Or, the confessions of an obsessed writer

Back in the late nineties I was happy, and I thought secure. I had begun dabbling with writing in nineteen-ninety five. I worked in the same job at the University of Waikato in the city of Hamilton in New Zealand’s North Island for almost a quarter of a century, naively believing I had a job for life. And then things started to go wrong. All these years later I realize now that events in my life were conspiring against me, and that I was heading for some kind of breakdown.

First of all, my old departmental boss bowed out and a much younger academic was placed in charge. The more I had to do with him, the less I liked him. It got to the point where in late nineteen ninety-nine, in a fit of pique I finally handed in my notice, not knowing or caring what I would do for a job. I just had to get out of there before I either said or did something I might have regretted. Madness in the form of pent up frustration and anger had crept into my existence. Anyone who really knows me will tell you that what I did was completely out of character.

I didn’t just quit my job, I also quit the country I love the most. I had no close family anymore. Both my parents were dead. I had no siblings. I was single. And so in 2000 at the age of fifty-two I left New Zealand for good, heading back here to the land of my birth – England. For two years the only work I could get was as a labourer on a building site; a tough existence when you consider I had been in a sedentary job for twenty-one days shy of a quarter of a century. In 2002 I took a much needed break and spent a glorious month in magical Malta. But like all good things the holiday soon ended and I returned to the building sites. I continued to put up with not knowing where I was going to be sent each week until the following year. By now I had become totally obsessed with writing. To my way of thinking, working for a living simply got in the way.

I had a storyline totally occupying my mind. I could think of nothing else. So having renewed my passport and my New Zealand resident’s permit, I headed back there. I’m ashamed to say I foisted myself on my good friend and his wife for far longer than I should have. But that damned story now ruled my every waking moment. Over the several months I stayed with them my first published science fiction novel Onet’s Tale slowly took shape. It would not be published until 2010.

Saying goodbye to my friends and New Zealand once more, I flew back here. Now things really hit an all-time low. With no job and no income my prospects were dire to say the least. For a while I was truly homeless, sleeping rough. I was directed to a hostel where at least I had a roof over my head. I stayed there for two years until I was finally re-housed. In the meantime I was diagnosed as having suffered a total mental breakdown. Combine that with my age and I was officially unemployable.

The route I had taken was hardly a desirable one and definitely not to be recommended, but at long last I could concentrate all of my time on writing. Since parting with the small press who took me on to self-publish, I now enjoy a modicum of success. So far I have one best seller and three others which sell steadily. One of those three Turning Point was the precursor to Onet’s Tale. Sadly the latter is no longer available even though it can still be seen in the list of books written by me on Amazon. Since retiring all that angst and misery has finally left me. I’m currently working on my latest novel. Its slowly but surely coming together.

Having a complete mental breakdown is not a prerequisite to become a fulltime writer. But in my case it certainly helped…

Literary numbskulls and their hobbyhorses


Continuing on from my post published on the eighteenth of the month “How much advice is too much,” I now move on to another group of bitter individuals.


With the introduction of social media sites like Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter, plus the blogosphere, at one time or another we have all read vitriolic diatribes by people with a particular axe to grind regarding publishers.

The authors of these endless rants have created their very own hobbyhorse, which they seem unable, or indeed unwilling to dismount. Reading something from them once or twice may be interesting, even thought provoking. But when they endlessly bleat on ad infinitum using the same tired arguments simply because of their particular hatred towards a specific publishing institution or someone’s particular point of view, it becomes tiresome in the extreme.

One person of my acquaintance who constantly attacks a specific book publisher (mine as it happens), simply because they hate the way the said publisher has now become dominant in the marketplace by allowing self-published writers like myself to offer our work to the reading world at large, really needs to step back from the brink for the moment and take a long hard look at what it is they are saying. More specifically, they need to look at their own contributions and ask themselves this one simple question – why aren’t my books selling in the multiples of thousands like his?

There is another person of German extraction I’m acquainted with who uses their blog to constantly attack everyone who dares to write in the English language. In that particular individual’s case, they have a totally illogical view about the use of the language and especially the use of its punctuation. Given that English is not the particular blogger’s first language, their views are to say the least comical. The fact that the person advertises themselves as an editor simply boggles the mind.

Then there are the people who think that they are being deliberately targeted by a specific publisher for some totally illogical reason. The fault isn’t usually on the part of the publisher. They merely offer you a platform for distribution. The fault sits squarely in your own lap.

True, there are some who will hold you back for reasons of their own, usually annual publishing targets, or because they are operating on a shoestring budget. But all you have to do is simply part company with them, and consciously enter the world of self-publishing as I did. I was extremely grateful at the time when a small press publisher took me on, but inevitably the time came when it was essential for us to go our separate ways if I was to progress.

Instead of constantly attacking a particular publisher, perhaps you should be asking yourself why it is that your work is not doing so well. For instance, is your publisher pricing your book too high, given that you are an unknown, merely hoping to recoup their printing and distribution costs? If that is the case, you know what to do – leave. Above all, get over yourselves! Stop constantly whining and complaining. Writing is one of the toughest learned skills there is.

Don’t necessarily compose what you think the marketplace wants, or enter a particular genre because it is currently popular. Instead take a calculated risk. Try to write something that will grip your potential reading public’s imagination. I’ve been constantly writing since 1995. My favourite genre is science fiction, but currently it is unfashionable and at a low ebb. And so I’ve taken to experimenting with fantasy and adventure with mixed results. With each new piece of work I learn a valuable lesson.

Among my writers friends we all tend to bellyache about different things. But the one thing I refrain from doing is to publically say anything derogatory about those who are publishing my words. I leave any form of mindless attack in that department to the numbskulls of this world.