Tuesday, 26 January 2016

How to Make the Most of a Radio Appearance

By Gillian Hamer

It's true that many of us may not have a queue of eager literary interviewers lined up, or have Radio 4 Woman's Hour leaving multiple voicemails on our mobiles, but never underestimate the power of local radio for spreading the word about you and your writing. Most especially if your novels are set in a particular location and so generate local interest as your publicity USP.

My crime fiction novels are all based around North Wales and the island of Anglesey. Last year I was lucky enough to be approached via social media by local Anglesey radio station MON FM, and enjoyed a whole afternoon of studio time, interview, book chat and caller questions.

Prior to the interview, I gave myself a few weeks preparation time, never having looked into the dos and do-nots of radio appearances beforehand. There was a lot of useful - and even more irrelevant - information on the internet. But I thought it would be interesting to pass on what I learned on the day and which advice I found the most useful.

With host Rhys Mwyn, Mon FM


Depending on the type of interview, much of the conversation is more than likely going to focus around whatever you are promoting at the time, eg your latest novel. Make sure you are in touch with the book, re-read it if necessary and think about selecting some quotes that you can use to highlight the story. Obviously you won’t want to give away every twist of the plot, but ensure the story is fresh in your mind and that you remember the name of your characters. Read segments aloud to ensure you’re happy with how they sound and that they show off your work in its best light. This has to be seen as a free advert for your writing, make sure you are polished to perfection and don’t mess it up!


Many of us hate the sound of our own voice, and not many of us have the natural skills to pull off a clear radio voice. Listen to some similar programmes beforehand, match the speed and timing of your voice against a professional, and try to match the rhythms that appeal to your own ear. Learn breathing techniques if you’re concerned that may be an issue. There are lots of tips online about voice techniques that may be worth a listen. If you have a list of questions in advance, practise the answers by reading aloud over and over until you’re happy not only with the responses, but happy with the sound of your own voice too! I would say that I found I needed to slow my talking right down, avoid repeating phrases, and try to inject a smile into your voice at the same time. Above all, be natural.


It may well be a good idea to research not only the interviewer but also the radio show. Do you know what slot you are expected to fill? Is the interview part of a series? Does the show have a target audience or message? If it is a literary based show, is it high-brow or relaxed? I’d suggest having a look at previous guests, read a bio of the show, download a podcast, or listen again online to a previous interview if available. Also, spend an hour researching the host of the show. Do you have any common ground that could be used to break the ice? Is there anything relevant in your books you could use as an opening topic? Any time spent on background work will doubtless pay dividends and no doubt it will be noticed and appreciated. 


One thing that worked well for me was the fact that I’d spent time and effort publicising the interview online via social media well in advance of the day. Not only did it get picked up by the radio station on Twitter and they began retweeting my links, I also had a personal thank you from the boss of the station who’d seen the pre-promotional work I’d put in. Not everyone is a Twitter professional, but remember that any publicity is good publicity in media circles, and if you link the right people, it’s not long before your single tweet can be seen by a huge audience. Choose a catchy hashtag and select local people who will spread the word. If you prefer Facebook, ask your friends to share your post with links and information about the interview, or join local based Facebook groups who will be able to tune in and promote your appearance there. It may even be worth paying for a Facebook ad to reach a wider audience.


Finally, despite all the background work, rehearsal time, and publicity … it’s vital to remember to relax and be yourself. Not only will it make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable, it will also help you come across well on the radio. Try to leave nerves in the car park and concentrate on staying calm and professional. If you’re tense, fake, forced or terrified, no one is going to sit and listen in their kitchens …. and you will have wasted a huge opportunity to get your name and your books out to a whole new audience of readers.

You can hear excerpts from the interview on MonFM via Triskele Books' media page HERE

60 Seconds with Conrad Jones

Conrad Jones spent 12 years working for the biggest quick service restaurant brand in the world. On March 20th 1993 the IRA terrorist organisation bombed the shopping centre outside the restaurant he was managing that day. The experience fuelled an interest in the root causes of extremist terrorists and the reasoning why its perpetrators feel justified in taking innocent lives. That incident sparked the story of 'Soft Target' and many books later his last release 'Three' in November 2015. He is now a full-time writer and admits he is 'living the dream.'

Hello, Conrad, tell us a little about you and your writing.

I'm 50 this year, which is something I am surprised to be and I am the author of 14 novels, which is an even greater surprise. I began writing in 2007 and have no desire to stop yet. I live on Holy Island, North Wales with my Staffie, Annie Jones.

You cover some pretty dark topics in your books - where do you get your ideas?

The news. My stories all germinate from a real event or series of events and then evolve from there.

You have a loyal fan base - is that important to you as a writer?

Absolutely. It is the one thing that keeps you going when you hit turbulence. The day my readers stop liking my books is the day that I will stop writing ha ha!

Do you have a special writing place?

My settee with the Staffie curled up next to me.

How do you handle research in your novels?

I usually research as I reach a subject that needs clarifying or when something needs credibility. I do it as I write.

Any plans to write in a different genre one day - romance perhaps? :-)

None at all.......I have drifted into the horror genre but my books blur the lines between thrillers and horror anyway so it wasn't much of a challenge....

Which one music cd or album would you take to a desert island and why?

David Bowie's Heroes. Bowie had a huge effect on my teens and the music I listen to. He changed his music style many times and influences so many artists today.

Which one book do you wish you'd written and why?

50 Shades......because I would be loaded....ha ha! Seriously though, Domain by James Herbert simply because it mesmerised me as I read it. It hooked me from page 1 and if you can do that to a reader, then you are truly an author.

If you could give three top tips to a newbie writer, what would they be?

1, Don't give up your day job until you have a series of novels selling well. It took me 8 years to become an overnight success and get a good proofreader.
2, Get another good proofreader to check the first edit.
3, Get a third good proofreader, just to be sure.

What are your future writing plans?

My latest novel Thr3e was my favourite to write. Having said that, the latest one is always my favourite. There are some characters and organisations in that story that I am not done with yet. I have another two novels in my head for 2016. I want to reach 20 novels and then I think I will just read other people's stuff ha ha!

Find Conrad ...



Twitter : @ConradJones

Question Corner - February 2016

Lorraine Mace answers a plea for reassurance

George from Somerset sent in the following plea for reassurance: I have been writing for a few years, but have never managed to get anything published. The only people who read my stories are friends and family. They all say they enjoy them, but if they really are any good, why can’t I get them published? I started writing a novel last year, but feel so disheartened I don’t think I’ll ever get round to finishing it. I often feel like giving up, but I really enjoy writing, so don’t want to do that. How can I get my stories published so that I’m not just writing for people who know me?

I receive similar emails every month. So many writers worry they will never be published and hover on the brink of giving up. Some do, of course, but the majority continue because they cannot imagine a life where they no longer write.

In your case, you at least have family and friends who read your work and encourage you to continue. Some writers don’t even have that kind of support system. I know that doesn’t answer your question, but I wanted to make the point that true writers never give up and the fact that you have sent in your email shows you are a long way from throwing in the towel – even if you think you’re close to doing so!

The most important point in your email was that you enjoy writing. So why not take a moment to look at why you write. We all want to be published and strive to fit publishers’ guidelines, but ironically we are more likely to be successful if we write what makes us happy – prose or poetry that makes our own hearts sing stands a better chance of being chosen than something written to conform to rules.

So, having accepted you are not going to give up, what can you do to ensure a greater audience than family and friends?

Be self-critical
You are getting despondent because you haven’t yet had success and fear you’re not good enough, but are you sending out work too soon? How many times do you rewrite your stories before submission? No matter how good a writer you are, first, second or even third drafts are unlikely to be polished enough to win prizes or be picked for a magazine.

Put your work away for at least a week between drafts and edit from a hard copy, not on the computer. It is much easier to spot clunky sentences, repetitions and plot holes on paper than when reading on a screen.

Get critical feedback
One of the problems with friends and family is that they are unlikely to tell you the truth about things they don’t like and will only mention the good points. This is not helpful in the long term. Are you a member of a group where you receive feedback from other writers?

If there isn’t a group in your area, or the timing doesn’t work for you, join an online group. If only one person mentions a problem it’s still worth thinking about it, but probably not something to worry too much about. However, if several mention the same issue, you need to find a way to correct the flaw.

Read, read, read
One of the best ways to improve your writing is to read the works of others. I don’t mean to copy their style or content, but simply to immerse yourself in good writing. If you read well-written books, you will subconsciously absorb the things that make the writing stand out for all the right reasons.

Start a blog
Pick a subject that interests you and write a short piece on it each week. You may not have many readers at first, but if you pick up even twenty followers, that is twenty more readers than you currently have.

Try to word the ending of each post so that you invite comments. Imagine how thrilled you will be when perfect strangers engage you in conversation about something you have written.

Invest in yourself as a writer
If success remains elusive, it could be that you are not yet ready to be published.

Read books, blogs and magazines on writing. Think about taking a writing course – either online or in the real world. Attend a few writing events where you get to listen to established authors giving the benefit of their experiences. Go to festivals where agents and publishers are talking about what excites them.

Never give up
The important point is that you should never give up. Many authors achieve success after years of rejections. Imagine where some of the best-known names in literature would be today if they allowed a few rejections to put them off?

Real writers never give up and your cry for reassurance puts you firmly into the real writer category. Good luck!

Lorraine Mace is the humour columnist for Writing Magazine and head competition judge for Writers’ Forum. She is a former tutor for the Writers Bureau, and is the author of the Writers Bureau course, Marketing Your Book. She is also co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam of The Writer’s ABC Checklist (Accent Press). Lorraine runs a private critique service for writers (link below). She is the founder of the Flash 500 competitions covering flash fiction, short story and novel openings.

Her debut novel for children, Vlad the Inhaler, has now been followed by the second in the trilogy, Vlad’s Quest (LRP).

Writing as Frances di Plino, she is the author of four crime/thriller novels featuring Detective Inspector Paolo Storey: Bad Moon Rising, Someday Never Comes, Call It Pretending and Looking for a Reason (Crooked Cat Publishing).

Monday, 25 January 2016

Short Story Competition 2015 - The Longlist!

The longlist for our Short Story Competition 2015 is:
​Ali Bacon, Silver Harvest
Anthony Howcroft, Race for the Pot
Bob Elvis, Original Sin
Catherine Deery, Apples
Erika Woods, I Am Not Afraid
Josie Turner, The Co-Operative
Julia Anderson, Word Spittle
Julian Moruzzi, The Burden
Julian Moruzzi, Close Proximities
Karen Jones, For the Life of Us
Lady Doreen Massey, My Mother's Corsets
Mark Robberts, Steps of Time
Nichola Gardner, The Nightingale's Song
Nicolas Ridley, Compliance 
Paul Chiswick, Lost Souls
Robin Wrigley, Idi's Arc
Sarah Barr, Northern Lights
Sherri Turner, You Can Keep Your Hat On
Steve Wade, A Temptress on Cloven Hooves
Taria Karillion, A Eulogy for Boo
Taria Karillion, The Stolen Day
Tina Williams, White Elephant
Valerie Jane Wilson, The Day Before Thanksgiving, 1952
Valerie Jane Wilson, Belle Dame sans Merci
Will Ingrams, Nightscabbling
Judge: Jan Ruth
The real story began at school, with prizes for short stories and poetry. She failed all things mathematical and scientific, and to this day struggles to make sense of anything numerical. Her first novel - written in 1986 - attracted the attention of Anne Dewe (Andrew Mann Literary Agency Ltd). Dewe was looking for the right material in order to set up her own company, Love Stories Ltd, a project aiming to champion those books of substance which contained a romantic element but were perhaps directed towards the more mature reader and consistently fell through the net in traditional publishing.
Jan’s second novel was taken on by agent Jane Judd, and went on to win the most popular book of the year in 2011 with Cornerstones Editorial Services: an association which provided a springboard for the future. 
Jan has published several works of fiction and short story collections, is an award finalist, has written for Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, and has recently signed a six-book deal with Accent Press.  Her backlist will be republished throughout 2015-2016.
The Winner will be announced on Friday 5th February 2016.
And don't miss our First Page Competition 2016 ...
For full details and entry form, click here

Saturday, 23 January 2016

60 Seconds with Shani Struthers

Hello, Shani, tell us a little about you and your writing.

Hi! I’ve been a copywriter for twenty years, writing mainly for the travel industry and then started writing novels three years ago. I started off in romance but moved to the dark side with my second book and have stayed there.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

The writing – I love it when I’ve got a book on the go, although plot points can sometimes make your brain ache. Even so, when you down tools for the day and you’ve got another 4-5,000 words under your belt, it’s the best feeling ever.

And the worst?

The promotional side – nowadays an author cannot just write, she has to sell her novels too. Having said it’s the worst, however, I have an Author Page on Facebook and it’s there I interact mainly with readers, so that bit is fab! 

Do you have a special writing place?

My office is in my house – it’s the room nearest to the kitchen so I can keep fuelling myself with tea and coffee. Yeah, I love it; it’s very special to me!

Why do you write paranormal novels?

As I mentioned above I started off writing romance but the paranormal has always been my big love. I’ve grown up with a mother who held a deep interest in the spiritual world and who even dabbled a little (in a good way!) and that interest carries on in me. She’s a very knowledgeable woman and has taught me a lot.

Which writers do you most admire and why?

I admire anyone who has the discipline to sit down and write a book – it’s not easy! Big name authors include Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Catherine Cookson, Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters – an eclectic mix I know. But I also like to support the Indie author – the lesser sung in the publishing world are putting some gems out there, including Jan Ruth, Sarah England, Yasmin Selena Butt and Linda Gillard. There are really too many of them to mention.

Which three books would you take to your desert island?

Easy! Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

If you could give three top tips to a newbie writer, what would they be?

Write from the heart – always. Grow a thick skin – you’re going to need it. Be willing to learn your craft – there is always room for improvement.

What are your future writing plans?

Psychic Surveys Book Three: 44 Gilmore Street is currently with test readers and will hopefully be published in Spring 2016. Then it’s onto Psychic Surveys Book Four and after that a novella. I’m really interested in novella writing; it’s a medium that lends itself well to the ghost story I think.

Facebook Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/p9yggq9

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shani_struthers

Blog: http://shanisite.wordpress.com

Goodreads http://tinyurl.com/mq25mav

Intentions by Anne Stormont

The writer's road is paved with good intentions.

I'm ambivalent about New Year resolutions. Don't get me wrong, I like the feeling of a fresh start that the dawn of each new year brings. I like the feeling that positive life changes might just be possible, and find hope in the optimistic perspective of a pristine set of twelve new months spread before me. I like to think I will lose weight, get fitter, be a better person. But I've also been through enough Januarys to know that resolutions seldom last for even those first thirty-one days.

So, in this article I'm not concerned with the above relatively lightweight use of resolution. No, here I'm concerned with its use as the opposite of procrastination, that nemesis encountered by many aspiring and experienced writers. Now, I should say that there are perhaps writers who don't suffer from procrastination, for whom the passion and urge to write is irresistible and who never doubt their role as authors. All I can say to those, most likely, pencil-slim, marathon running, all-round nice guys is Happy New Year. But for the rest of us, let's take a look at the type of resolution that's required to produce a piece of writing.

Resolution is a slippery word. It has, according to my Concise Oxford English Dictionary, eight definitions of meaning and, according to my Oxford Thesaurus, over fifty alternative words. So it's a multi-layered and complex word. But isn't that the joy of so many words in the English language?
Amongst the dictionary definitions were determination, formal expression of intention, and firm decision. But while I think all three can be applied to beating procrastination, I was particularly drawn to the less obvious (for writerly purposes) definitions. This was of course partly because, as a writer, I liked their metaphorical applications.

Firstly, there is the definition of resolution as it applies to music i.e. the passing of a discord into a concord during the course of changing harmony. So for writers that could mean moving from the negative voices in the head to the more positive, discarding the defeatist self-talk that says you're not good enough, that the task is too big, and having the courage and self-belief to go for it. Thereby finding a pleasing harmony between effort, output and the satisfaction of completion.
Secondly, there is the definition as it applies in medicine. That is the disappearance of a symptom or condition. So, goodbye to acute I-can't-do-this-itis and/or chronic I'll-do-it-when-I've-got-the-time- syndrome and hello to being cured and proclaiming proudly, "I'm a writer."

And thirdly, the definition of resolution as it applies in science, that is the smallest interval observable by a telescope or other scientific instrument. This is both an inspiring and comforting metaphorical definition for writers. We can break down our novel, memoir, poem, short story or how-to book  (or indeed one thousand word article) into small steps. These can be microscopic -  such as opening a new document on the computer, buying a new notebook or  researching local evening classes in writing.  Or they can be small - such as writing the first sentence or two, or attending that local course. Or there are the slightly bigger steps of a competition deadline, or sharing our work with a real world or online writing group. And so on.

As for the thesaurus alternatives to resolution, there's a rich seam here that can apply to the required mindset for the productive writer: perseverance, persistence, steadfastness, courage, boldness, aspiration, aim, proposal, strength of will.

I was especially taken with the suggested alternatives of decree, declaration, working out, conclusion and ending.  I like the idea of proclaiming my writing intentions (even if only to myself and my diary) and seeing them through to a satisfying (for me and, I hope, my readers) conclusion. I also liked the suggested antonyms to resolution these being, half-heartedness and prolongation. Wouldn't you just want to kick both their rears?

The motto of Leith Academy, the high school which I attended, was Persevere, so if forced to distil all of the above as it applies to my own resolution to make 2016 a productive writing year, then I'd go for perseverance as my one word  resolute declaration of intent.

And I'd take settlement as my back-up, thesaurus alternative to resolution as that just happens to be the title of my work-in- progress.  Now what's the dictionary definition of karma?

Do you have any writing resolutions? Do you find making resolutions in any of the above senses to be effective when it comes to getting those words written? Or do you not see the need to be resolute, as writing is something you're so passionate about, it comes naturally?

Anne Stormont is an author-publisher. She can be a subversive old bat but maintains a kind heart. As well as writing for this fine organ, she writes contemporary fiction for adults and has published two novels so far. She also writes for children, when she goes by the name of her alter-ego, Anne McAlpine. She blogs at http://putitinwriting.me  – where you can find out lots more about her.

Websites at: annestormont.co.uk  and annemcalpine.co.uk

Cornerstones Mini Masterclass February 2016

with Ayisha Malik, Managing Editor at Cornerstones Literary Consultancy.

Each issue, Cornerstones Literary Consultancy explores and critiques a reader's opening page. If you would like to participate in their Opening Page Mini Masterclass, send your opening page (400 approx words) as a Word Document attachment to submissions@wordswithjam.co.uk with the subject ‘Cornerstones Masterclass’. Pieces for critique are chosen at random from those submitted to Words with JAM.

Rosette by Cindy Rinaman Marsch

Rosette – Dissolution

Still quick and slim, still well turned out at fifty-eight. With shine to my hair—when I can dress it—and light in my eyes. But suddenly cut off, with the flourish of a pen, the run of a press. I sit here still, in this dark sod shanty, my granddaughter outside chattering, her mother Lillie dragging the dusty wash off the line. We’ve scraped the earth—or my son DeWitt has—and we women have tended the children and labored long days to feed us all. In the quiet the babe is asleep in the cradle beside me, in the spot where the sunshine pries through—and the wind in winter. A generation ago DeWitt was the babe in my lap—and his father Otis chopping trees to clear the farm near my folks in Michigan. Now my son breaks the bones of the earth to farm here—to coax food from the soil and beat back the vermin that race us to harvest.

That little waver of afternoon sun flickers down on the letter in my lap. It’s just a line or two from daughter Ella, folded round the notice in the newspaper. Otis has sued divorce on me. Two years’ absence and I have deserted him, the law says. So be it—I will not answer for it.

I rode the train here two years ago, rumbling out west, then north, to whatever might be here for me, for my eldest son’s family. A young family ought to have help from their folks in homesteading, as ours helped us. And so I came.

But, truth be told, moreso I left. I left what had long since shriveled and died. I left the oppressive eye of Otis’s old mother waiting to be served and watching to quaver at me. I left Otis’s deranged brother drooling and wild-eyed, gaining strength in middle-age. And I left my last babe, Percy—twelve then, fourteen now—who sees no wrong in Otis. So it is with the boys—they see their father’s muscled arms and callused, scarred hands. The gleam in his eyes they mistake as ambition for the farm. Always something new he longs for, and better—better than I, for certain.

Most sad of all, I left the girls to the daily care of that menagerie. Ella writes of her suitor, and soon will fly into his arms. Her sisters have yet a few years. Among them they can keep the house, their routines set. The rhythms of the harvests will well enough provide for them all. I am grown too old—no matter I can still turn a reel at a dance—to bear it any longer.

Critique by Ayisha Malik

This is an intriguing first page. It has a great sense of setting: dusty terrain, struggling with the labour and harvest, and the author’s imagery gives a tantalising taste of this. The Voice is strong, which helps to reel the reader in and the author has seeded in some key details of the character’s life, which brings a sense of Tension to the story. Note that this tension does not just leave the reader to ponder what happened – which to a large extent, might not be that important – but rather what will happen. Here, I think, the author could bring in a greater sense of foreboding.

I’m not sure how the story will unfold, but it seems that the author is filtering in a sense of jeopardy through the Conflict of the character’s marriage and the decision she made to leave her husband and family. Otis has been roughly sketched as a kind of brute, and we are prone to believe the narrator, but what the reader is left to wonder is how this might play out as the story progresses. The author could do more here to Show us what Otis was like in order to heighten this sense of tension and mystery. For example, the character might have a flashback of the life she left behind, giving us a glimpse of her husband and even her children.

This might also help to gain reader sympathy. As mentioned, the voice is strong, but the decision to leave an entire family behind, including children that are fairly young, could be construed as selfish. This didn’t hinder my opinion of the protagonist but might be something that prevents the reader from sympathising fully with her. A flashback might help to flesh out Characterisation and give us a better idea of how we should feel upon reading that Otis has asked for a divorce. Right now, it seems as if it is a good option, which actually diminishes the conflict. In fact, a greater feeling of emotional conflict would help here. This relates to having a strong Emotional Arc for the main character, but also should help the reader sympathise with her decision to leave. Right now it seems she is rather too at peace with her choice.

There could also be a better sense of clarity in terms of place and what she’s left behind­. For example, when she receives a letter from Ella could it be clearer that she is living with DeWitt, on her son’s farm, and Ella is with her father and the rest of her family? The information is already there, but it could be clarified. This can sometimes happen when we’re introduced to too many characters without them being in the actual scene, so the author could think about how each one is filtered in. I also wondered about plausibility: with her being fifty-eight and the youngest being fourteen she felt quite old, considering the time they’re living in. This might be answered in the rest of the story but is something to consider when thinking about issues of believability.

Generally, the Style felt strong and leans towards the literary genre but there were times when certain sentences jarred for me, which contributes to the lack of clarity sometimes. For example, the all-important opening, ‘Still quick and slim, still well turned out and fifty-eight’ read a little awkwardly and it might be worth paying attention to that. Also, ‘…the babe is asleep in the cradle beside me, in the spot where the sunshine pries through—and the wind in winter’ ­– the latter part of that sentence feels forced and awkward. The style should underpin the story, allowing the reader’s eye to sweep over it and be caught up in its world, not struggle with it. Some tweaks should help to give the writing more fluidity so the reader isn’t forced to pause over, or re-read, anything.

Overall, the opening has real promise. If the author could think about some of the issues I’ve highlighted, focusing on Style, Characterisation and the Emotional Conflict, giving a heightened sense of foreboding, developing these aspects and Showing a little more to the reader, this should make the narrative more involving. A better sense of clarity in terms of who is who – the people the character has left behind and where she is now should also be beneficial.

I wish the author the best of luck with this confident piece of writing.