Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolutions for 2013

A few days ago, I found myself thinking about New Year's Resolutions. More specifically, I didn't know what to do for mine. I make one every year, usually failing early on in the year, but never really know what to do. It's a force of habit making one, with the special psychological effect of it seeming significant, even when it's not.

So, I Googled it.

As it turns out, there are common New Year's Resolutions - lose weight, give up smoking, travel, etc. - and the one big thing that lets people down? Specificity. I wrote about this on Tumblr, but the gist of it is this: if we're not specific about our Resolutions (instead of lose weight, lose a pound a week, for example) then we're much more likely to fail.

With that in mind, I thought about last year's New Year's Resolution, for 2012. I wanted to write every day. In fairness, this went quite well for some time, until I became too damn exhausted to think about what to write, and I gave up on journalling my days. That's two things I could have done but didn't, and as a result: failure.

That doesn't mean my Resolution was too ambitious. Far from it. I just didn't have my head wrapped around it properly. So for 2013, I plan on writing every single day, without fail, but with some specific help. I have a list on my wall on a sheet of yellow paper, right in my line of vision at all times, of seven things I can write, if I can't think of anything. That's seven categories, mind you, not seven items. In order, they are:

  1. A blog post,
  2. A poem,
  3. A flash story,
  4. 500 words of a novella,
  5. 500 words of an article,
  6. A video script, and
  7. 500 words of a non-fiction book.
Going by my schedule, the first three are to be posted every week - on Monday, Wednesday and Friday respectively - and everything else is an added bonus. I have more detail per point on the poster, but the main thing is that there are options available to me.

Click the appropriate link:
To make the articles easier to write, I haven't left myself without some help. In a green envelope on my desk, right underneath the poster, there are assignment cards (on coloured paper, don't you know). Each assignment is a word or phrase, with space to plan (roughly) around that word. When the article(s) per assignment are written, the assignment then goes into the red envelope on my desk. Why? Think of it like traffic lights: green to go, red to stop.

So far, I have 40 cards in the envelope, but I have a whole list of topics I still have to put onto card to add in. What this boils down to is more than one assignment per week, if I so chose to write articles all the time, by the time I actually put everything onto cards. All of these assignments, however, are based on one thing: writing. I have ideas for other areas of interest that aren't in the envelope, because I want to be able to write them without chance being involved.

Yes, chance. I won't know until I take out an assignment what it will be. I have five different colours of paper in the envelope, so currently eight assignments per colour. That's already more than enough for me to forget what's written on what colour paper. I can't choose at all. I did that so I wouldn't get caught up thinking I have to write an article about something, even if I didn't especially want to.

Not all of these articles will make it online, of course. Being split as they are into subjects, I could easily choose to make the topics parts of a book. This enables me to keep focused, and should encourage me to keep writing from the green envelope every day I find myself stuck for something to write about.

Writer's Block, you can consider yourself vanquished.

So, there it is, my New Year's Resolution, and how I plan to kick it's ass. 2013 is going to be a busy year, that's for sure, but I think my Resolution is definitely manageable.

What about you? What are you doing for New Year's?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Without Time

I had great intentions to set myself up with a running schedule. I mentioned that, last time, I would like to post a Friday Flash story, and a poem on Wednesdays, and a blog on Mondays. While I did manage to get the poem posted onto YouTube - which was a new and fun experience for me - I didn't get to write the flash story.

This was, by and large, because I didn't actually have the time when everything else was taken into consideration. I imagination I'll have a similiar problem again this Friday, though I don't have an entire Comedy Journal to do for college. I just find that when I don't have the idea already in my head, coming up with the whole flash story on the day is a bit...tiring. Attempting to write the whole story from scratch within an hour, then, is nearly impossible. I had started writing one, and one I would have enjoyed if I had gotten it down in my head properly, but I started off wrong and it only got worse.

Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll get to write a story this week. That would be nice, if it can be done. We'll see, sure.

In the meantime, I can at least do the work I need to that would keep everything else in check. By that, I mean get another poem up on YouTube. I might write a new one, just for that, or work from a backlist of poems I have that I'm happy with. I'll have to see how much time I actually have to do that.

As it is, I had wanted to do a video for Project For Awesome (P4A) this year, but didn't get a chance. With the  full time hours I currently have in work and all the business of Christmas to deal with, getting to do much else is difficult (especially when I'm also doing the last bit of college work that needs doing before Christmas!).

I'm hoping this isn't the way things will always be. Actually, I know it's not. When I'm only doing the one thing - working or college - I can manage fine. Right now, I'm attempting the full time hours and the college work that needs to be done. So, I'm without the extra time I need to do everything else I want to do, and still talk to my family.

Anyway, this has just been my long winded explanation as to why (a) I didn't have a flash story up on Friday and (b) why I didn't get to make a P4A video. With a couple of days off ahead of me, maybe I'll get to sort out a few of the things that have been on my mind lately. I'll be a busy boy, that's for sure!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Working Through Christmas

As of last Friday, I've been on my Christmas holidays from college. In previous years, this has meant a month off, usually getting to relax, watch too many movies and a whole season of a TV show, or something to that effect. This year, I'm the most available part-timer in the bookshop, so I've been given a lot of hours. There are some pros and cons to this. Obvious pros include keeping myself in a rhythm and not having to re-adjust my sleep pattern come January, and actually having money after buying Christmas presents.

The cons include losing any chance to have a "lie in", and not being able to do other work that might appeal to me at this time of the year.

I don't think I can really complain. I can grumble, and I will, because it won't feel like Christmas is coming for a very long time, but all in all I'm happy to have a lot of hours. Truth be told, it'll be better for me than if I were just staying at home 4-5 days of the week for a month. I remember what that was like in the summer months. By and large, the productivity levels dropped to a standstill after a week or so. Now, I'll value all the time I have off.

I had wanted to use that time in specific ways, but there have been some delays with my teaching placement material. I'm hoping that can all be resolved shortly, so I don't have to worry and I can just get on with the extra curricular work I want to do.

Part of that includes writing the sequel to Balor Reborn, because it's been a long time coming. However, I can make no guarantees on that front. It's likely it'll take a longer period of time to produce the finished book than it took me to write Balor Reborn, because I had a lot more time to work with in July. Not to worry. It's on the list, and that's what matters.

It's also alongside a number of other projects, including an attempt to share more poetry. Taking a page from my own (e)book - Writing Gifts on a Shoestring - I'll be taking some initiative and sharing some poems that were written for fun. I'll probably use the same method on pre-existing poems on my website, just to get them all shared in a similar manner, but then the rest will be rarely seen pieces. It'll be a bit of craic, anyway.

In the meantime, though, I have to write a comedy journal. It's college work like that that have prevented me from updating this blog in a while. That, and Drama. In the space of a month, I wrote and directed a nativity play, falling into what I hope to be a series of plays surrounding The Jerry Davidson Show, in which all manner of overtly religious individuals from the Bible appear on his show to solve their relationship problems. It was a hoot, but time consuming, and not something I'd advise anyone else to do in their final year of college!

Anyway, this blog post is part of what I hope to make a schedule from. Monday: blog post. Wednesday: poem. Friday: flash story. If I can't produce three items per week, there's something wrong. I'm also hoping that, time allowing, I'll be able to add an article to my website every weekend, too. That'll be decided by how much time and energy I have at the end of the college week. With teaching placement in January, and full time hours in the bookshop before that, too, it's not likely I'll get a start on that until February. We'll see, anyway.

What about you? How are you getting yourself to write more?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Guest Post, by A M Jenner: It's All in the Details

Sixth stop on my international blog tour, Dublin Ireland. Thanks so much to Paul Carroll for hosting me; it’s good to be here.

I'm sure we’ve all heard the old adage, "The devil is in the details". I've certainly found this to be true when writing novels. Some days it is devilishly tricky to strike the proper balance between too many details and not enough of the little beggars.

As an author, my job is to keep my reader totally engrossed in my story. I don't want them to put it down until they’ve finished it. When a reader finishes a book in one session, they become completely convinced that the book was "too good to put down". This leads to them telling their friends about the book that was too good to put down, which leads to more people who want to read my books.

As long as I can keep the reader's mind entirely inside of my story, there’s no danger of them putting the book down voluntarily. If they do have to put it down, I want them to be thinking about it, with their mind still in the story, until they have the opportunity to pick it back up.

In order to keep a reader that involved in a story, the place has to seem like a real place. The characters have to seem like real people. And the reader has to be able to relate the problems facing the hero.
What does that have to do with descriptive details? Everything!

If I put my characters in a car and send them someplace, it’s not very interesting if they’re traveling through a blank, gray wasteland. My readers’ minds will be wandering off, trying to figure out those background details I haven’t given. To keep that from happening, I have to provide some of the details of what is happening outside of the car.

Think about it. If you’re a passenger in a car, even if you’re involved in a conversation, you are peripherally aware of what is going on outside of the car. You’re aware of the landmarks you pass, red lights you stop at, and the idiot on the motorcycle who just cut you off. If I put some of these descriptors in between the lines of dialogue, it’s much more interesting to read and seems more like a real conversation.

At first novice writers might think that the more detail that’s included, the better the story will be. This is not true. Too many details are just as damaging to your readers’ attention span as too few. For example, if my character walks into an office for an interview, time is not going to stop while they examine every item in the office and describe it in their mind in loving detail. They’ll pick up the details a little at a time as various objects come to their attention.

As they first step through the door, they’ll notice the color and lushness of the carpet. When they greet the interviewer across the desk, they’ll notice the size and placement of the desk, and possibly what it’s made of, if it’s an unusual material. No one is going to consciously notice a plain metal office desk with Formica top, when they are busy being concerned with their upcoming interview. However, they might notice the beautiful hand-carved oak desk with a glass top to protect the carvings, simply because of its unusual construction.

They’ll probably not notice what the interviewer is wearing, unless they were worried about their own appearance earlier, and are comparing the two outfits in their mind. They will notice the one outstanding physical characteristic of the interviewer, however, whether it’s hair of an unusual length, style, or color, an overly large nose, eyes that don't match, or a prominent wart. Most characters should have one outstanding physical characteristic, which is mentioned often enough in the narrative to assist in identification.

What’s the right amount of detail to include? This is probably one of the most difficult questions to answer. A lot of it depends on the setting, not just of your novel, but of the particular scene within the novel. For example, most people have seen enough historical movies, that if the characters are in a large manor house, and I state they walk into the library, the reader can provide a picture of a large room full of books, probably containing a fireplace with a grouping of chairs nearby. However, if I have the character walk into the buttery, the reader is likely to conjure a picture of a small room with a wooden butter churn. A buttery is actually a small room near the dining room where plates, silverware, and other serving implements are kept handy. In this instance, a quick description of either the appearance or the use of the room is in order.

When I sent The Siege of Kwennjurat out to my beta readers, there were several places where they asked me for more details. There were also several places where they noted the action was too slow, and I therefore removed some of the details. In one place, I knew I had the mix exactly right, because one reader asked for more details while another was complaining there were too many. Learning how many details and where to put them is an ongoing process for every author.

About the book: The Siege of Kwennjurat is the second book in the Kwennjurat Chronicles. Alone in Kwenndara, Princess Tanella cares for the refugees from war-torn Jurisse, while she worries about her loved ones’ safety. Her new husband Fergan is two days away in Renthenn, coordinating the business of two kingdoms.

Kings Jameisaan and Fergasse join forces in Jurisse to pursue the war against the Black Army. They know Liammial hasn't played his last card, and are willing to give their lives to protect their people and their children.

Who will triumph and claim the throne of Kwennjurat?

About the author: A M Jenner lives in Gilbert, Arizona, with her family, a car named Babycakes, several quirky computers, and around 5,000 books. A self-professed hermit, she loves to interact with her readers online. Her books are available at, as well as most major online retailers.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I'm Still Here

I'm always overly aware of how little opportunity I get to write on this blog of late. With college back in motion, I don't find myself with the most time in the world, which only leads me on to think more about how little I keep up with my extra writing. Finding the time to unwind and to write and to get my college work done while having to take on extra hours in work and manage increasingly busy schedules is difficult. Doing it while playing Final Fantasy 7 again is nigh-impossible.

I disgress. I am still here, even if I am not appearing to write very much, or say very much, or do very much at all. I have been trying to keep up with certain "obligations" regarding social networking, setting up a, and using Instagram to enter the world of Hipster-ism and attempt to capture some banality to show that everything doesn't have to be interesting, but we can certainly pretend it is, and anyway: look there's a picture.

As for writing, I've gotten myself a keyboard for my tablet - and yes, gotten myself a tablet, in case I forgot to mention that - that now enables me to write more freely without having to turn my laptop on my midnight and wait for it to groan itself into consciousness. I will use it, obviously, because there will always be a need for it, but my tablet is much more convenient to set up for writing at the time being. I cannot see myself writing a whole novel like this, with certainly problems arising from the use of quotation marks (par example: "o" actually comes out ö") and the general lack of a spell checker that would make writing a novel easier.

Yes, I am a fan of the red squiggly line, even if it does sometimes highlight terms I want to keep in the book.

Most of my time, lately, has been spent writing my research paper. It's not qute so arduous a task that I don't get to see people, but it does mean I don't get to justify much time to myself. I have to finish reading a book for it, and soon, and have to actually write the secong chapter. However, I think I can manage it. The Seven Deadly Sins have provided for me a treasure-trove of entertainment, and reading up on them has proven itself to be a lot more interesting than I anticipated, even in picking them specifically for that reason.

When I complete my paper, I'll be left with more time to myself, in theory. I have been asked already, repeatedly, if I'll be taking part in NaNoWriMo this year. My laboured and wary response to that is this: I'm thinking about it.

I don't yet know what I would write. Part of me wishes to monopolise the time and write three novellas instead of one novel. Either way it's possibly insane. The other option is to work on a Young Adult novel I've been mulling over for a wee while, but I have a lot of reading to do for that one before I sit down and write it, because it's one of those books that requires things to be tasteful and accurate within current literature and social contexts.

Isn't that a fun thing to think about? Imagine me having to be politically correct all the time. I wouldn't be much fun when drunk, that's for sure!

Again, I digress. NaNoWriMo is such a succinctly terrifying but thrilling prospect that dwelling on it for long periods of time after midnight is bound to lead to utter sleeplessness. With work every Sunday, doing that isn't advisable. So, I'll be quick about this.

My workload in college is set to decrease after Halloween. I will have two essays and a journal to write (on Comedy, that great beast of English Literature left unattended in many cases due to its sometimes-slapstick nature, which no one likes to critique academically, but everyone claims to know something about in general, less frightening terms than a whole module riding on it.) Anyway, with that decrease due, I could, technically, take on more work. Technically. In saying that, I do also have the less-than-small manner of organising something within two separate societies, possibly, maybe, and having to actually research for my work, and prepare for teaching placement in January. (We'll butcher that dragon and sell its scales when the time comes, but for now...)

So, I might do NaNoWriMo. I definitely have books to write in it, anyway. We shall see what actually becomes of it in due time. Probably I'll start then realise I'm a mad man with too much to do and too little time to do it, and struggle on anyway until I give up, a failure and have to reconcile my lack of words with brownies. Homemade, with rich chocolate.

Again, I digress, but I do wish I had a brownie at the moment.

The point of this post, then, if there ever was one, was to say that I am still here, still alive, and still writing - even if I don't put out every week.* I'm hoping I get to actually write something, at least every week, that will end up on this blog, while getting a flash story on my site almost every week. I need to edit one I wrote on Thursday before it goes public. For that, I'll need the laptop.

Anyway, there we have it: I'm not dead, I'm still writing, and I've tried to make my excuses sound in some way like I know what I'm talking about in various fields. Not a bad night's writing, if I do say so myself. What I can proudly say** is that I had little trouble in actually writing this post, and am therefore more likely to write through my tablet again when the time comes. And who knows, maybe I'll actually get back into a routine of it! Well, a man can dream.

*Sounds like my ex-wife. (Did I mention I tell ex-wife jokes? All the time? I'm told it gets annoying, and it's never funny. But like I said, everyone claims to know something about comedy. I just didn't say if they were right.)
**Oh, there's a Deadly Sin. My soul go bye-bye!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Guest Post, by Gabriel Fitzpatrick: Falling for a Professional Liar

Today on the blog, finishing up on his Literary+ Blog Tour, we have Gabriel Fitzpatrick. He's been busy this past week and a half on tour, promoting his new book Rmnce. With that wee intro out of the way, I'll hand you over to Gabriel.

Falling for a Professional Liar

There are those who say that dating people who lie for a living is a loaded prospect. It’s a mindset which is not hard to fathom, since trust forms such a core part of most people’s conception of romantic love, and a large part of the cynical side of trust is in the ability to detect when the other person is lying. The more a person lies, as the reasoning goes, the better they get at it, and the harder it becomes to separate fact from fiction.

This last collocation, fact from fiction, is fortuitous since it leads us to the particular breed of professional liar which is relevant to my world: That is, fiction writers. While actors, poker players, and politicians are experienced in the practical side of lying, being practiced in telling lies, writers exist on the other side of the coin, being practiced in inventing lies. We spend our days and nights sitting at computers lying to empty pages, wracking our brains to come up with plausible falsehoods which can be woven together into a grand narrative of abject fiction.

So, the question becomes, how can one be expected to trust such a person? A professional liar must surely have a greater propensity to dissemblance than one who only lies casually, a hobbyist liar if you will. Yet this is a question which acts on presumptions which need not be true.

The most interesting of these is that it is always assumed that the truth, honesty as a practice, is the ideal to be striven for in a romantic relationship. One could, I hope, certainly imagine a relationship which might go quite beautifully built on a foundation of lies, provided the liar could maintain them as if they were the truth without any cracks forming (and who better to create a rock-solid foundation for such an arrangement than a writer?) and crafted them in such a way as to serve a desired purpose.

Most people who claim to want the truth want, instead, the sensation of being told the truth in conjunction with the pleasantness of a lifestyle without strife. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss. Thus, from a purely utilitarian standpoint, the standpoint of the maximization of subjective happiness, a benevolent, well-intentioned professional liar is perhaps the best possible partner. Capable of building for their lover a beautiful world, a beautiful fiction in which they may both live happily, a professional liar can bear the burden of reality unilaterally; two professional liars in conjunction can very nearly escape the fundaments of relationship reality entirely, a state which seems quite pleasant to contemplate.

Gabriel’s new book, Rmnce, hit digital shelves October 1st! Find it on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Rmnce series is a love story told in 4 parts. It follows a couple from the first drunkenly passionate days of their college romance all the way through a life together, often tumultuous, always overwhelming, and overridingly disquieting as only true love can be.

Rmnce is not, however, your traditional love story. Or perhaps more accurately, it does not appear to be your traditional love story. It is written entirely through the communications of the couple. Text messages, emails, and even a few old-fashioned letters make up the entirety of a story, what one early reader termed "A story not so much written as formed organically in the negative space."

It is, in short, a commentary on love in the digital age, a tribute to the great love affairs of the digital generation, romance not lost in the sea of text-speak and instant gratification, but merely obscured from the prying eyes of those too far removed from its cultural roots.

Buy on Amazon
Buy on Smashwords

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Guest Post, by John O'Brien - Haunted Halloween Blog Tour

Today, we've got a guest post as part of the Haunted Halloween Blog Tour. You can find more info about that below, but in the meantime, I'll hand you over to John O'Brien, author of the A New World series.


Hello there. My name is John O’Brien and I’m the author of the series, A New World. I released the fifth book, “A New World: Awakening”, a couple of months ago and am starting on the sixth book tentatively titled “A New World: Dissension”. 

Halloween is almost upon us with ghouls, goblins, and all manners of creatures roaming the streets. Imagine those streets actually being roamed by the real thing. Barricaded in your house with zombies or rage creatures prowling constantly. Not knowing when the next will come banging to your door. I wouldn’t recommend leaving the light on or answering the door. The trick would be on you and you would definitely be the treat.

I’ve often thought about the post-apocalyptic world and what it would be like. My first thought is “Great!” but in reality, it would be a struggle every day. Your family at risk and having to be in survival mode every minute of every day. As fun as that sounds having to scrounge for food and taking your weapon to create holes in the heads of said creatures, but there are a thousand other issues to think about. Sanitation, the dead that are around, medical supplies, knowing that any injury can fester and be life threatening, water supplies, marauders, etc. Yeah, not the ideal world we may think and dream about.

But, honestly, I both would enjoy it and dread an actual event at the same time. It would definitely push the survival skills to the extreme where any mistake or lapse in judgment could be the last. Where one is constantly tired and the right decision difficult to make. And one thing to think about after a period of time under constant threat is the PTSD that is most certainly to occur in everyone. Everyone has their breaking point and it would take a large amount of mental stamina to continue to survive. That’s why having family or others around is important. Each one can boost the other through the difficult times.

What can you do? Make sure you have your stamina built up beforehand. Cardio will go a long ways to help. Have you ever carried a weapon and gear over a distance? Run down the block with gear and then thought about having the energy and stamina to fight? All things to consider. However, yes, bring it on and I’ll meet you at Cabelas. 

John O'Brien
For me, I’ll be hunkered down at my desk hammering out the latest on Jack Walker and his merry little band. Or at least envisioning their next escapade. Perhaps that might be with a beverage of choice enjoying the late fall evening. And then finding my pillow to fall off into a world of night runners.

So, think about that when you are opening the door to hand out the candy. Look out on the street at the groups of ghouls prowling the area looking for treats and think about them being the real thing. Most importantly, enjoy your evening and see in the post-apocalypse.

All five of us - Tonia Brown, James N Cook, John O' Brien, Armand Rosamilia and Mark Tufo - hope you have been following along on the Haunted Halloween Blog Tour 2012. We love to see comments after the posts, and we also love to pick a random commenter and give away a free eBook or even a signed print book, so maybe you'll get lucky!

We have centralized all the upcoming dates and blog posts on a Facebook event page. Feel free to join us there and see what is coming up next!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Twin Madness

Back when we were due to start college again, my brother asked a few of us on Facebook one simple question: "what time are peeps heading in at?"

This is a simple question, and required a simple answer. Unfortunately for him, I was the only one online at the moment, and though I was in the same building, I still decided to respond. I do advise you click the links we each posted.


Him: you have issues...


Him: yeah, a lot of issues...

Me: <3 br="br">

(At this point, a friend popped in. We'll keep her name a secret, and call her Le Friend.)

Le Friend: lols at the twins! Imma heading in for lunchtime. Got things to do!

Him: now you're just being ridiculous Paul... so 12ish [Le Friend]?

Le Friend: emmmmmmmm maybe. have to shower and go into town for a few then college

Me: Now?

Him: alright cool. Ignoring Paul, what about everyone else?

At this point, the conversation nearly ended. But sure, it was good fun while it lasted. I'm fairly sure I annoyed him a little bit, but only insofar as he wanted an answer, and instead received undiluted insanity, sparked by the excitement of getting to see my friends for the first time since before teaching placement.

And for the record: yes, this is how I spend my time when I'm not in college or writing. Memes fo' life, yo.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Been a While

I should apologise for the absence, but my problem was largely laziness. I have ideas for posts that I just haven't followed through on. Largely I could blame Teaching Placement, but I've managed multi-tasking in the past. I could say I was sick, but again that hasn't stopped me in the past.

The past few weeks have supplied a lot of fiction. I wrote quite a bit of flash fiction, which has helped me keep up the writing when everything else got too busy.

There's also been my appearance in Writing Magazine, which has managed to continually surprise me with tweets. I love people.

This post isn't really for much else than to say I'm going to try write more blog posts. I have a few plans for them, and a lot of fiction to write for my website. In the meantime, I wish you good tidings.

(Spoiler alert: the next post may contain a mock argument between my twin and I!)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Complete Pond Life

This week, the BBC has been showing a mini-series online, Pond Life, in anticipation of Season 7 (airing tomorrow, Sept 1st at 7.20pm on BBC 1. Asylum of the Daleks is set to bring the Ponds back in the Doctor's life, and in this enjoyable and often humorous series, we finally get to understand why.

All five parts can be found below. Make sure you check it out!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Guest Post by Sophie Duncan: The Sidekick - Plucky, Loyal and Just a Tad Annoying

Well, it's double thanks to Paul today, 1 for hosting me and 2 for organising this blog tour (and thanks to Literary+ for making it possible).
The Sidekick - Plucky, Loyal and Just a Tad Annoying :).

Romana and Leela

Ever since I was little, I've always been a fan of sidekicks. Maybe it's because I grew up watching Dr Who, a show in which the Doctor's companions are very important. I always missed them in the episodes when the Doctor was alone. I was exposed to my first kick-arse woman in Dr Who, Leela, the Sevateem warrior who liked her Janus thorns just a little too much. I also love Mary Tamm's Romana, but I only got to watch her in reruns, I was too young to watch the shows on the TV. The Doctor's companions used to have to put up with quite a lot and I liked it when they managed to get one up on him.

Sarah Jane Smith

The Doctor and his companions is the classic power dynamic between hero and sidekick: the hero knows more, is generally better at stuff and is frequently explaining things to his/her younger companion and thus explaining things to the reader/viewer. However, because there were so many companions, Dr Who did get to crack the mould. The Doctor remained (mostly) in charge, but the likes of Sarah Jane Smith could make their mark and stepped out of the Doctor's shadow, especially so with Sarah Jane, who eventually had her own series.

I was being flippant with my title when I described the sidekick as annoying, it's not a universal truth, although I have to admit, some have turned out that way, or at the very least started that way. A character I loved as a child, Adric, again from Dr Who, annoys the hell out of me as an adult, I just want to smack him over the head for being willful, childish and arrogant. Richie Ryan from Highlander The Series, in the first episode I saw, I wanted to take a sword to his neck, but he grew on me, so much so, I preferred him to The Highlander himself. Richie is an example of a sidekick growing beyond the role in which he starts. There were five seasons of Highlander (well, okay there were six, but some of us don't talk about #6) and Richie grew from rebellious teenager, there to generally get in trouble so Duncan could moralise at him, to a mature, independent immortal who then began to lose his usefulness for the writers, because he was too like the other immortals in the show. Personally, I liked the adult Richie, he was a sidekick who came of age, someone who could stand up to McLeod, a more modern companion.

Richie Ryan

Richie was not the first sidekick to do this, we have the likes of Robin becoming Nighthawk in the Batman comics as well. And maybe in written media, comic serials and book series that run over a longer time-frame than TV, sidekick growth is easier to accommodate and you also don't have to worry about the actor getting older, either. I suppose my sidekick character in Death In The Family is Sean, he's younger than my protagonist, Tom, but they share common goals and Tom feels protective towards him. I certainly see him growing and changing over the sequels, after all, he is currently fourteen, a time of transition from child to adult. In fact, I intend his evolution to be as much part of the story dynamics as Tom's. I won't be using him as a stooge, nor as an example of how not to do things, the sidekick in modern literature is far more sophisticated than the 2D characters of old TV, e.g. Scrappy-Do from Scooby-Do, Vince Romano from TJ Hooker, Penfold from Dangermouse.


Unlike the aforementioned traditional sidekicks, who were generally stuck in their ways with a particularly annoying catch-phrase if you are really lucky, Sean does get to take the lead in some things, he knows more about their mutual condition than Tom does and at least in the beginning, he is the stronger character. Modern sidekicks are more than there for the 'but why Doctor's of old. In fact, a lot of stories are moving to the ensemble model where there is not such a distinction between leader and supporter. In TV, this can be seen in the likes of CSI, where there is always a lead figure, but the sidekicks, or rather, subordinates are no longer on the side, they have almost as big a role in proceedings as the head honcho. There are, of course, always the mentor-mentee moments, providing the classic one-on-one learning experiences, but there is not so much of the subordinate being there just to get it wrong so the hero can show them how it's done, because *gasp* in our modern world, even heroes are allowed to be fallible.

Lord of The Rings

Ensemble structures are not something I've played with a lot in my writing, I suppose the classic is the fantasy quest adventure, the likes of J R R Tolkein's Lord of The Rings, where there are many characters each striving for the one goal. I tend to veer towards one or two characters when I'm writing, so this group dynamic is a challenge for me, making sure each character has enough 'air time' and this style of story lends itself to an omnipotent view point, also not a narrative mode I go for. Still, I do have a short story that I released for The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games, Samling Born, that will be developing into an ensemble format novel, so I better get practising.

Stein and Candle Detective Agency

Despite the rise of ensemble shows on TV, I don't believe the hero-sidekick relationship will go away, especially not in written format. There is still something to say for the best-friends and/or master-student relationships that this dynamic creates. Much good literary material lies in 'wise sage give young apprentice advice' and, in modern relationships, the inverse is also true, teachers can learn from their pupils. I think, due to the flexibility of our format, a novel writer can develop a much more nuanced and intimate relationship between characters than a forty-five minutes a week TV show and the sidekick has his or her role to play in many stories. They are there to: help the reader learn about the environment the author is creating; maybe lighten the mood from time to time; keep the hero on the straight and narrow (there is a particularly good example of this in The Stein and Candle Detective Agency #2: Cold Wars where Weatherby makes his opinions known to Mort when Mort's actions become questionable).

I think the role of the sidekick can be summed up by saying that they, more often than not, provide the humanity a story needs. Your hero/protagonist can be a psychotic bastard, as many of the darker superheroes can be from time to time, if you have that small breath of loyal, earnest humanity in the form of the, yes I'll use the term, plucky sidekick.
Sophie Duncan

Sophie was born with the writing bug in her blood, boring her primary school teachers with pages of creative writing and killing her first typewriter from over use when she was thirteen. She began publishing her work on line while at university where she discovered the internet and fanfiction. It took another decade for Sophie to realise her long-time dream of releasing her own original fiction as an author through Wittegen Press.
Death In The Family (Heritage is Deadly #1)

Leaving a good London school with solid prospects, Tom Franklin has the world at his feet. Yet one thing has always haunted his perfect life: his dreams. When Tom discovers that the nightmarish images of dark places and even darker instincts are in fact repressed memories from his early childhood, he must face the heritage from his birth-father, a savage vampire known only as Raxos.
Realising his memories are his only hope of controlling his awakening instincts, Tom returns to, Coombedown, the sleepy, Cornish village in which he was born, unknowing that the night-breed in his veins will lead him into danger.
Death In The Family is a young adult, paranormal novel.

Death In The Family Literary+ Blog Tour Schedule:

Literary+ is a mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tive which was founded and led by Shen Hart. This is a time of evo­lu­tion and progress, the mar­ket is being opened up to e-books and self-publication. As a fel­low writer, Shen under­stands that self-publication is a hard and often lonely road. She started Lit­er­ary+ to bring together authors and related cre­ative spe­cial­ities with the goal of help­ing each other. With a tight knit, friendly and wel­com­ing com­mu­nity at its core, Lit­er­ary+ holds a strong focus on mar­ket­ing. As Lit­er­ary+ con­tin­ues to grow and evolve it will use inno­vat­ing, orig­i­nal and exper­i­men­tal mar­ket­ing meth­ods and schemes to get its member’s books into their reader’s hands.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Do I Need a Tablet?

I've decided to save up and buy a tablet computer. But not an iPad. It just doesn't appeal to me.

To help me on my way, I counted the money in a jar in my room, with the money in a chest in my room, and the coins from my wallet. A surprising sum total of €42.73. So that's fun. Obviously nowhere near my target, but I can put money aside every week to get this. Because let's be honest: I really want a tablet.

I need to be able to write on the go, and a laptop isn't exactly convenient to bring into college every day in 4th year. Mine has a 15.5" screen, so it's a tad on the big side.

Yes, I am trying to justify this.

So here's some more justification: I'll be in college a lot with Drama this year, again. It won't do to have to carry the laptop bag with me every night from the bus stop, and I can't attempt what I did last semester, putting my laptop into my regular bag with everything else. The bag didn't survive that...

Something lighter, and something I don't need to plug in to be able to use all day, is exactly what I need to get my work done. I won't be formatting everything on the tablet, but I won't need to. There are computers in college. Just not where I need them to be (i.e. in the canteen, or in the lecture room where we rehearse).

I also need to be able to write on the bus. When the traffic gets heavy in the morning, I'm generally left with nothing to do. Reading is mostly out of the question, because pretty much everything I bring to college is overtly religious. That's not fun exposure to the world. Especially not when the only thing I have is a Bible.

We'll move swiftly on from there, shall we?

I'll get a lot more work done with a tablet. That's just a fact. I'll keep it clear of games, if I can. They're not a good use of my time. I'll probably put a puzzle game on it, or something, just in case I'm too tired for work but not wanting to waste an hour of my life on something else.

Also, Internet access. My iPod is okay, but it's old and it refuses to do most of what I want it to do. And, you know, no camera.

Have I convinced you that I need this, yet? Let's look at my regular day from last year:

Up early. Early enough to get a bus at 8. I can't wait much longer, or I'll get stuck in traffic. If I miss the 8 bus, I'm twice as long getting into college.

Lectures started at 9 or 10. I'll need something to do before they start. In fact, I really have to do something before they start. I would usually end up on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter in the morning, until someone else came along.

Lunch. An hour and a half of talking to friends, attempting to get work done, Drama, or a mix of all three. Work is significantly more difficult when it involves finding a place to set up a laptop.

After lecturers, but before Drama, I had a two or three hour wait. I usually filled this in the same way I filled the morning: meaning to do work, ending up on social networking sites.

After Drama: a bus ride home.

Basically looking at a lot of time to use the tablet in the day when I instead used my laptop. And, you know, this would be much more convenient. Not just for setting up for work, but also to carry into college. My laptop bag gets annoying after a while, and I hate being stuck with it at my feet all day in college. It's caused more than one person to trip in the past.

How about now? Are you convinced?

I am. I am definitely going to save up for this. I need it. Or, I perceive that I need it. And if either of us need any more persuasion...

My childhood clearly wants me to do this.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I hope you'll forgive the silence last week; my blog was officially on tour, with seven posts on seven blogs in seven days. You know, how I've been organising blog tours with Literary+ from the beginning.

Anyway, I'm here now. You can all stop panicking. (You cared, right? You missed me here?)

I won't get into my adventures last week. You know, going to the most haunted castle in Europe and staying overnight. That's boring, right? (This is me jesting, but I am not going to be writing about it for a bit, until I can get the photos developed. Yes, developed. I went old-school, with disposables!)

Today, instead, I'm going to talk to you about the fun matter of the Seven Deadly Sins. They're fascinating. I mean it, really. I've finally applied myself to reading the books I bought specifically for my research paper, and it's actually interesting. Thank God for that.

The books on the seven sins are, I was pleased to find, separated by sin in each chapter. I'm only writing about Pride, so I don't need to go near the other six sins until I actually want to. For fun. Don't judge me and my weird interests!

I've one book down, as a result of that, but I do have to attend to one other important matter: the ten texts I'm supposed to be writing about a la my plan. So, that'll take some time. Most of the reading is already done, though I'm not entirely sure I remember most of it. So that's fun.

I'm sure it'll be fine.

What I've come to realise about the sins so far, and this is far from what I need to write about in my paper, is that while many consider them of theological significance, they're also of psychological importance. One of the books I bought is actually, I discovered, a self-help book, aiming at helping people get to the balance between the sin, or vice, and the corresponding virtue. Or something like that. I'm not so much paying attention to the book's purpose as the psychological and theological study contained in the pages. It draws from Jewish, Christian and Greco-Roman sources, allowing for a fuller study on the topic.

The second book I'm using focuses on how we see the sins today. It's a slimmer tome than the first, and offers insights from a layman's point of view. Given my focus is on literature, this will be of some benefit to me in understanding where the various authors were coming from in their writing.

I have a third book, simply titled Sin, which will give me an overall view on sin. I'm yet to read it, though it's bound to offer some support in understanding what it is, exactly, that I'm writing about.

All of this is giving me some help in formulating ideas for the play I'm working on, so I'm not getting entirely bored with the paper. Mind you, I'm way behind on where I need to be. I guess there's only one thing to do: stop talking about it, and just get back to work.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Life Unfolds

Life unfolds in mysterious ways, following paths we cannot conceive and revealing to us truths that were never known of ourselves. Such is the way of the world we live in, perpetually chaotic, ever changing, and we seek to control it.

I cannot rightly say I plan my time down to the minute, doing everything as I intend. Far from it. I set aside a week of my life to write a book and finished the actual first draft with a half a day to spare. I planned to spend only a day on the cover and the book trailer, and spent a day and a half at it. I planned to spend two days editing, and took the second day to format. The impossibilities at organising my time follow an inability to know what life will throw at me, difficulties in surviving an anti-social period of time, and trouble with the tools of my trade.

Yet, I survived that week, mostly unscathed, to release a book. (You can find out more about that here: This post is not about that book, because there will be so much about it to come in the next week. This post is not about my time on camera, mysterious myths, or the actual writing process.

This is, for all intents and purposes, about my inability to decide some of the most important factors of my life. I cannot decide who remains my friend, and I cannot stop those doubts plaguing my mind. I cannot decide when others are available to do anything. I cannot decide who I get to talk to and when. Life is too chaotic for this, and it remains to be seen how, outside of a day structured by an institution, I will ever find the means to maintain the relationships with those who matter to me.

Survival has thus far depended on the various institutions that govern my life and time, and an ability to let my own desires fall into place with those of others. This, I imagine, is how most relationships develop, when one person out of two can fit his or her time and desires around those of another. In the animal kingdom, those like me may be determined as part of the pack, while those who make the plans are the alpha males (or females). In a more social observation, I call it a means to an end, submitting to another's requests for the benefit of both parties.

Where does this leave me? In one instance, my attempts to formulate plans with another fail. In another, by submitting to another's availability, I ended up finding the means to do what I have wanted to do for some time now: I am to visit a haunted castle. This may kill me. We've been joking about it for some time.

However, it arose over a cup of tea over two months ago. This idea has developed into something wonderful, out of nothing, and it has become central to part of my life: when I will be able to fulfil a social desire.

I did not make these plans, just as I did not plan for a number of things over the past few months. Life, however, unfolds at random. The things we take for granted can tear away, while unexpected events can unravel before we realise they are happening. Every fold in life has the potential to be deeper than we imagine, hiding secrets from us, and it isn't until we realise that each life is connected, that each time one person's life unfolds, it is usually and often the result of another's decision.

There are no alpha males in this life. Order is often difficult to grasp, and more difficult to understand. Life is a chaos guiding us towards an un-knowable end, unfolding at a pace we can never determine. Keep going as you are, and let it unfold around you.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Adventure Begins Tomorrow

By my laptop's clock, it's 21:28. I'm tired, it's not even late... though I haven't had tea in hours. That might explain it.

Tomorrow, the adventure that is Balor Reborn begins. I'm nervous. I'm excited. But I'm ready. I have a kettle in my room, a supply of biscuits and water, and the plan of the book. My room is clean, my chair is comfortable, and I have warm-up techniques in place.

I still get to be scared, though. I'm reserving that one.

Today, I wrote a lot of Haiku. You can find them on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook. I won't bother you with them here. However, they proved to me what I needed to know:

1) I can use them to get words going through my head and,
2) I can write on command when I need to.

Obviously there's a very specific requirement for Haiku, but that doesn't mean they didn't help. They helped to entertain, too. People found some enjoyment in them, and it meant that I felt like I was actually doing something today. See, I was concerned about that. I didn't want to do something that would so obviously exhaust me the day before I set out to write. While I may be tired right now, that's from everything today building up.

I'm hoping I'll be fine. I'll be reading over my plan tonight, and getting the webcam all set up for tomorrow. Then it's simply a matter of trying to sleep. My friends have been incredibly supportive, so that has helped.

Okay, I need to get away from the laptop. Long day ahead of me tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

T-Minus 1 Day

Back in April, I sent an email to three friends of mine - Messr Shanley, Mille Oz and Mille McQuaid. I had gotten an idea, and I wanted their feedback on it before I really got down to doing anything about it. Since then, I've released the press release, planned the book and begun a series of competitions.

And, you know, I've gotten a lot of exciting news since I started all of this that I'm not sure I can share publicly just yet.

However, from those early, out-of-the-blue ideas, I suddenly find myself with a day to go before I start writing Balor Reborn. A day. Tomorrow. Then I'm to be writing the book, on camera, and that kind of freaks me out. It's too late to back out, too. I don't plan to, mind you, it's just that I can't.

This is a good kind of fear, though. If I wasn't feeling this, I don't think I'd feel the excitement of the project when it comes to actually writing. I'd be sitting down, doing all the same things I normally do. Instead, I anticipate I'll be nervous waking up on Thursday morning. My stomach will be in bits, but I'll try have a cereal. I'd have to.

Then, I'll be sitting down at the laptop, ready to go, and getting the live show set up. I'll have my bathroom-break sign at the ready (seriously), a cup of tea by my side, lunch packed, and then I'll be live for the day.

I'm hoping I can write to a pace that would allow me to work from ten until six for a maximum of three days to get the first draft done. With the book cover and trailer to come after that, that's another day gone. Then I'll be editing, doing the most extensive work in my life for a prolonged period of time to ensure it's down to a tee!

The final day, I want to have a launch party while I make the book available for purchase. I'll have the trailer online, the cover available to see, possibly even a free sample for people to read. I'll go through my answers for the competitions I'm running...

And that's way ahead of schedule. That's the fun and exciting day I have to look forward to, that won't happen that way if I don't do the work. And that terrifies me. This whole thing terrifies me. I reckon I'll be boring on camera. I may end up listening to music through a headset and singing along badly to it. If that happens, I apologise. But I'm sure it'll be more entertaining than me sitting there going insane, right?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

This Bloke Called Balor

So, next Thursday (July 26th) I'm sitting down to write a book, on camera, for a week. I have that one, terrifying week to write, edit and publish the book. That'll be fun, right? I have one thing to help myself: a plan. The book is called Balor Reborn, bringing an old Irish myth to the 21st century.

But who is Balor?

Way back when the Tuatha de Danann were around keeping peace in Ireland, there was a bitter old king, Balor. He had one eye, poisoned, so that when he looked people, they had a tendency to die. He was also a giant. That gave him something of an unfair advantage in fighting the Tuatha de Danann, because not only did he have the world's greatest Death Stare, he was also much bigger than them.

The legend says that only his grandson could kill him. Since his daughter wasn't especially happy with his tyranny, he had her locked away the moment she became pregnant. When he wasn't looking, the Tuatha de Danann sneaked into the tower where she remained captive, took her son to safety and named him Lugh.

Balor was furious, but he was sure he would be fine. Babies can't last alone in the wild.

Many years later, when Balor was getting on a bit, he made a march into Ireland, through Ulster. He had a team of men to open his eye, with giant hooks going through his eye lid. When the Tuatha de Danann tried to stop him invading, they opened Balor's eye. One look, and many of them died.

Naturally, the Irish defenders were terrified. What could they possibly do to stop Balor?

As they were about to give up hope, a man by the name of Lugh appeared. None of the Tuatha de Danann that remained knew who he was, but he seemed confident as he approached the battlefield. With a spear in hand, he came close enough for Balor to ask who he was. Lugh, not knowing he was related to Balor, answered that he was a warrior. Balor had no reason to fear him, and ordered for his eye to be opened once more, aiming his gaze on Lugh.

The young Irish hero was too quick for him. With a strong arm, he threw his spear right into Balor's eye, tearing it all the way through Balor's head. Before the eye lost its power, its gaze fell upon Balor's army, killing thousands in an instant. With the giant king dead, and most of his army fallen, the country was saved.

It's there that I take up the story. I figured, this Balor guy must have been pretty annoyed, right? I mean, he was supposed to be invincible, but then this kid with a spear came along and ruined his plans. In modern day Ireland, a storm kicks up and Balor makes his way back. His spirit embodies a power magical item that grows from a widower's grief. Balor is reborn, and the old Irish gods are nowhere to be seen to stop him.

In two weeks, all things going according to plan, the book will be available to read. Will Ireland last, or will a new hero step up to face Balor of the Evil Eye?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guest Post, by Ian Mac an Ghaill: Words, Worlds, and Gaiman

Today, I've got the pleasure of hosting a guest blog by my terribly literate friend, Ian Mac an Ghaill. He's an aspiring author, something of a genius, and while you won't hear it here, he has one of the coolest voices in the world. He's currently working on his first novel.

I'll pass you over to Ian as he talks about words, worlds, and Gaiman.


I’ve been telling stories for longer than I remember.

That is a story in itself; told in the first person, present perfect continuous tense, establishing the embryo of a plot (protagonist tells stories) while giving some information about the character (given to reflecting on previous and current actions) and referring to the limits of the protagonist’s experience. It is not a very sophisticated story though. I could not fill 1000 pages with it (unless I wrote each word to be REALLY BIG). It’s also a true story, an autobiography.

When I was very young I decided to write a book. The book had 3 stories (3 that I remember, in any case). I wanted the story typed, like a real book. I think that I was writing by that stage but I can’t be sure and for many years my writing was largely illegible so this may have been common sense on my part. Anyway, I told my stories to a tape recorder and my Dad duly typed them up on a typewriter. Each story was about a paragraph long but the book contained several more pages of illustration (I may add that a face made up of a crude circle with dots for eyes and a line for a mouth was the pinnacle of aesthetics in these illustrations) and I was delighted with what lay between the cardboard covers.

This was my earliest independent attempt at writing a work of fiction. I believe that I have improved since then. I have at the very least written longer works with more complicated vocabulary, whether they are actually better or not is subjective. The longest piece I have ever written is just over 10,000 words and arose as a kind of ‘Marvel’s Spider-man/David Gemmel’s Drenai’ fanfic hybrid but most of what I write is between 1000 and 3000 words. Most of my story-writing has been for essays at school but I always harboured the desire to write an epic.

Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Rowling’s Harry Potter, Nix’s Old Kingdom, Colfer’s Artemis Fowl; these were the fictions I wanted to emulate. With one exception (noted above) attempts to do that tended to fizzle out, wasting away because I lacked the necessary craft and diligence to nourish them; my enthusiasm wasn’t enough to sustain them. I never gave up on my ambitions but I stopped trying to make novels appear through sheer force of will.

Then I discovered the stories of Neil Gaiman. I had been in the habit of only reading long fiction; the longer the better and the bigger the world, the more I wanted to know about it. I changed the way that I looked at reading and writing. That seems a grandiose and yet pointless statement; everything that I read or write changes how I read and write but Gaiman’s writing stands out to me as the catalyst for a new reaction to how I understood stories.

He used language in such interesting ways that I could not do other than notice. He even changed writing-styles within stories. Word-choice and sentence structure suddenly came into focus for me in a way that they had not before. For some reason the importance of language and style in writing had not quite clicked with me in the same way before.

There is a reason to choose the word ‘rob’ over the word ‘steal’ or ‘eldritch’ over ‘strange’. ‘Déja vu’ means ‘already seen’ yet English writers often use the French formulation. Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy were both writers of fiction in 19th century Russia but they wrote very differently. Having said that, maybe Dostoyevsky writes exactly like Tolstoy and the exactitude is lost in my English translations.

I also started reading short fiction, which gave me a better idea of how to pace and structure narratives. I changed the way I approached my school essays (they were now short stories, not stories cut short) and writing short stories changed how I approached longer ones. I am in the process of writing a novel at the moment (not as far as I’d like to be, unfortunately) and I write each chapter as if it were a short story by itself. If nothing else, this makes each foray into writing seem more manageable.

That is the story of how I write stories and how I came to write them in the way in which I do. This may or may not be of any use to anyone and what works for me will most likely not work for anyone else in exactly the same way. I don’t know of any infallible rules for writing and I do strongly believe that there are none.

Joyce’s Ulysses proved that you don’t even need an easily intelligible language or much of a plot. I obsess over synonyms and the mechanics of wording. You don’t have to. You can just write the first words that come into your head. J.R.R. Tolkien was marking exams when he wrote “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” and he had no idea what he meant by writing it.

Write what you like or write what you feel compelled to write. Break whatever rules of writing seem necessary. Write.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guest Post, by Shen Hart: Bringing Your Characters to Life

A good friend of mine from Google+, Shen Hart, is here today with a post about bringing your characters to life! I'm extremely grateful to Shen for putting the time into writing this, in the midst of a day job and running a new writing group, Literary+. You can find out more about both Shen and Literary+ beneath her post.


Bringing Your Characters to Life

Your story is nothing without your characters. It cannot happen without them. Therefore, it's rather important that you write characters with depth, feeling. You need to bring them to life. Of course it's entirely up to you how you view this, some people may prefer to think of themselves as a puppet master, others as a director. Whatever works for you.

The key part, in my mind, is knowing your characters inside out. You need to look past their rough physical appearance and favourite fruit. What is their history? What's that one thing which keeps them up at night? To really bring them to life, they need to be real on some plane or level of existence. You're probably thinking 'but the reader doesn't give a damn what happened on Bob's fourth birthday'. Yes, you're probably right. However! You need to know that his fourth birthday party was the time when his relationship with his father started to twist and falter. It was in that moment, that things changed. That, is the reason that Bob is about to start the zombie apocalypse.

What is my actual point and methodology here? Stop thinking of your characters as just words on a page. See them as people which you need to know inside out. They can be your best friends, your arch nemesis, whatever role they need to fill in your life. Treat them like a psychology project. Personally, I do it like this: I'm a very visual person. So I choose a character, form the scene in my mind then press play. I watch it like a movie. I see every little detail, the slight shift in weight, the glance over at the faded photograph. I hear that rise at the end of the last word, the change in breath and skipped heartbeat. Then I poke. I square up to them and demand to know why. Sometimes I prefer more... torturous methods but that's for a different post.

The summary here? Get to know your characters on every possible level. Understand what makes them tick, why they're like that. That will bring them to life and make them leap off the page and grab your readers


About Shen:

Shen Hart is a passionate, hot-headed English writer. When she isn't torturing her characters in deviously dark manners she spends time with her horses. She has a penchant for twists and has been called 'cheek incarnate' on many occasions...

Shen founded Literary+ as a combination of her desire to help fellow self-published authors and her love of marketing and challenges. 

Shen blogs here:

About Literary+:

Literary+ is a writer based project brought together and lead by Shen Hart. It brings together passionate, quality self-published writers to help each other promote their work, bringing more readers to every member. It was sparked by the simple fact that there are many top quality self-published authors being over-looked because they do not have the time and resources to efficiently and effectively market and promote themselves. With ambition and passion, Literary+ will take its members to the heights they deserve through a tight-knit community of like-minded writers.

You can access the Literary+ website here:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Day to Myself

In a normal day, I tend to want to do something productive. You know, like write an article or work on a chapter of a book. Today? I woke up after sleeping through the night without waking once, for the first time in at least three weeks. I didn't just sleep - I had a lie in! And it was then that I decided today would just be for me. No studying extra material, no writing things I didn't want to write, no forcing myself to do anything.

This? This is just for kicks. I call it celebrating the little things in life. A day to myself doesn't come very often. I don't let it. I have too many things to do to really afford days like this very often. It was a relaxing day, if not a little boring.

To sum it all up, when I woke up later and had my breakfast, I just played a game on my DS. A Game Boy Advance game at that. It's old school. I drank tea, and I talked to people on Facebook about comic book adaptations, and that was all there was to it.

It was the most easy going day of my summer. No travel, no time scales, no doing things for people that didn't need to be done, strictly. It was nice.

Of course, I missed working on things. I'll be trying to catch up tomorrow. As it is, I took the time to write an email to send out to my list later tonight, just so I feel like I've done something today.

Tomorrow, I've got a whole load of things to do to catch up on the week. Some fiction, some non-fiction, a review, some prep-work. Basically, my whole day is going to be spent working, unless it's not.

Confusing? You betcha!

I'll probably write an article explaining that fully... basically, I take breaks. I have to. My brain won't let me keep working and switching tasks around all day. Even my weird brain doesn't allow for that. No one's does. It's that simple.

Anyway, this has already felt like work. You may hear from this blog again tomorrow, if I actually find the time. In the meantime, take care!

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Warning for Facebook Users

Recently, Facebook decided to make a change to everyone's profiles: they have a shiny new email address, Immediately, I was against this decision. It removed my personalised email address from my profile - my address that I wanted - to a specific Facebook one I'm never going to use.

Articles are now popping up all over the Internet about what a bad move this was on Facebook's behalf. Why?

People are losing valuable emails. Thanks to Facebook applications and syncing with Contacts on phones, every single owner of a smart phone who's allowed this has lost the email addresses for their friends, family, co-workers and clients. They've been replaced with the Facebook addresses.

An even bigger problem? Facebook didn't tell people. They just did it.

Worse still, the emails don't come in as regular mail. Unlike messages sent on Facebook, you don't get a notification for these emails. Instead, you need to go to:

That page will give you any and all emails sent to your email address. However, it will also give you messages sent by events, pages and groups. Everything has been thrown into the Other folder.

You can change your email address back by going here: or by going to your profile, going to info, and clicking Edit on the Contact Information section. A word of warning, though: this won't guarantee that people's phones will be updated in the same way.

Spread the word about the dangers of the new email addresses. They're inconvenient, and if you do business through your phone and/or through Facebook, you could be losing out on more than funny emails from family and friends.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Yesterday, as I set down to make the changes in Bliss on my laptop - that being a book I wrote for NaNoWriMo - after doing my proofreading when...the laptop died.

If you know me, you know I love my laptop. I do all my work on it. I use it all the time. It's an extra limb for me. And it just stopped working. No explanation, no warning, just dead.

I swear, I almost cried, except I know people who generally know what to do in these situations. I resolved to merely panic that it might be irreparable, that I can't afford to replace it. And I sent an email asking my best friend what to do.

He didn't just offer me one solution, which is just as well. The first one didn't work. It was the most basic. But the second option fixed my laptop in about ten minutes.

Yes, it works.

I love my best friend right now. He's just saved my laptop. It's the most valuable item I own, and it didn't cost me a cent to fix it.

While it wasn't working, I resorted to using the desktop computer. Technically speaking, it's better than my laptop. But in practice, I can't use it as well. I can't do half the things on it I can with my laptop, including design book covers how I like them. I mean, I'm limited to the certain standards, but I'd wanted to do a cover for Bliss.

So, I resolved to make this on the desktop:

It's not the best, but I just wanted it for the five free copies from CreateSpace. I got that from NaNoWriMo, and damn it I was going to take advantage of it! I love having copies of my books. It's much handier to hand someone a bound book when looking for feedback than sending an ebook or handing a bunch of loose pages. Plus, it's just cool.

There's a reverse image, but I don't think it's almost the same.

In case your wondering at the concept... well, initially I'd wanted to have a full face of pink/violet light on the cover, but with the laptop dying I wasn't able to devote as much time as I'd wanted to do actually doing it. So, I decided to go as minimal as possible, since I didn't have the time or software to do much more. I think it looks pretty cool, but then, I would.

The front cover is literally just one image and the text you see above. And that image took about thirty seconds to make. I just used the Internet! This nifty site let me make the image and save it:

Anyway, I have my five free copies on order now, and my laptop is working again. Things are looking up today, compared to yesterday!

But God, I do not want this to happen again!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Magical Mayhem: Venser Battles

Today, I made use of my free time (i.e. I procrastinated) by playing against my brother in Magic. Again. I used Venser's deck exclusively for the morning battles, so that I came to understand a few of the tricks. A couple of cards are extremely useful for doubling up on "when X enters the battlefield" abilities. There are also cards that are otherwise useless, where the special ability is a downfall rather than a way to trump your opponent. Given it's a deck for duelling, and could well be aimed at beginners, it's clear that the weaknesses - although exploitable if used correctly - are there for a reason.

For me, they were just annoying, until I learned not to play those cards for no reason at all.

Venser is a lot more strategic a deck than Koth. With two land variations, and some non-basic land cards, that makes it immediately more difficult to just build up the mana you need. Of course, some of the non-basics made playing Venser more fun. For instance, the deck comes with a couple of lands that grant 1 life point when played. Handy. Very handy. Others allow for scrying, or flying, and a few allow for choosing either Plain or Island mana, or, in one case, both. That helps for the battles, which can be manipulated to last longer with Venser, allowing for bonuses to add up.

A few of the creatures have abilities that come in handy just from an attacking point of view, like exiling, drawing a card, getting +1 power and toughness, and there are a handful of flyers - these are more than effective against Koth's deck, unless the player happens to have a couple of Koth's defenders out.

So, it was a fun deck to play with. I won't go into full detail on it, because that's not quite my style, but I found that when I won with Venser, it was a more enjoyable win than winning with Koth. It felt deserved, rather than just boastful. I don't just beat the living daylights out of my opponent: I do it with style.

We played eight games earlier, before we had to stop for lunch. In those eight games, my Venser deck beat the Koth deck (used by my brother) half the time, losing the other half. What interested me was that three our of four of my losses were a result of Koth actually being played. He's a much more formidable Planeswalker to fight against than I would have thought just by looking at his abilities.

Later in the day, I played games by myself. I controlled both decks, sought to play them both strategically, and two out of three of them Venser won. In the losing match, it turns out I broke the rules while making Koth's turns, so there's no way of telling if the deck should have won. I'm sceptical. I have two defenders that were virtually indestructible, and a planeswalker with 7 defence. My rule breaking got rid of them, but it shouldn't have. Oops!

So, overall, I think Venser is a better deck. At least, it suits me better than Koth does. At the same time, Koth is still fun for just beating people up with, and in playing against him, I picked up a few tricks to make my battles with him much more enjoyable from my end.

Tomorrow, I may be getting more cards. We'll see. I'm still hoping I can get Carnival of Blood.