The Wise, The Witty And The Wicked

Words of wisdom, wit and occasionally wickedness from writers a little more famous than myself…

Because, with NaNoWriMo 2018 just around the corner, we all need a little inspiration once in a while…

The Wise…

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” ~ Ray Bradbury

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” ~ Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ~ Philip Pullman

“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.” ~ Neil Gaiman

“So what? All writers are lunatics!” ~ Cornelia Funke, Inkspell

The Witty

“I wouldn’t mind leaving myself behind if I could, but I don’t know the way out.” ~ Gregory Maguire

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” ~ Frank Herbert

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” ~ Winston S. Churchill

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” ~ Isaac Asimov

And The Wicked

“The virtuous man contents himself with dreaming that which the wicked man does in actual life.” ~ Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams

“I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.” ~ Jonathan Swift

“One must be cunning and wicked in this world.” ~ Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

“Stories are the thing which shapes our kinky and wicked minds.” ~ Deyth Banger

“Because her flesh knows heat, cold, affliction, I know fire, snow, and pain.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

And finally, because I am allowed, a quote of my own…



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The inner voice…

One of the hardest things to do as a writer, in my opinion, is to write in a character’s voice rather than your own. It is a skill that takes time to learn, and more time to master. How much time depends on the writer, but for myself, it is a skill that took a long time to acquire, and if I have mastered it, well that’s a subject that would be for readers to debate, not I. There are a lot of reason why this skill took time to master, including my tendency to write a lot of different things at the same time.

Take Cider Lane, my first published novel, which was written in a years gap between the first year writing Passing Place and the last. Cider Lane has two main characters, and the POV switches between them at the end of every chapter. Now I like to think I pulled off this dual viewpoint overlapping narrative well. Certainly, the reception the novel has had would suggest this is the case. But the novel was written with a  third person narrator effectively, which make the trick a little easier than if it had been written in alternating first person.

Passing place is far more complex. While the main plot is all form the POV of Richard the Piano Player as he discovers the impossible bar that is ‘Esqwiths Piano Bar & Grill’, those who work within it, and the patrons of the bar. But part of the structure, and indeed one of the central idea’s and themes of the novel is that Esqwiths is a place where stories are told. So the POV, indeed the way stories are told varies with each one. From the narrated story of the grey man working at the heart of the grey establishment, to the first person account of the life of a Black American soldier in WW1, to a mythic rendition of the Wolf King of Winter,  the ice maidens tears told as an Inuit saga, and many others besides.

In short, both Cider Lane and Passing Place contain many voices.

Which brings me to the problem I currently have, its a nice problem to have in many ways, but it is also an oddly exhausting one. The problem of Hannibal Smyth.

I have been writing Hannibal Smyth, otherwise known as Harry Smith, for about three years, but in the last year, he has become the main focus of my writing. He started out as just a bit of fun. A character and an idea to play with while I recharged my writer’s mind for the sequel to Passing Place. He started out in a third person narrated story that after the first several chapters I decided on a whim to rewrite in the first person. A style I generally avoid as a rule for anything long as with first person you have the problem of keeping the character consistent throughout the narrative and that takes practice.

But one book has turned into two and a novella, one novel is written and out with an editor, the second is half written, and the novella which came out of the second when that narrative was still part of the original has been out a couple of months or so. There is also a short Hannibal story that was written for an anthology that will be out later this year, and I have the basic plot outlines for the third novel worked out already.

To be short, there is a lot of Hannibal, and his voice has become second nature to me. Its a different voice to my previous novels. It is very much ‘his’ voice and I just borrow it to write his stories. All well and good, great in fact.

Except last night, I decided to take a break from Hannibal for a week or so and do some work on Something Red, the sequel to Passing place I have been scratching together over the last couple of years. Something Red is a long way from written, but it does have some basic shape, and the main plot is coming together. But right now, I can’t write it, because when I tried to write it, it started coming out in someones else’s voice, the voice of Hannibal Smyth…

Harry bloody Smith has taken over my writing so much, he is doing the writing for me, I may as well just be jotting down notes as he dictates to me.

So I guess I will have to shelve Something Red for a little while longer, old Harry isn’t going to let go of me that easily…

I think I understand now why some writers kill off their main characters, it the only way to get them out of your head…

ASOA pres8 banner

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The Call Of Cthulhu: TCL #48 Part 3 The Madness from the Sea…

Vigilant Arrives With Helpless Armed New Zealand Yacht in Tow.
One Survivor and Dead Man Found Aboard. Tale of
Desperate Battle and Deaths at Sea.
Rescued Seaman Refuses
Particulars of Strange Experience.
Odd Idol Found in His Possession. Inquiry
to Follow.

The above is from the third and final part of ‘The Call of Cthulhu’. While the first two parts we solid workaday Lovecraft, it was in this third and final part that old tentacle hugger really stepped it up a notch. It was here the world first got to ‘see’ old tentacle face himself. Demi-god, old-one, winged dragon, octopus-headed, giant, late sleeper himself. A monster from the Lovecraftian pantheon that has surpassed all the others as a counterculture phenomenon. Old tentacle face is everywhere in geek culture, from pop figures to board games, crochet patterns to role-playing games, computer games to tattoos…


And it all started here…

But this blog is not about the cultural impact of the tale, but the tale itself. And like the first two parts of the tale, it is a minor let down, if only because the expectations are so high. If there is one Lovecraft tale you want to drag you in and then leap off the page at you it is surely this one. But that’s a small complaint, and any reader of Lovecraft will get past that easily enough.

In this third part, the narrator is still sperate form the bulk of the action, reporting second hand on events he has been told about after rooting them out in his dead uncle’s files. But at least in this he is not just repeating second hand what his uncle had discovered. In this part, he goes to visit the source itself. The last survivor of the encounter at sea which the opening exert of this post is referring to. That survivor, a Norwegian seaman, tells the real tale, a tale of cultist pirates warning his ship off and been ignored, of a mysterious island where no island should be, a part of the sea floor pushed up to the surface for a time, much like the events in Dagon which Lovecraft wrote so many years before, and of an ancient tome, or temple of something , a structure that made no sense with its strange geometry. And finally of fleeing the island, crewmen dying and the ship being pursued by a cyclopean creature that resembled the strange little statue they had found, a Cthulhu idol. Yet somehow he survived this encounter when all the other hands aboard ship did not…


As a tale within a tale, within a tale, this story is the best of it. Much like the other parts, it is the stories within that make the tale as a whole great. the final ending of the tale as a whole, with the narrator waiting for death at the hands of cultists, that he is sure his investigations will bring down on him is bleak and cold. But it should be bleak and cold. For once Lovecraft’s tone is perfect here. But as a part of the whole, this story is not quite as good as it should be. I can’t place why but it is just a feeling I have, an itch at the back of my mind perhaps… So its another five out of six for this section.

5out 6

The posts on the first two parts of this tale can be found following the links below:

Part 1 The horror in the clay

Part 2 The Tale of Inspector Legrasse…

Summing up the whole story…

There is, however, it has to be said, something of the grand scale here when you take on the whole of  ‘The Call of Cthulhu’. This is a tale in three parts, and each part is not quite as good as it could be. But, when you consider the whole. the everything, and the impact beyond itself it is still the story you should read. It is ‘The Call of Cthulhu,‘ and the call is strong. So in essence, as the sum of all its parts, it is so much greater than a mere five tentacles. It is in fact, like ‘The Rats in the Walls.’ a Lovecraft tale that surpasses that out of six judgment I have placed on the others. It is all the tentacles out of many…

allout 6


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Interview with a Wordsmith #1: Kate Baucherel

As an indie author, I am, as regular readers will be aware, a bit of an advocate for indie novelists. But while my reviews may entertain, and hopefully even point some of you in the direction of books which you will love and cherish but would have escaped your notice otherwise, authors themselves fascinate me almost as much as the books they write. As such, because its a way to get them to answer my questions, I am going to start doing the odd interview with indie writers, in order to illuminate and entertain you lucky readers…

First up is the delightful Kate Baucherel who as it happens has a new novel out today, Hacked Future. This is a sequel to the very fine Bitcoin Hurricane which I reviewed last year, follow the link for that review, a free preview of that novel and a chance to read one of the best near-future novels I have read in many a year. I haven’t read the sequel yet, but it is on my to-do list and I am sure I will get to review it in time. But enough from me on with the interview…

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 What was the first book/author you really connected to, that made you want to write yourself?

I’ve been a voracious reader since early childhood and was caught with a Dr Who book under my desk aged about seven. Early favourites were John Wyndham and Ray Bradbury, then David Brin and Iain M. Banks. I had an old typewriter when I was young and spent a lot of time writing terrible short stories and even a script based around sci-fi shows and films of the day (I was an only child which explains a lot). At the time, my dad was on sabbatical writing a management book, which sadly never got published, and after he died I found that manuscript, some of his own memoirs, and a surprise comedy script for ‘Spamlet’ written in the 1950s and complete with a BBC rejection letter signed by Frank Muir!

What do you feel drives you to be a writer?

I started out because I was challenged to deliver something educational and accessible about cybersecurity. The first time I felt the characters running away from me I was hooked by the sensation of creating fiction. It’s an extraordinary feeling when the words flow without passing through the conscious mind.

Where, when and how do you do the majority of your writing?

I bought a laptop with some of my Bitcoin profits so I write wherever I can, whenever inspiration strikes or a deadline is looming. My favourite spot is in the garden a long way from any distractions, but I once managed most of a chapter on a transatlantic flight. I can normally be found typing at the side of the pool when my kids are competing in swimming galas. Bitcoin Hurricane got its final touches at Sheffield Ponds Forge and Hacked Future at the Commonwealth pool in Manchester.

What’s the favourite/most unexpected reaction you have had to one of your novels?

Praise! After being dismissed by my English teacher, who really didn’t like my concise style, writing fiction for an audience wasn’t something I ever expected to do.

What’s the oddest question anyone has ever asked you about one of your books?

Many people think that Bitcoin Hurricane is a cryptocurrency trading manual, and it has been riding quite high in non-fiction categories alongside some very worthy real texts on blockchain technology. It was actually published before Bitcoin started its meteoric rise. My publisher was dubious about the title, thinking that no-one would know what it meant.

What’s your favourite/worst, form of procrastination?

Currently playing Crash Bandicoot on Nintendo Switch. Angry Birds Pop has a lot to answer for as well. Oh, and Twitter.

What genre, other than the one you usually write in, would you most like to try your hand at?

I’d love to push the sci-fi boundaries out to new worlds, and equally to bring a story into the present day or near past.

Which writers do you think most inspire your own writing?

I’m massively into the Expanse novels by James S.A Corey at the moment. Aside from the first two which seem to run together, the characters are placed in very different situations, often with many years passing between each book. I also like Samantha Hayes psychological thrillers, with multiple threads gradually resolving. Sam and I were actually in the same class at school!

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to one of your characters?

One poor bloke ends up in a train crash in the first novel, which I didn’t know was going to happen until it did, and then contracts a horrible virus in the second. I felt very sorry for him.

One of my favourite Hemmingway quotes is ‘write drunk, edit sober’ what’s your favoured tipple if your writing?

Rum works when I’m in the mood, otherwise a good glass of wine.

What one piece of advice would you give anyone who wanted to write?

Let it flow. Just keep writing. You can go back and change it later.

What do you love/hate most about writing?

Love: The unexpected. Characters and situations don’t always run to plan, which is bizarre.

Hate: When inspiration simply doesn’t strike and I know I have to push through to get the damn thing finished!

There is a strange phenomenon on the internet and Twitter in general of Authors cats. Several authors have started putting up daily pictures of their cats, as a running monologue of their lives, and more are doing every day it seems. It’s all become a bit weird… Do you own a cat?

I have two cats at the moment, rescue kittens called Fred and Layla. There are plenty of cat shenanigans in my books. Some of these are based on incidents with my own cats past and present, others are pure invention.


Many thanks to kate for volunteering to be the first victim, erm, interviewee. As I mentioned her second novel comes out today. So it would be somewhat lax of me to neglect to put a link up for it. So here you go. Have a read of the free preview, then go read the first novel, and this one. Buy them as a pair in fact…

The Futures Bright for K R Baucherel I am sure, I for one am looking forward to reading her new one. And if there are enough swimming gala’s coming up I am sure there will be a third novel to look forward to in the none too distant future…


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A Right Good Spannering…

For the last couple of weeks, I have feverously been writing a short story for a SciFi/ steampunk/ fantasy anthology been put together by Sixth Element Publishing I was asked to submit to.  Sixth Element is the home of C G Hatton among others, so I was only too pleased to be asked. But it did leave me with a bit of a quandary over what to write, because the brief was SciFi/ steampunk/fantasy between 2and 5K words long, and having gone through my scraps folder I had a whole raft of possibilities.

My scraps folder is a file on my drive full of little bits and pieces, half-baked ideas and random bits fo writing that has yet to go anywhere because sometimes I just start writing when an idea occurs to me to see where it takes me. They tend to be around a 1000 words or so. Its the equivalent of an artist sketchbook, and there is a lot of little bizarre bits and bobs in there.

So I had lots of ideas to work with, and spent some time scribbling notes on all of them. Then I decided to try my hand at writing in a Lovecraft’s style and got a couple of thousand words into a tale, before putting that into the scraps folder, because Lovecraft is only SciFi/ steampunk/fantasy in a very wide sense. So naturally, I ended up writing something else entirely and starting from scratch, almost.

It wasn’t entirely from scratch as it used an opening paragraph I had written before in the earliest incarnations of Hannibal Smyth. One of the first little segments I wrote in fact, which also appeared in early teasers I made for the whole Hannibal Smyth concept. But which had long fallen by the wayside as the stories took other directions. Which led to something of a legend, the lost story of a dual Hannibal found himself fighting while under the influence of psychotropic drugs…


The teasers still exist, even though the story itself didn’t, and those words which don’t appear in ‘A Scar of Avarice’ somehow got used in teasers for the novella as well, because it’s pure Hannibal…

So this was the perfect opportunity to write that actual story, and as all stories do, it is a tale that grew in the telling and went over that 5K brief,  because I got carried away with a new character in Hannibal’s world, Henretta ‘Spanners’ Carthurst, who took over the story to an extent. But then Hannibal is never really the hero of his tales…

the chease cake dicotomy

A new character stumbling across your consciousness is always a wonderful but slightly strange thing. They inevitably are not who they start out as being. Hettie, a female member of ‘The Ins and Outs’ Gentleman’s club, became something of a force of nature in the telling. As opposed to a few lines that were nothing more than a lever on which to rest the tale. An engineer, warrant officer in Old Iron Knickers Royal Air-Navy, and one of the ‘Chaps’. Hettie became the central focus of the short story, and I have no doubt will ‘spanner’ her way into the novels further down the line. If only to call Hannibal an idiot and give him a slap once in a while, if he gets off lightly, or a right good spannering if he doesn’t. Our ‘Hero’ is I think just a little bit afraid of her, but then he never has much luck with the fairer sex…

She may well also make an appearance in a story of her own if she wanders through the doors of Esqwiths Passing Place at some point. Which there is every chance she will as I was making notes for Something Red (the sequel to Passing Place that is in the planning stage) last night and found I had pencilled her name in the margin.

The Cheesecake Dichotomy will be appearing in the anthology soon enough, along with stories by a lot of other writers well worth a read including C G Hatton, and Craig Hallam, among others, and I look forward to my own scribblings appearing alongside such fine compony.

I’ll keep you informed, I am sure you will be unsurprised to learn.


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Pointless list of wonderfulness 2

To reiterate the original of these posts:

Like most people who blog, I read a lot of blogs. I probably don’t read as many blogs as I should, as I am forever saving a link to my bookmarks and never quite getting back to them. Or, on Mondays, I get an update email from a blog I follow, and as I get a lot of these on a Monday, I don’t quite get around to reading them all, or even half of them. I get all the emails on a Monday because I set them all to weekly emails so my inbox is not swamped with update emails every day which would irritate me somewhat. Instead, it gets swamped on a Monday, and I flag the ones I find interesting to read at some point that week. Some weeks I read them all, most weeks I don’t find the time to do so.

Which is why this post is a somewhat pointless list of wonderfulness, as there are only so many hours in the day, and so, dear readers, I suspect you’ll all have less time than you have things to do with it, but if you do have the time, and want to read something interesting, inspiring , thought-provoking , or just plain amusing, here is a list of so of my favourite blogs I never quite have the time to read as much as I should, and that may well be worth following if you have the time.

All that still applies since the original post back in April, and as it is Monday, my email was full of blog updates. Also, I was reminded of the original post over the weekend.  So here is a new list of blogs I have either discovered since or that missed the original list because I originally intended to do more. As with all such intentions finding the time to do so is sometimes more difficult than you would think.


The List of Wonderfulness

The Bipolar Writer

I have, as regular readers are probably aware, my own personal demons, and I sit on the bipolar spectrum. As such reading about other writers experiences with mental health issues is something that interests me greatly. But there is far more than just issues of mental health and writing here. The blog also has a long list of contributors. Form its origins as a personal blog, it has become a sounding board and shared experience blog for a whole community. All power to James Edgar for creating such a meaningful and important place within the blogosphere…

Kyt Wright

The internet and the blogosphere is full of the weird and wonderful. Kyt’s blog is full of weird and wonderful little stories. Sometimes you just need a dose of weird in your life or a touch of the wonderful. Or occasionally just different.  A fine way to pass ten minutes of your lunch hour, or a dark evening on the sofa…

Phoebe Darqueling

What the world needs is more steam, more valves, more googles and Pinocchio retold as steam-driven horror… Steampunk is always weird and wonderful, it is also inevitably creative and interesting and there is always something to brighten your day about it, or darken your fog-bound streets by the glow of gaslamps and Tesla arcs…  Pheobes blog is one to delve into and swim around in. It also has a great list of steampunk fiction and authors for those looking to delve deeper into the genre.  Notably, this list doesn’t include me. But maybe it will one day. (oh what fools are made by idle dreams…)

The Cat’s Write

Milly Schmidt’s blogs tend to raise a smile and impart the occasion useful information, such as ‘How to Purr-serve your sanity while riding with cats in the car’ or ‘The nine reasons why writers have cats’. There is also occasional stuff on there that doesn’t involve cats but is considered advice or opinion on a multitude of subjects related to writing. Then there are the cats … One remains unsure, but one thinks Milly likes cats… Or just possibly the blog is written by Milly’s cat.  All hail the feline overlords…


Sometimes I just find myself wandering through the stream of someones else’s consciousness. Such wanderings are often cathartic, sometimes nonsensical, and occasionally spur on trains of thoughts that wander off down odd alleyways. I have absolutely no idea why I find the often short, occasionally poignant, but as often slightly alien glimpses into the mind of this blogger interesting. I just do. But I suspect it is because I have little in common beyond my basic humanity with Phyllis Feng, yet sometimes she manages to open a window and let some light in…


Anyway, as before with the previous pointless list of wonderfulness, I am sure this is enough homework to give everyone for now. However, the previous post, complete with another five interesting and delightful blogs to look at can be found here. 


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Kind words and thanks…

This post is by way of a follow up to ‘The Waiting Room of the Psyche‘ which I posted back at the dying embers of June. To be specific, it relates to a particular part of that post which was about how I feel after publishing a book. This specific part in fact:-

…readers will read in their own time. Readers are the thing that you have no control over and bare in mind up to this point you had absolute control of everything to do with your book. Be it a short novella like ‘A Scar of Avarice’ or a full-blown novel like Passing Place. Once you put it out there all you can do is wait.

Wait and hope, that somewhere someone is reading the damn thing and sort of, kind of, maybe, likes it.

Wait and hope that maybe someone will even take a moment to tell you they liked it.

Well, one waited, and one hoped, as one always does while fighting off that grim darkness at the back of one’s mind, the dark suspicion that you have successfully written just a huge pile of drivel which no one is going to like and enjoy. Though maybe that’s just me. Perhaps I am the only writer in the world who agonises over what they write, agonises again when it is published and then agonises on whether anyone is going to read it, enjoy it, get it, or just plain care enough to say so. Indeed I may just be the only one, but I somehow doubt this of all my experiences as a writer, is in anyway unique to me. I suspect it is something we all go through.

I have spoken often enough on here and elsewhere about how important (specifically on Amazon)  reviews are to a writer. I have pointed out all the reasons why and quirks of  Amazon as a marketplace that make reviews so important (here for example). I have even been known to rant about it occasionally (here more recently.)  And plenty of other places on this blog. But what I haven’t often done is talk about why they are important physiologically.

Writers write in a bubble. Which is to say unlike a stage actor, or a comedian or a musician, our audience doesn’t turn up to watch us. They don’t even start reading our works on our sofa. The sure as hell don’t come and take up a chair beside us while we work. We can’t see them, we can’t feed off the crowd. Indeed they don’t even read it as we write ( which is frankly all to the good, no one wants people reading this stuff as we write it… I don’t even want people to read the second draft, the third maybe…). Even when we have finished our work, all we do is send it out the world in hope. And sure we may see the sales, we may obsess about Amazon ranking, we may even if we are brave enough, go stand behind a table at a convention and try to appear interesting, and sell people books that way. But even if we are brave enough to do that, no one is going to stand there and read the whole novel in front of us.  So we never know, can’t know, haven’t, in fact, got a clue, if anyone enjoys what we have written.

As I am not a well-rounded individual with his feet firmly planned on the ground, or one of those mythical people who are normal, to put it another way. As I am in fact a bundle of paranoia’s, full of strange thoughts, and have a confused self-image. As I am in fact normal, for my own definition of normal. i.e., just as screwed up as everyone else. Being a writer in my writer’s bubble is all well and good, but occasionally I actually need someone to tell me that what I write has value. Even if that value is it made someone laugh, or smile, or think, or just not think about anything beyond the page for a short while if they needed an escape. Because if no one ever tells me this, I’m just staring into the void, and eventually the void stares back…

I may be a tad more self-aware about these things than most, but I am who I am. There is a favourite line of mine.

Never lie to yourself, for that way lays madness.

So, telling myself I know something is good, that’s fine and all that, but occasionally one needs others to say so, and readers, as I noted, tend to do things in their own time… But reviews have started to come in for A Scar of Avarice, and they have been on the whole good ones, so I am feeling better about myself. As such I would like to thank those who have taken the time to write a quick review in the last couple of weeks. For Scar and other books of mine. Both on Amazon and elsewhere.

So anyway praise for A Scar Of Avarice… Just to show I am not just staring off into the void…

hawley reveiw asos

asoa tweeted praise

tredwell sacr review

frank scar

jay asos

So thanks for all those who have taken the time to write a little review, they are always welcome and indeed let me know I am not just wasting my time and energy.

And no… I have no idea who ‘The Watchers’ are, or what the last of those reviews is on about either… perhaps I should be just a little more paranoid…


Posted in amreading, amwriting, book reviews, books, depression, Esqwiths, goodreads, Hannibal Smyth, indie, indie novels, opinion, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, sci-fi, self-publishing, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment