Saturday, 10 May 2014


Balance can be such a hard thing to find. After a big move to a new city, training, and developing new careers I'm struggling to find that balance in writing. It's always writing that takes it in the neck at the moment. So I hope you'll forgive this lack of activity. I'm still here, just struggling to find balance.

Sunday, 20 April 2014


I've never liked the sentiment that 'ignorance is bliss'. I've never thought that my life is worse because of knowledge I possess. On the contrary, knowledge has always led to improvement of myself or my life. It hasn't always been easily obtained either, but when it's been hard won it's mattered all the more.
The funny thing is that something I've written was directly borne out of a lack of knowledge of poetry. Studying creative writing after you've come to terms with your own lack of knowledge in some areas is difficult enough. Then you come to that part of the course where you have to start writing poetry. If you've never studied poetry at a lower level, you're suddenly confronted by a lot of complex terms, combined with the assumption by your tutor(s) and course-book writers that you know them all. Thankfully another student gave me a link to a list of terms, which was helpful, but what was exciting was that it included a list of different forms of poetry. Having never read or even seen anything other than sonnets and haiku, this was a big change. I picked out a lot of different forms that sounded interesting and didn't have complex rhyme schemes or meters. When I had to write my first poem in the course, I thought it’d be a slog because, but it emerged with breathless ease. What emerged was the start of what became a collection of poems.

The odd thing was that the first line came to me complete and it's remained unchanged ever since. It was one of those rare moments where you don't have to reach for what you're writing, no effort required. The final line followed right after and was just as complete. After that I did have to work more but it still flowed easily. I wrote from the first line to two thirds of the way through and then wrote backwards from the last line. A second poem followed shortly afterwards and this one was all work. I looked at the two poems together and whilst they fitted together they felt incomplete. I looked again at all the poems that had interested me and kept writing. It was immediately clear that these were connected poems, not a loose collection, and the title flowed as naturally as the poems had.
With each poem I was writing in a form I'd never read or written in before. Might it take lack of knowledge about what a form isn't meant to do to be truly experimentative? Yes, I had no practical experience of how each form worked, but it also meant I hadn't learned the limitations of the forms. That experimentation was therefore undertaken without fear. It's vital to be free of fear when you're experimenting or you can risk holding something back. There have also been times in my life where I’ve taken a step forward and thought afterwards that if I’d known beforehand what I was getting into that I’d never have taken the step.

Sunday, 23 February 2014


Trust is the most delicate of things. I give my trust so slowly that others can lose patience with me. It's just my nature. So I can be noncommittal until something settles into place. Then my commitment is complete.

There are situations though when you have to step forward and put your trust in someone whether you're ready or not. Looking for a cover artist is in this category. You can find all the good art you like, giving you a flavour of an artist's work, but at some point you have to settle on some one and reach out into the dark.

Whilst writing for games, films or TV sees you routinely working alongside other creative people, for books it's much rarer. I've been used to writing alone, often in a small room, which emphasised the solitary and insular nature of the way I write fiction. So you'd think that it'd be hard turning to an artist. The reality though was that it was easy. What made it easy was the choice of artist.

I spent time looking at the work of different artists, looking at Smashwords and other eBook publishers. I looked at The Book Designer website and did image searches. I built up a list of potential artists and started whittling away at it. I now know that there was no point trying to shorten the list because I kept returning returning to one artist and two of the covers she'd created.

Rachel at Littera Designs has created a lot of good covers, but it was her covers for As The Crow Flies by Damien Boyd and Killing Chase by Ben Muse that had really caught my eye. I loved the way she used light, creating light, dark and areas of contrast and rich colour. I made contact, mentioning those two covers and Rachel said in her reply how proud she was of how those two covers had turned out. That was the point at which I cleared the last hurdle. Her pride in those two covers was final confirmation that I'd found the right person.

Rachel's request form is open enough for you to write as much as you like about your book. When you've been dreaming of these moments for so long the temptation can be to be prescriptive, to try to make reality conform to the dream. Reality is the greater experience though, because if you let go and trust in someone who has at least as much artistic talent as you, what emerges can be special. I gave Rachel all the information I could, some key images, but I didn't proscribe or direct. I trusted her vision and talent. What's emerged is something special that I'm really looking forward to sharing. So if you need a cover artist, take a look at Rachel's work.

Sunday, 19 January 2014


Doing through some storage boxes recently I found mountains of books. There's nothing unusual about that, or about the books. Once though these books meant the world to me.

I hated school, every single day of it, so weekends were always a real relief. Saturday mornings were centred on going to a town market. I was only interested in one seller though because he had new and second hand Doctor Who novelisations.

I was a Doctor Who fan, so the novelisations, often by the show's former script editor, Terrance Dicks were extremely desirable. What really appealed was the fact that it gave me access to earlier stories. This was an era in which Doctor Who repeats were rarely shown. So every Saturday morning was thrilling, filled with the anticipation of whether the seller would have something new. The greatest disappointment was going home without anything, the greatest joy going home with a Cyberman story.

When I pulled one book out a couple of days ago I instantly recognised the cover. Now I'd regard it as lurid, but as a child it was exciting.

One of the greatest losses of moving to adulthood is that anticipation building to complete joy. It's easy to become jaded, and although studying literature played a great part in my development, having to read so much purely for study sapped a lot of the joy of reading. Seeing these books again has really reminded me of what a joy it can be.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Walking into Fiction

Years ago I saw a retrospective on Doctor Who. Normally I'm not a fan of acting in nonfiction show, but this had a scene I've always remembered: a boy pushes open the door of what turns out to be the TARDIS. The look of wonder on the boy's face was wonderful and far more preferable to the smug 'irony' that runs through so much modern popular entertainment. It allowed for joyful, innocent wonder at something completely other. Recently I experienced something similar and I was that little boy.

Walking into Borough market was like walking into Diagon Alley. I don't know what JK Rowling's inspiration was, but it could have been this. It had the same tall, narrow streets and near secret shops. Unfortunately there were no wand shops, but it was still magical. The Stables market had a similar feel, but a completely different style. This was like the set of Blade runner, modern yet faded and shabby.
One of the things that we've lost in a lot of modern, popular entertainment is unashamed joyful wonder. Under the weight of deconstructionist thinking, of irony, the self-conscious awareness characters have of their own fictionality and the fourth wall breaking, wonder has been lost. I can't help but feel that more wonder would do a lot for fiction, that joyful exploration, whether by writer or character, would be a real step up from the fashionable modern, tired cynicism.

Finding these places, by accident or chance if you believe in such things, added to the wonder. It was as if I was that little boy, walking into fiction.

Sunday, 24 November 2013


We all know what words like loss, gift and dedication mean. There's a more powerful word though that encompasses all of those words and more. It's more powerful because of it's implied extremity. Sacrifice.

Take a look at these two sentences:

I dedicate myself to writing.

I sacrifice myself to writing.

It's easy to see which the more powerful is. Some might think it sounds overblown, but if you aren't prepared to give everything to what matters to you, then does it really matter to you?

Sacrifice then is the ultimate commitment: you offer yourself and all you are up to your path. It's a difficult path to start down though because it begins with loss, the loss of who you were. You lose the benign, ambivalent person you were. Only by making that sacrifice can you become the passionate, resilient person you need to be.

It's easy to continue as you were, as you could always be. It's only through sacrifice though that you can ever truly leap forward. It's only by sacrificing yourself to what or who matters to you that anything will change. Understanding this, truly understanding it through your body, your senses, spirit and soul so that there's no need to even think about it.

Understanding this is joy and fear, but it's also a great insight. Whenever a character reaches this point where everything could change I'll remember this time and these choices. Experiences you've had are typically convincing than experiences you've imagined.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Simplicity Complexity Impossibility

Life can be very strange. Simple things fail to work, complex things are resolved easily and sometimes things defy explanation.

For example last night when I tried to make some simple changes in layout and template to my blog it took ages and I wound up with something that I was far from happy with. It looked good but the Twitter feed wouldn't work at all. Bizarrely one of Blogger's simple templates, which was going to be a last resort, changed in between my last viewing and the time I tried to use it. I know those are constants but it was still different. Tonight I returned to the problem expecting a real fight but now another simple template looked different! It looked like the dynamic view template but the Twitter feed works. It's something I can build upon.

I've experienced a couple of instances of impossibilities in the past week. While standing up from my desk I heard something fall onto the floor. I checked what it could be but there was nothing there. If there was nothing there then what made the noise? If there was something there then why was nothing there? Another bizarre one is that the stylus for my tablet has a broken clip. I can't make it roll no matter how hard I try. Despite this I put it down on my tablet recently and it rolled off. If I can't make it roll off then how can it roll off?

They're such little things and yet their simplicity, complexity and impossibilities defy understanding.