Want Something Scary to Read this Halloween? ‘Tales from the Creeping Edges’ will be available to download 31st October

Image of a dark path

Halloween is a time to curl up inside, away from the dark and damned. It’s a time to dim the lights, light the fire and read my collection of supernatural stories, ‘Tales from the Creeping Edges’. That’s right folks, my next e-book will be ready to buy on the 31st October.

The world looks ordinary, but the unearthly lies just around the edges, creeping ever closer. These twelve tales show you where it can be found – and what to be wary of. 

In ‘Feed the Little Children’, Ivy explores an abandoned building and meets its ghoulish resident. Lee and his friends travel down a street that doesn’t exist in ‘Creek End’. And David comes face to face with temptation in a parallel universe in ‘Mr Spectors’ Circumstances have Changed’.

These stories and more all feature in this chilling, darkly humorous and sometimes plain weird collection.

‘Tales from the Creeping Edges’ – available 31st October only on Amazon Kindle.

And if you want a taste of my writing, download my first book ‘Under This Skin’ from Amazon for only 99p or free with Kindle Unlimited.

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Notebook Collection #8 – Winchester Cathedral

Winchester was the capital of ancient Sussex. Alfred the Great established Winchester as his base when he started to unite together the disparate parts of what would be England. He’s still there today, commanding the High Street opposite the Town Hall.

It always seemed a magical place to me, a world away from the sixties concrete of my home town. It has History with a capital H and if there’s one thing I love, it’s history.

The cathedral itself was founded in 642 and was rebuilt and re-worked for many hundreds of years afterwards. Its age means whenever you visit, it’s fairly like there will be scaffolding around it somewhere. Like painting a bridge, once they’ve cleaned and  restored the facade, it’s back the the beginning to start again.

Large ancient monuments, be they castles, stone circles or cathedrals have this power over us. Even in modern times when towering skyscrapers loom over us, we remain in awe. Perhaps it’s because we know these were made before cranes, and trucks and all our modern building technology. They took hundreds of years to complete, and often cost many lives. Literal blood, sweat and tears went into them. It would be rude not to be impressed.

When they were built, they must have amazed the local populace – which of course was the point. To instil fear and promote the idea of God’s home on Earth, a towering testament to his strength.

This notebook comes from the rather good shop (especially glorious during Christmas period). It’s a good, chunky one with plenty of pages if a little plain under the cover.

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Some people may feel uncomfortable about religious sites selling souvenirs, but when these were places of pilgrimage, they’d be full of people talking, singing, trading and more.

As with all of my notebooks, it’s the memory that’s of real value. It’s there to remind me of all the places I’ve been and what they mean to me.

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What Name do you Write Under?

In ‘On Writers and Writing‘, Margaret Atwood discusses (among other things) the notion that a writer is in fact two people. The ‘writer’ is an ever present twin aside the ‘person’. One observes, the other writes. This duality is explored mirrored by writers themselves in many stories from ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ to ‘A Picture of Dorian Grey’. But it’s also neatly encapsulated by the writers own use of a ‘nom de plume’ or ‘pen name’. In doing this, Atwood argues, the writer is actively naming the other self and acknowledging the two halves they possess. And you thought you were just picking a name to go after ‘by’.

A writer chooses a ‘pen name’ for any number of reasons; to hide their sex, escape persecution or retain anonymity are a few common ones. It’s perhaps not that regular these days for a writer to use a full ‘nom de plume’. It’s harder to keep your true identity hidden after all (as JK Rowling found out when she tried to hide behind ‘Robert Galbraith’). But plenty of writers use some variation on their given name such as initials, a different surname or a short version of their first name.

When I started entering writing competitions, I chose to use my initials and this was partly to avoid gender bias (conscious or not). Unsurprisingly there’s a long history of woman using ‘nom de plume’s’. The Brontes did it, George Elliott did it; Jane Austen was first published as ‘A Lady’. To be accepted, to even be published, you had to hide the fact you were female.  JK Rowling (her again), decided that the boys who were the target audience for Harry Potter might not want to read a book by a woman, and so published under her initials instead (having no middle name, the K is actually for ‘Kathleen’, her grandmother).

So the name you chose to write under has more weight to it than you might think. I particularly like the idea of my other writing self, a person to inhabit when I fire up the fingers to get down to work.

Do you have a ‘nom de plume’? What made you chose it? Or did the thought of writing under a different name never cross your mind?

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Self doubt is a bastard

You know him. 

He’s that guy who wants you to feel his successes are your failures as he feels your successes are his. 

He may not achieve much

but it’s all him if he does. 

He’ll find the negative in every positive. He sees each fall as reason to stop climbing. 

The future, he swears,

is visible to all and there’s yours, a world of regret, of life not achieved. 

All the missed times. All down to you.

In his eyes all others are better, all others are happy. He measures success by the barometer of Western society – money, career, family, fame. 

All or you’re nothing. 

He is present for all but for some he speaks louder. For some he’s embedded deeper. And no matter what you do he’ll always be there.

You can’t evict him, though you’ve served enough notice. A tenant for life. Steals your milk and leaves his dirty dishes in the sink.

Self doubt

Don’t you just 

Hate him

The Art of Being Alone

If you’re a writer, you’re going to spend a good bit of time on your own. And whilst it’s a cliche to say writers are introverts, you’ve got to be comfortable enough in your own company to be able to spend extended period on your lonesome, writing your masterpieces.

In general, solitude is often viewed as a ‘bad thing’ – so much so it’s used as a punishment. It’s not ‘natural’. Loners go on killing sprees, they think radical thoughts and with all the technology we have, we still can’t peek inside anyone’s mind. We believe that if a person is interacting with us, we have some window into what they’re thinking. Someone who’s alone could be thinking anything – which is kind of why we writers like it. Whilst we may be naturally social animals, we all need time alone.

Why? Well, when you’re connected twenty-four seven and have a million voices speaking at you at once, how can you possibly know what are your thoughts and what are someone else’s? Without time alone, we can’t process all the information we’re getting and end up just regurgitating other peoples words as our own.

Listening to the voice in your head is scary. Writers do it all the time – and it isn’t always fun. What if you hear the wrong thing, something dark and gruesome that comes from inside you? What if you don’t hear anything at all, just watch a barrage of tumbleweeds rolling through your noggin? Well, that’s just the risk you’re going to have to take.

Being alone isn’t the same as being lonely. You can be lonely in a room full of people. The thoughts in your head may make you feel something, but being alone is not a negative or positive emotional state, just a neutral one.

So go be alone. Write alone, think alone and don’t apologise for it. Solitude is necessary. Defend it.

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Portmeirion – You’re not a Number, but you are a Tourist

Bathed in sunshine, this could be the coast of Italy – but its actually North West Wales.

Portmeirion is a tourist resort best known is certain circles for the cult TV show ‘The Prisoner’. Its otherworldly vibe was perfect for the mind bending show where a man was trapped, numbered and pursued by a giant balloon.

Built by Sir Clough William-Ellis between 1925 and 1975, Portmeirion is still a popular place for people to visit and stay. And while I can see the attraction, after a while it starts to feel like you’re on the Truman Show. But it’s certainly one of kind and worth a visit.

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5 Tips on Editing from an Editor

Writing is re-writing – however much of a cliche that must be. Whether you’re writing fiction, non fiction or even a blog post, your ability to edit effectively can make the difference between a decent piece of work and a unreadable hotch-potch.

I’ve written and edited online content for eight years. I love editing which is good since it makes up a lot of what I do. It’s the same for my personal writing – give me re-writes over first drafts any day. So here’s some advice from an editor on editing:

1. Read out loud

Do I do this at work? Yes I do. I mumble along to myself all the time. My desk mates don’t mention it, I think they’re used to it by now. But you may prefer to have a quiet space and time to do this. Not only will it highlight typos you may have subconsciously overlooked, it will also show how you writing flows. By reading out loud you’ll hear how natural the dialogue sounds, the impact of your pacing and depth of your description. And yes you should definitely do the voices!

2. Get a second pair of eyes

Not literally! That kind of thing will get you locked up. Everything we edit at work is reviewed, not once, but twice before it goes live. You don’t. necessarily need to go that far but getting one other person to read your work and offer feedback is a good idea.

Some people use Beta readers, people recruited specifically to read your work and give you feedback. Time is usually given for free, but in a reciprocal fashion, so be prepared to become someone else’s Beta reader in exchange.

Alternatively, if you have a friend or family member who you trust to give you an honest opinion, and are prepared to help, this could be an option too. But make sure you’re clear about timings and exactly what you need from them.

3. Use the tools

At work we have to get clear articles out on a tight timescales. So we use whatever tools we have available to help us out. The obvious ones are things like spell check, (but an amazing number of people do seem to overlook even this). There are a bunch of other tools out there, often free. I could create a whole other blog post about them. We use the Hemr App and Readable amoung others. There are ones to help you keep track of complicated plotlines, ones to help you plan your time, ones to make notes to come back to later. Find your tools and tinker.

4. Take a break

Once the messy first draft is done, take a break. With the tight deadlines we have at work, this can often just be long enough get a coffee, but it’s stil enough. Even a quick break resets your mind ready to edit. How long you take is up to you, but for a long work, take a week at least. Do something else, write something else, then come back to it. And once you’ve done your first edit, take another break before the second. Which brings us to number five…

5. Lather, rinse, repeat

How many times do you edit? Personally I do three. The first, the hardest, to really whip things into shape, the second to flesh out character and description and the third, to fix the typos, the formatting, all the boring stuff. The only advice I can give is to edit at least once.

Editing – do you love or hate it? What are your tips and tricks?

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Get your Blog to do the Heavy Lifting – 7 Top Tips

Hook lifting a heavy load

Writing new blog posts on a regular basis isn’t easy. But if you don’t post regularly, you could lose followers on your blog and social media channels. So what’s the answer? Keep your blog going by setting it up to do the hard work for you.

1. Re-cycle your posts

This is an easy way to generate interest in your posts. New followers to your blog or social media feeds won’t have seen your older stuff, so it makes sense to re-use your previous posts. It’s best to use ‘evergreen’ content (see no. 2) for this, but you could also re-post articles about a regular event like Christmas or a music festival for example. Be selective about what you re-post. Your blogging platform will likely give you stats on that get the most hits, so make the most of your popular content.

But how to re-share it? Some blogging platforms make this fairly easy but others, including WordPress, don’t. You can get plugins to re-share posts, but only if you’re on a self-hosted WordPress.org site. I use a social media tool called Buffer to post shortlinks for older posts on Twitter, Facebook etc. Because I have more followers on these feeds. this works well for me, but you may prefer to re-share on your blog itself.

2. Evergreen up your content

Basically remove anything that can overly date your content. There’s nothing wrong with posting about events that are time defined. But these aren’t going to be something you can easily re-use. I used to write a lot of posts opening with lines like ‘This week I went to-‘, which can it very obvious it’s not fresh. So go back into your old posts, see if you can ‘evergreen’ them up and you’ve got ready made content to re-use.

3. Make it easy to navigate

It’s not particularly exciting, but it’s worth putting a bit of time to make your blog easy to navigate. You might not have menus as an aesthetic choice, which is fine. But I believe you can be practical and be creative. A navigation menu with pages that link to old posts make it simple for visitors (and search engines) to find them. Remember to make your URLs user and SEO friendly (not just a bunch of numbers or random words).

4. Talk to people

One of the best things about having a blog, especially on a more niche subject, is being able to interact with people. You can make some great connections and be part of an online community, whilst hopefully gaining some followers. It doesn’t take a minute to reply to comments on your posts or post comments on other blogs you follow.

5. Generate posts with a ‘brain dump’

Coming up with ideas for new blog posts can be tricky. If you’re struggling, just start dumping down ideas. Open a post, type a few lines or paragraphs, save it and move on. Aim to get down five or six at a time. They don’t have to be good or anywhere near well written. It’s just getting down somethings that *could*  be posts. Then go back and start fleshing them out. And if they’re just not going to work, bin them.

6. Use short posts

You don’t have to do a long, written post every time you blog. A short paragraph, a collection of images or even a video can work just as well. In fact with such demand on people’s time, especially on the Internet, they could even be more effective.

7. Blog on the go

Blogging platforms have apps or mobile versions of their sites. And whilst we all need to take a break from the Internet occasionally, having the ability to blog on the go means you can note down ideas as they come to you. Plus you can use time waiting for the train for example to work on a post or two.

Those are my ideas – what are your top tips to get your blog to do the hard work for you?

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Download ‘Under this Skin’ for just 99p

Under this Skin book cover image

Trude doesn’t expect much from life anymore. Least of all a mysterious box, a possible romance and some distinctly unusual ‘growing pains’…

In case you weren’t aware, ‘Under this Skin’, my dark, funny and downright odd e-book is now only 99p on Amazon Kindle.

If you’re not sure whether it’s the kind of thing for you , try 6 Reasons Why you Might Want to Buy my Book. Or read the first few pages on Amazon for free.