life work

The Real World

I’ve been focused on the day job and have now qualified as an emergency call handler after a few weeks of work and a training course with certification.

Art is a support system for life, and although the writing is a massive part of me, I am a firm believer in the value of working until you can support yourself.

Also, other people, another environment, those things are a mine of research and information. Listen to conversations, seed them with open questions about the work in progress without being obsequious about it.

A writing career is the goal. A satisfying job alongside that path is just a smart move. Also, food and bills are a powerful motivating force of life.

Anyway, back to the fiction and poetry.

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Home is a person

I won’t miss the quiet


But my friends are with me

Discarded the things

Which didn’t give me joy

Always travelled light

But it is a great leap forward

But I’m not so much landing

As ascending

She makes me want to be better

In a way that

Resists the weak parts

And I’ve grown stronger

If a bit slower

But look

I’m heading up

Somewhere else

But still


Is a person

After all

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It was about momentum, trying to lift the weight of my process against the resistance of anxiety and depression. These times are when all the bland, fat days of getting it done reap their reward.

It isn’t about external validation, or money in the bank a lot of the time. You do things that you would rather not do, in order to make it through testing times and write. I hit the 270 page mark this morning, after ten pages yesterday. I am close to the end now of Lawful Evil, two sequences or perhaps three, and it’s followed the story grid pretty closely. Once that is done, it will go away for a while whilst I continue editing on She’s Here, possibly Nothing Keeps Me Anywhere, and developing two new projects, both of which I’ve pitched to my agent.

I finished reading A History of Seven Killings yesterday, Marlon James’ award winning book about the attempted assassination of Bob Marley and the intercession of the CIA in the country at that time. Nowadays, Marley is a meme, a signal of virtue that never captures the purity of the man and his music still carries that rawboned elegance. No Woman, No Cry is Dylan with a joint on the go.

I started Perfidia by James Ellroy yesterday, which has a thematic relation to James’ book in that it uses the swirling undercurrents of personal ambition, corruption and politics to show us a point in the past and teach us that history shows who we are, not who we say we are. I’ve been reading Ellroy for a long time, enough to see how his work has influenced later authors. Lawful Evil probably bears some of his ideas, because he has found the corruption in Los Angeles and found the poetry, the humanity within it.

Reading and writing help, and even the sentences that bring tears to my eyes, do so in the spirit of healing.  Same with the poetry too, they’re all tools I use to build an idea bigger than can be contained within me. I am not at peace anywhere, but on the page, there are moments where it calls to me and offers that hope. It’s a long slog, isolating and polarizing sometimes, but the feeling of being done is always good.

She’s Here is benefiting from a solid line edit. There is less to change thus far than I expected, but am still reading and editing it like I hate it, looking for the bits that would stick out, that feel like affectations or moments of ‘hey look’ which survived the first draft. The pain and the grief are there, and I am now into the haunting sections which represent my first attempts at the genre and hopefully don’t suck too badly. Chewing through the rind of time, sucking the bitterness away and hoping there’s enough nutrition to keep you moving for another moment, another hour, another day.

So I keep breathing, meditation to alleviate the worst of the symptoms and working on myself to find my centre again. Thank you for reading.



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Two Pages (30/09/16)

The two pages for Lawful Evil have kicked off the next crisis. It is about a slow reveal, the circumstances surrounding an event more than the event itself. I was tempted to have my protagonist force herself into the scene but it felt a little histrionic, so I went with delaying things a little bit. It’s not a dedicated, documentary but I try to avoid the lazy cliche, even if it does move things along a little faster. So long as you have and understand the obligatory scenes and conventions, then you have the freedom of how you get there.

I am pleased with my progress on the book. It will be the longest book to date, but it’s necessary and I always toss away 10% or so in the process of transcribing it from longhand to the computer.

I cut a chapter from Until She Sings. It was pleasant enough, but it didn’t progress anything, just sort of floated there so I took a few elements from it and put them into the following chapter instead, which gave it a lot more intensity without too much meandering. I was not expecting to cut anything but after contemplation, it felt the right thing to do. Your scenes should turn, a book is patterns of ink on paper or bytes on a screen but it should still move.

I am now 27 chapters into the edit, so roughly a third of the sixth draft which is good progress. I will be proceeding with it regularly because the sooner that I can pronounce this work finished, then I can start having conversations with my agent about selling it to a publisher. Doing the hard work now means that there is less work for a publisher to do, which makes it an easier sale for the both of us. There are so many routes to being published, some faster than others, but you have to find what one works for you. My hypothetical path has led to a higher level of craft for me, even though it has taken longer to get to the point where I can even contemplate my books in print.

I’ve added colour to some characters, shown a bit more of the history and personality without having it overwhelm the story. They’ve mostly been taken care of by actions, reactions and descriptions but it never hurts to expand on them so long as it does not derail the story or overshadow the protagonist.

Although that was how Until She Sings came about. So, previously I had bullied a supernatural urban fantasy romantic horror -comedy called Great Things through to two drafts. It had some good elements to it, a concept that I may return to some day but overall it didn’t really hang together. However, one character intrigued me and after a moment of clarity, rewrote the whole thing to feature about her. No supernatural or magical elements in it. It was a learning experience for me, that I’ve used to frame subsequent works and my approach to them.

I am currently reading  A Headful of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay.  It’s unnerving and powerful, combining multiple viewpoints, textures and a healthy awareness of tropes and preconceptions. He makes explicit some of the gender politics as they relate to the ideas of demonic possession and does not forget to involve and disturb the reader as he does it. Each chapter is a masterpiece of unease and his voice is almost invisible, disappearing into the characters, as it should be.

Thank you for reading



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Here Before

The reality of parenting is not just a fear of failure but also a fear of projection. In her own childhood, Nicola had dreamed about the relics and dinosaur bones of the British Museum, the cool rarefied glamour had underpinned her planning for this trip.

The kids though were less than enthused. Cain said that it would make a cool multiplayer map for CoD. Jenny kept alternating between wanting to pee and screeching herself red to visit M & M World.

This was her first trip without Paul. The longest and most expensive and, in the planning, the most terrifying and difficult.

Since the accident.

The plane trip had been exciting and surreal, Jenny dealing with the pressure by crying for her mother and Cain sneering at everything. However, London had stunned them both into reverent silence.

Only for three minutes. But it was impressive.

So Nicola had been wandering around, fighting back tears at how something so wanted felt so unnecessary. They were drawing stares and she was struggling not to scream louder than Jenny when a warm gentle voice made her skin tingle.

‘Well we appear to have an upset young lady here.’

She turned on a dime, ready to hiss with defensive fury.

Then found herself looking into amused, brown eyes and tanned skin made ruddy with the warmth of the day and all the bodies wandering around. Wide and generous features, clean shaven with a small nick on his cleft chin.

He had on a crisp white shirt, unbuttoned at the collar and sleeves rolled into flat doughnuts above the elbow. Black trousers that clung to his thick thighs.

‘Would you be interested in seeing some magic?’

Cain sniggered and the man rolled his eyes as he held up a black scuffed wallet in Cains eye line.

His wallet.

The man read the spasm of adolescent anguish perfectly and handed it back to him.

‘That’s important to you. However that’s not my trick, sir.’

He let go of the wallet to Cain’s grasp, then splayed his fingers. His earnest amusement beguiled her and he reached, plucking an oversize gold coin from her left ear and then holding it in the centre of his palm. Jenny snatched for it but he closed his hand, made it vanish. Jenny giggled and Nicola was awash with affection and gratitude. With his other hand, he gifted her with the coin and she began to unwrap it, her ill mood gone entirely. She was about to ask his name when someone walked in front of her. She looked back up once they were gone.

But so was he.

His presence, unnamed and brief, marked a change in the dynamic between them all. Nicola found herself, in defiance of probability, hoping to see him again.

Later, she found the note in her purse. An email address, then a conversation when she laid awake, adjusting to the time difference. Wondering what the strange sound was, and realising that it was her, laughing.

Jonathan. He had come from a talk that he had given, had seen her and then her children. Thought he would see if he could help out. She teared up a little at that.

They met the next day. He kept his distance, but his eyes held a promise that helped her grow new nerves again. New skin, tender against the old. Then he waved them off at the airport, a first kiss when the children were occupied. Achingly sweet for the brevity.

Her work offered her an opportunity. Six months in England. When it was offered to her, she refused to believe it. The head of her department insisted that he understood if she couldn’t accept it.

She did not explain. The kids were surprisingly okay with it. Cain was well into the obscure English band phase of his adolescence, downloading all the ‘grime’ that he could find and Jenny was excited to the point of being sick.

The night before, they spoke on the phone.

‘I’m not sure I can sleep on the plane over.’

He chuckled as he sighed. He would get up ridiculously early to talk to her, and she had promised him as many lay ins as she could manage.

‘Don’t. Remember that you’ve been here before.’

She closed the lid on the suitcase, sat on the edge of the bed, scared and excited.

Then what am I going to do?

Just breathe. 

She shut her eyes, it was in truth, not a complete reunion. She had been firing parts of herself to him via emails and webcam chats, a bridge of photographs that stretched across the Atlantic.

Tomorrow, a new life in a new country. Although he had been right.

She had been there before.


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Create Your Own Religion by Daniele Bolelli



CREATE YOUR OWN RELIGION is a call to arms — an open invitation to question all the values, beliefs and worldviews that humanity has so far held as sacred in order to find the answers we need to the very practical problems facing us.

Writer, philosopher and professor of comparative religion, Daniele Bolelli, leads the reader through three thousand years of mythology, misogyny, misinformation and the flat-out lies about revealed truth that continue to muddle our ability to live a peacefullife, free of guilt and shame and the ultimate fear of death.

Our worldviews are in desperate need of some housecleaning, says Bolelli. We enter the 21st century still carrying on our backs the prejudices and ways of thinking of countless pastgenerations. What worked for them may or may not still be of use, so it is our job to make sure to save the tools that can help us and let go of the dead weight. In CREATE YOUR OWN RELIGION, he examines a variety of answers pushed forth by many religions to address the key questions of human existence and, on the basis of this knowledge, he encourages us to come up with our own answers.

Irreverent and illuminating, CREATE YOUR OWN RELIGION challenges readers to re-examine what it means to be human and bring a better way of life into existence.

Atheists can be as intolerant and strident as fundamentalists. Thankfully Bolelli has such a warm and inclusive love of life, passion and humanity that he presents a call to arms that doesn’t lead to the guillotine or the rack, but to the sadly radical idea that we’re all on this planet together.

He writes with a musical sweetness, bringing together disparate ideas and stories that reveal the savage excesses and commonalities of fundamentalists as well as clear and cogent insights into a way forward for us. He’s too passionate and smart to punch ideas into us, rather he points out the flaws and encourages us all to forge our own relationships with the world around and within us. No cultist nonsense, no sticking the knife in, just a lot to think about and it was a pleasure to read this book. There’s enough there to make me ponder a few things, mostly that I’m grateful there are people like Bolelli around to put a hypothetical arm around us and reassure us that there is hope and joy in the world.

Also he quotes Tom Robbins, which is never a bad thing. Regardless of your religious persuasion, this is a great book that I would like to see better known. There’s a measure of partisanship that I think stands in the way of our collective evolution but thinkers like Bolelli offer another way, one where we can all be friends.

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A Walk In The Mist

Just You  and Me by

On the days where the

Colour has been leached from


All seems stark and cold

The wind finds it’s way

Beneath whatever I am wearing

Yet the flame that burns

At my centre

Wavers but never dies

Nature does not care

For my sentiments

And in the face of that

I lighten

Might as well




The dog looks at me askance

But it knows

The simple pleasure of instinct

Of being lost in the mist

Following a scent

That only you can

Pick up

It is when I am alone

That i can breathe

In everything without pain

And my thoughts gather

Around the flame

A conspiracy of self

To achieve my goals

As simple as getting

Through the day

As grand as my ambition

Eyes closed

Moisture teeming in my beard

I welcome the banks of cloud

As a long lost friend

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What the world does

If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.
Ernest Hemingway A Farewell To Arms

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Nothing Keeps Me Anywhere 19/02/2015

Like or love all your characters.

I say it because Terry, who’s my antagonist, is an asshole but I like him.  You can tell when you’ve got a character that the author dislikes, which in the case of an antagonist, might seem odd.

Let’s break it down (puts on labcoat and stands in front of unusual laboratory equipment)

You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your characters and the key ingredient of being able to do that is to find common ground, something to like about them. This ties into the counter intuitive idea of liking your antagonist because no one believes themselves the villain.

Even the worst person entertains a delusion that they are right in their course of actions, making the best decision available to them, getting their needs met, sometimes just doing their job.

So, Terry is on the phone to John and I want to show that there’s an element of gamesmanship that John is frustrating that by NOT PLAYING ALONG. I know it’s probably not as exciting as merwolves or reverse vampires, but I think that it is. People are awesome, even the awful ones.

OK, honestly, have you seen or read something horrible and disturbed on the news, or been told a story and a part of your brain rubbed it’s hands together and went ‘moah meat for the writer, fresh meat at that’?

I do it. I have the grace not to be open about it if it’s a sensitive situation but life is the biggest troll, as Childish Gambino said, and you can either let it grind you down or amuse yourself with the antics of it.

So, today was a game, between the characters and I really enjoyed it. Because although the writing game exists between hobby, obsession and fledgling career for me, I love it with every fibre of my being. So much that I eat extra fibre so I can love it more. It’s also work too, but the good kind where there isn’t enough hours in the day to do it all.


Two Pages

I am past the scene with her parents and now back into the flow of things again. I am resisting the editorial impulse because it gets in the way of telling the story but I moved past it and I left today’s writing with a degree of anticipation.

I entertain myself first and foremost. That comes into play at the stage where you’re 344 pages into the first draft, you’ve got to wrap up the main plot and the subplots, you’re struggling not to be precious about any of it, to keep that excitement going until you type THE END as well as not get too excited about the next project, which you’re already sort of making notes towards.

Writing is serial monogamy. You love the book you’re with but goddammit you’re thinking about the books to come, and it’s always about the writing of the books. I’m not visualizing the movie rights or the adaptation, it will be when it sits in my hands with my name on.

I love it, I want to get better at it, no matter how I am feeling or what is going on, the time spent writing is meditative and healing for me. There’s the conceit that writing goes hand in hand with trauma or mental illness, which isn’t entirely true. I think that wounded and traumatized people have interesting things to say and that writing can be an amazing tool to make sense of the things that have hurt us, we can be anyone on the page. Not everyone has the patience, the passion or the perseverance to do it. That’s ok because those who don’t will find something else to do that does inspire them.

I’ve known plumbers and electricians who feel the same way about their work the way I do about mine. To me, it’s still work but I love it. I try and avoid the woo that gets thrown around because although it’s appealing, I used to use that as a reason not to write. That I didn’t have it in me to write because I wasn’t born with it.

I do because I hit bottom at one point and I decided that I needed to reach beyond what was around me.

Ask yourself, like I did, when I found that Alan Watts video, what would you do if money didn’t matter?

My answer was to write. So I did. Maybe you just enjoy it, you were naturally good at it. Whatever your reason, whatever your habit, whatever your artform, if it feels like switching a light on, or watching the sun come up, then you should do it.

Don’t do it at the exclusion of living, use it to enhance your life.

I follow people who write despite debilitating illness and they humble me with their enthusiasm and their goodness.

I follow people who write about the sad and terrible things that have happened to them so beautifully that it makes my heart ache to read them.

I follow poets and photographers, copybloggers and health food advocates because I want to feel part of a tribe where we sit at the edge of the fire.

I follow people who write in a second language more eloquently than I do in mine.

We’re not the warriors but we are as fierce.

We are not the hunters but we provide sustenance.

I write to fuel that fire that exists within me, because I am sat here and I wait for you all to join me.