Editing, Death in the Afternoon and Scott Bakula

All work and no play makes WE a…productive boy


As the annual Golden Week, aka Zero-Covid-Means-Boyo-Can’t-Travel-So-I’ve-Been-Editing, winds down in China, I’ve been rediscovering the apologetic joys of not leaving home (or my pyjamas) for days at a time. Would I have preferred to be on the road, somewhere in Tibet (locked down), Qinghai (partially locked down) or Gansu (ditto)? Yes. Has China become the smallest third largest country in the world? Sadly, yes.

But despite my uninspiring view of the office – or perhaps because of it – I’ve powered through what I hope will be my final edit of City in the Mist, rearranging chapters, adding new ones and reshaping the arc of the first book to concentrate more on Leila’s journey to Gateway. I’ve also been working on getting my social media platforms into shape and had a D’oh moment when I realised that instead of offering a free PDF download of the first three chapters of the book, I could offer a free eBook version, which would not only look better, but would also be easier to read.

Chalk that down to newbie status. If I’ve learned anything about self-publishing so far, it’s that the path is strewn with errors, most of which you only spot after the fact.

Well, okay. There was some play – found a couple of great new (for me) reads


I’ve also had a chance to do more reading for pleasure and recently finished two excellent books by a new find, Rachel Burge; The Twisted Tree and The Crooked Mask. They’re YA Fantasy reads with a touch of horror and follow Martha, a young woman of interesting descent (I won’t spoil the book) as she deals with the Norse gods in a modern-day setting.

They’re not the kind of books I normally read, but Ms. Burge’s style is so fluent and effortless and her story so engaging that they were a joy. I finished just over half of The Twisted Tree in one reading. 

That was less heroic than it might sound as it is a slender volume of 180 pages, but as I’ve been struggling with longer (and tbh, significantly more turgid) books of late, I didn’t just enjoy the story itself, I also enjoyed being transported by it. I can’t remember the last time I’ve so completely lost myself in a book, that I only surfaced after 2 hours and then only because my upstairs neighbour possesses the grace (and charm) of a Southern elephant seal, but whether that’s down to my choice of reading material, or that I can no longer lie in bed reading without quickly falling asleep, I’m not sure.

But it has confirmed that for me, a shorter, quicker read tends to be better than a doorstopper. Which perhaps puts me at odds with my chosen genre – Fantasy is rife with 600+ page novels – and perhaps also with my own book, which is currently hovering at the 360+ mark. Though the final edit will likely change that. Caveat author.

So what if it’s not canon?


I also had the opportunity to watch some TV, including House of the Dragon, which I’m enjoying apart from the director’s insistence on filming in real light conditions, a modern affectation (oh dear, did I really write that?) I find almost as unbearable as mumblecore. Of course, I’m also watching JB’s billion-dollar production of The Rings of Power, and although I vacillate, at least you can see the characters clearly. I still don’t feel invested in any of them though, and have been irked by some of the plot devices (or at least, the way they’ve been introduced), and am aware it’s not canon (don’t blame Neil Gaiman) but I feel compelled to support the show because, damnit, we need more Fantasy on TV, not less.

I realise this might be my hill to die on, but I’ve always taken a more flexible approach to canon, though some alterations go too far. That’s why I haven’t had much trouble with the various recent iterations of Star Trek, and LOVED Discovery. Stories change, often to reflect the mores of the time. They always have and they always will. I have about as much interest in narrative purism as I do in any other declaration of ‘purity’. Fight me.

One show I will not be watching any more of though is NBC’s reboot of Quantum Leap, for while it deserves kudos for representation, it already feels like it’s going to degenerate into the kind of simplistic black/white storytelling that ruins so many otherwise promising mainstream US Sci-Fi shows. Plus, there’s no Scott Bakula, who despite the dodgy 80s haircut, was my main reason for watching the original. He was also why I loved Star Trek: Enterprise (though the time wars arc was cracking) and why I almost had palpitations when he played one of (the glorious) Murray Bartlett’s love interests in Looking.

Literary tipples..


Speaking of which (and here I’m channelling Murray in The White Lotus), I also spent the week experimenting with cocktails with literary associations, including F. Scott’s Gin Rickey and Chandler’s Gimlet and Death in the Afternoon, which is said to have been concocted by arch lush Papa Hemingway, though I’m not sure if the cocktail inspired the book, or vice versa. It certainly packed a punch, but I was less enthused by the taste, which was supposed to be a liquorish-aniseedy champagne delight. My attempt had a chemical tang and was a livid green, like radioactive runoff. But perhaps I was using a crappy brand of absinthe.


Anyway, that’s all for this week. I realise that I owe my subscribers a newsletter. Bear with me, I will get one out this month, and as a treat, I’m going to include the MidJourney generated mini-comic I made, as well.

Speak to you next Friday

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