Monthly Archives: December 2011

I have just landed in Thailand for a three month trip, volunteering in the hill-tribes in the north of teach people English. Today, I took a trip into town to make sure I knew where everything was before Iset off on my Temple Trek tomorrow morning.

It’s amazing how lost you feel when you find yourself somewhere where even the letters in the alphabet are different to your own. It isn’t like going to France, where some of the words are recognisable to you simply because they look like their English counterpart; it’s like, suddenly, someone has taken all of your words away.

You feel embarrassed, confused, afraid. Even simple things like a ‘hello’ become a strain somehow. And everyone seems to know that you can’t speak their language. They look at you with an urgent pity as they try to explain directions to you.

It’s all very peculiar. It alters our decision making: does that restaurant have a menu in English? Should I go to this place, or that place? Even street signs don’t offer much comfort.

Hopefully, this severing of ties between my tongue and my ability to communicate might help me learn some Thai practically, rather than from a book. It might even pave the way for some interesting short stories.


Thought I’d take a moment just to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and to thank everyone for their support, their love, and their well-wishes.

There are many people I need to thank in person: IFWG Publishing, and everyone involved in it, for their hard-work, especially Gerry Huntman for editing my monstrous creation; one Miss Laura Clements, a superb artist and an even better friend – she did the wonderful front cover for free, would you believe; to my family and to my friends, and to you for reading this wonderful blog!

And, in the New Year, ‘Against the Elements’ will be out, and I’ll be in Thailand. Very Exciting!

Okay, so I pulled a name from my Magic Hat, and the winner of the free copy of ‘Against the Elements’ is…

WordPress follower Jmmcdowell!

Well done! The novel will be winging its merry way to you as soon as it’s off the press! (I just need your address… if you could contact me at, then we can get it sent asap.)

Thanks to all following for your support – who knows? There may be another prize draw in a couple of months…

There is only one day left to enter my prize draw to win my mid-grade fantasy novel, ‘Against the Elements’.

Pass this post on! All you have to do to be entered is click ‘follow’ on the right hand side of the blog and confirm your e-mail address once you’ve done that. Then, tomorrow, I’ll pull a name from a hat. That person will win a free copy of ‘Against the Elements’!

Note: it won’t reach you in time for Christmas, but consider it a late present, from me to you.

So if you know anybody who likes fantasy novels, or you know a prolific teen reader, or you even want to read it yourself, get following, and good luck!


WIP: in every day language, a Work In Progress. You’ll often hear authors talking about their current WIP and how many words they’ve hit and how irritating certain chapters were to write. In fact, we talk about them even when people aren’t listening, and don’t care.

I am one of those crazy people who has more than one WIP on the go at any given time.

I think it started as a bad habit. I have a very overactive mind. Often ideas come all at once from all sides and I need to get them down. As soon as they’re down, I have a complusion to keep going with them. Short stories are the unfortunate fodder to this irrational and stressful behaviour. If I write a short story, that’s often the end of my social life and sanity until I can come up with a fabulous novel to encorperate it.

When I first started writing I found the speed of my hand and pen could not match the speed at which I was continuing with the story in my head. (Side note: I never, ever plan, but that will be the topic of another post later – which I think is why I ramble along sometimes and story arcs get huge. Anyway. I digress.) This proved frustrating and, at times, in my mind I had already completed the novel without reaching it in real life. This then led to mind-wandering, other ideas, other stories – when I still had a half-finished WIP on the go.

It didn’t stop me, of course. I often write two novels, or two projects, side by side. When I was writing Against the Elements, I was already planning a time-travel novel named The Summoner, and on top of that I was drawing a stick-man comic with my college friends in it that took up a great deal of my time.

I enjoy working this way, and then again, it can be endlessly annoying. On one hand, if I get stuck with one project, I can always continue with the other, therefore keeping the creative muscle working. On the other hand, one project can sometimes smother the other, meaning the more I write on one, the less I care about the other.

This is happening right this moment.

My current WIP is an adult(ish) novel named Circle, which takes place in a fictional city and Hell. I have a troubled relationship with Circle. It’s the first novel I’ve ever tried to write entirely in first person; I made one of the more minor characters far too brilliant and now only ever want to write about him; the genre is way out of my comfort zone; I had to plan it; and it is growing longer and more unruly every day.

On the flip side, I am writing a graphic novel alongside my good friend Joe ‘Thief’ Clark (his website, for those interested, is here), named Son of Songs – a space epic concerning a mythical cult, an ancient Roman belief, and, amongst other things, William Blake. I am enthralled by it. I want to write it all the time. I can’t stop writing it all the time. Space is one of my ‘things’, as well as literature and ancient Rome; I am also absurdly interested in graphic novels and superheroes. The project is fresh and exciting and funny, and I can’t wait to see it flourish.

Son of Songs is bullying Circle into a Writer’s Block quivering wreck.

Not to mention that I am in the planning stages of a novel kind of about King Arthur entitled, at the moment, Kings and Queens.

I am my own worst enemy.

But I like to think that if I didn’t work this way, I’d probably be entirely insane, not just a little. I think my multiple WIP mindset is saving me from the asylum. So perhaps it isn’t all that bad.

Of course, I know people who think I’m mad. I have a lot of writing friends who are perfectionists, and get stuck into every detail of a novel, and then can’t even contemplate the idea of coming up with something else until their work is finished. I like to think of these people as ‘professional writers’. They stick with something til the end. They are not fickle in their character relationships as I am. they are dedicated.

I salute you, single-WIP-writers. You are achieving something I never shall. For now, however, I remain as prolific as ever, and intend to stay that way.

Writers: are you a split-personality-WIP-writer? Or do you find that you have unending focus?

I’m just going to take a moment, I think, to talk about how important I find music to be when I write.

I was brought up in a house full of music – and not just one kind of music. My mum likes Prince, 70s disco, but also a lot of motown and old jazz (Billie Holliday was a favourite); my dad likes R.E.M., The Lightning Seeds, Jeff Buckley, Marc Cohn, opera, Oasis, U2… the list goes on. I don’t remember a time as a child that I wasn’t listening to music. To me, the concept of people ‘not listening to music’ is a very strange and confusing thing.

I think it’s because I heard so much music as a child that I began to sing. And the songs I liked to sing were the songs that told stories. Lyrics are very important to me – so when a song’s lyrics are banal, or insincere, I almost automatically switch off. Here is where the heart of a song lies, for me. In the words. As a result, I don’t think it’s a surprise that when I first started writing I would turn to music as an inspirational tool.

Some people can’t physically write when there’s music on, I know. It confuses the words, it ruins the flow, it distracts. I find it equally frustrating to write when there is no music on.

At first, I would listen to the radio. I would hear a variety of songs, old and new, all with different sentiments, and from these I discovered new songs that made me have more complete creative thoughts.

The first song that did that, for me, was Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know.

I was already writing my first novel at the time, but the lyrics hit me with a familiarity. It was as if they’d written that particular song for my novel. Imagine! But the longer I listen to music for, the more I discover these creepily accurate songs (I could name many, but at the moment it stretches between Twilight of the Innocents by Ash, all the way through to Kings and Queens by 30 Seconds to Mars). I listen to music in order to push plots, to form characters… there is something transient about music that allows the brain to do these kinds of things.

I firmly maintain that if it wasn’t for 30 Seconds to Mars’ This is War album, the final seven chapters of my longest and most epic novel to date would never have been written. I believe that without The Guillemots Red album, my Space series would probably have never been the same. I owe an awful lot to music. Most of my dedications include lyrics from a particular song that spoke to me when I was writing – I am definitely going to be paying a lot of money out to people to use them if they are ever published, but I think it’s worth it.

At the moment, I’m writing a more adult novel, entitled only Circle, in which most of the action takes place in a grotty bar with an enigmatic singer. Every chapter has the name of a song beneath it. The idea is that people listen to the song, or find the lyrics, and place them beside the action. The songs here are mostly featured on Biffy Clyro’s album Only Revolutions and Lostprophets A Liberation Transmission. Some are even by spoof band Tenacious D. But I think the music is what makes the story come alive.

I engourage your comments here. If you feel up to a discussion, please go ahead. How important is music in any creative process? And how do you feel about music and novels coinciding?