Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I'm not one to boast about my achievements...much...but another published article is just too big to be quiet about.

I wrote a review for a book called 'Space Captain Smith' some time ago and sent it off to Hub Magazine for consideration. I hadn't heard anything for a while so I assumed that they weren't going to do anything with it.

Yesterday I received issue 92 and what do I see near the end? A review of 'Space Captain Smith'. My first thought was that someone else had beaten me to it, but then I saw my name above the piece.

Woohoo! I shall be smiling about that all day.

I read it in loving detail and, despite the formatting errors, it is the review I wrote for them and they have changed nothing. Not even the spelling mistakes.

If you're interested in reading the review, the magazine is a free download from their website.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tip For the Day

I was told this by a published writer, so it MUST be true.

When your MS is ready, send it to one agent/publisher at a time and not to 10 or more. If the agent/publisher rejects it you can see if anything needs changing before sending it onto the next one. If you send it to ten at once you've effectively shot your bolt with ten agents/publishers in foul swoop.

Presumably the same applies to short stories.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Playing Around

For some strange reason I'm feeling in a playful mood today. It makes a pleasant change.

In that mood, here are some of the silliest things I've ever done.

- As a child I squirted water onto a working electric fire to see how long it would take to dry off.
- Danced on a table at a posh dinner/dance (no I wasn't drunk - it just seemed like a good idea at the time)
- I was once asked my honest opinion by a lady about how she looked: I told her.
- Jumped into a swimming pool fully clothed

Now it's your turn.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Foiled Again

I write several comedy headlines a week for a site called Newsbiscuit in the hope that at least one of them gets picked. I had some success a couple of weeks back, but nothing since then.

All contributors give votes out of 10 for each headline or news piece and the best (in the editor's opinion) are selected each day.

Today I submitted two, one of which received 8/10, the other 9/10. I was hopeful, but eventually disappointed as neither were selected. Looking through the ones that were selected and their scores, it seems that today just wasn't my day. The quality of the submissions was very high and the editors had a large number to choose from.

Sometimes it's that way with novels and short stories too. When I submit a story and it gets rejected it may not be the quality of my story per se, but the high quality of submissions at that time. The editor had to make a choice and I lost out.

At least that's my story: and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Taking risks in a story, but it has been done successfully many times.

Jules Verne, HG Wells, George Orwell and a host of other writers have written what was in their heart and made a living out of their writing. Verne and Wells risked being made fools of by future science.

In his story about a journey to the moon, Verne had the astronauts put inside an artillery shell and fired from a huge gun. We now know that the G-forces on the bodies would have killed the crew the instant the gun was fired and so the story is more than a little dated.

Wells' Martians also look exceedingly unlikely and the canals of Mars have been proven to be an optical illusion.

Orwells' Animal Farm was a thinly veiled critique of the Soviet Union, written at a time during the second world war when they were allies of the UK...yet it still got published.

Everytime an author sends out a piece of work to an agent, magazine or publisher they take a risk. So why not write something daring. If nothing else the story will stand out from the crowd.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I've had the chance to do a lot of reading over the past few weeks and I've noticed something about modern writing compared to older styles of writing: scene length.

Modern novels tend to be quick with the scene changing at the beginning and the end, and much slower in the middle. Older novels tend have long chapters all the way through.

It's not just books. This trend can be sen in film and TV shows too, though literary fiction seems to be unmoved by this change.

It can't be our attention spans as the middle parts of films and books are as long as ever, and some best-selling books and films are twice as long as older ones.

A recent example is a book called 'The Court of the Air' by Stephen Hunt. The opening chapters are full of short scenes in which characters are introduced and, importantly, questions asked. The middle chapters move the story along nicely and answer some of these questions. The final chapters increase the pace again and wrap everything up.

In older books/films/TV the pace only picks up towards the end.

You may already know this, but if you didn't you may want to consider this when writing your novel.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009



I was offered the role of Krogstad last night and gladly accepted. Now all I have to do is learn several pages of dialogue for November.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Auditions for 'A Doll's House'

It all went well.

Most of the possible cast showed up, which in addition to the people on Thursday means that everyone who wanted to has had a go at reading for the parts they're interested in.

As I've read for all the male roles I've decided that the one I'd prefer would be Krogstad. Why? Near the end of the play he has a change of heart and in one scene changes from a hard-bitten individual to someone who is full of the joys of spring.

Why would he do that? In the past he was convicted of forging signatures and the implication in the play is that it was done out of need rather than greed. As a result he has become a pariah in the community and treated as such. He's also a single father.

When he meets Kristina again, the woman who dumped him for a richer man for practical reasons of her own, and she offers to marry him this time. His world changes and he overreacts as people tend to when their dark life is suddenly exposed to some hope. But how to act this out? It's a challenge I would like to take on.

I was asked which roles I'm interested in doing and mentioned Krogstad and Rank. As another man only wants to do Rank, and is the right age, I may get my wish, but I will have to see what the director and his assistant think.

Friday, July 03, 2009


Auditions for our next production have started and I'm nervous. What part will I get? What part will I be good enough at? What's the play?

The play is 'A Doll's House' by Henrik Ibsen. The group tried to put it on a few years back but had to cancel at the last minute when the leading lady was not only pregnant, but also feeling VERY sick at dress rehearsal.

There are three main parts for a man, Torvald (husband), Dr Rank and Nils. There is also a walk on part for a messenger.

Torvald is a large part and a man who treats his wife like a doll (hence the play's title). The other two parts are major, if not large, roles with long interchanges to learn. Whilst I would prefer one of the two smaller roles, it may be that the other, older, gentlemen in the group don't want, or are not suited for, the role.

We have another audition on Monday evening so I'll see what happens then.

At least this time I'll have four months to learn and prepare for the role instead of three weeks.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Good Sequel

What makes a good sequel?

As I've just started the third book of the Captain Smith series by Toby Frost I started to think about what makes a good sequel. I pondered over books, films and music and come to an unsurprising conclusion: something new.

For example, Men In Black was a very successful film and spawned a far less successful sequel. It wasn't that the second wasn't funny (it was), but that we didn't discover anything really new about the situation or the characters. For me it was very much a case of 'I know what's coming'.

With the Harry Potter books, there was always something new in each book, especially with the revelations about Severus Snape. With Toby Frost's second book, he showed another side of Suruk's family that came as a surprise, but without being unrealistic.

In music, bands and soloists almost have to recreate themselves with each album in order to keep the interest of people outside of their fanbase, something that the late Michael Jackson and bands like Queen managed to do well.

So the key to keeping a series going is to have something new each time. Something unexpected, but believable.