How many red herrings?

English: Clupea harengus. A herring school (an...
Clupea harengus. A herring school (Video by Uwe Kils)

What was a cran?

“In Great Britain, at least as early as the 18th century, a volume of fresh herring before cleaning.  From the Gaelic crann, a measure for herring. Sometimes spelled crane. A cran typically contains about 1200 fish, but can vary from 700 to 2500. The cran originated in Scotland as a heaped measure. A standard but bottomless 30-gallon herring barrel was filled to overflowing with fish, and then the barrel was lifted off. Because the fish were heaped, the resulting pile contained more than 30 gallons of herring – observers estimated around 34 wine gallons. An Act of 1815 allowed the Commissioners of the Fishery Board to define the size of the cran, which they did in 1816, setting it at 42 wine gallons.”

What does this spark in your imagination?

Ask yourself… Why? What if? Who? What next? Why not? How much? What for?

What crime could have sparked by an argument over the point of overflowing? Is there romance in measuring herring? Where’s the drama in the Fishery Commissioners’ cran committee?


Think about this… Imagine that!

Are you anxious about not having much imagination?

Niki de Saint Phalle, Where do you get your ideas?
The best ideas can come out of the blue

Do you worry?

Do you daydream?

Do you plan holidays?

Do you plan ahead for the weekend?

If you’ve said yes to any of those questions, you have a perfectly good imagination. In fact, if you’re human and reading this, you have a perfectly good imagination. Without it, you couldn’t worry, think about the future, daydream, write a shopping list, plan a holiday, or decide what to have for supper. Let alone run a household or fall in love or fantasise or buy Christmas presents…

You may not realise it, but you have to imagine everything you want to do before you do it. Think about it. First the idea, then the reality.

Are you aware that you’ve been trained to think? And that thinking is different to imagining?

The education process – a dozen years at school, at least – is all geared to teaching us to think. To analyse, to be logical, to manage, organise, filter, file, memorise… We are not taught to be inventors or innovators; original thinking is discouraged. Art lessons are about technique and art history; English lessons are about structure and syntax and organizing facts and subtext and other writers’ stuff.

School is designed to make us focus on the path to employment, vocation, career. We have to think about getting a proper job as soon as we get to high school. Before we even hit puberty, we have to stop daydreaming and playing, and be serious.

And what happens to our imagination? You tell me.

So… the good news is that your imagination is there, in full working order.

The bad news is that with nothing else to do, it’s bubbling away, concocting nightmares and waking you up at 3am in a muck sweat, keeping you awake, worrying.

The better news is that you can use all that imaginative power to create beauty and delight in whatever way you choose.

The best news is that you can learn how to grab hold of your imagination and go for a wild ride…and you can learn how in one single day. Actually you’ll learn the big secret in less than 10 minutes. The rest of the day will show you just how amazing your imagination is, and reinforcing the good news.

Where? How? At the Where do you get your ideas one-day workshop – see dates and venues here.

No hard work. No experience needed. And here’s the best bit: No thinking...  

I guarantee you will have a great time. I guarantee you will succeed. I guarantee you will go home with new characters and new stories. I guarantee you will have more confidence in your storytelling. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised and delighted with what your imagination produces.

Now… I dare you to have a go. I dare you to make the breakthrough and find the story that needs writing. Email me today and ask any questions you have. Sign up today and commit to becoming a storyteller: on the page, on the stage, on the screen.

Go on… I dare you.

$50,000 breakthrough novel award from Amazon

If you’ve got your manuscripts ready, you’ve just about got time to polish your synopsis and pitch and get the whole thing into Amazon.

But take note: although the deadline is 27 January, they will close the contest once they have 10,000 entries. So don’t wait – get your entry in ASAP.

Here’s the whole story.

Don’t miss out, like I nearly did!

Romanian train problems meant sitting for over three hours at Brasov station yesterday. No way was I going to make my flight to London… was resigned to missing my UK week and feeling gutted.

But the perfect taxi driver materialised in Bucharest and got me to the airport with 30 seconds to spare before they closed the flight. Thank you, Providence. So woke today to a gloriously sunny day in London, very grateful.


All good stuff, but I covet the Livescribe smart pen… Thanks, Jen!

Jens Thoughts

A friend of mine asked me to blog concerning the writing tools that I use.  I hadn’t really thought about it, but I do use some pretty cool gadgets.

I’ll start with the Live scribe smart pen. If you attend conferences, workshops or classes, this will save you so much time! This pen’s made specifically for those occasions. You can purchase this pen for approximately $99 and a special notebook for $10. I purchased everything at Best Buy.

Here’s how it works. You turn the pen on, tap “record” in the notebook and it records the speaker. You can also write one word in the notebook, and later when you are listening from home, tap the word that you have written, and the recording will go directly to the place when the speaker said that word. No more lengthy notes and cramped fingers, or “Oh, what did they just say? I…

View original post 360 more words

What do you see in this picture?

Exercise in perception, right-brain thinking, where do you get your ideas?

If you want, scroll down to read what I saw. But not before you’ve noted what you see…

I was in Verona (Italy), sitting in a beautiful square waiting for our cocktails to arrive, tired and starting to relax after a busy day and a long walk around the city. I turned my head and saw these figures… and although my left-brain knew what they were, my right brain had the upper hand at that moment, and I saw…




… tall, elegant monks in their cream-coloured habits, their burnished tonsures reflecting the light of the streetlamps as they walked away from me.

I still see them whenever I look at this photo and have to work really hard to see cafe parasols folded down for the night. Love those monks…

So, tell me – what did you see? Did you see parasols, or something different?

And when you read about my monks, could you see them too?

Plunder stories from real life

I’m posting some stories from various of my books – stories about real people in history, all connected to Liverpool, since that’s what I was writing about for eight years. Amazing true tales about extraordinary people, or people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. As far I know no books have been written about them so far, but if you’ve come across any, let me know. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing your book about one of these folk. 

These true stories can obviously prompt pure fiction, but the mix of historic fact and fiction makes for a fascinating read. I’m in the middle of Iain Pears‘s book Stone’s Fall, which is all about capitalism, secret politics, and global industry set just before the First World War – a brilliant read even for someone who knows little and cares less about war, banking and politics; the industrialist John Stone reminds one of several possible models, and althogh I don’t know enough history to recognise which names and plot points are genuine, I assume that Pears’s research has been deep and broad.

One of my all-time favourite books is Harry Thompson‘s This Thing of Darkness, about the voyages of The Beagle and the friendship between its captain, Fitzroy, and Charles Darwin. Utterly fascinating – beautifully written, intriguing, very well researched, beguiling and touching.

A third recommendation is Anthony Quinn’s The Rescue Man, inspired by the visionary 19thC architect Peter Ellis and his revolutionary buildings Oriel Chambers and 16 Cook Street in Liverpool. Full of authentic detail, the story is nevertheless pure fiction; Ellis and his buildings are cleverly reinvented and renamed. 

Here are some unsung intrigues, scandals and anecdotes to spark your own fiction or faction. Have fun with them, and give me a nod in your acknowledgements page when it gets published – deal?