The Importance of Play

© Pnovess /  Dreamstime Stock Photos

The way forward is not always a straight line… © Pnovess / Dreamstime Stock Photos

Recently, while tapping away at a work-in-progress, I hit the buffers. The ideas that once seemed fresh and exciting began to look dull, and the words that once seemed so alive suddenly became leaden, lifeless artefacts. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that I was beginning to sense a looming deadline – not, I should stress, a deadline that had been imposed on me, but one that I had imposed on myself. Feeling that time was running out, I forced myself to sit down and write for a certain number of hours every day; yet during those hours, I often found, I actually managed to achieve very little. I was putting in the hours, all right, but I wasn’t seeing the results. Continue reading

The Internet, Piracy, and Amanda Palmer

internetThat the internet has had a profound effect on our world is so obvious that it barely needs stating. In terms of its ability to create long-term social change it’s on a par with the printing press, or indeed just about any major technological and scientific development you care to mention. But what effect will all of this have on the arts, and on literature specifically? Continue reading

Secrets and Skulls: The Rotting Spot, by Valerie Laws

71WtXpTGNGL._SL1229_‘Much of the time, watching their golden existence, he carried on alone, like some tiny rocky planet orbiting twin suns, so far out as to feel little warmth.’

Valerie Laws’s The Rotting Spot is a thriller, and a very good one at that; but it’s ultimately about love and loss, the corrosive effects of secrets, and the skeletons (or should that be skulls?) that sometimes rattle around in the most apparently innocent of closets. It is also – as the passage above testifies – extremely well-written. Continue reading

Honesty is the Best Policy

No embellished CV this...

No embellished CV this…

My good friend Aniko Carmean recently wrote this brilliant blog post, in which she published her honest author biography. I loved it: it was so much more engaging and interesting than the usual bland and/or boastful biographies that sit at the back of many a novel alongside an airbrushed photo. In fact, it was such a good idea that I felt I just had to steal it (sorry, Aniko). Continue reading

A tense, taut thriller: The Back Road by Rachel Abbott

The Back RoadSometimes, as the tagline to Rachel Abbott’s novel suggests, the quietest places really do hide the darkest secrets. The quiet village of Little Melham is the kind of place that might feature in Midsomer Murders: a seemingly idyllic, prosperous corner of the English countryside, which actually hides a host of nasty secrets and is inhabited by a surprising number of treacherous schemers. The dark underbelly of village life is revealed one night when a teenage girl is hit by a car, and left for dead by the side of the road – ‘the Back Road’ of the title. Continue reading

Star Quality

Star SymbolThose of you who know me will probably also know that, when it comes to my hatred of the star rating system on sites such as Amazon and Goodreads, I’m pretty humourless. I just can’t help it, you know. I try to see the funny side, I really do. The problem is that I loathe having to decide how many stars I think a book merits, not least because it’s such an unsophisticated system. How, after all, can something as complex as your reaction to a book be summed up by a row of asterisks? Continue reading

What’s in a Name?

464px-Inverted_question_mark_alternate.svgWell, quite a lot, it would seem…

I was recently talking to a self-published author who said that she didn’t like the term ‘self-published’. To her, it reeked of the snobbery and disparagement that has often accompanied any debate about – er – self-publishing, and which accompanies it still. She’d heard it used as a put-down just a few times too many, and to her it had become almost a term of abuse. She preferred to be called an ‘indie’ or ‘independent author and publisher’. Continue reading