Libraries – we need them.

Support your local community library.

Read to see

In many parts of the UK cash-strapped local authorities have to make drastic cuts in services to save money. My own local library, Kinver, since the beginning of this year (2017) is staffed entirely by volunteers. We owe a debt of gratitude to them – by their efforts we continue to have a library that provides such an essential service to young and old (and those in-between!) and serves as a community hub.

To support the library, I have agreed to give a free session in the form of a talk/workshop on ‘Writing and Publishing your Book’. This may be followed by support sessions for those who want to pursue writing their book. Here’s my press release.

Writing and Publishing know-how for budding authors”

What do you want to write?

  • Memoir 
  • Novel
  • Short stories anthology
  • Poetry collection
  • Children’s story

Local Kinver crime and thriller writer, Tom Bryson, will explain how would-be authors can write and publish their own books at minimal cost. His talk at Kinver Community Library is on Thursday, 9th March at 7.30 pm.

He says, ‘Ever thought of writing your personal or family memoir – not an autobiography but a ‘slices of life’ story? Sometimes we leave it too late to ask our parents, grandparents about their lives and times. All too soon we’ve lost them and then regret missed opportunities to have known so much more. So how about writing your book for posterity – for your family and descendants. Without getting too pretentious, this could be your much-treasured legacy.

‘Or what about that novel you’ve had at the back of your mind for years – perhaps there’s a draft gathering dust in a drawer somewhere. Why not dig it out, rewrite it in the best way you can, find a good editor and see your book in print and as an e-book.

‘Perhaps you have an idea for a children’s book, or a collection of short stories or poems you want to produce in an anthology. All are possible.

‘Won’t all this cost a fortune? Not necessarily, given the advent of digital technology and print-on-demand publishing. The days are gone when you needed to buy a shedful of books to get an economic print run and then traipse the shops and streets to sell them. If you’re prepared to take the learning curve and get to grips with word processing and formatting for internet uploads, you can do it. (Or perhaps there’s a fourteen year old you can collar to help!). If you must incur costs, then a good editor is the most important investment to make.’

Local Kinver author Tom Bryson, who writes crime and thriller novels, will reveal all at the recently launched Kinver Community Library on Thursday, 9th March, 7.30pm, tickets from the library, £2. (All proceeds go the the Community library)

So – dream your dream – come along and hear what Tom has to say.



Books available from amazon here (print and e-book) and author (email  Tel. 01384 872204)



Novel writing using OneNote – get organised

I’m pressing ahead with the final revision to my third DCI Matt Proctor novel that I hope to publish early next year (2017). I’ve written this novel experimenting using OneNote and I’ve found it to be a most useful tool. I’ll try my best to explain how this works – however if you are minded to give it a go I suggest you open Microsoft OneNote or if you haven’t got it already, then download it – it’s free!

I use the 2007 version – the later 2013 version is similar but as always with software and app developments, 2013 has a few extra tweaks.

If you have OneNote open you will see a series of tabs across the top. They are called sections. My approach for novel writing is to label the different tabs or sections as follows: Core idea, Outline, Scenes, Characters, Settings. I suggest as a minimum these five sections are all you need. However, I’ve added Synopsis and Research sections as well. The beauty is you can have as many or as few as you like – and here’s the real bonus – everything is in one place, one screen – it’s dead easy to flick between one section and another. You’re writing a scene – does young Zoe have a stud on her nose or her lip? Open your Characters’ section, go to Zoe’s page. Ah, on her nose. One click – back to Scenes and your current scene page. Now you carry on writing your scene describing Zoe’s nose piercing – and perhaps dad’s reaction on seeing it for the first time. Wait, dad – is he hot-tempered or generous and understanding? Back to the characters tab. Checked! Now since her parent’s divorce is Zoe’s dad living in Washington or Wolverhampton, New York or Newcastle. Check the Settings section, ‘dad’s house’ page. Got it, click back to Scenes. Now you’re up to speed and can finish writing your scene.

Now here’s a really great feature. You’re writing scene 44 and you think – hey, this needs to come much earlier, before scene 23. Down the side of your scene 44 text is a panel where the heading or first line of each scene appears. Hover over scene 44, slide it up before scene 23 and drop it there. Bingo! You’re sorting your story structure as you go along. But maybe you prefer to push ahead and get that all-important first draft completed and then worry about issues like sequence, pacing, character development, etc – okay, get all your scenes written first, then at the revision stage start moving those scenes up and down. Ah, but what about timelines, the dreaded timelines. Well, I’ve devised what I call an EASYVIEW SCENE PLANNER that goes at the head of each scene…

OneNote 2010
OneNote 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But I’m running ahead of myself here – what I want to do next year is pull my novel writing approach using OneNote together into a freebie that I can give away to my blog followers. So step up, folks, sign up and keep looking in.

Nose piercing
Nose piercing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writing Birmingham cop DCI Matt Proctor crime novels

Let’s Talk Murder…

Broad Street, the Bullring, Victoria Square, Spaghetti Junction, the Clent Hills – people who know Birmingham and the Black Country tell me they like to read my fictional stories set in real places – locations they have personally stood in, drove through, where they have ‘stopped and stared’.

What about characters, plots and sub-plots, timelines, structure, conflict and all the other components of novel-writing? How are they worked into a novel?

Scenes are the building blocks of a novel? Is it ‘wise’ to use real places?  Real people???

Come and chat with me whether you are mainly a writer, a reader or both.

WHEN: 19th May 2015, 5.45-7.00pm (Free event)

WHERE: The Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, Birmingham.

Click link below for more information:

Off the Page with Tom Bryson – Library of Birmingham

Disturbing book? Yes, and a great read!

Sometimes you read a book that unnerves you and tilts your way of seeing the world. This latest book I’ve reviewed on Goodreads and Amazon affected me that way. An intriguing read. I think my review will explain how I felt. I gave it four stars – the story is excellent, characterisation very good, fast paced and gripping. In parts I felt the writing was a little clichéd and disjointed – but that didn’t detract from the sheer force of the storytelling.

For aspiring and established writers this book shows how you can grip, engage and absorb the reader.

Here’s my review of “The Cleansing” by Danielle Tara Evans:

“The Cleansing’ is a fast-paced read and truly dystopian novel that follows the desperate attempts by the two young American protagonists, Annie and John, to escape ruthless military enforcers of the dictator Julian. A married couple, Annie and John’s characters are well fleshed out and the predicaments and challenges they face, expose their respective strengths and weaknesses.
Danielle Tara Evans’ story is in many ways disturbing yet thought provoking. Conventional presumptions about the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ are turned on their heads. A series of world wide catastrophic environmental disasters is blamed on the US. Now who are the upholders of morality and justice? A US Government dictatorship? Who are the terrorists? Ordinary Americans facing genocide?
This book is a compulsive ‘what happens next’ page turner. There is despair and a sense of overwhelming hopelessness that make it a tough read – yet a glimmer of hope prevails at the end…well worth a read. “

Starting my next cop novel…how I plan a novel

New Year – new novel.

I’m planning my next DCI Matt Proctor crime novel, number three in the series and I’d like to share my approach to “PLANNING A NOVEL”.

How do you put your novel together? Please let me know.

I’ll set out my approach in separate blogs – this is the FIRST. There are SEVEN in all. 

From the outset let me say say I’m more a ‘planner’ than a ‘pantser’- but please, you ‘pantsers’ out there, don’t tune out now – we can all learn from each other. (I wonder if there really are out and out ‘pantsers’ or ‘planners’ – or are most of us somewhere in between on a spectrum?)

PLANNERS                  IN-BETWEENERS               PANTSERS

I may be a planner but one who leaves space for the story to breathe, to bend and flex, change direction at times. Yet the CORE story line remains.


I need to know my story plot(s) in detail, understand the motivations, secrets and fears of my main characters before I can progress to writing my first draft. From my outline, I develop scenes and flesh out characters. The process is very much iterative, synergistic. I hop from one to another; adding to my character profiles, summarising a scene in a brief heading, modifying and reordering the outline chronology using a ‘scene order’ grid, to get a visual overview of the book.



A great tool for doing this is Microsoft OneNote. Some swear by Scrivener, Ywriter; another good tool is Hiveword. There are others. I think writers need to experiment to find out what suits them best. Two factors influencing my choice are a), the ability to write the book content within the planning tool, and b), to work offline sometimes – I may be on holiday and want a hour or so of ‘writing therapy’ but might not want to go on-line, or have available on-line access.

By giving me an overview and instant access to the components of my story on a single screen, I get control of the project and so I find the process of drilling down into the ‘core’ of my story easier, more efficient and fulfilling. Certainly much less frustrating than switching from one screen to another, hunting down folders and files, hopping back and forth from page to page on websites and between different websites.   ARRRGH…



  • In planning my novel I use seven COMPONENTS.  They are not written in a strict chronology – that’s important. They have synergy, they feed off each other. Maybe it’s like bringing up a family – you don’t focus all your energy on one child and when that job’s done, move on to the next. Oh, no, – you don’t bring kids up like that. You juggle, you compromise, negotiate, discipline, encourage, motivate, and so on. You spread your attention, your focus, your love. (OK, OK, we didn’t have seven children but you get the picture!). Now – please let me show you in specific terms how all this works (and for me it definitely does) in practice.


  1. CORE – Who is the Main Character, what’s their goal, problem, obstacles, what are the stakes for failure? In 50 words; yes, I keep this to 50 words. Concentrates the mind!
  2. OUTLINE – Two pages max. Written in present tense, with a start, middle and end. Split into key scenes with short headings. Leave room for the story to evolve.
  3. MAIN PLOT – Spine of the story, the heart of the MC’s journey. Sub-plots add complexity and richness. The main plot (and sub-plots) summaries need only be a sentence or two.
  4. SCENES – Scenes are the building blocks of the novel. These are where the action is. As you write scenes you are writing your book.
  5. CHARACTERS – Absolutely critical. The reader must care about these people.
  6. SETTINGS – Give ‘colour’, atmosphere, they complement characterisation, add credibility and context whether real or fictional places.
  7. SYNOPSIS – Comes at the end because a synopsis is a ‘selling’ tool; your book summary. You write a synopsis when you’ve finished your book. (I include it as part of planning because you’ll need it for submissions).


in this first blog in the series, I’ll focus on my starting COMPONENT in PLANNING A NOVEL, namely the CORE of my story. 

 1 (of 7). CORE – a basic idea.

  • CORE – Who is the Main Character, what’s their goal, problem, obstacles, what are the stakes for failure? In 50 words; yes, I keep this to 50 words. Concentrates the mind!

Q.  What is in that CORE as a novel writing idea?

A.  Main Character with a Goal, facing tough Opponents, hitting Insurmountable Obstacles, and under threat, using their Sole Abilities to win through.

Here’s the CORE of my novel IN IT FOR THE MONEY.

‘DCI Matt Proctor fights to break an  international ‘match-fixing’ gambling syndicate and becomes their kill target when he gets too close. Serbian Mafia boss Petrovic hunts him – yet real power lies in sports boardrooms, directors’ boxes and wheeler-dealer agents. Matt Proctor is a marked man.’

Think of an apple, a pear. The core is where that fruit started. In that core are seeds. And in the core of your novel are the seeds that will grow your novel. Define that core in no more than 50 words – keep those words in front of you – and then let the seeds grow.

Coming up NEXT. What’s the future gig?