31 March 2011

Beer and Television

Until recently, I would have told you that life would not seem to be worth living without my two main .... pleasures?  Distractions?  Ways of avoiding life?  Methods of wasting precious time?

Take television.  I used to sit down and watch whatever was on, then whatever came after that.  If I asked myself the next day I'll be surprised if I remembered anything about the programmes' content, or even what they were called.  Let's be conservative and say seven thirty to ten every night, that's two and a half hours.  Every night.  Nine hundred and twelve hours a year, that's the equivalent to TWENTY SIX WORKING WEEKS!  SIX MONTHS!

People ask how I manage to do a full time job and write 100,000 words a year.  That's how.  I stopped watching TV every night.  Now, if I watch it I decide what to watch and switch off as soon as it has finished.

It's not such a great rate of production either.  I can compose at the rate of about 1,000 words per hour.  So, if I wrote during all the time saved by not watching TV I ought to produce almost ten times what I actually do.  Almost a million words!

Now beer.  I love beer, I love the nice feeling of relaxation it brings, I love the taste.  I used to drink beer every day.  Most lunchtimes, I would have a beer.  The first thing I did when I got home was to grab a cold beer from the fridge and settle down with it in front of the TV.

I can't write worth a damn when I have drunk even the smallest amount of alcohol.  I know some people swear by it, but that's me.  I can't write, I don't actually want to write when I'm drinking.

Fortunately, it has given me up.  The desire for beer is now subdued by the desire to write.  I love beer but I love writing even more.  I love writing so much there is now no contest.

Beer and Television, I love you both but not enough to spend the rest of my life with you.

25 March 2011

Writer's Block

There is a condition called writer's block.  I don't suffer from it, probably because I have less time for writing than I need.  Friends and family might comment that I have never suffered from talker's block either.

I do suffer from feelings of unworthiness which I expect are common to many, if not all, writers.  It's that feeling that whatever I do it won't be good enough, so what's the point?  This can stop me in my tracks and make me abandon whatever it is I'm doing or carry on but take no pleasure from it.

In order to get over this problem the writing technique that works for me is simple.  I write stuff even if it's rubbish.  I write every day, even if it's a tiny bit.  I write what comes to me regardless of what I might have planned to write.

Sometimes I sit down to write with the intention of getting my protagonist from point A to point B.  There are clear steps needed to achieve this that have been running through my mind.  I begin writing and suddenly find my character has arrived at point C without any help from me.  This used to worry me, after all I'm the writer, I'm supposed to be in charge.

It's a question of detail. My favourite authors introduce their characters effortlessly.  A few well chosen words and I have a clear mental image.  They also move seamlessly from one scene to another without need for ticket purchase or stopping to put petrol in a tank.  I have a tendancy to get caught up in all that detail.  Things like the number on the bus, timetables, the names of the bus stops, a description of the driver, of the bus, of each of the passengers.... 

I have learned that very little of this needs to be written but that doesn't mean it's not needed.  As long as I know, the reader can relax in the knowledge that it has all been taken care of and they can be spared the detail.  It's up to me to make sure it all hangs together. 

In the film "Robin Hood", Kevin Costner arrives at Dover, having rowed all the way from Egypt, sets off walking and announces that he will be dining with his father in Nottingham that evening. The author obviously has no idea of the distance between Dover and Nottingham and has certainly never travelled on the East Coast Main Line.  I have to avoid that sort of mistake because readers have the tendancy to assume that if they identify one inconsistency in a story then the rest of it is almost certainly rubbish as well.

One more thing, I am proud to tell you that Christian Pankhurst has raised over $35,000 for children in Japan with the appeal I made in my previous blog.  Well done Christian!  You are a wonderful man with a great big heart.

21 March 2011


My science fiction writing is of the near future variety. In other words, I change our world just a little and speculate about the effect of these changes on people's lives. The terrible events in Japan have made our world a very different place from the one I have been writing from. The starting point has shifted dramatically.

The cataclysmic events in Japan are so extreme they are hard to believe. The graphic images that so clearly depict the devastation are themselves difficult to comprehend. I am tempted to consign them to the mental compartment I have assigned to Hollywood special effects.

The heroic efforts of the workers at Fukushima Diaiichi are quite breathtaking.

It isn't the events that touch me, it's the human experiences associated with them.

I feel guilty for being cosy and safe. I  feel sadness by imagining my own feelings if I were faced with the loss of loved ones.

As a Science Fiction writer, it is a reminder that it's people that matter more than events.  If I describe something remarkable, it must have an effect on someone's emotions for it to be interesting.  It is the human story that engages, that's what interests people.

On an unashamedly campaigning note I share the following with you.  I have mentioned Christian before and the profound positive influence he has in my own life.

He has just re-opened a special 'Lite' version of his Accelerated Awakening Coaching Program for just 48 hours and is giving away 100% of the proceeds (less credit card fees) to the Japan Tsunami victims.

This is a wonderful way to support those in need right now, while investing in your own awakening and growth.
Christian's work is all about living life from your Heart and getting more of who you are out and letting more of others in.

Last week, Christian sold out his coaching program and filled every one of his retreats around the world for the entire YEAR of 2011.
But although his coaching program has fully sold out, Christian decided to release a special discounted version (without the live events), available only for a couple of days, and you can get started for as little as $97. The price alone is amazing, but what's more incredible is that it's ALL going to support the Japanese tragedy that's happening right now.
Find out exactly what this program contains and make a difference today by clicking on the link below:


This is your chance to get access to one of the most profound and life transforming coaching programs for half price while supporting and making a massive difference to the lives of thousands who are suffering right now.
P.S. This sale closes at midnight Pacific on Thursday 24th March. After this date, this program will no longer be available.  Reserve your space now:

Go on, I dare you to.  Or are you chicken?

13 March 2011

Writing and Chickens

I have been telling anyone who might be interested, and many that aren't, how easy it is to get published these days. All you have to do, I tell them, is to upload your book to Kindle and there it is. Published. You are an author, not only a writer. Easy.

A friend from the writers circle who has heard me pronounce on this matter emailed me for more details. He also asked me how many of my own novels had I published in this way. This might seem a reasonable question, but it only served to confirm to me that I was at it again. By that I mean telling everyone else what to do without actually doing any of it myself.

My reply to his question was as follows:

"Technical Difficulties (250,000 words) has been edited, needs to be rewritten then re-edited, then rewritten again, then copy edited then submitted then published."

So there, that's that, a long way off. Years and years.

Or is it?

It's been about a year since I finished the first draft and had the editorial comments back. My first instinct was to get on with fiddling around with it, what I actually did was start a new project, Due Diligence, which is nearing completion. More by luck than judgement, this seems to be the recommended way. Letting the first draft settle and mature allows a more considered approach to the rewrite, it seems.

So, thanks to Alan for kicking me into gear. I will finish the DD first draft then back to TD with a vengeance. I can feel the enthusiasm building. It's going to be awesome.

Which brings me to chickens.

If it hadn't been for the infectious enthusiasm of my daughters, I might have continued to play safe, take the easy way, do nothing. As it is with chickens, so it goes with writing.
The chickens are on their way, so are the books.

8 March 2011

The Future of Publishing

There are big changes afoot in the world of publishing.  Now that writers can upload their work as en e-book and make it available for anyone in the world to read (and even to buy!), the roles of publishers, literary agents, bookshops and libraries have been brought into question.  Some believe they will disappear entirely.

My ambition as a writer has not changed, it is to be published by Gollancz and I hope they are listening. 

When I was a child, I would go into Tyldesley library on Saturday morning to pick my books for the coming week.  Those bright yellow jackets were like beacons and contained the very best Science Fiction long before the genre was credible enough to have its own section on the shelves.  Much of what I read in those far off days is still held in awe and esteem.  Alldis, Asimov, Blish, Pohl, Lieber, Williamson, Farmer, Delaney, Silverberg, Heinlein, the names trip off my tongue even now.  Theodore Sturgeon, now he was a favourite of mine and I never once questioned the authenticity of his name.  To my innocent mind, there was (or is) a Mrs. Sturgeon justifiably proud of her lad.

The point I am about to make is that if anyone can upload any old crap to Kindle then they will.  I know I am very tempted to put Technical Difficulties up there and see if anyone buys it, even for 99p.  The problem that stops me is one of craft.  Writing a first draft is only the beginning, it isn't an end.  There's lots more to do before it can be released into the public domain.

First, it needs tidying up.  Cliches need to be fished out, useless words need to be deleted and those annoying repetitions that are just so annoying and keep being repeated, well they need to go as well.  Otherwise a reader will throw the book up on the air in frustration before they get to page 2.

Second, it needs reading by someone who has little or no vested interest in the author's state of mind.  This generally rules out family and friends, unless they are both ruthless and cruel.

Third, it has to be edited.  This is something a publisher would do once a book has been accepted.  Now, I fear this essential step might get missed as a self-published author will have to pay for this professional service.

Fourth, it has to be copy edited.  Not only do errors and mispellings have to be removed but grammar and punctuation must be corrected.  Again, an essential service if the poor reader is expected to persevere to the end of the book.

Fifth, some cover art is needed.  Even if it is an e-book and there is no dead tree edition (this shows how well up on the jargon I have become) something has to attract the reader and give them a clue about the content.

Sixth, the book has to be marketed.  Someone has to sell it, someone has to get it onto shelves or into the limelight.  Again, a publisher used to do this.

So, in the good old days of Gollancz SF with yellow covers, all an author had to do was to write something interesting.  Gollancz would do the rest.

Now, it looks like we're going to be on our own.

My friend Christian says you can watch his free video if you click here:


3 March 2011

Developing Character

I find it interesting that my writing has this wonderful way of reflecting my own state and that as I change and develop, so can my characters.  As I become more alive and more human so do they.

In the first draft of Technical Difficulties, my hero wanders though his awesome, amazing experiences completely unaffected by them and wishing he was somewhere else.  The extent to which this was autobiographical only dawned on me slowly.  It was hard to come to terms with the realisation that this was how I was living my own life.

I believe that the way that I change and develop is an important part of my writing.  As my own awareness improves, so does the quality of the characters I am describing. If I can be in touch with my own feelings, I can describe those felt by others more realistically.

Not only has this process helped my writing, it has also brought me more joy in my life.  The distractions and old patterns that keep me away from greater fulfilment and enjoyment are gradually falling away.

Three main people have supported me in these profound changes and helped me to access more joy.

One of these is a man called Christian Pankhurst. I met him a few years ago and have had the good fortune of one to one sessions with him, attended his live events and enjoyed his on-line courses. I count him as a friend and a man I trust completely.

Christian's approach is called Heart Intelligence and is truly inspiring.
I wholeheartedly commend you to check him out.


Watch his video.

You'll learn:

-- How Heart Intelligence can transform your Health, Wealth and Happiness.
-- How we defend against receiving the good stuff in life.
-- How to remove the resistance that holds you back in life.
-- How to receive more of what you want.
-- How to get more of who you are out into the world.

As I said, he's a friend who has helped me to experience more of what is good in my life.


The other two, in case you are wondering, are my wife, Anne Marie, and Richard Farmer http://www.soulmoves.co.uk/about.php

Thanks to these three people in particular, life is good, writing is exciting and full of pleasure and every day brings new opportunities for joy.

I'll tell you about the chickens very soon.