March of the Midnight Crow – a performed reading

March of the Midnight Crow - a performed reading

‘Last week alone this dreaded Curse had destroyed more than two thousand souls. When Pope Clement heard this news, he shrugged and damned the whole area. Nobody touched by the plague could be spared.’ As the Black Death ravages the land, Dominic struggles to balance caring for his sick daughter and doing his duty for …

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Making noise

Making noise

What goes into making my performed readings? You know the ones. I’ve recorded a short story every month for the past year to share here at The Fine-toothed Comb. It’s been a hobby, an excuse to work with some new people, and an opportunity to showcase the results. The responses I received were universally warm, …

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The Electric Eye of the Silver God, Pt 1 – a performed reading

The Electric Eye of the Silver God

‘It seemed an appropriately mythic thing, to steal the treasure of a false deity before finally accepting that he was too old for heroics.’ On a world where all of Time has become…twisted, an Egyptian pharaoh sets out on a quest to help his dying friend. Accompanied by a spy, a monster, a Norse mechanic …

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End of year review 2021

End of year review, 2021

The last time I took proper stock of The Fine-toothed Comb was way back in March. It was supposed to be the first of my Quarterly Reviews but, as it turned out, it was also the last. The longer I spent bobbing about in the ocean of self-employment, the harder I found it to tread …

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Lady Grinning Soul – a performed reading

Lady Grinning Soul - a performed reading

‘I could almost feel the kiss of the muzzle against my temple, the thrill of cold steel. They would kill me, if they knew, without a second thought.’ An extraordinary agent find a kindred spirit at Chez Romy Haag, during the age of Bowie and the Cold War. It’s easier to slip free of the …

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Want-to wants

Want-towants

Do you know what you want? Okay, but do you really want it, or do you just ‘want’ to want it? There’s a difference, see, and it took me a long time to understand that. Take writing, for instance. I’ve always had a facility with words, so writing and editing should have been a shoo-in. English Literature was my favourite subject at school, and I followed it right the way through to university, which begs the question…why did it take me so long to get into the industry?

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Discomforting (Parsing Judgement #2)

Discomforting (Parsing Judgement #2))

I’ve had some difficult conversations with clients (and prospective clients) over the years. People can be…resistant to constructive criticism, despite the fact they’re paying for it—all the more so if there’s an inherent issue to the writing that stains character and plot. Some of the most delicate conversations, I find, are those in which the issues of subconscious misogyny, racism or bigotry must be raised. Writing is intensely personal, after all. But look, horror fiction is my bread and butter; *context matters, so I’m here today to help parse the difference between portraying repugnant things and absorbing them into your writing.

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Re: Con-nection

Kelly White, Pippa Bailey, Myk Pilgrim, Joe McMahon, Nick Parkinson, Dion Winton-Polak

First up, I have to confess that I attended very few actual panels, no readings, and I avoided the karaoke bar like the very-literal plague. Well, here’s the Dion’s-eye view, anyway… The first day of FantasyCon was a wobbly affair, full of awkward moments and anxiety, calibrating and recalibrating as we came together for the …

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FCon-templation

Horrific Tales

I was going to focus this post on FantasyCon 2021, which I attended in Birmingham last weekend, but I found that I couldn’t engage with the event in the normal way. This is not a criticism – with Covid-19 still very much on the rampage, I’m not sure any of us felt entirely comfortable. Instead, I’m going to talk about the significance of the event to me past and present, my mental state leading up to it this year, the fears and hopes I carried, and the final actual experience of reconnection with my tribe.

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Raising my game

Raising my game

What makes somebody a professional? At the most basic level, it’s earning your stripes well enough that perfect strangers will pay you to work for them. By those broad standards I already consider myself a professional editor, but there’s more to it than that. Laurels aren’t for sitting on. It’s one thing to be approached by indie authors or hired by small-press publishers, but quite another to be recognised by industry peers and leaders in the field. To that purpose, and to boost my ongoing professional development, I have now joined the CIEP.

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We, the Remedials – a performed reading

Giant housefly. Text reads: We, the Remedials - a performed reading

Hello! We, the Remedials, welcome you to our humble hotel. We trust you will have a pleasant, comfortable and enlightening stay with us, however long it may last. If you find that you need anything, be sure and ask – that is why we are here, after all!

This is the latest of my performed readings, bringing your writing to life and hopefully helping to find you a few more readers. In this peculiar tale, our unremarkable hero finds himself out of his depth in the big city and trapped in a waking nightmare. Welcome to The Remedial. It’s been waiting for you.

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Principle, promises and values

Quill on parchment. Text reads: Principles, promises and values

Writing is a very personal business, and entrusting someone with your manuscript can be a daunting prospect. It feels appropriate therefore, to set out the principles that guide me and the values I hold personally. You may judge me by them and hold me to them.

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Le Mort Vivant, pt2 – a performed reading

Image of The Phantom of the Opera, unmasked and burning. Text reads: Le Mort Vivant pt2, by Steven Chapman, performed by Dion Winton-Polak

Welcome to the second part of this month’s performed reading: Le Mort Vivant. Fleeing the hypnotic Violet, our monstrous youth returns to the questionable safety of home. Confronted by a scene of bloody murder, he finds the net closing in on all sides. Can he protect the girl from his mother? Is the mysterious stranger really his father? Can anything be salvaged from the conflagration? This is the conclusion of Steven Chapman’s secret origin of The Phantom of the Opera in all its tragic glory. (Oh, and here’s the link to part 1 in case you missed it.)

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Le Mort Vivant, pt1 – a performed reading

Mask of The Phantom reflected in water and flame

This month’s performed reading is Le Mort Vivant, by Steven Chapman. It’s the tale of a monstrous youth. Hiding in the shadows of the Palais Garnier, a masked figure looks longingly at a world he’s forbidden to touch—until he chances upon a precocious girl at the heart of his lair, and a ghastly family secret. Yes – this is the secret origin of The Phantom of the Opera in all its tragic glory. The story is longer than usual, so I’ve taken the decision to split it in two, breaking off at an appropriate point. Fear not, pt2 will arrive next week, so you won’t have to wait long.

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The Cardiac Ordeal – a performed reading

Bloody hands, used to form the shape of a heart

This month’s performed reading is The Cardiac Ordeal, by Andrew Freudenberg. It’s a tense tale which involves the kidnapping of a toddler and the chilling lengths her dad goes to in order to try to recover her. (If this concerns you, rest assured there is no form of abuse either witnessed or intimated in the story.)

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It’s the way that we say it

Good and bad ways to communicate e.g. Accuracy, Negative, Brevity, Harsh, Clarity, Demeanour, Unhelpful, Frank, Uncritical, Emotion.

Writing is a perilous thing. Thoughts flit to and fro, speech vanishes in a half-remembered haze, but written words are here to stay. Fixed. Scrutinised long after the fact. If we choose them poorly, we can destroy our relationships, our sales and our reputations.

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Christmas Fare – a performed reading

Christmas Fare ident

This month’s performed reading is Christmas Fare, a short story by Pippa Bailey. It may seem an odd time of year to put out this kind of tale, but for our main character, it’s Christmas every day. Originally written with a ‘Hallmark Cinematic Universe’ kind of thing in mind, Pippa takes some familiar tropes and has some good gory fun with it.

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Thinking about Purpose – Parsing Judgement #1

Judgement

Parsing’ (v.) The act of analysing a sentence into its constituent parts.

Judgement’ (n.) An opinion held or conclusion reached.

I came very close to dumping the title of this blog series, but I’ve come back around to it. Forgive me getting a little meta, but I’m going to use my internal debate on the subject to help illustrate the concept and the value of Purpose for your own writing.

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Swimming Out to Sea – a performed reading

Lone figure on beach

Welcome back, one and all. I’ve had a fair few people stick up their hands to get a story recorded for this, my monthly foray into audio narration. This half-hour horror comes from the mind of the wonderful Penny Jones. It’s a quietly disturbing tale of disorientation, set at the seaside on a roasting-hot day. Swimming Out To Sea was originally featured in The Black Room Manuscripts vol. 4 from The Sinister Horror Company, but it can also be found in Suffer Little Children, Penny’s micro-collection for Black Shuck Books.

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The heart of it all

The editor's desk, organised, with reference materials to hand.

What do people look for in a copy-editor? It seems nuts to say it, but the full importance of this question didn’t really sink in until recently. Not to any kind of depth. The basic needs are obvious: (i.) to catch your mistakes before publication, and (ii.) to help improve your writing. But what makes an editor shine? We’re going to dig into that a bit today.

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