Archive | June 2013

Friday Night Boogie

It’s Friday night here. I’ve just added another 500 words to the thousand-odd that I wrote this afternoon. I’ve got a glass of whisky beside me and some classic soul/funk playing. Life is good.

Getting 1,500+ words written today is particularly reassuring after suffering from writer’s block for about a month. In the end, the cure was relatively simple: I didn’t try writing anything new but sat down and went through some corrections to a proof of the book’s first few chapters.

Then on Monday I just sat down and got back to work on Church Of The White Rabbits. Suddenly the end of the novel looks back within reach.

Enjoy your own Friday night. Kick back, relax… and enjoy The Emotions. (Or go and seek something else if this isn’t your cup of tea!)


Let’s Jargogle All Those Darn Malagrugs

One of the reasons English has become the dominant international language is that – unlike French – it’s extremely flexible and adaptable.

It’s a magpie language: snatching bright, shiny new words from all manner of sources, from words related to new technologies to words pinched from other, unrelated languages.There are all kinds of statistics out there but it’s estimated that the English language now contains anything from around 450,000 to almost 1 million words, although this would include all the derivations formed from individual headwords and a huge number of technical terms.

It’s also said Shakespeare used about 30,000 words in his works, while a study quoted by the BBC said that The Sun newspaper contains an average of around 8,000! (Dumbing down, what’s that?)

Personally, I love words… well, being a writer, I would, wouldn’t I? We have such a wealth of words and expressions that trip off the tongue (and bamboozle non-native speakers). Some words just sound wonderful: ‘mellifluous’ and ‘rowlocks’ are too personal favourites.

I love words for their diversity and their sound and when I know a good word it can be hard to resist using it; I still remember being laughed at by a friend for using ‘fractious’ down the pub. There are also words that don’t exist but should. A student of mine once used the word ‘diseducate’ – made perfect sense the way that she used it.

But while English is adept at absorbing the new words to which we take a fancy, what about the ones that fall by the wayside? Thanks to the iAuthor Facebook page I came across the excellent post below about obsolete English words that should make a comeback.

Although I’m often in a bit of a ‘widdendream’ there’s something ‘illecebrous’ about some of these old words. My mission now is to work ‘jargogle’ and ‘malagrug’ into my next novel…

I hope this isn’t all just more ‘perrisology’ but do click on the link below if you want to make sense of my ramblings!

20 obsolete English words that should make a comeback

DURING MY UNDERGRADUATE studies as a Linguistics major, one of the things that struck me most is the amazing fluidity of language. New words are created; older words go out of style. Words can change meaning over time, vowel…

Read More…

Obscurity Or Crime?

Imagine being born into poverty with a drug addict mother and no father.  No one ever sends you to school and you’re pretty much left to fend for yourself from as soon as you can walk.

Findo front cover#2Society never does anything for you for the simple reason that officialdom doesn’t even know you exist. In such a situation, would you obey ‘the rules’ and conform or do what it takes to survive?

Findo Gask is born in a ditch and raised in the slums of one of Britain’s poorest cities. The only rules he knows are pretty basic: like ‘an eye for an eye’ and ‘everyone for himself’.

Growing up surrounded by a cast of lowlifes and no-hopers, it seems like Findo’s only choices are poverty or petty lawlessness.

But – unfettered by the instructions or commands of anyone else – Findo makes his own choices and sets his own rules.

Only the reach of his imagination defines his limits and Findo Gask is never a dull boy…

The Tale Of Findo Gask was my first published novel and national winner of the UK’s Undiscovered Authors Prize 2005.

It’s free to download from Amazon this week (Monday to Friday). Please, click on the links to download a copy:

Findo on

Findo on

Findo on

Findo on

Put To Shame

‘If the eyes are the window to the soul then a cover should be the window to a book.’

William Webster, 2013

When selling a house, ‘kerb appeal’ is crucial. You might have the most amazing home but if your property looks ugly, untidy or uncared for from outside then it’s going to be a battle getting potential buyers to take a closer look.

It’s the same with books. A bad cover suggests lack of care or pride in your work.

Which is why Cristian Mihai’s recent post on the same subject left me feeling rather embarrassed.

That’s because out of the books I’ve published to date, the one of which I feel most proud is The Tale Of Findo Gask. The novel won me a national UK prize for new writers in 2005 and has had some very good reviews (as well as a few just okay ones) since being released on Kindle.

So, that begs the question, why did I give it such a lousy cover?

Cover for the original print version

Cover for the original print version

When the book originally came out in print, the publishing company and I worked with a designer to produce the cover. Unfortunately, the publishers went bust and when I decided to republish independently on Kindle in December 2011, I didn’t have a digital copy of the original cover or any way of getting one.

At the time, the whole world of indie publishing was new to me and I was so excited about making Findo re-available to readers that I didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the cover but quickly put something together using Photoshop.

I wouldn’t claim I that I ever felt the new cover was perfect but I did think it was ‘okay’ and would ‘do for now’.

First cover for Kindle edition

First cover for Kindle edition

Soon after, I moved on to putting together digital versions of a collection of short stories, two other novels under my own name and, more recently, an adventure novel under a pen name.

Somewhere along the way, Findo’s temporary cover kind of got forgotten.

Then, a few days ago, I read Cristian’s post in which he commented: ‘I’ve seen some ugly book covers out there. Really, really ugly, and I’ve been trying to figure out why on Earth someone would do such a thing.’

His words made me think about my cover for Findo. I cringed inside and realised I was doing my book a huge disservice.

Findo front cover#2So, to cut a long story short, the book now has a new cover.

I’m still not sure it’s perfect but hopefully it’s a big improvement. The cover has an element of drama, it gives a clue as to what the book’s about – and stylistically it matches the cover for my novel The Vault.

It will be interesting to see what effect the new cover has. I haven’t done very much promotion for it but Findo will be free to download for five days from tomorrow.

So, thank you, Cristian for giving me a much needed kick up the backside.

And if the new cover tempts you then please click on the links and download a copy – but wait until tomorrow (Monday) if you want it for free:

Findo on

Findo on

WordPress – Sometimes You’re Just Bizarre

I’m curious to know if anyone else has noticed a particular little quirk of WordPress when it comes to tags?

When I publish a new post, WordPress not only lists the tags I’ve added but always suggests a few others I might want to use…

Who knows what seals think... maybe they secretly dream of flying?

Who knows what seals think… maybe they secretly dream of flying?

Most of my posts are to do with writing and publishing novels, plus the odd mention of my travels and photography. So why the blinking heck does WordPress invariably suggest – among others, some equally bizzare – that suitable tags would be ‘aviation‘ and ‘gaming‘?!

The other day I wrote a post about how frustrating writer’s block can be and WordPress suggested that a suitable tag would be ‘mental health‘. I can kind of see how that works – I made a few mentions of the words mind, brain… and frustration!

Street book shop in Cuba - perhaps the schoolboy needs a treatise on game theory?

Street book shop in Cuba – perhaps the schoolboy needs a treatise on game theory?

Now, I know most geeks are into games so maybe that’s why the people who write all the wonderful programmes that enable me to write this blog have a thing about gaming.

But I don’t think I ever go on about flying, being high, wings or the price of an airline ticket so, come on WordPress, what’s this obsession with aviation?

And just for the fun of it... my grandparents on their tandem in the 1930s!

And just for the fun of it… my grandparents on their tandem in the 1930s!

(I’ve already included tags for ‘aviation’ and ‘gaming’ so I’ll be interested to see what else is suggested for this post. The random pictures are just an excuse to push the tagging envelope!)

Frustrated By Rabbits

Writer’s block is so annoying. A couple of months ago all was fine. My current project seemed to be on a roll. I was writing one chapter straight after another, barely having to pause for thought.

It’s  the kind of mental zone any author loves to be in. The words are flowing, the end is in sight and there’s even a (loose) plan on how to get there. (And I do so hate having to think.)

But then… Well, it all started to slow down a month or so ago.

I partly blame life – the real kind – for interfering. Not only did I have more work on but we’d got buyers for our house in Cornwall. With the real possibility of getting some money in the bank within a few months, Carolyn and I then couldn’t help but start to look at possible homes around here.

Inevitably more hours spent working (and thinking about work) and looking at options for places to live have meant less time for writing. All these things going on probably also meant less spare capacity for my brain to cook up plots, scenarios and dialogue. (Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis will know that my mind is the kind that works best when not given any conscious instructions – let ideas fester on their own and my subconscious will eventually dish out the goods.)

The fact that the weather has finally turned nice hasn’t helped either. All that sunshine out there makes me look out of the window rather than at the screen in front of me.

To begin with, I didn’t worry when the word flow began to dip. We went off on holiday for 12 days at the end of May but we’ve been back for more than a week now and I was hoping to do some writing this evening.

Then I looked at where I’d left it with the White Rabbits… and my brain just feels like it’s full of sawdust! I know roughly what’s left to write. I’ve got a vague outline – and various loose threads to tie together. But it just isn’t coming.

So what’s the answer – whisky, sleep, exercise, yoga, another holiday?

Arrrrgh. Writer’s block isn’t just annoying. It’s gut-churning, fingernail-chewing, mind-numbing, anxiety-making, confidence-sapping frustration. Hate it!

Any tips on how to slay the beast and awaken my inspiration?