Happy Christmas!


Just a reminder that Smoke and Mirrors should be free to download from Amazon today from the following links. (I do hope I set it up properly.)

Also, please bear in mind that from experience Amazon doesn’t reduce the price to zero on promotion days until late morningish.

I wish all my regulars a Happy Christmas and a great 2015.




It’s a book!

Smoke and Mirrors 0602 (Medium)

It’s a book!

Name: Smoke and Mirrors

DOB: 18th December 2014

Gender: Mixed

Weight: I think it was worth it.

Should be live on Amazon sometime tomorrow.

Copies will be free to download on Christmas Day. I’d love to think that my regulars will help themselves then, but please remember that Amazon’s Christmas Day starts later than GMT. (Last time I advertised a free give-away the price didn’t drop to £0.00/$0.00 until sometime in the morning. It all got a bit tense.)


Smoke and Mirrors 0602 (Medium)

I have finally got to a stage with Acer #3 where I’m as happy as I think I will ever be with it. (And I’m not sure I could face reading it through again.)

I’m going to list it on Amazon in the next few days. But don’t buy it then! It will be free to download on Christmas day. My intention in giving it away on Christmas day is to say thank you with a virtual Christmas present to those of you who have enjoyed the first two and who have supported me with my writing. I really am more grateful to you all than I think I can properly articulate. So, please, if you’ve been looking forward to it grab a copy then. I hope you find something in it to enjoy.

Compliments of the season to everyone who follows this blog and I hope that you all have wonderful festive seasons.

PS A long time ago I saw this: a book is a present you can open again and again. That’s something that didn’t change with technology (so long as your battery is charged).

Riding that wave of learning.

That's better. I was feeling a little agoraphobic for a moment.

That’s better. I was feeling a little agoraphobic for a moment.

Still working on Smoke & Mirrors. I’ve given it another read through this week after the wake-up call, which has led to me striking nearly 4000 words from it. I’m very happy about that. It’s now down to 90,000 words. There are some weeks where I feel that I’ve really learned something about the craft of writing. This has been one of them.

And that's just the title page.

And that’s just the title page.

I’ve learnt that I don’t like adverbs and I should use them sparingly. I’ve learnt that the use of clichés should be a birching offence. (I think that to include them occasionally in dialogue is acceptable. People do use them in speech.) I’ve learnt that there isn’t anything much more distracting and irritating for me in a story than a cringe-worthy home-made simile. (Good ones are worth their weight in unicorn semen. But use sparingly.) I’ve learned to stop saying something and then saying it again differently. I’ve learned not to be so verbose. I’ve learnt not to tell so much. I’ve learnt that Hemingway was right when he said writing is rewriting. I’ve learnt that Elmore Leonard was right when he said if the author’s voice comes through get rid of it.

I’m not saying that my stories from now on will be free from all the above but I’ve learnt to recognise them better and the need to weed them out/do something about it when I do. I believe that is an important step towards becoming a better writer. (For those thinking: about time, Rome wasn’t built in a…oh crap – is that a cliche?)

I’ve enjoyed myself on this. I didn’t relish the prospect of taking the knife to the text again but as I was going along I found the removal of every word and phrase something satisfying.

The most important thing is that I am much happier about the book. I’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating (some things are): my aim with every book I bring out is that each addition should contribute to the series. I don’t want to disappoint anyone, ever. And I don’t want to let myself or my characters down. That brings a certain pressure to bear. But then no one said being an attention seeking vanity publisher was going to without its challenges.

I am determined to have Acer #3 out before Christmas.

Smoke and Mirrors 0602 (Medium)

Stop, look and listen.

Two days ago I was walking to catch my bus and I had to cross the road. It’s a busy road. I was not paying good attention and misjudged the speed of an approaching maniac, sorry, Turkish driver. I had to hurry the last couple of yards to the pavement and relative safety. As the car sped past, inches from my trailing heel, horn blaring, a voice said, ‘Careful, you idiot. You nearly got us all killed.’ In English. Out loud. It was me. And I was addressing myself. I know this because, thankfully, there was no one else around. To be precise, I think it was the DI Romney in me that was addressing the real me, as I was thinking about him at the time. It made me feel a bit weird about myself. It still does.

It was a bit of a wakeup call for me about the dangers of becoming too involved with my characters. I’m not sure when I crossed the line or if the advanced level of my condition can be reversed. Clearly, the episode was brought on by a particular event, a near death experience in this instance. But what if the DI Romney in me can be triggered in other ways? What if I’m teaching and one of the kids does something to elicit a reaction from one of the characters who live within me? I could end up swearing at or punching a five year old or a colleague. How could I explain it and remain at liberty? You don’t know them out here. It’s straight-jackets first, ask questions later.

But it did make me think that I need to take more care generally. I mean, if I die in a traffic accident, for example, it’s not just me who’s gone.  I’d be taking Tom Romney, Joy Marsh, Peter Grimes, Acer Sansom, David Booker and Jo Cash with me, not to mention all the supporting casts from these series. I think I owe it to English literature to use the pedestrian crossings from now on.


Just 'cos I like the cover.

Just ‘cos I like the cover.

Last week I got Smoke & Mirrors back from the gentleman who proofreads my books. I’ve been reading it through and, as per his advice, the red pen is out again. I’ve been guilty of a lot of waffling, repetition, and the text is littered with clichés and crappy similes. In places it reads like the kind of books I give up on for just those reasons. I’m pretty disappointed with myself.  It really needs a good pruning. I don’t mind that as an exercise. In fact I get some satisfaction out of tightening up a text. But I wish I’d made a better job of it before I sent it off. Still, better to find out now than through reader feedback.

I also realised from this read through that I have a bad authorial habit of writing something and then finishing the paragraph with a summarising sentence that says it all again, just in case the reader might have missed what I was on about. It ends up as show and tell instead of show not tell. Actually, it’s a cardinal sin for a writer. I should be past all that for crying out loud. Again, I’m doing something about it.


Something else to highlight for my writer’s diary this week. I’ve recently finished Booker & Cash #2, so a lot of it is still quite fresh in my mind. While working on Smoke & Mirrors today I recognised a couple of lines that I remembered using in B&C#2. Cue cold sweat. They were quite generic, which makes it more forgivable.

Being philosophical about it, I suppose it shouldn’t be such a shock to discover that I have used a line that I liked more than once. (Having spotted them I have changed them.) It made me think about writers who have long running series with their characters. People like Lee Child and his Jack Reacher, for example. He has written nineteen books in this series so far. Has he never repeated himself with a line, a phrase or a bit of dialogue? It’s something else to watch out for and guard against the more books I write.

As far as crossing the road and writing goes (not at the same time, obviously), this week has given me some important lessons to learn from.