Taking stock

Out in the ocean

The freelance life can feel pretty perilous, bobbing about on the waves of economy. I’ve just about kept my head above water so far, but I recognise the dangers below. It wouldn’t take too much to sink me. Rather than powering on blindly, I thought it wise to take a moment to pause, tread water, and take stock of my situation. See how I’m doing—really. In short, I’ve just given myself a Quarterly Review.

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The Shape off the Bow – a performed reading

Sailing ship amongst daunting rocks

Well, I enjoyed performing my own story so much, I decided to try another one. Fellow Burdizzo Books author, Lex H. Jones put out a call recently, asking if anyone would be prepared to record a story from his new collection, Whistling Past the Graveyard as a favour. I’ve not read Lex before, but I wanted the opportunity to get some more audio practice in, so I stuck my hand up. The story I present today is The Shape Off The Bow – a half-hour maritime tale of an ill-fated treasure hunt, isolation, madness, and something unnatural floating up there, just off the bow. Turn off the lights, settle back, and let the (sound)waves wash over you…

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The Hartlepool Monkey – comic review

A horrified child, a baying mob.

A Nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and by common hatred of its neighbours.”  Dean William Ralph Inge

There are people with certain attitudes, events that unfold around us almost daily, where you almost have to laugh or you’d cry: where tragedy cleaves so close to comedy they become all but indistinguishable.  Wilfrid Lupano and Jérémie Moreau stride that tightrope over despair’s abyss with supreme confidence in their humorous retelling of the legend of The Hartlepool Monkey.  

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Game Talk – interview excerpts

Hi folks, it’s blog time again. This one is a pared-down version of an interview conducted by the author C.C. Adams for his recent blog series, probing the thought processes, values, and strategies of people he feels have ‘got game’ when it comes to the business of writing – or in my case, editing. You’ll find links to the full interview and the rest of his blog series at the end. Cheers.

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The Bewilder-boy (Cracking Isolation, part 1)

In the stocks

In these times of Covid, more and more people are coming forward to report mental health issues. Some people see this as a weakness, a crisis in and of itself, just as pernicious as the pandemic. Others see it as a process of destigmatisation: an open sharing of vulnerability and pain that unites and enables us to heal through support, empathy, and encouragement.

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From Tappet Woods – a performed reading

Cat guarding its precious book

Hello, my lovelies. Feb 20th is my birthday, so I thought I’d give you all a gift: an hour of audio entertainment, written and performed by yours truly. ‘From Tappet Woods’ was my attempt at creating a story in the vein of M.R. James—classical in tone, cosy yet unnerving, ambiguous and hopefully atmospheric. I’ll let …

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Getting serious

Vale of Rheidol Steam Railway

I’ve been running my Fine-toothed Comb through your manuscripts for a few years now, building a client base and a reputation to be proud of. Gotta say, it’s been pretty sweet. And if there were a few stretches without a gig? Well, the day-job covered my bills. I could afford to treat this as pocket money. A paying hobby. A Saturday Job. Fffff. That seems like a world away now.

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Top 10 Digital Board Games

A selection of 'Table game' apps

One of the ways I’ve coped with the terror and tedium of the covid lockdowns is with board games. Not with my family sadly, as neither my wife or daughter are that interested, and not with my gaming group either. (The last thing that we played together was Pandemic Legacy throughout 2019 and no, it’s not our fault. We won.) Instead, I’ve been forced to get my fix on digital platforms. Read on for a whistle-stop tour of my Top 5 quick games and my Top 5 trickier ones.

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Presence of mind

A bench in bright sunshine, next to a forestry track.

…and learning to cope

I saw any number of retrospectives in January, summing up the shared tragedy and meagre glints of joy amid the long months of 2020, yet I have found myself…reluctant to join in. Certainly I’ve been changed by my experiences, deeply, and in ways I’ve yet to fully plumb. I can feel it. Yet I spent so much of that year absent, it might almost have happened to somebody else.

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Into The Great Western Woods (Unstoppable Authors)

The Great Western Woods podcast logo.

Angeline Trevena: an unstoppable author

Hi folks, there’s no flash fiction contest this week, so instead let me introduce you to a good friend of mine, Angeline Trevena. She’s an author, a podcaster, and an all round good egg. If you’re at EdgeLit this weekend there’s a high chance you’ll get to meet her. Tell you what, why don’t I shut up and let her tell you why that’d be a great thing to do? Over to you, Angeline.

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Writing hard

Evocative image. Scuplture of miners, hard at work. Cramped. Struggling.

How do you earn trust?

The blog’s not been happening as regularly as I’d have liked. It stems from a number of issues but the root of it all is that writing is hard. Coming up with new things to say, or even forming fresh takes on old topics takes a lot of time and effort, and all the while there are voices in the back of your head saying things like ‘Who’s going to read this?’ or ‘Who’s going to care what I think?’

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Flashes of inspiration #1 – Challenge

Writing prompt: Night. A transparent umbrella. A girl sheltering within, silhouetted against a fire.

Happy New Year to you all, and welcome to the first of my Flash Fiction competitions.

You can write in any genre, any format. Experimentation is fun so try to push your boundaries. The images I post might help to evoke a tone or a setting for you but they don’t have to be taken literally. However, each of the word prompts that I post must be used somewhere in your writing. I’d like your pieces to be no longer than 500 words, please.

The submission deadline for this first flash is midnight on Wednesday 9th Jan 2019. Email them to dion@thefinetoothed.co.uk please, as my main address is playing up.

Your image prompt is up at the top and here are your first batch of words, randomly snagged from the O.E.D.

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Flashes of inspiration

Evocative image. Vivid flashes of lightning in a purplish night sky.

As wiser and more articulate people before me have noted, creativity is muscular; you need to flex it regularly to build and maintain its strength. Writers use many different techniques to exercise their imaginations, from notebooks to role-playing. There is no right or wrong way to do it, only what you find useful and what …

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In the market

Evocative image: Strategic boardgame featuring a market. Complex. Full of people.

What was Sledge-Lit like?

There was an air of relaxed conviviality about the Derby Quad last weekend, but drive and purpose hummed beneath the surface. It seems there’s something about seeing people in the flesh, reconnecting with old acquaintances, and chewing the industry fat that inspires activity.

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It ain’t what you say

Evocative image: waves break over a rocky wall as the sun sets over the sea.

Reflections in a time of grief.

From my university days onwards, the distance between us meant I’d only see my parents three or four times a year, and then for just a few days at a time. That was usually enough because we tended to slip into old patterns of behaviour: the picky, argumentative parents and the touchy, truculent child. We loved each other best in small doses.

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Channelling the flow

Evocative image: multiple trickles of water, regimented, carefully controlled, emerging from a dam.

…and spreading the cost

Professional editing is vital but, taken in a single chunk, it represents a financial cost that many independent authors (and indeed some independent presses) balk at. This is a problem because – even if the core work is good – it can be undermined by plot inconsistencies, lacklustre characterisation, or simple technical errors. You may save money on the project but the cost of cutting corners can be huge.

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Hanging together 3/3

Bar talk. Andrew Freudenberg and Dion Winton-Polak.

What was it like at FantasyCon?

As a novice to the convention circuit, you study the schedule, make careful plans as to what panels and events you most want to attend, and then you spend all your time dashing around, assiduously writing notes, sweating, and occasionally weeping in the corner. It’s damned hard work. You wonder why people do this to themselves year on year and (looking around in despair and frustration) why everyone else seems to be just…hanging around in the bar.

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In the groove 2/3

Evocative image: the editor's feet stretched out, big windowed doors, a fresh, bright garden outside.

What was it like at FantasyCon?

If Friday was my busy day, Saturday was all about the mooching. I woke around 6.30. Not my plan, but the body gets used to certain routines; as far as it was concerned, this was just another day at the office. Had I been more organised and less ragged, I might have

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In the headlights 1/3

Statue of a lion.

What was it like at FantasyCon?

I’d had a late night playing darts for the local team. We didn’t exactly cover ourselves in glory, so I was a little tired and a little blue come Friday morning. I ended up missing my train by a single minute

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