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27/08/2020 
 

Welcome to my blog!

 

Writing about writing? I’m always up for a challenge. As a traditionally published author with two novels, several award-winning short stories and a number of articles tucked under my belt, blogging should be a breeze. Right? 

Erm… (Incidentally, this one word was my entire entry to a competition entitled “Writer’s Block”. I thought it would make the judges laugh. Perhaps it did - but obviously not in the way I wanted.)

 

With that in mind, let’s talk about writing competitions because they are a good way to start. Both of my published novels did well in competition. In fact, in the case of the latter, although it didn’t win, it did earn a place on the Cinnamon Press mentoring scheme and was ultimately published by the same company. 

However, novels are the heavyweights of the writing world. Short stories are easier to start with because, well, they’re shorter. Before anyone starts sharpening their pitchfork (proverbial, I hope) short stories should be as well-crafted as novels and you have to achieve this using fewer words; there’s nothing like culling 90,000 words down to 2,500 to hone your precision. Nevertheless, as well as taking less time to write, they also take less time to read and are therefore both easier to critique and judge (we’ll return to the art of critiquing in future blogs.) A quick peruse of any list of writing competitions will reveal many more opportunities for short stories than novels and they’re usually cheaper to enter too. Where the prize is publication (and publishing credits are always worth more than cash in this game) it is more economical for the organizers to produce a collection of short stories (or poems) that will be bought be all the participants’ friends and family at least. A shared ISBN is still a publishing credit. 

My favourite list of writing competitions is Michael Sheldon’s Prize Magic https://www.prizemagic.co.uk/  It is both comprehensive and free. If you can recommend others, please let me know.

 

Of course, judging any artistic endeavour is highly subjective. You may read the winning entries and think “Huh, my story was much more clever/ original /interesting/insert your own adjective here than that” but do read them because not only do they illustrate what a particular judge was looking for but they can also be sources of inspiration (although, by that, I do NOT mean plagiarism - that is the writers’ cardinal sin and if offenders are not burned at the stake then they should be!) 

Finally, be aware that sometimes, there is no discernible rhyme or reason to any of it. I recently joined the major online writing group, Scribophile, https://www.scribophile.com/ and have enjoyed entering their in-house competitions. However, despite submitting well-critiqued stories about lofty subjects such as environmental destruction, global pandemics, addiction and the cyclic nature of familial abuse, I was getting nowhere fast. Then, on a whim, I submitted an un-critiqued, light-hearted tale about an obscure character on late-night American television - and I came second.

 

Go figure!

*

 

1/1/21

Competition Update

I am delighted to announce that in November 2020, I won, not one, but two writing competitions! The first was in The First Three Paragraphs competition with a piece of flash fiction (i.e. under 1000 words) called "Come Away." The second was in the "Halloween Ghost Story" competition which I won with a short story called "The Water Babies." Both competitions were hosted by Scribophile, a huge, international writer's site. My short story, "No Ordinary Man" will also be published by the American company, Sage Cigarettes, 31.12.20. Onwards and upwards...

To Thine Own Self Be True

Writing can be a brutal business.

  You need skin thin enough for osmosis with your muse but thick enough to withstand harsh criticism.

I think of my stories as my children (bear with!) I am invested in them and to me, everything about them is fascinating; their first tooth, their first step or something much less monumental like a funny noise they made in their sleep. As they grew in both character and achievement, I grew even prouder of them. I still am.

 Had Facebook been a thing when my children were young, I would have bombarded my followers with a plethora of photos and cute comments (as it is, they have to put up with regular updates on all my pets.) Such posts would have generated a few dutiful likes and the odd twee comment but here’s the thing: nobody cares.

 Perhaps that’s a bit harsh. My family care because I am part of their family and so are my children (the pets, not so much.) Close friends can also be included. That works both ways as their offspring are part of them and therefore interesting to me.

  However, unless you are a celebrity, Hello is not going to offer you a six-figure sum for the rights to the first pictures of your marriage or christening because strangers are not interested in you or your children. Even if they were, the response would not always be positive. My daughter had severe cradle cap for the first six months of her life. This meant that her head, including most of her face, was covered in thick yellow scabs. As her mother, to me she was still beautiful. Standing in the queue at the coffee shop, the woman behind me studied my precious baby and said, ”Isn’t it awful when you want to show them off - and they look like that.” I could have dropped her where she stood! Perhaps it’s just as well that social media was in its infancy then.

 With this analogy in mind, the question is, how far are you writing for you, or for your readers? This deceptively simple question will determine almost all aspects of your work. Writer want readers but to what extent are they prepared to comprise their vision and their voice to attract them?

 My brother is a professional musician. He’s not famous; he grew out of that fantasy many years ago. Now he plays gigs in pubs and clubs and earns a living from it.  He covers famous songs and slips a few of his own pieces in here and there. His audience will tolerate, even enjoy, one or two of these original tunes but they have paid to hear songs they know - so that’s what he gives them. He makes a living and saves most of his own compositions to work on with his musical friends.

A literary parallel would be writing for a very well-known publisher of short romance novels. They churn out an endless stream of bland, formulaic stories - and they sell like hotcakes. I’ve never worked for them; as Martina Cole’s agent tells me that my work is “too dark and literary” for them, I don’t think I’d be a good fit for a purveyor of “historical”, “medical” or “true love” novellas. However, a friend of mine applied to write for them and they sent back a template! Given their target audience, I can understand the banning of certain words but to be told that in the beginning the male and female must hate each other… go through kind of mild trauma… live happily ever after, is way too prescriptive for me.

I always think it’s a bit like wannabe actors. If you’ll do porn, you’re guaranteed that your face (along with the rest of your anatomy) will appear on film but you can kiss goodbye to being taken seriously by any major film company in future.

But what do I know? “Fifty Shades of ****” was the fastest-selling paperback of all time. Do I wish I’d written it? No.

 My novels have been described as “reading group fiction” i.e. popular fiction but with a contentious question at the centre. One of my favourite review quotes simply said, “easy to read, hard to forget.” The most important thing to me is that they ring true. If it’s not in your own voice, why say it?

 

23/2/21

Publication Update

Only two months into the new year and I am pleased to say that I already have two new publications. My horror story, "Nobody Cared" was published in the "Home anthology by Ghost Orchid Press. Another horror story (I seem to be getting good at these!) "The Body of Death" will be published in the anthology, "Do Not Read This" by the publishing company, We Disturb.

 

Dammit, Jim!

 

“Dammit, Jim! I’m a doctor, not a…”

 

This is one of my favourite lines from the original series of Star Trek. Captain James Kirk would ask the exasperated Dr McCoy to be many other things, in addition to a medical man, during their adventures. “Dammit, Jim! I’m a doctor, not a soldier/engineer/Klingon etc” he’d complain ~ then give it his best shot anyway.

 

I am a writer. I’m not an editor, a proof-reader, an agent, a designer, a publicist, a printer or a publisher. However, I need to be a little bit of all these things (or, at least, understand them) and much more, if I want to get my work out there.

 

Writers love writing (well, most of the time.) We are happy to sit scribbling away in our own little corner, quietly dancing with the Muses to create characters, plots, even whole new worlds. Some of us are content to leave it at that, writing solely for ourselves, and that is just as valid a reason to write as penning a best-seller. It’s certainly much easier!

 

What most writers are not so fond of is…all the rest of it.

 

In a previous blog post, I likened our stories to our children i.e. hugely interesting to us ~ to others, less so. Whole novels can be filed away quietly but we also write pieces that we want to show off to the world.

 

The route from pen to publication can be exciting, exasperating and very…very…long. And, even then, it’s just the beginning.

 

Whether self or traditionally published, the writer needs to publicise their work as well as they can to make it worth doing. If you have an agent/are published by a major press, you have a head start but you still can not sit back and enjoy the ride.

 

Of course, funding is a major factor. My first novel, Truly Blue, was about a rock star. If I’d had the money to place ads on billboards outside all the big concert venues, I’d probably have sold more copies.

 

My second novel, Entertaining Angels, was published by Cinnamon Press, a small, independent publisher. With the best will in the world, they simply didn’t have the resources to market it widely so it was up to me to sell the story.

 

Even on a shoestring budget, there is so much a writer can do. In the case of both of my novels, I knocked on doors, sent letters, engaged with local media, pestered bookshops, libraries and even pubs, crashed festivals, haunted celebrities (including a Hollywood ‘A’ lister) plagued photographers, bothered video producers, hassled critics, hounded musicians, agitated artists and bugged the hell out of other writers to maximise the book launches I organised in Essex, where I used to live and South Wales where I now reside (you can get away with most things with enough  front and a big smile!) And that’s before I even considered social media.

 

This old technophobe, however tenacious in other forms of marketing, must master the internet eventually. Okay, so I now have a website (hi!) and I’m working towards an author profile on Facebook. Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest etc remain largely uncharted but even I will have to explore them if I want to make the most use of every marketing tool available to me.

 

On “Dragon’s Den”, it always strikes me as rather unfair that inventors are criticised for not being business people. “It’s a great idea but how do you intend to market/publicise it?” Other than the prime time BBC show they’re already on? Why do you think they are there?

 

It is the curse of most creatives but in order to make the most of what you do, consider it a challenge.

 

Dammit, Jim! I’m a writer and an editor and an event organiser and a publicist and…

The Crickhowell Literary Festival

 

Everybody knows about the fabulous Hay Festival that normally runs from May to June in the “town of books”, Hay-On-Wye. Last year it was digital, this year it is running a winter weekend 24-28th November (more about this in a later post.)

 

However, did you know that less than twenty miles from Hay, there is the smaller but perfectly formed, Crickhowell Literary Festival? Run by the town’s independent bookshop, Book-ish, this year it is runs from 13-17th October, boasting over fifty events in eleven local venues.

 

Full details can be found at Crickhowell Literary Festival – Crickhowell Literary Festival 2021 (cricklitfest.co.uk) 

 

Here are a few of my picks:

 

Behind the Mask  with Glenn Dene and Dr Ami Jones MBE. The story of how a dedicated team of professional staff at the local Nevill Hall Hospital, with their eight bed ICU and a posse of willing recruits, faced up to the challenge of Covid-19. It is a celebration of the remarkable teams that came together to serve their community.

 

When I was Ten,  by Fiona Cummings. Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife, Pamela, were killed in what has become the most infamous double murder of the age. Their ten-year-old daughter - nicknamed “The Angel of Death” - spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own. Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister, compelling her to break two decades of silence… The author discusses her compelling new novel.

 

Fact or Fiction with Rachel Trezise and Gary Raymond  A discussion with the two authors about their respective novels, Easy Meat and Angels of Cairo, both of which are set over a single day.

 

And last, but by no means least, Tea with Vampires! Undead and Loving it: A Brief History of the Vampire with Avril Horner. ‘Strawberry jam’ on your scone, anyone?

 

1/1/22

New Year, New...

2021 was a productive year for me (probably because we’re all, at least in part, still shut indoors.)

 

I won five writing competitions and had six short stories published by four different publishers across three continents. Whew!

 

The great majority of these pieces were horror stories; a genre that appears to have chosen me but, with these results, I’m not complaining.

 

This year, I could just continue to do what I’m good at -- and I will. However, I have also set myself the challenge of writing outside of my comfort zone e.g. I am currently working on a competition piece that should be a romantic tale. As we all know, romance can contain all manner of horrific moments but I shall do my best to stick to the prescribed genre. Obviously, I have no idea how it will pan out (watch this space) but let me encourage you to do the same.

 

If you are a sci-fi writer, why not try some historical fiction? If you are good at comedy, have a stab at tragedy. And, of course, if you are a writer of romance, I challenge you to some hard-core horror. Let me know how you get on.

 

It doesn’t have to be for competition or publication but you might just find that it doesn’t need to go in the rubbish bin either.

 

If you are a reader (and all writers should be) why not try reading outside of your normal preferences? You don’t have to spend a lot of money buying books you’re not sure you’ll like; use the library, or better still, buy a book from a charity shop for about £1, read it, then give it back for them to sell again. Win, win!

 

Life is too short to read or write anything that is demonstrably garbage (I’ll looking at you, E.L.) but don’t fall at the first. Try a few -- you never know what you’ll find.

 

Good luck and a Happy New Year!

2/2/22

All the Twos

Today is the second day of the second month of the year 2022. Where were you at 02.20? (In bed, probably.)

9/2/22

Off to a Good Start

I have won another writing competition and had another short story published so far this year (and it's only the beginning the February.)

13/3/22

United Agents

I am delighted to announce that my latest novel, "The One", has been selected for consideration by the United Agents 100X100 scheme. United Agents is a huge Literary and Talent agency behind such productions as Killing Eve, Peaky Blinders, Afterlife and Trigger Point, to name just a few.

Watch this space...

 

28/3/22

Competition Update

Chuffed that my short horror story, "Danse Macabre", came second in a huge competition on Scribophile!

In addition to this, my tally now stands at twelve short stories published by six presses across three continents plus nine competition wins and two seconds -- all in the last two years. Onwards and upwards.

 

"What You Write Chooses You" - Terry Brooks

This!

For me, when a character/story wants to be written, it will pester me until I comply. After thirty years of working with children plus raising two of my own, I consider myself pester-proof; no amount of begging, pleading, whining or showing off will reverse a firmly made and declared decision. If you give in because you can’t stand the pestering, what do you get next time? More pestering!

However, while I can ignore kids turning themselves inside out because, for instance, I won’t let them eat sweets before dinner, I have learned from bitter experience that it is futile to ignore a muse.

An idea can pop, unbidden, into my head at any time, regardless of the inconvenience or the hour. Some characters shout louder than others but even the quiet ones will just keep staring at me, the way a dog watches you eat. Sadly, not paying attention to something doesn’t always mean you can ignore it.

Some stories simply get bigger and bigger until there is no head space left for anything else and you have to write them just so you can remember where you put your keys.

Others drip like a tap, on and on… and on, allowing you no rest until you surrender. I’m pretty sure that both water torture and sleep deprivation are outlawed by the Geneva Convention but do the muses care?

Some itch.

Some tap.

Some drone.

Enough, already!

But here’s the thing: it’s as much promise as it is pain.

I am curious.

I become intrigued.

I need to know how it pans out.

Writers often divide themselves into “Plotters” or “Pantsers” i.e. those that plan out a whole story before writing a single word and those who simply put pen to paper and see where it leads them. It’s more a question of natural style than a choice but I definitely fly by the seat of my pants. Although it might start with an idea, I usually don’t know exactly what I will get until it pours out of the end of my pen. And that is so exciting!

It’s all a matter of flow. If a character/story wants to be written, it will usually stream out. Sometimes it floods and I struggle to keep up with it, scrawling hasty notes in the margins as I am carried along.

Incidentally, it might just be my age but all my first drafts are written by hand. I have tried writing straight onto a computer and it might just be that I wasn’t brought up attached to one but it simply doesn’t work. Formal documents, functional letters and the like, are no problem but creative writing just clogs up. There is something organic about words flowing from the brain, down the arm, into the hand and then onto the paper. Typing it into my computer becomes its first edit.

Can I write to order? Sometimes. I will roll a given theme or prompt around in my mind, like a sweet in my mouth, waiting to see what might emerge. Perhaps practice does make perfect as, increasingly so, something will surface that can be moulded into a story – if it wants to be. If it doesn’t, it, too, is pester-proof!

It might seem weird having a head full of stories and people who aren’t quite you. Personally, I consider it a privilege – I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t like that and, despite being woken at 3 a.m. by restless muses, I hope it never changes.

24/4/22

Sounding Boards

A sounding board is a person whose reactions serve as a measure of the effectiveness of the methods, ideas, etc, put forth – Dictionary.com

Writer or not, everybody needs a sounding board.

Sometimes it simply helps you to get your thoughts in order. In young children, there is little distinction between thought and speech as their words are both creating and describing their ideas. Most of us grow out of this phase and develop a brain-to-mouth filter (or, at least, we should do!) but the spoken word can be a powerful tool in adulthood too.

In fact, as I’ve lived and learned, I realise that people can often solve their own problems if given the time and space to talk them through. The listener doesn’t have all the answers but as the speaker hears the words coming out of their own mouth, they can usually arrive at a solution.

In the absence of a sounding board, it can even be helpful to talk to yourself. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a sign of madness but is said to be a sign of high intelligence. Going the whole hog, you could even employ American-style affirmations along the lines of “You go, girl!” or “Up and at ‘em” (I mean if you really wanted to.)

However, choose your sounding board carefully. It must be someone you trust. Sympathy and empathy are nice but what you really need is someone who will tell you the truth. Capable, constructive criticism is worth more than gold (or Botox because apparently, as well as being a form of the world’s deadliest poison, it is also one of the most expensive substances on earth!)

You may have different sounding boards for different aspects of your life, e.g. personal and professional but, as I said, everyone should have at least one.

As a writer, mine is my friend, Cilla. I receive feedback on my work from several sources: writing groups, editors, publishers etc but Cilla gets it before it even hits the ground. I’m very lucky that Cilla prefers to listen to, rather than read stories. An avid fan of audiobooks, she says that this allows her to cast characters like a movie in her mind as she listens to their tales (more about this in a future blog post) and if she suggests an actor to play a particular character, she’s usually spot on. For me, it confirms that a character is coming over the way I intended. Both very helpful and most gratifying.

She is the first person to receive my new material and then tells me exactly what she thinks of it, often as it is actually being read to her. That kind of instant reader reaction is so precious to an author. One online writing group that I belong to, dismisses reader reaction and comment in favour of considered constructive criticism. I don’t agree. Both can be very helpful but what is more real than an initial, live response? This is especially useful if there is a mystery or twist involved.

Cilla is just as quick to tell me what doesn’t work and why. She’s rarely wrong. We celebrate successes, commiserate over rejections and always find something to laugh about.

Cilla, my superb sounding board, I salute you.

 

5/6/22

HIGH DAYS AND HOLIDAYS

Well, what a weekend! Balloons and bunting as far as the eye could see as the nation celebrated a remarkable Jubilee. Queen Elizabeth II becomes the first British monarch to rule for 70 years and history is made before our eyes.

Naturally a time of retrospection, the papers and social media have been full of facts about 1952 when a pint of milk cost about 6d and a gallon of petrol was a whole 4s 3d.  I remember the Silver Jubilee of 1977 - the party that stretched all the way down our street, and me winning the fancy dress competition as a cave girl, wearing a goatskin rug, chicken bones in my hair and dirt all over my face. Good times.

In a reflective mood, I have also been considering stories that I wrote many years ago. I have been a story-teller, in one form or another, my whole life. One of my earliest memories is being allowed to draw pictures on the blackboard and tell stories about them at the end of the day in infant school. At secondary school, I hid the scribblings of my first ‘novel’ under the desk to work on during boring lessons, like maths!

Becoming a teacher myself, all my creativity was channelled into my job and I didn’t pick up my writing pen again until a break in my career.

The result was Powerplay – a tale of love, sex and death in a cold climate.

Reading through it again, it evokes great fondness, plus plenty of smiles at how inexperienced the 18-year-old prose seems now. I have learnt a lot of (often painful) writing lessons since then and I’m pleased with how my style has matured in that time. However, although clumsily written, the original story holds true and I am seriously considering re-writing it.

Writers and artists seem quite neatly divided on this idea. Some say that revising an earlier work risks ruining its charm, like ‘correcting’ the painting of a child. Others argue that old material, rather than being wasted, can be reworked to produce something much slicker (and, of course, saleable.)

Part of Powerplay, (which is, essentially, an adult Lord of the Flies) takes place in Wales, where a group of London city types become stranded after a rural team-building experience goes horribly wrong. Having had a foot in both camps, I feel confident in writing about this scenario and a “home-grown” element is often appreciated by the small Welsh publishers who have accepted two of my novels so far.

Watch this space…

On the subject on high days and holidays, I must just add that we have just returned from the fabulous Hay festival, a huge literary event that is held in Hay-On-Wye in Wales every year (COVID permitting!)

This year we were treated to another slice of Letters Live, cooked up by the wonderful Benedict Cumberbatch and others, which is set to raise about £60K for the Ukraine this time. Just time to snatch an ice-cream and we were back for another sold-out event on the main stage, this time an evening with Bill Bailey. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.

Thoroughly recommended.  

 

 

31/12/22

AN ANNUAL ROUND UP

As another year draws to a close, it is always good to take stock. Since returning to submitting short stories in 2020, I have had seventeen short stories

published by nine different presses, across three continents. I have also won ten writing competitions and been placed in eight others.

Onwards and upwards...

1/1/23

Happy New Year and Sad Old Words

Apparently, every year since 1976, Lake Superior State University has published a list of words or phrases that are to be banned for the entire incoming year, based on their “misuse, overuse and uselessness.”

Topping their poll this year is the acronym G.O.A.T. (and I’ve only recently learned that that stands for Greatest Of All Time), followed by Inflection Point (isn’t that something to do with geometry?) Quiet Quitting, Moving Forward and Gaslighting (which, interestingly, was also Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year 2022.)

Also included is the phrase, Does That Make Sense?

Quite frankly, no.

Firstly, everybody knows that the best way to increase the appeal of anything is to ban it.

Secondly, how on Earth would they actually enforce this ban – whispered in dark corners, would these be words that dare not speak their name? And how would offenders be punished? By writing the offending word(s) out one hundred times (like the “Romans Go Home” scene in the Life of Brian?)

Thirdly, as the esteemed Lemore Leonard said, “I can’t allow what we learned in English lessons” (or the banning of certain words by universities)… “to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”

To the L.S.S.U. and their mission to "uphold, protect, and support excellence in language by encouraging avoidance of words and terms that are overworked, redundant, oxymoronic, clichéd, illogical, nonsensical-and otherwise ineffective, baffling, or irritating", I say (really hoping that this is on one of their lists somewhere)… “Yeah, Whatever.”

Happy New Year!

5/2/23

Publication Update

My first short story acceptance of the new year -- "Kongamato Rain", a folk horror story bought by War Monkey Publications.

7/03/23

A Fool's Spring

In the last couple of weeks, we have been enjoying a “Fool’s Spring.”

The dull, freezing weather has given way to clear, sunny skies and on some days, we’ve even been able to venture outside in less than five layers of clothing. We’re not the only fools: some shrubs are beginning to bud and the odd daffodil has stuck its head above the parapet.

All the Christmas decorations have been stowed away for another year as the shops replace tinsel with Easter eggs in bright yellow and green boxes. We smile at the first lambs in the fields and start planning our summer holiday.

It’s been dry too. Normally at this time of the year, I am wading through thick, deep mud to feed the animals. At the moment, the ground is dry and firm (although that probably means another hosepipe ban will be on its way before too long.)

But…

Those of us who have lived through enough winters know that this fine weather is nothing but a tease. A mere soupçon of summer. While the fools dig out their spring wardrobe, we remain in winter coats and wellies.

The garden centres love this time of year. Plants that have been forced by growing in heated greenhouses, are snapped up by the unwary in search of some colour in their winter-weary gardens. It all looks wonderful… until a sudden frost kills the lot. Disappointed but undaunted, they return to the garden centre. And so it goes on.

It can be the same with writing. After a long, dead spell when every piece of work you’ve sent off anywhere is followed by a flurry of rejections, suddenly something wonderful happens. A glowing review of one of your stories. A prestigious journal accepts your essay. Even an orange banner on Amazon.

That’s it! You’ve finally got the break that will catapult you to fame and fortune – or at least an interview on a local radio station.

And then…nothing.

The disappointment can be both devastating and debilitating. You find yourself back to knocking on doors that never open and writer’s block moves into your cold, dead heart.

Take heart. Just as there is a “Fool’s Spring,” there is also a “Fool’s Winter.” Despite frost and freezing fog following a spell of sunshine, spring will come. It always does.

One of the most useful pieces of writing advice I’ve ever heard is… "wait."

Who enjoys waiting for anything they want, especially something as ethereal as success? However, it is not necessarily a passive thing. Sure, repeatedly looking at your watch won’t make a train arrive any earlier, but the writer can spend these quiet times, honing their skills. Join a writers’ group. Take a writing course. And read. A sure fire way to improve your writing is reading the work of good writers. It’s not an academic exercise, more a process of osmosis. Submerge yourself in their stories, a joy in its own write (sorry!)

I’m not given to inane platitudes. Instead of “Keep calm and carry on,” my mug says “Shut up and deal with it.” You can get bitter or you can get better. It’s your choice.

No, we’re not all going to become the next J.K. Rowling, Lee Child or Stephen King but we can all improve with practice and patience.

If your “Fool’s Spring” is followed by a “Fool’s Winter,” remember that the latter is precisely that.

Live, learn, and keep writing.

15.5.23

"Old School" by Mark Cunningham.

 

It is my privilege and pleasure to edit the memoir of prestigious music journalist, Mark Cunningham. Subtitled "Growing Up in the Sixties and Seventies", it brought back all sorts of memories from decimalization, through the Winter of Discontent, flared trousers and platform shoes, glam rock and disco, to the excitement of the emerging punk scene 

It will be available in paperback later this year.

4/6/23

In Your Mind's Eye

Instead of joining the frenzy of The Hay Festival last week, I went to an evening with Mark Billingham and Val McDermid. Having just finished their “Crime and Cream Teas” tour of Devon and Cornwall, they dropped into the Manor Hotel in Crickhowell, Wales, on their way home.

Both are massively successful crime writers, although I have read more of Mr Billingham’s work. His original central character, Detective Tom Thorne, is a curmudgeonly old cop who is always delight to read but his latest book, “The Last Dance”, features a new protagonist – Detective Declan Millar.

This change of personnel prompted two interesting questions from the audience. One woman asked, “How do you keep a track of all your different characters, especially if they are on hiatus? Do you have like a rolodex system, noting details of their appearance and traits?”

Neither author seemed to understand the question. “Why would we do that?”

“Oh, you know, so you can remember them for future stories.”

 “Do you keep notes to remind you of your friends and family?” Mark asked

“Of course not.”

“Why not?”

“Because I know them really well so I don’t need to.”

Mark smiled. “And there you have it.”

He’s right. You don’t necessarily have to like your characters but you do need to find them interesting because in the course of writing your novel, let alone the endless editing, you are going to be spending a LOT of time up close and personal with them. In my case, I get a clear mental picture of their physical appearance but the complexity of their character only reveals itself as the story unfolds. Often, I am surprised.

However, once they are fully formed, they live in my head, rent-free, forever, whether I like it or not. The arrival of subsequent stories, along with their whole new casts, does nothing to diminish the life of those who are already in situ. Sometimes characters from different stories interact in my mind although, as yet, that has never spilled over onto the page. It’s probably only a matter of time.

The second question?

“Mark, as you’re writing about a new detective, Miller, do you worry about ever losing Thorne?”

“After eighteen novels over more than twenty years… no.”

 

 

 

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