Thursday, September 30, 2010

Acceptance, yay!

A story that I've tried for quite a while to find a home for (in various different incarnations and rewrites) has been accepted for publication!

The Venetian will appear in Dark Gothic Resurrected magazine next year, in April 2011. It's a story about a vampire who finds herself in a damp, grey land and wishes to return to the much nicer setting of Venice where she is from, but being a vampire, her journey isn't easy.

Don't worry, I'll be sure to remind you about it at the time as it's quite a while away!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Life is too short to...?

Life is too short to do all sorts of things. I do of course occasionally have to do things that I don't like in order to earn money, or keep someone I care about happy, but I'll only do them if there's some kind of reason behind it.

I mentioned to a friend the other day that I consider life too short to do much ironing - I'll iron for a job interview, and that's about it. Otherwise I try to buy and wear clothes that don't wrinkle easily. She said that though she bought clothes that did need ironing, overall she was with me - especially as some people iron things like sheets.

Why??? Why would you iron sheets?

What else is life too short to bother doing, in your opinion? 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Truth vs Creative Fiction:

..All but one of the statements I made about myself last week were true.

The statements were:
  1. Lobsters terrify me.
  2. I have no middle name.
  3. When I was a child I played the role of Mary in a school nativity play.
  4. I love doing bungee jumps.
  5. The first time I smoked a cigarette, I was 12.
  6. When I was a teenager I was in a samba-style drumming band.
  7. I play the same numbers in the lotto every week.

 #4 is the only falsehood. I have never done a bungee jump, though I would love to do one one day, and a parachute jump as well. All the others are in fact true!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

200 days

Tomorrow it'll be 200 days since I gave up smoking!!!

Yay me.

There were some difficult days. Like moving house. And exam time. And various other occasions that I always associate with smoking. But I'm glad I quit....will just have to see if I manage to stay off them long term.

According to the facebook app I've added 17 days to my life as well, by not smoking for 200. Well, you know - as long as I don't get hit by a bus or whatever.

There are nearly 5000 cigarettes I haven't smoked too. That's a pretty scary amount for a little over 6 months. Funny how it's that figure rather than the life saved or money saved which tends to hit home for me. 

Busy week so I haven't done any writing, got a few rejections but haven't sent pieces out again...I'll get to it. Will catch up on everyone's blogs as well, haven't been reading or commenting much this week. Hope all is well with everyone & everyone's writing :-)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Creative Blogger Award!

Firstly, thank you to the darkly talented Pixie J. King who passed this award on to me!

The Creative Blogger award is a 'pass it on' sort of concept, which means that I now get to nominate others for it. Oh, and tell some lies. *ahem* I mean creative fictions.

Specifically, I must:
  1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link to them.
  2. Add the award to your blog.
  3. Tell six outrageous lies about yourself and one truth. (Another variant: Tell six truths and one outrageous lie.)
  4. Nominate five creative liars/writers and post links to them.
  5. Let your nominees know that they have been nominated.
So #1 is done, thank you, Pixie :-)
#2 is also done.
 - So now for the fun stuff!

Are these six lies and one truth, or six truthful statements with just one single lie among them? Have a guess, in the comments (and if you know for sure, don't spoil it for the others!)
:-) I may tell you next week...though I have been very forgetful, of late. Muahaha.

  1. Lobsters terrify me.
  2. I have no middle name.
  3. When I was a child I played the role of Mary in a school nativity play.
  4. I love doing bungee jumps.
  5. The first time I smoked a cigarette, I was 12.
  6. When I was a teenager I was in a samba-style drumming band.
  7. I play the same numbers in the lotto every week.

So, now to nominate 5 others! This is the hard part...I don't like upsetting or insulting people! And I'm still quite new to the blogger network so I don't have that many connections yet, but some of the people I know all know each other so they've already been nominated! Conflustering. So here goes:

E. J. Tett - Em's Blog of Waffles.
Lee Hughes - Lee Hughes Writes
Lily Childs - Lily Childs' Feardom 
Rev. Wayne Austin Goodchild - The Change Has Started
Craig Saunders - Petrified Tank

So now to go let these people know I've nominated them, and then I'm done :-) Overall this was definitely fun to do, and it's a great way to showcase other writers' blogs and hopefully get everyone some more hits and followers and fans! So thanks once again, Pixie, and I look forward to reading all your thoughts on which of my fantastic facts are true and which are lies!

Friday, September 17, 2010

What I'm working on...

Probably the last regular Friday update for a while. Not that I'm going to go away or anything, but next week I'll have to start studying so I can get a headstart before the baby comes...and then there'll be the small matter of becoming a first-time mum. So now as Summer becomes Autumn, I'm having to accept that I might not have as much time for writing. Nappies and night feeds as well as assignments might have to take priority for a while.

Don't worry though, I'll still update the blog and share stories and poems! Just probably a little less, especially once the baby arrives.

So, what I'm working on:

I finished a draft of the little hillbilly town story, but it needs an awful lot of work yet. So I'll probably try to get some more work done on that. I think now that there might be several stories, set in several different Odd Little Local Towns rather than just the one, as there seems to be too much to fit neatly into one story. Or one town.

I also wrote a piece called Disfigured. Just a flash fiction, but I quite liked it, so I submitted it somewhere as soon as it was edited. Fingers crossed!

It's been a good week, with one story published on Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers and another accepted into a Pill Hill Press anthology.

Done some reading this week as well - read The Empress Graves by E. J. Tett, and I'm also reading Stitched Up!, the House of Horror anthology which features one of my stories, as well as some other great tales so far. Since next week I really need to start reading Hamlet and and some chapters on cognitive psychology, a YA fantasy novel and some short stories about zombies are the perfect diversion at the moment!

Now, since it is Autumn, I think I'll light the fire and try to get some writing done while listening to the rain beating against the window, and the dogs snoring. There's inspiration there, somewhere...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Acceptance, yay!

Two pieces of good news on the writing front!

Firstly, today my story Looking for Adventure appears on the Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers website :-) Go have a read and let me know what you think!

And secondly, I have had a story accepted to Pill Hill Press's 2013: The Aftermath anthology. Yay!It's a post-apocalyptic story called Stepping on the Bones. Quite dark, but since it's set after the end of the world as we know it, that works quite well :-)

Always good to get good news, can't beat the confidence boost of an acceptance!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review - The Empress Graves by E.J. Tett.

Firstly, I do want to be open and honest here - I know the author, she's a friend of mine and a co-author of Casting Shadows. However, this is a completely honest review of the book. If I didn't like it I would have either not reviewed it, or given it a poor review. You'll just have to trust me on that!

The Empress Graves by E.J. Tett.
The Empress Graves is the second book in the Power of Malinas trilogy. (A Young Adult Fantasy Trilogy). In the first book, The Kingdom of Malinas, the lead character Sorrel (a stroppy 16 year old) fights to defend her people from the Lamya who try to enslave them.

In this follow up, Sorrel is a little older - but still prone to the same impetuousness that on occasion leads her to act first, think later.

She has grown up somewhat though, and now understands the benefit of discipline in her training as a warrior.

She will need that training in order to overcome the challenges posed to her by the evil Empress Graves.

Many other characters from the first book also return, and they too are a few years older - and in some cases, a little wiser. In particular, Sorrel's brother Leif, who is now a leader of his people, but doesn't necessarily display the same confidence around his partner Saoirse who is now heavily pregnant. Sorrel's faithful friends Gaeshi and Little Cloud reappear as well, while there are also some new faces - most memorable among them probably the fast-talking Mojag and the playful, if sometimes irritating, Chogan.

While the action scenes are exciting and the dialogue is snappy, I think the best thing about these books is the way they turn the traditional gender stereotypes in fantasy on their head. Sorrel is a girl, but don't dare try to put her in a dress. I love The Lord of the Rings, but the female characters in that are generally just window dressing (less so in Peter Jackson's film versions, admittedly). Even the Belgariad by David Eddings, another of my personal favourites, which has strong female characters, still doesn't often hand them swords.

Girls aged 12-16 or so have a good role model in Sorrel therefore. She isn't perfect - far from it, in fact. There's plenty for an average bad-tempered, independence-craving but responsibility-shirking teenager to identify with in her character. Especially in this book, where anger threatens to make her enjoy killing and embrace the darkest aspects of her own personality - what teenager hasn't stared into that abyss (well, without the killing part, at least - or I hope so anyway!)? Makes me glad I'm not that age anymore!

In general it isn't just Sorrel who is darker in this book. Other characters such as Faerwald also address fundamental questions with a greater level of depth than the first instalment of the trilogy. Me being me, I quite like that. Dark is good, as far as I'm concerned. Of course, it isn't all dark - this is fantasy, it is all about the triumph of good over evil. But the lines between the two aren't always as clear cut as we might like to believe, and The Empress Graves addresses these grey areas nicely.

Links for further info:
The Kingdom of Malinas Website
E.J. Tett's Blog

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lucky Pen (Short Story)

Inspired by an idea I had when doing a Friday Flash Fiction piece for Lily Childs' Blog (which is well worth a visit, by the way).

Every Friday, Lily posts three words which readers are then invited to turn into a story of 100 words or less. You can scroll down the comments here to read my original 100 word piece (as well as pieces by other writers). I liked the idea, so I figured I could rewrite it a little longer - and without necessarily having to use the original three words.

So here is the newer draft of the story, now entitled Lucky Pen.

Comments welcome :-)

P.S. Thanks also to David Barber (whose blog is also worth a visit) for pointing out that it's much easier to maintain formatting when copying and pasting from MS Word if I use Edit HTML mode rather than Compose mode. Cheers!

Lucky Pen.

Olivia read the exam questions carefully and decided which one to answer. In her head, she composed the essence of her argument before she reached for her pen to begin writing it.

It was her favourite pen that she selected, the one she had picked up years ago in an odd old shop in a sleepy seaside village. She always seemed to do better in exams when she used that pen, though occasionally she would get mesmerised and distracted by the ornate, unusual designs on it.

Olivia read through her first paragraph before moving on, trying not to allow thoughts of her future to take her mind from the task at hand. This was her final exam, after all. Her last ever one. She could look forward now to the rest of her life, starting with the holiday her boyfriend was planning to take her on.

Just before she continued writing, something in the first paragraph caught Olivia’s eye. The colour of the ink was lighter than usual. Rather than black, it seemed to be a rusty brown. The most recent words, in fact, were almost red. Olivia touched the ink. It was warmer than she would have expected, and sticky.

As the realisation that it was not ink, but blood, came upon her, Olivia tried to drop the pen, but even when she released it from her grip, the pen did not fall to the small table. It clung on. When she looked at it, she realised it was already larger than it had been before, and it seemed to be pulsating. The designs which had captivated her before looked like veins now as they pumped her blood around the growing object.

Olivia tried to scream, but her throat failed her. When she tried to use her left hand to pry the sinister object from her right, it too was unable to help. The grip of the pen was too strong, it stuck to her like a leech.

Other students scribbled answers to the questions, oblivious to Olivia as the pen sucked the lifeblood out of her. Her fluid draining, she couldn’t even shed a tear for the tragic fact that her final moments were to occur in an exam.


The exam was over before anyone realised what had happened. The pen lay dormant once more, shrunken back to its normal size, its veins masquerading as beautiful symbols again. While some students screamed and others fainted as the invigilators tried to keep everyone calm until the police arrived, one young woman was not as interested in Olivia’s shrunken corpse as the pen which still lay in her hand. As she filed past, Maria slipped the pen out of Olivia’s grasp and into her own pocket. It was such a beautiful thing, after all. In spite of what had happened to Olivia, in fact, Maria felt it might even be lucky, and she had one more exam to do. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

This is why I won' t get a tattoo...

It's been a couple of months, so I figured it was time to change the background.

Back in the days I had myspace I used to change the profile page every few days.

I could never get a tattoo. I can't imagine one image that I'd want to commit to for the rest of my life.

I like this theme now, but in a few months, who knows? I like to have the option to change my mind.


There's a type of chilli called the Devil's Penis (Well, Pene de Diablo. That's what it means). It's pretty small looking, but apparently it's also extremely hot.

I'm sure there's a horror story in there somewhere.

Or possibly a joke.

Perhaps even both?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Who am I?

Muahahahaha :-)

Text analysis seems to be the flavour of the month...or the season at least.

This website analyses blogs to have a guess at the blogger's gender and approximate age - and it has estimated me to be female (correct) and between the ages of 18-25 (a little younger than reality...which is perfect, really!).

Then again...scrolling down, it tells me that

The analysis is based upon 12 posts that has enough English words. 

 Great grammar there....maybe I shouldn't put too much faith in that website's ability.

Still, judging by the fact that by the time this post is scheduled to go out I'll be spending the day with my in-laws after a long drive and pregnancy aches and pains are making me feel like I'm a hundred....maybe I should forget about the grammar and enjoy anyone, anywhere, even a silly website, telling me I'm 18-25 :-)

Friday, September 10, 2010

What I'm working on...

So, it has been a busy week. I haven't really managed to do a lot of writing. I hate when real life gets in the way of the weird worlds within my mind...

I did have several ideas at least, which I've managed to take note of. One in particular I think has a lot of potential - a story which will be provisionally titled "Night Terrors" but that'll probably change - my titles usually change several times.

I didn't do any work on the little strange village story but I did think about where I took it when I last worked on it, and realised I was overcomplicating matters. So I'll now try to shorten it again, and cut out the unnecessary bits, and see if I can get it finished.

Several rejections have piled up in my inbox as well this week,, and while I logged them to duotrope, I haven't gotten around to hunting for more potential homes for them and resubmitting, so I really should try to get on with that too. 

Got stuff to do over the weekend so won't be around much for the next couple of days either, but hopefully next week I'll have a chance to catch up on people's blogs and do a few more posts myself, as well as getting some more writing done.

Thank you all for your comments :-)


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Grammar - Use of the Apostrophe

Still busy, busy, busy :-( No time for writing this week.

All the same, I do like to keep the blog rolling, so here's a little post on grammar.

I was never given a proper grammar lesson at school, though in the course of English lessons, in primary school, the teachers did point out some very important points. I was lucky enough to go to a small school, (two classes per room but probably no more than 25 pupils per room) so maybe that's why my teachers were able to address the topic...or maybe other teachers address it and people just didn't pay attention. Or care.

We all make little errors from time to time, and that's fair enough. However, I think some people genuinely don't know the difference between key words that sound/are pronounced the same, but are different in spelling/how they're written - and of course, different in meaning.

The most commons errors are:

1. Your and You're
2. Its and It's
3. There, Their and They're

All but one of these mix ups (between "There" and "Their") can be fixed if you remember one little rule:

The apostrophe (this: ' ) stands for a missing letter (or letters). 

"You are" is clearly the one that gets shortened to "You're" because of the key placement of said apostrophe.("Your" then, is left as the one meaning "belonging to you".)

"It is" becomes "It's" and "They are" turns into "They're". ("Its" means "belonging to it", "There" means "that place" and "Their" means "belonging to them".)

So before you use an apostrophe, think what letter it represents. Can the word you're about to insert an apostrophe into be broken into two words (Such as "didn't" can be written as "Did not", as well as the aforementioned examples).

There are a few exceptions to this rule - of course there are; English is a complicated language.

One is the word "Won't" which is actually short for "Will not" - but for some reason, at some point in time, someone changed it. Possibly because saying "Willn't" (try saying it out loud) isn't actually any easier or faster to do than just saying "Will not".

The other is the occasion where an apostrophe denotes ownership. As in the title of this blog:

The apostrophe in such a circumstance indicates that it the object referred to (in this case, the blog) belongs to me, Joleen.

So I can see where confusion arises - apostrophes denote ownership in some circumstances, whereas in others, represent missing letters when often the alternative word (your/its/their) is the one that refers to ownership or belonging. Still, while it may be a bit confusing, it isn't rocket science. It isn't so complicated that it can't be learned.

Writers - it is to your advantage to know rules of grammar, as mistakes just tend to give editors an excuse not to lift your work from the slush pile - and as all us struggling writers know, many editors do not need a lot in the way of encouragement to reject work! Also - if you're self publishing, it looks a lot better to have the correct grammar in place.

Non-writers - it is also to your advantage, because communication is important, and being understood is key to effective communication. And because grammar is not some elitist concept like quantum physics, understandable only by the minority. You should not wear your lack of grammatical knowledge like a badge of honour. There is no honour in being unwilling to learn the right way to do something. Society may currently embrace vapid celebrities who wear their ignorance proudly, but this doesn't mean we should not, as a society, aim higher than this.

For a much less preachy, much funnier description of how and when to use an apostrophe, you should really check out The Oatmeal. It's hilarious. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Come on ye boys in Green!

Come on Ireland, who take on Andorra tonight in the first competitive match at the new Landsdowne Road Aviva Stadium!

Olé, Olé Olé Olé....

I'm stressed enough today without having to watch the football team be brought down to the level of minnows, which has happened in the past - so come on, lads, make it a night to remember for all the RIGHT reasons, please, a stick a pile of goals in the Andorran net :-)

Busy, busy, busy...

Very stressful & busy time this week....changes to the course I'm doing, last minute, means I need to make some pretty important decisions. So not a lot of time for writing, or reading other people's blogs :-( Sorry!

In the meantime, have a microfiction. 99 word story, called:

Leslie watched the gate. “He’ll come,” she told her sister.
Marie shrugged.
“He’ll come,” Leslie repeated, keeping her gaze fixed on the gate.
No one appeared. A little drizzle started, but they paid it no attention.
“He’s probably got somewhere better to be,” Marie remarked. “He’s bound to have moved on, by now. You shouldn’t blame him.”
“He’s welcome to move on,” Leslie hissed. “I just don’t want him to forget. There,” she added as he appeared.
Marie had enough sense to stay silent as Leslie’s former husband laid flowers on her grave, and shed a tear for her.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

We were three (Poem)

We were three.
To start with, we were a gang of
Three. There was John, and Tom,
And of course,

We were walking along by the river
When John said to me, I have a sore knee,
So go ahead,
Without me.

So Tom and I, we left John behind and
Ran along the river, soon giddy in our games
We hardly heard the

When we found John – or what was
Left of him, at least,
I was sick. I felt ashamed, but I
Was bereft.

As I was sick, Tom took charge. I’ll go
For help, he said. He had only just
Left when I heard him
Scream as well.

Already dismembered when I got there,
No sign of the culprit, but I knew
That whoever had killed John and Tom
Would come after me too.

I slept with one eye open, carried weapons
When I could. Stopped even believing
In good. I hoped to stay safe
That way.

I am old now, and John and Tom
Are long gone. But I have never forgotten
The blood by the river that day. So I know,
Whoever it was, will come for me too. 

A little poem for you to enjoy this Sunday afternoon, especially if you're planning any riverside walks, hehe!  (Once again, post is scheduled so I may not get a chance to reply to comments until Monday, but please leave some anyway, I really appreciate them!)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Paying for Book Reviews

An interesting post recently on Writer Beware Blogs - which is a great place for exposing vanity publisher scams.

The particular article which caught my eye is with regard to paying for book reviews, you can read it here.

As many of you know, I am one of three authors of a self-published anthology of dark short stories and poetry. The anthology is called Casting Shadows and is available from Lulu,, and Smashwords.

We have been reviewed twice, so far - once by Holly Christine of the Pittsburgh Books Examiner, and once by Geoff Nelder on his blog, Science42Fiction. Both are pretty good reviews, which is excellent.

We got these reviews by emailing Holly Christine and Geoff Nelder - and we did not pay for them.

I would never pay for a book review.

It is certainly true that it is very difficult for self-published authors to sell their books. No arguments there. And that getting the word out by getting reviews helps. Again, no arguments. However, I don't think that paying for book reviews is the solution.

First of all, if your book really needs major errors in grammar & spelling to be pointed out, perhaps you would be better paying the large fee that reviewers charge to a professional editing service, or even just having it proofread by someone who isn't related to you and has a good grasp of the English language (or whatever language your book is written in!). Though an occasional error will still slip through - I see them in books published by major publishers as well. All people are only human, after all. An occasional error is one thing though. A book full of them is a different story, and unfortunately gives all self-published works a good tarring with the same brush of unprofessionalism.

Secondly, while many paid-for review services claim not to give only positive reviews, it's highly unlikely that such a service will get many clients and make much money if they make a habit of strongly criticising books they review. First and foremost, these "services" are businesses, and need to make money. That's their function, and the best way for them to do so is to give mostly good reviews to ensure more clients sign up for their service. However, this means that the reviews cannot be trusted - certainly not wholly. The blog post above makes the case that reviews have always been paid for, to some extent - because newspapers and magazines are supported by advertising, and publishers are among the advertisers. However, anyone who has ever read book review columns in respectable papers knows that regardless of how big a publishing company is behind a book, they are quite willing to tear a book to shreds if they feel that the book deserves such treatment. And while this may cause problems behind the scenes, for the sales staff, ultimately the publishers continue to send the reviewers their books, and also continue to pay for advertising. These reviews are clearly honest, and can therefore be trusted.

Ultimately, if people want to spend their money paying for book reviews, that's their business, I suppose. But I don't feel that paid-for reviews add anything to a publishing market which is opening up due to the availability of Print on Demand services, while many traditional publishers are more willing to publish a third "auto"biography of a Z-list celebrity (ghostwritten) detailing the mundaneness of their vapid existence than take a chance on a new author with an original idea. (Ok, this isn't true for all publishers, but the book retailers have increasing power as well, and they like celebrity faces on their bookshelves).

Ultimately, a paid for review is tainted with the suspicion that if it is good, it is only good because it was paid for. Self published authors already have to contend with the stereotype that if the book was any good, it wouldn't be self published, so paying for a review may just add to their problems rather than the opposite.

Comments and opinions welcome, I'm sure many people have views on this subject! (This post has been scheduled so I may not reply immediately, but I will reply to comments!)

Friday, September 3, 2010

What I'm working on...

Friday again, and this time I'm writing the update while sitting with a load of purple hairdye on my hair, waiting for it to take. Much as I'd like to be, I'm not @purplehairedJo naturally. I have to top up the colour occasionally. And at the moment, have to be extra careful with it as it really shouldn't touch my scalp, because of the pregnancy. Hence why I can't bleach it, and I'm only doing the fringe. Still. As long as there's some purple in there, it's ok.

So, back to the update. I finished the erotic horror story! Just need to leave it a few days and then edit it a little. Will definitely be sending it in under a pen name though, so even if it gets accepted, this'll be the last you'll hear of it!

I'm also getting through the story about the little hillbilly town where something strange is going on. I'd intended for it to be a flash fiction, but it's over 1200 words now, it just sort of took off, so I'm going with it. At the editing stage it might get cut down again, but that's what the editing stage is for.

No acceptances this week, and a few rejections, but they've all been resubbed straight away. Now I've had a few acceptances my confidence has gone way up, and I can handle the rejections much better.

Not done much work on any other stories, or poems for that matter, but I did have several vague ideas last night before bed, so they've been scribbled down in my barely legible handwriting in the bedside notebook, and may one day actually become real stories.

Thanks for following and commenting :-) I really appreciate it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Micro fiction - Almost

63 word story. Written as part of the 24/7 Folded Word thingy I participated in.

The place he died was a dirty, rotten, hovel. He took this as a personal affront. That the final smell he would ever experience in his existence would be that rancid odour. The last texture he would touch, the mouldy floor his face was pressed against. It made him so angry, it almost gave him the energy and coordination needed to escape. Almost.

Got to love Ireland.

Ireland is random, but predictable.

It's September. Kids back to school - therefore the weather changes from dull, cool, wet and grey to sunny and warm. You know. Summery.

You could feel sorry for the kids...but it'll stay this way until they're adults with nothing better to do during the September sunshine than lounge around in it and maybe post a blog. We all suffered through it. It's like a rite of passage.

Just as a quick aside though - you know those ads for mobile broadband where people take their laptops outside to sit in a hammock or whatever? I have wifi, so that isn't a problem for me. It's seeing the screen that I just can't manage. Is there something I can get for the laptop that would mean I can take the laptop outside and actually be able to see the screen? Cos...well, you know. There's nothing like sunny September weather to create a mood for writing horror tales...