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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Author Spotlight no.36 – Deborah Swift

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the thirty-sixth, is of Deborah Swift.

Deborah Swift is a historical novelist and poet who spent many years travelling the UK working as a set and costume designer for the theatre and then at BBC television before settling in a small village on the edge of the English Lake District. She has many active hobbies including taiko drumming, tai chi, and tango dancing, all great antidotes to the sedentary writing life. (And yes, she has noticed her hobbies all seem to begin with a ‘T’)

She enjoys teaching creative writing and mentoring other novelists, and has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. She is a member of The Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society and the Romantic Novelists Association.

And now from the author herself:

I started life as a poet and only came to writing historical fiction in the last few years. I wrote a short piece of experimental prose about the lady’s slipper orchid, and the critique group I was working with liked it so much they suggested I should extend it. This initial impulse became chapter one of a novel (now published by Macmillan and St Martin’s Press) and since then I have had to catch up quickly with the genre of historical fiction.

I had never particularly been a historical fiction fan, and read mostly contemporary literary fiction, but I thought I had better start somewhere. I picked Philippa Gregory to begin with and was amazed at how much history seemed to be packed between the pages. I had to learn quickly how to maximise my research time by taking copious notes, by always making time for photographs and by having a handbag big enough to fit the many brochures and photocopies I collected.

The research aspect and the fact that historical fiction is often lengthier than other genres means each book takes me about eighteen months to write. I have found it impossible to carry all the information I need in my head and I carry a lot of notebooks. My system of research is to do a “general recce” of the particular time and settings, followed by a much more in depth research period after writing the first draft. What I love about historical fiction is that the characters’ tensions can often be externalised more in times when a dispute means reaching for a sword. I have a lifelong love of the theatre and film, and this gives potential for a very visible drama. Of course the joy of any novel, and something I love about literary fiction, is the chance to encounter the inner tensions of the characters too, so I hope I have managed to balance the internal and external dilemmas in a way the reader finds engaging.

My next novel The Gilded Lily will be published in 2012, and the third in 2013.

What I am reading now: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, The Courtesan’s Lover by Gabrielle Kimm and The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

You can find more about Deborah and her work via… www.deborahswift.blogspot.com, www.deborahswift.co.uk and www.royaltyfreefictionary.blogspot.com. You can buy ‘The Lady’s Slipper’ from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Reviews for Deborah’s novel have included… ‘Top Pick!’ RT Book Reviews – ‘Brilliant saga’ Romance Reviews Today – ‘Riveting narrative’ For the Love of Books – ‘Rich and haunting’ Reading the Past

Morgen: History was my worst subject at school so it was lovely to read about how you fell in love with it, thank you Deborah… and I love your cover. :)

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with non-fiction author Berney K. Dorton – the one hundred and fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can read / download my eBooks from Smashwords (Amazon to follow).

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in ebooks, interview, novels, writing

 

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Guest post: ‘Moonscape to Paradise and back?’ from Lou Allin

I’m delighted to bring you this guest blog post, today on the topic of mystery settings, by mystery author Lou Allin.

Moonscape to Paradise and back?

Canada is known for its sea-to-sea-to-sea pristine, jaw-dropping scenery, but one place has been a national joke since World War One: the moonscape around Sudbury, the Nickel Capital. At the opposite end of the country, both geographically and environmentally, is Paradise, aka Vancouver Island. They’re more alike than you’d think.

I knew nothing about Sudbury in 1977 when I jumped at a job offer at the college. Surveying the core mining operations in Coniston and Copper Cliff, I saw the blackrock as vast as Manhattan which had earned it world-class shame for hosting the training astronauts on its barren hills. Lumbering, act one, had started in the 1880s. Discovery of nickel meant that the next decades brought open-pit roasting and then fifty years of acid rain. With no trees or ground cover, soil melted off the bare land, and the rocks darkened. Clear blue lakes became too acid to sustain life. Then in 1972, the Superstack (1247 feet high) was built to scrub the air pollution. Taking their cue, the entire community, business, students, government and private citizens began a monumental re-greening extending into the twenty-first century. Thanks to a cocktail of “rye (grass) on the rocks” and twenty million hardy pine seedlings, when I left in 2006, that moonscape was green again. For its unprecedented comeback, the city received an award from the Earthsummit in Rio.

As a mystery author emissary, I did my part in the Belle Palmer series to convey the chronicle, warts and all. Every book traced the long and worthy journey, Northern Winters are Murder, Blackflies are Murder, Bush Poodles are Murder, Murder, Eh? even to the last, Memories are Murder, which involved the relocation of elk after an absence of eighty years. That Superstack was always puffing in the distance as my character drove from meteor-crater Lake Wanapitei into town. I mentioned the honeycomb of tunnels in that fortunate metal package delivered into the Cambrian Shield, tunnels which put together would make a path to Vancouver in distance. Little by little the Copper Cliff area returned to green, though it would never support trees taller than a hundred feet. Fish swam in the buffered lakes. I knew I had succeeded when readers from across Canada told me that they wanted to visit. “You make it sound so beautiful!” they said. My books even filled the shelves at the log cabin Visitor Centre.

I moved to the other end of the country to Vancouver Island. “Welcome to Paradise,” everyone said. Expecting to marvel at the temperate-rainforest wilderness, I found a country under siege.

Those who keep to the streets of Victoria and ferry across the picturesque straits don’t realize the dirty secret that is clear-cutting. Not that the island hasn’t been logged several times in most areas over the last hundred and fifty years. Now the timber companies now have found ways to transmute that scarred land to pure gold. In a recent backroom deal, they convinced the government to let them turn their cutting leases into real estate at a million an acre.

By the time islanders woke up, considerable damage was done. A few places were saved, such as the Potholes area in Sooke. However, the surfing territory around Jordan River and back into the hills may be dotted with hundreds of vacation cabins. The government squirms in the ironic position of having to buy back land from the timber companies who were to have served as stewards, not self-servers. Clayaquot Sound, once a clarion call for activism, is one again threatened with mining as well as logging. Where I live west of Victoria, hundreds of logging trucks speed by weekly, loaded with timber barely twenty years old as well as spindly pulpwood. Raw logs sail to China, hardly a value-added proposition.

Douglas firs and the holy mother cedar are among the largest trees on the planet. Blessed by rainfall, they have found the optimal growing conditions. Why can’t a tree over five feet in diameter, around when Columbus sailed, be left in threatened Avatar Grove for future generations who don’t want to visit a tree museum? Imported tourists could be a far more lucrative and moral way to conserve our precious resources. Trees have become our ivory and chainsaws our poachers.

Sadly, most people never see this destruction unless they travel inland or fly over. The entire island is a poisonous patchwork quilt. My Holly Martin mysteries, And on the Surface Die and She Felt No Pain, rely heavily on setting and reveal the devastation a few metres beyond the narrowing margins. Is squandering a heritage a lesser crime than murder?

As century farms become condos, one giant housing development threatens, from Tofino to Port Hardy to Campbell River. Where the magical island once was self-sufficient, now it’s on life support. Stop the ferries for one week, and we all would subsist on blackberries, eggs, and apples. The island used to provide 95% of its food. Now ships arrive in flotillas from South America with tasteless grapes and unripe avocados, burning diesel to pollute the air.

The island has lost its vision, or perhaps a hundred years ago it didn’t need one. Groups such as The Land Conservancy and Dogwood Initiative are trying to stem the tide and marshal public opinion. Will this evil path be reversed in time or will Vancouver Island become another moonscape, paradise lost because of those who loved it to death?

Food for thought, pardon the pun. Thank you Lou!

Born in Toronto, Lou Allin grew up in Cleveland. She received a PhD in English Renaissance Literature and spent three decades in Northern Ontario as a professor of English. With a cottage on a frozen lake as her inspiration, she started her Belle Palmer series, featuring a realtor and her German shepherd, beginning with Northern Winters Are Murder. Lou has moved to Canada’s Caribbean, Vancouver Island, with Friday the mini-poodle and Zodie and Zia the border collies, overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Her island series stars RCMP corporal Holly Martin: And on the Surface Die, She Felt No Pain and the upcoming Twilight is Not Good for Maidens. Lou’s standalones are A Little Learning is a Murderous Thing (set in Michigan) and Man Corn Murders (Utah). That Dog Won’t Hunt is designed to appeal to reluctant adult readers. Watch for Contingency Plan in the same series.

Lou’s website is www.louallin.com and email louallin@shaw.ca, and she welcomes your correspondence.

You can also read my interview with Lou, released on 25th November.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with crime novelist Wayne Zurl – the two hundred and third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (my guests love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords (Amazon to follow).

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2011 in ebooks, novels, tips, Twitter, writing

 

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Guest post: ‘Technique Is Part of a Poet’s Voice’ by poet Phillip A Ellis

Tonight’s guest blog post, an extra to the normal three a week schedule, on the topic of poetry techniques is brought to you by poet and interviewee no.55 Phillip A Ellis.

Technique Is Part of a Poet’s Voice

When you hear that every writer must, at some point, develop their own voice, you may be wondering what that means, and what it entails. There are a fair few elements to a writer’s voice, and to a poet’s voice, and I am going to talk about one of them: technique.

A poet’s technique is, at its simplest, the poet’s command of their poetry’s technical aspects. That is, all the nuts and bolts that work to make a poem a poem. Rhythm is one. The ways a metaphor is structured, but not what the metaphor says, is another. As is the degree to which the metaphor integrates with others.

A poem’s sense of musicality is another element of technique. The degree to which it aspires to the condition of music, partly through rhythm, partly through patterns of sound, is part of the element of technique.

In a sense technique is the technical elements of a poem, what can be learnt and practised, and what can more easily be mastered than can diction, or tone, or narrative distance. But knowing what is covered by technique is one aspect of the matter.

The techniques of poetry can vary from poet to poet, and from poem to poem. The best poets tend to vary their technique. So that their best poems tend to be ones where technique works in concord with the other elements. So that there is, as it were, a sense of harmony even when the poem is not harmonious.

For example, the technique used by T. S. Eliot in The Waste Land is in harmony with the sense that the poem consists of a mélange of disconnected voices. That there is chaos in the world, and that the world has lost its meaning and unity. Compare this poem with his Four Quartets and you can see shifts in the technique employed, so that the latter poems are, on the whole, more unified, helping to convey their religious worldview.

As a result, particularly when it comes time to revise your poetry, you need to develop and exercise your technique. Some poets I know argue that what a poem is saying is paramount, so that they tend to focus on that, rather than technique, and it shows in the sparsity of their voice, and a tendency towards a less-developed technicality. Others, such as myself, see the need for both elements such as voice and images, and the technical aspects to work more harmoniously. As a result, in my best poems, there is the illusion of a transparency that reveals, on analysis, a greater sense of the poem’s sense of technique.

I would like to quote some of my work, to reveal this, but I invite you to look elsewhere online. Searching for “Phillip A. Ellis” is easiest, since it is my preferred name, but you will see that I write rhyming verse, free verse, and formal unrhymed verse among others. Having this variety is part of my emphasis on technique, after all, since I want to excel in as many poetic forms as is possible.

Yet, given that technique is part of a poet’s voice, and given that it can be learnt from practice and example, it should be easy to realise that there are aspects of being a poet that make poetry a craft, something that can be learnt, as well as an art, something requiring a degree of talent. And if you can master enough technique to write passable verse, you have the start of a gift, a gift that can bring joy to friends and family.

So, if you’re thinking of becoming a poet, or becoming a better poet, look towards practising your technique. You can do so by reading poetry, and writing poetry, and it means you’ll become a better writer in the long run.

Wow. Thank you Phillip!

Phillip A. Ellis is a freelance critic and scholar, and his poetry collection, ‘The Flayed Man’, has been published by Gothic Press. Gothic Press will also edit a collection of essays on Ramsey Campbell, that he is editing with Gary William Crawford. He is working on another collection, to appear through Diminuendo Press. Another collection has been accepted by Hippocampus Press, which has also published his concordance to the poetry of Donald Wandrei. He is the editor of Australian Reader, Melaleuca and Breaking Light Poetry Magazine.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with Pete Morin – the two hundred and second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in poetry, tips, writing

 

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Guest post: Writing science-fiction by Dal Burns

I’m delighted to bring you this guest blog post, today on the topic of writing science fiction by Dal Burns.

Alien Race is my first sci-fi piece to be published. It has a rather odd story attached to it. A friend and I were having a drink together and talking about writing in general. She decided on a bet; $100 that I couldn’t write a 20,000-word story in two weeks if she were to give me the final sentence. I thought about it. 20,000 words for $100? Seemed about right for a writer, so I agreed. She gave me the last sentence; “We were going home.”

The subject matter was mine to decide upon. I went home and started to think about the words, ‘We were going home’. I spent two days staring at a blank screen on my computer. Although the word ‘home’ is powerful in any story, how was I to build a new story on that one word?

When writing, I often use incidents from my own life. I have traveled a lot and spent many years on the road, gathering stories and adventures. This story could be dragged out of one of those adventures but that didn’t seem right. I needed to get away from my life entirely and look for something beyond my experience. That meant leaving Earth. As simply as that, I had decided to write a sci-fi story.

Rather than taking the story into space and leaving it there, I thought it would be interesting to link the Earth with the story in some fashion. This would give the reader a basis for getting involved. Glancing over at my bookshelf, I saw “Lucy, The Beginnings of Mankind.” There was my hook. I had to start in the distant past and move the story into the future and off the planet. So the story had to feature a person who was rooted in the past, while living in the distant future. Thus was created Ed Davidson. This was to be a man who looked for artifacts on Earth in a future time and who found something linking the past and the future. Simple; an alien artifact turns up at a dig site, some several million years old.

Now I had a plot developing. An artifact means aliens were on earth millions of years ago. This prompts the reader to wonder why and we have them interested. Nothing too technical or fancy needed. A good, simple story of a man curious to find out more about our past, by looking outward into space.

Now I needed the plot of the story. Davidson is an off-world archaeologist seeking the unattainable. Alien artifacts. He needs a rival. Someone who will get into Ed’s way, frequently.  That turns out to be Jag Danis (a deliberately ‘jagged’ sort of name), a mine boss who doesn’t want any alien artifacts getting in the way of his mining operations on distant worlds. Between them, they scour new worlds looking for wealth and evidence of alien life. Here we have the age-old conflict between two men who are competing with each other. One is seeking wealth and power, the other seeking knowledge. They will, of course, find themselves on a collision course as their desires clash. To introduce a bit more tension, Danis never plays fair. An old plot contrivance that works off-world as well as on.

Now that the main plot was organized, the sub-text of the story needed to be found. Aliens are endlessly fascinating to sci-fi reader, so they had to be included. As we are dealing with aliens who visited Earth millions of years previously and are more advanced, I thought it simple to give them the ability to move through time. In order to stay away from current thinking about the impossibility of time travel, I had them move their consciousness through time. Not something a physicist can easily dismiss. This may also give the reader pause for thought. Could humans have a conscious soul or a consciousness that transcends the boundaries of physical laws?

So now I had all the elements necessary. Looking at the story, it really boils down to several simple themes that could be in any story. Davidson is on the classic hero’s journey. Danis is the villain, trying to stop him. On one level they are fighting each other. On another level they represent the eternal struggle of humankind. Wealth versus knowledge. Greed versus virtue.  Finally, the aliens represent the force beyond both of them, attempting to guide the course of events, without becoming the ‘deus ex machina’ we need to avoid at all costs.

As with all good stories, I wanted a solid and satisfying resolution. Allowing Davidson to return to Earth in an attempt to complete his hero’s journey, despite Danis’ best efforts to thwart him, added to the conflict and tension of the story. As with many of my writings, what I want may not be what I get. I always allow the story to unfold in its own way and refuse to be my own ‘deus ex machina’. What actually happened in Alien Race was a bit of a surprise to me but seems to be satisfactory to the readers of my story.

If one wishes to be an Asimov, it will take rather a lot more work to complete a book or a novella than I am capable of delivering. Nonetheless, I find that the universal themes used in most books are also present in science-fiction, albeit with a healthy dose of science or pseudo-science mixed in to make the theme fit into the category of science-fiction. The combination is a compelling one. It allows the reader to become involved in the age-old stories of our cultures while imagining a universe filled with amazing and generally improbable technologies. To me, this is a great mix for a reader who wishes to escape mundane reality, while still understanding the culture, background and context of the story.

Thank you Dal!

Dal is a 4th-generation entertainer first put on stage at age eight, by his father. He has been involved in TV, movies, radio, recording studios, rock band, theatre etc. He has written for radio ads, theatre programs, screenplays and radio plays (he says they were fun!) theatre plays (2 of which were produced and quite successful). Dal wrote his first story at seventeen, after a mentor suggested he enter a writing competition. He said the suggestion was made because he was rather well known in his village (In the wilds of Northumberland) as the local storyteller. After that he didn’t write again until in his thirties, when working with a theatre company.

Dal has written four books and is working on a fifth, which is an illustrated children’s book, with co-author Kari Wishingrad and illustrators Sona & Jacob. That book will be released this year with the title “The Neighbor’s Cat”. He is also working on three new books; another children’s illustrated book, a YA story about an alternate universe and a YA story about two horses. Although Dal has never visited an alternate universe, he thinks he owns Bella, a Peruvian Paso mare. Bella knows better. Dal’s websites include http://dalburnswrites.com and http://dramaworksinc.com. He can also be found on Twitter (http://twitter.com/dalburns) and Facebook (as Dal Burns).

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with Ann Pietrangelo – the two hundred and first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks at Smashwords.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2011 in ebooks, tips, writing

 

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Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast ‘red pen session’ no.8

** Please note that I no longer run red pen episodes but do offer critique (first 1,000 words free) via http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/editing-and-critique.** 

This week’s podcast was released today, Sunday 27th November, the eighth of my episodes dedicated to reading a short story or self-contained novel extract (with synopsis) and then talking about it afterwards.

I run a fortnightly critique group as well as critiquing other authors’ writing which I really enjoy so I thought I’d create podcast episodes doing this. Please remember that it’s only one person’s (my) opinion and you, and the author concerned, are welcome to disagree with my interpretation – I will never be mean for the sake of it, but hope that I’m firm but fair. I also type the critique as I’m reading the story for the first time so by listening to the episode you will have had the advantage of hearing the story in full before hearing my feedback.

Regardless of what genre you write I hope that this helps you think about the way your stories are constructed and that you have enjoyed hearing another author’s work, the copyright of which remains with them.

This episode’s piece was emailed to me by crime author Lae Monie who featured as my second Author Spotlight on 17th August and who’s ‘More Hungry Boys’ extract was red pen session number three.

Lae is a 30-something author and citizen of the world (she’s travelled a lot – I’ve moved four times and 60 miles in my entire life). Lae says “I have been a writer for … well, it feels like forever and I can’t think of anything else I would like to do. My stories reflect the terse, lurid, violent tales about crime and desperation from the point of view of the criminal. They seek to discover the heart of criminality to create compelling reading for those who enjoy crime and are interested in the humanity of even the most unlikely characters.”

To describe the story a little, ‘The Vertigo Shot’ is the story of a pair of siblings going on a rampage in their own home and killing all members of their immediate family. One of them will kill herself and her child and the other will blame the massacre on his mentally deranged sister. Lae explained “The appeal to this story was just that, the brother’s insistence of his innocence and the use of his sister’s mental problem as his scapegoat. It was a fun project to write and taught me a lot about portraying mental behaviours in the best possible and objective way.”

The extract read out was taken from the beginning of Chapter 8, dated 1990 and is in the first-person viewpoint of the brother Darian. I removed some swearing from the original content but kept some mild instances as I felt it fitting to the dialogue. I then read out my comments about the piece and concluded…

There’s a great mixture of description and dialogue and whilst starting the reader thinking that the children were horrible by their actions we soon learn where their main streaks come from but then when the grandfather turns out to be worse our sympathies lie with the children, or at least in my case, one of them. Lae’s very good at choosing unexpected words and ‘The old ferry clenches into motion…’ is a classic example of this.

Written in first person present tense it’s very immediate and very smooth as it was only when I was concentrating on the viewpoint and tense about two thirds of the way through did I remember what they were – the sign of a great story; where we’re being swept along with the action. I even did a search for words ending in ‘ed’ to make sure there were no tense slips and there were none.

It’s important in any piece of writing to include the five senses and we’ve had most of them. Sight and sound we have from description and dialogue. Taste is rarely used and unless they’re actually eating anything (which they’re not in this piece) it’s not going to be appropriate. Smell is easy to add and we could have it with the old ferry or the grass at the beginning or in Stratford. We could also have touch in a few places including these places so plenty of scope for Lae to make the piece even more atmospheric!

Thank you for listening to this ‘red pen’ session. They will now be monthly instead of fortnightly and as yet I don’t have one in for December so if you would like a short story or novel extract, ideally up to 1,000 words, considered you can email me at morgen@morgenbailey.com.

You can find more about Lae and her work via her blog, Facebook and Twitter. Thank you again for subscribing, downloading or clicking on this episode and I look forward to bringing you the next episode next Monday, two more pieces of flash fiction.

The podcast is available via iTunesGoogle’s FeedburnerPodbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe).

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2011 in novels, podcast, short stories, writing

 

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Author Spotlight no.35 – Ty Johnston

Complementing my daily blog interviews, tonight’s Author Spotlight, the thirty-fifth, is of fantasy and horror author Ty Johnston.

Ty Johnston was born in Kentucky, growing up in and around the central city of Lexington. After college he spent the next 20 years as an editor with several newspapers. All the while he was writing short stories, a handful of which sold in smaller publications. Several years ago, he was forced into a change of careers, a circumstance many have faced recently. He decided it was time to take his love of fiction writing and to make it his new, full-time career. With the patience of a loving wife, and the joy of a beagle and house rabbits running around his feet, he has managed to do what he had once thought impossible. He has become a full-time fiction writer.

Most of his novels and short stories have been in the fantasy and horror genres, though he has penned some few science fiction and literary tales. After years as a newspaper journalist, and now as a fiction author, writing has become not only his life, but his religion. To borrow a quote from author Jonathan Franzen, “I worship at the altar of literature”.

And now from the author himself:

As I’ve grown older, I have come to find travel overrated.

It’s not that I have disdain for those who are well-traveled, but I often don’t understand it. To my way of thinking, going to places where thousands or millions of people visit on a regular basis is kind of beside the point. Yes, I can understand the exaltation in personally experiencing a place, its sites and cultures. But for myself, I would not find education, enjoyment nor prestige in staring at a sight with a camera in my hand while a busload of others standing next to me are doing the same.

That being said, I do enjoy going off on adventures. I find a thrill in discovery, especially in regions remote. Sure, I’m likely treading on ground walked by others, but it is new to me.

Perhaps I prefer solitude, or small groups, over a pack of fellow travelers.

Again, I do not mean to disparage those who feel otherwise. To each their own, I say.

But as I prefer lone treks into uncharted territories, I must admit such lands are more and more difficult to find. I do not have the budget for trips to the moon or deep-sea diving. I can trek back into a mountain range or deep forest or jungle, if I wish, but I’m not as young as I used to be.

This is one reason I consider literature my religion. Through the printed or digital word, I can travel anywhere I wish whenever I wish. Literature can plant me in the middle of any era of history, or within worlds dreamed of only by the imagination. The written word is not limited by time and space.

If I wish to examine a world undreamed, I can create it myself. This is one of the reasons I write, to explore. Sometimes I merely wish to analyze a physical world, often different from our own. Other times I want to scout the inner world, that which is inside us.

Each of us has similarities, but each is also unique. Through writing, I can bound off to lands of my own, or for some little while I can plant a flag in the minds of others.

Within the bounds of the written word, I am my own infinite spirit. Nothing is beyond me. That which is locked away by my own imagination can be opened by the artistry of others.

I make no claims to be a great writer, merely one who is always in search of something new to experience, even to share. Sometimes that includes the mundane or the tawdry, even the darker passions of our existence. At other times my exploration reaches heights that are blinding to witness, that can bring shivers to the soul.

This is why I consider literature my religion, though I am not the strongest of devotees. Through writing and reading, I can discover all things, I can be all things.

Only divinity can offer as much.

You can discover more about Ty and his writing at:

http://tyjohnston.blogspot.com

http://twitter.com/#!/HTJohnston

http://www.facebook.com/htjohnston

To view the selection of his available e-books:

http://www.amazon.com/Ty-Johnston/e/B002MCBQRU

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/ty-johnston

http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/darkbow

Thank you Ty. :)

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with crime novelist Mark Billingham – the two hundredth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks at Smashwords.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2011 in ebooks, novels, writing

 

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Flash Fiction Friday 010: ‘Confession’ by Theodore P. Druch

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the tenth piece of flash fiction in this new weekly series. Tonight Theodore P. Druch returns with a 968-worder entitled ‘Confession’.

I’m dead, and I know it. If I‘m lucky I’ll be gone in half-an-hour. If not, it could take eight or nine. The agony is intense, like burning brands. The slugs had gotten me right in the gut, and unless someone comes soon, there is no help. The rest of the platoon have been driven back down the hill, leaving me and Grayson behind. He’s past worrying about anything. There’s nothing on his shoulders to worry with. He’s lying about five yards off, and I can see the pistol lying near his bloody hand. Mine had been emptied in the fighting.

I look down at my blood-soaked blouse. Every few seconds fountains of red erupt – they are smaller now.

As quickly as the battle had begun, it ended. There was a sudden quiet except for the faraway shouts of the enemy as they routed the platoon. Then more shooting, followed by more silence. I don’t think anyone will be coming back for me anytime soon, and I’m not too fond of the idea of falling into Graak hands. They’ll most likely sit around eating, watching me die and laughing about it. They’ll even do their best to keep me around as long as possible. Dandor once told me that the only thing better than sex for a Graak is the sound of human agony.

I think about Janet and the kids and what a fool I’d been. I’d had it made, but greed drove me, and I wanted to retire at a higher pension.

“Just one more mission.” I told her, “and I’ll be back for good and we can live the high life.”

What a goddamn fool.

She’d begged me over and over to quit, but it fell on my deaf ears. As long as I can remember I’d wanted to be a Trooper. Whistling through space filled my dreams, and every waking moment was spent poring over any vid I could get my hands on. When I was finally old enough, I signed up.

Training was torture, and I loved every minute of it. I’d always wanted the brilliantly toned body of a Trooper, and the thought of finally going on a mission overrode my protesting muscles.

Women had never been much of a consideration, UTO girls were a credit a dozen and that satisfied me between missions. Then I met Janet, and for the first time in my life, I forgot all about the Troopers. For the first time it occurred to me that I wasn’t getting any younger. I couldn’t be a Trooper forever, but I had nothing else to fall back on. I was a self-contained killing-machine, but there was little call for that in civilian life. What work was available could get you locked up for good.

I convinced Janet that I was good enough at my job to stay alive. She resisted at first, but eventually she gave in and we were married. Then the kids came, and the house, and the credits I was pulling down were the only way to pay for it all.

The same old story, I guess.

It got to the point that being regularly separated from them overrode the satisfactions of my job, and I began to think about quitting. What the hell did I need this for, traipsing around the galaxy killing for political reasons that meant absolutely nothing to me, when I had a beautiful wife and good kids waiting for me whenever I got home.

The fantasies of my childhood, and the excitement of my first missions, eventually settled into a regular pattern of mad battles, blood-soaked corpses, and black, empty space. I was damned good at my job, but slowly, the satisfaction turned into boredom.

I began to kick myself for opting out of the Ed program when it was offered, but now it was too late to go back, and there was nothing else I could do. I held on until we wouldn’t have to worry about anything, ever again.

If I’d had any brains, I’d have chucked it all the first time we made love. Now, there‘s nothing left but me bleeding my life away on a planet whose name I can’t pronounce, fighting people I know nothing about. What an asshole.

Pain grips me and drives all other thoughts out of my head.

I look over at Grayson’s pistol lying uselessly on the ground. There’s my salvation – if I can get to it. A quick bullet in the brain would steal the Graak’s pleasure, but I figure they won’t take long to get back here.

I try to crawl over. Blinding pain, and I pass out.

I’m not out long, and I try again. Same results. I haven’t moved an inch. The five yards are looking like five miles, and I figure that I only have five minutes.

I try again, and this time I manage to roll over and get up on my knees before I pass out. Little by little, I drag myself towards what’s left of Grayson, struggling against the pain, trying to shut it out, but it’s hopeless. I just have to work through it and try to stay awake. That seems hopeless too. Crawling towards the pistol takes place between naps.

I hear voices approaching. The Graak are returning. I don’t have far to go, and with one last effort, I work through the agony and grab the pistol. I can hear the Graak laughing loudly. I figure I have seconds.

I lie down on the ground, and somehow, manage to drag the pistol up to my head just as the Graak burst into the clearing and catch sight of me, I squeeze the trigger.

Click!

Grayson had emptied his gun too.

I asked Ted what prompted this piece and he said…

The inspiration for Confession came to me after seeing Avatar. I am a big fan of flash fiction. It is one of the finest ways I know to hone your writing skills, and to write, ala Hemingway, the perfect sentence.

And you certainly have a way. Thank you, Ted. :)

Born in Milwaukee, educated at Brandeis and later at the Timothy Leary commune in Millbrook, NY, Theodore P. Druch, Ted to his friends, spent most of his life in trivial pursuits – like making a living. After chucking it all and traveling around the world for ten years like a dandelion seed on the wind, he settled in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He is an active member of the Puerto Vallarta Writer’s Group, and conducts a weekly workshop for serious authors.

In the last two years, Ted has published four full-length non-fiction e-books, and is currently working on his first novel, a historical fantasy of 1492 called King David’s Harp. He fully expects it to be a blockbusting best-seller, filled as it is with pirates, adventurers, corrupt popes and priests, several heroes and heroines, and a search for clues to the hiding place of the harp of King David, the recovery of which might bring about the return of the Messiah.

Ted’s books are available at Amazon for the Kindle and at Smashwords for all other readers.

Footprints on a Small Planet is also available as a trade paperback through Amazon. Ted’s blog can be found at http://selfpublishedandbroke.wordpress.com and you can watch his African Odyssey trailer here.

If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here. The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with humorous romance novelist Carole Matthews – the one hundred and ninety-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (my guests love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords (Amazon to follow).

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2011 in ebooks, non-fiction, novels, short stories, writing

 

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Guest post: ‘The Viability of E-Books’ by Nadia Jones

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of eBooks, is brought to you by prolific article writer Nadia Jones.

The Viability of E-Books

I love books. I love the touch of them, the smell of them, and the way they aged as if having lives of their own. My childhood was built upon holding physical books, turning and earmarking their pages, and jotting occasional notes over the moments I loved in them.

When I first heard about the rising trend of e-book publishing, I was naturally skeptical. How could anyone sacrifice the tactile feel of a soft page? Slowly, after finally trying out various Kindles and Nooks, I began to realize some of their benefits. They weigh about the same as a paperback. The screen does look pretty similar to ink on a page. I can increase the font size if it’s too small, and I can easily search for words I want to quote or analyze.

There’s no denying that, with the rising tech trend of reader-like tablets, e-books will be on the rise for a while. But what does the rise of e-books mean for writers? While changing trends and the slow death of print may naturally scare a good many writers, I think most of us should view this shift to electronic publishing as a golden opportunity. With the rise of electronic copy publication, more and more publishing and marketing options will open up to those who dare to think outside the box and put in enough effort.

Three Types of E-Book Publishers

E-books are typically written, marketed, and distributed in three different ways. Each way has its own merits and opportunities for advancement and success although some methods are definitely more accessible to the up-and-coming author than others:

  • The Big Industry Books – If you have a book published in physical print, you would be pretty foolish not to publish it electronically as well. Whether they are released first in print or electronically varies by the book and publisher. The publisher will pay overhead costs such as paying editors, designers, author royalties, and marketing. This type of publication has the largest barrier of entry as you have to attract a publisher or agent to receive this type of publication.
  • The Self-Publishers – These e-books are usually written, self-edited, and then uploaded immediately. They have extremely low overhead costs except for the time spent writing and editing. While there are some exceptional self-published e-books out there (many of which you can find here), many of these works are published way too quickly and do not receive enough attention with proofreading or editing, and they generally sell for 99 cents.
  • In-Betweens – These e-books are a type of self-publication that usually involves contracting other professionals to help market, edit, and design your cover at your own overhead cost. It can be a considerable investment, but with the amount of time already spent writing the work, many authors find that it is worth the extra financial burden.

Which Is Right For You?

This is ultimately a question that you will have to answer personally, but I do have some tips as to which type of publication may best be suited for your tastes and expectations. Each publication method has its own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s best to base your method of publication on what you are currently doing in your career and where your reputation currently stands.

Self-Publishing Tips

I will go out on a limb and say that if you currently only exclusively do self-publishing (also known as “home publishing”), you should consider investing either your time or money into marketing, editing, and cover design. I question the mental stability of people who write .99 cent novel after .99 cent novel expecting to one day have a best seller.

That being said, I have witnessed a good number of self-published success stories but these stories do not come without a great deal of work and time invested. One of the best marketing decisions you can make as a writer is to create a blog already. Network with other blogging authors, create a Twitter account, but most of all, create useful content. While your experience as a writer may be valuable to some, your blog should offer much more, including unique writing and editing tips, author interviews, and a balanced assessment of the publication industry. This blog is a great example of a blogging author doing just that.

In-Between Tips

While it is a smart idea to contract the marketing, editing, and cover design of your written work to other professionals, it is also extremely risky to pay this overhead yourself. You have no guarantee that it will pay off, and I definitely do not recommend spending any money you don’t already have saved up.

However, I generally think this middle-of-the-road approach to publication is a great way for up-and-coming authors to make their big splash and perhaps ultimately get scouted by an agent or publisher. Particularly if you don’t have any experience in online marketing or graphic design, you will be much better off paying someone else to do that work for you rather than figuring it all out yourself. Still, you will likely have to still put in time maintaining some form of blog or promotional site.

Big Industry Tips

If you are trying to go straight to big industry publishers, you will likely need to attract the attention of a good agent. To do this, guess what, you’ll probably still have to market yourself online through a blog and social media outlets. In order to be recognized, you have to produce commendable content and put it in areas where agents and publishers will likely see it.

Thank you Nadia, especially for the compliment about my blog! I’m happy to call myself an ‘In-Betweener’ (assisted by a great editor). :)

Nadia Jones blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5@gmail.com.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with mystery author Lou Allin – the one hundred and ninety-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (my guests love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in articles, blog, ebooks, ideas, tips, writing

 

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Author Spotlight no.34 – Darrel Day

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the thirty-fourth, is of suspense novelist, singer, lyricist and short story author Darrel Day.

Darrel Day has written and published three suspense novels titled ‘Abduction, Penance’ {the sequel to Abduction}, ‘Until Death Do We Meet’, a sci-fi titled ‘Ice Changers’ and a short story series titled The Forest Has Ears. He is currently awaiting the publishing of his first “short story” series, a book with four of his short story fiction thrillers.

He is the singer / lyrics writer of over 100 songs and has produced a CD titled “SimplyD” that includes 13 of his favorite songs.

Darrel has a great passion for the outdoors and spends as much time as life allows at a lake near his home. He considers the inspiration he finds while walking along the shoreline immeasurable. He takes what he sees and transfers the scene to the written word. Life experiences have given him the ability to feel what he sees and create a novel from it. Darrel continues to write and is presently working on publishing his fifth and sixth novels.

And now from the author himself:

As a writer, I enjoy sharing my inward self with readers. I have had a passion for writing since I was a teen and made it my career at the ripe age of 40. I have been published by traditional as well as POD publishers and now enjoy self-publishing. In keeping up with technology, I have made some of my novels available for e-readers including the Nook and Kindle.

I am active in many websites for authors and try to keep my foot in the door of a few blog sites. I maintain three sites of my own.

I have learned by trial and error the good and the bad ways to try and promote my novels. By “bad” ways, I am meaning that there are many sites that simply do nothing for the novels. I also have learned that truly, promoting and sales is all about marketing. If you can’t market, you will not sell… at least not to the volume you are looking for. Marketing is not a strong point for me so I am seeking out ways to learn and places that teach the in and out of good internet marketing. I do as many signings as possible and am eager, always, to talk to and meet new people, readers and writers alike.

You can find more about Darrel and his work via…

http://darrel-day.blogspot.com

www.thingsiknowabout.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/gp/entity/-/B004VXIS85

http://dday50627.hubpages.com

http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/darrelday

http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Changers-ebook/dp/B004V519MI

and www.smashwords.com/books/view/70314.

      

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with mystery novelist William Doonan – the one hundred and ninety-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks at Smashwords.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in ebooks, interview, novels, short stories, writing

 

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Guest post: writing middle grade fiction by Glen C. Strathy

I’m delighted to bring you tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of writing middle grade fiction, by Glen C. Strathy.

The Two Most Important Things I’ve Learned About Writing Middle-Grade Fiction

When I was younger, I never could have predicted that I would one day be writing middle-grade fiction. In fact, I always imagined that my first novel would have been adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery, simply because that is what I used to read for fun.

All that changed, however, when I became a father. My daughter loves to read and be read to. She also has a hard time falling asleep. So for many years, I spent one or two hours each evening reading middle-grade fiction aloud to her. I recited all the Harry Potter books so many times that she now knows many passages by memory. I also read the His Dark Materials, and the Bartimaeus series, most of Roald Dahl’s books, and many other classics.

While I was developing a subconscious understanding of children’s fiction through continuous exposure, I was also working on my own middle-grade novel, Dancing on the Inside, and consciously working out how to make it a book that would appeal to girls my daughter’s age. So let me share with you the two most important things I’ve learned.

First, it’s important to choose the right main character for a middle-grade novel. On the one hand, kids aged 9-12 are just starting to figure out who they are, who they will become as they mature. They want heroes they can adopt as role models. So a good main character will be older than the readers, someone who does amazing things and has admirable qualities. He or she will have some special ability, whether it’s external (e.g. martial arts) or personality based (e.g. a humorous way with words).

At the same time, it’s a mistake to make the main character more than a couple of years older than the readers. Kids want to read about characters they can relate to – characters who wrestle with similar problems. A 45-year old man going through a mid-life crisis would a terrible main character for a children’s book, even if he is a superhero by night. The best main characters are pre-teens or young teens who are care about others, have some problem or insecurity common at their age, and also possess some trait or ability that makes them special.

The second thing about middle-grade fiction is that story matters. When you’re writing literary fiction for adults, you can downplay plot in favor of character, style, and inner conflict. But a solid, dramatic plot structure really engages young readers. Kids love to see their hero fight against the odds and succeed in the end. You don’t have to have a comic book villain in a black cape, but you do need an antagonist and some type of conflict. Your main character’s problems must get worse until they reach a climax, at which point he finds a way to fantastic way to solve them. A little mystery also helps readers stay engaged.

However, as long as you follow these two principles, there really are no limits to what middle-grade readers can enjoy. Almost every genre can be written for this group – historical, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, western, paranormal, contemporary, or in my own case… performing arts. It’s a great age to be, and a great age to write for.

Thank you Glen!

Glen C. Strathy started writing stories when he was 11 years old and too shy to have a life.  He eventually found a life when he started acting in community theatre and met other writers, actors, dancers, and artists.  He discovered that the best thing about performing arts (and other arts too) is that they give people more freedom to be who they want to be.  After spending time as an actor, teacher, and freelance writer, he returned to his first love, fiction and wrote Dancing on the Inside, a novel for ages 9-12.

Glen earned an M.A. in English from the University of Western Ontario, and graduated from the Artist in Community Education program at Queen’s University, Kingston. He co-authored two non-fiction books, one of which (The Coming Economic Collapse, Warner Business Books, 2006) became a New York Times Bestselling Business Book.  He belongs to the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). His website www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com provides advice to budding authors.

Glen lives with his wife, fellow writer Kaitlin Rainey, and their daughter in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. You can visit his website at www.glen-c-strathy.com. Visit him on Twitter and Facebook. Glen will be returning on December 12th for our interview. :)

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with non-fiction author Feather S. Foster – the one hundred and ninety-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in childrens, ebooks, Facebook, novels, Twitter, writing

 

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Guest post: ‘Add Zombies and Stir: Five Unique Ideas for Spicing Up Your NaNo Book’ by Rochelle Melander

Being way behind (20 days!) with NaNoWriMo, I’m especially delighted to bring you tonight’s extra guest blog post, on the topic of NaNoWriMo, by author and coach Rochelle Melander.

‘Add Zombies and Stir: Five Unique Ideas for Spicing Up Your NaNo Book’

We have nine days left to succeed at National Novel Writing Month. That’s nine days to get to the point, tie up the plot, or simply cross the word count finish line. If you’re like me, you used up your best ideas back in the first week, when this whole thing was a fresh adventure. Now you may be tired, cranky, and worried about how you will possibly survive both Thanksgiving and the end of NaNoWriMo without hurting someone. If ever you needed a Hail Mary pass, it is now. Worry not, weary writers! Here are five items you can add to your novel that will create conflict, add interesting details, and possibly help you finish writing on time!

  1. Tofurky. Most of the time, our individual food choices do not seem to matter to others. But during the holiday season, family members may fight over each other’s food preferences. Are your characters experiencing Thanksgiving right along with you? If so, throw a Tofurky-eating vegetarian character into the mix and see how the conflict unfolds. Or have a bird-eating character experience his first taste of tofurky.
  2. Space Junk. When space programs leave behind objects that no longer serve any purpose, they float around in space and, sometimes, collide with space vehicles or fall to earth. Though much of this junk is quite small (think paint chips), some of it is large enough to do damage. This past fall, a 6-ton UARS satellite fell to earth and landed in Canada. If your story needs a bit of spunk, try dropping a bit of space junk on your characters, their homes, or their favorite personal possessions.
  3. Bacteria. I recently read that scientists are breeding bacteria for the sole purpose of cleaning damaged frescoes in Spain. If bacteria can restore an old painting, imagine what else it can do. But don’t worry about the science. Dream up some wild new or nefarious uses for bacteria and add it to your book. Let your characters use the bacteria, battle it, or run from it—that should take up a few pages of action and dialogue!
  4. Virtual Reality. If you’re having difficulty finding things for your characters to do in their real, fictional world, connect them to a virtual world. What mischief might your characters concoct when they are living out their fantasies in Everquest or World of Warcraft? Of course the downside of this activity—as the writer, you will have to explore these worlds. Don’t get lost in a virtual reality and forget to finish your NaNoWriMo project!
  5. Vampires, Killer Monkeys, and Zombies. It’s an old trick but a fun one. When you cannot figure out how to rescue your characters from impending boredom, throw in a crazed creature. I’ve given you three possibilities, but there are oh so many more to choose from—ninjas, werewolves, and large human-eating insects. Let your imagination run wild—or at least let it run through your memory of old Buffy episodes—and find a villain who might add some intrigue to your plot.

There you have it: five ways to add conflict to your book. Now it is your turn: what is your failsafe plan for rescuing your NaNoWriMo project?

You had me at the title. Thank you Rochelle… I definitely need a tofurky! :)

Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach and the author of 10 books, including a new book to help fiction and nonfiction writers write fast: Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) (October 2011). Melander teaches professionals how to get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. In 2006, Rochelle founded Dream Keepers Writing Group, a program that teaches writing to at-risk tweens and teens. Visit her online at www.writenowcoach.com.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with historical novelist Anna Patrizio – the one hundred and ninety-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

 

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Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast ‘short stories’ episode 001

Today saw the first Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast ‘short stories’ episode. As listeners to the podcast will know these episodes have recently been alternate hints & tips and red pen critique sessions. Well, to add something else into the mixture every other episode hereafter will be flash fiction (less than 1,000 words) or short stories (over 1,000 words). This means that the hints & tips episodes will be once a month as will the ‘red pen’ critiques, with these short stories in between.

I’m starting off the next few weeks with the flash fiction that have appeared on this blog as ‘Flash Fiction Fridays’. Because they’re short and, at the moment, I have plenty of them, I’ll be reading out two per fortnight and started today with ‘Captain Jack’s Cave’ (at 716 words) by crime novelist Neil L Yuzuk and Marla Madison’s 511-word ‘Halloween night’.

I won’t be critiquing them but just simply reading them out and I hope you enjoy this new format. And although I enjoy creating different accents I didn’t think I’d do the first piece justice by adopting what would work well in Cornish so stuck (or tried to!) with my Buckinghamshire. I then read Marla’s story and culminated the episode with a little about both authors:

Neil L. Yuzuk was born in Brooklyn, New York. Now retired after twenty-two years, as a SPARK Substance Abuse Prevention Counselor, he wrote Beachside PD: The Reluctant Knight, after collaborating with his police officer son David on a screenplay of the same name. The book was a finalist in the Global eBook Awards in the category of suspense / thriller. The second book in the series, Beachside PD: The Gypsy Hunter is in pre-publishing, and will be available in December, 2011. He’s working on the third book in the series, entitled Beachside PD: Undercover, as well as a screenplay: Fade To Light. Another book, Zaragossa: Fruit of the Vine is also in the works. Neil and David’s website is http://www.BeachsidePD.com.

Marla Madison is a retired Federal Mediator, now working as an Arbitrator for the state of Iowa and the Federal Mediation Service. ‘She’s Not There’ is her debut suspense novel. Marla is working on a second in her home on Prairie Lake in Northwestern Wisconsin where she lives with her significant other, Terry, a beloved shelter-dog, Skygge, and Poncho, an opinionated feline from the same shelter. Marla’s website is http://marlamadison.blogspot.com.

That’s it for this week. Thank you for downloading / listening to this new short story episode. I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to bringing you another a fortnight. In the meantime, next Monday’s episode will be another red pen session.

The podcast is available via iTunesGoogle’s FeedburnerPodbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe).

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2011 in podcast, short stories, writing

 

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Guest post: ‘Do authors and musicians share similar genes?’ by Paul Hurst

Today’s guest blog post, on the topic of music vs writing, welcomes back author and musician (as you may have guessed) Paul Hurst.

Do authors and musicians share similar genes?

There has been much excellent descriptive writing about hunting predators. Jaws, Jurassic Park and the odd ‘zombie’ film for example. Even a very odd zombie film. Attending a local meeting of Society of Authors members, I realised where the writers had drawn their inspiration.

Experienced eyes followed the sandwiches as they were brought out, appraisals made and then a polite but rapid and efficient feeding frenzy reduced the grub down to a few shards of greenery left spinning on the serving trays. It was rather like watching one of those sped up time-lapse films of animals reduced down to a skeleton in seconds. I looked on with professional awe. Because, as a musician since the late 70’s, I’ve predated a fair amount of free scoff along the way and have noted the relish and enthusiasm with which my fellow musos latch on the interval largesse. It would be interesting to set up an eat-off between the two groups – perhaps a new Olympic sport. How about the 100-yard freestyle buffet?

And then of course the other comparisons came to mind. Remuneration, for one. Okay, so the elite few at the top of both professions get to wallow in splendour and luxury, whilst things are less rosy for those of us lower down the food chain. Swap the music reference for writing and see how apt these jokes are:

‘What do you call a musician without a girlfriend? Homeless’.

‘What do you call a musician in a suit? The defendant’.

‘How do you make a million pounds from folk music? Start with two million…’

Perhaps that is why both groups are eager to seize the opportunity for the free food. A conversation at a gig – ‘what’s the beer, Phil?’ Answer – ‘Free’.

So, for most of us then are chasing a passion, rather than the money – and we can use that to our advantage. There are cover bands who seek to be commercial, learning all the favourites and pumping them out to order, regardless of their own preference. But everything sounds the same, without the passion or the originality. Bands that work by constantly jumping on the current bandwagon rarely create an original sound. And if the performers lack passion, they won’t fool the audience. I’m happy watching amateurs perform Gilbert and Sullivan – even if it stretches them a bit too far – just so long as they are giving us their heart and soul in the performance.

Obviously it is vital to make sure you are delivering what the client wants. Although there are far better musicians than me, I do try and find out what the client actually wants and provide it. There are excellent musos who are so focused on the kind of music they want to play that they are impossible to use for most performances. Who pays the piper really does call the tune. Taking a folk gig because you can’t get the rock work you really want, and then giving it large on your electric guitar once on stage is not the best way to win friends and influence people. Turning up clean, tidy, sober and on time helps as well.

And, for me, that’s the trick. Find out what you want to do, then offer it to the people who really want it. In both music and writing, ability is no guide to reward (two words, Jeffery Archer) so don’t get hung up if your style does not currently mesh with a wide audience. Concentrating on reaching as many people as you can who like what you do, and don’t be tempted to sell out.

The problems come when we expect to automatically be able to do this 9 to 5, five days a week. It may be possible to achieve a full-time living at some point, but the chances of reaching this status will be greatly enhanced if we are lying to neither ourselves, nor our audience. So we’ll probably need an alternative source of income for now, to top up the shortfall. That, or a very understanding partner. Most of the regulars in our band regard the music as merely a paid hobby that keeps them in shiny new instruments, even paying for a recording studio in the garden.

Let me introduce you then to the option of Modular Economics, also sometimes called Portfolio Working. Musicians usually have no problem in admitting that they work as such only part time. They feel no shame in doing this, accepting the reality that the work they want is usually sporadic. Yes, I could earn more money by taking pub gigs, the heritage market stuff and all of the other low paid work, but I’d rather stick to the weddings, parties and corporates thank you very much. The free time can then be used for other specialised jobs that I also enjoy. Added together, it all makes sense – the different income streams not only add up to an acceptable income, but the work is all fun and there is a level of protection. If lose a hand, or am no longer able to drive for any reason, then there will still be enough money coming in.

One last point. I recently heard a call for writers to be given more protection, more help, more grants. For us poor musos, there is far less council-funded work about, even the corporate gigs quietened down for a bit. It’s all very much down to market forces now. I won’t go into the rights and wrongs of this, just note the reality. Whether we are dealing with stave or words on our manuscript, we all need to start from each end of the process and connect the two. How can we really express our passion, who will pay for that – and how much – and what kind of a plan B do we need to make this all a valid reality? And yes, free grub may well be part of the overall plan. Race you to the buffet.

Thank you Paul, I loved that, especially as I’m a big fan of buffets! Oh and the last audiobook I listened to by Jeffrey Archer (Cat o nine tales)… not great. :(

Paul Hurst has run his own companies since the mid 1980s. Small, stable ‘niche’ affairs with the absolute minimum of overheads. Two of the companies cover his work as a musician and performer since the late 70s, and as band leader since the early 80s. Working through his business The Solutions Agency Ltd, Paul provides bookkeeping, accountancy, training and consultancy services to a wide range of small companies, drawing on his experience in banking, County Court, retail, management accounting, advertising, building, civil engineering, importing, engineering and now psychology as a student with the Open University.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with sci-fi fantasy writer Sarah Baethge – the one hundred and ninety-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can read / download my eBooks from Smashwords (Amazon to follow).

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2011 in tips, writing

 

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Author Spotlight no.33 – Jean Henry Mead

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the thirty-third, is of Jean Henry Mead.

Jean Henry Mead is the author of 15 books, half of them novels. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist who served as a news, magazine and small press editor. Her Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series consists of A Village Shattered, Diary of Murder, and Murder on the Interstate. Her juvenile series, the Hamilton Kids’ mysteries, are Mystery of Spider Mountain and Ghost of Crimson Dawn. She also writes historicals; her first in the series, Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel, will be followed by No Escape: The Sweetwater Tragedy. Her books, regardless of genre, are laced with humor and light romance.

And now from the author herself:

How would you react if your publisher died and orphaned your mystery series? Panic? Tears? Or would you follow the trend and republish the books yourself? Few publishers will consider a mystery series after the third novel, so I decided to establish my own publishing company.

I’m electronically challenged, but my husband learned to upload the files for both ebooks and print editions. And, because the books were previously published, there was little editing to do. It wasn’t long before we had seven books online as well as local stores interested in stocking them.

We have an unusual publishing website at www.medallionbooks.com and plan to publish other writers’ work as well. Fortunately, I’ve served as an editor, and my husband is good at designing book covers. We’re both bibliophiles with a large home library, so our love of books keeps us motivated.

The next problem is how to promote our books. With so much competition from more than a million ebooks, and thousands more published each day; we need to find ways to make our books stand out. But how to do that? Too many blurbs on Facebook and other social media sites only turn readers away. So how do you let readers know about your books on a limited budget?

I decided to take part in virtual book tours. I was asked to join the “Mystery We Write” Holiday Tour, which will run from November 25 until December 9. Fifteen mystery writers, including award-winning Tim Hallinan and Michael Orenduff, are taking part in the tour and we’ll be collectively giving away more than 60 mystery novels from our individual sites.

My own tour schedule is up at: http://jeansblogtour.blogspot.com (as well as the other writers’ sites) and I’ll be giving away 14 ebooks, one each day of the tour to visitors who leave comments and screen names. I’ll also draw three additional names at the conclusion of the tour for print copies of my mystery novels.

The best part of blog tours is hearing from readers who stop to say hello and comment about our books. Having someone say, “My husband grabbed your book before I had a chance to read it,” really makes a writer’s day—an entire week even. So I hope you’ll have a look at my tour schedule and choose a number of the tour sites to visit. There’s a good chance you’ll win a great mystery novel (or two) and enjoy what we all have to say.

Before I close, I’d like to ask you, the readers, how publishers attract your attention and what makes you decide to buy their books? I appreciate any comments you’d like to make.

Wishing you all the best holiday season ever!

Morgen: Sadly we here in the UK have to wait ’til Christmas for our holiday but we’ll make up for it I’m sure. Thank you Jean. :)

You can find more about Jean and her work via… website is www.jeanhenrymead.com and she also has a Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Henry_Mead!

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with author of short stories, mainstream novels, and mysteries John M Daniel – the one hundred and one hundred and ninety-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can read / download my eBooks from Smashwords (Amazon to follow).

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2011 in blog, ebooks, Facebook, interview, novels, Twitter, writing

 

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Flash Fiction Friday 009: ‘Loss’ by Morgen Bailey

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the ninth piece in this weekly series. Tonight’s story is a 314-worder entitled ‘Loss’ by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.

Loss

Norman stood back and shook his head.

The girl smiled at him, eyebrows raised from behind the easel.

“Lovely my dear,” he lied, “just lovely”.

The girl giggled then resumed her serious stance.

Norman resumed his position, and dipped the sable brush into the cool water, sending swirls of black paint like tadpoles in a pool, before patting it into the skin-pink oil. He dabbed at the girl’s neck then touched the canvas lovingly with a finger as if touching her skin.

He shuddered and closed his eyes.

“You alright, Mister?” the girl asked in her broad East London accent.

Norman opened his eyes and fixed a smile which she replicated and straightened her neck, wrapping the red velvet cloak tighter around her naked frame.

She was a similar age to Evie but slightly taller, thinner and he couldn’t get the proportions right. He should have waited, found the right girl, found Evie. But he knew that would never happen, there was no coming back from death. So he had to make do.

He watched her look around the room.

“You like blondes then,” she said, monotone, neither statement nor question. Norman watched her chest rise and fall as she let out a sigh.

As he made the finishing crimson touches, she started to fidget, rotating each shoulder discreetly in turn.

“Mister, are we…?” she started then stopped as Norman nodded.

He watched impassively as she let the cloak drop to the ground, stepped out of it then dressed into her servant’s uniform. His eyes followed her as she walked towards him and the painting.

“Oh,” she said, staring at it, mouth open as if waiting for medicine. She then shrugged her shoulders, took the money he offered and left the room.

Norman added his signature, placed the brush reverently on the palette and followed her, vowing to never paint again.

I normally ask my contributors what prompted this piece but asking myself would be like interviewing myself… crazy, right. Er, yes, probably – I did that too (you can read it here).

Anyway, I attend a few writing groups and a monthly one is the Northampton Literature Group’s Writing Circle and Tuesday 4th November’s single-word prompt was ‘paint’ and given just four minutes (I know, Alan’s mean!) to write it, I came up with a shorter version of this story. For that night’s homework were then asked to write a story up to 500 words on ‘paint’ so I fleshed this out a little taking it up to 314 words, so I still have 186 to play with should I wish and I might one day.

Morgen Bailey is a writing-related blogger who hosts the weekly Bailey’s Writing Tips audio podcast, two in-person writing groups (based in Northamptonshire, England), is the author of numerous short stories, novels, articles, has dabbled with poetry but admits that she doesn’t “get it”, and is a regular Radio Litopia contributor.

She also belongs to two other local writing groups (one of which runs the annual HE Bates Short Story Competition) and when she’s not researching for her writing group, writes a bit more, is a British Red Cross volunteer and walks her dog (often while reading, writing or editing) and reads (though not as often as she’d like), oh and sometimes she writes. Everything she’s involved is detailed on her blog http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com. You can view / download her eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Thank you… er, me. :) If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with crime novelist Sheila Quigley – the one hundred and ninety-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

 

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Guest post: novel settings by Peter Murphy

I’m delighted to bring you tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of the inspiration for his debut novel, by Peter Murphy.

One afternoon in Grogan’s

My novel Lagan Love is based in Dublin and a number of scenes were set in Grogan’s of South William Street which was a favourite haunt of mine. The seeds of the book were sown there and some of the characters, and the times we had found, their way into the story. This was a typical afternoon:

By midday we would set out across the Green, though the trendy shopping crowd on Grafton Street, not far from the Dandelion Market and into the comforting corner of Grogan’s before last call.

Of all the absurdities that were drinking in Dublin there was one without parallel – the Holy Hour! I once tried to explain it to G. who stared at me in disbelieve and asked, ‘Can we not go to a Protestant Pub?’

But I had to forgive her: it made little sense to me. Jimmy Neil had explained that it began in Britain during the Great War: ‘to git the workers awaefrae the pubs and back tae the munitions factories.’ In Dublin, a two-hour closing was unthinkable so we settled for an hour and – as it was a period of abstinence – it was deemed holy.

I still marvel at the effect it had on the bar staff. At 2:20 they would announce ‘Last Call!’ and we would all order two drinks each. By law, we had ten minutes drinking up time but we never believed that this was meant to be taken literally.

From 2:30 until 2:40 we enjoyed our drinks in the calm before the storm and chatted quietly amongst ourselves or with the bar staff. But, on the unspoken command it would start: “C’mon lads and finish your drinks.” We, of course ignored them and carried on in deep conversation until they became irate and stood over us as we gulped down the remainder of our stout.

I remember one such afternoon when we had sat, like the twelve apostles with Billy Cullen among us. Billy was a failed priest, I think, the details are cloudy. He might have come from a Jesuit Seminary and was madder than the rest of us. Billy was a poet and a philosopher and wandered freely between genius and insanity. We were discussing the art of feeding the ducks in the pond in Stephen’s Green, right across the street from the Dandelion Market. As Billy watched us grapple with his logic he turned to poetry as we had literary pretensions. “Feeding the ducks is an art I declare to see that each duck gets no more than its share . . .” Then Billy announced that on the previous Saturday morning that he had decided to end it all.

“C’mon gentlemen please, finish up your drinks!” The bar staff pleaded with growing urgency.

Billy was tired of the mediocrity of the world and its inability to comprehend his genius.

“Time now gentlemen please!” The bar staff interrupted.

But Billy could not leave the stage without one more flourish so he bought a bottle of sherry and went back to his rented room in the house of a nice couple that may have been distant relatives.

“Joe, Jimmy, Shuggie, would you finish your drinks, Please!”

Billy drank his sherry and selected Flamenco music for his grand finale.

“Time now! Gentlemen! Please!’

As the music and the dance neared its climax Billy prepared himself for his moment with destiny. But he was interrupted. ’Billy, what are you doing in there? There’s plaster falling off the ceiling downstairs and it’s after ruining the carpet.’

So Billy turned away from the white light and was given to menial labour, sweeping and dusting, and by the time he had finished his moment with destiny had passed.

It was 3:05 when we were all ushered outside and we stood in the doorway searching South William Street for what we might do with the rest of our lives. No clues were to be found that day so Billy started to explain the true message of Adam and Eve but he never got to finish. At 3:30 the doors were reopened and we were all welcomed back into the Garden of Eden.

Check it out: http://groganspub.ie/index.htm or just drop in.

Peter Murphy was born in Killarney where he spent his first three years before his family was deported to Dublin, the Strumpet City. Growing up in the verdant braes of Templeogue, Peter was schooled by the De La Salle brothers in Churchtown where he played rugby for ‘The Wine and Gold’. He also played football (soccer) in secret!

After that, he graduated and studied the Humanities in Grogan’s under the guidance of Scot’s corner and the bar staff; Paddy, Tommy and Sean.

Murphy, financing his education by working summers on the buildings sites of London in such places as Cricklewood, Camden Town and Kilburn, also tramped the roads of Europe playing music and living without a care in the world. But his move to Canada changed all of that. He only came over for a while – thirty years ago.

He took a day job and played music in the bars at night until the demands of family life intervened.

Having raised his children and packed them off to University, Murphy answered the long ignored internal voice and began to write.

He has no plans to make plans for the future and is happy to let things unfold as they do anyway.

Lagan Love is his first novel. You can visit his website or blog. Connect with him at Twitter and Facebook. You can also read his author spotlight.

About Lagan Love: If you know something about passion, and desire, and giving everything to live your dreams then leave your world behind for a while. Come with Janice to Dublin, in the mid nineteen-eighties when a better future beckoned and the past was restless, whispering in the shadows for the Old Ways. Janice has grown tired of her sheltered existence in Toronto and when Aidan leads her through the veils of the Celtic Twilight, she doesn’t hesitate. In their love, Aidan, Dublin’s rising poet, sees a chance for redemption and Janice sees a chance for recognition. Sinead tells her that it is all nonsense as she keeps her head down and her eyes fixed on her own prize – a place in Ireland’s prospering future. She used to go out with Aidan, before he met Janice, so there is little she can say. And besides, she has enough to do as her parents are torn apart by the rumours of church scandals. But after a few nights in Grogan’s, where Dublin’s bohemians gather, or a day in Clonmacnoise among the ruins of Celtic Crosses, it won’t matter as the ghosts of Aidan’s mythologies take form and prey on the friends until everything is at risk. Lagan Love is a sensuous story of Love, Lust and Loss that will bring into question the cost we pay for our dreams.

Thank you Peter. :)

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with horror writer Richard Barber – the one hundred and ninety-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on November 17, 2011 in ebooks, Facebook, novels, Twitter, writing

 

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