Many years ago, my very first Internet provider was TinyWorld in the UK.
This led to many jokes – you know the ones:
“Hire cars are no good for short people.”
“You’ve got to hand it to short people…Well, they can’t reach for themselves, can they?”
and so on.
Anyway, here I am now, writing the occasional story and someone in marketing decided I needed a mailing list.
Rather than following the crowd I found one that suits me down to the ground (yeah, okay, so maybe I’m closer to the ground than you are … but, bear with me)
My mailing is provided by TinyLetter and is super easy, even if very basic. Well, it’s not like I’m going to get loads of subscribers, am I’ And if it keeps the marketing guru quiet for a while, who am I to argue?
So, there you have it.
You can subscribe to my newsletter here and I’ll keep you posted about new stories, writing ideas, giveaways and promotions.
As the release date for Lacey’s Law approaches, so do the nerves, the self-doubt and those little voices in my head.
I was just about to sign up for the next flight to the Moon, or Mars – or even back to Brum – anywhere I could hide, but then I received another fantastic, splendiferous and totally confidence-boosting review.
Check this one out:I loved Lacey’s Law. It is such a unique story and has elements of more than one genre. It feel like a mystery at times, personal narrative, suspense and romance all into one. You did a fantastic job of story telling. I included more of a formal write-up below.Characterization:The main characters drove me insane in the best way! These aren’t the typical kind of likeable characters you would love to meet in real life or wish you lived next door to but you just can’t get enough of them either. I felt like I got to know them very well and my emotions were all over the place. Sometimes I would understand their motivations completely and I was right there nodding my head with them. Other times I was pulling my hair out wanting to slap some sense into them. These two emotions kept volleying back and forth, all the while I had a good dose of fear of each one them as well, wondering just how far they were going to take things. You were able to create all of that with each main character and I found it to be absolutely brilliant!They also had distinctive voices and flaws, which added depth and believability to the story.There were a lot of secondary characters along the way as well. This can sometimes get tricky but I felt yours were well developed and actively influenced the plot. They were much more than just props to propel the main characters.Plot and Conflict:Both internal and external conflicts for your characters were clearly defined throughout the entire story. And most importantly, they felt natural and believable yet always unexpected. I didn’t find anything that seemed far fetched or pulled me out of the story. There was a fantastic amount of tension that kept the pages turning. Every conversation and scene contributed to the story and I wouldn’t take anything out.The story line twists just kept coming and coming. You released them at the rate of a magician. I just wanted to high-five you every time another one was revealed. The timing and execution was perfect. This is difficult to balance because it becomes overwhelming to the reader if there are too many plot twists or they come too fast to keep track of. Yours were spot on. Well done.Pacing:Transitions flowed smoothly and I noticed a hook at each chapter ending that made you feel like you wanted to read more. The pace felt exciting but not so fast it overwhelmed. There were no spots where it dragged.Setting:It was easy to set your mind into each scene. The description was there but the characters were always the main focus and that helped to just feel like you were there with them. I noticed even the characters physical attributes weren’t heavily described. That is fun as a reader because they just sort come together however you want them to. I love that.Dialogue:The dialogue/narrative balance leaned a bit heavier on the narrative at times. But you did such a good job of making readers feel like they were sitting down with Lacey listening to her story, I would keep the narrative just the way it is.. I’ve never read a book that draws you and connects in such a unique way. I enjoyed how you added Lacey’s comments to the reader, not just at the beginning but through out the entire book. It works well.You stayed in character every time one of them spoke and it flowed so naturally. I can tell you are either a very experienced writer or just have one heck of a gift for it.Mechanics:Your book is edited very well. I didn’t find a single mechanical error through out the entire story.Additional Comments:This is a book that just feels impossible to set down once you’ve started. It kept me guessing the entire time.Please let me know if you have any questions or would like me to clarify something above. I would be happy to beta read for your work in the future. Best of luck as you wrap things up for publishing.
I just finished reading Lacey’s Law – it took me only a few hours, as it is a relatively short story, but also one that you can’t put down for a minute. I LOVED it!! It was a great story that kept me hooked from start to finish. I almost wish it was longer because I was so into it and the characters. Even during the slower moments in the book, there was always something keeping you on the edge of your seat. Characterization was very strong and well-developed for such a short book. The writer clearly spent a substantial amount of time with these characters, not putting plot ahead of characterization like you see so often in novellas or other plot-driven books. I particularly enjoyed the interactions between two of the main characters, Lacey and Carla, which if I’m being honest is what drew me into the book to start with. Lacey comes across as very opinionated and someone who isn’t afraid to speak her mind – something I think many women can either identify with or something women wish they could be. So there is an immediate connection. I also sense that she gets a bit impatient when dealing with others. Carla doesn’t quite fit the box Lacey has put her in, I think, and that leads to why their characters both clash and at the same time work so well together for the purposes of the story. Dialogue between them is sometimes laugh out loud hilarious, but also very real. There is a lot of emotional depth and drama in the story as well. Not only with the secret affairs and backstabbing and betrayal and such, but a stark amount of emotional depth to the characters as well. Lacey in particular harbors a lot of pain and resentment and though her actions sometimes seem drastic, she is always relatable on a human level. The readers can put themselves in her shoes and think that, just maybe, they would have acted or reacted the same way. (I know I would! But I’m a bit of a firecracker myself)! As far as the plot itself – wow. So much drama!! I felt like a teenager reading Gossip Girl for the first time again. Of course, it wasn’t just the drama that kept the story moving – it was a combination of drama, characters, and just good storytelling and writing. I wanted to know what happened next and found myself reading late into the night after I should have turned off the lights and gone to bed. Did I mention I read this book in just a single day? I know it’s just novella-length, but still. For someone with a busy schedule like myself, that’s saying a lot. The ending of the book was great. I don’t want to give anything away, because there are a few twists, but I like the resolutions, and how all the ends were tied up very neatly, not leaving questions about any of the many characters. It made for a very happy ending and a satisfying read overall.
and, from me .. EEK! Thank you so much 🙂
If anyone is interested in reading an advanced copy in return for an HONEST review (Good or bad) – please let me know 🙂
As part of a flash challenge to write a story in 72 hours on the subject of mistaken identity, this was my offering:
A Walk in the Park.
I’m a sucker for Noel Coward. I don’t know if it’s the dressing gown or some weird cravat fixation, but an addict I am.
That morning, as Fudge and I headed off for our regular stroll around the park, I popped on my headphones to listen to one of his tales just as the song “Mad dogs and Englishmen” played. I couldn’t resist a wry smile. The same could be true of us dog-walkers. Only a crazy man would step out of a dry, centrally heated home to enjoy a walk with his most faithful four-legged friend on such a gloomy morning. We certainly hadn’t seen much evidence of any sunshine lately, not even of the midday variety.
Suitably attired in multiple layers that disguised my paunch, spreading my bulk more evenly around my 5 foot 10 frame, I pulled up my hood and prepared for the howling wind to greet me. Fudge, my three-year old chocolate Labrador, strained on his lead. If the wind didn’t topple me, then his enthusiasm surely would.
The park lay at the end of our street, but might be better described as a wooded area with a patch of grass and a children’s playground comprising three structures in varying states of decline. A warped wooden gate marked the street entrance, giving it a tad more gravitas than it deserved. It always struck me as strange to have a gate at this residential end, yet its opposite side ran parallel to a busy main road across from the local primary school with little more than a two foot fence to mark the boundary.
Fudge guided me at speed to the chosen place, the place where he could run freely amid muddy puddles, tall oak trees and waterlogged trails. At this hour, our regular slot, we rarely met another person. That suited us both just fine. But that morning, despite the lingering mist and the relentless drizzle, I spotted a figure near the picket-fence border. The lamplights, intermittent due to council cutbacks, offered me little assistance in gleaning any further information about my co-walker. I strained my eyes, but could make out no other dogs, so I unleashed Fudge and watched him flee for the trees, sniffing and marking his spot frequently as was his habit.
The stranger didn’t move. His bulky stature seemed more menacing in the half-light and his stillness disturbed me. I paused the Noel Coward story and kept my eyes on Fudge. Well as much as was possible with a brown dog in a dark wood on a grey day. A sombre palette indeed. His exuberance defined his location for me, as he barked at a bird daring to invade his territory.
The bird was not the only curiosity. Our gate-crasher friend remained stock-still, so inactive that I began to doubt his humanity. Was it a new statue? An advertising board? Surely not. Just as my mind veered out of control pondering innumerable possibilities, Fudge darted from the copse and headed straight for the shaded figure, who squatted as though to greet my over-friendly mutt.
Paranoia averted, I whistled for Fudge to come back to me and sloshed my way through the waterlogged trail in the same direction.
Fudge ignored me, intent on meeting a new friend, and came to a sudden stop at the stranger’s feet. I increased my pace, but the mud held me back, clinging to my boots like quicksand.
‘Fudge!’ I yelled, ‘come back, boy. Leave the nice man alone.’ I tried to instil levity in my voice, but my heart thumped in my chest, beating like a Ferrari racing for the chequered flag. ‘Fudge, come here now, there’s a good boy.’ My beautiful buddy slumped to the floor with a yelp. ‘Fudge!’ my voice climbed the decibel scale and I tore my feet from my boots and propelled myself towards them, just as the man scooped up all seventy pounds of my beloved pal and jumped the picket fence to place him in the boot of a black estate car. I hadn’t noticed the car before, but then again I wasn’t concerned about the traffic – until now.
‘Don’t come any closer,’ the dog-thief said, his stance as threatening as his tone.
I hesitated but then reconsidered and continued my forward approach. ‘What are you doing with my dog? Give him back now and I won’t call the police. Just give me my dog back.’
‘Not yet. Later, maybe.’
‘But why? What do you want?’ I asked, my chest tightening.
‘As if you don’t know.’ His voice was stern, with a hint of a sneer.
‘Money? I’ll get you money. How much?’
‘This isn’t about money. Now, stay back and we won’t harm you or your dog.’
‘HARM? Why would you harm him? He’s just a pet.’
‘Oh, I think we both know he is more than that.’ He slammed the boot shut.
I leapt the fence, a mighty feat for one so unfit, and hurled myself at him.
‘Stupid man. Do you want to come too?’ he laughed, a sound so chilling that, much like last night’s gin-soaked ice cube hitting the back of my throat, it made my spine tingle.
‘Yes, take me with you.’ I begged him, just as something sharp smashed against my head.
When I came round, a cold concrete floor lay beneath me. My head throbbed and an icy blast blowing in from the skylight above made me shiver. Around me, metal shelving units filled one wall, housing all sorts of home DIY gear, and stepladders of varying sizes leaned against another.
Where am I? A garage? It bore a striking resemblance to my own garage. Minus the tools though. My den was filled with paint pots, canvas boards and odd picture frames. I’m an artist, specialising in pet portraits. Fudge has been the star of many a painting during those days when I have no clients and can only hone my skills through practice. My garage had heating too. Here, my one leg was numb from the cold, but the other was warmed by Fudge’s snoring body
Tears welled up on seeing him safe and as I struggled to sit up, he woke and jumped to his feet. Before I knew it, I was assaulted by slobbering licks and wet nose nudges. His tongue lapped my face with the exuberance of a puppy.
‘Hey, buddy. How you doing?’ I said between licks. He seemed fine, better than me actually.
There was a bowl of water for Fudge, but nothing for me. My stomach rumbled – I hadn’t had breakfast. Never do before our walk. Fudge sniffed at my pockets, at least I had a few treats for him, but nothing to sustain him for very long. My watch read 10:37, less than four hours since we had left for our walk. No-one would be even looking for us yet, Carole didn’t get home from her late stint at the hospital until midday.
But why are we here? Why did they want, Fudge? When are they coming back? Are they coming back?
Shaking my head to eliminate the demons running amok in my mind, I shoved my hand deeper into my pocket, I couldn’t find my phone. Had I dropped it or had they – whoever they are – taken it from me? With a groan, I got to my feet and stretched out my limbs. Creaking and cracking like logs on a fire – Hmm, a fire. If only.
‘Aargh!’ my socked feet did not suit the cold, hard surface and just shuffling around the confined space brought my delicate size tens into contact with a myriad of nasties, sharp and pointed, prickly and then the final delight, something soft and squidgy. Sensing a deposit from Fudge, I bent down, extracting a plastic bag from my pocket and scooped up the offending item. Once a responsible dog owner, always a responsible dog owner. I placed another bag over my sodden sock and savoured the warmth it delivered to my toes.
Encouraged by my own ingenuity, I checked the garage door. Locked. No sign of a lever to operate from the inside. Probably needed a fob or some electronic device. No other doors or windows, the only light coming from the skylight, along with the draught. A slow, painful climb up the stepladder brought further disappointment, the skylight was jammed stuck. My attention fell on the tools. Not being a DIY guru, I barely recognised half of the gadgets, but was hopeful that even I could break a lock with a drill or something similar.
I listened first for any sign of voices, straining to hear anything above my own heavy breathing and Fudge’s panting. Hearing nothing and emboldened with a sense of foolish – and until this stage in my life, completely indiscernible – bravery, I banged on the garage door, hoping to attract attention. If it brought back the thieves, at least then there’d be a chance for dialogue. To negotiate with them and maybe learn why they’d kidnapped us.
No response. Not even the sound of passing cars, pedestrians or life in general. There was no other option, the power tools it had to be. I spent the next few minutes fumbling along the walls for a light socket or a power outlet and once again came up lacking, aside from a few more bumps to my already-suffering body. No switches meant no power. That was it. Dejected, I slid down the wall and sat back on the floor. Fudge came and sat beside me, nudging his head under my arm to offer some much-needed warmth and comfort. ‘Thank you, boy.’ I ruffled his furry head and planted a kiss atop. The sound he made implied he appreciated the gesture.
‘So, what now, Fudge?’
He whimpered and nuzzled my hand. ‘Sorry boy. No more treats yet, you’re on rations from now on.’ Out came the puppy dog eyes, the look that breaks even the stoniest of hearts. To distract him, I stand again and hunt out an old pair of gloves. After a sniff to rule out any nasty chemicals, I scrunched the glove in my hand and then held it under Fudge’s nose. With an order to sit facing the garage door, I hid the glove on one of the lower shelves, behind a cardboard box labelled ‘sundries.’
‘OK, Fudge. Find the glove. Find the glove.’ He sprang to his feet and began sniffing all around. Within seconds he pawed at the right shelf. So much for that game. But Fudge wasn’t done yet. He ducked behind the box and tugged on the glove. When I’d pushed the box back into place, the damn glove must have snagged on a screw or something similar. Fudge growled as he pulled on the fabric, baring his full set of pearly whites. The material tore and Fudge’s sudden release saw him fall back on his haunches just as the shelving unit wobbled and a large black toolbox fell from the uppermost shelf. Its once metallic sheen now dulled by layers of dust, the box plummeted to the floor, landed with a thud, causing the lid to open and a flurry of screwdrivers bounced into the air and headed like arrows in Fudge’s direction.
‘Fudge! Come boy!’
He turned his head a mere millisecond before a red-handled implement with a sharp slotted edge whistled past his left eye. Fudge howled, startled but safe as the other deadly instruments clattered to the floor, the noise of wood and metal on concrete akin to a choir of tuneless cats.
‘Phew, that was a close shave.’ I pulled Fudge to me and stroked his head, calmly whispering his name. We sat for a while, still and quiet. The light was fading. I glanced at my watch again. Dammit, still 10:37. It must have stopped, damaged during our journey to this hell-hole. That meant it had to be at least 4pm, dusk came early at this time of year. Somebody must be looking for us now. Carole would have alerted the police.
Fudge’s ears pricked. ‘What was that, Fudge? Did you hear something?’ I strained my ears to catch the sound. A car? No, a bus maybe. I heard the wheeze of an automatic door sliding open and then whooshing shut. Someone must have got off the bus. I pounded on the garage door.
‘Help! Help! Is anyone there? We’re trapped in here. Help! Please, help.’
‘Hello? Who’s there?’ An elderly woman’s voice trembled.
‘We’re in here. In the garage. They locked us in here.’
‘Who did? Who’s we?’
‘Just me and my dog.’ Fudge barked, as if on cue.
‘Wait there. I’ll fetch my grandson,’ her voice trailed off.
‘No! Please don’t go. Call the police.’ But she must have already gone, or else she couldn’t have heard me. ‘Wait there, she said. Like we have a choice, eh boy?’ Fudge lifted his paws onto my shoulders and gave me a thorough licking, the warmth from his tongue never as welcome as at that moment.
Darkness fell and the garage became a death trap. We dared not even move for fear of dislodging some lethal implement or slipping on the many screws scattered around from the now severely dented toolbox.
Where had she gone? Was she just a ruse? To give me hope?
Time dragged, Fudge whimpered and I was forced to feed him the last of the treats. His stomach gurgled in unison with my own. Thirst was more of an issue. On all fours, I stretched out an arm, searching for Fudge’s water bowl. As though threatened by my action, Fudge set off to protect his territory and his gentle lapping gave me a clue to his, and the bowl’s, whereabouts. I dipped my finger in the bowl, Fudge’s tongue licked it dry. ‘Come on now. Fudge, share. I only need a little.’ He must have sat back as I managed to scoop a mouthful of water and suck it up from my hand. Had it come to this? Was this how it would end?
Fudge was on his feet again. His paws pattered on the bare concrete. ‘What’s up, Fudge? Did you hear something?’ He simpered. There were voices outside. More than one this time.
‘In there,’ a woman’s voice said. ‘I dunno which one.’
‘Hello, hello. We’re in here.’ I yelled at the top of my voice.
‘Hey mate, can you bang on the door? Make as much noise as you can so we can find you,’ said a local man, his characteristic dialect loud and strong. ‘We’ve called the police and the council. Just make yourselves known.’
I thumped on the door, ably assisted by an excited Fudge barking for all his worth. ‘They’re coming, Fudge. We’re getting out of here. It’s going to be OK.’
A flashlight shone under the gap.
‘Yes, this one, we’re in here.’ I said, shrilly, leaning against the door to steady my nerves.
‘Okay, mate. We’ll have you out in a jiffy.’ Those words filled me with delight and I reached out for Fudge, pulling him into a big embrace. His head bobbed enthusiastically against my chest.
Tyres screeched, indicating a car pulling up outside.
‘It’s okay mate, the police are here now.’
Within no time, the door rose open and Fudge and I were blinded by torches and car headlights. The air, though still cold, seemed warmer outside, yet still I shivered. A blanket was soon draped over my shoulders as a young policeman guided me to the rear of the car. Fudge followed me, closer at heel than he ever was in our training sessions. He jumped into the car ahead of me, tempted by the kibble in another PC’s hand. The same PC then took down my name and address before offering me a flask, ‘Coffee, sir?’ My hero.
Someone tugged at my sleeve. I turned to see an old lady. ‘Sorry I took so long. Jimmy wasn’t home and the bloody phone’s on the blink.’ Her smiling eyes twinkled in the glare of the headlights.
‘No matter. We’re safe now. We can’t thank you enough. You must let me give you something. A reward, I mean.’
She looked me up and down, and shook her head. ‘Not necessary. I’m just glad you’re safe. Both of you. She leaned into the car and stroked a contented Fudge now chewing his way through a rawhide stick.
‘So how did you end up in there? You don’t live ‘round ‘ere, do you?
‘That’s what I’d like to know too,’ I said between sips of the best-tasting instant coffee ever.
‘’Scuse me, sir,’ the policeman interrupted my momentary lapse into silence. ‘We’ve checked with the council and the garage is rented to a Mr. Green. Don’t suppose you know anyone of that name?’
I shook my head.
‘Anyway, someone has gone to his address to make further enquiries. Let’s get you home then.’
At home, later that evening – it had only been 6pm when we’d left the lock-ups – I received a call from the police. It appeared that Mr. Green (not his real name) was working for someone else. His boss, Julian Gladstone, had paid Green and his cronies to temporarily kidnap Barnabus Jones III, a prize-winning chocolate Labrador owned by the same breeder from whom we’d obtained Fudge.
The regional heats for a prestigious dog show were to have taken place earlier today and Barnabus Jones III was odds-on favourite to win. It seemed that Mr. Gladstone wanted the title for his own dog and was prepared to resort to kidnap to ensure his own success.
The police had caught up with a disgruntled Mr. Gladstone after the competition, claiming that Barnabus was an impostor and demanding the dog’s credentials be investigated. The policeman said, with a chuckle, ‘his bark was far worse than his bite, sir. He was not a happy man when we took him away.’
Sipping my gin and tonic after a rather filling roast chicken dinner, I lounged before the fire with Carole, who’d cancelled her night shift, for once. ‘Who would have thought that an everyday walk in the park could create so much drama,’ I said, stretching my arms and yawning.
Fudge jumped up from his bed alongside the sofa and paced the room, panting and whimpering expectantly.
‘Dammit, I said the ‘w’ word again, didn’t I?’
The playwright and film-maker, David Mamet, once remarked that,
“Stories happen because somebody wants something and has trouble getting it.”
- The “Somebody”… gives us a character. Not just a name, but a person in a specific place, at a specific time, living a specific life.
- The “Wants Something”… gives us a goal, the ‘story question’ that will be what this story is ‘about’.
Sometimes this is an opportunity to do something that the character wants: to travel, to climb a mountain, to woo the person of their dreams, and so on.
And sometimes it’s a dilemma forced onto the character: to flee the alien invasion, escape the stalker or survive a Tsunami.
And it might be largely internal, for example in a story built around a character battling grief or injustice.
- And “Has Trouble Getting It”… gives us the conflict. It provides obstacles that the character must overcome to achieve their goal. These obstacles will ask difficult questions, and the response will come to change and define the character.
These three elements together are the makings of a basic storyline. But there’s no stopping there. Now you have to build it up from the ground, work out what makes this story great and ask yourself:
What’s interesting, exciting, unusual, compelling, inspiring, different about it?
Easy, eh? Now the basics are not quite so basic, are they?
It’s time to add the ‘great’ and write that story!
As a dedicated ‘pantser’ (for that read ‘procrastinator’) the idea of outlining a story is as likely as me eating root vegetables, walking past the chocolate aisle in the supermarket or shutting down Facebook because there’s cleaning to do. You know, it just is never going to happen.
Until now …well, maybe.
The workshop uses elements of screenwriting and organization, which should – hopefully – tie in with my next MOOC that starts on Monday – An Introduction to Screenwriting.
See, now that’s dedication! Or rather a commitment to nail the outline of my next series – Blackleaf
Assignment one is to draw up a list of at least ten stories (books, movies, even television shows) that have inspired me to write this series.
Dickensian (TV series) – old-fashioned, murky setting with detective chasing clues
Death in Paradise (TV series) – geeky detective with idyllic setting in Saint Marie
Suits (TV series) – smart, slick lawyers, arrogant, cool vs over-emotional characters
Midsomer Murders (TV series) – gentle pace, great settings, everyday situations
Sherlock (TV series) – genius, puzzle-solving know-it-all
Endeavour (TV series) – fixed location, intelligent copper with eclectic taste
The Bridge (TV series) – puts together two police forces with differing approaches
White Collar (TV series) – slick, clever art thieves vs the police
The Charity Thieves (Book) – the dark side of ‘charitable’ concerns – fraud, trafficking
The Collector (Book) – a quest to find priceless works of art
Fake or Fortune (TV series) – series determining the provenance of inherited artwork.
FBI website: Gardner Museum theft – the greatest unsolved art heist
All I can say is that I clearly watch way too much TV!
So, it’s time to focus. Can this pantser knuckle down and finally outline her stories?
Two months to change my writing habits sounds like a miracle cure, rather like ‘lose ten pounds a week by removing sugar from your diet’. By the way, that second one isn’t going to happen, but maybe the writing ‘cure’ will. .
Check back for updates … unless I’m stuck in front of the gogglebox , for which I apologise and will now call ‘research’ 🙂
My novella, Lacey’s Law, is with my beta readers right now and I just want to thank them all for their time and constructive comments.
I couldn’t do this without you!