My New Digital HQ

Well, I’m back! It’s been quite a while since I last posted on this blog. It was July last year when I was trying to get my reviewing going again, to give people something to come by this site to read. If I’m honest, I don’t really enjoy reviewing, so I find it hard to build up any momentum. Also, I would rather be spending that energy working on prose, or my PhD.

The reason for my return is great, no, incredible news: I’ve signed with a publisher!

I’ve been sitting on this for a few months as, but now that the publisher have made it official I can finally share the news here.

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 17.02.08

HQ Digital are a digital first imprint of HarperCollins (and if you had asked me when writing the novel who I would want to publish it my first answer would have been HarperCollins), and they have picked up my novel Goodbye For Now, a novel about the First World War.

I don’t want to say to much at the moment (I’m sure HQ will reveal all in good time), but I have already been hard at work with my editor on revisions, and it won’t be long before you can all get your copy to read. I’m so excited and the team at the publishers have been absolutely lovely. I never thought I would be made to feel so welcome.

I’m currently drinking my morning tea from the awesome mug they sent me as a Christmas present (It also came with a luxury hot chocolate, which I’m saving for when I get the next revisions back):

HQ Digital Mug

I’ve never received a Christmas present from an employer or client before, and it’s a nice touch. Just one example of how lovely they’ve been to me, even before signing the contract.

I really can’t wait for you all to read the novel, but there’s still lots of hard work to do. The next thing I hope to share with you is the front cover, but I’ve been told that will be a couple of months yet. I’m hoping that if it sells enough copies then it will come out in paperback. So I’m counting on all of you.

In the meantime I’d better get back to writing the next novel/PhD work, before I receive the next round of revisions.

Soooooooooooon.

Thanks for reading!

You can find HQ Digital here on: Facebook / Twitter: @HQDigitalUK / Website

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How to Write When You’re Not Writing

Okay, so today’s post is a day late. No, it’s not because I spent ages trying to think of a pun for the title. As you can see I failed in that anyway. No, it was was to do with the fact that I was away at Download Festival in Donington Park all weekend. I fully intended to write a post when I got home yesterday, but energy and time escaped me. So, you can have it today instead. Aren’t I kind to you?

Today’s blog is in a way about Download Festival. Not directly as such, but more what happens when things like festivals, conventions, and other events get in the way of your writing. If you’re an aspiring writer then you probably will be, and should be, attending all sorts of conventions and events to meet fellow writers, agents, and publishers. Things like writing retreats are great to get away and put pen to paper. But what if the event you’re attending isn’t conducive to writing? What if it’s something like a festival where you are stuck in a field for days, cut off from the internet, and horror of horrors, having fun? *gasp*

Well, I would say that this is where ‘thinking’ comes in. Yes, it sounds silly, but it’s something I’ve talked about before. There is a lot more to writing than just typing words on a page. There’s research, planning, and plotting. All of which I’ve covered in previous blogs.

When I’m not by the computer, and even when I’m not carrying a notepad (this isn’t very often, but sometimes I forget it), I spend a lot of time thinking about my story. This can be absolutely anything to do with your story, but it’s a good idea to sometimes take some distance from the page and to just think about it. As I’ve said before before you start writing you need to know certain things about your story and characters.

A writer is always writing.

Right now, as I type this, I’m thinking about a few plot points of the novel I’m currently working on. Because to be fully immersed in it, to be able to write it well, it can never leave you.

I find it useful at the very least to run through dialogue. This can often be tricky to write, and young/inexperience writers often try and cram too much information into dialogue. It needs to be natural. Just sit somewhere and listen to how people talk. Most of what they’re saying is in what they’re not saying.

So, what I’ll do is run through the dialogue in my head, before I’ve even written it. What would that character say in that situation. No that doesn’t sound right, try again. Yes, that’s what they’re trying to say, but this is what they’re actually saying. By the time it gets to the page it’ll feel more ‘real’. As far as you’re concerned those characters have already had that conversation, you’re not making it up on the spot any more.

Dialogue isn’t the only think that you can think through. This weekend, I spent a bit of time, on the bus between Nottingham and Donington Park, thinking about the hierarchies in my novel. Who represents the main organisation, and what are their job roles? This all works towards having a workable, relatable world, even if it is science fiction. By thinking through this, it also brought up relationships between characters: if that was so and so’s job role, then actually they would treat so and so like this…

In short, there is so much that you can be doing, when you don’t have a chance to actually write prose, that will benefit your story. Try not to beat yourself up about not ‘writing’ and realise that actually what you are doing is ‘writing’, just not the physical side of it. I’m not saying drift off and waste time daydreaming and never get you’re writing down. But if you can’t write, then thinking through dialogue, characters, setting, or scenes can help you when you come back to the computer and that blank page that you left behind.

Thanks for reading, and if you liked what I have to say, or even disagree with it please comment below.

Science Fact-ion

“It’s Science Fiction, you can just make it up!”

One of the biggest assumptions and mistakes I have made is that writing Science Fiction is easier because, well, it takes place in a made up world. That means I’ve got my own sandbox to play in; I can do what I want.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy – writing, in general, never is.

The first full length novel I wrote was a Historical Fiction novel. It took hours and hours (and hours!) of research to just be able to start it. I wrote one chapter at the very beginning, and it just felt wrong. I didn’t want to approach the subject matter until I had got it right, and I felt like I already had a pretty good handle on the World Wars. Even now, after reading piles of books, there is still more that I could learn about these particular settings. As it was a World War One novel, about the trenches and conscientious objectors, I felt that it was too sensitive a subject to get any detail wrong. Sure, there’s room for artistic license. The characters I created didn’t actually exist, despite getting family names from censuses at the time, but everything else had to be right. The Liverpool Rifles couldn’t suddenly turn up at Gallipoli, because they weren’t there!

So, turn to Science Fiction and these sorts of things should be easier, right? My characters can go where-ever, and do whatever they want? Again, it’s not that easy.

Science Fiction readers are particularly attentive to detail. It’s an important part of the genre. After all, you can’t have Science Fiction without Science. If a ship goes between two planets in a matter of hours you’d better make sure you know how. I guarantee you someone will ask. Or worse, it will take someone out of the story and they’ll put your book down. As a writer, that’s the last thing you want.

I started planning my current novel thinking, ‘ack, I can sort that as I go along.’ However, the more I tried to plan and work out what was happening to the characters the more something didn’t feel right. What they were doing and how they were reacting didn’t make sense, because I didn’t yet have a sense of their world. This is a little easier in short stories, as the story world itself is usually smaller.

There are a few planets and cultures, with different factions, involved in the story and I first needed to work out how these worked. What made the humans tick? What were the aliens’ motives? If both cultures were on this planet, why? What did they eat, drink? How did their economy work.

Some of this may seem a little indulgent, but unless these places and cultures are real living, breathing things, at least in my head, then the readers won’t believe in them either. I ended up reading books about quantum physics and various other things. At least I find that stuff interesting. Writing, for me, is another way of learning, of absorbing information.

I still don’t think I’ve got everything right, and sure more will come out as I tell the story, but the chapters I’ve written are starting to feel more right, more real, as I go along.

Maybe someday you’ll be able to read it and see what I mean?

My Year in Books 2015 (Part 1)

Last year I signed off the year with a list of books that I read in 2014. This year it’s already March and I haven’t got round to doing the same thing yet – okay, nearly the end of March. Well, I’ve been busy since early December putting together the application for my PhD, so as you can imagine I’ve been pretty occupied. All being well, it should now be off to the application panel for approval – fingers crossed.

So, I’ve found a bit of free time to make a post. I’m a bit sad that this is the first one of the year, but I hope to make some more this year. Anything you’d like me to write a post about, tell me in the comments section below. I’m open to suggestions.

I’m still working towards the draft of my World War One novel. It’s so close to being finished now that it’s frustrating, but there were parts of the story that I really wanted to make sure were told, so I had to extend the word count a bit and juggle some things around. It’s going quite well now and I aim to have it finished by the end of the month. (Oh crap, that’s next Thursday!)

On to my 2015 in the form of books then. This time I wanted to add the star rating for each book that I gave it on Goodreads, and perhaps write a little bit about each book. so, bear with me:


Serenity Graphic Novels #1-3 (****)

I started the year with these three graphic novels about everyone’s favourite Whedon show that got cancelled. If, like me, you love the show, then I thoroughly recommend reading them. Joss used them to continue the story in the way he would have like to have done, had they not been cancelled.

Robert Jordan – Lord of Chaos (Wheel of Time #6) (***)

One of the longest series in fantasy seemed to get even longer with this book. I marked improvement on the last book, which was, the only way I can describe it from memory is ‘dull’. But there still seems to be something missing. I’m not normally one to complain about the journey – too many people want to jump to the end as if they don’t enjoy reading (see the Horus Heresy series) – but these books reveal so very little about the characters. Everyone just constantly seems grumpy with everyone else, particularly the women, and we don’t really see much of a character arc. One day I will read the next book and hope it does more for me.

Honour of the Space Marines – Anthology (****)

A nice little collection of Space Marine stories from each chapter.

Andy Weir – The Martian (*****)

I absolutely loved this book! If you haven’t read it yet, then what are you doing? Stop reading this rubbish and get on with it. I thought at first that the epistolary style would be a bit grating for an entire novel, but it really works. Andy Weir’s writing is vey natural, engaging and funny. I’m yet to watch the film, but I hear that’s good too.

Isaac Asimov – The Caves of Steel (****)

What’s there to say about Asimov? I find you either get him or you don’t. I was researching some Sci Fi crime and this fit the bill. An enjoyable read.

Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles (****)

See above. A little too abstract for my taste, but still a good read.

Steve Parker – Deathwatch (****)

Also for research, but the less said about that the better. It was good to see a full story about the Deathwatch Space Marines. Steve is a solid writer, and I never find anything much if at all to be critical about his work.

Neil Gaiman – Neverwhere (*****)

Yes, I’d never read it before. Oh, Neil… the only word I can truly use to describe your work is ‘fantastic’. Hearing him read at the opening of the Liverpool University lectures added to my love of this man’s work. I cannot recommend it enough, but you knew all about it already didn’t you?

That’ll do for now. This has made me want to go off and read.

I will endeavour to post part 2 tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.