My creative juices started flowing when I was just a kid who was content in his own company and the worlds of imagination he created to get him through the day. He thought this was normal until it was pointed out that it wasn’t, which didn’t bother him in the slightest!
A rather safe but boring career path seemed to beckon from an early age when I became obsessed with chemistry sets, leading to an O level, A level and then choice of degree subject. This was not me at all and my sanity was preserved by a myriad of writing projects, consisting of jokey poems and dodgy short stories for school and university friends. I also picked up a guitar at the age of 14 and never put it down, leading to a whole catalogue of songs, thankfully lost thanks to a parental purge of my belongings (and all of my creative output, which I never forgave them for) when I wasn’t looking!
I drifted into a career of management consultancy, working first in operational research and then corporate planning, before training as a systems analyst, when I fell in love/hate with the world of computing, at a time when the hardware was sited in huge air-conditioned rooms within computer centres and my only access was either through a land line, using a rubber device called an acoustic coupler, or through punch cards. My world exploded, though, in 1981 when I won a national Computing competition and brought home a monstrosity called a Superbrain, with a tiny monitor, floppy disk drives and the brain about 0.001% the size of my current iPhone. It didn’t last long as, in 1982, I joined the home computing boom, bought myself a Sinclair zX81 (1k of memory!), then a Dragon 32 (32k of memory). My life changed totally at that moment.
I started writing computer games for the Dragon 32, first as a sideline and then … to my wife’s consternation … full time. Shards Software was born. I designed and programmed around 100 computer games and educational software for the Dragon, Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro and Acorn Electron. Most were rubbish, especially by today’s standards and I cringe when I see them run on a PC in an emulator. But there were successes: Pettigrew’s Diary reached number 1 in the charts in 1983 and Woodbury End – believe it or not – is still being played and has a small fan club (3 men and a dog I believe). My business acumen unfortunately was virtually non-existent and my world crashed and I teetered on the edge of bankrupcy, only avoiding it through creative accountancy I think. We ended up second mortgaging our house and I ended up on the dole.
I was rescued by an advert by a start up in Cranfield called Education Technology, innovators in the new discipline of Computer Based Training and Interactive Video. I flourished because of the expertise I brought to the job from my games designing background and became (for a very short time) sought after for my innovative designs and quirky programming skills by blue chip companies such as Phillips, IBM, Midland Bank, Abbey National, BBC etc. In the middle of all that I became a Christian and, from that point onwards, determined that my creativity will be employed only to express my faith. That decision was made on a sewer bank in Plaistow – where I had to decide between a secular career as a writer (I had some borderline success with a film screenplay, board game, TV dramas, fiction and non-fiction offerings) and a small article I had written entitled ‘The Idiot’s guide to the Middle East conflict’. I chose the latter … and the rest is … <see title at head of page>
It’s been a hard path to follow as my books may be easy to read, but hard to swallow for some. For this reason I have always operated around the fringes of the Christian publishing industry. In this I believe I am in good company, as most Christians in history (from the disciples onwards) have trod this lonely and precarious path.