THE STORYTELLER SPEAKS – IT’S HERE!

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It is with great pleasure I can now announce that  The Storyteller Speaks is available on Amazon.

The Storyteller Speaks ebook is available on  Amazon UK  or Amazon US or any other Amazon outlet.

The paperback will be published in January 2018.

 About the Book

It only takes one event to change a life. What is that action, decision, occurrence? Whose life is affected? Changed forever?

In this eclectic mix of 21 short stories, flash fiction and poetry the pendulum swings between first love and murder, from soul-destroying grief to reconciliation. The tales veer from the sweet satisfaction of revenge to new beginnings, from heart-breaking miscarriages of justice to heart-warming Christmas misadventure.

One common thread binds them all; the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life; they’re all extraordinary.

Open your hearts and minds as The Storyteller Speaks.

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EXCITING TIMES…COVER & BLURB REVEALED

Did you hear that whoop of joy? That screech of overwhelming excitement and happiness? It is with utmost delight and sense of pride that I can unveil the cover of my collection of short stories entitled, The Storyteller Speaks.

The ebook will be out in a few days.

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No book cover reveal would be complete without the accompanying blurb.

About the Book

It only takes one event to change a life. What is that action, decision, occurrence? Whose life is affected? Changed forever?

In this eclectic mix of 21 short stories, flash fiction and poetry the pendulum swings between first love and murder, from soul-destroying grief to reconciliation. The tales veer from the sweet satisfaction of revenge to new beginnings, from heart-breaking miscarriages of justice to heart-warming Christmas misadventure.

One common thread binds them all; the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life; they’re all extraordinary.

Open your hearts and minds as The Storyteller Speaks.

In moments of thrilling ecstatic elation I just need a quick bop and this is is one of my all-time favourite songs to which I let my hair down and dance – I hope you can join me.

A week ago I posted my publishing woes when I was let down. Just as I had accepted the inevitable long delay before starting anew my journey to publication an email from Sally Cronin at Smorgadbord – Variety is the spice of life popped up my inbox.

I read it over and over. Could it be true…I both laughed and cried with joy; my hope re-kindled.

Sally wrote to say how sorry she was for me and that as she and her husband are publishers they would only be too happy to take on my book and prepare it for publication. David runs the publishing company and I was soon in touch with him at Moyhill Publishing.

Both Sally and David were adamant that we could get the book out by Christmas and ever since emails have been winging their way back and forth between David and myself.

David Cronin is a true professional, a joy to work with. His speed in returning amended proofs and answering questions is unbelievable. No query was too much, every step of the way was explained…all in the midst of proofreading and for him formatting the manuscript.

Meanwhile, there was one major hurdle – the cover, or rather lack of one! I  remembered Debby’s  beautiful cover of her latest book. I looked at her book cover designer’s website and found a fabulous cover for my book. I  immediately emailed Yvonne Less at Art4Artists. Within minutes and despite the early morning in Australia I had a reply! After this initial email it only took a few days until I had the finished cover.

I cannot thank David and Sally enough for coming to my rescue; they are both such warm, wonderful people. They work with great professionalism and expertise and the past week has been very uplifting for me.

I am overjoyed and honoured to be published by Moyhill Publishing.

The paperback book is ready however we are just waiting for print proofs and space at the printers. It will be published in January 2018.

Lucia visits St. Paul’s Cathedral

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Very little stops time in its tracks. Takes one back to our roots of dark and light.

As the vast and magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral was cast into complete darkness, a hush descended over the crowd. The usual shuffles, sniffles, and coughs were awed into silence by the depth of dark and then the distant tones of Sankta Lucia could be heard. From behind us, she appeared and with her maids, they slowly made their way down the three aisles. All around us the glow of candles lit up their faces, the singing clearer, louder as they passed up to the front of the cathedral.

As photography was strictly forbidden (ignored by a few) this video from 2011 shows the entrance of Lucia at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

An overwhelming sense of purity and joy filled the building, the singing, still only lit with candles, wondrous and at times spine-tinglingly glorious. Too beautiful, tender, moving for words.

For once everyone was fully focussed, caught in the moment, no distractions. The wholeness was complete and utter.

As the bitter chill of outside penetrated the cathedral (it was minus three centigrade outside) people huddled closer to their loved ones.

This was the final song of the evening before Lucia and her maids walked back down the aisle…listen with some volume and wait until the moment the choir joins in. A shudder of emotion shook us all…many moved to tears. The pettiness of the world ceased to exist as the song carried us to new levels.

Lucia is celebrated on the 13th December in Sweden and I wrote about the festival here two years ago. For the first time this year, my family and I went to see the celebration at St. Paul’s Cathedral – a most unique and special occasion.

The Church of Sweden organises a series of Sankta Lucia services across London during December and the Ulrika Eleanora Church Choir takes part in them all. We were lucky enough to have internationally-renowned Swedish Soprano, Miah Ovenden, singing this year. Also, we enjoyed a Christmas Service with guest speakers including The Ambassador of Sweden who was joined in the congregation by numerous other Ambassadors, including those of Finland, which celebrated its 100 years of independence last week. I’d read about this on Khaya’s lovely blog and you can read ten things she loves about her second home here

I know we will be back next year to Lucia at St. Paul’s Cathedral…hopefully some of you might be able to join us.

‘TWIXT THE CUP AND THE LIP *

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Sometimes we don’t need to travel far to journey a long way.

With a publication agreed weeks ago it was with a song in my heart and a dance in my step that I prepared for this major event in my life.

My first book was due out in the world!!

A wonderful celebratory party away was planned…local to us all but a special place to be spoilt and dine in style!

As the date for publication drew closer, delay followed delay and to my shame, lowered my spirits. Worst of all was the lack of communication from the producer and broken promises. In my naive trust, I waited and believed. Until now. At last, our cooperation had to be terminated.

As for the celebratory weekend – I was all set to cancel. My family refused to accept this, insisting that after all the book is ready; apart from the elusive cover! (And final proofread before publication!)

So we set out to celebrate life and what has been achieved – I hope you’ll join me in reliving the wonderful weekend.

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It’s not easy to get anywhere high up in Essex…it’s a pretty flat county but Wivenhoe Park is situated on top of a hill and it is here that Wivenhoe House was built. Wivenhoe House’s fascinating history stretches back to 1759 when Isaac Rebow asked Thomas Reynolds to build the mansion house, which is now Grade II listed.

Stepping out of the car we admired the same landscape painted by the English Romantic artist John Constable in 1816.

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The building escaped mostly unscathed apart from a few broken chimney pots following the country’s worst earthquake in 1884, was requisitioned by troops during WWII before becoming the original home to Essex University in 1964. It is now a hotel.

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The university campus is close by in the park, the tall 1960s tower blocks iconic and for the first time ever I wander amongst them, past a delightful library full (!) of students, past a modern theatre, into the main campus site.

 

Lakes and fountains adorned the area; ducks and coots pecking amiably on the cold ground. A stunning sunset greeted us and we paused to let the peace and beauty sink in – not too long though as the bitter chill bit through our coats.

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Heading round we realised how hungry we were on seeing this unusual cafe…a Routemaster double-decker bus cafe – closed alas but probably just as well as dinner was soon.

The hotel was impeccable with friendly staff who were eager to help. The bedrooms were superb.

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The balcony overlooking the park was a bonus – even if it was too cold to use the welcoming table and chairs.

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The brassiere dining room was delightful and we were welcomed by the sommelier who recommended his original cocktails. How could we refuse! By the end of the evening, my spirits rose even further when presented with the ‘Congratulations’ platter.

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The next morning we just had time for another walk around the grounds; this time to hunt out the two famous cork oak saplings which had been smuggled into the country in the boots of General Redbow following the Peninsular War. What had they witnessed in their two hundred year existence, I wondered?

These impressive trees were both enthralling and majestic; languidly they grew along the ground as well as upwards, their trunks dramatically pock-marked and small leaves reaching in bunches for the sky.

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Gazing at the trees I felt a certain sense of calm for the first time in weeks…their strength and timeless aura transcended my worries and concerns. During this trip, I once again became re-aligned, my inner journey to renewed energy and belief reignited during our short sojourn.

Finally, my deepest apologies to you all…your warm, generous and enthusiastic support for the publication of my short story collection has been overwhelming and it has been hardest to let you down. I hope you will bear with me and kindly ask for your patience until the launch of my book.

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Supermoon photo taken through the trees in the evening.

‘Painting is but another word for feeling.’ John Constable.

I would just substitute the word painting with writing in this case!

Photo ©Annika Perry, except the Constable painting of course!!

*There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip is a very old proverb, similar in meaning to “don’t count your chickens before they hatch”. It implies that even when a good outcome or conclusion seems certain, things can still go wrong. (Wikipedia)

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Short Story – The Bike by Annika Perry

I’ve been thrilled to take part in Sally’s ‘Posts from Your Archives’ and it’s been a delight to both make new friends here on WP and say hello to existing ones. Thank you so much Sally for all your hardwork and the opportunities here on your blog.

This final of my four instalments features one of my shorter stories which is also included in my short story anthology out soon. Enjoy!

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Today is the last in the posts from the archives of Annika Perry and a short story that is very emotive and also I am sure will resonate with parents of those who love the thrill of riding two wheel racing machines.

The Bike by Annika Perry

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Death came to his eyes that day. The advert had gone into the paper on Thursday and since then three calls, two visits and now a sale. He’d never expected this to happen. Why couldn’t he see this? Since he was three he’d lived on two wheels. Scooters, bikes, mountain bikes, motorbikes and trial bikes. The one selling today he’d only got last year.

For two long summers he’d worked at the hotel saving up; hospital corner after hospital corner on the beds, scraping his knuckles endlessly on the dark wood frame, loo after loo scrubbed, room after room vacuumed. He’d had a…

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Smorgasbord Post from Your Archives – Sacks and Notebooks by Annika Perry

It was a delight to share my obsession of notebooks on Sally’s blog earlier this week as part of her archive series. Journals were an integral part of Oliver Sacks’s life and he reckoned he’d filled over a thousand with his words. Please pop over to Sally’s site to read more!

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Welcome to the third of the archive posts from Annika Perry and this week a look at the compulsion to write everything down, especially in notebooks. Annika shares the obsession of Oliver Sacks (Awakenings amongst many books) and his over 1000 notebooks filled anywhere and at anytime… Do you have notebooks or even scraps of paper that you have trusted with your thoughts and dreams over the years?

Sacks and Notebooks by Annika Perry

No doubt we’ve all set ourselves deadlines in our writing goals. Some may even come attached with a mental forfeit. Not many can be as extreme as the one Oliver Sacks set himself over fifty years ago when writing his first book.

To complete it within ten days or failing that kill himself.

Spurred into action he wrote at times twenty hours a day and on the tenth day he handed in ‘Migraine’ to Fabers in…

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Self-publishing Tips For New Authors

Marje is never one to hang about! Following my DM on twitter plea for help last night regarding Amazon KDP tax form, she came back with with an excellent link today. Realising my dilemma and frustration are no doubt shared by many she was inspired to write this post – fantastic links regarding all aspects of self-publishing! Many thanks, Marje…so happy to have form all sorted! Bookmarking these – they will be invaluable!

M J Mallon Author

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Recently, I was asked by fellow blogger and friend Annika Perry how to fill in tax details for publishing on Kindle KDP. I messaged Annika the link below via twitter and this encouraged me to write this post to help others with some of the painstaking detail of self-publishing.

Here is the link :

KDP Tax interview:
https://catherineryanhoward.com/taxinterview

I have been collecting many other links which might be useful to people considering self-publishing. Most of these are related to publishing on Amazon Kindle:

Size of artwork for books: http://www.wordhook.com/publishing/correct-ebook-cover-dimensions/

http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/blog/how-to-format-your-ebook/

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/kindle-ebook-formatting-example/

https://litworldinterviews.com/2015/07/02/how-to-create-a-ncx-table-of-contents-for-amazon-upload-using-calibre/

If you need to sign word documents this is useful:

http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/blog/self-publish-book-amazon-kindle-kdp/#format

To make a table of contents use bookmark, typing the titles of each chapter heading briefly without any spaces.

Further self publishing links:

https://janefriedman.com/self-publish-your-book/

Ways to earn money by publishing online serially:

Tapas – A Serial Publishing Platform That Earns Money for Indie Creators via Jane Friedman

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The Enigmatic Blurb

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Why is it that even the mention of writing a blurb strikes abject terror into the normally calm and sane writer?

The task of describing and summarising a whole book, months or years of work, into a few short paragraphs seems nigh impossible. In the process the blurb has to be unique, capture the reader’s attention, excite them and tempt them to read on, ultimately to buy the book. The blurb and obviously the cover are often the first and only sales pitches for the book. The undertaking ahead feels hopeless.

Fear and dread of the blurb were my immediate reactions once I’d committed to publishing my anthology…I knew I needed one, yet every time the thought surfaced I erased it from my mind and dove even further into editing! As ever I needed a deadline and one evening I cleared my schedule for the following day, ensured I would not be disturbed and made a promise to myself to complete the blurb within 24 hours!

Early the next morning I entered my study and was confronted by my desk…the aforementioned one from my Frazzled! post. I could not work here. First I had to clean my desk – literally!

Over the past couple of months my working space had become chaotic with piles of paper and books balanced precariously and riotously on top of one another. There wasn’t even space for an A4 notebook. My solution was to move everything into the spare bedroom and once the desktop was polished I faced the gleaming wooden surface. Perfect! With reverential care I placed a notebook, pen and pencil on the desk, followed by my notes for my blurb as well as the print-out of how to write a blurb.

Yes, I lied a little…for weeks I’d been researching blurbs.

A blurb is tricky under normal circumstances and even more complex for a short story collection, I feel. First of all, I studied blurbs from other short story anthologies and I tried to pinpoint what drew me to them and what elements jarred – making notes all the time.

Next, I read ‘How to Write a Blurb’ articles online. One particular website provided fantastic information and I’d highly recommend The Author Society’s  ’17 Tips on How To Write a Blurb That Sells’.  Some tips were redundant for my anthology as the article was geared for novels. However, here are some points I found particularly useful and relevant:

  • The best length for a blurb is between 100 – 150 words. I would also like to add that it’s important to leave good line spacing for ease of reading.
  • Treat your first sentence like a pick-up line. It should entice them to read on and needs to be clever, engaging and new.
  • Use a cliffhanger. The reader needs to leave curious and hungry for more.
  • Use words that cater for your audience. They should evoke atmosphere and meet the readers expectations of the genre.
  • Use short sentences as buyers usually skim through the text.
  • Use hyperbole as these are powerful tools to spark curiosity.
  • Stay true to your voice. This piece of advice remained with me as I wrote my blurb. I felt it was vital to retain my voice which runs through the stories to be part of the blurb.
  • Use fresh eyes. Let it rest, print out and read in different formats such as phone, paper, computer.
  • Rewrite it many times.

With these notes to hand I started to scribble down ideas as I skimmed through my stories again; however there were two major stumbling blocks.

How could I include two of the most important elements of a blurb into mine; namely giving readers a setting and introducing the main characters? With so many different locations and characters; what could I do? In the end, I decided to give a flavour of some settings and some characters. With my short stories in front of me, I scanned back and forth, jotting down compelling and memorable characters, places, themes and feelings.

Gradually nuggets of a plan appeared, gems of ideas developed, but my initial blurb idea was still too vague. All the time I imagined a future customer, standing in a shop, quickly glancing at the back cover. How could I entrap them with my words, coax them to stay and read on and finally seduce them to buy a copy?

I rewrote the blurb time and again; examining every word and taking breaks as I paced around my study, reading aloud to myself, standing over my words, studying them, amending, rereading my notes.

Gradually an overall theme emerged and with this core central stabilising factor to the beginning, middle and concluding paragraphs I created my final blurb. One hundred words exactly!

The final blurb will be revealed soon! I have been promised the book cover this week and hope to post both together.

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.” Edgar Allan Poe

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Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Gothic Enlightenment by Annika Perry

Once again it’s a pleasure to take part in Sally Cronin’s ‘Posts from Your Archives’ and in this second of four instalments I revisit the mystical Whitby Abbey and join some monks on the Path to Paradise.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Welcome to the second post from the archives of Annika Perry who shares an atmospheric visit to Whitby Abbey in North Yorkshire.

The purpose of this series is to encourage you to head over and follow Annika’s blog and check out her more recent posts.. I hope you will do so.

Gothic Enlightenment by Annika Perry

Self-consciously I traced my way around the grassy labyrinth. Glancing up I caught the eye of a fellow pilgrim and sheepishly we exchanged wry smiles as I wondered, “Does he think I look ridiculous? Do I?”. The answer was an emphatic no, as I took a deep breath and continued on my way.

Arriving earlier at Whitby Abbey the cement bunker where we bought our tickets had been gloomy and disappointing, however on walking around the corner and up we were transported in time as chanting Benedict monks beckoned us forward across the sunny…

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FRAZZLED!

My Desk

It’s never taken me so long to send an email before. 

I’m not referring to writing the message; its composition came easily enough. The actual act of pressing ‘send’ seemed impossible. My cursor hovered over the paper airplane icon; pausing I sat back and scanned the document once more. I stood up and paced around the room.

The momentous moment had arrived and my first manuscript was just a click away from the publisher. I was savouring the experience while being equally terrified of the reality. Many bloggers have used the analogy of giving birth with reference to writing a book; I can identify with this emotion to a certain extent…sending away my first book to an outsider felt like I was releasing my baby into the wider world. With another few tours of the room, I returned to my seat and pressed the button. No turning back!

After weeks of intense editing on my anthology of short stories my head seemed to burn with heat and a flu-like fever of concentration reverberated around my mind whilst the rest of my body struggled against the cold. A day or two of complete relaxation was in order to restore the equilibrium.

The editing process had been unexpectedly and contradictorily tougher and easier than anticipated. 

Hour after hour of close computer and document work took its toll on my eyes and head resulting in migraine-style headaches.

However, several useful editing tools were a fantastic help in bringing my manuscript to completion.

Grammarly, a proof-reading program recommended by Jacqui Murray at Worddreams (thank you, Jacqui!), was a most invaluable editing aid. After initially reading through each story a few times, amending the plot etc where needed, correcting typos and punctuation I then used Grammarly to check for any missed errors. Surprisingly it picked up quite a few; these included spacing gaps between words, spellings and punctuation. I did have to be cautious with my changes though as the spellings were corrected to American style and it had a predilection for commas which I disagree with – see what my editor says! 

Natural Reader  proved another excellent editing tool. Once again Jacqui recommended this on her blog and I was initially sceptical but decided to trust her positive experience with it. Despite the mechanical unemotional aura to the voice (although there are various choices) it made a huge impact having each story read aloud to me. Although I’d been reading some out to myself, listening actively to each word through Natural Reader allowed me to pick up on silly mistakes including one where I had put the wrong name for a situation in a story. Yikes!

As well as a dictionary by one’s side (or the website permanently on display) it is essential for writers to consider Thesaurus as one’s best friend. My original paperback copy from childhood is gradually falling apart so I now use its services online, consulting, searching for words to improve and sharpen my writing and this was even truer during these last editing weeks. 

Finally, never underestimate the value and effectiveness of good old-fashion pen and paper – or in my case pencils! With a few sharpened pencils in my arsenal, I printed out the stories when I thought they were ready and took them downstairs where I’d commandeered the dining room table (my desk by this time was overflowing with papers!). Here the final editing took place and with the change of room, my creative spirit was rejuvenated and the final changes were made. Some of these were minor, a word or two; in other cases, a whole paragraph was rewritten and paragraph spacing was slightly adjusted in the more complex ones. Furthermore, I was inspired to change the title of two stories. 

The stories for my anthology were now ready to be sent away to my editor; however, there were several more important elements to the book to complete before the full manuscript was whole. In my next post, I will describe how I tackled the all-important blurb, tag-line and about the author page. 

Thank you very much for following my exciting journey to publication of this anthology of short stories.The book is due out beginning December and I will reveal the book title and cover soon.

“I love short stories because I believe they are the way we live. They are what our friends tell us, in their pain and joy, their passion and rage, their yearning and their cry against injustice.” Andre Dubus

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