Wednesday 30 January 2013

Lucid Q&A

The following is a promotional Q&A answering reader questions about Lucid. I tried to get through as many as possible in a sensible time.

There are some more interviews on my website, plus an article relating to this particular book:

Although this is a recorded interview, there is also a transcript available.

Lucid is available in paperback or for Kindle at Amazon (US/UK/all EU outlets). In all e-formats, including PDF and e-readers, from Smashwords. Or for order at your local bookshop with the ISBN: 1908200642


Tuesday 29 January 2013

Kill the Bill

I've been following the Bahati Bill in Uganda quite closely. In 2008 I interviewed GayUganda for an article on being gay in East Africa. You can find that interview on my website.

That was just before David Bahati, fueled by Evangelical hate preachers from the US, announced his bill proposing the death penalty for homosexual acts.

In 2008, I asked GayUganda what sort of future he envisioned in five years time for Uganda's LGBT community.

He could never have predicted this.

You can get up to speed, and help take action, on the Kill the Bill website.  

Monday 28 January 2013

Memory Lane

Did you know that there actually is a Memory Lane in Leicester?

I've been undertaking a project lately, to re-post a blog that I started aged 26, as part of my travel blog. It's an extremely strange experience, and I'd like to give the dust time to settle before saying what I really thought of Younger Me. 

I think I'm quite lucky to have the chance to do this. It was the first blog I ever wrote, and I took to journaling like a proverbial duck to water. I'm not sure there are many people who can look back in such extreme detail at their lives almost six years ago.

There was one particular post that's struck me so far. I was clearing out the room I rented, Freecycling everything I couldn't put into storage. For some reason there was a box of 'metal cats'. I now remember that as being an eBay venture that didn't work out - buy cheap, sell on. I got the first bit right, but the second bit failed to materialise.

However, it took me a long time to remember this. I read the sentence several times thinking 'Metal cats? What metal cats?' I couldn't even picture them. Then it came back to me. If it hadn't been for that one, detailed (perhaps overly detailed, some might say) line, I never would have thought of them again. That episode in my life would have been completely erased.

The same goes for keyrings described and lost, meals eaten, and even guests who stayed the night! It's absolutely incredible the amount we of life we forget.

I thought I'd share with you a section from my novel Lucid, which is all about memory. Suddenly, it seems to have taken on extra significance.


When a parent dies, you don’t just lose them, you lose part of who you are. Other people come and go through your life. Most of them you don’t meet until halfway through. But parents are there from the very beginning. They were there through all of the things you can’t remember. They were there even before you had memory. It’s all those conversations beginning with ‘do you remember...’ that die with them. There are parts of your life, of who you are, of what made you you, that cannot be accessed alone; that need someone else to return you to that moment in time.

It’s scary how little of life we remember, and how much relevance we place on those precious fragments that we do. They become our anchor in this void of transient oblivion. 

What did you have for breakfast this day two years ago? If you don’t remember, does that mean it never happened?

The answer might be ‘because it’s unimportant,’ but isn’t it funny the things that are important. Little moments of childhood, the tone of somebody’s voice, the look in someone’s eye, an experience, a heated exchange, and, in between all of those muddy remembrances, the half-imagined things which leave us with only a sense of something having happened. 

Predominantly, though, there is a nothing. A vast, all-engulfing void of things that might as well never have happened, because they are certainly never remembered. Think back over your life, over the days, the hours, the seconds. If you had to give a percentage of how much of your life you honestly remember in glowing multi-colour surround sound, what would it be? Thirty per cent? Forty? Higher? Lower?

This used to frighten her. This notion that, for more than half her life, she couldn’t actually remember existing. She used to lay awake thinking about it until gradually she came to see this as a comfort, rather than a threat. The change began when she read an article in Australian Psychiatry at university. It talked about the aboriginal concept of time, where the things that have the greatest impact on you – the things that you remember the clearest – are the closest in time. You don’t remember eating breakfast yesterday? That doesn’t matter, it happened a hundred years ago. But the bully who hit you in the face at school – that happened an hour ago. Finding that article was like breathing out after holding her breath for so long. A question she couldn’t quite form had been answered. 

As she lay there on her bed with tears streaming down her cheeks, she felt a kind of calm come over her. In aboriginal time, she lost her mother twenty seconds ago. The pain was still so sharp that it hurt every part of her.  In our time, it had been almost nine months. December; a car accident. As the cold dark nights drew in, they suffocated the life out of her mother until, eventually, they engulfed her completely and she was gone. 

She had held her hand as she slipped away. That moment, when her mother finally breathed out, was so enormous that it eclipsed everything else that had happened in her life before then. It was the clearest moment in time that she had ever experienced. 

And that’s when she got scared. It made her realise how much she didn’t remember, and how much of who she was, and the things she’d done, were locked up in her mother’s head. All of those conversations came flooding back: ‘Do you remember Rachel, you were such good friends at nursery..’, ‘Can you remember the time we went to Portsmouth and saw the big ships...’, ‘…and you remember, you never let go of that teddy, whatever happened to it?’ Most of it she couldn’t remember. Not until her mother had reminded her. Then it would come flooding back and she would wonder how she had ever forgotten. 

Therein lay the answer; the comforting point: just because she didn’t remember, didn’t mean it had never happened. Just because she didn’t remember being three, didn’t mean that she had never been three. 

This is how she came to think of death, or ‘non-life’. Just because she didn’t remember before she was born, didn’t mean that she hadn’t been conscious. It didn’t mean that she wasn’t there; that there was nothing. 

So why shouldn’t the same be true after death? When she thought of death, she thought of a big black. Like a sheet of felt paper in art class at school when the teacher would give you white chalk to draw with. Only this black you can’t draw on, because it swallows everything you try to think or do. That’s a pretty scary thought on its own, but when you think about someone you love, like your mother, going there all alone... 

The world’s woe flowed through her. Sobs choked off her thoughts like a trip-switch for her own protection. For a long time she thought about her mother disappearing into that black paper until she became black paper herself; nothing left. That’s when she really started to think about memory. That’s when she realised that being dead must be very similar to not being born yet, and that not being born yet must be very similar to the majority of your life that you just don’t remember. That’s when she started to feel a bit calmer. They were all just in-between times. The parts we remember, or think we remember, they’re actually special, because they are rare.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Science to Art

Isn't this fantastic? Classic Painters Pinned and Dissected. Created as adverts for the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) Art School and Facebooked by Science to the Power of Art: ''a microbiologist and artist... using scientific methods to create art about the beauty and poetry found in science." Check out his Day-Glo Velocirabbit.

Saturday 19 January 2013


Meet Zieb^Dum, a character that first appeared in a very early novella I wrote, and has since popped up again in my current novel. I'm trying my hand at Fantasy. Just blocking out the story at the moment. It's the first story I've ever written where I have to open not only the .doc but also a glossary and a spreadsheet of characters, places and races! 

Have to do a ten minute catch-up before setting to work each time. 

Just coming up to the 50k mark - about halfway there.

One thing I like a lot about the genre is its ability to parody our true history and circumstances. Terry Pratchett is master of that, with shopping malls and women's rights thrown into the mix. It's a very flexible medium, easy to apply to comedy, tragedy, romance and speculative fiction.

Sometimes it does take a bit of getting into character. I've attempted to find music to spur me on. Suzanne Vega's Queen and the Soldier has been on repeat for a while. On one occasion, I even elfed-up. Think I need to source some pixie ears from eBay.

Those of you who are writers will already have spotted that what I've actually been doing is distracting myself from writing, under the pretence of helping myself to write. Easily done.

Let's see whether I get any further by this time next week.

Friday 18 January 2013

Snowed In

Hmm. This was the view from my bedroom window today.

We've had rather a lot of heavy snow. 

I always find snow inspiring. That something so beautiful can be so destructive. The two great polarities that led to A Song of Ice and Fire?

We have our own little juxtaposition going on here at the moment, with the cold snow outside, and a warm sauna inside. Just what you need in this weather.

I must admit that the writing retreat is not going as well as anticipated. After a few days of furrow-browed concentration, I went off horse riding instead. Riding by day, blogging by night. My word count has hardly budged. I have a week to make up for that now that the weather is too cold to go out as much.

Thoughts on a Frozen Window...

Icicle my tooth, as frost shall be my touch
The coldest heart you've ever known
Buried 'neath the frozen crush

Reflections in great sheets of ice
Suffocate the fish below
As hail and hoar and snow
Hide the things we used to know

I know you, and you know me
The crying thrush, the barren tree

Nothing grows, and nothing lives
Nowt to love and nowt to give
I'll call the heavens down to earth
'til all the world is white as dust

Many of my poems seem to centre around Winter.

Like The Crone of Winter, they always tend to turn a little bitter.

I promise, the moment the thaw comes and the first spring flowers appear, I'll post the most sickeningly sweet poem I ever wrote - then you'll be grateful for the frost.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Why Date A Writer?

(Image courtesy of garlandcannon)

Oh, this made me chuckle. Originally written by Kathryn Vercillo and re-tweeted by @libboo via Rebecca Rosenblum's blog

This neat little guide explains the advantages (in inverted commas) of choosing to date a writer. Just in case you needed any less incentive! 

My personal favourites include: 

1. Writers will romance you with words. We probably won’t. We write for ourselves or for money and by the time we’re done we’re sick of it...

4. Writers will remind you that money doesn’t matter so much. Yes. We will do this by borrowing money from you. Constantly.

6. Writers will offer you an interesting perspective on things. Yes. Constantly. While you’re trying to watch TV or take a shower. You will have to listen to observations all day long, in addition to being asked to read the observations we wrote about when you were at work and unavailable for bothering...

9. Writers can think through their feelings. So don’t start an argument unless you’re ready for a very, very lengthy explication of our position, our feelings about your position, and what scenes from our recent fiction the whole thing is reminding us of.

13. Writers will teach you cool new words. This is possibly true! We may also expect you to remember them, correct your grammar, and look pained after reading mundane notes you’ve left for us.
15. Writers can find 1000 ways to tell you why they like you. By the 108th you’ll be pretty sure we’re just making them up for fun.

18. Writers are surrounded by interesting people. Every last one of whom is imaginary. 

Check out the full list, there are some real gems in there.

Swan Song

Another blow for British business as recession forces yet more of our High Street giants into administration. Nice article commemorating the death of HMV:

If HMV stores disappear from the High Street it will mean the extinction of the High Street chains where most bought their first music.

This got me thinking. What was the first album or single you went into a shop to buy?

I'd love to say that mine was something super cool, like R.E.M or Nirvana, or chilled like UB40, but, no. I was twelve, it probably was HMV, and it was a tape, not a CD. The song? I was slightly obsessed by Joshua Kadison's Jessie at the time.

I also vividly remember Dad and I being in Virgin Mega Stores (Oxford Street?) and buying our first ever DVD. A whole film - on a CD! Unthinkable. We'd bought our first computer with a DVD player and wanted to see whether it worked. Now, huge kudos to Dad here - he pushed me towards The Crow which was, and remains, one of the greatest cult films ever made.

In tribute, here's a guest post I wrote for Historical Tapestry on Why I Love Scratchy Records.
When you write of the past, it’s easy to look back and draw distinctions, differences, between now and then. What we wore, what we ate, how we spoke... music cuts through all of that, because songs today are largely about the same things songs were about back then: love, loss, romance, jealousy, humour. It reminds us of the shared experience of what it is to be human.

His Master's Voice will echo down the ages.

Friday 11 January 2013


Saw this in the news the other day: Witness statement could help hunt for Lord Lucan

For those who don't know, Lord Lucan was a British aristocrat who did the most famous disappearing act of all time after his children's nanny was found murdered.

The reason I find it interesting is because the witness is his sister, Lady Sarah, who sadly died a few years ago, and who lived in the village I am now writing from. She was the wife of the Reverend Cannon Gibbs.

Shortly after I moved here, nine tender years of age, I apparently stood up and gave a presentation in assembly on 'why God wouldn't love someone who was cruel to animals' - right in front of Cannon Gibbs, head of our local fox hunting corps.

Healthy disrespect for the establishment, even then.

Anyway, the story brought to mind an old short I drafted some years back, about a woman who goes missing. You can read it on my website: Elevation.

Beneath the smiles and the "there theres" he knew what they were thinking. He knew Andrea was thinking it too. The most common cause of disappearing girlfriends are their boyfriends.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Plate Cake

As a last nod to the festive season, just wanted to share my Aunty Jean's nommy rhubarb pie. Also known as a Plate Cake, because you make it on a plate.

When asked, she explained:

When you have made the pastry, roll half onto the plate then put your fruit on: apple, rhubarb, plum or blackcurrant. Then the sugar. Roll out the top, pinch sides to seal, and use egg or milk to glaze the top. Cook in oven 180c for 45mins.

It's just shortcrust pastry, which is dead easy to make. Though you may need to experiment with your sugar-to-fruit ratio. Things like apple will need less sugar than tart rhubarb.

It's one of those things I always associate with my family oop north. Nanna used to wheel out the cake trolley with a pot of tea each evening, so it's fairly traditional for us.

Just wish I could find her bramble jelly recipe...

Wednesday 9 January 2013


As a slightly nerdy girl, who used to go around computer fairs at Olympia with her dad, code MUDs and lol at ASKII art, it hasn't escaped my attention that, on the whole, Sci-Fi is a bloke-dominated genre. Moreso than the novel industry in general, which is already a heavily male-dominated profession.

I know this is only my observation, and there's probably little to back it up, but I sometimes feel that writing is a bit like cooking. I know a lot of female writers. Morgen's writing groups are 90% female attended as, it would seem, are most major literary festivals. In comparison, we're always hearing how boys are less interested in reading, and possibly shun books in favour of sports. You'd sort of expect there to be more female writers than male. Yet apparently, J.K. Rowling and E.L. James aside, it's the male novelists who go on to dominate the market. Same has been said about cooking. It's pretty much expected that a woman will be good in the kitchen, but it's proportionately men who go on to be world-famous chefs.

Something worthy of further investigation. The reason given for women rarely making comedy panels is that we're just 'not as funny'. Perhaps we're also just 'not as flavoursome' or 'engrossing' in the other two fields?

Might as well book in for my sex op now.

Back to the point, which was this article: A Simple Suggestion to Help Phase Out All-Male Panels at Tech Conferences

The idea is to ask men to refuse to participate in male-only panels.

One forum poster mentioned:

Paul Cornell has been doing this for a while, only I think he prefers parity on his panels.

Good on 'im.

One thing I found interesting at booQfest was that there was a specific Women Authors' Panel of lesbian and bi authors, but, instead of a Gay Men's Panel, a Sci-Fi Panel

Does rather evidence the case.

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Sales Slump

I'm not sure what I find most disturbing about this article. The fact that "sales of printed books fell by almost £74m in the UK last year," or the fact that one in ever twenty books sold was from the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

Saturday 5 January 2013


I did a guest post for Morgen Bailey a couple of months back on character accents in literature. It was prompted by an entertaining episode whilst writing my short story collection, Splintered Door:

I decided to post for help in a writing forum. The appeal was short and to the point: “I’m looking for someone to help convert a story from UK English to US English.”

The responses were less than encouraging:

“One word… Why?!”

“I agree… why? If you really must (???) run a Microsoft spell check.”

I was flabbergasted. Nobody seemed to understand why, whereas I didn’t understand why not.

Then came this statement, which summed up their aversion to conversion:

“Why rewrite it at all? It sounds so much more intelligent in British.”

Confounded, I set out to prove the importance, and usefulness, of character idiolect.

You can read the article here:  Intelligence – It’s How You Say It

As for the picture of D. H. Lawrence, well:

If you’ve read Lady Chatterley’s Lover, you’ll notice that Mellors affects a thick colloquial accent to disguise the fact that he was once a high-ranking officer in the army. Mellors (and through him, D. H. Lawrence) knew all too clearly the social perception of inflection.

How your character speaks is all part of the wonderful art of distraction in storytelling.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Super Smoothie


Perfect solution for New Year's Day hangovers. Super smoothie!

1 x banana
1 x kiwi fruit
Handful of blueberries
Handful of raspberries
Quarter pint of milk
Tablespoon of honey
Dash of brandy cream

Hair of the dog, plus most of your five-a-day.