Query Theory (Part 1)

Are You Ready?

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Welcome to the first post in my ‘Query Theory’ series!

Querying for the first time is not unlike taking all your hopes and dreams, wrapping them in ribbons, and throwing them off a mountain in the vague hope that, beneath the swirling mists, there lies a fabled creature called ‘The Right Literary Agent’ who will catch them, cradle them, nurture them and raise them into something magnificent. Whilst all the time worrying that your precious bundle will instead be ripped apart by the ever feared ‘Rejecting Agents’, or worse (yes, worse… if you don’t believe me now, wait until you’ve been querying a while) simply disappear into the ether, being too unimportant for the pack to even bother sniffing, let alone savaging.

In short, there’s a lot about the query process that is beyond the author’s control. Which tends to bug us, quite a bit. Up until this point, we’ve been the masters of our own dreams. We (literally) wrote our own stories. We gave life to characters with a tipitty tap of our fingers, and cackled maniacally as we erased whole lives from existence with CTL X. We like control.

Don’t believe me? Why do you think there are so many resources out there for querying authors? Tools for tracking your queries, whole sites devoted to listing agents and their preferences, pitching contests on Twitter, blogs, tips, forums all devoted to the process? They help us to try to gain some sense of control. Try to find some reason/pattern/logic in what is, ultimately, a highly subjective experience that is unique for everyone.

The harsh truth is, there is very little you can control once you launch that bundle off the mountaintop. Once you’ve sent those queries out, all bets are off. I can tell you over and over again that studying Query Tracker, or rereading agents’ Twitter feeds ten thousand times, will do nothing but drive you crazy; that there is no pattern or logic to be found, but you’ll do it all anyway.

So, let’s focus on the things you CAN control.

You can control WHEN you query, WHO you query, and HOW you query. Today, let’s look at when.

 

Ready to Query?

You are the master of your queries, until you send them. Do yourself a huge favour by making sure you are absolutely ready before you hit that ‘send’ button.

 

The Not Ready and the Never Ready

A lot of writers fall into one of two traps.

Some, in their eagerness, query before they and/or their manuscript are truly ready. This can be disastrous, especially if they send to every possible agent all at once, leaving nowhere to go once they finally accept that more work is needed.

Others never feel the work is good enough, and will revise, tweak, edit and curse at their manuscript until they grow old and die; unless someone snaps them out of it. I am one of these. If it wasn’t for my critique partners screaming at me, telling me in no uncertain terms that it was ready, and threatening me with painful death if I dared shelve it without querying, I would still be rewriting odd sentences and periodically declaring myself to be ‘a useless, shitty, writer’ without ever having even tried.

As far as I can tell, the ONLY cure for writers in the second camp is bossy critique partners – so get yourself some if you’re of the it’s-never-good-enough variety of authors.

But for those who are worried they might be in the first camp, here are some questions to consider:

 

Is Your Manuscript Ready?

Is your work as polished as you can possibly make it?

This is not to say, ‘is your work perfect’ because, NEWSFLASH – it’s not. But is it as close to perfect as you can get it without industry help? The WHOLE manuscript? Because, it’s tempting, when you hear stories about how long agents take to respond to initial queries, to send off your submission package when there’s still work to be done on later chapters. For the love of God, don’t do this! Yes, sometimes they take an eye-wateringly long time to respond, if at all. But, most of my full requests actually came within days. My agent’s request came within hours. Don’t chance it.

Have you had (and taken on board) feedback?

Not just your mum, partner, friend, sister, cat etc etc (though obviously their opinions are great to have too!) have you had honest, preferably harsh, critique from beta readers and critique partners?

Have you let it ‘sit’?

Please, please, don’t submit your manuscript as soon as you finish it. You’ll read it back a few weeks later and want to bash your head against a wall. There are ALWAYS problems we can’t see when we’re still very close to our words. Give yourself some distance, because with it comes objectivity, before doing that final read-through. Please. You will save yourself the anguish of discovering problems when it’s too late to fix them.

Is it formatted correctly?

Not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it certainly helps an agent’s immersion if your material is correctly formatted – and therefore easier for them to read. And we all want the agent we sign with to have been completely immersed in our words, right?

Are YOU ready?

I’m not going to insult you by asking you if you can handle rejection. You already know it’s inevitable. And nobody really knows how they’ll feel until it happens. Even if you’ve had short pieces rejected, having your book baby dismissed with a copied and pasted ‘Dear Author’ email is a whole different teapot of tadpoles. It’s unavoidable, and one of those things you have no control over. But there are other ways to tell if you, as an author, are ready.

Do you have realistic expectations?

Not just about the query process, but about agents in general. Do you know what they do, and don’t do? Do you know what type of agent (large agency, boutique, lone agent) you’d ideally like? And the pros and cons of each? If you’re not sure, talking to repped authors is a great way to work out the type of agent experience that would be the best fit for you. If you don’t know any, just try approaching some on Twitter. Authors are generally a pretty friendly bunch, and we love talking about writing and publishing. Anyway, what’s the worst that could happen? So maybe they won’t respond? – Well, frankly that’s just good practice for querying anyway 😉

How do you feel about critique?

Even if an agent loves your book, it is highly likely they will want revisions. In fact, a lot of agents discuss revisions with you BEFORE they offer representation. In no small part, this is because they need to be sure you are someone they can work with, someone who is open to making changes. Sometimes these changes will be obviously beneficial to the book as a whole, sometimes they may be changes that will make your book more marketable.

We all dislike criticism when we start out. But, by the time we’re ready to query we actively seek it, and embrace it (the constructive kind anyway). The first time I had to make revisions after feedback from a beta, I sat staring at my printed out pages, feeling like I was up against a wall. I couldn’t see what to do, couldn’t fathom how I was going to make it all flow again.

But by the time my agent called to offer, my mind was like an episode of Sherlock (when it came to my manuscript anyway. In real life I still couldn’t organise my sock drawer). When she made a suggestion, I could instantly see the parts of the book (even the very sentences) that ought to be changed, and the tendrils that connected those parts to other parts that would then need altering, and it was exciting. Her suggestions made my brain spark, and revision became a thing of possibility, not dread.

Do you know your manuscript that well? Do suggestions for improvement fill you with dread, or excitement? You are not going to get from finished draft to traditionally published book on a shelf in Waterstone’s without making revisions. As uncertain as the whole process is, I am certain of that much. So, this is a biggie. If you can’t bear to change a single word, you’re either not yet ready for traditional publishing, or it’s not the path you really want to take.

Do you have chocolate?

Perhaps the most important question of all. Once you hit send, you’re going to need some seriously indulgent sustenance!

 

Thanks so much for reading, please feel free to leave comments/questions. Later in the Query Theory series I’ll be interviewing one of my awesome critique partners, and also giving away free query letter critiques.

Next post: WHO to query (researching agents, making the right choices, avoiding schmagents – there are some shark infested waters out there!)

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How I Got My Agent

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In case you missed the Twitter announcement, I am absolutely thrilled to say that I am now officially represented by the very lovely Emily Sweet (Emily Sweet Associates.)

If you’d have told me two months ago (when I was deep in the emotional turmoil of the dreaded ‘Query Trenches’) that I would be writing one of these blog posts – the type I devoured to try to distract myself from constantly refreshing my inbox, I would have laughed. Or cried. Or stared at you with wild eyes, twitched a bit, and then hoovered up anything vaguely chocolatey in the vicinity. Because querying was like being in some kind of limbo-esque parallel universe. You smile and nod, you make the right noises in your daily interactions, but your brain is somewhere in an agent’s unread inbox, and your fingers constantly twitch – compelled to check your email, even though you’ve got your notifications set to ‘Sonic Boom’ so there’s no way you could have missed an incoming message… But, that little old lady’s trolley wheel was a bit squeaky, maybe you DID miss it? Better check…

So why did I put myself through it? Well, if your goal is to be traditionally published, chances are you are going to need an agent.  The majority of traditional publishers do not accept submissions from unagented authors (unless they’re running a particular competition/open submission period). Given that there are vastly more agents than there are publishers, and that many of these agents receive hundreds of submissions A WEEK, you can kinda see why. But, an agent (a good one anyway) is more than just a book seller. The right agent can help you get your manuscript ready for publishers, advise you on all aspects of your writing career, and hold your hand when it all gets a bit much.

Query Stats

So, my stats (because I know that’s what all the currently querying authors want to know 😉 )

Queries sent: 28

Full Requests: 5

Form Rejections: 5

Queries withdrawn/not responded to: 18

Offers of Representation: 2

The Journey

Initially, I sent just five queries, to agents I had seen active on Twitter who seemed like they might be a good fit. Two of them came back within days asking for the full manuscript. I was elated, overjoyed, bouncing off the walls… and naïve.

I reasoned (disclaimer: querying authors have no sense of reason. Do not trust your reason when you’re querying) that it would be foolish to send any more queries until I’d heard back on the fulls. What if there was something glaring wrong with the book? If I’d already sent it to all and sundry I could keep getting rejected for the same thing. So I waited.

And waited…

And waited…

Hint: There is a lot of waiting involved in the query process.

Summer holidays came, and I tried to put my non-pinging inbox out of my mind. But when September came around I decided I’d waited long enough (FYI, I never did hear back on those fulls). So, I resolved this time to take a more methodical approach than just querying agents I had looked up (OK, stalked…) on Twitter.

Out came the Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook, and I went through the list of literary agents, looking at their websites and researching their preferences and submission guidelines. Finally, I had a list of twenty three agents I thought might be interested in my humble manuscript. One of whom was Emily.

I sent twenty three queries in two days. This is no mean feat. Yes, lots of agents ask for the ‘standard’ submission package (query letter, synopsis, first three chapters), but plenty don’t. Some want differing lengths of sample material, some want you to copy and paste into an email, some want a bio. Some want your first born child gift wrapped in scented paper – OK, I made that one up. Emily’s website asked for just the covering letter initially – so I duly sent that, and continued on with my marathon query sesh.

About an hour later, while I was busy cursing an agent who wanted the sample material formatted COMPLETELY differently to anyone else, (WHY?) my inbox chimed. It was Emily, and she liked my pitch. She asked for the first ten thousand words and synopsis. Fortunately, by this point I had approximately ten squillion different files with every length of sample material you could ever wish for, so I located my ‘first 10k’ file and sent it off.

I didn’t expect to hear anything quickly… or ever, to be honest. But to my surprise, a couple of hours later she replied again, complimenting my writing and asking for the full manuscript. After the months of deafening silence, I MAY have screamed a little bit…

After squealing at my husband, and cursing Windows 10 for choosing THIS moment to do an update, I composed myself and sent off the manuscript. Shortly after, more full requests rolled in, and were sent off. Then, I prepared myself for the long wait.

Which, as it turns out, wasn’t long at all…

The Call

The day after I sent my manuscript to Emily, I received an email from her – late in the evening. She’d already read the whole book! And what’s more, she described it as ‘incredible’ and wanted to arrange a time to speak on the phone! I was at work at the time (on a nightshift) so my poor colleague had to put up with me squealing, crying, and swearing at my phone for its lousy internet connection. We arranged to speak the next morning. I mean, there was no way I was going to be able to sleep, even after a long shift, until I’d heard what she had to say.

I tried not to get too excited. I had heard tell of ‘The Call that is not The Call’ – agents calling authors usually means they’re thinking of offering representation, but some poor souls have received calls only to be told all the reasons why the agent can’t offer…

But, it was indeed ‘The Call’ – after a long chat about the book, possible revisions, and future career, Emily said the magic words, “I’d like to offer you representation.” She was so passionate, so lovely, and I could already see how her suggestions would improve the book, I wanted to say ‘Yes!’ right there and then… But somehow I kept my cool. I was already out on full elsewhere, and I had to give other agents a fair chance to make counter offers (not that I expected any!). Emily didn’t give me a time limit for my answer (yet another reason I felt she was ‘the one’), but I promised to get back to her within two weeks.

Silence is Broken

My dead-as-the-grave inbox was in for a big surprise when I started notifying other agents of an offer of representation.

At this point, I had a good hard look at who I had queried, and (not wanting to waste anyone’s time) wrote to withdraw my submission from most of the agents. For those I felt I would still consider an offer from, I simply notified them and gave them a ten day deadline if they wished to counter offer.

All of a sudden, I went from a never-changing-inbox to having more emails than I could handle. Notified agents replied almost instantly, promising to get back to me ASAP. Even agents I had withdrawn from sent congratulations ‘to you and your agent’! It was a little surreal.

In the end, I did receive a counter offer – and from an agent who was one of my top picks. Choosing between them was one of the hardest decisions of my life (more about multiple offers in a later post), but in the end I went with my heart. Emily’s passion for my novel, and the gut feeling that we were simply a better fit personality wise, drew me to her. And then I found myself in the very topsy-turvy position of being the one to make ‘The Call’ to an agent, and having to send a decline to the other.

In the end, after months of waiting on other agents, I went from initial query to offer in less than 48 hours. And signed two weeks later.

For Those In ‘The Query Trenches’

But, the query process is different for everyone. One of the best things about the writing community is its ‘pay it forward’ camaraderie.  I learned everything I needed to know about querying from other writers, and will be passing what I’ve learned on to other authors who are yet to query, or who are currently in the trenches.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing posts on every aspect of the torture that is trying to secure a literary agent. From writing a killer query letter, and doing your research, to how to cope with silence, and what to do when you receive more than one offer.

I’ll be compiling some of the best resources for querying authors, and even offering some query letter critiques to my followers – so watch this space!

Time to Write?

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Someone once told me you have to treat time like money.

It makes a lot sense, when you think about it. We all have only a finite amount of it to spend after all. And we all have ‘time expenses’ we can’t wriggle out of – direct debits from our hours, if you will. Once you deduct those bills (sleeping, working, eating, showering and so forth) you’re often left with very little to spare.

So then, you have to budget. You’ll want to spend a fair bit on your family, particularly your children.  Friends too, and hobbies, and relaxation, and Netflix, and Facebook… before you know it you’re overdrawn on your hours.  You’ve gone from having a little bit of disposable time to being overstretched, and owing more than you can feasibly pay.

If you’re trying to fit serious writing in as well, it might feel like you’re continuously in the red, and no one will offer you a loan.

As well as the finite nature of time, there’s another hard truth facing aspiring writers: no one takes you seriously to begin with. If you’re lucky, a few close family members, and your critique partners, believe you are going somewhere. Everyone else thinks you’ve got a cute little hobby. So you feel apologetic, embarrassed even, when you try to carve out some time for it.

But when you start to view time as if it were currency, it becomes a little easier to stand firm. You wouldn’t buy every product someone wants to sell you, or splash out on new clothes before your bills are paid. So, if you want to write seriously, you have to ring-fence your time in the same way you guard your pin number.  No one else is going to protect your hours. It’s your responsibility.

Another piece of advice, one that has stuck with me over the last few years, is that you have to treat writing like a job if you ever want it to become one.

So, I don’t draw my writing time from my disposable hours. It has its own account. The fifteen hours a week available to me to write are immutable. I am, to all intents and purposes, at work. OK, I’ll have a coffee break and check my social media… maybe I’ll take a long lunch sometimes, but I won’t allow those hours to be eroded. They’re too precious. They’re an investment – in myself.

For the last two years I have spent those hours working on my novel, When Jimmy Saved London. I have been absent from the blogosphere during that time, because I found it too distracting from the task in hand. I’ve learned an awful lot, and worked closely with some awesome writers who have helped me bash it into shape through several redrafts. Now, I am gearing up to finally submit.

When people ask me if the time I’ve invested will pay off, they mean in a financial sense. And I honestly don’t know. But when I consider  for myself whether those hours  will pay off, I think of everything I have learned, the critique partners I have worked with, the sheer accomplishment of having written the story that yearned to be told – and I can’t help but feel they already have.

Flashing!

No, not that sort of flashing – get your mind out of the gutter! If you’re expecting a discussion about the virtues of going commando under your best anorak, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. But don’t worry, this is the internet, it won’t be hard to find what you’re looking for 😉 . I’m talking, of course, about flash fiction.

People keep asking me when my next short story will be out. In case you missed the announcement on Twitter (and let’s face it, if you’re following more than a couple of hundred people it’s impossible to keep up with everyone!), the lovely people at Page and Spine have recently published my flash fiction story ‘Dearly Departed’. You can read it for free here:

http://pagespineficshowcase.com/249/category/dearly%20departed/1.html

However, I’m afraid all will be quiet on the short story front for a little while, as I really need to focus my efforts on getting the first draft of ‘When Jimmy Saved London’ (my current novel in progress) finished. I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support of my fantastic alpha readers, who have so generously given their time and expertise to help me with this project. There are very few people willing to have in-depth discussions about explosives, hypothetical economic crises and theoretical new technologies with a slightly insane writer, so I count my lucky stars I found three of them! Gary, Steve and Ash, I am forever in your debt, and I couldn’t possibly do this without you!

So, seeing as I keep being pestered for new shorts by some, and moaned at for writing them when I ought to be working on the novel by others, I thought I’d try for a compromise. Below are some flash fiction pieces previously written for various competitions, (and a link to my very first interview – eeeeek!) I hope you will enjoy them. As always, comments are very welcome 🙂

Be patient my pretties, the novel will come… if you’re very good (or very bad, he he) I might share some excerpts soon…

Just Maybe… by N J Crosskey (Winner of MicroBookends 1:27)

Silent treatment, that’s what she accuses me of. Then it’s all: You Never, You Don’t, You Aren’t.

Well maybe I don’t and maybe I’m not. But maybe Glynis, just freakin’ maybe, YOU don’t and YOU aren’t either.

And maybe, just maybe, you sound like a flock of constipated pigeons. Maybe you’re a shrill, controlling harpy who kicks me when I’m down, so MAYBE, just maybe, I Don’t and I’m Not because of YOU.

Maybe I’ll smash your skull in with a freakin’ shovel. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll bury you on the hillside with the other cows…

…Or maybe I’ll just turn the sound up so I can hear the film.

You can also check out my Winner’s Interview here: http://www.microbookends.com/2015/04/21/who-is-n-j-crosskey/

Losing Coral’ Honourable Mention – Flashmob Writes wk 7

Losing Coral (499 words)

I’m wearing a cream blouse.

The air smells of lavender and bleach. The woman beside me kisses my cheek.

“Bye Mum,” she says, and I realise it’s Meghan. Silly of me, must be the new ‘do. She looks so different.

I forget things sometimes. That’s why I’m here; I think… a word flies across my mind so quickly I can’t hold onto it. I chase it, but it’s gone. So has Meghan.

I walk down the corridor to the lounge. The fraying, floral chairs are occupied by people much older than I. The woman beside me must be ninety if she’s a day. I’m only… well, I’m not sure exactly, but I’m much younger.

She smiles at me, I smile back. “I’m new,” I say.

“That’s nice,” she replies. “Have you ever been to Storrington? I’m from Storrington. Course I didn’t work there. I always caught the number thirty-seven into town-”

She talks, a lot. I listen politely as she tells me every nuance of her life. It’s not until she says, “I must telephone my father, he’ll be dreadfully worried.” that I realise she’s crazy.

I look at the others more closely. One of them polishes a teaspoon, frantically, with her jumper. Another gets up, sits down, and gets up again. They’re all crazy. That word I was chasing rushes forward, belts me round the head. Dementia. I’ve heard it a lot. I’ve heard it said about me.

I’ve got dementia. The memory kicks me in the guts, I struggle for breath. I’ve got dementia, and it’s going to consume me, take away everything I am. I look at them all, locked inside their bubbles. Like scratched records, stuck in one groove. How long before I am the same?

Someone starts to wail. I realise it’s me.

I’m wearing a blue nightdress.

The air smells of smoke. My house is on fire! I flee my bedroom, race to the front door. But it’s locked. I can’t get out! I scream, hammering my fists in vain.

“Help me! I’m burning alive!”

Footsteps thunder toward me. Uniformed arms grasp mine, stopping me from hitting the glass pane.

“Coral,” the young lady says, “look at me.”

I’m shaking, but I obey.

“It’s Okay.” She speaks slowly, deliberately.

“My house is on fire!” Why isn’t she panicking?

“No honey. Not now. You’re safe.”

She leads me back down the corridor, sits me down. She tells me things I half remember, things that seem like whispered dreams.

I left the stove on, burned down the house.

“That’s how you came to live with us.” She says.

I’m wearing a green jumper.

I must change before my date tonight. I pick up my mirror to check my lipstick. A shrivelled face, covered in burns and framed by grey hair stares back at me. I scream.

I’m wearing a purple dress.

I sit next to a woman much older than I. “I’m new,” I say.
“That’s nice,” she smiles. “Have you ever been to Storrington?”

Honourable Mention and Special Challenge Winner – Three Line Thursday  wk 27

Viscous secrets, sparkling champagne.
Some things, once opened, cannot be closed.
“Don’t pry, little girl.” Mama poured out another.

‘Heaven’s Gate’ Special Mention – Flash! Friday vol 3-18

Heaven’s Gate (210 words)

I’m never drinking with Seraphim again. Bastards. Getting into a theological debate was a bad idea. Taking the bet was worse.

It’s not that I don’t support the Watcher’s strike. But, closing the gate, forever? My species can’t have got that bad.

Raziel just laughed. “Alright,” he said. “You try. I’ll grant one last place. Just one. And I’ll bet you can’t even fill that.”

So here I am. Scouring humanity. And I’ve probably lost my own slot, what with the coat stealing. But, those gilt-winged gits dropped me here buck naked. I’ll plead entrapment, Pete’s a good guy, he’ll understand.

And I’m losing. Raziel was right, things have changed. The city is a cold sea of scowls and selfish aspirations, drowning kindness in its tide. The crowd may move as one, but they live apart.

A man slumps beside me on the bench, cloaked in dirt and body odour.

“You look like shit,” he says. “When’d you last eat?”

I shrug. I don’t think “fifty years ago” would go down well.

“Ain’t much, but here…” He offers me a half-eaten sandwich. “Reckon you need this more than me.”

I smile, and press Raziel’s crumpled ticket into his hand.

“Buddy,” I say, “you just became the richest guy on Earth.”

The Day Maker
(199 words)

“If I left tomorrow, would anyone even know?” The Day-Maker asked his wife, as he collapsed on the patchwork sofa.

She looked at him, and smiled. He worked so hard, so tirelessly. Whilst all the world slept he toiled. Weaving dappled sunlight to greet their sandy eyes, brewing gentle breezes to kiss their cheeks, or distilling cleansing rains to water their crops.

But lately, the shadows had darkened around his sparkling eyes. He winced as his muscles screamed in protest and rubbed at his back. He needed a rest.

“No,” she whispered as she stroked his long grey hair. “I don’t think they would.”
He breathed a sigh of relief and fell into a deep, dream-filled sleep. And tomorrow never came.

When at last he awoke he was refreshed, invigorated. He gave the birds a brighter song, the sun a more vibrant hue. He hopped and skipped his way through the day’s ablutions. His wife’s heart was filled with joy at the sight.

“Oh my love,” she said, “I think you should skip a day every year! Nobody would miss silly old February 29th anyway.”

He frowned, and thought for a moment.

“I’ll work one in four.” He said.

Party Games (360 words)

“Ziro points for originali-ti-ness you bastards.” Rhys yelled. He pulled at the cuffs holding his hands behind his back. They didn’t give. When he looked down the cracked pavement was spinning, a kaleidoscope of pinks and greys. When he looked up, the streetlight overhead flooded his retinas with a sickening orange haze. He groaned, the bile churning in his guts. What had been in that last pint?

“What’s up mate?” Ed yelled from across the street. “Feeling a little WOOLLY headed?”

The pack of Neanderthals he called colleagues roared, slapped each other on the back and disappeared into the bar.

Great.

At least the inflatable sheep strapped to his middle was covering his (now painted green) modesty. But seriously, how predictable. Welsh name, Welsh parents – doesn’t matter if you’ve never actually lived there, you will, on the eve of your nuptials, end up with a white plastic effigy on your groin. It was horribly inevitable.

God, he needed to scratch his nuts. The thick seam tickled his inner thigh. He wiggled a little, hoping to alleviate the itch. Then stopped abruptly when he realised how his gyrations might look to passers-by.  Just have to bear it. They wouldn’t leave him here long, surely?

The minutes lolloped by. Couples joined at the hands sniggered as they ambled past.  An old lady tutted, yanking her spaniel away as it tried to cock its leg up his lamppost-prison.

A gaggle of high pitched shrieks approached, all tutus and deely boppers.  A young woman wearing a ripped veil, and an oversized “L” plate ran up to him, squealing like a saw drill.

“Hey girls, get this!” She sidled up to him; he could smell the vomit on her breath. She pulled down her top, thrusting her breasts at him, wiggling her yellowed tongue.

Her coven of harpies reached into their bags and pulled out their phones. All at once the true horror of his situation hit him.

YouTube – another crashing inevitability.

He groaned, and cursed himself for his folly. Old Etonian buddies or not, you should never, ever let a member of the opposition organise your stag do.

He’d never get re-elected now.

New Published Story!

I am absolutely over the moon to announce that my story, The Cleaner, has been published in the anniversary edition of Far Horizons emagazine!

As well as yours truly, the magazine is packed full of stories from some wonderful writers, some of whom I have had the pleasure of talking to online, and even beta reading for!

You can read it online, or download it, for FREE! My story is on page 45, I’d be thrilled if you’d give it a read and let me know what you think.

But be warned, if you’re used to my work being short and sweet (aka Stormcatcher or Don’t Be a Hero), you might be in for a shock ;). The Cleaner is a darkly speculative, somewhat macabre, tale of great power combined with dubious morality. (Contains content that some may find disturbing. Hell, some of my betas DID find it disturbing 😉 )

Just click this link to read or download the magazine, thanks for reading!

http://www.joomag.com/magazine/far-horizons-tales-of-sci-fi-fantasy-and-horror-issue-13-april-2015/0270512001429307378

I’m On YouTube Baby!

Well, my stories are anyway. Truth be told, I’m far happier behind the keyboard than in front of the camera ;).

As those of you who follow me on Twitter may already know, and those of you on my Facebook certainly know, the lovely people at Bad Actors: Writers with Microphones have produced two of my short stories in audio form.

I saw the submission call on one of my writing groups last year, and it sounded like too much fun to pass up! So, I duly sent a story for consideration and sat biting my nails for – well, not for very long at all. Within the hour the managing editor responded, and he liked it. So much so in fact that he asked me if I had another, and I was happy to oblige.

For a writer just starting out it was beyond exciting to think that, somewhere across the Atlantic, someone was reading, and recording, my words! They’ve even gone and added images and music too! The links are below, but first let me tell you a little bit about the stories. Both were originally written as assignments for a writing course I took last year, which just goes to show nothing you write is ever wasted. Even that story you wrote as a kid, when imagination reigned supreme and silly things like grammar and sentence construction were ignored, can be polished up into something awesome. You just need to believe in it.

 “Don’t Be a Hero” is a short and sweet tale about a young boy who fears his dreams of being a hero might be over before they’ve begun. For this one, the brief was to write approximately 1000 words about an eleven year old boy. It got me thinking about heroes, who are they? What do they do?  Is the definition of hero dependent on perception?  Is there more than one way to be a hero?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fexFBHhEDjg

“S 4.0” can best be described as a comedic (and slightly crass – you have been warned) sci-fi piece. The brief for this one was to write a piece that was dialogue driven. I had, at the time, been musing on something of a modern paradox: we are constantly these days striving for perfection (particularly physically), yet technology is on a quest to be more “realistic”. This seems strange, as reality is far from perfect. So I wondered what would happen if we continued to shun realism and uphold impossible standards of manufactured beauty, and yet demanded our tech be realistic. Somewhere along the line, the two would have to collide…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tKJXQcRTiE

And if those aren’t dark enough for you, watch this space. I have a macabre, darkly speculative piece coming out in an ezine any day now. (But be warned, you may never look at the school caretaker the same way again… 😉 )

It’s Been A While…

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for a while, your patience in not unfollowing me is greatly appreciated! I’ve had a rough few months involving a monstrously large, twisting growth, emergency surgery, and an agonising wait for biopsy results.

Finally, after one round of lab tests came back “dodgy” (they didn’t use that term, but that’s what they meant 😉 ) I have, after further testing, been given the All Clear! I shan’t go into gory details, I’ll save that for my next horror piece 😉 but I’m pleased to say I’m almost fully healed now!

But it hasn’t all been doom and gloom, I’ve been making good progress with both of the novels I’m working on AND I have some more publication credits for short pieces which I will share with you soon.

Meanwhile, the little monsters- err, I mean DARLINGS are about to break up for the Easter holidays. May Heaven have mercy on my soul…