Monday, 26 September 2011

Games Day 2011

So, here I sit at the keyboard absolutely knackered after UK Games Day 2011. Part of the exhaustion was due to my decision to drive there with a couple of friends rather than take the shop coach and face the awful traffic after a long day.

Overall I had a great day and had the opportunity to chat with many of the authors including three I'd never had the chance to speak to in person. Sarah Cawkwell was there for the release of her first novel, Gildar Rift, starring her very own Silver Skulls Space Marines and believe me when I tell you that the energy of this woman needs to be seen to be believed. It was such a pleasure to meet her face-to-face and to see her in her rightful place meeting her adoring public as she signed book after book for hours at a time, greeting each and every fan with genuine warmth. A veteran performance from this talented rookie. I'm delighted to announce that Sarah has agreed to be on my hit-list for an interview, Skype style.

Sarah Cawkwell strikes a pensive pose for my camera.

I also had the great pleasure of speaking with author Sandy Mitchell whose Ciaphas Cain novels have grabbed me by the throat and won't let go. I recently reviewed Mitchell's latest Cain novel on the newly revived Book Spot Central and I had the chance to talk with the man about what's next. February 2012 will see the release of the next in the Ciaphas Cain series, The Last Ditch, after which Mitchell is hoping to alternate the Cain titles with other Black Library work which can only mean more Mitchelly goodness for us fans.

My abiding impression of Sandy Mitchell was of a real gentleman of the old school, who - while clearly a very experienced and profoundly talented writer - presents with a disarming humility. He has graciously agreed to a Skype interview for Book Spot Central though in his case he's told me that it will involve getting a tech savvy friend to set Skype up for him.

Sandy Mitchell in all his glory.

Last of the previously unmets was personal favourite Graham McNeill who was very keen to do an interview over Skype and we had the chance to chat a little about his upcoming Horus Heresy novel The Outcast Dead, a review of which I hope to publish in the next two weeks on Book Spot Central. Hopefully the interview will follow soon after.

It was great to reconnect with Chris Wraight, who as I've remarked in my reviews of his work, is a world class teller of tales and it has long been my feeling that he hasn't been given the exposure that someone of his talent deserves, something I hope to rectify in my own small way with a...yeah, you guessed it, a skype interview.

Chris Wraight and his appropriately adoring fans

During one of our quick chats during the day, when he was kind enough to spare me a few minutes between seminars/signings, he mentioned that one of his upcoming 40k releases will be a novel about the Iron Hands! They haven't had the Black Library treatment since Jonathan Green's Iron Hands novel that was last published back in 2004 and I'm really pleased that they've chosen a writer of Chris Wraight's calibre to expand the Iron Hands' mythos. We briefly discussed the challenge of writing what are effectively a bunch of inhuman bastards who stretch the definition of 'good guys' to beyond breaking point. Definitely a novel to watch out for.

My experience with Dan Abnett in our recent skype interview has put me off the written interview format for good I think. There's nothing like a real time conversation to open things up and now that my squeaky chair has been destroyed future interviews will be bereft of its high pitched interruptions.

Though I didn't have the nerve to ask him for any kind of interview I did have the chance to foam at mouth in the presence of William King. I was, and in truth remain, a big fan of his writing and the Gotrek and Felix series he penned are still personal favourites to which I return even now. He took a long leave of absence from Black Library but I'm chuffed to say that he's back, with a series of High Elf themed novels coming to a  store near you soon.

William King, Back in Black...Library! (see what I did there?) :)
Also there was the mild mannered alter-ego of author Mark Charan Newton in his day job for Games Workshop. I know he likes to keep the two worlds separate but I was so pleased to have the chance to catch up with him and talk about his work. In June this year he released the third of his Red Sun series, The Book of Transformations, and told me that the fourth and final novel in the series has already been sent to his editor and is slated for release in June next year. After this series is over he hopes to write a mystery novel set in another fantasy world of his own creation. Having read the first two books of his current series, I really loved his character Investigator Rumex Jeryd and for me he has already established his credentials as a crime/mystery writer so I'm really excited about this future project.

Author Mark Charan Newton

Next up is Aaron Dembski-Bowden who though he wasn't officially there actually sat down to sign stuff for his growing army of fans including this guy, Adam Cleveland, who, having run out of stuff to sign, just got him to sign his face! (Thanks @morbius_sire for his name!)

Adam Cleveland knows he can never wash his face again!
Aaron and I had a chance to chat and I floated the idea of us doing a skype thang which he seemed really enthusiastic about. I mentioned that we might time the chat to coincide with the release of the last in the Night Lords trilogy, Void Stalker, which he liked and that we can talk more about his work and upcoming projects which he suggested was boring...he really doesn't like the whole self-promotion thing. I'm going to have to come up with topics we can talk about that take advantage of his encyclopaedic knowledge of, and passion for, the 40K universe. Can't think of a better guy to talk 40K with! I also had the chance to chat with and congratulate Katie, Aaron's brand new wife who was both thoroughly charming and very patient with the weird guy (me) that was asking where her husband was.

Aaron and Katie Dembski-Bowden
For some reason I never got around to congratulating Aaron...I think I was too busy frothing and trying to cram all the ideas for interviews/articles (we both write for Spot Central) that I've wanted to run by him for a year into a few minutes. So, Congratulations Aaron! He won't read this post so I'll just have to email him; yup, I have his email address...MUAHAHAHA! It's just so unsatisfying sending him 'heavy-breathing-in-the-wee-hours-of-the-night' by email. But such is life.

There was one very pleasant surprise for me at Games Day today. My old chum and former Games Workshop colleague Neil Wylie (have I spelled your surname right Neil?) has moved on from his post at Black Library and is now a games designer and background writer for the new and very shiny Forgeworld spin-off, Warhammer Forge! Neil was a great pleasure to work with and I'm so chuffed that his great talent has at last been given an appropriate outlet. It was so damn cool to see him at the table answering people's questions about the stuff he's working on as a member of a very select group, the design team. Neil I wish you the very best of luck in your new role and hope it's the first step towards fame, fortune and shiny new toys.

Neil Wylie, games designer extraordinaire.

And now, last in deed but first in thought, is Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent, the first family of Black Library as far as I'm concerned. Dan's timetable during the day was...relentless, though he seemed to handle it all with his usual verve and charm. I never got the chance to speak to him though I'm so pleased I got to speak to Nik Vincent (aka Mrs. Abnett) who showed me the all the warmth (and did I mention patience?) that she is so well known for. It is always a great pleasure to speak to either of them and I sincerely hope to have to the opportunity to speak to Dan very soon. In fact when I mentioned to Nik that I hadn't had the chance to speak to Dan she said that I had all their details and should feel free to get in touch. Call me a girl's blouse if you must but I was really touched by that. Thank you Nik, that was so very kind of you.

I was also very pleased to hear that Nik is bringing Gilead back! Any longtime Warhammer Fantasy fans will know who I'm talking about and for those who don't...well that should clear that up. Gilead is set to return in around 10 short stories published in Hammer and Bolter with a novel to follow the year after. Very exciting news!

Dan Abnett

Dan waxes lyrical to a capacity audience during his seminar

Can't wait for next year's Games Day! And in the meanwhile, watch this space for news of upcoming reviews and interviews.

That's it, I'm spent! (throws down pen and minces off stage left)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

My interview with Dan 'The Master' Abnett

Part two of my interview with Dan Abnett went live on about 5 hours ago and I wanted to post a link here for anyone who wanted to stop by and have a listen. We had a conversation over Skype which I recorded and it runs to just over one and a half hours.

It was tremendous fun and I may write a post about the overall experience but for now do please head over to Boomtron and download it to your internetz friendly devices or iStuff. I'm just a little proud of it, the conversation went better than I dared hope and the credit for that must go to Mr. Abnett who took my questions and comments and ran with them into all sorts of fascinating and entertaining places.

Thanks Dan, that was a blast. I hope we can talk again soon.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

A letter to my MP

Below is a letter I've sent to my MP, Mike Freer. I've wanted to write it for a while and I think the anger contained within is, in part, inspired by having held on to it for a while. I will of course post his response if and when I get one.

I have lost all hope in the UK's democracy, all the parties are much the same with different shiny faces on posters promising to help us and then screwing us sideways. Maybe this is the case in all democracies and I'm just painfully naive:

"Dear Mr Freer,

I am writing to you to register my disgust at the obscene rise in resident parking permit charges. In the current financial climate (and frankly at any other time) a 150% increase is simply ludicrous and cannot possibly be justified in legal terms as the case being brought to the high court makes abundantly clear.

Putting aside the asinine remarks of Brian Coleman for one moment, I would also like to bring to your attention the removal of all free bays from my local area. Until now those of us who were unable to afford the residents permits, or in my case refused to pay more money on top of my road tax to park outside my own house, have been able to use the free bays to park. The council's decision to remove those bays and thereby force all residents to purchase permits at the ludicrous new cost of £100 is a betrayal of those of us, myself included, who were foolish enough to vote Conservative in the last election.

I voted for you based upon the belief that the Conservative party were returning to their founding ideals, a minimalist government focussed upon the freedoms of the individual. Instead I have discovered that a Tory Barnet Council are worse, or at best equal, in taxation (secret and otherwise) and bureaucracy to the Labour government we just voted out!

My sense of disappointment is hard to convey. I sincerely regret having voted Conservative, having voted at all. It seems that this country's democracy is based upon voting, not for those who share your beliefs and ideals but for those I pray will do the least damage during their term. That is not a democracy of which I want to be a part.

Voting for the lesser of three evils is not a real choice.

I never wanted the resident's bays in the first place. To be charged over and above the ever increasing road tax to park outside my house has always struck me as a criminal attempt to drag more money from the government's favourite cash cow, the motorist. This criminality has now reached epidemic proportions under the government that I foolishly voted into office! I expect this sort of lunacy from Labour but the Conservatives? Is there any real idealogical difference between you anymore?

And as for Brian Coleman, after Mr Cameron's attempt to place the Conservative party into a more friendly light, to demonstrate to the masses that the Conservatives aren't a group of elitist rich boys who care not a jot for those of us not earning six figure salaries, I suspect his remarks have set back that goal significantly.

Can you offer me any hope that these ridiculous parking charges will be brought back to justifiable levels? Can you give me a reason to vote next time around?"

Friday, 6 May 2011

Roll a D6

Just to prove to myself that I can write a really short but welcome blog post, I just had to share this hilarious parody music video written and produced by a buy called Connor Anderson.

It's a parody of the song Like a G6 by Far East Movement and by my reckoning a vast improvement over the original, check it out!

Roll a D6 from Connor Anderson on Vimeo.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

A dubious celebration

Anyone who's keeping an eye on the news or is alive/conscious in any way will be aware of the UN's air operations over Libya. This morning the RAF were giddy over their 3000 mile round trip bombing run over Libya, however, I can't help but feel that their celebration is just the teensiest bit absurd.

For me it's the equivalent of a man walking from London to Scotland because he scrapped his car the week before, convinced that he'd never need it again. It is without doubt a long walk and a great achievement but one can't help but feel that the man is a bit of a prat. Libya is a country with a huge northern coast which makes it an ideal theater for carrier operations. Unfortunately Cameron and co. saw fit to scrap Ark Royal and the Harrier squadrons leaving us with no choice but to fly half way around the world to drop some ordnance on yet another sandy, oil and blood soaked country.

Will the absurdity of the current operation move the ConDem party to reconsider the ill conceived SDSR? Nope. Cameron appears to be as stubborn as he is short sighted.

Don't get me wrong I celebrate the success and safe return of the RAF fighter crews but again can't help but feel that the RAF's (and the Army's) political manoeuvring that brought about the evisceration of the Royal Navy makes their victory a little hollow and leaves me deeply concerned for this country's safety in the long term. A carrier off Libya's coast would have been the far better option, with the ability to respond to the rapidly shifting tactical situation by having a significant hard power presence in the region.

Instead we send our Tornado's (an ageing airframe with little real future in modern conflicts) 3000 miles to throw some explosives at Gaddaffi's crumbling regime. Meanwhile the French, with their shiny Rafales and carrier Charles De Gaulle are doing the job properly with a clearly superior grasp of the strategic and tactical realities of the situation. All credit to them.

At least someone can see beyond the end of his nose...

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Beware of Headlines...

I came across this mini-headline on the BBC news website and was so incensed I did something I've never done before, I registered a complaint:

"I was astonished to see your headline, "Israel approves new Jewish settler homes in West Bank". Instead of placing the focus where it belongs, on the murder of innocents, a mother, a father and three children you instead run a headline that focusses upon Israel's response to the brutal murder of her citizens. To the casual scanner of headlines it seems that Israel is up to her old 'tricks', the provocative building of new settlements. Only after clicking the link and getting to the third paragraph does your reader discover that in fact a family had been murdered in cold blood; and what's more the Palestinians are seen to be celebrating it!

Everyone has their own biases but the BBC's apparent blindness to its own prejudice borders on the pathological. I am not writing to you with hope that this will change in any real way. I just wanted you to know that it hurt."

Israel is a controversial topic, but surely we can all get on board with the idea that the deliberate, calculated and cold blooded murder of children is a horrendous act that deserves unequivocal condemnation?! Apparently not.

And before the thought even starts to form don't anyone dare say 'yes, but...'. There are no yes buts when it comes to slitting the throats of sleeping children!

The photographs of what was found inside this family home are already on the net. I cannot post them here, I cannot even look at them. On a regular day perhaps I could find the strength to bear witness to an atrocity like this; but after spending the morning looking at Japan's devastation and heart rending losses I find myself much more fragile than usual.

I'm writing this post so that their murders don't get lost amidst all that is happening in the world at the moment. In quieter times I'd like to believe that this event would have received the horrified attention of the world.

On reflection, I think I'm being rather naive.

Update 14/03/11

Since writing the above I received a response from the BBC which I wanted to post for the sake of balance and to recognise my misperception and where I think they can do more.

"Dear Mr. Sobel,

Thank you for your e-mail. We initially covered the murders here on

On Sunday, the announcement about new settlers' homes was made. Our West
Bank correspondent offered analysis saying that it was "hard not to see
the timing of the announcement as linked to the killings". We felt it
was appropriate therefore to recount the events at Itamar in this
context, and the photograph on the page highlighted the importance of
the killings.

However, this was not, as you suggest, our only coverage of the deaths,
but the latest version of developments, a normal practice in 24-hour
online journalism.

Best wishes,

BBC News website"

Please understand that what I'm about to say isn't about sour grapes. I just want something like this to receive the recognition it deserves. Personally I would be inclined to link the settlement story to the article they have sent me so as to make clear what the new story follows from. I must also acknowledge that as a practising Jew I did not see their coverage of the murders on Saturday and that my complaint above was made without knowledge of this coverage. Having now read it I really don't think it contains an expression of the horror of what happened but I recognise that this is very much a personal feeling that is perhaps beyond the scope of a News agency.

However, the broader point I've made above remains true. The premeditated and targeted murder of children would, anywhere else in the world, provoke horror and disgust. In this case it seems to have received barely a whimper. I think it's fair to say that events in Japan have overwhelmed the ability of most people to focus on anything beyond it, but please, do spare a thought for the three children robbed of their parents and siblings by a vicious murder.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Catch up with added Wittgenstein

Well, howdy y'all.

It has been a while since I sat down to write a proper post. Those that read my last post may recall that I had some notion of posting an academic essay of mine. I've since changed my mind. For starters I'm not at all happy with it, it's dry as a bone and despite the hours of work and weeks of stress and reading and more stress it doesn't read all that well and the ideas I've tried to discuss are too important to me to make a half-arsed job of conveying them to those outside the fold.

The essay tried to explore the concept of self-deception through the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the role of Existential Psychotherapy in bringing self-deceptions to light and challenging the beliefs that make it seem so necessary. Not to mention how my own self-deceptions blind me in my work with my clients. Wittgenstein's work has inspired me in a way that few Existential philosphers have. His exploration of language as the building blocks of our world and its implications are as profound as they are overlooked. His writing is devoid of jargon and yet is immensely challenging to the Western mind, all the more so nowadays in a world where science and empiricism rule supreme. Where theories of mind/behaviour are postulated with all the force of holy writ.

Anyway, not posting it. It rather sucks. Which is a shame because I don't think I've ever worked harder on an essay in my life. I take some comfort from the knowledge that I picked a real bastard of a topic that is so very difficult. I'm not done with Wittgenstein though, I'm currently reading his Philosophical Investigations and struggling with it. The truth be told, his philosophy demands discussion to really understand it but alas, I've yet to find a discussion group. Yes, I'm sure there are groups online but that isn't what I meant. I meant a real, face-to-face discussion group with like minded souls. The accessibility of the internet has robbed us of that. Why meet when we can 'meet' online?

But there is so much more to language than words! So much that is lost when we write rather than speak face-to-face. Hypocrite? Yes, I suppose I am. Here I sit writing furiously while bemoaning its very real and severe limitations. But to refuse even dirty, brackish water in the desert is rather churlish and self-defeating I think. If writing is my only outlet then I must use it and equally must acknowledge its limitations.

More to language than words? Oh yes, yes, yes. Gesture, facial expression, posture, tone and rythm often say more than the words we may choose to use. And have you noticed how universal they are? Have you ever stopped to think about how weird it is that facial expressions, gestures etc. convey meaning so accurately across cultures and languages? I'm aware that there are some elements of body language that are unique to particular cultures and yet, given time, can be explained to an 'outsider' in such a way as to open it out to him/her. There is no such thing as a private language, this is a central thought in Wittgenstein's philosophy.

The Western world is convinced of the idea that words are representations of objects in the world and that a child learns what certain sounds refer to and so learns to speak. Is that really the case? Wittgenstein shows that it's a fiction that holds sway over the more delightful reality. That words are part of a web of language that incorporates words and all that I've mentioned above. Children don't learn a language in the mechanistic sense so beloved of the Scientific mind, they are initiated into language. A process taking many years and certainly beyond their school years.

I could go on and on but you really must have a look for yourself. His most accessible book is probably On Certainty. Accessible doesn't mean easy, it's really hard work but well worth the effort to engage with. Philosophical Investigations is also well worth the time to struggle with. For those who have an interest in the therapeutic application of his philosophy (and he believed his philosophical method to be therapy) you need look no further than John Heaton's excellent book, The Talking Cure.

I suppose that's as close as I can really get to show where I've been for the last few weeks. I've barely scratched the surface of what I've been wrestling with, and continue to wrestle with, but it will have to do for now. Please forgive my laziness, it's hard to find the right words in the right order to convey clearly what I've learned but I'm really tired and it's important to me to get it right. I will try again. It has had the most extraordinary effect on my work with clients. I suspect my next essay will also be focussed on Wittgenstein.

So, onto other things. Reviewing and interviewing has suffered a slowdown while I was in essay country and I'm having a hard time getting the creative juices flowing. I've got an interview to write with Dan Abnett and it's proving extremely difficult. All the authors I've interviewed to this point have been relatively new talent, what the hell do you ask the man that has done everything?! There's a little hero worship going on here and any regular readers of this blog will have heard his name mentioned in hallowed, reverent whispers. First things first, I have to write the give you some perspective Mr. Abnett is a remarkably humble and down-to-earth person who is going to be challenged by my glow-in-the-dark intro which will likely compare him favourably to the great heroes of the past. That's one hurdle I know I can overcome...I think.

It's the questions that have me stuck, what do I ask him? I know he's really involved in Marvel Comics but it's not a part of his work that I've really engaged with but I'm sure he'd love to talk about it. Also he's been writing almost as long as I've been alive so a fair few of my interview classics are going to have to be put to one side. Truth be told I've got to stop moaning and just get on with it. That creative vacuum from which ideas spring is a painful place to be and one in which I've spent a great deal of my time lately. I suppose I must buckle down and get back to it, I have to remind myself that when the flow inevitably hits I'll be loving every minute of it.

In other news, I'm skint. I've lost one of my part time jobs which means that money has been extraordinarily tight. I knew this was coming, I knew there would be a time of transition from 'trainee' therapist to qualified therapist which would require the building of a practise. I knew it would take time and leave me rather skint for a while and guess what? Knowing all that hasn't made it easier, not even slightly. I've been unable to fly for a while, though that's just as much to do with the awful weather as it is my cash strapped state.

Ooh, exciting news! Those lovely people at Black Library have added me to their reviewers list! This means that every two months they send me a box with one of every release...WOOHOO!!! This is a really exciting development that has gotten a little lost amidst my essay/cash preoccupations but I'm really pleased I was able to remember while writing this post.

For me it's a real validation of what I've been doing over the last year for BSC Review, speaking of which, my angel of an editor has offered me a payed writing gig for the site which only adds to my sense of WOOHOO! I had to turn it down because I was deeply mired in writing academic nonsense but she made it clear that the door was open if I decided it was something I wanted to do. I'm mulling it over at the moment, I hope that the review I'm working on (in the loosest sense of the word working) and the interview will give me a creative boost that might tempt me into taking up the post. It isn't a lot of money, it's more about the recognition that the offer of payment implies. I'm really rather pleased with myself (a rare event).

Still on the BSC topic, author Aaron Dembski Bowden has now started writing for the site. This is something in which I played a small role which I now mention for a brief moment of preening show-offiness.

And with that dispensed with I think I'm done for now. Bloody nora that's a long post, sorry about that. I hope you feel it was of some interest.

It has certainly served to remind me of how much I enjoy writing :)

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Still not dead...yet.

I know I've been quiet of late. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, 'tis better that I keep my mouth shut when I have nothing useful to say rather than spew molten randomness everywhere which can only serve to further damage our hard pressed ozone layer. Besides, in a world where climate change is an ever present worry, more hot air is probably not going to help matters.

I am currently up to my neck writing/researching for a paper on Self deception in psychotherapy from a Wittgensteinian perspective (my life is all about the fun). The deadline is in 19 days and I've yet to start the writing part. After that deadline, one way or the other, I look forward to writing a post.

I'm seriously considering posting my paper for all of you. I hope to write a paper that is accessible to all those fortunate souls who haven't read any existential philosophy and yet seem perfectly able to go on existing.