Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Guest: Eric J. Gates

My Guest this week is... Me! Well, I've not been on here for a while and I'm a cheap date, so without further ado...

Eric J. Gates

A stake in the Vampire Meme

Many years ago, shortly after dinosaurs evolved into birds, there was a comedy show on BBC radio called ‘I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again’, and yours truly was a fan. (I told you I was old, very old and needed blood… sorry, got carried away there). Where was I? Oh yes, the radio (that’s TV without the sound, for the younger people reading this). The program was a precursor to Monty Python and several of that crowd actively took part in its weekly broadcasts, so you can imagine the kind of show it was. I have many fond memories from that program, but one comes to mind now. It was almost a social experiment; perhaps well before its time. It was proposed that anything could become funny if it were repeated often enough. To illustrate the point, the cast chose the word ‘teapot’ and proceeded to introduce it at inopportune moments throughout the half hour of the program’s duration. Yes, you’ve guessed it, by the middle of the show, it was hilarious.
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So, what’s all that got to do with the price of tea in China?

I have just published Book 2 of ‘the CULL’, my (s)take on the vampire myth, and I was musing, as I am wont to do, on how far from its origins this particular lore has become.

Just a minute, you say, everyone knows Abraham ‘Bram’ Stoker invented vampires, right?



And that’s just what I mean. Thanks to incessant, uninformed repetition, we now have a meme that equates Stoker’s Dracula with vampires. Yet it couldn’t be more misleading.

Long before Stoker published his book in 1897, or John Polidori published ‘the Vampyre” in 1819, based itself on Lord Byron’s “Fragment of a Novel” published in the same year, myth’s about blood-sucking creatures abounded, and not just in Eastern Europe. Yes, you might say, everyone knows that Bram Stoker was inspired by Vlad Tepes, the Transylvanian Prince who impaled his victims on stakes.

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Or was he?


Bram Stoker grew up in Dublin. Twenty-two years before he wrote ‘Dracula’, he may have read a book, popular at the time, called the ‘The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places’ published in 1875 by Patrick Weston Joyce, which cites the story of Abhartach, originally featured in Geoffrey Keating’s 1626 account of Irish folklore. Abhartach was an Irish King who is deposed, and killed, because of his barbarous behaviour. His corpse was left to rot in a shallow grave. The tale tells of how he resurrects and seeks the blood of his treacherous subjects, and how, eventually, a local druid tells the townspeople to rebury the body face down, with a wooden spike driven through it, to hold it in place, and a huge boulder placed on the grave to impede a new walkabout.

A bit extreme, you might think. This custom was prevalent at the time, not just in Ireland, but also throughout most of Europe, and the measures taken were meant to stop the body reviving and exiting the grave to seek redress from those that had harmed them in life. The Roman Catholic Church, the same people who brought us the ever-popular Inquisition, was a prime promoter of these methods – if you contrast known digs of buried ‘vampires’ you will quickly discover their burial coincides with the expanse of Catholicism in the area.


But back to Stoker.

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In 1880, seventeen years B.D. (Before Dracula) there was an exhibition in Dublin featuring Keating’s work. An exhibition in Stoker’s home town, and only a few years before he wrote the novel – an interesting coincidence? What’s more interesting is that in Keating’s book, and in the exhibition, these creatures are given the Gaelic name of ‘Dreach-Fhoula’, meaning 'tainted blood' and which is pronounced Droc’ola. So you can see where Stoker may have got his ideas.

But it doesn’t stop there…


Brammy (I feel we are almost friends by now) is said to have been inspired to write his famous novel, one of a total of twelve as well as several books of short stories, he penned during his life, when he saw Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He had been staying at nearby Cruden Bay in 1895, and Slains Castle is said to have become, by the magic of his pen, the home of Count Dracula. If you peruse the description of said home at the end of Chapter 1 and start of Chapter 2, you will see a remarkably accurate description of what could easily be said Scottish abode.

So where the Dickens did all this Transylvanian nonsense come from?

Just cast your mind back to the Victorian Era in the British Isles. Go on, I dare you! There was no Internet, no TV full of reality programming and travel documentaries, and no aircraft to pop over to sunnier climes. What! you say. The novels and periodicals of the time were the major source of news about exotic places and the authors of that period were well aware of this. It helped ensure their popularity amongst their readers if they set their books in such ‘unknown’ territories. Look who else was popular at the time: Rudyard Kipling, Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, H. G. Wells, to name but a few, provided colourful relief to the more socially critical fare of Charles Dickens, the Brontës and Oscar Wilde. Apparently Brammy, who never journeyed to Eastern Europe, met Hungarian writer, incorrigible traveller and Turkologist (yes, such a word exists!) Ármin Vámbéry, who provided ample information on Transylvanian culture.

Inspiration is where you find it!

Imagine, for a moment, if the opening chapters of Stoker’s novel had been set in Scotland or his native Ireland.

So, I leave you with that thought.

And this one…


And before you ask, that's not a stake in the photo; it's a japanese katana sword which I use to lop the heads off werewolves... but that's another story.

Postscript: In my vampire trilogy, I’ve gone back to the roots. They're from Ireland, don’t have fangs, use mirrors without problem, and don’t have a fear of crosses... just those who wield them! Extreme Reading, for those who are looking for a change from teenage angst, too.

Eric J. Gates has had a curious life filled with the stuff of thriller novels. Writing Operating Systems for Supercomputers, cracking cryptographic codes under extreme pressure using only paper and pen and teaching Cyberwarfare to spies are just a few of the moments he’s willing to recall. He is an ex-International Management Consultant who has travelled extensively worldwide, speaks several languages, and has had articles and papers published in technical magazines in six different countries, as well as radio and TV spots. His specialty, Information Technology Security, has brought him into contact with the Military and Intelligence communities on numerous occasions.

He is also an expert martial artist, holding 14 black belt degrees in distinct disciplines. He has taught his skills to Police and Military personnel, as well as to the public.

He is the author of several thriller novels, details of which can be found on his web, and collaborates with other authors and Writer Networks.
Author website:
Blog: you're reading it - have a look at the posts by all the wonderful Guests who have passed through here, while you're at it.
Twitter: eThrillerWriter

Thank you, me, for an informative post about vampires
...and teapots. 

A very Merry Christmas to all!

Eric @

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Guest: John Dolan

Avast, me Hearties! My Guest this week has just crossed swords with a writer's worst nightmare... and WON! I'll let him tell you about it. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you...

John Dolan

YO HO HO and a bottle of Rheum

Ok, so here’s the thing. You’re a self-published author. You’ve planned out and written your book (or you just started writing without a plan and somehow got it finished anyway). You’ve read it and re-read it
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until your eyes bleed, done some editing, fine-tuning, whatever. 

Maybe you’ve employed a professional editor, run it past beta-readers, let your mum see it. 

It’s been formatted for ebook publication and as a hardback/paperback. Somebody (perhaps you or maybe your mum) has designed a cover. 

You’ve checked the proof copy and tweaked as necessary. You’ve planned the launch and executed it impeccably using a combination of social networks, advertising, book signings. 

You’re either working your way through your marketing plan systematically or making it up as you go along. But whichever route you’ve chosen, you’re working your butt off.

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Other than getting the next book written and continuing to promote your book – which includes blogging, tweeting, interacting/co-operating with other writers etc etc – there’s nothing more to do, right?


There’s something else you need to worry about.


Unless you plan to give away all your writings free and you don’t care to know how many people have downloaded copies, you need to think about pirates. And I’m not talking about the cuddly, Johnny Depp style of pirate either. I’m talking about the ones who will copy your work and offer it free (when you’re charging for it) or sell it themselves (and you get no royalties).

The first problem you have is actually finding out that someone is selling or giving away your book without your permission.

A few weeks ago I Googled my novel ‘Everyone Burns’. For the first few Google search pages, everything was well. The web addresses were as I expected them to be. Then a website popped up for some organization called Atabal Books who were offering my novel as a free download in all common file formats. Interesting, as my book is sold exclusively through Amazon and retails for $3.99.

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So what do you do next? Well, you could do a lot worse than reading this article:

In summary, find out who is hosting the offending website and serve them with a DMCA Takedown Notice (an appropriately-worded e-mail will do). Strictly speaking, this notice is only effective for USA-based hosting companies, but there are many international companies who are reputable organisations and do not want to be seen to be hosting copyright-theft sites. The company hosting Atabal Books, is in fact NOT USA-based but on receiving my email they REMOVED the Atabal Books site within six hours. Impressive, eh?

Lessons learned:-
  1.  Read the article in the link above, and bookmark it for future use 
  2. Google your book from time to time to see if anyone is doing anything naughty with it 
  3. If you discover a pirate, find out who is hosting them and send them a DMCA Takedown Notice (even if they are not US-based). Tweet me @JohnDolanAuthor if you want a sample Notice
  4.  Follow up and shame the host by whatever legal means are at your disposal. Threatening to summarily execute members of their family is probably not a good idea
  5. Smile while doing all of the above.


"Makes a living by travelling, talking a lot and sometimes writing stuff down. Galericulate author, polymath and occasional smarty-pants."

John Dolan hails from a small town in the North-East of England. Before turning to writing, his career encompassed law and finance. He has run businesses in Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Asia. He and his wife Fiona currently divide their time between the UK and Thailand.

When not writing, John can be located at:

Thank you, John, for a very interesting and useful article. Hope you've sunk 'em for good!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

My Guest: Seumas Gallacher

He's back! Yes, That Man is back! (cue massed bagpipes soundtrack). This time talking about violence in novels. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Seumas Gallacher

Bluddy Savage

…I wonder how often and how many of yeez have the same thoughts that bang around in my little grey cells from time to time… today’s epiphany jumped in a wee while ago… ‘…God save us from those that want to save us from ourselves…’ …it starts when ye’re still an infant, still in yer short trousers… the ‘savers’ raise the alarm about how much violence gets peddled in the movie theatre cartoons… ‘…it’ll warp their minds… create
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monsters out of them… psychologically damage them forever…’
…well, I don’t know about how yeez all handled that stuff, but watching the likes of Tom and Jerry and the Road Racer invent thirty thousand different ways of bodily annihilation never ever put me off my mince… fast forward to the modern day and the birth of the eBook phenomenon… everybody and his cat wants to write a novel… the favourite literary poison of the day is crime thrillers… which generally means violence and killing on a scale seldom seen outside of World Wars… with the flick of a quill or a tap on a laptop keyboard, victims pile up for the bin men to collect… my ol’ Mama said yeez can never get enough of a good thing… but from a scribbler’s perspective, just how much violence is a ‘good thing’?… the writing clichés abound on how to make characters become ex-persons… all the way from size 10 concrete footwear to ‘pluggin’ ‘em’ with three kilos of best cordite-smellin’ lead… ‘fess up time… I’m a crime thriller author… and, yes, there’s more than a tad of violence in my masterpieces…(I’m from docklands Govan in Glasgow, what do yeez expect?)… however, there’s a huge difference in the novelist’s use or abuse of violence… (… ‘gentle’ violence? …surely not?)… readers are not dumb… okay, they’re well-adjusted to the concept of ‘suspending disbelief’ in the interests of story
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plot flows… but we’re not talking horror genre here… so creating gallons and gallons of gore doesn’t make for good crime stories… neither does a mild tap on the back of the skull to induce corpses… yeez have to keep it real and credible… most authors will tell yeez that they’d like to have a ‘grab-‘em-by–the–throat-and-pull-‘em-in’ beginning… violence is fair game for that… startle ‘em a wee bit… but there’s the risk of ‘over-selling’ it… once yer character’s dead, leave him dead… don’t overkill him… if ye’re trying to provide descriptive evidence that a bad dude or dude-ess is really bad, he or she doesn’t have to strangle somebody to show that… a well-placed sneer fits the bill just as well… once a reader has made an early judgment on the evil protagonist, it sticks, don’t worry about that… instead, use the impending threat of violence as the tension-builder… oh, and by the way, if the baddies get taken out on the ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ ethos, then it’s perfectly acceptable to visit every kind of savagery on them… the only baddies I ever consistently rooted for back in the old days was whatever criminal characters Jimmy Cagney or Edward G. Robinson portrayed… but by and large, yer readers want the villains to ‘get theirs’… some writers create havoc in the body count and violence while others get by with perhaps a single mortality… it depends on the story context… just don’t make any of it gratuitously violent… there has to be a purpose, even if it’s merely retribution by
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killing the bad guy, or sculpting sympathy for the killing of an innocent character… it has to resonate with the reader… evoke some reaction… yeez don’t want the reader to actually feel pain, but it’s good writing to have them feel the emotional pain of the those close to a ‘goodie’ ye’ve just topped… and nothing beats the reader’s inner cheer when the ‘baddie’ finally gets huge dollops of his own violent medicine… yeez want them saying, ‘…Yes! Yes! Got the s-o-b…’ …by the way, counterbalancing the violence with some ‘touchy-feely’ emotional passages is not only acceptable, but desirable… in the absence of outright humour, a lighter piece gives the reader a breathing space… lets them catch their second wind… believe me, they’ll be grateful and thank yeez for it… so, with all that in mind, go kill ‘em!…

Brief Synopsis of Seumas' latest thriller Savage Payback - the third of the Jack Calder novels:

A series of coordinated lethal bomb attacks on a dozen jewelry stores in London’s West End drag former SAS officer, Jack Calder and his specialist security firm, International Security Partners, into a deadly mesh of murder and international drug running.

A black ops explosives expert, an ex-colleague turned renegade mercenary with a twisted lust for revenge, emerges from the past to join forces with a powerful and dangerous drug baron from Eastern Europe. A major cocaine trafficker from South America compounds the threats as competitive turf issues straddle international territories.

Attacks close to home heighten the urgency for Calder and his team to find and deal with each of the three sinister adversaries in a final savage payback.


Seumas Gallacher was born in the cradle of the Govan shipyards in Glasgow in the so-called "bad old days" which were in reality the greatest of days, where everybody was a real character of note.

An early career as a trainee Scottish banker led to a spell in London, where his pretence to be a missionary converting the English locals fell on deaf ears. Escape to the Far East in 1980 opened up access to cultures and societies on a global scale, eventually bringing the realisation that the world is quite simply one large extended village.

The lifelong desire to write resulted in "The Violin Man's Legacy", the first in the Jack Calder series of crime thrillers. Seumas says that finishing that novel was one of the best feelings he has ever experienced in a life full of rich emotions.

When he's not writing the next installment in the Jack Calder series, Seumas can be found here:


Thank you, Seumas, for an interesting insight into the use of violence as a writer's tool in fiction.

Eric @

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Guest: Regina Puckett

My Guest this week is an authoress who has mastered a challenge so many writers choose to avoid. Her thoughts on using different genres to tell your stories, and why she enjoys this approach, are the subjects of this interesting post. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you...

Regina Puckett

The Horror of Romance

People look at me like I’m a two-headed snake in a freak show whenever I tell them my books and short stories aren’t all written in the same genre. I write romance, horror, inspirational, children’s picture books and my newest venture is erotic/horror. Yes, I really did just say erotic/horror. The later genre I co-authored with my daughter, Charity Parkerson. I left the steamy scenes to her while I stuck to mutilating and killing people.

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The truth is I’m really not certain why there aren’t more authors choosing to write in multi-genres. I know I have several stories in my head still waiting to be written and they don’t all fit into the same mold. I wouldn’t think I was that different from any other author. In my opinion, a good story is a good story no matter what the genre is. Besides, I like changing things up every now and then. It keeps things interesting. I enjoy writing about people falling in love, but it’s just as much fun to find a creative way to kill someone.

Right now you’re out there questioning my sanity. That’s okay. You wouldn’t be the first person to do so. And, yes, I do understand the whole theory behind branding myself as a writer, but while that may work for traditional publishing houses, does that same idea work for indie authors? Without having the powerful machinery of publishing houses behind us, I truly believe, indie authors need to be more creative and should always be willing to try something new.

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I like being able to appeal to a wider spectrum of readers. But even after saying that, that’s not the only reason I write in so many different genres. I write the stories that insist on being written and I never know who or what will inspire my next tale. Will Work for Food was written after seeing a beggar on the street corner. Paying the Hitchhiker came to me as I was riding with my husband from Tennessee to Myrtle Beach. I wrote Concealed in My Heart because of a dream. Every single one of my short stories and books were inspired by something different. I have accepted the fact that my mind has a mind of its own.

It seems that with the aging process, more and more of my stories are turning into tales of horror. Maybe it’s because I’m turning into a cranky old bitch in my old age. While I still do believe in love at first sight, I also can think of a hundred different ways to kill someone and bury the body. I’m probably better off not overanalyzing what dark paths my mind is willing to travel down on most days. Writing is a great way of breaking the law without really breaking the law. Just because you don’t see your name in any of my books doesn’t mean that wasn’t YOU I killed in my latest horror story. I do like killing people who have ticked me off. So think carefully, have you done something lately to piss me off?

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So my question still stands, why shouldn’t I write any story I want to? As a reader, my interests have always been wide and varied. I love reading romances, mysteries, horror, Science Fiction and last but not least the back of milk cartons. The written word should always be appreciated. Since someone, somewhere took the time to write it, the very least we can do is take the time to read it.

I’m not a famous author, so it’s probably bad form to be offering advice to anyone on how to advance their writing career. My professional advice is to take everything I say with a grain of salt. The truth is there is no magic bullet for making it as a writer. I have no idea why some excellent writers never make it big, while a few terrible ones become bestselling authors. Maybe it’s the luck of the draw or just maybe, even though they aren’t excellent wordsmiths, they are great storytellers.

What I’m trying to say is don’t be afraid to try something new. You might just discover the writer you were truly meant to be.


Regina lives in Tennessee. She has been a writer for as long as she can remember. The only way she knows to shut the voices up is to tell their stories and to let them live among the pages of her books.

She loves writing in many different genres because life is too short to be stuck in a rut.

Thank you, Regina for a great post. It occurs to me that a reader following a particular author could also discover new genres if that writer is multi-genre too.

Eric @

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Guest: Rayne Hall

The craft of writing a novel is not an easy one; each page brings a new challenge. My Guest this week has chosen to share her experience of resolving a particulary notty issue for many. Ladies and Gentlemen,

Rayne Hall

Creating Convincing Combat

Creating a good fight scene is one of the most challenging aspects of the writer's craft. Here are techniques on how to give your readers the thrill they expect from a fight:

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1.  Give each fighter a compelling purpose and raise the stakes as high as possible. A heroine fighting for her life is more exciting than a heroine fighting for her purse, and a heroine fighting for her children's lives is more exciting still. If she fights for her purse, raise the stakes by making that purse important: it contains not only money, but the jackpot-winning lottery ticket, only photo of her abducted baby daughter, or evidence that her husband is innocent of the murder of which he stands accused. For her opponent, a street urchin, the stakes are also high:  the money in the purse will buy food for his starving baby sister, or gang members are assessing his performance to decide whether to accept him.

2.  Stack the odds against your protagonist: the more difficult the fight is for him, the more exciting it is for the reader. Give the opponent better weapons, greater strength, and other advantages.

3.  Use a location which is either unusual (a wine cellar, a cowshed, an artist's studio) or dangerous (a rope bridge across a ravine, a sinking ship). [more on this below]

4.  Use deep point of view: let the reader experience the fight the way the PoV character experiences it. Keep to the PoV's vision (only what's immediately before him) and convey his emotions (fury, fear, hope, triumph).

5. Hearing, more than the other senses, creates excitement, so describe noises, especially the sounds of weapons (pinging bullets, hissing arrows, clanking swords).

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6. Create fast pace by using short paragraphs, short sentences and short words.

7.  Verbs, more than other words, convey excitement: hack, slash, pierce, stab, race, jump, leap, drive, spin, punch, kick. Choose vivid verbs, and build your sentences around them.

8. Avoid blow-by-blow accounts: these soon get boring. Instead, show only the first few moves, as well as the decisive final ones, and for everything in between, focus on the direction of the fight ('Fired with new courage, she kicked and punched.' 'He drove her closer and closer to the cliff').

9.  In a long fight scene, let something unexpected happen (the hero loses his weapon and is forced to fight on with his bare hands, the hero's girlfriend comes to his aid,  the villain's henchmen join the fight, the bridge collapses, building bursts into flames). This event should change the fight, but it should not decide it.

10.  If your protagonist has a special skill - e.g. she's good at acrobatics, at oil painting or at basketball -  let her use this skill in a surprising way in the fight.

11. Create a 'black moment' when all seems lost. Then the protagonist recalls his purpose, rallies his courage, and fights on to win.

12. If the protagonist wins the fight, it must be from his own efforts, not because of a stroke of luck, divine intervention or outside interference.  Other people may help, but they must not decide the outcome.

The writer's secret weapon: location

To make a fight scene interesting, place it in an unusual venue. What's the quirkiest possible location in your novel?

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How about a sauna, a laundrette, a playground, a morgue, a potter's workshop, a lady's boudoir,  a cow shed, a minaret, a sculpture gallery, a stalactite cave, a theatre's prop store room, a sewage tunnel or a wine cellar?

What features are there that the fighters can jump on, leap across, climb up, swing from, duck under? What items can they topple or toss?  The more creatively you use the space, the more entertaining the scene becomes.

Staircases work well because the fighters can stand on the steps, they can run or  leap, they can stumble, fall or tumble, and maybe slide down the banister. They can also use the stairs to move from one location to another, which is useful in prolonged entertaining scenes. To make your fight scene stand out, make the stairs unusual in some way. Perhaps they've been freshly washed and are still slippery, or maybe they are so dilapidated that some boards are missing.

In a long fight scene, the fight can move right across the terrain. This adds variety. Try to arrange it so the climax of the fight happens in the most dangerous place - at the edge of the cliff, at the top of the tower, on the narrow crumbling wall.

The terrain also helps to make your fight scene realistic. As soon as you mention what kind of ground the combatants are fighting on, the scene gains authentic flavour. What's the ground like: Persian rugs? Concrete? Lawn? Uneven planks of splintered wood?  Hard, firm, soft, squishy, muddy, wet, slippery, wobbling, cluttered, sloping? I suggest mentioning the ground twice: once to show how it feels underfoot, and once to show how it affects the fight. Perhaps your heroine slips on the wet asphalt, or stumbles across the edge of a rug.

To keep your fight scene plausible, consider how large the space is. How much room do the combatants have to fight? How high is the ceiling? What obstacles restrict the space? 

For example: The hero is a warrior, used to swinging his sword in a high arc. Now he must fight indoors, where the ceiling is too low to raise the sword overhead. How will he cope?

Most staircases are too narrow for big sword swings, which can add interesting difficulties. In medieval castles, spiral staircases were almost always built so they favoured right-handed defenders. The person coming down had room to swing the sword-arm, while the person coming up had not. This makes an interesting challenge for the hero fighting his way up, or for a left-handed defender.

Spatial restrictions make the fight scene authentic, plausible and interesting.
Show the location before the fight

During the fast action of the fight, there's no room for describing the setting. This can be confusing for the reader. To help the reader understand the location, show it in advance.  If the plot allows it, place an earlier scene in the same venue. Alternatively, let your point-of-view character check out the terrain immediately before the fight starts.

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror Stories, Six Scary Tales Vol. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5(creepy horror stories), Thirty Scary Tales, Six Historical Tales Vol. 1 and 2 (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories),  The Colour of Dishonour: Stories from the Storm Dancer World, Writing Fight Scenes, The World-Loss Diet, Writing About Villains, Writing About Magic and Writing Scary Scenes (practical guides for authors).
She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies, Seers: Ten Tales of Clairvoyance and more. 
Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and  has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England.

Short video: Ten Random Facts About Rayne Hall:
Amazon’s Rayne Hall page:
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Rayne can also be followed on Twitter here

Wow! As someone who has been trained in over 25 different fighting arts, I take my hat off to Rayne. Her tips are right on the nail. Thank you, Rayne, for sharing your expertise with us today.

And there's more! Rayne has collected many more practical tips for writers in a series of books also available on Amazon. This is the one about Writing Fight Scenes: 

Eric @

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Guest: Laurence O'Bryan

My guest this week is a thriller writer who gives Dan Brown a run for his money. He brings us an explosive post that will help put spice into our writing. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you

Laurence O’Bryan

Dangerous Fiction:
Grabbing your Reader’s Attention

What the hell is dangerous fiction? Well, there’s truth, and there’s lies. Then there’s showing people what they thought was the truth is all lies. Or what they thought was all lies, is the truth.

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What else is dangerous? Breaking taboos. But surely they’re all gone by now? Aren’t we all sophisticated internet peeps now? 

So here the challenge is in finding taboos that are still edgy. We’ve had taboos broken, then turned inside out so many times there’s probably not much left, except for Nazi hippies wanting to die.

And even that’s been done. Or has it? Late night occult anyone? Do you remember that movie about the man who taught the hippies how to get stoned, and what he was up to in Germany in the 1930’s? And then he met Charles Manson. Mr Hippy himself.

But dangerous isn’t just about taboos and truth telling. It’s also about fiction that explodes all over your face, like an eye ball eating squid popping out of your Kindle as you hold it up close. 

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For me it doesn’t matter how well you write, if you’re not a bit dangerous you’re boring. If your story is about an afternoon in an apartment, as your hero argues with himself about whether to make dinner for his partner, I’m just not that interested.

Ok, I’ll read two pages if your prose totally sparkles, but I’ll soon put you down. Shiny, glistening literary baubles lack substance for me. I want something dangerous. I want my big D fix.

Which brings us to the central point of danger, it’s all about choice. Your D fix, I may hate. And danger is affected by genre too. Crime fiction, thrillers, erotic fiction, romance, fantasy, science fiction, they all embody danger at their core. Characters fall into danger and some of them die, horribly. And some of them get tortured, in ways that involve balls and whips. And let’s not even talk about the erotica.
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Danger makes a book more commercial. If you write and extend one of the popular modern genres listed above, have a great story and danger at the core you are more likely to excite a publisher. Publishers want to publish books that people are more likely to buy. And they have found out, over many years, that books written with dangerous themes - about love, loss, betrayal, and triumphing over the odds, about lies and greed and very personal threats, sell well and then some more again.

So make a bold statement. Introduce your big D fast. Hook the reader. And get a good title.

Getting personal is my final piece of advice for writing dangerously. Whether that means telling people what a rotten mother you had, what a time waster you used to be and how you used to steal food to eat is up to you, but keep this in mind. Everything you ever did was all research for great plot twists. 

You couldn’t decide to pick a different childhood, but you can decide now that it’s all research. Telling stories, whether true or imagined, allows us an entrance to dangerous worlds we could never otherwise experience. Let people see yours. I wish you all the best. And I hope, in the end, we can all do some good with what we create to make the world a little less dangerous. Because we’re doing it all vicariously.


Laurence O’Bryan’s novels have been translated into ten languages, but you’ve never heard of him.

And he should be dead, many of his friends are. And you should read his new novel, The Manhattan Puzzle, out Oct 10 2013 all over the world. It’s a knife on the artery of corruption. The Da Vinci Code on crack. Catch it before this Irish writer become too popular. Then you can say you read him first.

See for more and follow him on Twitter.

Thank you, Laurence, for a fantastic article that contains many useful tips for writers of all genres.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Guest: Steve K. Smy

My Guest this week is an author of Sci-Fi who has some telling words about creating an Author Brand for all new and/or aspiring authors out there. Ladies and Gentlemen,

Steve K. Smy

Lost in the Labyrinth

Are you a new author? Before we go any further, let me just say that I don’t believe that there’s any such animal as an ‘aspiring’ author. You either write or you don’t. If you do write, you’re an author. If you don’t write, then nothing in the world is going to turn you into an author. Believe me, this is important to this whole discussion.

As a new author, you’ve struggled with all the usual issues of doing the actual writing and polishing. You’ve found a publisher or you’ve self-published. You sit back and wait for the sales...  And nothing happens! Your book sits there with no activity associated with it, except perhaps a few strays stopping long enough to take a brief look. So what’s happened? Simple: books don’t sell themselves. More importantly, perhaps, authors have to sell themselves to potential readers! Yes, you can hammer the social networks with the news that you’ve got a book available, but you’ll be disappointed by how much notice that gets you. You need to negotiate your way through the labyrinth of the internet, and you have to do it right or you’ll be lost in there forever!

Amazon Link
Very few people, whatever they do, are anything but a small voice in a mass of voices, as far as the internet is concerned. Sadly, most people are almost microscopic voices. They go unnoticed, unremarked. Why?  Because they make the mistake of thinking that putting something up on the internet will draw others to them automatically, with no great effort expended. That is, to be brutally honest, utter nonsense! Above all else, entering into the internet community means you have to sell yourself, and you have to do it in the right way. Apart from a handful of friends and family, nobody out there knows who you are or what you do. You have to tell them, and you need to do so in a way that will make you attractive. Good humour, avoiding self-obsession, talking about subjects you’re passionate about, and being as open as possible while protecting your privacy. All these are essentials.

“But I just want to sell my book!” 

Sure, and that seems perfectly reasonable. Now tell me: given the choice between an author you already like (or one you’ve heard of) and somebody you’ve never heard even a whisper about, which book, assuming the books are the same price, will you buy? And that’s part of the problem. People feel they know the bestselling authors, beyond knowing their books. They have presence! That’s what you have to create for yourself. You need to let people get to know something about you, as a person and as an author. You have to show them who you are and what you stand for. But, you have to do it in a way that doesn’t overdo it. If you get ‘in their faces’ too much, they’ll turn their backs on you.

Amazon Link
In truth, you should really have started creating You, the Brand, long before you published your first book. It’s a lot harder work doing it once you’ve got a Product to sell under the Brand name! “Brand”? “Product? Oh, yes! That’s exactly what we’re talking about. You’re a Brand and your book is your Product. There’s no escaping that fact. So just what do you have to do to publicise Brand you? Top of the list: create a website. I would  recommend doing so using a blog facility - it will save you a great deal of work. It also means you only need one site to worry about, as you can use the blog part as a blog – to keep your readers updated and entertained. And in those blog posts, don’t focus too much on yourself and your writing! Talk about writing in general, talk about other authors, post reviews and interviews, get guest posts. Too much you and people won’t be hanging around or coming back for more. Then, in the early days of your website at least, get on those social networks and be heard! It doesn’t matter what you say, as long as it makes you sound interesting and fun to know. Also, be prepared to back other authors by helping them spread the word about themselves and encourage readers to visit your site by making connections with reviewer blogs. And visit other blogs, leave likes and comments as appropriate – genuine ones – don’t abuse blog commenting to just advertise yourself or your book! The occasional plug for your book and/or website/blog won’t hurt. A status note that you’ve got something new on your blog is fine, but limit the frequency of such messages! If you live outside the USA,
Amazon Link
then you can possibly get away with two publicity messages per day – to cover your local peak time and again at some time when others from other countries are more active. You’ll be surprised how much more activity you get if you build your Brand effectively.

Theseus used a thread to avoid being lost in the most famous labyrinth of all. You have a thread of sorts: your footprints on the internet. Keep it simple, at the start at least! Set up an author page on Facebook, get a Twitter account that describes you as an author, and have that blog! If you know how to use it, then add LinkedIn too – and when you acknowledge new contacts, include a link to your blog in your message signature! Steer people to where they will find your book using gentle means – as if you’re letting them use your own labyrinth-busting thread to avoid getting lost.

I should close with a dose of reality! You are extremely unlikely to become a bestseller. Sales will be slow and sporadic. You’ll have to work hard, too, just to put your book up on the eye-level shelf, where it can be seen. Every bookstore has thousands of titles. They’ll have many free books. It would be unreasonable to expect your book to leap into first place overnight!

One final word: The you that you present will establish your reputation online. If you value your reputation, give careful thought to how you portray yourself!

Steve K Smy was born in Ipswich, Suffolk - a picturesque part of England famed for being part of Constable Country, where the renowned artist John Constable worked and produced many of his finest paintings. He has lived virtually his whole life there. He started writing for pleasure when he was 13 years old, with a science fiction novel! Naturally, his writing was less dominant for many years, as he and his wife Jenny raised their three children to adulthood and independence. He returned to writing seriously in February 2012, following a long illness. Since then, he has written and published, in ebook format, several short stories and, in ebook and paperback formats, four novelettes and a novella, and has been working on a major fantasy novel.

His published stories include tales in three series: the Thief series of fantasy short stories, the mixed genre G1: The Guardians series (two novelettes and a novella, to date) and the science fiction Captain Henri Duschelle Stories (a short story and two novelettes, so far). The novelettes and novella have now been published in paperback. Fans of the G1: The Guardians series will be delighted to hear that a novel (A Darkness in Amazonia being Part 4 of the series) has recently been published!

Steve is also a blogger with a growing readership for his blog Imagineer-ing, Again, fans of the G1: The Guardians series will be happy to hear that they can find background information on the stories, especially the political shape of the world, in a special section of the blog site!

Thank you, Steve, for an interesting article. I'm sure it will help many a writer surmount the obstacles presented as they try to get their work known.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Guest: Susan Mac Nicol (part 2)

In my Guest Post this week I am featuring the second half of a previous guest's post. This time the writer tackles a common problem from the perspective of her own novels. Ladies and Gentlemen,

Susan Mac Nicol

Character Stereotypes

The first part of this guest post was all about the process of research and the rather weird and wonderful things I came across in the course of performing it. To recap, it was fairly run of the mill stuff - S and M, 101 uses for a flogger, gay man sex,  female on male rape, retributivism, cults, Stockholm Syndrome, male sexual abuse, psychopathic serial killers and more sex. Everyday topics for a Romance author really.

You might think that was the sum of all the weird and wonderful insights into the genre in which I write, which is gay male Romance. Well there’s more.

I am a straight woman writing about two men falling in love and having sex. Now while I think most of us have an idea of what this might entail, it might surprise you to look at a few statistics on the gay man world, and give yourself food for thought. I came across so many stereotypical views so I thought I'd look at this in more detail.

available 2nd Oct  -  Link
Firstly, there are a lot of myths about the gay life style out there.  Assumptions such as all gay men love anal sex, they can all do wonderful interior design or be a woman's BFF when it comes to choosing clothing (someone's been watching Father of the Bride or Will and Grace), they are promiscuous, love to have sex in bathrooms, and they are more likely to be paedophiles.

Yes, as in everything else in life, there are stereotypes and one of the things we as authors try not to do, is propagate the myth in our books unless it's what we choose to do for the story. We might not always succeed but we try. We all know some real doozies. That Irishmen called Murphy are supposed to be idiots. That all Englishmen love to drink tea. That anyone who wears a tattoo is a complete skank. That all priests are paedophiles. I mean, what a load of horse pucky. Yes, there might be a village idiot called Murphy somewhere in the world but that's just the way it is. I'm sure there's one called Einstein somewhere too.

This article by Simply Psychology was a fascinating look into what stereotypes are and how they get to be perceived as such:
[McLeod, S. A. (2008). Stereotypes - Simply Psychology]

Stereotypes are defined as “...a fixed, over generalized belief about a particular group or class of people.” (Cardwell, 1996).

In the Romance genre we see this a lot. The beautiful heroine with her heaving bosom and flashing eyes who probably came from a wealthy family and is now trying to assert her independence. The handsome, muscle bound hero, with cheekbones to die for and a devil may care attitude. The dark, brooding villain who somehow manages to sweep away said heroine (or in my case, hero) to a life of lustful sex and enjoyment, a happy ever after. And you know what, there's nothing wrong with this. The Romance trope depends on the burgeoning love relationship between a hero/heroine, hero/hero, who meet through some unforeseen circumstance, normally piss each other off, then come together in the realisation that they are meant to be together, leading to the inevitable HEA- Happy Ever After. The creativity comes in HOW we tell their story, what creativity we put into their development, how we define and develop their flaws (because they have to have some) and how we get said happy ending.

I am a member of the Romance Writers of America and this is what they been quoted as defining the plot of a romance novel -
According to the Romance Writers of America, the main plot of a romance novel must revolve around the two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship together. Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship although the novel can also contain subplots that do not specifically relate to the main characters' romantic love. Furthermore, a romance novel must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending."

This is it in a nut shell. But making your characters non-stereotypical, trying to give them their own identity and personality while not making them so reflective of what people expect them to be, that's where the challenge lies. And sometimes we may not succeed and succumb to the lure of the stereotype. If this happens, all I can say is that as long as you enjoy the story, it entertains you and makes you feel emotional, whether it be sad, happy, angry, disgusted or just plain horny, then who really gives a damn. As a writer we've achieved what we set out to do - make you, the reader, believe in our characters, their lives and leave you with the feeling that perhaps, just perhaps, you might like to do it all again. With our next book of course - that goes without saying.  :)

Read PART 1 of Sue's post here


Sue Mac Nicol was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom. At the age of eight, her family moved to Johannesburg, South Africa where she stayed for nearly thirty years before arriving back in the UK in December 2000.

Sue works full time in the field of regulatory compliance for a company in the financial services industry in Cambridge. But she still finds time to work until the small hours of the morning doing what she loves best – writing. Since her first novel, Cassandra by Starlight, was penned, Sue has written the other two books in her Starlight trilogy, four other novels, two short stories and a screen play based on Cassandra. Her passion is keeping herself busy creating worlds and characters for her readers to enjoy.

Sue is a member of Romance Writers of America and Romantic Novelists Association in the UK. She is also a member of a rather unique writing group, called the Talliston Writer’s Circle, which in itself has a story all of its own to tell, and lives in the rural village of Bocking, in Essex, with her family.

Her plan is to keep writing as long as her muse sits upon her shoulder. Her dream is to one day get that big old house in the English countryside overlooking a river, where she can write all day and continue to indulge her passion for telling stories.

Sue can be contacted at:

Personal website: 

Cassandra by Starlight Facebook page:

Thanks for another great post, Sue. Er... don't all Englishmen drink Tea?

Eric @