Wednesday 23 December 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 180

This week's prompt is by Nasser Osman, an Egyptian Photographer/Artist. He call this Egrets Land. He has some wonderful creations, worth checking out. 

This story has been stuck in my head for a few days. Nice to finally get it down. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

Feeding Time

‘Did you see it, George?’

‘I did, Ron.’

‘It took longer than I thought.’

‘Yeah, that thrashing about was the first mistake I think.’

‘Yeah, caught far too much attention; and then hanging off that log.’

‘Dangling is never a good idea that far out.’ George shook his head.

‘It wasn’t long before he realised that, although dragging that stump out onto what was left of the starboard side wasn’t pretty.’

‘Baking it in the sun; spreading the scent about. That’s when it started to really get crowded.’

‘Yep, up until then it had just been you, me, Ralf, Davy and a couple of the shark brothers.’

‘When did you turn up, Petunia?’ George looked past Ron to where Petunia had just landed on the end of the boat wreck.

‘Not until it was all over, really; when the black and white boys showed up to clean away the last of it.’

‘So you didn’t get any pickings, then?’ asked Ron.

‘Nope. I missed out this time, maybe next.’

‘You never know, something might wash up in a day or two,’ George suggested.

‘But then it’ll be on the turn. I’ve never been one for matured flesh.’

‘Not for my palate either,’ said Ron in agreement.

‘Some days you can’t be fussy.’ George puffed out his chest. ‘Got to make do or starve.’

The other two nodded.

‘It was just the one guy, on his own then?’ asked Petunia.

‘Yeah, think he’d lost his way, drifted maybe, and then a squall must have hit him,’ replied Ron.

‘Shame, a crew gives everyone a chance to have a feed.’

‘Remember that cruise liner that went down last year? That had been a real feast that!’ George looked out to sea, his eyes growing misty in reminiscence.

‘Oh that was exceptional. Didn’t have to hunt for food for weeks after that,’ Petunia said, staring out in the same direction.

‘Nobody did, not even the black and white boys. There’d been plenty for everyone.’ Ron joined them looking out across the ocean.

They all wondered when the next bounty would come.

Thursday 17 December 2020

Editing Process in Publishing Houses - Pheobe Morgan articles

To round up the Editing Processes in Publishing House Q&A, here are a couple of articles by author Phoebe Morgan, which I thought were interesting and relevant to how the editing process works in Publishing Houses. Phoebe Morgan is Editorial Director of HarpersCollins UK and an author.

The first is how the editing process works seen from both sides - that of the editor and that of the author (in this article, Poebe Morgan and Abigail Dean)

 (click on the picture to go to the article)

And this gives an insight into what being an editor of a big five publishing house is like: A day in the life of an editor.

(click on the picture to go to the article)

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 179

This week's picture prompt was taken in the Orpheum Auditorium, New Bedford, Massachusetts, US. This Auditorium opened on the same day the Titanic sunk, April 15th, 1912. A supermarket now occupies some of the building, but the rest remains beautifully deserted. This image was taken by Frank Grace, and he names it The Haunting New Bedford Orphuem.  He takes some incredible pictures, definitely worth a browse. 

I wrote this and couldn't find an ending so turned it into this. I think it works. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

The Show Must Go On. 

She rushed down the aisle as fast as she could, trying to ignore the laughing and jeering going on in the audience either side. It couldn’t happen this way, it just couldn’t! His dreams dashed in such a public way. Moving quickly was difficult in this new fangled bustle dress that was all the rage, but she wasn’t going to let it stop her saving her darling.

She got to the steps at the side of the stage and someone rushed out and grabbed her arm.

‘Madam! You can’t go up there! The show MUST go on!’

She was having none of it, and pulled her arm out of their grasp, picking up her dress as she ran up the steps. By the time she reached the stage he had collapsed. She knew he would; it was the stress of the performance. She fell to her knees at his side and cradled him.

‘Oh Hugo, my Hugo,’ she whispered.

The lights faded and the wood under her knees creaked; her arms falling empty.

He was not there - no one was. The stage was empty as was the theatre. The only fool was her – Phyllis, believing that wishing him back would be enough. It would never be. He’d never be back. The theatre was closed and disused now.

She slumped back onto her behind and brought her legs round, crossing them under the rags that were once her best dress and looked round the auditorium. Like the faded theatre walls her memories were becoming colourless and fragmented. This last moment seemed to be the final one and it kept playing on a loop.

She hadn’t been able to bring Hugo back anymore than she could bring herself back. She was locked in purgatory, forever reliving this traumatic event; the death of her beloved Hugo.

She spotted movement at the back of the theatre.

‘Who’s there?’ she called.

She stood up, but it was dark under the dress circle and she couldn’t make out if it was a person or a shadow. She went down the steps and walked back down the aisle, trying to make out if someone was there.

When she reached the back she found nothing. Her shoulders slumped. She’d hoped for something or someone to break the monotony. Then she heard his voice again and looked to the stage. There he was!

She rushed down the aisle as fast as she could, trying to ignore the laughing and jeering going on in the audience either side. It couldn’t happen again, it just couldn’t! She had to stop it. His dreams dashed so publicly. Moving quickly was difficult in this new fangled bustle dress that was all the rage, but she wasn’t going to let it stop her saving her darling.

She got to the steps at the side of the stage and someone rushed out and grabbed her arm.

‘Madam! You can’t go up there! The show MUST go on!’

She was having none of it, and pulled her arm out of their grasp, picking up her dress as she ran up the steps. By the time she reached the stage he had collapsed. She knew he would; it was the stress of the performance. She fell to her knees at his side and cradled him.

‘Oh Hugo, my Hugo,’ she whispered. 

Thursday 10 December 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 178

This week's picture prompt is a photo, as best I can confirm it, of a Bergdorf Goodman Window display. @maiasylba on Pinterest pinned it, saying she saw it in the window, and where there are many photos of Bergdorf Goodman windows uploaded on her Pinterest board. She is the founder of Musetouch Visual Arts Magazine. It definitely looks like a window display. 

I struggled a little with this one. Sometimes I am not sure what story I want to write, but then deadlines approach and I have to go with what comes out the fastest. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.


Larissa stood in front of the mirror trying on different pieces of jewellery; she didn’t like any of them. Then she tried to pick out a dress for the evening too – maybe try and match it to the jewellery, but she couldn’t decide on it.

All that went round her head is what others would think – not what she thought, or she liked, but what they might like. She hated living like this, but it’s how life had evolved since she’d become famous. It wasn’t about what she said, or what she did, only about what she wore and who had made what she wore – unless she did something outrageous or said something controversial, which she did from time to time just to mix it up. She laughed at the storm it created, and even at the fallout, but at the end of the day it was all pointless.

They’d painted her as some sort of angel and put her on a pedestal but it only made her feel isolated and unreachable. And even though they claimed she had sought out this lifestyle, the truth was all she had sought to do was express her art. They treated her like royalty, but it was only a matter of time before they cut off her head.

Larissa was acutely aware of the tightrope actors like herself walked. It was all about what was fashionable and hip now, and staying in that place. The second she did or said something wrong, she would tumble and fall, crashing to the ground and become a has-been. A part of her longed for that moment, because then it would all be over and she could end the charade – it was really what fuelled her outrageous moments. But another part of her was terrified because nothing was ever as you imagined and she didn’t want to be exiled from a world she had grown to love.

So here she was trying to dress herself in something provocative yet enchanting that would wow the people, when really all she felt like was a mannequin in shop window on display for people to gawk at and critique.

She found herself a nice little cream number, with a smattering of beads and sequins and some outrageous costume jewellery which would sparkle nicely for the cameras. She’d make up the names of the designers as she often did, just to baffle them all, and get them googling it. They wouldn’t dare say she had made it up for fear of insulting a famed name they didn’t know about. It would be a laugh.

And she’d get through the photo shoot on the way into the event by imagining all of the press as zombies clamouring for her brain. That would keep a smile on her face.  

She took one last check in the mirror before she left for the event and smiled at herself. Did she do it for her or did she do it for them? She didn’t know, but either way, it kept both sides fed and happy. 

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 177

This week's photo was taken by Walter Arnold an American fine art photographer. He has a wealth of incredible pictures, worth a look if you need inspiration. 

This particular photo is from a selection he did called The Art of Abandonment, all taken in this incredible abandoned house called The Mason's Castle, or what was Craig-E-Clair Lodge in the late 1800s, and then remodelled into Dundas Castle in 1921, but Dundas died before it was completed. It passed through hands into that of the Masons (as in masonic), and has never been restored. It is in Roscoe New York and you can find more about it HERE.

This is when I wish I had millions and could buy it off them and give it the love it so desperately needs! 

After having posted about Tricky the last three weeks, I have written something new, and a little spooky. I hope you enjoy it.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there


Peter hid in the corner of the room wondering if it was over yet. He hoped it was, but he couldn’t be sure. He’d run all the way up to the top of the house and into rooms he’d never seen before. They were empty and the paint was peeling, but there was something magical about them.

He sat fantasising about living up here; his own little world, away from everyone, the angry adults and all the shouting. He imagined friends and adventures and even how he would decorate it.

He got up and acted it out, playing kings and queens, and sword fights about who could enter his domain. He imagined doors that led to faraway places over oceans.

When the light started to fade, Peter wondered if it was safe to return downstairs. He opened the door a crack and listened. Nothing. All was quiet.

He tiptoed down the stairs to his room, but when he got there, all the furnishings were different. His small bed was now a huge double and his cars wallpaper had been replaced with some fancy lilac stuff. There was a dressing table and mirrored wardrobes.

He wondered if he’d gone down the wrong stairs and come out in a different part of the house, one he hadn’t seen before – it was so big, with so many rooms. He kept to his part, his bedroom and bathroom, and downstairs where the kitchen and lounge were. They didn’t really let him venture further. For some reason his dad didn’t want him exploring. He wasn’t sure why.

There were lots of bottles on the dresser and he took a closer look, opening each one and having a sniff. After a while he felt woozy and took a step back. That was when he saw movement in the mirror. When he looked he let out a short scream.

In the reflection he saw a lady standing behind the door watching him. She was dressed in a floaty, glistening dressing gown and fluffy slippers, in a mauve that matched the walls, and her hair stuck out all over her head like she’d had a nasty fright. Her eyes were painted with what looked like black rings round them, and were wide and staring at Peter. He was terrified. He didn’t want to turn round, but he had to if he wanted to leave the room.

He slowly turned. She was still there.

‘Hello,’ he said in a small voice.

She blinked. ‘Hello,’ she replied in a croaky voice.

‘Who are you?’

The woman laughed, a husky, chesty sound, which led into a cough.

‘I’m your grandmother.’

‘Oh.’ Peter’s eyes widened. ‘How come I haven’t met you before?’

‘You’re father thinks I’m crazy.’

‘Are you?’ he asked tentatively.

She laughed again, more gently this time and moved to the bed and sat on the side of it. ‘Maybe a little.’

She patted the bed and he cautiously walked over and perched on the corner.

‘You don’t need to be afraid of me. I won’t hurt you. In fact I’m overjoyed to finally meet you. It’s John, isn’t it?’

‘No, I’m Peter. John’s all grown up and left home.’

‘Oh, okay. I’m sorry, I lose track of time being shut up here.’

‘I’ve not been up here before. Dad won’t let me.’ Peter suddenly realised why. ‘Oh, because you’re up here!’

‘Yes, probably.’

‘That’s silly of him.’

‘Yes, it is. And a little mean.’

‘Why is he like that?’

‘Because he thinks I was mean to him when he was your age.’

‘Were you?’

She sighed. ‘Maybe. I don’t really remember anymore.’

Peter heard someone calling his name. He looked round, fear in his eyes. ‘That’s dad, I’d better go before he finds me here otherwise he will be angry.’

‘I’m sorry he’s like that.’

‘I’ll come and visit you again, I promise.’

‘I’d like that.’

He rushed out of the room, closing the door gently behind him, and ran to the closest stairs, which led back to the empty attic rooms. He ran the length of the corridor up there and found another staircase down the other side, and returned to his bedroom moments before his dad walked in.

‘It’s dinner time. Come down and eat.’


They went down the stairs together.

‘Dad, why don’t you visit your mum anymore?’

‘What? Don’t be silly!’

‘I’m not being silly; she’d love to see you.’                

His dad frowned at him. ‘What are you talking about, my mum died eight years ago, before you were born.’

Tuesday 1 December 2020

NaNoWriMo Winner! 🎉

I did it! I managed to complete 50K words in 30 days! 😃

National Novel Writing Month happens every November. This is my 3rd time of 'Winning', but this one was extra special, cuz I fell behind and didn't think I could pull it off, but yesterday I managed to pull just over 8,000 words out of myself and by the skin of my teeth managed it in the 11th hour - with only 5 minutes to go! 

This is the first of Tricky's Tales (still need to find a title ... and a genre), and it came out FAR better than I could have imagined, a tad funnier and not quite as dark. Being a panster (meaning I don't plan it all out, I just have a collection of scenes in my head, a rough story idea or thread that pulls through it and that's it), it can be tough going knowing where to go next, as you need time to gestate, and at several points I didn't think there would be enough story to reach 50K, but each time something new came up that I kept it going and to be honest, I still have at least one more chapter to write. I am hoping for a sort of twist that will indicate another book from her, cuz I really feel there is a series in this. 

It is the first draft and does need work and a lot of tweaking and polishing, but it is down, which is the main thing and the point of NaNoWriMo. 

I just wanted to come here and brag about it! 😉😄

Guest Blog - Editing Process Q&A - SJI Holliday

This week's Guest Author is Susi Holliday. 

Susi (S.J.I.) Holliday grew up in East Lothian, Scotland. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize. She lives in London (except when she's in Edinburgh) and she loves to travel the world.

And this is rather a special day, as it is Publication Day for The Last Resort! Whoo Hoo! Congratulations Susi! 🎉

After the Q&A you will find details of her fabulous new Thriller. Grab a copy! I really enjoyed it; it's very intriguing. 

Susi was actually the reason I wrote these questions. I am fascinated by her success at having completed, and had traditionally published, 7 novels since I have known her - which was back before she had an agent, and we were all still entering flash fiction contests on twitter! (those were the days) It was afterwards I decided to open it up to other authors, and I am so glad I did, it's been fascinating to read everyone's experiences and see how much they differ - or not as the case might be.

Anyway, here are Susi's brilliantly detailed responses to my questions:

Do you send a proposal before a book is accepted? Do you send in an outline first and get that okayed or do you go straight to the full draft?

OK, bear with me here as I’m going to answer this from the perspective of getting a publisher, and then agreeing a second (or subsequent) book with the same publisher – and I have published 7 books with 3 publishers so it’s quite detailed but hopefully useful!

So for my first published book (with Black & White Publishing, a medium sized indie), it was a full polished draft – that’s the usual in fiction, especially for debuts – this was a 1-book deal. Then as part of the contract (generally) a publisher will ask to see a proposal for future books (and there is a time limit for them offering a new deal for that book or books). I got my second book deal (for 2 books this time, with the same publisher) based on a couple of half-page synopses. It helped that it was a sort of loose-linked trilogy so some of the characters were the same.

After that, I was out of contract and wanted to write something different. I was approached by Hodder (an imprint of Hachette, one of the Big 5) and asked if I wanted to write something based on an idea of theirs, but that’s a different sort of situation. I wanted to do it, as I was intrigued to see how it would work! So I then expanded on their synopsis, worked out a more detailed outline and chatted to the editor about it, then wrote the draft.

After that, I wanted to write something different again, so I wrote another full draft and went on submission again (I’m a glutton for punishment!) I got a 2-book deal (with Orenda Books, a small/medium indie), with no idea for the second book. When I was ready, I just very briefly mentioned the idea and sketched it out briefly and the editor was happy. I worked on a more detailed outline myself, but didn’t share it – and it actually changed a huge amount twice while I was writing it.

After that book was done, I wanted to write something different (again!) and I actually went back to an idea I had early on, just after I got my 1st book deal when I wasn’t sure what to write next – I had written a few chapters and had a rough plan, but I decide to take the initial hook and start again. I wrote a “partial” - a draft of around 20k plus a detailed outline of the rest, and my agent submitted it. I got 2 offers and had to decide which publisher to go with, which was nerve-wracking! I chose Thomas & Mercer (an imprint of Amazon Publishing). It was a 2-book deal, and they wanted a detailed idea of book 2. I had a very brief idea which they then asked me to expand on, and I had a meeting with my editor to expand it further. As it turned out, they wanted to publish that book as the first in the deal, which meant when it came to book two, I already had the partial and an outline to work from (which makes it sound like it was then easy to write, but it actually wasn’t as it had then been so long since I worked on it, it was harder than having a totally new idea!)

I recently delivered my first draft of that second book, which means I’m now out of contract (again!) so the next step is for me to chat to my current editor about new ideas, then they’ll ask me to expand them a bit, then hopefully – fingers crossed – offer me another deal! If not, it’ll be back to writing a full draft for submission again (I don’t think I would submit on a partial again as it does limit your choices – I had more than one offer with mine, but many said that although they loved the idea, they just couldn’t consider anything other than a full draft).

Do you do several drafts before you send it to the publisher for editing, or do you just send the first draft?

My first draft is usually quite clean as I outline before I start and I do edit lightly as I go, but I leave gaps for things I need to research or work out later by writing ‘xxx’, so then my first edit involves me going through checking for ‘xxx’ and filling in what needs to go there. I then do a full pass, just tidying it all up as much as I can, but I don’t spend too long on editing at this stage. Usually I will have a list of notes that I’ve made as I was writing, for things I need to think about later. I keep hold of this until I get the notes from the editor.

How many times do you go back and forth (on average) - does it vary with the publisher or with the story?

It varies with both the publisher and the story. But on average, it’s one major edit, then it’s a couple of back and forths to tie up loose ends. Then there’s copyediting and proofreading, so a few more back and forths for those.

What kind of changes/suggestions do they make? Are they just minor ones or are they major? (any examples?)

A bit of both. It’s kind of linked to your next question, but major stuff would come under developmental, then minor is usually in copyedits and is more about style (often based on the publisher’s style guide) and (in)consistencies, and sometimes suggestions to make a sentence flow better, if the editor hasn’t found it clear to read. I haven’t had many structural suggestions for any of mine, I think because I do outline, so this part is usually fine. It’s more about expanding on certain things and clarifying things, as I tend to write short drafts and they become longer. I call it ‘colouring in’. Types of things that would be major – if the editor doesn’t believe in a character’s motivation, or doesn’t like the ending, or finds a plot hole or has an issue with a subplot. Minor is more about timelines – what day is it, what time of year is it, how long since this happened etc and then other very minor things like characters with similar names.

Does it go through various stages, like developmental, copy editing and then proofing? Or is it straight into copy and proofing? Or again, does that vary on book and publisher.

For me it has always been developmental/structural, then copyedit, then proofing. But for some there is also a line edit, which comes in between structural and copyedit – the line edit has always come merged with my developmental – so I will get a report of a few pages (this has been between 2-10 pages, depending on the book and the editor), sometimes broken into headings, sometimes just major/minor – and as well as that, I get a marked up version of my manuscript with comments in in the relevant places – the report and the comments are linked, so when they say in the report ‘I’m not sure I believed that Johnny would push Jane off a bridge when there are people watching’ (for example) then it would also say ‘more detail on page xx’ – where the comment there might say ‘Maybe you can change this so the person on the bridge who Johnny talked to left before Jane arrived’ or whatever.

What would you say best practice is in regards to accepting/rejecting edits - is there always a discussion, or do you feel you have to accept all/some of them?

It’s always a discussion. The editor sends the suggestions, lets you have time to think it through, then go back to them to chat if necessary. It’s fine not to agree, but most of the time they are right! I’ve mostly found that things that the editor has picked up on have been things I have written in my notes for addressing later. If there is something I have disagreed with, I have gone back and said why, and we’ve usually compromised somehow. I’ve had good relationships with all of my editors and I’ve really valued their feedback. Sometimes just chatting through an issue helps me to find a way to fix it, often in a way I didn’t expect. In my last edit, the chat with the editor led me to think up a completely new twist that would have to be seeded through from the start. He asked me if I really want to do it as it was a lot of work, but I knew it would make the book better, and ultimately that is what editing is about. When it comes to copyedits, this is done in comments e.g.“suggest rewording, perhaps xxxx” or “I didn’t understand this sentence, can you clarify?” or “you’ve got a lot of smiling, cut?” and then style/typos type things are in tracked changes and I usually agree with most of them, as this is really fine-tuning for clarity/readability.

Do you find it hard to embrace the suggestions/changes given?

Oh, I think I answered that above! For the most part, no. But there have been occasional times when I have disagreed (but it has been resolved fairly easily, sometimes with me coming up with a different solution to fix the problem). I actually quite like the editing process – having fresh eyes on your work and then making you think about the book as a whole is a good thing, because when you are writing it you are far too close. I have heard people say (mainly people who are unpublished or have chosen to self-publish) that traditional publishing editors “make you change the book to how they want it”, and I have to say, that is just not my experience at all.

 Thank you so much for taking part. 



When Amelia is invited to an all-expenses-paid retreat on a private island, the mysterious offer is too good to refuse. Along with six other strangers, she’s told they’re here to test a brand-new product for Timeo Technologies. But the guests’ excitement soon turns to terror when the real reason for their summons becomes clear.

Each guest has a guilty secret. And when they’re all forced to wear a memory-tracking device that reveals their dark and shameful deeds to their fellow guests, there’s no hiding from the past. This is no luxury retreat—it’s a trap they can’t get out of.

As the clock counts down to the lavish end-of-day party they’ve been promised, injuries and in-fighting split the group. But with no escape from the island—or the other guests’ most shocking secrets—Amelia begins to suspect that her only hope for survival is to be the last one standing. Can she confront her own dark past to uncover the truth—before it’s too late to get out?

Thursday 26 November 2020

Guest Blog - Editing Process Q&A - Alys Earl

This week's guest author is Alys Earl who has given us a detailed inside into their process. 

AW Earl is a writer, storyteller, and performer whose fiction combines literary, genre, and folkloric motifs, and whose non-fiction involves them being quietly angry about transgender issues and the much misunderstood history of marriage. Living in Suffolk with various children and cats, they are currently seeking representation for a series of novels about modern day faeries in Norwich. Their debut novel, Time’s Fool, was published by Unbound in 2018, and their collection of illustrated ghost stories, Scars on Sound, was released in 2017. 

(See their books below)

Do you do several drafts before you send your manuscript to the publisher for editing, or do you just send the first draft? 

I always do several drafts before sending anything on to a publisher, whether I’ve been commissioned or not. I like to have a very clear idea in my head of what I’m doing, and how I want to achieve it before I’m ready to work with someone else on it. This is partly because my intentions tend to change a lot over the second and third draft, and I don’t want to mess my editors about by having something that goes off at a complete tangent to what we’d discussed, or what the first draft implied. Time’s Fool, for example, was originally conceived as a gothic romance - it was only by the third draft that I realised I could not force it in to that shape, and that it really found itself as something of a tragedy. It would have been impossible for an editor to do a fair job on what was pitched (romance) without turning it in to something quite other than the story it needed to be, and I needed the space to find that out for myself without wasting another professional’s time.

I am also, alas, something of a perfectionist and really don’t like people to see my work unless I’m already fairly satisfied with it.

How many times do you go back and forth (on average) - does it vary with the publisher or with the story? 

With Unbound publisher, we had three lots of edits - the structural, the copy, and the line edits. I’m not sure how typical it was, but there was only one exchange at each stage - so, I received comments, worked on the suggestions, and then had my changes approved before the next stage. So, that was three times, and then a final proof read.

What kind of changes/suggestions do they make? are they just minor ones or are they major? (any examples?)

I’ve never been asked to make any seriously major changes to my work. In my experience, editors have been concerned with helping me draw out the story as I wanted to tell it, with an eye to the audience’s ease, enjoyment, and comprehension. This has involved moving some bits about, adding or deleting sections, getting rid of a few ‘darlings’ (I love a terrible pun - editors tend not to), or occasionally rewriting a scene or chapter so that it is more dynamic, or affecting. I’ve never been asked to change a character, or their motivations, only to make them clearer.

Similarly, copy editing is more focused upon honing narrative voice than controlling it - I tend to have quite a lyrical style, and a lot of the feedback was about helping that to ‘sing’. Copyeditors look for clarity, consistency, and - for want of a better word - elegance of voice, rather than any particular style.

Then, of course, there is accuracy. My books have a strong historical aspect, and editors are brilliant at catching, or questioning, historical points - and indeed, stopping authors from getting too carried away with including them. My editor for Time’s Fool caught some absolute howlers, as well as (thankfully) stopped me including an entirely unnecessary paragraph on the history of medieval beds.  

Does it go through various stages, like developmental, copy editing and then proofing? Or is it straight into copy and proofing? Or again, does that vary on book and publisher? 
In my experience, editing starts out with a sort of long-lens, looking at the structure and the narrative or the book, and gradually hones in to the content, then on the word choice, and finally the details like punctuation and spelling convention.

What would you say best practice is in regards to accepting/rejecting edits - is there always a discussion, or do you feel you have to accept all/some of them?

I try to keep in mind Neil Gaiman’s adage about editing: that if someone says there is a problem with a bit of your work, they are almost always right. If they try to tell you how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. Grumble as we might, editors know their jobs, and can see our manuscripts with clearer eyes than we can ourselves. As such, I tend to accept about 80-90% of small changes without question. Larger changes, I would often wish to discuss, or use as a starting point for implementing my own solutions, but in the vast majority of cases some level of editing is necessary or they wouldn’t have spotted it. Often shifting other bits around the contested section solves the problem just as well, or better, than their suggestion.

This approach almost certainly bores my editors rigid and no doubt comes off as very contrary, but as I said above, I’m a perfectionist. I am also, according to one editor I’ve worked with “terrifyingly workmanlike” about my stories. My structural editor for Time’s Fool spent a good few minutes reassuring me that it was a very decent manuscript, and the fact he’d marked it up so much didn’t mean I’d given him some dreadful scrawling that would need to be entirely rewritten. My attitude, though, was very much “Yes, but there are problems, or you wouldn’t have marked it up. So. How do I best go about fixing them?”

The only time this approach fails, I think, is when you and your editor have significant creative differences or outlooks upon life. When I was first starting to submit things, there was a little spate of stories about agents or editors asking (often marginalised) writers to change a character’s gender, race, or sexuality, - and that for me is a huge issue. Before handing your work to someone else to look at, it’s really important to know those things upon which you are not willing to compromise - the changes you will not make, not even if they are make or break changes as regards your contract, and for me questions of identity and morality feature very strongly in that.  In addition to these, it’s worth having a list of things you would rather not alter, but could be persuaded upon. Everything else is up for discussion, for the service of the story, and the service of the reader.

The point I’m trying to make is, a good editor who understands your work would not have flagged something unless they genuinely felt there was a problem there. Do you really want this story to go out there with your name on it, if it has a problem that was pointed out to you, and you have done nothing to fix?

Do you find it hard to embrace the suggestions/changes given? 

Yes of course I do! Writers are delicate, touchy creatures and anyone who pretends that they aren’t is lying. But, ultimately, it comes down to integrity.

The pact I make with my readers is that I’ve done everything in my power to make this story as good as it can be, and that involves listening to my editors unless their advice is about one of the things upon which I will not compromise. So, while I have a couple of friends I can vent to about all the things I’ve been asked to do to my novel in order to make it readable, I also just grit my teeth and do them.

Thank you so much for taking part.

Autumn in the market City of Barchester, and two bright students begin their final year at University, content with old friendships, paying lip-service to old dreams. Until, that is, an ill-conceived prank introduces them to Julian.

For Sophia and Steven, the friendship they form with this worldly stranger marks a coming of age, a possibility to embrace the needs and longings they have never had the language to express. But Julian has his own secrets, and as the nights grow longer, it becomes clear that not all desires are without cost; that some things should never be brought into the light.

Time's Fool is a novel about monstrosity, about desire and communication. It's about the self we present to the world and the needs we whisper to ourselves in the darkness. It is about honesty and the fear of honesty. It is about the things we refuse - refuse to say, refuse to seek, refuse to believe - because sometimes, ignoring those things is all that keeps us sane. 

Click on the book cover for the Amazon UK link. The Amazon US Link is HERE

If UK based, you can buy the epub version on Hive UK HERE 

The past will hurt you if you turn your back on it. A village under the shadow of old magics. A book of poems that twists the minds of those who read it. A woman imprisoned by a poisonous love. Grown from the dark soil of the British Folk Tradition, these stories ring with a half-remembered music of loss, haunting and revenge. From the nurse recalling her monstrous charges, to the woman with scarred hands who is warped by a power from the past, these are tales of civilisation falling away, of something older and more dangerous coming through. With illustrations by Ruth Tucker, these lyrical, Gothic stories capture the horror that lies in the English landscape and the darkness of the human heart.

Click on the book cover for links to purchase from Lulu. 

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 176

This week's picture prompt was created by Russian artist Ruslan Svobodin, and calls this Trigger the Cat. I rather love it. 

I had used it in my new Tricky book, although I realised now I didn't encompass the gun, but still, the idea is to use the prompt in whatever way works for you. And it's also opened up a whole other sub plot! So very useful. Here's a snippet. (The last Tricky tale on the blog was at Week 175)

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there

Black Cat

Tricky’s new body meant that she wasn’t too puffed out by all the stairs that wound up to the top room in the tower. There were a couple of landings along the way leading off along corridors, but they contained nothing of interest to her. When she reached the top landing she faced the door which was open, and looked in. Lucien was at his desk, head down writing something. His birds were all there too, in all the alcoves and on all the window ledges, but none of them registered her presence.

She carefully stepped into the room. She didn’t plan to try and retrieve her Obsidian stone with him sitting there - didn’t think she actually could, as there wasn’t enough space between chair and cabinet. Plus she was confident he would sense the change in energy if she got that close to him, and she wasn’t going to risk it. She stepped inside the doorway, and stood to the left of it, in a corner where the circular outer wall met the inner wall, and waited.

Lucien was scribbling furiously, intent on whatever he had to tell. Then he laid his pen down and rolled the piece of paper up and made a strange squeaking noise with his lips, no doubt calling his birds to him. But it wasn’t a bird that came, it was a cat, and this one wore a strange device.

Now Tricky didn’t go in for all this ‘all witches must have cats’ malarkey. She wasn’t into them at all; they prowled about thinking they were something special, demanding attention and food when it suited them. Moody bloody things too, they were, and she didn’t care for that kind of attitude. She wasn’t going to chase after an animal that didn’t serve a purpose, although many would argue they did. Yes, they caught mice and other such small creatures, many that didn’t need catching, and they might spot the existence of ghosts and other energies, although it could just as easily be a fly, but she didn’t want cat hair getting into all her clothing and her food, she didn’t want it in her garden shitting up the place, and she didn’t want half rotting ‘presents’ turning up on her doorstep. Oh no, they weren’t for Tricky. But it didn’t surprise her Lucien had one. He was that sort. He didn’t just go in for the magic or the power; he went in for the image too. And though birds might be his forte, cats gave him the look he was after. And this was a black cat of course. No other would do.

She found it interesting the cat paid no mind to the birds - although they were big birds and would stab that cat soon as look at it. And she was surprised it tolerated wearing a contraption. He clearly had a hold over it. It seemed birds weren’t just his thing.

The cat jumped up onto his desk and sat in front of him, offering its back. The contraption, affixed round the front legs and underbelly, was a tube which Dufray popped the letter into. He then made some other strange noises and the cat hopped down and went out of the door, off to deliver Lucien’s missive. Tricky wondered where it was going.

Then Lucien stood up and took his thigh-length black jacket off the back of the chair and put it on. Buttoning it up, he moved over to the wall and preened himself in a mirror. One of the birds screeched, startling Tricky. Lucien said aloud, ‘Don’t worry, I won’t be long, and you can join me if you like, eh?’ He turned and looked at the Jay that had made the noise and offered an arm. It glided down and perched on his forearm and together they left the room.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Guest Blog - Editing Process Q&A - Akshita Nanda

The next Guest Author is Akshita Nanda, a Singapore based author, with some interesting experience to share. 


Akshita Nanda's first novel, Nimita's Place was shortlisted for the 2017 Epigram Books Fiction Prize for unpublished manuscripts, and the 2019 Singapore Book Awards for best literary work. It was adapted into a staged reading for TheatreWorks in 2019. Her second novel, Beauty Queens Of Bishan is published by Penguin Randomhouse SEA. She has worked as a lab researcher, as an educator and for 12 years as a journalist and critic for The Straits Times. She is currently studying at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.

Books reerenced in this Q&A:

I've had 2 novels published: Nimita's Place (Epigram Books, 2018) co-won the Singapore Literature Prize for English fiction in 2020 and was shortlisted for the Singapore Book Awards 2019. It has also been adapted into a theatrical reading.

The second is Beauty Queens of Bishan (Penguin Randomhouse SEA, 2019)

I've also created an interactive online story for readers aged 9-14, commissioned by the National Arts Council of Singapore, with publisher Tusitala Books. It's online here till Nov 29.

All three works went through some form of editing.

Do you send a proposal before a book is accepted? Do you send in an outline first and get that okayed or do you go straight to the full draft?

Both my novels were written before publishers were found for them. I'm currently working on a third, without a publishing contract. 

I'm represented by the Jacaranda Literary AgencyI do speak with my agent, Jayapriya Vasudevan, while developing the elevator pitch, but she has the difficult task of representing books that I want to write, rather than getting me to write what a publisher wants.

The interactive online story was the first one where I sent a pitch in for approval but I was given carte blanche with the narrative and plot. The publisher Tusitala Books did explain what media sources and tools they were using, which helped me shape my story outline and not ask for features they couldn't include with the story.

Do you do several drafts before you send it to the publisher for editing, or do you just send the first draft?

Several drafts. I hand-write all my first drafts. Typing them into the computer is the second draft.

I edit several times and then give the edited version to at least 3 friends I trust deeply. I've also paid for professional editing, via someone my agent recommended.

Once all the feedback is in, I collate it and decide what needs to be changed. Only then does my agent receive a submission copy to show to publishers.

How many times do you go back and forth (on average) - does it vary with the publisher or with the story? Does it go through various stages, like developmental, copy editing and then proofing? Or is it straight into copy and proofing? Or again, does that vary on book and publisher? 

There's usually a structural edit, where an editor goes through the course of the story and suggests what should or should not be changed.

With the second novel, this involved me writing an extra chapter for earlier development of a minor character.

After the structural edit comes the line edit, where one or more editors go through the novel line by line and suggest changes or ask questions.

There’s usually at least two rounds of editing - including with the online story - before the text is sent to layout. After layout, I proofread the galleys before they are sent to print.

What kind of changes/suggestions do they make? Are they just minor ones or are they major? (any examples?)

Examples of changes include the extra chapter for book 2. With the first novel, I wrote it to alternate between past and present. The editorial team thought it would be better to have several chapters from one timeline put together, rather than alternating timelines between every other chapter. At first I was resistant but it did work better for readers and didn’t involve me rewriting anything, which was great.

Both my books have been edited by at least one person unfamiliar with the culture being represented in the story. That’s led to some interesting dialogue about differing cultural assumptions. No editor has forced me to make changes I didn’t eventually want to make. All were respectful of what I was trying to achieve.

What would you say best practice is in regards to accepting/rejecting edits - is there always a discussion, or do you feel you have to accept all/some of them? Do you find it hard to embrace the suggestions/changes given? 

There is always a discussion. Both editor and writer will need to make clear to the other why changes are considered necessary. If a writer can defend their rationale, editors tend to accept it.

If an editor can defend their rationale, writers tend to accept it.

I have had 17 years in the publishing industry, including 6 as an editor of books and 12 as a correspondent for a newspaper, so I am aware that writing IS a team effort and that there are many hands and eyes shepherding copy to print. I know that often I am too close to the text to be objective - and also that in the end, my name is on the book. I know what hills to die on and what changes to accept gracefully.

Thanks you so much for taking part.

A light-hearted story, Beauty Queens of Bishan centers around stereotypical rich Indian families in Singapore, yet it does not leave out other parts of the community and how they all come together in the beauty parlours of the average-class heartland of Bishan. In Bishan, the busiest suburb of Singapore, thirteen small beauty parlours co-exist quietly, offering haircuts, bikini waxes and facials at no-nonsense prices. All that changes when a swanky new salon opens. D’Asthetique (Beauty is Skin Deep) is run by April Chua, the stylist to the stars. April’s plan for Bishan includes controlling her competitors through a new society, NAILSO (Neighbourhood Alliance of Independent Lifestyle Service Operators). The only person who dares to protest is the chubby Gurpreet Kaur, owner of Monty Beauty Spa. Both have clients in the upcoming Grand Glam Singapore Beauty contest. Will April’s shoe-in Candy Kang prove yet again why she is Singapore’s sweetheart? Or will Gurpreet’s client, Tara Chopra, prove a star on stage as well as in court?