The Mystery of the Disappearing Modern Day Novella: Why Length Shouldn’t Matter 

img_0123I occasionally get asked by my readers why some of my books are short. And by short I mean between 30 and 60,000 words. In fact only three of my books are what the industry accepts as novel length. Truth is, traditional publishers and literary agents tend to reject work that doesn’t hit the golden mark of 75,000 words (80,000 in some cases). There was even advise on a very popular agent search site for writers to shelve any novellas they have and focus on getting a few novels accepted by an agent or publisher first. Their novellas would then get a chance to see the light after they develop a strong readership. And when seeking to advertise your work, if you are self published, don’t bother trying if your book isn’t novel length. Most websites have clear rules stating they won’t accept your work. This idea baffles me. It really does.

I admit I initially started off by following these guidelines (hence the three books) but the simple fact is, not all stories need to be fleshed out to get the message across. Sometimes all a writer needs to share with the world can be conveyed in 60,000 words. Or 40,000. Maybe even 10,000. You get my drift. Don’t get me wrong, a tome is fine if it is actually written in such a way that readers feel the length is justified (one of my favourite books is the Pillars of the Earth and it’s a whooping 312,000 words). We can all relate to flicking through a few pages of a book just to realise that the only thing we got out of all those words was that it was a cold autumn’s day. And then we wish for those few minutes of our lives back, to no avail.

There is also the silent rule that books of novella length are only acceptable for children or middle grade books. Obviously this is nonesense as there are a good number of critically acclaimed works written for adults which fall very comfortably below (or just above) the 50,000 word mark. The problem being that most of these books were written over 40 years ago, which supports my theory that the rejection of novellas is a recent push by publishers and agents to appease some unknown quota. I wonder how different the world would have been if these books had been thrown into the rejection pile just based on their word count. Which brings me to the list below (yes, I actually spent some time doing research for this post). Some books on the list do in fact fall into the short novel category, but they count if we consider the modern day rejection rule of nothing less than 75,000 words. It could be a much longer list but I decided to go for books I’ve either read or have on my reading list so I can (mostly) attest to being satisfied by the completeness of the prose. A simple search engine click will throw up hundreds more and, trust me, some titles may surprise you. Here we go:
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad, 1902

Breakfast at Tiffanys – Truman Capote, 1958

Animal Farm – George Orwell, 1945

The Mist – Stephen King, 1980

I Am Legend – Richard Matheson, 1954

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens, 1843

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess, 1962

Continue reading

Aversion in German is finally here – Die Gedankenwenderin (Mentalisten-Serie, #1)

Roughly seventeen months after my initially post about the German translation of Aversion (I promise, I wasn’t counting the days), I am so pleased to finally announce it’s here! Well, nearly here…more like 11th December, but it can be purchased on pre-order now from a multitude of ebook sites (Amazon, iBooks, ebooks.de, Smashwords). The list of available outlets is still growing and I will post these when they become available.

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Für Gemma Green hätte das erste Mal ein Kinderspiel sein sollen: Finde deine Zielperson, blicke ihnen tief in die Augen und pushe einen Gedanken in ihren Kopf, um sie vor zukünftigen Katastrophen zu bewahren – Gedankenwendung vollbracht! Ein ziemlich einfacher Prozess, wenn man bedenkt, dass die Zielperson später keine Erinnerung an die Erfahrung haben sollte. Aber Russel Tanner scheint nicht vergessen zu wollen. Im Gegenteil, je mehr sie ihm aus dem Weg geht, desto mehr drängt er darauf sie näher kennenzulernen. Gemma weiß, dass sie in Schwierigkeiten ist, aber hat sie es mit den Nebenwirkungen einer schiefgegangenen Gedankenwendung zu tun oder hat sich der Tennis-Champion der Schule wirklich in sie verliebt?

 

First of all, I would like to thank the amazing Jana Koebel who offered to take this task on in the first place (what do I know about translations?!) and who spent a crazy amount of time working on turning my gabbled English into fluent German. She also did a ton of other work like getting the .epub and .mobi files set up correctly and finding a cover designer, including translating all my annoying micromanaging Continue reading

It Has Soooooo Not Been Five Months!

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First of all, I would like to express my apologies to anyone who follows this blog with the hope of receiving constant posts. It has been over five months since my last one and, even though I keep on meaning to write a few words, I don’t just want to post something for the sake of posting. My thoughts occasionally linger on stuff I’d like to share, but my fingers haven’t quite made it to a keyboard in time…

My second apology is related to the next book in my Mentalist book series, Keepers. It was noted as “coming soon” at the end of Sentient which was released around now in 2013. I have managed to release one book in the series each year since Aversion came out so you can understand my desire to carry on this tradition and why I was racked with guilt about this for a while. The thing is, earlier this year as I was having one of my mini panic attacks about my lack of productivity, a work colleague  said something along the lines of, “Good things take time to get right so don’t rush it.” That was the moment I decided that, no matter how much guilt I felt about not having time or motivation to write, I had to take a deep breath and accept it would get done when it was right. Not that I’d ever compare myself to George RR Martin’s brilliance but Continue reading

Do-Re-Mi = Knackered Kenechi

back stage damien rice

So…I’ve been singing a lot. And I mean a lot, a lot. A minimum of three days a week, if you count practise and actual performances. Okay when I put it that way it sounds like I actually do nothing other than sing all day. It only comes to about six hours in total each week, but that doesn’t include commuting time, socialising time (yes, there is the occasional pub singing session after rehearsals), and I still work a full day’s job (all those new beautiful buildings won’t draw themselves). It’s all choral stuff, which takes the pressure off a little bit, but when I made the commitment to join a community choir last year, I had no idea it would be so time consuming.

I’d been singing with my church choir for years (which was pretty much a turn up, pick up hymn book and sign along affair) and thought it’d be fun to sign on to something less hymnal. Only criteria was it had to be a non-audition choir, preferably for people who can’t read music (seeing as I can’t), so when I stumbled upon the London City Voices choir online last summer, I reckoned I should give them a try. Despite my nerves and lack of musical expertise, the first practise I arrived at blew me away. With no need to read the musical notations on the pages we were handed (save for the words, of course), the very enthusiastic musical director ran through some of my favourite songs – a mashup of Toto’s Africa and Rosanna and then a rock medley which included Smells Like Teen Spirit and Alone – and I was hooked! Nine months later, I’ve hardly missed a session.

damien rice combi

Thing is, although I’m loving it all and having the time of my life (other than a bunch of charity events, we sang on stage with Damien Rice last November at the London Palladium – need I say more?), I have to admit it’s been eating into my writing time. Did I mention the church choir also hired an equally enthusiastic musical director so it’s no longer a turn up and sing set up. I’ve even (reluctantly) been roped into doing some solos! Seriously! Anyway all this means I sooooo don’t feel like switching on a PC at night after a long day at work, plus nearly two/three hours of singing and socialising. So my writing has been cut back to a few hours a week. Bummer for the world, I know, heehee.  But for the second half of 2015, I’m hoping to be a bit more disciplined and work out a balance to get the pen (ehem, keyboard) flowing again. It’ll definitely help that most of my TV shows take a break over the summer. I won’t mention how many hours of my life are wasted wondering if the zombies will get Rick or when the dragons will wise up and eat Daenerys. Wish me luck!

World Book Day 2015

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Today is World Book Day! Read a book, listen to a book, write a book, buy a book, lend a book, borrow a book. Whatever you do, pop a book into the mix and enjoy yourself!

Twice Upon A Time Book Release Blast

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Blurb:

Fairytales don’t always happen once upon a time. Fables don’t always have a happy ending. Sometimes the stories we love are too dark for nightmares. What if waking Sleeping Beauty was the worse thing the Prince could have done? What if Rapunzel wasn’t in that tower for her own protection—but for everyone else’s?

Assembled by The Bearded Scribe Press, Twice Upon A Time combines classics and modern lore in peculiar and spectacular ways. From Rapunzel to Rumpelstiltskin, this unique collection showcases childhood favorites unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Both traditionally-published and independent authors will take you on a whirlwind ride through fairytale and folklore, myth and majick. Cherished stories are revisited and remastered into newly-treasured tales of hope and heartache, of adversity and adventure.

This collection features 43 short stories ranging in length from 2K-12K words from the following cast of talented writers:

Bo Balder, AJ Bauers, Carina Bissett, Rose Blackthorn, S.M. Blooding, Rick Chiantaretto, Richard Chizmar, Liz DeJesus, Court Ellyn, S.Q. Eries, Steven Anthony George, Dale W. Glaser, Jax Goss, K.R. Green, Kelly Hale, Tonia Marie Harris, Brian T. Hodges, Tarran Jones, Jason Kimble, Shari L. Klase, Alethea Kontis, Hannah Lesniak, Wayne Ligon, RS McCoy, Joshua Allen Mercier, Robert D. Moores, Diana Murdock, Nick Nafpliotis, Elizabeth J. Norton, Bobbie Palmer, William Petersen, Rebekah Phillips, Asa Powers, Joe Powers, Brian Rathbone, Julianne Snow, Tracy Arthur Soldan, C.L. Stegall, Brian W. Taylor, Kenechi Udogu, Onser von Fullon, Deborah Walker, Angela Wallace, and Cynthia Ward.

Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier. Cover art by Luke Spooner.


 

Excerpt from Fire & Ash by Joshua Allen Mercier, a dark fantasy retelling of Little Red Riding Hood:

THE cold, autumn gusts ripped across Salem’s port, stirring the angry waters, stirring the angry spectators gathered before the gallows—gallows which had not, until this day, been used since the Trials several years back. Men, women, children—all bore hateful eyes and twisted faces. All bore a deep-seeded fear of the woman before them; they watched and seethed, anger building like fire fed by the winds, waiting for answers, for closure, for justice—for the devil’s death.

Constance Archer stared at the sea of faces; she despised all of them, save two—two faces that weren’t supposed to be there. Her daughters, Rhiannon and Rowan, hid in the small grove of trees, but she could still see their watery, green eyes piercing through the shadows, their stares stabbing their fear and pain and confusion into her. They weren’t supposed to see her like this. With the gag still tightly secured about her mouth, however, her muffled pleas for them to leave went unheard.

Where was their grandmother?

Constance’s fiery locks were drenched with tears. Her heart ached. For them, for herself, for her husband, Jacob. She shouldn’t have let the rage overtake her; she knew that now, now that it was too late.

“For the crimes of witchcraft, how do you plea?”

Even though the thick rope around her neck made it difficult to escape it—to forget—the reverend’s voice jolted her back to reality.

“Not guilty,” Constance replied through the gag, unsure if her plea was understood.

“Executioner, please remove the gag from the accused.”

The reverend’s statement was cold. They had known each other since they were children, but he was but a stranger now as he stood before her. He was once so compassionate, so caring—what had changed?

The executioner approached Constance with apprehension; she soon understood why. Despite the black hood covering his face, his scent—sweet, woody, musky, like freshly-sawn wood mixed with perfume and sweat—immediately revealed his identity: William Black. He removed the gag with haste and stepped across the gallows with a speed she hadn’t witnessed him have in years.

How fitting that the town adulterer would be the one to hang her. She wondered who the woman had been, the one whose scent lingered on his clothing and skin. Surely it wasn’t his wife, Catherine.

It couldn’t be.

She had killed her, in a way, the memory of the act flooding back to her nearly causing her to faint. Seems Catherine and her husband didn’t understand the meaning of marriage; then again, neither did Jacob (apparently). Catching him with Catherine was the most heart-breaking of all.

Wyatt Thatcher cleared his throat. “Mrs. Archer—your plea, now that we can hear you.”

Constance stared at her old friend, pain and tears welling in her eyes. “Not guilty.”

“If not for witchcraft, how do account for the brutal way you murdered Catherine Black? Surely, you were possessed,” countered Reverend Thatcher.

“I didn’t murder Catherine Black. As I told you all before, she was attacked by a beast.” She wasn’t lying, but she wasn’t telling the whole truth. The truth wouldn’t save her, and she couldn’t have her daughters hearing it. They weren’t supposed to be here, but calling attention to them now would only make matters worse.

“You’re the beast!” a woman’s voice sounded from the throng.

“Witch!” said another, followed by her husband’s jibe, “You’re Satan’s whore!”

Reverend Thatcher held his hand to the crowd; without a word, they fell silent. It wasn’t their first execution; it probably wouldn’t be their last. His attention turned to the defendant, but his eyes remained downcast, staring at the rough wood of the gallows as if it were the most interesting sight he had ever beheld.

Constance knew why Wyatt Thatcher wouldn’t look at her, knew he couldn’t show a hint of weakness or compassion for her lest he be hanged, too, for sympathizing with the Devil. Satan was in Salem Village that day—no doubt about that. But it wasn’t Constance or Reverend Thatcher. The Devil stood in the crowd, reflected in the eyes of every spectator. His hunger bellowed in their calls, their taunts, their glares, and it wouldn’t be satisfied until her limp, lifeless body waved in the autumn winds like a banner for their tainted justice, a flag of their blood-stained victory over evil.

Wyatt’s hardness broke, even if for just a second, Constance the only witness to the silent tear soaking its fleshy path across his regretful face. “And please explain to us why you were covered in her blood.”

“I’ve told you all this before, Wyatt…” Using the reverend’s first name stirred a wave of gasps from the crowd, forcing her to pause. “I carried Catherine into my house to try to stop her bleeding, to prevent her death.”

That was a lie; it was what she wanted everyone to believe, but it had been all for naught. It had only sealed her fate.

“And what of your husband’s disappearance?” An icy gust of wind blew through Constance’s locks of red hair; with it, Thatcher’s own coldness returned. “Did you use witchcraft to dispose of his body?”

“My husband was attacked, too, his body dragged into the orchard by the beast.”

That was a lie, too. She couldn’t tell them the truth—that she had, in a fit of rage after seeing Jacob and Catherine naked in the orchard, cursed her husband’s appetite for flesh. The curse had gone horribly wrong…

 

 

Praise:

“Brilliant change-up on the new flood of “Fairy Tale Twists”. If you’re looking for something that can suck you in right away, this book is definitely it. The collection of short stories makes sure you never get bored with the story or writing style.”   ~Jett Murdock / Amazon review

 

About the Publisher:

The Bearded Scribe Press, LLC is an independent publisher of quality Speculative Fiction. They aim to become a platform for emerging writers to get discovered by the mainstream and inversely, through becoming a staple in the literary community, becoming the source for readers to discover emerging talent in the Speculative Fiction realm.

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Watch the [Extended] Book Trailer:

Twice Upon A Time: Fairytale, Folklore and Myth – Reimagined and Remastered.

Twice upon a time_coverTwice upon a time_back cover

I am so thrilled to be a part of this spectacular fairytale retelling anthology. Twice Upon A Time was put together by editor and blogger Joshua Allen Mercier as a launch for his new publishing house, The Bearded Scribe. Having previously been featured on Joshua’s blog (Aversion review), I was approached earlier this year with an invitation to submit a short story for the launch. Since I’d already tackled Cinderella’s story in my YA novel, The Other Slipper, I figured I would try to come up with something darker for this. About six months later, I submitted my  wacky take on the Sleeping Beauty story, which was accepted (phew!) and now sits alongside about 40 other stories . I hope new and old readers of my work will enjoy the stories, and share your thoughts on them online.

The anticipated release date is the 23rd of December, just in time for a Christmas morning read in bed. I will post more links up in the coming week but, in the meantime, below is the book’s blurb and links to its Youtube book trailer Continue reading

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