Tag Archive | writing

Book Launch: Darker Places

A few years ago I met this wonderful author, Shaun Allan, and today his newest book, Darker Places is launched into the public sphere. He writes mainly in the horror genre and belongs to Myrddin Publishing Group – the same group as me.


Darker Places Cover



What if you could steal the final moments from the dying?  What if you had the darkest secret, but couldn’t think what it might be?  What if you entered the forest in the deep of the night.  Who is the melting man?  And are your neighbours really whom they appear to be?

So many questions.

To find the answers, you must enter a darker place.  Thirteen stories.  Thirteen poems.  Thirteen more doorways.


Amazon (universal): http://getbook.at/DarkerPlacesEbook

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/DarkerPlacesSW

Kobo: http://bit.ly/DarkerPlacesKobo

iTunes:  http://bit.ly/DarkerPlacesiTunes

About the Author

Shaun Allan headshot

A writer of many prize winning short stories and poems, Shaun Allan has written for more years than he would perhaps care to remember. Having once run an online poetry and prose magazine, he has appeared on Sky television to debate, against a major literary agent, the pros and cons of internet publishing as opposed to the more traditional method. Many of his personal experiences and memories are woven into Sin’s point of view and sense of humour although he can’t, at this point, teleport.


Saying Goodbye and Hello

Well it’s time to say goodbye to author Carlie M A Cullen as the blog tour for her third book, Heart Search: Betrayal, comes to a close. And since she’s finished her trilogy and is facing the prospect of having to start again with whole new characters, I asked her opinion of the change. Here is her response…


Call me a wuss if you like, but I get quite sentimental about my characters. I get attached to them and they become members of my family, even if they do only exist in my head. The longer I’m with certain characters, the harder it is to let them go and this was brought home to me in an almost brutal way when I finished my Heart Search trilogy.

Even though I’d written ‘The End’, I still had all the revisions and edits to go through, so my characters were right alongside me, telling me what changes to make and where to leave well alone. When the final proofread had been completed and the book was ready to be launched like an ICBM on an unsuspecting public, someone turned to me and asked if I would miss my characters. Until that moment, I hadn’t thought about losing them and the idea came as quite a shock.

These wonderful people I’d created: Remy, Joshua, Jakki, Becky, Ashley, Aidan, Samir et al were part of me and had been since 2010 – the thought of ‘losing them’ was anathema to me. How could I lose them? Yet to move on and make room for new characters, I had to say goodbye to these people who had become real in so many ways and it was painful. It felt like a bereavement, but without the pomp and rigidity of a church funeral to go with it. The pain was physical for a few hours, something I wasn’t prepared for, as some outside force ripped them from my head. However, they’re not ripped from my heart. There will always be a very special corner allocated to Remy, Josh, and the others and I will never forget them!

Yet now, even as I say hello to new characters and get to know them, the ghosts of Remy and Joshua are still floating in the background, until I dive into writing my new novel, a standalone fantasy, and then I forget them for a while as the new characters take pole position.

Creating the characters for my new book has been a great distraction. They are so different in every way from the vampire culture created in the Heart Search series. There are no vampires in the worlds I’ve built. There are creatures of my own design and my main character is the lovely lady I use as my avatar. It’s exciting to explore these new worlds and getting to know the people who inhabit it – the good and the bad. It’s fun to write real bad guys and feisty women who can fight back with swords and other weapons. It’s so completely dissimilar and I’m really enjoying the challenge of it.

Carlie M. A. Cullen

Well, the time is finally up. Today is the last day of the blog tour for author Carlie M. A. Cullen’s Heart Search: Found. As her fabulous editor, I got the best position to be the one to close the tour. Throughout, we’ve had the chance to meet her in a couple of amazing interviews, seen some cracking excerpts, and even got her take on a few things in various guest posts. But there was one thing missing, in my opinion. We didn’t really know what was going on inside her head while she was writing, and after. Now though, we do.

Please read the guest post below by Carlie, to find out what she really thought!

Over to you, Carlie!

When I sat down to begin writing the second book in the Heart Search trilogy, I was full of ideas and inspiration, my confidence level was running high and it started well.

When I reached 10,000 words, for some inexplicable reason I began to doubt myself. It came out of nowhere and I suffered a confidence crisis. Just because I’d written one book, did it automatically mean I could complete another? Did I have another novel in me? Would I find enough of a story to finish it? Was I a good enough author to write a second book?

Having received nothing but four and five star reviews for Heart Search: Lost, I felt I had a lot to live up to and the pressure was on!

After giving myself a stern lecture, I connected with my Muse, dug deep and carried on writing. As the word count grew, my confidence came back little by little; the doubts were still there but I was determined to prove to myself that I wasn’t a ‘one tricky pony’.

The bulk of the story was written during NaNoWriMo and I finally finished the first draft of Heart Search: Found in January this year.

I’d done it!

I can honestly say I experienced the same sense of achievement and joy as when I finished writing book one; I’d overcome my misgivings, my confidence crisis and affirmed that yes, I did have it in me to produce another novel. This was another heady experience and I was euphoric.

As the manuscript went through the various stages of editing, alpha and beta reading, my excitement grew. I was getting excellent feedback and some great suggestions for small improvements, all of which added to the strength of the storyline and through all these stages I was expertly guided by my fantastic editor, Maria V A Johnson.

While all this was going on, my wonderful cover designer, Nicole Antonia Carro, came up with a great cover which now gives my books a signature brand and ties them together beautifully. I was also working closely with my book trailer creator, Connie J Jasperson and between us came up with a new, exciting and unusual concept that we are extremely proud of.

When Heart Search, book two: Found was finally launched at the end of June, I was ecstatic yet nervous. What would my readers think? Would they like it as much as the first book? So far, the response has been fantastic and I’ve had seven five-star reviews and one four-star. It’s only been out a little over a month so its early days yet, but I’m blown away by some of the comments I’ve received.

I’ve proved to myself I’m not a ‘one trick pony’ and as I begin writing the final book in the series, I’m fired up and excited. Perhaps it will be the best one yet – I’ll let you be the judge of that!

Wow! Thanks for that Carlie. I guess, even if you’re published, you still have moments of doubt. I’m glad you were able to get past it and produce the brilliant sequel you have. I look forward to working with you on book 3: Betrayals!

Now for the last time. Here is the cover and buy-links for Carlie’s new novel, Heart Search: Found.

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/11mZvnq
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/15XSYf2

And the amazing trailer one last time:

Forbidden Road Review


Forbidden Road

This is a brilliant follow-on to Tower of Bones. Sequels are often iffy, as you don’t know whether the author can keep the momentum going. Mrs Jasperson has done that and more. This book is better written, more descriptive and more gripping than the first – and I read Tower of Bones five times!

The characters go through practically every emotion under the sun at some point in the story, and their reactions are so well done, you can’t help feeling it with them. There were points when I laughed out loud as I read, and points where I felt myself crying.

Right from the start of the novel I was hooked as the main characters turned the world upside-down – doing it on a dime when they were thrust into the arena unawares. There were more twists and turns to surprise me as I continued reading, and some things I never saw coming; things I never wanted to happen to them. The role-reversal at the end was brilliantly done, and you could empathise with the confusion it caused.

I would recommend this series to anyone, and will be going slowly crazy in my room while I wait for the next book to be released.

5 * * * * *

My favourite line: “Sometimes you skitter around from topic to topic like a fart in a skillet!”

You can buy it here at Amazon: http://amzn.to/WBDQ32

The Descriptive Balancing Act

One of the hardest parts about writing is getting the level of detail correct. If you don’t describe something well enough, how are the readers supposed to connect to it? On the other hand, if you describe too much they will give up reading it completely.

It has always been a balancing act, between description and plot. One thing you need to remember though is that a story should always be either plot or character driven; it cannot be driven on description. The whole point of description is to paint the scene. Think of a painting of a woman. Is it interesting if she is standing in a white canvas, nothing around her? Not really. But is it interesting if she is standing in the middle of a huge crowd, or a forest, so you can barely see her? No. An author has to try to find the middle ground, just like with that painting.

So how do you use enough description to show the scene without overwhelming it?

Step One. Focus on telling the story. You can always go back and add more detail later if it’s needed.

Step Two. Try to be realistic. Don’t put in fancy words and elaborate phrasing just because it sounds good or you think it will stun the reader with your eloquence. Look at this phrase from the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/2011win.html

The Los Angeles morning was heavy with smog, the word being a portmanteau of smoke and fog, though in LA the pollutants are typically vehicular emissions as opposed to actual smoke and fog, unlike 19th-century London where the smoke from countless small coal fires often combined with fog off the Thames to produce true smog, though back then they were not clever enough to call it that.

Now a) this sentence is way too long, which makes it difficult to follow from one end to the other, and b) you only need the first 8 words. Who doesn’t know what smog is? Who doesn’t know this author is referring to the car emissions? It is unnecessary detail. And the reference to 19th-century London? This would only be relevant if this were in a Historical Fiction novel or something similar, rather than being a throw-away comment on what real smog should be.  The author should just say “The Los Angeles morning was heavy with smog,” and then move on with the story. We all know what it looks like, and those 8 words conjure enough of a picture for us to understand the scene.

Step Three. Think about your characters. How do they act, think, feel? When they do or say something can you see their personality, their motivation, their feeling behind it? You don’t need whole paragraphs to do this unless it is a scene that calls for it, e.g. when someone is crushed by grief and the emotions are overwhelming everything – including the story, sometimes all you need is a word or two. Look at this example from Heart Search: Lost by Carlie M. A. Cullen.

“I don’t know what to say,” he moaned, anguish still apparent in his tone.

The male protagonist has just accidentally hurt his partner. You can see with just a few words how much it has affected him and how he feels about it. This tells you a lot about his character, how caring and gentle he is, and how much he loves her.

Step Four. Before sending it off to an editor, give it a read through and ask yourself “Is this something I would like to read?” If the answer is no, then ask yourself why.

Four easy steps to follow towards a balanced story. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but even for the exceptions there is a rule.

The Rule. If you are going to break a rule, make sure you do it well enough that nobody cares!

Let’s look at two classic examples of this – C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien is known for his amazing scenes. Pick up The Lord of the Rings and you will find description on top of description. Even when they take up the entire page, it doesn’t feel too heavy. This is partly because of the length of the book, and partly because of the way he makes the scenes come to life. You don’t notice how long the descriptive passages are when you are lost within the world he has created.

On the south-eastern side the ground fell very steeply, as if the slopes of the hill were continued far down under the trees, like island-shores that really are the sides of a mountain rising out of deep waters.

Lewis is the exact opposite. Read The Chronicles of Narnia and you will see how little description he actually uses. The fact that this is a children’s book helps. A person’s imagination is most vivid as a child. He gives just enough detail to release the child to see the rest. He makes the reader the describer, letting them go where they want with only a little nudge. In The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe most things and people are described, but not until you are half-way through the final chapter do you learn anything about the four main characters.

And they themselves grew and changed as the years passed over them. And Peter became a tall and deep-chested man and a great warrior, and he was called King Peter the Magnificent. And Susan grew into a tall and gracious woman with black hair that fell almost to her feet … Edmund was a graver and quieter man than Peter, and great in council and judgement. He was called King Edmund the Just. But as for Lucy, she was always gay and golden-haired…


So now you know the steps to follow, you are half-way to having a decent novel which will engage your readers. Don’t forget that you should ALWAYS send it off to a professional editor – NEVER try to do it yourself!

Remember The Rule and happy writing!


I promised that I would run a competition in honour of my book launch, and here it is.


To write a poem in the modern style.  To enter, please fill out the form below. For tips, please see my post on writing modern poetry here: http://wp.me/p2wsj4-29

The winner will have their poem showcased on my website and will receive a free ebook copy of my new poetry anthology Hearts & Minds.

Closing date: 31st December 2012

The winner will be notified by email in the New Year.


To enter, you must be an amateur poet. No one that has published in their own right may enter. Only one entry per person permitted. Should anyone enter multiple poems, only the first will be taken into consideration.

Good luck!

Hearts and Minds

I’m a professional editor. Give me a raw manuscript and I know exactly what to do with it. But when it comes to actually publishing a book, I’m as green as the newest recruit – as I’ve discovered the hard way this past month.

I have been writing a poetry anthology for the past couple of months. When I deemed it ready, I sent it off to be edited by my good friend Shaun Allan. (Yes, even though I’m an editor, I still had to get someone else to edit my work – author’s blindness extends even to us!) I got my work back covered in red pen, and I made the necessary changes. So far everything went to schedule. Being an editor, I could see what he meant, and could take it for what it was – an opinion of how it could be improved, rather than the personal attack some immature and unprofessional writers assume.

This is where it changed though. The only other times I’ve been published was in a poetry anthology during my Uni years, and my writing group’s anthology, The Other Way is Essex, and I wasn’t involved in the publication stage. That was all handled by Carlie M. A .Cullen, who heads the group. It was a novel experience, having to create the copyright page and format the document. I had to find someone to produce the cover design, had to build an Amazon author page. The list of things to do still goes on.

I’ve recently submitted to join a publishing cooperative, Myrddin Publishing Group, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will be accepted. I’ve been impressed by the professional manner in which they conduct themselves and how supportive they are of their members’ publishing endeavours.

Keep your eyes peeled as I’m hoping to get it published before Christmas. The paperback will be a handy pocket size, great for slipping into a stocking!


This is a work in progress and may not be the final cover.



The most important human experiences of love and death are beautifully explored in this anthology. With carefully selected and themed sections: Loss; Love; Lyrical; and Life, the emotions invoked by the words as they flow over the page will touch your heart.