Writing Competitions – Want to Win? Part Two

Part Two

Author Annette YoungIn this second article in the Writing Competitions – Want to Win series, I am going to discuss repetition in story ideas. While it’s absolutely fine to reinvent an idea, it should only be considered a starting point. I see a great many stories when judging writing competitions which have not been evolved sufficiently. It’s as if the writer has become stuck in the moment and has not known where to take the story so that it develops, extends and even, diversifies. Instead of the creative process leading the way to something quite unique, the process is stopped short, cut off in its prime.

This can occur through a lack of time or, a lack of creativity at that time.

Sometimes, submissions are beautifully written but even well-written stories cannot compete against those that are well-thought out, read well and show much originality. When we review submissions, we look for creativity and technique of course, but it is a joy to see work from a writer who is capable of extending boundaries, taking an idea and developing it to its full potential.

Don’t be too keen to rush a story. Think it through. What could you do that would make an ordinary story shine?

Tip: Begin with your basic idea but then, craft a story that is powerful and compelling by making it an unpredictable read. Think of alternative endings. Throw in a few obstacles. This alone could make you be in with a chance of winning.

Missed Part One? Read it HERE

Want to have a go at entering a writing competition? Click HERE

 

 

Conflict in Setting

Conflict

by Annette Young

Last night I ventured into Torrevieja (Spain) and found a peaceful place alongside one of the marinas where in the early evening, the sound of holidaymakers faded into an acceptable distance and the main sound was of water gently moving and boats swaying. It was peaceful to say the least and with a fading blue sky and temperatures slightly dipping, it was easy to let go of the tensions of the day and to just slip into observation mode.

Over the months, it has actually become a favoured spot where I go to recharge the mental batteries and to unwind. There are always people wandering past the bar towards their boats and occasionally, beautiful boats pull out into the deep waters or return to their designated mooring space. Then there are those who like me, find the place an oasis of tranquility – a refuge from the intense heat of the town and away from the throngs of holidaymakers. There are always a few people milling around, but mainly those who have come to stay in one of the apartments situated behind the few bars strategically placed along the waters edge. As night cast its shadow over the scene, the place suddenly came alive with candles aesthetically placed, and flickering light plus lamplight, sparkling, the light rays mirrored in the fluctuating waters, affording the outside space a cosy, shimmering feel. 

Then, out of nowhere, the sound of a singer being strangled or tortured to say the least, fragmented the peace as his booming voice carried across the marina deafening all who were close. Although I have found much of the entertainment in Spain to be a little cheesy, usually I enjoy it regardless, and the atmosphere deepens but last night, it was too loud, too copied, too false and, it was the wrong time and place.

But you may ask, what has this to do with writing?

Simply this, as the tranquility fractured around me, I couldn’t help thinking about the importance of setting within fiction writing and how writers have to be able to conjure up a scene and relay this to the reader so that it comes to life in a believable way and that it feels right. Last night, all I could think was that the singer and the setting were in conflict with each other. They didn’t match, it most certainly didn’t feel right and the people in the outdoor restaurant, were helpless prisoners as their ears were tortured.

While I may exaggerate just a little, the setting and the entertainment were in sharp contrast to each other. There was little thought into how suitable a setting or how suitable the entertainer would be. If a string quartet had been placed alongside the boats, the music would have enhanced the setting, generating a rhythmic atmosphere to maximise the beauty of the waterside scene. If a harpist performed solo or soft, lilting Spanish music was played, a beautiful scene would be transformed further. But this was not the case.

Writers can observe these conflicting settings and use them to add elements to their writing either to accentuate an irritating event or, to avoid creating conflict within a setting to avoid alienating the reader. There’s nothing worse than a reader questing the way a character thinks or acts or, if the scene is less than real to them, it only stops the readers from becoming involved in the story.  

Writing is all about observation and you can create wonderful ideas, develop new characters or even comprehend the complexities of layers just through watching life unfold around you. With your eyes open and having a natural instinct to create, it is possible to breathe new life into your fiction simply through awareness. At the very least, life will spark off new ideas and will warn you of fiction pitfalls.  

Check out the Novel Writing Blueprint and learn the foundations of a successful novel or, take our Fiction Masterclass and bring your stories to life. 

 

 

 

 

Easy Ways to Destroy Your Novel Writing Success

Novel Writing

by Annette Young

Even the most enthusiastic and passionate of writers can murder their chances of being successful in their novel writing efforts if not careful and over the years, I have seen many writers make many mistakes which have scuppered their attempts to have their novel published. As such, I’ve compiled a list and and if any sound worryingly familiar, do your best to avoid them in future.  

Waiting and wondering

Sometimes inspiration is slow to strike. It happens to everyone but yes, it is frustrating. You may have the time, the space and the inclination but the blank page from your new computer is quick to mock you for your inactivity, so what do you do? The worst thing (and most common) mistake for new writers is that they sit and wait for the lightning bolt of inspiration to zig zag out of the sky and to replenish their creativity. Oh, if it were only that easy. Sometimes, you have to give your imagination a jolt the old-fashioned way and just start writing. Each word might be painful and your brain will protest but nail yourself to that chair if you have to.  

The evil inner critic

As writers, we are often so hard on ourselves. We expect the words to tumble like gemstones in a perfectly polished state so that little editing or rewriting is required, sadly, it doesn’t happen this way. The writing process certainly is demanding and if you are one to give yourself a hard time on the occasions when those words do not flow and much of the work has to be rewritten, try to stop those negative thoughts.  Even the most prolific and experienced of writers have to push their inner critic to one side or, better still, banish it from the room.

Oh, the arrogance

While the inner critic demolishes their own chances of success, by contrast, the arrogant writer will blame everyone else for their inability to get published or to make money from their endeavours. The road to writing success is never easy for anyone but being arrogant if and when failure occurs will not help one little bit. I have witnessed the arrogance of would-be writers many times and just having a natural talent with the written word does not automatically ensure success. If a publisher or editor decides to reject your work, they do so for a reason. Perhaps the guidelines were not read and inwardly digested, or perhaps they were read but simply ignored? Sound familiar?

Rushing

With the relative ease of being published these days, some writers are guilty of rushing their work and then, once published, wonder why feedback is far from sweet. Often writers take the kind words of their families or friends as gospel and then publish immediately instead of doing the sensible thing and requesting a manuscript critique where any errors or developmental needs would be highlighted. It’s far better to take an extra week or so and have the book polished and ready to publish than to read numerous negative views. Ouch.

Holding onto the baby  

Some writers refuse to send their creative baby out into the world, they hug these creations, clasping them tightly and refuse to let anyone see them. Their novel may have become the next best-seller but even if not, if hiding creativity away, there’s no chance of progression at all. If a lack of confidence is the issue, improve your fiction writing skills (and your confidence) by signing up for one of our classes, or join a local college writing course. Some writers finish their novels and place them in a drawer and they are never seen again. What a shame.

Calling it a day

Some writers work feverishly for weeks or months and then get completely stuck. Instead of asking for help by the professionals, they decide writing is not for them, it’s too hard. Well, yes, writing is really hard and that is why when success happens, it is so amazing. The joy of being published is simply incredible, yes, whether self-publishing or not, people can read your novel. You become a novelist. Now that sounds good right? So don’t quit unless you really don’t care. After all, you don’t walk into a new job and perform perfectly do you? You have to learn the relevant techniques and processes and this is exactly the same for writing.

If any of these errors sound more than a little familiar, do something about it. That novel idea you have or the half-written novel tucked away in a drawer could be the best thing ever. Don’t hide it.

If you need help with your writing, talk to us. Email: info@creative-competitor.co.uk

You can also check out our full list of author services right HERE.

Characterisation – Falling Out of Love

Life as a writerby Annette Young

It’s not a great feeling. You prepare to start writing and then you have to face up to the feeling, you have lost belief in your characters and worse, you don’t even really like them that much.  If you feel this way, stop, there’s no point plodding on because the finished result is likely to be that your readers don’t care a jot about your characters either.

 Good characterisation is vital. You really have to care about your characters and be prepared to invest in them in respect of your time, your energy, your experiences and your desire to bring them to life. If you have done all this and yet, still, you feel a little flat, you need to identify what’s wrong with your creations and consider how to make vital changes. 

If you have created character profiles, then take the time to review them. It may be that your character profile is insufficient and your focus has wandered a bit throughout the developmental stage. It may be that your plot has digressed and your characters no longer quite fit with your initial vision. 

It’s easy to make changes, as long as you are honest about your waning interest. Battling on and gritting your teeth determined to finish will always make the end result a little lack-lustre. There’s no cheating the steps towards creating great fiction and characters that do your story proud. Writing fiction can be difficult enough but when it comes to characterisation, you really do need to consider what you want to achieve and go all out to do just this. 

I would always recommend creating character profiles if you are working on a lengthy piece of fiction. It will keep you on track but enables you to really get to know your characters quickly and easily. If you feel that your characters just don’t do it for you, stop, think and then amend some of their traits. Remember, for a character to be believable, they have to have likable traits as well as traits that are irritating. In real life, we are never all good or all bad. We have good and bad habits as will your characters.  Think about how you would like your character to be viewed and add in a few quirky but nice qualities and you’ll soon enjoy writing about your characters once more. 

If you have a clear vision of all that you are trying to achieve, you’ll spot any potential issues sooner than later. 

For more information on fiction and good characterisation, take a look at the Fiction Masterclass

The Writing Life

 

Life as a writer

by Annette Young

Someone asked me the other day why I write. It’s not a simple answer, it’s complex because it is such an integral part of me. When I tried to explain that I couldn’t halt the sway of characters or ideas that popped into my mind, that I lived and breathed my role as a writer because not only was it my career but I truly loved it and needed it, I could see them mentally calculating my sanity, or, at the very least, wondering how I was able to function in the real world.

But this is both the joy and the plight of the writer.

We are firmly contained within our own thought processes and life outside of our creative imaginings is often not as vibrantly rich or as fulfilling. I’m often guilty of switching off and slipping into my own make-believe zone as a potential whopper of an idea comes to mind. I often return to the present wide-eyed, wondering what I have missed. 

Not everyone can understand what it means to be a writer. Certainly, some people may not be supportive of your creative drive. This is because it is an alien occupation to many. It’s isolating and, time-consuming. You need to slip into the story-line, see it and feel it and become a watcher on the side lines of your own story. For family and friends, your writing passion may be just an annoyance, it takes you away from the family unit, it means you don’t listen to them or notice when those little jobs need doing. Often there’s a disbelief that it is possible to support yourself or to make a living through the written word. But whether you are as yet unpublished or, have started to carve out your niche as a writer, it’s more about the enjoyment of writing and of being able to satisfy those creative urges.

I think this….write because you need to, write because it feels good and write because you cannot imagine ever doing anything else. 



My Secrets to Fiction Excellence

Writing Fiction

Author Annette Youngby Annette Young

If you are looking for the secrets to writing good fiction, it’s all about expanding the mind and utilising the experiences within. Fiction has to be based in realism even if the fabrics of the story are borne from your imagination. Sometimes, it’s about breaking the rules and letting your imagination take over, it’s about taking risks, learning and anticipating the techniques that work and those that don’t.

I knew that I wanted to be a writer from the time that I could pick up a book. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write and my brain was constantly overflowing with ideas. During my younger years, I wasn’t thinking that each piece of writing would be published, I knew I had to bring my words to life and I was never satisfied with the work completed.

As I grew older, I learned the joys of research, settling into a comfy chair and curling up with a never ending stream of good books. I began to analyse what worked and what didn’t. I learned a lot. We all have our preferences when it comes to reading or writing and for me, nothing beats a good murder mystery or an intense psychological thriller, (blame my counselling background for the latter) but it’s a good idea to step outside of your chosen niche sometimes and to dissect and inwardly digest a variety of techniques.

When I seriously began writing, I tried to put all my knowledge into a practical application and then realised, you just can’t or shouldn’t, emulate someone else’s voice, it’s theirs alone, yet you can still learn from other published authors, using their ideas, their words and techniques as a springboard. Developing your own voice is essential.  Once this falls into place, writing becomes even more enjoyable, it becomes a gift.

I have always been a people-watcher. We are all so fascinating and the fact that people are inherently flawed, this is a wonderful resource to the fiction writer and I absolutely revelled in creating characters that are so deep they are almost  unfathomable.

There is no doubt that real life provides a never-ending source of inspiration. From the nosy, curtain twitching neighbour to the desperate for attention woman or the quiet, surly individual that lurks on the edge of society and who never reveals much, yet deep inside, there are murky, secretive depths to them all.

In fiction, you have to understand the human condition and embrace it, utilising it throughout. Characters can drive a story forward by their actions and desires and snippets of information should be revealed little by little but it’s important to never give too much away.

Writing fiction is akin to playing God. You create, you tease, you explore possibilities, you design events, tragedies, mysteries, drama, chance meetings, love and passion and then, can whisk it all away in a whim. It’s good to make your characters suffer, let them experience the highs and lows of reality, use your own experiences as a starting point and then let the fictional senses take over. It’s important that the reader gleans much through the actions of those characters rather than you laying it all on the line.

There are many secrets to writing good fiction, but enjoyment of the writing process is paramount. Think about it, do you give a piece of yourself every time you write? You should. If the character cries, feels alone and desperate, you need to share those emotions as deeply. Feel it, live it, write it.

The world doesn’t stand still and neither does your story. Your characters must evolve as the plot develops and changes. This fluidity can be appealing, a reader can recognise confident writing and mastery of the written word. Build tension, suspicion and doubts, make the reader think, wrap up your story in an evocative guise, allow the readers to be enveloped in the richness of glorious multi-coloured content, then let in darkness and shade when you need the reader to feel the starkness of your words and the futility of the characters plight. Evoke the senses of all who read your words and provide pure escapism irrespective of genre.

These are some of my secrets to fiction excellence. Over the years they have become an integral part of me and I keep these techniques firmly at the fore, ready for when I need to tap into them. When you understand people, when you are not afraid to dig deep and to lay your own emotions bare and when you write for the sheer love of it, the power of the written word becomes a tangible force.

Create a Dramatic Start to your Short Story

by Annette Young

When writing short stories, do you ever find yourself struggling to fit the entire plot into your designated word count?  This is a really common mistake and one that most writers make initially. Many publications and competitions place restrictions on the total word count, so if you are going to be successful, you need to make sure that you start your story in the right place by creating an effective and gripping opening paragraph.

Think back, when you started writing your story, did it seem as if you had masses of words to play with and yet suddenly, the word count was blown apart and you were still only halfway through the story? If this sounds familiar, you might find that you are starting to write without a clear direction of the plot.

Think about it. A short story has to be written so tightly that it carries the reader along at a great pace. Every word should be relevant and not there to simply pad the story out. If you have descriptive passages, they really need to paint a strong visual picture or create a vivid atmosphere. If you have dialogue, is it meaningless conversation or will the reader be informed as to something crucial to the unfolding story?

A short story does not need a sub-plot. If you only have a few thousand words to complete your story, then there is no time for a sub-plot anyway. You should start at a gripping point and provide a climatic ending that keeps the reader thinking about the outcome for the protagonist. Great fiction is about providing conflict and how the characters can resolve the situation. The reader doesn’t need to watch the characters going from A to C via B. They just need to know that the characters do.

There is no need to start your story at a point where the character is simply getting up in the morning unless it is vital to the storyline.

Here’s an example of two opening paragraphs and you can choose the one that is the most gripping:

Melissa opened her eyes slowly. Warm sunlight bathed her room in a yellow glow. It was time to get up. The alarm had not sounded yet but she knew if she turned her head to the side that it would in just a matter of minutes. Yawning, she swung her legs out of bed, feeling a little dizzy as she sat on the edge of her firm mattress. Today was going to be important. There was something she had to do although she couldn’t remember what.  She walked slowly across the room and opened the curtains wide. The neighbours were in the garden watering their precious prize winning plants. She didn’t like them, or their roses. Horrible things completely covered in bugs. Plus roses signified love and she no longer had a place for that in her life.

 

The dead body slumped in the corner of her bedroom seemed to gaze accusingly right at her when she swung her legs out of bed. The memory of her actions the night before came flooding back and she felt a twinge of remorse followed by angst. Now what the hell could she do with his body?  If her nosy neighbour hadn’t of caught her spraying weed killer on his precious prize winning roses late last night, she would have never had to kill him. His mistake had been to threaten to call the police and she was here to rebuild her life and not to get into more trouble. Melissa had been surprised by the ease at which she knocked him to the floor, winding him. The weed killer sprayed easily into the back of his throat and although he had gagged, she had kept his mouth firmly closed until the liquid ran down his throat. It had taken him quite a long time to die; he had lain on her path convulsing as she had watched. Finally, she had dragged his puny body into her house whilst the poison did its thing and he had twitched and pulsed begging for help as the poison ravaged his insides.

 

If you can get your starting point right, you will find that it makes it much easier to complete your story in any designated word count. In addition, if you start your story on a dramatic high note, you will hook the reader much more readily. The first paragraph eases into the story very slowly. By the time the reader gets to know about the murder, the word count would be exhausted. The second story plunges right in and although it starts at the same point in time, it reveals a whole lot more than the first paragraph.

The next time you write your short story, play about with several openings and see which one would lead the reader much more quickly into the storyline. Keep the momentum going throughout and use the extra word count for creating a highly visual and entertaining story that is not rushed, but is just effective.

Image courtesy of [Againstar] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Female Heroines: Is Kick-Ass Compatible With Kleenex?

By Lauren E Grimley

Go on nearly any website related to reading and you will find entire discussion groups dedicated to books with strong heroines. It seems kick-ass female characters are popular in commercial fiction right now, and not just in books for young women, but in books for a variety of audiences. As an independent female and moderate feminist, this trend is pleasing-to a point.

I love reading about and writing about female characters who are self-sufficient, confident, and who every now and then kick a little ass. But I also love when those same characters admit (at least to themselves) to being afraid, insecure, and sensitive, because, as a woman who also struggles occasionally with these emotions, it makes these characters easier to relate to. Real women, strong women, still have feminine qualities that don’t make them any less kick-ass, yet it seems readers and viewers of fictional females are quick to criticize a character who displays too much emotion. I understand wanting our heroes and heroines to be a little bit stronger than the people we interact with in real-life, but a woman doesn’t have to suppress all emotion to be strong. For that matter, despite what society might say to our young boys and men, guys don’t have to either.

A few years ago I was writing a paper about the females in the Harry Potter series, and was discouraged to see so many critics, often females themselves, arguing that J. K. Rowling was exacerbating female stereotypes in her books. Their reasoning often focused on the fact Hermione cried and displayed emotion too often and Molly Weasley coddled her children and was a stay-at-home mother, as if a teenage girl who didn’t hide her feelings and a mother who cared deeply for her family couldn’t also be strong female role-models. Hermione’s emotions didn’t get in the way of her using her logic to save her two male co-characters any more than Molly’s love of her family kept her from fighting evil (while also providing the best line in the entire seven book series, just before killing another female character: “Not my daughter, you bitch!”). These female characters’ compassion, morality, and sensitivity occasionally made them vulnerable, but not weak.

Shortly after writing my paper defending the females in Rowling’s works, I began writing my own novel. I wanted my protagonist to be a strong independent female, but as my story progressed, I realized she cried or wanted to cry almost as often as she verbally or physically kicked ass. On one of my earlier drafts I scratched the question, “Does Alex cry too much?” in a corner of a page. I worried readers might view her as weak. I was tempted to edit out a majority of her emotions in order to keep her the kick-ass heroine I had set out to write. It wasn’t until I took a step back and looked at the piece as a whole, rather than hyper-focusing on scenes where Alex cried, that I realized I had created the female I wanted to. She was smart, sassy, and both mentally and physically strong. She was also capable of feeling compassion, having her heart broken, and falling helplessly in love. If I edited those parts out I’d be left with a character who looked like a woman, but acted, spoke, and thought like a guy. I didn’t want a dude with boobs or a pit bull with lipstick; I wanted a woman with guts, brains, and a heart. I’m hoping for my sake and my readers’ that I got it right.

It’s a shame that in fantasy, action, and adventure books, guys got all the glory for so long, and it’s great that female characters (and writers) are fighting their way to the forefront of these genres, so long as we’re not doing it by simply slapping heels on our heroes, renaming them heroines, and calling it a day. It’s not stereotypical to admit there are distinct differences between the genders, but it is sexist to deem certain qualities of either gender as weak. Most readers will appreciate a writer who’s willing to embrace and celebrate all sides of a female character. After all, there’s plenty of room in most women’s handbags to pack both a Taser and some tissues.

Lauren Grimley is a middle school English teacher, writer, and author of the urban fantasy novel Unforeseen. Though she writes mostly fantasy, she likes to share her thoughts on writing, teaching, and life through her website: http://www.laurengrimley.com/

To see an excerpt from her novel Unforeseen visit: http://www.laurengrimley.com/LaurenGrimley_Current_Proje.html

Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?Female-Heroines:-Is-Kick-Ass-Compatible-With-Kleenex?&id=6946492] Female Heroines: Is Kick-Ass Compatible With Kleenex?

How to Find Places to Publish Your Short Fiction

By Kathryn Lively

Not everybody aspires to write the great American novel. In fact, many writers are content to thoughtful and engaging short stories, whether for broad consumption or simply as a means of channeling creative energy into the written word. Writing short stories may not make you a millionaire, but you have the opportunity to gain a loyal readership and perhaps find greater glory in another medium. When you consider that a short story about cowboys by Annie Proulx, published originally in The New Yorker, was adapted into an Oscar-winning film, you’ll find the possibilities of interpreting your story are many. So, too, are opportunities for getting them read.

Thanks to the Internet, writers have greater avenues to explore for their writings. As a short story author, you especially want to take note of market guidelines – what rights are signed over, how you are paid, and in which media your story will be distributed. Here are just a few suggestions for your short piece:

Story Journals and Magazines – Yes, there are still many journals and periodicals on the market that accept short fiction. Granted, some of the better known magazines may require you to have agent representation, but you can consult the annual Writer’s Market guides to find out which journals will look at work and what you need to do to submit.

Anthologies – Keep an eye out, too, for submission calls by publishers putting together multi-author anthologies. These are especially popular in certain genres like science fiction or mystery. While many anthologies are by invitation only, you can search online submission calls for other projects. Editors of these works typically offer authors a flat fee and take one-time rights, but it’s best to check all the particulars before you sign a contract.

Self-Published Singles – Thanks to the likes of Amazon’s KDP platform, authors can offer short stories for the Kindle. You can charge as little as 99 cents for readers to download your stories to eBook devices or laptops.

Short Story Collections – If you find you have enough shorts to comprise a book, you may wish to consider publishing them together as a collection. Research publishers interested in taking on a short story author, or look into alternatives in self-publishing to get your book out to readers.

Story Websites – As with periodicals, there are fiction websites willing to pay for content. Some may be subscription based, while others make the works available to all visitors. Be sure to study all potential websites before submitting.

Think Outside the Box! As a writer you are encouraged to be original. Take advantage of new media to promote work. Tweet your story 140 characters at a time on your account, or set up a Facebook page for your stories. You may not make money, but the readers you gain from your publicity may end up buying your works later on.

Short fiction is more in demand than you think. Know where to go to submit your work, and you will discover a rising appreciation for your talents.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on [http://www.turnthepagepublishing.com/self-publishing]freelance editorial services and [http://www.spiderwriters.com]social media writing.

Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?How-to-Find-Places-to-Publish-Your-Short-Fiction&id=6576691] How to Find Places to Publish Your Short Fiction

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That Creative Time of Day

By S. B. Redd

My house is usually at it quietest between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. More than likely, my daughter has fallen asleep by default after talking for countless hours on the phone or spending time on some social network, and my wife, despite her tendency of being a light sleeper, has entered into a deep sleep pattern.

As for me, it’s my most productive time of day. It’s been that way for decades. I’ll go as far as to say that it’s probably a productive time of day for you if you’re a writer or creative arts is your passion.

Think about it. Unless you’re working a job that requires your productivity at that time of night, what person in his or her right mind will be up with a pen or notepad, or pecking away on a computer keyboard? But there is something universally magical about that time of day. All of a sudden, thoughts and ideas begin to make better sense. The words seem to flow better. That creative concept all of a sudden seems clearer.

For years, I merely made light of one of my most notable achievements in my former profession as a newspaper reporter coming from a burst of creative energy that I experienced about 2:30 a.m. The story that I turned in later that day was a rough draft. It went over so well that there were virtually no revisions. That same rough draft actually earned me top national honors for best news story in my newspaper circulation category.

The first time I really shared this experience among other book authors was while I hosted my former talk show, in 2009. My featured guest that night was singer/songwriter Brenda Russell, whose work has been covered by other artists: “Get Here” by Oleta Adams, “Please Pardon Me (You’re A Friend of Mine)” by Rufus featuring Chaka Kahn, and “If Only for One Night” by Luther Vandross are just a few that went on to become mega hits.

Ms. Russell understood exactly where I was coming from once I mentioned the inexplicable magic that seems to occur during that timeframe.

A good time to write, she said. Often, it’s the first thing that we write is a strong idea.

Since then, I’ve come in contact with other authors who seem to thrive during those early morning hours. They also attribute it to being a time of the day when they’re best able to concentrate on their craft and summon much of their creative energy.

I suppose only time will allow me to conclude if any of the work I’ve now done as an editor, author, or publisher might result in some major critical acclaim or a noted best-seller. Meanwhile, I continue to peck away on my keyboard in the relative solitude in my house: it’s also the only time that my wife and daughter aren’t interrupting me.

S.B. Redd is the publisher and creative coordinator at MavLit Publishing. He is also an editor, published author, and an award-winning former print journalist. Visit his websites at http://www.mavlitpublishing.blogspot.com or http://www.maverick-books.com

Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?That-Creative-Time-of-Day&id=6541871] That Creative Time of Day

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4 Tips to Stop Procrastinating So You Can Finish Your Book

By Carmen Berry

The craft of writing can be complex and life-changing. But sometimes there are simple things you can do to get your book written that aren’t all that complicated or deeply insightful. Here are four obvious and practical ways you can help yourself get to writing and stop procrastinating.

1. Get rid of interruptions

Turn off the television and your phone! Sooooo many interruptions break into our times of concentrated thought. Writing requires a period of time when our creativity is allowed to come out and play. Your creative process isn’t going to be any happier than a child who wants attention while you talk on the phone. Put away all distractions. Protect your writing time.

2. Get rid of distractions

In this over-stimulating world we live in, we’re being taught to dash from one thought to another, from one online video to another, from one TV show to another…Whew.

I think it’s even harder for writers to avoid distractions because there are so many handy ones calling for your attention right on your computer. It’s easy to be swept away by articles on the latest political sex scandal, watch a cute video of cats playing the piano, find out what the Kardashians are up to and…oh, that irresistible computer game… No! No! No! Get into your Word document and focus on writing.

3. Inspire creativity

If you get stuck, stop writing and start reading. One way to get the creative juices flowing is to read the writings of other authors.

But this is also a way to keep you from writing your own material. If you need to prime the well, then read for a short while. But you won’t finish your book by reading, only by writing. So, my next advice is to stop reading and start writing.

4. Create artificial rewards

We both know that no one will stand up and applaud when you finish a chapter in your book, or successfully outline a new section. No. Instead you’ll probably get up from the computer with people impatient for you to finish and give them attention. Not exactly a motivating situation.

So set up rewards for yourself when you meet your writing goals. I often compare creativity with young children-and I suspect your inner muse is no different. So be playful as you create your rewards. Do something fun. Eat something delicious. Give yourself stickers. Whatever brings a smile to your face and gives you sense of reward after a job well done.

For a FREE copy of my newest workboook, Make Your Hook Sizzle and Sell, a $17 value go to http://www.carmenberry.com/Carmen-Berry-Free-Download.html

Are you having trouble finishing your book? Carmen Berry, MSW can help! She is a New York Times bestselling author who authored, co-authored and ghost written over 20 books with top publishers including Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Penguin. Her clients can avoid making common-sense blunders that many first-time authors make. She works with aspiring writers who love helping people such as mental health professionals, educators, medical professionals, pastors, fitness experts and craft enthusiasts.

What could this same kind of success mean to your career?

Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?4-Tips-to-Stop-Procrastinating-So-You-Can-Finish-Your-Book&id=6552761] 4 Tips to Stop Procrastinating So You Can Finish Your Book

Perilous Journey

by Charlotte Tsoku

He sat motionless staring into space.

“Are you ok?” Julie asked, brushing a strand of hair from his face.

“Can we meet at the park?” he enquired tapping his fingers on the table

“Of course” replied Julie, tilting her head backwards.

Julie took a deep breath, taking in the rich aroma of the coffee that filled the air.

Micah took a mouthful of the hot coffee savouring it`s taste.

“Shall I order you a mug of coffee?” he asked

“No thanks Love I`ve got an appointment with Prof!” she replied. A smile spread across her face, exposing a dazzling set of white teeth.

Julie stood for some time, transfixed to the spot, momentarily lost in thought. Her thoughts were in a turmoil.

Micah had acted strangely these past few days, she thought. He had changed since he met that girl with long black hair.

  Famida had joined their class late in the first semester. She had instinctively become friends to both them. Julie had gone out of her way to make Famida  

welcome to Wits University.

One day as they sat having dinner, Famida had blurted out that Micah`s parents would not approve of his relationship with Julie. The cultural differences she

 said were too vast to bridge.

Julie could not shake off the feeling that Famida   was secretly in love with Micah. Was he equally in love? Was he going to tell her today when they met at the park?

Julie`s thoughts went back to that enthralling evening in the cafeteria at Wits University.  They had had a couple of drinks which loosened their tongues. Micah had tipped a glass of red wine over Julie`s white blouse.  Julie was enraged, but when their eyes met, a spark ignited. They kissed passionately afterwards and became inseparable lovers since then.

Micah, sensing Julie`s presence was suddenly jolted back to life. He stood up and pulled her towards him.  His strong arms encircled her tiny waist, in a long tight grip.  A gasp of air escaped from Julie`s mouth. Breathing heavily Micah sealed her open pouting red lips with a deep passionate   kiss.

Whilst in this embrace, Famida walked in, strut across the floor with a familiar clank towards their table. She sat down, eyeing the two lovers with envy. They however, were oblivious of her presence. She cleared her throat loud enough for the two to jump apart.

Disentangling herself, Julie held Micah at arm`s length, admiring his tan and muscular body. A shiver ran down her spine, a yearning for consummation. She threw herself back into his arms.  Famida red faced, rose   from her chair and strode across the floor. She could feel hot tears burning her face.  Midway the floor she turned her head back, gave a last glance at the two and ran out the door.

 Back in class, Julie recalled when she had first introduced her boyfriend, to her parents. They had not said much nor revealed their feelings. She remembered her mum`s slips of the tongue that evening. These had cast unanswered questions in her mind.  An Iranian?  Julie`s mum had thought to herself. Was her daughter venturing into unchartered waters?  She had wondered, but dared not to ask.

Her thoughts were in a turmoil, when she met with Micah later that afternoon. She had almost tripped, as she raced towards the park. The thought of losing him was hard to contemplate.  Famida, it seemed had become a wedge between them, a formidable enemy, the thought was painful to bear. Why had Micah frozen and held his breath when Famida ran out of the cafeteria?

Micah was sitting on the bench, in the park, when she arrived.  Breathless she planted a quick kiss on his full lips and nestled beside him.  He remained motionless, his face etched in furrows,   brown eyes staring into space.

“Have you been waiting long?” she breathed, a pink warm glow highlighting her high cheeks bones.

“Too long……yes too long?” he replied sternly, his face contorted as if in pain

The pink colour left her face. She nestled closer to his muscular body, to feel the spark that had joined them. Her large blue eyes were searching intently into his face.  A lump rose to her throat, a sniff, and then tears suddenly rolled down her pale cheeks. Julie pulled a tissue under the sleeve of her white blouse. A torrent of uncontrollable tears flowed from her sad blue eyes .She   blew her sharp pencilled nose quietly, dabbing the tears.

Micah`s brown deep set eyes evaded her gaze.  He stood up, his medium sized frame towering over her. Micah frowned as he put his hands in his pockets. He took off his jacket, hands shaking; he was frantically searching for something. Julie looked up, her large blue eyes narrowing from the glare of the setting sun.

“I`m so sorry Julie, to have wasted your time” said Micah in a dull voice

“Please Micah, I can`t bear this anymore” cried Julie turning her face towards him

“Julie I`m truly in love for ever!” exclaimed Micah

“Oh no please!” screamed Julie, as Famida`s face flashed past her mind.

He lowered himself back on the bench besides her, brushing off the offending tears from her face.  Micah cradled her in his arms.   The pain in her heart and behind her eyelids was intolerable.

Micah suddenly disengaged himself and turned away from her.  He reached inside his pocket and held his hand in there for a while.   Julie kept her throbbing eyes shut; this seemed to soothe her eyeballs.

Like a man possessed, he moved closer to her again. He opened the blue box in his hand, exposing a shimmer of diamonds set on a gold band. When Julie opened her eyes, they fell upon the most exquisite set of shimmering diamonds. Her heart missed a beat. She gazed into his face in utter shock and disbelief.   Hand on her breast, she held her breath, let out a scream and burst into tears again. They were tears of joy this time.

“Will you marry me, Julie Anderson?” asked Micah, in a low husky voice

“Yes….Yes….Micah, I will!”  Cried Julie, her voice echoing in the air, in sheer exuberance.

She extended her left hand towards him. He held it in one hand and slipped the ring gently on her left finger.

Micah scooped her up into his arms, and sealed her mouth with a long and deep passionate kiss.

Julie clung to him as she returned the passion.

Famida had been seating undetected a few paces from the now newly engaged couple. She was wearing a burka. The long black apparel hid her face, neither of them saw her as she quickly walked past them. They sat on the bench holding hands and kissing, oblivious of their surroundings. Famida was the first to be told the good news. She seemed to share their happiness. She joined the couple and their friends for a night out. Julie could not resist flashing her diamond ring.

The following months had gone quickly, Julie recalled, as they prepared for the wedding. Micah`s parents had been invited but a week before the wedding, they had rung they couldn`t attend. Julie had felt very disappointed as she had been looking forward to meeting with his parents. Now happily married to Micah, Julie wondered about her in-laws, was Famida right after all?

She remembered the day of her wedding which had taken place in a small country church.  Julie had looked radiant in her shimmering, pearl studded white wedding gown. The church was filled with Julie`s family and friends. Famida was not among the guests she had suddenly gone to Iran a week before the wedding. Why had she suddenly gone back to Tehran.

They had taken their vows, promising to love each other for better or for worse until death do them part. Julie wondered if Micah felt the same about the vows. She felt elated and proud that her parents had shown up. She was however apprehensive about Micah`s family. What connection does Famida have with her husband’s family? Had she gone to Iran to antagonize her with Micah`s family?

Julie soon fell pregnant with their first baby two months after the wedding.  Micah had taken a job at his uncle`s car sales company as executive director. They had bought a house in a plush suburb in Manchester.  Their life had settled into domestic bliss, she could not have been married to a more adoring husband.  Although Julie had yearned to start a career of her own, she thought motherhood should take precedence. She put her aspirations on hold. She calculated that a year later after birth of their first, she would find a job. She would become a Solicitor in one of the popular law firms. As for now she should be content with being a housewife and soon a mother to be. Micah worked hard to make up for it and tried to give them both a good life.

One day before the birth of their first child, Micah came home excited. His parents wanted him to visit with Julie to Tehran.

“I will book us a flight within a week” said Micah

“Oh no! I`m not ready to travel on the plane, my morning sickness will be worse.” replied Julie,

“We can`t delay this, Dad wants us home” said Micah beaming with joy.

His parents` absence at his wedding had hit him very hard. Micah would go to any length to gain his parents` approval.

A week later Julie found herself in a strange country, surrounded by a different culture. Micah seemed to have turned into a different person. Julie could not understand his thinking. He seemed unable to reconcile with his British life. He seemed to have forgotten about being British. Julie for once in her life felt the pang of emotional desertion. She felt isolated and a twinge of anxiety crossed her mind

 It came as a surprise when he told her to wear the burka like all Iranian women.  She had not thought about it nor discussed it with him.  It did not occur to her that he would expect that from her, on this short visit. Why hadn`t her husband warned her? At least she would have had time to choose what to wear.

Micah  couldn`t afford to antagonize his parents anymore she thought. Julie realised for the first time, that marrying an Iranian man was a challenge. To Julie`s horror he announced he was returning to England alone. Micah finally put the nail on the coffin when he told her that his parents wanted the child she was carrying to be born in Tehran.

The days went by quickly as her bump grew in fits and bounds. Micah was prepared for his return to England without his wife.  Julie`s   heart cried out in anguish as Micah left. She couldn`t accompany him to the airport.  She was confined to the Bungalow with no outside communication or means of transport.

Life for Julie became torture, she had no one to talk to, and she felt isolated. She had never met with her in-laws. However she had all her material needs to live catered for. The ten roomed bungalow was full to capacity and brimming. Julie had all she needed except freedom and a husband.  It felt like living in hell`s hole. She would sit outside the bungalow in the backyard reading to pass time

 She yearned to go for a walk outside the house. Julie knew she dared not as she was being closely watched.   There was no contact from her beloved husband either. Julie would lie awake every night worrying about her unborn child`s future. She struggled to erase her husband from her thoughts with no success. The feeling of isolation and rejection was overwhelming. She felt like she was being buried alive.  She became increasingly anxious and paranoid. She felt unsafe and panicked she was going to lose the baby.

She thought there was a woman next door who was watching her every day.  She could not distinguish between her delusions and reality any more as she sank into depression. One morning she imagined that the woman was waving at her, from the top window of the house. Julie apprehensive, by now did not know whether to wave back or not. At some stage she thought she could hear a familiar voice of a female laughing in the house next door.  

One day she heard the voice clearly calling out to her. The voice called itself Samantha. Julie was taken by surprise but also responded. This developed into little chats across the fence with the unseen owner of the voice

When a trust relationship was finally established between Julie and the figureless voice, she would share her frustrations and despair with the voice of Samantha. Alone Julie wondered about the familiarity of the voice. She however shrugged off these feelings as a fiction of her imagination.

The voice of Samantha promised to help Julie all she can.  She told Julie to always wear all her jewellery on her body. She would arrange for her to be smuggled into nearby Turkey.  Where she could make her way back to England. She promised her that a friend would be waiting at the Turkish border to take to the airport. The voice said if the baby was born before the planned escape Julie had to have a contingency plan. She would give Julie some sedative drugs to give to the baby to make him sleepy, keep him quiet to avoid detection. 

She also advised her to strap him across her tummy with a big blanket to keep him out of sight.  She would have to barter her escape by paying with her jewellery.  This was the only hope she had of ever leaving Iran. She was to meet with the smugglers out of Tehran.  Samantha would   drive her to the next town so she is not detected. Once outside the city she was going to be left on her own.

The escape was planned for night time. Julie would not be able to see the two men who were going to smuggle her out. These two men spoke very little English, the voice said and didn`t want to be detected. Escapees often spilled the beans when caught. Samantha`s voice told her a donkey cart would be waiting for her outside the city. Julie was to climb into it without saying a word. The donkey cart would travel through mine fields and mountains across Tehran into the border post of Turkey. Where a known friend will meet her as arranged

 The voice warned her there was a risk of being captured by the authorities. The smugglers sometimes get greedy or double cross escapees.   These arrangements made Julie anxious. She however believed in the supernatural. She was convinced in her mind a power beyond her comprehension had come to her rescue. Her overwhelming determination was to leave Tehran, this desire made her feel able to cope with her present circumstances. However in the back of her mind she was not sure whether to trust or distrust the voice and the reality of smugglers made her fearful.   

On the day of escape Julie wore all the jewellery she had and all what Micah had bought for her, on her body. She wore a large burka that disguised her body and spread a blanket across her now large frame. True to the voice`s promise, a car had arrived at past midnight to fetch Julie, it was parked outside her bungalow. Julie climbed into the car. There were car keys in the ignition, instructions were scrawled on a piece of paper lying on the passenger seat. Julie was to drive herself to some meeting place. A satellite navigator gave her the instructions how to get there.

Julie was calm as she contemplated what lay ahead. The car sped off skirting and screeching finally coming to a halt in a dark deserted strip of land. When Julie looked around, all she could see was the large expanse of dead desert. The mountains stood out like human frames against the backdrop of the moonlight.  Julie felt a cold shiver run down her spine when she saw the donkey cart and the donkeys parked in the darkness.

 Julie switched off the car. lumbered slowly and heaved herself onto the cart. Once settled on the cart, some woman dressed in a burka appeared and whispered something into her ear. It was that familiar voice she recognized.  Julie nodded; slowly she peeled off her rings from her finger. She held them fondly against her breast. A single tear dropped from her eye. She reluctantly let go and gave them to the lady dressed in a burka. This had startled Julie, satisfied with the payment, Julie waited for the two men to arrive

 Julie must have fallen asleep, from sheer exhaustion. When she opened her eyes the woman was sitting beside her on the donkey cart. Julie attempted to speak to her but there was no answer, it was like talking to a brick wall. Perplexed Julie turned her head towards her rescuer. To her shock she looked straight into the face of Famida.  She had taken off the burka. Her long black hair falling down her shoulders.

Julie suddenly felt sweeping waves of nausea and dizziness. Her heart began to pound hard against her chest.  An excruciating pain shot across her abdomen. The pains came hard and fast.  Julie finally passed out.  She kept drifting in and out of consciousness. She could hear Famida`s familiar voice distinctly clearer now.

“Julie you`ve got to hold on!”  shouted Famida in desperation

“The baby is coming anytime!” cried Julie, panting 

Famida pulled the reins, racing against time. Searing pains shot through Julie`s body as the donkeys galloped into the darkness

  Will she make it on time?

Writing Fan Fiction: How to Write Your First Sex Scene

By Daphne Dangerlove

Intimate encounters are a huge part of Fan Fiction; nothing inspires the writer’s imagination like two characters with unresolved feelings for each other. Usually when it comes to a sex scene, coming up with scenarios is easy, but getting it on the page is a little harder, especially if it’s your first time.

Here’s your step by step guide to getting it on, on the page.

1. Who? – It probably didn’t take too much time for you to decide on the characters you are going to feature in your story, but take a few moments to think about who your characters are, how they react to each other and what they have at stake in the scene. Understanding your characters personalities will give you an extra edge when you are writing your scene, and readers will be drawn in by your authentic characterizations of the characters they love.

2. Where?-This is the fun part, so take your time and really think about the atmosphere that you want to create for your scene. Will it be fun and playful, sensual or full of fireworks? A night of lovemaking under the stars or in front of a roaring fire imparts a totally different vibe than in an elevator or against the wall just inside the apartment door. You are writing a fantasy so make sure to put elements into your story that will delight your readers.

3. What Kind of Sex? – When it comes to writing sex, it’s critical that you know what is going to happen in your scene. It will be so much easier to write the scene with fluidity if you know what is going to happen. So take a minute to map things out and decide who is going to do what in your scene. Things you need to consider are the type of sex (against the wall, oral, solo etc.) There are a host of different things you can do, so be creative (but not outrageous) and lend a sense of fantasy to your scene.

4. Write a Rough Sketch of Your Scene – Don’t worry about this being bare bones, just get everything down that you want to happen. Forget about word choice, transitions and all that stuff. Just lay it out point by point. This will be the frame on which you will base your story. If it is easier for you, you can even do this as a numbered list.

5. Layer in the Detail – Close your eyes and imagine the scene that you’ve just sketched out playing before your eyes. Sometimes, I’ll even type with my eyes closed so that I can get an accurate description of the scene as it plays out in my mind’s eye. If you get stuck while you are writing, a good practice is to follow is Action, Reaction. So for everything one character does, have the other character react. This will bring intimacy to your scene. And don’t forget to work in drafts. You don’t have to get it all right the first time. Just take your rough sketch, and work on expanding it slowly, as if you are drawing a picture and then coloring it in.

Writing sex can be intimidating but if you take a few minutes to plan out your scene, you’ll find it much easier to get it on the page. Using this step by step approach breaks down the process into manageable chunks, and before you know it, you’ll have your story on the page.

Put what you’ve just learned to work by [http://howtowritefanfiction.com/sex-scene-worksheets]downloading my Sex Scene Worksheet right now!

About the Author

Daphne Dangerlove has been a fan of Fan Fiction for almost 2 decades. She is the author of [http://howtowritefanfiction.com/you-can-be-a-great-fan-fiction-writer/]How to Write Fan Fiction, the only book dedicated to the art and craft of writing Fan Fiction.

Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?Writing-Fan-Fiction:-How-to-Write-Your-First-Sex-Scene&id=6583776] Writing Fan Fiction: How to Write Your First Sex Scene

Horror Writers

By John Halasz

Horror writers can jump start their horror writing careers if they are well armed with the know-how of this especially-loved but repulse provoking genre. The trick lies in eliciting feelings of disgust, fear, horror and abhorrence from the readers. In fact, the more of it, better is the impact. Novels based on fear have been known to sell well. What is considered as being frightful in one era may differ depending upon the gender and the age of the reader. Horror writers have to maintain a balance so that their literary creation appeals to maximum number of people without biases towards gender, age or class. People read of shadowy figures lurking around or unexplainable scenes wide-eyed while breaking into cold sweat.

Horror screenplay writing is challenging for most, but greater influence can be made through the use of eerie sounds and light effects. Unlike a novel, scripts need only to lay detailed description of “what” of a scene and leave the “how” part of it to the directors. The scenes that are meant to startle the viewers through the use of macabre, supernatural or the fantasy need to be carefully woven by the horror writers from the beginning to the end so that they do not seem too unbelievable or outlandish. Writers of stories that depict terror often overlap it with the thriller genre to bring out the best in the tales that they are narrating. Screenplays that horrify also strike a chord of mystery or doom, and the horror writers must give it the most realistic touch so that the gory incidents continue to haunt the viewers long after the movie, theatrical play or TV serial is over.

The terror-stricken heroin plagued by a monster or a youngster troubled by nightmarish occurrences has been well taken in recent years. The earlier horror writers made good use of Gothic literature; Frankenstein and Dracula are classic anthologies of evil based series of books and scripts that were instantaneous hits. It was of little consequence whether the viewer understood the dialect used or not. The important point was that he comes under the spell of the terror being cast by the author. With years of experience under their belts, authors of horror too mature and master the art of “scaring the daylight out” of the readers or viewers winning high accolades from them and the critics. The main plot line adopted should be carefully planned and executed to evoke maximum dread.

Horror is primarily based on emotions. Dealing with the strange and the fantastic while reaching a large audience is a challenging task that experienced horror writers have learned to do repeatedly. Originality is a vital essence of horror writing because when an idea is repeated, it loses it charm – or rather its terrorizing effect. Today, horror has made its way into the high school syllabi of the country. Be it in the form of short stories or longer plays, revulsion is a welcome change to thrill the people’s minds. This cult has enjoyed a booming past with a brighter future ahead.

Contact professional [http://screenwritersforhire.com/horror-writers/]HORROR WRITERS to help write or edit your horror screenplay, novel, or short story. Just visit our website: [http://screenwritersforhire.com/horror-writers/]http://screenwritersforhire.com/horror-writers/, call / text message John at (716) 579-5984, or EMAIL: Ezine[AT]GhostwritersForHire.Com

Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?Horror-Writers&id=6523779] Horror Writers

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The Double Edged Sword for Writers

By Jeffery M Anderson

For nine years I worked for an online publicity firm for authors. The company was one of the first, if not the first, dedicated solely to online publicity. When I joined them, in 2000, none of the major publishing houses had online publicity departments. Some of them didn’t yet have company email or Web sites. It sounds archaic, by today’s standards. Publishing, as an industry, had not yet seen the potential for online book marketing, or the migration that media was making to the Internet.

What a difference a decade makes. By the time I resigned in 2009, we were competing with dozens of other online only firms. We were competing with all of the traditional publicity firms who had incorporated online marketing into their campaigns. We were even competing with our own clients, the publishers, who had created online marketing departments in house.

The internet had captured the lion’s share of many marketing budgets and discussion time at meetings. Newspapers and even television had almost taken a back seat. Or, at least, they were riding shotgun.

What the internet has done for writers is a double edged sword. Published with a major house, or self published, a writer is open to taking the helm on much more of her/his own promotion than it is possible to imagine. Billions of potential readers are out there and the writer can connect to them, personally. But the road is littered with vicious petards. I recall one author, several years ago, that made the New York Times, not for the quality of their book, but for the shame of spamming millions of internet users with unwanted advertisements. It was a career death sentence. Other authors have sunk themselves by shilling for their books, surreptitiously, on message boards, sabotaging competing books with bad Amazon reviews or simply annoying bloggers, by not knowing the professional way to approach them. A writer has to think of themself as a brand, even if they don’t want to. A writer has to remember that everything that leaves their computer has their name on it and it could remain online for all eternity.

For self published authors, like myself, the duality is even more distinctive. On the right hand, a writer who decides to publish themselves is able to write, edit, publish and market from their computer. They can reach the infinite number of readers out there and decide what direction they want to go. There are a lot of success stories for the writers who have done it correctly.

On the left hand, there is the stigma still attached to self-publishing with the media. Although that stigma is dissipating, it is not gone. Many major media outlets, even a lot of middle of the road media, will not touch a self-published book. As someone who worked on the other side, I can tell you exactly why.

I read the statistic once that 52,000 novels were published by respected houses every year. Most every editor, online, or in traditional media, was probably offered or sent a copy of each one. I worked with these people every day and they were stressed by the amount of books coming in to them. It was a monumental task to decide what to ask for, read and write about. I don’t know how many self-published books are created every year, but, it adds to an already staggering amount of work for these folks.

And the truth remains that there are a lot of self-published books out there that are pretty terrible. Hence the reason they could not find a publisher. Sadly, there are also a lot of great ones. I never read any, until I became a self-published author. Since then, I have come to realize that there are a lot of people, like me, who have self-published because they got frustrated with the process of finding an agent and publisher. They spent seven years on a novel and didn’t want to wait two more for it to be available. Some just didn’t want to share the deep cuts into their work that an agent and publisher take to publish. Differentiating yourself from the pablum in the crowd is incredibly difficult, but, for some, that is worth the potential reward. We owe the Internet thanks for making that a small possibility.

Jeffery M. Anderson is the author of the acclaimed novel, Ephemera, a stay at home father and writer from New Jersey. http://www.theephemera.com

Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?The-Double-Edged-Sword-for-Writers&id=6389816] The Double Edged

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Let Your Verbs Run Wild And Free

By Dara Lurie

I said this recently to a writer in a workshop reacting spontaneously to the wonderful story I could see trapped behind the bars of overly condensed description.

This kind of thing happens a lot. Rushing to make our point, we summarize and condense the life out of our stories. Instead of allowing our language to expand and transport us somewhere unexpected, we harness it for our predetermined goals. This approach works well for reports, memos and academic papers but not so well for literary writing.

Pulitzer Prize winning author, Robert Olen Butler, writes that:

Fiction is the art form of human yearning. That is absolutely essential to any work of fictional narrative art — a character who yearns. And that is not the same as a character who simply has problems….. that yearning is at the heart of all temporal art forms.

The same idea holds equally true for poetry, memoir and to a certain extent, the essay: the reader needs to connect at an intimate level with the driving force within the narrator. Otherwise, they won’t care.

Consider the author’s use of verbs & imagery in this excerpt from Janet Fitch’s “Oleander”

In the afternoon, the editor descended on the art room, dragging scarves of Oriental perfume that lingered in the air long after she was gone. A thin woman with overbright eyes and the nervous gestures of a frightened bird, Kit smiled too widely in her red lipstick as she darted here and there, looking at the design, examining pages, stopping to read type over my mother’s shoulder, and pointing out corrections. My mother flipped her hair back, a cat twitching before it clawed you.

“All that hair,” Kit said. “Isn’t it dangerous in your line of work? Around the waxer and all.” Her own hairstyle was geometric, dyed an inky black and shaved at the neck.

My mother ignored her, but let the X-acto fall so it impaled the desktop like a javelin.

Notice how the editor doesn’t walk into the room but ‘descended……..dragging scarves of Oriental perfume that lingered” She never walks, in fact, she ‘darts’ like a ‘frightened bird’ intruding on everyone’s space.

In contrast, the narrator’s mother ‘flipped her hair back, a cat twitching before it clawed you.’

Evocative use of verbs & image economically sets up the tension of this moment.

You won’t necessarily find the clearest, most potent language in the 1st or 2nd drafts of your piece though you probably will find a few jewels buried in the clutter of ideas. So where to start?

Read more at http://www.Transformative-Writing.com

Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?Let-Your-Verbs-Run-Wild-And-Free&id=6463495] Let Your Verbs Run Wild And Free

Symbolism and Names in Harry Potter Books

By Julia Anne Walker

 Harry Potter’s like a nephew to me. I started out reading Harry Potter as bedtime stories – my youngest has just reached eighteen. I know and love Harry like a member of the family: My kids literally grew up with him.

In case you’ve been under a rock for the past decade, the endearing theme of the Harry Potter books is simple. Good trumps bad.

On first encountering the world of Hogwarts and the magical community, everything appears straightforward: Harry is on the side of good. His nemesis is pure evil. Harry’s companions are from central casting – the not too bright unintentionally funny guy – the studious prim one reluctantly involved – however, as the series progress they grow in stature. Adults are sidelined; all three are at the famous boarding school for wizards. The most authoritive figures are a seemingly absent minded professor, and a lovable ogre type with more heart than brain. The scene is set for the three friends to move about freely in a wonderfully populated other world, which exists unnoticed within the United Kingdom.

The message is clear. Good finds ingenious ways to triumph thanks to friendship, loyalty and bravery. And the public have taken Harry and Co to their hearts. Step forward; take a bow J K Rowling. The woman responsible for encouraging a whole generation of school kids to embrace reading. Not to mention keeping half the population of British thespians in work.

I’ll admit tho’ to a teensy weeny smidgen of envy towards J K Rowling. No – not the massive fame and fortune side of things. I envy her ability to conjure up a person’s character with a name: Hasn’t she just nailed it? Take Harry for starters:

 ‘The game’s afoot: Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge, Cry ‘God for Harry!’ (3.1.31) Shakespeare Henry V.

Potter can be viewed as an ordinary surname, meaning to shape and create from clay. Ron Weasley, loyal friend and famous ginger has a name reminiscent of Weasel, a small russet coloured mammal punching well above its weight. The perfect sidekick, except this one gets the girl. And what a girl: Hermione Granger – You just know she’s from a family of intellectuals.

It doesn’t stop there:

Remus (Romulus & Remus raised by wolves) Lupin (Lupus – meaning wolf).

 Minerva McGonagan – Greek goddess of learning, the Scottish McGonagan evokes sternness with a hint (gone again) at the professor’s ability to shape shift into an ordinary tabby cat.

 Even cameo roles have the same treatment, consider: Rita Skeeter acid penned journalist. Writer of sketches. Fawkes the phoenix – bonfire night and fireworks.

 To say nothing of the word ‘muggles’. A term used for non-magical humans. Perfectly describing our world without magic as a ‘muddle’, don’t you think?

Even the house names hint why the ‘Sorting hat’ decided a particular pupil would suit: Gryffindor (Griffin: Legendary creature guarding London) Ravenclaw (Odin’s all seeing Ravens) Hufflepuff (duffers represented by a badger) and boo hiss Slytherin shouts out the nature of its clan.

My particular favourite is Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. Anyone want one of Bertie Bassett’s Liquorice allsorts?

 The masterstroke though, is Voldemort. Or rather, ‘He who must not be named.’ De Mort. Of death. And J.K. has instantly tapped into our greatest fear. In western culture, death is a taboo subject.

 These interpretations are entirely my own. Doubtless J K Rowling deliberately chose some names for their connotations, others are my own fancy, but the point is – she’s done it. Effortlessly, she’s drawn pictures in reader’s minds by the simplest of methods. Its one used by authors down the ages: Heathcliff – immediately you’re on the wild moors of Yorkshire – Darcy takes you straight into genteel society while Bilbo Baggins could only inhabit a hobbit’s world. The children drawn into Narnia are typically no-nonsense Susans Edmunds etc., they could be any school child of the mid twentieth century whilst Aslan is Greek for lion.

 All these characters now exist outside of the pages and novels they originated from; they’ve become household names.

 Did I say this was a simple method? As I’ve learned from experience, it’s anything but. When outlining ‘A Ripple in Time’, a novel revolving around a time travel portal located at Stonehenge, using the mythical sword Excalibur as a catalyst, I found some characters suggested their own names. Others wouldn’t play ball. As author, I got my own back, for example shortening Rhyllann to Annie. That’ll teach him!

 We see only the end product. Of course Draco Malfoy is a nasty piece of work. With a name like that, who wouldn’t be?

 Rowling’s talent is to conjure vivid pictures in your mind, merely by giving each character their correct name.

 Now that’s magic.

http://juliahughes.weebly.com/

 Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?Symbolism-and-Names-in-Harry-Potter-Books&id=6432244] Symbolism and Names in Harry Potter Books

The Inheritance Fiction Competition Winner

 

1st Prize: £150.00    Barry Thomas

2nd Prize: £100.00   J. Wood

3rd Prize:   £ 75.00   Rachel Harrison

 

The Inheritance

By Barry Thomas 

A letter was the sum total of his inheritance and yet it was the most precious gift ever…

The fact that she had remembered him at all amazed him.  Elspeth, the foster mother who he had clung to when he had to move to a different family, he remembered burying his head in the folds of her apron and promising to be good if he could stay.   Deep down, he had known that she could barely bring herself to wave him goodbye, her ill-health had been the decider.  His memories were hazy but he knew she had been kind and caring to the disillusioned child who had been left in her care. He had gone to her after a series of temporary foster care homes had left him feeling bruised and unwanted by the system and his brat like behavior must have tried her patience but she had somehow made everything ok again. He tried to picture her now, short, ruddy complexion, dark curly hair that sat in waves on her shoulders. Buxom, warm and kindly, a typical farmer’s wife, he contemplated.

He had experienced freedom there like nowhere else, fresh air, room to grow and to be able to expand his horizons and simply play like any nine year old should do.  Eventually, when he had been removed kicking and screaming from the farm, he had been adopted by a professional couple who gave him financial stability and a yearning to learn. This made up for their lack of emotional warmth and although they had been good to him, their love had never touched him the way Elspeth’s had. Their influence however had enabled him to study science and to eventually teach it, a job that was perfect for him.

He realized his hands were shaking as he sat waiting to be called in outside the office of Lawrence Montgomery-partner in Montgomery and Munroe – Elspeth’s family solicitors. He knew from their stiffly written letter that Elspeth had finally died and had left him something in her will. With children of her own and an abundance of foster children over the years, Frank doubted it would be very much, but he was touched that she would remember the scruffy, tousled haired lad who was aggressive to all, burying his pain in anger instead. He supposed she had seen through the defiant wall he had built up in his nine short years and suddenly, unbidden, a fleeting memory touched him and he smiled. All of the foster children had been given pets to look after and he had inherited a gorgeous large white rabbit who he called ‘Mr. Ears’. One morning when his rabbit had been found dead, Frank had run away, consumed with grief and it was Elspeth who had come to find him, searching acres of farmland to discover his special hideaway, the foundations of an old stone barn, where the land had reclaimed possession of the stone work, with trees and shrubs forming a framework above the dilapidated ruins. How she had found him, he never knew but she had crawled in through the thickened undergrowth and comforted him, explaining the cycle of life and death and how people should always appreciate the ‘now’. Strange how that memory had surged within these sterile walls.

He rose from his seat as Lawrence Montgomery walked towards him, his hand outstretched and ushered him into his office. He was everything that you expected a solicitor to be, professional, courteous and aloof and Frank sat across the desk from him and waited patiently, resisting the urge to fidget.

“Mrs. Turner, as you know died a short time ago,” Lawrence informed him, “She made strict provisions for all those who were in her care, some little trinkets, and items of jewelry for the girls you know, nothing of any great worth- apart from any emotional attachment you understand.” He paused, “The farm got into real financial difficulties when Mr. Turner had an accident and couldn’t walk and over the years, it was almost repossessed. Mrs. Turner died before that could happen, not long after her husband, fortunately in a way”, Laurence murmured, a faint hint of emotion creeping into his words, “It’s my belief that losing the farm and all her memories would have destroyed her”

Frank frowned, “Had you known her long?”

Lawrence sat back in his chair and sighed, “Like you, I was fostered by Elspeth and I have since represented her as a way of paying her back for her incredible kindness- for rescuing me from the system if you like.” He paused, carefully selecting his words, “She was an unbelievable woman- we were all very lucky to be touched by such kindness” He leaned forward and handed Frank a large envelope, “This is yours, you don’t need to open it here, but please do sign on the dotted line now to say you have received it”.

Frank left the office in a daze; the envelope taunting him with its hidden secrets. Sunlight greeted him when he emerged and he shivered as waves of sadness swept over him at the thought that he would never see Elspeth again. He was shocked by how much that thought hurt him. Why hadn’t he gone back? Had he been worried that she wouldn’t have wanted to have seen him? Worried that she might not love him now that he was a grown man? He made his way down the busy street debating whether to drive back to his apartment or to find a quiet pub and wash down his inheritance with a beer or two. He could always get a taxi back home. Without having made a decision, he found himself outside The Lonely Man public house and somehow it seemed fitting, because despite his career success and being a rational adult, his insides were churning and he felt terribly alone.

Finally, as he sat with his beer in hand and the alcohol had suitably soothed his jagged nerves, he slit open the envelope and pulled the contents onto the table. At first his eyes were drawn to the numerous photos within. His childlike image captured forever, cradled in Elspeth’s arms and smiling directly into the camera. Then another with Mr. Ears and a group shot with all of the family gathered. He wondered who had taken the last photo. Waves of nostalgia swept over him, seeing the old farm and everybody in these photos bought it all flooding back, all of the good times, he thought. As he gazed at the photos in turn, a smile touched his lips, recognizing the Turners, in happier, healthier times, smiling and waving at the camera.

With shaking fingers he laid the photos to one side and turned his attention to another small sealed envelope and began to read.

My dearest boy,

Not one day has passed without me thinking and wondering how you were doing. I always meant to get in touch but my ill health and that of my husband always stopped me from seeking you out. You were a challenge in those long ago days my boy, but I loved every single minute that we shared. I hope in that year we were given together, I showed you love and what family is all about.

Family was always important for me and I took the liberty in making some enquires as to your background, in case you remained that angry little boy who never wanted to look back at his beginnings and found himself lost in his future. I hope my darling boy that you will not be angry with me but I am certain that the name on the slip of paper inside this envelope is of a man who is related to you, God forgive me if I am wrong.

Don’t be afraid to find your roots Frank, but live for the present and cherish each day. I pray your future will be filled with light and love.

My best wishes and love always,

Elspeth.

Frank leaned back heavily, he felt exhausted. His heart ached. She had given him a gift beyond monetary value, the gift of pure love. What more could any man ask of family?

He scratched at the stubble on his chin, perplexed. Did he want to know the name tucked away inside the envelope? Did he want to turn back the clock and find out his humble beginnings? Elspeth had obviously thought it was important enough so maybe it was something to consider for the future. For now, all he wanted to do was honor the woman who had shaped him from the angry boy, to the man who wasn’t afraid to embrace love or to cry. He wiped a solitary tear from his cheek and tucked the photos and letter back in the envelope; he needed time to think and time to remember the woman who would forever be his mother.

Past Love

 

1st Prize: £100 Christine Penny

2nd Prize: £75 Mike Mills

 

The Truth Will Out

By Christine Penny

The rat! The absolute rat! Laura fumed. How could he? She had never felt so humiliated in her whole life. Fighting back the tears, Laura felt a surge of anger so strong that she knew if Luke Adams was stood in front of her now, she would punch him right on the nose.  Emerging from the offices of Holby and Grantham and struggling to hold back the tears, she walked resolutely out into the busy market square.

Throngs of people were already emerging into the sunlight having escaped from the confines of their offices, Laura silently fumed as she stomped across the square desperate to find haven in her friend’s coffee shop. She hated people seeing her cry but the tears threatened to fall and she needed to release the valve. Almost running down the quaint street in her eagerness to get to her destination, Laura finally made it to the Hot Spot coffee house and sighed with relief. Sasha took one look at Laura as she emerged from the office, stopped in her tracks, and carefully handed a tray filled with steaming mugs of coffee to a nearby waitress, ushering Laura in and closing the door behind them for privacy.

“What on earth is wrong?” She queried, pulling a chair out for Laura as she burst into tears “Did the interview not go well?”

“It went brilliantly and it’s my dream job” she sniffed,””They even wanted me to meet the Head of marketing who would be my direct manager”

“Well, that’s not sounding so bad?” Sasha said slowly, “Or am I missing something?”

“Luke happened” Laura sighed, wiping away her mascara streaked tears, “He is the Head of Marketing. I always knew he would do well in life, but I never expected that he would be running the Marketing department over there. “

“Your ex Luke? Oh no” Sasha wrapped her arms around Laura and hugged her. “I’m so sorry”

“That man is determined to ruin my life” Laura cuddled in to Sasha and wept freely wishing with every part of her body that she had never met Luke.

He had been the love of her life. When they had met he had been her Team Manager in a small Marketing and PR firm and although she had tried to resist him, in the end she had succumbed and her life changed in an instant. Their relationship spiralled and intensified until eventually Luke asked her to marry him. The wedding plans gave Laura something to focus on and she handed in her notice so that she could ensure the big day went smoothly. With hindsight, Laura realised that had been her fatal mistake, Luke had fallen in love with her business minded creative energy and not someone who pandered to his every whim and hung on to his every word. How stupid of her to have put her own life on hold and just focussed on him. Bringing her attention back to the present, Laura sighed and smiled weakly “I’m an idiot”

Later that night, Laura padded around her small apartment listlessly. This had been the first place she could find to rent after moving out from Luke’s but it felt like home now, beautifully furnished, it had become her bolthole for the last couple of months. It cost her more than she could afford though and as a result Laura had used up the biggest part of her savings, so her need to start working again was real enough. She had been fortunate to earn a little by freelancing but her heart hadn’t been in work mode for months and now that emotionally, the wounds had been healing, her perfect job had been pulled out from under her by the very same man.

Sitting on the balcony overlooking the bustling side streets, she felt strangely alone. She had never envisaged her life being this empty. Where had she gone wrong? She had been convinced that Luke was the love of her life. Since the breakup, Laura had shut herself away, hardly leaving her apartment, screening her calls in case he rang, but disappointingly he never had. Losing him had been a bitter blow but knowing that he hadn’t even tried to find her was worse somehow, at least to her pride, but maybe it had been a blessing. Feeling the light warm breeze and the last of the summer sun before autumn commenced, Laura turned her face towards the sky and tried to stop thinking about all she had lost.

The sound at her front door was insistent, ominous and she made her way to the door, her heart racing. Laura couldn’t contain her surprise when she saw Luke in the corridor and her heart skipped a beat. His hair, with fetching silver strands looked ash blonde in this light and his perpetual tired features looked strangely appealing.

“May I come in?” She stood back to allow him access and shut the door sombrely behind him. “Nice place”

Her hear was beginning to race again, just being near him was enough to turn her stomach inside out in knots” What do you want?”

“I want you to take the job. You are the perfect person for it, we both know that” He stepped forward and touched her arm, and she shivered” We can turn the clock back Laura, start afresh, we will make a great team again”

“Turn the clock back? You mean with us?” Her breath caught in her throat, wasn’t this just what she had waited to hear?

“It will be fun” He laughed, displaying perfect white teeth, there was even a glint of mischievousness in his eyes, how she had loved that about him. “We will have to be discreet of course, but hell that will just make it more fun”

“Be discreet? Of course but..why?”

“I’m sort of involved with the MD…….but it’s not serious…I just needed to get my foot in the door, you know how it is, where as you and I…”

Laura stepped back sharply, her breath caught beneath her ribs…she couldn’t believe that she was hearing this. She looked up at him, searching his face in amazement, was he so confident of his looks and his power over her that he thought she would accept that romantic crumb? “Was this why you finished with me?”

“I didn’t expect you to move out and disappear, I just wanted us to cancel the wedding and lie low for a bit. Don’t look like that Laura, you are taking this the wrong way, this is business and she is my stepping stone to success”

As if in a blinding sense of realisation, Luke’s smooth veneer dropped and she could see him finally for the man he really was and job or not, he certainly wasn’t worthy of her.

Throwing him out gave her the most satisfaction ever, the pompous, arrogant man. She was too angry to cry over him again, and suddenly she was so glad that he had come to see her as her emotions had finally turned full circle and she now had closure.

Sitting on her balcony overlooking the street, she watched him slope off, his hands in his pockets, head bowed. His ego for once was massively dented she realised and she wanted to laugh out loud. As the sun gave one final burst of warmth, Laura decided she would seriously start job hunting tomorrow as she was ready to commit 100% to the role and get her career back on track, but she would definitely give Holby and Grantham a miss. A lucky escape if ever there was one.

Memory Loss Fiction Competition Winner

 

1st Prize:  £150.00 Eve Green

 2nd Prize: £ 100.00 S. Denby

3rd Prize:  £   75.00 Chris Foster

The Ravages of Time

 

“Are you the Doctor? “ The voice was wobbly and laden with confusion.

I handed her the cup of tea, carefully making sure that her trembling fingers had gripped the cup firmly. “No, are you expecting one?”

She shook her head as confusion swept over her, “I don’t think I’m ill”

“I don’t either,” I agreed “You look in good health to me”

She leaned forward in a clandestine manner, “It’s just my flamin’ memory dear. So annoying, for example, I can’t find my glasses today and I need them if I’m going to do my knitting.”

“They are on your head, here….” I took them from her silken grey curls and handed them to her and she whooped in delight.

“Well now, fancy that, I looked everywhere…or, at least I think I did”

“What are you knitting?” I asked looking at the beautiful green wool in the basket by her wrinkled stocking legs.

“It’s a surprise, a jumper for my daughter”

I glanced at the cover of the pattern and saw the image of a young girl “How old is your daughter?”

She hesitated for a moment, brow furrowed as she dug deep for the answer, “I am terrible, I can’t remember exactly….I think she is ten or twelve. My dear, time does pass so quickly and children are never children for long. Do you have any?”

I shook my head, with a recent divorce and approaching my fortieth birthday, the likelihood for the patter of tiny feet weren’t good. I had never worried about it before but now, the years, empty and alone stretched ahead of me. I swallowed as a wave of emotion rose from the depths of my belly. “No children” I whispered.

We sat in comfortable silence for a bit and I watched the buzz of activities around the room. Nurses busied themselves pouring out drinks, administering drugs and getting their patients to stand for a few moments so as to keep the blood circulating to prevent sore areas developing and I admired their care and consideration. As a solicitor, our jobs could not have been further apart and yet for all of my lack of care, I was paid so much more. It didn’t seem fair.

 As I broke off my reverie, I noticed how peaceful she looked now that she was asleep. Her glasses were at an angle across her nose and her chest rose and fell with shallow breaths. She looked so tiny that it broke my heart.

Today wasn’t a good day for her. The Alzheimer’s had claimed a little more of her and there was no point staying, plus I had an overwhelming urge to escape and feel the fresh air on my skin. I don’t know if it was hot in the room or just that emotion was ripping me apart but I needed to get out of the care home. I stood up quietly, trying not to wake her up and walked away.

“There you are dear, hope you weren’t sneaking off? I was only having a little nap”

I turned to look at her quizzically.

She yawned as she struggled to sit up straight and straightened her glasses“Well come and give  your mother a kiss for goodness sake, I’ve been waiting ages, although a very nice lady kept me company for a while…or did I dream that?”

She held out her arms and I bent down and hugged her, struggling to hold back the tears. She was back, who knew for how long, but time was precious with her and I was only too glad to have my mum back with me because I missed her. I really missed her.

The Perfects

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfects have risen from the earth to save the planet from total destruction.

It is 12/12/2012; the end of the Mayan calendar. The world leaders, through their greed and lust for power, have triggered their arsenal of nuclear weapons.

As the final hour approaches, the Perfect’s chosen ones; the pure of heart, called the ‘Kudos’, must find the underground world of Avalon, so that they may survive, when life as we know it is wiped out

once and for all.

 

The Perfects

by Wendy Reakes

Chapter 1

Thomas Stone was a photographer; freelance, with a contact in every paper in New York City. He told them he was twenty-five when he went touting for work, but the truth was he had only just turned seventeen and he still lived at home; living with his mother and her boring boyfriend who were trying for a baby of their own to seal the deal of their alleged love for one another. Or so they said.

Tom didn’t see it that way. The walls were thin, and the grunting and groaning that came from the room next to his was the reason he left at night, climbing through his window to the city below their apartment; their home on the lower-east side. And wherever he went, his camera went with him, like a conjoined twin, never leaving his side, working with him as he ate and slept and even when he peed. As far as Tom was concerned, his camera was his lifeline, a perpetual rope-ladder to drop out of his window so that he never had to go back; so that he could afford to stay on the streets where he dreamed and flourished.

Now tonight, as Tom left the apartment, going down the rusted fire-escape to the stench and the sirens and the sin of his favorite city, he wondered if this would be the night he caught the Perfects on film. The night when he would at last record their entities for prosperity, spreading the word of their magnificence and their power to defend us against evil, forever and ever.

 They called Melissa Lake, Mia, but on the Internet she was known as Lakey, a picture of Loch Ness her avatar.

“I’m so goddamn fed-up,” she typed, shaking her head as the words formed on the screen.

“LOL. ‘Goddamn’! That’s not very English!” he responded.

“I wish I was American, like you. Live in NY and see you each day.”“Instead you have the English countryside…poor old you.”“Stoney, have you any idea how boring it is living here, surrounded by goddamn trees?”“Whoa, there’s that word again.”“LOL” Mia chuckled. He always made her laugh.

“Well…Anything?”“Nope. Not last night.”“Don’t worry you’ll see them. It’s just a matter of time. I’m going out soon. I’m waiting for the parents to go off. Not hard when you live in the country. There’s nothing else to goddamn do, but sleep.”“Right” “Look, I’ll let you know if I see anything, but if not I’ll IMS you at our usual time tomorrow.”“Gotcha. Be careful, Mia.”“Hey, you know me…I’m goddamn cool!”Mia turned off the message box and checked her emails. Not much happening there either. She went into Firefox and checked the news. There had been a sighting. ‘Perfects out of hiding’ the headline screamed. Last week a man reported a sighting….’

“Whatever!” Mia muttered, shutting down her net-book.

 It was then, that night, the Perfects came.

“Hey, Mia.”

Mia turned and saw two of her friends across the road standing near the entrance to the park, next to the post-office, closed and barred with metal shutters.

“Hiya” she called back, crossing the road, looking left to right dodging the cars that were passing.

“Anything happening?”

“Nah, it’s quiet.”

“What about number nine?” Mia strained her neck to see over the railings.

The two girls laughed. “Yeah, they’re at it again.”

Mia raised herself on her toes. The York’s house was over the other side of the park. She could just make out a light through the trees coming from their bedroom. The curtains were closed but the glow allowed the silhouettes inside to dance within its folds. She could imagine him, with his fists flaying, knocking old Doris to the floor.

“Why don’t you come?” Mia whispered. “Why don’t you come?”

She had driven here every night for the past ten days. It was a town called Devizes, in the South-West county of Wiltshire, where the countryside presented itself over rolling meadows and pockets of villages sitting between folds of fields. Mia lived in the nearby village of Avebury, accessible only by car from where she lived in a large house surrounded by grass and trees and cows chewing the cud over rickety crumbling walls of stone.

“Shush!” Anna said.  She, Charlotte and Mia hushed, as they gazed over the fence of the locked park to the house where the York’s lived.

“Something’s happening,” Mia said. “I can feel it.” She stood for two more seconds pausing for a noise to fire into the night. Then, as if no longer able to wait for what she knew would inevitably come, she charged towards the gate of the park and climbed over it.

“Mia!”

“I’m not waiting here. They’re close. I just know it.”

She ran stealth-like, across bordered flower beds and neatly mowed grass, past trees reaching to the stars in the blackened sky to the fence on the other side, directly opposite the house where the York’s lived.

Mia stood near a tree just inside the park. She jumped when she heard the sound of old Doris, suddenly wailing inside her house. He was starting again, regardless of the damage he must surely be inflicting upon her.  Why don’t they come? Mia pondered. It must be time.

It was.

Suddenly as if a draught had blown past her, she saw a figure in front pacing towards the York’s house. Then another stepped out from behind the tree next to her.  She saw another and then another until finally five Perfects were watching the house where Doris York’s audible whimpering broke into the night.

They were men with no skin. Not ‘visible’ skin; only an impenetrable translucent film, covering muscle, fibre, sinew, arteries, and cartilage. Their veins were molded within the landscape of muscle, pumping the blood and making it look as if the blackness of it was racing around their forms, like charges firing through live wires. The sinews in their necks were taut, synchronizing with the strains of their movements, liaising with their brains and the workings of their bodies, pulling it all together; collaborating with it.

At six-feet-six tall, their limbs were long and powerful; calves and forearms like a giant’s fingers, working and laboring over a task of precision and accuracy. Their hands and feet were weapons, so powerful and manipulative that to confront them would be perilous. Their shoulders, like great mounds, held a protruding chest, breathing as if a thunderous storm was about to offload onto a daisy swaying peacefully in the breeze.

Their backs were like rods of steel, unyielding with no arch to take away their erectness.  Their buttocks, tight and pert were rounded above thighs of bulging magnitude. And their manhood’s were tucked into a pouch of skin, protecting it from the day.

And above it all, their heads were their guides. 

A visage of grey, white coloured bone, covered their delicate brains and the flesh of their faces like a gladiator’s helmet. From the skull there branched protrusions, protecting the cartilage of the nose, covering the brow and the cheeks and the chin that pointed outwards, as if to go up against its authority would be to face certain death. Two round holes perforated the molded bone, enabling them to see with their penetrating blackened gaze. And the only flesh, pink and human-like, was the flesh of their ears, like ours, listening and twitching as they responded to cries of distress and torture.

Mia couldn’t take her eyes off them. She had heard all the myths, but she knew it was speculation, since no one who had actually them had lived to tell the tale. Now, she was processing the vision in front of her as if she watching a movie for the first time, wondering about how much of the legend was true.

It was said they worked in groups of five and they were standing before her now like the five points of a star. They were tall and formidable; all the same height and the same build. On the backs of their whitened skulls she could see random markings carved there, distinguishing one Perfect from the other, like fingerprints etched on bone.

One turned and looked at her. She took a step back, but somehow she wasn’t afraid. She was fascinated by his gaze, even though his face was covered in that skull-like structure, she could still see his expression. It must have been his eyes and she could have sworn he was telling her to follow them.

Then he tilted his head. ‘Come,’ he said without speaking. ‘Come and see.’

 His name was Varquis. He was the overlord of the perfects, the one who ruled them all on England’s soil. But instead of remaining aloof, separate as a leader should, he had his own unit; four perfects, who were his sons.

This night they were grouped outside a house where pain and suffering happened each day. They had been alerted to it many nights before but they could not come. Too many other issues needed attending, matters of extreme importance; matters which, had they not descended upon, disaster would have surely resulted.

Varquis was now waiting for Urigon, his youngest son, to focus into the group so that they may begin.  ‘Uri,’ he said, his words connecting with the others through their souls.

‘She is still here. She is not afraid.’ Urigon turned his head towards his father.

‘Very well.”Urigon turned back to the girl standing behind them, next to the tree where he had once been hiding. He tilted his head. ‘Come,” he said without speaking, ‘Come and see.’ Mia watched them move forward. The gate on that side of the park was open. They went through it and crossed the narrow side-road, moving towards the house where the York’s lived.

Mia followed them, keeping her distance. She watched them walk with sure strides and climb the steps. She saw the door open, just as she fell against a thick hedge protruding above a low brick wall. She could feel her heart racing and her pulse throbbing in her neck.

She gasped when she saw Mr. York. He had opened the door as if he was responding to a gentle knock, as if he was expecting friends for tea.  And as he stepped forward, Mia saw his face as a light from inside the house illuminated it. He seemed so startled by the vision he saw there, that he was transfixed as he watched one of the Perfects step forward.  It reached out and took him by the throat. Then raising him into the air, as if he was weightless, the Perfect held him with his powerful arm outstretched as old Mr. York’s legs flayed beneath the bulge of his large sagging belly.

He was dropped to the ground as he cried in shame. He knew his time had come, as all the perpetrators knew when the Perfects came. He stepped forward and he sobbed as he walked inside the group of five, down the steps to the road where Mia was hiding next to the hedge.

She watched as they crossed the road, heading for the park and then she heard a scream coming from the open doorway to the house. Old Doris was leaning against the frame, panting from tearing down the stairs. She was covered in marks over her swollen face. “Alfie,” she screamed. “Alfieeee.”

Mia, no longer interested in the tribulation of old Doris York, scampered across the road in the Perfects wake.

 Varquis could feel her following and he could feel Urigon sensing her presence, like a dog sniffing for sustenance for his empty stomach. She was right behind them, moving from tree to tree, disguising herself from the light spilling into the darkness.

The man in their midst; the creature in the void, was muttering as he stumbled along with them. He was praying to a god he had never worshipped before that night, praying for him to be rescued from certain death. He didn’t deserve it, he assured his god. He was provoked. She deserved his wrath. She was always getting things wrong.

Varquis instructed his unit to halt. They stilled and they turned to the creature in the void. They were in position, like the five points of a star, joining forces with their strength and their souls, closing in, moving slowly forward as the man in the middle screamed for his life.

They were touching him now. Their chests were bulging forth and the veins in their necks were throbbing as the power of their being, surged through them like water breaking through a dam, rushing over new soil. Their feet were shuffling against the hardness of the ground and their insteps were arched allowing more weight to be funneled into their torsos so that the strength there was unrivalled. Their arms were at their sides and their hands were almost touching, but as they moved in, they lifted them, and locked them around each other’s shoulders like comrades discussing strategy.

But here, there was no discussion. No intent other than to destroy. As their bodies touched the man in the void and as he screamed his last strangled breath, he was expelled of life, crushed to oblivion, his parts turning to ashes as the force of the cage of flesh obliterated all traces of him, other than the remnants of his sorry, miserable life.

The Perfects parted. They took a single step back and the ashes of the creature in the void fluttered to the ground like powder from a shaker, falling into a pile of dust.

Varqis banged the earth with his heel to dig a shallow hole and then he spread the ashes into the soil, crushing them like a pestle would crush peppercorns in a mortar. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, the man in the void was sent back to the earth from whence he came.

Wendy is 49 and lives in Bristol. She began writing over five years ago, when she lived in France. ‘It’s hard not to write when you live in France,’ Wendy says. ‘Especially, when it’s a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse surrounded by acres of vines.’ The Perfect’s is Wendy’s second novel and she is currently working on her third, ‘The Song of the Undergound’, about a lost subterranean city, beneath London. Wendy has written several prize-winning short stories, and many of them have been published in various anthologies: more recently with Little Acorn Press; to be published in July this year. She has recently delved into script-writing, when she wrote a four part drama for TV and whilst she is working on her new novel, she is developing her web site, where she offers a not-so-serious daily blog about that elusive road to publication. You can find more about Wendy and her work here.
 Http://wendyreakes.weebly.com/
 
Wendy says, ‘Writing for me is like having a fire in my belly, sometimes the flame dies but most of the time it rages and I am startlingly bright.’

A Raw Talent

by Fay Wentworth

Three of the travellers passed me by as I wrestled with the key in my shop door. The father never spared me a glance; thin, leaning to the shape of his greyhound slinking light-foot at his side. A cigarette drooped, sodden as the man’s hair, and his eyes were dull, watching the distance as his hand limply clasped the lead.

By his side a sturdy youngster; baby-fat legs toddling to keep pace, cherub hands clinging to the chain of a smaller animal, some semblance of a dog in the furry coat and lolling tongue, his pedigree distilled over many matings. The child’s eyes still held innocence and wonder as he gazed at the sun-washed gardens, the spring flowers sparkling with dew, nodding in the gentle breeze. A smile played around his mouth as his breath panted. The dog pulled him forward.

Behind, a gangly youth tarried. He watched as I fitted the key. I smiled at him to dispel my nervousness. His ragged clothes, too small for his bony frame, wafted the smell of the hedgerows to my nostrils and his skin clung to fine bones. His eyes were wistful and sheered away from my smile, slid to the shop window and gazed hungrily at the paintings displayed. Grimy fingers reached for the glass as if trying to touch the colours and his shoulders heaved in a sigh.

“How much for the watercolour?” His voice was hesitant, surprisingly mellow and I paused as the door swung open. The paintings were originals, expensive, but his longing was obvious. And he had called them watercolours, correctly.

“The prices are all different. Come inside and have a look.”

I knew I was being foolish, following my instincts again instead of thinking sensibly. But it was too late. He stepped through the doorway behind me and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the two dog-walkers disappear over the brow of the hill. We were alone, the boy and I, alone among the treasures of art, and I took a deep breath to still the uneasiness that hovered on the edge of my mind.

He didn’t touch the displayed paintings, but his eyes caressed the brush strokes, his tongue following the lines of his thin mouth as his body hunched towards the watercolours.

“Too expensive.” He sighed quietly, a look of resignation wafting fleetingly over his features. He hadn’t expected otherwise.

“Do you paint?” I was curious and watched him as I opened the shutters, sunlight splaying over the canvases. I switched on display lights and noticed he recoiled from the glare.

He shrugged. “I did, once. Haven’t any paints now.”

“The local college holds courses. Would you like to enrol for one?” I held out a leaflet, an artist beaming colourfully on the cover.

His wistful look turned to derision. “I couldn’t afford to!” He almost spat the words and I flinched. I hadn’t meant to humiliate him.

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled and turned away, concentrating on opening drawers, taking out pad and pencil, showing business professionalism; wishing he would leave.

“I could do odd jobs for you? I work hard.”

I stared at him, confused. He wanted work? I shook my head and his shoulders slumped. “Thought not.”

The doorbell clanged and the old wooden doorframe rattled as he released his anger. He didn’t glance again in the window as he scurried up the road.

The encounter had shaken me; me, the independent career woman, proving myself as good as any man in business; me and my powerful equilibrium, disturbed by a ragamuffin.

For the first time in thirteen years my fingers itched to paint, to expel the emotions that overwhelmed me, onto paper. I clenched my fists in denial. I never wanted to hold a brush again. Grief had dispelled my talent and I had no wish to suffer further frustration through any attempts to paint again. My creative days were over. Now I took my joy in other artists’ work.

I watched for him next day. This time he was alone, leading a lurcher. “You could mow the lawns if you like. Dig the flower beds.”

I stood on the pavement blocking his passage. His expression was surly and I felt colour flame my cheeks. I thought he was going to step around me but suddenly, a thin smile lit his face and his eyes seemed to waken.

“You’ll pay me?”

I nodded, aware of the disapproving look shot with venom by my neighbour. “I’ll pay. What’s your name?”

He hesitated. “Reuben. I’ll be back later.”

He continued on his way and a wave of anger rushed through my mind. “Fool,” I muttered as I re-entered the shop. “You’re a fool.”

He was surprisingly agile in the garden. Soil turned, weeds stacked in neat tumps and flowers spread their leaves in relief. I watched his thin body coil over his labour. When he rested on the grass I took him tea and biscuits and sat besides him, unsure of myself.

“I should like to see you paint.”

He dunked a biscuit and caught the soggy mass with his tongue. “Have you any paints I could use?”

I fetched paper and half-used tubes of pigments. I set up a small easel and gestured to him. “Take an hour out, paint me a picture.” I walked away before he could refuse.

His face was stiff with concentration. His eyes flicked from garden to paper and his fine fingers moved with gentle precision.

It was several hours later when I allowed myself to creep behind his shoulders. I was amazed.

He had captured the euphorial hues of the buds, his grass was alive with the wind, and the imaginary tree shading the meadow my lawn had become was majestic in its spring splendour. A figure strode across the field, upright, free, hair tossed by the breeze, and running ahead was a dog, a beautiful golden Labrador, its tail swaying joyfully, its tongue lolling in happiness. I was spellbound.

“Where did you learn to paint like that?” His gifted talent excited me.

He shrugged. “I lived with my grandmother for a while, in a house. She painted and I copied.”

“You don’t live with her now?”

“She’s dead. Don’t have time to paint, or money to buy paper.”

“Sign it,” I instructed. “In the right-hand corner.”

He looked uncomfortable.

“Just your first name, Reuben.”

He held the brush aloft for a moment and then marked a sloping R and a squiggle.

“Very artistic.” I smiled. “You must come again.”

He jumped to his feet. “You said you’d pay me. I must get back.”

He followed me to the house and stood at the door.

“Come in.” I walked through to the kitchen.

Warily, he followed, his eyes afraid as he stared at the windows and he shivered as the door slammed behind him in the breeze. The key fell from its hiding place on the ledge of the doorframe and he picked it up, slowly placing it on the table. His eyes never left the door. Then he reached for the handle and opened it, watching it, hands dug deep in his pockets, until he was sure it would stay for him to escape. I smelt his fear. Breathing quickly he snatched the coins and turned, his steps reaching for the freedom beyond the walls.

“Will you come again? What about your painting?”

I saw him shake his head as he ran across the grass towards the gate, and his foot kicked the pigments beside his easel and scattered them. A great sadness welled in my heart and I gathered his borrowed materials and took the painting through to the gallery.

I found a wooden frame to fit his picture and hung it on the wall. It was quite beautiful. He would only be about thirteen, maybe older. Thirteen. Thirteen years; had it really been that long?

I had loved this shop the moment I set eyes on it. I was on holiday, touring aimlessly through the lush countryside, seeking solace for my hurt. I took a room in the village; the shop was for sale. It was a spur of the moment decision, a crazy madness that saw me moving within days to the other end of the country, my past a shadow in my mind.

It took thirteen years to build up my stock of watercolours. Collectors began to know my name, I was commissioned for special purchases, but I never picked up a brush again myself.

Now Reuben had rekindled that old yearning and my fingers traced his brushstrokes. Could I still paint? Was I strong enough to try? Thirteen years was a long time. Had my life been different it would have been my son holding the brush and mixing colours; I liked to think he would have inherited my talent, had he come alive into this world. Maybe he wouldn’t have had the gift, but I would still have loved him.

I suppose I knew in my heart that Reuben wouldn’t come back. As I walked to work the next day the neighbour told me the travellers had moved out.

“Good job too,” she said. “Made a right mess of the meadow, they did. Left piles of rubbish and several hens are missing!”

I smiled politely and strode across the garden. The kitchen door swung open at my touch and a shaft of fear speared my mind. Slowly I walked through to the gallery. The paintings had gone, all but one. His painting hung crookedly, alone on the magnolia wall, surrounded by dust squares where the watercolours had been. I took the painting down and carried it to the kitchen where I hid it in a cupboard; then I phoned the police.

The insurance company wasn’t happy. There had been no break-in; the kitchen door had been unlocked. The stern police officer pointed out the folly of hiding a key on top of a rickety doorframe.

“One shake,” he pushed against the door to emphasise his point, “one shake and the key would fall. And look at that gap!” He pointed to the space below the door. “Slip the key from under and there you are, easy pickings.”

I didn’t say a word. He was right. I should have been more careful, hidden the key better, especially after… I saw Reuben standing in my kitchen, heard the wind bang the door and the rattle of the key as it fell. Of course, it might not have been the travellers. There had been several thefts in recent weeks, and they had all been attributed to the wide boys in the nearby town.

“Had any dubious callers lately?”

I shook my head and he sighed. “Ah well.” He snapped his book shut and stood up. “I should replace that door, get some security locks.”

I nodded and showed him out. I knew I would never see my paintings again.

I recouped some of my losses. I cleaned the walls and built shelves to carry bric-a-brac for the tourists. I bought cheap paintings from local artists and recovered the walls. His picture I hung high, almost to the rafters, where the late sunbeams caught the golden hair of the dog, and brought alive a meadow in the beamed shadows. Several tourists liked the painting.

“It’s not for sale,” I said, studying the R and squiggle that spoke of Reuben. “It’s not for sale.” And they would turn away, disappointed.

I suppose you could say it’s an original, a unique original. Maybe one day it will be valuable. Maybe one day Reuben will come back and the deep ache in my heart will ease.

But somehow, as I sit at my easel in the garden, my hesitant hand splashing watercolours across the canvas, I doubt it.

Author bio:
 
Fay has pursued her love of creative writing through careers, marriage and motherhood. Over 80 of her short stories have been published in popular, small press magazines, anthologies, and placed in competitions. She has recently had a collection of short stories published by Butford Publishing Ltd entitled Destiny’s Footprints. Details are available at www.butford.co.uk
She has also had two novellas published in large print, available in libraries: Chase a Rainbow and Winds of Change.

How to Win Short Story Contests

If you fancy entering and ultimately winning any short story contests, there are some things that you can do to get ahead of those writers who are all vying for those lucrative top prizes.

Firstly, if you are anything like me, you may be bombarded with masses of ideas and subsequently struggle to isolate any one idea before the urge to write profusely takes over, whilst it is great to be an ‘ideas’ person, it can also be very distracting and stop you from settling down to the task at hand. So, initially, you need to find the short story contests that appeal to you. There are lots of contests available right here  http://creativecompetitor.com/competitions  and of course there are many writing competitions available to writers worldwide that are easily accessible on the Internet. Some simple research through a search engine such as www.google.com  will have a long list at your disposal.

So assuming that you have chosen the contest that inspires you the most,  now it’s time to focus that mindset and start triggering off those ideas that are relative. Approaching your goals with a clear mind and a steely determination to win is vital, if you wish to increase your chances of scooping a prize.I have seen first hand how those less experienced at writing, jump on the very first idea that pops into their heads and whilst, from a creative perspective, it can be good to give free rein to your thoughts, it will not in all likelihood, help you to win any short story contests.

Think about it, you will be up against writers of all levels, some published, some not, others may have already won a few contests or come close in the short listing stakes and this cannot help but have inspired them to work harder. You have to creatively outwit the other competitors by developing an outstanding idea and creating a tight, well-written entry that has the judges on the edges of their seats.

My advice ( as editor and judge) is to form your idea into a plot that is so strong that it simply has to be written. Make sure that your idea relates to the given theme (if any) and that your plot is not too complex. This might sound a bit odd as many people think the more involved the plot, the better the story will be but if you are working with a limited word count, you cannot overstretch yourself or find that you have used all of the available word limit and yet are still only halfway through your story.

This is why forward planning is essential. Make the most of this process and enjoy it, why rush?  Mull over a million and one variations if you have to- it will be worth it. Depending on the word count, it’s then time to think of your characters i.e. how many, how can you introduce them? How can you make them larger than life? Also, it’s time to define your starting point. Have you really got time to start at A, work to B and end up at C? Or are you going to jump straight in at B (at a crucial point) and hook the reader (contest judge) and lead them on a journey of your making. Think pace, make it flow and lead them to an ending that packs a punch.

It’s unlikely that your first draft will be your finished product. Edit, edit and edit again until you are really happy that your story is as good as it can be.Once you have checked for any potential spelling mistakes, check the word count and make sure that you are following the contest rules to the letter. You would be amazed at how many submissions fail to make the cut simply because the rules have not been adhered to. If you have missed the deadline, there really is no point sending your entry, whether you have paid for the fees or not. If the word count is over, start editing it again until you have cut out the unnecessary and have polished the remaining words until they dazzle the judges.

If the rules say paste your submission into the body of the email, then do not send them as an attachment. The rules are there to be followed and each submission is checked. Make it hard for the judge to put your submission down and move on to others.

It really is possible to win short story contests, follow my advice and you can improve your chances but just remember that, you have to give yourself the best chance possible to make your submission stand out from the crowd!

Good luck.