Officially launched on 20th March 2021, the one-year anniversary of the start of the first lockdown in the UK, Boxed In follows the fortunes of private investigator, Annie Raymond, and police officer, Jennifer Flanagan in the streets of Hull, East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.
Thursday, 14 January 2021
Tuesday, 5 January 2021
The Defiant Spark by Annie Percik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In The Defiant Spark by Annie Percik, technology is powered by mana (essentially by magic, though that’s not a term that is used in the book). As in our own world, the artefacts that facilitate routine living: cooking cleaning, travelling, gaming etc, go wrong. Devices break down, jealousies erupt over bigger and better versions. Percik dives into a side of magic worlds that is usually glossed over or forgotten; the world of customer service, complaints and call centres.
Protagonist Abelard is a humble mana engineer who works in a call centre and lives in a run-down apartment. His dream was to make the leap to becoming one of the elite band of artisans. Convinced he had the skills, he and a friend applied to take the tests, but failed at the first hurdle. Abelard is resigned to a humdrum existence though he hankers after someone to share his life.
An accident on a routine call-out almost kills him … and changes his life. Not only has he met someone special, but the world of the artisans is suddenly within his grasp.
Is that his ‘happy ever after’? Hell, no! The material improvement in his life is as sudden as the disturbing revelations that start to pull the privileged rug from under his feet almost the moment his toes touch the weave.
He is bullied, threatened; he looks set to lose the only true friends he had, and he makes an inadvertently human contact with a robot, quite unaware of the problems that he has unleashed and the unintended consequences.
The relationships within the book look set to take a particular course, but don’t be fooled. Things quickly take an unexpected turn. And if you then feel with some satisfaction – as I did – ah ha, that’s how it’s going to end up, think again. There’s a twist that takes things in another direction. I wondered at a sci-fi novel launching on Valentine’s Day, but within all the machinations, there are more than enough tangled relationships to justify the launch date. And there’s a satisfying feel to the unconventional but convincing resolution.
(Reviewed prior to launch from an advance reading copy)
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Friday, 21 August 2020
I'm a writer not a film maker and I make no claims for the quality of production, nor am I expecting any academy award nominations, but I stand by the content as a tried and tested way to create the outline for an elevator pitch, a blurb or a book taster.
Saturday, 8 August 2020
At this time of year we would usually be preparing to head for Cleethorpes for the extravaganza that is Fantastic Books Publishing’s annual FantastiCon convention. The pandemic has put paid to a host of international visitors piling into an indoor venue to play games, watch demos, listen to talks, join Nerf fights, put on VR headsets and be transported to international museums, sky-high roller-coasters or out into space, try their luck in the escape rooms (there would have been more than one this year) and generally network with like-minded people … BUT …
The books that would have been launched there will be launched at virtual FantastiCon 15th and 16th August on Twitch TV twitch.tv/FantasticBooksPublishing
Click here for the full launch schedule. http://fantasticon.co.uk/book-launches.html
In summary, five novels and one autobiography will be launched. Interestingly, all five of the novels have strong female protagonists. I’ve read all six books and my mini-reviews are below.
Shadeward: Expiation by Drew Wagar
LAUNCH TIME: 12pm on the 15th August
You can get a copy here: Drew Wagar's final Shadeward instalment 'Shadeward: Expiation'
Colin Who? by Colin Spaull
LAUNCH TIME: 2pm on the 15th August
You can get a copy here: Colin Spaull's autobiography 'Colin Who?'
The Reality Exchange by James Vigor
LAUNCH TIME: 4pm on the 15th August
You can get a copy here: James Vigor's scifi debut 'The Reality Exchange'
The Cat of Doom by Mark P Henderson
LAUNCH TIME: 12pm on the 16th August
You can get a copy here: Mark Henderson's surreallist masterpiece 'The Cat of Doom'
The Five Feathers by Janet Blackwell
LAUNCH TIME: 2pm on the 16th August
You can get a copy here: Janet Blackwell's fantasy sequel 'the Five Feathers'
Storm Girl by Linda Nicklin
LAUNCH TIME: 4pm on the 16th August
You can get a copy here: Linda Nicklin's post-apocalyptic novel 'Storm Girl'
Friday, 3 July 2020
Most of the entries were short stories. In terms of numbers, poems came in second with non-fiction pieces also well represented. A few dozen in all categories also fell under the sub-category of racing themed.
Entrants’ ages ranged from four to twenty-five. A total of 63 prizes were awarded to 60 winners. Multiple entries were allowed and three people walked away with more than one prize. There was a huge range of prizes many of which were visits and lessons with international stars of dressage, show-jumping, eventing and racing. Click here for the full list of winners and prizes.
So why did the winners win, or more to the point, what stopped the non-winners from taking the prizes?
The judges were Penny Grubb, Danuta Reah and John Fairley. They are all writers. They’ve all judged competitions before. Between them they have a lot of experience. So for those who didn’t win, they provide some pointers on improving your chances for next time:
Read the rules: Don’t lose out because you didn’t read the rules. If the rules tell you to put certain information in a cover email, then make sure that’s where it goes – don’t bury it at the end of your entry. If the rules tell you which formats are permissible, don’t send something different. And if there is a maximum length, don’t go over it.
Was anyone eliminated for not following the rules? The organisers were very lenient. When people didn’t provide the correct information in the correct format, they contacted them and allowed them to resubmit. Be aware that doesn’t happen in most competitions. But the judges weren’t so lenient and yes, a handful of people were eliminated because their entries were 15% or more over the maximum word count.
Fit the theme: For this competition the piece had to be ‘horsey’, that was all that was required. However, a single mention of a horse does not make a horsey theme. For example, if you wanted to enter a recipe for fruit cake, that would be fine because non-fiction entries were allowed, but you would have to make it horsey – perhaps by telling how each stage of the process made you think about different aspects of horses or riding – but it would *not* be enough to start the piece by saying, ‘I once came home from a ride and decided to make a fruit cake,’ and then to give the recipe with no other mention of horses, ponies or riding.
Was anyone eliminated for not adhering to the theme? In a handful of cases where the horse was barely visible, we considered elimination, but because there had been an attempt to bring a horse into the picture, we decided to be lenient. However, these stories lost marks and this pushed one otherwise very good entry out of the major placings.
OK, you’ve followed the rules, you’ve stuck to the theme, what else can go wrong?
There were some stories that began beautifully, but their moments of drama were squandered; they drifted away from the point and fizzled out in disappointing and often irrelevant endings. These were people who could write well, but who had not learnt to structure their writing. It was frustrating to see an excellent start crumble into a story that failed to hold together as a coherent whole. With a bit of work, these will be the winners of the future.
How about errors and typos? Could you have been eliminated for spelling mistakes? Well no, this wasn’t a spelling competition. We didn’t kick out anyone for errors of spelling, punctuation or grammar. However, if an entry is so riddled with errors that it becomes hard to understand, it isn’t going to do well.
We had a lot of ponies ‘gazing’ on grass or in meadows when it was clear they weren’t simply enjoying the view. It’s just an “r” but it changes the meaning. How about this for a puzzler? ‘I was trapped, the door was not locked.’ It’s only one letter different but ‘now’ and ‘not’ mean very different things.
Here’s a worrying one: ‘After we’d finished, we lead the ponies back.’ What are these people doing to these ponies’ backs with the lead, and surely lead isn’t safe for back treatments? The word “lead” when it rhymes with “fed” is a soft malleable and poisonous grey metal. When you want to talk about leading horses, the word is “led”.
No one was explicitly penalised for minor errors, but here’s the thing; what if two entries are competing for a prize; they are both very good but one is full of typos and the other is largely error-free? It will be the error-free story that gets the prize. It’s like two people equally well turned out vying for the tack-and-turnout prize; the one who remembered the little things (e.g. taking out their earrings) is going to win out.
It’s always worth double-checking your work, rereading your entry, getting someone else to read it through to see if they understand it the way you want it to be understood.
And what made the winning stories stand out? The six winners are being published and the judges’ comments have been published with the stories.
You can find the winning entries in each age group, along with the judges' comments in Equestrian Life.
And you can find the winners of the racing-themed sections on the creative activities section of the Pony Club site.
Saturday, 13 June 2020
I’ve just finished the full draft of my new crime novel, and can soon set off on the long-overdue sequel to my children’s horsey novel.
However, reaching “the end” is a long way from finished. I’ve written 8 novels (published) and have ~60 billion other completed manuscripts at the back of the cupboard, so these days even at the point where the novel is just an embryo idea, I know exactly how long the finished book will be.
This latest* was a sub-100k-word novel from the moment I saw a giant shipping container swinging from a crane. It has been a long time in the making over a turbulent couple of years. Nuances change in the course of writing a book. I don’t like to close off any routes to what might become a useful subplot or interesting twist, so the first draft gets everything wallpapered in.
The full draft was way too fat at 140k words, but at least I knew how it would end, so I went back with the editing pen and did a comprehensive slash and burn of all extraneous matter, and I took it down to exactly 99,999 words. How’s that for an accurate prediction?
Then it struck me; the sequel to the children’s novel could easily come in at 40,001 words. I have just unwritten the book that I’m about to write, and not one of those discarded words can be reused.
* Boxed In, featuring Annie Raymond, the Thompson sisters and two figures from Annie’s past that readers of the early books might remember; ex-boyfriend Mike and PC Jennifer Flanagan.
Saturday, 25 April 2020
The project comprises twelve books, including Cruel and Unusual PunNishments by Mark P Henderson, Blood Red Dust by Stuart Aken, Falling into Crime by Penny Grubb, Horse of a Different Colour by Melodie Trudeaux, The Boy in Winter's Grasp by John D Scotcher, Till They Dropped and Waiting for Gordo by Sue Knight.
The project was retired medic, Mark P Henderson’s idea. He told his publisher Fantastic Books Publishing that he wanted to donate the author royalties from one of his books to the NHS. Fantastic Books offered to bring other authors on board and to put some of their charity anthologies into the pot.
The anthologies chosen by Fantastic Books contain contributions from all four of these authors and also include the anthology that won the 2019 CWA Short Story Dagger.
In line with Fantastic Books Publishing’s current policy to cut down on the physical transport of goods, you are encouraged to buy ebooks.
See more detail, book previews and the full line up HERE.