Tag Archives: Writing

Plans For 2016



People are asking me about my new novel will be out (The Unconquered Sun which will be released on Amazon on 11th February 2016), but my focus has already moved on. Before Christmas, I mapped out five new projects. I gave them all generic working titles for the moment. Will all of them hatch into novels? I don’t know yet. Even the calmest waters can hide rocks to sink the unwary. But each idea has its own merit.

The first and foremost I am working on is called (note this is not the finished title) Spaghetti. I hope to have the first draft finished by St. Patrick’s Day. Considering my first book took 12 years and my second book technically  took 14 years, this is ambitious for me. The book is fully outlined and *cough* is the most straightforward of the five projects. The biggest challenge is that it is essentially a science fiction story where fantasy sensibilities predominate.

The second, Knife, is a light fantasy set in a secondary world. The main characters are pretty much there as are the main plot twists. I’ve done some exploratory writing to map it out and have about nearly a quarter of the first draft already written.

Tank is a science fiction colonization story. Again, a quarter is already written but the mechanics of the POV have yet to be worked out. I am planning to write this in the present tense.

Diary is a dark fantasy/horror. Like Tank, there’s a few viewpoint issues to decide plus some research to do, but the basic plot is advanced and I have a chunk of the first draft written.

Photocosm 4 (Photocosm 3 being The Parting Gift) is a sequel to The Golden Rule and kicks off a new series. Some of the survivors from The Unconquered Sun may appear but the focus moves westward to the city of Formicary. The first half of the story is pretty much worked out but the second half needs a bit of work.

Oh yes, I will be also working on some short stories.

In short, I will be sitting in front of a screen A LOT this year. 🙂

I plan to do a monthly update on progress to keep you all up to date.



Click Bait

There are a lot of good on-line articles on writing and publishing, but there are some not-so-good ones also. Nothing is more annoying than coming across a tweet with a link to say The Three Key Things You Must Know Before You Publish only to find when you click on the article tells you absolutely nothing of any use. Or, like Fifty-Five Short Story Competitions for Jack Russell Owners, the article turns out to be just a list of links, half of which don’t work, with a disclaimer at the bottom that the author isn’t entirely sure that these are short story competitions or that the organizers like dogs.

With that in mind I’ve written my own bait click article.

Ten Critical Things You Must Do To Write A Book:

(1) Breathe. Dead people cannot write a book.

(2) Open your eyes. Otherwise, you cannot see what you are writing.

(3) Have an original idea. It can be fiction or non-fiction. Non-fiction is generally truer than fiction.

(4) Have something on which to record your story. Examples include word processors, blank pages, vellum, papyrus, and clay tablets.

(5) Use the appropriate tool to record your story. For example, pens and quills work well for blank pages, but not for tablets and computer screens.

(6) Write in a language you understand.

(7) Make sure you understand the concepts of ‘book’ and ‘novel’. Check them out on Wikipedia.

(8) Read lots of books about writing and publishing. You can find these books in book shops and on-line stores. They will cost money, but they are worth it if you want to build a successful career.

(9) Get a dictionary. If you don’t know what this is, look it up.

(10) Read my book as a good example of how the finished product should look. It’s cheap and it’s on sale at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Itunes, etc. There’s even a paperback.

DISCLAIMER: The author of this article does not maintain that this is an exhaustive list of steps, or that all steps listed are required in every case to write a book. The order of the steps is not prescriptive. The reader should do his/her own research.


Two Steps From Hell

When I am in the mood for music while I am writing, I often turn to classical music or movie soundtracks. However, Two Steps To Hell dominates my favorite playlist. They are an American music production company. Their music is used on many film, trailer, video game and television soundtracks. You also will hear their music on advertisements. It is very dramatic, powerful music, ideal for writing battle scenes. My favorite albums are Invincible, Archangel and SkyWorld. If you want to learn more about them, check out their website.

The Worst Advice On Prologues


Some people love them. Some people hate prologues. Some skip them. Agents don’t like them, apparently.

Personally, I don’t like prologues that have only tangential relevance to the story, and I don’t like infodumps. Some people love a good six page history lesson. Some people might love tangential prologues too, though I have never come across anyone who publicly stated it.

If a prologue is interesting and relevant, I have absolutely no problem with it. I have even written one or two.

This post is not really about the virtue of prologues. It is about the lack of virtue of a certain piece of advice related to them. It runs something like this:

A writer walks into a bar and says to the barman, “I want to keep my book’s prologue but, if I do, my book will never get an agent. Prologues have gone out of fashion like the letter thorn.”

The barman scratches his head and answers, “I just serve drinks, but it seems to me, the best thing you can do is scrap the prologue.”


The barman waits for the writer to calm, pours him a stiff drink, and says, “Okay. This is what you do. Make the prologue the first chapter. Agents will read it and never realize you slipped them a prologue.”

If this reads like a joke, it is because it is. Don’t be the butt of it.

Turning your prologue into Chapter 1 is a terrible idea.

(1) Readers will assume Chapter 1 is the start of the story and the characters it introduces are important to the plot. When that turns out not to be the case, they will be confused/betrayed/annoyed.

(2) Agents will work out that Chapter 1 is a disguised prologue when they start Chapter 2. Will they be impressed? No. Their reaction is likely to mirror that of the readers.

If a prologue can successfully pass as the first chapter, then it was never a prologue in the first place.


I have read a lot of different books by a lot of different authors, some renowned, some unknown, and I have come to the conclusion that the SF writer needs the reader’s trust. In these days of relatively cheap fiction, losing the reader’s trust is the end of the relationship. The reader isn’t likely to look at that author’s work again.

When the trust is there, readers are likely to cut the writer some slack. That unexciting training lecture in the second chapter will be glossed over in the hope of something more interesting to come (soon). The reader will patiently wait for an explanation why the aliens were doing handstands while they planned their invasion of Earth. The reader will accept the nonsensical on the assumption that it will all make sense at some stage.

Of course, if your work is well known, if there are a lot of voices enthusing about it, the reader’s trust comes a little easier. But suppose, you aren’t. Suppose you’re self-published like me. Trust can be a fragile thing. Your main focus must be on securing it.

I know that very deliberately, it is mine.

Ten Reasons Why The Golden Rule Is Going To Be A Duology

(1) The story is too long for one book and too short for three.

(2) Because it is two volumes, it can’t suffer from middle book syndrome.

(3) I like succinctness.

(4) If it was one volume, the paper copy would have such a wide spine, it might be mistaken for an accordion.

(5) Empty shelf space in my house is limited.

(6) At the moment, each volume has a beginning, a middle and an end. If there were three volumes, the first volume would have a beginning and a middle, the second volume would have an end followed by a beginning (really problematic), and the last volume would have a middle and an end, but no beginning.

(7) Almost everyone writes big, fat fantasy books in three volumes. I like to be different by err…writing them in two volumes.

(8) In a multi-volume series, some concepts might have to be explained in each volume. I hate repeating myself more than once.

(9) I could only think of good titles for the series and two books.

(10) Anyone who reads the books will understand that two is the ideal number concerning any story involving Ors.


Why the worst book I ever read inspired me to write.

If I gave you its name, you wouldn’t know it.

I discovered it in the only English bookshop in Nice. Buying it was an absolute act of desperation. I read mostly SF and fantasy, and this was the only book in the shop I hadn’t read before. That’s not due to my encyclopedic reading but the sparsity of choice.

I have a problem with books. It is a stupid kink in my character. If I start a book, I must finish it, no matter how brain-rottingly bad it is.

It was a typical fantasy – the size of a brick and nearly as heavy.

The world made no sense. The characters’ actions made no sense. I remember the hero’s spirit was transferred to the body of a dead girl to hide him from pursuing villains. I remember thinking that was a bit of an extreme reaction.

There was an underlying seediness to what happened to some of the minor female characters that turned my stomach.

To this day, the phrase “beautiful cornflower blue eyes” affects me like rubbing bits of polystyrene together. It was repeated so many times, it had a mesmeric quality, draining my will to live.

The only good thing I learned from it was the use of cliffhangers at the end of each chapter to draw the reader on. The problem was that the cliffhangers did not move the plot forward.  They worked like this:

Chapter 10

…Something pushed her face down in the water.

Chapter 11

She stood up in the pool. The water was just up to her ankles. “Why did you push me?”

I actually gave the book to friends for Christmas as a joke (having already made my feelings about it loud and clear). The joke kind of backfired as they reciprocated with another book by the same author. I still have it. Unread.

Anyway, at the time, I had kind of given up on writing. I had been writing the first page of the same novel since I was fourteen (that’s a story for another post).  But this book inspired me to start tapping on the keyboard.

I wanted to write something different. Something better. Something that didn’t make me cringe.