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  1.  

     

    My star guest today is Kate Mallinder, a former student of mine who has just got herself an agent, Hannah Sheppard from the DHH Literary Agency. Not a mean feat for a busy mum of four! I asked Kate to tell us about her writing journey.

     

    Kate Profile Image

     

    Have you always wanted to be a writer?

     

    Looking back, I think it has always been there.  At primary school I often wrote plays for everyone in my class (I liked casting people) and after university I wanted to write but never knew what to say.  I started writing seriously in February 2013 (I can tell you the date too – it was the 15th)  By this time I was 37 and had plenty to say.  Ironically it was when I had the least amount of time as we had four young children.  It seemed like madness to try and squeeze something else in but now it would be madness to stop – I feel like I’ve found a missing part of me. It was later that year that I met you, Karen. I'd realised that I needed someone to help me improve, which is exactly what you did. Every writer needs an inspiring mentor. 

     

    It was a pleasure, Kate. Your natural talent shone out. :)

     

     

     

    Has any author inspired you?

     

    So many authors have.  Growing up I read authors like Michelle Magorian (Goodnight Mister Tom), Helen Cresswell (The Bagthorpe Saga), Enid Blyton of course and there was one book that I can vividly remember reading but can’t remember what it was called or who it was by.  When I get some time, I’m going to look properly into finding out what that book was.  Since I started writing, more authors have inspired me; Jenny McLachlan, Lara Williamson, Abi Elphinstone, Rebecca Westcott, Emma Carroll.  There are also writers I have met through critique groups who have encouraged and influenced me who are on the route to being published.

     

     

    Do you have special place for writing?

     

    It’s the corner of our family room.  When everyone’s at home, it’s a noisy, lively room, but when everyone’s out, it becomes my space where I can let my thoughts breathe.

     

    Here it is, Kate's writing space. :)

     

    Writing corner

     

     

    What are you writing at the moment?

     

    I’m writing several things – one is the second in a series for 7-9 year olds.  I’m also writing a story for older middle grade children about a girl who is homeless.  It’s contemporary but with an extra dollop of hope.  I’m finding it hard though as the research is heart-rending but it’s a story that needs to be told.  In between times, I’m working on a short monologue and considering writing a full length play after I enjoyed writing a short screenplay.  I also blog about writing every fortnight.

     

     

    Did you find it easy to get an agent?

     

    No!  I was roundly rejected for my first two books before I was signed with my third.  However I’d set myself a decade to sign with an agent, so doing it in two years I’m ahead of schedule!

     

     

    What advice would you give other writers trying to get an agent?

     

    Keep reading, keep writing and keep querying agents, and if you take on board the advice you’re given, you will improve enough to interest an agent or two.  Meet a few agents for 121s at festivals as you get cutting edge industry feedback.  Go on twitter as it’s invaluable as a learning tool – agents regularly give out tips and advice and some run sessions for you to ask any questions you have.  Join a critique group – they will support you and your writing which will help in the dark days, and find a few trusted and honest beta-readers.

     

     

    Are you a pantser or a plotter?

     

    Pantser.  I tried plotting once but I got bored writing it as I knew the ending!

     

     

    What time of the day do you write best?

     

    I write when I have the time, which at the moment is when my youngest is at pre-school, so 9.30-noon, every week day.  It wouldn’t do any good me saying I write best at 5pm, as all hell is breaking loose around the tea table.  You are a very lucky writer if you get to write exactly when you want!

     

    Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

     

    The first car I ever bought was called Trevor and was a green, left-hand-drive Renault Twingo imported from Spain.

     

     

    What’s your top writing tip for new writers?

     

    Write every story.  Try short stories, flash fiction, tell a story in a tweet, try a picture book.  You never know which sort of story you are going to be good at telling until you’ve tried it.  If a story idea pops into your head, jot it down.  Have fun – no story is wasted.  They all pave the path to becoming a skilful writer.

     

    Great advice, Kate!

     

    You can find out more about Kate here:

     

    Website/Blog

     

     

    Twitter

     

    Thanks for dropping by and telling us about your writing journey, Kate. I'm sure it will inspire other aspiring writers. I look forward to hosting you again when your first book is published.  :)

  2. My tip sheet this week is on revising your work. I hope you find it helpful.

    Be prepared to revise and rewrite your work several times before you send it out to an agent or publisher. When you are sure it’s the best you can do give it the five following checks:

    1) Check for the overall impression. Take your time, if it’s a novel put it aside to read another day. If it’s a short story read it through slowly. Don’t make any alterations at this stage, just put notes in the margin.

    • Are there any stilted or long-winded bits? Is it too wordy?
    • Does the plot work?
    • Are the characters realistic? Is the protagonist likeable?
    • Does the story set out to do what you wanted it to do?
    • Is the ending credible but unexpected?
    • Are there any obvious grammar, spelling or punctuation errors?

     

    2) Check for inconsistencies. Read your work through again and this time look out for any inconsistencies.

    • Have you spelt your characters' names the same all the way through? Have you accidentally changed their hair or eye colour?
    • Is your setting consistent? If your character’s apartment is on the second floor make sure you don’t forget and change it to the first or third floor later on in the story.
    • Does the time span work? If your story takes place over a certain amount of time make sure you plot it out carefully. If it’s Tuesday in your story and your character is going to do something on Friday don’t say ‘in two days' time’ if it should be three.
    • Is it obvious when any flashbacks start or end? Remember to leave a space before and after a flashback.
    • Have you kept to the correct tense? Make sure you haven’t started writing in the past tense and then slipped to present tense, or vice-versa.

     

    3) Check each chapter. If you’re writing a novel have another read through and check each chapter carefully, making sure you haven’t missed anything.

    • Is your dialogue realistic? Have you varied the verbs of speech too much?
    • Is your narrative effective and not too wordy? A bit of description and scene setting is good but don’t go overboard. Keep it concise.
    • Does every scene add something to the story? No matter how well written a scene is ask yourself if it adds something to the story. Don’t pad it out.

     

    4) Check the structure and flow. This is a very important stage so take your time with it.

    • Has your story got a beginning, middle and end?
    • Is there enough – but not too much – conflict?
    • Do any bits sound stilted or awkward – read it aloud as it’s easier to spot then.
    • Are the sentences or paragraphs too long? Don’t use overlong sentences taking up a few lines, or paragraphs that take up a whole page. Break up the text. It’s an easier read and looks more inviting to the reader.

     

    5) Check the spelling, punctuation and grammar. Whilst an editor will forgive you a few grammar mistakes or typos if your work is littered with them it gives a poor impression and probably won’t be read. So read through again and check:

    • Have you made any typos? We all do it, but a careful check over your work should pick them up.
    • Have you used the correct word? A spell checker will underline your spelling mistakes but won’t recognise if you used the wrong word – ‘bare’ for example instead of ‘bear’.
    • Have you used the correct punctuation? Remember to enclose dialogue inside speech marks and to put punctuation marks such as commas and question marks before the final speech marks. And to leave a space after a full stop.

     

    If you're writing a children's story you'll find more useful tips in my book, GET WRITING: CHILDREN'S FICTION.

     

    getwritingfront

     

    Available from Amazon ,Waterstones, Barnes and Noble and other book stores. If you'd like info about one of my courses, or my manuscript critique service - for both children's fiction and adult fiction - then contact me.

     

  3. A warm welcome to my Guest Author, Jane McGarry, who's dropped by to tell us about her debut novel, Not Every Girl.

     noteverygirlcover

    Blurb

     Olivia Davenport’s plan is destined to fail.

     She is going through with it anyway, of course. After all, it is the chance of a lifetime. The unreasonable rules of others should not stand in her way.

     In her small kingdom of Stewartsland, Olivia trains with the squires and harbors a secret dream. She longs to become a knight under the command of the Master-of–Arms, who just happens to be her father. He has indulged her passion so far, but they both know a simple fact – girls may not attain knighthood. Dismayed by the constant discouragement of her ambitions, she makes an impetuous decision to disguise herself as a boy in order to sneak on a mission. The consequences are not at all what she anticipated.

     When her deception is revealed, she is sent home in disgrace; however, an unexpected turn of events puts her at the center of a dangerous plot against the King. The ensuing adventure finds her grappling with mercenaries and outlaws, yet these pale in comparison to her newly awakened emotions. She finds not only her life at risk, but also her heart, when the aloof Prince Liam begins to affect her in ways she never thought possible. In the end, it is her courage and unique spirit which must guide her through the challenges she encounters both physical and emotional.

     

    Excerpt

    I dust off and grab my bags, intending to fetch the horses. Only one short step later I hear an angry voice yell, "Peter! Where are you?"

    It is Sir Michael. He is not happy. Freezing in my tracks, I spin around to him, as does nearly everyone else.

    "Get over here, lad," he yells in my direction, "this stupid lace has broken."

    In an instant, I am at his side. Indeed, the end of the leather lace that secures the left side of his jerkin has snapped off. His supply sack sits nearby. I rummage through it, hunting for a replacement cord. Surely, Puck packed an extra lace or something that can be used as a reasonable substitute.

    Uh-oh!

    Dread drifts in, envelops me in its icy claws. My stomach becomes lead. Puck had spoken about replacing the laces of Sir Michael's jerkin in the armory the other night. Obviously, he had planned to do it before the journey, but he did not get the chance—because I had interrupted him with dinner and…

    My heart races, sweat beads on my brow. I am paralyzed with fear until a boot toe jabs my side. "Look alive, boy!" Sir Michael orders. Mechanically, I resume groping through the bag hoping to find something—anything—that I can improvise with. There is nothing.

    "What I don't understand is why these laces were not replaced prior to this trip. They clearly needed to be," he snaps.

    Unsure what else to do, I mumble an apology.

    Bad move.

    Sir Michael takes this as insolence and yanks me up by the armpit. Spinning me around to face him, he roars, "I am speaking to you, Peter, and therefore require your undivided attention. Do you understand?"

    I stand there mutely, aware that his yelling has drawn the attention of everyone. Certainly, they all try to act as if they are not listening, but I am sure every ear is perked up in this direction. Before I can think of a way out of this situation…

    "And take off that blasted helmet so you can look me straight in the eyes when I am talking to you!" In one fell swoop, he reaches out and knocks my helmet to the ground. "Surely I have taught you more respect than…"

    His words abruptly cease.

    Under different circumstances, his expression would be quite comical. He has stopped yelling in midsentence, his mouth agape, eyes wide and disbelieving. His face resembles those painted masks some gypsy vendors sell at our city's festivals. Lydia has one; she always tries to scare Grace with it. Since no response from me seems to be required, I stare at the ground and wait for all the pieces to fall into place for him. To my surprise, he draws his sword and points the tip right at my throat. For some reason, at this stressful moment, my brain manages to register that this is the second time in three days I have had a sword to my throat. Not such a good track record. His next words surprise me even more.

    "Who are you?" He scowls. "Speak quickly!"

    "Olivia," I say in a strangulated whisper. It dawns on me that Sir Michael does not have the first clue who I am. For all he knows, I mean them harm, particularly the King, whom he is sworn to protect with his life.

    "Who?" The point pushes painfully into my neck.

    "Olivia?"

    This time the voice isn't mine. It is my father's. He rushed over at the sound of the commotion and now stands with much the same expression Sir Michael had a moment ago.

    "How…? What are you…? Explain yourself, young lady!"

    I sounds an intriguing read, doesn't it? If you want to read more here's where you can buy the book from:

      Buy Links

     Amazon

     Barnes & Noble

     

    About JaneJaneMcGarry

     Author Bio

    Reading was always a big part of Jane’s life. Over the years, creating stories developed out of this love. Finally, she decided to try her hand at writing a novel and that was when Not Every Girl was conceived.

    She lives in New Jersey in a house full of boys, including one over-indulged cat. When she is not running around with her family or writing, she can be found curled up with a good book and said cat. It is her belief that a good book, a loyal pet and anything made of chocolate can brighten just about any day.

     

    I asked Jane to tell us a bit about herself

    How did you get started writing?

    From when I was young, I always wrote for myself, just simple stories here and there. I never seriously considered trying to publish anything until a few years ago. When I became a stay-at-home mom, writing became my outlet—time that was purely mine.  Then, I had the idea for Not Every Girl and, though it was daunting to think about penning a full length novel while taking care of two kids, I decided to give it a try. It took several years to complete, but was well worth it in the end.

    Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

    I am a huge Hello Kitty fan. Since I only have sons, I have to contain the crazy when it comes to HK merchandise, but I manage to work it in with PJ’s, slippers, bookmarks and other small trinkets. I’m always on the lookout for her, in fact, I just got a beautiful HK beach towel from a friend!

    What is your top writing tip for new writers?

    I am asked this a lot and my answer is simple—write.  There will never be a perfect time, life will always try to get in the way.  But, if you write something—anything—you can always go back and edit it. You can’t edit a blank page.  If you just manage to get a small bit down every day, over time it will add up to something substantial.

    Author links

    Author website:

    http://www.janemcgarrybooks.com/

    You Tube Book Trailer:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgI3NW02qgk

    Facebook link:

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jane-McGarry-Author/712005068914626

    Twitter link:

    https://twitter.com/JMcGarryauthor

    Instagram link:

    https://instagram.com/janemcgarryauthor/

    Pinterest link:

    https://www.pinterest.com/janem0378/

     

     Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your new book, Jane!

     

  4. Sheryl and dogs 3

     

    A warm welcome to the delightful Sheryl Browne who's dropped by today to talk about her double release - her latest two novels, The Rest of My Life and Death Sentence are out now. I first discovered Sheryl's work when I read her heartwarming romance novel Somebody to Love. I can't wait to read her new books!

    First, let's find out a bit about Sheryl. Sheryl specialises in edgy, sexy, poignant fiction weaving captivating stories laced with heartache, humour, love, loss & betrayal . A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for Innovation in Romantic Fiction, Sheryl has seven books published with Safkhet Publishing.

     

    Sheryl's new contemporary romance novel was recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer. The Rest of My Life comes to you from award winning Choc Lit. Look at the gorgeous cover!

    Logo with WF strapline

    Cover (2)

     

    Blurb

    “You can’t run away from commitment forever … “

    Adam Hamilton-Shaw has more reason than most to avoid commitment. Living on a houseboat in the Severn Valley, his dream is to sail into the sunset – preferably with a woman waiting in every port. But lately, his life looks more like a road to destruction than an idyllic boat ride…

    Would-be screenplay writer Sienna Meadows realises that everything about Adam spells trouble – but she can’t ignore the feeling that there is more to him than just his bad reputation. Nor can she ignore the intense physical attraction that exists between them.

    And it just so happens that Adam sees Sienna as the kind of woman he could commit to. But can he change his damaging behaviour – or is the road to destruction a one-way street?

    Watch the Video:

    https://youtu.be/7p319itbVKg

     

    Excerpt

    Sienna was tucked up in bed with Tobias when she heard him. Was it him? Hardly daring to breathe, she cocked an ear and listened.

    ‘Sienna!’ She heard again. It was! Scrambling out of bed, much to her dog’s chagrin, Sienna flew to the window and yanked it open.

    ‘Sienna,’ Adam shouted from down below. ‘I love you!’

    Oh, no. Sienna closed her eyes, realising her dad was outside her front door, looking from Adam and then up to her, astounded.

    ‘I love you, Sienna!’ Adam repeated, loudly.

    Sienna peeled an eye open, risking another peek at the inebriated man, declaring his love for her in the rain. Oh God, he was swaying on his feet. He wasn’t even facing the right window.

    ‘I love your mind,’ Adam went on, now addressing the entire boatyard, including Lauren, who’d joined her at the window, and Nathaniel, who’d appeared, bewildered and bleary-eyed, from the chandlery.

    ‘I love your body.’ Adam stopped and glanced down at his feet. ‘God, I love your body,’ he reiterated, throatily.

    Lauren sighed and rolled her eyes. ‘Perfect. Well done, Adam.’

    ‘I love you, Sienna! I don’t not want you. I don’t not want you more than anything in my entire life. I’ll sort myself out. I promise!’ Adam went on determinedly – and drunkenly, turning around and heading in the vague direction of his boat. ‘No more booze, no more women, no more … anything.’

    Pausing, Adam stopped, and turned back. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said, more quietly. ‘If you don’t want me, Sienna, I don’t blame you. Totally, absolutely undersh … under … get it.’ With which Adam turned to reach for his handrail, and missed it.

    ****

    Jolting awake as something pressed heavily down on his chest, Adam coughed and spluttered, puking up a bellyful of river, as he did.

    ‘I see you’re back with us,’ the man looming over him, looking mightily unimpressed, said. ‘David Meadows, Sienna’s father,’ he introduced himself, smiling the kind of smile an executioner who enjoyed his job might. ‘I’ve promised Sienna I’m not going to break your legs. If I’m going to keep that promise, your explanations had better be good.’

    Buy:

    Amazon UK

    Amazon US

     Reviewed by a top Amazon Reviewer at BestSelling Thrillers and already given several glowing FIVE Stars, Sheryl’s new thriller, Death Sentence, is now available on Amazon!

     

    Cover (1)

    Death Sentence - He's killed your child and kidnapped your wife. What would YOU do?

    Detective Inspector Matthew Adams and Patrick Sullivan, drug dealer, pimp, murderer: two men on opposite sides of the law. A history that goes way back. A bully even in his youth, Sullivan had made it his mission in life to make the goody-two-shoes copper's life a misery. Now Matthew has made it his mission in life to make sure the pimping scum responsible for prostituting young girls, abusing them, and beating them to death, is locked up for life.

    When Matthew's child becomes a casualty of the war between them, does Matthew want justice? Or does he want retribution? When Patrick's brother is shot down like a dog in a drug bust gone wrong, Patrick wants payback. He wants Matthew. Or the copper loses his pretty, pregnant wife. As far as Patrick is concerned, it's quid pro quo.

    An edge-of-your seat story of revenge.

    The title of the book was suggested by a chief constable, who also kindly provided Sheryl guidance in regard to forensics and police procedural.

    Watch the video:

    https://youtu.be/5hBOBLTiQxw

     

    Excerpt

    ‘Not very gentlemanly, keeping ladies hanging around, Adams, is it?’ Patrick watched with interest, as the copper turned a pale shade of white. Reeling on his feet, he was, poor sod. He actually looked as if he might pass out. Didn’t take him long to recover himself, though. Patrick watched on as Adams pulled himself up, bracing his shoulders in that bloody annoying Bruce Willis nothing-gets-to-me way he had. It obviously did though. He might be trying to keep a grip, but the little tic going in his cheek was a dead giveaway. Patrick had noticed it when Adams had paid him a visit in the nick. Seen it many times, when the pathetic little runt had tried to stand up to him as a kid. Most recently, before the bastard had kicked him to the floor like a dog, for which the copper was about to get payback. Oh, yes, his fuse was lit all right. The man was a ticking time-bomb, far too reactive to be on the force, in Patrick’s humble opinion.

    Patrick barely had time to free himself of the girl before the copper exploded.

    ‘You fucking animal!’ he seethed, lunging towards him.

    But Patrick was ready. ‘Down!’ He levelled the shotgun, ready to blast Adams to kingdom come if he didn’t back off.

    Clearly realising he might be at a disadvantage, Adams stopped, his expression pure thunder, his chest heaving. Oh, dear. Was that a little wheeze Patrick could hear in there? Quietly amused, he noted how Adams was struggling to control his breathing, another giveaway as to the copper’s high state of anxiety. Patrick probably knew the signs better than Adams did.

    ‘I said, down, Adams.’ Lowering the gun, Patrick indicated the floor, which is where he wanted Adams. No one, but no one constantly refers to Patrick Sullivan as an animal and gets away with it.

    ‘Unless you want your wife and Snow White to see your blood splattered all over the walls, that is?’

    Adams didn’t budge. Taking slow breaths, he stayed exactly where he was, his fist clenched at his side and in his eyes … pure murder. Patrick felt the tiniest flicker of apprehension run through him.

    ‘We can play the waiting game if you like, Adams,’ he made sure to hold his gaze, ‘but I’m not sure your good lady will be very keen on the idea. Are you?’

    Patrick’s gaze flicked in the direction of the man’s wife.

    ‘Do it,’ he ordered. ‘Face front and get down on your knees, copper, if you value her life.’

    ‘You bastard.’ Adams took another laboured breath and ran his hands over his face. Then, glancing heavenward, finally, he did as instructed.

    Got him, Patrick thought, hugely satisfied that the copper seemed to be getting the message. Patrick had the upper hand now. This time, it would be Adams, defenceless on the floor, while he broke his fucking jaw. Quid pro quo, as far as Patrick was concerned.

    Amazon UK

    Amazon US

     

     I asked Sheryl to tell us a but about herself.

    How did you get started writing?

    I think I first started writing about the time I took leave of my senses. Haw, haw! I joke, sort of. Writing has always been my passion, since way back when a kindly English teacher gave me 22/20 for an essay, bless him. I started writing actual books as a catharsis, in truth. As a single parent and nursing my mum through early onset Alzheimer’s Disease in my twenties, I needed an outlet. I’m the arty sort by nature but painting not being an option due to time constraints, I picked up a pencil instead – an actual pencil then – and started scribbling. It turned out to be a real antidote, because I found I was reflecting on the humour and love in what would otherwise been a sad situation. 

    My very first bestselling debut, however… Um, well it didn’t sell … at all. I think the agent who’d hailed it as such went off in search of Prozac. I’d love to tell you about it but, unfortunately, I eventually tossed it in the bin. I can tell you the title though! It was called Loose Screws! Hmm? Not so sure about that now. Silver linings and all that, though: my book, Warrant for Love – now published – was based on that first book. Or rather what I could remember of it, mostly a hunky policeman in a bite-the-buttons-off blue uniform.

     Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

     I’m accident prone. As in really accident prone. I’m a walking disaster: the person that forgot to let go of the rope on the ski lift and ended up dangling over the middle of the snow dome. I think I drove my instructor to Prozac too. Then there was the time I fell off the back off our narrowboat – and nobody noticed I’d gone. Very sad.

     

    What’s your top writing tip for new writers?

    Based on my answer above, never throw away your first manuscript! It might need work but as you write and learn, taking on board constructive criticism, you can fix it!

     

    Great tip, Sheryl. :) Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your books. I'm sure they'll be a huge success.

     

     You can find out more about Sheryl by clicking these links.

    Website | Twitter | Facebook | Buy | Buy US | Pinterest

    Loveahappyending Lifestyle

    Safkhet Publishing | Choc Lit | Romantic Novelists’ Association

     

                           

  5. Speech is a powerful tool. It is the way we express ourselves, our likes, dislikes and opinions. In books, dialogue has many uses. It:

    Brings the characters alive. Notice how everyone expresses themselves in different ways, uses different tones of voice, different sentence construction, chooses different words to say similar things. Think how dialogue individualises people. When you answer the phone to a friend, colleague or member of your family you usually know who it is without them telling you. You know by the tone of their voice and the way they express themselves. When you write your reader should know who is speaking before they read the name of the speaker, again by the way they express themselves. Make sure that every character in your story expresses themselves differently, speaks with their own voice.

    Moves the story forward. Just a sentence of dialogue can move the story along. For example, your character and a friend have been searching for something for ages. “I’ve found it!” Emma shouted. Just those three words tell us the search is over.

    Informs the reader of facts. Dialogue can be used to give your reader information about one of the characters, a recent development, something that is about to happen or any other fact they need to know.

    Sets the emotional mood. A character’s speech can lighten the mood of the story or increase the drama and suspense.

    Describes an action. A simple phrase such as “For goodness sake, Jenny stop fidgeting!” can tell us a lot about a character.

    Foreshadows plot development. A sentence of dialogue can often tell the reader that something important is about to happen far more effectively than a chunk of narrative. “What’s that strange light in the sky?” Vicky shouted. “It’s coming nearer. It’s…it’s a spaceship!”

    Sustains the reader’s interest. Children (and many adults) find dialogue more interesting than narrative so realistic dialogue can keep them interested, especially in the middle of the story where it can often go flat.

     Never use dialogue just for the sake of it. It must serve a purpose and advance the plot in some way.

     

    Writing Exercise

    Write a piece of dialogue showing two characters having an argument. Think about your characters and how they would talk, try to give each character a distinctive 'voice' so you would know which character is speaking without the speech tags.

    If you're writing a children's story you'll find more useful tips in my book, GET WRITING: CHILDREN'S FICTION.

     getwritingfront

    Available from Amazon ,Waterstones, Barnes and Noble and other book stores. If you'd like info about one of my courses, or my manuscript critique service - for both children's fiction and adult fiction - then contact me.