One of the driving forces behind my writing is the desire to express myself in any way I choose. So I'm not going to limit my words and imagery because it might be, to some, a little too unreal or or unconventional and break accepted writing conventions or go against current publishing fashions.

I think that to be a writer, in fact to be any kind of artist, you have to be breaking rules on a daily basis. If you're not, you're not really trying; you're staying within the boundaries set by other people and your/our own limitations.

Art is not about following rules.

Or is it? 

It's easy enough to say that I will break the rules and not give a damn - but at the same time I also want enough commercial success to retire from being an employee and regain control of my life.

Can I do that and break the rules? Surely staying within the rules is the fast path to success? I suppose it can be, but that's about the best I can say.

What about breaking the rules to succeed? Loads of poeple have done it this way. Many have stayed true to themselves and their art and won. Given that there is no garantee of success either way, why should we bother to stay safe?

One of the problems we face nowadays is that the marketing depts of publishers are very focussed on what sells, so they like genres, something that is easy to sell, something that slots straight into the current template - fast and easy, bang, bang, bang and it's done.

You can't blame them for that. But it's not all they do. There are reams of books out there that break the rules or aren't a safe read - and the first that leaps to mind is The Road by Cormac McCarthy

It's not exactly a comfortable read is it? It's grey and dirty and depressing from start to finish, but I still think it's great, as are all his other books.

So, given that publishers are willing to stick their necks out, why do we as writers/artists stay within the rules, within our own comfort zones?

This is a question I ask myself again and again as I dream of writing the sort of story that I really want to write, whilst doing my best to ignore the demons that crawl around inside my head urging me into pastel green pastures with paths, easily accessed and well worn, with no surprises and no food for the soul.

So my advice, assuming I'm qualified to give any, is to follow what you think is right; write what you want and write it for you. Bring poetry into your work and dare to find your own images and way. You should also gather a few supporting friends, friends who will speak the truth and want you to achieve the best you can.

I'm still struggling with this, and I expect that struggle to go on for a long time. My thanks and love go to those who help me to realise better things, it's because of you that it will happen.

Sex, Death and Trains: All Yours For Nothing (still!)*

*Terms and Conditions apply: you can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy.

It would be great if you could review it on Amazon when you finished. There's no obligation to be be nice just because it was free. Honesty is the best policy.

OK, I Give Up
(Oops! Just Found Out That I Can't!)

As all unpublished writers know to the very core of their souls, writing and continuing to write can be a difficult and tortuous road. It is a path laden with despair, anguish, depression; a path full of dead ends, misdirections and thoughts of suicide

It can turn you into a self-obsessed bore whilst simultaneously robbing you of every ounce of confidence you ever had.

Ok, it doesn't have the same near-death experience levels of something like mountain climbing or car racing, but it is incredibly hard just to keep placing one word behind the other at times. And this is just the work of doing it: I'm ignoring the wall of indifference erected by the near and dear and the publishing industry.

So the ability to carry on in the face of both these things is a prerequisite: even if you didn't know that when you started out, you soon find that you have unlimited quantities of 'carry-on' juice once you dare to try to get something published.

Owing to the forces of stupidity from elsewhere in my life, I've had a bit of a difficult week which culminated in one of those 'straw that broke the camel's back' incidences that can only be resolved by hiding in a cupboard with a stack of hankies and the feeling that the whole of outer space has occupied your soul. I'm talking cold, dark emptiness.

Fortunately I was able to talk to a very dear and loving friend who dragged me kicking and snivelling back to reality. It wasn't easy or pretty and I admire the fact that she was able to ignore all the bollocks I was spouting and hung in there until I was safely back on board the Enterprise. You'd have to have been there to appreciate how much this means to me, and I am very fortunate to have a friend who will stick by me despite the dark clouds and hard rain that inhabits my head at times.

During the course of the rescue mission she asked me what would I have left if I gave up (read into that phrase what you will). It sounds like a fairly simple question but the importance it has for me is immense. It reminded me that to go through life without trying to achieve something worthwhile, to not see my fiction writing published, or not to get where my dreams live, is not an option for me. Despite the depression and other negative forces that conive in the shadows of my soul, actually giving up is not an option, no matter how attractive its emptiness seems.

Perversly, this is just why the journey is so hard at times.

Adventures in Print on Demand
Do you know about Print on Demand? I've used it before to create photobooks and have even created a book of my earlier poetry. I think it's an good idea and a very easy way of getting your books printed without the aid of the publishing industry.

(The reason I've never released the poetry book into the wild is because I had a sudden lack of confidence about the quality of the writing.) 

I had an email from Blurb.com recently promoting their new idea of using it to publish your own novels. I haven't tried it yet (but hope to do so later today) but from what I've read, it looks like an excellent way of making your book available to everyone with very little cost to you. This is because once you've created the book and proofed it (that will cost you the standard Blurb printing and freight costs for each proof copy) all you have to do is publicise the link. If someone wants to buy it, and there are still billions of people who still like to read real books, all they have to do is order it from Blurb and it will be sent straight to them. 

So there's no need for you to hold stock or do anything with payments and delivery at all. How fantastic is that?

Thanks to all those readers who made the arduous journey to the end of Part II of 36 Hour Slingback - which may have been a bit on the long side. The upside is that at least there isn't a Part III.

As you may have guessed from the headline, I'm going to have something published. The something being my first novel, The End: The Beginning, in ebook format. This will be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble by the end of this week. The link here will take you to chapter one.

I've very happy with this development, even more so as it came out of the blue

One of the problems writers have is getting our work seen by anyone. Visual artists at any level can have an exhibition, but we can't. When our work is finished, it is sent of to publishers and literary agents where it languishes in slush piles, dusty and almost forgotten. And when it is read, then it's only read by one pair of eyes. You can send it to more people, but even then it's not being seen by more than a handful of people.

So we work on our own and then when we finish, most of our work is buried before it is born. If there's one thing you can say about us writers, it is that we must be fantastically optimistic and strong willed to keep going. Who else spends so much time working on something they know may never see the light of day, and then repeats and repeats until they succeed, or die?

Liberated by the Libboo Project
The fact that my story is now going to be blinking shyly in the spotlight is due to it being part of a experiment being run by those fine people at Libboo.com, people who just cannot stop themselves from wanting to do things differently. These are the same lovely people who brought you the first ever crowd-sourced novel, PARADOX, which was based on a first chapter written by the bestselling author Richard Wiseman. I somehow managed to be part of the team that wrote this book, though my input was minimal. A large part of the work was done by Maureen Hovermale - who is an excellent friend, writer, editor and motivator.

Libboo are now running a wholly different experiment where an author groups around themself a team of people who work together to publish and promote the author's book. I now have such a team, and it is they who are responsible for recreating my work in ebook format and for getting it onto Amazon and Barnes and Noble. 

Now all we have to do is promote the hell out of it - hence this story and the whirlwind of activity on Twitter and Facebook.

But wait, you too can also play a part in my slow but certain rise to fame and fortune (and you do want me to be famed and fortuned don't you?). 

All you have to do is contact as many people as you can and tell them about my book, what a brilliant read it is and that at only $1.99 it's so cheap they'd be rather silly to pass it up. If you're unsure about how to do this, start by telling all your Facebook friends, then ramp it up to coffee mornings and garage sales, then spin it out to your local television station and newspaper. Simple and almost effortless.

Remember, what we're trying to create here is a ground level buzz that will swell to a crescendo of jingling tills and the sound of my wallet stretching itself around my unfeasibly large fortune.

Thanks awfully...