The Morning Will Allow

Cristina is asleep on the wrong side of the bed. The rain falls like lights or echoes. In the morning she will wonder if she dreamt at all, will make breakfast for Richard then wait for him to come home again at lunchtime. She was surprised at how eager and conciliatory the school had seemed, happy to accept him back, almost apologetic for his leaving. “Schooh,” he says, and “Itahien.” She will wait at home for him. Evian is too busy, too filled with potential. The tourists are returning, with strange, tourist voices.

She is on top of the covers in her bathrobe. The sheets have lost the smell of her husband. Two towels are making the carpet damp. Bulbs are still on in the bathroom and on the landing, shining a slither into Richard’s quiet room. A lamp on her bedside table illuminates the fragments of water still in her hair. On her left ankle there is a small strand of dried blood and the skin on her thighs is waiting for moisturiser. Somewhere in her sleep is the memory of tears.


Of Sermons and Silence

I shouldn’t be surprised when I notice the persistence of the written word, and of language itself. It’s something we all use all the time, naturally, and it’s the medium in which I’ve chosen to try to express myself more than any other. Even these words, sent off to into the great wild to make their way on their own, will carry a force and a diligence greater than that which I gave them, or intended them to have.

They’ll live on, it seems: recently I’ve had some interesting comments and messages, both here and on Facebook, about words that I wrote a long time ago. And then, so unexpectedly that it made me squeak out loud, I was told that my novel had been referred to in a sermon about the power of silence. Those ancient words of mine, printed in black and white, then given colour in a sermon.

There have been some more reviews, some appreciative and complimentary, some less so, and so far the book’s sold more than I thought it would. But now it’s been used in a sermon…how do I know this? Simple – the vicar in question blogged his sermon, as he always does. A piece of oratory, crafted with rhetorical skill to be heard and received directly, is then sent off to its own wider world, and that world interacts with mine. Needless to say I’m now reading these sermons regularly, and you can too, at

So our words outlive us – or outlive the directions we gave them, for sure. I shouldn’t be surprised, yet when you think how many words are sent off on missions every second, it’s still enjoyable to see and hear them coming back to say hello once in a while. I recommend you tell yours to stay in touch next time they leave home: you’ll be glad to bump into them again someday, if only to remind yourself why you sent them out in the first place. And if you’re worried that you won’t like what you once said then listen to the persistence of the sermon, and only use words when absolutely necessary.

Of Interviews and Responses

Those lovely folk at Ink Pantry Publishing recently asked me for an interview, and it’s now online should you feel the need to read my chatterings about the novel – here:

It’s an odd thing being interviewed – and Kevin asked me some difficult questions on my writing process which made me think more precisely about what it is that I do. Or perhaps what it is that I’d like to do, in that wonderful ideal world of being able to write where and when you want.

I’m not one of those people who can write anywhere, or anywhen, unfortunately. But I’m equally not restricted to having to sit at my desk from nine till eleven to get anything done. Writing happens where it does – surely we all need to concentrate on just getting it done, however that may be for us? It doesn’t get written on its own.

I digress, perhaps. Read the interview and let me know what you think – how would you answer the same questions? Does it help to be obliged to consider what you do, and why? Are you worried about breaking the ‘secret code’, or should we talk about this more openly, even if only to ourselves?

How’s it going, then?

Well, thanks for asking.

UOB Lit 2 (45 of 64)

With the rather wonderful Helen Mort…

The three ‘big’ readings/launches are all now done, and the book’s off in the world. There are plenty of reviews coming, and I’ll post comments here when I get them (positive and negative!) So far the writing in the book’s been compared to Jonathan Franzen and Kazuo Ishiguro, and, frankly, I’ll take that and run off into the hills…

Who knows how much importance we should place on reviews? If you’ve read the book and have something to say, I’d love to hear it, as much for my own benefit as a writer as anything else – we crave feedback, to know that someone’s out there, somewhere…and surely criticism is better than silence?

…reading at Bolton Library

Or, to put it another way, if someone really hated your work, would you want to know?

You can find me on Facebook too, at Feel free to stop by and say hello.

And…Relax. For a Minute.

Many thanks to the lovely people at The Ucheldre Centre for Sunday’s launch event!


It was, I think, something of a success. We got to say thank you in person to David Crystal for the lovely things he’s said about the book – and then he said some more! And above all it was a pleasure to meet a man with such passion for language and its usage, and who just wants to share that passion. A true, true honour.

There were many other ‘special’ guests in attendance, some who had driven for over three hours to be there, some who had walked around the corner. So many people who influenced the work, who continue to inspire more creativity and writing, so many with tales of their own to tell that need telling.


Obligatory arty black-and-white shot


To all of you, thank you for coming, for listening.

Most of all, thanks for writing.




Of Physical Objects and Digital Worlds…

101_4606So, it lives. The Words We Use are Black and White is released today, and is now available in all good book shops around the world etc. etc. Oh, and on Amazon, here. I’ve got a pile of ‘author copies’ on my desk, waiting to be sent on to various family members and reviewers. And yes, that is a photo of Jacques Brel in the background.

How does it look, then, this physical beast? Not quite Frankenstein’s monster, but still something that has existed only in other forms before. It was in my head, in various shapes. It then was written out, longhand, then typed, then printed out and scribbled on with red pen (more than once), then printed out again in a more formal way…

Time passes. The novel waits for its turn, then is reformed as various pdfs to be emailed back and forth. Typefaces, fonts, spacing, layout decisions. A cover appears, with the image and colours I’d always had in mind (more than a grateful nod to my publishers here, but more of them later!) Slowly the words appear, in black and white.

Then a digital version, then another. All formats covered, all eReaders catered for. To me, the book looks odd in digital form – it’s as if the plan had gone awry somewhere along the line, and the delicately-laid language has become corrupted. But that’s fine too – what’s the point of words if they can’t be re-imagined, relaid, reformed? They’re the same words, and in the same order…and if you want to read the book on a Kindle then the option’s there, and I’ll be delighted to hear your thoughts on it.

The paperback, however: okay, I’m biased, but it’s gorgeous. The colours on the cover are darker than I thought they’d be, and it’s better for it. The font is not one I know, but I think it suits the content. The book’s too thin for my liking; these days margins have to be smaller and smaller in order to keep costs down and allow publishers to make a profit, even though the words inside are the same.

It’s always an odd feeling, seeing your work in print, whether digitally or in physical form. And when that work is a novel, or something of a similar size and emotional involvement, it feels like something is over. It’s not, of course – it begins in other ways, yet the notion of grief when you finish writing a novel is well-known. You have to say goodbye to people you have lived with for years.

And yet here those people are, in digital files, and in a paperback pile on my desk, waiting to talk to someone else. Odd.

The Days Count Down

Nine days until the novel is released, and seventeen until the official launch. It’s been a long journey to get here, one which has at times been fraught. Nothing special there, you might think, and you’d be right. Every published author has their troubles along the way.

This might sound resentful or bitter, but it’s not meant to: I’ll be glad when the book’s been out for a couple of months, and life can calm down a little. All the publicity, promotion, marketing etc. has taken me too far away from those precious and vital acts of writing, those moments which form the start of it all. I’m not complaining, of course: the work that comes with publishing a novel is part of the deal, and I’m happy to do it. It’s a cracking read, this book, and I’m very happy indeed with the way it’s turned out. The readings too will be fun, as I’ll get to say thank you in person to some of those who have helped me (and there are many).

Yet…yet…is this really who I am now?

There’s another deadline looming ahead. Three weeks to get that done. Not a big job, and it involves writing creatively.

What a novelty.