Sunday, 11 November 2018

Armistice Day

A little picture of my nana, Rhona, as an ambulance driver in Carlisle during WWII. She was one of the fastest wheel-changers in the north.

And here's my great grandfather, her father, Thomas Alfred Sewell, who remained behind at Ypres after WWI to help bury the dead at Poelkapelle. An occupation that eventually killed him aged 41. Reinterred from the town cemetery to the military one in 2005.

Ypres Town Cemetery
Ypres Military Cemetery

This poignant art installation of ghost soldiers at St John's Churchyard, Slimbridge, was created by Jackie Lantelli. If you'd like to do something to commemorate, I suggest joining the Last Post Association. They ensure that the last post is played beneath the Menin Gate every night of the year.

Saturday, 10 November 2018


Finally! Book number two of three before Christmas.

It took a bit of doing, but after the release of The Tangled Forest last month, I've just re-released Lucid.

Lucid was the first novel I ever wrote, mostly to see whether I could make the word count. It was written during nights in Rwanda, when I had no television, few books and the internet wasn't capable of streaming video. I got a lot of writing done back in the good ol' days.

It was then shortlisted for the Luke Bitmead Bursary for New Writers in 2009, which was a huge boost of confidence. 

Eventually, it was picked up by Netherworld Books, the third of my novels to be published. Netherworld are an impress of Mirador Publishing. The parent press has the reputation of being a vanity press, charging authors money towards the publication of their titles, however Netherworld weren't. I've never been charged a penny towards publishing. It was a long time ago now, but the reason given, over an enthusiastic phone call, was that they wanted it enough to publish off their own back.

For that, I am grateful. Again, small successes such as these are key to building a fledgeling author's confidence. Though, of my three publishers, they're definitely the one I've had the rockiest relationship with.

The first issue I hit was that they were going to publish the manuscript as is, without any editing. This is practically unheard of. If a publisher takes on a book, they clean it up, at the very least give it a spit and polish. Nope. Not Netherworld. So, I enlisted the help of a friend to proof it.

Second issue - I never liked the cover. The cover image was fine, but the font always reminded me of SmartArt from a Word package. Other than cringeworthy typos, there's little worse for an author than being lumbered with a cover design they don't love. As every novelist knows, cover design is nine-tenths of the law. That's what sells books.

Original Cover
I also didn't like the way the cover pushed the book as purely horror. Yes, there's some of that, but that isn't all that Lucid was about. There was a lot of other stuff going on there as well. 

Every night we go to sleep and dream, but what if dreams could wake in our world?

Oliver Ryan suffers from sleep paralysis. It’s so bad that he’s afraid to invite anyone home in case he wakes screaming – or worse.

His dreams are so vivid they feel more real than his waking life. Each night he visits the Church of Shattered Hopes, where people cry blood, watches helplessly as horses devour themselves, or shoots himself through the head because a Hollywood star told him to.

His salvation appears to lie in Welsh witchcraft and psychoactive drugs, yet they also open the door to a world far worse than he could have imagined.

What does the brutal killing of a young girl in 1968 have to do with the recovery of a local coma victim? Ollie is unwittingly thrown into the role of detective.

Something else that bothered me about that particular publisher was the impersonal nature of their marketing strategy. There was one very brief release article, then once a quarter I'd receive a royalty statement with an attachment talking about ways to market my book, from how to write a press release to The Ten Commandments of Being an Author. Later down the line, when I became involved with Ghostwoods and saw what a proper, tailored marketing campaign involved, I felt a bit sore about the lack of personal support. It very much felt like they were trawling for material they could churn out as fast as possible with little input into the author-publisher relationship. Royalties en mass.

Fair enough, everyone gotta eat, but that didn't leave me feeling good about the relationship, and it certainly didn't shift books.

When, after six years, Netherworld decided it was no longer viable to keep the title in print, I breathed a sigh of relief. Pretty much every author dreams of being able to go back and edit their earlier work - this was my chance. Having just completed my first self-published novel, The Tangled Forest, I knew that I could make a better job of it. I went back through and edited out many of the typos I'd noticed the first time around (probably made a few new ones in the process), switched the format to 6x9", and slapped on a new cover that I really like.

So, here is the re-released result of my efforts. 

Lucid Mark II.

Paperback: UK/US
Kindle: UK/US

Friday, 9 November 2018

Amazon CreateSpace Joining KDP is a Bit of a Mess

Talk about arse and elbow.

I've just had the most excruciating experience with Amazon.

They've decided to lump CreateSpace in with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), but their administrative system really hasn't caught up.

Earlier this year, Netherworld handed back the rights to Lucid. After six years, they no longer felt it was viable to keep it in print. I put a glossy new cover on it and decided to take a shot at self-publishing so that it would still be available.

Anyone who's ever been through the process of typesetting and formatting a novel for self-publication will understand how much time and attention it takes. That's what made this so upsetting.

I submitted it for publication as both an ebook and paperback. The first format has always been published through Amazon KDP. The second format was traditionally published through CreateSpace, but is now also undertaken by KDP.

You get a little pop-up saying items are usually published within around 72 hours unless there's an issue. So, you sit back patiently and wait for notification that your title has passed the review stage and is now available for purchase.

Only, this time, I received a query asking me to prove my rights to the book, as it had previously been published with Amazon by Netherworld Books.

No problem. I tried to forward them a copy of the e-mail in which the publisher transferred the rights. Only, the address they told me to send it to bounced.

When I e-mailed them to mention this, I received no response.

Going back through the e-mails, I tried sending it to the person who originally sent me the request, and then, I think, through the online messaging system. I'm not quite sure what I did, but eventually I got notification that the Kindle version had gone live on 3rd November.

Going live means being published and made available for sale. This would not have happened unless Amazon received my rights notification and accepted that I held the rights to this work.

Yet, while the ebook was out in the world, the paperback still said In Review five days after I'd submitted it.

I contacted Amazon and got a kind reply saying, 'Don't worry, we're looking into it.'

Famous last words.

Today, nine days after submitting my paperback for publication, I got a lengthy e-mail saying I haven't complied by submitting proof of rights ownership and therefor my book has been blocked from Amazon!

Yet the ebook is still live.

So, they accept that I own the ebook but not the paperback?

Joining CreateSpace and KDP was supposed to make this process streamlined. Instead, it's just confused the paperwork. All that hard work to prepare my paperback for publication, and it's just been deleted.

Fuming isn't even a start to it.

Amazon do well, earning money out of authors, but they really don't treat them as people. It's a world full of automated messages. When something goes wrong, you're lucky if you get a response, and even luckier if you get a response from someone who can actually solve a problem.

Not impressed at all. 

[UPDATE: Yeash. Within an hour of sending me yet another 'you don't hold the rights' automated e-mail, I get one saying 'congratulations, your paperback has been published'. What a waste of everybody's lifetime that was.]

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Universal Basic Income

Further to my TEDx talk, several people have asked more about the concept of Universal Basic Income. Above is a really good introductory video. It's also been shown to be extremely helpful for mental health.

Sunday, 4 November 2018


What did you do yesterday evening, Marion?

Well, I watched the entire second season of Castlevania in one sitting.

It took me an episode or two to get into the first season, but I'm hooked. There are some fabulous lines, plenty of profanity, and wonderfully gory animation. 

"Adamic is the original human language. The one spoken by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The one that was split into all other languages at the Tower of Babel by God, to prevent human cooperation."

"Is that how you understand that story?"

"Oh, yes. The Speakers are the enemy of God. We live in cooperation and hide our stories inside ourselves so he cannot strike them down in jealousy."

I'm seriously shipping Belmont and Alucard, but respect that they've kept romance out of it in favour of ripping people's throats out. Fantastic set of characters, and very nice to see Jaime Murray on the lineup - I was a huge Hustle fan.

Vampires never get old (no, really, they don't), but there were some nice twists that gave them fresh fangs. 

You can find it on Netflix at the moment. Really looking forward to Season Three.

Saturday, 3 November 2018


I'm really looking forward to this. Giles Paley-Phillips featured briefly in my TEDx talk with his origami swan. He's now starting a podcast with his friend Jim Daly called Blank. You can find more information via Twitter: @Blankpod. They're kicking off on 7th November, interviewing the fantastic Jon Ronson. I was lucky enough to catch him at Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2012 and loved his books The Psychopath Test and So You've Been Publicly Shamed. Absolutely tuning in for this. You can plug yourself in via their website.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Girls & Boys

Whilst on my travels, I downloaded a copy of Girls & Boys, a play by Dennis Kelly, performed by Carey Mulligan. 

When they met at an airport, it was love at first sight. But in time, everything collapsed. As an unnamed but unforgettable woman muses on her life—from meet cute to marriage and parenthood—her recollections inexorably build to a devastating truth. In this shattering performance, Carey Mulligan, star of the critically lauded drama An Education, captivates audiences with playwright Dennis Kelly’s harrowing ruminations on family, ambition, gender, and violence. An acclaimed Off-Broadway play, the gut-wrenching world of Girls & Boys now thrives as an Audible Theater production.

It's an extremely well-written and well-performed play unpacking gender-based violence and its consequences. It's peppered with disarming, dark humour. The way it's delivered really draws you in and you're listening so closely, you don't see what's coming.

It's available on Audible, and there's an interview with Dennis Kelly afterwards which is a nice added extra. Highly recommend it.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Samhain Salutations

Have a satiatingly salacious Samhain. Found this critter in The Hague.

Monday, 29 October 2018

TEDx Livestream

Hi guys. I've been a little bit quiet recently as I've been off giving a TEDx talk at the University of Luxembourg. It was a fairly intense experience. There was a lot of preparation involved, writing the speech and rewriting it. I left Kigali on 22nd October, arrived in Luxembourg on 23rd, then there was a dress rehearsal, a private coaching session, and then the proper performance on 26th. So, it was all go.

Thankfully, the team and the speakers were absolutely fantastic. It was such a supportive environment and a wonderful chance to talk about ideas and passions. A truly incredible experience.

They're currently editing the speeches now, so there will be a bright, glossy version which I will post later on, but if you don't want to wait, the livestream is still available here. It's rough and ready, but what people were watching on the day.

I'm currently holed up in The Hague with my lovely cousin Tamsin and her fella, Guido. Eating, drinking and attempting to survive the freezing cold weather before flying back to a sensible climate on Wednesday.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

The Death Book

I'd like to give a shout out to a most excellent individual, Matthew Holroyd. 

He's releasing this gem on Halloween:

Edited and published by Matthew Holroyd, the founder of Baron and Baroness Magazines and photographer Edith Bergfors, the death book is a series of loosely connected vignettes exploring photography’s relationship to death and how death is portrayed in Western society.

A photograph typically captures a moment in the past, bringing it to the present. In contemporary surveillance culture (a.k.a the internet), the dead and alive exist side by side. On the satellite mapping site Google Earth, for example, Bergfors has sourced photographs of her now-deceased grandparents gardening. Likewise, as a genre, portraiture tends to circle around mortality, desire and power.  Through extensive Photoshop manipulation, the editors of this book presents themselves as thinned down, airbrushed and clad in designer fashions, in an attempt to be remembered as rich and picture-perfect. Sadly, The National Portrait Gallery, London, rejected their attempts to bequeath these portraits to the nation.

Popular representations of death act as simulations of death, rather than representations of any reality. For example, the devil has come to signify a host of mortal sins – from drinking to sexing. Playing on this legacy, here a rent boy is portrayed as the devil, alongside muscular clubbers exhibiting their sporty physique.

The book also contains contributions from  image makers and other visual practitioners who have informed the editors’ own ideas on death; these include Palm d’Or-winning director Lars von Trier, Golden Lion-winning director Roy Andersson, Turner Prize-winner Damien Hirst, a letter from the musician Merle Allin to the serial killer Danny Rolling, conceptual artist Manabu Yamanaka, the documentary photographer Miron Zownir,  conceptual artist Dallas Seitz and crime scene simulator Bill’s Playhouse.

In a time where a digital version of almost anything is possible, the advantage of being able to upload a posthumous video for loved ones to watch is now a possibility. Bergfors and Holroyd recreate such films and the book ends with two QR codes for anyone to scan and watch, just like a supermarket barcode.

The subject of photography and death is something I'm also extremely interested in, and writing my own novel about.

Got very excited when I saw Matthew post about this. We were at BRIT School together, and once got an A in Physical Theatre for doing two-person forward rolls back and forth in front of a television playing white static. That probably explains a lot about how we came to be where we are today.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Cover Reveals

Here's a quick sneaky-peek at some ink that should - with any luck - be out before Christmas. All available in paperback and Kindle.

This one's already out across all territories. First new work in about three years.

Paperback: UK/US
Kindle: UK/US

Three dark fairy tales: Wolfish, Red & White and Skin. The first was originally written as a novella which was longlisted for the Leapfrog Press Award last year. 

Cover art by Victoria Cooper Art.

After six years in print, Netherworld Books is taking the original edition of Lucid off their list. As the rights revert back to me, I've taken the opportunity to do what most authors dream of doing with their early work - polishing it and choosing a better cover.

This was actually the very first novel I ever wrote. Shortlisted for the Luke Bitmead Bursary for New Writers in 2009. 

Cover art by BetiBup33.

Finally, this lovely venture into the world of Hookland, the creation of author David Southwell. This needs more explaining than I can give it here. Folklorish, paranormal wyrdness and wonder. Check out the Creeper's Cottage tab on this blog for more details.

  Cover art by José Bethencourt Suárez.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Hello, People of Earth

Oh my goodness. This was me giving a presentation in Luxembourg yesterday, whilst simultaneously tuning a piano in Kigali.

No, not a hologram, a pre-recorded tape, played at the first rehearsal day ahead of the TEDx talk on 26th October. You wouldn't believe how difficult it was to record that with a very grainy webcam and upload it over a limited 3G connection. Took a few attempts, but got there in the end.

I'll definitely be there for the second rehearsal on 24th October, though. Looking forward to meeting all the other speakers. I have videos of their rehearsals too, which I'd love to watch, only... 3G, limited. 

Never mind. You can find out all about them on the event website.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Sunday, 7 October 2018

The Man in the Mask

Just noticed this video review of Rosy Hours - in a mask. Thought I'd share it. Firstly, because the guy took the time to make it, and secondly, because it's honestly more terrifying than anything I've ever written.

Well done that man.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Sounding Good

Sitting back with a sigh and trying to decide which take-away to order. Spent the day finishing up the midsection on the first Rwandan piano. Sweaty work, but satisfying. Just got the bass to put on now. You can follow our adventures at the Kigali Keys blog.

Monday, 1 October 2018

The Tangled Forest

Hello everyone.

Announcing this fine book for sale in paperback and e-format.

The trees whisper stories in the deep, dark woods.

This is the retelling of three ancient fairy tales by the women who lived them. Stories that at first seem unrelated become twisted together like the branches above.

One night, a little boy appears at the window of a girl’s cottage. Birthed by rain and thunder, he is motherless and hungry. Their friendship will lead them deep into the woods, where years later a girl draped in donkey skin will beg for their protection. Two sisters, a bear, and a man of undetermined height form the link in this chain, as they journey between the mountain’s legs to a castle far, far away.

From the witch and the wolf to the king and his courtiers, no one leaves the tangled forest unchanged.

It's a retelling of three fairy tales: 

  • Wolfish - Red Riding Hood
  • Red & White - Snow-White & Rose-Red
  • Skin - Donkeyskin

The first, Wolfish, was originally a novella. It was longlisted for the Leapfrog Press Award last year and picked up by Ghostwoods, who published Rosy Hours. They asked for two more stories to turn it into a collection, then hit some problems and had to drop the project. I put it out on submission and received some lovely responses, but no one who would take a novella or a short story collection, so I decided to use the manuscript to take my first shot at self-publishing.

I've really enjoyed having full creative control over layout and cover art. The cover was designed by Victoria Cooper, who is very talented. I'm really pleased with it and I can assure you, it looks sumptuous in print.

So, I hope you will enjoy reading.

It's a project that was done for pleasure rather than prowess. All the same, it's the first new work I've released in three years and I appreciate reviews, ratings and getting the word out. 

It's available through Amazon in all territories, but here's the UK/US paperback link and the UK/US Kindle link. If you purchase the paperback, you get the Kindle version for around 99c.

Friday, 28 September 2018


I've found a new love, next to EtymologyOnline and Omniglot.

It's called WordHippo.

I'm currently doing a massive amount of editing for development agencies, we cover lots of subject from gender-base violence through to undertaking aid work in conflict-affected areas and, most recently, making money transfers to regions where there are no banks.

That's how I stumbled across WordHippo. I was looking for the plural of hawala, which I was fairly sure was hawala, but someone kept typing hawalas.

I was surprised to find the answer so easily. Not only did WordHippo give me the plural straight away, it told me where the word originated from and even told me how to pronounce it!

The site hadn't come up for me before, so I assume it's a new one or maybe I'm just late to the party, but I love it.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid

I was a big Young Guns fan when I was growing up. I think you kind of have to be born in the 80s to understand, what with American Adventure theme park and stuff. I had a collection of model cowboys and Indians, and stole a few more mounts from our edition of The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game. I think that was always the fascination for me - horses. The thought of riding across the open prairie on the fastest horse, pursued by the law, guns blazing - to the the sound of Bon Jovi - it was appealing.

One of my greatest pleasures nowadays is watching a movie, then reading the book to find out what really happened. Most people prefer the book first, but then you can be disappointed by the movie, whereas if you like a movie, the book tends to add to the pleasure afterwards. When I saw this on Kindle, I couldn't resist.

The Noted Desperado of the Southwest, Whose Deeds of Daring and Blood made His Name A Terror in New Mexico, Arizona and Northern Mexico - By Pat Garrett - Sheriff of Lincoln Co., N.M., By Whom He Was Finally Hunted Down and Captured By Killing Him.

Pat Garrett, played by William Petersen, is a major character in Young Guns II, but really doesn't go into his association with Billy prior to tracking him down. A little disappointing, but he did publish it the year after he killed the Kid, and, given his position as Sheriff of Lincoln County, that wouldn't have gone down well. Not being a historian, I'm not entirely sure exactly what their relationship was prior to his deputisation, but he does say he knew Billy well and spent time with him.

The book itself is very short, but then so were their lives. Billy was 21 when Garrett shot him, and Garrett was only ten years older. The end of the film says Garrett himself was shot and killed by a 21-year-old, but that still seems to be a point of contention.

The films took material from the book and gave it a bit of gloss, but still, I was surprised how much of it had one foot in reality.

One thing that slightly irritated me was that Garrett kept spouting verse throughout the book, but didn't credit the poet. I spent a bit of time trying to work out whether Garrett actually wrote the verse himself  - turns out it was mostly Sir Walter Scott. This led me to wonder if that's where the quirk in Keifer Southerland's character came from, as Doc keeps reciting other people's poetry and passing it off as his own.

The two films made a sort of mash-up of Doc Scurlock and Charlie Bowdre. Josiah Scurlock only appears to have been referred to as 'Doc' once by Garrett, but was in there. He eventually split from the gang and, unlike Young Guns II, wasn't dragged back from a teaching position to face down mob justice. He appears to have skipped town with a huge amount of flour, later owned a mail station, became a respectable citizen and died aged 80.

Bowdre on the other hand, well, he didn't quite go out in a blaze of glory. The scene in YG2 where Doc is fatally wounded and comes out of the house shooting at the law in one last stand, so that his friends could escape - that was really Charlie's scene. As Garrett explains:
[Wilson] called to me and said that Bowdre was killed and wanted to come out. I told him to come out with his hands up. As he started, the Kid caught hold of [Charlie's] belt, drew his revolver around in front of him and said: "They have murdered you, Charley, but you can get revenge. Kill some of the sonfs-of- before you die."
Unlike fake blood, the real stuff took all the fight out of Charlie and he teetered towards Pat Garrett with his hands up and his pistol hanging in front of him, dying soon after.

So, the real Charlie Bowdre didn't die after being thrown out of a burning house in a clothes chest. However, about that burning house...

It happened. 

They were cornered at McSween's place:
A magnificent piano in one of the front rooms was hit several times by these marksmen in the hill-tops, and at each stroke sent forth discordant sounds. This circumstance elicited from a Lamy, N.M., correspondent of the N. Y. Sun, the following: "During the fight Mrs. McSween encouraged her wild garrison by playing inspiring airs on her piano, and singing rousing battle songs, until the besieged party, getting the range of the piano from the sound, shot it to pieces with their heavy rifles."

The truth is Mrs. McSween and three lady friends, left the house before the fight commenced. It was also true that she requested permission to return for some purpose, the firing ceased - she went bravely in - returned almost immediately, and the firing was resumed.
They then burnt the house to the ground.

A moment's silence for the piano, please.

The outlaws escaped through the back, even Bowdre, but McSween was shot and killed.

The other part that was true was him shooting his guard whilst under arrest. Although no one gave him the gun, he stole it from the munitions cupboard in the jailhouse, which some genius had put next to his cell. He ran up the stairs, took a gun, turned around and shot the guard who was coming up the steps behind him.

I'd always wondered whether that part about him being able to slip handcuffs was true. In the film he says:

Another historical and biological fact is that I had small hands and big wrists and that has saved my life more times than Colonel Colt's Equalizer. 

Garrett confirmed it:

His hand was small and his wrist large.

Apparently, he really could slip off the cuffs pretty easily, and did so on many occasions.

One of my favourite scenes also turned out to be a mash-up of two incidents.  Seems the guy he shot was based on a man called John Longmont, who was a brash bigmouth and insulted Billy and his friend in a bar without realising who he was talking to. But taking the bullets out of the gun was another incident, when he killed a guy called Joe Grant who also insulted him in a bar:

The Kid had his eye on him, and remarking "That's a beauty, Joe," took the pistol from his hand and revolved the chambers. It was his design to extract some of the cartridges, but he found only three in it, and deftly whirling the chambers until the next action would be a failure, he returned it to Grant... turning his pistol full on the Kid, who was smiling sarcastically, he pulled the trigger, but the empty chamber refused to respond; with an oath he again raised the hammer, when a ball from the Kid's revolver crashed through his brains, and he fell behind the counter.

Tom O'Folliard was an interesting portrayal in YG2, as he's made out to be a young, butter-fingered boy whereas in reality he was Billy's best friend and a hard-core outlaw. This picture is widely believed to be Billy, on the left, and Tom, on the right, playing croquet.

Both shot by Pat Garrett
More Here
Although Garrett didn't talk about what became of Dave Rudabaugh, Christian Slater's character, his ending in the film seems to have been drawn from other events in the book. In real life, he was shot and decapitated after a card game five years after Billy was killed, but during Billy's lifetime they were both being escorted to jail by Pat Garrett when a Mexican mob attempted to board the train and take revenge on Rudabaugh, apparently for the killing of Mexicans in the past. They were easily dissuaded and nothing more is really said of him after that.

It was all really interesting stuff. One of the things I love most about reading old literature is the quirks in language. I was surprised to see Garrett use 'programme' in the English spelling, and assume it's the same in the original text? Perhaps it hadn't mutated to 'program' by 1882. 

Some other words I picked up included monomaniac (having a one-track mind for something, in Billy's case killing all those responsible for John Tunstall's murder), Indian Root Pill, mouth-fighters (those 'brave mouth-fighters', derogatory term for people who fight with words instead of fists), buckboard (type of open cart for moving goods, buckboard driver) and moonling (imbecile).

Some things really don't translate through the ages, and gave a good laugh. They refer to bullets and buckshot as 'balls', people are constantly riddled with balls or have balls in them. When they shackle an inmate, they iron them: we ironed the prisoners. Which just brings to mind a whole load of neatly-pressed outlaws. At one point they talk about taking charge of the prisoners, but it's written: with the prisoners in charge. So, now we have a whole load of neatly-pressed prisoners packing balls, in charge of the sheriff's office. Ah, language.

At one point, I was happy to see mention of a Marion. Both a girl's name and a boy's name, this was Marion Turner from Roswell, New Mexico (yay, aliens and cowboys!), deputy to Sheriff Peppin, who later testified against the Kid.

So, I guess one of the main reasons I, and probably many others, read this account is to figure out whether we believe the version of events - did he kill the Kid?

Yeah, I reckon. I find it weird that Garrett and Maxwell were having a conversation in Maxwell's room and there was no light. Strange Maxwell didn't strike a lamp or anything, but the account leaves little room for doubt with Maxwell there and two of Garrett's men who saw the body. Like he says in the movie, even if he wanted to, he couldn't exactly let him go. Someone like Billy the Kid wouldn't stay out of sight for the rest of his life.

It's sad it all ended so suddenly, no great showdown - and all for a cup of coffee and a piece of beef.

It's also a shame it's written so matter-of-fact, and why we need a bit of fiction to bring characters to life. But it's clear Garrett had a lot of respect for the Kid. It seemed it wasn't easy on him to kill him. I think he probably could have said a lot more that he didn't put in the book, again because it was so soon after the event and the people he wrote about were mostly still alive. 

An interesting read, though.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Musical Interlude: Lord Huron

Like just about everyone else on Netflix, I first heard of Lord Huron because of The Night We Met. It's through that I found this and realised that I really like their lyrics. Not to mention, I'm a sucker for kookie animation.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Unexplained Book Tour

Huge shout out to one of my favourite podcasts, Unexplained. Creator Richard MacLean Smith is releasing a book, which you'll have heard about if you've been listening to the show recently. Here's the UK tour dates, kicking off at the Wigtown Book Festival. Make it if you can, pre-order your copy if you can't.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Reading the Landscape

Oooh, this blew my mind the other day. I caught up with my friend Ineke at a local café and interrupted her whilst she was reading. She was face-first into a tiny little book about the size of my hand. Turns out it's actually a full-length novel condensed down into small print and inked onto the page horizontally.

She assures me there are loads of novels printed like this, but it's the first time I'd ever seen one. I think it's the compromise for people who don't like Kindle. You can certainly fit a lot more of them in your bag. 

Is there a word for this print format?

Sunday, 16 September 2018

What's Going on with the 'BBC'?

I wrote a while back about how many spelling mistakes and typos were cropping up on the BBC website, fuelled by its need for 24-hour rolling news, which editors and proofers don't seem able to keep pace with. Naturally, all articles have one or two mistakes, this blog's got plenty of them, but they were persistent and often in really noticeable places like bylines and even headlines.  

Whilst that continues to be noticeable, there's another, much stranger, trend occurring. I've only really noticed it over the past few months, but the whole of the BBC website seems to be littered with single quotation marks as though half the headlines contain words that are not to be believed. It gives current affairs even more of a sense of unreality than usual.

Why 'The 'Scotch-Irish' influence' and not simply 'The Scotch-Irish influence'? What possible benefit does adding quotation marks to headlines have other than making them sound sardonic? Almost every second headline seems to have a set of inverted commas. You can almost picture the author pausing at her keyboard to crook her fingers in glee. 

If the Pussy Riot man was 'poisoned', was he poisoned, or suspected of being poisoned? Wouldn't it just be easier to express doubt using words, like normal journalists? 

An absolutely baffling trend, and one that adds no clarity whatsoever for the reader.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Violet Evergarden

I'm enthralled by this.

A long-ago ex and I used to be fanatically devoted to Ghibli because of the beauty of their animation: Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Tales from Earthsea. My early twenties were awash with anime. This just brought it all back, and then some. 

Occasionally a little saccharin, but on the whole it hits the emotional nerve dead on. Fantastically observed, exquisitely drawn, and all about the power of writing letters.

I've made up my mind. I wish to follow in the footsteps of Violet Evergarden and become an Auto Memories Doll.

I will travel to wherever you are.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Stuart: A Life Backwards

Whilst in the UK last July, I was talking books with Aunty Patsy. We were talking about what we were reading, and she brought up a book called Stuart: A Life Backwards. She spoke of it in such high terms that I promptly bought a copy for Kindle and started reading it on the flight home. 

I got through 30% on that flight, then readjustments to daily life took over, and I've just finished it now. 

It's an extremely important book:

‘Stuart does not like the manuscript. He’s after a bestseller, “like what Tom Clancy writes”. “But you are not an assassin trying to frazzle the president with anthrax bombs,” I point out. You are an ex-homeless, ex-junkie psychopath, I do not add.’

This is the story of a remarkable friendship between a reclusive writer (‘a middle-class scum ponce, if you want to be honest about it, Alexander’), and Stuart Shorter, a homeless, knife-wielding thief. Told backwards – Stuart’s idea – it starts with a deeply troubled thirty-two-year-old and ends with a ‘happy-go-lucky little boy’ of twelve. This brilliant biography, winner of the Guardian First Book Award, presents a humbling portrait of homeless life, and is as extraordinary and unexpected as the man it describes.

It isn't too often that you find yourself reading biographies about people who are not A-list celebrities or important historical figures. It's a book about a man you might find in a doorway in any British city.

There are numerous types of homeless person:
There are those who were doing all right beforehand, but have suffered a temporary setback because their wife has run off with another man (or, surprisingly often, another woman). Their business may have collapsed. Their daughter has been killed in a car crash. Or both. Self-confidence is their main problem and, if the professionals can get hold of them in the first few months, they'll be back at work or at least in settled, long-term accommodation within a year or two.

Right at the bottom of this abnormal heap are the people such as Stuart, the 'chaotic' homeless. The chaotic ('kai-yo-ic', as Stuart calls them, drawing out the syllables around his tongue like chewing gum) are beyond repair. When Stuart was first discovered, Kaspar Hauser-like, crouched on the lowest subterranean floor of a multi-storey car park, the regular homeless wanted nothing to do with him. They called him 'Knife Man Dan' and 'that mad bastard on Level D'.

What unites the chaotic is the confusion of their days. Cause and effect are not connected in the usual way. Beyond their own governance, let alone within grasps of ours, they are constantly on the brink of raring up or breaking down. Charity staff fuss especially hard over these people because they are the worst face of homelessness and, when not the most hateful, the most pitiable extremity of street life. - Full Guardian Article

Harrowing and honest. It gives an insight into 'the System' (all of them, from the police and care homes through to social workers and media), into life on the streets and the origins of how a person loses themselves. It offers no easy answers, but definitely raises a lot of questions - and a little more compassion.