The website of the historical fiction writer.

Archive for February, 2012

One Man, Many Tasks

Well, 2012 is charging along in leaps and bounds, which is only to be expected, seeing as it’s a leap year (and before anyone asks, no I did not get anyone proposing! Mind you, I’m sure some people do it so they can have some new gloves…) March is almost upon us! Can it be that this blog is nearly two months old!

A few posts ago I talked about ideas being like badly behaved cats, always demanding your full, undivided attention at the expense of the everything else. I still stand by that comment only these cats now have ADHD. There just aren’t enough hours in the day but that’s what happens when you’re a writer and why it is important to do a little bit regularly when your time is not always your own.

Five hundred words a day does not seem like a lot but it’s manageable, whether you have a full-time job, an army of kids or several other hobbies and soon, as I learned with NaNoWriMo, the story/play/novel soon grows and takes shape. It also gives you the chance to do other writerly things such as reading, watching programmes, feeding the cats, listening to the radio, housework, telling the cats they’ve been fed, making notes on another idea, the list goes on.

So, who says men can’t do several things at once? As I write this I am watching the England vs Netherlands match (England are currently 2-0 down but what a belter from Robben?) I think I’ve proved that theory wrong, just like the whole ‘manflu’ thing is a load of tripe too! We are all one and the same.

Anyway Scribblers, hope the leap day has gone well for you all. I’m now going to try and think of a good ending to my new short story (and this blog post…)


Planet Pancake

Want to know what I’m giving up for Lent? Take a look at this. No, it’s not something escaped from a science lab, it’s not a Medieval map of the world during Prehistoric times and it’s nothing nicked from the set of Dr Who. It’s my attempt at making a pancake last night:


Music and Writing

When I look over the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ bits of writers’ websites, one question that usually appears is ‘do you listen to music while you write?’ The answer, as you may have guessed, is different for each writer. Some say they have to live in complete silence as if they’re in a monastry or (public) library. They believe that the slightest sound, let alone symphony, will completely destroy their fragile concentration. It would be like charging around a prestigious art school with spray paint cans and a chainsaw, causing irrepairable damage to masterpieces before they are even finished. This is fine. Some people thrive in the sanctuary that the silence brings. Even I do sometimes.

However, there is the other extreme. Some people like the chaos and noise that comes with full blown Heavy Rock. You too can write your magnum opus with the explosive hedonism that only Rock can bring (see how I write Rock in capitals?) raging in the background. I myself have done this. Only the other day I tried to write my novel with the support of AC/DC. When I was studying my degree I would do all my reading in the days leading up to Deadline Day. The day before (later two days) I would write up my notes while playing all of Queen’s albums to see how many I would get through before I finished (some discs got played twice as the word counts got longer).

Now I’m a bit older, I’ve discovered how classical music is fantastic. They say Mozart is helpful for children, well it can work for adults too. Film music is even more helpful. When I wrote In the Shadows of the Gods I found the music for Lord of the Rings and Gladiator to be good as they place you there. The 3-CD boxset of Classic FM at the Movies is another. Writing science fiction? Try Star Wars or Tron. Today I’ve listened to the soundtrack to Wings of Desire before the Brit Awards came on. Sometimes composers from the countries you write about can be useful: Tchaikovsky for Russia, Beethoven for Germany, Grieg for Norway, etc.

Anyway, Happy Pancake Day! Tune in tomorrow for an example of how I (try to) cook pancakes.

Brits Abroad

This morning I did the whole setting up of my computer for the writing day: 1) Check Facebook, 2) Check e-mails, 3) Check Twitter (not many tweets to catch up on) Then I got on with today’s Five Hundred (not to be confused with the film/graphic novel 300). I’ve found keeping Twitter open while writing can be both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because I can keep an eye on what’s going on in the world but it’s bad as I’m switching between windows when I should be getting on with my work. Still I managed to double yesterday’s output and got 1266 words out. Not bad for a morning’s work.

One of the stories that appeared on the Twittervine was about two British boxers getting arrested and being detained for having a scrap. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t what boxers are paid to do? Earn their daily bread by punching other boxers? What’s next – artists being done for vandalising a perfectly good canvas? Demolition firms getting into trouble for destroying property? Librarians accused of extorition when they charge fines?

Oh. They weren’t actually having a match. It was an actual scrap…


On Tuesday I finally succumbed to curiosity (with just a pinch of peer pressure) and decided to join Twitter. Before I really could not see the point of it. ‘What’s wrong with Facebook?’ I would ask. ‘I can do what I like there whereas Twitter is exposed to everyone.’ (I’ve since learned that this is not the case and you can make your tweets private). Occasionally I would have a look at what people had been putting on there and felt like I was reading computer code. What on Earth is this obsession with @ symbols? It’s bad enough seeing them outside of e-mail addresses, such as when people say ‘see you @ the pub’ when a good old-fashioned ‘at’ would do. Then there’s the #. I’ve now learned this is how you follow a discussion with like-minded people and add your own view such as ‘Recent Owners of Portsmouth Football Club #howtoripthebleedingheartoutofaproudcommunityanddropkickitwhileitstillbeats’

Anyway, I must say I’m finding it quite a useful tool for writing. It works very well with things like e-mail lists and Facebook groups for getting snippets of information fast. Today I followed what was happening at the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook Conference that I went to in June and learned a few useful things such as not sending work to another person in an agency that has rejected you (which I was actually thinking of doing – they do share work around so they say). Speaking of agents, I’ve still not had any offers so I’m gearing up for round two of postings. I do think, though, that perhaps electronic publishing could be the way forward. It’s certainly appealing to a lot of my friends, as we discussed at our group the other day…

This week has certainly been one for technology. On Wednesday I set up a wireless router for the first time ever and it seems to have gone alright so far. Everyone seems to be able to read this and I don’t think anyone’s hacked into it yet… Anyway, I’m going to try and finish Conqueror, the most recent book in Conn Iggulden’s series of brilliant novels about Genghis Khan and his family this weekend. Then I might start either Two Caravans (for a book club), Ten Days that Shook the World or Clan of the Cave Bear to have a break from technology. You wouldn’t think I was still in my twenties, would you?

The Alternative Valentines Songlist

Feeling nausious? Tired of all flowers giving you an early dose of hay fever? Chocolates trying to tempt you away from the diet? Soppy films making you reach for the indigestion pills? Fed up with pink stuff EVERYWHERE? Well, don’t you worry. Here are a few songs you can listen play loud to lighten the mood! Declare WAR on slush with these records! If the neighbours complain just blame it on the student’s next door!

1)      Welcome To My Nightmare – Alice Cooper 

2)      Mustapha – Queen 

3)      Brighton Rock – Queen 

4)      Tie Your Mother Down – Queen 

5)      Shame and Scandal – Madness 

6)      Woman From Tokyo – Deep Purple 

7)      Hey Joe – The Jimi Hendrix Experience 

8)      The Wanderer – Status Quo 

9)      Run To You – Bryan Adams 

10)  Fat Bottomed Girls – Queen 

11)  D.I.V.O.R.C.E. – Billy Connolly 

12)  Communication Breakdown – Led Zeppelin 

13)  Donald Where’s Your Troosers? 

14)  What Is Love? – Howard Jones 

15)  Since You’ve Been Gone – Rainbow 

16)  Photograph – Def Leppard 

17)  The Birdie Song 

18)  51st Anniversary – The Jimi Hendrix Experience 

19)  Pour Some Sugar On Me – Def Leppard 

20)  Hocus Pocus – Focus 

21)  Lola – The Kinks 

22)  Gimme Some Money – Spinal Tap 

23)  Paranoid – Black Sabbath 

24)  Here I Go Again – Whitesnake 

25)  Strange Kind of Woman – Deep Purple 

26)  Should I Stay Or Should I Go – The Clash 

27)  Bangin’ Man – Slade 

28)  Kiss The Bride ­– Elton John 

29)  Sex Farm – Spinal Tap 

30)  (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – Rolling Stones 

31)  The Last Time – Rolling Stones 

32)  Under My Thumb – Rolling Stones 

33)  It’s All Over Now – Rolling Stones 

34)  My Wife – The Who 

35)  Arnold Layne – Pink Floyd 

36)  Vindaloo – Fat Les 

37)  A Legal Matter – The Who 

38)  Is There Something I Should Know? – Duran Duran 

39)  Centrefold – J. Geils Band 

40)  Everyday I Love You Less And Less – Kaiser Chiefs 

41)  Looking After No. 1 – The Boomtown Rats 

42)  Don’t Marry Her – Beautiful South (Uncensored Version) 

43)  Oh Yeah! (On the Radio) – Roxy Music 

44)  Let Me Live – Queen 

45)  Hate To Say I Told You So – The Hives 

46)  Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman – The Darkness 

47)  Is She Really Going Out With Him? – Joe Jackson 

48)  Rapper’s Delight 

49)  Stealin’ – Uriah Heep 

50)  No More Mr Nice Guy – Alice Cooper 

51)  Mr Blobby – Mr Blobby 

52)  Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) – The Offspring 

53)  Hurry Up Harry – Sham 69 

54)  Rocks – Primal Scream 

55)  Big Bottom – Spinal Tap 

56)  The Yogi Bear Song 

57)  Too Much Love Will Kill You – Queen/Brian May 

58)  Highway To Hell – AC/DC 

59)  Drag Me Down – The Boomtown Rats

60)  Agadoo – Black Lace

Of course, if you think of any more don’t hesitate to add them. This is just a general list in no particular order. Perhaps start off with the heavy ones, a few lighter ones in between then, towards the end when everyone’s drunk and emotional, add in the ones that they can sing along to.

For some reason I never get asked to be a DJ at weddings…

Idea Riot

One of the problems with being a writer is the many kinds of inspiration that are out there. There’s books, newspapers, Internet, travelling, magazines, conversations, people, animals, birds, plants, fish, bacteria, invertebrates (no I’ve not seen The Human Centipede) and just generally going out, living a life and experiencing things.

Now, this is good. A writer, just like any artist, needs a good solid helping of inspiration to soak up the perspiration and dedication. Without ideas we are nothing.

The trouble is ideas, for want of a better cliché, are like children. Actually they’re worse than that, they are like badly behaved cats (like mine). As soon as you get up they want attention. They want to be the one that gets put onto paper, entered into the competition, sent off to the agents (and hopefully not sent back), read out at the Open Mic, shown to nearest and dearest (well, the ones who won’t laugh anyway). And, of course, there’s always the worry that haunts all writers. The most Great and Terrible Fear that is (deep breath):

Someone else will have the same idea.

That’s right. Some other scribe will have had the same flash of inspiration, written it down and made a fat pile of wonga before you’ve even dug out your notebook from under the pile of rejection letters. This does happen.

Fear not, though, fellow scribblers. There are steps you can take to get around this:

  1. Do not Tell ANYBODY ANYTHING: Alright, so they could get the idea from somewhere else but at least your conscience is clear. Remember, there is no copyright in ideas, only their expression.
  2. Make Notes when you have the Ideas: In your notebook, then saved on a computer. That way you’ve got an electronic record.

‘But how can I deal with this onslaught of ideas?’ I hear you all cry. ‘How are you dealing with them all?’ Well, I’ve now decided that I’ll have a go at writing a few words of the Novel during the week after work with poems/short stories/flash fiction at the weekend as a ‘break’. Well, that’s the idea, let’s see how it works in practice…

(And why does the font size keep changing on this?)

Pinch Punch

Happy First Month to you! Happy First Month to you! Happy First Month to My Blo-og! Happy First Month to You!!!

And yes I have written better poetry than that!

Good God, has it really been a month since this was conceived after a meeting of some alcohol and my brain cells and born on a cold New Year’s Eve in the stable hands of WordPress? Doesn’t time fly?

Anyway, tonight has been interesting. I’ve been to the second of the Portsmouth Writers’ Hubs for this year where there will be opportunities for open mics, a question and answer session with an agent and some very inspiring tales about electronic publishing. Something to consider for the future, maybe, when I stop burning my fingers on the bloody grill! Twice in as many days, for crying out loud!