Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last review of the decade

I said to someone in an email today that this blog is in danger of becoming a perpetual plugging machine, but when you receive praise like the following (from ace US reviewer Robbie Fischer) it would be perverse to keep it to yourself.

A Fort Made Of Books

I always find New Year Eves to be faintly depressing - another year older and still no private jet etc. - so this cheered me up immensely. I've no excuses now not to venture out for a couple of shandies and a knees-up. Thanks Robbie, and a very Happy New Year to you my friend.

Monday, December 21, 2009

White Christmas?

A White Christmas certainly looks like a possibility from where I'm standing (at the window of my studio for this snap).

Here in West Yorkshire this is regarded as being a mere dusting of the white stuff. We can expect worse as winter progresses - or better, I suppose, depending on your outlook. Mine tends towards bah-humbuggery, and if all this disppears come Boxing Day, I shan't be sorry.

Having said that, I'm feeling quite smug because my new Get-A-Grips have just arrived...

Urban crampons, my brother in law calls them. You stretch them over the soles of your shoes, and the spiky studs keep you from slipsliding away, whilst all around are on their backsides in the gutter gazing up at you with envy.

I shall be able to stride out with confidence, and I'm planning an expedition to the Riverhead Brewery Tap later on, to make sure they work. It's only next door, but you have to start somewhere.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


A friend sent me this by email. Haha. Eat your vegetables, kids, before they eat you.

Very much after the work of 16th Century Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, of course, whose horticultural grotesques prefigured surrealism.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sci-Fi London

Somewhere out there in the inky darkness lie parallel galaxies, strange universes we know nothing about, whose denizens march to the beat of a different drum. That's right, my dears. I'd never heard of all these Sci-Fi and Fantasy magazines before X Isle was published, and I have to say that I'd never thought of X Isle as being a sci-fi title. But it does seem to be going down well with this other-worldly readership, so am I complaining?

No. Or, as they say on planet Xon, 'nimpf'.

Take a look at this. Evidence, if it were ever in doubt, of extremely intelligent life elsewhere.

Sci-Fi London

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tough love

If you write for a living then you must learn to bear the whip of editorial criticism, and strive to improve your work accordingly. But you don't pass such lashings on to your nearest and dearest. Spare a thought for this poor woman - Evelyn Waugh's wife - on receiving the following letter from her husband on January 7, 1945:

Darling Laura, sweet whiskers, do try to write me better letters. Your last, dated December 19 received today, so eagerly expected, was a bitter disappointment. Do realize that a letter need not be a bald chronicle of events; I know you lead a dull life now, my heart bleeds for it, though I believe you could make it more interesting if you had the will. But that is no reason to make your letters as dull as your life. I am simply not interested in Bridget’s children. Do grasp that. A letter should be in a form of conversation; write as though you were talking to me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flying ESC

The glamorous nature of my job means that I’m forever jetting off to Rio, New York, Leeds-Bradford etc., which is a pain because I really don’t like flying very much. But every once in a while, provided there’s nobody more important on board, I get upgraded to Ejector-Seat Class.

I love Ejector-Seat Class. It’s a completely different flying experience. You’ll never see it advertised of course, and so I hope I’m not going to get into trouble with BA by giving away their secrets. But for those not in the know, the Ejector section, or ESC, is situated at the very back of Business Class, where the bar once used to be, behind a door discreetly marked ‘Precious Cargo’.

There are just eight seats, presumably because of the extra weight of the rockets, and you’ll rarely see more than three or four of them occupied – usually by celebrities of one sort or another, or politicians. As I said it’s an amazing experience, and knowing that there’s an escape route puts a very different aspect on your journey. It’s not that you’re actually hoping for disaster as such, but you can’t help wondering what it’d be like...floating like thistledown into the blue, as you watch the stricken plane spiralling downwards... then landing in a quiet water meadow, Cafe Americano still to hand, your pink parachute settling softly about you...

So whenever the pilot’s voice warns of approaching turbulence there’s a kind of frisson in ESC, a certain look that the occupants give one another. You check your console and lean back into the firm embrace of the padded headrest, staring at the hydraulically operated skylight above you in readiness, if not hopeful expectancy.

ESC is by invitation only, and said invitation is reversible. You can get upgraded at the gate, only to be subsequently bumped if somebody more important should show up later. I was once bumped in favour of the girl band Mis-Teeq, which hurt a bit. You do wonder where the priorities lie. In fact it can be quite a good game, sitting in Business Class, spotting some well-known figure and wondering who’s keeping them out of ESC. If you ever see Gordon Brown or the Pope flying Business Class then you'd have to assume that it was Bono or Macca back there in the hot seats.

I’ve never flown ESC in such heady company, but I did get to share with the Osmonds on one occasion. It was actually a quite a hairy ride. Once those boys got some corn liquor inside them and started with the Crazy Horses routine, I found my left hand permanently hovering over the big red button (see pic).

Not that the red button is going to work, of course, until proper disaster is imminent. You can’t have passengers pinging off into space just for the fun of it. No, I gather that there’s an automated lock on the system to which the pilots have a manual override. I worry about this. You see, the pilots themselves don’t have ejector seats, and so it’s rather up to them whether or not they decide to activate ESC as they go plunging to their own doom. They won’t care a fig about me, and so in the event of a crash I have to hope that I’m back there with someone really nice, someone worth saving. David Attenborough maybe, or Lisa Simpson.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Irish Times review

Here's a (mostly!) appreciative piece on X Isle from the Irish Times.

'The X Isle Factor...'
ANNA CAREY YOUNG ADULTS : IF REVIEWING books teaches you anything, it’s that you really should never judge a book by its cover – or its blurb.

Steve Augarde’s new book, X Isle (David Fickling Books, £14.99), comes with an ugly cover with a blurb so cheesily melodramatic it should be declaimed by that man with the booming voice who narrates film trailers. The novel itself is much more interesting. Set in a very near future in which catastrophic floods have submerged most of Britain, it’s the story of a boy called Baz, who gets a chance to go to the “island”, a supposedly safe place run by salvagers. But the island turns out to be a harsh place, run by the messianic Preacher John and his cruel family, who force the boys who live there to work like slaves. It’s a gripping and often unsettling tale, and it’s suffused with a sense of genuine loss; amid all the action the characters are still grieving for their families and suburban lives.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Not a bad idea, every once in a while, to remind yourself of just where you fit into the bigger picture.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Here's an interview I've just done for Fantasy Book Review. Cool beans.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Writing in my sleep.

I've been and done it again. By day I'm a relatively normal fantasy author and illustrator, but when the moon rises I apparently undergo this strange metamorphosis, bursting out of my own skin to become a writer of non-fiction. Pretty wild, huh?

Here's my latest title, Business Letters Through Email, a snip at 313 rupees, and ascribed to me by a publisher called Petiwala Books. Very kind of them, I'm sure. Next time you get a 'business letter' from some Nigerian prince offering to inject squillions of pounds into your bank account you'll know who to blame. Me.

Long term readers of this blog may remember that I also managed to produce a book in German a few months ago - Sozialgesetzbuch viii - again unbeknownst to myself.

Quite impressive for someone who can say 'good morning' in German and very little else. I wish I knew how I did it - and more to the point when I can expect the royalties for my nocturnal efforts to start rolling in.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Marsden Jazz Festival...

...hits town this weekend. Can't believe it's come round again so soon. Georgie Fame is headlining this year. I shall be playing double bass with The Gents, as usual, at the Liberal Club on Sat night (10th Oct) and at the British Legion on Sun afternoon.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

And another one...

This time from Armadillo Magazine. A wonderful review, for which I must thank the lovely Laura Brill, but again be aware that it does give away quite a lot of story detail.

And here's an interview I've just done for Falcata Times.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

X Isle: London signings - and more reviews!

I shall be signing copies of X Isle in London on Tuesday October 6th - at Harrods (Knightsbridge) and at Goldsboro Books in Leicester Square.

Update: Harrods signing (in Waterstones book dept) will be from 12.30 - 1.30.

In the meantime here are another two great reviews of X Isle just come in, from the FantasyBook Review, and from SFFworld. (Warning: Bridie Roman's SFFworld review is very comprehensive, and perhaps gives rather more of the story away than you'd want to know in advance!)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Leonardo da Vinci

In the run-up to X Isle's release on Oct 1st, I should mention that I have another title due out on the 5th: Leonardo da Vinci, published by Macmillan.

This was a lovely project to work on. The brief was to try and give an idea of da Vinci's genius and scope by viewing him through the eyes of one of his young apprentices - someone who was 'there at the time'. We invented a character called Paolo, a ten year old boy, and placed him in Leonardo's studio amongst other apprentices whose history is to some extent known. Fictionally told, factually accurate, as it says on the Macmillan website.

Through research and reference we were able to put together a little adventure story that allows us some insight into Leonardo's 'Milan' period, culminating in his painting of The Last Supper. Along the way we learn that painting was only one of Leonardo's skills - and not necessarily the most important one to him. Architect, sculptor, scenery painter, costume designer, inventor, civil engineer, portrait artist...the man turned his hand to whatever was required, accepting commissions from whoever had the money to pay him.

The book is for young readers, beautifully illustrated by Leo Brown, and hopefully serves as both entertainment and an introduction to the work of perhaps the greatest free-lancer ever.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Woo hoo!

Top review site The Bookbag have just made my day by awarding X Isle a full five stars! Here's an extract from what they have to say:

'This is a teen read of impeccable depth. The world has been fully realised, and the company of Baz is most welcome for seeing the ordeal everyone is in. While the language is pitched ideally for a 12-16 year old bracket, the book is quite a dark one at times. Nothing is gory or too graphic, but there are deaths, misery, sewage-based revenges, and more. It's not a very cheery book.

In fact I did take some time to get into it. At first it just seemed to be a retread of Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick, but things soon diversified. I sought a bit more sprightliness, before realising that would be counter-productive. And by the end I was most impressed by this author. He has put so much into this world, and as an adult reader I was aware, and waiting for everything to become relevant, and it often did in unexpected ways. There are several instances of him leaving something unsaid for hundreds of pages, then to give us the answer, and never patronise us with a flashback. Ray's mother is just one instance.

It's always up to us to put the pieces together. And that wouldn't work if things were not so memorable from beginning to end. The style is a great, cinematic one, with practically everything clear to the reader, and the plot and mood is brilliantly sustained. This is a title I hold in high regard, and while I have not read any of his other titles, such as Winter Wood, I can say with the highest recommendation that this book will go down exceedingly well with the target audience. It feels more than a little masculine at times, but young ladies - if your brother passes this on to you, you should not hesitate to snap it up.

I can see a flood of awards for X-Isle, and must thank the kind David Fickling Books people for my review copy.'
(John Lloyd.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

All TalkTalk2

Note: I removed the original post, detailing my battles with TalkTalk. Too long and boring. But this was the upshot:

So they finally sent a (BT) engineer out. Took him two minutes to remove a suppressor from the master socket, and now I'm finally online.

I can't believe it. Nearly three months of hassle for a job that I could have done with a pair of nail scissors. Anyway, I'm now waiting to see how TalkTalk are going to compensate me. I'm sort of hoping for a Mercedes SLK.

Red would be nice...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bob who?

Heard a good Bob Dylan story on the radio this morning. Apparently His Bobness was playing a concert with Willie Nelson - I didn't catch the name of the town, think it might have been somewhere in New Jersey.

Bob decides to take a stroll through the Latin quarter, and someone reports seeing a suspicious old vagrant hanging around. A police car shows up and the 22 year old female officer questions Bob. He doesn't necessarily expect her to recognise his face, but surely she's familiar with his name? Nope, she's never heard of him, and the Bobster is driven back to his hotel in order to verify his identity.

I gather the girl took some stick from fellow officers down at the precinct. The chief offered to play her some of his old Dylan albums, but the musically challenged lass had never heard of vinyl either..

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mr Tibbs update

For those who have enquired after Mr. Tibbs, my giraffe-necked cat, here he is again. I've added a couple more rings and he's starting to look positively Egyptian, I think.

The cat flap is becoming a bit of a problem for him - difficult to negotiate with dignity - and I might have to alter the dimensions soon. He is finding it easier to flush the toilet, however, which is a bonus for us both.

I've ordered steel rings for his next extension, currently pencilled in for early October. I thought we might have some fun with fridge magnets. Mr. Tibbs is nothing if not an exhibitionist, a feline boulevardier, and some extra bling never goes amiss when he's doing his rounds of the cafe-bars.

I must repeat my earlier warning - please don't try this at home. Very few cats are suited to the giraffe-necked way of life, and I don't want any irate parents contacting me to say that they've come home from work to find their moggy trussed up in washing line or TV cabling or whatever.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

First review for X Isle!

Two months before publication date, X Isle has just received its first review. Take a look, over at Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books. The resourceful Mr. Ripley somehow managed to get hold of a printed proof copy, and I'm very glad that he did, despite the fact that at this point there were a number of final corrections yet to be made.

It becomes impossible, after a while, to judge one's own work. Editors too, through being so closely involved in the process, reach a point where they are no longer able to read with fresh eyes. Bits of text are inserted, bits are chopped out, last minute changes are made...a final polish...but is it actually any good? I'm sure none of us have a clue.

So then it's up to the bookseller, the critic, and the reader to deliver their verdicts. I can do nothing but sit on my hands, waiting to discover whether all the effort has been worthwhile. Mr. Ripley's top accolade, a five-out-of-five, is a tremendously encouraging start and I'm truly grateful.

Maybe now I'll be able to settle down a bit, and get on with some work.

Monday, August 03, 2009


These extraordinary little pieces are sculpted by artist and musician Ged Casserley. I think they're great, though maybe not for the faint hearted. Ged tells me he uses bits of actual insects in their construction - wings, legs, feet. Presumably these are insects that have lived a full and productive life, and died a natural death, before Ged gets his hands on them. Remarkably steady hands he must have too, in order to manipulate such tiny objects.

Here's a link to more of Ged's work, at the online Saatchi Gallery:


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lucky 7

Bought myself a new guitar - a Rosetti Lucky 7. When I say 'new' I mean new to me. It's actually getting on for half a century old, having being produced by the Rose Morris company somewhere around 196o.

Rose Morris didn't make great instruments, in fact most of them were pretty cheap and nasty, but the Lucky 7 was the first guitar I ever coveted as a boy. It had a cutaway (wow), and it was electric (double wow). I had no chance of finding the necessary 14 guineas purchase price, however, and so the Lucky 7 remained a dream. Slightly richer now, if not much wiser, I saw this one on ebay and went for it. The poor old thing was in a sorry state, and it's taken quite a bit of work to get it back into playing order. Had to soak the neck in the bath and then clamp it to a hot radiator in order to straighten the blighter out. Not your standard luthier's method, perhaps, but it seems to have worked.

A strange thing happened with the bodywork. I rubbed it all down, primed and resprayed it, polished it up like new. If anything it looked a bit too new. A week or so later and the paintwork has crazed, inexplicably yet rather tastefully to my eye. Now it looks fifty years old again. There's probably a moral there.

Anyway, I shall take the old girl out on a date tomorrow night and give her a twirl.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I've opened up an email account with Google, which'll do for the time being at least.

Contact me at


Eventually, I'm assured, I'll have both phone and internet at my fingertips once more. In the meantime, as a temporary measure, they've given me a black dongle to play with. Oo-er missus, etc.

The dongle is quite impressive at first sight. You just plug it into your laptop and hey presto you're online. No wires, no modem, no bother. In theory I could take my laptop for a fishing trip to Loch Lomond, or on a walking holiday through the Peaks (were I mad enough) and still be in touch with the world.

In practice the dongle is such a feeble little affair that even as I type this I get messages warning me that I'm being disconnected. If I press 'publish' and this post actually appears it'll be a miracle.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Steve Augarde has left the planet

No internet, and now no landline! The last children's author operating under these conditions was probably Arthur Ransome.

Apologies to anyone trying to email. I'm not here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Glastonbury cancelled!

Well, not quite. But due to a balls up with tickets and passes, The Gents have had to pull out. No point in opening the gates, then.

Oh well. What's another year?

Friday, June 19, 2009


I've moved house and am currently without t'internet - a situtation that's likely to continue for another week or two. I find it quite liberating. It's also useful to be reminded of just how many hours are usually lost in the black holes of cyberspace, although no experience is a complete waste of time, I suppose.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

X Isle - first images.

Well, they're displaying the cover for X Isle on Amazon, and so I guess it's OK for me to show it here on my blog.

The jacket illustration is by Steve Stone, and a great piece of work in my opinion. I'm used to illustrating my own books and so I've been fascinated to see how others interpret the texts - first with the Touchstone Trilogy, and now with X Isle. It's actually very flattering. A bit like other musicians covering your songs, perhaps.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Perfect martini

Learning is such a joy. Tonight, from maths professor and all-round excellent cove Paul Glendinning, I discover the recipe for a perfect martini.

1. Put some crushed ice into an appropriate glass.

2. Add a measure of gin.

3. Position a bottle of vermouth in sunlight, so that the beams pass directly through it and mix with the gin.

4. Enjoy your martini.

(This according to Luis Bunuel, apparently.)

Dear oh dear...

Aren't you intrigued? Don't you long to reach out and pick up these wonderful-looking books? No?
Well, it's easy to criticise, but really - is there any excuse for this kind of laziness? Here are two respected authors, James Runcie and Amanda Craig, favourably reviewed recently by dovegreyreader, and surely deserving of better than this.

Publisher: 'We need to evoke mystery, a sense of er...mysteriousness. But nothing too specific.'

Designer: 'I know! Let's have a picure of some geezer walking away from us! Like he's just been somewhere, and now he's going somewhere else. That works every time, for just about everything.'

Publisher: 'Ha. Not this time it won't. The protagonist's female. That's the twist.'

Designer: 'I know! Let's have a picture of some woman walking away from us! Like she's just been somewhere...'

What does it cost to get a decent designer in? Not much. I bet there are hundreds of young hopefuls who could do better than this for fourpence.

And if you thought that was bad, take a look at this:

Five covers, five different authors, same hackneyed image.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Great Inventions Still Waiting To Happen. No.1: Vegan Scratchings

I was in a local refreshment room the other night with a chum. We'd ordered up some Yorkshire tapas - bag of nuts and a packet of pork scratchings - and were enjoying same.

Good man, the pork scratching, though of course not to everyone's taste. There are whole sectors of society who will never know the pleasure of this crunchy morsel, it being against either their religion or their conscience to touch the things.

So where is the kosher equivalent? Where is the vegan scratching? We fell to wondering what a vegan scratching might taste like. A bit like pork, we decided, depending on which bit of the vegan you used.

Oh, please yourself then...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Recycling idea

Speed and efficiency have always been my watchwords - ask anyone - and I apply them to all aspects of life.

When it comes to recycling I've found that the whole process can be speeded up by cutting out the middle man, ie me. I now have a green bin installed directly beneath my letterbox. All the junk just goes round and round, without any timewasting interference from addressees, and everyone's happy. I'm hoping to get Kirklees Council to take up the scheme, and then move for it be adopted nationally. Just doing my bit, you know.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


There are good reviews and there are good reviews. Couldn't resist putting this one up.

Winter Wood review.

Friday, April 10, 2009

More of the wetlands

Here are a few more pics of the Somerset wetlands, taken while I was staying in Burrowbridge at the King Alfred Inn. (And I must give this establishment a plug. Great pub, good food, live music, and very friendly hosts Sally and Jimmer. Thanks, guys.)

This is Burrow Mump, a local landmark.

Swan. Appearing most serenely from behind the reeds as I was getting ready to press the shutter.

Wetlands at dusk.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Various images

Readers of The Touchstone Trilogy will know that the books are set on the Somerset wetlands - the areas around West Sedgemoor and King's Sedgemoor, often called The Levels. I'm frequently asked, 'are the places in the books real?'

Yes and no, is the best answer I can give. The locations are based on childhood memories, and some that were real have since disappeared, but it doesn't take long to find images very similar to those in the story. I've just returned from a working holiday in Somerset, where I rented a little place for a week in order to get some edits finished. Here are a few of the photos I took.

Now this one is real. It's the sheep gate that features in The Various - and it's the actual one that I was thinking about as I wrote the book. Still there, just as it was when I was a child.

The barn where Midge finds Pegs is fictitious, but here's one very like it. Just down the road from where I was staying.

I haven't seen one of these in years. It's a side-rake, the same piece of machinery that Pegs was trapped under. Again, it was within a very short distance of where I was staying. Looks like it's being used as a makeshift fence.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


I've just come back from a long week in Somerset. Took lots of photos of the levels, got some work done, met up with old friends. Will post more pics when I get properly unpacked. This is Glastonbury Tor, by the way.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


What a difference a bit of sunshine makes! A few days of fine weather, and Marsden is transformed. Already we see one or two chimney pots shyly peeking through the snow, and I'm guessing it won't be long now before we hear the cheery chirrup of the rescue helicopters.

Giddy with optimism I went down to our garage today and picked up a shovel. If the weather continues to hold I reckon I can tunnel my way to the Co-op by Sunday.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Glastonbury 2009

Yes, it's official. The Gents are to play Glastonbury 2009.

As Noel Coward said, on receiving the news that he was to be knighted, 'Not before time. Not before time.'

The Gents have always abhorred ostentation of any kind, and so we've turned down the Pyramid Stage in favour of a more modest venue, a bandstand I believe, somewhere near the cider bus. That should suit us very well. Word travels quickly, however, especially amongst the young, and already the hot ticket of the festival looks like being 'The Gents at the Cider Dome'.

Cider's actually quite a strong drink, my dears, and requires some respect. An incautious approach can lead to all sorts of regrettable behaviour - unseemly removal of apparel, rowdy squealing and the like. We'll have none of that, thank you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I know. It's been three weeks since I posted anything here. I haven't been away doing book tours or bob-sleighing in Biarritz or anything interesting like that. I've been here all along, sitting in front of my laptop, wandering the second circle of hell known as edits.

It's not easy. You come to the end of a project, tell yourself that it's ready to go, apart from a few minor tweaks, and start on the final edits. Those minor tweaks turn into major re-writes, and before you know it you're producing what amounts to a different book entirely. Your original deadline becomes a date in history, somewhere on a timeline with the Tudors. This is embarrassing, both professionally and financially. Your publisher takes you out to lunch and tells you to stop worrying, you're great, and your fifteen-year-old bank manager seems equally smiley and unconcerned.

But you're a writer, and you know the truth. Any day now gangsta people are going to come round and cut you.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Wish you were here?

Me too. Here's a ray of sunshine for a bleak February morning. Shake those maraccas!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Writers on writing.

I nicked this from Fidra Blog, which was in turn linked to the blog of successful Scottish author Nicola Morgan. Nicola has lots of useful and interesting things to say about bookworld - including advice on how to find a publisher. She also offers these favourite quotes from writers on writing:

*A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. (Thomas Mann, Essays of Three Decades, 1947.)

*It was fifteen years before I realised I was no good as a writer, but by then I was too famous to stop. (Robert Benchley.)

*Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. (George Orwell, "Why I Write," 1947.)

*Every writer I know has trouble writing. (Joseph Heller.)

*Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out. (Samuel Johnson, "Recalling the Advice of a College Tutor," Boswell, Life of Johnson, 1791.)

*Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth; never venture a whisper about it to your friend, if he be an author especially. (A. Bronson Alcott.)

*It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write. (Sinclair Lewis.)

*Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head. (From the film Finding Forrester.)

*A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order. Jean Luc Godard

*Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a very simple reason. They made no such demand upon those who wrote them. (Charles Caleb Colton.)

*As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out. (Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson, 1894.)

*A good style should show no signs of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident. (W. Somerset Maugham, Summing Up, 1938.)

*You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. (Arthur Polotnik.)

*The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. (Agatha Christie.)

*When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing. (Enrique Jardiel Poncela.)

*Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher. (Flannery O'Connor.)

*Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. (Gene Fowler.)

*Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. (Anton Chekhov.)

*I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter. (James Michener.)

*I try to leave out the parts that people skip. (Elmore Leonard.)

*There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. (Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Perpetual motion

'Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?' (Browning.)

It's part of the human condition, I think, to always be yearning for the unattainable, and it being Sunday I'm prompted to make this childish confession.

Since the age of about thirteen I've dabbled in experiments on perpetual motion. Every once in a while I'll sit down and do a few more drawings, play with a bunch of magnets, build silly little machines. It's a ludicrous pastime. Intellectually I understand perfectly well that the laws of physics forbid the possibility of perpetual motion, and yet and yet, etc.

Arrogant, quixotic, call it what you will - its very hopelessness is what makes the quest seem worthwhile.

(The above image is Boyle's self flowing flask, incidentally. And no, just in case you were wondering, it doesn't work.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Very Yorkshire

I was talking to one of the locals last night about amusement arcades. He told me a story about a seaside holiday he'd had some years ago, with his wife and young son. Seaside resorts are full of amusement arcades, of course, and the boy was duly drawn towards them - desperate to get in there amongst all the bright lights.

The man explained to his son that such places exist only to take your money.
"Tha'll never get owt from them," he said. "But if tha' should ever be lucky enough to win anything, then hold onto it. Never give them a second chance, lad." And with this advice he handed the boy a fifty pence piece to gamble with.

They went over to a change machine, and the man showed his son where to put the money in, and which button to push. When the coins came rattling out of the machine, the man said, "Ee, lad! Look at that! Tha's won! Now follow ma advice, and quit while tha's ahead. Tha can buy us both an ice cream wi' that."

So that's what they did. As I say, very Yorkshire.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Temperance Seven

Er... make that the Temperance Ten. Unless I'm seeing double somewhere.

For anyone thinking of taking the pledge (and who isn't at this time of year) beware. This is what you get when your vision clears.

An old pal sent me this in my email box. Thanks for the laugh, Col. Hope you're feeling better yourself.