Saturday, 22 November 2014

Pay To Enter Writing Competitions - Your Opinion?

Now, I don't know about anyone else, but my instinct when a competition wants me to pay to enter is that they're only interested in making the money from the entry fee and not in the 'quality' of a winner, i.e. like the lottery, or those phone competitions where it's £1.50 to call in and the question is so easy it's just a raffle disguised as a competition. So, when I see writing competitions, either asking for writers to submit stories, or ones for authors to enter their published books, and then there's a fee to enter, I instantly get suspicious, my 'scam' radar goes off.

Is this just me being way too cynical? 

It seems to be pretty standard in writing circles that these types of competitions have entry fees. Some claim they're just covering administration, and that could be true for the $5 ones, but then I've seen others where the competition organisers are asking $50 and over to take a book submission. This to me is daylight robbery and can't possibly be for pure administration, this is for making a profit. I didn't think competitions were about making profits, I thought they were about showcasing talent, albeit talent carefully controlled by the 'traditional' publishing fraternity if you're talking about the major literary prizes.

To be fair, I have seen a few competitions out there that are formed in the pure spirit of finding new talent, no entry fee required. The Guardian are running a monthly prize for self-published authors which requires no entry fee, all that is required is some effort to enter. And the prize, kudos and some decent publicity - a pretty fair trade I would say. :)

So every time I see someone announce a literary competition on my social media streams, I'm excited, but prepared to be disappointed if I go to the site and they're asking for an entry fee, because, even if it's a small cost, it rankles. Maybe I'm not being cynical enough then, maybe I'm not seeing the 'competition' for what it is, a marketing opportunity, and every indie author knows that publicity isn't always free. Still, if I pay for marketing, I'm guaranteed some exposure, paying to enter a competition doesn't guarantee my book will even make it to a web page in the back end of the web somewhere.

So, I'm torn. What's you opinion - are these myriad competitions just a way of turning a profit for the organisers, i.e. do they care about the winners, or are they genuinely looking to present undiscovered new talent to the world?

Saturday, 15 November 2014

I'm Withdrawing From NaNoWriMo :( - but I'm still writing (Curse of a Banshee Cover Reveal)

This is the third year that I've done NaNoWriMo, but, unfortunately, this time, I am going to have to withdraw. Circumstances have conspired to mean that I cannot attain that goal of 50K words in a month.

I've been sick all this week with a heavy cold that knocked me for six, to the point where I spent a lot of time sleeping and just feeling sorry for myself and thus I am way behind. I am also not convinced about the plot I launched into and if it can't convince me, then there is no way it is going to convince a reader - I need to do a bit more research, I think. Thus, the pantsing experiment has failed for me. I might have been able to work my way around the plot hiccup if I hadn't been feeling so awful this week, but the two problems together mean I won't be able to win NaNo this year :(.

That doesn't mean I'm not going to be writing more than normal this month - but it won't be on the novel I launched for NaNo. I have plenty of projects to be getting on with. Firstly, I am finishing a novella which is a thank you to all those who join/have joined the Wittegen Press Mailing list. It's called Curse of A Banshee, and it is the first in a contemporary fantasy series called, The Darwell (Magical) Cleaning Services. Our mailing list members voted on the genres of the stories they would like us to write, and this story evolved from their vote for contemporary fantasy. It follows a group of fae who make a living by cleaning up magical crime scenes in the UK. They don't have exciting powers, in fact, some of their talents are pretty useless when viewed in isolation: business partners, B a banshee who can see the future, but not tell anyone about it and Jean, a man-turned-gargoyle impervious to magic, but who solidifies to stone in sunlight, and their clean-up team, a human-hating pixie, a middle-aged human with magical sensitivities and a pair of shadow imps who would rather hide in the dark than talk to anyone. Yet, when they get to work on a large crime scene in the middle of a pine forest, they find themselves in a battle for theirs lives, a battle that will test their ingenuity and their teamwork.

And here's the front cover (expertly created by my cover artist, Tasha)! Isn't it fantastic?

So, I'm back on the writing bandwagon after my week of flu-y lethargy, and it's onwards after my muse. :)

Saturday, 1 November 2014

NaNoWriMo - OMG!

Okay, so I've been umming and ahhing about doing NaNoWriMo this year, because work is very busy and I have a lot of pieces to finish, rather than start another one. I was also dithering about whether to just use NaNo to up the word count on one or more of my existing novels - which felt a little bit like cheating. So, with all my dithering, November has rather snuck up on me and at 1 hour to midnight last night, I was still deciding if I would dive in to a new piece in the full spirit of NaNo.

The answer is, that I have decided to keep with the sprirt of NaNo and start a new novel, one I think can be completed in 50K words, since it is going to be the sequel to The Burning Web, which is only just over 40K. My reasoning behind this is that my muse is still wandering in a ghostly direction and, if I'm going to have a chance of getting anywhere this November, I have to follow my muse.

So, here goes nothing, I have a vague idea of the plot, also thrown together before midnight last night, and I'm pantsing this one - also not something usual for me - let's see where it takes me!


The Burning Web (5 stars).

The Burning Web by Sophie Duncan
Is it symptoms left from his brain haemorrhage, or a guilty conscience that is making Tristan McCall see things no-one else can?

Forced out of the police by scandal and illness, Tris is trying to rebuild his life through the renovation of the home he hopes to share with Xander, his husband. A sprawling Gothic pile, Berwick House is in need of attention, but Tris soon realises the attention is not all one way. Faced with a presence in the house only he can sense, Tris must decide if his damaged brain is playing tricks on him, or if Berwick House really holds a dark and dangerous message from beyond the grave.

Friday, 31 October 2014

All Hallow's Read, Hallowe'en Blog Hop & Trick-or-Treat Book Blog Hop 2014


And to celebrate, I'm joining in not one, not two, but three great Hallowe'en online events. So what does that mean for you, my readers, well it means free reads from both me and my sis, Tasha, and some chat from me about this wonderfully spooky season. :D

All Hallows' Read 2014
Trick-Or-Treat Book Blog Hop 2014
Hosted by Author Patricia Lynne
Halloween Blog Hop 2014
Hosted by Author Sara C Snider

So, first things, first, the important bit. :) Both the Trick-or-Treat Blog Hop and All Hallows' Read are encouraging authors and readers alike to give away a book for Halloween. And Tash and I are supporting these events by giving away a new book of two spooky stories: Cursed, A Horror Collection It's free for Halloween. And do let us know if you went and downloaded the book in the comments, below, we'd love to know what you think :).

And remember, the best candy ever for a writer is to get a review :).

Cursed - A Horror Collection (FREE FOR HALLOWEEN)
Cursed - A Horror Collection was created for All Hallows Read 2014 to be given away as a Halloween treat on 31st October. It contains two haunting stories about curses and ghosts to give any horror fan a good scare.

This book has content not suitable for children and non-explicit scenes of a sexual nature.

If Wishes Were ... by Natasha Duncan-Drake

Essie and her friend Beth are taking a trip to commiserate Beth's loss of yet another boyfriend. When they visit a spooky old graveyard and Essie makes a wish on a haunted mausoleum, things don't turn out how she expected at all.

Happy Families by Sophie Duncan

Bridget loves Happy Families, so when she finds an old pack in a junk shop she buys them. She lives to regret it, as strange and nasty things start to happen to her house-mates.


And now on to my ramblings if you care to stick around :).

I have loved the scares of Halloween since I was little. It's not as big a thing in the UK as it is in the US, but I grew up in the time when Trick-or-Treat was just coming over to the UK as something that was fun for kids to do. I lived in a little village and we used to have Halloween parties where most of the village children would attend. We'd all dress up and then there'd be apple bobbing and spooky stories and, of course, plenty of sweet treats. 

I even remember one Halloween party when I was in Brownies that we had in the church. There was a treasure hunt and one of the clues delighted in directing us to the old funeral bier that was once used to carry coffins in and out of the church. We Brownies were a morbid bunch sometimes, we even had a song we used to sing at that time of year, about meeting corpses at the church yard gate. Each verse gradually built on the macabre image going on about worms and moaning. That used to scare the hell out of me, but I always sang it enthusiastically along with all my friends. I'm still a little lot nervous when going into graveyards at night time because of that song! ;P

If you have any scary stories to share, I'd love to hear them :).


As well as Cursed, our free book for Halloween, we're also discounting all our horror and paranormal books over on Wittegen Press to just 99c, or less

If you head on over to The Wittegen Press blog, you'll also find a collection of drabbles (100 word fictions) related to all our horror and paranormal books. And my twin, Tash, has another short scare to share on her blog.


Halloween Blog Hop List

Trick-or-Treat Book Blog Hop List

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Separation Anxiety (and Dracula Untold Review)

Well, I logged in this morning to write a review of Dracula Unbound, but what I got was a dose of separation anxiety! I couldn't get into my blogger account, because Google+ was temporarily down, to which my blog is linked. It showed me just how attached I am to my blog, because I was initially a bit peeved that I couldn't do what I wanted, and then I really began to worry - how long would it be down, was it just me, had I been hacked?

I felt a bit better on checking twitter and finding out there was a global problem, but it still left me feeling twitchy for the half hour or so I was waiting for the boffins at Google to fix things. I think part of it is that this blog and my Google+ are not just social for me, they're part of my work, my writing, they're how I reach my readers as well as my friends, but that wasn't all. Since the error was also affected my gmail contacts, I was also really worried I was losing them, all my friends, all the people I talk to, and some that I don't very often.

All I can say is, I'm glad it's been fixed!

Anyway - on to my thoughts about Dracula Untold.

'As his kingdom is being threatened by the Turks, young prince Vlad Tepes must become a monster feared by his own kingdom in order to obtain the power needed to protect his own family, and the families of his kingdom.' - IMDB
I enjoyed this movie, it played to my expectations, there were no surprises, but it was an enjoyable fantasy. I would hesitate to call it an adventure movie, because it was on the dark side for that, but I did get the feeling they were trying for a 12A certificate at times, because, although it ended up with a 15 rating in the UK, the action was fairly close in and there was not much gore. I expect it got the 15 rating for the unavoidable impalings that went along with Dracula's historical character. Compared to some of the 12A movies out there, though, e.g. James Bond and the Bourne movies, I did think the violence was more fantastical and therefore this might have deserved a 12A rating.

The plot itself, well, it's a fair attempt at an origin story. I mean, we know what has to happen by the end before we start, so, if you were expecting Dracula not to end up as King of the Night, then you're going to be disappointed ;P. I was slightly concerned before I went to see this movie that we'd have this long, long, angsty build up to the whole vampire thing with a bit of vampirism at the end, and for a few minutes at the beginning there, I was still worried, but actually, they paced the film about right.

There's a build up of tension in the first half hour, setting the scene, giving you Prince Vlad's background as a child warrior for the Turks and his continued servitude to them to maintain a peace which is very one-sided in favour of the Turks. And the concept that he already knew what it meant to be a monster while fighting for the Turks before becoming a vampire was underplayed, but in a good way, only really coming out in the climax at the end.

The cast is a who's who of British Character actors, and I mean actors in the male sense, because if you want to watch female roles, don't go near this movie. Only one woman has a speaking part (as far as I remember) - that is Sarah Gadon as Vlad's wife, Mirena, and her role is a typical male catalyst role, I won't say what happens to her, but can you guess? I won't say the movie has any stellar performances in it, it's more about the plot than the characters, even the Turks, who, as bad guys, might have had more gutsy parts, are actually quite bland. Vlad is angsty and brooding, as expected, Mirena is loving and supportive, but they're all a bit remote. In fact, I think Art Parkinson, who played Vlad's son, Ingeras, probably did the best job of emoting and making contact with the audience - his performance in the scene where Vlad is being forced to hand him over to the Turks as a royal hostage is very well done.

So, in summary, not a stunner of a movie, but worth a watch, just don't expect too much, it is an origin movie after all. If they make #2, which they set up at the end of the movie, I think it will be much more interesting, because they won't have to stay within so many boundaries. Charles Dance's evil Master Vampire, who doesn't even have a name yet, has made promises of machinations and plots, which could ignore the Dracula story altogether, and I would look forward to that kind of movie :).

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Zen and the Art of Plot Navigation - pantsing by a planning writer ;P (plus All Hallows' Read)

After having stop/start writer's block for the last week, where I was struggling to get out a couple of hundred words at a time if I was lucky, I dumped the story I was working on and started a new one. I wrote 7K words today, 5.5K of which was the start of my short horror story for giving away for All Hallows' Read - I might actually make the end of the week deadline to get it to my editor :D. If you don't know what All Hallow's Read is, check out their website - encourage reading in everyone!

Only thing is, I did a little more than pants the story so far, I literally just wrote with no idea where I was going and let Zen and the Art of Plot Navigation take me. It really worked, I think I have a great horror story coming on, but now I have to round it out - I think I know how it's going to go, but it's been a long time since I just let the characters lead me.

This is going to be an interesting adventure!


And  now an outrageous segue to plug my new book :D - this is a horror story I've already finished, my 5-star ghost story:

The Burning Web.

The Burning Web by Sophie Duncan
Is it symptoms left from his brain haemorrhage, or a guilty conscience that is making Tristan McCall see things no-one else can?

Forced out of the police by scandal and illness, Tris is trying to rebuild his life through the renovation of the home he hopes to share with Xander, his husband. A sprawling Gothic pile, Berwick House is in need of attention, but Tris soon realises the attention is not all one way. Faced with a presence in the house only he can sense, Tris must decide if his damaged brain is playing tricks on him, or if Berwick House really holds a dark and dangerous message from beyond the grave.