The Curious Incident of the Biscuit Lost in the Tea

Biscuit about to be plunged into coffee

Biscuit Lost in Tea

Or, why the smallest details count in fiction.

I wrote a book recently. Well, I say recently, it took a while in reality. It was self-published on Amazon a few months ago and it’s slowly but surely making a sale here and there, getting snapped up on free days like you wouldn’t believe and importantly, to me at least, making people laugh.

Laugh, in a good way that is. Not just pointing and laughing at me. The book is a comedy and it’s meant to make people laugh, so the fact it is suggests it’s doing exactly what I’d planned.

You Mean People are Actually Reading It?

It’s been a learning curve though; the physical, mental and emotional hard work that goes into a book, even a light hearted effort, is something that only other writers will fully understand. By the time it’s done and dusted and ready for publication you’re not only exhausted but (perhaps not all of us) you’re also suddenly seized with an almost paralysing self-doubt.

It’s just not good enough, you’re mad, nobody’s ever going to read this tripe. Worse still, if they do, they’ll hate it, hate you and think you’re an idiot. All these, and so many more, emotions flash through your mind with increasing and unwarranted frequency. In the end, you have to be brave, throw caution to the wind and press ‘publish’. After that a terrible silence falls.

However, after a few months (hopefully) the book is getting circulated, people are reading it and, rather worryingly, having opinions. These opinions, however scary, are important. Working out what does work in your book, or what doesn’t, is much easier when you listen to what your readers have to say. Oddly, in my case, it’s taught (or reminded me) of just how important small details can be.

But, But, That Bit’s Irrelevant….

The reception has been good and some really weird things have stood out; in one particular scene at the end of the book, when all the strands are coming together, some major action is developing and a lot of secrets revealed, one character is attempting to dunk a biscuit in his tea, largely unaware of the drama unfolding around him.

It’s a small detail that took only moments to write and was hardly ever edited at all; in the whole book it’s probably one of those moments that took the least effort and lost me no sleep. It’s almost a throw-away line and it could, without any great loss to the story, indeed be thrown away. Or so I thought.

What About My Lovely, Intricate, Well-Crafted Plot?

It was only when it became apparent that reader after reader was picking up on this one, small, comedy sideline, that I began to think about what on earth this apparently insignificant second or two of action did. And why it appeared to be doing it so successfully. I mean, it’s just a biscuit getting lost without trace, something that happens every day to some of us (OK, yes hand’s up, it happens most days to me).

So what on earth makes it stand out?

The Fine (and Familiar) Art of Dunking

Red by Tim Bedford

Red by Tim Bedford

Then it dawned on me, it’s simply the fact that nearly everyone can identify with that action.

We’ve all dunked hopefully, knowing there are risks to the process but on most occasions we wing it anyway. Nine times out of ten, once you’ve become experienced, the operation goes well.

That one time out of ten, that still happens even to an experienced dunker, is familiar to us all. It’s an immediate and very annoying problem. Half the biscuit has gone, lost to history and will never be retrieved.

In addition, it’s now disintegrating in the tea into a horrible, slimy, mushy substance that transforms the beverage into something undrinkable.Given that most of us dunk at the start of a cuppa, the chances are the whole drink is done for. This requires effort on our part, a return to the kitchen to dispose of the offending drink, make another and, for the brave at least, risk another attempt with the next biscuit.

In my story, I don’t go into quite so much detail as I have here about every dunker’s nightmare; in fact, using it as only a passing comment, using so few words is what seems to make it work. It conjures up a simple, quick and easy to picture moment and helps to drop the reader right into the action of the narrative.

Terribly Human, In So Many Ways

There also seems to be another aspect to why this incident, so minor in so many ways, is important in the story.

In the book, the character doing the dunking is an outsider, he’s new to human wiles and ways. He’s attempting very hard to fit in; meanwhile around him a massively chaotic story is unfolding and being wrapped back up again. Perhaps part of the success of this moment is in describing something terribly (in several senses of the word) human.

World War Three can be breaking out around us but we often remain wrapped up in our own little worlds, concerned about minor things; a stubbed toe, a chipped nail, a biscuit dunking disaster. On this level, the incident in the book is about the character, about developing him as real person (that may be the wrong word but you’ll have to buy the book to find out) and placing him firmly in the reader’s mind as a believable character with a life of their own.

Mundane Daily Details and Epic Tales

The devil, allegedly, is in the detail. And I think this is an important lesson to learn in fiction. I’ve read it, heard it and studied it on more than one occasion but “the curious incident of the biscuit lost in the tea” has really brought it home to me. It might have been a throwaway line or two, as far as I was concerned, but it played a huge part in bringing the book, the character and the world I was creating to life.

When it comes to any work of fiction, small, silly humorous tales or great big era defining novels, day-to-day details should never be overlooked.

Electronic Publishing: Pros and Cons

English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de...

Electronic Publishing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Electronic publishing, or e-publishing, has been emerging as a great new way to go for both authors and readers today. Though relatively young, e-publishing has definitely paved the way for communication and information technology, and there is no doubt that its continuing advance is a positive and welcome evolution.


In an age where everything is a click away, e-publishing fits right into the equation. Countless devices are available in the market for those who want their libraries in their pockets, and numerous services such as convert pdf to epub are available on the internet to ensure platform-to-platform compatibility. In this article, we will discuss some benefits and drawbacks, which affect the different key players in the publishing world in one way or another.


Opens doors for authors and aspiring authors


The writer of today need not be plagued by the woes of a traditional author. For one, if one had to go through the rigorous processes of publishers before the rise of e-publishing, an author may now opt to publish his own work electronically.


Pros of Electronic Publishing


  • Get out there quick and easy.


Manuscripts for print publication could take months to produce, but e-publishing can have a book out weeks after approval. The circulation of one’s work will also prove to be a cinch with the help of internet marketing, online selling, and even epub conversion services to guarantee compatibility with other platforms.


  • Compete and stay low-cost.


With much lower overheads, e-publishing allows authors to earn bigger royalties. Spend less, set aside larger profit!


  • Retain control.


Why succumb to the publishing food chain when a self-published author may as well be his own boss and his own editor? For authors who just want to get out there, there is freedom to allow users to download copies of their works, alter them with epub conversion services, and store them in different reading devices.


Cons for Electronic Publishing


  • Not yet on equal footing.


Though the reputation of e-publishing may be looking up, e-publishers have not earned the same credibility that traditional publishers carry.


  • Open to illegal copying.


Vulnerable to tweaking and hacking, electronic books may be copied and shared in seconds. There are various options, such as epub conversion services, by which readers can modify files to suit different platforms and applications, and create multiple copies in no time.


  • Not on display.


E-pub Authors cannot rely on constant exposure on shelves. Readers must dive into the vast sea of content available online to find an electronically published book.


Taking on the game on a different field


Another key player in the publishing world is the publisher who has traditionally been responsible for the issuing and publicizing of texts. Some publishers have chosen to adapt to the electronic innovation; however, the playing field is fairly different from that of traditional publication.


Pros for Electronic Publishing


  • Very easy access.


The publication of electronic books no longer requires distribution through a geographical space. Without the logistical nightmares of having to transport and care for paper products, publishers can make their books electronically available to readers, who can then download the texts to their devices in as fast as 60 seconds. Epub conversion services and other formatting services are available for readers to make necessary alterations to meet platform requirements.


  • Less production cost, more proceeds.


With the absence of printing and logistical costs, publishers are allowed a bigger margin for profit.


  • Niche audiences


Publishers now have the opportunity to cater to niche audiences without having to calculate all the risks.


Cons for Electronic Publishing


  • Pirates.


Having entire books in a single digital file opens up the possibility of duplication and illegal distribution. Many users are on the lookout for free content, and e-books are easy to alter and save in different forms with epub conversion services, as well as upload conveniently on file sharing websites.


  • Tactile readers.


Majority of readers still believe that reading is also a tactile experience, and purchasing something intangible is illogical.


  • Authors turned competitors.


Given how easy it is to be your own publisher, a good number of authors wouldn’t hesitate to migrate to self-publishing. If all goes well for them, the role of publishers may diminish.


The challenge of adaptation


After ages of being the established institution responsible for housing all sorts of recorded knowledge, the rise of e-publishing will definitely impact the existence and roles of libraries in immeasurable ways. This is not to say, however, that adaptation is not in order, as there are just as many opportunities as challenges to the task.


Pros for Electronic Publishing


  • Speedy acquisition.


The process of purchasing and acquiring new texts will definitely become a less laborious process. On top of this, obtaining recent releases will be more feasible.


  • Easy cataloguing.


Without the challenges of maintaining physical volumes and classifying them all systematically, organizing electronic files may prove to be a less troublesome task.


  • Remote access and search ability.


The use of resources will no longer be confined to library premises. Libraries may allow students and scholars to acquire their own copies of certain texts at a cost, and readers may use those resources at their own convenience. With the widespread utilization of online resources, growing acceptance of e-books, and surfacing functions like epub conversion services, it is very recognizable that flexibility is key.


Cons for Electronic Publishing


  • Essential upgrades.


Libraries must invest considerable resources to meet the demands of the digital age.


  • Overhauling.


Traditional skills of cataloguing, classification, indexing, etc., will need to be updated to accommodate the complexity of navigating through electronically published information. Search and retrieval tools must adapt.


  • Archiving and survival.


At the end of the day, everyone would want the knowledge and information to remain intact. The question is how the survival of electronically published texts can be guaranteed. Given that it is primarily the role of libraries to ensure that knowledge will keep recorded knowledge intact, the digitization of publications poses a challenge to libraries.


Moving forward


The leap from traditional publication to e-publishing may be a rather big leap, but various factors show that the migration has opened up a fair number of opportunities, not just for readers and authors, but for key players like publishers and library systems as well. Some suggest that there is no urgent need to choose one over the other at this point, because both may very well co-exist and serve specific purposes. Be that as it may, e-publishing is definitely worth the consideration.



Are You a Real Writer?

Editor’s Note:  This is a guest post from Melissa Miller.  Please read more about Melissa in the bio footer.

Writer's Stop

Writer’s Stop (Photo credit: Stephh922)

When I was three years old, my father bought me a collection of Golden Books.  I was in my first days of pre-school, but he thought it was time I learned how to read. Every night, I would climb into his chair with him, and he would read the stories aloud to me. I don’t remember the exact moment I learned to read, or what story it was, but by the time I reached Kindergarten, I could read fluently. I have spent my entire life loving books and stories.

When I was old enough to answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The natural answer was, “A writer!”

In college, I pursued an English literature degree paired with creative writing. Perhaps it was because I had always known I wanted be a writer, that I never asked myself the incredibly important question, “How do I become a paid writer?”

Surprisingly, none of my professors thought it was necessary to include “How to find a job after college” in the syllabus. Since then, I have been a full-time writer, an editor and a blogger, but I have also been a full-time waitress, bartender and cashier. Today, I write full-time at work, and when I go home, I write to keep my prose and imagination limber.

The first thing you need to understand about becoming a professional writer is that it’s very competitive. This means each job for which you apply is receiving many applications. Each magazine or newspaper to which you submit your work is receiving multiple stories.

You will be rejected, ignored and dismissed. Your manuscript or story will end up in someone’s desk drawer or inbox, forgotten or overlooked. But take heart, dear readers-writers!

You aren’t a real writer until you receive your first rejection letter.

Once you reach that milestone, and have the guts to continue writing, you are on your path to professionalism.  Failure is very often a necessary part of success as it helps as grow and hone our craft. Consider this quote from Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling:

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

There’s a lot of discussion about the value of a college education these days, especially a degree like English literature.

“Do you plan to teach?” People would ask when I told them what subject I had studied.

“No, I plan to write,” I would reply.

And yes, there were moments, especially in the wee morning hours after bartending, that I wished I had studied anything but English.

Yet, I would find myself writing poetry at three in the morning, trying to capture, in words, the way the streetlamps gilded the tree leaves against the darkness; and I knew that I had made the right decision. To me, there is nothing more potent or magical than the written word. It’s something that is anchored within me.

If you’re interesting in pursuing classes in writing, check out these free online courses. There are also paths to earn your English degree online. One of the most valuable aspects of taking a writing class is the sense of community it offers. It will also give you a professional advantage by offering insight into the competition you will be facing.

There are few people who can be successful on raw talent alone. Seek out those who support you, who understand your craft and your ambitions; and never give up.

Writing an eBook: 5 Steps to Get Started

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Mikki Hogan.  Please read more about Mikki in the footer bio.

Putting together an eBook is far different from writing for the web. The style is different. The objective is different. The work load is different. For some the demand of an eBook is discouraging and a little frightening.

By following 4 simple steps you’ll turn the burden of writing your eBook into a smooth, enjoyable process that begins with a blueprint and ends with a masterpiece!

1. The Blueprint

Every major design project begins with a dream, a vision of the creator. This dream is then etched out on paper in fragments of desires but no real direction. As the dream takes form a blueprint is designed. A map the creator wants to follow in developing her project. A good eBook begins the same way.

Sit down with a pen and paper and simply start jotting your ideas on paper. At this point they don’t have to be in any specific order. You’re just getting your thoughts onto paper. Once all your ideas are written out you’re ready to organize them.

I have found your basic elementary school outline is the best way to begin organizing your eBook blueprint. This outline will later be used to organize your research and map out your chapters.

2. Gathering Your Research

Once your outline is complete you’re ready to begin your research. Every good eBook, regardless of your topic, requires research. As I was researching my allergy eBook I found that the most popular question needing answered was understanding exactly what a dust mite allergy was and how to control it. It was my job to be able to answer that question and that could only be done by research.

If you want to write backyard gardening or breeding cats it will be your job to discover what your targeted readers want to know and then give that information. The only way to accomplish this is through research.

Many beginning writers make the mistake of thinking they can use only their own knowledge to put together a well-written piece. The truth is without understanding your readers and making sure you give them what they need your book won’t go very far.

3. Filling In the Details

Now that your outline is filled in with factual and in demand information it’s time to fill out some details. This isn’t the same as adding your personal storyline. That comes next. The details include quotes, other resources found during your research and helpful tips or how tos. For example if my I’m writing a chapter that focuses on mites in the home I will add a couple bulleted items specifically about the mites such as where they live, what they eat, the life cycle and so on. The details plump out the research for a well-rounded chapter.

4. Personalize with a Storyline

Once you’ve filled out your research by adding specific details you’re ready to personalize your chapters. This is where you add personal experiences, stories from friends and family members and even a few quotes. The personalized touch helps your readers identify with the content and view it from a real life perspective.

5. Putting It All Together

What you have in front of you now is a plump document filled with factual information, engaging details and a personal experience. All that is left is putting it all together. Your original outline serves as a rough draft for your chapter set up so your first draft of content is already neatly pieced together under each topic. All you have to do is form it into coherent and interesting paragraphs.

Don’t worry about the final copy. Not yet. Your goal is to turn your outline into a very rough eBook. Then ask for 10 volunteers to read it and critique it on the following areas:

* Does the order of the chapters make sense

* Does the storyline flow with the factual information

* Was it easy to read or were there missing pieces of information

* Was there something you would have expected to find but didn’t

After you get these notes back you are ready to finalize what I call the first draft. Ideally these same 10 people will read through it once more to see if their first notes were in fact corrected, add any new ones and wrap up their feedback.

I personally like to have up to 3 drafts read by volunteers for the list above. Then I solicit an experienced volunteer to critique my spelling and grammar as I prepare to complete my final copy!

Writing an eBook doesn’t have to overwhelm you. Divide it up, follow the recommended steps above and call on your friends and family to help clean it up. You’ll bring your blueprint to perfection in no time.

Writing an eBook to Educate, Encourage and Inspire for the Beginner

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Mikki Hogan.  Please read more about Mikki in the author’s box.

When I first started out online I didn’t hesitate on putting together a website to educate and support my fellow allergy sufferers. If there was anything I knew it was that living with allergies can be challenging and rather miserable without the right choices in front of you.

But it seemed no matter how many articles I published on my site they never seemed to fully touch below the surface. It quickly became obvious that the best way to dig in deep was through an eBook.

The problem? I had never written an eBook before and had no clue where to begin!

Regardless of my inexperience the fact remained that if I truly wanted to reach out and help my visitors I needed an eBook and I needed it soon! So I buckled down and learned what it took to put together a powerful eBook that not only educated my readers but also encouraged and inspired them to take control of their symptoms.

The Beginnings: Laying Out A Plan

To begin I needed to outline exactly what I wanted to accomplish, my goals so to speak. I wanted to provide a single location for a bundle of resources including common allergy treatments as well as alternative options. I wanted my book to define allergies as well as build out a little history on the understanding of an allergic response.

But most importantly I wanted my eBook to give encouragement to those who may be struggling with getting their allergies under control.

With this in mind I mapped out the various topics I wanted to cover in a bullet list including the history of allergies, genetic factors, symptoms and diagnosis and so on. Once I listed my main topics, I was ready to build out the sub-topics I would need to cover off in each area to provide the best resource possible. Once this was complete I was ready to move on to phase two, research.

Research, Research, Research

Because my eBook was discussing allergy treatments it was imperative that I did my research well. It wouldn’t be much help for my readers if I threw out a few ideas I had tried and just stopped there. I needed to know everything there was to know about the disease, the multitude of symptoms as well as the multitude of people suffering through it.

Then I needed to know in depth the doctor’s perspective on allergies, what occurs in the body and how to best suppress the symptoms. And finally I needed to familiarize myself with alternative options that most doctors won’t tell you about like using diet or Yoga to improve your condition.

The research phase literally took months to gather all the information together and then sort it. In preparation for writing I grouped all the information neatly under each main topic it applied to and then noted where my own personal experiences could help provide a real life perspective. Now I’m ready to write!

Putting It All Together

After months of preparation the time has arrived where I had to sit down and make sense of all my research and notes. This was not an easy task but was certainly doable. With everything in front of me I was able to emphasize fact from myth as well as highlight my own personal experiences with my allergy struggles and that of my daughter.

The writing phase actually took nearly as long as researching. For me it was crucial to relay what I had learned or experienced in an easy to understand yet equally powerful manner. It was a feat that at times felt beyond my reach. But with diligence and a little help from family and friends my book soon began to take shape.

The End Result

The end result was far beyond anything I had originally imagined. The amount of information I had compiled and the efficiency with putting it all together amazed me and everyone who had volunteered to read it. They shared that it was very well written and encouraging for them when facing their own allergy struggles. And THAT is what it was all about for me.

You see anyone can put together 20 or so pages and call it an eBook. And it might even turn out okay and offer some information to the readers they otherwise wouldn’t have had. But imagine for just a moment if you spent some extra time researching and turned those 20 pages into 80 pages of factual information and practical tips? Which eBook would you prefer to read?

Here’s to writing the best eBook you can write!

Update on “Calling all Freelance Writers” Book

Books to be returned...

Writing (courtesy @hashmil)

Some of you (especially the contributors) may be wondering the status of my book, Calling All Freelance Writers. It is moving forward, but it won’t be ready for publication until early next year. I just ask for your patience!!

Last week, I sat down and read all of the interviews in print form.  I attempted to do it online, but I wanted it in front of me, in print.

I took notes in the margin for questions I have, ideas for the book, and comments to myself.  Just by sitting down for a few hours and reading all those responses, I, myself, felt enlightened.  So much valuable advice! :)

Although I detected some common themes threaded throughout all of the interview responses, perspectives existed across the entire spectrum.

Writing the Book

I created an outline.  I also began my first chapter and my last.  There are some random thoughts that will end up in the middle somewhere.  I know some left-brained people would shutter at the thought of that illogical order.  But us right-brained writers don’t always think (or write) logically.

When the idea of this book first formed in my mind, I thought I would just compile all the interviews into one book and hit print. Since then, I decided I want to add my own perspectives and have other writers “back me up” with their own experiences.  This creates a better flow, and produces more of book instead of just a compilation of interviews.

Since some of the responses were similar, it also didn’t make sense to just “cut and paste” the interviews.  Instead, I want to pull out what I believe are the important and relevant messages.

All of the writers who will be in this book will have their full bio placed in the end of the book. By setting it up this way, instead of mixing the bios in with the book, it avoids disruption of the book.  It also provides an easy reference for each writer’s bio.

Now for the bad news. . .

Some of the interview responses were detailed and verbose (the more, the better) and very helpful, and other responses were basically one or two word answers.

While I appreciate the inputs from each of you, some of the  writers’ responses just did not provide enough substance to be included.  I apologize, but I can’t squeeze water out of a rock.

I will be contacting a few of the writers for clarification, questions, or comments.  I will also let the writers who I have excluded know, so they are not wondering what happened to their input.  If these writers do want to add more, I would definitely welcome it, and keep them on the book’s free distribution list!

The Finishing Updates

Once the book is complete, I will obviously have to edit it, and get it published.  I should probably not even think about editing and publishing until I get the book complete.  But once again, creatives don’t always think in logical steps.


I am currently seeking professional editors for the book. A few editors have contacted me, but the more I have to choose from, the better.

The worst thing that can happen is I write the book, publish it, and find out there are typos and grammar mistakes!  AHHH!  I don’t plan on skipping that step, but my budget will also dictate when that will fit in.


In between editing and publishing will be the design work.  The good news is many of the self-publishing businesses include custom cover design in their packages.  Therefore, this should not be too much of any issue unless I decide to go completely POD, by myself (doubtful).


As far as publishers, I have a couple in mind.  This will be a self-published book. This book is targeted to a small niche – freelance writers, so I am not interested in “traditional” publishing.  (I am no Stephen King after all.)  There will be an electronic (Kindle and Nook) version and paperback copy which I will sell on my own website and on

I read The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine (highly recommend if you are self-publishing) which has helped me a TON in choosing a publisher.

Thoughts on the Book

Between reading Linked In discussions, blog posts, and other media conversations, I realize this book is needed.  Hopefully, it will open the eyes of writers who are struggling and think it is impossible to succeed.

This book makes no guarantees of success, but presents insight into the minds’ of successful writers.  That should not only inspire writers, but give them hope that it can be done.

It is up to the writer on how to use that advice.  It is ALWAYS up to the writer.