The FREE online creative writing magazine
Writing from Life
Jane Bailey Bain
Symbolism and Motif in Your Writing
New Fiction for October
We are now in mid-autumn,
and the leaves are turning a
gorgeous kaleidoscope of
rich reds, bronze and gold.
And we also have a lovely
autumnal cover for which
we thank tonal artist and writer Stuart Davies.
In this issue in 'Writing Dystopian' Roderick Vincent
discusses the changing character of literary
fiction and challenges the assumption of whether
it is necessary for a piece of literature to be
meaningful or whether we should not simply
enjoy a book for the sake of the story itself rather
than its effect. In my article 'Symbolism and
Motif in Your Writing', I talk about how you can
use symbols and motifs with great effect to enhance
your writing. And Jane Bailey Bain in the
second part of her two part article Writing from
Life (first part is in the Spring issue) talk about
how you can use your experience of real people
to write convincing speech. At the end of this
article is a simple but fun practical exercise to
help you develop your characters.
Other articles include regular contributor Simon
Whaley who observes in his article 'Dating with
Non-fiction' that of 25,000 new books published
each year that approximately 20% (25,000) are
novels. The rest are non-fiction. The opportunity
for having a non-fiction book published is therefore
much greater, so why not make your first
book a non-fiction one? (I have to admit that
this is how I broke into the world of publishing
so it's sound advice).
And not to forget author Andrez Bergen who
discusses being the 'Slave of the Cannibal God'.
His new novel Small Change is one of Chicago
News's Most Anticipated Books for Fall and
As well as other helpful articles and tips on
writing in this issue. You can find more writing
tips through the following websites:
Maria Moloney and the Writer’s Wheel Team
Writer’s Wheel now invites contributions
for the next issue of
the on-line quarterly magazine.
There is no payment as Writer’s
Wheel is purely a voluntary
effort. So please do include links.
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.
Articles: 1000-2000 words.
We will be featuring extracts
from both fact and fiction already
published by JHP authors
but we are also interested in
receiving original short stories
up to 2500 words and flashfiction
of 1000 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.
Please accompany submissions
with by an author photograph
and a 30 word biography. Photographs
that enhance the submission
will also be considered.
Please contact the editor
through our website and you
will be given the email address.
Material that is date-related can
be submitted for entry on the
Compass Books blog.
From the Editor's Desk 3
Dating with Non-fiction
Carrying the Flame
Writing from Life Part 2
Jane Bailey Bain
November eBook offer!
LifeWorks and StoryWorks
November eBook offer!
Edit is a Four-Letter Word
How I discovered that writing literary fiction with
sex scenes in it is downright screwy!
Selling Your Own Stuff
The Writing Process—To Plot or Not to Plot
The Nature of Poetry
Getting Gnomed in Public
Kingsley L. Dennis
Dreaming of God
Symbolism and Motif in Your Writing
The Debut Year
Michael H. Burnam
A Curiosity In Venice
Out of the Blue
Slave of the Cannibal God
Contributor's Guidelines 3
Competitions & Events 42
Spotlight on cover designer Stuart Davies
In 1971, Stuart left Eastbourne Art College where he studied
fine art, photography, typography, print technology and graphic
design. Recognized for his ability, he worked as a freelancer
with a London-based company which produced ‘legal forgeries’
of well-known masterpieces for discerning collectors who
wanted more than a print. He specialized in Dutch seascapes
and anything by Vermeer (The Girl with the Pearl Earring).
In 1987, he worked on Country Life, for a few months. The
editor was so taken with his illustrative and design work, she
called him back a short while later and offered him the job
of Art Editor and Design Editor. Twelve years later, after winning
a design award for 'Magazine Cover of the Year', he was
offered the job of Art Director on Geographical magazine.
Stuart is passionate about capturing nature's contrasts in a
style that has been described as stunning, magnificent, tonal
has worked for John Hunt Publishing since
2009 in editorial and marketing. She is the author of five MBS
books, and a children’s novel The Changeling Quest (and has
contributed to several others), with many articles published in
popular MBS magazines. Over several years she enjoyed guest
lecturing at a UK university, and still enjoys teaching creative
writing. She has a degree in Imaginative Writing and Literature,
and has studied both Writing and Research at postgraduate
level. Maria lives in County Cork, Ireland.
is a reader and copy editor for John
Hunt Publishing. Krystina has a First Class degree in Imaginative
Writing and Literature and an MA in Creative Writing. She
is the author of Mistflower the Loneliest Mouse, a children’s
novel, and has had several short stories published as well as
online articles on dream interpretation and other subjects.
Krystina travels internationally to tutor in writing workshops as
well as privately mentoring new writers of adult and children’s
fiction. She is currently working on an adult supernatural fiction
novel. She lives in the UK.
has been a freelance writer for over
20 years writing for magazines and websites, on a wide range
of topics. She has written over 300 articles for the web. Sarah-
Beth also tutors creative writing and journalism courses for
various colleges and community centres as well as working as
a copyeditor and proofreader for JHP and Xchyler Publishing.
She is the author of Telling Life's Tales, The Writer's Internet,
The Lifestyle Writer and Life Coaching for Writers available
through Compass Books. Her history books are Ireland's Suffragettes
and Lady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged
Daughter of King Henry VIII. She lives in County Wexford, Ireland.
ebook publisher, for four years. Autumn writes light romance
and cozy mysteries under a penname and works as a freelance
editor for JHP, and for independent authors.
is the author of over a dozen writing books,
including three for writers: The Positively Productive Writer,
Photography for Writers, and The Complete Article Writer. He’s
also written over 600 articles for publications as diverse as BBC
Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Outdoor Photography, and
The Simple Things. His short stories have appeared in Take a
Break, The People’s Friend, Ireland’s Own and Woman’s Weekly
is a published poet, short-story writer and novelist.
Her poems have been published in a variety of small
press magazines, both in the UK and overseas and her short
stories have been published in a variety of women's magazines
in the UK and in Australia. She is the author of Surfing the
Rainbow and co-author with Val Andrews of Unlock Your Creativity.
Sue enjoys running workshops and encouraging other
writers along the path to publication. She is a Home Study Tutor
for Writers' News Magazine and lives in Worcestershire,
is the author of hundreds of articles and
fifteen published books and plays. He writes mainly on the
topics of historical crime and on writing skills, but also light
stage comedies. He has worked in a variety of community
settings and as a university lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan
University and the Open University. His novel The Bone
Mill is set in the murky world of body snatching in 1820s Stoke.
He is the author of Creating Convincing Characters. He also
writes songs for The Pie Men, a light-hearted musical duo. He
lives in Shropshire, UK.
has authored over 30 titles in the country
lore, MB&S and creative writing genres, as well as ghostwriting
a further ten books for other people, including a field
sports autobiography that was nominated for the William Hill
Sports Book of the Year. She has also tutored at writers’ workshops
including The Annual Writers’ Conference (Winchester
College), The Summer School (University of Wales), Horncastle
College (Lincolnshire), the Cheltenham Literature Festival and
the Welsh Academy - following which she was invited to become
a full member of the Academi in recognition of her contribution
to literature in Wales. She lives in South Tipperary,
is a writer and editor based in North West
England. She developed the Top Hat Books imprint, which
publishes historical fiction that inspires, challenges and entertains.
She writes regularly for Cycling Active Magazine and
other fitness publications and has written fiction for Take A
Break, People's Friend, Women's Own and Woman. She was a
Managing Editor for loveyoudivine Alterotica, a US-based
is the author of three full collections of
poetry and four pamphlets including Ice (Smith/Doorstop),
Unsafe Monuments (Arrowhead), Beans in Snow (Smokestack),
Living Daylights (Happenstance) and Mr Trickfeather (Like This
Press). Her work has appeared in The Rialto, The North, PN
Review, the Independent on Sunday, the Forward Prize Anthology
and GCSE Poetry Unseen revision papers. Her latest
collection, Sisters (Smokestack), was published last year. It
burst into life after seeing a Victorian post-mortem photograph
of two sisters.
is a director of a legal practice. She is also a
psychology graduate, experienced in working with people
challenging circumstances. Privileged to have witnessed the
resilience of the human spirit, Helen believes that it is only by
being true to our nature and honouring our integrity that we
can follow our dreams. Acknowledging our roots allows us to
spread our branches in new directions. She is the author of
Tears of a Phoenix, The 49th Day and Scorpio Moons. She lives
in Pembrokeshire, UK.
There are, on average, 125,000 new books published in
the United Kingdom every year. Approximately 20%
(25,000) are novels. The rest are non-fiction. The opportunity
for having a non-fiction book published is therefore
much greater, so why not make your first book a
non-fiction one? This means creating a relationship with
a publisher, so let’s go on a date!
Lust is the overwhelming emotion that gives us the
courage to ask someone out on a date. Whatever subject
you want to write about, you must have a lust for it.
The enthusiasm will show in your writing. Many authors
write about their hobbies, because they interest them.
Have you already had some success with articles on the
subject? Is there a subject you specialise in as an article
writer? My walking book, Best Walks in the Welsh Borders,
is a collection of interesting walks in my local area.
Walking is a hobby I enjoy, but I also regularly provide
walking articles to several different magazines.
Know Who to Date
Although blind dates are fun, they may also be a waste
of time. Knowing who you are dating makes a world of
difference. Before you even put pen to paper, find a
publisher to date first. Would you go out with a cricketobsessed
date, if you’re only interested in ballet? Find a
publisher who already publishes books on your subject
of interest. Publishers prefer to stick with the market
they know best. Don’t send you car maintenance book
to a social history publisher. Look in bookshops, libraries
and search Amazon. Internet dating is all the rage these
Mimicry is Flattering
When we like someone, we copy their body language. If
they cross their legs, we cross ours. If they sip their
drink, so do we. It’s the same with non-fiction. Publisher’s
love a series of books. With a series, they know:
• how many copies bookshops may buy,
• the book’s retail price, and the cost of production,
• how many copies they need to sell to make a
However, don’t think that you have to write the series.
Instead, see if your book will fit an existing series. My
first book was 100 Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human.
The publisher had already published 100 Ways For A Cat
To Train Its Human, written by another author. A
friend’s first published book was 100 Ways For A
Chicken To Train Its Human. Have you spotted the
trend? See the mimicry? It’s not copying, because the
books focus on different animals, but the style, format,
length and tone are the same. I wrote my dog book to
fit the publisher’s 100 Ways format, and sales now exceed
I did the same with, Best Walks in the Welsh Borders.
Other authors wrote Best Walks in North Wales and
Best Walks in South Wales, so my book follows the same
format, but covers a different area.
What to Wear?
Do you spend hours deciding how to dress to impress?
The same goes with non-fiction. A novel has to be
written in full before it can be submitted. A non-fiction
book is different. Usually, the publisher commissions
the book from a proposal, and then asks you to write
the book. The proposal is the first impression you make
on a publisher, so dress carefully:
Underwear – Give your proposal a front sheet, bearing
the title of your proposed book, your name, address,
email address, telephone number, and state that it is a
Shirt / Blouse – Follow with a brief introduction about
your book, who your target reader is, and what the demand
is for your book. Use quantifiable figures. For my
book Fundraising For A Community Project, I told the
publishers how many applications the National Lottery
grant scheme (Awards For All) received from community
groups over a 12 month period. The chicken book author,
used circulation figures of chicken magazines to
indicate the number of people interested in chickens.
Trousers / Skirt – Detail how many chapters you will
have, and provide a brief paragraph for each one, explaining
what is covered, and the level of detail.
Shoes – Give a total word length for the book and say if
illustrations or photographs will be needed. State
whether you can supply the images, and in what format.
Overcoat – The biggest garment reflects the biggest
part of your proposal. Show publishers your style and
writing capabilities by including the first chapter, (or at
least 5,000 words, if your chapters are short).
Remember first impressions, so type your proposal to
impress. Most proposals can be emailed (John Hunt
Publishing imprints only accept electronic submissions),
although some publishers still prefer a paper copy via
What do you do when you meet someone new? You ask
for their name. Find out who to address your proposal
to. Get a name and check the spelling.
Have you ever investigated who else has been out with
your date? Look at the books your target publisher has
already printed about your topic. How does yours
differ? The fact that they’ve published books on your
topic before is a good sign. It means they know about
the market, and possible buyers. Your book though,
must add something new. In a series, it should compliment
or enhance the existing range. My Best Walks in
the Welsh Borders covers a different area to the publishers
existing books in the series covering North and
Do you impress your date by telling them about your
best achievements? Do exactly the same with your prospective
publisher. Why are YOU the best person to
write THIS book? For Fundraising For A Community Project
I told the publishers how I’d spent six years liaising
with community groups as part of my job working for a
local authority grant scheme.
Have you had articles published on this topic? Include
copies with your proposal. It doesn’t matter whether
you were paid for them or not. They prove that you can
write about the topic for a specific reader.
A New Relationship
Send your proposal when you’re ready. Be prepared to
wait for a response. Don’t be despondent if the publisher
rejects it. Not every date works out does it? Go
through the same process again with another publisher.
Best Walks in the Welsh Borders, for example, began life
as Welsh Border Walks and then Walks in the Welsh
Marches before I hit it off with the publishers Frances
When a publisher does commission you to write the
book, always deliver what you promised in your proposal.
It could be the start of a long relationship, with
many more babies (I mean books) to add to your family!
Simon Whaley is the author of over a dozen books, including
The Positively productive Writer, Photography
for Writers (both Compass Books). His latest book is The
Complete Article Writer. For more information about Simon,
visit his website at www.simonwhaley.co.uk
In a society that is often indifferent to poetry and history, I think it is important to understand how significant
poetry has been to mankind in the past. The rhythmic arrangement of words, sounds and meaning,
has been with us since the beginning of language. Poetry quite simply imitates the way of the world: Everything
in life has its own rhythm and music: hidden inside our bodies are the circulation of blood and the
automatic movement of our breath. In nature the seasons follow one another without fail. The migration of
birds always happens at the same time of the year, their individual and repetitive songs never change. Hibernating
animals know when to sleep and when to wake. It is almost as if life itself responds to some hidden
ideal of movement and sound. This is what Plato believed at a time when Greek drama showed an extraordinary
genius for poetry and music. Much later Shakespeare’s poetry and musical rhythms underpinned
his understanding of human nature and gave his plays a universal appeal. Yet he was a man of his
own time, completely aware of the physical and political world about him, its men and women, great and
We look back and are influenced by masterpieces that were written before our era. There is nothing but
good in that attitude and yet we must, by the same token, be open to contemporary influences and try to
be adventurous in our choice of words and rhythms, just as Shakespeare was.
T.S. Eliot writes in his article "Reflections in Vers Libre" for the New Stateman: In an ideal society one might
imagine the good New growing naturally out of the good Old, without the need for polemic and theory.
So while it is crucial that we value this wonderful background to our art and craft, it is vital that we too, in
however small a way, keep the flame of this ancient art alight in our own way in our own day.
In the Spring Issue of Writer’s Wheel, we talked about
Using Your Senses. This issue, we will look at how you
can use your experience of real people to write convincing
speech. At the end of this article is a simple but fun
practical exercise to help you develop your characters.
‘You can’t show them if you don’t know them.’ As a
writer, you really need to know your characters. They
must be original, but they must also be convincing. This
means that you must put quite a lot of work into developing
them. Think about your protagonist: What is their
full name? Their favourite food? Their childhood pet?
You don’t have to tell your readers everything about
your characters, but these background details will inform
your writing. You will probably use ‘character
worksheets’* to get to know them better.
You may be writing fiction, but you draw on personal
experience when creating these characters. Many of
their traits and idiosyncrasies will come from real people
in your own life: Old Mr Bertwood, the crotchety
neighbour who gave you fifty pence on your birthday;
Cindy Jones, who used to hit you on the shins with her
Remember that old writers’ adage ‘Show, not tell’?
Because you know your characters so well, you will be
able to show how they actually behave. This is much
more convincing than just telling your readers about
Let’s see how this works in action. Contrast these two
pieces of writing. ‘Benny felt very cross because he hadn’t
got the style of shoe he wanted.’ Oh dear, spoilt
brat, let’s move on. ‘Benny looked down at his shiny
new shoes. Then he looked up at the wall. Lifting his
foot, he dragged it deliberately along the bricks. A long
pale streak appeared on the dark leather. He examined
it with satisfaction…’
Because you know your characters so well, you will
also be able to make them speak more convincingly.
This doesn’t mean that you have to master obscure dialects.
Quite the contrary, colloquial speech can be distracting
and difficult to read. Rather, you can identify
‘catch phrases’ which signify who is talking. For example,
if one of your characters grew up in Cardiff, he
might often end his sentences with the words, “…is it?”
This is much easier to do than trying to transcribe a
Many writers find that fictional characters come to
seem like real people in their lives. You may get to know
your characters better than your friends. When Robert
Graves was writing his famous Roman novels (‘I, Claudius’)
he would often lay an extra place at the dinner table…because
he genuinely believed that there was
someone else in the house. This might seem a little extreme,
but the results were certainly very effective!
There is a simple and fun way to develop one of your
characters which I often recommend to my Creative
Writing students. It is quite playful, so I hope you’re
feeling in the right mood. I want you to do some practical
research into something your character might actually
do. Rather than just imagining it, you are going to
experience it. This will help you to describe the incident
much more vividly.
Say your protagonist likes jazz (but you haven’t listened
to any for a while). You really need to visit a local jazz
club. Make this trip on behalf of your protagonist, rather
than as yourself. (This makes it different from an
excursion with friends). Make ‘their’ experience as realistic
as possible. If they are a cool character, then dress
up for the trip. Arrive early, so the place is still quite quiet.
Walk in confidently, take a table and order a drink.
Remember, this isn’t the real you, so you can act the
part. There’s nothing to be shy about: it’s all in the interests
of research. Make sure you’ve got a pen and
notebook, to jot down all your impressions. The notebook
is also a great prop: if you feel self-conscious, you
can pretend you’re a roving reporter.
You can do this with lots of other experiences: a
massage; a Chinese restaurant; a trip to the Lake District.
The key thing is to go alone, so that you can focus
on the sensation. Probably you’ll talk lots of people on
the way, but they will be part of that experience. Always
keep your notebook handy: that way you’ll have it all on
record, ready to provide material for your writing.
Good luck and have fun!
*Character worksheets and more creative writing exercises
are in my new book StoryWorks, published May
2015, available now in bookshops and on Amazon. You
might also enjoy LifeWorks: Using Myth and Archetype
to Develop Your Story (2012).
Find out more on my website, janebaileybain.com
StoryWorks and LifeWorks are just 99p and 99c (may be subject to tax) on Amazon and other available
platforms for the whole month of November!
Using myth and archetype to develop your life
LifeWorks is a practical handbook which combines
insights from psychology and anthropology. Questions
and tasks help the reader to identify relationship
patterns and life themes. It is also useful to authors
and scriptwriters, for character development.
This work has been compared to both Julia Cameron
and Joseph Campbell. She combines personal insight
with natural storytelling ability. LifeWorks is
predicted to become a new classic.
Follow Jane's blog and find details of forthcoming
Follow Jane on Twitter
A Handbook for Leaders, Writers and Speakers
Is a practical handbook on how to tell stories, and
ranges from classic tools like the ‘Rule of Threes’ to
the new mnemonic ‘Five Finger Technique’. There
are stories and creative exercises to expand your
If you’re a leader who wants to communicate well, a
professional keen to improve your speaking skills, a
manager with a team to motivate or a writer looking
for more ideas – you’ll find resources here to inspire,
to inform and to entertain.
Whether you have one minute to impress at an interview
or the keynote speech at a conference, this
book will help you tell better stories.
Telling a good tale is key to holding an audience’s
attention. A gifted storyteller herself, Jane Bain’s
show-and-tell method of teaching goes down easily
as a bowl of Goldilocks’ ‘just-right’ porridge. Her five
-finger technique demystifies narrative for those
who want their stories to grab readers and listeners
like Bain’s do.
~ Susan Welsh, Book Reviewer & Journalist
It all started off very seriously, the writing business that
is. I had written a respectable number of well-received
non-fiction books on socio-cultural affairs that were
helping to carve out some semi-respectable niche for
me. I was invited to speak at academic conferences on
such things as ‘Where are we Going?’(as if anyone really
knows!), and I was content in this role. Non-fiction, for
all its hassles of expected debate, is also a fairly predictable
path in marketing. You see, you are expected to
know your subject and so, after all, you are the expert
on it. So you write your articles, engage in the radio interviews,
and do the usual blogs.
So I had been walking and talking this path for several
years after I had decided to leave my professional
academic career behind…until… Well, until the gnomes
popped up! I didn’t see them coming at first; it was like
they just poked their heads around the corner of my
mind. They were so small (physically just 15 inches) that
I thought they wouldn’t be any trouble. How wrong I
was! Because you know what happens when you see a
gathering of gnomes? It means there is a spewd of goblins
not very far behind…
I had to drop everything. The serious non-fiction
book halted midway through Chapter Three. The notes I
was making stopped being added to. The research I was
doing shuddered to a wily coyote halt. Then a new file
appeared on my computer desktop; its Times New Roman
letters blazoned Mundus Grundy: Trouble in
Grundusland. As soon as the first Word Doc was open
the characters started to jump in unannounced. Here I
was, trying my best to manage and organize a vivid array
of lively fellows, from gnomes, goblins, and imps, to
djinns, sprites, and sun-devas. It felt as if I had been given
a fast-track ticket through a congested airport (which
never usually happens unless you pay quids out!). In six
weeks I had a draft of my first book for young readers.
Well, that’s the very brief version of it – like cookery
programs that never show you how the food actually
cooks in the oven. And to be honest, I find it hard to
write about the actual writing process itself. This is, I
feel, because I have never learnt to write. I’ve just been
writing since I was fifteen; so I just learnt by doing it. I
have nothing particularly to share in this regard other
than – persistence. That is, you find the hours of the day
that work best for you; you find a suitable space to
write where you feel good; and then you sit there every
day and do ‘something.’ There, that’s my method then.
The other news is that the age of ‘romantic writers’
is over. What do I mean by that? I mean that the stereotype
image we have of writers being recluses holed up
in their shack, scribbling away on masterpieces, and
then never entering the profane world –
that’s all over. If John Donne was writing
his famous ‘No Man is an Island’ poem today,
he would probably substitute ‘Man’ for ‘Writer.’
We writers can no longer evade the world ‘out there’
like the famous recluses of old. For one thing, social media
won’t allow it. And for another, book publishers no
longer (or very rarely) will let the author off the hook
when it comes to marketing their book. Now we have to
get ‘out there’ and be a part of the whole playing field.
A couple of years ago, as one example, I sent one of my
book proposals (non-fiction) to a leading publisher in
that genre. Their reply was that first I had to confirm my
social media platform for their consideration. Further,
they stated, they could only accept proposals from an
author who could confirm that they had 3000+ names
on their marketing email lists. @*/?# :-( The author, it
seemed, had just been reluctantly promoted to Head of
Marketing, whether they liked it or not.
So the writer is now a part of a new era: a participatory
era where we have to get our hands dirty too. Luckily
for us though, there are some decent and relatively
cheap tools available. And I had to learn fast, as the
gnomes and the pesky rubber-bellied goblins were not
far behind me – and they were begging to get out there
into the world. So now that I had the finished book in
my hands and – thanks to Our Street Books – a publishing
agreement, I had to begin showcasing my vivid
bunch of fellows. How to begin? Well, it all starts with a
webpage, of course! First I bought/rented the URL domain
name www.mundusgrundy.com – I have an account
with Godaddy, which I have found to be one of
the cheapest domain sellers on the web. Now, you can
either set up a free blogsite using the popular wordpress
service (https://wordpress.com/), which is a great
and easy-to-learn service – or you can go into web
hosting yourself. When I started doing my own webpages
several years ago I made them all with Wordpress.
The only problem is that you get a ‘wordpress.com’ tag
at the end of your URL. So the easiest and cheapest
thing to do is when you have bought your domain
name, create a forwarding link with your domain provider.
That is, you can promote your domain name on
your emails, links, etc, and when people type it in it will
automatically forward to your ‘wordpress.com’ page.
Alternatively, you can use the Wordpress service to
transfer your domain name with a one-off fee (plus
yearly rental fee) so that your Wordpress site uses only
your domain name.
Anyway, I’ve moved along with things now that the
gnomes were here to help me. With their friendly
advice I decided to opt to look for a web hosting service.
So I got an account with one of the best/cheapest
hosting companies – one.com – where your first year is
free. Then I simply uploaded a Wordpress template with
a simple push of a button (provided on the one.com
page). Wanting to jazz things up a bit I decided to get a
paid-for template, which these days are way gnomecheap.
One of the best sites to look at for Wordpress
themed templates is theme-forest, where you can get
one from as little as a few dollars. My choice was the
hugely popular and mega-versatile Avada theme (which
cost me a whopping $59, and I’ve used it for three
webpages so far). There you go, you are ready to program!
In the past it would cost hundreds of $£ to get a
website, now you can get one set-up for free, or get a
professional hosting site for a few dollars...the only
thing is, who’s gonna create your pretty-looking website
using the versatile and cool-looking template? I was
lucky – I have a good friend who did my webpage for me
as a favour (I sent her some gnome pies in the snail
mail). And in a week the result was Hey Presto -
www.mundusgrundy.com. But wait – all is not gnomelost!
You don’t need to over-pay a fat-cat company to
do the design; you just need a freelance dude on the
end of the internet, and there are sites for these people
too. You can visit a website where freelance programmers
hire out their services; one example is freelancermap.
They give great hourly rates and virtually all of
them know the popular Wordpress themes. So you send
them your content, describe how you wish your site to
look, and they get to work. After several hours of toing
and froing you finally (hopefully) get the webpage you
had in your mind’s eye. Of course, you need to provide
the content, which means writing your own blurb/text
and finding your own images. There are plenty of photostock
sites on the web which offer decent rates (I used
But was that enough for my gnomie-buddies?
Goblin-snot was it! They demanded more – they wanted
their own video feature! This meant I needed to do an
audio reading of their cheeky exploits. I decided to
gnome-treat myself so I splashed out on an anti-goblin
cool USB microphone, called a Yeti Blue – although any
half-decent microphone will be fine. Then I downloaded
a free audio recording software, which is one of the easiest
and least complicated to use, called Audacity. Then
you just open the recording software and mumble into
your microphone (I should add at this point that you
need to put all your phones and gadgets on ‘silent’
mode). Also, I shut my boys in a room of the house so as
not to disturb this delicate moment. i Then once I had a
suitable recording I exported it first onto my desktop
and then into my Windows Movie Maker program
(which comes as standard with all Window OS machines).
I then decided to have my own Mundus Grundy
theme tune, which I bought from a royalty-free website
full of fun and cool tunes/sound effects called Audio
Jungle (I paid $9 for my jingle). I then added the audio
voice recording, music jingle, and the images together
on the computer. If you have an Apple Mac, then you
are better off as these have some good quality installed
software for movie making. You don’t need to be a techwiz,
gnome-geek, or goblin-nerd, to create a prettydecent
image-audio video files. ii Then when you’re 80
per cent satisfied (because you’re never going to be 100
per cent satisfied, as all writers are pseudoperfectionists
– except me, of course), then you upload
to Youtube. And here’s one I prepared earlier – my
Mundus Grundy Youtube Playlist.
Once all this is done, you crack open a bottle of Babycham
or Eggnog (sugar-free), and feel smug about your
work. After this all-too brief period of complacency you
need to set to work to invade all your social media
platforms with news about your book, its website, and
the cool new video(s). You splatter your paid-for stock
images over Facebook, and pester your buddies ceaselessly.
The marketing ball then starts to roll, and you
pump out blogs, cheesy citations/extracts, and maybe
even a song or two…who knows?
And that, more or less (and more of the less), is how
I got gnomed in public...the rest, as they say, is goblinhistory!
For a list of Kingsley’s websites, please visit:
Beautiful Traitor Books: http://www.beautifultraitorbooks.com/
The Phoenix Generation: http://www.phoenix-generation.com/
i. Before anyone calls the social services, my boys are four-legged mixed-breed layabouts.
ii. For my Mundus Grundy videos, I worked with my friend’s Apple Mac, which had a better movie software installed.
Quindici Febbraio 1751
Pietro Longhi, my dear friend
Please excuse this intrusion on your valuable time, but I have come with news of the most extraordinary nature, indeed
of a creature so wondrous, that has this very hour arrived in Venice. I fear it cannot wait but that you should view it
I shall remain below while your manservant delivers this note, lest you should immediately wish to engage your curiosity.
In great haste, your most humble friend, Guido.
Pietro was never pleased at being
interrupted when working so when
Fidel crept into the studio bearing a
note, which he said was of a most
pressing nature, he was immediately
put into a frightful rage. This was
made worse at being told that his
friend, Guido, who’d brought it, was
waiting below for an answer. Poor
Fidel's knees quaked as the note was
seized from his outstretched hand
and the seal ripped off sending fragments
of red wax skidding across the
‘What is this, Guido? Are you in your
cups that you should insist upon my
seeing you, at this hour, when you of
all people know I will not countenance
being disturbed at my work?’
‘No, Pietro, not a drop has passed my
lips these last hours. I am quite sober,
but elatedly so, and indeed if I am
drunk, it is with euphoria on account
of this most remarkable creature that
I have just seen.’
‘So remarkable that it will not
‘Quite. Come, set aside your
brushes, your depiction of God in his
heaven can wait until you have seen
and marvelled at this prodigious creation
of his, for it is a mighty beast, the
like of which has never before been
seen in this city.’
‘I will come with you, but later…’
‘No. I am instructed to bring you
forthwith – "find the most renowned
painter in Venice," I was told,
"Signore Pietro Longhi no less, if he
will come, so that he may paint the
creature before the exhibition is
Guido barely gave Pietro time to grab
his cloak from Fidel before hurrying
him out of the house. February had
been blown in by a bitter east wind. It
had been driving in off the Adriatic for
days on end, bringing with it torrential
rain, occasional flurries of sleet
and snow and whipping the water of
the canals into choppy, spumecrested
waves. The only good thing
about the weather was that the rain
cleansed the cobbled alleys and the
wind dispersed the putrid smells that
even in the depths of winter rose
from the sewage festering in the canals.
‘You must capture the creature on
canvas, make its image known that all
may see of what the Almighty is capable.’
‘Are you certain, Guido, that you
have not been subjected to a joke?
Carnival week is almost upon us,
when all manner of untoward occurrences
take place and when things
may not be quite what they seem?’
‘No, I tell you, it is no masquerade.
This creature, this rhinoceros, for that
is what I am told it is called, lives,
breathes, eats, even craps. I saw it
brought off a ship, straight from India,
from whence it’s come.’
‘A rhinoceros; here in Venice?’
‘Yes, in the pit of the opera house,’ he
said as his friend went quiet.
They were crossing one of the
many narrow bridges, when Pietro
stopped abruptly, not to admire the
ornate buildings, which rose out of
the dark waters on either side of the
canal, but to scrutinize Guido’s face.
‘I have seen a likeness of this creature
before, not living, but a woodcut
by Albrecht Dürer. 1515 I think it was,
when he recorded one such captured
animal whilst on a visit to Lisbon. I
take it this one is to be exhibited at
the Carnival for all to see?’
‘Yes. And I shall take Catarina and
Beatrice, the child is so curious, she
will love it.’
‘I wonder you continue your dalliance
with that hussy, when your wife
is the most lusted after woman in the
whole of Venice.’
Guido shrugged and laughing replied,
‘Catarina is the most intriguing
and diverting of all courtesans, I could
never do without her, anyway, too
much of a good thing just makes my
lust for women the greater.’
‘You won’t laugh so heartily, my
friend, when someone else takes an
interest in your wife’s charms.’
‘Who would dare to pick a fight with
me?’ he said, grasping the hilt of his
Longhi didn’t answer, but pulledup
the collar of his cloak, not so much
to shield his face from the biting
wind, but that Guido shouldn’t see
the expression etched upon it.
Catarina scrutinized the final touches
she'd made to her maquillage; her
face, chalk white, lips accentuated
with crimson paste and her brows
plucked into fine arches above her
troubled eyes. A single, tiny, black
patch to the side of her mouth was all
that was needed before her maid
powdered her hair and placed the allenveloping
black domino around her
shoulders, disguising her voluptuous
décolletage and bone-laced slender
waist. She would carry her mask until
ready to become inconnue to all in
the crowd, but for her lover, the Cavalier,
Guido Balestra and their nineyear-old
daughter, Beatrice, who was
to accompany them to the exhibition.
It was Beatrice more than anyone in
the opera house who was transfixed
by the animal displayed in the semicircular
pit. She listened intently as
the creature’s handler pointed out
the wonders of the beast; was struck
by the pathos of the prehistoriclooking
creature, which most surely
had been on earth long before the
almighty devised man, and here,
tamed or not, was treated as an object
of curiosity. Even as behind her
mask, she gawped, her heart reached
out to it.
‘Look at this hide,’ the showman
said prodding the creature with his
whip, ‘the skin is so thick it forms
these folds, making it look as if it
Beatrice felt increasingly melancholic
as she looked at the rhinoceros’s impassive
face and noted how small its
hooded eyes were, even as her own
burnt with unshed tears. ‘Signor?’
The keeper turned with the flourish of
a well-practiced showman to where
Beatrice stood grasping her mother’s
hand and bowed to her. ‘Si, Signorina?’
‘Signor, is the creature unhappy?’
‘What an impertinent question,
Signorina! Look at Clara, is she not
well fed? Do you see any sign of fear
or aggression? Does she snort, bellow
or charge at you or the arena wall?’
‘Do you hear those satisfied grunts as
she grazes on the sweet hay I have
given her? If not happy, at least she is
not unhappy and so is content.’
‘Si, Signor, but what about her
horn, did it not hurt when you cut it
The keeper held the severed horn
above his head for all to see and
pointing to the rough patch above the
beast’s nose, explained with an exaggerated
bow, ‘I removed it for your
safety, least she is angered and
attacks!’ he said. Then dropping the
horn, he mischievously shaped two
fingers like horns on top of his head,
‘Gentlemen, beware the horns of the
cuckold, and watch out for your
wives,’ he added with a sly lopsided
Beatrice was about to sit down,
but the keeper hadn’t finished.
‘Tell me, little girl, should an animal
be happy, do they have rights to
happiness that no human has? Anyway,
I say that Clara should be very
happy for no one is going to eat her –
she’d be much too tough,’ he concluded
as with exaggerated movements
he rubbed his stomach and
masticated his jaw, his ribald actions
eliciting a roar of laughter from the
‘Now, to continue: ladies and gentlemen,
please pay attention to this
fine ungulate’s feet; notice how it has
Beatrice jumped to her feet. ‘I
can’t see. I can’t see her toes.’
Hearing her cries, an unmasked woman
sitting at the front row, turned and
beckoned to her, ‘Come, child, sit
with me,’ she said.
‘No, you mustn’t go,’ protested
Catarina, hastily raising her mask, but
too late for Beatrice was already
pushing her way through the crowd
to the front of the arena, ‘Stop her,
Guido! That’s your wife.’
‘So I’ve noticed,’ he said wryly,
‘but have no fear, she won’t know
Beatrice, even though she is my
daughter, but who, I’d like to know,
are those people with her?’
‘It’s impossible to tell with everyone
in masquerade, but one must be
her chaperone; the others are too
heavily disguised to know – you’re
not jealous are you? Since you have
me and I’m sure many others,
shouldn’t she be allowed a dalliance
‘A courtesan is not the same as a
‘Indeed not; I give you more diverse
pleasures than a wife!’ she retorted,
slipping her hand inside his
Beatrice was making her way back to
her mother when Guido noticed a
cloaked figure, tri-corn hat pulled low
over his brow, sitting on the opposite
side of the arena.
‘Ah, I do believe signor Longhi is
here again, ‘he must be very taken by
the beast to be making so public a
visit! Beatrice, go and say Guido pays
his respects and ask if he would like
to join us.’
Beatrice slipped around to where
Longhi was sitting and not liking to
interrupt the great artist at work,
waited and quietly watched over his
shoulder as he sketched, not the rhinoceros,
but Guido’s wife. ‘That’s
beautiful, Signor Longhi,’ she whispered,
making him jump. ‘It is she
who is beautiful,’ sighed Longhi as he
tried to shield the drawing from the
child’s inquisitive gaze, but not before
she’d noticed the picture also included
a caricature of Guido, wearing the
horns of a cuckold.
Veryan Williams-Wynn, spent her
childhood travelling the world in
the wake of her military father,
which led to a somewhat eclectic
and multinational education. She
married and had four children. She
then trained and worked as a sensitive
at the college of Psychic Studies
in London and as a counsellor specialising
in transpersonal psychology
perspectives, for many years
leading psychic development
She works as an audio describer
for the blind and partially sighted
at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.
Veryan has written many short
stories for all age groups, two
broadcast on local radio. In addition
to this she has written two
books (fiction) aimed at the Young
Adult market, and her book The
Spirit Trap will be published by
Lodestone Books on December 11th.
She lives on the edge of Dartmoor
As a writer you can use symbols and motifs with great
effect to enhance your writing.
A symbol is generally a single, often abstract, idea or
concept either visual or auditory, and can be an object,
picture, or even an item of clothing that helps add
depth or atmosphere to your writing or to the unique
identity of a character. There are the obvious ones: A
fedora for instance, might indicate that the character
thinks himself to be cool, or has a yearning to be a detective
or sees himself as such. A man or woman who
only wears known "labels" or drives an expensive car,
such as a four-wheel drive or Porsche, shows us that the
character is well off or is masking a feeling of inferiority.
Some are more obvious, a bird can indicate freedom
(unless it is caged then it has the opposite meaning) or a
broken mirror can indicate broken love. However, often
symbols are more subtle than this. Weapons, a piece of
music, colour, words, lighting, or nature are just some of
the ideas to use. A particular flower can have a hidden
symbolic meaning. A red rose is obvious as a symbol of
love, but author Jean Rhys uses other flowers such as
the frangipani. Frangipani is also a symbol of immortality
but also vampirism (see below). Your reader might
not get the immediate significance as it's an abstract
idea, but still, if used as a motif (as below), it can soon
take on significance and add deeper meaning and power
to your writing.
Motifs are recurring ideas that have symbolic significance.
These can add menace, foretell danger, reveal a
theme, and they generally add more depth to meaning.
Repeated colours, for instance, do not have to have the
obvious meaning. All they have to do is repeat and represent
an emotion, event or idea intermittingly throughout
the book (see the yellow or yellow-green examples
And it is these, often metaphoric or abstract, motifs
that Jean Rhys uses so profusely and effectively in her
classic novel Wide Sargasso Sea, along with her
knowledge of witchcraft (again not obvious until your
read her letters). I have used this book as one of the
best examples of symbolism and motif in a novel. Rhys
uses a combination of symbols and metaphoric motifs –
often hidden meaning – that come together to add atmosphere,
menace, and tension that makes it an excellent
book for the writer to study. As a writer, you, of
course, do not have to use as many symbols as Rhys has
done (especially in such a short book), but here it all
adds to the atmosphere of surrealness and madness,
even revealing an underlying plot. However, your own
choices would depend on what you are trying to
Wide Sargasso Sea was written by Rhys as a prequel
to Jane Eyre. It describes the background of the meeting
and marriage of Mr Rochester to his wife Bertha (who
Rhys calls Antoinette in Wide Sargasso Sea, shortened
here to WWS). In the original book, Mr Rochester, the
hero of Jane Eyre, keeps his mad wife Bertha in the
attic. Rochester realises her family have tricked him into
marrying Bertha, and thinking why should he suffer for
it, attempts to marry Jane Eyre. However, Bertha's
brother catches him and reveals the mad woman. She
later burns down his house, killing herself and maiming
him. In WWS, Rochester is not quite such a hero but is
redeemed somewhat as he has been tricked, and if the
hidden symbols and motifs are examined closely, also
drugged at times. A background theme of Obeah magic
also runs through WWS.
These motifs show up during Rochester's bewitchment.
When her husband enters the marital bedroom, he notices
that Antoinette has lit all the candles. He says,
“The room was full of shadows. There were six on the
dressing table and three on the table near the bed. The
light changed her. I had never seen her look so gay or
beautiful.” Rochester is already beginning to be bewitched.
Numerology is also important here as part of
the spell Antoinette has cast. The six and three of the
candles make nine, three multiples of three, a magical
number. If the number of candles had no meaning and
were just to add to the eerie atmosphere then Rhys
could simply have written, “The room was candlelit.” In
1952, Rhys mentions in a letter to her daughter, Maryvonne
Moerman, “I have now become a great numerologist
– at least I do think it is odd the way certain numbers
turn up over and over again in people’s lives. Two
is your number, six is mine.”
An additional symbol in this scene is when moths fly
into the candle flames and fall dead on the table during
Later in the book, almost at the end, candles again
become significant. The candles of earlier become the
cause of the fire at Rochester’s English home.
Antoinette/Bertha has a dream. She finds herself back in
Jamaica; “Suddenly, I was back in Aunt Cora’s room. I
saw the sunlight coming through the window, the tree
outside and the shadows of the leaves on the floor, but I
saw the wax candles too, I hated them.” There does not
seem to be any reason for Antoinette hating the candles
other than the backfiring of the spell that had ensured
her complete estrangement from her husband. From
then on, there was no way out of her predicament.
There are many references to flowers throughout the
book. Frangipani is mentioned numerous times. Frangipani
has other names one of which being “the graveyard
tree” as it is planted in graveyards as a symbol of
immortality. If you pick a branch, it does not die but carries
on blooming. Frangipani also called the “tree of
life”, is used in wedding bouquets, and is a symbol of
love. Significantly, in some cultures, the frangipani is
associated with vampirism, and certainly Antoinette
sucks the free will from Rochester.
Frangipani appears near the beginning of the book as
the tree that Antoinette’s mother’s horse is found dead
under, after being poisoned. It features in the form of
wedding wreaths when Rochester and Antoinette are
visiting a Windward Island called Massacre, on their
honeymoon. Rochester recalls, “Two wreaths of Frangipani
lay on the bed.” He tries on the wreath and when
he takes it off again it falls on the floor. He continues, “I
stepped on it. The room was full of the scent of crushed
flowers.” Rochester has trodden on the wedding
wreath. Symbolically he has crushed love. This is an
omen for the future and is repeated.
At the end of the book, in Antoinette/Bertha’s dream,
the same dream as when she dreams of the candles, she
says, “I saw the orchids and the stephanotis and the
jasmine and the tree of life in flames.” Orchid is a symbol
of love and means both “testicles” and “beautiful
lady” (see below), jasmine is another symbol of love,
and stephanotis is frequently found in wedding bouquets
as it means “happiness in marriage”. The tree of
life could be either the flamboyant tree or frangipani.
More significant perhaps, is the moonflower. During
the ill-fated honeymoon, when Rochester rejects his
wife, he thinks of them: “I was longing for the night and
darkness and the time when moonflowers open…”
Rochester does not like his wife by day; he does his loving
in the dark. The moonflowers he so longs for here
are also the means that almost kill him. When Antoinette
attempts her bewitchment spell, she also gives
him a potion that she gets from her Obeah woman,
Christophine. Rochester drinks it shortly after noticing
the nine candles. He wakes, not remembering anything
of the night. He had dreamt he was buried alive, and
has a feeling of suffocation. He suffers symptoms of
pain, giddiness, dull thoughts, and thirst. His symptoms
correspond with those of Datura/Brugmansia poisoning,
the plant otherwise known as “moonflower”. It grows in
the Caribbean and is frequently used in Obeah; it also
has aphrodisiac qualities, and Rochester spends a night
of passion with his wife, which disgusts him. But more
significantly, moonflower is one of the principal ingredients
There are other symbolic references to flowers in the
text, many related to love. Rochester receives a letter
from the half-brother of Antoinette, Daniel. Before this
he had felt “drowsy and content”. He folds away the
letter and finds that he still has trouble thinking clearly,
he says, “I walked stiffly nor could I force myself to
think. Then I passed an orchid with long sprays of golden-brown
flowers. One of them touched my cheek and I
remembered picking some for her one day. ‘They are
like you,’ I told her. Now I stopped, broke a spray off
and trampled it into the mud. This brought me to my
senses.” Here we have a repeated motif: again the orchid,
which is golden-brown (mentioned further below
in colour), is trampled on, as was the wreath. Rochester
has managed to break the zombification that he has
suffered since coming to Jamaica. The orchid, meaning
“beautiful lady” is crushed. Alternatively, he has crushed
the “testicles”, perhaps representing the almost masculine
or decadent passion of his wife that he seems to
find so distasteful. From this point on, it is all over, and
his passion has gone, until the spell of his wife poisons
Colour too is symbolic and magical in WSS, although
references can be found in Rhys's other novels, and in
her autobiography and letters. In a letter to her daughter
Maryvonne in 1954 about room colours, she writes,
“I have discovered that colours are very important –
Red is energetic but quarrelsome, blue, silver, or best of
all flowered wallpaper, restful. White is clean and gay
and so on.”
In WSS, colours are connected with mood, but also
bewitchment. Yellow and yellow-green have sinister
connotations. When describing Christophine, the Obeah
woman, Antoinette remembers, “I can see the yellow
handkerchief she wore round her head, tied in the Martinique
fashion with the sharp points in front.” As a symbol
there are connotations here of devil horns. During
the ill-fated honeymoon, Rochester goes to visit Antoinette’s
mixed race, half-brother, Daniel. He describes
him as having a “thin yellow face”. He wants to get
away from his “yellow sweaty face”. As he leaves the
brother, he sees a tethered goat, which mesmerizes him
for several minutes with its “slanting yellow-green
The yellow motif, with its implications of evil, continues.
Soon after the visit to Antoinette’s brother, and
shortly before Rochester is poisoned, he sees his wife
shiver and remembers “[that] she had been wearing a
yellow shawl.” He fetches it and puts it around her
shoulders. When he is poisoned and later wakes, he
sees a blanket that was a “particular shade of yellow”.
He has been unable to vomit although he retches, but
after looking at the blanket for some time, he finds he is
able to. And the orchid mentioned in the previous section
that he tramples on, was golden-brown so also has
a yellow tinge. Yellow seems to alert Rochester to evilness
and bewitchment and helps him break it.
There are many such references to colour throughout
the text. One of the ways in which colour is used by
Rhys is in signifying bewitchment. After bewitchment
colour seems more vibrant. After being ill with fever just
before his marriage, Rochester suffers suspected bewitchment
at the hands of Antoinette’s stepbrother,
Mason. Rochester only remembers three weeks of the
month he has spent in Jamaica. He arrives in Massacre
for his honeymoon. There is a wall of green on one side
of them as they climb upward. He comments on this,
“what an extreme green”. As they ride on he thinks that
everything is too much, “too much blue, too much purple,
too much green. The flowers too red...” Rochester
realises that he has “sold his soul.” Later he remembers
how he felt when first arriving in Jamaica. He realises
that he cannot remember everything. “There are blanks
in my mind that cannot be filled up”, he thinks. He tries
to remember. “It was all brightly coloured, very
strange…” He recalls, “I remember little of the actual
ceremony”, and “I hardly remember what she looked
Rhys adds in a postscript to one of her letters, “P.S. I
hear that morning glory seeds chewed slowly, work
wonders – so am trying to get some. Must say I’m willing
to try new things – they act like mescalin (on dit). I
don’t believe it do you?”
The hidden meaning in colour here is also the possibility
of mescaline poisoning. In 1953 Aldous Huxley
took mescaline/mescalin in the presence of an investigator
and sat down and waited to see what would happen.
When he opened his eyes everything was transformed.
Huxley describes his experience in The Doors of
Perception. He first sees a vase of flowers “shining with
their own inner light”. He then notices the books on his
study walls he writes:
Like the flowers, they glowed, when I looked at them,
with brighter colours, a profounder significance. Red
books, like rubies; emerald books; books bound in white
jade; books of agate; of aquamarine, of yellow topaz;
lapis lazuli books whose color was so intense…
So Mescaline poisoning may well have been used in the
bewitchment of Rochester, which caused him to seek
retribution of his own in punishing Antoinette. But Rhys
does not explain any of this. It is all in the motifs.
Colour is significant for Antoinette too, especially red.
Near the end of the book, Antoinette is ensconced in
her attic, but she is cared for by Grace Poole. She has a
red dress, which she describes as being the colour of
“fire and sunset” and “the colour of flamboyant flowers”.
She says, “If you are buried under a flamboyant
tree (flame)…your soul is lifted up when it flowers.” She
recalls that her husband had once said that she looked
“intemperate and unchaste” in the dress. To Rochester
red was decadent, but for Antoinette it meant home,
life, and the light after her own zombification in the
dark. In her final dream, Antoinette sees the sky and
says, “It was red and all my life was in it”.
A more usual interpretation of Antoinette/Bertha’s
leap from the roof at the end of the book is perhaps
that she symbolically burns as a witch as punishment by
the outside world. However, if we look at the scene
closely, we see she apparently jumps into what she believes
is the pool at the first home where she lived and
felt she belonged in, and which was destroyed by fire.
For her, red was living, passion, love, warmth, sun, and
Good use is also made of the parrot as a motif, particularly
linking it to the colour red (or fire). The pet parrot
had died in an earlier fire. Now as the house burns
(told also in Jane Eyre), Antoinette remembers the
death of the parrot: “He made an effort to fly down but
his clipped wings failed him and he fell screeching. He
was all on fire…it was very unlucky to kill a parrot, or
even to see a parrot die.” This was a prophecy for Antoinette.
She paid for her own misdeeds with her miserable
life with Rochester in England. In her dream about
the fire at the English house, Antoinette stands on the
battlements, she recalls, “The wind caught in my hair
and it streamed out like wings. It might bear me up, I
thought, if I jumped to those hard stones.” Like the parrot,
her wings have been clipped, but like the parrot,
she jumps to the freedom of death.
There is so much more in the way of symbolism in this
book that is not mentioned here. But it more than adequately
demonstrates just how effectively symbolism
and motif can be used in your writing to add an extra
dimension. Often symbols are used so subtly that we do
not notice them except on a subconscious level, but
what they add to the text is a rich tapestry of underlying
threads that deepen themes and add power and atmosphere.
Symbolism adds meaning that is more abstract
Examine some of your favourite books and look for
the symbolism and motifs and at how the author has
used them to good effect. Look at your own writing
themes to see where you can add more depth with the
use of symbolism and metaphoric motif. Meanwhile,
Wide Sargasso Sea is worth a read for this purpose.
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
I had the pleasure of attending the
Society of Children’s Book Writers
and Illustrators International Conference
two weeks ago and found it
an eye-opening experience. If you
don’t know about SCBWI, stop reading
this and check out the organization’s
chapter near you (but then
come back!). As I have my first novel
debuting this year, The Last Stop,
young adult Sci-fi through the JHP
Lodestone imprint, I attended a session
titled (you guessed it,) The Debut
Prior to that, I didn’t have a clue
about what to do except pleading
for positive reviews from fellow authors
trying to do the same thing.
After the session I felt ready to push
on beyond that and wanted to share
what I learned. I’ll pepper my prose
with a few quotes from the conference’s
luminaries (not me,) in the
hopes of both entertaining and informing
Keynote address: “We have 1200
attendees this year, and after 42
years finally more than a few men. I
know that because this is the first
year we have lines at the men’s
The presenters for The Debut Year
were three best-selling authors who
shared their experiences and
offered a road map of what and
when they would do things to debut
their book if they had it to do over
Virginia Boecker, The Witch Hunter
Stacey Lee, Under a Painted Sky
Nicola Yoon, Everything
Here is the outline they provided
(with a few added comments from
me. That’s what writers do!):
One-Year Out: Get on social media,
but only the sites you like. Don’t
over commit. Nobody can do all of
it and still have time to write (or get
a good night’s sleep.)
Join a debut group, like OneFour
KidLit, the Fearless Fifteeners, Sweet
Create a website. Rip off ideas
from your favorite authors.
Think about who you would like
to blurb your book.
Stacey Lee: “Don’t ever read a review
of your book on GoodReads.
The first time I did, I cried for two
weeks and told my husband I would
never write again. He took my computer
away and gave me a yellow
pad and pen.”
Four to Six Months Out:
Reveal your book. (I’m still not sure
what that means.) They suggested
YA Highway, YA books Central, The
Midnight Garden, Adventures in YA.
Make some swag!
Book marks (never glossy, always
matte so you can write on them.)
Cookies with a frosted cover of
Choose a launch party date for your
book and book it. This usually takes
place in a bookstore near you that
will be happy to host you provided:
they don’t have to pay anything, you
bring frosted cookies with your cover
on them, and coerce as many
friends as you can to show up.
You’ll happily sign your books for
people you were sure were going to
buy them anyway (or you won’t
speak to them,) and celebrate one
of the great achievements of your
Plan events with other authors near
Virginia Boecker: There’s nothing
worse than having a book signing
and three people show up. If you
have other authors co-host the
event with you, you can claim some
of their people were yours.
Get in touch with local librarians
and schools. Send some swag their
At the End (Two months before Onsale
Consider giving stuff away on
Twitter or blogs run by sane people.
Set up a pre-order campaign. (Tell
your friends who ate the frosted
cookies with your cover on it those
cookies weren’t free.)
Send out launch party invites.
Nicola Yoon: I stopped reading my
Amazon reviews. The last one I read
gave me one star. The comment
said, “Your book arrived two weeks
The Big Day!
Congratulations! You did it! Take a
minute to enjoy the moment!
Go to your launch party. People are
expecting you! If you’re doing a
reading, keep it short so they’ll buy
the book! Don’t forget to bring a
guestbook for people to sign. Do a
give-away. Feed your guests those
frosted cookies. Make them feel
guilty if they don’t pre-order!
Take a break from writing, but not
too long. You’re just getting started!
What Never to do During Your Debut
Year (or ever!)
Read your reviews on GoodReads,
Amazon, or anywhere else.
Talk smack about anyone on social
Find a writers group and make
friends. You’re going to need people
to commiserate with.
Good luck to everyone, and enjoy!
Dr. Michael Burnam, MD is a cardiologist
and scientist, and inventor
of one of the world's first heartattack
tests. Besides writing, he
enjoys active sports, fishing with
his sons, theater and music, and
bouncing writing ideas off his wife
and fellow writer, Jessica. He is
the author of The Last Stop
published by Lodestone Books
Gertrude Anne, you better watch
That sassy mouth.
The devil is going to get you.
A stern message from her mother,
For having a say about things.
Stubborn as the front door, swollen and stuck on a muggy July afternoon.
Barreling barefoot around the farm,
A 10-year-old powerhouse,
Waving a big stick.
Toes darkened with mud, a remnant from the morning rain.
She was on the lookout, a sharp eye,
She’d give that devil what for
If she saw him first.
She could fight
When she needed to.
Her big brother found out,
Both teenagers now.
He thought he could snatch that drumstick
Right off her plate
But she and her daddy got them,
It was their Sunday dinner tradition.
She took it back,
Had a big ol’ bite.
His hands wrapped around her throat,
Tight as last year’s church stockings.
Her knee landed the blow,
Where it counted.
“I’m not taking it anymore” she screamed,
Her voice strong, a force rising in her.
Off she went,
Safe among the cornstalks, hidden.
She could hear them,
Calling her name, as she
Drifted to sleep
Under the nightlight of the moon.
She never knew what happened, but
He never touched her again.
She tells the story from time to time.
Now as Trudy – Gertrude never fit.
She still has plenty to say.
Carries a cane now,
Just shy of 92,
Still warding off the devil.
He never had a chance.
Arranged in an alluring pyramid, piled high.
A batch of blueberry bars.
Of a dessert my mother made for company.
A time when eating and innocence did not reside
In separate universes.
Heavy on my plate,
Dense buttery crust, a thick layer of blueberries
Peeking out under crumb topping and a dusting of powdered sugar.
The chilled plate clinks on the counter, and
The barstool accepts my fleshy ass without judgment,
Berries ooze between my teeth,
A surprise tang of lemon,
Tattoo of sugar on my black trousers.
My tongue swirls, circles to catch
An escaped flake of crust.
A symphony of flavors.
Create an opulent tapestry for my taste buds.
Bliss is a baked blueberry
I see them everywhere now.
Our daughters too, so strong and beautiful,
They found one on the track that wraps around the schoolyard
And then another under the antique oak table at the Lodge,
Our sanctuary, while you were in hospice.
Did I ever tell you the story?
It was Kim.
A connection from home
And, a welcome friend when I moved to California.
Just before her grandmother died she gave Kim a jar of dimes,
An odd collection.
When her mother died years later,
The dimes started appearing.
Shiny distractions from her grief.
Comfort tucked away in her pocket.
I found one,
The morning I lost you.
The glint of it catching my eye,
Nestled along the edge of the cemetery.
I was there to pick out your plot,
Awash with the surreal absurdity of it,
To make this decision on my own,
Choosing where I’d leave you to rest.
You’d like it.
Plenty of shade from a giant elm,
And, a nice view of the park across the street.
I laid down along the length of your grave,
Under the cobalt sky,
A surprising gem on an April day in Iowa,
A stark contrast to the usually dreary grey.
It felt like home.
And now I sit at dinner with my twin sister and cousin,
At a vineyard in Temecula.
You would have loved it here,
Tranquility falling over us
Like the soft white clouds blanketing the mountains.
It rained today,
It was the waitress who discovered the dime under my chair.
She placed it beside me on the table
And the aching for you lifted for a moment.
I long to feel you,
The warmth of your belly pressed against the small of my back,
Lulling me to sleep on a Saturday morning.
Safe in the wrap of your arms.
The dime rests in my hand,
A perfect gift.
Margot Burns is a Midwestern native transplanted firmly
in Denver, Colorado where she enjoys a passion for creating
stories about family, food, love, and the revelations
of personal growth. Her book "Wide Awake Musings
from an Unconscious Life" is due out the summer of
2016. In the meantime, she maintains a career coaching
and vocational rehabilitation practice and is a certified
teacher of the Enneagram personality system.
Sam and Chloe never thought they would spend the summer
holidays fighting a battle against the dark past that haunts
Kingsholt, a mansion inherited by Chloe's parents.
A long time ago the Vikings burnt down the monastery that was
built near Kingsholt. A few monks who escaped hid the monastery's
treasure and dug a pit in which to bury the slaughtered
monks. They swore that if anyone opened up the pit and used it
for other purposes a darkness would fall over the area.
Nimbus,an obsessive one-time circus hypnotist and acrobat,
lives with his wife and two children in a cottage in the woods of
Kingsholt. He opens up the pit and uses it for all his rubbish.
With death, kidnap and madness ensuing, can Sam and Chloe
and their guardian Aidan, bring back the light to Kingsholt?
Here is a fine and beautifully written adventure story with all the
cliff-hanger elements needed to keep one in suspense: murderous
plots and an ancient mystery, riddles, clues, rhymes and a
map, darkness and ambush in a forest, a burial pit and a hidden
tunnel, a time warp of omens and terror where innocence and
evil fight to the death and beyond.
~ Mandy Pannett
Susan Skinner has published seventeen books of which the following
are for young adults or children. She is married with
three children. When her sister died she and her husband
looked after the four children who were left. She now lives
alone with her dog Alfie who is waiting for his story to be told!
Pre-order on Amazon
I’ve been told to chill. “Don’t worry.
Be happy,” they say. “It’s all good.”
I appreciate the cool, laissez-faire
attitude, but I grew up alongside
apathetic Gen Xers who were the
first Internet trolls, the first gamers,
the first Goths, and the first speedmetal
heads who blasted Metallica’s
For Whom the Bell Tolls. Now, Gen
Xers might be considered dystopian
downer dudes as we creep into middle
age, but perhaps that sentiment
will change when the government
starts cutting up EBT cards and kicks
us off the free, bitchin’ Santa Monica
debt wave we’ve been riding for
the last couple of fun-filled decades
where “money for nothing, growth
for free” pervaded. Like Jeff Spicoli
(played by Sean Penn) saying, “I can
fix it” when he smashes up Jefferson’s
Trans-Am in the film Fast
Times at Ridgemont High, governments
often give us the same line
with foreign and economic policy as
they wander through the turnstiles
of Congress passing the baton to the
next set of anointed who continue
making syrupy promises about our
future. As the middleclass lives out
the tale spun by Stephen King’s
Thinner, we might find ourselves
picking up a dystopian novel to relive
our despondent youths. In other
words, if you feel angry about the
current political milieu, then you
just might be a dystopian author.
In most cases, the dystopian genre
explores a fictional future, tapping
into present fears about the
path society currently travels. The
art is in imagery of the not yet invented
but easily imagined. It’s not
a surprise the dystopian genre is
often lumped together with science
fiction (check out Amazon’s browse
categories) where technology plays
a crucial role. Robotics, nanotechnology,
advanced artificial intelligence,
cloning, and all other derivatives
of advanced, imaginable technology
are often used as colors on
the canvas painted into a reader’s
mind. In George Orwell’s 1984, the
all-seeing Big Brother uses the
telescreen. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave
New World, reproductive factories
of the future are used to produce a
limited number of citizens preordained
to a caste-world void of pain.
1. As you’re writing dystopian fiction,
think about how to take current
technologies and extrapolate.
When you have a vision of what that
might look like, ask yourself how it
changes the society that does not
Other dystopian novels avoid the
technological aspect, but drive one
forward with a central theme (book
burning with Fahrenheit 451, ultraviolence
with A Clockwork Orange,
and the cycle of revolution to despotism
in Animal Farm).
2. Discover what the central theme
is and then explore it with indefatigable
Better dystopian novels have two
things in common:
3. The narrative pushes internal
events to an extreme. Drive the plot
forward so that at the climax, there
is a big sense of doom. How are the
characters taking us there? In dystopian,
a lot of times resolution of the
central conflict comes in death (The
Road, 1984), but before that a force
exists inside the story driving the
reader towards the second crucial
4. The inherent message within
closely associated with a burning
fire inside the author’s stomach. In
Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake,
corporate domination led by biotech companies pushing
the envelope of manufactured micro-organisms (the
theme) causes the inevitable collapse of mankind. The
message: man is too smart for his own good; unfettered
technological advancement without ethical consideration
will have disastrous consequences. In The Hunger
Games by Suzanne Collins, reality TV is pushed to a violent
extreme (the theme). The message: gladiator
games appealing to the masses distract from the true
nature of the world within the thirteen districts. The
Surveillance State in George Orwell’s 1984 is all pervasive
(the theme). History is rewritten to suite Big Brother’s
needs, and the nation is in a perpetual state of war
(any of that sound familiar). The whole book is one big
message warning us about the nature of totalitarianism.
Why do readers latch on to such pessimistic, futuristic
novels instead of utopian works? Why are we dystopian
downer dudes/dudettes? Perhaps the reason lies in
what Nietzsche said, “If you wish to strive for peace of
soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee
of truth, then inquire.”
5. Dystopia seeks to uncover truth in the morass of the
present by projecting the problems of today into the
future and amplifying them. When the author is successful
at doing this, the writing immediately becomes
Let’s face it, utopia is a bore. As readers, we sense
utopia as innately unachievable. Humans aren’t wired
for stories without conflict, and perfect-world scenarios
are a bigger lie than the leap of faith it takes to jump us
into dystopian futures. Likewise, we’ve lived the horrors
of dystopia through two world wars. We’ve seen the gas
chambers smoking, the walking skeletons griping
barbed wire fences clinging for their lives, the groupthink
and fascism, the thought control.
6. When writing in a dystopian genre where the future
usually isn’t so bright, one can draw on horrific examples
of the past for macabre imagery. Keep in mind, almost
all dystopian fiction uses stark, depressing imagery
within the prose. What is crucial is to create something
unique that will stick in reader’s minds.
Much more based in the reality we know and understand,
dystopia magnetizes a reader’s sense of fatalism
when we speak of hopelessly deadlocked politics and
looming social and economic problems we all see habitually.
The battlefield spreads itself wide and far in dystopian
novels, where the imagination can dive into futuristic
minefields. Considering the current political landscape
and where we seem to be headed, a resurgence
of the adult dystopian theme is inevitable (young adult
seems to be already saturated and lacks a certain tie to
the present in most cases).
7. The key to writing great dystopian fiction is to entrench
yourself in current affairs. Does it piss you off? If
so, then the fire in the belly will help you create great
prose. Can you transfer it to paper? After each passing
day, the narrative lie becomes the inkling of truth. Militarization
of the police force, Ferguson, Edward Snowden
and his NSA revelations, BigDogs, Petman and advanced
robotics, crony capitalism and a ballooning kleptocracy
in a perpetual state of war are all spicy ingredients
for the next dystopian stew. Will you be the one to
write it? I don’t know, but you as the author have a
chance to say something, to slam home a point, so don’t
let the opportunity slip away. How do you see the world
differently and how can you express that through your
characters without writing a diatribe on your beliefs?
Therein lies the art of dystopian fiction.
Roderick Vincent is the author of the upcoming Minutemen
series about a dystopian America. The first
novel, titled The Cause, is out now. He has lived in the
United States, England, Switzerland, and the Marshall
Islands. His work has been published on the Ploughshares
blog, StrayLight (University of Wisconsin,
Parkside) and Offshoots (a Swiss publication).
When Headline Murder, my first crime mystery, was
published on 28 August this year, it appeared the same
day on six book bloggers’ sites. Starting with a bang?
Well, perhaps not in the megaton class – but not a
With the book pages of the national and provincial
press now virtually ignoring genre
fiction – certainly published in
paperback – book bloggers offer
one of the few places where it is
still possible to start the buzz.
But as I discovered as I entered
the bloggers’ territory, this
is a strange world populated with
geekish passions, super-sized
egos and cunningly disguised elephant
traps. I’ve stumbled along,
fallen down a few times but, I
think, learnt one or two things
which might be helpful to other
writers taking the same journey.
To start with, there are hundreds
of book bloggers out there
– but they’re not all the same.
There are lots who love romantic
fiction, plenty serving the young
adult market – and, thankfully,
quite a few who have an interest
in crime. (Books, that is, rather
than burglary.) Book bloggers
seem to have between a few hundred
and few thousand followers.
The largest I’ve found so far has 8,000.
My first step was to research the market. It’s quite
simple to get lists of book blogging sites – in fact, there
are plenty on the John Hunt Publishing database – but
it’s not enough just to blast out a standard e-mail to
them. You need to research each one individually.
I’ve found that you gain a pretty good idea whether a
site is going to be one for your book simply by looking at
it. If it’s all pretty pink, kittens and cupcakes, you’re in
the world of romantic fiction. Werewolves and dragons
indicate fantasy and the supernatural. Dark streets with
lonesome figures spotlighted by street lamps suggest
you might have hit on thriller and crime territory.
Many but not all of the bloggers have a “reviews policy”
section on their website. It’s helpful if they do. And
it’s here where the egos shine through – not so much in
what they’re asking for as the way they ask it. Some
adopt a relaxed tone, others are more prescriptive. It’s
important, I’ve found, to study this section closely and
read between the lines. Sometimes you can discover a
particular interest or secret passion which might help
open the door for your offering.
It is also important to look
closely at the books they’ve
reviewed in the past. I’ve
found that it doesn’t generally
matter so much if they
haven’t reviewed books exactly
like yours, as long as
what you offer is not radically
Another element I look for on
the site is whether they carry
material other than their own
book reviews. Quite a few
publish guest posts, book
extracts, question and answer
sessions with authors,
or giveaways. I’ve even found
bloggers prepared to accept
short stories – and have actually
When studying a site, I might
spend anything from one minute
(obviously not suitable)
up to 20 minutes (a strong
and significant prospect) before deciding how to make
my move. When I started, I made the mistake of offering
only a review copy. Many bloggers say they are
overwhelmed with review copies – the last thing they
want is more, but they may accept a different offer.
In the first 20 contacts I made, I had only one positive
response. In the nine most recent contacts, I’ve had
four positive responses (so far).
The key to getting a response, I’ve found, is to hit on
something which the site it likely to want – such as a
guest post or an author’s Q&A. But you must do more
than offer this in general terms. Study what the site has
covered before and offer a topic that seems to fit the
As I journeyed deeper into book blogging territory, I
discovered the concept of the “blog tour”. Publishers,
and authors, arrange a series of blog appearances on a
succession of blog sites over a series of days. Usually,
this takes place just before or when the book has been
launched. But not always. I’m currently putting together
what I’ve called the “Autumn Blog Tour” for Headline
There are companies out there that will put a blog
tour together for you. One I looked at wanted to charge
me $450 for getting me onto 10 blogs and $650 for 15
blogs. In fact, I’ve exceeded that without paying a penny.
If you’re putting together a blog tour, you need to
arrange for each post to appear on a different day according
to a timetable coordinated between the blogs.
Then you must provide the timetable to all the blogs so
they can publish it.
So what’s the result? In the first two weeks following
publication, Headline Murder has appeared on 12 blogs
and has been promised coverage on a further nine. Two
of the blogs have carried reviews – one giving the book
five stars; the other, using a different system, rating it
“highly recommended”. And other blogs have carried
guest posts, Q&As, and book extracts. Most of them
carried links to Amazon.
But all this leaves an unanswered question. Does it all
make any difference to sales? As far as my book is concerned,
it is too early to say. What I can say is that it’s
hard work, but fun. And it’s started a buzz.
Peter Bartram brings years of experience as a
journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle series
(www.colincrampton.com). His byline has appeared
in scores of newspapers and magazines on
articles covering many subjects from film-making
to finance. His 21 books on biography, current
affairs and popular how-to topics have received
coverage in newspapers as diverse as The Daily
Telegraph and Daily Mirror - and he's promoted his
work on radio and television. Peter's versatile
range of work includes a radio play, a comic strip
and a magazine serial. He lives in Shoreham-by-sea
and is a member of the Society of Authors.
Slave of the Cannibal God
Raymond Chandler called it cannibalizing.
And anything Chandler espoused has become
my unofficial mantra, since it’s common
knowledge to people who know me or my
writing that I frequently (accidentally) set fire
to incense in honour of the man who’s my
Chandler’s idea was to cannibalize material
from his short stories to pad out novels like
The Big Sleep, and it’s an approach I applied
– in spades – when I tackled the writing of
my fifth novel, Small Change, which is being
published via Roundfire Fiction in December.
In my case, however, the process turned into
multimedia pilfering, since I was disassembling
not only previous short stories – most,
admittedly, that revolve around key Small
Change characters Roy Scherer and Suzie
Miller, yet not all – but ransacking previous
comic stories I’d written as well. Again, Roy
and Suzie were the characters there, the
“stars” of an Australian comic book series
called Tales to Admonish (via IF? Commix).
Turning comics into other media isn’t exactly
new – back in the 1940s there were cliffhanger
cinema shorts made out of Batman and
Captain America – and no more needs to be
uttered about the recent Marvel Comics
But stripping sequential stories to turn them
into a novel isn’t quite as common as you’d
Writing comics is an easier task for the
scribe, since the artist carries much of the
burden (I speak here from some experience
as both), and when translating this into
words on a page, minus the graphics, our
author has to start earning his keep. There
are settings to describe, people to outline, all
the usual writerly brouhaha.
Nicking previous short stories is much easier;
all you really need do is change the names,
some of the character quirks, and occasionally
third-person narration to first.
I was forced to think about all these things
with Small Change.
I also needed to work on timelines and continuity,
since the stories take place at various
stages in the life of our principle narrator Roy
Scherer, from age sixteen to his mid-30s, and
how to make stand-alone stories fit together
as a cohesive whole.
But I think I was lucky in this respect.
Since 1996 I’ve also been making music
(under the alias of ‘Little Nobody’), and the
kind of sounds I produce could be loosely
described as experimental electronic. While
heavily influenced by the tape-loop cut-ups
of Cabaret Voltaire in the 1970s, I’m also
handy with a sampler and fell in love with the
concept of remixing (my tracks as well as
other people’s). This means dissection and
rearrangement to create new entities, right
on into entire albums, so it was a matter of
applying this aural approach to that of
writing – and voilà.
If only I did these things as cannily as Chandler.
Andrez Bergen is an expatriate
Australian author, journalist, DJ,
photographer and musician, based in
One of Chicago News's Most
Anticipated Books for Fall and
Based on true events
Günter squats near the collapsed walls
of a former villa while his best friend
Helmut digs underneath a sideboard,
all that remains of a kitchen. They’re
searching for valuables, anything suitable
to trade on the black market. It’s
July 1945, World War II has ended.
Tires screech. A truck door slams.
“What are you boys doing?” a voice
yells in broken German.
Günter looks up from the rubble.
“Searching for stuff.”
“It’s forbidden to remove items
from bombsites.” The man in a British
military uniform waves a rifle.
Günter keeps his eyes on the gun
and the man’s pistol on the leather
belt. “We didn’t know.”
“Now you do.” The soldier sounds
irritated. “This is city property. Read
the announcements.” As Günter and
Helmut scramble down the street, the
officer yells after them. “Next time,
you’ll be arrested.”
“At least he doesn’t know our
names,” Günter pants. He slumps behind
a fence, ignoring the rumbling in
his middle. Dinner is a long time away.
“Or where we live,” Helmut adds.
“Now, what? I’ve got to get firewood.”
“So we go back?”
Günter shrugs. He isn’t afraid.
“Maybe another place. Surely, they
can’t have guards everywhere. Half the
town is in ruins.”
Helmut shakes his head. “I can’t
believe we are forbidden to take anything.”
“How are we supposed to survive?”
“Ridiculous.” Günter’s cheeks burn
with frustration. “Next, they’ll tell us
when to use the bathroom.”
“They’ll have an administrator of
shit,” Helmut sneers.
“An commissioner of outhouses
and water closets.”
Helmut scratches his head. “I need
firewood, too. We’re almost out.”
Günter grins. “I know a place with a
collapsed roof.” Roof trusses burn long
“We’ll need saws.”
“Wait at the corner, I’ll get them.”
Günter races off. At least my house still
stands, he muses as he approaches the
row of modest apartment buildings.
“Mutter, I’ll be back in an hour,” he
yells into the kitchen, a handsaw and
ax tucked under his shirt.
The knock on the door startles him.
He expected Helmut to wait for him at
their meeting place down the street.
Irritated, he yanks open the door.
“What? I thought you were—”
The visitor looks alien. Blackish filth
covers his skin as if he’s spent years in
a coalmine. His pants, held up by a
piece of cord, are ripped, his shirt peppered
with holes. Sores fester on arms
“It’s me,” the figure says.
Günter stares at the face and recognizes
the voice of his older brother.
“Mutter, come quick,” he yells over
his shoulder. “Oh…come in.” He motions
the skeletal visitor into the house,
searching for something to say. His
throat feels strangely hoarse. “Man,
you stink. How are you?”
“Much better…now that I’m home.”
His brother grimaces through the
muck. “I haven’t washed…”
“Hans!” As his mother hugs his
brother, Günter tries to hide his shock.
His brother looks like a scarecrow left
to rot in the field. His once muscular
arms are thin as sticks, leaving his skin
in loose wrinkles. He seems to have
“Let’s get you cleaned up.” His
mother wipes away a tear. “Günter?”
“I’m right here.”
“Fetch water, enough to fill the tub.
Better go twice.”
Günter snatches the buckets. Anything
is better than watching the crumpled
figure in the kitchen.
His brother left last October, drafted
as part of the Volkssturm, the people’s
storm, one of Hitler’s last
attempts of fueling the war with Germany’s
adolescents. He’d just turned
seventeen when he marched off to join
the radio news troop.
They have to help his brother into
the bath. In former times Günter
would’ve been embarrassed to see him
naked. Now he doesn’t care. His brother
reminds him of a child, helpless and
weak. They scrub and wipe, using their
last reserves of soap to remove months
of grime. At last, when the water is
black as diluted coal, and dead lice and
a layer of muck cover the tub, his
mother is satisfied. His brother’s skin is
marked with brownish residue and red
welts, but he looks human again.
Though Günter is relieved that his
brother is safe, he soon longs to be
outside and away. With ever dwindling
rations, he’s hoped his brother would
help organize supplies. With an extra
mouth to feed, they urgently need
food. But a cloud hangs wherever his
brother is. Sometimes he talks but it
doesn’t sound like the old Hans.
Meals—watery soups with shreds of
potatoes and a few onion rings—are
glum, their attempts at conversation
awkward. His brother twitches all the
time and Günter grows impatient when
he speaks haltingly or stops in midsentence.
Mostly Hans remains silent.
All they know is that he was captured
by the British Army in early 1945 and
walked home from somewhere north.
“We’ll have to scrounge,” Günter
says a week later, staring at the kitchen
table scrubbed clean and polished as if
it demands food. It’s his way of saying
they’ll steal. What choice does he
have? Their pantry is empty, stores
Hans nods. “I’ll come.”
“We go after dark.” Günter glances
at his brother. “It’s safer. People are
roaming all over the place. I’ll tell
A half-moon throws shadows across
their path, making it hard to see where
they’re going. The air smells fragrant of
grasses and blossoms, nature’s indifference
to the destruction around them.
Summer has begun in earnest, lulling
them with blue skies and warm
temperatures. They find a handful of
red currants in a front yard, the acidic
fruit making Günter even hungrier.
They have gone farther this time to
increase their chances. As they stop at
the edge of a field of dark, leafy plants,
Günter bends low. “You know what
this is?” he whispers, barely containing
“No idea.” Helmut sinks to his
knees. “My feet are killing me.” He’s
grown quickly during the year and is
much taller than Hans and Günter.
“Sugar beets.” Günter fingers the
leaves. “They’ve been left for the second
season, so they’ll be sweeter. Otherwise,
they wouldn’t be this big yet.”
He yanks at a stalk. The leaves tear but
the root remains in the earth.
“What are we going to use them
for? Make sugar?” Helmut has taken
off one of his shoes. His sock has a
large hole and a big toe pokes through
“Molasses, you idiot,” says Günter,
sounding sharper than intended.
Sometimes he’s tired of being in
“Hmmm, molasses.” His brother’s
voice carries easily across the field.
“Shsh,” Günter hisses. “The farmhouse
is probably close.”
“Let’s hurry then. I’ll collect.”
Helmut begins rummaging through his
pack in search for a sack. Günter grabs
a pointed rock to dig. It has been dry
for weeks and the earth is hard and
clumpy. His shirt is drenched with
sweat as the pile of beets slowly
Günter glances at his brother who
sits motionless. “Why don’t you help?”
A dog barks in the distance. Günter
freezes. There, more sounds: twigs
breaking and heavy footsteps. Quietly,
he crawls backward into a clump of
hazelnut bushes, dragging the beet
sack with him. Helmut follows, remembering
his shoe at the last second.
“Who’s there? Damn thieves!” A
voice drifts through the brush to their
right. “You’re stealing my crop.” A shot
“Where’s Hans?” Günter peeks
through the leaves. “Damn.”
Now free of clouds, the moon
bathes the field in bluish light. Hans
sits near the place they dug. He is
A man appears next to Hans, rifle in
hand. “What’re you doing in my field?”
Günter keeps peeking through the
undergrowth. The farmer has to be in
his seventies. He is bald with the ruddy
skin of a life spent outdoors. “Answer
me!” he says. “I should shoot you on
the spot.” His dog snarls as if to emphasize
“Why don’t you?” Hans’s voice
floats across. “I don’t care. I’ve had
“What are you doing in my field?”
the farmer asks.
“Taking a few beets.”
Günter hold his breath, watching…
waiting. Beads of sweat roll down his
temples and chest. Any minute now
the farmer will attack. Günter will never
forgive himself if his brother gets
hurt—even if he is positively crazy. His
eyes on the dog, Günter gets to his
knees. He has to show himself, confess
to the farmer that it was his idea.
“Son, how old are you?” the old
man is just saying.
“You alone?” The farmer scans the
dirt, which shows the fresh marks of
Hans remains silent. Günter shifts
his weight. His knees ache. He can’t
wait much longer.
“You been in the war?”
“Thought so.” With a sigh the man
sets down his rifle. “Listen. You shouldn’t
run around at all times of night.
You’re liable to get killed. Just because
the war is over doesn’t mean it’s safe.”
Hans says nothing.
Why don’t you move, Günter
thinks. Do something. But he feels paralyzed
just like his brother. To his surprise,
the farmer stiffly drops to his
knees and begins to yank and twist at
the leaves, the bulbous roots pulling
The farmer stuffs the beets into
Hans’s arms. “Take these and get yourself
home. Don’t come back. Next time
you may not be so lucky.”
Hans stumbles and nearly falls into
the bushes. He keeps walking, having
seemingly forgotten about his company.
Günter watches the farmer walk off
in the opposite direction.
“Hans?” Günter whispers. “Over
“I can’t believe this,” Helmut says.
“He got the beets for free. Didn’t even
have to dig.”
“Let’s go.” Günter races to catch up
with his brother. “I’ll help you carry.”
Hans hands over his beets in silence.
As the gray of dawn crawls
across the sky, they hike through the
woods. Günter keeps glancing at his
brother but Hans never speaks. He
used to be strong and order me
around, Günter thinks. Now I’m the
leader. Somehow he resents Hans’s
As the first mottled light filters
through the trees, Hans suddenly
throws himself on the ground, his face
pale as the birch bark behind him.
“You all right?” Günter says.
“You don’t look fine.”
Hans blinks, his eyes shiny. “Leave
me alone.” He rolls on his side, facing
away from Günter.
“What happened out there? You
could’ve been killed.” Günter tries to
control his breath. He is fuming. “Next
time we’ll go without you.”
“You almost got us caught,” Helmut
says. “And shot.”
Hans remains silent as if he hasn’t
Günter shrugs in frustration and
grabs the beets. “Let’s go home. It isn’t
far now.” Hans continues to lie on the
ground. Running out of patience Günter
taps him on the shoulder. “Come
on.” His brother jerks and slaps hard at
the hand, his eyes wild. “Ouch!” Günter
yells. “Why did you punch me?”
Hans’s eyes widen as he stares at
Günter. “Sorry. I thought…”
Günter rubs his fingers. His brother
has turned into a crazy man with
slumped shoulders and worn eyes.
Helmut jumps to his feet. “Let’s go.
Günter is unsure what to do. Hans
still hasn’t moved. It’s worse than caring
for his baby brother. “Come on,”
he finally says.
“What’s wrong with him?” Helmut
says. “Wonder what happened.”
Hans sighs and mumbles something.
Günter bends closer. “Why don’t
you tell us?”
Hans shakes his head. The silence
between them stretches. Something
rustles in the underbrush. Tired of
waiting, Günter straightens. Helmut is
right, they need to get home.
But when he looks up, Hans is
muttering. “…Brits got us near the Belgian
border. We marched northeast to
Mecklenburg.” Staring into the lifting
darkness, his voice turns mechanical.
“Mostly boys like me without experience—stupid.
The older men got treated
worse. Some were shot on the
spot.” He falls silent. It has been the
longest he’s spoken since his return.
Helmut has picked up the beets. “Let’s
Günter glances at his friend and
shakes his head. “Where did you
sleep?” he says turning his attention
back to Hans.
“In a field with watch towers and
barbed wire. We dug holes in the
ground to live. We’d fight over bits of
cardboard or fabric to line the bottoms.
When it rained, the holes filled with
Günter spits out a blade of grass
he’s been chewing. “That must’ve been
“Sometimes we’d get wood. We’d
strip the trees until they looked bare
like black bones.”
“Sounds awful.” Günter slumps
down, his eyes on his brother. “How
large was the camp?”
“Thousands. Many died. There were
mass graves.” Hans picks up a stick and
chews gingerly. Günter knows Hans’s
teeth are loose. “Once you got diarrhea
it was over. Guys just collapsed in the
“What did you eat?” As usual Günter
is interested in food.
Hans grimaces. “We received a couple
of biscuits most days, sometimes a
handful of dry beans.”
“Beans? What did you do with
“We’d cook—if we had firewood.”
Hans leans back with a sigh. “In the
beginning when I made it up into a tree
I mostly lost the wood. I’d throw the
branches on the ground and somebody
would grab them and run.”
“I would’ve punched them,” Günter
says, a fresh knot of anger forming in
“They threw you in the box for
“What box?” Helmut interjects.
He’s sitting down, his back against a
“A metal container, pitch-black, you
couldn’t stand in upright, or lay down
for that matter. Some people were in
there for weeks.” Hans stares into
space, once again in camp. “When they
came out, they were hunched like old
men. I made friends with a boy from
Frankfurt. He and I took up house together.
It was safer that way, he helped
protect our stuff. I’d climb on his shoulder
to reach the branches.”
“How did you cook?” Günter thinks
of his own travels in the spring.
“A tin can. You’d burn your fingers
and we never got the beans very soft,
but it was something warm.” Hans
shivers as if he were back north.
“You’re here now, safe and sound.
We’ll take care of you.” Günter looks
up. The sky has turned blue and a chorus
of birds fills the trees. It’ll be a
“What happened to your friend?”
Hans turns paler, his chin quivering.
“We better take you home,” says
Günter. “Come on, I’ll help you up.” He
holds out his hand in safe distance but
Hans ignores him.
“My friend is dead,” Hans mumbles.
“He was trying to help me and they
pushed him down.”
“Some gang. Rough guys. They
took whatever they wanted. Real criminals.
One of them stole my cup. It was
enamel and better for cooking. I’d traded
a load of wood for it. My friend
came to help get it back, but they
threw him on the ground. He hit his
head on a rock. He lay there, bleeding
and nobody did a thing.” Hans’s eyes
“Couldn’t you run away?”
“Some tried. They were shot.” Hans
wipes a sleeve across his face.
“Damn war.” Günter looks at his
older brother whose face looks
pinched as if his skull has shrunken
along with his muscles. “Let’s go home
Hans ignores him and begins to
tremble. “Why?” he suddenly says.
“Why what?” His stomach beyond
growling, Günter suppresses the urge
to yank Hans to his feet.
“Hitler wanted to kill us all.” Despite
its low tone, Hans’s voice is seething.
“They knew and didn’t care. My friends
are dead. My classmates…dead. For
Günter bites his lip. What can you
say when your own country has betrayed
you, sending fifteen- and sixteen
-year-olds to be slaughtered, a government
more evil than Brits and Russians
combined. Looking down at his brother,
he feels his sadness and fury like his
own. Wordlessly, he holds out a hand.
Hans finally takes it.
“We’ve got sugar beets,” Günter yells
as he storms into the kitchen. The first
rays of sun reach bright fingers through
the window. Earth sticks to his hands
and shoes and he yearns for a bath.
“We’ll have to keep an eye on him,”
his mother says after Günter tells her
about Hans. “I wish your father were
Günter nods, not trusting himself to
speak. Pressure is building in his throat.
He swallows but the lump remains. The
war ended two months ago, but his
father has not returned. He’s been
gone five years. What if he’ll act like
Hans, the voice in Günter’s head whispers.
Or not return at all.
“I can’t believe the farmer gave
Hans beets,” he finally says, clearing his
His mother dabs her eyes. “We’ll
need wood to boil them.”
With a sigh Günter picks up the
saw. He longs for bed, but his hunger
and need for distraction are stronger.
The sugar beet syrup looks like black
gold, a heavenly combination of earth
and sun melded into liquid sweetness.
Günter licks his lips to savor each drop.
Across the table Hans has dribbled syrup
on a piece of cornbread. His eyes
are closed, his face relaxed as if asleep.
Sugar beet molasses are a regional
specialty in Germany’s Rhineland.
Günter’s father returned from the
war, having walked on foot from the
Balkans. Hans fully recovered from
prison camp, married and has one
daughter. He passed away in 2000.
Günter still lives in Solingen. He is 85
Annette Oppenlander loves telling
stories about young guys thrown into
interesting and challenging historical
settings. She was inspired to write
Escape from the Past: The Duke’s
Wrath after watching her two boys
grow into avid gamers and visiting the
ruins of Castle Hanstein in Germany.
Her second novel Escape from the
Past 2: The Kid will be published by
Lodestone Books in February 2016.
She holds an MBA in marketing and
market research and lives with her
husband and mutt Mocha in Bloomington,
Escape From the Past: The Duke's Wrath
When fifteen-year-old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks
he's sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he
doesn't realize that 1) He's been chosen as a beta, an experimental
test player. 2) He’s playing the ultimate history game,
transporting him into the actual past: anywhere and anytime.
And 3) Survival is optional: to return home he must decipher
the game's rules and complete its missions—if he lives long
enough. To fail means to stay in the past—forever.
Now Max is trapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and
clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast
may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful
peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister
wannabe Duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornets'
nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down
the conjuring stranger in their midst.
A hugely entertaining and fast paced historical novel based on
the absorbing idea of time travel. Max Anderson is playing a
bootleg demo copy of a computer game when he suddenly
finds himself transported back to medieval times – to the
same German village where he lives but five hundred years
earlier. Wearing jeans and trainers, he becomes known to the
locals as Max Nerds, befriending the local swine-herder, Bero,
and falling madly in love with his sister. Max has to adjust to
the foreign smells (and stenches), oddly spiced food, language
and attitudes of a feudal village. Being a likable and highly
capable fellow, Max finds himself rising fast in society and
becomes a guest of the brave local lord, Knight Werner. But
not everyone likes Max and he makes powerful enemies who
will stop at nothing to destroy him. “Escape From the Past” is
superbly told and full of great characters who you will care
~ Rob Dearden, Amazon
Escape From the Past: The Kid
Time-traveling gamer, Max, embarks on a harrowing journey
through the Wild West of 1881!
After a huge fight with his parents, Max tries to return to his
love and his best friend, Bero, in medieval Germany. Instead
he lands in 1881 New Mexico. Struggling to get his bearings
and coming to terms with Dr. Stuler’s evil computer game
misleading him, he runs into Billy the Kid. To his amazement
Billy isn’t at all the ruthless killer history made him out to be.
Trouble brews when a dying Warm Springs Apache gives Max
a huge gold nugget to help his sister, Ela, escape from Fort
Sumner. Shopping for supplies Max attracts the attention of
ruthless bandits. Before Max can ask the Kid’s help, he and Ela
are forced to embark on a journey to find his imaginary
This is book 2 in the Escape from the Past trilogy.
Escape from the Past: The Kid is a magical fictional mystery
interwoven with historical facts and exciting adventures. The
reader experiences the twists and turns of the story while
gaining a greater appreciation of the challenges of life in the
Wild West during the late 1800s. Max, a typical teenager of
today, is thrown into a series of arduous challenges he must
overcome in order to return to his former humdrum life. Along
the way, he and we gain valuable insights and appreciation of
the hardships encountered by the new western settlers and
the Native American people amongst outlaws and the formidable
desert climate of the New Mexico area. It's a thoroughly
enjoyable experience you will not want to miss.
~ Richard Rafes, Ph.D., J.D., President of East Central
New Fiction for December
Ask ten writers to describe their editing methods and
you’ll get ten different answers.
No one way is right. And no way is necessarily wrong.
Whatever your method, get the basics right and do
things in the right order. There’s no point polishing your
language if the structure is falling down in places. Never
polish a mess. Fix it first.
There are three stages or levels of editing.
1. Substantive editing: This covers every aspect of the
overall structure – plot development, character portrayal,
point of view, arrangement of scenes.
2. Line editing: This looks at style and continuity – consistency,
choice of words, sentence construction.
3. Copyediting: This covers nuts and bolts details such
as spelling and punctuation.
Doing things in the right order
The three-tiered approach to editing works. Begin by
fixing the overall structure of your story or novel.
Scenes, characters, pacing, viewpoint and setting all
need to be as strong and well crafted as possible. Once
the bones are right, and only then, work through the
layers of details and language. There’s no point doing it
the other way around. You’ll only double your workload.
When you make basic changes it affects the whole
work. For example, you may be putting the finishing
touches by checking commas and notice a disproportionate
amount of dialogue in some scenes. Once
you’ve made this kind of change you’re back to square
Substantive editing – Fixing the overall structure
Is it clear who the main character is (particularly if you
use multiple viewpoints)? What their purpose or goal is?
Do they face enough challenges?
Do you know your characters well enough?
Are there any clichéd characters? Can original touches
be added to round out any of the characters?
How are characters introduced? Try to show them in
action rather than tell us who they are.
Do you describe the characters – or let their actions
speak for themselves? Do you say someone is angry or
show them throwing a plate?
Do you introduce too many characters at once?
Are characters’ names well chosen?
Do several characters have names beginning with
the same initial?
Too many hyphenated names can become confusing.
Names that are universally plain can be a problem too.
Names that weren’t used in that particular era can
There’s no need to name every single character.
Omit names for ones who aren’t important to the plot.
Does every character earn their place in the story?
Is there a character who could be omitted without
detracting from the story?
Could two characters be amalgamated into one without
Does any character demand a stronger role?
Would adding a new character strengthen the novel/
story? Perhaps a confidante for your hero or heroine?
What’s at stake for your characters? Are they in danger
of losing something that matters to them?
Does every character want something?
Do the needs/wants of the main characters shape
Is there enough conflict?
Does your main character change by the end of the
story? Have they evolved as a person?
Do we care enough about the characters? Are they
Does your story have a definite beginning, middle and
Is there a subplot?
Does the story open with a strong hook? Does each
chapter end with a hook?
Would the story be stronger if the first scene were
Are scenes presented in the right order? Could more
conflict/ tension be created by rearranging them?
Can any scenes be omitted?
Is groundwork laid for later plot developments?
Is back-story woven in seamlessly? Are there info
dumps? Could these details vital be conveyed in other
ways such as dialogue or interior monologue?
Do characters disappear from too many consecutive
scenes? If you’re writing a romance, the hero and
heroine need to stay on stage most of the time.
Point of View
Is it always clear who is speaking?
Is there too much head hopping? How often do you
alter point of view?
Do you alter viewpoint character at a natural break
such as the end of a chapter, rather than midway
through which can confuse a reader?
Would your story be stronger if you changed the
Would the story be more compelling if written in the
first person instead of third?
Does your viewpoint character know things they
couldn’t know? See things they couldn’t see?
Is your story set in a recognisable well-described place/
s? Time period?
Is it clear exactly when each scene occurs? This is
particularly relevant if your story is set in different time
Are transitions from one setting to a different one
seamless so readers know exactly where they are and
Do you use different senses to describe locations?
What’s the role of your setting? Does it affect your
Are short sentences used to build tension? Are longer
descriptive ones used to slow the pace? Too much of
either can bore your reader.
Does the story sag in places?
Does too much happen in too short a time frame?
Are there any gaps in the plot? Is it clear how A leads to
B? You may need to add a scene so one action logically
Line editing – Fixing the general style
Is sentence structure varied? Watch for several consecutive
sentences beginning with ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘I’.
Are there too many consecutive short sentences?
Are there too many consecutive long sentences?
Are there too many consecutive sentences which
begin with a long phrase?
If it’s hard to read out loud, it needs to be changed.
Details of character and plot
Check plot details for continuity if you’ve changed
Are your character descriptions consistent?
Where a character’s name has changed, does the
original name still appear anywhere?
Is a character referred to by different names? Perhaps
a first name to begin with, then later by surname,
or both? This can be, confusing.
Check your dialogue is natural and believable. Read it
Simplify tags if necessary. ‘Said’ is fine. Are there
places where they can be left out? Are there places
where they’re needed? Is there ambiguity? If there are
several men speaking, it’s not enough to use ‘he said’.
Do you have characters doing something impossible?
For example, “How are you?” he smiled.
Avoid heavy use of dialect. It can make a story hard
Is there a balance between dialogue and narrative?
Do characters mention something they both know
simply because you need to convey this information?
Do characters use each other’s names too often in
Adjectives and adverbs
Make sure your manuscript isn’t top heavy with your
favourite adverbs and adjectives. Question the inclusion
of any word ending in –ly. Try to replace them with a
stronger verb. ‘She spoke loudly’ can become ‘She
If you have two adjectives before a noun, choose the
stronger one and delete the other.
Note that stories in women’s magazines often use
adverbs so check your target publication.
Clichés are best avoided. Find your own metaphors and
Try to avoid using passive voice. Watch for overuse of
“was”, “were” and “that”.
Show don’t tell
Readers like to work things out for themselves. Don’t
spell it all out. Leave something to the imagination.
Physical senses – sight, touch, smell, taste, sound
Include several senses when you describe a character or
How does your story/chapter look on the page? Is there
white space to break it up? Solid print consisting of long
paragraphs can look unwelcoming to a reader.
Copyediting – Fixing the nuts and bolts
Check for spelling mistakes. Be careful of words that
look similar but have different meanings – for example
Punctuation – for example its, it’s
Grammatical errors – for example, misusing
their, they’re, there
Are there any misplaced modifiers? Make
sure each phrase is as close as possible to the
noun or pronoun it describes.
Is it clear which noun a pronoun refers
Are there any commas that aren’t necessary?
These can slow a sentence down.
When you’ve worked through this checklist,
put your manuscript
Come back to it later with fresh eyes and
do it all again.
Glynis Scrivens is a full-time writer. Her short stories
have appeared in magazines and newspapers in Australia,
the UK, Ireland, South Africa, the US and Scandinavia.
She is a regular contributor to UK magazine
Writers' Forum, and has had articles published in
Pets, Steam Railway, Ireland's Own, Writing magazine
and The New Writer. Her work has appeared in
eight anthologies, both fiction and non-fiction. Before
she began writing, she taught English literature
at the University of Queensland. She lives in Australia
with her family and a menagerie of pets – two
dogs, a cat, ducks, hens, lorikeets and a rat called
Wilbur. When she needs fresh inspiration, Glynis
spends time in her beach house on the Sunshine
An excerpt from Compass Points - Edit is a Four-Letter Word
Great November eBook offer on Compass Points: Edit is a Four-Letter Word!
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Compass Points - Edit is a Four-Letter Word
How to create the best first impression
All you need to know about polishing your fiction for today's competitive market
Practical, clear, easy to read and understand, Glynis’s book is perfect for those who quake at the thought of editing their work. In her no nonsense,
no waffle account anyone who gets in muddle polishing their work will gain confidence as they journey through the pages of this book. It starts
with the all important advice of when NOT to edit and leads us through the editing process to the point of knowing when to stop! Glynis has interviewed
writers, editors, competition judges and literary agents for an overview of what good editing entails and it is interesting to see how other
writers approach the editing process. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the various methods from different writers, which illustrated clearly that what
works for one might not work for another. There is a confidence that comes from learning that there is no one right or wrong way just the way
that works for you and this book offers it in abundance. There is a clear explanation of grammar, different types of editing, common mistakes and
exercises to strengthen your editing skills. Her subtitle -How to Create the Best First Impression says it all. When sending out your work it needs to
be polished and professional and with this book to hand you’ll be able to achieve that with ease.
~ Tracy Baines
I am constantly surprised when people say I write
erotica! It continues to amaze me because I
thought I was just
writing about real
life! I mean isn’t sex
a part of real life?
So when I get labelled
like this, it
makes me wonder…
Why is it so
screwy to write
about our sex lives?
As you may know, I
wrote a book called
“Good Pussy Bad
Pussy – Rachel’s
Tale” in which I
attempt to follow
the beautiful and
naive Rachel in her
to be free, follow
her heart and explore
life and her
sexuality! When I
was writing the book, I considered it to be literary
fiction. And I still do.
However…after the book came out, I discovered
something really interesting! I realized that many
people were, and are, calling
the book “erotica” or “erotic
fiction” or “xxx-rated fiction”.
And I found out that this is
how many, or maybe most,
people frame this book and
the work I am doing. Which I
find really interesting – mainly
because as I said, I didn’t
think of any of these things
when I was actually writing
“Good Pussy Bad Pussy”. I
didn’t have any of these labels
in my head. I just
thought I was writing a book
about a woman who was exploring
life and relationships
and her sexuality. And I was
doing it because I find the
subject fascinating and also
because I feel that our sexuality
is just a normal part of
our everyday lives. So I didn’t
put what I was writing into
any special category.
But then I discovered that other people do – and I
thought “What’s going on here? Why all the labels?
As far as I am concerned, my book is literary fiction!”
Then something more happened: As part of my
marketing plan to promote the book when it came
out, I hired a tweet service to tweet about the book
every day. Quite a few people responded to the
tweets by saying “Good Pussy Bad Pussy” was the
best book title ever! But then the tweet service
suddenly said they’d been the victim of a vicious
cyber attack on their site because of the book title
and refused to tweet the book title anymore. And I
thought “Wow! This is really amazing. Censorship
of my book on social media because of the title!”
And then I realized I should be proud because I had
joined the illustrious group of writers like Henry
Miller and D.H. Lawrence whose ground-breaking
works of literature had been banned!
Interesting to notice that not everyone in the world
has the same belief systems about sex as so many
of us have here in the West.
And yes, we certainly have a lot more sexual and
artistic freedom here in the West than ever before.
No doubt about that. And we should be eternally
grateful for that. But obviously…we still have a long
way to go…
So how did this matter end? For quite a while, the
tweet service will only tweet about the book using
an abbreviated title “GPBP – Rachel’s Tale”. When I
told a friend that “Good Pussy Bad Pussy” had been
censored to #GPBP, he said “I’m proud of you. It
really takes some doing nowadays to have a work
of literature censored.” But now, one year later,
the tweet service has changed their mind again and
is once again tweeting about the book using the full
title! And I've written a second book entitled "Good
Pussy Bad Pussy in Captivity" which they are also
happily tweeting about!
Interesting isn't it?
So what’s all the hullabaloo about anyway? When
you think about it, not only is sex completely normal
and natural, sex and our sexuality is probably
the strongest human drive of all. So as far as I’m
concerned, the real question is not whether or not
what I write is so-called “erotica” but why we categorize
and separate sex like we do from the rest of
our lives? I recently read that Timothy Clark, curator
at the British Museum Shunga exhibition, said in
an interview about the museum’s latest exhibition
of Japanese erotic art: “The division between art
and obscene pornography is a Western concept.
There was no sense in Japan that sex or sexual
pleasure was sinful.” Now isn’t that interesting?
A. Aimee is a modern woman and international
author who is writing in the great tradition of
women authors who want the freedom to openly
and honestly explore controversial issues concerning
women, sex, women’s liberation, sexual freedom,
women’s rights to their own bodies, relationships,
and the changing role of women in the
Aimee is the author of Good Pussy Bad Pussy –
Rachel's Tale and Good Pussy Bad Pussy in Captivity
published by Soul Rocks an imprint of John
Hunt Publishing Ltd.
I've been in sales for as long as I can remember. I love
trade shows, I sold CDs at computer shows, and now I
sell Real Estate. But I never had to sell my own stuff before,
so when I sat at my first book signing I suddenly hit
a brick wall. How in the world am I going to say complimentary
things about my own book without sounding
like a complete jerk? "Oh, it's really good..." "You're going
to like it..." "It has a great plot..." One by one those
clever remarks went by the wayside. The best I could
squeeze out was "It got good reviews..." which sounded
so lame I had to give that up too. Standing there and
smiling didn't help much, and when someone did pick
up a book, I
had to fight
that! But I
want to encourage
I do? Turn
my back and
at them? There's usually no one else to talk to, so I can't
coyly indulge in conversation while they decide, although
when available I'll choose that option.
I've gotten four shows under my belt by now, and I think
I've finally started to get the hang of it. First of all, I realized
that each book requires a one-sentence description.
If I couldn't sum up the book in one sentence, I
usually lost the prospective buyer. Well, I could do it in
two sentences, but the shorter the sound bite, the
better. However, that approach, although necessary, is
not sufficient by itself. If they don't have a point of reference
(I thought the word Macbeth would do the job,
but about half the time I am sadly disappointed. You
never know.), I need to do something else to catch their
attention. So I also learned that the sound-bite has to
come after I have engaged them in conversation, not
There's the rub. How do I engage them in conversation?
The weather usually doesn't lead to a book discussion.
Nor does their dress, the stuff they are eating, the cute
kid, or what they are carrying. This has all been trial and
error. Finally, the other weekend, I stumbled across a
new angle. At least for now my books are historical fiction,
specifically about 11th century Britain. This is not
an era on the top of everyone's list. Even the Battle of
Hastings often draws a blank stare. Forget about King
Canute and the
ancient history. In
frustration, I started
that I thought it
was my own personal
aware of these
great events from
1000 years ago.
Imagine my shock
when they started
Voila! A new
sound bite! During
the course of
the day, I finetuned
until I was drawing
crowds like a
good old-fashioned medieval hawker (okay, I exaggerate.
But I did have a little crowd once). As someone
slowed near my table, I announced earnestly that "I was
bringing back the eleventh century one book at a time."
A few people smiled embarrassedly at me and slipped
away, but many more stood and thought for a second.
That was enough for me to explain the purpose of historical
fiction: to make it easy for the reader to learn
history. My books contain real people and real events,
and when those words came out of my mouth my prospective
fans were suddenly interested. I think people
love "true stories". I explained that especially 1000
years ago, we were lucky to get a one-sentence description
of an event out of a historian, and it's up to the historical
novelist to extrapolate the why, where, and how.
You know, it seemed to me that many people had never
thought about it that way. Even if they didn't buy a
book, they lingered at my booth which encouraged
someone else to step up (while I was distracted, of
course). A few actually did buy a book after I summed it
all up with my one-sentence sound bite. Some were interested
in history and had kept it a secret from me. But
the biggest surprise is that many of them bought a book
without even looking at it. That certainly warmed my
So I think I'm on to something. People seem to want to
hear about the creative process. They want to know
how a writer thinks, what makes us decide on a subject.
Perhaps if I learn how to sell the concept of historical
fiction, I'll sell more books by accident. I've got a couple
more events lined up next month, and I'll have a chance
to work on my new theory. Or maybe a better solution
will come along!
Mercedes Rochelle was born in St. Louis MO and has
a degree from University of Missouri. She learned
about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored
with historical fiction ever since. A move to
New York to do research and two careers ensued, but
writing fiction remains her primary vocation. Mercedes
is the author of Godwine Kingmaker: Part One
of the Last Great Saxon Earls and Heir to a Prophecy.
She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a
log home they had built themselves.
THE WRITING PROCESS – TO PLOT OR
NOT TO PLOT: THAT IS THE QUESTION
The writing process covers so much ground, from the
moment we get the idea for a story, right through the
various stages of planning, writing, revising, editing and
proofreading, that it’s no wonder we sometimes lose
our way. Oh, if only I could just write, most authors
moan, without all the boring stuff standing between me
and publication. In fact, once the writer has completed
the final draft, the copy-editing and proofreading are
best left to professionals anyway. But when it comes to
starting the project, you’re the captain of the ship and
have a decision to make: how much, or how little, do
you want to plan in advance?
Picture the scene. You’ve got your idea and found a
place where you can write undisturbed. If you’re lucky,
your fingers will move magically over the keyboard and,
almost without any effort on your part, you’ll have the
first chapter done and dusted in time to pick the kids up
from school. On the other hand, you might be staring
into space, thinking, ‘How on earth do I start?’ Good
question, and one which might have a different answer
according to whether you’re a ‘pantster’, a ‘plotter’, or a
bit of both.
The word ‘pantster’ has arisen from the expression
‘flying by the seat of one’s pants’. It’s when the writer
starts out with a story premise and then lets the characters
take the action hither and thither without mapping
out events in advance. Stephen King is in favour of this
approach. In the following quote from his book On
Writing, he calls plot a ‘noisy jack hammer’.
‘I want to put a group of characters (perhaps a pair; perhaps
even just one) in some sort of predicament and
then watch them try to work themselves free. My job
isn’t to help them work their way free, or manipulate
them to safety – those are jobs which require the noisy
jack hammer of plot – but to watch what happens and
then write it down. The situation comes first. The characters
– always flat and unfeatured, to begin with –
come next. Once these things are fixed in my mind, I
begin to narrate. I often have an idea of what the outcome
may be, but I have never demanded of a set of
characters that they do things my way. On the contrary,
I want them to do things their way. In some instances,
the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it’s
something I never expected.’
I recognize this style of writing, because I have to admit
that I am more pantster than plotter. I tend to know
what will happen at the beginning of the story and have
a rough idea of the ending, but often get stuck in the
middle. This is a common danger of working without a
plan – which would have outlined, for instance, when
conflict arises and between whom; or perhaps, at which
point in the story to introduce a new character.
As for the plotter method, as the name suggests, it’s
about planning a structure upon which the story can be
superimposed. It can take the form of computer spreadsheets
or notebook scribbles; if there’s enough space
and your loved ones don’t object, wall charts, even!
J. K. Rowling is a plotter. She used handwritten
‘spreadsheets’, divided into columns for planning chapters,
timelines, main plots and sub-plots for the Harry
Potter series. It’s clear that working with such a large
cast of characters, stretching across seven books, she
couldn’t possibly have managed without a scheme of
some sort, to ensure that everything tied in with previous
books. In her case, plotting was essential. But it is
recognised that too much plotting can be confining and
can sometimes end up giving the work a formulaic feel.
I prefer to call the plotters ‘planners’, because the plot
is only one aspect of what can be planned. Characters
and settings could also be fleshed out at this stage. As a
pantster, I don’t create every character in advance. I list
characters as they appear, giving minimum details such
as date of birth, relationship to the protagonist and
physical appearance. Some writers fill out character profiles
in much more detail, but as long as I can see and
hear them in my head, that’s enough for me.
I also type a list of locations. I didn’t know, when I wrote
the first book, that two more would follow with the
same main character, so this list came in handy when
she revisited some of her old haunts and meant I didn’t
need to trawl through the books themselves.
Last, but not least, are chapter summaries. After each
chapter, I heave a sigh and open the summary document.
Encapsulating what I’ve just written is the last
thing I want to do at two o’clock in the morning (it’s
1:40 a.m. as I write this!), but it’s invaluable for a quick
reminder. It’s also important to keep earlier chapter
summaries updated. Pantsters’ characters will sometimes
change: someone who is warm and friendly early
on might have to be converted to being cold and distant
to fit in with some action later in the book. I’ve even
erased minor characters completely if they didn’t go on
to fulfil any dramatic function in later chapters.
I don’t think I’ll transform into a plotter now – I like the
excitement of letting the ‘actors’ in my dramas plot their
own course. I recently read an article featuring a writer’s
eight pointers for a successful novel. They are as
follows: 1. Character 2. Wants something 3. Enters new
world 4. Adapts to it 5. Gets what (s)he wants 6. Suffers
as a result 7. Returns to ordinary world 8. Changes as a
Out of curiosity, I applied this template to my latest novel,
Pandora’s Gift, and it fitted perfectly. But that didn’t
stop the pantster in me moaning, Does that mean I’ll
have to write the same novel again with different characters?
Whichever way your writing brain takes you when embarking
on your next piece of work, I hope the process
turns out to be both enjoyable and effective.
Pandora’s Gift, the third in the Pandora series comes out
on 11 December 2015.
Carolyn Mathews has a BA in English Literature and an
MA in English Language Teaching and Linguistics. Born in
London, of Irish parents, she became a management
trainee for a Greater London Borough, gave it up to work
in a Spanish nightclub, and finally became an English lecturer,
producing books and plays for language students
along the way. A member of the Society of Authors, her
interest in contemporary spirituality informs and influences
her fiction. She currently lives in Hertfordshire.
‘Tea?’ My husband David asked me.
He was dressed in slim-cut black
jeans, topped by a smart burgundy
and white checked shirt. He normally
wore baggy cords and a sloppy
polo shirt at home.
Despite his salt and pepper hair,
he looked young and fresh.
As he reached for the tea caddy, I
caught an unexpected whiff of the
citrus aftershave I'd bought him for
‘Please. You look nice. Going
somewhere?’ I chirped. He hadn't
mentioned any plans.
He filled the kettle. I took the milk
out of the fridge, and he busied himself
making tea. I noticed that he
hadn't answered my question.
'What's Kyle going to do?' I sank
into a chair at the dining table. 'It’s a
‘True, but it’s his mess,' he said,
as he placed a slice of bread in the
I usually loved our weekend
breakfasts, yet recently, I'd been too
churned up to eat.
Last month, out of the blue, Kyle,
our 25-year-old son, turned up on
the doorstep after walking out of his
I couldn't understand it, because
he'd worked so hard for his place at
uni. It had meant so much to him.
He'd sacrificed nights out with
friends, missed family meals and
football matches and given music
gigs a swerve too.
He had a strong, clear goal, and I
was pleased and relieved that he’d
given girls the 'I'm not available right
The person I automatically called
on for advice was my neighbour and
friend, Marla. Yet this time, I couldn't
– because apparently, Marla and
Kyle had got a thing going.
Yesterday, when I was ironing, I
saw Kyle visit her. It wasn’t the first
He hadn't told me the reason for his
visits. There was no 'I'm popping
round to Marla's to borrow a book'
It hurt. It hurt that he'd kept it
secret. Oh why had he chosen Marla?
Her, of all people?
I felt disappointed and despondent.
I liked Marla – I've always liked
her – yet somehow, I couldn't picture
the four of us playing at Happy
A widow my age, I clicked with
her right from the word go. Ever
since she’d moved in, in fact.
Marla was a warm, down to
earth, astute woman, who carefully
tended her garden and enjoyed long
rambles in the country. She had a
deep throaty chuckle that instantly
raised the spirits. She was a really
good listener, too.
She was my closest friend, yet
sometimes I wondered … was I hers?
Without naming any names, I'd
tried discussing it with David, but
he’d quickly cut in, 'For god's sake,
Helen, he's bound to find a proper
girlfriend at some point', so wisely, I
hadn't pursued it.
However, on this bright warm
morning, I was determined to reopen
'We need to do everything we
can to help him get back on track,' I
'Mmm.' David leaned against the
worktop and closed his eyes against
the sun streaming through the window.
I hoped that he didn't practice
this 'shut out' gesture with his clients.
When David was made redundant,
it was Marla who encouraged
him to change career.
‘Why not train to become a counsellor?’
she suggested. She was one
herself and worked from home.
So he did.
It took years of studying and of
course it was difficult financially, yet
he stuck with it and with my fulltime
admin job, we coped. I was
content to be the main breadwinner
– after all, David had taken on this
role for long enough. He had finally
graduated last year. I was very
Marla was kind enough to pass
on a few clients, but I'd noticed the
prominent white spaces in David's
I’d nipped round to hers yesterday
with a newsletter from the local
neighbourhood watch. Suddenly,
she was busy with a new influx of
private clients. There was no time
for me. Yet I hadn’t seen any new
Why was she lying to me? Who
or what was taking up her time? It
wasn't work, so it must be Kyle.
Scared to face me, she was
avoiding me. And I daren't question
Kyle. I was afraid of hearing the answer.
The kitchen clock ticked. My hubby
munched his toast and I sipped
my tea. It wasn't a comfortable silence.
Kyle broke it when he wandered
in, chest bare, yawning and scratching
his thick mop of brown hair.
His mobile rang in his pyjama
bottoms pocket. I marvelled over the
fact that my son kept his mobile in
his pyjama pocket.
He wandered out to the hall to
answer. I wondered if it was a girl
phoning him. Was it Marla?
I turned to David. ‘Good jobs are
scarce. He’ll end up washing-up in a
He didn't comment, so I took another
‘What would Marla say?’ I murmured.
David smiled. ‘She’d say, 'Let’s
look at the options.'’
I pounced. ‘What options?’
He shrugged. ‘A college course?
Voluntary work? He’s free to pursue
any path he chooses.’
I sighed. David was refusing to
face reality. An unexpected burst of
‘Voluntary work won't pay him a
salary, will it?' I shoved the loaf back
in the cupboard.
‘He could be happy washing-up in
a pub. Perhaps we’ve put too much
pressure on him. He’s still young, he
needs time to find himself.’
I recognised the personal development
jargon, yet I didn’t comment.
I wanted to grasp his hand. I
wanted to say, 'Look, I’m desperately
worried, please – just listen—' It
appeared that I was the one taking
on all the parental responsibility in
That jolted me. Had David
stopped caring about Kyle? About
Kyle shuffled back in the room.
‘Any tea going?’
I poured some into his favourite
mug, the Manchester United one.
David left the room, and the
mood instantly became lighter.
‘So,’ I picked my words carefully
‘Have you thought about what
you’re going to do?’
‘Marry a rich, older woman,’ he
put in. ‘I’ll be her toy boy. We’ll sail
around the world on luxury cruises.
Eat the best food and drink the finest
I shuddered at the thought. I was
aware of a lot of movement from
above. What an earth was David doing?
‘I’ve just had a very interesting
phone call,’ he said.
‘I was looking at a jobs website
last week and I found a vacancy for a
trainee estate agent. I applied for it
and then I was called for interview,’
he outlined casually.
What? ‘Really? Why didn’t you
tell me this before?’
‘I wasn’t sure if I'd get offered the
I held my breath. ‘And?’
He grinned. ‘I’ve got it!’
‘Brilliant!’ I hugged him tight, and
suddenly my anxiety drained away,
like water swirling down a sink.
I felt hugely relieved. Oh I couldn’t
wait to tell David!
I was about to call up to him
when the doorbell rang. Still smiling,
I dashed out to the hall. It was probably
Kyle followed. I frowned. Was he
David thundered down the stairs.
He was carrying a suitcase. It was
the big blue one we used for last
year's holiday in Menorca.
A suitcase? My head spun.
‘What’s going on?’ I whispered.
‘I’m so sorry, mum,’ Kyle said. ‘I
begged her to let him go.’
Then, painfully, bit by bit, the
pieces slotted in. The smart attire.
The unanswered questions. The constant
dismissive remarks. The emotional
distance. The awkward silences.
The parrot-Marla talk.
My heart hammered as David
flung open the door.
Marla stood there. She smiled up
David took her hand, and together,
they walked away.
The Nature of Poetry
As we all know, poetry is a statement in words about human
experience. It differs from prose because it is written in metrical
and rhythmically stressed language. Of course any good
prose is rhythmical up to a certain point but any cadence that
is not controlled by a definite measure is likely to be loose and
unsubtle. Poetry, like music, is based on a chosen metre or
pattern of sound, whether traditional or radical. It is metre
that gives the poet a way of containing and therefore sharpening
the rhythmic emotion in the poem more precisely. In this
way poetic language is structured to simultaneously express
meaning and emotion. This is why poetry is so effective and
different ways of receiving it.
The French poet Paul Valéry thought a poem should be recited
rhythmically like a song or a chant. What do you think?
One thing is certain. In many ways poetry is as near to music
as it is to prose. She sits between them, a glamorous singer
who enchants us with her sensitivity to both words and
As with music there are different ways to receive a poem that
may well affect our response.
Do you prefer to listen to poetry or to read it silently, or do
you like someone to read it to you? Do you think by silently
reading a poem you can appreciate every aspect of it? If you
hear it spoken does the poem pass too quickly for you to respond
accurately? When you read a poem aloud does your
voice get in the way or do you feel more involved?
Why don’t you take one of your favourite poems and become
aware of what is going on in your head and heart when you try
Susan Skinner has published eighteen books, three for children
with reading difficulties, translated the text of a French
picture book, written five novels for older children,
(KINGSHOLT will be published in December by Our Street
Books) and had published four collections of poetry. She has
illustrated her own choice of poems and prayers from round
the world and illustrated and assembled a book of graces and
abridged two classics. She finished and edited a book on Edward
Johnson, Calligrapher, when her brother died. She and
her husband had three children and took on four children
when her sister died. Susan now lives alone with her dog Alfie.
A philosophically-inclined wit once inquired into the
difference between having God speak to one in a dream
and dreaming about God. This metaphysical query is the
basis of this article on Mind-Body-Spirit books in general
and my own writing in particular.
Let’s assume for a moment that I am a ‘successful’ author
(by which I mean that I have written books that are
acknowledged as ‘worthy’ rather than that I have made
much money from the pursuit!) There are effectively
two elements to this success:
A) being able to write, and
B) being knowledgeable about the subject-matter of the
If I am deemed to have achieved those accomplishments,
what were the principal factors?
Three elements have influenced this: a deprived childhood,
an enquiring mind and a good education. By
‘deprived,’ here I mean ‘socially deprived’. There were
no other children of my age in the neighbourhood. I had
to provide my own entertainment. This was mainly
achieved by reading around three books per week from
the library throughout most of my childhood and adolescence.
Mostly SF, I concede, but I also graduated to
some traditional and modern classics as well as a little
non-fiction. This had the effect of developing a wide
vocabulary (I always looked up new words in the dictionary)
and an appreciation of how to put those words
together in an interesting and informative manner.
This academic style of leisure activity both supported
and enhanced my education and my attitude to it, so
that I gained a scholarship to a prestigious school.
There, I was obliged to study Latin. Although I did not at
all appreciate it at the time, this provided an understanding
of the underlying structure of words and the
importance of correct grammar.
On leaving university, having spent the previous 10
years specialising in Chemistry, I got a job as a computer
programmer. Some years later, I discovered that I had a
hitherto unrealised skill for explaining difficult concepts,
when I was asked to write a manual to explain the functioning
of the software in a complex telecommunications
system. Provided that I could fully understand the
intricacies myself, I found that I was able to break things
down into their fundamental elements and document
this knowledge in such a way as to educate others. But,
in order to reach that stage, I had to sit down with the
authors of the software and get them to explain to me
all of the interactions and functions until I understood
everything for myself. This was an absolute requirement!
Knowledge of subject
I also have my education to blame for this aspect, to
some degree. Since it was an all-male school, in addition
to the woeful social skills that I had gathered earlier, my
ability to interact with the alien female of the species
was virtually non-existent. This shortcoming significantly
helped to bring about my general dissatisfaction with
life and engendered an interest in philosophy and
matters spiritual, to try to fathom some meaning and
I floundered for some years in the mass of miscellaneous
material available before I finally became aware
of Advaita. Again, it took some years even to find out
what exactly this was about, since there was (and still is
to some extent) a dearth of books on the subject.
Having decided that I sincerely wanted to understand
this teaching, I soon discovered that there is actually
only one process for achieving this. Shankara, who is
the principal historical teacher of Advaita and responsible
for making it more generally available in around the
8 th century CE, states it as follows: Listen to the teaching
(from someone who is qualified to give it); ask questions
to remove all doubts; dwell on what you have learned
until it is completely assimilated.
This poses an immediate problem: how does one
find a ‘suitably qualified’ teacher? Such a person has to
know the scriptures inside out, understand Sanskrit, and
(most importantly) be able to explain it to a ‘suitably
qualified’ seeker. This level of knowledge is really only
available to someone who has studied for a long time
with another, already-qualified teacher. I have received
emails from seekers all over the world asking if I can
recommend a good teacher in their area. I am rarely
able to oblige. If you live in India, there is no problem. If
you live in one of the major cities of the civilised world,
there is a possibility. Others have only two choices: relocate
or resort to reading and the Internet, as I had to
Experience and Knowledge
Writing about ‘spiritual’ matters is fraught with language
problems. Many authors in the MBS category are
presumably attempting to communicate their
‘experiences’ of whatever topic they write about. I say
‘presumably’ because I freely admit that I have not read
any of those books that claim to use extrasensory
means of acquiring information, whether from angels or
crystals or any other source. This is not because I believe
such books are entirely fictional. But, even if they
are based on what the writer believes to be fact, it is
simply not possible to communicate experience in an
unambiguous manner. Experience is ultimately ineffable;
only masters of fiction write about it with any degree
To some degree, even ‘objective’ data suffer from
these problems. After all, unless we are talking about
the axiomatic or mathematically defined, even physical
‘facts’ are observer dependent or relative to the frame
of reference. Attributes of objects depend upon the nature
and acuity of the senses that perceive them, as well
as on individual prior knowledge and experience. Thus it
is that anyone attempting to describe or teach a system
of philosophy needs to tread very carefully, as it were,
when they speak or write.
I actually began my first book, ‘The Book of One’, in a
similar spirit to that with which I had approached the
Technical Manual; I wanted to reach that level of understanding
with respect to the teaching of Advaita. And
the process was the same – read extensively, ask lots of
questions of others more knowledgeable than me. I began
in relative ignorance but acquired more and more
understanding as I continued. I often encountered views
that were mistaken, maybe because the writer was still
following a similar path. But, over time, the correct
views were reinforced by constant repetition from
different sources and the erroneous ideas were discarded.
There was the constant need to be alert to the dangers,
cross-referencing every new source against previously
read material, looking for reinforcing or contradictory
views, and always exercising doubt and reason to
question and validate new information.
The vast amount of research I conducted on ‘Book of
One’ enabled me subsequently to write ‘Back to the
Truth’, since I had collected hundreds of excellent references
from other sources. This process has been the
cornerstone of all of my books. ‘A-U-M – Awakening to
Reality’ is an exposition of a book I had read some 25
years earlier. I recognised its importance at the time but
was quite unable to understand it, or to find anyone
who could explain it to me. In researching it, I acquired
virtually every book (in English) that had been written,
including several that had extremely low print runs in
India. And I listened to hundreds of hours of talks from
acknowledged experts. The annotated bibliography in
the book runs to 34 pages.
Without such background research, discovering the
truth from those who already know it, it is impossible to
write books such as these in other than a cynical manner.
Of course, there are those who are perfectly aware
that what they write is little better than fiction, but their
livelihood depends upon persuading others through
their books and lectures. Some may genuinely delude
themselves also but there will always be complete
charlatans in any field.
The advice I would give to any seeker-of-truth,
whether via a proven path such as Traditional Advaita or
via some of the more recent, questionable paths is as
follows. Only accept and give credence to books that
provide knowledge that seems to be authentic, and
which include lots of references that can be checked.
Such books must also not be contrary to reason and
need to provide convincing arguments if they are to
change one’s views. If a book is constantly saying ‘this is
what I have found,’ ‘I believe,’ ‘it has been my experience’
etc – by all means read it (if you must) but take all
that is said with a large pinch of salt and look for a book
that does not rely on such tactics. Remember the premise
of this article: Experience equips one to write fiction;
knowledge equips one to write non-fiction.
Following an education in Chemistry and a career in
Software, Dennis Waite has become a recognized authority
on the non-dual philosophy of Advaita. He has
published six books on the subject including The Book of
One (2010), Back to the Truth (2007), Enlightenment:
the Path through the Jungle (2008) and Advaita Made
Easy (2012). His novel Time for the Wind is to be published
by Cosmic Egg Books on December 11th. He
maintains the most popular website on Advaita at
Bath Flash Fiction Award
£1000 prize for the winner, £300
second and £100 third. Two commendations.
300 word limit, details in
Each award runs for 4 months.
£7.50 for one entry (until Midnight
UTC 13th December 2015,
£9 thereafter).£12 for two entries
(until Midnight UTC 13th
December 2015, £15 thereafter).£18
for three entries
(effectively £6 each, price held
Free entry can be earned via our
weekly micro competition Ad
The current Award closes Midnight UTC
February 14th 2016.
Click here for more information
Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2016
Short Story Competition
For published and aspiring writers alike
- enter the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook
2016 short story competition and
you could win:
a cash prize of £500
a place on an Arvon residential
writing course of your choice
publication of your story
All you have to do is enter a short story
(for adults) of no more than 2,000
words, on the theme of 'ageing' and
"WAYB16 competition" as the subject
Closing date: 15th February 2016
Click here for more information
Grey Hen Poetry Chapbook Camp
Prizes: Chapbook publication.
Entry fee: £10.
Looking for: A selection of poetry by women
Closing date: 30th November 2015.
Click here for more information
The Plough Prize
Prizes: £1,000, £500, £250.
Entry fee: £5.
Looking for: Poems, up to forty lines.
Closing date: 30th November 2015.
For more information click here.
Enfield Poets International
Prizes: £500, £200, £100.
Entry fee: £4, £10 for three poems.
Looking for: Poems up to 50 lines on any
Closing date: 1st December 2015.
For more information click here.
Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize
Prizes: £1,750 purse, plus publication by
Waywiser in UK and USA, and a reading
with the judge at the Folger Shakespeare
Library in Washington, D.C., in the autumn
Entrants should not have published more
than one full-length previous collection of
poems, though they may have published
an unlimited number of books belonging
to other genres. Full details on website.
Entry fee: £15, £17 online, $27.
Closing date: 1st December 2015.
For more information click here.
Petworth Festival Literary Weekend
Five days of insight, stimulating discussion
and entertainment in the company
of leading authors and public figures as
they talk about their books, answer
questions and sign copies of their work.
John Suchet, David Starkey, Andy
McNab, Terry Waite, Alan Johnson, Lauren
Child, Christian Hill and more.
4– 8 November, 2015 Leconfield Hall
Petworth, St Marys Church,
Petworth, West Sussex
Click here for more information
Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival
(Ham & High)
The Hampstead and Highgate Literary
Festival (Ham and High) is a 4-day festival
celebrating the area's rich literary
heritage. Most of the authors come from
North London, including many big
Andrew Marr, Deborah Moggach (right),
Lisa Jewell, Booker-Prize nominee Stephen
Kelman, Melvyn Bragg and Iain
Pears – plus award-winning crime fiction
Friday 13 - Monday 16 November, 2015,
South Hampstead High School 3
Maresfield Gardens London NW3 5SS
Click here for more information
Bridport Literary Festival
Sunday 8th to Sunday 15 November
Various venues around Bridport, West
Click here for more information
New Fiction for November