In Dreams Awake

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

(Henry David Thoreau)

Monday, 29 August 2016

Great Books

 Like Eric Klingenberg, by coincidence, I've just started to re-read the Harry Potter books. I do, every now and then, just as I re-read other favourites, The Awakeners, by Sheri S Tepper; The Player of Games by Iain M Banks, It, by Stephen King; and so on.

 But I don't always do this. There was a time when Guy Kay's Tigana was on the list of constant re-reads, but no more. I tired of it, I suppose. Lord of the Rings fell away a long time ago, after a dozen reads. Some stories stay with me and I'll get the itch to experience them again, while others are lost, or stay for a time and then fade.  All of which brings me to a question I remember from my sadly far-off school days - what makes a great book?

 My answer then, as now, is that a great book is one you revisit time and again. One in which you always seem to find something new, or an event to see in a new light. I know it's an incomplete answer, maybe a poor one, but it's as close as I can get. And it means that for each reader, the list of 'great books' will be different.

 Isn't that refreshing?

Thursday, 18 August 2016


 The internet has changed the world.

 Well, we all know that, eh? I couldn't have written my books without it. I do a lot of research, with up to a dozen windows open on my PC at the same time. For Risen King I needed details on Celtic and Saxon gods, warfare, language and clothing, among other things, for the story to work. The big one is language, because finding an English-Saxon dictionary in the library would be really hard, but I can find one online in moments.

 But the changes can be surprising. For example, between a third and a half of my blog's readership is in Russia, and I don't understand that at all.

 I've never been to Russia. Only sold a couple of books there. And I hardly know a thing about the place, except the one-line caricatures we see on the evening news. Russia is such a vast and diverse country that I think it's probably impossible to ever know the country well unless you're Russian in the first place - and even then, you'd have to work at it. What does a guy from St Petersburg know about fishermen on the Tunguska river?

 Well, maybe a lot in fact, because if Russians read the blog of some British bloke, they might read one another's blogs too. If Tunguska fishermen write blogs.  Might be too busy trying to dodge honking great asteroids.

 But you know, it's important we do read one another's thoughts, because it's the great blessing of the web. Rely on the news and we in the West might think Russians are mostly ex-KGB, and all of them want to conquer Ukraine. But we don't have to rely on the BBC, or CNN. We can just have a chat. I can find out what Tunguska fishermen think about, and learn what the babushka system actually involves. I just bet I'll also find that Russians aren't so different from us.