Friday, 23 March 2018

Musing on writing

No promotional puffery today...

(Okay I lied, go buy my book!!)

No, seriously, I thought it would be fun to use the blog to describe some of the process that goes into actually writing a story - be it a short story or a full length novel. I am not sure this is how other people do it - actually I would be somewhat surprised if they did work in the same way I do. So this is certainly not a set of rules about how you should proceed if you fancy turning your hand to the discipline of writing. Indeed part of the issue for me is that I lack discipline when it comes to writing. But I think that is probably something I do share with many other people. So if, like me, you are a lazy writer who has a life filled with other priorities, then this may well be of use to you.

First and foremost you need to write stuff. Now I know that comes under the heading of 'stating the bleeding obvious' but I know how many people I have spoken to who have said they would love to write but don't know what to write about.

So Rule Number one, - and please don't look back at the first paragraph where I said this was not a set of rules - rule number one is write anything. Unless you have the most boring life on earth, unless your day consists of sitting in a chair staring at a wall (and apologies at this point to all those readers currently sat in a prison or an asylum), then you will have something to write about. Pick a person you like. Better still, pick a person you really hate. Describe them. Start with the factual bits and then once you have the basics move on to just making stuff up about them. The wilder the better. Give them a back story. Make it nasty. Give them a really nasty personal habit. Something that makes people gag when they think about it. Describe their voice, the way they walk and the way they eat their food. Now you have the basis for your first character. You can refine it, dampen down the more extreme bits or accentuate the bits that you like. Make them real. Make them live in the m id of the reader. And then when you are happy with it, pick another person and do it all over again. Before you know it you have written 500 words and you have a couple of characters sat on your laptop ready for use when the right time and the right story come along.  

And this leads on to the next rule.... again no peeking back at that first paragraph please.

Rule number two. Don't start by trying to write a story. Too many writers fail because they pick up a pen and try to start at the beginning. And even if they do manage to start at the beginning they will inevitably get to a point where they get stuck. They lose track of where the story is going or they are unhappy with a paragraph they have written and they spend hours trying to push the thing forward. Unless you are incredibly focused or incredibly skilled (and I am neither), the only thing you get out of trying to write in a linear fashion is bad writing and disillusionment. Of course at some point you have to have an idea in your head of how the story will start, develop and end. But none of that is necessary for you to actually start writing. Descriptive passages, conversations and narrative sequences can all be written as independent, self contained bobbles of words which, as long as they  have an internal and external consistency (they work as passages on their own and also fit into the eventual story narrative) can be slotted into the larger work at a later date. Remember that life is not linear. It only appears to be so. events and people slip into our perception and then drift off again. The trick of good writing is to reflect this randomness within an internally consistent story. Too many stories sacrifice the randomness - the bit that makes life interesting - for the sake of linearity.

I began writing seriously back in the late 1980s when I was working in the Middle East. Working deep in the desert in some fairly dodgy countries it was better not to spend too much time flashing a camera around. So I started to write descriptive passages which I used to help me remember some of the amazing places I had visited. It was only years later that some of these passages would form the kernel of my novel "The Winds of the World" which will hopefully be published later this year (Oops more promotion, sorry!). The point is that, as long as it is of a reasonable quality, there is no such thing as wasted writing. It may take many years but eventually any well written passage will find a home for itself.

So go and write. And if you get stuck just go and write something else.

As for me? Well I have just written this which I think is good enough for the day. So as it is Friday afternoon I think it is about time for a snifter of something.

Pass me the bottle someone...

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Progress report

So, the book is out there in the big wide world fending for itself.

I have called this a progress report but in truth there is not much to report on Aldwark Tales at present. The official publication date was March 1st and the book can now be bought at Waterstones (either online or ordering through their shops) and at Amazon where both the paperback and the kindle versions are available. In addition the book can be bought direct from my lovely publisher Green Cat Books. Alternatively, if you are lucky enough to live in or around the real life inspiration for Aldwark, then you can pop into the wonderful Strays bookshop on Middlegate in Newark and pick up a copy there.

Meanwhile, and away from the blatant promotional activities, I am writing and editing again.

Next out, hopefully in the autumn, will be my first full length novel "The Winds of the World". This is, of course, another supernatural tale but this time I move away from the comforting familiarity of Aldwark and travel overseas - to Italy, North Africa and finally the Rub' al Khali or Empty Quarter. This is the vast desert at the heart of the Arabian Peninsula and also at the heart of my new story.

The land where the winds of the world go to die.

And whilst I am editing 'Winds', I am also writing more short stories - again all supernatural. Some of these are set in Aldwark whilst others are tales of places further afield. notably in the mist shrouded, mountainous lands of Scandinavia. I have dozens more tales rattling around in my head and hopefully I will have many of them down on paper for you very soon.

But for now I think they need some company and the bottle is far from empty.

Pass it over old chap.      

Thursday, 1 February 2018


Well the big day has finally arrived. The only problem is I wasn't there to see it.

Yesterday two boxes turned up at home containing copies of 'The Aldwark Tales' fresh off the presses.

Here we go.

Unfortunately I am stuck up in Aberdeen at work for a few more days yet so I will have to wait to get my hands on these lovely things. But the time is fast approaching when everyone will be able to get a copy as the book is officially published in both hard copy and e-book format on March 1st.

I am so excited I think I need to celebrate with a tot of cider brandy. I don't need anyone to pass the bottle this time as I have one right here.


Monday, 15 January 2018

The rumours of my literary demise appear to have been exaggerated.

Well, it has been a staggering seven years since I last wrote anything on these pages.

Just a few short months ago, when I revisited the blog and thought I ought to update it, I was preparing to explain why it was my stories had evaporated into the electronic ether - a tale of woe, betrayal and not a small amount of derring-do with some staggeringly beautiful maidens thrown in for good measure. It would have made a fine tale; funny and shocking in equal parts and would, of course, have been complete fiction. I am, after all, apparently, a writer.

The truth was far more prosaic. So much so that I am not even going to bother explaining it.

The reason I can do this is because, all of a sudden, I am to be published. A lovely lady by the name of Lisa Greener from Green Cat Books had a chat with me at a local book fair and decided to take a chance and read my short story collection. She also did a wondrous thing called editing, something I consider to be one of the darkest of dark arts and a skill reserved only for those who have sold their souls - and those of the whole village - to the devil himself.

In short, I have a publishing deal and my collection of supernatural short stories - The Aldwark Tales - will now be appearing on sale from March 1st.

I will be back with more details of this amazing turn of events over the next few weeks but for now, in the tradition of this blog, I think I need a tot or four of Somerset Cider Brandy.

Someone pass me the bottle.  

Friday, 17 September 2010

Black Dog howls at the moon

Prolific is probably not a word that springs to mind when looking at my current output. So far my published work consists of a total of six rather long short stories collected as the Aldwark Tales. There is, of course, a lot more in the pipeline with a further four supernatural tales and a couple of science fiction stories under way.

But in the meantime Neil Jackson over at GWP is concentrating on trying to get my work and that of the other writers out in as many different formats as possible.

So next up is the second chapbook release of a story taken from the Aldwark Tales - Black Dog.

With a suitably scary cover designed by Neil himself, this is a story of supernatural events driven by a very natural human condition and it draws its inspiration both from the classic Black Shuck/Black Dog tales of English folklore and also from the evocative description of his own depression by that greatest of all Englishmen, Winston Churchill.

The story is available in ebook form from Smashwords and will shortly be available for Kindle from Amazon and direct from Ghost Writer Publications as a chapbook.

Hope you enjoy it.

And now once again I need to write and I feel the need for inspiration.

Pass me the bottle someone?

Monday, 6 September 2010

Is there anybody out there?

So the boss said to me,

"Tricks old son, you may have a job to hold down, a family to support, half a dozen stories still to finish and a house that's falling down around your ears, but what you really need to do is get yourself a blog. That way you can stop wasting time worrying about all those things and instead tell everyone else about them. Then they can worry about them instead and you can get on with the important things in life.

Like Calvados."

That was of course a low blow. The boss knows all my deepest darkest secrets and he especially knows my uncontrollable weakness for the old apple brandy.

So the job can wait, the family can starve, the stories drift away into the aether and the house can continue its centuries long collapse back into the earth from whence it sprung.

I have a new obsession now... and an old one.

Pass me the bottle someone.