#IWSG May: What would you do?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month already, and time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; E.M.A. Timar, J. Q. Rose, C.Lee McKenzie, and Raimey Gallant!

This month I’m having a bit of a whinge, an is it just me? moment.

I did hesitate for a while, just in case of the outside chance of the person concerned reading this and starting some kind of flame-war. But, in retrospect, I doubt it as I’m not very important in the big scheme of things, and (if you are reading this – I meant it in the nicest possible way).

I read this really good book. I loved it. But it was marred by a LOT of typo’s. Not just one or two, but LOTS.

Not only that, there were some missing lines of dialogue too, where you realise that a line has been skipped and you only get the end of a comment. Again, this happened a few times. Fortunately it wasn’t enough that I missed the context, but still, it threw me out of the story each time.

Now, I could have ignored it. But it was such a good book that I felt it was a crime to do so.

I could have written a review on Amazon and mentioned it there, but I felt that was unfair to the author – could result in lost sales when all they needed was a heads up that it needed correcting.

So, I contacted them instead.

Unfortunately, as I also follow them on social media I caught their complaint about people who read their books and only feedback that there’s a typo on page 86.

Now I feel a bit pissy about the whole thing.

As writers, how would you feel about this? Should I keep my mouth shut in future?


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Storytime Blog Hop April 2018

It’s time for another story hop, when writers around the world get together to share some of our speculative tales.

My story this time is Trick or Treacle, featuring characters that some of you may be familiar with (from An Alternative to Frog). This story was shortlisted in Writing Magazine a couple of years back, but unfortunately it didn’t meet the requirements for any of the fantasy magazines I tried submitting it to afterwards. However a story needs readers, and although I’ve incorporated it into the novel I’m working on, this version still wants to be read. I hope you enjoy it.



Granny owns the only treacle well in the Mere-Woods.
She says it’s a right pain because now she gets time-wasters coming to the shop for spells, when they’re really after treacle.
I tell her she’s missing a business opportunity. But she just grumbles and says that it’s my fault it’s there in the first place.
I didn’t exactly plan it.

It was the day Madame Genevieve visited.
“The cheek of it,” Granny had fumed, watching from the door as Madame’s broomstick disappeared over the treeline. “I used the last of the treacle on those flapjacks and she turned them down with the flick of an eyebrow.”
I’d been impressed by Madame’s eyebrow flick. In fact, Madame had been a huge relief all round, since my friend Petra had taken to checking my face regularly, convinced that warts were one of the job requirements for a witch.
But Madame Genevieve was tiny, elegant and undeniably wartless.
“Professional visit, my eye!” Granny held aloft the flapjack plate as I shook out the cloth we’d hastily whisked over the worktable. “As if I’d sell bog-mandrake to the likes of her.”
Until we figured out how to harvest it from the depths of the garden pond, we wouldn’t be selling the bog-mandrake to anyone. But I didn’t say that.
“Why not?” I asked instead. “She just wanted it for a beauty potion.”
“Really Skye, you don’t waste bog-mandrake on anything so trivial. Beauty potion indeed! And don’t think I haven’t seen you searching the grimoires for the like.”
I hadn’t realised I’d been so obvious. “It’s not such a bad idea. It could be a way to attract customers.”
“A decent witch doesn’t need to attract customers. Her reputation should speak for itself, and her’s doesn’t.” Granny waved an arm in the direction Madame had taken. “There’s something about that witch that makes my thumbs prick.” One of the bats chose that moment to streak through the still-open door, piping a complaint, and she dropped the subject.
The bats were behind Granny’s reputation for knowing every secret between here and the Hunterback Mountains. In return for the particularly tasty midges that hung out above the garden pond, they shared any news they picked up on their flights through the forest.
“Oh drat.” Granny peered down the lane as she followed the bat outside. “Someone’s coming. Sort ‘em out Skye, I’ll be back in a minute.” She disappeared around the side of the cottage, leaving the flapjacks balanced on the well coping as she passed.
I think Granny misses the bad old days; she suspects everyone. I admit, I wouldn’t fancy putting bog-mandrake anywhere near my face, considering what it did to the gardening gloves, but Madame had seemed to know what she was talking about.
I checked my appearance in Granny’s magic mirror and, reassured there wasn’t a wart or hooked nose in sight, went to greet our visitor.
It was a pedlar. Granny called them a necessary evil, but I still got as excited as any other villager at the covered wagon creaking along the track.
“Refreshments, good sir?” I asked, when he reached the cottage.
Mum had brought me up to observe the conventions of hospitality. Granny keeps telling me that witches don’t follow convention. I have trouble balancing these conflicting opinions sometimes, so was relieved when the pedlar politely took the plate of flapjacks, but left it next to some cages on the tailboard of the wagon when he thought I wasn’t looking.
He pulled back the coverings to display his wares. The cages held an assortment of creatures; some piskies, a distressed looking water vole and an enormous Hunterback frog among others. I ignored them to look through what trinkets and charms he had before Granny came back.
“Anything you’re after in particular, my lovely?” He had a twinkle in his eye, and what he lacked in looks he made up for with a warm charm that made me feel like we’d met before.
“Perhaps,” I said. “Do you have anything unusual?”
“Who would dare visit a witch’s residence without bringing something out of the ordinary? And for a beauteous maid such as yourself, what could be more appropriate than a wish?” With a flourish he presented me with a delicate papery flower pod. “It’s very fragile, make sure your wish is fully formed before you break it open.”
What to wish for? Everlasting beauty? Perfect skin? Or perhaps—
“Don’t be an idiot, girl. You’re a witch, you can make your own wish spells,” said Granny from behind me.
There was that moment gone then.
I could have told him that the raffish charm that worked so well on me wouldn’t dent Granny’s toughened exterior, but some things have to be learned firsthand. I examined the rest of his wares, listening with half an ear as he tried to flatter her.
“Well?” she asked me, cutting through his spiel.
“There’s magewort, persimmony and hogsbreath,” I reported. “And some purple madder, depending on the price.” I shrugged to indicate that anything else we might want wasn’t in sight.
She gave a slight nod and turned back to the pedlar.
Mum and Dad ran the village post-office, so I’d soaked up barter and negotiation at an early age, but watching Granny took it to a whole new level. You wouldn’t believe what she could extract from a bit of gossip.
Today it wasn’t working though. The pedlar deflected each foray with a wave of a hand or a flick of an eyebrow. You’d think he’d never travelled the Hunterbacks or the Maze fields. He must have done to gather his stock, but it was as if instead he’d sprung into being that very morning. I became more convinced I’d met him before.
I leaned against the wagon and reached for a flapjack as I settled in to watch.
The plate was empty.
The Hunterback frog looked a bit too innocent.
“Why you little—!”
“Something wrong?” Granny and the pedlar had both paused to watch me.
“Ah… no.” If Granny found out the frog had scoffed the lot, she’d have him for spare parts. I preferred my spell ingredients nicely pre-pickled and impersonal, so I kept quiet.
“So, about this bog-mandrake—” The pedlar turned back to her.
“Absolutely not. Harvesting is a very delicate process and it’s just not ready yet. I’ve already had to turn someone away…”
And then I had it. As I watched in amazement, he gave that unmistakeable flick of his eyebrow again. Somehow, the pedlar was Madame Genevieve.
I couldn’t work it out. How? Why? And, the issue closest to my heart, what did this mean about Madame’s beauty? Was she really a toothless crone beneath it all? Was I doomed to a future of warts and cavities?
Fortunately Granny is very sharp witted and I am far from subtle. Sometimes the combination is foolproof.
Madame Genevieve – the pedlar – was still banging on about the bog-mandrake.
“Let me get my almanac,” Granny said, giving me a sharp look before retreating inside the cottage.
“Yes, bog-mandrake, it’s a real pain,” I babbled. “It’s the conditions you see. For it to really flourish it does something to the water that makes it quite toxic to human skin. It’s melted every pair of gloves we’ve tried.”
That was true. I think it was something to do with the midges and the bat-poo. The combination had created some kind of eco-system in the garden pond.
“Now, now, Skye dear, don’t give away trade secrets,” said Granny. She stood in the doorway with the mirror dangling from her fingers, and before the pedlar – Madame – could turn, she cried;

“By Mephistole and Cullan’s Dritch,
By Hazel rod and Willow switch,
Never underrate this witch,
I command thee, once more, switch!”

She flung something into the air and there was a flash of light.
The pedlar hunched into a ball and began squeaking. Gradually we could make out words.
“Nasty witch… turned me into some kind of rat and stuffed me in a cage… Why can’t you tell, you stupid woman, you’re meant to be a witch— Oh! My hands! My nose! I’m back! Oh thank you!” He fell to his knees and tried to kiss the hem of Granny’s skirt.
“Yes, yes.” She shooed him away and strode over to the cage that had held the water vole. It now held a miniature Madame Genevieve who was shaking the bars in fury.
“Damn you, you meddlesome old witch!”
“Part of the job, dearie.” Granny lifted the cage and examined her. “I can’t go selling high risk products to just anyone you know, I have my reputation to consider.”
“Reputation!” Madame sneered. “Witchcraft is stagnating because of fools like you, too afraid to take risks. But my turn will come.”
“Not for a while yet,” replied Granny. “We’ll let the Coven Committee deal with you. Turning innocent bystanders into vermin puts a bad light on the rest of us.” She turned back to the pedlar. “Unless you want to keep her?”
“No! No! And under the circumstances, please consider everything to be at thirty percent discount today… I mean fifty percent,” he substituted hurriedly at Granny’s raised eyebrow.
“Very kind of you. Skye has a list.”
I repeated the herbs I’d mentioned earlier and added a few more. “We could use the frog too,” I said, wondering if frog-skin stood up to mandrake toxins. I even had an idea of what his weakness might be if he needed encouragement.
“Gladly miss, and here, as a token of my deep appreciation.” The pedlar swept up a handful of the charms and gew-gaws I’d been browsing earlier. In amongst them was the wish spell.
“Skye!” warned Granny.
But it was too late. The papery pod crumpled under my fingers and the wish-dust inside spilled out, taking my half formed idea with it.

It didn’t turn out so badly. The treacle well means we can make as much flapjack as we like, and that frog will do anything for flapjack. Which is very useful when it comes to harvesting bog-mandrake.

But that’s another story.


Don’t forget to check out all the other stories, and let the authors know if you enjoy them!

Sugar in the Raw, by Karen Lynn
Inferno, by Fanni Soto
Tae, by Barbara Lund
Interstellar Student Exchange, by Raven O’Fiernan
The Ghost Fighter, by Bill Bush
Hare, by Elizabeth McCleary
The Widow, by Vanessa Wells
A Snow White Morning, by Katharina Gerlach
The Letter, by Juneta Key

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And the answers are…

I realise that your fingernails will be ragged with the stress of wanting to know the answers to last week’s first lines, so without further ado, here they are;

  1. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. (Little Women, Louisa M Alcott).
  2. All children, except one, grow up. (Peter Pan, J M Barrie).
  3. Garp’s mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston, in 1942 for wounding a man in a theatre. (The World According to Garp, John Irving).
  4. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. (1984, George Orwell).
  5. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C S Lewis).
  6. In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf. (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle).
  7. As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect. (Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka).
  8. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. (The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath).

(And no – I wouldn’t have known all of them, that’s the beauty of being in a team.)

Happy reading and happy writing! 🙂

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#IWSG March – Epiphany moment

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham, Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen Gardner. (Please stop by to say hello to them).

Last month I went to a book quiz with a couple of writer friends, and one of the rounds was on first lines…

“Oh no,” I thought. “People always bang on about first lines and I’m rubbish at them. I know the first line of Pride & Prejudice (like everyone else), but that’s it.”

But then I had an epiphany moment. Let me show you.

  1. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
  2. All children, except one, grow up.
  3. Garp’s mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston, in 1942 for wounding a man in a theatre.
  4. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
  5. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
  6. In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf.
  7. As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.
  8. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

I might not know the lines by memory, I might not even have read the book, but that first sentence gives some kind of clue about the rest of the book.

Lots of them have a main character’s name. That’s a big clue. Others might give you a place or an event that sets the time for you. Or you may not recognise the name, but turning into an enormous insect might be a bit of a clue.

Not all novels give pointers in this way, and that doesn’t make them worse because they’re likely setting the scene in some other way, by grabbing the attention or posing questions. It’s given me a new insight and something to think about when putting together the first line for my next story or novel.

I’ll post the answers next week. In the meantime, what novels do you think they’re from? (No cheating!!)




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A to Z of fictional characters: K is for Kate

It’s ages since I’ve written one of these posts, and I was quite excited when I realised the next character on my lists is Kait Galweigh from Holly Lisle’s Secret Texts trilogy.

Kait is such a cool character. She’s tough, she’s clever and she works to her own moral code. We first meet her in book one, A diplomacy of Wolves, when she is chaperoning her cousin at a party.

Should be simple, right? But it’s Kait’s first major role as a family diplomat, and her cousin is behaving as wildly as possible rather than the demure, virginal marriage prospect she’s supposed to be.

And Kait has a secret. She’s not completely human, and if anyone finds out, she’s dead. Even her own family won’t protect her.

But the plot of a rival family is about to destroy the world she knows, and the magic in her blood may be all that can save her. That, and an uneasy alliance with an enemy.

If you like strong female characters, (actually, strong male characters too – let’s not be picky, and there are some awesomely good baddies), a bit of were-action, transformative magic that has consequences (and boy – you don’t use it lightly in this world!) then it’s really worth meeting Kate and her crowd.


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#IWSG February 2018: Time to get on with things.

Hello Everyone, and Happy February!

This month I am extremely chuffed to be co-hosting the IWSG blog-hop, (which occurs on the first Wednesday of the month), alongside these awesome people; Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte! Do stop by their blogs to say hello, and don’t forget our founder, Alex Cavanaugh.

February (I’ve decided), is the month when we actually settle down and get on with things. January was full of the panic and pain of resolutions, but now we can take a breath and put some more realistic plans in place.

Me? I’ve concluded that yes, 2018 has to be all about re-writing my novel, but I also want to give some space to the little voice that keeps whispering to me about short stories.

And that leads me very neatly to this month’s question: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

I’ve come to the conclusion that my preferred genre is Speculative Fiction. It’s a lovely umbrella term that covers fantasy, sci-fi, the paranormal and probably all sorts of others too. I love the scope that gives me; I can spread out and try different things rather than wedging myself into a genre box. With spec fic I can create my own rules, history and societies. Heck, I could create my own gender if I wanted (although I haven’t gone that far). I can concentrate on seemingly unimportant characters or on huge events, the only limit is my own creativity. (Although it helps if it makes sense to the reader too).

But… I also write short stories for women’s magazines, and in some ways this is a release valve. A novel is a big thing, that takes ages. A short story is an outing, a day trip into someone else’s world, a break from the ‘great work’. It’s also where I get to play with the little triggers that go off in the world around me, (the friend insecure about their new boyfriend; litter; going through a loved one’s effects), that prompt me to think, “Ooh, I could make a story about that! And that!”

I’m still trying to put together a good time management structure though. My mind, it seems, is a very untidy place.

Thank you for stopping by, and don’t forget to visit our other awesome hosts! I’m looking forward to visiting all your blogs to discover what you love about your preferred genre.

Oh, and before I go, can I give a quick plug for the Exeter Writers Short Story Competition? First prize is £500! Closing date is 28th February.

Posted in IWSG, Writing | Tagged | 102 Comments

Storytime Blog Hop – Jan 2018


It’s time for another storytime blog hop!

Founded by students of Holly Lisle in 2015 (I’m a founder member!) This is a quarterly hop to share short pieces of speculative fiction.

I don’t have a story in the hop this time, but check out all these other cool stories;

  1. Monstrous Monday by Fanni Soto
  2. Grandma’s Legacy by Elizabeth McCleary
  3. Dragonslayer by Barbara Lund
  4. Megan’s Virus by Karen Lynn
  5. Studenting by Chris Makowski
  6. I, The Magician by Raven O’Fiernan
  7. Growth Spurt by Bill Bush
  8. Mystical Manatee Park by J. Q. Rose
  9. Phased Out by Kami Bataya
  10. Snow White (17) MURDERED by K. M. Flint
  11. A Character Profile by Juneta Key

Don’t forget to let people know if you enjoyed their story!

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