To read my posts, head over to my other blog, Degenerate Dictionary for a snort or two. (I mean laugh by that, btw, not snorting drugs.)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Artist Unleashed: CREATING A RIVETING FIGHT SCENE by Nicole Zoltack

When you're sitting in a movie theater, watching a battle scene, you're on the edge of your seat, heart racing, blood pounding… riveted. It's possible to feel the same way when reading a fight scene.

But how?

First, you need to have the reader care about your main character and what happens to him or her. A sympathetic, well-drawn, layered character will move a reader's heart every time.

You also need plenty of tension. Short sentences with strong action verbs cut deeper into a reader, leaving them breathless and already reading the next sentence. Not all sentences need to be short, though. Varying the sentence length will speed up and slow down the tempo.

Avoid going into too much detail. This goes hand in hand with longer sentences. Allow the reader to fill in the gaps with their imagination.

Focus on the fight, not dialogue. Now is not the time for lengthy monologues by the villain. That comes before. Or after, if the villain gets the upper hand. Villains sometimes do tend to talk too much, but not during the actual fight.

Do show emotion on the hero's part. Remember to ask yourself, is he or she sympathetic? To keep readers engaged while their life is hanging in the balance, make sure readers want them to succeed!

Have you written a fight scene before? What techniques did you find most effective?

Nicole Zoltack loves to write in many genres, especially romance, whether fantasy, paranormal, or regency. When she’s not writing about knights, superheroes, or zombies, she loves to spend time with her loving husband and three energetic young boys. She enjoys riding horses (pretending they’re unicorns, of course!) and going to the PA Renaissance Faire, dressed in garb. She’ll also read anything she can get her hands on. Her current favorite TV show is The Walking Dead.

Connect with Nicole:


After destroying Skull Krusher, Nicholas Adams thinks Falledge is safe and becomes a security guard at the museum, watching a valuable statue. Unfortunately, the Egyptian statue houses the soul of a scorned witch, biding her time to have her revenge on the descendants of her cheating lover.

Kiya the witch isn't the only new foe in town as the drug that created Skull Krusher has now transformed a scientist into yet another monster, forcing Nicholas to don his Black Hellebore mask again and save Falledge.

Nicholas has no help this time as Kiya gains possession of his love Julianna's body and brings the soul of Justina, Nicholas's high school sweetheart and Julianna's twin, with her. Despite himself, Nicholas is torn between the sisters. If he can't stop the fiends from taking over the world and destroying humankind, he'd never be able to find lasting, true love.

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Wednesday, 16 April 2014


One of the first things people ask me is, “So you’re Finnish, but you write in English, why?”

I wish I had an answer to this question. Some people, like my tutor at the MA course in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, answered his own query, “Of course the English speaking market is so much larger.”

I truly hadn’t thought about this.

Choosing my writing language happened almost by accident. When I first moved to the UK, after marrying my Englishman, I began writing a diary, something I’d been doing on and off since I was a child growing up in Tampere, central Finland. But writing about my new life as a Naval wife in Portsmouth, in the South of England, just didn’t seem right in Finnish, so I turned my notebook around and began putting down my thoughts in English at the other end of the book.

Yes, readers, you guessed it, I had just finished reading The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.

Slowly, the Finnish side of the diary withered to nothing, and when the two languages met somewhere three quarters down the notebook, I began the next diary with just one language and never looked back.

I guess the reason I find writing in English easier, is because I was quite young when I first left Finland and moved to Sweden. At the age of eleven, I soon became fluent in Swedish, so much so, that after moving back to Finland, I never had to take another lesson in the language and still got top marks in my Baccalaureate. (I always felt this was a bit of a cheat, but hey, no-one else at my school in Helsinki did).

A writer friend once told me that perhaps writing in another language gave me a distance from my work. This lady works for Peirene Press, a small printing house specialising in translated short fiction, so I guess she knows a little about the subject.

Of course writing in a language that is not your mother tongue is challenging. I’d studied English since the age of seven. Still, there are many times when I have to consult my initial editor (The Englishman) on the correct preposition (this is the biggest challenge to anyone with Finnish as their mother tongue since we have none). The sentence structure can sometimes be a bit off, and occasionally I have to spend more time looking for the correct word.

Talk to any writer and they all swear by good editing. For an author writing in a second or third language, employing a good editor and a good proof reader is absolutely vital.

But writing in a foreign language can also give you a unique voice. Many people have told me that all of my novels have a specific feel to them. Because they are all set in Finland, I believe it’s important that the style of the writing matches the setting. Many of my greatest fans have told me that the reason they love my books is because the stories take them to a different place. You have no idea how happy it makes me hearing those words.

Have you ever written in a foreign language? Has it benefited your writing in any way? If so, how?

Helena Halme is Development Director of Finn-Guild. She blogs at Helena’s London Life and is the author of three novels, The Englishman, Coffee and Vodka, and The Red King of Helsinki.

Helena’s first novel, a love story between a handsome naval officer and a young Finnish student set at the height of the Cold War in Helsinki is now only $0.99 in Kindle format. Available at this price for a limited time only at: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

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Monday, 14 April 2014

The London Book Fair 2014: What Went Down

The Entrance
As most of you know I spent last week in London for the 2014 Book Fair and I had the most fabulous time!

I met so many people that I have gotten to know over the years through the Internet, and met a bunch of fabulous authors for the first time, including Hugh Howey! (Whisper: He's such a spunk.) If you've never been to a book event like this, I totally recommend it. I have to say it's the best career investment I have made in a really long time.

Hugh Howey and Me (photo taken by Debbie Young)
Note: I've included more photographs from the event, and of people I had the privilege to meet, below the post if you'd like to see.

I spent most of my time in an area called the Author HQ where a variety of seminars and workshops took place. Subject matter varied from things like "Know Your Rights," and "The Hallmarks of Self-Publishing Success," and "The Principles of Book Cover Design." Some were useful, others not so much, as I think they were a bit too geared toward the complete beginner. Hopefully next year they will have more seminars that are a bit more meaty in content.

Although I didn't learn anything new about being an indie author, I did discover that I'm already doing everything "right." And it was definitely great to have that confirmed. I now feel confident I can continue doing what I've been doing all along, and not worry about whether there is anything I am missing.

Seminar with Ben Galley & Orna Ross
I have to say that the BEST seminars (for me) were the ones that included speakers from The Alliance of Independent Authors (Orna Ross, Ben Galley, Joanna Penn), and an interactive interview about Self-Publishing with Kobo Writing Life's Diego Marano, and author-extraordinaire, Hugh Howey. I came away feeling enthused, and quite comforted, regarding my career choices. I have to say, I hold these authors in very high esteem. Not because they are successful, but because they are so genuine, kind, honest, and approachable, and they do not behave in any way superior to anyone. There is a lot to respect right there. Nothing has "gone to their heads" so to speak. They are just like "us".

Seminar with Barbara Freethy & Bella Andre
I also really enjoyed the seminars with bestselling authors, Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, and Liliana Hart. I learned a lot about "branding" covers (i.e. to be sure they feature something that is easily recognizable as "you".) I've done it with my nonfiction, but never really thought about doing it for my fiction. So that was quite an eyeopener.

Dan Holloway, Orna Ross, & Debbie Young
The "Opening Up To Indie Authors" book launched at the Kobo booth, too. The book was written by ALLi members, Debbie Young and Dan Holloway, and edited by the founder Orna Ross.

As Dan Holloway writes on his blog:
"The book is more than just an essential campaign document and rallying cry. It’s a guide to working with every sector in the global literary sphere, from bloggers through prizes and bookstores to festivals, making the case for the inclusion of indie authors, helping indie authors to understand the industry and helping the industry to see why it needs indie authors."
You can read more about the launch HERE.

To top all this awesomeness off, I also attended a party sponsored by Amazon to celebrate the 2nd birthday of ALLi, and I had the privilege to read from my novel, Bitter Like Orange Peel, alongside some other magnificent authors: Dan Holloway, Carol Cooper, Jerome Griffin, Polly Courtney, Paul Murphy, JJ Marsh, Piers Bearne, Mark Speed, and Orna Ross.

Thank you to Dan for catching it on video for me!

So ... that was my week. (Phew!) Have you ever been to an event like this? Was it a good experience? Why?

More photos:

Me + Eliza Green + Lorna Fergusson

Les Moriarty + Me + Glynis Smy

Glynis Smy + Me + Alison Morton + Talli Roland

Me + Carol Cooper

Me + Dan Holloway

Me + Roz Morris

Me + Joanna Penn

Rohan Quine + JJ Marsh + Me

Me + Len Lambert

Debbie Young + Me

The BEST selfie ever, taken by Dan Holloway, because
he had an old camera with no screen to see if we all fit!
L to R: Debbie Young + Me + Hugh Howey +
Orna Ross + Diego Marano + Dan Holloway


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Friday, 4 April 2014

Off to the London Book Fair!

So guess who is off to the London Book Fair? Me!

I will be on hiatus all next week. But I'll definitely be Tweeting and Facebooking during the event if you're interested in updates and photos, etc.

I'll also be doing a reading from Bitter Like Orange Peel on Wednesday night at an Alliance of Independent Authors event. I'll try and get someone to video it for me, so I can share it with you.

Have a great weekend, folks!

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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Artist Unleashed: THE 5 BIGGEST RISKS I’VE TAKEN AS AN AUTHOR by Rachel Thompson

I’ve written a lot of blog posts. A lot. A lot, a lot. Yet, nobody has ever asked me before what the five biggest risks I’ve taken as an author are, til now. So thank you Jessica for the opportunity to write for you and for making me dig deep.

Let’s deconstruct.

1)              Telling my real story.  I started blogging in 2007-ish, and mostly it was a way to connect with family and friends far and wide. However, I soon developed my ‘voice:’ a sarcastic look at relationships, love, and all the ups and downs that go with that.

Following that humor route, I wrote my first two books of humorous essays. Though they both did quite well, as I started the third book I found myself wandering off to some of the more serious situations I’d experienced, and not the happy stuff either—having an almost uncontrollable desire to get it all down, triggered by the suicide of an ex-lover.

Childhood sexual abuse, loss, date rape… not exactly dinner conversation, but as I stared down fifty, I decided it was time. As often happens when you open yourself up, I happened upon a wonderful quote by author and professor Lorrie Moore (Elle Magazine): ‘Write something you’d never show your mother or father.’

That struck me in the gut. I had to go there because I knew I’d held myself back from going that deep before, using humor as a way to mask my grief and shame.

The result is my current release, Broken Pieces, currently #1 on the Women’s Poetry list on Amazon, and in the top 25 on Dysfunctional Relationships (a dubious honor?), but one I will take. The book has won seven awards and led me to a book contract with hybrid publisher, Booktrope, selling far more than any of my previous work.

2)              Self-publishing my books. When I first decided to write books, I knew very little about self-pub—heck, about publishing in general, except that I loved to read. Despite having 15+ years in soul-sucking Big Pharma in marketing and sales, learning all about self-publishing became a full-time job.

I knew that I wanted to do it right, and I also knew that while I had no doubt about my writing abilities, I knew I wasn’t perfect and needed help with things like editing and structure. Most authors know by now to hire an editor (hint, hint), and I started researching to find someone who could be brutally honest with me. Luckily, Jessica Swift found me (on Twitter), and we connected at a level I cannot explain really, except to say that it’s a gift.  

I can’t stress enough how important it is to invest in your work with professional editing services, along with hiring a graphic artist, proofreader, and formatter. You may think that cutting corners will save you money, but you’re missing the point: your book won’t sell. It’s on you to make your book as spectacular as possible before anyone ever sees it.

Self-publishing isn’t a simple ‘cut and paste’ and call it a book. Two agents contacted me (via Twitter), I’ve taken meetings, signed with a publishing company (while I self-publish my eBooks, I signed for print only).

Self-publishing is a wonderful option if you’re willing to treat it like a business and not a one-off project.

3)              Using my voice and platform. I didn’t write Broken Pieces with any notion of fame or glory or big bucks. I wrote it because I needed to. What I didn’t realize at the time, and what has been by far the biggest benefit or the book’s release, is that I’ve become a voice for other survivors.

Sadly, many survivors still live with their shame daily, have never spoken publicly about their ordeal, and suffer in silence from PTSD, addictions, shame, dissociation, and potentially risky behavior as a result. My goal has always been to help others, but I wasn’t really sure how.

I’ve now started a private, ‘secret,’ Facebook group (survivors of childhood sexual abuse only) and we’re up to about 50 members—mostly women. I’ve also started a weekly #SexAbuseChat on Twitter—every Tuesday at 6pm PST/9pm EST. Anyone can join and we encourage family members to join also—participate or simply lurk.

The risk in doing this is that I’ve opened myself up to criticism—a small portion of people still feel these topics shouldn’t ever be discussed in an open forum, or that I’m exploiting my situation for some kind of profit. I understand the hesitation—but I figure if someone has an issue, they don’t have to participate in my chat, or buy my book. I’ll keep on writing and connecting with others regardless.

4)              Starting my business. As a result of my experiences with my own three books (all #1 bestsellers on Amazon at one point—on various lists, even hitting the top #100 overall paid list, too!), I decided to combine my marketing and sales with new skills like social media and other author marketing concepts and start my business, BadRedhead Media, in 2011.  

I am not a guru. I never, ever refer to myself that way because that assumes I’ve nothing left to learn, which couldn’t be further from the truth! But I love to share what I’ve learned—the good and the bad—on my Twitter and Facebook, in blog posts, and with clients who are looking for customized help.

As a result, I now write regularly for The Huffington Post (Books section), Self Publisher’s Monthly, BookPromotion.com, and the San Francisco Book Review, and I’m honored to cohost a weekly Blog Talk Radio show with AudioWorld’s Bennet Pomerantz.

Sure, I have plenty of critics who disagree with how I do things and that’s fine—as long as I continue to sell books and my clients do also, and I keep connecting with people, I figure I must be doing something right!

5)              Honesty. Part of being a nonfiction writer and having a busy author platform is that I put myself out there, and some people don’t like that for whatever reasons. I’ve had my share of stalkers, haters, and bullies.

I’m always fascinated by people’s behavior and motivations. I share my personal stories, as well as my business experiences—mostly to help other authors learn what I have to save them time and money. The downside is that everyone has their own opinion of how I should do things. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m a female succeeding in a ‘man’s’ world, or what. I honestly don’t spend too much time worrying about it.

Regardless of whatever negativity I encounter, I keep doing my thing. Taking it personally isn’t an option because the work I do is bigger than me—I will continue to advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, to help authors learn how to use social media and understand the marketing options out there with free tips and articles, sharing what has worked for me and for my clients, and what hasn’t.

Ultimately, life is risk, as is writing or creating any type of art. It’s subjective and you will not please everyone. And that’s okay! I wouldn’t change a thing.

What risks have you taken in life?

Rachel Thompson is the author of the award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She also owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self Publishing Monthly. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Connect with Rachel online: Find all her links here.

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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

In which Degenerate Dictionary participates in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge #atozchallenge

Howdy Doodie :-)

Just a heads up. Though I'm not participating in the April A-Z Challenge this year through my personal blog, Adam Byatt and I are participating through Degenerate Dictionary. So, if you are participating, we'd love to see you over there! Click the image to be directed to DegDic:


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Monday, 31 March 2014

To stare at the screen ... what does it really mean?

I have just started writing my fifth novel. And for the first time ever, I have my story fully plotted from beginning to end. Usually I plot to about 2/3 of the way through, so that there is still an element of surprise when I write, but this time the ending was screaming at me. So all I have to do, is sit down and write it. I'm 5k in. Feeling proud.

Then the staring happened.

The staring, to me, means what? I'm not inspired? No. I don't know what to write next? No. Of course I do, I have it all plotted out. On cards. In front of me. That I don't know my characters well enough? Hmm ... I probably don't. But they always become more rounded as I write, and that's part of the joy. Watching them develop. And it has never stopped me from writing before.

So what, exactly, is it that makes me stare and stare, and procrastinate and procrastinate, when all I have to do is get the words on the page? I was thinking about it last night, and I came to the conclusion that it's fear.

Fear of:
1. It being crap.
2. It being all I think about day in and day out that I neglect my responsibilities. Let's face it, that is going to happen regardless, and is something I should accept.
3. It being bullshit.
4. Take more than a year to finish the first draft because of the fear and the procrastination.
5. It being stupid.
6. Doing this all for nothing. Why am I a writer? Why do I torture myself like this? Because I love it. Why? Because I love it. Why? Because I love it! Why? Oh, shut up!
7. It being crap, bullshit, and stupid.

So, that is why I stare at my screen. Because I am afraid of being who I am, essentially.

What causes you to stare at your screen?


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