Ignore me. I’m sick.

What is this art form? This theatre of words moving across a page? The trade of building images out of symbols? Carving literary statues with grammatical chisels? Writing is so much and so little. A bad sentence is almost indistinguishable from a good one. It takes a person with a degree to know what is good and what is not. They will tell you Dan Brown paints his words with turds and shake their fists at the pages of The Bookseller magazine which dares to print sales figures that contradict their assessment.

The average reader has no idea. Nor do they care.

You can have a novel, 120,000 words long, and find nothing of meaning within its pages. Heroes running the same course as many before them. A save-the-cat journey of write-by-numbers plots designed to move and thrill. The same story sold bought and read again and again and again.

Another book. Which follows no particular pattern. Does not follow the rules of grammar exactly. And does not dance around a story circle. Filled with depth and aphorisms and wit. Is never read.

If a genre book is considered literary is it no longer genre? If a literary book is blandly written is it still art? Is storytelling itself art, regardless of the prominence or not of adjectives in its prose?

I always wanted to write whatever the British equivalent of The Great American Novel is. In wanting to learn how to do this I have become more and more interested in turning a collection of words on a page into a continuous moving image in the reader’s mind. I write westerns now. The goal of the books is not to blow you away with a skilful display of my vocabulary and the wrangling of obscure and rarefied words, but to put the words out of your mind entirely. I want my stories to grab you by the hair and drag you through the dirt. I want you to read them in one sitting and turn that last page with your heart racing and your eyes raw with fatigue and belly hungry. But instead of eating, or sleeping, I want you to turn right back to the start and read it again. Is that art?

To do that, maybe I have not created art. I have created entertainment.
Will that do? Is that enough?
I still want to write The Great British Novel, but writing pulp is too much fun.

Right now I am sick. I’m sat on the couch amidst a snowstorm of crumpled tissue. My nose is red. I’m sniffling. I have a tickle at the back of my throat that I have been refusing to turn into a cough since I started writing this incoherent nonsense. I should be writing the next chapter in my book but instead I am rambling about, what? Whether or not writing is art? I have no idea. I have lost the thread of my original thought. The cold that has turned my brain into a red hot storm of snot has forced my imagination into some kind of fevered spasm of bollocks.

I have the urge to write but not the clarity to do so usefully. So now I have done this. I started writing with no plan and have ended up here, and you’re right here with me, wondering what the point of any of this is.
We are conjoined in an existential crises of blog gibberish. I will set you free so I can go and sneeze.

Let me leave you then. I am going to drink coffee, cough up some lung-butter (as Rachel so juicily calls it), take some Sudafed, and try again to write what I opened my laptop to write in the first place. Some good old fashioned gun-slinging pulp fiction.

He-Man and the Masters of Deception!

I feel that the promotional material for the New Masters of the Universe show was a little misleading.

I’m all for the direction the show took but purposely getting everyone excited for He-Man and then smashing that excitement to bits in the first episode was a marketing decision that could only lead to disappointment.

They should have had some confidence in the show and at least put the main characters in the poster. You can see them in the ensemble poster if you hold it up to your face and squint, but they should have been front and centre.

I think if you asked people who they thought would be in this show, based on the trailer, all the social media that lead up to it, and Kevin Smith’s promises to stay true to the original, I’m willing to bet they would say, with some confidence, “He-Man.”

They would be wrong. Hoodwinked. You don’t build all your marketing around a cameo.

One of the best books I’ve read this year.

The Swordsman’s Lament by G. M. White is genuinely brilliant. When I had to turn the audiobook off after my commute to work I was looking forward to getting back on the road, and back in the story.

Belasko is a great new hero. This series deserves to blow up. I hope it does. The story is a simple but compelling one. A good man accused of a murder he didn’t commit escapes from the dungeons to clear his name.

The writing is excellent and G. M. White is an exceptional storyteller.

There is an equality to the storytelling too. Strong female characters. Female guards, they/them pronouns, ambiguous sexual orientation. It’s not at the forefront of the story, but it’s there in the subtle world building.

The nobility / underclass devide is tackled with an edge as sharp as Belesko’s rapier.

The Swordsman’s Lament, “the older I get the better I was”, is put to the test and Belasko prevails.

There is nothing to not like about the book. Just read it already, it’s great.

I believe it was the narrator’s first foray into reading audiobooks and I hope he reads more. He sounded very much like Tom Hiddleston. It was like having Loki read you a book, and who wouldn’t want that?

The Hitchhikers Guide to… Loki? – Loki episode 1 review

Me and Rachel just watched Marvel’s Loki, on Disney+. Really enjoyed it. It felt like a nod to so many other things, but in an good way. The beginning felt like a homage to Douglas Adams. Loki was Arthur Dent entering into the Vogon beurocratic dominion.

There was the, “But what if I am a robot?” – Bladerunner reference?

While queueing we get an explanation of the science of the TVA via a television presentation. An animated clock tells us about the One True Timeline in the old UPA style of cartoon. Was that a nod to the DNA cartoon in Jurassic Park? I reckon so.

During the cartoon we are introduced to the three god-like beings who keep the timeline in order. There is something very Bill and Ted about those gods.

The office scenes reminded me of Terry Gillliam’s Brazil and the movie adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.

I liked the self-aware commentary of comic book writers creating new timelines for the superheroes they created. I’m wondering if that is an intentional meta commentary or if I’m just reading too much into it.

Owen Wilson and Tom Hiddleston are great together. Overall, excellent first episode. Looking forward to the next one. Smart pacy writing and spot-on visuals.

Would you like a gun with that ice cream?

In researching gun shops in Morgantown, West Virginia, in 1870 I came across this ice cream shop. (It didn’t help in my research but it did make me smile).

Top Google review – “Ice cream and gun shop, what more could you ask for.”

Isn’t America a weird place?

I remember meeting my parents in America once and as we travelled from Boulder City to Las Vegas we drove past a burger restaurant with a sign outside that read, “Enjoy a burger and fire a machine gun.”

I think it was called Burgers and Bullets.

And people think the western is a dead genre. In a place where you can ask for extra pickles and ammo, a scoop of vanilla and a Glock G19, the Wild West is still alive and kicking in the unbridled hearts of a number of its inhabitants.

Cover reveal tease and newsletter news!

Cover reveal for Jack’s Game!

Next weekend I’ll be revealing the cover. This is my vain attempt to build buzz.

It finally has a release date! My debut horror novel, the one I’ve been working on for two years, will finally be published this Halloween!

If you want to see the cover before everyone else, and get a FREE horror story right NOW, all you have to do is sign up to my newsletter. The link is in my bio.

http://www.subscribepage.com/gnome

When you subscribe you will get my horror retelling of the Brother’s Grimm story, Gnome for free. It is a homage to the creature features of my childhood. This is my Gremlins, my Critters, my Ghoulies!

Melody and Faith just wanted to pick fruit, but a cursed nursery rhyme could kill them both…

When you’re playing by the tree

Eat the fruit and then you’ll see

Eyes like marbles, black and small

Teeth like razors, sharp and cruel

If they find you feed them bread

Or you’ll end up dead, dead, dead!

Eat my flesh and break my bones

All should fear the twisted gnomes

– Playground rhyme*

*WARNING: DO NOT SING THIS RHYME IN THE WOODS AT NIGHT

The Madness of the Criterion Collection

I’ve never owned a Blu-Ray player. I had amassed a towering DVD collection from the late 90s to about 5 years ago which got so large and cumbersome I moved it into storage. In the end streaming services took over and large swathes of it were sold off. I like streaming but I’ve always missed my physical movie library.

My film nerd friends out there will know the words, Criterion Collection. They are a company that, in their words, dedicate themselves to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions of the highest technical quality, with supplemental features that enhance the appreciation of the art of film.

They don’t release the films that made the most money, or got the best reviews, they release the films that they think deserve to be presented in the best possible quality.

The Criterion Collection breeds madness. There are videos on YouTube of people standing in their Criterion Closets (walk-in wardrobes racked floor to ceiling with expensive Blu-Rays) swooning over their own obscure knowledge of movies you’ve never heard of. “The visual poetry of Jean Cocteau’s, Orpheus is… etc etc etc”. And in the next breath they’ll be equally excited about their Criterion release of Robocop. And rightly so.

It is a cult.

I am now a member of that cult.

For it is my birthday today and Rachel has given me my very first Blu-Ray player! And… My very first Criterion Blu-Ray!

Destry Rides Again is James Stewart’s first foray into the Western genre… etc etc etc