A Lesson in Exposition from The Chrysalids

chrysalids john wyndhamI’d urge anyone who’s looking for an example of how to build a world without describing it to read this classic novel and take notes. I only recently read John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids, a dystopian tale about a group of children in a world where deviations are being bred out of society. It’s not a long novel, at 200 pages, and that’s very much to its credit. Given the vastly different society the characters inhabit, and a world with a widely unexplained history, one of its many merits is a very limited use of exposition. Continue reading

Why Fund Sports and Arts? The Rewards of Inspiration

sports funding inspirationEvery day, people are inspired to do heroic things. They save children from fires. They stand up to bullies. They perform selfless acts.  Some are inspired by a sense of personal purpose. As members of a wider society, though, huge numbers are inspired by the actions of others. You do great things because it’s what those you look up to would do. It’s when people forget this that we find a dangerous disconnect in the idea of funding arts, sports, or anything else that doesn’t necessarily have a direct financial outcome. Continue reading

Experience the Post-Apocalypse This Christmas

post apocalypse christmas ebookLooking for something different to read this Christmas period? Then get ready for A Most Apocalyptic Christmas – a post-apocalyptic novella in eBook format, available from December 8th. Based in the same dystopian world of The Faergrowe Principle, it’s a short, sharp adventure in the pulp-fiction style. And, because there’s already enough suffering in the world right now, I’m giving it away for free to my subscribers. Continue reading

In Remembrance of Swings

remembrance of swingsWith the negative trajectories of the world all over the media now, this is a good time to urge everyone to think about swings. The simple pleasure of the park’s finest offering. The rush of the rise and fall without ever having to go anywhere. The thrill of the jump from the highest point, if you dared. The achievement of moving ever higher, all coming from you. The freedom to brave a swing without restrictions, regulations or judgement.

When you were young, wasn’t that one of life’s greatest pleasures? So why don’t you use swings now. Too childish? Not fun anymore? Not enough time? People would laugh at you? I defy you to give a swing another chance and not enjoy it. Continue reading

The Resurrectionist by Jack O’Connell – Book Review

the resurrectionist jack o'connellSomewhat the opposite of The Land of Laughs, reading The Resurrectionist, as a contemporary fantasy from an author whose reputation preceded him, was an experience that quickly satisfied my expectations. The two books are very different in tone and theme but they’re well worth a comparison as both set out to essentially do the same thing – the goal of most contemporary fantasy – to merge the real and believable with the magical. Only this one does it well. Continue reading

“The Land of Laughs” by Jonathan Carroll

land of laughs jonathan carrollJonathan Carroll has developed an almost cult status as a slipstream author, and it was with his contemporary fantasy reputation in mind that I picked up a copy of The Land of Laughs, part of the Fantasy Masterworks collection. It had incredibly high praise from a number of reputable critics and authors, including Neil Gaiman, and comes with claims that if you’re new to Jonathan Carroll then his debut is a great place to start. Such build up can go two ways with a book; it can give it an advantage making you love it before you’ve even begun, or it can set you up for great disappointment. Continue reading

Stories of Hynpagogia and Dreamlike Hallucinations

examples of hypnagogiaI woke up in the middle of the night and saw this massive spider on the wall, about six inches across the legs and a sort of pale grey in colour. I reached for my glasses, but then it was gone. My first instinct was that as I hadn’t kept in sight it had escaped into the shadows, jumped to the floor, gone where that I couldn’t find it. Now I was doomed to lie awake with the knowledge that a monstrously big spider was somewhere in the room. My second instinct, a moment later, was that this was another hypnagogic hallucination, that spiders that big did not exit (at least not around here), and it was just a trick of the mind. With that in mind, I proceeded to get up and search the room, just to be sure. Continue reading

Asking “what” to aid effective character creation

what character creationAre you struggling to create focused characters in your writing? There’s a gem of advice in Syd Field’s classic screenwriting guide, Screenplay, that I feel is really worth dwelling on. It’s introduced mid-paragraph, almost an aside, but I think it’s something that can really help a lot of writers quickly and solidly create a character background. In its simplest form, the point is to ask what and not why when you’re exploring your character.
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The Principles of Shared Success, Conflict and the EU Referendum

eu referendum togetherAs a writer, I put a lot of effort into trying to understand people and relationships. Relationships are the root of all meaningful conflict, so the source of all good stories. And as such, it’s the interaction between people that interests me most about the upcoming UK referendum. Principally that I find it incredible that it’s essentially an argument about whether or not people want to work together.

The Leave Campaign plays on the idea of “the European” as a selfish “other” who wants to improve their world at the expense of ours. This creates an attitude that we have an enemy and we’d be better off alone. Personally, I believe the people of Europe, like everyone else, have a less vindictive goal – to improve their world with one another’s support. Conflict comes from the person that would try to convince you we can’t work together – success comes from the belief that we can. Continue reading