Friday, December 30, 2011

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams . . .

Twelve months ago I was in a bad place. The New Year was looming, I had some personal problems that were kicking my behind, and my writing career was not progressing the way I'd hoped. Then, on Jan 2nd, I received a late night phone call from America. It was Joni Labaqui from the Writers of the Future Contest. The story I had entered almost four months previous (and which, to be honest, I had forgotten about) had reached the final 8 of the quarter. Ms Labaqui assured me that my story was really good and that I was a talented writer. I almost cried. As it happens, the story didn't make the all-important Final 3 but shortly after I went on to sell it to Realms of Fantasy Magazine*. [*That's another story.]

Anyhoo, this episode taught me a couple of things. One, I can do this. I've "got the chops", as they say. Two, I started telling myself to stop waiting around for things to happen. Make your own opportunities. At the time, I didn't quite know what that meant. Surely a writer has to wait for that all-important publishing deal, right? That was my dream, wasn't it? Since the age of ten I'd been dreaming of being a published full-time writer just like my hero Stephen King. (Yeah, I read Firestarter, Pet Semetary, Cujo and Thinner about that time - go figure.) But back in January 2011, I had an epiphany moment.

Sometimes, we have to adapt our dreams.

I'd been following the blog of Mr Joe Konrath and his trailblazing adventures in the world of self-publishing (or indie publishing for want of a better term, but to be honest the terminology is unimportant). Things were changing. The publishing world was changing. Hell, the world was changing. With the advent of ereaders like the Kindle, the Nook and the Sony Reader, the way people read was changing - and at the same time, the way writers got published was changing, too. Writers suddenly had the autonomy and the freedom to write what they wanted and publish it how and when they wanted. With publishing platforms like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords, writers were able to reach potentially vast audiences. I'm not going to detail the various arguements for or against self-publishing because, in the end, every writer has to weigh up the pros and cons for themselves and make a choice. Personally, I am proud to say that since March 2011 when I self-published my first ebook, I have sold over 20,000 ebooks. In the process, I've received really good reviews, some great feedback from readers, and most importantly, I've been given a real sense of purpose in my writing. I can't wait to get the next book out to readers. And the next one after that.

I've never felt more excited about doing the thing I love most.

May I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2012! May all your dreams come true.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Probability and Chaos

Probability and Chaos

'If you jump,' the cop bellowed, fighting to be heard over the buffeting wind, 'you’ll be dead before you hit the ground.'

The jumper, a young man in a white lab coat, glanced over the ledge on which he was standing, taking in the endless tiers of sky-traffic coursing by in every direction below them. The young scientist let out a short, high-pitched laugh. 'You would think so, wouldn’t you?' he shouted to the cop.

'What are you talking about?' said Officer Pullman. 'If you throw yourself into that traffic, the odds of surviving are a million to one!'

The young scientist smiled grimly. 'Actually, the odds are 123,570-to one, to be precise.' He observed the puzzled expression on the officer’s face. 'That’s my field of research - probability and chaos. You’re quite right that the odds against me not being hit by a single vehicle during my descent are considerable. But for the last six months I’ve been working night and day to predict the exact moment and the exact circumstances necessary for me to fall through the sky-traffic and completely avoid being hit.' He glanced at his wristwatch. 'And that moment, according to my calculations, is due in twenty-three seconds time.'

'Are you serious?' asked Pullman.

'Of course! At precisely 11:47 and 23 seconds I will conduct my experiment. I will jump.'

Pullman shook his head in disbelief. 'But … even if you miss being hit by the traffic, you’ll still die. You’ll hit the pavement!'

'That doesn’t matter,' said the scientist. 'If I hit the pavement before I hit anything else, the experiment will have been a complete success!'

'Not if you’re dead!' said Pullman.

'I’m not afraid. I will die safe in the knowledge that I will be famous beyond death. As the first person to truly control his destiny!'

Pullman slumped back against the window-frame in defeat, and then he said the one thing negotiators are taught never to say to a jumper: 'You’re crazy!'

The scientist gave him a wan smile. 'We’ll see, shall we?' He looked once more at his watch. Pullman could see him silently counting down 3 … 2 … 1 …

Then he jumped.

With a mixture of horror and curiosity, Pullman watched the man fall - only he didn’t fall very far. About twenty feet below them, just above the point where the heavy flow of sky-traffic began, a speck of blinding blue light exploded into life. The light expanded rapidly into a large cone-shaped vortex. In its swirling throat Pullman could see a terrible blackness. Something told him that inside that vortex was the end of all things. He watched as the demented young scientist fell straight into that heart of darkness (his final cry of 'What the hell?' echoing in Pullman‘s head for some time afterwards) and disappeared. A second later, the vortex itself winked out of existence.

Officer Pullman looked down into the noisy sky-traffic, scratched his head and said, 'I guess he never predicted that!'

Monday, December 05, 2011

The View from the Bridge

“Potential suicide, Golden Gate Bridge. Officer needs assistance.”

Sergeant Harris studied the figure in his rear view mirror. Dark clothing, black raincoat, raised hood. It was a miracle Harris had seen him through the thrashing rain. But this wasn’t the first time he’d come across someone loitering conspicuously at that particular spot. In his ten years on the beat there’d been a dozen suicides there; he’d attended two of them himself.

The first one had jumped - a middle-aged woman driven to despair after ten years in an abusive relationship. Harris had never really gotten over her death. He could still remember the feel of her dress as it slipped through his fingers. Helpless, he’d watched her fall - silent, graceful - into the roiling waters below.

He’d made a promise to himself that day - he would never let it happen again. Thankfully, the one which followed, a young man, had been pulled back from the brink. Afterwards, Harris had asked him why he’d chosen to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge. The man replied, “I just liked the view from there.”

Harris supposed that was all it was. If he ever decided to end it all, he would probably go to the same spot for the very same reason. The view of the Bay was glorious from there, and what better view to have at the end . . .

The figure in the hooded raincoat, oblivious to Harris’s patrol car parked only a dozen yards away, stepped onto the lower bar of the railing.

“Just hurry with the back-up,” Harris barked, slamming the inter-com back into its cradle. He studied the figure for a moment, feeling the twin spokes of fear and adrenalin in his gut. After glancing round, he pulled a small silver flask from his pocket and raised it to his lips. If any of his colleagues saw him on the sauce again he’d be canned for certain, which would be a tragedy after he’d managed to convince everyone that he’d beaten his addiction.

He took a healthy swallow and slipped it back into his trouser pocket, before climbing out of the car into the rain-washed night. Cautiously, he approached the wavering figure.

“Hello there!” he hollered.

The figure didn’t turn.

“You okay, sir?”

Still no response.

Harris shuffled closer. He could just glimpse the man’s profile - nose, lips, bearded chin - peeking from the hood. The guy looked rough. A tramp, maybe. As Harris took another step closer, he smelled the wreak of booze.

“Would you step down from there, buddy?” Harris asked in a calm, level tone. “Can you hear me, pal?”

“Stop me.”

The words were so faint, Harris wasn’t sure if he’d imagined them.

“Excuse me?”

The figure turned slightly towards him so that Harris saw one rheumy, bloodshot eye staring back at him.

“Stop me,” the old man said.

“Stop you? Buddy, that’s what I want to do.” Harris took this as a plea for intervention and stepped forward-

But something - some force - was stopping him. He pressed forward again, but felt a definite resistance. It wasn’t the wind. This was like some invisible barrier surrounding the hooded figure.

“Stop me!” Louder this time, almost a command.

“I - I can’t,” Harris admitted. “I want to, but-”

The figure pointed a bony, accusing finger at Harris. “You can stop this!”

Harris tried to focus on the hooded figure, but it was as if his vision was slipping between two different images of the same man - one looking down into the water, the other turned slightly towards him.

“You can stop this!” the figure said once more, before it turned, both images melting into one again. The old man raised himself up on the railing, his upper body shaking with the effort.

“No! Don’t!” Harris screamed. He threw himself forward with all his strength, hit the wall of pressure and then-

The next thing he knew he was lying on his back in the traffic lane, rain running down the back of his uniform, blinding headlights bearing down on him. He was so stunned he didn’t even think to scramble out of the way. Luckily, the vehicle slowed and pulled up in front of him. The flashing blue lights filled him with relief.

“Harris, you okay?”

It was Sergeant Dawson, one of his oldest friends on the force. He rushed over and helped him to his feet.

“The old guy!” Harris said breathlessly. “He jumped!”

“What old guy?” Dawson said, scanning the length of the bridge.

“Didn’t you see him?” Harris asked.

“I only saw you, man,” Dawson said. “You stumbled and fell in the road.”

“Yeah, but-”

Dawson’s friendly expression suddenly turned sour. He leaned close and sniffed Harris’s breath. “You been drinking, man?”

Before Harris could answer, Dawson reached down and picked something up from the gutter. It was Harris’s silver flask.

“Jesus, man,” Dawson said, slapping the flask against Harris’s chest. “You told me you’d kicked the habit.” He shook his head. “It’ll be the death of you, Harris.”

Harris froze, his shame momentarily forgotten.

“What did you say?”

“You heard.” Dawson walked back to his patrol car. “Give it up, man,” he said, before driving away.

Harris stood awhile in the pouring rain, staring down at the sleek surface of the flask.

You can stop this.

Had he imagined the whole thing? Was that figure not really there at all tonight? Or was it a glimpse of something that had not yet come to pass? He remembered the profile of that haunted figure, and saw a likeness now that sent a terrible shiver through him.

You can stop this.

“Yeah,” Harris said to himself, “I can.” And with one mighty throw, he tossed the flask over the railing and into the dark waters below.


(First published in From the Asylum. Copyright 2011 Lee Moan)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Star Pilot

JOURNAL ENTRY #3138 Date: 11/04/2199 Time: 1046

This is Cory Dealth, captain and pilot of the cargo freighter, Alexa. I’ve just chartered the final leg of our course for Delta Centauri, but I’m certain that I won’t reach journey’s end alive. I am in the grip of “the Sorrow”, “the Loneliness”, “the Pilot’s Despair”; it doesn’t matter what you call it, I know it has only one cure — death.

Continue reading the story here: Planet Magazine

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Thing All Parents Fear

Some years ago, I recall Stephen King talking about Pet Semetary (still one of my favourite King books) and the hesitancy he felt about actually publishing it. The cause of his hesitancy? The fact that the story featured the death of a child - surely the greatest fear of all parents. I believe SK referred to that particular plot development as "real horror". There's another quote out there (I forget from whom) which goes something like this: "In a novel, you can kill as many men as you like. You can kill women if they deserve it (if they're really bad) and you can kill a child if you have very, very good reason. But if you kill off a dog in your book, you're probably going to alienate your readers completely." I'm paraphrasing here but that's the essential gist. Incidentally, I love the irony of the quote that dogs spark a greater emotional reaction than children. Anyway, point being that no matter how great the tale you are spinning, readers (and I count myself amongst that number) are emotionally connected to certain things and as a result may react to your narrative in an unexpected and seemingly quite irrational way. I think, in literary terms, this sort of reaction goes back to the public outcry Charles Dickens experienced when it was discovered that he was about to kill off Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop. Readers petitioned him to change the outcome, to save their beloved Little Nell, a character they had come to love and care about. Of course, Dickens did not. He told the story he set out to tell. That is the writer's job.

Children die. They die all the time, all around the world, every day. It is heartbreaking and traumatic, but it is part of life. I remember watching a BBC documentary some years ago about the hardships suffered by children in an African community which believed in the occult practice of Kindoki. In one scene, a child of no more than 3 0r 4 years old was sick with some incurable disease and a holy man was standing over him, conducting a deeply upsetting ritual over the boy (he was crying throughout). The journalist reporting the event said in voice-over: "The boy died two nights later". I couldn't sleep that night. I couldn't stop crying for that little boy, so scared and alone and confused. I've never been so upset by something I've seen on television. So I totally get why people react so strongly to children dying even in a fictional narrative. We, as a society, are deeply sentimental when it comes to children. No one in their right mind wants to see a child in pain, or worse still, experience the death of a child. My novel, Lazarus Island, features such an event, and I have to say, the original ending kept me from publishing it for quite some time - years, in fact. I wasn't happy with the original ending at all. I personally found it so dark and depressing that I simply shelved the book and moved onto other stories. But I always loved the mythology of the island and, like Lazarus himself, the story just refused to die. Finally, I found the ending the story needed and I believe it directly addresses the issue I'm trying to highlight right here. At what point do we let go of our emotional connection to a character and allow the story to unfold as it was intended? (The only pop culture example I can think of to illustrate this point is the death of Jack at the end of Titanic - Jack and Rose should have been together forever!!!) The writer's dream is to create characters readers can care about. It shouldn't matter whether they're a child or an adult. A writer's responsibilty is to "tell the truth" and, like I said, sometimes children die - in real life and in fiction. I have four children myself, so it's not something I say lightly, or without personal experience. Children are precious and that is what makes the human experience so painful and difficult and - ultimately - so rewarding.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lazarus Island Offer

Hi folks. My latest novel Lazarus Island is currently discounted on Smashwords until 20th December:

USE COUPON CODE UE63U at checkout to get this ebook for just $1.50.
Smashwords - Lazarus Island

As always, all feedback is greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Into the Realms of Fantasy (see what I did there?)

I am very pleased, proud, and all kinds of excited to announce that my dark fantasy story 'The Transmuted Engine' has been picked up by Realms of Fantasy Magazine. I do believe this will be my very first professional sale. It was a long and interesting process.

The first draft of this story was written waaay back in 2008. I was a regular at Critters Online at the time and after honing the story as best I could I submitted it for critique and four weeks later recieved about fifteen or sixteen critical evaluations, ranging from in-depth monologues to a few scant lines. After fixing the issues which arose in those crits, I sent it to a number of magazines, including Interzone, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Weird Tales, GUD, Andromeda Spaceways and a bizarro anthology, amongst others. Despite the rejections, I still believed in the story. I felt it was the most exciting and imaginitive piece of fiction I had yet produced. In August 2010, I sent it to L Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest. I didn't hold much hope of success. I'd entered twice before and reached the quarter finals and felt that was as far as I was going to get. But in the early hours of January 1st 2011 I received a phonecall from America. It was Joni Labaqui, one of the administrators of the Writers of the Future Contest. She told me my story had reached the final eight for the quarter and was in with a good chance of winning. She told me that, no matter what happens, "you are a great writer". I am telling you now, with absolute honesty, that tears sprang into my eyes at that moment. It was all I could do to keep myself standing upright. I managed to keep my composure for the rest of the conversation, but I was choked with emotion by the end of it.

Now, sadly, 'The Transmuted Engine' didn't make the all-important final three (the prizewinning positions) but that phone conversation not only saved my life, it gave me a newfound sense of self-belief. As a result, I sent the story to Realms of Fantasy, the magazine I had always dreamed of being published in but never dared believe I would, and here we are, six months later, with an acceptance. [Duotrope's Digest reports that Realms of Fantasy has a 1.27 % acceptance rate, and that alone makes me feel emotional all over again.] I wanted to share this story with you, the story of my first big story sale, because it is a huge milestone in my career. There are so many factors involved in selling any story to any market - the editor's tastes, the genre/style of your story, your status as a writer, etc. - but I think the one thing this process has taught me is that if you write something you are proud of and which you utterly believe in, and if you work damn hard to make it the best it can possibly be, it will find an outlet. Eventually.

Never give up.

Never give up on yourself and never give up on an ideal.

'Nuff said.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Author Page at Goodreads

I now have my very own shiny new Author Page over at Goodreads. If you're a fellow author or reader, please consider adding me as a friend. I'd love to hear from other booklovers.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Why Do We Write What We Write?

It's a question writers are often asked, and which they may sometimes ask of themselves. For my money, Stephen King provided the best answer to this question. He proposed the idea that we all have a filter in our brains and as we go through life certain things stick in that filter, things which may pass through everyone else's. For King, the things which seemed to frequently catch in his filter erred on the darker side of life. Hence the horror. For other people, their filter may catch the weird and the amusing, the fantastic, the mysterious or even the downright saucy.

I've found that I tend to write about the extraordinary, sometimes the fantastical, but my stories are always grounded in the human experience. After all, a fantastical tale told without any emotional human connection is really just an empty exercise, in my opinion. I also tend to write about tortured heroes. I like a happy ending as much as the next guy, but my protagonists need to go through a pretty hard time to reach that happy ending, and even when they get there, it'll never be the happy ending they (or the reader) expect. I guess I'm a 'bitter-sweet-ending' kind of guy. And if there is one thing above all else which drives my writing it's the love of surprise. I want to surprise my readers, I want to surprise my characters, and hell, yes, I want to surprise myself when I'm writing -hence my reluctance to write detailed story outlines these days. I love to tell fast-paced stories and it's always my intention to provide a gripping mystery to solve right from the first paragraph, if possible, or at least from the opening chapter. Mystery is primal. Everyone loves a mystery.

But above all else, I want to find that emotional connection with my hero or my main characters. When I'm reading a book or watching a film, the thing I most value is to be moved by it in some way. The ability to stir the emotions in drama or fiction is a truly wonderful thing. It's what I always strive for when I'm writing. And I'm not talking about sentimentality, the 'unearned emotion'. I'm talking about creating characters which readers really care about. It should be at the core of what we do. To this day I am amazed and inspired by the public outcry from readers when Dickens said he was going to kill off Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop. That so many people found the death of a fictional character to be so deeply upsetting that they needed to beg the author not to carry it out - well, it's just beyond words.

There have been two great influences in my life with regards to my artistic sensibilites, and they are the works of two massively talented Stephens - Stephen King and Stephen Spielberg. I think my own sensibilities lie somewhere between the two. I remember years ago picking up a paperback copy of King's The Talisman and reading that Spielberg had bought the rights to make it into a movie. Sadly, it never materialised, but I often wonder how perfect that partnership might have been. For me, anyway.

I'm off to do some writing now. Like Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone, I might just keep a box of tissues by the keyboard. You know, in case I get something in my eye.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Two Free Kindle Ebooks

Last week, Amazon made my ebooks Forever and Symbiosis free in the Kindle store. Since then, these two ebooks have been downloaded a total of 13,000 times. At the moment they are only free on but will hopefully be free on in the very near future.

Friday, July 22, 2011

If Agatha Christie Wrote Science Fiction . . .

Two years ago my first novel, The Hotel Galileo, was published by Wolfsinger Publications and one of the back cover blurbs declared the following: "If Agatha Chrsitie had written fiction she would have stayed at the Hotel Galileo . . ." (Thank you, David Boop). After pondering that sentence for a while it struck me that what I was really trying to do with the book (and consequently the series) is what all writers do: create something they can't find in the current market.

How many times have we enjoyed a certain book or film or tv series and said afterwards, "Yeah, I really enjoyed that . . . but what if they did it this way, or in this type of genre, or with vampires?" For me, The Barclay Heath Mystery Series (which now includes The Hotel Galileo and The Vanished Race) was borne of a love of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot mysteries and an underlying desire to do something different with the genre. I loved the traditional 'Britishness' of Christie's tales, the gallery of suspects, and the genius plots; but at the same time, I also love science fiction - aliens, faraway planets, mystical objects, and everything that goes along with it. It took me several attempts (and a lot of sleepless nights) before I struck on the formula which is the basis for the Barclay Heath series: that of a 1920's-set mystery series set in an alternate universe. What if, I pondered, mankind had ventured out into the stars at the end of the nineteenth century? And what if Twenties values and attitudes had remained unchanged? Imagine a traditional British gentleman detective hopping around the galaxy solving all manner of mysteries. Wouldn't that be so much fun to write?

The answer, I can tell you, is yes it was.

Of all the works I've written so far, the two Barclay Heath mysteries have been the most enjoyable to write. And the third adventure is well under way. Writing should be fun. Otherwise, why bother doing it?

I grew up in Torquay, the birthplace of Agatha Christie, so her influence has been all around me for as long as I can remember. Her legacy is exceptional. I believe she is still one of the best-selling authors of all time. I loved the recent episode of Doctor Who, 'The Unicorn and the Wasp', in which he meets Agatha Christie on the night she went missing; and I particularly love the end of that episode when the Doctor pulls out an old trunk in the Tardis and finds a copy of one of Christie's classic paperbacks, Death in the Clouds. The Doctor remarks how, even in the far-flung future, Agatha Christie is still the best-selling authors of all time.

And rightly so.


The Barclay Heath Mysteries:
The Hotel Galileo
The Vanished Race

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Healing Power of Stephen King

It's happened before. Many times. When I'm feeling down, moping about in what Dorothea Brande called that 'slough of despond', there's only one tonic I can rely on to reinvigorate the creative juices, to fight off the shackles of despair and stop the old Muse from draping herself languidly over a metaphorical sofa like a pampered tart with a headache. The name of this miracle tonic? Stephen King.

In tough times I've always turned to one of King's books. Non-fiction works are just as good as novels. On Writing always helps relight the fires. As does Danse Macabre. But anything from the opening passages of Carrie to the epic conclusion of The Dark Tower is usually enough to drag me from the pit of despairing writers and hoist me, breathless, onto safe ground. This latest bout of fear and self-loathing has been a pretty protracted affair (months rather than weeks or days), and even the surefire King cure-alls failed to work. But in the end, I found the pill I needed. (All right, enough with the medicinal metaphors!) The book I needed was Cujo.

I know, not hailed as one of his classics, but when you’re a fan of King, all his works have a place in your heart. Cujo is one of those books I bought back in my early teens when I just couldn't get enough of SK's work. I had fond memories of that paperback. It was the Futura edition released shortly after the movie came out with the kid recoiling in horror as the 'BADDOG' lunges in for the kill. I know I read it way back then, but I couldn't remember anything apart from just a few key moments early on. So it was nice to get hold of a reasonably good copy of this little gem off Ebay (sadly not quite the same Futura edition) and to sit down and soak up King at his creative height. And as I was reading I felt the old creative juices beginning to flow again, and within the first fifty pages I had already decided to tackle the difficult second half of my own stalled novel and to complete the unfinished short stories in my 'To Do' list. Once again, Doctor King has worked his voodoo magic.

What would I do without him? Honest answer: Without King, I probably wouldn't be a writer. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

What is a Slow Learner To Do? Guest Post by Lee Thompson

I remember when I was younger, all the hours I put into martial arts and how people thought it came naturally. But I lived it, breathed it, dreamt and caressed it. And then in my twenties playing guitar and having other musicians around Detroit say I had something unique going on, something really special, while I let my soul bleed through my fingertips. I wish I was a natural at a lot of things but know I’ve never been with anything (except maybe daydreaming.)

So yeah, I’m a slow learner. My buddy Ken made a blog post recently about discipline, how he wished he had more of it. That’s one thing I’ve always had, luckily. Whether I was imagining, training, writing songs, or whatever, I was committed and they were a priority—those things occupied space in the forefront of my mind even when I was doing something else. I’d work out the images, the motifs, the substance and structure constantly and consistently.

Something I read a long time ago that I think has a lot of benefits if put into practice, especially if you’re a slow learner, is Visualization. The big V. Powerful stuff. Ground shaking creators use it, Olympic athletes, and so many others who are at the top of their game. I don’t care for Donald Trump but I think I read that he used it frequently.

But numeral uno for a slow learner is discipline. Everything else stems from that.

Discipline spawns consistency, which in turn bears the fruits of results and knowledge.

But like any exercise (steps toward higher ground), just going through the motions isn’t enough. From my experience the best way to hone any skill is to focus on one thing at a time.

With boxing you can have a ten minute session of nothing but combinations, another segment for footwork, another for defensive skills like bobbing and weaving; with guitar, running scales over chords or learning how the modes fit in key, finding the right notes, learning to read music, learning by ear, learning new rhythms. And in writing: having a day to study structure (or experiment with it), or focusing on finding every area where the description in a WIP is so run-of-the-mill you want to knock your teeth out, and instead take those areas, highlight them and be creative (all the while training yourself to put more of yourself into it instead of just hoping someone will get something out of it; learning how you see the world, whether drab or beautiful or both instead of just bland. Actually, I’m convinced that writers whose stories are flat stems from their view of the world as flat and one dimensional, each little thing a chore instead of an opportunity. The only cure I know for that is to adjust your perspective, not an easy feat, but doable.)

I think a lot of my characters are slow learners. It’s what I know and live. It’s painful, but once a lesson is hard-won and you bear the scars of those dark moments you don’t forget them. Those kinds of memories are vivid, a blast of cold air on sunny days, a blaze in the dead of winter.

I think that we train ourselves to fail, to give up too easily, to believe the lies we tell ourselves. We make things harder than they really are. We over-think instead of following our instincts and intuition. I’m not you and you’re not me, but we’ve got patterns that work for us just like we do stumbling blocks we throw ahead of us because we’re frightened; things that move us; things we hate and adore; experiences we can draw from and use to make our writing powerful, immediate and unique. Let’s do that. Not everyone will get it. But we have to do our best and settle for nothing less. Stop thinking your competition begins and ends with everyone else. It doesn’t. It begins inside.

Search out ways to discipline yourself, to be honest with yourself, to dig deeper than you ever have before and ever thought you could.

Never quit searching, asking questions, or striving.

--Lee Thompson

Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children is available for iPad and iPhone (click image below to go to store).

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Live to Write, Write to Live

By any standards, being a writer is not a sane life-choice.

It takes a monumental feat of perseverance and self-belief to achieve the goal of being published, usually over a long (sometimes considerably long) amount of time with no promise of success at the end of it, save of course for the personal satisfaction of having written and, hopefully, having been read. Whilst pursuing this crazy dream, the writer must also juggle the usual demands of a modern life: family, work, studies, and many other responsibilities; so finding the dedication to apply themselves in whatever limited free time they have to sit down in a room and write takes incredible self-discipline, especially when deep down we would really rather be relaxing, enjoying a Babycham or two, or, just for once, sleeping. But for those bitten with the writing bug the dream, and the will to succeed, is so strong that despite the madness of it all, we just have to do it. As Samuel Lover said, "When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen". It's an oft-quoted maxim that a writer must write at least a million words before they reach a publishable standard (no shortcuts here, Mister!), and I think that over the course of that long, long period there is a real danger of the writing losing focus, that they may end up living to write, not writing to live, which is how it should be. And is it any wonder? To spend so much of your time and energy fighting for those few precious hours, to sacrifice sleep and relaxation and 'downtime' to put pen to paper, when everyone and everything around you is screaming at you to do this, that or the other. How much pummeling will your self-belief take before you throw your hands in the air and say, 'Okay, I give up. No one cares about what I'm doing here anyway. This is all just a pipe dream, so forget it.'

But we don't. Somehow we find a way to carry on doing it, and then, one day, out of the blue, those gloomy old clouds break, and you find someone who really likes your work and who wants to publish you, and then, before long, you are published and you're frantically working on the next book and starting to make plans and although you still don't have that much free time it all just seems to be easier, the writing seems to be flowing these days, and - oh wow, just got some feedback from someone who has read your book and they're saying how much they loved it and can't wait for your next book and the one after that. And God bless them. Things like that make the whole crazy journey worth it for a while. And then, with any luck, you're able to achieve the real dream - writing to live. That is, being successful enough to start enjoying life, maybe even giving up the crappy day job and just being paid to write. My, that's a great dream right there, isn't it?

Anyone who comes to writing and thinks it's an easy ride to fame and fortune is either naive, seriously ill-informed or simply deluded. Maybe even all three. And now, of course, with the advent of self-publishing platforms such as Kindle and Smashwords it has become much easier to get published, but the maxim must not be forgotten: no matter how good a writer thinks they are, they must still write at least a million words before their work is ready for the world. In that respect, there are no shortcuts. An apprenticeship must still be served.

Yes, being a writer is not a sane life-choice. But for those willing to put in the work and the dedication (and if they're lucky - luck is always a major factor) the rewards can be great.

Keep writing. And keep dreaming.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Serial Fiction in the Kindle Market

After having spent some time immersing myself in the indie Kindle market (and when I say that I am really referring to the wider ebook market as a whole, it's just that I'm a Kindle owner and so that's my direct experience) both as an author and reader, it has become clear to me that the one thing that really excels in this brave new digital world is serial fiction. By that I mean series of books which follow a recurring main character or books set in a particular 'universe' in which several adventures take place. Of course there are stand-alone indie novels which have achieved great success, but those indie authors who have found long-term, sustained success have most often achieved it through offering a series of books to their readers (or more than one series if they're really prolific).

I can see the appeal.

Since the TV series Lost exploded onto our screens back in 2004 I've become a bit of a devotee of quality serial telly. [Okay, so people take issue with the ending of Lost but by and large it was an exceptional piece of televisual storytelling, keeping its audience guessing for six years, right up until the very end, and that's some achievement right there. Rant over.] Of course, 'quality' is subjective and so I can only talk about the shows which really push my buttons, regardless of their perceived worth. I loved Lost. I also love Fringe. I loved The 4400 (until it was cancelled!!!!). I love Supernatural. I also love Doctor Who. And all of these shows follow the same format: individual episodes which can be viewed and enjoyed in isolation but with an overall story arc which spans multiple seasons.

When I was a young aspiring writer I wanted to be like Stephen King who, with the exception of The Dark Tower sequence, has always written stand alone novels. But times have changed and I have changed. What really excites me now is creating a unique universe and revisiting it over the course of multiple adventures. I love the idea of story arcs, dropping hints at future developments, and cliffhangers which lead us into the next instalment. The Kindle market is made for this format. Affordable, easy to download ebooks are the perfect way to keep readers and fans returning. I've said it before (as have so many others), now is an exciting time for authors. Especially if you have a gripping serial in mind . . .

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Vanished Race: A Barclay Heath Mystery

Cover art and design by Steve Upham

It's almost here . . .


For Barclay Heath, it was a mystery too great to resist. But as night falls on the deserted alien world, his fellow passengers begin to vanish one by one . . .

Heath must unravel an age-old mystery before time runs out, before he, too, suffers the same fate as the Tobrii . . .


The Barclay Heath Mysteries are set in a whimsical alternate-1920s, where humanity has ventured out into the stars but Twenties values and attitudes prevail. Barclay Heath is a gentleman detective enjoying semi-retirement from Earth’s Secret Service. Unfortunately for Heath, murder and subterfuge are never far away. As he travels the cosmos, he comes up against fiendish plots involving mysterious lost races, strange alien artefacts and, of course, a generous sprinkling of devious humans.

The Vanished Race is the second volume in the Barclay Heath Mystery series, following the detective's exploits in The Hotel Galileo. The books are self-contained mysteries and do not necessarily need to be read in order, although the first book in the series gives a good grounding in the universe Barclay Heath inhabits.

The Vanished Race will be available to buy from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all good online ebook retailers. Watch this space for more details . . .

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reaching the Kindle Top Ten

Last week was a particularly exciting time for this author. Without any warning, my supernatural horror story collection The Midnight Men and Other Stories spent two days in the Amazon top ten charts.

For 48 hours I watched as it jumped about the Top 100 list for Horror Short Stories, reaching its highest ranking of #9, before falling down the rankings a bit then rising again to #10 briefly. At one time it was sandwiched between two HP Lovecraft collections! Cool! Another time it was also sandwiched between two of my literary heroes - Stephen King and Joe Konrath! As you can imagine, I was in a very happy place.

Thanks to everyone who purchased a copy and/or downloaded a sample. Its little moments like these which make the whole journey worthwhile.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

My first fully-fledged novel for Kindle is almost ready

It's been a long and difficult road but my novel Lazarus Island is almost done. And when it is finally done it will be my first fully-fledged indie novel. A quick look at the lovely My Books scrolling-thingy above shows the ebooks I currently have to offer on Amazon, and you may notice they are all short story compendiums of varying length. Although I've had some minor successes with the short story collections (particularly The Midnight Men which this week hit the top ten in Amazon's Horror Short Stories chart) I am continually reminded that it is novels which sell well in this new Kindle/Nook age, so I'm really hoping Lazarus Island will liven things up. I will report on its success once it goes live next month.

Watch this space. No, not that one. This one.

(For more info on Lazarus Island visit the website)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Prismatica by L David Hesler

From April 13th to the 21st, author L David Hesler is offering to donate the profits from his book Prismatica to the charity Relay for Life. Please consider buying this book. I can't recommend it highly enough.

You can purchase it at and here at

Here is a little more about it.

"1993- Michael Duncan is a rural police officer. He meets a mysterious young girl during a routine search and rescue mission in the woods of Soldier Creek, a haunted stream on the outskirts of Mason's Post, Missouri. His encounter with this tortured girl has consequences that reach nearly twenty years into the future, when a madman possessed by something dark and primal threatens to tear apart a family... and the fabric of reality itself. As Michael's story unfolds in four different sections, the mystery only becomes more maddening. Why was he chosen? And where will he go when he's fulfilled his destiny?"

Find out more at L David Hesler's website:

Monday, April 11, 2011

(r)Evolution of a Noob: INDIE AUTHOR SHOWCASE 2: Lee Moan

I'm very pleased to be featured on the website of fellow writer L David Hesler today. This is the second author showcase following on from Daniel Arenson. Click the link below to pay a visit.

(r)Evolution of a Noob: INDIE AUTHOR SHOWCASE 2: Lee Moan

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I love my Kindle

I'd been planning to get myself a Kindle for ages, and after a recent trip to my local Staples store to purchase a memory stick and browse their range of laptops, I asked the sales assistant if by any chance they sold ebook readers. She pointed behind me and I was stunned (and a little suprised) to find a massive display dedicated to the Kindle towering over me. What's more surprising is that they were selling them at the same price as Amazon. So I got myself the Wi-Fi 3G version and haven't looked back since.

It really is a marvel. Without wanting this post to turn into an advert for Amazon's baby, I just want to say how this device really has changed the game for readers and, more importantly, writers in the 21st century. Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

Yesterday, Saturday, I attended my Open University graduation ceremony. I took my Kindle with me just in case there were some lulls in the day. There were. Anyway, during the ceremony an honorary degree was awarded to the writer William Trevor. Although I had heard of Mr Trevor before, I wasn't aware of his work other than knowing he was regarded as one of the greatest living short story writers. Well, after the ceremony was over, I turned on my Kindle and went straight to the Kindle store where I was able to download - instantly - some of his works. Within minutes I had familiarised myself with Mr Trevor and I am now reading one of his collected works. Magic. Ten years ago, or maybe even five years ago, doing this would have been regarded as science fiction. But the age of the digital ereader is here. The Kindle is just one of the growing wave. It just happens to be a darn good one.

Since purchasing it, the Kindle has reinvigorated my reading. A few years ago I was reading 50-60 novels a year. Recent personal setbacks have seen that number drop almost to zero over the past year. But the Kindle is already proving to be a big help in getting me back into reading, my second love after writing, obviously. I've just finished reading my first novel on Kindle (Draculas by JA Konrath, Blake Crouch, et al) and I have many more lined up that I'm dying to read.

Thank you, Kindle.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Coming Soon: Lazarus Island


For mystery writer Sam Thorne, moving to the island was supposed to be a fresh start—an idyllic refuge for his young family, and an escape from his past indiscretions. Things he wanted dead and buried.

But on Scalasay, the past has a way of catching up with you . . .

The horror which tore the island apart ten years earlier is returning. Ben Garrett, the convicted rapist and murderer, is coming back to the island to visit his dying mother. But no one could have foreseen the shocking turn of events which are about to unfold.

A storm is coming . . .
And on this terrifying night even the dead will not stay dead . . .


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Midnight Men and Other Stories

A collection of supernatural tales guaranteed to keep you reading until the bitter end.

My short story collection The Midnight Men and Other Stories is now available to purchase from Smashwords.
Introductory price $0.99. For a limited time only.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

SYMBIOSIS gets a new cover

Although the original cover (see my earlier post) for Symbiosis wasn't too bad I thought I could improve on it. So I did. I went away and spent a bit of time crafting a cover that was a little more eye-grabbing. That's the beauty of publishing in the new digitial age. Authors now have so much control over their work...and things can only get better.

In the course of its first week, Symbiosis sold over fifty copies. Not bad for a 7000-word short story. It did get some extra exposure during Smashwords' Read an E-Book Week promotion, so now that's ended it'll be interesting to see how it does from here on in.

This is all incredibly exciting. I just can't wait to see how The Vanished Race does once it's published. Watch this space...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

It's Read and E-book Week

Yes, folks, it's Read and E-Book Week and Smashwords is participating for the third year running. Lots of good e-books out there all at discounted, low prices or the best price of all - free!

My new ebook SYMBIOSIS (see previous post) is in there and is now available for free until March 12th when the promotion ends.
Check out all the e-books on offer here: Read an E-Book Week at Smashwords

Happy reading!

Sunday, March 06, 2011


Light years from home.
Bonded to an alien for survival.
A dark secret is about to be revealed . . .

The planet Verdana was supposed to be their new home, their new Eden. But shortly after arriving the human colonists were faced with a dilemma - join with the alaahi or perish. In the end, they chose the process of symbiosis, a physical conjoining with the native alaahi.

But now there are whispers amongst the colonists. The alaahi are not the benevolent beings they made themselves out to be. Before long a dark secret is about to be revealed, and young Jena must make a terrible choice . . .

SYMBIOSIS is available from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, Kobo, Deisel, and many other formats. Visit the Smashwords page for SYMBIOSIS to download a free sample.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Vanished Race OUT NEXT MONTH

I am very excited to announce that the publication date for The Vanished Race, the second in the Barclay Heath Mystery series, will be March 2011. The series is set in an alternate 1920s and follows the adventures of retired detective Barclay Heath as he travels the cosmos and comes up against some fiendish plots involving mysterious lost races, strange alien artefacts and, of course, a generous sprinkling of devious humans.

In The Vanished Race, Heath finds himself amongst a small group of passengers visiting the deserted planet Tobriosus, once home to the ancient Tobrii race, who mysteriously disappeared almost a century ago. It's a mystery too tantalising for Heath to resist.

Then, one by one, the passengers begin to vanish into thin air. . .

Out next month and available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all good online bookstores.
Don't forget - The Hotel Galileo, the first Barclay Heath mystery is also available.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

How Lord of the Rings spoiled my movie enjoyment forever (well, almost)

I love movies. I really do. But over the past decade something has happened. Although I still watch movies regularly (a subscription to LoveFilm gives me my regular fix) I have found that I haven't really truly enjoyed a movie for a long time. About ten years, in fact. Which strangely enough takes me right back to 2001 and the release of the film which, for me, changed everything. I'm talking, of course, about Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Yes, Peter Jackson, it's all your fault.

Looking back it's hard to recall what expectations I had of the movie before seeing it. Although I had been an avid reader of fantasy growing up I'd never actually managed to tackle Tolkien's epic so I really didn't have the same expectations fans of the book would have had. And up until that point fantasy movies had a bad reputation for being slightly disappointing (see Legend, Krull, Hawk the Slayer, etc.) So there I was going into the cinema not knowing what I was about to experience. And, to put it mildly, I was blown away.

In the week which followed I can clearly remember going about my daily life with a strange but pleasant numbness. I don't want to make out that it was some kind of epiphany (after all it's only a movie right?) but I know the experience affected me deeply. The film-makers had realised the world of Middle Earth so completely and the drama had been played out so well that it was hard not to be swept up in it. Of course for those whose first experience of the movie was on DVD they really are doing themselves and the movies a disservice. As visually amazing as they are they do lose something on the small screen as most movies do, which could explain why I own all the DVD versions and yet I haven't watched them in years - because I know it won't be the same as that first time, up there on the big screen with the surround sound. Maybe, when I get my home multimedia projector sorted out...

And so, everything I have seen since has, unforunately, suffered by comparison. The movie trilogy was really a coming together of very special and unique forces: a great film-maker given virtual free reign; a one-time-only three-picture financing deal (unheard of in the history of cinema) which allowed a sense of continuity missing from most other trilogies; a perfect cast; and of course the awesome backdrop of the New Zealand landscape. Add to this the sumptuous three-hour running times (not to mention the even longer extended editions) and the consecutive Christmas releases and it really was a feast for fantasy movie fans everywhere, one we will never see again...or will we?

Next Christmas we should see the first part of The Hobbit. Peter Jackson is back in the director's chair and we are promised a second movie the year after. Expectations will be high. Impossibly high. I, for one, can't wait.