Be My Guest!

It’s been a little while since I’ve had any visitors to this blog, so I thought it might be time to extend a general invitation to other writers to share their thoughts with my readers.  I am looking to host up to one author a month – two at a pinch, if there’s a long waiting list.  Posts can be up to 600 words, and could be either:

An interview (with 8-10 questions provided by me) – particularly for authors who haven’t visited this blog before.

If you’ve got a book coming out, a post on what it’s about, and/or a short excerpt.

Or just a piece of writing – flash fiction, a poem, or some thoughts about writing.

I’m open to other possibilities if you have something in mind – just let me know.

Anyway, if you’d like to pay a visit, drop me an e-mail to  I look forward to hearing from you!



picture:  Ardfern 2011

Desert Island Discs

Here’s a bit of fun I wrote at Holmfirth Writers a while back.  What if the President of the United States took time out from a state visit to appear on a certain long-running radio programme.  Any similarity to an actual President is, of course, entirely coincidental ….

Kirsty:   Today we are very privileged to have an important guest for this special shortened episode of Desert Island Discs. [ Turns to her guest ] So, Duncan Belch – property billionaire, TV personality and now the most powerful man in the world, welcome to the programme.

Belch:    Thank you, Kirsty, but I gotta say this don’t look much like a desert island to me. Like, there’s a whole bunch of people around, and I don’t recall seeing any water outside, apart from some puddles. Does it ever stop raining here?

Kirsty:   Well, it’s a hypothetical desert island.

Belch:    A hyper-what?

Kirsty:   It’s not a real desert island, just an imaginary one.

Belch:    So you’ve brought me here under false pretences. Jeez, what a waste of freakin’ time. [ stands up and begins to stomp off ]

Aide:     Er, Mr President, I think what the lady means is that this is really a kind of chat show. You just talk about being on a desert island, is all.

Belch:    Well, if that’s what it is, why didn’t you tell me so in the first place. I already packed eight suitcases. [ sits down again ]

Kirsty:   So, if you’ve decided to stay with us, perhaps you’d like to start talking about the eight pieces of music you’re going to take to the – imaginary – island with you.

Belch:   OK. They’re all on here. [ hands over an iPod ]

Kirsty:   No, no, Mr Belch, you don’t need to actually give them to me. All I need you to do is talk about what they are and why you chose them.

Belch:    Hell, I didn’t choose them! I have people to do that sort of thing. [ Looks at Aide ] What did you put on there, Schwarz?

Aide:     Ahhm, there’s some Metallica, Celine Dion, Liberace, that kind of stuff. And we put Rule Britannia and God Save the Queen on there, ‘cause we thought they would play well over here.

Belch:    Yeah, sounds good to me. [ Turns to Kirsty ] What he said.

Kirsty (exasperated): Well, could you at least talk about one piece of music that means a lot to you personally?

Belch (ponders for a few seconds): I guess it would have to be the theme from the movie The Alamo. Something about those plucky Texans holding off the Mexican hordes with nothing more than guns and a humungous great wall really strikes a chord with me.

Kirsty: Fair enough, Mr Belch. Let’s listen to that now. [ The music plays and Belch gesticulates enthusiastically. As the music fades out, Kirsty’s addresses the listeners ] That was the theme from the film, The Alamo, composed by Dimitri Tiomkin and chosen by my guest, President Duncan Belch, who has taken time out of his busy schedule to be with us today. Mr Belch, you also get to choose a book to take to the island with you.

Belch: I’ll take the Bible, of course.

Kirsty: You get the Bible anyway, Mr Belch.

Belch:    Well, you can never have too much of a good thing. I’ll have another one of those.

Kirsty:   And finally, Mr Belch, would you like to choose a luxury to make your stay on the island more pleasant?

Belch (ponders again): I’d like some artillery, please, for hunting whales and albatrosses. And in case any of them goddam boat people turn up.

Kirsty (relieved it’s over): Whatever. President Duncan Belch, thank you and goodbye.


picture (c) Timo Newton-Syms 2013

Step forward, Felipe

I’m visiting Nancy Jardine’s blog today.  She has a slot which focuses on supporting characters.  A great idea, I think, and a chance for me to feature an important character from Revolution Day who never really gets a fair crack of the whip when I have to describe the novel in just a few words.  Felipe is the private secretary to ageing, irascible dictator Carlos Almanzor.  He is doing his best to drag his boss into the modern world and steer him towards the light.  But how do you influence an old man who is set in his ways and expects unquestioning obedience?  Read the extract on Nancy’s blog (see link below) to find out!

What next? – help me decide!

It’s been quite difficult to get down to any serious writing recently. I’ve had quite a lot of teaching work on (I teach Ethics at Leeds University), and over the past few weeks there’s been a lot to do in connection with the sale of my Mum’s old house in Staffordshire, following her move to a care home here in Meltham last May (see  The next month or so is going to be a dead loss too, as the house needs to be emptied before the new owner moves in.  After that, though, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I should be able to start work on my next fiction project.

As for what that project might be, there are two possibilities:

A:  A much-delayed sequel to my first novel, Zeus of Ithome.  My central character, Diocles, would be participating in the events of the mid-3rd century BCE in and around Greece. In particular, his life would intersect with the careers of two important historical figures – the Theban statesman and general Epaminondas (who has already played a big part in Zeus of Ithome) and the future King Philip II of Macedon, who in later life established hegemony over the Greek world (probably not in this novel, though possibly in the next one after that).  I don’t yet have a story line, but I do have some plot ideas and a possible theme of Greek unification.

The second idea is something completely different!

B:  For a few months now, I have been exploring an idea for a sci-fi novel (or series of novels) about a human colony in a remote star system.  The community is ruled by a caste of priests, and over time has lost access to its history and most of its technology (as a result, the novel would have, at least initially, something of the feel of a fantasy novel, since technology, when encountered, is interpreted as magic or divine intervention).  Again, I don’t yet have a story line, but it is likely to revolve around characters trying to escape the rigid theocratic regime and uncovering bit by bit the true history of their people.

What to do?  My head says A – it would be a continuation of my previous work and hopefully would have a ready-made initial readership in the people who enjoyed Zeus of Ithome.  I do want to write this novel, and I’m sure that I will, sooner or later.  By contrast, B would be something of a leap in the dark.  I’ve not written sci-fi before, except in a few short stories.  I’d be looking for new readers – I don’t know how many of those who read my first two novels would be interested in this kind of thing.

But there’s no getting away from the fact that, as far as my heart is concerned, B has more momentum right now.  I’ve become a bit hooked on fleshing out the world where the story would be set – even to the point of developing a functional language!  I’m not sure how easy I’ll find it to put all that away and knuckle down to write something different.

There is a third possibility, which is to do A, but set aside a bit of time to keep B going as a long-term project which would hopefully come to fruition a year or two down the line, and continue ‘world-building’ in the meantime.  But is that really feasible?

Anyway, I have a month or so to make up my mind.  I would welcome any comments or suggestions as to what I should do – here, or on my Facebook page.


photo:  (c) Филип Романски 2012