Category Archives: Occasional Thoughts

Why Did I Want to Become a Writer? – Good Question…

 

Picture this.

A young Nick Tingley, still at school – probably about primary age – coming home one day and scooting up to his bedroom. On his bookcase, there are a fair number of books. Some of them have been read to death, others have hardly been touched at all. Occasionally he might stop and look at the whole expanse of vibrant covers. He would spend minutes at a time carefully examining each individual book for what he wanted…

But it was all kind of pointless really. He would invariably reach for the same one every time.

Few of his friends had heard of Gideon Gander Solves The Worlds Greatest Mysteries by David Henry Wilson. Those that had didn’t really make a point of reading it all that often. But Nick absolutely loved it. There was something about this quaint story of a farmyard gander who went around poking his nose into other people’s affairs and solving crimes that didn’t actually exist that inspired that young boy.

In fact, it was that book that fuelled Nick’s love of crime fiction. So I guess David Henry Wilson is to blame for it all…


Flash forward fifteen to twenty years or so. 

Nick Tingley is now grown up. Well, he’s supposed to be grown up – but in reality he still thinks very similarly to that young boy who used to read about Gideon Gander and his adventures. Only I suppose he’s a little wiser and more aware of the world around him.

He still stares at bookshelves for hours on end. Not necessarily because he wants to read something, but more because there is something oddly comforting about them.

You see, Nick Tingley suffers from extreme anxiety – most people would call it OCD. In fact Nick has been known to spend hours attempting to leave his apartment – he seems to get stuck in an endless loop of checking everything from locks to plug sockets. And it’s not because he is an overly cautious person normally – it’s just like there is some sort of demonic being inside his head, constantly poking and prodding at him, questioning every action and decision he makes.

He stares at the books, not because he is looking for something to read – most of the books he stares at are those he has read a dozen times before. No. He stares at them because they are the single fixed point in what is a constantly changing world. Those books will always be there. And they will never be anywhere other than precisely where Nick has put them…

And that is relaxing for him.

The only difference is that Gideon Gander is no longer on the shelves. That book disappeared a long time ago. Nick can’t even remember when and how…

When he’s writing, Nick is at peace. He writes because he enjoys it, he writes because he loves telling a good tale. But he also writes because the world outside is so complicated, and everyone seems to have their own opinion of it, which only serves to make it even more complicated. The stories that Nick writes are his way of explaining the world. He takes all the issues that he sees around him and condenses them down into a single problem. Then – using the narrative of his stories – he solves that problem.

In those hours, he can type away and dream and understand. In those hours, he can fly…

But there is still something not right…


There’s one more place I want to take you. 

A few weeks ago, I just happened to remember Gideon Gander. I recalled those hours I spent devouring that book and reading it again and again until the pages frayed and began to fall out.

I went online and I found it. It’s not been printed for a good time but, by some stroke of luck, someone was selling one second-hand (or third or fourth – I didn’t really care). I bought it and it arrived at my home a few days later. I held it in my hands and admired the front cover.

This was the book that inspired me to write.

This was the book that created my love of crime fiction.

This book allowed me deal with my own problems in a way that was fun, hard work and intensely rewarding.

All those hours and days and weeks and months of diligently ripping apart my own work, breaking it down and starting again; the characters and the plots and the unnervingly real settings all stemmed from the love of a single book.

And now I have it again. Sat on my desk at all times where I can’t miss it.

And it isn’t going anywhere.

 

 

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Do your bit for Safer Internet Day 2017

Today – Tuesday 7th February – is Safer Internet Day 2017. At least it is in Britain (I’m not so sure about the rest of the world).

It’s a day when we teach our children and youngsters how to be safe online – what to do when their being bullied, how they should approach explicit material (like pornography) and – most importantly in my mind – how to stop themselves from being taken advantage of.

I think it’s a terribly important message. Children these days have such ready access to the internet and its infinite resources that its often hard for them to tell what is genuine and what isn’t. Let’s face it – if the multitude of information flying about pre- during and post- the several surprising elections we’ve had this year is anything to go by – most adults don’t really know how to do that either.

It is so easy for a child or vulnerable adult to get conned into spending money, or putting themselves into situations where they can be exploited or blackmailed or groomed by some sexual predator or another that it is difficult for us to know where to begin. Do we cut them off from the internet altogether? Do we just let them get on with it and hope for the best? Or do we risk unleashing the dragon and telling them about these things, knowing that their natural curiosity will lead them to find about them sooner or later?

It’s a tough call. But one that we have to make.

I – for one – believe we need to be setting the example for our children. For several months now, I’ve been working on a project around Internet Safety and one of my latest DS Giles short stories even covers the subject (in a manner of speaking)¹. And I honestly and truly believe that we need to be setting the example. It’s not enough for us to preach to them about being nice and honest and respectful to others online whilst we go about hurling insults at each other over election results that (whatever you might call them) are at the very least legitimate. We can’t expect our children to do things that we ourselves are not capable of doing – and we can’t expect them to follow our lead and keep themselves safe when they see that we can’t even take our own advice and be pleasant to each other, no matter what our differences may be.

I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to do, the good things in life never are. But it is the right thing to do. We need to educate our children about the dangers out there and we need to set the example so they don’t look at us and see a bunch of rowdy hypocrites.

Start making the change today and say something nice to someone when online – even if it’s just for one day.

Go on. Do it for your kids…

 

¹The short story in question, Gotcha, will soon be released as an additional bonus story for anyone who buys The Bluebell Informant, due for release this April (for free!!!). Stay tuned for all the latest updates.

Sir Tendeth – A Detective

There comes a time once every so often when, as a writer, I feel the need to write something that is a little different to my normal work. Usually, it’s prompted by a newspaper article or something like that but – considering the news seems so dire and negative lately – you won’t be surprised to know that I sourced my inspiration from somewhere else this time.

When I was a child, one of my favourite books was a lovely little children’s book called Gideon Gander Solves the World’s Greatest Mysteries by David Henry Wilson (if you happen to come across, I thoroughly recommend it). I suppose, in a small way, this book is responsible for my descent into crime writing – it follows the story of a gander who thinks he is a detective and goes around solving crimes inspired by well-known nursery rhymes and tales  (Georgie Porgie, Black Sheep, Solomon Grundy to name a few examples).

Anyway, I found this book online lately and had to buy it – one of my lasting regrets up to this point had been that I ever got rid of that book. And, although I haven’t actually had the time to sit and read it yet, it got me thinking about the stories I tell. And I ended up writing this short character introduction. It might be the start of something, it might just end up being one of those fun oddities that I engaged with one afternoon. But for the time being it is just the start of a story.

As you’ll see – the dark doesn’t have to corrupt everything…

Enjoy

Sir Tendeth – A Detective

It can be said that the oddest things may occur in the most unexpected of circumstances. Never had this been truer than of the unexpected set of events that followed the arrival of Sir Tendeth at the court of King Wilhelm.

Sir Tendeth had left the court of King Arthur of Camelot under something of a cloud. Despite all his passion and ambition, he had never felt truly appreciated for his skills nor did he feel that he had been given the right conditions in which to flourish.

‘A mighty oak tree cannot be expected to reach its true height if it is planted in a desolate and rocky outcropping,’ he would say to himself. ‘Nor can you expect to build a great cathedral from nothing but leaves, or weave gold from silk.’

It had thus been, on a rather dull and uninspiring day, that Sir Tendeth had approached King Arthur and demanded he be released from his duties so that he could pursue his own destiny. He had every reason to expect the good King to be delighted with this wonderful display of initiative – after all, this was the same Arthur who had been so supportive of Sir Gawain’s expedition against the Green Knight and Sir Galahad’s quest to find the Holy Grail.

However, the response that Sir Tendeth got was entirely unexpected. After several hours of shouting and marching back and forth, Sir Tendeth found himself on the receiving end of a long lecture about duty and courage. At the end of this argument, in which Sir Tendeth was not allowed to speak, he found himself ejected through the front gates with strict instructions never to return to the hallowed walls of Camelot ever again.

Sir Tendeth couldn’t understand it himself. Arthur has said something about his timing being inappropriate – but what was inappropriate about venturing out on a personal quest?

It took him a while to make his way through the massive army that stood outside the gates. In fact, it was only after he explained the exact layout of the city to the army’s general that he was eventually allowed to go free.

A few days later, he arrived in a small village where an old beggar woman told him that Camelot had been destroyed by the army of Prince Mordred. The name rang a bell in Sir Tendeth’s mind, although he couldn’t rightly place it. For a little while, he thought it might have been the name of the general he’d spoken to, but he soon decided he was wrong:

‘It can’t have been him,’ he muttered to himself. ‘He was such a nice man.’

And so he continued on his journey, not knowing in which direction he was going or how far he might be expected to travel. All he knew was that an adventure was waiting for him somewhere on the horizon and he was going to find it.

It was a little over a week later that he finally spotted the walls of Caeredon. The city was smaller than Camelot and a little shabbier, but it was nestled high up in a mountain pass and commanded a great view of the surrounding fields and marshlands.

‘If ever I am to find a quest, this place will be it,’ Sir Tendeth announced proudly as he began the long trudge across the watery land. ‘In this place, I will finally make a name for myself.’

And a name for himself, he made.

Arriving at the gates, Sir Tendeth found the gates closed and barred. As he pressed against the hard wood, he found that they wouldn’t budge even an inch and, cursing his bad fortune, he proceeded to shout up to the deserted ramparts above him.

‘Hallo,’ he called out. ‘Is anyone there?’

‘Hallo,’ came the reply. ‘Is anyone there?’

That’s odd, thought the knight. That fellow sounds like me.

He clapped his hands over his mouth and yelled as loudly as he could.

‘Greetings. Whom am I speaking to?’

‘Greetings,’ came the faint reply. ‘Whom am I speaking to?’

Under normal circumstances, Sir Tendeth might have thought the fellow’s manner to be impudent but, given that he was very much locked outside the walls, he felt he had little choice but to answer:

‘I am Sir Tendeth of Camelot.’

There was a brief pause before the faint voice replied:

‘I am Sir Tendeth of Camelot.’

The ruddy cheek, the knight thought, trying desperately to control his temper.

‘No, I am Sir Tendeth of Camelot.’

‘No, I am Sir Tendeth of Camelot.’

‘Now look here,’ Sir Tendeth replied, beginning to feel more than a little frustrated by now. ‘If you are going to play such silly games, I demand that you come down here this instant…’

No sooner had he spoken, there was a scuffled of sound behind the heavy gates followed by scraping of wood as a small slat moved aside revealing a pair of green, beady-looking eyes.

‘What’s your game then?’ the beady eyes asked.

‘I could ask the same of you,’ Sir Tendeth replied, stepping forward towards the gate. ‘What’s the idea of keeping me waiting out here?’

‘I dunno,’ beady eyes replied. ‘Why? What’s so special about out there?’

Sir Tendeth thought for a moment. ‘I’m not sure really. It’s where I ended up I suppose. But now I want to come in.’

The beady eyes blinked and quickly scanned him up and down.

‘We don’t accept cold-callers.’

‘I’m only cold because you’re keeping me out here,’ replied Sir Tendeth. ‘If you would only let me in…’

‘Why? What are you selling?’

‘Nothing,’ Sir Tendeth replied. ‘I am on a quest and wish to come in.’

At this, the beady eyes widened. For the first time, they seemed to take in Sir Tendeth’s battered armour and the knobbly sword that hung from his belt. They scanned him for a good minute before they blinked once more and said:

‘You’ve been sent here to help us?’

‘Yes,’ Sir Tendeth replied confidently.

The eyes disappeared for a moment. Behind the door, Sir Tendeth could hear the sound of muffled conversation before a new set of eyes appeared at the opening – bright blue, and friendlier than the first pair.

‘Where did you say you came from?’

‘From Camelot,’ the knight replied. ‘I am Sir Tendeth of the Knights of the Round Table.’

The blue eyes widened:

‘He’s come!’

With that, the opening snap shut. Not really sure what to do, Sir Tendeth waited as he heard the scurry of quick feet racing back and forth behind the gate. After a minute or so, the sound stopped and Sir Tendeth could hear the massive wooden bars being lifted out of the lock. In the next instant, the door creaked and puffed out a small gust of yellow dust before slowly swinging open to reveal the city within.

Sir Tendeth had been right – it was shabbier than Camelot. Where Camelot had great marble fountains and immaculately white-paved roads, Caeredon had a couple of grubby stone wells and a muddy lane that weaved in and out of the wooden, thatched houses of the city. Even the keep tower, which towered over the rest of the city, looked like it hadn’t been repaired in several centuries and was ridden with ivy and bright green moss.

He stepped in through the gate, staring at his new surroundings. Now that he was inside, he was sure that his quest was leading him here. Perhaps it was his destiny to become the governor so that he might make this place more habitable. Or maybe his quest would be to establish some sort of working sewage network. Whatever his fate, it would be inextricably linked to this city and Sir Tendeth would prove himself at last.

He felt a small tug on his tunic as the beady eyes cleared his throat. Turning towards it, Sir Tendeth almost jumped out of his skin as he found himself staring down at two of the most awful-looking creatures he had ever seen. About the size of a child, each one had green, rippled skin, long sagging ears and fat, pudgy noses. Where their toenails should be, these creatures had long claws that tapped excitedly on the floor whilst their great bellies wobbled, exposed from beneath their pale orange tunics.

‘What the devil?’

‘No, sir,’ the one on the left replied. ‘Not devils. Goblins.’

The one on the right sniffed with irritation, his beady eyes staring angrily up at Sir Tendeth. ‘Not as bad as devils. Nowhere near as bad…’

‘I apologise,’ Sir Tendeth replied, glancing back and forth at these two beasts as his hand gripped hold of the hilt of his sword. ‘I have never seen a goblin before.’

‘Well,’ replied beady eyes. ‘Now you have.’

‘Yes, indeed,’ Sir Tendeth replied, glancing back at the deserted city behind him. ‘Are all of the people here like you?’

‘Oh no, sir,’ replied the one on the left, his blue eyes shining eagerly up at Sir Tendeth. ‘We are the last two – fated to serve King Wilhelm for the rest of our lives as compensation for the Goblin War…’

‘Though I don’t see why it was our fault,’ muttered beady eyes. ‘It wasn’t us who burned his library…’

‘Indeed, brother,’ replied the other, giving his companion a short nod. ‘My name is Gob and this is my brother Bog.’

Sir Tendeth nodded to each in turn. ‘Very pleased to meet you,’ he replied. ‘Now, if you don’t mind, I have a quest to fulfil…’

‘Oh yes, of course,’ replied Gob. ‘We are to take you to the King immediately…’

‘Although I don’t see the point,’ added Bog. ‘No one else has managed it – why should he?’

‘Hush brother,’ Gob said with a snap, before turning to Sir Tendeth. ‘Will you follow me, sir?’

Gob and Bog led Sir Tendeth up the sludgy street, making their way towards the keep in the centre of the city. As Sir Tendeth slipped and slid on the wet, muddy ground, he imagined that he caught sight of faces peering out through the windows as he past by, although – as soon as he turned to look – they seemed to vanish in a flash as though they were never there at all.

Arriving at the keep, Gob scuttled forward and leapt up into the air, grabbing hold of a large iron knocker. He placed his feet firmly on the door and kicked off, somersaulting through the air and landing gracefully on the floor as the knocker smashed against the wood. They waited for a few moments before the door opened up a crack and another set of eyes peered out at the two goblins.

‘Well? What is it Gob?’

Gob pointed excitedly towards the knight. ‘He’s here. He’s come.’

Sir Tendeth stepped forward and cleared his throat.

‘I am Sir Tendeth of the Knights of…’

The door slammed shut.

Sir Tendeth turned towards the two goblins:

‘Was it something I said?’

Before they could answer, the rattling of a large chain could be heard behind the door and, before Sir Tendeth could react, it swung open to reveal a rather normal looking guard, dressed in fine armour and a clean tunic. He stared at Sir Tendeth for a moment before gesturing for them to follow him inside.

The guard led the party through the next courtyard, up a set of winding and unnecessarily thin stairs, along a dark corridor, up another set of stairs and into a large room. Without stopping, the guard led them through this room to another set of stairs that, to Sir Tendeth’s surprise, seemed to head back down again until it reached a large set of thick, oak, double doors guarded by two very alert and – in Sir Tendeth’s opinion – terrified guards.

‘Who goes there?’ One asked, raising his spear towards the party.

‘Shut up, Kevin,’ replied the first guard. ‘It’s only me.’

‘Oh,’ Kevin replied, lowering his spear a fraction as he peered up at Sir Tendeth. ‘And who is this unsightly thug?’

‘I am Sir Tendeth of…’

‘I wasn’t asking you,’ replied Kevin, snarling menacingly.

‘He is from Camelot,’ explained Gob. ‘He’s going to solve our little problem.’

Kevin considered this for a moment before gently lowering his spear. ‘Well, good luck to him, I say.’

He nodded to his companion and, together, they pushed open the doors.

The room beyond was magnificent. A long, red carpet led from the door straight down the centre of the room that towered high above them. Two large stained glass windows adorned the walls on either side and, at the far end of the room, a large, golden throne overlooked the entire space.

As the party entered the room, Sir Tendeth watched as a mass of people stopped and turned to face towards them. As Gob and Bog led the way towards the throne, the crowd stepped back, staring at Sir Tendeth with a mixture of excitement, trepidation and wonder. As the last of them retreated, Sir Tendeth’s eyes fell on the elderly – but no less regal looking – king who slouched in the throne. His dull eyes watched Sir Tendeth with disinterest as Gob rushed forward and jumped up on to the arm rest to whisper in his ear. Only then did his eyes widen and his wrinkled face broaden into a large smile.

‘You are from Camelot?’ he bellowed, his voice echoing around the cavernous room.

The knight stepped forward.

‘I am Sir Tendeth of the Knights of the Round Table. I have come to complete a great quest…’

The king’s smile grew even wider. His hand slammed hard on the arm rest, causing Gob to jump backwards and land awkwardly on the stone floor. King Wilhelm’s eyes glistened mischievously as he looked down at Sir Tendeth before he let out a loud, heart filled laugh that was nervously imitated by the surrounding crowd.

‘You are here to solve our mystery, are you?’

‘Yes, your Majesty,’ replied Sir Tendeth, placing a proud hand above his heart – well, at least it would have been his heart, but he wasn’t entirely sure where the heart was, so instead he placed it proudly on his stomach.

The King beamed about the room with what seemed to be an odd mixture of pride and relief.

‘So, you are the detective,’ he announced.

Sir Tendeth wasn’t really sure what he meant. He’d never heard the word before – at least he didn’t think he had. He was about to reply when his mind wandered to the last thing that King Arthur had said about him:

‘You are a traitor, Tendeth. A coward. A defector…

At the time he hadn’t been sure what King Arthur had meant, but it seemed obvious to him that the king must have sent word ahead that Sir Tendeth was on his way – perhaps Arthur hadn’t been disappointed after all.

In the next moment, Sir Tendeth’s mind wandered to a comment his old nurse-maid used to say about him when he was a small child. He’d always thought that she’d been talking about the way he walked for, as a child, his legs had been malnourished and under-formed, but now that he heard King Wilhelm use a similar word, he began to wonder whether the nurse had secretly known he’d be destined for greatness.

He used that word now – it seemed like the right time.

With a great swagger of pride, he took a single step forward and, with his clearest and most impressive-sounding voice, he declared:

‘Yes, your Worshipfullness. I am defective…’

It’s hard to say whether the king heard what Sir Tendeth had said, or simply what he wanted the knight to have said. Either way, he beamed once again, levered himself off his throne and waddled over to the knight, clapping him hard on the shoulder.

‘Very good,’ he replied, giving Sir Tendeth’s shoulder and uncomfortable squeeze. ‘Then you had best get to work. For you, my boy, have a lot of it to do…’

Why be a Ghostwriter?

2016 has been about many things: celebrity deaths by the dozens, war, hatred, oppression and bad politics.

But for my writing, 2016 will go down as the Year of the Ghost.

That’s right, this year I am proud to say that I’ve actually been making regular money as a writer. Not writing my own work, you understand – but by writing for other people.

Ghostwriting is one of those beasts that most writers don’t like talking about. When we first start out, many of us see it as a bit of a sell-out – we’re not confident that our own writing will sell, so we write for other people so we get paid either way…

Most writers don’t like ghostwriting because it takes away from the glory of being an author. Sure you get paid, but someone else gets to take all the credit for your hard work. I mean, why would you do that to yourself?

Well, to understand that question, we have to examine what it is that drives us to writing. Why do we really do it all in the first place?

What do we get out of being an author?

Why do people want to be authors? Well, ultimately the reasons can be broken down into various different branches, but generally the instinct that drives us to become an author usually links back to a combination of these reasons:

  1. I want to be famous

In my opinion, possibly the worst reason to become an author. There are plenty of ways of becoming famous without needing to write anything – in fact, those who are driven by this desire for attention usually do so with their extreme (and usually ridiculously unhelpful) ideologies and they become hated relatively quickly – Katie Hopkins is a lovely example.

2. I want to be rich (or at least be able to quit my day job)

Again, not a great reason to become an author. Sure there are the E. L. James and J. K. Rowlings of this world who do make a bundle from their writing, but those examples are very few and far between. Most writers, by contrast, usually end up working a day job just to pay the bills whilst writing late into the night…

3. I want to write

You would have thought this would be first on my list of reasons, but it’s surprising how many ‘authors’ you encounter who can regale you with their novels and really drum up excitement, but when push comes to shove they haven’t ever written a single word of it – and probably never will. You’d assume that a desire to write is fundamental to being an author, but you’d be surprised how many authors out there are not – in fact – writers…

4. I want to tell stories

Arguably the best reason to become an author – you’re head is brimming with stories that keep you up all night and entertain you in even your darkest moments. And best yet you want to share them with the world.

5. I have a message that needs to be told

Possibly the most noblest of reasons to be an author, but also the most dangerous. We can all think of stories that are remembered for their political or social messages (generally 1984 or Of Mice and Men springs to my mind with this one), and it is certainly a good reason to write a story. But it shouldn’t be used as the sole reason for writing a story otherwise you end up with works of non-fiction that are utterly dark and open to fanaticism (Mein Kampf for example).

Generally, each author will have a combination of these reasons driving their writing endeavours. They may not necessarily admit to points 1 or 2, but they almost certainly are partly driven by at least one of them.

And it is actually these two points that make the biggest impact on a writer’s decision to become a ghostwriter…

What’s the benefit of becoming a ghostwriter?

  1. I want to be famous

Obviously, being a ghostwriter is not going to win you great acclaim from your adoring fans. One of the basic rules (usually) of being a ghostwriter is that you get little or no credit for the work you have done. Any credit you do get is usually concealed in the Acknowledgements section of the book, usually in the form of ‘Thanks to …. for all his/her help during this project.’

But, to say that you don’t get any recognition for your work is entirely untrue. Since I started ghostwriting, I have had people approach me to ask me to do little bits and pieces for them. Apparently, one of my earlier clients had been singing my praises, which led to my name being bandied about by those who were looking for a good ghostwriter to work with. And the more work you do, the more you get talked about – sure it’s in the very veiled world of ghostwriting, hidden far from the public eye, but it’s still fame of a sort.

2. I want to be rich (or at least be able to quit my day job)

Let me be absolutely clear on this: ghostwriting is the only for of novel writing where you can guarantee that you will be paid for your efforts (unless you’re already well established and the publishers are offering a huge advance). Better yet, you know exactly how much you are going to be paid before you ever start work (unless you do payment by time worked in which case you can make a relatively good guess).

When you write your own book, you are plagued by doubt: Will anyone buy it? Will I make more than a couple of quid after expenses? Is it worth me investing in a decent cover if no one’s going to buy it anyway?

All these questions become null and void when you ghostwrite for someone. Why? Because  it’s not your problem. If the book doesn’t sell, you’re not the one who will endure endless sleepless nights over it because you’ve already done your bit. You can move on to the next paying job and never have to deal with the stress of it all…

3. I want to write

Despite what some authors will have you believe, ghostwriting is still writing. Yes, you are restricted sometimes by what you can and can’t write, but that ultimately comes down to the client you work with (and guess what, you don’t have to accept a job if it doesn’t suit your style). But that, actually, is no different than working with an agent or an editor or a publisher. Unless you choose to become completely indie, you will always have to give ground to someone, so why not a paying client?

4. I want to tell stories

Now this is the difficult bit. Yes, you are telling stories – but they are someone else’s. Some clients are great and let you run loose with whatever idea you happen to have, but I (for one) don’t tend to go for those jobs. Whilst I have stories to tell, I want to be able to tell them in my own way (plus I’d quite like the recognition for the stories I come up with myself). I’m happy taking other people’s ideas and adding my own flair and storytelling style, but I draw the line at creating something from scratch. That is just one of my rules.

5. I have a message that needs to be told

This is the one thing that you can never guarantee with a ghostwriting project and – again – it ultimately comes down to the client you’re working with. Some are happy for you to insert your own political or social messages into the work, others may disagree with your view point and others still don’t want their work to be message-motivated at all. And, as with all ghostwriting projects, it is up to you as a writer to distinguish between the projects you’ll be happy working on and those that would feel like you’re losing a bit of your soul to.

That being said, it doesn’t mean you can’t sneak in your views in a subtle, character-driven way. In fact, most clients I’ve worked with seem to love that!

Ultimately, deciding to become a ghostwriter comes down to two things: what are your reasons for being an author, and how many of those reasons can be achieved by being a ghostwriter?

If you are in it all entirely for the fame and glory, then don’t bother being a ghostwriter. It will frustrate and depress you, and you’ll probably earn a reputation for being difficult to work with in the process (not something you want if you need to work alongside another author at some point in the future).

Likewise, if you just have a message you want to broadcast, piggy-backing off someone else’s project will only lead you to disaster. At the end of the day, the client calls the shots and I can imagine there is nothing more frustrating than putting in all that work and then being ordered to remove all your ‘message material’.

However, if you want to be an author because of a combination of factors, then it may be worth looking in to.

After the Year of the Ghost, I have learnt a lot about my writing skills. I have learnt what people appreciate about my writing and what people find annoying or distracting. But most importantly, I’ve received a huge amount of recognition for the work I have been doing – far more than I anticipated given that I was essentially acting as the hidden mistress of several people’s literary careers.

And it is for that reason that now, with 2017 around the corner, I can approach my own work with a renewed sense of excitement. Sure, the perils are still the same – I won’t know if any of my works will sell until they are finally published – but at least I now know that there are people willing to pay for my work.

And that, my friends, is all the confidence I need…

 

 

Today I am a Forensic Scientist…

This week, I decided to do something a little different.

It started off quite normally.

Last week, for various reasons ranging from curiosity to boredom, I started to conduct research into modern day forensic science methods. Having studied archaeology at university, I was hoping to find a cheap course to do on the subject – figuring that the two subjects would not be all that different.

What I found has completely thrown my week upside down.

I stumbled across a website called FutureLearn – a company owned by The Open University that provides free courses in conjunction with universities around the world on a variety of different subjects. One of these was an introduction to forensic science.

So I figured – why not give it a try? What do I have to lose?

And you know what? It was possibly the best decision I could have made.

The course operates on three levels:

In the first instance, as the title of the course suggests, it provides a brief overview of forensic science and how it is utilised in modern crime scene investigation. Now admittedly I am already fairly knowledgeable when it comes to the basics – you would hope that from a crime writer – but still there were some interesting nuggets of information in the first week of the course that I was not aware of. So – already – the course has improved my knowledge that little bit.

Secondly, the course also makes use of a hypothetical-practical exercise throughout its six-week duration. From the off, you are presented with a crime scene that purports to be a robbery gone wrong and you are given some of the evidence to ponder over. I suppose that you will get more and more evidence each week until you are required to provide your solution to the crime. This element of practically is brilliant because it allows you to enjoy the role of being a crime scene investigator whilst you learn – effectively putting all the skills you are developing into practice as the weeks go by.

But the third level – this is the one that has me most inspired – is by far the best bit of the course. Future Learn courses are designed with discussion in mind and – even though you are working in isolation – each module of the course allows for the participants to discuss their views and ideas at every step of the way.

As a writer, it has been fascinating to see how different people approach the problem. Some take the witness statements at their word and work from there. Some have read so many crime stories that they started work on the premise that a key witness was lying because that is what happens in crime fiction. And others have systematically gone through every scrap of evidence and tried to build the picture – regardless of whether this agrees or disagrees with the witness statements. It is also amazing to see how individuals alter their theories on the crime over the course of as little as a few minutes. Even though you can’t physically see them, you can practically feel their excitement leaping off the screen at you.

Anyway, my point is, if you want to learn a bit about forensic science for free, check out this online course. I’ve been doing it for all of twenty-four hours and – even when it is covering ground that I am already well aware of – I’m having a whale of a time!

Exciting News!

Exciting News!

About a month ago, I told you about an exciting project that I’d been working on. That project, Murder Under My Nose, has finally got a release date! And it’s soon!

Published by Senserial Publishing, Murder Under My Nose will be released in twelve parts from the end of September on their website before being made available to buy on Kindle from Amazon.

For those of you don’t fancy reading it piecemeal, the release date for the Kindle version is currently set at 22nd December – right in time for Christmas. But for those of you who want to read it week by week as intended, the first instalment will be available to read on 29th September. And the best part is you can read it from the comfort of your own computer screen.

Needless to say, I can’t tell you more than that at the moment, but if you want to stay absolutely up-to-date with all the latest news on Murder Under My Nose and the other serialised novels produced by Senserial, you can find their blog here.

Stay tuned!

Knowing the Fate of my characters…

I’m a little bit sneaky in my stories – particularly in the Giles series. I’m in the process of planning the third Giles story and I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. So long, in fact, that some of the themes and story twists have managed to worm their way into The Bluebell Informant as I’ve been doing the final polishes on it – only subtly mind, but the references are there.

Is it important to the story? Not really.

Does it add anything? As a matter of fact, yes.

I don’t know about you, but I like to feel safe with my authors. I like to know that they have an overall plan for their characters – that their not just cracking a whip in whatever direction they please and hoping they’ll get a decent story out of it.

Those references are there to show people that I know where I’m taking my characters – that I know what fate has in store for them.

If people clock on to those references, then that’s just great. If not…?

Well, let’s just say I know they’re there. And those little nods to future books are what helps my stories come alive.

And I don’t think that’s a bad thing…