Sunday, 7 February 2016

Neil Roberts - Out of Phase

As you know, I love doing author / writer interviews, especially when the genre is one I don't generally write for (never say never, right?). It's also a great way to get inside someone else's head without Thomas Bladen's surveillance skills. I was delighted, therefore, when Neil Roberts - a writer buddy and someone I know in the real world - agreed to do a blog interview. Sit back and enjoy...

1. What is it about short fiction that appeals to you?
The brevity.
Next question.
Just kidding, but it's still the brevity which appeals. Whenever I find a collection of short stories I always seek out the shortest ones to read first. They're like a little instant hit of flavour. Literary amuse-bouches, if you like. But that's as a reader, not an author. As an author it's a whole different story. As an author I like the discipline.

Unlike when I'm working on a novel I don't have the time in a short story to waste on needless world-building and interesting diversions. I have to stay focused on what I'm wanting to tell and stick to just that path, no matter how fascinating the opportunities to meander may be. It really does help you develop and tighten your writing style when you have to weigh up not just chapters of paragraphs but individual sentences and words, deciding whether they serve the story or are padding to be cut.

2. Who are your influences?
That's a complicated question, because there are many ways to be influenced creatively. The author who made me want to write (and to whom my first ever story was an homage) was HP Lovecraft. I'd encountered his work through the RPG Call of Cthulhu and gone on to devour his writing in short order. Unlike his contemporaries and antecedents (Poe for example) Lovecraft's work has aged remarkably well and I still find it influencing me today.
Looking at my book shelf Asimov has been an obvious influence too. I have a complete set of his early shorts and often find myself reading them again, and not just for nostalgia's sake. He paints a character with such deft strokes, outlining them in only a few words and creating rounded images with a rapidity I've not seen since Dickens (who could sum up an entire person simply by naming them).

The agent, publisher and anthologist Herbert van Thal was also an undoubted influence, despite never writing a word of fiction in his life. Through the 24 volumes of the Pan Books of Horror Stories for which he was responsible I was introduced to a world of ideas utterly alien to me, exposed to possibilities and peculiarities I'd never imagined could exist. Over the years I've managed to pick up most of the volumes he edited at charity shops and car-boot sales so that I now have an only marginally incomplete set of the books. One particular story - Pieces of Mary - is undoubtedly the single most influential piece I've ever read. It appeared in volume 12 of the series and - so legend has it - was written, edited and sent to print in just one day but Robert Ashley. If you ever see volume 12 grab it - it also contains a 14 line poem called The Instant Divorce which is simply flawless in execution and the wonderful Sergeant Lacey demonstrates how a revenge tale can be written. Truth be told the entire volume is worth more than just a casual read, and that's rare for an anthology. 

3. Tell us a little about how you got your stories published.
Social media and networking have been as big a boon to me as to any other writer. Without the Internet (the most amazing by-product of CERN's research and a paean to the benefits of unrestricted research) I'd never have been published, not just because I'd never have seen any of the submission calls to which I responded but also because I'd never have been able to respond to them on a budget. When I started sending out my work it was always printed out and posted off, never to be heard of again, and that ended up costing money which I simply didn't have. With the development of email it's become cheaper, faster and easier to rack up the rejections. And mark my words, rejections are what I've had and still receive in abundance.

On the plus side the Internet also meant I was published for the first time twice. Yes, I know that makes no sense, but stick with me. I had sent off two different stories to two separate publishers, neither of whom knew each other even existed yet alone that I had submitted to them. One was here in the UK, but the other was in the US (I'd never normally have known about them without t'Interweb) and the practical upshot was that I received acceptances from both publishers, each understanding that I was unpublished which, until they changed it, I was. Ironically the order in which the two stories were published was the reverse of that in which they were accepted.

A little about courtesy at this point. In the above the stories were different, but if you're sending out the same submission to multiple publishers or agents then tell them. My most recently published work was with two companies and as soon as one accepted it I informed the other that the piece was no longer available even though I'd not heard from them in several months. There was no objection from that second company and it actually prompted them to consider another of my pieces which will be coming soon to a bookshelf near you.
In short, always be as professional as you possibly can - as a writer (as in all walks of life) your reputation is vital.

4. What are you working on at the moment?
Nothing much. I've just finished a 60k novel which was pure hell to get out so I'm trying to put it out of my head. After a period of reworking it's currently with a reader or two so while its structurally complete there will be a final polish before I can finally call it done. Or as done as these things ever are.

However, while I'm not actually writing at the moment I am plotting and researching in preparation for a new project. Proper preparation definitely pays dividends in the long run, really it does. My first novel was under-planned and took eight years to finish. My second was planned, written and polished off in as many months. The third took a little longer in the plotting, but has still been finished in a matter of months, not years. Planning is even more important in writing short stories because of the limitations on word-count you'll inevitably encounter. If an editor says he has a 5,000 word limit he means it. If your story expands above that in the editing process then that's all very well and good, but until then treat any limitations imposed upon you with the same respect you would the word of God.

5. What are your greatest challenges when writing short fiction?
All writers have a legion of barriers to prevent them writing. Time is the big one, inspiration is another. And let's not forget the distractions that we can happily lose ourselves in (Douglas Adams once climbed a mountain to avoid writing - now that's what I call doing it like a boss).

I'm what I like to think of as a method-writer. Just as method-actors enclose themselves in their role so do I take on some of the drives and motivations of my characters while I write. Maybe it's a hangover from a life of playing RPGs, but for those creative hours I really do get in the head of each of my protagonists and antagonists, which means they also take up temporary residence in mine.

At first sight it's rather useful as by wrapping my head around their personalities it becomes obvious what they'd say or do, and that makes plotting and writing so much easier. But in other ways it's damned tough. Put aside the fact that some of my characters are thoroughly unpleasant individuals, I put almost all of them through hell, really I do. I've inflicted fates upon some that I'd only wish upon the very worst of my enemies, and that has taken a toll on occasion. I know it sounds ludicrous, but I've honestly felt guilt for hurting fictional people.

There's one particular character who I put through a series of unmitigated awfulness over the course of his character arc. I heap upon his narrow shoulders such trials and tribulations as would have broken Job's faith. Really. Okay, so he's not perfect, but he's no monster. As a person he has a few minor flaws, a few irritating personal characteristics, but nothing to deserve the dreadful experiences he endures at my hands. I know it's stupid and paradoxical, but I feel a palpable guilt for what I've done to him. He's fictional, a creation of my peculiarly individual mind, so why do I feel that I need to write him a happy ending, even if it never sees the light of day?

Hi. My name is Neil and I torture my creations. [cue "Hi, Neil"]
Unfortunately, while it may make me a cruel and malicious god, it's part and parcel of this particular writer's gig. Oh, but if any other writers out there feel the same way, please let me know - it's driving me crazy thinking I'm the only one!

6. Where can we find out more about your work?
I have a Twitter feed @WriterRoberts

If you feel the desire to find the books in which I've been published on Amazon then just search for "PN Roberts" in the book department. You'll find the anthologies Out of Phase, Slaughterhouse: vol 2 and Raus Untoten! all of which feature my work. And more is coming soon, including digital copies of individual stories which have reverted to my control as well as a few that have never before been published.

7. Can you recommend any short stories you return to, and tell us why?
Besides those mentioned above in my response to question 2 I must praise the collection of connected shorts written by George RR Martin and published as Tuff Voyaging. While he is best known for his work on the world of Westeros I would recommend ever single word of Tuff Voyaging as infinitely superior. I've read it before and will again. It's just that damned good.

Lovecraft's spellbinding The Outsider is also worth more than a casual mention. Despite knowing the twist in the end of that particular tail I never fail to delight in reading it. It's an exercise in the construction of tension and a tour de force creation of a sensitive and compelling protagonist for whom I still feel a genuine affection. I wish I'd written it.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

How to be a Hat Stand

Hats Entertainment
Freelance writing means different things to different people. But irrespective of whether you're a blogger, a columnist, a copywriter, a feature writer or a ghostwriter, you will need to wear many hats if you want to thrive in business.

Join me as we browse some the multiplicity of metaphorical millinery and indulge in a little hatter chatter.

Clients (I prefer the term to customers - your choice may vary) can come to you with a variety of needs and words may be the least of them. 

They may have a clear brief with a word count and a deadline, with your job to fill in the blanks with groovy content.* On the face of it this is a dream job, but there may be little scope for creative interpretation or adding value in other ways. Let's call this one being a straightforward content provider.

Other clients have a general idea of what they think they want, sort of, and an approximate sense of what the content is for. At first glance, your role seems to be that of a 'writing psychic', but put your crystal ball away and try asking specific questions to clarify what the objectives are and why. There is a reason why the client wants to spend good money on content and part of your role is to establish how they plan to get value from it.

Next we have those clients whose project has developed from a personal experience or need. In many ways these are some my favourite clients because they are already emotionally invested in the project, so there's a commitment to seeing it thrive. However, the flip side of that close connection is that any changes or creative input need to be handled sensitively. It's more than just a job for them - it's the fulfilment of a vision. Your role is part writer and part birthing partner. Remember to breathe!

Some clients do not enjoy working collaboratively, and some writers do not enjoy working any other way. The client rightly makes the final decisions because they pay the bill, but some have already decided that there will only be two hats - master and servant. The pay may be better or decidedly worse, but either way the working conditions will leave much to be desired. Micromanaging, frequent last minute changes, expecting you to put their project above everything else are all signs that your client sees you as an employee at best
On the face of it, choosing clients who don't know what they want, or who want the world, or who want you to be their bestest friend, might seem like a nightmare scenario. However, from a business perspective, all of the above give you the opportunity to add value, whether by providing additional paid services, or by offering some services free - for a limited time - in order to build a establish a long-term working relationship.

These additional services can include: concept development, rewriting and copy editing existing material, proofreading, project management, and proposing new projects.

And some of those hats we spoke of earlier?

Strategist, counsellor, ideas generator and sounding board, oracle, bullshit detector, inquiry agent, researcher, negotiator, reality check and marketeer. 

If all of that is within your repertoire, hats off to you!

* I have set myself the goal of championing groovy in common parlance in 2016.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Ta Da List!

Even though the year has barely started and my previous post is already a distant memory some writers have been in touch about how they want to approach 2016 differently. 

Kath Morgan is opted for the challenge of 52 Artist Dates this year. Others have talked in general terms about being more focused, or committing to deadlines.

Here's a mini list to get you started.

In 2016 I will / might / hope to....

- Write something EVERY day. 
- Treat writing time as special and not something I cram in between TV and biscuits (and yes, of course I mean me!).
- Experiment with my writing, trying new genres and new types of writing.
- Seek out objective feedback so I can develop as a writer.
- Work on my synopsis / pitch / introductory letter. Each one is as essential as a good manuscript.
- Get involved in the writing community, whether it be forums, a blog, a writers' group or sharing feedback.
- Enjoy my successes. I earned 'em!

In case you haven't already heard me whooping from the rooftops, my three thrillers (Standpoint, Line of Sight, and Cause & Effect) have been released as an ebook anthology, Spy Chaser. A paperback anthology will be available later this year.

Read the Thomas Bladen story so far, cover to cover.
"Classic spy novels with a distinctly British twist."

Spy Chaser is published by Joffe Books.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Cynthia Vespia - The Pen and the Sword

Musa Publishing, which receded into the mists last year, was more than just a publishing house. It was a gathering place for a range of authors, some previously published and others easing their way through that magical doorway for the first time. I also found it a wonderful opportunity to meet writers of other genres and discover, to my great delight, that we weren't so very different in many ways.  

But I have to say, I haven't encountered many authors who have also been a model, a trained mixologist (yes, of course I had to look it up!), a licensed private security guard, and an award-winning video editor. It's a wonder Cynthia found any time for writing!

Q1.      When did the writing bug first bite you?

I had the bug early on. I used to read a lot so I always liked the escape that stories brought me. It wasn’t until high school that I got really interested in becoming a writer. It was after reading Dean Koontz novel Intensity that I decided I wanted to be an author. Years later I actually got Dean to sign that book for me!

Q2.      You've had a varied and interesting past. Are there any experiences you draw upon in your writing?

I draw from all experiences in one way or another. That’s what writing is…experiences. Specifically, I used my time as a fitness competitor for the training scenes in Demon Hunter and I drew upon my experience as a security guard for Lucky Sevens.

Q3.      Given your work as a graphic designer and video editor, do you always have a cinematic approach to your books and stories?

I do but it’s more from watching a lot of movie and TV! I mean who among us writers has never visualised their characters as a specific actor, or wondered what their story might look like on the big screen?

Q4.      What are your creative goals in 2016?

Creatively I have quite a few series to either finish or continue writing. Demon Huntress will conclude, I’ve gotten a few ideas to expand my novel Lucky Sevens into a trilogy, and I’m working on 2 brand new series that I will be shopping to publishing houses and agents.

Q5.      Tell us about your latest book and how it came to be written.

Well, speaking of new series I just finished writing the first in a 7 part dystopian thriller. Without giving too much away I’ll just tell you it is a bit of Game of Thrones meets The Walking Dead! It’s about the survivors of World War III. I got the idea for it from watching (not reading) Divergent. I’ve never read the books so I have no criticism but the movie was lacking for me so much so that I wanted to make a better one…there goes that cinematic approach again!

I also just finished the second in the Demon Huntress series which is available now on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble. The idea for the Huntress came from a fan at one of the conventions I attended. She said “it would be cool if the hunter was a vampire.” So I took that suggestion and ran with it! Which is why Khalen struggles so much in the Huntress series.

Q6.      How do you handle some of the common challenges writers face?

I love everything about the writing process. And after finishing my new novel I’m excited and passionate about it again. What I struggle with, as most writers probably do, is in the marketing. Writing is a business and the marketplace is so saturated now with self-published novels that it is growing more and more difficult to stand out from the pack. You may have written a great book but if no one can find it then that’s where things get tough. And, unfortunately, it has become more of a popularity contest than it is about the writing. How many Facebook likes can you get, or Twitter followers? That becomes word of mouth for a novel but it doesn’t necessarily mean the novel is any good. I don’t know about you but I don’t have all day to be on social media…I’d rather be writing!

Q7.      Where can we find your books?

All of my books are across multiple digital platforms. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Lulu, and my own website where you can also find out more about my graphic design and video services. I do custom cover design and book trailers at an affordable cost.

Q8.      Which authors and books continue to inspire you?

Dean Koontz will always be my first love, I just really enjoy his writing style. I’m also a fan of Mary Higgins Clark which is why I’ve somewhat left the fantasy genre behind and I’m leaning towards more suspense/thrillers. But I’m also always on the lookout for new authors as well.

Friday, 1 January 2016

2016 - A New Manifesto

Well, here we are - a whole year to play with and a tantalisingly empty writer's diary for me to fill up with my scribblings. If you read my end-of-year post for 2015 you'll know I've been thinking about what helps or hinders writers getting their work started, developed, completed and read.

The Guardian recently ran a brilliant piece that addressed the homogenous state of UK publishing - - and many of the contributors had suggestions for bringing about change.

However you define yourself as a writer (and I include gender, ethnicity, culture, religion - and no religion, class and politics in the mix), I think it's a safe bet that most of us have felt excluded from the publishing party at some point.

Is there an exclusive club in the literary world for those who have the right background, the right education, the right connections and the right understanding? If so, I don't think it's a deliberate conspiracy (which makes it no less unjust). Most people, unless inspired, challenged or in some other way liberated, like sameness. Maybe it's a tribal mentality thing; a desire to read / hear a voice similar to our own, or at least one that we feel speaks to us.

I once approached a newspaper with a proposal for a column written from the perspective of an aspiring (and hopefully developing) writer, taking the reader from first draft all the way through to publication and beyond. It was rejected with the reply that 'they preferred to approach their own people for that sort of thing'. More recently, I wrote a piece for a literary magazine which, I was told, was suitable, edited down, as an unpaid letter, but unsuitable as a paid article. Apparently it just didn't feel right. Now, in fairness to both parties, my writing is the product of my experiences and education, and limited by them, so I am probably not their sort of person. As I've said in the past, not everyone gets to go to the prom.

I think what matters - now, more than ever - is that we writers each find our own, authentic voice. That also means being willing to work at our craft and to commit to the time, effort, honesty and pain (yes, really!) that appears to be necessary to deliver something real and vital on the page.

We need to know who we are in order to understand what our work is about. Not just for the pitching and the introductory letter, important as they are, but also so that we see our work clearly.

Last month I was on a Skype call with Thorn Sully, Editor-in-Chief of A Word with You Press. We decided to each read out an excerpt from our novels - Almost Avalon, in Thorn's case, and my unpublished novel, Scars & Stripes. I usually pitch S&S as a transatlantic comedy drama, or lad-lit, but - based upon a dramatic scene - Thorn suggested I'd actually written literary fiction. A light glowed dimly in the recesses of my mind. Maybe I was seeing the book all wrong. Someone else had once insisted that, for a comedy, there were some surprisingly dark, psychological episodes. At the very least it's a different filter to look through when I next start refining / submitting / pitching it.

All of which brings me to the new year manifesto - and thanks for reading this far down the page.

I was lucky last year - very lucky. And I know what it felt like to have my nose pressed against the glass for so long. Sore, for one thing.

In light of all that, I would like to participate a little more in the writing community.

This is my charter for 2016.

1. I will read / re-read a stack of books and ensure that I write a review for them afterwards. My list, in no particular order, starts with: The Faery Gates of Avalon - Gareth Knight, The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon - Richard Zimler, The Mabinogion, Doubting Abbey - Samantha Tonge, The Art of Letting Go - Chloe Banks, Narrow Dog to Carcassonne and Narrow Dog to Indian River - Terry Darlington, The Chapel in the Woods - Susan Louineau, and On Writing - Stephen King.

2. I am open to blog post swaps with any other author who is comfortable hosting a piece that relates to my thrillers. If you are interested, in the first instance, send me a direct message on Twitter - @DerekWriteLines - so we can see if our blogs are compatible. Different genres are fine.
3. I am offering an hour a week if I can help other writers. I don't have a magic wand or secret access to movers and shakers. I have, however, tried lots of different types of writing and I've made lots of mistakes! In practice, an hour is long enough to answer a few questions, read a synopsis, give input to ideas or offer some suggestions if you're stuck. Again, contact me on Twitter by direct message - @DerekWriteLines.

You can find links to these and my other books here:

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2015, thanks for everything.

Branching out.
It's been a funny old year. In a good way, I mean. I started 2015 with the familiar writer-inbox staring game familiar to anyone who has both a Labrador and a biscuit tin. And then, as if by magic (because it was certainly magical at the time) I had a book deal for a thriller series. 

Inevitably, that experience has changed my perception of myself as a writer, and how I look at my books, and also - for this series at least - how I write.

There's no getting around it, success matters. I can open doors, liberate potential and liberate us to go on to new projects and new directions.  

Actually, let's not beat around the bush - it has been an amazing writing year. Freelance clients have come and gone - some unexpectedly - and I could not have predicted, back in January, how 2015 would unfold. I've posted my gratitude list below, along with a considerably shorter list of disappointments.

There aren't words to fully express my thanks to everyone who has shared a link on social media, or downloaded a book, or hosted a post. I know many of you had your own books to attend to, so I am doubly appreciative. 

If there is anyone out there who has read any of the Thomas Bladen books - or anyone else's, come to that - please consider writing an honest review on Amazon. It makes a huge difference to authors to know what readers really think about their work and it helps improve a book's chances of being seen (by some algorithmic alchemy). 

Anyway, without further ado...

Standpoint published on 17th March 2015.
- Line of Sight published on 10th May 2015.
- Cause & Effect published 28th November 2015.
- Being Tiffany Truscott's guest of her BBC Radio Cornwall show.
- Being the recipient of other people's support and generosity in helping to spread the word about my books.
- A hugely successful British author agreeing to host a blog post from little ole me.
- Starting a new magazine column about creative writing.
- The Cornishman newspaper sharing my book news with their readers.    

- Musa Publishing, who first brought The Silent Hills and superhero club (now self-published) to life, closing their doors.
- A national newspaper book reviewer not having the time to read / review Standpoint.
- The hugely successful British author, who agreed to host a blog post from little ole me, not doing it after eight months of email ping-pong.

I couldn't end this year without thanking Jasper Joffe and JoffeBooks for exceeding my expectations as a debut thriller author, and giving me a masterclass in writing for a commercial publisher. It has been an absolute blast and I look forward to breaking new ground with you in 2016.
I'll leave you with this well-known quote, which I like to think of as the writer's creed:

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favour to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.

If I could pass on one thought to anyone writing or thinking about writing, it's this: just write, and keep writing. Amazing things are possible, whatever your story and whatever your personal story. (See my blog post in January for more on that topic.)

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Success stories

Just for fun (and private research!), I asked a few writer friends what their definition is of success. Re-reading the list, it's surprising how diverse the answers are. Have  read and see what you think.

However you define it, may you succeed in your creative endeavours and attain your grail.

Jane Pollard

IMO there are four stages of success:  
First: Actually completing your book after all the false starts, doubts and revisions. 
Second: Having it accepted by a publisher who believes in both the book and you as an author.  
Third: Sales resulting from word-of-mouth recommendation - the best possible advertising.
Fourth: Using all you've learned to make the next book even better.

Jane is a prolific author and tutor.

Martin Bodenham 

For me, success is defined as those rare moments when I learn that my writing has made a genuine emotional connection with the reader, such as demonstrated by the following Amazon review for my thriller novel, The Geneva Connection:

"I bought this novel as a gift for my dad. He had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimers and was having difficulty with reading, among other things. So, he bought a Kindle. This was one of the first stories he read on it. I can't even explain how wonderful it was when dad realized he could read again, and he finished this in a weekend. So, I'm posting this review for him.

Dad has spent years reading every political intrigue book he could find. He absolutely loved The Geneva Connection and ranks it in his top 10. Highly recommended read for everyone."

Martin writes international thriller novels.  More information can be found on his author website:

Chloe Banks

I guess to me success is... achieving a goal - whether that's a 
competition win, publication or just finishing a first draft - through hard-work and against the odds. If it comes easy, or all the odds are in your favour it's luck; if you've created it for yourself, it's success.

Chloe blogs at and her novel, The Art of Letting Go, is currently a finalist in the People's Book Prize, so there's still time to read it and vote for it (my words, not hers).


Samantha Tonge

For me success is all about selling books - not for the money
nor for fame (fat chance of that anyway!) but because it means I am reaching an audience. And that for me is the whole point of writing. I have never been a writer who has simply written for themselves.


Villayat SnowMoonWolf Sunkmanitu

If someone can be inspired or motivated towards a better 

place in their own journey as a result of my work - or if someone can begin to understand the difficulties that people living with trauma face on a daily basis, I'll have achieved what I've set out to do.

Wishing you all a very berry Christmas and a fruitful 2016! 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Freelancing 360°

A friend once told me that part of a mechanic's job was massaging the egos of car owners.
"Yes, that's a classic model."
"There's never a problem getting spares for this one." (And with good reason.)

For freelance writers - and for most self-employed people, I imagine - there's a lot of focus on service. Sometimes that's called customer service and sometimes it's more loftily referred to as relationship management (usually on CVs), but it comes down to keeping the customer satisfied.

That requires playing a variety of roles, often before you can get down to the job itself. You may work on refining (sometimes defining) the scope of their requirements and checking that those requirements align with their objectives / audience. You may feel you have taken on the guise of a counsellor when the client wants to talk through not only the job but also the reasons behind it and the effects it has on them.

Here are some of the other roles you may play: ideas generator, business support, marketing strategist, concept developer, publicist, reality check, negotiator, and confidante.

There are times when all you want to do is get on with the job, but paying attention to your clients stated and unstated needs (you can add intuitive to the list of roles) will pay dividends. The more closely aligned you are with their vision of their work the more likely you are to deliver to their satisfaction. It naturally follows, when that's the case, you become the logical choice when any further projects arise.

It can be time consuming when you fulfil additional roles, especially when they need to be covered before you can reach the writing / editing / proofreading. However, they are not hurdles; they are simply additional aspects of the job and you need to factor in the time required and the cost of providing those services too.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Triple Crown

Any port in a storm.
You have to imagine me smiling to myself as I write this post. Not one of those 'I'm the bee's knees' smug grins, but a gentle 'groovy' crescent on my lips. (I am making it a personal campaign to get groovy back in our everyday vocabulary.)

Three novels published in one year, by Joffe Books, is surely a cause for celebration. It's also a point, amid the excitement and that long, deep breath, to take stock and do my own, belated thanksgiving.

Standpoint took eight years from page one to publication, Line of Sight around three and a half years, and Cause & Effect about a year. That's not indicative of anything other than my thought process.

So, have I learned anything?

Well, only the obvious, which still merits repeating.
1.     Persistence pays off. Keep writing and you end up with more material.
2.     Never underestimate the importance of luck. One of my muses likes to whisper a Han Solo line from time to time:
3.     As long as you're paying attention, every new page / story / book will be an improvement on the previous one.

Has anything changed?

1.     The muses know where to find me now, but I still have days where I have to work at attracting their attention. That's okay; I know they have a lot of people to visit.
2.     I look at stories a little differently now. Often, they seem more like themes, ideas and characters that need to be worked through on the page - like a puzzle.
3.     I defend my work less now. Don't get me wrong, I love it when people enjoy my work, but disapproval does not spell disaster.

Has anything stayed the same?

1.     The truisms are still true!
2.     Writers are defined by writing. It's as simple as that.
3.     Some days are easier than others.
4.     A good notebook makes for an agreeable companion.
5.     There is no such thing as dead time.
6.     I've yet to find out how a 'real writer' lives. It's all a construct and my idea of living authentically (or writing authentically, for that matter) is peculiar to me.
7.     I'm still hungry for experience, for my writing to take me into new situations. (TV and film people, are you listening?!)

Where do I go from here?

1.     Back to the blank page. I have the outline for book four in the Thomas Bladen series, and for the one after that. They're both really linear at the moment, but the meat on the bones will develop as I work on them, and the feedback from other writers remains invaluable. Like books two and three, each book deals with the some of the consequences of the previous book. There is no comfy reset button - much like life.
2.     My standalone dark comedy, Scars & Stripes, is in circulation.
3.     I was serious, earlier, about looking at how Standpoint might be dramatised. It's all dreams and faery dust right now, but I have a couple of ideas about how to proceed.
4.     I have a blog post coming up on the site of a hugely successful British author, in early December, which I'm already tingly about.
5.     I'd like to go through some of my old, angst-ridden notebooks.

Did I feel like a dick when I came up with the title 'Triple Crown' for this blog post?

Absolutely. Especially as I needed to look it up on the web to see which sport it was associated with. (Turns out it's rugby union...who knew, apart from Sarah Campbell?) But this year has represented a triple victory for me - overcoming doubts, inertia, and my tangled first drafts.

 Thomas Bladen's back and his life is about to get complicated.

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