Author in Search of Inspiration: Where to Find It and How to Use It

Dressing as a milkmaid and writing with a quill

Tips and tricks for finding inspiration as an author and learn how to use them to fuel your writing.

The thing about being an author is that you never know when inspiration will strike. It can happen at any time, in any place. And so it was with me. As I was sitting at my desk one day, pondering what I would make for lunch when the idea for a novel came to me. As Tommy Cooper would say, just like that. It sometimes happens. We’ve all experienced that tingly moment – or Bam! to the system when you know you just have to get this down.
However, there are times when the muse – if you believe in such a creature, seems to have rolled over, pulled the duvet higher, and continued to slumber. Or has taken herself off to another writer. Tarts, that’s what muses are.
Being a writer can be both incredibly rewarding and frustrating. The opportunity to do what you want for a while. To not feel bored. To have something that you are engaged in outside of the workplace (if, like me, you also hold down a regular job). To contribute to the creativity and culture in the society you live in. To explore the world around you, the people and creatures in it – including yourself. Few people get to experience that outside non-secular institution.
Not everyone has a message to get across, or a passion to ‘spread the word’ via storytelling. Those writers who do will mostly focus their productivity on a theme or similar themes throughout their books. These writers are, in many ways, very lucky. They are starting their craft with a reason to do it. For the rest of us, who want to be creative storytellers without a message, or who want to try our hand at variety, we must put a little more effort in.
I came to writing via the visual arts. I studied Graphic Design before the advent of computers. I specialised in Fine Art, sculpture at university. I taught myself to paint when we lived somewhere small, so sculpting was out of the question. I started writing late in life. I was almost 50 years old when I began. I’ve never been stuck for an idea. Here, I’m going to give you some suggestions, tips etc for finding and using inspiration. With all these ideas, it doesn’t mean that each thing you encounter will immediately set you running for the laptop or book, but they will provide food for thought for future projects.

  1. Always carry a notebook. You’re a passenger on public transport or in a car. Someone is always talking or there is stuff to look at. Learn how to observe. Take notes. Keep them. People having conversations around you. Even one sentence can inspire a tale. When you’re spending the evening with friends, quite often one of them comes up with an anecdote – turn it into something.
  2. Most people today carry a mobile phone. If you do – use that camera! I have files on my Google Drive filled with photographs that the majority of people would think are rubbish. So what? A weed in a paving crack, a tiny attic window, a hollow tree, a flaky front door. They may not start an actual story, they may simply spark a scene or chapter. If you don’t have a mobile phone, make a little sketch in your notebook! Yes, that notebook from tip 1.
  3. Collect images. Collect them from the internet – they’re free. Keep a folder on Google Drive and fill it with stuff that piques your interest. Cut pictures from magazines, newspapers, and journals. Pull bits of old billboard poster off – yes I have done this and used it to inspire description of old layers. Visit charity and junk shops and find old postcards and photographs. Heck – take photographs inside the junk shop – there may be a magic mirror or poison chalice lurking at the back!
  4. Newspaper cuttings. I have a plastic wallet-like folder which contains snippets of headlines, news stories, adverts, and phrases. On a day when you want to try writing a short story, do your own lucky dip. The first one you pull out, that’s what you write about.
  5. Ask a friend. When you want to write a short piece of fiction for the sake of practice, ask a family member or friend to suggest a topic. It’s likely they will come up with something you would never have thought of, and perhaps don’t like the sound of – go with it.
  6. Online prompts. These are my least favourites. To me, they seem somehow contrived. But, if you are a fan of the internet, then grab something from one of the many ideas/prompt generators.
  7. Using pen/pencil and book. Once a week you must pick up the pen and book, and open a fresh page. Set a timer for 3 minutes. Write. The first thing that pops into your head. Whatever it is, run with it. Keep writing until the time is up. It does not matter what you have written, the act of putting pen to paper is far more useful than people give it credit for. A lot of writers say they break into poetry this way – using pen and paper slows you down, and you enjoy the physical process and the pace of development. After a couple of these exercises, increase the time to 5 minutes, then 10. Do this for as long as you feel ‘stuck’.
  8. Competitions. Short story competitions are a great way to encourage one to come up with something and draft, write and edit within a limited timeframe. When you have completed your story, you don’t necessarily have to submit it if you don’t feel confident in the results. But why not give it a try? You never know!
  9. Change your preferred genre. Most authors have a single genre or set of sub-genres that they write in. Getting out of this comfort zone can trigger a different thought process. For instance, if you write fantasy romance; knights and damsels in distress, the schlock horror sub-genre is probably not your cup of tea. However, a little writing exercise in that genre could well trigger something for future use.
  10. Daydreaming. Remember when you got told off at school for staring out the classroom window? What were you looking at? Nothing, in all probability. You were daydreaming. You probably couldn’t recall what you were imagining even an hour after the fact. But as we mature, we’re encouraged to focus, to stop wasting time. How sad that we have no time for letting the imagination ‘wander lonely as a cloud’, to misquote Mr Wordsworth. The human brain needs rest the same way our body does. Let it recoup. When you are not expected anywhere, or at work, or have chores, stop. Just sit down, and look out of the window. Stop thinking. Relax. Feel yourself settle into the furniture. Dare to dream.
  11. Read. Every successful author tells you this. Read. Read books by old authors, new authors, up and coming authors. Books that are not of your writing genre. It doesn’t matter. Your vocabulary won’t expand unless you read. If you have a favourite author, ask yourself why they are. What is it about this book that so appeals to you? What has the author done to engage you? Reading allows you to take in fuel. Like your body won’t work if it’s empty, neither will your imagination – there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
  12. Rewrite exercise. Take a short scene from that favourite book we just mentioned in tip 11. Now turn it on it’s head. Rewrite it so that there is a different outcome. The characters may reverse roles, genders, sex, attire, or function. What you come up with isn’t the point, it’s a way of thinking a little differently than you do usually when you write. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut because we feel like we’re writing the same thing. Zhuzh it up a little.

Creative types are magpies. We pick up a little trinket here, a shiny bauble there. But magpies are always on the lookout. If inspiration does not come easily, you should be too! I hope you have found something of use here.

Everyone knows the Shakespeare quote about achieving greatness, but not many recall the following line, which I will leave as a parting ‘gift’.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.”

Sticks & Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me

Alexander William Kinglake in his Eothen, circa 1830

As an author, one is always being bombarded with ‘How to’ stuff. How to write a short story, how to write flash fiction, how to write a query letter, how to promote your book, how to string a dozen facetious words together and make a million bucks!

Seems to me that the only people making money in the literature industry isn’t the makers, its the people selling stuff TO the makers.

As an indie author – self-published, who doesn’t have spare dosh lying around, not only writes the stuff, but has to edit (before sending to an actual editor), create and make the book cover design, format each book, launch it into the market (like throwing a pea into a field of peas), market myself on social media (very poor at this), and start work on my next book.

Some folk love all that. Some folk relish the edit and the media marketing madness. Not me. I just want to be left alone to write stories and for people to enjoy them.

This has been my attempt to get you to buy my books.

Follow the link below for some loveliness. I thank you.

Get thee along to

All titles available on Amazon.

AP: Was that okay?

EVF: Seemed a bit critical of the publishing industry.

AP: You don’t think it was too needy? Too pleading?

EVF: Were you kneeling when you wrote it?

Vote for Rottnest

First, a belated Happy New Year, to those who follow the Gregorian calendar, (other New Year dates are available). I hope this brief update finds you well, at least health wise if not financially, and that 2023 will be better than the previous three!

So, to the point of this limited post.

Rottnest, by E.V Faulkner, was published by Sticks & Stones in May 2022.

It is featured on and is currently in the Cover of the Month competition. The cover was designed by myself, using Adobe Photoshop and

You can show your love here:

                    <p>They say not to judge a book by its cover but I need you to do just that. If you liked the cover of my book, <strong>ROTTNEST</strong>, please vote for it for the Cover of the Month contest on! </p>
                    <p>I’m getting closer to clinch the "Cover of the Month" contest on AllAuthor! I’d need as much support from you guys. Please take a short moment to vote for my book cover here:
                     <a href='' rel="dofollow"><img src=""> Click to Vote!</a></p>

It’s been described as ‘delightful’, ‘fascinating’, ‘intriguing’ ‘unique’.

You can read a review of Rottnest by the author, Cheryl Burman here: and another by Ajla Medanhodzic here:

You can buy your very own copy here:

If You Want To Make Money – Don’t Be An Author!

Pennywise courtesy of

So you want to write a book?

You want to make money from your fiction writing?

What are the chances you will?

What percentage of authors become successful? I’m going to be mean and throw some stuff at you – in the vain hope you won’t take up the ‘profession’ and leave more readers for me!!!

0025% of authors are successful (sell at least 1000 copies). 21 Apr 2016.’

‘Just over 77% of self-published writers make $1,000 or less a year…’

Unless you are incredibly multi-talented, then you’re going to have to pay for:

  • Editing: £300
  • Proofreading: £500
  • Book cover: £320 (ebook and print)
  • Printing cost (per book): £3.70

‘The total cost to hold your finished book in your hand would be £1123.70’

Let’s imagine you worked 5 days a week, 8 hours a day on your novel, for 12 months. That’s a very generous estimate – as any writer will tell you it can take years for a book to reach fruition. And you worked all the Bank Holidays too, (my word, aren’t you dedicated?!) – There are 52 weeks in a year and 5 working days in each which comes to 260.

260 days x 8 hours = 2,080 hours writing. Assuming the above total cost (it could be higher or lower!), *Cue annoying clown voice* – “Congratulations! You were paid 0.54p per hour!

**Disclaimer: If my maths is incorrect at this point, please don’t bother to correct me. I’m not a mathmetician or statestician, I’m a writer and have no skill with numbers.

Let’s compare that to some ‘regular’ jobs. What do others make per hour, average?

Plumbers – £13.50

Nurses – £18

Teachers – £15.73

Train Drivers – £26.49

Bricklayer – £19

Solicitors – £23.08

Shop Assistant – £9.46

MacDonalds Server – £7.25

So, if you want to make money, go get a job as a train driver!

P.S: You can feel warm and fuzzy if you support my writing at

It’s Reading, Stoopid!

Idiocracy. Big Think.

This morning I was listening to a BBC Radio 4 podcast – Just One Thing with Michael Mosely.  Each week he puts forward a suggestion of one activity that can improve our health and wellbeing.

This week it was about reading. Michael discovers how losing yourself in a novel for a short time each day can boost your brainpower, improve social bonds and, surprisingly, help you live longer.

I’ve been hearing and reading a lot recently about the decline in reading and that humanity has reached its intelligence peak – it’s all downhill from here – apparently. According to some sources.

Is there a decline in reading?

‘only 23% of 0-17s read for pleasure daily or nearly every day, down from 26% in 2019 and 38% in 2012.’

As an author, I find this alarming. If people are reading less, and more writers are publishing books, then surely the pool of potential readers is going to become a muddy battlefield! Like those images of animals drinking from a diminishing watering hole – the giraffes, lions, and wildebeest are the writers, whilst the little puddle denotes the readers – depressing. Every writer for themselves!!

‘According to the National Literacy Trust, a major 16% of adults are considered to be ‘functionally illiterate’ in the United Kingdom. Literacy levels are falling among the younger generations and it is stated that 1 in 5 adults struggle to read and write.’

Is the UK getting dumber?

‘Two in five (43%) Britons say they read for pleasure at least once a week, with a third (35%) doing so multiple times and 19% of UK adults reading every day. Britain’s keenest readers tend to be older, with 34% of Brits over 55 saying they read at least once a day, compared to just 7% of 18 to 24-year-olds.’

‘Readability data suggest that the average reading age of the UK population is 9 years – that is, they have achieved the reading ability normally expected of a 9-year-old. The Guardian has a reading age of 14 and the Sun has a reading age of 8.25’. Given that the average reading age of a GCSE exam paper is 15 years and 7 months, how can we expect young people to pass these exams if they cannot read and understand what’s on the paper in front of them?

Another report by the OECD found that England is the only country in the developed world in which adults aged 55-to-65 perform better in literacy and numeracy than those aged 16-to-24. That is, my age group reads more and has a higher literacy comprehension than my daughter’s age group – one day, the 55-65-year-olds will be dead – this means that in time, the basic skills of the English labour force could fall further behind those of other countries.

Not just the UK.

Total book reading is declining significantly, according to some studies in America. The percentage of the U.S. adult population reading any books has declined by -7 per cent over the past decade. It has dropped dramatically over the past 20 years. Less than half of the adult American population now reads literature.’ I’m simply stunned. From a purely selfish point of view – who will buy my books?!

And it’s not just Western countries. India is seeing a decline in the number of young people reading. ‘”It is not that students are not acquiring knowledge, but they browse the internet instead of reading books,” said Patna University English teacher Shiv Jatan Thakur. Browsing (like wildebeest) seems to be the norm.

We’ve seen diminishing numbers of visitors to libraries. Local libraries, school and college libraries, have become ‘Learning Resource’ centres, where students can go onto a computer to work – the books on the shelves sit sadly, overlooked, unread. Just give me a moment to pull myself together….

Places like the Netherlands and Norway, those countries I would usually have held up as examples of culturally intelligent, are also noticing this decline. What on earth is going on?

IQ = Idiocy Quotient?

Is there a connection between IQ and reading/literacy rates? Is there a connection between declining IQ and reading rates, and TV or similar media consumption?

In Norway, Ole Rogeberg and Bernt Bratsberg, of the Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research in Oslo, analysed the scores from a standardized IQ test of more than 730,000 men who reported [in Norway] for national service between 1970 and 2009. They saw a decline in IQ scores.

The results showed that those born in 1991 scored about five points lower than those born in 1975, and three points lower than those born in 1962. These results, we are informed, are applicable not just in Norway, but also globally. Our IQ levels are falling – and no one knows why!

Are humans getting dumber? Have we reached our homogenised collective intellectual pinnacle as a species? Or can I not see the wood for the trees? Am I being pessimistic? Will a ‘new breed’ arise that will invigorate our collective intelligence (or lack thereof), make reading for pleasure the norm and save the planet? I bloody well hope so, because it’s not looking too great at the moment folks!

Who or What Is to Blame?

It’s easy – and lazy? – to blame the internet/TikTok/Twitter/Facebook et al. Some studies show that reading for pleasure, or leisure reading, has been in decline since the late 80s early 90s…well before the widespread use of electronic hardware. The Netherlands has long blamed television.

One study found people could retain and process data significantly better if their smartphones were in another room. Just turning their phone off, or hiding it in a pocket or bag, didn’t work; phone owners still suffered brain drain when their device was nearby. Let’s pause and absorb this…. okay. So, what they’re saying is, that the proximity of a smartphone hinders one’s ability to think. Hmm, so shouldn’t we be banning them from classrooms? Or am I curtailing people’s freedoms?

Is it genetic? What is the makeup of the study groups? There’s the ‘dumb people have more babies’ hypothesis, but research shows that even within single families IQ has declined. Is it our environment? Is it something ‘in the water’? Have we created a stupid-inducing culture?

In the multitude of studies on declining IQ, they’ve shown the impact of technology obsession, genetics, poor diets, quality of schooling, and, yes, you guessed it folks – decline in reading!


Finland is the world’s most literate nation, according to new research, with the UK coming in 17th, behind countries including the US, Canada and Australia.

Finland has been coming top of the literacy tables for a very long time now. Studies would suggest there is not only something inherent within their culture but whatever goes on in their education system is, quite frankly, brilliant. I’ve read that teaching in Finland is a well-respected profession. The application process is difficult, and teachers are very well paid.

Some 22.2% of adults in Finland aged 16 to 65 attain the two highest levels of proficiency in literacy (Level 4 or 5) compared with the average of 11.8% of adults in all participating countries. What their studies are revealing is, that young Finns are more literate than older Finns. This is a reverse of the UK where the literate are older. Does this mean that Finland is producing the ‘new breed’ that I spoke of earlier? In twenty, thirty, or forty years, will we all be speaking and reading Finnish? Funny how the country that gave birth to the inventors of internet browsers – that thing some of us want to blame for our low literacy rates, is also the most literate!

Read More Books

          So, back to Michael at the BBC. I began by introducing Mr Mosely’s podcast as an attempt to get listeners to try something different to help make their lives better. To increase our well-being, our physical and mental states, and more.

             During the course of the programme, he hopes to “…boost my empathy and my mental health…” through daily reading. A test subject takes on the challenge for a week, and Mosely speaks to some clever chap who conducted studies. We are told that reading can increase brain activity, and productivity and create neural pathways! What’s not to love about that?!

             People complain that they don’t have time to read. Reading novels is something that can be fitted into each day, bedtime might suit best. But a chapter here or there isn’t going to take up much time. Read in the bath. Read during your lunch breaks. Put your feet up after a day in the office, grab a cuppa and a book, escape for a while. Go on, do it! Mr Mosely reveals that reading actually is more beneficial to mental health than a spa day!

Larry David giving himself a talking to. curbyourlarrydavid
Tv tv tv!! That’s all you can do. READ A FUCKING BOOK!

Marketing Makes Me Want to Vomit

Gak! Fr@!g! Sh*g!

That’s basically my reaction to marketing. Any kind of marketing. But especially the stuff I do am supposed to do to sell my writing.

I have been reading about branding. What is this shit? I am not a tin of peas! Branding is when you take a product there are billions of similars of and stick some sort of ‘identity’ on top. A label.

The thing is, creativity IS the thing. It shouldn’t need a label, or an author a brand. Writing is what it is. There are already genres enough to confine and constrict – yes, they can and do. People struggle to hashtag their novels or find suitable keywords to fit if their novel crosses genres. Agents reject submissions on the grounds that your sci-fi/horror/comedy/etc isn’t close enough to the last sci-fi/horror/comedy/etc success they were involved with. What’s the ‘typical’ word count for the genre you write? Go ahead and look it up – I’ll wait…

And you wrote under or over it didn’t you? You worry that you now have to chop it up or tack on something else. I’m betting you looked around a few sites till you found one that fit closer to your word count. Who the f*ck decided this? Who got to decide how short or long your book should be?

And more importantly.

Why are we listening to them?!

I have a proposition – writers of the world unite and throw away all the rules (not grammar rules, that would be wrong, and very silly). Ignore what the publishers, agents, talking heads and ‘experts’ (I feel like Doctor Evil with so many ‘air quotes’) tell you!

Write from your heart. Write whatever you want. Write any and every genre and confuse the fuck out of your current agent, if you have one.

Be free! Don’t let anyone tell you how many words you should write. Or where you should promote yourself. Or how many times a day you should post on social media.

To misquote some bloke who drank a lot – Rage, rage against the pressures of the publishing industry!

Book Review – The Kids of God by Dave Appleby

The Kids of God [Dave Appleby] तक
The Kids of God by Dave Appleby
book cover

Genre: Fiction/Psychological Thriller
Pub Date: 2021
Length: 343 pages
Kindle Edition: £1.99/Paperback Edition: £8.99


What would you do if a man you hated appeared on your doorstep, fleeing from his would-be murderers, and tricked his way into your house? If you could be killed for sheltering him? This is Ed’s dilemma. Ed is not a hero. He is easily bullied and blackmailed. Living under a totalitarian regime, he has learned to survive using trickery and deceit. But how low will he stoop when the going gets really tough? This psychological thriller is about power and its abuses.

In a not to distant future, a self-made group calling themselves The Peacemakers, have control over the town. The town in question is never named. It doesn’t need to be. The citizens live in quiet fear. The enemy is the Drudjers – immigrants, refugees, ‘foreigners’ – others. Or are they?

This is a microcosm of our world, where people do whatever they can to survive in trying circumstances. There are decent people, there are bad people, and there are the morally ambiguous.

We follow Ed, a regular computer tech guy, as he is pushed to make a decision many have during wartime throughout history – do I save the stranger on the doorstep or leave him to the militia? Although, in Ed’s case, the decision is made for him – as it is in many situations that follow. Ed is a man whose wife has just recently left him, taking their two children with her. Ed has recently lost his job, after devoting himself to the company, whose system he helped develop. Ed is frightened, easily manipulated, used and cowed. The story is told in first person narrative, so we rely on Ed to be honest – and he is. His honesty – and his actions – will have you pitying him, initially. But for how long?

The Kids of God has a Kafkaesque quality, especially at the beginning. The staccato sentences that denote Ed’s thought pattern, fractured, frightened, work very well to convey a sense of fear and confusion. It isn’t utterly bizarre in the traditional Kafka sense, although we do take time to realise the world that is being portrayed. It isn’t totally illogical, except when a character makes decisions that are the sort of conclusions one might make under duress. But it is a nightmare world that Appleby has created, with the powerlessness of the protagonist and the crushing authority of The Peacemakers.

There are sections in Kids of God that are uncomfortable to read – be prepared – but read them you must. The events become pretty horrific. The treatment of secondary characters unforgivable. One’s initial opinions of Ed are challenged. We don’t have a lot of background about this protagonist, he doesn’t tell us why his wife left. We are in the here and now, and war makes cowards or heroes of us all.

I like that the story takes place in one town. The author has kept the lens focused close on the protagonist’s actions. There’s no grand landscape, or expansion elsewhere. We only know what is happening in Ed’s world, Ed’s town, right now. It successfully keeps us adhered to the moment, keeps us learning as Ed learns, experiencing as Ed experiences. This also makes for a slightly claustrophobic atmosphere, combining the domestic intimacy with the real and ever-present danger of being caught. The secondary character is a Peacemaker named Nikov, who initially comes across as a two-dimensional Nazi style Brown Shirt. We are meant to despise him because of what he represents, vigilante militia, and because Ed is frightened of them and Ed’s our hero. But the two dimensionality is a deliberate foil by the author, Nikov is an extremely complicated character who presents as a simple man following what he believes in. Ed and Nikov are neighbours in a street that has lost many of its residents and one comes increasingly to rely on the other, or does he?

This is a novel about how we treat people who are ‘not one of us’. How we view those from another country, or state or class. We presume, about ourselves, that we are decent individuals, but when things get hard, who are we looking out for, who do we care about – and who is to blame for the situations we find ourselves in?

This novel tackles, not only human behaviour towards foreigners, but through Ed, we can question what is going on inside our heads compared to what we present to the world, and reveals – horrifically, starkly – what actions erupt from people worn down by life and crushed by authority. This is, in places, a raw and uncompromising delve into impulses, and it comes with a Warning: it contains scenes of sex and violence.

Simultaneously engrossing and repulsive.

I did enjoy The Kids of God and give it

I Did a Thing!

36,896 Vintage kids Stock Photos | Free & Royalty-free Vintage kids Images  | Depositphotos
Vintage photo curtesy of

Hello again, yes, it’s been a while, but hey, pandemic, etc.

Double exciting news! I did a thing – well, two things.

First, I was interviewed by Vince Stephenson about my book, Beneath the Skin. Vince runs a YouTube channel called Boomers on Books, in which he interviews authors from around the world. Vince is primarily interested in first-time and up-and-coming authors. I was put in contact with Vince via a member of the #WritingCommunity on Twitter.

Beneath the Skin: Where Sleeps the Serpent?
and The Song of the Nightingale

It was went live this morning, Tuesday 27th July, and remains there for all to see and pick apart my daft answers.

So, how did it go? Okay – I think. I was rather nervous, and the 9:00 start saw me a bit bleary eyed and fuzzy. When I watched it back I realised that I hadn’t really said much about my book – I did not mention that the protagonist has an inborn ability. She is a Nagi. I did not mention that she has excellent fighting skills based on the Kerala martial art, Kalaripayattu. I did not mention that her friend and first mate is a Princess!

Why not? I don’t know, nerves? I tend to blether a lot when I am nervous, and later realise that I didn’t get to the point. I could have said so much more, but I am, unfortunately, not eloquent when it comes to the spoken word.

My second big news is that I have published my latest book. Hurrah!

The Floating Church is a novella set in the early 17th century. It follows thirteen-year-old Susanna Assheby in the time leading up to and just after the May Day celebrations. Thirty days on the cusp of womanhood. The isolated village of Hope Ghyll sits on the border of England and Scotland, hovering between Pagan beliefs and Christianity. A new minister brings news of the death of Queen Elizabeth, and staunch ideas on how his flock should behave.

The book is historical fiction, with hints of magical realism.

If the rest of the summer continues in the same vein, then I should have completed another short story or two, and maybe another novella!

Many thanks for reading, I hope you and yours are safe and well, and, if you’re a writer, artist, musician, then I wish you a productive summer.

And finally, many thanks to Vince for having me on his channel. He was a lovely interviewer and kind to let me rant and ramble.

Book Review – Motherdarling by Dave Appleby

Motherdarling by [Dave Appleby]
Motherdarling by Dave Appleby

Genre: Fiction
Pub Date: 2020
Length: 369 pages
Kindle Edition: £0.99/Paperback Edition: £8.99

Motherdarling was a monster. Jack, her son, walked out the day he turned eighteen. He’s not been back. Now Motherdarling’s dead. Anne has to find the missing Will or Jack inherits half of the Estate. But when Anne starts to search, she finds a secret that endangers all her hopes.

Motherdarling is a slow burn. This isn’t a negative. I enjoy these kinds of narratives, as they allow one to become slowly absorbed into the author’s world. It is akin to settling into a hot bath, except in this story, someone has lit a fire under the tub, and one hardly notices as the water begins to heat up and boil!

There are a couple of grammatical errors which can be forgiven, such as missing quotation marks, and using first then third person in a single sentence – when Anne is speaking in one chapter, she says, “I look down at her hands” and “At last I shake the water from her hands”. This might be a very subtle way of mentioning her hands remind her of her mother’s, but I don’t believe so.

The story takes place over a week, beginning with the funeral of the titular Motherdarling. Each chapter is written from the point of view of the family members, Anne, Jack, Peter and Chris. Beginning with Anne, we discover a somewhat sad, and dowdy, middle-aged woman who is both grieving, and relieved at the loss of her mother. She is aghast to discover that her brother, Jack, who has been out of the country for 30 years, has turned up and fears he is after part of the potential inheritance.

Then the family is informed that there is no Will. They must find it. And so, the hunt begins. And as they search, they uncover more than they bargained for. The reader accompanies each of the players on this journey, and as we are party to their inner thoughts, we begin to learn more about their motives, their appetites, their desires. The author writes deftly, unfolding the character’s responses to the situation as it twists one way then the other. It sounds such a cliché, but like an onion, it has layers. And as these layers are drawn back, each reveals the flaws in their makeup, the same way all humans veer on our moral track depending on circumstance.

Appleby has written a family drama wrapped around a mystery. And though the pace is similar throughout, we do get a feel for each individual character via a varied style of writing – Chris, for example, Anne’s teenage son, thinks in a staccato way, his thoughts are sometimes scattered, he bounces from one topic to the next when not directly speaking to someone. Whereas his father, Peter, has longer, drawn-out sentences that reflect his slower thinking pattern.

Motherdarling is engrossing. It is horribly fascinating. Like watching (another cliché, I’m afraid) a car crash in slow motion. The question of nature versus nurture is at the core of the story, as well as what is family? There are two, apparent, side stories relating to Peter and Chris, that eventually find their place in the whole. I had wondered about them and the relevance, but the author does a beautiful job of weaving the threads together into a wonderful if disturbing tapestry of family, heritage, duty and deceit.

I’m giving Motherdarling

Happy New Writing Year

Hello! Happy New Year. And welcome to the first post of 2021.

It’s been a while, I know, but some of you will already be familiar with my haphazard, impetuous and remissful style of blogging. *shrug*

It’s been a tough year for many people, some of us have lost family and/or friends, some have been in a negative place emotionally – but I’m not here to talk about the gloom, let’s look forward and think positive.

At the turning of the year, many like to think about how we might improve ourselves; resolutions and so forth – I spent a lot of the lockdown period thinking this over already, and decided that I was extremely lucky, for tonnes of reasons which I am not going to recount here, instead, I want to think about the successes and future endeavours.

Last year saw me (finally) publishing my novel – Beneath the Skin. A Steampunk duology about an Indian-Irish airship courier who unwittingly becomes embroiled in the politics of a secret society within the British East India Company. Plus, I won our writing group annual in-house short story competition! Which came with a cup (still needs to be engraved).

Beaneath the Skin covers for Parts One & Two

I don’t make New Years resolutions, or all-encompassing lists of things -to-do, but I am determined to begin this year as I mean to go on, both personally and workwise. I will continue to watch my diet (lost almost 2 stone between Nov 2019 and Dec 2020), I intend to get more exercise (continue to do 40 sit-ups a night) and be more joyful and thankful for the simple things.

On the writing front: on 24th December I put in 2 submissions; one for flash fiction competition. On the 31st December, I submitted my novella to a publishing company, and on the 1st January, I submitted a sci-fi short story and a poem to two separate competitions.

Cover design for novella The Floating Church

I’m one of those writers who don’t seem to have one specific/favourite genre. And that’s okay. Where does it say that you should write just Romance, or Fantasy? I have a LOT of stories piling up in notebooks and stuffing my brain, and I don’t see why any of them shouldn’t be written – how well they are written is a different matter!

 I read on social media, that some writers get stuck with their writing, they’ve finished a first draft, then sort of… dry up. Or think they do. I have only one piece of advice, that you’ve probably heard a million times before – keep writing – but I’d say specifically, WRITE SOMETHING ELSE. Unless you are contracted to create something within a certain timeline, you’re pretty much free to write whatever you so choose. If you find the juices drying up on a novel, pack it away and go and write a piece of flash fiction or a short for a competition. This is the key bit – FOR A COMPETITION. You will be pressured into writing in a different style or format than you’re used to, and have a limited time to get it done. A change is as good as a rest.

Looking ahead, I hope to get my current fantasy WIP completed and also the YA sci-fi novel completed. I’ve never done a book promo or anything like that, once I put something out there, it’s on its own. But I see that I’ve been rather negligent, so perhaps some of that will be going on too.

I have also decided to be less critical of other people (and myself). I converse with another writer on Twitter, we pointed out the fact that writers (and other creatives) put work before the public for more reasons than money (hell, if money was the aim, I wouldn’t write!) and sometimes that piece of work isn’t as good, when one looks back on it, as one originally thought. This is the nature of creativity, it’s always (or should be) going to improve as one progresses. Unfortunately, that means that people reading your ‘older’ stuff might find it full of faults.

Hey ho, that’s life, is all I can say.

In the meantime, keep writing, painting, filming, dancing, playing, singing, doing whatever it is you do, and have fun doing it. I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful year ahead.

Bless you for reading my nonsense.