Category Archives: Writing

Never going to be famous

I doubt one of my books will ever be discussed on Mariella Frostrup’s open book programme on radio four. I’m often in the car when this is on and listen to the books celebrities choose as their favourite reads.

I honestly have to say, ‘Why?’

“Of course the tale of the vagrant nose-flute player is a metaphor. I felt the descriptions posed a delightful juxta-position to the protagonist’s past life as a Hungarian sex worker.”

Do people really enjoy this stuff, or are they ashamed to admit to what they usually read? I don’t think anybody has ever chosen a book I have even heard of, let alone considered reading.

So, I’m resigned in my writing style. The best I can hope to do is offer an enjoyable read and leave lofty literary ideals to those obviously more intelligent than I am!
Okay, anybody who knows me would spot the lie. I rarely acknowledge the possibility of there being a greater intellect than mine. Thankfully, we can all be different. When it comes to reading, I have a relatively wide range.

My reading rules:

Rule one: I want my books to take me to foreign worlds. Give me monsters, space ships, or dragons. Don’t give me misery on Morecambe bay.

Rule two: the story has to move. If I’m still wondering what’s happening by page 60, I give up. I suspect this eliminates finer literature. I have occasionally broken this rule. Usually when I am on holiday and have run out of things to read, I invariably regret it.

Rule three: surprise me! Nothing worse than everything happening in the order I expect it to occur.

A simple set of rules, but I suspect these are the reason I find most prize-winning novels a chore.

Good job we can be different, isn’t it?

Addicted to drawing

I came up with the idea that I’d love to see some fan art from the Amara books and started talking on the forums over at Deviantart. The problem is that a lot of the people on there don’t read.

stella1I had to buy an ipad recently and it has been sitting around waiting for the work project to move.

I started using Adobe Draw and loved the vector graphics. The ability to zoom in and still use lines rather than pixels is great. However, the toolset is limited.

I then tried Autodesk Express. This is a more traditional drawing app, but I quickly decided I had to have the professional tools … a whole 3 quid!

After a few late nights, I now have a sore index finger and think I need therapy to stop me. Val keeps finding me ‘just changing one line.’

This is Stella in Amara’s Legacy. I’ll have to work on backgrounds next.

Completely addictive!

Better get back to writing … that’s an addiction I can control (yeah right)

Fan Art Request

I’d love to see what any of my talented readers can produce. Whilst I can manage a sketch, the fan art exhibited on sites such as Deviantart is quite amazing.

rhinaWhen I’m writing, I form an image of the person/ place in my head and occasionally I commit the image to paper. It helps me keep the person in perspective with the other characters, but probably just let’s me waste a little time when the writing juices have slowed down.

As I am the world’s most difficult person to buy Christmas presents for I acquired a wacom drawing tablet this year. This is my first attempt at using it.

This character is Rhina, from book three. I didn’t want her quite so animal-like and will probably modify the image over coming weeks, but I already kind of love her.

Famous Monsters of Filmland

I rarely pick up an autobiography, but Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ is mentioned in just about everything I’ve ever read about becoming a writer.

‘Ask anybody who has been associated with the fantasy-horror-science fiction genres in the last thirty years and you’ll get a laugh, a flash of the eyes and a stream of bright memories – I practically guarantee it.’

(Quote Stephen King On Writing, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd)

My memory is:

Printed in the USA, only one newsagent in my area would ever stock it. Even then, they infrequently acquired copies and these were anything up to a year behind the American release date. I’d trail up there at least once a week, walking past a half dozen other magazine shops in the hope that they’d have an edition stuffed in the rotating metal magazine rack.

borisPossibly its naive, but I thought I was one of the few who still even remembered the magazine. A quick google revealed an entire world of fans. Will I plunge in to re-purchase long disposed of magazines at extortionate prices?


I do recall a friend discovering that the cover made an excellent paper dart, far more robust than the typing paper we’d been using. I could now weep at the wanton destruction we carried out in our search for aeronautical excellence!

Besides nightmares, what did it give me?

aurora2Although I was too young to be allowed into the cinema to see the films it discussed, I read it from cover to cover, envious of our American cousins. Not only could they see these films, but also got all of the models to build and effects they could buy. Yes, I now know how tacky the items advertised in the magazine really were, but it was magical to a young me.

I certainly remember The Model Shop in Manchester starting to stock the Aurora range of monster models. I just never managed to build one that looked anything like as good as the box artwork did.

Does it still influence my writing?

I suspect a love of the older style horror story was born out of this magazine. I enjoy the James Whale style cinematography: Twisted angles, deep shadows, hands reaching into the camera. In my mind I see my scenes shot in this way.
More than the scenes in my head, I suspect it was the first time I’d been absorbed into another world. It was several years before I picked up a book to read for pleasure. Thanks to my teachers, I thought reading was a torture only inflicted under pain of death until I discovered Lord of the Rings.
So, the first absorbing read, plus a head full of special effects not created by CGI. Yes, I owe the magazine a debt.

What to read after Hunger Games – Does Shudalandia cut it?

mockingjayTHE HUNGER GAMES is set in a future world, often known as a dystopian world. We are told the districts were formed to control the masses and support the excesses of the the ruling classes. There has been a catclysmic event, almost certainly a nuclear war that has left Earth stripped of population and reshaped the landmasses.
It has teenager romance, sanitised for the American definition of young adult. Violence however in abundance because its okay for an American teen to wield a weapon, but they’re not supposed to see a naked body.
The weapons the Districts can use are primitive, but with futuristic twists. Guns, explosives and mutations sit alongside the swords and especially the bow.
We have a strong female lead. By choosing her path Katniss is merely trying to save her sister and survive, but finds her role becoming the symbol of freedom.

I found the set of three books in the Hunger Games readable and enjoyable.

Amara's Legacy Cover SMALL AVATARSHUDALANDIA is a fantasy world. It might be another planet, or it could be an alternate universe. Technology beyond the wheel hasn’t occurred. As well as humans, the entire expected species exist, dwarfs, elves, dragons etc. Where ever it is, it certainly isn’t America after the war.
It has romance, but less sanitised to match the publishing norms for the target ages. We also find violence in abundance. It is however somewhat less graphic than the Hunger Games.
We have strong female leads. In fact we have a nation full of them. Unlike Katniss, instead of standing alone as the only person with sufficient courage, Maryan begins as a mediocre warrior. Never achieving her goals purely by weapons, but needing to learn other life skills, such as negotiation, manipulation and even seduction. She is the glue holding the band of heroes together.


If you’re looking for strong female characters it scores. However, Shudalandia has more adult themes and scenes. Where most can accept the possibility of nuclear war, many find magic and dragons a step too far for their imagination.
It targets the top end of the same age group. If you can cope with dragons and magic, give it a try!

Amara’s Legacy Shudalandia book 2

Amara’s Legacy now live

Amara's Legacy Cover MEDIUM WEBAfter what feels like an age, I have now completed and released Amara’s legacy in paperback and ebook.

After the promotion of Amara’s Daughter took it to number two in the fantasy charts (free) sales have continued.

I hoped to give myself a break from Shudalandia, but the third book has already grabbed me and demanded to be written.

Maybe one day I’ll come up for air.

Amara’s Destiny is being written.

Amara’s Legacy Almost there

Another stunning cover from Jane!

Cover shotWaiting for the final proof of the printed version, but the Kindle is live on:  (UK Amazon)

Now the traumas of the publicity thing. Have to wait for the the final copies to arrive from USA. At least that is what I am telling myself.

Had good feedback from the test readers. Only gripe is that it needs the next book writing!

Amara’s Destiny

Is on its way

Writing Narnia in the Modern World

Last night I was reading CS Lewis The Silver Chair to my Grandkids, (boys, 5 and 8).


I reached the point where the children were in Harfang the Castle of the Gentle Giants, when they found out they’d just eaten a talking stag. I came to the line:

But Puddleglum who was Narnian born, was sick and felt as you or I would feel if you found out you’d eaten a baby.

I did hesitate and wonder if I should edit as I read.

I know it’s a book from a different era (1953), when the war was fresh in peoples’ minds.  It’s also a series I’ve read at least a dozen times over the years.

As my current project is a retro, Narnia style book I’ve been conscious that some of the scenes are battles, with swords and the injuries they can inflict (no lost heads). I’m not sure how well these scenes will be received by modern parents, but I have stuck to keeping the “retro” style.

I would be interested to know what other people felt. If they think this is too strong?

PS: I read it

Word counting and gap between words

A few years ago I wrote a script to try to detect “errors” in my writing. I offer no warranty that it won’t destroy your document, but if its of use, please try it. I make some apology for the quality of the programming, but it kind of grew functionality as it grew.

Best use: run the script and scroll to the bottom of the new document. Work up from the bottom and correct the occurrences  until you reach the common words. then scan the words to check for the most used non-common words and fix them.

Installation: Create an empty macro called wordcount. Open the editor and replace the entire script with the following.

Script below (Should open in a new window):



You see a sandcastle …

I see the river realm of Aquaterran.

sandcastleOn the beach with my grandson last week we built a sandcastle and added the mandatory turret on the top. We moved on to the moat and the stream needed to fill it from the encroaching tide.

To give our masterpiece a little longer, we threw up a shield wall and a couple of extra deep lakes.

At this point the writer cut in and as we worked, the landscape at my feet took on life. The exiled princess was trapped, waiting for her army to catch up. The wicked magician high in his turret held her people under an enchantment. Only the princess held the key to release them and she was lost in the wilderness.

My grandson hadn’t a clue this was happening. To him, I’d merely stopped digging. He thought Granddad was being lazy and not pulling his weight. Maybe that’s true as well.

What came first, the day dreams or the fantasy? Judging by the comments of family and friends I think the daydreams have always been there.

Will the story ever see the light of day? Possibly, after all the others queued up waiting to be committed to the computer.