Monday, December 9, 2013

Cute Christmas Read for Children

It's that time of years again - bells are ringing, my Christmas tree is up, Christmas carols are being played at every retail store I enter. It must be nearly Christmas!

A few years ago I wrote a cute little Christmas ebook, Scruffy the Christmas Bear. Last year I had it illustrated by the very talented Ben Rawlings. It's available for purchase from most ebook retailers for only a small amount of coinage.

I've compiled a list of where you can purchase Scruffy the Christmas Bear, just to make things easier for you.

Barnes & Noble

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Book Review: 'The Great Gatsby', by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Rating:3.0 out of 5 stars

 I have managed to go through my life without knowing anything about this book, so I went into it without any preconceptions. Although the prose was very endearing and absorbing I found it very difficult to like any of the characters. This is a short book, but it took me a while to finish because I simply couldn't bring myself to care about Gatsby (even the narrator didn't particularly seem to like him).

That being said, the moral of the story is a powerful one, and I was left thinking about the story for a long time after I had finished it. There are strong themes of: the selfishness of the rich, the repercussions for every action, and 'what goes around, comes around'.

The parties, the wealth and the splendour really come to life from the pages, as does the hot, arid, unpleasant climate of the era. Through reading 'The Great Gatsby' I feel I have been given an interesting glimpse into the past, warts and all, and I really enjoyed that aspect of this story.

This is not a book that should be read just because it is a classic, because it will probably leave you disappointed. I would recommend this book to you if you are after something short to read that gives you a glimpse into history.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Book Review: The Regenesis Cluster, by Dean Mayes

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Imagery
The Regenesis Cluster is a beautifully woven tale that leaves the reader with feelings of hope and wonder. The imagery is absolutely stunning. Author Dean Mayes has a wonderful talent for painting a vivid picture, and he has used this skill to great effect in this story. This is a great read for anyone who may not have the time to read a full length novel, but wants a story that will leave them thinking for a long time afterwards.

'The Regenesis Cluster', by Dean Mayes is available for purchase from For more information on author, Dean Mayes, visit his website at:

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Importance of Submission Guidelines

When you're writing a story that you hope will one day be published it is important that you are aware of what editors are looking for. Why waste your time and efforts submitting to a publishing company that won't even glance at your manuscript because it's not the type of story they're hoping to find?

Equally, it is important that you keep in mind stories that they just don't want to see. This is not necessarily because the concept is a bad one. It could simply be because they have seen a similar concept time and time again.

This list is part of the submission guidelines for Strange Horizons, an online speculative fiction magazine. I just read through them and checked them off one by one (after reading an interesting post about rejections by author Eden Royce here). I am now confident that my story is not something that they won't want to see.

Check out the submissions guidelines from Strange Horizons here, and don't forget to research each and every company before you send in a submission.

Happy writing, folks!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Completed First Draft - Editing Tips

Yesterday was a really big day for me. I finished the first draft of the novel I have been working on for the best part of a year. To be honest, the end of it came as a bit of a surprise. I thought there would be one last chapter, but I realized I could achieve the same results with a handful of sentences. Now the hard part -- the revision process. I have to admit, I am really nervous about this bit. The first draft is supposed to be rubbish. That's why it's called a first draft and not a final draft. But I feel more pressure with the second draft for everything to be perfect.

I have been on a self-imposed hiatus from social media so that I could complete this novel, and it has definitely paid off. Now I'm finding myself scrolling through Twitter for advice columns on how to revise your story. The first advice I found was by @CSLakin here: where she breaks down the essentials for the opening scene of your book. This will definitely help me when I begin my re-write. Other advice I found online that I thought I would share in case you could use them too are:

A practical, step-by-step side for what you actually need to do when editing your novel:

What to take out/leave in:

Five key questions to ask as you write your novel:

The importance of peer review:

Tips on finding and destroying those words you use waaaaay too often:

25 Things to Know About Writing The First Chapter of Your Novel: 

I would love to hear any other advice that you have up your sleeves. I'll add anything else I find to the list as I go along.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Four Unique Steps to Digging Your Way Out of Writer's Block

I have recently come up with a novel way (pun intended!) of digging my way out of the hole that is writer's block. As I'm heading further and further into my novel, I am finding that I never quite know how to begin the next chapter. So here is a step-by-step guide that I created to help me get my writerly groove back on.

Step 1:
Pick a novel, any novel, from your bookshelf, preferably in the same genre you are writing in.

Step 2:
Open the book to the chapter you are currently writing.

Step 3:
For the first 5 sentences of the chapter, write down what each sentence achieves.

Step 4:
Write 5 sentences for your story that achieve exactly what the other novel achieves.

I find that, once I have completed about three or four of the sentences, I have found my writing flow and will write solidly for around half an hour. And, the way I see it, it isn't 'copying', because it's simply a structure that you are following. Besides, it will inevitably alter throughout your many, many edits later.

I will give you an example from the first chapter of a novella I have been working on as a side project. I was really unhappy with my original first chapter, so decided to use this exercise to blow away the cobwebs from my brain and begin the chapter again.


The book I grabbed at random was from Anne Bishop's 'Black Jewels' series.

Sentence 1: Description of the setting that the Main Character is standing in.
Sentence 2: Description of the weather and what the Character is doing (drinking coffee, which sets the tone as 'relaxed').
Sentence 3: Short, sharp sentence that jolts the reader.
Sentence 4: A sentence that cleverly weaves in backstory about the harshness of the Characters past, and explains that his current life is rather nice.
Sentence 5: A Sentence to describe the Character as being a very independent man, identifiable by his actions.

My sentences:

"Julia carefully made her way down the rocky hill, trying her best not to trip over any hidden rabbit holes. The afternoon air was hot and dry, but still she wore the dark, bulky robe that made sweat rivulet down her slender back. Didn't matter. The cloak served to conceal her identity from prying eyes. Besides, it was her last job for the day and then she would be free to go home to a cool shower. Her role as Caretaker may not be as glamorous as she had thought it would be, but it gave her a sense of purpose and self-respect; not something she had experienced out in the human world."

As you can see, I had to write an extra sentence to get my point across. That was because, by sentence three, I no longer followed the structure of Anne Bishop's sentences because I was well on my way to writing the entire chapter. I completed it in record time and, for once, was really happy with the outcome.

So, there you go. Four unique steps to digging your way out of writer's block. Why not try it for yourself next time you find yourself stuck on a scene?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Not so long, but long

I was reading a blog post by amazing author, Patrick Rothfuss, where his son said something very profound. The questions was, "How long would it take to write a book?" The answer? "Not so long, but long."

This really struck a chord with me this week. I'm knuckling down to write a book that I have been working on for nearly a year now. Every time I put pen to paper I still feel the ripple of excitement in my chest that momentarily takes my breath away. This is how I felt the first time I was zapped by the idea of this book. This is no exaggeration, I was genuinely ZAPPED by the idea. Like a bolt of lightning. Or a taser. Sometimes I need that reminder that I am taking the perfect amount of time for me to write the best book that I can. Not so long, but long. So the next time someone asks me when I will have my next book ready, I will remind myself not to be embarrassed. I will remember that, despite popular opinion, I am not lazy for no longer working full time, because sometimes realizing your dreams means you have to walk an alternative path through life to everyone else around you. And as for my book, it will be ready not so long, but long from now. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Where I'm At Right Now

It has been so long since I have checked in with you all that I thought I would give you an update on the happenings and goings-on in my life.

I completed an adult fantasy fiction novel based upon some Welsh mythology. Once I was up to the review stage I couldn't quite consolidate my version of the characters with the characters from the myth. I decided that I needed time away from the novel so that I could come back with fresh eyes.

I began working on what I thought would be just a fun, but mostly waste of time, project that would take my mind off my novel for a while. It's a children's fantasy fiction story that I have fallen in love with. It has taken up most of my attention span and I have created a whole new world within my tiny little brain. I have been working like crazy on it, and I really think that this story is a keeper. I'm only around 10,000 words in, but I feel like I have many, many more up my sleeve.

In an effort to hone my skills as a writer I have also begun writing short works of fiction by pulling two random word prompts out of a hat each week. I have tried to follow along with other people's word prompts in the past, but never got around to writing anything worth mentioning. Because I am now running the show I feel obligated to write, and I have been meeting my self-imposed deadline with no worries. If you would like to join in, even if it's only once every few weeks, go to my Tumblr to find the word prompts. Don't forget to tweet your stories using the hashtag #AshWriteTime.

Other than the world of writing I have been getting my dog ready for dog shows (despite the fact that he did very badly in his first show, I still love him), wrapping myself up in blankets to hide from the cold, and hanging out with my cats. So, just the usual. I hope you're all well and happy :)

- Ash

Monday, May 27, 2013

An Accident Prone Summer - A Tale of Two Men

“Still, they got you out of trouble, the old crank handle,” the old man said, his voice quivering. “These new fangled businesses are not nearly as reliable. Still, I always cranked my car in my day.” He wriggled his eyebrows to emphasise his point and shifted in his seat, the hard wood painful on his ageing bones. His breathing was somewhat laboured. It was this damn weather, you see. Hot one minute, cold the next - unexpected for so late in the Summer. He would breathe easier if the weather would only make up its mind. His companion studied his slouched body and tried to ignore the worry for his friend that was gnawing deep down inside.

To read more, please follow the link below to my Tumblr (the home of Ash's Write Time writing prompts).


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book Review: 'The Metamorphosis', by Franz Kafka

The MetamorphosisThe Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great, quick read. It is an endearing story that will keep you thinking for hours after you have put it down.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Five Points to Ponder when Novel Planning

 I find that there are a lot of overlaps between my job as a teacher and my job as a writer. I believe that, in learning how to plan meaningful learning experiences for my students, I have learned how to plan meaningful chapters for my readers. Here are five questions I feel you should ask yourself when planning a scene/chapter for your story:

1. What do I want the reader to learn from this scene/chapter?
Each and every scene in your story should have a point to it. If your reader is not learning something new, then there is no point in including that scene. You should have a clear idea of what you want your reader to learn before you start writing.

2. What do I want the character to learn during this scene/chapter?
 As the writer, you need to figure out what you want your character to know, as opposed to what you want your reader to know. A great way to build tension in a story is to have the reader know something really, really important that they hero doesn't. I have been caught out before yelling at a character to look behind them. A great writer is able to craft this so seamlessly that the reader is not even aware that it is happening.

3. Am I assuming too much prior knowledge from the reader?
When I am teaching a class I always write the homework on the board, show the students which pages they have to complete in their books, tell the students what homework they have, and ask the students to repeat back to me what their homework is. And yet, I still have some students come to class telling me that I never told them what homework they had to do, so they didn't do any. Worse, some even complain to their parents that I didn't set them any homework. Argh!

My point is that, just because you mention a detail to a reader does not mean that they will necessarily remember it. Especially in the first few chapters of your book, everything is so new and different that it is all a bit too hard to take in. A sentence or two later should suffice to jog a reader's memory.

A friendly note of warning: Be careful not to go overboard with the whole jogging-the-memory thing. A complete re-hash of previous events will only bore the reader.

4. Are you sharing too much?
 As a Science teacher I often find that I have to lie to my students. Not in a bad way, just in a way that prevents me from confusing them. For example, when I am teaching my Year 7's about atoms, I tell them that atoms are the smallest particles there are, and that everything is made up of atoms. This is not strictly correct, because I am deliberately not mentioning protons, electrons, neutrons, or the even smaller again quarks. It is not important for my Year 7's to know the ins and outs of atoms at such an early stage of their Science career, and mentioning them up would only confuse the poor little tykes. My Year 10's, however, are taught a huge amount of information about protons, electrons and neutrons because they can handle it.

So, are you giving your reader too much backstory? Doing so will often confuse the reader or, worse, may lead them to get bored and refuse to read any more of the story. *gasp* You need to keep it simple and drip feed the reader any important information. What your character ate for breakfast that morning can usually be left out of the narrative, for example, as it may clog up your story.

5. Do the readers have any misconceptions that you need to address?
I was watching 'Oz, The Great and Powerful', with my Mum yesterday, and a scene from the movie really stuck with me. When Mila Kunis told James Franco that she was a witch, he asked her where her brookstick was. She was confused, and he said he thought all witches needed a broomstick to fly.

When you are planning, you need to think about what misconceptions your readers may have about anything that you are including in your story. It can be really important to know this, because something a parent has told their child will often stick with them for life even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary. A thorough Google search should let you know about the ideas people have about the topic you are writing about. 

I hope my Five Points to Ponder help you with your novel planning. Good luck, and be sure to share anything you might be useful that you have learned along the way. Happy writing!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Read an Ebook Week - I'm giving my ebooks away for free!

March 3 - 9 is read an ebook week, and I am excited to be participating this year. For this week only I will be giving away my two children's ebooks, 'Scruffy the Christmas Bear', and 'Scruffy the Adventurous Bear' for free.

Head on over to my Smashwords page and fill in the promotional code 'RW100' in the payment section to get you free copy of my books. Alternatively, click on the book covers below to be taken to their own Smashwords page. Have a trawl through the 'Read an ebook Week Section' of Smashwords whilst you're there to find out what other awesome great reads you can pick up!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Scruffy the Adventurous Bear - eBook Release

I am very proud to be able to announce the release of my new children's ebook, 'Scruffy the Adventurous Bear', written under my children's author pseudonym, 'A.M. King'. This story continues on from the first book, 'Scruffy the Christmas Bear', following Scruffy and his best friend, Chloe, as they explore the garden whilst becoming even better friends than ever. This ebook comes complete with colourful illustrations by the marvelously talented, Benjamin Rawlings, who was also kind enough to illustrate 'Scruffy the Christmas Bear'.

'Scruffy the Adventurous Bear', by A.M. King

Scruffy the Bear and his best friend, Chloe, are back for further fun times together. Join them as they explore the backyard, climb trees and have exciting super slimy snail races.

Scruffy the Bear is a quick bedtime read about interactions between friends that is perfect for children aged three to seven. This story engages the imagination and gently encourages children to think about the feelings of others. Promoting outdoor activity, healthy eating, and getting along, this book sends a positive message whilst you spend quality time with your children.

Scruffy the Adventurous Bear is the sequel to Scruffy the Christmas Bear, and can be enjoyed alongside the first book, or as a stand alone story. 

I would love for you to read this story, and share it with your children. It is available for purchase for $1.99 from Smashwords. Stay tuned for the book's availability from other ebook retailers.

I absolutely love writing these Scruffy tales, so no doubt there will be many more available in the future. Thank you to everybody for your continued support. I love you all :)  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Writerly Woes

For the past few months I have been writing away like crazy, really making the most of this wonderful opportunity I have to be a full-time writer. I finished my first ever manuscript (yay!). But as we all know, the writing process definitely doesn't end there. I am now in the review stage and am getting extremely frustrated.

My story is based around the mythology of my ancestors, which has been a real passion of mine for the past ten years. I know the story I wrote is a good one. It is unique, but the characters are based upon the mythology. My problem, now that I am reviewing, is that, whilst MY characters would act the way they do in my story, the characters in the myth wouldn't. It is frustrating me no end, and I nearly tore up my manuscript. And so I took to Twitter in order to seek succor from my fellow writers. And this is the wonderful advice I was given:

1. Put the manuscript in a box for a couple of weeks and then come back to it. via @MalcolmGarcia
2. Try writing some shorter works of fiction to take your mind off it.
3. NEVER shread/tear up/delete a manuscript.

Thank you to everyone for you kind words of encouragement. We all have our grim days, and it's nice to know there are people out there who have your back. I still can't come to terms with the disparagement between the myth and my story, so I am working on an entirely new story to clear my mind of the myth. Hopefully by the time I come back to it I will be able to start afresh.