Let’s Get Published

Today I am delighted to host a guest piece by Val Penny. Val is best known for her ‘Hunter’s’ series of crime novels set in Edinburgh, but today she is sharing the introduction to her first non-fiction book, Let’s Get Published. Take it away, Val! ….

Many people say anybody can write a book.  Most of these individuals have never tried to write one. Alternatively, it is often said that everybody has a book inside of them. That is simply not true. This is repeated and belittles the achievements of authors.

In truth, it is a very hard thing to write a book. Most people never attempt it, fewer still succeed in getting published. But if you have written a novel, or novella, or perhaps compiled a collection of short stories, poems or flash fiction, this book may help you with the next step. It is primarily intended for authors of fiction who have completed a draft of their novel and who are now looking to prepare it for submission to agents or publishers.

Of course, it may also aid poets, short story writers and authors of non-fiction. It is designed to facilitate authors in maximising their success when submitting work to agents or publishers. It is to help authors consider their priorities and preferences for getting work into print and identify the agents and/or publishers they want to approach. It should also assist with editing their manuscript fully prior to submission and preparing their submission package to give them the best chance of success. 

Writing a novel is hard work.

Completing even the first rough draft of a novel can take months or even years, particularly if you are trying to fit your writing in amongst work or other commitments. It is definitely a marathon, not a sprint and requires dedication and persistence. The American writer Richard Bach who is widely known as the author of some of the 1970s’ biggest sellers, including Jonathan Livingston Seagull once said,

‘A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit’.

If you have finished the first draft of your novel and, like all writers, you now want it to reach the widest possible readership. It has to be published so that other people can read your book and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Getting your book published is likely to be even harder work than writing it. We have all heard the stories of the multiple rejections received by now best-selling authors including Kathryn Stockett who wrote The Help, also Stephen King’s bestselling novel, Carrie, was rejected over thirty times and even J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels were rejected on numerous occasions before Bloomsbury took a chance on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. No matter how good your book might be, to get it published you will need the same level of determination, resilience, hard work and careful planning that you harnessed to write it. Nevertheless, there is good news. There are now more routes to publication than ever before. Have a look and see which one suits you best – Let’s Get Published!

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, Hunter’s Chase, Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force and Hunter’s Blood are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Darkstroke. The fifth book in the series, Hunter’s Secret, was published in 2020 as was her first nonfiction book, Let’s Get Published.

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Looking Forward …

Well, what a year that was! It began with me turning 60, followed shortly afterwards by the death of my Mum on 13 January. Oh well, at least it’s got to get better after this, I thought …

However, I don’t think there is much point in raking over the awfulness of 2020, or the fact that the Covid crisis seems, right now, to be worse than ever. It was what it was, and it is what it is. Nor do I want to speculate about when we are finally going to emerge from all this – I’ve done so in the past, and been disappointed. But I do want to look forward, and I’m going to take the risky step of talking about some things I want to achieve this year.

My first priority is to get my novel Going Down in Flames – about a woman’s relationship with her father as he loses his memory – published. This has been rumbling on for a long time now. It’s been drafted, edited, sent to some agents, redrafted and edited again more than once. I was very confident in the concept and the characters, but something about the structure of it wasn’t quite working. I put it aside for a while and worked on other things, but last year I decided I had to get rid of the bloody thing. After a final edit with the aid of beta readers and some professional advice, I am now happy with the novel in its current form, and am determined to get it in print. It is with a publisher as we speak – I hope they like it! If not, there will be others.

I’d also like to make some progress with my slow-burning sci-fi project. Having published a first story from it last year (“Delving” in the Darkness anthology – https://timwordsblog.wordpress.com/2020/10/04/darkness/) I want to publish at least one more this year. Other than that, I’ll be continuing to seek to get poems published in magazines and anthologies, and placed in competitions, after a reasonably successful year in 2020 (about the only good thing about that year!). I may even look to get a second poetry collection (after Sea Without A Shore in 2019) published – but I’m not going to commit to that yet – it depends on what else happens. Finally, by the end of the year. I want to have started work on another novel. I’m not sure what that novel will be yet, but I have a few ideas.

So there it is! I’ve set out my stall for 2021. The good news is that none of this is dependent on the end of Covid or coming out of lockdown – indeed, maybe I’ll make better progress without the distractions of holidays or going out – but I’m not going to wish for that!

Finally, I’d like to wish all readers good luck in their own writing or other projects, and a safe, happy and ultimately positive year.

No Harm Done

I’m pleased to host a guest piece today from Jacqueline Jeynes, an established non-fiction writer who is sharing with us the intriguing prologue for a novel she is currently working on, No Harm Done.


“Get out of the way!” he screamed, tooting the horn angrily and flashing lights at other road users. Cyclists ignored him, weaving through the myriad of obstacles, chatting leisurely with wives or girlfriends perched side-saddle behind them.

Luk Say glanced in his rear-view mirror at two passengers squashed tightly together in the farthest corner away from him. The older girl sat rigid, staring straight ahead as she had done since leaving Beijing airport. He was convinced she hadn’t blinked once during the last hour. Very unnerving. About nine years old, he guessed, a little older than her companion.

The other girl slept, cocooned by the coat she clutched tightly around her.

“Good riddance,” he grumbled, recalling his panic that airport security would stop him as the girl screamed and ranted hysterically.

“Still, not long now”.

Manoeuvring slowly down the narrow street, wheels slushed through squelching piles of rotting rubbish. Rivulets of creamy, opaque water splashed onto black shiny paintwork, the stench wafting up in great clouds.

Luk Say pulled up sharply at the shack, a dim light illuminated the family crouched around the tiny cooking area.

“Come and get her, then. Be quick about it, I’ve still got another to take home yet” he shouted jumping from the car. Eagerly they rushed over, excited that she was home. He touched the girl’s shoulder, calling gruffly

“Hey! Wake up. You are home”.

Her howl ricocheted inside the black confines of the cab as she leapt onto the seat, hunched against its yellowing, grimed roof-lining. She rocked backwards and forwards, jabbering wildly as the family watched in silent horror.

Her mother yanked Luk Say away from the door.

“San-li! San-li – it’s me.”

Then louder, instinctively returning to familiar words of childhood,

“I am here, San-li. My little bird, it’s Mummy. You are home now”.

The little girl froze, wild eyes slowly beginning to focus on her mother’s face. Coaxing, soothing, she pulled her daughter gently towards her and carried her home.


Lu Tang had barely moved her head to observe San-li, her doll-like eyes sliding back to resume fixed concentration on the road ahead. As their eyes met, she knew Luk Say would be glad to hand this one over too.

The girl sat straight and still in the back of the car. A few times her eyelids wavered – she was so tired – but her head jerked backwards sharply. Had the driver seen?

“I mustn’t sleep. Must stay awake. If I sleep, they will come…”

She closed her mind quickly to the images, forcing her gaze to the darkness beyond the windscreen. She was wary of the driver, but frightened? No, not really. She had seen fear in his eyes too, at the airport. He was just the delivery man.

Leaving Beijing, they reached Lu Tang’s home. Slowly, she carried her small case from the car, watching her father and the driver as they shook hands conspiratorially. Looking into her father’s wrinkled, weather-beaten face, his eyes narrowed, a hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth. So, he knew all along.

Lu Tang suddenly felt very tired. Sitting on her bed at the back of the house. She opened the case. There was the doll they gave her when she arrived in England.

Such a long four weeks since she had left this room, she thought sadly. And her life was changed forever.

Dr Jacqueline Jeynes has been a published non-fiction author for 20 years, on a range of topics including business books, military history of POWs in Japan, textile crafts, and various forms of travel writing. She has a small-run publishing company and currently has a book due for release by New York publisher on Strategies for Targeting the mature travel sector. She is an art history course writer and tutor with Aberystwyth University. She lives in west Wales and has been married for nearly 40 years with lots of children/ grandchildren/ great-grandchildren.


header pic: 維基小霸王 licensed under CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Sonnet Satisfaction

I seem to be going through a sonnet phase at the moment. I’m finding that every other poem I write seems to fall into 14 lines of iambic pentameter. It’s such a neat, concise form – it gives you just enough space to articulate an idea, but absolutely no room for waffle or padding. And the good news is, I’m having some luck with them. I’m delighted to have four sonnets in this newly-published anthology from Rhizome Press. You can find it on Amazon here

Here’s one of the four – based upon a real incident preserved in an astonishing fossil.

 The Velociraptor and the Protoceratops
 The raptor slashes with its sickle claw;
 lethal, but not itself immune from harm.
 The herbivore clamps down its horn-beaked jaw
 to crush the bones of its attacker’s arm.
 These two are fighting to the death, of course:
 no way can both of them emerge alive.
 Driven by nature’s most primeval force
 they struggle on, but neither will survive.
 There is no winner of this fateful clash:
 the dune above them, waterlogged by rains
 collapses as the creatures writhe and thrash.
 The irony is lost on reptile brains:
 the same wet sand that smothers their last breath
 will grant them immortality in death.

Some more good news is that my poem Release has been shortlisted in the Better Than Starbucks 2020 Sonnet Contest. I also have two poems (neither of them sonnets) shortlisted in the Hammond House International Poetry Competition. So keeping my fingers crossed for both of those!

pic. (c) Raul Martin. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic 


A guest poem today, from a mysterious poet who wishes to be identified as Frances McEwan. Coincidentally, this is another poem about sleep – or the lack of it – following my ‘The Sleepers’ a few days ago (see Recent Posts).


 Tomorrow, bring tomorrow forward now
 and take the awful darkness from the night
 you know it can’t be trusted anyhow
 so turn it off by turning on the light.
 Do you dispute when debts of love are due
 you fall into arrears and turn away
 to search the sterile wall for ways that you
 might push aside this painful, loving day?
 In the artificial day’s bright flood
 you sit and pull your knees up to your chin
 though you’ve done everything you should
 there’s no way in existence you can win.
 Lie back and think of better times you knew
 and better times that owe their soul to you. 

pic: myUpchar. Cropped and shared in accordance with CC-BY-SA-4.0

The Sleepers

I’ve hosted some fine guest poems on here recently, but it’s occurred to me that it’s been a while since I posted one of my own. So I thought I’d share this. It won a small Poetry Nook competition a while back.

 The Sleepers
 TV off, the last ablutions done. 
 Toothpaste foam and late-night flushings 
 froth together in the drain. 
 And, one by one, fingers turn on the darkness,
 bodies fold themselves in feather-down, 
 minds fumble for their off-switch, 
 curtain eyelids close.  
 You’d think, after so many years, 
 they would be good at it.
 But in the big room, switches broken, 
 she and he both see-saw to and fro
 from bills and deadlines
 to bizarre uneasy dreams, take turns
 to snore each other out of sleep. 
 Across the landing, though, the novices
 could show them how it’s done.
 The bodies still, the minds away
 riding on unicorns or spaceships
 as growing brains are seething 
 with connections, hothousing memories. 
 They will return to something better than before. 


I’m visiting Miriam Drori’s blog today to talk about Darkness, a new anthology of speculative fiction in aid of Mind, and share an excerpt from one of my two stories in the collection.

Miriam Drori, Author

I’m delighted to welcome the author Tim Taylor to the blog. Tim has been a friend of mine for several years. His blog is full of his brilliant short stories and poems. Today, he’s here to tell us about something a bit different. Over to you, Tim.

Hello Miriam, thank you very much for hosting me today.

I’d like to talk about a new anthology of speculative fiction that I’ve been involved in. Darkness, published by Twisted Fate Publishing on 10 October, is a mix of sci-fi, fantasy and horror, by a group of previously published writers who have come together to make a book in aid of the mental health charity, MIND. All the stories relate to the theme of darkness, in many different literal and metaphorical ways.

The book is available on Amazon (via this link) for £9.99 in paperback or £3.99 on Kindle. All profits go…

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The Test

I’m delighted to host another guest poem today, from George Simmers, fellow Holme Valley Poet, and the editor of Snakeskin Poetry Webzine.

The Test

The test has a judicial air
It is renowned for being fair

It can’t be cheated or beguiled
It terrifies the nervous child

The test puts children in straight rows
The poor child’s agitation grows

The test just exudes a calm authority
The child feels her inferiority

The child is shaky at the knees
She would dearly like to please

The test is printed clearly, neatly
The child’s demoralised completely

This test will sort the children out
The child is pulverised by doubt
The test’s job’s to discriminate
The child grows certain of her fate

The teacher smiles  to cheer the class
The test decides this child won’t pass

The child will fail; her spirit’s broken
The teacher sighs; the test has spoken

And all the country is impressed
By the rigour of this test

Snakeskin can be found at:

Pic: Rashi Latif / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)


Today I’m proud to announce the publication of a new anthology of speculative fiction, Darkness, by Twisted Fate Publishing. It comprises a mix of sci-fi, fantasy and horror tales by seven previously published authors, and includes two of mine.

The anthology is formally published on 10 October, but is available on Amazon to pre-order at £3.99 on Kindle or to buy now at £9.99 in paperback – via this link:

All profits will be donated to the mental health charity, Mind.

I’m particularly pleased that this anthology includes the first outing in print of a story from my (very) slow-burning sci-fi project. Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I’ve been working at this, off and on, for quite a while (see https://timwordsblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/a-first-taste/), in between other things.

So here, to celebrate – and hopefully whet your appetite, is a short extract from that story, Delving. Peiku and his friend Vahe are in a ruined city, searching for artefacts with the more experienced Ravakinu. But the Guardians are searching for them:

They all returned to the doorway, made visible by the pale moonlight beyond it. Vahe and Peiku felt their way along the wall to the corner and Ravakinu left, with the briefest of waves.  

In the corner, with their backs against the cold damp wall, it was not only dark but completely silent. Time had passed quickly while they were making their way to the old city. Now Peiku found himself counting the seconds and minutes away.  

“D’you think it’ll take him long to find somewhere?” he whispered. 

“I hope not. I don’t like it here.” 

“Me neither. I hope the Guardians don’t find him before he gets back.” 

“I just hope they don’t find us.” 

There was a tremor in Vahe’s voice that Peiku had never heard before. She had always seemed completely fearless. He reached out for her hand. She took it and squeezed like a drowning man clutching a lifeline.  

After a while, Peiku could make out the sound of footsteps in the old street beyond the doorway. At first, he thought it was Ravakinu, but then there were voices – not the excited chatter that he had heard earlier, but deeper, more purposeful. His hand closed around Vahe’s like a vice. 

“Guardians!” he whispered in her ear.  

Sure enough, as the footsteps drew closer, he could begin to make out words. 

“They came in this direction. I reckon they’ll be hiding out in one of these old buildings.” 

The footsteps stopped. Peiku could see some kind of flickering light beyond the door – white, like that from Ravakinu’s artefact; not the yellow light of a burning torch. Then a strange bright circle appeared on the far wall of the ruined building and hung there for a moment like the disc of some weird moon. It began to sweep to and fro across the room. Peiku could see a booted foot in the doorway. He huddled into the wall, not daring even to breathe, and felt Vahe bury her head in his shoulder. Now the white disc was coming towards them!  

How to Look at Bluebells

Today I am pleased to host this lovely poem from fellow Holme Valley Poet Vic Slade.


You need a slope not
Too pronounced, then
A levelling off.
Trees help, as useful
Frames, or as woodland
Flavour. Old beeches
With their sandy, mottled boles
Breathe antique distinction, 

Their leaves managing
The sun, to dapple
The light and dissolve
The dark. Now bend a knee
Not too reverentially,
Raise the eyes and
Like a flat shore-pebble
Skimmed across a sea
Enter, slower and slower,
Into its embrace:
An Aegean Sea of
Empyrean blue
And emerald green.
A gentle breeze, if
You can conjure one,
Will send the surface
Sighing like breath.
No quinqueremes of Nineveh
But cargoes of delight.
Beauty is Truth as
The poet said, and, in truth
It may overwhelm us.
Luckily, wrecked on this sea
We, survivors, will make it home
Like Odysseus to his Penelope.

Vic was born in Plympton Saint Mary, near Plymouth, more or less a year before WW2 was declared. Having survived the Blitz, he was one of the first beneficiaries of the 1944 Education Act, becoming a ‘scholarship boy’. He went on to study at the Universities of Edinburgh, Durham, and Leeds, and became a lifelong student, reader, and teacher of literature, language and theatre. He has written the libretti for two operas for schools, both of which have been performed. It is only recently that he has started to write poetry.

pic: Bluebells in Pryor’s Wood, Stevenage by Colin – licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0