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Category Archives: ebooks

August’s free 100-word competition now open

*** PLEASE check your word count (100 words EXcluding title) and submit more than one story to give yourself a better chance of being placed. ***

 

Hello everyone. Yes, July’s competition – with the theme of ‘strangers on a train’ is now closed. The theme for August is ‘ticking’ which you can now submit and any time during until Thursday 31st August (midnight UK time).

And remember, you can send up to three stories per month (individually or at the same time). It’s worth doing because some people have missed out because of errors (usually not 100 words exactly) in the only entry they send so they are immediately disqualified. This happened again last month. <sigh>

September’s theme is ‘afraid, very afraid’ to use however you wish. You can write them whenever you like but don’t send them to me until Friday 1st September.

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Flash Fiction Friday: Morgen’s Life in the Old Dog

The first story in my 5pm Fictions collection is ‘Life in the Old Dog’. I was asked recently to read one of my short pieces (plenty of choice – there are 250 in this collection alone!) to the members of one of the local theatres, Moulton Theatre. A friend had read this recently as practice for being a voice over artist (he has a great voice) so I chose this one. I hope you like it…

Life in the Old Dog

Condoms. Why are there condoms in your handbag? You look at the outside again to make sure it’s your bag. You knew it was when you opened it and the rest of the contents are yours, but these certainly aren’t.

Your mind races for clues. The only other person to go near the bag was Albert and he’d have no use for condoms. As far as you’re aware he’s never cheated on you and anyway, he’s so short-sighted and deaf he’d never notice or hear if anyone was… what’s the phrase the youngsters use today?… ‘hitting on’ him.

You’re always so fastidious about leaving your bag unattended, ever since being cautioned at the airport when Albert took you to Paris for your fortieth wedding anniversary. Not cautioned, he’d say, warned, but it felt like they were the police, with their uniforms and polished shoes.

Today, the only time you went out was to go to the supermarket then the garage for petrol. You’d filled the trolley while Albert sat in the café then you’d filled the car with unleaded while he queued to pay. Then he’d thrown the receipt and some chocolate in your bag. The chocolate you’d picked out when you’d got home, put it to one side on top of the washing machine while he parked the car, and that’s when you’d found the condoms.

The receipt, you remember, will explain all. Petrol… chocolate… condoms. So it was Albert. You look up to the ceiling to avoid the tears you know you want to cry, but you won’t give him the satisfaction. You know he’s not bought them for you, you stopped having babies years ago, so if they’re not for you…

The threat of tears turns to welling anger, and you have your arms crossed when he walks into the kitchen from the garage.

He looks at the contents on top of the washing machine and smiles. “Great. Fancy some?”

You frown so he continues. “Chocolate? It’s Fruit & Nut, your favourite.”

“And these?” you ask, holding up the packet of condoms.

“I know,” he says. “I’ve tried giving up. I didn’t think you’d mind if I only got a pack of ten.”

“Ten?”

“I’ll make them last. I chose a different brand to normal.”

“Normal!”

“These are supposed to be better for you.”

You’re about to throw them at him when he continues. “Low tar.”

“What?”

“Cigarettes. I shouldn’t, I know.”

“These aren’t cigarettes, Albert!”

“Aren’t they?”

“No, Albert. These are condoms.”

“They are? Why did she give me condoms?”

You burst out laughing at his pained expression, like the little boy you remember from school.

Albert winks, takes your hand and leads you upstairs.

***

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2017 in ebooks, short stories, writing

 

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Another book (my 14th!) is born…. my Editing Guide

Yes, my fourteenth title is alive! To-date I have published three novels (a chick lit and two crime novellas), eight collections of short stories, and two writing exercise guides.

My latest book is my ‘Writer’s Guide to Editing Fiction’ which will be available as a paperback (via CreateSpace) and eBook (Smashwords, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk etc.) and I’m thrilled.

I’ve taken much of the feedback I’ve given my editing clients over the last nine years and put it in this book. Will this mean that you don’t need an editor? Sadly not, but whoever you use (I’d gladly help you and offer a free 1,000-word sample), will be eternally grateful (hopefully!) to receive a more refined novel.

So, more about the book… this is the blurb…

How to polish your novels and short stories – a comprehensive guide including a 170+ tips checklist.

In this book we look at (including some exercises):
– the components of your story;
– points of view;
– tenses;
– the power of three: beginnings, middles, ends
– another power of three: characters, settings, plots
– conflict and pacing
– polishing your writing: 170+ tips for making your writing shine;
– the layout of your book;
– and finally (a summary checklist)…

This book is suitable for…
– Writers of any age and experience;
– Writers of novels and short stories (predominantly – it will help scriptwriters and poets too);
– Writers looking to have their writing taken seriously!

 

 

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To free eBook or not to free eBook?

There’s a lot of contention over whether to give away our books. Many authors (and others) say no, given the amount of work that goes into them, but if you have a series of books, listing the first for free is a great way to introduce yourself to new readers so they can buy the others… assuming your book is so good that they want to read more. And that’s the crux of the matter, we all need to put up the best quality we can. This is why we need people like me (editors) to buff our work to within an inch of its life.

So, whether you agree with freebies or not, below is a site that offers 30+ every day. Take a look. I bet (one of my ebooks for free!) that there will be at least one book to tempt you.

 

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‘Northants Authors’ is on YouTube!

Hello everyone.

Northants Authors is a co-operative of authors (myself included) living in Northamptonshire with physical (and electronic) books for sale. We now have a YouTube channel and you can watch the (so far) following:

and here’s Joy…

 

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2017 in ebooks, novels, short stories, YouTube

 

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Dark Minds charity short story collection currently just 99p!

Hello everyone. I know I don’t post very often about sale books (other than when mine were free) but this is one close to my heart. I am biased as I edited ten of the stories 🙂 but it’s a super cause. Please click on the link below (NB. changing to .co.uk to your country) and support these great charities, and the wonderful Bloodhound Books!

00-dark-minds-amazon-med

 

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2017 in childrens, ebooks

 

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Book review – for readers and writers – no.172: Morgen Bailey reviews Silent as the Grave by Paul Gitsham

Today’s book review of a crime novel is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Being a writer and editor, I read and review books with both hats. If you’re a writer reading this review and found it useful, do let me know.

Paul Gitsham’s Silent as the Grave

pg-satgSynopsis: The body of Reginald Williamson had been well concealed under a bush in Middlesbury Common and the murder efficiently carried out – a single stab wound to the chest. Reggie’s dog had been killed just as efficiently. With no clues or obvious motive, the case is going nowhere. Then he (Morgen: Warren not the dog!) gets a break.

Warren’s instincts tell him that the informant is dodgy – a former police officer under investigation. But when Warren hears the incredible story he has to tell, he’s glad to have given him a chance to speak. Suddenly, a wide criminal conspiracy, involving high-level police corruption, a gangster and a trained killer, is blown wide open… (Morgen: repetition of ‘wide’!) and Warren finds that this time, it’s not just his career under threat, but his family – and his life.

This novel is available via https://www.amazon.co.uk/Silent-Grave-Warren-Jones-crime-ebook/dp/B00ULOOOIY and https://www.amazon.com/Silent-Grave-Warren-Jones-crime-ebook/dp/B00ULOOOIY etc.

Review

  • Like all good crime stories, we start with a dead body… two in fact. There are lots of threads going on but not so many that we can’t keep track as they weave throughout the story.
  • The character names are distinctive so readers shouldn’t get confused. I always recommend not having characters names with the same beginning letter (as it’s how we remember them if they’ve not been mentioned for a while) and not look similar, e.g. Tim, Tom, Bill, Will etc.
  • There is a lot to like in this novel including ‘”Whatever the crisis, boil the kettle” was based on solid, empirical evidence in Warren’s experience.’ It works for me. 🙂 Warren is, especially as a boy, an avid reader so I like him all the more.
  • Paul is great at characters especially their description (Windermere is brilliant) and with a rogue ex-boyfriend being one of them, it’s easy to feel even more sorry for the murder victim’s niece.
  • Writers should pull at their readers’ heartstrings (to use a cliché!) and having read the first two novels in this series, the mention of Warren’s father’s death pulled at mine.
  • I suspect that Warren’s choice of radio stations (BBC Radio 2 and Heart) are also Paul’s favourites, as he and I are similar ages and they’re my favourites too.
  • There are some technicalities in this novel, especially when talking about body temperatures. The worst thing to do when writing any kind of fiction is to get a fact wrong as there will always be readers who know what you are talking about and if there’s one thing they don’t believe they will loose faith that you either know what you’re writing or that you’ve done your accurate research. Paul is a teacher rather than having a police background but it all felt authentic.

And now for writers…

  • The title is a cliché but that’s fine because it’s the title. Clichés are best avoided (unless said by a character who uses them which makes them distinctive) in the narration and I spotted ‘clutching at straws’, ‘snow white’, ‘like the back of his hand’, ‘as white as a ghost’, ‘as long as your arm’, ‘grabbing at straws’, ‘bolt upright’, ‘spun on his heel’, and ‘pitch black’ (the latter in the free short story after the novel).
  • There is some switching of points of view in the same scene, e.g. ‘If she thought the question strange, she didn’t let it bother her.’ Most readers wouldn’t pick up on this but it does slip from Warren’s point of view to the woman, because we’re talking about her emotions and she may be bothered but not showing it. Everything that’s narrated has to stay with the main character’s point of view so it should have been ‘‘If she thought the question strange, it didn’t show.’ In a scene where Sheehey and Warren are talking about Warren’s father’s death, we are both the two characters’ points of view whereas we should only be in Warren’s, so be careful with your writing that you stick with your main character only unless you start a new section with the other character taking the lead. Then in chapter 26, Warren has woken up after a nap and the scene with his wife going into her point of view as well as his.
  • Ago versus before: when writing (narration) in past tense, timings change, e.g. yesterday isn’t yesterday because you’re already in the past. It’s ‘the day before’ or ‘a day earlier’. Ditto ‘ago’ e.g. ‘until he retired a few years ago’ should be ‘… a few years earlier’. Characters speak in present tense so timings are accurate for them.
  • There are very few other slips in tense with ‘the man that they believe is behind the operation’ that should have been ‘believed was behind’.
  • Whilst vs while: I’ve been picked up (in a review) for using the old-fashioned ‘whilst’ rather than ‘while’ and there are 58 ‘whilst’s in this manuscript (thank you, Mrs Kindle search) so they do become obvious after a while… whilst. 🙂
  • ‘Well’ is one of my bugbears when used as a dialogue pause. We say it but we also so ‘er’ and shouldn’t use them in our writing.
  • A lot of writers (in my experience) have said ‘started to’ (or ‘began to’) unnecessarily, e.g. ‘John started to sing.’ You only need the ‘started to’ if he’s interrupted.
  • Another issue to be careful of it when you have two characters of the same gender; make sure that all the ‘he’s and ‘she’s refer to the last character name mentioned. If there could be any doubt, it’s something that could make the reader come out of the flow of the story – it happened to me here – and you want to avoid that.
  • Something else I come across is the shaking of hands. You wouldn’t think it would be too tricky but here we have ‘Taking his cue, Warren stood up and stuck his hand out. Jordan met him, shaking firmly.’ The reader could think that Jordan’s body was shaking so it should be ‘shaking it firmly’. *which itself is a split infinitive so should be ‘stuck out his hand’.
  • Again, it’s seeing our writing from a reader’s point of view. We know what we mean by something but regardless of how good a writer you are, you always need someone else (at least one person, and ideally a professional) to look through your manuscript to tell you something they don’t ‘get’. An example here was when a character was ‘dragged into the living room by a foot’. There are three possibilities here: they were only dragged a short distance (a foot = twelve inches), someone was using their own foot to drag them, or what I assume was intended: they were dragged by one of the feet.
  • Other repetitions: ‘Pretty scrupulous / pretty much’, at least two ‘back to the present’, a few licking of lips, ‘we were able to build that link between him and the case we’d built’, and ‘to reconstruct the ancient structure’ jarred with me. Later there is ‘tall man in his early Although he’d lost the brawn of his early…’ Also slipping through the net was ‘…kill him after all these years? After all, … your father’s death. He did him a favour, after all.’ And ‘…never turned coffee down* – and sent me down… jotted a few numbers down*’, ‘could have lifted him off the floor and twisted his head off*’. It’s all too easy not to spot this kind of repetition but it becomes more obvious when reading our work aloud (in my case via my Kindle Fire’s text-to-speech function). I’d recommend everyone doing that. *split infinitives should be ‘never turned down coffee’, ‘jotted down a few numbers’, ‘twisted off his head’.
  • There weren’t many typos but I spotted: ‘It is alleged that while he one of the most successful crime lords…’, ‘What did do Reggie afterwards?’, ‘little more that hearsay’, ‘I need you to take (the) briefing’, ‘he prayed silently as (he) took…’, ‘she needed to tell to you…’.
  • Finally, this is a very personal bug bear but I really don’t like ‘long moment’ / ‘long second’ and we have both in this story. Like a reader not reading a prologue – I don’t if they’re more than two pages – it’s not the writer’s fault if there’s a phrase a reader doesn’t like so if you like those phrases then keep them in.

Conclusion

A very enjoyable read for fans of crime novels with solid characters, vivid description and realistic dialogue.

Rating: 4 out of 5

*

Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a freelance editor, online tutor, prolific blogger, 2015 Head Judge for the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction CompetitionRONE 2015 Judge.

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