Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Winning the Yeovil Prize

Today, at last, I am able to tell you some very exciting news. My short story, “A Legend of Flight” has come first – yes FIRST – in the short story category of the Yeovil Literary Prize 2016!

To say I’m delighted would be an understatement. You can see the full list of results here.

This story was a bit of an experiment as I was trying out a different voice and I think I can safely say that it was a success. That’s the great thing about short stories. They’re the perfect form for trying out something new. It may not always work, but when it does – ah – then amazing things can happen. Like this.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Tales of the Damned

I have just received my contributor’s copy of the latest book to hit the shelves from CFZ Publishing’s Fortean Fiction imprint – Tales of the Damned: An anthology of Fortean ** Horror.

The collection contains 25 stories from 21 different authors, some of whom are well known names in the field of Fortean and Paranormal research. This adds a really interesting dimension to some of the stories included.

To quote the editor, Richard Freeman: “Who better to pen a collection of weird tales than those who hunt monsters, search for ghosts and study anomalous phenomena?”

I myself may not be a monster hunter and I incline towards the sceptical, but you cannot deny that there are things in this world that might at first appear inexplicable. Often the explanation for something seemingly anomalous turns out to be quite mundane, but this itself is intriguing. The whole subject is a fascinating one. Imaginations are set alight and stories like those in this collection are the result.

If you want to know a bit more about Forteana then do check out fellow contributor Andrew May’s fascinating blog on the subject. In the meantime I have a few stories to read!

Tales of the Damned is available in paperback from Amazon UK and Amazon US and the kindle version will be issued in a few weeks.

** The term ‘Fortean” refers to the works of Charles Hoy Fort (August 6, 1874 - May 3, 1932). Fort was an American writer and researcher into strange phenomena. You can find out more about him here.

Monday, 6 June 2016


Everything changes. The world is in a state of flux. Just like the cliffs around where I live. Last time I walked along this section of the coast path the ground had opened up, a giant fissure, the seaward side slipping downwards.

Every time I come here the landscape is different, has slipped a little further, the crack wider, the drop greater, sections of path that I once walked now empty air and precipitous falls.

This section of coastline is on the move, never standing still, constantly reinventing itself. The cliffs crumble and reveal treasure. I picked up these fossils on the beach below, pristine and new, un-battered by the waves and tides.

Next time I go there it will have changed again.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Making Time to Write

How many times have we heard, or maybe even uttered, those words “I’d love to write a book, I just don’t have the time”.

Well I’ll let you into a secret – I don’t have the time either. I have a day job, I have a family. This year I have two teenagers sitting important exams, I’ve joined a running club and I’ve been helping my mother move house. Some days when everyone else is using the computer and I have a million and one other things to do it feels as if the whole world is conspiring to stop me writing.

Yet, somehow, the novel I started back in September has managed to creep up to 71K words out of a target length of 80K. It’s the longest thing I’ve ever written and the end is in sight, the finale looming.

Since I know I’m not the only person compelled to write who is also pushed for time I thought I would share a few tips with you that have helped me get this novel written.

  1. Get a smart phone and use it for all you social networking and procrastinating. That way when you do get the chance to sit down and write you write.
  2. Have a plan – I find an outline helps a lot. Mine is organic and changes as I go along, but it means that when I do get a chance to write I know exactly what happens next.
  3. Don’t edit – get that first draft down, editing can come later. I know some people prefer to make each section perfect before moving on to the next bit but chances are that section will never be perfect. Finish that first draft and then you will have something to work with.
  4. Don’t worry if the words feel stilted or don’t flow, keep pressing on, you can come back and fix it later.
  5. Try to find writing slots of about an hour. I can generally manage a thousand words in an hour but if you can only manage to find half hour slots that’s fine. Then make sure you spend that time slot writing.
  6. Don’t worry about finding a regular slot, although if you can so much the better, but if you have to fit it in here and there between everything else then so be it.
  7. Keep a tally of your word count. It’s satisfying watching it creep up and seeing how 500 words added here or there can start to make a difference.
  8. Thinking time is just as important as writing time, so take any opportunity, to give yourself space to think and play over your next scene in your head. That way when you get the chance to sit down and write the scene is all ready to go.
  9. Stay focussed on one project. It’s so easy to get seduced by that shiny new idea but if you keep hopping from project to project you’ll never get anything finished. 
  10. Finally enjoy it. Writing should be fun, a creative release.

So remember. “I don’t have the time,” is NOT an excuse – and this applies to all things in life – not just writing!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Last Jupiter

After a bit of a hiatus I have finally dipped my toe back into the world of short stories, and what better place to make a comeback than in Jupiter SF.

Jupiter SF, edited by Ian Redman, is a superb magazine that has been going for many years, but sadly the latest issue, Issue 50, named for the moon Herse, is to be the last. Jupiter has always had a reputation for publishing quality science fiction, featuring many well-known authors and receiving great reviews. I am not alone in being sorry to see it go and I do wish Ian all the best for his future ventures. I’ve been fortunate to have been published by Jupiter twice before and I am honoured to be featured in this final edition.

I am also in quite esteemed company. This issue features work from Ray Blank, Jon Wallace, G.O. Clark, Garrick Fincham and Christina Sng.

This issue, and many of the back issues, are available on kindle as well as in print so if you wish to support Jupiter, and read some excellent fiction, then head over to the Jupiter website or to Amazon and pick up a copy or ten. Jupiter 50, Herse, is available in kindle format from Amazon, here.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Sacred Wells

We wandered through the village towards the Abbey ruins and pushed open an iron gate to take another path; through the cemetery, past the gravestones. Here, down a cobbled track, in a dell surrounded by a grove of lime trees, was the sacred well.

Springs and wells have been revered by people for thousands of years and standing here in the Easter sunshine surrounded by birdsong and daffodils and listening to the tranquil sounds of the running water pouring out from the Earth, I knew I was standing somewhere special. For this is St Augustine’s Well in Cerne Abbas. It was once part of the Abbey and previously had a shine built on top of it, but that has been stripped away and all that remains now are the stone channels through which the water flows.

One strange thing about this well are the ribbons which festoon the surrounding trees. I am aware that in some places people dip rags into healing waters and then tie them to nearby trees as healing prayers. Indeed, this well does come with its own batch of folklore attesting to the healing properties of these waters, but I’m not aware of this being a local tradition, and many are ribbons rather than rags.

And so I’m curious. Why do people do this? Is it a healing ritual, are people tying their prayers to the trees, or is it simply a memento of their visit, a bit like graffiti? There are also a fair few ribbons tied to the trees around the abbey ruins, and that makes me think that it might be the latter.

(A bit more information about this well can be found on the Dark Dorset Website.)

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Trying Something New

It’s too easy to get into a writing rut – to stay in your comfort zone. But sometimes you need to step out of that zone, to push the boundaries and to try something new.

That is what I am doing.

When I started out I wrote mainly Science Fiction and Weird fiction short stories, and achieved modest success, placing them in anthologies and magazines. It was satisfying and rewarding. I could have settled into that rut and stayed there. But I didn’t. I wanted to write novels, and so I tried my hand at writing for a younger audience.

The culmination of this venture was RED ROCK, my YA Cli-Fi thriller. And for a while I felt I’d found my niche. But RED ROCK hasn’t sold particularly well – at least not by publisher standards – (they expect sales of around 10K for a book to be considered a success) – and the subsequent MG and YA novels that I have written have all been politely declined.

I know in my heart that they’re better books, but this is a business. Publishers are looking for something shiny and new, and by that I mean debuts. What nobody tells you is that once you’ve had one book deal it becomes so much harder to get another, especially if your sales aren’t huge. There are no second chances in this game.

I’m not prepared to accept that. I do have an idea for another kids’ book, but I’m not going to write it. Not just yet.

I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and writing something new. Something different. And I’m not just talking about switching genres – (adult psychological thriller) – I’m talking about voice.

I’ve been experimenting with different points of view, mixing the first, second and third person, the present and past tense. Each can be approached in a different way, and the more things I try the more I start to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s fun being experimental, and I’m accumulating a number of interesting flash pieces that I may well post on this blog at some time in the future, to illustrate a few of the techniques I’ve been trying out.

The new novel is coming on well, and I’ve started to test it out on my critique group. And as for that kids’ book idea – I may well write it one day – but if I do it won’t be like anything else out there! And it won’t be like anything I’ve written before!