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The Lone Wolf in Fiction

 

In real life, we’re not sure what to make of loners. The media would have us fear them and if you believe what you read or hear on mainstream news outlets, every mass shooter, murderer and all-round creep is an unhinged loner. Back in 2012, I wrote an Op-Ed article about the media’s misrepresentation of loners (The Loner Myth), which was inspired by a book called Party of One by Anneli Rufus. So I won’t go into all that again here. The quick version – loners choose to be alone and aren’t the angry psychopaths you’re supposed to believe they are.

But fiction is different. We love the lone wolf in fiction. In The Future of London Series that I write, Mack Walker is a classic loner. Elsewhere, almost every character that Steve McQueen ever played was a loner. And remember, he was the king of cool. Mad Max, Dirty Harry, Beatrix Kiddo (aka The Bride), Jack Reacher, James Bond – the list is a long one. All fictional loners, all characters we love (well most of us!)

So in tribute to the fictional lone wolf, here are five examples from books, movies and TV, of some of my favourites. Enjoy.

 

Miyamoto Musashi (Musashi 1935)

Yes, I’m well aware that Miyamoto Musashi existed. He was a real man who lived in the late 16th and early 17th century Japan and was pretty much the most renowned swordsman who ever lived. The reason I include Musashi in this list of fictional loners is because there was a novel based upon his life.

Any excuse to talk about the man, right?

Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa is a great big sprawling read of a thing. This doorstopper-sized novel is loosely based on the real life of Musashi – very loosely. Don’t expect much historical accuracy here. It’s well over nine-hundred pages long and follows Musashi as he travels across Japan, perfecting his skill with the sword and seeking enlightenment. The relationships in Yoshikawa’s novel are there to make it more dramatic for the reader. The real Musashi however, rejected the patterns of conventional life such as marriage, to follow the Way of the Warrior, aspiring to great things not just in swordsmanship but in other arts too such as painting.

A few recommendations: If you’re interested in a biography of the historical Musashi, check out William Scott Wilson’s The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi. If you haven’t seen the classic movie trilogy from the 1950s, check out The Samurai Trilogy, starring the great Toshiro Mifune. And of course, there’s Musashi’s own timeless book of strategy – The Book of Five Rings.

 

Rorschach (Watchmen – 1986)

Rorschach is the anti-hero in Watchmen, a landmark graphic novel set in an alternate 1985 and featuring a collection of fallen superheroes. When a law is passed to outlaw masked vigilantes, Rorschach keeps fighting crime anyway and to hell with what anyone else thinks. That’s because the man in the inkblot mask is a loner and one of the typical features of fictional loners that we see time and time again is that they generally don’t give a shit about things like rules.

Meet Rorschach.

He has his own moral code. He’s confident in his abilities to solve problems and he’s fuelled by a hatred of conventional society. He’s a complicated guy, a violent and damaged human being.

In real life we’d stay well away from the likes of Rorschach. Most of us are probably glad that he’s an entirely fictional creation, albeit one with recognisably human flaws. We like him, but from afar. We admire him because whatever his morals are he sticks to them and he doesn’t play politics. These are admirable traits and they’re the foundation of a truly memorable character.  Rorschach is the embodiment of the lone wolf at its most savage. And what a wolf he is.

 

Snake Plissken (Escape From New York – 1981)

I could have added Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China here too. Maybe a few other Carpenter characters? Michael Myers?

We’ll stick with Snake for now.

We don’t know much about Snake. He’s a former US Army Lieutenant who at some point turned to crime. He’s a loner who doesn’t have much time for authority (sound familiar?) During the course of Escape From New York, Snake is forced to work with a colourful collection of characters (RIP Harry Dean Stanton) to help the President of the United States escape from within the walled city prison that is New York.

This is definitely a character that should come again. There are a series of comics – John Carpenter’s Snake Plissken Chronicles. I also remember hearing about a crossover comic featuring Snake and Jack Burton in the same book. Sounds incredible! In terms of film, a remake of Escape From New York is in the works, possibly with Robert Rodriguez directing. Who’s going to play Snake? It’s undecided at the time of writing who’s going to be picking up the eyepatch. I wish them luck.

 

Bartleby (Bartleby, the Scrivener – 1853)

Bartleby the Scrivener is a novelette by Herman Melville. It’s the unusual tale of a clerk hired by a Wall Street lawyer who after a short period of time in this lawyer’s employment, refuses to perform his duties. He does this much to the bewilderment of the man who employed him. Whenever something is required of Bartleby, he says no. In fact, his stock response becomes something of a mantra that’s repeated throughout the story:

“I would prefer not to.”

The story takes place in mid-19th century New York. The Big Apple was by then an increasingly industrial and dehumanised environment. Lots of people, lots of hustle. Amidst all this busyness, Bartleby becomes a passive rebel.

What exactly is going on with Bartleby? Is he clinically depressed? Is he enlightened? Has he seen the futility of performing mundane and repetitive tasks and trying to pass it off as life? Whatever the truth about the character, this is one of the great stories of alienation.

 

Omar (The Wire – 2002-2008)

The greatest TV shows have great characters. When it comes to The Wire, Omar Little is on almost everybody’s shortlist of favouritesWhile so many of the show’s other characters were motivated by greed and power, Omar was like a breath of fresh air – a man with genuine principles who lived by a strict moral code.

Omar is a gunslinger out of the Wild West. He stalked the streets of Baltimore with a sawed off shotgun and his trademark whistle. He ripped off big-time drug dealers like a cult folk hero. He wasn’t afraid to tackle anyone as long as they were in the game (Omar didn’t go after civilians). He was a loner who worked for no man – if anything, Omar was working for a higher cause.

He didn’t swear either. No mean feat in The Wire.

Omar did find love on two occasions but his first boyfriend was brutally killed, which went a long way to fuelling his motivation to go after the Barksdale gang. Late in the show’s run, it looked like he’d gotten out of the game by retiring to Puerto Rico with a new partner. But…(and SPOILER ALERT)…the murder of his father figure and friend Butchie, pulled this lone wolf back into the game. One more time.

Any more loners you want to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

 

For some more fictional lone wolves, check out The Future of London Series (Grab the first three books in a handy Box Set, as well as Sleeping Giants – Part 4)

(Click book covers for Amazon links)

Non-Amazon Links – FOL Box Set/Sleeping Giants.

 

The Future of London Box Set (Books 1-3)

Sleeping Giants (Future of London Book 4)

 

 

Sleeping Giants – The New Future of London Novel

 

Sleeping Giants – the new Future of London novel is coming!

The fourth instalment of this dark dystopian series will be released on Wednesday October 4th. Now it’s time for the blurb ‘World Premiere’ (yes I really just wrote that) and I’m happy to share it here with you.

Run blurb:

 

“Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge.” – Paul Gauguin

Mack Walker is wandering across the London wastelands, looking for Hatchet – the man who destroyed his life. The man who destroyed everything.

It’s a search that leads Walker to ‘The Sleeping Giants’, a low-ranking street gang based in the Hole, formerly South London. The Sleeping Giants know where Hatchet is, but they’re only willing to tell Walker on one condition – he must prove his worth to them and join their ranks.

It all starts with a shocking ‘initiation task’.

But how far is Walker willing to go in his quest for revenge? And can the lone wolf, cast adrift for so long, ever rejoin the pack?

Sleeping Giants is the fourth book in The Future of London series – the perfect binge-reading experience for fans of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction.

Sleeping Giants (The Future of London #4) – October 4th

Previous books in The Future of London Series:

L-2011 (#1)

Mr Apocalypse (#2)

Ghosts of London (#3)

New L-2011 Cover – Why I Changed It

 

Hi everyone,

Today I’m proud to show off the new cover art for ‘L-2011’.

Why did I change the existing cover? To put it bluntly, the first cover was a mistake – my mistake. That’s nothing whatsoever against the person who designed it for me, who happens to be a very talented designer. That person was only following my instructions, which were vague and flawed. I guess I didn’t really know what I wanted back then and settled for something average.

One of the great things about indie publishing however, is that we can actively learn from our mistakes. And we can update our covers whenever we want (allowing we can afford it of course!)

Just before the publication of Ghosts of London (Future of London #3), I started working with South African artist Vincent Sammy. Vincent’s a talented artist who has a great list of credits to his name, designing artwork for a wide array of science fiction and horror magazine, as well as books – he even worked on a limited edition Stephen King cover recently. Nice addition to the CV that.

And he’s a top bloke!

The main thing is that Vincent creates original art. With recent books, I’ve had specific ideas for covers that could only be translated by an original artist rather than using someone who uses pre-existing web-sourced images. Is it more expensive to hire an original artist? Yes, but I believe it’s worth it. As we all know, the cover is the first point of contact for a potential reader – perhaps more than anything else, it’s the difference between a sale and a no thanks.

While the first L-2011 cover showed a generic London skyline, this features one of the more recognisable characters from the story, Chester George, standing in Piccadilly Circus, where a major scene unfolds near the end of the book. Punk rock plays a part in the story too (it’s the background music to Chester George’s YouTube broadcasts) and that’s something else we’ve used on the cover, specifically in the excerpts from Chester George’s speeches, shown in a punkish font.

You see what I mean? It’s the little things. You can do more with an original artist and by using one I believe it’ll make your cover that little bit more unique and special in the long term. Not to mention marketable too.

Just my thoughts of course.

So here it is, the new cover. I hope you like it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L-2011 (The Future of London #1) is free to download

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The Coolest Gangs on the Big Screen

 

Street gangs.

They’re colourful and funky. Who here remembers Swan and Ajax strutting their stuff on the dark streets of 1970s New York in The Warriors? And the other gangs, remember them? The Baseball Furies? The Electric Eliminators? Of course you know what I’m talking about.

Well what about dystopian street gangs? Remember the Duke of New York (aka Issac ‘Chef’ Hayes) lording it up over a twisted, futuristic version of the Big Apple in Escape From New York?

Then there’s the apocalyptic gangs. You must recall the wild antics of the Toecutter and his merciless motorcycle gang, the Acolytes, as they caused havoc on the streets of pre-apocalyptic Australia in Mad Max. And remember how after that, the series went full batshit post-apocalyptic, serving up the likes of Lord Humungus and then Tina Turner in a platinum blonde wig?

Yes indeed. It’s time to give props to a few of the films that have inspired The Future of London books that I’ve been writing lately. I’ve wanted to do this post for ages and before anyone gets antsy,  I’m not saying these are the best ‘gang’ movies out there (or maybe I am!) The above three films are dear to my heart that’s all. So take a few moments to appreciate these classics.

By the way, if you’re hoping to see Marlon Brando and The Black Rebels Motorcycle Club here, you’re out of luck.

 

The Warriors (1979)

“I’ll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsicle.”

So many one-liners worthy of repeating.

Remember Cyrus and that speech? ‘Can you dig it?’ Or how about the  ‘Warriors, come out to play’ scene? Now if you’ve got a few empty beer bottles lying around the house, I do suggest you put on the long-haired wig and partake and clink along with the scene at home. You know, it doesn’t matter how many times I see David Patrick Kelly acting like a spaced out, born-again hippy in the Twin Peaks reboot. He’ll always be Luther to me.

There’s a clear difference between Sol Yurick’s 1965 novel and Walter Hill’s 1979 movie. The novel is grittier and darker. It’s angrier too and it feels a lot more real, more like a piece of social commentary than the fantastical, theatrical movie that followed fourteen years after the book. The characters are different too. Both are brilliant but this is one of those rare instances where I prefer the movie over the book. (Jaws is another)

The film is cool and super-dated but in a good way that reeks of the 1970s. It’s creative too with a wide variety of uniquely dressed and titled gangs who take over the city streets at night. If that isn’t enough, the soundtrack kicks bottom. In fact, while you’re reading the rest of this section, you should check out the excellent theme song. Caution – it’ll make you want to strut.

The Warriors – just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about here – follows the adventures of a New York street gang who get wrongly accused of murdering a major gang leader (Cyrus) at a mass meeting designed to unite all the city’s gangs. For the rest of the movie, The Warriors are chased across the New York, battling through hostile, gang-infested territory as they try to to make it back to their own turf in Coney Island.

The film has gathered a well-deserved cult status over the years and here’s an extra bonus fact you may or may not know: the original novel was based on an Ancient Greek text, Anabasis, by the philosopher and historian Xenophon. In Anabasis, a band of Greek mercenaries are fighting their way back home through hostile Persian territory after their leader (Cyrus) is killed.

Now I’m sure Xenophon’s text is well worth a look but if you’re in the mood for something a bit lighter, why not check out The Warriors?

 

Escape from New York (1981)

“It’s the survival of the human race, Plissken. Something you don’t give a shit about.”

This movie is a dystopian classic.

Some observers have commented that the walled city prison in Escape from New York is an allegorical endorsement of how to treat poor communities that are riddled with crime and deemed beyond hope. Others shoo away such lofty, English-lit heavy interpretations like an annoying fly that lands on your dinner plate. After all, if Isaac Hayes is playing a character called The Duke of New York, shouldn’t you just sit back, smile and enjoy?

Yes.

Escape From New York is set in an alternate 1997, one in which the Big Apple has been transformed into a maximum security prison that holds over three million convicted criminals. When Air Force One goes down over the city and the President (played by a distinctly non-American Donald Pleasance) is taken hostage, it’s up to Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to get the POTUS back out in one piece.

The Duke’s gang are known as the Gypsies. There are other gangs in the city too including the Turks, Skulls, and Crazies. But it’s the Duke and his followers who rule the roost in this fictional 1997. These are the guys after all, who drive around the city in limousines with matching chandeliers attached to the hood.

The Duke doesn’t give a shit about anything. He wears a Naval Officer’s tunic and shades. He uses the President for target practice – “You’re the Duke of New York. You are A-Number One!” There’s Romero, the Duke’s hissing sidekick and the man with the electric shock hair and gaunt features. Romero is post-apocalyptic New York personified, a man so futuristically punk that if he wandered onto a Mad Max set by mistake he wouldn’t look out of place, not for a a second.

The supporting cast is top drawer too, including the legendary Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton, Ernest Borgnine, and Adrienne Barbeau. The soundtrack is another of Carpenter’s own efforts, a tense and futuristic synth score that captures the mood perfectly.

Here’s an interesting, in-depth fan breakdown on Escape From New York if you want to read more about the movie. Well worth a look.

 

Mad Max (1979)

“The chain in those handcuffs is high-tensile steel. It’d take you ten minutes to hack through it with this. Now, if you’re lucky, you could hack through your ankle in five minutes. Go.”

Who remembers the opening of the original Mad Max? The Nightrider is tearing along the Aussie highway in a stolen MFP (Main Force Patrol) vehicle. He’s easily getting the better of the numerous cops chasing after him. Looks like he’s going to win the day. He eludes all pursuers and then…

…and then Max Rockatansky gets in on the chase.

Cue a fantastic, low budget Australian movie and the start of a long-running franchise that will go on to introduce some of the punkiest post-apocalyptic gangs onto the big screen.

In the original Mad Max, the antagonists are a vicious motorcycle gang led by Toecutter. This gang, also known as the Acolytes, are a psychotic mob (possibly of Italian heritage – look at their names!) who engage in frequent road wars with the cops and bring terror to the local communities. Toecutter (portrayed by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played Immortan Joe in the fourth Mad Max movie) takes a terrible revenge on Max for the death of his friend, The Nightrider. It’s Toecutter’s revenge that leads to the moment where family man Max Rockatansky finally becomes the Road Warrior.

Other memorable gangs come along in the later films. Who can possibly forget The Humungus (or Lord Humungus if you prefer) and his punk rock biker followers in The Road Warrior? And although the third film is arguably the weakest of the four, I do still like Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) and her Bartertown cronies. And there’s also the aforementioned Immortan Joe and his War Boys in the excellent Fury Road.

The entire Mad Max universe is the perfect scenario for inventing imaginative gangs, many of them lingering on the border between the post apocalyptic and horror genres. You have to love it.

 

The Future of London Series

As I mentioned in the intro at the top of the page, The Future of London books draw heavily on the above movies for inspiration, especially as I go forward with the series and things get a little wilder. Gangs such as The Bedlamites, The Obituaries, The Sleeping Giants, Ferals, and Ghosts of London – all of these are inspired by the likes of the above movies. And for that, I salute them.

The Future of London Box Set (Books 1-3) is out now.

‘This is the best thing I’ve read in months. The best this year.’ – Amazon Review

Amazon Link

Non-Amazon Links

 

Cannibals in Fiction

 

 

Cannibalism.

For some, it’s the ultimate taboo. It’s something not to be discussed, let alone spoken of by decent people in civilised society. It hasn’t always been like that though. At one point in human history – peaking in the 16th and early 17th centuries – certain methods of cannibalism were considered medicinal and even encouraged by experts as a standard cure for particular ailments. Epilepsy – the ‘falling sickness’ – was often treated by drinking hot blood. Skull was a supposed healer too, crushed into powder form and drunk, occasionally with chocolate, often with alcohol. Human fat – you get the idea.

Now we may groan from a twenty-first century perspective but cannibalism, as well as being considered a healer, has literally been a lifesaver too. Who can forget the thrilling and tragic story of the Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes mountains in 1972, close to the border between Argentina and Chile? 45 people were on that plane when it went down and 27 survived the initial crash. 16 people survived the entire ordeal and they lived through those 72 days on the mountain because they made the decision to eat the flesh of their dead companions.

Cannibalism therefore, is a complicated subject. There’s a little more to it than what you might think. Having said that however, it’s still pretty gruesome especially when we encounter it in the news . So let’s forget the real life stories and instead, turn to fiction. Let’s look at a few characters who’ve dabbled in a bit of human flesh in their time. Fortunately all the people listed below are make-believe.

At least we think they are.

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SAWNEY BEAN

Sawney Bean appeared in Samuel Rutherford Crockett’s 1896 novel, The Grey Man. But that’s not his main claim to fame. Sawney Bean is much more than just a character out of a late 19th century novel. His story is well known in Scotland and dates back to long before The Grey Man was even published. Today, there are people who are still convinced that he was an authentic, historical figure who lived, breathed and ate people.

I was born and bred in Scotland, so this is the earliest cannibal legend I can personally recall hearing about. The story of Alexander ‘Sawney’ Bean is a grisly one and although accounts of when he was supposed to have lived vary, his story is usually set around the turn of the 17th Century.

Sawney Bean was an outsider. He wasn’t interested in living like everyone else and at some point, he made the decision to withdraw from the rest of society. When he met a likeminded woman – Agnes Douglas (sometimes known as Black Agnes) – they got married and set up home in a sea cave, believed to be Bennane Cave, located on the Ayrshire Coast in between Girvan and Ballantrae.

The location of Sawney Bean’s Cave (South Ayrshire, Scotland)

(If you want a ten-minute tour of the cave from the safety of your living-room, click here.)

Not long afterwards, Sawney Bean was robbing travellers on the quiet roads that ran in between the local villages. He didn’t just rob them though, he murdered them because that way they couldn’t talk. And of course, he ate them too, guaranteeing that the bodies were never found by the authorities. This also allowed the Beans to stock up on provisions and eliminated the need for money or to travel into town for supplies.

The Bean family grew larger. Over the years, Sawney and Agnes had 8 sons, 6 daughters, 18 grandsons and 14 granddaughters. Incest was involved much of the time, and all the little Bean children grew up to be every bit as cannibalistic as their parents.

With more mouths to feed, it was getting harder to bury (or swallow) all of the evidence. Human body parts began to wash up on nearby beaches. Some of the disappearances were noticed by the nearby villagers but due to their secret location, the Beans weren’t caught.

Still, they couldn’t evade justice forever. It all went wrong one night when the Beans attacked a couple who were returning from a nearby fair. The man they attacked turned out to be a highly skilled fighter and although his wife was killed by the cannibals, he managed to fight them off until a group of people returning from the fair forced the Beans to flee into the night.

Their existence was made known at last. A huge manhunt was launched, consisting of a party of over 400 men, supposedly led by either King James I or King James VI (depending on the date) with bloodhounds and volunteers from the local area. The Beans were caught and taken to the Old Tolbooth Jail in Edinburgh. There was no trial – such a formality was considered unnecessary given the nature of their foul deeds. The Beans were executed and so gruesome were their deaths that you’d think it was George RR Martin who wrote them. The men had their hands, feet and genitals cut off and were left to bleed to death. The women and children? They were all burned at the stake.

The Old Tolbooth, Edinburgh

There is little documented evidence on the trial or even the existence of Sawney Bean, which leaves most historians believing that it’s just a fictitious tale. Some people have even suggested that the story was written by the English (during the time of the Jacobite Rebellion) as a piece of ‘political propaganda’ designed to ‘demonstrate the savagery and uncivilised nature of the Scots in contrast to the superior qualities of the English nation’.

Those wee English rascals…

True of false, Sawney Bean and his murderous clan have made their mark. Wes Craven’s famous horror movie, The Hills Have Eyes, was inspired by the Sawney Bean story. The novel Off Season, by Jack Ketchum, was similarly inspired. There are others.

 

SWEENEY TODD

Some might say there’s a little nugget of truth in the story of Sweeney Todd. For most historians however, he’s entirely fictional. The Demon Barber of Fleet Street first appeared in a penny dreadful serial (cheap, sensationalist fiction) in 1846-47. The story was called The String of Pearls: A Romance and anyone familiar with the legend of Sweeney Todd will know that it’s all about a barber who murders his customers and with the aid of  Mrs Lovett in the pie shop next door, then deposits the human flesh into pies and feeds them to unsuspecting customers.

Grisly, but it’s certainly possible the story was inspired by real events. In the 18th and 19th centuries, there were often newspaper reports about body snatching, dodgy medical practices and cannibalism. Take a look at this excerpt from the Weekly Journal, or, British Gazetteer, dated Saturday 3rd May, 1718:

‘We have Intelligence from Lincoln, that a man being hanged there the last Assizes, within three days after his execution, a couple of apothecaries contracted with a butcher for a sum of money, to take the body out of the grave, and cut off all the flesh, fit for them to make a skeleton of; which flesh he sold for venison to an inn-keeper; who making it into a pasty, invited many of his neighbours to the eating of it; but sometime after the villainy being detected, the butcher and the two apothecaries were committed to Lincoln Goal [sic].’ 

The above report might be true. It might also be a load of rubbish designed to sell newspapers. But if such stories were going around it’s not hard to see why a Sweeney Todd-like tale would end up in the pages of a penny dreadful. Of course, no one could have foreseen how popular the character would become over the years. The 2007 film, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, is well-known but if you can find it, check out the 2006 TV adaptation starring Ray Winstone.

 

HANNIBAL LECTER

Hannibal Lecter (by Freddy Agurto Parra)

Hannibal Lecter is so charming he can talk you right onto his dinner plate. That’s how good he is. He’s the pop culture cannibal, your favourite Lithuanian-American psychiatrist with a penchant for fava beans and Italian wine. He’s super intelligent and as readers of the books and viewers of the movies and TV show will confirm, somehow we all fall under his spell a little bit – just enough to sort of like him despite the fact that well, he’s a cannibal.

Lecter was first introduced to the public in the 1981 novel, Red Dragon, written by Thomas Harris. Since then he’s featured in four novels, five films and a well received TV series. And as mentioned above, he’s ingrained in society as part of the pop culture fabric, which is kind of impressive for a cannibal when you think about it.

Maybe we like him because he’s the anti-cannibal in some ways. This is no brute or mindless savage. Lecter’s a bonafide bright spark – he’s smarter than the rest of us and being so smart of course, he knows it. You might have noticed if you’ve read the books or watched the films that he revels in getting the better of (and eating) authority figures, such as the poor census taker whose liver he so famously consumed with the fava beans and chianti. Also, who can forget that final scene at the end of The Silence of the Lambs where Anthony Hopkins as Lecter, is casually pursuing Dr. Frederick Chilton, the man who so gleefully oversaw his incarceration in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane?

Remember that? Of course you do.

‘I’m having an old friend for dinner.’

 

OTHER CANNIBALS IN LITERATURE

Cannibal horror in fiction is mostly seen as a bit of gruesome fun. It’s nothing more than a nightmarish fantasy far removed from the reality of our everyday lives. That’s what we like to tell ourselves anyway.

But what you might call ‘serious literature’ delves into the subject occasionally. The ‘heavy’ books, if you know what I mean. For example, there are cannibals in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.  If you’ve read the book, you might recall that cannibals serve as part of Marlow’s crew during his voyage upriver to the Inner Station. There’s no blood and guts horror here, but the novel is instead full of complex ideas that ask interesting questions about civility and savagery. It’s an English Literature student’s wet dream. So many questions and interpretations await the reader. For example, while we might view the African savage as cannibalistic, what about the white European imperialist and his desire to consume? It’s an interesting book and one that makes you think.

There are also cannibals in Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, The Road.  In this story, a father and his young son are travelling across post-apocalyptic America, trying to make their way towards the dream that is the ocean. During this journey, father and son are not only at risk of being captured by people who have resorted to cannibalism, but they’re also trying to resist succumbing to the urge themselves. The Road is a horror novel (and movie!), as well as being an excellent work of post-apocalyptic fiction. It also highlights one of the most fascinating things about post-apocalyptic fiction – what happens to otherwise decent human beings when there’s no longer any food on the supermarket shelves? When there’s no hope and civilisation is gone? What would you do if you and your loved ones were starving and you saw somebody else with a precious slice of bread? When you’re that hungry, what do you see when you look at a stranger? The answer is in The Road, and it’s not a pretty one.

A few other noteworthy examples of cannibals in literature:

Patrick Bateman (American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis)

Charles Burnside (Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub)

Kevin (Sin City by Frank Miller)

Dead River Clan (Off Season by Jack Ketchum)

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And just to finish off, here are a few of the best (or most infamous) cannibal movies (for those of you who haven’t already seen them):

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – “I just can’t take no pleasure in killing. There’s just some things you gotta do. Don’t mean you have to like it.”

A classic, still disturbing in so many ways. And it has Leatherface in it. Enough said.

Ravenous (1999) – “He’s licking me!”

Ravenous features one of my favourite cannibals – Colonel Ives/F.W Colqhoun (played by the great Robert Carlyle). I love this dark and weird film. It’s a sort of horror and black comedy mix topped off by a great soundtrack by Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman. It’s loosely based on the real-life Donner Party tragedy of 1846/1847 when a bunch of westbound emigrants on their way to California became trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains and were forced to consume the bodies of the dead for food. It’s a great movie – go find if you haven’t seen it.

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) – “I wonder who the real cannibals are.”

Insane, controversial movie. Not easy viewing.

Alive (1993) – “Are we supposed to fly that close to the mountains?”

This is the movie based on the real-life story of the Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes. It’s a brilliant film and one of my earliest memories of a ‘what would you do?’ in this deep shit scenario. Plus it has John Malkovich sitting by a fire, talking more deep shit.

That’s just a few movies. There are lots, lots more cannibal flicks out there to get your teeth into.

 

GHOSTS OF LONDON

And finally, I was inspired to write this post by Ghosts of London. This is the third book in the Future of London series and yeah, there are a few cannibals running around in this one too. Check it out and don’t worry if you haven’t read the first two. It’s never been easier (and cheaper) to climb aboard the Future of London series. You can now get L-2011 (Book 1) for free here. And Mr Apocalypse (Book 2) is down to 0.99.

Thank you and enjoy.

 

Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines (And Ghosts of London)

 

Here we go again. There’s a new Gillespie title on the way and I’m going mental. The build-up to a book release is insane. Just insane. There are so many things to do it’s surprising that more authors’ heads don’t spontaneously combust all over their laptops.

So what am I thinking about at the minute? Right now? Stuff, lots of stuff.

Is the cover finished? Uhh, nearly but I should have had that done yonks ago.

Blurb…yep, see below. Took me long enough though – couldn’t even finish this blog post in time ‘cos the blurb was late.

Any ad campaigns scheduled? AMS, Facebook? Soon my friend, soon…

Keywords sorted for distribution sites? Umm…no.

Newsletter ready to go after release? No, not started that yet.

Updated the backmatter in the previous books? I need the book link to go live for that one smart-arse.

Made smartlinks? Universal book links? Again, need the book links – but thanks for the reminder.

Have you even finished editing the book yet?

Shit.

And that’s the thing. I’m still editing the book with a June 30th release date hanging over my head. It’s been edited professionally but it’s still got to go to a Beta Reader and then come back for the final touches. I won’t finish it until a few days before publication and by then I’ll be crazy.

All the things listed above are just the tip of the iceberg too. There are so many more things to be done.

So yeah I must admit, I struggle to meet my deadlines. But I do get there – I haven’t missed one yet. The problem is I go a little insane in those last few days before letting go of the book and as a result I never want to write another book again. It doesn’t help that I’m on a pretty aggressive release schedule (by my standards anyway) this year, which consists of four original releases, along with two box sets. Because of this, I don’t leave myself enough room for things like sending out ARC copies because there’s not enough bloody time.

For sure, there are flaws I have to fix in my self-pub game. But until then, soft launches – marshmallow launches. That’s pretty much my thing. Marshmallows….mmmmmmmmm.

Told you I was going mad.

But here I am anyway. We’re on the brink of the second original release of the year. This is Ghosts of London – the third book in the Future of London series.

And just for you, here’s the (World Premiere!!) of the blurb.

The Big Chase is back.

 The Ghosts of London – the most dangerous gang in the city – are going hunting for human flesh across the lawless, urban wasteland that has arisen from the ashes of the old metropolis.

If you’re out there – hide, hope and wait for the sun to rise. Pray that the Ghosts don’t find you.

Because there are worse things than being dead.

Ghosts of London is a dystopian and apocalyptic nightmare set in an isolated, alternate London where the rest of the world is watching on pay-per-view. It is the third book in the Future of London series.

 

Battle Royale Remastered (Review)

Hello everyone!

Just thought I’d share a few thoughts on a book that’s been lingering on my TBR pile for far too long now.

Come to think of it, it’s shocking just how long it’s taken me to actually getting around to reading this dystopian classic by Koushun Takami. I remember seeing the film not long after its release in 2000 and thinking that yeah, I’d better read the book.

Well it only took me seventeen years. But better late than never and I’m glad that I did finally get around to reading it ‘cos it’s bloody good.

Thinking back to the turn of the century when both the book and film were released, I remember the controversy and all the talk of exploitative violence that surrounded them. With that in mind, I watched the film in 2000 but to be honest all I can remember of it is a sort of crazy cartoonish violence that didn’t really feel violent at all – kind of like how Kill Bill did violence. It certainly wasn’t as shocking or as controversial as it was made out to be at the time. It was fun in a sick, twisted sort of way.

Same deal with the book. At least that’s how it read in my opinion – it’s fun and it can either make you think about certain issues if you want to or not. You might just want to enjoy the brilliant storytelling for its own sake and that’s fine too.

So what’s it about? Well, it’s set in the Republic of Greater East Asia, which is a harsh dictatorship that includes among other nations, Japan, where the story takes place. To put it bluntly, a group of teenage schoolchildren are kidnapped by government officials and then dumped on a desert island and instructed to kill each other until there’s only one left.

As you do.

It’s interesting to note the multiple points of view that the story is told from, which highlight the different personalities on display – the cool kid, the sporty kid, the brainy one, the popular bitch – that kind of thing, just like we’d all recognise from our school days. What’s even more impressive is how these scared children slowly turn into desperate killers throughout the course of the novel and how crazy and yet believable it is when they try to bump each other off. I’m trying to contain the English Literature graduate in me and yet I can’t help but notice that the whole authorities-turning-innocence-into-something-savage might be symbolic of something else – perhaps it’s indicative of what the so-called real world does to ruin the innocence of our childhood, perhaps the only time in our life where we can truly be ourselves.

In other words, growing up – as it is given to us in the modern age, sucks.

Battle Royale is often compared with The Hunger Games. In fact, it seems like most reviews of Battle Royale end up mentioning The Hunger Games when it should really be the other way around as the Japanese book was released nine years earlier.  I haven’t read The Hunger Games so I can’t really make a comparison on the books but I did watch the first movie and quite liked it. Then I watched about half of the second one and decided there should never have been a sequel. Don’t know if it’s the same with the books but it immediately felt stretched and lacking in ideas.

I understand that this new remastered edition of Battle Royale – which features an absolutely outstanding cover (see the pic above) –  is a new translation and that it’s been well-received in comparison to the previous English language translation. Certainly the book reads very well and the text flows nicely for the most part. There are a few moments here and there where the dialogue is a tad clunky but I think once again, that’s a translation thing that probably can’t be helped. And it didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of the story.

So…if you’ve ever thought about reading this book or perhaps you’re a HG fan and want to read the original kids slaughtering other kids classic then I highly recommend picking up the remastered version of Battle Royale. Beware…it’s pretty long at almost seven hundred pages – I was expecting a fast-paced berserker slim-sized novel – but then I’m a slow reader and I approach all of these weapon of mass destruction sized books with a sigh. You might love them. That aside, I don’t think you’ll regret getting around to reading Battle Royale – even if like me, it takes you seventeen years to actually get started.

Whatever Happened to Ivan Drago?

 

The ‘what if?’ question. It lies at the heart of all the best speculative fiction. It’s a simple little two-word question that can lead to so many great premises that span multiple genres – alternate history, science fiction, horror, dystopian, apocalyptic – to name but a few.

A few examples (that aren’t ‘what if the Nazis won the Second World War?’):

What if vampires existed and relocated to a small American town? (Salem’s Lot)

What if extraterrestrial parasites (Pod People) colonised our planet by creating replicas of ourselves? (The Body Snatchers)

What if Napoleon had escaped from St Helena and reached America?  (Napoleon in America)

And of course, my own meagre contributions in the pop culture/dystopian fields:

What if John Lennon had lived?

What if the 2011 London riots had never ended? 

It’s all about imagination – that great and glorious distraction. According to Einstein, imagination is better than knowledge. So remember that teachers – don’t ever chastise the kid sitting in class who’s playing with someone else’s glasses case because he’s pretending it’s the Batwing and that Batman is sitting inside and he’s about to save the world from the Joker or the Penguin or The Riddler or some other evil, costumed psychopath.

Yes this kid was me.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. That means it’s better than algebra.

It’s also great fun too, which is pretty much what this post is all about. You can apply the ‘what if?’ thing to anything and run with it. So with that in mind, I’m going to do a little ‘what if?’ exercise in relation to one of my favourite fictional film characters of the past thirty-five years.

Hope you enjoy.

***

What we talk about when we talk about Ivan Drago.

Usually it goes like this: Hey, what the hell happened to that guy?

He’s one of cinema’s most iconic Soviet characters – the pugilist Goliath with the chilling pre-fight one liners. But what happened to Ivan Drago after the fight with Rocky Balboa on Christmas Day in 1985? This question has become the greatest mystery in the history of the Rocky franchise, even more so now that we know who won that unofficial third fight between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed (go watch Creed if you don’t know the answer).

Ivan Drago – a towering symbol of Soviet superiority. We met him in Rocky IV, just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about but I assume if you got this far then you probably do. He was a powerhouse, an anabolic steroid-popping 6’5, blond, spiky haired super soldier. He was also a heavyweight boxer who brutally killed Apollo Creed in what was supposed to be a harmless exhibition bout. It was as a direct result of this tragedy that Drago got a chance to prove himself against heavyweight champion (and Apollo’s pal) Rocky Balboa in a non-title fight, scheduled for Christmas Day in the Soviet Union.

If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know what happens next. After beating Rocky senseless for most of the fight (if that was a real fight it would’ve been stopped in the first twenty seconds), Drago got knocked out in the last round. And if I remember correctly, the last we saw of this fallen Soviet Demigod was him sitting on his stool, battered and broken, while Rocky was giving his post-fight speech which as you may remember single handedly ended the Cold War.

So there you go. Ivan Drago – just another vanquished foe in the Rocky canon.

But although he was the villain of Rocky IV, I always felt a little bit sorry for Drago. The Soviet government and the fans treated him like he was a piece of meat after all. To them, he was nothing more than a symbol of supposed Soviet superiority over the Americans. And when he lost that fight with Rocky – well, they bailed on him pretty damn quick. In fact, as soon as the crowd suspected that Rocky might actually win the bout, they started cheering his name like a bunch of over-excited fan girls in drab clothing.

That’s loyalty for you right there ladies and gentlemen.

So what of Drago? Where did the character go after such a crushing and humbling experience? Back to the military? Did he quit boxing altogether? Did he disappear to the Far East to make whisky commercials for the rest of his life? Or did he end up appearing on the Russian version of Celebrity Big Brother?

I believe this kind of mental rambling makes for good writing practice. At best it’s a light workout for the imagination and just in case you didn’t know, the imagination is a muscle that needs regular exercise. Neglect it and it will neglect you back when you need it most.

So then  – what if old man Drago was a recluse living in the backwoods of Russia? How would this story play out? Well, let’s assume that Drago was born in 1956 or 1957 (Dolph Lundgren was born in 1957 so we’ll go with the idea that he’s around sixty years of age in 2017.) There are many speculative possibilities when it comes to the fate of Drago, but I’m going to go with the idea that he’s become something a recluse and a minor legend.

The idea below is incomplete but if I was going to sketch something, it’d probably begin like this.

***

DRAGO

The old man lives in a tiny village in a remote part of Russia. It’s a hamlet really, no place that anybody’s ever heard of because nobody in their right mind would go there. Not unless they were looking for something or someone in particular.

It’s a cruel and yet majestic environment, surrounded by snow, mountains and wild animals. The only people who live there are hard men and women who’ve lived hard lives all their lives. They’re the kind of rugged, hard-to-kill people that should no longer exist in the twenty first century what with all its comfort, convenience and technological innovation. They’re throwbacks to another era; their dark, leathery skin, the giant hands shaped like shovels, and the narrow deep-set eyes that speak of appalling hardship.

These are his people now.

He sits in the bar every night. It’s the only bar in town, a dingy little shack with no more than a handful of people inside at any one time. But that’s where you’ll find him, a solitary, towering figure sitting up at the counter with a shot glass of vodka always in front of him. 

His blond hair has long since lost its youthful shine. Now it falls down to his shoulders, a dirty and neglected mane that looks like it might be a flea’s paradise. Most of his face is submerged underneath a chaotic beard that would give any pair of scissors a run for its money. His massive bulk, still muscular thanks to thirty years of manual labour, is buried under a thick, padded red and black checked shirt. Nobody can recall seeing him dressed in anything different – not since he first came to this place from the city, and that was a long time ago.

Drago.

He always drinks alone. The locals ignore him for the most part and he ignores them back. But sometimes visitors do pass through the area, drawn to this little nowhere settlement by the enduring legend of Drago. They want so much to see the man who even after all these years, is still a symbol – a symbol of something that hasn’t been forgotten in these wild parts. They come in and they gawp silently at the man, even if it’s just from the other side of the room.

Nobody in their right mind would dare to approach him.

But the odd crazy person has been known to pass through these parts. 

One guy in particular was still bitter about what happened. It had been over thirty years since that day in Moscow but there were some people who hadn’t forgiven Drago for letting them down – for letting the country that was no more and its ideology down.

This guy wanted nothing more than to fight Drago, one on one. He wanted to show the old man up in front of all the people who were there in the bar that winter’s night. Show him up for the quitter that he undoubtedly still was in that loser’s yellow heart of his. This guy, it turns out, had been looking for Drago for a long time. Long before anyone figured out where Drago was, this guy had been trawling the unimaginably vast former Soviet Union for more years than he could remember. By the time he found Drago, the man was in his fifties and certainly, he was no slouch himself in the physical department. He was well over six feet tall, with thick powerful arms and broad shoulders that like Drago, also suggested a life of hard labour.

The man just stood there, staring across the room at Drago. His eyes were bright and alert, which suggested that he wasn’t crazy and that he was in his right mind while doing this thing he was doing.

It escalated quickly from staring to insults.

For several minutes, he just stood there, hurling abuse at the old man, who like always, was sitting at the other end of the bar.

All the while, this guy who didn’t look crazy, he crept closer to the statue-like figure. 

And then…

Drago put down his glass of vodka on the counter. With a mournful sigh that seemed to reverberate against the wooden walls of the shack, he slowly turned his tortured, weather-beaten face towards the man that was insulting him.

The old man slipped off the barstool in the blink of an eye. Just for a second, he was an athlete again – the celebrated fighter who had an amateur record of one hundred wins and no defeats. He was the man who had killed the great Apollo Creed with his hands in a boxing ring in Las Vegas. And now there he was, standing tall like a grizzly bear on two feet – the great boxer once again, standing in the middle of the ring, listening to the national anthem – Gimn Sovetskogo Soyuza – playing in his head as he prepared for battle…

***

Well, that’s how I’d start it off anyway. Something like that. It needs work of course, but it’s kind of fun to speculate where the story might go from there. How about you? Got any ideas where I could go with this one? Should a dragon come crashing through the window at the last minute? No? Okay. Well feel free to jump in or suggest your own alternatives for the fate of Drago, or any other characters in the Rocky series.

Putting Rocky aside – maybe you have another fictional character with a fate you’d like to speculate on? If so, let me know. I’d love to hear some ideas.

Coming back to Drago for the finish – there is just a wee smidgen of a chance that we might find out what happened to the character on the big screen. We just need this movie to get made.

Until next time.

Over and out.

 

 

 

 

The Indie Books That Never Were

 

Sometimes I like to bitch and moan about writing. The hours are too long I tell myself, the rewards too few. I’m not the only author who does this I’m sure. Sometimes when we put out a new book it’s like hitting a baseball into outer space in the hope that somebody might catch it. We do it again and again and still, nobody catches.

What’s the point? It’s like nobody cares, right?

Well, yes. Truth is, most people – friends and family included – don’t give a damn about what we’re doing no matter how much we pour our heart and soul into it.

That’s life.

But believe it or not folks – I’m not actually here to moan today. I’m here to reiterate the point that it’s still without a doubt, theeeee cockadoodie best time to be a writer.

Every day I thank my lucky stars that I’m writing in the early twenty-first century. Thank God for the opportunities afforded to us in the digital era where our stories have a real shot of finding the right readers, thank to multiple publishing options. I thank my lucky stars that the age-old oppressive, tedious and unfair submission process to traditional publishers is no longer the only route that authors have towards building a legit career.

We are so lucky to be writing right now. Seriously folks. Think of all the writers in generations past – those poor bastards who weren’t around to experience the digital revolution in all its glory. The hard-working, big-dreaming, imaginative authors who never had the opportunity to see the likes of KDP, Createspace, Kobo and all the other platforms that give us what they never had – a choice!

And this is what bothers me. As well as the plight of the authors, what about all the great stories that were never told? It’s not like these authors didn’t have a good story to tell. We all know that traditional publishers are afraid to take a chance on something risky or unconventional that doesn’t tick the right marketing boxes. These old manuscripts weren’t rejected because they were bad books. They just weren’t the right fit because maybe they were too short, too controversial, too non-formulaic and so on.

And maybe the authors didn’t want to self-publish the old way – paying a fortune for a vanity publishing company to publish their book, then trying to sell their paperbacks out of a pile of boxes gathering dust in the garage.

I feel so sorry for these people. Countless, great and interesting authors who missed the digital revolution.

You’re a writer in 1985 and the publishers won’t give you a break. You don’t have the money or will to vanity publish. So you put your story in a drawer or somewhere else that represents story limbo, believing that it’s no good because enough people said no. And there it lingers, this great story that would have moved, inspired and been devoured by so many of us readers. I have no doubt there are great ones out there that in this era, would have found an audience if the authors had chosen the indie route (and honed their marketing skills just like we have to).

These people were born too soon. What a shame.

I can’t be only one who thinks about this, am I? About the lost pre-indie stories? Possibly, I’m weird that way.

So anyway, let’s not moan about how hard it is. At least not too much. This little post is all about being thankful. I’m thankful that I live in an age where we can send our work directly into the marketplace, irrespective of whether a literary agency or publishing house thinks they’re the right fit. Or that a book can be published via crowdfunding or something like that.

Historically speaking, most authors didn’t have many options. We do.

It is without doubt, a great time to be both an author and a reader. Let’s be thankful and continue to share great stories in honour of those authors and the indie books that never were.

Authors! Why Kittens Are Not Your Friends

 

Writing with pets – especially young ones – is tough.  It’s a unique challenge all on its own.   Yes, I’m sure children are hard work too but do they crawl up the curtains like hairy-tailed ninjas and tear out the fly screen just to annoy you?

There was a real sense of accomplishment when I finished FAB: Revolver in late March.  Authors (quite rightly) should feel a sense of accomplishment when they finish any piece of work.  But this was different because this latest book was written under very difficult circumstances.  Without being too dramatic, I would say I wrote it whilst being trapped in the eye of a storm.

A kitten storm.

How did this kitten storm happen?  Read on.

In late September, I was sitting at home (it was quiet and peaceful back then) minding my own business in a kitten-free environment.  At some point in the evening, my wife Íde (a vet) sent me a photo of two little stray kittens that had been brought into the vet hospital where she works.  It was a boy and a girl – twins.  They’d been found in a box in somebody’s backyard (so the bringer-in said!)

More like they’d crawled up from the fiery depths of Hell.

Íde was convinced they were right for us.  And in that moment, I’m certain that an evil force took possession of me and forced me to agree.

They came home the following night.  It was probably a dark and stormy night with lots of thunder and lightning.  I’m not sure how this happened.  Evil magic probably.

These are the first pics I took that night:

the evil monsters not long after they’d hatched from Satan’s eggs…(Bodhi (left) Billie Jean (right)

The monsters are so helpless at that age.  We were forced into instant slavery.  We had to bottle feed them and fill their little bag up with hot water bottles to keep their temperature warm enough.  We had to attend to their every need and all this at any hour of the day.  We hardly slept but it was too late to do anything about it.  We’d already invited them over the threshold.  It was their home now.  To my horror, I discovered that we even had to force them to pee and poo by imitating cat mum’s tongue with a damp cloth after every feed.  This was not pleasant.  My delicate writer hands were often covered in some sort of browny-orange shit paste.  And my God, how they screamed.

Time passed.  They grew stronger and more evil.

‘We’re going to mess you up…’

We gave them names – Billie Jean and Bodhi.  Nice names, to try and soften the edge.

They were still in the developing stages of evilness by the time I released Mr Apocalypse in December.  That wasn’t too bad.  But I knew the third and final FAB book would be the ultimate challenge.  By that point (early 2017), they were getting super-duper sadistic and now the time had come.

They were ready to ruin me.

I’d try to write in the morning and at the same time they’d go nuts.  Literally bouncing off the walls nuts.  After this initial storm (which could last for a good two or three hours), they would quieten a little in the afternoon but then so did I.  I’m an early riser and afternoon’s aren’t a good time for me.  In the afternoon, my brain is sozzled, especially in the Australian summer heat (being Scottish I’m not used to this).  This means that when the kittens were biding their time, recharging their satanic batteries, I was at my least productive.  Quite clearly they’d studied me well.  When I worked, they worked.  When I rested, they rested.  They had picked their active hours to be as disruptive as possible to my schedule.  Little buggers.

Speaking of a schedule, I was lucky to even have one.  The creatures would sabotage my diary and stationary on a regular basis and all my attempts at organisation were thwarted.  I have photographic evidence:

‘Schedule this motherfucker!’

 

‘That looks like an important reminder there. Let’s tear out the page.’

The kitten storm would always return in the evening.  Super turbo charged, Wizard of Oz tornado style.  More wall-bouncing.  Leg-biting, scratching – sometimes I looked at my skin and it was like I’d been pierced by a thousand tiny needles.

All my attempts to be productive were sabotaged.

But I wouldn’t give into them.  No way.  They wanted to break me but they only managed to bend me – a lot.  I wrote through it, not looking up when I heard the loud clatter of things being knocked off the shelves.  Not looking up when they were pawing at their water bowl, soaking the kitchen floor in an attempt to flood the house and drown me.  No way.  I wrote through the distraction.  Keep writing, I told myself.  So I kept writing and one day, guess what?  I finished the book.  Despite the best efforts of the two monsters, I’d managed to beat them.

Incidentally, any mistakes or typos you find in FAB: Revolver are entirely the fault of the two fun-sized tigers 🙂

If there’s a lesson to be learned here it’s that no matter how much your pets distract you, if you’re focused enough you can still produce work.  Even when you see the monster activating the crazy switch – you know the one that sees her pupils dilate and blow up like two giant, black beach balls.  When you see the ears go back and then she leaps onto your chair like certain death in motion, climbs onto your shoulders and just stands there triumphantly reminding you that yes, you are her bitch.

But the biggest lesson of all is this.  Authors, kittens are not your friends.  They will make it hard.

Having said that…

…what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Thanks to the kittens, I can write through anything.  Hey, maybe they were just helping me fine tune my concentration all along.  With that in mind, if you can, why not give a rescue animal a home today?  Or tomorrow for that matter.  Especially demonic little kittens like these two.  They WILL make you a better writer.  Yeah sure, they’ll destroy your life in the process and take your sanity.

But somehow, you’ll still love them for it.

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