Writing from Life Symbolism and Motif in Your Writing



The FREE online creative writing magazine

Mid-Autumn 2015


Issue 7

Writing Dystopian

Roderick Vincent

Writing from Life

Jane Bailey Bain

Symbolism and Motif in Your Writing

Maria Moloney


New Fiction for October

Mid-Autumn 2015

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:



Compass Blog

Happy writing,

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

Simon Whaley

Carrying the Flame

Susan Skinner

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!

Amy Aimee

Selling Your Own Stuff

Mercedes Rochelle

The Writing Process—To Plot or Not to Plot

Carolyn Mathews

The Nature of Poetry

Susan Skinner






Getting Gnomed in Public

Kingsley L. Dennis


Dreaming of God

Dennis Waite


Symbolism and Motif in Your Writing

Maria Moloney

The Debut Year

Michael H. Burnam

Writing Dystopian

Roderick Vincent




Short Fiction

A Curiosity In Venice

Veryan Williams-Wynn


Annette Oppenlander

Out of the Blue

S. Bee




Headline Blogging

Peter Bartram

Slave of the Cannibal God

Andrez Bergen

Editing Checklist

Glynis Scrivens




Regular Features

Contributor's Guidelines 3


Margot Burns


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




Mid-Autumn 2015

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

Fiction Special.


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

days (apparently!).

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

250,000 copies.

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

book proposal.

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

the post.


Mid-Autumn 2015

Eye Contact

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.

Previous Flirtations

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

South Wales.

Chat-up Lines

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

hockey stick.

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

Welsh accent!

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


Mid-Autumn 2015

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

events at


Follow Jane on Twitter


Amazon UK

Amazon US


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

narrative repertoire.

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

Amazon UK

Amazon US


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


Mid-Autumn 2015

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:

Homepage: http://www.kingsleydennis.com/

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

Veryan Williams-Wynn

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

for yourself.

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

bare boards.

‘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

well-used sword.

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

wears armour.’

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?’

‘Non, Signor.’

‘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

assembled crowd.

‘Now, to continue: ladies and gentlemen,

please pay attention to this

fine ungulate’s feet; notice how it has

three toes.’

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,

Mid-Autumn 2015

shouldn’t she be allowed a dalliance

or two?’

‘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

in Devon.


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.

Candle motifs

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

the dinner.

Later in the book, almost at the end, candles again

become significant. The candles of earlier become the


Mid-Autumn 2015

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

in zombification.

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

than literal.

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,



Mid-Autumn 2015

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

your book

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


Keep writing!

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.

Keep writing!

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!)

Stop writing

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

January 2016.



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.

Blueberry Bliss

Arranged in an alluring pyramid, piled high.

A batch of blueberry bars.

A reminder

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.

Waltzing textures,

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,

Missing you.

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,

Our anniversary.

Twenty-three years.

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,

Your presence,

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.

Mid-Autumn 2015

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

yet exist.

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,


Mid-Autumn 2015

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

more relevant.

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

whimper either.

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

placed one.

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


Mid-Autumn 2015

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

Andrez Bergen

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

favourite author.

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

cinematic explosion.

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.

I hope.

If only I did these things as cannily as Chandler.

Andrez Bergen is an expatriate

Australian author, journalist, DJ,

photographer and musician, based in

Tokyo, Japan.

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

and hot.

“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

and chin.

“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

trouble standing.

“Let’s get you cleaned up.” His

mother wipes away a tear. “Günter?”

she shouts.

“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

remain closed.

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

his excitement.

“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

the fabric.

“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

rings out.

“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

clearly visible.

A man appears next to Hans, rifle in

hand. “What’re you doing in my field?”

he growls.

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

the point.

“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.

“Almost eighteen.”

“You alone?” The farmer scans the

dirt, which shows the fresh marks of

dug-up roots.

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

out easily.

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

Mid-Autumn 2015

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.

I’m starving.”

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

terribly cold.”

“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

his stomach.

“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

beautiful day.

“What happened to your friend?”

Helmut asks.

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.”

“The Brits?”

“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

and eat.”

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.

Günter smiles.

Author’s Note:

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

years old.

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,





Mid-Autumn 2015

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

Read more

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


Read more



New Fiction for December

Mid-Autumn 2015

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

be confusing.

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

losing anything?

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

the plot?

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

interesting enough?


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

viewpoint character?

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?

Plot holes

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

follows another.

Line editing – Fixing the general style

Sentence structure

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

to read.

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


Passive voice

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


Mid-Autumn 2015

affect, effect

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.

Check facts.


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

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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

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writers, editors, competition judges and literary agents for an overview of what good editing entails and it is interesting to see how other

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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

dangerous endeavor

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?


Mid-Autumn 2015

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

world today.

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

the impulse

to pounce

on them.

After all,

they are

reading the

back cover,

for goodness

sake. I

don't want

to interrupt

that! But I

want to encourage

them. So

what should

I do? Turn

my back and

leave them

in peace?


them? Stare

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

Danish Invasion.

That's beyond

ancient history. In

frustration, I started

telling people

that I thought it

was my own personal

mission to

make people

aware of these

great events from

1000 years ago.

Imagine my shock

when they started

paying attention!

Voila! A new

sound bite! During

the course of

the day, I finetuned

my banter

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


Mid-Autumn 2015

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 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


Mid-Autumn 2015

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

degree course.

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

now' message.

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

time, either.

He hadn't told me the reason for his

visits. There was no 'I'm popping

round to Marla's to borrow a book'

or whatever.

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

the dialogue.

'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

appointment diary.

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

anger erupted.

‘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.

'What about?'

‘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

Mid-Autumn 2015

when the doorbell rang. Still smiling,

I dashed out to the hall. It was probably

the postman.

Kyle followed. I frowned. Was he

expecting someone?

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

at him.

David took her hand, and together,

they walked away.


The Nature of Poetry

Susan Skinner

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.

Website: WWW.susanskinner.co.uk


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?

Writing ability

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


Mid-Autumn 2015

‘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

of success.

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



Short Stories

Bath Flash Fiction Award

£1000 prize for the winner, £300

second and £100 third. Two commendations.

300 word limit, details in

the Rules.

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

throughout competition).

Free entry can be earned via our

weekly micro competition Ad

Hoc Fiction.

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

on www.writersandartists.co.uk

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

email to

competition@bloomsbury.com with

"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.

Literary Events

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


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