Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Value of Plugging Away

If you keep at things you do get somewhere. On Monday I received an email asking if I would like to write a column for a magazine called Christian Writer on the subject of epublishing. I had to restrain myself from saying yes immediately in case I sounded too eager, so I waited ten minutes.

I will have 200 words, or thereabouts, every issue to write about the subject and I will need to write at least five columns over the coming year and a half. Okay, so no money will change hands, but this is a big milestone as I have been asked by an editor to write regularly for a full colour magazine. Share the joy, people.

Over the past few years I have set small goals to achieve at some point during the year. One year, it was to get something, anything published, a goal I achieved with a couple of short stories and a some book reviews. The next year I set the goal of getting published in a different place as well and last year it was to epublish a book.

This year I've set myself the goal to earn something from my writing (not including anything I get from the ebook published last year), even if it's only £1. While the column will not achieve this, it's a side effect from my goal setting of previous years, showing that small, achieveable goals work well for me.

I still have ten months to go for this year's goal, but after this piece of news I have a lot more confidence in my ability to earn as I learn.

See you on Friday.

Monday, February 27, 2012

WIP and A Contest

I've done it. I submitted my latest short story to Corvus Magazine as part of the Write1Sub1 monthly challenge. I have also added another scene to the play, which you can read below, but sadly, inspiration has deserted me for the two novels.

On the acting front, we have almost cast 'Communicating Doors' and it looks like I get to be the villain again. This time it won't be a jokey villain or someone who isn't as bad as he's painted, I'll be a nasty piece of work who tries to kill people. I also get my just reward at the end, which I hope I'll be athletic enough to perform.

If you want to keep up with us, we have a facebook page you can 'like'.

Now, for scene 5, act 1 of the play, which I now have a working title for: Tomorrow's Just Another Play. As usual, all comments are welcome whether they are about grammar, typos, characters, scenes, action or anything else.

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Scene 4 (John's Kitchen, the following morning)

Margaret: Come on girls, there's a lot to do and I need your help.

Elizabeth and Elena walk in, stage left, tired.

Elizabeth: Yes mother.

Margaret: Elena, I need you to go and get some wood from outside so I can get the fire going to cook. (Elena exits stage right, still not awake) Elizabeth, you see what food is in the larder and bring me something that we can all eat for breakfast.

Elizabeth: Yes mother. (Exits stage left)

Margaret searches cupboards for cooking pots and utensils and, taking what she needs, places them on the stove. Elena walks back in with a twig and hands it to her mother.

Elena: This is all I could find, mother.

Margaret: Elena. There will be a large pile of wood outside, as there was at home. (She stops and looks into space, thinking of her home) Home. (Sighs. Continues to talk to Elena, but more gently) You remember how father used to stack it outside the kitchen door. Every house does something similar. Go and have another look please. (She kisses Elena on the forehead)

John enters stage left, followed by Elizabeth, who has no food.

John: You won't find any wood out there. The townspeople usually deliver some mid morning, but only enough for the house fires. It's all I ask for. It's the same with food.

Margaret: So how am I...(John holds up his hand to stop her talking)

John: However, I have been out this morning and asked for more wood to come and for the food to be delivered before we go to bed so there is something there for the morning. Unless you would like it done a different way? You are my housekeeper now.

Margaret looks on in silence for a moment.

Margaret: That is an unusual way of managing your household. Is that how your wife organised things?

John stiffens.

John: No. She kept house in the normal way, going to the market every day and bringing everything back with her. The children helped her most days.

Elena: What happened to them? Your family.

Margaret: Elena. Mr Maynard has told us, They died.

Elena: How?

Margaret is about to remonstrate with Elena when John stops her.

John: Tonight I'll tell you about my family and how they died. It's better that you discover the truth from me than from the tales you'll hear around the town. (John relaxes) For now, you can clean the house until the townspeople deliver the food and wood. Then prepare some lunch.

Margaret: But there is no wood to boil water.

John: I have been in the habit of eating a cold lunch and breakfast, then fasting overnight. That will no longer do. If you will make arrangements with the stall holders for various deliveries, you'll find them accommodating. (He turns to leave and notices Elizabeth) I'm sorry to have startled you in the larder.

Elizabeth: It's alright, sir. I should have been paying more attention to...

John: I should be more careful now I have people living in my house. I shall try and be more respectful in future. For now, ladies, I will retire to my room and rest. I was up early. (He bows slightly and exits stage left)

They wait until they hear the click of his door closing before anyone talks.

Elizabeth: He's hiding something mother, I can feel it. It makes me uncomfortable.

Margaret: I know, dear, but we have nowhere else to go. We'll just have to be careful.

Elena: I like him.

Elizabeth: You're too young to understand.

Elena: And you're too old to know anyone. You talk too much.

Margaret: Girls. Let's start cleaning. We have work to do. When he tells us about his family tonight we'll know a lot more about the man we're working for. Elena, you can help me in the kitchen and Elizabeth, you can search downstairs for any brooms and brushes.

Elizabeth: I don't like this mother. There's a feeling of death in this house. It's uncomfortable. I know we have nowhere else to go, but it still feels wrong.

Margaret walks over to and hugs Elizabeth.

Margaret: I feel it too. We'll find out more tonight. But for now, it's all we have. We're alive, in a house, warm and have food. It'll do for now. Tomorrow's just another play, as your father used to say.

Elizabeth: (Laughs) It's a pity he couldn't make any money with his plays or acting.

Margaret: It's not a lifestyle for women or for families. He sacrificed it for us and never regretted it.

Elena: Is that why they killed him?

Margaret: I don't know why they killed your father and I don't know as I ever will. So, until we get a chance to find out why, we have to live for today and make sure we live. Your father loved us all and made sure we were safe when they came hunting for him.

Elena: He led them away didn't he?

Elizabeth: Yes.

Elena: (Starts to cry) Why did they kill father? Why?

Margaret and Elizabeth gather round and hold Elena.

Margaret: Only they know why.

Elizabeth: Do they?

---------------------------------------------------

Did I mention a contest? Of course I did.

Fellow writer, Lisa Shafer, is holding a contest at her blog in which you can win all sorts of goodies....well a T-shirt and a copy of the book, which I highly recommend.

See you on Wednesday.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Fun

As usual I start with Oddbox. This week an ATM book library, George Washington's face in a chicken nugget and Obama sings...again.

Courtesy of the Daily Express, I now know the weekend officially starts at 5:18pm, while the BBC have told me that sleeping in one 8-hour segment is unusual and probably not good for me.

Also, I now know what a key grip does on a movie set. Among other jobs explained are gaffer and property master.

Now it's time for more entries from...(dum dum duuuuuuuum)...The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce.

- Rebel,n. A proponent of a new misrule who has failed to establish it.

- Habit, n. A shackle for the free.

Pictures.









And finally, what the life of writer is REALLY like.


Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Trapped

An unusual title for a blog as it's not how I feel, but it is how I write.

Blutacked to my desk, alongside many other little aides, is a small piece of paper with one word on it in green ink and large capitals: TRAPPED. Nearly all of my writing starts with that one word.

In 'A Stitch In Time', lots of people are trapped by their past, their present circumstances and their own minds and of the five main characters, only one doesn't escape from the entrapment...but she deserved it and I need her there for the next book.

In my short story 'Vehicles', two people manage to escape their pasts and join together to follow a different path.

It wasn't a conscious decision to write my stories this way, or my non-fiction for that matter, it was something I did without knowing it. When I realised I wrote the word down and stuck it on my desk.

Why do I write this way? It's not something I've thought about much until the radio interview on Sunday. During the show I talked about my past and it dawned on me that through all of it I was trapped. Not just by my own attitudes, but also by those of my ex-wife, the circumstances of my life up to that point and other reasons. I have now broken free of it and have started to escape.

Writers are always putting themselves into their work, which is one reason we can find it hard to take criticism and one reason why some people criticise us so harshly: to get a reaction and through that try and control us. It's a good reason to take a step back from our work and also why we should select critique partners that understand this aspect of writing.

What about you? What theme dominates your writing?

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I know it's not Friday, but I thought I'd share these funny quotes about 'Paraprosdokian' which is a Figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently used in a humorous situation. 'Where there's a will, I want to be in it,' is a type of Paraprosdokian.

1. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on my list.

3. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

4. If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

6. War does not determine who is right - only who is left..

7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

8. Evening news is where they begin with 'Good Evening', and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.

9. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

10. A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

11. I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.

12. Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says 'In case of emergency, notify:' I put 'DOCTOR.'

13. I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

14. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.

15. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

16. A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.

17. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

18. Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

19. There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.

20. I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure.

21. You're never too old to learn something stupid.

22. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

23. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

24. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

25. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

26. Where there's a will, there's relatives.

See you on Friday.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Update

First up, thanks to Dolores DeGiacomo for the interview yesterday. For those of you that didn't get the chance to hear it live, you can listen to the podcast. It's half an hour long and is about my life, my past, my future and my writing.

Secondly, I've nearly finished the short story for this month's Write1Sub1. I'll have it done by the end of the week and hopefully submitted somewhere by the Sunday.

Thirdly, my drama group have decided on the play for May: Communicating Doors by Alan Ayckbourn. It's a time travelling comedy/thriller and I will probably play the baddy...again. Mwahahahahahahahahaha.

Fourthly, I've finished March's column for Writing Raw and emailed it off.

The two novels and play have been on standby as I haven't felt able to add to them, but they will have new material by next Monday, a promise you can hold me to. If I don't...well, you can decide the punishment.

Finally, here's an interesting snippet of information that came from a book I have just finished reading.

"The human brain emanates electronic impulses at very low frequencies: similar to, but far weaker than, the radio waves used to communicate with submarines." (Alan Weisman, The World Without Us, p274)

Now that is something that can be used as a scientific basis for mind-reading, thought transference, the force or anything else similar. It also adds to the growing body of evidence that the human body is capable of so much more than we can imagine, let alone know. I wonder what else we will discover in the coming decades?

See you Wednesday.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Reminder: Blogtalkradio, today, 6.30pm EST

Just a gentle reminder that I'm on Blogtalk radio this evening/morning/night (depending on where you live).

I'll be interviewed by Dolores DeGiacomo mostly about my life, but also about my writing.

Be there or else...listen to it later as a podcast




Ciao.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Fun

Time for a bit of a laugh. First up, Oddbox. This week, naked weddings and one of the most impressive basketball throws of all time compete among other 'love themed' oddities.

And now for something different: The Devil's Dictionary. Written by Amobrose Bierce towards the end of the 19th century, it contains alternative definitions of common words.

- Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

- Lawyer, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.

More of these next week. Now, it's picture time.










And finally, as it was Valentine's Day on Tuesday, here's a non-cynical view of love.


Have a great weekend and don't forget I'm on the radio on Sunday, 6.30pm EST. I shall be watching you, so make sure you're listening.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Writing For Magazines

On Monday I may have mentioned in passing that I had an article published. In the same issue of the magazine was another fine article about websites where writers can bid for work writing magazine articles, so I thought I'd pass it on in case anyone wanted to try this avenue out.

The two main sites used are Guru and Elance. You need to register and give yourself a profile (who would want a writer that didn't tell you something about themselves) and you'll also need a paypal account so they can pay you the squillions of dollars you'll soon be earning...okay, so it'll be small beer to start with ($30 is what the lady earnt with each of her first two 500 word articles), but that's no reason not to dream.

After that, you keep bidding, writing and getting paid...according to the author who's been doing this since October last year and getting a reasonable amount of paid work.

I haven't set foot in this market yet, but it's someting I'm going to keep an eye on doing. Not just because of the exposure and writing practice, but also because it'll (hopefully) earn me some money.

One other website she suggest is Writers Weekly as there are usually adverts for 'writers wanted' there too.

So there you have it. Some useful advice from a lady that knows.

See you on Friday.

Monday, February 13, 2012

WIP

I've had another article published.

It was about the book launch last November and has been published in Christian Writer. Sadly, it's not available online, so you'll have to take my word that it was brilliantly written and illustrated.

No money was earnt in the writing of this article, but it's yet another piece to put on my publishing CV and brought me to reflect on my writing career to date.

My first piece, a religious article, was published a little over five years ago and it took almost a year before I got anything published again, a short story. There then followed a hiatus, during which I got divorced and moved three times.

Since then, I've had three more short stories published in various magazines and had a large number of book reviews published. Last year, I launched a short story collection and a novel as well as another article, this time about epublishing.

2012 has started with another article published, the Write1Sub1 challenge and the ongoing writing of two novels and a play script.

In short, my writing career is progressing nicely.

One thought that occurred to me as I listed these achievements was that I am not focusing on novels to the exclusion of all else. This goes back to something I either heard or read somewhere, which I'll have to paraphrase. "It takes 6 months to a year to write a novel and if gets nowhere you are another yesr older and still no closer to being published. It can take a week to write a good short story, a day to write an article and if it doesn't get anywhere, you still have the rest of the year to produce someting publishable."

It's not a question of quantity over quality, it's a question of awareness. The more short work you get published, the more you'll get known. Once your 'brand' (yuck) is known and you have a publishing track record, your novel submissions will have more weight and have a greater likelihood of being read.

I'm pleased with the progress so far, even if I'm not a multi-millionaire publishing sensation...yet. I've learnt a lot about writing and publishing in that time and am looking forward to learning even more in the coming years. It's been slow, unspectacular success, but success nonetheless.

I'll end this piece with a question for you. When was the last time you looked back on your progress to date and listed your successes?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Fun

The end of the week and, for kids in Herfortdshire, the beginning of the half-term holidays. First up, oddbox. This week, a table tennis playing toddler, batty TV presenters, and chicken wing cupcakes. Yes, I did type chicken wing cupcakes.

And now, the winning joke from the Loaded Comedy awards, won by Tim Vine for this little cracker: Conjunctivitis.com - that's a site for sore eyes.

New year, new job? Why not apply for the vacant position of England Manager. Part of the job description includes, 'Managing a team of arrogant millionaires, with egos even bigger than their houses, you will be expected to deliver outstanding results against superior opposition, in order to meet the unrealistic expectations of millions of delusional fans'. Apply direct to the English Football Associtation.

Picture time.







And finally, don't forget I'll be on Blogtalkradio with Dolores DeGiacomo on February 19th to talk about my book and my life.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Using Amazon to Promote Your Book

Your book's ready and uploaded. What now? Use Amazon.

There are various tips and tricks to help you sell your book (electronic or printed) on Amazon. Here are some that I've picked up over the past few months.

1. Get friends and relatives to 'like' your books on Amazon. This helps with the 'people who looked at this also looked at' recommendations.

2. When you buy a book on Amazon in a similar genre to your own, buy a copy of your book. This will help with the 'people who bought this also bought' recommendations.

3. Get as many people to post reviews as you can. They don't have to be long ones as it's the number of reviews that count, but do make them a paragraph or two. This will push you up the rankings and get your book noticed by Amazon's algorithms.

4. When writing your blurb for Amazon or the book, focus on what the reader will experience (laughter, pain, horror etc) and on your best character, the one people are most likely to empathise with.

And finally, what's it like to be creative and struggle with that creativity? How about a little pictorial help: The Creativity Arc.


See you all on Friday

Monday, February 06, 2012

WIP

So, you ask, what has this man been writing since last Monday, aside from telling us about his blog awards and basking in the glory of them? Quite a bit.

I've started a new short story for this month's Write1Sub1 and watched two of my kids have a snowball fight. Oh yes, I've written scene 3 of the play, which is below for you to look at and comment on.

If you haven't seen this before and want to catch up, you can read scene 1 and scene 2 elsewhere on this blog

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Scene 3 (Town Square, early evening)

Margaret, Elizabeth and Elena enter, stage left and sit down on a bench.

Elena: My feet ache.

Elizabeth: Everyone's feet ache Elena.

(pause) Margaret puts her head in her hands and starts to cry. Elizabeth puts her arm around Margaret's shoulders and hugs her.

Elizabeth: You've done your best mother. We'll have to go to the church for help, even if you don't want to.

Elena: Aren't they supposed to help the poor? That's what our priest said.

Margaret: What they say in pulpit and how they act aren't always the same thing, Elena. But your right Elizabeth. It's all we can do now, unless there's someone else in this village who will help, someone we haven't seen yet.

They hold each other, close their eyes and start to pray very quietly. John Maynard enters, stage left and stops. He walks up to their side and waits for a while before coughing.


John: Excuse me. Would you be Margaret, daughter of Harold Blackman?

Margaret: (screeches in surprise) Yes. And who are you? Sorry for screaming. You surprised me.

John: My name is John Maynard, a citizen of this village. I knew of your father, but didn't know him. He did some work for me on occasion. I was a merchant for many years and he used to make various items for my house. (looks at the girls) I assume these are your daughters. May I know their names?

Elizabeth: I am Elizabeth and this is my younger sister Elena.

John bows slightly.

John: Delighted to make your acquaintance.

Margaret: I didn't see you as I walked through town. We are returning to village after the death of my husband and hoped to find some work in a household, such as yours...

John: That is why I am here. My neighbours told me about you. You did knock on my door this morning, but I don't generally answer.

Elena: Why?

John: I have my reasons.

Elena: What are they?

Margaret: Be quiet girl.

John: She's entitled to ask the question. I am equally entitled to refuse an answer. For now.

Margaret: As I was saying...

John: You are looking for work and I have work available in my house. I haven't had any staff for some time now. I let them go last year. (Looks at Elena) No questions why?

Elena: You wouldn't tell me if I did ask.

Elizabeth: Hush. You'll get us into trouble.

John: No, she won't. It's been a while since someone has been honest with me and looked me in the eyes as you three have done. (Looks back to Margaret) If you do want to work as my housekeeper then I would be happy to employ you. At least until you find another man to take care of you and your daughters. You are still young after all.

Margaret: We can start today.

Elena: We have nowhere to go and mother doesn't want us to go to the priest.

John: I don't blame her. I wouldn't go to the church for poor relief either. (pause) Do I take it that you are willing to accept my offer?

Margaret: Yes. Please lead the way.

Elizabeth: We haven't eaten today, or slept in a bed for several days.

John: I have plenty of food and spare beds, providing you don't object to sharing a room.

Elena: We all slept in the same room. Mother used to keep me awake when she and father were rolling around...

Margaret: Hush. That's not the kind of talk I want to hear from you Elena.

Elena: Why did you shout for God?

John: I think you had best listen to your mother and say no more. It's the sort of thing you will discover when you get older.

Elena: Tom Mangold said that...

Elizabeth: (Puts her hand over Elena's mouth) Be quiet or you'll get us into trouble and we won't have a bed for the night.

John: (Talking to Elena) You remind of my own daughter.

Margaret: How many children do you have?

John: (Stiffens) I used to have three. They died. Follow me if you want the work and a place to sleep.

John exits stage left
.

Margaret: (Starts to walk) Come on girls.

Elizabeth: But what if he...

Margaret: If he what? Do you have another place where we can go? I don't know what he's like, but tonight we will eat and sleep in a warm house. Tomorrow we shall see what the day brings. Now come along.

The girls hesitate for a second, then walk to their mother, stage left. As Margaret exits Elena speaks.

Elena: I was going to say that Tom Mangold said they were fighting over going to church.

Elizabeth: No you weren't. I heard exactly what Tom said. And his suggestion that the two of you copy them.

Elena: Is that why you hit him?

Elizabeth: Yes.

The two of them exit stage left.

--------------------------------------

As always, comments and questions welcome.

The short story is a comedy, which I'll tell you more about, and post an excerptfrom next week once I've given it the first edit and made some changes.

With that, I bid you adieu and I shall see you on Wednesday.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Friday Fun

First up, Oddbox. This week, swimming in an icy pool, Ice golf and the First Lady beats Ellen deGeneres at press ups.

Picture time. Some funny, some thoughtful and some just...well...strange.










And, just in case you've forgotten, I will be on blogtalkradio talking about...me, my past and my writing on February 19th, 6.30pm EST.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Award Announcement

Well, what a week.  Three awards.


First up is the Kreative Blogger Award, courtesy of Freya Morris.  Now I have to share 10 random things about me.

1. I am male, 48, just under 5'6" tall and cuddly...no, not fat, cuddly.
2. I love acting.
3. My idea of a good night is to cuddle up with a book or a PC game.
4. I suffer from Asperger's...or rather I have Asperger's and everyone else suffers.
5. My kids enjoy creeping up behind me and either polishing my bald spot or scaring me half to death.
6. I can build computers.
7. I have fibre/felt tip pens from my teenage years that still work.
8. I made a TV program when I was 17 for my GCE in Modern Communications.
9. I have a 10", yellow, stuffed duck that I cuddle every night.
10. I HATE cold, damp, grey days, especially Sundays.

The second and third awards come from Kelley Lynn.

The skunk award is given to those who 'make us feel (and smell) a lot better'.  Awwwww, thanks.

I now have to name one thing I like about myself and then pass it on to as many people as I like.

'I like that I can be kind and helpful'.

I don't know what the criteria for the Liebster Blog Award are, so I'm going to assume it's for blogs that leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling when you read them. I now have to list 5 things about myself.

1. I prefer to watch Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks films to adult ones.
2. I'm a fan of Cliff Richard.
3. I don't like Shakespeare.
4. I like to laugh.
5. I own three pairs of shoes.

Now come the hard parts: passing the awards on to others.

Liebster Blog:

Victoria at Boudica Marginalia. She's an old friend and her writing blog is always interesting.

Ruth Josse at Ruth Writes. I just like the blog.

Skunk Award:

Lisa Shafer. Her photo competitions are great fun to join in with.

Kreativ Blogger Award:

Deana Barnhart. Very Kreativ and always interesting. Her blog's nice too.

Hannah at Hey Zombot. Creative doesn't do this girl justice. Yes it's a shop blog, but she makes it all herself and is starting out.

Dana at The Daily Dose. A blog in 100 words? Very creative.

That's it for the awards.

Normally on a Wednesday I give some writing advice or share something I've learnt. So rather than disappoint people, here it is: Write a blog. Not only do you get some writing practice, you get to meet some interesting and creative people like those above.

And how do I meet them? I click on the pictures of followers on other blogs.

See you on Friday when I'll share some cracking pictures.