[Douglas Burcham continues his series of articles on writing and reading for pleasure starting with a fantasy short story about yet another life of Henry Cross the main character in his fiction writing.]
Henry watched the red sun slip down below the calm sea horizon from the balcony of his home on his island estate in the Caribbean. Here all much warmer than outside in the gardens of his expensive homes in London, Paris and New York.
He could also see his red helicopter and fifty metre luxury yacht nearby, reasonable rewards for his hard work. After his cheese and biscuits Henry sipped another glass of rare vintage French red wine, a far cry from corner shop plonk of his teens. With a warm feeling of a job well done he started to read the last chapter of his fiftieth book, Caught, likely to be a guaranteed best seller with the coming twist in the tail to his writing career.
After he had sent his talkative fifth wife away two weeks earlier with five million and a threat to keep her mouth shut, a feeling of loneliness had started to grow despite the luxury of silence. He would not be alone or in silence for much longer. His visitors arrived and introductions were made.
“Mr Cross, Mr Henry Ernest Cross, Ex Mayor of Newton ChurchillGarden City, Oxfordshire, England?”
“I am arresting you for the ….”
As Henry sat on the aircraft flying back to the UKhe reflected. Being a best selling author could not really explain how he supported such an extravagant lifestyle beyond the wildest expectations of any writer. His fraudulent acts of thirty years ago had been uncovered by an investigative journalist. He should have taken out a contract on Anna Kyte Chatawaye, but then she proved to be a good lover and excellent company and there would almost certainly follow others less agreeable. He wondered whether, like Jeffrey Archer, he would be allowed to write more books in prison and chuckled, he may even get a ‘no touching’ visit from Anna.
One can only dream but surely this is the whole point of being a writer and the answer for me to my first question “Who for” … why of course a triad of me, myself and I.
In the previous post in this series I urged anyone thinking about being a writer – to make a start – find out for yourself what you want to write by action – set yourself a realistic aim between writing for pleasure or going the whole way to being a bestselling author – write what you enjoy writing and what you enjoy reading if you are able to do so … and because one cannot do everything oneself get some good help especially for things you do not like doing.
This contribution to TIPM is in a different format to the previous posts in asking of myself and other self-published writers I know three questions on their writing.
• Who for?
• Where? – including an element of how and support received
2.0 Writers’ Answers
2.1 — Douglas Burcham who writes as the Allrighters
I write unusual fiction under the umbrella of the Allrighters, with my fantasy twin brother Alexander and the main characters of my fiction books Henry Cross, his cousin Henrietta Jones and his aunt Florence. After starting to write in June 2010 it has taken me over four years to come to the selfish conclusion I write for my own satisfaction and pleasure. This gets over two big problems – firstly of finding someone to write for who may read what I write and secondly the worry of what other people think of my writing because generally most people do not like what I write or if they do most appear too shy to say so!
To me there are two main elements to the writing process. Firstly, thinking and plotting. Secondly, commitment to storage – whether writing on paper, to computer memory by keyboard or voice recording. In whatever form hard copy or several electronic back ups are essential as one cannot sell or enjoy what one has lost.
My first pages of writing came to me in a dream early in the morning of 1 June 2010 in France. Since then much of my writing, including the short story start to this post, has come to me in bed when dreaming or shortly after I wake in the morning or sometimes after an afternoon nap. Getting the skeleton of dreams down on paper before they dissolve is a major problem. While out walking is another good time. My rambling friends know now why I am either well in front or well behind the main group. “Douglas is plotting!” Thoughts come to me while dog walking as well.
I scribble down notes and recall of dream situations for my books in my awful handwriting only to realise later I have not elaborated enough or written clearly enough to work out what the gem or great earth shattering thought was … oh dear!
Generic IBM Personal Computers and Microsoft word processing have made both my working and writing lives tolerable. I have found both in writing work reports and in writing the beginnings and endings of my books and stories easy, it is the gap in between – the middle – which is hard to fill. I have tried voice recognition software but prefer the writing I manufacture with two and three fingers.
I am most productive in sitting or walking in quiet and beautiful surroundings. I am blessed in having friends who allow my wife and I to stay in wonderful places in Tenby and in France as shown in the headers to two of the Allrighters’ web information sites:-
I also have a quiet wife and well travelled daughter who keep me well fed and tease me about my passion for writing.
I am most productive in writing and thinking before 11 am and after 11 pm with no distractions – except red wine, dark chocolate and JAZZ apples.
2.2 — Calvin Hedley
I’ve been a creative writer for some years. I find working with imagery especially of use, as, having been partially sighted since birth, and left with no useful vision since 1997, thinking carefully about the interplay of light and shade, colour and texture, helps keep the ‘visual’ part of my brain healthy and active. I’ve had some small publishing and competition successes as a writer, and have recently released my first novel, Turning-Point, on Kindle and CreateSpace. Turning-Point is a split-time mystery thriller and is available at these addresses:
I don’t have a straightforward answer to this. I write at least as much for myself as for others, but at the same time, I’m deeply suspicious of ‘therapeutic’ writing. I enjoy the creation process and the escapism, which is fettered only by imagination, and, if others gain pleasure from my work, that is a definite bonus. Those who dislike my efforts are out of luck, however, as I’m likely to carry on regardless. (Douglas– me too! … although much advice does stick because I do listen and consider everything others say to help … I owe them that at least.)
Due to my sight loss, my writing is entirely desk-bound and generated via a word processor. I rarely use a Dictaphone-type recorder, and when I do, it’s merely to ‘jot down’ brief notes as an aide-mémoire. I use specialised screen-reader software that ‘reads’ screen activity. This audible feedback allows me to navigate the Windows environment, manage files, carry out Internet research, and so forth. The most famous user of this type of audible feedback is probably Professor Stephen Hawking, but he might be just a little bit cleverer than I am.
I am fortunate to have a small office box bedroom with a nice, big computer desk, and I tend to work here from around 8.30 AM to around 1.30 PM on weekdays. Occasionally, I manage to get some writing done at weekends too, and on nice days, I venture out to the garden and laptop it by way of a change.
(Thanks Calvin. I visited Calvin at home last month and saw him at work. I can only compare his audio recognition speed as like high speed morse code which proved hard for me to comprehend and keep up.)
2.3 — Brenda Littlewood who writes as JJ Franklin
For as long as I can remember, I have amused myself by making up stories, giving all my toys, and later my friends, parts to play. Hampered by dyslexia, not recognised in those far off days, I found it difficult to express myself creatively in written work. Venturing into script writing, I had a minor triumph when my script was broadcast on the BBC Doctors programme. Unfortunately, with no experience, I couldn’t write fast enough for their needs – first to final draft in three weeks – and they told me to go away and get more experience. As there was no where to go, I decided to write a novel instead and Urge to Kill, featuring DI Turrell of the Warwickshire Police, was born. Most of the reviews for the book have been good and now I feel I am writing for all the people who are waiting for the second book, Echoes of Justice.
Also in Waterstones, Stratford upon Avonand the local library.
I write directly onto my computer as I can touch type and this helps me keep up with the thoughts in my head. Without the advent of computers, I don’t think I would have become a writer. Computers took away my fear of the blank page and had a marvellous tool called spell check. To me, this was a dyslexic’s dream, until I realised it didn’t correct the silly mistakes I made, like putting prawn instead of pawn. Somehow, being a prawn in his hands doesn’t quite have a ring to it.
Mornings are my best time, especially on days when I don’t have to go out. I try to write most days as this keeps the plot in my head so that when I’m doing other things, I can think about it.
(Douglas – I have read Urge to Kill which is an unusual ‘who done it’ novel in showing the killer on page one. JJ Franklin lives in the town frequented by the Ghost of William Shakespeare.)
2.4 — Tony Riches
I am a full time author based in Wales UK. My blog The Writing Desk is at and I have a WordPress site for my published work. You can also find me on Twitter @tonyriches and on Facebook.
I write the books I would like to read, that no one has ever written before. It started with non-fiction but now I specialise in historical fiction, choosing people from the fifteenth century who have never had a novel written about them. I like to think I am writing for anyone who appreciates some well-researched help with ‘filling in the gaps’, rather than pedantic ‘historians’ who won’t even consider something unless it can be proven.
When we moved back to West Wales I converted a spare room into a study, fitting bookshelves floor to ceiling. I bought a wonderful old writing desk which has an opening table with green leather edged with gold – and imagined myself spending hours of creative writing there, listening to the birds singing. The reality is of course quite different. Instead my laptop sits down the side of the sofa in our living room, ready to be grabbed whenever the urge to write takes me.
Some of my best ideas come on holiday. Last year I write several chapters of my novel Warwickwhile on holiday in Mazzaron, one of the last unspoilt areas of southern Spain.
It felt good to be using a pen and an A4 spiral bound pad and reminded me of my student days. Recently we had a little sixteenth century cottage in the Lake District near Windermere and I wrote more in a week than I had all month – despite distractions!
I wake early with my head full of ideas, so it’s quite common to write at least five hundred words before I even get out of bed. I am most productive in the mornings and rarely write late at night, when I prefer instead to catch up on my research.
(Douglas – Since writing I am amazed at how many people around the world I have met on the web and not face to face. After finding Tony via contact on M K Tod’s A Writer of Historyweb site I have enjoyed the excellent help on his Writers Desk web site and exchanged comments with him on writing. I also beta read his book Warwick and made an introduction to Calvin Hedley. Last week Tony and I met up with our wives in Tenby. Perhaps writing is not such a lonely activity after all.)
2.5 —M K Tod
Many thanks to Douglas for asking me to talk about my writing. I usually avoid this topic with friends and family for I’ve seen the way their eyes glaze over as I chatter on and experienced the gradual transition from conversation to occasional murmurs to vague nodding that takes place.
Who is M.K. Tod? For the record, writing is my second career; my first involved information technology and business consulting – two industries that kept me thoroughly engaged for thirty years. But then an unexpected opportunity to live in Hong Kong while my husband was on a three-year assignment turned my life upside down and writing became my sanity lifeline.
On A Writer of History I blog about all aspects of reading and writing historical fiction. There you will also find posts about the reader surveys I’ve conducted. In whatever spare time I can cobble together, I review books for the Historical Novel Society.
Who am I writing for?
A great question. ‘Ordinary people in extraordinary times’ is a phrase I use to describe my novels. In my case, those extraordinary times involve World War One and I write with the thought of offering just enough about what happened and why to bring that war to life. I hope that my novels will help readers appreciate the times their grandparents and great-grandparents lived through.
Where and how do I write?
I used to have my desk in the spare bedroom, which I grandly called my ‘home office’, but now I write in a corner of the master bedroom, two tall book shelves close at hand. Usually I am surrounded by piles of paper—ideas for blog posts, recent research, never-ending to do lists, a gigantic thesaurus and other items I’ve deemed critical for the objective at hand. My Mac and I are constant companions. Microsoft Word is always open, as are Facebook, Twitter, A Writer of History and my Internet browser.
When do I write best?
An ideal pattern for me is two retreat to my desk right after breakfast, coffee cup in hand with the day spreading out like a calm sea of possibilities. Immersing myself in the creative spirit demands the promise of uninterrupted time. If my day is choppy, I concentrate on blog posts, marketing and bits of research. Although it’s become a passion — you might even call it an obsession — I like to think of writing as a job with a daily commitment of eight or more hours. And I love every minute of it.
I love to hear from readers and writers. You can reach me on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or at mktod [at] bell [dot] net.
(Douglas – When making financial presentations years ago while working the eyes of my audience also used to glaze over unless I requested them to stand up to illustrate some aspect of the matter or in other talks I have asked the audience to stand and sing a hymn or well known song. Good for keeping people awake a little longer. I now keep quiet about my writing unless asked and then whoever asks soon gets bored.)
My thanks to my writing friends for their contributions above.
I hope you found the above interesting and I would welcome others to comment on the same three questions about your own writing.
• Who for?
While in Tenby I could not resist buying far too many books … over twenty … which made me think again about the whole issue of pricing, choices in obtaining books to read and the changes in the book trade since my childhood. This is likely to be the next post in the series in November with emphasis on reading for pleasure under the heading “Welsh Holiday – Book Shopping Spree.” I should also have read many of the books by then or discarded them as boring or unloved. By then with darker nights any sunny warm holidays in the northern hemisphere summer will be distant memories.
Douglas Burcham started writing on 1st June 2010 and has not stopped since. He was saved from the clutches of vanity publishing by Mick Rooney in TIPM in July 2010. In May 2013 his characters took all his fiction writing and set themselves up as the Allrighterswith other writing friends. They self-published a book of short stories “Ywnwab!”in September 2013. In their latest Plan, by working in 18,000 novella word bites, Douglas, along with the Allrighters, are now trying to convert a million words of draft writing into several books totalling 900,000 words of unusual fiction and 100,000 words of non-fiction. The latter being about writing and memories of buildings, trains, boats and planes.
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