Dying to be Thin by Lola Blake

Dying to be Thin

Principal category Health
Word count (approximate pages) 36,200 (150)
In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $3.00

“I hate being fat. I hate being thin. But most of all, I hate that I even care.”

Follow 12 year old Becky’s diary as she describes how her young life is dominated by the perceived need to follow ridiculous fashions portrayed by under-nourished models with or without subsequent ‘adjustment’ using photo-editing software. Soon enough she is lying to her family and herself about food and her weight as well as indulging in shoplifting at local stores.

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A long stay in an anorexia clinic is the turning point for this ultimately uplifting true story. Becky not only learns to recognise the illness for what it is, she also becomes aware of how it has grabbed hold of others. Dying to be Thin is not a ‘happy’ story but it is an inspiring one and would make an excellent ‘wake up’ call to any Tweenie or young teen who is getting caught up in the low self-esteem – diet – anorexia – low self-esteem vicious circle.

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Nettie’s Quest by Clare Mishica

Nettie's Quest

Principal category Children
Word count (approximate pages) 29,700 (80)
In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $3.00

You’ve got to be bats not to love Nettie!

Nettie is a young bat with no belief at all in her own abilities and a terminal fear of everything. Despite being sweet and well-meaning, she earns the enmity of the leader of the bat colony who also happens to be the resident bully – Cleo. It is Cleo who challenges her to the impossible feat of bringing back a dog.

Enter Weber, a half-starved furry giant of a dog who is chained up and only interested in food. However he is no match for Nettie once she spots his potential and starts rousing him.

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Will these two highly unlikely companions be friends? Can Nettie stir a canine mountain into action and take him to the little boy, back where she used to live, whose one and only wish is to have a dog? Will things ever go right for either of them?

This is a heart-warming story with a real heroine, enlivened by well-informed descriptions of the natural world.

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Sophia Seductress by Cirstin Redman

Sophia Seductress

Principal category Drama
Word count (approximate pages) 10,300 (30)
In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $2.99

Who can resist Sophia?

Sophia, irreverent, rebellious, self-seeking, with more attitude than she knows what to do with, achieves her ambition of seducing a married male teacher at her convent school. When she finds herself pregnant, suddenly her whole life changes.

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Can she break through the ring of conspiring adults? What will become of her?

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A Northern Life by A L Mottley

A Northern Life

Principal category Biography
Word count (approximate pages) 60,800 (160)
In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $4.99
Paperback edition

What she don’t know, can’t hurt me!

Based on true life events this is a side-splittingly funny look at the life a of young mixed-race girl, Lesley, growing up in the north of England, during the 60’s and early 70’s. She lives in a noisy and cramped but nevertheless loving home along with her siblings and parents. Lesley is the eldest of six children all born within 8 years of each other and her book tells of her constant battles with her siblings and the unique relationship she shares with her ‘Mam’ – a strict and loving but, in Lesley’s eye, a ‘strange’ woman

A Northern Life covers the lives and traditions of a typical working class family, growing up on a council estate in the north of Manchester, with a twist of Caribbean flavour, courtesy of her Barbadian father.

It features typically strong northern female characters such as Mam and Nana and their outlook and views on life in general as seen from the perspective of a small child.

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Read about Whitsun and Christmas preparations and what to do when it rains – all through the author’s uniquely funny style. It also charts Lesley’s increasing ‘fed-up-ness’ at the never ending appearance of more kids in the household and her despair at having to ‘play’ with them along with her ‘hilarious’ confrontations with Mam.

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Reviews

“This author’s first book is a laugh out loud assortment of tales from her life growing up in North Manchester as the child of a mixed race marriage. She is tremendously funny in her telling of anecdotes, and stories involving her parents and grandparents, siblings and friends.”
MH, Chadderton

Writing short stories for adults

Writing short stories is a quick way to get your work up for sale as a Kindle book on Amazon, however many people make basic mistakes which result in their story getting lousy reviews or just dropping out of sight in the rankings. It’s easily done, and when doing reviews of other works, we’ve seen it over and over again. The problem is that it’s a well-known fact that writing short stories is easy money.

Rubbish!

What is true is that writing short stories is a relatively quick way of getting your work out there. Obviously a 5,000 word, 15 to 20 page tale is much quicker to write than a 200,000 word blockbuster. But that doesn’t mean it can be just churned out in a day’s work.

Short stories need more planning per word than a full-length novel because you have a relatively small space to:

  • Paint a picture of the setting
  • Turn the principal protagonists into real people
  • Cover the essential dialogue
  • Create a beginning, a middle and an ending

Just looking at the adult fiction market for a moment (writing short stories for children is a very different kettle of fish because of the different language used, the complexity of the story etc): there are a number of basic mistakes that newbies to the short story genre regularly make. (For the record, non-fiction books are intrinsically different although there is common ground with what I’m going to say now.)

Poor perceived value is the main cause of bad reviews.

You know and I know that the length of a book is no guide to whether it’s any good or not. If someone could produce a 1,000 word short story that guaranteed I could become a bestselling author by next weekend (and delivered the goods), I’d say that was a marvellous purchase which was well worth whatever I paid for it even if that sum were hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

However, your short story just won’t cut it if it’s too short. Don’t take my word for it, read all the book reviews on Amazon which grumble about ‘how I paid good money for something that could have been written on the back of a postcard’. The problem may well lie with Amazon’s insistence that a minimum price of $0.99 is charged but they’re a multi-national corporation with a billion dollar turnover. The rules aren’t going to change because you or I want them to therefore we need to learn to live with them.

Think of the customer and their point of view for a moment. They’ve shelled out just over a dollar (more when you include tax and Amazon’s handling fees) and they’ve got a mere couple of pages back. They then peruse this in a few minutes, feel embarrassed and angry that they’ve been duped and tell everyone that you ripped them off. They’ll never buy from you again and you’ll probably get a stinging review.

Congratulations.

The lesson to be learnt is to have a minimum of about 5,000 words in every individual piece you put up for sale or put several stories together but try not to mix the genres or you’ll end up appealing to no-one.

Now I want to look at the way the short story’s written.

You’ve got an idea for a story and the ending’s clear in your head. Think about it: how do you get to that ending?

The next batch of traps are favourite ones into which even experienced authors can fall.

Muddled storyline

As I’ve already said, one of the problems of the short story genre is the issue of ‘getting it all said in a small space’. Even a ‘long’ short story will only be about 10,000 words – that’s not much for a complex storyline.

As a result, authors often try to turn their short story into a mini-novel but that simply doesn’t work. A short story has to take just one idea and run with it. You can’t normally get away with multiple threads and complex stories – if you put them in, they’ll only end up making the tale confusing.

Look at the name of the genre – twist-in-the-tail. A tail is a long, thin object which usually has a bend in it. Likewise, your story must be tight but not too straight and linear. Don’t try and introduce forks and parallel threads unless the whole point of the story is the existence of these threads.

Deus ex machina

The notion of not resorting to such a device dates back to the Ancient Greek poet, Horace and you could be forgiven for thinking such a well-established no-no would be a thing of the past. Not so.Hollywood uses it all the time in films (but they have multi-million dollar advertising budgets behind them that can overcome bad publicity and still make people queue to pay – you don’t have this kind of cash).

Examples of deus ex machina might be:

  • Waiting on a station platform in a far-off country, having narrowly missed the train you wanted to catch and then suddenly bumping into your childhood sweetheart.
  • Being desperate for cash, using your last bit of small change to buy a lottery ticket and then suddenly winning.
  • Your lead character finding out he or she is the son/daughter of the bigwig they’re trying to extort money from.
  • A la James Bond style, your specially equipped car having ‘just the right gadget’ to catch the bad guys off guard.
  • Your hero fortuitously spouting fluent Arabic in a tight situation because when he was a boy he had a nanny fromMorocco.

… and so on. Yes, of course in real life you might just be fortunate enough to have this happen to you, but unless you are writing a biography (where it did actually take place) or doing a parody of the Super-Hero stuff, don’t go there.

Reliance on revealed knowledge

To my mind, this is even more naff although there are some reading this that might argue that it’s really just another form of deus ex machina. The way it works is that the story is resolved by (usually) the main protagonist suddenly revealing knowledge that they’ve possessed all along.

It’s a standard plot device for the worst type of ‘mystery’. There isn’t really any mystery – it’s just a secret that the writer’s not letting on about in order to make an unexciting tale appear exciting.

Now, if the story is written from the perspective of just one character, then this might not be an issue. It’s perfectly fair comment to not know something that no-one’s told you or that you’ve not discovered. It would be bizarre otherwise.

However most short stories are seen from an omniscient viewpoint (because it makes them easier to write) and, since omniscient means ‘all-knowing’, how could the narrator not know something that one of the characters knows? That’s completely illogical.

Mixing genres

A short story needs to have its own genre just like a novel. It’s almost certainly not big enough to cope with a blend of genres. Thus, a full-length novel about sharp-shooting cowboys who came from outer space is one thing but doing that in a short story will only confuse the few readers who choose to buy it.

Mixing genres also makes a short story very difficult to fit into an anthology. These have to be finely balanced with each story complementing the others and a slapstick comedy-zombie-romance is not going to be easy to place, no matter how beautifully it’s been written.

In conclusion

These are just some of the main points to consider when writing short stories however hopefully it will give you an idea of what it entails and the main pitfalls to avoid.

The most important thing, of course, is that it has to be an enjoyable experience for the reader. This has the best chance of happening if you stick to the rules set out above.

About the writer

Apart from being a director of Any Subject Ltd, Clive West is also the author of an anthology of twist-in-the-tail short stories called Hobson’s Choice which can be purchased from Amazon.

Skolthan – A Paranormal Thriller

Skolthan

 Principal category Horror
 Word count (approximate pages) 66,600 (200)
 In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $2.99

Can the evil warlock be stopped in time?

Hilda lives alone and hermit-like in an old cottage in an estuarine area of the coast.

By means of a secret path, she can gain access to an Eden-like world called Skolthan which is beyond the realm of our earthly one. If she had been the sole possessor of this knowledge, Skolthan would have been safe but she isn’t and there are dark forces afoot who would corrupt and spoil the new world as part of their exploitation of its powers.

Hilda’s arch-nemesis is her ex-husband, now a powerful warlock who plans to access Skolthan by means of a ritual sacrifice. He is aided by Alice, his evil side-kick who visibly masquerades as a district mid-wife.

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The object of Hilda’s struggle is to save the mother and child who are destined to be slaughtered and also to protect the island from irreparable damage at the hands of the evil-doers. Will she succeed and, if so, at what price?

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Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne's Lace

 Principal category Family drama
 Word count (approximate pages) 62,700 (210)
 In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $1.50

A modern family saga and romance

This story begins in an old cottage near the coast. With the death of her husband fresh behind her, Isabel McKay is a bit of a lost soul. Her children have grown up and moved on and her partner of many years has gone. She feels lonely and purposeless.

Isabel finds her purpose in a nearby convent, so much so that she eventually offers the family cottage to the Order. Her children and their own intended partners object vociferously to this decision but to no avail. Ironically, the nuns reject the cottage but not the proceeds from its sale.

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Kate, one of Isabel’s daughters is pregnant and, at her wedding Derek, her new (and delightfully obnoxious) father-in-law winds Isabel up so much that she confesses the situation to her children.

This announcement brings about a logical but, nevertheless, surprising solution to the dilemma.

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Find a job and get it

Find a job and get it

 Principal category Business
 Word count (approximate pages) 2,500 (15)
 In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $1.50

Take charge of those job interviews!

Have you ever sat in a job interview wishing that the ground would open up in front of you? You know with absolute confidence that you haven’t a cat in hell’s chance of getting an offer so why wait and prolong the agony?

I was like that once, a long time ago. After a particularly unpleasant session (for which I was unsurprisingly unsuccessful), I started piecing together some rules about applying for jobs and how to handle myself in the interview. It was a mish-mash of psychology, body language, ‘primed’ questions (expecting the answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’) and good preparation.

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Years of working as a director of a national recruitment agency honed these rules into six basic ones. If you follow these, in most cases (I can’t give you a 100% guarantee – sorry), you will be the pro-active element in the interview and this will let you take the lead. Once you have this, you can control the interview questions and this means that you can get yourself seen in the best possible light. Additionally, it will demonstrate real leadership qualities.

That dream job is just a couple of clicks away!

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Lymphedema – Living with the disease

Lymphedema - Living with the disease

 Principal category Health
 Word count (approximate pages) 6,400 (22)
 In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $1.50

A minority among millions – lymphedema is a terrible and misunderstood illness

I’ve suffered with lymphedema ever since a bad car crash 20 years ago. The doctors in the UK had absolutely no idea what it was or how it could be treated. The net result was that I was subjected to a great deal more misery than was necessary as well as giving the disease time to get established to such a level as that it is now incurable.

My first visit to a lymphedema clinic was strange and, because I had no idea about what was involved, I was very badly prepared. After 6 weeks I was climbing up the wall. Nowadays, I go prepared and the stay is much more beneficial and comfortable. I’ve put what I’ve learnt into this booklet which I hope will prove an invaluable to anyone finding themselves in my position. I’ve also written the book from the point of view of trying to help sufferers keep down the price of this expensive treatment which often comes with numerous hidden extras.

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With some 250m people suffering from lymphedema and this, with its propensity for creating massive weight gain and intense lymphatic fevers, it begs the question, “Why don’t most doctors know about it?”. I don’t suppose this book will be particularly welcome by the medical profession because it’s plain English and easy-to-understand advice means that it is really aimed at the ordinary person and helping make sure that they don’t get overlooked like I was.

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Hobson’s Choice & 15 other twist in the tail stories

Hobson's Choice

 Principal category Short Stories
 Word count (approximate pages) 49,000 (160)
 In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $2.99

You won’t see the twists coming

Here are 16 short stories which will have you thinking, clenching your teeth, tut-tutting and laughing. With a charming selection of genuinely venomous and duplicitous characters, self-seekers, jealous neighbours, and other no-gooders, you will be spoilt for choice about who and when to boo. Not only that, the stories have real twists in them – you think you’ve got it sussed and it turns out that your conclusion was too hastily arrived at.

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The title story is bound to have an effect on you. Its style and content are original and, without wishing to give it away, it’s that part which will leave you troubled. It’s certainly a story to re-read, too, as you will get even more things out of it second time around.

Stories like The Watcher or the much gentler Lost will catch you out with their endings while A Good Education and Moving Up will have you booing and hissing at the main protagonists.

In all the stories, you will find humour, pathos, a strong and plausible plot and well-developed characters.

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