Tuesday, August 27, 2013


by Margo Fuke

CRUNCH went my apple
why're they looking at me?
CRUNCH,CRUNCH went my apple
don't they know it's my tea?

Or remains of the dragon
I killed long ago
in a landslide of hunger
in primaeval Bow.

My chin is a sunset
wet shining and red; my mouth
is a graveyard,
corpse bones spewing out.

Folk tumble out headlong
disembowelling my bus
I snarl but keep munching
through the mad exodus

Snagged the driver of course
with my green woollen paws
displaying their armour
and eighteen inch claws

'I've paid, take me home now
or mumma will foam
at the mouth and come hunting.'
He kow-towed with a groan

'Our stop', boomed Mum dragon
my apple a core
she grabbed for my hand
we disembarked through the door.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

by Beverly Townsend

“It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

When Conan Doyle created the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr Watson he redefined the detective genre. His first published story to feature Holmes was ‘A Study in Scarlet’ (1886) followed by ‘The Sign of Four’ (1890).  These short stories first appeared in ‘The Strand’ magazine and were immediately popular with readers.

Conan Doyle was born in 1859 in Edinburgh and had a turbulent childhood due to his father’s alcoholism; he was later committed to a lunatic asylum. Whilst studying medicine at Edinburgh University he began to write stories and his first published work was ‘The Mystery of Sasassa Valley’ (1879).

He modelled Holmes after his University professor Dr. Joseph Bell, who emphasised the importance of observation in diagnosis. He would often demonstrate this to his students by deducing the occupation and life-style of patients purely by observations.

After he qualified he became a ship’s doctor on a Greenland whaler and also on a voyage to West Africa where he nearly died of typhoid. Most of his life he divided his time between medicine and writing. An accomplished sportsman he played cricket for Marylebone Cricket Club. He married twice and had five children.

He served briefly as a doctor in the Boer war and later wrote ‘The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct’ (1902), which justified the UK’s role in the war. It was for this publication that resulted in his being knighted by King Edward VII in 1902.

Conan Doyle was also a fervent advocate of justice and personally investigated two closed cases which resulted in two men being exonerated of the crimes that they were accused.

Altogether Conan Doyle wrote 56 Holmes short stories and four novels. He grew tired of writing the Holmes stories and wrote ‘The Final Solution’(1893) in which Holmes and Professor Moriarty apparently plunge to their deaths over a cliff. Public outcry from his fans however led him to bring the character back, which he did in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (1901).

By the 1920s he strayed from his religious upbringing and was profoundly interested in spiritualism believing that the living could communicate with the dead. He wrote many books on the subject and many other notable fiction and non-fiction works.

His stories have been translated into films, stage productions, TV series, animated films and radio plays; indeed there is a whole host of authors now writing Sherlock Holmes stories in Conan Doyle’s style.

He died in 1930 of a heart attack aged 71.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Most Important Thing

by Maria V A Johnson

What is the most important thing you need to do before publishing a book? Well, obviously you need to write one. You can’t publish something that doesn’t exist after all. But then what? Is it finding an agent? Is it getting a publisher or choosing to self-publish? No. They are important things to do of course, but they are not the MOST important thing. So what is it? I hear you ask. It’s editing.

Now I’m sure that’s shocked a few of you. If you’ve thought enough about it to look online, you may even think it’s too expensive and want to do it yourself. I must admit that even the cheapest of editors out there can seem rather pricey, but it’s well worth the time and effort.

The thing to remember though, is that it is actually good value for money. £3000 for a 150,000 word manuscript might appear a lot, and it is, but it works out at 2p per word. A good, full edit (developmental, structural and copy/line editing) can take between 4 and 6 months to complete, and involve many rounds. The editor will need to go through the book several times to make sure they catch everything, and it’s very time consuming. £3000 isn’t a lot of money when you consider the editor’s outlay. Most people on low salaries (£12k pa) would expect to earn that much in 3 months or less, the editor is doing 4-6 months’ work for the same amount. It is a demanding job for little pay.

You wouldn’t need to cough up all the money up front though. Most editors will take a down-payment at the start and request the balance upon completion, giving you time to save. Some editors even offer payment plans to help you budget if funds are tight. Personally, I go one stage further. I know that some writers are unemployed, and so I offer a special discount to anyone that can prove they’re in receipt of benefits, as well as other money-saving offers.


I recently borrowed a kid’s book from the library to see if it was any good to buy for my niece and was appalled at the state of it. It was published by New Generation Publishing, a ‘UK based market-leading self-publishing company’ if you believe their website. They say they offer a full editing service to customers should they require it.

I think it safe to say, Nature Mage by Duncan Pile has never gone through that procedure. Maybe Mr Pile thought it didn’t need to, that it was perfect the way it was. But there is a problem. Most authors cannot see the mistakes in their own work. When they look at the page and read it through, they are reading it the way they envisioned it. Even authors who are professional editors, like me, can’t see the errors in their own work and need to hire someone else.

When I was reading through Nature Mage, I noticed a lot of problems. There were places where he had typed the wrong word by mistake, places where punctuation was missing – most noticeably at the end of paragraphs, and the vast majority of apostrophe’s were facing the wrong way! Needless to say, I will not be buying that book for my niece. The story was good, if you could look past the errors, but I don’t want her to learn sloppy grammar etc. I want her to learn properly.

That book could have been brilliant if it had been edited, but now it’s consigned to the scrap heap because an author couldn’t be objective and didn’t know the most important thing.

So, when you’re thinking about publishing your own book, make sure you get a professional editor first – it’s well worth the outlay to get a raw manuscript turned into an amazing novel.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Imaginary Friends

by Carol Thomas

This blog post was inspired by a conversation we had at the social on Wednesday. I was talking about my daughters ‘Imaginary Friends’ and it started me thinking about how we, as writers, spend most of our time with imaginary people.

My daughter started talking to her imaginary friends when she was 2. They were her hands and she called the right one Onion and the left one Heddy. Onion was naughty and would pull Olivia’s clothes and push her off the bed and Heddy was good and would talk Olivia into eating broccoli. One of the creepiest moments was when I told Onion that if he didn’t behave he would have to leave and he told me, “You can’t make me leave I am attached to Olivia.”  It was about 4 or 5 years before she stopped talking to them.

As well as Onion and Heddy she seemed to have other ‘friends’ that she would talk to in her bedroom. If she came in from school with a certificate for something she would disappear into the bedroom with it behind her back and we would hear, “You guys look what I won.”

She was really into Hannah Montana at the time!

Even now she still talks to herself when she is on her own. I think that writers do the same they just tend to keep it inside their heads.

I have never been worried by it although I remember my family used to find it strange when she talked to her hands! I think it helped with her speech and her creativity.

Either that or she is mad like me!