Influence and inspiration

I have had a short break from writing lately. There are many reasons, not least of all I have felt a little disconnected from my stories due to a family loss and not wanting to write something inappropriate to the situation. I was considering this National Novel Writing Month but felt too rebellious towards the idea of “having” to write. Even when I make myself write to a time limit or word amount I find my head and imagination naturally rebels and switches off so for me it can be counterproductive.

That said I have still been mulling over many ideas and while I have not, up until last night, written anything in my main project I have toyed with some little ideas.

One thing I have done is done an “inspiration” piece. By this I mean I took a photograph of something while out and about and let my imagination run free. WHat came up was a short story based on a picture of a set of steps…yes a set of steps.


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A former WW2 Anti-Aircraft site near to where I live…my inspiration


It has encouraged me to start compiling a series of these ideas and stories in some sort of madness collection in the future. It’s nothing serious, just an outlet to allow me to release some of the clutter that can often build up in my overactive imagination.

The story doesn’t even have a title, it’s a story set in World War II about a boy who has to become a man in one night has to become a man. Its overtones are coming of age and loss but told in a simple story that I really liked writing. It’s another project I would like to transcribe into a screenplay simply to offer as a short film but there is me running before I can walk again.

In the last few weeks I have had a short story published in a horror anthology DOWN WITH THE FALLEN which was a story born from a whim and seems to have been well received by the publishers compiling the anthology. This has not only allowed me to become “supported” in the sense I have been “published” but also gives me a little appearance over the pond in America and that can only be a good thing.

Last night I picked up where I had left BLACKOUT and reconnected with the story well. I was worried it would fall by the wayside as WHISPERING SHADOWS (the Jack James sequel) has done. That has been gathering virtual dust for almost sixteen months. The funny thing is, lately, I have been thinking about the story and realising there is still legs in it BUT for the moment I need to concentrate on Blackout and not bog myself down.

At the start of November, I launched BLUE LIGHT CHRISTMAS 2 this years charity endeavour raising funds for Care Of Police Survivors. I loved writing this story as my novel endeavours have been quite emotional in their storytelling. It was nice to have some simple fun with an audience a little less in need of tragedy or twists. Once again I suffer at the hands of my own (lack of) skills in marketing. I have managed to get a little more exposure this year and I am hoping that this will be a skill I slowly get my head around…only time will tell I suppose.

I have suffered the “why do I bother” feelings lately because I’m not making the big bucks or sitting at the top of the bestseller lists but I’ve realised this….I am going to keep doing it because for me it is more about releasing my imagination than making money (that would be nice). If I don’t tell my stories then they will never be told. If I can sit and have a conversation with a single person who has read my story and wants to know more then I’ve done my job.

Next year there are set to be two additions to my library hopefully. The first being INTO THE DARK which is a New Adult addition to the world of my Magdon monster. It is set to be a family-centric adventure bringing with it a sense of mystery and adventure. I have loved writing this story as I wanted to create something to appease the adults who invested their time (and money) into the ORIGINS OF THE MAGDON series. That shows me listening to my audience as a lot of older readers were “wanting more” from the legend and history so I have given people just that. Something bigger but not at the cost of the sense of intrigue and adventure I wanted to capture from the stories in the first place.

And that brings me back to influence and inspiration. INTO THE DARK is personal this time because I have set parts of it in places that mean something to me. Wollaton Hall features as does a trip to Mount Snowdon, places that have been part of my life for a long time so the story is born from things I have seen, places I have been and things I have done.

Today I have spent a lot of time researching parts of the Ukraine for BLACKOUT. Tomorrow who knows where my imagination will take me.

In fact….tonight I shall mostly be writing a screenplay for the short story I have no name for……must now think of a name!


Working behind the scenes.

Firstly an apology for not being too active on the social and blog front but there are good reasons. Mostly it has been about getting this year’s Christmas Charity book ready Blue Light Christmas 2: A Cry For Elf. I’ve had a lot on getting the illustrations, my awesome illustrator has created, formatted so they can be in the paperback. At the same time I wanted to get them showcased so will be featuring them on my author website in their best resolutions full colour (as they have to be black and white in the book so more money can be raised for Care Of Police Survivors). I’ve gone through so many format changes I’m now into the “what if everyone hates it” phase of worry but am pushing through.

Along with this I have been experimenting with Amazon ads (mixed feelings so far) and trying to use Facebook ads (not a massive fan). I’ve put one together for Blue Light Christmas which is my primary focus between now and December – not only for marketing but also making sure I get as much exposure as possible for the book to raise as much as I can.

Scary as it is it also looks like I’m going to do some face-to-face with this book again. I think it is possibly the fact I have t split my personality between real name (work) and my writing name that makes me uncomfortable. Work has stressed how much I need to not use my work-life to influence interest and keep myself separate from my writing identity that I always feel on edge with it. I do feel I look uncomfortable at first but hopefully, I settle in and when I get going I could talk about my made-up worlds for hours on end.

That is the problem with all of this for me – the fact by going it alone you always feel that you’re not quite good enough so then sets in the doubt.

Right! Enough of that. It’s been such a productive year of writing and in fairness nobody has sent me hate-mail or told me not to bother so I’ll take that as a good sign.

Future projects-wise……….I’m just over 47,000 words through Blackout which is my second planned novel of 2018. It’s a character-driven sci-fi thriller with quite a different take on an age-old concept of time travel but rest assured it’s not about the science of it. I need to finish it to see how I will best write it up but at the moment I’m enjoying throwing some curveballs into the mix so you will get an interesting ride where the sci-fi element is secondary to the intrigue and character’s journeys.

There’s also Into The Dark which is at the formatting stage as, although I have submitted it for publishing considerations, having heard nothing (yet) I’m planning it as a self-published project again. This will bring my Magdon monster to a more mature audience. It is very much an action adventure but I want it to feel like a film, feeding you with a family-driven story that is all-enveloping on a humanistic level.

Which brings me back to the self-doubt. I see so many other Indie Authors making the right moves towards exposure. I suppose I suffer from the idea that without an Agent saying “oh that’s good let me punt it for you” I fall into the cycle of disbelief in my own work. I am SLOWLY realising that I don’t need someone to rubber stamp my work but sometimes it’s nice to have that backing. So much in life, I go alone and roll with my own belief but sometimes.

On that note, I can take some confidence in the fact one of my short stories has made it into horror anthology Down With The Fallen: A Post-Apocalyptic Horror Anthology. The fact my story made it into a print form controlled by someone “in the business” must mean I’m not as bad as I fear (but most definitely don’t feel). I suppose what I want is someone to see some potential in what I write and put faith enough in me to help me.

My biggest flaw and I have said it since I began, is a lack of understanding about marketing. I really wish I had the funds to employ someone or some company to help me break through my own barriers. I love making my videos/trailers, my posts and my covers but I’m hardly the socialite monster and the same people must get sick and tired of seeing me sharing posts from my author profile.

Sorry this has become one of those blurgh posts where I spew out anything that pops into the old noggin.

In short I’m saying:


Someone tell someone somewhere that I exist and if you like what I’ve written in my books then drop a review somewhere so I can at least see, in moments of self-doubt, that there are a handful of people who think “you know what, you’re not totally crap!”

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Take a step back and relax

Over Thursday and Friday this week me and my oldest son decided to have a disconnect from everything. Last year the pair of us scrambled, walked and clambered up Mt Snowdon in dear old Wales. Just over a month later he was hospitalised and could barely walk…yet the only thing he could ask me lying in bed swollen and in tears of pain was if he could walk it again.

How could I refuse?

So this year we have waited and waited and finally decided to make an adventure of it.

Sure, he has had a rough ride but I didn’t exactly realise how much I had done those 12 months too. We decided to sleep in the back of my car (enough space to make a double bed) so we found a spot with no phone reception surrounded on three sides by mountains totally isolated to just chill.

We lay back watched the stars and film before going to sleep.

Morning time and I’ve obviously hardly slept having had dreams of short people breaking into the car trying to steal it. That and I spent the night mulling over something that had carried over from work and getting myself a little frustrated.

Then came sunrise…the first thing he said was “I’ve never seen the sunrise before”. He has but there was something about him seeing it completely free of artificial light, city noise and tablet computers (he’s a bugger for tablets and watching YouTube).

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He was mesmerized and we ended up climbing two hours earlier than planned simply so the sun could rise behind us. Both of us were in awe as the mountain in front of us seemed to emerge from shadow painted in a bright orange light. It was more than magical and I spent the whole time just talking to him.

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Yeah I have stuff to deal with at work (good and bad), all the book stuff rolling around, family things, life stressed etc etc etc but as we walked up we just talked rubbish. And nothing mattered. Just the fact we were there together in the middle of nowhere being alone.

We had Left so early we only saw a half dozen people at most and one point he was stunned into silence, literally. Neither of us spoke and it was like we had entered a vacuum. No noise, no sound, the distant lakes below so far away even the rippling water made nothing we could hear. It was peaceful and perfect and I realised I had been getting myself heated up lately over things that really don’t matter.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love my work, I’m really (I’m thinking and hoping) making headway into the published author world but it’s still early days. But really why should I get upset or stressed about it.

We walked up and down. Some would scoff and ask why is walk up and down a massive hill with an eight-year-old when we could play sports or something else…well to each their own. For me, that’s the time I get to be away from everything.

Those who know me understand I’m an antisocial bugger. Working with people, and not always the nicest society has to offer, I prefer my own company and that of my family most of the time. So for me being up there was just what I needed.

I couldn’t tell you how long we were walking at the time (obviously being a fitness freak I timed every last detail) but doing it was not important.

By the time we got back I honestly felt recharged (don’t get me wrong it didn’t take long for work to irritate me as soon as I got back but that’s a whole other story).

I did understand I need those moments. Sure I always use my writing to escape but that does come at a cost (as I am often told) when I am creating my fictional worlds it’s a very solo place. Creating is the time when I withdraw from humans and family. Only once I release the stories can other people join me but by then the damage of family time is normally done. This sort of stuff lets me have my lonely time but also be connected with those that matter most.

But what have I really said in this post other than I’ve had a lovely couple of days walking in the mountains? Nothing! That and everything. It’s a reminder to me and anyone else that sometimes we become consumed by everything…the real, the fake, the stuff that matters and the stuff that doesn’t. Sure I get my daily escape into writing but it isn’t really escape. Sometimes it is good to just get away from it all recharge and reconnect to the fact some things need to be attended to more than others.

I suppose I’m lucky in the fact my world isn’t as stressful as others. I have my way to compartmentalize everything and different aspects of life which keep in balance. Sometimes though some parts bleed into others and pollute them but taking time away hits almost that reset button and lets me become the acceptable human being again.

Of course, the beauty of the place helps and even gives me some inspiration. What better way to immortalise the stuff I see than translate it some way into a story in the future.

Well, I’m currently sat in children’s soft play centre having worked nights and decided to write this on my phone (excuse any random spelling mistakes please). It isn’t like I can use my new laptop as that has got to go back because it isn’t working properly.

Here we go again…


My favourite view into the valley with the mini-me!


Working, is it?

Well, I remember sending off many things for consideration and once it’s done, the obligatory “you may or may not hear in six to never weeks” means I often send and forget. I have learnt to forget and not dwell and when the email rejections come it always adds that surprise feeling that you forgot you sent the submission in the first place!

I know that sounds dismissive and believe me it is far from that…it is my coping mechanism to deal with the plethora of “thank you but…” and “no reply is coming” type emails having tried to pitch what we believe is worthwhile but the Agents and Publishers probably think we shouldn’t bother spouting about.

It is, after all, a very big game to play.

That said I did recently submit a short story I wrote last year to an anthology following seeing a post on a Facebook Authors Group. I never thought anything more of it until last week when I had an email.

I almost deleted it “regarding your submission….” my mind was filling in the gaps already, preparing me to deal with another rejection. That said, fully expecting the no thank you I was pleasantly surprised when the Publishing House said yes!

Did I read that right? A story, by me, in an anthology, published for proper? Filled with scepticism I decided to read and re-read the offer letter.

Which, I digress, but I recall about a year ago getting a contract sent through the post from what I now know to be a Vanity Publisher. Don’t get me wrong, getting that well laid out publishing contract pushed through your door seems almost too good to be true that your hand shakes with excitement. The big words and bumph of paper (they even had a personalised paperclip….come on who has that other than reputable people right!?!……WRONG!) I remember wanting to jump at the chance but decided to do my research. And that was when it all fell down. Pay us up front and we will “share the risk” a few thousand (pounds or dollars you choose) here or there and suddenly the offer isn;t as good as it felt at first. In fact, it was utter tripe and after a few conversations with other authors, it was a run a mile event that was both liberating and soul destroying at the same time.

So back to this anthology offer. I did my research and it wasn’t a Vanity Publisher (so we were nto a winner here). I did my reading up on the company, a new one, and thought this was a good path to go down. Who knows, it may open up something for the future considering my subject matter fits their submissions so I may send them a full novel.

I even had a conversation with one of the founders. It was just a normal conversation, nothing about the “business” but instead some praise for my story and a few answers to some questions I had. It was refreshing.

Don’t get me wrong I could end up with egg on my face but considering the fact I am not having to pay anything up front I cannot say the risk is anything other than handing over my story. The contract reads sound (but I am no legal brain….well not on this sort of law anyway).

I am going to take it as a good sign, a step perhaps in the right direction. Maybe it will open doors, maybe it won’t but you know what it is encouraging that someone enjoyed my story enough to have faith it was worth a part in the anthology they are putting together.

But with that glimmer of encouragement I have been on fire when it comes to creating and writing. Blackout, my mid/end 2018 novel is well underway and I am loving writing it. Into The Dark is ready to rock and roll with some final touches on the paperback version along with Blue Light Christmas 2 ready for finishing edits. Oh and of course the final in the Origins Of The Magdon Series for release in October.

Wow! Please, rest assured these are not rush projects. Origins Of The Magdon has been a two-year project split across five novelettes so have been written for some time just a staggered approach to release. As for Into The Dark, this will not come out until next year (and I am hoping to pitch it around some more to see if a mainstream Agent/Publisher wants to run with it). As for Blue Light Christmas 2 this is in the works along with the illustrator so I am hoping the collaboration will make an exciting new story to raise money for Care Of Police Survivors again this year.

So yes I am busy but for the right reasons and motivations.

Hopefully, I don’t let any of you down!

Attacking from every angle!

Wow, this life can be fun………and intense at the same time. I’m currently running four projects at the same time, all at varying levels of completion which is quite fun. Thankfully I am only “writing” one of them which is BLACKOUT.

By working on I need to explain why this seems to work. The final Origins Of The Magdon book is done and just in need of a final read through and format ready for an OCTOBER 2017 release. That is probably the easiest of the projects.

Then there is Blue Light Christmas 2: A Cry For Elf which is second draft ready and in need of editing, formatting and illustrating. At the moment I have left the project in the hands of my ultra talented illustrator. If he can connect with the story and draw something then the story is right, if he can’t then I would rather shelf the project than creating something that doesn’t work. So this project is on HOLD PENDING CONNECTION but if it works then I will look for a DECEMBER 2017 release.

Of course, then comes Into The Dark which is final draft done, formatted and in the process of submitting to different people/places to see if I stick Self-Published or drive for something different. I now have a physical paperback copy from CreateSpace which has helped me find a whole new plethora of formatting issues. While I know paperback isn;t the current thing and not many people go for a physical book I still pride myself on getting that part right.

So, these three projects are already created meaning to me the story requires tweaking and editing but I don’t have to create. This more a process of finishing touches than anything else. Which, by doing it this way, allows me to have Blackout in the works. This is my (current) new project which is in the formation stages. I have three and a half chapters as I write this blog post which isn’t a lot but means it is all “up here” *points to my own head* and the hard work is yet ahead of me getting it out and down onto the page.

In my other life, my real life, it’s been a very demanding week of shifts but I keep that and my writing life as separate as I can so as not to conflict!

So that is just a little update on where we stand with the future of Tobey Alexander……you never know one of them may actually get me seen and recognised. You never know!

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The latest “idea book” – Italian Leather bound journal, I use a new one per “big” project.


Indie and self-published aren’t the scurge!

I try not to get involved in the politics of all this stuff. It doesn’t really bother me normally but recently there have been a lot of Indie-bashing articles popping up on my feed (Twitter and Facebook). While everyone has an opinion, and I get that, I feel that there is a lot of people just hacking away at the trust and confidence Indie and Self-Published authors fight to get in order to be seen above the “published” authors.

Don’t get me wrong, I see that there are some shoddy covers, some poorly written books out there but you know what…that counts on both sides of the river. Indie and “proper” published.

We are all guilty of feeling superior to another but does that mean the quality is any better or worse? Not particularly, I have my own opinions about what makes it through the inboxes of Agents and Publishing Houses and this isn’t the time for me to spout about it.

In the grand scheme of things though there is absolutely no difference between any of the suddenly appearing “classes” of authors. Those supported by big publishing houses are no better because in the end, we all did the same thing…we all just sat down, had an idea and ran with it.

So why the hate?

I know it flows both ways, a lot of Indie and Self-Published bash those that have got published and the same the other way around. Why can’t we all just sit back, be proud of what we have created and just get along? Yes, I know that sounds all idealistic but I find it quite funny having bumped into some people out and about (physically and inter-weberly) and the sudden reactions or looks of disdain I sometimes get when one of my children says “my daddy has written a book” and then it’s followed by my explanation I am self-published. I have even had one person literally curl their lips and walk away!

More fool you I say, because like I said, we all did the same thing. We all embraced our imagination and just ran away with it. It just so happens that whatever that person wrote fit the box of their Agent/Publisher and they got picked.

Do I think self-publishing harms my chances of “going big” as I was once told. Well no. Had I not self-published then nobody would have heard of Magdons. As it stands across all my social circles both on and offline there are lots of people who have heard of it now. Had I just sat on it and hoped the “big people” wanted to play with me I doubt my projects would have been as fun to write. For me I write simply because it’s fun, because I want to inspire my children and because you know what, because I bloody well feel like it.

There are so many projects that I wrote (and I’m not saying they were any good but that is not the point), there are so many I got rejections on and have disappeared into the ether having been lost to computer crashes and hard drive failures. All because someone didn’t like it I based my decision to give up on that.

Once again, more fool me!

I have written things since my teenage years yet why did I wait until I was in my 30s to actually run with it properly? Well now I have learned that I can do it alone.

Sure, those in the “circle of business” get help promoting, marketing etc and there are those that think self-promoting takes you away from writing. Well, really? I don’t think so. After all it is a project I have created and if someone doesn’t believe in it as much as I do then I’m not interested in having them onboard. I would rather pump my entire effort into getting seen (or not as the case often is) than let it become one of fifty projects a company holds and really doesn’t give two cares about other than making their money.

No! Everything about this is personal to me, the stories, the effort, the marketing, the creation… if it fails I can be 100% confident that the only reason it failed was because of me!

So really, after all this rambling and complaining I just want it to be known that there are no upper, middle and lower classes in the world of writing. We are all just creators, nurturers of ideas and to suddenly start thinking any one is better than the other undermines what all this is about.

Authors are often the social outcasts, those that were looked at with furrowed brows when the random ideas came spewing from their mouths. Yet we are in this together, whatever path you choose or are lucky/unlucky enough to be set upon in the literary world.

Just play nice and accept that talent isn’t always noticed, isn’t always appreciated by everyone but even if it touches one imagination and entertains them just a little then we’ve got it right.

To the scorners of my path you’re no better than me, I’m no better than you. We are just the same, someone who taps away feverishly trying to create something people will enjoy.

So to both sides, get off your soap boxes (as I am about to do) and crack on with the thing that matters……….feeding the inastiable monster that is our imagination!


Rant over!

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Engaging young imaginations

It has been a rather amusing past few days in respect of my stories. My sons have had their friends around yesterday and today which means I can pollute even more imaginations with my creations and madness.

At the end of the day yesterday I gave a copy of Origins Of The Magdon: Vercovicium (Book 1) to the oldest one (10 years old) and thought nothing of it.

Well, when they arrived this morning I was bombarded with questions about the book and he had only read to Page 11!

We decided to take a walk in the local countryside and needless to say he was glued to my side asking me every question he could possibly think of. It was, in itself, thoroughly enjoyable coming up with answers and telling the story of The Magdon from a different point of view as the descendant of Archy.

As the morning rolled on in the middle of an expanded explanation about the Nivags and how they protect The Magdon he proudly declared “You know what, I believe it’s all real now!”

What better encouragement is there than my target audience properly engaging with the story.

I suppose it helps that I could talk the hind legs off a donkey when it comes to off-the-cuff ad-libbing the finer details of the story but for me it is moments like this that really tell me that I have created something for the Mid-Grade audience which not only seems to connect with them but has also spurred on the adults who have read it to want more from the mythology.

Could it be that I am simply not giving the books enough service and my own inexperience, and a mistrust of all those “highly promising” PR companies and online ad campaigns is thwarting my own progress?

Am I being too picky actually wanting people who have a care for my “product” to get involved? If I could get the right people I would want a parent or someone who connects with the story to help me take it forward. I don’t want to just be another project on a massive list. This whole adventure of Magdons and Monsters has been a personal one and I want to use that motivation, personal investment and growth, to make a success of it.

It is difficult though, because when you look at it…..WHO AM I?

From the inside out I am the grand story master, the creator of adventure, the spinner of lies and intrigue, the all knowing Oracle but from the outside in I am some untrained hack bleating on about a project that makes no sense to even pay attention to.

It’s a frustrating world and awful position to be in.

Am I wrong to believe in the potential when so many Agents turn me down? Am I simply deluded as to the quality and connectivity of my story or am I just the undiscovered talent I hope I am?

If you hadn’t guessed it’s probably a self-doubt day Days like this when I sit back and consider what I create and ask myself…….”Should I be here? Do I belong here? Do I deserve to be here?”

Who knows! I suppose when it boils down to it I can be the only one to sell myself and my adventure. I don’t have (friends) people to fight for me, to sing from the rooftops and say LOOK AT THIS BOOK so any progress has to be made from, for the time being, me alone. Sadly I don’t have the funds to throw money at the big firms and say “make it work” and in lieu of that, I either need to put up or shut up.

But all that aside I had an audience today. A new mind to pollute with my imaginings and stories and that will be encouragement enough that I am not as bad as I fear I am.

Only the future will see!

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