Friday, 29 November 2013

What Next?

In Foreign Fields, my WW1 novel, will be the next to be published. Now I must get down to the final edit for Time After Time. This is an Irish historical story set around the ancient Irish concept of Anam Cara… the soul friend. I do try for variety in my books.


Thursday, 28 November 2013

Write about what you know

Write about what you know is sound advice, and it’s been repeated time and again. Cornish history has figured in several of my books. I was born in Cornwall and I can trace my Cornish ancestry back to the mid sixteen hundreds. Any self-respecting Cornishman knows about the historian, A L Rowse, who rose from obscurity to be elected a Fellow at All Souls Oxford. I am linked to him through a man called Ned Vanson who was the lodge gate-keeper at Tregrehan Estate near St Austell. He was Leslie Rowse’s grandfather and my great great grandfather. Was that what gave me an interest in history? Who knows. It certainly doesn’t stop me enjoying writing historical novels. You’ll find more information at:

Monday, 25 November 2013

Are you a novellist or historian?

Here’s a piece of advice I was given long ago about writing historical novels. It’s helped me when constructing story-lines.

A novelist is not in the business of writing academic histories.

The job of the novelist is to entertain readers by creating a tale that will make them want to read on. That may mean taking sides where conflict exists. In almost every aspect of history there are two sides to the story. The academic non-fiction writer should take cognisance of both. Not so the novelist. Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington both had their good points and their bad points, but when you read the Sharpe novels you know exactly whose side Bernard Cornwell was on. He gives the French no leeway and ensures Richard Sharpe always ends up on the winning side with Wellington.

In my latest historical novel, The Poisoned Cup, my key character has to take one side in the thirteenth century Anglo-Scottish wars. The writers of the Braveheart film took the pro-Wallace side, based upon the tales of a medieval storyteller called Blind Harry. He was a minstrel who lived long after the events. The story-line made an exciting and colourful film, but it was one that did not even begin to stand up to serious scrutiny. That was the writers’ choice and their prerogative.
I’ve chosen to follow the opposite side of the story, based upon the contemporary chronicles of educated monks who almost certainly spoke with men who took part in the major battles. It’s fiction, but based upon more reliable evidence than the Blind Harry stories.

I believe that my novel is more credible than the film and I shall await the reviews with interest. Almost certainly, there will be readers who will dislike a viewpoint that contrasts strongly with the film, but that’s the viewpoint I chose to follow. And that’s my prerogative. My key character, Sir Henry de Grenville, rides into battle against Wallace, not with him.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Accepted for Publication

I am very excited that Cloudberry have accepted The Poisoned Cup for publication. This is a historical novel set in the thirteen century at the time of the Anglo-Scottish wars and it required an enormous amount of research. I am pleased with the result and doubly pleased that Cloudberry like it. The novel will probably be released next year. It has to take its turn behind In Foreign Fields, my WW1 novel which is the next one scheduled for publication.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

End-of-term comp.

I have been attending writing classes for something like fifteen years now. I suppose I should have learned it all in that time but I am constantly coming up against something new. Our course leader always sets a competition at the end of each term. This term the task was to write the first page of a new novel in any genre. Great, I thought, I need to get into something new.

My first attempt looked interesting (to me) but the competition entries must be anonymous and I was convinced our leader would be easily able to pin this one on me. So I set that story aside as worth continuing, but not for the competition. I had no shortage of ideas, so I started work another first page. This one looked even more interesting as a potential compete book. I carried on writing. I’ll put the first four hundred words into the competition but the rest of it is for me.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Edit Complete

I have now completed the latest edit of Time After Time and I feel quite pleased with it. It’s an unusual story covering one woman’s three successive incarnations on earth, but I figure it will appeal to readers who enjoy the novels of Barbara Erskine. I’ve set it in Ireland because that land had a culture of mysticism in its distant past. I’ve also tried to inject a sense of mystery around the tale. Now I must wait to see what my publisher thinks of it.

Meantime I have printed out a copy of The Poisoned Cup on I plan to send it to my daughter in Sweden. In the latter stages of pregnancy, she can put her feet up, relax and read through it in an attempt to spot any errors I have missed. There are always errors waiting to be weeded out.

Where next? I have plans for another WW1 novel to follow on from In Foreign Fields. I also have ideas for a sequel to The Poisoned Cup. There’s no shortage of ideas.


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Time After Time

This is another medieval romp and I’m into the penultimate edit. It’s the story of an Irish village seer who has to choose between her love for a Viking man and her loyalty to her tribe. Her psychic contacts tell her that if she makes the wrong choice someone will die. Worse still, the guilt will follow her into her next life on earth. Of course, she gets it wrong. However, can she make the right choice the second time around? Or will the same thing happen again?

My concern is that the key characters in this novel are all young women. Can I, as an aging male, make them convincing? And will readers want to buy a female-centred story written by a man?

No point in worrying about it. I must get to the end of this edit and then see what my publisher makes of it.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Confessions of a Write-a-holic

 Some people write for money. Some write for pleasure. Some, like me, write because we are hopelessly addicted to it. We just have to write. We can’t help it. The urge to sit at our computers and compose yet more stories is too deeply embedded inside us.

In moments of despair, I picture myself creeping into our community centre, coat collar turned up, hoping not to be recognised. In my imagination, I am looking for the meeting room where the local branch of Write-a-holics Anonymous meet. But the meeting gives me no comfort.

“My name is David,” I tell the assembled group, “And I am a write-a-holic. It is now two hours since I had my last fix. I must now get back to my computer in order to work on my latest story.”

“A hopeless case,” I hear the group leader say as I slink away. “He doesn’t even try to overcome his addiction.”

“Is there any cure?” someone asks. “Could he have an amputation of his computer on the NHS?”

I glance back and see the leader shake his head. “They won’t do it. They’re afraid of the side effects. Amputees sit at empty desks tapping their fingers on the bare wood. They stare at the empty space where their monitors once sat. Occasionally, they can be heard to whisper, ‘My hard drive has crashed,’ as they fingers search for a non-existent mouse.”

The problem with us write-a-holics is that we show a complete disregard for our families and friends as we throw away our waking hours. We have to go with the compulsion to increase our word-count. Or book-count. Last year I had six novels published. This year I have completed five brand new novels. Five complete novels! And yet my addiction is in no way assuaged. I must write more and more.

I blame it on the pushers. Writing Magazine is one of the worst offenders. It encourages us in our habit. It holds out possibilities of fame and fortune if we keep on writing. We know that there never can be such a magical outcome to our addiction, but we convince ourselves to keep going: just one more novel, just one more fix. We reach a ‘high’ as we type in the final words and then we know we have to go on, we have to look for an even greater ‘high’ with the next book.

There is no hope for us.


Sunday, 10 November 2013

Long Absence

It's been three months since I last blogged. Why the long delay? Largely it was a result of being so busy editing new novels. Novel-writing took precedence over blogging.

Early in 2013, Cloudberry re-released six of my novels which had been previously published. Within the past twelve months I have completed five brand new stories. Two were fully written - start to finish - this year and the other three were started earlier and completed in 2013.

In addition to the novels, I have also completed a non-fiction book this year. The title - What a Novel Idea - is still under consideration. The book is a guide to writing novels, and is based around the techniques I use that enable me to finish five stories in the space of one year.

None of these books will appear in print until 2014 and, in the meantime, I have the urge to work on something else new.