Tuesday, 3 July 2007


Always go back to DH Lawrence. There was a mind who knew his own mind. And what a wonderful writer. There is so much trash around these days that you start to smell disgusting just by reading it. That's the moment when you ought to return to the Classics. I forgot that this was the way I read from childhood onwards. An Agatha Christie, whom I adored, followed by a Lawrence, then another Agatha, followed by a Dostoyevsky, another Agatha, followed by a Greene and so on and so on. I've been reorganising the books, to get some out of the way and others into a safer place, when I came across Rebecca. Now Daphne du Maurier was a friend of friends of mine. Indeed, Manderley was based on the Cornish home of one of my core group of close friends. His dad, Eton-educated, became a country and western singer and then, with horrible physical ailments, died by jumping in front of a London train. Do you need to know this? Probably not. We all went to a gathering in London to support my friend. I had known for a long time the connection with du Maurier. It was only today, in sorting my books, that I started to read Rebecca once again. WOW. Give me that first chapter any day. Not a single wasted word. No repetition. Any noun is described with a sentence/action/reason for being there. If you read certain modern literary gods you will know how they love to repeat a phrase...i mean, just love to repeat a phrase, a phrase to be repeated just like love in repeating the phrase. NOT SO WITH DAPHNE. What a beautiful writer. Thought I'd share this with you. As all writing experts will tell you: READ, READ AND READ AGAIN. But please read the classics. Daphne, I salute you.


It appears the non-smoking brigade have been out in force. A local licensee telephones me with the information that his pub has been full of them. There's only one problem: they drink one soft drink and are BORING. I forgot that the smells might not be the worst thing about this new anti-terror legislation.


Pre-sales up 17%. I wonder how many small bookshops have ordered from Amazon in order to fill their shelves from now until autumn, while being careful to order a reasonable number from Bloomsbury so that suspicions are not aroused? I don't blame them -- sadly, if there are several out there doing this they'll have to keep quiet about it. My experience of watching Potter fans buying in supermarkets is that they came, they bought one book, they departed. Maybe a few more carrots and tinned tomatoes got sold but nothing that would not have passed through the stores in the first place. It's not a loss leader as such. What it does do, and believe me there are people out there who still don't know this, is demonstrate, through miles of column inches and years of broadcast hours, that the stores also sell books. I'm afraid the old-fashioned local bookshop is doomed in the same way that the old-fashioned record shop died. It should be pretty bloody obvious by now that the entire industry is geared to MASS sales. Twas ever thus. We live in a commercial world. However, the problem with this approach is the appalling standard of books on sale. They're all so similar that the next author/agent/publisher to come up with a well-written story departing from these simplistic genres is going to clean up. I also foresee a time when an e-book browsing store will open, allowing customers to view millions of books - not on the same day, of course - and either have it printed off there and then or ordered from an Amazon-style warehouse for delivery the following day. To sum up, the appetite for reading has not diminished just the point-of-sale is going through a period of painful change. And by way of being even more boring than normal, let me repeat that Potter sells because it's got LOTS of characters and LOTS of story. In fact, it's the opposite of yer usual supermarket top seller. Go read.


The anti-smoking brigade have won. I must admit the three pubs I visited, for one pint in each over two days - unit counting again - were cleaner and much more pleasant. The smokers were content to sit with their fag packets in front of them and walk outside into the cold air under a non-protective gazebo. One landlady told me with surprise in her voice that it had taken her only half an hour to clean that morning, against the usual two hours. Also, she had lost £200 in trade for a normal Sunday. So, it's here to stay. Best get used to it. But where's the food crowd? Is it the weather? They stayed away in droves on the first two days they could eat in clean air. Why?

Sunday, 1 July 2007


Seems like the War on Terror came back to haunt us with a vengeance. So far we have been incredibly lucky. However, is this a one-off by some disaffected people or is it the start of a far more serious concerted campaign? Let's hope it's the former. This is a wonderful country to live in. Sure, it has its faults. Sure, our politicians take us to places we ordinary citizens don't always want to go to. But this is a democracy and the next time round we might, just might, vote them out if someone comes along with a new and better bunch of ideas. The victims in this War are the innocent. This is true with all similar violence. We in Britain rather felt that the violence on the streets of Baghdad would not be exported here. If this is happening we are incredibly vulnerable. A lot of what I fear is that -- rather like in Iraq -- should this be the case there's precious little either the public or the authorities can do to protect us. As regular readers of this blog will know, I specialise in stories about the future. There's been a lot of talk recently about Oil running out and Global Warming destroying our planet. The worst case scenarios have us being plunged back into the Stone Age. There is a third possibility: that we'll be plunged back rather sooner than expected thanks to this darned War on Terror. Modern Society is -- and cannot avoid being -- incredibly vulnerable to attacks of this nature. The road hauliers strike nearly ten years ago reminded us that our oil and food supplies can be destroyed within three days. The way we live now makes us far more likely to starve, riot, fight, die of disease than was ever thus even during the darkest days of World War Two. It's ironic that you could switch off London more easily now than you could in the days when my dear old mum was a ward sister there at the height of The Blitz when the Germans bombed day and night for the best part of a year. Londoners shrugged it off. Thanks to the bravery and sacrifice of the RAF, along with many others, both soldiers and civilians, we survived. Now we don't even know who are enemy is. If it's Osama bin Laden then where is he? I find it unbelievable that the combined resources of the world's top security agencies cannot identify where he is. Not a happy morning, I'm afraid. Enjoy your day my readers and may your lives be happy and peaceful.


New month - new energy - new drive - mega sales. That's the motto for this month. I spent yesterday trawling through some of the unfinished work and cursing myself for failing to try hard enough to sell it. One story in particular drew my attention. It's nearly halfway there and it's a shame to leave it as it is. Maybe finish and self-publish. At least there'll be a book to send to a publisher. I sympathise with them having to cast their eye over mountains of slush pile scripts. Maybe a pretty looking book with decent pages and an eye-catching cover will do the trick.

Saturday, 30 June 2007


BLOG EXPLANATION. Many of my most inspiring thoughts come in the form of dreams. Further details on the link. Needless to say, the blog has departed from its manifesto. No apologies.


This book still storming up the Amazon uk chart. £3 off a £6.99 book. Good deal. Great sales. Say no more. It's that bloody tipping point isn't it. The one where you think there must be something in it so you go off and buy the book.


The foul odours hidden in The Smoke. Not only will the new non-smokers have a more keen sense of smell they will be able to breathe in the sweat-encrused pong coming from the bodies of the badly-perfumed drinkers. Mix that in with foul, day-old scents from bottles that ought never to have reached the market place and the lingering fumes from half-eaten meals. YUCK. You're gonna grieve for the all-embracing smell-disguise of cigarette smoke.

Earlyish Night

No late night, no dreams, no short stories, not even a line of poetry, although I do admit that around nine pm I was singing. That was in the local where we were celebrating the end of smoking. Strange thing to be celebrating. All smokers are schizophrenics, half of us want to stop half of us want to carry on. Now the government's decided we're all to be non-smokers, at least in public. It's a bit like that end of term feeling. I guess we're all going to lose a lot of the easy bonhomie that gathered around a group of smokers of a night. Did it do us any harm? Some, yes, but not as much as being obese. Look around, you see elderly smokers but you don't see elderly obese people. A consultant relative of mine said that when she was training, she's now in her thirties, she was told that most diseases in this country would be smoking related. Instead, they're weight related. I'm rather looking forward to giving up. I feel sorry for the publicans around Britain. I imagine they're going to lose massive amounts of earnings. The heavily committed smokers I talk to are simply going to fill their lungs before arriving, stay a shorter time than normal, then return home. Nobody's planning to fill the gardens - this is British weather after all. Those patio heater type things are not going to take off. They're not fun. Also, as any chest specialist will tell you, breathing in hot ciggy smoke outside in the cold air is a darn sight more damaging than sitting in a warm room smoking. My non-smoking friends never seem to mind too much but those amongst us who have given up are horribly unsympathetic. We'll see more of them this six months coming and I guess I will be among them. What's going to happen to the black economy in fags? That will be an interesting one to watch. Bye bye fags, it was great knowing you.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Confidence coming up...

After tackling the issues in the last post my confidence level shot up a few mega wotsits. Why was that? Could it have something to do with the fact that I have confidence in my ability? I think the rejection so far, allied with the minor success, has led to a wibbly-wobbly feeling. Nobody knows you when you're down and out but you have an awful lot of friends when you get back up again. I like the version sung by Clapton. What I am doing today is reassessing why I am writing. I had begun to have my doubts. Dreams are worth pursuing and this is a toughie.

On reading about other writer's mega deals...

That's it. Done. Finished. Promise. First, reading about other people's mega deals, was an encouragement to write. Then it kept me going during the lean times when the people who had made promises turned out to be charlatans, fools or simply too bleedin' optimistic. Then it helped me target agents. Not much new there. Now I'm reading this stuff and it's too bleedin' depressing. Great comment on my (top) explanation post about why bother when there are few comments? From a struggling writer! Why bother writing? Friend, you do it because it was always there. This is a long way from the life I would have chosen for myself but it is what I is, if you pardon the english. Enough. Back to work. Oh, a final word to other struggling writers. Do try and spread a little optimism - it's a tough enough world for us non-rowlings without being told to sod off and stop clogging up the ether. Ouch.


Clearly Tunnels and its Potteresque publicity is working. A first print run of 20,000 when some publishers are dealing in the hundreds. Now a reprint of 30,000. High in the Amazon pre-sales. Good stuff. What surprised me reading about this was that an interview on the R4 Today programme boosted sales at Waterstone's. Really. Must make a note for THE DARK KINGDOM.


Oddly enough, and without meaning to, this writer hits the nail on the head re. my previous post about research. I never meant to imply that you deliberately had to know nothing about a subject in order to write about it, all I was saying is what this person got right: it's the emotional feel of a place and its people that sparks the imagination. Facts are facts, Mr Gradgrind. Get the emotion right and the story has a chance of being born alive. Enough on research. I'm bored now.

Thursday, 28 June 2007


The historical novel I mentioned in the previous blog interested a top editor so much she wanted to publish it. Like a fool I held off until it had been written. Gullible, naive flaming idiot. What more can I say? Except to add that had I gone ahead I would have been richer and poorer. The book money might well have been spent. The book would have been crap. Right now, it's gonna be a belter. But the new one -- oh boy, why am I so excited? Don't answer.


On a more serious note, let's talk RESEARCH. Every time I hear a novelist talking about research my hackles rise above my head. WHAT DO THEY MEAN? Are they writing non-fiction? Are they a journalist trying to write fiction? Are they trying to be a journalist? Fiction is Fiction. It's made up. Dickens used to go for 12-mile walks around London. He would pass dozens, if not hundreds, of pubs. Instead of going in and talking to the customers he preferred to walk past, imagining the conversations and the characters. That's called fiction. Had he tried to re-create the customers his books would have been nowhere near as good, and probably long since forgotten. He used his incredible imagination to create a new world from the real world that he saw from a distance. I'm mentioning this because I become severely ill on reading historical novelists describing their in-depth research. Okay, as far as it goes for physical period detail. Beyond that, are you trying to tell me you have a recording of what so-and-so said 500 years ago? I think not. Where did I go to this afternoon? springs to mind. I came across a wonderful love and adventure story from the 17 century. My "research" consisted of reading enough to see the characters come alive in my mind. That's all. I'll check a few details, as a journalist I don't call that research. I could contact half a dozen experts. But none would be able to tell me how those people spoke, looked, walked, flirted, made love, drank, smoked, fought. At least, not beyond the flimsiest of probably inaccurate details. What matters here is THE STORY. Call it a theme, call it a reason for writing a book, call it a Rabbit in a Hutch, I don't care. The story came alive and that is what I am going to write. It's also solved another problem for me, about writing another historical love story. I wrote, directed and produced a play on that marriage but, in trying to remain faithful to the historical facts, completely lost the plot in trying to write the book. It's now had a hundred failed starts. I had lost sight of the main purpose of writing - to tell a story by bringing the characters, and the events of their lives, ALIVE.


All the bloggers going mad over the Premiership. You would have thought that Gordon Brown was a surprise choice. I'm afraid there's no change. My guess is that Brown was more influential than Blair throughout the past ten years. Nothing happened without Brown's approval. Remember, you heard it here a long time ago, the economy is going into BUST. This will happen sooner rather than later, but it won't be overnight. There are also some serious issues regarding prisons and flooding that need immediate attention. I just wish we had an opposition party to put forward radical alternative ideas. Note to future party political leaders: leadership is about leading, not addressing the concept from the all-embracing nature of the vitality of the multi-faceted focus groups as seen through the statistical analysis of the daily nature of the...........well, you know what I mean. I would love to see a Churchill, or even a Wilson, cutting through the crap we're being delivered on a 24-hour news daily basis.


Really bad night, sick as a dog, sweating like a pig, coughing fit to burst. But another short story. A cartoon character. Great. Next thing I know I'll be writing poetry again. Gimme a break.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007


Okay, I cheated. At about seven I went back to bed. Hardly slept but remembered one of the two dreams from several hours earlier. Lazy boy. I was going to clamber out of bed and make a note. Time to put the Dream Diary beside the bed. At least the one I recall was the best, I think. And it's a short story. I think my chances of publishing a book of short stories is well below zero. The only fairly recent book of short stories that has been promoted in the big bookstores was by Jeffrey Archer. No chance then. What about a name change, Mr Author? JK Archer, perhaps? Jeffrey Rowling? You never know in the wacky world of publishing. That's the joy of writing. Just keep those creative juices flowing, the hope coursing through the veins and the arteries clear for the time when success beckons. Disraeli said something like Fail, Fail Again, Fail Totally and Triumph, Utterly. Anyone find the correct quote. Here's a good one from the same Premier Author: "When I want to read a good book, I write one." That should be all the encouragement an author needs. Inject that confidence.


Woke this morning at a quarter to four and saw the sun rise. Beautiful. This is the niece's 18th birthday. Eighteen years ago I was coming to the end of my stint in Florida. This time in the morning was the only reasonable period. By nine it was boiling the brain if you were foolish enough to sit or stand outside for more than a few minutes. I had decided to take a short holiday and that meant driving to Jacksonville Beach - the local beach, just twenty five miles away along an eight-lane highway. There I would listen to the excellent summertime rock band, drink coke, eat burgers, smoke the odd cig and watch the pelicans gliding by above me. Eighteen years - a lifetime.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007


I interrupt this blog to bring you this missive. With Hot Tuna playing on the iTunes, I felt this is the appropriate time to remind you all that we are on the verge of turning sub-tropical. If you are a visitor to Florida - where the rain comes down in Sheffield-sized buckets - or a reader of Stephen King then you will know about storm drains. These are massive holes at the side of the roads where massive amounts of massive rain comes a tumblin' down and away into even more massive pipes. There to be dismissed from properties, gardens, roads, cars, etc etc etc. There's a story in today's Guardian repeating the point that Britain's infrastructure is not equipped to cope with our new weather. See here. We are going to have to get used to this new climate. Anyway, why am I blogging this on the site I use to talk about what goes through my mind. Well, the answer is that WARLORD is waiting to hit the bookstores and frit you all to death. Stephen, pass that mantle over here, or, at least, let's share!


As you all will know, this time next week none of us will be able to sit down in the tranquil environment of a public house, inhaling loads of passive smoke, even smoking, if that is our wish, and sharing stories over a pint or two. So, yesterday, I walked out determined to enjoy one last glorious Monday. Together with my friend, Warlock, we created the finest Radio 2 Drama-Comedy since Monty Python. I drank what's called quaffing ale; mildly alcoholic. Drank it slowly and so at five decided to visit some more friends up the road. Staying with the quaffing ale I managed to drink more than planned. Strolling back home, cooking a too hot curry, running a boiling bath, I idly switched on the telly and was gobsmacked: BBC NEWS WAS TELEVISING MY NOVEL IN PROGRESS: WARLORD. Sheffield was flooded, Bridlington was flooded, Hull was flooded, half the West Midlands was flooded, and the West Country. There was even an And Finally tagged on saying that Glastonbury was experiencing floods! I blinked, I drank coffee and still the pictures kept coming. So, what do I do now? I'm supposed to be selling this darned book. Are the powers that be looking inside my head? Anyway, went to bed and woke up this morning to realise it's real. According to the experts it seems this was just an unlucky meeting of several weather patterns. I say this is what it's going to be like from now on. Put simply, Britain becomes more like the sub-tropical Florida every day.

Monday, 25 June 2007


Mis Lit is taking over the world. Apparently readers console themselves by discovering that their crappy lives might have been worse. I'm glad this genre is doing well. I've got ONE TO SELL. Actually, very nearly sold the darn thing but the agent got cold feet and told me the market was dying. My old editor friend said that was simply not true. Readers tell me they enjoy these stories because they believe them. (NOTE TO AUTHOR: MAKE IT UP) I've held dozens of these conversations over the years and everyone tells me it's not that they don't like fiction, simply that the stories are not real. In other words, the writer has failed in her job. You see, they believe in Harry Potter. He's real in a fictional sense. Couldn't be more simple. I'm working on a story about a literary agent. It's a thriller in which the poor creature dies in the opening chapter but reappears later on - FLASHBACK, darling. It draws on my limited knowledge of the publishing world combined with life in small villages peopled by rather shady but immensely wealthy characters. Could this be a new genre: LIT LIT? Or does being a thriller rule it out of the LIT category? Don't you just wish for a living Raymond Chandler to cast his acerbic pen over these debates?


On the subject of rubbish being published I think all of us strugglers have definite opinions. But we would do well to remember that TWAS EVER THUS. Many of the world's most hyped and best sold books are now cast out of the publishing memory bank with the also runners sitting on the top of the pile. Either in Kangaroo, or about Kangaroo, can't remember, DH Lawrence ruminated on the fact he found it hard to live on sales of 300. Yet all his work is in print and will remain so, hopefully for as long as books are published. The machine-written bestsellers of today will return to the machine to be pulped. Good thing too. I love the phrase "commercial" almost as much as I love the phrase "mass market paperback". Where are the publishers deliberately aiming to produce non-commercial books and paperbacks not to be bought by the masses?


There's been a lot on the writing sites about competitions recently. Go find, inwardly absorb and then get back to the business of writing fiction. But there is a biggie out there that I need to enter this week -- one with real dosh and top agenting on offer. Like a pike smelling a bream on a fisherman's hook. YUP, go for it. Never give up.


A strange and deeply depressing day yesterday. Why? Lots of reasons. Primarily because the brain cells went into overdrive on Kingdom. Work like that always leaves me drained. Another reason might be some thoughts about the influence of parents on children; in this instance, mine on me and the siblings. Those thoughts were strange and disturbing and not at all connected with the fact the family had a major catastrophe in its early days. That left me feeling well down, wiping the smirk off my face left by the report a little earlier in the week that first-borns have a higher IQ than the later-comers. So TRUE. So very TRUE. Hope the sisters aren't reading this blog. Doubt it, they've got better things to do with their lives. They're into property, accountancy and money-making leisure businesses. Damn sight more sense than writing - as the littlest sis once said - "those little books of yours". Mind you, after seeing several members of several audiences at several plays in TEARS due to my "little plays" I can tell you there's no better feeling in the world. So there you have it - I write to influence as many humans as possible, living or not yet born. Fun, isn't it. Who said it ought to be easy? Dostoyevsky had to struggle and so did Van Gogh. I hate comparisons, plus I can't paint.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Scrawled Notes

A blisteringly hot afternoon, so much so that I was tempted to strip off and lie on the lawn. I spared the sensibilities of passersby by not succumbing to that idle thought. Two scraps of A4 paper and I plotted the remainder of THE DARK KINGDOM. The rains came and swept through the garden, hurling tombstones of water down on people, houses and cars. Seeking shelter in a warm front room I continued with the scraps of paper, my braincells rattling like a washing machine on its final desperate spin. Dear Reader, it all came together. The little tricks, the vast battles, the turmoil of the heroine, the magic of love, the embrace of all life.... I shall not bore you with more. What an incredible feeling. Frankly, I was exhausted. In bed by seven and still not quite with it this morning. All I need to do now is to write the flaming thing. I've dated these notes and shall keep them. Anyone care to put in an advance bid? One of those awesome experiences that makes the writer's life worthwhile.

Saturday, 23 June 2007


I warned that I was watching the progress of TUNNELS like a hawk. Whatever marketing strategy they are following I intend to find out and use it when THE DARK KINGDOM is published. Slight problem here at the moment. No agent. No publisher. All that will change. I'm sure there's someone out there who recognises its potential. Anway, back to the Tunnelling One. It's 42 on Amazon this lunchtime. That means there must be a substantial number of people ordering it. Can't all be friends and family. There's not been enough in the papers to generate sales of this order - or has there? When it comes to word of mouth I would say it's a bit premature when the book isn't out, remember this isn't The Highfield Mole. Well, sort of.... I wish it the best of luck but I'm sorry to say that my story is simply a better read. Well, I would, wouldn't I? Up to a point, Lord Copper. It really is that good. And getting better all the time, as some young band once sang 40 years ago, nearly today.


After all the depression of reading about publishing and the difficulty of, decided to go out with the g/f and her flash new camera to take pictures to illustrate THE DARK KINGDOM. Why I started putting up pictures in the first place I do not know. However, the idea is working. What surprised me was that after playing about with a few old pix that fitted what was in my imagination I came across a few more pix that sparked off ideas for DK. This has never happened before. Obviously I have seen things in real life that made connections with my writing, but this is the first time I've used photographic images in this way. Rather getting into it. We went off to a remarkable old church that was nothing like the description we had been given. Then, on our way back, ran into a National Trust small stately home, if any stately home can ever be described as small, and found a goldmine. I won't give the game away by telling you exactly what we did discover since when you see it I'm hoping you will be enchanted by what we've done with it. In other words, it might spoil the final effect to know what the raw material was. Having done that, we sat in a pub for a couple of hours reviewing the pictures. During that process, with hardly any alcohol, the idea for a movie, stage show and animated website was born. All because of one picture in a place we never intended to visit simply because we didn't know it was there and even if we had done we would never have thought to look at an object that would not have been in the guidebook. Strange world. Rather like the creative process - you may take that sentence in both meanings.

Friday, 22 June 2007


A little anecdote re. the previous two postings. When The Beatles White Album was released in 1968 I set off for Derby one Saturday afternoon to buy it. The biggest music store - whose name has long since dropped out of my main memory banks - had a massive upstairs room filled with thousands upon thousands of albums. At the far end was the sales area: a long pub-style bar with a dozen or so tills. Behind the sales staff was a wall of White Albums. They were in stacks up to the height of a human and side-by-side. Each till point had a long queue. Once I had gone far enough towards the sale point I watched in amazement as the sales assistants appeared to have morphed into an octopus, with arms rapidly stretching back, picking up White Album, handing over to customer, taking money and repeating at a speed I have never seen since. It was, as so many people love to say, a seminal experience. Guess what? Granted there must have been Beatles pictures in the windows but there was no need to keep the album anywhere but piled high behind the tills. We all knew what we wanted. Some of us might even have bought something from the shelves on the way to the till.

One more point

Further to the previous blog I must add that if you peruse the websites of all the publishers - major and minor - you will find a vast number of apparently readable books! You will not find many of them in the bookstores. Nor will you hear about them in the newspapers. All this would be funny if it were not so sad. I don't think Amazon solves the problem - can't do, despite all its efforts it's not really much good for browsing. I would suggest there's a market for a totally different - and probably extremely huge - new style of bookstore. One fact that strikes me as odd is the way bookstores differ from supermarkets. In the latter, all you do not want to buy is stuck in the entrance and close to it, so you have to pass this attractively-packaged pile of goods in order to reach what you really want which is always placed either at the rear or the back of the store. Think bread, think milk, think soft drinks. Why then, on entering the bookstore, are the books the public is going to buy stuck at the front? (You might disagree saying that the new Deaver needs this place. Don't agree. Certainly the new Potter does not need a place in the store at all, except in the rear stock room to be brought out on request) Surely it would make sense to put the much publicised easy reads at the back of the store, forcing customers to browse along the shelves on the way, possibly picking up another title. On a related point, I notice the Waterstone's debate on charges. I'm not going into that except to say that with my comparison between bookstores and superstores the major manufacturers also pay massive amounts up front to secure certain positions in the supermarket store.


A distressing blog this morning from the CEO of Macmillan, Richard Charkin. Not quite sure how to respond to this plea from the heart from a fellow struggling author. What's really depressing is that he appears to have a really good agent. Clearly someone well up in the business believes this man writes great stories. Is this what agents mean when they write back talking about a 'difficult' publishing climate? Guess so. On a brighter note all I can say is that it is impossible to comment without reading the material. The would-be author is more than correct in describing so many hyped novels as next to worthless, his words were: "...truly awful fiction." My main bitch about the big book stores is that they all seem to be offering the same books. All these books might well have been written by a machine; they all revolve around one or two main characters engaged in some hunt to the death. The world of films is often criticised for bringing out sequels. The world of books seems to do nothing but. I'm not saying they're unreadable; indeed some are great fun. But there seems to be a huge gap between the formula book - whether a thriller or a life horror or a something-lit - and the huge range of classic good books. By classic I mean everything from Dostoyevsky to Pullman. As a child I loved reading Agatha Christie. There came a moment one day when I stopped and since then have never read another, although I love the film and tv adaptations. And that last sentence, dear reader, contains a major truth about modern day publishing. Every single Christie book has either been filmed or will be soon. How many of these thrillers and horror lit books makes it to film? Very few. At this point I ought to mention one of the exceptions, Harlan Coben's TELL NO ONE. Knowing how hungry the film business is for stories why is it that so few have been turned into movies? Could it be that when you look more closely, rather than page turn like an obsessive maniac, there is not enough there to hold the cinemagoer's attention for one and a half hours? There is an incredible craziness about linking celebrity with books. I am still waiting to find one person who bought a book by a celebrity because of their looks, their youth, their success in another field of work. Well, well. Of course I am excluding bio and auto bio. Nothing wrong in reading endless bios of The Beatles. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. Even bought Lennon's IN HIS OWN WRITE but that was because he was an artist. Ditto Dylan's CHRONICLES. It is so depressing walking into a big bookstore and being faced with a wall of celeb biogs, novels etc. Does any other branch of showbusiness (ouch) operate in this way. The famous author miming rock songs, the famous author treading the fashion catwalk, the famous author standing in as top politician for a month. No, of course it does not. There are exceptions, obviously, when a person is multi-talented. But, in general, the answer is no. So why treat the poor reader abominably? The reader wants a story. Simple as that. Is that too difficult to provide? The real point about the success of the Harry Potter Sevenology is that JK Rowling provided stories. The titles were brave in the extreme and writing about life in a magical public school struck me as weird. But the stories interested readers, not all, but certainly the ones otherwise compelled to read the simplistic stuff popping up on the shelves of the big stores and supermarkets. I have been an obsessive reader since the age of four and I don't ever want to ditch the stories the writers produce for stories about the writer. Once I have read most if not all of a writer's output then I will be interested to learn about that writer's life. Here, though, it is important not to go down the 'Golden Egg' syndrome. If there's anything linking novelists' struggles is surely is that each life, each story, each struggle, is different. I could go on - that's enough on this topic for a while.

Thursday, 21 June 2007


I is watching dis like a ork. Barry Cunningham, the man who spotted Harry, is promoing a crossover novel as the rightful successor to Potter. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not sure how he could achieve this. I don't think there are many people out there who do, since so many of the so-called next big new things fall flat on their face. Of course, the truth will out when the public get to read the book. But they might have bought it before the truth dawns that it ain't the new Potter. Then again, maybe it is. We shall see. However, I notice this morning that it's part of a half price - well 43 per cent off - deal on Amazon. Crucial words "up to", are they not? It's pre-sale figures this morning put it at 63 in the list of bestsellers. It's been high every day I've checked. Now that is successful. Don't think 63 makes it a Potter but it's certainly better than those languishing in the thousands, like a friend of mine who's work went from 90,000 to 9,000 in a day. I think the rise was the result of one sale! There's a lot riding on Tunnels and I wish it the best of luck. Naturally I would say THE DARK KINGDOM is the one to take on the Potter mantle, but I would, wouldn't I, yer honour.


Walking around town after watching Tell No One I got to thinking about THE DARK KINGDOM. The story is coming along so fast I wonder whether it's worth doing a Simenon and just sitting down and finishing it within the week. It's either going to work or it ain't. I shall find out. That's the next task. If only to discover what really happens in this strange and magical allegorical tale.


So, plucked up courage to sit in the cinema watching a French flick. Two hours later and if you caught me at a lax moment I could not have sworn it was sub-titled. The words, actions and titles were immaculate. The story was perfectly filmed, true to the book and contained more smoking scenes than all the Hollywood films of the past decade. Wonderful. Rather pleasing to see as many in the cinema as there were for Ocean's Thirteen. Two completely different films but both excellent. An extremely emotional ending. Not wanting to take away from its glory but I can see THE FORGOTTEN WARRIOR having an even more emotional ending.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007


Went to cheapo day at the flicks and saw the much maligned sequel. Reminded me of my old adage that if preparing to see a film that you expected to be good it was usually the opposite and vice versa. Could not have been more enthralled. Beautifully filmed, lots of realistic action, loads of 'tip of the iceberg' stuff that knew how to retain the viewer's interest without turning silly. It also has the finest most erotic scene in film, and without anyone taking off their clothes. Far from being bored witless by an endless remake I came away enchanted by a film that ought to go on the media courses as a classic example of how to make an entertaining crime thriller, or whatever the film people call this genre.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007


Loose link here between the last most serious post and the crucial need for bees to pollinate crops. This is a cheer-up picture.

Isn't it beautiful? Taken with a macro lens on top-of-the-range non-slr Canon. Not by me!


Isaac Newton predicting the End of The World. Cool stuff from someone who discovered so much about this Universe. I see it's already being dismissed as the ramblings of a fool. Well not quite as bad as that but I can see the eyebrows being raised. Probably this is because Newton was delving into The Scriptures to consider prophecy. I find it incredibly naive and arrogant to so easily dismiss a man with such a proven knowledge of science. He was also doing it to dismiss the frequent spoutings of the End of The Worlders at that time. I use the 60 years left on this planet for human life advisedly in my light-hearted Book to Be about Global Warming. I put this figure in the introduction because this timescale was given to me by a friend who was quoting one of the world's leading geologists. I also could not sleep last night thinking about this subject. My theory is that none of the usual suspects will be responsible for ending human life. It will be something rather simple - something we're currently overlooking. Bit like trying to see the nose on your face.


Is it the sun shining? I woke this morning with the realisation that only utter total confidence was going to be of any help in the writing and the selling and the marketing and the branding and the positioning of the books. No point whining and whinging. No point having doubts. Get out there and believe in your stories beyond all else. Reading about how Roderick Gordon sold his house to produce Tunnels and it being described as a 'rags-to-riches' story made we want to shout: IS THAT ALL? I've got a far better story. Sold more than a house, babee. Because I truly believe. At the moment it's still 'rags to rags' but this confidence thing is going to make the difference. The books are going to work.

Sunday, 17 June 2007


That's what it's all about. Artists being vulnerable.


Are all my fellow bloggers taking the entire day off? No excitement out there, at least from those I most trust to interest me. Never mind, I shall watch a bit of Queen and Led Zep on t'beeb, before bed. Actually met someone this afternoon who actually met Syd Barrett. Knew him in 1968 and knew what happened to him. What an amazing story he had to tell. You think I'm sharing -- not at the moment, definitely in the fullness of time. Fascinating stuff. Doncha just hate it when people do this to you? I do? Off to rock and then dream.

More Wilbur and The Dark Kingdom

Promise to read a bit more Wilbur today. Then add to The Dark Kingdom. It's coming along fine. This blog is about what goes on in a writer's mind. I am trying to filter the horrors as well as the goodness of this world through a story about another world. Isn't that what all writers aim to achieve, to leave their mark on Planet Earth? No, it's not.


Another year older and deeper in debt, as the song goes. The sun is shining, there's good in this world and a lot needs changing. Ah well, time to relax a while.


Just read this - relevant to earlier posts - one of the saddest most horrible stories of our time.

Do I call it THE VENAL or THE FERAL?

Someone give me an answer. This article in The Sunday Times, by Simon Jenkins, certainly explains why we need a Free Press. Times are going to become much tougher for all of us, whether financially due to Gordon Brown's BOOM AND BUST economics or through GLOBAL WARMING. Frankly, I thought this sort of stuff would take at least a couple of decades to take effect, particularly GW. I was wrong. It's happening now. You don't believe me. Good. Watch. I saw Alastair Campbell in Millbank before New Labour took over. He seeming deeply scary. I always worry when someone is not open to debate. I can well understand the feral need to fight off the so-called Tory Press, but the methods of bullying went well beyond what ought to have reasonable behaviour. I told a colleague at the time, I think it was when Campbell went for Michael White's throat at one news conference, that the worm would turn. When you are bullied you either live or die. If you live you wait for the chance to get back at the bully. That was why I said that the Campbell-New Labour approach would be disastrous for the Labour Party. N.B. A final point. I thought the Labour Party represented those who clocked on and clocked off of a day for a manual job. If there's a statistician reading this I would suggest investigating just how many proper "working class" people can bring up a family without benefits. Then, you might see a need for a political party aimed at the poorer - but majority - of people in this country.


Odd story here in The Sunday Times. How many more stories like these are we going to get? It's fascinating reading material.

Saturday, 16 June 2007


Okay, let's have some HOPE in this blog. I gave up a reasonably paid staff-salaried BBC job yonks ago to do something I had always wanted to do, and started doing at the age of 5 (YES FIVE YEARS OLD I WROTE AND DIRECTED AND PERFORMED, WITH MY THEN TWO SISTERS, MY FIRST PLAY --- THANK GOD VIDEO CAMERAS HAD NOT BEEN INVENTED) - so, why do I remember I was 5? Cos I asked Mum, after the play, to give me a boy for my next cast. Mum was "With Child". We were washing clothes at the time and pulling them through the two rollers that squashed out the water. Mum was beside the sink, facing the window, and I was standing in the middle of the room. One thing a writer has, which is often more of a curse than a blessing, is a perfect visual imagination. Also, sometimes, you can recall whole conversations. Back to the pregnancy and the wording: "With Child". Remember, Dad was a doctor, Mum was a nurse. Both had been through the Second World War and seen things that were so horrible they never let on until I was in my mid-twenties. So, why do I use that phrase? Well, when my eldest sister was preggie with first baby the rector said: "Congratulations on being pregnant." My Mum and Dad were FURIOUS. "PREGNANT, he said." The word was taboo. Me, so what, I thought. At least she's married! Back to my original point. Writers should reflect the world in which they live. The older I get the more I realise that absolutely nothing has changed since the days of Dostoyevsky and Kafka. So -- what about I ghost a great new novel by David Beckham?


I read Grumpy's post and I EMAILED HIM. I Emailed a HERO. WHAT AM I DOING? It's one thing trying to contact the usual suspects --- but actually talking to someone who is a real writer and also knows about the book business. Get a grip, writer. You are hovering above your natural home in the sewer. Think Kafka - go home, get salaried job. Write books. Tell friend to destroy upon death. Guess you'll never know whether the work was any good or not. Suffer Trial, go to Castle, Metamorphose into a Bug.


Grumpy Old Bookman comes to the rescue. I wondered about this Highfield Mole book and now comes something supporting my premise that all is not as it seems.

Rain, Wilbur and Writing

A slow day today with a bit of Mr Smith, a lot of rain and a sprinkling of writing. I was wondering what to listen to when I remembered that I have missed this week's Bob Dylan on Radio 2. Assuming he's still there, I'll catch up with him. Best programme on music I have heard since Ian Dury did a radio prog yonks ago. Always recall how back then the BBC top dogs weekly meeting referred to their surprise on discovering that a "pop star" had intelligence!