Posts Tagged ‘Geek’

This week saw a rare event, and one that gives me the opportunity to flex my reviewing muscles.   I have children, 2 small boys that require a great deal of time.  We don’t have babysitters, mostly because family are too far away and we just have not found a suitable sitter.  So, we rarely go out.  My boys, this week, had a little holiday and went to stay with their grandparents.  We had a whole day and night off.  And we were not going top waste the opportunity!

A busy day was planned.  Our first port of call was to the Medieval cathedral town of Salisbury.  Driving up the A-338 north towards the town you drive through some stunning and inspiring country.  Rolling hills, green fields and suddenly, coming over the crest of the hill you see the spire of the cathedral.  As your elevation increases as does the stunning scene of the monumental cathedral as it is revealed to you.   It is magnificent and a wonder to behold, it dominates the skyline and is simply breathtaking.  But, that is not why we were there.   We were there to follow the Barons Charter trail. 

This might not mean a lot to you.  It is a charitable ordination that has created 25 statues that have been uniquely decorated.  The Barons Charter was a group of landed gentry who were intent on enforcing the laws of King John, including the Magna Carta. It is the anniversary of the Magna Carta this year, 800 years since it was signed, and this is part of the commemoration.   It seems to be a strange thing to try to visit, and something that may not hold much interest, except for one statue.  Decorated by Paul Kidby, Discworld Illustrator, he created a baron that memorialized and represented the life and work of Sir Terry Pratchett.  As many of you know he is one of my favourite authors, and I felt obliged to visit this as a memorial to the prolific and comedic author.  

To learn more of the barons visit the website here:  http://www.thebaronscharter.org.uk/

Part 2 of our day off was to leave Salisbury and head to Bournemouth.  I love Bournemouth, I have lived there and it is a wonderful place.   We walked on the beach, had a paddle.  It is something I have to do.  I love the sea.  I love the smell of the briny ocean, I love the feel of the sand between my toes.   I cannot express how much the beach and the sea means to me.  I have an attachment to it.  Although, oddly i prefer to be in it than on it.  I don’t get seasick I just don’t like boats particularly.  Much rather be in or under the sea.   It was a nice sunny afternoon, the sun was hot, the water cool.  Lovely!

But the evening was a departure from our routine, we went to the cinema.  We have not been to the cinema since before the boys were born and I was so excited to see Jurassic World.  Here is my review:

Jurassic World is exactly what you would expect.  The Park has grown into a successful and profitable attraction and from that respect is amazing.  It is great to see what it could have been following the first film.  Expectedly the dinosaurs escape and eat people.  This is all it needed to be.  There are subtle undertones of corporate greed, military interference and conspiracy and also the risks of genetic manipulation.  It has all the themes that Michael Crichton warned of in his original novel.  unfortunately it was all there in short supply during the film. 

What was missing was characterisation.  It was effect heavy and unfortunately the characters were wooden and predictable.  Which is not to say it wasnt a good film, it is what it is.  It was enjoyable and vast in its scope.  The 3-D was some of the best I have seen.  Not a bad effort, but it has very little relation to Crichton’s superb original work. 

My review in a word:  Passable.

Which is not to say that it was not an enjoyable film. it has many subtleties to the plot.  It just felt that some of the characters did not come across well and is just a cash cow for the studio.  A shame as there could have been so much more to it, perhaps the next one will have more substance.

And to Top things off an update on the writing front.  I have been working hard on submissions for the Hodderscape open submission window and also a few short stories which I think are working well.  But I am having a bit of a rethink.  It has been often said to me that my historical fiction is better than my Sci-Fi, I have a style akin to Ken Follett.  I studied History at university and have an in-depth and working knowledge.  I was always criticised in my essays at uni for being too literary in my writing.  Perhaps this is a way to go? 

I have an idea that utilises my knowledge and passion for the subject.   I have been criticised that I am not finishing projects, I get stuck and move on to the next one.  This is disheartening for me.  I lose the thread and the impetus and lose the momentum because I feel that it is not working.  It is a curse I have.  Frustration takes over.  Very annoying for me.  I know have new ideas pinging around my head and it detracts from the ideas I was running with.  My time is very limited I work a lot of hours in a week and my writing time is short .  I try to write when I can but do struggle when I am tired.  so, I need to sit and finish a project, them start a new one.  Arrgghh it is so very frustrating and I spiral into lack of production as a result .  im sure it is an affliction that affects all writers.  I hold out hope that other great and prolific writers took years to produce work, to find their own style and voice.  Time, that is what I need, Time!

 

Writing update!

Posted: September 2, 2014 in Writing
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It is about time I updated my readers on how my writing is going! I started a couple of months ago that I would endeavour to write two stories, one a fantasy that actually has a great deal of fantasy In it, the other a hard Sci-Fi. Well, both projects are underway and I shall outline what they are and how there progressing below. But, before I do that I want to address some issues I have been having, for those that have read all my posts you will know I have had a bit of a rough time. This has dented my confidence and my productivity greatly. The depression affects me in strange ways, I get headaches when I try to think, this may have something to do with the fact that I wrote at work where I have no natural light and it is under fluorescent lights. Crushing heads don’t lend themselves well to writing. The depression makes me tired and when tired output goes down. However, this will all change, I am going to try to set aside an hour a day to write at home, I should have the time now I am cutting out 2 hours travel and an hour and a half less in a working day. My new job promises so much and I am very very excited, I start in 6 days!!! With all the changes in my life I feel very positive and looking forward greatly to cracking on.

That’s the problems here are the projects!

Untitled Space Story

This project has been underway for a month or so and I have planned the basic premise of the story, I have devised to approach this project with minimal planning, no chapter plans, no character maps just pure imagination! And so far it has worked well! I have written about 10,000 words (although half may be lost in editing), it is a story set in the distant future, humanity have scattered to this stars in search of a new home. At the distant edges of known space a cryptic message is received, a set if co-ordinates that might lead the vestiges of man to safety and the promise of a new world, a new home.

There path will not be easy, enemies, scavengers and mutants attack and pester them on their journey, their antiquated star craft is falling to pieces and the rigours of deep space travel takes it till. Will they make it? Will they survive?

Good questions and as yet I don’t even know the answer. I am very excited by this project. I can see the scenes play out in my mind, I am throwing in a great deal of scientific ideas from genetic manipulation to the great questions of mortality and morality.

Let’s hope it works!

Dungeon fantasy project

My second project is a pure fantasy, inspired by the fighting fantasy books, and board games like Heroquest, 5 tribes live in disharmony, bickering and fighting against each other, but a shadow of a demon plagues the land! Every 50 years the dungeon calls to this tribes to send a hero to battle the dungeon and defeat the demon, he who wins gains power absolute. Alone they will fail, together they will win, but can the differences of millennia of war be set aside?

This project is not as advanced as my space project, despite working on it for longer. This is because of the intricate web that binds it all together. It takes a great deal of preparation and planning. I am researching fantasy and mythical creatures, attempting to find seldom used ideas to flesh out the villains.

So there we have it, that’s the projects, what are your thoughts? As always I invite you to comment!

Yesterday evening at 11pm British Summer Time, we saw the anniversary of the decleration of War between Britain and the German Empire. It was a troubled time, a time of great horror, and a time to try to wipe out the best and brightest of a generation…Lest We Forget! It is right to remember but it turns my thoughts to how they sacrificed their lives for peace and freedom, but was their sacrifice worthwhile, or has it just led to more and more problems?

I studied History at University, and I can trace a path from the outbreak of the First World War to today’s conflicts. Let me walk you through it, briefly! The First World War ends on 11/11/1918, the treaty of Versailles is discussed and Germany are forced under sanction to make reparations that cripple them, the Wall Street collapse in the late 20’s sees Germany head to economic ruin when USA call in debts. Hitler rises to power Second World War Starts September 1939 a a direct result of the terms of peace from 1918. The second world we rages on, it ends in August 1945. Afterwards, Britain, The USA and Russia, a victors, carve up the world! We create India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine and head to conflict with the USSR. The Cold War stays cold for 40 years, but in that time we adopt the notion that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, we arm the likes of Iraq and install a Russian aggressor as dictator, Saddam Hussain, (see where I am going with this?) we train the Taliban as a guerrilla force against Russia in Afghanistan. Once the Cold War ends and we all become friends the abandoned fighters in these countries turn against us, war again!

Ok, that is an incredibly simplified history of the past 100 years, but the roots laid down in 1914 echo through to today. The wars we are engaged in result from that terrible conflict, it is in some respects the war to end all wars, because we are still fighting it.

Not so much geeky so far! So here it comes, in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, a teenage John Connor turns to his protector, T-800 (Arnie) and while watching children chase each other with toy guns says, ‘we are not going to make it’ the terminators response is, ‘it is within your nature to destroy yourselves’. Now I have been thinking about this a lot recently, don’t know why just reflective mood. I am a father now, and I had a discussion with my partner about water pistols, now I may have been a bit rash in stating I don’t want my boys playing with toy guns. My reasoning is that it encourages violent attitudes. And more importantly gives them a social acceptability towards weapons. I am British, in Britain guns are illegal. In America guns are legal, and have a massive criminal culture surrounding their use. But that is a discussion for another day. My point is, is that if we allow violence to be a social acceptable part of society then we will breed a society of angry, violent, introverted and frightened people. Ok, perhaps we have already, it feels that the lines have blurred and society is getting angrier. On my daily commute to work and back, a journey of around an hour, I, everyday see road rage, not from me, although I am not totally blameless. But, there will always be someone shouting at another, waving fists making obscene jestures!

Do what society watches on television and movies have an effect? Of course it does! Entertainment will show the worst of society on order to make a good drama, it has to, if it shows the middle of the road people it would be boring! Imagine Micheal Douglas in falling down, a man brought to breaking point and in the heat of his car stuck in gridlock breaks and rampages on a killing spree. Well imagine the middle of the road version, Man brought to the edge in the heat of his car, gets so angry, his knuckles turn white, he get home eventually, furious and angry sits down and drinks a beer, moans for a couple of hours and goes to bed! Same impact, would you watch it? No, course not! So we show extremes, and that is what becomes acceptable.

Now, take geeks? Genre fiction is always and often a lot worse! The violence a lot more extreme, yet there is not a culture of violence? This is worth investigating, I am going to leave you to ponder that, perhaps start a discussion, why are geeks subjected to but not affected by ultra-violence within their viewing, reading habits?

I sign off the same way, with an invitation for you to comment share and discuss! I look forward to what you might say!

With Comic Con giving us all plenty to salivate over, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies, and so many more, I thought I would take some time to talk about why I am excited to be a geek, what has got me itching to see and read. But, where to start?

Firstly, books! With George RR Martin procrastinating and essentially stringing out the next chapter in the Game of Thrones series I predict now what will happen, people will have sex and people will die! There, that’s out the way! All credit to Mr Martin, he hit a niche in the market and exploited it superbly. As you can probably tell I am not the biggest fan. It’s enjoyable but as I have said before it is not quite there, not enough fantasy to be fantasy. Still, credit where it is due! So what has got me champing at the bit, the upcoming release I am most looking forward to? Ben Arronovich’s next instalment of his Peter Grant series, Foxglove Summer, due for release in September I cannot wait. Mr Arronovich has created a wonderful urban fantasy that shows a deeper and magical side to London. (I am aware that some of my readers have not read it, so I am taking due care not to add any spoilers). The series follows Peter Grant, policeman with the Metropolitan Police, he accidentally winds up being apprenticed to a branch of the Police that deals with ‘unusual and unspoken’ crimes. It really is a gripping read. Once one has adjusted to the vernacular and style it envelops you! It is a geek heaven of in-jokes and quotes across the sci-fi/fantasy world, from Aliens to Games Workshop, from Tolkein to Harry Potter and with a massive helping of Monty Python thrown in. I am genuinely looking forward to this!

Stephen King is to release yet another in November, and as a fan and collector of his work I will buy the special limited edition first, read it and file it on the bookshelf. Anne Rice has a new offering in the Vampire Chronicles, but mostly I shall be looking out for new authors, debuts in the genre. We shall see what the bookshops have to offer over the next few months.

Television seems to e the medium of choice, en vogue for the release of nerdy and geeky programmes. We have, Walking Dead season 5, Game of Thrones season 5, Falling Skies Season 4 ( which I have only recently managed to catch and very much enjoying it!). Big it is the new shows that have peaked my interest and in particular, Constantine! I think that Constantine, the damned demon hunter from Hellblazer/DC, is one of the best and likeable characters in comics today. sure, he has problems, issues you might say. As a child and a teenager he was plagued by visions of demons that drove him insane to the extent he takes his own life. He was saved but his soul was dammed. He knows where he is going when he does and is trying to buy his way to heaven by vanquishing the armies of hell. So brief recap there. Firstly let us forget the movie version, I liked the film, just not loved it like the source material. I have seen a few promo shots and leaked set shots of the eponymous hero, and I am liking what I see. Although am slightly disturbed by the news that he won’t be allowed to smoke ( a pivotal character trait), but nonetheless I am excited to see it, and I am rather hoping for an alliance and regular appearance of a certain magical companion, Zatanna!!

I can’t really talk about upcoming TV shows without mentioning Doctor Who. We have a new Dr in Peter Capaldi, we are promises a darker edge to the show. Matt Smith to me was a clown Dr, we have had them before, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and, to some extent, Sylvester McCoy, and for the show to move forward, to endure it needs the darker edge! So, we are promised Daleks, Cybermen and a plethora of others. Let’s hope it is good! I’m sure it will be, the stories haw been well written, but the rally exciting news is, and I hope this happens, is that Mr Middle Earth himself, Sir Peter Jackson (he needs to get a knighthood!) is to direct an episode!!!!! Please let that be true!!!!

That leaves movies…and you know, I am not going to discuss them here at this time. I am excited to be a geek, looking forward to all the stories coming out, looking forward to Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, even if the story is so similar to my book thy I stopped writing it, Nolan is a visionary and an IMAGINEER of the highest order and I love his work! But mostly we are looking at sequels, prequels, reboots, re-reboots, ideas are I. Short supply and Hollywood is rehashing cash machines, guaranteed returns! Can you imagine films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or Blade Runner being made today? Risky, innovative by unknowns? Nah! So heed my advice Hollywood, in the words that sparked the A.I. war ‘Take a Risk!’

So, it is a great time to be a geek, plenty to get excited over, then disappointed, then get disgruntled and annoyed and take to the internet to moan about it!

As always I invite you to have your say!

This week’s blog is very introspective. I have been thinking a lot recently about life, the universe and everything. I have been thinking about how I got where I am, what the future holds for me, my family and everybody in general. And I have found myself feeling very depressed. It’s a strange thought process that I have been going through. I have been greatly affected by what I have been reading and it has set my mind on fire with possibly the worst question we, as human beings, can get stuck on, and that question is ‘What if?’

I love my family and love my home life, it is the one thing that keeps me going! So what is it that is bothering me? Well, I wish to highlight the fact I am well educated, very well educated, with degrees in History and Jewish History and Culture, A-levels to a high grade and few GCSE’s that are worth mentioning. So, what if I had worked harder at school? To be honest I probably would still be where i am today. School for me was not so much about learning English or Physics, it was about learning about life! How we interact with each other, how to cope with disappointment and how to stand up for oneself! University was about learning for me, and I did so with gusto! I worked so hard, rarely drank or socialised, save for the odd occasion. I was studious, committed and produced some rather phenomenal work. Since University I have pottered from meaningless job to meaningless job. To where I am now.

I work as a Security Guard, that’s right, a post graduate Security Guard! I do what I do because it pays the bills, well nearly pays the bills! Regretfully I can’t earn enough, we are covered but not quite comfortable, there certainly is nothing left over at the end of the month. But that is life, my biggest problem with my job is the conditions. Everyone seems to think I have it easy, I don’t! When I am required to intervene in a situation I put myself in grave danger! In the past Two months I have had to disarm a violent, paranoid ex-criminal, it specifically asked that I take all hidden weapons from him. Ok I handled the situation well, disarmed him, but I was in a room alone with him, just think what if he had taken offence and attacked, I would have had no chance. Which brings me to my biggest fear, what is that does happen? Firstly, I am on a zero hour contract, if you don’t know about them then your lucky! Zero hour contracts do not gut enter employment, do not afford luxuries like sick pay, you simply get paid what you work, and that is it!

So why stay? Believe me it is not by choice, I would be out of my current position like a shot if I could find suitable employment. But I can’t! I have applied for everything under the sun, all jobs that I can happily do competently and very well, problem is no one will hire me because they read the top line of my most recent employment and that is it! I am so frustrated with the job market! What if! What if! What if someone would take a chance I could do something sensational, I could do something extraordinary!

That is why I write, I write fiction so I can try to find a way out of my predicament! It is a cut throat world out there, the creative industries are awash with hopefuls all wanting the six figure deal! Well it would be nice! But, the pragmatist in me is quelling my creative side, preventing me from thinking straight. I am a man of limited thinking power, if my mind is occupied elsewhere, say job hunting? I struggle to compose fiction. It’s not writers block or procrastination it is simply I don’t have the capacity to concentrate. What if? What if? What if?

I recently read Stephen Kings most recent offering, Mr Mercedes, absolutely loved it, it really was a great book, but it had affected me and I am very close to cracking up over all the what ifs! The book opens with a random act of mass murder, it was not the murders that got to me big rather the randomness of it. I keep thinking what if someone hits me in the car? What if someone stabs me at work (not as unlikely as it might sound) what if tomorrow I’m struck with a long term illness, what if for whatever reason I just can’t get up in the morning? What happens then. I wish I could say that it would be ok! But then what if it isn’t?

Life boils down to a survival instinct and maybe ‘what if’ is just part of that survival instinct to make us more cautious, but, what happens when what if becomes all consuming! Well it eats you up inside, you verbs on becoming agriphrobic, your instinct is to run and hide and never come out.

I am trying so hard nog to let it all get to me, and my biggest problem is I have 10 hours of a working day where I don’t speak to anyone, I sit facing a wall until needed, and all I have is my thoughts. My work don’t like me to be distracted so they have stopped me from writing, I am to sit, I am to wait, I am to think. That is all I am to do. My work life is not even as good as a half life. It is sedentary, isolated, and is slowly driving me quite, quite mad!!!! I am seriously thinking of bringing Mr Flibble to keep me company!

Well, that’s my little rant for the morning, perhaps if you have an opinion you would like to comment, after all, it would keep me company! I will be back to my unique view on all things geeky next week, but, what if I don’t? What if…….?

As a writer, as a fan of genre fiction it is fairly clear that I am going to like comic books and graphic novels. I have always liked them and been interested in them and as a result have been mocked and ridiculed, with phrases like, ‘grow up’ and ‘how childish’ and my personal favourite, ‘how old are you again?’ But, I am going to take a stand and, in defiance of popular appearance stand in defence of graphic novels!

Firstly, I shall address the misconception that comics are for kids. This is simply not true, often graphic novels are, well, graphic in nature and I offer exhibit A, Watchmen! Watchmen, is a great tale of alternative history, America won in Vietnam with the help of the super powered, and after the war, Un-prosecuted president Nixon decrees that superheroes are essentially outlawed. It is a tale of Cold War spiralling towards doomsday, it is a tale of redemption, betrayal and love, it is a tale that has very adult themes such as rape, murder, violence! Zack Snyder made the Alan Moore graphic novel into, actually, a very good faithful film. Many will disagree and say Watchmen was a bad film, I say that they have not read the source material!

Watchmen is anything but childish, the themes and postulations of what might have happened require a knowledge of history, a sense of humour, and a retrospective adult eye.

But, exhibit A does not in itself stand up and scream an accepted literary medium, yes it’s content is adult, the themes will wash over many, but, it does not justify the genre.

What is a comic book or graphic novel? Well it is a story told by the use of pictures and dialogue, taken out is the un-necessary imagery and use of simile and metaphor to describe a dark and stormy night for you can see in the panels, gone is the endless descriptive narrative of clothing, appearance, location and emotion. For one can see in the panels. It is a medium that is dismissed as literature, overlooked and I firmly believe that this is an erroneous misconception. Not only must the author detail every single aspect for the artists to create, not only it’s every nuance be laid before the reader, but a graphic novel takes so much planning, cross referencing, the story must be perfect before a pencil touches the paper as an artist can I’ll afford the time to go back and re-draw panels. The graphic novel writer is fully aware that his medium is unforgiving, it is tortuous when writing to have done 5,000 odd panels of work to realise that the ending does not fit and the story must change. Perfection must be attained.

Aside from the arduous journey of a graphic novel, I offer my third point in defence and that is the scale of a story. A 200 page graphic novel, like Watchmen, or lengthy sagas such as the Walking Dead, or the Judge Dredd stories from 2000AD just could not be achieved as a novel, the scale is just too vast, the stories themselves complex, but ultimately to get the same sort of sense of atmosphere and location and future imperfect setting the author would be writing ‘War and Peace’ for every story. The imagination runs riot within graphic novels and worlds are created.

My final point in this defence I offer Exhibit B, movies/television adaptations. I shall set aside Marvel’s films and series a they are well known and much adored, even if they are redone every 10 years, the same holds for DC. But instead I will focus on two adaptations, (I am personally biased as they are two of my favourites). Firstly Dredd, and then the Walking Dead. Dredd, is based on the character from 2000AD, his stories have been running weekly since 1977, and are in no way showing a climax, since it’s creation it has created a major fan base which are loyal. I started reading 2000AD about 25 years ago, and have dipped in and out since. The theme of post apocalyptic law in Mega-City One has interested me and kept my interest, the future is a grim place and law and order is solely in the hands of judges, the stories have evolved over time, reflecting current events. Now, in 1995, a rather camp yet enjoyable version of Judge Dredd hit the big screen, it flopped, even Sylvester Stallone could not redeem it. Put that aside as Karl Urban would don the helmet and take charge of law in Mega-City One, now we are talking. What appeared was an ultra-violent, dark tale. The city high rise of Peachtrees is ruled by the drug barons, Dredd, investigating a murder with psychic, Anderson must battle the criminals to reach the boss on the 200th floor to affect the arrest. It’s simple, but effective.

In itself I would say it was a good sci-fi, post-apocalyptic tale but, it is from a graphic novel, and this is where I come to the point. No? I think I shall discuss the walking dead first.

Not seen it? Afraid of zombies? Well you are missing a treat! The Walking Dead series should not work, but it does because it focuses on people, their relationships, their fears, their loves, it has a strong message of family. The protagonist Rick risks going into a major city to find his family, he risks it all to reunite with his wife and son. The themes speak to us all, betrayal, survival at any length.

Definitely not for the feint hearted, and definitely not for children. So what is my point? What is a graphic novel? Well it is a series of pictures with dialogue to create a story! What is a movie, not just an adaptation but any movie? It is a series of images with sound to make a story! There is very little difference! When a movie is made, after the script has been approved and the director first looks at the film, he does not just go off and shoot the film according to the script, no first he/she/they will storyboard, which is acting out each scene drawn As a sequence of panels. I should imagine every film does this, whether it is a comedy or horror, sci-fi or romance, each detail of the page is drawn out in panels. So even if you think that graphic novels and comics are childish remember that whatever you are watching on tele, if you’re watching Eastenders, chances are it has been turned into a graphic novel first!!!!

Us geeks are so protective of comics, it is a major release of our inner nerd, often the stories are imaginative, expansive, sometimes unbelievable. If you are a writer, I give you this challenge, go out and buy a comic, any comic will do. Then sit and transcribe the story, go on try it, remember to add all the atmosphere, describe every panel, once you have done that ask yourself, why do I think this is not legitimate, why do I think this is childish, I bet you will give up by the first page? It is a wonderful medium and one we should not dismiss!

As always, feel free to share, comment, tweet, post etc!

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I have in recent posts lamented the loss of original works, what gives me the right to do so?  Well I am a writer! So, in an attempt to prove my worth I offer this tale.  It is a supernatural tale that is designed to scare.  As always I like to get responses so, please, feel free to comment, share, link or retweet.  If you don’t like it, then perhaps offer me constructive criticism?  So, for your consideration here is my short story,

Reflections.

Lawrence was haunted.  Haunted by the ghosts of his past, haunted by his decisions that cost him his family, haunted by the house that cost him his future,  but most of all haunted by the reflection in the mirror.  Everything he had done he did out of a desire to give his wife and twin sons the best life possible.  He never expected that it would cost him his children, his wife and ultimately his own life, but it did.  The coroner’s inquest ruled it as a suicide. No one believed it, no one believed that he would break an antique mirror and cut his own throat with the shards.  Yet the evidence suggested that was exactly what had happened.  His wife, Sally, gave evidence at the inquest stating that they were indeed separated but they were reconciling and she would have been shortly returning to him, reuniting their family, he was so close to having his family back, it made no sense for him to kill himself.  Lawrence was happy and was working hard to ensure their return.  She declared that she did not have an affair, that there was never anyone else.  The only reason they were separated was the house, the money trap.  His determination to restore and rebuild the old manor house nearly brought them to the shores of bankruptcy.  Sally had to think of the children, make sure they were safe and secure, they were still a family and they just lived in separate places.  The court still ruled it a suicide.

. . .

The staff of the maternity unit could always tell if a couple were first time parents from the look of sheer panic on the faces as they sat waiting for the twelfth week scan.  It would be the first time they would see their baby, the first time they would know if all was well with the pregnancy.  It did not matter whether the baby was planned, whether it was an accident, natural conception or assisted, every first time parent had a mix of excitement and blind fear.  Lawrence had that feeling, but it was worse for him as he could not support his wife.  He was stuck at work, unable to find cover for his shift.  The guilt he felt compounded the anxiety and time slowed to a crawl the closer it got to the 11 am appointment.  He paced and paced as the clock crawled around past 11, then 11:30 then 12, his anxiety grew and grew.  He convinced himself that something was wrong as the clock passed 12:30.  He could not bear the wait.  Lawrence jumped when the phone finally rang.
“I think you had better sit down!” Sally said, Lawrence could hear the nerves in her voice.
“What’s wrong?”
“Well, they did the scan and then had to get someone to check it.”
“OK, what’s wrong?”
“After several ‘Hmms’ and ‘Ahhhs’ and rescans they finally showed me our babies!”
“OK, so what’s wrong? Wait, What?  Did you say babies?”
“Oh you noticed that, yeah, we are having twins!”

The next 6 months flew by in a flash. Lawrence and Sally soon found themselves with two beautiful bouncing baby boys, identical twins, Joshua and Samuel.  Lawrence was overjoyed, he walked on air; he never thought he wanted children until he had them and after he couldn’t imagine life without them.  When they gave up their small city flat he thought that the rural two-bedroomed semi would be ample space for his growing brood.  But after the first few months there he soon realised that space would rapidly become an issue.  Lawrence worked hard, he worked long in order to provide for his family.  He sacrificed time with the boys and his wife in order to keep the wage coming in.  His happiness soon left him and was replaced by worry.

That was when he saw the old manor house up for auction.  It was big, very big, it would have plenty of space for his family.  The only problem was it was falling apart.  It was a wreck, it should have been torn down, but because of preservation orders and historic building listings it could not be, nor could it be significantly altered, only restored and renewed.  The developers all left it alone; they saw no profit in the endeavour.  Lawrence was as surprised as most when he snapped up the building for the price of a 3 bed new build.  Sally was reluctant about the purchase, but Lawrence saw opportunity within those walls, Sally heard alarm bells and saw danger, yet Lawrence went ahead regardless.  All he saw was what it could be, what it will be.  Sally survived for six months there with sporadic heat and hot water, the constant struggle of renovating the property as well as living in it began to take its toll.  Eventually living day in and day out in a building site was too much and Sally took the heart wrenching decision to take the children away.  They moved out and Lawrence was left alone in the house, despondent.  His decision was beginning to haunt him, the spectre of memory hanging over him, his dreams of a happy home shattered!

Lawrence did not give up; he was driven to complete the house.  He was convinced that if he could create the home he dreamed of he would get his family back.  He worked day and night to finish one room at a time.  The manor house stood facing south.  It towered high and was, in its day, magnificent.   The grounds that once surrounded the property have slowly disappeared, the encroaching tide of property development spawning housing estates where pastures and fields once were.  Now only the south lawn remained as a garden.  The front of the house there was a small courtyard where the garage block, once a stable was.  Another housing estate advanced as close as it could.  The manor stood on three floors.  The second floor was 3 small bedrooms and a bathroom; these were once servant’s quarters.  The first floor the master bedroom, a library and a study, with another bathroom set beneath the one upstairs.  The ground floor had a rustic kitchen, a large lounge that opened up onto the south lawn through three sets of French doors and finally a grand lobby that housed the big oak staircase.  Lawrence worked tirelessly spilling his soul, his sweat and his blood in crafting the home.  After months of exhaustive efforts the ground floor was complete, he had a place where he could comfortably live while he renovated the rest of the house.  His airbed now upgraded to a sofa, the books housed in bookcases and magnificent oak panelling throughout.  The lounge felt dark, the stained oak absorbing all the light that came through the large doors.  Lawrence was no interior designer but he knew that the room needed something to give it a lift, to brighten the gloomy atmosphere.

The auction was busy.  The hustle and bustle of people looking for a bargain, a mix of private individuals and trade buyers, families furnishing their first homes cheaply and shop keepers looking for stock.  He had viewed the sale the day before and he immediately saw what he needed.  Behind the glass display cabinets on the wall at the back of the room hung a large gilt framed mirror.  The frame was intricately carved with faceless gothic figures.  However, Lawrence was not concerned by the frame it was the size he liked.  It spanned 3 metres by 2 metres and demanded a large room to do it justice.  He bid and won it cheaply, because of its size no one else was interested.  He was pleased, it was just what the room needed.  He arranged for delivery that very afternoon and the porters that delivered it helped him hang it on the wall. He stood back and gazed in wonderment at the behemoth mirror.   He noticed that it reflected the light into every dark corner of the room and made the lounge look so much bigger.

Lawrence was overjoyed that his wife and sons visited that day.  He missed them terribly and saw them when he could, but they were just far enough away that daily visits were impossible and that broke his heart.  Throughout the visit Sally reassured Lawrence constantly that she still loved him and that there was no one else.  Sally knew that Lawrence was a jealous type and given too much time alone his mind became paranoid.  Sally packed the kids back into the car, it was time they went.  Lawrence was sad, depression gripped him, every time they left or he left them it got worse, but Sally reassured him and told him that once the house was finished they would move back.  It was the best news he could possibly have hoped for.  Lawrence missed his family; once they had gone he stood in front of the mirror and wept.  His cries resounded around the room, echoed, rebounded and echoed again.  He had never noticed it before.  He wondered whether a mirror of that size could change the acoustics of a room that much.  In the end he assumed it could, he pulled himself together, wiped the tears from his eyes and returned to work.

Lawrence was upstairs on the second floor when he heard the wailing.  He stopped hammering and listened intently.  The cry was feint but audible.  He crept gingerly on to the landing.  There it was again, slightly louder this time a moaning, a distressed upset wail.  The large oak steps creaked as he crept; each step down bought the cry louder.  Lawrence attempted to go towards the noise quietly which on the big, creaking oak steps was a virtual impossibility.  He thought they were a great security measure as no could sneak up on him as the noise would forewarn of any intruder.  They were perfectly safe, they were strong just noisy.  He managed to reach the bottom and the sobbing persisted and he could hear it quite distinctly.  It was coming from the lounge.  He reached the door and realised that he was still holding the hammer; he took a deep breath, raised the hammer over his head and burst in!

He looked around the empty room.  Nothing, there was nobody there.  The wailing he heard from upstairs had stopped.  He searched the room, and the adjoining dining room and kitchen, nothing! Lawrence did not understand he had heard it, he was sure he had heard someone crying, but there was no one there.  He walked over to the mirror.  He gazed deeply into it, he could see everything behind him, every corner, every nook and cranny was clearly reflected.  He was so very pleased with his purchase and even more pleased about the bargain price paid.  When he first viewed it he had not really examined the frame, why would he, after all it was something he would mostly view from further away, but as he stood by the fireplace, the mirror above the mantle he really looked.  He noticed the carved figures all round, covered in gold gilt, but it was the corner’s that intrigued him, 3 of the corners were faceless, the forth was a face sobbing.  He thought it strange that only one corner was carved but ultimately dismissed it.
“Maybe it was you crying?” Lawrence said chuckling to himself.

He walked out of the room and went back upstairs; he had much to do on the second floor.  It was to be the boy’s bedrooms, one each with a playroom in the middle.  It was ideal Lawrence and Sally could hear when they were awake from the master bedroom, an advantage of an old house with creaky floors and stairs.  He worked hard hammering plasterboard on to stud work, laying floorboards.  It was his intention to get the room ready to plaster, then all would be required is decoration and carpets and the boys floor would be done.  All the structural works had been done in the previous 6 months, it was now done to the finishing touches and the cosmetic decorating that needed to be finished, structural, electrical and plumbing all finished, bathrooms finished just so much more to do before it is habitable.  He worked until his watch read 3:05am and the tiredness hit him like his hammer struck the nails.  He wanted to collapse where he was, but he thought better of it.  He dragged himself down to the sofa which had become a makeshift bed; he covered himself with a blanket and fell quickly into a deep slumber.

Lawrence awoke late the next morning, even working late the night before he never really slept in, yet he did so today.  Despite sleeping for seven hours he still felt tired.  No, not tired, drained!  The kind of tired one gets when they have been through something very stressful or traumatic and you just can’t take any more.   He washed and drank coffee and began to feel himself once more.  It was Sunday and although he had two weeks off of work he did not allow himself to rest, he saw the unassailable mountain of DIY in front of him and decided that no matter how tired he got, what stress he was under, he was going to make the house habitable, no, more than habitable, he was going to make the house a home.  Although there was a great deal left to do, it was achievable in the time he set out, as long as he did not sit on his heels.  He had to graft, he had to work and he had to get his family back.  He could feel that the good times would soon be here again, so why did he feel so tired?

Working hard when you feel tired is a horrible thing.  Mentally one gets drained as the concentration required is more that the exhaustion will allow.  Lawrence’s fatigue was getting worse, yet his determination to regain his happiness overrode all over concerns.  It was not long before the walls had plasterboards on them and the floorboards were in place.  The second floor was ready for plaster, skirting boards, decorating and carpets.  His son’s rooms were nearly ready.  Lawrence was so tired, if he could have afforded it he would have paid someone to complete the work but he had sunk every spare penny into the house.  The rest of his money went to support his family; even though they were not together they were still his priority.   The sun had long since set and the dark, moonless sky created an encircling vale of black.  Lawrence poured himself a whisky, it was the one treat he allowed himself and he sat in the lounge holding the glass.  He was weary and slowly drifted off, glass still in hand, he awoke with a jolt.  The room was bright, the light reflecting brightly in the mirror, he needed to sleep.  He switched the light off, a minute later the room went dark.  Lawrence thought that very strange that there was a delay, but thought that his mind was playing tricks on him and accepted the invitation to the abyss of slumber; he embraced the dark calm of sleep.

The warming radiance of the gentle light woke Lawrence from his sleep.  He felt he had only just fallen asleep he could not believe that it was day time already.  He stretched, he still felt shattered as he looked at his watch it was 4 o’clock.  He couldn’t have slept the whole day, could he?  He dozily went to the window and opened the curtains, it was still dark, still night and he had woken at 4am.  Lawrence, still half asleep, reasoned that he must have left the light on.  He walked to the switch by the door and flipped it, nothing happened, neither darkness nor brightness, just nothing.  He was now awake, his stomach tightening as he began to feel afraid; he turned and saw the source of the light. It radiated from the mirror.  He stood frozen; he could not comprehend how the mirror was reflecting light when there was none in the room.  Lawrence stood staring; he could see the whole room in the mirror, everything except one thing, himself.

Lawrence managed to unfreeze himself and made himself flat with his back against the wall.  With his eyes transfixed on the mirror he sidled around the walls, until he was beside the mirror.  The room was full of flickering shadows, the type you get when you burn a candle. The shadows danced and swayed.   Lawrence drew a deep breath and stepped in front of the mirror.  He saw himself; he was there, his mind playing tricks on him after all. As he saw himself he chuckled, he raised his right hand and then his left and his reflection did likewise.  Lawrence started to relax he was messing around with his reflection, he started dancing, the reflection mimicked him exactly.  He was dancing and turned his back on the mirror.  Lawrence turned back to face the mirror.  He put both hands on the mantle.  He dropped his gaze.
“BOO!” The reflection screamed.

Lawrence staggered backwards tripping on the coffee table.  He went down and smacked his head on the hardwood floor and lost consciousness.  As the darkness enveloped him he thought he could hear laughter.
“Lawrence?”
He stirred at the sound of his voice.
“You alright nipper?”
He recognised the twang in his father’s voice.
“What’s going on?” Lawrence asked.
“Looks like you’ve taken a tumble lad, easy now let me help you up.”

Lawrence’s father helped him onto the sofa; Lawrence saw the collapsed coffee table, the smashed crystal tumbler and also the pool of dried blood on the floor.  He instinctively reached for his head and felt the dried blood that had formed a crust from the gash in his head.
“Looks like a nasty fall, I think we should have that cut looked at, come on I will take you down to the emergency room.”

Lawrence was weary, his head pounding.  The hospital cleaned up his wound and put some glue on to close the cut.  They checked him thoroughly and after finding no lasting effects sent him on his way.  Once they returned to the manor house his father cleaned away the coffee table and glass, mopped up the blood and made a cup of tea.
“What happened son?” He asked Lawrence.
“I don’t know Dad, I was looking in the mirror and…” Lawrence’s voice drifted off, he couldn’t say what he thought had happened; someone would have him locked up.
“I woke up with you there.  I guess I must have been more tired than I thought.  I have been pushing really hard to get Sally and the boys back, must have overdone it.”
“Why don’t you have a good rest and I will come get the place ready with you.  I have next week off so we can crack on.  Besides I have seen your attempts at decorating and it’s awful.  You get as much as you can done between now and Friday and I will come over Saturday for the week?  Yeah?”
Lawrence nodded acceptance.
“Good, now get some rest boy.” His father waved a farewell and left.

Lawrence tried to sleep, he felt guilty that he had wasted a day, but his head hurt and his father was right, he needed rest.  Sleep was elusive, the night filled with thoughts of the mirror and his delusion from the night before. He questioned everything he could remember, had he imagined it?  He churned it all over in his mind.  Finally, Lawrence drifted off to sleep he was embraced by its welcoming open arms.  He awoke at about 10, he felt better, rested and his determination was renewed.  He worked all day barely stopping for food.  He felt better now the second floor was plastered.  The boys rooms just needed decorating, skirting boards and coving attaching and the sockets securing, then he could get the carpets laid and it was ready for them.   He was so pleased that they now had somewhere nice to sleep and play.  He had worked for 16 straight hours without a proper break.  His head had started to hurt, even his determination could not keep exhaustion at bay and Lawrence knew it was time to turn in.  The memory of the odd event with the mirror had all but been forgotten and once again enveloped him.
“Lawrence”
The room was bathed in a flickering light.
“Lawrence”
The voice hissed at him, but he was not quite awake.
“LAWRENCE!”
He awoke with a jolt and looked around the room, he felt fears icy grip upon him, his heart pounding, his throat tightening and the veins in his head throbbed as the blood flowed fast.  He looked around for the source of the noise, he saw no one.  He was still on the sofa.  He looked up to the mirror, his jaw dropped.  The reflection he saw was not him on the sofa under the blanket as he had expected but, rather, it was him standing, his torso, shoulders and head stood staring back at him.  Fear gripped tighter as he saw his own hand in the mirror beckon him closer.  He sat rigid, unable to look away, unable to brake the penetrating stare that looked deep into his soul.  He heard the voice again, it did not come from the mirror but seem to resound from every surface in the room.
“Lawrence come closer.”
He did not feel in control of his body as he stood up, he did not want to go nearer, yet he was drawn in.  He stood staring at his reflection, it must have been minutes stood motionless, but it felt like hours.
“Who are you?” Lawrence asked the strain audible in his voice.  His question was met with laughter.  Again the reflection was motionless yet the cackle resounded around the room.
“What do you want?” Lawrence screamed and the laughter stopped.
“It is not what I want, it is what you want that’s important!” The voice replied.
“And what do I want?” Lawrence asked confused.
“You want to know the truth! You want to know what she is doing right now” The voice laughed again.

The surface of the mirror seemed to turn to liquid as his reflection and that of the room disappeared in the ripples.  The image became blurry, undefinable until the ripples ceased and Lawrence found himself looking into a bedroom.  He saw his wife in the arms of another, he saw her in the throes of passion with someone else.  He screamed, he broke his gaze and looked away but it was too late, the image was seared into his mind.  He looked back at the mirror angrily, but all he saw was him, the voice had gone and the room went dark.  Lawrence scrambled over to the door and to the light switch and flipped it on.  All was as it should be and the mirror showed exactly what it should.  He quickly found his mobile phone, he knew it was late but he had to know, the image vivid in his mind’s eye, he dialled and waited.
“Hello, its late, you OK?” Sally said sleepily.
“Hi, yeah I’m OK, I just needed to speak to you.” He replied.
“Lawrence, you sound funny, what’s wrong?”
“I guess it was just a bad dream, I dreamt you were with someone else.”
“Oh you silly thing!” She chuckled, “when would I have the time?”

“She is lying!”the voice said.

“Are you lying?”  Lawrence didn’t mean to ask her, it just slipped out.
“No! Of course not!” Sally said defensively.

“Why is she whispering?  He is there now!” The voice said.

“Why are you whispering then?” Lawrence asked, again he did not mean too.
“Because the boys are asleep, Lawrence stop being so paranoid.  I will speak to you in the morning when you’re sensible!” The phone went dead.

Lawrence did not know what to think, on the one hand he believed and trusted his wife implicitly, but the voice was so convincing, it affirmed what he thought anyway.  He had often worried he was not good enough for his beautiful wife and that every day was a struggle to keep her happy.   No matter what he did he could not shake the image, he was convinced.  He approached the mirror, in a way he was thankful, it had affirmed what he thought he already knew, his paranoia justified, he gazed long into it and looked intently at the frame.  Three of the corners now had a face; a crying man, a wounded man and a man in anguish.  Only one carving did not have form, what did it all mean?

The sunrise was beautiful, the red, orange and purple glorious in the dawn sky.  Lawrence did not know what the day would bring, what horrors lay ahead, for now he savoured the sunrise.  The new dawn bought a new day and Lawrence vowed to continue regardless, to carry on working hard, working to complete the house.  He did just that, with the second floor completed he moved his attentions the first floor, to the master bedroom, the study and the library.   He worked all day and did not notice the storm brewing; he did not see the thunderclouds approach.  As it drew nearer he heard the rumble of thunder but paid it no attention.  The wind began to howl, gaining strength and power, Lawrence worked on.  He ignored the thunderclaps that shook the house to its foundations, the wind at its pinnacle lifting trees by the roots, yet the job in hand was more important.  It was only when a tree struck the power cables did Lawrence notice that he was at the centre of a ‘once in a lifetime’ storm, when all the lights went out he noticed that he was alone, in the dark.

Lawrence found his way to the door of the master bedroom; he had been affixing plasterboards when the power went out.  He stood on the landing the house in pitch darkness, illuminated only by the intermittent lightening.  His fear returned as if one of the lightning bolts had struck him.  Despite there was no power in the house, from beneath the door to the lounge a flickering, beckoning light glowed.   To say that Lawrence was scared was understating the situation, he was petrified.  Every essence of his being was telling him to run away, run long and run far.  But he didn’t, he reached for the lounge door and went inside.

He knew what to expect, the flickering dancing shadows, the autonomous reflection and when he looked he was not surprised.  The grinning figure that looked just like him stared back.  Lawrence approached, he was attempting to be brave as the fear ate him up inside.
“What do you want?” Lawrence asked, he was met with laughter.
“Who are you?”  This time he got a response.
“I am you!” The reflection answered.
“How?”
“Lawrence, I am you, I am your sorrow, your pain, your paranoia and your fear!  You created me, you feed me, I know every thought you have and it sustains me!”
Lawrence stood disbelieving.
“I am not afraid!” Lawrence said defiantly.
“Don’t be foolish, I can taste your fear, I am fed by it! I am not here to hurt you.  You must finish the house, your family must return, their pain will be exquisite!”

Lawrence realised what this spirit wanted, he wanted his family, a cold shiver ran down his spine, the fear unquenchable and the horror written across his face.  The final featureless figure screamed as a face appeared, finally the frame was complete.  The golden glow shone from the gilt.  The four corners came to life in front of Lawrence.  The laughter bellowed from and around the room.  Lawrence feared for his family, he was scared, the fear gripped and wrenched tearing him apart.  He looked at himself in the mirror, his reflection laughing victoriously.  He felt the hammer still in his hand; he knew what he had to do.  He swung and caught his reflection on the forehead.   Shards of glass flew out from the mirror, the reflection vanished.  Suddenly the room went dark, the laughing gone and the reflection gone.  Lawrence sighed with relief, it was over.

As he stood in the dark, relieved, he looked around, at what he did not know as it was too dark to see anything.  It was too dark to see the decaying hands reach for his throat, it was too dark to see the festering and rotting head grow from within the wall.  He did not see it, but he certainly felt it as the icy grip closed around his throat.  The frame shone bright, brighter than it had before, it burnt his eyes and he stumbled backwards and fell to the floor, still with the assailant gripping tight.

“Thank you Lawrence, I knew I could count on you to release me from my prison, I am made real again, I can walk again, I can KILL again.  Your fear strengthens me, gives me power.  I shall enjoy destroying your family, you will know pain, you will know fear and I will be unstoppable!”

Lawrence screamed.  What had he unleashed, Lawrence may not have been the smartest person but he knew that he and the entity were linked.  As he laid on the floor, straddled by the decayed form that he created he knew what he must do.  He reached out and found what he was looking for, a large shard of mirror.
“If I created you, I can destroy you! For Sally, For Joshua! For Samuel!

A lone tear fell down his cheek, it was truly over.

I have been thinking hard over the past week of new ideas for several stories. Trying to write something I would want to read. And a thought struck me! What happened to the hard Sci-Fi and Fantasy fiction I used to love? And I think the answer is, it died! I remember reading a lot of books that took me far far away, distant galaxies, alien wars, new planets or taking me to fantasy realms where anything at all was possible. We have sadly lost the great Hard-Fi writers. People like Iain M Banks, James Herbert (I know it’s horror, but wrote some fantastic works), Arthur C Clarke these are just a few imagineers who now gone have not been succeeded. In my mind, and it might jut be in my mind? The publishing houses, writers today are taking a safer road, maybe not safer but more profitable, and it is in their best interests to do so! What are we left with? Well, we have TV and movie tie ins, several Dr Who novels, Star Wars books that detail what happened after ( I wonder if JJ Abrams will take any of the canon on board), we have seen the rise of Urban Fantasy, JK Rowling having kick started that genre. Science Fiction seems to be less of disappearing into something new but rather it is contemporary fiction with a science edge. To wit everything is based here and now and the science element develops it into a futuristic or historical bent. What do I mean historical? Well, someone discovers time travel and visits the major events of the past. I am not knocking this type of fiction at all, it’s good and some of it is beyond good! (Ben Arronovitch’s DC Peter Grant series has been one of my personal discoveries this year and am ordering the next book as soon as I finish the last). But, I miss the true other world fiction. I miss reading about The battle for Arrakis, I miss reading about Middle Earth, I miss completely new ideas!

That being said, fashion in fiction is a circular door and I am sure that we will see the likes again. In fact, I am going to make it my mission to create a fantasy adventure the likes we have not seen for many a year! I want to create something like the great Ian Livingstone’s Deathtrap Dungeon, which although a role playing game created a belter of a story! I am quite fed up with what passes as fantasy today, and by that I am talking about Game of Thrones! George RR Martin has created a wonderful set of books that are neither this way or that. They are rooted between medieval England and fantasy, this cross breading has led to not enough fantasy for my liking, but too much for me to enjoy the dark age it represents. That being said, it is well written, the TV series is interesting people and encouraging them to read. So, I can’t complain, if reading becomes popular more books will be published and a resurgence in the written word will be upon us!

So, this is what I will do, I will write two stories, I shall delve into the dark recesses of my mind and forge one science fiction tale that does not have a single resemblance to our world. I will also write a fantasy adventure, a dungeon inspired quest, that hopefully will capture and excite the imagination. I will write stories that I want to read, and hopefully some of you might as well!

Back to my original statement, Hard sci-fi is not dead, I think that it has temporarily lost it’s voice! Too many people bought into Twilight forcing the market in that direction. Fair play to Stephanie Meyer, she made a lot of money and it again interested people to read. Great! Thank you for preparing people to enter the world of fantasy fiction! You have set them up, now who will knock them down?? Who will be the next Arthur C Clarke or Isaac Asimov or Frank Herbert? Who will be the next JRR Tolkein or CS Lewis. Will it be me? Possibly, let’s hope that it is someone!

One last thing, do feel free to share, comment or offer rebuttal. I like healthy discussion, I am open to new ideas. I am a Geek and we are a community, the sly nod if you see someone wearing a logo from a TV programme that no one else gets, the gentle appreciation as we stand in Waterstones and head straight for that one section. Let me hear your voice!