Friday, 21 October 2016

Monster Mash 2016

Monster Mash is a yearly Halloween flash fiction writing competition hosted by Ink After Dark, a site run by three great writers: Ruth Long, Laura James, & Cara Michaels.

This year a story had to be written around one of three lines, which had to be used exactly within the piece. Here's mine, with the line highlighted.

Sacrifice to Cthulhu

She let the waves lap at her toes. In the moonless night, the dark water left darker trails running from her feet with each pull of the tide. It could have been blood. She knew it wasn’t - yet.
She edged in, letting the black fluid encircle her ankles, tugging at them as though encouraging her to come deeper. She did. 

Some might have missed the movement ahead, mistaken it for a swell of waves, but she knew better. Her breath caught as her heart rate increased, excitement sparking adrenaline, enabling her to take another step forward. The cold water brushed the inside of her thighs and she shivered. The surge of water in front of her expanded.

She moved further in, eager to see him rise, wanting to be claimed, waiting to be taken. 

The water broke apart and a round head appeared glimmering in the starlight as tentacles broke the surface around it. Two eyes blinked into life and eyed her as the body continued to rise, the scaly flesh appearing to ripple as water ran off it. She opened her mouth in a gasp of awe as his wings opened up on his back, blocking out what little light there was, engulfing her in darkness.

She felt her body move towards him as though drawn by an unknown force. She didn’t resist.
His clawed hands reached for her, slicing her flesh as they grasped it, the blood looking like water as it ran down her arms. She felt his embrace and let him pull her in. 

He lifted her above his head and carried her like a trophy, moving back out into the ocean. She felt weightless and dizzy, whether from the height or the blood loss she couldn’t be sure, all she knew was that she was flying. 

Once out in the midst of black seas of infinity he lowered her and put her out in front of him, laying her on the top of the water, the points of his claws piercing holes into her back, but she didn’t care; she felt numb.

She looked up into the star filled sky and waited for him to take her, to consume her and feed on her, but he seemed to be waiting. Then ripples broke the surface of the water all round them, turning into violent splashes. 

She jerked her head left and right to try and make out what it was, but his shadow blocked her view. Then he released her, pushing her forward towards the frantic movement like an offering, and her eyes opened wide at what was revealed in the half light: hundreds of sharp glittering white teeth descending upon her. Her throat was barely able to let out a screech before it was shredded.  

Her consciousness faded with deep sadness: her sacrifice to him meant nothing, over ridden by his offering to them. 


Thursday, 29 September 2016

Using Nor without Neither

I am here to discuss the use of ‘Nor’ without ‘Neither’.

A recent editing job brought this to my attention, and although I knew instinctively when it wasn’t right, I checked the rules to be sure. There weren’t many places to reference, so I thought I would share what I discovered to increase the circulation.

Many of us are used to using ‘Or’ without ‘Either’ - and in fact ‘Or’ has a pretty good existence on its own without ‘Either', but ‘Nor’ has to be more careful, there are some places it can’t go without ‘Neither’.

Let’s take a look.

‘Nor’ is allowed to start a sentence on its own: for example if mentioning items you don’t like to eat, you might continue the next sentence with it:

I don’t eat Indian food. I don’t eat Thai food. Nor do I eat Mexican food.

‘Nor’ can be used with other negative expressions in one sentence:

I don’t usually eat cranberries, nor do I eat blueberries.

The tide has not come up this far, nor should we expect it to.

She has never been to the theatre, nor does she want to go.

‘Nor’ can be used multiple times in a sentence when used after ‘Neither’:

The shop had neither bread nor margarine nor milk.

But on its own (without neither), it wouldn’t be right:

The shop didn’t have bread nor margarine.

The ‘didn’t’ already provides the negative for both parts, so it doesn’t need repeating.

Let’s break that down in another example:

Incorrect would be:

She didn’t know which direction she had approached from, nor which way she was going.

Imagine the sentence as two separate ones:

She didn’t know which direction she had approach from. She didn’t know which way she was going.

To omit the repeat of she didn’t know – the first negative applies to both parts of the sentence so ‘Or’ should be used. You don’t need the second negative that ‘Nor’ provides.

The same applies when you use the word ‘not,’ in the structure ‘not A or B’.

She is not interested in Princeton or Harvard.

She is not interested in Princeton nor Harvard.

She didn’t seem to be happy or joyful.

She didn’t seem to be happy nor joyful.

Another incorrect example would be:

He didn’t see the flying saucer, nor the robot that emerged from it.

When trying to break this into two sentences it shows up:

He didn’t see the flying saucer. He didn’t see the robot that emerged from it.

The repeat of ‘He didn’t’ should be omitted by ‘Or’ because the negative is implied in both parts of the sentence.

Some of the incorrect sentences might sound right, but when the second negative item is a noun (like the last example) adjective, or adverb phrase, the initial negative covers all items in the sentence.

BUT when the second part of the negative is a verb phrase - an action - can it be either ‘Or’ or ‘Nor’.

She never comes to class, nor does she listen to the teacher.
She never comes to class, or listens to the teacher.

Or in instances when the verb is not acting on the subject:

The teacher will not allow running in the halls or talking after the bell has gone.
The teacher will not allow running in the halls nor talking after the bell has gone.

The teacher is not running or talking in these examples. If it was ‘The teacher didn’t run in the halls or talk after the bell had gone’ it could only be ‘Or’ - because the ‘didn’t’ covers both parts.

And you as the writer get to choose. If you’re unsure which word to use, or if you want to avoid the problem all together, you can use ‘and not’ instead:

The teacher will not allow running in the alls and will not allow talking after the bells gone.
She will not come to class and she will not listen to the teacher.

Hopefully that helps you. Yes, I know, it’s complicated, but it’s what editors are for! ;) 

Friday, 16 September 2016

Book Release: Mostly Dark

For a couple of years now, I have debated whether I wanted to published a collection of my Flash Fiction pieces. With the swathe of flash fiction books already on the market I knew it would just be another drop of water in the ocean, but I hated the idea that my tales were just sitting on my computer on a file, or hidden here in the archives of my blog, never being read or appreciated.

And having spent a long time debating the pros and cons of self-publishing, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to find out what the process entails - the nuts and bolts of it: from physically creating a cover, to formatting the layout of each page of my book.

It has taken time, most of it spent fiddling with section breaks, style headings, and page number formatting, but it has been worth it. I am now less daunted by the prospect of going through the process - although for my novels my plan is still to find an agent and trad publish.

I also choose to self-publish through Lulu rather than Amazon for three main reasons:
1) A larger profit margin on sales;
2) Lulu distributes (for free) through to all platforms, including Amazon;
3) I hate the Amazon monopoly on books selling and publishing.

Mostly Dark is available on ebook at these places:

Amazon UK:…/…/ref=sr_1_1…
Amazon US:…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

There will be a print version available as well - in fact two: Pocket and A5 versions.
I will include the links when they are ready, but here's a look at the back cover:


"Like the phases of the moon, Mostly Dark waxes and wanes with thirty tales of darkness and light. 

An intriguing maelstrom of broken minds and broken hearts, from revenge to desire, from new found love to soulmates, herein lies a tale for everyone. 

Prepare your senses for an emotional and sometimes terrifying ride."

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Captivated - Flash Flood Journal Entry

Here I am again with my 4th entry into the yearly Flash Flood Journal. It's an international flash-fiction journal created by writers and edited by a team of volunteer editors on behalf, and in aid of National Flash Fiction Day, which took place on the 25th of June.

Every 10 minutes a new piece of Flash is put on the Flash Flood Journal for the full 24 hours of Flash Fiction day.

My entry 'Captivated' went up in the evening.

This piece of writing was inspired by the iron statues on Crosby Beach, outside Liverpool. I had written a few pieces for them, but this one was my favourite.
Sculptures and photo by Antony Gormley 1997

There are some awesome piece in a variety of genres, some worth checking out are:

Bart van Goethem - The Discovery
Calum Kerr - Z
Fiona J Mackintosh - Water like a Stone

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Human 76 has arrived!

Front cover of Human 76

“Quiet, you fool! You’re safe now!” Rough hands gripped Ghabrie. A kestrel swooped but Ghabrie could not hear its call. She could hear only Nahria’s shriek. Ghabrie strained to glimpse her little sister through the mass of rebellion warriors and Prometheans. The two sides were withdrawing, both claiming their spoils and retreating. Ghabrie thrashed: kicking, biting, struggling against strong arms that restrained her. “Nahria, I’ll come for you!” The butt of a rifle thumped the side of her head as her words still echoed across the barren landscape. Ghabrie slipped into an oblivion brought by the hands of her liberators.

'Fragments of a fractured world: a post-apocalyptic anthology from a group of writers inspired by a picture and a world...'

This incredible anthology was first conceived by Lisa Shambrook and her family, along with her daughter Bekah, who created this wonderful cover (and stars on it).

The origins of how it came about can be found on Lisa's blog. Suffice to say that a skeleton of a tale was created and offered to a group of writers who were inspired by photos Lisa shared of her family in post apocalyptic cosplay. From this Ghabrie was born, as was a collaboration of authors.

Michael Wombat came on board and helped Lisa pull it together, not only in providing a couple of fabulous tales, but by doing incredible work on the formatting of the ebook and print version - and creating a map of the world all the tales are set in - and identifying where each tale takes place.

Being a writer who either writes really short stories (flash fiction) or really long stories (novels), I couldn't come up with anything to match the specification and instead offered my services as an editor, not only getting a chance to read all the stories before everyone else, but also the opportunity to work with some wonderful writers and help them hone their tales. I particularly enjoyed the interaction in our own little private group, where we encouraged and supported one another, as well as discussed how further to interlink the tales - a special feature of this anthology, one which makes it very unique.

I was also privileged to be part of a promotional interview over on Christina Pryor's blog, which goes more in-depth about how it came about, and my role as an editor.

The books itself is available in ebook format (free for an introductory period) and in a glorious print format which is a thing of beauty. The proceeds from which will be going to a charity Water is Life, which the group thought rather appropriate with the story being set post apocalyptic and non toxic water being scarce!

If you want to read more about the book and read some snippets from the tales, here are a few links to the authors sites:

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Book Spine Poetry

A friend of mine shared a Book Spine Poetry picture on Facebook and I was hooked on the idea. I then also saw there was a stream of them under the same hashtag: #BookSpinePoetry and had to create my own.

Mine reflect the quantities of Horror I have on my shelves, and went very dark: 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Visual Dare - Inflated

I couldn't miss the new Visual Dare photo prompt, not when the story popped right into my head (pun intended ;) ).


Inflated Ego 

He had a big head and he knew it. Arrogance dripped from him. All dressed up in his Armani suit, thinking it would impress everyone – knowing it would impress some. Wafting into the conference room where he wasn’t meant to be, catching everyone’s attention in the middle of her presentation. Lucy wanted to scream, but sitting in the tightly packed train it wouldn’t be a good idea. She clutched her handbag tighter and glared out of the window. She imagined her head enlarging with the pent up anger, like a balloon on the verge of bursting. Then she pictured his head like a balloon and popping it with a big, shiny needle. A smile crept into the corners of her mouth. Yes, his big fat head like a wobbly balloon, just begging to be burst. She suppressed a giggle, and the grip on her handbag loosened.