Friday, July 30, 2010

[Air Boy] Prologue + On Beginnings

Yesterday, I completed the prologue for Air Boy, my urban fantasy young adult [something I had thought I'd never type] novel. Yes, I am fully aware that urban fantasy novels do not do in general and prologues have lost their sparkling popularity lately, but this short [1,127 words long] prologue had to be written or else I'd have to bog down the first chapter in flashbacks. I am fully aware that this is the vomit draft as Adam Christopher calls it, but I would like to have a look at it again, because Ambrose [main protagonist] is a different from what I usually write and I want to tweak the voice, get used to it. He's a teen. A self-made goofy teen, who uses the bouncing ball of humor image to cover up whatever crosses his mind. Serious thoughts, jokes, sarcasm and whining have to be balanced.

However, I am not talking about the intricate challenges of writing teens. I want to talk about beginnings in general. I wanted to start work on Air Boy, since the beginning of the month, but I pushed the date as far as possible [using the excuse that I was working on shorts] and when I sat down on Wednesday to start I yet again postponed [this time I realized I had to name the cast, because I could not use my brother, BFF, uncle 1, uncle 2 and hobo dude for ever]. At that point I realized that I feared starting this novel. Ever the philosopher, I decided to rewind and observe whether I acted scared with my previous projects.

Starting Crimson Cacophony was not difficult. I welcomed the first chapter, because it was my first chapter [for real that time] and I enjoyed it again, when I had a second go at it, because I knew how to fix it and do justice to the concept. My second and third novels [a NaNoWriMo and a sudden fancy] never caused any problems. Then again the NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words long and written according to what scenes I wanted done, while the 'sudden fancy' is not yet done, because after the middle mark I realized how it should have been written. I never have problems starting short stories [finishing them is a different thing], but Air Boy is somewhat of a different animal. Air Boy is me trying to think as a professional, seeing the market's state even if it will definitely change by the time I am ready to submit, fitting it in a schedule, but most importantly having expectations.

"Novel I" is a first novel. Nobody expects those to make it. You learn the ropes and that is that. Sometimes it gets published. More often than not, it doesn't.

"Novel II" is a NaNoWriMo. I did it to try it, to learn to work in a tight deadline. Since it is more or less an experiment, I can't say I feared anything.

"Novel III" was more of a whim than anything, so I did not invest much into it. Since I do enjoy the themes and the world of it, during rewrites the situation will change.

But I feared starting Air Boy, because:

* This will be a series I hope to sell and it adds pressure. Once you have started, you have to do it and you have to do it right, because to sell a series the first novel has to offer promise.

* I have invested half a year into the world, the characters, the eventual storyline. No detailed outlines or anything, but active investment. And I want to represent them as best as I can.

* Because the upper two clauses have built expectations as to how I should write this novel and I have to meet them. If I fail, I would be failing my imagination and it's scary.

* On a completely unrelated note, this is a commitment. A novel is no joke and to a certain point this fear is always present within writers.

I have started. The battle is on. I am a general on a mechanic battle horse and am more than ready to charge. The fears are behind me. Only the writing is important now, but tell me do you venture bravely or do you go through these fears?

I tried searching for an image titled Air Boy, but came up with Balloon Boy by Mike P Mitchell. It is vaguely related, but I am posting it cause it's fun.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On Titles

I took today's topic from my six day vacation, where I converted Drumming from short story to novel format. Drumming has an unorthodox history. As part of my experiment to base a collection on an album [LUNGS by Florence + the Machine] I used the songs' titles as a starting point and write stories that fits the songs' integrity. With Drumming I'd to emphasis on the drumming as an element. It was central in the short story, symbolic, but after the jump to novel format the drumming sound is a moment, which remains in the background. Changing the meaning also means that the old title simply doesn't work in the new context and the extended plot.

At the same time, I have an empty spot in the collection, which I am tempted to fill with Lunar Hues [the post-apocalyptic urban fantasy]. Lunar Hues remains more of a prose and concept experiment rather than an electrifying story and the issue I have with it is a lack of conflict. Drumming [the song] on the other hand galvanizes the mind. It's potent as an inspirational source and using it to tint Lunar Hues would solve both problems. But I'd need to change the title, because that is central for the collection, and I am not sure if the story fits the new title or the old. Time will tell, but all this recent questioning has me thinking of titles.

Titles help people identify novels without wasting words on plot or author. You use titles as you would use names for people and when you write/speak the name of someone you know, you think of the person the name represents. Something similar happens with novels, movies and songs. For some people Eclipse of the Heart isn't just a song, but the date leading to a healthy marriage; The Picture of Dorian Gray isn't simply a novel, but life altering experience and Wild, Wild West can represent memories with a friend. I follow the logic that for the audience the title is a tabula rasa. Sure it informs what the novel or film will be about, but beyond it holds no meaning.

I haven't questioned enough why a title has been picked. Sometimes I don't have to even think about it much. Lord of the Rings is self-explanatory, given the genre. Nightmare on Elm Street doesn't puzzle as a title choice. Names used as titles don't pose much difficulty as I know I'm following the story of the protagonist. To outsiders titles are perhaps the easiest aspect of the creative process, but as any creative individual will tell you it may be the hardest.

Titles have to be succinct, informative, appealing and represent the work's essence. I have to admit that shove all that in the range of one to five words on average is not easy and I do know people, who have hard times giving their work proper titles. I admit that I don't usually have issues naming my short stories or novels, because I usually craft the title first and then write the story around it. It's a personal oddity. With my current situation, I finally experience the difficulty and can appreciate all the work the title does.

Give the wrong title and you create false expectations, which result in unhappy readers. The wrong title can also confuse and the puzzled reader is again an unhappy one. The title shouldn't be too long [because people hate memorizing long titles] and sometimes one word is not enough [lest it's confusing again]. And what about series? From what I have seen titles in a series follow a certain pattern, which poses a new challenge, if the series exceeds the standard trilogy.

Titles should be JUST right in the context of the story and its transparency means that the writer has done his job right. So, my current revelation is to pay attention to whether the working title is still relevant or not after each round of edits.

Do you question title choices? Do you expect novels to correspond with [stay true to] their titles?

I have almost forgotten to include art with my posts so today I'm featuring Early Title Sequence by thurop.

Monday, July 26, 2010

So what exactly did I do during my vacation?

I vacated. I had my brain vacated and napped. To be honest, heat had melted whatever conscience I had left to butter so I generally napped and read. On Twitter I announced I would be bringing six novels, of which I only fit four: one manuscript to critique, one to review [after being already read] and two for reading. I managed to read:

'Quite the sophisticated challenge. I need erudite super-intelligent space chimps to get the subtleties, but oh-how-marvelous and weird' says Daily Markov.

and am in the middle of:

'A bit dizzying, but boy what a read. I have never read the offspring of a narcoleptic [bottle-loving] script and self-obsessed [drug-abusing] novel. Can't get enough.' quoted from the MARKOV...

What I did is strengthen 'Cosmic Love' with another round of edits [I underline final tweaks or else this may become a novel] and outlined a new novel [the former short story Drumming]. I haven't done much on the actual projects I'll be tending to starting Wednesday. I have a title for the YA novel: Air Boy and finally a name for the protagonist. World meet Ambrose, who will be teased with nicknames such as Rose and Amber. Perfect balance between hilarity and a teen's worst nightmare.

I Write Like

I wanted to check this cool, cool analyzer that based on a text can determine what sort of author I emulate. Here are my tries.

1) "Drumming" - Should sound Victorian... Should sound like Austin. In reality I write like
I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

FAR away from the intended tone and voice, though it has some horror moments.

2) "Cosmi Love" - Should sound like a fairy tale. Simple and airy.

I write like
Ian Fleming

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Ian Fleming. Gee, I can live with that. :D

3) "Crimson Cacophony" - No idea. I have no expectations.

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Can you spell unexpected. Man, really? Not bad, eh?

4) "BITE" - Horror fairy tale. I assume Lovecraft?

I write like
Anne Rice

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Nope. Anne Rice. I am not complaining.

In conclusion, this was fun. It's totally random and the analyzer is statistical than anything else, picking on words and phrases these authors used and it does not testify for quality. What I am pleased with is the diversity with which I tell the stories. Sure, the topic dictates what words I will use, but at the same it's reassuring to know that I am using words with a focus and idea of what I want to achieve. It shows diversity. I need a post on this.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It makes Jesus look EVIL

It's all true. Can you imagine Jesus vs. Dracula? Awesome.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sharktopus! Roar!

Campy. I mean the monster does not suspend your disbelief [I watched this a bit tipsy] and it does sound like a parody of JAWS, but man am I game.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What I am probably doing now...

This is my cousin. He is the one holding the pig [he also suggested the helmets]. I am giving the pig some alcohol, because it's its first day at school and is nervous. [That's what the pig is thinking. I do invite you over for some bacon later on.]

Right now, I should be doing stuff. What I am probably not doing is exercising.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Supposed To-Do List

Imagine that these people are in fact my chores [also they are zombies]. Yup, that is my to-do list. 


* Edit Shorts: Lunar Hues + Cosmic Love [yes, again and final time]
* Edit Crimson Cacophony
* Outline two novels
* Critique Todd Newton's Thomas Redpool Goes to Hell 
* Review Lovecraft titles & Walking the Tree
* Read Poe, Tell-All & a small booklet, whose title I keep forgetting
* Exercise 
* Sleep
* Rest [note the priorities]  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Yes, I have been as frequent as Leap Year is on the calender. [Not sure whether I said this grammatically correct, but you get the idea.] Truth is that I am running on an intense tempo, which messes with my sleeping regime. So I said to myself screw it and decided to bail. I am taking a six day long vacation away from everything. I need me some sleep people.

In the mean time I will leave you in the company of some hilarious pictures. Enjoy.

IT'S JAPAN. Who is suprised? I sure am not. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Liquid Story: Pros and Cons

I continue my quest to hunt down information about new tools for the utmost optimization of your time and satisfaction of your needs. This week I have Grammar Bird of Prey Tessa Bazelli to talk about her experience with Liquid Story.


My search for the perfect PC writing tool continues, but in the meantime I've found one that I can live with. I've been using Liquid Story Binder, and for novel length fiction I’m never going back to MS Word.


* The workspace is customizable. Liquid Story will remember which windows/tools you prefer to have open. You can change the contrast and colors of the text for comfortable reading without impacting the format of the final manuscript.

* It only takes only a few clicks rearrange chapters and scenes.

* Notes and character profiles can be grouped together with a chapter for easy reference. 

* You can set word count goals and dates for each project, draft, and chapter by chapter. It displays a little progress chart, times your writing, updates the word count as you type, and will let you know how many words per day are still needed to reach your target. 

* It will not auto-correct as you type or distract you with spelling / grammar. 

* All your writing is saved as text files so if you do not have Liquid Story installed on a computer, you can still work on your novel.

* Lightweight. I can fit the entire program and all my files on a USB stick. It’s not a memory hog either so it runs fast.


* Built for novelists and screenwriters. Some of the functionality is better suited to screenwriting and I find I don’t need to use half of the features. 

* The interface for the storyboard and outlining modes works better for screen play work than organizing a novel. The boxes are way too small, and not made for arranging text. 

* It’s not easy to figure out how to use it at first. 

For straight up writing, Liquid Story Binder is great. I've got my workspace set up with black text on grey, to cut down the contrast, and keep my eyes comfortable. It’s got stats to satisfy my inner data junky. I can save all my files on a USB stick, take my novel with me anywhere, and work on it on any computer. But for all my writing needs? It falls short.

I guess I'll stick to outlining on paper, or come to think of it, maybe what I really need is an IPad.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

[Interview] Gary Smailes from BubbleCow

You may recall reading a post about the excellent resource for writers BubbleCow. Since I am impressed with his work and the advice that he hands out, I wanted to know more. I sent an invitation and the result is this interview, where we talk shop and discuss the state of publishing in its current form.   


Harry Markov: Gary, first of all, thank you for accepting my invitation, it is a pleasure to have you at my humble adobe. So, you are a writer, own your own editing agency and also give advice online through your blog BubbleCow. That is a lot to manage. How did you decide to branch in so many directions?  

Gary Smailes: Ha – that’s a great question! The reality is that I see myself as a writer, and like most writers I would love to be able to write full time. However, the reality of the industry (and life) is that very few writers earn enough money, through publishing books alone, to make a full time living. Therefore, I always knew I would need to do a ‘normal’ job as well as writing, so what better than helping other writers? 

BubbleCow grew organically from editing and consulting work my wife and myself were already doing as freelancers. The time came when it made sense to bring our separate freelancing efforts under one umbrella and BubbleCow was born. As for offering advice online it was a natural progression. We always knew that BubbleCow would ‘exist’ online and using social media to develop our reputation and strengthen our contact with writers was the only real choice. 

HM: And what were the initial challenges with founding and establishing an agency such as yours?
GS: As a literary consultancy we knew that one of the one of the biggest hurdles would be building trust. So we set out to be as open and honest as possible. We are contactable in many ways and never try to hide. I feel that simply showing up every day and providing honest feedback is enough to convince most writers that you are genuine and can help them get their work published. 

HM: Let’s consider a scenario, in which an author does well as in climbing through the lists and is well known in his field, but he/she is not a household name. What should he/she consider before deciding to quite the day job? 

GS: Make sure he/she can pay the bills! The publishing industry is unpredictable and very, very slow. Securing a book deal and signing a contract is one thing, but getting that precious advance into your bank account can take months! I would suggest that writers see themselves as doing two jobs, writing and the job that pays the bill. 

HM: You also mention freelancers. What advice can you give to budding freelancers?
GS: Firstly, define your market and skillset. Make sure you know what you are writing and who is prepared to pay for that writing. Secondly, see networking as part of your job. As a freelancer you are always looking for that next client. Set aside time each day to build a potential client list. Finally, charge the correct price. The trick is to resist pricing yourself too low and instead charge a price that is fair you’re your skills. Oh yeah, writing for nothing always a bad idea. 

HM: In your opinion, who is qualified to give advice about writing? The Internet is bursting its seams with advice and I am sure new how-to books are printed as we speak. Because writing seems so mystical, I guess that everyone wants to throw in his two cents. 

GS: I have blogged and talked online about this topic a lot over the past few months. For me there are two separate issues. The first is who is offering advice and the second is the importance of ‘writing rules’. 

In regards to those qualified to offer advice, I would say that it depends on your writing goals. If you are looking to find an agent, then you need to take advice from agents and writers with agents. If you are looking to get published via the traditional route, then take advice from writers that have been published by recognized publishing houses. Finally, if you want to self-publish, then take advice from writers how have successfully self-published their own books. Also be aware that many so called experts are offering ‘re-cycled’ advice they have picked up from other sources. On the surface what they say may seem valid, but once you scrape below the surface you quickly discover they are offering nothing new. 

The great thing about the internet is that is gives everyone a voice. The great problem with the internet is that it gives everyone a voice. It is very easy for writers to become quickly overcome by contradictory advice. Writers looking for guidance must look carefully at those who are giving advice before taking their word as gospel. 

This brings me onto ‘writing rules.’ The nature of blogging means that the ‘top five tips to writing a best seller’ kinds of posts are almost irresistible for bloggers. I think that the problem is that there are no writing rules, there is no set formula for success and writers looking for the magic key are perhaps wasting their time. For me the only advice worth following is to simply write. Writers who don’t write aren’t really writers…

HM: Speaking of editing, how do writers respond to criticism in general and what stage can you consider toughest for the writer’s ego? 

GS: To be fair 99% of writers who pay for feedback from us are open and understand we are all pulling in same direction. They understand their manuscript needs work before coming to us and are ready for the feedback. In fact, most writers are relieved to see positive comments as well as the areas for improvement.  

A writer’s ego only tends to get bruised if they are looking for something unrealistic from BubbleCow. If they want us to say this work is the best writing in the world or are looking to us to promise it will be published, then they are set for a fall. However, most writers come to us looking to improve their work and our feedback allows them to do just that.  

HM: Let’s talk shop and introduce people to your services. What do you offer newbie writers and what’s popular at the moment? 

GS: The core to BubbleCow’s service is professional editing. We aim to provide writers with the kind of editing experience they would receive from a publisher. Most writers don’t realise that editing is actually a four step process, which involves structural editing, stylistic editing, copy editing and proofreading. Our editing service combines the first three editing types. We don’t actually proofread manuscripts, though the vast majority of errors are captured in the copy edit. 

To keep things simple for writers, our prices are based on word count and we charge just £5/$8 per 1000 words, with a 1000 word minimum word count. We also aim to complete feedback with ten working days. 

One service that has proved popular is our book proposal guidance. This sees us offering advice and guidance on writing and preparing a cover letter and synopsis. The basis of this advice has been complied in to our five day guide to writing a great book proposal. This sees writers receiving five separate emails, one a day, outlining the best way to write a book proposal. 
Your readers can go to the link below to sign up for the free guide: 

We also offer mentoring to writers. You can find details of all our services here: 

Services: LINK 

HM: Let’s get analytical, now shall we. If you take your most trending service among writers, can you assess what’s the most common aspect writers are feeling comfortable about? And whether that is normal or not? 

GS: I think the best way to answer this question is to explain the main reasons why writers come to BubbleCow. Almost every client is looking to make their book as ‘publishable’ as possible. They recognise that BubbleCow will give them the feedback they need to make their book as attractive as possible to potential agents and publishers. 

We also have a large number of clients who are embarking on the self-publishing route and use BubbleCow as a pre-production editorial solution. These writers understand that a self-published book will meet some resistance from readers, and that by making sure it has been edited to the highest standard, they stand the best chance of the book being a success. 

I would also add to this one final thought. Almost every client comes to us with one question. Sometimes they ask it directly, other times it is in the sub-text of the submission. Yet, almost every writer wants to know – Is my book good enough? We are aware that in most cases we are the first ‘external’ people to read a writer’s work, and our feedback will be the first indication of just how good their book will turn out to be. We try to offer constructive and applicable guidance, and though we will never say if a book is publishable or not, we will offer a genuine view on whether we feel the work has a chance of reaching the standard required. 

HM: You vehemently defend the importance of the book proposal as vital element in securing a publishing contract, but surely a book proposal alone does not do all the work?  

GS: You are correct in that I feel the book proposal is the key to success. You are also correct in that the book proposal will not do all the work. The way I see it is that for a book to be published it needs to tick a number of boxes. Firstly, it needs to be of a high enough quality. However, one this is achieved, a book still needs to fit certain criteria to get published. It needs to match the publisher’s current catalogue, and the genre and readership need to be correct. It also needs to be different enough for the marketing team to find an angle they can use the push the book. 
The problem writers face is that they can tick all these boxes but a poor book proposal will still kill the project stone dead. Agents and publishers are very busy with hundreds of submissions and, to be honest, they are looking for an excuse to say no to your book. It is much easier for an agent/publisher to reject your book and move onto the next, than it is to say yes. Therefore, as a writer, it is your duty to make your book pitch as agent/publisher friendly as possible. 

Your book proposal needs to show the agent/publisher that you are good enough, that your genre fits, that your readership is accessible and that you can be marketed successfully. The key with a good book proposal is to make it almost impossible for an agent/publisher to say no! 

HM: I have a profound question. I believe the hardest question ever. Does practice makes perfect and can a writer excel to publication without even a spark of talent/way/intuition with words? Perhaps the said writer knows the industry, reads the blogs, knows the drill and takes this all very seriously, but somehow always doesn’t cut it. Do you believe such a person can exist or do you support the thesis that all success is 99% hard work, 1% talent?  

GS: Errm… Assuming that all poor writers will be rejected, I believe that a writer’s technical skill only needs to be ‘good enough’ and it is the ideas that really count. This said what ‘good enough’ means is open to some debate. Let me put it another way. I feel that a writer that is good enough and a writer who is technically brilliant, have roughly an equal chance of making a living as a writer, IF (and this is a big if) they have the ideas and execution required. 

However, being a good writer makes the whole process a lot easier. To understand this you need to see the process from the publisher’s point of view. They are looking for writers who can deliver manuscripts of a high standard, which need little work and consistently appeal to the readership. Therefore, a technically gifted writer will make the publisher’s job easier because the manuscript will need less work between submission and publication.  

Of course the holy grail of all publishers is the writer with amazing technical ability and a mind stuffed full of great ideas – now that writer will go a long way…

HM: Should the newbie concentrate on standalones or writing series, until he hits his first contract?

GS: It all depends on the genre. I write for children and ‘the series’ is the way forward. However, I always feel that selling an adult fiction series is tough. I advice writer’s to play down the series angle of a book pitch, unless the additional book are essential to the story or, ideally, already written. Many publishers will find it difficult to conjure up the budget to take a gamble on one book from a writer, never mind three or four. However, you may find that if you do pitch a series, and the first book sells well, it leaves the publisher in a position to offer a multi-book second contract, which is a huge win for the writer. 

HM: As far as I have heard, with series that is, it’s better to have the first complete and the rest outlined. Just in case the writer fails to sell the series.  

GS: Yes, that is the best approach. You don’t want to spend years writing a three book series, only to find that you can’t place them with an agent or publisher! 

HM: In a post sometime ago, you advocated for writers not to write every day. That goes well against almost every advice given ever. Isn’t it a bit controversial a statement?  

GS: I know many professional writers and none of them writer every day. In fact, I do get worried that many unpublished writers get caught up in the act of writing, developing it into an almost religious act that should be performed without fail.  

In Seth Godin’s recent book, Lynchpin, he suggests that the difference between a writer and an artist, is that an artist delivers. I think that it is far more important that a writer aim to finish their book. If this means writing every day then great, if it means writing just on weekends, then also great. What is important is that a writer is writing to finish, not just writing for the sake of writing. 

HM: Because every writer is different, right? 

GS: Yeah, you may be the kind of writer who writers every day. However, you may be like me, and see writing as a job. I write when I need to meet deadlines. Or, you may be somewhere in between. I think setting general rules for all writers is just dangerous.  

HM: However, you do support the thesis that a writer should blog every day. Doesn’t that clash with the writer’s priorities? I mean, writers write fiction and they should be focusing on that. 

GS: I actually say in the post that if writers are looking to build a platform then they should blog every day. Posts bring readers and readers turn into fans. Almost all huge blogs have been built on regular blog posts, since they build trust and readership. 

As for the argument that writers don’t have time to blog every day – this is horse crap. IF building a platform is a priority, then find time to blog every day, if not then don’t bother. It is all about priorities. Finding time is easy. Writers just need to get up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later or (god forbid!) stop watching crappy soap operas and spend their time doing something constructive instead. I would challenge anyone who says that can’t free up half an hour each day. Saying you have no time to blog is just an excuse. 

HM: What other elements can a platform have apart from owning a blog? 

GS: I think a writer’s platform should have a central blog. I would also say that Twitter and Facebook are essential. Both are very different channels that need very different skills to use effectively. I don’t go along with the idea that Twitter and Facebook will someday die off. For me, people are too invested in these channels and they are here to stay. I would suggest that a writer invest time in writing regular blog posts and finding a way to build followers on Twitter and Facebook by adding value.  

HM: Apart from your blog, which is filled with all sorts of advice, you also ran a free five-day e-mail tutorial on synopses. You give a lot of freebies. Do people come back, now that they are hooked, or does the piracy mentality [‘Free? Good! Thanks. Bye’] prevail?  

GS: This is a great question. I feel our business is all about trust. Writers must trust us with their work and trust they are not wasting their money. It is not like buying a new TV, you can’t see what you are getting until it is too late. To build this trust we have been open and honest. Sharing free stuff is just part of this process. However, we do genuinely want to help writers. I recently put a live chat system onto our website and it has encouraged lots of people to drop in and ask questions. These conversations are fascinating, and yes some lead to business, but most of the time it is just nice to share. 

So, if people want to read our blog, pick up the free stuff and never come back then that’s fine. However, if you want to get involved and interact the chances are you will come away with a better experience. 

HM: As far as content goes, how do you feel about posting free flash fiction? 

GS: Great question – I think that if a writer is trying to build a following then they need to add value. One way of doing this is to give away free stuff, including flash fiction. However, it all depends on goals. If you are trying to build a following for your novel, then giving away shorter fiction is a great idea (free downloadable pdf on blog sidebar). However, if your aim is to release a collection of flash fiction, I would spend some time considering which work you are going to release, since you need a strong core of work for any potential publisher. 

Another way to think about this is to consider if there is actually a paying readership for flash fiction. I would suggest not! I would suggest that flash fiction collections have some market value, but on the whole a writer will gain more value using them to spread their popularity, rather than trying to make cash.  

HM: Thank you immensely for your time. Any final words of wisdom you would like to share? 

GS: Yeah – please ignore all the advice I have offered, it is your writing career and only you will know the correct route to take!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What Makes a Story Bloody Brilliant

I am utterly amazed how such a big story could be contained in just 64 episodes [something which Bleach seems to be unable to do] without feeling rushed and yet retain it's complexity without the creators dumbing it down for the sake of keeping it short. I do not watch/read/enjoy military [and while I am at it, I also do not enjoy any stories set in prisons and apart from CSI I am also on the fence as far as police work in fiction/entertainment goes] and FMA Brotherhood, although dark and apocalyptic, is a military story at its heart. The characters are soldiers, their trade is war and the story carries the typical tropes: conscience is pitted versus hierarchy and orders; loyalty, bravery and patriotism are tested, defined and validated; humanity is examined. But FMA Brotherhood is so much more than that. It uplifts, despairs, saddens, cheers, admonishes, theorizes, speculates, invents, perseveres, inspires, whisks away and smuggles emotions into the viewer's heart. It does not settle for a genre, it greedily conquers all fronts from fantasy, to science fiction, horror, comedy, romance, action adventure, drama and even a bit noir.

I admit I cried and laughed hard on several occasions during these 64 episodes [I am a big softy, so that may not come as a surprise]. And yes, we are talking about anime [a medium, which still is considered childish and inferior by some]. Forcing a reader/viewer/listener to manifest a physical reaction to a story. Now this is power. This is what separates the good stories from the bloody brilliant ones. The best part is that it doesn't matter what medium carries the story. It just delivers and when it is done, it leaves the person altered.

Just a code


Friday, July 9, 2010

[Friday Flash] Secret Last Thoughts of...

They open the refrigerator door with laughter. I can feel it rumble through the metal. It's a sound, which makes me colder than the artificial freeze inside. They have been planning it for days. Talked how they would eat me up right from the moment they saw me. Now, it seems, the time has come and there is nothing I can do about it.

They pull the metal plate I lay on and lead me through the kitchen. It is a slow procession as if I am a Sunday ritual. Each step feels slower, more intense. Perhaps time had decided to aid them, bending and dragging. The plate shakes. Was I that heavy? Were they drunk or maybe this involuntary body language expresses doubt regarding their actions? Maybe they know this is monstrous. Either way, I pray they drop me. Let me tumble over, find the right angle and skip this. It would have been merciful. But it's not how it continues.

"Mhm, that will taste so good with the champagne, momma." One of them moos and the sound is unholy.

It prods me, bruising my flesh with its rough fingertips. The sensation reminds me of slime through the plastic folio, they have wrapped me in. I shudder at the pain, but it's the contact with them I abhor.

It's pointless to resist. I have tried. I have failed. I am immobile. I was then. I am now. It's the cold. It's the shock. I can barely breathe through the folio and I am already there, laid down on the table with one final shake of the plate.

"My, my, Loraine. You have outdone yourself, sweetheart. Where did you spot this pretty little thing?" One of them calls. Another giggles in return, but silence settles soon and no one talks again.

It is as if I am not there, not hearing, not feeling, not alive. Without them caring or even acknowledging me apart from how good I will taste. It is this dead-on certainty on their course of action, which denies me hope.

The folio is stripped from me. It hurts to breathe again after sweating in the plastic. It has begun. I am nude. I see their knife, their saliva. I wish I can move, but my fear has me resigned from an atempt. So, I watch the knife grow and grow in size as they steady it for the perfect cut. I can't breathe anymore. I can't even faint.

The blade pierces me. It sinks in with ease and drags itself along my edges, until I am cut in fine pieces.

"Oh, God," Mister Roth exclaims as he stuffs his mouth full. "best chocolate cake, ever."


Yes, these are the Secret Last Thoughts of a Chocolate Cake, BUT I could not include that last bit in the title, because it would totally ruin the surprise. PLUS, I am sure that for some demented minds reading about cannibalism and then realizing that they have been reading about a cake is hilarious. NOW, I have to thank Amanda Rutter, because the idea came after discussing cakes and their inner emotional state. The natural question => What does a cake think, when it knows it will be eaten? <= popped in and had to be answered.

Also, this is an entry for Tessa's Author Aerobics. The element we are working on is emotion and I bet you all know how this cake feels. However, I did not use the prompt, which was flight. And although flying cakes are fun, it made no sense. In retrospect, maybe I should have written this as the Secret Last Thoughts of a Banana Cream Pie from a Three Stooges movie...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Today's Mental Forecast

Sometimes life has to be lived... Yes, what I am implying is that today I crawled from my cave, did the dramatic squint at daylight [didn't work well, cause the weather decided to pull a 'dull, gray day' on me] and lived... Time was wisely spent eating one desert after another, going for a walk and then even shop some. It was good, because I needed some human contact outside the work place and because people every now and then need to spend time without engaging the brain with data processing. That's me and that is why I look like this cake [even though the sky rained on me, when it fooled me that I do not need an umbrella.]

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Kaz Camp: Update 2

Fashionably late as always I have come to address the nature of my progress for Camp Kaz. 

I have not written many new words. I have done 3,000 words on "Drumming", which now is now completed. What I enjoyed about this short story is that it wanted to break free and become a novel. I approve of such ambitious behavior and will take it under serious consideration. Well done, "Drumming". What I did not like so much was that I lost the Regency vibe in expression I was aiming for. [I am looking at you, brain...] This made me blotch the middle to a few paragraphs to keep me going and the ending is rather minimalist. But it reads as a completed short story so I say it's finished. However, concept-wise I am pleased with how it is shaping up. 

In the mean time, I whipped out "Lunar Hues", ready to get some refreshing edits done and see whether this time around I can force [civilly of course] some nice editor to adopt. Under the watchful eyes of Tessa [grammar bird of prey] I have a better manuscript. And I did so with just 500 extra words added to the original. I call this strategical editing. 

Yesterday, I had "Cosmic Love" on the editing frontier. It took two hours to strengthen the paragraphs I found weak, add some extra words in order to keep the consistency and imagery. It was a rather surprising session as there were no lumps in the first draft to complicate my work. 

Overall, a semi-good week.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The iPad: Why I love it, and why I don’t write on it

I have been contemplating what the best ways are to increase the speed with which one writes and this is connected more or less with the tool one uses in order to amplify one's speed. And as we all know there are as many writing tools as there are types of writers, so here I am asking the good people that I know to share their interaction with the modern and classic tools. First post id done by Adam Christopher and covers the brand new space technology that is the iPad.


The iPad: why I love it, and why I don’t write on it.

It’s perhaps no surprise that as a writer of science fictiony stuff (sometimes) that I’m something of a gadget freak. Well, that’s not true. I don’t like tech for the sake of tech, and while the smell of a freshly unwrapped bluetooth keyboard is something divine, any gear I choose to get must have function and utility. I’m also one of those writers who has to put up with a day gig at the same time as getting my daily wordcount down, so I’m on the constant look-out for things to make my life easier, simpler, and to allow me to make more efficient use of time. Because time, my friends, is what I’m short of.

I’ve been waxing lyrical over the iPad since I got my hands on one back at the end of May. I’ve got a desktop computer, an iPod touch, and a laptop, but the iPad filled enough of a gap in my device ‘repertoire’ that I thought it would be an essential purchase. As it happens, I was right, and I’m now inseparable from it. But not for the reasons I expected.

What I find useful about my iPad is its utility as a planning device, rather than a writing device. I don’t think it’s a laptop replacement, but nor do I think it’s just a big iPod touch/iPhone. It is, however, now an essential writing tool for me, even if I don’t actually do any writing on it.

Getting creative

There are numerous apps for the iPad that allow it to be used as a writing device, from Apple’s own Pages app, to the built-in Notes app, and a myriad of office-like, notepad-like apps. The touch-screen keyboard is actually extremely pleasant to type on, but if that doesn’t suit you can always go for a bluetooth keyboard, or the iPad keyboard dock.

However, I haven’t written any fiction on the iPad, and I don’t think I ever will. The touch-screen keyboard is nice but not fast or accurate enough for me when I’m in full-flow – I’m fortunate in that I’m a very fast typer, which is handy given that I think faster than I type, so at least my fingers have some chance of keeping up! On the iPad this just leads to frustration – while a prodigious words per minute can be achieved with practice, it’s just not quite what I need.

I’m also in the fortunate (some say) position that I work from home, so on the rare occasions when I have had to go out and about with the iPad, the thought of carting a Bluetooth keyboard or keyboard dock around with me doesn’t appeal, although for those with a long commute, say by train, I can see how this is less of an issue. When I’m at home, I write on my iMac. When I’m out, I’m rarely out for long enough with the iPad to need to commit to any serious writing time. Editing and planning and plotting, sure. But the iPad is just too much of a hindrance to actually write any fiction.

Planning makes perfect

So what do I use the iPad for if not writing? Well, as it happens, I think the iPad is the perfect planning device.

Now, a caveat here: I didn’t fork out £600 for a snazzy, if heavy, glass filofax. As an on-the-go mobile internet device, it is second-to-none. But that’s for another discussion. I’m talking here about using the iPad for writing, and as a writing tool, the iPad is my planner. Allow me to explain.

On one hand, I’m a classic geek who likes his routines, but on the other I’m terrible at time management. The iPad has changed that fundamentally – the combination of the Calendar app and the ToDo listmaker from Appigo has, quite frankly, revolutionised the way I plan my work. But that’s just basics. Here’s a couple of apps I’ve found incredibly useful, if not essential.


A virtual corkboard, Corkulous is now my one-stop shop for novel planning. As I research a book, developing the plot and characters, I usually collect interesting snippets – photographs, artwork, little bits and pieces of info. Before, I used to just have all this in a folder, unordered, and would frequently forget what nuggets I’d hidden. In Corkulous, I create a corkboard for each project and just start sticking things to it. It’s identical to its real-life counterpart, but the advantage being I don’t need to give up an real wall space!


This is the daddy of amazingly useful apps. DropBox is a free cloud storage service that is rapidly becoming the essential online backup tool for writers, Mac and Windows alike. Having access to my DropBox on the iPad has been a real boon, allowing me to work mostly on edits while out (as I said, I don’t do any writing, but editing documents in Pages is fine). Unfortunately not many other apps will save back to the DropBox, which is not such an issue as I just email files back home. Not a perfect solution by any means, but one that will hopefully be addressed over time as more apps adopt DropBox as a cloud storage option.

So, that’s it?

This may be a list of a whole entire two applications, but their utility in helping me write shouldn’t be underestimated. As far as planning goes, Corkulous can’t be beaten, and DropBox allows me to stay productive even if its not for actual writing.

Are there any solutions to my iPad writing problem? I’m not entirely sure. I think I’ve reached my maximum typing speed on the touch-screen, and I have no real need for an external keyboard. The lack of pointer is another issue entirely, but once you add a mouse and big keyboard you’ve got a laptop, which is precisely missing the point.


was born in Auckland, New Zealand. In 2006 he moved to the sunny North West of England, where he lives in domestic bliss with wife and cat. When not writing, Adam can be found drinking tea, reading Green Lantern comics, and annoying friends at his local fencing club by being incredibly bad at épée.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Consider me a Busy Bee

I have slacked off long enough, so I tackled the to-do with the intensity of a Japanese anime hero and came out somewhat victorious. I managed to edit "Lunar Hues" as it was remarked that I may have missed to actually tell a story, which hit the bull's eye [duh] as I was preoccupied with the prose at the time [I am still proud of some of the phrases I have coined in this story]. So 500 strategically placed words later, I think "Lunar Hues" makes a point.

On a side note, I am halfway through "I am Legend" for the SFF Masterworks reading project [which I need to blog about], organized my books so that the house proves that it has actual space inside and completed the two interviews [which have been pending for more than two weeks].

Also, I hate buses like this fella does.
[Is it surprising that this is shot in Japan?]
[I thought so.]

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What the Mailman helped smuggle...

These are the brand new acquisitions for the whole month of June. I wanted to post these earlier, but I never got around to it. I will spare you the blurbs, because it seems impersonal. I will, instead, share why I coo over these pretties. Heh-heh-heh.

The King's Bastard: (1) The cover makes me wet my mouth... Why I physically salivate is beyond what psychology offers as an answer, but there is something here. (2) I was also asked very nicely, which along with the general appeal of the cover and after assessing the blurb, promises a hell of a ride. + I even have it signed.

Shade Fright: Okay, you need the blurb here, but a spunky heroine, her truck driving man, a zombie and a ghost of a prime minister team up to save the world... It's almost like one of those jokes about a priest, a ravi and a yogi going in a bar. Too good to miss.

Intertwined & Unraveled: (1) It's Gena Showalter. (2) It's YA, which I have been meaning to read and see why I dislike it before I have even tried it. And no, I guess reading a sentence from Twilight does not count. (3) Multiple personalities and powers... How can this be wrong? + I do have the second novel signed by Gena, herself.

The Ninth Avatar: I have read this one, but this time the cover is better [plus the author has promised that it's professionally edited and not clunky/chunky] and well he is a great buddy, so why the heck not.

Thomas Redpool Goes to Hell: This is actually a manuscript I am critiquing at the moment, so it is not exactly a pleasure read. I hope the manuscript gets picked up. Submit it somewhere, Todd.

The Emerald Storm: A series I adore. The books is signed and personalized. I have heard only the best of thing about it. The cover is divine... And I do hate ships.

The Dead-Tossed Waves: Oh, well. Zombies. I think this is quite self-explanatory. Special thanks to Amanda for the gift. I also thank her for the Ghostgirl books, but my sister has them at the moment, so no pics.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Flash: Bite


I decided that it's high time I got back to writing flash fiction and meet new writers in the process, so here I am back to basics. This is my official christening into the Twitter #FridayFlash society as well as Author Aerobics, hosted by Tessa Bazelli. This is an exercise, in which each week Tessa hands down an element from writing to practice as well as a prompt to go with it. This week participators had to practice good telling and work with afterlife. Somehow, this piece, which I had been working on meets both criteria. How well, you decide.


Harry Markov

A bite from an apple put her to sleep, but a bite from her flesh jarred her awake. The pain thrust itself and slithered as a multi-headed serpent through her limbs.

She screamed and opened her eyes to a coffin and darkness, her body feathered in glass. The pain was such that it threatened to stop her heart anew. Next to her knelt a man, wearing the uniform of a prince. His teeth had sunken deep in the crook of her elbow, fingers clutching at her arm. Her scream ended, her lungs burned and she pushed at the man's face, which made her scream again. His skin had rotten and she felt maggots right beneath the surface.

She remembered tearing her throat with wails at the torment, at the horror, at the ungodliness. But for all the fear it caused, the monstrosity was slow paced. Its frame was weak and movement feverish in its tremors. It hurt as she kicked at its head. It sickened her as its head cracked, but she kept on, until her flesh ripped and remained in its mouth. But she was free. She could run and it could not follow with her speed.

In the night she didn't see, where she fled. The cave where her coffin lay opened to a forest and it seemed like a womb. Alive, moist and sultry; nurturing children deep inside. But the air was rot and the winds screamed part in pain and part in madness.

She didn't want to stop, until she was out of the forest. As far away as she could possibly be from that place. But she tired soon and her run slowed to a fast walk. And then to a stagger. The branches swung as if pointing a way. Perhaps salvation. Perhaps death. And all she craved was silence, the quiet to regain her thoughts.

The forest expelled her eventually and she stood alone with the shadow of the wind, out in the open. Houses hunched over ahead as if blackened by the ghoul’s stench, which in her speeding heart she knew she would never forget.

She followed the road and reached the village. Her eyes were always a-blink in a new direction. Not a single soul called, nor a ghoul moaned. The village felt like death. However scared she was, she forced her feet onward. What she needed was nourishment. And something to bandage her wound with. The blood from her arm had receded, but the pain smarted and she knew the wound festered. As she searched each house, she found only ointment, but no food. Her hunger was all consuming, like termites eating her from the inside, but she felt grateful she encountered no ghoul. Maybe there was only one, but then again, if it was just one, would the village be abandoned.

The day began. It was dull and she slept up a tree, too tired to wander on, too mortified to close an eyelid on the ground. Thoughts of death and ghouls and hunger poisoned her sleep, never giving comfort, nor bring rest.

When she woke, she walked. Past the village turned skeleton. From there it was on a path through the wilderness, with no food and no water, but always hunger. Each night when she closed her eyes, she doubted she would open them again. When she did in the morning, she feared she would have no strength to walk again.

But she carried on, until stepped into an orchard. Mist curled around the roots of dried trees, fruit now black with rot. The sight made her cry. The wound still hurt, now black around the edges, enflamed in the center. How the fate taunted her with food turned to poison. Inedible. She sat down and wondered whether she could continue. Whether there existed a reason to wander on, when the land itself seemed to decay.

The longer she stayed, the less the acrid smell repulsed, the stronger the craving grew and at last she bit through the ashen apples. Teeth tore through the wrinkled skin. The taste was horrid. Flesh oozed and black juices stained her fingers and face, until she felt as if she was the ghoul. Dead, but walking.

After the orchard the small path widened to a well kept road and soon she reached the open city gate. The sight made her moan. She was unafraid, only hungry. Starved. But there was nothing. No fruit. No greens. Bones lay around, splintered and licked clean, or meat disappeared as ghouls clustered in small groups to chew, excluding anyone else. In here she seemed invisible. Nothing came at her.

Reason never left her; this was her home, though it was pillaged. She moaned louder, but not because it was as dead as her land, but because there was none left for her to devour.

There were only bloodstains and smell to taunt. She followed the collective groans, which seemed to have the air aflame, to the castle, beyond the walls and up the steps to the throne room. It was the same space, but dressed in mirrors. She saw herself thin and caved in. She had once hair black as night, skin as white as snow and lips as red as blood. Now her hair was blacker than darkness, skin as dull as wax, lips as pale as rot.

She proceeded, now groaning with the rest of them. The ghouls saw and parted for her as if they recognized her. Even those hunched over their slabs of flesh crawled away, leaving a gnawed corpse in sight.

It was a woman. Dress soaked in viscera, face long gone. In her hand she held a cracked mirror, from which a face whispered.

"Snow White. Snow White is the fairest of them all."

Snow White bent over and lifted her stepmother's severed hand.

A bite from Snow White's flesh had ended her life, but a bite from the witch's would celebrate her coronation in death.


I think that I have some disjointed sentences without good transitions. The story skips from one though to another, but I can of course point out that the character is turning into a zombie. The truth is that I am not used to working with such word limit. So I found it hard to get the flow right.