Tag Archives: Short Story collection

Pony Stories from the Past

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Amongst other things, lockdown has encouraged us to spring clean, soul search, and re-order our lives – and for me this has included all things writing-related. Whilst I’ve been disappointingly unproductive in terms of new fiction, I have been looking through some of my old files, and am quite startled about how much I’ve written over the last 30 years. I think of myself as a fairly slow, sporadic writer. There are plenty of authors who can create a book a year, every six months, some even (gasp!) every month! Me, well, as you can see, in terms of actual quantifiable output, there’s a handful of published stories, some competition successes, three short story collections, and a how-to book. I’m not exactly taking the world by storm.

But there’s lots more tucked away in computer files, or on curly-edged A4 left over from the MA or various writing group projects over the years. And after much searching I found a fat, battered old envelope from over 20 years ago: my first attempt at a short story collection.

The collection – rather self-consciously copyrighted 1998!

These are pony stories aimed at aimed at children aged around 9-12 (middlegrade in the US). They include a couple of stories published back in the day by PONY magazine, and six others which are longer and more developed. They’re pretty old-fashioned – no mobile phones or other modern tech obviously (and in some cases this would probably make the storyline incomprehensible or unbelievable to an average 10 year old in today’s world). A couple make me cringe a bit – some need a good edit, some need re-writing, some probably aren’t salvageable. But while I’m in lockdown, I figure I may as well have a look at them. In the 1980s, I was happily reading stories written in the 50s and 60s – times change, but horses and horse-mad kids remain fundamentally the same – so I’d like to see if there’s something worth saving.

Just for the record though, this does not mean I’ve given up on my current horse-stories-for-grown-ups project! That’s still in the pipeline: watch this space! 😉

5 Reasons to be an Indie Author

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It’s been an interesting week. The first few reviews on my new collection ‘And Not Forgetting Love’ are starting to appear on Amazon and Goodreads. For those of us who were once English Lit students, it’s a particularly strange and humbling experience having other people comment on your work – and I’m not sure I’ll ever really get used to it. Suffice to say, I’m delighted that so far the book has made a good impression. That’s all that I can ask. Even more pleasing is that the previous collection, ‘Beyond Words’ has started to pick up a few more reviews. This book has been out a few years, but has been swept up in the recent momentum of the ANFL launch. It’s rather like the awkward older brother has finally found his friends and is blossoming!

While storms Ciara, Dennis et al have been raging, I’ve started work on my next project, but I’m also making time to get back into the habit of reading. I’ve recently read a good book (“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce). I’ve also read a not-so-good book (which shall remain nameless). The latter was a traditionally published paperback, which presumably had the benefit of an editor, or some form of editorial process. The author was not a first-timer. And yet the quality (both in terms of plotting and the writing itself) was poor. It read like an enthusiastic first draft – perhaps the sort which might have been written in a rush, say for NANOWRINO where word-count was the thing.

I have no doubt that the author is pleased to see the book in print. They may be proud of their work, and if it sells reasonably, they can count it a successful venture. At one time, I would have been envious. At one time, I would have done anything to have a book traditionally published. I wouldn’t have cared if it was sub-standard as long as the publisher had deemed it worth a punt. The fact of it being in print would have been all I cared about. But now, I find I wouldn’t want to trade places with the author of the not-so-good book. I’ve got plenty of bad books hidden in a drawer. I haven’t done anything with them because they are bad. Writing them wasn’t a waste of time, because they all taught me a little more about the craft, but I’m very happy if they don’t see the light of day. And I realise I’m very happy being an indie author – and here are some reasons why:

  1. Indies retain their own rights – their intellectual property is their own. Many indie authors have eBook, print, large print, and audio editions of their work. If they want to publish in other countries, or decide to translate into other languages, that’s their prerogative.
  2. Indies control their own pricing strategy and keep control of discounts and free offers, and earnings from indie books go straight to indie authors (minus the cut from the publishing platform). OK, I won’t be able to retire on the money from my books (hot tip: if it’s money you’re after, short stories aren’t the best way of going about it!), but what they earn is mine, and their earnings don’t have an impact on what I might be able to publish in the future. Which leads me onto…
  3. Indies can choose what they publish, and when – they can update text, or bring out another edition when they choose, or even remove a publication from sale altogether. There are no “gatekeepers” throwing up barriers to new work. A book does not have to make money to exist in the indie world (though clearly it’s better if it does!). Traditional publishing takes a long time – indies can respond quickly to new ideas and publish fast.
  4. Indies have full control over their cover designs – they can update or change the cover if they want to. Traditionally published authors tend not to have a say over this aspect.
  5. Indie publishing is ‘SlightlyTurquoise’ i.e. it fits with the desire to minimize waste and live a sustainable lifestyle. eBooks and print-on-demand means a reduction in unwanted hard copy books being produced.

We are incredibly lucky to live in an age where indie publishing is possible – there are so many opportunities available to us now which previous generations simply didn’t have. I’m proud of all my collections, and don’t feel any the less about them because I have chosen to take the non-traditional publishing route. I’m just grateful that I can be an indie.

Marketing and the Introverted Writer!

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I’m not bad at sitting quietly in my “writing office”, on my lonesome, transferring the content of the world-in-my-head onto my laptop. When I’m in the right mood, I’m not bad at typesetting what I’ve written into a format that will successfully upload to Amazon KDP. I’ve even been enough of a grown up to find a professional to do my cover designs so my short story collections have a fighting chance of looking the part when they’re shoulder to shoulder with all the other eBooks out there. But I’m willing to concede that I’m pretty rubbish at the marketing and promotion side.

From articles I’ve read, and podcasts I listen to, I know I’m not alone. The kind of person who likes spending lots of time alone creating stuff quietly in their own space is not predisposed to then shout about it from the rooftops. Plus I’m British. We don’t like to blow our own trumpets. It’s hard to tell the world about something you’ve created without sounding like you’re bragging. To be honest, I’ve probably got friends and colleagues who don’t even know I write, so Blackadder was onto something when he said, “You might at least have told us you had a trumpet!”

So, consider this a polite cough to get your attention. I’ve got a new short story collection coming out soon. If you’d like to know when it’s available, and if you’d like a sneak preview of the cover, please sign up for my mailing list (and I promise you won’t be inundated with emails – I’ll only contact you when I want to let you know about something, or if I’d like to ask your opinion – and I won’t share your data with anyone else). And if you’re not sure if my stories are for you, then please download my mini collection The Camel in the Garden which is FREE this weekend.

Thank you.

*carefully puts trumpet away* 😉

What’s in a name? Keeping Track of Your Characters!

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I’ve already posted about places to find inspiration for character names here but once you move away from individual stories and start to compile a collection, you may find you have a new problem.

We all have our own personal preferences about names – and we are all the product of our own era – so for any writer there will be a number of names which tend to come to mind relatively easily. These are likely to be the more common names for people around your age range (or possibly the age ranges of your parents or significant others) – eras in which, possibility without realising it, you’ve taken a special interest. The chances are, certain names will feel right to you for a particular kind of character. This might be unconscious – for instance, you might not choose the name of the person who bullied you at school to be your hero/heroine. There are also names – particularly of celebrities – which either become unusable or only possible to use for a very specific type of character because the name comes with connotations shared by society as whole. And then there are the names that are too close to you – those of family and friends whose names it might be odd to use and are therefore out of bounds.

My point is, unless you try really hard, you might end up using quite a small pool of names for your characters. And this doesn’t really matter for individual stories which will be published either singly or in a magazine full of other people’s stories. But it does matter once you start putting those stories together in a collection. All of a sudden you realise that you love the name “Dave” and you now have seven Daves in one collection. Worse, Dave in story No. 2 is a manipulative boyfriend, while Dave in story No. 7 is the guy at work who could become a love interest. The first Dave will certainly taint the second one in the mind of the reader! Argh!

Obviously, when creating a collection of stories, you can get around this by making a list of all the names you have used in each story in the collection. When doing this, you need to remember to include every name (and surnames where applicable), not just the important ones – you may be surprised how many characters you’ve actually had to name! Often it’ll be the minor characters that will catch you out – particularly if your collection includes some stories you wrote eons ago.

To make things very slightly easier you can stick your list into an Excel document. Then:

  • select the name column
  • click Home > Conditional Formatting > Highlight Cell Rules > Duplicate Values, and then click OK.

The column will then highlight in your chosen colour where a name appears more than once. This could be useful in a large collection – or indeed a novel, or series.

 

 

 

 

Special Offer for Storytelling Week

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Who doesn’t love hearing a story told to them? Whether you’re a child listening with rapt attention to a bedtime story made up for you by your parents, or you’re an adult listening to an audio book in the car on the daily commute, there’s something magical about being told a story. As someone who reads quite quickly, and not always very carefully (in fact, sometimes I skim read – a terrible admission for a writer!), listening to a story sometimes helps me pick up nuances and details I’d otherwise have missed.

Well, this great oral tradition is celebrated during National Storytelling Week which this year runs from 28th January to 4th February. You can find out all about it here:

http://www.sfs.org.uk/national-storytelling-week

I’m afraid I don’t yet have any audio versions of my stories, though there are lots of other out there, such as Patsy Collins’ story “Uncle Mick” available to listen to here:

Not to be outdone though, in honour of all things short-story related, my collection The Camel in the Garden is free to download from Amazon Kindle this weekend.

If you take the opportunity to download it, you could always read it to someone else! And if you like the stories, and had time to leave a brief Amazon review, I’d be ever so grateful.

Thank you – and happy reading!

 

Erewash Writers Comp – Winning Entries

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Last month I discovered I’d managed to place not one but two stories in the 2016 Erewash Writers open short story competition (cue slightly smug grin!). I’ve made it as far as the shortlist in past Erewash competitions, but to find this year that Resolution had been placed 4th, and Never Far From the Tree highly commended, was a real boost.

One of the nice things about Erewash competitions (as well as the fact they post the judge’s comments), is that the winning stories are published on their site: http://erewashwriterscompetition.weebly.com/winners-2016-open-short-story-competition-with-patsy-collins.html

If you enjoy Resolution and would like to read some more of my stories, don’t forget Raspberry Ripple is available free here: https://fictivedream.com/2016/11/27/raspberry-ripple / and if you’d like to read some others I’ve written which have been successful in competitions, you can find my ebook Beyond Words on Amazon, here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Words-short-stories-deception-ebook/dp/B01JWLPKW0

FINALBeyondWords

Hopefully the festive break will provide lots of reading (and writing!) time – and perhaps even a blog post or two. Until then, thanks for reading – and Merry Christmas! x

It’s Official! – “Beyond Words” Launch Day

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We might not be entering the glorious heat wave we were promised, but nil desperandum (as my mother used to say) – thanks to the wonders of modern technology, the official launch of my new short story collection Beyond Words is taking place in the always gloriously sunny virtual world of the internet. I’ll be hosting at the dual venues of this blog and my Facebook author page, so please pop along, find out all about the book, and help yourself to a virtual coffee and cake, or Bucks Fizz and a vol-au-vent, as takes your fancy!

As followers of this blog will know, over the last few years I’ve switched focus from submitting stories to magazines (though I still do some of that too) to entering story competitions. Competitions tend to encourage a wider range of themes and genres than some of the magazines currently accepting story submissions (most of which are aimed solely at women’s fiction), so I’ve enjoyed exploring some areas which I wouldn’t have been able to touch on for the magazine market.

Beyond Words is a collection of 12 stories, all of which have had some success in story competitions. Of course, I hope readers will think they are a jolly good read in their own right, but I also thought the collection might be of use to anyone new to the competition scene who might like to see the kinds of stories which have worked for me. At the back of the collection, I’ve provided a list of each story and the competition (or in some cases, competitions) in which it was short-listed, placed etc.  It’s available from the Amazon Kindle Store at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Words-short-stories-deception-ebook/dp/B01JWLPKW0/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

The stories I chose to make up the collection are loosely grouped around the themes of love, death, and deception – but it would be wrong to think there was a downbeat tone to the book. There’s lots of humour too – even if it’s sometimes rather dark. There’s also an emphasis on different narrative voices and styles.

I’m here all morning to talk about the collection, and I’d love to hear from you (please add comments at the bottom of this post, or pop along to my Facebook page to comment there), whether it’s to ask a question about the collection, or to talk about story competitions more generally.

Lastly, if you’d like to read some of my work before you decide whether Beyond Words is for you, I’ve made my previous collection of three stories, The Camel in the Garden, FREE to download for the next four days https://www.amazon.co.uk/Camel-Garden-Three-stories-family-ebook/dp/B01EPBTO92/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 .

I hope you enjoy both collections – and please get in touch if you have any comments on either. I’d really love your feedback.

Win Publication of Your Short Story Collection

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Alfie Dog Fiction, which publishes my children’s story Losing Lucy, has just launched its first international short story competition.  The winner will receive £200, plus the opportunity to have their own short story collection published by Alfie Dog Fiction.  Entry is open to anyone over 18, writing in the English language.  The closing date is 30th September, and all the details can be found on the website at http://alfiedog.com/competitions/

Is there an entry fee?  Well, yes, but ingeniously the fee is the cost of downloading five short stories from the site.  The five stories must be from different authors, and fees start at 39p, so it’s hardly steep.  Even if you don’t win the competition, you’ll still have had the opportunity to read five new short stories, plus you’ll have a warm glow inside from the knowledge you’ve helped to boost the sales of a few struggling writers!

Of course, as one of those struggling writers myself, I’d be delighted if you entered the competition and in doing so, picked Losing Lucy as one of your five downloads!  😉