Saturday, 27 December 2014

Marc Portman's coming back...!

I know this is early, but it's great news I want to share.

I got a lovely Christmas present by way of a BIG thumbs up from Severn House for 'CLOSE QUARTERS', the follow-up to 'The Watchman', which introduced protection specialist Marc Portman:

He's a professional shadow. A watcher who provides protection in potentially hostile situations. He works in the background, stays off the record. Often the people he's guarding have no idea he's there. Some people know him only as Portman.


First seen working under deep cover in Somalia ('The Watchman'), to safeguard two MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service) officers lured into a deadly trap set by terrorists, Portman's new mission is just as lethal. He's hired by the CIA to venture into Ukraine's troubled and war-torn country to bring out US State Department official Edwin Travis, taken hostage by pro-Russian separatists while on a fact-finding mission.

But this isn’t Portman’s usual kind of job, watching from afar; this is a rescue mission. And as he quickly discovers, in order to help Travis, he’s going to have to get a whole lot closer to his subject. In doing so, he'll find himself up against local gangsters, Ukrainian Special Forces, professional snipers and pro-Russian separatists.

What he cannot know, however, is that his most dangerous enemy comes from his own side …

'CLOSE QUARTERS' - the second Marc Portman thriller - out in hardback - April 2015

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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Latest 'Beginners' article in Writing Magazine

I guess if there's a time of the year to capitalise on some of those creative ideas that have been sparking away in your brain over these many months, the Christmas break is one of them. That's if you can get away from the festivities, fun and frolics for a few minutes and think about what to do in the year ahead.

As I suggest in January's 'Beginners' page in Writing Magazine - out now in paper and digital formats - it's best not to over-think the various plots and thoughts pelting around in the grey matter.

(I'm assuming that you, like most writers, will have more than one going on at any one time, each vying for attention).

Instead, allow your inner selector to go to work. Because of all those plots and ideas, there's sure to be one that keeps popping up more than the others, like an itch demanding to be scratched.

This is your built-in creative process at work, so don't ignore it; it can save you hours and days of frustration and indecision. Eventually, you'll know you have to look at it seriously and do something about it, simply because it won't go away.

So, as my last writing suggestion for 2014, let the ideas mill about by all means. But don't over-think any one of them. I'm sure that THE ONE - the fragment of an idea that's probably been gestating quietly in one of the darker recesses of your mind - will emerge and kick the others into touch.

In the meantime, I wish everyone a very happy and peaceful festive break and the beginnings of a great writing year in 2015.

(It is, after all, a good numeric: 2+1+5 = 8)

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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

You can lead a boy to a book...

As usual at this time of year, the subject of reading and books-as-gifts pops up, along with comments about the reading habits (or lack thereof) of boys versus girls.

A report from the National Literacy Trust (commented on here by the Telegraph's Graeme Paton) seems to suggest that you have to use technology to get children - especially boys - to read, while a slightly biased sounding counter-comment 'You can bury your nose in a book but not an iPad' by Channel 4 broadcaster and mother of two girls Cathy Newman in the same paper here suggests that girls read paper books while - if you can get them to do so at all - boys will veer towards technology.

I don't know what the precise truth is, but it seems to me that the important point is that it really shouldn't matter what the delivery platform is as long as children are encouraged to enjoy reading... and at their own pace. As I know from my own childhood experience (way back when paper was the only medium), you can lead a boy to a book (me, reading adult thrillers from the age of 8), but you can't make him read (my brother, less than 12 months but light years away from reading anything at all).

A puzzling comment by Ms Newman was about the likelihood of her daughters becoming 'analogue refugees in a digital world... while boys... are getting jobs in IT or making a mint in whatever new technology is just round the corner'. I'm sure she didn't mean to sound bitter, but that's how it came across, which was a pity. After all, not every techie-leaning boy will get a well-paid IT job, nor every paper book-reading girl settle for something less - and why should they? As for suggesting that even boys - the monsters - can be captivated by seeing real paper books, as in 'even the most stubborn boy finds it difficult to resist the lure of reading when faced with all those exquisite new editions now adorning the shelves', that's surely lurching a little too far into feminism, isn't it?

I'm sure my parents worried about my predilection for comics (which was pretty intense, I admit). But wisely they saw it as a way of me using my imagination rather than going out and getting into trouble, and left books lying around until I started dipping into them. Once caught, and in my own sweet time (or so I probably thought), I was hooked for life.

Instead of constantly telling the world (children included) that boys read less than girls, and in what formats, we should be encouraging them all (gently) to read more, and in whatever way they can. In the process, trying to make ereaders a dirty word is not the best way to do that, in my view.

And if they don't want to read? Well, horses and water. My brother turned out fine, as it happens.

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