Sunday, 29 January 2012

Who do you write for?

This is a quick straw poll for all the authors out there, I guess.

I have a dilemma. There's a fully fleshed out story that's been buzzing around my head for months now, but I've hesitated to dive in and get it down on the page. I know exactly why I've held back, and I'm slightly ashamed to admit that the reason is fear.

Fear of other people's reactions.

It's not the now normal fear of dislike that I always feel when I launch a story out into the big, scary world - no, this is far more specific. You see, the main cast of the story in my head are vampires. And there we have the main sticking point. Vampires are perhaps the most maligned paranormal creatures out there at the moment, due in most part to the romanticising of the sub-genre by Meyer and her like. I'll confess to a brief dabble in that area in the past, but I find myself really resenting the way that one of the darkest creatures ever created has been corrupted by popular culture to the extent that they aren't even feared any more.

No, my vampires don't sparkle, and nor do they avoid drinking the blood of the precious humans. They are ruthless, self-serving and wholly representative of the highs of the 19th century literature that first breathed life into them - but can they find a home in this cynical world that so openly scorns and mocks all things vampiric? Do I potentially waste hundreds of hours of my precious writing time in crafting a story that I may decide never to show to the light of day, or do I try to forget a tale that is so vivid in my mind that it feels like an ever-present companion in my unconscious mind?

I suppose it all boils down to the question of who I write for. Do I write for the benefit of those who might read my words, or do I simply write for the love of it? Those of you who know me well no doubt realise exactly what my scant hours of selfish scribbling are going to be devoted to over the coming months... and maybe, one day, "Lament of the Songbird" will boldly go forth to reclaim the genre once more ;)


Friday, 20 January 2012

My Old Friend

So, I realised today that it's been a while since I posted any fiction; and to rectify that, here's a little story that was conceived at 4am a few nights ago.

My Old Friend

I knew him so very well.

Him...I suppose that’s a little strange, isn’t it, to have attributed such a strong and developed personality to something that is entirely intangible; and even, to some, incomprehensible. But when he had been my constant and relentless companion for so many years, he had a very real and unshakeable presence in my consciousness.

He was always there. Sometimes – maybe even for months at a time – he’d lurk almost unnoticed right in the furthest recesses of my head. More often than not, though, he was right there at the front consuming all of me. Every thought, every desire, every was all about him.

And I hated him. Oh, how I hated him! He made me resent myself, you see – resent what I had become because of him. I no longer even recognised the person I was. I was a stranger, even to myself; and this new person wasn’t someone I wanted to be.

I knew that I had to rid myself of him; to purge myself of his toxic presence and his noxious embrace. He was suffocating. Have you ever felt like that? You must have done, at some moment in your life. The best way I can describe it is to think of the most terrible panic and fear you’ve ever felt. Remember how it constricts your chest, how it churns your stomach and lifts you high on the black wings of terror as you fight even to breathe? That’s how I felt living with him.

Is it any wonder that I couldn’t take it any longer?

I’m not sharing this with you as retribution, or even as a plea for understanding or compassion. Don’t think that, because it simply isn’t so. I’m just stating it how it is, so that if you find yourself being slowly but surely gnawed away at by someone like him, maybe you won’t make the same mistake I did.

The problem was that nothing I did seemed to get rid of him. I could hide him away and pretend even to myself that he didn’t even exist, but if I ever let my guard down for just a moment, he would be back; and each time he returned, he was somehow stronger and more possessive than ever before.

Enough was enough. I knew that he was never going to go away of his own accord. I had to take matters into my own hands – and in through the storm cloud of misery that had descended upon my sleep-deprived and tormented mind, I could see only one solution.

It was all so easy.

One little pill, two little pills.

Three little pills, four little pills.

Five little pills, six little pills.

And on I went until the little jar’s contents had all danced along my tongue and down my waiting throat.

So easy.

Next, the bottle of bourbon on the worktop joined the party. I had to be sure; I hadn’t come this far only for him to defeat me now. Then all I had to do was wait.

But it didn’t go down like I had expected it to. I expected to feel nothing but relief as my life slipped away from me, relief to be freed of the shackles of his possession – but instead, I realised what a terrible mistake I had made.

I’d never seen it before. Too eaten up by all that he was, I’d never even stopped to dream of a life without him. All I thought of was getting rid of him – not living without him.

I knew in that moment why people fought so hard to cling onto life with all that they were.

Too late.


Bonus points to anyone who knows the song that the title is a nod towards...


Thursday, 12 January 2012

We want to hear from you...

I know that I've got some wonderfully talented authors amongst my readers here. If you haven't already, then please drop by and check out Sirens Call Publications. We're open now for submissions in general and for three specific products that I'm really excited about;

Childhood Nightmares


They haunt us all. Those whispered tales of monsters hiding under the bed, or of the demons lurking in the shadowy corner where we dare not glance for fear that seeing them will make them all too real. Oh, how the innocent landscape of a child’s imagination lends fertile soil to horrors ready to be sown on the slightest of sounds; the tales and the terror they wreak on our youthful minds never quite leaves us.

Reach into the forgotten recesses of your twisted mind. Share with us the tales of nightmares that can only thrive in the hidden corners of a child’s imaginings; the bogeyman under the bed, the outlandishly fiendish clown perched upon a rocker, the slight murmur of sound coming from the closet… did you close the door completely? Explore the myriad terrors that only a child can twist from nothing into some ‘thing’ in the span of a single rapid breath.

Do you dare delve into your own memories for inspiration? Perhaps you’ll start sleeping with the lights on again... Tell us, who is Under the Bed?

Submission guidelines;

Deadline for submissions - Monday, January 30th, 2012.

4000 - 10,000 words.

50% royalties to be divided between all contributing authors.

What if the worlds of horror and mythology collided; what skeletons might come tumbling out of that particular closet? Open up your mind to the possibilities of reimaged tales or the consequences of unleashing a mythological creature into today’s world. What would happen if Medusa were let loose in NYC? What would the world of mythology be like if Zeus had a penchant for torture and murder? Perhaps the Fey world holds you captivated; but you imagine the benign faerie folk to instead be frighteningly devious creatures that only exist in the darker, more sinister walks of life...

Spin us a tale that will scare the reader but still maintain that magical twist from the stories of an age gone by. All mythology is open to interpretation; Greek, Roman, Fey, Chinese, Christian, plus the countless others not mentioned. Your only limitation is the one you place on yourself. 

* *Stories containing overt sexual content, incestuous behavior and/or extreme bestiality will be immediately disqualified from consideration.

Submission guidelines;

Deadline for submissions - Monday, February 13th, 2012.

4000 - 10,000 words.

50% royalties to be divided between all contributing authors.

This bi-monthly publication is exposure only for contributing authors, but don't let that put you off! We're looking for flash fiction, short stories (1000-5000 words), literary reviews, teasers for your novels (stand-alone scenes would work best here), artwork or interviews. Previously published work will be accepted provided that you hold the rights to it.

If you have something you think could be placed in any of the above, then please email


Saturday, 7 January 2012

How to improve your writing - part one.

One of the hardest things for any writer to do is to view their work objectively and see where it can be improved. The best option, of course, is to have your manuscript professionally edited before publication, but I'm fully aware that the cost of doing can be prohibitive for many self-pubbed authors.

As an editor, I see many basic issues that crop up again and again in manuscripts from different authors across all the genres.

Now, I'm a fervent believer in indie publishing and taking the power back from the Big Six. In order for the indie and self-publishers to do so, we owe it to each other and the readers to ensure that the work we put out there is of the highest possible quality. Though I can't offer up my services for free to all and sundry, especially now that Sirens Call Publications is keeping me so busy, I can share with you now and again a few little tips and ways to improve what you've written.

Today, I'll be going over speech tags.

Not only are they one of the most overused literary devices, but they're often dressed up to the nines to the extent that they become so ornate that they detract from the story being told.

Speech tags are the words used to label which character has spoken. It can be as basic as "he said" or it can also be used to carry the emotions and thoughts of your character at that point in the tale.

However, in my opinion, a good 90% of speech tags that crop up in first drafts are unnecessary.

My two top tips for how to reduce the necessity for speech tags in your work;

  • Ensure that each character has a well-developed and unique voice. The way that they speak and the tone of their words should identify them as the speaker. If all your characters sound alike to the reader, then they don't have a strong enough identity and the reader won't connect with them.
  • Show what your character is doing as they speak instead if you need to break up a long block of dialogue. Their actions will convey the tone of their speech far more vividly than a speech tag. For example, your character runs a hand through their hair and leaps to their feet to pace back and forth. The reader knows, then, that they're becoming agitated without you having to write "he said in agitation" after your dialogue. Far neater and doesn't distract from the flow of the writing.
Where you absolutely must use them, try and stick to 'he said/she said'. Phrases like uttered, retorted, breathed etc. sound artificial and detract from the dialogue being spoken. Keep it clean and keep it to a minimum and you'll allow the strength of your dialogue to shine through.

Your dialogue should be what carries the plot. Excess and elaborate speech tags will drag it down and interrupt the flow - instead, keep it crisp and fast-paced. Your readers will thank you for it.