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Writer’s Wheel Spring 2014 Issue 1

Want to Find A Writing Group? Julie Phillips A Positively Productive Writing Career Simon Whaley Astro-characters: players on the stage of life Judy Hall


SPRING 2014 Editorial Welcome Suzanne Ruthven and Maria Moloney



Lysander’s Legs...a story not of unrequited love, but of love that is requited just enough to give hope... Laced with poignant humour it charts how Julia has her personality systematically diminished by a failing relationship which still has a magnetic force from which she cannot escape. This is a book for anyone who has ever been young and unsuccessfully in love, i.e. most of the world's inhabitants. Julia, the book’s heroine, combines wit and intelligence with an agonizing, and all too recognizable, emotional naivety which makes us cry and laugh by turns in recognition. How many of us have, at some time, listened to a friend’s rhapsodic account of a burgeoning love affair, knowing even as the words are spoken, that it is all going to end in tears? One squirms for both the hero and the heroine, as we watch them fall in love with the wrong people. But, before it sounds too harrowing, there is plenty of light relief with Jane Myles's genuine laugh-outloud set pieces. I loved it. Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey Jane Myles captures the spirit of the times and the poignancy of a doomed romance, at the same time exploring the shifting sands of 2

A Positively Productive Writing Career Simon Whaley


Want to Find A Writing Group? Julie Phillips


Turning Rejections into an Acceptance Susie Kearley


Charnel House Blues (An extract) Suzanne Ruthven


Interview with Suzanne Ruthven Barbara Hammond Publisher of 6th Books


The Story So Far... Sarah Beth Watkins


Two Heads are Better than One Sue Johnson and Val Andrews


Astro-characters: players on the stage of life Judy Hall


The Axeman Cometh Nicholas Corder


How To Write A Chiller Thriller Sally Spedding


Building Blocks of a Synopsis by Linda James


History in the Making Suzanne Ruthven


Show Don't Tell Krystina Kellingley


Regular Features Poetry


Contributor’s Guidelines


sexuality. The perfect lesson in how to fall in love with the wrong person. The painful honesty of both the central characters and the strong sense of time and place (mostly the seventies) makes this the perfect read for people of ‘a certain age’. William Nicholson, writer of Shadowlands and Gladiator

Roundfire FICTION



Welcome to the first issue of Writer’s Wheel, the FREE online creative writing magazine from Compass Books. Just like all creative writing mags, WW offers a broad overview of what is required by editors and publishers in the publishing industry. We also have a few advantages over a lot of hardcopy and other on-line writers’ mags in that both editors have a wide range of experience in editing magazines, tutoring creative writing courses, and are publishers in their own right within the multi-faceted stable of John Hunt Publishing. This means that we have a bottomless pit of talent to draw on from the authors who write for the various JHP imprints, the publishers who put them under contract, and popular writing tutors of the Compass Books ‘how-to write’ titles to help up-and-coming authors get into print. Each issue will be packed with marketing information and practical advice on how to achieve your ambition to become a published writer; specially selected fiction and poetry; and anything else that we think will be of interest to you. We will, of course be featuring news of the latest JHP titles from across the different imprints, not to mention ‘gems from the backlist’ and recommended reading in fact and fiction from authors great and small. We will also be including extracts from the fiction imprints and offering book prizes for your best submissions of flash fiction and poetry. For our first issue we offer hints for developing characterising from Judy Hall author of Astro-Characters and advice from that most Positively Productive Writer of all, Simon Whaley – plus many others. We look forward to hearing from you Suzanne Ruthven Maria Moloney Sarah-Beth Watkins Krystina Kellingley



A Positively Productive Writing Career by Simon Whaley It all began with the letter Q. Or rather, with lots of words beginning with the letter Q. As a child I’d enjoyed doing word search puzzles on long car journeys, and I had the idea of creating a word search puzzle containing as many Q words as possible. Then I wondered what to do with it, so I sent it to the company who published the word search puzzle magazines. Amazingly, they accepted and published it. At the age of 17, I had my first published piece. More importantly, I had my first payment: a postal order for £3.50. The idea of becoming a writer first occurred to me when I was seven years old. I devoured books (not literally, obviously) but at that age I was able to borrow eight books at a time from my local library. I remember reading James Herriot’s It Shouldn’t Happen To A Vet and was enthralled by all of the mishaps and adventures. After reading it, I knew I wanted to write about funny things that happened in life. So, I sat down with an exercise book and began writing my own novel about being a vet. This went well, until I reached the second page where I had to stick my arm up a cow’s backside. Unfortunately, aged 7, I didn’t know why vets did this, nor what it felt like, and I didn’t particularly want to find out either. Like many first novels, that one fell by the wayside.


But the writing urge was still there. In my early teens I had a go at writing an episode of the police series Juliet Bravo, and the comedy series Last of the Summer Wine. Of course, I got letters back telling me they weren’t very good and to try and come up with my own ideas. I once wrote a sketch for the Two Ronnies and received a handwritten rejection from Ronnie Barker telling me that my sketch was not up to standard. Still,

something within me kept me writing. At the age of 14, I wrote to some famous writers and asked for their help. John Sullivan, writer of the comedy series Only Fools and Horses said, “At the age of 14, my advice is: Don’t panic!” Alan Bleasdale, writer of plays like The Boys from the Blackstuff and the Monocled Mutineer suggested I become a brain surgeon instead. He said it would be a quicker learning curve, and looking back now, nearly three decades later, his advice was spot on. But when you’re young and full of ideas you don’t listen to adults, do you? I simply carried on writing anything and everything. After A levels, I opted for the world of work, rather than university, and a career at a major high street bank beckoned. And after working overtime, and weekends, I would try to write an article, or two, whenever I had any spare time. And, surprisingly, some were published. The local county magazine bought an article, and a walking magazine bought some suggested walking routes. I even had a couple of articles in a dog magazine. The years ticked by, and the number of articles published grew into a double-digit figure. Then, at the age of 26, I moved from the suburbs of Greater London, to rural Shropshire. Despite living in Greater London, I’d never been able to find a writers’ group that I could go to. Working full time for the bank meant daytime meetings weren’t possible and there weren’t many groups that met in the evening. In Shropshire I found a group that met on a Saturday morning. Whilst writers’ groups can offer an opportunity to learn your craft (it all depends upon the quality of the other writers in the group) membership of a writers’ group does something else. It

tells you that it’s okay to be a writer. And by going to the regular meetings it sends a signal to other family members, that this is something you enjoy doing for yourself. It also gives you the opportunity to talk about ideas and thoughts you wouldn’t dream of sharing with your closest family members. They don’t write, so what do they know? Writing is a solitary affair. This allows negative thoughts to bombard our confidence. Is our writing really any good? Why would anyone else want to read what we’ve written? With a writers’ group you can ask for other writers’ opinions. Joining such a group gave me belief in myself. I began writing more, which meant I sent off more work. I received loads of rejections, but I also had more articles published. I’d had some success writing a couple of articles for the dog magazines and knew I could develop the idea further into a humorous book. I began writing The Little Book of Canine Care, which I sent off. It was rejected. So I rewrote it and sent it off again. It was rejected. I rewrote it for a third time and sent it to a third publisher, only to have it rejected a third time. Undeterred, version four went through the postal system, only to return to me a few months later. Then, one day, I saw a humorous cat book in a bookshop. I bought it, read it, and realised I could rewrite my dog text (for a fifth time) in a similar style. I approached the publisher of the cat book and asked if they’d like a dog version. When they said, “Yes!” I was gobsmacked, and set about rewriting my text. A week later, I submitted it and, twenty-four hours later, Hodder & Stoughton offered me a book contract. A proper book contract. That was April 2003.

SPRING 2014 One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train its Human (still available from all good book retail outlets!) was published on 15th October 2003, with an initial print run of 10,000 copies. At the end of October Hodder & Stoughton had to do another print run. And then another in November. At the beginning of December, my publisher emailed and suggested I buy the weekend newspapers. I did, thinking they may have placed an advert. They hadn’t. Instead, I was dumbfounded to see One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human on the UK bestseller lists. Gulp! My colleagues in the office of the local authority where I was working called it an overnight success. I remembered Alan Bleasdale’s letter to me when I was 14. Here I was, eighteen years later with my ‘overnight’ success. Yes, training to be a brain surgeon would have been much quicker.

self when writing the big book projects and how I keep coming up with ideas. It’s also the book that most writers thank me for writing. As a writer, nothing beats that feeling when a reader gets in touch to thank you for sharing your ideas, and, when that reader is another writer it’s even better, because immediately we share that connection. The Positively Productive Writer gives writers a kick up the rear end, and from reading the reviews it seems that’s just what many writers wanted. Writers enjoy sharing knowledge and my next book, Photography for Writers, continues in that vein. I enjoy taking photographs, and photographs help me sell more of my articles. I think more

writers could improve their chances of success if they took photos to illustrate their words. And just like The Positively Productive Writer shares what I’ve learned on my writing journey, so too does Photography for Writers. It passes on the information I’ve learned over the years about how to supply photos to editors. Because writers need to maximise their opportunities for success. So that’s my positively productive writing career so far. Who wants to be a brain surgeon anyway? For more information about Simon and his work, visit his website at: Click here for more information.

When Hodder & Stoughton supplied the 100,000th copy to a retailer three months after it was first published I couldn’t believe it. Four weeks later, I resigned from my job and became a full time writer. Time for another gulp! Naturally, Hodder wanted another book, so I began life as a full time writer fulfilling my second book contract. I even did the ever-hoped-for publisher lunch, which every writer dreams of. However, being a bestselling writer doesn’t mean you are no longer rejected. You are. Writing full time meant I was now dealing with rejection on a daily basis. One thought stayed with me, though. I don’t have a degree in media studies, or creative writing. I’m not the son of a publisher or magazine editor. I simply apply my bum to a chair and write. And when I’ve written something I send it off. I’m now the published author of eleven books, hundreds of articles and dozens of short stories. One of the books I’m most proud of is The Positively Productive Writer (available from all good book retail outlets!). It explains how I deal with rejection, how I motivate my-



Want to Find A Writing Group? by Julie Phillips Writing can be a lonely occupation. We sit in out writing spaces, typing away, alone, day after day. It is all too easy to turn into a hermit. But help is at hand. Out there, there are thousands of like-minded writers who meet regularly in writing groups and they are waiting for writers like you. So, why join a writing group? What can they possibly offer? A good writing group can be hard to come by, so it's important that you shop around and choose wisely. As no two writing groups are the same, catering for many genres and style of writer from poetry to short stories and everything in between, it might take some time to find the right group for you. A good writing group should motivate, inspire, support, and provide meaningful, constructive criticism. But you have to meet the group half way. It's a two way process and if you are prepared to help out with running the group and engage with them, offering your writing expertise and taking their advice, you will get so much more out of it. Joining a writing group can help you to consider other ways of working and writing and you can pick up lots of tips that you may not have considered that will help you with your writing. You can also come away with some good friendships that will see you through all the rejections and celebrate your successes with you. Here are some comments from writers who have taken the plunge and joined a writing group, on what their writing group means to them. "We welcome members who are willing to share the knowledge they've acquired with all and wish each other well." Janie Mason, Romance Writers of America, "We are a group whose members feel quite at liberty to 'do their own thing', and indeed are encouraged by the others to write in their own way." Toni Neville, U3A Weymouth & Portland. "A writer should look for a group that focuses on helping writers develop their craft. Look at the purpose of the group and its reputation. Visit a few events or meetings to see if you like the feel of the 6

group." Pamela Nowak, Rocky Mountains Fiction Writers, USA. But how do you go about finding the right group for you? The first thing to think about is what sort of writer you are and what kind of group are you looking for? The next step is to look at how far you are prepared to travel to get to group meetings and what time and day is convenient to fit into your busy life. Size of group is also worth considering. Do you prefer big groups or a smaller one? Writer Penny Legge, Writing Buddies, says: "Author Simon Whaley once gave me a very good piece of advice. He knew I was looking for a writing group to join. He told me that you have to try on writing groups to find one which one fits. I did not quite understand what he meant until I went along to a couple of writing groups and found that I did not fit in. I then understood. Having found what I did not want, it was easier to say what I did want from any group I attended." Now you've worked all that out it's time to get clicking and search the internet. There is one place where you can get all the information you need to find yourself a writing group. The National Association of Writers' Groups (NAWG) is an essential resource for writers' groups where you will find a directory and you might just find an appropriate group in your area. Pam Fish from NAWG says: "By joining NAWG you will have the support of many like-minded people; have a copy of their bi-monthly magazine LINK which as well of keeping you informed about other members and writing groups gives you the opportunity to be published. NAWG have a very informative website which lists open competitions and other activities available to writers, all in one place."

SPRING 2014 in Writing Magazine, and talking to writers from other writing groups, I realised that there were some areas that didn't have a writing group or one that was suitable. So I began to think about writing a book to help writers either find the right writing group for them, or start their own one up. Starting a writing group up can seem daunting as it's a big project, but it doesn't have to be as difficult as you think it might be. I spoke with many writing groups and along with my own experience and knowledge I gleaned the best advice to write The Writers' Group Handbook so that writers wishing to start their own writing group or direct the one they already had access to a valuable resource. There was now a book specifically written for writers in need of a little help in making sure that their writing group was fit for purpose. So, if you're a writer in need of a good writing group, or considering setting one up yourself, you now have the help you need. The Writers' Group Handbook is available to preorder at Amazon Or click here for more information. Top Tips With writing groups you can put in as much or as little as you want, but be warned, they can be addictive. I joined my writing group Wrekin Writers in 2008. I'd just finished an Open University creative writing course and was concerned that without something to help me focus on my writing, I would just give it up. I needed motivation and I needed constructive assistance if I had any hope of continuing my writing. I had inspiration coming out of my ears, but no direction. I was lucky to come across the right writing group for me. They had members who were much more experienced than me and more knowledgeable, but far from feeling intimidated, I saw the opportunity their expertise afforded me and my writing and I grabbed their help with both hands. I later repaid their help by becoming Vice-Chair of the group and giving workshops and helping newer members with their writing, as I became more confident with my writing and it was published. I was lucky in that there was such a good writing group on my doorstep but through my column about writing groups (which my writing group gave me the inspiration and the courage to pitch)

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Shop around: try a few groups before you commit to any. Do your research - there may be a good reason why there isn't a writing group in your area. Make sure there is a demand for one before you go to the trouble of setting one up. Many hands make light work, so enlist the help of others when setting up and running your group. Finding a suitable venue and meeting time is essential. Setting up a small committee and writing the group's constitution, including the ethos of the group and a few rules of how the group will function, will help you run your group more effectively.

Julie Phillips is a writer and author who has had many articles, short stories and poems published in both the UK and Australia.



Turning Rejections into an Acceptance by Susie Kearley When I started writing for the food, health and gardening markets it was a rocky road, littered with disappointment and rejection. But fortunately, with perseverance and determination, I’ve since sold thousands of articles to publishers across the globe. One thing I have learnt to do however, is master the art of turning rejections into opportunities, some of which have resulted in sales. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learnt. Lesson 1: Give the editor what he or she wants Take 3! The sound of eggs sizzling in the frying pan filled the air and James, the editor of Good Motoring magazine, asked, “What do you think of my breakfast this morning, Susie?” He poked a microphone at my face and I garbled something incoherent about fry-ups not being very nutritious. Porridge would be better. We were recording a podcast for the Good Motoring website, and the ‘cooking breakfast’ sounds were prerecorded. I was nervous and didn’t like being unprepared. I wanted to write my answers down and read them back with confidence, but James whipped my notepad away saying he didn’t want it to sound staged. “No danger of that,” I thought. The interview was the outcome of a rejection letter. James had rejected my proposal to write about the hair-raising experience of being a learner motorcyclist on British roads, but said he was interested in other road safety ideas. So instead, I secured a commission to write about good nutrition to help drivers concentrate on the road – this podcast was part of the package. “I don’t normally eat a full English breakfast,” said James, “but I thought it would give us more to talk about!” And so began the start of a beautiful working relationship – he has since bought my articles on speed cameras and motorcycle driving tests too. What did I learn from this experience? To listen and learn from the feedback received. Look for opportunities that rejection letters reveal and then give the editor what he wants.

Lesson 2: Don’t write an essay! One of my earliest customers was Paranormal magazine. The editor, Brian, didn’t offer firm commissions, but would tell me if he liked an idea. Then I’d submit a full article on spec for his consideration. He was interested in an idea I’d pitched entitled ‘The Psychology of Fear’ so I trawled through my psychology degree books, writing up all things fear-related including conditions like panic attacks and their treatment. It was well researched but a bit academic, so I made an attempt to lighten it up and submitted it. Brian rejected the piece saying it was ‘too clinical’. More suited to a psychology journal than a magazine about hauntings. I understood the problem and managed to find another buyer for some of the work: Leader magazine is an academic title published by the Association of Schools and Colleges. I used some of the ‘fear’ material in a feature on stress and it worked well because the body’s reactions to stress are very similar to fear. Leader paid three times as much as Paranormal, and the sale resulted in commissions for a further two articles on the topics of nutrition and social media. What I learnt: If you write something on spec which is rejected, think laterally about alternative markets for the piece, and consider whether parts of the article could be used to cover a different topic altogether. Rejected work can still form the basis of a good article for a different market, and that can lead to a profitable long-term relationship. Lesson 3: Get the presentation right I came across a very sad story about a gentleman called Jim, who suddenly lost his sight, but then turned his life around and triumphed over adversity in a really inspirational way. In the months following the onset of his blindness, Jim was transformed from a taxi-driver who thought his life was over, to an inspirational figurehead for the blind community. He had an active lifestyle doing diverse sporting activities, and mastering incredible achievements against the odds. Jackie, the editor of Woman Alive, told me she would be interested in seeing his story written speculatively. So I fixed an interview with Jim and his wife Ellen, sat down and asked them about their experiences. They


SPRING 2014 both chipped in and were bouncing stories off one another, giving slightly different perspectives. I submitted the interview piece just like that, with both Jim and Ellen chipping in, but Jackie said she needed their stories told separately from two different perspectives – it’s a woman’s magazine, and Ellen’s story should be longer. So I went back to the drawing board and produced two separate interviews. I also livened it up, and went to check with Jim and Ellen that I hadn’t oversensationalised it. No, they said it was fine – the whole experience really was dramatic and traumatic so I hadn’t overdone it! The two interviews worked well and Jackie was delighted with the result. She has since commissioned many more articles including the healing power of nutrition and healthy Christmas treats! What I learnt: Make sure you have an appreciation of what’s expected, and if you get it wrong the first time, correct it. Take time to make sure it’s good. You may not get a third opportunity. This article is taken from Susie Kearley’s new book, Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens, published by Compass Books (Feb 2014). Click here for more information.

On the Eighth Tin The ability of the human race to withstand the impact of climate change is reaching breaking point and increasingly unpredictable weather systems bring death and destruction on a global scale. As the elements wreak havoc, a young British student, Paul, is fighting his own battle. One day in the depths of December, Paul purchases eight tins of unknown origin that spark a sequence of change. Powerless to resist and unable to determine his fate, Paul is driven by an ancient force to endure a fantastic metamorphosis that must serve some purpose. But the clock is ticking… In the shadows, a subtle game is being played out between the United Nations, INTERPOL and a trillion-dollar-funded bioethics industry that’ll stop at nothing to ensure Paul’s incredible transformation. And all the time, the wind, rain and heat just keep coming… This book is a great read. The plot is ingenious and keeps you guessing all the way through. Paul the central character is someone we can all identify with and his personality runs through the story. Don't be put off by thinking that the subject matter of climate change is dull - this story is anything but... ~ An Avid Reader, Amazon Publication date: April 2014 Click here for more information.



Charnel House Blues (An extract) by Suzanne Ruthven Prologue It’s a sorry fact, but vampires aren’t what they used to be. I should know because I’m the last remaining member of my species from the ancient world; although if I’m brutally honest, this longevity is as much the product of becoming the alter idem of that club-footed Casanova, George Gordon, the sixth Lord Byron than any fortitude on my part. In truth, my roots are hinted at in that half-forgotten Fragment that was Byron’s contribution to the Villa Diodati ghost story competition – for His Lordship was familiar with the decomposing vampire legends of the Eastern Mediterranean, even if John Polidori was not! But I get ahead of myself … Today’s vampires are a sorry lot. For 144 episodes, they allowed some chit of a girl to systematically vanquish anything and everything that smacked of vampirism, demons or any other forces of darkness in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. The series catered for the young-adult market that tends to elevate action over subtly in the pursuit of its entertainment, and who still think that vampires are ‘cool’. Well, we are to the touch, but I didn’t think I’d ever live to see the day when the need to kill humans merely to exist would become de rigueur – for me it remains one of Life’s bare necessities rather than actual pleasure. Nevertheless, I have always had a penchant for young ladies (preferably over high school age) but the current glamorised trend for this kind of televised fiction makes the contemporary variety so susceptible to the vampire’s ‘kiss’ – and, as the man said, ‘the living is easy’. At least The Vampire Chronicles harked back to the good old days of taste and refinement, but hell’s teeth, Louis de Pointe du Lac was a feeble creature! His character had a permanent, petulant whine, with a persistently complaining note in it, which is about the most irritating trait any human voice can contain. The nightmare of being shut in close confinement with him through-


out the daylight hours of eternity would have been enough to cause any vampiric companion to impale him (or herself) on a boar spear and instantly perish. Mr Pitt (the actor not the politician) portrayed him admirably. Lestat was cast more in the mould of a traditional vampire, but even he had some rather unsavoury and undiscerning habits that are, frankly, quite unpalatable to any self-respecting vampire. In short, Lestat de Lioncourt was a pervert in anybody’s language, living or un-dead, who breached the realms of good taste and would kill anything with a pulse. And as for that infant Claudia – a petulant brat of a child, and even more so in her maturity – that idea was enough to set the alarm bells ringing in any premature burial, because who in their right mind would turn a five-year old child into a vampire without a thought for the consequences? I rest my case. It must be evident that I am extremely well read when it comes to both classic and contemporary vampire fiction – after all there is very little to keep me amused in this world after rattling around the echoing vaults of eternity for so long. The film versions I watch on DVD, as the close proximity of so much sweating humanity I find unnerving in the close confines of a cinema. Some, I would truly class as ‘horror films’ due to their poor production or storylines rather than any horrifying elements in the script – after all, fact is often more horrifying than fiction. So where, you may ask, are the other remnants of the Old World vampires who, according to tradition, cannot die? The majority of these poor creatures have perished because of their inability to adapt to contemporary living down through the ages. The old-fashioned bloodsuckers found themselves a fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi, which literally means ‘a precipice in front, wolves behind’, and unable to move forwards or back, they merely sat down and starved. A few of the more tenacious still lurk about on the periphery


of Life but they are pitiful, desiccated creatures that exist on any sustenance they can draw from the rodents whose habitat they share. For the true vampire’s taste, blood should be savoured like fine wine, which means of course, that we do not go on a nightly rampage killing indiscriminately. The prey should be carefully selected and stalked with a hunter’s eye – for who knows what trash that lithesome lovely may be using to pollute her body behind closed doors. An unspoiled Group A RH Positive should only be consumed once a month and savoured, whilst a weekly intake of an inferior drug or drink laced concoction would be the equivalent of bingedrinking courtesy of Oddbins! Snobbery perhaps, but there is undoubtedly a connection with the mystique of blood and the assumption of the superiority of one blood over another, but as the Romans would have observed: de gustibus non est disputandum – ‘there’s no accounting for tastes’. I must also confess to a sneaking support for Jung and his ‘collective unconscious’ that harks back to certain primordial images for the basis of inducing uncontrollable and irrational fear into the mind of modern man. John Polidori, however, and to some extent that tiresome wench Caroline Lamb, unwittingly created a more ‘modern’ archetypal persona for the traditional vampire in the collective unconscious that superseded the ‘race memory’ version from folklore. If they hadn’t written with such passionate hatred when creating their Lord Ruthven, the image of this deadly aristocrat would have remained securely within the realms of fiction and probably forgotten. Poor old George wasn’t really half as bad as he was painted, but in his vampiric manifestation, he remains ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ – his reputation living on to fuel the fantasy of the un-dead in my own incarnation.

introduced this concept of the charismatic, Byronesque anti-hero, but it was Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula, that is generally considered to be the quintessential vampire story, and which provided the basis (and the cliches) for most subsequent vampire fiction. Rather uncharitably, I thought, literary historian Susan Sellers maintained that the vampire has become “such a dominant figure in the horror genre that places the current vampire myth in the comparative safety of nightmare fantasy.” In other words, familiarity diluted the element of fear and horror of the un-dead and rendered us relatively harmless! For all our harmlessness, however, the success of this ‘nightmare fantasy’ has spawned a distinctive new vampire genre with books, films, video games, and television shows ever on the increase. Unfortunately, the deadly erotic literary vampire that once could be viewed ‘as adult as art gets’ has degenerated into a mere teenagers’ fantasy for role-players. The concept of vampirism has existed for millennia and most cultures of the ancient world have their tales of blood-sucking demons. But despite the existence of such similar creatures, the entity you recognise today as ‘the vampire’ originates almost exclusively from Eastern Europe during the early 18th century, when the oral traditions of the many ethnic groups of the region were first being recorded and published by visiting folklorists, to later fuel the rapidly expanding literary – and then cinematic genres. Ironically, I find that I have now become a ‘genre’ which often causes me to smile. And believe me, my friend, you have never fully lived until you’ve seen a vampire smile.

Polidori’s 1819 novella, The Vampyre, originally



Barbara Hammond, publisher of 6th Books interviews Suzanne Ruthven about her latest book Charnel House Blues: The Vampyres’s Tale. Q: What inspired you to write Charnel House Blues? I’d always wanted to write a traditional vampire novel but finding an original spin was always going to be difficult. Just as difficult, in fact, as producing a non-fiction book since it’s all been written before. The obvious outcome was faction – a blend of ‘fact’ and fiction. Credit for the title, however, must go to Jennie Gray, founder of the now deceased Gothic Society, who coined it for one of her regular pieces in the Society’s journal; it had stuck in my mind ever since and was too good to resist. That’s why Charnel House Blues has been dedicated to the memory of The Gothic Society and its members. Q: Even though Ruthven was imagined into being by John William Polidori, is he based on a real person? We know for a fact that Polidori saw him as Lord Byron’s alter ego, as did Lady Caroline Lamb, so he was a powerful thought-form long before the advent of his other literary rivals. And it was Byron’s original creation of Lord Augustus Darvell in A Fragment that inspired Polidori to write The Vampyre – that’s as real as it gets! Q: Were you attracted to write through the eyes of Lord Ruthven because of the name? I first became acquainted with Lord Ruthven when reading The Count of Monte Cristo as part of the school literature programme. Dumas was obviously intrigued by the character as early as the 1840s when writing his own French classic and there was just enough in that novel to spark a life-long fascination for this particular vampire. The shared name is a bonus but I dare say it does have a psychological bearing on why he’s dogged my footsteps all these years. He’s as real to me as any favourite literary character and as a result, I could easily see things through the eyes of this ancient, un-dead, autocratic nobleman. Q: How did you go about your research? By reading everything (and there is very little) connected to the character and from the start there was the feeling that his true roots would be Greek. 12

Byron had his own fascination for things Greek and would no doubt have heard the stories of vampires from that region as his own Fragment takes place at ancient Smyrna (now modern Turkey). Hence Lord Ruthven’s disparaging remarks about the ‘Balkan blood-suckers’ – once the ancient Greek idea was fully formulated, his Lordship spoke for himself. Q: Was writing this book as you expected? Books rarely finish on the same note on which they were begun – and this was no exception. It started as a literary non-fiction with the emphasis on the creation of Lord Ruthven as the original vampire, as opposed to the more popular Count Dracula. But as often happens, particularly when writing fiction, the character took on a life-force of its own but it obviously wasn’t the same life-force that Polidori had felt. Q: Were there any surprises? The surprise was the strength of the character and by the time the book was finished, Lord Ruthven was as real as any fictional character can be. We have to bear in mind that he was never vanquished and that adds to the power of his fascination. There is no question of good triumphing over evil because as he explains, he does not kill for pleasure, merely to survive; since he cannot die why should he voluntarily diminish simply because his life-style is abhorrent to human thought? It offers up a different kind of morality, I suppose. Q: Why are vampires still so fashionable/ desirable? Largely because the film and television versions have made them so – apart from poor old Nosferatu, the rest have been cast as attractive and compelling creatures, and the human fan-base has bought into the myth. The vampire is the ultimate predator and should be respected as such. Q: What might Lord Ruthven think of the trend in changing fangs from canine teeth to incisors, as in True Blood? Being a traditionalist I would imagine he’d be ap-

SPRING 2014 palled by the ignorance of vampire lore. Although he’s learned the hard way how to move with the times, he remains a purist at heart and a literary snob! And Nosferatu’s rodent fangs are hardly appealing Q: Will there be more from Lord Ruthven? It’s an idea, isn’t it? Let’s see if there’s a demand for Charnel House Blues first. I must admit that this has been one of my favourite books to write and I’d like to pay him the compliment of a fulllength novel if the auspices were right ... trace him back to his Greek origins ... oh, dear the idea’s beginning to gel already!

Q: Have you any advice for anyone wishing to write paranormal books? The paranormal, supernatural and occult are governed by a set of metaphysical laws and lore, which must be brought into play during the writing. If these laws are not observed, it leaves the reader with a sense of being cheated – we still have to move within the realms of credibility even with horror and this is a point I’ve made in Horror Upon Horror: A Step By Step Guide to Writing a Horror Novel. A lot of paranormal writers don’t observe the rules and ignore the need for research to give their story depth. Even paranormal nonfiction requires a tremendous amount of research of what is already out there, before we come along with our new twist on old themes.

A really different and interesting book on vampires. I very much enjoyed reading this as, although it is presenting information on vampire legend and mythology, the way that Suzanne Ruthven has written it, through the eyes of a vampire, gives it that compelling intensity which is the signature trade mark of all good vampiric fiction. It also permits analysis of certain points and how they have been handled in literature and film in a personal way, through the character's eyes, which makes it fresh and interesting and avoids the pitfalls of 'dry' academic analysis. Along with that, the author also provides lots of information on castles and geographical locations which any 'groupie' could visit as well as some obscure historical facts. A first-class book. ~ Krystina Kellingley, Cosmic Egg Books Charnel House Blues: The Vampyre’s Tale, Suzanne Ruthven published by 6th Books 978-1-78279-416-5 (Paperback) £9.99 $16.95 978-1-78279-415-8 (eBook) £6.99 $9.99 Click here for more information. 13


The Story So Far… by Sarah Beth Watkins In the beginning I was a freelance writer trying to get articles published anywhere I could. I took a distance learning course in writing for publication while my children were small and it gave me lots of ideas and the motivation to start taking my writing career seriously. I didn't really know where I wanted to go or what I really wanted to write about but I knew I needed to make a start if I was ever to get anywhere. Writing has always been a passion, something I have to do every day, even if it was as small as writing in my journal or noting down a new idea. Of course I wanted to write a book – doesn't every writer? – but I knew I had to build up my knowledge and my portfolio. And procrastination wasn't helping! It was time to get on with it – to choose a topic, pick a market and get writing and submitting.

and they got to a stage where seeing mum's writing in print was mortifying for them!

My first break was with writing for a parenting magazine. I'd sent in an article on spec as you do and they loved it so much they started asking for regular contributions. It got to the point where the editor would ring me and say we need an article on such and such by tomorrow and I would churn out a few hundred words to fill their gaps. When they started up their own website, I began writing short web articles on parenting, childcare and women's issues on a regular basis but the bubble was soon to burst. The magazine got taken over and they didn't retain any of the current writers. The website was bought out by a different company and changed its focus. I was back to writing articles on spec but at least I now had more experience under my belt.

I also dabbled with fiction around this time, had some short stories published and wrote two fantasy fiction books that have since been selfpublished on Kindle but what I really wanted to write was non-fiction. I'm a fact lover and I wanted to write something that would help other people. During my time in community work I'd tutored several classes and workshops on different aspects of writing, written courses and designed programmes for budding writers. I was toying with the idea of writing something along those lines…

The next few years I spent writing on everything under the sun turning everything I did into an article from travelling around Europe to raising teenagers. It was my teenagers that actually told me to stop! They wailed 'please, please stop writing about us' – I think I'd covered everything from nappy rash on their bums to their first girlfriends 14

I changed focus and got a job! As much as I loved writing it wasn't paying the bills so I began a career in community project management but still I wrote. Okay, so a lot of it was business reports but I also had the opportunity to write for development magazines and the articles I wrote often had a social theme to them. When I was offered the chance to go to Africa to report on women's development, I jumped at the chance! It was an amazing experience. I spent two weeks travelling around Tanzania and Zanzibar reporting on the work of women's projects and writing up my findings for a gender and development bulletin and website as well as taking part in radio interviews.

I first heard of Compass Books through information placed in the UK's Writing Magazine. I've had a lot of success through responding to market news placed there. My first book idea for Compass then was a teaching guide for writing tutors but this idea wasn't successful for different reasons. I didn't have too long to be disheartened. Their editor, Suzanne, asked me to work on another idea given my experience and we came up with a guide to writing life stories, Telling Life's Tales that was published in 2013.

SPRING 2014 My second book followed shortly after. I really had a panic about being a one book wonder. Was that it? Did I have anything more in me? Would I ever write another book again? So I sent in another proposal on a subject that I had a lot of experience of. The Writer's Internet is a guide of all those technophobes who love writing and are missing an opportunity to get their work out there on the web. It's packed full of ideas of where to place your work, how to self-publish on the net and the pros and cons of writing for content providers. I've written for the web for years and this book passes on what I have learnt so that other writers can use it to their best advantage. I was on a roll now and wanted to keep writing. For all the years I'd spent writing articles, I had always wanted to write books and I was in there – getting them published. JHP has such a wonderful way of working. A fast turnaround on whether your idea is suitable, good contract offers and most importantly a system where you can see what is happening to your book at every stage of its production. One of my favourite stages is picking suggested images for the cover of my books and I've been delighted with every one that has been designed. It's just so great to see what your book is going to look like before it hits the shelves.

books and after receiving your newly minted copies fresh in the post this is by far one of the greatest benefits of being a writer – to actually hear from your readers and to have them comment (favourably!) on your work. I was truly a published author now and although I was still writing articles for websites my main aim was to continue writing books. It's like an addiction – I just have to keep writing! I read an article about a writer who had a bookshelf above his writing desk filled with all his own books and my aim is to have a bookshelf like that too! Writing has been my saviour. It enriches my life in a way that nothing else does. It's me time when I write and my successes are all my own. When I lost my job due to a prolonged illness writing kept

My third book was also published in 2013 and entitled The Lifestyle Writer. This book drew on all my years of writing articles for the lifestyle market from parenting to gardening to travel and technology. I had a lovely review posted on Amazon for this book where a reader gave me a five star rating and said that this book has become her bible and will be her very own writing tutor for years to come. Such a feel good feeling to know that my work has influenced someone to write and has spurred them on to realising their writing potential. I've now started hearing from people who have read my 15

SPRING 2014 me going and during that time I also studied for qualifications in life coaching, neuro-linguistic programming and cognitive behavioural therapy. I realised that a lot of the techniques were ones I had been using anyway to help budding writers through community taught courses but I learnt the true power of writing.

bring to life historical people, places and events in an imaginative, easy-to-digest and accessible way; writers of historical books, from ancient times to the Second World War, that will add to our understanding of people and events rather than being a dry textbook; history that passes on its stories to new readers.

My next book, Life Coaching for Writers, came out in February 2014. It combines all these techniques into a book that focuses on writers and writer's issues. Some great writers and fellow authors have contributed their stories to this book and I've met some amazing people undertaking the research to make this a great guide especially for people who already have some writing experience under their belt and are trying to have a full-time writing career.

We currently have three books in production with many more proposals in the pipeline and Chronos is shaping up to become a popular imprint. I have not only achieved my dream of being a writer, I am now helping other writers to get their work published. I'm hoping that Chronos will go from strength to strength with many more historical non-fiction writers sending their work to us. I'd love to see myths debunked, controversy added to and new revelations coming to light.

After writing this book my focus changed when I was commissioned to write a historical non-fiction book, Ireland's Suffragettes (to be published in 2014) to coincide with the 100th year anniversary of the last suffragette to be convicted in an Irish court. I am a huge lover of history. It was my favourite subject at school and I grew up close to some amazing places like Hampton Court Palace, Ham House and Windsor Castle that have always inspired me. I enjoy spending my weekends visiting old houses, stone castles and artefact-packed museums and I'm always on the lookout for the story behind the place and the stories of the people who came before us.

Working for JHP is great – everyone is helpful, supportive and willingly to share their wisdom and expertise. I find that their online system is by far the quickest and easiest way of responding to authors, assessing their work and getting the publication process underway.

This musing on many an historical book idea made me wonder why JHP didn't have a historical nonfiction imprint. Top Hat is their great historical fiction imprint but where were the facts I love so much? I asked a few of my colleagues at JHP whether they would consider having a new imprint that focused on history. I was told to put my idea down in writing and send it in to the powers that be.

Where from here? Personally, I've got a fair few book ideas whizzing around my head and these days it's choosing which one to settle down with and write. I'm looking forward to the launch of my history books, and to setting up my own writing coach business so I can also work one-to-one with clients to see their goal of becoming published become a reality – just like mine did.

Chronos was established in the summer of 2013 and I have taken on the role of commissioning editor. We aim to publish non-fiction authors that can cover real history for real people; who can 16

The support for authors too is a bonus with online forums where authors can chat and help to support each other and promote their work. Every query that is raised gets answered – sometimes by several people! There's a good community feeling and you know that whatever stage of your book you are at, you will find the help that you need.


Two Heads are Better than One Sue Johnson and Val Andrews When two creative minds get together, one thing leads to another…

of the journey. Celebrate when you get to the end of it.

In 2012, poet, short story writer and novelist Sue Johnson combined forces with artist and writer Val Andrews to run workshops aimed at helping other writers. Within six months they had co-written three books. The first of these, Unlock Your Creativity: a 21 day sensory workout for writers will be published by Compass Books on 28th March 2014.


Sue and Val were fortunate in being able to meet face to face every few weeks. Their process was simple. They’d discuss what they wanted to write, and then one of them would make a start. The starter would then email the manuscript to the other person for further development and then return it to the other person for more work. And so they’d ping the manuscript back and forth, adding bits and editing until they were satisfied they’d finished. It was amazing how quickly ideas took shape and gained a life of their own.

Val Andrews Val is also a visual artist, and she brings a number of visual exercises to the books and workshops she had delivered in partnership with Sue. More information on Val’s work can be found at her blog:

Hints and tips for anyone entering into a co-writing agreement Sue and Val have the following advice for anyone tempted to try co-writing.  

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Sue Johnson Sue’s second novel The Yellow Silk Dress will be published by Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2014. IDP are also publishing her first collection of poetry Tasting Words, Hearing Colours. Further details of her work can be found on her website

Unlock Your Creativity Unlock Your Creativity: a 21 day sensory workout for writers by Sue Johnson and Val Andrews is published by Compass books on 28th March 2014 – ISBN 978-1-78279-302-1 £9.99 or 978-178279-301-4 (e-book) £6.99. Further details of their Unlock Your Creativity Courses and competitions can be found at

Be clear about what you wish to achieve – and who you are writing for. Leave your ego outside the door. There will be times in the writing process when you may want to ‘tweak’ what the other person has written. This is a natural part of the thinking and writing process, so it’s important that neither of you get offended by this. If there is a problem with anything, then talk to the other person as soon as possible. Be prepared to compromise if necessary. Keep the vision of your finished project in clear focus at all times. Capitalise on the expertise of both authors, both during the writing process and when forming a marketing plan. Create a work plan for the writing process and stick to it. Agree a deadline for completion of the first draft. Keep each other in the ‘information loop’ between writers, publisher and anything else that is happening so that neither of you feel left out. Find ways of encouraging each other at each stage Click here for more information.



Confidence is essential for any stand–up comic and having confidence in your material is the first step to having greater confidence on stage. It is said that proper preparation makes for professional performance and this book provides the tools to achieve this, offering down -to-earth practical advice and a logical progression from identifying your stage persona, thinking about your audience and the craft of honing comedy material to fit your persona and audience, through to structuring your stand-up set, preparing for when things might go wrong, and last but not least – progressing your career. Get Your Act Together is a book for anyone who wants to be serious about becoming a stand-up comic and wants to do it well.

Handy Hints for Writers is a book of tips, advice and encouragement for writers at all levels. Dip into it or read from start to finish and you will find something to inspire you, make you think, give you a kick start or make you smile. A writing book with a difference. Positive and affirmative, Handy Hints for Writers is crammed with tips that will sustain you on your writing journey. Tracy Baines, Regional Organiser of The Society of Women Writers and Journalists (Dorset/Hants/Wilts)


Lynne Hackles is a butterfly writer, flitting from short stories and articles to writing for children and writing about writing. She has regular columns in Writing Magazine. She lives in Malvern, UK.

Digital photography has made photography accessible to all and, even if you have a mobile phone camera, it is possible to take publishable pictures. Photography for Writers explains the basics of digital photography, the different markets available to writers with a camera, how to submit their images, what to do with their images afterwards, how to use photography for research purposes, and even how to get photos to illustrate your articles if you don't have a camera.


It's given me confidence to go out and play with my camera and approach editors with articles I wouldn't have done before. Now my compact camera is next to my notebook at all times - I snap away then go back with a meatier camera if needed. Christine Muir (Writer)

New and emerging writers, existing writers looking to expand their skills and readers of erotic literature interested in writing their own stories will find this book a lively and informative 'how to' on writing erotica. Written by a published author, Passionate Plots focuses upon plot and crafting integral erotic scenes, with practical exercises for the reader. Kelly Lawrence’s Passionate Plots is a clear and concise teaching tool for anyone learning to write erotica or anyone just wanting to write a better sex scene. A must have for every writer’s reference shelf. KD Grace, bestselling author of 'The Initiation of Ms Holly' 19


Astro-characters: players on the stage of life by Judy Hall All writers want to create compelling and believable characters – and they can with just a smidgen of astrological know-how. The zodiac signs are instantly recognisable archetypes with which a reader can identify, which is why I wrote Astro-characters: creating compelling fictional characters with astrology. Along with ‘crib sheets’, the book offers in-depth astrological profiles written by the signs themselves, giving away all their secrets, foibles and flaws. Just what a writer needs and you don’t need to know anything about astrology to use this method.

Archetypal characters Choose a birthday for your characters and you instantly know their personality, their secret hopes and dreams, their strengths and weaknesses, their internal struggles, their vocabulary, how they look, the mask they put on to meet the world, and how they act in friendship or adversity and in love. Each sign has a particular body language and distinctive appearance. The beauty of astro-characterisation, however, is that you add in variables that can mask the innate sunsign traits, creating conflicts and complexities, leaving more to discover and intrigue. Factor in one of twelve possible moon signs, the deep place where your character’s feelings and emotions reside, where visceral reactions occur, and which are an indication of what nurtures and subconsciously drives your protagonist. The moon is the site of ‘old tapes’ that hold deeply ingrained patterns of behaviour. You can then select a contrasting rising signs to map the way the character will go out to meet the world. The rising sign is what people tend to notice first. It’s the mask your character puts on to face the world and it can obscure or emphasise sun-sign traits, bringing forward contradictions and creating powerful dilemmas and challenges. Chose a rising sign that makes your character most intriguing.

pelling reading but characters must also have something likeable about them, a redeeming feature that draws in the reader. Even the worst villain must evoke an empathetic response if your story is to be successful. Astrology shows you both the bright and the dark faces, offering clues as to how that archetypal bad boy can dearly love his old mum and obey her every word and yet create mayhem of which she would not be proud, and have women falling at his feet all at the same time. The biggest rogue can suddenly make an unexpected stand on a matter of principle or the stoniest heart perform a random act of kindness. It all comes down to their astrology. The good news is that astrology, through the twelve basic sun signs, can help you to achieve greater authenticity in your characters and the great news is that, by taking your use of astrology just two simple steps further – adding a moon and rising sign - you can refine the twelve broad principles into a unique understanding of the inner workings of your character’s personality, quirks, thoughts, feelings, motivation and behaviour. The resulting synergy goes way beyond the separate components to create something uniquely individual with all the inherent foibles, angst, aptitudes and internal tensions that you need in a compelling character. Perfect! A player in my own drama

It’s a cliché but it’s true that your readers must engage with your characters. Their attention has to be grabbed and the fate of your protagonist has to matter to them, otherwise they’ll stop reading. They need to recognise them as real people not cardboard cutouts. When Lord Macaulay told us that ‘the measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out’, I don’t think he approved of what writers – and their readers – find so fascinating: the darker side of human nature. Shadows and foibles, smoke and mirrors, make com20

You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one. James A. Froude (Taurus sun, Sagittarius moon) Perhaps an example from real life will help. Take me for instance. I’m a sociable sun-in-Sagittarius ever ready for adventure. As a sun-Sag, I have strong intellectual curiosity and started a Masters Degree at the age most people retire. I keep a bag packed – and a guidebook handy – and use Flybe like a bus. My novel

SPRING 2014 to my sun. It’s an intense, deeply emotional part of me that I don’t show very often so it surprises even those who think they know me well when it does emerge. If I were a character in a novel, I’d probably make a very good spy or murderer. I’d be sly and covert. Poison is a Scorpio weapon, as is sex. Scorpio is the perfect femme fatale – but that Sag sun-sign would spoil it by falling over my feet or blurting out the truth at an inopportune moment. Astrology tells you a lot about first appearances. With creative, shining, proud Leo as my rising sign I do my fair share of regally surveying a room. It helps me to put on a confident face – covering up Scorpionic insecurities. The stage is the natural setting for Leo and I speak to many different audiences. My wardrobe reflects my zodiac nature too. Flamboyant Leo stuff for when I’m lecturing or power-dressing to meet a new publisher, appropriate occult attire for Scorpionic rituals, smart-casual Saggy stuff for when I’m out and about, and comfortable trousers and t-shirts for when I’m writing or simply being me. I even have a set of zodiac-festooned tops for when I’m teaching astrology. My agent and I laugh about a need for big, blonde, bouffant hair in the MBS world, which would suit my Leo rising. But that’s one battle my rising sign will never win. It would be a step too far for an insouciant Sag! Torn Clouds was based on fifteen trips to Egypt and a lifetime of ‘time-slips’ into other lives. I read vociferously, the esoteric subjects on which I thrive but with murder mysteries and historical fiction thrown in for relaxation, which reflects my moon-sign. I use examples from my own life all the time – I do have Leo rising after all. But I doubt that anyone really knows the whole me. As with characters in a book, they see only the facets that I choose to present. You have to know me very well indeed to be let into my secrets. This latter I put down to the Scorpio moon which also accounts for a tendency to brood but you wouldn’t know that from my – outwardly – sunny disposition (Sag combined with Leo rising ) unless you upset me and then you’ll feel the sting in my tail (Scorpio). But as a tell-it-like-it-is, tactless Sag I’m equally likely to upset you with a thoughtless remark or a perceptive but intrusive insight that you’d rather not hear. I simply can’t stand lies, deceit and denial which creates an internal struggle because of all that Scorpio smoke and mirrors. My Scorpio will ferret out your deepest secret, however. Writing and delving into people’s psyche is an introspective, solitary occupation that fits my secretive Scorpio moon perfectly. My moon is in total contrast

Now, think what you could do with me if I were a protagonist in one of your tales. My Crib Sheets Sagittarius 22 November – 21 December First impression: Enquiring and tactless Appearance: Coltish. Long, horsy face, rangy body, athletic, good legs. The face is often ruddy or tanned. Stance: About to take off somewhere else. Dress: Wears sporty or casual clothes that favour comfort and action and may look thrown on at the last minute. Favourite Word: Why? Says: Who, what, why, when, how, but. Never says: Let’s stay put. Career: Teacher, lawyer, travel agent, philosopher, tutor, personal trainer, interpreter, public relations consultant, bookseller. Archetype: The Questioner Shadow: The Pathological Liar Likes: Travel, freedom and wide open spaces. Some like sport, most like the outdoor life. Archery, racing, reading, studying languages, philosophy, partying. Dislikes: Being tied down, repetition, routine or boredom 21

SPRING 2014 Money: Spend, spend, spend. Dreams: Of finding the ultimate answer. Sex style: Active. Adventurous. Easily bored. The grass is greener elsewhere. Prelims: A plane ticket Enjoys: New experiences Relationship quality: Freedom Achilles heel: Promises too much Scorpio 24 October – 21 November First impression: Intense and unfathomable. Appearance: Magnetic, hypnotic. charismatic. Eyes are dark and brooding, the gaze pierces the soul. Hooked, hawk-like nose and strong eyebrows. Stance: Stands like a bird of prey or skulks like a spider waiting to pounce. Brooding, still and menacing, or watchful and ‘come-hither’. Dress: Wears dramatic clothes, likes leather, and invented power dressing. Says: Very little but sees everything. Favourite Word: Secret Never says: Anything that reveals the whole truth Career: Detective, doctor, hospice worker, psychiatrist, gynaecologist, nuclear weapons designer, sewage worker, butcher, spy, power-broker, forensic scientist Archetype: The raptor Shadow: Venomous Likes: Power, mysteries, sex, the erotic and the exotic, dangerous sports and planning revenge. Metaphysics, martial arts, jogging, motor racing, barhopping or clubbing, self-improvement, computers. Dislikes: Openness, exposure. Positively hates change. Money: Very shrewd, money equals control. Dreams: Of controlling the world. Sex style: Active. Magnetic. Intense. Secretive. Jealous. Prelims: Beautiful underwear Enjoys: Bondage, allure, mystery Relationship quality: Ouch! Achilles heel: Secrets and lies Leo 23 July – 22 August First impression: Regal ruler of the jungle Appearance: Long-maned, striking, glancing in every mirror. Eyes are bold and seductive, body tall and well shaped although often tending to largeness. Stance: Feline, regal, majestic, surveys a room. Dress: Expensive clothes that make an impact. Often wears gold. Favourite Word: Adore Says: ‘After me.’ ‘Do as I say.’ ‘Let’s play’. ‘Where’s the best …?’ 22

Never says: After you. Can I be of service? Career: Actor, ruler, producer, rock star, sportsman, goldsmith, judge, politician, fundraiser, cardiologist, headmaster, dictator, dominatrix. Archetype: The Queen Bee Shadow: Boastful megalomaniac Likes: Good food. Good company. Being admired. The theatre, opera and the arts. Mirrors. Acting. Shopping. Good food and wine. Dislikes: Being alone. Being ignored or teased. Hates looking foolish. Money: Generous Dreams: Of ruling the world. Sex style : Active. Lustful. Romantic. Larger than life. Egocentric. Prelims: Flattery Enjoys: A good evening out Relationship quality: Narcissistic Achilles heel: Pride And a quick peek at the other signs to set you thinking Aries 21 March-19 April First impression: Rambunctious and assured. Loud and pushy. Appearance: Bold ‘ram’s-horn’ eyebrows meet in the middle below a strong forehead. Widow’s peak. Red tinge to hair is common. Favourite word: I. Says: Me first. I’ll do it. I think you’ll find I’m right. Let’s… Never says: Sorry. After you. Sex style: Active. Raunchy. Impatient. Too fast? Too bad! Achilles heel: Impatient for new experiences Taurus 20 April -21 May First impression: Solid. Sturdy and trustworthy Appearance: Large head on a thick neck above powerful shoulders, body tapers to slender ankles and feet. Or diminutive size. But always well shaped, melting eyes, broad face and mellifluous voice. Corpulence is common in middle age. The practical exterior hides a hedonistic interior. Favourite Word: Mine. Says: Mine. Forever. Why change? Let’s go for quality. Never says: Let’s do something different, I see what you mean, I forgive you. Sex style: Passive. Sensual. Savours slowly. Can be boring. Achilles heel: Too entrenched

SPRING 2014 Gemini 21 May – 20 June First impression: Wired. Always on the move Appearance: Expressive, thin, wiry, scholarly and youthful with long slender limbs. Piercing bird-like eyes under tapering brows in a sharp, narrow, symmetrical face. Favourite Word: Why Says: ‘I think…’ ‘So?’ ‘Yes, but…’ ‘Why don’t we…’ Never says: Sorry Sex style: Active. Eloquent. Sex occurs mostly in the head. Talks continuously. Achilles heel: Naivety Cancer 21 June -22 July First impression: Sympathetic. Protective and caring Appearance: Placid, moon-faced, rounded body shape. As a rising sign, often plump with a generous bosom (in male or female) and pale watery eyes that peep sideways from under a fringe. Favourite Word: Food Says: Let me look after you. What would you like something to eat? Never says: Anything straightforwardly, there’s always a caveat. Sex style: Passive. Possessive. Cuddlesome. Caring. Emotional. Achilles heel: Neediness Virgo 23 August – 22 September First impression: Self-contained and efficient. Appearance: Neat and tidy. Virgo is always well groomed. The body is usually slender and well proportioned, the face open and helpful. Favourite Word: Service Says: Can I assist you? Let’s get this right. Was that good enough? Let’s tidy up. Never says: Don’t worry. Leave it until another day. Sex style: Passive. Discerning. Earthy sensuality. Cool ardour. Analytical. Achilles heel: Dirt Libra 23 September – 23 October First impression: Disarming and charming Appearance: Harmony of face, body and personality and an ease of movement makes Libra singularly pleasing to look at even when not conventionally good looking. A Libra character spends an inordinate amount of time titivating in a cloakroom. Favourite Word: We Says: Yes, dear. Let’s be fair about this. If you insist. Shall we… Never says: No. What right have you…? I want.

Sex style: Passive. Alluring. Amorous. Accommodating. Partner-centred. Achilles heel: People-pleasing Capricorn 22 December – 19 January First impression: Serious, Capricorns look like they can be relied upon. Appearance: Long, lean and bony. There is a certain greyness to Capricorn, hair often turns grey prematurely. Favourite Word: Should. Says: Seriously. Ought. Obey. Never says: Anything without deliberating first Sex style: Active. Cautious. Reserved. Surprisingly highly sexed. Achilles heel: Keeping up appearances Aquarius 21 January – 18 February First impression: Cool Appearance: Hair is wiry and misshapen teeth are a facial characteristic. Favourite Word: revolutionise Says: What do we need for the future? Have you ever thought of…? Have you tried…?” Never says: Look at the past. Sex style: Active. Detached. Inventive. Electric. A real one-off Achilles heel: Throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Pisces 20 February – 20 March First impression: Hypnotic Appearance: Fluid eyes gaze into another world. Face is expressive and alluring, body may be fleshy but Pisces exudes sexual attraction. Favourite Word: Love Says: Promise. I’ll always love you, Never says: No. Sex style: Passive. Romantic. In love with love. Rose tinted glasses. Swims off. Achilles heel: Sucker for a sob-story Extracted from Astro-characters, creating compelling fictional characters with astrology. Compass Books. Click here for more information.



The Axeman Cometh How Your Local Psychopath Can Help with Character Creation Nicholas Corder According to Margaret Atwood, writers are like jackdaws – ‘we steal the shiny bits, and build them into the structures of our own disorderly nests’. This piece is all about a shiny bit I came across and hope that you might also find it useful as a starting point for building your own disorderly nest. My jackdaw moment came with Jon Ronson’s witty book The Psychopath Test. We follow Ronson as he trains up in the use of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist and then sets out to see if he can find people who fit the bill. Hear the word ‘psychopath’ and most of us probably conjure up images of axe-wielding maniacs terrorising dark urban streets. But the reality is that you’ll find many such people in positions of power, where their lack of empathy and remorse makes working for them a living hell. Or behind bars. Robert Hare, the test’s creator, has identified 20 traits that need to be assessed (see sidebar). And if we begin to pick at these traits, we can begin to see how useful they could be in creating characters to inhabit our fictional worlds. Great Villains Of course, the most obvious use for the list would be in the creation of villains. Such traits as ‘criminal versatility’ and ‘cunning and manipulativeness’ automatically swing one’s thoughts to creating baddies. This is good for the writer. We can spend ages thinking about our protagonists, but unless they have some kind of worthy foe, we’re never going to test them to the full. As obvious examples, James Bond’s foes are cat-stroking megalomaniacs, bent on world domination. Cruella de Vil wants puppy-based outer-wear. Sherlock Holmes, with his super-charged brain, requires opposition in the form of a devious master criminal: Moriarty – the Napoleon of Crime. Big villains live long in the memories of readers and viewers. Many of us 24

will have our favourites: Wackford Squeers, Bill Sykes, The Wicked Witch of the West, Alec D’Urberville, Mrs Danvers, Count Dracula or Hannibal Lecter. But villains don’t always have to be … well … the villains of the piece. We can have anti-heroes, such as Patricia Highsmith’s wonderfully amoral Tom Ripley, the most criminally versatile of criminals, or Pinkie Brown from Brighton Rock who, young as he is, is probably on the tail-end of his ‘behavioural problems in childhood’. For the writer, it’s not enough to think of these traits as the generalisations they are. We need to delve into them and explore possibilities. Yes, our character has had childhood behavioural problems, but what might these be? Stealing the occasional Dinky Toy from a market stall, nicking underwear from washing lines or capturing animals and finding out which poisons work most effectively? Think of the bizarre rituals that Frank develops in Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory. Those are some extreme behavioural problems. Not Just Villains We can also use these ideas as a springboard for developing any kind of character, including outand-out comic ones. Let’s take for instance ‘grandiose estimation of self’. Back in the 16th Century, the Commedia dell’Arte used swaggering soldiers, learned men and wealthy merchants as their comic targets. Indeed the pompous, self-aggrandising character is a staple of comedy. In Chaplin films, it is always the bristling, moustachioed self-important plutocrat who gets kicked up the behind. Moliere’s comedies teem with religious hypocrites, nouveaux riches struggling to seem important and poets who think they’re destined for immortality whilst writing execrable verse. Dad’s Army’s Captain Mainwaring, like many

SPRING 2014 pompous comedy characters, has a grandiose opinion of self-worth. However, Mainwaring is no psychopath. He may insist on being in charge, but he does care for the men under his command. After all, when he famously orders, ‘Don’t tell him, Pike!’ he is trying to protect his troop. If we start trying to create our own comic characters, even if just for a bit of light relief, we can dip into this list for ideas. A criminal who thinks he’s a master criminal, but is in reality a blundering idiot might get us thinking about the scrapes we could put such a person into. Do we make him a bungling burglar or a half-witted hitman? Should we make he a she and forget the bungling, but make her into a saucy lady con-artist? Perhaps her victims could then be the sort of Commedia dell’Arte/Molière buffoons that we somehow think deserve being ripped off a little? Cause and Effect Many of the tragic heroines of literature have had a ‘need for stimulation’. Often, this is because the character is somehow trapped in a dull existence, which is a staple of literature. Emma Bovary takes lovers and runs up debts. Thérèse Desqueyroux reacts to the stifling provincialism of the Landes by drip-feeding her boorish husband poison. Tess Durbeyfield is trapped in a loveless marriage. If we’re going to imprison a character in a world they hate, how are we going to do it? Are we going to stifle them at work with a job that drives them to distraction? Or have them trapped, looking after a relative when they want to be running through the park? Should we marry them off to someone whose idea of a good time is photographing train numbers at Crewe Station? Once we’ve put our character in that situation, perhaps we can adapt the ‘need for stimulation’ into the ‘need for escape’. What is our character going to do to change their life? William Fisher, the hero of Billy Liar, bored by working as an undertaker’s clerk invents an entirely fictional world, as does Walter Mitty (who therefore both display signs of ‘pathological lying’). How is our character going to set him/herself free? Over to You It’s quite easy to run a finger down the checklist and come up with characters who fit the bill for a trait. Meursault in Camus’s L’Etranger lacks re-

morse or guilt. Withnail has a parasitic lifestyle, Raffles is a versatile criminal and Don Quixote might be diagnosed with a lack of realistic longterm goals. But as writers, we need to reverse our thinking. Rather than seeing how an existing character might fare against the Hare checklist, how can we use it as a starting-point for creating characters? After all, it’s not a blueprint for character-creation, but a step in the ‘what-if’ process that all writers go through as they create characters and the situations in which those characters play out their imaginary lives. This is just a shiny bit, it’s up to you how you build the nest. If you want to make a start, try thinking about characters who have one or more of the following traits: ‘parasitic lifestyle’, ‘impulsivity or ‘lack of long-term realistic goals’. Then start building a life around them, but bear in mind that big question that we should ask of all our characters. What do they want? Sidebar The 20 Character Traits assessed on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist:                  

 

Behavioural problems in childhood Callousness and lack of empathy Criminal versatility Cunning and manipulativeness Failure to accept responsibility for own actions Glib and superficial charm Grandiose, over-exaggerated estimation of self Impulsivity Irresponsibility Juvenile delinquency Lack of realistic long-term goals Lack of remorse or guilt Many short-term marital relationships Need for stimulation Parasitic lifestyle Pathological lying Poor behavioural controls Revocation of conditional release (they get sent back to gaol for breaking terms of parole) Sexual promiscuity Shallow affect – in other words, any emotional response is entirely superficial 25


How To Write A Chiller Thriller Sally Spedding Chiller is short for spine-chiller, which means a book, film etc, that arouses terror. A thriller means a book, film, play etc, which depicts a crime, mystery or espionage in an atmosphere of excitement and suspense. So why do the many published and often-hypedup chiller thrillers fail to deliver the goods? Or am I and other readers just too picky? Some say there are too many books being printed. And now we have Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and others to fill the ether as well. In my view, it’s not a question of too many books, but generally, in the crime and thriller genres, their sameness. Yet these categories remain hugely popular and most literary agents and publishers include them in their submission requirements. This is why, in writing this book with its many examples and exercises, my emphasis will be on encouraging you to dare to be different; to stand out from this often predictable material, where the successful author has become a ‘brand,’ and sadly, it’s often hard to tell one of their thrillers from the other. This is not only a deeply cynical but stifling trend, and personally, I would rather knit a scarf than be told – as a friend of mine once was - to ape a bestselling author of blood-soaked action involving South London gangsters. Someone she’d never even bothered to read. I discovered during my many talks to readers’ groups, that they also felt sold short by mainstream publishers, and preferred to seek out their own gems. It’s word of mouth by groups such as these that can be more lasting than relentless publisher promotion before their latest books’ launch dates. I’m sure you know of interesting examples of titles where this has happened. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for instance, with its flawed, truly original heroine, Lisbeth Salander. An embattled journalist who risks his career to defend her. The bleak settings in a relatively unfamiliar country. An evil father and other ruthless enemies make this a truly chilling 26

thriller. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn also sneaked on the scene, by way of a CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award, bringing another memorable protagonist in the form of reporter Camille Preaker who returns to her former home in Missouri to investigate the murders of two local girls. From her weird mother, to the adjacent pig farm, this chiller has it all. So, I’m about to fling open a few more metaphorical doors, by encouraging you to begin the journey by dredging yourselves. Your experiences, observations and imaginations, interests, deepest fears and greatest joys – all unique to you – will be crucial in creating original chiller thrillers to haunt

SPRING 2014 your adult, even YA readers’ minds long afterwards. Also crucial, is an abiding curiosity in those who share our planet. About what we read and hear about them in the media or on our travels. A highprofile crime story or conspiracy theory will bring out the armchair detectives and pundits like moles after rain! Be nosy. Weigh up the (often inadequate/one-sided) information given and do some digging of your own to get the whole story. Everyone, from the seemingly ordinary man next door, to a Head of State has secrets. Some are minor, but some, if known, could have seismic consequences. I often ask those aspiring writers attending my workshops, “who needs fiction?” However, I also believe that this so-called ‘fiction’ carries truth in its belly.

There are and have been many investigative authors, broadcasters and journalists from all over the world who have risked their lives by exposing what they believe their fellow human beings ought to know. Some have been found dead in unexplained circumstances. Others warned off. I’m proud to be linked to the thriller genre with my own work because great expectations ride on its shoulders. Hidden worlds in the broadest sense, can be exposed. Future possibilities explored. Taboos too, which vary from one culture to another. Amongst all this, I’d like to think that thriller writers through their fiction, convey truth, and themselves retain a strong moral compass Click here for more information.

Life Coaching for Writers is a self-help and personal development guide for every writer that will help you to unleash your creative potential. Whether you are a fiction or non-fiction writer, it's not always easy to be creative - life conspires to throw up obstacles, fears and external influences that get in the way of our writing lives. It is aimed at writers who know that they want to write but are struggling to realise their full potential. It is specifically aimed at more experienced writers who have had some successes and want to move from the life of an amateur scribbler to a professional writer.

Click here for more information. 27


Building Blocks of a Synopsis by Linda James Building your book up from your synopsis is important simply because you won’t become sidetracked by too much detail as initially, you don’t know all the details of your plot. This lack of complication means your synopsis will have more clarity.

6) Synopses should a) show a clear idea as to what your book is about, b) introduce the major characters c) show the problems your main characters face and what they stand to lose if they don’t overcome them. (If no one has any obstacles to overcome, you haven’t created any tension.)

Writing a synopsis is an organic process, which always reminds me of building a house. Imagine building a house when you have no idea what it’s going to look like? The end result is going to look very peculiar with rooms sticking out at odd angles. That’s what your book is going to look like if you have no initial plan. Of course, when you get to know your characters fully, the book will probably take on a life of its own and there is no reason you have to follow your initial synopsis exactly; simply rewrite the synopsis to reflect the changes. However, if you start with a firm foundation, your book is going to be far more structured.

7) Make sure that one paragraph flows logically to the next. If you are switching ideas, you need to make sure you build in a transition to connect your paragraphs.

So What Exactly is a Synopsis? 1) It's a narrative summary of the main ideas in your novel. 2) It's written in present tense and should be easy to read. 3) It's written in third person. 4) It's written in the same style your book is written in. If your book is light-hearted, then your synopsis should be too. If your book is dark, literary, ghostly or comic, your synopsis should reflect this style. 5) The synopsis introduces your main characters and their main conflicts. This is often where writers get weighed down with too much complicated detail. Keep the details clear, interesting and easy to read. Don’t include every character or every scene, plot point, or subplot in your synopsis. Click here for more information. 28

8) There are conflicting views on whether you should put the conclusion of your novel in your synopsis. Some agents and editors want to know exactly how you conclude your story; however, others like to be ‘teased’. If an agent states clearly

SPRING 2014 on his/her website that they hate ‘teaser’ endings, don’t use them. Give an agent exactly what s/he wants.

a half pager and a full pager. Write as many versions as you can before the symptoms of insanity start creeping in.

9) The only way to improve your synopsis-writing ability is by reading other people’s and constant rewriting your own. One of my students spent four months rewriting his synopsis before it was ready to be sent out to a publisher. The result: his book was published in 2012 because he spent almost as much effort on writing the synopsis as writing his novel.

Synopsis Checklist

10) Make sure that you write your synopsis so it gives an accurate picture of your book; i.e. be careful you don’t write a scintillating synopsis which bears no relationship to your book! (I have read a lot like that and understandably, agents hate them.) 11) Synopses are usually (but not always) one page long and single spaced. (Unless an agent specifically asks for everything to be double-spaced.) Make your paragraphs short so that they are easy to read. 12) Write differing length synopses: a one paragraph ‘blurb’ which hooks the reader immediately;

Have you used the present tense? Does the opening paragraph have a hook to keep the reader reading? Are your main characters' conflicts clearly defined? Have you ensured that the reader can relate to some characters and worry about their problems? Have you resolved the important conflicts? Have you avoided grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes? NB. Writing a good synopsis is as important as writing a good book because it’s a selling tool to agents and publishers. They will want to read the synopsis first and if yours isn’t good, your book will never be read. That’s how important writing a good synopsis is.

SPLANX - the ultimate electronic tablet of the spaceoriented future, where humanity becomes one with a god-power beyond belief... Science-fiction meets horror in this novel about a paranormal investigator in Holland who becomes involved in a search for a mysterious "supernatural" digital tablet. I really enjoyed the book. I kept making notes in the margins like: "Feels like a scene from the Director's cut of "Blade Runner," Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Minority Report." P.K. Dick would get a kick out of this… So what is a Splanx anyway? Early on, the author describes Splanx as, "a miraculous cyber tablet," a kind of uber machine whose possession could give the owner ultimate power... Any more hints would be telling. ALAN CATLIN ~ Alan Catlin, Misfit webzine Click here for more information. Cosmic Egg Books FANTASY, SCIENCE FICTION & HORROR 29


History in the Making Commissioning editor for Compass Books SUZANNE RUTHVEN looks at writing fact and fiction for the historical market. When writing for the historical readership the essential ingredient is research; the secret is knowing how much of it to use and what to leave out! For me this dilemma was partially solved by novelist Patricia Payne, who offered what is probably the best ever introduction to writing historical novels: “Dear ladies,” she wrote, “have you ever considered removing your knickers and, clad in two metres of old sheet as a sole undergarment, augmented with a blanket petticoat and shawl – creeping downstairs at earliest dawn to gather enough twigs and garden rubbish to build a small sullen fire to heat the family’s breakfast porridge pot? …” And for male characters who “may consider tying a metal bar some three and a half feet long and weighing four to six pounds on one hip, balancing it with a similar eighteen-inch length on the other. Now try running up a steep spiral stair with uneven treads and in partial darkness and test the truth behind, “Armed with sword and dagger, he ran up to the battlements?” What happened if our ascending hero met a maidservant humping a bucket on her way down? Was there a one-way system in all the best-regulated castles, or did operations commence with a shout of “Clear the stairs, I’m coming up!” Having used oak water buckets in the stables in my youth, I can testify that a water-logged wooden bucket is incredibly heavy. No wonder domestic work had to be done by men servants.” To write a historical novel is to consider When, Where, How and Why. When and Where can be established by judicious study in the Reference Section of the Public Library – though even the ‘Dictionary of National Biography’ may fail: ‘It is not known when and where he died’. How and Why depend on the author’s study and interpretation of the facts as they appear at the time of writing. Pity the despair of one who builds a castle of supposition, theory and probability only to have the whole edifice blown apart by newly discovered 30

evidence; such as the discovery of the remains of King Richard III underneath an English car park. We peer down the long telescope of history and there, sharp and small as figures in a Book of Hours, men and women speak, move and are gone again; brought to life by an official report, household accounts, a fragment of a letter, a battered effigy on a tomb. To give credibility to our story, we must know how our characters dressed, ate, lived, loved and died. Often modern novels have historical elements that are an integral part of the story. For example, Lincoln Preston’s Riptide – described as ‘an exciting boy’s adventure tale for adults’ was totally reliant on the background of ‘seventeenth-century engineering, high seas piracy and naval technology’ and was ‘as much an archaeological dig as a treasure reclamation’. The narrative slipped effortlessly backwards and forwards between the 16th and 20th centuries using expert opinions as dialogue to move the story along. The thriller is a gripping read – the wide-reaching historical details gave it its piquancy. Periodically, however, we are told that the historical novel is dead – and then along comes Hilary Mantel winning the Man Booker Prize for the second time, setting reading fashion on its head again. Autumn Barlow, publisher for the new imprint Top Hat Books, has some very definite ideas about what she wants to see on her list and it was refreshing to see that the first ‘release' was a Western – or more correctly – a Native American novel by Julie Buckingham, They Walked Into Darkness. So does this mean that Top Hat is open to any genre providing it fits into a historical context? “As I see it, ‘historical’ isn't actually a genre itself. Within historical fiction there are literary works, thrillers, romances, action-adventure, and of course alternate histories and historical fantasy. Our emphasis has to be on the history, and read-

SPRING 2014 ers of historical fiction really do know their stuff; mistakes can mar the reading experience. I'm a historical re-enactor myself, and I know the rage that can boil up when I stumble over an inaccuracy in a tale. But I would also counsel against shoehorning endless historical facts into a book just to force the writer's knowledge at the reader. I appreciate we have to fudge some areas. There are things we simply don't know. And there are changes a writer might make for the sake of story – but it must be done sensitively. I would be happy to read a book about an unusually bold female explorer in Victorian times, as they were rare but known. But her reactions must still reflect the sense of the times.” Top Hat guidelines state that she’s looking for fiction that goes ‘beyond the narrow, foggy slums of Victorian London’ and asks: ‘Where are the tales of the people of fifteenth century Australasia? The stories of eighth century India? The voices from Africa, Arabia, cities and forests, deserts and towns? The genres will be broad but clear. Whether we're publishing romance, thrillers, crime, or something else entirely, the unifying themes are timescale and enthusiasm’. Would she like to add anything for the benefit of authors who would like to submit a proposal for consideration? “Make it fun. Play with boundaries. Challenge me, but don't lose sight of the entertainment. Grab me from the start, and keep shaking me right through the book! Furthermore, for the sake of your own writing craft and for promotion purposes, write widely. Don't just write one novel and sling it at me. Write short stories. Write essays. Use your research to write articles for blogs and magazines. Attend talks and conferences. I hate to say ‘brand yourself’ but that's exactly what I mean. An author is so much more than a submission of 80,000 words.” This is a very wide brief but is there anything Top Hat doesn’t want to receive? “First drafts! I issue this plea to all authors: put your work in a drawer for as many months as you can bear, and write other things during that time. Then read it with a critical eye. Even better – find an impartial copyeditor. And avoid works ‘in the style of...’ It takes a very good writer to handle this. Don't try to write like Austen – there's more to it than very long sentences!

If you have completed a typescript that you think might suit Top Hat Books, why not send an inquiry in the first instance via the website at “Nothing infuriates me more than a historical novel, stage or screenplay in which the characters have been incorrectly dressed,” explained Ruth Green, author of The Wearing of Costume. “The ways people wore their clothes changed nearly as often as the clothes themselves.” As a founder member of the Costume Society, Ruth Green has spent many years in theatre. “Even the most authentic period costume looks like fancy dress unless worn correctly and the added detail of how to walk backwards wearing a long train, or having your hero (or heroine, in some cases) feeling their best in knee-breeches, can make all the difference to the narrative.” The Wearing of Costume – or to give the book its full title: The changing techniques of wearing clothes and how to move in them from Roman Britain to the Second World War – is based on contemporary evidence and the observations are often reinforced by her own personal experiences, since the author wore clothes of many periods during her years in the theatre and learnt to be both comfortable and correct in them. Having published several books on the history of costume, she turned her attention to that wellloved fashion accessory of gentlewomen – the fan. Fans In Society was her next book. “Ever since the fan appeared in European society, they have been more than mere cooling engines,” she explains. “They were used throughout society by every woman who wished to appear genteel.” Ruth Green believes that without understanding their social context, we cannot completely understand fans. Her book set out to explore this social context and aimed to give a good idea of life in those centuries - including plenty of unusual and littleknown information. The more romantically inclined will be disappointed to learn that the legendary ‘language of the fan’ is a myth. “Try as I might,” she admits, “I can find no hard evidence apart from a Victorian glossary published in the 19th century by a famous seller of fans and suspect it was merely a sales ploy.”


SPRING 2014 Fortunately, history is also back in fashion with television documentary serialisations stepping out of the realms of dustiness and into the imagination of the general public. Another new imprint, Chronos Books, wants to capture this fascination with history for a new generation of readers in creating a new imprint to provide great non-fiction books for history lovers. Sarah-Beth Watkins, commissioning editor, says “We are really excited about this new imprint and are actively seeking authors to work with us to produce great history titles. At the moment, we are looking for books on major historical eras and biographies of the great and famous. We are also looking for proposals for books that shed new light on old information and authors who have found new sources, using top notch research to explore historical people, places and events. We will look at any ideas you send us in and if we like what read, we will ask you to send in a full proposal so our team can assess your work for publication." According to the submission guidelines Chronos is seeking authors of historical non-fiction and historical biography: non-fiction authors that can cover real history for real people; who can bring to life historical people, places and events in an imaginative, easy-to-digest and accessible way. They want writers of historical books, from ancient times to the Second World War that will add to our understanding of people and events rather than being a dry textbook; history that passes on its stories to new readers. “If we like what we see, we will ask you to submit a proposal. Proposal are sent through our electronic system and we would ask you to include as much information as possible; word count, chapter list, the first three chap-


ters, marketing opportunities and your books unique selling points. We are looking for books of around 45,000 words plus. If you have a passion for history, can bring to life historical figures or have an historical revelation to share with the world, then we’d like to hear from you.” Chronos is now taking submissions. Log on to and submit your initial idea through the Authors Inquiries section including 'For Chronos Books' in the subject heading. Writing about history is a passion but today’s publishers are still looking beyond the traditional ‘bodice rippers’ and Regency romances. This benchmark was set back in the 1980s by Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series and Alexander Kent’s Richard Bolitho novels set during the Napoleonic wars. Both gave us a compelling lead character backed up with incredible historical research – not just about warfare, but also the social customs, etiquette and dress from the period. Not only that, the appeal of historical writing transcends the passing of time – favourite books often passing from generation - after all, where would the genre be without Forever Amber and Gone With The Wind? Suzanne Ruthven is the former editor of The New Writer magazine and commissioning editor for Compass Books, a writer's how-to book imprint for John Hunt Publishing. She is also author of nearly 40 titles in the MB&S and countryside genres, including two novels. She regularly provides contributions to a wide variety of different magazines and writing-related blogs and Facebook sites.




Rose Petals I fell to the earth Upon roses made of thorns Through the cloying fragrance and clawing dance I learned to stand barefoot And count every star in the sky I stood under infinity For but a second it seemed And then I heard a song It sang of love, loss, bittersweet razorblades of wisdom It tasted salty to my tongue Cold to my skin Dry to my throat But I breathed in every note Until the razorblades heated molten through my bones I jumped, skipped, stamped, clapped And became the heart beat, drum beat Violent and unafraid Blazing, brazen, bold and brave Frenzied I called out to the icy stars, the hare in the Moon And stared down the Sun Until my throat was sore My eyes red raw And my skin cracked under the intense heat Then the tears of freedom became more than a release Water to cleanse Purify Protect within the womb Wash out the infected wound Clear the air and nurture the growing life around us I was dirty, sunburnt, sore, wrung out, wretched, wet and unable to speak I was no longer afraid I wrung out my hair and it smelt of rose petals Romany Rivers From Poison Pen Letters to Myself (Moon Books, publication 2014) 34



Cornucopia overflowing with sweet fragrance of lilac, honeysuckle and jasmine. She opens the lid to her jar and drowns in love's sweet promise as it flows forth, her blind eyes dazzled by early evening sunshine. She naps and dreams of blood-red geraniums which confine her, becoming the bed on which she lies. Crystalline laughter of lovers awakens her into the half-light, surprised, snatching at shadows. Deep within her jar something flounders. Forgotten. Alone. As if left behind by selfish gratification. The theft of secret moments by those who deceive the ones who love, or who wish for more. The horizon gives a faint pink glow before fading to stone grey, bringing chill to her bones. Dawn brings stark, dark, truths. Eyes wide open, then tight shut. Closing the lid she traps it, hope, medicine for the spirit.

Maria Moloney

A Practical Guide to Poetry Forms is a practical handbook on poetry forms, giving informative details on the construction of the major set forms. It also includes exercises, all within the scope of the beginner, yet stimulating enough to engage the more experienced poet. Alison Chisholm's new handbook should be essential reading for all aspiring poets, and many experienced writers will also find her guidance and explanations to be invaluable, as it serves as a refresher course in the technical side of creating poems. Stephen Wade Click here for more information 35


Show Don't Tell by Krystina Kellingley As a commissioning editor /publisher and reader for John Hunt Publishing there are often times when I find myself thinking and writing, ‘show don’t tell’. This is such a frequent occurrence that I thought an article on the subject might be helpful. Firstly, what is show and how does it differ from tell? Why is it important to do the first rather than the second?

habit to go straight to the pool room the moment she got home. Tonight, though, she knew she would have to postpone that pleasure, at least for a short while. That bastard, David Erickson, had undermined her authority in front of the board today and she didn’t like that. She didn’t like it at all – and she was going to make sure he paid for his insolence. She was going to make sure he paid dearly.

It’s vitally important to understand the difference, because if you ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’ the reader misses out on intensity of experience and this intensity of involvement is what makes a story a ‘must read,’ one the reader can’t put down and that keeps them turning pages. It’s also the difference that encourages them to go out and buy your next story, or, in the case of our publishing company, it’s the difference between an okay reader’s report and an enthusiastic one, which can lead to your getting an offer.

Scooter, her little Lhasa Apso burst out of the carved mahogany, double fronted door the moment she opened it, wagging his entire body and begging to be picked up but Elsie was in no mood tonight. She kicked out, catching him with the sharp heel of her pillar-box red, patent leather, Yves Saint Laurent Shoes. Scooter, knocked off his feet, yelped in pain but he was no stranger to his mistress’s black moods. He scrambled to his feet and, tail between his legs, slunk quickly out of sight.

In order to make things clearer (hopefully) I’m going to try to illustrate the difference:

Elsie stormed down the wide, Italian marble floored, hallway, into the drawing room and picked up the phone. She knew exactly how she was going to pay that sonofabitch back.

Ms Grey was extremely rich and successful. She was also a thoroughly nasty woman. Everyone who knew her said she was a nasty piece of work. So what have I done here? Have I used show or tell? If you are unsure, ask yourself, what have I been shown? You could also ask yourself how interested you find yourself in either the answer or the character at this particular moment. You have, of course, been shown nothing at all. You have only been told. Now, what about this? Elsie Grey gunned her sleek, maroon, Mercedes SLS AMG Coupe through the gates of her ten acre estate. At the end of a long and busy day she wanted nothing more than to relax by doing a few, lazy lengths, in her heated, indoor pool. It was her 36

The number was stored in the phone’s memory; she had reason to use it quite frequently. She listened to it ring out with a growing smile on her face. Nobody messed with Elsie Grey and got away with it. ‘Hello’. Elsie recognized the voice on the other end immediately. She hesitated just long enough for Amy, Erickson’s wife to repeat herself. ‘Oh – h-hello, Amy.’ She injected the right note of uncertainty into her voice. ‘Oh, hello, Elsie. For a moment I thought it was going to be another one of those calls that hangs up as soon as you speak.’ Amy’s laugher sounded a little forced.

SPRING 2014 Elsie barely stopped herself laughing aloud. Amy had inadvertently played straight into her hands. ‘Oh, have – have you had many of those recently?’ ‘Well – as a matter of fact, there do seem to have been a few lately.’ ‘Oh!’ Elsie let the word hang ominously. ‘Did – did you want to speak to—' ‘No – No!’ Elsie interrupted quickly. ‘I-It was you I wanted to speak to, Amy, but—' She paused. ‘You know, forget it. I, er, I shouldn’t have bothered you.’ She paused again, waiting for Amy to take the bait, as she knew she would. ‘W-what – what is it?' Amy asked nervously. ‘Was – is there something wrong?’ ‘Oh dear! Look,’ she said, letting it all come out in a rush. ‘I don’t quite know how to tell you this, Amy. It – it’s just they always say the wife is the last to know and I didn’t want you being made a fool of.’

Have you been told anything? You’ve been told that Scooter was used to his mistress’s black moods. In a novel I could’ve ‘shown’ you this but it would have meant showing you several instances of cruelty. I have deliberately used quite a boring scenario: A powerful but nasty woman, even her name is ordinary. The situation is also quite boring, a boardroom squabble and her petty revenge. I wanted you to clearly see the workings of the piece without becoming distracted by the content. Some writers try to establish the traits of their character through repeated use of the same or similar phrases throughout the story, sprinkling the narrative with, for example, she was a horrible woman, or an awful person, a thoroughly nasty person, etc., but this simply becomes annoying and fails to convey the message adequately. No amount of repetition is as effective as a good scene showing exactly what a character is like.

‘Elsie! What on earth are you talking about?’ ‘It’s David, your husband, Amy. He’s having an affair.’ Okay, same question as before – what have you been shown? You’ve been ‘shown’ that Elsie, drives an expensive and powerful car. You’ve been shown that she lives in an extremely expensive house, with marble flooring and an indoor pool. She wears expensive shoes. I think you can all ‘see’ for yourselves that she’s rich, and I haven’t used the word once. The fact that she has authority in the boardroom also ‘shows’ you she’s successful. Otherwise, she’d be a typist, secretary, tea lady, etc. Even the way she drives her car, gunning it, promotes the idea of power. I think Scooter, poor little mite, does an admirable job of ‘showing’ us how horrible his mistress is but there’s a second ‘hit’ for the reader, to reinforce the idea, ‘shown’ through the phone call to Erickson’s wife, when Elsie takes her revenge.

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Contributor’s Guidelines Writer’s Wheel now invites contributions for the next issue of the on-line quarterly magazine. We are particularly interested in features, articles and interviews from beginners, authors, publishers and readers on all writing-related subjects. Writer’s Wheel is a stable mate of Compass Books, the writers’ resource imprint of John Hunt Publishing and the material submitted for consideration should reflect the hands-on, practical nut and bolts approach to writing rather than philosophical ‘why we write’ reflections. Submissions: 1500-1800 words, longer pieces by agreement. We will be featuring extracts from both fact and fiction already published by JHP publishers but we are also interested in receiving original short stories up to 1800 words and flash-fiction of 500 words maximum, regardless of whether you are a JHP author or not. Stories may be previously published or part of a published anthology or collection. Original poetry should be a maximum of 40 lines. Where possible, the submission should be accompanied by an author photographs and a 30 word biography; photographs that enhance the submissions will also be considered. Material that is date-related can be submitted for entry on the Compass Books blog: Submissions should be sent by email and attachments to:

What would have happened if William of Normandy had lost the Battle of Hastings? What kind of nation would have been born if King Harald of Norway had conquered England instead? How different our history could have been if the wind had blown in the other direction for just one day in the summer of 1066. The Hidden Crown is an alternate-history adventure that takes place a hundred years after such events. The country that would have become Norman England has split in two: the Anglo-Norse kingdom of Northland and the Saxon realm of Ængland. The two nations have been at peace for nearly a century, that is until the dying king of Ængland unexpectedly names his nine-year-old granddaughter, Adelise, as his heir. During her journey home to Ængland through the wilds of Northland, the child-queen is rescued from a bloody assassination attempt by the young Northlandic soldier, Thurstan Ælfsson. Now the two sole survivors of the attack must find safety and allies in a desperate flight across the two kingdoms, never knowing whether they are about to encounter friend or foe.

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Writer’s Wheel A Compass Magazine for writers

Writer's Wheel Magazine Issue 1  

Introducing Writer’s Wheel. Welcome to the first issue of Writer’s Wheel, the FREE online creative writing magazine from Compass Books. J...

Writer's Wheel Magazine Issue 1  

Introducing Writer’s Wheel. Welcome to the first issue of Writer’s Wheel, the FREE online creative writing magazine from Compass Books. J...