Another Review, and why reviews matter.

First, a link:

Rori Shay on how Amazon uses reviews to rank books and increase your exposure to things more people have enjoyed.

Next, a review:


(Click for full-size)

I appreciate each and every single review, because they genuinely do make a difference. Every time you tell a friend about one of my books, it sticks in their mind, and maybe they pick it up one day, and enjoy it themselves. Every time you mention one in passing, or make reference to one, you pique someone’s curiosity, and perhaps they spread a little further.

And hey, if you don’t enjoy the book, remember other people have different tastes, and that also spite-recommending books to people is a fun prank.

Writing advice.

On That Other Site I Spend Too Much Time On, I recently received the following question:

darknpretty asked: How do you get over the fear of writing and just plow through it?

Now, while I have been blocked all to fuck of late (struggling through a mere 1,100 words of three short scenes has been like wading through treacle), I know it’s not through the fear of writing. So there are a few words I can offer, and these are the ones I sent back:

hold two mutually contradictory ideas in your head:

  1. the thing you have to write is the most important thing that can ever be said and it has to be you that says it, because no one else will say it the same way (and when you have finished, you have made a thing exist in the world that never existed before, and that is powerful magic)
  2. writing is like taking a poop. it has to be done. the end result may be total fucking garbage but guess what? you get infinite other goes at it. you can do it as many times as you need to, to get what’s needed said. this applies whether you’re writing passionate rhetoric about the need for democratic reform in your country or whether you’re writing 100 words of teen wolf ovipositor fisting coffee shop au; you get as many goes as it takes. it doesn’t matter if you fuck it up. it doesn’t matter that it categorically will not be perfect. everyone needs to edit.

(basically do not fear the blank page. you are the boss of words, and you can fuck ‘em up as much as you like. just like drawing. start with a damn scribble; write the scene backwards; pretend everyone involved is farting all the way through their dialogue; wear a party hat while you write. it’s an amazing and incredible act of creation but you don’t have to take it seriously).

Now, if anyone has any advice on how to yank the remaining 4,000 words out of my ass and actually tell a coherent story, I’d welcome them.

The Gamification of Dining.

Currently I’m a widower to Pokemon Go, as are many. My Delightful Boyfriend, who is a nerd who likes shooting things on the TV while swearing, and has been known to RPG (unlike me: I am the very cool kind of nerd who has lots of emotions about dead people and Knows Facts About Bees), has been sucked into the vortex of “walking around places with his head down” game, which doesn’t much differ from his “I can’t use Facebook and walk at the same time but never say never” approach to life in many particulars.

I’ve never been tremendously into games*, for the following reasons: I dislike losing a lot more than I enjoy winning; I am hopelessly allergic to anything involving teamwork; sudden loud noises stress me the fuck out; I have spent most of my life with abjectly poor hand-eye and foot-eye coordination; team-bonding’s neurological effect actively scares me; I don’t have the attention span; I want to control absolutely everything or absolutely nothing but find the middle ground frustrating; I am terminally averse to getting things wrong the first time.

*Disclaimer: I have had crippling addictions to: Tetris, a card game called Montana,  Soltaire, Hoppit, a match-three game for the Acorn called Reaction, Bejeweled, Bookworm, and still routinely spend hours mindlessly thumbing through 2048. 

However, I’m also a sucker for: prizes; food; new stuff.

And recently I went to Shuang Shuang in Piccadilly. It’s a hotpot conveyor belt restaurant, combining the simple delight I experienced for the first time 14 years ago when I went to Yo! Sushi in Paddington Station and got FOOD ZOOMED PAST MY EYES with the equally great satisfaction of HAVING FOOD COOKED IN FRONT OF ME ESPECIALLY FOR ME at Abeno Too some eight or so years later, and the no lesser delight of “pick your own ingredients and we’ll make the thing for you” buffet-style restaurants like Tiger Lil’s and the Mongolian Barbecue (now I think both sadly defunct) that were popular in the 2003-5 period. In that you get your own temperature-controlled hot pot of the broth of your choice, a conveyor belt of fresh ingredients, and a guide to roughly how long you should let things cook for.

As I said to my date, fellow flaneur, London history nerd, enjoyer-of-gadgets, and the person who introduced me to Sci Fi Nutrigruel (and to the glories of H G Wells), I fall squarely into the opposite camp to We Want Plates. My requirements for eating out being:

  1. Is it good food
  2. Is it good food I probably couldn’t make myself
  3. Have you done something weird with it

Why yes, I do slavishly watch Heston Blumenthal while chuckling quietly about him being mental. Thank you. I do find the words “good honest grub” tedious in the extreme. I can make that at home. I came out to your cavern of hellish socialisation so I could be treated to Exciting Shit. Make some dinner theatre happen!

This, for example, looks fun.

lego breadbasket

Image from

Admittedly I’m bored now with what I think of as Nerd Fun With Food; “caffeinate everything”, “what can we make taste of artificial bacon next”; “look it’s a really massive version of some highly overproduced snack food you barely like anyway”, but I feel in terms of presentation and excitement, stuff like Supersizers Go… knows a thing or two about how to make eating out interesting.

It was ruminating on this and quipping about it that led to the following concept, described by friend Chris Siddall as “Iron Chef Go” and by Delightful Boyfriend as “hrm”; I would like to thank them both for asking me enough questions to help iron out some original kinks in the idea.


So the wheeze is this. You and your group – hen party, stag do, business retreat, family reunion, football team, LARP favourites, etc – book ahead to this thing. A country house, an adventure park, or a hotel. You tell them how many there are of you, what dietary requirements and preferences you have, and that’s it. You put the app in your phone.

When you turn up you’re sent off into the grounds. You have to check your app. How many ingredients do you need to find? Where are they? What clues are you following? What riddles to you answer correctly?

You find a thing. It’s a fake bowl of chopped onions, under a hedge, rather like shokuhin sampuru in restaurants. It’s got a Tile or an i-tag or similar on it. You tap the ingredient’s tag on your phone to let your team know you’ve got it, and to tell the chef that ingredient’s unlocked on the list, meaning your potential meal just got tastier: you only eat meals with what you’ve managed to find.

At the end of the pre-meal game you drop all your “ingredients” into a pot, and make your way back to the restaurant. You’ve had fun, you’ve worked up an appetite, you don’t know exactly what you’re getting, but you know it’s going to be more satisfying to eat now than it would have been just picking something off a piece of card.

Naturally the dinner theatre’s been meticulously arranged in advance. The ingredients you hunt can be combined to different levels and in different ways, and that menu has already been decided: if you find none of the ingredients you get a very nice burger and chips and a drink with a sad face on it and a card saying “I don’t think you tried at all”. If you find, say, three, you get the “three-ingredient” meal. If you find all the ingredients you get a free cocktail and unlock the dessert roulette.

Would it catch on? I don’t know. I could see it being a hit in Dalston, the same way that Fire Hazard Games – immersive gaming around real-life – has taken off, and possibly with the same people. It would combine healthy exercise and food, and thinking exercises with reward, much as Pokemon Go has got people moving and getting out of the house.

Heston, man. Hit me up. You know you want to.

New Design!

I  haven’t used my WACOM in a million years because, uh, it broke.

Then a friend very kindly gifted me a replacement which is BIGGER and BETTER and WIRELESS and DOESN’T WORK BECAUSE THE BATTERY IS DEAD and I don’t have a DC in cable to charge the battery…

But while I waiting for my finances to recover sufficiently (don’t pity me, it’s my own fault for buying a bike and some accidentally expensive Japanese groceries – unless your pity takes the form of Free Money) to buy a DC in cable & adapter so I can actually use my damn thing to draw in a medium that allows more than my regular forrays into “doodling cartoon cats on my work notes”, I have a lot of vector elements, and an idea for a tattoo.

What I don’t have is free time, so it took me an embarrassingly long time from conception to execution, but it’s here now. I will be tattooing it, but I see no reason other people can’t adorn themselves and their belongings with it:

All of the above and many more, including other designs of mine, can be purchased at my Redbubble account. You can also buy it, and a number of other designs, at my PAOM page!