Wednesday, July 31, 2013

ARCs have been sent out!

I have just sent out the first batch of ARCs. 

So why now do I feel like I haven't done enough?

The final moment before I sent them out, was as always, filled with doubt.  Are the characters interesting?  Is the plot well developed?  Are there any typos?  After six or seven edits you would hope not, but I'm not counting on it!

So there is nothing else to do.  My first readers, it is now in your hands.  Months of work has culminated in this final moment.  I have sent it out ready to be critiqued and dissected.  I hope it makes it through the first round of surgery!

So it only feels fair to share a little bit with you now.  I'm not telling you who is talking.  I'm not telling you where it is from in the book, but I hope you like it!

“Enough with the questions.  I told you already there is no time for this.  You have a choice Ben, but only one.  As far as the world is concerned, you are already dead.  Your bank accounts are closed, your identity card is void.  There is no trace of the life that you lived anymore, you are now what we call Identity X.  Don’t think that you are the first.  You are just the first to survive.  It’s over, Ben.” 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Guest Post - Ella Medler


If you’re reading this, you’re probably already familiar with books. That saves me the trouble of waffling on for a couple of paragraphs about the beauty one can find in a well-written story. Thank you for that. I’ll skip straight to the topic of this article: what keeps us interested in a book.

There’s no denying the fact that not all books have that key ingredient, the hallucinogenic that makes us continue to ignore the world while we turn the pages until the dinner’s charcoal, the cat has ventured to take its chances on the open prairie and the neighbours have unofficially – and somewhat illegally – adopted the baby. That stuff is magic.

Some give up on a book after the first chapter, if they haven’t been drawn in. Others keep reading until the end, simply because they hate not finishing what they have started. You think I’m joking? No chance. GoodReads have done in-depth studies on this subject, apparently. As a rule, I believe studies, though I’m often sceptical of the motivations.

Anyway, back to the real deal – what is it that makes a novel un-put-down-able?

Back in the early days of my writing career, I was searching for the perfect novel recipe. Now, I know there isn’t one. If you don’t write from the bottom of your heart, you’re only half-writing. But back then, I learned an important lesson: human beings are disaster-hungry.

If we have reason to believe the world is likely to end half-way down the next page, we’ll read on. If the villain looks well-set to kill the protagonist by the end of the chapter, we’ll read on. If our characters are likely to suffer, we want to watch it happen.

And so the most important feature of a good novel can be found: the conflict. Give your reader a conflict, give them mystery, give them the opportunity of things going wrong, and they’ll read a few pages. Finish the chapter in a cliff-hanger and you’ve got them to move on to chapter two.

But conflict isn’t enough. What is conflict between slugs? You need to make your characters strong enough to support it, not only initially, but also as the plot thickens and obstacles cut out their avenues to success. You need to make the reader care, feel something about your main character – a strong emotion, such as love and hate, or its younger cousins: pity, envy and disgust.

Whatever you do, you must create the lure, the pull one feels when they can identify with a person or a situation, because it is at that point that we ask ourselves: what would I do if I was faced with this problem? We love to judge others, and we love to offer advice. No, that’s the wrong way to go about it! Or, yes, that’s exactly what I’d do. We’re hard-wired to help others. If we care about a character, emotionally, we are invested. We want to cheer for the hero and we want to boo the villain out of the room!

Still, the characters may be awesome, and there could be mystery and conflict, and our readers may be on page thirty by now, but then what? How do we keep the book stuck to their fingers?

That, my dears, is where the magic happens. The magic is in the plot, and the author holds the magic wand. Make your world charming, make it sensory and rich, multi-layered and enticing. Make the readers want to pack up their bags and move into your world right away. Whether fantastic or real, this is the place where your characters interact, where wars are won or lost, where love is found. It would be a pity to have worked so hard on establishing the conflict and creating amazing characters, if your plot lets you down.

Fascinate the reader! Imagine your storyline like a balloon. Pump it up – it changes shape and colour. Suddenly you see what was hidden in the creases. Pump it up some more, and it changes again. Don’t, whatever you do, take that nasty pin to it. No one likes a let-down. Twist your balloon, make it different, make it unpredictable, and when the time comes, let it fly.

The ending to your novel should be just that – a satisfying dream that’s rightfully ended. Something a dreamer might want to go back to, to dream about again and again. Be the person who takes care of the dreamers, be the dreamweaver, the author they’ll go back to when they need to drift off again.


Ella Medler is a U.K. author and free-lance editor. She writes fiction in more than one genre in a seemingly vain attempt to slow down her overactive brain enough to write non-fiction on subjects she knows a thing or two about. She also does not believe in the starchy use of English and ignores the type of rule that doesn’t allow for a sentence to be finished in a preposition. Her books are action-driven and well-developed characters are her forte. Loves: freedom. Hates: her inner censor.

To keep up to date with her current writing and future projects, visit her website at


New Release: BLOOD IS POWER, book 2 in the Hunter Series

In this second instalment of his story, Nick Hunter proceeds to track down and eliminate every person involved in his son’s kidnap. But where will the chase end? And has he bitten off more than he can chew? Nick discovers a tangled net of human trafficking and corruption, and world-class players with a penchant for disturbed obsessions. Gritty, dark, chock-full of suspense. Don’t start reading if you cannot finish it in one sitting.

And just to wet your appetite.............

“Action!” Dollar shouted. Then, quieter, to her. “Oh, I will enjoy watching your end, Precious. Every single second of it. Every cut, every lick of blood, every morsel of flesh that drops off your body.”

Tequila felt her eyes bulge out of their sockets. She was too terrified to breathe, too stunned to think. And still, the beast walked nearer. He sneered, and then lifted up the scalpel until it was level with his chin.

“Don’t forget to scream,” he whispered.

By the same author:

The Martin Little Series (fantasy satire):

Martin Little, Resurrected

(published by Andrews UK - 2011)

The Hunter Series (action thriller):

Blood is Heavier - 2012

The Eternal Series – in collaboration with K.S. Haigwood (paranormal suspense/romance):

Eternal Island - 2012

Eternal Immortality - 2013

Future work:

 Blood is the End (book three and last in the Hunter Series)

Deal With It! – Tequila’s Storyspin-off from the Hunter Series, by popular demand

Martin Little Takes Epic Action (book two in the Martin Little Series)

Eternal Inception (book three in the Eternal Series)

Pariah (book one in the Unwanted Series - drama)

Retard Ed (Sci-fi)


Friday, July 19, 2013

My Writing Space

Some of us like quiet, some of us like noise.  I read that Stephen King likes a good bit of Metallica to get the creative juices flowing.  Some of us like a nice orderly desk, some of us enjoy the chaos, and some of us are just glad for the half an hour when there aren't any other jobs to eat into our writing time.

As for me, I'm not too fussy.  I like silence, although the man outside pressure washing his driveway and car does not seem to know this.  I like a cup of tea, and that is just in the process of brewing, despite the 35 degree Celsius heat.  Other than that, I don't need much else.  Other than a desk that is.

Somebody just asked me what my writing space looks like.  Here it is.  It's a bit messy, it has a bowl of half eaten Special K, a wonderful book about symbolism, and a whole host of other stuff that could be tidied away, including that idle computer that runs at a speed inconsistent with life.  This also functions as the reception desk of our medical office! Multitasking in practice.  

What does your writing space look like?  What can you not write without?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


IDENTITY X is set for release this September 24th.  That's sixty seven days away.  But in the meantime, it is time to release the cover. 

I am very pleased with my cover design artist, and she has been so patient and willing in this whole process.  She was even understanding when at the last minute I changed my mind from the original cover design and said, "You know, I have this idea........"  This is what she did with my idea, and I love it.  I hope you are excited by the cover too!


Small Scale Paris

If Paris were a person I would be in love with it.  In fact, it would become an unhealthy obsession.  You see, I can't get enought of Paris.  It's like I met Paris many years ago and I am still enjoying the honeymoon period.  Nineteen years later.
Love on the Pont des Arts
I was lucky enough to go to Paris a couple of months ago, and I always intended to share the photography here.  Now when I say photography, I don't mean SLR captured, carry my tripod around with me (I don't own a tripod) type images.  I mean the pictures I took with my phone.

 But these are not your average Paris pictures of the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre.  These are the images about the details, the lucky spot, the interesting snapshot.  This is the interesting moss that grows on a grand old oak tree, the shell in the ocean, the needle in the haystack.  You probably wouldn't know most of them were Paris if I hadn't of said so. 

Anyway, writer's blog or not, today it's about the pictures.  It's about Paris, and finding inspiration in the smallest of details.

From the Arc du Triomphe

Île de la Cité
Galeries Lafayette                                       Inside Arc du Tromphe
 From behind the Musee d'Orsay clock
Inside Notre Dame
Île de la Cité

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Character Development

Trojan. A word that conjures up several images. Some dubious, some not so dubious. The first and foremost is a wooden horse hiding an elite Greek force who are intent on destroying the city of Troy. Another, the Trojan condom, a box branded with the admirable profile of the aforementioned Trojan soldier. I'm not sure who came up with the idea, but in history, the Trojans were defeated in battle. Perhaps not quite the marketing message you need in such a situation.

Another image that the word Trojan conjures up is that of something rather faceless. You cannot see it, touch it, talk to it, use it, but it will without doubt ruin your day. I cannot tell you exactly what it looks like, but rather what it instils, how it feels. Absolute horror.

The story begins at work. I was typing away as I do whilst sat on the reception desk of our cardiology clinic during a bit of a patient lull, when I hear a rather dubious call of my name. 'Micheeeeelle' I hear from the back office, which sounds a lot like the 'Muuuum' I used to say when I either wanted something, or had already done something wrong and wanted to cushion the blow. It is worth noting at this point that my job extends beyond scientist/physiologist in our clinic - I am also the cleaner, the tile layer, the coffee maker, the receptionist, accountant, and apparently, IT expert. Now in reality I have no particular skill with any of these tasks. I am forgetful enough to be a poor receptionist, like tea so much that I make a bad coffee, and whilst I clean with enthusiasm, it could always be done more frequently. I can however do pretty good tiling. But what I am really not, is an IT expert.

So when I see on the screen nothing but a message which is apparently from the police of Cyprus, demanding a €100 fine to be paid immediately, after which they would return our computer I thought that something is not quite as it should be. Cyprus may indeed be broke, but this seemed a pretty unlikely scheme. I assumed something had gone astray. It had. It was a Trojan virus. We cannot log off. We cannot get on the internet. We cannot do anything.

First thought? Books. All of them. When did I back up, did I get all of it, how much have I lost? All the questions go swirling around my head as if I am in a great big sink hole, staring whilst years of work gets sucked into the earth. The next? The PC. We cannot run the office without a PC, and it will be nightmare to lose patient data. The part-time accountant in me is also running through the bills and the latest account statement and wondering if I can just go out and buy another. I probably can't.

However, the police in Cyprus did their job well. We called them, and they talked us through several steps on how to get our computer back, and within roughly half an hour I was running a virus scan and kicking the Trojan's ass. PC fully restored. But for that half an hour there was an unknown and faceless enemy trying to ruin me and destroy our hard work.

This got me thinking about the bad guy in books and movies. I can still remember sitting in the cinema watching The Blair Witch Project and being utterly terrified, as was the rest of the cinema which breathed a collective sign of relief as the credits rolled. I found The Blair Witch project terrifying not because of the things that happened or that were said, but rather the things that were absent. The lack of a discernible identity, and without a manifestation of the evil in this film inherently made it more scary. The lack of human emotion permitted a deeper and more indestructible iniquity, capable of unimaginable and inhumane acts. The same goes for Paranormal Activity, and sleep I did not that night as I sat watching my sheets for the slightest breeze or movement.

But these characters are 'other worldly'. They are not part of what we accept as the real world. They are fictitious personifications of human fears and emotions. If we were to create human characters with such one dimensional evil, it would be hard to make them believable and therefore, less scary. Through the development of character the evil gets a face, a body, it breathes just like the rest of us. We give them a good side, a conscience, heap them full of guilt. I love a good faceless villain like The Blair Witch, but the characters that we really connect with are the real people with conflict inside them. Even Hannibal Lecter has a back story, and as we learn about his childhood dare I say that we begin to understand how the monster was created. To understand how he became what he is makes him one of us. It makes him just another person, a regular man who got dealt a really bad hand and that makes him all the more terrifying.

Character development is very important and without it our characters become less human and less believeable.  So what can we do to ensure that our characters become real and somebody that a reader can connect with?



1.      Give them a history - if they were raised with strong religeous views, how has that altered their choices in the present?  If they were abandoned as a child, do they struggle to be a good parent?  Maybe they even avoid parental responsibilities completely.

2.      Who are they - get to know them well. Where did they go to school, who was their friend, what was their first job, what is their sexual orientation. Get to know your character outside of the story. We all have friends that we socialise with, but yet we don't know very well. Make your characters one of your best friends, the person you can chat over coffee with. Make them the person who you can describe in greater detail than hair colour and what they wear.

3.      Define their goal - what do they want? It's all very well knowing who they are and where they come from, but what are they interested in for the future? For example, Captain Corelli wanted to get through the war and make it home. He wasn't interested in finding love, but it found him and this helped to grow his story. Because we know his goal, we can decide how he would be likely to react.

4.      Make them individual - don’t create a caricature of your characters. Make them somebody interesting, with flaws and quirks, likes and dislikes. Nobody wants to see a flawless hero. Even Superman had a flaw.

5.      Give them a voice - as a writer it is important to have a voice and agents always say they are looking for an original voice. Give that same attention to your characters. Their voice comes through not only in their actions, but also dialogue. Make sure it is believable. Your average gun wielding gangster is unlikely to curse a mishap with 'oh shoot' and the local nun is unlikely to swear on God's name. Let your character decide on their vocabulary, not you. Let them speak freely in a voice that suits them.

Do you have other ideas for character development? Share them here in the comments.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Don't forget the ARCs!

Today seems to be all about counting.  It started with the bank account.  As always, this requires a certain amount of attention and skill (some might say cajoling), and fortunately, today I managed to count, account for, and smile about the final result.  Not the smile of a lottery winner, just a simple, thank-goodness/God/F@uk or any other bringer of good fortune to whom you may offer gratitude.  I find such pleas also apply on a bad day, as long as I remember to remove the prefix.

Then, more counting regarding the forthcoming wedding day.  My wedding planner App reliably informs me I have 47 days until The Big Day when I waltz up the aisle.  I cannot wait for my wedding, and yet the App seems to have taken on a mind of its own, formed its own unpleasant personality, and I can't say I care much for its told-you-to-plan-in-advance attitude.  It has become a constant reminder, a nur-nurne-nur-nur daily chant, 'you will forget something, you will mess up!'  If I wasn't so involved I'd reach for the delete button, but I am afraid it's too late.  I have become dependent.  A very unhealthy co-dependent relationship in which without the forthcoming wedding the App would be nothing, but I fear I made it irreplaceable!  I cannot delete it.  Not yet.  Just 47 days more, then I'll let it go.

And why?  How did a little icon that was free to download become so useful?  Because of the third countdown.  Identity X release day.  The countdown is flashing at me as we speak in the virtual world of this blog.  Seventy seven days, seven hours and seventeen minutes to go.  The planning of this seems so much more complicated than the wedding which is quite, in my opinion, unbelievable.  There is no App to say blog here, post there, give copy to reviewer A, B, and C within the 6-9 month timeframe and on The Big Day you will have success.  So I watch my countdown, watch the numbers ticking on by, hoping that I have done enough,  and that it will be alright on the night.  Now there might not be an App to guide me, but one thing I know for sure is that success isn't coming anywhere close without readers.  Not six months down the line readers, but the first ones.  The trailblazers.  So if you are a reader and would like to be a part of the process you can easily get involved.  You can still get your free ARC eBook.  Taking part in something like this makes you an integral part of  the writing process, and for me, a very special person indeed.  Without my beta readers there is no ARC.  Without my ARC readers there is no successful release.  OK, there is, but it's a whole lot harder.  So if you want to get involved with the release of Identity X head over to the library and sign up for your free copy now.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Day That Writing Got A Face

I recently read the Stephen King book, On Writing.  I had heard of it quite some time ago, but not one for manuals and do-it-this-way books, I had never picked it up.  Then I had a thought.  If anybody had something to say about what it was to be a writer, well, it was probably this guy.  I finished it last month and it reignited my interest in this great writer.

You see, Stephen King was my first.  He was the first writer that made me want to be a writer.  By this point I had already fallen in love with books, and had a whole collection of Roald Dahl and A. A. Milne hardbacks that I used to polish with a wet rag (I'm not joking), but I had never wanted to actually be a writer.  Up until the age of about nine years old I had never considered the concept of who actually wrote the books.  They were all about characters and what happens, who got turned into mice by witches, and who won the game of pooh-sticks.

So what changed?  Sat in the retirement bungalow of a dear old family friend called Frank, who always seemed more entertained by me than anybody else, I was intrigued by what was kept on his shelves.  They were overflowing, and at my eye level there were scrapbooks.  He collected autographs, and had scrapbooks on top of scrapbooks, all full of autographs.  It was a great hobby he informed me, and seemed so excited by it I decided to give it a go.  I wrote my letter to Aston Villa football club and a few weeks later in the post I got a very nice photograph of the goal keeper with a big swirly unreadable autograph.  I was excited, but not that excited, and this was my first and only foray into the world of autograph collecting.

However, the next time I set off to Frank's house I noticed something else.  The books.  This wasn't a shelf like mine with kid's books.  This was a grown up shelf with anything but small cuddly honey loving bears on the front of the jackets.  One caught my eye in particular.

With moonlight streaming in through the window and handcuffs attached to the bed (a police story, perhaps thought my 9 year old self) this was without doubt like nothing I had ever read before.  But it was something else that really struck me the most. 

You see up until this point I had never seen an author.  I had no idea what they looked like.  They were like rarely sighted birds, something you heard about and read about in books but never saw one in real life.  Suddenly the people who write books had a face.  I immediately wanted to read the book, and thankfully my parents who were not Stephen King readers and who had no idea of the content convinced dear old Frank that I wouldn't ruin the book and it was fine to lend it to me.  Perhaps he was too embarrassed to discuss his reading tastes, but wisely or unwisely he gave me that book and I read it in less than a weekend.  I was hooked.  Perhaps a little disturbed, but hooked nevertheless.

Talking about it with Frank the next time, he said to me that he thought Stephen King might be a little bit crazy with all the terrible subjects that he writes about.  The only thing I could think to say was that I hoped somebody might say that about me one day in the future.  Whilst I might no longer hope to be thought of as insane, the thought that somebody might take as much from my writing as I did Stephen King's as a child (it explains a lot, perhaps) is still a captivating thought.

So why am I writing about Stephen King today?  I came across a few videos of him on Youtube and this one really stood out.  I like his casual-as-chinos attitude, and as usual he has something interesting to say.  It's long, but if you've got some time, pop the kettle on and sit down with this.  If you like Stephen King or admire his work, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Story of my life: Theme in fiction

I imagine that most of us at some point have either said or heard, “oh, that’s the story of my life.”  It’s the standard line we run to when one of those familiarly annoying occurrences ruin our day.  Let’s think of an example.  You missed the start of the movie because you were late.  In fact, you are always late because your husband always realises on the way to the cinema that you have to stop for petrol.  And money.  You miss the beginning of the film like you always do because of it.  You smile apologetically at the strangers as they are forced to stand up to let you pass as you take your seats, and smile sarcastically at the husband who seemingly has no shame or realisation of how much he has annoyed you.

This is fortunately not the story of my life.  Instead it is the story of my fiancee's life, who invariably is late for anything that we are due to attend together because I have left the car with no petrol and therefore have to stop at the garage.  I will also need to ‘pop to the bank’ on the way.  Which of course, isn’t really on the way at all.

But if I were to write the story of his life in this way, I would not detail every late appearance or every missed movie.  These details would make for a very she said he said story.  Instead, I would write generally about how he constantly reminds me to please fill up the car, and how it always seems I ran out of time.  We would explore why I am always late, and get the opinion of a few others who have suffered because of it.  Lateness, would be my theme.

As writers our work is a tapestry of many elements, ideas, layers, which all combine to produce the overall finished piece.  We create characters and plot, decide on a setting and package it up with our hopefully unique and inspiring voice to tell the story.  As we tell our story, we hope that the characters and their actions reveal a central message.  A lasting thought.  Superficially we might at the end of a book or a film describe a character in simple terms, a quick nod to the story.  “That Joe character, I can’t believe he did that after everything he went through,” but we might actually be making reference to the moral of the story, the message.  This is the theme cropping up again.  

In my writing, I do not conciously pre determine my theme, making sure that as I step through the chapters I graffiti my theme all over them.  At least not in the first draft.  I come up with an idea, a concept.  A what if…..With this one concept in mind I begin the first draft, meet my characters and find a resolution to the story that develops.  Once this first draft is finished I take a step back and work through from beginning to end and determine how I answered that original concept.  Identity X began with a thought about the ability to cure genetic disease.  Not just one or two diseases, but a scientist who had worked so tirelessly that he had managed to formulate a single serum that could reconstruct DNA.  What if you could cure all genetic disease with a single injection? 
When I met my protagonist I asked myself what drove him forward.  Why was he prepared to sacrifice his home life?  Did he really not care if he lost his wife?  Why did his work matter so much?  From these early questions spawned a whole manuscript, and as I looked back though I found themes running throughout the story.  I found that I ended up asking myself how individuals and families deal with disease, and how such diseases can tear families apart.  I also found myself asking why people hold on to pain from the past, seeking nothing but vengeance and how that destroys not only the present but the future too.  These were not my original thoughts, but they were easy to identity after the first draft and became the key to the story.  Then, when I approached my second draft I could develop these concepts and improve the original manuscript.

For me, a novel without theme is like a walk through a tunnel in the mountain, all concrete and straight to the point.  Character A did this and went there and decided that.  The End.  Pretty boring, eh?  The journey I really want to take is the one that takes me up and over the mountain, that tests my strength and pushes my limits.  Over the mountain my walk will be enriched by the sky and scenery, and unexpected turns in the path.  I might meet somebody else along the way who warns me of danger and completely changes my path forward.  On this journey I will learn something about myself and those with me.  It will make me think of previous journeys and how they compare.  It will make me ask questions and the theme of my journey will develop quite organically. 

This kind of depth in a novel adds a layer of poignancy that your readers will be able to delve into.  Theme is often merely inferred, and this leads readers to find their own meanings in the text too, and draw their own conclusions. They will weave in and out of the layers, developing their own contrary viewpoint.  When a reader speaks to you about a theme that they found on the journey through your book that you had never even considered, you know you did a good job.  This kind of depth helps give a novel a meaning beyond simple entertainment and provides it with a place in society, and it could just be that very thing that your agent or publisher is looking for.