The Devil is in the Really Tiny Details

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Hello and welcome back to another prompt post this time on the theme of tiny. Now, for those of you looking forward to NaNoWriMo you have very little time left to wait as it is precisely a week from today. As of the 1st I will be posting a launch party post to celebrate another attempt at that troublesome mountain, and from then onwards my posts will be geared towards inspiring myself, inspiring other authors who are attempting the challenge, and I will be posting my word limit goals to spur everyone on. If you are joining me for this most interesting challenge then I commend you, if not then stop by for some words of encouragement for the authors who are. We’ll likely need it.

Detail #1: Now, when I heard the word Tiny, my first through when towards details, as they are often very small, tiny even, but can have a big impact on you novel and it’s plot. My first idea for detail would be when describing your setting, and the tone the smaller details can help set when describing it. For example, if your setting is a utopia you might remark on the clean streets, lacking in rubbish, or that there are no homeless people because everyone has a home now. If your setting is darker you might comment on cigarette ends littering the street, the silent and cold way people move through the streets, maybe even a crime scene with the street taped off. These small details can be useful to set a specific tone for your world without having to say these things explicitly; show not tell being one of the more important lessons of writing.

Detail #2: My next tips would come when writing a novel that hides your plot from the reader. Mostly this falls into mystery/crime novels but can also apply to any story where you want to surprise your readers with something big at the end. In this case the details are all important because you can’t surprise your readers with something they didn’t have a chance to see coming, with that ‘oh’ moment that explains all those strange moments before the big reveal. So, if you want the detective to be working with the murderer the whole time then you have to leave those details for readers to find. They can be small, you don’t want things to be obvious after all, but they must be there in some way, perhaps with the murderer being exceedingly tired during the day, or commenting on the crime scene before they’ve learned about the crime scene. Be subtle, but many readers will pride themselves on discovering this mystery and will keep reading your book to see if they’re right.

Detail #3: My final tip would be when describing your characters because you want them to stand out in the readers mind. That’s not to say they have to be giants with neon coloured hair, twelve piercings and walk around like the cast of stomp…although, no that’s a terrible idea, but they must be easily distinguished from the rest of your cast. Perhaps your main character has a distinguishing scar like Harry Potter, or maybe another character has a notable item of clothing that they always wear like a scarf, and perhaps they are distinguished by the way they move, such a man with a rolling gait due to a injured leg. There’s plenty of way to distinguish your characters from each other, and each of these examples also gives you an example to add some history to these characters, to get readers asking questions like: where did he get that scar?

That’s it for today, but as promised I will be back next week and I may well step up my posting a bit, because I might be going a bit mad and 50000 isn’t going to be trouble enough. Either way you can be sure to hear plenty from me when November hits, and until then keep an eye on the details.

Urgency Will Robinson

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Hello again everyone and welcome to another prompt post, this week with the ever increasing, danger inspiring word of urgent. This word is quite an important one to use when writing novels, and the theme of urgency and pace is even more so. Let’s look into this further.
Tip #1: now, when I think of urgency in my novels I think of pacing and driving the plot forward. There will be moments in your novels, as in life, that your pace will reach a point of urgency that needs to pull readers along at a fair pace. Now, this means that short and snappy sentences are key here to creating the right energy, but there’s more you can do beyond that. One of the simplest concepts is that of the ticking clock. Let’s say your protagonist’s brother is due for execution at sunrise and your protagonist plans to stop it happening. There you have your clock, and it gives the poor man till sunrise try and arrange an elaborate plan to rescue said brother. Already you have that sense of time hanging over every scene, but you can make it stronger by having the character constantly peeking at his watch, the car breaking down and costing valuable hours, and maybe he even gets knocked out and wakes up with barely an hour before his plan is supposed to be in motion. When creating a sense or urgency in your stories, time is your friend.
Tip #2: Now, continuing with the above example we come to my next point: why should we care? If you open the story with this intense and urgent scene people won’t have enough emotional investment to be concerned for the main character and his brother. To create the right sense of urgency you must give your readers time to invest themselves in your characters, so that when the danger kicks in they care about their fates. So let’s say about halfway through the novel this scene with the rescue happens. Maybe your protagonist is on a mission to reunite his dying father with all of his errant sons, including the one about to be executed, because he made the old man a promise. Now, not only is there another ticking clock, but we have reasons to be invested in this success. You could add in a family for the soon to be executed brother too, but the important thing is to give your readers reasons to care about your characters, or the urgency will never grip them the way you want it to.
Tip #3: My final suggestion for creating urgency would be dramatic irony. Let your readers into information that your main character isn’t aware of to ratchet up that sense of urgency. Maybe the execution had been brought forward by a few hours so that our protagonist is plotting his rescue too late. Now a new sense of urgency will grip your readers as they wonder if the protagonist can find out in time. Maybe the father’s condition is getting worse, with the doctors unsure if anyone will make it back in time. Now not only are your character feeling that pressure, but your readers will be holding their breath in anticipation. This last one is a simple tool but when used correctly in conjunction with my other tips can create a truly thrilling atmosphere to hook your readers.
That’s it for this week’s post, and I hope you all thoroughly enjoyed it. My writing muscles are feeling thoroughly stretched (and my typing fingers are definitely stronger than they were), which is a good thing with NaNoWriMo inching closer to the horizon. I will have one more post next week, and then the following will be the November launch post to celebrate the beginning of a competition that will devour the free time of all involved. I hope to see you there.

Can Flattery Get You Anywhere?

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Hello and welcome back to another writing article. After last week’s fun writing tips I decided to keep them going into this week. My prompt for today is flattery, which is an interesting prompt indeed. You see it said in most magazines that flattery can get you anywhere, so I am going to run with that theme and see just how far flattery can get your characters when you are writing.

Tip #1: Now, I am fairly certain that the first image to pop into your heads is a wily femme fatale using her feminine wiles to lull the guards into a false sense of security. If you did you are almost certainly not alone, but I want you to think outside of the traditional tropes with this tip. Let’s take our female character and instead of putting her in a room with a lustful man who she can easily manipulate we’ll put her in the room with a matronly woman, three kids all grown, with a stubborn streak that could defeat the common cold. Not only would this be a very amusing situation for the phrase, feminine wiles, to be bandied about, but it would also force your character to think outside of her usual box. Enter flattery. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t like talking about something they’re passionate about, and if you add in a few flattering comments then you can keep them going for days. Now, you want to show that this character is competent (if played for laughs you might not), so have her analyse the room she’s stuck in. A mother of three is bound to have photos of her loved ones, and if not there’s bound to be signs that children once inhabited her life (dirty laundry perhaps). Then, have her started up a dialogue with her matronly roadblock, lay out a few compliments among the questions and you will soon have a much more amiable captor.

Tip #2: That was a rather fun example but that’s hardly the length and breadth of what can be done with such a skill set. Next, let’s look to villains, James Bond to be specific, and their poor tendency to give away their plans in a pique of arrogance. This might seem like a moment of idiocy for them, which it is, and a terrible cliché to boot, which it also is, however, you’d be surprised how realistic this could be. After years plotting grand schemes, making sure every detail is perfect, it’s almost impossible to not want to show off, to show the hero just how badly they’ve been outsmarted. If you don’t believe me then answer me this, have you ever been asked a question about your book/writing project, and been able to give an answer that didn’t show off just how clever that particular scene was. Now, this is a cliché, and I wouldn’t recommend writing it exactly like the movies, but there’s wiggle room here for the creative mind. Perhaps your villain, in a humanising moment, is drowning his sorrows after the test of his doomsday machine destroyed an occupied village. Between alcohol and a few leading questions from the protagonist and he might well spill his guts, especially if a few allusions to his brilliance are made. As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and a little flattery can gain you a lot of knowledge if used in the right place.

Tip #3: Now, for my last example I’m thinking something a bit lighter, such as a romance novel. Your protagonist is trying to play fairy godmother with two people she knows, but wants to be certain that the feelings are reciprocated before nudging them together. One is her friends, and has admitted her feelings, but the other is a bit more of a mystery. The trick here would not only be finding out, but also keeping the others from working out why she was asking. Getting them talking about themselves and past entanglements is never a bad start, compliments on their appearance will rarely go amiss, and finally a nudge towards anyone they could have their eye on. Get people talking enough about themselves and their guard will be lowered and their suspicions will be put to one side for a bit, the perfect time for our matchmaker to interfere. Bonus points in this example is she gives herself away but it’s this accidental reveal of information that brings the couple together.

Armed with this information you should be able to turn even the most bumbling of characters into a persuasive force to wheedle information and leverage out of every situation. The perfect character for thrillers in every genre. I hope that, in the run-up to NaNoWriMo, these writing tips are proving useful, and I shall see you in the trenches when Nov 1st finally comes.

Having A Breakthrough Writing the Rocks of Aserol

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When writing most stories, your characters will likely have what can be called, a breakthrough moment. These are moments of grand revelation where the hero learns the evil lords plot, the protagonist realises his true love was in front of him the whole time, and the detective uncovers a key piece of evidence to unravel the whole mystery. That’s not to say characters have an easy time reaching these moments in the book, quite the contrary, but these moments are still the turning points for them. Now. Let’s take a genre like steampunk, a time of Victorian values and more than a little style. I have read more than my fair share and find that these breakthrough moments are rarely as cut and dry as they can be in other genres. It’s a genre where good and evil is rarely a used paradigm, where right and wrong are subjective, and a place where villains use phrases like the greater good. Things are never black and white, instead taking on numerous shades of grey, but below I’ve written down a few of my favourite ideas for having a breakthrough moment in this particular genre.
Tip #1: My first tip would be choosing the correct opponent for your protagonist in these stories. If your world has a government, including the compulsory shady behind the scenes people who secretly control the country, then your characters are unlikely to be a significant threat to them (unless your mixing in some espionage thriller, in which case go for it). Instead of setting up my protagonist against the shady government puppet-master, I gave him someone lower down the food-chain who was the face of the opposition. This man was ambitious but ultimately a tool, and it fit with the true antagonist to have a patsy he could cut loose, and it gave the main character someone he could triumph over when he had his breakthrough moment. It gave the characters a sense of victory, without having them overthrow the whole government, which is good, because ultimately what the main antagonist was doing was for the greater good of his country. You see what I mean about shades of grey?
Tip #2: My second tip for your breakthrough moment would be having more than one of them in your novel. Most twisted plots are hideously complex, with layers upon layers of schemes for a protagonist to have to unravel. So, it might be a good idea to give them more than one moment where they can crow with triumph because they’ve uncovered something important that can improve their situation for the better. These moments won’t be the end of the story, and will often cause more questions than answers, but on the road to uncovering evils masterminds chuckling in their lairs, it’s good to show your character triumphing. This tip has a twofold implication; the first being that any competent villain will not be uncovered in one brilliant stroke, so this can add to believability; and the second being that it shows your protagonist has earned his victory, and not accidentally stumbled onto the self-destruct button.
Tip #3: My final tip builds upon the previous one, and focuses on the final breakthrough moment of your story. Your protagonist has worked hard to get to this point, so make sure you don’t hold back when writing these scenes. The setting will be grand, often with crowds of people, massive fanfare, and the shady villain stepping out of the shadows to see his scheme through to completion. Don’t tell your readers when this moment is happening, it should be obvious from the very first page of the chapter. Through minor victories and disheartening setbacks your protagonist has fought for this moment, so set it apart from your other minor breakthroughs, and, as this is steampunk, do it with style.
That’s it for this particular post, but I have to admit it was a good bit of fun to get the creative juices flowing. One reason for this, a reason I hope I share with some of my readers, is the approaching NaNoWriMo. This is a brilliant challenge to inspire creativity and get some words on paper (the bane of most writers including me), and I hope I’ll see some of your joining me in the trenches. And if you want to learn more about breakthroughs look up The Rocks of Aserol on this site, it might inspire your own novel, and failing that it’s jolly good fun.

Flash Fiction and NaNoWriMo update

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FF4Finished Orange

The FREE download continues but I have put the book on Amazon so that reviews can be left, if you read it and liked it, here is the link, If you haven’t tried it yet, there’s no need to pay 99p, just go HERE for your copy.

With November approaching, I’m trying to decide which project will be the subject of NaNoWriMo, at the moment its a choice between “Andorra Pett” and “Return to Aserol.” For those who don’t know, the idea is to write 2,000 words a day in November; a sort of sprint to the first draft stage.

“Andorra Pett” is a departure for me, a lighthearted detective story featuring Andorra Pett, a lady on a mission (the first chapter is a short story I wrote a while ago and it was suggested that I turn her into a full novel), you can get a glimpse HERE

“Return to Aserol” is the sequel to The Rocks of Aserol, and continues the story.

In 2014 my project was “Ribbonworld,” which has gone on to be a very successful Sci-fi thriller, gaining good reviews and spawning “Jungle Green,” currently in edit. A prequel is also planned, roughly titled “The Lost Princess,” more of that later.

Last year, I used the month to practically finish “Myra,” which should now be published in March or April next year. It’s currently in its second draft and with Beta readers, fingers crossed that I don’t need to rewrite too much of it.

I do have a couple of other ideas in my head but nothing that I can see clearly enough to make 60,000 words out of. Although I thought that with “Ribbonworld” and look where that got me.


Beta Readers Wanted

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I’m looking for four or five willing readers for my new Sci-Fi novel “Myra,” if you’re willing to evaluate a rough draft for content and interest, leave me a comment.

Here is the blurb,
“I turned, and even though I didn’t immediately realise it, it was then that I fell in love.”

Meet Dave Travise, at least that’s who his identity chip says he is. An ex-navy man on the run; somehow he’s ended up in a dead man’s shoes; on a new ship and on the wrong side of the law.

With no way to prove his innocence, he’s just got to play along and keep his head down if he’s going to survive. As if he doesn’t have enough problems, now he’s fallen for Myra, the engineer on his new home.

Pursued by criminal gangs and keeping one jump ahead of everyone, Dave and his new shipmates are going to need all the luck in the Galaxy just to stay alive.

Myra tells the story of how Finn Douglas, naval officer; became Dave Travise, Galactic trader.”
I can supply in .mobi, .epub or .pdf, just reply to this post (use the Leave a Reply button below) with your email address if you’re interested in having a look and I’ll get back to you.

My next Project

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Jungle Green, the sequel to Ribbonworld has gone off to be edited, I expect it back in the first week of October, now I just have to write the catchy blurb for it, how about this:-

“TC is the wonder drug. Manufactured in secrecy at the edge of the galaxy, it makes world’s inhabitable, and Balcom Industrial lots of money. Then, suddenly, the people who need to take it to stay alive start to die!
For Layla Balcom, fresh from wresting control of her father’s inheritance from those who would have destroyed it, the news is devastating. What was said to be impossible is happening!
Searching for answers, she finds a web of lies and hostility. Then she is dragged into criminal activities and it becomes far more personal. It’s time to sort the good from the bad and protect Layla’s legacy.”
Not bad for a start? Next, I will need a cover and a release date; assuming that Myra will be out in March, maybe June 2017?

That should give you all time to read Ribbonworld first.

Another 5 Star Review

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The Rocks of Aserol scores 5 Stars again!

This review from Helen, who says:- “There’s something of a ripping yarn about this excellent tale of adventure. False accusations, discoveries kept secret, villains who murder to get their way, and the whiff of requited love – it’s all here in this classic steampunk saga.
The tale is told with a restraint that allows the reader to enjoy the elements that steampunk fans demand. We’re taken on a journey – several, actually – and along the way we’re introduced to characters who come to life on the page, fully formed. There’s no manipulation to suit the plot, the cast has been well rehearsed, well created.
This book entertained from the start and its pace made me hope for more.”

ROA Advert


Here’s the link if that’s got you interested.


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I was interviewed on Annie Whitehead’s blog yesterday, about my writing in general, as part of the 1066 Turned Upside Down project.

You might like to have a look,its HERE



The book is available HERE and is getting great reviews.

P J Boox and the Funky Aardvark

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No, it’s not some late 60’s hippie band, with psychedelic music, (pity) but the names of my new stockists,

Located in sunny southwest Florida, P.J. Boox is the first brick and mortar bookstore to sell ONLY books by indie and small-press published authors from around the world. And they have all three of my novels on the shelf.



The Funky Aardvark is a Community arts shop in Teignmouth, Devon, featuring work by local artists and craftsmen/women.

And I will be at White Rock Festival next weekend, with FREE short stories, and all the books on sale.

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