Lockdown writing productivity?

A year since the first lockdown, it feels like a whole year of continuous lockdown.

I’ve been lucky, I haven’t lost anyone to the pandemic, not been ill myself, and not lost a job or income. So firstly my thoughts go to the very many people who have suffered so much.

I’ve obviously been able to do lots of writing? Well, in theory yes, in practice – not really. Nor have I learnt a musical instrument, become incredibly fit, started a new hobby or transformed the house and garden with zealous DIY activity. My excuses? Life and stress have interfered a fair deal and I’ve used that to justify or support my innate laziness.

There is one area I was productive in but let’s come back to that after talking about writing.

It is not that I have produced nothing at all, just not enough. After finishing Mindmage (Wildmind book 2) in 2018, I have started Wildmind book 3 and have been working on some sci-fi short stories. Partly this change in writing to short stories is to challenge myself; I never want to finish when writing. Wildmind and Mindmage are nice and long, that’s my comfort zone. And starting is the easiest part – I have loads of ideas!

Anyway, I now have drafted three short stories (technically one is too short and one is too long) and a couple more are roughed out. All are sci-fi and on a theme that links them loosely. I’m hoping to share these soon just in case anyone out there is interested and because I’d love some constructive feedback.

Oh – my main feat of lockdown productivity? I’ve managed to grow my hair really long.

Clearly I need to try harder.

Need help writing short stories? Here is some inspiration…

My wife said if you want to write better short stories (I do) why not read some good examples, like Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors, a collection of his works first published in 1999. What a wise woman (my wife, not Neil Gaiman, he is a wise man).

I have finished now and I am inspired. Generally I find anything less than a full-blown novel difficult to write, but Gaiman can’t stop himself launching into an extra short tale in his introduction to the book that is full of them.

Simple words, nothing pretentious or fancy, but so imaginatively and brilliantly written with such lifelike characters. I feel like I know Mrs Whitaker – I really should nip around for a cup of tea and check she is all right. And somehow it’s very credible that she came to posses the Holy Grail.

As I progressed through the collection I found the stories quite mixed, some would work for young readers and some would be unsuitable. I didn’t really get on with the narrative poems, but no doubt that says more about me than Mr Gaiman’s work.

What the book left me with , apart from excellent entertainment, was a fine demonstration that while an obvious truth, uttered tentatively or timidly, can become doubtful and unbelievable, the impossible, stated with confidence and conviction, can become plausible and even probable…

Dear Mister Fantasy

Similarities abound, I love comparisons, how about the joy of reading and the joy of listening to music?

Helped in this example of some brilliant music (Dear Mr Fantasy performed by Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood) by the overlap of the word fantasy – my favourite reading and writing genre (possibly my favourite word).

And what about the lyrics (below) – it’s a short story in its own right…

Dear Mister Fantasy play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
Do anything take us out of this gloom
Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy

You are the one who can make us all laugh
But doing that you break out in tears
Please don’t be sad if it was a straight mind you had
We wouldn’t have known you all these years

Written by Steve Winwood, Chris Wood, Jim Capaldi

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

True Grit cover

Strong language from a protagonist in trouble!

Imagine [plot spoiler] a young woman falls down a hole out in the wild west. She can’t escape, her two friends may be dead. One arm is wedged, the other broken. It is nearly dark, there are bats, she is slipping further down. What harsh expletives will she utter?

“My thought was: This will not do.”

Then it gets worse, a rotting corpse with a nest of rattlesnakes coming out its ribcage, more slipping, a bad guy above – taunting. Does she finally lose it and curse or swear?

“This, thought I, is a pretty fix.”

Such restraint by Mattie in True Grit by Charles Portis (1968).

True Grit cover

The films were good, the book is excellent. Its all about Rooster Cogburn’s true grit, but of course it’s the girl who has even more grit in the end.


Tom Bombadil – the terrible secret?

I’m a life-long Tolkien fan, but not one that bemoans the adaptations for the films – different perspectives can be stimulating.JRR Tolkien

So  Oldest and Fatherless: The Terrible Secret of Tom Bombadil  was really interesting – thanks to my son for drawing my attention to it.

I don’t agree with the interpretation of Tom Bombadil as an evil force and don’t think Tolkien intended this either (nor does the writer). I saw Bombadil as a wild force, completely unconcerned with other people, and to be honest I didn’t really miss him in the films. But fantasy is about ‘what-ifs?’ and this post develops one of the great ‘what-ifs?’ of all time (Lord of the Rings) along a new direction (for me at least). It’s intriguing to consider this speculation and the comments it generated. And though I’m not convinced, it is a clever and very convincing argument.

Imagine what it would be like to discuss this with Tolkien himself over a pint of beer whilst sitting in front of a log fire…

I saw an old lady knocked over by a car today…


I saw an old lady knocked over by a car today. It was frightening seeing just how frail people can be. And inspiring that so many people rushed to her aid -no hesitation and nothing else mattered to them until she was taken care of.  But it was despicable that the driver could be so careless as to cause such harm, and so callous after the event.

Why is this relevant here? Writers need characters to write about. I draw inspiration for my characters from real people I come across and from fictional ones. Also, fantasy tales usually deal with the good versus evil argument – absolute or shades of grey?

She lay on the road bleeding as people rushed to her, others calling for emergency help. An ambulance arrived quickly and the paramedic was amazing. He treated her as he assessed the situation, directed everyone, reassured the lady and much more, all at the same time and all in a perfectly calm and controlled manner.

She didn’t fall far, the impact with the car was slight, but roads are hard. I heard only recently on the radio, health professionals talking about the fragility of the human head, despite our apparently hard skulls. We carry our brains high enough above the ground that simply an uncontrolled fall can be deadly. Bleeding but conscious and in such good hands, I hope the lady makes a full recovery. She obviously suffered some indignity in all this and I will refrain from writing about her any further.

Why was the driver careless? In a word anger. He was angry that he was blocked in, sounding his horn repeatedly and then reversing angrily. Why callous? It’s hard to understand. Perhaps the reality of what he had done had not even begun to filter into his mind when he got out of his car.  He stepped straight over the fallen woman to shout that we should all be blaming the man who blocked him in, that’s whose fault it was. His shockingly misguided reaction made me angry, and others, but our focus was on the poor woman on the ground so we told him to calm down and get out of the way.  Paramedics are rightly cautious with head injuries and they take their time. It was a good five minutes before the car driver came back and asked how she was.

Careless and stupid, or callous and despicable. Who am I to judge? A fellow human – is it not human to care for others?  So we all judged who saw the incident, but I don’t know the man, he may have been in a hurry to help someone, maybe he tirelessly works for a children’s charity. Good or bad is rarely clear and obvious, good people do bad things and vice versa. However, we can only judge people by their actions and those seemed very clear. At least there were plenty of witnesses speaking to the Police when they arrived and opinions were very clear.

Is it this mind-filling and focus-narrowing anger that is behind other crimes? You can imagine it may be responsible for hit and run drivers, furiously blaming their victims for being carelessly in the way as they speed off.

It would be easy to find all this depressing, but remember the context: one stupid man amid dozens of other people all caring and all immediately doing the right thing.

New free samples added


CoverI have updated the free samples of Wildmind available – here,  or use the menus at the top of the page.

The Prologue was already posted.

Now the Complete Chapter 1 is available on this site to read.

Meet Commander Varik Tojen as he directs the defence of Castle Hurriden.

Is that a wolfhound?

I have also added the complete Chapter 2.

Back in Espondre, the capital city, we meet Mal Respler, an unhappy and timid bureaucrat. Not yet touched by the invasion, he has no idea about the personal and world-changing events coming his way….

The full story is available for only

£1.75 Amazon UK

$2.99 Amazon US

“We’re all a little dishonest. But cheating at bridge is a step too far…”


Inspiring on two levels, this article by David Mitchell in the Guardian was both brilliantly written and raised some really interesting points.

Not about the card game bridge, but about honesty. You can extrapolate that to the age old good and bad decisions and actions. I’d like to think that when a moral decision is called for I choose good because it is the right thing to do. But is that really true – I don’t know that I’ve really been tested in that respect. And what about everyone else? Putting aside those that make the ‘bad’ choices, do people do the right thing for moral reasons, or because they don’t want to deal with the guilt, or because they fear discovery and punishment (or divine judgement).

 “The rare occasions when I’ve broken David-Mitchell Picrules or laws led to traumatic breaches in my peace of mind. It’s a frailty of gumption that, luckily for me, shares the symptoms of a moral compass.”

That’s an honest and humble opinion by David Mitchell and I suspect this would apply to more of us than would readily admit it. Perhaps it is about evolution, we couldn’t live in such busy and highly populated societies if everyone made the decisions that only favoured themselves, taking no heed of consequences for others. David has a much better way of saying that though:

 “Honesty is very convenient – and that’s probably why most of us are mostly honest most of the time. Society functions more smoothly if the statistical risk of being misinformed, robbed, ripped off or murdered in any given situation remains low. The fact that most people realise this is a felicitous confluence of common sense and laziness – as much a victory of apathy over enterprise as it is of righteousness over sin.”

All good thought provoking stuff to inspire writers….

Today is Tolkien reading Day!


Today is Tolkien reading Day!

The Tolkien Society says

“Tolkien Reading Day is an international event held on 25 March – the day of the destruction of the One Ring – each year. It is held to promote interest in the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien, with many local groups putting on events at local library and book-stores.”

Reading The Lord of the Rings (the first time) as a young teenager was inspirational – it had a lasting effect that is still with me now (a few years on, let’s not be too specific). Reading, writing, nature, nobility of spirit, morality, strength of character – all hugely important aspects of life Tolkien touches still, long after he left us.

JRR Tolkien
JRR Tolkien

I love that the theme this year according to the Society is ‘hope‘ (I missed that above). He managed to take his characters and readers to places of such despair – but there was always hope that somehow shined through.