Category Archives: writing

Films in my head

I was recently doing one of those memes for my personal (friends-locked) blog – one of those lists of questions that attempts to explore aspects of your life that you weren’t keeping secret but had never thought to share with anyone.

In the course of it, I mentioned that my fictional characters arrive in my head and talk to me.

It would appear, from the reactions of my friends list (a lot of whom are writers) that there are two kinds of people. One sort give a relieved sigh and say something like ‘yes, me too’ or ‘thank goodness it’s not just me’ and the other sort are fascinated but bewildered.

I thought I’d go into more detail here to see what other have to say.
Whenever I write, my characters spring fully formed into my head, just as if they were people I’d met and talked to. But like those people, it takes time to get to know them and I have to question them to get details. I also ‘overhear’ them talking to each other and sometimes they are quite critical of the way their story is progressing. I usually let them take over. Obviously there are limits. If I’m writing a detective story I have to start with some idea of what the crime was, how it was committed and how the investigation proceeded. I don’t always know who the villain was.

The voices and images in my head are quite clear. I know, if I think about it, that they have to be aspects of my subconscious, but at the moment of hearing and seeing them, they seem quite real, like actual friends. I am never tempted to blur fiction and reality and know perfectly well that they are ‘just’ characters, but they are often loud, and very assertive. They tell me all kinds of things that don’t necessarily pertain to the current story, and often have strong political opinions. I remember reading advice from Diana Wynne Jones that a writer should interrogate their characters to find out all kinds of things about them, such as their favourite socks, to build up a mental picture that would make the character in the story more three dimensional. Well, there are all kinds of things I can and do ask them, but as for the socks, I just need to look.

I can see them in motion, too, and when they tell me how a specific scene plays out, I can watch it like a film rolling in my mind’s eye. I also retain detailed images of all kinds of places I have visited and can play with these mentally to provide settings for my stories.

I was very surprised as I grew up to learn that not everyone has that kind of visual imagination and that some people, including very imaginative creators in all spheres, think largely in words, not pictures.

I think I would get quite distressed if my internal films disappeared. This is, incidentally, also the way I think about everything, from a planned shopping trip or meal to a conversation I need to have with e.g. family or friends or, at one time, lesson plans for teaching.

All this results in something I have mentioned previously. My stories are planned in my head, and the ‘notes’ are in my head ready to be referred to so any writing is a kind of copy-typing though of course I edit too. For example, I won’t let my characters use too much repetition, or tell each other things they should already know. I also encourage my betas to tell me when things that are obvious to my characters (and to me) need clarification for my readers.
When I have finished a book, the characters take a back seat, but they don’t disappear (apart, of course, for the ones like the murder victims). They allow the characters for the next work I am embarking on to take centre stage. Usually. There are one or two who feel they should comment on everything I do which is interesting but can be distracting.

Getting to know my characters is part of the pleasure of writing. It can feel as though I have a lot of friends. Well, I do have a lot of friends, but most of them have their own schedules and can’t always be contacted at times of my choosing. My fictional friends can.


Posted by on March 13, 2018 in personal, writing


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Something to remember

I should have posted this yesterday but real life has been overwhelming this last week. It’s a ficlet I wrote a couple of years ago for a picture prompt but I’ve chosen to go with a view of artificial poppies rather than the original.

Something to remember.

Hamish had worshipped Donald since they were bairns at the local school together. He had never said anything, of course. His friends found it hard enough to express their feelings for lasses. There was no way of articulating his desire for another boy. He had talked to Jock when Jock had started courting Mary, but had got nowhere in his search for words and phrases.


Och,” Jock said, “she’s canny enough and she kens I’m not averse. But I wouldnae tell her so out loud. Doesnae do to turn their heads, ye see?” Hamish saw. He’d have loved to have turned Donald’s head, especially in his direction, but there didn’t seem to be a way.


They joined the regiment together after Highers. It was that or the fishing boats or university and neither felt cut out for the sea of fish or the sea of knowledge. So they went through basic training and felt proud of their uniform and the history they were taught to see as their own.


The wreath-laying ceremony was such an honour. The minister wrote from home to stress how proud the village would be if their boys were to appear on the small screen. Each of them secretly hoped to be the one to carry the wreath of poppies and lay it on the memorial. Hamish could hardly contain his excitement when he was chosen.


The wind whipped around their faces and he was glad he’d had the forethought to borrow a hat pin from his gran. He never thought of his kilt, even when he stepped up in front of them all and stood respectfully after he’d laid the wreath. The gust of spiteful air whisked the heavy folds sideways and up. He hoped his face as he turned to walk back to the line was not displaying his embarrassment. He must on no account show anything, give any sign that he knew there had been anything wrong. He must not give a signal that would allow the crowds to laugh or give the journalists a chance to bay at his heels. He knew his sergeant wouldn’t blame him for the display, but he might well blame him if he wasn’t dignified about it.


And yet, he thought, as they stood singing about Christian soldiers or those in peril on the sea or whatever… And yet, it could have been worse. He could have been wearing underpants and that would have been something his fellow soldiers would never have allowed him to live down. Sometimes he put a pair on when the cold got too much for him, but on this day of pride he hadn’t dared. He was glad.


Donald approached him later, crossing the training square. No-one had said anything and he’d begun to hope there’d be no comments – and no pictures in the papers. But Donald fell into step beside him and grinned and he knew. Donald was not going to let it pass. He shuddered inwardly. All his dreams and shy admiration and now he was a figure of fun to his idol. But Donald was speaking.


Ye’ve a fine pair o’ cheeks there, Hamish. I always thought ye might have. And I’ve always wanted to know if I was right. The wind was my friend today, wasnae it?”


It wasnae mine!”


Nonsense – ye’re the pride of the regiment. And I’m proud to call you my friend. I’d be proud to call you more than that, Hamish. If…” He stopped, blushing the red of the threads in his tartan and started to move away, every motion betraying anxiety and speed, a running away from what he’d said. But Hamish grabbed his arm and whirled him round.


Ye’ll no get away that easily, Donald,” he said softly, a steel determination underlying the words. “Ye can call me anything ye like, d’ye see?”


And Donald did see, and they walked back to the barracks together, knowing the future could be sweet.



Posted by on November 12, 2017 in ficlets, writing


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Growing Up Fae is published

My new book has gone ‘live’ on Amazon, Smashwords, and the Smashwords distribution service. I am really excited – and for the first time there were absolutely no formatting glitches!!

The narrator of the story, Harlequin, is a bisexual fairy in his early twenties who lives on Alderley Edge in Cheshire, UK. He tells the story of his childhood, his teens, and how he reached the Edge. He goes on to describe in detail his loves (and lusts) and the other people in his life. So to some extent the story turns into a family saga. The sex is explicit when it occurs so although this is a ‘fairy story’ it is not suitable for young readers. Also, the fae are not twee Victorian miniatures. They can, and do, pass as human and interact with the humans they meet.

There are at least two more volumes of material, all in need of organisation and editing. Now that we have this first volume as a kind of template the work should go faster. The further volumes are not exactly sequential.

One volume is Tales from Tara which tells what happens when first one and then another of the Edge fae go to Tara in Ireland, including not only their own experiences but those of the fae they meet there.

Another is Life on the Edge which follows Growing Up Fae but does not include the Irish stories.

There are numerous characters, locations, and magical elements and I have created a glossary to help the reader sort them out. Harlequin doesn’t always explain things exactly when you want him to, so in case of confusion, consult the page Living Fae which you can access at the top of my WordPress site. ( Once the other volumes are organised I will add a timeline.

This is the book I’ve been talking about for ages: the fae saga told in diary form that has been incredibly difficult to format. It has taken, literally, years.

I’ve had enormous amounts of help from friends along the way – people I met in an online writing group, who were generous with their time and advice. I’ve dedicated the book to them.

Meanwhile, I’ve had Harlequin living in my head for a long time. He feels quite real to me, and I hope he will to you, too. If fantasy plus sex is your scene, enjoy!

If anyone leaves a review and links me to it, I can make sure they get a free copy of the next volume. Or, if anyone wants a review copy, let me know, but a year or so ago I gave a freebie to someone who either never reviewed or never told me, so it would have to be someone with a genuine review site I’m familiar with. Reviews don’t have to be brilliant – all publicity is good, and what one reviewer doesn’t like might really appeal to other readers.

Buy Growing Up Fae at:


(Beware on Amazon. When I asked the site to find Growing Up Fae by Jay Mountney it found it but asked: Did you mean: “growing up face by day mountney” so clearly Amazon can’t read!!)


Posted by on April 24, 2017 in publishing, writing


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New book due out soon


I have a new book coming out soon. Growing Up Fae is the first volume of a series, Living Fae, which follows the life and loves (and lusts) of a bisexual male fairy who can pass as human if he hides his wings. He and his extended family live on Alderley Edge in Cheshire, England. It’s a fantasy, a personal journey for the narrator, an m/m romance, and a family saga, told in journal form.

I started the story over ten years ago but it always seemed too complicated to sort it out for publication. Diary style. Cross-genre. Very (very) British. I certainly didn’t want to let unknown editors mangle either the format or the language. Nor, for that matter, did I want to give them the chance to reject it. Since then, I’ve started self publishing and have yielded to persuasion (and help) from friends. The first volume is finished. It’s back from the editor and proof reader, and the cover is done but needs resizing for the different platforms. (Some of my friends here beta read parts of it to death.) All it needs now is the front matter and a sensible table of contents. I wanted to get it out for Easter but life intervened.

I seem to be insanely busy: I am in the middle of volume 4 of my Skilled Investigators series; I have committed myself to a fandom big bang story (co-authored); I am posting chapters of a fandom work in progress on AO3; I have been writing non-fiction including stuff about autism, writing, a new AO3 collection, and about politics (national, international, and social media). And then there’s real life and a part time (unpaid) job. Yes, I know all this is totally my own fault. No complaints! I’m just explaining.

Also, every time I think about Living Fae I remember there are at least two more volumes to whip into shape (written but totally disorganised) so then I very deliberately stop thinking, which is horribly counterproductive. Posting about it might force me to get on with what will be at most a day’s work!

I really am on the very last lap and hope the book will go live later this month. Cross your fingers for me!


Posted by on April 15, 2017 in personal, publishing, writing


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The House (a sci fi ficlet)

They came up between the floorboards at first, a little like smoke, or perhaps mist because nobody seemed to suspect fire. Tendrils crept into the various rooms, up the stairs and down into the root cellar.

They made things strange. Not uncomfortable, exactly, or not that anyone could articulate. There was an atmosphere of oddness, of unrightness. A glass that had been polished and put away would reappear on the table, smeared, with a yellowish sediment in the bottom. A bed that had been neatly made would be tumbled and creased, the pillow tossed on the floor. A towel in the bathroom would be wringing wet when nobody had used the basin or shower since the previous day. Everything could be ascribed to poor memory, to human error. But everything added up. Nobody was harmed, but nobody was happy and eventually they left. They sold it, of course, but the next residents, and the ones after that had the same experiences. Ridding the house of humans took a few years but they could afford to wait.

Next, they turned their attention to the small things. The bugs that lived in the cracks, once there were no humans to clean the place, found their cracks filled with unpleasant textures and smells. The mice under the kitchen sink had a nest damp from drips even though the taps were no longer working. The birds that built homes in the roof space had a feeling that predators were constantly overhead. They all left, not at once, but one by one, reluctantly but in the end with relief.

Then the moss on the roof failed to thrive. The lichen that tried to establish itself on the front step found the atmosphere polluted despite the lack of anything within miles that could affect it. The creeper on the back wall rotted.

At last they had the house to themselves. It was a beautiful house, built from aged silvery grey wood with large airy window frames. It was the perfect home and it had taken a while to get it exactly the way they wanted and it had taken a lot of work but at last it was finished, and they settled down. Anyone passing, though very few ever passed, might have heard, soft on the evening air, a sigh of contentment.

(The picture is not mine. It’s a slightly photoshopped version of one I found on Pixabay by Wyosunshine. The information for the photograph said it was free for even commercial use. It’s very similar to the one used for a prompt that inspired this ficlet. Given a lack of wooden houses anywhere near either of my homes, I felt obliged to go looking and make sure there was no copyright violation. One or two of you might have seen the ficlet a while ago on my personal journal.If so, ignore!)

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Posted by on April 14, 2017 in ficlets, writing


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Debunking myths about writing


Debunking ten common myths about writers and writing.

#1. Writing can be done any old time and happens in the gaps between other more important commitments.

This is a myth most usually believed by family and close friends. Sometimes the belief spills over and affects the writer themselves. It is by no means true. Writing, and particularly editing or drafting a second version, requires concentration. It’s perfectly possible to write short sections in ten minute bursts, and then string them together. But the mere act of stringing them together satisfactorily takes a lot more than ten minutes, and ten minute writing sessions are not very satisfying to the average writer. I know I need aat least an hour to get into a story or chapter. This is at odds with the other demands on my tattention. I’m responsible for various household needs such as shopping and cooking; these not only take time but are at the mercy of other people’s agendas such as when the shops are open and when the family want or need to eat. The same constraints would apply to any other household necessities that members of any family commit to supplying. Even a solitary writer has to eat, sleep and supply the needs of themselves and perhaps their pets.

Besides the actual act of typing or writing the words, there is thinking time. This is essential. Some writers plot in advance and other simply see where the characters want to take them, but whichever kind of writer you are there is a necessity to think either of the way your story is going, or the way it has gone, if only to check mentally for inconsistencies and plotholes. Some people produce a story in a linear fashion, going from A to Z via the other letters in the right order; others write sections as they occur to them then fit them together and write linking material to fill the gaps. Both methods are valid and both require time and thought.

Thinking can take place alongside other activities – for example, in the shower, in bed before falling asleep, or whilst doing some mind-numbing task such as ironing. It doesn’t go well with anything that needs concentration like stirring a risotto or supervising a child’s homework. So writing and its handmaid, thinking, need time, quality time, and it’s all to easy to let this be squeezed out. I suppose if you’re JKR or James Patterson, you can plead that you’re working, but most writers don’t earn so much that they feel able to make this plea. However, they should not allow other people to encroach on their writing time, even if the writing is mainly for their own pleasure. Nor should they go along with the myth and allow their writing time to be elbowed out of the day.

#2. Writing is not work, just a hobby that sometimes results in payment.

Whether it’s for private enjoyment or close friends or a wide audience, and whether or not it’s to be published for payment, writing is hard work. (So are some hobbies but that does not invalidate the general argument.)

Some writers find that plots come easily. Others have characters spring up fully formed in their heads. Yet others find that language flows, provided they have more than ten minutes (see #1 above) to devote to it. But all of them will need to edit what they write, to check it for style, for whether it says what they intended, to make sure the characters have the correct names (especially minor ones who appear chapters apart) and are wearing consistent clothing. It’s no good having character A in a shirt that matches his eyes and then throwing his soiled white shirt in the laundry basket at the end of the day. Similarly, it’s not helpful to have characters go upstairs if you’ve located them in a bungalow in Chapter 1. Reading through what you’ve written is important to help avoid repetitive vocabulary. Readers get irritated if A looks soulfully at B more than once. (Actually I get irritated the first time but that’s just personal preference.) And even if all these things are sorted, the writer still has to physically get the words down on screen or paper. Fingers can get tired, too, and backs can suffer. So can eyes. Nobody suggests that a secretary doesn’t work, so a writer works at least as hard just getting their words down.

Once the initial draft is written there’s editing. Yes, you can employ an editor, or your publishers might wish one on you. Whichever, they’d really prefer it if you’d done a bit of editing yourself before offering up your draft. Before seeking another pair of eyes it’s as well to make sure your story flows, and that there aren’t too many typos. If you’re self publishing you need to know something about formatting, whether you do it yourself or pay someone else. You need to know about copyright, about marketing (at a minimum, how to tag your work, write a blurb, etc), about taxation (if you ever get royalties), about the royalty system, about the way publishing in general works, whichever route you take. If you were talking about any other craft, the same kinds of things would apply. The person who knits for a hobby only needs to buy wool, needles and patterns; the person who hopes to sell their knitted garments needs to know all about wool and its attributes, current prices, sizing, labelling, etc. and has to know how to package, present and market their work. Children who kick a ball around are hobby footballers, and remain so even when they grow up and just join in a friendly neighbourhood game; professional players have a whole host of other things to learn and worry about. It’s the same with writing so for anyone who wants to publish, writing is not a hobby even if it started that way.

#3. Writing could be done by anyone who wanted to give the time to it.

Well, no. You only have to glance at the stuff school students produce to know that some people are creative and others just aren’t. I’m not talking about ability with words, grammar, etc, but the ability to bring characters alive, to make locations seem real, to get readers to suspend disbelief at the inevitable artificiality of plot or the way an event is recounted (because real life just doesn’t behave like story but we forget that both when we’re reading, and when we’re living). Writers have a gift of being able to share their worlds, fictional or non-fictional, with their readers. Not everyone can do this, and for those who can, there’s a long apprenticeship that starts in early childhood. Most writers, in almost any genre you care to name, including non-fiction, will have spent most of their lives reading and researching – not always formally but in some depth. They will be fired by enthusiasm for their chosen subject matter to the extent that they actually feel a need to write, to impart the stuff in their heads to other people. Never mind merely wanting to give time to it – they will feel impelled. Some writing courses (and online sites) purport to help wannabe writers generate plots. Most writers I know have so many plot bunnies the problem is finding time to feed them all. Of course, there’s always the age-old maxim that there only so many basic plots (usually presented as seven, nine or eleven – magic numbers) and everything else is just variation on a theme. You can deconstruct any story to prove this theory, but it’s the variation that counts in the end, and the ability to think up that variation and build it into a satisfying novel, poem, thesis, etc. that matters. I don’t think ‘anyone’ could do this any more than I think ‘anyone’ could be a chef or a violinist, a nurse or a teacher. We all have special skills, talents and passions. Those of a writer include an ability with narrative that is outside the grasp of just ‘anyone’. This applies to the writing of anything from a recipe to a novel.

#4. Writers are always in the market for materials or, “I’ve got an interesting story for you. You’ll like this one. You could write it.”

No thank you. Sometimes we write starting from prompts, which are not usually detailed. They could be the outline suggested by a magazine competition, the idea put forward within a writing group, or perhaps a headline seen in the news. All these can send the mind off in unforeseen directions. This is just writers grabbing materials from the environment, much as they might grab their observations of a place to help them describe a fictional location.

Most writers do not want to write someone else’s story. They don’t feel the same passion for it, you see, because it isn’t theirs. Obviously some journalists and documentary writers will develop their work from stories they have been told by others, but they will have given them their own spin and unique viewpoint. There are a few writers who ‘ghost write’ for the famous, either by producing so-called autobiographies or by putting e.g. well known recipes into print or even writing sequels that come under an umbrella series by a well known author. Often, their contribution is not acknowledged. They may be paid well, but fame escapes them. They’re probably the only writers who might respond favourably to the offer that headed this section, and even then, they’d want to know what the rate of pay was going to be.

#5. Writers should write what they know, and many readers believe writers know, from personal experience, what they write.

The idea of only writing what you know is so silly it doesn’t really deserve any rebuttal. If people only wrote from their own experience we would have no historical novels, no sci fi, no fantasy, nothing from an animal’s pov, no crime stories except those written by police or criminals, no women in books by men or men in books by women. However, the advice works if it is interpreted as ‘do your research’. All reasonably good writers do indeed do their research and this takes time, hard work and a basic knowledge of where to find the needed information.

Sometimes writers choose to present things in first person, using the voice of the character to get an idea across. In any case, characters are going to articulate their beliefs at some point or they will remain unreal and two-dimensional. You know those warnings you get on some TV programmes or DVDs where the channel or film company disclaims responsibility for the opinions expressed? This should, perhaps, be stated at the front of every book, as clearly as the copyright claim. Then readers could be shown how ridiculous it is to accuse writers of the very things their characters are intended to get across as undesirable. If I want, for example, to write a novel that discusses racism, I am going to have to have characters who make racist comments. It should be obvious that I don’t agree with them. But some readers ignore the obvious.

#6. Since word processors you don’t even have to know grammar to get published – just look at all those badly edited self published books.

Simply untrue, or rather, untrue if you want to write and sell more than one book. Spelling and grammar checkers don’t always know what they’re doing. It’s a bit like calculators. Unless you’ve been taught basic arithmetic, you won’t be able to tell when the machine is not working properly or when you’ve failed to ask it the right questions. So, as with calculations, to write you do need a basic grasp of grammar and a reasonably wide vocabulary (and the ability to use a dictionary and a thesaurus). It’s no good relying on an editor. They might disagree with you, especially if you are writing in e.g. Brit English and they are American (or vice versa). They might fail to spot less obvious errors. (You’ll almost certainly fail, because you read what you think you wrote.) Your editor might well read what they expected you to have written and even professional proof readers can fall foul of the cultural differences I just mentioned. The computer spelling and grammar checker is less likely to make these mistakes (though it won’t always spot things like the misuse of homonyms) but it will sometimes misunderstand your intended meaning and you need to have the confidence to ignore it. It will sometimes give you choices and you need to know which to accept. There are definitely self-published books with poor grammar. There are also mainstream published books with typos, plotholes and inconsistencies in e.g. names. One thing is common to both – with the advent of the word processor, all editing has been left more and more in the hands of the writer, who has an absolute need and duty to know something about grammar.

#7. If you’re a writer, why aren’t you rich and famous?

Unless you are J.K.Rowling or James Patterson, you probably won’t get rich from writing. Tolkien didn’t. Some people make a good living, usually by writing dozens of books every year and having virtually no life other than writing and its associated activities. Even then, a lot of their profit gets ploughed back into writing, by attending conferences, book signings, etc. and doing research. Even the most prestigious mainstream publishers no longer give writers expenses for that kind of thing – it has to come out of royalties. Royalties are low with mainstream publishers but there again, they do all the things like paying cover artists, formatters, etc. Self publishing royalties are higher and if you do some of the ‘other’ work yourself, you get to keep more of the profit, but sales are by no means guaranteed. Then, either way, there’s tax… I suspect readers think writers for the big mainstream publishing houses live in a lost world of long lazy expense account luncheons, and paid-for holidays in the sun to research their next title. Not nowadays, and for very few even in some glorious past.

They also seem to think anyone claiming to be a writer should be able to achieve this golden state of affairs simply by being good enough. Unfortunately, leaving aside the matter of royalties and and the lack of other financial support, it is not enough to be a good writer. You have to be a lucky writer, too. Someone who worked for one of the big publishers once told me that yes, there has to be a modicum of talent but after that, the manuscript (and note that I’m now talking about the days before emailed submissions, when there were in fact fewer books written altogether) has to land in the right intray when the submissions editor is in the right mood, has an opening for a work of that particular genre, length, etc. and has time to read it. We all know the stories about how books like Watership Down were rejected time and time again – nothing whatsoever to do with their quality.

#8. Everyone has a book in them

I seriously doubt it. There are people whose lives are so dull that we wouldn’t want to read about anything they wrote; people whose only ‘hobby’ is watching sport on TV, who have no family dramas, who are comfortable in their jobs, their finances and their relationships. Some of them might have rich imaginations and then, certainly, they might write a book, but if they haven’t, then they will have nothing to write about. There are other people whose lives are so chaotic that they can barely make sense of them themselves, let alone tell others about their experiences. They might be able to express some of what they know or believe to a writer who can incorporate it into a story, an article or an academic thesis, but that’s not the same thing as having a book in them. Then there are people who are passionate about something, driven and organised. But their way of dealing with their subject matter is in action, political, business, local community, personal, charity, etc. Or in music or art. They do not have ‘a book’ in them; they may have a painting, a sculpture or a symphony or they may have a parliamentary maiden speech.

#9. Genre fiction and non-fiction is not as important or as high quality as literary fiction or academic non-fiction.

This opinion seems to have been firmly embedded in our culture, no doubt given a helping hand by reviewers in the weightier papers and magazines, and by sundry academics. It is pandered to by booksellers, on and offline, who want to put things on tidy shelves and label them often with profit in mind. They want to target the right demographic. This trend entirely loses sight of the fact that many of our classics started as genre fiction.

Dickens, for example, wrote romance and mystery for the serial magazine market. Yes, his, and many other ‘classic’ books are well written with many-layered plots and delightful characters. So are some of today’s ‘genre’ novels which are dismissed out of hand but have so much to offer. Tolkien made it out of the fantasy ghetto, perhaps because of his academic background, but although I adore Lord of the Rings there are other equally good fantasy writers who are still behind the barriers – Tad Williams, to name only one. Alan Hollinghurst’s books escape the m/m romance genre probably because the author is a respected reviewer (and maybe because he doesn’t always have happy endings). Forster escaped, too, possibly by being dead, but Maurice is hardly ever mentioned in discussions of Forster’s work. There are other m/m romance writers who deserve similar attention. It is fashionable to praise Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels whilst still putting them firmly in the crime genre whereas Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone is considered to be the first English detective story but at the same time is regarded as ‘literature’. H.G.Wells and George Orwell crashed through the sci-fi barrier but only, perhaps, by dying. There are too many other examples to list here.

Non-fiction suffers similarly. A really good cookery book is as useful, and as research-based, as a lot of academic papers, but is dismissed as mere ‘lifestyle’ or ‘hobby’ fodder. There are brilliant popular books that analyse history or finance or art, but unless they emanate from university research they are too often ignored.

Obviously many readers find these books for themselves, enjoy them, recommend them, etc. And some of the authors may as a result find some fame and fortune. But not, apparently, the accolade of the serious critic. And that’s something that has trickled down to the general public who in turn regard anything other than the ‘classics’ or the latest prize list litfic as ‘mere’ light entertainment.

#10. Writers are either unsociable or full of themselves (sometimes both)

The prevailing images are: the standard stereotype of the starving artist in a garret; the shy writer tucked away in their converted garden shed; the eccentric and absent minded cat owner with a creaking typewriter and few friends.

The reality is people with families of one kind or another, large friendship groups, and a well-developed social life. How else would they observe human nature so closely and find material for characters, locations and plots? And although some might initially scribble their thoughts down in notebooks, transfer to a state of the art computer screen is an inevitable part of the process requiring an electricity supply, internet and a familiarity with technology.

So writers are not unsociable. But are they arrogant or boastful? They do have to ‘blow their own trumpets’ if they are to make any sales at all. Even the big publishing houses offer very little in the way of marketing and advertising. But selling the product of a lot of hard work is no different from the florist’s sign outside the shop or the bakery buying ad time on TV. After all, if they didn’t tell you about their books, how would you know? You’d be left with nothing to read but the classics, and good as they are, these don’t meet our need for new and exciting ways of looking at the world.


Posted by on February 28, 2017 in publishing, writing


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A ficlet for Valentine’s Day


Travelling together

Ken had only come to Waterstones to get a map. The trip up to Scotland would take him off the beaten track and he had no desire to get lost before he found the castle where his cousin’s wedding was to be held. He had neither the money nor the inclination to install any kind of GPS in his car and those print-outs from the AA usually led via diversions into delays.

So he headed for the map section but couldn’t resist a glance at the sci-fi shelves on his way past. Maybe there would be time to read and relax over the weekend.

A mass of red curls over a slim but muscled body was evidently studying the section in depth. Luscious. And with a shared taste in reading matter.

Ken sighed and continued to ‘Maps’. No time for dalliance if he was to set out today. But how he wished… Then again, he consoled himself, the other man might be a raging homophobe or perhaps just choosing a book for a sci-fi loving sister.

Comparing maps of the glens and realising he hadn’t brought his reading glasses, Ken sighed again, then noticed a slender hand with a dusting of freckles picking up the map he’d just discarded. A polite voice murmured,

“I don’t suppose you’d know which of these would be the best to get me somewhere near Gairloch?”

Ken looked up slowly. Red curls framed enquiring green eyes. The hand that wasn’t holding the map was clutching a copy of Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal.

“I don’t,” he told the green eyes, quietly drowning in them as he spoke, “but I’m going there myself. Perhaps we can figure it out together?” He gestured with the map he’d almost decided to buy and indicated the coffee bar across the shopping precinct. It was too much to hope they were both going to the wedding, but at least the detour to Waterstones seemed to have led to a meeting of minds.

It turned out they were indeed both going to the wedding. Alasdair was a distant relative of the bride and despite his Scottish name had never ventured across the border. They agreed to travel together and Ken walked out of the shop with his map purchased but no more longing glances at the fiction books. He rather thought his time in the Highlands would be adequately filled.

(Yes, it’s Edinburgh Castle, but it was the only Scottish photo with a castle I could lay my hands on today)

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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in ficlets, writing