___WORDS FROM ME_____________________________________

editing making see

For anyone who is interested, my short story "Making See" (which appears in the Eibonvale Press anthology Sensorama) had a different route into print from most of my short stories, in that the editor Allen Ashley asked me to do a bit of a rewrite and beef some things up, particularly the ending.

This is different, you ask?


Normally I have found that a tale is accepted or bounced as it stands. Editors and publishers often don't have the time to take stories - and ever increasingly these days books - that require a rewrite or a lot of editing and work.

I'm not being critical. It's the way the business has gone. There's only so much time in the day, only so many dollars in a wallet, and a lot of pressure to Get Things Done.

Most of my published stuff, barring some small changes here and there, is seen in the finished publication in the same shape as it was originally submitted. So it was different to get the message from Allen saying he liked the piece but he thought it might be better and possibly worthy of inclusion in the book if I did "this" and maybe "that" too . . .

Now, there are two ways of reacting to such a request.

One is to throw everything out of the window and call the editor in question lots of names and pin his or her likeness to a dartboard and spend the evening throwing spears at it, while decrying the general ignorance of the world at large for not recognising your genius and raising your to your rightful status -- which is of course, slightly above Dickens, but possibly just a tiny, tiny -- ever so tiny -- bit beneath Shakespeare, and deny them their request, letting them know just what you think of them and in no uncertain terms -- unless, of course, they may pass you a pay cheque at some point in the future, in which case you just fume until your cheeks burn red and pretend never to have recieved the email or letter from them. (You'd be surprised how many writers take this approach. No, really. You would be very surprised how many.)

The second, and far wiser course of action, is to scratch your chin, tilt your head to one side receptively, and look at the story through the eyes of the editor who has read your work and seen something there that you yourself have missed. The smart thing to do, even if you're unsure about the editor's wisdom in making his or her suggestions, it to get to work and see what happens if you follow the advice. Because you're not better than Dickens and never will be. Hell, you'll be lucky if you're better than anyone else in the publication in which your work will appear. The editor is on your side and it is important to remember that. He or she doesn't want to put something in their book or magazine or journal or whatever that they think is substandard, or which they know could be better if only the writer would just do this or do that . . .

I looked at what Allen had suggested and put pen to paper (or in this case finger to keyboard). And what do you know? What I was left with at the end of the work was a tale that was ten times better than it had been before. Even my girlfriend, who hadn't thought much of the piece when I'd first subbed it, liked the rewritten version. So already I was ahead. If Allen didn't like the rewritten piece and didn't take it, at least I would have something that was in a better shape to be subbed elsewhere. So there was another plus. As luck would have it, Allen did like the piece, and was generous enough to include it in the anthology. I'm very pleased to be in print there.

So thanks to Allen for being a hands-on editor and getting those hands dirty; the truth is that for all his work I'm the one who gets to look better for it. With anyone who reads the piece (whether they like it or not) and with my girlfriend, too. Can't get a better deal than that.

So no dartboards here. No spears. The editor is your friend. And it's a  foolish writer who doesn't at least look at what has been suggested to him . . . or her.

making see

The remarkable Allen Ashley has a new anthology out. It's called SENSORAMA. It's published by Eibonvale Press. It's an anthology based around the five senses and contains stories by Gary Budgen, Aliya Whiteley, Rhys Hughes, E Lillith McDermott, Tim Nickels, and others.

As luck would have it, I am one of the others, and I'm very pleased about that. I have a story in there. It's called "Making See" and it's about invisibility. Here are the opening paragraphs:

My girlfriend turned invisible the first week of April. Just after the flowers bloomed and the skies cleared to blue – snap, out she went like a light bulb.
      It was a side effect of a rare virus she'd contracted. Unluckily the virus had already given her a severe case of laryngitis and had taken away her voice. She couldn't even cry out to warn me not to walk into her.

You can continue reading by buying a copy of the anthology. The book is available in paperback and hardcover. As far as I know, no ebook is planned.

Buy from the publishers in the UK, who will ship to the UK, USA, and Australia, by clicking through to their site here.

Alternatively, you can buy the book from Amazon in the UK here
and in the USA here.

If by some miracle the opening paragraphs of my piece haven't enticed you to take to your credit card and add to your misery of debt (remember, retail therapy is good when it involves buying things I appear in), then check out DF Lewis's "Real Time Review" of Sensorama by clicking here.

Do be warned, he says some remarkably generous things about my tale, the shameless flatterer . . ..

a knowing noah

I received my contributor’s copy of DEAD HARVEST this week, and I have to say it’s an impressive beast. When the anthology’s editor MarkParker said he had high ambitions for the book he wasn’t joking. This is a really well done book, tightly bound, neatly set out, and with great cover art that’s strikingly displayed to full effect in the trade-paperback edition.

To make things even better, there’s some seriously good writers involved in the project too. How about reading work by, among others, these guys:

I’m in there too, but I don’t think I spoil things too badly. My piece is called “A Knowing Noah” and comes in at about 15 pages long. Not too painful in a collection of 50 stories that tops out at 700 pages in length.

I suppose the anthology as a whole is – with tales leaning heavily on the autumn/fall season and for the most part featuring rural settings, rows of corn and creepy woods and totems – a folk horror collection. As far as I know, Mark Gatiss coined the term folk horror in his BBC4 horror film series when describing The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General. It’s as good a description as I can think of to fit these tales.

The book is available in a trade-paperback edition as well as in e-book format. If you have the money, I’d say you should shell out the extra for the paperback. It’s a beautiful thing, chunky and generous, and I think the publishers Scarlet Galleon have a big future ahead of them.

The trade paperback is available here in the UK.
The ebook is available in the UK for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo*.
The trade paperback is available here in the USA.
The ebook is available in the USA for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo*.
And you can get it in all e-formats here at Smashwords.

And if you want something special, some copies have been signed by contributors Richard Chizma and his son Billy Chizmar here at Cemetery Dance Publications.

The book has been out a while now, and is racking up some impressive reviews. If you’re into horror of a more rural bent, this is one to gather up. Recommended.

* Kobo readers are able to use money off vouchers on this title in both the US and UK, so keep an eye on those Kobo-run promotional contests they run.

on saying no

The best things in life usually come from saying yes. Yes to the boy or girl with whom you shared a first kiss, yes to the course you didn’t really want to go on but which altered your views on life, yes to that holiday that didn’t appeal but which turned out to be one of the best you ever had, yes to that someone you may well spend the rest of your life with . . .

But sometimes, when you are yearning for a bit of positivity, some help getting going in the right direction, when you’ve been bogged down and all you see is the quagmire miring your ambitions, an offer comes dangling down, waiting for you to grab onto with a single YES! -- and you reach out, eager, ready to pull yourself up with all your might, to start off and finally get you on your way, young man . . . when something inside whispers, Don’t do this. This is wrong.

And with a heart dropping out of sight, you look around the stale miasma of your grotty position but nevertheless say it. Shape the word and let it out.


I wrote a longish fantasy novel a few years ago. I knew it wasn’t a fashionable book and that it wouldn’t sit prettily alongside the thick secondary-world-set fantasies you could find on the shelves in Waterstones. But I thought it had some good things going for it. A strong protagonist on an interesting journey. A continuing theme throughout, that held together, with some neat (I thought) subtext, working.around the notions of doors, real and imaginary, open and closed. Although it was complicated, and pretty dense in places, wasn’t at first glance a light read, I liked the book a lot, thought I’d done good work on it. Sure, it could have been improved with a professional editor going over it, but then what book couldn’t be? It was probably as good as I could make it, with my own resources. So the time had come to send the first chapters and a synopsis out, see what would happen.

The answer was a flat, unencouraging nothing.

Couldn’t find a publisher with a slushpile who’d touch it with the clich├ęd bargepole. No one wanted to read it. I didn’t get any feedback. Flat form rejections. Do not pass go, do not collect £200.

I rejigged the book, edited it so that it would meet some word-count maximums for other publishers I found that were open to submissions of a certain length. Probably cut the book too much, in retrospect, if I’m being honest. But hey, I didn’t realise it at the time.

Didn’t matter. Same result. Flat form rejections.

And then, toward the middle of last year, I got a nibble. An independent publisher that had previously specialised in non-fiction work was building a new fiction list and wanted to read more than the opening chapters. Encouraged but cautious, because by now I was beginning to think there was something seriously wrong with the book I’d not managed to grasp and therefore anyone who read it and wanted to see more must be missing the same thing about it that I was, I sent the book off.

A couple of weeks later, a list of small edits were suggested, and an offer made to put the book out.

Okay, I thought, and sat down and thought about things. The edits were mostly fairly well made ones, and I could see the point in them. Some I could argue the rub on and would do. But for the most part, I thought they helped the book. So let’s do this, I thought.

Hell, an offer is an offer, agents and publishers will tell you; and they’re rare enough in the business these days. If you’re offered one, take it!


So what did I do?

Turned the offer down, of course.

Because I had a niggle at the back of my head. No, this is wrong. There’s something not right here. I didn’t know what that something wrong was – other authors, new and established ones, were and are happily being published and their books doing okay with the publishers – but I wasn’t happy. The more I thought about it, the more I disliked the marketing that would be done for the book, the publishing schedule, the outlets that book would initially be put out through. Slowly but surely I the book didn’t feel like it belonged with this publisher.

Which sounds like crazy talk. And worse than that in some ways, stupid talk. Because if this publisher wasn’t going to put the book out, who else was going to? And what good is a book if it isn’t being read?

You might well ask. I sure did.

In the end, though, that niggle won through. I hadn’t yet signed any contract and so I pulled the book before anything went legal (and no, I don’t think I made any friends in that particular publishing house, though I explained as best I could the rationale behind my thinking and my reservations about the production process).

As soon as I’d said No, I felt better. Saddened that the book still wasn’t seeing the light of day, but better for knowing I wasn’t doing the wrong thing by going down a route I’d become increasingly uncomfortable with.

I can’t honestly say I haven’t had any second doubts. It’s over six months later now, and the book is still on my hard-drive, unpublished. And it’s likely to stay that way. So it’s natural that I should on occasion wonder what would have happened if I had said yes.

So yes, I wonder about saying yes and saying no. The difference one might have brought about in my life compared to the other.
But I don’t think about it much.

Because I still think I made the right decision.


Hard to say it. But sometimes right to say it.

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