Adventures in books

Reading is one of life’s great pleasures, and reading as a writer is an essential skill, by which I mean honing the part of your brain that wants to know why these words are having this effect on you. Blog posts are really notes to myself, with some longer pieces reflecting on my life as a creative writer.

  • Keeping the story alive

    Keeping the story alive

    27 Nov 2021, 21:16

    Feeling the pull of Christmas, and seeing 2022 on the horizon, I’m looking at my work-in-progress, and it seems to be asking how we got here. It’s a patient and wise creature. It knows I haven’t said anything about it ...

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  • Horror AND sex!

    Horror AND sex!

    11 Sep 2021, 15:49

    Here we go again, with my fourth #31DaysofHorror extravaganza/exhaustathon. This year I just want a reason to watch a lot of horror films. Here are the rules I’m playing by:

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  • Intent

    Intent

    9 Sep 2021, 19:29

    Time isn’t real. The future is an abstraction. So says Alan Watts. I do rush things to get to the end of them—not always, but often enough for it to be a thing I’ve noticed over and over again throughout ...

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  • A seat in the sun

    A seat in the sun

    13 Aug 2021, 16:34

    I’m sitting in the sun. August isn’t going to plan, but I’m doing the best I can with it. I won’t go into the details, we all have work and family dramas that flare up when we least expect them, ...

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  • Why read?

    Why read?

    23 Apr 2021, 20:23

    It’s been a tough year, and in the tumult of it, I stopped enjoying reading. Instead, I watched films, which are just as wonderful, but do a fundamentally different job. If you feel jaded with reading, or you want to ...

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  • Swimming with David Lynch

    Swimming with David Lynch

    23 Apr 2021, 13:46

    Spring arriving has given me a creative kick. April has been pretty meta literature-wise. I’ve been reading about reading, reading about writing, writing about reading and, of course, of course, writing about writing. It’s all good. The novel is taking ...

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  • Something Wicked This Way Comes

    Something Wicked This Way Comes

    1 Apr 2021, 14:10

    I bought Something Wicked This Way Comes three years ago in a bookshop sale, in spite of the cover, which honestly put me off reading it for a long time. It showed a terrified, wide-eyed carousel horse looking down, about ...

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  • It’s Spring, and it feels like it

    5 Mar 2021, 09:01

    This time of year is always strange. There is a drumbeat of family birthdays, including mine, and the pandemic has heightened the sense of time passing. My mother died at the end of February 2014, so this is seven years, unbelievably, since then.

    Spring represents renewal. My father has had the vaccine, as has my sister and both my in-laws. I don’t know what my mother and grandmother would have made of all this if they were still alive. The so-far-successful rollout of the vaccines is making me feel cautiously optimistic for the first time since last March. Of course, that’s the other strange thing about this time – it’s a year since the pandemic hit. I remember the paranoia ...

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  • A flotilla of metaphors

    15 Feb 2021, 09:22

    Lying in bed this morning, between the alarm going off and me pulling back the duvet, it occurred to me that sentences can capture the high-level aspects of a story as well as the nitty-gritty. This isn’t a world-shattering realisation, and it isn’t like I’ve invented a vaccine or anything, but for me it was a little spark, a sympathetic prod, a loving poke even in the direction of writing enlightenment.

    When the creative winds are not blowing, and you find yourself becalmed, those summarising sentences can be like flying a kite high enough to catch a draught that might pull your flotilla of metaphors to fresh coordinates.

  • Giallo January

    Giallo January

    23 Jan 2021, 19:43

    Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is one of those books I keep coming back to, this time to stimulate my first draft writing gland and get my novel moving again. I’d run aground at twenty thousand ...

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  • Slippery surfaces

    Slippery surfaces

    17 Jan 2021, 10:15

    I started the week with Blade Runner 2049. I was frustrated with it in 2017, but watching it over three nights at home, I’m more forgiving. It’s way too long. It looks beautiful, and it has some fascinating ideas, but ...

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  • Autumn and The Long Goodbye

    Autumn and The Long Goodbye

    9 Jan 2021, 15:26

    In Ali Smith’s Autumn (2016), when discussing a piece of art, Daniel Gluck asks the young Elisabeth, ‘And what did it make you think about?’. I love the openness of that question. Interpreting art is about making connections. There is ...

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  • My 2020 in books

    My 2020 in books

    30 Dec 2020, 14:56

    I’ve had a tough year reading books. I fell into the trap of seeing reading as work and lost the joy of it. I filled the story gap with films, but thanks to a throwaway Goodreads challenge (35 books in ...

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  • Language muscles

    Language muscles

    26 Dec 2020, 17:04

    Having watched so many films this year, next year I want to get back to reading novels. Films do play into my writing practice. They show me patterns of story, character arcs, themes and dialogue, as well as feed my ...

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  • Why do I write here?

    Why do I write here?

    22 Dec 2020, 21:42

    I’ve written more posts on my blog in 2020 than ever before. It was tricky to start with — I had to find a new voice and get in a groove. As the year ends, and I begin to think ...

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  • London Gothic, Nicholas Royle

    London Gothic, Nicholas Royle

    21 Dec 2020, 20:01

    The protagonists of London Gothic are walkers, art lovers, film buffs and train nerds. They are loners, in the main, fascinated by urban spaces and routes between places. Through their eyes, we see the people who haunt the cafes, galleries ...

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  • Exit Management, Naomi Booth

    Exit Management, Naomi Booth

    7 Dec 2020, 21:28

    The term ‘exit management’ is one Lauren’s HR consultancy uses as a euphemism for helping their clients to fire troublesome employees. Lauren is exceptional at it, and is highly valued by her monstrous boss, Mina, for her emotional control and ...

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  • November culture

    November culture

    25 Nov 2020, 15:25

    It’s good to play around with your projects and try new things. I still suffer from a degree of imposter syndrome, and I probably always will. That’s partly a working class thing, but it’s also because I didn’t study literature ...

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  • Jigsaws

    Jigsaws

    22 Nov 2020, 08:12

    My mother loved to do jigsaws. She would stay up late, after every one else had gone to bed, and do them on the dining table, which is also where she would do the bookkeeping for whichever company she was ...

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  • Creativity 2.0(.21)

    Creativity 2.0(.21)

    14 Nov 2020, 12:46

    I’m in a fallow period, pottering around, looking for the next thing. I started a jigsaw, read a novel, watched the first half of Homecoming (Season 1, with Julia Roberts), listened to podcasts on my walks, and wrote in my ...

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  • Lockdown, Part 2

    Lockdown, Part 2

    4 Nov 2020, 09:01

    Halloween has been and gone, Bonfire Night is cancelled, and I’m writing a pep talk to myself as in England we go into another lockdown. It’s shit we have to do it, but we do, and better late than never. ...

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  • October beckons

    October beckons

    30 Sep 2020, 00:00

    I love October. I love September too, but October is the favoured child. Since rediscovering my love of the spooky, eerie and horrible, I relish the enthusiasm people have this time of year to cherish the darker paths of the ...

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  • In the foothills

    In the foothills

    20 Sep 2020, 00:00

    Graham Swift once said, ‘All novelists must form personal pacts with the pace of their craft.’ Now I am deep in the foothills of my second novel, that quote is a comfort, because I’d forgotten how hard it is ...

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  • 31 Days of Horror, 2020

    31 Days of Horror, 2020

    6 Sep 2020, 00:00

    With 2020 being a demented shitshow, I did fleetingly wonder if I wanted to do #31DaysOfHorror again this year, but then I remembered why I love horror films — they are an escape from reality; they are an outlet ...

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  • Reality Bites

    Reality Bites

    12 Jul 2020, 00:00

    I first watched Reality Bites when it came out in 1994, the summer of my final year at university. I’d finished cramming for my exams and it was obvious I wasn’t going to be an ...

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  • Writers on lockdown

    Writers on lockdown

    25 May 2020, 00:00

    I was interviewed by author CR Dudley on the website of her independent press, Orchid’s Lantern, about being a writer in the current lockdown. She asked some fascinating questions, and it was a lot of fun. Please have ...

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  • Leaving Rebecca

    Leaving Rebecca

    18 May 2020, 00:00

    It’s hard to pinpoint when I stopped reading Rebecca. I started it in the middle of April, and I chose it for many reasons: lots of people I like and admire loved it; I wanted to read something from the ...

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  • Website as digital garden

    Website as digital garden

    16 May 2020, 00:00

    I’m doing okay in my little lockdown bubble. We live in a relatively rural spot, we have a garden, and we are working remotely pretty successfully. The days are going by fast — they all feel very similar, whether work ...

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  • The inner Wonder Woman

    The inner Wonder Woman

    21 Apr 2020, 00:00

    Last night, I had a deep dream of stasis and being held. I seemed to accept it, though there was a suggestion of pressing against constraints. I can’t remember any details. It’s a feeling from a fragment.

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  • My favourite five books of 2019

    My favourite five books of 2019

    17 Apr 2020, 00:00

    In 2019, on Goodreads, I set myself the challenge of reading 52 books. I succeeded — I wanted to read more, and the challenge did the trick. There were periods where I hardly read at all, and to stay on ...

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  • A walk around my writer’s block

    A walk around my writer’s block

    12 Apr 2020, 00:00

    It took me thirty years to get from wanting to write a novel to finishing one. I walked away from writing several times, but I always came back, because deep down I knew it was a vital part of who ...

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  • Escape room

    Escape room

    31 Mar 2020, 00:00

    I wrote a fun post about how I write and the room I write in, prompted by some great questions by Georgina Bruce. There are lots of others in her escape room series and I recommend them. ...

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  • First post, best post

    First post, best post

    29 Jan 2020, 00:00

    I find it liberating to write whatever is next in my thoughts. The train doesn’t ever stop, not even for sleep, and for me, capturing some of that stream in a notebook bucket allows me to read those thoughts with ...

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  • Minimalism

    Minimalism

    23 Nov 2019, 00:00

    My son and daughter are both YouTube watchers, but until this year I’d never felt the need to try it. The whole influencers and cult of personality thing put me off. Then last week I decided to look on YouTube ...

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  • Writing and reviewing

    Writing and reviewing

    15 Nov 2019, 00:00

    I’m sitting in my kitchen listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, and I have some thoughts about how it’s making me feel. Christine McVie is singing Songbird, a song she wrote, and while the lyrics are hopeful and full of love, ...

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  • Blogging with Jekyll

    Blogging with Jekyll

    14 Nov 2019, 00:00

    I’ve updated this website, hopefully in ways that aren’t obvious to the reader, but that let me have more control (and fun) in the months ahead. It’s been through several iterations over the years. The last one was built with ...

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  • On writing ‘The Complex’

    On writing ‘The Complex’

    12 Jul 2019, 00:00

    The first shoots of the ideas that would combine to become The Complex appeared way back in November 2012, when I was fascinated by Lars von Trier’s film, Antichrist. I hadn’t watched it, I was too scared of ...

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The Complex

My debut novel, published by Salt, available online and from all good bookshops.

Cover of The Complex

Signal

My first published short story, with Nightjar Press:

Cover of Signal