One of the beauties of an anthology of flash fiction is that it gives exposure to such a large number of different authors. It was good to see this, rather than many entries by a few authors. Furthermore, the anthology included a section of micro-fiction entries, a form requiring even more skill if a reader’s involvement is to be engaged.
I reviewed last year’s anthology, Scraps, and approached the present one with happy anticipation. I didn’t have the advantage of seeing the foreword – I only had the e-book.
This year’s title is appealing and apt. It refers to the theme set the writers – The Senses. There was a wide variety in how this was interpreted, and a degree of variety in the quality of writing.
The opening story was totally enchanting in its reversal of perceptions of the rat. With a good arc and subtle references, Becky Tipper’s story set a promising tone for the book.
At the end of the book the winners of the micro-fiction competition displayed the economy of words against the ingenuity of concept.
In the remainder, the following stories pleased me particularly. Different readers will have different preferences, but those stories that feel complete in the read surely master the genre. It doesn’t have to be a surprise ending, but it does need to make sense of the beginning and/or display a clear concept. This blog emphasises the importance of character in writing. In flash fiction, a character must make an immediate impact.
The imagery in Tasty – a story about pornography – works well, and the conclusion is both believable and restorative. The concept of ‘unfinished stories’ in Dress Sense ensured that the issue of loss and stasis would resonate after the read. This was a sensitive piece as was the much longer story by Sarah Hilary. She paired two unlikely characters and set them forth for an imagined future.
There were several sad reads, and a wry one, Show Don’t Tell, which made me smile. Nik Perring’s story was even more wry. A girl with an addiction to giving up and her boyfriend’s understandable responses suggested two interesting characters who would hold their own in a longer story, but nevertheless the piece had a satisfying conclusion. A wider smile still for What We Do In Our Sleep. It really pays to consider the ridiculous sometimes, for it can illustrate a point – in this case, hypochondria – more clearly than a set of descriptions. Tino Prinzi uses dialogue well and wittily here.
I did balk at some hefty wordiness (“feculent metastatic lesions”) in Seven Breaths, but the psychology of the piece was well understood. Another insightful piece, more about coming to fruition than coming of age, was Launch Pad. It launches the reader into a vivid classroom scene and slyly comments on adult expectations. Handle with Care was itself beautifully handled, displaying sensitivity and poignancy in a piece that explores a child’s revulsion against cruelty.
Michael Marshall Smith totally encapsulated the theme of The Senses in his story, Half-Life, with a very clever plotline. I admired this, as I did the well-written Chekhov’s Gun, for imaginative use of the theme.
It is hard to pick out some stories for mention when there are many that make the purchase of this anthology worthwhile. Death, love, lust, thwarted ambition – all are aspects of the human condition that these writers consider. All the more surprising, then, to read about swallowed kittens, chemically induced sensation removal and the beauty of being an oyster.
For today’s post I have a guest writer, Karen Perkins.
I invited her because her story demonstrates a journey from starting to write seriously to established employment. Like many interesting writers, Karen had a developed skill and passion beforehand that could colour her fiction and support it with first-hand knowledge. Like other successful people, she did not let disaster down her, but adapted to new circumstances, using her experience to develop new skills. Furthermore, the experience of writing enabled her to help others improve theirs, then her path through the arduous work of preparing a book for publication led to self-help books on editing and formatting.
Step 1: Interesting experience
Step 2: Perfect skill in writing about it – whether fiction or non-fiction
Step 3: Tell others how to write well.
Step 4: Provide vital techniques for publishing the book.
Readers of this post can see the path Karen has taken from beginning to end. That is what interested me and led to my invitation. Karen, please tell us: –
I have been passionate about books since I first learned to read, and was also a very keen sailor. Unfortunately, I injured myself in the Contender European Championships in 1995 (although still won the ladies title), which resulted in a condition called fibromyalgia. This is an extremely painful and debilitating condition and resulted in the loss of my previous career as a financial advisor.
I started writing, almost as therapy, and it quickly became a compulsion. I cannot see myself ever stopping now! I struggle to travel, and realized this would work against me in looking for an agent and traditional publisher so I decided to self-publish as a way to show publishers I was able and willing to promote and market my books online, as well as—hopefully—prove sales and gain positive independent reviews.
I enjoy the publishing side of writing so much, I have not submitted to a single agent since I pressed that ‘Publish’ button the first time, nor do I expect to. All three of my current books: Ill Wind and Dead Reckoning in the Valkyrie Series (historical novels about piracy and slavery in seventeenth-century Caribbean), and Thores-Cross (a historical paranormal stand-alone novel) are #1 best sellers in their categories on Amazon—Ill Wind and Dead Reckoning in Sea Adventures, and Thores-Cross in British Horror.
I had established LionheART Galleries with my partner at the time I had started writing, designing, making and selling jewellery, and broadened this to include LionheART Publishing House when we published our first books. This has grown to offer copyediting, proofreading and formatting services for other self-published authors as well as cover design and book trailers. In the past year, I feel very privileged to have helped over one hundred books be published on four continents—some very successfully.
Recently I published The LionheART Guide to Formatting, a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to formatting e-books and paperbacks in Word 2010 to help Indie authors who prefer to do it themselves.
This was followed by The LionheART Guide to Editing, in both UK and US Editions. There are a number of comprehensive grammar guides out there and I wanted to compile a tool which is simple, easy to use, and full of tips to include punctuation and grammatical rules, paying attention to current trends in the publishing industry. The areas I highlighted are the ones I come across most often when editing. I also detail the method I use when editing and polishing a manuscript for publication. Even if you decide to hire the services of an editor, most charge by the hour and the higher the standard of your manuscript, the lower the final editing cost.
As writers, we are wordsmiths, creating a world, characters and story through language, and punctuation is one of the tools of language. To ignore it, except for rare exceptions, to me is like Monet painting with the wrong colors, or Michelangelo attempting to sculpt using a hammer when a chisel is needed.
Words are what we do, language is our medium and punctuation our tool. When I write, I want to take my readers to my world, to join my characters on their journey, to experience their challenges, traumas, desires. I want them to take this journey with me, without noticing the individual words, full stops or commas. I want them to lose themselves in the story, not in the mechanics of it, and this will only happen if all the elements are right.
This involves checking the detail, then double-checking it, then checking again; not only the spelling, tense, grammar and punctuation, but also any factual information in your manuscript such as real-life names, whether of historical figures, place names or brand names. I will suggest changes and highlight any inconsistencies or contradictions and focus on the writing itself, keeping the reading experience at the forefront on my mind as I work to make sure everything is clear, there is no opportunity for misunderstandings (unless part of the plot), and your novel flows well.
This is the final stage in the process and focuses on the words themselves. It is a detailed check for even the most minor errors and typos—the final polish of your manuscript
There are three main avenues to publish your book as an Indie author: Kindle (KDP), paperback (usually CreateSpace) and EPUB (usually Smashwords), and each avenue needs a different format, each with its own challenges.
Kindle (KDP). The main difficulty in your Kindle format is that what you see in Word is not necessarily what you get on a Kindle after your Word file has been converted to their mobi format. This means indents have to be properly set (tabs or a number of spaces can be corrupted in the conversion). Also, watch out for spaces at the ends of your paragraphs and extra paragraph breaks with can result in blank pages in the Kindle book.
CreateSpace is an Amazon print–on–demand company. Publishing through them means your paperback will be available on every Amazon site in the world (including Book Depository), and they will print and send a copy of your book to order. You therefore have worldwide distribution with little or no set up costs. This is also the format where you can add your own style to the finished book, with headers and footers, different fonts etc., and the main issues here revolve around the sizing of the file, and formatting page numbers etc. correctly.
Smashwords is the difficult one. They convert your file into a number of formats, the most important of which is EPUB, and distribute to a wide range of online e–book companies, including Barnes &Noble (Nook), Kobo and iBooks. Because your book has to meet the criteria of all these sites, the requirements are more stringent than for KDP above. The best way to ensure your book passes is to use their Nuclear Method, which strips out all the existing formatting, and then start again. It is time consuming (and at times frustrating), but it is the best way of ensuring there is no stray formatting, such as hidden bookmarks or fields, that would cause your book to fail their review process.
LionheART Publishing House
LionheART Publishing House offers low-cost, high-quality copyediting and proofreading for novels, non-fiction manuscripts, scripts, dissertations, poetry, children’s books etc., whether you write in UK English or US:
£12.50 (US$21, €16) per hour
As a rough guide, this usually works out as £5—£8 per 1000 words ($9—$15 or €6—€9)
We also format your book, ready to upload to either or all of the three main sites (KDP—Kindle, CreateSpace—paperback and Smashwords—EPUB). Our charges for this are: