Sunday, 31 January 2016

Introducing Rick Haynes

Today it's my pleasure to introduce a new writer- well, not new really, but new to me, anyway. Rick Haynes, like me, is a keen writer of short fiction, and he has given me a drabble - a tiny, miniature story - to post here.

The dog always sat on the windowsill, waiting.
The old lady opposite called him Rocco.
On the few occasions when out paths crossed she barely spoke, especially when asked about her dog.
Looking up when mowing the lawns, Rocco would always respond to my wave with a tail wag. Strange that I could be so fond of an animal that I had never met.
When Rocco disappeared I feared the worst.
Mrs. Smith was buried today.
And Rocco is no longer here.
It may be a little while but soon he will be mine, his days of waiting gone forever.

About the author, in his Own Write:

Hi, my name is Rick Haynes; welcome to the world of my imagination
I was born way back before time meant anything. One zillion reincarnations later, I think ... I know who I am.
My passion is heroic fantasy and my first novel ‘Evil Never Dies’ was released last summer. I write Drabbles, those little 100 word gems, and have published two collections entitled, Drabbles ‘N’ Shorts and Shorts ‘N’ Drabbles.
So laugh loudly, love always, live long.
But never forget to read.
So do buy books, read the stories and enjoy the magic of words.

You can find Rick's published work at AMAZON.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

On Adverbs

I often see in writers' groups people smugly quoting 'rules'. "Take out all the '-ly' words, they gleefully chant. "Show, don't tell."

Aside from what we may infer from the fact a person doesn't know the names of the parts of speech, such advice is fraught with peril for the unwary novice.

Today, I'm going to talk about adverbs, sometimes designated in writers' groups of a certain calibre as '-ly words'.


An adverb is a part of speech that modifies a verb. It bears the same relation to a verb that an adjective bears to a noun. Hence the name.


 Someone, I think it may have been Stephen King in his wonderful book, On Writing, recommended the novice writer go through his draft eliminating adverbs. Now far be it from me to set myself up in opposition to the great King, but I don't believe he intended his words to be taken as literally as they often are.

It certainly is a great thing to limit the number of adverbs you use. Apart from anything else, doing without can force you to choose a more appropriate verb than the one you had. Another reason is that a sentence that is littered with adverbs and adjectives will usually read as if you were trying to get bonus marks from your fourth-grade English teacher. We've all been there - these semi-literate people who got two-year teaching certificates back in the 1960's and were the first people in their families to obtain any tertiary education filled the primary schools and have ultimately been responsible for more third-rate prose than Barbara Cartland and Diana Palmer combined. They trained us to write purple prose, and years later when we start to write in earnest, it is something we must unlearn. I was lucky; I got it beaten out of me at home, and every night at dinner, all through the fourth grade, I listened to my mother relentlessly mocking Miss Ridley, our form mistress. (See what I did there?)

So yes, you don't want to use them to excess, just as you don't want to use adjectives to excess. If there's one thing that annoys me in a piece of writing it's seeing every noun with a string of adjectives hanging off it.

Can we take a basic concept out of this? Yes, I think we can: it is that we don't want to have anything in excess. Can this be reduced even further? Perhaps not, but underpinning it is what I think must be a firm rule of writing: you must be in control of what you write, not it of you.


This is an easy one. It's because not all adverbs end in "-ly" (duh). If you can't identify what part of speech a word is without looking for cues like that, then you haven't yet attained sufficient proficiency in your language to be writing. Back to school for you! Bye!

Okay, so we're all down with why it's not a hard and fast rule, and we understand that we still might want to review the adverb use in our ms, vide Mr King. Now we have to beware of Trap Number Two.


I see this again and again nowadays. Many writers, who have apparently taken on board Mr King's adverb advice without fully understanding it, have taken to replacing adverbs with adverbial phrases, generally phrases starting with 'with', without in any way altering the structure of the surrounding sentence. E.G. "'blah, blah, blah,' he said, with a sad look on his face." Or "he walked across the room with speed." I'm not making this up! You can see it every day.

Make no mistake, gentle readers. This vile practice, if continued, will make you go blind, and will also cause hair to grow on the palms of your hands. 

Why is it so? you ask. It is so because functionally, there is no difference between an adverbial phrase and an adverb (hence the name). The only thing the writer achieved in the example above was to look like an utter dimwit. If you want to eliminate adverbs, that has to apply also to adverbial phrases.


So there you are: the adverb. A powerful tool, one to be used with caution, but not one to fear.

A final word of caution: if all this seems 'too hard', then it shouldn't. Words are the bricks, and grammar the mortar, that will build your fantastic castle in the sky. If you can't manage your basic materials, you aren't ready to build. Take a course, read a few thousand more books, go back to school, whatever you do, fix it. Then you may start to write.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Book review - Lexicon, by Calista Anastasia

At first I thought I wasn't going to like this book, but within a few chapters I was captivated by the cheerful teenagers with their invisibility spray and talking cat. It's not a serious kind of book; more the fun sort, and reminded me a bit of shows like Bewitched and Sabrina. Actually I thought this book would make a marvellous movie or television series.

I understand this book is the second in a series, but there was no problem picking it up without having read the first book; the book stands alone, just as a novel should.

As is all too common among independently published books, the proofreading seemed to have been a little slapdash. It's rare to find the commitment to perfection in the indie world that we expect from traditional publishers, and to me that is a constant cause for grief; however, this one is not nearly as bad as many I have seen. It had obviously been the subject of some rigorous polishing, just not quite enough. 

Lexicon is available from AMAZON in both Kindle and paperback editions. 

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Book review - The Great Brownie Taste-Off, by Lisa Maliga

This book is a bloodbath of grievously mediocre writing. In fact it's worse - littered with dangling modifiers, sentence fragments and oh the ghastly, monotonous, obsessive, pointless description of absolutely everything, it reads like the composition of a primary school child.

The actual story, if you can stand the poor writing, is engaging, and is nicely rounded off at the end... right up to the dishonest, unprofessional cliffhanger ending.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Book review - Louisiana Longshot, by Jana DeLeon

After the pattern of Miss Congeniality, Louisiana Longshot follows the fortunes of a CIA assassin on protective furlough. Of course, the assassin, who is supposed to be keeping a low profile, stumbles into an old crime. With the bumbling charm of Miss Congeniality and the support of the awesomely kick-arse little old ladies of the Sinful Ladies Society, it's charming and there is not a dull page in it - a super-fun read, ideal for chilling out on a Sunday afternoon.

Louisiana Longshot is available from AMAZON.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Book review - Two Minutes After Midnight (The Cybermancer Chronicles, #3), by Andrew Barber

Another fine book in the Cybermancer series. Barber's no-holds-barred, boots-and-all approach is what makes these books special - the kind of devil-may-care attitude that allows the hero to shit himself when he gets a fright.

Barber is a true story-teller and the action never flags. There are plenty of laughs as well, and it's all given a touch of grit by small doses of biting social comment. This is done with a light hand, though, and never descends to preaching.

I love this series, and the only criticism I had of this book is that 'lay' was used intransitively several times, which always annoys the hell out of me.

Two Minutes After Midnight is available from AMAZON.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Book review - The Socialist, by Calvin Wolf

This fine novel falls squarely into a genre which I call literary activism.

I am always banging on about how a novelist must never preach, how it is sufficient to hold up undesirable behaviours in all their ugliness and stupidity, to show the good, and in reviewing The Socialist I feel vindicated in my position. There is not a word of irritating preaching in the entire book, yet I can hardly believe anyone could fail to be persuaded of the ultimate truth and goodness of a socialist society after reading it. It is a fine piece of work indeed.

Unlike the other books of Wolf's that I have read, this one confines itself to a single point of view and first person narrative, and in this format the author has found his strength. The narrating character is finely drawn, and there are times when one hardly draws breath as one follows his deserved fall and then his redemption. Aside from the book's moral and political payload, it is a riveting, exciting piece of fiction, beautifully written.

I have no criticism of this fine book. I would like to see it made required reading in every high school.

The Socialist is available from SMASHWORDS, and at the time of writing is free.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Book reviews - Daylight Stealing Time and The City, by Calvin Wolf

Daylight Stealing Time
Although the premise was interesting, I found the fundamental premise of this book naive - computer log files don't overwrite themselves just because the TOD value is altered. DST cutover does not result in data loss in any functional system. Further, for the clocks to be set back, to overwrite earlier logs and transaction data, they would have to have been going OFF DST, not onto it.

The other problem I found with the book was that the characters were insufficiently developed, which detracted from the reading experience. So much more could have been made of what was a basically good plot idea. 

The City
A terrific, exciting plot, well thought out and executed. The only thing that I felt held it back from being a really great book was that the characters are not very developed. All of the different men in the story seemed rather samish to me and that made the story a bit hard to follow. More character development would have given the book much more depth and texture. 

Daylight Stealing Time and The City are both available from SMASHWORDS.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Book review - Leashed, by Zoe Dawson

This book was quite well written and the core story is a pleasant little love story. I'm sorry I didn't enjoy it more. There were two reasons.

First, I thought it a great pity Ms Dawson didn't research more into the dog breeding world. I do realise that people outside the dog world don't know how much they don't know, but it is a writer's job to find these things out, and here this writer dropped the ball rather badly. However, the lack won't be apparent to readers who are also outside the dog world.

The other thing I didn't like was the large amounts of pornography. I do realise that porn is a regular occurrence in romance books nowadays, but the blurb, cover and the book's whole presentation had led me to expect something a great deal more clean and wholesome than what was there. I found the combination of porn and a dog story rather sick - like combining porn with small children, just something that, I feel, ought not to be done.

As I say, the writing itself was smooth and well executed, but a little more work and thought put into the preliminaries could have turned an okay book into an excellent one.

Friday, 8 January 2016


This is my personal Honours List for 2015; the best of the independently published books I read in that year. Congratulations to all of the authors.

This is not books published in 2015. It's books I read in 2015. Some of them had been around before that. I'll be presenting them in alphabetical order of the author's name, within genre.

Leonardo Acebo - Doreen 3
Suresh Chandrasekaran - A Dog Eat Dogfood World

Joseph Picard - The One Grapes

Jason Cornelius - The Lot Attendant
Patricia Halloff - At Journey's End
William Hazelgrove - Real Santa
Barry Peabody - Genevieve
Suzanne McLain Rosenwasser - Don't Ya Know
Biju Vasudevan - The Contract 

L J Trafford - Palatine
Rowena Williamson - Escape to the Highlands

Barbara Alfaro - First Kiss
Barry Peabody - Rhyming Words Are For Everyone?

Andrew Barber - Cybermancer I - The Cybermancer Presents

Andrew Barber - Cybermancer II - Ghosts in the Machine
Zig Davidson - Unglued

Lynne Cantwell - Firebird's Snare
Lynne Cantwell - Dragon's Web
Lynne Cantwell - Scorched Earth
Nancy Moors - The Black Swans
Andy Peloquin - Blade of the Destroyer
John Phythyon - Little Red Riding Hoodie
Jen Redmile - Children of When

Ray Anselmo - An Unwanted Arrangement

Ray Anselmo - Labours of Love
Mich Feeney - Right Click, Love
Carla Sarrett - Crazy Lovebirds

Susan Day - Astro's Indian Odyssey
Susan Day - Clarence, the Snake From Dunolly
Susan Day - The Haunted Circus
Teddy O'Malley - Destiny and Faith Get Stuck In The Country

Ray Anselmo - The Circuit Rider's Bride
Sharon Srock - Callie
Sharon Srock - For Mercie's Sake

Zig Davidson - Unglued
Jana DeLeon - Louisiana Longshot
Roddy Murray - George Milne, Cat Detective

Kirtida Gautam - #IAm16ICanRape

Susan Day - Astro is Down in the Dumps
Susan Day - Understanding Your Dog Charity Grant - Kitchen Decluttering
Ryan Kinder - 1,000 Awesome Writing Prompts
Terri Main - How Do I...Create A Meme Using Free Online Software
Terri Main - Ridiculously Simple Self-Publishing: Ebook Formatting 101
Terri Main - Ridiculously Simple Self-Publishing: Do-It-Yourself E-Book Cover Design
Terri Main - The No-Excuse Zone

Terri Main - Parmenter's Wager
Tony Spencer - Know-Nothing Nigel
Tony Spencer - Shrinking Violet
Tony Spencer - The One Danielle Ste Just - Bean Mother
Timothy Tocher - Little Bad Wolf and Red Riding Hood

Ray Anselmo - Adventures in Time and Place
Ray Anselmo - Labours of Love
Carla Sarrett - Crazy Lovebirds
Carla Sarrett - Strange Courtships
Carla Sarrett - Spooky & Kooky Tales

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Book review - Kamayakshipuram, by Biju Vasudevan

If Kafka had written erotica it might have been a bit like this. The dreamlike quality of the narrative, the sense of powerlessness as the young man is drawn ever deeper into a nightmarish world of Tantric Gods and sinister devotees, reminded me quite strongly of The Castle.

I don't know very much about Tantric Buddhism, so could be wrong here, but it seemed to me that the overall structure of the book, with its blend of eroticism and spirituality, reflected the theme of that faith rather nicely.

The beautiful ending gives a hint of the author's philosophy of the unity of religion, which we first saw in The Molecular Slaves.

The two characters, Prakash and Padma, were eminently likable and engaging, and the dialogue between them was for me one of the high points of the book. The erotic content was not overdone, and this prudish reviewer was not disgusted by it, which indicates, to me at least, that it was handled with style, craft and restraint.

This writer's style is charmingly idiosyncratic, with that hint of foreignness that is often conveyed by slightly unusual word use. That said, there were places where I felt the English needed a bit of polishing, as might be expected when one writes in a second language.

All around a great read.

Kamayakshipuram is available from AMAZON in both kindle and paperback editions.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Book review - The Dragons' Chosen, by Gwen Dandridge

Seldom, if ever, have I seen such effective use made of point of view in a work of mediaeval fantasy as it is in The Dragons' Chosen. The keen observation and detailed thought that have been given to it make the book a delight to read. Gems such as this - "She must be accustomed to hard work, for I could see muscles in her arms and legs, but she had all her teeth. An enigma." - drive home the reality of the characters to striking effect.

The writing is down to earth, but never coarse, and the coming of age theme is beautifully developed, with the personal growth of the heroine a necessary factor in the book's resolution. Dandridge's sharp observation and keen wit, combined with the sheer likability of her characters, place this book, for me, in the same class as Mary Brown's wonderful Dragonne's Eg series. It exemplifies the way in which plot development in a good novel hinges on the personal characteristics of the players.

But above all, the one thing that makes this book really special is the way the author works point of view, wielding it like an expert swordsman with a rapier. For this alone, Dandridge will join the small group of authors I recommend to clients for their particular skills.

Good use is made of visual imagery, without overdoing the descriptions, and there is every indication that this is the work of a seasoned and capable writer.

A thoroughly enjoyable read, which held me captive from the first page to the last. 

The Dragons' Chosen is available from AMAZON in both kindle and paperback editions.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Book review - The Author Organizer, by Ella Medler

Brief, concise and very much to the point, this useful little book shows the emerging (or even the established) writer how to set up a filing system that will support a rational and organised approach to book production and marketing.

Although the title suggested to me more of a methodology, the book deals almost exclusively with infrastructure - with setting up and maintaining a file system that will both protect against data loss and facilitate efficient use of an author's resources.

As a veteran of the I.T. industry, this is both a subject close to my heart and one with which I have often worked. A good physical organisation of data supports a far more effective work effort. I have never known this not to be the case.

Although presented to the beginning writer, Medler does not 'talk down' to her readers, and this file system could be used by an author at any stage of his career. It offers a way out of chaos for those whose body of work has grown organically over a number of years, and although due to my own technical background I consider myself fairly well organised in terms of my data structures, I plan to adopt several of the features of Medler's system myself. Just the 'personal' folder on its own will, I believe, save me many hours of tedium.

This series of books is free, I believe, to members of Ella Medler's website, and I certainly plan to be investigating other books in the series to find more hidden gems. I recommend this book whole-heartedly to anyone who has ever spent frustrating minutes (or hours) looking for something in his computer. 

The Author Organizer and the other books in this series can be downloaded free by registered members of Paper Gold Publishing.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Book review - Ghosts In The Machine, by Andrew Barber

Following on from the first book in the series, The Cybermancer Presents, this book continues to rocket its roller-coaster ride of entertainment through the world of virtual gaming, this time, complete with a tongue-in-cheek zombie apocalypse.

The premise is original, the characters well-developed and original, the action both hilarious and yet oddly believable - in short, there really isn't anything not to like in this great book. It's full of triggers to things we love - The Sims, Monty Python, Star Trek - but never comes even remotely close to anything that could be dismissed as fan fiction. A thoroughly entertaining read from a very talented author.

Ghosts in the Machine is available from AMAZON.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Book review - How Do I... Create A Meme Using Free Online Software

A member of the 'How Do I' series, this book takes the reader, with absolutely no fuss, bragging or puffery, through the step-by-step process of creating a meme. No longer need we be dependent upon Cheezburger! Main shows you how to do it all, and free.

For anyone using memes in promotional work, I think it's well worth paying 99 cents to learn how to do it without Cheezburger - if only to have that professional look that's conveyed by not having a comic site's branding across the bottom of it.

As always, Main's instructions, without being at all patronising, are simple enough for the most technophobic person to follow. What I love most about all of her non-fiction guides and 'how-to' books, though, is the complete absence of all the puffery one typically finds in works of this kind. There is no having to wade through 60 pages of 'I'm so cool, I make squillions of dollars every five minutes, blah blah blah.' Just the content, beautifully organised and illustrated, and every word useful.

How Do I... Create A Meme Using Free Online Software is available from AMAZON.