A.J. Walker


The Reading Year '23

Last year I made a plan to read 31 books. Not because of anything in particular other than it would match the previous year's achievement. If achievement is what it was. I hit it on the head. I guess that's what goals are for as I suspect I wouldn't have read that many if I hadn't set the target. That said if I'd been over ambitious I'd probably have not shot for it.

Needless to say it was largely the usual mix of SF & F with plenty of Pratchett, Powell, Tolkien, Le Guin, Yoko Ogawa, Pullman, and even a George RR Martin that had nothing to do with Game of Thrones. I also read some great non-fiction with books about; the demise of the dinosaurs, mosses, and whole Otherlands (which took in even more history than the dinosaurs). Threw in a couple of interesting biographies for good measure (Agatha Christie and John Betjeman).



The target for 2024? Well I've made it more of a stretch goal by adding exactly 1 and making it 32 books. Two and half books a month. Come on, I can do that. Surely, Or maybe it'll be 31 again. Once more I'm going to try not to buy too many more second hand (or new) books as I try and tackle my TBR pile. And once again I will fail miserably and end up in Oxfam, British Heart Foundation, and Henry Bohns again before too long. It's inevitable.


Pacemaking Reading and Pokemon No

My reading is a bit behind schedule if I am going to hit the target I set myself at the start of the year: to read 31 books in ‘23. It was the number of books I read last year and I just didn’t want to read fewer than that. Clearly if I read at the same pace as I have for the first half of the year (okay, more like 75%) then I ain’t gonna get to my goal (which wasn’t exactly a stretch goal initially).

At this point I’ve read 21 books this year, which means I’d have to read a further 10 between now and the end of December. To be fair that’d be about a book every 8 days or so. That’s not really too difficult if I really want to. I mean maybe just reading more often on my bus trips into town rather than turning on Pokémon Go would take me a fair way to achieving the goal.

Having my predictable mix/fix of science fiction and non-fiction and I dare say that will continue. Just finished the
Agatha Christie biography by Lucy Worsley, which I found really interesting (I dare say it’ll be turned into a TV doc soon). I grew up reading plenty of Agatha’s books (usually over summer holidays)—my mum was an avid reader and loved them and Ngaio Marsh etc and I think she passed on the habit to the whole family.


My current read is ‘the Strange’ by Nathan Ballingrud. He’s a new author to me and it’s a book I picked up in Oxfam recently (not that I needed to add to my TBR pile). Set on Mars, which is suddenly and mysteriously separated from contact with Earth by The Silence, and while I’m only a few chapters in, so far I’m liking it a lot.


So if I can read a book every 8 days or so between now and the end of the year I’ll pass the New Year finish line with a win. I reckon I will do it, but we shall see. It’s not like I need to progress any further on Pokémon. Or do I?


Several months ago I lost my old Kindle Paperwhite. I'd had it for years. I prefer physical books - I have trouble not walking past a charity shop and checking out the bookshelves. But during lockdown, when all the bookshops and charity shops were closed, I used the Kindle quite a bit to get my reading fix. With the shops open again I haven't used the Kindle as much and so I guess I haven't missed it terribly. However for writing larger pieces of work I find the Kindle very useful for reading and reviewing compared with trying to review on a computer screen. And so this weekend thanks to Liverpool beating Man Utd 7-0 the other week and a couple of Cheltenham flutters this week (from the reinvested ManU winnings) I gained more than enough pennies to invest in a new Kindle and so I picked it up yesterday.


It is the small (just 6''), cheapest one and I don't find it as nice as its older (larger, but missing) sibling. It feels a bit delicate, but that should be helped a little when I get a cover for it. If my old Kindle suddenly reveals itself to me, perhaps from beneath a pile of books or washing, then I'll possibly return to that one. But maybe I'll get used to the smaller version in the end. It has better definition and larger memory that the older versions. For reading books I don't think the definition matters that much, although if there are any images or maps then maybe it will help in those cases. In terms of the memory, again I don't think this is critical for me. I'd not be filling ye olde Kindle let alone this one. It was certainly great though how easily and fast all the books previously held on my Paperwhite suddenly appeared on the new one. Very nice to see.

I'll see how it goes in the future. And I'll see how fast I find the old one now I've flashed the cash for this one.

The Reading Year '22

Not been a bad reading year. In Goodreads last year I set a rather low target of twenty books for the year and got past that to finish 31 books in the end. As usual plenty of SF&F and some classics, with s sprinkling of non-fiction too. Have enjoyed some old favourites like Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and some more modern ones including TWM Ashford and Gareth Powell.

Have loved the Rosewater books by Tade Thompson and Andrew Caldecott's 'Rotherweird'. Wonder what I'll end up discovering or rediscovering in 2023. I definitely aim to finish reading the trilogies of His Dark Materials and Gormenghast, and re-read a book or two as well, including 'Perdido Street Station'.




Thinking that for the year ahead I'll set the target as 31 then – and try and beat that. Maybe I should set myself a simple habit of reading at least 10% of a book per day as that would get me to 36, wouldn't it? And 10% of a book per day is an eminently achievable goal. Whatever you are reading enjoy it. It's always an adventure wherever you end up traveling to.

A Gig Missed and a Homage

Hardly left the house since I tested positive for Covid last Thursday and of course in that time, in fact since last Monday, I have not been out for a pint. That's fine – if unusual – but tomorrow I had a ticket for the Felice Brothers at Leaf on Bold Street. As I am unable to now have two successive negative tests before the gig I've had to pass on the ticket to another fan. Gutted. I'll have to find another gig another week to replace it. But it'll be hard to get one I'll look forward to as much – I've currently only got the Frank Turner gig in October booked. We'll see what I can do.

Still I've managed to finish a book I've been reading for a while – and one I've owned for years. It is a signed copy of '
Homage to Gaia' by the fascinating scientist, James Lovelock. It is a absorbing story of a brilliant guy. The vast majority of the book was quite a read and told with aplomb. It read like an Asimov version of a polymath scientist capable of developing insightful ideas and A-Team style devices out of whatever he could find in the kitchen, whilst mingling with the great and the good (and not so good) of science, politics, and business. I only felt a little non-plussed by the chapter towards the end about his love for (and sex) with his second wife – in his seventies. I've nothing against love or sex, but the chapter just didn't really sit well within the rest of the book. He's 102 now and still with us: as is his Gaia theory. The book was published in 2000 and I won it in a competition. Out of interest I had a quick look on Abebooks to see if there were any signed copies out there for sale. And flippin' heck there were two. It must be the most expensive book I've read…

Flippin' heck.

Half way through the year and it was my fourteenth book. I'd only set myself the target of twenty for the year on Goodreads so I'm well on the way to that and beyond. I've had a great mix of reads; both fiction and non-fiction, with non-fiction from Alice Roberts, Richard Ovenden, and James Lovelock, and fiction from authors including Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, HG Wells, Gareth L Powell, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. That's not a bad list of authors. Now what will the second half of the year bring?

Not Enough Words

So far this year there have not been enough words in my life in terms of reading or writing. I am aiming - and hoping - to improve on both counts in the second half of the year (yes, I know we are already over a month into the second half).

In terms of writing I REALLY WILL finish
The Wobbly Odyssey soon; hopefully within August. I WILL! I’ve got about 18k words to finish it in my estimation so surely I can find 18 days out of the next 28 days to write 1000 words. Surely.

I know. Not surely. But like aiming to do 8k steps a day, 1k words a day is not undoable if I put my mind to it. The only writing I’ve been doing regularly really is the weekly challenge called #MidWeekFlash that Miranda puts up on her website
‘Finding Clarity.’ Each of the last two weeks I’ve written them in one sitting and both ended up being over 1000 words then needed to be edited down. So a thousand words a day is well within my compass: let’s see.

The other side of this ‘
Not Enough Words’ equation is my reading. I set myself my usual target of around 40 books this year (42) and so far I’ve only read 18. This means I’ve got to read just over a book a week to achieve my goal. It’s not exactly a stretch goal but - like the steps - playing catch up has made it more difficult.

Four nice books picked up in a second hand shop

I know. It’s not exactly like an Olympian trying to get a medal, but I they are goals I should go for. My current read after finishing Gareth Powell’s ‘
The Recollection’ is one of the few Terry Pratchett’s I haven’t read: ‘The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents’ which I bought on Saturday during my first visit to a second hand bookshop since all the lockdowns began. Went in needing no books and came out with four: so far, so predictable. Made up also to find a copy of an Unseen University edition of 'Reaper Man’. Will have to find a nice home for my old paperback copy now I’ve go my hands on that. Not sure how many books were printed in these UU editions but I’ve now got four anyway.

Map of Discworld in the Unseen University 'Reaper Man'

Getting back into a second hand bookshop was excellent. Finding myself new (and old) Pratchett’s even better. Now I need to get me reading and writing going. I can do it.

Yeah, but will I?


After my blog last week saying that I intended to return to doing at least 8k steps per day average in a week (i.e. 56k) I smashed it last week. Every day was above 8k which makes it easy to keep on top of. In actual fact last week my figures were:

43.77 miles
Average Distance:
6.25 miles
Average Steps:

Smashed it. Easy hey?

Recording the walk into the city

Cloud and sunshine above Liverpool

A quiet Loop Line on my Sunday walk

Well, on Monday this new week didn’t start quite as well (by a long chalk) with a paltry
1.3k steps. I’d said I’d walk a mile and half to a bus stop but I ended up with a lift home instead: while it was good in terms of getting home quickly it ballsed my walking up a bit. But on Tuesday things have improved. It was over 15k steps, which has got my average back up at the 8k over the two days. But it goes to show if you miss it with one nothingy day then you will be requiring some decent catch up on subsequent days - and if you had two quiet days (or, god forbid, more six day isolation requirements) then it’d be easy to really struggle to achieve the goal - unless you really forced yourself. It’s easier not to do than do, but really it’s not that difficult to do either if you really want to.

Onwards and Upwards… or at least Onwards and Alongwards.

The Caravanette

Well when I started doing ReadMeSpeakMe at the back end of 2020 I never expected to be reading my own poems on here. And of course then it is the rest of the RMSM regulars reading your words out loud. It is an interesting experience and I'm thankful for Meg coming up with this - and for asking me to send a poem in.

Cheeses picked up at Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes

The poem chosen was 'The Caravanette' which I wrote when I was doing an Open University course a few years back. It's not a brilliant poem but I like it because it completely true and evocative of a holiday gone wrong. Be it down to inclement weather or, in this case, unrealistic expectations. It was nothing to do with the destination of Dent, which is in a lovely spot.

Monument to the geologist, Adam Sedgwick in Dent. He knew his graptolites!

The Dent Carpark

As I'd been camping this week in North Yorkshire, in Hawes, Wensleydale, I had to take the opportunity to drive to Dent so that I could read the poem in the very carpark that we ended up staying overnight - in that wee sad vehicle. After a quick pitstop into Wensleydale Creameries for some Wenselydale Cheese (and others) then I headed to Dentdale. Here is my reading of the poem, 'The Caravanette.' Enjoy.

As I've been looking at all the tweets about this poem this week, and listening to Soundcloud retellings and YouTube videos of it, I am now getting a mountain of camper van adverts when I'm on Instagram and YouTube. I've yet to see a photo of anything like what we were in though.

Thanks to everybody who got involved this week. Every one is appreciated. And I've got to give a special mention to
Swarn Gill who not only read a great version of it, he also recorded his YouTube video along with a beer and a bit of a chinwag before the poem akin to a certain somebody. Kudos! It made me smile a lot.

And lastly, but never leastly, it was great to see Sal record it too. Her first go on ReadMeSpeakMe (I've no idea, it could be the last too) and I thank her for the Special Guest appearance.





Ale M. Banks

It’s a little bit beyond Limboland for some hostelries now. Well for those that have outside areas to utilise - and in cities that is not many. That said the weather for the last few days has not been inviting to all but the hardiest punters and on Monday the rain and wind was so bad many bars and restaurants sensibly decided to shut up shop for the day. During the last few weeks some places have been able to provide heaters which is nice - as the sunshine has been intermittent at best and not exactly cracking the flags. It’s a shame heaters have been needed from the point of view of the bills for the bars (like they need another bloody expense right now) and from the environment. But it’s England not the Mediterranean Riviera so heaters it is.

I’ve managed to get to many of the very few city centre places that sell cask and have outdoor spots. When I say many it is a relative term with so few real ale places able to open at all. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag in some ways but largely those that have opened have been very good. My particular favourites have been the
Keystone (on Hope Street), the Coach House/Hard Times (on Maryland Street) and The Bridewell.

If I’ve been on my tod I’ve been happy to let someone come to sit at the table of course: who wouldn’t? And I’ve met some lovely people either as ‘guests’ on my table or others on adjacent tables. To be able to have a chat and a laugh has been quite liberating for a lot of people I am sure.

One of the most surprising outcomes over the last couple of weeks is how many
Iain M. Banks fans, and fans of SF in general, I have met. I have been attempting to read a book of essays and interviews about the Iain M. Banks SF books in these places and the amount of people who have commented on the book and then about their love of the books has been incredible.

Banks and Ale

Obviously fans of real ale are discerning individuals anyway, but it turns out they are even cooler. I’ve not managed to finish the book yet partly due to ending up being in happy conversations about The Culture (and none Culture) books. Looking forward to finishing the book and reading re-reading some of Banks’s books. But I may have to carry this book around with me just to see how many other fans come out of the woodwork.

Here’s to real ale outside of a pub: and even better IN one. And here’s to Iain M. Banks and the fans. You rock!

In the meantime if you don’t know Iain’s books or only know
The Wasp Factory, the Crow Road or Whit or anything from the telly then do yourself a favour and dip into The Culture - apparently all the best ale drinkers are (and me too). These are his Culture books in chronological order. But there is no need to read them in order:

  • Consider Phlebas (1987)
  • The Player of Games (1988)
  • Use of Weapons (1990)
  • The State of the Art (1991)
  • Excession (1996)
  • Inversions (1998)
  • Look to Windward (2000)
  • Matter (2008)
  • Surface Detail (2010)
  • The Hydrogen Sonata (2012)

Happy reading.

Got a Haircut for the ReadMeSpeakMe Party


This week was the 3rd Anniversary of ReadMeSpeakMe which meant it was party week. As I said last week I wasn't going to do RMSM until I had my hair cut - as the barbers finally were allowed loose with their scissors on Monday 12th April. Huzzah. My last haircut was in the first week of November so I'd gone fully five months - and some - between cuts. Even if RMSM wasn't having a party, getting a cut felt like I deserved one. Happy days.

Before the Haircut

I'd got on the 17 from Fazakerley full of hope if not expectation. As it happened I managed to get in the barbers I've used for the last three cuts (which lets face it is most of a year now):
Istanbul Barbers on Dale Street. It didn't require booking or anything so strange for us of the 'boy' persuasion. Just turn up and wait in turn.

All light headed: Haircut after shock!

With haircut done there were three things to do 1) see if I can get in the other newly permissible places (pubs) 2) attend the #ReadMeSpeakMe Party and 3) do a reading of the prologue from Kathryn Williams' 'The Ormering Tide.'

Outdoor Beers

I managed to do 1) pretty much off the bat with being one of the first two getting a beer at the
Dispensary and also being one of the first served at the Coach House (Hard Times). Read the blog on Pubs to find out more on my feelings about this and on pubs in general.

ReadMeSpeakMe Party

Next up, a few days later, has been attending the
ReadMeSpeakMe Party. The call was to read a recipe for food or drink. Well as I always have a beer with my wee recordings then it had to beer really for the party. Unfortunately from a reading perspective four basic ingredients didn't make for compelling reading:

Malt Barley

It'd be short and sweet, which may have its attractions but it ain't suitable for our party.

Anyways whilst I was reading a book about alcoholic drinks, '
Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks' jam packed with great recipes and details, I found the first part of a poem about beer written by Thomas Warton in 1750. Two hundred and seventy years ago and they were still extolling the virtues of a nice pint over the, 'Riot stirring wine. Unwholesome draught!'

RMSM Invite
#ReadMeSpeakMe 3rd Anniversary Party Invite

Thomas Warton was an Oxford Don lecturing and writing on poetry and became the Poet Laureate for a time. He liked his beer and smoking too. Cool poetry dude. So I decided I'd read the first section of his '
Panegyric to Ale' (originally 'Oxford Ale').

The Ormering Tide

So that was 2 of 3 sorted. The third part I had pencilled in to do was a short reading from '
The Ormering Tide.' Kathryn Williams, who hails from Liverpool, is a brilliant singer-songwriter who I last saw her perform on her Anthology Tour at the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Rooms. She performed some great songs and told some excellent anecdotes. I couldn't not buy her book when it came our this year. When I tweeted it was so lovely that I felt like I should be reading it aloud rather than to myself she tweeted back 'Do It' (although I may be paraphrasing there). So I have to, don't I?

'The Ormering Tide' by Kathryn Williams

Hope I can do justice. But hey, I'm ain't a professional. It's a beautiful book and I loved every page. I can wholeheartedly recommend you getting into the Tide and finding yourselves on the cliffs or beaches of the Channel Islands - or even in the pub. You won't regret it. And don't miss listening to some of her songs. Like all the best people Kathryn is on Twitter too @kathwilliamsuk so give her a follow.

Kathryn Williams 'Monday Morning' from Crown Electric

I will record my reading of the prologue tomorrow and get it up on the YouTube thing - I bet you can't wait. Watch this space: or better still just listen to some of Kathryn's songs.

It's Alchemy I Tell Ya

Yesterday was Easter Sunday and I didn't get any Sunday roast sorted or a single egg, but I did end up with a couple of beers and I did get the weekly #ReadMeSpeakMe sorted too, so I had my now traditional Sunday then.

I'd intended to walk into Liverpool to get my daily steps in and take the opportunity to pick up a couple of bottles of something. Always good to kill two birds with one stone. Thanks to my far too aggressive addiction to Twitter though I spotted that
Top Rope Brewery, which is based in Bootle, was open for a few hours. My plans were basic and flexible - the result obvious. I duly went of to Top Rope and picked up three different beers: 'The Road to Helles,' 'Papa Mango' and 'Big Simcoe.' Better than anything I'd have picked up in Sainsburys or Lidl by an infinite distance.

Plenty of choice available at 'Top Rope' today

At Top Rope Brewery. I am smiling. Really.

Had a nice chat with Neil and the team and took a few photos before packing away my beer. Of course I still had my steps to get in and being in Bootle the obvious next stop was the coast for a walk on the beach. I headed to Waterloo by South Road and then to the beach and a stroll around the Anthony Gormley installation 'Another Place.' Been there so many times. But its always a lovely walk with the sea and the weather making it like a dynamic art installation. It's cool. I thought it would be busy and it was quite but it wasn't as bad as anticipated. The weather was sunny but there was a brisk breeze off the sea and it was a bit cooler than it had been. We're at the start of a cold snap apparently.

Me and my mate, Tony

Tony looking thoughtfully out towards Ireland

With a bit more reading in the eveningI didn't get round to doing the Read Me Speak Me until late: after Line of Duty But I always try and do it on the Sunday; though not next week (haircut week starts Monday 12th). The poem for Read Me Speak Me No.137 was '
Alchemy' by Syreeta Muir. If you are on Twitter you can find her on @hungryghostpoet

No need to 'Run to the Helles'

ReadMeSpeakMe 137: 'Alchemy' by Syreeta Muir - preceded by 5 minutes rambling about Top Rope beers, a walk in Crosby, and a deceased Wilco t-shirt

I was glad to get it done. Although I'm conscious I did waffle on even more than usual. Think I may need to set a timer next time.

Alchemy recorded. Now to get it on to YouTube.

I loved Syreeta's poem. A great read. It was a tad coincidental that I ended up being in Crosby today as Syreeta used to live there. Spooky! Don't forget to follow
@ReadMeSpeakMe on Twitter too.

Reading: One Quarter In

My upwardly mobile target of reading 42 books this year is so far on track - with me having read twelve books by the end of March. Helped by some shortish books but also by good stories that have grabbed me. I’ve very much enjoyed a couple of series of books, including the ‘Hadrian’s Gate’ series (6 books... and counting) by Georgia Knight, and ‘Final Dawn’ (3 books) by T.W.M. Ashfield.

'Unstoppable' - the sixth of the Hadrian's Gate series, by Georgia Knight

'The Final Dawn' - the first of the Trilogy - by T.W.M. Ashford

And talking of series there’s the second book of Mark A. King’s ‘Mother of Exiles’ and the third book of Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ to be read over the coming month or so. And at some point - worryingly - the remainder of the 'Hellicona' books by Brian Aldiss.

Mother of Exiles (Part 2 & 3) by Mark A. King

My current read is
L.V. Matthews ‘The Prank’ which I’m over half way through and thoroughly enjoying. Just goes to show that not every book of mine has to be set on another planet or in an alternate reality - or needs to be part of a series. Either that or it shows there are always exceptions to every rule.

'The Prank' - by L.V. Matthews (a standalone book: not set in space)

So my reading is progressing well. Next up is my
writing goals: and achieving them. That may well be more difficult; who am I kidding? Of course it will be.


This Year's Reading

Been a strange start to the second year of reading under Covid. As last year it has been a very slow start. I've aimed for 42 this year for some reason (I always aim for 40). So with the additional couple of books it was inevitable that for the first month I only finished ONE book in January ('Believe Us' by Melissa Reddy). I've finished another since ('Helliconia Spring' by Brian Aldiss) and I'm currently getting on with two others now, which I should get through quite quickly. They are both great books.

Believe Us Helliconia

And yes, I do read two books sometimes at the same time. But not two novels. One novel and one non-fiction is fine or two non-fiction, but never two novels - that'd just be weird, and asking for trouble.

My current reads are '
The Writer's Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands' by Huw Lewis-Jones, which is a stunningly beautiful book on lovely thick paper. I've always loved maps, both real and imaginary. It really sends me back to so many books I read both as a kid and more recently. The other book I'm reading is 'Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness' by Peter Godfrey-Smith. As a coincidence both titles include colons and both are authored with double barrelled surnames: spooky.

Writers Map Other Minds

Writer's Maps is hardback, pretty large and heavy and not really made to be read in bed, which is where the Octopus comes in - it's on my Paperwhite, so is much better for reading before sleep. It would be a waste to read Writer's Maps on a Kindle too because of the lovely images of all the maps.

So while I've got off to a slow start I'm really enjoying my reading. May come up with a plan of reads for the year. I never stick to them usually, but because second hand books are less of a possibility these days then this year (or at least the start of) planning may actually be an option; usually I'm constantly buying second hand books from charity shops. But not leaving the house this ain't happening for a while yet.

Voice Activation 5: RMSM 127

It had snowed overnight in Liverpool and it looked all very Christmassy. Not much like. It was not like it ended up with estates full of snowmen or snowball fights breaking out everywhere. Just enough snow to comment on and cause consternation for walkers and drivers alike. Later in the day some snow was still here whilst I was trying to get to grip with this week's interesting 'ReadMeSpeakMe.' RMSM 127 comprised a poem put together expertly by RMSM chief Meg @megwaff by slotting together first lines from dozens of poems from previous ReadMeSpeakMe poems and actually included poems from 44 writers.

As previous few poems I've put it up on the
YouTube channel. Had one annoying issue as I got to the end of a recording the device informed me it was full and just stopped recording. I very nearly shouted out 'Flipping heck!' or something akin to that. But I stayed strong and only minor work will be required to fix the head shaped hole in the wall's plaster. Got the recording done with only a couple of stutters and one wrong word (I think). Don't be too critical.

ReadMeSpeakMe 127

Read more about the poem on Meg's web page
www.megwaffling.wordpress.com/2020/12/27/the-rmsm-beast-of-a-poem/ and you'll realise what a big job she had on her hands to compile the poem. Great work, Meg. Kudos.

As ever my lovely pewter tankard makes its appearance. This time it has a bottle of '
Platform 6.1' from Wickwar Brewery. A decent pint at a decent price from B&M (£1.60).





Reading, Damn Reading

I always now seem to set myself a target to read forty books a year. Some people smash that, others don’t read one. Obviously I find people who don’t read books weird – it’s akin to not being arsed about music. But maybe it’s the way people have been brought up. I guess for people who haven’t regularly read it may seem a strange thing to get into. I know some people who say they struggle with the habit but love reading. Hell, we all have other things that get in the way.

This year the thing that got in the way was this damn virus of course. I know some people have found a load more free time but I’ve been working full time either five or six days a week throughout. And let’s face it whatever we are going through individually it is a stressful time. So even when I have had time to read I hadn’t been reading as much as I did the last couple of years. I raced through books in January and February but fell away and a long way behind my forty books pace between March and May.

Don’t know whether it is because I’ve grown used to the stress of the death of everything but I caught up with where I should be come to the sixth months. I’ve now read 22 books and so with 18 left to reach my goal then that’s just about one book a week from August (or to put it another way 15% of a book per day: not entirely sure that is a better way of putting it).

One thing that was difficult between March and July was the closure of all the second hand shops. No browsing of second hand books in Oxfam and the like. Horrendous! My first time back in the book shop in Penmaenmawr I ended up buying six books (for the princely sum of £10).

So far my reads this year have comprised (K: Kindle, SH: Second Hand):

‘Moon Over Soho’ - Ben Aaronovitch (K)
‘Whispers Underground’ - Ben Aaronovitch (K)
‘Broken Homes’ - Ben Aaronovitch (K)
‘Travels with my Aunt’ - Graeme Greene (SH)
‘Bottled’ - Stephanie Ellis (K)
‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ - Ursula Le Guin (SH)
‘The Tombs of Atuan’ - Ursula Le Guin (SH)
‘Flowers for Algernon’ - Daniel Keyes (SH)
‘Fleet of Knives’ - Gareth L Powell (K)
‘The Subtle Knife’ - Philip Pullman (SH)
‘Light of Impossible Stars’ - Gareth L Powell (K)
‘Sunfall’ - Jim Al-Khalilli (K)
‘The Mercies’ - Kieran Millward Hargrave (K)
‘Slipping Through’ - Miranda Kate (K)
‘About Writing’ - Gareth L Powell (K)
‘How to Argue With A Racist’ - Adam Rutherford (K)
‘The Last Day’ - Andrew Hunter Murray (K)
‘One Last Time’ - James Hampson (K)
‘How to Build a Time Machine’ - Brian Clegg (K)
‘Scouse Gothic: the Pool of Life’ -  Ian McKinney (K)
‘Username: Eve’ - Joe Sugg (SH)
‘The Psychology of Time Travel’ - Kate Mascarenhas (K)

There’s a few things of note in my reading so far (other than my impeccable taste). Firstly there is not a single new book bought there from this year or previous years. Secondly there are a lot more Kindle books than usual. This is because of the lockdown and it being impossible to go into shops (new or second hand) during that time.  I have read loads more on my Kindle this year that’s I have in previous ones. To save you counting them there’s SIXTEEN Kindle books there and just SIX second hand ones.

I am fairly sure until the next lockdown comes that there will be a few more actual physical books being read for the second half of the year. Maybe some of those ones I got from Penmaenmawr for a start and the second of the His Dark Materials Trilogy too (which I also bought from there last year or the year before...).

Not sure I will get to forty books, will have to see how the second half of 2020 goes. Right now that really is anyone’s guess.

Not That Strange I Suppose

On Friday I drove down to Shropshire to the beautiful village of Bishop's Castle. As I said in my last blog I was a little apprehensive but broadly looking forward at the very least to being out of the house for a few days.

The drive down was uneventful and was the usual 2 hours or so, with just a couple of roadworks there to slow the day down–they do seem to be everywhere at the moment. I was the first to arrive and was surprised to see how busy the campsite was. I paid the £9 per day and set up exactly where we camped last year. But last year there were thirty of us there, partly due to the 'stag' nature of some of the attendees prior to Paddy's upcoming wedding. I wrote up last year's fab weekend in a
blog of course. This time there was to be ten of us, which given the Covid-19 pandemic seemed quite a few people. Especially as I haven't been seeing anyone–no bubbles for me.

First drink after putting up your tent is always one of the best

Tony K and Jane came next with Jane's son; then Tony and Jeanette, quickly followed by Rob and his cohorts. We all managed to camp close together (socially distanced, of course). Uniquely for a Bishop's Castle camping weekend we didn't go down to the village for a beer or two. It didn't seem necessary as we had lots of beer between us and it is not like there was any entertainment down in Bishop's Castle. Jeanette fed us with a homemade chilli and then we got in with drinking and chatting. All with some tunes from playlists by myself and Jeanette. It was pretty cold and got colder as the sky cleared. But of course that meant with clear Shropshire skies we had a beautiful view–which even encompassed satellites and shooting stars.

Social distancing was pretty well done in the main. The folding chairs and dark night keeping everyone together around a fire pit. It was a nice night.

Group drinking in the Three Tuns. Wonderful.

The next day started with a sunnier forecast if a little cloudy. Breakfast was sourced either at the Greedy Fox from the Foxholes campsite we were on, or cooked by the various volunteers in the group. And then the final member of the group, Ste, arrived. He'd had to delay due to doing a good thing in terms of looking after a neighbours dog. We then finally headed down into BC around 1pm–again around 2 hours later than we would normally have. On the basis of only two open pubs rather than the usual five or six this seemed to make sense.

Sunshine pint in the Three Tuns

We first headed into the Three Tuns. There we were asked for one member of the group to scan in a QR code and provide details through that before going in and getting seated. We headed outside to one of the two benches in the yard. Normally during this weekend of the year there would be a music playing and a barbecue going, as well as the Three Tuns brewer selling beers straight out of the barrels there. This time: nothing. Of course. We ended up staying there for about four hours or so before heading up to the Castle. The only issue I had was someone squeezing in between me and someone else on a bench. I shot on up and out of there and left it to the girls. Social distancing guys (and gals)! Went through several pints of Solstice, XXX and Cleric's Cure (which I settled on for a few).

The Shropshire Way walk into Bishop's Castle

In the Castle the garden was full. Most having being booked in advance. No-one was in the garden on the grass, they were all seated at tables. We stayed in the tables outside at the bottom of the steps. Here the staff all wore visors, which was visibly different to the Three Tuns, where the staff concentrated on limiting touching the glasses (using trays and asking us to load them with empty glasses etc). Like Liverpool last week, every establishment is having to find their own way with the reopening.

Most the boys and girls of our group went into the BC chippy for sustenance. I kept away: just not hungry. Then we all went back on up to Foxholes for the evening. It was spent drinking beer (or wine in the case of Rob and Co.), chatting and listening to tunes. I even got my guitar out and played a few songs–it would have been Open Mic tonight if I had been home. There was no WiFi available to log into Zoom on the campsite. Tony talked loudly all the way through most of the songs. But to be fair that made my 'gig' more like an Open Mic than if he'd kept quiet. There's always one. The night was a clear as the day before and again we saw shooting stars. It closed around 1:30am or so after some surprising spoons and a collapsing chair and table incident.

Playing in the sun to an appreciative crowd (me)

Sunday brought us even more sunshine. The forecast was it would be there for the day. And boy, it was. I ended up getting a little sunburnt on my face, mainly on the nose and forehead. Steve got off early, as did Rob and the boys, whilst I wasn't sure whether to stay or go. I was torn, as I was off on Monday and was thinking I'd do some writing if I got back on Sunday, but then again another night relaxing whilst away for the first time for months was very attractive. In the end I decided to stay. Tony K took the rest of the intrepid group on a truncated walk (basically adding a few hundred metres to getting into BC and then walking along the road rather than on the Shropshire Way. Most surprising. Not.). They all heading into Poppy's (where we normally go for breakfast on our last day camping) and had a Sunday Roast.

Meanwhile I was still at the campsite listening to the screeching of a couple of the red kites what whirled above the countryside, whilst strumming the guitar and burning my face; before walking down to the Three Tuns. Had a pint of Solstice and three of Cleric's before heading up to the site with a takeout. I began reading '
The Psychology of Time Travel' (Kate Mascarenhas) which seems really good.

The evening was its by now standard form. A couple of beers, some music and bed. But this time finished much, much earlier. Everyone was getting a bit more tired which after a few days trying to sleep in a tent is par for the course.

And then it was Monday and time for me to go. The remaining five stayed in BC to do a walk along the Long Mynd from Church Stretton. I got home at 1pm and it didn't take me long to fall into some serious napping.

All in all the weekend had been excellent. There hadn't been much in the way of any rain and we all got into the two pubs that were open. Clearly the logging in, the directional information, the toilet occupancy, and cleaning stations (as well as staff methods and PPE) make the pubs a different proposition to the BC real ale trail. The lack of entertainment, and a hog roast or two, being an obvious miss. It is hard to see how and when this can come back prior to a vaccine. It really is a worry and I really wonder if even this time next year the real ale trail will be back. That said, even if it isn't I expect we will be. Camping is great. So is Shropshire, the village and the campsite. And of course, most of all, our group of people make the event the success it always is.

Three Tuns quieter than usual.


Reading the Numbers

I love listening to podcasts about books - especially the New York Times Book Review (every Friday) and the BBC Radio 4 ones from Alan and Mariella - but when they talk about all the books they are looking forward to in the coming months (or year) I feel a bit bemused. I don't know what's coming from many authors at all. I don't follow them like I do favourite bands waiting for their next album. Maybe I should. It made me think though about my reading and I thought I read mostly older books. In no small part due to my frequent appearances in any Oxfam or British Heart Foundation (or other) shop browsing for little prizes.

So I thought I'd look at my reading for the last couple of years to see how old the books were that I have been reading. And I was surprised to find the majority are actually only from the last five years or so. In my head I was sure I was reading a lot more from the 50s and 60s. Just goes to show how much I know about what I actually do myself - what chance has anyone else. And yes I have even graphed it - didn't take long, don't shout at me. I've only broken it down into decades at this point, but if I were to do it by year the greatest numbers would be for 2016-2019.

Book Reading

The numbers of more recent ones are skewed a little by reading the anthologies that I have been featured in but not that significantly. I guess I'm more modern than I thought. Basically I just read what I want, when I want. May have to show some of those missing decades some love though.


Not going to put the gubbins of my plans here but here are the very broad outlines. Needless to say there's a lot to do.

This year’s plans to include:

  • Writing
    • Finish story for anthology I’m working on
    • Finish at least first draft of one novel length book
    • Start another novel or novella
    • Keep an eye out for other submission options
    • Aim: get Published a minimum of FOUR times (eek!)
    • Write for local website
    • Keep my website and blog up to date
  • Work changes
    • Look for other work opportunities
    • Consider re-training if appropriate
  • Guitar
    • Fix the Takamine
    • Continue with Sanctuary Open Mic
    • Expand repertoire
    • Write own songs
    • Take some lessons to identify best way forward to improve - esp. strumming
  • Reading
    • Same as last year a minimum of 40 books (tracked on GoodReads)
  • Food & Fitness
    • Eat better (more cooking/fewer take outs)
    • Run and/or walk
    • Consider other options eg cycling
  • Activities
    • More gigs than last year (shouldn’t be difficult) to include at least one festival
    • Walking (I’ll put it here as well as the food/fitness as it’s for photo/story opps too
  • House
    • Needs a lot of work chucking and some repair/maintenance
    • Basically turning it from A house to my HOME.
    • Lot's more (and similar) shelving for all me books (and CDs)
    • Priority is to turn spare room into an office/music room.
      • Would clear things from downstairs, whilst being a better environment for writing and strumming the geetar.
  • Transport
    • Need to consider a lot here too. Re: car/bike/motorbike et al.

All in all a lot to consider and move on.

Some of these, including the food/fitness, guitar and writing may well result in a weekly update on my blog (a fine reason to keep the website ticking over whilst also acting as a prod to do better at some things).

Next thing is to firm up some/all of these and more importantly act on them. Eek!


Planning on Planning

The last few months - and longer - have been difficult one way or another. And I have not bothered with New Year's Resolutions. Then again, there shouldn't be a time for resolutions. If you decide you need to do something don't wait til January 1st to get it into motion. Anyway, it's the well into the second half of January and I ain't doing resolutions, but I am doing planning. In that I am planning on planning with respect to all sorts including; work, writing, reading, guitar, and fitness.

Will put some of the planning up here and then track progress as the year goes on.

But now I've got to get some of these plans down. Catch yer later…

Books 2019

I made it to my goal of reading 40 books in 2019 and just got to 42 before the year was up. Life sometimes got in the way but in the main I made steady progress through the year. Usual suspects in terms of style and types of reads (lots of SF & F with some non-fiction) with a few new authors too. My last book was 'Embers of War' a SF saga from Gareth L. Powell, which was a nice easy read. I am in danger of mixing all my SF reads up though with reading that so close to reading books from James A. Corey's 'Expanse' series and Stephen Donaldson's 'Gap' series. Reckon I'm going to have to refresh my head between each SF book by resetting with another style else my head will explode.


I have set my goal for 2020 for another 40 reads and I can but hope they are as good as last year's. Bring them on. I'm not going to plan what I'm reading in advance as I always seem to veer off and just go with the flow.

Reading - The Way I Roll

It's been a good year for reading. I've already surpassed the book numbers I read last year and am just four books shy of my 40 target. From my initial plan back in January I have read the majority of the non-fiction books from the reading list, but I've been a lot less successful with the books from the fiction list–in that I keep getting other second-hand books to read.


I have just finished 'Rivers of London' by Ben Aaronovitch, which actually is one from my initial list - I'd previously read a later book from the series ('Lies Sleeping'). Have loved both of them - and it didn't matter too much that I read them out of order either - I will defo keep my eyes open for other books in the series when I'm in second-hand bookshops. So that is basically just two out of eleven of my fiction reads achieved–so far.

Currently reading another book on my Kindle, which wasn't on my list for the year but has been on my TBR list for several years. It's 'Station Eleven' by Emily St. John Mandel. It's another dystopian story to follow on the footsteps of Margaret Atwood from last month. Not sure which books will follow but it would be good to catch up on some of the fiction ones; maybe Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman, and They Came and Ate Us by Robert Rankin.


That said I suspect it'll be four completely different books, because that's the way I roll.


By the way, clearly I only know where I'm up to because I use Goodreads. It's a great website/app for tracking your reading and seeing what books are out there that you may like. One of my favourite apps, it's got one job and it does it very well.


In the last week I've discovered The Expanse, on Amazon Prime in the UK. I started watching it after a recommendation from a guy in the Tap & Bottles in Southport who made good noises about it. Funnily enough I'd already bought two of the books 'Cibola Burn' and 'Nemesis Gates' from a second-hand book shop not knowing at the time that the SF series was based on them.

Rocinante Crew
Crew of the Rocinante: Naomi Nagata, Amos Burton, Alex Kamal and James Holden

Unfortunately now I've binged watched over one and a half series of the Expanse I now want to read the books and the order becomes important. These books are books 4 and 5 out of the current 8. Earlier in the week I found (and bought) book 3 'Abaddon's Gate' in the same bookshop. So now I'm either gonna have to root out the first two books in a shop, or maybe I'll just go on Abebooks for them. In the meantime I'll carry on watching the series. It is already up there in my Top 3 SF series now alongside 'Battlestar Galactica' and 'Firefly'. Don't ask me to put the three in order. Please.

The eight full length books to date (2011-2019) and in order are:

  • Leviathan Wakes
  • Calibans War
  • Abaddon's Gate
  • Cibola Burn
  • Nemesis Games
  • Babylon's Ashes
  • Persepolis Rising
  • Tiamat's Wrath

The ones in orange are the ones I've got on my shelves. They are all meaty tomes and when I've got them all they will fill a decent sized shelf.

Incidentally, James S.A. Corey the author of the series is not a person–in so much as it is two people. Namely Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, check out Wikipedia.

In the meantime I've started reading another SF book, coincidentally written by another duo, 'Nightfall' by Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg.

Two Thirds There

This year's reading plans have been progressing well against the plan to read forty books this year. That said it feels like I've read more somehow. Go figure. Struggling to see how people read one hundred plus - then I think of the box-sets I've seen and think okay, fair enough (I've just binge watched Gomorra, which was excellent).

Two thirds of the way through the year and I've read twenty eight books. Next few books are lined up 'Last and First Men' by Olaf Stabledon, 'The Subtle Knife' by Philip Pullman and 'The Invisible Library' by Genevieve Cogman. Yep, lots of SF and Fantasy then. Standard.

Will I make it to forty with other constraints on time ahead, we'll see? You can follow my reading progress on GoodReads at zevonesque.

Books_Aug Books_Aug2

A Wee Bit More Pratchett

After my weekend purchase at Henry Bohn's I've now only three books to get to complete my Terry Pratchett 'Discworld' novels:

  • Soul Music
  • Witches Abroad
  • The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

Wee Free
Wee Free Men

I'll no doubt sort these out later this year, which will be awesome and a shame at the same time. I mean, not having any more to read will be very sad. In the meantime I am reading a non-Discworld Pratchett novel '
Nation' - I'm only about a quarter of the way through but I am loving it. He was such a smart writer and produced such stories that are so easy to read ever time.


The wonderful Henry Bohn's

Pub Crawl

Time has been a bit short this week, with the new routes in Wales I've been given one of the short straws with Llanwrst and Trefriw. Bugger of a route with narrow roads, one ways, wrong geocodes, named houses and some very isolated properties – even deeper into Snowdonia, past old lead mines, deep in forest and into hiking territories. With up to 80 drops a day a single drop that takes 30 minutes is very frustrating - however beautiful the locality. I was lucky to just get back in time to watch the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday, which has been the highlight of the week.

Isolated walking territory, Snowdonia

Hafna Lead Mine, Snowdonia

Maenan Hall Folly

Gwydir Castle, Llanwrst

Was originally hoping to be on a real ale trip to Conwy and Colwyn Bay today with the Wirral Branch of CAMRA, but the coach was booked up. Meanwhile my usual couple of cohorts went on a last minute holiday up to the Isle of Bute, which looked lovely. So I have been left to my own devices. Um'd and ah'd about going to Manchester, or doing the Southport Run or maybe Chester or a Wirral trip. But hell I've opted for closer to home and a go-with-the-flow wander around Liverpool hostelries. Will try to get to a few more than usual, which means shorter stops and quicker drinks. Unfortunately I'm working tomorrow, which means I can't be out this evening.

Will see how it goes. Will try and take some photos and make a few notes to turn into a blog - partly because I haven't done any blogs this week. I'll also try and do my
Seedling Challenge.

Have a good weekend folks.

I've Opened the Door

On Friday 'Don't Open the Door' was published on that there Amazon. The horror anthology, edited by Cory Mason, comprises thirteen stories from ten authors (including me, of course), namely;

  • Augie Peterson
  • Yawatta Hosby
  • T.H. Willoughby
  • J.A. Sullivan
  • Cory Mason
  • Kimberly Wolkens
  • L.M. du Preez
  • A.J. Walker
  • Johvan Calvo
  • Luke Elliott Alphonso Jr.


I've finished the book now, and enjoyed it. Three of the authors had two stories in the book, the remainder one each. I haven't counted the words but they are probably mostly between 3000 and 6000 words, I reckon. There was a mix of styles, some cerebral and some decidedly more gory. My favourite stories were: 'Chalk' (T.H. Willoughby), 'The Locks' (Cory Mason), 'The Dark Room' (L.M. du Preez), and the 'Ten Fingered Man' (Luke Elliot Alphonso Jr). But don't take my word on it, there are some reviews up on Goodreads already, click on the book and take a look.

I enjoyed being involved in the book. The authors have all been active behind the scenes, thanks to Discord. Most of the authors are from the western side of the Atlantic, with six Americans and two Canadians. The Old World was represented byTH Willoughby from south western England and myself from the North West. Goes to show that there's trouble behind doors everywhere. Maybe we should get rid of them. Looking forward to reading some more reviews and seeing the blogs from other authors; as well as hearing a podcast about the book–I'll let you know when it comes out. Particular thanks goes to Cory, who devised and edited the anthology; give him a follow on Twitter @TheBestTomo

If you read the book please remember to give it a rating and/or a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Thanks, in advance.

Becoming A Writer

Have just read another book about writing: 'Becoming A Writer' by Dorothea Brande. It's an interesting one. And is not about the rules of writing and there are no plans or plots in there. It is more about the methods of getting into it. Turning off and switching on. Or something like that.

It is from 1934 so one can only wonder at what she would say about TV and Social Media. Basically, I dare say, she would say 'Turn it off and just write, you damn fool!' Then look at that stuff, if you must — once you've hit your goal. It's not exactly mystical: don't read before you write, or else your writing will be affected by it. Ditto listening to radio or films, or even conversations; basically, avoid anything with words in it.

'Becoming A Writer' Dorothea Brande (1934)

A decent read with some nice writing exercise ideas. Strangely she says nothing about word processors or writing software. She does suggest having two typewriters (one desktop and one laptop). ;-)

To save you reading it: make some me time, make it quiet, relax, get into the zone… then get stuck in. Or something like that.

It's a worthwhile read and it's made me think about my writing. This blog is called 'Writerer's Block' but other than some flash and VSS365 related things there hasn't been much about my writing lately. It's largely been music, football and beer.

I am going to replan my writing and attempt to get into a groove or at least try to manufacture better habits. I won't herald what I am doing quite yet. I will give a few things a go and see what works for me in terms of getting things done, including new writing projects and finishing the almost mythical TWO.



Books, Books, Book

Just finished 'Crome Yellow' by Aldous Huxley. An enjoyable romp published in 1921, and not at all indicative of the Brave New World (1932) to come - though there was some postulation by Mr. Barbecue-Smith in one chapter which did include some thoughts in that direction.

15 Books

Been an excellent selection of reads so far from some top authors and a few classics too. Can't fault the authors to date:

  • Aldous Huxley
  • J.M Barrie
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Cormac McCarthy
  • Frank Herbert
  • Edward Brook-Hitching
  • William Dalrymple
  • Jack Vance
  • Frederik Pohl
  • Ursula Le Guin
  • Ben Aaronovitch
  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Stephen King
  • James Barr

Next up will probably be the Iain M. Banks 'The State of the Art'

I've picked up rather a few books lately from charity and second-hand bookshops, and I probably should swerve visiting any more for a while now - I am in no danger of being short of reading materials for the rest of the year; or probably the next one too. But it's hard not to go in and take a look, isn't it?

After submitting the edited version of the 'Don't Open the Door' short story I will get back on to writing my own book: The Wobbly Odyssey.

Reading - One Quarter In

Not been doing too bad with my reading so far this year. Probably one book behind where I should be to get to the forty this year - just finished my ninth. I've been doing particularly well with my non-fiction reads. The ones I aimed to read this year (as per my January blog) were:

Planned 2019 Non-Fiction Reads to include:

A Line in the Sand (James Barr)
In Xanadu (William Dalrymple)
Milk of Paradise (Lucy Inglis)
On Writing (Stephen King)
The Golden Atlas (Edward Brooke-Hitchings)
Homage to Gaia (James Lovelock)

(the ones in blue I've finished and the red ones remain)

The five fiction books I've read, between January and the end of March, have all been SF/F (nothing if not predictable):

Jem (Frederick Pohl)
The Farthest Shore (Ursula Le Guin)
Lies Sleeping (Ben Aaronovitch)
Emphyrio (Jack Vance)
The Sirens of Titan (Kurt Vonnegut)

And my two favourite so far have been
'A Line in the Sand' and 'Emphyrio'. Top reads!

Not sure yet what my next read will be; possibly the planned Philip Pullman or Mervyn Peake.

Snowball's Chance

Ordered a Snowball ICE USB mic from Amazon today. It's currently reduced by £12.50 off at £42.50, which I think is probably a mighty fine bargain. One of the organisers of the Sanctuary Open Mic (Bobo from the Vapery, Waterloo) had put on Instagram that he'd ordered it and I couldn't not jump on that bandwagon. I think that the reduction is because they are about to release a new mic. But if this one does the job, well then it's worth dipping in.


Should get it in a few days and by the weekend I hope to be giving it a try out to see what the difference is from the MacBookPro's internal mic. I assume it will be significantly better and prove well worth the money. It has 4.5 stars on Amazon from over 335 reviews, which is pretty good for tech. The specification and the reviews certainly look positive.

Will do some recording of both guitar/singing and narrative and see what it comes out like. Will report back on here. So if any of you out there are considering podcasting or recording (or just Skyping) then I'll let you know what it's like.

Reading Plans 2019

Having read 41 and 48 books in 2016 and 2017 I failed last year to get to 40, falling six books short. But I've set myself the same book goal this year for reading. Having read just shy of three books a month i need to get it up ten percent or so more this year.

Reading Challenge

The books I read by the end of the year always end up changing a bit from the ones I aim to read at the start. Partly due to new finds in second-hand book shops making me jump horse constantly. But of the forty I am setting myself the task of reading the following within that:

At least one:
Iain M Banks
Charles Dickens
George Orwell
(Homage to Catalunya or Road to Wigan Pier)
Doris Lessing (The Good Terrorist)
Philip Pullman (#2 of His Dark Materials trilogy)
Mervyn Peake (#2 of Gormenghast trilogy)

Excession Wigan Pier

I Am Pilgrim (Terry Hayes)
Hangover Square (Patrick Hamilton)
They Came And Ate Us (Robert Rankin)
Rivers of London (Ben Aaronovitch)
Lying Under An Apple Tree (Alice Munro)

Apple Tree Xanadu

Non-Fiction to include:
A Line in the Sand (James Barr)
In Xanadu (William Dalrymple)
Milk of Paradise (Lucy Inglis)
On Writing (Stephen King)
The Golden Atlas (Edward Brooke-Hitchings)
Homage to Gaia (James Lovelock)

Gaia Milk of Paradise

I have all these books on my shelves apart from The Milk of Paradise, On Writing and Rivers of London, so I'll be keeping an eye out for them in the second hand shops or sales. I'll no doubt keep you posted on the blog and via Twitter (@zevonesque). If you are a GoodReads user then you can also find me at: https://www.goodreads.com/Zevonesque

If you are a writer who is not writing then the next best thing is reading. Call it research.

Happy reading in 2019 to all of you.

Books, Books, Books

Last week my lovely sis' asked me if there were any books that I wanted for Christmas and I gave a list of five:

Golden Atlas

'VOX' by Christina Dalcher
'The Golden Atlas' by Edward Brooke-Hitching
'On Writing' by Stephen King
'Milk of Paradise' by Lucy Inglis
'Norse Mythology' by Neil Gaiman

She told me at the weekend that she had got me one. Huzzah!

Then on the 23rd December Christina Dalcher tweeted out a link that the Kindle Version of VOX was available via Amazon for 99p. Flip an absolute bargain! But did I already have a copy neatly wrapped up ready for Christmas Day? I thought about it for a while then decided to take a risk. There was a one in five chance that the wrapped pressie was VOX so I risked buying it - hell it was only 99p.

Line In The Sand
Whilst I was there I found another interesting and highly rated book for the same price on the French and British carving up of the Middle East in the early 20th Century: 'A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle that Shaped The Middle East' by James Barr. It looked a boss read so I picked that up too. The two Kindle books were the first I'd bought for the device for quite a while - I've been very much second-hand book shopping most of this year.

And then came Christmas and the book from my sister... had I wasted that 99p? Nah, of course not. She'd got me the beautiful Golden Atlas. Fab!
So I've got two from that list of five and a bonus interesting book too. Well in.

I've been looking forward to getting my hands on VOX as the premise looks right up my street and it has been getting some great reviews (some of more than 100 words). And of course there was a second reason to be keen on getting hold of this one: Christina kindly wrote the foreword to the Infernal Clock anthology: Deadcades - which this year has been the only book I've been published in - and very proudly at that. Hope to get it read next before the new year.

Return to Reading

Played some guitar tonight, which was nice as I still don't do it enough. But the other thing I did which I haven't done much lately is read a bit. November was a wash out for reading with NaNoWriMo and dealing with VSS365 (together with long work days), so it was nice to get back to it. Picked up a couple of good second hand books yesterday with Doris Lessing 'The Good Terrorist' and Patrick Hamilton 'Hangover Square' good stuff to look forward to. In the meantime I've started one I got on loan the other day from Liverpool Central Library - a 'SF Masterworks": 'City' by Clifford Simak. My hope is to read this and at least one or two other books, that would get me up to 33 or 34 books for the year - against my aim of 40 books again this year. Just been the year it has. It is what it is.

Been a good year again of course - any reading is good. Lots of SF and a few classics. A few books on writing too. Just a couple of Terry Pratchett's - the sad thing is I'm running out of ones to read of his. Will undoubtedly do a fuller reading review at the start of 2019 - and think about my aims for next year.


The Ghost of a Skeleton of a Plan

Began reading the classic Jules Verne 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' today (my 30th book of the year according to my Goodreads reckoning). It's my lovely Folio copy too. You've got love a folio book, they do a beautiful job. I'll hopefully finish reading it before November and NaNo begins, because more writing time will eat into potential reading time.


Thinking about losing reading time to help me complete NaNoWriMo is one thing, but this morning I found myself spending over an hour on Twitter retweeting and sending Tweets out on all sorts of matters from Hi-Vis vests to Putin and the Liverpool Echo - and of course VSS365. I mean all sorts. Now with an hour and half that time could be spent on writing and achieve the 1667 words per day - with just that time alone. Cutting my Twitter time in November could be a fantastic.... so of course I am curating #VSS365 aren't I. Just the way it's fallen. I'll be making sure the Tweets go out every day and will keep a little eye on it whilst I'm out and about, but when I'm back home I'm gonna have to be writing, so I may not be able to be quite as hands on as the wonderful Roz has been in October. Apologies in advance, but I'm sure you understand.

Basically if I lose 30 mins of Twittering and 60 mins of watching TV time then that's all the time I'll need if the story flows.

This morning and early afternoon I've been looking at my NaNo story for November, trying to sketch out the skeleton of it a little. It is only a skeleton of a skeleton. In fact more like the ghost of a skeleton and needs a bit more work to allow me to run quickly with it once November arrives. But my aim for today and tomorrow now is to sketch out the three main characters and I think that this in itself will help develop the ideas for the story. I know once I start it'll end up running its own course. But having only a month to write it I need a framework to hang it around. Doesn't mean you do, if you're going for NaNo. But for me, this year, it does.

You'll be able to follow how I'm getting on with NaNo on my blog here (and on Twitter no doubt) and if you fancy giving #VSS365 a go then check out the hashtag on Twitter or if you want you can follow me @zevonesque

Anyway, nows I'm just about ready to head out with my notebook and a pen when I'll sketch out a character and have a beer or two. It's okay the setting will help with the theme. Hoping Liverpool will go top of the league with a win against Cardiff this afternoon. It's one of those rare nights when the Liverpool match is not on the TV; a shocking state of affairs.


Reading the Giants

Today I was given an extra day off i.e. there was no route for me. That is not a good thing as that means no dosh for today. Apparently training someone tomorrow so should be an easy-ish day. Hope so as I want to get back for the Liverpool match if possible. Still the day off today has meant I could finish the book I was reading, which was my first Robert Rankin: 'Armageddon: The Musical.' An enjoyable orchestrated televised armageddon romp dodah.

I've now got two books on my Kindle to read. Namely: 'DeadCades' and a beta-read of a fellow Flash Dog. Really looking forward to getting stuck into DeadCades but first up I need to finish the beta-read so that I can pass my comments on in a timely fashion. Hoping to get that sorted by the weekend, as the weekend may be a little short of reading time as I'll no doubt be chasing the last visit to Liverpool of the Giants - which apparently may well be the last visit of the Giants to anywhere. Loved following them around the city last time.



Next week the city is going to be packed and buzzing with it once more. Though I'll no doubt miss the very end as it'll coincide with a certain Man City v Liverpool match.



The Weekend Starts and Ends Here

I've got me a one day weekend. Back in tomorrow. So will be out for beers later in Liverpool for a wee crawl, after buying a few bits and bobs, then it'll be time to catch some footy. Should be another great game between Liverpool and that Chelski shower with a quick retribution in mind following Wednesday night. May even catch some of the Mancs match. Expect I'll get to five or six top hostelries - you'll have to check out Twitter to see how I do.

Started beta-reading a FlashDog novel this morning. Up to the third chapter and it's really good so far. I shouldn't be surprised by now that there are such accomplished writerers within the FlashDog community. After meeting everyone via the very short stories we composed in Flash Fiction Friday and Angry Hourglass it is with great respect I see all these guys stepping on up and out to novels. Hoping to finish the book this week and get my comments out by next weekend.

In the meantime it is anticipated that 'DeadCades' will be released this week. Exciting stuff. And releasing a horror book in October... seems like it's almost by design. Many thanks to Steph and David in advance for all their work on getting to this point. Definitely top dogs (in a good way).

Went to the PO earlier to pick up a parcel from a couple of weeks ago. Er, I'd been sent me some cheese and biscuits. I wish I'd known I'd have made an effort to pick it up earlier. Not sure if the cheese is supposed to be this stinky. Will report back later... many more thanks for the surprising gift! You know who you are ;-)

Apparently it's World Guitar Day - who the hell makes all these things up? - perhaps I'll strum a little later. Made me think who are some of my favourite guitarists. It's a tough call, and if I thought longer or on a different day, my top picks (no pun intended) would no doubt be different and just as defendable. Here's today's top four anyway: Ry Cooder, Chuck Prophet, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

RyCooder Chuck

Jimi SRV

As for guitars, I have two; a lovely dark green Telecaster (I know three of the four above are on Strats, but hey I love a Tele) and a Takamine 363 semi-acoustic.


Reviews, Reviewing and Deleting

Had feedback from two of the Flash Dogs on Fergie Time and have made the decision to finish it based on their comments. Thanks to those guys for their time. Once I've finished it I will have to develop the tightest disclaimer ever to protect my ass if the story is ever to be released to the wild (look these guys are real, they're obviously in a parallel universe very close to own but clearly not our own etc).

And to repay the grace of these Flash Dogs I've volunteered to review a book from another Flash Dog. The Dogs are really producing stuff right now, aren't they?


Talking of reviewing I'm getting around to going through the photographs on my computer, the damn things are clogging it up. I had over 54k photos on it, and you can see above the effect on my Hard Drive. Have deleted 2k today, but I'll need to get on top of it and aim to at least knock a third off. I mean I can't even need 30k photos can I? The 52k photos apparently equates to 195GB. It'll take ages to go through it. If I can knock it down to 150GB in the first instance I'll have doubled the free space on the HD so it's got to be worth the time.

Reading Challenge 9

With respect to reading I've managed to catch up with a few books over the last four weeks and have gone from 6 to 3 books behind schedule so maybe I could achieve my original goal. That would require me to read about a book a week or more. That could be affected of course by reviewing and writing myself and maybe NaNo if I chose to go for it. Right now I'd be happy with reading 32 or so probably. After finishing another Pratchett yesterday I've moved on to another classic writerer with a Philip K. Dick, another Oxfam buy - 'Confessions of a Crap Artist'.

Reading, Writing, TV, Same Old

Finished 'The Honorary Consul' by Graham Greene this morning. I must say I really like all his stories they do evoke a time and place very effectively as well as involving some sad and interesting characters. Recommended. According to my GoodReads tally it was my 19th book of the year and I'm fully 6 books behind my 'schedule'. Ho hum.


I can't put my finger on why I'm so far behind where I was last year. I can only think I'm falling asleep quicker in the evening, not reading quite as much in the morning before work or maybe I'm watching more TV. Maybe it's the latter - I've spent far too much time blindly following the Trump presidency for a start. I need to turn the TV off and get an hour a day minimum reading. Doing that getting to the 40 books can still happen and it'll save my tired neck muscles from my regularly shaking head. Reading more rather than watching the news channels will have the happy side affect of making me feel better too; a little escapism rather than the sad realism of this last couple of years.


On top of that I didn't succeed in doing two blogs or more this week. But I did update the Class Song of the Day with all the Neil Young songs earlier on in the week and made significant formatting changes to the Publications page - which was worth doing more than a blog. The larger images are much better for this page than the previous version. Looking forward to getting the cover and link up for the DeadCades book in the next month or so.

So I'm going to give myself an hour a day to read, right? Well we'll see, but what about the writing? Is there another hour I can find for that? Maybe. Finding reading time is much easier as you can just take five minutes here or there whereas writing requires bigger, if fewer, blocks of time to get in the zone.

I'm still unsure whether it is best to set a target of 1000 words a day or maybe 5000 a week. I'm edging towards the latter, given inevitable constraints in time on certain days. It really is a question of getting in a groove and seeing what works. I was pleased to do 1450 words in a day the other day. On that basis do that three or four times a week 5000 is very hittable and surely you can fit an hour or two into three or four days a week? The other thing you need is the actual writing goal itself i.e. what will those words be for?


18 Books

Not caught up on my reading target but hey, no-one died.

18 Books

Eighteen books in and still going on. Next one may be quick (it's got lots of big pictures of maps in it).

Reading has included some cracking authors including;

  • Arthur C Clarke,
  • Bill Bryson,
  • Terry Pratchett,
  • Neil Gaiman,
  • Anthony Burgess,
  • CS Lewis,
  • Colson Whitehead,
  • Paul Beatty,
  • Kurt Vonnegut, and
  • Joseph Conrad.

All 18 Books

Reading for next six months expected to include some more of the usual suspects including at the very least;

  • Iain M. Banks,
  • Margaret Atwood,
  • Philip Pullman,
  • Mervyn Peak, and
  • George Orwell.

And, yes, I will leave some time for some writing.

A Malenky Bit of Reading

Well it's only ten days short of six months and I've read 17 books this year now I've just finished 'A Clockwork Orange'. With all the quasi Russian speak in it, it was definitely the time to read it during the World Cup. Now I'm a malenky bit confused that according to Goodreads I'm only one book short of where I should be if I'm going to hit my aimed for 40 books this year. So in the next nine days it's expecting me to complete two books? I think not likely - and doesn't add up, surely I am at least two books down?


That said, I've a few smaller non-fiction books which I could read to get me back on track (if it is all about the numbers, which it isn't). However I've got some serious writing to sort out over the next week or so which need to take some sort of priority. So we will see.

Reading June18

Today whilst looking after a mates poor foster dog I intend to do some editing of a story and maybe work on another. And now's the time for that, since I've updated the #ClassSongOfTheDay page with the Beatles pic and written this wee blog.

Onwards and upwards, my horrorshow droogs.


2018 Reading

According to Goodreads I'm one book behind 'schedule' for this year's target of 40 books. I'm pretty fine with that. Hopefully get up there in the end. Need to plan my reading out a bit for the next few months.

Predictably I've read a couple of Terry Pratchett's, along with a lot of SF and some modern and old classics including Colson Whitehead's 'The Underground Railway', and Paul Bettany's 'The Sellout', Kurt Vonnegut's 'Slaughterhouse 5' and Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness'. The reading so far has included some excellent books I dare say the next seven months will include some similarly excellent tomes - and no doubt some more Pratchett too!

Eight out of the thirteen books were bought from second hand shops. I'll have to get back to reading some of the other things which are already on my shelves before filling them out with more ...

2018 Books Read


Time's Eye: FlashFeed & Liverpool Links

A couple of weeks ago I wrote for the Flash Dogs FlashFeed 1.21 the prompt picture (below) proved serendipitous when I later went into the Liverpool Bold Street branch of Oxfam and found the SF novel 'Time's Eye' with a suitably similar sphere on the cover. The book was written by Arthur C Clark and Stephen Baxter. If I hadn't just written for FlashFeed I may have looked past this book. As it happened I didn't.

I've read a few Stephen Baxter books previously including three he wrote with Terry Pratchett ('The Long Earth', 'The Long War' and 'The Long Mars'). I read the first one so long ago (2012) it's not even showing up on my Goodreads. I haven't read Clarke for years, but back when I lived in sepia toned times I loved 'Rendevous with Rama', 'A Fall of Moondust' and '2001',.

I'm two thirds through Time's Eye and I'm loving it - Ghengis Khan is about to go to war with Alexander the Great and some soldiers from the British Raj for the city of Babylon. Of course. I'm certainly glad I took the opportunity to buy the other two books of the trilogy which were in the Oxfam at the time; else I'd no doubt be searching for them forlornly in second hand shops for a while.

TimesEye2 Times Eye

Didn't realise until today that Stephen Baxter is from Liverpool too. Nice that Liverpool has a few links with Pratchett with Josh Kirby, the artist for many of the early Discworld books, coming from Waterloo. Funnily enough one of the few books I've read so far this year was 'The Girl With A Symphony in her Fingers' by Michael Coney; the cover of which was by Josh Kirby (below). Check out some of the artwork from Kirby on the website (click on the Light Fantastic!).

Light Fantastic Girl With The Symphony

Reading & Writing


Forty plus books is the aim again this year. And I've got piles on the floor now as well as the ones on the shelves; so no need for any more visits to second-hand (or new) bookshops is there? Yeah, right.

Yesterday I was in Penmaenmawr and there is that great bookshop there. So when I got home I had a HB copy of Ray Bradbury's '
Death is a Lonely Business', Iain M. Banks 'Inversions' and Sherri S Tepper's 'Gibbon's Decline & Fall'. So I think I must have gone in.

I seem to have bought three or four Iain M.Banks recently from that bookshop. I need to get on to them!

Not going to identify all my reading in advance - as my bookshop visits keep changing what I have - I'll just go with the flow, but reading this year will have to include some of these book piles then i.e. some
Iain M Banks and "Name of the Rose", "The Underground Railroad" and the last two of the Gormenghast trilogy. And as far as a basic plan goes that will be it (and I probably won't achieve this either).


Set myself a goal of writing everyday. I just need to not let it drift with life and that damn sleeping thing getting in the way. A provisional goal of circa 500 words/day seems reasonable, but two days in and I've done about 350 each day. These have just been flash stories for
FlashFeed (1.12 and 1.13). To be fair if the word limit had been 500 then I probably would have fulfilled the goal and I think it is not the number that matters but simply getting into the habit of daily writing.


Now I've done the FlashFeeds then tomorrow will be writing for something else. What though? TBC.

2017 Reading

2017 was a cracking year for reading and thanks to Goodreads I've got all the covers bar one er, covered below (the missing cover was one for a non-fiction book about Charles Dickens). In addition to these 48 books I also beta-read a novel which I expect to see come out this year from one of the FlashDogs.

In terms of the reading as per usual it has an SF & Fantasy bias:

  • Over half the reading - 25 books - was of SF or Fantasy.
    • Five of these were Terry Pratchett.
  • Three history/geography books.
  • Two books about writing.
  • One book about beer/pubs (Liverpool).
  • One book on music (Wilco).
  • One on football (Liverpool of course).
  • One on the planets.
  • Classics, included books/plays by: Shakespeare, Doris Lessing, William Golding, Mervyn Peake, Graham Greene, John Steinbeck and JRR Tolkien.
  • Oh, and I'm only featured in one of them (The Infernal Clock: Calendark)

I'd set myself a goal on GoodReads of reading 40 books which I exceeded. I've set myself the same goal for 2018 as rather than upping it I'd like to think some of the books I won't be reading will be because I'm writing some more. Haven't made specific plans on reading goals but I suspect that it will end up being broadly the same (though I'm running out of Pratchett's to go after!).

Reading and writing are both great hobbies. So the next time you are complaining that there's nothing on the telly - or you find yourself in a Twitter Refresh stall - then pick up a book (or write one). Then again go pick up a paintbrush or guitar. Or crochet needles. Whatever, get creative folks.

And so that is my first little blog for 2018 finished - I dare say the next one may involve more writing goals than reading ones. Here's to a fab 2018.

2017 Books 1
2017 Books 2
2017 Books 3


Keeping Regular

It's been over a week since a blog update. Not good enough! I need to get more regular with programming it in.

Anyway it's getting that time of year when you look back at the year that's gone and look forward to the one ahead. I'm not quite there yet, and I'll look into it in more detail in the weeks ahead, but there are a few things that are obvious with respect to my reading and writing;


1. I've read more books than 'planned' (I use that word loosely) and there have been some fab reads of old and new books.
2. Most my reading has been actual paper books. Out of 47 books this year I think only two or three have been on the Kindle.
3. Successfully got through plenty of books that have been sat on my shelves for years. Result!
4. That said, I keep getting second hand books in and failing to give any away (I just can't do it).


1. My plan at the start of the year was detailed and a bit of a stretch.
2. Er, nowhere near completing any of my plans at all. Complete FAIL!
3. Still, I am happy to get published in three books issued this year (the two Infernal Clock anthologies and the Tax Tales book).
4. I seem to be on a three publications a year mission over the last few years. So for next year I will have to aim for that as an absolute minimum.
5. Have enjoyed seeing the FlashDogs come in with the weekly FlashFeed prompt. Kudos guys!

Other stuff:

I must get a proper job and a better balance to things - which will also help me do more writing!

A Year of Reading

Been a good year for reading for me (not yet for writing, but there's still time so watch this space). Picked up another couple of books during the week including the Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett, which is one of the nine Discworld's I've yet to read.

This week I surpassed the forty books I'd set as a target for the year on GoodReads.

Somehow forty books in some ways doesn't sound that much to me, but it's a struggle to get the reading time in some weeks with our busy lives and so I've got to be pretty satisfied with getting close to a book a week. And it's mad when you look at the average number of books people read or the number of books the average person reads (which is quite different). Apparently the average number of books is around 10 to 12 or so, but the median number (i.e. the number that most people profess to have read in a year) is only 4; the average number being skewed so much by the heavier readers out there. Damn stats, hey. Data suggests that more intelligent - sorry I should say better educated - people read more books, women read more books than men, and incredibly around a quarter of people don't read any books at all (FFS).


These stats seem quite reasonable when I think about it. I've got mates that read no books at all and a few who read maybe five or so. I've had years in the past when I didn't read as much as I do now and I wish that wasn't true (that said I may have been strumming my guitar more some years and I feel guilty about not doing that as much as I used to now); basically there's only so much time.

Roughly 50% of the books I've read so far this year have been SF/Fantasy (so far so predictable) and 25% non-fiction and there have been a few classics thrown in there (The Tempest, Macbeth, Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, Titus Groan). All in all many very satisfying and fascinating reads. Some have made me think about my writing methods and style but mostly they have just given me fabulous escapism and provided me with worlds away from this hopeless dystopia we appear to be in at the moment.

All these hours of escapism are priceless and I wish more people would read more, but you can lead a horse to water etc. It would entertain, inform and de-stress many a bod I know if they would. If we all had a few hours away from the google-box and the news and those bloody adverts it would be a better place (imagine if Donald Trump sat back and read a history book or six, and maybe looked at an atlas rather than SNL, Fox and his Twitter feed. Ho hum.).

Fifth Elephant

Anyway's for my next bit of escapism I am heading back to the Discworld to find out about the Fifth Elephant.

The Discworld on the back of the Great A'Tuin

No Phone & No Photos

My phone crashed yesterday. I had no phone available all day. All bloody day! I ask ya. Got it going again last night, then went out today without the charge cable, so I basically haven't had a sodding phone for almost two days and have consequently been almost incommunicado; so much so a mate who never rings me called me tonight to see if I was still alive. It's like I've gone back to the early 1990s.

Yesterday I also managed to take my camera case out with me, but left the camera at home. Doh! So no photos from my trip to some lovely hostelries in Nottingham.

Highlight today was delivering a parcel to the second hand bookshop in Penmaenmawr. I mean I HAD to go into a bookshop, no excuse. Oh well... twenty minutes later and I came out with five books:

  • William Golding - 'Lord of the Flies'
  • Sherri S.Tepper - 'Janina Footseer'
  • Philip Roth - 'Exit Ghost'
  • Alistair Reynolds - 'Pushing Ice'
  • James Blish - 'A Clash of Cymbals'

Not a bad haul, not bad at all.

Five Books

Tomorrow is looking like it could be a challenging day out there on the roads of north Wales with the coming of Ophelia. Fingers crossed it isn't too bad.

If I get back at a decent time I may put some pen to paper - I have some writing to do folks...

Titus Groan

Just getting to the end of Titus Groan and I have one question... why haven't I read it before? It's been sat on my shelf for ages.


The story is great and the fading castle of Gormenghast, with its bizarre cast of characters and traditions, is fascinating but the main thing is how his prose evocatively presents us with his world; layer upon layer. Beautiful paragraphs pepper every page. Mervyn Peake was obviously some writer. I will have to get hold of some other stuff of his once I've completed reading this trilogy. At least I've got the next two books to go first.


Am Reading - New Concepts

Onto my 36th book of the year which is well beyond where I aimed to be by September. The next five books to get to my planned forty I think will be the three books of Gormenghast, The Name of the Rose and either The Golden Compass or The White Mughals.

But more writing must and will prevail over the coming weeks. The last couple of books I've read on writing have been very useful in focusing some thought especially with regard to rewriting (something of a new concept to me).


Reading and Plans

My reading plans at the start of the year was to read 40 books including the following:


'White Mughals' - William Dalrymple
'Return of a King' - William Dalrymple
'Jerusalem' - Simon Sebag Montefiore
'One Summer' - Bill Bryson


'Macbeth' - Billy Shakes
'The Tempest' - Billy Shakes
'Something or other' - Charlie Dickens
'Name of the Rose' - Umberto Eco

SF and Fantasy

'Gormenghast' - Mervyn Peake
'The Silmarillion' - Tolkien
'The Golden Compass' - Philip Pullman

I'm well on for the 40 having read 32. But of the eleven above I've only read four (
The Tempest, Macbeth, Jerusalem and The Silmarillion). The remaining seven are all a bit to hefty to carry around so I can't see me completing all of these. In general though it's been a great reading year, even if I stopped now. But of course why would you stop?

But FFS my bloody
writing has been really neglected. Perhaps I can kick-start it with an attempt or two on Shake's 'CalenDark'. Once I've blocked that off, or at least given it a good go, I can get back to one or two of the items on my original Writing Plan. There are real life things going on, for this next few months which will take a few days and hours out, so perhaps I'll let the reading go a tad and focus on some writing.


The Heart of the Matter

Really enjoying my reading at the moment and have just finished Graham Greene's 'The Heart of the Matter' which I really enjoyed; Scobie is a really great slightly messed up character. Will have to keep my eye out for them showing the old Trevor Howard film on the tellybox.

I'm now 27 books in to my aimed 40 for the year. In my last fifteen books I've read three Pratchetts, two Lessings, one Tolkien and one Tolkien piss-take - a bit of a fantasy/SF leaning at the mo (as per). I've only read a couple of non-fiction books; one on beer and one on maps - two fab subjects!

More Reading
GoodReads book list - completed reading

Whilst all this reading can be put down as a little training for a beginner writerer I need to get these writing projects of mine properly kick started. I need to finish at least one of my four projects this year. At least one! A bit on Project 1 or 2 today me thinks... watch this space.


Reading. Not Writing.

In a recent visit to Henry Bohn's bookshop on London Road (by Liverpool Empire) I picked up an interesting couple of books, then on going back downstairs to pay for them I spotted some Terry Pratchett. Doh! This is when the Discworld audit list I put together a few months ago came in handy. I saw four Pratchetts but wasn't sure which ones I had... a quick shufty on to my own website so I could see my list and hey presto! Two of the four Pratchett's in front of me were Discworlds I didn't have (Small Gods and Maskerade). Huzzah!

Henry Bohn Books (old pic from website Felix Goodbody website - click on pic)

Put back one of my originally chosen books and purchased these along with a book about maps. I do like me maps.

Better get back to edit my Pratchett book list to keep it up to date (don't want to buy Small Gods and Maskerade by accident again do I!).

Then yesterday Oxfam on Bold Street and I came out with
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and The Heart of the Matter (Graham Greene).

Okay, so more of a reading time than a writing time. Definitely a time to get back on to 'Fergie Time' time. That's a lot of time which is not what I am managing right at the moment. That said reading time is never a time wrongly spent. Finished Small Gods in a couple of days and it's one of the very good ones. Most fun.

In summary, am reading and am not writing.


Fabulous TV Eats Time

TV Eats Time Until There Really Is No Tomorrow

There has been rather a lot of great TV on for the last month or so. And I've loved watching lots of it, but it has slowed my reading down and, even more, my writing. Whilst work takes up so much time I really can't help that. TV though... I should make harder choices about what to watch or not, but flip there have been some cracking shows on. So rather than feel any guilt about it I'm calling it 'research into writing'. Just in case I end up doing any screenwriting.

Current and recent TV must watch for me:

  • Taboo
  • Line of Duty
  • Homeland
  • Follow the Money
  • Inside No 9
  • University Challenge
  • Only Connect

At least Taboo, No9 and Follow the Money have finished (and UC and OC have only the Finals to go) so I may have more writing and reading time without the need for making difficult telly-box decisions over the coming weeks.

Keep Writing - Stop Watching.

Come On!

More Reading, Not Enough Writing... Come On!

Just finished reading
Primo Levi's 'If This Is a Man', my thirteenth book this year according to my reliable GoodReads friend. A good and thought provoking read if not exactly a cheerful one. Wouldn't be a pick for everyone. Not sure what my next read will be, but it will probably be more cheerful and thankfully less thought provoking... so many options. Still need to finish The Silmarillion so maybe I'll just drop back into that.


That said I've got writing to do! Yes, writing! I've just written a daft quick story for Microcosms and put that up on the site. It's my first Microcosms for a few weeks. But really that's a side issue I've got to drop back on to Project 1 (and/or 2) of my 2017 Writing before I fall behind on these.

Okay, decision made... next up will be some thought, if not words on my second story for Project 1. I reckon I can finish that (thought AND writing) by Monday to remain on track.

I have it printed it out. I have pen, I have paper, will travel... and, err, think...

Am Reading...
Am Writing (Promise)

The First Great Discworld Audit!

Discworld Audit

As Weather Bomb Doris (okay,
Storm Doris) struck I was told my route was cancelled so I’ve ended up with an unwanted day off. Given the winds in north Wales it is not a bad day not to be out (but it means that I’ll have to work on Saturday or Sunday this weekend instead. Bit of a bugger, but so be it).

So what to do today while I’m avoiding the weather? Reading and Writing, definitely. But I also thought it’s about time I actually checked what Discworld books I’ve got. I’ve read a fair few of the 42 book series, but I know there’s books out there with my name on them next time I’m in a second-hand bookshop. The nicest books I've got are the first three of the series from the Unseen Library - a lucky buy when they first came out!

Here are the Discworld books in the order they were written (those in
bold are the books I have on my shelves, those in blue I ain't got).

Discworld Series:

The Colour of Magic (UL)
The Light Fantastic (UL)
Equal Rites (UL)

Colour of Magic

Sourcery (HB*)
Wyrd Sisters (PB)
Pyramids (PB) x2
Guards! Guards! (PB)
Eric (HB*)
Moving Pictures (PB)
Reaper Man (PB)
Witches Abroad
Small Gods (PB)
Lords and Ladies (PB)
Men at Arms
Soul Music

Interesting Times (HB*)
Maskerade (PB)
Feet of Clay (PB)
Hogfather (PB)

Jingo (PB)
The Last Continent (PB)
Carpe Jugulum (HB)
The Fifth Elephant
The Truth (HB)
Thief of Time (HB)
The Last Hero
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
Night Watch (HB)
The Wee Free Men
Monstrous Regiment (HB)
A Hat Full of Sky (PB)

Going Postal
Going Postal (HB - with stamps)
Wintersmith (PB)
Making Money (PB)
Unseen Academicals (HB)
I Shall Wear Midnight (PB)
Raising Steam (HB)
The Shepherd’s Crown (HB)

HB - Hardback
PB - Paperback
HB* - Hardback 'Rincewind Trilogy'
UL - Unseen Library Edition

Things I have learned:

  1. I have 9 books to look forward to which weren’t on my Reading List this year. Huzzah!
  2. I have two copies of Pyramids. (I think maybe of Feet of Clay too)
  3. I should put all the same author books together and not spread across four bookshelves.
  4. I’m sure I’ve read Mort, but it looks like I’ve an excuse to get again. After that I’ve evidently got a few gaps to fill in.
  5. I should have done this earlier… how many times have I walked passed these books and not picked up because I thought I’d read them…?
  6. I need to print-out this list for next time I'm in a second-hand bookshop.


Reading Over... Time to Write...

With A Notebook in One Pocket

I said I'd have a plan for my writing year by the end of the month and that I'd get on to it after I'd finished the book I was reading. Or more to the point, not read another book until I've got a plan in place. Well here it is... no, not the plan... I finished reading '
The Dispossessed' by Ursula Le Guin last night so when I go out later It'll be with a notebook in one pocket and NO PAPERBACK OR KINDLE in the other one. Scary stuff.


I'm ten books in to the reading year, which is well ahead of my target while heading towards forty reads. So no pressure on my reading time from that perspective while spending time on the plan. But I'll miss the daily reading... so basically I best get this writing plan firmed up with both realistic and s t r e t c h goals my friends!

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More Books!

More Reading and More on Writing Plans

Was delivering today in
Llanfairfechan and Penmaenmawr in north Wales. The last delivery was a reattempt in Penmaenmawr which gave me the opportunity to pop into the excellent Second-Hand Book Shop 'Escape Reality'. It's an excellent shop - two rooms rammed with second hand books and it has a reasonable quantity of SF books, which is always nice.

Payment at the shop is through an Honesty Box (well, a slot in a door).

Ended up buying
six books! A couple of which were picked as much as for the fab old SF covers as for the stories themselves.

The books included tomes from
Beryl Bainbridge, Bernard Cromwell, Brian Stableford, James White, and Roger Zelazny.




Currently I'm reading my first Ursula Le Guin - 'The Dispossessed'

I've got lots of books on my shelves and on my current list to finish; and am currently reading a great book too. So I didn't really need any new old books, but I've got them anyway. Second Hand Bookshops. Gotta love 'em.

Thing is now I need to create some space on my shelves.
Or else get some more shelves!

Of course yesterday I pointed out that I'm trying to get my
writing plans sorted and all this reading may get in the way of it, or at least in the way of the immediate plans. So I've decided that once I've finished The Dispossessed I'm not starting another book until I've finished The Plan!


Reading and Writing Two Weeks In

Reading and Writing and Plans


It's only the second half of January but that's like 1/24th of the year right? So I got to get my writing plans sorted soon.

Got some good reading done already this year. First off was '
Galactic Derelict' by Andre Norton. I bought it as much for the cover as it was a gloriously gaudy 1959 paperback. Was well worth the read in any case!

Next up was 'W
eird Ales II' edited by Steve Cotterill (created by Theresa Derwin). I said I'd review it as I was involved in the first volume, writing the introduction. I didn't have any involvement in the this one. A volume of short stories based around bars, pubs and drinks it is a mixed bag of great and not so, but that'll be down to actual personal preference rather than actual quality. Enjoyed the book and posted reviews on both GoodReads and Amazon.

Third up was one of my 'classics' on my aim to read this year list, '
The Tempest' by William Shakespeare. I've not had much experience of reading Shakespeare but enjoyed it and more will be read this year I'm sure. Macbeth next I think.

Last read completed this month so far was Asimov '
Nightfall Two' a selection of short stories which even included a flash fiction piece he'd written live on a TV show. He's a story writer master and every story had great merit and often fab twists. What can you say about the guy. Genius.


Currently reading '
Jerusalem: a Biography' by Simon Sebag Montefiore. It's a heft hardback which has been on my shelf for a few years now - it was published in 2011 but I'm not sure whether it's been on the shelf that long. I'm about a third of the way through and boy is it packed. Clearly a 2500+ year history crammed into 520 pages means the pace is packed and when it has had such a ridiculously packed and complicated history it feels like a head spinner. Many of the stories of the peoples involved could have been lifted straight off the pages of the Game of Thrones (or the other way around). Any of these sound familiar:

Incest' pouring molten gold onto an enemy to kill them; having a feast for adversaries - then the waiters and kitchen staff clubbing and knifing them into the stew; 'Greek Fire'; matricide; patricide; flip all types of 'cides. In fact other than the lack of dragons I could be reading the GoT. Awe inspiring 'Biography' of the city. Pretty much too much to take it all in!

Only just past the Second Crusade, so let's see how the next 900 years goes.


I've listed a few things I want to write this year on previous blog entries - bigger pieces than flash. But so far I have not firmed up what to start with. So far this year - other than a little preparation for one of my projects - I've just done some
flash fiction.

Lucky enough to get runner up in
Angry Hourglass last week, which was a nice surprise. Later last week I did an entry for Thursday Threads for the first time in many months (okay probably over a year) and on Friday I wrote a quick entry for Microcosms and again did a piece for Angry Hourglass on Saturday. So a fair bit of flash there then!

I think I'm
judging Angry Hourglass next weekend. So less flash options next week. Maybe, just maybe I'll be putting together something for one of my projects.


2017 in Reading

Planned Reading in 2017

So I've set myself a target of reading
40 books in 2017, but which books will they be?

I'm planning on continuing through my shelves picking off books I've bought but not got to yet and there will be plenty of SF and non-fiction stuff too. Of course the books can't
all be picked now, but a fair few can. Some heavyweights and some lighter ones. It'll be interesting wherever I end up.

To date my 'definite' reads to come include:


'White Mughals' - William Dalrymple
'Return of a King' - William Dalrymple
'Jerusalem' - Simon Sebag Montefiore
'One Summer' - Bill Bryson



'Macbeth' - Billy Shakes
'The Tempest' - Billy Shakes
'Something or other' - Charlie Dickens
'Name of the Rose' - Umberto Eco

SF and Fantasy

'Gormenghast' - Mervyn Peake
'The Silmarillion' - Tolkien
'The Golden Compass' - Philip Pullman



2016 in Reading

Goodreads and Reading

I've been a member of
GoodReads for four years now and I must say I quite like it. It's not over intrusive in the way Facebook and Instagram are always trying to get in your face. You can look up recommendations based on your reading, but they're not constantly rabbiting at you- which is great.

I do like to see a record of what I've read when. With my memory it's very handy.

Last year I set myself a reasonable target for me of
26 books, a book a fortnight. As it happened I managed 41, which was great- the more reading the better. A nice mix of fiction and non-fiction with of course rather a big nod to SF and fantasy on the fiction side, and ale on the non-fiction (and fiction: Weird Ales).


Unlike recent years the vast majority of the books I read were actually books.
Paper books, off shelves and everything. Had the not unusual idea of perhaps reading some of the untouched or barely started books from my heavy shelves. And it was a cracking idea I must say.

Not sure if any would be classified as 'Classics' I suppose Graham Greene's 'Our Man in Havana', Philip Roth's 'The Plot Against America' and Primo Levi's 'Periodic Table' could be and perhaps a couple of the Atwood's, but what's a classic anyway?


Two of the books feature your's truly too - Flash Dogs 'Time' and Theresa Derwin's edited 'Weird Ales'. Both thoroughly recommended for other people's stuff at least.

I'm going to pick my
Reading Top 10 from 2016. Why? Well, you do that kind of thing at this time of year, don't you? All of them cracking.

  • 'Imaginary Cities' Darran Anderson
  • 'Cloud Atlas' David Mitchell
  • 'The Plot Against America' Philip Roth
  • 'To Say Nothing of the Dog' Connie Willis
  • 'Oryx and Crake' Margaret Atwood
  • 'Tough Guys Don't Dance' Norman Mailer
  • 'Our Man in Havana' Graham Greene
  • 'Years of Rice and Salt' Kim Stanley Robinson
  • 'The Anti-Death League' Kingsley Amis
  • 'Trigger Warning' Neil Gaiman

Now I've got to look forward to 2017 and the reading ahead. I'm aiming for a similar number of books that I achieved this year (40) and if the reading is half as good as last year's then I'll be very happy.

Happy New Year folks and Happy Reading - whatever you may be getting your head stuck in to!

Post NaNo... Back to Reading

During November there was little time for reading with all the hours required for the NaNoWriMo writing challenge, so it is good to get back to it again. At the start of the year I set a target on Goodreads to read 26 books, it seemed reasonable to aim for a book a fortnight. I've already achieved that and now I'm aiming to get to 40 - which will be my best reading year for some many a year.

I just finished a book with a great little background to it; To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. A time travel book with a Three Men in a Boat theme; what could be finer? It was a good read and my 37th book of the year.

And now I'm on to a big hardback which has been on my shelves untouched for a good few years now.: The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson. It won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 2003.

TheYearsOfRiceAndSalt(1stEdUK) TSNOTD

It's very much been a year of books this year, rather than a year of Kindle. I've been trying to read some of the many books I've got on my shelves that I've never got around to. For too long I've been buying books even though I've got plenty of reading to in the house. I've tried to avoid second hand bookshops a bit more this year, not completely successfully.