Friday, 31 October 2014

Hauntings in the Garden: Be-Witching Halloween

The Hauntings in the Garden anthology is an excellent way to study the variations in length, story style and genre you can fit into a short novella.
The next step is to plan your own.

Outline Your Novella

An Internet search will produce hundreds of documents, all aimed at helping you outline a novel. I spent years following the 
Snowflake Method. It is thorough, effective, and works, but in order to produce a novella in a limited time, I felt the need of a simpler step-by-step plan.

Searching for this article I found the helpful resources page from annie neugebauer and liked the pared-down novel help sheets as they outline the steps to take one by one.

I have never been able to master the ups and down of story arcs, the graphs, the long explanations. I just want to get on with the writing but I needed a flexible plan to keep me on track for the days I get stuck. No, it's not writer's block. I just write myself into a hole that I can't dig my way out of :-)

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Hauntings in the Garden:Brighten Your Blog

And for Day 5 in the Hauntings in the Garden series of posts featuring the nine mini-novellas from The Wild Rose Press, an unfriendly ghost is all set to make an appearance.

Award-winning author Alicia Dean is the motivating force behind this series of Hauntings in the Garden posts. This is her first ever ghost story and it's a cracker

A year after her husband’s death, Emily Tillman is ready to start dating again, and hopefully, find what she’s always wanted—marriage and children. But the man who broke her heart five years ago is back. And he’s anything but the marrying kind.

Confirmed bachelor Reese Caster is perfectly content with his life—and he’s finally over Emily, the one woman who almost made him commit. Now, his world is rocked when her dead husband shows up, demanding that Reese pursue Emily to keep her out of the clutches of her latest suitor—a jerk who is only after her money.

Being around Emily again has made Reese reconsider his bachelor life style. But now that the threat of the other man is gone, the pesky ghost wants Reese to break things off. Can he and Emily find the love they were denied, or will the ghost of her dead husband destroy their chances?
Rating: Sensual
Page Count: 67
Word Count: 15385
978-1-62830-569-2 Digital

Find more about Alicia and the other stories and authors at her website, and read her take on the books in the series with fun facts about authors in her blog here

Using the Hauntings in the Garden banner for this series has given me a taste for brightening my blogger headings by using more banners.
To brighten your own blog, have a look at The Cutest Blog on the Block, where I found the heading for this post, and browse its selection of goodies for Blogger, Twitter, Facebook and WordPress. A helpful tutorial section has guides to improving and personalizing the appearance of your blog.
Vikki Kestell is offering her short story The Christian and the Vampire free until November 3. Readers in the UK should access it here.
For other giveaways you may have missed:
Day 1: Planning and Purpose with download link to Lazette Gifford's free 130 page ebook on preparing for NanoWrimo
Day 2: Writing "small": analyse blurbs for style and content.
Day 3: Covers and Blurbs:with download link to small ebook on good book and cover design.
Day 4: Inspiration and Motivation with download link to creative teaching pack based on the work of Niki de Saint Phalle.


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Hauntings in the Garden: Finding Inspiration

Halloween Reads and Discounts

This is a very special day. It marks the birth date of artist Niki de Saint Phalle, as Google doodle fans will have noticed, as well as Day 4 of the Halloween celebrations for Hauntings in the Garden--the series of nine mini-novellas from The Wild Rose Press.

For those of us looking for an inspiration or motivation, the Tate Liverpool has a downloadable pack on the work of New York born video artist, painter and sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle.
Not only does it explain her life and her work with illustrations but it also suggests exercises and activities which could cross-fertilize your own creative activity. It's a teacher's pack so, with care, you could also adapt many of the activities to keep the children entertained over the half-term break.

For other giveaways you may have missed:
Day 1: Planning and Purpose with download link to Lazette Gifford's free 130 page ebook on preparing for NanoWrimo
Day 2: Writing "small": analyse blurbs for style and content.
Day 3: Covers and Blurbs:with download link to small ebook on good book and cover design.

Day 4: Inspiration and Motivation
To continue with thoughts of dreams and inspiration, the Halloween novella by Linda Carroll-Bradd featured today is a tale to recapture the pleasures of sea and sail.

Click the link below to read an excerpt:

Aleen MacRae blames the lure of the sea for breaking apart her family and then her engagement.  When her interest is caught by a man she sees both in person and in a dream, she resists—afraid to believe in her aunt’s prediction that her future is tied to the sea.

Braden Williams is on the hunt for treasure buried centuries earlier by Rhode Island pirates. His search brings him to the property where Aleen lives. Collaboration on genealogy research draws them closer, and Braden steers her toward his true passion—sailing.

Attending a party with Braden’s family lets her glimpse what she’s been missing. An unexpected discovery before her date with Braden at the Halloween Midnight Organ Recital forces a decision. Will Aleen play things safe or accept what this free-spirited man offers?
Rating: Sweet
Page Count: 67
Word Count: 15820
978-1-62830-602-6 Digital 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Hauntings in the Garden: Covers and Blurbs

Day 3 of the Halloween celebrations for Hauntings in the Garden--the series of nine small seasonal novellas from The Wild Rose Press.
And each day gives another chance to win the Rafflecopter prize--a £25 gift certificate for the Wild Rose Press. Wth all the great discounts that might mean up to 25 new books :-)
Day 1:Planning and purpose with link to Lazette Gifford's free ebook on preparing for Nanowrimo.
Day 2:Writing "small": analyse blurbs for style and content.

Today, I'm featuring the fourth of the mini novellas, Lara Parker's The House and my own ShriekWeek.

Paranormal suspense
Unexpectedly, Leslie Harrison inherits a sprawling horse farm in Florida from a distant relative. She packs up her life and relocates to the Sunshine State with no idea what awaits her. Upon her arrival, she meets the farm manager, Preston McClay and, to her chagrin, he isn’t happy to see her. Quickly the cantankerous, but rather good looking, farm manager becomes the least of her worries when things start to go bump in the night. Will the sinister activity in the house chase Leslie away, or will she prevail in the struggle between good and evil?
Rating: sweet
Page Count: 55
Word Count: 12900
978-1-62830-570-8 Digital
Click on the link for more info and to read excerpt.

Cozy Mystery
Events organizer Maggie Ballater has a new career, a new Island home, and a new life, and intends to make the most of it. But two things stand in her way. One is the dangerously attractive guitarist who brings back memories she’d rather forget. The other is the inexplicable murder of the lead actor in her ShriekWeek pageant.

Bram Jenkins wants to clear his name after being imprisoned for a crime he swears he did not commit. He has no time to be distracted by an opinionated woman he  suspects of working for his enemy.

Solving the ShriekWeek murder means they must both face up to the past before they can lay their ghosts to rest, and find out where their future lies.
Rating: Sweet
Page Count: 69
Word Count: 15280
978-1-62830-563-0 Digital
Today, think about covers. What is different about the covers above compared to the covers on Day 1 and Day 2? Do covers matter for e-books? Do you prefer to have people on the covers--look back at the past two days. Which cover do you like best? Which is more important to you, the blurb or the cover? Why do you buy the books you buy? Why should people buy your book?

For some help with thinking about book and cover design, try Thinking With Type's interesting downloadable pdf on Beautiful Books with sections on fonts, layout and covers. The download for me took a long time to happen but it was worth the wait.

And here are nine authors' views of great cover design
Comments below the rafflecopter giveaway please and remember to enter the giveaway for a chance of winning that £25 gift certificate, courtesy of The Wild Rose Press.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 27 October 2014

Hauntings in the Garden and Writing "small."

Halloween is almost upon us and, in celebration, the Wild Rose Press has brought out  Hauntings in the Garden, a set of nine mini-novellas on a Halloween theme. I'm celebrating the occasion with a series of posts looking at the art of writing "small." I won't pretend it's easy but judging from my own experience, it's the ideal way for a slow writer to catapult their fiction into the publishing marketplace.

Some of these I have read and shall review, some of these will also be mini-novellas by friends that I have read in the past and shamefully not reviewed. As a newly published writer, I now realize the importance of reviews and the understand the anguish of waiting to see what readers might say.

Today's post focuses on the blurbs. Analyse what features they have in common. Decide what makes them successful. Would they intrigue you enough to buy the book? 

Firstly are the three books out this week: click on the links for full details and excerpts at TWRP. The first is a sweet romance with a private eye  hero.

Caper Magic [d9137] - $1.99 : The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
P.I. Nick Forrester comes to Cape Brendan ostensibly to assist with Caper Madness, a month-long celebration of everything Halloween. In reality he is tracking a woman on the run. Within days he is confronted by Annunciata Doyle, a vivid reminder of a pain-filled past.

After retreating to Cape Brendan in defeat and humiliation, Nunie Doyle's only hope was to make the best of forced retirement. There, in this quaint tourist town on the shores of Lake Ontario, she earned the love and respect of new friends and neighbors—and put her talent for helping women to good use.

With the mutual goal of making Caper Madness the best ever, Nicke and Nunie fight tooth and nail on the personal level, each discovering a new side to the other, sides that make them consider making drastic changes for the rest of their lives.

This attraction: Is it complete madness-- or sheer magic?
Rating: Sweet
Page Count: 60
Word Count: 14880
978-1-62830-656-9 Digital

And now for something completely different-- a spicy New Adult suspense.

What Carrick County’s powerful Phelan family want, they usually get, whether that’s land like the Fitzgerald farm, or women, like the Fitzgerald girls. Handsome Liam can’t tempt Ranalt, whose heart belongs to neighbour Colin Sweeney. But his older brother Rory attracts her sister Lacey like a magnet draws steel.When the boys and their father Patrick visit Joe and Sheila Fitzgerald with a mysterious offer, all hell breaks loose. A furious Joe orders the Phelans off his property and away from his daughters, warning he knows what to do about ‘their kind’. Soon afterwards, Fitzgerald fences are slashed and cattle lie torn apart. Coincidence or cause for fear?There are secrets in Carrick County people don’t dare reveal. But Ranalt will risk everything to protect her family, the man she loves and the little girl she adores. Each turn of the summer moon brings danger and in the shadows, something waits...
Werewolf, New Adult, suspense
Rating: Spicy
Page Count: 57
Word Count: 14500
978-1-62830-564-7 Digital

And again for werewolf lovers from Dayana Knight.

Breanna McShae is a practicing green witch—harm to none, do as you will is the mantra she lives by. She must seek a familiar as her powers have reached peak and grounding does not pull enough of her magick back.  After performing a ritual asking the Goddess to provide her with her given familiar, she finds she has two animals vying for her attentions—a wolf and a raven.  The catch is one of them is the love of life and the other devastating trouble—a sikkqui—a creature that can assume any shape and sucks the very essence of human spirit and soul out leaving none but death and destruction behind.  The only way to destroy it is too perform a dark ritual, which is taboo for a green witch.  Her biggest problem is to figure out which animal is the sikkqui and then go against her very nature to destroy it without destroying herself and the shifter who has captured her heart.
Rating: Sensual
Page Count: 46
Word Count: 12320
978-1-62830-565-4 Digital

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Hauntings in the Garden:Planning and Purpose.

Halloween and Nano Wrimo are fast approaching. In celebration of the first, The Wild Rose Press has brought out Hauntings in the Garden, a set of mini-novellas on a Halloween theme. 

I'm celebrating the occasion with a series of posts looking at the art of writing "small." I won't pretend it's easy but, judging from my own experience, it's the ideal way for a slow writer to catapult their fiction into the publishing marketplace.

Writing "small" is one way for the slow writer to gain publishing/self-publishing credits. And if you're a Nano entrant this year, you could produce at least two if not the statutory three books to reach the 50,000 word target. And in celebration of the writing month, I'm adding the link for Lazette's Nano e-book which I found through Darcy Pattison's Weekend Notes.

It's a value-filled 130 page e-book with a spooky front cover and lots of helpful information and links.

All week long I shall be celebrating the Hauntings in the Garden. The novellas--about a dozen of them--are all under 15000 words and ideal if you're studying how to write "small."

Some of these I have read and shall review, and I shall also, as time goes on, review mini-novellas I have read in the past. As a newly published writer, I now realize the importance of reviews and understand the anguish of waiting to see what readers might say.

I have given The Wild Rose Press links but the Amazon link found on the book page does go to , readers elsewhere will have to use the search feature to find the books in the Kindle store.

A Romantic short: Stacy Dawn

One little book that, for me, fulfills every one of the criteria for a satisfying read is Stacy Dawn's Love Her Like the Devil. It's under 3000 words but every word counts and her skill in creating characters that jump off the page is breathtaking.

If you like Westerns and/or Halloween spookiness, it's great. If you're reading it as a writer studying the craft, it's a strong example of a well-written short story.

It's rated as sensual--(PG, PG13) 

The blurb sets the place, tone and the problem: where, when, who, and what's the challenge?

A chance meeting in a honky tonk on Halloween finds Luke in the arms of a brown-haired beauty. But if the stories he overhears are true, she may be far more than she seems...and he's more than ready to find out.

Too many blurbs end with a question that any self-respecting reader can immediately answer. Will the warring couple get together? Of course. It's a romance isn't it?
This tag leaves us intrigued--What are the stories? Who or what is she, really? What's he going to find out?  Perfect.

Short excerpt
Halloween sure brings out the characters, don’t it?
Luke Santana chuckled at the group of college kids clamoring past him to get into the Double Deuce Honky Tonk. Half of them wore ridiculous outfits he couldn’t even begin to understand and the other half traditional fairs of caped crusaders, masked phantoms, zombies and sexy maids. He quite enjoyed the latter.
As he moved to the bar, his gaze caught on one particular blonde in a baby blue corset tight enough to overfill the small cups. The lights behind the bar glistened off Bo Peep’s pale breasts, and he instantly became hard. Luke grinned. This was his rare night away from the family-run business…and he planned to enjoy himself.
He adjusted his Stetson and sidled up to the bar, tossing a leg over the stool next to the buxom beauty. A heady breeze of cheap perfume plumed around him as she turned and graced him with a perfectly wicked smile.
Paragraph 1: Place setting through name of venue and the bustling characters thronging it. Character inserted deftly through mention of the outfits hero doesn't understand and they're ridiculous because he doesn't understand them--why is he so out of touch?--and the traditional outfits that appeal, the sexy maids.

Paragraph 2: Reinforces Luke's intentions in being there and answers the question of what he does, and why he seems a bit out of touch with some of the other revellers. (Note for those of you who love ladling in back story--this is all I need as a reader.)

Paragraph 3: We really see the characters here, him with traditional Stetson and macho style, her doused with perfume and the contrasting juxtaposition of perfectly and wicked. Her attitude is revealed in the verb. She graces him with her smile. 

The precision in the choice and juxtaposition of vocabulary convey a wealth of meaning in a minimum of words. The reader is caught up in one point of view and deciphering meaning from the start.

You can find Stacy Dawn, her offer of free reads and her contact form at

Her blog:

Monday, 25 August 2014

How many years does it take to make a writer?

The answer is also a question--the one with which I started this blog all those years ago. How long is a piece of string?
As long as it needs to be. And in my case, learning what I need to know about fiction writing has taken forever.
So if you're a slow writer, take heart. I've signed the contract, seen the cover art and my novella has a publishing date in mid-October.
The Tortoise and the Hare From ''The Æsop for Children'', by   Æsop, illustrated by Milo Winter
Done it at last!

It's the first in a series of cozy mysteries and if you're aiming for publication and thinking you'll never get there, try my step-by-step action plan which will be available soon.

Will it work for everyone? Not sure. The week before the novella was due with my editor, I was still doing my best to wimp out. The book wasn't right, it had holes you could drive a coach and horses through. Why had I ever thought I could write a cozy mystery? Where was I going to dump the clues? What were the clues? Disaster.

How to succeed

Make yourself accountable. I did not tell family and friends but I promised my publisher to be ready by a certain date. People were relying on my finishing. I had a definite deadline that had to be met and an editor who listened to all my reasons for opting out and said "Just finish."

Write a blurb, synopsis and outline. No use saying, "But it'll all change as I write." Of course it will. But the very act of summarizing possible events and how you hope your characters will act and react helps you crystallize ideas and note plot weaknesses. Your synopsis and outline will change and strengthen as you write just as muscles strengthen and lengthen with exercise.

Never ever beat yourself up for missing a day, a week, a month of writing.
Feeling unreasonably guilty does nothing to help you write. It just leaves you upset and demotivated.

Do one thing a day toward creating your book. And it doesn't have to be writing. Just thinking about a character will let him or her develop naturally in real time. Note the things about which you feel strongly during the day, the week. Give your characters the same passions.

Live life. Use it. Local newspapers report lots of odd incidents which can brighten up subplots and tone up saggy middles. Some very successful books have sprung from real life neighbor squabbles. That's the great thing about being a writer. You can always get your own back by disguising particularly annoying people as characters in your book.

Just finish. You can't beat the advice from my editor.

And then there's the marketing...

Marketing as a Beginner, my post for Writers on the Move this month, not only has some interesting marketing ideas but also links to Cynthia Lindeman's amazing list of 101 Writers' Resources from her article for Boost Blog Traffic.
If you don't know it already, check it out. The site is full of superb advice for bloggers.

The Tortoise and the Hare illustration came from ''The Æsop for Children'', by 
Æsop, illustrated by Milo Winter and featured in  Project Gutenberg etext 

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and 
with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give 
it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg 

The License for use is included with this eBook or online at

The American copyright has expired.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Confessions of a Readaholic

Confessions of a Readaholic

I have loved books since I managed to read the word ‘hippopotamus’ as a child.
I read when I wake, when I work, when I eat, when I relax and last thing at night before I sleep. Sound familiar? Readaholics are incorrigible, and suffer terrible withdrawal systems if anyone is brave enough to try to wean them from their addiction. Only rarely with love and care may they be persuaded to live in the real world.

This week I have at last made the crossover from editor to writer. It was h-a-r-d. By nature I am an editor. There’s no one happier than me tinkering away with someone else’s cherished novel unless it’s a biker stripping down his Harley.

So there’s nothing remarkable in the fact that I bought three “real” books this week except for the fact that I need to mention it. I probably read between five and ten books a week, friends dump books on me by the carrier bag. Books occupy any spare space on tables, chairs, floor, even the ironing board.

But not only were these books special; they brought about a moment of epiphany.

My book—let me write that again—my book (woohoo) is a cozy mystery, one of my favourite fast-read genres. This, the first novella of the Creektown Chronicles is a Halloween ebook. I started by researching on the Internet but as there are to be five books in the series, I needed the tools of the trade to hand.

And so I bought Frederick Gillam's Poisonous Plants in Great Britain. The book’s a handy size, small and light, and beautifully illustrated by mostly antique prints. The The etchings and drawings which illustrate Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart make another small book to cherish while the wicked humour of John Robertson and the arresting cover of Is That Cat Dead? made it a must buy.

I’m delighted to have them but if I had to choose between print or digital in my life, it would be digital every time.

Why digital?

  • My reference books take up space on my already cluttered desk. I flip between them, constantly losing my place, and it’s often impossible to track down a misremembered anecdote or fact. Perhaps with a tablet to reproduce illustrations I'd have chosen an ebook and then I could have made notes and bookmarks and always found what I needed with one click.

  • On the move, and most of us are on the move, it’s much easier to carry a digital device. A mobile phone can do double duty as a reader. A tablet, or iPad weighs nothing at all compared to a sack of books. You can work anywhere at any time. Notebooks and pencils are all very well but having come home time after time and found my novel thoughts smudgy and incomprehensible, I need a recorder or other digital input process.

  • Work documents, reports, newspapers, magazines are easily converted to suit any e-reader through Calibre software which is cost-free and constantly improving

  • The older reader can adjust the print to a font size that suits and e-readers
    toppling pile of books
    are far  lighter to hold and easy to flip from book to book for night time reading. It avoids the danger of a leaning tower of books dangerously ready to topple from the bedside table. And all these free books on offer, too many to read in one lifetime? Marvelous.

.And when it simply comes down to moving:

  • Downsizing into a tiny house? You can still keep or increase your library.
  • You don’t need to buy emergency books at the airport, or carry overweight book baggage on the flight.

And when it simply comes down to housekeeping:

  • Books are great dust traps. And you’re hardly likely to have time to dust them every day. And as for opening them, shaking them all about and whooshing them closed to get rid of the dust? Forget it.

  • Until I went digital, I never realized how guilty it made me feel to have all these books looking down on me reproachfully, waiting to be read.

  • . And when it comes to bedtime, books crash noisily off the bed when you fall asleep reading. An e-reader, especially one in a case, slips out of my fingers quietly, never loses its place and touch wood, always bounces.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Behind The Garden Gate: Better Reading, Better Writing

Behind The Garden Gate: Better Reading, Better Writing: Better Reading, Better Writing Whenever you find a problem in your writing, be it in the nuts and bolts of structure or in leaden dial...

Speed reading--do you do it? Do you hate it? Please leave your opinions in the comments for my post on the blog for The Wild Rose Press. Thanks

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Writers On The Move: Stand Up for Writers

Writers On The Move: Stand Up for Writers: Panic tremors shiver down my backbone. My legs jerk and  my feet tap the floor uncontrollably. Some part of my brain  wonders patheticall...