Monday, 28 June 2021

 My Doppelganger

   Many decades ago, in the days before discos, I discovered I had a Doppelganger. I was catching my breath between dances when this girl popped up beside me. Hello!’ she said. ‘Haven’t seen you for ages. How’s your poor Mum?’

Well, Mum had had a slight cold but she was well past the sodden tissue stage. I didn’t recognise the girl but I’d never been good at putting names and faces together, so ‘She’s fine,’ I said.

The girl – Miriam, I found out - went on to mention various friends we had in common. I’d never heard of any of them but I spent so much time with my head buried in books that I could easily have mislaid a few acquaintances. So I went along with it and we had quite a nice chat. 

Over the next couple of months we bumped into each other several times and I got quite skilled at picking up clues and discussing our mutual ‘friends’. The last time I saw Miriam I was lying on a stretcher, having given blood and feeling quite drained, when I heard a voice from the next stretcher.

‘Hello! Fancy meeting you here!’ It was Miriam.

The chances of having an exact double are estimated at up to three trillion to one, and I never did discover the identity of my Doppelganger, our mutual friend, but more than half a century later the memory led me to write my latest novel.

‘The Boy With My Face’ is the story of Simon, a lonely 13-year-old who sees a photo in a newspaper of a runaway who looks exactly like him. It’s a gripping and emotional family mystery, full of plot twists and cliffhangers.

For readers of 12 years and upwards, it’s available from Amazon in both paperback and e-book.

Saturday, 5 September 2020


 A Break from Novel Writing

Sometimes we writers need a break from short story or novel writing, and for me an escape into poetry does the trick. My Alphabet Of Silly Verse is something I put together over two decades ago - I even created the illustrations - and I had a lot of fun. There are openings for poetry nowadays - WRITING Magazine, for example, has a large central section devoted to it, plus monthly competitions - so why not have a go?

There are 26 verses to my Alphabet - doh! - with some, but not all, having illustrations attached. I'm hoping to include them all in this blog over a period of time. Meanwhile, here are the first four:

An albatross called Arnold, a bird of great renown,
Was spotted over Heathrow flying upside down.
As he flapped above the runways causing chaos on the ground,
An Air Controller shouted out 'Clear off, you great white clown!'
We've no place here,' he angrily cried, 'for silly aerobatics.
If only it didn't bring bad luck I'd soon cut short your antics!'

Babe in black satin, dressed in mother's clothes,
A shiny scarlet sequin gummed upon her nose.
Babe in black satin, beads hung on her chest,
Bumps of socks and handkerchiefs stuffed inside her vest.

A centipede called Caesar was locked inside a freezer
With fifty chilly carcasses of beef.
When at last he was defrosted he was somewhat maladjusted
And had a hundred chilblains on his feet.,

In a dug-out west of Eden lived a daemon - don't say 'demon' -
Of his dipthong he was obstinately proud.
His real name was David but he wrote it D-AE-VID
And perpetually spelled it out aloud.

Monday, 17 August 2020



This is the short account of your book on its Amazon page (or on the back cover of a paperback) which every potential purchaser reads. Amazon allows you quite a lot of space for it. 2600 characters, no less, which is roughly 500 words, and it's tempting to use the lot. But control yourself! The blurb should be a teaser, not a spoiler. It should tempt, give clues, create the book's atmosphere - but it should not be a precis. It shouldn't tell the whole story. It shouldn't give away the plot, and it definitely shouldn't disclose the ending!

Many writers find it difficult to compose, but remember it's there to intrigue, to lure, to hint. Sometimes just a few lines will suffice, sometimes you'll need a few paragraphs. There are no rules. and you may have to make several attempts before you're satisfied. Look for other books in the same genre as your own. How do their writers tackle this difficult task? Examples are probably the most direct way of learning what you should or shouldn't write. Here are a few of my own:

A bomb hit Jamie Bird's house during WW2, killing both his parents and trapping Jamie beneath the rubble for hours. Half conscious, he dreamed of flying through the air on a swing with long, long ropes, and the dream comforted him.
Now his only relative is an elderly great-aunt a long train journey away, who agrees reluctantly to give him a new home. There, hidden away in a suitcase full of faded photographs he discovers a Victorian circus poster depicting a young trapeze artist. When he learns that the 16 year old flyer, known as 'Una', was his great-aunt's brother, killed tragically while performing in 1891, Jamie's dreams become more frequent and obsessive.
When he visits his first circus he realises this is what he wants to be. A flyer like Una. And when his great-aunt threatens to send him to boarding school he decides to run away. To the circus.
A magical adventure story for 10 to 14 year old readers.

A moving story about two girls, one dead, one alive. Seventy six years ago Marshbank was home to young Helen Aylsbury. When writer Abi and her family move to the abandoned Edwardian mansion the ghost of Helen longs to make Abi her friend, but how can she contact her, and how can she keep all the others away? As Helen becomes more possessive and her powers increase, accidents begin to happen. And through Abi's writing, Helen's terrible story begins to emerge.

Zoe Harper is dead. Everyone tells her so. But Heaven's newest arrival has no intention of remaining there. She is 20 years old, in the throes of a new romance and has a brand new career in journalism - so new that she hasn't even collected her first month's salary.
Zoe is determined to return to Earth, regardless of any obstacles placed in her way, the most notable of these being her appointed guardian angel, Trevor, 8000 years old but still gorgeous.
But in the meantime, she’s writing her Armchair Guide to Heaven.
For instance, would anyone on earth know you can still get a Full English Breakfast - without the risk of a clogged artery? That angels don’t have wings and are more likely to wear white jeans and a medallion than frilly white gowns? That the newly dead arrive by cruise boat, train or even flying carpet?
As for sex - well, Zoe is still investigating that possibility. And her sights are set on Trevor.
Zoe's experiences are by turn funny, moving and sometimes frightening, but she's not going to give up.

Nick is an unlikely hero. Almost sixteen, he longs to be taller, braver, more athletic, more popular with the girls, more one of the guys. He also suspects that he's the only one in the class who's still a virgin. Let's face it, he's a worrier, with more than a dash of OCD. At home he cleans up his messy sister's bedroom, colour codes his Mum's spice jars and his Dad's garden equipment, measures various parts of his anatomy every Sunday morning and has to have his Full English Breakfast arranged in the same order each week. Life brightens when he finds a girlfriend and falls in love with her. They've been together for four weeks and he's kissed her eighteen times, according to his notebook. But when Nick meets a strange and scary mutant and is forced to protect and hide him, his life becomes unbearable. Who can he turn to for help? Mum and Dad are busy line dancing, big sister Becca has lost interest and his girlfriend Chloe has moved on to a handsome six-footer who's captain of the school football team. As for friends, Nick doesn't 'do' friends. Or rather, they don't do him.This is a story full of humour, warmth and tragedy.It's about beauty and ugliness, about kindnness and cruelty, and about prejudice and understanding.

THE FLOATER (Here's a really brief one for an anthology of short stories)
A collection of eight tales of the macabre and the unexpected.
THE FLOATER and THE SMILE have a hint of the supernatural. DOING IT ONESELF describes a beautifully satisfying revenge. In I KNEW IT WAS YOU a man is pursued by an unlikely stalker.
Some of the stories are dark, some humorous, others just ... odd.
Some are for the nighttime, others might go nicely with afternoon tea.

00 characters , say roughly 500 words

Monday, 10 August 2020



It's easy to overlook repetitions, omissions, name changes and other clangers in your eagerness to get your book out there. These are the concern of an editor - and if you're self publishing, you may well be your own editor - so here are a few pointers:

TIME SCALE: Check back and see if you've allowed enough time for all the events to take place. For instance, one of my children's novels was set during the school summer holiday. You might find you need to extend the holiday into October, or even November, for the story to reach its conclusion.

CHANGING THE NAMES OF CHARACTERS: It can happen to the most experienced of writers. For whatever reason, you decide part way through your story to change someone's name - quite often because you've got to know your character intimately and realise the name just doesn't suit him/her. It's more than likely that you'll miss one or two as you comb through manually. By all means do this, but also use FIND & REPLACE to ensure none have slipped through unchanged. Using Tom changing to Meredith as an example, select Tom, Tom's, TOM, "Tom" and any others you can think of.

TYING UP LOOSE ENDS: Have you left any of your minor characters in suspense? If a burglar tied up the Jones's cleaning lady and dumped her in a cupboard during Chapter 2, is she still there, abandoned and suffering agonising cramp?

PUNCTUATION, SPACING, ETC, ETC:  I'm almost ashamed to print this review (see below), but it was my very first book to be self-published (in 2015), and I've learned a lot since. The book (THE MYSTERY OF CRAVEN MANOR) is now a best seller and gains mostly 5 star reviews.

 I know it's tedious, but it really is important to proof-read your book at least three times before you submit it for publication. (For the final check, toggle Formatting Marks to catch all the above print errors). I have now made corrections - actually, 11 of them in a total of 170 pages, but enough to irritate one reader sufficiently to put a negative review on Amazon.

Where is the proof reading?!?!
Very good book with an engaging plot. My 9 year old really enjoyed it and so did I. 
HOWEVER, it is riddled with typos and ridiculous errors such as speech marks inverted, upside down apostrophes
and double full stops! These occur so frequently that it seriously detracts from the story itself.
Might have been wise to have someone proof read the book before it was published!

Monday, 3 August 2020



I can't stress enough how essential this is. The wrong title, the wrong image(s), the wrong design, the wrong colours: all these can affect sales of your novel.

Heavens, I've made enough mistakes myself, so I do know what I'm writing about!

It's probably easiest to explain by example, so here's one of of mine that gets noticed, and one that doesn't.

THE MYSTERY OF CRAVEN MANOR. This is my most  successful book, an adventure story for middle range children, and I think the following are what makes it attract attention:
a) The word 'Mystery' in the title.
b) The name of the house (Craven - fearful)
c) The house in darkness, all bar a few lit windows - creates atmosphere.
d) The night sky, with just a few stars. (The stars were actually incorporated in the font that I chose.

These all say what's in the tin, and the whole effect is atmospheric.


This book is one of my own favourites.
It's about a single, thirty-something young woman, a lowly care worker in a retirement home, still a virgin and the only one of her gorgeous all-female family who looks like her Dad.
It's a feel-good, romantic success story, but you'd never guess it from the title and cover.
Is Dingo a dog? Is it a biography of a composer? Is it about the legal profession?
Nothing explains the story. The all-black cover is not exactly inviting, the small image of a Will even less so.
If I had the time and the energy I'd pull it out, design a new cover, choose a new title, and re-publish it. I did, however, use black again (or rather, a series of darks) in THE GIRL IN THE ATTIC, but there the idea was to create mystery and atmosphere, and I hope it was effective.
 (Note: If you're publishing an Amazon, remember that book covers are shown as small thumbprints, so do make sure the words and images are sharp, clear and contrast well with the background.)
You can view all my other book covers on the MY BOOKS page above.(I will be posting more information about designing book covers in August, so please keep checking). 


Monday, 27 July 2020



These are the search terms that direct potential readers to your book, and although they're not as visible as Amazon's classifications, they're equally important.

When you self-publish your book you can provide seven keywords (Note: each can be a single word or a phrase). Choose carefully. Remember there are literally millions of books available on Amazon. The more direct the path to yours, the better!)

As with categories, keywords can be changed at any time, so if you're not satisfied with your initial choices, you can make a new selection. I do this frequently, in the hope of bringing my own books to the attention of new readers.

Below are some of my current choices for CABBAGE BOY, which is a humorous fantasy novel for teenagers.

Family life - Obsessive compulsive disorder
Teenage sex - Allotments  - Line dancing
Mutants  -  DNA

It's likely I'm still not on the best track, but I'm hoping that in a roundabout way these keywords might attract readers from the outer circle, ie parents. My thinking is as follows: allotments, line dancing, DNA and obsessive compulsive disorder are subjects that their parents might be investigating. Hopefully, they'll discover my book (either directly on Amazon books or through Google) and perhaps buy to read themselves and then pass on to their offspring. Pipe dreams perhaps?

Choosing keywords (and categories - see Part One) is time consuming and tedious, but necessary and helpful when you're in competition with so many other books (4.5 million last time I checked!)




Monday, 20 July 2020



It's easy to classify your books if you write a police procedural novel or a time travel fantasy or a conventional romance where two young people meet, hate and misunderstand each other but fall into each other's arms in the last chapter.

But how do you classify a book which crosses over from one genre to another, or even a third - or (in the case of one of mine, The Family on Pineapple Island) can be read by parents to their youngest children, yet equally can be read by parents and grandparents for their own enjoyment?

There are books that defy any classification. Sometimes they are exceptional and become best sellers, but often they sink into oblivion. However, even if they fit a classification, it's still a writer's minefield.

If you're self-publishing via KDP, Amazon's publishing arm, take time to work through their quite comprehensive selection lists. It's helpful to select a category which at least directs readers on to the right path leading to your book. However, if it's a particularly popular category, readers might never reach your new baby.

Take ROMANCE as an example. There are thousands and thousands of novels in this category, listed in order of popularity, page after page after page. It's a known fact that the majority of potential readers give up on the list after scrolling through the first ten pages. So how will readers find your newly published novel?

You can lessen the odds by choosing a sub-category, eg Romantic Comedy, or Romantic Historical or Romantic Contemporary, but these still include thousands of books already on sale. This is where keywords help (See Part Two).

You're allowed a second category. My novel AFFAIR WITH AN ANGEL is a sort of romance, but it's also a fantasy, as the title suggests. Check out this category (below). As you see, there are several options. Choose the one that's most specific - and if you're lucky, that may also be one where you're not competing with thousands of others.

Collections & Anthologies
Dark Fantasy

It's a time-consuming exercise and you may never be completely satisfied, but the good news is that you can change your novel's categories at any time if you're not happy.

Interesting note: The first 100 books in any category are listed as Best Sellers. I've not personally investigated but apparently there are some categories which contain fewer than 100 books. If your book fits into one of these categories it will automatically be classified as a best seller!

If you want to take this further, and have the time, check out the following links: