Mastodon The Writing Desk: 2012

31 December 2012

Novel Publicity Blog Tour: Cephrael's Hand by Melissa McPhail

‘The mysteries of a woman’s heart cannot be measured; they are as the expanse of time and space, endless and unknowable.’
- The Espial Franco Rohre, while posing
as a minstrel in the Veneisean court

Cephrael's Hand: A Pattern of Shadow and Light is full of mysteries and hints at worlds we will never completely explore or ever hope to fully understand. Cephrael's Hand is also the first book of a series and has a serious amount of scene-setting to deliver. Melissa has usefully added a detailed glossary and cast at the start of the book. I found I had to refer back to if often, as there is an amazing cast of eighty characters to remember - as well as the Gods of the Akkad.   

Melissa says she would love readers of her ebook version to experience a fully searchable map, that would fly up in three dimensions any time they clicked on a place name. One day we will take this for granted but in 2013 you will need to keep referring back to the beautifully drawn two-dimensional  maps to understand  the where and the what of her characters’ journeys through the realm of Alorin.  (Melissa's amazing maps were drawn by UK artist Andy 'Ramah' Palmer and Oregon  photographer and graphic designer Brandon Lidgard). 

For me, the most enchanting aspect of Cephrael's Hand is how Melissa has drawn on her love of Eastern philosophies. The subtitle of the book is A Pattern of Shadow and Light and the balance between the light and the dark provide a unifying thread through this work. It also offers a rich vein of tension when the realm of Alorin is out of balance. Lives are in the gravest of danger if balance is not restored, for in its waning rises a most terrible threat...

Melissa McPhail lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. A classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, Melissa is also a Vinyasa yoga instructor and an avid fantasy reader. A long-time student of philosophy, she is passionate about the fantasy genre because of its philosophical explorations. Visit Melissa's website:  and follow her on twitter at @melissagmcphail

Preview Cephrael's Hand on Amazon US or Amazon UK

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28 December 2012

The Art of Writing by Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Lois Stevenson
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer, Robert Louis Stevenson died a hundred and eighteen years ago on the 3rd of December 1894.

Best known for Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde he was also very interested in the craft of writing. In The Art of Writing Stevenson sets out a series of essays, offering advice on subjects ranging from finding inspiration to the technical methods of writing. He considers the choice of words, plotting and style and discusses the potential for good that literature has - and the responsibility of the writer to use that power wisely.

The full text  is available online through The Literature Project, a collection of free classic books, poems, speeches, and plays. Click HERE to read The Art of Writing.

19 December 2012

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was born on February 7th, 1812, so as his centenary year draws to a close it seemed fitting to look at 'A Christmas Carol'. The book has never been out of print since it was first published 169 years ago in December 1843. Here are some things you may not know about it:

In the preface, Dickens wrote: 'I have endeavoured in this ghostly little book, to raise the ghost of an idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.'

He finished the book in six weeks, writing most of it in November (a familiar idea to some of us) and it is just under 35,000 words. (If he had lived today he may have tried for 50,000 and written it in four weeks for NaNoWriMo)

Dickens decided to self-publish the work at his own expense. (It sold out by Christmas Eve.) He originally priced his book at five shillings (equivalent to £20 or $33 today) but high costs meant low profits. (I think he would have identified with today's Indie Publishers - see David Perdue's blog for the details HERE)

Keen on active book promotion, Dickens had a specially shortened version he used for public readings. There are records of about 150 readings by Dickens of 'A Christmas Carol', despite the fact that, at the time, public readings of fiction or poetry were considered 'a desecration of one's art and a lowering of one's dignity.' (He would definitely have made a YouTube promo video.)

In the first draft manuscript, the character of 'Tiny Tim' was called 'Little Fred'. This could have been a reference to his brother Alfred who died at a young age. Dickens changed his mind and used the name Fred for Scrooge’s nephew.

We can have some insight into how Dickens wrote from the original manuscript, which has a lot of deleted words replaced with more active verbs. (We can all learn from that.)

The original manuscript was bound in red Morocco leather by Dickens and changed hands many times before ending up in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York where it is put on public display every Christmas.

The phrase 'Merry Christmas' appears twenty-one times in 'A Christmas Carol' and although not invented by Dickens, this went a long way to making it a popular greeting - particularly on Christmas cards.

The full text of A Christmas Carol is on Project Gutenberg HERE

(Image credits Wikimedia Commons and Nvadertim)

4 December 2012

Book Launch: Gown of Shadow and Flame by A.E. Marling

"Sometimes evil has to be the hero."

Her brother throws the first stone. Her family tries to kill her, but Celaise chooses to live, even if it means leaving humanity behind.

She weaves a gown from strands of night and despair. The forbidden magic protects her. It isolates her, and it binds her to a three-headed overlord.

Her lord commands Celaise to save lives, on pain of death. She rescues Jerani, a warrior adorned by a sunburst of scars from a tribal ritual. Jerani fights to defend his family and their sacred cows from crystal-eyed monsters roaming the savanna. He learns to rely on Celaise's magic, she on his strength.

Jerani thinks her divine, a volcano goddess. Celaise dares not confide in him. Engulfing the throngs of beasts in the inferno of her dress will loose her magic's hunger. Then the greatest threat to Jerani and everyone else she has come to care for will be herself.

Discover Gown of Shadow and Flame on Amazon  

Alan Marling says his best writing ideas pounce on him when he would rather be sleeping, thanks to insomnia. His current lair is in the shadow of San Francisco, and his thoughts touch ground there between flights.

Learn more about his other work at his blog, The Importance of the Impossible and find him on twitter @AEMarling  

2 December 2012

How To Write Good

1. Avoid alliteration always.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. The passive voice is to be avoided.

4. Avoid clichés like the plague. They're old hat.

5. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

6. Writers should never generalise.

Seven - be consistent

8. Don't ever use more words than necessary. It's superfluous.

9. Be more or less specific.

10. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement. 

I saw this doing the rounds on Facebook with no clue about who originally wrote it, so did a quick search and found THIS much longer version on a Plain Language website, Apparently, The first set of rules were written by Frank L. Visco and originally published in the June 1986 issue of Writers' digest.  The second set of rules are derived from the late Pulitzer Prize winning William Safire's Rules for Writers.  I like the simplicity of the ten set out above. Happy writing!

1 December 2012

Book Review: Marketing Your Book on Amazon by Shelley Hitz

Author Shellley Hitz spends so much time supporting other writers at her Self Publishing Coach site it's good to see she has found time to publish this new one. The full title is Marketing Your Book On Amazon: 21 Things You Can Easily Do For Free To Get More Exposure and Sales (Book Marketing on a Shoestring Budget)   Yes that's an amazing 25 words just in the title!

I've always been surprised at how much you can do as an author for free - the problem is the amount of valuable writing time you can waste trying to work put what to do and how. I've also been doing this long enough  to realise there are two BIG problems with marketing your book on Amazon. First the obvious one - if you don't do the right marketing of your book there is a good chance nobody will know it exists. The second problem is more complex and relates to the total lack of useful marketing information to link anything to do to that sudden surge in sales.  

Shelley assumes no specific knowledge and manages to pack in enough great advice to satisfy even the most experienced marketing specialist. I very much agree with her view that authors need to see book marketing as a 'marathon, not a sprint' and to follow the principle of doing some small thing every day to market each of your books for three years. 

Preview Marketing Your Book On Amazon

Amazon US or Amazon UK 

Shelley Hitz is an entrepreneur, speaker, author and consultant to writers who want to multiply their impact through self publishing.   She teaches from personal experience, as over two years while working full-time, she published five books, multiple audio CDs, authored two websites that attract thousands of visitors each month. Her website, also offers free book templates, articles, newsletter, tele-classes, special reports, e-books, webinars, podcasts, videos and other resources to help you get self published!

Follow Shelley on twitter @Self_Publish 

30 November 2012

Authors Tagging Authors Blog Tour

I’m grateful to Sheila Callaham for asking me to take part in this author-to-author blog tour. Sheila is the author of Truth Runs Deep the innovative new book, Stories from Spirit and founder of success coaching Magnetize Success  Find her on FaceBook and on twitter. 
The idea of the Authors Tagging Authors Blog Tour is to say something about my work by answering five questions,  then tag five more authors with great blogs I like to visit, who may have time to do the same.
Okay, so I must answer five questions about one of my books. I’m choosing my new novel, which was written during NaNoWriMo 2012 (yes I did 50,069 words by the 22nd and another 40,500 since, so it is now in the final stages of editing before going out to beta readers. (Please contact me if you would like a free review copy or would be interested in reciprocating on book launch publicity).
1. What is the working title of your book? 
The Shell
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
On holiday in Mombasa the staff at the hotel advised that, for our own safety, we should never go outside the hotel grounds without one of their men to escort us. One afternoon we forgot the advice and walked further than intended along the beach. Realising the danger we were in, we nervously made our way back. That was when the idea for this book first came to me. What would we do if we were attacked, far from the safety of our hotel? 
I'd written the first two chapters and decided the story would be about the kidnapped wife and her husband's desperate attempts to rescue her. Then I heard that a British couple on holiday had actually been attacked near the beach at Lamu, north where we were staying in Mombasa. 

Sadly the attack on September 11th, 2011 resulted in the death of David Tebbutt and the kidnap of his wife Judith. Judith Tebbutt was freed six months later when her family paid a ransom to the kidnappers. David was a hugely respected director of one of the last independent British publishers in London. 

Faber and University College London (UCL) have launched a new scholarship in memory of David Tebbutt to help people get into publishing. The annual prize will sponsor one person each year, beginning in 2013, to undertake UCL’s MA in publishing. It will be funded by the David Tebbutt Trust, which is jointly administered by the publishers and the Tebbutt family. As well as funding the full fees for the course, the scholarship will also include a work placement with Faber. 
3. What genre does your book fall under? 
Action & Adventure
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie? (no Brad's not supposed to be me, it's a work of fiction)
5. What is your current work in progress?
I’ve just started working on my next historical fiction novel, 'The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham' trying to fill in the gaps in the fascinating true story of Eleanor, the mistress and wife of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, heir to the British throne. It isn't going to have a happy ending, as she was accused of treason, using necromancy and witchcraft, before being paraded through the streets...

I am also working on the next in my 'for busy managers' series: 'Transformational Change for Busy Managers'. If anyone would like to contribute thoughts on managing major change or can offer interesting case studies, please get in touch.      
Now for the four inspiring authors I’m pleased to tag and whose blogs I am always glad to visit:

Chris Ward is the author of several great books, including The Tube Riders set in the Britain of 2075, and The Cold Pool  (see his guest post HERE) There must be some of you who, like me, were interested to see our books made avaiable in Amazon Japan? Chris teaches English in Nagano, Japan and told me that we have a long wait before many Japanese have Kindles  - or learn English (despite his best efforts). Please have a look at his blog A Million Miles From Anywhere and find him on twitter @ChrisWardWriter

Jessica Kristie is a talented poet and award winning writer we are going to hear a lot more of soon. If you like original poetry and haven't seen it already, check out her book Dreaming in Darkness and her ebook Weekly Inspirations for Writers & Creators.  Jess has a great writing site at and you can find her on twitter @jesskristie
Monica La Porta is the author of 'The Priest' (The Ginecean Chronicles) set in an alternate Earth, a planet called Ginecea, where society has evolved in a different way from ours. Women rule over enslaved men. (A bit like in present day Wales) Monica was one of my NaNoWriMo 'buddies' and is also a winner this year, so have a look at her blog and find her on twitter @monilp

Rebecca Munro is one of those writers that can make you think all day about one sentence. For example: 'Sometimes my imagination runs wild and free, savouring that thought, it should have its own lead, for its limitation is tireless and never ending.'  Take a look at Rebecca's blog and follow her on twitter @missRmunro

Happy writing!

13 November 2012

Book Launch - The Ghost of Josiah Grimshaw (The Morgan Sisters) by Suzy Turner

Adopted sisters Lana Beth and Emma Jane are polar opposites, but when the same strange 'tattoo' suddenly appears and winds its way up their bodies within days of each other, they soon realise there's more to their relationship than they could ever have imagined. 

Sent off to London for two weeks of 'work experience', the Morgan Sisters soon find themselves being initiated into the ancient Praxos Foundation, one that protects the innocent while fighting evil, both human and supernatural. At the same time, Lana Beth and Emma Jane must also investigate why the sweet but sometimes pesky ghost of Josiah Grimshaw just won't leave them alone.

Excerpt from The Ghost of Josiah Grimshaw

  Staying put on the side of the road, Lana watched him cycle away into the distance. She didn't want to go home and she certainly didn't fancy going back to the hospital, so she hopped back onto her bike and took an easy ride towards the old churchyard. As she approached the crumbling remains of the building that had been destroyed in 1953, she kept a close eye on Carlton Point which stared back down as if goading her.
  But instead of pulling up at the churchyard, something made her continue cycling. It was if they weren't her legs pedalling. She just kept going. Breathless, her heart thumped in her chest as she came to a slow about halfway up the steep hill. Stopping, she climbed off and pushed her bike to the grassy expanse to the side of the pathway, letting it fall to the ground. She followed it and sat down for a few minutes, getting her breath back.
  The wind picked up temporarily and with it came a gentle sound. It sounded like someone calling out her name. Turning to look up towards the very top of Carlton Point, Lana couldn't see anyone. Its just my imagination, she thought. It's just because my heart is beating like God knows what. But the sound continued persistently: 'Laaaanaa..... Laaaanaa.... Laaaanaa...'
  'What the...?'.
  Standing, Lana did a full circle squinting her eyes before chuckling nervously, 'Very funny, Scottie. I know it's you. You can come out now!' she yelled.
  But nobody appeared.
  She fidgeted with her fingers nervously. Her plan was to climb back on her bike and cycle away but her legs moved in another direction: towards the summit.
  No, she thought, no...
  But it was no good. She no longer had any control over her body and she continued walking until she reached the pinnacle of Carlton Point. Lana was terrified. She'd always had what she thought to be an irrational fear of heights. Just like Emma had an irrational fear of water. There was no explanation to either phobia. Then why am I here? Why did I climb up?
  At the very top of Carlton Point was a small circular patch of ground surrounded by an ancient stone wall. On one side of it was the pathway she'd just walked along... although steep, there were no scary edges as such. But the other side was an altogether different story. She'd seen it in pictures, and from afar, but she'd never seen it up close.
  Standing dead centre as she let her handbag fall to the ground, Lana closed her eyes just for a second. I'm not here, she thought, I'm in bed having a nightmare. But the gentle breeze told her a different story. She gulped hard and opened her eyes, her limbs incapable of moving further. But she was no longer in the centre of the circle. She was now looking down at a sheer drop hundreds of feet below.
  She could hear her heart beating, feel it thudding in her chest. She couldn't open her mouth; it was too dry. All she wanted to do was scream but she couldn't even do that. Please God don't let me die, she thought. 
  A sudden massive gust of wind took her feet from beneath her and she was forcefully pushed from the top of Carlton Point, falling silently and peacefully to the rocky hills below.

Buy The Ghost of Josiah Grimshaw ($2.99):

Suzy's website:

Guest Post by Rebecca Munro - Staying Positive and Writing

Personally speaking; I really do dislike the world of blogging; this may be due to the sole reason that I just do not understand it and as a passionate writer that completely terrifies me. The acceptance that maybe I am not as adaptable as I first initially thought. But hey I love to face a fresh challenge. And I am therefore willing to learn and rapidly change my perception on the blogging world and I do believe I am slowly getting there.

Another thing I dislike is the fact that there are so many amazing authors out there that do not have their own websites or blogging sites. And if they do, there are many who have websites that are just so poorly put together and not maintained.  And I speak this from experience; I understand that spending hours trying to figure your website out can be a daunting, stressful and time consuming task. However I do believe that this is your most valued home base and asset and it is worth every blood sweat and tear feed into it. And as one of many website reviewers for McAfee; I see and come across many examples of exactly just what I am about to share with you now.

For example; there are many, many blogs which I personally find tedious, boring and bland. I’m not implying that this is down to an author’s writing as nine times out of ten their words are intriguing and all inspiring motivational pieces of literature. But it is mainly down to their sites lay out and poor management of it. Cleanliness is next to godliness (so my Grams always says) keeping a tidy web page gives for better thought and productivity.

I find more often than not that many marvellous bloggers/writers let themselves down through poor web designs on both spectrums of the scale. Some are overly fussy and over stimulating. Some are just too bland and lacking in life.  I have come across so many untidy, rushed and poorly composed websites. And yet underneath it all, I still see their every potential. So how do you learn from this? Well the answer is simple; research.  See what others are doing, of course what works for them may not work for you, it is all trial and error and continuous researching.

Over half the blogging pages I come across are far too confusing and at most completely in-accessible. Ah and we mustn’t forget those annoying pesky adverts flashing there spam at you constantly; this too really grates me. You have instantly lost me if your pages are infested and crawling with these advertisements. My brain and my imagination completely thrive from a clear and well-presented webpage (as I am sure many of yours do) as well as its maker's own unique stamp upon it. And it is wonderful when you do find them as it is usually a good indicator that these authors, end up going the distance.

'Sometimes, less is more' well it is quite a true statement;

I know all our taste differ vastly but it is still a simple more effective way to display and design your websites. And it can be your major selling focal point if applied in the right way. You do after all want people to come back to your site and enjoy their time with you.

Please, don't get me wrong, I am not meaning to discredit nor offend any writer/bloggers and their hard work. As there are many blogs that have me completely enticed and head over heels entirely. But hey what do I know right? Well OK that's a fair question; I'm just a small fish in a vast great big ocean. But think of your webpages from a reader’s perspective. As a reader, I don’t want to be chasing my tail (so to speak) around a poorly laid out website and inundated with annoying adverts.

As a writer your basic fundamentals are your creative writing skills and your amazing imaginative idea's and most important of all your own uniqueness. So get selling 'you' as the credited writer that you and we know you are.

So why is it I still find so many authors that just do not market themselves effectively? I spent a few hours this morning trolling through thousands of authors on Twitter (researching). And found that only as little as 45% of the authors that I had come across had their own websites or blogs. Shocking right? I know! Surely every author wants to be noticed, wants to shout out to the world about how they're the next big thing. And that their work is worthy, well where's is your website? Let’s move with the times and market yourself effectively as you may well be the next big thing one day. 

Tell me about yourself? No really! I love to connect with people from ALL walks of life, hence my Twitter addiction. But most especially so do the readers they want to get to know the authors too. They want to know the people that wrote their most cherished prized books. They want to know what inspired the author and what made them write that specific book; that human connection.

We are all human after all; it is in our very nature to connect with others. We are genetically made up as 'people person's' and we truly do thrive when we socialize successfully. I also understand as an author that you want to sell your latest novel/book. But I have noticed that many authors fall and stay content within one certain trap; links set up from their twitter page to an Amazon link. These links send their viewers straight to their Amazon selling page, truly fantastic and I mean this with heart felt sincerity, and it is a fantastic accomplishment on your behalf.

But again where is your complementing author website? You do not have me entirely sold with just an Amazon page and a couple of 4-5* reviews, remember readers want to know about their author as a person. Excel yourselves and market yourself effectively (research!) become the author you have always aspired to be and feed your passion furthermore.

I completely understand and get that not everyone is computer savvy. However we all have to begin somewhere right? What better way to learn and grow then to do it yourself and just do the research.
So ask yourself what is stopping you and why have you not taken this step already? If you have, great! Now ask yourself this; now how can I improve? Don’t always assume your work ends just because you have a basic website set up. Research, goodness I can’t stress this enough and see where improvements can be made.

So on wrapping up; I am only human too with an ample amount of flaws stacked sky high. OK and most will agree; a writer with far too much to say. My message is this; market yourself effectively and promote your uniqueness and there is always room for improvement and get rid of mess! Always stay positive and thrive.

Happy blogging and enjoy this wonderful day guys. And remember we are ALL constantly learning and improving. And maybe with some encouragement I’ll come round to the idea of effective blogging.
All words are that of encouragement and not intended any other way.

Rebecca Munro

Visit Rebecca's website at and follow her on twitter @missRmunro 

12 November 2012

Guest Post by Ruby Stone, Author of The Splintered Circle - A Dorset & Channel Island WWII Mystery

I suppose everyone toys with the idea of writing a book, but very often, as in my case, work and other time constraints, means that good ideas come and go, drifting with no written commitment, lost forever.  I started to write 'The Splintered Circle' around five years ago and a few chapters fell into place quickly but I stalled when I lost confidence.  I had no way of knowing whether my writing was any good. 

I tend to be a binge writer, losing myself in writing for hours, but when revisiting I'm over-critical and become disenchanted.  After a year's break, I picked up again and decided to seek out some professional editing.  I found 'Bubblecow', whose owners are published authors and their feedback was, luckily, energising.  No-one really 'welcomes' criticism but once I knew my failings – mostly easily rectified – like tenses, how to present thoughts, for example, I was well away!  I chipped away at the novel in a more structured way - set myself targets, determined to finish and self-publish my e-book, which I finally achieved in July 2012.

It still feels strange.  My own novel on Amazon!  I currently use their KDP facility, which limits me to some extent, as I am unable to sell my e-book through other outlets, but as I am such a novice, I temporarily have to accept my limitations.

The Splintered Circle - A Dorset & Channel Island WWII Mystery

The novel is an 'historical mystery'.  Those who have visited the Channel Islands will know about the German invasion and subsequent occupation of Guernsey during the Second World War.  My great aunts stayed behind during the the Occupation.  My parents were evacuated from Guernsey to the North of England.  These events obviously affected them deeply in many ways, but it also gave me an insight and the reflective parts of the novel draw heavily on memories of their stories.

As for all the other beautiful areas in the United Kingdom which my characters visit?  I've been lucky enough to visit them all – Smoo Cave in Scotland, Portmeirion in Wales, Mevagissy in Cornwall.  I actually live in Dorset where three of the main characters reside, plus I grew up in Guernsey and still visit family there regularly. 

I have a board on Pinterest which shows some of the locations and hope my knowledge and enthusiasm for the places visited in the book comes across positively in my writing. 'The Splintered Circle' e-book is available for Kindle download for UK Readers and for US Readers

About Ruby Stone

The Splintered Circle is the first novel from Ruby, who lives in Dorset, UK, with her partner and cat, where she share a beautiful wildlife garden with various wild creatures. Follow Ruby's blog and find her on twitter 

9 November 2012

Special Guest Post - Alana Woods on 25 Essential Writing Tips: Guide to Writing Good Fiction

You want your story to sparkle, with cutting edge dialogue and evocative narrative? Then you need to hone, hone, hone!
In June this year I published a fiction writing guide aimed at helping writers hone their story telling skills.
Tony asked if I’d mind sharing several tips from the guide and of course I said, ‘For you, Tony, I don’t mind at all’.
My profession is copy editor; been one for close to 30 years. Non-fiction was my specialty until I published my first novel, AUTOMATON, in 2001. After that I began to take on fiction as well.
The second print run of AUTOMATON I sold direct to the public at events such as club and library talks and I therefore met the people who bought it. Some of them were aspiring authors who were always interested in how I’d gone about things. And one thing leading to another I’d be asked if I’d look at their work. And when someone’s just handed you $20 you feel a tad beholden, so I usually agreed.
Recurring weaknesses made themselves obvious pretty quickly so I compiled a tips sheet for authors covering those areas. Earlier this year I decided to flesh out those tips and produce the guide. It covers voice, hooking the reader, show don’t tell, dialogue, characterisation, story development, sentence construction, point of view, tense, active/passive voice, description, sentence fragments, spelling, punctuation and grammar.
So, which tips am I going to share today? I thought we could talk about the hook, show don’t tell, and finish with a bit about dialogue.
The hook: also known as the literary hook. This is quite simply grabbing your readers’ interest with your opening words. If you’re lucky enough for a prospective buyer to pick your book off the shelf (in a real or virtual bookstore) you have only seconds to make the sell. So one way or another make sure you grab them by the throat. There are various types of hook, the most popular being action. In the guide I use Matthew Reilly’s opening to Hell Island to illustrate:
Terrified, wounded and now out of ammo, Lieutenant Rick ‘Razor’ Haynes staggered down the tight passageway, blood pouring from a gunshot wound to his left thigh, scratch-marks crisscrossing his face.
Other hooks I discuss are cliff hangers, really off-the-wall statements, writing quality, dialogue, jumping in at a crucial moment, internalisation, painting a picture, or posing a question. I imagine you could add more.
Show don’t tell is such an important lesson to learn. New writers are often mystified by this advice, so let me explain it. Telling is giving information. Showing is painting pictures with your words. Here’s an example taken from my second novel IMBROGLIO:
Telling: The sharks attacked.
Showing: Like a ballet troupe, as one they altered their course and turned inward. In their rush they grew huge, obliterating the sun, looming like tankers, casting her into black shadows.
It should have your mind’s eye immediately visualising the sharks.
This doesn’t mean that telling has no place in a story. It does. It’s just as important in its way as showing. Both contribute. Generally speaking, show the important elements and use telling to move the story along.
Dialogue: this is one of my bugbears. Stilted and unnatural dialogue drives me to distraction. So how do you write dialogue that sounds natural? For a start listen to how people talk in real life and emulate that. People generally don’t always speak in grammatically correct sentences. They, for instance, converse in shorthand, they change their mind in the middle of thoughts, and they use body language and expressions to punctuate what they’re saying. Here’s a before and after example from AUTOMATON:
‘Phil, it’s Robert Murphy speaking. Joe and I need to talk to you. Can you spare us five minutes of your time in, say, twenty minutes?’
‘Yeah, sure,’ Detective Sergeant Phillip Milne said, ‘What’s up?’
‘I’ll tell you when we see you. Where do you want to meet?’
‘You don’t want to come in to the police station?’
‘I’d prefer not.’
‘Okay. Let’s meet at the Wig and Pen then?’
‘That will do perfectly. We’ll see you there in twenty minutes.’
There’s nothing wrong with this. But notice how flat it is and that it doesn’t convey the urgency Murphy is feeling. Now here’s the actual version:
‘Phil, it’s Robert Murphy. Can you give Joe and me five minutes in, say, twenty?’
‘Yeah, sure,’ Detective Sergeant Phillip Milne said, ‘What’s up?’
‘Tell you when we see you. Where?’
‘You don’t want to come in?’
‘I’d prefer not.’
‘Okay. The Wig and Pen?’
‘See you there.’
Much more natural, wouldn’t you agree?
Of course there’s plenty more to say about dialogue, such as using attribution (he said, she said etc.), using names, carrying the story forward and how to show who is speaking when there’s a group. It’s all in the guide.
Alana Woods is a professional editor with many years’ experience working with non-fiction and fiction. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and a Graduate Diploma in Communication. 
She has two published novels, thrillers, although she prefers to categorise them as literary fiction.  Her first novel AUTOMATON, legal suspense, won the Fast Books Prize for best Australian self-published fiction in 2003, was nominated by Sisters in Crime for the Davitt Awards in 2004, and became an Australian best seller. Her second novel IMBROGLIO, espionage suspense, was published last year. She also has a collection of short stories, TAPESTRIES AND OTHER SHORT STORIES which includes a UK prize winner. She is currently working on a third novel.
Find out more at and follow her on twitter 


7 November 2012

Book Launch Guest Post: Meanwhile I Keep Dancing by Tamsin Coates

For many years whenever our lives hit a further struggle, an element of frustration at our situation or a moment of victory I would share a thought about it with a trusted friend who always said ‘there’s another one for your book’. She always expressed this in such a way that conveyed that she believed that one day I would produce it. I always laughed and shrugged her comments off as something which had been a childhood dream of mine- to write a book- but one which I could not envisage coming to fruition.

A decade later and here we are. My dream has become reality in the form of ‘Meanwhile I Keep Dancing’. My book gets its title from the quote by Hillel ‘I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile I keep dancing’ and describes the journey I have taken as a hearing parent of my two sons, who are profoundly deaf. Whilst making steps of progress we have encountered new decisions and obstacles which have stopped us in our tracks for a time. But whilst dealing with every difficult part of our lives we have learned to enjoy as many spontaneous moments and shared times with others which have offered themselves as beacons of light in stark contrast to the darkness which can shadow our daily struggles and turmoil at times.

In bringing up my sons, our family has been plunged into a whole new world which we have had to learn the ways, and politics of, before finding a position where we are comfortable to place ourselves within it. Having worked as a health professional for nearly a decade I have benefitted from a unique insight into life ‘on both sides of the fence’ and describe that within the book.

Whilst I have written this book for other parents to know they are not isolated and to share stories from our life, which they can identify with, it also offers a glimpse of our way of life for others to peek into. A way of life which may not be obvious from the outside but which influences how we relate to those around us, which makes us laugh or cry and includes several comical disasters with expensive equipment being put through a hot wash and even flushed!

Writing this book has been cathartic for me and I only hope it will give insight to the quandaries we have faced and give strength to other families who read it.
Meanwhile I Keep Dancing
is available from 

1 November 2012

Guest Post ~ 10 Cool Twitter Apps to Ease Your Tweeting By Frances Caballo

Some estimates place the number of Twitter applications at 2,000 while others place the figure as high as 70,000. Really, how many do you need?

There are applications to schedule your tweets, find new followers, weed out followers, determine your best tweeting times, keep track of your mentions and retweets, notify you of whats hot on your timeline, and even preserve your tweets into the future.

Whether you need help creating a stunning background for your profile or you would like to communicate with a follower who speaks Japanese, many of these applications will save you time and help you to grow a more cohesive tribe. To narrow the selection, heres a list of some of the applications you might like.

Schedule Your Tweets

Are you planning a three-day weekend? Will you be out of the office for a few days or weeks? No problem. You can schedule your tweets by using a number of different applications. While scheduling tweets ahead of time can be convenient, too much automation kills the social in social media.

Buffer   There are free and paid versions of Buffer, and the free account allows you up to four tweets daily for Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. As a social media scheduler, Buffer App is great. Buffer collaborates with Tweriod to determine the best tweeting times for you. With Buffer, You’ll never again have to figure out whether your best posting time is 2:10 p.m. or 11:47 p.m. Its easy to set up and use, and works great on an iPad too.

HootSuite  The free version of Hootsuite makes scheduling easy, and the analytics are great. You can use Hootsuite to schedule your tweets, LinkedIn updates, and Google Plus and Facebook posts. However, refrain from using the scheduling application for Facebook. Studies indicate that people who schedule their Facebook posts receive fewer comments and Likes. The paid versions of Hootsuite will provide you with better analytics, integration with Facebooks Insights, and other features, depending on the option you select.

Who’s Following You?

How well do you know your followers? Use these applications to know a tad more about those avatars streaming into your timeline.

SocialBro   This application digs deeper into the profiles of your followers. You can use it to identify demographic information about your Twitter followers including nationality, gender, and relevant holidays for any Twitter user. It will also tell you which users arent following you back and which are creating more spam than real messages. The free version will analyze and monitor up to 100 active users every 10 seconds— probably all you really want to know.

TweetsMap  Do you know where most of your followers live and work? Do you want to find out? (For marketing purposes you do.) This application will gather and display the data for you in a map.

Discover Your Tribe

Listorious  Are you having trouble finding new users to follow? You can use this application to search for individual users or lists of writers, agents, or writing coaches. This is a good application to use when you are starting out on Twitter.

Tweepi  Tweepi will determine which users arent worth following, whos not reciprocating by following you back, and which of your followers arent tweeting much, if at all. Its analogous to a broom and a dust pan to sweep the cobwebs out of your account. It will also enable you to search by category to find new users to follow.

Know Your Metrics

TweetStats  TweetStats is an amazing, free Twitter analytics dashboard that provides insight to all sorts of metrics, such as tweets per hour, tweets per month, and reply statistics. It will also determine when most of your followers are online. While it calculates your statistics, this message will appear on your screen: Magic Happening!” A few seconds later, another message appears: Please be patient while I load your tweets. You are currently queued, with 87 other people. Have a party! Hey, what can I say - people want their stats!” The application will also count yout twooshes (a tweet that is exactly 140 characters).

Detect Trending Topics

The TweetedTimes   This application will analyze the tweets in your timeline and create a daily The Tweeted Times newspaper for you. You can subscribe to your daily newspaper and receive it via RSS.

TweetBeep  This application will search Twitter every hour and send you an email whenever your selected keyword your Twitter handle, the title of your book, or your name is mentioned. If you are looking for a tool that monitors your digital presence, this tool will notify you of every @reply and @mention on Twitter.

FollowFridayHelper  #FollowFriday is a great tradition on Twitter. Each Friday, users thank Tweeps who have mentioned or retweeted them earlier in the week. With this application, you no longer have to keep track of your retweeters. This application will save you plenty of time.

Twitter is probably the best platform to keep up to date on writing conferences, writing prompts, newly released books, social media, or whatever your fields of interest are. Its on this network where you can learn to market your book, find a publisher, seek an agent, or converse with the author of your favorite book.

If you’re not yet on Twitter, sign up today. Then try the applications mentioned here. Let me know which one is your favorite!

Frances Caballo is a social media trainer, blogger, and author of Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books. She helps writers and businesses attain their social media marketing and public relations goals. Frances is the Social Media Editor for Redwood Writers, the largest branch of the California Writers Club, and for the Women’s National Book Association – SF Chapter. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+. Social Media Just for Writers is available on Amazon.