Monday, 29 June 2015

Halfway there, and a nice review

On Saturday I completed chapter 15 of Scarrowbeck, my cod-19th century thriller based on a joke from a radio programme, being written to raise money for the BBC Children in Need Appeal.

So I am now exactly halfway to my target of 30 chapters, and well on-course to be finished by the target date - Saturday the 7th of November, when we're holding this year's Treasure Quest Live stage shows at the Norwich Playhouse.

I've slowed down a bit to just a chapter a week, but aim to try and pick it up again... Of course it's all nonsense, but it seems to be entertaining the ten or twelve people following it, and it's already raised more than my initial target of £150, or £5 per chapter. Thanks to everyone who has already donated!

You can read the existing chapters here, as they're posted:

And you can donate online here:

When it's all done, I'll put it up as a complete novel both as a Word document like the individual chapters, and in ebook form for Kindles, etc.

Speaking of ebooks, sales of The Ruined Heart have not exactly taken the world by storm. It sold five copies on the day I put it online, and in the fortnight since then has sold exactly one more copy, yesterday.

So slightly disappointing, but yesterday's sale did result in this lovely e-mail I received today, and what's more it's from someone who is neither a friend nor a colleague, and whom I have never knowingly met. So I was very pleased with it!

I hope it is OK to send an email to you at the BBC but I couldn't find another address. In the space of just over an hour I have been totally absorbed in your book and honestly it is such a good read and I couldn't put it down...

Seriously, it is tremendous and I was left wanting for more so leaving the ending open for more Alice Flack is genius. I am an avid reader and it was so refreshing to read a book with a story that does not rely on 4 letter words and explicit details of sex. I am now reading Scarrowbeck and really enjoying that as well. All this and cryptic Treasure Quest clues - you will, I am sure have a best selling novel at some stage. Can you imagine Ruined Heart being adapted for TV and Alice Flack being the new Miss Marple !!

As you can imagine, this left me with a big grin on my face, and I kept re-reading it throughout much of the day! As for further Alice Flack stories... Well, I do have the next one plotted out in some detail, and rough ideas sketched for some others, but whether or not they ever see the light of day depends on whether I ever meet my target of 20 sales for The Ruined Heart!

If you'd like to buy it - it's only 99p! - you can do so on Amazon, here:

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Ruined Heart

The Ruined Heart cover, created by David Lavelle.

Last year, I wrote that I’d finished a short novella – or, less charitably, a long short story! – called The Ruined Heart. A sort of murder-mystery set in an English village just after the Second World War, I was rather pleased with it, and mentioned how I was considering putting it up online on Amazon as an ebook download.

Well, now I have done it, and those of you of an ebook persuasion can purchase it for 99p by clicking here.

Long-term readers of this blog – should there be any! – may be surprised at this, given my stated dislike of the idea of self-publishing. It’s not that I condemn others for doing whatever they want with their books, it’s just that, for me, it feels like cheating to expect people to want to pay for my books when no publisher has judged them good enough to print.

But 25,000 words is a funny length for a story. Too long for a short story, and much too short for a novel, there isn’t really anything else I could do with The Ruined Heart. So I decided… why not?

A friend of a friend of mine, the talented David Lavelle, kindly took on a commission to create a piece of cover artwork, and the story went online to purchase from Amazon this morning. I’ve decided that if it somehow manages to make 20 sales, I’ll put another one up. I already have a 2000-word treatment written for a second Alice Flack story, and some ideas floating around for others… They’re quite fun to write, and there is something more relaxing about writing without the pressure of thinking you’re ever going to submit it to anybody.

So just the readers to worry about, then!

So far, it’s sold 5 copies, which isn’t bad for one day, and a quarter of the way to my target. No reviews yet, and I doubt it’s sold to anyone I’ve never met, or ever will manage that… But you never know!

Elsewhere, I continued to work on the Scarrowbeck novel in aid of the BBC Children in Need Appeal, and am nearly halfway through that – you can read the chapters so far completed by clicking here. I managed to complete the research and writing for my possible next Doctor Who Magazine piece, and that’s being considered by them for possible publication next year, although it may need cutting down a bit. Fingers crossed it will appear on some form or other! I also submitted Another Life to another agent last week, so we shall see what happens with that.

Anyway, please do take a look at The Ruined Heart – and if you like it, please tell your friends!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Accidental Novel

Suddenly, out of nowhere, I am rather unexpectedly working on a new novel.

It is not, I must confess, a particularly serious project. It’s a bit of fun, really, which is possibly dangerous if you go with the idea that you should always write from the heart, and so forth. But on the other hand there seems to be an audience – albeit a very small one – which actually wants to read it, and it’s raising some money for charity, so it’s probably having a more positive impact than any of my other works of fiction.

It all started last Sunday morning, during an edition of Treasure Quest, a radio programme I produce for BBC Radio Norfolk. The radio car team were heading for Scarrowbeck Road in North Norfolk, and the observation was made that “Scarrowbeck” sounds as if it should be some sort of historical romance. Presenters David Clayton and Sophie Little started joking about what characters might be in it, and the listeners joined in, on the show’s Facebook page as well as on the show itself.

That evening, purely for a bit of fun, I wrote the first chapter of Scarrowbeck and posted it on the Treasure Quest Facebook page. Just a two-and-a-half thousand word pastiche of a cheap and cheerful Victorian-set costume drama.

I was, admittedly, quite pleased with it – I thought I’d done a decent job of capturing something of the genre. It’s always easy to write the beginning of something, of course, and trying to write in a broad-strokes parody of a certain style is also easier than casting about for your own voice, whatever that might be.

But nevertheless, it went quite well, so I thought, perhaps, I could have a go at carrying it on. I also decided to try and make some money for charity out of it, by setting up a JustGiving page where people could donate £5 per chapter, with the aim of ending up with 30 chapters - £150 for Children in Need. At time of writing half the money has already been raised, so it looks as if I am well and truly committed to it now!

On the one hand, you might think “why are you wasting your time messing around with this nonsense?” But at least I am writing something. Until I started writing Scarrowbeck, I hadn’t written any new fiction all year. Since January, I have been buried deep into the research for my prospective new Doctor Who Magazine submission, which is finally coming towards its conclusion. It’s been a fascinating and enjoyable experience, but has left me with little time for anything else. So it’s nice to be writing something, anything fictional again, the fact I have monetised it for charity means I have the added discipline of having to get it done.

Plus, unlike pretty much any other fiction I have ever written, there is actually an audience for this. It may be only a dozen or so people, and most of them will quickly get bored it I suspect, but even so… They’re there. They exist.

And it only takes me about an hour or so to write each chapter, based on the two I’ve done so far. That’s not too much of a commitment. I’m aiming to do two a week, so should have it finished sometime in the summer. Plus the idea of writing something in serial format is rather appealing.

It’s better to be writing something than nothing, anyway. So if you do want to follow it, the chapters will be available as they are written on the Treasure Quest Facebook page, here. And if you fancy donating to the cause, you can do that via the JustGiving page, here.

In other news, as mentioned my new DWM piece is going well. I have done far too much research really, as it’s difficult if not impossible to squeeze it all in while making a short enough and readable piece, but you never know what you’re going to need to know to write well about something. I’m also working on another new documentary project for the radio station, so plenty of irons in the fire. Plenty of productivity.

So a little nonsense fiction can’t hurt!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

A good start to the year!

 My byline in this month's Doctor Who Magazine!

As anyone who’s read probably more than a couple of entries in this blog will know, I am a card-carrying, lifelong Doctor Who fan. As a part of this I have, for the past twenty years, been a reader of Doctor Who Magazine, the august journal which has been published – originally by Marvel, and latterly by Panini – continuously since 1979, impressively even managing to survive the series being off-air for sixteen years during that time.

I first bought DWM, as it is known to fans, in December 1994, picking up a rather tatty copy of issue 220 in WH Smith’s in Worthing. And I’ve been a reader ever since, non-stop. I’ve been an occasional contributor to the letters page and had some comments published in the round-ups of annual polls and the like – even being “Letter of the Month” on a couple of occasions, first at the age of 13 in 1997, and then again in 2013 in the 50th anniversary special, which was very pleasing.

However, this month, something rather wonderful has happened of which I am very proud – after all those years of reading and occasionally writing to DWM, I have become one of their writers! For one month only, but it still counts. A proper, professional piece of writing for them, which is rather nice!

 DWM 220 from December 1994, the first issue I ever bought, at the age of ten, and issue 482 from January 2015, with my piece in - coincidentally, they both also contain interviews with Peter Purves!

It’s an interview with David Fisher, a scriptwriter who wrote four stories during Tom Baker’s time as the Doctor. I actually originally interviewed Fisher as part of my day job, for my Doctor Who 50th anniversary features for BBC Radio Norfolk. However, he’d led such an interesting life and had so much to say that I thought he was worth a longer piece than a radio package could allow, and I asked if he’d mind me writing up an interview with him for DWM.

He said that was fine, so I wrote up the feature and eventually submitted it to the lovely Peter Ware, the assistant editor of DWM, who I’d briefly met in November 2013 when we sat next to each other at the BFI première of An Adventure in Space and Time. He liked it, the editor Tom Spilsbury evidently did as well, and with a few tweaks it sat waiting for its opportunity for a slot in the magazine… Which came with this month’s issue, published on Thursday!

Rather pathetically, I can’t stop looking at it. I’m very proud of it, having never really thought I’d get the opportunity to write for DWM. Although I can certainly turn a good article, I’d thought that pretty much every angle of Doctor Who I could write about had already been covered by other people or could be covered by people who knew a lot more about it than I did. So I’d always been more of a bystander than a participant in Doctor Who writing, but I must admit that the excitement of having this published has kicked off another idea in my head, which I’m going to try and sufficiently research to work up into an idea for them… We shall see!

In other writing news, just before Christmas I received a rejection for Another Life, but it was at least a personal one. They’d clearly read the book, and had well-explained reasons why they didn’t want to take it on – and there were some nice comments, such as “I was impressed by the intensity and depth of your novel that demonstrates a very careful and literary approach…” But at the end of the day a rejection is still a rejection.

I’ve sent off an e-mail of enquiry to another publisher to see if they’re interested – like the one who rejected it, a small publisher I’ve had some correspondence with before. If they don’t want it, I may then start on agents rather than publishers.

Also through the day job, I had the opportunity to meet a proper writer this week – the winner of this year’s Costa Book Award for Best Debut Novel, no less! It was Emma Healey, who lives in Norwich and won for her book Elizabeth is Missing. I’d actually briefly met her last summer, when the novel was published and she came in as a guest on the show I produce during the week, but on Monday after we had the embargoed press release about her win I was able to pop round to her house and record a piece. She was very nice, very friendly, and clearly extremely talented. I, needless to say, was sick with jealousy! But I don’t think I let it come across too badly in the interview, which you can listen to here:

Aside from that, I’m plotting the next Alice Flack story which I am hoping to write soon, and doing some initial research on that possible new piece I’d like to submit to DWM. I’d like to get the first Alice Flack story up online soon, probably as a giveaway e-book on Amazon, but I’m told it really needs an appealing cover to help catch the eye of the browsing reader, and I need to somehow get that sorted first.

But a good start to the year, anyway. Even if I haven’t so far done much actual bloody writing in it!