Category Archives: personal

Notes from the author

Update: 12th July 2017


Goodness, gracious, where does it all go? The time that is. The time between tossing out the last fortnightly missive to Jim and the sudden tumbleweed silence of the last two months.

This is not a return to your regularly scheduled programming unfortunately. Work, by which I mean, writing work – off which I have been living for the last month or so – has slurped, and continues to slurp, up time and, far more importantly, energy. The blog, with its pious penury is fun to write and in its own way an important place for me to expend some of my creative soilings, but it does not cough up the necessary potatoes and so cannot take up too much of my time at the moment.

That said. I am hoping to get at least a skeleton posting schedule back up and running shortly. In the meantime, consider this a hopeful fluttering in the ribcage of the corpse.

Here’s what you’ve missed:


June was my most productive month possibly ever for writing, a little over 40k in words the vast majority of them for Poker Tube, where I was doing the live tournament reporting for the World Series of Poker.

I’ve also got back on the Buzzy Magazine roster and should have something out with them shortly on Season 7 of Game of Thrones which is airing this Sunday.

And I am continuing to write for Front Vision. But there is always room in my schedule if you need something written, or know someone who does. Blog posts, ghost writing, articles, erotic poetry… you name it I’ll write it. Get my email from the About part of the site and hit me up. I’m not proud and I gotta eat.


A lot of this, mostly disciplined until the last few weeks when my ‘Currently Reading’ pile exploded to sixteen books. Among them is Finnegans Wake which I continue alone, having been abandoned both by the GoodReads group and by Jim, both of whom were reading it with me.

Other key books include The Expanse series (on book 2 atm, not as good as the TV series, but fun) and the gigantic The Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism which I suspect will be an endless frustration of pseudo-intellectual gabble about stuff which sociology, anthropology and psychology are all studying by looking at facts.

Much to Jim’s relief, I have also started American Pastoral.


Keeping on top of writing, reading, and the various habits I try to keep going: eating well, meditating, exercising, socialising and various smaller things mostly aimed at keeping my mental health solid as the little grey cells will allow, all makes for a certain amount of cat juggling and ball herding.

While May was a fabulous month where everything lined up, the last month and a half-has been rather more chaotic and as a result, while specific things have been working it comes at a cost of other things. Word count goes up, exercise gets pushed out for example.

Being self-employed gives me plenty of flexibility to manage my time. But it is possible to get a little paralysed by the choices. I’m hoping that there will be a series of articles on time management in a little while, but not until I get back into practice what I intend to preach.

Till then there should be a few more Dear Jim’s and book reviews coming out. But they will probably remain sporadic at best for the next couple of months.

For everyone reading this, thanks for sticking with me. You’re my kind of sucker.

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Writing Update: Sunday, 11th Dec 2016


Novel Word Count

First draft document: 27,391 words
Zero-th draft documents: 19,512 words
Total Words: 46,903/~90,000 words

That is correct, there has been no movement on the novel since the last update around a month ago.

This can be blamed in part on my having found a job – part time call centre work in Warwick – which led with two weeks of 8 am – 5 pm shifts for training which mucked my schedule about and put a sudden stop to my NaNoWriMo effort to hit the big 50k in one month.

Since then I’ve pretty much been playing catch up on my various commissions and with keeping the blog vaguely up to date. I think on that front I am going to be reducing the blog output to two articles a week instead of three. The regular posting is good exercise but I at the moment I need to conserve my writing energies for the more important Novel / £££s.

But I’m of back to the island home in a week or so for a long Xmas hols, hopefully I’ll be able to get myself back up and running on the novel during my time off.

Other Word Count

As at the time of writing if I can squeeze out a little over 30,000 words before NYE, then I’ll have written 200,000 words total in 2016. It’s a shame more of that wasn’t on the novel, but one needs to stay vaguely liquid to avoid tipping from starving artist to starved. 200,000 words seems like a nice round goal, and doable if I can get myself back into the habit of writing.

That habit thing always seems like the easiest thing in the world when its going well, but I find that it doesn’t take much to disrupt it, and the last few weeks have been frustratingly short on words written by myself. Even losing almost all of my reading time and replacing it with writing I still had one of my least productive months in November.

Fixing that needs to be a priority, though what exactly that will entail, I am making up as I go along. I’ll pretend to remain optimistic and hope that hope follows.

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Update: The Year In Writering

Novel Word Count

First draft document: 27,391 words
Zero-th draft documents: 19,512 words
Total Words: 46,903/~90,000 words

Other Word Count

Some of you may know/remember that I moved to England last November. Since then, I have been pottering away at the novel, though not nearly so fast as I was hoping. My August deadline slipped away and I am still at least a half and very probably three-fifths away from finishing the damn thing according to my notes. That 90k word count may be optimistically low.

But I did also swing that regular gig at Poker Tube, and am now a stationary writer for Front Vision, from whom, thanks to the vagaries of international post, I only just received my contributors copy of the August issue. That issue contained my first print publication of the year. Admittedly it was translated into Chinese by someone else, and they spelled my name a little, shall we say, alternatively. But it is still exciting stuff… for me.

There should be several more issues of Front Vision in the post, as I have articles in the October and November editions as well. Though when they will arrive is entire up to Air Mail.


My name – almost – in print. I am now officially an international science writer.

On top of that, I have finally started to get round to polishing short stories and sending a few of those out. Three so far, which is not very many, but I’m eyeing up my back catalogue of rough drafts looking for places where I can scrub one up, put it in its Sunday best and send it out into the world.

Life Word Count

In life news: after parting ways with the Ladyfriend, I moved from Bristol up to Leamington in August. Having gone to university nearby I know a few more people round here which is nice, and most of them are writers or poets of some sort.

It makes an extraordinary difference to have other book nerds around. Not least because one feels vastly less pretentious bringing up your pet theory regarding Dostoevskian theological schemas when the other person has just had a rant about Joyce’s use – or lack thereof – of punctuation.

Having also run out of savings, and currently being paid the salary of a hungry – if not outright starving – artist, I am also trying to make the transition out of my ‘year out to write’ and back into being employed full-time by not me. If you happen to be a not-me company with a vacancy going please leave your phone number in the comments.

Now, I am going to go and ponder deeply what the next year of writing will bring. . .

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Dear Jon… (#6) Re: 9 Reasons Why the To-Do List Life is the Life

I got this, whatever this is, in the ble-mail.

“Dear Jon,

I am much obliged to you for your post. This post comes to you in 9, yes, 9 parts. 


I do not want to write a blog post. It is (figuratively) the last thing I want to do, and yet it is the first thing on my list. I do not know why I write this blog post. The web is clotted with the remnants of dead blogs. You’ve seen these, right? You’re scanning the pages of some blog on recipes or someone’s adventures in Europe to look at the date to see this hasn’t been updated in six months, three years, eight years. Often abandoned without explanations. Something IRL had dragged the writer away. Perhaps boredom. Perhaps forgetfulness. Maybe their IRL had suddenly ended, even…”

Click here to read the rest.

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Dear Jon… (#2) re: Gifts

The Jim in question has replied to last week’s Dear Jim… (click here to read that). Click the link below to go and read Jim’s response.

“Dear Jon,

Thank you for your letter that isn’t a letter. This is clearly going to be the basis for a thrilling epistolary novel; Pamela here we come. So, your post (you’re sehr welcome BTW) sent me on a series of thoughts on gifts, or gifting. These are thoughts that, I think, I have expressed to you before. Thoughts about what a gift (on birthdays, at yuletide) is, or at least can be…” (click here for the full letter.)

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Derren Brown’s Miracle


Miracle poster, as shot by JJ Abrams.

A couple of weeks ago the Ladyfriend took me to see Miracle, Derren Brown’s latest stage show. Ostensibly a gift, she seemed every bit as excited to see him as I was. More so even.

It’s a hard thing to talk about. Not traumatised or anything (although parts did bring back strange memories of my religious childhood),  but he gave a highly impassioned plea for no one to write any details about what happened in the show; so there will be no specifics in what follows.

I’m somewhat easy to please when it comes to Derren Brown – I’ve seen almost everything he’s made, and either liked or loved the lot; the only exception being the placebo thing he did for Channel 4, which I just found I couldn’t buy into – but it’s not immediately clear why I would be a fan. I can’t really remember enjoying another magician, like, ever.

Except maybe Patrick Jane, but he’s kind of based on Derren Brown anyways. And also fictional.

Dynamo and David Blaine just irritate me, they’re the sort of yappy nerd who talks a lot about how good he is at the one thing he’s good at. Penn and Teller have made some good TV on skepticism, but the magic stuff just falls flat for me. And almost everyone else, I just change the channel on.

So watching the show did set me to wondering why it is I like him.

It helps that DB is charismatic, has a sort of Victorian steampunk wonder-worker vibe, and doesn’t make any effort to be ‘cool’. But as a writer, I can’t help think that it has more to do with the way his shows work as stories.

Miracle in particular brings that out, there is almost nothing in the show that a long term Derrenophile won’t have seen before. But in the context of this show as opposed to the other, it becomes – for the most part – a very different thing. And this is his forte, taking a mundane trick and cloaking it in something else.

He also walks an interesting line ethically. Hypnosis, suggestion, faith, self-help are all tied in thematically to the show in Miracle. All things that intrude on control, consent and self. Some of the frisson as an audience member comes from being aware of that line. There is a real sense of psychological danger, in a way that is absent from so many magicians who often try to sell a sense of physical danger to us. Do you ever really believe there is a chance of the escapist drowning? No. But you do believe that Derren Brown can rewire a person into shoving someone off a building.

The other thing I noticed is how much of the show is about us the audience. He addresses the the show to us. The people on stage are expected to go away with an experience, they are not just props. Compare something like David Blaine’s record breaking breath-holding show, or the spectacle of David Copperfield travelling through the great wall of China. Both are striking images, but not terribly involving. Derren Brown’s live broadcast at the end of Russian Roulette, was a similar sort of stunt TV. But unlike the other two there was a real sense of involvement in watching that. Deciding to watch a man play Russian roulette makes you complicit if it goes wrong. Even if it goes right, you have to wonder about your own motivations for watching. And so the spectacle is about the viewer, not about the magician.

That lack of ego in his stage persona is probably a large part of it. He is likeable. All his shows begin with a caveat often delivered by him to camera: it will all be illusion, trickery and suggestion. Where most magicians beg you to believe their impressive feats, seeming to want one over on you, Derren Brown makes an offer to join him for something that he hopes we’ll like. And as a result, I do.

That’s his real magic.

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