Wednesday, 29 June 2011


I've just watched Roger Federer losing his quarter final to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. I was impressed by the dignified way in which they walked off the court together and equally impressed by Tsonga's wonderful dance of joy when he won.

It made me wonder if there are any novels or stories based on the world of tennis. Please let me know of any.

This looks a good subject.

I think there is a history here. Are they rivals or friends? Is one plotting or just dreaming?

The Bridport Prize - not much time left to enter

Tomorrow, the 30 June is the deadline for entries to The Bridport Prize.

For more information go to

There are categories for short stories, poetry and flash fiction.

You can enter by post but I found online entry simple and it guarantees you will get your entry there.

Past winners include: Kate Atkinson, Helen Dumore and Tobias Hill.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Inspirational places

The weather is good in England for a change. It got me thinking about my favourite place in all the world, Menton in the south of France.

I find the whole town an inspiration. I'm not alone in this, of course. Robert Louis Stevenson, Cocteau, Katherine Mansfield and many others were drawn there by its climate and also its lovely atmosphere.

I thought I'd write about this and invite others to share their inspirational places.

I love to sit in a cafe near to the picture on this post and look out at the Mediterranean Sea. I imagine Greek Triremes sailing along the shore, looking for a safe harbour and a place to trade their goods, I imagine all the people who have come to this place for solace and either found it or despaired of it.

I think of the fact that this town is on the border of France and Italy. That from 1848 it had a brief spell as an independent city state. That in the Second World War a line was drawn through the centre of the town, the eastern part going to Italy, the western to Vichy France.

I imagine the beautiful people who strolled here in the Belle Époque and the innumerable servants who toiled to ensure they had a gorgeous time. And I think of my wife, my love, who adores Menton as much as I do.

Then I get out my notebook.

Please share your inspirational places by leaving a comment below.

Monday, 27 June 2011

I worry about indie celebrities

A large part of me is delighted at the huge success of indie writers like Amanda Hocking and John Locke.

If it were not for reading about Amanda Hocking I would not have decided to publish on Kindle. And good luck to John, I've bought his book on how he sold a million, enjoyed it and learnt from it.

What worries me, however, is that the indie world is going to get fixated on sales success and the cult of the celebrity. The traditional publishing world has been squeezed enough by this fascination with success. It would be a tragedy if the indie movement were to go even a few steps down this perilous path.

By all means let's celebrate success but let's not worship it. More importantly, let the indie movement celebrate the success of people who write wonderful books, let it celebrate those who have persevered at writing and finally seen their books read by readers, let it celebrate the triumph of the little person over the giant.

What do you think?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Mr Toad's Wedding

In 2008 the Kenneth Grahame Society organised a competition to write a short story based on Wind in the Willows. Writers from around the world entered the competition. I was one of them.

I was over the moon when I saw that my book had been long-listed for a prize. I began to fantasise. Would I make it into the short-list for possible inclusion in an anthology? Would I be one of the top three prize-winners?

Imagine my surprise when, after watching Barack Obama become President of the USA, very, very early in the morning I turned on my computer and saw an email from the organisers.

'Mr Toad's Wedding' had won first prize.

The jubilation in my house woke up the street.

I am delighted to offer Mr Toad's Wedding for a premium price of less than a cup of tea or coffee. Ratty would have been pleased, Mr Toad, insulted.

What would happen to the tranquil life of the river bank if it's most famous bachelor was to marry?

This story tells the story of how Mr Toad lost his heart to Natalia Natterjack and almost lost his friends into the bargain.

It shows how Toad's infatuation leads to disbelief and dismay in most of his friends, although not all. We meet his beloved Natalia and the redoubtable Mother-in-Law Natterjack.

With the arrival of the animal he most admires, his cousin Talleyrand, Mr Toad's joy knows no bounds.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Literary Festivals

'Tis the season for Literary Festivals.

I have found a site which has a huge list of festivals throughout the world. It is called

It is well worth a look.

As the website states, please check each individual festival's site as details, dates and times may vary over time.

JK Rowling

It appears that JK Rowling is going to self-publish Harry Potter on her website

Good for her. When such a successful and well-respected writer as Rowling goes down the self-publishing route we all have to sit up and take notice.

What do people think of this and what will be the implications?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Who wants to sell a million books?

John Locke did. He has become the first indie writer to sell a million books on Kindle. He's written a book on his strategy.

I'm sure this will be essential reading for any writer.

Bridport Prize

The Bridport Prize is one of the most prestigious of all organised from the UK. There are three categories: short story, poetry and flash fiction. The prizes are excellent, the kudos of being a winner, equally enticing.

The closing date for this year's prize is 30 June. You can enter online or by post.

You will find the information at The Bridport Prize.

I'm entering (once I finish editing my story.)

So good good luck to everyone who enters, especially me.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Thanks Reviewers

I've been delighted to read reviews for my books.

As a thank you, I've decided to offer a free copy of my forthcoming historical novel, The Lost King: Wasteland to the first five people who review the opening novel in the series. This is called The Lost King: Resistance and can be purchased on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble etc for less than the price of a cup of coffee.

If you want to buy Resistance from, Nook, or Smashwords, (where you can buy for any e-reader) please click on the book covers or the links to the left of this post.

Wasteland will be published in July.

To get your free copy of Wasteland please email me your review two days before posting it on Amazon, Smashwords or anywhere else you wish to. My email can be found on my blog: You can easily link to my books from my blog.

If you prefer, just paste the review into the comment box to this post although be aware that this will make your email public.

And don't worry those people who have already posted reviews. The five copies I've just mentioned are in addition to the copy I've set aside for you. Just go to my blog to find me and claim your coupon.

Luck be a lady tonight

I've just read yet another interesting blog by the ever-informative David Gaughran. Visit his blogsite.

The discussion following his blog was very interesting and I thought I'd add my comments to this blog.

A fascinating discussion. I guess that things are moving so fast nobody can be definitive about the field. It does, however, seem likely that those old fashioned qualities of hard-work, perseverance, seizing opportunities and using your brain to be creative will have some impact.

I like two things about e-publishing. The first is that, as one of the other commentators said, it gives people the opportunity to read your book. How great is that?

The second is that I feel I am in charge of my own destiny. It I have success it is chiefly due to me, together with the support of helpful people in this fantastic new community we are forging.

I also recall Thomas Jefferson's quote:
'I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.'

And if you're not having such a good day there is nothing more consoling than Jean Cocteau's comment,
'I believe in luck: how else can you explain the success of those you dislike?'

I'll also add that good research shows that the thing you need to do in order to improve your skills is to practise. I'll look up the quote.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Acting your parts

As a bit of fun my wife asked who would I want to play my characters if my novel The Lost King: Resistance, got made into a film.

We settled on Javier Bardem for the role of William the Conqueror and Thomas Brodie-Sangster for Edgar. And that was just the start of it.

Although this was a bit of fun, I found it useful to think about when plotting and planning the book I am writing at the moment.

I recommend the game.

Happy Bloomsday

On hearing that James Joyce had got a new girl-friend called Nora Barnacle, his father said, 'She'll stick with you, son.' She did. You can see where Joyce got his love of puns from.

Happy Bloomsday

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Learn from the masters and, presumably, the mistresses

Last night I went to an interesting talk by Dr Jeremy Harvey about Edgar Degas. I was struck by the fact that Degas spent the early years of his life copying the great masters and, by doing so, learning how they produced masterpieces and how he could develop his own skills, style and vision.

I wonder if writers do this enough. When I ran a creative writing class I was always surprised how little fiction was read by my aspiring writers. Perhaps e-books such as Kindle will help encourage people to read more widely.

My tutor on the UEA course, Stephen Carver, always emphasised the importance of reading critically with a view to learning from them. We also had to write a genre story which was a fascinating exercise and one I would recommend. The result of this was my western story 'Big Shot' which has been described as where Hollywood meets Spaghetti Western. It can be found in 'Pick and Mix.'

So here's to reading and learning from our masters and also to playing with our writing by trying out different genres. You never know, you may find a genre which is your particular forte.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Rest and Recreation

I've just got back from my favourite place in the world, Menton on the French/Italian border.

I've called this post rest and recreation but in reality I found the holiday inspired me with lots of new ideas and gave me time and space to continue with my latest novel which is set in the twelth century Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Merry England welcomed us with cold, wind and rain so I won't have to choose between writing and sun-worshipping.

But it's nice to be back.