Tag Archives: reference

Real life dragons!

Real life dragons! (or cool looking lizards….)

I thought I would share these here, as I love lizards and reptiles and these are beautiful little creatures.  I might have to feature something like them in a future story.
Armadillo Girdled Lizard – Cordylus cataphractus – from South Africa.

armadillo-girdled-lizard-roll-into-ball ZB980_TBA001239A_36_ozctr3

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Book Review – Chronicle of the Chinese Emperors

COTCEChronicle of the Chinese Emperors: The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial China

by Ann Paludan

This is an excellent history book.  It is well organized and a useful reference work for projects and information purposes.  It is also well enough written to be an enjoyable read. It does not pretend to be a general/complete history of Imperial China; instead it covers the emperors (and occasional Empresses) themselves, giving a coherent unbiased picture that is sometimes difficult to get from most traditional histories.  It gives an account of each emperor from Qin Shinuangdi to Puyi.

This book provides a history that acknowledges the reports of historians from all areas (including enemies of China); these are critically analysed for their biases to attempt to give a balanced account.  The author does not blindly accept what either group has to say about emperors who they either demonize or deify. This is a very worthwhile practice, and so overall the book is a very helpful primer for a novice on the subject.

Especially interesting was the family information as well as the timelines, maps and illustrations. This book is concise and complete for its size and also manages to include text sketches of other prominent people of the day as well as each emperor’s most famous construction projects, laws or other interesting tid bits.

The smaller details of imperial titles, etc., are pulled out into handy sidebars where they can be ignored if desired or enjoyed by those who like that sort of thing.

The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs of “official” portrait paintings and sketches of most of the emperors as well as the monuments they built. There are also many drawings and plans showing reconstructions of their palaces and monuments.  It is very easy to read and Chinese language concepts are easily explained.  This is an excellent book for author research or school projects.


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3 Things Agatha Christie Can Teach You About Writing

Agatha Christie

I will openly admit that I have been reading a horrendous amount of Agatha Christie of late (my own favorites being Evil under the Sun and Death on the Nile), and felt inspired to write a brief post about her career and what can be learned from it.

Agatha Christie was a master at her craft.  No one can deny it.  After all, she basically invented her style of close-house mysteries.  Her stories have generated several world renowned and much loved literary figures such as the immaculate Hercule Poirot and the indomitable Miss Marple.

Her output was predominately Mystery/Crime fiction, but she did release six romance books under a pen name – even she grew a little tired of her genre- as her name became more synonymous with crime.  I had better add successful playwright as well, I cannot forget The Mousetrap – the longest running play in the modern era.  It has not closed since it initially opened in 1952.

She had a writing career spanning more than fifty five years and never during that time did she ‘fall out of fashion’ with her readers.

What Agatha Christie can teach authors

Fellow writers can learn a lot from people like Agatha Christie, and I am going to give three of my ‘take aways’ from her for a successful writing career below.

  • Hating your Creation – It was no secret that Agatha Christie did not like her most famous character – Hercule Poirot – I think her words to describe him were “Insufferable” and “Egocentric creep”.  But she kept writing him because her fans loved him, and she did not let her writing or storylines suffer because of it.  She saw herself as an entertainer first, whose job was to produce what her reading public wanted – and they wanted more Poirot.  Write to Entertain.
  • Recycling plotlines – Agatha Christie did create the close house, all suspects (still alive) together at the reveal Crime/Mystery Genre.  Basically, a murder is committed, there are multiple suspects who are all concealing secrets, and the detective gradually uncovers these secrets over the course of the story, discovering the most shocking twists towards the end. At the end, in a Christie hallmark, the detective usually gathers the surviving suspects into one room, explains the course of their deductive reasoning, and reveals the guilty party.  Whether you are reading Poirot, Marple or Tommy and Tuppence, the general plotline above is used.  But this plotline is a very stable, well functioning framework, which, when dressed with a well woven, tightly scripted storyline makes for a good and entertaining read.  Write on a well founded Framework.
  • Characters – What made Agatha Christie’s stories stand out were her characters.  Agatha would take the characteristics and mannerisms from the people she saw around her (mainly from what she observed from strangers), and give them to characters in her books.  It made her characters more ‘real’ and would give the reader something that they can relate to.  Write your characters as real people.

Agatha Christie was a very successful and well loved writer.  She has over 70 books in print and even though she died in 1976, they are still selling well which is a testament to her skill as a writer and her storytelling.

NB: This article was originally published on Bookmarketingtools.com

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Why Chocolate Is Good For You AND Your Writing

This article was originally published on Bookmarketingtools.com

Books and chocolate

No really, chocolate is good for you. Dark chocolate can even help you lose weight!

But as with all good things, for the above to be true, chocolate should be eaten in small quantities. That means those small quantities had better be good.

The same can be said about writing.

A lot of excess words can help bulk out word count and make you feel good about your output. But it can also make your manuscript overweight, unwieldy and a hard slog for readers to get through.

“In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.”-Stephen King, On Writing

Scenes, paragraphs, and sentences should be pared down and always be working to move the story forward in a flowing, logical manner. A good way for testing this with a piece of writing is to read it aloud. If it flows well while speaking it, then it should flow well while reading it.

I am not going to say that I am the perfect writer that does everything correctly, and never use too many words to get my point across. In fact I am the opposite (as can be seen from this post). I love words and like to use as many of them as possible wherever I can. But as with eating too much chocolate, I know that in the long run too many words will be a bad thing for the story (and this article).

“Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”-Stephen King, On Writing

Now, I am not going to tell you how to write like this, just as I am not going to tell you what chocolate to eat. That is up to each individual to decide. Everyone has their particular brand of chocolate, and everyone has their own particular writing style.

Ultimately it is up to you to decide what stays, what goes, and what chocolate to eat.

Happy chocolate munching!

-H.M. Clarke

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The Procrastinators Guide to Story Avoidance

This article was originally published on BookDaily.com


Nice catchy title, and oh so true in my case. (Case in point – me writing this blog post is a good example – I should be finishing The Station).

I also have a horrible habit of going off topic, (yet another symptom of procrastination), so I’ll try my hardest not to do this too much.

Let’s get straight to the point here. Writers generally drop into procrastination mode when either of the following conditions occurs:

1) Coming up to the point in their story where there is a difficult scene to plot out and write.
2) Characters write themselves into a situation that the author does not know how to get them out of
3) Your Manuscript is in the editing stages of the second and third drafts (and everyone definitely wants to avoid that)
4) Any other situation that a writer can find themselves in that makes doing the dishes right at that very moment a high priority task.

Now, this blog post is supposed to be about story avoidance. That means, whenever any of the above conditions occur, you must immediately go and find something as far away from the object of avoidance as possible.

Avoidance strategies can be either very simple or extremely extravagant. Strategies that I use regularly are:

1) House cleaning – it does help getting your mind off the hurdles in your writing and then gives you time to look at things from a fresh perspective and can actually be helpful in the long run.
2) Baking – This does the same thing as house cleaning except you get cakes, biscuits and cookies at the end of it.
3) Research – This can be anything ranging from historical to scientific or basically fact finding in general. This again can be helpful in both finding plots and ideas for future stories, or for finding examples that can get you out of your writing quandary.
4) Taking the family on a day trip – This also does the same thing as house cleaning, except that you also get exposure to daylight and spend quality time with your family.
5) Television – Um, television really is the procrastinators’ friend. I never get anything useful done when the TV is on. Unless I’m watching something in connection with point 3.
6) Internet – Same point as Television. It is an incredible tool for procrastination. But it can also help overcome your issues by going to relevant blogs, websites, and friendly communities that might help you by discussing issues or reviewing the piece of work or idea that is troubling you. There are many of these writing communities around; it’s just a matter of finding one that suits you and your genre. Also be aware when trying to find a writing community that there is a difference between constructive criticism and being downright mean.

I could make this list a lot larger, but I think I have procrastinated long enough. I hope that I have given some good tips to successful procrastination methods and I would love to hear what works well for you and what doesn’t.

Happy Procrastinating

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“Them’s Writing Words!”: 3 ways to gain inspiration for your next writing project

This article was originally published on Bookmarketingtools.com

The Passion of Creation by Leonid Pasternak (the father of Boris Pasternak)

Writing Inspiration

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and they say something that sparks a story idea in your head?

(…then you miss the rest of the conversation because you are desperately trying to imprint the idea in your brain so you can get it down on paper at a later time…)

This tends to happen a lot to me and usually I can’t get to a piece of paper (or my phone) in time to get the idea, and the emotion behind it, down.

(…immediately grabbing your phone in mid-conversation can be seen as a little rude…)

I call this phenomenon ‘Writing Words’ – When you hear something that immediately sends your mind racing on story ideas and concepts. Many good books have been sparked into existence by a word or line in a conversation, or even from a song or a picture. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a good example of this:

“The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.”– From the essay, It All Began with a Picture, by C.S. Lewis

3 Ways To Get Writing Inspiration

Here are 3 ways that you can get inspiration, or tap into those ‘Writing Words’:

  1. From items and things in the world around you. Pictures, scenes, landscapes, songs, your favorite park bench…these can all be a catalyst for forming your next writing project. It’s just up to you to be aware of what is around you and see the potential. Just as C.S. Lewis did.
  2. From news articles. Newspapers, magazine articles, online news sites and television have always been a good source for soaking up story ideas. A social issue on illegal immigration in the Australian Press is what sparked the inspiration for my book The Enclave. Though whatever idea or theme attracts your attention, it needs to resonate with you, because if it doesn’t, the story will not have the emotional power behind it that you would like it to have.
  3. From the conversations and events that happen around you. Now we are back to where I started this article. Any conversation, whether one you’re involved with or overheard, can be a goldmine of ideas for stories in any genre. It’s just up you, the writer, to see their value and greedily use it to your writing advantage.

I gather ideas mainly using the 3 points above. Because of this I have a large collection of paper slips that get tucked into my idea book when I get home. I have been storing my ideas like this for years and have several notebooks full of stuff that I go back to when I need writing inspiration.

How do you find your ideas? Please share your thoughts in the comment’s section. I really would like to know what works for you.

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Saturday Einstein



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13 Blogging Statistics you probably don’t know but should



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Saturday Einstein!


I can relate very well to this quote – The illusion of reality always gets in the way of the illusion of my writing worlds  🙂

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Six Writing Productivity Lessons I learnt from Star Trek…

Lenard Nimoy – TOS
Zachary Quinto – Movie Reboot






I love Star Trek, so I thought I would make a post centered entirely around my favourite character – Mr Spock!  The tips are the same you can find anywhere else, they have just been dressed up to make them more memorable 🙂

1)  Vulcan Nerve Pinch One Person at a Time

Spock knew that if he tried to Nerve Pinch multiple people at once, he would fail.  If he did not multi-task, why should you?

2)  Spend Time in Rest

Spock rested and meditated to renew himself and find his ‘centre’.  He knew to rest and recuperate, so should you.

3)  Focus on Your ‘Fascinating’

Solving scientific conundrums and mission priorities was always at the top of Mr Spock’s to-do list, nothing could distract him.  Be as focussed as Mr Spock.

4)  Discipline Lt. Valeris

When people you rely on let you down, you must take them to task to make sure that it does not happen again.

5)  Find a Starship Captain to keep you accountable

Mr Spock was accountable to Captain Kirk, and that kept him focussed.  Find someone who will hold you accountable in the same way.

6)  Find your Centre

Just as Mr Spock’s Strength’s and mental quickness flowed from his calmness, his centre, so should you learn to trust your instincts and work with your strengths.

Adapt these tips above to your writing – or to any work/project to have in mind, and you may find your output increase more than you could have hoped.


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