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Sunday, 18 January 2015

It's all in a name.

When I was a kid I never liked my name.

It's not that Anthony or Tony are bad names, I've kind of grown into them if I'm honest. There is also the fact that I've been lucky enough to have two names to choose from, which can be handy, depending on my mood, or where I am at the time of asking.

I shouldn't complain really but... I just never really liked either of them when I was a kid.

My parents are no longer around to ask why I ended up with Anthony/Tony. I never thought to ask when they were here, and now it's too late. I’ve hunted around for clues, I’ve looked at family trees but try as I might, there are no Tony's to be found.

It appears I'm a one off.

My Mum and Dad had form for original names though, my brother was nearly burdened with Perry, until my Dad realised the lifespan of a Perry in working class Liverpool was likely to be limited.
So Philip, Philly, or Phil he became, and still is.

He suits Phil, he was always a "Phil". Phil's are cool, Phil's can fight, Phil's get the girls.

Anthony's have bad hair and untied shoelaces.

Or maybe that was just me?

I was lucky with my first book, the lead character name was there before I even had the story.

I saw it one day on a street sign, cast iron, tough, and weathered.


Which grew into John Henry Rossett.

A name you can trust, a name that will get you were you want to be and god help anyone who tries to stop him.

Derek Smith just wouldn't have cut it I'm afraid.

Jack Reacher, Nick Stone, James Bond, and Harry Bosch, tough guys with tough names. These guys would never have sold perfume on a cruise ship like I used to do. Those guys would have been driving the ship, or doing something in the engine room with big wrenches and sweat covered brows.
They’ve got names that fit, no nonsense, stare you in the eye names, take you outside and rough you up names.

Names you remember, and look out for again.

Now I’ve just started my third book, it’s a week old, taking shape, and taking time but finally underway.

The problem is, I’m only a few thousand words in, and the lead character has had four names already. I keep changing them like hats in a mirror, I put a new one on, frown, adjust, shift my position, think, decide, make certain.

Then change it again.

And every time it changes, so does the story.

I don’t know why, it seems such a little thing, but as soon as the name changes, so does the atmosphere, the location, the year, the whole book.

Who’d have thought?

It’s all in a name.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

It's a Long Road.

It’s a long road.

I’m not sure where it started.

Maybe it was my mother reading me a story?

Maybe it was playing with toys on the floor?

Maybe it was teacher, a visit to the library, kicking a can down the street?

Maybe it was all of those things?

All I know for certain?

It’s a long road.

There were trips and stumbles aplenty; there aren’t many roads that are straight.

I know mine wasn’t.

It took a turn at school, when my dreams crashed around me, ripped apart as I ripped open the envelope with my exam results.

I wasn’t going to be a writer.

So I took another turn and became a roofer, then a jeweler, then a thousand dead-end jobs on a thousand dead-end days.

Moving down the road.

Another turn.

I became a cop.

I got married.

I got a house.

I got unmarried.

I got un-homed.

I got un-copped.

I slept in a car with nothing but a dog who would die for me, by a river that called my name on inky black nights that almost pushed me in.

I stayed in the car; I stayed with the dog, and he stayed with me.

Winter went and I got back on the road.

I drove a taxi.

I picked up a pen for what felt like the first time it had been so long.

I started to write.

It was a long road.

The dog didn’t make it.

A little part of me died with him.

But I stayed on the road.

I carried on writing.

I got better.

I got rejected.

I got better.

I got rejected.

I got better.

I got accepted.

I sat with my book, the ink nearly dry as my cheeks were wet.

It’s been a long road, but I’m nearly there.

Come with me.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Book Trailer?

     The guys at Harper Collins asked me to make a book trailer to promote my book.

     I'll be honest, I'm not sure how this is going to help.

     The Darkest Hour on Amazon.

     "A memorable novel...." The Wall Street Journal.

     "An exhilarating roller-coaster ride..." The Star Telegram.

Friday, 2 January 2015


     Being a writer automatically makes me selfish.

     There, I said it, I’m selfish.

     I’m so selfish I’ve even had to apologize publicly, don’t believe me? Have a look at the acknowledgements at the back of my book The Darkest Hour. I used to feel bad about it, I used to stress and tell people on first dates “I have to tell you, I’m incredibly selfish…” and they would stare into my eyes across the table, and see future arm wrestles over the TV remote, or us rolling around on the floor fighting over the last slice of cake on the sweet trolley.

     No wonder I don’t get many seconds dates (don’t… don’t say it).

     We’re told; from the minute we can understand the language of our parents, that we shouldn’t be selfish, that we should always think of others and share.

     Well I’m not so sure our parents were right.

     I was on a train the other day and at one of the tables sat a family, two kids, two adults, on their way home from a long days shopping. A toddler was sitting by the window, hands and nose on the glass, watching the world whistle by.

     As his mother unwrapped a small chocolate bar the view outside the window lost all meaning, and the little boy clapped his hands and broke into a beautiful smile.

     “This is for being a good boy today,” the toddler took a bite, then settled down to smear the rest of it around his face when his dad interjected.

     “Don’t be selfish, Sophie has been a good girl as well.”

     The father then took the chocolate bar and passed it to the toddler’s older sister.

     Sophie got to enjoy what was left, and the rest of the train carriage got to enjoy listening to a screaming toddler for the next fifteen minutes.

     And here is the rub, I felt sorry for the toddler.

     He’d kept up his end of the bargain; he did the deal and expected his reward. He had every right to be upset that when it came down to it… he didn’t get the whole chocolate bar to himself.

     Without access to reasonably priced legal assistance he took the only option available.

     He screamed.

     Now, I’m not advocating we all start screaming (although it is good for the soul sometimes, but that is another article for another day). I’m not even advocating a reasonably priced legal system (although that also would be nice). What I am saying is, and this goes against every bone in my Liverpool/Irish (previously) Roman Catholic blood…is that it is good to be selfish.

     Not with chocolate (although there is a degree of flexibility in that statement) but with time.


     I live in suburbia, beautiful boring suburbia.

     As I write this piece I can hear the distant hum of a late summer lawnmower, stretching its legs around the garden one last time before it shuffles into the cobwebs in the corner of the garage for winter. My neighbors, Ken and Mary, are retired, it’s their lawnmower I can hear. Soon enough, as is always the way, I’ll hear their edge trimmer, and then the clicking of their pruning shears as the sun drifts across the sky to late afternoon.

     When they’ve finished, in maybe two hours time I’ll hear the slamming of their car doors, and then half an hour later I’ll hear the chatter of their grand children.

     When they aren’t gardening they are shopping, when they aren’t shopping they are going out for lunch, when they aren’t going out for lunch they are… well, the list is endless.

     Thing is, Mary and Ken are supposed to be retired; they have put in their shift and clocked off.
They should have their feet up, and instead they are up to their knees in work.

     Mary said to me last week: “There isn’t enough time in the day.”


     That thing again, sweet precious time.

     Now I know there a ten million singles in London, New York, and other cool and trendy city centers who go home of a night to sit and stare at the wall, wondering whether to reactivate their online dating profiles and get themselves another half.

     I’m not saying that is a bad thing at all (unless the other half is selfish old me).

     All I would ask them is this: Before you do, before you take that selfie (head back, looking up, hides the double chin and don’t do duck lips, whatever you think, they look daft) I ask one thing of you.

     Think for a minute… are you making the most of your time?

     Archimedes would never have shouted “Eureka!” if he’d been stuck down the tap-end of the bath with his girlfriend worrying if she was burning her hair on the candles up the other end.

     Isaac Newton wouldn’t have noticed the apple falling if he was discussing whether or not a passing cloud looked like dancing dog.

     This would be written in Spanish if Elizabeth the First had been listening to the plot from the latest Iron Man film from her overexcited boyfriend.

     And I wouldn’t have written The Darkest Hour (my new book) if I’d… yeah well, okay, I’ll stop there.

     What I am trying to say is, it is okay to be selfish, it is okay to say: “not tonight dear, I’m not busy… I just want to be alone…”

     You never know what you might accomplish, if you’re selfish, and take your time, your own sweet time.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Selling sand...

It's tough plugging books, seriously, I think it's harder plugging them than it is writing them. There's twitter, there's blogger, there's Goodreads and there's even new platforms like Medium (plus a load I've probably not even heard of yet.)

It's a constant battle of keeping the pot boiling, asking for retweets, shares, google+ (yes I've even tried Google+, and yes there is an echo in there when you cough.)

If I'm in a room full of readers I can sell books, I'm lucky in that years before I wrote stuff, I sold stuff. If you chuck in the stand-up comedy years I can pretty much get by with an audience of 100 or 1 (thank you Madeline in Brooklyn).

Stick me online though, and it is another matter.

I hate being the guy who tweets endlessly about his book.

I hate being the guy who clogs your timeline so much you reach for the mute button.

I hate being the blogger who blogs about nothing but stuff like this.

I'm sorry, forgive me, I want to say sorry.


My dreams have come true, Harper Collins believed in me, I published a book and I've watched it fly.

I just need to sell it so the dream can go on, so thank you for understanding.


The Darkest Hour on Amazon

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Darkest Hour.

I know this isn't really a blog post, but I am rather proud of these quotes, so I just thought I would share it with you!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

I love you...

When I was a kid, like so many other kids, my Dad taught me how to ride a bike in the garden. I remember it was warm, spring time warm, but not so warm he was able to take off his cardigan.
Then again, he never took off his cardigan.
He was laughing, I remember that.
I can feel his hand on my back right now, all these years later, sitting in my office with the rain tap tapping on the window, and my keyboard and coffee pooled in the light from my lamp.
I can remember he was laughing, but I can’t remember what it sounded like.
I’ve forgotten the sound of my father’s laughter.
In my memory, I turn around, I see him, laughing like he’s in a silent movie running behind me, his hand on my back.
I can feel his hand.
But I can’t hear him.
I’ve forgotten the sound of my father’s laughter.
He died twenty five years ago.
I can’t remember the sound of his laughter, but I do remember the sound he made when his battered and tattered heart gave out that night all those years later. He cried out, eyes closed, head tilted forward, chin in his chest, fists balled, at the edge of the end and not wanting to go.
I remember that.
I miss him.
I’ve an old car, a desperate for attention busted up old thing, that needs more jobs than Detroit.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been under that car and wished my Dad was there to pass me a wrench and give me some advice. Although deep down I know he’d give me a nudge, and tell me to get out of the way while he did whatever it was needed doing.
I’m not very good with cars.
My Dad was.
Like a shadow creeping across the grass on a bright summer’s day. memories fade and move away. As time passes, in the setting sun of a late afternoon, memories become difficult to focus on, their edges soften, they bleed into the darkness of the gathering night.
And then they are gone, forgotten, or at best hazy dreams you have to squint at.
Hazy memories of hazy memories.
My Dad didn’t like having his picture taken. He’d frown and quietly shuffle out of shot, and nobody would notice he wasn’t there until it was too late.
Now it is too late.
I’ve inherited that frown and shuffle, but I don’t have kids to look for me in old pictures so I guess it doesn’t matter all that much.
They’ll be nobody to look at pictures I’m not in.
My Mother once told me she could feel the weight of my Dad lying in bed next to her years after he had gone. She said every night his side of the bed was empty, she could feel his weight, the tilt, take comfort from it, every night he was there, even though he wasn’t.
He wasn’t there, even though the weight of him was.
I feel that weight, heavier than his hand.
A weight of expectation, the weight of his hopes, the dreams he never got the chance to have.
They are heavier than his hand.
I want to make a ghost proud, I want to show it what I’ve done, what I can do, and ask for help when I can’t.
But it is too late.
He’s gone.
Take a look around the room you are in right now.
Go on, I’ll wait.
Was there someone you love? Was there a phone, a pc, a tablet or even a pen and paper?
Was there a chance to reach out?
To tell someone you love them?
I’d give me life for that chance.
You shouldn’t waste it, shuffle into their photo, shuffle into their hearts, shuffle into their memories, let them hear you laugh, and make sure you listen to theirs.
Remember their laugh.
Tell them you love them.
Say that you’re proud.
Say that you’re happy.
Say it again.
Say I love you.
Before it is too late.