Friday, 19 December 2014

Video: How do you name your characters?

I don’t really have a set plan for naming characters, it’s quite often the first name that pops into my head. I tend to favour names that can be affectionately shortened, and I regularly name them after people I know.

My sister pointed out that I’d named two characters after my parents, which hadn’t been intentional, but it’s now become my thing that I name background characters after my parents.

I find picking surnames more difficult than first names. Sometimes I say “Argh I need a surname” and someone nearby will say one and I’ll just go with it.

Any authors have a method for choosing names?

Video: How do you name your characters?

Friday, 12 December 2014

Virtual romance? I prefer the physical form (repost)

This was originally written as a guest post for

Technology is everywhere these days. We use it in just about everything we do and we’ve found digital alternatives to everything – the trusty vinyl record is gathering dust in the attic while everyone listens to MP3 files. VHS got thrown on the scrap heap by DVDs which in turn are mournfully shaking their fists at the MP4, and in literature the paperback has been joined by the ebook.

Technology and communications have made it possible to do just about everything from your sofa. We can buy our groceries online and get them delivered to our door. We can share our holiday photos with everyone we know, all at once through social networks. We write electronic letters to our family and friends and we don’t even have to be in the same country to have a face to face conversation with someone.

I work in digital media and as my staff get younger and more tech savvy the more I find a reluctance in people to want to communicate physically. Text messages, Snapchat, Email, Facebook, Twitter…all perfectly acceptable methods of communication. But pick up a phone and speak to someone? Well now that requires a good ten minutes of mental preparation to overcome the nerves of actually talking to a real person.

So where does that leave romance? claims that 1 in 5 newly committed couples met online, presumably through a dating site. But dating sites aren’t the only places to meet people online. If we’re more comfortable communicating through technology then it stands to reason that it is easier to meet new people and make new friends through social networks… does that also extend to romance?

The danger with online romance, however, is the Catfish scenario. Since watching the film and more recently the MTV series, I’ve realized that my novel, Inspired by Night, could appear to be largely influenced by the show. It wasn’t. I wrote it long before I saw the series, but it made me realize that there are a lot of people out there, falling in love with complete strangers online, and that my novel is actually pretty realistic.

I love technology. I’m a big fan of playing video games, taking things apart to see how they work, and trying to write bits of programming. I love that I can carry a whole library of books on holiday with me in one tiny hand-held gadget. But I also love the smell of books, the small rush of air breezing past your face as you flip the pages of a new book, acquainting yourself with its size and density.

I love listening to music on the bus to work, storing countless albums in my phone. But I still love the smell of vinyl, the large scale artwork on the cover, or the volume of additional images and text in a CD booklet.

And I still love going to concerts and seeing the musicians physically before me, performing their songs. The anticipation of perhaps meeting your music hero, posing for a photograph (to share with your friends and family on Facebook) and have the chance to speak to them… even though you can easily Tweet them or comment on one of their Facebook posts.

Those of us old enough to remember a time before Facebook, before ebooks and iphones, will always love the real things. The tangible item. It doesn’t make us old fashioned and it doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the convenience of the new ways. It just means we were lucky to have experienced and enjoyed both.

And Romance? Well I’ll always prefer my romance in its physical form. No amount of cyber sex can compensate for the feelings of intimacy between two people. No amount of virtual flowers and hugs can feel better than being held in the arms of someone you love. And there’s absolutely no online substitute for a romantic candle-lit dinner for two.

Virtual romance? I prefer the physical form (repost)

Thursday, 11 December 2014

What's the worst thing about being an author?

I think the worst thing is on a similar theme to the best thing. While being fully immersed in a world you create, the worst thing is never being able to experience your novel the way your readers will.

The novel writing process goes through many drafts, but with every change you make you always know the big picture and the conclusion.

If there’s a plot twist, you as the author will rarely be surprised by it. You know it’s coming even if it’s only a few seconds before you write it down. When you proof read it, you already know the ending.

When you’re writing parts that you hope will either build suspense or surprise your readers, you can never guage whether you’ve been successful because you always know what’s coming when you read it.

I’ve had some lovely reviews of Inspired by Night and they give me with a warm fuzzy feeling of satisfaction and pride when I read that I achieved the elements of surprise or entertainment that I intended. But I also find myself thinking that it sounds like the sort of novel I’d enjoy reading, and wish I could have experienced it that way myself. Instead, I read it so many times that I sort of hated it by the time it was published!

What's the worst thing about being an author?

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

What's the hardest thing about writing?

I’m something of a professional procrastinator. I can find all sorts of things to do when I’m trying to focus on something, and for some reason, writing is the one thing that really inspires some of my best efforts of procrastination.

Whether it’s writing blog posts, essays, homework, funding applications or fiction.

If I eventually sit myself down at the computer, I can busy myself for ages, selecting the right music, re-reading the previous chapter, and making sure I’ve got my notebook handy. By the time I’ve done all that I probably need a cup of tea. Maybe some biscuits. If there’s nothing snacky to hand, I’ve been known to bake a cake.

But then you can’t immerse yourself into your world and really get any writing done when you’re waiting for the oven timer to ring, then the cakes need to cool…

Once I finally get into it, I can write for hours. I can knock out 10,000 words on a good day if I have no distractions.

Unfortunately, running my own business and living with two pesky moggins means there’s no shortage of distractions.

It’s a miracle I ever wrote anything!

What's the hardest thing about writing?

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Happy Christmas!

Massive thanks to Ash Moore for creating this fab Christmas image of Olivia & Steven at the Thornton Manor Christmas Eve party.

Inspired at Xmas

Happy Christmas!

Christmas book reading part two

Here’s another extract from Inspired by Night in which we get to see inside the festively decorated Thornton Manor on Christmas Eve.

Although fictitiously set in the Peak District, I discovered last Christmas that there is a Thornton Manor, located in Thornton Hough, Wirral. In fact I accidentally drove into the courtyard because my Sat Nav told me I’d reached my destination, which was actually the village hall a bit further on. Still it amused me greatly to find myself on the grounds of Thornton Manor, having never being aware it was actually a real place.


Christmas book reading part two

Monday, 8 December 2014

Christmas Excerpt Reading

It scares me to unleash this on the world, but to celebrate the start of my Christmas book blitz blog tour, and to kickstart my efforts at starting a video blog, here’s a little Christmassy excerpt from Inspired by Night, read by yours truly.

Christmas Excerpt Reading

Sunday, 7 December 2014

What's the best thing about being an author?

Ah that’s an easy one, you know when you’re an avid reader and you get really into a novel, so much so that you feel like you really know the characters and you don’t want the book to end. When you read that last line and close the cover you feel a bit bereft. Sometimes you find yourself wondering how they’re doing, hoping for a sequel.

Well as an author you create that, you are so immersed in the characters that you know what they’re going to say before they do! And even after the book has finished you can always think about them, revisit them, imagine what they got up to next… Which may then turn into a sequel…

There’s something really special about having this bunch of characters that no one else in the whole world knows about yet.

Admittedly, that sounds like I’m making excuses for having imaginary friends as an adult. But as kids, imaginary friends really just develop our creativity. I’m sure all the best authors must’ve had imaginary friends at some point (mine was called Jackie, we went everywhere together).

What's the best thing about being an author?

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Congratulations, you broke the internet

What does that even mean?

I’m as guilty as the next person of spending too much time on Facebook. But is this really the best use of the internet? I bet when Tim Berners-Lee made his proposal for an information management system using the internet, he never imagined the world wide web would become so… stupid.

Okay, what am I talking about? I’m talking about the way people so blindly believe everything they read on Facebook or Twitter.

Facebook isn’t stealing your stuff!

Take this current hoax that’s going round at the moment: People seem to genuinely believe that posting a Facebook status asserting their copyright ownership is going to somehow protect them.

Protect them from what? What do you think Facebook is going to do with your stuff? The simple fact is this: When you sign up with any kind of social network you have to give them a non-exclusive license to share your stuff… why? Because how else would the site be able to let your friends and followers see the stuff you’re posting for them. It doesn’t mean that Facebook is sharing your photos with third parties for commercial gain it simply means Facebook shares your photos with the people you allow to see it (according to your privacy settings and sharing permissions). There’s a really simple rule of thumb here. If you don’t want Facebook to share your stuff, don’t post it on Facebook.

And maybe you’ve never signed a contract before, but you can’t just decide you don’t agree with one of the clauses anymore and stand up and say “well I revoke your rights, and do so retrospectively from the date of agreement.” That’s like telling your bank you decided that they can no longer, and were never ever, allowed to take money from your account to pay off your mortgage. If you want to change a clause in an agreement, you have to, you know, negotiate it and have both parties agree to it.

And while we’re on it, do you really believe Facebook is monitoring every single status update? Who are you asserting your rights to other than your friends?

A pointless waste of time. I filmed a video blog about it last week but then found that these guys had done one much better…

Scare mongering and endorsing baddies!

You might think, well there’s no harm in posting it. but you’re wrong, here’s what happens:

You post or share a bogus claim without checking whether it is true and while some people will tell you you’re an idiot, others will get scared and panic. The scared ones will repost it. All it does is give credibility to the malicious hoaxer that came up with it in the first place and they hi-five their friends and say:

Dude, my bogus status went viral. Let’s make up some more nonsense and see how far it spreads.”

Do you know what else these people make up? Bogus health claims, you know like how you can save yourself during a heart attack by coughing.

Now there is harm in sharing that one. Because no doctor or medical institute has ever recommended that as an option, despite the claims in the article. How would you feel if you told your loved one to cough themselves well and then they died because they delayed getting proper medical attention?

And yet, we see something posted on Facebook and we are all too quick to believe it.

In case you’re wondering, any month that has 31 day and starts on a Friday will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. It happened in August and it’ll happen again in May next year… Not in 823 years.

It’s not too late to change…

We have, literally, at our fingertips, all of the knowledge of the world and yet mankind has chosen to turn the internet into one long, never-ending episode of You’ve Been Framed.

I want you to do something for me, next time you read something that makes you think “oh my god, no way, that’s amazing…” before you hit the share button, just google it and see if it’s actually true. Because chances are it’s false.

There’s a great website called Hoax Slayer – you should bookmark it – they actually follow up these so called amazing stories and check if they’re true. They have a whole library of hoaxes dating back decades, from email and web to social media hoaxes.

The internet was created to share information, it has the capacity to educate us, we should be getting more and more intelligent as we have access to so much information… and yet here we are wasting our time watching cat videos. There’s a big world out there and it’s more accessible than ever before, yet we’re too busy trying to find our own house on a map to notice.

Congratulations, you broke the internet

Inspired to write

I’ve mentioned on Twitter and Facebook recently that I’m started a video blog… It’s been difficult, but I’m almost ready to share some efforts with you all.

I invited my facebook and Twitter friends to submit questions for me to answer on film.

So before I share any of the answers I wanted to talk about being an author…

I still can’t quite believe that happened.

You probably already heard the story by now but when I was 8, I had to write a sentence to demonstrate my understanding of the word ambition. I wrote, my ambition is to be an author like Jackie Collins.

Now in my defence, as a child, I didn’t know if my teacher knew what an author was. So I wanted to let her know what I meant, and I wasn’t sure if she would have heard of the authors I was reading at that time, you know, Enid blyton or Ronald Dahl,

But my sister is 13 years older than me, and she was reading Rockstar by Jackie Collins, so I figured, my teacher would probably know who she was.

Now, I haven’t actually read anything by Jackie Collins, but my understanding is that she is the queen of the bonk buster so I’m guessing I achieved that particular ambition in more ways than I initially intended to.

Having said all that, I don’t really think of myself as an author. If someone asks me what I do I say I’m a web designer. I’m actually the managing director of a digital media social enterprise, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily as web designer.

For me, I won’t label myself as an author until it’s my day job.

I got my first royalty payment last week. £14.90.

Yes. £14.90. After spending around 500 hours writing, editing, proof reading and marketing the damn thing, it’s earned me £14.90. Not going to put much bread on the table is it?

But it’s early days yet. I’m on the low rungs of the ladder, and I hope that sharing some of my experience will help other first time authors too.

Inspired to write