Nick Daw's Writing Blog - Inside the writing world of Nick Daws
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Friday, February 29, 2008

Oddest Book Title of the Year

Thought you might like to know that The Bookseller magazine has just announced its shortlist for the annual Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. The candidates this year are as follows:

* I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen
* Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues
* Cheese Problems Solved
* If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs
* People who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Dr Feelgood
* How to Write a How to Write Book

Of course, I wrote the last one - no, only kidding! It was actually a guy called Brian Piddock. His publisher says: 'It's the book that will tell all you less-than-successful authors where you went wrong. No longer must you try and sell your novel or play or memoir and be rejected again and again. Now you can write your own How to Write book, and at last success will be yours.'

I'm saying nothing ;-)

Other books that, according to The Bookseller, narrowly missed out on a shortlist place this year included:

* Drawing and Painting the Undead
* Stafford Pageant: The Exciting Innovative Years 1901-1952
* Tiles of the Unexpected: A Study of Six Miles of Geometric Tile Patterns on the London Underground.

They all sound fascinating reading. The winner will be chosen by a website poll that is open to anyone. So why not visit The Bookseller site and cast your vote? The poll is on the right-hand side of the homepage - you may just have to scroll down a little to see it. The winner will be announced on 28 March.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Station Shorts Anthology Published

I'm delighted to reveal that Station Shorts, an anthology of short fiction by members of my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com, has just been published on Lulu.com. You can visit the sales page here.

As the name suggests, all the stories in Station Shorts are set in the mysterious Station. This is a vast concourse occupied by fictional characters, both well known and unknown, whose authors are taking a break (or blocked) and don't therefore require them.

The idea was originally conceived by forum member Jeanette, and enthusiastically adopted by other members around the world (including the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand). This book represents the culmination of all their efforts.

The overall standard of work in Station Shorts is amazingly high (and no, I don't have any stories in it myself, though I did contribute a Foreword). You can read a sample story by 'Gyppo' titled If You Ain't Drinking... by clicking on Preview This Book on the Lulu.com sales page.

Finally, I should mention that Station Shorts is a 227-page printed book, and it is on sale at the very modest price of $10.80 US or 5.95 UK pounds, plus postage to anywhere in the world. All profits - not that there will be many at this price! - will be donated to the human rights charity Amnesty International.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

More Info for Bloggers

A little while ago in this post I mentioned a new service called BlogRush that aims to help bloggers attract more visitors. I know a number of you signed up with BlogRush as a result of that post, so I hope you are reasonably pleased with the results you are getting.

I thought you might like to know that the people behind BlogRush have just launched a new (and, again, free) website called TrafficJam. TrafficJam displays the most popular blog posts in the BlogRush network, both overall and in specific categories.

I was pleased to find that my recent post about the new Qassia revenue-sharing website was at number 18 in Traffic Jam's Writing & Literature category, so it appears on the first page for this category. The rankings are updated regularly, of course, so my post may have gone up or down by the time you read this!

For BlogRush members, TrafficJam provides an opportunity for your best posts to gain extra publicity. And it's also very useful for seeing the post titles that are attracting the greatest interest from readers (coming up with good titles for your posts is the key to getting more visitors from BlogRush)

But even if you're not a BlogRush member, you might still want to use TrafficJam to review the most popular posts in any category. If you're looking for ideas for topics for your own blog that will attract readers, TrafficJam should prove a useful research tool - and it's also a good tool for discovering blogs you may not have seen before covering your area/s of particular interest.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New Products From WCCL

As you may know, this blog and my forum are both sponsored by The WCCL Network. WCCL also publish several writing courses of mine, including Quick Cash Writing and Write Any Book in Under 28 Days.

WCCL publish high-quality courses, manuals and software in a range of fields. I thought you might perhaps be interested to hear about some new products they have released recently, even though none of these is directly writing related.

As the name indicates, Watch TV on Your PC lets you watch TV from around the world via the Internet. You can also use it to tune in to thousands of Internet radio stations, as well as web cams, videos, and more.

Watch TV on Your PC works on any Windows computer (including Vista). No TV tuner card or any other hardware is required - all you have to do is install the software on your PC and decide what you want to watch first. Of course, as with all WCCL products, there is free, unlimited customer support available 24/7, and with Watch TV on Your PC you also get free lifetime updates.

I must admit, however, what surprised me most about this software was the price. WCCL are currently selling it for just $14.95 US or 7.95 UK pounds. This is a lifetime fee - unlike most similar services, no monthly subscriptions are required.

If you like the idea of watching TV from around the world - including sporting events that in your own country may only be available on pay-to-view - Watch TV on Your PC has to be worth a look.

Moving on, WCCL have always specialised in privacy and security software, and they've recently introduced a new and improved undelete tool called Undelete File Recovery.

As you may know, even when you delete a file from your PC and empty the Recycle Bin, the file remains on your computer's hard drive until eventually it is over-writen. In this 'deleted' form it is normally invisible, but with the correct software it can still be viewed and - if you wish - recovered.

Enter Undelete File Recovery. This powerful program will instantly display hundreds of deleted files from any drive on your computer. Full details of the files are shown, and you can even preview them to see what they contain. Then all you have to do is choose which files to restore with the aid of the Recovery Wizard.

Undelete File Recovery is currently available for just $24.95 (around 13 UKP). What's more, right now buyers also get a completely free copy of WCCL's powerful Backup Magic software, which makes backing up all your important files a piece of cake. This one looks like another no-brainer to me ;-)

Moving on again, my colleague Karl Moore has been raving on his blog recently about The Quantum Cookbook, WCCL's brand new guide to the hot topic of manifesting (it was even mentioned recently on the UK soap opera Coronation Street!). The term manifesting is used to describe the process of reordering your personal reality to obtain the things you want. It's also sometimes referred to as The Law of Attraction.

The concept of manifesting has been around for many years, but The Quantum Cookbook brings it firmly into the 21st century. Written by self-development expert Bradley Thompson, it includes a 140-page manual crammed with little-known tricks and techniques for manifesting anything - from a new house to a soulmate, from a new car to more money. Buyers also get bonus CDs, interviews with celebrities who have successfully used the manifesting technique, and more.

I'll be honest, I'm normally more than a little sceptical when I see these sort of claims being made. But I've always thought that people do, to a large extent, make their own luck. It seems to me that what this guide does is try to explain how this process operates and set out strategies you can use to make it work for you.

Anyway, if you're interested, it's all explained on The Quantum Cookbook website - and, of course, WCCL's usual money-back guarantee applies.

Lastly, I appreciate that most readers of this blog are primarily interested in writing. That being the case, you might just like to check out WCCL's WriteStreet website, which lists all their writing-related products and services (including my courses), and Smart Writers, their free email newsletter for writers.

Happy writing!

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Qassia: A New Revenue-Sharing Website

I recently signed up with Qassia, a new revenue-sharing content site that also operates as a web directory.

Like certain other sites such as Helium Knowledge, Qassia lets anyone upload articles to its website. Unlike most other such sites, however, you then receive a full 100 per cent of the advertising revenue generated by the Google AdSense ads displayed beside your own content (most other services split the revenue from advertising 50:50 or less).

Content on Qassia is called 'intel' (short for intelligence). Intel can be anything from full-length articles to an interesting fact. One of the many innovative features of Qassia is that new intel is rated by other Qassia members. The average rating given to your intel determines how high it appears in search results in the Qassia web directory for the topic in question.

As well as giving you the advertising revenue generated by your intel, Qassia also allows you to include a link back to your own website (or any website of your choice) on the same page as each piece of intel you contribute. This could help drive extra traffic to your site, and should also help boost your site's ranking in the search engines. As you may know, most search engines rate a website's popularity according to the number of incoming links it has, especially when these links are non-reciprocal (as is the case with Qassia).

Qassia operates in its own internal currency called Qassia Dollars. These are earned by posting intel and by rating intel posted by other members. Qassia Dollars cannot currently be converted directly into cash, but you can allocate your Qassia Dollars to any number of websites you want to promote. The more Qassia Dollars you allocate to any particular site, the higher up the Qassia rankings it appears. I must admit I don't fully understand this yet, but no doubt all will become clear in due course!

I'm still getting the hang of Qassia, but I can already see it has the potential to become huge. In some ways it reminds me of Kwickee, the mobile phone content publishing company I was involved with a few years ago (see this link for historical information!). Kwickee was ultimately unsuccessful, but in my work as a group editor for them I saw hundreds of articles submitted, many of which I think would now be prime candidates for Qassia. Articles about local tourist attractions (as were many of the Kwickee articles I edited) are a case in point - so if you wrote any of these for Kwickee, this could be the perfect outlet for them. On the other hand, I'm not sure that Qassia is really a suitable place for posting fiction.

Qassia is still in pre-launch phase, and currently you can only join at the invitation of an existing member. However, I'm more than happy to invite any reader of this blog to join through me! Just click on any of the Qassia links in this post, and follow the on-screen instructions to sign up. It's free of charge, of course. I found it all reasonably intuitive, but if you have any problems, do feel free to run them past me and I'll help if I can.

Oh, and look out for my first bit of intel, my recipe for the Greek vegetarian speciality briam! And yes, this did start life as a Kwickee article!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Guest Article: Imagination and Inspiration

Today I have a guest article for you from Mywriterscircle.com member John Craggs, also known (and not only on the forum) as Gyppo. John/Gyppo describes himself as a writer, adult tutor, storyteller and all-round rogue!

Be that as it may, he is a highly experienced freelance writer, and gives his advice and support generously to other members of the forum. I particularly liked this article - which he posted last week - and thought it deserved a wider readership.

IMAGINATION & INSPIRATION

"I've just got no imagination."

Every creative writing class has one student who issues this challenge, daring the tutor to prove him wrong.

Which they obviously are. If they couldn't imagine themselves as a writer - whatever their image of a writer may be - they wouldn't be in your class.

The more timid ones hesitantly admit to a 'lack of inspiration'.

The following addresses both problems, and although it may not work for everyone I've known it produce excellent results.

If you rely on inspiration as the driving force behind your writing then you'd better learn to make yourself inspired!

Did I hear you say no-one can be inspired to order?

This isn't strictly true.

OBSERVATION STARTS AT HOME

Become your own study object. Observe yourself throughout the day as you would observe someone else if you were planning to write about them.

Take note, mentally or on paper, of the things that trigger your imagination. The things that catch at your curiosity like a ragged fingernail on cloth.

Scraps of overheard conversation on a bus perhaps.

Music. I personally find music a great source of inspiration. Though the mental images rarely seem to have any direct connection with the tune.

Pictures. Some people will find great inspiration in a handful of photographs, or an art gallery.

People. Real people - despite all disclaimers to the contrary - are the raw material of so much writing. A stranger seen in a crowd can provide the basis for a character who then spawns a whole novel of supporting characters.

For example, I once saw a three year old girl, with an unearthly blonde beauty, and the blackest coldest eyes I have ever seen in my life.

The question that sprung into my subconscious was 'what will she grow up like'?

I saw an assassin, sunbathing on a rooftop until it was time to do her grisly job. A horror oriented writer may have seen her as a child of the devil.

Another writer may have seen her as the victim of some childhood trauma. Possibly leading to a psychological thriller about child abuse and its possible consequences.

Actively look for inspiration. Once you get into the habit of seeing everything about you in terms of possibilities, rather than a simple fact, you will never be short of ideas again.

Another example? You see a man leaning on a wall. So far this is just a simple recordable fact. But why is he leaning?

Is he just tired, ill, or lazy? Or perhaps clawing himself back upright after a mugging?

On a more gentle note, is he waiting for someone, or something? His wife, mistress, old flame, or a terribly mundane bus. And if the latter, where is the bus going? Is it taking him to somewhere/someone, or away from an untenable situation?.

How about an offbeat surreal view? Maybe he really is holding up the wall, instead of vice versa. (Reversing your perception of everyday events like this can be quite productive at times.)

WRITERS SHOULD ALWAYS ASK 'WHAT IF'

What if he misses the bus? Will he go back and resolve his problem, or just stand there indecisively? Will his failure to arrive on time lead to further misunderstandings and more twists in the emerging plot? (If not, you're not trying hard enough!)

On the surreal note, if he really was supporting the wall (and by now you should have asked yourself why), will it fall down if he catches the bus, and if so, what will it reveal? Was that wall the empty facade of a previous life, now exposed as the sham it truly was?

Turning those ideas into stories/articles may be another set of problems, but without those initial building blocks you will not even get started.

NO SUCH THING

I accept the existence of people with no sense of humour - I've worked with a few - but I sincerely believe that there is no such thing as a complete lack of imagination. It may have atrophied since childhood, but it's there in everyone.

Imagination can be compared to a motorcycle. If well maintained and regularly used it bursts into life at the first kick. But if neglected and abused half an hour's vigorous kicking will get you nowhere until you do a little repair work.

So give your imagination a service. It'll work a lot better afterwards.

*

If you enjoyed this article, you might like to subscribe to Gyppo's free fortnightly humour newsletter by e-mailing gyppo1-at-ntlworld.com with 'MSD SUB' as subject (in the e-mail address, of course, change the -at- to the usual @ sign). You could also check out his three e-books, 'A Hamper of Havoc', 'British Bike Bodgers Booklet', and his latest, 'The Flying Ferret', available for sale at http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=1175168. Gyppo says he will even pop them onto a CD for anyone who doesn't like downloads. Contact the 'gyppo1' e-mail address if you would prefer this.

Thanks again to Gyppo for allowing me to reprint his article here.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Spring is in the Air

I thought those of you in the northern hemisphere especially might enjoy seeing these photos I took in our garden over the weekend...





Spring is definitely on the way :)

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Grab This Free Report on Publicising Your Book!

If you've written a book, or are in the process of writing one, here's a free report you won't want to miss.

Beyond the Press Release: 10 Exciting Book Buzz Ideas That Will Take You to the Top is written by Sandra Beckwith, an award-winning US book publicist, author of two publicity books, and online course instructor for Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz. You can download the report free of charge by clicking on this link.

The report comes in the form of a highly professional-looking PDF. It's much more than just the 10-point list I half-expected to receive. There are 13 pages of excellent advice on promoting your book, including some ideas I'd certainly never thought of myself. For example, here's an extract from Idea 9, Start Your Own Holiday:
Whether its serious or lighthearted, your holiday can be the launch pad for an annual publicity campaign.

Every year, humor writer Jen Singer generates national publicity for her collection of laugh-out-loud parenting essays, 14 Hours 'Til Bedtime, through the holiday she created, 'Please Take My Children to Work Day.'

How can you not smile when you see that title? Whether you're a humorist, a science fiction writer, or a biographer, you can use this technique to generate buzz for your book every year, too.

Start by brainstorming ideas for a holiday that is appropriate and relevant to your book but attention-getting, too. A funny holiday will get more attention than a serious one, but a lighthearted concept isn't required. Here are a few examples using books written by a few students in my book publicity course to get you thinking:

'Visit a Cemetery Day' for Grave Matters: A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial
'Call a Sick Friend Day' for How to Say it When You Don't Know What to Say: The Right Words for Difficult Times
And Sandra goes on to explain how you can make your holiday 'official' by registering it at a certain website.

As well as the free report, you also get a free subscription to Sandra's monthly newsletter. This is also very informative, and includes interviews with successful authors and publicists, tips on publicising your work, and much more. Obviously, though, you can unsubscribe to the newsletter any time you like.

I'm sure Sandra hopes that as a reader of her report and newsletter, you might like to buy her book publicity guides and workbooks, attend one of her courses, or even hire her professional services. However, there is no hard sell involved. I've also corresponded with Sandra recently, and found her friendly and helpful.

As I said above, if you're writing a book or have written one, I do recommend going to Sandra's website and grabbing a copy of her free report while it's still available.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

WritersFM: Internet Radio by Writers, for Writers

I haven't mentioned WritersFM on this blog for a while now, so for the benefit of new readers especially I thought it was time I said a few words about it.

WritersFM is the online radio station for writers run by my publishers, The WCCL Network. It is one of the range of free services for writers provided by WCCL, which also includes my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com and the Smart Writers e-mail newsletter.

WritersFM broadcasts a mixture of interviews with successful writers and laid-back music. The chief interviewer and station manager is my colleague Karl Moore, the author of several non-fiction books himself.

Authors interviewed on the station so far include US writer and writing teacher Randy Ingermanson, former British health minister turned author and broadcaster Edwina Currie, historical novelist Bernard Cornwell, copywriting guru Joe Vitale, biographer Lucinda Hawksley, first-time novelist Jeff Phelps, children's author and illustrator Stephen Jackson, and many others (including yours truly!).

You can either just tune in to WritersFM and listen to whatever happens to be playing at the time, or download individual interviews as podcasts (though note that these are BIG files!). In addition, you can stream the most recent interviews directly from the WritersFM website without having to download them. You do need to have a broadband (DSL) Internet connection in order to listen to WritersFM.

I have one other reason for mentioning WritersFM just now. Karl is currently looking for more writers to interview on the station about their work. If you're a reasonably well-known author (i.e. if you stopped ten people at random on the street, there's a chance that at least one might have heard of you!) do drop Karl a line if you'd like to be interviewed. Or alternatively, if you happen to know a well-known writer and are able to put Karl in touch with him/her, again he would be delighted to hear from you. Please write to karl AT karlmoore.com, and put his name ("Karl Moore") in the subject line to avoid your email being blocked by the spam filters.

P.S. Karl is also looking for potential new guests for his other Internet radio station Self Dev Radio - so if you know any self-help gurus (or are one!), please get in touch with him also.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Try Your Hand at Hypertext Fiction

Fiction writers have long (in Internet terms) been fascinated by the potential of the Internet as a medium for publishing fiction.

In particular, the ease by which it is possible to move from web page to web page via hyperlinks has led some writers to experiment in creating hypertext fiction, where readers can actively explore a story - and find different ways through it - using hyperlinks.

Programming your own hypertext fiction website isn't a task for the faint-hearted. But recently I heard from Jeremy Ashkenas about his Hypertextopia website, which provides a platform that anyone is free to use to try creating their own hypertext fiction (and, indeed, non-fiction).


Writing in Hypertextopia consists of creating so-called fragments and shards, moving them around on the screen, and drawing links between them (see picture above). It's a little like working with mind maps. Once you've written a Hypertextopia work, it can be presented via the site's Grand Library.

It's easier to try Hypertextopia for yourself than it is to explain it, so if you're interested in this concept, click on Hypertextopia and start by exploring some of the works that have already been published. In the case of at least one of them - Playground - you can log in anonymously and try editing the story yourself. This really does blur the distinction between reading and writing!

Hypertextopia is an intriguing project that can open your eyes to the potential of hypertext fiction, even though the quality of work published on the site so far is variable. At times I found the terminology used a little baffling, but the longer you explore and experiment in Hypertextopia, the better you come to understand it. If you're a fiction writer and fascinated by the potential of hypertext fiction, it's definitely worth a look.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hidden Profits in "Spare Change" Time

Today I'm reprinting (with permission) an article by author and newspaper columnist Jim Edwards that struck an immediate chord with me. My computer is prone to random crashes that leave me sitting fuming as my PC goes through the whole reboot process again. But having read Jim's article, I'm determined to start using this "spare change" time provided by courtesy of my computer more productively!

Discover Hidden Profits in "Spare Change" Time - by Jim Edwards

(c) Jim Edwards - All Rights reserved
http://www.thenetreporter.com

Fact: Take the spare change out of your pocket every night and put it in a child's piggy bank. At the end of a year you will have at least a hundred dollars to spend as you wish. Now take this same principle and discover the huge payoff in the "spare change" time you've been wasting all these years.

How often do you sit in front of your computer and wait?

Everyone waits for the computer to reboot, restart, unlock, "scandisk", "defrag", finish printing, download a file from the Internet or generally accomplish tasks that have you sitting twiddling your thumbs for at least 60 to 90 seconds or more.

The shocking truth is that those one, two and three minute nuggets of time contain the seeds for accomplishing all the tasks you never seem to have enough minutes in the day to finish.

Computers represent a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they are supposed to save us time by efficiently helping us with big tasks such as balancing our checkbooks, running our businesses, and doing our taxes.

In reality, it seems the time computers save you gets sucked right back up in time-consuming tasks such as installing software, scanning for viruses and waiting for the computer to restart!

Think about the spare change in the piggy bank example. Now use that same principle to your advantage by developing an awareness of how you spend your "pocket change" time in front of the computer every day.

Small bits of wasted time add up quickly over the course of a day, week, year - all of it in 2 to 3 minute increments. Fifteen wasted minutes a day equals well over 11 working days wasted per year!

Take this "one-day challenge".

Today, try these alternatives to sitting and watching the "hourglass" on your monitor while waiting for your computer to finish a task!

~ Organize your desk
~ Sharpen your pencils
~ Make a quick phone call
~ Check your "to-do" list; if you don't have a "to-do" list
make one
~ Write a fast note to a friend
~ Put in a load of laundry
~ Go to the bathroom
~ Get another cup of coffee
~ Pay a bill
~ Catch up your checkbook entries
~ Pick up your office
~ Brainstorm an idea
~ Stand up and stretch
~ Day-dream for about a happy thought for 90 seconds!

Carefully watch how much time you spend in front of the computer waiting for it to do something and then see how many things you can accomplish with that time.

Nothing could reward you more than developing a consciousness about how you spend those spare moments that add up to enough time to write a book, take a trip with your family or take positive actions that will change your life forever.

Use your "spare change" time to accomplish the things you claim you never find time to finish!

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Jim Edwards is a syndicated newspaper columnist (http://www.TheNetReporter.com) and the co-author of an amazing new ebook that will teach you how to work less, get paid more... and have tons more fun! - "The Lazy Man's Guide to Online Business"

==============================
Are YOU a "Lazy Achiever"? "The Lazy Man's Guide to Online Business" How to Work Less, get Paid More and have tons more Fun! Proven tips, tricks, techniques and strategies of Superstar "Lazy Achievers"!
Click=> http://tinyurl.com/2v8etn
==============================

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Write a TV Ad for a Book!

In my blog last year I mentioned a contest held by thriller writer Dean Koontz to promote his new book The Good Guy. Contestants had to write and produce a 30-second video trailer for the book. All entries appeared on the video-sharing site YouTube, and as far as I know the winning entry was broadcast on US TV.

Well, UK publishers Little, Brown have decided to use a similar method to promote the new crime novel by the American author Patricia Cornwell, Book of the Dead. They are running a competition for people to create a 20-second TV ad for this book. Entrants have to shoot their own 20-second video, and/or submit a script and/or a storyboard for an ad (so you can still enter even if you don't own a video camera). The contest is only open to people in the UK and Eire, unfortunately, and you must be over 18.

Submissions must include a product shot (included in the competition kit) for a minimum of 5 seconds, so you really only have to come up with a 15-second advertisement. There is a top prize of 2500 UK pounds for the winning entry, which will be chosen by Patricia Cornwell herself from a shortlist of six.

For more details, and to download a competition kit, visit www.bookofthedead.hyptv.com. The closing date is Friday 29 February.

Good luck!

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