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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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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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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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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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.


How Writers can use Pinterest

Put your Words into Pictures

I used to think of Pinterest as a tool people used for things like interior design, wedding planning or perhaps picking a tattoo – for creating visual things essentially. But could this online mood board maker also be good for a writer?

Your book may have pictures, it may not but we’re all inspired by images. In the past I tried my hand at drawing pictures of characters but my sketching skills leave a lot to be desired. So how could a writer use Pinterest? Well, you could;

Be inspired

Maybe you’re stuck for an idea – or with an idea- and need a bit of creative inspiration. Pinterest could easily provide that as you browse through it’s various categories.

Set your scene

Let’s assume you have your idea already. Where is it set? In another country? Is it historical? Maybe it’s a fantasy and you need to do some serious world building. Pinterest could provide you with everything you need to visualise what you’re setting will look like. The possibilities are endless – landscape, technology, architecture, fashion.

Meet your characters

Maybe you can picture your characters clearly right down to their toenails. Perhaps you need some help to get them clear in your head. Either way, why not create boards to visualise them using Pinterest. You can add pictures to show how they look of course, but you could also add images that illustrate their personality, background etc to help fully round them out.

Get in the right mood

Sometimes you may need to get into the right mood before you write. Bright and bubbly for a comedy romance, an altogether darker mood for a crime thriller. A Pinterest mood board could quickly get you in the right state of mind to write!

So why not give it a go? It’s free after all. Have you ever used Pinterest for any of your writing? What did you think? Leave your comments below.

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Can fidgeting help you write?

I fidget a lot. It’s a combination of my over active imagination and anxiety. Anything is fair game to be fiddled with – pens, necklaces, buttons, watch straps. But can fidgeting help you write?

Science would say…maybe. Research has shown that fidgeting or rather using your hands as well as your brain helps you to think. Nothing conclusive has been proven but that hasn’t stopped enterprising folks coming up with gadgets designed to help us fidget with purpose – if that’s not a contradiction in terms.

Image of Fidget Cube

This is the ‘Fidget Cube’ or, as I like to think of it, a cat toy for humans. It has a ‘light switch’, a swirly thing, some kind of joystick, more twiddly things and little buttons that go click. All of these make me happy.

Image of Fidget Cube

Whether they make me more productive is another matter. And as I’ve mentioned anything and everything can be fiddled with really (within reason). But if you don’t fidget much already, the ‘Fidget Cube’ may be a fun way to get started. Or a fun way to annoy people with clicking sounds.

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Why your writing is important 

People often say that words aren’t dangerous. But writers know better than that. We understand the power that words have. When we wield them we are all aware how we’re casting lightening stolen from the Gods.

Events in the world prove just how fickle words are. Assaulted by ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘post-truth’ a fiction writer gets concerned. People are using the words we love to spread fear not knowledge. Moreover, the seriousness of reality can make our whimsical tales feel unworthy of attention.

But fear not. Ursula Le Guin in her usual brilliant fashion, explained the difference between these ‘lies dressed as truth’ and actual fiction. You aren’t part of the distraction, you’re part of the fight against it.

Those words that you pull from your mind are not a distraction from current events. They are a mirror to it, deliberately or not. You have something to say. About life, love, truth. Your words will make people think and feel. By thinking people have power.And by feeling, people find truth. Research shows those who read fiction books are more empathetic to the world around them. They’ve been inside the minds and the stories of people who, though fictional, are not themeslves. Stories show us there’s a world of thoughts and feelings out there and though we are important, we are not only and we are not lonely.

Moreover these words you write – they’re important to you. They keep you going. They take what’s inside of you and give it somewhere to live. Your writing has extra meaning in these times. So keep broadening those horizons because we need it.

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Stuck for a Writing Idea? Time to Start Digging

You stare at the blank screen. You hover your pen over the page. You wonder if you close your eyes and wait a bit you’ll start automatically writing a masterpiece. We’ve all been there.

Popular culture would have you believe that inspiration just hits you when you’re out walking or buying a loaf of bread. And sometimes a spark will appear like Harry Potter wandering down a train aisle and into JK Rowlings head. But usually finding an idea to write about involves just that – ‘finding’. Fortunately, you might not have to look very far.

If you’ve been writing for any length of time, I’ve no doubt you’ll have collected a bunch of exercise books, scraps of paper, notepads, computer disks and hard drives filled with notes. You may well think they’re well, a bit crap. And they may well be, but they could also be the spark that you need.

I’ve been churning out bits and bobs since I was old enough to hold a pencil and much my early work is typical of what kids and teenagers write and it’s pretty hideous. But when I decided my next book would be an anthology of short stories, into my cave of wonders I went. There I found enough diamonds in the rough to make up a good chunk of the book with a few new ones rustled up for good measure. I’ve had to do some serious re-writes, often completely but the kernal of the idea or even just a character survived for me to work with.

So if you need an idea, start with what you’ve already got first. Oh and be careful what you throw away!

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Review of the Year or What the Hell was That?

I think it’s safe to say most of the reviews this year will be asking ‘WTF?’ Political and world events seemed to just be one cataclysmic event after the other. And on a personal level, I’ve had a couple of ‘WTF’ moments too. I won’t miss this year one bit.

But for me, there have been good moments too. The biggest thing was, of course, the publication of my first e-book. After writing stories for twenty-six odd years, I finally have a full-length piece of my work out there for people to read. No matter what happens next year, I did it and now I have, I intend to keep going. I’m currently editing a bunch of short stories for the next book whilst planning the one after that, another full-length novel. I’m working to finally establish that I am a writer – in my mind if nothing else.

Thanks to everyone I know and everyone who follows this blog or my social media accounts. Thanks for being there, for helping me, for encouraging me when I needed it and for reading my book!

To my fellow writers wherever you are in life or career, keep going. Keep sending those words out. Keep speaking even if you feel silenced. Stories are the lifeblood of us all, whether we’re reading them on the page or being part of them via Virtual Reality goggles.

We are all stories. See you on the flip side.


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