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** 

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

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).

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:!/HTJohnston

To view the selection of his available e-books:

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.

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.


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 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).

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

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.