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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Reinvention (Finding Me, part 1)

Student party

I’m happier now than I have even been – personally, socially, and professionally. If that sounds like a boast, I beg forgiveness, but when I look back along my footsteps, it feels nothing short of miraculous. I’ve been through bad times and mad times. These days, life feels pretty sweet. The secret? It came down to finally finding ‘me’.

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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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Breaking though (Cracking Isolation, part 3)

A helping hand

Welcome back all, and thanks for bearing with me. In part 1, I spoke of my childhood experience of loneliness and some of the ways in which I began to break free. Part 2 had me thinking about the different behaviours I’ve seen in other people that revealed their own isolation, either overtly or covertly. As I said at the time, I’m not a qualified expert on the matter, so please keep that caveat in mind as I now consider what we might actually do about it in this, the final part of the series.

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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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Spotting the signs (Cracking Isolation, part 2)

Statue of a fairy, desperately clutching on to a windblown dandelion, almost carried away by it.

It doesn’t take a pandemic to keep an introvert or an agoraphobe locked away. We like small, controllable environments. Plenty of people have found themselves isolated by virtue of their career, whilst others are minimising human contact out of a sense of social responsibility. Isolation is not always a bad thing. However when isolation is combined with feelings of loneliness and helplessness, it can feel like the cruellest affliction.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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