Saturday, 27 January 2018


I have completely fallen in love with this app. I used to think Babbel was good, but Duolingo is even better and it's completely free. It turns learning a new language into a game, so it doesn't feel like you're learning, then suddenly you realise you're spouting sentences and can remember at least some of the vocab. It doesn't compartmentalise learning, so you don't just study weather, then colours, then adverbs etc. Everything's sort of jumbled together and it challenges you, but in fun chunks. You can log in once a day and do a quick 10-15 minutes speaking, writing and listening.

I'm using the phone app, but it's also available for laptops. I'm trying to focus on learning something that might actually be useful, but my eye keeps roaming to Esperanto, and on the laptop version you can even learn High Valyrian.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Write Me Up

Oh boy. A new year, a new adventure.

I've just been commissioned to undertake my first full-on ghostwriting gig. Farewell to web content and technical reports, hello memoir.

I start tomorrow, and I must admit I'm bricking it slightly. Due to the nature of ghostwriting, I can't tell you anything about my client or the book itself, but I can tell you all about the process. I've already written about writing a novel before, so let's see how non-fiction compares.

In some respects, it's going to be a lot like writing historical fiction, only it's historical fact. 

My approach is the same as it would be with HF, where I utterly immerse myself in the subject for the first couple of weeks. Only, instead of turning to Wiki, YouTube and academia, I'm turning to a comfortable café and my trusty voice recorder. Thankfully, my subject has led a fascinating life and can talk about it with emotion and eloquence. By the end of our first meeting, I already had my starting point figured out. I have a strong sense of where and how we should begin things, and the path we'll travel.

But that's where the similarity with fiction ends, and where my cold sweats begin.

We're aiming for quite a short book. Something to take on tour at events and speeches. Yet, even a short work can feel long if you don't have the material at your fingertips. 

With fiction, I swim in a pool of research for the first couple of weeks to a month, then I sit down and begin writing, looking up anything I need to know as I go.

You can't do that with a biography, because all of the details are in the other person's head, not on Wikipedia. You can't break your stride for a moment to quickly look something up, you need to e-mail, call or WhatsApp and wait for the reply. So, a lot more rests on the initial interviews and making sure they're detailed enough. Not just recording the things my client wants to talk about, but asking questions they might not have thought of themselves, about colours, smells, feelings, descriptions - those little hidden pebbles that get lost beneath the stream of consciousness. The things that bring a place or an encounter to life on paper.

Physically writing the words doesn't bother me, it's having enough to write about, even with someone who has lived an incredible life. Getting to know that person well enough to write as them, through their eyes, in their voice. 

We've only met twice.

We begin tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., café to be decided.

I guess I'll journal this under the label Ghostwriting.

Wish me luck, and if you've ghostwritten for someone in the past, I'd appreciate any pointers in the comments below.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Let the Sea Grow Still

Sad to hear of the passing of Ursula K. Le Guin, a trailblazer for female authors in the realms of science fiction.

As you may know, I'm a huge Ghibli fan, and there's a scene from the Ghibli version of Tales from Earthsea that came to mind on hearing the news:

No man nor any living thing in this world preserves their life forever. But only to men is it given to know that we must die, and that is a precious gift. This life that is both our torment and our treasure was never meant to endure for eternity. Life is a wave on the sea. Would you force the sea to grow still to save one wave? To save yourself?

Always loved those last couple of lines, but now they seem rather more of a lamentation.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Letters of Note

This really does sound like an outstanding blog:

Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos. Scans/photos where possible. Fakes will be sneered at. Updated as often as possible; usually each weekday.

Thank you @davidkfiction for tweeting a letter written by former slave Jourdon Anderson to his previous master who was begging him to return to work:

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

You can read the full letter here, and  find out more about the blog here. They also release collections in book format. 

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Purple Prose

I realise I have been exceedingly absent from blogging since the beginning of this year. Going to get back into the swing of things by mentioning a book I feel very guilty for not having mentioned a long time ago.

Purple Prose is an anthology of bisexuality in Britain, edited by the lovely Kate Harrad of All Lies and Jest fame. It was originally launched in September 2016. I contributed to the Indiegogo campaign, but so much got in the way that I didn't get around to reviewing it. I'm having an almighty clearout of my in-box this January, and seeing the update by Thorntree Press (who published it) reminded me to get the hell on with telling you about it.

Purple Prose: Bisexuality in Britain is the first of its kind: a book written for and by bisexuals in the UK. This accessible collection of interviews, essays, poems and commentary explores topics such as definitions of bisexuality, intersections of bisexuality with other identities, stereotypes and biphobia, being bisexual at work, teenage bisexuality and bisexuality through the years, the media’s approach to bisexual celebrities, and fictional bisexual characters. Filled with raw, honest, first-person accounts as well as comments from leading bisexual activists in the UK, this is the book you’ll buy for your friend who’s just come out to you as bi-curious, or for your parents who think your bisexuality is weird or a phase, or for yourself, because you know you’re bi but you don’t know where to go or what to do about it.
Thorntree is itself quite interesting: independent publishing company based in Portland, Oregon. We specialize in non-fiction books on relationships, love and sexuality, with particular focus on non-traditional relationship models. 

As the blurb suggests, the impressive thing about Purple Prose is that it's all things to all readers. From a British bi perspective, it is extremely refreshing to read a book that is specifically about bisexuality. It really is unusual. Bi is often an addendum to books about gay people and lesbianism, rarely focused upon in its own right. 

And whereas, yes, labels are restrictive in many ways, as the book points out - they can be useful sometimes. We need some form of language to talk about sexuality. Unfortunately, that language has largely been fed to us by disapproving bigots over the years, from the playground to mainstream media, but things are changing. I know this, because I learnt a lot of new words through reading the book. Metamour, for instance - the partner of your partner. Which you wouldn't know if you weren't in a polyamorous relationship or knew people who were. Which goes to show the breadth and diversity of the bi community. 

It was nice to read so many stories from people I strongly identified with:

For me, it is that I am missing a little bit of wiring that allows other people to discriminate between the genders when it comes to attraction. Not that I consider it a deficit - it is a little like the unusual brain symmetry that allows someone to be ambidextrous. - DH Kelly

If one day I feel attraction to a woman, I don't have to think "Does this mean I'm gay?" or "If this carried on, would it mean I was a lesbian?" If one day I feel attraction to a man, I don't have to think "Does this mean I'm not gay after all?" or "If this carries on, at what point do I lose the right to call myself lesbian?" If one day I feel attraction to someone who identifies as neither binary gender, I don't have to think "What does this mean about me?"
None of that noise exists in my life. As far as gender-linked sexuality is concerned, there isn't some territory over here where I'm officially supposed to walk, and some territory over there where I'm not supposed to walk. It's all one whole, and I already live there. - Jennifer

Something I really appreciated about the book was the humour. Kate and her colleagues have a wonderful way of phrasing things which draws you in and makes you feel welcome.

Specifically, there is an idea within the gay and lesbian communities that bisexuals are 'slumming' or 'pretending' or 'going through a phase' - that they will leave their gay/lesbian partner eventually and 'go back' to the heterosexual world. If your date has this idea entrenched, there may not be much you can do to get rid of it, since the only way you can absolutely prove you won't do this is to stay with them until one of you dies. Which is a bit of a commitment to make if you're just trying to prove a point. 

I'd say this book really does work on all levels. It's the kind of book older bis, like myself, will enjoy for the solidarity, and the linguistic education if we haven't kept abreast of vocab developments. It's also a warmly written, informative introduction for people just starting to explore sexuality, as well as being the type of book you could leave on the coffee table for your parents to pick up.

You can find some more reviews at Gscene, The Bookbag and BookFangirling.

I want the day to arrive where it doesn't matter to anyone what your sexuality is, so I act as though that day is here. - Iain Lowson

Saturday, 13 January 2018

College Humour

Should be writing, but appear to be binge-watching College Humour instead. Feeling this writer's worst nightmare. There's also a Best of 2017 reel, too.

Sunday, 7 January 2018


Today, Howl has been helping me to work through plot issues. 

That, or he's planning how to eat my face.

Never a dull day in the world of writing.

Friday, 5 January 2018

New Website

Just to mention, I simplified my website at the end of last year. I'm now using the address 

The URL still works, and links to the old website, which in turn links back to the new one. My original site was set up by a good friend, but it's been difficult to get the URL back to redirect it straight to the new site. Something to achieve this year, hopefully.

You can still find me in the same place on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Oath, Boast, Toast 2018

Well, unlike last year, this year hasn't felt at all quiet. It has turned into a very productive year, despite starting in tragedy, in an incident that damn near broke my heart. You'll be glad to know that Sophie, Howl and Sen (also known as Harold, thanks to our lovely vet Dr. Arum) are all doing extremely well and sitting here watching me type.

So, moving ahead. What have been the highlights of this year?

  • More than anything, this has been the year of travel and pianos. I'll get to pianos in a moment, but I've just returned from an incredible trip around India with Dad & Marilyn. We went to Goa, Delhi, Agra, Chand Baori, Ranthambore, Jaipur and Mumbai, with a Kashmiri carpet thrown in for good measure. Seeing the Taj Mahal has been a spectacular end to the year.
  • The beginning of the year was also special. Headed out on safari across the Maasai Mara with my friends Tracey and Celia.
  • Had a fun away trip with my friends Jo, Maia and their daughters to Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda, staying in traditional huts on an island.
  • Also hosted my cousin Tamsin and her partner Guido as they passed through Rwanda on their round-the-world tour. Memorable night in a spooky abandoned fairground.
  • Had some fun times closer to home. Threw my first and only house party for my birthday, which was excellent, and attended Rwanda's first ever Rock Night, which has become a staple on the social calender.
  • Another big change that occurred this year was that I've finally relented in my solitude and started sharing the house with some friends. One of whom is an excellent cocktail maker. But this does mean I'm now living in an apartment I made out of the back shed.

On the writing front, it's been a year of ups and downs. Rosy Hours has been stocked in Books & Convenience in town, and CasaKeza, were I teach the occasional writing course through which I've made some lovely friends this year. I have done some writing, but I need to get my mojo back. I wrote a novella. My publisher asked me to write some more stories to create a collection, then, once I'd completed them, they decided they didn't want them after all, and on top of that offered me back a manuscript they'd been sitting on for two years (Children of Lir) because they'd run out of money and were offering all their authors back their manuscripts. Whereas I appreciate their difficult circumstances, and I did enjoy writing the short stories and will probably self-publish them later this year, it's hard to recover your drive after something like that. However, this year is definitely going to be focused on writing and pianos. Only that.

Editing has proven much more successful for me this year and I've done quite well working for ImagineWe and Perdua Publishing, as well as taking on a couple of manuscripts for private clients. I've also had more work proofreading the national textbooks for Rwanda Education Board, which has been good experience and kept the bank account afloat.

So, how did keeping last year's oath go?

I've really enjoyed learning about the inside of pianos. Instead of getting someone to come and tune it, I've decided to turn Lirika into my own project. This year, my oath is to fix my piano until she plays properly, and to learn about piano refurbishment.  

Um, well... that got a little out of hand.

Not only did I learn to fix and tune my piano, I now tune upright and grand pianos across Kigali, and I took my own piano apart to start the Kigali Keys project, attempting to become the only existing piano manufacturer in Africa.

So, um, yes. 

I think I can cross that one off the list.

Onwards with 2018...


My oath this year is to finish what I started, and complete the first prototype piano in Rwanda. 



Saw the Taj Mahal!



To a little more luck on the writing front.