BLOG: New Year, New Start

After a challenging year of loss and change, 2018 is an opportunity for writing that can’t be missed.
Some of my more observant readers will notice that this blog – and indeed all of my online gibbering and twittering – has been somewhat neglected of late.  All I can day is “sorry!” In particular I haven’t written anything in months and I feel ever so slightly bad for that.

In my defence (or defense if you are from over the Pond) my whole world stopped and got turned upside down in September when my beloved wife passed away after a long and very difficult battle against dementia. It was the single most awful and upsetting thing in my life so far and very nearly destroyed me as I saw a beautiful young woman decay before my eyes. My family had nearly six years to prepare for her death but it still came as a shock. Afterwards it felt like everything had to stop and wait for me as I just needed to circle the wagons and survive every day as I made countless arrangements for her funeral and then had to sort out the legal and financial mess that death leaves in its wake. It was a hugely challenging period of my life and I felt utterly exhausted. Writing was the last thing on my mind and there were even moments when I wondered if my choice of career was the right one. Should I give up on my dream and return to the Rat-Race now? For a while it really was touch and go if I would ever write again.

Thankfully things since Christmas have moved on quickly and I am now back in a place mentally where I actually want to write again. I’m also in a new relationship with an amazing woman and life feels like living again. 

Then last night something hit me like a locomotive with a personal grudge and things took a new twist. After searching in vain for hours for a new job that looked even vaguely interesting I finally gave up my search and went to bed, but try as I might I just couldn’t get to sleep. I knew that it was going to be a long night.
Instead of panic in the cold dark of January, my mind was flooded with a scene from a story that I had been working on as a skunk project last year at the same as my sequel to Kingmaker. It wasn’t just flooded with words – it was like my brain was suddenly full of Oxford educated hornets equipped with typewriters and an urgent deadline to keep! In fact it was so strong I couldn’t sleep and I simply HAD to stay up and write it all down, scribbling away fervently at the pad of paper I keep by the bed, until at 2.00 AM I was finally finished and able to sleep at last. Last night was the breakthrough that I had been waiting for and despite my exhaustion I woke up today feeling reborn.

And that’s what I wanted to share with you, particularly if you write too. Writing isn’t something that you can bang out like a metronome. It comes from deep within and there are times in your life when the metronome is broken and writing becomes an impossible task. Don’t worry. In time your mind will become clear again and the insatiable desire to write will return again and so will that all-important spark of creativity.

So now 2018 is both a challenge and an opportunity to get my second book finished and really push on with my writing again. 

Whatever happens on the long and winding road of life, just remember that you are never truly alone and the world will be ready and waiting for you when you want to join in again. 

Good luck and all the best for 2018


7 January 2017

BLOG: A Sense of Perspective: Seeing the World Differently

Why authors – and their characters – need to be able to see the world differently.

The world is full of conflict and disagreement, because everyone has different opinions. Imagine, if you can, then a story where all the characters agree on everything – would it be a good story? Probably not. Character differentiation is a key part if any story, particularly between the protagonist and the antagonist. Different perspectives – how people view and process what is happening – create conflict, and a story without conflict is going to be pretty dull.

“It’s not what you look at that matters,  it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

So when an author is creating their characters they also have to create conflict by making their various characters behave differently, and this can be achieved by giving them a different perspective (IMPORTANT – perspective is not to be confused with a point-of-view or POV. See NY Book Editors blog). Perspective enables the reader to observe characters and events etc, and we must understand this if we are to understand why the characters act as they do.

“There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying.” – Robert Evans

Different perspectives can be subtle and “local” – for instance, Character A wants children,  Character B does not – or they can be far more complicated and global in their reach. A complicated global perspective can be religious or political, or a combination of the two (for example morality versus greed or power).  A character who has experienced abuse as a child will have a different perspective on what to do with child abusers than, for example, a human rights advocate.

“Sometimes a change of perspective is all it takes to see the light.” – Dan Brown

Dan Brown made different religious perspectives a key part of his popular books The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons – the extremes of Opus Dei and the Illuminati contrasting with the reader despite being faced with the same situation. Furthermore, Ian Fleming often used alternative perspectives on power, politics and greed/morality in his James Bond books – Auric Goldfinger’s different perspective on gold (and what possession of it allows a person to do) is the key area for conflict against Bond and MI6. Perspectives create conflict and conflict (for the author and reader) is good.

“I share no man’s opinions; I have my own.” – Ivan Turgenev

Perspectives also give us a way of getting inside the character’s head and understanding their motivation to act. The child of a soldier will probably have a different perspective on defence and national security to the child of a school teacher (but not necessarily as you might expect – an unexpected perspective can be formed by a bad experience,  for example if the child thinks the parent is weak or wrong and they rebel against them).

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” – Abraham Lincoln

Perspective also impacts on the author in the real world. In the modern world authors cannot exist in a vacuum – they have to participate in the newly polarised social media as well as bear witness to it. Although publicly supporting one political party or religion will attract certain followers, it also endangers alienating any potential reader who does not share the same opinion. My advice is for authors to try to remain independent where possible – the reader won’t care how you voted if you can tell a good story.

“Writers should forget about being politicians and focus on telling stories about politicians.”

An author must also try to understand all perspectives of a news story and be able to act accordingly, without accepting wholesale the opinion of one newspaper or news channel. As a writer myself – and a Politics graduate with a strong interest in history – I don’t think that I can ever share the shame opinions of my friends because a) my experience is different to theirs, and b) it is my duty to see and show both sides of an argument, no matter how distasteful – I can therefore leave it to the reader to decide which perspective they agree with. Furthermore, I believe that this independence of perspective – and the resulting duty of authors to use multiple perspectives in their work to create conflict – also results in authors having a significant responsibility to show alternative viewpoints fairly or else be accused of partisanship. Opinion is a dangerous two-edged sword. Don’t let it cut your fingers.

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is perspective, not the truth.” – Marcus Aurelius

The key thing for all authors and readers to remember is that everyone is different – we are all shaped by our own different experiences and so it is highly unlikely for people to share perspectives or opinions on all subjects – there will always be disagreement. Books can allow all readers to experience and understand alternative perspectives and the reasons behind them.

“People seem not to see that their opinion if the world is also a confession of character.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Different perspectives feed the author’s imagination, and they in turn can influence perspectives through their readers. I just hope that authors can use their power wisely and try to avoid fanning the flames of argument and discord that the modern world of social media seems currently obsessed with. However I suspect that many are just rubbing their hands at the prospect of new story lines! 

Happy reading and good luck to all the writers out there.


What do you think? Are different perspectives and opinions important? Do authors hold the power to influence opinion? Should authors be overtly political? Let us know in the comments box below.

BLOG: Reading, Books and “Growing Up”: How Our Early Life as Readers Acts as Inspiration for a Life of Writing

Beginnings are important in any story, least of all the story of a writer’s journey.

Ask any writer exactly why they started writing, and they will invariably answer that it all began because of their love of reading. There are few pastimes which have such an effect over a person’s life and form such significant influences on their young psyche. Above all, books create emotional and behavioural changes that resonate through an author’s own work, whether intended or not.

Influence on the author

Yes, of course there are some authors who have taken writing to a new level of commercial professionality (such as J.K.Rowling) and others who churn out numerous new titles per year (James Patterson instantly springs to mind here), but even so most writers make the step into writing because for them there is a primeval urge to interact with the world through the medium of the printed world, and money is not their main driver. At the opposite end to Rowling and Patterson are the “one book wonders” – the most praiseworthy of all writers who give it a go to write one book – probably their only book – in order to scratch their creative itch and fulfil a lifelong dream that began as a child. In between these two extremes lie the rest of the writers, the impoverished dreamers who studiously attempt to grind out a meagre living from the love of their art, often at a level far below even the lowest wages or government benefits. They write because of their love of writing, and this love was created from their love of reading. 
For all writers, rich or poor, prolific commercial success or “one book wonder” it is also equally true that either consciously or unconsciously, the books that they read for enjoyment can and will influence their own writing through style, prose, structure, characterisation, plot, theme, era, location and so on, and all have a unique impact on the type of author that we become and on the stories that we tell. 

We all have favourite books in our lives, those rare treasures that we always carry with us – both literally and metaphorically -through life. Writers are created by other writers. The key is, I believe, in starting early. A young reader may become an older writer, and reading is for life.

Children’s Books

There are many children’s books that have inspired me over the years, both as a child and as a parent, ensuring that both of my children were raised to love and respect books and the magic within them. My greatest loves of children’s literature include Roald Dahl’s The Twits, Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss. 

What unites these stories – often imperfect and somewhat naive – is that they retained their magic long after they ceased to be appropriate for their reader, and so instead of being sent for charitable recycling they have been safely put into storage for future generations. 

I cannot bear to get rid of books, and there are many still cluttering my overloaded bookshelves that I purchased but I have not read in twenty years or more but I hope to enjoy again one day. My greatest possession remains to this day a much worn, torn and battered copy of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien that I remember receiving as a child one cold Christmas. Battered and ruined though it may be, it still contains the magic that I first discovered when I first read it, and recently purchased a beautiful illustrated hardback edition to take the toll of my annual self-indulgent re-read. That book, more than any other, takes me back in time to when life was simpler and better.

Teenage literature 

During my teenage years I turned to science fiction and fantasy, dazzled by the gems of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C.Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Robert Silverberg, Harry Harrison, John Wyndham, Douglas Adams, and Robert Holdstock’s magical Mythago Wood – this still holds power over my imagination as perhaps the finest evocation of a mystical woodland ever to grace the page.


I must also confess that there are also many books that I have collected over the years that I still have yet to read for the first time, and they too add to the weight of my overflowing book shelves. 

Contemporary Novels

Of the more “grown-up” books that have inspired me I must give thanks to Stephen King (The Shining, IT, Christine), Bernard Cornwell’s, Lee Child, Robert Harris and Dan Brown. 


I tend to shun the heavy, turgid list of the “classics” as the style has aged to the extent that they often struggle to engage with the modern reader. The notable exceptions to this rule are Charles Dickens (I read A Christmas Carol every year), George Orwell’s 1984, and any Agatha Christie, plus the delicate beauty of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. 

In summary,  there are many books that have inspired me as a writer (see the list below this article), and even fewer that I still treasure like a child. Those few writers were as heroic to the younger me as any pop idol, movie star or footballer in my eyes.

Although I am still in the early years of my writing career (my first novel, Kingmaker,  was published in September), even now I hope one day to write a work worthy of a reader treasuring throughout their lives and might perhaps even give inspiration to their own career as a writer too.

Happy writing and joyful reading to you all.



1) The Hobbit – J.R.R.Tolkien 

2) The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R.Tolkien 

3) Mythology Wood – Robert Holdstock

4) Enigma – Robert Harris

5) The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham 

6) A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens 

7) Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens 

8) The Road – Cormac McCarthy 

9) The Shining – Stephen King 

10) The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

11) Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

12) Where Eagles Dare – Alistair Maclean 

13) The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

14) Killing Floor – Lee Child 

15) The Winter King – Bernard Cornwell 

Guest Blog: Suzy Henderson

11-7150b172-1493158-800My special guest this week is author Suzy Henderson. Over to you, Suzy!


Thank you so much for hosting me here today, Adrian. It’s a pleasure and I decided to talk a little about the idea behind my debut novel, The Beauty Shop.

About six years ago, I stumbled across the story of the Guinea Pig Club, and in that moment of discovery, I knew I had to write about it. People might wonder why it’s so remarkable, after all, they were burned airmen who required medical care. But the hidden beauty is that they were far more than that to one man, a maverick plastic surgeon who cared for them all. It truly is an extraordinary tale and it is one that touches on themes such as beauty, identity and self-worth.

Archibald McIndoe was a New Zealander, and when he first arrived in England, British surgeons treated him as a colonial, something which irked him. Later, he would encounter disabled and disfigured Great War veterans begging in London or selling matchsticks or other wares just to get by. It was another shocking experience that stayed with him.

So, after he was appointed to run the burns unit at East Grinstead at the beginning of the war, he already had plans and ideas in mind. Once the first casualties began to arrive, he was shocked at the extent of the injuries; injuries that had never been seen before – but this was the war in the air, far more advanced warfare than had been seen during the last war. Young men, who just the day before had been glorious, handsome fly boys were burned beyond recognition, and some were suicidal. Fortunately, Archie had an agenda. He was determined these lads would not become social outcasts, and that they would live a whole life, have employment and the chance of marriage and children.

For Archie, it was a challenge, and he was a man who rose up and thrived from a challenge. His craft, which he had learned from his cousin, Sir Harold Delf Gillies, a plastic surgeon who had worked on the shattered faces of Great War veterans, was to be challenged tremendously and Archie became a leading innovator and pioneer in burns treatment.

One fine July day in 1941, a few of the lads from the ward decided to form a drinking club. They gave it a name and that was that. The treasurer was picked because he had his legs in plaster and therefore wouldn’t be able to run off with any funds. The secretary was nominated because his hands were badly burned and bandaged, so he was unable to take any notes. Even in such adverse circumstances, their spirit and humour shone through.

Archie had his own ethos of care and that involved treating ‘his boys’ as he called them, normally. They weren’t sick, and many of them had to endure multiple operations, becoming bored and frustrated while waiting between surgeries. Aware of this, Archie would arrange trips to the theatre in London, and he also encouraged them to go into the town of East Grinstead. Nurses were asked to be chaperones, and later, Archie recruited chorus girls from London’s West End to volunteer for duty on his ward, and the lads enjoyed being seen out on the arm of a pretty girl. A few of the men married nurses from the ward. There was always a keg of beer on the ward and drinking, smoking, music and dancing was allowed all day long.

Archie would give talks whenever possible to the locals, informing them of his work at the hospital and educating them about burns treatment and the psychological implications. He often said, “Look them in the eye,” and the locals quite literally took Archie’s boys under their wing. They were very protective of them. Many would invite the lads back for tea, and some would hold house parties and dances. If you were lucky enough to be one of Archie’s guinea pigs, then your social calendar was quite a busy one.

Resources for hospital care have always been tight but back in WW2, if Archie needed anything, he’d use his contacts and demand if necessary. He had his ways of extracting what he needed and asked many favours. Archie took the doctor-patient relationship in a whole new direction and considered the social and psychological problems these men endured. He would often ask friends and contacts about jobs for his boys. Quite simply, whatever they needed, Archie seemed to have a means of obtaining it or a solution. Have you ever heard of a doctor like him before? He joined the lads at the pub, drank with them, laughed with them, no doubt he even felt their pain.

He was rather more than a surgeon; he was a philanthropist until his early death in 1960. The club continues to this day, and of the original 649 members, 17 remain. The organization has served many of them and has helped those who needed it with things such as adaptations to their homes, buying suitable housing and establishing businesses. There is no club like it in the world, and I doubt there ever will be again. The price they paid to join was incredibly high, a price none of us would wish to pay.


The Beauty Shop by Suzy Henderson

England, 1942. After three years of WWII, Britain is showing the scars. But in this darkest of days, three lives intertwine, changing their destinies and those of many more.

Dr Archibald McIndoe, a New Zealand plastic surgeon with unorthodox methods, is on a mission to treat and rehabilitate badly burned airmen – their bodies and souls. With the camaraderie and support of the Guinea Pig Club, his boys battle to overcome disfigurement, pain, and prejudice to learn to live again.

John ‘Mac’ Mackenzie of the US Air Force is aware of the odds. He has one chance in five of surviving the war. Flying bombing missions through hell and back, he’s fighting more than the Luftwaffe. Fear and doubt stalk him on the ground and in the air, and he’s torn between his duty and his conscience.

Shy, decent and sensible Stella Charlton’s future seems certain until war breaks out. As a new recruit to the WAAF, she meets an American pilot on New Year’s Eve. After just one dance, she falls head over heels for the handsome airman. But when he survives a crash, she realises her own battle has only just begun.

Based on a true story, “The Beauty Shop” is a moving tale of love, compassion, and determination against a backdrop of wartime tragedy.

For more information:

About Suzy

Suzy Henderson was born in the North of England, but a career in healthcare would eventually take her to rural Somerset. Years later, she decided to embark upon a degree in English Literature with The Open University.

That was the beginning of a new life journey, rekindling her love of writing and passion for history. With an obsession for military and aviation history, she began to write.

It was an old black and white photograph of her grandmother that caught Suzy’s imagination many years ago. Her grandmother died in 1980 as did her tales of war as she never spoke of those times. When she decided to research her grandmother’s war service in the WAAF, things spiralled from there. Stories came to light, little-known stories and tragedies and it is such discoveries that inform her writing.

Having relocated to the wilds of North Cumbria, she has the Pennines in sight and finally feels at home. Suzy is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Romantic Novelists Association. “The Beauty Shop” is her debut novel and will be released 28th November 2016.



Blog: and







Thank you Suzy for your fascinating story – good luck with The Beauty Shop.


BLOG: Will Self-Publishing Eat Itself?


With Amazon now trialing proper “bricks and mortar” bookstores, what does the future hold for book-sales and publishing?

“Everyone has a book inside them,” or so the saying goes. The explosion of self-publishing has left shock-waves that are still reverberating throughout the publishing industry and will continue to do so for many years to come. Ask any aspiring author nowadays and very few will have had any luck going the “traditional” route of getting a publishing agent and a publishing contract. We’ve all been there – you do your research and send your manuscript off to a carefully selected agent, making sure to have a perfectly polished elevator pitch and cover letter. Your expectations are high – “wait until they see what I’ve written!” you gleefully mew to yourself as you press send. And then you wait. After a few weeks all you have got are a few stock refusal letters, explaining that your book “isn’t what we are looking for at the moment” and that “self-publishing has had a significant impact on the publishing industry and we re only looking to take on a handful of new clients.” Basically, you are screwed. Your dreams of entering the best sellers list start to fade away and you contemplate spending the rest of your life doing a job that you don’t care about as long as it keeps paying you. Welcome to publishing in the 21st Century.

The only way to keep that precious dream of immortality and creative freedom alive is to bite the bullet and enter the confusing, mind-befuddling, frustrating and utterly bewildering world of self-publishing. Now there are many experienced writers who have written about this phenomenon at length and so I am not going to add any more advice to this already saturated market. I merely want to question what the long-term implication of this has for the wannabe author.

First of all, it means that you are now a very small fish in a very big ocean. In order to build any form of customer base you are going to have to be utterly professional and work very, VERY hard. Even then, the harsh reality is that you will probably sell very few books. A modern self-published author has to think of themselves not only as a professional business, but also as a factory. Having just one product won’t cut the mustard. You need lots of products and you need to get them out there! The key to success in the new age of indiepub is VOLUME.


Sadly, there are only so many hours in the day. This means that every minute of work time is precious. Not only do you have to find time to write, you also have to run your business, promote your books, create and design covers, format manuscripts, get them edited and set up on KDP, Smashwords or Createspace etc, etc, etc. Yet despite this gargantuan effort, ebook prices seem set to remain in the bargain basement (let’s face it, Amazon won’t do anything to try to increase it whilst they dominate the market). The only sensible solution to this law of diminishing returns is to write lots of very short books. The day of the epic 150,000 word masterpiece is over. So my second prediction is that we are about to see the second coming of the penny novel. Back in the thirties Agatha Christie made a killing catering to the independent traveller in need of a light read, and even throughout the nineteen-eighties many popular novels were still barely 230 pages long. Epic 500 page+ thrillers came to dominate the market early this century but the dash towards ebooks has also had a significant change in reader’s attention spans. Many people no longer sink themselves into a text and skim-read it like a news story on a website. Shorter books is the way to go, but to do that authors will have to tighten up their writing and get to the truth of their writing a LOT faster.


The other reality is that the world is saturated by second-hand books.You can’t go anywhere nowadays without finding a fantastic read for a few £pounds, or even less if it is “pre-owned.” So why bother buying new? There are many used bookshops within an easy drive of my home that are positively dripping with more wonderful books than I will ever read – in fact I have purchased so many amazing second-hand books this year that I suspect that I will never read all of them if I never buy another book for the rest of my life. We don’t NEED to buy your amazing new book, so the author’s job is to make us WANT it more than any other book. The author’s job just got a lot, LOT harder.

With this massive demand for increased workload and output as well as the need to market, promote and network in a global marketplace for little chance of reward there can be only one inevitable outcome. I’m going to be one of the first to put it out there but it is possible that the bubble has already burst.. Self-publishing will eat itself (like Pop music) and only the very strongest predators stand a chance in the parched savannah of indiepub.

The impact of this tsunami will be felt across all parts of the marketplace, not just the writers. Amazon’s Kindle and Kobo are the two strongest e-reader systems (not forgetting ereader apps on tablets and telephones) so I expect many of the smaller suppliers of hardware (and software) to fall by the wayside in the next few years, much like the mobile telephone industry has seen Blackberry and Nokia disappear. Will Apple and Google see the returns on investment from ebooks that their business models demand? Whatever happens, there will be less routes into self-publishing and the market will contract further, losing suppliers, designers, printers (and possibly even some reviewers) along the way. This also means that the winners will get stronger, increasing their leverage and strengthening their position.


Recent figures have also shown that the printed book is far from deceased, and even I have experienced reasonably young friends refusing to buy the ebook of my new thriller this week as they want to buy the paperback instead. This is totally understandable as even with new technology the sensory delight of reading a “real” book has not been replicated by any e-reader. Printed books will continue to be popular, but quality will reign as they are seen as expensive luxury goods rather than disposable stories. Amazon is perhaps wise to expand into the bricks and mortar of real bookstores, as like with any luxury good, customers will increasingly want to touch and feel a book before they part with their money. If you have seen the superb Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan romcom “You’ve Got Mail”.you will know how the huge leviathans will gobble up the small independent stores due to their greater buying power (and ability to discount) and in England there are very few independent bookstores now other than in tourist spots and rural communities. The only way the independent bookstore will be able to survive against the continued onslaught of Amazon and friends is to diversify – a bookstore con no longer just be a book store.


The successful indie stores are also coffee shops, restaurants, second hand stores, movie and collectible stores, and if the indiepub author is to be able to take up any of their valuable shelf space they will have to offer a quality product able to compete with a traditionally printed book. Amateurism (and DIY covers) will not be tolerated.

So, in summary, there is still a long road ahead for indie publishing and the book industry as a whole. Only the strongest will survive, and for many wannabe authors they may have to content themselves with writing for pleasure rather than profit and not give up the day job.



BLOG: Adventures in Self-publishing Part 3 – now it gets really scary!

With this week’s publication of my novel Kingmaker I decided to investigate the opportunities and risks for the modern indie author.
First of all, ​ignore the recent headlines of writers making a fortune as a self-published author. Ha! £2000 a day? Writers on average make less than £10,000 a YEAR! Writing is not a route to making a fortune, unless you are lucky enough to become one of the very elite like J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown. The painful reality is that you won’t make a fortune by getting a £multi-million contract from a big publisher. You’ll scrape a living, but you’ll do it because being a writer is part of your soul.

So do not let me put you off. The reality is that writers don’t write for the money (but it is always welcome!), and let’s face it, most writers will not make anything close to the minimum wage (and neither will they get a nice big pension). No, the reality is that we write simply because there is no other way to exist. To not write is like stopping breathing. Not writing is that itch that cannot be scratched, like a secret that we cannot hold inside us. Not writing is the excruciating death of our very soul. Writing IS life itself.

But how do we justify the massive risk of little economic return? Shouldn’t we just write for a hobby and get a “real job”? No. We can’t do that because there is no alternative! I know. I tried. I hated working in the “real world” (15 years in marketing and product management) and felt immensely frustrated at having to spend my life doing something I actually didn’t give two hoots about ar the end of the day. The money was great but in the end I was more than happy to walk away. since I was a young lad, writing was the only thing I ever wanted to do and now I am finally living the dream. I have never been so happy in my work, despite the constant fear of failure and financial ruin…

It isn’t actually as risky as it sounds – the massive growth of indie publishing (driven mainly by Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing but now a massive global industry in itself) has so shaken the world of traditional publishing that an author no longer has to run the gauntlet of probable rejection by agents and the Big 5 publishing houses. The world has become a global marketplace, hungry for fresh ideas and perspectives. There are billions of potential customers out there, able to buy online 24/7, 365 days a year. 

So the reality is that writing is no more a risk than any other self-employment. To be successful is just like any other industry / career: success comes from a mixture of talent, hard work and luck. I hope I am blessed with some of this in the years ahead! If you are also thinking of writing, don’t be afraid and DO NOT allow anyone to scare you by telling you that you can’t succeed. All it takes is a commitment to your task and an original idea. I’m on it for the long-haul. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Can I have my medal now please?

#Indiepublishing #writing #writerslife

BLOG: Adventures in Self Publishing Part 2 – Taking the plunge (DIY style)

This week’s blog post is all about how you shouldn’t be afraid of doing it yourself.
Wow! What a busy week it has been. publishing a book is a bit like giving birth (it hurts, it’s a labour of love, but worth it in the end) so here’s a quick update on what I’ve managed to do (and why):

Kingmaker Ebook on Amazon KDP:

Yes, I finally got there and it was surprisingly easy! I had a few minor issues stripping the code out of my Word file saved as HTML but after a few attempts (and a few more Google searches for the excellent help out there) I finally got an ebook interior that looks like it was done by a big publisher. It only goes to prove that you can create a professional product using simple software if you pay attention to detail and try to emulate the best of the best!

ADRIAN’S TOP TIP: compare your formatted file with the Kindle file of your favourite authors – Does their one look better?  Why? Keep redoing it until you are happy! I used Robert Holdstock’s Lavondyss (Kindle ebook), Bernard Cornwell’s Warriors of the Storm (Kindle) and my collection of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books as an example of best practice. Also, although you can upload your Createspace file onto KDP as part if the Createspace process, don’t – you need a separate version for KDP because you need a table if contents.

ISBNs bought, allocated and registered!:

I know, I could have  left this off and saved a few £££ but I wanted Three Assassins Press to offer a quality product and to be MEASURABLE so I bought 10 numbers from Nielsen, the UK ISBN allocator. I tried to register my Kindle mobile file the way I had read but they don’t do that anymore so I then had to register for an online password and wait a few days before I could use their Title Editor. After a few goes I have found this is a lot easier and faster to use so it was worth the wait.

ADRIAN’S TOP TIP: Buy an ISBN, DON’T use a free one (or ignore it). Having an ISBN proves you are serious about your business (and you are, aren’t you?). I haven’t yet properly investigated the ordering system that Nielsen offers to the trade but it does seem to enable booksellers to place their orders with me as a professional publishing imprint. Fantastic!

Smashwords vs. Kindle Select:

This was a difficult choice. If you really want to cover online retailers other than Amazon then you need to consider using Smashwords as the easiest way to get in with the competition (especially as now even Sainsbury’s are using Kobo). However, the more I looked into it at the time it seemed a lot of work for little reward so I decided to sign up to Kindle Select for three months, accept that the book can only be sold on Amazon for that period, but enrol on Smashwords when the time is right and I have got the Amazon version selling. The added benefits of Kindle Select should hopefully outweigh the benefit of Smashwords (I expect Amazon to be my biggest retailer anyway, especially in my key UK market).

ADRIAN’S TOP TIP: Balance your workload and prioritise sales channels and actions – the aim is to get published and start selling, and you only have one pair of hands! Use Amazon as best you can then add Smashwords when you have the time.

Paperback version via Createspace:

For a long time I wasn’t sure about whether I should do a paper version of my book as well as an ebook – I have seen other writers say how the extra effort doesn’t give high enough sales volumes (1 in 100 sales is a figure often used). However, I found the Kindle process so easy I thought I would give it a shot as I wanted to feel like a had really “done it” (I know, it almost seems like a vanity process, but I wanted something tangible for all my hard work, something in my hand to make all this effort worthwhile). Call it vanity, but I decided to go for it anyway, and I’m glad I did.

So, formatting the interior was really easy, I just downloaded the 5″ x 8″ Word. doc template from Createspace, copied and pasted then did some tweaking. I had to reduce the font size to 10pt in order to make the page count financially viable but it seems to work and looks great. 

ADRIAN’S TOP TIP: Don’t trust Createspace when they say they have fixed a problem with your file – check it and see what has changed. I had several attempts before I found a way to stop them deleting key elements!


The cover was a little harder – I had used Adobe InDesign a lot and done desktop publishing when I worked in marketing so I was eager to see if I could do it myself (I am quite artistic too). I had created the original KDP version using Scribus but Createspace found some preflight problems when I tried to upload it so I had to redo it from scratch. All in all it took me 3 days to do everything myself, and only using free software. The biggest challenge was finding a suitable image – in the end I used Shutterstock (for my imprint logo and a WW2 Nazi eagle I use on the paperback cover – it cost about £30 for 5 images including vectors) and Pexels (for the main cover photo – totally free!). After a few attempts everything passed with Createspace and I mopped up some formatting issues I had missed so now I’m now just waiting for a proof hardcopy from Createspace.

ADRIAN’S TOP TIP: Don’t be afraid of doing it yourself. Some “professionals” actually aren’t very good in my opinion, and that includes full-service companies so if you have an artistic eye and the patience to learn, why not give it a try? If you don’t like it after that, then you can still try a professional. I learned so much this time and now I have the templates set up so it will be a lot faster next time.Don’t use the online Createspace cover designer facility as the templates scream “amateur” in my humble opinion. However, DO invest in a professional cover image (tweak it with Gimp or Photoshop) as a strong visual (and good font choice) is key to attracting customers.

Hopefully by the time I write again, Kingmaker should be out there! To your success and happiness.


BLOG: Adventures in Self Publishing: Part 1 – Blogs, apologies and a major change of plan

It has been a strange last few weeks. My writing career has gone through some major trials and tribulations but I am now back on track. Before I explain more I feel that I need to apologise for breaking my promise to blog more regularly (it has been a while since ny last entry), but I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me on this. So what’s my excuse this time? 

Basically the summer hols are never a good time for me and work as I am practically a single parent ever since my wife got ill (dementia) and so my two sons dominate my time whilst they are off school. But hey! We all have our crosses to bear, don’t we? 

A legitimate excuse?

The main reason for my tardiness is my new thriller. Kingmaker is finally back from the editors so I have been finishing the manuscript and getting it tidied up for publishing. I was originally thinking of going back to trying to find an agent (I tried this a few years ago but got little back for my efforts), but I dropped that idea as the good old days of easily getting a contract with one of the Big 5 are now long gone. The rise of self publishing has made traditional publishing very hard to break into! 

Third-party self publishers

So I then took a look at self-publishing through a reputable third party (if you can’t beat them, join them!). 

I have been flirting with Rowanvale Books and Matador’s Troubador imprint for a while – they have a good reputation in the UK where I need them to be based – and I was on the verge of getting an up to date quote from both and just pressing the button. Easy, simple, hassle-free. What could possibly go wrong?

Sadly when I ran the numbers again and compared them to my business plan and what I wanted to achieve with my first book, the numbers just didn’t stack up. I would have to sell thousands just to break even. In this market? For a first book? Mmmmmm. That’s a big risk. So it was back to the drawing board!

The terrifying plunge into DIY self-publishing 

So I made a life-changing decision. Kingmaker is going to be self published by my own imprint instead – and that is how Three Assassins Press ( was born! 

I hope you like the logo. You may notice that I have also made as my main website (if you are reading this you will see that my WordPress site now uses this new address). 
So, I have my imprint now and my manuscript is nearly ready. So the rest is just uploading everything to Amazon KDP (in progress), ordering my ISBNs from Nielsen (done), registering Kingmaker against the first number (to do this week) and creating my cover. Then to tell the world!

Book covers

Now I am sure you have all read that your cover is key to sales. I looked around to find a good prepare cover but the unusual setting for Kingmaker (WW2 Norway) made it impossible to find anything suitable. I then looked at custom covers but again the costs were prohibitive. Luckily I did a lot of graphic design back when I was in marketing (mainly using Adobe Indesign) so I thought I could do as good a job as many of the less expensive cover design companies. Easy! So I thought I would just buy the software and do it myself. WRONGO! Sadly Adobe – in their infinite wisdom (i.e.greed) have decided to put Indesign on the cloud now instead of selling the software on disc, and now charge a crazy annual fee for using it! No way am I paying THAT!

Find a solution

So the solution was to find a freeware alternative – I settled on the favourite three of Inkscape (vector graphics – similar to Draw), Gimphoto (similar to Adobe Photoshop) and Scribus (the Indesign alternative for creating print ready documents and pdfs). They all look and feel pretty similar to the expensive “professional” software from Adobe et al, but are free to download and have the added benefit of being more ethical in their freeware spirit. I have also signed up with as they have loads of excellent images and vector graphics to use. Sorted!

The endless “to do” list

So there are now many jobs to do this week to get Kingmaker alive at last (starting with the Kindle ebook, then Smashwords for Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Sony, then finally doing the paperback as print on demand via Amazon’s Createspace and using Ingram’s Lightning Source for global distribution). Phew! 

So hopefully that explains my absence, but I hope you will excuse me if I disappear again for a while as I think I am going to be rather busy…

Until next time. Take care!



BLOG: Writing Routine: Does It REALLY Matter?


Writers Block

First of all, dear reader, an apology is in order. I always intended this blog to be updated at least once a week, preferably every couple of days. Sadly this has not been possible recently due to a whole heap of personal stuff that I won’t bore you with, but let’s just say that my normal writing routine has been ruined. I have failed already!

Is “real life” an acceptable excuse?

This, naturally, got me thinking about the impact that this brief hiatus was having on my own writing. I’ve currently got a novel (a World War 2 thriller called Kingmaker) away with my editor, and I have always been loath to start another novel project until the current one is complete. I’ve got a whole pile of story ideas practically screaming at me to get them out of the drawer, dust them down and give them the love and attention that they crave, a bit like Tribbles aboard the Starship Enterprise. So, unable to face the horrors of two novels inhabiting my already swamped cranium at the same time I have instead been working on a short story that I had hoped to have finished by now, but even that has stopped because life has simply got in the way of what I wanted to do. When – late at night – I have finally found the free time to write I simply lacked the energy and desire to try to be creative. My brain was well-and-truly fried. But is this just another excuse? Is this where so many writers fail, simply by lacking the dedication to succeed?

JK Rowling

If you write I’m sure you have also experienced this quandary. It takes a HUGE effort of willpower to force yourself to write a best-selling novel when all you want to do is crash in front of the TV with the dog for half an hour then hit the mattress and try again tomorrow. This is especially true if, like me, you have children (but J.K.Rowling did it, so why can’t I? my conscience keeps telling me). I’m a single parent of two amazing kids, as well as looking after my dog and caring part-time for my wife (she is in a care home with dementia), and this week I’ve also been to the hospital with hearing problems, and then the car didn’t work… I want to write every minute of every day but this week it just didn’t happen. Even writers have other priorities. Life got in the way this week, and I’m okay about that.

A quick word about writing routines…

Let’s face it – we probably all imagine writing full-time every day in a book-lined study with amazing vistas, pounding away at the keyboard until our work is done for the day and we can pop-off to the pub for a well-earned pint. If only life was that easy ! Some people find having a writing routine easier than others, whilst most of us are left with forcing body and mind past our natural limits to write under far from perfect conditions.

Roald Dahl Writing

We have all read how famous/successful writers like to get into a daily routine – Roald Dahl famously had a very rigid routine that clearly worked for him:

“He would eat breakfast in bed and open his post. At 10:30 a.m. he would walk through the garden to his writing hut and work until 12 p.m. when he went back to the house for lunch—typically, a gin and tonic followed by Norwegian prawns with mayonnaise and lettuce. At the end of every meal, Roald and his family had a chocolate bar chosen from a red plastic box. After a snooze, he would take a flask of tea back to the writing hut and work from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. He would be back at the house at exactly six o’ clock, ready for his dinner.”

(Courtesy of

Go on, you can say it. Lucky sod. I wish I could do that! Roald’s routine sounds like the ideal, but in reality we have to be more flexible. Many see having a rigid daily writing routine as a vital part of the creative process, but in reality it is generally only for those able to write full-time. For the rest of us mere mortals with families, careers and other responsibilities we just write when we have the time and energy. When I do get the rare luxury of being alone and having time to write I am usually at my best between 9 AM and lunchtime, but on my good days I can write all day if I have what I call the magic fizz in my head.  My best ideas and dialogue often come late at night or when I am walking the dog.

NOT having a daily routine is not the ideal way to work, but it may be the ONLY way.

Was it REALLY wasted time?

Routine is nice, but the key thing is finding the time – any time – to sit down and write. This week sucked for me but next week will be better, even if I don’t get back into my ideal routine. Not writing at all this week felt lazy and slightly dirty but maybe it was the only way to stay sane. I have always believed that being flexible is a key part of an author’s skill-set. So before you lurch into the typical writer’s malaise of self-loathing, self-doubt and even questioning your own pathetically worthless existence you must STOP and gain some perspective. Maybe even having a break isn’t so bad after all.

  • Was it REALLY a complete waste of time?
  • Have you done anything else to help your writing career?
  • Have you experienced anything that you can write about?
  • Have you met any people that might help with future characterisations?
  • Have you completed an onerous personal task that now frees up your time (and mental energy) to get back in the flow and write, write, write?
  • Have you managed to sneak-in more reading into your busy schedule? As Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time toread, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
  • Have you done any other vital research or concept development?
  • Do you feel recharged and energised?

If the answer to any of these questions is YES then you have not wasted your time.


At the end of the day, in order to be a writer you must WRITE. You can’t use the excuse of “real life” every week. Sooner or later you are just going to have to sit down at your desk and write, and having a routine will help hugely with that – BUT NOT HAVING A ROUTINE DOESN’T STOP YOU WRITING!

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

So now, instead of beating myself up for not writing, I like to think that this brief break hasn’t been the complete wash-out that I originally thought it was. I’m now recharged – supercharged, even – and ready to tackle the next BIG step of getting Kingmaker finished and published. I’ve just got to wait a few more days before my editor gets back to me then I’ll hit the ground running on Monday. Honest.



BLOG: Five SF Books that Predict the Future?

Soylent Green

Whatever your politics or view of the world, mankind has a rough road ahead. We will all eventually have to face some difficult issues that at the moment we are just too scared (or lazy) to think about. Thankfully, Science Fiction authors have already warned us and told us how to solve it (or not, as the case may be).

But first some background…

If you remember Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs (and you do, don’t you?) you’ll hopefully remember that the first needs are physiological requirements for human survival: air, water, food, clothing, shelter etc.


Without meeting these needs then other (more complex) ones cannot be met – safety (personal, financial, health etc), love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

The big problem is that with dwindling natural resources and a global population swelling from 188 million in 1AD to the current 7 Billion+ (and estimated by the UN to reach nearly 11 Billion by the end of the century) whatever our current problems are, they will only get worse. Air, food, water, shelter etc will all become scarce. As even the most conscientious of us have a negative impact on the environment (and wildlife) it is not surprising that the respected broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough described mankind as a plague.

Will overpopulation result in an ever-worsening quality of life? Are we all doomed? Here are five classic SF books that think we may be whatever we do:

#1 – Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison (1966)


Famously made into the 1973 movie Soylent Green starring Charlton Heston, the earth is overcrowded, polluted and heading for destruction (Harrison estimated the world population to have hit 7 Billion in 1999). Even New York City – the epitome of “advanced culture”and technological advancement – is depicted as full-to-the-brim and unemployment is rife. The only food that the masses can get is the questionable Soylent Green from the Soylent Corporation: a green foodstuff supposedly made from soya and lentils (plankton in the movie). The book has many characters and POVs, the main one being Police Detective Andy Rusch who struggles to come to terms with his impoverished existence (losing his girlfriend in the process), and the story ends when hermit Peter believes that the population growth announcement of New year’s Eve will result in the end of the world.

In the movie Rusch is renamed Frank Thorn (Heston) and becomes the main character, who famously discovers that “Soylent Green is people!” So whilst the book is somewhat depressing in its premonition of population overload and how “humanity” is lessened and demeaned by the inability to feed and house itself (remember Maslow?), the film goes one step further to ask if it is morally acceptable to reprocess human remains to provide food and protein for a population that would otherwise starve.

Fancy a Soylent steak?

#2 – The World Inside by Robert Silverberg (1971)


“The ultimate answer to the population explosion – let it explode!” The book describes life in the year 2381 through a variety of points of view of individuals living in Urban Monad 116 of the Chippitts (Chicago + Pittsburgh) constellation of super-massive one-thousand storey vertical worlds containing over 800,000 people each. It outlines what life would be like if nothing is done to limit population and where the creation of life is blessworthy and sexual fulfillment of others is a legal requirement in order to avoid the evil of frustration (frustration causes “flippos” – crazy people who don’t fit the system). The story investigates what it is like for the various inhabitants, many of whom seek such perverse desires as privacy, interaction with people from other floors and social classes, and finally sees what it would be like to walk on the earth again and live outside in the vast farming areas that provide for the Urban Monads. And if you don’t agree? All “flippos” are erased in summary executions and go “down the chute”. There is no happy ending.

Coming soon to a city near you…

#3 – Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson (1967)


In the future, getting old is no longer an option. In the year 2000 the world reached “critical mass” so in order to maintain the population and resources, death is legally required of everyone reaching the ripe old age of 21. The story follows Logan 3 – a Sandman, tasked with enforcing the rule and killing anyone who reaches their 21st birthday. Those who refuse are called Runners and hunted down but when Logan also reaches 21 he rebels and ends up on the run, trying to reach a mysterious place called Sanctuary before he is caught and killed. The book asks the simple question – is the only fair way to manage the population (and resources) a draconian enforcement of enforced euthanasia? Is it more human to rebel against it or embrace the limitation of a fixed date of death? Is euthanasia more ethical than allowing us to age and succumb to the horrors of disease and decay?

There were several follow-on novels and it was also made into a series of movies starring Michael York, as well as long-running TV series. A movie remake is currently in process.

Would you run?

#4 – I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (1954)


Seen as the start of the Zombie horror genre (after all, it inspired the 1968 classic Night of the living dead), Matheson’s depiction of society wiped-out by pandemic and replaced by zombie-vampires is now a classic warning of the fragility of society in the face of disease. Hero Robert Neville survives the disease and the story shows his life in the empty city, trying to work on a cure for the disease that leaves victims like the undead. He scavenges for supplies, befriends a dog and has to fight-off attacks from the zombie-vamps led by his former neighbour. When the infected (led by survivor Ruth) learn to overcome their disease and become a new world order, Neville’s days are numbered and he has to die. The book challenges the concept of humanity and what it is to be human, whilst also showing how a pandemic can rapidly bring down society in an over-populated world. We are all equal when faced with disease.

It was made into several movies – the most famous being The Omega Man (1971 – starring Charlton Heston again) and it was also remade as I am Legend starring Will Smith (2007).

Forget the Soylent Green, do you have anything with more bite?

#5 – The Running Man by Richard Bachman (1982)


Richard Bachman was the pseudonym of horror writer Stephen King. His dystopian novel depicts the USA in 2025, with rampant violence and a ruined economy. With no hope and in desperate need of medicine for his sick daughter, blacklisted worker Ben Richards participates in a TV game-show where participants are hunted down and killed for entertainment. The book counts down in chapters (ominously ending at “000”) as Richards turns from merely trying to survive the gameshow and take the money to an altruistic attempt to overthrow the show’s corrupt presenter Dan Killian and the Games Network (the government-owned TV station that runs sick and violent TV shows). Richards learns how the Network is just a propaganda machine to pacify the public, even resorting to the murder of Richards’ wife and daughter. It ends with Richards mortally wounded and crashing an aircraft into the Games Network skyscraper. The book asks whether TV and media (particularly state-run media) are bad for society and also questions how far a corrupt and failing government would go to shore-up the system by perverting the truth and murdering innocents.

In 1987 it was made into a movie of the same name and starred Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“I’ll be back.”


So is mankind doomed?  Probably. Some might argue that maybe it deserves to be doomed if it can’t find a way to make the system work for everybody. Whatever your thoughts, uncontrolled population growth is clearly a threat to us all and the essence of what it is to be human. If you think things are bad now, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!


AH 03/07/16