Friday, March 25, 2011

Ideas can be recycled, too - Bill Kirton

I’m in a bit of a dilemma at the moment – not a nasty one, a nice one. Through some pathetic management on my part, I’ve had 4 books published in the last few weeks, so plugging them and giving each the attention I should is becoming difficult. It doesn’t help that they’re in 4 different genres: the first of a children’s series about a grumpy male fairy who lives in my washbasin in Aberdeen, Scotland; a children’s novel; book 4 in my crime series and, most recently, The Sparrow Conundrum.

Strangely, perhaps, The Sparrow Conundrum is the first novel I ever wrote, and yet it’s only just appeared. But it’s the one I think of when I say in writing groups or workshops that you don’t ‘write a novel’, you write some words, then some more words, then some more – and eventually there’s a substantial pile of paper on the desk and you realise you actually have written something that’s a lot longer than a short story. That’s making it sound easy and unstructured – it’s not, and I have great respect for the form and conventions of novel-writing, but that was my experience with the Sparrow.

I’d written lots of stage and radio plays which were produced and broadcast and a few short stories, but it never occurred to me that I should try a novel until I read about a competition and decided to enter. This was so long ago that blogs, Facebook and the rest didn’t exist and even PCs were scarce and definitely unaffordable. So I wrote it in longhand and typed it up. It didn’t win the competition but I sent it to an agent and he took me on.

In the end, he didn’t manage to sell it, but the important thing was that it had shown me I was capable of writing an extended narrative, so I started on the next one, which was an early version of The Darkness and which led me to another agent and my first published novel, Material Evidence.

And so what’s my point? Well, I’m suggesting that ideas, words, even apparently unwanted stories can be successfully recycled. The Darkness is another example. As I said, it was the second novel I wrote but, after many, many rewrites and changes of title, personnel, and themes, I think it’s become one of my best. So ‘recycling’ doesn’t just mean you keep sending it off to one agent and/or publisher after another, it means keep working on it, rewrite, edit, polish, improve. OK, some ideas don’t work and should be discarded, but give them a chance and only throw them out when it’s obvious they’re rubbish.

We all know that writing and editing are separate processes. In your first draft, don’t be held back by the need to be ‘correct’ – either in terms of grammar, spelling or, for want of a better term, morality. Let the words flow, let the characters do what they want, don’t try to drag them back into any preconceived plotlines without first checking whether they’re actually leading you to somewhere more interesting. Then step away from them, forget about them for as long as possible and return to them as an editor, with your critical faculties sharpened.

The Sparrow Conundrum has been through even more changes than The Darkness. It started as a spoof spy story, moved to a spoof crime story, changed locations several times and titles even more – but its personnel and central story were there from the start. I’ve always had a soft spot for it because it’s (intended to be) a frankly comic (absurd, farcical) novel which I wrote purely to entertain.

So there, that’s its story. It's available in Kindle and paperback so what I want you to do now is …

… first of all, become its friend or fan or whatever the correct designation is on Facebook. I’ve cleverly called its page The Sparrow Conundrum. Then, after you've written comments there saying how wonderful and funny it is, buy it, read it, tell all your friends and extended families and community groups and reading groups to buy it, order several copies for all the libraries within a twenty mile radius of your home and place of work and, in your spare time, try to get it put onto the reading list of every subject in your local schools, colleges and universities, nominate it for the Man Booker and Pulitzer prizes, nominate me for a Nobel prize, tell the Coen brothers they can have first option on the film rights and … well, that’s enough to start with.
©Bill Kirton
25 March 2011

You can download the prologue and opening chapters of The Sparrow Conundrum free at:



Chris Machin isn’t his name, not to the bottom feeders in Aberdeen squabbling over North Sea oil and gas contracts. Chris has a code name, and when his garden explodes The Sparrow takes flight, plunging the power struggle into chaos and violence.

A sociopathic cop and an interfering ex-girlfriend don’t exactly make for clarity of thinking, not when the one fancies a bit of violence to add spice to an arrest. The ex adds other, more interesting dimensions to Chris’ already complicated life.

The bodies pile up—some whole, some in fragments—and two wrestlers join the fray. A road trip seems just the solution, but then so do Inverness, a fishing trawler and a Russian factory ship as the players face … The Sparrow Conundrum.


Machin opened the door and saw a large raincoat surmounted by a terrifying smile. Its owner said, ‘Good morning, sir. Detective Inspector Lodgedale, C.I.D. Might I have a word?’
Machin looked at the brief flash of identification card and back at Lodgedale’s evil features.
‘Well, I was just having breakfast actually,’ he said.
Lodgedale tutted.
‘Bit late for that, isn’t it? I had mine ages ago.’
‘Nevertheless, that’s what I’m doing, so if you wouldn’t mind …’
But Lodgedale was already past him and on his way through to the kitchen. Machin, angry, followed him.
‘Look, I’m trying to tell you, it’s not convenient at the moment.’
Lodgedale helped himself to some toast and began to butter it.
‘It is for me, sir. Just a few questions, that’s all. It won’t take long.’
 He sat at the table and took a bite of toast. Machin accepted the inevitable and made to sit down with him. A gesture from the policeman froze him.
 ‘Er, just before you start making yourself comfortable, I’ll have a cup of coffee. This bread’s a bit dry.’
 ‘Why don’t you just move in here?’ asked Machin.
 Lodgedale looked around the kitchen and back at Machin, wrinkling his nose.
 ‘Not civilised enough for my tastes,’ he said, and Machin inwardly acknowledged that the rapier of his wit would never penetrate a skin over which a steamroller of mockery could drive without leaving a blemish. 
Gracelessly he scooped instant coffee into a mug and switched the kettle on.
‘How many sugars?’ he asked.
‘Seven,’ replied Lodgedale.
Machin turned to see if this was a joke, but Lodgedale was flicking through the pages of Decline and Fall. He looked up and caught Machin’s glance.
‘Read a lot of dirty books, do you?’ he asked.
‘What do you mean?’ said Machin.
Lodgedale indicated the volume he was holding.
‘This,’ he said, ‘Roman Empire. All perverts, weren’t they? Orgies and that. I’ve seen them on the telly.’
Machin poured water onto the pile of sugar in Lodgedale’s cup. He carried it to the table and placed it in front of the policeman.
‘Is it all right for me to get on with my breakfast?’ he asked.
Lodgedale waved him magnanimously into his seat. Machin sat and picked up his spoon. As he scooped up some cornflakes he said, ‘What exactly are you here for?’
Lodgedale leaned forward and with a sudden movement flashed his hand from his coat pocket and thumped it onto the table, releasing from its grasp as he did so the postman’s thumb.
‘This,’ he said, staring hard at Machin.
Machin looked at the object. The end nearest to him was the jagged base of the thumb from which bone and tendons protruded. It looked like a small, bald, disembowelled mouse wearing a flat, pink crash helmet.
The colour drained from his face as he put his untouched cereal back into the plate. Lodgedale noticed his reaction and immediately deduced guilt. He settled back, confident of success, and took a sip of coffee, which immediately provoked a grimace.
‘Ugh!’ he said, ‘Not enough sugar.’
‘It’s not been stirred,’ stammered Machin, fighting back nausea.
Lodgedale looked for a spoon, saw none, and picked up the thumb instead.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sunday Awakening - D.A. Kentner

Today, I have the great honor of having D.A. Kentner here.  Here is a man who joined our critique group about a year ago. His artistry with words and stories is amazing.  If you buy any book, I highly suggest you purchase one of D.A.  He is a master at what he does.  

To prove my point, take a look at his recent reviews for his novel Sunday Awakening.  

Book Wenches
Thanks, D.A. for guesting! Wishing you great success.  Just remember little old me when you hit the big times!

As I'm writing this, a situation has just come to my attention. NYT bestselling author Jessica Verday removed a short story she had written for an anthology with a major publisher. The reason? Ms. Verday had written a Young Adult story of first love – between two young men – and the publisher wanted her to change one of the characters to a female. That wasn't the story she had written. Ms. Verday stood her ground not just because she believed in her story, but because young love between same sexes is a reality within society, and she refused to turn a blind eye. Ms. Verday chose integrity over acceptance. Not always an easy choice.

Please understand, the issue here is not gay love, the issue is an author's choice to stand behind her convictions.

Though hardly on the same scale, when I sought a publisher for "Sunday Awakening," I encountered similar problems. My story was too raw, too real, too not what publishers were looking for. What a few people focused on was that my female lead, Cheryl, came from a life of child abuse and prostitution. How could anyone be interested in such a story? What they overlooked, failed to see, is that "Sunday Awakening" is a story of Cheryl's rise above all the horror inflicted on her. It is a story of empowerment, courage, and fulfillment. Most of all, it is a story of discovering the true meaning of home and love and finding that one man who will risk all to be loved by… you.

Because, in the end, isn't true, unbreakable love what we all seek?


If the microwave hadn’t blown a fuse, she might not have killed him. But it had, and she did. Sundays are like that sometimes.

After stabbing her keeper to escape his abuse and her sex-slave life, Cheryl faces the greatest decision of her twenty-six years: “Now what?” Only one thing has ever brought her comfort and a sense of freedom—running. So she does.

On her journey to discover who she is, and where she came from, Cheryl happens upon a woman who puts her onboard the modern-day Underground Railroad for abused women.

At each stop, each "depot," she encounters people who teach her love may not just exist in novels. But is love possible for someone who doesn’t know what it is?

Criminal Investigator Taylor Hughes reluctantly agrees to locate Cheryl and find her “home.” When Cheryl poisons him, Taylor realizes the hardest part of the trip may well be the day he has to leave her behind.

Brief BIO:

Judith said I should share a little about myself, which is fortunate as there's little to tell.

I was an army EOD specialist before beginning a career in law enforcement. While a cop I worked in patrol, undercover narcotics, detective, shift commander, and ultimately police chief. No, I don't miss it, but I certainly draw on my experiences to create characters and events in my stories. In fact, the first piece I had published, which appeared in Faraway Journal, was a story about a police officer. I've also been an auctioneer and antiques dealer.

Today, my wife and I continue to volunteer on occasion at the local Salvation Army as we have for over a decade. I interview authors both famous and not yet famous for GateHouse News Service, and write stories I hope readers will enjoy.

If you'd like to learn more about me and what I'm up to, please visit my blogs: and

I was fortunate that Noble Romance Publishing believed in "Sunday Awakening" and chose to publish Cheryl's unique story. For that, I will always be grateful.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Genre Mash-up - Em Petrova

I'm guesting Em Petrova today!  I absolutely love the cover of her new book. After reading the excerpt and blurb plus the background to the story, I definitely am going to pick up a copy!! Thanks Em for appearing today!


More and more authors are finding it hard to place their books onto one shelf, and my latest release Isolde’s Wish is no different. Erotic medieval fantasy with steampunk elements anyone? Yeah, that’s right. Isolde’s Wish is a real collision of genres, but one of the most exciting books I’ve ever written. 

When new writers begin the publishing journey, they usually have questions about genre. “I’ve written a story where my hero is a medical doctor amongst his wolf pack, and his love interest is a time traveler from Victorian times. Is this historical, paranormal, or medical drama?” 

This is basically what I ran into when I started Isolde’s Wish. I always begin plotting with characters. In this case, I pictured a princess who lives in medieval times, but who rocks some amazing costumes and is more open to exploring her sensual side than your everyday medieval woman. From there, her hero was born. Sadler is a badass, battle ax-wielding son of a man who lost his life for taking the queen to his bed. He’s also a horseman, but he needed something edgier.

Enter elementis steampunkis. Android horses, airships and enormous robots that run on steam called zeppelgongers. Each addition yielded new avenues in my plot, and soon I had created a fresh new world where my hero and heroine can have midnight trysts, argue as they escape a well-meaning knight, and have steamy encounters in the great hall despite their fears of being caught.

For you writers out there, I encourage you to stay true to your vision. Isolde’s Wish is truly a different beast, and I am very proud of comments I’ve received from my editors. One left a note at the bottom which said, “I really enjoyed reading this story. It is different from anything I’ve read before, and I’ve read a lot!” Just goes to show that readers are ready for that wolf pack doctor who falls for the Victorian time traveler.
With a wild boar on her heels and a naked man before her, Princess Isolde has no clue which danger is greater. When she trips and falls into the dirt at the feet of the axe-wielding warrior, giving her a very close encounter with his manhood, she battles her undeniable awareness of the sculpted man even after she finds he has a price on his head for attempting to assassinate her father, King Adlard.

The bold son of the man executed for sleeping with the king’s wife, Sadler attempted to avenge his father at a very young age. Now he’s faced with the temptation of King Adlard’s daughter and presented a fresh opportunity to right his failed assassination attempt.

But when he learns a powerful earl seeks the princess’s hand in marriage, Sadler realizes his passions run deep. Desperate to keep her from the arms of his enemy, he plans to steal her away from the kingdom and make her his own.


Sadler brought Isolde into the shadow between the stable and a small hay-fuel shed. She was soaked to the knee with mud and lamenting the loss of her golden slipper. She limped into the space before him with her head held high.

He braced his hands against the rough, wooden shed wall, trapping her with his body. Their eyes met like steam to an airship. He wondered if he’d ever forget their blue-green fire. Fairy fire.

“I’ll peek out and tell ye when it’s clear to run for the keep.”

She nodded. A quiet moment passed while they struggled to let each other go. “I’ll never see ye again.”


“Good luck to ye, Sadler. Keep yer neck free of the guillotine.”

“Ah, that I will. Now the hangman’s noose, I do not know.” His jest fell flat.

A harsh cry tore from her, and she hurled her arms about his neck. He held her head against his shoulder and kissed the shell of her ear. His heart thudded in his ears. “Go now, woman, and don’t look back.”

Wrenching from him, she then ducked beneath the barricade of his arms and dodged across the yard. Sadler let his forehead drop against the wall and rubbed it over the splintery wood. Cries of the castle guards reached his ears.

“She’s here. We’ve found her!”

He dared not watch her sprint through the great entry. Another moment passed while he collected his wits, and he stole into the stable. He blinked against the enveloping darkness. Through a high window streamed ribbons of light. Dust motes swirled in the air.

As he edged deeper into the stable, the familiar oily scents of hay and horseflesh filled his head, resurrecting memories of his father. In his mind’s eye, Sadler could nearly see the curves of Isolde’s mother locked in the arms of his father, and finally he understood how the passion had gone before the sense.