Thursday, 2 January 2020

Latest articles in Writing Magazine

The January 2020 edition of Writing Magazine carries my Beginners page and a New Author profile of debut author, Andrew Ewart.

'Going Round Again' is the title of the Beginners section, and deals with writing being in the repeat business. Put simply, do it once and you can't stop there; you have to get on with the next project.

Partly to do with the nature of supply and demand, it's like a jobbing builder friend of mine. He has to keep working on the next job because that's how his life is. Writers are no different because we can't live off one story or project. If readers like our work, they (along with editors or agents) will want more.

Remember why you wanted to be a writer? It was to write for a living. So, if you've just finished and submitted a piece of work, get on with the next one.


The New Author Profile this month is of Andrew Ewart, whose debut 'Forget Me' is published by Orion.

The story has an intriguing premise and centres on the wife of an amnesiac who uses pioneering treatment to go into her husband's memories to bring back the man she loves, and in doing so to uncover the reasons for his attempted suicide.

Andrew's next work is a psycho-thriller with a large dose of science fiction.


Latest article in Writing Magazine

December's issue of Writing Magazine has my Beginners page called 'You Can Do It!'

This is all about ambition, self-confidence and proving the pudding. You might think you're as good as the best-sellers - and maybe you are. But you have to walk the walk before you can make claims to your ability. And that can only be achieved by writing and submitting your work.

You might even like to write in the same vein as an admired author. But that doesn't mean you'll hit the same heights.

Best thing is, get writing and prove your worth.

Write your own words, not a reflection of someone else's.

Use that self-confidence to write the very best you can.

Make 2020 the year you do it!


Sunday, 17 November 2019

Latest article in Writing magazine

December's Writing Magazine includes my 'Beginners' page, this one titled 'A Class of Your Own'. Nothing to do with writing classes, as in creative writing, but rather the need by some people to determine what class of society writers belong to. (Of course that should be to what class of society...), but I'm writing colloquially. I know. No class at all.

Class seems more of a fixation in the UK than anywhere else, where some observers seem unable to accept people as individuals, whatever their background or perceived 'position' in the world, whereas what they do is more important than how they speak or where they went to school

In short, you write because you want to and have to. And your writing should be what defines you. Nothing else.

New Author Profile. This month it's David Wragg, author of 'The Black Hawks' (pub Harper Voyager - October). A 'low-fantasy' novel, it features a young man and 'a squad of squabbling mercenaries' (the Black Hawks) trying to keep a prince alive in the midst of a conspiracy. It sounds a lot of fun and is to be followed in August 2020 with a sequel, as yet untitled.

I like one of David's TOP TIPS, which is to 'Celebrate your achievements, whether finishing, editing, submitting your book, getting an agent, a deal, seeing publication or getting a good review. Celebrate them all.'

I endorse that view. We spend a lot of time thinking down-stream, about the various problems we face in writing, and not enough about each stage in the process. And each stage is another step towards success.

Get it here: The Black Hawks (Book 1)


Friday, 11 October 2019

Latest article in Writing Magazine

November's issue of Writing Magazine features my latest Beginners article, 'Action and Reaction'.

When describing scenes in which something happens or is said, it's easy to forget that there should be a counter-reaction or an acknowledgement by other characters in the scene. In real life people react to words, actions or sounds, even if they're not involved.

We're nosey, intrigued, surprised. It's real. We hear a bang and turn to see what it is.

Including this reaction adds colour and depth to a scene, without taking up much space.

But there's also reaction without words. People show facial expressions on hearing something said. It's natural and displays a reaction we can all understand.

If we read something happening on the page, but there's no reaction by others in the scene, it's an empty event.


Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Book Review - 'Man on Ice' by Humphrey Hawksley

My latest review is of an action thriller by BBC foreign correspondent, Humphrey Hawksley.

The first in a series featuring Rake Ozenna, 'Man on Ice' is set in Alaska, and details the attempted land-grab by Russian forces. You can read the full review here, on the SHOTS Magazine review website:

The paperback edition is released this month and can be bought here on Amazon:

'Man on Edge', the 2nd in the Rake Ozenna series, will be available in hardback next month.


Monday, 16 September 2019

Catch-up time!

For some reason known only to the gods of the internet, I appear to have lost a couple of recent posts. As I've been away recently and otherwise tied up, I didn't notice. Mea culpa.

So, in a shotgun blast of catching up, here are the two missing posts:

Writing Magazine 'Beginners' article for August'

Titled 'The Thought That Counts', this piece dealt with the kind of thoughts I have in mind when writing a new book. While not always of the deep and meaningful kind, they do have to centre on the characters involved, whether returning (as in a series, which I write) or newcomers, walk-ons, call them what you will. Cardboard cut-outs are not permitted, even if their appearance is brief.

And if I'm popping across from one series set in, say, the current time, to my other series set in 1960s France, then I also have to make a definite change of hat because that's what occupies me until the book is done. (I've tried writing two books at once in the different time-frames and it wasn't a pretty sight. And my head exploding wouldn't help the family finances).

New Author Profile - Luan Goldie

Luan got a publishing deal with her book 'Nightingale Point' (Harper Collins imprint HQ), about the survivors of a disaster on a London council estate, and how they pulled through the aftermath even though it changes their lives forever.


'Beginners' article for September - 'Like Riding a Bike'

Using a giant cliché (I know, not cool in some circles), I tend to liken the art of writing with riding a bike.

Although vastly different, the same things do crop up, whether it be getting the riding/writing bug, starting off (with trepidation, mostly, about the journey ahead); falling off/making mistakes - and getting back on again; choosing your direction; achieving your first decent distance; reviewing your progress, stretching yourself... and finally joining others in this magnificent undertaking. (I'm thinking writing here, not so much riding a bike).


And, just out, 'Beginners' article for October - 'Every Chapter Tells a Story' 

Words count, as any writer knows. Whether 1,000, 2,000 or 90,000 (and in some genres, even more), you need words on the page to attract, engage and enthral a reading audience. You also need some order, usually achieved in a sequence of chapters. And it's chapters that shouldn't be overlooked. They help you achieve a sequence to your storyline, like stepping stones, they provide tension and pace, and each is like a small but unfinished story, each one easier to focus on rather than a whole book.

New Author Profile - Anita Frank

Set in an English country house during WW1, 'The Lost Ones' (HQ) is a ghost story, reflecting Anita's fascination with that medium (sorry!) and was written while a full-time carer, which says something about her determination.

It also has one of the most eye-catching covers I've seen in a long time.


Sunday, 21 July 2019

Why I wrote this.

After writing a series of five crime novels set in London the Riley Gavin/Frank Palmer series), and nearing completion of a spy thriller (‘Red Station’), I thought about trying a French-based cop thriller. Having gone to school in France and with family there, I thought, why not? So much of writing is doing something to see if you can.

The first book in 2010 was called 'Death on the Marais’ (now re-issued by The Dome Press on the 2nd August with a striking new cover design).

The lead character is Inspector Lucas Rocco, formerly of the Paris police. But I didn’t want to write about Paris; I wanted to take him out of his comfort zone into one I know reasonably well. This meant transferring him, as part of a nationwide ‘policing initiative’ – writers can do stuff like this without passing lengthy legislation - to Poissons-les-Marais, a tiny village in Picardie, northern France.

Rocco's not particularly happy about this, and even less happy when he finds himself reporting to a uniformed Commissaire in the town of Amiens, and that his new boss is Francois Massin, his C.O. during the war in Indochina (France’s own Vietnam). Having witnessed Massin having a breakdown in battle and been forced to rescue him, Rocco knows his presence is not going to sit well with either of them.

Quite apart from this awkwardness, Rocco quickly finds this apparently serene backwater is brimming with danger, such as locals who like to recycle old wartime ammunition with hammers for the brass and lead, the sinister local marais - marshland - and the discovery on his first day of a woman’s body in the local British Military cemetery.

When the body disappears from the police morgue within hours, Rocco follows the trail to a former SOE officer, now a wealthy and connected industrialist, Philippe Bayer-Berbier, who has links to the wartime Resistance. At this point Rocco finds obstacles in his way from the highest authority, and it soon becomes clear that there are people who don't want part of their recent history turned over and will do anything to stop his investigation.

Thus begins a fight against official obstruction, corruption and murder, in an environment where city rules don’t apply. He’s also under constant scrutiny from Massin, who appears intent on finding ways to undermine him.

The research for the series was one of using what I knew from all those years ago (early 60s), and checking that my sketchy memory wasn't letting me down (it did occasionally). For example, which precise models of cars were used in 1963, along with social flavours of the time such as singers and songs. Names like Aznavour, Brel (I know, Belgian but ubiquitous) and Francoise Hardy were easy (had a monster crush on her, aged 10), but all had to be date-checked carefully to ensure I got it right.

On the technology front, I could forget all about PCs, email, smart phones and the like – which was quite refreshing – but public phones in rural areas were few and far between - and I almost had Rocco reaching for his cellphone on more than one occasion. In addition, the use of forensics was nowhere near what it is today, so I drafted in a local doctor to provide that facility (something else authors can do on demand).

Historically, the 1960s in France was an interesting time for a backdrop on which to hang the series. Still in shock after Indochina; having just gone through a long period of tension with Algeria gaining Independence; assassination attempts on President de Galle; facing increased immigration from North Africa, and increased trading opportunities from the then Common Market. This, all on top of having to deal with the spread of American and British music polluting young minds - and worse - the French language, was ripe for all manner of ideas to be explored.

Thus was the series born - and today stands at 6 books and a novella. It's been great fun writing them. The first four books are being re-published with new covers by the Dome Press as follows:

'Death on the Marais' - out now.
'Death on the Rive Nord') - out 6/9/19
'Death on the Pont Noir') - out 4/10/19
'Death at the Clos du Lac') - out 1/11/19

New cover details for the other three books will be issued when available. For now the publishers have deemed it necessary to have a pic of yours truly as a stand-in on Amazon. I know - the indignity.