Why do I write in the way I do? (An answer.)

Writer Picture

I am often asked, as I am sure many authors are, “Why do I write?”.

This is not a straightforward or easy question to answer comprehensively. In fact, if I were to answer that question in full, it would be an extremely long essay.

Which is the answer I gave a few days ago.

However, that question was followed by one which made me think, a question I was, at the time, unprepared to answer constructively.

“Why do you write in the way you do?”

This question made me think, beyond the basics of ‘style’ and further than ‘narration’ alone.

So, in the regular and rambling way I use in my blog posts, I shall attempt to convey to you my thoughts on this question.

They are as follow……

I do not write a particular genre of fiction.

Romance stories generally demand detailed character descriptions, a slow build-up of intensity to climax. (Excuse the pun).

On the other hand, Horror readers want faster-paced, less detailed, more action books which cut right to the core. (Sorry, I can’t help myself).

By not being a genre writer, I have not developed a style limited by the parameters of reasonable expectation of those readers.

Neither do I write for a syndicated publisher, such as Mills & Boon, who have strict plot and style guidelines and can drop any contributor in an instant, should their suggestions not be strictly adhered too.

I am a truly free, independent author.

I have written an offbeat tale of abduction and intrigue, which is also a romantic story, a AofRDVtale of finding oneself and humorous yarn all rolled into one. It is ‘The Abduction of Rupert DeVille’. Available on Amazon, just click the link!

This book alone breaks all the genre-specific boundaries it touches upon.

I did not set out to intentionally break any rules, I simply ignored them all and wrote the story I wanted to write.

I have also published two collections of poetry.

The basic premise of each is human emotion. Fear, love, hate, anger, regret and so on. I like the challenges of poetry. The differing forms, such as haiku, present wonderful opportunities to develop wordsmithing skills that can be adapted to storytelling.

That is how I like to think of myself, as a storyteller, a mythmaker; weaving tales into people’s consciousness, making them re-think and to consider life and the world around them in a way they may never have done before.

My book collection, three volumes of short stories called ‘Tales of Crime & Violence’ are designed to do just that, to make the reader reconsider their point of view, to side-swipe their general conceptions, to come at them from left field and leave their minds floundering with a myriad of questions, questions they now find they are asking themselves. (Click the link)

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That is what a great story should do. It should stay with you, lingering within your mind a long time after you have closed the final pages of the book, maybe even forever?

I have also written a children’s book and non-fiction stuff. Very different disciplines than writing standard adult fiction of any sort.

I am, at the time of writing this, working on a novel about an escaped psychopath. ‘Floyd’ is out on a bloody revenge spree against those who had him committed. This book must be considered a ‘Slasher’ type of story. It is a crime thriller certainly, a horror…in parts possibly, but not really.

Once again, I am writing what I want to write, in a way I want to write it. The style and narration I am using is unique to this book. It is not one I have adopted previously.

Which, in a long-winded and round-about way, brings me back to the original question of “Why do I write in the way I do?”

Taking note of the above (and remembering my independence), has allowed me to indulge in many experimentations with style, narration, pace, plot, POV’s and all the other ‘literary technical stuff’ writers put far too much emphasis on when discussing writing.

Each of my novels is written from a totally different personal perspective. Making each quite distinctive from the last. Even so, my personal mark is to keep an element of humanity, of emotion, of people’s dreams, hopes and fears running through all my fictional stories, even those involved with psychotic killers!

My short stories reflect those same values, the human passion for life, the experience of relationships, of desire and love, of living, of loss and of death.

I like to explore these areas of the human psyche, areas often forgotten or neglected by other writers and authors. I like to reveal them at a certain pace, a pace which suits the individual story being told.

In some I might come at you from the shadows, smashing into your mind like a train wreck. In another it may be an insidious creep, slowly weaving itself between your receptive neurons, until that is the only thing your mind can focus upon.

This is where the poetry and experiments with lexicon come to the fore; they allow me to use words as a basic material, melding and moulding them, twisting and forming them, until they convey to the reader, not only the description and facts, but the feeling of being there, of being within, of being part of the nether world where my story lives and, without doubt, to see, hear and feel the trauma, the worries, the excitement and passions of my characters as they stagger from one conflict to another.

You can read several of my short works at https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/ I always have a few stories on this blog, although I do delete and change them at random intervals.

So, in brief, that is my answer to the question – ‘Why do I write the way I do.’

I hope you can pick something useful out of this.

Thank you for reading, Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed Media Inspiration: Lack of Inspiration — writings by Ender

It is not often I repost blogs/links here.

I do have invited guest bloggers, but rarely do this. The reason I have is it is an honest, origanal post which I think is worth sharing…it is that simple

I’ve found I’ve been lacking inspiration the last few days. It’s common writing practice to linger around until inspiration hits you, but that’s not what I do. It’s not what working writers do; we don’t have the time. In times of an inspiration deficiency I seek three simple pleasures: reading, music, and social interaction. Reading […]

via Mixed Media Inspiration: Lack of Inspiration — Writings By Ender

Steamy windows (All about the writers muse)

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    I was silently musing, as is my bent, when a certain thought kept returning. No matter how many times I dismissed the notion it would not leave me alone; eventually waking me in the early hours with its persistent nagging.

    I guess all writers, at least those of us who are serious about our craft, have such occasions?

    Personally, I find the only way to rid such daemons is to submit to their will, writing about whatever it is which plagues the mind.

    When I say write, I mean exactly and precisely that. I mean scribble the thoughts down in any way, shape, or form possible. Be it in a note book, a journal, incorporate the idea into your current novel, or do as I am now doing, write it as a blog post.

    As one writes the thoughts begin to unravel, they start to form strings of coherent meanings and possibilities. Unlike the tangled mass of haphazard notions previously running amok in the brain.

    As now, many threads appear, each one a possible tale or the premise of another book. This post is but one of those threads, others will follow.

    I already have a new short story to tell from these very words and shall write a draft as soon as I can, as soon as I finish this.

    I think of it, each idea, each notion, much like a kettle on the hob. The kettle is full, the gas burning brightly beneath. Slowly, as the water heats it begins to move, agitations growing as the temperature increases, until inevitably, the water comes to a galloping boil.

    This is the moment the lid starts to rattle, the whistle screams, steam escapes to fill the kitchen and condense on the windowpanes causing rivulets of water to run down and form puddles on the sills.

    That is how the muse builds up inside of us, the writers and authors. The note pads and keyboards are our lids and whistles. Our editors and proof-readers the rivulets and window panes.

    It is not until we have wafted away the steam, opened the said windows, letting fresh air circulate, can we finally put everything together and make that nice pot of tea.

    Of course, that is all a writer’s metaphorical whimsy. But I guess you get my gist?

    Now I sit at the kitchen table, drinking such tea and reading a book. Possibly your book, the one which you wrote as when your conceptual kettle boiled.

    Now all I need is a sweet biscuit to dunk…but that really is another story altogether!

    Happy daze, Paul.

    Why not read some of my short stories at https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/

A bit about differing narration in your stories.

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I have recently been asked if I can help another writer with regards to narration.

(Narration is sometimes referred to as the ‘stories voice’, at term which is frequently used in the USA and is essentially descriptive of its nature.)

The writer in question is not a ‘new’ writer, in fact she has authored several books over as many years.

She has asked for my assistance now, because her works to date have been of the same genre, they have required the same form of narration; one she has developed and honed, one which has also become her ‘style’.

Perfect for what she has accomplished, but a difficult task to abruptly alter, as it brings much self-doubt and worry with it.

Luckily, I am not one who writes in one genre, or in one style. Much of my work ventures into realms unknown and unexplored (from a personal perspective.) I push my wordsmithing skills every opportunity I have.

Whilst helping my author friend, I found having her read a sample of my own work, one with a certain narrative style, helped me explain how I achieved to create that chosen narration.

In this post, I shall try and do the same.

I have three examples to share with you; the first is taken from a humourus tale, the second from somewhere much darker and the third is told by a character where English is not their first language.

Each of the above forms of narration hold certain challenges for the author if they are to allow the story to flow smoothly, while still making each word believable.

Without further ado, here is the first sample, an excerpt for my short story ‘Fixing the thingamabob.’ (It is an exercise of using metasyntactic terminology.)

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I had a job to do which needed more than a screwdriver and a pair of pliers.

So, I wandered down the garden to my shed to find the whatchamacallit, which I knew was in the wooden box under the shelf between the screw box and the other thing.

My wife had been nagging me for eons regarding fixing the thingamabob, which had started to rattle and shake several months ago.

As it happened today was sunny, bright and warm. Just the type of day I liked to attend to the pesky little jobs that stack up over time. Plus…I was in the mood for tinkering, which was actually a big plus!

Once I had the whatchamacallit in my hand I wandered back to the house, placed the thingamabob on the kitchen table and started to dismantle it.

Personally, I would have ditched this one years ago and replaced it with a new, up-to-date, all singing, all dancing, micro chipped, high tech whatchamacallit. But because this old rusting one had some sort of sentimental attachment my wife was certain I could fix it and all would be well for another thirty years.

I was not so sure; especially now that I had umpteen bits and bobs scattered on sheets of newspaper spread over the table top.

I was not even sure if they all belonged to the whatchamacallit, or if some pieces had tumbled from the small jars of screws, washers and odd bits I had kept for repairing such items.

Besides the springs there were a few plastic doodahs of indiscriminate origin, a strange angular thingummy with various sized holes and a host of………bits…..loose sort-of-screw(ish) pieces.

I was still quietly confident that I would not have to fork out a fistful of klebies to purchase a new whatchamacallit, because despite the number of random odd and sods before me, I had all the key parts in separate saucers. The rest I could figure out during re-assembly.

Having got thus far, I decided a fresh brew was in order and proceeded to stand from the kitchen stool. That was when my knee came in painful contact with the underside of the table top, sending all the random and the carefully separated odds and ends flying into the air, most of which came crashing down onto the stone tiled floor.

As I have said, being an organised sort of bloke I was using several saucers to keep the whatsits from rolling all over the place, thus avoiding the chance of mixing them up with other doodahs or losing them altogether.

Now, not only were all these jumbled-up with the rest of the bits and bobs which I had previously spread out ready for use, but my wife’s best saucers were in splintered shards on the kitchen floor, mixed among the plastic and metal thingamajigs…..

End of Sample

In this excerpt the reader automatically senses the light-hearted pace of the story. The ‘nonsense’ words liberally sprinkled through the character’s speech seems to confirm the cheerful tones of, if we could hear it, the character’s voice; and that is the clue here, the character’s voice…his narration…his is telling this story and you, the reader, are sitting comfortably and listening with a half-grin already plastered on your face.

To achieve such a form for this stories voice I found myself ‘playing’ the character. During the moments of writing I was that ‘doddery, old, half- henpecked, half-happy-go-lucky, uncaring/caring, semi-foolish husband’!

I became that ‘chap’ and wrote this in a manner I felt was akin to which I would have done if I were sitting in a bar and relating the tale to half a dozen of my cronies.

<<<<<<<<<< >>>>>>>>>>

Now read this next example of my narrative form. This is from the story called ‘Deep Waters’.

When they came to remove the last of the medical equipment from the house they found me laying on the kitchen floor in a pool of my own vomit.

The nurse said it was ‘lucky’.

Lucky I was found when I was, or I would have certainly died.

I did not consider myself lucky.

After that incident?

Two years of psychiatric help is enough to send any man insane, which is why I have come to the island. To get away from the hospitals, the clinics, the doctors and shrinks.

To get away from that house.

A house which held too many precious memories; cupboards in which her scent still lingered, rooms where her voice echoed at night and doorways where I always caught a glimpse of her figure.

I needed to clear my mind, to find out what I was supposed to do now.

To do that I did not need white coated, bearded psychoanalyst prying into my life, or friends constantly nattering in my ear, however good their intentions. I did not need a shoulder to cry on, or soft breasts on which to rest my head. I did not need friends with benefits.

Although I appreciated their efforts and the offers, all I needed was some peace and quiet. I needed isolation and tranquillity.

I needed time.

My time.

That is why I came here, why I came to the island.

Now I am here I realise how integral to life boats are. As I have said, I am no master of the sea, but I do fancy a small pleasure boat in which I can sail out to the centre of the lake. Maybe even take up fishing, something else I have never had the opportunity to try before.

But I think I shall deal with the boat first.

Small steps.

One thing at a time.

I think I know what I am to do.

But I am not in any rush.

 

The small craft I eventually chose was a twenty-five-foot cabin cruiser. Cabin cruiser sounds a grand title for a small fiberglass and wood boat with a slightly extended wheelhouse. I think the wheelhouse was considered the cabin, or was that the tiny compartment just below?

This compartment housed a toilet, which was half the size of a broom cupboard and a ‘main galley’. The main galley was a miniature sink & a two ring gas burner, opposite was a seat large enough for two people to sit on, providing they were in an intimate relationship.

The seat lifted and pulled-out to become a three-quarter size bed. I am not certain to what the ‘three quarter’ referred too?

However, the boat suited me perfectly, because I had no intentions of sharing it with anyone. This was the perfect vessel in which I could detach myself from the rest of humanity. Floating out there in silence in the centre of the lake sipping a hot coffee, or maybe a hot whiskey, would be absolutely perfect while I looked introspectively at my life.

While I considered my options.

End of Sample

This is an emotionally haunting tale, one which guarantees to bring a tear to the eyes of everyone who reads it. The reason is the soulful nature of the stories telling. It is spoken with an intimacy.

This is not like the first example, you could not relay this in a crowded bar. The narration is designed to ‘almost’ be a secret; a secret solely shared between the character and the reader. It is the reader finding a personal diary, reading that person’s own thoughts and secrets and fears and doubts.

Once again, the writer, the author must have their mindset ‘set’ into that mode and write as they would themselves, should they ever find themselves in such a position.

As the writer sits at their desk or in the café they should feel everything the character would feel if this were true. The author must become the moment, feel the air temperature, hear the ripples lapping the shore, smell the ozone and the scent of pine trees on the breeze.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

My third and (for now) final excerpt is from ‘Estell’s Tattoo’ (A story which raises awareness of the rape of women in Africa.)

When I wrote this, I wanted (and still do) to show that fiction can also be used to spread the word about important social issues.

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      Grace and Estelle and I once more walked along the dusty path that wound its way from our village, down the steep hill and on towards the river. The river was wide and twisted, like a glistening giant brown snake that wound its way through the lush green vegetation of the forests.

     As we became closer to this river the path changed from dust to crushed grasses. Many feet had trodden this path and in their passing had squashed the plants along the way, so that now only the toughest grass and the most persistent of weeds grew along the narrow footpath.

   Grace, Estelle and I spoke of many things during our journey to the river this day and when we were not talking of our village or family matters we sang our songs. I am sure that on this morning many birds came close to us to hear our sweet tunes, or at least that is how I remember it.

    I do not remember before that day seeing so many birds along the edges of this footpath. On any other day to see such colourful birds you would have to stray deep into the forest and sit very still for a long time. But that morning they came to us.

    It took us about one and a half hours before we reached the river. On arriving we put down the large bundles of clothing we had brought to the river to wash. All through our journey along the footpath we had balanced these bundles upon our heads. It is the way we women carry heavy loads over such long distances.

    Once we placed the laundry on the bankside we sat and drank water and rested our legs for a short while. In fact, it was a long short while because today was also a very hot day. The winds were not blowing at all and the sun shone fiercely down upon the earth, baking the soil into a hard crust which began to crack open and crumble.

    But here, in the shade by the river it was much cooler. So, we sat and spoke between ourselves for a long time during our short rest.

    Finally, we began to wash the clothing we had carried all this way, which was after all the reason for our journey to this place today. Using stones and a lot of effort we washed the dirt and grime from the materials. After which we hung the garments upon the branches of the nearby bushes to dry in the sun. The sun would soon dry the clothes today as it was a very hot sun, much hotter than on most days, something I have told to you already.

    We had also brought with us a little food. So as the sun beat down from the sky we sat near our drying clothes and ate. After that we decided to go into the river to cool our bodies and to cleanse our own skins from the dirt and the dust….

End of Sample

Before I wrote this story I read several books and listened to audio readings of books, written by people whose first language was not English, but of African origin.

I wanted to create an authenticity of ‘voice’ in this story. By using long descriptions, yet using simple words and repeating some of them far more than one would ‘normally’ do, I found I could capture ‘Estell’s’ voice.

Once I was happy with some short draft pieces, I became Estell and, looking through her eyes, began to write this story in earnest.

I have received many compliments for this story because of its narration.

<<<<< >>>>>

Please note: as a way of comparing the three examples above, you will note I have chosen stories which are all written in first person singular.

I shall leave you to consider the above and how one can alter each story’s narrative by some simple, and some not so simple, adjustments!

The prime factor is to try. Write some shorter pieces, use them as a literary exercise to flex your wordsmithing muscles. If you are uncertain, try poetry or prose to create those first few lines of text which take you away from your standard form.

I for one love to try something new whenever I get a chance.

I love to flex my literary fingers and fumble about in places I have never been before. It is often surprising, frequently exciting and, more often than not, extremely rewarding.

Paul.

I have many short story colletions & I publish some of my ‘longer shorts’, my novelettes & Novella’s, under the Electric Eclectic brand of books.

You can find all my works on my website, feel free to look around; take your time browsing.

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When drinking beer is good for writing books.

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Like most writers I am constantly on the lookout for inspiration.

Generally, I am not actively seeking out any particular stimulus for any particular reason. It is simply that as a writer part of my mind has become conditioned, has reached a high level of sensitivity to my surroundings and the nuances of everyday events than the average person.

I see creativeness, find revelation and muse in simple things. Things which many, if not most, would pass-by without paying it/them any attention.

For me many of these occurrences of mind wind-up becoming a story or part of a larger plot. Some form the basis of a character or their characteristics, such as gait or speech.

The results of such musings are not always formed or acted upon in the instant; many mature (or fester) within my mind for long periods before oozing onto the page, or become a work, or part of a work of art.

As an instant and an explanation take today’s shopping trip. A simple journey to a local store to pick up a few basic necessities such as fresh milk and bread.

I was walking towards the rear of the store where, as with most shops, the bakery is located. I happened to pass along the isle where the beers and wines are kept as I headed towards the bread.

Glancing at the stock on the shelving as I passed I noticed the names and labels on the bottled beers, the handcrafted, small brewery beers.

I am not certain about the United States, but here in Britain these small ‘Micro-breweries’ have seen a massive upshot in sales as they produce wonderful tasting beers with some of the finest ingredients. This results in a wondrous array of amazingly tasty ales, stouts, porters and beers. All, without doubt, superior to anything the massive multi-conglomerate, mega commercial breweries can achieve.

However, regardless to how good any individual beer may be, the result is a highly competitive market. Excellent for the consumer and lovers of fine ale, like myself! But it poses a problem for the breweries.

Question: How do they make their beer stand out from the crowd?

Answer: Give your ale an amazing, funny, rude or otherwise outstanding name and a label to match.

So…as I was scanning the shelves I started to read the names. Some made me chuckle, others puzzled me to the extent I had to pick up a bottle and read the back label.

What these beers names and labels had achieved was similar to that of a great book cover and title. It made me pick it up and read the back cover ‘blurb’.

That got me thinking.

Now, when I say thinking I do not mean structured concentration. I mean a million flitting thoughts running amok through my mind. That is how I think, that is how my brain tackles incoming stimuli!

I cannot even start list the number of various factors involved with such geometric thinking. Unless your cognitive neural pathways and patterns operate on a similar basis to my own, you could not begin to conceive the process.

I shall however share this one with you. Simply because if I did not this entire post would be irrelevant!

Many of the aforementioned beers had wondrous names. Names I am sure would make amazing book titles, or at least part titles.

Maybe you are seeking that catalyst, that idea for a title to your current work in progress? Then why not take a look at this list?

They sound like possible names for novels to me, even though they are names of twenty of those beers I passed on that stores shelves!

What do you think? Please let me know as I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject; that is as soon as I have finished this bottle of Pale Ale!

 

UNDERCURRENT

AXE EDGE

13 GUNS

PRESSURE DROP

HARDKNOTT

BEARHUG

MONK LUST

GOOSE ISLAND

DEAD PONY

SHNOODLEPIP

DOUBLE MAXIM

SCHIEHALLION

DUCK DUCK GOOZE

SPITFIRE

SNECK LIFTER

STREAKING THE QUAD

EFFINGUUD

CRAZY IVAN

BADONK-A-DUNKEL

DARK BLACKMIST

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Cheers!

That is not VERY clever.

 

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It is, however, the way to announce to world that you are an amateur writer, that you have not honed your skills, that you are not a master of your craft.

It is something, I suggest, you would want to do and yet, I have an inkling, that it maybe something you are doing right now.

WHAT IS? I hear you ask!

Simple. It is to use the most useless word in the English dictionary in your writing.

That word is ‘very’.

Honestly, if you are using this word in your novels, your stories or essays you are making a rather large error.

Mark twain once said “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

Florence King is quoted as saying that “’Very’ is the most useless word in the English language (see, I told you so!) and can always come out. More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen.”

“Avoid using the word ‘very’ because it is lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavour, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.” Or so say’s N.H. Kleinbaum.

Which brings me to confess, I have, among many other bad habits, deleted so many ‘very’s’ in my work I lost count long ago. Read through’s, edits, re-writes; somehow those pesky little ‘very’s’ sneak themselves into sentences.

When I read some of my older works I could cringe, even those I have re-edited, even re-written in the past; but I guess that is how we all earn.

I am not as bad as I used to be. In fact, I am learning to write without using a single one, or at least that’s the aim. But it is not very easy!

The object of this post is to highlight the mistakes I have made, in an attempt to save you from making those very same errors!

Look back over your current Work in Progress, read through and find all those ‘very’s’ lurking amongst the other words.

Now, you have three options, the first is to simply delete them because you do not need them, they serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever, except to confirm your status as an amateur writer.

The second choice, is to follow Mark Twain’s advice as above!

The third and my preferred choice, is to change them totally. Delete the words associated and replace them with ones that are far more descriptive, evocative or eloquent.

In some, but very few circumstances ‘very’ can be permitted. BUT these occasions are rare. One such time ‘very’ may be used is in a characters ‘speech’. The word can be used to indicate a character of lower education, or a young person, a child who has not accrued a wider vocabulary.

Below is a crib sheet I have cobbled together as an aid. I hope that you find it useful in your quest to extradite those ‘very’ words from your authors lexicon.

The first column is word you have pe-fixed with ‘very’, the second, a suggested alternative…you get the idea!

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Since I originally posted this, I have been inundated with more words NOT to use and further suggestions for alternatives. I am not adding this image as I think it is the most comprehensive. Its from Proofreading Services.com 

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Thank you for reading ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind‘, maybe you will also like my short story blog ‘A Little more Fiction‘ Go take a peek now 🙂 

F**k your writing. Or…(an essay regarding the use of expletives and profane language in fictional writings)

 

In polite, or politically correct circles one may refer to it as the ‘F word’.

This word first became a public literary issue after it was use in a major novel, Norma Mailer’s ‘The Naked and the Dead’, published in 1948.

Only, it was NOT.

Mailer’s publisher prevailed upon him to change this expletive; this four-lettered, description of sex, to ‘Fug’, so that it did not offend readers.

Given the fact that the book is about men during a war, ‘Fug’ occurred an awful lot of times!

The result was a backlash, a cluster of criticism and discussion in literary circles. This gave rise to the anecdote about Tallulah Bancroft saying to Mailer, “Oh, you’re the man who can’t spell that word”.

 

However, times change.

Nowadays the F-word has lost much of its ability to shock. Far fewer people are now offended by its inclusion in a book or, for that matter, in conversation. Still, authors often debate the role of ‘racy-talk’ in literature.

How much is too much? When have you gone too far, or not far enough?

Okay, before we get stuck with just this one word, let us consider the vast and rich palette of risqué words available and to clarify their ‘technical’ differences. Once we can differentiate between profanities, obscenities, curses and the like, it should be easier to determine how, why and if we should use them.

 

PROFANITY

Is often used to denote an objectionable word. ‘Profanity’ literally means words that are proscribed profane – that is words described by religious doctrine. ‘Proscribed’, in this context means ‘forbidden by written order’, such as, in Judeo-Christian tradition, taking the Lords name in vain (that is, not in Prayer).

“For the love of God, stop complaining” or “Jesus Christ, look at the size of that thing”.

 

CURSES

These call upon a deity, or fate, to cause harm in a visitation.

(Mild) “Damn this zipper”.

(Strong) “God Damn her”.

‘Damned’ is to be condemned to Hell.

‘Hell’ can also be a curse, “Go to Hell”, or a mild profanity, as in “Oh, Hell, the rivers polluted again!”

 

SWEAR WORDS

To swear literally means to take an oath, or to proclaim an oath.

Now, for anyone uncertain about oaths, (married folk take note!) An oath is a resolution or promise which calls upon a deity’s assistance in carrying it out. (Think about how many are in your marriage now!).

Examples: “God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again” or simpler, “By God I’ll show you”

You can swear to bear witness, as in “I swear, you are the best cook in this town”

 

OBSCENITIES

These are words that denote something disgusting or morally abhorrent. (Often connoting sex). The F-word is considered to be one of the most objectionable, along with the C-word.

The relatively modern inclusion of adding the prefix ‘Mother’ often ups-the-ante!

Non, or less objectionable variants of the present participle form of the F-word, beside ‘Fugging!’ include, Fecking, Freaking, flipping and fricking.

To be totally honest, I have no idea why the letter ‘U’ seems to be so ‘flaming’ important!

‘Screw’ is accepted as of the milder and therefore more acceptable terms. Please note, both the F-word and ‘screw’ are used not just used to literally describe intercourse, but to connote ‘Taking advantage of’.

“That Garage screwed me out of £300 for unnecessary repairs”

Generally, words referring to both male and female pelvic areas are considered obscenities.

 

VULGERISMS

I Like this one because this word, this term, covers a lot of bases. If it is crude, objectionable and falls outside the aforementioned categories, you have a vulgarism!

‘Bitch’, ‘Son of a Bitch’, ‘Bastard’, ‘Jackass/Ass, Asshole’ and even ‘Crap’ fall under this heading.

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Now…whether use should use, or not use, any (or all) of the above?

The literary world is somewhat divided around the use of spicy talk, which should not be surprising as our readers are as equally split.

Take two ‘Tough-Guy’ authors, Lee Child and Tom Clancy. Lee does not use any profanities in his writing. Most readers do not notice this. Whereas Tom’s books are littered with profanities…and he certainly sells a lot of copies!

Some readers may be turned off by even one, single, solitary curse word…possible? Maybe. But what is certain is that no-one will buy your books purely because you use raw language. (Although at one time, years ago, they may have well done so).

Does all this mean your safest path is to use no raw language at all?

Writing is a journey and all journeys involve some form of risk. History proves that some writers achieved success, or at least notoriety, because they shunned propriety. Harry Caulfield’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ was shocking in its era and may still be so to young teenagers today.

As you write, look for a balance with what you feel comfortable writing, what you, as the narrator feels is right within your style for this book and what suits the characters and the story you are creating.

What may be right for one piece of work maybe wrong for another.

 

Okay…Why ‘TO USE’

We humans get angry. We crave precise expression and there is something about cursing and using vulgar language that works for us as a release valve for our emotions.

Who has not, at some time, experienced a moment when a string of expletives has not felt exquisitely sublime rolling off your tongue?

The same is so for your fictional characters. Be true, be honest to them. Let them have their voice.

Moreover, if you want your stories to be realistic about the settings, battlefields, bars and domestic disharmony, well-written raw language will bring your characters to life, give them a heartbeat and authenticity.

 

HOW TO USE

Spicy language generally works best when it’s used sparingly, or at least in moderation. That way, you preserve the element of the unexpected, which can be a pressure-reliever for both character and reader. Aside from conveying anger or frustration, raw talk can also be humorous, in that it reveals how a character truly feels about something.

Take this line for an instance: “I ate another doughnut”.

Compare it with: “I ate another goddamned doughnut”.

You instantly get a clue about this character and her relationship with doughnuts.

You may have one character who habitually uses profanity, in contrast to others who don’t. That, in itself, is a good individualiser.

If you, yourself, are not too familiar with foul language a problem can occur when used wrongly, or as often happens with inexperienced writers, it is thrown in will-nilly. If it is used it MUST sound real. If you are uncertain try visiting areas where this language is commonly used, construction sites, wharves, military establishments and prisons for example. Grab a coffee in a nearby café at lunchtime and eavesdrop on the clientele’s conversations!

However, a word of warning. Even if, say a group of Miners, use an expletive every other word, it is unnecessary for you to make your own characters speak exactly that way. Just as when using dialects and accents, you have to use raw-talk wisely. This helps keep the reader grounded in your imaginary world and avoids the pitfalls of over-use/over doing it.

Consider your characters, employ common sense.

A hospital Matron, wearing a starched linin apron, may not utter a single un-PC word in public, but she may let loose a barrage in the principal’s office over a dispute, or howl out a string of profanities during sexual fulfilment.

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How NOT to USE

I mentioned some writers, Norman Mailer and Tom Clancy who chose to include bad-language into their works, but they pale into insignificance, almost, when it comes to literary genius. The bard himself, William Shakespeare, knew how to spice-up his writings and attract an audience in doing so.

He wrote the mother of all literary cuss-outs. (Cuss is simply a variant of Curse), in King Lear; but interestingly there is no profanity or obscenity as we know it, merely terrifically imaginative vulgarisms, delivered with passion. Here it is, the Earl of Kent preparing to thrash the crap out of Goneril’s loathsome lackey, Oswald:

KENT (TO OSWALD): “A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver’d, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, super serviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch, one whom I will beat into clamorous whining if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition”.

Knowing the historical references helps; for example, “broken meats” means leftover table scraps. But even without that, we can luxuriate in the rant. This is a beautiful speech for many reasons: It’s forceful, it’s unique, it covers many aspects of insult, it clearly communicates one character’s contempt of another, and—important for many in Shakespeare’s audience—it avoids serious curses and obscenities.

It’s a shining example of how a writer can invent insults way more entertaining than those found in the standard lexicon.

You can do it by brainstorming aspects of your characters and their circumstances:

“He was as appealing as a baboon’s butt”.

“You are the worst thing to happen to the world since call waiting”.

“May you be condemned to an eternity of weak coffee, warm gin and a driveway paved with roofing nails”.

By now, I think you will agree that it’s useful to explore—and perhaps even challenge—your own comfort zone.

Certainly if it is not you, it won’t ring true. But whether you decide to write common curses and vulgarisms into your work or not, your characters do need a verbal pressure valve. Do not use tacky asterisks to replace vowels. Just have fun with the process and remember that a ‘fug’ by any other name might sound remarkably original.

 

NOTE.

If your novel purports to reflect real life, then they must include profanity, if the life they reflect includes the use of profanities.

Let’s get real folks, you may have grown up in an era when books and movies were censored, but do you really think that in the Old West, cowboy’s actually said “You no-good-so-and-so” before drawing their six-shooters and blowing holes in one another?

Did the troops, dug into their fox-holes during WWII always speak in to each other in such a decorous manner?

I think not!

Some popular entertainment admittedly goes OTT in drenching dialogue in profanity, Such as in the opening sequences of ‘Born on the 4th of July’, but that is an exaggeration, not a fabrication, of reality.

 

So, why do people swear?

This will not cover any new territory. I expect that every angle regarding this has been covered in about every bar in every corner of the world!

People swear because the majority of profanity is emotionally charged. It can express anger, fear, sadness, joy, despair, frustration, ignorance, racism, homophobia, ageism, violence, sexism and all the other ‘isms’ and ‘tions’ you can name.

Occasionally a swear word can encompass all the above in a single word. That one word can grab people’s attention like no other when timed appropriately and, let us face it, very few things are quite as entertaining as listening to a person who has raised profanity to an art form.

You may disagree with those statements. I do not give a flying F**k…see what I mean!

When read that you do so as if I had written the word in full. Even though I ‘bleeped’ it out your mind supplied the details. Now your reaction was either positive or negative, depending on your personal personality. But you reacted.

Like I mentioned above, nothing ground breaking. Just a prelude to the answer you are seeking.

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‘Should YOU use profanity in YOUR writing?’

Writing is a process which takes pieces of ourselves and puts it ‘out-there’ for the world to see. It does not matter if you are writing literary fiction or genre fiction. Every character, setting, plot and sub-plot reveals a little about who we, as writers, are.

I doubt, very much, if a single day passes without you worrying about what you are writing.

(read that again if you wish, I’ll wait).

You see, every word we scribe invites judgment, criticism, commentary and, perhaps introspection. When we write something which surprises us, we often, most times, question where it came from.

That is because that we writers are a real self-conscious group. We are half scared to death of rejection! But if we filtered every word, considered the perception of each sentence through, say our Mothers, or Fathers, minds we would write nothing. Nothing at all.

What we have, what is so special, so personal is that little bit of ourselves that we add to the mix. Some reveals itself in plot, some in character, but most in the voice, in the narration, in our storytelling. That is where much of our fears lie, in revealing too much of ourselves, exposing our innermost to that ridicule and rejection.

BUT…if you do not add that to the mix the reader will smell you coming from a mile away. You will small like a fake, read like a fake and be discarded as a fake.

So, how does that answer the question about using profanities in your writing?

CONSIDERATIONS

As a writer you need to be true to yourself. You need to be true to your characters and voice. But don’t forget the other people you need to be true to:

Your Audience/Genre – If you forget who your audience is, for a single sentence or word, you will have lost them. If your audience demands a lack of profanity, then you had better not allow profanity to slip into your work. Not unless you are OK with alienating the very people you are trying to reach.

Your Editor – Your editor wants you to succeed. Your editor wants you…needs you…to sell books. You ignore your editor’s advice at your own peril.

Yourself – I know I have said this before, but I repeat it here for a different reason. If profanity is something that you are personally uncomfortable with then you will sound fake if you try to use it, regardless of the character in question. In fact, if a lack of profanity is one of your defining personal characteristics, then your characters will sound fake if you use it. Because, after all, your characters are nothing more than an extension of yourself. An audience can smell a fake a mile away. Be true to yourself, whether that means using profanity or avoiding it.

I am not going to tell you the world is going to smell like roses after you write something that raises people’s eyebrows. Especially if those eyebrows belong to people who are closely related to you, or who travel in social groups that are important to you. But you did not become a writer to fit in, did you?

I hope not.

Your writing has a chance to entertain, move, and bring people together.

It has a chance to shine a light on topics you care about in ways other writers have not.

It also has a chance to alienate you.

There is a chance your writing will be considered so offensive that society wants nothing to do with you. It is doubtful it will ever get that bad! but writing is taking a risk. Every time you put pen to paper you are stripping down and getting naked in front of the world.

There is never going to be a time where you do not question, at least once, “should I have written that?”

Recently I have read plentiful cursing in Stephen King novels, Nora Roberts books, and even (very sparingly) in John Grisham stories.

I have seen the use of cursing in both genre fiction and literary fiction. In some books just a little and in some a fair amount.

So, in full and final answer to the question… You are a writer. Welcome aboard the crazy train!

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© Paul White 2016


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See you at the top…Looooser!

Here’s the ‘thing’ that’s been buzzing about my mind.

I am not sure how many of you will have had similar thoughts, but in my normal rambling style I shall scribble on, hoping all this will make some sense by the end of the post!

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As we all know, the indie publishing game is a bit of an uphill struggle. We have to compete with the ‘big boys’, the traditional publishers, who themselves are battling to keep up with the changing markets to retain their ‘share’.

We then have Amazon, love it or hate it, you cannot ignore the grip it currently has on the retail marketplace. Not one other online publishing organization has the same muscle or clout as it does. Combine this with the control it exerts over independent authors by way of royalties, market distribution and promotions, it is no wonder most authors struggle to make a decent income via Amazon.

Yes, there is Lulu, Kobo, Smashwords and a plethora of smaller organizations but, as yet, not one has found a formula or format which can challenge either the mainstream publishers and/or the Amazon group of companies. Until then, your books will still ‘have’? to been seen on Amazon web pages to reach a worldwide customer base.

The next challenge we, as indie authors, are faced with is the real downside in, my humblest, opinion. Bad books. By bad books I do not only mean badly written novels in relation to grammar, punctuation and spelling, I include dreadful formatting and ghastly covers too. It is these ‘bad’ books which give rise to unhealthy journalism regarding independent publishing.

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One terrible book is like a dead carcass to hyena; the press pack will tear into the story will zealous abandonment and spread doubt about the validity of small and independent publishing to all our potential readers.

On average I suggest, without reference to statistics, it takes about a year to write a full-length novel; say a book of around 80/100K words. That is a lot of investment in one’s time alone, not counting the monetary input for editors, proofreading, formatting, cover design and what-not. Therefore, is it not in our own interest, if not duty, to ensure that we produce the best quality work that we are able to achieve; one that, as a minimum, reaches the quality of the vastly more experienced mainstream publishing houses?

After all, it is they who spend great sums of money on marketing and product research, in their battle to build and keep their own percentage and position in the marketplace. Should we not consider their standards to be the minimum value we seek to achieve with our own works?

Personally, I believe they should.

Another moot point to consider, one which I find both amusing and annoying, is that you, yes you are my competition and a fellow author. In that context I find myself claiming as ‘sort-of’ ownership towards you.

You see, I would rather have a reader choose to buy my book rather than yours. Yet I cannot help myself for wanting you to do well too. Okay, in a perfect world the reader would buy both! but we do not live in a perfect world. In that respect one must, to some degree, consider all other authors to be a competitor. In doing so it gives us the incentive to write better, present our books better, make them look better, which is all good, honestly!

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None of the above means we have to be enemies, on the contrary. Those of you who know me know that I do a great deal to help and assist indie authors in every way possible. That is because I believe that the entire indie publishing world benefits, beyond measurement, when we all pull together when we work as a team against all the outside pressures and conflicts of interest that challenge us.

So yes, I want to win. I would rather sell my book than yours; but we are on the same team and, at the end of the day, what I really want is for ‘our team’ to come out on top. If that means I miss out on the Gold, Silver & Bronze so be it; as long as I have been a valuable member of the winning team and get to hold the trophy high, I will be happy.

See you at the top…..looooser!

Breaking the writing rules

Happy Writer

 

How often do you read an article telling you how to write?

Quite often I guess. I know I do. I have even been guilty of writing some myself, all well intentioned of course.

Ninety nine, or ninety five per-cent of the time these rules should be followed. They should be adhered to as far as possible, because they are the benchmark from which all writing is judged.

However…I love that word! So I’ll say it again.

However, I am a strong believer that a writer should push their own boundaries from time to time. They should break out of the glass cage.

I often do so by playing about, experimenting. Call them ‘writing exercises’ if you will.

In the past I have written in a minimalistic fashion, told a story using underutilised and obscure words. In another I used metasyntactic terminology. My poetry often pushes whatever limits are generally imposed.

So it is I regular break writing conventions.

Doing this has helped me enormously with that wonderful black art of wordsmithing. Undertaking such exercises challenges ourselves and our, often self-imposed, perceived limits. Such tasks enable us to extend descriptive narrative, create depth of characters and make our stories flow.

While I would not recommend that anyone attempts to write an entire novel ‘outside the box of rules’, I do encourage each and every one to task themselves with such matters.

The following is one such exercise. It is a short story, a flash fiction if you wish, of almost six-hundred words.

The point of this particular task was to see if I could construct a story using a string of very short sentences, whilst including only the most minimal of descriptive words and then when only absolutely necessary.

The reason for that is, when a long string of short sentences are used it tends to become monotonous for the reader. Generally, sentences must vary in length to convey the ‘feel’ of each part of the narrative.

Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are of course basic stock of a writer’s armory. So removing these, as far as possible, presents another contest against one’s abilities.

I hope I have succeeded in my mission. You are more than welcome to comment on the story itself, or on my attainment or failure in this test.


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Hitchhiker

 

I am old school.

From a time when life seemed simpler, less hectic, less complicated.

It was not. It was just different.

Some will say that ‘way back when’ life was safer, people were happier, times were better.

They were not. Life was simply lived at a slower pace.

There was less fear. Less anxiety and more acquiescence.

I think life was more honest.

We were more honest.

With ourselves.

Life holds risks. You have to live with that.

Take your chances. Accept the possibilities.

Face the consequences.

That is how it goes.

We recognised that. Acknowledged that.

That is what made life simpler.

 

Like hitchhiking.

Like the figure I see ahead of me now. Checked shirt, blue jeans, backpack, thumb-out.

Quite rare nowadays, hitchhikers.

Too much fear. Mostly unwarranted.

Nurtured and spread by the media.

But who should hold that apprehension.

The driver?

I could drive on past. No one will make me stop.

Is the hiker a danger? A mass murderer?

A Rapist?

Is their thumb a lure for the unsuspecting?

Or

The Hiker?

Simply travelling home.

Should they get into the car?

Could I be a psychotic killer?

Could I be the Rapist?

Is my car a trap?

 

As I get closer I see the expectant look on the hiker’s face.

A bright smile.

Willing me to slow.

To stop.

I feel a compulsion.

An obligation to a fellow human.

I have been there myself. Thumb out. Waiting, hoping.

Praying for the next car to stop.

To give me a ride.

A ride to somewhere warm. Somewhere with hot coffee.

The hiker looks clean. Normal.

Conventional.

I slow. Maneuver towards the roadside.

Stop a few yards beyond.

Looking in my mirror.

Watching.

 

The hiker picks up a small rucksack.

Running towards me.

I lock the doors.

Clunk. Safe.

I can leave. Go.

Put my foot on the accelerator.

Speed away.

The hiker is close now.

My last chance.

Decision time.

A smiling face appears at the window.

I smile back.

Still time.

Go?

Stay?

 

I press a switch.

The window hums. Open.

Half open.

I hear my voice. “Heading North” it says.

“Me too” the hiker replies.

I nod.

The hiker smiles.

Expectancy.

I smile back.

Trepidation.

Time stands still.

Momentarily.

 

Click.

I unlock the doors.

My own thumb jerks, a backward motion.

“Put your back in the back” my voice speaks again.

Autonomously.

The bag lands on the rear seats.

Drive away, I think.

Take the bag.

Go. Now.

What is in the bag.

Some clothing.

An iPad.

Money.

Or the hiker’s life?

Their entire possessions.

A lifetime or memories.

Lost loves, lost mother.

A bag of dreams, hopes for the future?

Is that where they are heading now?

The future.

Thiers. Mine. Ours? Has this moment inexorably entwined our lives?

Left an indelible mark.

Or just a scratch. Unnoticeable, hidden. One that will fade, become rubbed out

As life progresses?

 

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The door opens.

Blue eyes, bright teeth, pale skin.

The hiker sits next to me.

“Thank you” she says.

“That’s okay” I reply.

I put the car in gear, heading North.

Our lives are meshed. At least for the next one hundred miles.

If she makes it that far.

If I make it that far.

Who knows?

Life holds risks. You have to live with that.

Take your chances. Accept the possibilities.

Face the consequences.

That is how it goes.

You see, I am old school.

I know what makes life simple.

 

© Paul White 2016

Feel free to visit my website, browse around, poke you nose into every corner. Make yourself at home!

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Don’t let the rain drown your novel

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Too many times do I read the same old, same old, scene.

It’s raining, grey clouds overhead. Drizzle, cold wind.

Why?

Because it is a funeral, or someone has discovered a friend’s death.

OR

There is a tempest, heavy rain, thunder, lightning. Gale force winds rattling the windows.

Why?

Because its eerie, a big house, a derelict building, a graveyard. Or the cars broken down on a country road.

OH, PLEASE. Come on. Enough is enough.

I know you want to set the scene, make the reader ‘feel and see what is in your mind. But not like this; not again.

Hollywood and television overworked this format years ago. Mary Shelly used it way back in 1817… (yes, I know Frankenstein’s Monster was not published until 1818. 11 March 1818 to be precise! but Mary completed her work in May 1817).

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After that, I can understand some writers utilising Mary’s techniques (which she stole anyway!); but that was almost two hundred years ago! Surely you can work your wordsmithing magic without falling back on this old literary cliché?

Let’s take a look at the graveside scene again. This time, dismiss the notion of grey skies and rain.

Try and build that ‘feeling’ you want, let’s say, for this exercise, sadness and sorrow. (Although in another version it could be joy and relief, dependent on your character’s viewpoint).

‘The solemn parade of black clad mourners slowly crunched their way over the gravel and melted into the dimness of the church, passing under the gothic arches of time worn stone’.

Here the tone is set using a few simple, but descriptive words, to create the mood. ‘Solemn, black, mourners, slowly, melted, dimness, gothic, time-worn’ All carefully selected words that imply the general emotion of the procession.

An alternative may be something along these lines.

‘James glanced at Mary, her eyes glistened as tears formed. Small dew-drops of sadness sparkling, reflecting in the sunlight. The scent of yew trees and grass added to James’s sense of numbness as he watched the coffin being lowered into the grave’.

IMG_4424Approaching the scene from an oblique angle often offers the author an opportunity to ‘drip-feed’ the reader, only giving them a small bite sized piece of the overall scene with each sentence. This allows for an element of surprise, or revelation.

Neither of the above paragraphs have fallen back to the old ‘grey sky and rain’ chestnut. Yet they convey the very essence of emotion which one wishes to communicate with the reader.


 

Onto the scary stuff!

The haunted house? The killer lurking in the dark woods, the stranded car on that country lane.

Hey, guess what?

You’re right, it’s NOT raining here either! No lightning, no storms and no doors banging in the wind.

So, how to get away from those ‘same old, movie style embedded notions’.

Well, let’s try. Let’s start with an approach to that (possibly) haunted house or old barn.

‘Two huge stone eagles balanced precariously on the dilapidated columns. The bindweed twisting about their talons as if securing them, denying them of flight. Framed between and beyond stood the old mansion house. The bright sunlight reflecting from the walls enhanced the blindness of long lost windows. Empty hollows, gaping holes beckoning us towards them’.

Locals say the owner of Ohio’s Milan Mansion was a practicing witch.

Note the ‘bright sunlight’. This time using the opposite, of what has become expected, to enhance the ‘darkness’, the brooding mood.

Not a raindrop in sight and the clock is not about to strike midnight!

As for breaking down on a country lane, perhaps having to abandon your vehicle to seek help…Let’s attempt to approach this in an unexpected style too.

‘He had been foolish for stopping; but nature would not wait and the hedgerow of holly offered the ideal shelter to hide behind while he answered her call. The car was going nowhere. The tyres just spun in the deep snow. With each attempt they sank lower until now; now the car was axel deep. He was stranded.

In the far distance the occasional puff of smoke drifted upwards into the crystal blue, cloudless sky. Turning his collar up, ramming his hands as far into his overcoat pockets as they would go, he started to plod through ankle deep snow towards the smoke. Gregory guessed it was from a cottage chimney. How wrong he was…’

Here I have constructed the paragraphs to portray a relatively normal situation, feeding the reader small tidbits about the weather, not only to ‘set the scene’, but as miss-direction, so that I can increase the effect of the final few words.

I beg you, if you are about to write, (or re-write), a section of your novel where you have been sucked in by the old ‘rain & storm’ caper, alter it. Dismiss the rain; freshen up your narration, pleasantly surprise your readers with something new and exciting.

Please do not let the rain make your book a wash-out.

Thanks for reading, Paul

Feel free to comment, leave feedback and ‘follow’ Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

Oh, don’t forget to read the new edition of CQ Magazine. It is jam packed full of great ‘stuff’!

https://issuu.com/ramblingawaymagzine/docs/cq4prt1_1_2016

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