Misc.

Sentimentality

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Derek Gervais

Ricky Gervais’s new series of Derek has once again divided viewers and critics.  The show is a sentimental ‘mockumentary’ following, principally, four characters in a nursing home for the elderly.  I loved the first series, the final episode being as moving as the christmas special of The Office.  Many of the criticisms stem from a […]

Reading

Books – Replay

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Grimwood Replay

Replay, by Ken Grimwood, tackles the classic ‘What if…’ scenario: “What if I could live my life over again?” It treads a path between the wonderful Star Trek episode ‘The Inner Light’ and Groundhog Day.  Jeff, the book’s protagonist, is going to ‘replay’ his life more than once, unlike Picard; but unlike Phil Connors, he’s […]

Reading

Books – Wolf Hall

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wolf hall mantel

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, is a masterpiece.  It is one of the best books I will ever read. I know this because I’ve lost count of the times I’ve paused over a page, muttered ‘Fuck off’ at the sheer and dazzling quality and control of the form and the narrative, and then carried on reading, […]

Writing and publishing

The Reader’s Gift

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reading books

As someone learning the craft of writing, and leaving it rather late to do so, I need to read widely, and read writing of good quality so that I may learn from it.  It was inevitable I would become a neurotic reader. Anyone with a passion for books has or will come to the realisation […]

Reading

Books – Norwegian Wood

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murakami norwegian

So, I’ve popped my Haruki Murakami cherry, having heard from a number of different sources about this writer and his cult following and magical prose. Norwegian Wood is a story, set in Japan, of a teenage boy, Toru Watanabe, in love with a girl, Naoko, who we learn is schizophrenic and with whom he shares […]

Misc.

Good coffee is easy

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good coffee

In the UK in the last ten to fifteen years, there has been an explosion in the amount of us buying coffee while we’re out and about. With this boom, its headline acts being the big chains like Starbucks, Costas, Nero etc. the word ‘barista’ has reached the common lexicon, rarely confused now with the legal […]

Writing and publishing

In the land of the blind, could the literary agent be king?

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literary agent self publishing

Writers have a problem.  It’s harder than it ever was to get published.  It’s also easier than it ever was to get published.

Misc.

Shouldn’t things be better?

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poverty inequality

“How is it that we have created so much mental and emotional suffering despite levels of wealth unprecedented in human history?” (The Spirit Level) It’s not the sort of thing you can sort out in a blog entry, but there’s any number of things that don’t seem to add up when I think about British […]

Games

Abraham Lincoln, Jamie Carragher and me

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jamie carragher abraham lincoln fallout videogame football manager

I’m stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a post-apocalyptic ruin, watching a man called Hannibal slowly lead a handful of worn-out looking former slaves and a diseased, mutated Brahmin bull to the headless statue of the former president.  On the back of the bull are some supplies and the stone head of Abraham […]

Misc.

Ten of my favourite movie moments

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star wars alien amadeus

Well, it’s my blog, I can do a ‘my favourite things’ if I want to.  What prompted it was this year’s christmas Radio Times.  For as long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed sitting down with it and reading through, picking out all the old films I’d like to watch, you know, ‘Meet Me in […]

Misc.

Hard Copy

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Physical digital media kindle iphone

If our homes express who we are, what of the home where all of your literature and music is invisible to the casual eye; no trace of the stories and music that move you and define you represented alongside whatever art or furniture or decor you’ve put together to create a place that is special […]

Misc.

Why I love running

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Running lido Saltdean

There’s an iron nail in my left knee the first half mile away from my front door, down the slope past the school, dozing in the silence of its lie-in on a bright Saturday morning. The nail, where my iliotibial band sticks itself to my knee, warms and melts away as I turn onto the […]

Writing and publishing

Making my own words work

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Snakewood

I talked in my last blog-post about the pleasure I get from hard-working prose.  Good writing comes from the choices you make with the words you commit to the page.  In this blog-post I’m going to look at two scenes from my book Snakewood and explain what I was trying to achieve with them.  I […]

Reading

The deliciousness of hard-working prose

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kathleen jamie sightlines

What would you say constitutes great writing?  For a practising writer like me, good writing isn’t just about what is enjoyable to read, but also about the choices a writer makes when they select words to convey their message. I thought I’d try to articulate what great writing looks like to me, using an author […]

Reading

Books – Altered Carbon (veers into bonus thoughts on mental continuity and my nan!!)

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Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan, is a cyberpunk-noir detective thriller of the ‘locked room’ variety.  If you want steam rising out of your grates in grimy streets straight off the ‘Blade Runner’ mood boards and a bosomy femme fatale in a plot full of twists and turns then stop reading and go buy it, because as a debut novel, […]

Reading

Books – City of Saints and Madmen

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jeff vandermeer

City of Saints and Madmen, by Jeff Vandermeer, has been labelled ‘avant-garde fantasy’.  It is.  The city is the star; Ambergris is a violent and gothic-romantic ecosystem, the inhabitants of which live in a fearful symbiosis with the deeply mysterious ‘Greycaps’.  These underground dwellers were initially displaced by the founders of Ambergris from the much older city that it grew […]

Games

Richly blending achievements may cause loss of sleep!

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mmo gaming addiction

Over the years I’ve been addicted to a number of games.  These include all the MMOs I’ve played, Championship Manager, Civilization, Elite, Just Cause 2 and Test Drive Unlimited.  And this was proper addiction, you know: “Oh shit it’s 4am, oh man, not again.” Five hundred calories a day on weekends (crisps, tea and chips) Tips and strategy […]

Misc.

End Day

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“Sit down son.” Jerry’s mum and dad were on the sofa opposite him.  This was his End Day, his sixteenth birthday, and so the day he would be told how long he had to live, the day the law said he had a right to know. His mum was biting her lip, her knuckles were white […]

Writing and publishing

Show don’t tell

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chuck palahniuk

I spend some time on an internet writing forum.  There have been a few forum threads that have exploded over the titular writing maxim.  One post in particular is based on some advice Chuck Palahniuk had written somewhere: ‘you may not use “thought” verbs.  These include:  Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires’ […]

Reading

Books – Wool

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wool howey

Spoiler free.  Rest easy… Hugh Howey is in the enviable position of the author who self-published with a good enough book, got a buzz going and then took off into the stratosphere – publishing deal! film in the offing!  I’m delighted for him. It reminded me afresh that all the self-marketing in the world isn’t […]

Reading

Books – The Old Ways

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Robert MacFarlane

The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane is a book about walking country paths. I know, that’s what I thought, and I only bought it because writers of the stature of John Banville named it as one of the books of the year on its release last year. But then I started reading it, and I was […]

Writing and publishing

Worldbuilding part 2: It’s a kind of magic

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worldbuilding

This blog post gives an overview of my very physical take on ‘magic’ in the world of Snakewood. Now, inevitably, with a fantasy novel, you’re likely to have some sort of ‘magic’, something to make it fantastic in the purest sense. For Snakewood, perhaps because of my conceptual struggle, as a materialist, for magic, I […]

Misc.

Love and brains and language games

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philosophy systems

I’m going philosophical in this post, so those of a disposition sensitive to pointless armchair theorising look away now. I’ve long been interested in Philosophy, but particularly interested in the brain, the most complex thing in the known universe, as far as I’m aware. In this post I want to explain why I think the mind is […]

Writing and publishing

Worldbuilding part 1 – how prevailing winds shape history’s winners and losers

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worldbuilding

How to create a convincing fantasy world. That’s the question I’m sure all writers in the genre wrestle with at the outset.  You can get lost in it.  All such writers I’ve read on the forums I frequent vary in how deeply they imagine the setting for their story, prior to banging out the chapters. […]

Reading

Books – The Stress Of Her Regard & Sum

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tim powers

The Stress Of Her Regard – Tim Powers Byron, Keats and Shelley – check. Vampires – check. Life or death adventures through London, Venice, Rome and the Alps – check. As with the other Tim Powers novels I’ve read (The Drawing of the Dark, On Stranger Tides and Last Call), The Stress Of Her Regard pits […]

Games

Design your own difficulty – how LOTRO lost its soul

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lotro

I’ve wondered for a while what the use of analytics in driving game design would mean for games.  There are clearly massive benefits.  But along the way I think there are casualties, particularly when it comes to the uniqueness of a vision a designer has for the experience they’ve created.  The only time I’ve articulated […]

Writing and publishing

Do readers care about grammar?

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grammar

“Surely if incredibly high sales of authors who don’t close edit their books teaches us one thing, it’s that in some parts of some genres editing is less important to readers than other factors…..the point about self-publishing is that every type of reader can find books that are for them so long as we stop […]

Reading

Books – The Intellectuals and the Masses, The Dying Earth trilogy and Little, Big

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jack vance

I’ll share my thoughts and recommendations here of great books I’ve read.  Here are three I’ve read recently, I’ve not read a bad book in a while it seems ;) The Intellectuals and the Masses – John Carey “The tragedy of Mein Kampf is that it was not, in many respects, a deviant work but one firmly rooted […]

Games

Why Guild Wars was the best MMO

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guild wars

I never played World of Warcraft (WOW). It could be a fatal caveat to the bag of opinions that follows, but, as Rushdie said of Don DeLillo’s magnum opus Underworld, WOW “fills the sky” where MMOs are concerned.  It must be acknowledged, a tip of the hat to the naked emperor from here onwards, as well […]

Writing and publishing

The final full stop.

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Snakewood fantasy

The final sentence of Snakewood approached, already in my head, and I’m looking at the words unfold like I’m on a train thundering off the rails and over the cliff.