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A Year In Novels

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“This will be my year!” That’s a mantra I often used to hear people repeat on New Year’s Day. Probably trying to exercise the power of positive thinking. Fair enough, I say. In the end sometimes it was their year and sometimes it wasn’t. Personally I don’t remember having “a year” or even thinking that in particular – I was cautious about tempting fate. But this year – finally – I was ready to hope for “my year” as my debut novel was due to be published. The release date had already been put back twice due to the pandemic but I was sure that 21 January 21 was an auspicious date for it to finally be released upon the world. I hadn’t counted on the pandemic coming roaring back stronger than ever and us all being in lockdown again. Of course being confined to our homes isn’t nearly the drawback it would have been in the past. People could buy the book online  from all the places people normally buy books. However, I suspect having to rely on online only promotion and sales meant slightly

The Selfishness Paradox

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It turns out that there are a number of very real autistic traits which are not "textbook" at all – in other words recognised by mental health professionals in the official literature – but nevertheless are very familiar to anyone who has experienced them. None of these are official diagnostic criteria, but they are nonetheless real. When I was part of a group of autistic people who met regularly to share our experiences we discovered several of these that we all had in common but which hadn't even occurred to the group's NT facilitator. One was an aversion to the overuse of names in conversation. It's fine when there's a group of people as of course you need to be able to know who is being addressed but when it's one to one it just feels... unpleasant and sinister. No matter how illogical that may actually be. Another of these non-textbook traits is what I think of as the Selfishness Paradox. During our group discussions we all discovered that we had a te

All By My Self Help

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Self-help books as a genre tend not to have a good reputation as even before you open the cover of some of them there’s always a whiff of making a fast buck about it and once you get inside you find yourself flicking the pages over and over faster and faster. “Yep… knew that… yes, I know… yep… stating the bleedin’ obvious…” What a lot of them boil down to is writing common sense down and identifying the problem. That's all very well and good but most of the time I know full well what the problems I’m experiencing are, there’s nothing mysterious, no cathartic epiphanies to be had. I realise what the issue is but doing something about it is another matter (sometimes even if I kind of know what the solution is). This is why I've never found CBT particularly useful - it actually increases my anxiety. What to Do When You Can’t Move Chapter one: Check whether you’re trapped inside a collapsed building. If you are, then the reason you can’t move is because you’re trapped inside a coll

What's in a Genre?

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Some of this may cover similar ground to parts of blog entries I've written here in the past but none of them quite combine the topics in this order so I thought it was worth tweaking this short piece (originally written as an update for Unbound) and making it available here. Oddly, considering the subject of my debut novel Comeback, I never thought I would end up writing Fantasy novels, Urban or otherwise. When I was younger and first expressed ambition in the direction of writing professionally, I was convinced I'd write Science Fiction. This was partly because that was what I'd mainly been reading in adulthood up until that point. And yet the majority of the genre writing I enjoyed as a child was fantasy. I can't quite remember what the first novel I read was but do remember reading C S Lewis's Narnia and Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books quite early on. Other favourites included Richard Carpenter's two Catweazle novels, Paul Gallico's Jennie and - to a

The Tiger

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I'm not that keen on zoos in general but one afternoon I had a lot of time to kill waiting for my train. Given that the station I was due to depart from was called Bahnhof Berlin Zoologischer Garten , going to the zoo was an obvious choice. So I put my suitcase and bass guitar in left luggage and headed there. I had been to Berlin Zoo before as a child – back when there had been a Berlin Wall and everything – but all I could remember were the tigers. Genuinely nothing else had stuck in my mind. The tigers had lived on an island but you could walk through a tunnel built through the middle of it and look out at them through thick perspex windows built into cave mouths on the island's central peak. Arriving at the Tiger Island as an adult, it turned out this setup was still in place thirty plus years later. The tunnel was shabbier than I remembered, but the perspex windows were still there. And there, curled up next to one of them like a giant housecat, was one of the tigers. I lo

The Somnopolitan Line

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I’ve talked before – both here and in other blogging arenas – about how locations and landscapes in dreams seem to be consistent from dream to dream, almost as if there is a place we go when we sleep, or if the brain retains the architecture of dreams like a computer storing the map of an imaginary place on its hard drive ready for when we next play that game. I don’t think we’re computers though, and even though people describe the latter as “electronic brains” I suspect they way they work is very different, just as different as eyes and cameras. A lot of what we see and the resolution is down to the brain interpreting visual (and I suspect other) signals to give us a picture that makes sense. This is probably why I see cats both when there are cats there and when there are not. It makes sense for there to be cats. But I digress. There are a multitude of dream buildings and cities that are often there when I fall asleep – the twisted versions of childhood houses and the large oceanic

Boot Camp

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There is a famous quote from Douglas Adams about power and government which always resonates; especially in these unenlightened days: "Those people who want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it... Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job." I have been thinking about this recently. The problem I see is that – according to the above definition – most of the time anyone who tries to get made ruler is doing so in order to exploit the system for their own benefit rather than to help people. And the problem with this is that people who try to exploit systems tend to be either criminals or the very wealthy (and frequently both at the same time). This puts people who do care at a distinct disadvantage; because in order to compete successfully under the current rules you have to lack something fundamental. You have to lack empathy. The wealthy – especially those born to wealth – very rarely have it