Wednesday, 20 January 2010

My First Review

A couple of months back I was emailed by Damon Caporaso over at to see if I wanted to join their team of reviewers! I think it's fair to say that I was really chuffed by the offer but considering the nature of my day-to-day timetable I had to think long and hard about accepting. In the end I decided that honesty was the best policy (and not third-party fire & theft) and I told Damon that I was insanely busy and if we were talking quotas and deadlines then I had best bow out now. Fortunately the laid back nature of the staff at BSC meant that they were happy to think with me about what was manageable and go with that. I have to say that I'm grateful for their flexibility because today they published my first review!

They came across me as a result of a comment I posted on the great Mark Charan Newton's blog and so to Mr. Newton must go my thanks for frequently writing fascinating, thought provoking blog posts that inspire me to comment. I've just started his novel Nights of Villjamur and look forward to posting a review on BSC, so far I'm enjoying the novel immensely.

Who the hell would have thought that a comment on Mr. Newton's blog would lead to this? Not me!

The folks over at BSC Review seem like a really great team. I love the site and I'm proud to be writing for them! Their editor has also given me my first experience of being edited, it's going to take a little getting used to but I have no doubt it will make me a better writer.

Of course this new gig means that I won't be reviewing books on this blog anymore but to be honest there's very little random or muse-like about a book review so I must return to my usual ramblings. I hope they'll continue to be of interest to someone.

Post Script: I know this is way off the topic but I saw this remarkable article and had to share it with you. Inspiring stuff...and suitably random.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Started Part 2 at last!

I was starting to worry that I'd never find the space to sit down and get some writing done but tonight I managed to sneak a couple of hours during which I should have been studying to get on with part two of the story. I like the way it's taking shape but because this has dragged out for so long the original inspiration for the story has waned and I must find it anew.

My ideas for my protagonist remain unchanged but as time has worn on my ideas for the story have evolved a little in my mind and I find that I'm no longer satisfied with some of the cliches I had intended to follow. The words are flowing a little better this time around and I feel more confident about what I'm writing. I suspect that this won't last long once I've sent the draft to my 'editor' type guy, Neil.

A published and respected author who has asked to remain anonymous was kind enough to read the first part and offer me some words of wisdom for which I am very grateful. Following his advice I am hoping in this part to really try to bring my world to life in your mind with descriptions over and above the immediacy of combat and somewhere in there further develop my protagonist who in my mind at least is becoming really three dimensional. There will also be the introduction of another central but, for the moment, mysterious character (the temptation to give the game away is almost overwhelming) who I believe will really contrast well with Sergeant Salinas.

Well that's it for now, do keep watching this space. I hope to have the next part ready soon...ish.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Writing by Night

There's something remarkably peaceful about writing at night. I find that my thoughts flow a little easier and consequently my hands fly over the keyboard with greater fluency in the process of turning thought into words. I think it's about the absence of something we don't even notice during the day but is blessedly missing at night, the background noises of a busy city. The ringing phone, the thoughts of 'what should I be doing instead of sitting here', voices raised in the house, mulling over my day's routine...and so on. I'm sure this is a familiar picture.

My last post bemoaned my lack of writing inspiration and the pressures that I thought might be contributing to it. Tonight though something great has happened. I've been working like a dog to get my studying done and have made enough headway that I felt able to justify taking a break. I sat at my computer, checked over twitter to see if anything interesting was happening and slowly the buzz and hum of my mind under pressure began to slow. Suddenly the urge to write awoke with a start, I opened the empty 'part 2' of the story I've been working on and started to type. 650 words later, confident that I was off to a good start I saved the file and closed it, my relief palpable. The deadlock was broken.

Even now, I'm enjoying the simple pleasure of just letting the words flow from my mind to the keyboard without having to bypass my 'why aren't you working?!' voice. He's asleep. I can think again! I know it can't last, I must go to sleep and when I wake up I will be back to driving myself mad to get down to work and finish the reading I must do, but for the moment I can't get in touch with that panic and stress and it's blissful.

I'll finish by sharing with you something I did this week to try to get me to chill out a little. The snow fell heavily on Monday night and I awoke on Tuesday morning to find my world coated in white once more. I grabbed my camera and headed off to Hampstead Heath. I parked my car quickly, keen to make the most of the time I had budgeted to relax, and crunched my way up the path on virgin snow. What a sight! White as far as my eyes could see. Everything familiar made new again. Call me an old sap if you must but there's something about the transformation snow brings to familiar surroundings that calls out the artist in me.

I took a good few shots which I put on my Flickr page but I wanted to share a couple of favourites here before I go to sleep.

Some people find the shot above cluttered but I love how busy and colourful it is.

And last my personal favourite, lone tree on the heath. I find the shot quite poignant, somehow the empty bench adds to the sense of aloneness.

Hope I haven't gone too arty on you but I think you'll find that as musings go this is pretty random. Good night.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Lame 'I can't think of anything to write' Post

Okay, I'm having a real writers block problem here. Nothing seems to inspire me to write but I wanna! Before you say that posts like this are lame let me say, I know. I figure that in order for it to be known as lame it must have been done to death by almost everyone before me, in which case it might well be a rite of passage that any blogger, or at least any blogger with a dearth of inspiration, must go through to break the deadlock.

So here it is, in all its glory. My head is blocked, I can't really think of anything interesting to blog about and what's more I can't seem to find the strength and mental space to continue the story I have started and really want to continue. The thought 'I want to write' is never far from my mind.

I've started the last of my training as an Existential Therapist and while it is exciting, interesting and thought provoking it is also very demanding, emotionally and intellectually, and combined with the rest of my wall to wall timetable more than a little stressful. This may well be contributing to the block. Whenever I sit down to write I find myself thinking, ooh I should be working/studying and any creative juices are destroyed. This leaves me with the thought that I may have to put everything on hold until I can get a break, but that's three months away and blogs have died in half the time from a lack of new material.

Even now I'm thinking, why the hell am I writing this blog entry when I could be pounding my head against Heidegger's Being and Time? I have a lot to read, a presentation to prepare and notes to get on with it then.

Maybe if I get a good chunk done I'll have the mental space to get creative again...(That last thought was brought to you by

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Schadenfreude as "Entertainment"

What I am about to write may well get up your nose, you have been warned.

I am about to talk about certain reality television programmes that disturb me deeply, however, I also recognise that they are extremely popular and that in attacking them I may well upset or irritate you. This is not meant to be a mindless attack (for which the internet is justly famous) but, hopefully, a relatively reasoned analysis of what I have observed and why it disturbs me so much.

I'm talking about the recent 'I'm a Celebrity...Get me out of here' and, along the same concept, Celebrity Big Brother. I have no interest in any reality tv programme but unless one lives under a rock, and there are times when it's very tempting, it is almost impossible to escape news of any of the above.

While the programme was still being aired I was listening to James O'Brien on LBC and he was discussing Chris Packham's criticism of the programme's treatment of insects (used in some of the...challenges?) and the hypocrisy of some animal lovers' silence on the issue. James suggested that their love of animals was based on the animal's 'cuddliness' factor which explained their lack of disturbance when insects are involved.

I often call LBC to contribute to the discussion as best I can and on that day I called and made the following point. Viewers of a programme based around a voyeuristic enjoyment of human suffering can hardly be expected to empathise with the suffering of insects.

If I've understood 'I'm a celebrity' the public are, amongst other things, asked to vote on which of the inmates (is that the term?) should be subjected to a revolting/humiliating task. If memory serves, Jordan aka Katie Price was repeatedly voted for the worst of it all until such time as she'd had enough and left. Let me say now that I'm not her biggest fan by a long shot. In fact I see her as a tragic and pathetic figure and yet my heart went out to her in this episode of national, popular bullying.

Some of you may be getting ready to tell me about the fascinating study of human behaviour that these programmes are and to you I say, nonsense! These programmes are nothing more than an exercise in schadenfreude, taking joy in the pain and humiliation of others! That those who watch have justified it by saying that these people chose to be there and that they had it coming fails on many levels. Anyone who would willingly subject themselves to such suffering and humiliation for the sake of a very transitory recognition are frankly in serious need of help and should be thought of as vulnerable adults in the throes of one of today's worst addictions, fame. If Katie Price wasn't a classic example of this I don't know who is.

Secondly the idea that this is a televised experiment in human behaviour is belied by the fact that psychologists design the various 'activities' and 'challenges' specifically to subject the poor souls to the worst of human behaviour, behaviour that is well documented from serious scientific study! These 'experiments' are redundant at best.

As a psychotherapist I consider these psychologists as the real world equivalent of having turned to the dark side in using their knowledge to indulge a really ugly side of human behaviour. I suspect that many if not most of them became psychologists to help people, where is that noble motive now?

We seem to think that we own famous people. That somehow celebrities are our property to do with as we please. I mention this because this was a oft heard refrain when the question of how we can treat people like this came up. These people are human beings first and foremost and programmes that take advantage of their tragic addiction to fame for our depraved entertainment are a deeply disturbing trend to me because of all the darker elements of human behaviour I fear cruelty above all. I recognise it as an issue of mine that I continue to work on. However, to see it celebrated in the guise of either entertainment, for the more honest amongst the viewers, or as a 'fascinating experiment' for the rest troubles me more than I can say.

In this 'enlightened' day and age can we find no better entertainment?