My Bibliography

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Moments in Millennia: a Fantasy Anthology, Book Trailer

So proud to see my name on this badass book trailer video from the team at Xchyler Publishing in which my story 'Black Ice' will appear.
The book will be released on 31st January and you can join in on the festivities, with the seven authors and even win some swag from all of us.  

Take a look and watch right to the end after the credits.


Monday, 20 January 2014

Working with an Editor

Coming at the end of January - Moments in Millennia: A Fantasy Anthology! Join seven authors as they take you on adventures through the past, future, and dimensions unexplored!

Click the link above to join the (release) party!


On this blog, I often use the metaphor for my writing journey, as being a trek through a mountain range. I’ve detailed hikes over tried and tested paths, sometimes even trying to clear my own, through the Alps for years - 750 miles across eight Alpine countries. No mean feat.
I related, in a previous blogpost, about the various stages of metamorphoses of becoming a writer, as being akin to what animal spirit guides represent - starting out as a lone wolf, and everything in-between, until eventually soaring as an eagle.
But I also said, that when I reached the other end of the Alps, there were a couple of condescending Sherpa waiting there for me - meaning of course, that the writing journey never ends. I had yet to embark upon the precipitous terrain of the Andes.
That’s where I’ve been for the past few months.
I left off detailing this journey, here on this blog, with the news that I had decided to try and get a publisher. And I did. For, despite my efforts at self-publishing, and trying to keep up with the constantly evolving paradigm that the role social media demands of most anything these days, I felt I was taking one step forward, and two back, for that particular trek was all a bit arduous for my artistically-inclined sensibility.
I’ve always known that the business side of anything is not where my talent lies. I just can’t commit myself to facts and figures and social media marketing etc. despite my best efforts. And anyway, there were too many other writers doing the same thing. I needed help. Badly. Thank God for the Sherpa.
But let me tell you, the air up there in the Andes is thin - and I’ve only just started out.
As you can see, my name (very proudly) appears on this book cover here - a fantasy anthology, from Xchyler Publishing. The book release party will be held on 31st January 2014. My story, at 15,000 words, is the last in the book, and is called ‘Black Ice.’ The eye in the sky - I dare to think - might just have something to do with my particular story, and below, is a quick blurb about it:
A murderer, sentenced to ‘infinity’, lobbies an automaton society and the omniscient supremacy of three worlds in the hopes of finally being put to death.
The process of editing wasn’t easy for me. I will admit. But it took me completely by surprise at what a prima donna I became during it – although my editor, self admittedly, did come in off the bat with a bleeding red pen, which she had the good grace, and professionalism to apologize for, and pointed me to an article that she’d written about how devastating that can be to a new writer – or at least one embarking the professional world – or, if you like, the Andes.
And after a mix of emotion, that had my heart thumping, and my psyche going to dark places that I never knew existed, and I thought I had been to them all, I nearly self-destructed - as my pride can sometimes make me do. I had so looked forward to this part of the journey, but I came to realize that I was being weighed down with the baggage from the last one. In the end, it was ‘all good’. We moved upwards and forward, and I told her to ‘bring it on’ - after being pushed in at the deep end, I felt I could handle anything. And I did. But still, surprisingly, it wasn’t as easy for me as fellow authors with Xchyler had told me it had been for them. And so I couldn't help but feel rather inadequate.
Being British, was a little bit of an obstacle, I think, for even though I’ve lived in North America for twenty years, and thought I knew how to relate to both sides of the pond, there were so many idioms from the UK that I had no idea were not used in the US. And here, rather suitably, is what my editor said about that:
“Let's stick to the fish and chips and dark ale, and steer away from the blood pudding and haggis.”
But more, I think, while good writing should know no borders, I do believe that there is a distinct difference in style between British and American writers, and that might have been at least a part of the issue for me. I hope so.
However, without going into it all here, I am signed with an American publisher, and so fair enough; I should try to adapt. Compromise.
My biggest fear, though, was that my voice would be lost, the one that I took pleasure in yodelling across the Alps. I did not want to, as I said to my editor, be yet another monotone voice that simply follows a formula, be one of those writers whose voice blends in with every other. While formulas are necessary, I do like to add my own ingredients. I like to make the recipe my own - like my world-famous chilli, or my spaghetti.
I can be more aggressive than most. I know. I am more willing to be slightly politically incorrect. Audacious. And I do like to inject a generous helping of humour into my work. But I get it; it’s not always suitable. And so with the assurance from my editor-in-chief, that she is not, by any means, a ‘MacDonald’s type editor’, saying that the reason my story was accepted (when I pouted as to why exactly was it? Lol) was because it was ‘original, imaginative, clever, intelligent and engrossing, but what needed doing is clarification and communication.’
She assured me that I would be very pleased with the end product, and that my voice would remain intact. I was. And it is. And I am now very excited for the book’s release.
During this process I learned a great deal about myself, and it elevated me to new heights on my writing journey. I won’t go into it all here, there’s not enough space. But one day . . .
I do want to say, though, that a lot of what I brought along from the Alps needed discarded. That it used up too much precious oxygen. Short quick breaths are what are needed for the Andes. And while it will take a great deal of time indeed to cross the longest mountain range in the world – 120 miles long, 430 wide - I’ve learned to pause and take in the views. I’ve learned to breathe new life into all of my writing - old and new - from the invaluable knowledge that I’ve gained from reaching a new plateau. So a big ‘thank you’ to all my editors.
If you’re reading this, and have always believed that you have the ability to self-edit (and its way more than just correcting grammar and punctuation etc.) if I were you, I’d really rethink that; you may have no idea, like we do when we’ve been driving for years, just what bad habits you’ve picked up, or think are acceptable. Habits that have never been pointed out to you–e.g. by writer friends, who, in this self publishing world, may have the same tendencies, or who may not know any different.

It may not be a picnic with a red chequered blanket - rather bully-beef rations served up at base camp - but it certainly helps to satiate the hunger.
Xchyler Publishing edit the works that they are publishing only, but if you are looking for the services of an affordable editor, I suggest you might try here: Jeri Walker-Bickett. An editor whose professional standards, in all aspects of writing, I've come to know over the last couple of years. You might be surprised at just how polished your ideas can become. I was.

Friday, 12 July 2013

My review of Such is Life - Jeri Walker-Bickett.

I've long since admired Jeri Walker-Bickett for her dedication to writing, her professional approach to editing and her efforts at promoting the work of other Indie authors.  It is my pleasure, therefore, to be able to review her short story collection - light literary pieces that are easily read in one sitting.  These stories reflect on everyday events that might have a bigger impact on who we are as people, they are observational and insightful and Jeri's ability to paint the scenes with a fine-edged brush is a pleasure to read.

My Review:

Such is Life is an appropriate title; the stories concentrating on everyday matters that most might find insignificant in the first instance.  And therein lies the skill.

At first, when reading `Pretty Girl' and `Leaving Big Sky', I wondered if I was going to enjoy this collection as much as I was hoping to; becoming slightly weary of the descriptiveness of seemingly irrelevant body language, regardless of how well applied, and also because both of these stories, I thought, kind of left me hanging... wondering about the point of them... until I remembered the synopsis; this collection simply about being human - which then made me take a different view on the relevance of them and the deeper implication; the everyday actions and choices we make in life that might have some kind of bearing on who we are or what we become, but in terms of the underlying sentiment of these stories, the finer nuance of interaction between the characters, it became clear, was vital.

Moving on, I then thought that descriptiveness acted as a kind of precursor for the next three stories, building up to me having an appreciation of Walker-Bickett's style - which is crisp and linear.  And while also literary, one doesn't have to think too hard to engage with it; the writing, flowing well, is easily understood, this descriptiveness with more relevance to the bigger pictures - almost as if Walker-Bickett had been building momentum; merely teasing the reader at first.

And as the stories became slightly more intense, darker even, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the collection.  I appreciated in particular, the odd edgy scene thrown in here and there; a word or reference sticking out like a sore thumb almost juxtaposing the innocence of the writing style that I'd thus far seen, and that had me saying, `yeah... that's more like it'.

Being Scottish, I found the attitude of the Mormon community in `Not Terribly Important' quite fascinating (and, incidentally, an overall southern feel to this collection, which was quite insightful for me.)  Ironically though, given the loud and clear message in that story, that fiction is fiction, I couldn't help but feel, as I smiled throughout, that it seemed almost cathartic - such was the conviction of the sentiment.  All in all though, it kind of made me think, such is life indeed - a brainwashed, exacting, society, whose youth, especially, seem preoccupied, excited even, with all that they are taught to hate.  Humph.

I was really immersed in `For the Love of a Dog', and that situation touched me a great deal. I found the characterisation far more invested - and as it was in the last piece also,`River Walk' - in that both women in the first two stories felt too similar for me to separate in my own mind.  However, I felt the desperation of both respective main characters in the last two, in very different ways, and, in `For the Love of a Dog', the mentality of a pitchfork wielding society - which also had me reeling about the ridiculousness, largely, of humanity at large.

Overall I enjoyed these stories, they evoked emotional responses, and I read them in one sitting.

Finally, I will say that the excerpt from Walker-Bickett's upcoming novel, `Lost Girl Road' - a ghost story - held my attention (surprisingly, for me, because it is a ghost story) the style being used there - the third person omniscient point of view - my personal preference. Together with the immaculateness of her writing, I think a longer piece such as this, with the opportunity to develop characters fully, will be thoroughly enjoyable..

You can find out more about Jeri at her blog here.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

A word about 'Word'... and other words.

Note to self – Never ever publish tiny edits at midnight or thereafter – at least in the sample chapter that’ll appear on Amazon - for what was otherwise a typo free manuscript (yeah it was!) suddenly becomes glaringly obvious and potentially off-putting to anyone happening along.
Such was the case with one book this morning I noticed when I went into see what I’d done last night – somehow another 'me' coming into existence in the wee hours with a different opinion about everything – but the word ‘dated’ instead of ‘dared’ appearing very early on, which made absolutely no sense – and the kind of thing that makes my heart lurch.  (You can read about all the 'me's here, in this blog piece entitled Me, Me, Me.)
So, I mean, where the hell is the grammar check function on Word when you really need it.  But oh-no, its too busy insisting sometimes that you change what is an otherwise perfectly legible sentence to something utterly ridiculous  (which actually I find might mean the problem lies elsewhere; a missing comma or something and not the structure of words at all, but still…) for despite the fact I know the programme is there mainly as a helper, I still need to get rid of those red squiggly lines when they appear, always bowing to Word's high and mighty f**cking superiority.  Lol.
And is it just me… has twelve point text become more like eight?  I can barely see that anymore.  I’d been typing in fourteen for the longest time because of that and recently have had to increase that to eighteen, having to remember to change it back to the industry standard of twelve at the end – and once submitting a short story to a publisher without having done so – and of course they just happened to be one of those anal retentive types who insist that you format exactly the way they dictated or they'll bin you immediately.  Frikkin’ publishers!
I have to admit though, with my new version of Word, I hadn’t really explored it until recently; thinking, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, they probably only moved things around a bit, nothing’s really changed’, only in the last few weeks discovering the ‘focus’ feature, which brings the document up my screen like an e-reader and the text larger looking and very reader and edit friendly.
There’s a writing mode and a reader mode – although I still prefer to use eighteen-point even in that mode as I can sit back and read and edit comfortably instead of giving myself constant headaches like I always have with my nose pressed up against my very bright 28inch iMac – and of which I only also just realised that it would be a good idea to adjust the glare of to deal with that.
What happened to me; I used to be so computer savvy – I was the ‘go to guy’ ‘chic geek’ in the days when we all connected to the Internet by phone?  What happened to my ability to write in twelve-point without squinting?  Huh?  Frikkin’ Word!  Frikkin’ deteriorating eyesight!
I find though that writing and reading my work back in Focus mode is most definitely a great way to catch all the little errors that most people will point out to you when they come to read it on an e-reader etc. - and, strangely enough, something I’ve long since noticed when I’ve uploaded a piece to a writing site or whatever; a more eye-friendly platform really changes the story, one can tell that the flow is different; makes what might be improved outside of typos or punctuation so much more obvious than just working in Word without the ‘focus’ feature on.  My only gripe with that mode is that it doesn’t have that ‘show/hide’ function available  – and I rely on that for formatting.
I don’t even want to know if all my previous versions of Word had this function, because if they did and I didn’t use them, I only brought my eyestrain and migraines upon myself all these years.  And as I type, I’m also searching for a bona-fide reason to blame Word for my tennis elbow – but if not caused by that, certainly sitting here with such an intimate relationship with the programme making my arm feel as if rigor mortis has set in, continues to exacerbate it.  Frikkin’ Word!  Thank god for jumbo-sized tins of soup my Chinese mom brings me – good for something at least (I use them as weights for my tennis elbow exercises, in case you didn’t get that, because the thought of meat in a tin swimming in what was no doubt a large vat of various other things in a factory somewhere appals me.  But then, I always was a picky eater.)
But I think my biggest gripe of the morning lies with Amazon Kindle, ‘cos, getting back to that sample chapter that is currently there for everyone to see with the word ‘dated’ instead of ‘dared’ in it as I wait anxiously to be able to upload a correction, why exactly does it take twenty-four hours (or so) for them to allow you access again after each and every submission?  Huh?  I mean… it’s not like anyone is physically checking them or anything.  It’s the same if you only upload a new cover image; you have to wait if you want to make any little changes to your manuscript.  Why?  Isn’t this all done by computers?
Smashwords is great that way; changes are instant.  So why not Kindle, I ask?  Why do we have to wait forty-eight frikkin'  hours for the initial manuscript to even appear, and then between twelve and twenty-four hours thereafter for any changes we might wanna make?  Huh?
It’s kind of like banking though; any money coming out of your account vanishing instantly when you make a payment, but takes five working days when you want to transfer it from your higher interest savings account or if an authority of some description needs to refund you.  Why?  But that’s another gripe, another day.
The good thing is that The Moon Doesn't Shine has been doing very nicely in the UK and the US (or at least dotcom) and that's great; but its particularly gratifying to see Prickly Scots Pt II selling well too after me having made Pt I free* for a number of months as a marketing strategy, because that was the book I wrote before learning how to write professionally and subsequently tried to change accordingly as I went through my writing journey before finally deciding to let it fly free because it was like painting the Golden Gate frikkin' Bridge; never ending.  But most of all because it is my baby, my first born, and for people to want to get Pt II is one of my favourite things to see.  

I do actually drop in there on occasion to visit my earlier writing self and because I miss the characters ; always uplifting even if I do say so myself; but it's like going home.  I have started a Prickly Scots Pt III - at the request of some readers... but that might take a while.... ooh, I just got emailed from Amazon; I can upload my edited manuscript... it'll only take a few hours for the changes to reflect in the sample.  Frikkin' Amazon Kindle.  Lol.
Anyhoo... just felt like rambling on a little this morning... have a good day yourself.

*Free only at Amazon dotcom, I believe, and even if it doesn't look like it is, it is, you won't be charged, but for the rest of the world you can get it at Smashwords, Kobo, Nook, Barnes & Noble or iTunes etc. Promotion ends October 2013, and ps: If you have an older copy, some changes have been made recently, I'd suggest you get the newer one).