So I’m going to be in a book…

… not me personally, but one of my stories will be.

You may remember a while ago that I was shouting about being on the shortlist to have a horror story published (along with 49 others) in Twisted50: a compilation of 50 short horror stories brought about by the Create50 team.

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Naturally I’m over-the-moon at this news, and having my story reach this stage means I now get to attend the the gala launch and awards ceremony in London at some point in the near future, where the final awards will be handed out.

The writing in this completion was very strong and I’m really surprised to have made it this far. And like the photo says, I do feel like a winner as getting into the book was always my goal. And did I mention that this is not going be a self-pub, but a real book with a real agent (Blake Friedman) and everything?

I’m starting to wonder if I could go on to be awarded one of the additional awards too? I mean I’m now begining to believe that anything is possible.

Furthermore, the organisers felt so many amazing stories were submitted that they have come up with a companion book called Twisted’s Little Sister, which is 50 of the best stories that didn’t make the final cut. And guess what? I’ve got a story in there too. It’s all a bit much to comprehend really.

That aside, I think one of the most exciting aspects to this is that Clive Barker (Candyman, Hellraiser) is one of the judges, which means he is going to read one of my stories…  one of my stories. Imagine, Clive Barker sitting down and reading something written by little ‘ole me.

So there we are. Just an update of what’s happening in my writing life. I’ll be in touch after the launch party.

I love saying that.

Thanks for reading.

The death of a true legend…

So as a big (and admittedly late-blooming) fan of the Beatles, I was saddened to hear of the passing of George Martin today. He was often referred to as the ‘fifth Beatle’ and rightly so in my option. Without him we would not have that ground-breaking sound we still enjoy to this day from the fab four. Not only was he instrumental in producing their records, but he – I believe – was very much responsible for putting their character and charm into the grooves of their records too; something I believe we love almost as much as the music itself.

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If you are a fan of the Beatles (and if you are a fan of music then you most certainly should be, at least on some level) then you will know that George composed much of the orchestrated parts of their songs; the strings in All You Need is Love, for example. The legendary producer was intrinsic to the growth of this band from Liverpool who came to dominate the world of pop, and then went on to produce music that pushed the boundaries in all directions.

Just because George Martin didn’t play on stage with the group and get screamed at by frenzied fans, doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a huge part — well twenty-percent, at least — of this huge band.

You will be missed.

Thanks for reading.

Are school days really the best of your life?

I saw a photo on Facebook the other day. It was one that caught me off-guard and rendered me surprisingly emotional:

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It’s a picture of my old primary school during a summer sports day sometime in the early to mid 1980’s. I know that girl who’s about to win the race, she was in my class (and was always good at athletics). I know that field and I know those houses in the background. Hell, I can even know those dry, muddy tracks in the grass and remember driving my toy cars through them.

So on seeing this photo, the overriding fuzz in my head was one of fluffy nostalgia. It imparted such a feeling of sentimentality that thoughts invariably drifted toward my own children and their current time in primary school.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my life at the moment: I have an amazing wife, two wonderful daughters, I live in a cool house in very cool city. I even have a pretty good job. But those primary school sports days? All carefree and sunny? They were amazing. As was the childhood life I led at the time (and yes, I’m acutely aware how lucky I am to say that).

So while I will not harp-on to my little girls that, “school days are the best of your life“, I certainly acknowledge that sentiment has a ring of truth about it. And with this in mind, I will certainly observe my daughters’ current adventures and experiences with the hope and understanding that what they are undertaking right now may just trigger something similar to my recent emotion at some point in their future. That feels good.

What I do find – thankfully – is that I don’t catch myself looking back on the past with melancholic nostalgia. That would be unhealthy. I appreciate I’m getting older, but I also appreciate there will come many more days for me to relish in the future. And with the recognition that at some point in the future I’ll look back on where I am now in life with the same warm and fuzzy feeling as came with the above photo, well, that gives me the confidence to continue on the journey we call life with my eyes comfortably on the road, and not in the rear view mirror

Thanks for reading.

Whoa, I’m a finalist in a writing competition!

Thanks to a fellow blogger, Mr Pootler, I recently entered a short horror story competition called Twisted50. It’s a brilliant idea (and one that has turned out to be more than just a writing comp) where writers who enter are additionally encouraged to leave feedback on other stories in the competition. The minimum commitment they ask of you is to read and comment on three stories for every one story you enter; I entered two stories so therefore I was obliged to leave feedback on six others. In the end I read and left feedback on nearly 60 stories – and some people way more than that. In truth, I found myself a little caught up in the whole process, which was not only enjoyable and entertaining, but also provided some really useful experience in both giving and receiving feedback, be it good… or not so good.

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I did NOT see these edits coming…

If you’re reading the series documenting my journey though Stunk and White’s Elements of Style, you’ll know I was recently made aware of a handy piece of editing to be undertaken on my manuscript: talking in the positive form and my use of the word not.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 08.46.05As writers, we all know redundant words such as that and very can (and should be) cut during the editing process. Until I read S&W’s book, however, I had no idea how also removing the word not can tighten up one’s prose. Writing in a more positive tone has a wonderful effect on the whole feel of a book… unless of course the mood you’re going for is one of darkness, hesitation and negativity; in that case let words like not, would, could, should, may or might come raining down. If not, dump them.

So, after reading this rule I used the ‘find’ tool and plodded though my manuscript looking for instances where I could replace negative phrases with more positive ones. I found 277 uses of the word not… that’s right, 277.

Here are just a few examples of the changes I made:

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Paragraphs, passive voice and positivity…

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 14.23.57So here I am – after a time – back on my journey through Stunk and White’s Elements of Style and my attempt at applying every single rule to my manuscript.

Today covers rules 13, 14 and 15, and can I just say how nice it was of S&W to group these rules together thus allowing me to alliterate them into a catchy title. Thanks.

Anyway, on with the post.

Rule 13. Make the paragraph the unit of composition.

This rule basically tells us that writers should use the paragraph as a means of communicating intent to the reader. A paragraph can be used introduce a new topic as well as defining separate dialogue and punctuating prose. S&W make a good point on paragraph length saying in general, remember that paragraphing calls for a good eye as well as a logical mind. Enormous blocks of print look formidable to readers, who are often reluctant to tackle them. (True) But remember, too, that firing off many short paragraphs in quick succession can be distracting. Continue reading

Reblog: 14 Agents Seeking Science Fiction Novels NOW

For all my friends out there who write sci-fi, Chuck Sambuchino has just released a list of literary agents who are actively seeking sci-fi novels.

They are all US-based agents, but I won’t let stop me.

I hope you find this as useful as I did.

Yet another great post from Writers in the Storm. Thanks guys.

See the full list here