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Friday, 23 February 2018

Comedy is easy (and fun!) to read, but so hard to write. #authortips #comedy #books #win #prizes @rararesources @HeideGoody @IainMGrant

Ten tips for writing Comedy
Heide Goody and Iain M Grant
We have been writing comedy together for over six years now, and we’ve learned a lot about technique in that time. In this guest post we wanted to distil some of the most important lessons, so here are our top ten tips for writing comedy:
1. Challenge your characters. Any kind of conflict can drive comedy, but you need to create a mixture of characters and situation that will drive lots of conflict. This is why “fish out of water” works well for comedy.
2. Have an agent of chaos. Somewhat related to the previous point, it can be very helpful if your cast of characters includes someone who can be relied upon to always do the thing that is unthinkably bad. In A Spell in the Country, one of our witches has an invisible imp, who is an agent of chaos.
3. Your first idea is almost certainly not your best idea. If you think of something funny, whether it’s a situation or a joke, you can usually stretch it. If you make it more extreme you can steer clear of cliché and make something that will genuinely startle your reader. For example, when the witches in A Spell in the Country embark upon their training, they are set a task to find an amulet. We wanted one set of witches to fail the task, by bringing back the wrong thing. They might have brought back a stone, a plant or even a cow pat and it would have been funny. Instead they go through a set of thought processes that ends up with them bringing back a live cow. 
4. Specifics are funnier. Whenever you can, name specifics. Gorgonzola is funnier than cheese. Hobnobs are funnier than biscuits. Antique Wedgewood is funnier than crockery.
5. Words containing the letter “k” have a pleasing, often amusing sound: Knickerbocker Glory, spanking, Kettering.
6. Compress the timescale. This can drive the narrative by putting extra pressure on your characters. If your character has to spend a million pounds, that might be a tough challenge, with lots of comedic opportunities. If they have to spend it by the end of the day then it pushes them even harder. What will they do in their desperation?
7. Compress the setting. If your characters have plenty of conflict between them (and they should, if you’ve created a good cast of characters) then forcing them to be close together will heighten the conflict. If they hate each other and want to be apart, put them in a trapped lift together. This was one of the reasons that we put our witches into an isolated country house for A Spell in the Country.
8. Outlandish similes can be fun. Let’s say you want to describe an untidy sandpit. Your first thought might be to say that it’s scattered with old toys. Why not go further? The sandpit looked like an open grave for the victims of a serial killer with a penchant for Barbies. You can probably think of something better if you let your mind run wild for a moment.
9. Consider funny combinations to replace or embellish swearing. The tweets directed at Donald Trump from (primarily) Scotland were a revelation. The very best of them combined some relatively innocuous words into spectacular new ways of swearing. See cockwomble, jizztrumpet and shitgibbon.
10. Watch sitcoms. Obviously, it’s enjoyable, but if you deconstruct some of the jokes and scenarios you will find that they inspire ways that you can have fun with your own characters.

A Spell in the Country

“Dee is a Good Witch but she wonders if she could be a better witch.
She wonders if there’s more to life than Disney movie marathons, eating a whole box of chocolates for dinner and brewing up potions in her bathtub. So when she’s offered a chance to go on a personal development course in the English countryside, she packs her bags, says goodbye to the Shelter for Unloved Animals charity shop and sets a course for self-improvement.
Amazon.UK | Amazon.US 

Caroline isn’t just a Good Witch, she’s a fricking awesome witch.
She likes to find the easy path through life: what her good looks can’t get for her, a few magic charms can. But she’s bored of being a waitress and needs something different in her life. So when a one night stand offers her a place on an all-expenses-paid residential course in a big old country house, she figures she’s got nothing to lose.

Jenny is a Wicked Witch. She just wishes she wasn’t.
On her fifteenth birthday, she got her first wart, her own imp and a Celine Dion CD. She still has the imp. She also has a barely controllable urge to eat human children which is socially awkward to say the least and not made any easier when a teenager on the run turns to her for help. With gangsters and bent cops on their trail, Jenny needs to find a place outside the city where they can lay low for a while.

For very different reasons, three very different witches end up on the same training course and land in a whole lot of trouble when they discover that there’s a reason why their free country break sounds too good to be true. Foul-mouthed imps, wererats, naked gardeners, tree monsters, ghosts and stampeding donkeys abound in a tale about discovering your inner witch.”

About the authors:
Heide Goody is the stupid one in the writing partnership and Iain Grant is the sensible one. Together, they are the authors of seven novels, two short story collections and a novella.
The ‘Clovenhoof’ series (in which Satan loses his job and has to move to Birmingham) has recently been optioned by a Hollywood production company. Their latest novel, Oddjobs 2: this time it’s personnel, was published in August 2017.
Heide and Iain are both married, but not to each other.

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Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Like #steampunk? Fancy a bit of #scifi? Then check out this author interview with .@RichardDockett1 #syfy #fiction .@rararesources

Richard Dee is a sci-fi and streampunk writer, and WWBB has been lucky enough to pin him down for an interview about himself and his book:  Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café.

So, without further ado, grab a coffee, relax and read on…

Writers always have unfinished files, handwritten or typescripts hidden somewhere (usually under beds!) How many unpublished books do you have tucked away?
Last time I looked under my bed, there were three completed novels, about five halfway written and a bunch of short stories. There were also some socks, a lot of dust and fluff and a suitcase with a broken handle.

What’s your least favourite part of the writing process?
The bit in the middle, when the story is still developing as you write it. At this point, I’m never sure if it will just fizzle out and become a short story or go on to be the start of a series.

I think most writers can relate to that! So, how long does take you to write a novel?
It took me thirty years to write the first one! I wrote the short story that became Freefall in 1979 and completed it in 2012. I guess you could say that life got in the way. I have speeded up a little since then. Now, I write 2 or 3,000 words a day, so a first draft will take…, hang on while I get my socks off. Longer probably, because I’m always jumping around from project to project.

Seriously, about four months. Andorra Pett was my fifth novel of seven so far and a bit of a departure, the others are Space Opera (Freefall, Myra, Ribbonworld and Jungle Green) and Steampunk (The Rocks of Aserol and A New Life in Ventis).

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café is the start of what I hope will be a series, Andorra has grown on me as a character and I can see her having lots of adventures.

How do you juggle a writing schedule?
I’ve retired from my ‘proper’ job, but I had to get up early for it and it became a habit. I still get up early and write for an hour or so, then my wife and I have the rest of the day to do what we want. I might do a bit more in the evening. I carry a notebook so if I see or hear an interesting situation during the day I can jot it down for future reference. But you must be careful, being spotted can be embarrassing!

Who do you aspire to be like as an author?
I grew up reading Isaac Asimov, Rad Bradbury and Phillip K. Dick. They had a gift, a way of describing a universe in three sentences. I’m not a big fan of pages and pages of flowery description; I’d rather get straight to the action and keep it coming. I try and give the reader a reason to turn over on every page.

Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?
I just want to know what happens next, my writing process is like watching a film in my head and typing what I see. I can rewind, pause and slow it down but I can’t fast forward. Every time I start I must keep going until I get to a good bit. Sometimes that can be after 1,000 words, sometimes 5,000.

When did you first call yourself a writer? 
When I used my first royalties to buy myself a celebratory drink. I think that once you’ve sold a book to someone you don’t know and spent the money you can call yourself a writer.

Abso-bloody-lutely When people ask, ‘what do you do for a living’ do you tell them you’re a writer or do you buckle and say something else?
Now that I’ve retired from my real job, I introduce myself as a writer at every opportunity. After all, it’s how I pass my time, I might not make a fortune, but I do have an income from it.

Do you have a critique/editor partner?
I have a team of wonderful beta readers scattered around the globe. They get a first look at all my work and I really value the fact that they are prepared to tell me if they think that its rubbish. And they do sometimes! Which also saves me from bad reviews.

What’s your talent for writing this book?
I can write female characters thanks to my wife and three daughters, who taught me so much about the way that the female mind works. I like to think that there’s a little of each of them in my books, strong, loyal women who are resourceful and clever, as well as being beautiful.

Why did you write Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café
My wife was reading a book about someone who moved to the country and opened a café on a beach and the story involved lost love and new beginnings.

She challenged me to write something similar but in a sci-fi setting, and never one for refusing a challenge, I got stuck it. I wrote it as a short story first, but then my editor encouraged me to develop it, and the rest is history.

Tell us about Andorra Pett, what’s her story?
It features a reluctant amateur detective called Andorra Pett.

Written through her eyes, it’s a story of new beginnings in strange surroundings. She just wants a quiet life, but events conspire against her, as they so often do. As well as dealing with her new life, running a café on a space station and all that entails, there’s a mystery for her to solve. In the process, she discovers a lot about herself and the people around her. Mostly she finds that she’s quite clever, which is a surprise to her.

There’s a lot of friendship, some new romance and a murderer to catch.

But basically, Andorra is a fish out of water, a stranger in a strange land. It’s all about how she learns to thrive.

 I’ve done my best to make the characters familiar, I’ve just placed them in a different setting. I now have ideas for another three sequels to Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café. The first of them, Andorra Pett on Mars, will be published in April 2018.

It has a mixture of themes, doesn’t it?
Well, I gave the tale a crime element as I thought that a space station would be the perfect place for a mystery—especially as it was all a mystery to Andorra! It could also be called a comedy, although there is plenty of drama in it, nothing too heavy or explicit.

Mainly, I want it to be perceived as light-hearted entertainment hence the cartoon cover. I’ve tried to make it a story that’s suitable for all ages, from teen upwards.

Give me the first, middle and end line in Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café
  1. “Is that it?”
  2. I opened the book, expecting chapter and verse on one man’s rampage through the female inhabitants of the station.
  3. Cy smiled, he had that look of contentment. “Mind your own!”
Does Andorra change or learn by the end of the book?
As the story opens, Andorra is running from a bad relationship. She thinks that it was all her fault and that what she needs is to get away. So far so normal. Then I added the sci-fi twist by setting the tale in the future and letting her run to the edge of the solar system. She arrives on the space station intending to have a quiet life, events conspire to make sure that it’s anything but.

As the story unfolds she learns a lot about herself and changes her opinion. Her friend Cy, who has stuck with her, always knew that she was so much more than she realised. Wisely, he lets her find out for herself. 

As I said before, I don’t plot my novels in advance. I had to write the book to find out who the villain was. Right up to the end, it could have been one of several. When I found out, it was as much of a shock to me as I hope it will be to the reader. And the way they were unmasked proved to Andorra that she was as clever as other’s thought she was.

Who would be your dream cast if Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café was made into a movie?
Someone like Miranda Hart’s sidekick Stevie (a character in the BBC TV show Miranda) would be a perfect Andorra. In case you’re not sure who I mean, Stevie is played to perfection by the excellent Sarah Hadland (if you’re reading this Sarah, tell your agent immediately!).

Sounds like Miranda Hart could play Andorra!
A sexier and younger version of her maybe!

You mentioned Andorra’s wingman, Cy. Who’d play him?
Ah, the late Alan Rickman would have been the perfect foil for her as Cy, with his dry wit and superb comic timing.

What about the villains in the book? All books need a baddie!
Indeed they do! I need a villain who isn’t on the face of it, but has a sort of undercurrent. The person who’d play them needs to be outwardly normal but with a mysterious side, which could be good or bad. Helena Bonham Carter or Matthew Macfadyen would be a possible fit. Would they audition, do you think?

If Andorra was one of your friends, what advice would you give her?
You can do whatever you want, as long as you try hard you will never fail

Good advice, and would she make the cut as a bestie?
Definitely, she’s loyal, amusing and actually very smart. She also has a talent for putting herself down and breaking things in an embarrassing way. I’d have to check with the wife first though.

Hit me with the most shocking one-liner from Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café?
Possibly… ‘My God, he was hoping to shag his way out of this!’


Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café

Meet Andorra Pett; with her trusty sidekick, she’s taken over a derelict café. On a mining station. It just happens to be orbiting Saturn!

She’s hoping for a fresh start, away from all the drama of her old life. It’s a chance to relax and start again in a place where nobody knows anything about her or her past.

But the café holds a secret, and secrets have a habit of coming out; whether you want them to or not. And being accident prone doesn’t help. The more you try to pretend that you know what’s going on, the worse it gets.

Andorra’s plans for peace and quiet get lost amid the revelations and skulduggery and she soon realises that the fate of the whole station lies in her hapless hands.
In space, you can still trip over your feet; the question is, will you land upright?

For more from Richard check out:

About Richard Dee:
A native of Brixham in Devon, Richard Dee's family left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986. Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, including Marine Insurance Surveyor and Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich.

In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as H.M.S. Belfast and through Tower Bridge.

In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority. Richard was offered part time working in 2010, which allowed him to return to live in Brixham, where he took up writing and blogging.

He retired in 2015, when he set up and ran a successful Organic bakery, supplying local shops and cafés. The urge to write eventually overtook the urge to bake but Richard still makes bread for friends and family. Richard is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.

Click for an excerpt below:

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Advice for writers: How to fill that blank page! Sally Jenkins offers excellent advice! @rararesources @sallyjenkinsuk #psychological #thrillers #writingtip #writerslife #mustread #fiction

Conquer Writer’s Angst 

Sally Jenkins

Being a writer is a scary business. It starts with a blank page and the fear of failing to fill it. It finishes with publication or submission for critique and the accompanying terror that readers will hate what we have written. 
Apart from popping pills and downing alcohol, how can we get control of this constant literary angst? 
Tips for Blank Page Trauma 
·       Write quickly. Pretend every month is November and NaNoWriMo.
·       Write the scene that’s buzzing in your head. Scenes don’t have to be written in the order they appear in the book.
·       Don’t read any of it back until you’ve reached the end of the story.
·       Banish that self-confidence seeping gremlin who whispers in your ear about how rubbish the writing is. The gremlin knows nothing!
·       Have an external deadline to aim for. Competitions are good for this – you don’t want to miss the closing date and the potential for prize money!
·       Accept that it’s OK to hate your first draft. It’s easier to improve a bad first draft than write perfect prose from the start.
·       Write because you love that afterglow feeling of ‘having written’. It’s the same high as ‘having exercised’. 
Tips for Accepting Criticism 
·       Understand that the adverse comments apply to one particular manuscript or book only. They are not personal or necessarily applicable to all your work.
·       You are always in control. Analyse the criticism and then decide whether or not to act on it. 
·       Taking criticism on board and giving it serious consideration shows maturity as a writer.
·       The only way to avoid criticism completely is to never show anyone your work. If you do that, what was the point in writing it? 
The Case Study 
My second psychological thriller, The Promise, was published on 28th January 2018. I banished the blank page blues by aiming to finish the novel by the closing date of a competition with a prize of publication and £1000. I kept myself buoyant mentally by imagining how I would feel when the novel was published and the prize money mine.  
I entered but didn’t win the competition. However I did now have the complete manuscript of a novel – a prize in itself! 
The next step was obtaining feedback on the novel. I sent The Promise for a critique. Two big ‘failures’ in the novel were highlighted: 
·       A romantic subplot didn’t work because there was no chemistry between the two characters supposed to be in love. The reader said, “You are much better at conjuring up a scene of horror. The psychological thriller is your genre.”
·       The structure could be improved. An inciting moment in the novel takes place thirty years ago in prison. I’d written the novel chronologically from this moment. The reader suggested the novel would be better starting in the present day with flashbacks to the past.
·       This criticism hurt and taking it on board would mean a major rewrite. But if I didn’t take action the money spent on the critique and all the time spent writing the novel would be wasted.  
I rewrote the novel. Then I used a beta reader. She came back to me with some minor changes, for example, too many names beginning with the same letter. In her summing up she described The Promise as ‘a fast- paced psychological thriller with stark, dark elements at play. The characters struggle with the central dilemma.’ 
Armed with confidence from my beta reader’s comments, I directly approached The Book Guild, the publisher involved in the competition that I hadn’t won. After a wait of several weeks they offered me a publishing deal.  
I did a happy dance and some alcohol was downed (!) but this time in literary celebration rather than to fight fear. Someday soon I hope to raise a glass to you, your writing success and banishment of writer’s angst!       


The Promise

A man has been stabbed. A woman is bloodstained. The nightmares from her teenage years have begun again for Olivia Field – just as she is preparing to marry.
Ex-convict, Tina is terminally ill. Before she dies, the care of her younger, psychologically unwell brother, Wayne must be ensured. So Tina calls in a promise made to her thirty years ago in a prison cell. A promise that was written down and placed with crucial evidence illustrating a miscarriage of justice in a murder case.

Tina believes Olivia is perfectly placed to provide the care Wayne needs, but to do so, Olivia must be forced to cancel her own wedding and wreck the lives of those close to her. Tina’s terrible blackmail demands put Olivia’s entire future and, ultimately, her freedom under threat.

The Promise is a fast-paced psychological thriller told from several third person viewpoints. The novel explores the lengths to which people are prepared go in order to protect those they love and the impossibility of ever fully escaping our past actions.


Sally Jenkins lives in the West Midlands. She is a member of a Speakers’ Club, a volunteer library reading group coordinator and a church bell ringer.
Sally's first psychological thriller, Bedsit Three won the Ian Govan Award.

Friday, 2 February 2018

How do you write a successful synopsis? Jane Holland will tell you how! .@janeholland1 .@rararesources #Psychological #books #crime #britishbooks

  How To Write A Successful Synopsis

Jane Holland 

Everyone hates writing a synopsis. For starters, the word sounds like a legal document. But it’s actually very simple. A synopsis is a selling document, written by an author for a publishing professional, to answer a number of vital questions for that reader. One, can this writer structure a story correctly? Two, is this story likely to sell? i.e. does it fit the current market for its genre? Three, am I interested in this story and these characters enough to want to represent or publish this writer?

The problem is, there’s no definitive way to write one. Some authors always do it one way, others change their approach according to the novel. Even publishing professionals have wildly differing requirements from a synopsis. Most want a one-page precis of your story; others prefer a more leisurely two pages; and a few like to know everything that happens.

My advice to a newish writer, especially one approaching an agent for representation, would be to stick to a one-page, single-spaced précis. Maybe 500 words. And tell them the ending. Yes, including any devilish twists. You won’t spoil the surprise. Agents and editors don’t want to be surprised. If your mild-mannered hero is revealed in the final third to be an assassin who’s lost his memory, tell them. If he saves the world in the end, tell them. Don’t conclude your synopsis with, ‘But can he defuse the bomb in time?’ This isn’t a blurb. They need to know everything.

Everything, that is, with direct impact on the story. They don’t need to know about Aunt Mabel, even if your hero does save her from being eaten by an escaped pteradactyl. Unless that’s the life-altering event that triggers him into abandoning a life of crime for a Buddhist monastery. So no minor story events, no funny anecdotes, no lesser characters. You just don’t have the space.

And while the synopsis needs to be written in a simple, straightforward way, remember they are buying you as a writer. Yes, avoid rhetorical flourish. But do write with confidence and aplomb, even panache. Make them trust you. You can make them laugh too. But sparingly. Unless it’s a children’s book or a comic novel, avoid jokes or enjoying your own prose quirks too much. No bullet points or wacky margins and fonts; no over-use of italics or bold. No character lists. No single paragraph of dense text. Three or four short paragraphs is probably best.

When introducing a character, avoid over-describing them. Selling document, remember? They are looking to fit your book into a niche. So ‘Barbara (23), a small-town librarian’ in a romance is probably all they need to introduce your heroine. No need to tell them about her wavy golden hair or her daily struggle to avoid cake. Unless it impacts the plot. (You know the drill by now.) And keep character description consistent. Your hero in this story should not be ‘Mark Paul Hubbert, a thirty-year-old fitness fanatic with a love of gerbils and a fascinating job in the music industry’.

And if you’re thinking, age isn’t relevant in my story, age is always relevant for main characters. Because age is relevant to the readership. Imagine if Mark had been 70 here. Or Barbara 17. See what I’m saying?

When structuring your synopsis, it should be a fairly linear retelling. However, this doesn’t mean it needs to be dull or prosaic. Imagine you’re telling a friend in a pub about your story – ‘There’s this geezer, see, and he’s lost his memory!’ – then recast that conversation in less slangy language, and in the present tense. Make it sound inviting. It should also show cause and effect, if possible. ‘When wage-slave Bob wins the lottery, he’s finally free to fulfil his boyhood dream of running a zoo. But his wife Jane has other intentions.’    

A synopsis should normally be constructed the same way you plot a novel. Certainly there needs to be a beginning, a middle, and a satisfying end. This isn’t the place for experimental structure. You need to set out the ordinary world of your story as it begins – that could be as short and sweet as the example above, eg. ‘wage-slave Bob’ – but quickly explain what happens to change this status quo – ‘Bob wins the lottery’. Then you need the middle stuff, i.e. Jane’s own ‘intentions’ for their winnings, and how that conflict plays out between them.

The synopsis should show an escalation towards the end of the middle section, where things get really bad. Maybe Jane leaves Bob. Or steals his money. Or Bob gets his dream zoo, but the animals escape – maybe Jane lets them out! – or Jane runs off with the elephant keeper, and he’s so stressed by dealing with everything alone, Bob ends up in hospital. Then explain how these conflicts and problems are resolved, so their story can end in a clear-cut way.

A synopsis often feels awkward to write, and even to read. So don’t beat yourself up about it too much, or get bogged down in trying to cover too much in one short document. I’m sure some people will hate this, but I often pop a one-line teaser or tagline at the top, so an editor can ‘get’ my book at a glance before reading the synopsis. But you might want to save that for when you have a relationship with the reader it’s going to.

Forget Her Name

Rachel’s dead and she’s never coming back. Or is she?

As she prepares for her wedding to Dominic, Catherine has never been happier or more excited about her future. But when she receives an anonymous package—a familiar snow globe with a very grisly addition—that happiness is abruptly threatened by secrets from her past.

Amazon.UK | Amazon.com
Her older sister, Rachel, died on a skiing holiday as a child. But Rachel was no angel: she was vicious and highly disturbed, and she made Catherine’s life a misery. Catherine has spent years trying to forget her dead sister’s cruel tricks. Now someone has sent her Rachel’s snow globe—the first in a series of ominous messages…

While Catherine struggles to focus on her new life with Dominic, someone out there seems intent on tormenting her. But who? And why now? The only alternative is what she fears most.

Is Rachel still alive?

About the author

Jane Holland is a Gregory Award–winning poet and novelist who also writes commercial fiction under the pseudonyms Victoria Lamb, Elizabeth Moss, Beth Good and Hannah Coates.

Her debut thriller, Girl Number One, hit #1 in the UK Kindle Store in December 2015. Jane lives with her husband and young family near the North Cornwall/Devon border.

A homeschooler, her hobbies include photography and growing her own vegetables.