Category: Writing Stuff


Being a writer has its drawbacks, and one of these are the questions which come from non-writers. Made in innocence, but annoying all the same in a way only writers will understand. Therefore, I shall explain a few so you’ll know in future why my face is turning purple.

1. Never under any circumstance try to tell a writer what would be a good idea for a plot.

I have this great idea for a story. I think you should write it.’

No, if it’s that good, maybe you should write it. After all, it’s your idea and who better to see it to fulfillment. That’s the polite way of replying. The other is to scream through clenched teeth that of course I’ll write your story, because after years of doing it well, I have no more bloody ideas of my own.

2. ‘Don’t despair, JK Rowling had numerous rejections before she was published.’

Fuck off! Never use the JK word. We all know how many rejections she had, so don’t mention it. There are writers with far more skill than the wizard’s creator but much about being successful is due to luck. Unless you’re a celebrity who can write a novel in wax crayon on the back of a napkin and still get it published, I’m afraid you’re in the slush pile, ever hoping an agent will allocate thirty seconds to read the first page of your book.

3. In response to telling somebody you’ve had a story published.

That’s good. Did you get paid?’

Okay, this is a common one. I’m always being asked it. As if making money from my writing makes it more valid. But really …. do I go around asking people what they earn for a living? No. Whatever you make from producing porn is your business. Hey, it’s a free country.

However, I will clear this up and the answer is, yes. Sometimes. Often it’s zero, but I have earned anything from £1.68 total royalties for a failed anthology to £250 with a short story. It depends who you are submitting to.

4. And another one I hate …

It’s said, everybody has a novel in them.’

No they bloody well don’t, otherwise everybody would write a novel. It’s probably the case that we all have an idea, but only when you’ve a final draft of 75,000 plus words, do you have that novel. Grrrrr.

5. The final main one is often directly after somebody you know has read your work for the first time. Now I like to receive praise, but not accompanied by a look of astonishment.

Hey, this is actually really good.’

Jesus, don’t sound so surprised. I’ve been doing this years and actually – yes, I am bloody good at it.

Those are the main ones, but of course there are others.

Q – Why don’t you write something more cheerful?

A – I mostly write dark fiction and had this comment on my novel. Hell, yes! Let’s make bullying, sexual assault, decapitation and psychotic episodes into a comedy.

Q – ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

A – Erm … my mind.

Q – ‘Have you had anything published?’

A – Because apparently, you’re not a proper writer until this has happened. Yes, I have, about thirty short stories and poems, plus numerous articles. But even if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t mean I’m not a writer.

Q – ‘Are your characters based on real people?’

A – Of course, because I have no imagination of my own. Okay … cue the arrival of the sarcasm police. NO! Theyre all my ideas. It’s what I do.

Comment – ‘I thought about writing a novel once.’

My reply – ‘Really, so did I.’

Comment – ‘To be honest, I don’t read.’

My reply – ‘You do know you can get lessons for that.’

And finally, the classic …

Comment – ‘I wish I had the time to write stories.’

My reply – … Well, there isn’t one. I’ve normally walked off by now, returning to my tedious day of doing nothing as I have all the time in the world to do it.

Okay, so I jest a little, but do think before you release these utterances. Writing is bloody hard, and to be good at it takes years. Unless, of course, you are Katie Price or some other Z-List celebrity, then you can simply pay some poor unheard of writer to do it for you.

April 15 - Writer



A question I’m often asked about writing is how do I come up with my ideas?

May 20 Question

Now I don’t want to appear arrogant, but that’s never been a problem. You see, there’s a trick, and it’s one I’ll share.

The ideas and inspiration are everywhere you look, and that’s what you have to do – look. And listen.

The most insignificant observation could be the spark which ignites the idea which will evolve into a poem, short story, or even a novel.

Consider the first short story I had published. Second Best featured brothers of European nobility in Ivan and Emil. Taking part in a writing group, I was confronted by several objects and challenged to create a story from them. Now one item was a cloth jester toy. Now already known for writing the macabre online, I was drawn to this fellow but while some might concoct tales of cheer concerning a toy, my first thought was that this thing could choke a person if swallowed. And that’s exactly what I did in my story. After a short lifetime of bullying at the hands of older brother, Ivan, little Emil could take no more and Ivan had his comeuppance as the jester toy was rammed down his throat, thus choking him to death. Okay, there was more to the story than just that, but I often get the ending first and simply have to write the story to reach the conclusion.

Subsequently, I’m always on the lookout for ideas and find them when I least expect.

An encounter in a bookshop, a memorial bench, characters in my street (sorry neighbours), a ghost hunt. All have been the inspiration which led to short stories I’ve had published since. Some of them major competition winners.

The reality is, anything you see or hear could be turned into a story. As I look in my notebook, I see a recent entry written while watching, The Antiques Roadshow. It was a few weeks ago when one of the experts tried to value a piece of wood with Indian carvings. It was part of a much larger piece but the mystery was in the fact it had been found buried in a back garden.

Wow! It opened all sorts of questions. What was it, why was it buried in the back garden, and how long had it been there? They didn’t know the answer on the show and neither do I at the moment, but I will one day. At least in a story.

Other jottings include:

The stumbling drunk more concerned with getting to Yates’ bar than stopping to wait for his friends.

The second step from the bottom of the theatre auditorium which makes a noise when you tread on it.

The fresh iron burn on my new carpet being in exactly the same place as one made by the previous occupants on the old carpet.

The overheard comment. “It’s amazing the noises you hear within the silence.”

The sepia photograph of Victorian children. All smiling, bar one. Why?

And only today as I drove past a cemetery. In the middle of the road, rolling down the hill was a blue ball and not a soul in sight.

All of the above will at some point be used, I just have to come up with the scenario to do so. However, having had the ideas, you have to make sure you don’t forget them. Therefore, always carry something to note down what you see.



As some will know, before, I was a prolific user of Myspace. Now when I say Myspace, I don’t mean the second-rate music streaming service they have now. I’m referring to the days when Myspace gave you what was equal to a ready made website. Here, you could customise it to your desires, fill it with photographs and most important … post blogs.

myspace logo

I was a regular user from 2006 to 2010, a time when I posted over 400 blogs, gaining 100,000 page views and thousands of comments. I regularly topped the Myspace blog charts for the UK but Myspace was more than a blogging platform to me, it was a community.

You had groups, a network of friends, all which formed an integral part of the online family.

Unfortunately, these are now gone.

What happened was the incompetent mismanagement at the hands of the owners – Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. People left in millions, departing to the more friendly Facebook as Myspace committed suicide. Groups were shut down, users had their profiles forcibly changed and the entire site became a pain to use. My once, pastel blue customised blog was now a generic white with no scope for formatting, the same as everybody else. Not that it mattered. Nobody was still around to read it, anyway.

June 10 Myspace

I continued blogging on Myspace until September 2011. By then, the company was in the hands of pop star Justin Timberlake, a man intent on inflicting masses of streamed music of the banal kind he produces. He was not interested in blogs, nor cared that millions worldwide once lived within the Myspace community.

Users were unimportant … so he killed them.

After setting up this site, I still stepped back for a visit at least once a week, but it was hard seeing the neglect. Pages taking an age to navigate, and much content lost. You could tell the owners didn’t give a damn.

First to go were many of the photos on my blogs, thus rendering the text useless when referring to the pics. At some point last year, all the lovely comments I had received over the years, vanished. Then, in June 2013, Timberlake and co desecrated the grave.

A new Myspace had been launched, but most of the old users still wanted the classic Myspace. They were not interested in the music streaming site Timberlake was forcing on them. If they had wanted it, they would have gone to a half decent one. Still, on June 13, it was reported the entire classic Myspace had gone. Millions of blogs and photos – lost. Also, emails and comments, many of whom were from people now dead, were wiped.

Do they still exist? It was reported that new Myspace were asking users to vote if they wanted them back. How condescending. Complaints flooded in their thousands but the more vociferous ones resulted in simply having their new profiles removed.

What is sad is that I met so many good friends on there. Some have found me, but many will be gone forever. I can think of a number of lovely people from Myspace who have since died. While their blogs were still visible, my friends were so alive. Now, Myspace has trod on and killed them all over again.

Thank you, Timberlake and Myspace. You have pissed on the graves of millions.

Shame on you.

August 4 Timberlake


Interview with … er, Me.

I have been interviewed by writer, Rebeccah Giltrow, the result of which can be found on her excellent site. So, if you want to hear what I have to say about my works and writing, in general – read on here.

Link to ‘Rebeccah Writes,’ and my interview.



I must have a liking for all night events on a weekend. A fortnight ago, I was ghost hunting at Woodchester Manor. Last Saturday, it was writing while deprived of sleep inside a historical building while taking part in an event laid on by the excellent Birmingham Book Festival. Unlike two weeks ago, I wasn’t actively seeking ghosts but still found many as there were plenty to experience with all the exhibits on view. And that’s what a ghost is, an image or echo of the past.

The Locksmith’s House – Willenhall, is a museum dedicated to the town’s once thriving lock-making industry. A working forge, period décor and furniture; who could not be inspired by such surroundings?

The Locksmith’s House – Willenhall. As seen during the day.

Many writers find they work well during the early hours. Let’s face it, this is a time when the kids, allegedly, are in bed and lucid thoughts can hopefully prevail over the weapons of mass distraction during a typical multi-tasked day. In fact, as a writer of so much dark fiction, it’s only once the house goes quiet that I can finally rest at ease – before the screaming begins on my laptop. Therefore, what better than a few hours after midnight in surroundings a little different to that which you are used to.

On Saturday, the setting was excellent and the group of writers assembled, were the nicest bunch I’ve ever done a workshop with. We were well-led on this night-time literary feast by Anna Lawrence-Pietroni, author of the novel, Ruby’s Spoon. Good, useful exercises, all managing to stimulate the mind and inspire creativity. As well as writing, the evening included a demonstration in the art of making a sliding bolt and other items at the forge. There was also a tour of the house plus toasting bread in front of an open fire at nearly four in the morning.

Middle of the night feast. Toast made the traditional way.

Being a writer whose tales often include a higher than average body count, I was delighted by the array of ready-made murder weapons at my disposal, should I choose to write historical fiction. The bolt from the forge, any number of tools and even the toasting fork would prove painful, positioned in the right place. There was also the gas lighting. Surely some devilment could transpire from a little tampering with a valve or two?

Those gas lights were a high point for me. They were something I’d never seen before. Holding a taper (burned too near the end for my liking) then hearing the pop as the ball ignites was an experience surely destined for a place in a short story, somewhere in the near future.

As for the writing? I have to admit, I found it hard going that night, which is unusual for me. I’d been struggling with a bad cold and nearly thought of crying off but am glad I didn’t. Besides, I’d already paid and I’m mean when it comes to cash.

I noted down many ideas for stories during the night but did flag as the hours grew long and dawn approached. This wasn’t through tiredness. My cold had, unfortunately, decided it was time to raise the temperature a bit and by the last exercise, my head was spinning and not with multiple plot lines, either.

There was a bed in the house, but this was for display purpose, only.

This is the second night writing event I have done and it surpassed that of last year. Hopefully, there will be more to come in the future. The Birmingham Book Festival is a fantastic event and one which writers local and beyond ought to have firmly written in their planners. I’d recommend it to all. You may even find a few ghosts of your own.



Walsall Library was the setting for two hours of entertainment last Sunday by top crime writers, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid. Both authors were on hand to give an interesting insight into the world of crime writing, explaining the processes involved and taking on questions from the audience.

Mark Billingham is the author of ten Tom Thorne novels plus one stand-alone with a further – Rush of Blood, due later this year. I have read Mark for a while, ever since a near-miss encounter at Hay-on Wye inspired me to write a short story – Stalking Hugo McIntyre. Hugo is about a fan hunting down his writing hero and was my first real success. Coincidentally, I received news of its publication the day I finally got to meet Mark in person in Birmingham 2010. I am happy to say that the character stalking Hugo, is not based on myself, so Mark is safe – and it wasn’t me mowing his lawn in the middle of the night, either.

Val McDermid is the author of the Lindsay Gordon, Kate Brannigan and Tony Hills series, the latter famously made into TV series, Wire in the Blood. She has also written numerous stand-alone novels and like Mark Billingham, Val’s books sit at the front of the shelf in terms of popularity in the world of crime fiction.

I have to admit to not reading any Val McDermid to date, but it is something I had been long keen to redress, even before this opportunity to see two of the UK’s top crime authors, came about. One signed copy later, I can now experience the world of psychologist, Tony Hills and if Val’s written words are as good as the ones she speaks, I know I will not be disappointed.

Talking to a packed room at Walsall Library, both authors told of the evolution of crime writing; how it has changed from the day of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers who would see a butler’s daughter murdered, then have the same butler serving drinks ten minutes later. It’s all about realism and the reader needs to be able to connect with the characters on the page, even minor ones. Characters evolve too. They change with each new experience and that reflects life. Who among us has the exact same circle of friends, the same routine, even the same jobs we had five years ago?

It was interesting to note I am not alone in the despair at the gulf between the accessible writer and the literary elite. In particular, the snobbery of that elite who appear determined to keep writing a minority as opposed to Billingham and McDermid, both keen to appeal to any reader in the land and beyond. There is an honesty about these two authors which is perhaps why they are so popular, as well as writing damn good fiction, that is.

The event was well organised and relaxed with friendly staff asking if you had enjoyed the experience. I had and there was also plenty of time to get my books signed by both Mark and Val, plus the obligatory photos (I have no shame).

An hour’s talk flew by and Mark and Val had to be cut short to allow questions and signings, otherwise I think we could have gone on all day.

If ever either appear in a town near you, I recommend you check them out. Well worth any time spent.




The Death of Myspace

Antony N Britt (Nick) used to blog on Myspace.

‘What?’ I hear you ask. ‘Myspace allows you to blog?’

Yes, it’s true, though these days you’d be hard-pressed to recognise such an outlet for writers ever existed. If you hook up to the once great social network site now, you’ll see a front page loaded with music, music and … erm, more music. Do not despair though, it’s not all filled with tiny tempered dappy rappers. Somewhere at the bottom of the screen, hidden among the small print and the report abuse control, are functions directing you to celebrities, fashion, games and so on, if you like that sort of thing. What you won’t see these days is any clue that you can actually blog on the site as millions used to do in the Myspace glory days of old. Instead, you are more likely to be encouraged to click the links which will tell you ‘what’s trending,’ instead.

Trending? Give me strength.

Well, I can see from today’s notifications that Taylor Swift, Ghost Rider 2 and Rhianna’s reality TV show are trending, but one thing isn’t at the moment – blogging.

Myspace was once a fantastic, ready-built website for the casual blogger and it certainly served me well with my ‘Empty Souls’ blog. Built up over a number of years, ‘The Sunday Roast’ column regularly topped the popularity charts the day following being posted. I could get anything up to 500 page views and 100 comments and it wasn’t just me either. At its height, half a million blogs went online each day on Myspace. Now, as it stated this morning – 11,952.

The Sunday Roast, along with hundreds of thousands of other blogs vanished as users deserted Myspace on a scale not seen since Gary Glitter sent out annual renewal slips for people to be a member of his fan club. Many Myspace bloggers found new homes in refugee camps such as Friendburst and My Boomer Place. Some, like this writer here, decided to develop their own blogs on Blogger or WordPress where we can now do what the hell we like, which suits me fine as I usually do anyway. You see sites like Myspace might think they know what the user wants. They might also try to disregard our opinions and remove us, but they can’t stop us writing.

I have been quiet for too long. Myspace is dead. This … is MY space

The potential latest Myspace logo


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