Age and growing older has been in my thoughts this week along with the impact it can have on creativity. There follows some random observations, which I hope to work into something more coherent at a later date.

In the field of popular music there does appear to be a trend to produce good work early on, which is often not matched in the minds of the public in later years. There are exceptions to this of course and you will have your favourites. In literature there are great examples of work produced by writers all the way through their career and writing does seem to favour the passage of time and the impact life has on each of us.

Perhaps some people get lazy; perhaps success takes the edge of the drive to create; maybe self-doubt creeps in to hamper their creativity to the extent they can’t complete to a standard they feel comfortable with – I don’t know. I like to see artists bringing out new material and pushing forward regardless. It must be hard for some to be aware of being compared with their younger self in a less than favourable light. That can’t be good. However, as anyone reading this who has work available in the public domain, criticism in all its guises is something we live with.

It niggles me when I hear people say they can’t wait for retirement to have the time to write or paint or even read. I have to bite my tongue on these occasions, as I feel if you are not doing it today then it’s unlikely to happen when you retire. Generally people just don’t turn on the ability to learn and be creative. It’s something anyone can develop, but in my experience I have seen too many people failing to fulfill their expectations and I find this sad. Perhaps I should say something the next time, but I worry over how to phrase it. If you think you want to create something, whether it be a short story, a drawing, a song, learn an instrument, a language, whatever, resolve to start today.

I was advised this week to watch the impact my drive and enthusiasm for CPD (Continual Personal/Professional Development) may be having on my well-being. Due to commuting I’m away twelve hours a day and fitting in study around work is tough. I don’t really relax and am constantly doing stuff and that’s okay. It’s the way I am and I like to be focused on working up new ideas for stories. However, it was a good point and I need to take it on board.

I’ve recognized and accepted that up till now I was dismayed with the concept of growing older. However, I’ve realized as I age, my ability to learn new things appears to increase, which I thought was at odds with accepted thinking. This is a good thing and quite a revelation to me. I am the sort of person as soon as they create or achieve something I dismiss it and resolve to do better next time. I feel my work is improving and in the end that is what matters. So having a hang-up about ageing is ridiculous in light of this, as it is this process that is allowing me to improve. It’s not perfect, but in an imperfect world, it’s pretty close. I should welcome the fact I have experience with all its imperfections and build on that, rather than worry about the passage of time. Age is no barrier to creativity and shouldn’t be seen as something that affects our ability to be creative.

I’m pleased to announce that I made my deadline of the end of March and published a second volume of my short stories.
In keeping with Volume One, Small Print Volume Two explores our relationship with technology and the impact it may have on us in future. These stories have a dark edge. My characters suffer as a result of computers; they rely on machines and experience catastrophe because of their dependency. I see flawed individuals behind these machines, with man-made processes which are frail and subject to failure. It is the human element in their creation and operation that makes reliance on technology problematic and challenging.
I am not anti-technology; far from it. I rely on it on a daily basis and have no hankering to return to a time when it was less pervasive. How we use it in future and how we allow ourselves to be used is something I feel worth considering.
I was asked to write a sequel to Shelley which closed Volume One as readers were keen to discover what happens next. Although the sequel stands on its own, I have included the original story so they can be read together.
Dream Dredger dates from the writing session last summer that led to Volume One. The others were written while commuting by train and waiting in station cafes during the first quarter of 2015. I enjoy this downtime between work and home, as it provides me with the space to consider the “Small Print” that shapes our lives.


I am finishing up volume two of Small Print, my series of science fiction short stories. As with volume one I have struggled with character names. If a name doesn’t come to me the moment I start to write, I use John or Hollie and then proceed to write out the draft. I find it odd once I have lived with my characters with those names to see them change as the draft reaches its finished state.

I know many writers choose names that have significance to the character or plot and I feel I should be doing this. However, I have very few names I like – I don’t like my own – and am very reluctant to choose names of people I know. Looking back I have in fact done that, but I was desperate by that point. There have been occasions when friends have asked me to use their name, and I’m okay with that – makes life easier for me.

For me a good example of how not to do names is Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. A great book, but for someone who is not good at remembering peoples names, this proved challenging. Take a look, I can recommend it. Not only could I not remember who was who, I couldn’t pronounce them either.

There are thousands of names to choose from and perhaps I should look them up with their meanings. There is part of me however that is lazy, likes to procrastinate, loves looking out the window, especially in cafes, so having to deal with names is one thing too many on my list. Perhaps it doesn’t matter in my writing. I certainly don’t want to distract from the flow with a name that attracts attention every time it appears. That would be unhelpful.

In Thoughts on Writing Part 71, I discussed my short story Shelley, which is one of the rare times I have deliberately chosen a name because it has resonance and was relevant to the story. I would like to do more of this.

I am interested to know how other writers go about selecting names for their characters; whether they decide before they begin or whether they are open to change as the character develops on the page.

Reading List 2015

As in previous years I will add to this page as I finish up each book. These brief notes are not reviews but are simply some personal observations. There are no spoilers.

Autobiography by Morrissey
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Richard by Ben Myers
Exodus by Drew Avera
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
How Not To Write A Novel by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark
Editor-Proof Your Writing by Don McNair
Lord Kelvin’s Machine by James P. Blaylock
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth by Chris Hadfield
After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
2,000 to 10,000 How to write faster by Rachel Aaron
Writing about Villains by Rayne Hall
A Universe From Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss
Monday or Tuesday by Virginia Woolf
A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde
Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Lady Susan by Jane Austen
THe Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins
How to Teach Quantum Physics to your Dog by Chad Orzel
On Writing by Stephen King
Black Sands by Carl Goodman
Black Vinyl White Powder by Simon Napier-Bell
Eating Bull by Carrie Rubin

Autobiography by Morrissey

I liked how this was written for the first hundred pages though it was very dense at times. It then changed and spent a few hundred pages going over the court case. The last part of the book jumped from gig to gig providing impressions of being on tour and how he felt.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

I found this difficult to start with (I think I was really tired at the time). I left it after 20% and picked it up again later. It then started to make sense. What a great story.

Richard by Ben Myers

Reading this was like looking into a mirror and thinking there for the grace of God. A fictional account of the last movements of Richie Edwards from the Manic Street Preachers. The book switched between his journey and that of the rise of the band. Very difficult subject matter. I feel the book could have been a little shorter and I’m going to have to read it again as I haven’t made my mind up how successful it was.

Exodus by Drew Avera

Indie science fiction book. I liked the story.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Entertaining at times and infuriating at others. I feel he could have edited it to make it shorter. Having said that when he got it right it was brilliant. I love how these authors would just stop and say that what their characters were going to talk about next is of no interest so let us follow these ones instead. Never get that sort of stuff past an agent today.

How Not To Write A Novel by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark

Sub-titled 200 mistakes to avoid at all costs if you ever want to get published. This was hilarious and invaluable. I will keep this book on my desk to refer to.

Editor-Proof Your Writing by Don McNair

One of those books I wish I had read last year. However, maybe it wouldn’t have had the same impact if I had. I think this is invaluable and another book I’m keeping on my desk.

Lord Kelvin’s Machine by James P. Blaylock

Really enjoyed this. This is the first time I’ve read him and it was recommended to me which was nice. Always love a bit of time travel.

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

I loved this. What a story. Brilliant. One of those books that will live with me forever. Hardy is just one of those writers that everyone should make the effort to read. I didn’t know anything about this story and I’m glad of that as some of the twists took me by surprise. I would recommend not reading any spoilers and get on and enjoy the book. Despite its age it’s surprising how much there is to think about.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Such a lovely story. Completely captivating.

An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth by Chris Hadfield

So many good things in here to take on board and work into my own life. Makes you want to try harder and do your best. As someone who is interested in space it was a must read and didn’t disappoint. Putting the details aside about space, the relevance to his journey to all of us and how we behave is truly inspiring.

After the Quake by Haruki Murakami

I hadn’t realised I was yet to read this. Weird. When I noticed it I immediately started reading. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s like he is looking inside me and picking up on parts of my life and using them for his stories. I’ve said before he is my favourite writer and this again reinforces it. This is a volume of short stories, set against a background of an earthquake. Quite astonishing and inspires me to continue to write and do better. Reading such great writing doesn’t dishearten me, it only spurs me on which is as it should be.

There are many posts dealing with the issue of writers block. I’m unsure whether I can add to the debate. On a personal level I haven’t experienced it. I do have my moments when I can’t be bothered and it takes effort to sit down and write. I don’t view that as writers block. That’s just my in-built laziness and reluctance to face the page. I know if I’m feeling like that, I have to try harder to write. I’ve never had that moment when I cannot write anything.

I can stress about the possibility of block. I am deep in the middle of short stories and have many in outline and draft. I do think at times what if I run out of ideas. To combat this I have a theme which I’m passionate about – technology – and I keep up to speed with new developments in this field. I use this to help trigger ideas for new stories. I find this helps and gives me confidence.

The best advice I ever read on this was write about whatever you are writing about. This was from the author David Bain. Simple but effective. If you feel yourself flagging and want to write, then imagine being interviewed about your work in progress. What would you say about it to an interviewer? Write it down. Chances are you will find yourself going back over plotlines and character traits and realise new angles on your story. You could even have a friend ask you, or someone online to ask you questions and you can jot down responses. You maybe pleasantly surprised how much you can actually write about what you are writing about.

It maybe the genre you are working in is not the one for you. That can be a hard one to face up to. It’s something I’ve been through and it is worth considering. Writing in a genre that you may not have thought was for you, maybe just the thing you need to progress your writing.

Finally, reading and research are also key. I can’t imagine how I could ever write without reading widely and researching areas of interest. I view this as part of the writing process and as important as putting words on the page.

Writers have a variety of methods for realising the stories within them. Some will begin writing in the middle of a chapter with a view to sequencing it later. Others will work methodically through a plan and write each chapter in order. For “Small Print” I wrote the short stories one at a time, in longhand, then typed them up to a readable level and then worked back and forth while editing towards the finished book. I’m currently writing Volume 2 of “Small Print” and the technique is different. By the time I started I had several stories to choose from. I selected four and then wrote up their outlines and made notes on where I believed they were going. Longhand was only used for making notes as I always have a notebook to hand in readiness for new stories when they appear. This list then changed as new ideas came to mind and two stories were put aside to make way for two new ones. Again these were outlined and typed up. I then put all four outlines into the one Word document and gave them titles. At this point I had to decide to go with these four stories or start the process all over again. I then began to write each one up in no particular order. There was no conscious decision to write one before the other. If I felt like writing a paragraph for one story I did. The next day I would find myself working on a different story.

As the draft progressed I could review how each story was shaping up and could easily check if I was repeating phrases simply to get from one paragraph to the next. At the time of writing the draft is now complete and an initial edit is underway. In a few days these stories will start going out to readers to see whether they make sense. They make sense in my head, but may be confusing to others.

To date this method has worked well. I have the makings of a shortlist for volume 3 with outlines already in draft. I expect to use the same method again as it appears to suit how I write short stories.

Probably the most unexpected and welcome feedback I’ve received on my short story Shelley, is readers asking me what happens next. When I finished this story I had no plans of continuing it though I did have ideas that maybe it was possible. Since publication I have been asked several times to write a sequel. This encouraged me to spend time going over possibilities while drinking far to much coffee; today I can say the sequel is now in draft. Not only is there a sequel, but I have managed to sketch out the plot for part three. The story is starting to look suspiciously like the foundations for a novel which is very exciting. So exciting I have already got the actress in mind for the film. I know, but I can dream! I suspect I will continue to write individual chapters in short story format and keep putting them out due to another project I intend to begin this April. All going well, the sequel to Shelley will be ready by March.

Shelley was inspired by the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, which is where I took the name for my lead character. In my story, Shelley is asked for her date of birth. She replies 16th of June 2316. It is believed that on the same date in 1816, Mary Shelley had the dream that inspired her novel. My Shelley has also been having dreams, but I promise not to spoil her story. If you would like to read more then it’s available at