The Write Side of Life: Harper Lee, A Tribute

‘Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy.’ To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Ask any writer, reader or lover of books and I bet they will be able to reel off a list of authors and books that have shaped their lives.

I am no exception. My parents tell me that from a very young age, I devoured books. Quite literally at first as I was only a toddler and my first instinct was to pick up a book – usually upside down – and stick it in my mouth.

As I got older and realised exactly what books were for, my love affair intensified.  At school I worked my way through the wonders of Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. When my reading ability grew I moved away from these and started finding myself getting into trouble for reading the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz (apparently, these books were too old for me and I shouldn’t have been reading them but that’s another blog post for another time). They are all authors who I still love. You’ll always find me first in line when at the book shop when there’s a new Stephen King book released.

But when I started my first year of GCSE English, I was presented with a book which – I say wholly without exaggeration – changed my life. It was the story of two young children living in America’s South in the 1930’s and their perspective on the case of a black man being tried for the rape of a white girl; the black man’s lawyer is their father.

I don’t need to tell you of  course, that the book was To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Like me, most people’s first exposure to the book was during English at secondary school. I know that because of this, because of being forced to read it at school, a lot of people have bad memories of the book. But for me there are only good memories.

At it’s most basic, To Kill A Mockingbird is quite simply a wonderful story of the experiences growing up and being confronted with adult situations at a young age. For me however, there was something more. The way Lee wrote of all the characters- from the boisterous, ever curious, Scout Finch to her stoic, Everyman, hero, Atticus Finch- made them all feel completely alive and real to me. The way she uses descriptions of the hot stuffy weather in Alabama to emphasise the growing tensions in the town made me believe that I was actually reading something more than just a fiction, that this could have been a real place.Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention how Lee perfectly bolts on a ghost story to the proceedings with the sub-plot of the mysterious local town legend, Boo Radley.

Into all of this she deftly interweaves life lessons that are relevant to all children growing up around the world today, not just in the 30’s. This is beautifully illustrated in the quote at the top of this post, about how we should preserve things of beauty, not spoil them in any way.

It was all of this and so much more, from Lee’s poetic prose to the the way book shifts effortlessly from  a being a heart-warming coming of age tale, to shocking thriller to uncompromising look of the state of a nation divided and back again, that lead me to the decision that more than anything else in the world I wanted to be a writer.

Now, I know that the stuff I write, Sci-fi and Fantasy could not be further removed from Lee’s work but it was all things I have mentioned above that made me want to give it a go. I strive to write as well as Lee did and I constantly find myself going back to my now very dog-eared copy when I am in desperate need of inspiration. Something that happens quite often.

The other thing that I am grateful to Harper Lee for is that because To Kill A Mockingbird was so different to what I usually read that I went out seeking other works in a similar vein. I found I wanted to learn more about that time period and so started researching which led me to a love of history and, in a round about way, blues music.

As I write this, I feel guilty. I feel guilty for a number of reasons. One is that I still have Go Set A Watchman on my ‘to be read’ pile (I’m going to rectify this over the coming weekend).

Another reason is that even though I love this book so much and believe it is such an important book, I don’t feel I have ever championed To Kill A Mockingbird enough. I should be shouting about it from the rooftops, handing out copies to complete strangers in the street.

If you’ve never read it, I implore to go and get a copy and spend some serious time with it. If you read it at school and hated it because you had to write essays about it (something I loved doing BTW, but then again I’m a huge nerd), I beg you to revisit it. Read it without burden and through fresh eyes. It may change your life.

I shall be going back to it tonight and raising a glass in memory of Harper Lee, in thanks for the effect she’s had on my life. I hope you enjoy it to.

REST IN PEACE, Harper Lee (1926 -2016).


Thanks for reading,





The Write Side of Life: Achievement Unlocked: 10,000 words.

So, it seems the laser focus that I mentioned in my last post is working. Last night I passed the 1st ten thousand words of my work in progress.

Now, that may not sound like all that big of an achievement. You might be saying to yourself ‘10,000 words, big deal, so what?’ But for me, and I suspect a great many other writers, those first ten thousand are a huge milestone.

It’s the point where I feel I’ve really broken the back of the story. I’ve managed to get through the potentially awkward task of introducing my protagonists and their situation, and I can now just get into the real narrative flow of the story. Also, its the furthest I’ve got into the first draft of a narrative for quite sometime so, whoo yay for that!

I also believe that it’s important to have milestones to mark as your working through a novel. It helps you feel a real sense of progress and you get to feel a little bit of achievement as you’re hammering away at the work itself. With that in mind, expect other posts such as this one every now and again. I think the next one will probably be at fifty thousand words. If nothing else, they’re a good mental exercise for me to keep myself motivated andrew my progress.

As ever, thanks for reading.


The Write Side of Life: Back in Black…

Actually I’m not in black. I’m currently in a grey jumper and blue jeans but it has been too long and it is good to be back.
    Once again I have been neglecting this blog and probably my writing in general. Bad Tim!
     Recently however, there has been some interesting developments. Not too long ago I received some really positive feedback to some of my fiction on this site which has spurred me on to pull my finger out and get on with getting a novel finished.
     Its not as though I haven’t been writing at all. Rather I’ve been jumping from project to project without actually finishing anything. Again, bad Tim!
     So I’ve dusted off the most promising of my WIPs and am now laser focussed on getting it finished. I’ve set myself some, what should be, achievable targets too. I’m aiming tho have the first draft finished in one month, will put it aside for one month to get some – hopefully- objective distance from it, and then I’ll be entering a furious period of editing and rewriting with a view to having the mss ready for querying by August at the latest.
     I’m also dusting off this blog tho keep those that care up to date with my progress. There may not be as many short stories this time around but I’ll try to share some excerpts from the book.
    Anyway thats where things lay at the moment. Hope this time next year I’ll be posting about a forthcoming published book!

Wish me luck folks and as ever, thanks for reading!


An extract of a story I’m currently working on.

I’ve been working on this story for a while. This is an extract of the first draft. I just thought I’d give you a preview as I haven’t posted anything for a long while. Also, I’m testing something in WordPress for for work, so you have to put up with it for now. I’ll post the finished thing soon, enjoy!…

The soldier cracked a can of beer from the plastic ring that held the six-pack together. He offered it to the other soldier who was sat a few feet away. His companion didn’t reach for the can, he just eyed up the soldier suspiciously. “C’mon, have a beer with me” pleaded the soldier, shaking the beer in the air “It’s not armed or anything. The only weapon round here is that one.” He pointed to where the gun lay in the road between them. A thin film of dust had gathered over its carbon-resin casing, turning it from jet black to a brownish-grey colour. On its side a circular green light throbbed intermittently, indicating that its ammo charge was low but not depleted. The second soldier didn’t move or say anything. He just carried on glaring at the soldier offering him a drink. The first soldier shrugged, placed the can on the floor and opened one for him-self. “Fine” he said. “Have it your way. I’m just gonna leave it here on the floor and drink one myself. If you want it, you can have it. If not, that’s your call.” He took another can from the ring, cracked it open and took long pull from it. As he did so, he looked at his counterpart examining carefully. It’s funny he mused. If it wasn’t for the fact that their armours had different insignias on them, you would swear that they were on the same side. However that wasn’t the case. In reality they were technically the worst of enemies, members of opposite armies that, it seemed, had been fighting a turf war for this planet, a war that had been so bloody, so fierce and raged for so long that they were now the last two soldiers left from either side. “My side won you know.” His enemy croaked in a low, cracked voice that sounded dry with thirst. “Come again?” The soldier replied in surprise with an incredulous tone. Was this guy nuts? How could he think that there had been any winners in this farce of a war? Everyone, well nearly everyone, who had fought was dead. Now they were stranded, forgotten about by their superiors on their respective home worlds who had washed their hands of the whole sorry affair. “Well, technically we won. Until you put a plasma bolt through his head, there had only been you, me and Riley left. Two against one so, ya know, technically we won.” The other soldiers face remained deadly serious as he spoke. “By the way, my name’s Thompson. What’s yours?” The soldier felt a big grin slide across his face and then before he could help himself, he let out a loud, long burst of laughter. His whole body was shaking and his eyes were watering by the time he was able to compose himself. “Are you kidding me? Seriously?” It was all he could do not to burst out laughing again. “Buddy, I don’t think anyone can claim to be a winner in this mess. My names Ward if you must know, Sargeant. You want of these beers now?” Thompson nodded and took one of the cans Ward was now shaking at him. He opened it and took a long, slow drink. His eyes were shut tight as he savoured the slightly warm yet still refreshing beer. He kept swallowing until the can was empty then let out a long satisfied sigh. “You might wanna slow down there, buddy. This shit will go straight to your head.” Said Ward laughing “plus, we’ve only got four of these bad boys left. Best we try and make ’em last.” Ward was no longer laughing by the time he finished. Neither was Thompson. They both knew that once the beer was gone, their was nothing else between them. Nothing but that gun with it’s pulsing green light, telling them it was low on ammo. The two soldiers sat there in silence, staring at the gun for what seemed like an eternity. Ward knew that light meant there was probably only a couple of shots left in it, three at the most. Not that it mattered. Once one of them had it, they’d only need the one. With that on his mind, Ward started to find the silence unbearable. He took another can and rolled it to where Thompson sat, his eyes fixed on the gun. Surprisingly it was Thompson who broke the silence. “Do you think they know what happened here?” He muttered, his gaze slowly moving to Ward “You think they even remember that we’re out here?” Ward didn’t need to ask who Thompson was talking about. He had been wondering the same thing. Before the last battle, the scuttle butt around Ward’s camp had been that there hadn’t been any contact with their home world in years and that it had been pretty much the same on Thompson’s side. At least he thought that was right. In truth, the battle had gone on for so long and been so fierce that Ward was having a bit of trouble remembering anything before it. In fact, his memories of the actual battle had been pretty damn fuzzy. He figured it must have been the beer clouding his mind. It had been a long time since he’d had any alcohol and it had started to make his head spin whilst he was still on the first can. Ward turned to look down the road he and Thompson were sitting by. In a vast expanse of golden desert, the road was invasive strip of primitive concrete. If he shut his eyes, Ward could imagine the race that once called this world home, speeding along it in one of those four wheeled steel contraptions that he had seen thousands of wrecks of in the ruins of city he had patrolled. Now, there was nothing but desolation. As far as Ward could see all round him was the scattered debris of both his and Thompson’s armies. Smoking wrecks of fighter craft mingled with the bodies of fallen comrades creating an atmosphere that to Ward was somewhere between a bonfire and a meat strewn barbeque. And amongst it all, in between he and Thompson lay the gun. The green ammo light on it’s side pulsing to let them there was only a few shots left. A cracking noise from over his shoulder broke Ward from his reverie. He flicked his head round to see Thompson tossing the ring pull from another can of beer. The one Ward had passed him only a moment ago lay empty and crushed next to Thompson’s feet.
“Thirsty, huh?”
Thompson didn’t reply, just chugged the beer down, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, crushed the can and tossed it into the middle of the road. His actions were almost mechanical.
Ward stared in disbelief. He’d never seen anyone drink like that, or maybe he had, he couldnt remember.
He jumped forward as Thompson reached for another can, snatching back protectively.
Thompson sat back, raising his palms in a gesture of peace, an easy smile on his face.
“Relax, Ward. I was getting one for you. No need to get jumpy.”
Ward knew Thompson was right. Out here there was just them and some beers but still Ward felt uneasy. He knew there was something not quite right. He just couldnt place hus finger on it. Maybe it was the gun, sitting there between them, its green light pulsing to tell them that there were only a few shots left.

I Simply Walked.

So, I’ve done another piece for Chuck Wendig’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. This week, the challenge was to come up with a story that’s only 100 words long. Here’s my effort. Hope you like it!

“How did you get here?” The Old King asked, confusion in his voice.
“I simply walked” The kneeling stranger replied, reverence in his eyes.
“None have crossed the Dead Plains in a thousand years. I ask again, how did you get here?” The Old King asked, voice rising to anger.
“I simply walked.” Repeated the stranger, eyes full of mischief.
“For a century, I have sat in this throne, alone. Now tell me, how did you get here?” The Old King asked, voice now thunder and fury.                                                                                                                                             The stranger stands, blade in hand, glint in his eye. “I simply walked.”

Thanks for reading.

The Shooter Says Goodbye To His Love.

This is my entry to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction, Short Story Challenge. Details of which you can find here

The challenge was to come up with a 1000 word story based on a choice from a selection of sentences he posted on his blog. The sentence I chose is the one I have used for the title of this story. Enjoy!

The Shooter Says Goodbye To His Love.

Smoke, perfume, sweat, the faint burning that comes with laser fire. These scents, toxic in my nose, mixed with what my other senses were trying to take in; flashes of green and red laser fire preventing my eyes from adjusting to the dark, the metallic taste on the tip of my tongue as I breathed in smoke tightened my chest, a sensory assault that made my head swim.

I shook my head and squinted down the barrel of the gun, down at her as she sat, back against the wall in the dark corner she thought would make for better cover than it had. She was shaking and breathing heavily. I couldn’t tell if it was from the exertion of battle or just from good, old-fashioned fear.

“I warned you,” I sneered at her “I told you not to go up against me, that I couldn’t be beaten. But you had to try didn’t you? You had to be cocky about it, didn’t you?”

She looked up at me through the damp hair, plastered to her forehead and laughed.

“I’m cocky you say? Really? You’re the one stood over me gloating when you should just be taking the kill shot? I don’t think you appreciate your own arrogance.”

She was still laughing as she replied. I felt anger boiling up from somewhere deep inside of me as she did. I hate being laughed at and she knew it. I also knew that I should just take the bloody shot and get this over with. I had her cornered; it would be an easy win.

But she was right. I was too damn arrogant for my own good. Hell, I was stood there, pointing the gun right in her face, in a prime position to finish this whole thing. Instead, I was trying to think of something witty and clever to say. I wanted to leave her with something memorable as I took her out. I wanted to draw this out, savour the moment, make this victory last. Maybe then it wouldn’t be such a shallow one.

It hit me all of a sudden, the perfect thing to say. But before I could make a sound there was a racket behind me, a door burst open and there was one of her squad. He stood there for a moment, looking as surprised as we were, caught in our little stand-off he had just stumbled in on. Then his face changed as the penny dropped. I knew what was about to happen and before he could level his weapon, I spun on my heel, dropping to one knee and firing rapidly. All my shots hit him in the chest and he fell back through the door in a blaze of laser fire.

I stayed in that position for a few moments, as if I thought that he was going to come back. My breathing was shallow and quick. I stayed that way for a moment longer, waiting for the adrenalin to stop pumping. Once I had composed myself, I turned my attention back to her.

She was still laughing. Either that or she had started laughing again.

“What are you laughing at now?” I snapped at her. She couldn’t answer me as she was now laughing so hard she couldn’t even look at me.

Damn, she’s pretty when she laughs, I thought. God knows where that thought came from. This was neither the time nor the place, also, right now, she was the enemy. But it was true. She is pretty when she laughs and I loved her, STILL love her, actually. She also had a way of getting right under my skin.

“Alright, enough of this bullshit,” I declared, hoping that I sounded tough, in command. I didn’t. I sounded weak and pathetic. Maybe it was down to exhaustion from the battle. Maybe it was because of her. “This ends now. You’re right, I am arrogant but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re stuck in that corner, with one shot left and I’m stood here with this gun pointed right at your head. This ends now. There’s no way you can win. Goodbye, my love” And with that I placed my finger on the trigger.

This just made her laugh even harder. So hard that she dropped her own gun and put her head in her hands, her whole body shaking with the convulsions of laughter. The sound rang off the walls. Then I heard her say something through the giggles and guffaws. She repeated it a couple of times. I knelt towards her to try and make out what she was saying. Then I heard it. “Check your ammo.”

“What?” I asked, making sure I had heard her properly.

Suddenly she stopped laughing and looked up at me with dark, sharp eyes that were deadly serious.

“I said ‘check your ammo’, dumbass.”

I looked down to my gun. The ammunition meter was flashing a red light at me. I felt my stomach turn. Zero, it said, charge weapon.

I looked back at her, my stomach doing yet another flip. How could I have been so stupid? I had been so intent on making a point with that idiot who burst in on us that I had gone and used up all my remaining shots.

She now had her gun pointed at me. “So, Mr ‘You Can’t Beat Me’ it would seem that I have one shot left but you have none. Oh well.”

It was her turn to sneer, and sneer she did. She dropped her gun an inch and pulled the trigger. The laser bolt hit me. I fell back, too shocked to do anything else.

“H-how could you?” I stuttered as she stood over me, sneer turning to a wide grin. “I-I’d won that’s not fair.”

“Oh, Sweetie,” she replied. “Life’s not fair, and neither is Laser Tag.”

She held out a hand to me and grinned. “Now, let’s go home. It’s your turn to make dinner.”

The Morningstar Plays The Devastation Suite in D Minor.

As I may have mentioned already, I’ve been sorting through some old files and have dug out some of my old short stories. This is another of those stories, one of my earliest. Looking back, it’s a bit on the pretentious side but overall I’m pretty happy with it. If nothing else, it is a bit of a curio, good for seeing how much my writing has changed. It also has a slightly biblical theme but I think that was to do with the theme of the competition it was entered into (I think it may have won but can’t be sure as it was a very long time ago). Anyway, take a look, enjoy and let me know what you think of it.

From the highest window of the highest tower, he looked down on his kingdom. He truly was the master of all he surveyed, and he hated it.
He hated all of those who roamed its streets, the lost souls, and the damned. All of them seeking redemption and finding only punishment torture and eternal agony, an agony that came from his hand, and he hated it.
How had it come to this? How had he, who had sat for so long at the feet of the one, come to this? He knew the answer, he knew who to blame and he hated himself for it. Before the fall, he had been in a position of exultation, a guiding light for those who lost their way, the voice of the one that had sang higher than all others.
Now what was he? He also knew the answer to this. He was now filth, filth to lead the filth. The one to whom all those without hope turned. When their last chance was up, he was who they came to, crying out for forgiveness and absolution and all he could give them was the cruellest of fates, he gave them more pain than they had ever experienced. When they had finished with their pitiful lives and they hoped that they would find peace in the next life, all they found was him, waiting, looking down on them from the highest window of the highest tower. His shallow stare from empty eyes, setting fire to their very souls, and he hated them for it.
Now, though, it would all be different. Now they would truly know the true meaning of the end, now they would learn the true meaning of his name and everything he wanted from before the fall would be his, the power, the glory: everything.
He picked up the plain, ivory, violin and stepped through his window and out onto the balcony. Almost immediately they all looked up to him, their silent mouths making shapes of pleading in vain. He closed his eyes and slowly pulled the bow across the strings. They made a very low mournful sound. In the streets below they still looked up but now they wept, some tears of joy and some tears of despair. He started playing faster, the pitch becoming higher; an urgent, panicked tune flowed out from the balcony.

Below, they clapped their hands to their ears; the once silent mouths now screaming out a million decibels of fear. Their cries started shaking the ground beneath their feet. As they fell to their knees, dying a second death, the buildings fell around them until only the highest tower remained, yet he did not stop playing.
In the world above, people stopped in their tracks listening to the terrible yet beautiful sound that emitted from beneath their feet. Soon they too were screaming, soon they clapped their hands to their ears, only when they fell to their knees they would only die a single death, and when their buildings fell around them he still did not stop playing. Not until he heard the voice.
He had not heard the voice in so very long. He had forgotten how majestic, how kind, how commanding, how cruel it was.
“Stop please stop” The voice said gently yet in a thunderous tone “You must, this time we will all fall. YOU MUST STOP!”
He did not stop, he merely opened his eyes and saw darkness and heard silence, and that is all there ever was.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed it. Most likely not the best thing ever written but hopefully not the worst either. Like I said above, let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading

The Write Side of Life: Reader Questionaire

I saw this on a rather wonderful blog I found today called The Bookie Monster, which you can find here. It looked like a fun little exercise and I thought it might give you the chance to learn a little more about me. So here goes:

1. What is your favourite book?

This is a question I’ve been asked a lot over the years. I’ve given it a lot of thought, and came up with two. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Shining by Stephen King. The reasons being are that these are the two books that sparked my love affair with books and also the reason that I wanted to become a writer myself. Maybe one day I’ll get to tell such imaginative and well loved stories.

2. What are your goals? For the year? For your life?

For the year, I want to get my blasted manuscript finished and ready to start submitting to agents. I hope that by 2016, I’ll have a big pile of rejection. For life? Well, doing this writing lark for a full-time career would be nice but that’s just a pipe dream.

3. Are you a writer? If so, tell me about your work.

Yes and, erm read this blog?

4. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Somewhere hot and sunny with a beach and with free-flowing whiskey.

5. What was the last movie you saw in the theatre and was it worthwhile?

Big Hero 6 and yes it was. One of the best animated movies I’ve seen.

6. I’m curious, are there any books that you’ve tried to read and simply couldn’t finish? This is a no judgement zone. 

There are but I’m not going to name them. I don’t feel that would be fair to the authors, editors or publishers that created them. They work extremely hard to get those books out there and into the hands of readers.

7. Are you currently working on a new book/project right now? If it’s secret, you don’t have to tell me about it. If so, however, I hope it’s going well.

I am. It isn’t secret but as I’m still working  a lot of it out, I don’t want to go into too much detail and commit myself to things within that project that might change. Suffice to say, I’m working on a book, a couple of competition entries and also making this blog something successful and worthwhile.

8. If you could live in any of your favourite books, which one would you choose?

That’s a tough one as many of my favourite books have aspects that would be amazing to experience and others that would be downright terrible and horrifying. I guess as long as I didn’t have to go to anywhere like Mordor or the Lonely Mountains, Middle-Earth would be fun.

9. Are there any book-to-movie adaptations that you think are just incredible? That you absolutely hated?

Obviously, The Lord of the Rings absolutely nailed how you adapt a book as did the film version of To Kill A Mockingbird. Ones I hated, well the film of The Road was a major disappointment for me. It was like they kicked out the main themes of the book to include more bloody violence which was only really hinted at in the book.

10. What do you look for in a book that you want to read?  What’s the first thing to capture your attention?

Even though you’re never meant to, I do judge books by their cover. If it’s got a snazzy illustration or a dragon, it will get my interest. I then tend to scan the first couple of pages and see if I get hooked.

11. If you’re an author, what do you do when you first get an idea for a book?

Scribble it down, and then lose the bit of paper I scribbled on. Or failing that, jot in a notebook or on my phone.

12. How do you feel about different genres? Romance? YA? Sci-Fi? Poetry? Do you have any favorites? Any least-favourites?

My favourites are SCI-FI and Fantasy but I will give anything a go. Hell I’ll read the back of a cereal packet if that’s all that’s at hand.

13. If you could meet any writer in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?

Stephen King so I could steal his mojo and become an amazing author.

14. Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Both. Depends on the subject matter.

15. Are there any characters that everyone loves that you can’t stand? Or vice versa?

Not that I can think of. Those Night Garden things bug the crap out of me.

16. What do you like to do besides reading/writing?

Watching movies, TV and Football. Also some outdoors stuff such as rock climbing and hiking. I also have a fondness for classic cars, not that I can afford one.

17. If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?

Being an all round good guy would be nice.

18. What is your favourite guilty pleasure book?

I don’t have one as I’m not ashamed of any of the books that I like.

19. Do you have a reading goal set for this year? 

Currently just to keep recording them here and read lots more than last year.

20. Tell me anything about yourself that I haven’t asked. Random fact. Weird human trick. Whatever.

My favourite food is sausages.

There you have it. If you like what you’ve read, have a go yourself and either answer the questions in the comments or link to your own blog in the comments. I’d love to see how your answers differ.

Thanks for reading.

The Stories So Far 2015: January and February

On twitter you may have noticed that I have been posting short book reviews under the hashtag #booksreadin2015. To coincide with that, welcome to The Stories So Far. This is a two-monthly round up of all the books I’m reading this year and it’s where I will be placing more detailed reviews of each of those books. So without any further ado, let’s get down to business:

nb. These aren’t meant to be in-depth critiques or anything, just my general musings on what I’ve been reading. Hopefully you might be inspired to try some of these books yourself, if you haven’t already. 


Revival – Stephen King

revival As we all know, when it comes to horror writing, there aren’t many in the business who can top Mr King for chills and thrills. After taking a break from horror to bring out his detective novel, Mr Mercedes (which is also brilliant, check it out), King has returned in fine form to bring about a fable like tale of a friendship takes some very dark twists and turns. It starts with a young boy who befriends his local pastor and family. As time progresses, tragedy strikes the pastor and he and the boy grow apart. In later years they meet again when the boy, now a drug addicted musician, meet again. What follows is an unsettling and unnerving look at what death and the afterlife hold for us.

This book is King at his best; taking everyday folk and their everyday lives and weaving them into something genuinely menacing, scary and (with the last few chapters of this book) shocking. The way King builds up to the events of the climax means that your constantly  guessing what’s going on and what’s about to happen. By the time I made it to the end I was left shaken to my core. As any horror novel should do, Revival left me with a few sleepless nights but boy was it worth it. This book is emotional, nerve-racking, terrifying and beautifully written. I highly recommend it.

The Copper Promise – Jen Williams

the-copper-promise The best way I can think to describe this book is to paraphrase the tagline for the film Stardust; It’s a fantasy novel that won’t behave.

What I mean is that this book takes some of the classic tropes of the fantasy genre and completely turns them on their head. And thank goodness it does. The big draw to this tale of Dragons, fledgling mages and tomb raiders is the three main characters: Wydrin, a wise cracking mercenary who is always looking out for her next big score; Sebastian, a disgraced knight of an ancient order and Lord Frith, a disposed ruler who is looking to take back his reign and will stop at nothing to get revenge on those who took it from him.  The chemistry between the three is brilliant, cracking dialogue and some fun interaction, along with some surprising actions by some of the characters, this is most fun you’ll have with a fantasy novel for a very long time. Can’t wait to read the follow up, The Iron Ghost. Oh and if Wydrin doesn’t immediately become your new favourite female fantasy character, you haven’t read it properly.

Steelheart – Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart_cover A superhero novel with a difference. Instead of following someone learning to use their superpowers to fight evil and save the world, Steelheart takes us to a future where those with Superpowers are known as epics and they have used their powers to enslave humanity. The book follows a young resistant fighter who holds the key to bringing down one of the most powerful epics, Steelheart.

What’s great about this book, apart from the unique take on a well trodden genre, is its relentless pace. Nearly every chapter is filled with action but in such a way that it propels the narrative and builds the world and the characters. There is nothing that is surplus to the telling of the story and the exposition is scattered throughout, giving us clues to what Steelheart’s weakness as the story unfolds. If you’re looking for something a bit different that’s exciting but not shallow, Steelheart is the book for you.

The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

name-of-the-windd1  Another fantasy novel and another original take on the genre. You see, what makes The Name of the Wind unique is its structure. Instead of one straightforward fantasy you get two fantasy stories!

Allow me to explain. It all kicks off with an Innkeeper with a mysterious past. At first he seems perfectly normal but as his village is attacked by giant spiderlike creatures he is revealed to be a living legend and the giant spiders maybe just be after him. Once this is revealed he starts to tell his life story from his days growing up with a troupe of travelling entertainers to his teenage years as a student of magic at the university. The two narratives tie into each both throwing up and answering various mysteries. And, while it is a great story and by the end of it you’re really eager to jump into its sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, I did find myself struggling with this book slightly.

You see. It has one of the finest openings of a book I’ve ever read; the tension built is palpable and really raises the hairs on the back of the neck. After that when we get into the Innkeepers story, it rolls nicely through his childhood and the tragedy he has to endure and you really feel for him during his time as a homeless street urchin. When he arrives at the university things slow down a bit and sometimes get a bit repetitive. I found myself getting slightly bored with descriptions of the admissions process and the MC worrying about how he would pay his tuition, but once he sets out on a quest to find out what happened at a wedding that seemingly left no survivors, the story picks up pace again and I was once again enthralled in this world and the story unfolding.

Mayhem & Murder – Sarah Pinborough

These are two seperate books but I read them one after the other and I really feel that that is the best way to read them, to get the full chilling effect but here I do look at them separately.


Mayhem_JK1.jpg.size-2301 Mayhem is set during the time of the Jack the Ripper murders and tells the story of a Dr working with the police to uncover the culprit behind another horrific set of murders that are happening at the same time. What Sarah Pinborough has so brilliantly done with this book is to combine a classical murder mystery, that could’ve come from Sherlock Holmes casebook and blended it with a supernatural horror story, so well that you can’t see the joins at all. By the time the killer is revealed you’re nerves are shot and then as the story heads towards our heroes confrontation with said killer, the thrills and terrors come at a relentless pace.

The books other huge draw is the characters. There isn’t any cut and dry, black and white good guys and bad guys in this one. The good Dr’s motives towards the end are sometimes questionable and through the killer’s diary entries we find ourselves sympathising with him somewhat and not sure if he got the fate he deserved. This is something that is expanded one and played with even more in its sequel:


61XBZxFWBCL Murder picks up some years after the first novel and once again follows the Dr from Mayhem. This time we join him after he is recovering from the events of the first book but soon fate finds him on the other side of the coin, will he be able to free himself and retain his sanity.

Murder is less of a mystery novel than Mayhem. Here the protagonist isn’t on the hunt for a killer. This time he is trying to bury his past and move on with his life but when the demon comes for him, there is no escape. This time around we get a flat out horror story. And man, what a horror story it is. As well as vividly drawing us into the Dr’s descent into madness, Murder deftly intertwines the themes of grief, fear and love. By making the hero of the tale do some truly questionable things you soon wonder if there is any goodness in the world at all. And the more the Dr succumbs to his ‘sometimes literal’ demons, the scarier things become until we come to a truly nail biting, nerve shredding climax. I defy anyone not to look wearily at the next river they come across and to also be cautious next time they look in a mirror. But most of all, I defy anyone not to read these two books and be utterly captivated. I strongly recommend reading them one after the other as it makes for one the best horror stories you’ll ever read.

Thanks for reading.

The Write Side of Life: What’s in A Name?

So, when writing fiction, your characters are going to need names right? Of course they are, not only does it give you the single most essential piece info on who they are but they are also pretty damn useful for distinguishing who is doing what in your story.

With that mind and also thinking about the fact that you, dear reader and I both have names,  and that we call other people by their names; you would think it would be pretty damn easy to come up with some decent names for my characters, right?


You see, the big thing for me when thinking trying to come up with a character name (and I’m sure this is true for other authors out there) is that the name I craft have some meaning behind it. Sure, I could just buy the ‘ Penguin’s Big Book of Futuristic/ Fantastical Baby Names’ (BTW I’m pretty sure that ain’t a real book and I just made it up. Any prospective parents out there, don’t go trawling Amazon for it. Just pick ’em from Game of Thrones instead!) but then I would just be assigning my characters arbitrary names. Sure they may read well and roll off the tongue but, for me at least, a character name should be so much than that.

If done well a good character name can give so much more information about who that character is. You can use regional names to give a clue as to where your character is from, or their lineage; You can use historical names to again give the character some lineage but also as a clue to what type of person they are; Certain names carry very obvious meanings to them which you can use to speak volumes about your character. If you are writing particular kinds of Sci-fi and Fantasy you can go off the rails and make-up crazy sounding names that can, if done well, add to the world building of that story.

And this is where I tend to struggle. Einstein once defined stupidity as the act of repeating the same action over and over again but expecting different results each time. And that is what coming up with names can sometimes be like for me. As I predominately write Sci-fi and Fantasy stories, I do have the luxury of being able to make up completely new names but this is also where the problems arise. I, like Einstein’s stupid person,  come up with a name, think it’s great, write it down and immediately think ‘Man, that sucks’: Then lather, rinse, repeat until I’m ready to throw my computer out of the window.

Now, if your still reading, you may be wondering how I get any writing done. Well I do actually come up with names, eventually. Here’s how I do it:


If I’m wanting to use an existing name, the first thing I do is Google it. I check out where the name originally came from and what meanings it has attached to it. This way I can make sure that it fits to how I want to portray that character and not contradict with who they are. It’s also a useful thing to do if you are using regional names. For example, you don’t want to assign a name to your Chinese character only to find out it’s a Japanese name.

Say It Loud

This may sound crazy but it’s true. I do this both with existing names and names that I’m making up. If the name sounds right when spoken, if it just rolls off the tongue, then the chances are it will look good written down too. Also, if the name sounds good it will be memorable, and everyone wants their characters to be memorable, don’t they?


Again, it may sound crazy but it is true. Try playing around with some alliteration when naming your characters. It can be a fun exercise and you might end up with something that stands out. Think of some the great characters Marvel have come up with who have alliterative names; Reed Richards, Victor Von Doom, Pepper Potts, Jessica Jones, Stephen Strange. I could go on but I won’t.

So there you have it, that’s why names are important to me and also how I come up with them.  The reason I have written this is because I’m currently banging my head against a wall trying to come up with a main character name for my current project. It may sound like a bit of a first world problem, and it probably is but hey we all need to vent.

If you’re having similar troubles, or have name suggestions that I can steal you think might inspire me, let me know in the comments below or through the usual social media gubbins.

Thanks for reading.