To blog, or not to blog?

Yes, it seems I’m officially out of clever titles. I may have even used this one before, but any excuse to poorly paraphrase Shakespeare is okay in my book! (The academic in me really wanted to put a citation then.)

I’m annoyed with myself because I haven’t posted a blog in a few weeks. I promised myself that I would do a regular blog and try to build up my readership – you guys. But I’ve been busy – sure that’s everyone’s excuse. Trying to keep up with a part-time academic job, and a full-time PhD isn’t easy, but I should be able to find time to write a little blog, right? I’d hope so, and I’m definitely going to try harder, even if it’s just a book of the week post so you can hear what I’m reading at the moment.

The other reason I haven’t blogged is because I haven’t asked my students to in a few weeks. They’ve been too busy with assessments and it wouldn’t have been fair to make them do a blog too. They’re too busy…

I want to ask you a few questions. I will do some proper research on this, but I want a few opinions first to get a rough idea. (Feel free to comment below)

How important is a regular blog post, or is it better to wait for good content/ideas? Is it good to write a regular post so that people know when to expect it?  When should that be?

I’m trying to work out how to manage this blog, and I want to know how people interact with blogs. Such as how long a decent post should be?

I’ve made a short survey that you can fill out to help me with this, if you have time: Blogging Survey


I’m also looking at increasing my freelance workload. (After complaining about being busy? I know…)

So if you’re a student and you want sometime to check through your work for you and check the content (no promises about grading!) or just to edit/proofread, or if you’re an aspiring author and you want some critique on your writing/some help, then please get in touch. We can work out what you need and sort out an appropriate way of payment.

If this sounds like you, then please send me an email and we can sort something out!


Book of the Week

Children of Time – Adrian Tchaikovsky

So, I’ve finally got to last year’s Arthur C. Clarke award winning novel. I was going to wait a bit to read this as I’ve got a few things on my reading list that I really want to read, but then I got a few recommendations for this in a matter of days.

I’m now 150 pages in (which may sound like a lot, but it’s only a quarter of its 600 pages), and I’m really enjoying it. It’s nice to pick up a sci fi book that feels fresh and pulls you along for the ride. Adrian is typically a fantasy writer and this is his first science fiction book. It reads like a fantasy writer writing sci fi, but that’s not a criticism. The world building is so strong and so believable that it can only be written by someone who has written fantasy. A common pitfall, and one that I am guilty of, with sci fi is to assume that you can make everything up. But you must absolutely understand how your world works, in as much detail as possible.

Adrian provides that detail, but unlike a lot of sci fi authors he doesn’t hit you over the head with it with long exposition, but rather intertwines it expertly into the narrative.

The other thing that I really like, and it was so subtle it took me about 80 pages to notice, is that both the civilisations represented in the novel are represented by a different tense. The humans are a typical third person past tense, which feels natural. Then the aliens (no spoilers!) have a third person present tense narrative. A subtle difference when kept to different chapters, but a striking one when you realise what it means.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this technique pans out, and how it helps the story.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading, and please get in contact/leave a comment below!

Dickens in Space

I’m ill.

I’m supposed to be editing a second draft of a story due to its deadline being on Saturday, but I can’t concentrate. So, I thought the best writing I could do in this state is to tell you about something I did in class last week. I also just wrote this once and Google Chrome, in its infinite wisdom, decided to quit. So here is attempt number two. Probably quite apt, as I’m sure what I typed before was better.

In class last week we analysed a piece of prose in a group, discussing everything we could think of from sentence structure and rhythm to semantic feel and the metaphors used. At the time we didn’t know who our piece of prose was written by, but after our lecturer suggested we read it out loud, I noted it reminded me of the start of a Dickensian film where there is narration and the camera is zooming into the scene. The piece was actually the beginning of Dombey and Son by – you guessed it! – Charles of the Dickens clan. It raised an interesting point, Dickens actually made more money from reading his work than from writing. So, if you struggle reading his work, try reading it aloud, or try and audio book. It makes an interesting difference, particularly to rhythm and pacing.

As homework from this we were tasked with taking a scene we had written and writing a pastiche. In basic terms, every story has a scene, but stories vary in style, so we had to take a scene and write it in the style of the author we analysed; Charles Dickens. It was one of the hardest things I have had to write so far. Thankfully I have read Dickens (I hadn’t read any of the others the other groups looked at), but I have a very contemporary style, that is influenced heavily by modern science fiction. This led to the title of this blog as myself and the other members of my group (all science fiction and fantasy writers) shared our pieces. I suggested Rob should turn his (excellent) piece into Dickens in Space using his usual hilarious comedy stylings. So keep an eye out for that one!

I don’t feel my piece was as good as the others, but I tried none the less. What follows is a scene written for the story I mentioned earlier, re-written in the style of Charles Dickens. Be prepared to laugh, to cry and the throw your computer out of the window in disgust! Without further ado (What is ado?) I give you Endaris by Michael J. (Dickens)

Endaris in the style of Dickens

Michael J. Hollows

The royal court, home to the godly, powerful, and undying king, sat in the heart of Endaris; where the houses lined the city in rows, short, thin, and narrow, like precessions of match sticks, although the inhabitants seldom matched; great grass courtyards grew in splendid colours, like the grasping tendrils of the forest that lay to the south, but controlled and trimmed, synonymous with the populace of the city. Those in power lived in mansions, around the houses, housing the round. They longed for the decorative comfort of indoors, past shuttered doors, and jealous stares.

One such man was Rao, the councillor of councillors, and he shut the door behind him, the door that resembled a wooden face. The hallway was closed-in, like a burial chamber, and claustrophobic in its likeness; where the surfaces were covered in blood, but not the blood of men, rather, merely the suggestion that blood had, could, or would be spilt, as the flickering candle of illumination cast its red-orange hue on the stone steps that led, threateningly, up towards the audience chamber, like the steps of a throne, towering above lesser men. Rao ascended the steps, though his heavy heart passed the other way, ever towards the audience and his doom, through blood-casting candles, and through rooms filled with judging portraits, he continued, forever up.

In the court, the room overflowing with people, like a lake in midwinter, water rushing away, free to its path, his erstwhile colleagues, less erstwhile than colleagues, laughed and joked at Rao’s expense, but he would have the last laugh.

Once again, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed!