Treading water

Treading water - waters are deep and getting higher. Careful now...

If you’ve been following my business journey, you’ll know that I’ve gone from hobbyist to full time freelance editor through some tricky times. I kept my chin up and paddled – quietly confident and determined. Neither my skill nor my will has diminished, but savage waves have left my financial lifejacket somewhat deflated since I …

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Do, or do not

Yoda quote - Do, or do not

The first and really only thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. I loved books—loved the language that swept across the page, the worlds authors took me to and the revelations they unfurled. If I *had to dedicate my life to a single vocation, then this was it. I was …

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(Net)working hard

You can be a smashing writer, smoothly running your business from the comforts of your home, but if you lack connections it’s damned hard to make a success of it. Fear not! Opportunities to meet people in the industry abound if you have the courage and the will to push yourself forward. We’re coming into …

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Killing Hitler is Easy – a performed reading

Killing Hilter is Easy - a performed reading

‘Kareem’s heart burned at being outplayed, at so many people being turned against him so easily. He reached the road on which the temple stood, and stopped. “Let me guess, they revived nationalist Odinism,” he said.’ With the advent of time-travel, history itself can be reshaped to fit our highest ideals. There are endless worlds …

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Walking the tightrope

Walking the tightrope

There is a certain precarious feeling that will be familiar to any of you out there who are part of the gig economy. It doesn’t matter whether you’re building up your own freelance business (like yours truly) or if you’re chained to a corporation on a zero-hours contract—you have no surety of income, and that’s …

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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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Kabaret und Gläs – a performed reading

Kabaret und Gläs, by James Bennett - a performed reading

‘And now, meine damen und herren, prepare yourselves! Here at the end of this Periclean Age, feast your eyes on our main attraction!’

Berlin 1936. The Weimar Republic is crumbling. Darkness is on the rise. In the fading decadence of Club Zauber, the mysterious Von Hart puts on quite a show.

Through the smoke and the spotlights, will his assistant Milosh see the final curtain fall?

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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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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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Principles, 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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