In My Wildest Dreams: Adventures in Children's Fiction






Reading between the lines.

Having finished revising The Tall Story of Tobias Small at the end of MarchI find myself in the in between times:

Small things - waiting for the new iMac to arrive in June (my mid-2007 example has slowed to a recalcitrant stumble. Daily, I tug it by its lead.) I am waiting for the wind to turn around from the North - it is holding up bird migration, though a Swift has just been reported over Bristol. It is time to get over my irritation at agents who after five months have still not replied. I shall not chase them. I have a publisher looking at a manuscript. I remain patient. The outcome is uncertain,

Big things - waiting for my father's funeral. He was 90, a D-Day naval veteran at 20. I am an orphan at 62. That's a lucky life.

Small things: I have plenty of inspiration - I know what I have to do. For the time being, I am enjoying the warm April sunshine.
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Lucky 13: Premises that underpin my writing.


  1. It is not a competition. The only person who can defeat you is yourself.
  2. Success is not measured in money; or by being traditionally published.
  3. Don’t expect to make a living out of it; the world doesn't owe you one.
  4. Have a story to tell.
  5. You don’t have to enjoy writing, but it helps if the balance is at least 60/40 in favour of happiness.
  6. Social media is not writing; turn it off when you are working.
  7. Every blank page has a story to tell. Write and it will speak to you.
  8. Read widely and often.
  9. What you have written is your legacy.
  10. A writer who doesn’t write is lazy.
  11. Keep a notebook; you can work on more than one project at a time.
  12. Like food & exercise, little and often is best.
  13. REMEMBER: Everything you write will burn up one day in one sun or another.

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You can't gift an ebook!

I have made up my mind. I prefer to read books.

ebooks are a convenience like supermarkets. Books are a delicatessen. I was on my way to this conclusion when I started thinking about reading Sarah Dunant's Blood & Beauty, her novel about the Borgias and Renaissance Italy. I couldn't talk myself into downloading it, even though it was cheaper than the hardback. The subject matter didn't seem to sit well with the e-format.

ebook and Renaissance art? ebook and rich colour and period detail? Even though I am a technophile I couldn't imagine an electronic alliance between the Kindle and the Borgias that would work, at least not for very long. The book then is the book of choice. I was tempted to say format, but the term doesn't really describe the nature of a book.

Then comes the gift, through the post from my niece in Edinburgh, quite unexpectedly - Blood & Beauty, signed by Sarah Dunant. A complete and giddying surprise. The book is sumptuous, 526 pages of rich detail. The cover has a velvet feel. It sits well in the hand, weighty but not too heavy.

I have been a long time admirer of Sarah Dunant. Twenty or so years ago, I spent a weekend with my friend Rob attending a writing workshop in Stroud library with Sarah Dunant and her friend Gillian Slovo. That moment in time still resonates, not just because I was slightly star struck, but because our tutors turned out not to be the media types from the television that we might have imagined, but good, honest, down to earth people willing to give their time and experience for very little financial reward. They were kind and thoughtful - very much like my niece, who took the trouble to queue for the book without being prompted and post it to me the following day.

The book is not the gift, so much as the thought and effort that went into making it. You just can give someone a Kindle as a present, but you can never give someone an ebook. It just won't work. It has no resonance.

I am not against ebooks; I love them - the convenience, the fact that out of print books can be easily revived, that self-publication (though not self-publicity) is easy. I love ebooks, but not all the time. I still stick with my view that for a small additional cost all books should be available with an ebook download code.

For now at least, the gift of writing is best presented between cardboard covers.


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10 fantasies for Independent Booksellers Week


Wouldn’t it be nice if…


  • The EU adopted a Common Bookshop Policy & paid subsidies to independent bookshops, funded by corporation taxes collected from online booksellers.
  • Independent bookshops were eligible for lottery funding to create reading corners & put on events for children.
  • Book tokens were prescribed by the NHS to counter the over prescription of anti-biotics & tranqulisers.
  • Every secondary school adopted a bookshop.
  • There was an “e free Friday” campaign & no one bought books online the day before the weekend.
  • Supermarkets could only sell books between 12.00 & 1.00 a.m. on Tuesdays.
  • Authors who had ever sold a million copies refused to sell their books through online retailers & supermarkets.
  • There was a five year moratorium on business rates for independent bookshops,
  • Every paper book sold came with a code for the ebook download for an additional £0.99.
  • The Net Book Agreement was reinstated.
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