Thank you for visiting this blog site. It's mainly writing-related posts including thoughts, tips, info and psychological aspects of writing. If you felt like following, well that would be great.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Offer for Bottles and Pots for kindle

A quick note for anyone following this blog.:

For a week from December 6th, Bottles and Pots is available for kindle at ***99p***. This is the link:

I've used this particular link because, oddly, going the direct route seems still to ask the original price. If the link doesn't work, could you copy it and paste into the search bar? So far reviews around the place are 1 four-star, 4 five-star.

The paperback price is also now reduced to £3.30. Just saying!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Self-publishing via CreateSpace: My Experience and Tips

Last year I published my children's novel as an ebook. However, marketing ebooks for children is not yet in full swing, I feel, so it has just appeared in paperback - see Millie's cover on the left.

At the same time (almost), I realised that since I started writing dark short stories and flash fiction a year ago, I had accumulated quite a stack of pieces. Some were already published in various anthologies, or had been listed/commended/placed in writing competitions. This gave me the idea and the impetus to publish the collection which turned out to be Bottles and Pots. After sending for quotes from various printers and publishers, and asking advice of writing colleagues, I decided on Amazon's CreateSpace (CS). So this post is intended to be helpful for anyone thinking of going down that route.

It has not been without hitches, some my fault, some I think theirs. They include page numbers, page breaks and the 'Browse' for files button not functioning. With each query there's a 24h a response which sometimes amounted to little more than 'Have you tried turning it off and on again' as per The IT Crowd. Any alteration means another 24h wait.

Eventually, though, all the problems have been solved, and on balance I would use CreateSpace again. Here are my tips for anyone thinking of using this publishing method.

1  Of course, have the text fully ready, edited and proofed, with page breaks inserted.
2  Set aside a whole weekend, if possible, to get everything uploaded for their review.
3  If there are time constraints on obtaining your own copies to sell, bear in mind that once
       your files are finally submitted, reviewed and accepted, you've accepted the proof, and
       you've ordered copies, printing can take maybe 3-4 working days, then shipping 1-3wd,
       5-8wd, or much longer depending on how much you pay. Once you order, the expected
       delivery date may be later than you thought.
3  Read everything on every instruction screen. (Said with feeling.)
4 When CS formatted my .doc file for Millie, the page numbers and some page breaks went
       all to pot, and I kept querying (another 24h wait) and altering (ditto) repeatedly.
       Eventually CS suggested I submit as PDF since they format into PDF. This worked 
       perfectly - at last. So it might always be best to submit as PDF.
5  My browser is Safari, and when I repeatedly hit a brick wall trying to click 'Browse' to
       select my text file, again after several support requests it was suggested that a
       different browser might help. Firefox did - and a colleague finds Chrome good too. So
       if I do this again, Firefox it is.
6  Once cover and 'interior' files are reviewed and accepted, you choose whether to check
       the proof on your computer, or order a copy (cost £10+ in a hurry). The first time, I
       ordered a proof copy, and was glad as there was an aspect of the cover I wanted to
       change. For Millie, I proofed digitally and that was fine (and free).
7  When looking at the proof, it's really important to check every bit of it. I was so tempted
       to just say 'go', as I need Millie p.d.q., but checked and triple checked first. 
8  Once the hard work is over, within the programme CS has some marketing tips.

My first consignment of Bottles and Pots has delivery date tomorrow, and no sign as yet. My order for copies of Millie hasn't shipped yet, and delivery date is just 2 days before I need them for an event. And so the nailbiting continues. On the other hand, not a penny need change hands if you don't want to buy any physical copies of your book (special members' rate) and if you proof digitally. Nothing to lose except your hair!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Lots of Writing Going On!

Currently I'm in one of those can't-think-about-anything-except-writing phases. (Apart from cooking in between of course.) Brain is in overdrive.

A previous post was about being either a pouncer or a stalker, and I'm the former - can't resist a challenge, always several short projects on the go. Here in list form is what I've been pouncing on recently.

•  Gave a talk to a writing group about magazine articles, and have now been asked to return to run a workshop and judge
       a competition.

•  Submitted two stories for the Winchester Writers' Conference/Hampshire Chronicle competition - judged by the Prof of 
       Creative Writing. One was commended, one awarded third place. Very nice critiques, too.

•  A rather unpleasant piece involving a clown and a little girl was awarded 4th place in an international flash fiction comp.

•  A very short piece was included in National Flash Fiction Day's rolling blog. That was rather nasty, too.

•  My work is currently longlisted in Ether Book's twisted tales competition; shortlist not out yet.

•  Waiting to hear whether shortlisted for a cash-prize locally based story comp. And, oh goodness, another murder, 
        but this time set in the middle ages.

•  I have ready a 22,000 word anthology of my 'dark tales', and a cover, and currently exploring the best way to get it into print.

•  As a member of Inkslinger Books I've just submitted a 4,200 word whodunnit for consideration for our next anthology.

•  Now planning to give more attention to a work-in-progress novel for 8-11s about a boy and his mother's new partner. 
        Nothing nasty here but plenty of conflict. Cd be 15,000 words.

Please forgive the egotistical nature of all this - it needed to be out of my brain and onto a page of some sort. So if you're still with me, thanks ever so.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


A blogpost that takes 20 seconds to read. It's another limerick of mine:

The Player at the Gate

Said St Peter "The footballing game
Has earned you great fortune and fame.
   The media adored you,
   While rivals abhorred you -
But I'm letting you in, just the same."

The end!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Power of Three - Limericks, that is.

Here are two of my (prize-winning) limericks, with a new third one for good measure.

The first was for a competition to write a limerick relating to the most recent royal wedding,
and it involves .....
                                                                   Prince Harry by
                                                                   Charles LeBlanc
                        Pippa's moment of glory last year
                        Was in showing the world her fine rear.
                             So when Harry espied
                             Her amazing backside,
                        His princely response was quite clear!

The second had to relate to the seven deadly sins. Here's one (well, sort of):   
                     by Dark Meadow
                    Of the seven, it's hard to decide
                    Which is naughtier - lust, wrath or pride
                             With envy and sloth,
                             Well I'm guilty of both,
                    But gluttony's toughest to hide.

And lastly, a new one:

                         An artist who painted a triptych
                    Told admirers its meaning was cryptic.
                             He gazed at the sky
                             And remarked with a sigh,
                    "The solution lies on the ecliptic."

Your go!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Party Trick Number Two

(The previous party trick was on this blog in August 2012, a memory 'act'.)

This time it's how to look at a row of faces (e.g. friends lined up, or photos) and tell which of them is left-handed. I worked this out myself, and although not infallible (children change dominant hand, dominant hand might be injured and so on), it's been pretty reliable so far.

In my experience, the greater the difference (there's almost always one), the more dominant the hand. The exception is top celebs and models, where I'm guessing they either photoshop or compensate by narrowing one eye slightly, or else they're by luck perfectly symmetrical.
At age 7
Here's how it goes:

1  Look casually at someone's face.
2  Note which eye is wider.
3  That's probably the side of their dominant hand!

Test: picture of me above. And yep, I'm right-handed.

Anyone want to test this and let me know?

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Exams Just Around the Corner?

As Easter approaches, exams are lurking not far ahead. Schools, colleges and universities will notice the atmosphere becoming more tense, with students getting nervy and staff hoping for the best where results are concerned.
By boon chuan low
It's a shame to allow the Easter holidays to be a time for noses continuously to the grindstone, but it's a good time to plan revision and exam strategies in among the fun activities.

Here are links to two of my student-related articles on which may be relevant.

Essay Titles: compare, discuss and asses - what the key terms mean 

Gain Maximum Benefit from Every Lecture to Help Improve Grades (aimed at 16+)

Here are some other tips, mainly from my piece in Special Needs Information Press (SNIP), a newsletter for teachers which I created and wrote for about 6 years before passing it on to a team. It's still thriving!

One Month Before the Exam
1  Make sure you can spell the important subject-specific words.
2  Go through class notes, tidy them up, and pick out those on complex topics which you
       can then summarise.
3  If not already known, get familiar with the revision method called Mind Mapping (term
       is ©Tony Buzan). It involves a core topic with branches out of it to sections. It's a key
       method for visual revision. This is especially good if you remember what you see.
4  If you remember info better if you hear it, try to get hold of a small recorder, and start to
       dictate your notes so you can listen to them on the bus, before you go to sleep etc.
5  Make a four-week grid as your Revision Master, for each half hour of your organisable
       time, with 25m of work and a 5m break. Decide on the proportion that should be for each
       subject. Fill in the first two weeks with topics and any further detail. As the end of the two 
       weeks approaches, you'll have a better idea of how to plan the final two weeks.
6  Begin narrowing down the most important topic areas for each subject and start a set of
       index cards, one for each.
By CollegeDegrees360
Two Weeks Before ...
1  Fill in the Revision Master for the final two weeks, being as specific as possible.
2  Study your exam timetable, noting carefully the places and times - people do sometimes
       get these wrong, with dire results! Make several copies in case you mislay one.
3  Check which notes/books you'll be allowed to take into the exams.
4  If you own the books, use highlighters for points/facts you may need to find in a hurry.
5  If the exam results will affect how you go forward, e.g. Year 9, 11, AS or A2, work out a
       plan for (a) if the result are OK or good, and (b) if they're not. This means one less
       thing to worry about.
By Universiteitskrants Univers
The Day Before ...
1  Prepare all the writing gear, and make a checklist of anything else you'll need, e.g.
       calculator, permitted books and notes, water.
2  Run through condensed notes, index card info and so on.
3  Check again that you know the date, time and place.
4  Eat decent food and drink plenty of water.
5  Go to bed at the usual time, and after a period of relaxation. 
6  Don't be intimidated by others saying what and how well they've been revising.
7  SET THE ALARM if it's a morning exam!
By Alan Cleaver!
And finally, from the University of Brighton, tips for the exams themselves. Aimed at university students but mainly appropriate for younger students too:

Good luck to all those about to take their exams. 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Writers - are you a stalker or a pouncer?

This analogy came to me overnight, while I was considering my writing goals for the next 3, 6 and 12 months.  I'm a pouncer who dreams of being a stalker.

The Stalker
In the kingdom of large animals, and indeed where early man is concerned, targets are often sizeable and almost always food-related. A 'caveman' might be away for a while with his peers, patiently waiting and watching, aiming to nab a large animal to take back for cooking and maybe sharing out. It could take ages, but if successful, the reward was significant and they could take a short break ("chillax" they used to grunt) before having to start the process again.
by Yinan Cheng
This is how I see novelists. They know they're in for the long haul, and that a hard slog is likely to be involved, but they have the support of their peers hopefully (other writers and their agent and publisher), and there's celebration and feasting when the goal has finally been reached. They are willing to be patient and to make sacrifices.

The Pouncer
Here I'm thinking first of creatures who hunt quickly and descend on prey often. Something might pass by which would make a good meal, and it's rapidly dispatched. I have in mind toads and flies, pelicans (or otters) and fish, and - going back in time - the hungry dog and the string of sausages from the butcher's. 
by Thomas Guest
Cats are pouncers too, quite apart from their method of capturing prey. They don't appear to push off outside specifically to look for mice and birds, but if there's a sudden scuffling or a tantalising scent, that's enough to trigger their hunting instinct.

Writers on this side of the fence would include poets, short story or flash fiction people, and magazine article journalists. Opportunities usually do have to be sought, but this is not such a long-drawn-out process. Work can be completed more quickly than the Stalker could imagine.
*         *         *         *         *

Writers of children's books, though, could come somewhere in between. Not a 2-7 day process, and probably not 9-12 months or more. Another analogy is needed. Another time!

I'm not sure that Stalkers do much pouncing, and Pouncers might rarely flirt with stalking. I love to read about writers nearing completion of their book, completing it, waiting for the verdict, then rejoicing about acceptance and publication. Not to mention launch parties. How I'd love to have a book to launch, giving a speech, signing books, and handing around perhaps an ice-cold, flinty Sancerre to the fans of my work. But now I have come to realise this won't happen. I submitted sample chapters to M & B in the past, and was told 'Nicely written but not enough emotional punch', and I've started other novels but ...

I'd love to know what you think about this analogy, and whether it's far too simplistic. It's just a bit of fun, really, but it clarified my vision of my own writing goals.