Objection and ME

I’m annoyed. Annoyed at myself mainly, but also annoyed at this condition I suffer from. (Last week I published a post about ME, which you can read here.)

As part of my MA in writing I set to writing a World War One novel. There were two main reasons for doing this. The first was that I have always had a love for history, and learning the lessons of the past to contextualise where we are today. As a teenager, I visited the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres. The graves and memorials set off something in me, something that I can only describe as a longing to understand “why”?

The second reason for writing the novel is that I wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone of science fiction and fantasy and take advantage of the advice and guidance available on my Masters.

The more I researched the setting the more I saw how much Liverpool was linked to the war, and how much it was shaped by it. Everything around me held some link to the war. There were also several Liverpool regiments that fought in the bloodiest battlefields of the Great War. There were so many stories that needed to be told. I’d also watched a Sky one show called ‘Chickens’ about the conscientious objectors, those that refused to fight in the First World War, and it struck me that even a hundred years later these people were considered to be cowards. It infuriated me, and I decided to put a conscientious objector in my novel; the soldier’s brother.

Through drafting it became more and more obvious that both brothers had a story to tell, and through their contrasting stories would show the greater horror of The Great War.

I’m annoyed because last May (2016) I finished the full manuscript of the novel. (The first part was heavily edited as part of my portfolio work for my MA), and I was fairly happy to start sending it out to agents.

I’m annoyed because I then got very ill. I had the worst sinus infection I have ever had, and begun to feel like I did before I was first diagnosed with ME. I’ve only recently started to get back on my feet.

I’m annoyed because I’ve been sending it out to agents recently, but I’m worried that they will think I only wrote this novel to ride on the interest and popularity of the centenary of the First World War, which to me was merely a coincidence for the reasons I have mentioned earlier. I’m also worried that because it is already 2017 and a publishing cycle usually takes about two years (or so I believe?), that agents/publishers won’t take a risk because they think that it will miss the centenary of the end of the war, and the resultant interest.

I’m also annoyed because the film Hacksaw Ridge came out of left field and told the story of a ‘conchie’ in the second world war. It’s a different story, as conchies in WWI arguably had to go through a lot more, but it’s still a concern that people may feel this novel was written due to that. (I wish I could write 130,000 words that quickly!)

I hope that someone will pick it up. It was a very important story to write, and an important story to tell. I genuinely believe people will gain something from reading it. It would be a shame for it to sit in my drawer for the rest of my days.

If you know someone who may be interested, or are interested yourself, please get in contact. I will be more than happy to hear from you!

2016 is Dead, long li- Nah, scratch that.

So, I haven’t blogged in quite a while (March last year was the last time – eek!) and a couple of conversations over the past few days have encouraged me to say hello again.

Hello! Thank you for stopping by. I’m hoping to publish a weekly blog on all sort of writing things. This may be a Wednesday, but I’m looking at posting every Monday in future as that works better for me. What day is best for your readers? For now here’s an update of what I’ve been up to.

2016 was an odd year, and a bad year for many reasons (Let’s not talk politics right now!). I spent the second half with the worst sinus infection I have ever had. I haven’t felt that ill since before I was first diagnosed with ME in 1999. From about June I felt constantly exhausted and bunged up. Only now are things starting to clear up and I’m starting to feel like normal. I’m using that as my excuse for not blogging in so long. I wanted to, believe me! During that time I’ve self-referred myself to the local ME therapy clinic, and I’m booked in for some sessions, so I’ll keep you updated on how that goes. (When I was first diagnosed there was nothing like it).

Back in June I also started work on my PhD at Liverpool John Moores University. My thesis is currently “The Affect of the Second World War on Science Fiction”. I aim to keep you updated on it through this blog. At the moment I am plotting the novel and making sure it’s of a PhD standard. I may post some excerpts/updates on research from time to time.

In May, I finished my First World War novel Objection. I’m currently making a spreadsheet of agents that are accepting Historical Fiction submissions. (If you know of anyone, agent or publisher please get in contact!) Then I will begin querying them with the novel. I’ve sent it out to one agent that I know so far, so let’s see how that goes.

As if I didn’t have enough to do, I’m currently toying with the idea of putting my MA Writing and Academic Teaching experience to good use and offering an editing/proofreading service to writers and students. I haven’t had a chance to contextualise it yet, but if you are interesting in some help then please feel free to comment below, or get in touch through my contact page and we can discuss it. I will post something more solid on this soon.

The final thing of this blog is for me to ask you, the reader, what kind of content you would like to read. If you have a particular idea you would like to know my thoughts on, or a particular writing issue that you have, then get in contact and I will try to help in a future blog. Even if you just have a question comment below and if it needs a long answer then I will incorporate it into a future blog. Another interesting question for you is, “how long should a blog be?” How far do you read before you get bored? Answers in the comments below!


One feature I would like to add to the blog is something I am currently calling “Book of the Week”.

Last year I tried to summarise all the books I had read that year with a single blog post. The problem was that I couldn’t remember much of the books I had read earlier in the year. So, from now on I will tell you which book I am currently reading and my thoughts on it. As it may take me more than a week to read some books you will see how my opinion changes throughout reading.

I’m currently about 40 pages from finishing Europe In Autumn by Dave Hutchinson. This book is published by Solaris who are predominantly a Sci Fi publisher, and it was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award.

Honestly, I can’t see how it made the shortlist. It’s an interesting idea, and a Europe of the future is intriguing. There is some intriguing Le Carréesque espionage plotting, but its main downfall is the vast swathes of info dumping. Info dumping and exposition is a trope of Sci Fi, particularly when a large amount of world-building is involved. However, when you find yourself scan reading, you know something is wrong. As with most novels, I like to persevere till the end (I usually have to know how the story ends, or I get annoyed), but I don’t think I will be recommending this one to anyone. The ending might be enough to save it, but you’ll have to find out next week!


Once again, thanks for reading, and please do comment below.

Re…search…? WW1

Hi guys, as some of you may know I am in the process of planning and writing a WW1 novel.

I also have to pitch it to agents and publishers over the next few weeks as part of my MA class. If last night’s practice was anything to go by it will be okay, but I need more information.

I have an idea for characters and plot, which I’m really excited about, but anything I can do to flesh it out and/or hone it would be incredibly useful.

Due to this year being the centenary of the outbreak of war there has of course been a massive interest in it. There has also been an influx of books and novels on the subject. There are just too many books that have been published since 1918 to physically be able to read them.

So I’m asking for your help, and comments are very much encouraged in this.

I would like to know what WW1 books (preferably novels) you have read and a short comment on the focus of the story (regiment, battle, character, etc.). I’m especially looking to know if there are any novels that cover the King’s Liverpool Regiment or Liverpool Pals Battalion.

Your help will be greatly appreciated, and if it ever gets published I will see if I can include a list of acknowledgements!

Thanks for reading.

I’ve been busy, write?

Well, look at that, it’s been ages since I made a blog post. I don’t really have any excuses except for that one that everyone always has ‘I’ve been busy’. Well, I have, but I really should have updated this blog more. I guess another reason that I had no updates is because I had no writing exercises to post from my masters course as the first year has now come to an end.

I spent most of May being very busy, coming towards the end of the first year of the course. As part of Liverpool’s ‘Writing on the Wall’ literary festival, they held a ‘Pulp Idol competition’, and I was encouraged to enter by the Master’s course leader. It was a completely nerve-wracking experience. I may stand up in front of a group and talk on a daily basis, but when it comes to reading out my own work it’s completely different. No matter how much I tried to convince myself I would be okay and it wasn’t too different to lecturing, I still got nervous. In the end I think it went quite well, I got up, read well and, I believe, answered the questions from the panel of judges well, but unfortunately I didn’t make it through. In fact, no one that had entered that heat from my class got through, which is disappointing. I did continue to follow the rest of the competition, going to the next heat and final, and I was pleased when my good friend Rob Knipe came runner up in the competition. Look out for his name as he’s now in contact with some agents and with any luck there will be some well written, hilarious sci fi and fantasy books coming to your shelves soon.

The rest of may I spent frantically trying to get ready for the end of the first year of the course. As per usual we had an assignment due. I used mine as an excuse to get the first part of a novel I am writing about the Great War done. It was a great idea at first, a hugely rich period of time and I definitely feel I have a story to tell (more about that in the future. I don’t want to give too much away now do I?), but I was somewhat naive to the sheer amount of research I would need to do. Of course I was aware of the fact of research and I had already been reading about the subject before I had the idea for the novel, but when I wrote something I had to make sure it was correct. The first scene is also set in Liverpool before the war, so I had to make sure that the feel and surroundings were correct. Everything I read unearthed more questions and more lines of research, and as usual with research it grew larger and larger over time. Thankfully I was able to get a edited draft in, and it’s in a state I’m quite happy with. It’s no means perfect, and there will definitely be some factual errors that till need ironing out, but it’s a start and I feel it’s quite compelling. Hopefully it will see the light of day.

So what else have I been doing that has kept me so busy? Well, amongst all that I was learning to drive. I had taken two tests when I was 18, but the examiners in Eastbourne, where I lived at the time, were the most grumpy people I have ever met (which is saying something for Eastbourne) and I failed them both for silly little reasons. So I gave up until now. I had forgotten how much time it took up, not just physically, but also mentally. Anyone that says it’s just two hours a week is underestimating. I may have had one hour lessons the first time, I can’t exactly remember, but two hours are intense. I had to repass the theory test, so that required preparation and the closer I got to the practical test the more nervous I became, and the less I could concentrate on anything else. Thankfully, on the 5th June I passed and I now sit here with a shiny pink driving licence (now to get a car…). But I have to make a note, I couldn’t have done it without the excellent tuition of Autonomy Driving School. If you’re learning near Liverpool then I thoroughly recommend Jan.

After passing, I then spent the entirety of the week, when not at work, recording guitars for the Lazarus Syndrome album. I’m a bit behind on this as everyone else (bar the vocals) has done their part. But, I’ve been busy, right? We all could do with a few more hours in the day. If you want more info on that check us out on Facebook.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope to have more updates for you soon. I’m currently waiting on someone to get in touch with me on a very important project, but I can’t really talk about that yet. I’m off to write…

Thanks for reading.

I Return

Well I guess it’s time I wrote one of these things again. It’s been quite a while since my last blog once again. But I have excuses a plenty! I’ve only just really finished moving house. Monday was the last day on the tenancy of my old flat. Those of you who have moved house will know that it’s not just about moving stuff from one place to another, which is incredibly tiring I might add, it’s also having to sort everything out from utilities to changing addresses with every service you subscribe to. I’m still living out of a few boxes and bags… All in all it’s pretty time consuming and I only finished sorting the most part yesterday. I’ve also got a problem where some quite expensive tickets were dispatched to my old address and the property managers are being as unhelpful as possible at getting back. Trust me there will be more on them in a future blog!

It has also been a busy period at work. The demand has been phenomenal and we have a record number of new students. As great as this is, it made the first week of the new course pretty intensive for everyone. There is still a lot of work to be done but it’s starting to ease off and relax slightly now we are getting in to the swing of things. It didn’t help that towards the end of the week I started to pick up what I can only describe as freshers flu.

Over the weekend I was busy away in London crewing a convention called the Entertainment Media Show. I’ve been to plenty of conventions as a paying attendee, but I have never crewed before so a few months ago I decided that I should give this weekend a go a my first event crewing. I didn’t realise at the time that it would fall right in the middle of this busy work and moving home period, otherwise I might have left it until the start of next year. In hindsight it probably wasn’t the best time to start and I could barely talk to anyone over the weekend due to losing my voice to the flu. So apologies to anyone I spoke to, I’m not normally quite that quiet/rude! That said, I did have a really good time.

I was musing in the week before the event that so many people seem so self-absorbed, so caught up in their own lives. I was even going to write a blog about it but didn’t get time. I constantly found myself getting out of the way of other people without so much as a thank you, especially it seemed, when carrying heavy things. Why should I move out of the way if I’m the one carrying something heavy? Anyway, I didn’t want to go in to that now. What I was going to say was that it was so nice and refreshing to crew at an event and see that for the most part everyone else crewing was very conscientious of what was going on. They seemed to want to help the attendees and make sure everything ran logically and smoothly while making sure everyone, including the other crew, enjoyed themselves.

So I had a really good time. The Saturday was hard work in parts, bag checking for Matt Smith (Doctor Who), Red Dwarf and Mike Tyson photo queues. But it was great fun really, being close to these guests and even getting to chat to them was excellent. Also working with and getting to know some of the other crew was great, it’s always good to make new friends and I hope to make many more. So in short I will definitely be applying to crew again. I’m not someone who goes round and gets loads of autographs and photos and obsesses about guests. So it’s much nicer for me to do something active and be a part of it. These shows are always a nice environment to be in (although the boxing fans pushed it at times! I won’t go in to details, but sheesh, considering it was a family show, some of that language was fairly inappropriate!) so I will be back.

Thankfully I have this weekend free, the first in what seems ages. It will give me time to sort out the flat and do some writing.

On that note, I don’t know if I have mentioned it before but in a few weeks I have the opportunity to chat with an editor from the Black Library about one of my stories. This is obviously a great opportunity and I’m almost finished on a short story, but for previously mentioned reasons I haven’t done any writing in a couple of weeks. I will be from now on spending as much spare time as possible on finishing the draft of this story. I’ve got till the start of November so it should give me enough time to draft and hopefully edit. Wish me luck… Once again I will be calling on my test readers for their feelings on the work. If you feel like getting involved, feel free to comment or message me!

Once again thanks for reading and hopefully it won’t be so long before my next blog.

Mike