Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My Guest: Scarlett Flame

It is truly an honour to host the '2014 Blogger of the Year' as my Guest this week. Although her blog posts are known far and wide, did you know she is a multi-genre author too? Ladies and Gentlemen...

Scarlett Flame

Steamy Scarlett Unbound

I think you might all be a tad interested in just how I got myself into this world of writing and blogging (yes, I have a blog too).

Well, a little over eighteen months ago I was a mere tweep, a normal(ish) tweeter that had begun to use twitter to talk to others. Although, I have to admit the whole thing had me mystified for some time too. As I started to follow people, and be followed back in return, I fell in with a little gang of tweeps that included, my now good friend John Dolan. We all tweeted back and forth for some time and, (as John Dolan is a published author), the subject of writing came up. I mentioned that I had been writing for some time and, that I had hidden this writing in a bottom drawer, writing in secret. John suggested doing something to make myself known and that maybe writing a blog would be a good idea. John further suggested, that a good start would also be to decide on a pen name, especially as the genre I was writing in included erotica.

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So, the five of us tweeps bandied about with various names and, da da Scarlett Flame was born. As I had no clue what a blog was at that time, or even how to go about producing one, John very kindly Skyped me from Abu Dhabi and talked me through how to set one up. Another first for me, as prior to that I had never Skyped either. So, in February 2013 Miss Scarlett Flame the blog was also born. My twitter account of the same name was set up, and away I went.

I can laugh now when I look back to my first steps into the blogging world, as I got excited if even 10 people viewed my blog. Also, my first attempts at blogging were pretty poor too, an absolute beginner, and unable to do the simplest of things. Over time though I have begun to become more adept at producing my blog and my reward came on New Years Eve 2013, when I was announced the winner of The Blogger of the Year 2014 by the site A very, very proud day for me as my good friend and author SeumasGallacher, was the King of blogging prior to this, and held the title Blogger of the Year 2013 from Skelat the previous year. My blogs are now all singing and dancing, (particularly singing) as I cover a variety of topics including gig reviews for the many fantastic Indie Bands that abound in Manchester, and Great Britain itself. I have been privileged to watch a wide variety of these Indie Bands and now consider many my personal friends. I also cover interviews, book reviews and much more.

Gradually over time, the hits on my blog have increased and I am now closing on 23,000 hits which still amazes and delights me. I also began to write short stories, and was about to publish the first erotic one of my own, on the blog. The first draft of the story was duly sent out to friends in the twitter world, three of them. The first was Erotic Jake, an erotic writer and blogging friend of mine. Gareth Young another incredibly talented writer, and finally Nate Smith, a scriptwriter and producer from Australia. All good valued friends of mine, and they ALL read the story and without exception replied that, although the story was basically a good story, ALL said it was obvious that it had been written by a woman! I think I just sat there stunned with my mouth open, aghast for a few minutes, I then asked them all “Why so?” They ALL replied with a similar reply, it was my use of words, or, to be precise, my lack of the use of certain
Link to Scarlett's blog
descriptive words! That, as I was writing under a pen name, to use the words that were needed to bring the details in the story to life. I then asked each of them to send me three words each, to use in the story and it didn't take them very long to give me those words. I looked closely at the story and put these words in where I thought they would work best and, voila! My first story was ready to be published. Receiving a virtual pat on the back from each of them once they read the published post.

The greatest accolade a writer can receive for an erotic writing (or so I have been told!), is that people have read it with one hand ( if you know what I mean, nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Well apparently I have a LOT of one handed readers, be they male, or female.

I am still in the process of completing the first book that I mentioned to John. Hopefully this will be ready to be published soon in either May or early June, so look out for it. The book I so recently published at the very end of December 2013, now has five 5* reviews on Amazon UK and many more five stars on Goodreads, where I now have an author page. This novel is entitled 'Bound for Passion' and includes the first two stories that were published on my blog. The last story in the book was written especially for the book. I write across multiple genres including Steampunk, erotica, paranormal, romance, sci-fi, BDSM and finally children's books. A strange combination you may think, but as I am also a qualified Children's Nurse, not so strange as you may think.

As for advice to any budding authors amongst you goes, is just to go and write what inspires you, moves you, that you enjoy. Also, practice makes perfect so keep on writing, and perfecting your craft. Another big thing is to read others works, not just in your usual genres, step out of your comfort zone – you might just enjoy it, and learn a thing or two in the process. Writing is like painting a picture with words, so that people remote view in their own heads what you are trying to tell them. A novel rich in detail, and action, allows us to then fill in the gaps, bringing it to life. Making us cry, laugh out loud or sit and reminisce times gone past.

My next novel has a working title of 'The Prophecy Unfolds (Dragon Queen)'. This is the first in a series of books about Alexandra, and her adventures after her capture and kidnap on Earth, where she is taken to the Steampunk world of Syros. A world where fantastical animals and beings abound. There are magicians, werewolves, dragons and dragon riders that fight, love, die and go on to have amazing adventures that will have you smiling, crying and laughing as I walk and run you through their adventures. I hope to capture your imagination, and leave you wanting more, so that you continue to follow their adventures in further books. Later in the year a follow up to 'Bound for Passion' will also be released, in time for Christmas 2014.


Although born in Salford, UK, I was raised in the Manchester area and still consider myself a Lancashire lass. I am a qualified paediatric nurse and have a Bsc(Hons) and a PgDip (Masters level qualification) among other qualifications. Yet I choose to write, and hope to make this my full time occupation. Although I have always loved to read and write, I only recently began to write seriously. My first blog post was published in February 2013 and since then I have gone from strength to strength. This has resulted in my being voted as Blogger of the Year 2014.

My blogs aren't all erotica, far from it. On my blog posts you are just as likely to read about music gigs I have attended around Manchester, interviews, book reviews and much more. There is something for everyone on my blogs.

You can contact Scarlett and read about her forthcoming projects using any of the following links:


Thank you, Scarlett, for sharing your writing journey with us and wish you the very best of success with your new novel.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Guest: Paul Cude

Fantasy worlds populated with dragons, magic and sword-wielding heroes are one of the most popular subjects in fiction today. My Guest this week is an author who will highlight some of the most critical issues faced when writing in this genre. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Paul Cude

Forging Flaming Fantasy!

Oddly it started with a dream. Sounds a bit crazy really, but one night, when my elder daughter was just a baby (she's11 now) I had the single most realistic dream I've ever had. I didn't remember it until the following day, but when I did, I swear it was just like watching a movie in my graphic, so intense, so.....mesmerising. Anyhow, I told my wife, who was gobsmacked to say the least. And so was what she said to me, "You have to write it, you just have to." At the time I laughed off her idea, bearing in mind that at the time I could only type with two fingers. But over a period of I suppose months, I kept getting more dreams, flashbacks into the story.......sometimes little details, sometimes insights into the characters, sometimes twists and turns to do with the plot. In the end I suppose looking back it was inevitable that I would write it. First I taught myself to type properly......3 months, and then, well.........I began. 

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At first I needed complete silence to be able to write, something there wasn't a lot of bearing in mind I was taking care of one young child, with another on the way. But over time I've learned to filter it all out and can now write with the kids playing around me if I need to, but I still think I do work more efficiently in total silence. But how do you build a fantasy world? Where on earth do you even begin?

Jotting some notes, outlining the story of course. But for me, it was more than that. I know this sounds insane, but subsequent dreams were so real. Sometimes I'd wake up in the morning with a certain smell playing through my nostrils, the perceived taste of a charcoal fajita clinging to the back of my dry throat, or the 'whoosh' of a monorail door sliding closed, echoing through my ears as I headed towards the shower. So not only could I see the story running through my head, I could taste, smell and hear all the elements that made it so vivid. All of this brought a whole new aspect to my writing. I thought I'd be sitting, staring at a screen and a keyboard, words fluttering effortlessly from my fingertips. Instead, I'd quite often be overtaken by the sounds, smells and tastes of the world I was trying to create, as well of course as the imagery.

It didn't take long before things stepped up another level. I found myself with questions I couldn't
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answer. Odd, particularly given it was my world that I'd created, to which the questions pertained. But these were facts....real world questions that needed real world answers. In my wildest imagination, both in my dreams, and at my desk, I never once thought I'd be trying to work out things like the top speed a dragon can fly at. Well, when you think about it, it really shouldn't make much difference. Should it? But I had a group of dragons travelling half way across the world, underground. There needed to be details. Oh well, I'll guess then. But it's not as easy as that. It never is. 'What about the speed of sound?" I hear you say.'re right of course. If, as a given, these dragons live and work underground, well most of them anyway, then flying beyond or close to the speed of sound has to be out of the question. The sonic boom would destroy everything in their wake. That would be the shortest-lived fictional world ever. After that I had to work out the underground route they'd take from Europe to Antarctica, and then how long it would take them to get there. At about this time I was starting to envy Star Trek's transporter technology. How much easier would that make things? After all, I think I'm right in saying that it was invented in the original series to save time and make it easier to get from the ship down to the planet every week.

This was only the opening chapter of my book, and there were so many things that I just hadn't bargained for. I thought I could sit and imagine underground monorails, packed with soft, giant dragon-sized seats, zooming beneath the surface of the Earth, deftly describing the noise the doors would make, or the feeling of the warm air as it exited the tunnels at the stations, caressing the cracks between a dragon's scales, warming their blood, making them feel alive. But it couldn't be that easy, even with something as simple as that. There were the G forces to consider, what route the monorail would take, and would it go through geologically unstable areas or around? And the seats. There can't be a problem with the seats, surely? Dragons using the monorail would not only be in their normal form (solitus) but would also be travelling in their mantra enhanced human disguises (mutatio). Dragons like this would look like tiny action figures sitting in huge, oversized dragon seats. How very stupid. Also, just how would a dragon in its natural form sit down on a seat in a monorail carriage? You're all shouting, 'REALLY CAREFULLY', I can hear you. No, I mean......wouldn't its tail get in the way? So how do you overcome that problem?

Again it's imagination vs the laws of physics. I won't tell you the answer - for that you'll have to read the first book in the series. But as a fantasy writer, it seems to be one constant battle between these two forces. Often there's more than one answer. But it seems all about finding the right balance. So while I would always encourage you to let your imagination loose, explain the sounds, the feel of the fabric, the mouth-watering taste of the foods, the overpowering smell of fear from an unbeatable battle and describe the scene as vividly as you see it in your head. 

Always remember the imagination/physics balance, because if you don't, it'll come back at some point later on and assume the form of a hulking great, prehistoric, matt black dragon, circle over you, like a leaf falling in the wind, before swooping down at much less than the speed of sound, and rip your head off.


As for me.........I look after my two girls, and when they're at school I'm a teaching assistant. I love playing hockey, and help coach kids, mine included. Other interests include reading, building computers, squash, cycling, great days out with my wonderful wife and kids, as well of course as WRITING! I've just published my second book in the 'Bentwhistle' series, called  'Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Chilling Revelation'

When Paul is not using mantra spells to create more dragon mayhem, he can be located here:

Thank you, Paul, for an interesting insight into the creation of believable fantasy; Many new fantasy writers could learn much from your experience, especially the use of sensory data to add a realistic dimension to the worlds they create.

Eric @  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Guest: Gunnar Angel Lawrence

My Guest this week has chosen to tackle a difficult question that many writers are asking: What do readers want these days? Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present...

Gunnar Angel Lawrence

Television and Movies Have
Changed Your Readers

An article in a law magazine once detailed the problem prosecutors are facing that they dubbed “The CSI Effect”. Jurors are more knowledgeable about crime scene investigative techniques and procedures all thanks to the last decade of being exposed to the hit television series 'C.S.I.'  They expect DNA to snag the bad guy, and prosecutors are having a more difficult time trying cases with circumstantial evidence. Like it or not, today’s entertainment at the movies and on television has changed the culture. It has changed what readers look for in a good read.

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Now, I am from what others would call, ‘The Old School’ when it comes to my selection in books to read. When I was in high school, Bram Stoker’s 'Dracula' was one of my favorites, I read ‘Moby Dick’, ‘The Scarlet Letter’ and the rest of the classics. And I enjoyed them all. The style of writing varied wildly but the story was communicated to a generation of people without the experience of seeing the vivid descriptions in motion the way people can today with television and movies. Our collective attention spans as a whole have been whittled down to twenty and thirty second ‘sound-bites’.

In an interview not too long ago, Steven Spielberg stated that his film 'Jaws' would not be as successful today as it was 39 years ago because the audiences are different. And audiences are different because of producers like him. The audience today would not wait until three-quarters of the movie is over before the ‘monster-reveal’. In the same way that the audiences of
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movies are different today, the readers are different too. They are different because of television and movies.

Think about writing from the perspective of someone watching a movie. In this example, we’ll use the classic, 'Return of the Jedi'. The opening sequence of the film begins with the massive newly constructed Death Star hovering in space. Forty years ago a book describing the scene could wax eloquently on the silence and stillness of the vacuum of space, the colors of the spaceship and serenity of the planet sized weapon of doom. Three pages of excessive detail would paint a picture for the reader to ‘see’.

Today’s reader would tire after the third paragraph of description and want the action. The shuttlecraft bearing the evil Emperor, the landing in the Death Star bay and the opening dialogue between Vader and the Emperor would have to be forefront and compelling. Descriptive is good, but in a generation of people who have grown up watching action movies and television shows, they don’t have the patience that we ‘old-timers’ had for waiting on that picture to be painted for us.

Coming Soon - click for more info
Many of these readers also don’t want to read chapters consisting of fifty or more pages, they don’t care that the chapter divisions sometimes make sense that way. They are reading during their commute to work, or in between tasks they are doing at home, so they want snippets. They want short manageable sections to read and then stop. For those that love thrillers, look at the pattern of shows like '24' or 'Alias'. There are multiple story lines progressing over the entire episode, each with a set of challenges that mesh together at the end. The frustrating cliff-hanger ending at the conclusion of each episode has the fan screaming but they come back for more every week. And a mini-cliff hanger at the end of these snippets form a chapter that forces the reader into the ‘one-more chapter before bed-time’ mode.

Two, three and sometimes even four POV’s move the overall story along and provide a more suspenseful arc to keep fans watching. When a book has one POV, usually the protagonist, it’s like the novels of the past. When writing for today’s lover of thrillers, at least in my case, I try to write to the pacing of one of these type of thriller shows. There’s a lot going on, in multiple locations with multiple characters and it sort of gels toward the end as they come together to achieve their goal. These days, that is what I like to read. I like to ‘see’ the action unfold before me, whet my appetite for things to come and keep reading.

The readers want to ‘hear’ the infamous ‘24’ ticking time clock in their minds as they finish the last few lines of a chapter, they want to keep reading, because the action doesn’t stop. They don’t care all that much that the protagonist had a lousy relationship with his or her father, although it may add something to the story. It’s all about what is happening, leaving the ‘why’ sometimes altogether neglected.

We can lament all we wish that today’s readers won’t experience the richness of Hemingway or Melville because of this ‘different’ culture that they have grown up in, or we can embrace it and use it to keep our readers entranced.
After years of ghostwriting thrillers, conspiracy novels and mystery books, Gunnar Angel Lawrence has published his first thriller. He is a native Floridian with a love for writing thrillers, mysteries and action stories with fast pacing and a unique twist. He lives in Saint Cloud, Florida with his dogs and is currently single. Most of his time is spent working on the sequel to 'The Perfect Day' which is entitled, 'The Consortium'. The tentative date for release is early 2015.


Thank you, Gunnar, for an interesting and informative article. Looking forward to reading 'THE CONSORTIUM' shortly.

Eric @

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Guest: Margo Bond Collins

My Guest this week has some extremely important advice for what to do when you have finished writing the novel. Now comes the hard bit. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Margo Bond Collins

Marketing Strategies for Authors: 
Holding Successful Online Release Parties

Back in the old, big-six-only publishing days, publishers would host extravagant parties for their authors, toasting them with champagne and serving caviar on little crackers while discussing the literary value of the books they produced. At least, that’s how I imagine it. For all I know, that’s still how it goes. (Okay. Actually, I’m pretty certain that never happened to the great majority of published authors. But it’s a nice little daydream.)

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Now, of course, even authors who publish with the traditional houses are expected to have a “platform,” a means of marketing their work to potential readers. And authors who either publish with indie presses or self-publish can’t survive without a marketing strategy that encompasses a wide variety of social media: Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and whatever else catches the public’s eye.

But it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day minutiae of keeping up with the social media, easy to forget to do anything other than the online equivalent of shouting “buy my book!” into the (potential) void.  We’re told that we should “build relationships” with potential readers, but figuring out precisely how to do that remains a bit of a mystery to many of us, I think.

This issue was brought sharply to my attention just last week when a fellow author responded to my invitation to the online release party for my second novel, Fairy, Texas. She asked if I thought there was any real value to the kind of party I was having—one with giveaways and prizes—or if I thought people were there only to grab free stuff. She was considering cancelling the release party for her next book because she wasn’t certain that it would result in any sales.

I thought about her question for quite a while before I answered here. After all, even without a physical venue for the party, the prizes were going to cost me something. My indie publishers, while extremely supportive, aren’t able to provide all that much in the way of giveaways. I have three (and maybe four) books coming out in a twelve-month period—the result of sending all my completed manuscripts out at the same time—and holding release parties for all of them, then mailing out prizes, could add up significantly in terms of cash and time.

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But my answer was ultimately that yes, I think the release parties are a good investment. I don’t know yet if a release party will ever result in immediately increased sales—I don’t have enough data yet to make that kind of determination—but I’ve decided not to take those kinds of immediate sales into consideration when deciding to hold my online release parties. Instead, I am focusing on two specific elements that are crucial to a successful release party: building relationships and celebrating success.  And those two elements are built in to the basics of a successful online release party—if done right, an online release party gives readers a chance to connect with an author and join in celebrating the author’s success, something that helps create a relationship between the reader and author.

So I am including the Steps to a Successful Online Release Party below. These are a few of the things that I have done in my own release parties.

10 Steps to a Successful Online Release Party

1. Pick a Platform.  I use Facebook because it’s easy to set an event page and invite others to participate.

2. Choose a Time. So far, I’ve had 3-hour parties; this allows enough time to hold contests and have conversations, but doesn’t leave much lag time. I’ve seen all-day events, and my experience has been that there are often whole hours without any active conversation. I think it’s important to keep the party moving!

3. Arrange for Prizes. There are basically two kinds of prizes: the ones you (or your publisher) provide, and the kind that other people provide. For my first release party, I had lots of swag printed up to use as prizes, then mailed it all out. For the second party, I decided to spend the swag and postage money offering gift cards instead—less work for me, more perceived value to my guests. Although the first kind of prize was more fun for me, I think the second kind was more fun for the people who attended my party. 

Add Legally Undead to your
 Goodreads To-Read Bookshelf
4. Arrange for More Prizes. The second kind of prize consisted of e-book giveaways. I contacted all the indie authors I know and asked if they were willing to donate a copy of an e-book. To date, I have had more than 70 authors share their work with my readers. I love these kinds of prizes because they introduce my friends, fans, and readers to other authors!

5. Have a Grand Prize. I start the party by announcing the grand prize and then offer several ways to enter over the course of the party.

6. Create Contests.  For the ebook giveaways, I have party-goers “like” the author on Facebook or follow on Twitter or add on Goodreads. For the other prizes (whether gift cards or swag), I ask them to do things connected to my novel: find theme music for the novel, or suggest actors to play various characters, or pick out their favorite phrase in a short excerpt. These contests give the author a chance to interact with the party attendees in fun ways!

7. Create a Basic Script Before the Party.  I create a file with all of the major posts already written and arranged according to posting time. That way I can spend the bulk of my time at the party interacting with the people there rather than writing up posts and contests. Remember, the prizes and the posts should be a gateway to actually communicating with the guests!

8. Interact with the Guests. Comment on the guests’ posts, on the actors your guests choose, on the music that’s being suggested. Discuss other things, too—it doesn’t have to be all about the books!

9. Keep the Prizes Open for a Day (or so). This way anyone who wanted to attend but couldn’t will still be able to enter to win. I also add a “Release Week Giveaway” Rafflecopter at the very end of the party that runs for an additional week.

10. Have Fun! This is probably the most important element—as long as you’re having a good time, the rest of it will work out!

I would love to hear from other authors, readers, and publicists. What has worked for you? What hasn’t? How can these ideas be improved? What suggestions would you give someone who was planning an online release party?


Margo Bond Collins is the author of a number of novels, including 'Waking Up Dead', 'Fairy, Texas', and 'Legally Undead' (forthcoming in 2014). She lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, and several spoiled pets. She teaches college-level English courses online, though writing fiction is her first love. She enjoys reading urban fantasy and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about vampires, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, and other monsters.

Connect with Margo:

Amazon Author Page:
Goodreads Author Page:

Thank you for an interesting and informative article, Margo. Best wishes for 'Legally Undead'

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Guest: Charity Parkerson

My Guest this week is going to reveal a world hidden from the majority of us. Is it the world the reader imagines, or are there darker secrets? Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to present...

Charity Parkerson

The secret life of 
an Erotic author

Follow just about any Erotica author online and you’ll be treated with pictures of delicious men, snarky jokes about spanking, and tons of other fun tidbits. No doubt, my online search of sexy topics—purely in the name of research, mind you—has landed me on more than one pervvy, government watch list. Opening my email has become a daily
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adventure. I never know what sort of fan mail I’ll find inside. I’ve seen things… horrible things… things I cannot unsee. The award for keeping a straight face while answering questions should arrive in my mailbox any day.

During a recent interview, I was asked to describe a day in the life of Charity Parkerson. 

This was the moment I realized two important things. Not only is my life vastly different than what people think, I also have not lost the awesome ability to horrify people speechless.  

For anyone interested in hearing about a day in the life of an erotica writer, here it is:

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After dragging myself out of the bed—kicking and screaming—I get my two boys ready for school, secretly praying they are going to spend the day with someone blessed with infinite patience. Eventually, I discover we are already ten minutes late. I then spend another ten minutes standing by the door screaming for everyone to get their d@#m shoes on, and praying someone with tons of patience is waiting to greet me at the school. Thirty minutes of travel time from one end of town to the other-- in order to drop them at two separate schools-- is spent listening to several arguments. The top one usually consists of my youngest accusing my oldest of being mean. The debate landing in second place is the one where I am accused of never seeing how annoying my youngest is being to my oldest. If you add in my fervent prayers for all the wonderful teachers out there
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to have strength, you have the first couple of hours of my day.  Once I have the house to myself, I drink a ton of coffee while catching up on tweets, Facebook messages, and emails. After obsessively checking my sales ranking and crying into my third cup of coffee, I stare blankly at the wall for 4 hours while dreaming of hot MMA fighters, police detectives, and demons. When I catch sight of the clock, I spend another thirty minutes wailing over how I’ve wasted the whole day, before going on Facebook to confer with my friends, only to realize they’re doing the same thing. This, of course, makes everything right with the world again. With that said, if it’s a month until my deadline, those four hours are spent alternating between clicking away at the computer keys and hyperventilating into a paper bag. If it’s the day after I’ve completed my manuscript, I’m patting myself on the back and lying about how I wasn’t worried in the least. Oh, and occasionally I spend my day dreaming about an organized computer where all my files are competently labeled making them easy to find. Then I remember I can’t afford minions and I’m over it.

Sorry to disappoint everyone who believed I spent my day swinging from the chandelier. Maybe one of these days hot cover models will feed me chocolate-covered strawberries. Unfortunately, it will—most likely-- only be because I’m in the nursing home and it’s their job. Until then, you could always read about the lives I live inside my mind. 


Charity Parkerson is an award winning and multi-published author with Ellora's Cave Publishing, Midnight Books, and Punk & Sissy Publications. Born with no filter from her brain to her mouth, she decided to take this odd quirk and insert it in her characters.

*2013 Readers' Favorite Award winner
*ARRA Finalist for Favorite Paranormal Romance
*Five-time winner of The Mistress of the Darkpath
*Named one of the top 10 best books by an Indie author in 2011- Paranormal Reads Reviews
*Best Paranormal Romance of 2012- Paranormal Reads Reviews

When Charity is not writing steamy novels (or swinging from the chandelier?) she can be found at:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Time for a Selfie... (for ASPIRING writers)

"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it."

- Groucho Marx, comedian and Genius (immortal)
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I often use the analogy of movies when talking about writing novels because they do have a number of things in common. This is yet another, although here there is a marked difference. Without a doubt this is possibly the most soul-destroying event any new writer will experience.

When making a movie, the Director will film many takes that will not end up in the final version of the film. These could be because the actors made a mistake, burst out laughing in the middle of filming, or simply because the Director just could not produce what he wanted. These days, this material is not lost on the Cutting-room floor when the Director and Film Editor put their heads together to create the final version of the movie, the one we will see in the theater. Usually these ‘outtakes’ appear as Extras on the DVD version of the movie, so at least the Director has the opportunity of placing more of their work before the viewing public.

Not so in the Writing world.

Once you have completed your First Draft, where, if you’ll recall, your sole objective is to transfer your story from your mind onto the page, the next step is polishing it. This is known as Hara Kiri Editing and there are several steps you should follow.

When you have literally, or mentally, typed ‘THE END’, a feeling of achievement, tempered with fear, will wash over you like a Tsunami. Yes, you can understand the achievement bit – it’s been a hard slog, but finally you are there – you have written a novel! 

No, sorry, you haven’t written a novel; you have written the first draft of a novel.

I said ‘fear’; why fear? Come on, search within and recognize that YOU KNOW you made compromises, especially as you neared the end; you know you CAN do better; you know there is room for improvement. Don’t be ashamed; we all do this, although many will not admit it.

As a creative writer, yes YOU, we now leave behind the pure abandon of fabricating something out of thin air and take a step to a hybrid situation where we will force ourselves to modify our creation while still trying to keep that freshness that abounded when we were pounding the keys. It’s a bit like Dr. Frankenstein deciding his monster would look better with blue eyes and less of a hooked nose…

Let’s take a look at the first part of the editing process, step by step.

The first step, as soon as you have finished you novel is:

You need a rest, a brief one, from what you have just written. I know the ‘just written’ bit refers to an extended period of time, months, maybe even years, but you have to distance yourself from your creation for a while and gain some perspective. It’s like a surgeon operating on a family member; unless you are objective, things are not going to go well!

But I’m finally a writer… I want to write, you say.

Fine, then write… something else. Try your hand at a short story, or an article, or a blog entry, or anything not related to your novel. It will still be there when you come back; don’t let impatience be your downfall after working so hard for so long.

After a couple of weeks you can pick up your story again and you may note your attitude towards it has subtly changed. It’s now easier for you to extract the scalpel and start cutting.

I know you have agonized over every word; battled the demons of randomness to memorize the Thesaurus and select the most suitable syllable to relay your ideas to your reader. But… you now have to make your book Lean and Mean!

Step two is a Selfie. No, I’m not suggesting you take a self-portrait for the back cover; I’m talking about a Self-Edit.

This is a multipart activity, as we will see.

First label the data file that is your novel ‘[title] FIRST DRAFT’ and make at least two copies of this, if you haven’t already done so, on pendrives and remove them from the vicinity of your computer. I’m a little Old-School too, so I always print out a full copy – What for? Read the chapter on Copyright and you’ll see. Then run the whole novel through your Word Processor’s Spell Checker. Okay, you’ve been doing this as you went along; fine, but do it again now. Make sure you have the right version of English selected (UK, US, whatever) and all the checking options switched on.

Done that? Document come back clean and approved?

Now read this:

I have a lovely spelling check
That came with my PC,
Witch plainly marks, four my revue,
Miss takes I can not sea.
I’ve run this poem threw the thing.
I’m sure your please too no.
It’s latter perfect in every weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

Many years ago, an anonymous writer produced the above and it’s as true today as it was when it was first parsed through the spell checker – it comes out clean – no errors!

These are Homonyms and they are the bane of any Spell Checker. A Homonym can be at the same time a  Homograph (words that share the same spelling, regardless of their pronunciation) and a Homophone (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of their spelling). There are a few obvious ones that will now be lurking in your novel: there and their and they’re; we’re and wear; for, four and fore to name but a few (phew?), but the list is long, believe me – Google ‘Homonyms’ and the Internet will provide you with a huge list. You could type these into the ‘Find’ field in your Word processor and check each one, but there are easier solutions, as we’ll (wheel, well?) see (sea?).

Just a minute. Didn’t you (ewe) say we should read through our work and catch stuff like that?

Yes, but…

Now read this…

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteers be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

No, this is not a joke; it’s a real study done a few years ago at Cambridge University which basically concluded that if you retain the first and last letters of any word in their correct position, and all the others are present, our brains can correctly interpret the sense in short paragraphs of text. There's an old joke by comedian Eric Morecambe about playing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order. It’s pattern recognition, which is how we read.

Okay, the spell-checker would catch all of those.

Then there’s this:
 Your memory will recognize the
the words and convince your
your brain it is reading what should
be on the page.

Nothing wrong with that, right? 

Look again. 

Still not spot it? Read it aloud.

So if we can’t trust the Word Processor or our own brains…

I’ve mentioned the existence of self-editing software before. This is not just a spell-checker on steroids, as so many are, offering little more than your Word spell check. It’s much more and a boon to writers of all levels. It’s easy to use and its job is twofold: 

a) enable you to do a Selfie far more diligently and effectively

b) improve how you write.

Check out Stylewriter (just click on the name to visit the site – there’s a FREE trial of the software too) as a perfect example of what I’m talking about. I thoroughly recommend it. Also the company that produces it not only have the editing software, but a really useful website to teach you, using videos, how to get the most out of it. There’s even a Writing Course. When using the software, remember to switch on all the options, especially things you may think are not necessary such as checking quoted text (dialogue) where you may deliberately break the rules.

This stage of the Selfie will take time; three or four FULL days at least for a full-length novel, as you examine everything reported (including Homonyms) and make changes as you go along. Save your document as ‘[title] FIRST DRAFT’ – yes, I know we already did that, but we are only just getting started. We won’t move on to the SECOND DRAFT until we finish the Selfie.

Don’t forget to update the security copies you made after every editing session, to!

Next, PRINT the whole thing out – single side, double-spaced with a wide (two inch, five centimeter, right-hand margin and an inch on the left) margin. Yes, I know you only want to produce an eBook… bear (bare?) with me.

Now the hard bit…


Hang on! Shouldn’t I be giving this to friends and family to read and check my novel for me?

Not yet.

Find a quiet room where maybe your furry foot-warmer can accompany you but where other family members, friends, visitors, Joe Public in general are banned!

Close the door, grab a pen or pencil, find a comfortable chair, turn to page one and…

read your novel ALOUD.

No, I don’t mean just move your lips… act it out!

Imagine you were reading it to an audience.

Read exactly what’s written, obeying all the punctuation marks (pausing for commas, semi and full colons, full stops/periods, ellipsis, etc; exclamation and interrogation marks should be treated accordingly too).

Dialogue should be read and infused with emotion – imagine your work is now a movie and you are hearing actors representing it on the screen.

Yes, you will find yourself saying “silly me; I’ve made a mistake there” (or shorter words conveying the same sentiment) and pausing to make use of the acreage in the margin – good, you’re getting the idea – don’t stop to rush to your computer to make the changes yet though. Work through the complete novel – it will take days, but it will give you a great sense of the rhythm and flow whilst drawing your attention to things you have forgotten to include (!) or stuff that needs cutting (!!) because it doesn’t add anything to the narrative. You may even change the order of events (!!!), even whole chapters (!!!!). You may decide to eliminate complete characters (!!!!!!).

I told you it was hard work, but comfort yourself with the knowledge that your novel will be all the better for this.

My very first draft of ‘2012’ (note use of lower case – I refer to the copy that was the input to the process described above) was 118,000 words in length; the published version was 88,000 words. Yes I did just say I chopped 30,000 words from that novel!

A trick I have for this stage of the Selfie is to use the right margin for making corrections (I always choose a contrasting ink color that’s easy to spot against the black ink on the page), underline the text where the correction needs to be applied, and then put a large X in the left-hand margin at the start of the line. I also fold down the top left-hand corner of any pages that have any corrections to make them easy to locate. You will probably find that most pages will end up like this; at this stage in ‘the CULL – Bloodstone’ only four pages out of the complete novel did not have bent corners, and one of those said ‘THE END’!

Finally, if you haven’t been carted off to a mental institution at the behest of worried family members after hearing you talk to yourself for days on end in a locked room, you are ready for the next bit of the Selfie.


Apply all the changes. When you finish each chapter, save it (backup copies as well) and go back and read it aloud again, this time not only checking you haven’t missed anything, but evaluating the PACE of what you’ve written. Try to be as objective as possible, and ensure you are judging ONLY the Pace. Try to isolate your assessment so it doesn’t take into account preceding or following chapters (you have an unfair advantage over your readers in that you know what’s coming, remember).  

When you have finished, run the whole beastie through the self-editing software again. Then, and only then, you can change the resultant document’s name to ‘[title] SECOND DRAFT’.

If you are doing this right, you are getting pretty bored with your book by now. That’s a GOOD sign. Soldier on; we’re getting there.

Now, if you wish, you can post your work on review sites or have friends, Romans and countrymen Beta read the creation.

Finished, right? Just need to see what the amigos think of your masterpiece. Only a question of waiting now…

Sorry. Now’s the time to get the Professionals involved...

The above was extracted from the chapter on Editing in 'How NOT to be an ASPIRING Writer' by yours truly. It's aimed at anyone who's new to this writing business and, using a witty, chatty style, I will walk you through the minefield that is the new publishing paradigm; from how to turn an idea into a story to using Social Media and all the interesting stuff in between.

If you want to lose that 'aspiring' word or simply become better at writing fiction (any genre) then this is for you.


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