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Short Story Saturday Review 017: Fireflies by Sullivan Leigh

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the seventeenth review in this series. This week’s review is of ‘Fireflies’ by Sullivan Leigh.

All stories should have strong hooks and make the reader want to know more and Sullivan’s is no exception. We immediately have the dilemma, the character is nervous going to the house and we want to know why.

The sign of good writing is that we feel the emotion the character is feeling and as Kyla was hiding behind her mother’s legs, so was I, and then later when her parents are righting and we find out it’s a regular occurrence.

There is more description than dialogue in this piece but when the dialogue comes it’s very authentic, entertaining and spare.

A first person story is great at getting inside your character’s head and I could hear Kyla saying, “blah blah blah”. Sullivan has her tone spot on.

The dilemma continues as we go from her backstory to present day and find she has a rival for her love’s affection and I love her being labeled with a nickname (no spoilers here).

I know that Sullivan has not been writing for long but the writing is already well-crafted which phrases such as ‘crawling the walls her hands made’ and ‘the swing made the moonlight dance across the porch’.

If I had to pick at the story (which I do because this is an unbiased review), I would suggest she looks out for the tells vs shows. For example, “I was intrigued by her”, “She was gorgeous to me”, “Naturally, this delighted me to no end.” are tells, whereas “…my knees kept shaking and my tummy felt weird”, says it all and would take us quicker into the action. If you find you do the same thing where you show us what’s happening and tell us then you can most likely take out the ‘tells’. If the story still stands up without them, then you’ve done the right thing. :) I mention show vs tell on my http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/writing-101 page.

While I’m on a pick, and I hadn’t intended this as a red pen session but another of my bug-bears is repetition and this may help other writers reading this. One line reads, ‘A loud noise in the hallway startled me. I ran to the hallway.’ If you can avoid using the same word twice then do, unless it’s to emphasise the first. In this instance, Sullivan could change it to ‘A loud noise outside my door (or ‘on the landing’) startled me. I ran to the hallway.’ Because she’s just been talking outside the house I’d recommend not using ‘outside’ as it would confuse the reader as to where ‘outside’ refers to.

The mark of a great story is where you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster and this did not disappoint. A writer should make their reader turn the page, wanting to know what’s going to happen next and most importantly how it’s going to be resolved. In a romance you can presume the two main characters are going to get together and whether they do or, for whatever reason, they don’t (I’m not going to say which here) by the time you read the end you should have been entertained and this story ticked that box.

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Thank you Sullivan for inviting me to read your story.

coverSullivan is a writer from Mississippi. She lives in Amory with her partner and her son. ‘Fireflies’ is available from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk and below is the Amazon synopsis:

Kyla is moving in with a family friend, Marie, for her first semester of college. The two of them carry a special bond – they’ve known each other since Kyla was eleven. The chaos in her life was only balanced out by the safety she felt with Marie.

So moving away to college is the first shred of normalcy her life has ever really taken on.

However, her heart carries the secret that after all this time, she is still in love with Marie.

If Kyla chooses to confess her love, her life will be anything but normal.

***

** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008E88JN0

or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.

For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback, take a look at this blog’s Feedback page.

As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do, and I also review stories (and post others in their entirety) of up to 3,000 words on Short Story Saturdays. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 3,000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me posting it online in my new Red Pen Critique Sunday night posts, then do email me. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 
 

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Short Story Saturday 016: review of ‘Bewilder’ by James Eddy

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the sixteenth review in this series. This week’s review is of ‘Bewilder’ by James Eddy.

BewildersmokeI love stories that unfold as they go along, no info. dump at the beginning but just enough to intrigue us then explain as we read.

Any reader who is also a writer is going to pay extra attention to the quality of the writing and they will not be disappointed here. My favourite phrases included ‘He’d drunk in’ (rather than the more usual ‘taken in), ‘melancholy undercurrent’, ‘diamond cascade of rain and tears’ and ‘misery dripped from my face’.

James has avoided using commonplace metaphors / similes and they’re not overdone, as is the mix of past (saw) and past perfect (had found); once the reader is advised that something happened before the simple past, we get our head in the time frame and are then told of that in the simple past (rather than too many ‘had’s). The descriptions of the characters and places are detailed yet leave enough for our imaginations to fine-tune.

I’d printed out the story and taken it for a dog walk where I made comments (in red – I love red pens) and ticks where there were passages I liked. The pages (five of A4 in Arial 12, in case anyone was wondering how long the story was) are covered with ticks so that says it all.

On the down-side… this is a review after all, giving the name of the bar spoiled it for me as I then had a clue as to the ending (which I won’t give away) but I still enjoyed the story enough to write a “Wow!” at the end. :)

Thank you James for inviting me to review your story.

Bewilder is available at: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Smashwords.com (free), Diesel ebooks.com, and Kobo Books.com.

I reviewed his story Heart over Head over Heels (which is available for free from Smashwords.com) here.

Youngblood booksJames Eddy was born in Braintree, Essex in April 1980. After moving first to Colchester, Essex, the family settled in South Norfolk and James was able to enjoy the wide-open spaces and quiet of the area which fed his imagination.

Following an undistinguished University career, he began writing scripts for films and acting out the cliche of the drunken writer. He diversified by moving into prose and eventually focussed enough to write a collection of Short Stories called ‘Diamonds’ along with several other short stories a novel and novella. He released ‘Bewilder’, the first story from ‘Diamonds’ in April 2012, followed by ‘Heart over Head over Heels’ in May. James’ website is http://youngbloodbooks.webplus.net.

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If you’d like to submit your story (3,000 words) for review, or  take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with lad lit novelist Andy Holmes – the five hundred and sixty-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 (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008E88JN0

or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.

As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do, and a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me posting it online in my new Red Pen Critique Sunday night posts then do email me. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2012 in ebooks

 

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Short Story Saturday Review 015: The Outside World by Omoruyi Uwuigiaren

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the fifteenth in this series. This week’s review is of 1,546-word story The Outside World (which comes from his collection ‘The City Heroes & Other Stories from the Heart of Africa’) by children’s author Omoruyi Uwuigiaren.

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One of the first things we’re taught as a writer is to avoid clichés and this story opens with one of the classics ‘dead as a doornail’. Whilst some of the language is a little flowery for adult readers, I can imagine children finding it charming as it’s not talking down to them but with them as they read.

I’m actually a big child myself, loving anything animated, and this story would make a good short film.

The characters in this piece are animals (cats) rather than humans but it doesn’t make them any less human and they are in fact very eloquent which adds charm to the writing. The names Ruyi has chosen for them are great, with Dag, Fred and Pork amongst them.

Like all good stories we have a dilemma early on and they discuss their predicaments and possible solutions.

It’s very hard to avoid ‘telling’ in any form of writing but there are some times when the dialogue is enough. For example, when we learn by what he is saying that Pork is alarmed so we don’t also need to be told that he is.

What Ruyi does well is let us learn of the human behaviour from what the cats are saying about them and the humans’ actions (not pleasant) and that makes the piece all the more realistic.

Any reader should learn / be entertained / moved by their stories they read and I’d say this has all three. By what is said of the cruelty, yet not told in a direct fashion so as to scare younger readers, it should hopefully be impressed on them that this is not acceptable and if they care about the characters they will care about animals in real life. It’ll certainly make me listen closer when I’m walking past a group of cats when I’m out for a walk next.

Writing for children is clearly Omoruyi’s comfort zone and if the rest of his collection is anything like this story, you’ll be in for a treat.

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Thank you Omoruyi for inviting me to read your story.

Omoruyi Uwuigiaren’s writing achievements include articles, cartoons, editorials and nine books. Guardian, Vanguard newspapers, Town Crier Times, Moronic Ox Literary and Cultural Journal, the Publicist International and other literary journals have published his works.

The book which this story comes from his collection ‘The City Heroes & Other Stories from the Heart of Africa’ which is available at http://www.open-bks.com/library/moderns/the-city-heroes/author.html, and Omoruyi blogs at http://omoruyiu.blogspot.com.

***

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I review stories of up to 2,500 words on this ‘Short Story Saturdays’ feature. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) :) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books and I also have a blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Next up is my author spotlight of novelist and children’s author Barbara Ebel, then the blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with non-fiction author and White House correspondent Fred Lucas – the five hundred and forty-first 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 (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

 

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Short Story Saturday Review 014: Torn by Tracey Alley

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the fourteenth review in this series. This week’s review is of the 1,009-word short story ‘Torn’ by fantasy and thriller writer Tracey Alley, taken from her short story collection The Kaynos History Tales.

They say to start any writing with action, and although the first half of this story is slow, it is very intense with highly descriptive detail of our protagonist’s surroundings and situation. This gave it more of the feel of a chapter beginning which allows for an elaborate unwinding, but there’s no doubt that we have empathy with the character, who until the second half is nameless. Some months ago a beta reader critiqued one of my short stories (which went on to be Aprils’ Fool) and said that I hadn’t named April until half-way through the story, and therefore felt more engaged with the character once she knew her name. I agreed and brought her name in at the beginning (also to connect with the title quicker). Whether a writer should do that or not may be a matter of opinion but something I probably notice more now than I would have done and something for authors to think about.

I mentioned titles (and I’m a big fan of them), short snappy titles work well (anything short and snappy should attract the reader’s attention) and ‘Torn’ is very apt for this story.

Knowing nothing about this piece before I started reading it I admit to being a little disappointed (especially after such a long build up) when the true nature of her predicament was revealed but then I’m mainly a crime writer (and reader), and clearly have a dark side, and it felt to me like the beginning of a crime novel until I read on into the second half and realised it had a fantasy element. The character here did seem to recover very quickly, given how much pain she had been in during the first half of the story which left me wondering whether she had imagined it. We’re not given an indication of her age but she felt immature which would fit with her actions and thoughts.

The dialogue is convincing and although I’m not a fantasy expert (far from it), the writing felt realistic.

Stories should have dilemma and there’s plenty of it here. As I mentioned earlier, it felt like a chapter rather than short story and I wanted the story to continue, which is the sign of good writing. If the other stories in Tracey’s collection are of a similar vein, fantasy fans shouldn’t be disappointed.

Thank you Tracey for letting me read your story.

Tracey Alley was born and raised in QLD, Australia but caught the travel bug quite early and lived in Melbourne and Christchurch, New Zealand for a while. She considers herself a Christian, albeit a slightly esoteric, left of center one who also has a great amount of respect for Buddhist tradition and philosophy.

She’s infinitely curious about the world and her friends describe her as an intellectual butterfly as she flits from one topic to the next. She’s a pacifist, a little bit left of center and can, like most people, be very complex. She’s passionate about the things she believes in and believes firmly that you have to keep learning as you grow. So far she has two degrees and will likely do more study.

She believes she was born to be a writer and feels blessed that circumstances allow her to write full-time and still survive [although not on royalties yet :)]. She fell in love with words at a very young age and is a voracious reader, often with two or three books on the go at the same time.

One little-known but rather interesting fact about Tracey is that on the paternal side her great-grandfather owned a circus. He was a lion tamer and worked with all the big cats and her great-grandmother was a trapeze artist and of Romany Gypsy blood. On her mother’s side of the family she was born into Scottish aristocracy.

Her website is http://traceyalley.weebly.com and her novels and short story collection The Kaynos History Tales are available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

***

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I review stories of up to 2,500 words on this ‘Short Story Saturdays’ feature. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) :) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in critique, ebooks, review, short stories, writing

 

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Short Story Saturday Review 013: The Little Man Who Was Almost There by Thomas Locicero

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the thirteenth review in this series. This week’s review is of the 2,230-word story ‘The Little Man Who Was Almost There’ by Thomas Locicero. The story appears first (and therefore available in the free preview!) of his collection Under the Tree.

In the five-word first sentence we’re introduced to the protagonist immediately and ‘Clete’ is a fantastic name, and as it turns out a character with a colourful past.

Throughout the story we have ‘Chinese whispers’ where in some cases his memory lets him down, other times its embellishments and that just goes to add to the charm of the piece.

The writing itself is very descriptive, graphic in places, a very ‘educated’ read. There’s humour, I love that he’s in his eighties and his mother is still alive, and the banter between husband and wife.

Initially his wife, Greta, was my favourite character; as she was very calm and soothing, and having been married for so long knows exactly what to say to Clete, but (I have to ‘pick’ – this is a review after all), I was  disappointed with what she tells Clete the morning after the late news programme, and turns it to her benefit. I felt up to then that it was out of character, however (without wishing to give too much away), it does end up being to their mutual benefit so she redeems herself. :)

Thank you, Thomas, for inviting me to read your story.

Thomas Locicero is an award-winning short story writer, poet and essayist, as well as a playwright and monologist. His work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Boston Literary Magazine, The Long Island Quarterly, riverrun, Omnibus Arts & Literature Anthology, A&U: America’s AIDS Magazine and Beginnings, among other literary periodicals. Originally from East Islip, Long Island, Thomas resides with his wife, Lil, and their sons, Sam and Ben, in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Under the Tree is his first short story collection.

Thomas says, “From my earliest recollections of childhood, the one constant in my life has been my desire to be an author. I remember being in fourth grade at Timber Point Elementary School in East Islip and writing a poem for a girl named Jennifer Herman. While the class was watching a film, I was sneaking my way toward Jennifer’s desk to hand her the poem. Mr. Biangardi caught me and snatched the paper from my hand. The class was giddy with joyful anticipation because, as was the custom, Mr. Biangardi was going to read the ‘note’ aloud to the class, using my embarrassment as a weapon to deter future note passers. After reading the poem to himself, he said, “You wrote this?” I answered, ‘Yes, just now.’ To the dismay of my classmates, Mr. Biangardi handed the poem back to me and said, ‘It’s really good.’ After class, he encouraged me to pursue writing. As an addendum to the story, Jennifer Herman moved away the following year and I never saw her again.”

Morgen: What a shame, although there’s a story there… I wonder if she’s Googlable. :)

***

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I review stories of up to 2,500 words on this ‘Short Story Saturdays’ feature. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) :) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Next up is my spotlight of mystery, YA and children’s author Marilyn Levinson, then the blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow morning with mystery / thriller writer Helen Smith – the five hundred and thirteenth 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 sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in ebooks, review, short stories, writing

 

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Short Story Saturday Review 012: Heart over Head over Heels by James Eddy

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the twelfth review in this series. This week’s review is of ‘Heart over Head over Heels’ by James Eddy.

I’m a big fan of titles and I like this one. It’s simple but effective, as is reflected in the writing’s pace and description.

One of my favourite lines is ‘Whispers, sighs and screams sitting next to pretty sounds ripped from a battered black guitar”. I don’t know if James writes poetry but it’s certainly poetic.

As if often the case with short stories (this comes in at just over 1,500 words) the story covers just a few minutes in real time and we’re right there with her. Most of us have been to a concert and this is accurately depicted, from the ‘shrill cheer’ and surging crowd.

Rebecca is very personable and relatable, and I found Scott trying to hide his East Anglia accent endearing.

As the piece is mainly from Rebecca’s point of view, there isn’t much dialogue but where there is, it’s authentic. It’s all too tempting to accentise (sorry, I can’t help making up words) dialogue but James has resisted here by simply stating that the security guard’s reply came in a ‘distinctive cockney twang and barely a glance in her direction’.

The vulnerability of both leading characters is charming and a story works well where we can feel empathy for our protagonists.

If I was to be critical, this is a review after all, there was a bit too much of Rebecca’s reflective thoughts in comparison to action but each reader is different so that’s just my preference. Also the surnames (Drake, Blake and Cale) were a little too similar, although this is balanced by their first names: Scott, Rebecca and Louis.

Quite a few of the sentences begin ‘She’, ‘There’ or ‘Her’ but I only noticed it because I’m as guilty as anyone as starting with a pronoun so it’s something to watch out for.

The Smashwords synopsis reads:

“How exactly do you get over someone who’s everywhere? That’s what Rebecca Blake has wrestled with for five years. But not this night. This is the night she will see Scott play his songs and this is the night when her hope will be reborn.

The second Short Story in the Diamonds collection, Heart over Head over Heels is a story of love delayed and how if music is the food of love then love may also be the food of music.”

And I say, “play on”. :)

Thank you James for inviting me read and review your story.

Heart over Head over Heels is available free at Smashwords.com.

My review of James’ short story Bewilder (available at: Amazon.co.ukAmazon.comSmashwords.com, Diesel ebooks.com, and Kobo Books.com) is here.

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James Eddy was born in Braintree, Essex in April 1980. After moving first to Colchester, Essex, the family settled in South Norfolk and James was able to enjoy the wide open spaces and quiet of the area which fed his imagination. Following an undistinguished University career, he began writing scripts for films and acting out the cliche of the drunken writer. He diversified by moving into prose and eventually focussed enough to write a collection of Short Stories called ‘Diamonds’ along with several other short stories a novel and novella. He released ‘Bewilder’, the first story from ‘Diamonds’ in April 2012, followed by ‘Heart over Head over Heels’ in May. James’ website is http://youngbloodbooks.webplus.net. Founded in 2012, Youngblood Books is owned and operated by James Eddy. Youngblood Books publishes a diverse range of genres, including Comedy, Drama, Children’s Stories, Romance, Fantasy, Literary Fiction and Comics.

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If you’d like to submit your story (up to 2,500 words) for review take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with biographer and fiction author Alma Bond – the four hundred and seventy-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 (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have this feature, ‘Short Story Saturdays’, where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1,500 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) :) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 
 

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Guest post: Four Life-Changing Business Books by Sean Gray

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of influential and instrumental business books, is brought to you by businessman Sean Gray.

Four Life-Changing Business Books You Probably Haven’t Read

Many business leaders like to repeat the somewhat clichéd phrase, “You gotta read to lead.” Many leaders believe this. Those who follow the advice learn that indeed, reading can change the way they lead, the way they market, and the way they communicate. Leaders, and aspiring leaders, who read the right books discover that reading and applying an important and meaningful book can literally change your life.

Here are four of those life-changing books:

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, the foundation for the now-famous Dale Carnegie Training organization, also formed the core of much “common sense” business practice. Carnegie covers the basics of communication, relationship building and creating a circle of influence. Read as a refresher for the things most people already know and do, Carnegie’s book will open the reader’s eyes to possible changes in behavior and attitude, with the power to change the way a leader does business for the better and for the future. This quote in particular is relevant for business leaders today: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

“Never Give In! The Speeches of Winston Churchill” seems, at first glance, an unlikely business book. Churchill, one of the greatest leaders of all time, also possessed an uncanny knack with the English language. “Never Give In!” contains the best of Churchill’s leadership wisdom, such as, “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”

“The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, another book seemingly unrelated to the hard work of business, serves a specific purpose for business leaders. “The Tipping Point” illustrates why some ideas take off and become movements or trends or popular brands, and why some don’t. Gladwell explains, and provides examples, of his tipping point theory using three rules of the tipping point. These rules can be explained in simple terms as the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor and The Power of Context. Malcom Gladwell describes the tipping point like this: “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

“Influence” by Robert Cialdini fills out this list of four life-changing and business-changing books. A psychologist, Cialdini explains what causes people to do what they do and how to influence people’s actions. Using examples from psychology experiments to back up his points, Cialdini provides a course in persuasion that should be used ethically and compassionately. One tip Cialdini provides is that “a well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”

Individually, these four books can provide a business education in four disparate areas. Combined, they become a masters-level course in building relationships, leading a company or a community, understanding what works and what doesn’t and why, and persuading people to buy into ideas or buy products.

Thank you, Sean.

Sean currently runs a successful business of his own, and reading has helped him immensely. Currently he runs a business called CashForTrucks.

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 return as normal tomorrow morning with short story author Emma Cooper – the four hundred and 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 sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) :) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 

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Post-weekend Poetry 023: Review of Writing the Life Poetic by Sage Cohen by Phillip Ellis

Welcome to Post-weekend Poetry and a slight detour from the poetry in this series. This week Phillip Ellis returns with another review.

Review: Writing the Life Poetic by Sage Cohen

‘Writing the Life Poetic’ may seem yet another writing handbook, one more guide by a practising poet, one more book to read and leave behind. It is, however, more than just these. Writing the Life Poetic seeks to inspire poets to create, and this, despite its flaws, is what such books can do best. Yes, there is a place for handbooks of prosody, but Writing the Life Poetic does not concern itself with the minutiae of technique. Rather, in assuming the poet knows what a poem can start as, it seeks to open up the poet to techniques of exploring creativity, rather than counting syllables and marking stresses. The end result is a book that inspires the poet to write and live the life poetic.

One of the main reasons, and arguably the primary reason, for reading Writing the Life Poetic is to inspire poets to read and write poetry. It does so by presenting a number of brief chapters, each with their own focus. Going through these, the poet is ideally inspired to write. And the chapters, although varying in emphases and directions, focus on writing poetry, and on the life of a poet as one who writes and submits poetry. If the book contained only these texts, then it would be worth looking into as a series of prompts to consider writing, but there is more to Writing the Life Poetic than just these. There are, for example, a series of exercises that can be completed and worked upon.

The exercises tie in with their chapters, and remain relevant to the heart of the book. They are prompts, rather than assignments; they are designed to stimulate creativity and thought about what poetry is and can do. This means that Writing the Life Poetic is less of a textbook than it is a starting point for practical thought. Since being a poet involves the writing of poetry, the best way that Writing the Life Poetic can inspire poetry is to encourage active, practical steps of writing it. There is a tendency to assume that the reader can know what forms a poem takes. With one exception, a single chapter of poetic forms, there is no deeper, involved discussion on the forms a poem takes, for example the use of lines, stanzas and strophes and so forth.

Further, though it is possible to read the book without working through the exercises, the best results are gained by writing through them. Doing so allows poets to learn from Writing the Life Poetic by doing more than just reading the chapters. It enables them to develop practical skills, as well as the opportunity to reflect on the texts via their own poetic practice. This does mean that the results of the exercises can tend towards being written to order, a failing common to many workshop poems. There are chapters, however, that argue that imitation and freewriting are steps towards escaping this, the former by allowing the poet to see poetry’s possibilities, the latter by allowing significant themes and images to arise more spontaneously.

A further element, in addition to the exercises, are the poems and excerpts of poems scattered through the book. They emphasise, as does Sage elsewhere in Writing the Life Poetic, the importance of reading poetry as part of a life as a poet. As a result, the poems may not suit everyone’s taste in poetry. I found most of them of a uniform quality, with few that stood out; this does not mean the poems were either bad or poorly chosen. The poems, to me, were examples of what poems could be and do, more than examples o what the best poems can achieve. They are better yardsticks as a result, more surpassable if I may say so. This is not to say Writing the Life Poetic is flawless.

One of the chief failings involves further reading. With rare exceptions, references to books and websites are embedded in the text of the chapters, forcing the reader to hunt through the text in order to locate them. How this is a problem is that Writing the Life Poetic could easily have added a list of recommended reading and resources at the end of either chapters or the book. Doing so would help the reader and poet. Further, with the exception of URLs, only minimal details are given. The publication details, and ISBNs, of the books would be welcome and useful. Fortunately, here and there there are bulleted lists of web resources, making this aspect of Writing the Life Poetic useful.

There is a further failing, one that has greater effects on the usefulness of the book. While Writing the Life Poetic has been designed to be dipped into, the lack of an overarching sense of order or direction limits the attractiveness of reading straight through the book. Further, such an order would facilitate the brief index, making it more useful. The unorganised structure of Writing the Life Poetic makes it difficult to sense a trajectory that can apply to a beginning poetic career. It makes, that is, one’s development as a poet seem less structurable, more chaotic than it can be, and a degree of organisation is essential to a poet seeking any degree of professionalism.

Writing the Life Poetic seeks to inspire poets. It seeks to get them writing, and to get them living the life poetic; and it succeeds. Each of its chapters covers a facet of such a life, and it adds to these exercises more as stepping stones than assignments. Further, it includes poems that aspiring poets can measure against; achievable poems, not unsurpassable ones. Yet it is not flawless. It tends to hide references to further reading, and it eschews many details needed to locate them. And its lack of overarching structure to the chapters hinders any sense of order, given the need for some degree of order necessary if one is to be more professional as a poet. Writing the Life Poetic, however, succeeds in its aims, and this is, really, the least that can be asked of it. It inspires, and it continues to inspire.

Sage Cohen’s Writing the Life Poetic: an Invitation to Read & Write Poetry (Cincinnati : Writers’ Digest Books, 2009) ISBN:978-1-58297-557-3 US$18.99. Available from the usual places including Amazon.co.uk.

That was really interesting, thank you, Phillip.

Phillip A. Ellis is a freelance critic, poet 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.

Phillip is working on a collection to appear through Diminuendo Press and another collection has been accepted by Hippocampus Press, which has also published his concordance to the poetry of Donald Wandrei.

Phillip is the editor of Melaleuca and furthermore has recently had Symptoms Positive and Negative, a chapbook of poetry about his experiences with schizophrenia, published by Picaro Press.

He can be found at The Cruellest Month and Symptoms Positive and Negative.

If you’d like to submit your poem (40 lines max) for consideration for Post-weekend Poetry take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with science-fiction / fantasy author Paul Fox – the three hundred and eighty-fourth 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 (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) :) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in articles, blog, ebooks, poetry, writing

 

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Short Story Saturday 011: Sister Golden Hair Surprise and the Cruiser by Linda Palmer

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the eleventh review in this series. This week’s is of 2,560-word ‘Sister Golden Hair Surprise and the Cruiser’ by romance, paranormal erotica and young adult author Linda Palmer.

Sister Golden Hair Surprise and the Cruiser

I’m a big fan of titles and whilst this didn’t grab me it certainly intrigued me, especially with the various connotations of ‘cruiser’ (or that could be a British thing).

We’re thrown into the story with first person narrative, past tense and get an immediate sense of our protagonist. Because she talks about “big brothers” I assumed her to be female and quite young. We learn 1/4 of the way through that her name is Jilly but there are hints to her gender by touches like “Why don’t you gather some wildflowers or something?” from one of her brothers, the condescending trait working to show us his character.

Jilly’s voice is excellent as she gives us her backstory, and I like the way that Adam gets a job title, just like his father.

We have conflict (between brothers and sister) early on which is important in a short story and then it keeps coming with an injury and a stranger, and her losing her bearings.

One key element of writing that (pardon the pun) isn’t in many stories, is negatives and here we had what Jill couldn’t hear, which was a nice touch and added to her urgency.

The rapport, positive or negative, between the characters is excellent – I loved Jilly’s father’s term of endearment for her, and his tugging smile is beautiful.

There were several ‘laugh out loud’ and ‘ahh’ moments for me which again shows the writing’s strength (I would list them but they are definitive plot spoilers).

I loved the ending and it tied in nicely with something mentioned early in the story.

I spotted a cliché (cried like a baby) but coming from a teenager it’s fine to use it, in fact it enhances the emotion she’s feeling at that moment (and therefore ours as a reader).

Overall, it’s a very enjoyable piece and well-written from a perspective other than that of the writer (unless it’s a semi-autobiographical memory) and is a treat for any fan of one of my favourite films, True Lies (you’ll know where I mean when you read the story).

Linda’s story is available (for free) at: All Romance eBooks.com and The Wild Horse Press.com.

Thank you, Linda, for inviting me to read your story.

Linda Varner Palmer has been writing for as long as she can remember. In 1989, she sold her first romance to Silhouette Books, writing as Linda Varner. She wrote twenty more over the next ten years, with all being translated and sold worldwide. She was an RWA Rita finalist in 1993 and 1996. After taking a break, Linda is at her computer again, writing e-books as Linda Palmer. She is focusing on teen romances with a paranormal twist and is thrilled to announce sales to e-publishers Uncial Press, Sugar and Spice Press and Wild Horse Press. Linda’s YA novel THE CINDERELLA SWAP won the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition’s (EPIC) 2011 award in the YA category. Another YA novel, NIGHTMARE, INTERRUPTED, won the 2012 award. Visit her website: www.lvpalmer.com. My interview with Linda is scheduled for Wednesday 26th September. :)

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I review stories of up to 2,500 words on this ‘Short Story Saturdays’ feature. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) :) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with Christian teacher, non-fiction author and spotlightee Deborah McCarragher – the three hundred and sixty-first 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 (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

 
 

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Short Story Saturday Review 008: ‘A Good Hanging’ by Ian Rankin

Welcome to the new Short Story Saturday review slot and the seventh review in this new series (last week was this blog’s first anniversary so I posted a competition word search. This week’s review, partially because it’s been sitting in my reading pile for a while and Ian’s appearing at Cambridge-based WordFest’s Spring Festival   next weekend, is of ‘A Good Hanging’ by Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin.

A Good Hanging

‘A Good Hanging’ is the title story from Ian’s 12-piece 1992 collection but located mid-way (sixth) and is, like most of Ian’s stories, set in Edinburgh, featuring his most famous character, Detective Inspector John Rebus.

I’ve only been to Edinburgh once but can imagine the story’s setting (which is always a help) and of course having seen Rebus on-screen I can picture him. Although I’d usually opt for Ken Stott’s harshness rather than John Hannah sensitivity (despite being a huge fan of John) this depiction showed more Hannah than Stott which made for a more subtle read.

History oozes from the first paragraph with a re-enacting of hangings brought to modern day – during the Edinburgh Fringe.

As with many a crime story, we start with a body and apparent suicide. Rebus, assisted by Detective Sergeant Holmes, then starts interviewing ‘suspects’, in this case the victim’s co-performers and crew. Although there is tension between two of the characters, there’s no obvious motive so it is left for the reader to read on whilst debating for themselves.

We then meet the victim’s fiancée who, understandably, is shaken, and through Rebus’ interrogation of her and some of the earlier characters, we are lead to the mystery’s conclusion.

A minor character until the end, the story concludes in DS Holmes’ viewpoint and I enjoyed getting to know him better… and look forward to reading more about him.

Although my favourite line was ‘sinking into a sofa with the consistency of marshmallow’ I was impressed by an unspoken exchange between Holmes (… raised his eyebrows: someone should be with her) and Rebus (…shrugged back: she can handle it on her own).

The writing is simple and enjoyable, and I will certainly be reading the other stories, starting at the beginning with ‘Playback’ then upon a second reading of ‘A Good Hanging’ can look out for the clues lain by a skillful writer such as Ian Rankin.

Biography from Ian’s website:

Born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982, and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. His first Rebus novel was published in 1987, and the Rebus books are now translated into twenty-two languages and are bestsellers on several continents.

Ian Rankin has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He is the recipient of four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005. In 2004, Ian won America’s celebrated Edgar Award for ‘Resurrection Men’. He has also been shortlisted for the Edgar and Anthony Awards in the USA, and won Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz Prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and the Deutscher Krimipreis. Ian Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews and Edinburgh.

A contributor to BBC2′s ‘Newsnight Review’, he also presented his own TV series, ‘Ian Rankin’s Evil Thoughts’. He recently received the OBE for services to literature, opting to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner and two sons.

Ian’s website is http://www.ianrankin.net and ‘A Good Hanging & Other Stories’ is available from www.amazon.co.uk
, www.borders.co.uk, 
www.whsmith.co.uk, 
www.waterstones.co.uk, 
www.audible.co.uk (for audio download titles only)
, www.play.com and 
www.blackwells.co.uk.

If you’d like to submit your story (50 to 2,500 words) for review take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with non-fiction and religious / paranormal action-adventure thriller author Joanna Penn – the three hundred and thirty-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 (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. My eBooks are now on Amazon, and I also have a story in charity anthology Telling Tales.

I have a new forum at http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s ‘Contact me’ page or plain and simple, email me.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in ebooks, review, short stories

 

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Post-weekend Poetry 014: Phillip Ellis’ review of 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell

Welcome to Post-weekend Poetry and this week, rather than bring you a poem, freelance critic, poet, scholar and interviewee Phillip A Ellis reviews Chris Hamilton-Emery’s book ‘101 Ways to Make Poems Sell: The Salt Guide to Getting and Staying Published’.

There is a profitable business in how-to books about writing. Most of these are about the mechanics of writing, but a smaller subset deals with marketing one’s work as books or collections. Few of the latter subset deal exclusively with poetry, since many assume that you are writing prose nonfiction, or, even more narrowly, how-to books. This is what makes 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell an almost unique proposition. It is a how-to book about marketing poetry, with an emphasis upon collections, whether books or chapbooks. And it has been written by a poet and publisher, which helps make it even more authoritative. The end result is, as I hope to demonstrate, a book useful for poets wanting to take that step into seeing a collection of their work published.

There is a real need for books that concentrate on practical advice for poets at all levels of their careers. 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell fulfils that need, and it does so admirably. While it is a relatively slim book, at just under 140 pages, it is divided into four chapters, and an index. The chapters will be discussed in some detail shortly. But first, it helps to understand the central purpose of the book: it is a guide to marketing poetry, and poetry publications, so that your career as a poet can grow and develop. As a result, each chapter, and each of the 101 ways, is focussed on a specific, practical method of doing so. Since almost every chapter contains these ways, there are broad themes among them, and rough similarities.

Chapter one of 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell is the only chapter not to contain any of the ways. With the title “Making Poetry Submissions”, it covers the groundwork of preparing for a poetry book or chapbook. As a result, it concentrates upon the submission of individual poems, to magazines, as a necessary first step. And it also contains a list of 50 dos and don’ts, sound, almost aphoristic advice on getting those poems accepted by magazines and other markets. In a sense it is essential reading for novice poets, although its points are just as useful for established poets. 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell, since it is meant for the range of poets, from beginners to established poets, needs this chapter, and it leads into the following chapters as a matter of course.

Chapter Two of 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell follows on from the first chapter, as do the following chapters, by focusing on ways, as it were, of fleshing out the marketing plan that poets are encouraged to develop, in number six of those fifty dos and don’ts. The emphasis of this chapter is upon building relationships with your potential audience, and your fellow poets. While none of the ways are strictly applicable only to poetry, 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell emphasises the ways in which they aid and assist poets in their efforts, even if, in some of them, there is little that is overtly concerning poetry. In addition, there is a strong emphasis upon both new and old media, such as blogs, newsletters, and journals accepting book reviews. The end result is a chapter that emphasises the need to develop audiences by a variety of ways, not just solely through submitting to poetry journals.

Chapter three of 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell, in contrast, emphasises sorting your book, preparing it for publication. In this way it assumes that you have had a manuscript accepted, and ready for publication. The fourteen ways (making this the smallest of the four chapters) concentrate on aspects of the prepublication process. They also focus on elements of the final, published product that the author can assist the publisher with, so that there is a stronger consensus on the books (and chapbooks) and their potential for sales.  The ways covered are essential to the development of a strong sales strategy, and while they can be skimped (so to speak) by the poet, they really deserve the poet’s input as a means of getting the final product as attractive and saleworthy as is possible.

The final chapter of 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell covers selling your book. There is more to being a poet than getting books published, and doing nothing to sell them. This is because the current publishing climate requires the poets to assume most of the effort of publicity and promotion, so that there is a requirement on their part to work towards making the books a success. As has been required for most poets since time immemorial. Most of the ways covered in this chapter should be familiar from other publications about marketing books, yet it helps to have them together, and in a concentrated practical set of tips. As a result, this chapter is the longest, covering almost half of the 101 ways, and it is essential reading before you have started preparing a poetry manuscript.

This synopsis of the main points of each chapter leaves out some very important considerations about 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell. What of the tone, and the style of the book? Are both consonant with the avowed purpose of the book, and how do they aid it in its efforts? Essentially, the book is written in a fluid, conversational style that conveys a sense of the professionalism needed of a poet. As I say, it doesn’t matter how you write a poem, so long as you are a professional when it comes time to sell it. There are few overt colloquialisms, and this lends a sense of the book as an accessible and authoritative text on the subject. While the book aims at assisting the variety of poets, from newcomers to experts, the style caters for poets of all degrees of professionalism. It does not, that is, assume either too much or too little, and its tenor is perfectly suited for its individual audiences.

The mark of a good how-to book is the degree to which it sets out its aims, and in assisting us to achieve them. 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell sets out to demonstrate how we can sell books and chapbooks of our own poetry, in becoming, that is, established poets in the wider community of poets. And it does so by presenting fifty dos and don’ts, and 101 ways to sell poems, divided into four chapters of varying sizes. While the tone is fluid and conversational, it is consonant with its avowed aims, and its focus on assisting poets whose careers range from newcomers to experts. The end result is an excellent example of its genre, and an indispensible book for poets, one that should be read and annotated by every poet wanting to expand their career.

That’s brilliant, thank you Phillip.

Phillip A. Ellis is a freelance critic, poet 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.

Phillip is working on a collection to appear through Diminuendo Press and another collection has been accepted by Hippocampus Press, which has also published his concordance to the poetry of Donald Wandrei.

Phillip is the editor of Melaleuca and furthermore has recently had Symptoms Positive and Negative, a chapbook of poetry about his experiences with schizophrenia, published by Picaro Press.

He can be found at The Cruellest Month and Symptoms Positive and Negative.

If you’d like to submit your poem (40 lines max) for consideration for Post-weekend Poetry take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with historical novelist Cynthia Haggard – the three hundred and twenty-first 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 (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. And I have a new forum at http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2012 in ebooks, poetry, review, tips, writing

 

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Short Story Saturday Review 004: ‘Clouded Vision’ by Linwood Barclay

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the fourth in this series. This week’s is of long short story ‘Clouded Vision’ by Linwood Barclay.

I’d been looking forward to reading this book for a number of reasons (not in any particular order); it’s a Quick Read and I love to devour a book in one sitting (or standing… walking into town and back, in my case), it’s crime genre (my favourite) and it’s by Linwood Barclay. This is the only book of his I own but the Manageress at the Red Cross shop I volunteer at is an avid fan so it’s been near the top of my pile for a while. What better excuse than to read it for a review I’m posting just before heading to the shop. :)

As a good story should, the prologue (‘Setting the Scene’) starts with action, where we’re introduced to Eleanor (Ellie) Garfield whose fate we know by the end of these six-pages. As you would expect, the focus then switches to the family and the lengths they will go to to find their missing wife and mother. One of these routes is a ‘psychic’, Keisha Ceylon, who’s not all she’s cracked (anyone who reads this story please pardon the pun) up to be.

Other characters featured are the husband (Wendell), pregnant daughter (Melissa), the father of her child (Lester), a grown-up child himself, and Keisha’s competition, fellow psychic Winona. All are believable and well-rounded, even those only appearing for a page or more.

We ‘learn’ of the murderer’s identity about half-way through the book, the pace continuing with several more twists until the end. I did guess a couple of them, including the final one, but by then I’d become so attached to the characters that I hadn’t wanted it to end any other way (and it had me clapping!).

Although the Quick Reads series are designed to “engage new or lapsed adult readers”, and as the name would suggest, be quick to read, this story doesn’t hold back. It’s written in third person past tense, covering a few days of a could-be-based-on-real-life situation with a good mix of description and dialogue, long and short sentences keeping the narrative drive.

The book is a mere 96 pages of reasonably large print, equating to (by my very rough calculations) about 10,000 words – ideal for a lunch break or not-so-light relief. :)

Whilst we want books to be our friend, take us by the hand and lead us on a journey, some hold more tightly than others and Linwood, albeit only judged from this one story, certainly has a powerful grip.

Lindwood’s website is http://linwoodbarclay.com, which features this book ‘Clouded Vision’ on the home page. He is on Twitter, Facebook and Amazon amongst other places.

You can read more about the Quick Reads series here.

If you’d like to submit your story (50 to 2,500 words) for review take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with editor and novelist Jennifer Ciotta – the two hundred and ninety-eighth 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 (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. And I have a new forum at http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org.

 

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Short Story Saturday review 002: ‘Dreaming not Sleeping’ by Julia Kavan

Welcome to the new Short Story Saturday review slot and the second review in this series. This week’s is of 2,500-worder ‘Dreaming Not Sleeping’ by Julia Kavan, first published by Etopia Press in January 2011.

Synopsis: A woman is tempted away from the safety of her husband’s arms by a skillful night-time visitor. But they both find nothing is what it seems…

Titles have to capture the essence of the story and ‘Dreaming Not Sleeping’ is spot on.

This is a first-person story, told predominantly from the wife’s point of view, with smaller interspersed sections from the husband, and snatched glimpses of a third character – the antagonist (who ‘speaks’ in italics). Interestingly, the wife is both protagonist and antagonist (to her husband) through her consequential actions.

I’m a big fan of inanimate objects becoming characters in themselves and here we had ‘leaves whisper conspiratorially’ which added to the already-brooding atmosphere.

Stories work well where there is more than one conflict and here we have two: the wife’s with the man in (of) her dreams and with her husband, who we can’t help but feel sorry for.

As a reader, however – and there has to be a however, this is a review – there were a couple of places where I paused; where the antagonist was referred to as a ‘he’ then an ‘it’ and then within a few words as ‘he’ again, although I can see why he could be both. A key element of any writing is ‘show don’t tell’ and one instance that leapt out at me was: ‘My dreams were frantic, fevered.’ (a good show) but it is then followed by ‘I missed him’. In the context of the story we can understand why her dreams were frantic so don’t need the ‘tell’.

Hooks are so important with any story and this has plenty of them including the intriguing ‘I’ve seen to that’. It comes just before the final scene of the story and definitely made me want to read on.

I won’t give away the ending but I did like the way it came full circle – you’ll have to read it to find out how.

The writing is very immediate, the characters convincing, pace strong, with good use of language and the steamier parts definitely engaging!

The story on paper (screen) is well laid out with asterisked paragraph spacing between point of view switches. My only observation is that these days the first paragraph of each section shouldn’t strictly be indented (get any paper book and you’re likely to find it isn’t) but a lot of what I read online is indented – I guess it’s a more relaxed format or a traditional vs self-publishing difference.

A good reviewer should be totally unbiased as to the genre that they read. Although as a teenage I used to read Stephen King books the day they came out, my tastes have since mellowed to crime and humour but Julia’s short story made me think that my choices needn’t be so narrow. :)

I had said this wouldn’t turn into a critique and it probably has but we’re all here to learn so I hope it’s helped.

Thank you Julia for letting me read your story.

Born in the University city of Cambridge, England, Julia Kavan has spent most of her life living in Cambridgeshire – atmospheric and the perfect inspiration for ghost stories. She has taught creative writing classes for the last ten years, whilst writing screenplays, tackling a novel and experimenting with short stories.

A true Scorpio, her tastes definitely err towards the dark side. She devoured horror stories as a teenager, including James Herbert and Stephen King in her list of favourite authors, moving on to Clive Barker and Peter Straub. As a child she would watch anything that even vaguely looked as if it may be scary… so perhaps it is only natural that this is the area her writing tends to wander into – even if she doesn’t always intend it to! Her favourite painting is Salvator Rosa’s L’Umana Fragilita. Her music collection includes Holst, Orff, 30 Seconds to Mars and Linkin Park.

You can find more about Julia and her work via her website http://juliakavan.com, Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter, as well as reading our full interview (June 2011) and Julia’s poem ‘Empty’ posted here in January. ‘Dreaming Not Sleeping’ is available from Amazon.co.uk (currently £0.77 so presumably $0.99 on .com).

If you’d like to submit your story (50 to 2,500 words) for review take a look here.

Next is I shall be spotlighting author Adele Cosgrove Bray then the blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with novelist and poet Rose Mary Boehm – the two hundred and eighty-fourth 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 (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 February 18, 2012 in ebooks, short stories, writing

 

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How does a writer be in it to win it and what could they win?

One of the hot topics of the moment is on an author presence; does an author have to have a high online profile to be successful. Whilst it certainly won’t do any harm (is bad publicity really bad publicity?… the jury’s out on Jacqueline Howett – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ou_oOGuDBw, which lead me to watch the wonderful Will http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEslInUFEn8) it does seem to be that you need to keep in the public eye to remain in the public’s mind; like actors who go from TV or film to the theatre, and every now and then come back to the big or small screen to remind us that they’re still actually alive.

What reminded me of this was listening to a not-so-old track on my iPod by Welsh singer Jem whose first album ‘Finally Woken’ was released to wide acclaim, and rightly so, back in 2004 and then she appeared to disappear back into obscurity. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jem_%28singer%29) assures that she’s “currently working on her latest album” which, I learned was to be her third, the second clearly having passed me by in 2008. With all the technology we can consume, it should be easy to jump and up and down and say “pick me, pick me” but with so many voices straining to be heard, we may have to find new and inventive ways to be ‘picked’. As the saying goes, ‘you have to be in to win it’; and for some of us we just need to work out what it is we want to win.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2011 in poetry, recommendations, tips, writing

 

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