Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Story material....

This has just got to go in a story, and might also serve as a warning to check - and check again - before choosing a name for anything.

On the tv the other night we saw an advert for an online bingo company called... With just one teensy alteration to one vowel, it becomes something else altogether, which is much too rude to print in a family-friendly blog like this. Although it might be closer to the truth, given how solitary most online bingo players must be... Even better, their tagline is 'Yes'. O.o

I'm making notes for a humorous noir as I type.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Losing a story - or my marbles

I spent over two hours yesterday trying to find a story that I was convinced I'd started several years ago, got bored with and set aside.

The reason I remembered it at all was that I was sure I'd rediscovered it only a few weeks ago while hunting out some other older stories to re-work for contests. I'd started it as erotica, but thought it would actually work better as noir. At the time I didn't have time to do more than glance at it, but I did take note of a rather memorable first line about someone jumping out of the cake at a birthday party.

I'd already decided it was going to be my first project in the new year, so yesterday afternoon I tried to find it again. I couldn't remember the title, but I looked through all my word processor documents - no sign of it. I went through again, and opened ANY file that I didn't immediately recognise as being something else - still no sign of it. I thought I must have deleted it, so got out my flash drive and my external hard drive with all my saved stuff on, plugged those in and searched both - still no sign of it. I even ran a search on 'cake' on the whole pc, and although it came up with all sorts of weird and wonderful files (how can you have 'cake' in a jpg?), there was STILL no sign of my story.

At that point I began to think I must have dreamed the entire episode - not just finding the story, but ever writing it in the first place. Not good. I was quite worried.

And then, just before I went to bed, I had another go. This time I was looking through old cd's, although I didn't think I'd ever saved it onto one of those, but while ferreting about an old folder caught my eye - the one with all my roughest scribblings of ideas. I hauled it off the shelf, leafed through - and there was the story, all one page of it, handwritten without even a title.

Phew! I'm not going mad after all!! (Well, no more than usual....)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fiona 0, Temptation 1

I gave in to temptation, and to the logic that netbooks are so new they probably won't be reduced in the sales anyway. So - I am now the proud owner of a Samsung netbook.

So far I've set it up to surf the net and use webmail. Next I'll be putting WordPerfect on, so I can use it to write while I'm away. After that, I might load it with my web authoring and ftp software so I can update my websites while I'm away.

I must say it's a very attractive little thing - and I can't believe the hard drive is eight times larger than the one in my desktop pc, in something not much bigger than an A5 envelope! The keyboard is surprisingly easy to use and I have a feeling it's going to come in very useful indeed.

And of course, I just have to take it away for Christmas now I've got it. ;)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas writing... or not

I find it incredibly difficult to concentrate on writing at this time of year. I find it pretty hard the rest of the time, too, but the run up to Christmas is just so... distracting. There are all those pings on the doorbell with deliveries and carol-singers and long-lost friends who 'just thought they'd pop in on the way past Birmingham'. There are cards to write and deliver, letters to write and remember to put in with the cards, the tree to find, put up and decorate, last-minute presents to buy and wrap, mince pies and non-traditional Christmas pud to add to the shopping list. It's all a lot of fun, but it means my brain is stuffed with tinsel and other sparkly things and I cannot. think. about. writing.

Added to that I've been working like a navvy the last two or three months, writing stories and firing off submissions like there's no tomorrow. Suddenly, my motivation has gone on strike. My get up and go didn't just get up and go, it stretched, wandered into the kitchen, made a cup of tea in the 'I'm allergic to writing' mug, and settled down for a snooze in front of Shrek the Third. Sigh.

It's hard, but perhaps I should just knock the whole writing thing on the head for the next three weeks, have a break, and come back refreshed in the new year, when hopefully my inspiration will be more cooperative. Or at least until the next idea bats me over the head in the middle of the night and I traipse off to the computer, bleary-eyed, at half past four because my brain is fizzing so much I can't get back to sleep....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rules of British noir

I've been reading quite a bit of noir fiction lately and it's inspired me to write a list of rules of the genre in case anyone else would like to try their hand at it. So here, in no particular order, are my (slightly flippant) top ten Rules of British Noir Fiction.

1. Everybody dies.
2. There's always a character called Albie, who is elderly, homeless, drunk - or all three.
3. All relationships are doomed to fail, no matter how promising they seem on the first page.
4. It's always either dark or raining, except when it's foggy.
5. Bouncers (doormen) are the most common characters - in fact they litter the pages like cigarette butts on a pavement.
6. Everybody dies.
7. Trips to the country invariably lead to the main character digging his own grave.
8. Pubs are always grubby and serve warm beer.
9. Female characters never wash their hair.
10. Everybody dies.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Strange research

It's amazing the things writers have to research sometimes.

I wanted to send a story off today - just a little flash thing about a vampire. But I realised on reading it through that I'd used very British language and the story was heading for an American market, and one or two terms in particular would have been baffling. And why baffle a potential publisher before they've even finished reading the story? They've got more than enough reasons to reject it without adding to them....

The worst offender this time was 'bin men'. In the UK, they're the people who come round once a week (or more likely once a fortnight as councils try to force everyone to recycle more...) and empty your dustbins (trash cans). I googled and googled but although I discovered a long list of regulations on the weekly trash collection in Philadelphia, nowhere could I find out what the collectors were called. I tried 'garbage collector' and 'trash collector', but both of those turned up pages about clean-up software for computers, and nothing about real life as opposed to virtual trash.

In the end, I put a call out on my LJ and a very helpful person stopped by and told me - it's 'garbage men'. The story has now been tweaked and sent off, and I'm delighted that I haven't bewildered the editor even more than usual.

But what's the oddest thing you've ever had to research?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Soooo tempted....

I'm not a massive fan of gadgets but I do like a decent laptop. Something I can drag round on holidays or weekends away, so I can stay in touch with email, surf the net and even do a spot of writing if the mood takes me.

I have a decent laptop (Advent, if memory serves me) which has coped very well with all of the above for a couple of years now. The only trouble is, that by the time I've packed it away in a bag with the battery, power supply, extra cabling, decent mouse (because I simply can NOT use those weird touch-pad things) and a mouse-mat, it weighs about the same as trying to lug the ruddy desktop with me. ;)

I've dreamed about having something so small it could go in my handbag and at last, it looks as though netbooks are catching on. They're small (10" screen), they're lightweight (1.4 kg or less) and yet they have most of the features a full-size laptop would have, in terms of operating systems, software, memory, capabilities etc etc.

Top of the bunch at the moment is this little fellow from Samsung. Not only does it have Windows XP and 160 gigs of memory, but it comes with a full-size keyboard so this particular touch-typist wouldn't be turning the air blue through hitting so many wrong keys.

I am oh-so-very-tempted. Maybe after Christmas, if they have January sales and I save up all my Christmas pennies...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Stand and deliver!

The latest call for flash fiction from Mslexia involves the theme of riding. I didn't want to do something dull about horses or bicycles, but this morning I suddenly thought of an idea about highwaymen - and a magician.

I scribbled the result, called it 'Trick of the Trade', and spent the afternoon polishing it. It's come out far too long for Mslexia in the end (their word limit is a measly 150!) - and I'm not sure it would have enough of a link to their theme even if I managed to trim it down. But hopefully I can find somewhere else to send it in the coming weeks. It would be a shame to waste it.

Linden Bay Romance to be sold

The biggest news in the electronic-to-print romance publishing world today is the sale of Linden Bay Romance to Samhain.

If you haven't already seen details on every other romance writer's blog between here and Outer Mongolia, you can find the full press release about the upcoming sale at the EREC blog.

Further details are understandably woolly at present but one or two LBR authors I know are crossing their fingers that their particular imprints will continue under the new Samhain umbrella.

Writers' rooms

There's a fascinating audio slideshow on the BBC website with photographs of the rooms well-known (or at least, established - I'd never heard of some of 'em) writers use to write in, plus a commentary by the photographer.

Some of the rooms are really surprising - the blood red one, the one that's in a basement with piles of stuff everywhere, the one that looks like a 16 year old's study. More are what you'd expect - filled with books and a lifetime of thoughts, pictures and memories. Those were the ones that appealed to me most of all - in fact, some of them made me chartreuse with envy. I'm lucky to have my own space to write in, but it's in the attic and the roof comes half way down the walls, which means no floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Having adored books since the age of five, I would love to have a room lined with them, but it's just not possible.

What would your favourite work-space involve? Lots of light and space? Something cosy and familiar? A wonderful muddle? A lap-top on your knees in front of the telly?

Interestingly, the photographer commented that he was originally going to do a series on writers' desks. But the advent of the lap-top means far more people have no fixed desk, but cart the lap-top around with them to work whenever and wherever they get the urge. So he had to widen his scope to the room they usually worked in instead. A sign of the times.

Incidentally, if you want to run the slideshow for yourselves, click on the tiny right-arrow under the main picture. They don't exactly make it clear!

Thursday, December 04, 2008


I've decided to try my hand at adapting a fun paranormal short story I wrote earlier in the year as a chick-lit novel. It'll need quite a bit of work, not least expanding from around 20,000 words to full novel length, and giving the main character a sex change from male to female. I read it through from start to finish to see where I could add new sections, where I could expand what I'd already written etc, and came to the rather horrifying conclusion that I'd really rushed the writing, because there are three separate stonking continuity errors in one longish short story. Aargh.

For starters, one character (a vicar who tries to carry out an exorcism) simply vanishes into thin air and is never heard from or seen again. Then I refer to someone's portrait as hanging in two different places at the same time. And finally, when the two main characters get up to a bit of hanky-panky it's in a bedroom lined with rediscovered paintings - and yet in spite of bouncing around on the bed they never disturb a single one!


I know I was writing it quickly for a deadline, but even so I'm usually more careful than that. It just goes to show that no matter how often you read something through at the time, you can nearly always find masses of bloopers later on. I've made a note... well, several actually. *blush*

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Kindle update

A writer friend of mine has now also discovered a long-out-of-contract book available on Kindle, so mine wasn't a completely isolated case. Please, do take the time to run a quick search on yourself on Amazon, to make sure your own old books aren't being sold when they shouldn't be. Remember, you could effectively be paying someone else (your publisher and Amazon), and making no money yourself, if you don't.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Warning on Kindle

A friend of mine has just discovered that 'Roses in December' is still for sale on Kindle via, some five months after the book's contract came to an end. I've written to the publishers for clarification but don't know yet if this is just an oversight or something that Amazon have started doing to try to increase their own sales. Either way, I thought I would pass on the warning. If you're an author with a book that's relatively recently come out of contract, it's worth checking on to see if it's still for sale as a Kindle product. If it is, it obviously has repercussions for both royalty payments and any future publication of the book and I can only suggest contacting your publisher to ask them to sort it out.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pointless words from hell

Having adapted, rewritten or edited several older stories lately, I'm getting very frustrated with myself and the number of completely pointless words I fill my writing with. All those 'so', 'really', 'a bit', 'that', 'almost', and 'already's are bad enough, but now I've noticed that I constantly use 'began to' or 'started to' instead of just saying what the character did. The number of 'he began to wonder...' or 'she started to feel that...'s I've had to chop out of stories is incredible. I can't believe I didn't spot them while I was writing!

So, does anyone else have any 'words from hell' that they use when they don't need to, and fill up their word-counts with? If so, I'd love to know what they are.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Anthology for a good cause

I heard yesterday that I've had a story accepted for 'I Do', an anthology in support of gay civil partnerships in California. All proceeds from the sale of the anthology will go to the Lambda Legal Fund to assist in the fight against Proposition 18, the recent law-change which has left thousands of civil partnerships in limbo.

The story is called 'Salad Days' and is another of my 'kitchen sink' romps, this time involving two men and some fennel. ;)

The anthology will be due out early next year and I'll keep everyone posted on release dates etc in due course.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Odd socks

What does happen to all the odd socks that get lost in the wash? For a fun take on this perennial problem, why not head over to Cobblestone Press and download their free magazine, CPQ. The September issue (out a little late due to editorial constraints) includes my short story Washday Blues, which is a complete romp involving two men, a washing machine and a pair of navy blue socks!

You can download the magazine, free, as a pdf file from the Cobblestone Press catalogue.

Have fun with the story, and watch out for those socks!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Worth a few pennies...

I don't often have adverts on my blog - but then I don't come across the sort of gritty urban fiction I like all that often. But here, for a change, is an anthology of hard, dark, urban short stories from Byker Books. Their tagline is 'industrial strength fiction' and their stated aim is to publish an antidote to chick-lit, which should give you some idea of what they're about!

For the record, I don't have a story in this volume, although I'm hoping 'Rock and a Hard Place' will be included in the follow-up.


‘Radgepacket – Tales from the Inner Cities Volume One’ will be available from 17th November. This is a strictly limited edition publication featuring brand new fiction from up and coming British authors Andy Rivers, Will Diamond and Nick Boldock amongst others as well as an exclusive story from renowned novelist Danny King.

‘Byker Books have mustered a cabal of writers who write like men possessed about men possessed. Tales from the Inner Cities wades into the British underclass with tight clenched fists and eyes wide open.

Pick it up if you’re hard enough – put it down if you can.’

Matt Nesbitt, Oxfordshire Press

Radgepacket Volume One


And what's more, it's only £5.99! I'm off to order my copy today.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Heat Haze

Velvet Mafia have duly uploaded their latest issue, complete with my short story 'Heat Haze'.

This is a very naughty little story set in a desert, where nothing is quite what it seems. English gentleman Edward lusts after his Arab guide Rashid, and gets more than he bargained for when they set up camp in the desert. But the story's title gives a clue as to what's really going on... ;)

Click the button below to read the story (for free!) at the magazine's website and as usual, I hope you really enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Great news

It's not often I get two acceptances in the same week, let alone on the same day. But that's what happened today, much to my amazement and delight!

First of all the gltb online magazine Velvet Mafia emailed to accept 'Heat Haze' for an imminent issue. It's a naughty-but-fun tale set in a desert, where nothing is quite what it seems.

I'd just written back to thank them when a second email bounced into my inbox, this time from Byker Books who have taken 'Rock and a Hard Place' for inclusion in their Radgepacket - Tales from the Inner City anthology next year. The story should appear either in the second volume in the spring, or if that gets too full too quickly, in volume #3 in the summer. I can hardly wait!

I'll obviously post more details about when and where as soon as I have them. Right now I'm just glowing. It's a nice reward for some very hard work.

Lots of submissions

I've been sending stories off rather madly in all directions the last couple of weeks, to markets including a flash contest, various magazines, and the prestigious Aeon Award.

I'm not particularly hopeful on the latter; it's a national contest attracting some of the best names in sf and fantasy and I'm not sure I stand a chance against them. I've never had the courage to even enter it before. But this year I happened to have a story about time travel, which I've always liked, floating about, so I thought I'd bung it in and see what happens. If nothing else it's good experience. Hmm. Why does that sound ominously like the old 'it's good for the soul' whenever anything awful comes along? :D

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Litfests - is this the end?

Private Eye had an interesting snippet on the future for literary festivals in the current economic crunch a couple of weeks ago.

Although some of the best known, longest running and most popular festivals (such as Hay-on-Wye and Edinburgh) may be financially secure enough to survive, a lot of the others apparently depend for their existence on the attendance of authors who are paid (or at least heavily subsidised) to go along by their publishers.

The only trouble is, Random House have already announced they will no longer pay for author 'jollies' of this kind and other publishers are likely to follow suit. This could easily mean that the rash of literary festivals that sprang up in virtually every town and city (heavens, even Birmingham has one *g*) may find themselves at risk.

Has anyone ever been to a literary festival? I keep looking, but they all seem so dreadfully woolly - it seems virtually impossible to get details of exactly what's on when, and how you pay, and whether you can pay for the whole festival or only for individual workshops. As for accommodation and food, those have obviously never even crossed most of the organisers' minds.

It'll be interesting to see whether Private Eye is right, and the number of festivals falls off sharply during the next few months. In which case I might have missed my chance...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

It's like buses...

None for a while, then two come along at once! I had not one but two stories released yesterday - first the Byker Books one (see previous post) and then Aspen Mountain put out 'Shifting Perspectives 2'.

This is a follow-up, unsurprisingly, to 'Shifting Perspectives' and contains sequels to both Feathered Friend and Emily Veinglory's The Rat Burglar, as well as a brand new story (about a shapeshifting fish!) by Sharon Maria Bidwell.

In my sequel, Steal the Sky, Avery insists on entering a pigeon race but gets off course and finds himself locked, naked, in a stranger's garden shed!

As ever you can find more details including full size cover art, a blurb, and how to order the book, on my website.

I had a blast writing Steal the Sky and hope you get as much enjoyment reading it.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Byker Books have very kindly offered to feature Any Means Necessary on their website, even though its previously-published status means they can't use it in their anthology. It's up there right now in the 'Radgepacket' fiction section of tales of inner city life. Do please bear in mind this is a slightly abridged version from the story that appeared in 'Men of Mystery' (Haworth Press); if you like the story enough you might consider visiting my website and splashing out on the full-length version (plus a heap of other great gay stories in the anthology)!

You can read the Byker version here (the link is a little way down on the right hand side) and you can find out where to order 'Men of Mystery' here.

I think I've mentioned before that Byker Books are based in Newcastle (Byker is a district of the city) and they seem like a fun crowd to deal with. But please don't ask me what a radgepacket is - not being from the north-east myself, I have no idea!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

So near and yet...

I had an amazingly quick response from Byker Books. They loved the story... but they don't take previously published work. Aaargh! Just my luck.

However, the editor has encouraged me to send along something else. I haven't got a free story that's the right length, the right subject matter, *and* hasn't been published before, but I do have one story that might work. It involves an ageing rock star and at the moment it's too long, but with a bit of judicious hacking I could probably get it close to the 3000 word target.

I've already dug out the file and I'm busy cutting it down to the bare bones and hope to have it ready to send off later in the week.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another one away...

I've just this second hit the 'send' button on a new submission. Well, 'new' is a slightly misleading term since the story is actually an adaption of 'Any Means Necessary', the gritty little tale of two bent cops I had published in Haworth Press's 'Men of Mystery', which was shortlisted for a Lambda Award earlier in the year (the anthology, that is, not just my story).

Last week I spotted that Byker Books, an indie publisher based in Newcastle, were asking for short stories with a gritty, contemporary urban feel for a new anthology of 'tales of inner city life'. I thought that story fitted the call to a 't', so I brushed it off, downsized it by a couple of thousand words, toned down some of the graphic sex, and finally decided to take the plunge. I've got no idea if it's still too graphic for them, or even if they'll consider gay material, but I figured it was worth a shot.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wrong Number

This is the title of a new 'flash' story appearing in the latest issue of Gay Flash Fiction, which came out yesterday.

The story involves a mobile phone call with disastrous results. It's rather darker than my usual flashes but it does have a twist in the tail. You can find it, together with the rest of the new batch of stories, at the magazine.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Passive headache

One of the biggest challenges I've found in writing mostly for the American market is the little-known but surprisingly big gulf in grammar between the two languages. Over the last few years I've argued the toss with various US editors *g* and been geuinely surprised by their explanations. In one case, the use of passives, the difference is so great that I decided to write a little article about it, in the hope of smoothing the waters both for other British writers, and for American editors who may be tearing their hair out over the British language. :)

The article, 'Separated by a Common Language', is up at the British Writers Blog and you can read it here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Swans, pigeons and fish, oh my!

In other words, we've had the cover art through for 'Shifting Perspectives 2', and very nice it is too. The model is the same one Aspen Mountain used on the first volume, but in a different pose, and the animals represent the shapeshifters in the stories.

Here's a thumbnail of it, and I'll be putting a full-sized version on my website in a few days' time. The book is due out at the end of the month so watch this space.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Home again...

We got back from holiday at the weekend having had a really good break - although we could both have done without the flu! (Which explains why I'm a day or two late updating this - it hit me quite hard for once and I've been having problems working out which way is up.)

The weather was surprisingly good, if rather misty a lot of the time, and we managed some good long walks and a couple of climbs (to the tops of mountains, that is - I don't go in for rock climbing!) The scenery in the Lake District is magnificent at any time of year, but I often think autumn, with the leaves turning to gold and the hillsides swathed in russet bracken and purple heather, takes some beating. Mind you, we did get a little too 'up close and personal' with one particular lot of bracken, on a precipitous slope heading from the Dunnerdale Valley towards Seathwaite Tarn, but that's another story. Let's just say my lungs didn't take very kindly to being head-first in the vegetation as I crawled up on my hands and knees!

The search for background material was partly successful; I called into a local bookshop and came away with two books. One is a sensible one, full of old postcards of the area together with interesting snippets of history. The other is emphatically not sensible - a lurid little volume of ghost stories and other hair-raising tales, most of which are probably apocryphal but highly entertaining!

Part way through the holiday I realised that the Lake District is changing fast, to the point where it's in danger of losing its identity. Village after village is filling up with the sort of shops you can find anywhere else in the country; gourmet restaurants are taking over from the local cafes and pubs that used to sell hearty portions of well-cooked local food (bliss after a long day out walking the fells); and the people who visit are changing from serious outdoorsy types to well-groomed older folks on coach tours. It all seems a little sad (especially as I've known and loved the area for the best part of thirty years) but I can't help thinking it will make an excellent backdrop for a novel. The pressure on the locals to either conform or go bust must be horrendous...

Friday, September 12, 2008


It's that time of year again - we're off to the Lake District for two weeks' holiday. It's a very beautiful area of lakes, mountains, streams, waterfalls, moorland, long walks and pretty villages and we love visiting. I'm even hoping to set a novel up there at some point, so will take a notebook for research and look out for any interesting books. At least browsing the bookshops gives us something to do on the wet days - there's always plenty of those!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New short story

Has anyone else ever tried writing 'flash' fiction, or very *very* short stories? They often have a word count of only a few hundred words, sometimes even less, and I find writing them a real challenge. Just how do you tell a complete story in so few words?

For the last year or so I've been trying my hand at flash, with varying degrees of success. I freely admit that some stories work out better than others! One I'm particularly fond of, which was inspired by a friend's true story, is a creepy little tale of a dog and a beach. I've just posted 'all' 150 words of it on my website if anyone would like to take a peek. I hope you enjoy it. :)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

'Boulevard' review

I've been forgetting to mention for the last week or so, but my latest book review of Jim Grimsley's 'Boulevard' is available to read in Forbidden Fruit. The book, a gay slice-of-life novel set in New Orleans in the 1970s, is an intriguing mix of literature and sleaze, and a window onto the world of gay sex in America before the advent of AIDS. You can find out whether I liked it or not by reading the review in Forbidden Fruit.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Anyone for Tolkien?

Fans of the great JRR might be interested in a little article I've just thrown together and posted up at the Britwriters' Blog. In it I've described some of the locations around Birmingham which Tolkien used in Lord of the Rings, either directly or as inspiration for some of the book's wonderfully atmospheric settings.

As I say in my post, you may not associate the rural Shire with Britain's buzzing second city but there are actually more links than you might expect, and some surprising hidden corners. Pop along to the Britwriters' Blog for more information, and pictures.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Writing through the mess

We seem to have had a constant stream of workmen in and out of the house the last couple of weeks - first to fix the roof, then to repair the boiler which stopped giving us hot water, and lastly to replace the boiler when the old one was condemned. Lots of workmen means lots of banging and lots of mess and it's been difficult to concentrate on anything, but yesterday I surprised myself by writing about 2000 words.

I've put aside the Irish novel for now because I was itching to actually write rather than just ploughing through edits. Instead, I've unearthed a novel (novella? longish short story?) about a reality tv show set on an exotic island, which I started a couple of years ago. I lost confidence in it after 4 or 5 chapters because I wasn't sure I knew enough about the workings of tv production, but I suddenly realised that I could turn it round and write it from a slightly different point of view, which wouldn't need so much of that inside knowledge. It also needed livening up as the first chapter was deadly dull.

By last night I'd finished the first chapter, re-writing it as a scene between Nancy, the main character's agent, and her flat-mate, rather than just Nancy's own internal musings. It reads a good deal better as a result. Now I need to tackle the second chapter, a board meeting at the tv production company's office, which should be a challenge given that our plumber is hammering again. Oh for some quiet time on my own to think.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Getting back to normal

I'm slowly and steadily getting back into the groove of work, after a week or two when I didn't feel like doing very much. Last week I wrote a flash fic about a snake, inspired by this site which gives you a new word each day to write about. It isn't always updated when it should be, but it's great inspiration because the words seem to have more than one meaning. Last week's, for instance, was 'diamond' which produced ideas for two shorts - one about the diamond pattern on an adder's back, and one based around a diamond-paned window. I wish a few of the places that run themed contests and anthologies would use such flexible words. I'm a little tired of trying to come up with stories about Velcro, or gloves!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Very sad news

My mother passed away rather suddenly yesterday afternoon. She'd been ill for a long time, but with a sort of long steady decline so it still came as rather a shock.

I'm going to be tied up with arrangements for the funeral and so on for the next couple of weeks, so please bear with me if I don't post much here during that time. Like Arnie, I'll be back. :)

Friday, July 25, 2008

The way forward for e-books?

The hype for the new Sony e-Reader has just caught my eye. On the face of it, this looks like a really good product. Not only will it store up to 160 books at once, but you can read a whole page at a time, just as you would with a real book, rather than having to scroll madly back and forth and up and down just to finish a sentence. (I once tried to read an e-book on my husband's palm-pc and nearly blinded myself.) And, apparently, one battery charge gives you enough juice for over 6,000 'page turns', which is (they say) enough to read War & Peace five times, assuming you would want to. LOL.

If this is as good as it sounds, it could be a real breakthrough in e-books and e-readers. Other products I've seen have been clunky, the screen has been small and hard to read, and you can often only store a handful of books at a time.

I do have a few concerns, though. One is the cost. This thing is currently retailing at £199 - that's around $400 - which is an almighty amount given that you have to pay for the books to put on it as well. I'm also baffled as to when it's going to be available. According to The London Paper, it's available in the UK today. But according to the official website, it's not available till September. Hmmm. And I'd need to actually see one in action before I splashed out the cash. Is the screen as clear as it looks in the promotional pictures? Is it easy to operate? Does it take ordinary batteries or do you have to pay for something that only Sony make/supply, at greater cost? How heavy is it to lug about? And does it handle any file type, or do you have to buy one specific type of e-book that only one bookstore chain or distributor actually sells?

Until some of those questions are answered, and until the cost comes down a bit, I won't be paying out for one. But it's the first e-reader I've seen that's even got close to tempting me...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Are you right for writing?

This is a fun little quiz by writer-and-guru Holly Lisle. It's short (10 questions) and only takes a minute or two to complete, but the results can be fascinating as well as fun.

I already knew that my easily-distracted mind is one of my biggest downfalls in sticking to writing and sure enough, those were the questions I scored lowest on. I also knew that I have a vivid imagination (too vivid?!) and I scored much higher on that.

There's a serious message behind the fun, too. Anyone who's in this for a fast buck, or for any other reason than the sheer love of writing, is probably in the wrong job!

You can find the 'Are you right for writing quiz' at Holly Lisle's site. I scored 60. How did you get on?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Shuddering halt

I knew it was too good to last. I raced through three chapters of edits on 'Gleams', only to discover that I'd said a certain event would happen at a certain time - and it doesn't! It's because I shoe-horned an extra chapter in and forgot to check the back timeline as well as the future one. Sigh.

I had two choices - either move the missing scene back to where it had been, or write an additional scene that explains why it doesn't happen when it's supposed to! In the end, I opted for the latter. Not only does it give me the chance to add another thousand words or so, but the current timeline helps to explain some tension between the main characters which wouldn't happen if I moved the scene again.

I'm about half way through the new linking piece (a wake, would you believe!) and hoping to finish that today.

But it's a good job I picked up on it before I sent the thing off to any publishers... ::headdesk::

Friday, July 18, 2008

Flying along

No, not me personally *g* but the edits on the Irish novel. I've been working at it steadily for the last three days and progress is surprisingly good. I crawled through one absolute pig of a chapter, where the wrong people did the wrong things at the wrong times and the whole thing needed re-working from the ground up. But once I'd cleared that hurdle I've been chugging along, polishing, tweaking, and adding explanations as I go, and have finished a total of three and a half chapters since Wednesday. I've got another tricky bit coming up now (the direct results of rewriting that earlier chapter - it's like pushing over a stack of dominoes) but even so I'm really pleased with the way it's going.

The novel was inspired by the wild rocky scenery of the Galway coast, and in particular by Gorumna, a small island linked to the mainland by a causeway, which brought a whole new meaning to the word 'wild'. The views were magnificent, the villages remarkably quiet and unspoiled, and there was a ruined church overlooking the sea. I can't find any decent pictures of the church, but you might like to see this brief YouTube video of the scenery to give you some idea of the place. It left a lasting impression on me and I decided it was the perfect spot to set a ghost story! Seven years later, 'Gleams of a Remoter World' is not far off being born.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not good, professor

Chest infections and creativity do not mix. I've had one for the last week and haven't been able to do any writing whatsoever - I think my brain just switched off! I'm feeling a little more human today though, and determined to get on with something constructive. On the grounds that edits might be less taxing than out-and-out composing, I'm tempted to go back to my Irish novel. I'd love to have something else to offer a publisher if 'Roses' ever makes it to print, especially something in a similar genre. That way, if they like 'Roses' and it's selling well and they say 'Have you got anything else like this?' I can cheerfully say yes and hand over another manuscript.

Of course, reality is never as straightforward as that, and 'Gleams' needs a lot of work before it's ready to unleash on any publisher. It doesn't help that I wrote it in fits and starts over a period of seven years! During that time my writing style changed, my idea of good structure changed, and my plans for the characters themselves changed. The result, I'm afraid to say, is a dog's breakfast. One major character swapped gender half way through and although I used search and replace I'm still finding places where 'she' is actually 'he'. And as usual, I've under-written the early parts badly, so they sound hopelessly rushed.

Still, I was making good progress on it earlier in the year and it would be good to get my teeth into something longer again. I'm dragging the file towards me as I type!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

All in a flap *g*

I had some good news the other day as Aspen Mountain have accepted our 'pitch' for a follow-up to Shifting Perspectives, with sequels to some of the stories including a brand new outing (pun not intended *g*) for my shape-shifting pigeon. It's early days yet but I'm hoping Steal The Sky will be available in Shifting Perspectives 2 in the autumn (fall), and will also include a sequel from Emily Veinglory, and a brand new story from Sharon Maria Bidwell.

I'm really pleased because this is pretty much the first time I've ever written a sequel to one of my stories. Usually I write with such a twist in the tail that a sequel wouldn't really work because the element of surprise would have gone, but when I looked at Feathered Friend, my story in the original volume, I realised that I'd left it open enough for further adventures. So, a further adventure is what I wrote, about a pigeon race that goes horribly wrong.

I'll post more details as soon as I know myself, but just wanted to share the news first.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Changed my mind

I've pretty much decided not to work on the old historical for Lace & Blade. Not so much because of the payment issues (after all, it might only be $10 but it would also be a print credit on my resume) but more because of lack of time. The deadline is 1 August, which is rapidly approaching (too rapidly!) and on a second read-through I realised the story needed a LOT more work than I thought it did. I don't think I could get it finished in time. Never mind, there'll be other places to send it if/when I do pummel it into shape.

The current issue of Mslexia has some tips from journalist & novelist Aminatta Forna. They're all good advice, but I particularly liked this one:

When you get stuck, it can be quite useful to go back and work on what you've already written. Perhaps the story has slightly changed since you wrote that chapter? 'Housekeeping' work - revisiting, editing - keeps you going with the flow.

This isn't advice you see very often. More usually, you're told as a writer that going back and editing something stops the flow and is therefore a Bad Thing. But this sounds very sensible, and I've done it myself a few times and found it worked. I just have to be careful not to get so bogged down in the minutiae of whether it should be 'and' or 'but' that I lose track of the story entirely!

Friday, July 04, 2008


I had a sudden Eureka moment yesterday, in the bath of all places! A brand new idea for a novel popped fully formed into my head, leaving me splashing around because I had no paper or pen to hand to make notes. I remembered what I could, got out, got dry and scurried off to jot things down. That sort of lightning strike doesn't happen very often and it can be rather frustrating when it does; it's as though an entire novel has suddenly been downloaded into my brain - plot, structure, characters, even chunks of narrative and dialogue. If only I could find some way of hooking myself up to a computer and re-downloading it onto disk, it would save an enormous amount of hard work and trouble. It never works like that, though, does it? That would just be *too* easy. LOL. Instead I have to hoick it out bit by bit over months or even years, and by the time my typing has caught up with my brain I've forgotten most of the original inspiration. Sigh. Who'd be a writer? ;)

So, where does inspiration strike you? Bath? Bed? While you're asleep? Half way round the supermarket so you start babbling about elves or monsters in the middle of the home baking aisle? I'd love to know!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Slow progress

The historical for Lace & Blade won after all, but I'm not making much progress. It doesn't help that I'm having to retype it from scratch because the only electronic copy I had was on a cd that got corrupted. Luckily I had a printed version but retyping nearly 5,000 words takes longer than you might think, especially when you keep wanting to change stuff while you're typing. And I do seem to want to change a lot. This is an old story, and it shows. Far too much 'tell not show', far too much waffle, not nearly enough direct dialogue or action. It's going to need a lot of work even when I've finished the retyping. For the moment, I still think it's worth it. There's a good story in there somewhere, I just have to find it and drag it, kicking and screaming, out into the world.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Another story off

Formatting? Check. Extended blurb? Check. Cover letter? Check.

I duly sent off the ghost story to Cobblestone Press for their halloween anthology, and had an auto response back. This is something I wish more publishers would do. It takes away all that horrible uncertainty about whether your book or story ever turned up, and saves a lot of wasted time of the 'wait six months, query, and find they never got it in the first place' variety. It must save time for overworked editors too, because they don't have to bother with all those endless 'did you ever get my story?' emails. And it's so easy to set up. I managed it in about five minutes flat with Forbidden Fruit and I'm certainly not a tech-head. So why don't more publishers do it? After all, it's the modern email equivalent of including a stamped addressed postcard with your submission so the concept is hardly new. Baffling. I feel a campaign coming on. :)

I've been working on 'Got Ghosts?', one way or another, for so long that now it's done and sent I'm slightly stuck for what to work on next. I could dust off a historical for Lace and Blade, which Erastes mentioned the other day, but to be honest 2c a word on a short story doesn't amount to very much. Or I could go back to the edits on my Irish novel, which I was making quite good progress on, or perhaps the new contemporary set in Birmingham, or a short story I've just discovered in my wip file that I'd forgotten about, or.... Oh dear. I think I'll have to flip a coin.

Monday, June 30, 2008

I must be keen...

I even worked on Saturday morning!

And very productive it was too. I sent off the 'wrong number' flash fic to GFF with a cover letter etc, and then settled down to read through the new bit of the ghost story. Usually when I rewrite scenes in an existing story I have to polish extensively. I've always said it's rather like knitting - you put a sleeve or something down for a few days and when you pick it up again your tension has changed and the new knitting comes out a totally different size! Well, writing often seems like that and my style or tone can change subtly from one day to the next (I suppose depending on my mood). Luckily this time that hadn't happened and I only needed to fiddle with it a bit before I was happy with it. It's much better than it was and the joke at the end helps to finish the story off so much more clearly than just sort of trailing off into nothing. :)

I didn't have time to do the cover letter and all the other submission paraphernalia but at least the story itself is now ready to go.

Friday, June 27, 2008


The re-write of the ghost story, that is. Phew, what a struggle it turned out to be! I got the lads into the bedroom but they rebelled and didn't want to cooperate at all. Still, it's done now and I've added about 1100 words as a result - and what with that and juggling the ending slightly, it's definitely improved. I'll let it lie fallow for a couple of days before the final read-through, and then I'll send it off to Cobblestone for their Halloween call.

Now I'm off to look at a flash fic called 'Wrong Number' that I'm thinking of subbing to the next issue of Gay Flash Fiction.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Working on...

Right now I'm re-writing the end of 'Got Ghosts?', the ghost story set in an ancient English country house. I wasn't overly impressed with the way I'd ended it, but had to finish it off in a bit of a rush to meet the Samhain deadline a few weeks back. Sadly it didn't get picked for their anthology, but Cobblestone Press have a call out for paranormal romance for Halloween and I'm hoping to have it ready in time for that. As well as a bit of juggling of dialogue to get a joke at the very end, I'm also adding a sex scene. I know perfectly well that sex sells *g* and the original story didn't have any, just a couple of kisses and an interrupted clinch. ;)

Luckily the Cobblestone maximum word count is much higher than Samhain's was, so I've got plenty of space to get the two guys into bed together in the Small Blue Bedchamber, on Adam's great-grandmother's antique patchwork quilt. The only thing to decide is what to do with them once I've got them there. :D And fast, because the deadline's in early July and I'm not sure I'll be ready in time. Eeek!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Beach Nuts is out!

I've just heard today that the brand new issue of Gay Flash Fiction is up and running, complete with Beach Nuts (see previous entry for details).

Do pop along to for a free read - and I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Coming soon to a zine near you

Good news this morning - Gay Flash Fiction magazine has accepted 'Beach Nuts' to appear in the next issue. GFF is now the sister-zine of Forbidden Fruit and does exactly what it says on the tin - it specialises in flash fiction (under 1000 words) with a gay theme.

'Beach Nuts' is a very silly little story featuring two men who find themselves bothered by a nutter on the beach, and decide to take matters into their own, er, hands. I wrote it specially for GFF so I'm really delighted that the editors liked it enough to accept it.

The new issue is due soon, probably in the next couple of weeks, but I'll let everyone know once it's available so you can read my story. Or if you prefer, keep an eye on my website where I'll be announcing the release when it happens.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Short story delay

Yup, that's a short story *and* a short delay. LOL.

'Washday Blues' was due to come out in the June issue of Cobblestone Quarterly Magazine, and I was really looking forward to it 'cos I haven't had anything new come out for a while. But they needed the issue to promote their brand new vampire anthology and have held over the fiction to the next issue instead.

'Washday Blues' will now be coming to a zine near you (ie Cobblestone Quarterly) in September, so I get to look forward to it all over again. And I'm hoping they'll be running a brief interview with me in the same issue, so watch this space for further updates.

Roll on September. :D

Thursday, May 15, 2008

And yet another new blog...

When I signed up for Wordpress in order to join the Britwriters Blog (see previous post for details) I got myself a free Wordpress blog. And at first, had absolutely no idea what to do with it. I already have this blog, an LJ account and a Myspace page and was running out of ideas what to post! Then I thought about book reviews. I did have an old site for posting reviews of books I'd read but it was on a website that I hardly use any more and most of the reviews were simply gathering dust.

So I'm gradually copying the old reviews across to the new site and will also add new reviews as and when I write them. I'm even including some reviews that I've had published or posted on other blogs and magazines.

I have a very strange a eclectic taste in books - anything from fantasy to the labels on sauce bottles! - so the site's going to be a rather mixed bag. But hopefully there'll be something interesting on there, and it might even persuade people to rush out and buy a book or two. :)

You can find the new version of The Sharpened Quillhere.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Britwriters Blog

There's a brand new blog in town. Britwriters is a collective of writers who live and work in Britain, but publish most of their work in America. To find out about the opportunities, experiences, and occasional frustrations this brings in its wake, as well as gaining an insight into British life, why not pop over to Britwriters and catch up with me, Alex Beecroft, Ansley Vaughan to name but a few?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New story available

I meant to blog about this last week but ran out of time. Eep. The latest issue of Forbidden Fruit (#15, would you believe?) went live early in April and includes my very silly short story 'Rash Moment'. This tells the tale of a fractious hospital patient and his lover who gets his own back with the aid of some lipstick and a very understanding nurse! You can read the story here and I hope you enjoy it.

In the same issue there's also an interview with yours truly, which the new editorial team insisted on doing for some reason. *g*

And the zine, as ever, is stuffed with great stories, articles and artwork after some sterling hard work from the new team. I'm delighted. See the results here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lambda Awards finalist

I've just discovered that the Haworth Press m/m anthology 'Men of Mystery', which includes my short story Any Means Necessary, has been listed as a finalist in the lgbt anthology category of the 2008 Lambda Awards. Needless to say I'm absolutely delighted. The anthology is a great-looking book, very nicely produced with lovely cover art and a selection of fiery-hot stories. It's up against some pretty, ahem, stiff opposition, but watch this space to see if it wins.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Pigeon snaffled!

Many congratulations to Bethany, who won my Spot the Pigeon contest and was the first name out of the virtual pigeon basket. Bethany wins herself a copy of 'Shifting Perspectives' and I hope very much that she enjoys her prize.

Many thanks to everyone who took part. If your name wasn't drawn this time, do keep an eye out for future contests when you might have more luck!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Last call for the pigeon!

Don't forget that my 'spot the pigeon' contest finishes on Friday (29th February).

If you haven't already taken part, and would like a chance to win a copy of Shifting Perspectives, then pop along to my website for full details on how to enter.

And good luck!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Review on Speak Its Name

I've just had my latest book review uploaded on Speak Its Name, the gay historical review site that I've done a few things for before.

This time, it's Patrick Gale's Facts of Life, a mammoth tome I picked up in my local Oxfam charity bookstore. I absolutely loved Gale's Rough Music and Little Bits of Baby; you can find out whether this one floated my boat as much as those *g* by going to the review.

Anyone for lipstick?

I've had a new story accepted for the forthcoming issue of Forbidden Fruit, due out in March.

Rash Moment is a very tongue-in-cheek little tale about a man who gets his own back on his lover with the aid of some lipstick and a very understanding nurse!

You can find further details at my website, but I'll be posting updates here once I know exactly when the zine is due out.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Contest update

The organisers have waded through more than 1,500 entries, and the winners have been announced in the Blast in the New contest. If you entered and haven't already received your prize(s), pop along to the contest blog now to see if your name is on the list.

And I very much hope that whoever won Shifting Perspectives and Watery Grave thoroughly enjoys reading them!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Spot that Pigeon

For a change I'm running a little contest with a copy of 'Shifting Perspectives' as a prize. This is a m/m shapeshifter anthology with stories by yours truly, Emily Veinglory and TA Chase. Seeing as my story involves a pigeon, I've hidden five pigeons around my website where they're currently fluttering about, pecking grain and making a mess. *g*

To enter, all you need to do is follow the instructions on the News page, find the pigeons, email me with the pages where they're hiding, and if you get all five right you'll be entered into a prize drawing on 29th February where the first out of the hat will win a copy of the book.

You can find out about the contest at my news page and you can find out more about the book at the Feathered Friend page. As to where the pigeons are hidden, you'll have to find that out for yourselves. :D

Good luck!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Website fiddling

You could call it my annual spring-clean. ;) Those of you who know me best know I like nothing better than messing about with my website, and I've just done it again. This time there was a serious edge to the change. I'd had one or two people comment that the old design was a little hard on the eyes, and the last thing I want is to put my readers off. So hopefully the new design retains the 'arty' feel but is easier to read.

It's here if anyone wants to take a look.

And stand by, because I may just have to re-do this blog as well. :D

Friday, January 11, 2008

Anthology cancelled

The first bad news of the year is that Haworth Press have cancelled 'Distant Horizons', the gay paranormal romance collection that was due out in two volumes in December 07 and January 08. Must admit I was a bit suspicious when December came and went with no sign of it; Haworth had a tendency to be slow in the past but they usually got there in the end! But now the press has been sold and I'm told the new owners don't want the gay & lesbian part of the business, and are busy terminating agreements and cancelling books left right and centre. Including ours.

It's a shame, because it was a perfect home for The Visitor, my time-travel romance. Not only that, but Haworth did a brilliant job on 'Men of Mystery', the last anthology I had a story in, and I was really impressed, and looking forward to more of the same.

However, the editor is currently looking for another publisher so perhaps we'll get lucky and find a new home for the stories. Watch this space!