An enjoyable contemporary story: Night Owls by Jenn Bennett

Night Owls

Night Owls by Jenn Bennett Night Owls is a sensitive portrayal of a young man and woman’s developing relationship set against the background of difficult family situations. Bex has an estranged father and financial restraints, and Jack’s family, though wealthy, has a secret, which I won’t reveal. The character of Bex, from whose point of view the book is written, captured me immediately. Her voice is distinctive, endearing and very realistic. She’s a talented artist who likes to draw dissected people. Jack, a graffiti artist, is also a complex, fully fleshed out character who is easy to relate to.  These teens are no cardboard cut outs – which is just as well because this is a character driven story. The plot, though basically about how they get together and the challenges they face during that process, has some unpredictable moments, and each page has just enough tension of one kind or another to keep you reading. The pace moves steadily along, and a giant hiccup in their … [Read more...]

The most important qualities in an editor

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Recently, I received feedback on one of my books from an editor that I quickly decided I would never employ because she questioned the 'style, content and general tenor/direction' of the book. She said the book needed a lot of work in these areas, but only in terms of her ideas for what the book should be, not in my terms. Personally, I’m happy with the 'style, content and general tenor/direction' of the book in question, and I don’t think it’s an editor’s place to change these things, rather to help an author strengthen the things that make a work distinctly theirs. If you’re an author, finding the right editor is very important. If you’re going to self-publish, it’s vital that you get someone who can turn your draft into a publishable manuscript. If you’re going to submit your books to agents and publishers, you don’t need an editor because the publisher will assign an editor for you, but if you’re not an experienced author you may want an editor to help you make your book stand … [Read more...]

Steampunk characters are starting to come to life.


If you follow my Facebook page, you'll know that I've been making a lot of full-faced masks inspired by steampunk aesthetics. I've also been giving them names because, they are, of course, characters. Gradually I'm getting a range of characters that might eventually appear in a story. My latest mask is a pirate. Click the link to meet Patrice Strongarm-Strathphelum. … [Read more...]

A brave departure from the norm. Review of the Darkest of Suns Will Rise by Brian Sfinas.


I've had a break from writing reviews, but I like reading, and the publishing industry needs professional appraisals so I'll be adding a few reviews to the blog again. If you're an author, take a look at my Review Policy to see the parameters I've set on it so it doesn't become a burden. I'll not be dealing with authors directly which will take the most difficult part out of the role. I'm starting with a science fiction book review of a book with a difference. Enjoy the review. This science fiction story takes a different approach to story-telling.  Rather than have the story laid out for the reader in the usual way, it's left to the reader to string it together from a series of reports that range from a personal diary of a rather psychologically challenged girl to excerpts from official documents. Apart from the diaries, the effect is somewhat impersonal. At first I was thinking, 'Eek, what a huge info dump', but I found the subject matter interesting, so I read on and … [Read more...]

Out Now! The Elements of Active Prose: Writing Tips to Make Your Prose Shine


Here it is, my offering to the education of authors: The Elements of Active Prose: Writing Tips to Make Your Prose Shine. I wrote this book to address the main issues I found in books submitted to the Awesome Indies for approval. They're the kind of things you don't find in books that have been properly line edited, and because a lot of indie authors, unfortunately, are not prepared to pay for line editing, I've written this to help rescue written English from its present massacre. Am I putting myself out of a job by sharing these tips? I don't think so, because there's a big leap between reading about or even understanding these things and being able to apply them.  These tips, as I say in the book, aren't 'rules' you can apply in all situations. They'll help authors write better prose, but they'll never replace a proper line edit by someone who not only knows about these things, but also knows how and when to apply them.   About the Book Anyone studying writing will have … [Read more...]

Author bullying: has it happened to you?


Some authors have been bullied online. Whether by readers, reviewers, other authors or all of them, cruel words hurt. These days, most social networks have steps you can take to try to stop bullying, but at what point do personal attacks become bullying? At what point do you report the person’s activities to the administrators and stick the bullying label on it? One nasty review with a personal attack or derogatory words is unpleasant, but it isn’t bullying until that same person or their friends or cohorts make another attack. And even if they spread their dislike onto other social media networks, it isn’t bullying unless it happens repeatedly over a period of time. By definition bullying means that the attacks are sustained. Sustained is a vague word, though. At what point could you say something is sustained? After one day, two, three? Or would it require a week? The answer to that depends on the sensitivity of the person being attacked, the nature of the attacks, and on how … [Read more...]

Active Meditation

geek meditation

Do you find it hard to sit and meditate? I used to do a lot of sitting meditation, but I had an active job at the time. I was a performer—dance, mine and clowning—and for around 12 years, I managed 1 - 1 ½ hours of meditation a day—not just sitting, but chanting and visualisation as well.  Now, I sit for most of the day, not to meditate, but to work. I’m an editor, and many, if not most, of us have sedentary occupations, so perhaps the idea of spending time sitting still doesn’t have quite the appeal it might have for someone in an active occupation. I bet you make time for physical exercise though. We go to the gym, or swim, or walk, or dance, or play a sport because our body needs to move and we need to do that to remain healthy. We need to meditate as well, of course, to keep our minds healthy, but our culture hasn’t quite figured that out yet, and for many, as it is for me now, sitting for long periods is something we already do too much of. So perhaps for some of us, sitting … [Read more...]

Red marks don’t equal failure: how to choose an editor and deal with the results.


Some books require a lot of line editing, and some don’t. The difference is not always due to the author’s experience and knowledge of the craft of writing, sometimes it’s due simply to the fact that a book may have complex ideas and a trail-blazing or different approach. A book can be excellent in concept and story, but need some rearrangement and tightening of the expression of ideas to make them more easily followed and to make the book as readable as possible for the widest range of people. So if you get your book back from the line editor covered with red marks, don’t take it as a failure. The purpose of copy editing and proofreading is to make sure that the writing is grammatically correct and punctuation and word usage in line with conventions, but the purpose of structural and line editing is to make a book better. And it’s a rare book that can’t be made better. All books benefit from the eyes of a line editor, but the line editor might do some fairly big changes to your … [Read more...]

Practical Steampunk fashion

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The Locksmith’s Secret, my next Prunella Smith book, has a steampunk story within the story of Ella trying to uncover the locksmith’s secret, and as part of the steampunk story (about Nell), I reveal how certain aspects of the female style came about; the hitched up dresses for example. Because I love the style so much, I've taken to wearing practical steampunk fashion on most days. A lot of people think that steampunk clothing isn't practical, but I find the layering very practical. If I get hot, I remove a layer; get cold, add one. Also one doesn't have to tie oneself into a corset, elasticated belts do almost the same thing in a more comfortable way. So I decided to get hubby to take photos of me wearing my practical steampunk and share them with you. They show that anyone, even old size 14 girls like me, can wear steampunk. Mind you, I may be slightly crazy. This is the first in  a series of posts called Practical Steampunk Fashion, so click the link for more. I also have … [Read more...]

What are Words Really?


  They’re a label, that’s all. Even label is a label. The word label isn’t what a label is. It’s just a word: a sound assigned to something. Words only become language when it can be understood and repeated by others. Isn’t that fascinating? … when you think about it. Words are convenient. They allow us to express ourselves to others, to ask when we need an answer, and to reply when asked. With them we can direct, inspire, move, educate, and affirm others. Yep. Words are awesome. Without them, we’d have to point all the time. You can see how grunts became words distinguishable from each other. Do you ever wonder where a word comes from? I mean, who first thought up the name for tree? Someone must have used the word first, then others must have liked it and used it. People tend not to use words if they don’t like them, so those who made the word tree (and whatever the same word is in other languages) must have felt a certain … treeness in trees. Something that made the … [Read more...]