Friday, 29 October 2010


Quite often when I wander into my local bookstore there will be a writer sitting signing books on a Saturday morning.

One time there was a man with a pile of thrillers and since I like thrillers I picked one up to take a look. Soon we were chatting.

“This novel, my first one,” he said, “Has just gone out in its fourth edition and I now earn my living entirely from my writing.”

I was impressed. It must be selling well. So I asked him about his route to publication. He didn’t have an Agent but said that he’d submitted directly to publishers and had two offers which he’d had to chose between.

I glanced at the publisher. I'd never heard of them, but from what he was saying I assumed they were one of the respectable indies.

He started talking about book deals, and how his publisher wanted to see how well his first book sold before offering him his second book deal. He also told me about how he went to major literary festivals such as Hay on Wye with his writing. He was very convincing.

He then asked me if I was a writer too.

“Yes, I said. I’m writing children’s books.”

“Oh. It’s virtually impossible to get published in the children’s book market,” he told me. “Most of them are ghost written or written to order. You’ll never break into it.”

I was a bit taken aback. It seemed an awfully negative thing to say to a fellow writer.

Maybe I should have put his book back down at this point. But it was a thriller. So I bought it.

When I got home I started to read it. It was awful - about six typos or grammatical errors in the first pages, the writing was laboured and packed with clichés, the dialogue clunky.

Disappointed I googled the publisher – it’s a vanity outfit.

I feel cheated!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Analysis: Invisible City by MG Harris

Apart from the fantastic neon orange cover sleeve, I was drawn to this book because the author is a member of a writing forum I belong to and I had been reading about her success with interest.

So I bought a copy and gave it to the daughter to read.

However this is one that she put down part way though and when I asked her why she told me that one of the characters had died and she didn’t want to read it any more.

Interesting. So I read it myself.

Now I love these sorts of adventure books and I thought it was really very good. MG Harris writes superbly well and Josh has a strong and engaging voice. The plotting is excellently woven with enough intrigue to keep the pages turning and enough excitement to keep you on the edge of your seat. Josh is very much on his own and there’s a lot at stake – two elements that are key to this type of story. I was really rooting for him, and I felt his highs and lows along the way.

I thought it was great and I’ll certainly be reading more of this series. But the question is - why didn’t my daughter?

Well this book is very much aimed at boys. Of course plenty of girls love this sort of thing – I’m one of them – but from what my daughter told me I think she was looking for a female protagonist to engage with. In fact I’ve noticed that all the books she loves either have a female in the leading role or one of the MCs sidekicks is female.

So what I think happened here is that she started to engage with a particular female character who was introduced to the plot, but when that character was killed off she didn’t want to read on any further and that is why she put it down. Interestingly there is another female character in Invisible City, but it was the death of Josh’s sister that stopped her reading. Maybe because Josh was so emotionally involved then she, as the reader, was too.

Shame really because she’s missed out on a good story.

Analysis: Adventure for Boys

Friday, 15 October 2010

Sale to Jupiter SF

They're coming thick and fast at the moment - my short story 'High Tide' has just been accepted for publication by Ian Redman at Jupiter SF.

This is the second story of mine to find a home at Jupiter.

Happy dance.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Booker Debate 2010

Last night I went along to the annual Booker Debate held at the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil, where a panel of readers gave their reviews of the six shortlisted books. Members of the audience who had also read the books were able to chip in and the result was really rather fascinating.

Just to remind you the six shortlisted books are:

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
Room by Emma Donohhue
In a strange Room by Damon Galgut
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
The Long Song by Andrea Levy
C by Tom McCarthy

What I found most interesting was just how polarised the opinions of the books were. The two in particular that provoked this sort of reaction were In a Strange Room, which one panellist hated but another loved with a passion, and The Finkler Questions which again, the panellist wasn't at all impressed with but a member of the audience who had read it couldn't sing its praises enough.

The Room provoked rather a hot debate, but more because of the subject matter, and C received a rather tepid response, although the panel were all rather impressed with the cover.

The two that went down best were Parrot and Olivier, which everyone who had read seemed to enjoy, and The Long Song, which really does sound like one to read - certainly if the review from the panel was anything to go by.

So all that remains now is to see which one actually wins. This will be revealed on the 12th October.

Of course the Booker Debate was memorable for a couple of other reasons - I was presented with the Western Gazette Award for my success in the Yeovil Prize, and it was also lovely to meet up with science writer Brian Clegg who was one of the panellists and is also a fellow Litopian.

I have posted a few photographs over on the events page of my website if anyone fancies popping over and taking a look.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Sale to Aoife's Kiss

I've just heard from the editor of Aoife's Kiss, that they will be publishing my short story 'Down to the Sea' in their September 2011 issue.

I've been on a bit of a roll recently and I now have only a handful of stories out in circulation. I guess I'd better get on with writing some more - as soon as I finish these novel revisions!