Review: Beyond Time (Time Shifters Book 1) by Laura N Anile

Time_Shifters_Book1Laura K Anile’s Beyond Time is the first book in an action-filled YA series. In this volume, 17 year old Ryder Worthington is on his way to school when he encounters a pair of bullies. One moment he’s in the midst of a fight, but excruciating pain suddenly takes him out, and the next thing he knows he wakes up  112 years in the future – in someone else’s body.

Trapped in the body of Ziron – the young man who has apparently senselessly jeapardised his whole life to change places with the boy from the past – Ryder must keep the secret of his altered identity from everyone but the two scientists behind the experimental time-shifting tecyhnology. This is almost impossible in a future where the world has been all but destroyed by a catalclysmic war, where the chasm between the haves and have-nots is huge and rebellion against the controlling government is boiling over.

Ryder ends up tangled in the rebellion, falling in love with someone who thinks he’s Ziron and developing a strained friendship (when they’re not enemies) with Jet – who is also a rival for Kira’s attentions.

Beyond Time is snappily paced and builds a bleak but believable world. More could be made of it, I think, but the parts we see are distinctive. Ryder’s attempts to blend in and make sense of his new surroundings are understandably full of slips, particularly as he gets drawn deeper and deeper in to a very dangerous situation. The consequences of discovery, he’s told, could be deadly, but since every turn holds a deadly secret and so many lives are at stake, there are plenty of heart-stopping moments for Ryder and the reader alike.

The teenage posturing between Ryder and Jet over Kira’s affections borders on the wearing, but just as it’s getting way too annoying, one or both of them shows a little maturity and real care and respect for Kira, which seems a pretty realistic way of portraying teenage rivals in love slowly learning how to grow up.

Kira is a bit too perfect and, for someone who shows she can handle herself well, a bit passive at times, but the core of a good character is there. The fact that she’s seen through Ryder’s first-person, besotted eyes naturally paints her more as a subject of adoration, and I hope she gets to shine a bit more in upcoming books.

The young boy, Tom, who befriends Ryder/Ziron (after a fractious beginning) is easily the most sympathetic character, and this younger boy is often the voice of reason when Jet and Ryder get too argy-bargy in their rivalry.

All of these relationships and clashes are happening with a backdrop of rebellion against an unfair system, many mysteries around Ryder’s real identity and the motivations of the time-shifted Ziron, Jet’s difficult past, Kira’s concern for her mysteriously vanished father, Dr Tanaka, and the biggest mystery of all – what happens to the people who have won the lottery to get passage out of this failing world and into Paradise.

The story is very readable, though a bit clunky in  parts. A tighter edit could help the story along (and a few typos and errors sneak in on occasion) but otherwise the text flows easily, and Anile keeps up a brisk pace. I’m looking forward to the second novel of the series, to see how Ryder’s teetering secrets and the big reveal in the last chapter will affect both the teenagers who are starting to grow up and the harsh world in which they live.

 See more at Laura N Anile’s website.

Buy Beyond Time (Time Shifters Book 1)


The Books of Love: Grievous Harm by Sandy Curtis

Reviewed by LynC

Grievous-Harm-front-coverThe blurb…

When a child is in danger, every second counts.

In Sydney, Australia, The Loving Hand church understands how children can be a commodity more precious than gold.

When Kate Maclaren flies in from Los Angeles, desperate to find her missing niece, she opens a door into this world, and uncovers a network of corruption and cruelty that stretches across the country.

Agent John Corey, torn by long-buried guilt, and harbouring  secrets he must not reveal, joins

forces with Kate to expose the sinister cult before more children disappear. He will risk everything, even defying orders, to help Kate uncover the truth and keep her safe.

But when their journey into Australia’s Outback reveals the psychopath at the centre of the network, it is Kate who discovers she will do anything for the people she loves.

The review…

Sandy Curtis is one of those strong, no-nonsense, get out and do things people, and her protagonist reflects every ounce of this. Try to thwart her? She’ll find a way around you. So, both her reluctant companion – John Corey, and the people threatening her niece’s wellbeing find.

Used to bailing out her sister-in-law when she gets herself in trouble, Kate flies in expecting to have to do so again. What she doesn’t expect is that her sister-in-law has willingly taken herself and her daughter (Kate’s niece) off into the wilds of NSW to a hippy style commune. It takes all her ingenuity and acting skills to follow her. Along the way she collects a tail in John Corey, a government employee in a department which answers directly to the PM’s Office and no-one else, who follows her because she is unwittingly a lead in his investigations into a child abuse case.

He breaks cover to rescue her, and from there the two travel together, little realising their different agendas will turn out to be the same one. Without his knowledge of Australia’s unforgiving bushland, his undercover skills, and his police skills she could not have succeeded. Without her he has a tendency to wallow in guilt and forget that the danger to the children is nigh and must be dealt with urgently. He needs her to keep him focussed on the important things in life.

Sandy, living in Bundaberg in remote Australia, knows her stuff when it comes to cattle, rodeos, and survival in the Australian bushland, and she imbues John with all those skills.When Kate and John are caught and tortured and raped (Yes, there is a realistic rape scene.), it may be Kate’s ingenuity which gets them free, but it is John’s know how which saves them.

The rape puts a massive barrier between their growing attraction, and attempts later to overwrite the memories are only partially successful, but <*spoiler alert* – scrollover to read text> after Kate’s niece, Cindy, is rescued and John is hospitalized for his efforts, this barrier loses its potency. It will always be there, but their co-dependency, friendship, and attraction is expected to win out in a most satisfying way.

I do have a bit of a gripe about her characterization of Glen, the Hostel receptionist, who is so helpful to Kate. He came over as too aggressively gay at first, but later when he became a real person, Sandy toned him down – until, that is, he needed to be so overt in order to throw someone chasing Kate off the trail. I suspect she is not that familiar with members of the LGBTIQA (or QUILTBAG) community, but set Glen up as gay because it was a very useful plot point.

Oh, and if any Americans reading the book are surprised at the lack of Indigenes and Kangaroos in the Outback; Australia, the ‘real’ Australia, is like that. Sandy paints a very realistic picture of our cattle country, and utilises it well as a major player in the plot.

From the opening lines ‘The sign above the front door said the brothel was legal.’, to the closing scenes I was hooked. We know from that opening scene to the final pages just what is at stake and we are as eager as the protagonists to prevent any further harm to the children. Both John and Kate are sympathetic protagonists whom we want to be successful, not only in their individual quests, but also, in their relationship. Sandy Curtis does not fail us.

An excellent, fast paced read from beginning to end.

Buy Grievous Harm

About LynC

LynCLynC is a 50-something year old widow, juggling the demands of writing Science Fiction and being a single Mum.

In the past two years LynC has had four short stories published; one of which — Nematalien — was nominated for an award in 2013. Her first novel — Nil By Mouth (Satalyte Publishing) — was launched at the Australian National Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne in June 2014. (Narrelle’s note: this is an excellent book and I recommend it highly.)

LynC resides, with her two ‘new’ adults, four cats, and two canaries, in a hidden area less than ten kilometres from the Melbourne CBD (in Australia) surrounded by creeks and wooded hills.

The Books of Love are romance book reviews of both new releases and old favourites.

Score for Sharp – and bonus versions

Kitty_iconI have written a number of songs that don’t appear in Kitty and Cadaver (though they may show up in the second book, when I get to it.)

This one, Sharp, was (like Copper Beaches) written as a sort of Sherlock filk song exploring John Watson’s youth and his relationships.

Sharp was based on the idea that as a teenager he had walked in on his sister Harry cutting a girlfriend’s name into her arm.

(In my head, they are a very dysfunctional family, after his mother’s death and their father’s and Harry’s ensuing depression and alcoholism.)



Red ink,
black letters,
parchment skin
Is this the only way you know to let love in?

Strange joy
Blessed pain
Is it only when the love hurts
that you think it’s real?

See it to believe it, carve it on your heart
Leave a message from your arteries
And the love just falls apart

And the memories are sharp
So sharp
You can’t use my hand or heart
So cut me out.

Etch a name into the bone
Not hers, not yours, but ours alone
Let these words be written
“I could not stand to listen”

You’re the one who’s leaving
You have cut away the ties
And the neatest slice is bleeding
Goodbye, goodbye
the red ink writes

Red ink,
black letters,
parchment skin
Is this the only way you know to let love in?

And the memories are sharp
So sharp
You can’t use my hand or heart
So cut me out.

They’re not necessarily kind lyrics. They’re the words of an angry young man whose family is falling apart and he can’t work out how to keep them together and functional. Especially as neither his father nor sister seems to want him to.

Of course, one of the wonderful things about filk, fandom and music, is that other people may come along and play in your sandpit. A fellow Sherlock fan was inspired to play with the lyric, come up with her own melody and record it for her Soundcloud account. (She’s also done her own version of another filk I wrote, Battlefield).

Here is my own version, sung a capella.

At Continuum 11 this year, Ann Poore performed a version of it (and her take on Gretel’s Lullaby and Down as well) during a filk singing session.

(By the way, if you’re interested in filk – which is basically the fan version of folk music – Ann and I have started the Melbourne Filkers group on Facebook and we’re hoping to find others to join us to develop a local singing scene.)

And here is the score for my version:

Sharp 1Sharp 2

And as always, if you’re moved to try your own version of it, I’d love to hear it.

Music Score for Copper Beaches

LaszloI’ve had a very productive few weeks, having submitted three short stories to various anthologies and also sent my first full-length adventure-romance novel, Ravenfall, to my publisher for consideration.

Before I get fully into my new book, The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, I thought I’d share another of the songs for Kitty and Cadaver.

Copper Beaches, as the name suggests, was something I first wrote while noodling about with Sherlockian ideas – though the connection to Holmes isn’t at all obvious from the lyric. It actually relates to an idea I had about BBC Watson having had a more reckless youth, and these lyrics represent the decision he made to find a more constructive path. Once it was done, I felt the whole thing could do extra service as a song in Chapter Seven of Kitty and Cadaver.

In that chapter, Laszlo (the band violinist), Yuka (drummer) and Sal (guitar) are teaching the song to new recruits, Kitty and Stephen. Thematically in that book, the lyrics are very relevant to all three of those singing it.

Here’s the lyric on its own:

Copper beaches

A seaside in rain and a hollow in the heart
And sand is a grave for rocks and bone
Smashed up by the tide and time
An ancient stage
Where we’ll go with age
and we always go alone

And the sun’s going down and it’s bleeding into
An ocean to swallow the sorrow down
And the bronze on the water and silver horizon
In the blazing light, I keep my eyes on
the copper that’s staining the place where I stand
I’m on firmer ground in this copper sand.

It’s nothing to anyone how old is the earth
It’s nothing to the sea that my mother gave birth
And the sun doesn’t care if I live or die
But it’s such a beautiful sky

And everyone’s bleeding and lonely and scared
And the world wouldn’t notice if anyone cared
But we do
And we’re too small to matter to oceans and skies
And our hearts are too broken to love after lies
But we do
But we do

This tiny heart in the burning world
Is finding a flame in these copper beaches
the sun doesn’t care if I live or die
It’s such a beautiful sky

And everyone’s bleeding and lonely and scared
And the world wouldn’t notice if anyone cared
But we do
And we’re too small to matter to oceans and skies
And our hearts are too broken to love after lies
But we do
But we do

And here is the score:

Copper Beaches p1

Copper Beaches p2The song is meant to be very rock – in my head there are drums, bass and lead guitar, maybe keyboards. I was listening to a lot of Shinedown at the time, so think of that, a bit.

I’d be all for someone having a go at playing it/arranging it and sending the result to me, if you have time on your hands. :)

“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn” – a happy ending

babyshoesThere’s a story that does the rounds that Ernest Hemingway once wrote the shortest, saddest story every told, for a $10 bet.

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

I first heard that six word story when Mary Borsellino told of how she had found it so terribly sad that her friend, artist Audrey Fox, decided to subvert the gloominess of it. Since they both enjoyed monster stories, Audrey used that as an inspiration to illustrate the story in a way that gave it a happy ending (a version of which you can see here – Audrey redrew the picture for my blog!).

Of the picture, Audrey says, “I was really just using my imagination and thinking about what else the story could mean that wasn’t ‘sad baby tragedy’.”

That story, and the story of Audrey’s illustration, made it into one of Mary Borsellino‘s Wolf House books, from memory, but I’ve always loved that whole story-in-a-story

Now, the saddest part of this whole thing is that the Hemingway part of it isn’t true. Ernest Hemingway’s writing of the tragic six-word novel is an urban legend.

A very similar story actually dates at least to Hemingway’s own childhood, when a newspaper classifieds section titled Terse Tales of the Town published the item, “For sale, baby carriage, never been used” in 1906. Similarly worded stories popped up again every few years in newspapers.

Whether the bet with Hemingway ever happened (and if it did, whether Hemingway quoted this story deliberately) is unclear – but that version of the story is ascribed to literary agent, Peter Miller, who first told it in 1974 – after Hemingway’s death – and then published it in a 1991 book. It was just the latest in a long line of stories about that story, but it’s the one that stuck.

The idea of writing something so perfectly pithy over lunch is an appealing legend, but the perfection and pithiness of the six word ‘novel’ remains, whatever its origin.

I don’t think it spoils the tale to note that Hemingway didn’t create it. I love the fact that this little notion first popped up in 1906 (if not earlier) and proceeded to grow, little by little, acquiring embellishments as it rolled down the years, until it grew to the story of a dinner party and a bet and a writer of terse words.

Or until it grew to the story of terse words, a sad friend, and an artist who decided to turn the whole thing on its head.

It’s a great reminder that many stories never stop being told, and never stop growing in the telling. It’s a reminder that stories can mean different things to different generations and that sometimes, if you look at an old story in a new way, it can grow into a whole new meaning.

Sometimes with tentacles.

You can find some of Audrey’s art, and other art that she likes, on her Tumblr.


New release: Encounters edited by Jessica Augustsson

EncountersKindleCoverIn my mid-year review I mentioned a new SF anthology, Encounters, in which my story Show and Tell would appear – and now Encounters has been released into the wild!

Ever since Robinson found a stranger’s footprint on his solitary island, literature—and especially Science Fiction and Fantasy literature—has been fascinated by meeting the Other. In Encounters, the second speculative fiction anthology by JayHenge Publishing, you can find out what happens when different species, populations, times—or even objects—meet.

My story, Show and Tell, is about the most exciting Show and Tell day EVER, which comes about because Mandy has taken a cursed mummified hand to school for the event. (Dadda didn’t say she couldn’t; mostly because Mandy was much too wise to ask first.) The question is, who is more at risk? Class 1B, or the hand?

Encounters is available in paperback as well as e-book format from all the Amazons, of which these are a few:

If you get the book, it would be great if you could leave a review as well!

June 2015: The Mid-Year Review

upcoming Improbable booksWith the recent zhuzhing up on my blog, I thought it was time to do another of my Mid-Year reviews as a round up of what’s been happening this year, and what’s coming up in the next twelve months.

If you’ve come here from one of my other blogs, you’re aware that I’m trying to streamline all my social media (of which I have way too much) so that I can spend less time on social media admin and more time on writing the very many writing projects I have lined up like ducks at a shooting gallery. Or like tequila shots at the bar. (Either way, it’s going to be messy.)

So welcome to the new-look Mortal Words blog, where I will write about the usual writing/reading/Melbourne/travel/as-the-whim-takes-me stuff – and to which I will add posts on music, Kitty & Cadaver related projects, stuff related to romance and erotica (which I also write) and more stuff-as-the-whim-takes-me. I may also repost some of the posts from the other two blogs here, for consistency and linking purposes and the like.

The first bit of housekeeping news to share is that my publisher, Clan Destine Press, and I are in the process of changing the name under which I publish my romance fiction from NM Harris back to the full, real me – Narrelle M Harris. Apart from the extra social media work generated by the split, we figured that since I usually write very action-oriented plots for my romance and erotica, it’s not really that different from my usual work (except raunchier in parts).

We’re also talking about getting some of my out-of-print work tidied up and more easily available too. I’ll announce those when the details are worked out.

TandB A Paying Client smallestSpeaking of my erotic romance stories – two have been released so far this year! The second story in the Talbott and Burns Mysteries, about the two-man Scooby gang of Elliot Talbott and his boyfriend Jack Burns was released in February. A Paying Client sees the lads investigating possible witchiness on behalf of their first-ever paying client, a housewife from Reservoir. Naturally, things don’t run at all smoothly.

BirdsFinal_v_smlIn May, Birds of a Feather was released – the first of the Hammer and Tongue series about Alice, an engineer, and her linguist girlfriend Nerida.

There will be more stories for both series in due course, and more for my sexy spy couple, Philip Marsden and Martine Dubois (including one set in Canada in the wilderness!).

I also had a short story, The Birthday Present, published in the Queermance 2 anthology, (last year, Late Bloomer was published in the first Queermance anthology). The anthology was published in partnership with the second Queermance Festival, held in Melbourne in February 2015.

(You can find buy links for all of those stories and my other books on the Shop page!)

I’m waiting on feedback before completing the final draft of my first erotic romance novel, Ravenfall – paranormal action adventure with vampires, precognitive dreamers, a fox spirit and a spate of murders. That one features James Sharpe, vampire, and Gabriel Dare, an artist.

ImprobablePressI’m also absolutely delighted that my pitch for a Holmes/Watson canon-era romance adventure set in Australia was accepted by new Holmesian imprint, Improbable Press – because queer readings of Holmes are not at all new, but a publisher for those kinds of stories is. The Adventure of the Colonial Boy will come out in 2016. Now to write it! If you want to keep track of that, and the other books being released (starting with The Six Secret Loves of Sherlock Holmes by Atlin Merrick, launching in October) you can Like the Improbable Press Facebook page. IP will run a variety of competitions, too.

EncountersKindleCoverIn Short Story news – my story Show and Tell will appear in a digital anthology, Encounters, later this year. I’ve also been writing short stories to submit to other anthologies, including Clan Destine’s And Then… due out next year. I’ll post as and when (I hope) those are accepted!

Alongside all of these projects, I have notes for more books (including a third book in the Gary and Lissa vampire series – I haven’t forgotten! – and a second book in the Kitty and Cadaver series).

Kitty and Cadaver itself is with an agent, but I am slowly working on scoring the melodies for the songs used in the book, and looking to collaborate with musicians to arrange, perform and record them. Already Ann Poore has done a lovely version of Gretel’s Lullaby on the harp. Those who were at Continuum 11 last weekend saw (and bought) the beautiful jewellery that was created from broken musical instruments, too.

omnivoreNot content with writing books, short stories and music – I’ve also been experimenting with design at Redbubble. I have a range of designs available, some of which include song lyrics, or personal mottos, or text relating to the romance writing (the Adventurous Hearts line).

And finally, I recently spent a few days in the Wimmera region of Victoria, visiting libraries and talking about Growing Up Reading or doing writing workshops on Killer Opening Sentences. But that’s a post for another time.

Continuum 11: Launching Thrive and Building Connections

Mary ThriveI’ve just spent the weekend at Melbourne’s annual Continuum Convention, and had (as usual) an absolute blast. I did a few panels – including one on filking (fannish folk music, basically) which resulted in a new Facebook Melbourne Filking community being set up.

I spent the rest of the time running a table in the dealer’s room (selling books and Kitty and Cadaver jewellery) – but what I mostly did was talk with people.

I reconnected (however briefly – we’ve all got so much on at a convention) with old friends and made some new ones. I commiserated on trials and difficulties in the last year. I celebrated the year’s successes with people. I had great conversations, and learned some things, and if I was lucky I shared some good things that others hadn’t known before.

I was very, very honoured and excited to launch Mary Borsellino’s new book, Thrive, which I was thrilled to edit on behalf of the publisher, Clan Destine Press. Most of my readers probably know how very much I love Mary’s books. Thrive is a superb edition to her body of work: a YA novel set in a dystopian future that’s frighteningly very like our rather dystopian present.

THRIVE coverThe blurb:

In a time and place where the gulf between the haves and the have-nots has grown painfully wide, Olivia lives a life cushioned with abundance. Until the day she is kidnapped and held for ransom by Hannah, a girl from a very different kind of life. Olivia discovers a taste for things not commonly condoned in her world: black-market books, daring friends, wild creativity.

From the depths of factory oppression to the dizzying heights of vigilante rooftops, Olivia travels the margins of society, where the misfits gather and build homes for themselves out of whatever they can get their hands on – and fight to make a life worth living.

This story of Olivia discovering the greater world and its unfairness and suffering is as compellling as Mary’s work usually is. It is filled with horror, violence, cruelty and loss but from that desolate ground, Thrive gives us a rich soil from which grows beauty, love, hope and ways to use ideas to fight for better times without destruction.

Thrive is also a very smart book, literate and funny while cracking along with wonderful characters and huge energy. Delightfully, a re-read is guaranteed to add extra depth to your appreciation, as you realise how cleverly plotted it is, and how so many ideas are intricately woven into the cloth of the whole.

In short, if you want to be challenged and engaged and delighted and wowed, go now to get Thrive from Clan Destine Press!

Thrive launchSo. Yes. I launched a book I love with a passion, I bought a lot of other books that set my reader senses tingling, I had long, lovely talks and much laughter with wonderful people and I spent time connecting once more with the broad family of readers, writers, creators and thinkers in the Australian genre community.

Was it awesome? You bet. Will I be back at Continuum next year? HELLA YEAH!

I’m physically exhausted now, but mentally abuzz with ideas and plans ricocheting around my head, turning my brain into an overcaffeinated hive of thought-bees. Which is both brilliant and a little bit frightening.

Just as it should be.

The Weasel-word Edit

weaselwordleWhen I’m writing a first draft, I use certain words and phrases far too much, trying to capture the image and tone in my head for the page. Some scenes play out like a movie in my mind’s eye and I end up too prone to minute stage directions, to expressions that qualify and prevaricate and waver where no such words are required. Sometimes, common grammatical functions in speech are a disservice in their written form.

When I edit other people’s work (which I do from time to time) I’m relieved to find that I’m not the only one who uses all that unnecessary verbiage.

But those extra words – those weasely, prevaricating, wishy-washy words that don’t add to the story, or worse, drain it of energy and impact – still need to be edited out.

Not every single example meets the Red Editing Pen of Death, though. Like all words, they are useful and important in their correct time and place.  The test for me is usually – can I take out those extra words without changing the meaning? Does the sentence have more impact/more truth with or without them? If deletion is an improvement, out it goes.

But what are these weasel words, exactly, and why do they make such a difference?

The Qualifiers

Words and expressions like: just, rather, probably, maybe, possibly, perhaps, a little, a bit, kind of and sort of all serve to diminish the intensity of the words around them. And sometimes that’s exactly what you want – particularly in speech, or in a person’s direct thoughts, because humans tend to tippy-toe around some ideas and prevarication is exactly what you want to convey.

But a lot of the time, that’s just you, the writer, not fully committing to the idea.  Here are a few example from my most recent novel-in-progress, Ravenfall.

  • James sort of shrugged. –> James shrugged.
    Really – what is ‘sort of’ about lifting your shoulders?
  • Gabriel hugged him a little harder. –> Gabriel hugged him harder
    Hugging is happening. Degrees of huggage hardness are not important at this point.

Filter Words

Suzannah Windsor recently wrote a blog about eliminating filter words, bringing my own focus closer to verbs about perception that can put distance between the character and the things they experience. Verbs like think, feel, look, see, sound

  • Michael in fact sounded far from astonished to hear from his brother. –>
    Michael was in fact far from astonished to hear from his brother.

    Saying that he only sounded unsurprised might suggest it’s a front. But Michael’s well used to his brother’s random and sporadic phone calls.
  • He felt the skin along his spine, his neck, his scalp, crawl with apprehension. –>
    The skin along his spine, his neck, his scalp, crawled with apprehension.

    He’s not simply feeling it; it’s actually happening to him. Remove the filter and his reaction is more immediate.

Grammatical Filler

In speech we often use filler terms at the start of sentences – commonly ‘there are/is/were’ or It is/was’. Most of the time, however, in these contexts ‘there’ and ‘it’ don’t refer to anything else. They don’t stand in for a known noun (though perhaps that’s coming up later in the sentence). Often, they only exist as a way to begin a sentence and they’re only putting more words between your story and your reader.

  • There are days when the shell is very thin. –> The shell is very thin on some days.
    Shorter, more direct, and it goes to the subject more quickly.
  • There are other interpretations to be placed on your visions. –>
    Other interpretations can be placed on your visions.

    Once more we are right into the heart of it, without the ’empty calories’ of a phrase with no direct reference.

Useless Extra Moments

I have a terrible tendency to say that someone ‘paused a moment’ or ‘considered for a moment’ or ‘waited a bit’. Frankly, pausing is already obviously only for a moment, so why weigh it down with more moments?

He paused, she considered, they waited – none of them need a second longer or any refining of their activity.

Padding Prepositions

English is a funny thing. One reason is has such range is our habit of adding prepositions to verbs to make whole new verbs. Pass up, pass out, pass something out, pass away and pass by all have very different meanings. These structures, called phrasal verbs, are really useful. Most of the time. But the difference between sit and sit down is minimal. Are you adding prepositions to verbs that don’t need them?

Also, sometimes characters look up or down or over or across at other characters and things, but the preposition isn’t always useful or necessary. If everyone is always looking up at everyone else, how can you tell who is the shortest?


All of us have our own writing tics. I tend to write people as nodding, turning, smiling, sighing and frowning way too often, so I search for those terms too, deleting any that are unnecessary or otherwise implied. They only get to stay if they indicate a shift in mood or status or their reaction needs emphasis.

The Weasel-Word Edit

When I have my first draft down and solid, I read it again and jot down words that are clearly overused, along with my regular weasel-word list. Then I search my word file. The number of times a word appears can be a huge surprise. I almost halved the appearance of ‘a moment’ from one draft to the next, and people only do a third as much frowning now.

Never Say Never

As you can see, I didn’t eliminate frowning or moments (or any other words or phrase on my hit list) completely. People are rarely so crisp in speech, so some of these terms still appear in dialogue when it’s appropriate to the character, situation and mood. A good deal of scowling, frowning and blinking still occurs. The story is full of vampires, werewolves, precognitive dreames and a flighty artist. Scowling, frowning and blinking are inevitable under the circumstances.

Don’t blanket-delete words from your list because every word, no matter how weasely it sometimes appears, has its place in the scheme of things.

I’ve included a list of the words that I have on my weasel-word edit list. Perhaps it can help you to tighten up or polish your manuscript. The list isn’t definitive, so add your own tics and linguistic bad habits, and cross off the sins you don’t commit.

Happy editing!

Weasel-word list

  • a moment, a while, a little, a bit, sort of, kind of
  • just, rather, pretty sure, fairly, some, still
  • perhaps, maybe, probably, possibly, really
  • there are, there were, there’s, there is, it’s, it is, it was, does+verb
  • look, like, feel, felt, sound, seem, think, wonder
  • nod, smile, blink, sigh, frown, scowl
  • up, down, over, across, around

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at

Clunes Booktown 2015

Clunes (1)After missing Booktown last year, it was lovely to get to Clunes today for my third Booktown festival. I caught the special service train that VLine put on for the festival and spent the day helping out at Clan Destine Press’s table, talking about books and wandering among the bookstalls.

Fellow Clan Destine author Jane Routley, dressed strikingly for the day and cut an elegant figure on the main street of Clunes, handing out postcards for her book and directing people towards our table.

Clunes likes to put on a bit of a show for the punters, and there were roaming performers reciting Shakespearean speeches in the morning, and a juggler/magician (who is a regular here) and the delightful Creswick Brass Band, who provide a musical soundtrack for the day which I always enjoy.

Clunes (4)I also poked around a few of the bookshops – which is what you do when you come to Clunes Booktown. To tell the truth, I love just loitering around the main street, watching all these people who’ve come to this little rural Victoria town for the joy of books, even without going bookhunting myself.

Still – you can’t come to Booktown without scoring an excellent book or four, and I was delighted to find some great books relating to 19th century forensics and toxicology (which I need for a new book idea). I also picked up a little book from a small press that looked intriguing.

Clunes (2)Booktown is still on tomorrow, so you can drive up or catch a VLine train to Ballarat to meet one of the special Clunes trains.

Go, fly, be free, and find beautiful books!

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at


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