Tag Archives: writing

Spotlight on Zoe Ambler

Last week author and blogger Zoe Ambler was kind enough to feature an interview with me about my writing and publishing adventures.
zoe2
This week I’m turning the tables and inviting Zoe into my spotlight too answer some daft questions about her work! I’m hoping this will be the first in a series of posts featuring other writers who have books already out there in the world.
Ready Zoe? First question:

When did you start writing?

I started writing fan-fiction when I was in my early twenties…and then progressed to more detailed stories by way of role-play gaming. When I had no one as a writing partner, I wrote elaborate stories for my characters to flesh them out. I can get quite wordy…>_>

What was your path to publication?

My path to publication was more like trying to trek my way through a jungle or swamp with a machete. Set back after set back. I decided, with a lot of weighing of the pros and cons, to self publish. It’s not as easy as some make it seem. I have regrets, but I’ve learned from them, and with the next book, those mistakes won’t happen!

Who was your biggest influence when you were starting out?

Out of the authors out there, I’d say Stephen King and Anne Rice. I could really connect with the characters they set out. Now, on the personal side, a great influence was my mother and older sister. NAG NAG NAG…”You need to publish that!” was screeched at me a lot. 😀

What was your favourite piece of writing advice?

Never rush things. Too many mistakes can be made. Also, write every day, whether it’s a blog entry, a gaming story, or reaching a word count on a story. If you don’t see fresh entries on my blog for a few days, you can pretty much bet that I’m working on a role play thread/story, or I’m working on my next book.

If you could send one Tweet back in time to your younger self, what would you say? And would you listen?

I’d tell myself “Slow down, you silly ass. Quit rushing.” And no, I probably wouldn’t listen. I’m a rebel like that. 😀

What’s the logline for your book?

Vampires, demons, war and voodoo. One little fierce vampire defies all that might redeem her, until finally she meets her match. Not your typical vampire story!

Do you take part in a writing circle, either online or in real life?

Hmm..not really. I mean, I role play game, that’s a little like a writing circle, but specific groups, no, I know I should. I’m shy around new people, and ooze low self esteem sometimes. I’m working on it!

and finally,

What’s the one word you always type wrong?
‘separate’ I always want to write ‘seperate’. >_<
Thanks for your honesty Zoe! Now, to learn more:
Author Bio:
Zoe Ambler hails from Enterprise, Alabama. She’s 44 years old and broke through into writing by way of role-play gaming, which she still loves to this day.
She has traveled the world, being a ‘military brat’, but always finds her way back home. Her hobbies include sketching, playing violin (badly), collecting oddities and office supplies. Zoe is often found spoiling her fat cat and obsessing over coffee and the coming zombie apocalypse.
Book cover
Zoe’s first book is called “The Road of Darkness”. Here’s what you need to know about it:
The Road of Darkness is the story of Addison. She’s a young Southern Belle in early 1700 Louisiana with a love for Voodoo. She’s a child of privilege, but never really let it go to her head. She was always a little odd.
On an innocent outing, Addison falls prey to a supernatural predator. A vampire. He attacks and turns her, then leaves her to lost and alone with this new hunger for blood. However, unlike most, she embraces this new ‘life’. She finds delight in it. A darkness grows within her.
Like any young vampire left to fend for themselves, she stumbles in her new existence. She meets others here and there, and the world of the paranormal opens up to her.
Due in part to her thrill of bloodlust, she becomes fascinated with war. Soon she is moving from country to country, war to war. Man’s evolution and technology in the art of warfare intrigues her.
Through her time and adventures, she has fleeting bits of both happiness and sorrow. The darkness within her will only allow her so much happiness.
Her link with all things Voodoo brings her into the servitude of the Baron Semedi, demi-god of the Underworld. A deal gone bad. It only serves to deepen that darkness.
Where can you find “The Road of Darkness”?
And where can you find out more about Zoe and what she’s up to?
Best of luck with “The Road of Darkness” Zoe, and I look forward to seeing the sequel soon!

What type of self-publishing author are YOU?

(Clockwise from top left) The NYT bestseller, the slow-but-steady, the Hobbyist, the...other guy.

(Clockwise from top left)
The NYT bestseller, the Slow-but-steady, the…other guy, the Hobbyist

1: Do you have a completed manuscript?

a. Yes. Three published, two drafts and four notebooks of ideas and outlines.

b. One. Edited and professionally covered, uploaded and on sale.

c. Several. None are really as good as I hoped, and sales are miniscule, but I keep trying.

d. No. But I have a great idea for a book. How about I tell you what it is and YOU do the writing, then we can split the money fifty-fifty?

2: Have you paid anyone else to produce any aspect of your book?

a. Yes, I used a professional editor and cover artists for all of my books. I also have an SEO and marketing consultant to help me co-ordinate my sales plan.

b. Yes, editor and cover artist. I’m managing publicity and promotions myself, though, through my blog and other social media.

c. No. I got a friend to read through the draft and I did the cover myself. I think it’s pretty good.

d. I’ll just use some photos from the internet when I need a cover. I mean, once they’re online, they’re free to use, right?

3. Have you considered book signings and public readings to promote your work?

a. Of course. I’ve done many of each, and these days I get requests to do guest blog spots too.

b. I’ve done a couple of local readings, but no signings because my book is an e-book. I did do a blog tour though, and that really helped sales.

c. No. I don’t feel my books are good enough yet. Maybe for my next one I’ll talk to the local library about doing a reading. Perhaps.

d. Are you kidding? The press are going to come to ME. How are you getting on with the writing, by the way?  Because I could really use the money sometime soon…

4: Do you have a plan for your next publication and sales strategy?

a. Yes. I have plans in place for my next two publications, and one already has a chapter included at the end of my last published book to act as a trailer. The e-book versions all have hyperlinks to my Amazon author page, so readers can quickly find my full list of books and order without putting down their e-reader.

b. I’m still working on my second book, but I’ve been blogging about it and sharing the process with a number of friends and other blogs online. There’s already a lot of people asking about it, so I’m hoping that will result in good sales and reviews.

c. No. I keep meaning to work things out in advance, but then I get wrapped up in writing the book, and once it’s done I just rush to throw it out there. I don’t really have the time or patience for a big orchestrated “event”. That’s for real authors.

d. What? Oh, books. Man, I’m done with books, there’s too much, you know….words! I’m writing a screenplay now. Well, I say I’m writing it, I’ve emailed Joe Cornish because I saw one of his movies and thought it was rubbish, so I’ve sent him a great idea for a new one and told him he can send me the money… You don’t think he’ll steal my idea, do you?

Results

Mostly “A” : You’re an established author who’s likely to do reasonably well, treating writing as a business and keeping your eye on the future, not just the end of the sentence. Good job.

Mostly “B”: You’ve got a good grasp of the essentials, but it sounds like you lack confidence. Push yourself forward a bit, make some more noise about what you’ve done, and don’t get discouraged. Slow and steady may win the race in the fable, but you can do better than that if you look at the “A” authors and do what they’re doing.

Mostly “C”: Gee, I really hope this is just your hobby. Writing to please yourself is the best place to start, but if you’re planning to have writing as a career or a decent second income, you need to pay more attention to the business side of things. Your books may start out as your babies, but when you publish them, they’re your product, and how they look and sound is how other people see you. Be the best you can be.

Mostly “D”: I wish you the best with the next crackpot money-making scheme you latch on to. And the one after that, and the one after that. Because you’re not even reading this anymore, are you? You lost interest around question number 2….

75 or over: You are the Dowager Duchess of Downton Abbey! And you’ve been doing the wrong quiz!

Outrage of an angel

Traffic

It was kind of a crazy coincidence that I saw her at all. Daytime tv is something of a mystery to me most of the time, but the night before I had taken a hard tumble at a softball game and my ankle was swollen and angry. The Doc had said to keep it elevated and use cold packs from time to time, and I had told my boss (who happened to be waiting for his turn to bat) that I wouldn’t be in the next day.

I’d made a comfortable nest on my couch with drinks and snacks within reach, but that meant I wasn’t in a hurry to get up when the dvd I’d been watching came to an end. I switched off the dvd player and the tv leapt back into life with some moronic mid-morning talk show.

The hostess was a plasticated Barbie Doll who had to keep saying “That’s sad” or “That’s so funny” because her botoxed features couldn’t form the relevant expressions. She rounded off her chat with a comedienne who was promoting her latest movie and turned to the camera. She lowered her tone to indicate this was a serious segment.

“We’ve all experienced them.” She said, her painted eyes solemn and unmoving. “Those moments of desperation and despair when we feel we simply CANNOT go on. Those are the times when we cry out to a higher power for help, and sometimes…”

The camera cut to the audience, entranced and a little fearful, then back to the host.

“Sometimes… those prayers are answered in a truly physical way!”

I snorted and began to root around under the debris of chip packets and candy wrappers to find the tv remote so I could change channels.

“For our next guest, her moment of despair came during a dark and snowy winter’s night on the I-99. Her car had died, and she and her baby daughter had no phone with them. They were miles from the nearest house, and neither of them had clothing that would keep out the bitter cold.”

Now, I drive the I-99 every day. I would have been driving it that day too, if not for my ankle. The truth is that you’re never more than a mile from a house the whole length of the road, but I did remember it getting pretty snowy last winter. I stopped searching for the remote and watched the host introduce her guest. The slight blonde woman looked nervous, in sharp contrast to the comedienne who had been on earlier. The host established that the baby girl was safe at home that day, and then invited the mother to explain the course of events as they unfolded in the snow.

“The car was toast.” said the woman, “The engine shut off and there was smoke coming out under the front there. Casey and I were warm enough inside, but without the engine running I knew it would get cold pretty fast. I put the emergency flashers on and the other cars were just driving past me.”

“No one stopped?” asked the host, trying to twist face into a mask of concern.

“No one stopped. And I had no phone because it had run out of charge. I was feeling pretty desperate.”

The host nodded sympathetically.

“That must have been so scary. And what happened next?”

“Yeah,” I asked the tv, “What happened next? Did you die of exposure?”

The woman had taken a moment to compose herself, but her eyes were glittering when she looked up again.

“I just looked out the windscreen and I saw this figure walking towards me. They didn’t seem bothered by the wind or the snow and they were carrying something.”

“Were you scared?” asked the host.

“I don’t think so.” said the woman, “I mean, I had been scared, but I think I started to calm down almost as soon as I saw him coming.”

The camera cut to the audience again, some of them smiling, some nodding encouragement. Back to the host.

“Just seeing him brought you a feeling of calm, of security?”

The woman was nodding herself.

“And he just came straight up to the front of my truck and waved at me to pop the hood. I don’t know what he did, but in no time at all he slammed the hood down and I could start the engine again!”

The host leaned forward again.

“You said the mysterious figure seemed to be carrying something. Was it a toolbox? A bag of wrenches?”

The woman shook her head.

“No it was something smaller, like a flask or a bottle.”

The host turned to face the audience.

“So he fixed a dead engine with no tools. He appeared just when you needed help, even though you didn’t call anyone. And when he had fixed the truck? What happened then?”

The woman shrugged.

“I was just so relieved, I started crying. With the engine going again I made sure Casey was safe in her car seat, and I put my seat belt back on too. Then I looked out of the windscreen again, and he was gone.”

“He disappeared?” the host whispered.

“Like he’d never been there. Except my truck was running and Casey and I were home safe ten minutes later.”

The host probably said something, but I missed it. There was a hollow roaring in my ears, and I was struggling to close my mouth. It had been hanging open for the last five minutes, from the moment I recognised the woman’s story. While I struggled to get control of my head, the host set up the line that finished me off.

“So, tell us, do you know who the mysterious stranger was who helped you that night?”

The woman nodded and faced the audience for the first time.

“I believe I do. I think he was an angel. He answered my prayers, and he saved my life and the life of my baby!”

This bizarre pronouncement was met with whoops and cheers and a storm of applause. It was also met with rustling and curses as I finally unearthed the remote and snapped off the tv. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. Some of them were complimentary too. But I’ve never been called an angel.

I’d been driving home slowly, cursing the snow that was making a regular journey into a slow motion epic, when I passed a truck in the inside lane, flashers on and steam still erupting from under the hood. I didn’t need all the time I spent working on my uncle’s old truck to know that the radiator had blown its cap. I had a big water bottle on the passenger side, relic of a rained off softball game. There wasn’t space on the shoulder until I’d crested the hill and the truck was out of sight. I parked up and grabbed the bottle of water, then pushed out into the night.

It was cold, and the wind pushed the snow right into my face and down the back of my neck. It took at least five minutes to reach the truck, and I waved at the woman to pop the hood without wasting time going to her window to talk to her. I mean, I knew what was wrong, knew I could help, so why waste time yakking? She’d probably feel more threatened by a stranger approaching her window anyway. Besides, I was already half-frozen, so I wanted to get this over with.

The hood was still hot to the touch from the gout of boiling water that had hit it, but the radiator cap hadn’t fallen out of the engine compartment. Huddling in under the hood kept the worst of the wind and snow at bay, and I was able to absorb some of the heat streaming off the engine. I dumped the contents of the bottle into the radiator, and the fact that there was only a minimal hiss told me that things had cooled off sufficiently. With a couple of minutes to get the whole bottle in and re-seat the cap, I figured the engine would be good to go. I slammed the hood and made twisting motions with my wrist. She got the idea and the engine started up. The water I’d put in should hold long enough to get her wherever she was going, and if she had any sense she’d get the damn truck checked over by a mechanic ASAP. Now the cold was getting to me again, so I didn’t hang around for tea and medals, just ran back over the hill to the warm sanctuary of my car. I was home inside ten minutes too.

Having a duff ankle meant I couldn’t stomp around my living room, kicking the furniture, but that was certainly what I wanted to do. I picked up the phone, determined to call the studios, get through to the stupid host and tell the truth about what happened that night, but I stopped, and not just because I didn’t know the number.

What did it matter? Well, to me, it shouldn’t matter at all. Had I not seen the stupid show, I would have gone on my merry way, neither knowing nor caring that someone viewed my amateur mechanic moment as heavenly intervention. Did it matter to that woman? Since I’d shut off the program, I couldn’t be sure. What I hoped was that this experience had encouraged her to do a basic car maintenance course, to prepare better for inclement weather, maybe even just check the damn weather forecast once in a while. But I think what was making me angry was that she probably wouldn’t. My miraculous appearance was confirmation that the helpless have a divine protector, and they never need to take care of themselves. Well, I would have been sorry to hear that little miss meek there had frozen to death in her truck that night, but her kid… For god’s sake, she had her kid with her. Casey ought to grow up knowing her parent can stand up for her, not expect them to stand by and hope for rescue.

In the end, I put the phone down. Call me a cynic, but I had more than a little suspicion that if I had got through to the host herself, she would have assured me that, yes, I was the one who helped, but my decision to stop and help was prompted by another angel, one I couldn’t see. And little miss meek would go on believing that the universe will care for her regardless.

I limped into the kitchen. I needed a cold pack for my ankle, and you know what? No one was going to appear mysteriously and bring it through to me. I sat back down, the cold seeping into my ankle and bringing a measure of calm with the reduction in pain. Maybe I would just print up some cards for the next time I rescue a damsel in distress:

“This aid has been brought to you by an entirely earthly entity, unbidden by any ethereal figures, visible or invisible.”

This is Blue Monday?

The Terry Fox statue at Simon Fraser University BC. When you think you're struggling with an overwhelming task, read about Terry Fox and find a little perspective there. (The scarf and hat are later additions to the statue, but I like to think they show people care.)

The Terry Fox statue at Simon Fraser University BC. When you think you’re struggling with an overwhelming task, read about Terry Fox and find a little perspective there.
(The scarf and hat are later additions to the statue, but I like to think they show people care.)

My wife told me about Blue Monday a few years ago after hearing about it on the radio. It’s generally reckoned as the third Monday in January, the point where people’s resolutions have flagged and the Christmas euphoria has passed, and the Winter seems to have set in forever. The bright lights of Christmas are behind, the bright days of Spring are too far ahead, and your soul is buried in work, and gloom and misery.

This is what I told myself when I realised how cynical and negative I felt about this coming week. It’s the last week of January, and this month has been quite a success. I completed a long-standing play, dashed off a sketch, planned at least one more one act and finally started the re-write of my part of the new panto script for TLC. The kids have turned around their issues at school (for the most part) and we’ve begun the internal remodelling of the house with a truly Herculean effort that needed a rental van to get all the raw materials back from Home Depot. I’m even helping to clear space by digitising our old scrapbooks and photo albums, for Pete’s sake. All of this I know, and yet I was whining to myself about the need to achieve things and how impossible it seemed.

So here’s your positive message for the day : forget affirming energy flowing from the spirit of the universe, forget orienting your chakras to absorb the Chi flowing from your crystals. Just close your eyes for a second and say “This too shall pass.” It’s Blue Monday, it’s a blip on the calendar and better days are on their way.

Flash Fantasy No 4: Non-Epic tales of other lands

Jepeth's people believed that dressing in bright colours prevented a dragon noticing you. Jepeth's people fared badly in matters of common sense. And they had never won a pub quiz.

Japeth’s people believed that dressing in bright colours prevented a dragon noticing you. Japeth’s people fared badly in matters of common sense. And they had never won a pub quiz.

The whole of the Mynrii Valley stretched out before Japeth, a child’s patchwork blanket, rumpled but still scattered with toy farms and houses. At the North end of the valley grew the foothills of the Gormir mountains, twin ranges to the edifices that Japeth was resting on. The difference was that the Gormir mountains held the Dragonryder academy, and the bustling trade and government centre that flourished thanks to the ease of transport a-dragonback. Messages or cargo could be flown across the land faster than the fleetest vessel on the seas, and they could reach a mountain stronghold as easily as a lowland farm.

Japeth tore his gaze away and turned back to the goat-track that he had been following for the last three hours. It was easier to find now the sun was above the horizon, but that meant he had less time to achieve his goal. He must reach the caves before noon. The urgency wasn’t just down to his impatience. There was no academy on these mountains, the grim and forbidding Hagomir Peaks. No government centre would be built here, for this range held the breeding colonies for the giant beasts themselves. Breeding dragons in captivity had never succeeded, so each year a group of specially trained boys would leave the academy and make the hazardous climb up the Hagomir peaks. If they had studied hard and proved themselves worthy, they would join with a young dragon and begin a new life as dragonryders. If they failed…Well, then they would be missed by their mothers, Japeth supposed. His own mother hadn’t even noticed he was gone, he was certain. Mareth had seven children, with Japeth buried in the middle so firmly that they had three times missed his birthday, and once given his prized hide jacket to a cousin, believing it to belong to an older brother who had outgrown it.

“They’ll see,” muttered Japeth, as his second-hand boots clung to the goat-trail and his hands grabbed at craw-grass to aid his uphill climb, “they’ll remember my name when I fly down out of the sun on my own dragon and burn the damn barn to cinders!”

Brindmir, Japeth’s younger sister, had learned of his plan and tried to talk him out of it. Though he loved her best of all his siblings, Japeth had become enraged when Brindmir would not accept that he stood a chance of taming a wild dragon.

“It’s my destiny!” he had shouted, and heard the echo rebound from the mountains beyond their farm. Surely that was a sign? Brindmir had crossed her arms and wrinkled her nose in a pose that looked so much like their mother he had felt momentarily ashamed of himself. She sniffed and he scowled.

“What do they learn, those boys up at the academy? What’s the first thing they learn when they arrive at that place?”

Japeth shrugged.

“Well, I dunno, do I? Never been.”

“So there you have it Japeth! You don’t know THE FIRST THING about taming a dragon. It’s foolishness.”

And she had flounced away. Maybe if she had called him stupid, he might have reconsidered. But “foolishness” was a word their mother used all too often in connection with the things that Japeth loved, and to hear it from his sister goaded him beyond reason. He had gone straight to the kitchen and packed some provisions for his climb, then begun the ascent in the darkness before dawn, trusting his uncanny night vision to keep from tumbling down the mountainside to his doom.

Drenched in sweat, he reached the first of the den-caves when the sun was still around an hour from its zenith. He plunged without hesitation into the nearest den, barely noticing the cooling of his damp shirt as he stepped out of the sunshine. He closed his eyes and counted to ten, restoring the night vision he would need because he hadn’t thought to bring a light with him.

The cave was narrow near the opening, though still reaching to more than twice his height. The edges of the opening had been scoured smooth by generations of dragonhide pushing past. Tiny bones clicked and cracked under Japeth’s feet, regurgitated remains of meals long past. The air was cooler than outside, but there was a warmth to it that put Japeth in mind of the stables at home – the air had already been breathed once or twice by larger lungs than his. A dry rustling sounded from ahead, just around a curve in the cave wall, and Japeth hurried forward eagerly. His destiny was so close now! The final answer to all those indignities and injustices! He would show them all!

The dragon was still sitting in the remains of its egg, though it looked to have hatched several months ago. Already ten feet from nose to tail, the scales had hardened enough to scrape sparks from the floor when it lurched forward towards Japeth. He stopped as if running into a wall, and the dragon pulled up too. It cocked its head quizzically at him, as if trying to understand why he was there, and who he was.

For the first time, Japeth began to appreciate the scale of a dragon. Not the hide, but the size in relation to himself. He had seen dozens, but always wheeling and circling overhead. He’d never actually seen one up close. This one was huge, each tooth the length of his hands, and with a jaw wide enough to fit in his whole head! The nostrils flared and contracted, and Japeth felt the air around him drawn in to the mighty head. It was sniffing him!

He couldn’t help feeling a flicker of hope. This was it! This was the moment when the dragon would recognise him, when it and he would join together for life… Wasn’t it? Japeth was suddenly acutely aware that he didn’t actually, when you got right down to it, know how that actually happened. Was it really a mystical thing, or was it more like old Barker at home, training the dogs to obey by feeding them treats at the right time? Should he, perhaps, have brought some kind of treat for the dragon?

A silvery tongue was flickering in and out of the huge mouth now, weaving amongst the fangs like a sentient thing. One clawed foot rose, wavered, and came down again, closer to Japeth. A second rose…The thing was coming towards him! This was, clearly, a very, very bad idea…..But Japeth could not bring himself to turn his back on the dragon. He tried to take a hesitant step backwards, but his feet would not move.

Then, miraculously, the dragon ahead of him stopped moving forward! It lowered its head, laying one cheek on the floor. This was a sign of submission! Japeth was elated, his dreams were coming true at last. The dragon was submitting to him as its master. But his cowardly feet would no more move forward than they would retreat before. And there was a new sound, he realised. A heavy, crunching sound that…was…coming…from…behind…him.

He didn’t need to turn. The great head of the mother dragon slid silently across the roof of the cave above him. It was to this presence that the young dragon had been submitting. The mother made a deep booming noise in her throat and the young dragon gave a surprisingly light chirrup in response, rolling back to its feet and reaching up its long neck to caress the huge jawbone of the mother with its own headcrest. When the crashing noise of their greeting was done, both heads swung to look at Japeth.

“That moment,” he thought, “just then when they were looking at each other. That was when I should have made a dash for the way out.” The heads slid towards him as if on rails and his terror finally communicated itself to his feet who moved at last but too slowly…

The mother watched her child feeding with pride. It wasn’t often that food delivered itself to the mountain. She couldn’t help feeling there was something special about this one.

The Flash Fantasy Project 3: non-epic tales of other lands

mega castle part two

Brin stepped out into the light at last. Here, in the one area of the hall where sunlight fell, no one could miss him. His mane of golden hair seemed to blaze in the last rays of daylight and he towered over the nearest goblins.

They shrank back, hissing, as they recognised their master’s mortal foe. Grimnok himself, however, seemed unsurprised by Brin’s appearance.

“Ah, Brin. The Chosen One himself honours us with his presence.”

Grimnok’s eyes flickered over the dark corners of his hall, and the cowering ranks of goblins.

“If we’d known you were coming, we might have made more of an effort.”

Brin stood tall in the face of the dark one’s sarcasm.

“You don’t scare me anymore, Grimnok. I’ve read the prophecy, and I know what it means. You can’t kill me, and if you can’t kill me then this war is over. No one else needs to die. I’ve come here to prevent any more bloodshed. It’s over. Get out, and leave Nimeria in peace!”

Grimnok stroked his thin beard as he looked at Brin. The boy had grown in his time with the Wizards of Nimeria, there was no denying it. And he had found out the truth of the prophecy. It was possible that this changed things, that his plan to crush the Nimerian resistance forever was, in fact, doomed to fail.

“Well Brin, I’m glad you read the prophecy. Reading is good for you, it broadens the mind. And it’s true, the Sage did foresee that the Wizard’s meddling spells would prevent me from killing you.”

Everyone in the hall saw Brin’s shoulders drop a little, as if he had let out a breath he had been holding. But surely even a great hero like the Chosen One would not come into the hall of his greatest enemy while uncertain of his own protection? Grimnok smiled and gave a carefree wave of his hand.

“Certainly, it’s possible that you have me at a disadvantage. Not being able to kill you myself DOES put a crimp in my plans. However, if you’ll indulge me, there is a little something I’d like to try before surrendering.”

This time he waved his other hand and a third of the goblin horde drew bows from under their tattered cloaks and fired.

For a second, Brin resembled a rearing hedgehog, but then his knees gave way and he crashed to the floor, a human pincushion.

“Thought so.” muttered Grimnok. “Arkleblog? Begin the invasion, would you? I’ll be in my study.”

 

It’s a brand New Year…Again

My actual white board, now no longer actually white. "Omar Serif" and "They're taking the robots to Alderaan" are jokes I haven't gotten around to yet. Be relieved about that.

My actual white board, now no longer actually white. “Omar Serif” and “They’re taking the robots to Alderaan” are jokes I haven’t gotten around to yet. Be relieved about that.

It’s nearly the end of the first week of January, and this is the first post I’ve managed in 2015, which means I ought to be talking about Resolutions.

But, as you may know from last year, I don’t do so well with resolving to change. I need a list every day just to get through the things that keep the house running, so adding grand aspirations to that list has been somewhat problematic in the past.

However, last year, I decided to just write more stuff. This was a simple enough idea that I could keep it in mind, and even put it up on my white board above my desk. “Write more stuff” translates easily into whatever project I feel like doing, and as long as there is more stuff at the end of the year, then it’s working. That’s a measurable goal, that is.

And last year I produced more plays, a new ebook and a lot of sketches. I found that the break of fifteen minutes at work is just long enough to eat a sandwich and write a page and a half of sketch, resulting in a sketch every week. That’s a sketch each week written at work, plus the stuff I can write when I’m at home. Like every published writer is fond of saying, there IS time to write, you just have to choose to use it for writing.

Like last year, most of what I plan to complete and publish won’t reach the marketplace until the later half of the year, so I’m not going to list my projects here. I will post about them when they’re complete, and then put up reminders with links when they get published. I’m hoping the Appraisal Service continues to keep me busy, and that life at the Library remains as fulfilling and entertaining as it had proven so far.

What are the big projects for YOU this 2015? Are you going to write that novel or sequel? Are you going to try writing something that’s outside your comfort zone, like a romance, or a horror story, or a poem? Are you thinking of writing for the first time? Because I have a really good feeling about this year. I think it’s YOUR year. I mean, obviously that’s bad news for everyone else, but we’ll cope, honest. Don’t feel bad for us, you just go on and make the most of it.

We’ll be over here. In the corner. Maybe crying just a little bit.

Flash Fantasy No 1 : Non-epic tales of other lands

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The bell jangled merrily as Wesley pushed through the doorway at last. He’d been staring in through the window of the Curiosity Shoppe for more than a week now, trying to work out the intricacies of the puzzle box that lay, almost out of sight, on a velvet cushion in the corner of the window display.

Inside, the sound of the traffic on the street was reduced to a quiet murmur, and a smell of dust and age crept up his nose. He fought the urge to sneeze, and his fingers tightened on the wad of notes crammed into his pocket. There was no price on the box, so he’d brought all his savings, almost fifty dollars.

He looked around the dim interior uncertainly. There was an abundance of dark wood, of beautifully carved and jointed furniture, though he wasn’t sure what function it would serve. There were dozens of clocks on the walls, all telling different times – some without numbers, some without hands. Cabinets lined a kind of alleyway through the centre of the shops, glass fronts staring blankly, the insides too dark to reveal their contents. Wesley shuddered involuntarily, trying not to imagine what might be held inside.

“Can I help you…sir?”

The voice wheezed out of the dark space at the end of the alley of cabinets, and an old man shuffled into the light from the door, starling Wesley into stepping back. His back bumped up against the door, and he was trapped. The door opened into the shop, and to escape he would have to step towards the aincient, doddery figure now getting closer and… But wait. Now he was illuminated by the daylight, the shopkeeper was just a harmless old man, like someone’s grandpa, or a great-uncle. The shroud around him was a homely cardigan, and the stunted hooves were just mouldy carpet slippers. The sickly gleam was nothing more than a reflection from the eyeglasses he wore low on his nose. Wesley blew out a big sigh and tried to find his voice.

“Yes..Yes, you can. I mean, I’d like to buy the puzzle box in the window, please. I mean, if I can afford it. I mean, how much…?”

The man’s head cocked to one side, suddenly, like a curious bird examining a worm. Then he chuckled, like he’d read about it once and decided to try it out.

“The puzzle box? Well now…well now…That puzzle box, young man, is a very special thing. More than a puzzle, you see? For the right person, the right young man, that puzzle box is a gateway.”

Wesley fought down a rising sense of excitement, trying to concentrate on not being conned into paying too much for the box, but those words… He’d always felt he was meant for more than Math and Chemistry, more than the stupid pushing and yelling of the playground. Was this really his chance at REAL adventure? The old man had padded off to the window, his carpet slippers flapping slightly at each step, and he returned now with the box still on its cushion. He held it out to Wesley, quite formally.

“Take it, young sir. Open it, if you can, and you will step through into another world and meet your destiny.”

Wesley’s money was forgotten. As he had imagined doing for so many days and nights, he grasped the box in both eager hands. He was sure he hadn’t imagined the thrill that rushed through his fingers, a shiver that came from the box itself. He twisted, pushed, pressed and pulled, the sequence half guided by his eye and half by the feelings in his fingers. The box wanted to open, wanted him to open it.

And then a hidden seam gaped wide. Not the false seam running around the middle of the box – that was nothing more than a groove in the surface of the wood. This seam opened in the unbroken grain, wider, wider than Wesley could have believed. A dazzling light poured out, making him turn his head away. He could feel warmth on his cheek, fell it on his closed eyes. Warmth….heat…hot…so hot!

There was a pattering of ashes on the shop floor, then a solid THOK! as the box itself bounced onto the floor. It was closed up tight again, and none of the ashes from the vaporised body of poor young Wesley so much as dusted the deeply polished surface. With the edge of one old carpet slipper, now looking more hoof-like than a few seconds ago, the old shopkeeper nudged the box back onto its cushion and replaced it in the window.

Heading to the back to fetch his dustpan and brush, he sighed heavily. Clearly, this young man was NOT the chosen one.

 

It’s quiet because….

…For the first year ever, I’m actually DOING NaNoWriMo. It’s scary and busy and means I have to actually concentrate and commit and lots of other words that begin with “c”.

This won't be the cover  or the title, but I needed something to upload to the NaNo website so it looked better...

This won’t be the cover or the title, but I needed something to upload to the NaNo website so it looked better…

I’ve decided to write a sequel to “Eddie and the Kingdom” for several reasons.

1: Someone asked me. Just one person, but you know, there’s such a thing as customer service and responding to your readership.

2: I had a bit of an idea for the story.

3: The first book was only 50,000 words or so, which is the NaNo target.

4: “Eddie and the Kingdom” was the first novella I ever wrote, and I wanted to see if I could do it faster and maybe even better. Eddie took a year or more. This first draft should be done inside a month (currently at 20,000 words after six writing sessions).

5: Everyone else and his Mum has a series. This way, I get to write book three next year and call it an “Eddie novel” or “A novel of the Kingdom”. Or “Marvel: The Guardians of the Galaxy Strike Back!” if I want to get sued into penury.

So that’s why I’m taking the time to write this post and explain why I haven’t got time to write any posts.

How are YOU getting on with YOUR novel? Post an excerpt or link below!

What’s in a name?

Hello, my name is.....

Hello, my name is…..

At work the other day we were talking about unusual child names. It came up because a co-worker had met someone whose child was named “Absidy”. I said it sounded like a lovely name.

“It’s spelled “A-B-C-D”…” she said.

Absidy. Right.

I filed away the name, not because I was planning to write the adventures of Abcd anytime soon, but because I have real trouble picking names for characters in my fiction. Absidy would be a welcome change from the Rogers, Brians, Susans and Sarahs that usually populate my plays. In fact, I have such trouble picking names that I once wrote a short play where no one else refers to anyone by name. For the record, they were called Simeon, Colophon, Astrid, Bobo and Tabor, but no one in the audience ever knew.

But for regular writing, you only need pick a name that suits your story. If your tale is set in the Western Hemisphere anytime after 1940, Roger and Brian and company will do just fine. If you’re populating a space station, you can probably still get away with it. But if you’re writing historical fiction, or about aliens or the denizens of the Fantasyverse, then pick carefully*.

For example, I once wrote a good deal of a story about Lyan the Barbarian Wanderer, before realising that everyone would read his name as “Lion”, not lee-arn. I was reading it that way in my head, but it wasn’t the logical pronunciation. Douglas Adams once revealed that the character “Slartibartfast” began life with a different name, one that was very funny written down, but incredibly rude and offensive when spoken out loud. Since he was writing “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” for radio at the time, the name had to change. And no respectable playwright should ever forget the disaster resulting from naming a character “Fanny”. Another character is concerned about Fanny’s sick friend and asks “Has the doctor seen her, Fanny?” There is no amount of emphasis that will rescue that line.

Whatever name you choose, make sure it’s spelled consistently throughout the book/script. If you are writing a script and your character name gets abbreviated by friends, don’t use that abbreviation to identify the character unless you have done so from the beginning, or you get something that looks like this:

DONALD:     Hey, Champ, what’s up?

MICHAEL:    Not much, Donnie, you?

DONNIE:       I was going down to the beach, join me?

CHAMP:         No time, gotta have my toes waxed.

Other things to watch out for are more to do with dialogue and whether or not it sounds natural. People don’t really use names very often in conversation (If they do, odds are they’ve just met someone and they’re using the name frequently to cement it in memory. It’s a good technique, but it sounds creepy when you’re on the other end of it.) The second major faux pas is something I  know my friend Lucy V Hay would clench her teeth over. It’s a favourite of soaps and it goes something like this:

DAVE gets up and heads to the door. As he reaches it, Delores speaks.

DELORES:     Dave?

DAVE turns back.

DAVE:            Yeah?

DELORES:    Thanks.

People do not do this.

What’s the worst name you’ve ever come across in a story? Clive Barker wrote one where a main character was called Hapexamendios, and the Ringworld books feature “Speaker to Animals” and Halrloprillalar Hotrufan. Can you do worse?

*If, at any point, you find one of your character names has an apostrophe in it, close down your computer, have a little lie down, then get up and find a new career.