Jianna’s fight…

Way back in 2015 a couple of months after I published my first novel I received a message on facebook out of the blue and completely unsolicited asking me if I would be happy to receive an award as ‘Book of the Month’ from a young American woman called Jianna Menapace who had started a book review site. I was told, somewhat nervously, that they had read my novel, enjoyed it and thought it deserved to be the first novel to receive the award, I would get a certificate, and a decal I could add to my cover and other stuff as well as featuring on the site itself. So “would I be okay with that?”

Of course, I was okay with that. I had just released my first novel. A quirky little thing that did not really fit in any genre, was not exactly an average first novel, which it still is. For while I am very proud of Cider lane, it is unlike anything else I have written and unlike anything, I am likely to write again. It is still my quirky little novel. Getting people to read it beyond those who knew me was challenging to say the least. I was more than happy to receive an unsolicited and utterly unexpected reward. I was over the moon not only because of the reward itself, but because it gave me confidence as a writer, the confidence I needed to believe I could reach people beyond those who knew me, and that what I was writing was worth something in the wider world. To say I was pleased is an understatement, I wasted little time in telling everyone I knew about this and looked forward to opening up the website to see my book there with Book of the Month written above it. Indeed, when I received the pdf certificate of the first (and indeed to this day only ) reward I have ever received for my writing I wasted no time in printing it off, framing it and hanging it on the wall.


It’s still there, on the wall, and if I never receive another reward, or I receive others, that one will remain the special one, the first one. I still can not thank Jianna enough for the sheer joy and confidence that award gave me. Why she picked Cider Lane for this accolade I have no idea. What it meant to me at the time and to this day is what mattered. It inspired me to keep writing.

This though is where this story turns a little dark, a lot tragic, and a whole lot less happy. While I was basking in the glory of this award, I received another email, one that first  apologised to me that Jianna would be unable to do quite as much promotion for the novel as she had intended, which would have been a little deflating for me as I was hoping that promotion work would help me sell a lot more books. But the apology was not needed. Indeed it says a great deal about Jianna that she took the time to apologise to me at all. Because the reason she couldn’t do the promo work she had promised, to me and several other writers who work she was championing, the reason the website closed after that first month was this. Jianna’s cancer had returned. She was 18 at the time, and her own body was trying to kill her. It still is.

Jianna is now 23, and after fighting her cancer for five years the doctors have given her no more than six months to live. She shared this on facebook only the other day, in a message that I found harrowing in the extreme. I kid myself at times I am a hard laced Yorkshireman who has faced the world in all its forms. I am not, I am a luck swine who has never had to face the life trials and never suffered as Jianna has suffered. If I believed in the big guy in the sky I would thank him for that. This young lady once wrote of my fiction

Hayes captures the essence of trauma to perfection in his book Cider Lane: Of Silences and Stars.  It’s a difficult feat to write emotion. First, you must submerge yourself within the walls of the pain that we try so desperately to avoid.

That seems a wonderful compliment to my writing. It certainly was at the time. But I write fiction, the trauma I write about is just that fiction. It pales in comparison to the trauma of Jianna’s daily life. These are her own words talking about her struggles.

I let chemo ravage my body because I believed that hostile treatments were the only answer to my aggressive, terminal cancer. I practically begged the oncologist to give me the medication cocktail that nearly killed me. I lost 150 pounds in 7 months. I was and still am so desperate to live, I would rather suffer with the treatments than die on morphine.

My mouth is coated in open sores, my teeth are beginning to crumble out of my skull, my lips are cracked and bleeding, I couldn’t hold down water let alone food and I could barely stand for a long while. So for 7 months, I starved nearly to death.

The day I stopped pursuing treatment, I could barely stand on my own. My knobby knees would shake, my over-worked anemic heart would pound in my visable ribcage and my world would spin around me.

Jianna is 23, and facing what are likely to be the last few months of her life in a hospice, which is traumatic in itself. She is also, as I mentioned, an America, oh the wonders of American health care… As such Jianna, this bright, cheerful young woman who nervously asked if I ‘would be okay with receiving an award?’ has had to open a go fund me page to fun her end of life care… I don’t generally dip my toe into American politics, or the American system. I am not American for a start, so don’t feel it is my place to criticise how they chose to run their nation, but frankly, the fact that anyone needs to resort to social media to fund their end of life care disgusts me utterly, there are some things that no matter what your politics should just never need to be done. How do you measure the worth of a society that puts such a burden on the dying?

Just think on that a moment, and if your British like me, thank the fucking big fictional guy in the sky for the NHS and that no matter what happens you will never have to ask people to send you money through social media to fund your last few months of life. I know I do.

Jianna is braver and stronger that I, I suspect. She has gone through so much in the last few years, and yet still has fight in her even if it is just fighting for the dignity everyone deserved in the last few months of their life. I write a lot of stuff on here that is light and fluffy, or just for fun. While I do on occasion talk about the flip side of life, the dark and the tragic, I don’t make a habit of it. But some things are bleaker than a middleaged Yorkshireman’s occasional struggles with depression, and this is the bleakest story of all. A young woman less than half my age, at a time in her life when she should be still exploring the world, falling in love and living life to the full is facing the last few miles on the road of life, and has to ask people on the internet to help her fund that last journey.

I owe Jianna for that confidence she gave me when it came to Cider Lane. I remain in her debt, and she is one of the reasons why I am publishing a new novel today, of all days, because that award helped me believe I could be a writer, and helps me still through my own dark moments, moments which pale in comparison to her daily struggles. She talks of those so much more eloquently than I so please take a moment to visit her Gofundme page and read them yourself.


Image may contain: night

And perhaps, if you can, spare her a dollar or maybe two.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, I know it is not what people come to my blog to read. It’s not something I would wish to write about, it saddens me that I must…


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New release day…

New release day 🙂
asite promo 1
Welcome to the world of Hannibal Smyth on kindle 
For those who live within the busom of glorious Britania
For those who reside on other shores
And Canada
Also available printed on the skin of dead trees (which should appear on the same links but won’t as Amazon always make a mess of book linkages)
dead tree’s of England
previously redwoods
expired maples
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Cover Story…

To cut a longish story short, I moved publishers for my back catalogue of paperbacks last year. Admittedly I also didn’t move them at all, because I used to publish them from CreateSpace (Amazons old paperback publishing arm) to KDP (Amazons replacement paperback publishing arm). The migration, internal to the corporate mega-entity this is named after the famous South American river, went without a hitch. Or so I thought up until a day or so ago when I was sorting of ‘A Spider in the Eye’ my latest novel that I have not mentioned for almost a whole post…

Then I unexpectedly came across a problem while making a minor change to the paperback edition of one of my previous novels. The minor change being the adding of ‘A Spider in the Eye’ to the ‘Also by the same author’ list in ‘Passing Place’. The problem was not even with the minute change in text, that went fine, but with the cover of ‘Passing Place’ because when the changes were being reviewed by KDSP’s quality control they noticed that the subtitle on the back cover of ‘Passing Place’ had a typo. (this was not news to me, it’s had the typo from day one, and yes I always meant to fix it, but as I always intended to change the cover when I wrote the sequel I had not gotten around to it. It was also a weird little typo that actually suited the book, strange as that might sound. Sometimes a typo is not a typo, it’s a weird conjunction of strangeness that actually feels right. Which may be why no one has ever commented upon it, which given peoples propensity to point out all typos is a miracle. But as I say, weird though it may seem, it was the right typo… I told you it was an odd one…

But in this case, it also meant the book now fails quality control at KDP… Perhaps Amazon isn’t connected to the weirdness in the right way, who knows.

This left me with a problem, I could not update ‘Passing Place‘ without fixing the cover and the cover had originally been built via CreateSpace ( now defunct) and so all KDP had was a migrated PDF file. So I could not update the cover in the normal way to remove the solitary cosmically misplaced yet somehow right letter ‘a’. Indeed all I could do was start from scratch… Which admittedly I have always intended to do as the cover (fond of it as I am) was never the ‘right’ cover for the novel. (see  Self-publishing: A Guidebook for the Tourist#4: Covers: a judgement call…) But now I was in cover limbo…

Luckily, as things tend to do I find, the universe already had a solution, because when I was designing a cover for ‘A Spider in the Eye’ having learned a lot of lessons since way back in 2016 when ‘Passing Place’ was published, I spent a lot of time messing with cover idea’s till I got to the one I finally used on the new novel (you knew the one out next Monday that I am not mentioning too much in this post). I also while doing so messed about with covers for my other books on a similar theme, and while I didn’t have a final design ready for Passing Place I did have a working design I was happy with, a full wrap layout I liked, and so I had somewhere to start when it came to fixing this weird little problem. Which is not to say it did not need work and there weren’t some moments of inspiration needed, but I at least had somewhere to start.

The inspiration came when I wanted to keep some elements of the original cover, which lead to me ditching the ‘Spider’ backdrop and replacing it with the piano from the original cover. Which fixed the biggest problem I had with the new cover that I hadn’t realised I had (it just had not felt right when I did the mock-up last year when I was messing with idea’s.) As soon as I reincorporated the piano suddenly everything fell neatly into place and an hour or so’s tweaking got it just how I wanted it. Hence Passing Place now has a new cover (or will once KDP sort themselves out which always takes a while), though the Kindle version of the new cover is now live. Some people may not like the new one, but I think it is a worthy successor and fits far more with the nature of the novel, in fact having been forced to do this, I am rather glad that I have. Even if the cosmic contrivance of a typo is no longer to be seen, there is a cosmic contrivance of a sort in how the new cover came about.

The new one is on the right, just in case you were wondering 🙂

For those who wish to know, I made the covers using the free tools at https://www.canva.com/ and some of the smaller art pieces came from https://www.kisspng.com/ who do a great range in royalty free clip art.

Anyway, that’s the story of why Passing Place has a new cover, and why I will have the joy of having to redo a who load of links and promotional stuff all over the place, on a week when I should have been focusing on A Spider in the Eye…

I never said the cosmos was fair, only that it was weird…

#edit Oh and as your reading this anyway I would be an utter idiot not to mention that my novella A Scar of Avarice is free right now wouldn’t I… Which is probably why I forgot to do so…

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Free book giveaway…

As A Spider In The Eye comes out in a couple of days, to celebrate what to me at least is a momentous event, I am giving away Kindle copies of my Novella and short stories book A Scar of Avarice. This is just a short post to let people know because it pointless doing a free book offer and not telling people there is a free book offer…

promotion free asoa

to take advantage of this click on the links below



US LINK (and anywhere else as it will redirect you to your local river through the rainforest)


Canadian link (because it is mean that every just assumes Canadians will use the US one, not to mention rude)

Please take advantage of this offer.



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Readers are not snowflakes…

The word ‘Snowflakes’ has developed quite a reputation of late. Often used to describe those who get upset or angry about something, often for reasons of personal credo or political persuasion. Ironically, one has felt of late, it is often those most inclined to use the word ‘snowflake’ as a derogatory term who exhibit the most inclination to ‘snowflakeness’, which is not a word, but hey, you know what, it should be.

For example, the ardent member of the NRA complaining about ‘liberal snowflakes’ who want to take away their bump stocks, and getting upset about people using rational arguments about something that they clearly feel very emotive about.  Damn those rational arguments…

But without slipping into a long side-track about the relative nature of snowflakeness, I am going to skip merrily along to what inspired this particular post.  A friend of mine posted this question on their facebook earlier today. A fair and reasonable question, because clearly, the writer in question is worried about the possibility of upsetting some of her readers, and I applaud the fact that she thought it was important enough to get a wider view on the subject.

If a book contains a potentially upsetting scene, would you want to know beforehand?

This hypothetical character might have dementia and Parkinson’s and that might be upsetting for some who have family members or friends that have/had either/both of those conditions.

So the question is, would you want a warning at the start of the book or in the description on Amazon or would you rather not know?

So, here is my opinion, in its usual unadulterated form, on the subject.


I went into more detail than that in my reply to the question on Facebook, but that is the essence of it. Readers actually are often upset by things in books, to one degree or another. Readers care about characters, or should. Readers will occasionally feel a degree of emotional pain by something that happens in a book. I have had readers tell me that a certain scene in a book, or something that happens in a book ‘broken’ them, or otherwise caused them to take a moment or two. If something is well written, no matter if it is harrowing, or haunting or beautiful or torrid or whatever form of emotion inspiring event, the mere fact it causes a reader to react to it is a good sign that you’re doing something right somewhere, and I have written my fair share of torrid  over the years. Richard in ‘Passing Place’ discovers his wife’s body after she commits suicide, Susanna in ‘Cider Lane‘ self-harms as a teenager in response to the fairly hellish bullying she has endured, and those are only the most immediate examples that spring to mind from my own novels.

But here is the thing, readers are not snowflakes. Reading is not a passive activity any more than writing is. A reader should respond to a tale well told, be it with a smile, a laugh or tears. But I have never had a single reader complain they were ‘triggered’ by something I have written because as I say, readers are not snowflakes. Readers are also by their nature open to a writers idea’s, and the view of the world the writer is expressing, they may well disagree with it, but it is an intellectual exchange of ideas. (yes okay I know that probably sounds a little much but in essence that what reading is, an invitation to open your imagination to the writers, and if the writing is good the reader will do just that.)

Reading is the intellectual exchange of idea’s, not the adamant adherence to the singular perspective that is so intrinsic to ‘snowflakeness’. A reader, by their very nature, is unlikely ever to get upset about something a writer had written in a triggering way because if they read something that upsets them in such a way, they will stop reading.

But more importantly, despite what twitter, facebook and a lot of reactionary ‘snowflakes’ on both side of the political spectrum may want you to believe, the vast majority of people are NOT ‘snowflakes’.

It says a lot about the writer of that Facebook question that they care enough to ask the question and to get the opinion of others, all of which is good. But my advice to her, as it would be to any writer asking me a similar question is simply this, people are not snowflakes, they don’t melt. So if it is part of the story, if there is a reason for it, if it isn’t merely something you write to fill a few pages then write it and worry not. No one is going to melt, no one is going to be upset. Indeed the opposite is probably true if its well written, well researched, and based on some of your own experience, then people living with that situation will probably thank you for doing so. At the very least it would let them know they are not alone, and that their experience is not unique.

As I say, people in general, and readers all the more so are not snowflakes. Don’t worry about upsetting them, focus on inspiring them, that what good writing should do. They won’t melt…


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Hannibal the quotable…

I have been known to throw the odd quote here and there. Followers of my itinerant wittering on here will be aware of that I am sure. I am something of a collector of quotes by the great and the good, and more than one post has been just a bunch of quotes from various authors around a central theme. They always seem reasonably popular as blog posts go, as everyone like a good quote. Occasionally it occurs to me that I will know I have finally made it as a writer when I see someone quoting back at me from my own novels. And sure, that’s nothing but vanity in my case, but who knows maybe someday someone will, my characters do occasionally manage the odd bit of profundity.

Case in somewhat shaky point, Hannibal Smyth, philandering bounder of the first order,  former gunnery officer in Her Imperial Majesties Royal Air Navy, traitor, liar, smuggler, condemned murder and latterly agent of The Ministry, of all my characters, needed his own voice and his own linguistic mannerisms. Not least because his stories are all told in the first person, narrated by old Harry Smith himself.  But perhaps there is an odd nugget of wisdom buried deep within his first outing which is due for publication on the 7th of January. Though that would be for readers to find not the author I suspect.

There is such a thing as being too close to your own work after all.

Regardless, here are a few ‘quotable’ Hannibalisums that made me smile when I was doing the final proofread, and will hopefully make others smile too. I should add they are all reprinted here entirely without context, but I’ll let Hannibal introduce himself on this occasion…

… a gentleman and an officer, despite my incarceration. Or at least that was how I preferred to present myself to the world. I am in actuality, a lying thieving swindler, who just happens to wear a uniform and hold pretensions to civility. Though truth be told I’ve always considered that to be the definition of an officer and a gentleman…

…something my old mum used to tell me when I was a lad. “If you’re going to lie, Harry, my son, then lie big…”    Of course, mother was generally off her trolley on Gin most of the time, but in essence, it was still sound advice…

…Lady Justice in London’s courts wasn’t exactly for sale, but she could be rented for a sizeable contribution to someone’s retirement fund…

…There are workers and doers in this world, and then there are also those who do the paperwork…

hannibalisums 1

…Privately I always suspected not bombing a few villages for a while might go a long way towards resolving the problems, but don’t quote me on that. Such opinions have never proved popular…

…even thugs love a tale of smiling children…

…A wringing of hands you could almost hear in his tone. Like a politician caught with his trousers round his ankles and a King’s Cross rent boy’s lips on his… well, you get the gist…

…There was something unpleasant about him. Like that itch on your scrotum that you can’t scratch in public…

spider ad 1

A Spider In The Eye will be available in paperback and as an ebook from the 7th of January and the kindle version with be available for pre-order in the next day or so.

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Pointless list of wonderfulness 3

Clearly, it would be an act of wisdom for me to take the time to encourage people to visit my blog, as opposed to reading the blogs of others. I am, however, not wise, nor am I so calculating. Besides, if you’re already here, reading this, you’re already on my blog and reading it. So wisdom be damned… be damned I tell you…

(I actually write this post about 3 months ago, but never finished it off, and found it in my drafts, so thought I may as well get it published now, even though there are only a couple of blogs on this one rather than the usual 5)   

Here is another of those sporadic lists of fun and interesting blogs more people should be reading ( even if those more people are already more people than probably read mine in the first place.)   And as ever, remember….



The List of Wonderfulness

Meredith Debonnaire


Book reviews, personal insights, and ‘Tales from Tantamount’ which may be entirely fictional, or maybe the translated whispers, newspaper clippings, spy reports from another part of the multiverse that have slipped through a rip in space and time, form a part of the universe that makes perfect sense there but is incomprehensibly weird in a wonderful way to our more mundane eyes. (oh I so hope the latter is true, I mean I know it isn’t, but what is life without hope.)  Oh and BEWARE: falling Alpaca’s, and the Magpies, definitely the Magpies…

Craig Hallam


As I love his Alan Shaw novels, including Craig in this little list would seem obvious. I am however not including him for his books or his posts on Alan, or even the little insights into the life of a somewhat more successful scribbler of words than myself. It’s his post on everything else that make me bob over on to his blog now and again. His Tao of writers series is interesting and informative, he has guest posts from other writers whom I may not have heard of but look forward to discovering if I ever have the time.  Craig is a writers writer. Warm and fuzzy he may be, but he is welcoming and encouraging and just nice. Irritatingly so at times…


Anyway, as before with the previous pointless list of wonderfulness, I am sure this is enough homework to give everyone for now. However, the previous post, complete with another five interesting and delightful blogs to look at can be found here. 


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