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As you should know by now, I have a story in this. The choice of narrator was undertaken jointly by all of the authors. Dan posted samples from all the applicants on Facebook (in a private group) and we each listened and indicated our preference. I had no hesitation in choosing Kasi and am not surprised that the majority of the other authors agreed.

Meanwhile, I have recorded my own reading of my story and that will be posted in a virtual Halloween Party next week.


A Date With . . . R.L.Andrew

My ‘date’ this week is a truly inspiring woman. R.L. (Robyn) Andrew suffers from the debilitating condition Psoriatic arthritis. This is similar to the condition which afflicted the English television playwright Dennis Potter. Being from Australia I wasn’t sure if she was aware of the English writer who I would imagine would be an inspiration. I sent her a link to Mark Lawson’ s tribute to him.

“I did not know that, Frank, and I truly appreciate the thought you’ve put into this question. He truly is an inspiration and proof of determination. I believe the man who wrote Simply Alice suffered from ALS. While not the same disease he achieved incredible things with basically no ability to physically move. I hope to inspire others in kind.

While I’m chronically ill I am still able to achieve many things albeit mentally and via technology. It’s only my physical self that’s inhibited, my mind is more than eager and capable of learning. I can’t do most of the stuff I used to be able to like work outside my home, surf, dive, swim, run etc but while sick I’ve achieved things I never believed I would. I’m about to have my second book published by an American Publisher, my first has won an award and has five-star ratings. I sell signed paperbacks at markets once a month when able and I participated in my first book fair. I’ve also met some amazing, wonderful and inspirational people through social media which has likewise opened up many doors. Instead of it being the end when I became ill, it’s become a new beginning.”

On her website she says her illness made her determined to “use the sponge like brain I have before it turned to mush.” I asked her to expand on that.

“Admittedly it took a couple of years before I realised I could not only be happy and in pain/suffering but have realistic goals. I’d always been physically and mentally active with a burgeoning legal career so when I first became sick that all stopped. My world crashed, what I had been, known or knew got stripped bare and thrown away. Pain quickly became my closest friend, enemy and confidant.

It’s almost impossible to see anything else when you’re consumed by body malfunctions, other diseases and damage that accompany it along the way, let alone dealing with different levels of pain. Your life starts being about medical appointments, tests and medication testing, instead of graduating law school. In the midst of it were my three daughters, husband, friends and relatives also affected by this. It’s a dark existence and in the process it’s easy to lose your own identity.

But, I’ve always been stubborn, determined, focused and have an unquenchable mind. I would not allow myself to be consumed by something I could not control.

I can’t change what happens to my body, yet I can change how I deal with it and how much attention I give to it. I swallowed my pride and accepted any external help I needed and continue to need. I also embraced technology and ways in which that could give me a life.

I’d written short stories and poems from the time I could write and I’d always wanted to write a book. When I put two and two together light returned to my day. I returned to writing short stories and found anthologies looking for submissions. One after another they were accepted and before I knew it I had fifteen plus in different anthologies.

a722b5b2-7652-4f9f-b774-5d78de60b408These not only gave me confidence but taught me about structure, working with editors and constructive feedback. I came across several Facebook writing groups and one in particular changed my writing life – Writer’s World. It’s an online critique group that offers other services such as novel writing boot camps. I signed up, swallowed my pride again and delved in. It’s a humbling experience and at the same time when you’re open to learning from others you become a much better writer. This is how my first book came to be and I met long lasting friends in the meantime.

Now I worry about plot holes and first round edits. I have gone a bit too far in that regard and sometimes forget about my health, but I’m working on it.

Long story short, never give up, never give in, and never let anyone tell you you can’t do something. The only person who can ever stop you, is you.”

Robyn lives in Victoria, Australia.

“I was born in Victoria and moved to South Australia at five until fifteen. At nineteen I moved to Sydney in NSW and had three daughters. We lived there for seven years and then moved back to Victoria. On and off I’ve lived here for around thirty five years. Despite several attempts I’ve not managed to move back to South Australia where I still have family, but Victoria seems to be in my long term future for a number of reasons, mostly my three daughters are in this state and the medical care is better here. Overall it’s a nice state but no matter where you live you can make it home.”

She published her first book last autumn at which point she was already working on two more. I wondered how these second and third books are progressing, given that her condition limits the amount of work she can do each day.

“My second one is in second round edits and hopefully will be published by mid year! It seems to take me about a year from first draft until it’s ready to publish and that takes into account my health. I do some writing every day. Some days I’m able to do a couple of hours in fragments, other days it’s less. However, the beauty of technology these days is that you can write on your phone or tablet. It doesn’t matter how much I do as long as I do some.

With the first one published I have to work at selling it which is difficult given my limitations, but I make it work. If I have to miss a market or something I will. On the same token I take as many opportunities as I can to promote it even if it means leaving my house.”

She writes about relationships with humour but her books are set in an alien world.

“No matter how crappy life gets you can laugh about it and it makes you feel better.

I’ve always been fascinated in life on other planets and I love making stuff up so it went from there.”

Her experience as a Legal Executive “has not come into my writing at all as yet. I’m not sure it will.” Instead she “finds writing an escape from reality. I love getting absorbed in my worlds and characters. It’s so much fun and it’s often cathartic.”

She is published by JaCol, a small independent. I asked about her experience with them and editor Randall Andrews.

“I have loved every minute of it. It has not been easy, it’s been a lot of hard work, thinking, plotting, planning and tossing away parts that don’t work. Randall has a way of getting me to see where something doesn’t work or what I need to change without saying much. He also knows how to get the best out of me and my story and knows I’m prepared to do what it takes. I highly recommend Randall and Jacol to all authors. I want to see it grow bigger.”

I always ask my ‘dates’ about their writing space and time. Robyn’s is dictated by her illness.

“Until a week ago I wrote from my bed or couch but our former office is now my writing room. I have a motorised bed in there which lifts the feet and head however I need it and it vibrates! It’s also the warmest room and all my books, market and writing stuff in there. Now I’m on the third book with another five planned in this series I needed more room.”

She admires “so many [authors] it’s hard to choose one. Perhaps Edgar Allen Poe was the first author who really grabbed my attention and holds it to this day. My Great Grandmother had a full collection of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. I read everyone of those too.”

Asked to reveal something about herself that might surprise her readers she admits to being “big into the UFO scene and spend time each day researching it. I’m also a keen gardener, such as I can, and a great cook.”

I am in awe of someone who manages to write something every day despite the obstacles life has placed in her way, with the ambition to complete an eight volume series. I hope you are, too. You can connect with Robyn on her website and Facebook. Better still, buy her book here. You can also arrange to receive a signed paperback copy via her website.

Supporting Cancer Charities With Writing

It is 7 or 8 years since the Laois Writers’ Group published an anthology which they sold in order to raise funds for the Cuisle Centre. By attracting sponsors and holding a slew of fund raising events we were able to defray the cost of having the book printed locally so that all sales proceeds went to the charity which supports patients and their loved ones following a diagnosis of cancer.

macmillan5More recently, as Paul Ruddock’s post which follows explains, a group of authors from across the world contributed stories for an anthology published to support the UK’s Macmillan Fund which provides nursing care for cancer patients being cared for in their own homes. I am proud to have had a story accepted for the second such volume which will be published later this year. I am also assisting with the final preparation of the volume.

Paul’s post below includes the story he contributed to the first volume. Read and enjoy it. Then click his link to buy the book and support this great cause.

“In 2015 my good friend and fellow author, Ian D. Moore invited members of our FB writing group the IASD (see to write and contribute original stories for an anthology of short stories on the theme of Relationships in all their many and varied forms. The idea was born out of the author’s personal loss of a much loved close relative to cancer. See more


A Date With . . . Tom Benson

My fourth candidate for “A Date With . . .” is Scottish writer Tom Benson. Tom writes across several genres and is also a founder member and administrator for the Independent Author’s Support and Discussion group (IASD) which brings writers together to help each other with everything from blurb writing to discussing the relative merits of different marketing strategies. I began by asking him about growing up in Glasgow in the 1960s, mentioning my mental image of the city as grey stone tenements and ship building.

“Your mental image is accurate and it’s how I remember the Eastend of the city where I spent my formative years. In 1960 our family moved west to a spacious apartment in a sprawling council estate. In the mid-60s from our secondary school we could see the hulk of the ‘Q4’ in Clydebank several miles away. When launched, the Q4 was named Queen Elizabeth II.


Queen Elizabeth II at launch on the Clyde. Image found at

Work hard – play hard, was the maxim. I remember adults fighting in the street; both men and women. The reputation of a ‘hard’ city is well-deserved, but so too is the accolade of being one of the friendliest cities.To this day, for me, Glasgow has always been a city of extremes. I return to visit my mother, but none of the three siblings who have brought up families there. Occasionally on a visit to Scotland with my wife we’ll visit Glasgow but we do so as tourists.”

Tom signed-up for a career in the British army at 17. I asked if he would do the same today, knowing what modern warfare entails.

“I was the oldest child of six living in a household where ‘conflict’ was a way of life, involving my parents or my siblings. I was the quietest and most industrious. My parents could not have afforded me to go into further education so I joined the workforce (in an office) at fifteen. There was no ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ in my life.

Thousands of families are living now as we did back in the 1950’s and 1960s.

I’ve often wondered what my options would be if I were a teenager there now. I believe I would still sign-up, and sadly for the same reasons. There is no evolution for certain families, merely a life-cycle.”

Tom’s army career included a stint in Belfast in the 1970s at a time when the ‘troubles’ were at their height. I mentioned to Tom that I was there for a brief visit on business in 1970 and was shocked at the invective unleashed by a couple of male by-standers when an Army Land Rover patrol passed. When the men discovered I was English, from Coventry, they asked how I would feel if the Army was patrolling Coventry’s streets. I asked Tom how it felt to be on the other side of that situation – patrolling the streets of a British city and being spat at – and worse.

“I served on the streets of East Belfast in 1973. Our unit was the first non-infantry to perform the role of Internal Security there. We trained for months in Germany, but it was surreal to walk along British streets during day or night; with a loaded rifle. None of us were eager to do the task, but we’d taken taken an oath and signed up – it was our job.
I recall my first foot patrol. My thoughts went from anxious to professional in less than one minute. During our four-month tour, we were stoned (and not in a good way), spat at, and shot at among other things. On occasion we remained closer to a suspect device to steer sometimes ungrateful civilians to safety. You learn about yourself when you don’t retaliate against a teenager spitting at you, and when we were shot at, we responded by running towards the location of the suspect.
Juxtaposed to the negativity, there were many who accepted us, offering hospitality and friendship.”

4631438383_707x530Tom’s army life feeds into much of his writing. As well as the recently published 5 volume first person account of a man’s army experiences (which he insists is not entirely autobiographical), there is a series featuring a former soldier leading a small group determined to eliminate criminal gangs operating in present day Glasgow. I wondered if that is something he would have liked to do.

“Having survived bullying at school, I fought back on the first occasion in my military career. It was at that time I grew to despise injustice and criminality. On more than one occasion I involved myself in a scuffle to help others (male and female), because I refused to witness a person being beaten. I write about vengeance and summary justice, but I don’t believe I would wish to live on the edge. Notably, my characters have little in the way of a ‘normal’ lifestyle and have no dependents.”

One of the genre’s that Tom writes is erotica. In my ‘devil’s advocate’ role I asked did he think such ‘literature’ encourages the kind of attitude towards women exemplified by recent revelations from politics and show-business.

4634081987_162x233“I started writing erotica because there was so much badly written material in the genre. One particular book which has since gone on to be an international success is a woefully inaccurate tale of a relationship which involves sadomasochism. I was bitterly disappointed in the lack of knowledge shown by the author. (Aside: I wonder what book and movie series Tom could possibly talking about?)
My decision to tackle the genre was vindicated when my first attempt, an anthology of erotica short stories, was well received. I followed this with a novel, and then a series of novellas.

I have always held girls and women in high regard, and this is reflected in my writing.

My female characters are never downtrodden, and in many cases are equal to, or stronger than the males.
Most of the reviews (and private messages) I’ve received on my erotica are from female readers, and all of it has been positive. I now mentor a fellow erotica author.
In my opinion, nothing will sway a man’s judgement concerning women’s sexual appetites. Men will believe what they choose. Women, like men, have varying attitudes regarding sex. Most people have fantasies, and when somebody chooses to read erotica the content is obvious which makes it a conscious choice.
My personal affliction in erotica writing is that I insist on there being a story.”

IASD grew out of a website operated by fellow writer Paul Ruddock. After Paul reviewed one of Tom’s novels the pair discovered both were ex-Servicemen. Tom takes up the story:

“Camaraderie survives long after we leave the uniform. It doesn’t matter which service, or cap badge, male or female – the brotherhood/sisterhood continues.
Paul’s wish was to expand on what he’d started. Apart from minor changes in title the IASD grew rapidly when it became a group on Facebook. I offered my services — supporting Paul as an admin was the way forward. Ian D Moore (another ex-Serviceman) joined the group a few months later and he too became an admin.
Paul donated his original blog to the group a few months later, in October 2015. I’m not an expert, but I commenced rebuilding what is now the IASD blog/website. The group at the time numbered about 150 members and agreement was sought at every stage as I developed the site.IASD - globe 2
We have several members who are more adept than I am technically and I’m never too proud to ask for help or advice. We increased the admin team and brought on board a couple of members who have helped make the group successful.
The membership spiralled to 400+ at one stage, but many were freeloaders using us as a marketing tool, so over a period of time they ‘disappeared’. We in admin are all immensely proud of our members and their willingness to help the group live up to its name.”

This last sentiment reflects what he has found across the independently published writer community since starting what he describes as his “writing journey”.

“It is one of the few areas of ‘Civvy Street’ where I’ve seen a large group of people willingly offering support to their peers. From the outset, when I’ve seen inferior writing, but an author with potential, I’ve offered help and advice. I’m not an expert, but sometimes an offer of help is enough to show somebody they’re on the right track.”

Tom retired only recently from his second career, so his writing and the creation/development of IASD were all undertaken alongside a full-time job.

“I first tried creative writing in the mid-nineties. I toyed with my military memoirs and short stories. When my brilliant ideas were converted from thought to written word, my material was awful. I cut down on writing to read more, and I bought magazines and text books on writing.
4628160596_144x211I started writing seriously around 2007. I was a retail manager and to relax one day I wrote a poem. I was commuting for over two hours a day and wrote verse during every train journey and every lunch break. One day I converted a poem to a short story.
Over the next few years I stepped down to deputy, then reduced my hours, and finally moved to the local branch. At each stage I gained time to write. Evenings and days-off were filled with writing.
I am dedicated, whether it be the promise to help somebody else, or to meet a personal target.
Since retiring last November I’ve redecorated three rooms in our house and started on four writing projects. I’ve also read and reviewed twenty books.
My aims now include to continue cycling regularly, and learn to bake; though not while cycling.
I’m already underway with the publication of my novels in paperback.”

Tom is well organised in both the place and time of his craft:

“We don’t have a large house, but we have three bedrooms. When our son left home for university in 2000, we kept his bedroom available for his occasional visits. The room he’d used for his computer and studying became my ‘study’. As recently as last summer I performed an extensive makeover. I now have a modern, bright room, complete with a Mac which was a retirement gift to myself.
My window is large and I’ve fitted a Venetian blind which allows maximum daylight. The desk at which I write is in the middle of the room and end-on to the window. I’ve found ‘freedom’ in this position because for a few years I had my desk against a wall.
I prefer to write early, but it depends how long my morning cycle ride takes. I rarely watch TV, except for news or natural history programmes, so I write a lot in the evenings. I’m disciplined about regular breaks – including a full hour lunch-break.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, Wilbur Smith, Jeffrey Archer and Lee Child are top of his list of authors he’d like to share a pint or a meal with:

“I’d hope to discover to what extent they allowed the story to be diverted by the characters and how wide their stories veered from the original plan. I’d also be keen to learn how much time was spent planning as opposed to writing.”

I thanked Tom for being so frank with his answers to my questions. I hope you enjoyed the encounter as much as I did.
Tom’s latest release, Amsterdam Calling, is now available in paperback. Ten Days in Panama will be released in paperback in the spring, part of his plan to publish all of his novels as paperback, including the five-part, fact-based fiction tale, A Life of Choice, during 2018. You can find a lot more about Tom, and his books, by following these links:

Author website, Erotica website, Writing blog, Writer and artist website, Facebook

Looking for a Title

Back in November I posted about coming third in Dan Alatorre’s “Word Weaver” contest with the theme of “Relationships”. The short listed stories are going to be published in an anthology soon. But we are stuck for a title. Feel free to offer your suggestions in the comments either here or on Dan’s original blog post.

via What should the title be for an anthology about “relationships”? (And what should the cover look like?)

Honest Reviews are Like Gold

As you know, I have a story in the anthology “The Box Under The Bed”. The book presently has almost 50 reviews on Amazon, some good some not. None of them tells potential readers about the individual stories. Now someone has done just that. Not on Amazon, but on his own website.

I’m sharing it with you here because it will tell you what he thought of all the stories so that you will have a better idea of whether it’s a book you would like to read. Of course I’m pleased that he found mine “deeply descriptive and engaging” That’s what I aim for in all my writing.

His final verdict on the whole book is that there are “Not enough [bad stories] for me to tell others not to read it . . . The diamonds, the strong stories, are well worth the cost of the book alone.”

via The Box Under The Bed: A Book Review

Writing Tips From an Expert

If you are planning to enter Dan Alletorre’s Word Weaver Contest or any other writing competition – or want to know how to write stories that magazine and anthology editors will pay good money for, then here are some great tips for you.