Sunday 1 October 2017

Some of my Characters are Dicks

I have been told I do characters well. I tend to think that used to be true but I've lost the power somewhere along the line and now struggle a little. I've heard a few times recently that a couple of my characters are unlikeable and that makes me a little sad and a little happy at the same time. I mean, the characters in question are a bit dickish. And I like writing characters like that! Sometimes people are a bit dickish. And I don't mean the character's a dick as in, they're just a nasty douchebag – I mean, they're mostly a good person but have moments of twattishness.

And I think I've always done that. It's not published (yet) but I've had a couple of beta readers tell me that my vain manchild, Ambrose, in The Beautiful Man, is a bit of a tool. And he is, but he's a good guy beneath the swagger. Another beta told me how much she loved him and characters like him, so it may be more of a case of clashing personalities (between character and reader) rather than him being a shitty character.

Same thing with Liam in Otherworld. Some readers adore him. Others think he's a dick. And he is a bit of a dick.

See also Rowan, in Shuttered.

Most recently I've been hearing a couple of 'I just don't like him's from readers about Noah in Whitecott Manor. In fact, I was even warned by my editor that he was coming over as unlikeable in a couple of instances and I refuted the fact and carried on. Thing is, Noah is young – I don't mention his age but I imagine him to be early twenties – and he's probably been babied by his parents. He's been in a toxic controlling relationship and when he comes out of that, he does tend to act a bit bratty because he's free and he wants to do his own thing finally. He probably is a bit selfish, and high maintenance, and because we don't get to read anything from his POV we don't see any of his inner workings. But ultimately, he is a nice guy. He wouldn't hurt anybody and when he grows up, and he's allowed to grow up, he'll make a very good partner. Should I have toned him down? I'm not sure.

Then I have the characters who are dicks in the bad way. They're team evil. Like Max in the not-yet-published-I've-not-even-finished-writing-it-yet Locke & Co. He's a dick and he knows it. He's a demon so it's kinda his raison d'etre. But he has moments where he's almost, almost, a nice guy. I wonder what the reaction to him will be like – I've already had one beta warn me he's possibly too creepy.

Of course I want all my characters to be liked, even the ones who are meant to be bad guys, but when a character I thought was reasonably likeable is disliked by readers it can be a little disheartening. I mean, I know they're a dick, but why can't you see their cuddly inner core? This character's a good person, liiiiike them, pleeeease! *ahem* And there's the writer angst. Am I just not doing this as well as I thought I was?

Still, to get an emotional response from a reader, whether that emotion is love or hate, is pretty good anyway so I'll take it.  I'm a little bit happy and a little bit sad. And I'll carry on writing the dicks anyway.

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Real-life PokemonGo

I don't think PokemonGo is in the UK yet (or is it?) but I've been hearing lots about it and to be honest... I just don't get it. Don't get me wrong, I love Pokemon. I used to watch it on SMTV every Saturday back in the 90s (was it the 90s?) and cracked up at Ant & Dec's Pokerap and Pokefight sketches (Watch!). I even painted Pokemon onto my bedroom wall, and of course I played Pokemon (I had the red version) on my original GameBoy.

But wandering around outside, staring at your phone while looking for wild Pokemon? Erm... I've been doing that for the past two years. But what I do is real. Only it's not Pokemon I'm looking for, it's butterflies. And it's not my phone in my hand, it's my camera.

And it's not just me doing this. Along with my fellow lepidoterists, there's the Twitchers and the odonata...erm...ites, and the ladybirders...

There's 59 species of butterfly in the UK, and okay, that may not be as exciting as the 150 (or however many there is nowadays!) Pokemon, but I've gotta catch 'em all too. Although instead of catching them in a Pokeball, I catch them with my camera.

It gets you outside. It gets you interacting with other people (I can always spot a fellow butterfly-nerd - they'll be the ones staring into the undergrowth with a camera in hand). It takes skill - certain species are only found in certain areas, at certain times of the year, and they only eat certain things. Some are common. Some are rare. Even if you do have your camera on you, you're not guaranteed a shot. There may involve running and scrambling through undergrowth and close encounters with spiders.

It can lead to good things - I now volunteer for the Butterfly Conservation. Is there a Pokemon Conservation?

Getting outside is good. Interacting with other people is good (I suppose!). Getting involved in conservation is brilliant. Surely real-life wildlife is more rewarding than pixels? You can even do both, why not? Play PokemonGo and gain an interest in the real world. We have some fascinating creatures on this planet. They really exist. And you can really see them with your own eyes.

Hell, butterflies even evolve.
Peacock caterpillar

Wild Caterpie appeared!

Look! A Butterfree!

Friday 15 April 2016

Favourite Couples

I write romance, and as I'm currently having a bit of a confidence crisis with my latest WiP I've been thinking about my favourite couples.

Now, I can't think of any in books that I like that much. You know, the couple that you route for. The one you "ship". Apart from maybe Darian and Ash from Glitterland. And there are definitely none in films. But TV shows... TV does good with the couples. I guess it's because it can be stretched out more than in films, explored more, unless of course the film is a romance (which, to be honest, I don't tend to watch). A good couple has a will they/won't they on/off thing going on. I also have to like both characters. But there has to be something more. Some chemistry. Something that'll suddenly get me on board that ship.

So, here are my faves.

1. Ste and Brendan from Hollyoaks. Hollyoaks is pretty good at having couples I like - Darren & Nancy, Dennis & Blessing (that moleman speech?), Paul & Mercedes, Carmel & Jim, Grace & Esther... But Stendan are the best. Ok, I'm not good with the whole domestic violence thing, but Brendan's tragic past and Ste's acceptance... I just love them. They were tragic and romantic and funny. Stendan in Dublin still makes me blub. The couple had a tragic ending with Brendan taking the wrap for his sister's murder of their nasty peodophile dad and ending up in prison, but the ride was great.

I'm going to link to music vids in case you're not familiar with the couples. Watch them. Even if you are familiar.


2. John and Aeryn from Farscape. He's a human. She's an alien. He's a scientist. She's a soldier. Farscape is probably my favourite TV show of all time anyway - it's full of strong female characters and I absolutely adore Aeryn. They were on and off. Lots of tragic little moments and will they/won't they. But they get a happy ending. Complete with baby.

John & Aeryn

3. Seth and Summer from The O.C. AKA Summereth or Sethummer (according to Seth!) He's a nerd. She's one of the popular kids. It's classic. The O.C., like Farscape, is chock full of strong women and Summer is one of the best. She has brilliant character growth throughout the series, and she's also hilarious. They will they/won't they throughout but end up married and have baby bunnies. It's all good.

Seth & Summer

4. Percival and Gwaine from Merlin. AKA Perwaine. I'm cheating with this one because they weren't shown as being a couple, but we all knew they were totally doing it. I watched the whole series of Merlin for that one forehead touch moment, I swear. Tragic end, poor Percival was brokenhearted.


5. The newest one! Sienna and Trevor from Hollyoaks. I said Hollyoaks did good couples didn't I? They get two in my top five. Their story is still ongoing, but already we've had on/off will they/won't they moments, and lots of chemistry. He's a bad boy with PTSD. She's posh, with a tragic backstory and mental health issues. I don't know how their story's going to end. But I'm onboard the ship for the ride.



A good couple has to be worthy of a montage. I can just about envisage one for Rowan and Daniel from my own Shuttered. I can definitely imagine one for Liam and Jimmy from mine and Liz Powell's Otherworld - they have all the hallmarks - on/off, will they/won't they, chemistry and tragedy. I'm not sure about my current WiP, but I'm working on it.

(You can buy both Shuttered and Otherworld from Amazon, plus various other online bookstores, or direct from the publishers.)

Friday 11 March 2016


I was chatting to a friend of mine about her paintings and she convinced me to have a go. I'd not painted anything before (other than walls!) so had a quick Google of what's a good medium for a beginner to get started with. I even did a little quiz. (This one) Which told me I should try acrylics.

I bought a 20 piece painting set of acrylics from The Works for a fiver. Bargain. I figured, if it turns out I'm crap, I've not really lost anything. I bought a sketchpad and waited for it all to arrive.

Now, I hate being crap at stuff, and it turns out... I'm actually alright at this painting lark.

Here are some of my paintings.

This is my first attempt. I love butterflies and figured they'd be fairly easy to do. It's a common blue. The colours aren't right, but it's ok.

Um... so this is my dog Beau. As a farmer. Just because.

A lovely lady I know crocheted me a gorgeous moomin as a house warming present, and some excellent ninja snails for Christmas. I know she likes long tailed tits, so I painted one for her. (Check out her Facebook page)

Watching too much 'The Secret Life of the Zoo'...

I bought a couple of teeny tiny canvases from The Works for £1 each. What else to paint on a teeny canvas than a teeny bird? This is a wren. Painting on canvas is quite hard because the canvas soaks up the paint. 

I love hares. This is actually a gift for someone. I think he's probably my best one so far. The more I do, the better I should get, right? I'm currently working on a commission (if anybody wants to commission me, feel free to drop me a line via my website) I can only do animals though.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

2015 Rainbow Awards

Shuttered has received an 'Honorable Mention' in the 2015 Rainbow Awards. Very pleased.  :)

Take a look.

Friday 11 September 2015

777 Writer's Game

I was tagged by two writers, DG Jones, and Teresa Edgerton, to do the 777 challenge. That's where the tagged person must take 7 paragraphs from a page ending in 7 from a work in progress, and post them in a blog for all to see. Then I have to tag 7 more writers to do the same. Unfortunately, all the writers I would've tagged have already done this! So, you'll just have to put up with my paras. These are from my (neglected) WiP "Locke & Co".


Allery opened her eyes and blinked until her vision cleared. She was lying on the sofa back at the cottage, bloodied cotton pads discarded in front of her. Driscoll was slumped at the dining table, a can of beer in one hand and his forehead pressed into the other. As she sat up, he turned his face towards her.
"It's not your week, Al."
She stretched her back and rolled her shoulders, wincing at the pull between her shoulder blades and guessing that was where her newest scar sat. "Two deaths in as many days," she said. "It's not the best."
Driscoll picked up something from the table and tossed it to her. She caught it and looked at the little lump of metal as he said, "The bullet with your name on it."
"I'll add it to the collection," she said dryly. "How are Nick and Esme?"
Driscoll tapped his fingers on the tabletop and eyed the inside of the beer can as if looking for the answer. "Alive."
Allery picked up the cotton pads and took them into the kitchen to the carrier bag they used as a bin. "You sound pissed off," she commented.

Friday 14 August 2015

Self-publishing – Things to Avoid

I've wanted to be a published author since I was at primary school. I finished my first novel (one about unicorns, called 'Waterfall Mountain'!) when I was in my early teens. It was a portal fantasy involving, well, unicorns. Anyway… I wrote a lot of animal stories. I blame the late, great, Brian Jacques and his fantastic Redwall books. The first novel I wrote (and finished) about people was called The Kingdom of Malinas.

I was sixteen. At that age, you think everything you do is awesome. I wanted this book published.
Bear in mind, the internet wasn't really a thing when I was sixteen. All I could do was go to the library and read the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.

First thing to do now when you want to self-publish? Get on the internet. Join forums. Check out Absolute Write. Do not send your MS to every vaguely accepting-sounding publisher you can find and then give up when you get an endless stream of rejections.

I self-published because I was young and impatient and I was lured in by all the vanity presses telling me that all the best authors of old are self-published, and it's cheap! And easy! And you will earn millions!

I ended up in contact with Minerva Press (they no longer exist) but, luckily for me, quickly realised they were a vanity press. While looking for real self-publishing companies, I came across Trafford.
The Kingdom of Malinas was published by Trafford Press first of all. I did all the editing, the layout, the design – my brother did my front cover. I paid Trafford money. I made nothing.

My second bit of advice? Do NOT pay a publishing company anything to publish your book. Just don't. Pay an editor, yes. Pay to get copies of your book, of course. But don't fork out money just because you're eager to be an author. Research. A lot.

After a few years (and TKoM is no longer published by Trafford), I chose Lulu. I rewrote my novel to the best of my ability at the time, and, this time round, hired a professional artist to design the cover.

This is my third bit of advice. HIRE AN ARTIST. Unless you're an artist yourself. In which case, I'm very jealous. I found my artist through DeviantArt. She was fantastic, and her cover is the one I still use. You must find an artist who is good at design, too, one who'll know how to give you a good font.

Font is what lets a lot of self-published books down. The titles and author names often look terrible and, to me, are usually the biggest giveaway that the book is self-published (not a bad thing, but will put some people off).

Do not let your little brother do your cover art. Unless – same as above – he is an artist.

If you're not confident of your editing abilities, or if you just want one, hire an editor. Get beta readers too.

A couple of years ago, I finally decided to rewrite TKoM again. For the final time. And this time, I published through Smashwords and Amazon as an ebook only. This is great because you don't have to pay anything. You don't need to buy proof copies, you see.

I also published the remaining two books in the trilogy – The Empress Graves and The Barbarians' Key. You can find details of these, as well as links to buy, here:

My final bit of advice? Unless you want some of your royalties going to Mr American Taxman, you need to get an ITIN. This is extremely easy – please don't panic about it because it sounds more complicated than it is. There is a very simple and easy to follow guide, here:

To recap:
1. Research. Don't rush into anything.
2. Don't pay a publishing company.
3. Hire an artist and editor.
4. Get an ITIN.

To follow other posts in this series visit:

7 August: Thaddeus White- nuts and bolts on how to self-publish

14 August: Me - pitfalls to avoid

21 August: Jo Zebedee - marketability and why some books suit self-publishing rather than the traditional route

28 August: Teresa Edgerton - advantages of self-publishing when reprinting a back catalogue [initially traditionally published].