Monday, February 28, 2011


It's Monday, it's grey and it's raining. So I'm going to cheer everyone up with a song. No, I won't be singing, but 'The Firm' will



Friday, February 25, 2011

Tag...You're It.

I've been tagged by KLo to do a book meme. Here it is.

The rules:
1.Take a picture of the books you are reading currently and add to your post.
2.Describe the books and if you are enjoying them or not. Why?
3.For every book you are reading you have to tag one person.
4.Leave the person a comment letting them know you tagged them.

For the last one you can tag them in your post if you feel kinda lazy...which I do.

Prospect Magazine. I've subscribed to this since issue 2 and it's a thoughtful read. I don't always agree with what's written, but the articles are well laid out and argued. There are also some funny pieces and good cartoons.

Blonde Bombshell. A recent book by Tom Holt who has become one of my favourite authors over the past year. His books are funny, weird and set on a strange Earth where wizards and witches run firms of lawyers and accountants. I've just started this one, and the laughs have already started.

Insomnia. I picked up a couple of Stephen King books recently so I could learn about writing from a master. It hasn't disappointed and I'm learning with every page. I was slightly worried about his use of swearing, but it isn't gratuitous. Characters only utter profanities when it is in their character to do so.

Confessions (St Augustine). I started this one a few days ago having known about it for a long time and having it on the shelf for even longer. It's a long winded discourse on God and thought provoking, although the style of the language can be off putting.

Stalingrad. Antony Beevor writes history as if it is fiction, and I don't mean that in a negative way. It's a clear, concise account of the battle, the events leading up to it and the aftermath. I read a lot of history, it's a subject that has interested me since I was a child. I even studied it for my honours degree.

Hyperspace. A science book by Michio Kaku. WAKE UP AT THE BACK! Another professor who knows how to write without boring people. His books are not information dumps or research papers, but clear and easy to read. This one is about our multi-dimensional universe and how the dimensions beyond the fourth may hold the clue to explaining what we see around us. He also tells the tragic story of a German Mathematician, Riemann, who died at the age of 39, but who's research opened up the modern era.

Lord of Misrule. I have only two requirements for a biography: First, the person must be over 60 or dead, second, I must have at least a passing interest in their life. Christopher Lee passes on both accounts and his biography is a hoot and very interesting. He writes about his time in the RAF during WW2 which is alternatively funny and gruesome. He also tells the story of how decided to become an actor: He had nothing better to do so why not? And how many other actors would admit that their first time having sex was in their mid twenties?

So there's my list. And I'm now going tag the following:

Cindy Wilson
Tana Adams
Michelle Davidson Argyle
Boudica Marginalia
Tess Hilmo

Had I done this list last week, I would have Terry Pratchett's 'Wyrd Sisters' (Superb) Timothy Garton Ash's 'In Europe's Name' (Dull) and Francois Lelord's 'Hector and the Secret of Love' (Brilliant) instead of some of these.

One last thing, I've had a couple of bad days this week, and then this song came up on my MP3 player. Cheered me up no end.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bad Days

Sometimes I can get up in the morning and get on with things. Then there are days like today.

The cloud cover has been grey for a few days now and it has started to rain. I don't react well to dull weather and it wouldn't be too strong to say I hate it. So what do I do?

I let the misery have its moment.

Despite the misery of the day I have written some more of my WIP and this blog (d'uh). I decided not to get up as early as planned and stayed warm. I'm not gonna push it because I know that tomorrow will be better. The weather may not change much, but my mood will.

What do you do when misery invades your soul?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lessons From Acting

A villain is never just a villain...he's always a different villain and I've played four of them.

The comedic government minister is nasty in one way, whilst the comedic, evil sheriff of Nottingham is horrible in a totally different way. The blackmailing lawyer and the encyclopedia salesman with a gun are also different.

Yes, they are rotten to the core, but they also have their own back story.

The government minister can't understand why women have to travel round the country forcing Shakespeare on children and adults. The play? We Happy Few. His back story? No idea, I just imagined him as being a remnant of Edwardian England and unable to cope with the new world around him.

The sheriff on Nottingham is just plain nasty. He wants his nephew and niece out of the way, preferably dead, so he can inherit their money. The play? Babes In The Wood. His back story includes a wife dying in her youth and trying to keep himself from penury. I even got to sing a song about his lost love.

The blackmailing lawyer is a character in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House. His past is about getting caught up in some dodgy dealings in order to keep his children alive and pay for his dying wife's medication. He was subsequently treated badly by the villagers and dumped by a woman who met a richer man.

The salesman with the gun? You'll have to wait on that as I'm starting rehearsals tonight. When I've got a handle on him I'll tell excruciating detail.

Every character we write has a back story, however brief, that gives depth to them. It doesn't need to be much, a line or two will do, but they have to have something, some reason for being who they are.

The only real question is, why do I always get the villain?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Another Market

I pointed you at a market on Monday, and I'm gonna do the same today. This time it's a print magazine.

The magazine is called MsLexia, and its tag line is 'For women who write'. So that rules out us men...blatant sex discrimination that.

They take poetry and prose, but note that for some of this they expect it to be posted and NOT emailed, unless you're from overseas...that's a polite way of saying foreign. You'll have to check out their website for full details.

MsLexia take all sorts of other writing too, including scripts, reviews, feature articles and rants or raves.

There are workshops on the site and if you run or are involved in a writing group, then they will send out a newsletter to help you with ideas, which is how I got the information. (Imagine how galling it is to receive this and not be allowed to take part)

I haven't had the nerve to ask why they don't let men join in, but I'm sure they have their reasons...or they may just be sexist.

Still, have a look and see if you can get published in their magazine. And if you find out why they don't men have a look in, let me know.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Using Your Ingredients

The following is a digest of an article 'How to use your ingredients' in the Autumn 2010 edition of Christian Writer.


When making a meal the quality of the ingredients is important, but how they are put together is the key to good cooking. As with cooking, so with writing.

Having brilliant subject matter, or great story is only part of the package. How we present it is also important.

It has been said that no subject is so interesting that bad writing cannot make it dull, and no subject so dull, that good writing cannot make it compelling. Writers should never make the mistake of saying 'my ingredients are great, so my writing is great'.

The mark of good writing is that it will make an impact on the reader. It can be on the emotions, the mind or the will. It's better if it hits two and best of all when it hits all three. If that happens then the reader will be unable to keep quiet about the book and the phenomenon of 'word of mouth' takes place.

These skills are rarely acquired without hard work. Just as a chef will learn how to mix ingredients over time, so will a writer as they practice their craft: vocabulary, grammar and construction.

By regular experimentation we will find out how to create feeling, clarity or decisiveness with our words and our readers will notice the difference.


Monday, February 14, 2011


Something simple for a Monday: a writing website.

Writing Raw is now two years old and has undergone a few changes. It is now weekly instead of twice monthly and has changed its design.

What hasn't changed is the work it publishes. Short fiction, serialisations and...poetry. There are also book reviews and non-fiction articles too.

It has an eclectic mix as it doesn't fixate on one genre and is a site always looking for new writers.

Check it out, submit your work and see if you can use it as an outlet for your creativity.

One more thing, did I mention that they also take artwork?


Friday, February 11, 2011

Aaahhhhhh...It's Friday

Not only is it Friday, but it has been my most productive writing day this week.

So far I have written 1400 words for my novel's second chapter and will do more later. And it's not just any old 1400 words either, they're 1400 sensible words. Yes they'll need some editing, yes some of them will be deleted, yes they're still part of a WIP, but they are still good words.

On top of the 1000 words I added to the first chapter yesterday (that's a net gain by the way and doesn't include the 100s I killed off) I'm having a great writing week.

Onto other things, and I had a pre-audition for the next play. We're going to do two one act plays and last night myself and two other men had a read-through of 'A Kind Of Vesuvius'. The play's about three men who have been made redundant. We have the final audition next Thursday and I'll find out then if I get a part.

The other one act play has a cast of two women. That has now been cast and they start rehearsals on Monday.

The part that is even better for me, is that I will only be rehearsing one day a week and can attend my writer's group more often.

Welcome 2011. I'm falling in love with you.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Writing Book Reviews? Good or Bad?

I've seen some recent blogs on the subject of book reviews and why you should never criticise a book. I disagree.

There is a big difference between 'just being honest' and 'being objective'. Those who hide behind their 'honesty' are usually doing little more than parading their vitriolic nature. Why they do this I don't know, but my best guess is that it's either for kudos amongst their peers, or to get noticed by newspapers/magazines who might want to hire them.

When you're being objective about a book, it's not a sin to be negative. The only sin is if you leave out what is positive.

I've been reviewing books for Hub for over a year now, and have yet to come across anything that doesn't have some good points. One thing I never forget, is that every book has been through an editorial process and someone is willing to put their reputation on the line for it. Another thing I remember, is that I am not going to like everything I read, but it doesn't mean that someone else won't like it.

One book that I've recently reviewed was 'The Good Fairies of New York'. The two main characters did nothing for me, a point that I made in the review without dwelling on it. I then focused on the three human characters who were far better from my point of view and the story which was engaging. AS it was a comedy I also pointed out how much some parts made me laugh.

In short I tried to be objective, accentuated the positive without eliminating the negative.

I don't believe that you should slate a book or author for any reason, but I do believe that you should point out what you, as a reader, don't like. Why? All of us want a critique of our work that is honest and helpful. Other writers and our circle of trusted friends and critquers can help a lot, but an independent reader who knows nothing of us, is possibly the best of all.

An objective review, like any critique, is not one that ignores the negative, it is one that doesn't dwell on it.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Thanks For the Meme-ory

It's Monday, so here's a meme about death.


1. If your about to be executed, what would your last request be?

Give me a two day head start.

2. What do you want written on your tombstone?

Get me outta here, I'm not dead yet.

3. Which dead person would you most like to see come back to life and why?

Oscar Wilde. I'd love to see the first play he'd write in the 21st century

4. Would you like to die peacefully or doing something exciting.

I will become immortal...or die trying.

5. When you are resurrected/reborn/something else, where would you like to go first?

The middle star in Orion's Belt.

6. Do you believe in life after death?

Yes. Have you seen Joan Rivers?

7. If you had to make one creature extinct, which one would it be?

Whales...just to annoy Greenpeace.

8. Do you find graveyards relaxing and why?

Yes. They're peaceful places and the inhabitants are unlikely to tap me on the shoulder asking me what I'm reading...I hope.

9. If you could witness any event in history, what would it be?

Either my birth, or the birth of Jesus Christ. Either way, I'd take a camera with me.

10. If you contracted a terminal illness, would you commit suicide?

If there was no one who was able to care for me, yes.


Have a nice day!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Writing Software

What program do you use when you write? I use OpenOffice.

For those that don't know, OpenOffice is free office software. You get the usual text software and spreadsheet, but what makes it handy for me as a writer is the flowchart program that comes with, OpenOffice Draw.

Using this I can create a chart of relationships within a story as well as write the chapter outline and story-flow. I've thought that a flowchart of the story might be useful to send with any query I send to agents/publishers, but I'll think hard about that one.

The handy thing about the software is that it's more difficult for me to lose and doesn't require a new piece of paper when I need to rearrange or change the flow.

It's not for everyone, but as it's free, it's something you may want to give a try.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Reading To Write

If you write in a certain genre, as I do, it makes sense to read other authors in the same genre to find out the latest ideas and trends. It also makes sense, to me at least, to read outside your genre, just in case there's something there that can help you.

I write comedy SF/F, though to date the three stories I've had published aren't comedy. Naturally I read the likes of Terry Pratchett, Gail Carriger and Tom Holt, all of whose writing I admire. Along with them I read the work of others whose style I don't like but who are successful writers.

I also read outside the genre and not just for relaxation. I read history, not only because I love the subject, but also because it can sometimes jog an idea for a novel, a scene in a novel or a short story. There's also SF, Science, Economics, Philosophy, Religion and others too for the same reasons.

Recently I have read three of Mitch Albom's books. Not only were they a thoughtful read, but his style is excellent. His sparse use of words is something that every writer could learn from, not just because he gets so much detail into a short space, but also because he focuses on the story itself without getting distracted.

Today, I bought two Stephen King books from a second hand shop. I'm not a fan of horror, but as King has been writing successfully since the 70s, I feel that there must be something I can learn from his style. The fact that his book about being a writer, On Writing, is the best book about the craft that I have ever read was also important in that choice. That they were £1.50 for the two helped even more in making the choice. I am looking forward to reading them.

If you're a writer struggling to find your 'voice', read widely in a number of different styles and genres. It can only help and may even point you towards something you hadn't considered and for which you have the talent for.