Sunday, 15 April 2012

Some Random Musings

It has been a while. A long while.

If there's anyone left who reads this blog, I appreciate your patience.

The title of this post and the name of the blog are much the same because, with much on my mind, I thought it might be an idea to just talk it all out right here and if it happens to grab someone's interest into the bargain then great.

So, what's news?

Well, I have finally completed my six year training as an Existential Psychotherapist. I still need a number of hours to complete my accreditation but my academic training is complete and I must now get on with looking for a part time position as a therapist and building a practise of my own. After years of study and the cash strapped nature of being a student you'd think I'd be raring to go and yet, I find myself experiencing the most extraordinary lethargy. Some of it is due to a rather unhelpful streak of pessimism that sees success as something that happens to other people and some of it is a crisis of confidence, a belief that I'm not 'there' yet. Wherever 'there' is.

Six years of training...bloody nora that's a long time! The training was...well, impossible to truly describe to someone who hasn't done it. It aged me, profoundly. Partly that was a much needed thing, my lack of maturity being a major impediment in my life. But another part of it has made me feel old before my time, a sense that, at 36, the best part of my life is behind me. Is that a part of my lethargy in moving forward post training?

I think so. I also know that my accreditation is important to me and I haven't achieved it yet. Finished my training and yet not quite finished. Not a Jedi yet. The accreditation shouldn't be that important and yet I think I've given it great significance, in my mind it sits as a final acknowledgement that my colleagues recognise me as a qualified professional, an equal, and I seem to need that. I wonder if, when I get there, it will be enough?

What else. Well, my reviewing continues apace. But here's the thing, I think I'm getting bored of it. Black Library no longer tweet or Facebook any links to my reviews for their followers so I wonder if anyone is even reading what I'm writing? I've no idea if my reviews are any good because I get no feedback whatsoever. I'm also aware that I tend to review the same few authors though I've added one or two to the list and there are a few more I want to add. As a reviewer I get free books for review and I'd like that to continue so I keep churning out the reviews. Okay, that's not entirely fair. I do really put a lot of heart into my reviews and they tend to be a very genuine reflection on my experience of reading the book in question but I wonder, is it time to stop reviewing other peoples work and start to develop my own?  Do they have to be mutually exclusive?

I mentioned a whole load of interviews in my last blog post about Games Day 2011 and yet have done bugger all about it. I've contacted Graham McNeill and Sandy Mitchell and have done little else since, the authors in question must think I've been swallowed whole by some sea creature and left no forwarding address. I really have to sit down and prepare for the interviews and get the hell on with it. It's an element of what I do for Book Spot Central that I still enjoy if for no other reason than I get to chat with people whose creative work I love. Must. Get. On. With.It.

Next up, flying. Or rather not flying. I haven't flown for a year and a half and miss it terribly. I enquired as to the cost of renewing my Single Engine Piston rating and it turned out to be around the £700 mark...! Not a huge amount of money in the greater scheme of things but more than I'm likely to see in a while. The cost of flying has increased markedly in my absence. New European legislation has brought the cost of aircraft maintenance into the "you-have-got-to-be-f***ing-kidding-me" bracket with no noticeable benefits to safety. I will confess to very politically incorrect feeling towards Brussels and their ever growing army of mindless bureaucrats whose only job seems to be coming up with legislation that makes life more expensive and complicated for no purpose!

So I turned my attention to another area of aviation that I've explored once before, Gliding. Tried it, loved it and I don't need to re-mortgage my soul to fly. Sounds great right? Wrong! Guess what, most training gliders have a weight limit that yours truly was well over. So it's diet time. Or rather as my dieting guru (aka my Mother) insists, not dieting, healthy eating. She's right, my relationship to food has always been an unhealthy one. It has been a comfort and up until now I've eaten pretty much whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it; the ol' see-food diet.

But it's well past time I dealt with that part of my Being-in-the-world and have at last discovered an incentive I can relate to, flying. So far I'm about three or four days into this healthy eating lark and it does rather suck, if only because I don't know what I can eat and I'm anxious to lose the weight as quickly as possible so that I can start my Glider training. On the other hand I know that if one loses weight quickly one is likely to put it all back on shortly thereafter. So something that normally required no thought at all is now taking up a lot of space and leaving me feeling faintly anxious much of the time. The whole idea of three square meals a day is not one I've subscribed to. I usually don't bother with breakfast and on busy days tend not to bother with lunch and so end up eating my whole days calories in one sitting. Not good. This healthy eating thing is going to demand I get myself organised and eat something even when I'm busy or can't be bothered with cooking.

In short it's really going to be a pain in the fundament. But I need to fly, so head down and get on with it, no looking back.

That'll do for now folks. Let's 'speak' again soon.

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.