Here’s where you’ll find information on my longer works of fiction and links to where you can download them directly. These are not tasters or teasers, they are full length novels, complete and freely available for you to read on your preferred device. You can scroll down and grab the titles, or read on for some background on my approach to writing online.
The Secret of getting Published
Maybe, like me, you’re a writer who has a story to tell but finds it impossible to attract a publisher or an agent. What are you going to do about it? I can’t tell you what the secret is to attracting one, because I don’t know. I’ve read all those self help books and the “how to” guides, and to be honest they all sound the same: study the market, write your story to suit it, persevere against the stream of rejections, and eventually, with a bit of luck, you’ll be published. These books aren’t much use, to be honest. I’d like to tell you persistence will always pay off, but I can’t. This is not to say you should give up on your dreams of published stardom, but more that you should have a think about why you are writing in the first place. Let’s be honest, if it’s in your blood, you can no more stop writing than you can stop breathing. So if you can’t write for money, then consider the merits of giving your work away. Online.
You’ve spent years penning your masterpiece, so there’s no way you’re going to just give it away, right? Why would you? You’ve worked hard on it and someone’s going to damned well pay for the privilege of reading it. Okay then, just slide that manuscript into a drawer and forget about it. I know I did. The Singing Loch sat in a drawer for ten years – but I’d not much choice in those days. If you wanted to reach a readership, you needed a publisher. Nowadays it’s different. You can self publish on-line, and it won’t cost you anything.
You can be published in matter of minutes.
Still not convinced? Then ask yourself this: is it a publisher I want? Or is it a reader? Do I want the kudos of being a published author, so I can brag about it at parties? Or do I just want to give vent to my muse and hopefully have someone else read my work, and through their reading it complete a strange kind of contract between my daemons who make me want to write in the first place? This is beginning to sound a bit spiritual and strange, isn’t it? Well, I think writing’s always been like that for me. The difference nowadays though is readers are never far away and you don’t have to sell your soul to reach them. Just put your work up on sites like Feedbooks, or Smashwords or Wattpad , and they will find you.
Alternatively you can hold out for the holy grail of published authorship, and spend your whole life with not a single person ever having read a piece of your work.
My Publishing history
Like most aspiring writers, my early ambitions were conventional enough and my first novels did the rounds of the London publishers and Literary Agents, whose names I’d gleaned from the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook. I was spectacularly unsuccessful. It was also a process with which I grew increasingly dissatisfied. It wasn’t just the growing evidence that I didn’t have what it took to be an accepted voice among the litterati; the last time I explored things this way I felt it had become rather an opaque business as well with many publishers no longer reading unsolicited manuscripts at all, and the alternative, literary agents, being uninterested in reading them either unless a publisher had read it first and was presumably already offering you a deal. It was a strange Catch 22 situation. Was I good enough? Or was I fooling myself, and my work simply wasn’t up to scratch? How did I get in on the inside? Did I have to attend a particular kind of university? Did I have to actually know or be able to shmooze a publisher or an agent, or some kind of publicity guru? Or did I just need to be lucky?
Hell, how should I know anyway? I was just this ordinary, nine to five guy who liked to write in his spare time. The business of publishing was something else entirely.
I’ve no idea what the traditional publishing route is like these days because I’ve washed my hands of it. I remember getting one glowing response to my submission of “The Road from Langholm Avenue”, offering me publication on the spot. This had me scraping myself off the ceiling, but of course a more careful reading of the acceptance letter revealed it was a confidence trick. I’d sent my manuscript to a vanity publisher by mistake and they wanted a lot of money up front. Sure they’d “publish” it, entirely at my expense, and all I’d get for my for my money was a couple of crates of books that I’d have to hawk myself however I saw fit – car boot sales, or what?
All of this was beginning to leave a bad taste. I just wanted to write, and if I could separate the business of writing from the pitfalls and pratfalls of commercial publishing, and somehow self-publish, for free, I would. But that was impossible! Well, it was until the Internet came along, and then my muse came surfing in to renew my acquaintance with a vengeance.
The internet made it so easy to self publish that in the space of a few short months, I forgot about doing it the hard way. I’m not writing for money, which is just as well really or I would have starved to death long ago. I’m in the fortunate position of having held onto a reasonably well paid day job for thirty years, so money’s not an issue. I write because I enjoy living in these stories for a while. They afford me some measure of pleasurable escape, as others might escape into a movie or a soap opera. And when they’re done, when these stories feel smooth and rounded and finished, and I sense the characters are fed up with me looking over their shoulders all the time, I let them go.
Of course if you are a publisher or a literary agent I would still be glad to accept a generous advance from you – enough to quit my day job and retire permanently to the contemplation of my muse.
You’ll understand though if I don’t hold my breath.
My novels so far:
These are the novels I’ve released into the wild so far, and which you can obtain for free, over at Feedbooks or at Lulu.com. Let me just add at this point – if you should be looking for a catch – these are not samples or tasters of the real thing; these are the real thing. They are books that will take you days to read. If you want something shorter, something to occupy you for a half hour or so, then back up your browser a stop and check out my short fiction instead – again, these are all free to download. I don’t write for money. I can’t sell it, so I give it away. I write because I write.
Okay, long fiction it is:
This is a corporate conspiracy, an old fashioned “hero in at the deep end, trying to work out what’s going on” sort of story. It’s also a portrait of the UK in the 1980′s – because that’s when it was written: no mobile ‘phones, no internet, and petrol at a pound a gallon. It’s not entirely flattering of our ruling classes, (i.e. the corporate raiders). However the nastiness of a nation in the grip of recession, and at the mercy of those dastardly brace-twanging Porsche driving Yuppies, (remember that word?) dissolves once the story hits the Western Isles. Here it becomes romantic, mystical,… oh and that ‘s where the hero meets Iona McVie,… it’s where I met her too. Keep well, Iona. I still think of you.
The Singing Loch is an “eco” novel, one in which I was trying to change the world by reminding it of something important about nature, and man’s relationship to it, a thing we seemed to have forgotten, and which, unfortunately, is impossible to describe, though Iona and our hero make an heroic stab at it. Of course, it was a fairly futile gesture, but when I read it now, I’m reminded of the origins of my nature-mysticism, my Romanticism, and I know where it is I’ve come from. It’s a place to which I also seem to be returning.
The blurb reads:
Scott Matthews, a disillusioned city worker, finds himself being drawn into a bizarre corporate conspiracy. From the ruthless greed of ’80′s London, to the austere beauty of Western Scotland, Scott begins to unravel the threads of an enigma dating back centuries, while gradually falling under the spell of the mysterious and forbidden Singing Loch. Against all odds, he discovers love, enlightenment, and ultimately a truth more startling than legend.
This is a story about land, about who owns it and about those who dare to trespass upon it. It’s about how the loss of wilderness and of our right of access to it threatens the very soul of mankind.
(All right, so I’m also a member of the Rambler’s Association)
I wrote it originally on a Sinclair QL, using Quill word processing software. I was spending a bit of time in London on business trips, (a place I always found to be utterly beastly) and contrasting this with an annual trip to the Western Isles of Scotland, which I found utterly spellbinding and sublime, in the true romantic sense. I redrafted the story in 2005, giving it more of a backwards looking nostalgic slant, prior to issuing it on Lulu. It’s achieved a modest download rate, has even sold a few printed copies and I hope anyone who’s read it has enjoyed it.
You can download it as a PDF file here: The Singing Loch
Next one up is:
Have you ever fallen in love with someone but you’re too shy to even speak to them, so you end up in a situation where the object of your obsession doesn’t even know your name? Of course you have.
The blurb reads:
Following the break up of his marriage and the threat of impending redundancy, our hero, Tom, is left facing middle age with the distinct feeling that he made a wrong turn somewhere in his past, that if only he’d done something slightly different, he would not be in the mess he’s in now. Then, as if things aren’t bad enough he’s inexplicably haunted by dreams and memories of Rachel, a girl he had a crush on at school, twenty five years ago.
With old emotions bubbling up to the surface he realises the old business with Rachel has never really been forgotten, just lightly covered over by the intervening years, and he knows that before he can find a way through his present crisis, he’s going to have to journey back in search of his deepest past.
Tom sets out to find Rachel and, regardless of her circumstances, do the one thing he couldn’t bring himself to do a quarter of a century ago: ask her on a date, and look her calmly in the eye while she rejects him. But things don’t quite go according to plan.
Tom discovers a lot can change in twenty five years, that the pace of change seems to accelerate as time goes on, but that some things remain exactly the same. And when it comes to the business of unrequited love,….
even those closest to him are not immune.
The Road from Langholm Avenue is altogether a different kind of story to the Singing Loch. It’s more introspective and brooding. I wasn’t trying to change the world here, just point out some of its hidden currents for those of you who are sensitive enough to recognise them. It’s a long look back at how the paths we take can shape the outcome of our lives, and how some aspects of our past never really go away. It’s a look at the breakdown of a marriage and the effects an overhanging redundancy can have on the psyche of men. It’s coloured by the downsizing, de-manning and thoroughly demeaning culture of the 1990′s. But more than anything it’s a study of unrequited love.
The novel took some two and a half years to complete, then nearly as long again doing the rounds of the publishers and agents. But this is a demoralising business, and I’d reached the stage where I felt life was too short to keep repeating the same thing over and over. My efforts eventually ground to a halt as other writings took shape and the story languished on my hard drive for years, before narrowly surviving a total system crash. It seemed to be hanging on for life, for a chance to see the light of day, so I put it on Lulu, where it now seems to be doing very well.
There are two things I remember from my time writing the Road from Langholm Avenue. They are Rachel, and a rust-bubbled, leaky old MG Midget. Oh,.. and Eleanor. Eleanor haunted me. She wasn’t happy, wasn’t done with me. She changed, morphed, became Beatrice and caught up with me somewhat unexpectedly in the Lake District.
Speaking of which – next up:
Well,… strange one this,…
I began work on The Lavender and the Rose in the late 1990′s. It was a difficult and mysterious novel to write. I was unaware at the time, but I was beginning to fall inside of myself. I was in my fourth decade, and this is a period of psychological change for a man. Although I did not see it, the story was a symbolic fantasy, and it no longer surprises me that a satisfactory conclusion was so elusive while I persisted in my efforts to wrestle a conventional tale out of it.
A number of strange events overtook me around the turn of the century, all of which led to a change in psychological and spiritual outlook. I discovered the work of Carl Jung, also Daoism, Buddhism, and was more easily seduced by various “New Agey” ideas, which I embraced and set aside in equal measure. I began to speculate on the nature of reality, observing it through the peculiar looking glass of the I Ching. In other words, I lost my mind – or to be more precise I dissolved a particular mind-set, becoming far less rigid in my outlook, and was able to rise above the existential angst I had begun to feel creeping up on me.
I picked up the Lavender and the Rose again, understanding more just who these characters were – in particular the many aspects of the chameleon-like Beatrice.
Previous drafts of the story had always converged upon a bewildered male protagonist caught between two women, and a relationship which resulted in what was for me a shockingly Bohemian menage a trois. I resisted it because I’m a regular sort of guy and I don’t know anything about such things. To my dismay though, even with a fresh pair of eyes, long rested and a little more enlightened, I discovered the characters pulling me again in that direction. I might have given up at this point, but instead I did what I had been unable to do before, and I just let them get on with it.
Besides the unconventional relationship between a man and two apparently bisexual women, the general degree of sexual material in the book worried me (and still does). If I offend anyone I do apologise, this is an adult book, though I suspect you’ll be more bewildered than shocked – I know I was.
The blurb reads:
On the face of it, things aren’t looking too good for Matthew Rowan. Ejected from his cosy middle class life, he’s getting by in the precarious world of England’s low wage economy while coming to terms with a society that seems increasingly paranoid and authoritarian. But Matthew views all of this with some detachment because he has another life, a secret life that’s more important to him. He’s also Joshua, estranged lover of Beatrice, a woman who lived in a lonely Westmorland valley, a century ago. But who was Beatrice? And who is she now? Is she Amanda, or is she the half deranged creature who’s real name Matthew does not know? Or more mysterious still, could she be a flesh and blood manifestation of his alarmingly active unconscious mind?
When this strange business comes to the attention of the authorities, Matthew finds himself having to explain coded love-letters and an eccentric penchant for theatrical costume in a world where eccentricity is cause for suspicion. His life is further complicated by the appearance of Charlotte, who is also, Ellen, a misanthropic policewoman, plagued by her own dark past and convinced her redemption lies in Matthew’s tutelage – whether Matthew likes it or not. Falling under the spell of his mysterious double life, Charlotte is drawn first to Matthew and then to Beatrice. Thus the unlikely trio embark upon a powerful, alchemical menage a trois which is to transform their lives.
Matthew’s world is one of meditation, dreams and visions. At times disturbing, bizarre and erotic, his is a journey whose course is dictated by the undercurrents of his mind – also the minds of the numerous women known to him as Beatrice. He discovers that far from being discarded to the periphery of existence, his odd life steers him ever closer to its very core, a place where one’s beliefs play their part in determining the kind of future that unfolds. The trouble is we do not always know what it is we believe, and though we might think we are wishing for something with all our heart, we actually believe the opposite will come true.
If you like a psychological mystery, an erotic and multifaceted romance, while being pitched into bizarre situations where you’re challenged to tell the difference between dreams and reality – The Lavender and the Rose is the book for you. If you end up pinching yourself in order to work out which version of reality you’re sitting in, then the book has done it’s job. It ‘s a story of the noughties, these peculiarly paranoid, post 9 11 times, where it seems foolish, even dangerous to persist in persuing the Romantic vision. If any of you survive it to the end I say well done – and thank you.
And on a much lighter note:
This was begun as a series of experimental chapters around the time I was putting the finishing touches to The Lavender and the Rose, Push Hands proved to be one of the easiest novels to write, seemingly writing itself between 2007 and mid 2008.
The background themes of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tai Chi, acupuncture and the hero’s problems with tinnitus are all based on personal experience. There are no strong undercurrents in here though, no morals, no psychological conundrums. The story is a romance, though I hesitate to say a straight forward one.
The blurb reads:
Phil and Penny were made for each other – the only problem is they are married to other people. When they meet by chance at a weekly Tai Chi class they quickly realise the depth of one another’s loneliness and need for a sympathetic ear. Sensing their affinity, and fearful of the consequences, they try to avoid each other, but then their paths begin to cross with chance defying regularity, pulling them ever more deeply into one another’s confidence. Is this evidence of a mysterious power at work, or should they simply have an affair?
But an affair is the last thing either of them wants, so, drawing on each other’s advice, they try instead to understand what’s gone wrong in their marriages so they can set about repairing them. For all their good intentions though, events seem determined to make sure their friendship is misunderstood, that they appear to others like mere adulterers – roles that, incredibly, even their families seem to prefer they play – if only because the alternative is inconceivable: that Phil and Penny ought each to be respected for the people they really are, rather than for whom others would have them pretend to be.
By turns humorous, and tragic, Push Hands is the story of two people who want to be themselves – which isn’t easy when everyone around you seems to have a better idea of who you are than you do yourself!
Push hands is currently doing very well on Lulu, its downloads exceeding all of my other works combined, and if youre one of those indy-publishing pilgrims who have taken a chance on it, I’m very grateful to you.
Back to psychological mystery with:
I can’t remember when I actually began Durelston Wood – many years ago I think. In fact it’s probably been kicking around in the background for the better part of a decade. Of the many projects that came to mind when I finished Push Hands, this was the one that I seemed to make progress with the most and which occupied most of my writing time from late 2008. I published it on Lulu in July 2010.
The blurb reads:
A middle aged romantic, Richard Hunter has hit the buffers. Divorced and estranged from his children, he trains as a teacher and takes up a post in his home village, at his old Primary School. Never more than arm’s length away from a nervous breakdown and hopelessly in love with his headmistress, Richard seeks solace in his boyhood haunt: Durleston Wood. But the wood now hides a secret, a mysterious woman kept hidden there as the apparent “property” of a villain – or so she tells him. As he learns more of her fate, and her plan to transfer her “ownership” to him, he tells himself this is the last thing he wants, while wondering if it isn’t actually something he needs more than anything, that far from destroying him, rescuing her could be the one thing that stops him from going under.
There’s a bit more to it than that of course, like when his beloved headmistress gets herself involved with a sleazy politician, and he knows it’s going to end badly, but how many women can a man rescue? And why should he when neither of them turn out to be quite what they seem?
My sixth novel. I’ve been writing novel length fiction since I was 18. It was twenty years before I gave up on the idea of publishing my novels by the conventional route of agent/publisher, a decision that coincided with my first encounter with the online world. But for all of my enthusiasm for the medium of HTML, I was still hung up on the idea of paper books, and so all of my novels, up to this point appeared first on Lulu.com, essentially a print on demand service, so I could have a copy of my book on my shelf at home. But things are moving on now. Manufacturers of electronic books readers Like the Sony and the Kindle are managing to make their devices look sexy and appeal to a wider audience. Paper books won’t die completely – textbooks in particular will be with us for a while longer – but the mass market in paperback fiction is starting to see inroads now with big name authors and their publishers finally starting to “get it” – releasing titles in both electronic and paper versions.
La Maison Du Lac will not appear on Lulu. It was written without a thought for paper publishers or agents, or even print on demand self-publishing. It was always going to be an ebook, and Feedbooks is still by far the best distributor of ebooks. No one else does it quite like they do. Unlike the big name authors and their publishers, my story is free because experience has taught me, no publisher or agent will want to even read it, let alone offer me money for it, and I’m no longer inclined to waste years humiliating myself and shredding my self-esteem trying to convince them otherwise.
But why should you, dear reader, bother with a story written by an unknown author, obviously an amateur, who’s giving it away? It’s obviously going to be crap, isn’t it? Well, possibly, but you’ve nothing to lose – and have you never paid good money for an overhyped novel that you tossed in the bin after the few chapters – I know I have.
Hopefully you won’t feel that way about La Maison. Hopefully you’ll enjoy meeting these characters as much as I’ve enjoyed working with them these past few years. What do I get out of it? Well, as with all my stories, I get a great deal of pleasure simply out of writing them, and I learn a lot about myself and what it is I think and believe in the process. I’m not above vanity however – and get no end of satisfaction from keeping an eye on the download rates.
La Maison is best described as a paranormal romance. This is a wide genre that includes everything from Vampire stories to things like Life on Mars, and even the movie “Inception”. Like my earlier story The Lavender and the Rose, it explores the nature of reality and owes much to Jungian psychology, exploring the notion of a non-literal reality, or the reality of the imagination. If you prefer your reality defined within strictly rational boundaries, then La Maison is not for you. It starts out solidly enough, but then the world begins to shift in and out of focus, the only solid ground being the developing relationship between the lovers, Richard and Gabrielle, who must somehow plot a course through a world that is both real and unreal at the same time. And the moral of the story? Without giving too much away, no matter what the ultimate nature of reality is, love will always recognise its own face.
My seventh novel, the second written purely with a mind to instant ebook publication. At the time of writing it’s been up on Feedbooks for about a month and has achieved almost thousand downloads. It’s hard to explain what this means to me. Through our stories, creative writers are trying to share ideas, emotions, thoughts, concepts. We’re saying: Look I find this interesting – what do you think? Even so little as ten years ago, in order to have that dialogue with you, dear reader, I would have had to persuade a dusty old publisher this stuff was “financially viable”, and then, maybe after a few years, if I was very lucky – and I mean millions to one against – my story would appear briefly on the bookshelves in a limited run of a few thousand to be half-heartedly marketed and the remainder pulped. So much for all that time and effort! But now? Sentences I was clicking together only months ago are sitting on iPhones and ‘Droids all over the world, places far flung and unimaginable to me as I sit in my little house in the North West of England. Publication is literally one click away. I’m very grateful to all of you for helping to launch Between the Tides with such vigour. It’s absolutely Cosmic!
About a year in the writing, it’s unusual among my longer stories, comprising only two characters and a series of events that take place over a single long weekend. It’s partly a romance, yes – a pair of unlikely lovers tossed together amid unusual circumstances – so one of the main currents driving the story is the question: will they or won’t they?
All my stories contain this element and I don’t think there’s anything we so called literary authors need be embarassed about here. In any case it’s the kind of story I like to write and read, and if the number one motivator wasn’t that I enjoyed writing my stories, they’d never be written. Certainly if this is all there was to a story then we’d be catering to a different kind of genre, and there’s nothing wrong with that if such is your liking. If however you’re also interested in exploring difficult or even controvertial philosophical or spiritual concepts then a romance between two sympathetic protagonists can sweeten the pill – otherwise you might as well just write a texbook on it.
The concepts I’m exploring in this story are concerned with the mind-brain problem. Does the brain generate consciousness as a sort of by-product as the materialists have always maintained? Or does consciousness exist independently of the brain? If it does then this begs the question: what happens when we die? And what do the many well documented near death experiences tell us about the nature of consciousness and the meaning of life? Are materialist explanations beginning to falter? And what happens if a near death experience changes your outlook on life so much you find the self who survived is no longer compatible with the life you’ve built?
A little on the spooky side, but not in a scary way – those of you who know me know my ghosts are always friendly. The keywords here are mystery, psychology and of course will they or won’t they?