Thursday, 21 May 2015

Cover Reveal - The Scribbling Sea Serpent

I am super delighted to be able to share this with you all today!

Here it is - the cover for my short story collection - coming soon from CFZ Publishing.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Creative Writing with Kate Kelly

Thursday evenings 18:00 - 20:00 at Dorchester Waterstones
Running from Thursday 4th June – Thursday 2nd July

Topics covered will include:

• Getting started – voice and setting
• Developing rounded characters
• Writing dialogue
• Point of View
• Plotting
• Getting published. Writing for a market.

The course will be suitable for all levels. Bring pen and paper and loads of enthusiasm. Participants will be encouraged to share their work.

Total cost: £80 per person

To book your place contact Kate at:

Places are limited so book now.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Guardian – Eco week and twitter chat

It’s Eco-Week over on the Guardian’s Children’s site, and a variety of authors have been contributing articles on all sorts of eco-related themes, from Piers Torday talking about why Cli-Fi isn’t Sci-Fi to Helen Skelton talking about how her kayaking expedition up the Amazon inspired her new book.

I was also fortunate enough to be invited to take part and today my top tips for writing an eco-adventure story goes live.

So do head over there and take a look – Here’s the link - and tonight why not join all the authors for a twitter chat #GdnEcoChat between 7 – 8 pm (UK time). I’ll be there and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may like to ask

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Why an Ouroboros?

It is an ancient symbol, the ouroboros, a serpent biting its own tail, as ancient as recorded history, and maybe older. It is a symbol common to many cultures, from the writings of ancient Egypt – where the snake god Mehen coils around the sun God Ra and protects him during his journey through the night - to the Norse legends of the serpent Jörmungandr; a creature so large it encircles the entire Earth, biting its own tail. When it lets go the world will end.

It is a global image, transcending cultures, found not just in Europe and the Middle East, India and China and Japan, but also in the art of Native American Indian tribes, and the Aztecs. The ouroboros truly is a symbol that encircles the world.

But what of its origins? What ancient mysteries does it seek to answer? Did our ancestors stare up at the marvels of the sky and see the Milky Way Spread above them like a serpent across the heavens? Did they wonder at the cyclical nature of the seasons, of day and night, of life itself? Does the ouroboros in some way encompass all these things; life and death, the universe, eternity?

I started keeping this blog shortly before I sold my first short story, to record my journey as a writer and share the things I learned along the way, celebrating each story sale and good review. So, as I bring my short stories together into one volume, it seems fitting that the title of this blog in turn has become the title of my collection – The Scribbling Sea Serpent has come full circle – a bit like the ouroboros!

So it is doubly fitting that this image of the serpent biting its tail, this ouroboros, symbolic on several different levels, should appear, not just on the cover of The Scribbling Sea Serpent, but also as a chapter heading at the start of each new story.

Expect to see the cover on here very soon. I can’t wait to share it with the world.

In the meantime do check out some of the other titles CFZ Publishing has out under its Fortean Fiction imprint.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Tides and Eclipses

Today the UK witnessed a partial eclipse. Where I was it was cloudy, too cloudy to see much, but I stood in the supermarket car park looking up at the sky as the world dimmed around me. It felt like it does on a stormy day as the thunder clouds gather, an odd brooding twilight. It was only as I drove home that the clouds thinned enough for me to glimpse a pale crescent through the haze.

Photo  © Ciara Kelly
The last eclipse, in 1999, down here in the west, was far more dramatic. We gathered round a friend’s house as the light faded and the gulls began to roost and toasted the darkness with champagne. There was the same strange gloomy twilight, but the dimming was much more pronounced since we were not far from totality. The light fell suddenly, as if some celestial being was turning down the dimmer switch. The birds fell silent, and over on Portland we could see the flashes from people’s cameras in the shadow. Then the light returned equally swiftly.

But more dramatic as far as I am concerned – and I am a Marine Scientist after all so perhaps this is not surprising - was the super low spring tide this morning. We walked right out, almost up to the Sea Life tower without getting our feet even slightly wet. I haven’t seen it out quite so far before – and tomorrow’s low tide will be even lower! Of course, there will be a corresponding high high tide in a few hours time, so I might pop down and see how the flood defences are holding up. In the meantime, here a couple of pictures.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Editing Process

Progress is being made with my short story collection, The Scribbling Sea Serpent. The stories were collated and sent to the publisher, and now I am working on the edits.

Editing can broadly be divided into three stages. This applies not just to this collection, but also to longer works. In fact the editing process I went through with Red Rock followed broadly the same pattern.

1. Structural Edits.

This is the stage where major changes will be identified. These may include changes to the plot and the sequence of events. Scenes may be added or removed. A character may need development. Two characters may need to be combined into one.

The degree of structural edits required can vary. It depends on the vision of the publisher, and how much they feel the work needs to be developed.

In this case, with a short story collection, the structural edits consisted mainly of changing the running order, moving some of the more SF stories further back in the collection and bringing some of the more weird fiction or Fortean stories to the fore.

The stories themselves required little in the way of structural edits although I was asked to make some changes to the ending of one of them.

2. Line Edits.

These are the detailed edits, changing the structure of a sentence to make things clearer, deleting repetitions, or making a clarification. Inconsistencies can be ironed out. Does a character’s eye colour change?

Since several of these stories had already been published and therefore edited these were relatively minor, although some inconsistencies did come to light – in particular where I had used American spellings in some cases and British spellings in others.

Factual errors were identified. In one story I had described a font as being porcelain. I’ve no idea why, when I know it’s made of limestone! I also changed the title of another.

3. Copy Edits.

This is the final stage before a book goes off to the printers, and is one where the author makes little input, other than perhaps a final read through, just in case a fresh pair on eyes can pick up on something the copy editor might have missed.

Copy edits are the final check for typos and formatting errors, for example, are straight or curved quotation marks being used consistently throughout? This is the fine tuning stage.

A good editor is the writer’s best friend. However perfect we may think out work is when we send it off to the publisher there’s always something that can be improved, and this is where a good editor is so essential.

But of course, remember that this is a two way process. If your editor suggests something that you really don’t agree with then discuss it with them. Remember, it’s your story at the end of the day. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

A Short Story Collection

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been busy pulling a number of my short stories together into a collection. This is something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while, especially since a good number have already been published but have now gone out of print. I originally thought I might self-publish them, but then a friend of mine told me about a publisher he had been doing some work with, CFZ publishing. Like many small publishers they are quite niche, but their niche is one that fits well my style of fiction. So I’m going to give them a try.

But pulling your short stories together into a collection isn’t such an easy task, and here are a couple of things I’ve had to take into account:

Running order: This is a tricky one. The stories need to be sufficiently distinct from the ones they are adjacent to but not so different as to be jarring. I also wanted to mix up the previously published with the new material.

Opening stories: These are the ones that will appear on the kindle ‘look inside’ option and will determine whether the reader clicks the buy button or not. Therefore they need to give a good representation of the anthology and also be some of my better stories.

Final story: The collection needs to finish on a high note so the final story needs to pack a punch. This was quite easy. I have a piece of flash fiction that I feel rounds off the collection quite well.

Character names: I never noticed before that I have a tendency to reuse names. So for example where I had two stories featuring a character called Lucy, one of these needed to be changed, otherwise the reader might think the characters and the two stories are connected.

Editing: Some of my earlier stories, when I re-read them, needed a bit of tidying up since my writing has improved a lot over the years. Even some that have previously been published!

Title: Finally what should I call my collection? I thought about using the title from one of my short stories but none really stood out. Then my friend suggested I use the title from this blog. It is certainly fitting with the style of stories – science fiction and mild horror that could well be described as ‘weird fiction’, as well as echoing the cryptozoological bent of the publisher. So The Scribbling Seaserpent it shall be.

Early days yet – but I’ll keep you up to date with developments.