Friday, 10 October 2014

Love Your Libraries

A school librarian told me recently that she spent most of her budget on getting authors or speakers in to promote reading. "Why buy hundreds of new books just to have them sit on the shelves untouched?" And so she carefully balances her finances between promotion and stock.

In an ideal world, she'd have the budget for both but we don't live in an ideal world.

If she'd said, "Nobody reads so I'm spending all my budget on encouraging readers, oh and I'm selling all my books to pay for it," I'd have thought she was crazy.

And yet that's what's happening in Liverpool. The council is trying to make Liverpool a City of Readers whilst closing 11 libraries.

If my librarian analogy isn't to your taste how about a company that creates demand and restricts supply at the same time? Is that an good businessmodel? Not good if your aim is to get as many people through your shop door as possible.

I think libraries are important because they started me reading again when I was a teenager. I wouldn't be a writer now if it weren't for libraries, that much is certain.

As a parent, I can remember the time when my children were toddlers. We weren'tpoverty-stricken  by any stretch of the imagination but neither were we wealthy. My wife was working purely to pay for childcare, keeping her job 'open' for when the children were older and finances became easier. My wages covered the mortgage and household bills. In that environment, there was no way we could have bought the number of picture books, board books and story books our children devoured as they grew up. Libraries helped our children develop imagination and intelligence.

As an author, I go into many libraries up and down the country. I've yet to see an empty one.

Authors Cathy Cassidy and Alan Gibbons have drawn up a petition to save the libraries ear-marked for closure. You can sign it by contacting Alan at Or you could write a letter to Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson. 

I don't believe for a second that anyone at Liverpool Council really wants to close those libraries but we're asking them to find another way.

Monday, 29 September 2014

An Anniversary

It's been twelve months since I took the plunge as a full time writer. There have been some highlights seeing Wrath of the Lizard Lord published along with my other, shorter,books, Blood Cave, Macbeth and Death Road. I've visited schools the length and breadth of the country and enjoyed a few festivals too. In between times, I've enjoyed the freedom, flexibility and solitude that writing brings.

In some ways, I've treated the year as an experiment, balancing the books every quarter and weighing up whether a day job was required to keep us afloat. I have a family to support as well as a writing habit!

If you'd spoken to me just before Christmas, when I had a large number of outstanding invoices and was zooming up and down the motorways in foul weather, I'd have probably said the experiment wasn't working. In fact you might have even caught me checking out the situations vacant ads in the paper.

But, twelve months on, I'm pleased to announce that the experiment was a success! Mayhew Enterprises Financial Director (Aka, Mrs M) informs me that we have grown by 11% but that could be my waist size.

Of course, I don't make ALL my living from writing. About 40% comes from school visits and I do see them as two separate roles, albeit inseparably interlinked.

It's easy to be hard-nosed and business-like about it all and forget the fun of making up stories, the fun of meeting new people and catching up with writing friends (I'm looking at YOU SCBWI people!). 

So here's to another twelve months. Reset the clock, restart the experiment. You're only as good as your last book or school visit, you know!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Lizard Lord Unleashed

Today is the official launch day for the second Monster Odyssey book Wrath of the Lizard Lord. For those not in the know, it involves Prince Dakkar (a young Captain Nemo), Napoleon Boneparte, Mary Anning, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and the Battle of Waterloo. Oh, and dinosaurs.

I know, I know, technically, dinosaurs weren't lizards but as the book is set in 1815, technically dinosaurs weren't dinosaurs then. They didn't know what they were. Dragons perhaps.

I love the cover art by the super-talented Justin Goby Fields. If that cover doesn't grab your attention, then nothing will!

It's been great fun writing it, in fact, the next book Curse of the Ice Serpent is scheduled to come out in January, so not long to wait!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Trying Too Hard

I was on a school visit the other day, when a pupil asked me if I ever worry about running out of ideas.

"No!" was my response. "In fact, I have too many ideas and not enough time."

This is true but only to a certain extent. 

I remember watching a scene from Great Expectations. Miss Havisham has brought Pip to her crumbling mansion and sat him down in front of Estella and demands that they play. The scene always makes me cringe because it's obvious that play is pretty spontaneous and demanding someone play is a bit like forcing a laugh.


Ideas are a bit like that for me. They arrive all sparkly and exciting: a setting, a dilemma, a character but they aren't enough on their own and I spend a lot of time weaving ideas together, only to see them fall apart. It's a bit like knitting spaghetti. I'm trying too hard.

Another (better) analogy is Candy Gourlay's here: She describes each idea as a rabbit hole that she is staring at. She'll dive down one and explore it until she no longer wants to and then comes out and dives into another one. When she finds a rabbit hole she likes, she'll excavate it until it becomes a book. I think the 'trying too hard' here comes when you carry on excavating even though you've lost interest

I find the best ideas are the ones that don't go away. they keep speaking to you and developing and they lead to other ideas. I've got one of those nagging me now. I think I'll go and explore it...

How do you decide which story to plump for?

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Blog That Time Forgot

It's been a while but I haven't been idle, I promise! Monster Odyssey Book 2, The Wrath of the Lizard Lord comes out at the beginning of June and I'm preparing for the onslaught. Much of the run-up to last Christmas was spent with me being offline and on task which was great.

I love this cover. It takes me back to my childhood fascination with dinosaurs, monsters that really roamed the Earth! Awesome. The book was really fun to write, too. I do believe in connecting with my inner eleven year old when I'm writing these stories. 

I watched At The Earth's Core and Warlords of Atlantis recently and they didn't stand the test of time for me. I can't remember how impressed I was with these films at the time. The first Doug McClure film The Land That Time Forgot stood up better and I suspect Michael Moorcock's involvement in the screenplay probably helped. I do remember going to the cinema to see that one!

I also used to enjoy reading comics about this chap:


But more about him another time!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Old Fashioned Story, Old Fashioned Books, and Spirit Houses

Die Booth has been a supporter of all things Mortlock from day 1 and writes a mean, creepy tale too! So when I heard she was promoting her new work, Spirit Houses, I jumped at the chance of offering her a guest blog spot:

Die Booth lives in Chester in a tiny house with four fire-places and enjoys old things, funny noises and exploring dark places. Die’s work has featured in three Cheshire Prize for Literature anthologies and has most recently appeared in The Fiction Desk, Litro, ‘For All Eternity’ from Dark Opus Press and Prime’s ‘Bloody Fabulous’ anthology amongst others. You can also read several of Die’s stories in the 2011 anthology ‘Re-Vamp’ co-edited by L.C. Hu. Forthcoming work is due to appear in ‘Gothic Blue Book III’ from Burial Day Books and ‘The Art of Fairytales’ edited by Sarah Pasifull Grant.
Die’s first novel ‘Spirit Houses’, a supernatural tale of action, adventure and excellent Scotch, is out now.

About Spirit Houses 

How far would you go for your career?

How far would you go for love?
How far would you go for the truth?

This is the time of the evening when the Things come. 
As the trees close ranks and colours all merge into one colour, the Things start to stir - to dislocate their joints and stretch their limbs; rearranging themselves into new images for the twilight, they taste the air with prehensile tongues. That's what Manda's father used to
tell her. He knew how little Manda loved to hear of the paranaturals. She got that fascination from her mother, he'd say back then. After, he'd say she got that fascination from her mother, but he'd say it differently…

When Manda’s lab partner Daniel Forbes goes missing presumed dead it’s just another normal day at University Hospital. But the circumstances of his disappearance aren’t quite as straightforward as they seem and take Manda and her colleagues at the Department of Paranatural Medicine on a journey across planes and to the fringes of death to find the truth.

Die's Post

My novel Spirit Houses is quite an old-fashioned tale. I intended right from the start that it should be, and I don’t just mean the fact that it’s set in a sort of alternate-universe 1920s England. I wanted the whole thing to have an authentic, vintage flavour, so I tried to steep the entire project in that atmosphere. The chapter header illustrations were done in a line-art style from around that period. The cover, although a bit more contemporary, was designed from old medical textbook illustrations, to look like engraving. I tried to give the book trailers a vintage feel, and all the advertising too. But the main thing I made sure I did was to use as much primary source material for research as possible.

It’s easier than ever these days for a writer to access primary source material - by which I mean, information about a period actually written in that period. What once might have involved visits to libraries or archives to view texts or artefacts that are usually locked away, now often only requires a search around the internet to view photographs and scans, or transcriptions of contemporary accounts.
Sometimes really good research material isn’t difficult to find at all. I managed to pick up a two volume set of a 1904 Hazlitt’s ‘The Dictionary of Myths and Folklore’ in a charity shop for a few pounds and it’s been a wonderful research tool for helping to write Spirit Houses - rather than relying on a modern re-telling of the myths and legends I was writing about, I could go straight to the turn-of-the-century version.

I also visited as many inspiring places as I could. These ranged from the North Wales Hospital in Denbigh (the inspiration for the University Hospital) and Snowshill Manor with its wonderful atmosphere and incredible and beautiful collection. I also frequently visited the Wellcome Collection in London, a museum which houses (amongst other exhibits) a fascinating historical and cultural medicine section which provided me with endless inspiration and some useful facts for my story. The other place that was essential to Spirit Houses was the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall. It was there I saw my first spirit house and learnt all about them. Southeast Asian countries also have spirit houses, which, in that culture, are shrines to the protective spirit of a place. The English spirit house however dates back to folklore tradition. If a person suspected their house of being haunted by a bothersome spirit, then they would make a spirit house. These usually took the form of a glass bottle that would be filled with matchsticks, feathers, beads, sand - even hundreds and thousands - sometimes in very intricate formation. When the bottle was filled, the ghost would be invited into it as a substitute home, rather than continuing to reside in the house it had been haunting - the more intricate the contents of the spirit house the better, as it was believed that this would keep the ghost busier! The bottle would then be stoppered, to keep the ghost inside.

You can see examples of English spirit houses on the Museum of Witchcraft’s website, such as this one made from a lacemaker’s globe:

Spirit Houses by Die Booth is available to buy online now at:




Die's Website is here!

Die is appearing on these websites too:

Mon 16th Sept: LC Hu
Tues 17th Sept: Kevin G Bufton
Wed 18th Sept: Keeper Of The Snails
Thurs 19th Sept: J.T.Wilson
Fri     20th Sept: The Horror Tree