Change of style for showing inner thoughts in my writing…

‘PAIN’ – noun: that terrible feeling you get when you decide to abandon the method you were taught about 40 years ago for formatting inner voice in fiction!EndOfTunnel~shrink

I’ve just made the choice to adopt one of the modern styles: no quote marks, italicised text with a tag.

Heck – this means I’ve now got a circa 90k words wip manuscript to edit…

it’s a long way to the end of that tunnel… gulp.

“Jem” – Frederik Pohl

I’ve just enjoyed reading Frederik Pohl’s 1979 novel “Jem”.

Pohl was a prolific author- first published in 1937, with a final novel (‘All the Lives He Led’, 2011), and a collection of essays in 2012 – he died in 2013. I’ve been reading SF for about forty years and was aware of Pohl but never really go into his writing. I think I was simply too young when I first encountered his books because, as a winner of four Hugo and three Nebula awards, he clearly had a lot to say.  I returned to his writing a couple of years ago and enjoyed reading ‘Gateway’ (from 1977, the opening book in his ‘Heechee saga’), ‘Man Plus’ (1976) and his 1955 short-story called ‘The Tunnel Under the World’.


In ‘Jem’ Pohl presents a dystopian future world, set roughly around 2024 (based on the reference to Carl Sagan being a ‘… a spry octogenarian instead of whatever incredible age he really was…’). International politics has settled into three competing power blocs:

The Fuel Bloc – known as the ‘Greasies’, they have control of much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves and are leading lives of profligate energy consumption,

The Food Bloc – known as the ‘Fats’, they control much of the world’s food growing lands, and

The People Bloc – known as the ‘Peeps’, they represent the countries with large populations but much less access to Food and Fuels.

Competition for resources is fierce between the blocs. There has been a significant proliferation of nuclear weapons and the threat of a planet-destroying confrontation has become a daily norm. The discovery of a habitable planet called ‘Jem’ creates the opportunity for humanity to spread outwards. However, rather than cooperating, the three blocs compete for advantage and control of this new world. They draw in Jem’s three sentient species into their fight and create new rivalries that had not existed on the planet before – rivalries that will have terrible consequences for the Balloonists, the Krinpit and the Creepies.

In some respects ‘Jem’ has not aged well and its message can feel a bit naively obvious today. Read in the context of being a late Cold War era novel, it retains an entertaining contemporary relevance.



Approaches to writing Effectively and Efficiently…


In my latest vlog I talk about how to write Efficiently and Effectively using a combination of:

– Plotting (not “pantsing’)
– Mind-mapping in “FreeMind”
– The 7-Point Story Structure
– A writing tool like yWriter5
– Dictating a first draft using the “Dictanote” Chrome app
– Editing with SmartEdit, Hemingway and editMinion

Take a look at

There’s more of my creative work at:

#amwriting #WritingTip

MS Word – text to speech…

A productivity/editing tip – did you know that recent versions of MS Word have the ability to read your text back to you? I am finding that an excellent way to catch missing words, repeated words, gender mistakes as I edit etc.

It also has the huge benefit of helping to catch plain boring bits of text – if you are bored listening to a section, why would someone else want to read it?

If you want to try it out, here’s a link for how to set that up:

‘As You Like It’ – RSC production 17/4/19…


I totally loved the RSC production of ‘As You Like It’ tonight – it was funny, entertaining and thoughtful.

Excellent emotional acting and a great experience!

Surprised I wasn’t hit by Sandra for laughing at this line: “Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak.” – Rosalind, Act 3 Scene 2

more info at:

‘All About Eve’ – NT Live, 11/4/19

I enjoyed watching “All About Eve” livestreamed to Vue from the National Theatre last night. Based on the 1950 film and Mary Orr’s play ‘The Wisdom of Eve’, this was a gripping experience!

Gillian Anderson (of ‘X-files’ fame, remember that one?) plays Margo Channing, an actress feeling the years tugging at her heels. Lily James plays Eve Harrington, the manipulative noir young lady looking to usurp Channing’s position in the theatre.

There was a delightful twist at the end from the theatre critic Addison DeWitt (played by Stanley Townsend) that was uncomfortable to watch with plenty of contemporary resonance.

A great play makes you FEEL something, and I left this one feeling depressed about getting old (really empathising with Margo) and excited to have seen such a great performance – recommended 🙂

“Hellstrom’s Hive” – Frank Herbert

I’ve just enjoyed reading Frank Herbert’s 1973 novel “Hellstrom’s Hive”. Originally published (in 4 parts, I think) in Galaxy Magazine, the book is a written version of the HellstromChronicles1971 film ‘The Hellstrom Chronicle’ directed by Walon Green (easily found on YouTube). Film-Book crossovers, and visa versa, are often unsatisfying experiences, but this novelisation by Herbert is an exception.


In the police-state world of this story, Dr Nils Hellstrom is the leader of a secret, (literally) underground society called ‘The Hive’. Using selective breeding, Hellstrom is seeking to manipulate human genes in order to create a new society modelled on the cooperative behaviours of insects.We learn that this process has been proceeding for hundred of years, that the Hive has nearly 50,000 inhabitants, and that it is getting ready to ‘swarm’.

A single document about the Hive’s “Project 40” is discovered by The Agency, who then send agents to the film studio that Hellstrom is using a cover for the Hive. The agents are captured, interrogated, killed and fed into the Hive’s “vats”. The book then revolves around a race against time as the Hive seeks to complete Project 40 (a weapon) before they are attacked by the State.

The story is not a dumb criticism of socialism/communism. While you can certainly find elements of that, Herbert takes his story to a higher level, treating the progression of humans in the Hive from being ‘wild’ to cooperative specialists, all working selflessly for their society. The means by which that adaptation are being achieved are horrific, but there is a relentless “why wouldn’t you do that” logic that makes the story very engrossing.

A classic read from a master author of themes like human survival and evolution.