Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Guest: Claire Smith

My Guest this week tackles an interesting, and very personal subject; one from which many newer writers may draw solace and guidance. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Claire Smith

Fiction – The Secret is in the Name

When starting out as a writer, or ‘aspiring writer’ as some people insist we are called until we crack the bestseller lists, we are bombarded by advice from all quarters. Most, no doubt, given with the best of intentions but much of it is also useless and in some cases off-putting. As intelligent as we may be it is sometimes hard to sieve out the good guidance from the downright impractical.

Anybody who has ever mentioned a desire to write has no doubt heard the widely distributed instruction of “Write about what you know”. But in all honesty how helpful, or indeed accurate, is this directive?

Amazon Link
Surely this would severely limit our creativity? Does our imagination and ingenuity not have a role to play? If we can only write, and hope to be considered worthy, about things we have actually experienced then, even those with the most interesting of lives will only have enough potential material for perhaps one or two novels. Those with mundane and ordinary lives cannot even hope to be fiction writers if this adage is to be considered even vaguely true and should, therefore, hang up their dreams of becoming a published author.

The fantasy and Sci-Fi writers among us would be in dire straits and restricted merely to those who can claim to have been abducted by aliens. That’s not to mention historical fiction for which we would need a time machine and paranormal fiction for which who knows what we would need. The list of problems this ‘good advice’ creates is endless.

All in all this advice cannot seriously be considered advice at all, merely a phrase trotted out by people who actually have not given the problem any thought at all and simply, in my opinion, serves to put would be writers off before they even start. I sincerely hope there are many more people like me out there who looked at this particular piece of helpfulness and viewed it with the contempt and mistrust it deserves.

Amazon Link
For me surely the advice should be “Use what you know to its best advantage and then research the rest with fervent dedication to detail.”

That’s the way I saw it when I wrote my first novel ‘NO MORE BUTTERFLIES’. Some of the more harrowing parts and the darkest of the emotions were certainly drawn from my own experience as a child and teenager but even they were embellished to fit the plot I had created. Having been in some of the situations I was writing about certainly helped me with communicating the emotion these scenes generate, and, writing these scenes definitely helped me to understand my own reactions to events much better, an advantage I had not really considered when I started adding my own traumas to the plotline. That said, anyone with access to the internet and a basic understanding of human psychology could find more than sufficient information to create these scenes without having been there. 

When it came to my second novel, ‘A STORM RISING’, again, I used the lasting effects traumas have had on my psychological health as a basis for my heroine’s character, and some of the bullying, both domestic and professional, was from experience. But these only form part of the equation, for the rest I trawled the internet researching every last detail.

Amazon Link
My third novel, second in the Storm series, ‘CROSSED STEELE’, uses even less personal experience as I've pretty much used them up in the first two. Does this make it a lesser creation, I don’t think so. Although my next novel, as yet unfinished, will contain certain aspects of the after effects of PTSD and how my heroine learns to live with such problems, which I can glean from my own life, the rest of the novel will be entirely from research, and so the series will hopefully go on. I would hate to think I could not write any more either in this series or stand-alone novels because I have run out of horrible experiences to write about.

At the end of the day we are fiction writers – the secret is in the name. We make stuff up. That’s the whole point and to make it plausible it does not have to have happened to the author, but it has to have been thoroughly researched by said author. Anyone writing without doing their research is as obvious as the sun in the sky and will, without exception, create a novel which is difficult to read and even harder to love.

Plausibility should be the buzz word we all strive to achieve, not honesty, not ‘based on a true story’ fiction, less real life and more true to life is, and should always be, our aim.

So my advice, for what it’s worth, to all writers or anyone considering becoming a writer is simply this - Write about anything which interests you enough to put pen to paper and research anything and everything you don’t already know.

A great novel comes from hard work, dedication and an ability to string a sentence or two together correctly, not from the depth of a person’s lifetime experience.

Never confuse the two.


Claire Smith lives in Sale, South Manchester, England with a husband, two teenaged boys and a year old springer spaniel/border collie cross called Mac.

Since childhood she loved to read and soon graduated from ‘The Famous Five’, through ‘Swallows and Amazons’ to Jacqueline Suzanne and Jackie Collins in her teens.  In her twenties she discovered such writers as Tom Clancy, Frederick Forsyth, Clive Cussler, Wilbur Smith and Robert Ludlum to name but a few.  However, it was not one of these greats who inspired Claire to write.  It was a series of dreadful books by several someones she can't remember which prompted her to make real the notion "I could do better than this..."

So 'NO MORE BUTTERFLIES' began.  It took several years to write, with children, home life, husband and job all getting in the way at some point or other but eventually it was finished.

Published for the first time on Kindle in May 2013 the reviews so far have been very encouraging.  So much so in fact that Claire has written her second and third books.  'A STORM RISING', the first in the Abigail Storm Series, and 'CROSSED STEELE', the second in the same series, are also available on Kindle and paperback.  The next in this series is currently WIP.

When Claire isn't pounding on the keyboard, producing heart-thumping thrillers, she can be found here:

Thank you, Claire, for your magnificent insights and helpful advice from which many writers, both new and old, will benefit. Looking forward to your next book.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My Guest: Seumas Gallacher

This week I'm very please to have a return Guest on the blog; the inimitable Scots Scribe hisself. He's joined the ranks of those of us who have written... Ay, but I'll have the man tell you about it hisself. Lasses and Laddies...

Seumas Gallacher

…writing a series is a serious business…

…one of the many things I’ve been learning over the last several years of immersion in this writing gig is that constant surprises are the order of 
Amazon Link

the day…I finished scribbling the first Jack Calder crime thriller, THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY in mid-2008 and thought I was done… the reality took a while to sink in… I was only just beginning… the simplicity of continuing with the same generic crime/action theme flowed into VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK… plot lines screamed at me daily… the characters had plenty of things left they wanted to get up to… hence the third offering, SAVAGE PAYBACK , and lately, the fourth, KILLER CITY, tumbled from the laptop… the fifth novel, currently Work-In-Progress, DEADLY IMPASSE, is bubbling away nicely… it had never occurred to me at the beginning that a series would evolve, but when the third book was done, it was an unavoidable truth… Jack Calder and the rest of the players had dug in their collective heels… they were here to stay… the take-up from my readership has been enormously gratifying, but I’ve discovered also, that I 
Amazon Link
feel it comes with certain obligations… Lawd knows, I LUV the stories myself, else I wouldn’t be doing them, but I dread falling into the trap of ‘formula’ manuscripts and try to guard against it… the disease that all too often afflicts novelists I have read in the past… far be it from me to throw literary stones at some of the major recognised names in the industry, but there are far too many occasions when it’s apparent a successful author has simply produced ‘more of the same’ after a while… the ‘zip’ goes out of the story-telling… the freshness disappears… so, how to guard against the ‘repetition-depletion syndrome’?... here’s a few ideas from this ol’ Jurassic…

…understand the difference between a ‘serial’ and a ‘series’…

Amazon Link
…a ‘serial’ is the same story with continuing chapters or sequences or books, and difficult to hold readers’ attention over a lengthy period… fresh nuances and new plot flows for the same story are limited… sustaining these becomes less and less feasible…

…a ‘series’ is a group or collection of independent stories, with something in common… a much easier quill-scraping road to take…

…therein lies the key to it all for me… and why superb Authors like Ian Rankin can produce such attention-holding books ad inforeverum… each book starts over… new twists… unique facets for the players to deal with… but, and the great ‘but’, is this… readers come to know, to recognise, and to like the qualities of the main characters who continue to populate the series… the learning curve for them has already been established… I try to ensure that my books tell a new reader enough about the main people, without flogging the detail to death… that way the new reader is enlightened, but regular followers of the series are not bored reading it again… tell it a slightly different way… allusion sometimes is more effective than labouring the fine points… most readers like to visualise things for themselves about yer characters…

Amazon Link
character development continuity is important for loyal readers, and that need not conflict with bringing new readers into the game… in fact, if the on-going development of the characters is done well, the ‘newbies’ may go looking for the writer’s ‘back list’… crime fiction with danger and raw action should reflect real life to a degree… it becomes less and less credible if the characters constantly encounter life-threatening or injury-threatening situations without some casualties or even fatalities taking place… I’m not advocating the Game of Thrones approach where every player is at short odds of surviving to the next episode, but life is not always fair… sometimes as an Author you have to bite the bullet and let one or two of yer wee lovelies meet their Maker…

overall continuity through the series for this writer lies in keeping true to the basic tenets that drove the very first book… the concept being that ultimately the good guys win over the bad guys… I make it clear as early as possible in each novel who are the true ‘nasties’ and why it’s a good idea to pursue the hell out of them… that will not change… developing sane reasons for my ‘people’ to be involved is important… I want the reader to join with me in discovering how the team gets there in the end… and it’s not always a ‘slam-dunk’… therefore, I’m obliged to keep my own writing wits about me in unravelling the narrative… and often surprise even myself in the denouements…

…and lastly, but by no means least… I have to enjoy re-reading the stuff I write… that way I attempt to keep true to my mantra… ‘I write for me… the kind of books that I would choose to read’… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!...


SEUMAS GALLACHER escaped from the world of finance seven years ago, after a career spanning three continents and five decades.

As the self-professed 'oldest computer Jurassic on the planet’, his headlong immersion into the dizzy world of eBook publishing opened his eyes, mind, and pleasure to the joys of self-publishing. As a former businessman, he rapidly understood the concept of a writer's need to 'build the platform', and from a standing start began to develop a social networking outreach, which now tops 22,500 direct contacts.

His 'Jack Calder' crime thriller series, THE VIOLIN MAN'S LEGACY, VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK and SAVAGE PAYBACK have blown his mind with more than 80,000 e-link downloads to date. His fourth, KILLER CITY was launched in August 2015.

He started a humorous, informative, self-publishers blog three years ago, never having heard of a 'blog' prior to that, was voted 'Blogger of the Year 2013' and now has a loyal blog following on his networks. He says the novels contain his 'Author's Voice', while the blog carries his 'Author's Brand'. And he's LUVVIN IT!

When he's not scribbling away in his cramped garret...

Seumas can be found here:


Once again I stand elightened by the man in a skirt, er, kilt. May your sporran live long and your haggis be fruitful. Thank you, That Man, for a superb article and wishing you all the success in the world (Scotland) for your new thriller (I have already read it and it's his best yet, so don't miss out, folks).