Reviewing the mundane
Following a purchase of some DIY products about a year ago, I got a rather random email from the hardware chain: Homebase, asking me to review an insignificant item I obtained as a matter of course whilst attending to some minor household maintenance. I was so puzzled by the request that I followed the link in the email and discovered a webpage that offered me suggestions as to how I should...
The Retail Story of Easter
Long ago, at the beginning of time there was a God and she was known by all who worshipped her as Chuck. Chuck looked upon her world and decreed that hats should be worn in her honour at a special time in spring and that flowers should adorn those hats to cheer her up. Her devoted subjects did this diligently until, by and by, they fell in to laziness and she was perplexed by their sins. She...
Internet killed the TV star
Television is evil. In spite of the tens of thousands of programmes available there is rarely anything of any quality that warrants investing time in. More than this; it kills the communion of company, hinders intelligent conversation and is omnipresent in any room in which it is switched on where all eyes are pulled like magnets to its flickering images. By contrast, a radio is a companion. It...
Coming up from the deep
What could be more spectacular than that moment when one is lying down waiting for sleep and the spirits come to take your hand; the trials and labour of the day melt away and yield to the sparkling, swirling colours and visions from within one’s own mind. The imagination is unleashed and a million ideas surge through the landscape in an extravaganza intended purely for entertainment and...
City of tiny lights.
I had an attack of Acephalgic Migraine today. I have been free of any incident since my last episode (and subsequent blog about it) back on the 26th July this year so this time I felt it worthy of documenting - not just for my own benefit but also for the scientific interest surrounding this mysterious condition. Today, at about 11.30am, I became aware of the central ‘sparkle’, just...
The problem with Hotmail
Internet ‘bots’ are, for the most part pretty annoying but from time to time they can be quite entertaining. It’s generally easy to spot one and I feel sympathy for those who fail to recognise them and try to engage in sincere conversation. What follows is a ‘chat’ that occurred between myself and a ‘bot’ called Shay which happened when I logged in to...
Imagine a Texan Sheriff as a spaceman.
(Forgotten British heroes, part one) You’d be forgiven for thinking that the basic premise of this idea was a little corny but back in March 1953 it was hot stuff. Children all across the British Isles were delighted when the first edition of a new comic; The Lone Star (“the only magazine with three dimensional pictures!”) hit the newstands featuring Sheriff Ace Hart. Created and...
I have something rather unusual wrong with me.
I’m happy to talk about my condition as it falls into a category of illnesses which are best described as ‘bizarre’ but also, sadly, untreatable. What medically happens, is that a wave of electrophysiological hyperactivity begins at the very back of my brain which gradually flows forward and is followed by a wave of inhibition. Basically, the electrical charge is flipping from...
If the internet has proven anything, it has demonstrated to me that I have never had an original thought in my life nor am I likely to do so in the future. That might seem like a bold and somewhat pessimistic statement to make, but the more I research and delve into the, almost, infinite archives of the world-wide-web’s vaults, it becomes increasingly self evident. Every interest, passion...
I’m trapped in the wrong dream. A nightmare that somebody’s having. And every day my strength dies away; the giver and the given. No one sees my pain. No one knows my sorrow. Nobody hears the dread that I feel, at every new tomorrow. It’s a lonely road. Not quite sure where I’m going. And the weight of the rain that is falling is stopping me knowing. When is it my time...
A dongle in my coffee
It might appear peculiar in the cold light of the written word but watching people is a pastime that gives me a great amount of pleasure. I’d like to qualify this by explaining that I don’t hide behind hedges with binoculars or peer out from shaded places with two holes cut into a newspaper. I’m talking about the active engagement of observing total strangers as they go about...
On the impossibility of language 
Madeleine was blessed with sensational good listens. English is full of colourful phrases and mysterious words that we often use everyday without ever thinking of where they came from nor what they actually mean. This is one of the things that makes the language so unique and rich with texture but when you analyse some of these ideas they quickly start to quake under the scrutiny of observation....
The Land of Cockaigne
…where the food garnishes itself. The great British seaside [Part 1] On Yorkshire’s eastern seaboard lie many jewels. Nestling in a calm and sandy bay, with its history clinging like crusty barnacles to the salty bedrock of British seaside tradition, is Bridlington - that pearl of the coast. Sitting demurely between Flamborough Head to the North and Spurn Point to the South, it...
I am woman
With my daughter’s permission, I would like to showcase a piece of prose that she wrote and performed for her GCSE drama exam today. When she rehearsed it in front of me last night I was almost moved to tears, not just by the gentle Dublin accent which she spoke it in but also for the depth of maturity which it conveyed. I was convinced that she was reciting James Joyce at first and was...
Tell me it isn't true
I thought they were joking when I saw the publicity for “Titanic -The Musical” but incredibly, it’s true. No disrespect is intended to the hardworking team who have put this show together as I’m sure it’s a fine production and I feel slightly foolish for not knowing about it. However, I am sure that the version which played out in my mind is nothing like the actual...
A restoration project
This is not the sort of thing that I’d usually write about but as it’s the kind of activity that fills much of my ‘spare’ time I thought it worthy of some kind of documentation. I spend a lot of time trawling through boxes of clutter at carboot sales and tend to prefer either ‘house clearance’ sellers or merchants of collectables and vintage or antique...
Rupert's cheerful little face
Just recently I was asked: “What literature has had the most influence on you?” To be honest, I have to say that it was children’s books that have always had the biggest influence. As a father, I have spent nearly thirty years reading aloud to my children and though all that time have absorbed the ‘inner truths’ of simple story telling: there’s a character, they...
Return of the Canada Geese
There is nothing quite so emotionally moving and spectacular than seeing the return of geese in their annual migration. It marks the return of spring, the onset of longer days and the promise of summertime. Just recently, I was lucky enough to witness this brief spectacle and was halted in my tracks by the silent majesty of it all. I was compelled to stand and watch for many minutes as flock after...
When in doubt, don't scatter punctuation about
If you have written (or intend to write) your own text and you have used a spellcheck be sure that it is set to ‘British’ English (if you are writing for a British audience) and not ‘American’ English! Unfortunately, the software can not correct the ‘right’ word used ‘wrongly’. Here are some typical examples: Its or It’s Its is a word – it is how you attribute ownership to a ‘thing’ (the same as...
There's no such thing as writer's block
A small part of my mind has been closed off for about twelve weeks now. I have walked the corridors outside its door many times, hesitating to perhaps look in as if checking on a sick child. Each time, however, I have resisted the temptation and gone about my business satisfied that all was well within. For a while I became concerned that what lay in that room had withered and died - faded away...
What is 'writing' all about?
Writing is not about wanting to say something, It’s about having something that you must say. However, to say it effectively you have to be focused on exactly what it is that you want to convey and how it you want it to be understood. In 1946 George Orwell wrote an essay called ‘Politics and the English language’ which is as pertinent today as it has ever been. Too often we read...
If you're thinking of writing a book, think again.
I don’t doubt for a minute; the old adage that we all have a book, somewhere deep inside us just waiting to get out but, from what I understand of the way that the publishing game works, there are certain ingredients that you need to bake a successful cake. The Cathedral of Wonderful Imaginings is usually ‘novel’ shaped for most writers and whilst many succeed in building a...
Another year marks a chapter ending
Facebook has changed the world in many ways and in spite of the negative coverage it often gets in the popular press, all of us who use it cannot deny the positive benefits it brings to our everyday lives. In a world where much of our ‘digital’ life is stored in ‘the cloud’ - that mysterious place in the ether where all the music, films, photographs and email messages...
Generation of the child-adults
I never once saw my father lie on the floor except the day I found him dead. In spite of that rather grim observation, I have come to the conclusion that I am of the generation of adults that have never quite ‘grown up’. I am much happier eating cheerios whilst lying on the floor in front of the TV on a Saturday morning, watching cartoons than I would be sitting at a dinner table,...
VALVEPUNKS! - novel ways. A promo synopsis
What’s it all about? “Valvepunks! The long road to Quixotica” is an epistolary novel. To you and I - that’s a novel that is written as a series of documents. Typically stories like this have the narrative flowing through letters but in this case there are diary entries, newspaper cuttings and other personal documents which are threaded throughout the adventure along with...
Closure is such sad sweet parting
It’s a very strange feeling having completed a book. On the one hand, there is the elation that it is all finished: that every twist and turn has been explored, every angle examined and every exposition exposed. But, on the other hand, there is the very tangible feeling that it is ‘all over’. In some ways, that is more terrifying than the prospect of embarking on such a project. ...
A taste of wild honey
A synopsis. Two, middle aged friends find their life-paths crossing - after having had no contact since their student days - when a terrible shared secret comes screaming through the years to haunt them, threatening their sanity, freedom and comfortable lives. Evidence surfaces, when Joshua (the ten year old son of the family who had just moved in to the former student flats) finds a ring in the...
The long road to...
The city streets of York are the last place on earth that one should consider taking LSD. However. If you are, in fact, the sort of person that would ever consider taking LSD in the first place (just to restate my observation) then York is the perhaps the last place you should do it and I’d like to explain why I think so. Coming from an unremarkable, West Yorkshire market town as I do,...
Hellicious Halloween writing festival
Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers is a webzine that aims to do what it says in the title - at least to thrill and chill (they haven’t and wouldn’t advocate anyone killing just yet!) It is faithfully dedicated to writing and reading short stories and flash fiction in the most daring of genres, including crime, noir, action, thriller, horror, weird, spooky, supernatural and...
'Figure', 'en' or 'em' dash?
Quote: “Various style guides and national varieties of languages prescribe different guidance on dashes. Dashes have been cited as being treated differently in the US and the UK, with the former preferring the use of an em-dash with no additional spacing, and the latter preferring a spaced en-dash. As an example of the US style, The Chicago Manual of Style still recommends unspaced em...
Interview with the mind
What literature has had the most influence on you? To be honest, I have to say that it was children’s books that have always had the biggest influence on me. As a father, I have spent nearly thirty years reading aloud to my children and though all that time have absorbed the ‘inner truths’ of simple story telling: there’s a character, they want something, they try to get...
Edgar Allen Poe - The Forgotten Cosmologist
By Philip Jennings. From ALGOL - The Official Magazine of The York Astronomical Society. Issue 79 – June 2011 Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary. Edgar Allan Poe is best associated with dark, gothic tales of black cats and swinging pendulums; a disturbed fellow who ended his days in a very mysterious manner – repeatedly shouting ‘Reynolds’ before dying of unknown causes....
An unquiet slumber
It is a most terrible night. The wind is roaring outside and I have been woken from sleep and some terrible dreams. The last thing in my mind as I gained consciousness, was a ghost story which I had to write down, immediately, before it slipped back into the night. It’s written here, in first draft, exactly as the dream dictated it to me. An unquiet slumber The Coach & Horses was a...
And the rain shall come
Far away and in darkness now, the still night changes the features of this street to carbon black and there: like a dense, solid mass is a house like any other - the rolling fog of early autumn sticking to its damp walls. Upstairs, a thin light breaks through the curtains in the gap created by the lens of a telescope; impotently peering out. It stands, attentive but redundant and inside he sits...
Romantic pulp fiction
Rescued - By Susie Milford BLURB- Trudy’s humdrum world at the local charity shop took a surprising turn the day she discovered an abandoned pet and called the ‘Cat Rescue’ office. ___________________________________________ ‘Oh well,’ thought Trudy as she unlocked the door to her world of second-hand clothes and unwanted clutter. Being the manager of a sleepy town...
Cul de Sac creativity
One of the perils of embarking on the journey of writing, is the very likely possibility of ending up down a road with no exit route. A cul-de-sac (literally meaning “bottom of bag” in French) is a word which refers to a dead end street, a close, or a no through road and it’s a place that every writer fears, no matter how spectacular the houses are along that road. During May...
How Dr Who was born
What follows is an actual transcript from a genuine archive document written in 1963 containing annotations from Sydney Newman the producer responsible for creating the original Dr Who mythology which became the now legendary television series. As you can see, the ‘doctor’ was originally intended to be: ‘A frail old man lost in space and time who has lost his memory’...
How Motorhead's Lemmy got his nickname
Contrary to any popular, urban myths that you might have heard, Lemmy told me (when I worked for Hawkwind as a roadie, many many years ago) that his nickname came from his childhood fondness (and ability to impersonate) a character called “Lemmy” Barnet, who was a ‘techie’ in a British science fiction radio programme called “Journey Into Space”. It was written...
"Interview with a Timelord" - Extract 3
It is a time of innocence and a place of no consequence as we soar through the night air, carried along by the vibrations that inform, educate and entertain a nation. Over the moonlit, Christmas-cosy rooftops and between the softly smoking chimney pots of suburban Middle-England, we see avenue after crescent of semi detached houses. Closer now, we see the glow of hearth and home, illuminating the...
"Interview with a Timelord" - Extract 2
“Good afternoon. Do you have anything on valve radios?” says a mellow voice that rings through the willows and elms, almost making the pond ripple in reverberant sympathy. “Reggie!” I call as I turn and there he is, dressed in his familiar Gabardine raincoat and tweeds and he lifts his hat as he greets me with that huge, silly grin of his. “How the devil are you, you old goat?” I pull the...
This isn’t the usual kind of post that I would normally make but this week has seen some extraordinary activity on Tumblr that I couldn’t let pass without some acknowledgement. I am in the process of ‘workshopping’ my current work in progress: a valvepunk comedy epic psychological adventure, and from now on, various chapters and extracts will appear amongst the usual...
"Interview with a Timelord" - Extract 1
(First draft) ~ Every Sunday I do this. I take the scooter down to the pond and feed the ducks. I like to have a little routine in my life, you know? A little routine goes a long way: it helps pass the time and it’s nice to have something to look forward to. Monday is Post Office day - I like to check my balance and then on the days when it’s due: collect my pension (ach, it’s not much but then...
Crisis of confidence
For every writer, there sometimes comes a point where they take the ‘big picture’ and think “what the hell am I writing about?” Unfortunately for me, this has happened this week. After spending a year and a half nurturing my baby with tender loving care, feeding and tending it on a daily basis, this week it looked up at me and said ‘what the hell have you made me?...
All roads lead to somewhere
“The sound of the distant motorway at nighttime is the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard, for each speck of sound in the entirity of the landscape, (that’s 100 people going away, 100 people leaving people behind and adventuring, 100 people tired and happy and laughing and feeling, 100 people revisiting familiar places and 100 people coming home.) makes me want to cry” -...
Life can be stranger than fiction - EMBRACE IT!
A good writer should have their radar on at all times. Life has a way of hurling incidents that, when viewed with ‘novel-goggles’ has a perspective which makes them larger than life and absolute gold dust when it comes to the tricky business of inspiration. There was an incident which happened to me today which I have to admit was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. So,...
Writing - The Traumsprache method
I find it completely fascinating the way that the mind is able to process ideas and thoughts in ways that we least expect . This is most obvious when we analyse our dreams and find that there have been certain aspects of our lives that have been lurking there in the shadows whilst we go about the daily business of whatever it is we have to do. For example, the other night I was awoken from a...
Where love blossoms
Audrey’s husband, not known for his open displays of love in life, managed to get a message through to her on the anniversary of his passing. —- ‘If only Jim were here. He wouldn’t have let it get this way,’ thought Audrey as she looked through the kitchen window and across the bedraggled, overgrown garden. It wasn’t that she didn’t care, she just didn’t have the energy any more, or if she...
How to Write a Novel: The Yak Shaving Method
We all know it’s wrong and yet still we embark on that long climb up a mountain to shave a yak. It’s something that most of us do at some point or another (oh yes we do) but how can we recognise the warning signs? In terms of writing, the tell tale warning flags are there right from the start and sometimes go something like this: We get the ‘big idea’ and decide that to...
How to Write a Novel: The Dramatica Method
RE-BLOGGED from - The Dramatica Method at their website, out of Burbank, California. Please visit their site. With acknowledgements and thanks. —- What Is Dramatica? So, what exactly is Dramatica? Dramatica is a whole new theory of Story. Because it wasn’t based on any pre-existing theories, much of what it has to say can sound pretty unfamiliar. Still, the amazing part is that...