I Was A Teenage Ernest Borgnine

I have very little sense of personal embarrassment. I’ve done a whole selection of odd things in public – sometimes for a joke, sometimes because I was bored – so when my friend Tristan asked me back in the early 1990s if I’d spend a couple of afternoons running around the Cornish countryside dressed as ‘Marty’ and ‘The Wild Bunch’ star Ernest Borgnine, how could I say no?

The result of those afternoons was ‘The New Airwolf – The Next Generation’, a ludicrous VHS-shot spoof of the mid-1980s action series ‘Airwolf’, which starred Jan-Michael Vincent as moody helicopter-piloting hero Stringfellow Hawke and Ernest Borgnine as his trusty sidekick, Dominic Santini. I owed Tristan for all the help he’d given me on a previous video project (our VHS-shot fantasy epic The Alchemist), so it only seemed fair, even when I ended up wearing a radioactive-yellow hat and had a sofa cushion stuffed under my clothes (to properly simulate the classic Borgnine ‘barrel-chest’ physique).

And it’s never quite gone away. The end result was gloriously shambolic but far more fun than I expected, and Tris put it up on YouTube in 2006, where it’s notched up a hilarious number of views (some of whom may have actually watched the whole thing). Then, recently Tris contacted me with the slightly boggling news that someone had done a ‘4K Restoration’ and actually edited Hi-Def versions of the original series footage we used into the video. The only downside of this version was that the sound wasn’t very good (especially in the end battle sequence, where the ludicrous gags are the point)… so I found myself constructing an all-new version by syncing up the soundtrack from Tris’s lower-quality version, for an all-new ‘Ultimate’ edit. It’s creaky and desperately silly, but I’m still oddly proud to have been part of it, and I’m glad that it’s still out there, on the Internet, playing havoc with search results and bewildering the hell out of any ‘Airwolf’ aficionados…

New Frontiers (The Creative Writing M.A.: Half-Time News)

Time sometimes moves uncomfortably fast. It doesn't seem like that long ago that it was late August 2013, and I was getting myself ready for the adventure that was going to be my first year on my Creative Writing M.A. at Manchester University. And now, due to the way that being a part-time student works… I'm done until September.

Basically, full-time students do two semesters (with two course 'modules' per semester) followed by a dissertation, while people like me only have to do one 'module' per semester, and get the summer off. It does mean that because of how the course is divided up, I'm not actually doing any course-related creative writing work until January 2015, but otherwise I've got the summer to work like crazy on earning money and getting my current book project in better shape.

Things I have learned:

1: I love libraries – proper, full-on academic libraries that you can get lost in, and where you need to know exactly what you're looking for otherwise you'll never find it because BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS. If there's one thing I'm going to seriously miss once the course is over, it's this.

2: Reading a book a week is heavy going – at least, it is when they're heavyweight examples of Contemporary Fiction, and many of them weigh in at 500 pages. Anyone thinking “Ha, a book a week doesn't sound too much like hard work”, go and read GB84 by David Peace (500 pages of aggressively modernist fiction about the Miners' Strike) and then we'll talk, okay? There were plenty of points in Semester 2, where all I was doing was reading stuff for seminars, when I was regularly thanking God that I was doing the course part-time. If I'd been doing fiction workshops as well, my brain may have exploded.

3: I'm a better writer than I thought I was. (But then, considering how my brain works and how I often have a ridiculously low opinion of myself, that isn't exactly hard). But seriously, I feel like the course has genuinely helped me already – I've got some of my confidence back, and I now have a slightly better concept of how I want to proceed, and the kind of writer I am.

4: Academic essays do not agree with me. At all.

5: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell is a ridiculously fascinating book. It was one of the novels I wrote my essay about, and it's like staring at one of those Magic Eye 3-D pictures – the more you look, the more you find. I want to read more David Mitchell, at a point when my To Be Read pile is not quite so damn terrifying, so that'll probably be sometime around June 2024.

6: I really mean it about the academic essays.

7: Jeanette Winterson is a fiercely intimidating person – so scarily smart it's a bit like staring at the sun, and a bit like being around one of those whip-smart school teachers in whose lessons you always behaved simply because you Did Not Cross Them. She did a selection of voluntary seminars that involved reading a whole load of stuff I'd never have touched otherwise, many of which left me feeling as if I was attempting to catch butterflies with a hopelessly small net, but it was still an experience that was more than worth having, even if I did spend most of them ferociously taking notes while thinking “Oh God, please don't ask me a question, please don't ask me a question…”

8: An off-shoot of the academic essay stuff – I'm not sure a PhD is for me. I was thinking seriously about it, and I've done lots of research and finding out of info, but despite the advantages, I'm not sure if it's something I want to spend three years of my life doing, especially since it ain't necessarily going to guarantee being able to teach at a University level anyhow, and there are different ways of playing that route. And, frankly, I've got loads of writing that I want to do, and I don't want to put it off for three years in order to do something that I'm really not sure I want to do.

There were lots of other things, obviously, and while I've got three months of summer to look forward to, it's going to pass in the blink of an eye. And then I'll be back for another year, heading for next Summer, and my dissertation. I've done my best to make the most of this course – and now, with one year to go, I want to do even better. Only time will tell…



My Legendary Girlfriend


Five years ago, my marriage ended.

As a result, at the start of 2010, I wasn’t in the best emotional state. I was coping to a degree, I’d rebuilt my life in Manchester, I’d acquired a new and wonderful bunch of friends, and was doing my best to pick myself up after my first novel had gone through a very long process of consideration by a publisher, only to finally be turned down. Trouble was, I was only just really starting to deal with what my marriage ending had done to me, I was confused and lost about a lot of things in my life at that stage, but ultimately, I knew I had to get used to being on my own. This was how life was, and I needed to be happy with that before I stood a chance of anything else happening (however unlikely that appeared to the darker sides of my consciousness).

I had things to look forward to, though, and one of them was Eastercon 2010, which this time was taking place at the Raddison Edwardian in Heathrow – the same location the con had been in 2008, at my first Eastercon, when my life had been completely different. This time, however, I had the advantage that there were quite a few people I knew at the Con, thanks to the interesting strategy I’d utilised at Eastercon 2009 of getting up in front of a crowd of people and singing “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran as part of a Rock Band competition. It had netted me some friends and acquaintances, and made the whole thing seem a little less scary.

Fairly soon after arrival, I met a bunch of these new acquiantances – Kim and Del Lakin-Smith, Sam Moffat and Paul Skevington – and with them was someone I hadn’t met before, an interesting-looking and attractive girl with pink hair and one of the most aggressively sequinned hats I’d ever encountered. Her name was Emma Jane, we introduced each other, and she seemed like a nice person who’d be worth getting to know better.


We ended up talking a few times, and were fairly quickly having the kind of fun, rambling conversations that cons are designed for, and which tell you that yes, you’re very probably destined to get on with this person. I did find out fairly soon that she had a boyfriend, who she’d been with for ten years, which caused me to internally shake a brief fist at the sky, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me being friends with her. We were both writers as well, so there was no shortage of stuff for us to talk about.

Friday night, there was a disco. I went wearing the loudest, most ridiculous shirt I own – it can only be described like an explosion in a playing card factory – and Emma was there was well, looking ridiculously sexy while wearing the kind of corset that can be filed under the heading “Immensely distracting”. I ended up dancing with her in that manner that one dances with girls who’ve got boyfriends, and enjoyed the experience immensely while also constantly thinking “She’s got a boyfriend, she’s got a boyfriend…”

We kept bumping into each other. At the big showing of Doctor Who on Saturday night, which was Matt Smith’s first episode, ‘The Eleventh Hour’, I ended up a fair distance back from the screen with a spare seat next to me. And then I saw Emma up ahead looking for a seat, and thought “There’s no way this can possibly work out, someone else will get to this seat first…” but I waved, and got her attention, and she sat next to me for what turned out to be a hugely enjoyable hour that, at least for a while, reignited my fervent love of Who.

There were plenty of other encounters over the remaining two days of the con – including a point where I drunkenly ended an evening by hugging her and telling her “Your boyfriend is a very lucky man,”, as well as on Monday morning, where she helped me out at a point when I’d managed to leave my bag (and my wallet) in Sam and Paul’s room but didn’t have a room number for them, and therefore couldn’t sort out the bill for my room which I was sharing with someone else, resulting in me rushing around in a total panic like a headless chicken. It all got sorted, and I got the chance to say goodbye to Emma, and was pretty sure this was going to be another case of a wonderfully attractive girl with a boyfriend who’d be forever leading me to wistful thoughts of “Ah, if only…”

She immediately friended me on Facebook and Twitter, and there then followed a lot of friendly messaging, as well as plenty of comments on my many blog posts (most of which were Doctor Who-related). We saw each other again fairly soon – at the end of April, we were both at the awards ceremony for the Arthur C. Clarke Awards in London, and got to once again hang out, have fun, and dance together in a way that was definitely appropriate in every single way. Honest. Yes, I may have had plenty of points where I’d call up the pictures I’d taken of Emma at Eastercon, look at them and generally go “Goddammit, why do girls like this *always* have boyfriends?” but I was okay with things. Frankly, I needed all the friends I could get, and if I had a friend who was a deeply attractive girl, well, that was just a bonus, as well as being good practice for the time when I finally did meet an attractive girl who was also, quite definitely, single.


All was good and fine, and we already knew we’d be seeing each other at Alt Fiction, a literature event that was happening in Derby at the beginning of June. It was a few days before then – probably around a Tuesday or Wednesday – that I was undergoing one of my occasional bouts of melancholy sadness, which I of course dealt with in the most mature way possible by writing a whole load of self-pitying tweets along the lines of “WHY AM I SO ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE WAAAAHH!!” It was daft and silly, and things were nowhere near as bad as I thought they were, and I was in the process of just knuckling down and getting the hell on with it when I got a reply from Emma on Twitter, basically saying something along the lines of “You’re not alone in feeling like this. Details later…” I was wondering exactly what this was all about, when I got a couple of Direct Messages from her on Twitter, which told me that the reason she could sympathise with me was that her boyfriend of ten years – with whom she was living, and who she depended on due to health issues relating to the fact that she had a thyroid condition – had just decided that now was the right time to dump her.

It’s understandable that not everyone reading this might believe me, but my reaction to this was in no way whatsoever one of “NOW IS MY CHANCE!” My reaction was actually one of instant sympathy and concern – I’d only known Emma a couple of months, but we were getting on, she seemed really nice, and also I’d been through a version of the emotional minefield she was about to end up going through herself. I knew something of how rough this was going to get, and I didn’t want her to have to go through it, but if she was going to go through it, I figured I could be the best help I could possibly be.

I emailed her right away, saying how sorry I was, and I made a commitment that on Saturday, at Alt Fiction, my mission would be to look after her and make sure she had as good a time as possible. I’d also be the friend who she didn’t have to talk about stuff with – I remembered how exhausting it was, back when I was splitting up with my ex, having to go through the same rather emotionally gruelling conversation over and over again. So, I told her – she could talk to me about anything, but she didn’t *have* to talk to me about stuff. And that she was more than welcome to just hop on a train anytime to Manchester, and I would make sure she had a fun day out that’d take her mind off things. She was in a really vulnerable place, and I wasn’t going to do anything to take advantage of that – I was going to be a friend, and do my best to help her through this.

When I saw first saw her that Saturday, at the Quad arts centre in Derby, she looked extremely shaky and delicate, like she might shatter if someone breathed on her too hard. I looked after her as best I could – I stuck with her, got her talking, at one point zoomed out to get her water, and did my best to be the ultimate back-up guy. By early afternoon, I could see she was doing better, and starting to have genuine fun, and I also remember accompanying her to the Tesco Metro, and then watching her down a small carton of cream that she’d bought on the way back. It was one of the ways at that point that she’d get energy into her system (before she realised that anything cows-milk related wasn’t good for her), and I just couldn’t believe that she’d actually done it. But we continued having fun, and at the end of the evening before I had to head off to the train, she gave me a hug, said thanks, and I really felt like I’d done a good job.

We e-mailed and Skyped each other lots over the next couple of weeks. I shared details about the various trials and tribulations I’d gone through during my break-up, while she started to open up about how things hadn’t been going well with her ex for a long time, and how she was just going to have to sort out a plan for the future. We were helping each other out, and sharing lots, and going through this kind of common ground deepened the friendship that had already been going well, and we started messaging more frequently. I did kind of notice that I was replying to her e-mails really fast – often staying up late to write them, and then waiting with slightly baited breath for the reply, but I really wasn’t being anything other than a friend. Honestly, I knew it was going to be a long hard road for her, and I wasn’t going to think about anything other than helping her get through the next few months. She was going to need to get herself sorted out and on her feet, and frankly by then, she’d probably either not be wanting a relationship, or we’d be such good friends that actually doing anything to ‘further’ the friendship would just feel weird.

And then, the flirting started.


It was really quiet at first, and sort of ended up like a War of Attrition – I saw something in one of her e-mails, and thought… well, that does seem like it’s a little bit of a flirt. But it probably isn’t. Getting carried away by that kind of thing wouldn’t be appropriate. But then, I’ve never been one to *not* respond to a flirt – so, in my next e-mail, I very carefully flirted back, in the manner of someone very gingerly dipping a toe in a hot pool of water, ready to yank it back the moment the temperature gets too much.

The temperature didn’t get too much. The flirting continued.

And then, one thing led to another, and about three weeks later, Emma was coming over to Manchester for a visit. Result? I was nervous as hell. This all felt like it was going very fast, and seemed utterly unbelievable, for the simple reason that this had never happened to me before. The one long term relationship I’d had before had started in a very, very different manner (I fell into bed with a girl I barely knew at a party, while dressed as a member of Kraftwerk). The whole “meet a girl you find attractive, get to know her, and then go on a date” thing had never, ever worked out for me – I’d seemingly specialised in finding attractive girls who were often good friends, but were never attracted back. It was just the way the world worked, and being in a situation where a girl I’d been genuinely attracted to for months and had been *certain* nothing would ever happen with was suddenly coming to Manchester for a visit… well, it was more than my brain could cope with.

I can still remember waiting for her on the train platform, that slight nervousness, that sense that we were about to go from ‘Friends’ to ‘A definite step beyond Friends’, along with a fear that maybe we wouldn’t be able to carry on the relationship we’d formed mainly over e-mail, Twitter and Skype. Maybe it wouldn’t be the same in person. I didn’t want anything to go wrong, or to feel the wrong things when I saw her – after all, I’d only actually seen her in person twice since meeting her in Eastercon. And then, among all the crowd disembarking from the Sheffield train, I saw her, walking carefully along wearing a gorgeous black tea-dress, looking nervous as hell but smiling that wonderful smile she had, and I felt like it was going to be alright. We hugged, and her first words after hello were “I need a coffee”, so I took her along to the nearest Cafe Nero, got her a coffee, and then hit the interesting problem that Emma was so nervous that she was barely talking. I coped with this my usual way, by talking nine-to-the-dozen, filling the silence and hoping to God that she wasn’t regretting coming all this way to listen to me blithering like a lunatic. Directly afterwards, I had the sensible idea of taking her to Afflecks, a crazy independant store in Manchester’s Northern Quarter that’s basically as if someone took the entirety of Camden Market in London and squashed it into one building. It’s packed full of crazy fashions, and it proved to be an effective icebreaker, giving Emma a chance to enjoy herself without having to talk too much, and things were a lot easier for the rest of the day.

That was also the day of our first kiss. All I knew was that I really needed to kiss her, and no matter how nervous I was about the idea of doing it, if the chance arose, I was going to take it. I was finding out that while I can be a bag of neuroses and jittery terror, there are also points where I’m prepared to be surprisingly daring. Anyway, we kissed, and it didn’t go hideously wrong. We ended the day back at the train station, and while we didn’t know exactly where this was going, I think we both knew that this hadn’t been a mistake, and that we wanted this to carry on. It was difficult for Emma, because it was so quick – she was still living in the same house as her ex, and would be for the next couple of months, and there was a brief point that evening, when we talked via e-mail, and I realised I might have come on a bit too strong, and I basically made it clear that I hadn’t meant to, and whichever speed she wanted to go at was fine by me. I liked this, I didn’t want it to go anywhere, but I was prepared to wait. What mattered was that she was comfortable with the situation – any raging hormones inside my own brain could damn well wait for a while.


This is also the point where this telling is going to get less detailed, because one thing I have learned is that relationships gain their own momentum, and that things are sometimes going to happen whether it’s completely appropriate or what everybody thinks of as the ‘right time’. Emma still had plenty of emotional baggage and problems to get through, and I was still nervous about doing the right thing, but we were also pretty much head over heels for each other by that time, and there’s only so long that kind of thing can be held in check. It was around the middle of August when we ‘came out’ officially as a couple, and by then Emma had made plenty of trips over to Manchester, and things were suddenly getting serious and wonderful, and in September I abruptly found myself accompanying Emma to a wedding where I met her family, and one of my overriding memories of that time is simply not being able to believe that this was happening.

I’d gone through eighteen months of being alone, trying to cope with everything my marriage break-up had done to me – and it’s a special kind of emotional pain when you get up in front of the world to say “This is the person I want to spend the rest of my life”, and then four years later have to get up again and say “Sorry, looks like it isn’t going to work out after all.” It leaves you broken in a whole lot of ways, and considering my confidence in myself had never exactly been huge before I’d undergone a marriage break-up, things were not exactly healthy in my head, and the idea of getting to a point where anything could happen with someone new seemed so… unlikely. Going from that to a situation where I was suddenly in a relationship with a smart, sexy, incredibly cute girl with multi-coloured hair and a liking for vintage fashions and Cath Kidston gear, and who seemed to pretty much think I was fantastic – well, it felt like I’d toppled into an alternate universe, as if the laws of nature itself had gone IN-SANE.

I still had plenty of fragile areas in my brain. I was permanently ready for this all to fall apart – I knew I had to be careful, simply because I hadn’t been ready last time, and that had been one of the scariest aspects of the break-up, that I simply hadn’t known what to do for a while. I had insecurities, and Em had plenty of emotional problems of her own, but we stuck together. She moved into her own flat at the end of September, and soon I was visiting her in Sheffield as much as she’d been visiting me in Manchester, and we started talking about the idea of maybe finding somewhere to live together in Manchester once her first six months in the flat were up and she was onto a rolling contract, and while part of me was scared by the idea – my previous experience of living with only one other person hadn’t exactly ended well – the other part of me couldn’t help but think “Well, there doesn’t exactly seem to be a reason *not* to, does there?”


Winding forward into 2011, and finding a place wasn’t easy. Once we found a flat, in Whalley Range, just a short distance from where I’d been living, every stage of the process seemed to be fraught with difficulty. On the day we moved in, an altercation with a neighbour due to parking our van in the wrong place ended up with me having to call the police, although it thankfully settled down before anything else dreadful happened, and we just had to settle for being jangling bags of nervous tension for the next few weeks. And then, later in 2011, just as Emma was finally in a position to start working on her freelance programming projects and get her income up, she started having a very bad reaction to her thyroid medication which set off a sequence of symptoms and problems that went on for almost an entire year, and incapacitated her for a very long time.

There were some tough times. 2012 wasn’t an easy year for either of us. Things went wrong, life was hard, and there were a handful of points where I started getting scared that maybe fate was trying to send me a message that this wasn’t supposed to work out. I didn’t want history to start repeating itself, and I didn’t want to end up feeling like “This shouldn’t be *quite* this much work,” the way I had done back during much of my marriage. There were plenty of happy times as well, but it’s easy sometimes to convinces yourself that things aren’t going to get better.

And then, much to my surprise, things got better.

Emma’s health mostly cleared up. Her earnings picked up. I helped out by assisting with the writing of an especially bonkers Superhero Name Generator. She helped me out by nudging me towards looking into the possibility of doing an MA in Creative Writing, and I then stunned the hell out of myself by actually getting a place on the course. We’ve had a 2013 that may not have been a spectacular improvement, but where things definitely got better, and we both set ourselves targets for the future. Despite any ups and downs during late 2011 and early 2012, I simply can’t imagine my life without her. The fact that I found her, that everything happened the way it did, that I was lucky enough to find someone who’d put up with me, support me and tell me when I’m being hopeless – it’s something I regularly find amazing beyond words.

There were points where I didn’t understand why the bad stuff had to happen to me – why I had to end up in a situation where I had to reboot my life, why I had to go through a lengthy relationship and struggle beyond all limits to make it work, only to discover that if a relationship is that much of a struggle maybe it isn’t really working. But if that’s what I had to go through to get here, then suddenly it makes sense. It was a learning curve. Because no matter how much things went wrong in my last relationship, part of it was simply because I wasn’t ready to be married, I wasn’t mature enough to be able to handle it right. I had to go through all that, and make mistakes, so that when I got this particular chance, I’d be able to get it right. I’d be able to fall head over heels for someone, and know that they love me as much as I love them, and that we function as a team, and support each other, and help each other through the bad times.

There will be ups and downs. There will be good times, and bad. I’m okay with that. But the last three years has changed me in countless ways, and there isn’t a day goes by that I’m not thankful beyond words that my path crossed with that pink-haired girl in the sequinned hat, and that I said hello to her, and got to know her, and tried my best to be a good friend.

It’s been easy at times to think that I’m the kind of person who doesn’t deserve good things to happen to them. It’s been easy to think that fate has it in for me, and that I’m not destined to be happy.

But I met Emma Jane, and I fell in love with her, and as long as I’m with her, my life feels like it makes sense. I may not be a published novelist, I may not be where I want to be professionally, but I’m with her, and I’m happy, and we’re already building a life together, and I want to carry on doing that for as long as we can, and have as much fun as we can, and make Emma as happy as I can manage.

Sometimes, good things really do happen.

em and sax

Fragments of Time (Creative Writing MA: Week One)

I don’t remember students being quite so young. Yes, I was that young once, but it’s still rather hard to believe. If you’re in your latter thirties and want to feel disorientatingly old, sign yourself up back to University and watch your brain turn somersaults. Last week was Fresher’s Week (or ‘Welcome Week’ as it was more officially referred to), and I spent a fair proportion of it trying not to think about how I was old enough to actually be a parent to most of the newly arrived students who were thronging around in a way that occasionally made me want to shout “For God’s sake, stop being so YOUNG!” like a crazy person. (My Dad was pretty much my age now when I went to University first time round. That’s certainly given me pause for thought.)

But thankfully, not all of it was spent consumed with going “Aaaarrrggghhhh!” at the concept of morality and time passing. It’s been a fairly action-packed first week, and the first day – last Monday – turned out really well. Honestly, I was kind of terrified before I went in – I’d been working towards this course for so long, and there’s a lot riding on getting this right, and there’s all sorts of issues connected with my writing confidence as well – but the day went well. A big meeting of the whole Arts, Languages and Cultures school was followed by the first official meeting of the Creative Writing MA, and while it was intimidating, it went well and also fired a ton of information at me. (I was also able to sort out the dates that I’m going to be submitting fiction in the first semester – dates that, considering I just decided to junk my original idea and start with something new – are thankfully far enough in the future to give me room for manouver.)

Then, there was a drinks reception where I once again discovered the socialising aid that is free red wine. I was soon talking nine-to-the-dozen to a lovely bunch of my fellow students, and the conversation continued into the Chinese meal that followed at the Red Chilli Restaurant just across the road from the University (where the food was pretty damn splendid), and afterwards there was an equally talk-filled session at a nearby bar. I even ended up having a pretty lengthy conversation with author (and course lecturer) Geoff Ryman about a dizzying number of subjects, and I came out of the whole day with my brain fizzing – both with alcohol, and with ideas, thoughts and writing approaches.

Since then, there’s been a lot of sorting out to be done – I’ve gotten myself a Student Union card (hellooooo student discount), a bus pass for this term, I’ve sorted out access to the University wi-fi, and gone to a relatively interesting lecture about coping with an MA as a part-time student. I also briefly visited the ‘Welcome Fair’ on Wednesday, the event where you can join up with any university society under the sun, and which felt like an even more intense version of a Comics convention, except where the stalls were all about Neuroscience, Board-Games, politics, religion and BEER. There was an excellent event on Friday at the Manchester Museum (which is also part of the University), where I got to hear a talk from one of the curators about their fantastic Egyptology department, and the whole week essentially left me with my brain spinning in a very positive way.

In certain ways, I’m wishing I could have gone somewhere like Manchester first time around. In other ways, I think it’s possible that wherever I’d gone to University first time round, it wouldn’t have been ideal – I was a naive late teenager who knew nothing about the world, and really needed to grow up. Sometimes, it takes a while to find your path. It took me a while, but I feel like I’ve found it now.

The real challenge begins from here onwards. I’ve already critted the first piece of work for my Fiction workshop (which officially kicks off tomorrow), and I’ve got an idea for what I’m going to be submitting that I need to hammer into something resembling a decent shape. I’ve even – shock! horror! – had an idea for a short story that I actually want to write. Balancing what I need to do with what I have to do (especially since I’ve got a trio of articles to complete over the next couple of weeks) may not be the easiest thing in the world, but it feels achievable.

For the last eighteen months or so, my life hasn’t been at its best. Lots of things have gone wrong, or not turned out how I’d hoped. My confidence took some major knocks as a result. But now, for the first time in a long while, I feel like I’m on the right path. And I think it’s going to be an interesting challenge finding out where it goes…


The Proud Highway II (The University Interview, and After)

So. The University interview happened.

It was intense – 25 minutes that seemed to pass in a shot. And by the time I came out… I genuinely didn’t know if I’d done well or not. I was running through everything in my brain (as is my habit), trying to convince myself that I’d said enough stuff that seemed to have gone down well that I must have gotten something right. But, a combination of the aftermath of a fair amount of stress and the sudden realisation of the fact that I might not get on the course (plus the fact that it was probably going to take two weeks to hear back) left me in a bit of a state. My brain flicked back into low confidence mode, and things seemed rather difficult right then.

I went home. I had lunch. I watched the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer from S6 of the show. Then I checked my e-mail.

That was the point where I started saying “WHAT?!?” over and over, and I literally had to hand Emma my iPad in order to show what had happened, because I was too shocked to speak right then.

An unconditional offer. It had actually been sitting there for over an hour, and had been sent about half an hour after my interview ended. All that worrying didn’t need to happen. I’m on the course – for the next two years, from September 2013 to Summer 2015.

Of course, I’ve spent the afternoon in a state of shocked amazement, and a whole selection of lovely congratulations have come in from lots of people on Facebook and Twitter. Soon, I’ll have my head in gear and be able to fully appreciate what’s happened (and what I’ve got coming up in the next couple of years). For now, I’m incredibly grateful to my wonderful girlfriend Emma for suggesting this and nudging me in the direction of the course. And I’m exceedingly happy that I’ve got an exciting new direction to explore…

The Proud Highway (Jitters before a University Interview…)

Twenty one years ago. That’s the last time I experienced the strangeness that is a University interview. I can’t remember exactly how many I had – it’s either three or four, and all of them were odd in different ways. (My experience of Bradford – a seven-hour drive from Cornwall, only to find that the course I was interviewing for wasn’t exactly as the prospectus had advertised – is burnt into my brain, but for different reasons). For some reason, more out of habit than anything else, I still have the suit jacket I wore to that interview (complete with embarrassing post-Eighties shoulder-pads). One day, I really will give that thing away to charity.

Not today, though. Today I’m going for an interview at Manchester University, for a place on their MA course in Creative Writing. It’s an impressive course – I went to an open day last November, and that pretty much convinced me that this was something I need to do. I’m aiming to do the course part-time, for the next two years, as I’ve been thinking vaguely about the idea of doing some writing-related teaching for a while, and it’s time to actually do something about it.

Am I nervous? Of course I’m nervous. There’s plenty of confidence sloshing around inside my brain as well, but the nerves are jangling away, and they won’t stop until it’s all over and (aside from a bit of paperwork related to my application for funding) it’s out of my hands. I’m sure that once I sit down and start talking, everything’ll be fine – one thing I’ve never had is any problems talking about writing – and as long as I can give a good account of myself in the time that’s available, I’ll be happy.

The odd thing is that making this kind of deliberate choice isn’t something I’m used to. A big proportion of the big stuff that’s happened in my life – becoming a journalist, getting experience as a sub-editor, becoming a freelance manuscript reader, becoming a proofreader – were all down to simply being in the right place at the right time. People don’t always seem to believe me when I say that I stumbled into being a journalist by accident, but it’s true, and so it feels a bit odd to be in this situation and be wanting something as badly as this. Creative Writing teaching feels like something I can do – I just need help to get the occasional chaos in my brain pointing in the right direction. I’m hoping Manchester University is the right place to be doing this. And if it isn’t? Well, one thing I’ve learned over the years – no matter what happens, even if you don’t know it yet, there’s always a plan B…


I really should have posted this last week, but life got rather busy and intense in a whole collection of interesting shades. Therefore, I must make a proclamation:

I have a new review blog. And it’s called Schizopolitan. Look upon my works, ye mighty, and DESPAIR!!!

For anyone who’s still counting, that’s the secret project I was working on at the end of last year. The focus is mainly going to be on comics (hopefully dealing with them in an accessible and fun manner), but there’ll also be TV, Film and Book reviews as well – in short, the kind of stuff most of this blog was made up of when I wasn’t talking personal, but tidied up a bit and presented a little bit more structured. I’ll also be digging back into the history of this blog and resurrecting occasional posts and reviews, giving them a new lick of paint and republishing them on Schizopolitan. I’m going to be doing this for at least a year (at the moment I’ve got new content going up every week- this may slow down at some point), and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops. Hopefully it’s going to be fun, and you’re more than welcome to come along for the ride.

At the Closing of the Year

It’s the final curtain. 2010 has certainly been an odd and unusual year for me – it’s also been a startlingly good year in ways I’d never have dreamed possible. I’ve achieved a lot in the last twelve months work-wise, and even if I’m still experiencing what could be described as a slow build of work, I’ve made progress. Landmarks like passing my proofreading course and netting a new client have made me feel even more like I can actually make this work, and the number of fallow gaps when I haven’t had that much work on this year have been remarkably few, which means I must be getting something right.

World-wise, things haven’t exactly been encouraging – it’s increasingly difficult to avoid the feeling that I’m living in a post-modern rewrite of the dystopian world of V for Vendetta, and it would be nice if there was a single politician at work either in the government or the opposition who didn’t make my skin crawl, but I like to think that while things are difficult for a lot of people at the moment, that life goes in unpredictable and odd directions, and that turnarounds can happen when you least expect them. But whatever form they come in, just don’t expect them to be in any way thanks to politicians…

Anyway, for me 2010 was a good year, and one of the biggest reasons is that I’ve fallen in love again. It came out of nowhere – I met her at Eastercon this year, and was perfectly prepared for her to be another in my long line of nice unrequited crushes (especially since she was attached at the time). Well, a series of rather surprising plot-twists later, we started going out in July – and we’re still having a wonderful time. It’s pretty damn likely that we’ll be moving in together in a few months, and while there’s still plenty of emotional baggage lurking in my head from the past, I’m so glad I found someone cool, fun, creative and understanding, someone with whom I’ve genuinely clicked. The fact that she’s utterly gorgeous and regularly has dyed pink hair is simply a bonus.

My main mission for 2011? First up, I’ve got to finish the rewrites on my current novel Chill Out – once again, I’ve tried to pull off something massively ambitious, and it’s taking a lot of effort to actually get it up to the standard it needs to be, but it’s getting there. I’ve certainly learned a massive amount from writing it, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, it’s just also rather gigantic (currently weighing in at about 190,000 words) and is in urgent needof streamlining. I’ll also – daringly – be attempting a rewrite on my first novel, The Hypernova Gambit, and there are several projects circling the runway to see which gets picked next (including an exceptionally dark fantasy novel, and a series of novellas that have been bubbling away for quite some time). There’s also a couple of other projects on the way, and I really want to make sure that 2011 is a very serious work year.

I might as well be honest, as well – updates here are probably going to be very few and far between. I’ve blogged on Crawling from the Wreckage for five years, and generated a ton of entries on a variety of subjects, but my love of this style of blogging has rather cooled over the last eighteen months. To anyone out there who’s been following the blog long-term, thanks very much for reading – it has been important to me in a lot of ways, especially during some of the very tough times in the last five years. However, I don’t want to feel obligated to do this, and I’ve often only wanted to blog when I actually have something to say. So, for now Crawling from the Wreckage can safely be described as ‘on hiatus’ – there will be occasional updates, and I will use this for any personal news updates, but otherwise this place will be pretty quiet unless things dramatically change for me. I have a Tumblr blog which I’m using for occasional posts, and there’s another project which – as long as all goes well – will see me doing some blog-related stuff in a much more focussed manner, which hopefully I’ll be announcing here (and elsewhere) in a couple of weeks. But, whatever happens, I’ll still be around on Facebook and Twitter, and I’m not about to vanish into the ether quite yet.

So, I hope 2010 has been a good year for you – and I also hope that 2011 brings you plenty of fun, excitement and a whole series of pleasant surprises.

Thanks for reading, and have a Happy New Year.

Pieces Form The Whole


Where was I?

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. To be honest, this is more of an experiment than anything else. I have the feeling I may have lost a certain amount of the blogging urge. I’ve yet to work out whether or not this is a good thing. I’ve been feeling that I really should only blog if I’ve got something to say – so much blogging that I read nowadays (or at least the ones that don’t stick in my memory) are empty air, just filling space. So I’ve yet to decide whether this is a brief abberation, or whether I’m getting back on the horse.

Part of it is possibly the fact that I’ve never really generated the kind of blog that’s created much reaction. It’s always been nice when I get comments and replies on anything I’ve posted – I genuinely appreciate all of them. It just leads me to the weird conflict that’s always going on in my brain – part of me wants to be noticed. Part of me wants attention. The other part knows where that kind of thing can lead, especially on the internet. There’s been a few subjects, relating to publishing and writing, which I’ve wanted to comment on over the last couple of months. But I haven’t, and it’s mainly because I’m rather nervous about poking my head over the parapet and getting it shot off. So I’ve been keeping quiet. And maybe that’s been a mistake.

One thing is true: I have a Tumblr blog here: http://saxonbullock.tumblr.com/. It’s an offshoot of this blog, and it’ll be somewhere I’ll be able to post images, video and music a lot more easily than I can here. Please feel free to follow or bookmark me over there, as there should be a relatively frequent number of updates.

I’m proceeding well with the book. I’m busy with work, and my new relationship is now nearly four months old, and going very nicely. Life is good. And there’s a couple of plans relating to this blog that may be happening soon. But until then, we’ll just see what happens…

Public Service Announcement

I’m still here.

Just poking my head briefly above the parapet – it’s been a busy couple of months, and there’s a whole selection of reasons why entries on this blog have been… well, non-existant for a while. There will be updates at some point… but not for the immediate future. Crawling From The Wreckage is going to be inactive for a certain amount of time (I might as well be honest about it) – I just wanted to say that (a) I’m actually doing pretty well, (b) I’m making progress on my book, and (c) I have a new girlfriend, and I’m extremely happy about that fact. If anyone wants to check in with me, I have a rather more regular presence on Twitter right now, so feel free to catch up with me there. I’ve enjoyed blogging in the past, and I will enjoy it again – but right now, I feel like I need to take a break, I don’t want to simply do life-related ‘and then this happened’ updates right now, and I want to wait until there’s something I actually want to say (and a point where I have enough time to say it). I really enjoyed my series of Who reviews, and I’d like to do more fun analysis like that, and I’d also like to return to doing more life-related updates – but now is not the time, and I’d rather say that upfront than simply leave this inactive without any explanation.

So in short, I won’t be blogging for a while, but I will be again at some point. Life is treating me pretty well. I’m okay. And I hope you are too.

Be seeing you…