged. (Wrapped in sickly, nervous tension,) I’d paid no attention to the words coming out of his mouth
(Some times pluperfect in disguise - I’d/I had - is the answer too)

A small dictionary, and old encyclopaedia and several Internet sites were harmed, in the making of this blogpost.

Thursday, 10 February 2011


With Linkin Park in my list of top ten favourite bands, it can't come as much of a surprise that I like some of Staind's finest too. I wanted Pink's track: Perfect - but Youtube said I had to ask your Mum's permission, before I fixed it here.

Portraying relationships:
Parent-adolescent conflict can serve an adaptive function; conflict can be an impetus to change. ;)


Mum settled herself on the sofa, patted the space beside her, “You just have to – ”
She patted the seat? How many times, since last November, had she done that before beginning a little chat?
Lacey folded her arms and painted an expression of over-eager on her face, “No. No. Let me guess: I just have to give it some time? Did I? Did I get it right? Did I?”
“Lacey, please?” Her mother flushed. Her eyes rounded and tears welled. She felt hurt?  “I know the timing of the job offer was unfortunate, but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity; you know that.”
Lacey used every finger to tug her straight, blond hair back until her scalp hurt. She stared at her mum’s brown linen dress and flat, rubber-soled shoes. Her wild and witty mother was unrecognisable these days. Teaching in a monastery school, The Abbey d’Or, had done that. Her promotion to the highest order.
“You’ve only been asked to do one Re-sit class. You could take the exam in a month or two. Things will get better.”
“Do you know my school, at all? Do you have any idea? No, you don’t, do you?”
Lacey turned. She’d had enough. Starting with the stupid bow-tied monstrosity they made her wear. She littered the front room with the navy and red uniform. The jacket hit the coffee table. Her wrap-over, bow tie ended up in the fireplace. The pleated, kilt she kicked off at the door sent it half way up the stairs before she tripped over it.
With a stumble and a curse, her mum slipped on the skirt. Good. It slowed her down. But not for long. She arrived, rubbing her shin, as Lacey hopped her second leg into her jeans. Keeping one eye on her Mum, who leaned against the door eye narrowed and lips squeezed tight like a draw-string bag, Lacey squatted beside the bed-high, pile of clothes. She flung tee-shirts, sweatshirts, dresses and shorts in all directions. Three or four tops landed on the foot of the bed.
“What are you doing?” True to form, her Mum didn't step any closer than the doorway. She always said she couldn't find a route through the debris littering the floor, in various stages of decay.
The pale blue tee-shirt Lacey pulled on was short, the striped cardigan she put on over that was too large. She leaned so she could see herself in the full-length mirror; wrinkled her nose as she checked each view, “I’m screwing up my look; obviously.”
“Where do you think your going? Get into your uniform, Lacey. Go to school.”
Lacey stumbled over plates and the soft thing that gave underfoot, during the few steps to the shelf. She stamped her feet into boots and zipped them, “I quit.”
Not even caring that her mother was there, Lacey took the key from its place and unlocked the pink, lockable box on the lower shelf. Her passport was under the old cards, and letters and stuff. With a loud huff, she retraced her steps. Rummaged through the bin, looking for her official Exam Results' notification letter. She reached and tugged a large leather bag, from under the bed. Kicked the shoe box back under. She stuffed the papers in, and glared around the room.
“What?” squealed her Mum. She blocked the doorway, a hand on the frame at each side.
“I’m not going to school. Offa’s School? Fucking awful! Get a refund; whatever.”
Lacey got close, considered pushing past her Mum.
Her Mum stared at her, eye to eye, fingers curving around the white painted wood.
“What are you going to do, Mum? Really? Are you going to drive me to school every day? Stand across every door way? There are windows too.”
The unhealthy pink that had marked her mother’s face paled.
“I thought not.”
“STOP. Lacey, we need to talk about this. You can’t rush into...”
Lacey stepped back a pace, stood stock-still – lower lip down, eye brow up – and glared.
Her mother blushed again.
“I wouldn’t have got a bloody D if you hadn’t made me move! Stop panicking, Mum. Right now, I am going to college. See if I can persuade them to let me in.”

I'm editing one novel, re-writing another and writing a third - by hand - to keep the momentum going. It could be said there is one-thing-more-than-enough going on.
What are you concentrating on, at the moment?