Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Review of April 2008

April has been a month of both very sad events - Woozer's death on the ninth - and very happy events - acceptance of three stories for publication.

April has felt like a very long month for me, perhaps because I was very busy and there wasn't Easter to break it up. Writing wise I got a lot done. I wrote nearly 21,000 words, which is more than any other month so far this year. I submitted stories to three markets and entered two competitions. Perhaps the best news of all was the fact that two of those stories were accepted for publication and I had a further acceptance for a story submitted in January. I also started rating and writing at Helium once more and submitted five more stories to the site.

On a less successful note, I failed to think up something new to try in the month of April.I also only read one book, which is the least I have read in a month in over a year. I will have to work on both those things for May.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rathmullen Retreat

Just back from a weekend in Rathmullen, Co. Donegal. It is a lovely little village in a very rural area with a 2 km sandy beach, a small wood and a ferry across Lough Swilly to Buncrana. It was from Rathmullen that the Earls fled Ireland in 1607. Our cottage was situated a short walk from the beach, which was accessible through a woodland. We were blessed with the weather as it was warm, dry and sunny from Friday evening to Monday morning. The cottage itself was pure luxury with everything you could want for the perfect weekend and more. The dogs - Janna, Rags and Toffee - enjoyed themselves no end with lots of attention and long walks on the beach. Janna was a different dog, leaping and jumping like her old self. There were lots of horses in the area as well and we saw a man trotting his horse along the road while leading him from his van (not to be encouraged) and a jockey exercising a beautiful chestnut thoroughbred along the strand on Saturday morning. We played lots of wii fit as well, which is fun and informative. I now know my balance is back and slightly to the left, which surprised me as I was sure I was more right sided.
Back to reality today however. I've writing deadlines to meet on Wednesday and Thursday, and teaching and packing to do before leaving for my holiday on Saturday.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Writing Competitions

I entered my first writing competition when I was a teenager in secondary school - and I won a prize! Encouraged by my success, I entered more competitions and, apart from 2 (I think), I was placed in or won every competition I entered (while still in school). Naturally enough, I liked entering competitions. There was usually a monetary reward and a prize giving where people said lots of nice things about your writing. However, now that I am older, I am questioning my continued involvement with competitions. First of all, I haven't been able to keep up my winning streak. Secondly, I am spending quite a bit of money on entry fees and thirdly - how impressive does winning a competition sound when you approach publishers and agents? Sure, if you win the Bridport Prize or the Aeon Award it is worth mentioning on your writing cv, but if you are highly commended on Joe Blogg's writing contest from Brigadoon, does it mean all that much? Isn't an editor much more likely to be impressed by the other markets that have published your work than the amount of small competitions you have entered? Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm going to give up entering competitions, but I might be more picky in the future.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Writer Resources

I'm not feeling particularly inspired to blog about anything this evening, so I thought I would post a link to some of the resources I've found helpful in the past few weeks. I hope you find them helpful too.
In case you didn't know, K.A Patterson is the editor of Alienskin Magazine. She publishes an interesting and informative writing blog that includes loads of hints and tips about the word of fiction writing. She also posts a list of her own submissions, acceptances and rejections, which is refreshing. Check it out, I always take away something new from it when I browse.
A recent writing resource I stumbled upon that makes me wonder how I ever managed without it. Duotrope has an extensive range of markets for both short fiction and novels that are easily searchable and include information on pay scales, average response times and genres accepted. A must for all writers, it also includes a submission tracker for registered users. Check it out and, if you are a writer, PLEASE consider donating to this fabulous resource. Keep Duotrope running, and keep it free.
While lacking the submission tracker and extensive catalog of Duotrope, I do admire the database Ralan has collected here and if I am browsing for a particular type of market - say, anthologies - I find the layout easier to navigate. Another invaluable resource of a writer, no matter what your level of experience is.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Golden Age of Horror?

A lot of the ezines and websites I've been browsing in the last few weeks have been talking about how we are in the golden age of horror, comparable to the golden age of science fiction in the fifties and sixties when writers like Issac Asimov were at work. Horror is the flavour de jour. The majority of the genre markets and up coming anthologies are looking for horror and if not horror, then dark fantasy or science fiction with horror elements. You need only look at the book shelves in any online or real world book shop to see how horror or stories with a horror element predominate both the adult and children market. When I was in Easons yesterday I saw there was a promotion for the new Skulduggery Pleasant novel - it was Eason's book of the month - and it's main character is a skeleton. Every week more horror movies are released in the cinema and on DVD. There is no doubt it is popular.
So what do I think of the idea that we are in the age of horror?
I think it is AWESOME!
As you know, I love horror - reading it, watching it and writing it. Ever since my childhood, when I used to stay up late to watch the Wax Works with Vincent Price, I have loved horror. To call our present time the golden age of horror couldn't make me happier. To be a horror writer at the moment is exciting. I would love to be part of the golden age so that in generations to come, when they look back at the naughties, my name will be listed among the horror writers of the golden age.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Valinora Troy Does It Again

Congratulations to Valinora Troy who has just sold a story to Necrotic Tissue. Funnily enough, her microfiction, Reflections, will appear in the same edition as mine. We both have to wait til January 2009 to see them in their glory. However, it adds to VT's already impressive list of growing publications.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Egyptian Dance Workshop

Had a fantastic time at the Egyptian Dance Workshop given by Caroline Evans today. I was nervous on Friday night because I organised the workshop and it is the first time I've ever done something like this and I was anxious that everything went well. I also didn't get enough people to cover my costs, so it was a bit depressing. However, once the workshop got under way I forgot all about that and really enjoyed myself. Caroline was lovely. She had a friendly teaching style, gave great hands on tuition and had a flexible method of teaching the moves that suited the different people in the group. The time flew and it didn't feel like four hours of hard work. We got to do plenty of moves, some combinations and the beginning of a couple of routines, which was much more than I expected and fantastic fun. We worked well as a group and going by what Caroline said we progressed well. Everyone enjoyed the day and all the ladies seemed keen to continue on with Egyptian Dance, which is great.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Good news again!

The lovely people at Necrotic Tissue have accepted my micro fiction story 'The Vilage Shop' for publication in their January 2009 issue. While you are waiting for my story to appear, you should check out some of their other editions. Be warned, if you are of a sensitive disposition, they are a horror publication. What I particularly like about Necrotic Tissue, apart from their obvious good taste, is that they are working to publish quality horror fiction and to help horror writers qualify to join the Horror Writers Association. One of the requirements of affiliate membership is to have a horror story of at least 500 words published for a fee of at least $25. I really want to join the HWA, founded by (among others) Dean Koontz. However, even though I have 2 horror stories accepted, one is above 500 words and less than $25 while the other is for $25 but less than 500!
The competition with Valinora Troy continues. Me: 3 acceptances VT: 4 acceptances (3 already published)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer

Being a writer is a lonely profession. You spend most of your time working alone, living in your head in a world of fantasy and make believe where the characters you create on the page (hopefully) are more real to you than the people you meet in everyday life. 90% of the time I love the solitude of writing. I like my own company and I enjoy exploring the realms of imagination. However, for the past few days I've being feeling the urge to get out and mix in the world. It comes upon me every now and then. I think it is a survival mechanism to help refuel my inspiration batteries. It usually lasts for a couple of weeks and then I return to my default mode of lone wolf. At the moment though I really want to be out there observing people, absorbing the crowd and atmosphere, meeting new people and collecting characters for my big bank of character traits. I blame the spring weather and the length in the evenings. I guess a priority tomorrow should be to get out of the house, go to Curves or to the library and rub shoulders with my fellow man. If any of my blog readers want to organise something and invite me along (purely for research purposes of course) please feel free to do so.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Here are some things you can do to while away the hours you should spend writing...

1. Play Games
Click on the link at the side of the page to practice being a sushi chef!

2. Browse the web
This is such a cool site. I love the idea of trailers for books.

3. Invent stuff
I came up with the idea of the SHRUG. It is a rug with sleeves. You know when you are curled up in front of the telly on a cold night and you have your arms cuddled snugly up underneath your rug, and then you have to expose them to the chill air to do things like change the channel or lift your mug for a sip of tea? Well, you don't have to suffer cold hands anymore. Now, with the SHRUG, you pop your arms into sleeves within the rug which keep them cosy no matter what - whether you are knitting or reading, you won't get cold.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

JK Rowling takes the stand

JK Rowling appeared in court in New York today to testify in her case against the publication of the book, The Harry Potter Lexicon (hence known as HPL). Michigan man, Steve Vander Ark, started the HPL on the net in 2000 to compile together a resource of information on everything to do with Potter’s world. It contained family trees of the characters, lists of spells and information about the books. The site was praised by Rowling, who admitted to using it to check her information when writing her books, and by Warner Brothers who make the HP movies. However, when the man behind the HPL decided to publish it as a reference book for HP fans, JK and Warner Bros took umbrage and took the HPL publishers to court. Rowling says that she wants to publish her own HP encyclopedia (and give the money to charity) and it seems that she doesn’t want any competition.

From a consumer’s point of view, I don’t know what the fuss is about. If I were a fan of the HP series I would happily buy BOTH the HPL and whatever future encyclopedia Rowling brings out. I certainly have my fair share of official and unofficial X File reference guides and I know for obsessive fans, of which I am sure there are more than a few million in the HP camp, it doesn’t matter if there is information duplication, you still want to have the complete collection.

From a writer’s point of view, I still don’t know what the fuss is about. When you write a book, and especially when you write a series of books as successful as the HP books have been, you can’t expect to control everything that is said and done about them. The HPL is a reference book, a resource and guide compiled lovingly by fans. It is not plagiarism and it does not seem to be some hasty cash in. It is hard to say how I would react in the same situation but if in years from now an unofficial encyclopedia on Reath is published, I don’t think I would object. After all, there is always room for commentary and compilation of your work and it will never compare to something you have written yourself because you are the author and you hold the secrets to your world. If you haven’t already made it up, you can always make up something new.

It makes me wonder why JK Rowling has taken this case to court in the first place. On the surface it seems to be about money. It appears she doesn’t want anyone else making profit from her work. HP has been so successful; you would think she could afford to be generous. Whatever her reasons, she isn’t coming out of the whole situation well. She has claimed to be so upset by the whole case that she is having trouble writing her next book and has said she won’t write her own planned encyclopedia if the HPL goes ahead. Things like that smack of emotional blackmail to me. The case also has serious implications if she wins. It means that authors will have much greater control over what people say about their work. It means that reviews, reference books and guides will have to get express permission from the original author and perhaps even pay large amounts of money to be allowed to be published. It means that authors will be able to monopolise their work and an ultimate death to all unofficial companions. To me, that is a bad thing. I hope JK Rowling doesn’t win.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lessons I Have Learned

Lesson # 1
Be very careful when researching your writing markets and competitions. I've been working hard the last few days on my short story Dead Jimmy for the Writers Inc Writers of the Year Competition which closes for entries today. At the start of the month I opened a file with the details and links of the competitions I wanted to enter for April. I've been checking on the file regularly to make sure I was keeping to the briefs with my stories and that the closing dates really were catching up with me, but I never once thought of checking to see if this competition was open to electronic submission! Usually I make a note in my file on whether the submission is electronic or print, but for some reason I forgot to mention it with Writers Inc. When I clicked on the link to send my story off and enter the competition I found, to my horror, that it is print submission only. The long and the short of it is, I won't be entering this competition and Dead Jimmy needs a new home.
Lesson #2
Don't leave entering competitions to the last possible moment.
You could say I put things on the long finger. In fact, my fingers are so long I am probably tickling you while you read this. That's why competition deadlines are a good thing for me, as it gives me a goal I have to be finished by. However, a deadline doesn't mean I have to scrape my entry in at the very last minute, just before the clock strikes twelve on the last day of entry. It is better to be prepared in advance, giving me more time to perfect my stories (hence increasing my chances of winning) and enter well in advance of the closing date so I can get to work on the next submission. It also means that when things like this happen, I will be prepared and not thrown and I won't end up with stories looking for a home.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Turkey for Valinora Troy!

Congrats to VT on getting her micro fiction up on microhorror. Here is a link to her spooky story The Diary. She now has three acceptances, two of which have already been published. Way to go Valinora, on to the next!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Who is the voice of your SatNav?

Sorry I haven't blogged in the last few days. I've been in a period of mourning for Woozer. I know she was old and ill and every day for the last three years I thought would be her last, but death is aways sudden in the end. The house isn't the same without her. I miss her heavy breathing and the little thump as her hips hit the floor when she lay down. I keep on expecting to see her sleeping in the living room or tottering over to say hello when I come home. Even Rags and Janna notice her absence and miss her. I suppose it has also made me think about the other dogs mortality. When Janna was sniffing Woozer's body and saying goodbye, I couldn't help but flash forward to her own inevitable death and the decay of her body as age takes its toll. I have high hopes for Rags equalling if not beating Woozer's 15 years, but I don't think Janna is even going to make it into double digits. I guess the lesson is to appreciate every moment you have.
On a more frivolous note, I was travelling to a play in Armagh yesterday with friends and the car I was in had satellite navigation. As the woman's dulcet tones directed us on the wrong path I posed the question - who would be your ideal SatNav voice? My friend thought Morgan Freeman would be good to give directions. I chose Kelsey Grammer, especially if he slipped in the occasional 'Die Bart Die' between giving directions. I think Leonard Nimoy would also be cool - who wouldn't love to be told where to go by Spock?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Farewell Woozer

28th March 1993 - 9th April 2008

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

More good news!

This is turning out to be a good week. I just heard that my micro fiction 'The Sky Horse' will appear in the May edition of Apollo's Lyre. I'll post a link once it is published. Obviously another publication with impeccable taste.

Monday, April 07, 2008

1st Fiction Sale

I love Alienskin. No, I really do LOVE ALIENSKIN. Seldom has there been an ezine with such good taste and discernment. In this day and age of cutthroat publishing they encourage new writers, they take the time to give feedback on your story when they reject it and they provide a platform for quality Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy tales.


I got the email through this morning. They want to publish my horror story 'Who's for Dinner?' in their August/September issue. It will be a long but worthwhile wait and hopefully I will have more acceptances by the time my name hits the web in lights. :)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Recovered Innocence*

The woods were dark and deep. At their heart lay a pond, its surface as still and smooth as a mirror. Annabell tried to reach the centre of the woods but she kept on getting lost. First she discarded her blue tooth earpiece, then her iPhone. The ground swallowed them. She moved deeper into the wood. She cast aside her laptop, her mp4 and her digital watch. Grass grew over them where they lay. Lighter now, she ran the rest of the way. The unicorn was waiting for her by the still waters. It whinnied in welcome and called her to it.

* This is a micro fiction I wrote for fun yesterday in an impromptu contest with my family. The theme was horses and the limit was 100 words. I thought I would share it with you.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

10 Reasons why I'm not a Disney Princess

We rented Enchanted this evening and I watched it for the second time. It is an enjoyable movie and I laughed a lot watching it, but it reminded me of all the ways I am not a Disney princess like Giselle and never will be. I think that is probably a good thing.
1. I can't sing
2. I'm not thin
3. I'm not 2-d
4. I can't get my animals to clean up for me
5. When I fall out of a tree (or off a building) there is never a handsome man there to catch me
6. I can't make my own clothes
7. I don't look perfect after running through the streets in the rain and then crashing on someones couch
8. No matter how hard I try to organise spontaneous dance routines with large numbers of people and/or animals they never work out
9. If I am on the floor scrubbing it clean, bubbles don't float around my head reflecting my image (then again, I am never on the floor scrubbing it clean)
10. I don't have a (wicked) stepmother
On a different note, the short list for the first round of the Aeon Award was published and I didn't make it. However, there is always the next round to aim for and it means I can send 'All The Dead Stars' out to another market, where it might prove more successful.
Watched the debut for season 4 of Dr Who on BBC1 tonight. It was good. Donna irritated me, I just can't distinguish Catherine Tate from her comedy show characters and it makes her seem really insincere and totally hammy to me. To anyone who has seen the episode (4:1 Partners in Crime) is it just me or did you think the Doctor should have left well enough alone? It was a win win situation before he and Donna bumbled along. The Adipose were cute little aliens and it was a good weight loss solution for London. Pity they messed it up.

Friday, April 04, 2008


So far April has been very busy for me. I was back teaching this week, went into Easons to do research for a non-fiction title yesterday and submitted FOUR short stories to competitions and publications this week. I wrote and submitted a flash fiction and micro fiction to Alienskin (after the success of Valinora Troy I thought I would try my hand at it) as well as entering the Molly Keane Competition and sending a robot story to Permuted Press for the robot's beyond anthology competition. I am also waiting eagerly to see if I made the short list for either the Grace Dieu Writer's Circle Competition or the first round of the Aeon Award. I'm told that the results will be posted any day now, but you know what they say about a watched webpage never reloading. Oh yeah, I also did some research into more story markets and subscribed to a couple of cool looking magazines as well this week. On a writing note, I really want to write a gooey, juicy, scary horror. I haven't written one in a while and I feel the urge has come upon me to write something truly horrific. Perhaps that will be my goal for next week. I also have to think up something new to try out for April. Any suggestions?

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Valinora Troy's micro fiction 'What the dog brought in' is published in the latest edition of Alienskin ezine. Check it out here. Well done VT, it's a great story. While you're there, check out the other stories and don't forget to look in the zap room to see what doesn't make it.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Until Mentality

Unfortunately, in so many areas of my life, I have the 'Until Mentality'. I'll exercise until I lose weight, I'll teach until I have enough money, I'll keep going until I get tired. When it comes to writing, however, I lose the untils. I'll write until... publication or not, I don't see a time when I won't write. A few years ago I promised myself I would try this out for five years and see what happened but the thing is, whether I succeed or fail (in publication terms) there is nothing else I would want to do - or am really able to do - apart from write and act. So, when it comes to writing, I can say to myself 'I'm a writer' and banish the 'Until' that usually comes after.

Competitions for April

After totting up the amount of money I have spent so far this year on Competition Entry fees versus the amount of money I have received from writing, I have decided to limit the number of competition fees I pay to two per month. Therefore, for the month of April, I have selected 2 comps with entry fees and 2 without to try my hand at.
Closing date: 14th April 2008
Entry fee: £6 per short story
Prizes: Prize fund of £3,500
Word Limit: 50 - 3000 words
Guidelines: This competition has various different categories including poetry, children's and journalism as well as short story and the entry fees vary accordingly. It accepts stories in any genre and style. The winning poem will be submitted to the Forward Poetry Prize and the winning children's story will be sent to a Literary Agency. Accepts email submissions
Closing date: 30th April 2008
Entry Fee: £6
Prizes: Ist £110, 2nd £55, 3rd £30, 7 hon mentions, publication for ten stories
Word Limit: 2,500
Guidelines: This competition accepts stories in any style or genre. Judges include leading journalists and literary agents.
Closing Date: 4th April 2008
Entry Fee: 0
Prizes: Payment of 1c per word and publication in the anthology
Word limit: 3000 - 7500
Guidelines: This isn't really a competition but after failing to enter their giant creatures competition on time, I am entering this as a contest to delude myself into thinking it is one. They are looking for stories about robots which boldly takes the man machines into territory they have never gone before.
Closing date: 4th April 2008
Entry Fee: 0
Prizes: €650
Word Limit: 2000
Guidelines: This competition is run by Waterford County Council. No age limit or restriction in subject matter. The prize will be awarded at the Waterford Literary Festival in June.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I've got a publishing deal!!!!!! :) - APRIL FOOLS!

I've my novel out at publishing houses at the moment and this morning I got a phone call from an editor (I'd rather not give the name of the publisher at the moment - want to wait til contracts are signed and sealed and they can't back down!) saying she was really interested in my book and that they would like to talk to me about it! I was so excited I could hardly speak. She's going to email me some stuff and I might even have to fly over to England to talk to her (although she did mention coming over here to see me). Wow. I'm shaking as I type this. I can't believe it! :)