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Showing posts from September, 2016

This weekend, I'm conning (Titancon 2016)

My real-life work office is closed and everything up to date! Hooray. I'll get up to page 100 of my edits this afternoon and then close down for the weekend. Tomorrow, I shall bake a cake and then, that evening, I will be heading out to Titancon where I'm reading one of my short stories. (A fun little dark one, I hope. I mean, I know it's what I'm reading and I'm hoping it's fun....)

This odd duology is the norm for most writers. During the week all but the lucky few who write for a living skulk at work, putting in the hours and commitment needed to maintain their jobs. For me, that's a small consultancy which takes up a good bit of my time. Then, come the afternoon, or evening, or weekends - whenever we fit it in - we take on our different life as a writer.

For most breaking-through writers I know, this is very much akin to having two jobs. Writing is time consuming enough, but promoting it brings up another connundrum. I'm also aware that many writers…

Abendau's Legacy - sneak preview

Early morning light filtered through rough-hewn portholes, casting sea-shimmers on the corridor’s ceiling. Kare stopped at the entrance to the old Queen’s chamber in the Roamer complex and stood, soaking in the warmth of the sun and the sound of waves drumming, ceaseless and rhythmic. He touched the room’s force-field, letting it tingle against his hands and play over his skin. Once, he’d thought it was a security measure – now he understood that the chamber was not just a sleeping-room, but the Roamers’ museum of a culture, and the force-field prevented damp air reaching it on days when the sun was clouded and the air cold. Get on with it. He grimaced, took a deep breath, and pushed his way into the room. The briny air was replaced by the low musk of incense, burned in honour of the dead. The room remained as it had been when he’d last visited it, on the memorial day for his grandmother, when he’d lit the incense. Memories rushed at him: of the casket containing his grandmo…

Review - 13 Minutes (Sarah Pinborough): The Call (Peadar O'Guilin)

Interestingly my two favourite books of the year have come from authors I met at Titancon last year - but that's coincidence rather than anything deliberate. Also interesting is that they are books I have shared or will reccommend to my kids (although different kids...)


A teenager's body is found in a lake, having been in the water for 13 minutes. So begins the intriguing premise of 13 minutes, a mystery novel for Young Adults - a genre I struggle to find a lot of books in (but that could be down to me exploring the wrong sections of the bookshelves).

It's always hard reviewing mysteries because I don't like to give spoilers away, and this one had me guessing to near the end.

The central characters are well drawn with a nice balance of shades of grey within the teenage world. There is no attempt to sugar-coat teenagers and their behaviour, but neither is there a focus on shocking the world with what goes on. Instead, what we have is…


Whilst I don't review as often as I should, I'm a voracious reader. Most weeks I'll read one, maybe two, books. I've just read one in two days, which particularly gripped me. (Review to follow on that one.) This year, I've read a mix of traditionally published, indie published and self published and, for me, two books have stood out - both traditionally published, as it happens, and neither from debut authors.

One of the two writers, according to their website, has written more than 20 novels - and is hoping the next novel will be the breakthrough book.

You read that right. 20 novels, and there has been no breakthrough book.

The other writer first published nine years ago. I very much hope their current book is their breakthrough book.

So, what do we mean by breakthrough book? For me - and this is open to interpretation - it does need to be a print-book and available in a range of outlets, including e-book and bookstores. It needs to be stocked in the book chains. …


In which I impart bad news...

There is no shortcut to a writing career. You can try to find it, you can bypass steps and buy in support, but at some point there are certain things you need to master. Here, then, are some of the things I hated having to learn and am now glad I did.

1. Blurbs, queries, synopsis, taglines, whatever variety and version you want to refer to. Yesterday I was in the position of chatting about my novel. "What's it about?" I was asked. This wasn't a casual chit-chat, this was the time and place for - and expectation of - a pitch.

There is no time to stop and think. No time to look at my feet and mutter about my artistic hopes for it, or my desired outcome. No room for themes or influences. This is a single line to sum up my novel.

"It's aliens vs Belfast with a dash of District-9," I said, and felt very glad I knew that. (For Abendau 'grimdark Star Wars' works well). Except as things wore on, a different emphasis was nee…


The prism's light caught and carried him, showing his deaths:
Brought down by the guard outside his cell.
Caught in the open entrance hall of the palace, lasered while he stood unsure where to go.
Lifting the babies, their cries giving him away, the tightening around his throat as well-trained hands took him in a strangle-hold.
His ship, drifting, disabled. The sound of being boarded. Alarms, sirens.
Fire, burning through him.
So many, many ways to die.
Ealyn lifted his head, ignoring the dry pull of his lips. Later, they’d come and let him off his chains, give him water to drink and what passed for food. For now, he closed his eyes and relived his deaths, focusing on the minutiae of each moment. The Empress had been close when she'd last visited, her stomach swollen and huge, the children a presence within her. He had to know if he had seen each death, or if were there more he needed to live through. He had to know if he'd remembered everything, or if some of his answers we…

Critiquing - when does it stop?

I have a critique up on a forum this week. (Actually I have two.) I also have a regular writing group I've rejoined after a few months off and several beta readers. I have no intention to give any of them up (although I put less up in public now and mostly inflict my early drafts on my writing group.)

But, hold on. I have five novels either out, or far enough along the path to be with their editor. I've had numerous short stories published. Why on Earth would I still need a critique? To answer that, I wanted to explore the various stages of critiquing.


When I first started posting critiques (the poor, poor, long suffering, some five years ago, I didn't have much of a clue about writing. I thought I did but in the first critique it became clear I had a long way to go.

In fact, to entertain and amuse - here it is.

Quite apart from showing up my hideous possessive apostrophe knowle…

The writing-promo connundrum

All I want for Christmas is time to write! Not to promote, or to chase reviews, but to write. This writing world we're in is a crazy place.

I've just read a very helpful forum post about cross promotion to populate e-mail lists. The post was great, the idea a good one, but my reaction was to want to thud my head on the desk and sob. We are saturated. We have so many things to chase and do and none of them are the writing. And we're supposed to do this alongside jobs and families and life because very, very few writers will ever earn a living just-writing.

Now, I'm no slouch at the promo side of things. A fair few of you are reading this (waves!) and I have a good network and good visibility. But it all takes so much time. If I'm honest, the last time I did some real writing was in June. The rest of it has been edits, blogs and a lot of time taken up by marketing.

One part of me wants to go out there and join a cross promotion campaign. It sounds great and that it p…


Back in the late-80s, early 90s, I became engrossed in the campaign to free the Beirut hostages. The campaign, particularly the one to free John McCarthy, was designed to get people involved – a girlfriend (Jill Morrell) desperate for her partner to return, trendy events and eye-catching media forays all combined to make this a human story. Briefly, I joined the Friends of John McCarthy, who was promptly freed a week later, and I ambled over to Amnesty instead. I didn’t stay a campaigner in any sense, but the story still resonated with me – so much so that I bought and devoured their joint book, Some Other Rainbow.
When I was working in a bookshop, McCarthy and his fellow hostage, Brian Keenan, Belfast-born and held despite carrying an Irish passpost, came for a signing session. They were a pleasure to watch engaging with each other. They had been held together, mostly isolated from the other hostages, for the best part of 5 years and had become very close. Their banter was great, a…