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By Ben Cameron, Jun 5 2018 01:01PM

By Sam McColl, author of Call Billy 07899 232007

"When Sam McColl told me that she spends most of the year in her cabin on the beautiful remote Scottish lochs I assumed, like many people, that it must be the ideal writer’s retreat. But it turns out that I could not have been more wrong. Here, Sam talks about the challenges and distractions of nature and solitude for someone who writes about city family life” - Ben Cameron

I live by the sea, in a hut perched above mature native woodland. It is spring. Just now the woods are a sumptuous blend of purple bluebells, wild white garlic, and delicate spring leaves of every shade of green against a wash of blues. In winter the sea glitters through naked trees, the pools of silver light on gunmetal water a gasp of delight.

I’m sitting at my desk, trying to wriggle myself into the mind of a fifteen year old, who is about to get wrecked with a boy she’d been obsessing over for months. He is twenty five. I need to know where it’s going. Will she have sex? Or will she panic at the last minute. Or will her mother come back from work early, and the drama of the scene be postponed?

I have an ache in my tummy. I don’t plan the minutia of my character’s life. I know the broader brushstroke of her: that she’s a lovely girl, a thinker, that despite everything, she still wants the family to get back together.

But I also know that the events of the past months have forced her way out of the comfort zone of happy endings and this new place is full of strange possibilities. With everyone she trusted now engrossed in their own despicable dramas, she has begun to look elsewhere for reassurance and love. And why not – she’s almost sixteen, old enough to make her own decisions and mistakes – and so it goes on.

And yet, I must take the plunge. I must have her answer the door-bell, have her press up against him and see if I can find the one and only truth of the moment, and record it.

And then I look up from my screen, disturbed by the thwacking of rope on canvas as a sail is lowered. Through the glass door I glimpse my trays of parched lettuces. I should plant them out this afternoon. Yesterday I took the quad and flailer over the hills to cut broad pathways through the emerging bracken – and got it stuck on a sap-slick-slope and left it there, along with the key. I check my weather app, Abi’s dilemma draining from my concentration, like water down a plug hole…

Inspiration doesn’t just happen. It’s a slow build. Dumping, Abi, I decide on a place for another scene. I may chose the rocky coast north of Tarbert, or the skaggy beach in Oban, where fag packets and scratchings of plastic get me in the mood for, er death. Or maybe just sand… yes, sand…

It’s many hours later, I look up from my screen, a silver moon is hanging there, over the sea, a pool of—oh for God’s sake, just don’t …

The following morning it’s raining. Good. I flex my fingers, rub my palms together in preparation and dive in.

Hours later, I’ve got something down: a U-turn.

“He’s not even coming is he? I make myself hot chocolate and get into bed, stare at the balloon pattern on my duvet. ‘Virgin’, my whole room shouts ‘virgin’. I hate my life. The twisted paper tip, which I should have chewed off, flares and drops, melts a small hole in one of the balloons. I take a puff and nudge it around, so what if I burn the house down …”

It’s a start.

I’m delighted to see a yellow crack in the cloud cover, a zag of reflection on the water and remember the quad I abandoned on the hill yesterday with a jolt …

Get your copy of Call Billy 07899232007 here

By Ben Cameron, May 16 2018 07:49AM

By Laxmi Hariharan

One of the most difficult things about being an author is to get down the words. You spend days thinking about writing, then the time comes to sit down to write and every possible distraction gets in the way. From social media, to shopping, and paying your bills, all of it gets in your way when you switch on the laptop and open the page of the manuscript.

Here are five easy tips to help you increase your word count and get one step closer to completing your book.

A. Plot before you write

This is the most important piece of advice you'll get here. If you plot before you write, then you know where you are headed. Your subconscious mind will done some of the work for you before you come to the writing desk.

It need not be very detailed, but a simple start, middle and ending of the book, ideally broken down by chapter is great.

It means you can refer to the notes on the chapters and always start from where you left off. Most importantly it means you don't feel that you are starting afresh each time you come back to the manuscript.

Books that can help you with this process are: Plot Gardening, Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox, Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing

by Libbie Hawke

B. Sprints

Time yourself. See if you can just keep writing until the alarm goes off. Start with fifteen minutes and build up to 45 minutes or an hour. During this time, you don't have permission to take your fingers off the keyboard. Keep writing, no matter that you are not happy with the words, or even if you feel what you are writing is terrible.

The goal is to write without a break, without distractions during that period of time. Then break, get a drink of water, or check your social media or emails, then get back to writing.

At the end of the day the chunks of uninterrupted writing time would have built up to something substantial.

If you can't start with fifteen minutes start with ten. Start small and build up.

C. Eat the frog

One thing that will help to get the words down is the 'eat the frog' principle. i.e. Get those words down first thing in the morning. Get it done and out before you move on to the other things in your life.

Do you want to avoid the temptation of surfing the internet or social media sites to help you get to writing faster? The following apps can help in that.

Self-control app

When I come to the writing desk, I check all my social media, and my emails, then switch on the app for forty-five minutes at a time. It's free to download and you can use it to block out all distracting social sites. Even if you find yourself trying to get onto Facebook, it will block the site, ensuring you stay rooted in your story.

Self-Control lets you specify the sites that distract you and then block them for a specified session. You can either list the sites you don’t want to go to or whitelist the only sites you’ll permit yourself. This is particularly helpful if you have certain sites you need for work but don’t want access to the rest of the internet.

Freedom App

This is a powerful distraction blocker, that once installed can be used to block distracting websites and apps.

One bonus of Freedom is that you can schedule focus sessions in advance. For example, if your willpower is always weak when you first get to work and you have a tendency to visit social media sites, then you can create a daily focus session that will automatically begin at a set time and prevent you from visiting those sites.

If you really want to hunker down, you can use the “Locked Mode” to prevent you from disabling the app.

D. Productivity Apps


This has helped make a big jump in my productivity. I simply hook on Brain.FM and use the specialized music to drown out all the noise and worries in my head so I am focused simply on the writing. There's a free trial period so you can try and see if this works for you.

Focus Music FM

If you're into deep house and EDM – then check this out. An app with the right kind of music to help you focus on work.

E. Quit while you are ahead

Counter intuitive as this may seem, this is key. By the end of the session I find I am in the groove and speeding along and that's when I stop and take a break. It means when I resume I don't face any blocks because I can still see where I am going, so there are no excuses then but to keep going. Ideally, I try to time each session with a chapter and try to get through most of the chapter in the sprint session.

Laxmi Hariharan is a New York Times Bestselling. Claim your free books from Laxmi here

We hope this was helpful. Do you have more productivity tips? Do write in and tell us at, Twitter: @CameronPMtweets or Facebook:

By Ben Cameron, Mar 2 2018 02:21PM


Struggling to get your book noticed? Worried about how to market your upcoming book?

Every year our popular free 10-minute one-to-one book publicity advice sessions for authors at the London Book Fair fill up quickly - spaces are very limited so book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Sit down with book publicity and marketing expert Ben Cameron, tell him about your upcoming or already published book and he will give you specific ideas, tips and advice to help you to find your audience through traditional media Publicity (newspapers, magazines, television and radio), online social media, events, advertising and more.

This year's appointments will be on April 10th (starting at 11.00am and 2.30pm) and April 11th (starting at 1.30pm). Booking is on a first come, first served basis and please state your preferred day/time. If it is fully booked we will do our best to offer you an alternative.

These sessions are completely free so email us at to reserve you place.

PLEASE NOTE: Entry into the book fair itself is unfortunately not free and you will need to purchase a ticket to get into the fair. More information about the London Book Fair can be found here:

By Ben Cameron, Feb 8 2018 10:57PM

By SJ Sherwood

The last thing I had intended to do was to write YA Dystopian Trilogy. I had originally planned to write an adult thriller and was almost ready to start the hard work. However, during my planning stage, I had set three questions for my lead character.

1. Who are your mentors?

2. Who do you turn to when you're in trouble?

3. Who can you trust?

As I started to dig into the questions, the answers that emerged made me think about who I really wanted to aim my book at.

I had not had the easiest of childhoods - an alcoholic stepfather and a self-absorbed, chronically angry mother were not the best combination for a happy marriage. I was shipped off to school and what felt like my heart being ripped from my chest as I was separated from my family home, turned out to be a seminal moment in my life. For the first time, I was given real attention and a structure - you know, time keeping, being polite, working hard, that kind of stuff. I also learnt the utmost importance of having positive people in my life.

But I realised, that for many, the above questions aren't so simple, as they wouldn't have been for me before getting sent away to school. I feel lucky that I was cut a break, but living in London, it's not hard to see disillusioned young men, who are more interested in materialism then understanding who they are and what they are capable of as unique individuals. Men no longer seem to have a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood.

They were the catalyst of why I ended up choosing orphans as my main characters - the image of the lost and forgotten. It's why I further isolated them in my dystopian world, and forced them to work together, to have to trust each other when they really wanted to run or even fight as the easier choice. We are all hard wired to be part of a group, a tribe, a basic family structure of some sorts. Ned, my main, protagonist is a contradiction. He's a loner by nature, but he craves friends. He's tough and self-reliant, but he wants to communicate and be part of a tribe. More importantly, he wants to do something with his life and he has to answer the three questions above in order to progress. I love his personal challenge.

The current YA market is dominated by some excellent women writers who pen strong female characters. The market it deep and mature, and sales speak for themselves. But if you look at books for boys in this bracket, they tend to fall into two board categories: your mini-James Bond/ Spy Hero; or the Apocalyptic/ Sci Fi where the lead character is an alpha male and somewhat stereotyped (sorry, fellow writers). Patrick Ness with his Chaos Walking Trilogy and James Dashner with his Maze Runner Series, gave us male characters who were looking to define themselves through the challenges they encountered. But, I feel, that what has followed has been a bit thin on the ground for teenage boys who want to read this type of book.

To date, most of my readers have been YA female teenagers or young women who have been extremely kind with their reviews. However, I'm slowly but surely tapping into those teenage boys who seem to get what I'm trying to say. If, like me, their start wasn't the best but they get a sense that you can pick your mentors, as you can your tribe and friends then I will have achieved something. And if, like Ned, they find that that thinking for themselves and learning to trust their instincts is something they have to develop, then perhaps us men don't need that rite of passage, just a better understanding of who we are.

And if one teenage boy gets to understand that his destiny is his choice and not chance, then, as a storyteller, I've hit my goal and I'll go to sleep a contented man.

SJ Sherwood is the author The Denounced. He grew up in a small town in rural England and spent most of his youth dreaming of escaping to the bright lights of a big city. He eventually made it to London where he writes, enjoys life, and strives to be happy. You can find out more at

Comments or questions? You can contact us at, Twitter: @CameronPMtweets or Facebook:

By Ben Cameron, Jan 24 2018 03:10PM

By "Gareth Williams"

There are many reasons why you might want to write under a pseudonym: you may need to protect your own identity if you’re writing non-fiction about something particularly sensitive; or if you want to write books in different genres then you may want a name “brand” for each type of book; or you may associate certain kinds of limitations with your name: you may just not like it, or for publicity and marketing purposes it may be difficult to spell or pronounce, or possibly you may not want to be identified as a particular gender.

In my case it is a combination of the first two. I have written and just published an account of my work in various household name international development charities (and other rather obscure ones) over a twenty-year period, but I am bound by an extremely tight thirteen-point confidentiality clause in the employment contract of my last major job in that sector, which covered three years of some of the most interesting work I had undertaken.

Last year I looked at obtaining legal advice to help navigate my way around the confidentiality clause, and after saving up the necessary cash (this kind of advice doesn’t come cheap), I engaged media and communications legal specialists with the brief that I wanted to make the minimum number of changes necessary to the text of my book, whilst staying on the right side of the law in terms of privacy, defamation and confidentiality.

The resulting advice recommended name changes for the confidentiality-obsessed organisation and all the individuals working for it, and also that I use a different name when referring to myself in the text and as the author, so adding a further obscuring layer between the eyes of the reader and real identities. So ultimately using a pseudonym has freed me up to write in more precise detail using more “real” information than if I had used my own name.

There is also the second reason why for me using a pseudonym is desirable. My international development charity work represents the first employment phase of my life, and I am now embarking on a second career very different to this, and I want to keep these two identities separate, so they don’t clash with one another.

I had thought that making the necessary changes to the text would be the end of my concerns, but at nearly every stage of the pathway to e-book publication I have had to have my wits about me to avoid my identity from being disclosed. Firstly, when compiling the information for the book preamble, I needed to put my pseudonym, ‘Gareth Williams’, as the publisher, and for contact details I put the bare minimum so that they would not easily lead back to me: an old but still functioning gmail account which didn’t contain my real name.

Next, it wasn’t until I was looking at the second draft of cover designs I had commissioned that I realised the designer was using my real name on the cover rather than the pseudonym I had given him to include; so that required a re-draft. Then, more damagingly, the distributor I contracted to load my e-book onto the Amazon, ibooks and Kobo retail platforms included my real name under ‘Product Details/Publisher’, despite the very explicit brief I had given them.

For a few days therefore, my real identity was exposed online until I happened to notice, and sent a stiff email to my distributor demanding they make an urgent correction. I questioned their competence at the time, but looking back on the experience more charitably, I think it just reflects that writing under a pseudonym is a rarity, and therefore publishing industry professionals are not always attuned to meeting such specific requirements; the accidental unmasking of J.K.Rowling’s alter-ego Robert Galbraith being a case in point. Checking someone’s work, even when you’re paying a fair amount for it, would always therefore seem to be necessary.

In my case there were other potential pitfalls: I bought my own ISBN number from Nielsen’s so that I would legally be recognised as the publisher of the material, but once I had registered I needed to advise them that I didn’t want my real name and contact details made available to the industry; I have received a confirmation from Nielsen’s that they are suppressing the data. Similarly, as the publisher, I was responsible for depositing the e-book with the British Library, so I needed to identify my pseudonym as the publisher, to avoid my real name appearing on the British Library catalogue.

Whatever publicity and marketing you are planning to undertake will also need to be “pseudonym-friendly.” In terms of social media, using your own Twitter, Facebook and other mediums will obviously give you away, so you are faced with either foregoing these publicity channels or setting up book-specific accounts solely for the purpose of plugging the book.

In my case I chose to engage Cameron Publicity and Marketing to launch the book via NetGalley and to promote subsequent reviews via its own social media platforms. Whereas most authors would relish the opportunity to give interviews, in discussion with Ben Cameron we decided to treat this with caution, not proactively offering interviews, but being prepared to consider requests on a case-by-case basis, perhaps undertaking them by phone, audio-only Skype, by email exchange, or face-to-face if the professionalism of the interviewer is assured.

Using a pseudonym can therefore help an author to disclose material which it may otherwise be inadvisable to write about, but you need to keep your eye on the ball with any people who are providing a service to you along the pathway to publication, and any publicity and marketing work you do directly may have to be a bit convoluted to protect your real identity. Alternatively, employ an industry professional, but be clear with them what you are - and are not - prepared to do to publicise your book. Good luck!

About the Author

Gareth Williams worked for NGOs and volunteered for campaigning organisations from 1984 until 2001, after which he undertook work on a consultancy basis for NGOs internationally from 2002 to 2005. From 2006 until 2014 he worked in the British trade union movement in the areas of international development and environmental sustainability, and is now pursuing a second career as an environmental historian.

Get his book, Collection Tins, Grenades and Rock 'n' Roll: Twenty Years of Trying to Save the World on Amazon here

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