Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Slaughterhouse-Five

 

Just finished this.

Slaughterhouse-Five is the now famous parable of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran and POW who has, in the later stage of his life, become "unstuck in time" and who experiences at will (or unwillingly) all known events of his chronology out of order and sometimes simultaneously.

Traumatized by the bombing of Dresden at the time he had been imprisoned, Pilgrim drifts through all events and history, sometimes deeply implicated, sometimes a witness. He is surrounded by Vonnegut's usual large cast of continuing characters (notably here the hack science fiction writer Kilgore Trout and the alien Tralfamadorians, who oversee his life and remind him constantly that there is no causation, no order, no motive to existence). The "unstuck" nature of Pilgrim's experience may constitute an early novelistic use of what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder; then again, Pilgrim's aliens may be as "real" as Dresden is real to him.

Struggling to find some purpose, order, or meaning to his existence and humanity's, Pilgrim meets the beauteous and mysterious Montana Wildhack (certainly the author's best character name), has a child with her, and drifts on some supernal plane, finally, in which Kilgore Trout, the Tralfamadorians, Montana Wildhack, and the ruins of Dresden do not merge but rather disperse through all planes of existence.

Brilliant.

Really brilliant.

One of those titles you always hear about, but for some reason I hadn't gotten around to reading. Glad I did. Loved the drifting in and out of time periods. That's quite hard to pull off whilst still taking the reader with you. Vonnegut managed it perfectly. Highly recommend. 

The story of the Children's Crusade was interesting, and a part of history I didn't know about. 

The part about pornography and photography carried rather an echo of The Poignancy of Old Pornography

The stills were a lot more Tralfamadorian than the movies, since you could look at them whenever you wanted to, and they wouldn’t change. Twenty years in the future, those girls would still be young, would still be smiling or smouldering or simply looking stupid, with their legs wide open. Some of them were eating lollipops and bananas. They would still be eating those. And the peckers of the young men would still be semi-erect, and their muscles would be bulging like cannonballs. 

The book also brought back interesting memories for me. I once drove to Dresden just to look at it. It's one of those places you grow up hearing about.

“As you know, I am from a planet that has been engaged in senseless slaughter since the beginning of time. I myself have seen the bodies of schoolgirls who were boiled alive in a water tower by my own countrymen, who were proud of fighting pure evil at the time.” This was true. Billy saw the boiled bodies in Dresden. “And I have lit my way in a prison at night with candles from the fat of human beings who were butchered by the brothers and fathers of those schoolgirls who were boiled. Earthlings must be the terrors of the Universe!”

I think I spent a day wandering around there on my way back from Poland. I remember a toy museum...




Obviously, you don't read a book like this without looking up the author.

He was interned in Dresden, where he survived the Allied bombing of the city in a meat locker of the slaughterhouse where he was imprisoned. 

 

So it goes...

Sunday, 29 August 2021

My First Audible Return

 

Last week, I made my first ever Audible return. 

It's something I never thought I'd do. I'm usually happy to give anything a go, from classical literature, to horror, to fantasy and edgy contemporary. It's rare that I give a really bad review, I try to find something constructive to say. I'm also very aware of how much work goes into the writing of a book, the narration of a book, and the editing. Which is why I've decided not to name this one.

The decision was pretty quick, within the first twenty minutes. Made all the more surprising because it's a popular title, having just landed a streaming deal.

So, why did I do it? Well, maybe a build-up of things. I'd just come out of a run of fairly heavy books, including American Psycho, What Dreams May Come, and The Savage Detectives, plus I'm in the middle of The Untamed State, which isn't a laugh a minute (and no, I didn't pick it up because I thought it said The Untamed! - though I would definitely get right on that if they ever Audibled it in English).

After all of that, I was in the mood for some high fantasy. Something divorced from reality and a little bit fun. But I do like my high fantasy with a touch of believability. I like characters to be quirky, but also have a little depth to them. I really haven't been having much luck with that lately. 

I didn't realise until I stopped it and hit the 'information' tab that it was YA fantasy. This in itself isn't always a problem, there's some really great YA fantasy out there, but it reminded me of the way I wrote when I was a teenager. It just didn't feel developed. There was a bit of word repetition going on, but the main female character, having just been pulled out of a labour camp after years of back-breaking servitude, only seems able to comment on how handsome (or not) the male characters are that she comes into contact with. There doesn't seem to be any acknowledgement of everything that's happened to her. It was all a bit shallow. I know there must be a specific word for this style of fantasy? It's got to be a genre style because there's a lot of it. I felt it with The Redemption of Althalus - just that really jaunty, oh-nothing-really-matters sort of vibe. And I love a good assassin, too. I can get behind a down-and-dirty thief or ne'er-do-well, but they can't just be invincible from the outset. 

Except if you're the Witcher. For some reason, you can get away with that. There's something about the way Andrzej Sapkowski writes - he's just got a free pass on that one.

But this just didn't feel like it had depth in either the characters or the language. Maybe that's it. You can put up with a bad story if the language is beautiful, and you can put up with shonky language if the story is gripping, but if you're not feeling either of those two things, then it's a no from me. 

Due to my guilt over how much work goes into books and audiobooks, I've sat through a few that really didn't enthrall me in the past, and I think I've just come to a point now where I can't do it, because there are so many great books out there, and the time you spend on something you're not enjoying could be spent on something you really do.

Still, it was a tough decision to return it. I know there's a huge amount of controversy about Audible returns, and whether they should be allowed. If you go to your purchase history, you'll see that next to every audiobook you buy, there's a 'return' button. Honestly, I don't think there's anything wrong with that in the first couple of chapters. However, I do find it weird that I have the option to return (and get a refund for) books that I have finished listening to. Apparently, you can return any book within a year of purchasing it, even if you've listened to it. That doesn't sit right with me. Surely you know by midway if you're not enjoying it? Although, there does appear to be a two-books-per-year return cap. 

What makes me sad is that I saw a post recently on Twitter where an indie author said she'd just received her first Audible return. I don't think I could bring myself to do that to a self-published author. It seems a little harsh that Audible would actually tell her that, though maybe it's required for accounting purposes. I didn't feel so bad about returning this one because it's clearly sold a lot of copies and has enough good reviews on Amazon that they've probably stopped counting. 

Anyway. It was an experience.

Friday, 20 August 2021

Edity Wedity Woo Woo


Slogging away at the edit for Sargon

At around page 240... of 516.

Managed to edit up from 147,000 words to over 160,000... not the direction I was hoping to go in, but I realised I'd missed some really important detail in places. Usually my first drafts are pretty complete, but somewhere along the way I just started throwing action at the page without much explanation. So much so that, in one place, I wondered if I'd accidentally deleted a few paragraphs. Even I couldn't figure out what was going on, though I'm sure it made sense at the time. Now I'm busy colouring between the lines.

Note to self: write shorter books.

I'm not sure I want to do something this long again. With any book, you forget most of the middle by the time you get to the end, but with this one there's so much to revisit. Editing can feel a little boring sometimes and you start to worry that the story itself might be boring. It probably isn't, but you think it is because you're feeling fed up. It's the difference between the enjoyment of watching a video, and the hours of arduous repetition that go into editing that video. By this stage, it's completely impossible to be objective about your own work. As I said to someone, 'I just see the language, not the story.' You reclaim it a little once the beta readers get involved. If you get a little positive feedback, you start to see your story in a new light. You start to believe in it again, and the editing feels worth it. 

I'm also nervous because it's in third person. Historical fiction almost always works better in first. My historical works, Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran, The Children of Lir and Angorichina, have all been in first person. My more contemporary works, Creeper's Cottage, Lucid and Secure the Shadow, have been third person. So, I was feeling pretty uncertain of myself. Then I picked up a copy of Empire by Steven Saylor, and I felt a lot better. I think what I've got is fairly similar in style. 

I honestly didn't realise it would take this long to edit. It feels like I've been going for weeks, and I'm not yet halfway through. If this was a normal-sized book, I'd almost be finished by now. Still, I'm plodding on as I can't turn back. 

Onward...

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Musical Interlude: The Struts


I've just discovered The Struts. I guess they were warming up about the time I was leaving the UK again, so kind of missed that. Makes me think a little Supergrass Darkness. I like the collaboration they did with Paris Jackson. Also, loving Kiss This. [Adding Lollapalooza and their Kerrang concert to the list!]

And what is it about London phone boxes?




Sunday, 15 August 2021

American Psycho

 
Well now, well now. 

I'm always interested in classical works and books with cult status, and, in a rare twist, I've never seen the film of this one. Before I continue, I should make it explicitly clear that I love horror, so I will be reviewing it from the position of someone who enjoys this kind of story. If you find that strange, do check out The Frighteners: Why We Love Monsters, Ghosts, Death & Gore.

Patrick Bateman is 27 and works on Wall Street. He is handsome, sophisticated, charming, and intelligent. He is also a psychopath. And he is taking us to a head-on collision with America's greatest dream - and its worst nightmare...

Hands down, the most sexually explicit and graphically violent book I've ever read.

That said, it took me quite a while to get into. Other reviewers speak of the 'banality' of the story. There are pages of description of the designer brands that characters are wearing, what they're eating, the music they listen to, exercise regimes and dress codes. The opener is a discussion about sushi.

Pretty early on, I thought I'd made a mistake and that I was going to die of boredom. By the end, I had the sneaking suspicion Ellis might just be a genius. The juxtaposition of extreme violence with extreme vapidity was a real headspin, and, by the very end, I was even enjoying the musical monologues, especially the one where Bateman extolls the virtues of Phil Collins over Peter Gabriel. Between that and the sycophantic admiration for Donald Trump, the satire shines through. I can see how it might not wash with younger audiences for whom those cultural references no longer exist or (as with Trump) have been irrevocably altered. 

I can also see why the book garnered a lot of criticism and multiple bans. Apparently it's the, '53rd most banned and challenged book from 1990–1999 by the American Library Association'. Reminded me a lot of Filth by Irvine Welsh. There's a lot of very graphic, gender-based violence in there, and violence against the homeless and against animals, plus racial slurs. It's not easy reading. But, at the same time, I get the humour. Ellis went for it with both barrels. He's extremely blunt. He didn't so much say, 'I'm going to write a sex scene,' as 'I'm going to write sex,' there you go, you're welcome. Right, now for murder...

I'm of the camp: if you don't like this kind of thing, don't read it, but don't try to stop it from existing. Pullman puts it far better. A lot of people seem to have approached Ellis asking him to explain the book and his reasons for writing it. He's given a few different answers. I think it might be better if he gave none. Why should he? A piece of art is there for your personal interpretation. It's not for an artist to apologise for what you see in that piece of art. You can close a book at any point, you can stop a film at any point, you can read the blurb beforehand and make an educated decision about whether this particular story is right for you or not. But the irony of sending death threats to an author for writing something you consider to be too violent... 

It's a work of fiction. It's not fact. 

I was about to quote Pratchett, 'Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one,' but, admittedly, with American Psycho, there's sections that are likely to upset people with imagination - especially a vivid one.

“I think people think that anyone who could write the books I’ve written must be a real son of a bitch, a real asshole.” Writing a book is, he insists, a totally selfish activity, and that’s how it should be. - RollingStone Interview

Ian Banks tackled the issue of separating the author from the art well, and it's disheartening to hear that the literary community would attack him for his literary technique. I don't understand that at all. He was clearly very successful at what he set out to do. 

Looking at the film stills and YouTube clips, I can't help thinking that Christian Bale was a master stroke of casting. He really does look the part. It made me laugh that there was a Craig McDermott in the character list, which is my cousin's name - though 'our Craig' isn't anything like that, except maybe the fitness, he does crazy triathlons and cycles through the Lake District. He's definitely not a psychopath, though.

So, in summary, I thought this was a good book. Pretty challenging in many ways, which is refreshing. It's been a while since I had to sit and consider whether I liked a book or not, I'm usually pretty quick to judge. It's rare that I change my mind halfway through. I think it's important, as an artform, that we show we can write anything. The entire breadth of human emotion (or lack of), action and reaction. In that respect, there should always be room on the shelf for books like American Psycho. Though, as I mentioned with James Herbert, and looking at the ever-decreasing list of large publishers, I think it's unlikely it would have found a commercial publisher today. 

It's a crazy read. 

Saturday, 14 August 2021

My Sh*t Therapist

 

Picked this up in an Audible sale:

A shocking, heart-rending and blisteringly funny account of what it's like to live with mental illness, by a powerful new comic voice.

When Michelle Thomas suffered her first major depressive episode six years ago, she read and watched and listened to everything about mental health she could get her hands on in an effort to fix herself. God, it was tedious. And, quite frankly, depressing.

Which is the last thing she needed.

What she did need was a therapist who would listen and offer a wellness strategy catered to her specific needs. What she got was advice to watch a few YouTube videos and a cheerful reminder that 'it could be worse'.

An honest, hilarious and heart-rending account of living with mental illness, My Sh*t Therapist will help you navigate the world, care for your mind and get through sh*t diagnoses, jobs, medications, boyfriends, habits, homes and therapists.

You'll find no scented candles or matcha tea 'cures' for mental illness here. Instead, learn how a modern woman and her friends and followers navigate life with their brilliant but unpredictably sh*t brains.

Having a crappy mental health day? I've got you. Want to chat antidepressants and breakdowns? Pull up a pew and let's get into it.

The blurb reminded me a bit of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking.

It's a nice one. Good balance of humour and straightforward advice for people facing mental health crises. Quite insightful. What I found particularly interesting was that the author described very intense emotional and physical squiffyness without having undergone a specific trauma. Of course I know that depression and anxiety can happen to anyone, at any age, without a specific, identifiable trauma, but I still find it fascinating that the symptoms of people with and without trauma are often the same, and as much distress appears to come from not being able to identify the cause as from being able to identify it.

Something I became really aware of a year or so ago when working with genocide survivor organisations, was the research into transgenerational trauma. It's been noted in Rwanda, but also with the children and grandchildren of holocaust survivors. From what I understand, transgenerational trauma can manifest both in the home environment, behaviourally, but also on a genetic level, altering your DNA or epigenetics. Theoretically meaning that trauma doesn't have to have happened to the individual, it may have happened a generation or more back. A biological case for inherited trauma, if not shared memories. 

Heading off on a tangent, you also have cases such as James Leininger, which, if you believe in reincarnation - and a significant portion of the world's population does - adds an extra layer of mystery to the mental health arena. 

But, even on the accepted medical plain, there's so much potential for the wiring of our brains to go wrong. Even the slightest tweak, such as a cup of coffee, a cigarette or a glass of wine, can have a dramatic effect on our mood. Plus, the massive increase in the stress of living, with fewer people being able to afford a decent quality of life, whilst billionaires blast rockets into space... 

It's a wonder any of us are sane, to be honest.

But it did get me thinking about the obvious, and not so obvious, causes of mental health problems.

Thomas covers all the topics: My Sh*t Job (how work dissatisfaction affected her), My Sh*t House (how housing uncertainty contributes), My Sh*t relationship (relationship troubles), My Sh*t Meds (her experience of meds), and, of course, the titular, My Sh*t Therapist. All interspersed with a wide variety of stories from people who had written to her about their own mental health struggles.

It was all very relatable, though I think people who have suffered identifiable trauma or who don't have a strong support network to call on (which is what she credits as pulling her through) might feel slightly adrift in parts. But, as she says at the beginning of the book - this is her experience, not everybody's. And it is a very inclusive book that undoubtedly speaks to many people.

I like it. Not too intense, not too wishy-washy. Some good, practical tips.

Thursday, 12 August 2021

World Elephant Day


Happy #worldelephantday.

Celebrate by adopting an elephant through Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Adopt an Elephant 🐘

Adopt a Rhino 🦏

Sorry for the quality of the elephant footage, it was taken in 2014 and the ratio was a bit wrong, so had to zoom. You can see it in better ratio here

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Bet Tuppi's New Writing Challenge

Good morning. 

Earlier this year I won the innaugeral Bet Tuppi's Ancient Near Eastern Historical Fiction competition. I've just received a message saying that they're going to be running more regular competitions. Here's the info for anyone who would like to enter:


Bet Tuppi's New Writing Challenge

Following the success of our inaugural Ancient Near Eastern Historical Fiction competition (the shortlisted and winning entries can be found here: https://bettuppi.com/) the team at Bet Tuppi Press wanted to create a more regular format.

Every fortnight we will challenge you with a theme/person/topic/artefact to base your story on and all you need to do is use your imagination to come up with some fantastic ideas.

Entry is free (just post your stories in our Reddit thread).

Two winners will be chosen: 'The Community Favourite' and 'The Judges' Favourite'. Both will receive a £5 prize!

'The Community Favourite' will be the story that receives the highest net 'upvotes'.

'The Judges' Favourite' will be decided on by the judges at Bet Tuppi Press (we especially like originality and good use of the source material)

Both stories will be published on our website.

Head on over to our Reddit page to take part. 

 

The Challenge: For this competition we want you to write a story based on cylinder seals!

Here is an image of a cylinder seal:



Cylinder seals were used as a way of authenticating receipts, as a kind of signature on clay envelopes, or as personal adornment.

Deadline is 22nd August 2021

N.B. A larger competition with big prizes will be landing toward the end of this year - watch this space!

Sunday, 8 August 2021

What Dreams May Come


Netflix has been showing a few things recently that I missed the first time around. I was in floods by the end of this one, especially as it focuses on depression and suicide, starring Robin Williams, who himself committed suicide sixteen years later. I thought it was a good movie, so wanted to check out the original book:

What happens to us after we die? Chris Nielsen had no idea, until an unexpected accident cut his life short, separating him from his beloved wife, Annie. Now Chris must discover the true nature of life after death.

But even Heaven is not complete without Annie, and the divided soul mates will do anything to reach each other across the boundaries between life and death. When tragedy threatens to divide them forever, Chris risks his very soul to save Annie from an eternity of despair.

Very interesting stuff.

In some ways, the book and the film are very similar in tone, but in plot they differ in some key details. I'd say this is an example of a story that benefitted from the involvement of other artists and writers. Like Forrest Gump, having a few more creatives on board just helped to flesh out the story a bit and bring it to life. The books in themselves are perfectly good, stand-alone works, but the big screen adaptations have a little extra that just makes them sparkle.

The book is quite deeply philosophical. It's a telly book (more tell than show), that explains the author's world relating to death, the afterlife and reincarnation. It goes through the mechanics of how it all works. Chris still travels down into the underworld to find Annie, but the ending is a bit different, and there's a whole extra part involving their children which isn't in the book. But, I do think the film worked really well, and I think the book characters needed more to do, because the book is quite focused on one person, and philosophy doesn't translate to the screen so well without action.

The mechanics in the book are compelling in their detail. It focuses a lot on the concept of hell being something we do to ourselves. People go to the Summerland (Heaven) because they can conceive of it. People who have lived an awful life, who have been neglected or abused, or who sink into mental despair and depression, cannot conceive of a way out - of a different state of being - and so they cannot find it.

It's a worthy allegory, however, I found some of its implications a little hard to embrace. We all know that when you're in one particular frame of mind, it's often extremely difficult to imagine being in another frame of mind or behaving differently. It's easy to get stuck in a rut and hard to switch from despondency to enthusiasm. The underlying idea, that those who have suffered the most in life are doomed to continue suffering in the afterlife, is an uncomfortable one. That, to me, is a pretty depressing plot hole.

Annie loses her husband, the love of her life, and can't conceive of living without him, so she kills herself, only to be condemned to live in an absolute shithole for twenty-four years without water, electricity, gas, or pest control (giant tarantulas roaming loose), and even her husband's best efforts can't dig her out of it. 

I don't like that idea very much. Even with the reincarnation angle thrown in at the end. That's still a pretty horrific system. There's an interesting line that goes something like, 'we are not punished for our deeds, our deeds are our punishment,' which I'm still thinking on now. There's a lot in here that gives pause for thought. But if there is an afterlife, I would hope it's slightly kinder than this. 

So, I like the way the film pulled out the morbidity plug on that one, but also the visual effects they threw in. Especially where Chris is playing in the flowers. It was a book begging for beautiful effects at a time when cinema wasn't quite as advanced as it is now. They did a really good job.

So, I did prefer the film over the book, but it's easy to see how the book inspired the film. It's not the most uplifting read, and I've been reading it in tandem with American Psycho, so I'm pretty depressed at the moment. Looking forward to something a little more light hearted. 

Thursday, 5 August 2021

I've Been Vaccinated


This morning I got a message that over 40s can now get vaccinated in Kigali, so I hopped a moto down to my local clinic and got Pfizered! Feeling so happy. You can find the global vaccination map here, and more about vaccination inequity here


List of Private Clinics Currently Offering the Jab in Kigali

  1. Hopital la Croix Du Sud (Kwa Nyirinkwaya)
  2. Plateau Polyclinic (Nyarugenge)
  3. DMC Hospital (Kicukiro)
  4. Nyarurama Adventist Polyclinic (Gikondo)
  5. Kigali Citizen Polyclinic (Remera)


Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Wunderkammer der Kulturgeschichte


 

My friend, author and academic Leif Inselmann, who is helping me with all things Mesopotemian in my Sargon novel, has just started a very cool blog: Wunderkammer der Kulturgeschichte (The Chamber of Historical Cultural Curiosities). 

It is in German, but you can easily run posts through Google Translate.

As he explains in his opening post:

Was humanity really visited by aliens in the distant past? What forms the core of old myths and legends? And what misconceptions do we develop when we learn about history?

Mankind’s past is a cabinet of curiosities: puzzling myths and legends where the truth is hard to distinguish, archaeological finds that can’t be easily understood... history has always been a reflective surface for the ideas of later generations: from the Sumerian King List to ancient aliens, humans have transfigured, reinterpreted and distorted the past. 

His blog aims to explore curiosities in the fields of history, archeology, and mythology, to explore discorse in academic research around these topics, and review literature. If you're into all things fortean, check it out.

Monday, 2 August 2021

The Left-handed Booksellers of London

 

Recently finished this after my friend, Cassie, mentioned it on Facebook:

In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn't get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin. 
Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops. 
Susan's search for her father begins with her mother's possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms. 
Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan's. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New.

A fairly gentle read. Overtones of The Reivers of London, Diana Wynne Jones, and Emma Newman's Split Worlds series. 

The lead male character, Merlin, is a little Howl-esque. A slightly vain, fashionable fop with intense magical abilities. I like the main character, Susan, who was more than capable of keeping him in check - a child of the 80s. 

I just checked my clips/notes, and found I only made one, which is a little unusual for me:

A tree is strong, but the wind is stronger. A stone is strong, but the sea is stronger. The sun is strong, but sorrow is stronger. 

So, yes, it was a nice book especially if you like your folklore of the British Isles. The Old Man of Coniston and the summer solstice play a large role. A little bit of 80s nostalgia in there, including mention of a Swatch. I get the sense this might be more enjoyable in tree format, read over long winter nights beside the fire. It's got that sort of oldy London atmosphere that doesn't entirely translate to the sun-bleached equator. Seems like the set-up for a series. 

Sunday, 1 August 2021

P-Script

National Geographic

 

I've started a new novel!

Working title P-Script (the actual title I have in mind is way cooler). It's something that's been rattling around in my brain for a while, and I'm hoping to keep it down to around 80-90k.

Like Creeper's Cottage, it's all about those abandoned places, but this time it's 250 years in the future. My first attempt at sci-fi and I'm excited. The first chapter is down. I'm someone who researches a lot, and I've always suspected that futuristic novels take just as much research as historical ones, because you need to be aware of so many trends and scientific developments.

This one's inspired by Hans Rosling's statistics and the current trend in Japan and Italy. The implications of this on the economy, health care, and housing fascinates me. I had a guest staying from Abuja recently and we got talking about the far future, and it really sparked my imagination and made me think I should get on with writing this. Historical fiction is all about explaining other people's thought processes and why they did things, but here, I get to invent reasoning that hasn't yet happened. It's kind of liberating.

And, don't worry, I'm not abandoning Sargon. Things are actually going okay there. I think I've fixed the first chapter, and I'm busy resetting the tone. It's not looking quite as bad as I first feared, and I even had someone contact me asking if they could be a beta reader. I'm chipping away at it in between P-Script and a couple of other projects.

I've been really enjoying a couple of Netflix series as well, one on music, This is Pop, and the other on films, The Movies that Made Us. Kind of a trip down Nostalgia Avenue, and absolutely fascinating how many blockbusters were rejected by every agent in town.

So, soldiering onwards.