Wednesday 11 January 2023

About ideas

I sat down in front of the fire one evening last week, cracked the spine of a new notebook, turned to the first page, picked up a lovely pen and prepared to write.

An hour later, I closed the book and put it away, that first page still completely empty.

You see, it's alright being able to write a bit, a blessing even. But it's also a curse when you just don't have any ideas.

I know, I know, I've read all those books about writing too. I know the idea that all you need is a character, put them in a situation and start writing to see what happens next. But it's an approach I have always struggled with. Besides, every situation I thought of that evening, by the fire, was unoriginal. Just like a struggling author bereft of ideas is unoriginal.

What next? Honestly, I don't know. Maybe I should get a job as the caretaker of an isolated hotel.

Jack Torrance's typewriter at The Overlook hotel

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Lost, stolen or borrowed... mojo. If found, please return to the author.

In other words, I haven't written any fiction since February 2020. Twenty months and counting. On that basis, can I even claim to be a (wannabe) writer still? After all, writers write, right? What is wrong with me?

Thursday 17 September 2020

About the author

Whilst researching the always-excellent author Sadie Jones, for a book review on another site, I stumbled upon this video of her giving a two minute, quick-fire interview:

I love Sadie, she's a brilliant author and seems a lovely person too.

Anyway, as an aspiring writer with one or two (okay, maybe four) readers, I thought I'd try a similar Q&A. Except no-one wants to see my fuzzy jacket potato face or hear my generic Southerner voice, so I'm not going to make a video. You'll have to make do with text. Same questions though; here goes:

  • Before this? Working from home, so probably glass-eyed in a Teams meeting.
  • Current read? The Psychology of Time Travel.
  • First reader? My creative writing workshop group.
  • Character you wish you created? Rob in High Fidelity.
  • Classic you have not read? Great Expectations.
  • How many books do you own? Too many to count (or even shelve).
  • Favourite bookshop? The now-defunct Albion Bookshop in Canterbury.
  • Excuse for being late? No excuse, just an apology (maybe).
  • Favourite colour? Blue.
  • What do you listen to when you write? Anything that I love. No radio.
  • Greatest living writer? Cormac McCarthy?
  • Skill you wish you had? Virtuoso pianist.
  • Book that made you cry? None, but a few have put a lump in my throat.
  • Book that made you laugh? The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13¾.
  • Where do you like to read? Anywhere I'm not time-pressured.
  • Book everyone should read? Watership Down.
  • TV obssesion? Line of Duty.
  • Favourite place? Home.
  • If you didn't write? I'd be less frustrated.
  • Favourite drink? Tea.

Wednesday 2 September 2020

After Rosen

The thing is, after you've talked through an exercise in imitating Michael Rosen's poem Chocolate Cake with a Year 6 pupil, the urge to have a go yourself is (like the chocolate cake) irresistible. I'm no poet (so be gentle) but here goes...

Cold Chicken Sandwiches (after Rosen)

I love cold chicken sandwiches
And when I was a kid
I loved them even more

Sometimes we used to mix other things in too
and Mum used to say,
"I can't believe you're going to
put golden syrup on a perfectly good chicken sandwich!"
And then she'd shake her
head, as I did it anyway,
prising the lid off the tin with the
end of a spoon, then twirling the
syrup out and drizzling it all over.
You know how syrup can be
hard to spread, because it sticks to the knife
and there's always that last bit
that you have to lick off - carefully, of course - and then you
can lick your lips
Oh, it's just about perfect

We also talked about internalising poetry, and how this is a performance piece. Don't worry though, I'm not going to inflict my performance of Chocolate Cake (or Cold Chicken Sandwiches) on you...

Saturday 29 February 2020

Time and space

Notebook computer in use
Sometimes all it takes is a little time and space to get things going again, to kick off an idea or, in the case of this weekend's writing residential, to dismantle a block. I am writing today, and it is good.

Monday 20 January 2020

Blue Monday, book Monday

See what I did there?

Today is, supposedly, Blue Monday - the most depressing day of the year, although even Wikipedia notes that the rationale behind this is "pseudoscience". But in case you are feeling blue, what better way to cheer yourself up with free and discounted books and short stories, available from today and for five days, over at

Hurry now, five days only...

Thursday 28 November 2019

A drabble...

...Wikipedia tells us, is a short work of fiction of precisely 100 words in length. I've never written one, never attempted one even. Until now. Here it is, raw and unedited.

"Do you remember our first date?" she says.
"Of course," he says. "You were late."
"You were late. Remember that waiter?"
"At the Thai place."
"At the pizza place."
"And when you spilt the wine…"
"You knocked my glass over!"
"It’s funny what we remember, isn’t it?"
"I suppose. It’s nothing to laugh about though."
"Isn’t it?"
She doesn’t answer.
"Do you think… do you think I should write that down? About the wine, I mean."
"You have done already. You could do again, if you like."
She passes him the notebook.
"Do you remember our first date?" he says.

I'll try to get on with some longer writing now. You know, like that novella I just don't seem to ever finish...

Saturday 2 November 2019

A year on...

It's coming up for a year since The Petrified World and other tales was published. I was tremendously proud to edit it, and prouder still to feature some excellent writers that I very much admire. What's more, since all profits went to charity, it has been able to raise some funds for a very deserving cause, Population Matters.

I guess my message here is two-fold - if you bought the book, would you consider heading back to Amazon and leaving a review for it? Reviews really help in our algorithm-led world of online shopping, and so far The Petrified World... has one five-star review and nothing else. So you can help the cause again, with a nice review, and it won't even cost you anything this time...

And of course, if you haven't bought the book already, what are you waiting for? Or maybe, in the run up to Christmas, you need some affordable gifts for the readers in your life...? So here's the all-important link:

Friday 31 May 2019

Minding the gaps

I unearthed an old writing notebook recently. Most of what's inside has either been used already or doesn't deserve to be used, but there are one or two scraps that might be retooled, retold. Here's one such fragment, the start of something, maybe, reproduced here exactly as written, warts 'n' all and very unedited. What do you think?

Daniel Button was obsessed with money, his every waking moment devoted to its pursuit, yet somehow he remained of average means at best. When he invested in shares, the market crashed. When he gambled on a horse, it would fall at the last. Despite years of Premium Bond ownership, Daniel had never won more than £25. And although he'd played the Lottery even week since its launch, he'd never won more than the occasional tenner.
     It didn't stop him though. The Lottery was his grail. He played every new game that launched, spending an increasing amount of money on tickets. Then scratchcards. Every week, every game, Daniel played. And he never won more than a tenth of his outlay.
     When the New Year's Day Millionaire Maker scratchcard was announced, Daniel had a plan, and a budget. Buy ten tickets from each of ten different shops. Surely, finally, wealth beckoned?
     As he queued in the tenth shop, worrying with his last £10 note, he told himself that this was the one - a life that didn't involve standing in line behind malodorous pensioners in mouse-brown overcoats was only moments away.
     And then the malodorous pensioner in the mouse-brown overcoat bought a single Lottery scratchcard, and won a million pounds, right there in front of Daniel's disbelieving eyes.
     Button went to bed believing God was against him.
     Yet when he awoke, he had cause to reconsider, for it seemed to be New Year's Day again, and only he had noticed. At first he thought the DJ had made a mistake but when he turned on the TV and found yesterday's headlines were still breaking news, Daniel could only conclude that somehow he'd been given a second chance. Everything was the same - yet now, one thing could be different.
     Daniel set off at the same time, and visited the same shops, in the same order. His first nine visits yielded exactly the same results as they had yesterday. Or was it today? Daniel wasn't sure, and had stopped trying to figure out his second chance. As he made his way towards the tenth shop, final tenner in hand, Button quickened his pace, determined to be one place further forward in the queue.
     With 100 yards to go, Daniel spotted his opponent waiting patiently for traffic lights to change so that

And that's as far as I got. I suspect this was written for a hot-pen exercise, a ten minute warm-up. Certainly it doesn't feel like something I laboured over. And certainly it is conceptually indebted to Groundhog Day. But it's not terrible, I think.

I also don't know where I was going with this. What would happen to the pensioner in the mouse-brown overcoat? What twist in the tail was brewing? I can't remember. Dated pieces around this snippet suggest it was written in mid-2011, so it's been languishing for eight years. Unless I can think of the outcome, I guess it will carry on languishing...

Friday 10 May 2019

About Twitter...

Easy to lose words in Twitter. Because yes, the novel sells alright, and so does the charity anthology, but I'm also quite proud of this tweet from last summer; I rediscovered it today during a spot of lunchtime Twitter pruning. In eleven months it received neither a like nor a retweet. Cruel world, eh?

Tuesday 8 January 2019

Always nice to get a review

It's (nearly) always nice to get a review, in my experience, so whilst I promise I won't do this every time The Petrified World and other tales gets a write-up, I am going to reproduce this one, the first review to appear on Amazon for the various-authors charity anthology I put together and edited. Here it is:

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of short stories. Whilst they loosely share a general theme of things unknown or unspoken there is great variety in the settings and approach, which really adds to the interest and had me looking forward to each new experience unfolding in the pages. Every one of the stories deals with something unsettling, something dark, with some rooted in contemporary reality, while others explore futuristic scenarios, many of them posing more questions than they deliver answers. All are thought-provoking for different reasons. A great book to pick up and put down at one's leisure – none of the stories are more than 12 pages long - and one which will have me looking out for more work by all the talented authors within it. Plus it’s for a good cause – and one which seems fitting to the book. Very happy to recommend this.

That's nice, isn't it?

You can read the review in situ here or, you know, just just buy the book straight off. What can I say, it's affordable, offers you eleven great short stories by new and emerging authors and benefits the Population Matters charity too - what's not to like?

Thursday 20 December 2018

Have a sneak preview

I might have mentioned, I'm quietly pleased with this book. Here's a little preview, to convince you of the need to buy it... As ever, with Amazon embeds, the formatting isn't perfect, but rest assured it is in the actual book. No go, buy, read, review, all that good stuff...

Monday 3 December 2018

Post-launch analysis

Remembering that time when The Petrified World and other tales paperback edition was ranked 9,449 on Amazon, out of more than six million books...

You can read more about this book here or cut to the chase and just buy it.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

The Petrified World and other tales

Well, it's taken me most of the year to get it together but finally, here it is. The Petrified World and other tales is a collection of short stories by new and emerging writers that I have been very proud to collate. Profits from the sale of the book will be donated to the charity Population Matters, and I'm quietly proud of that too.

This collection of eleven short stories takes the idea of taboos, of hidden subjects, of unspoken truths, as its loose theme. Some of the stories address potential problems for a near-future Earth, some do not, but all are linked by the idea of what is not being talked about, whether that's between families, colleagues, in the news or on a wider scale. Here's a list of the stories, with links to author websites for those that have them:

The Petrified World - Mark Kilner
Pig Hunting - Ian Nettleton
The Transistor - Andrea Holland
We Need You To Show Us What Happy Looks Like - Katy Carr
The Swimming Pool - Sandy Greenard
On The Air - Rol Hirst
Retrograde Amnesia - Simon Poore
About The Dog - Sarah Dobbs
The Crossing - Martin Pond
At Malham Cove - Ada Carter
Compensating For Einstein - Arnold Pettibone

The ebook version is available right here, as is the paperback edition. Prices are £1.99 and £3.99 respectively... so it makes a great stocking-filler.

If you want to get on board and help promote the book (it's for a good cause, after all), please use the cover image above left and these URLs: for the ebook and for the paperback - thanks.

Go on now, shop, and don't forget to read about Population Matters ... ta.

Friday 2 November 2018

New cover image?

I'm thinking of a new cover for the second edition of Drawn To The Deep End, and expect it might be based on one of these two images. You know the synopsis by now, so which of these do you think would fit best? Or neither? Let me know in the comments, cheers.

Thursday 30 August 2018

Post mortem

You might remember how, back in May, I wrote about the 100 days of writing initiative? And how I hoped it might spur me on a bit? Well the 100 days finished a couple of weeks ago, so I should probably admit to how well (or otherwise) I got on with it.

My primary intention was to complete Nudge, the novella I first posted about two and a half years ago. And I certainly moved things on a good deal. Writing every day helped regain the momentum I had lost with it, until I had a real head of steam built up. But then... then came a particularly tricky, transitional passage that I struggled with. Struggled and struggled... and am still struggling. And since I am very much a linear author - I write it in pretty much the order you read it - I'm stuck on this story for now. Still hoping I can unstick myself at some point before the year is out, but hey.

Whilst stuck, other projects started. I wrote a completely new short story called The Crossing - more about that before the year is out too, I hope. That was fun to write, not least because it's almost in the second person. Intrigued? You'll see what I mean when you read it. And I've been doing some light-touch editing too, for a project that will also hopefully see the light of day before the year is out. Fingers crossed.

And finally, I've been considering new cover designs for the second edition of Drawn to the Deep End, for potential release to mark the first anniversary of its publication. Watch this space.

Now, to unstick!

Saturday 26 May 2018

On the high street

So I've just delivered some copies of Drawn To The Deep End to the excellent Kett's Books in Wymondham, Norfolk so if you wanted to buy a physical copy from a physical (and lovely!) book shop, you now can.

More about Kett's Books:

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Breaking radio silence... for exciting news

A very quick note to say I have been in discussions with a local bookshop regarding them stocking Drawn To The Deep End. And it looks like it's going to happen!

More details to follow as soon as I am actually on their shelves...

Friday 4 May 2018

100 days starts here

I've been slack of late. Very slack. I haven't written very much at all, and have disguised the fact by recycling old words and by trying to launch another project that will require me to edit but not write.

But writers write, right?

So, inspired by an excellent writer of my acquaintance, I'm going to try the whole #100DaysOfWriting thing. You know, where you try and write something (anything!) for 100 days in a row, and post about your progress, or lack thereof, on that there Twitter (hence the hashtagging).

Today is about to be #Day1 for me, which will make August 11th #Day100. Let's see how this goes.

Monday 26 February 2018

Another review I'm quite proud of. Sorry.

Again, I crave your indulgence.

JC is a long-time and respected blogger, author of the excellent New Vinyl Villain blog, where he writes predominantly about music. There are few finer music blogs out there, in my view, so imagine my delight on discovering that, not only has he just read Drawn To The Deep End, he's reviewed it too; here's an extract:

Peter is a brilliantly drawn character, someone who will run the full gamut of your emotions and catch you off-guard every now and again; you will have empathy and sympathy one moment but it won’t be too long before you want to grab him by the throat and shout ‘what the fuck??’ into his face to get him to see sense. The book is also populated by a cast of wonderful co-stars, especially from the world of work where the sheer one-dimensional aspect of so many of them struck a chord, given my own experiences in different offices over the past 30+ years with colleagues who have displayed many of the traits on show across the 230-odd pages – I might even admit, with a sense of shame, of seeing something of my younger cocky and arrogant self in parts of the minor characters. It is a book that also contains some of the most moving passages anyone will ever read on just how difficult, draining, frustrating and ultimately heart-breaking it is to be responsible for a demented and elderly parent.

I'm a bit humbled by reviews like this, if truth be told.

You can read the full review on JC's always-excellent blog, right here. And, of course, Drawn To The Deep End is here. Cheers.