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6. 40 Words on Grammar.

Posted by on Nov 16, 2017 in Articles, How to write, News | Comments Off on 6. 40 Words on Grammar.

#6. How to write your best selling novel, by a best selling author. If it feels right, start your sentence with and. And starting it with but is okay too. But, as I said, only if it feels right. (Your high school English teacher who taught otherwise didn’t know shit from fava beans). Please, though, don’t forget your commas. Like doesn’t make sense without them. Next: #7: The nuts and bolts of the writing...

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7. The nuts and bolts of the writing process.

Posted by on Nov 16, 2017 in Articles, How to write, News | Comments Off on 7. The nuts and bolts of the writing process.

#7. How to write your best selling novel, by a best selling author. While any number of people will tell you they have a great idea for a book (yes, yes, we’ve established that), a reasonable percentage of folks are aware that getting started ain’t easy. Indeed, as Stephen King said, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” (Actually, and not surprisingly, Stephen King has said a lot of memorable things about writing. One of my favorites is, “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” He’s right. It is. Bigly.) The biggest enemy you’ll encounter when it comes to getting the job done is procrastination. It appears in all kinds of forms, many of which are completely underhanded and subversive like, “Oh, it’s gonna rain. I’d better go clean that gutter.” Or Ding! “Look, another email and this one has an exclamation mark beside it. Better open it.” Or, “Damn, I have a cold and can’t concentrate.” Or, “Hey, it’s Christmas Day.” Whatever the excuse is, stop. What you need to do is focus. It’s as easy and as difficult as that (and your kids have plenty of Christmases ahead of them, right? What’s the big deal?) “Write drunk. Edit sober.” – Ernest Hemmingway To get your book written, you will have to employ some hard and fast rules and stick to them. Every writer who manages to complete a manuscript more or less every year will tell you they are very disciplined – they have to be to stick to that schedule. Break it down. Your average novel is around 120,000 words. That’s 120,000 divided by 11 months (forget December. If you’re married with kids, it gets swallowed completely by the monster called Christmas. Yes, I know, bah humbug). That’s around 11,000 words you have to write each month. Or around 3,000 words a week. You can keep the math going yourself to get a daily word count. It doesn’t seem so onerous. But miss a few days here and there and the word count has to go up if you’re to stay on track rather than slide down the slippery slope. When I’m focused and working on a novel at the exclusion of everything else — something I’m less able to do these days for a number of reasons — I look to bank around 2000 words a day on the hard drive. That’s 10,000 a week, 40,000 a month, etc. It’s kind of Herculean when I look at it on paper. It’s a hell of a pace to keep up, but I managed it for around ten years. In fact, I once wrote a novel from go to whoa in four months. But then I developed a deep vein thrombosis, which became a pulmonary embolism, which put me in intensive care for 3 weeks and should have killed me. It’s impossible to keep that kind of pace going. These days, I’m happy if I save anywhere upward of 1200 words a day. If I’m working on another project (like this one, for example), I will go back to my novel daily and at least try to advance the story. Even if it’s to read the last chapter and edit it. Invariably I get sucked into the story and add to it also – that’s just the way I work. “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” -Douglas Adams And just to put to the sword one particularly onerous excuse I’ve heard people yammer who have yet to write their book — but will someday, they assert —...

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Kingdom Come. The New Vin Cooper Thriller is Getting Closer

Posted by on Sep 17, 2017 in Articles | Comments Off on Kingdom Come. The New Vin Cooper Thriller is Getting Closer

Hoping to get it on the ebook/print on demand shelves in time for Thanksgiving. Sensational cover design by William...

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5. My own personal secret herbs and spices of how to write.

Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Articles | Comments Off on 5. My own personal secret herbs and spices of how to write.

Is there a secret to this writing game? Maybe. Here’s mine. You’ve written your idea, your outline and your character essays and infused them, where possible, with empathy. You’re ready to start writing your novel. But still something niggles. Surely there’s a trick to this? How am I going to write so that people can believe in it so utterly that they will accept that the Planet Xorg really does exist, along with those liquorice grasshopper kings? I’ll tell you. Because, yes, there is a secret. Or, at least, I believe it’s a secret. And I am going to divulge it to you right here and now. Yes I am. Here we go. You ready? Hell, you know, to be honest with you, I’m actually really super-reluctant to give this away because I think of it, rightly or wrongly, as my “thing”. Well, it’s like this. As a human being (let’s assume, right?), you constantly quiz the world with your senses – what you see, smell, hear, touch and taste. Without the ability to smell and hear, for example, you are also in a way blind to a big chunk of the world around you. It’s the same when you write. You are creating a world that has to live in the minds of complete strangers, and if you want them to relate to it fully so that it is immersive and feels every millimeter as tangible and real as the, well, the real world, then you must employ the senses in your writing. In other words, what are your characters seeing? What do they smell? What are they feeling? What are they hearing? What do they taste? “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” – W. Somerset Maugham This dawned on me on a research trip for my third book, A KNIFE EDGE. I was in Thailand, at the border town of Mae Sot, heading for the Freedom Bridge over the Moei River between Thailand and Myanmar. It was late afternoon and stupidly hot. My shirt was sticking to my back and the clouds were black, green and purple bruises that towered towered high overhead. A thunderstorm was imminent. I walked past some food stands, a local fair in full swing, and chicken skewers sizzled on barbecues. Peanut was in the air too, along with chili,  lemongrass, and the vaguely acrid smoke from smouldering coconut husks fuelling the barbecues. There was some political rally going on and cars full of people and festooned with flags were driving around, voices booming from oversized loud hailers strapped to the vehicle’s roofs. With no distant warning rumble, a bolt of lightning struck somewhere nearby and the thunderclap was so loud and close and sudden that it made me jump. And then it started to rain. But this was no ordinary rain. The droplets were heavy and they caught the light like polished shillings. They even seemed to jangle as they bumped into each other. The downpour turned in to a roaring fusillade but there was nowhere to take shelter and the rain was warm, so I just stood there and enjoyed it. Those pregnant shilling shattered into a fine mist when they hit the ground and clouds of steam rose into my nostrils and I tasted bitumen and mud in the back of my throat. And that’s when it hit me. Maybe the way to write convincingly was to present the world of my characters in the same way that I interrogated the world – via those five senses. Seems kind of obvious now. Perhaps you write this way intuitively, without thinking about it. But...

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4. Send your empathy muscle to the gym.

Posted by on Apr 2, 2017 in Articles, How to write | Comments Off on 4. Send your empathy muscle to the gym.

Empathy is to the writer what a spirit level is to a builder. It’s very difficult to construct a story that won’t fall over without it; an essential tool of the trade

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A good ‘ol Georgia home cookin’ – the Trial of Midnight Rider

Posted by on Mar 22, 2017 in Articles, Blog, News | Comments Off on A good ‘ol Georgia home cookin’ – the Trial of Midnight Rider

In the history of filmmaking, there have been many deaths on set. But not a single film director has ever been held accountable and jailed. Until now. That’s how the documentary begins. You may remember the incident. It happened on February 20, 2014, on a railway trestle way down in Wayne County, South Georgia, USA. A train ploughed into a film crew shooting a scene on railroad tracks  for a biopic about Greg Allman of the iconic band the Allman Brothers. Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant, was struck and killed by the locomotive. The film’s director, Randall Miller, was subsequently charged with criminal trespass and involuntary manslaughter. He took a plea and was jailed for two years, reduced to one year for good behaviour. The prosecution claimed that Miller knew the crew had been denied permission from the railroad to be on the racks, and that he had set the shoot up there anyway and “stole the shot.” But is that what really happened? I met Miller a number of years ago when his wife, writer producer Jody Savin, enquired about obtaining a film option on my Cold War book, THE ZERO OPTION. Miller didn’t seem to me to be the reckless type. He made kinda friendly family movies and was himself the big gentle bear type. So I started to look into the evidence piled up against him. Over six months of filming, 75 interviews and many depositions later, the TRIAL OF MIDNIGHT RIDER is the result. Was Miller guilty or innocent? Would Ms Jones be alive today but for his actions? To find out, you’ll have to wait to see the documentary, but I have to say that it has been among the most interesting and, at times, risky journeys I’ve been on. Stay tuned for the trailer, which I’ll post here...

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